‘The Binding’ by Bridget Collins ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Imagine you could erase your grief.

Imagine you could forget your pain.

Imagine you could hide a secret. Forever.

Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a letter arrives summoning him to begin an apprenticeship.  He will work for a Bookbinder, a vocation arouses fear, suspicion and prejudice – but neither one he nor his parents can refuse.

He will learn to hand-craft beautiful volumes, and within each he will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory.  If there’s something you want to forget, he can help. If there’s something you need to erase, he can assist. Your past will be stored safely in a book and you will never remember your secret, however terrible.

In a vault under his mentor’s workshop, row upon row of books – and memories – are meticulously stored and recorded.

Then one day Emmett makes an astonishing discovery: one of them has his name on it.

The Binding is an unforgettable, magical novel, a boundary-defying love story and unique literary event.

Thank you to NetGalley, HaperCollins UK and Bridget Collins for the chance to read and review this book.

This mystical tale of family, duty and expectation, dark magic, love against the odds, lies, and self discovery is a story like no other, you will not be able to forget or stop talking about this magnificent novel.

Emmett Farmer is still recovering from a mystery illness that struck him down in the summer. He’s struggling to keep up with the work and is still weak, but is trying to hide this from his parents and sister, Alta, and make up for the work that piled up while he convalesced. As he arrives back at home one evening he hears his parents arguing about a letter that has arrived: Emmett has been summoned as an apprentice Bookbinder. He is confused when hear his Father saying he must go as years ago he told him he must never touch or read a book. Ultimately, it is decided there is no other choice but for him to go, he can not refuse the call from the Binder.

Arriving at the secluded Bindery Emmett is full of fear and trepidation. Books are bewitched, evil and that anyone who binds them is a sorcerer. His concerns are not allayed when he is greeted by the Binder, a thin, feeble and decrepit old woman named Seredith. As he is set to work he feels lost and still doesn’t understand why he was requested but at the same time keeps having a strange sense of deja vu. Emmett is even more confused when he enquires after the books they sell and is told they don’t sell books. Seredith explains that the books they bind are memories that people have asked to be bound in a book so that they don’t remember. They are stored in a vault and shouldn’t be read or sold, but there are some that create trade books for for profit or illegally sell the bound books. Emmett is horrified. How could he ever make such wicked things and take people’s memories?  Seredith reassures him he’s “Binder-born”, that in time he will feel able to do the job at hand and all will become clear. Emmett can’t imagine that to be true and his first binding is a frightening experience that he feels ill-prepared for.

I found the first part of this book  very confusing. We know only as much as Emmett and the author conveys his feelings so acutely that I found myself experiencing the same terrible bewilderment and desperate need for answers. When Emmett discovers a book with his name on he finally understands his feelings of deja vu and the story becomes clearer as we read about the memories he erased.  This part of the book is where we see more of Emmett’s character and I felt I connected with him. He is a man of morals, a good, but flawed character who tries to do what is right. Sometimes I understood him, other times I empathised with him, and there were times I was aghast he could do or think what I was reading. I felt his turmoil at what he was expected to do, especially when he learned that it wasn’t always used to help people, as Seredith had taught him. We also get to know his sister, Alta, and aristocrat Lucian Dornay and as the fates of the three are entwined a love story that challenges social bounds and sets them all on an ill-fated collision course that only being bound in a book can help them forget.

The Binding is a book I could write about for hours. The multi-layered plot slowly unfolds over the three parts and takes some surprising twists and turns. I did see one of the these twists coming fairly early on but this facet of the story took unexpected turns which made the book unputdownable and an entirely different story to the one I thought I would read. The author filled this book with memorable characters, some of whom are so sinister they made my stomach turn. I liked how even the ‘good’ characters became misguided as it made them real. I loved how the author introduced the concept of ‘fake’ books (novels) that were seen as more outrageous and confounding at the time, as were the people who would write such things. It was an interesting take on something that is the norm and did make me think how ludicrous such a thing as making up a tale rather than retelling something that happened, or was thought to have happened, could be when it was introduced.

This is an enchanting book that will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions. If you want to read something totally different that everyone will be talking about then this is the book for you.

Out now.

She Lies In Wait’ by Gytha Lodge ⭐⭐⭐. 5

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Thank you to NetGalley, Penguin UK, Michael Joseph and Gytha Lodge for the chance to read and review this novel.

Get ready for the biggest crime debut of 2019…..

Six friends. One killer. Who do you trust?

“A dark, deep, terrific thriller and scorching portrait of friendship and it’s betrayal” – Nicci French

On a hot July night in 1983, six school friends go camping in the forest.  Bright and brilliant, they are destined for great things, and young Aurora Jackson is dazzled to be allowed to tag along.

Thirty years later a body is discovered.  DCI Sheens is called to the scene, but he already knows what is waiting for him: Aurora Jackson, found at long last.

But that is not all.  The friends have all maintained their innocence, but the body is found in a hideaway only the six of them knew about.

It seems the killer has always lurked very close to home….

Seven teenagers go into the New Forest for a night of camping, drinking, drugs, frolics and fun. In the morning one of them, 14-year-old Aurora Jackson, is missing. After an extensive investigation lasting months it becomes a cold case, her fate remaining a mystery that haunts the small town she lived in and those who knew her. Thirty years later a 10-year-old girl is hiding in the woods when she finds a hole that’s the perfect spot. She feels a branch in her back and pulls it away only to discover it is infact a human finger. Aurora has been found at long last, close by to where she disappeared. DCI Jonah Sheens is called in to investigate. He was new to the Police Force when Aurora vanished and seems haunted by something that happened at that time that he hopes isn’t discovered.  What is he hiding and is it connected to Aurora’s disappearance and death?

As DCI Sheens talks to the others who were there that night they maintain their original claims of innocence despite the fact that only the six of them know about the hideout Aurora’s body was found in.  As he digs deeper cracks appear, one time loyal friends start to turn and long held secrets begin to be revealed.

Along with the original six it seems there was another suspect in the woods that day but lead wasn’t followed up correctly, and the more Jonah looks into it, the more it appears that thirty years ago the police just might have let the killer slip from their grasp. When it’s confirmed that Aurora was in fact murdered the pressure is on to wade through the murky subterfuge and find the truth of what really happened that night.

This debut novel is set in Hampshire’s New Forest, something that immediately endeared it to me as I used to live nearby. I love having a personal connection to a book, whether that be in subject matter or geography, and find that it instantly makes the read more enjoyable. The story was in dual timelines: the present day and the night of July 22nd 1983.  I liked this style of narration as it gave us a glimpse into that night’s events as they occured, but they slowly unfurled so we didn’t know Aurora’s final moments until the big reveal in the present day also revealed the killer. I think the dual timeline also helped add tension as it connected us to Aurora and we saw her as a person rather than her simply being some bones buried years ago. All the characters camping that night were well written and interesting.  I found it harder to connect with Jonah and found him dull at times.

The claim that this is the biggest crime debut of 2019 had me apprehensive as I started reading.  Would it live up to the claim or would it fall flat? I think for me it fell in the middle. I enjoyed this book, but it wasn’t so gripping that I couldn’t put it down. It seemed to go at a pace you’d expect of a book about a cold case but the hype made you expect something else. The big reveal was an unexpected and brilliantly written so it genuinely takes you by surprise.

Expectations aside, this was a good debut novel and a book I’d recommend if you enjoy crime thrillers.

Out Now on Kindle. Out March 21st on Paperback.

‘What Happens In France’ by Carol Wyer ⭐⭐⭐.5

 

“She stood and took her place in front of the camera… It was now or never.”

Bryony Masters has been looking for her long-lost sister, Hannah, for years, but when their father has a stroke her search takes on a new urgency.  So when primetime game show, What Happens In France, puts a call-out for new contestants, Bryony spots the ultimate public platform to find her reality TV-obsessed sister, and finally reunite their family.

With the help of handsome teammate Lewis, it’s not long before she’s on a private jet heading for the stunning beauty of rural France. With a social media star dog, a high maintenance quiz show host and a cast of truly unique characters, Bryony and Lewis have their work cut out for them to stay on the show and in the public eye.

Yet as the audience grows and the grand prize beckons, they find the search that brought them together may just fulfil more than one heart’s wish..

This heartwarming romantic comedy of friendship, family and laugh-out-loud adventures is perfect for fans of Kirsty Greenwood, Colleen Coleman and Marian Keyes.

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

Thirty years ago Bryony’s 16-year-old sister, Hannah, ran away from home and has never been heard of since. Bryony has always blamed herself and is sure her parents do too. She has tried everything to find her sister: the police, the press, private investigators, and her blog “Searching For Hannah” that she still updates regularly. When her father suffers a massive stroke and they are told he will not survive another Bryony realises she’s running out of time to put her family back together and knows she must find a way, any way, to find Hannah and bring her home.

When a new show, “What Happens In…” is announced and puts out a call for contestants Bryony sees the opportunity she’s been waiting for. Not only would getting on the show give her a huge audience to make aware of her sister’s disappearance and plead for help in finding her, but Hannah was a massive game show fan so there’s a chance she could tune in herself. With the help of her best friend Melinda she completes the application and waits to see if she’s chosen.

When she’s invited to audition Bryony is surprised to see a familiar face amongst the other hopefuls, Lewis, who she recently met at a get together at her best friend’s house. The two had instantly hit it off so when they find they have both been successful in their auditions and have to partner with someone for the show, they ask to work together. Their wish granted they are soon on a private jet on their way to France for a week of surprise challenges and a battle to stay on the show and raise awareness of Bryony’s quest to find her sister.

I don’t read many romantic comedies but when one is written by one of my must-read authors I can’t say no, especially when the plot sounds so fun and novel. While the book did start slow for me I found once we got to the part where Bryony is heading off to France and taking part in the show I couldn’t stop reading. I wasn’t surprised to find out how much research the author had done before writing this book as the chapters about the show were hilarious and full of great little details that only someone “in the know” would think of. The challenges were fun to read and I learned a lot myself when the characters were being quizzed about their general knowledge. The live broadcasts added a great element of tension as you were on the edge of your seat along with the contestants waiting to find out who was going home each night.

There were an array of colourful characters among the other contestants, particularly Oscar and his Instagram famous dog who were probably my favourite duo of all the characters, and Jim, who was what you imagine every Dad/Grandad to be. I liked Bryony and how the letters to her sister she wrote via her blog gave us a gradual insight into what happened when Hannah left and why Bryony is so sure it’s her fault. I can’t imagine how heartbreaking it must be to have someone you love missing, with no idea if they’re alive or dead for thirty long years, so I was definitely rooting for the plan to work. The dynamic between Lewis and Bryony was another thing I liked about the story. Their jovial and playful repartee made me think there was a burgeoning romance behind their friendship. Once again I was hoping Bryony would get a happy ending with Lewis, who seemed to be a lovely and decent guy.

Overall What Happens In France is a funny, interesting story about love, family and finding the truth. I learned some new trivia and now want to go on holiday to Brittany as it sounds so beautiful. An entertaining and easy read that is perfect for fans of romantic comedies, and even for those who don’t usually read them like me.

Out January 28th

‘No Exit’ by Taylor Adams ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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A brilliant, edgy thriller about four strangers, a blizzard, a kidnapped child, and a determined young woman desperate to unmask and outwit a vicious psychopath.

A kidnapped little girl locked in a stranger’s van. No help for miles. What would you do?

On her way to Utah to see her dying mother, college student Darby Thorne gets caught in a fierce blizzard in the mountains of Colorado. With the roads impassable, she’s forced to wait out the storm at a remote highway rest stop. Inside, are some vending machines, a coffee maker, and four complete strangers.

Desperate to find a signal to call home, Darby goes back out into the storm… and makes a horrifying discovery. In the back of the van parked next to her car, a little girl is locked in an animal crate.

Who is the child? Why has she been taken? And how can Darby save her?

There is no cell reception, no telephone, and no way out. One of her fellow travelers is a kidnapper. But which one?

Trapped in an increasingly dangerous situation, with a child’s life and her own on the line, Darby must find a way to break the girl out of the van and escape.

But who can she trust?

With exquisitely controlled pacing, Taylor Adams diabolically ratchets up the tension with every page. Full or terrifying twists and turns, No Exit will have you on the edge of your seat and leave you breathless.

This fast-paced, heart-stopping thriller had me completely absorbed. There had been a buzz on bookstagram about it so I was full of anticipation when I started reading, hoping that it lived up to the hype. I’ve now become part of that hype; this is a book you don’t want to miss.

“Tonight, every decision would leave footprints.”

Student Darby Thorne is on her way home to Utah from college in Colorado two days before Christmas. She hadn’t planned on making the trip but a message from her older sister telling her that their mother has late stage pancreatic cancer and will undergo surgery on Christmas Eve means that she’s on her way home. Unfortunately also on it’s way is what Darby calls ‘Snowmageddon’, a huge snow storm that derails her plans and forces her taking shelter at a rest stop with four strangers for company and no cell service. Desperate to speak to her mother before the surgery Darcy braves the cold to try and find a signal, but instead makes an unexpected and frightening discovery: a seven year old girl trapped in an animal cage in the back of the van parked next to her car. Who is this girl? Which of the four strangers in the rest stop took her? How can Darby set her free without fatal consequences for herself and the child?

Assuring the girl she will come back and help, Darby goes back inside to try and deduce who is responsible for the crime. Is it Ed and his cousin Sandi who say they are on their way home for a family Christmas, Ashley the self proclaimed magic man who won’t stop talking, or ‘rodent face’, the strange looking man that gives her the creeps that she later discovers is called Lars? Even when she thinks she’s figured out who owns the van she still needs to figure out how to help the girl. But with a battery that’s fading fast, her charger at home, no signal, no idea who she can trust and no chance of help from authorities before the morning, Darby desperately tries to decide how to secretly save the girl without alerting the kidnapper and putting everyone else’s life in danger.

“No panic, no fight, no flight, just that shivery little moment when life goes rancid.”

Darby is a well meaning character who can’t imagine just sitting back doing nothing until the roads clear and then hoping the police catch up to the van later. Despite the risk she has to help, a decision that changes the fate of everyone at the rest stop that night. Not knowing who to trust complicates matters and she makes many mistakes that night, but ultimately her concern is saving the little girl trapped in that filthy cage. The cast of characters were a varied group. Lars was a dubious individual that you should keep an eye on at all times, Ashley had a cocky confidence, and Ed and Sandi were the unassuming duo you’d not pay attention to under normal circumstances. But is there more to this group than what first appears to be true? Are some of them hiding behind an elaborate facade?

“..she’d almost clawed her way out of this fiery, blood-drenched nightmare.”

No Exit starts with a sinister discovery at an isolated rest stop and the book simmers with a rising tension from the outset. I was on tenterhooks throughout as I rooted for Darby to save the girl and get them both to safety. The author has a devilish talent for the macabre and writes in a way that makes each page more tense than the one before as the twist and turns leave you reeling. Right up until the final sentence you aren’t sure what fate holds for these characters, making this a must-read book that you won’t forget.

Out now. Available on Kindle Unlimited.

‘Blackberry and Wild Rose’ by Sonia Velton ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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When Esther Thorel, the wife of a Huguenot silk-weaver, rescues Sara Kemp from a brothel she thinks she is doing God’s will. Sara is not convinced being a maid is better than being a whore, but the chance to escape her ‘grasping’ madam is too good to refuse.

Inside the Thorels’ tall house in Spitalfields, where the strange cadence of the looms fills the attic, the two women forge an uneasy relationship.  The physical intimacies of washing and dressing belie the reality: Sara despises her mistress’s blindness to the hypocrisy of her household, while Esther is too wrapped up in her own secrets to see Sara as anything more than another charitable cause.

It is silk that has Esther so distracted. For years she has painted her own designs, dreaming that one day her husband will weave them into reality. When he laughs at her ambition, she strikes up a relationship with one of the journeyman weavers in her attic who teaches her to weave and unwittingly sets in motion events that will change the fate of the whole Thorel household.

Thank you to Quercus Books, NetGalley and Sonia Velton for the chance to read and review this book.

This beautifully written piece of historical fiction was a joy to read from beginning to end. The author instantly transported me in to the 18th Century with her vivid and eloquent storytelling and the opening chapter had me hooked. When I read her description of how Sara came to work at the brothel after her arrival in London my heart broke and from that point I was unable to put this book down.

The story is narrated in alternate chapters by Sara and Esther, a choice that I loved. Told in the past tense, it was fascinating to read the same events from different perspectives and see the subtle variations in their accounts. It also showed us how naive the women were in their own ways, neither one understanding or thinking of things from the other’s viewpoint. Both women were flawed, complex and had many layers to their character. This meant I would vary at times between which character I empathised with and enabled me to find something about each of them I could relate to. I did find their intense dislike of each other an amusing part of the story and enjoyed their scathing comments about each other. The decision to make Sara resentful of her new position was a choice I think made the story more interesting and that inevitably fed into some of the conflict between them. Reading how Esther was so fixated on her own version of morality that she was blind to her hypocrisy and sanctimonious behaviour made me infuriated so I understood Sara’s resentment to some of the things she’d say. I enjoyed seeing how both they and  their relationship with each other changed throughout the story, especially as things escalated in the story towards the end.

I also like how the book highlighted the difficulty of being a woman in that time period. Rich or poor life was bleak for the fairer sex at that time and the veneer of perfection and opulence projected by women with money and esteem simply hid the truth of their sad and difficult situations. All women were at the mercy of men and if you were married or not you could find your situation precarious and be in the workhouse or the hangman’s noose for a perceived wrong. Yet because women like Sara lived with their flaws and the harsh reality of their lives out for all to see, women such as Esther looked down on them. But men were not immune to struggle either and we saw how the rich master weavers held their power over their employees as well as their wives. They didn’t pay them a fair or living wage and resented the idea that their employees should have any working rights or a say in how much they earn. They viewed the world as theirs and the women and workers were there to simply serve their needs as they deemed fit. In the story these situations led to characters doing things they might otherwise have thought better of and led to devastating and shocking consequences as things spiraled out of control.

The Blackberry and Wild Rose is a delightful and engrossing debut novel with a multi-layered storyline and interesting characters. I loved the author’s writing style and couldn’t stop reading as the plot twisted and unfurled before me.  I’ve found this genre to be a favourite of mine this year but until recently I’d mostly read books concentrating on the 19th and 20th Century. This book was based in the 18th Century and was clearly well researched in terms of both the time period and the silk trade on which the story is based. If you enjoy historical fiction then this is a book you should read.

Out Now.

‘Verity’ by Colleen Hoover ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started.  What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of really happened the day her daughter died.

Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.

“I hear the crack of his skull before the splattering of blood reaches me.”

When I read the opening line above I got shivers down my spine. This book started with a chilling, ominous tone that remained throughout the book and made it unputdownable.

Lowen Ashleigh is a writer with limited success that is now facing financial ruin. On her way to meeting with her literary agent she witnesses a gruesome accident and meets a handsome stranger who helps her through her shock. Unbeknownst to them, this chance encounter will become a turning point in both their lives.

In an offer that could change her fortunes she is being asked to complete the final three books in Verity Crawford’s bestselling The Noble Virtues series as the author is incapacitated after an accident.  Despite the huge financial reward being offered, Lowen is reluctant. One of the things she loves about writing is the anonymity; she doesn’t do social media or interviews and knows by having her name connected to these books she would be thrust into the limelight. So a deal is reached that she will use a pseudonym and not do any publicity for the books.

Jeremy Crawford, Verity’s handsome husband, invites her to stay at their Vermont home so she can access all of Verity’s notes and outlines from the last 13 years. As she is about to be homeless Lowen accepts. She finds a disorganised office and a home overshadowed by sadness after multiple tragedies, and the eerie presence of Verity, who is in an almost catatonic state after a car accident.

Whilst sorting through the disordered office Lowen comes across a manuscript of Verity’s autobiography, “So Be It”. Curious about the woman she’s been hired to get in the mind of, Lowen begins to read. The autobiography is no holds barred and shocking. Verity is not the woman it seems even her husband thinks she is and the confessions in this book become increasingly sickening and harrowing. As she reads more of the book it is harder for Lowen to be around Jeremy and hear him talk about his wife, knowing he is clueless to who she truly is and the reprehensible things she has done. When Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy deepen, and seem to be reciprocated, she beings to justify the idea of showing him the manuscript, knowing it will end his loyalty to his wife and bring him closer to her.

I absolutely loved this book. It is hard to believe that the author hasn’t written a thriller before as this read like the work of a seasoned thriller writer. It was enthralling, genuinely terrifying and impossible to put down. Verity is a brilliant character. She starts off very mysterious, intimidating and omnipresent, kind of like Rebecca in the eponymous book. Once the autobiography is discovered Verity is revealed to be a narcissistic, malevolent character who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. While passionate in some ways she is also cold as ice and I found it hard to have any empathy for her after reading her inner most thoughts and hateful deeds. As the book goes on Lowen is sure Verity doing things that shouldn’t be possible in her state and becomes terrified of her. This gave the book an increasingly creepy vibe and I couldn’t decide if it was all Lowen’s imagination because of what she’s been reading or if these things are actually happening but it all added to the mystery of Verity’s character and her sinister presence. I thought Verity, Lowen and Jeremy were all well written and the writer made it very easy to empathise with Lowen and Jeremy and to cheer them on as they fell in love.

“No matter which way way I look at it, it’s clear that Verity was a master at manipulating the truth. The only question remains: Which truth was she manipulating?”

The ending of this book had my jaw on the floor. I literally gasped in horror and read the final pages with my hand over my mouth. It was one of the most breathtaking and unexpected twists I’ve read. It made me question everything I’d just read and asking myself what is the truth? Is it something tangible and unwavering or something we bend to fit out preferred narrative?  

Colleen Hoover should write more thrillers as this is an outstanding book. It is a terrifying story that will get into your psyche and haunt you. If you’re a fan of thrillers then you have to read this book.

Out now.  Available on Kindle Unlimited.

‘The Day of the Accident’ by Nuala Ellwood ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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They say you killed….

BUT WHAT IF THEY’RE WRONG?

Sixty seconds after she wakes from a coma, Maggie’s world is torn apart.

The police tell her that her daughter Elspeth is dead. That she drowned when the car Maggie had been driving plunged into the river.  Maggie remembers nothing.

What really happened that day at the river?

Where is Maggie’s husband?

And why can’t she shake the suspicion that somewhere, somehow, her daughter is still alive?

Thank you to Penguin UK, Netgalley and Nuala Ellwood for the chance to read and review this book.

When Maggie Allan wakes in a hospital room she has no idea how or when she got there. She is told that she has been in a coma for ten weeks following a car accident that claimed the life of her daughter Elspeth. Her world shattered, Maggie struggles to accept the truth that her daughter is gone and the further blow that just after the funeral her husband Sean walked out of the hospital and never came back. Her reasons for living lost, Maggie is determined to regain her memory, uncover the truth of what happened that fateful night, and find her husband.

When she’s discharged from hospital Maggie expects to return to the family home but is shocked to discover she has nowhere to go. The house she believed they owned was actually sold by her husband to a company called BH2 Properties seven years ago and he’d been renting it ever since. Then, six weeks ago, he gave notice on the house and then cleared their bank account, leaving her homeless and with less than £200 to her name. Everything they owned is also gone so she has no belongings and none of Elspeth’s things to give her comfort. This extra betrayal gives Maggie an increased determination to find out where Sean is and why he left.

Throughout the book it is clear Maggie is harbouring a secret, something that happened in her teens that she refers to as “the dark thing”. This event led to her attempting suicide, being sent to a psychological ward, suffering from anorexia and forever altered her relationship with her mother. It’s clear to the reader that this incident has affected her entire life but Maggie is in denial, refusing to face or deal with what happened. Barbara, the mother of her boyfriend at the time of the event, has a vicious hatred of Maggie and makes it clear she thinks she should have been locked up for what happened and thinks she killed Elspeth, but we don’t know why.

Overall I liked Maggie as a character. She is flawed but is someone who tries to do the right thing. The big mistake she made as a teenager gave me more empathy for her as she was clearly a desperate young girl who needed guidance but was instead met with anger and accusations. My heart broke for her at the desolation and sense of loss and betrayal she must have felt after being told of Sean’s betrayal. To lose her child and almost her own life in the accident was horrendous but the added loss of her husband and everything she knew.

This was a book that was hard to stop reading. It was gripping from the start and had a multilayered plot full of intrigue and mystery. I found myself full of ideas about what the “dark thing” could have been, why Sean left, what really happened the night of the accident and what the truth was about the letters, but some of them seemed too fantastical to actually be right. The book was so well written that you were never quite sure where it was going or if your theory was right. I liked that in addition to Maggie’s narration we also had another narrator, her daughter who is writing her letters begging her to come save her from this new, awful, place that she’s been left in. These letters are strange as Elspeth’s body was identified so despite Maggie’s denial we know she is dead. Could these be letters she wrote in limbo? Or is there another explanation? I had a few ideas but like with everything else the author kept us guessing right until the end when the big dramatic reveal occurred and blew me away. Even though I’d correctly predicted some of the twists, it was no less shocking and exciting when the truth was unveiled.

Out February 21st