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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Readalong Tandem Readalong

The Maid by Nita Prose

Published: January 20th, 2022
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Literary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my review for this phenomenal debut. Thank you to the Tandem Collective UK for selecting me as a VIP for this readalong and to them and Harper Collins for the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

POLISHED TO PERFECTION, THE HOTLY-ANTICIPATED DEBUT, COMING JANUARY 2022
RIGHTS SOLD IN 29 TERRITORIES

*Film rights snapped up by Universal, with Florence Pugh set to star as the title character*

I am your maid.
I know about your secrets. Your dirty laundry.
But what do you know about me?

Molly the maid is all alone in the world. A nobody. She’s used to being invisible in her job at the Regency Grand Hotel, plumping pillows and wiping away the grime, dust and secrets of the guests passing through. She’s just a maid – why should anyone take notice?
 
But Molly is thrown into the spotlight when she discovers an infamous guest, Mr Black, very dead in his bed. This isn’t a mess that can be easily cleaned up. And as Molly becomes embroiled in the hunt for the truth, following the clues whispering in the hallways of the Regency Grand, she discovers a power she never knew was there. She’s just a maid – but what can she see that others overlook?

Escapist, charming and introducing a truly original heroine, The Maid is a story about how everyone deserves to be seen. And how the truth isn’t always black and white – it’s found in the dirtier, grey areas in between . . .

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MY REVIEW:

“I am your maid. I know so much about you. But when it comes down to it: what is it that you know about me?”

Molly loves her job as  a maid at the luxurious Regency Grand Hotel. She enjoys blending into the background and takes pride in her work cleaning up the messes that guests leave behind. But when she stumbles across the infamous Mr. Black dead in his bed it seems she has finally found a mess she can’t easily wipe away. Finding herself embroiled in the murder investigation, Molly’s whole world changes and, suddenly, everyone can see her.  Could Molly really hold the key to solving Mr. Black’s murder? 

This book! A murder mystery that was also a balm for my soul, it was like nothing I’ve ever read before and I loved every single thing about it.  I just know this is going to be HUGE when it’s released next year.

First of all, how on earth is this a debut?  The writing is exquisite, with evocative imagery that brought the world the author had created to life in vivid technicolour.  The opulent splendor of The Regency Grand made me think of the Emerald City from my favourite book, endearing me even more to this fictional place.  I devoured this book, unable to get enough as I lived every moment alongside Molly.  Nita Prose is an exciting new talent and I will be buying anything else she writes without hesitation.

“It’s easier than you’d ever think- existing in plain sight while remaining largely invisible.”

I adored Molly.  Quirky, naive and endearing, it was impossible not to love her.  She knows she’s different, that she doesn’t perceive things in the same way others do and that her love of order makes her seem strange, and we feel her pain at knowing that. She’s always struggled to navigate the world, but it is even harder without her beloved Gran who’s always guided and interpreted things for her.  Molly’s loneliness and naivete make her the perfect candidate for others to take advantage, which they do, and I dreaded the inevitable moment when she learned of their duplicity.  But, like those around her, I underestimated Molly and sat back in awe as she took us all by surprise when she found her power and strength in her darkest moment.  The world would be a better place if we were all a little more Molly. 

One of the unexpected parts of the story for me was how emotional it would feel.  Molly is all alone in the world after losing her Gran and the author makes us feel this deeply. The book is filled with Molly’s memories of her Gran and the quotes of sayings or advice she would give, making her as much of a presence for the reader as she was for Molly. The quotes from Gran were one of my favourite things about the book and having lost my own Nan just a few months ago, it made me feel an even stronger connection to Molly.

“It seems everyone’s an ameteur sleuth. They all believe they can waltz right into the hotel and solve the mystery of Mr. Black’s untimely demise.”

Another aspect I enjoyed was the shift in tone that takes place, making it almost feel like it is split into two parts.  The first part has a more chilled vibe, filled with lots of gorgeous imagery and heartrending moments as Molly talks about her loneliness in the world.  But after finding Mr. Black things switch up and the excitement and tension rises, keeping me on the edge of my seat and reading in breathless anticipation. 

Heartwarming, addictive, tense and twisty, The Maid is a phenomenal debut that is not to be missed.  Everyone is going to be talking about this book.  I was thrilled to find out the rights have already been bought and can’t wait to see it on the big screen. 

Go and read this book!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Nita Prose is a longtime editor, serving many bestselling authors and their books. She lives in Toronto, Canada, in a house that is only moderately clean.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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*These are affiliate links

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️ Emma xxx

Categories
book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Readalong Tandem Readalong

We Are Not Like Them by Christine Pride and Jo Piazza

Published: October 14th, 2021
Publisher: HQ
Genre: Thriller, Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

I read this book as part of a readalong organised by Tandem Collective UK. Thank you to them for the invitation to take part and be a VIP host, and to HQ for the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

THE MOST IMPORTANT NOVEL YOU’LL READ THIS YEAR

Not every story is black and white.

Riley and Jen have been best friends since they were children, and they thought their bond was unbreakable. It never mattered to them that Riley is black and Jen is white. And then Jen’s husband, a Philadelphia police officer, is involved in the shooting of an unarmed black teenager and everything changes in an instant.

This one act could destroy more than just Riley and Jen’s friendship. As their community takes sides, so must Jen and Riley, and for the first time in their lives the lifelong friends find themselves on opposing sides.

But can anyone win a fight like this?

We Are Not Like Them is about friendship and love. It’s about prejudice and betrayal. It’s about standing up for what you believe in, no matter the cost.

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MY REVIEW:

“When the bullets hit him, first his arm, then his stomach, it doesn’t feel like he’d always imagined it would. Because of course as a Black boy growing up in this neighbourhood, he’d imagined it.”

Wow. Just, wow. It’s been a few weeks since I read this phenomenal debut and I’m still thinking about it every day. I also still have no idea how to review it. The topic feels too big, too important to reduce to a review. But I will do my best. 

Lifelong friends Riley and Jen have never cared that one of them is Black and the other white. But after unarmed Black teenager Justin Dwyer is shot by two white police officers they find their friendship tested in ways they never imagined. They are both embroiled in the story and find themselves on opposing sides for the first time in their lives. Can their friendship withstand such a test? 

“At the end of the day, I’m afraid that Jen won’t get it. Maybe I’ve always been afraid.”

The story is narrated by Riley and Jen in alternating chapters, offering the reader an insight into how both women are affected in the aftermath of the shooting. Riley’s job as a news reporter and Jen’s position as the wife of one of the officers involved in the shooting immediately place them on opposing sides immediately. But then race becomes part of the discussion and adds more layers and nuance to this already complex story. 

I felt so conflicted reading this book. So many questions swam through my mind as I read and I found myself full of emotions I never expected. I didn’t know who to root for or where my allegiance should lay. I felt deeply sorry for both Jen and Riley, who are both great characters and saw both sides of their opposing arguments.  A big part of the problem between them is down to assumption and miscommunication, which left me feeling frustrated as so much of the pain they caused each other could have been avoided. I also had some sympathy for Kevin, who is clearly torn apart by what happened, though my ultimate sympathy lay with the young boy he shot and his devastated mother, who I would have liked to see more of in the book. 

“It kills me to think how some people want so badly to believe racism is buried beneath layers and layers of history, “ancient history”, they say. But it’s not. It’s like an umpire brushing the thinnest layer of dirt off the home plate: it’s right there. Only too often the trauma, the toll of it, remains unknown generation after generation. Like how Gigi kept her own awful secret, presumably to protect us from the ugly truth, and I’ve kept my own secrets, haunted by a similar shame.”

As a white woman I am aware I occupy a position of privilege and see the world through the lens of my own experiences. I love reading books like this one as they open my eyes to things that I might not have considered and help me to understand prejudice on a deeper level.  And that is part of the beauty of this book; whatever your race, gender or beliefs, there are things to learn from it. I was fortunate to read this as part of a readalong with other bloggers and during the chats about the book I enjoyed hearing their insights and views on the book as there were things some of them saw that I had missed or never considered. This enabled me to look at things from a perspective I’d otherwise never have had, something which I am grateful for. 

“He wants to tell them his name. If they know his name he’ll be less alone. Worse than the pain or even the fear is that he’s never felt so alone in his life.”

Bold, brave and thought-provoking, this made me feel ALL the feelings. It opens  as it means to go on, with a chapter that is so searing, raw and heartbreaking that I will never forget it. It is an unsettling but important read. A story about humanity, compassion, privilege, race and justice that reminds us not everything is black and white, and that the truth lies in the shades of grey. Exquisitely written with vivid characterisation, you can see the care that has been taken over every word on the page and I would love to have been a fly on the wall to see how the two authors co-wrote the book. 

A powerful, honest and heart-rending debut, We Are Not Like Them is a story that lingers long after closing that final page. A book that demands to be read and discussed. And one that I highly recommend. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHORS:

Christine Pride is a writer, editor and 15-year publishing veteran. She has held editorial posts at various imprints, including Doubleday, Broadway, Crown, Hyperion, and, most recently, as a Senior Editor at Simon and Schuster. Christine has edited and published a range of bestselling books, with a special emphasis on inspirational stories and memoirs. We Are Not Like Them, written with Jo Piazza, is her first book. She lives in New York City. 

Jo Piazza is an award-winning reporter and editor who has written for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the New York Daily News, New York Magazine, Glamour, Marie Claire, Elle and Salon. She has appeared on CNN, NPR, Fox News, the BBC and MSNBC. Her novel, The Knockoff, with Lucy Sykes became an instant international bestseller and has been translated into more than seven languages.

Jo received a Masters in Journalism from Columbia, a Masters in Religious Studies from NYU and a Bachelors in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania. She is also the author of the critically acclaimed If Nuns Ruled the World and Celebrity Inc: How Famous People Make Money.

She currently lives in San Francisco with her husband and their giant dog.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Bookshop.org*| Amazon| Google Books| Apple Books| Kobo
*These are affiliate links

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx

Categories
book reviews Readalong Tandem Readalong

Shadow Sands (Kate Marshall 2) by Robert Bryndza

Published: June 10th, 2021
Publisher: Sphere
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Fiction, Crime Fiction, Crime Series
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio, Hardcover

Thank you to the Tandem Collective for my place on the readalong and Sphere for the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

THE UNMISSABLE NEW THRILLER FROM THE INTERNATIONALLY BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE GIRL IN THE ICE AND NINE ELMS ROBERT BRYNDZA
__________

When Kate Marshall finds the body of a young man floating in the Shadow Sands reservoir, the authorities label it a tragic accident.

But the details don’t add up: why was he there in the middle of the night? If he was such a strong swimmer, how did he drown? As Kate and her assistant Tristan Harper follow the evidence, they make a far darker discovery . . .

This is only the latest victim in a series of bloody murders dating back decades. A mythic serial killer is said to hide in the rolling fog, abducting his victims like a phantom. And when another woman is taken, Kate and Tristan have a matter of days to save her from meeting the same fate.

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MY REVIEW:

“It had almost been a perfect summer. They had almost been a normal family again, but now there was a dead body.”

When you take your teenage son out diving in an attempt to bond you would expect the most traumatic thing you’d find would maybe be a dead fish, not a human body. But that is just what Kate Marshall and her son Jake find while diving together in the reservoir, and once again Kate and her assistant Tristan are drawn into an investigation that the police want her to forget. 

Simon Kendal was a strong swimmer who narrowly missed out on the Olympics. So how did he end up dead at the bottom of the reservoir? And why are the police so insistent that they drop it? Kate soon discovers that this is a case with a multitude of unanswered questions and inconsistencies, but she is unprepared for the dark secret they uncover. 

The second book in the Kate Marshall series is another triumph. After enjoying the first book I jumped at the chance to take part in this readalong with the Tandem Collective. Once again, Robert Bryndza delivers a dark and twisted read that is a thriller at its best. Absorbing, tense and chilling, this story has it all: a mythical serial killer that lurks in the rolling fog,  a desperate search for the latest victim, cover ups, and personal turmoil. The narration from the killer’s perspective adds mystery and suspense, offering us small clues to try and piece together. It’s a guessing game with an array of suspects that is full of surprising twists and turns. And all you can do is enjoy the ride.

The dynamic between Kate and Tristan is once again fantastic. They make a great team and I enjoyed seeing more of Tristan’s personal life and background in this installment, allowing us to get to know him better and building a fuller picture of him as a character. It makes him feel like more of an equal part of the team than in the first book, which I really liked. Kate’s complex history is already well known to us at this point, and it feels like she can’t catch a break. Like every time things start to go well, life has other ideas. I really felt for her as I know how hard it is to connect with your teenagers even when you don’t have the troubled and fractured history that she has with Jake, and while my ex isn’t on a level comparable with Kate’s, I do know the terror of your child wanting to connect with an estranged parent that you know is toxic and manipulative. And she’s going through all of this while investigating crimes and trying to rescue someone from a murderer’s clutches. 

Absorbing, darkly atmospheric, suspenseful and deftly told, I couldn’t put this down, and I flew through it in just a few hours instead of the planned five days of the readalong. Bryndza has created a must read series for anyone who enjoys this genre. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Robert Bryndza began his career training at the Guildford School of Acting. He spent six years as an actor, doing all kinds of strange jobs in between, which was the perfect training for being an author. He began to write during a long period of unemployment, first comedy sketches, a show which he took to the Edinburgh Festival, and then four romantic comedy novels which he self-published, and they became Amazon charts bestsellers selling over 250,000 copies.

His debut crime thriller The Girl in the Ice was the first book in his Detective Erika Foster series. It has sold over 1 million copies in the English language, and won the Dead Good Reader Award for best kick-ass female character at the 2016 Harrogate Crime Festival. Erika Foster has gone on to kick-ass in five further books; The Night Stalker, Dark Water, Last Breath, Cold Blood and Deadly Secrets. The series was twice nominated in Goodreads Choice Awards (Mystery and Thriller category) in 2016 for The Girl in the Ice, and in 2017 for Last Breath. Robert’s books have sold over 3 million copies in the English language, and have been translated into 29 languages.

Nine Elms, the first book in his new Kate Marshall private detective series was published late in 2019 and was an instant Amazon USA no.1 bestseller, an Amazon UK top 10 bestseller and topped bestselling charts around the world. The second book, Shadow Sands was published in November 2020.

Robert was born in Lowestoft, on the east coast of England. He studied at Aberystwyth University, and the Guildford School of Acting, and was an actor for several years, but didn’t find success until he took a play he’d written to the Edinburgh Festival. This led to the decision to change career and start writing. He self-published a bestselling series of romantic comedy novels, before switching to writing crime. Robert lives with his husband in Slovakia, and is lucky enough to write full-time.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org* | Amazon* | Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo
*These are affiliate links

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Readalong

Madame Burova by Ruth Hogan

Published: April 29th, 2021
Publisher: Two Roads/John Murray Press
Genre: Historical Fiction, Domestic Fiction, Contemporary Fantasy
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

I read this book as part of a readalong hosted by the publisher. Thank you Two Roads Books for the gifted copy of this book

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SYNOPSIS:

Madame Burova – Tarot Reader, Palmist and Clairvoyant is retiring and leaving her booth on the Brighton seafront after fifty years.

Imelda Burova has spent a lifetime keeping other people’s secrets and her silence has come at a price. She has seen the lovers and the liars, the angels and the devils, the dreamers and the fools. Her cards had unmasked them all and her cards never lied. But Madame Burova is weary of other people’s lives, their ghosts from the past and other people’s secrets, she needs rest and a little piece of life for herself. Before that, however, she has to fulfill a promise made a long time ago. She holds two brown envelopes in her hand, and she has to deliver them.

In London, it is time for another woman to make a fresh start. Billie has lost her university job, her marriage, and her place in the world when she discovers something that leaves her very identity in question. Determined to find answers, she must follow a trail which might just lead right to Madame Burova’s door.

In a story spanning over fifty years, Ruth Hogan conjures a magical world of 1970s holiday camps and seaside entertainers, eccentrics, heroes and villains, the lost and the found. Young people, with their lives before them, make choices which echo down the years. And a wall of death rider is part of a love story which will last through time.

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MY REVIEW:

“Madame Burova was a woman who knew where the bodies were buried.”

With that breathtaking first line I was hooked. What a way to start! I was ready for a book full of intrigue, suspense and spirits. Madame Burova is a story of two women, a lifetime of secrets and identity. The author moves seamlessly between dual timelines and narrators, slowly unveiling decades-old secrets and piecing together the truth of Billie’s mother’s identity.

This is a story filled with an array of authentic, vibrant, quirky and compelling characters. The women are fierce, feisty, independent and flawed, showing strength but also showing their vulnerable side. I enjoyed the banter between Imelda and her mother, Shunty-Mae, and enjoyed following Billie’s journey as she tried to rebuild her sense of self and discover who she really is after having her world torn apart. The author had me completely invested and unable to turn away. But the character who really stole my heart was young Treasure. I had tears in my eyes for that boy many times as he reminded us of the devastating effects of racism and bullying.

“As she read what was written on the pages it contained, her whole world washed away like the chalked hopscotch squares of her childhood in a sudden downpour of rain.”

This is a very character-driven story. And while I enjoyed that, and loved the characters and mystery elements of the book, I wanted to see more of Imelda’s gift. I was expecting a book full of mysticism and was disappointed that there was relatively little of it featured in the story, particularly in the present day. But that aside, the rest of the book was brilliant and I thought the mystery element was particularly well written as the author kept me guessing right up until the big reveal. As someone who reads a lot of books featuring mysteries, I like when one isn’t easy to guess and keeps me on my toes.

The author really brought the 1970s to life with her evocative imagery, making me feel like I had stepped into the pictures in my parents’ old photo albums. I felt like I could see the people in their flares and platform shoes walking down the street and smell the smoke in the cafe alongside the bacon grease. Speaking of the cafe, I loved how it was the local meeting place and at the core of a lot of the action in that era. It felt true to the time and place and some of my favourite scenes took place there. Another thing that added to the authenticity of the era, were the toxic behaviours that were more acceptable in the 70s that the author skillfully wove into the lighthearted, witty and tender prose. While it was hard to read at times, it was sensitively written and served as an important reminder of how such things were deemed acceptable just a few short years ago.

Uplifting, funny, warm and affecting, Madame Burova is an entertaining story that I would recommend. This was my first foray into Ruth’s books and I’m looking forward to reading more.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

FROM RUTH’S WEBSITE:
I was born in the house where my parents still live in Bedford. My sister was so pleased to have a sibling that she threw a thrupenny bit at me.

As a child, I loved the Brownies but hated the Guides, was obsessed with ponies and read everything I could lay my hands on.  Luckily, my mum worked in a bookshop.  My favourite reads were The MoomintrollsA Hundred Million Francs, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the back of cereal packets, and gravestones.

I passed enough O and A levels to get a place at Goldsmiths College, University of Londonto study English and Drama.  It was brilliant and I loved it.

And then I got a proper job.

I worked for ten years in a senior local government position (Human Resources – Recruitment, Diversity and Training). I was a square peg in round hole, but it paid the bills and mortgage.

In my early thirties I had a car accident which left me unable to work full-time and convinced me to start writing seriously.  I got a part-time job as an osteopath’s receptionist and spent all my spare time writing.  It was all going well, but then in 2012 I got Cancer, which was bloody inconvenient but precipitated an exciting hair journey from bald to a peroxide blonde Annie Lennox crop. When chemo kept me up all night I passed the time writing, and the eventual result was THE KEEPER OF LOST THINGS.

I live in a chaotic Victorian house with an assortment of rescue dogs and my long-suffering husband.  I spend all my free time writing or thinking about it and have notebooks in every room so that I can write down any ideas before I forget them.  I am a magpie; always collecting treasures (or ‘junk’ depending on your point of view) and a huge John Betjeman fan.  My favourite word is antimacassar and I still like reading gravestones.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org* | Amazon*| Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo
*These are affiliate links

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
book reviews Readalong

The Dinner Guest by B.P. Walter

Published: April 1st, 2021
Publisher: One More Chapter
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Domestic Fiction, Crime Fiction

SYNOPSIS:

Four people walked into the dining room that night. One would never leave.

Matthew: the perfect husband.

Titus: the perfect son.

Charlie: the perfect illusion.

Rachel: the perfect stranger.

Charlie didn’t want her at the book club. Matthew wouldn’t listen.

And that’s how Charlie finds himself slumped beside his husband’s body, their son sitting silently at the dinner table, while Rachel calls 999, the bloody knife still gripped in her hand.

Classic crime meets Donna Tartt in this nerve-shredding domestic noir thriller that weaves a sprawling web of secrets around an opulent West London world and the dinner that ends in death.

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MY REVIEW:

All the stars for this sensational thriller that explores secrets, lies, vengeance, and the masks we wear. 

It opens with a bang on the day of the murder; Matthew lies dead at the table and Rachel has the knife in her hand, confesses, and is taken into police custody, leaving Charlie and his son Titus shocked and bewildered. But there is are unanswered questions, riddles that need to be unravelled; why did Rachel confess to a murder she didn’t commit? And who really killed Matthew?

Charlie, Matthew and Titus are the picture-perfect family; affluent, good-looking and sickeningly happy, they have it all. Until Rachel comes into their lives. Charlie thinks there isn’t something quite right about her from the moment they meet, but Matthew won’t listen and invites her into their lives. A decision that will have devastating consequences and change all of their lives forever. Told in flashbacks leading up to the day of the murder and in the present day as they deal with the aftermath of Matthew’s death, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough as the author immersed me in this tense and twisty tale. 

This was my first time reading this author and I will definitely be reading more. Skillfully written, fast-paced and brimming with suspense, he kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. I had so many questions and very few ideas of what the answers could be. Jaw-dropping twists and revelations had my heart racing as the things built to a shocking climax that left me reeling. 

Atmospheric, addictive and intoxicating, if you like thrillers then you need to read this book!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

B P Walter was born and raised in Essex. After spending his childhood and teenage years reading compulsively, he worked in bookshops then went to the University of Southampton to study Film and English followed by an MA in Film & Cultural Management. He is an alumni of the Faber Academy and currently works in social media coordination for Waterstones in London.

Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org* | Amazon*| Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo
*These are affiliate links

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Thank you One More Chapter for hosting the readalong and the gifted ARC.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xxx