Welcome to First Lines Friday where I share the first lines from one of the books on my shelves to try and tempt you to add it to yours.
“Edward Fosca was a murderer. This was a fact. This wasn’t something Mariana knew just on an intellectual level, as an idea. Her body knew it. She felt it in her bones, along with her blood, and deep within every cell. Edward Fosca was guilty.”
Today’s gripping first lines are taken from The Maidens, the new novel by Alex Michaelades that was published yesterday. I don’t know about you, but those lines make me want to abandon my TBR and pick up this book. In fact, if I didn’t have blog tour commitments that is exactly what I’d be doing.
We all keep secrets. Even from ourselves.
St Christopher’s College, Cambridge, is a closed world to most.
For Mariana Andros – a group therapist struggling through her private grief – it’s where she met her late husband. For her niece, Zoe, it’s the tragic scene of her best friend’s murder.
As memory and mystery entangle Mariana, she finds a society full of secrets, which has been shocked to its core by the murder of one of its own.
Because behind its idyllic beauty is a web of jealousy and rage which emanates from an exclusive set of students known only as The Maidens. A group under the sinister influence of the enigmatic professor Edward Fosca.
A man who seems to know more than anyone about the murders – and the victims. And the man who will become the prime suspect in Mariana’s investigation – an obsession which will unravel everything…
The Maidensis a story of love, and of grief – of what makes us who we are, and what makes us kill.
This is one of my most anticipated books of 2021, so I am really excited to pick this up, hopefully later this month. Is The Maidens on your TBR? Let me know in the comments?
How are we almost half way through the year already? Crazy! June is almost upon us and it’s a great month for books. A few of these are ones that are part of my most anticipated books of the year, and I’m really excited to finally own and read them soon.
Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and the micro-aggressions, she’s thrilled when Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events cause Nella to become Public Enemy Number One and Hazel, the Office Darling.
Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW.
It’s hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realises that there is a lot more at stake than her career.
A whip-smart and dynamic thriller and sly social commentary, The Other Black Girl will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last twist.
Published: June 3rd, 2021 Publisher: Allen & Unwin Genre: Psychological Fiction, Domestic Fiction
SYNOPSIS: When Gill and Gabe’s elder son drowns overseas, they decide they must hide the truth from their desperately unwell teenaged daughter. But as Gill begins to send letters from her dead son to his sister, the increasingly elaborate lie threatens to prove more dangerous than the truth.
A novel about family, food, grief, and hope, this gripping, lyrical story moves between Tasmania and London, exploring the many ways that a family can break down – and the unexpected ways that it can be put back together.
Published: June 8th, 2021 Publisher: Del Rey Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, High Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Fairy Tale, Jewish Fiction
SYNOPSIS: In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.
But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman – he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.
As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all.
Published: June 10th, 2021 Publisher: Manilla Press Genre: Historical Fiction
SYNOPSIS: From the bestselling author of The Familiars and The Foundling comes Stacey Halls’s most compelling and ambitious novel to date.
‘Something’s not right here.’ I was aware of Mr Booth’s eyes on me, and he seemed to hold his breath. ‘What do you mean?’ ‘In the house. With the family.’
West Yorkshire, 1904. When newly graduated nurse Ruby May takes a position looking after the children of Charles and Lilian England, a wealthy couple from a powerful dynasty of mill owners, she hopes it will be the fresh start she needs. But as she adapts to life at the isolated Hardcastle House, it becomes clear there’s something not quite right about the beautiful, mysterious Mrs England.
Distant and withdrawn, Lilian shows little interest in her children or charming husband, and is far from the ‘angel of the house’ Ruby was expecting. As the warm, vivacious Charles welcomes Ruby into the family, a series of strange events forces her to question everything she thought she knew. Ostracised by the servants and feeling increasingly uneasy, Ruby must face her demons in order to prevent history from repeating itself. After all, there’s no such thing as the perfect family – and she should know.
Simmering with slow-burning menace, Mrs England is a portrait of an Edwardian marriage, weaving an enthralling story of men and women, power and control, courage, truth and the very darkest deception. Set against the atmospheric West Yorkshire landscape, Stacey Halls’ third novel proves her one of the most exciting and compelling new storytellers of our times.
SYNOPSIS: From the author of the global #1 bestselling debut The Silent Patient comes a spellbinding literary thriller which weaves together Greek mythology, psychology, and murder…
St Christopher’s College, Cambridge, is a closed world to most.
For Mariana Andros – a group therapist struggling through her private grief – it’s where she met her late husband. For her niece, Zoe, it’s the tragic scene of her best friend’s murder.As memory and mystery entangle Mariana, she finds a society full of secrets, which has been shocked to its core by the murder of one of its own.
Because behind its idyllic beauty is a web of jealousy and rage which emanates from an exclusive set of students known only as The Maidens. A group under the sinister influence of the enigmatic professor Edward Fosca.A man who seems to know more than anyone about the murders – and the victims. And the man who will become the prime suspect in Mariana’s investigation – an obsession which will unravel everything…
The Maidens is a story of love, and of grief – of what makes us who we are, and what makes us kill.
Published: June 10th, 2021 Publisher: Riverrun Genre: Fairy Tale
SYNOPSIS: Cath is a photographer hoping to go freelance, working in a record shop to pay the rent and eking out her time with her manager Steve. He thinks her photography is detective work, drawing attention to things that would otherwise pass unseen and maybe he’s right . . .
Starting work on her new project – photographing murder houses – she returns to the island where she grew up for the first time since she left for Glasgow when she was just eighteen. The Isle of Bute is embedded in her identity, the draughty house that overlooked the bay, the feeling of being nowhere, the memory of her childhood friend Shirley Craigie and the devastating familicide of her family by the father, John Craigie.
Arriving at the Craigie house, Cath finds that it’s occupied by Financial Analyst Alice Rahman. Her bid to escape the city lifestyle, the anxiety she felt in that world, led her to leave London and settle on the island. The strangeness of the situation brings them closer, leading them to reinvestigate the Craigie murder. Now, within the walls of the Craigie house, Cath can uncover the nefarious truths and curious nature of John Craigie: his hidden obsession with the work of Richard Dadd and the local myths of the fairy folk.
The Good Neighbours is an enquiry into the unknowability of the past and our attempts to make events fit our need to interpret them; the fallibility of recollection; the power of myths in shaping human narratives. Nina Allan skilfully weaves the imagined and the real to create a magically haunting story of memory, obsession and the liminal spaces that our minds frequent to escape trauma.
SYNOPSIS: When Rachel’s baby is stillborn, she becomes obsessed with the idea that saving a stranger s life months earlier is to blame. An unforgettable, heart-wrenching, warm and funny debut.
Mum-to-be Rachel did everything right, but it all went wrong. Her son, Luke, was stillborn and she finds herself on maternity leave without a baby, trying to make sense of her loss.
When a misguided well-wisher tells her that ‘everything happens for a reason’, she becomes obsessed with finding that reason, driven by grief and convinced that she is somehow to blame. She remembers that on the day she discovered her pregnancy, she’d stopped a man from jumping in front of a train, and she s now certain that saving his life cost her the life of her son.
Desperate to find him, she enlists an unlikely ally in Lola, an Underground worker, and Lola’s seven-year-old daughter, Josephine, and eventually tracks him down, with completely unexpected results…
Both a heart-wrenchingly poignant portrait of grief and a gloriously uplifting and disarmingly funny story of a young woman’s determination, Everything Happens for a Reason is a bittersweet, life- affirming read and, quite simply, unforgettable.
SYNOPSIS: When the mother of an autistic young man hires a call girl to make him happy, three lives collide in unexpected and moving ways … changing everything. A devastatingly beautiful, rich and thought-provoking novel that will warm and break your heart…
Sebastian James Murphy is twenty years, six months and two days old. He loves swimming, fried eggs and Billy Ocean. Sebastian is autistic. And lonely.
Veronica wants her son Sebastian to be happy … she wants the world to accept him for who he is. She is also thinking about paying a professional to give him what he desperately wants.
Violetta is a high-class escort, who steps out into the night thinking only of money. Of her nursing degree. Paying for her dad’s care. Getting through the dark.
When these three lives collide – intertwine in unexpected ways – everything changes. For everyone.
A topical and moving drama about a mother’s love for her son, about getting it wrong when we think we know what’s best, about the lengths we go to care for family … to survive … This Is How We Are Human is a searching, rich and thought-provoking novel with an emotional core that will warm and break your heart.
Published: June 10th, 2021 Publisher: Pan Macmillan Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Crime Fiction
SYNOPSIS: Everything she touches breaks . . .
Nell Ballard is a runaway. A former foster child with a dark secret she is desperate to keep, all Nell wants is to find a place she can belong.
So when a job comes up at Starling Villas, home to the enigmatic Robin Wilder, she seizes the opportunity with both hands.
But her new lodgings may not be the safe haven that she was hoping for. Her employer lives by a set of rigid rules and she soon sees that he is hiding secrets of his own.
But is Nell’s arrival at the Villas really the coincidence it seems? After all, she knows more than most how fragile people can be – and how easy they can be to break . . .
Fragile is a dark, contemporary psychological thriller with a modern Gothic twist from an award-winning and critically acclaimed writer who has been compared to Ruth Rendell, P. D. James and Val McDermid. Rebecca meets The Handmaid’s Tale in Sarah Hilary’s standalone breakout novel.
Published: June 10th, 2021 Publisher: W&N Genre: History, Society and Culture, Gender Studies
SYNOPSIS: ‘We are taught that medicine is the art of solving our body’s mysteries. And as a science, we expect medicine to uphold the principles of evidence and impartiality. We want our doctors to listen to us and care for us as people, but we also need their assessments of our pain and fevers, aches and exhaustion to be free of any prejudice about who we are, our gender, or the colour of our skin. But medicine carries the burden of its own troubling history. The history of medicine, of illness, is a history of people, of their bodies and their lives, not just physicians, surgeons, clinicians and researchers. And medical progress has always reflected the realities of a changing world, and the meanings of being human.’
In Unwell Women Elinor Cleghorn unpacks the roots of the perpetual misunderstanding, mystification and misdiagnosis of women’s bodies, and traces the journey from the ‘wandering womb’ of ancient Greece, the rise of witch trials in Medieval Europe, through the dawn of Hysteria, to modern day understandings of autoimmune diseases, the menopause and conditions like endometriosis. Packed with character studies of women who have suffered, challenged and rewritten medical orthodoxy – and drawing on her own experience of un-diagnosed Lupus disease – this is a ground-breaking and timely exposé of the medical world and woman’s place within it.
Published: June 17th, 2021 Publisher: Doubleday Genre: Historical Fiction
SYNOPSIS: The Salpêtrière asylum, 1885. All of Paris is in thrall to Doctor Charcot and his displays of hypnotism on women who have been deemed mad or hysterical, outcasts from society. But the truth is much more complicated – for these women are often simply inconvenient, unwanted wives or strong-willed daughters. Once a year a grand ball is held at the hospital. For the Parisian elite, the Mad Women’s Ball is the highlight of the social season; for the women themselves, it is a rare moment of hope.
Geneviève is a senior nurse. After the childhood death of her sister, she has shunned religion and placed her faith in Doctor Charcot and his new science. But everything begins to change when she meets Eugénie, the 19-year-old daughter of a bourgeois family. Because Eugénie has a secret, and she needs Geneviève’s help. Their fates will collide on the night of the Mad Women’s Ball…
Published: June 24th, 2021 Publisher: Harper Collins UK Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Crime Fiction, Police Procedural
SYNOPSIS: They thought they’d got away with it … they were wrong.
Leigh and her sister Callie are not bad people – but one night, more than two decades ago, they did something terrible. And the result was a childhood tarnished by secrets, broken by betrayal, devastated by violence.
Years later, Leigh has pushed that night from her mind and become a successful lawyer – but when she is forced to take on a new client against her will, her world begins to spiral out of control.
Because the client knows the truth about what happened twenty-three years ago. He knows what Leigh and Callie did. And unless they stop him, he’s going to tear their lives apart …
Just because you didn’t see the witness … doesn’t mean he wasn’t there.
SYNOPSIS: You can save hundreds of lives. Or the one that matters most . . .
The atmosphere on board the first non-stop flight from London to Sydney is electric. Celebrities are rumoured to be among the passengers in business class, and the world is watching the landmark journey.
Flight attendant Mina is trying to focus on the passengers, instead of her troubled five-year-old daughter back at home – or the cataclysmic problems in her marriage.
But soon after the plane takes off, Mina receives a chilling anonymous note. Someone wants to make sure the plane never reaches its destination. They’re demanding her cooperation . . . and they know exactly how to get it.
It’s twenty hours to landing. A lot can happen in twenty hours . . .
Ruth lives in the heart of the city. Working, drinking, falling in love: the rhythm of her vivid and complicated life is set against a background hum of darkening news reports from which she deliberately turns away.
When a new romance becomes claustrophobic, Ruth chooses to leave behind the failing relationship, but also her beloved friends and family, and travels to the other side of the world in pursuit of her dream life working with whales in New Zealand.
But when Ruth arrives, the news cycle she has been ignoring for so long is now the new reality. Far from home and with no real hope of survival, she finds herself climbing into the mouth of a beached whale alongside a stranger. When she emerges, it is to a landscape that bears no relation to the world they knew before.
When all has been razed to the ground, what does it mean to build a life?
The Stranding is a story about the hope that can remain even when the world is changed beyond recognition.
She loves her daughter, and the two of them is all that matters. But after nearly twenty years, she and Ella are suddenly leaving London for the Isle of Kip, the tiny remote Scottish island where Lorna grew up.
Alice’s world is tiny but full.
She loves the community on Kip, her yoga classes drawing women across the tiny island together. Now Lorna’s arrival might help their family finally mend itself – even if forgiveness means returning to the past…
So with two decades, hundreds of miles and a lifetime’s worth of secrets between Lorna and the island, can coming home mean starting again?
Published: June 24th, 2021 Publisher: Picador Genre: Historical Fiction, Humorous Fiction, Coming-of-Age Story
SYNOPSIS: From the author of Sunday Times Bestseller, Dear Mrs Bird, comes a much hoped-for follow up, Yours Cheerfully. Charming, heart-warming and hilarious, Yours Cheerfully is just the tonic we’ve all been waiting for.
London, September, 1941.
Following the departure of the formidable Editor, Henrietta Bird, from Woman’s Friend magazine, things are looking up for Emmeline Lake as she takes on the challenge of becoming a young wartime advice columnist. Her relationship with boyfriend Charles is blossoming, while Emmy’s best friend Bunty, is still reeling from the very worst of the Blitz, but bravely looking to the future. Together, the friends are determined to Make a Go of It.
When the Ministry of Information calls on Britain’s women’s magazines to help recruit desperately needed female workers to the war effort, Emmy is thrilled to be asked to step up and help. But when she and Bunty meet a young woman who shows them the very real challenges that women war workers face, Emmy must tackle a life-changing dilemma between doing her duty, and standing by her friends.
Every bit as funny, heartwarming, and touching as AJ Pearce’s debut, Dear Mrs Bird, Yours Cheerfully is a celebration of friendship, a testament to the strength of women and the importance of lifting each other up, even in the most challenging times.
SYNOPSIS: ‘So that was all it took,’ I thought. ‘That was all it took for me to feel like I had all the power in the world. One morning, one moment, one yellow-haired boy. It wasn’t so much after all.’
Chrissie knows how to steal sweets from the shop without getting caught, the best hiding place for hide-and-seek, the perfect wall for handstands.
Now she has a new secret. It gives her a fizzing, sherbet feeling in her belly. She doesn’t get to feel power like this at home, where food is scarce and attention scarcer.
Fifteen years later, Julia is trying to mother her five-year-old daughter, Molly. She is always worried – about affording food and school shoes, about what the other mothers think of her. Most of all she worries that the social services are about to take Molly away.
That’s when the phone calls begin, which Julia is too afraid to answer, because it’s clear the caller knows the truth about what happened all those years ago.
And it’s time to face the truth: is forgiveness and redemption ever possible for someone who has killed?
Published: June 24th, 2021 Publisher: Post Hill Press Genre: Suspense, Psychological Fiction
SYNOPSIS: Named one of the most riveting books of Spring 2021 by Veranda Magazine!
Like the chilling psychological thriller The Silent Patient, Deborah Goodrich Royce’s Ruby Falls is a nail-biting tale of a fragile young actress, the new husband she barely knows, and her growing suspicion that the secrets he harbors may eclipse her own.
On a brilliantly sunny July day, six-year-old Ruby is abandoned by her father in the suffocating dark of a Tennessee cave. Twenty years later, transformed into soap opera star Eleanor Russell, she is fired under dubious circumstances. Fleeing to Europe, she marries a glamorous stranger named Orlando Montague and keeps her past closely hidden.
Together, Eleanor and Orlando start afresh in LA. Setting up house in a storybook cottage in the Hollywood Hills, Eleanor is cast in a dream role—the lead in a remake of Rebecca. As she immerses herself in that eerie gothic tale, Orlando’s personality changes, ghosts of her past re-emerge, and Eleanor fears she is not the only person in her marriage with a secret.
In this thrilling and twisty homage to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, the story ricochets through the streets of Los Angeles, a dangerous marriage to an exotic stranger, and the mind of a young woman whose past may not release her.
A Cut For A Cut (Detective Kate Young 2) by Carol Wyer
Published: June 29th, 2021 Publisher: Thomas & Mercer Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Crime Fiction, Crime Series, Police Procedural
SYNOPSIS: DI Kate Young can’t trust anybody. Not even herself.
In the bleak countryside around Blithfield Reservoir, a serial murderer and rapist is leaving a trail of bloodshed. His savage calling card: the word ‘MINE’ carved into each of his victims.
DI Kate Young struggles to get the case moving―even when one of the team’s own investigators is found dead in a dumpster. But Kate is battling her own demons. Obsessed with exposing Superintendent John Dickson and convinced there’s a conspiracy running deep in the force, she no longer knows who to trust. Kate’s crusade has already cost her dearly. What will she lose next?
When her stepsister spills a long-buried secret, Kate realises she’s found the missing link―now she must prove it before the killer strikes again. With enemies closing in on all sides, she’s prepared to do whatever it takes to bring them down. But time is running out, and Kate’s past has pushed her to the very edge. Can she stop herself from falling?
Today is my stop on the blog tour to celebrate the paperback release of this intoxicating thriller. Thank you to Amber at Midas PR for the invitation to take part and to Orion for the gifted copy of the book.
I love him so totally, completely, sometimes it threatens to overwhelm me.
Sometimes I think –
No. I won’t write about that.
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.
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?
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 she did after she was under house arrest while awaiting trial. It is self portrait named Alcestis, after the greek heroine, and its 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 read this book. From the middle of 2018 there was a lot of buzz on Bookstagram and it immediately caught my eye. I was fully immersed in this book from the first page and flew through it, unable to put it down or stop thinking about it when I wasn’t reading.
The story is told in the past tense by Alicia’s psychotherapist, Theo. It also contains extracts from the diary her husband Gabriel had encouraged her to write in the weeks leading up to his death. These pages give us an insight into who she is, or was, why she remains silent, and enables the reader to learn things such as lies being told by some of those closest to Alicia. But this book is as much a story about Theo as it is about Alicia and Gabriel. He feels an affinity with her that is his motivation and conviction that he alone can help her find her voice again. But he keeps breaking the rules and seems increasingly obsessed with his patient. Is he using the case as a distraction from the difficulties in his private life or is there more going on?
I loved how well-written and researched this novel was. I found the information about psychology and trauma both fascinating and informative and loved how the author could convey so much from the little things such as a description of Alicia’s facial expressions or her hands shaking. It is a book filled with flawed, twisted, damaged and broken the character, which are always great fun to read. Alicia was an alluring enigma who puzzled me; I could never quite work out if she was a malevolent calculating killer or a tragic victim of an as-yet-unknown horror. I liked Theo from the start and was rooting for him to be able to break Alicia’s silence and discover the truth of what happened. There were two characters I was suspicious about and that I thought might be involved in Gabriel’s death, perhaps even framing Alicia 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.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Alex Michaelidesis an author and screenwriter born in Cyprus to a Greek-Cypriot father and English mother. After graduating from Cambridge with a degree in English, he received an MA in screenwriting from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. He wrote the film TheDevil You Know, starring Rosamund Pike, and co-wrote The Brits Are Coming, starring Uma Thurman and Tim Roth. The Silent Patient has sold in 44 territories so far – a record for a debut novel – the film rights for which were recently acquired by Brad Pitt’s production company Plan B.