Book Review – ‘The Silent Patient’ by Alex Michaelides ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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I love him so totally, completely, sometimes it threatens to overwhelm me.

Sometimes I think –

No. I won’t write about that.

ALICIA

Alicia Berenson writes a diary as a release, an outlet – and to prove to her beloved husband that everything is fine.  She can’t bear the thought of worrying Gabriel, or causing him pain.

Until, late one evening. Alicia shoots Gabriel five times and then never speaks another word.

THEO

Forensic psychotherapist Theo Faber is convinced that he can successfully treat Alicia, where all others have failed.  Obsessed with investigating her crime, his discoveries suggest Alicia’s silence goes far deeper than he first thought.

And if she speaks, would he want to hear the truth?

Thank you to NetGalley, Orion books and Alex Michaelides for the chance to read and review this book.

On a scorching summer night, 33-year-old painter Alicia Beresford is discovered covered in blood, standing rigid and frozen in her living room, while the body of Gabriel, her husband of seven years, sits tied to a chair.  She had shot him five times in the head with his rifle and then slit her wrists to attempt suicide. She is taken to hospital but doesn’t make any statements of guilt or innocence, in fact Alicia doesn’t speak at all. Her only “statement” was a painting done after discharged from the hospital and put under house arrest while awaiting trial. It is self portrait named Alcestis, after the greek heroine, and it’s meaning remains a mystery.  Six years later psychotherapist Theo Faber, who has been obsessed with the case since it occurred, applies for a job at the hospital she’s being treated. He is sure he can reach her, get her to speak again and discover the truth about what happened that night.

I was so excited to be approved for an ARC of ‘The Silent Patient’.  I had seen a lot of buzz about it on Bookstagram and I loved the description. I  couldn’t wait to decide for myself how good this book really was.

The story is written in the past tense by Alicia’s psychotherapist, Theo. It also contains entries from the diary Gabriel encouraged her to write in the weeks leading up to his death.  These pages give us an insight into who she is, or was, while she remains silent, and enables the reader learn secrets being kept and lies being told by some of the people closest to Alicia.            

This book is as much a story about Theo as it is about Alicia and Gabriel.  Like Alicia, Theo is a broken, damaged character. His affinity with her is his motivation for trying to help and why he feels that he can be the one to help her find her voice again. But he keeps breaking the rules and seems increasingly obsessed with his patient. Is he using this case as a distraction from difficulties in his private life or is there more going on?  As Theo learns more about Alicia and her life in the time leading to the murder, he finds things he never expected and begins to understand why she painted Alcestis and why she has remained silent all these years. Will this mean he can reach her? That once again she will speak and all will be unveiled.

From the opening chapters I was fully immersed in this book.  I flew through it, unable to put it down and thinking about it each moment I wasn’t reading.  The characters were all well written and I especially liked the fascinating enigma that was Alicia. I could never quite work out if she was a malevolent calculating killer or a tragic victim of an as-yet-unknown horror.  It was a well researched novel and I found the information about psychology and trauma fascinating. I had suspicions about two of the characters and thought they might be involved in Gabriel’s death, perhaps even framing her in some way. I was convinced I knew where the story was going and what would happen but I couldn’t have been more wrong….

The novel is ingeniously written as with one chapter, a paragraph and finally a short sentence, the writer mercilessly takes your breath away. He transforms this novel from a great book into a mind-blowing and sensational book with a twist you truly couldn’t have foreseen. THIS is the book I would call the crime debut of 2019.  What a magnificent and electrifying debut. Everyone will be talking about this book and that twist. Whatever genre you enjoy, you need to read this book.

Out February 7th 2019.

Book Review – ‘The Liar’s Wife’ by Samantha Hayes ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Thank you to NetGalley, Bookoture and Samantha Hayes for the chance to read and review this book.

Loving husband? Or total stranger?

When Ella wakes up in a hospital following a hit-and-run incident, she is scared and confused.  Close to tears, her eyes fall on a get-well-soon card on the window sill and the nurse reassures her that her loving husband will be back soon.  

But Ella has never been married.

In fact, she has lived alone her whole adult life: working hard, rarely socialising, quietly harbouring a terrible secret from her past.

Fear sweeps through Ella when she instantly recognises the man who enters the ward.  He is not her husband, but she knows she must do as he says and play the part of the dutiful wife. What choice does she have?  He was there the night of the fire, he knows her secret too…

Do  you absolutely love twisty and unputdownable psychological thrillers like ‘Girl on The Train’, ‘The Wife Between Us’ and ‘Gone Girl’?  Then you will be totally hooked by this jaw-dropping about the dangerous secrets behind a perfect marriage.

Ella Sinclair is a loner who enjoys the routine of her life: Work, home, sleep.  Work, home, sleep.  She doesn’t date, doesn’t really socialise and prefers to live that way because of a dark secret from many years ago.  While cycling home from work on a rainy night, she is hit by a van and wakes up in hospital. She has suffered serious injury but is reassured by the nurse that her husband has barely left her side the whole time.  There is just one problem; she has never been married. Instantly recognising her ‘husband’ Jacob as someone from her past that she hoped she’d never see again, Ella knows she must do as he says and go along with the charade or risk devastating consequences. These opening chapters were riveting and full of terror and disbelief as you fear for Ella having to go home with this sinister character, knowing the hell that no doubt awaits her and hoping she manages to escape his clutches before she suffers too greatly.  As she is made a prisoner in his home and becomes increasingly reliant on him not only physically but practically and financially, her chances of freedom seem totally hopeless.

Wow! This was one of the most intense, addictive and harrowing psychological thrillers I’ve read not just this year but in a long time. I devoured this book in less than 24 hours, something I’ve not done in quite a while, but it was just impossible for me to put it down. The suspense, foreboding, dread, desperation and sheer helplessness are all there on every page and create an atmosphere that has your heart pounding. Each time you think Ella is going to either save herself or be rescued everything falls apart and she’s back to having no way out.  I honestly had many moments in this story where I doubted a good ending for her but I needed to get to the end and find out.

Our villain, Jacob, is honestly the most malevolent and vile example of a husband I’ve read.  He is a sociopath who has planned his imprisonment of Ella to the last detail, making her chances of escape all the more hopeless by the minute. The level of delusion he has and the extremes he goes to in his quest to have this life he’s built for them in his head is astounding and frightening.  He is well written and very believable.

As a survivor of abuse I could see myself in the situations Ella was in and believe that she was too scared to not go with him or ask for help and that others fell for his charms and believed him to be the dutiful and doting husband.  The author has completely captured the dark truths of an abusive relationship and controlling partner. Thankfully security systems weren’t really available to most people back when I was in that kind of relationship as having that made him omnipotent and she was without a moment really alone. I thought the author used a fantastic analogy about why people don’t leave abusive relationships and there were many quotes that struck a chord with me on a deep and personal level.

The ending of the book was jaw-dropping.  I never saw it coming and still can’t believe what I read.  A few books I have read this year have had endings that I say I didn’t expect but this one was on a whole other level.  I am still blown away by it and love that the author wrote the book so incredibly well that it surprises you in such a huge way.  I was already a fan of Samantha Hayes after reading her book The Reunion in the summer but this has put her on my list of must-read authors. If you love psychological thrillers and gripping stories then this book is for you. Just make sure you’ve got a clear schedule as you’ll not want to put it down.

I’ll finish this review with what is my favourite quote from this book, a line that sums up abusive relationships perfectly: “Freeing herself is going to take something way more complicated that simply escaping”.

Out November 22nd

Book Review – ‘Darkened Light’ by Sarina Langer ⭐⭐⭐.5

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Thank you to Sarina Langer for my copy of this novel.

The death goddess Ithrean has lead the dead to their rest and watched over them in Dunhă for centuries, but they are no longer at peace.  Their souls turn the red grass black, and their corruption seeps into the world of the living.

Naavah Ora is an elven mage who can enter Dunhă at will, and study it’s corruption like no one else can.

Doran is a runaway who cares about nothing more as much as the next treasure, even if it puts his own life in danger.

840 is the only male sacrifice in his village, longing for a chance to live.

Ash is a troublemaker who is learning that he can’t bun his way through every obstacle.

To halt the coming darkness, they need to work together.  

It’s too bad they are too different to get along.

‘Darkened Light’ is not the kind of book I usually read but I was contacted by the author and asked if I would read and review her novel. After reading the synopsis found myself intrigued and eager to dive into something different and a genre I rarely even consider picking up.

With Fantasy books if the world your characters inhabit isn’t believable, then the whole story will fail regardless of the quality of the writing or great characters. The spirit world of Dunhă and the villages and forests that the characters live and journey through, were vividly brought to life from the outset. It was like I could see the movie of the story in my mind and I accepted this band of misfits travelling together without question.

The book started out strongly with the description of a nightmare that Naavah Ora had where the world is dying.  It sets an ominous tone and is something Naavah Ora herself refers back to many times in the story as it begins to appear that it wasn’t a simple nightmare but actually a warning/premonition of what is to come.  

Each chapter of the book is narrated by one of the four main characters and has a few lines before it that are all by the same, mysterious narrator.  I had the sense of it being someone we’d maybe heard of but not been introduced to and until it was made obvious to the reader, I had only one contended for who that might be.  I won’t say who that was or if it was correct, but I did like the cryptic and illusive aspect this added and the possible clues as to what was to come in the story that were included.

As the synopsis tells you, our main characters aren’t instant friends, Naavah Ora is probably the most reluctant to travel with the others initially and resists and niceties the longest.  She is also the one who knows the most about what the ritual 840 was rescued from was for and what the things she sees both in Dunhă and in their world actually means. As a mage she is also the one most equipped to stop it, but she needs to realise she can’t do this alone and her Grandmother had her reasons for sending her out into the world with these strangers.

I liked the four main characters, especially Naavah Ora. I liked her strength, determination, sense of duty but also her faults and that she had moments of weakness despite all her powers.  Doran and 840 had great character arcs and development through the novel and I enjoyed how they grew as they shared their secrets and learned more about their past with each others encouragement and support.  Ash is an impulsive character who brought extra danger and suspense into the story. All the characters are on a journey of self discovery while also having to learn how to get along and work together to save their world from the corruption of dark spirits.

I thought that the story was fun kept me wanting to know what would happen next. It wasn’t so gripping that I couldn’t put it down, but it held my interest until the end.  I know this is the first in a trilogy of books and I will definitely be reading the others as this one ended on a cliffhanger that makes me want to find out what happens next to our motley crew and if they succeed in saving their world.

 

Book Review – ‘Last Lullaby (Detective Natalie Ward Book 2)’ by Carol Wyer ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Thank you to NetGalley, Bookoture and Carol Wyer for the chance to read and review this book.

Charlotte’s baby is safe. But is she?

When the body of Charlotte Brannon is discovered by her husband Adam, in their bedroom, Detective Natalie Ward is first on the scene.  The killer has left a chilling calling card: The word ‘Why’ written in blood on the wall.

As Natalie begins to delve deeper into the couple’s lives, she discovers that Adam has a dark past he’s been hiding and she’s sure that the Brannon’s teenage babysitter Inge has secrets of her own.

Then another mother is murdered on her doorstep in front of her young son, the word ‘Why’ scrawled on the wall next to her.

All the key suspects have alibis and with her own marriage hanging by a thread, Natalie is struggling to stay focused on cracking her toughest case yet.

When a young woman and her baby disappear, a member of Natalie’s own team is  put in terrible danger. Can Natalie stop this twisted serial killer and save one of her own before more families are torn apart forever?

Gripping, fast-paced and nail-bitingly tense, this book will send shivers down your spine.  Perfect for fans of Angela Marsons, Rachel Abbott and Karin Slaughter.

I was so excited to be approved for an ARC of this book having loved ‘The Birthday’, which is the first book in the Detective Natalie Ward series, when I read it just a few months ago.  I’d been looking forward to the follow up and was thrilled I didn’t have long to wait.

The book starts with events leading up to the brutal murder of young mum Charlotte Brannon and the discovery of her body by her husband Adam.  There are few clues and Adam’s strange behaviour immediately makes him a likely suspect. I found him a perplexing and unlikeable character and think this was what the author intended: we are supposed to not like him and be suspicious of him.  He protests his innocence in Charlotte’s death immediately but doesn’t help himself at all with his lies and weird behaviour. Out of the other suspects I thought Lee was ambiguous in a deliberate way too and liked that the author had written characters that were seeming to have nothing to do with the crime yet you had this feeling, this unease about them just like the police did.  But also like the police you couldn’t decide if that is because they killed Charlotte or for another reason altogether?

This book differed from ‘The Birthday’ in that over half the book concentrated on the first crime before another one was committed, instead of two occurring quickly. This meant that there was a bit of a lull in the story to some degree, although the author kept you interested by building tension into chasing down the suspects and the information they found out while checking alibis. It kept you gripped and had your mind whirring as you tried to figure out who the culprit was.  When the second murder was committed you felt the anger along with Natalie and her team and their desperation to solve these crimes before anyone else was hurt. As with the previous book I found it hard to pin down a suspect as it is so well written you don’t quite know who’s telling the truth and who people really are, making that big reveal all the more satisfying when it happens.

I loved the sudden introduction quite a way into the book of the conversations between the mysterious Patient X and their Doctor.  Patient X is obviously the killer but we have no idea of their actual identity. We learn more about them as the book goes on and I found those short, sporadic chapters intriguing and an exciting edition to the story that built up the tension and mystery and showed us a glimpse into the sickening psyche of the murderer.

Last Lullaby also concentrated more on the homelives of Natalie and some of her team which I think helps builds up our relationship with them and makes us feel like we’re reading about people we know when we, and they, return for each book in the series. Even so you could still read and enjoy this book as a standalone without any confusion.

Carol Wyer is now one of those authors whose latest releases are a must-read for me.  Her simple but engrossing writing, fantastic characters, vivid crime scenes, and dramatic storylines, make this a crime series you shouldn’t miss. Now I just have to wait for book three….

Out December 7th

Book Review – ‘Before Her Eyes’ by Jack Jordan ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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First of all I’d like to thank Jack Jordan for my copy of this novel.

She can’t see the killer.  But the killer can see her….

Naomi Hannah has been blind since birth.  Struggling with living in a small, claustrophobic town, Naomi contemplates ending her life.  But then she stumbles across the body of a young woman who has been brutally murdered. She senses someone else there at the scene – watching her.  Naomi may not be able to see the killer’s face, but she is the only person who can identify him.

As the police begin hunting the person responsible and more victims are discovered, Naomi is forced to answer the question on which her fate hangs: why did the killer let her live?

In a town this small, the murderer must be close, perhaps even before her eyes….

This superb book had me hooked from the first pages and didn’t let me go until the final sentence.  I loved the decision to make the main character blind. I feel it was an inspired choice but also one that no doubt presented more challenges for the author as it meant that the he had to think and write in an even more descriptive and totally different way. I found these elements, along with how we get to experience the world in a way that most of us will never know first hand, and the opportunity to gain more understanding of the trials of life without vision, really interesting.  The sense of fear in the story was also highlighted by Naomi’s blindness as the perpetual darkness she lives in added terror and anxiety that would have otherwise been missing in situations that wouldn’t have had those aspects or mystery if she’d been able to see. The author certainly more than rose to the challenge he had set himself and ensured that this book is unforgettable for that aspect alone.

Knowing that the killer was able to recognise who had witnessed them at the scene of their crime and stalk them without Naomi being able to prove they’re even there was frustrating as a reader and made me even more eager for the killer to be revealed and punished so that Naomi could be safe and vindicated in her claims as she wasn’t always believed.  The sense of loneliness and dread as she slowly found herself unable to trust anyone and became more isolated and alone was palpable and made it impossible to stop reading. I just needed to know she was safe and find out who was so cruel as to be doing this to an already vulnerable woman.

This book was so brilliantly written that I couldn’t decide who was telling the truth, who the culprit was and what would happen next.  I had suspicions of course but it certainly wasn’t a book where you sit and think “oh that’s so obvious he’s the killer”. I don’t want to say much more as this book is one where if you give detail you risk giving away the story but I will say that the ending gave me chills and I could only sit there in amazement and reread it in shock.

This will not be me last read by Jack Jordan. Before Her Eyes is a sensational psychological thriller and he is a talent to be watched.  

Available now.

Publication Day Book Review – ‘Her Last Move’ by John Marrs ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

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Happy Publication Day John Marrs and his book ‘Her Last Move’.  I read and reviewed this book in early August and it was my first ever real review and before I started my Bookstagram page or this blog.  I did think about changing it but as it was selected by the Publisher as a featured review I decided to leave it as it was.

Review:

This was my first read from NetGalley and I’d like to thank them, John Marrs and Thomas & Mercer sending me this book to read and review.

“He hides in the shadows, waiting for the perfect moment. Each kill is calculated, planned and executed like clockwork.” – from the synopsis.

There’s a man on a killing spree in London and DS Becca Vincent, a single parent struggling to make her mark in the Force, and DS Joe Russell, a ‘Super Recogniser’ who’s department is still seen as a joke, are hot on his trail. But he leaves no clues and there seems to be nothing connecting most of the victims and he kills each one differently. As the body count rises the pressure is on to find him before he can claim his next prey.

I love John Marrs’ books. Ever since reading ‘The One’ back in September last year I’ve been devouring his books. This one was no exception.

I was captivated from the Prologue and the tension throughout had me on the edge of my seat. I enjoyed reading the story from the different perspectives, especially as the killer seems to truly believe he’s righting the wrongs people have done to him and that his victims deserve their fate. He is calculating, cold and lacks any remorse for his actions, making him an unsettling character who was at times hard to stomach. The dynamic between Becca and Joe worked perfectly and added to the drama, particularly as we got closer to the end of the book.

The shocking twists and turns made for an emotional, heartbreaking, but thrilling read. John never fails to get you in his grip and take you on a journey you didn’t expect with his characters. As with his previous four books I loved everything about this fantastic psychological thriller.

Book Review – ‘Still Lives’ by Maria Hummel ⭐⭐⭐

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Thank you to NetGalley, Quercus and Maria Hummel for the chance to review this book.

It’s opening night for renowned artist Kim Lord and her new ‘Still Lives’ exhibit at Rocque, a floundering private museum. The startling show is made up of a series of eleven self-portraits depicting Kim as the female victims of some of America’s most infamous murders, such as Nicole Brown Simpson and Kitty Genovese. The twelfth painting is a still life that is an homage to all other female murder victims. 

Maggie Ritchie, copy editor for the museum didn’t want to work that night. Her ex boyfriend, Greg Shaw Ferguson, left her for Kim just months before, but she is roped in last minute to accompany a New York journalist who has been sent to write a front page article on the event.  As the rich and famous of L.A eagerly await Kim’s arrival at the Gala opening her boyfriend arrives . But the hours pass with no sign of Kim and she is no longer answering messages…

When Greg is arrested on suspicion of murder a few days later people begin to question if life is intimidating art.  Could she have met the same fate as her subjects?  Are there clues in the still life painting that might lead to the whereabouts of the missing artist?  Refusing to believe her ex is guilty, Maggie embarks on her own investigation to try and solve the mystery and puts herself in danger as she gets closer to the truth.

I had high hopes for this book. I loved that it came with a recommendation from Reese Witherspoon’s book club and couldn’t wait to start reading.  I found the story immediately interested me despite the fact that I know nothing about art or the art world.  I liked Maggie and could relate to the way she was consumed by the heartbreak and betrayal of Greg leaving her for Kim. I did find the way she kept springing between the present and an incident from six years ago, when her source was killed, very hard to follow.  While this did end up explaining how she met Greg and why she abandoned journalism,  I felt that it offered little to the story as a whole and just made it feel like it would randomly go back to that time and made the flow of the book feel patchy.  I also felt like the book would often lull for long periods where I struggled to hold my interest.  Then, just as I was about to stop reading it would grip me again and I’d keep going, only to be soon faced with the same issue.

I liked the fact that I would have never guessed the perpetrator but unfortunately after such a long book that I found an effort to read it was an anti climax and I didn’t really care who’d done it by that point.  The build up had been so confusing and there didn’t seem to be any tension when all of a sudden it was over.  I think part of the problem with this story is it was too long and if it had been stripped back a little there could have been more excitement instead of feeling like plots were dragged out too far.