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Review: ‘Before She Was Found’ by Heather Gudenkauf ⭐⭐⭐.5

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One of them knows what happened that night…

For twelve-year-old Cora Landry and her friends Violet and Jordyn, it was supposed to be a normal sleepover – movies and talking about boys. But when they decide to sneak out to go to the abandoned rail yard on the outskirts of town, little do they know that their innocent games will have dangerous consequences.

Later that night, Cora Landry is discovered on the tracks, bloody and clinging to life, her friends nowhere to be found. In an investigation that leaves no stone unturned, everyone is a suspect and no one can be trusted – not even those closest to her. But who would want to hurt a young girl like Cora – and why?

Thank you to HQ, NetGalley and Heather Gudenkauf for the chance to read and review this novel.

“Three twelve-year-old girls walk into a train yard and two come out unscathed.”

Having your child attacked and almost killed is every parents worst nightmare. Or is it? What if your child was suspected of attempting to murder their friend before they had even reached their teens? What kind of horror would this be and how far would you go to protect them even if deep down you believed in their guilt? All these questions, and more, are explored in this twisty, readable thriller.

There are multiple narrators, different timelines and various forms of telling the story such as transcripts of police interviews and text messages alongside the usual storytelling in both past and present tense. This sounds confusing, yet it never was.

“No one was supposed to get hurt, Grandpa. It was all just a stupid game.”

This book starts with an opening chapter that is undeniable chilling, but instantly thought it was going to be a re-telling of the Slenderman stabbing. While some parallels could be drawn, I’m glad to say that I was surprised by the path this story took and was totally wrong in both my initial concern and a number of the things I thought I’d figured out about what happened that night in the train yard, who hurt Cora Landry, and why. While not gripping, there was enough mystery about the attacker’s identity and what exactly happened to keep me interested until the end.

Publication Date: 13th June 2019.

 

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Review: ‘Lying Next To Me’ by Gregg Olsen ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

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Happy Publication Day to this amazing thriller!

No matter what you see, no matter what you’ve heard, assume nothing.

Adam and Sophie Warner and their three-year-old daughter are vacationing in Washington State’s Hood Canal for Memorial Day weekend. It’s the perfect getaway to unplug – and to calm an uneasy marriage. But on Adam’s first day out on the water, he sees Sophie abducted by a stranger. A hundred yards from shore, Adam can’t save her. And Sophie disappears.

In a nearby cabin is another couple, Kristen and Connor Moss. Unfortunately, beyond what they’ve heard in the news, they’re in the dark when it comes to Sophie’s disappearance. For Adam, at least there’s comfort in knowing that Mason County detective Lee Husemann is an old friend of his. She’ll do everything she can to help. She must.

But as Adam’s paranoia about his missing wife escalates, Lee puts together the pieces of the puzzle. The lives of the two couples are converging in unpredictable ways, and the picture is unsettling. Lee suspects that not everyone is telling the truth about what they know – or they have yet to reveal all the lies they’ve hidden from the strangers they married.

Thank you to NetGalley, Thomas & Mercer and Gregg Olsen for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

I devoured this addictive, fast-paced novel and would have read it in one sitting if not for that pesky thing called sleep.

It starts with a distressed man, Adam Warner, who has just seen his wife abducted. Adam is frantic, begging the police to get out there and find her. Detectives Lee Huseman and Zach Montrose are in charge of the investigation and despite witnesses to the crime there seem to be few clues and no suspects. Where is Sophie Warner? And who would snatch her from the beach in broad daylight?

Lee Huseman is determined to find the answers. Not only because she’s still reeling from a recent failure to solve a case, but because she owes Adam; he was her brother’s best friend and saved her when she was twelve years old. But will this skewer her ability to investigate Sophie’s disappearance? Could she miss vital clues because of her affection for him, or will it allow her to see more clearly if he’s deceiving them or holding back? As she delves deeper into the lives of Adam and Sophie she finds surprising clues that will hopefully lead her to the truth.

What a fantastic book. I really enjoyed that it was written from so many points of view. It allowed us to see the events from almost all the character’s perspectives and find little clues in their chapters that we’d not have had otherwise. The only main character we didn’t get any chapters from was Sophie. She remained a mystery who we only saw through the eyes of others. I loved this choice as it made the truth subjective and elusive as we only know as much as each character does about her life, although we obviously have the advantage of taking these multiple viewpoints to create a fuller picture.

For me, Adam quickly became a morally ambiguous character and I would go back and forth in my views of his guilt or innocence. I thought he was expertly written as the author repeatedly manages the difficult task of making him someone you one minute have sympathy for, and then someone deplorable. His actions often didn’t make sense but a grief looks different for everyone so you view all his actions through that lens. In terms of villains, Sophie’s father, Frank, was so vile that although he was never a suspect I almost wanted him to be so that there was no reason to feel even a grain sympathy for him. There were no redeeming qualities to him, not even his grief for his daughter, and I could relate to Adam’s venomous feelings towards him. Unlike Adam I pitied his wife, Helen as abuse and control changes people and makes them act in ways others often can’t understand.

“What’s done in the dark will be brought to the light”. That quote reverberated in my mind many times while reading this book as we saw how many of the characters acted very differently in secret than when with others. As the story went on some of these secret actions were revealed to others but what I liked is that the author showed the human side to them in their motivations. With one character this was especially true. I feel like saying their name will be a kind of spoiler so will just say that I felt great empathy for this character even though I disagreed with their actions.

This was my first read by this author but certainly won’t be my last, and I now have the urge to go and buy his entire back catalogue. The multiple characters and narrators never felt confusing, even at the end where it was particularly fast-paced, frantic and full of opposing commentary. The bombshell finale had my jaw on the floor and it is a testament to the writing how I can instantly recall lines that now have a completely different meaning and were a subtle foreshadowing of the truth.

Lying Next To Me is a story about family, love, lust, sex, secrets, betrayal, desperation and revenge. I highly recommend this dramatic, layered, tense and twisty thriller. Just make sure you have plenty of time spare as you won’t want to put it down.

Publication Date: 21st May 2019

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Review: ‘Someone You Know’ by Olivia Isaac-Henry ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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You can trust your family, can’t you…?

Tess Piper was fourteen when her adored twin sister Edie disappeared.

She has spent the last twenty years building a life away from her fractured family, desperate to escape the shadow of the past.

Only now she needs to confront the huge hole her sister’s disappearance left in her life, because a body has been found. The police are shining a spotlight on the Piper family. And secrets are about to surface.

After all, it’s common knowledge that more often than not these crimes are committed by someone close to the victim. Someone they trust. Someone they know…

What really happened to Edie Piper?

Thank you to NetGalley, Avon books and Olivia Isaac-Henry for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

This thriller was a quick and gripping read. From early on there seemed to be a glaringly obvious culprit. But was this the case or was the author deliberately trying to mislead us so we are surprised by the truth? I vacillated between the two possibilities many times during this book and later on when I considered other suspects.

The dual timelines with different narrators works well for the story. In the present day we have Tess narrating and see how she remembers her sister, events leading to and surrounding her disappearance, and how it shaped her life and still affects her to this day. In the flashback chapters our narrator is Edie. This allows us to get to know her as more than a body that’s now been found and learn who she was, what she thought from her own perspective instead of through Tess’s eyes. The difference in how Tess remembers things and how Edie viewed things at the time, and how very different the two girls were, adds a greater dimension to the story and gives us more clues as to who could have killed her than if we had just had the one narrator.

One of the themes that runs through the book is the family’s mistrust of the police. This stems from how close family members were suspected back when Edie vanished and things they said were twisted. Determined to find out what happened to her twin Tess begins to investigate for herself, only for her family to dissuade her from doing that too. Could there be more to both these things? Are they actually trying to stop her from finding out a truth they’ve been hiding all these years?

Full of twists and turns this was a thriller that repeatedly surprised me. I recommend this to anyone looking for a good readable thriller.

Out now.

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‘The Corset’ by Laura Purcell ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

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Is prisoner Ruth Butterham mad or a murderer? Victim or villain?

Dorothea and Ruth. Prison visitor and prisoner. Powerful and powerless. Dorothea Truelove is young, wealthy and beautiful. Ruth Butterham is young, poor and awaiting trial for murder.

When Dorothea’s charitable work leads her to Oakgate Prison, she is delighted with the chance to explore her fascination with phrenology and test her hypothesis that the shape of a person’s skull can cast a light on their darkest crimes. But when she meets teenage seamstress Ruth, she is faced with another theory: that it is possible to kill with a needle and thread. For Ruth attributes her crimes to a supernatural power inherent in her stitches.

The story Ruth has to tell of her deadly creations – of bitterness and betrayal, of death and dresses – will shake Dorothea’s belief in rationality, and the power of redemption.

Can Ruth be trusted? Is she mad, or a murderer?

This gothic novel had been languishing on my shelves for a while when I decided to pick it up as my fiftieth read of 2019. The Silent Companions was one of my favourite reads last year so I began this full of high expectations. I was not disappointed.

Dorothea  Truelove is attracted to the forbidden and isn’t interested in the life expected of her as a wealthy heiress, but in becoming a better and more useful person. She spends time on charitable work which leads her to Oakgate Prison and Ruth Butterham. Sixteen-year-old Ruth is awaiting trial for murder. She grew up poor and was sold to work as a seamstress to pay of her mother’s debts. It is her talents with a needle and thread that she claims enabled her to kill, saying that she has the ability to sew death into the things she creates.

Dorothea and Ruth are two very different women. Dorothea has known a life of privilege while Ruth has known nothing but poverty. Both have suffered loss but the effect it’s had on their lives is very different. When they meet they have outlooks on life that are also different but find that they come to bond over Ruth’s story. I liked both main characters and the author did a great job of writing their diverse lives in a way that made you understand their actions and beliefs. There were some other great characters in this book too. Some I loved and others I despised.

The author highlights many important issues of the time in this novel. There is an interesting look at mental health and phrenology, women’s roles in society and how workers were sold into slavery with no rights and treated appallingly. In particular, I think Ruth’s life and the struggle of the poor in Victorian times was particularly well written. I could almost smell the rot and decay of their dank, desolate and depressing living conditions and feel their terror at being starved, having no rights and the fear of what their cruel employer might do to them for the slightest reason. There were parts of Ruth’s story so harrowing I’d have to stop reading and take a break for a while.

I am so glad that I finally read this book. Dark, haunting, atmospheric, chilling and raw, this was impossible to put down. The story is exquisitely written and has solidified Ms Purcell as one of my favourite authors whose novels are a must-read. There is so much I loved about this novel: the ambiguity, the magnificent writing and that mindblowing ending that had me sitting there in disbelief at what I was reading. I would vacillate from heartbreak to anger to disgust as I read Ruth’s story. To be honest Dorothea’s chapters almost felt like light relief in comparison.

So is Ruth mad or a murderer? Victim or villain? That is something you’ll have to read and decide for yourself. The Corset is an outstanding piece of gothic noir that I highly recommend.

Out Now

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April Wrap Up

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It’s the end of another month and time for another wrap up. This month I read 13 books and got half way through another. Most of the books I’ve read this month have been thrillers and NetGalley e-ARCs but I enjoyed some variety with the two true crime books and Dear Mrs Bird, the latter of which was a welcome lighthearted read. So here’s what I read in April:

  1. ‘The Stranger Beside Me’ by Ann Rule ⭐⭐⭐⭐5 – This absorbing book tells the story of Ted Bundy, his crimes and how he was brought to justice. The author has a unique insight into the serial killer as the two worked together and were friends. Like many she at first didn’t believe her kind, charming friend could have committed such vile acts, but as the evidence mounted she had to resign herself to the truth of his guilt. I’ve read many true crime books in my life but reading this from the perspective of someone who is not only a friend of the killer but a crime reporter made this a unique book. It is a raw, chilling and interesting book that I would recommend to any fans of this genre. 
  2.  ‘A Good Enough Mother’ by Bev Thomas ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – I devoured this cryptic story of love, loss, family and secrets in just over 24 hours. Ruth is the director of a trauma therapy unit and is good at her job, appearing calm and collected to those around her. But unbeknownst to them she’s traumatised by the disappearance of her son, Tom, 18 months ago and is distracted by thoughts of him when she meets a new patient who reminds her of her son. Seeing a chance to redeem herself she goes against her instincts and treats him, setting into motion a chain of events with far reaching and devastating consequences.
  3. ‘The Island’ by Ragnar Jonasson ⭐⭐ – Unfortunately this book wasn’t for me. Though I found the synopsis gripping and sinister and it got off to a good start before quickly falling apart. The plotting felt disjointed, chapters were confusing and rushed, there was a lack of suspense and too may characters that had no real depth. I am in the minority with this book though, most readers have loved it, so I’d recommend checking out the synopsis and deciding for yourself.
  4. ‘Dear Mrs Bird’ by A. J. Pearce ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – I loved this book. Despite being set in wartime and having some somber moments it isn’t a heavy read. A story of a young woman who becomes a secret advice columnist, this was a joyous, witty and well-written book.
  5. ‘I Know Who You Are’ by Alice Feeney ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – Wow! This was my first read by this author and she absolutely blew me away. Mesmerising from the first page, I loved the way this book was written and devoured it within a day. I’ve read some fantastic thrillers and this definitely ranks as one of the best. 
  6. ‘The Whisper Man’ by Alex North ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – A boy who hears whispers from people no one else can see echoes the spine-chilling moment in The Sixth Sense when Haley Joel Osment’s character utters the immortal words “I see dead people” in this eerie, menacing, unsettling and sinister novel.  This book was full of twists and turns, some so jarring and unexpected I could only sit there in shock. Spectacularly written and one you don’t want to miss. Published June 13th
  7. ‘Dead Inside’ by Noelle Holten ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – Everyone has a motive and you can’t help but think the victims got what they deserve in this dark, gruesome and hard hitting debut novel. The unsettling subject matter made it a hard read in places and led me to actually be glad someone was taking out the trash in their own version of justice. Though predictable at times this was a compelling and provocative novel and a good start to a new crime series. Published May 31st
  8. ‘Last of the Magpies’ by Mark Edwards ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – The final installment in the Magpies trilogy ends things on a high note. The author has created a villain who, if she were real, would be up there with the best known psychopathic killers of our age. Reading reading the unfiltered inner-workings of her mind in this book was truly chilling. I couldn’t tear myself away and was in shock at the jaw-dropping revelations. Mark Edwards is fantastic at writing gripping psychological thrillers and I highly recommend this, the series, and any of his books.
  9. ‘Crushed’ by Kate Hamer ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – This unusual story is narrated by three different friends, from three very different backgrounds, as events unfold that will change each of their lives forever. Phoebe thinks murder and murder happened. She must not let her thoughts unravel as she doesn’t know who will end up hurt if she does. A beautifully written and fascinating story of friendship, love and murder. Published May 2nd 
  10. ‘Columbine’ by Dave Cullen ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5 – This book has been called the definitive account of the Columbine massacre, and it’s easy to see why. Ten years in the making this book is overall a well researched account of the events surrounding the murders, what motivated the killers, what was missed and the cover ups and myths that many still believe to this day. It is a captivating, hard-hitting book that I would recommend to anyone who loves true crime.
  11. ‘The Dangerous Kind’ by Deborah O’Connor ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – The 1 in 100. The “dangerous kind” of people. We have all met them: those who unnerve you as something just doesn’t sit right, the charmers who are another person behind closed doors, the ones who manipulate and control. Hindsight is 20/20 and it’s all too easy after crimes are committed to see the warning signs. But do we really pay attention to them before they go too far? Could we stop them? This was a riveting read that had me gripped from start to finish. The multifaceted story is one where you are never quite sure how the pieces fit together until the jarring revelations that come together in a gut-wrenching crescendo. Published May 16th
  12. ‘The Night Before’ by Wendy Walker ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – Twelve hours earlier she was…Hopeful. Excited. Safe. Now she’s gone.. This was an easy read but also a compulsive roller-coaster ride with a jaw-dropping finale and shocking twists. I loved that it was written in chapters that alternated from Laura being on the date to the search for her and that I had no idea what would happen next right until the last moment. A spectacular thriller by a talented author. Published May 14th
  13. ‘Little Girls Sleeping’ by Jennifer Chase – Kate Scott comes across a cold case involving a missing eight year-old-girl and decides to investigate. When she finds a row of makeshift graves containing young girls she is sure there’s a serial killer on the loose and is determined to stop them before it’s too late. Review and rating coming soon. Published May 31st 

So that’s what I read this month.  I think this month it’s hard to pick a book of the month as I enjoyed so many of them. My favourites have been ‘The Stranger Beside Me’, ‘Columbine’ and ‘I Know Who You Are’ but I think the one that stands out is Columbine, because it’s a case that’s always fascinated me and reading it over the 20th anniversary of the shootings felt particularly poignant.

Have you read any of these books or are they in your TBR lists? Comment below.

Before I finish this I want to talk about reviews. I am behind on reviews by about seven books as I’m finding that the energy to type them and eloquently convey what I want to say is proving difficult at the moment. Because of that I’ve been concentrating on the NetGalley reviews but I do hope to catch up this month as there’s some books I’ve loved that I haven’t had chance to post reviews for yet, including a few I read this month.

Thank you to NetGalley, HQ, Thomas & Mercer, St Martin’s Press, Bonnier Zaffre, Bookoture, Faber & Faber, Penguin UK, Michael Joseph, Harper Impulse and Killer Reads, for the chance to read and review these novels.

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‘The Dangerous Kind’ by Deborah O’Connor ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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What if the people we trust are the ones we should fear?

One in 100 of us is what the police call a ‘potentially dangerous person’ – someone likely to commit a violent crime. These people hide in plain sight, they can be teachers, doctors, holding positions of trust, power.

Jessamine Gooch makes a living tracking the 1 in 100. Each week she broadcasts a radio show that examines brutal offences, asking if more could have been done to identify and prevent their perpetrators.

But when she agrees to investigate a missing persons case involving a young mother, she is drawn into a web of danger that will ultimately lead to the upper echelons of power, and threaten the safety of her own family.

Thank you to NetGalley, Bonnier Zaffre and Deborah O’Connor for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

The 1 in 100. The “dangerous kind” of people. We have all met them: those who unnerve you as something just doesn’t sit right, the charmers who are another person behind closed doors, the ones who manipulate and control. Hindsight is 20/20 and it’s all too easy after crimes are committed to see the warning signs. But do we really pay attention to them before they go too far? Could we stop them?

This dark, atmospheric thriller captivated me from the first page and didn’t let me go. The subject matter is sinister, chilling, deplorable, and all too familiar. Filled with an array of characters that will resonate, anger, disgust and devastate you this is a book that takes you to the depths of human tragedy and depravity. Expertly written, the references to fairly recent events in modern history make you feel like you’re reading a true crime novel rather than a work of fiction.

With multiple narrators in dual timelines this is a multifaceted story where you aren’t quite sure how the many characters and storylines fit together. Even so it never feels confusing which is another testament to the talent of this author. A riveting read that was brimming with tension from start to finish, I was unprepared for the jarring revelations as it all came together in a gut-wrenching crescendo.  

Out May 16th.

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‘Crushed’ by Kate Hamer ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Phoebe stands on Pulteney Bridge, tights gashed from toe to thigh. The shock of mangled metal and blood-stained walls flashes through her mind as she tries to cover her face so she won’t be recognised. It wouldn’t do to be spotted looking like this. She’s missing a shoe. She feels sick.

Phoebe thought murder and murder happened. ‘Thoughts are just thoughts’, they said. Now she knows they were wrong.

At home, Phoebe arranges the scissors and knives so they point towards her mother’s room. She’s exhausted, making sure there’s no trace of herself – not a single hair, not even her scent – left anywhere in the house. She must not let her thoughts unravel, because if they do, there’s no telling who might be caught in the crossfire, and Phoebe will have to live with the consequences.

Thank you to NetGalley, Faber and Faber and Kate Hamer for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

This unusual story is narrated by three very different friends, from very different backgrounds, as events unfold that will change each of their lives forever.

Phoebe is a strange, mysterious girl. She has no self confidence thanks to her narcissistic mother who controls and demeans her at every opportunity. This has led to Phoebe trying to find confidence and strength through things such as her secret eating disorder, rituals and the power of her mind; she believes that she can make things happen just by imagining them, including murder. Orla is the rich girl with the mother who gives her everything. But she is also worried about her mother discovering the truth: she is in love with Phoebe. Phoebe knows and uses it to her advantage causing Orla to veer between love and hate for her beautiful friend. Then there is Grace. Grace lives in the town’s only tower block where she is the carer for her single mother who has MS. She is weighed down by the responsibility but  also dreads the thought of anyone taking over and separating them, leading her to make decisions that are questionable as she desperately tries to hold her crumbling family together.

Although all three characters were well written, Phoebe was the one who stood out most of all. She is complex and someone who my heart broke for one minute and I hated the next. She could be unspeakably cruel but when you read how her mother treated her you understand why she did these things and that this was the way she’d learned to feel powerful and in control. She had no example of healthy love and affection and only knew toxic love. Grace’s chapters were the hardest for me to read as I’m also a mother with chronic, debilitating illnesses and for a long time I was a single parent with a child who was my main carer. Reading her hurt and anger at their situation was like a knife in my heart and I feel so thankful that my son no longer has that pressure and that he never got to the stage of feeling such anger and like his life choices were taken away from him because of my illness. I think Grace’s feelings were understandable yet are also what any parent who’s ill dreads their children feeling. I thought the author did a fantastic job of realistically portraying their situation.

This was my first read by this author and I found myself mesmerised by the lyrical, hypnotic and lurid style of writing. Phoebe’s parts are particularly stylistic and intoxicating and were my favourite to read despite their dark content. Throughout the story there is the constant theme of Macbeth, which is the book the girls are studying in English. Phoebe is unnerved by the story and feels it is bewitching her life through the book. Crushed itself is a kind of retelling of the tale with the three friends who dabble with witchcraft being the modern version of the three sisters.

This tragic story of friendship, love, heartbreak and murder is an unusual but fascinating book.It is well plotted and keeps up the pace throughout building to a sinister and shocking finale.

Out May 2nd.

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‘My Lovely Wife’ by Samantha Downing ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Introducing the next generation of domestic thriller.

Every marriage has secrets. Everyone has flaws. Your wife isn’t perfect – you know that – but then again nor are you.

But now a serial killer is on the loose in your small town, preying on young women. Fear is driving your well-behaved young daughter off the rails, and you find yourself in bed late at night, looking at the woman who lies asleep beside you.

Because you thought you knew the worst about her. The truth is you know nothing at all.

Thank you to NetGalley, Penguin UK and Samantha Downing for the chance to read and review this book.

What can I say about this book? Well the first words that come to mind are: consuming, riveting, astounding, mesmerising, dark, twisted and unforgettable It lives up to the claim that it is “the next generation of domestic thriller” and is a fresh take on the genre that sets it apart from other thrillers and serial killer books.

“Life goes along like it’s supposed to, an occasional bump in the road but otherwise a fairly smooth ride.”

The story is narrated by Tobias, he’s married to Millicent and they live with their two children, Rory, 14, and 13-year-old Jenna. To everyone they appear to be just another affluent family: they have a happy marriage, a nice house, their children are well behaved and doing well at their private school and they socialise at the Country Club. But underneath this shiny veneer lurks a dark and disturbing secret.

From the beginning we know he keeps things from his wife he knows he should share, and it isn’t long before we find out she’s been keeping an even bigger secret from him. He immediately starts to wonder if she’s hiding anything more, a question that troubles him throughout the book, but ultimately he decides he trusts her.

“You didn’t think we were going to stop did you?”

This book is unusual  as it is told solely from the perpetrator’s perspective. I loved this choice as instead of trying to figure out the culprit the reader is instead left to ponder other questions about the crimes, the motive and if the carefully stacked house of cards will come toppling down around him. The first sign that this might happen is when what seems to have been the perfect smoke screen results in their daughter living in fear of her life, becoming obsessed with the news, resorting to violence and even carrying a weapon for protection. The realisation that they’ve damaged their child while protecting themselves horrifies Tobias and results in a shift of his priorities. Suddenly their hidden life isn’t so alluring and all that matters is helping his daughter become herself again. A decision that leads to his whole world unravelling and puts them all at risk.

“I always wanted to be more than above average”

A key aspect of this story is the relationship between the couple. Tobias grew up with wealthy parents who were uninterested in him and felt rejected. He started playing tennis to try and win their affection and attention without success and left home as soon as possible. From the moment he met Millicent he was captivated by her and she has always made him feel more than average. It is this that explains why he allows her to control many aspects of their family and their lives, and why he will do anything to make her happy, something Millicent clearly takes advantage of and uses to manipulate him. Their relationship also revolves around their secrets. They have their own version of date nights and secret code. Another reason Tobias enjoys their clandestine activities and brushes aside his concerns is because of how it affects their sex life. Even a simple discussion about it results in them becoming sexually charged and have wild, passionate sex, which increases the allure for him.

“Piece by piece my life is destroyed, like it was never real at all.”

As Tobias finally realises the depth of Millicent’s betrayal he struggles to comprehend how she could be so callous and cold. She isn’t the woman he thought she was. You can almost hear his heart and soul shatter  as he realises everything he thought he knew, everything he holds dear, is a facade. The book is expertly plotted and that pivotal moment when the truth dawns on Tobias occurred just minutes after it dawned on me and you are never quite sure where the story is going. At least not until the author wants you to and delivers a breathtaking twist that leaves you reeling. As the walls cave in around Tobias and time is running out the book speeds towards a spectacular, shocking and catastrophic conclusion.

It’s strange to say this about a killer but I loved Millicent’s character. She’s intelligent, manipulative, beguiling, calculating and at times a contradiction. She is unapologetic of her plans and actions while Tobias sometimes wavers. It was interesting to have a dynamic where the woman is the one pulling the strings and the man afraid of displeasing her instead of her being the victim cowering in the corner.

This jaw-dropping thriller is a book you don’t want to miss. It had me transfixed within the first two chapters and didn’t let go. The final line sent shivers down my spine and still haunts me. A debut that reads like the work of a veteran writer makes this author a talent to watch. I for one can’t wait to see what she writes next.

Out May 2nd

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‘Last of the Magpies’ by Mark Edwards ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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The chilling conclusion to the #1 bestseller The Magpies.

Twelve months ago, Jamie Knight walked straight into Lucy Newton’s trap. Both Jamie and his ex-wife Kirsty barely survived. Now, with the police investigation into Lucy’s disappearance going nowhere, Jamie teams up with a true crime podcaster to track down his nemesis.

But can Jamie persuade Kirsty to help? Can Kirsty forgive him for his past mistakes? And who, if anyone, will survive the final showdown? Featuring extracts from Lucy’s secret memoir, Last of the Magpies brings the trilogy to a shocking conclusion.

Thank you to NetGalley, Thomas & Mercer and Mark Edwards for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Mark Edwards has fast become one of my favourite writers with his chilling psychological thrillers now being a must read for me. So, I was filled with an eager, yet nervous, anticipation before reading this conclusion to his sinister Magpies trilogy.

The gang are all back one last time. Lucy Newton is still missing after her dramatic escape following the terrifying events in Shropshire a year ago. Her victims, Jamie Knight and his ex-wife Kirsty, are still tormented by their experiences and struggling to move on knowing she could strike again at any time. Frustrated that the police appear to be idly sitting by waiting for Lucy to make a mistake, Jamie decides he has to take action. So when his friend suggests talking to true crime podcaster Emma Fox, he agrees in the hope that she’ll be able to do what the police haven’t and Lucy will soon be safely behind bars. Kirsty is taking a different approach. Having seen multiple therapists and tried various ways to try and exorcise herself of the demon of Lucy Newton, she is still haunted by her and decides to sever the small amount of contact she still has with Jamie in the hope that it will help. But the pair are thrown back together into a final showdown with Lucy that they will all be lucky to survive…

Wow! This was a spectacular end to a series I’ve enjoyed. Written from multiple points of view this book spends a lot of time focusing on how Lucy’s nefarious games have affected Jamie and Kirsty, and their struggle to live their lives in the knowledge their tormentor is still out there, biding her time. Lucy’s point of view is for the most part given in the form of the unedited version of her memoir, which is far more damning than what was published. Reading the unfiltered inner-workings of this psychopath’s mind was truly chilling. In Lucy this author has created a villain who if she were real would be up there with the best known psychopathic killers of our age. Those chapters terrified me.

Now let’s discuss the twists (no spoilers I promise). I thought I’d got it sussed but boy was I wrong. The final quarter of the book had me unable to tear myself away as the tension reached its pique and all bets were off on the fates of our main characters. Most of all I loved that as we spent most of the story only knowing about Jamie and Kirsty in the present so that when Lucy’s whereabouts were revealed I had the same jaw-dropping sense of shock that the characters did.

Last of the Magpies ended this trilogy on the high note it deserved. You need to read the previous two books before reading this one for sure as even though it does a great job of catching you up, you’ll be lost without being able to have your memory simply jogged about past events. A quick but brilliant read I would recommend this, and the series, to anyone who loves a well written psychological thriller.

Out April 30th.

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book reviews

Publication Day: ‘Call Me Evie’ by J. P. Pomare ⭐⭐⭐⭐

‘Literary suspense as dark and fresh as midnight in winter, with a merciless twist-of-the-knife finale. One of the most striking debuts I’ve read in years.’ – A. J. Finn

In this compulsive, twist-filled and haunting psychological suspense debut, a seventeen-year-old girl struggles to remember the role she played the night her life changed forever…

Don’t trust him. It wasn’t me. It couldn’t have been me.

Meet Evie, a young woman who has fled with her uncle to the isolated New Zealand beach town of Maketu.  Jim says he’s hiding her to protect her, that she did something terrible back home in Melbourne. Something Evie can’t remember.

But Evie isn’t her real name. And Jim isn’t really her uncle.

In a house that creaks against the wind, Evie pieces together the events that led her here. And as her memories return she starts to wonder if Jim is really her saviour….or her captor.

A riveting debut novel that fearlessly plumbs the darkest recesses of the mind. Call Me Evie explores the fragility of memory and the potential in all of us to hide the truth even from ourselves.

Thank you to Little, Brown Book Group, Netgalley and J. P. Pomare for the chance to read and review this novel.

I had seen a lot of buzz on bookstagram about this novel so I was excited to be approved for an arc copy and eager to read the book for myself.  

The book is narrated by Evie and is split into “before” and “after” the night that she did something terrible. We have no idea what she did, or in fact if she actually did it, and that made the book very confusing for me at first. I found it hard to follow what was happening and it was hindering my enjoyment, but I never give up on a book before I’m a quarter of the way through and I was intrigued by the plot. But it wasn’t too long before the story began to flow more smoothly and I was completely hooked.

“He’s trapped me in the nineties.”

The book starts with Kate, who is now going by Evie to hide her identity, having her head shaved by a man she says she once loved. She’d tried to run from the house in the secluded beach town that he’s brought her to but he found her and reminds her that “they” are looking for her and she isn’t safe. She’s skinny and he gives her juices with a powder he tells her will help her gain weight. He also takes her to the doctor and she’s prescribed antidepressants but the man, who she decides to call Jim, refuses the doctor’s suggestion that she see a psychologist. He tells her he’s helping her heal mentally and she doesn’t need to see anyone else.

When Evie begins to tell us the story of before the incident she tells us her first memory: at five years old her Nanny left her alone in the bath for a few moments and she poured scalding water onto herself, scarring her for life. Not long after her mother died and her father retired from his professional rugby career to work in finance and raise her himself.

Back in the present Evie is starting to remember little bits about that night: drinking, the mysterious ‘him’ lying face down with blood spreading under his head and  herself in the car. She’s afraid to remember more even though she is sure she didn’t do anything bad, that it had to be Jim and he’s lying to her. She write letters that Jim sends back to Melbourne which are full of confusion and fear as Evie talks vaguely about what happened and tries to grapple with what the truth is of that inauspicious night.  She is determined to escape as she becomes increasingly sure that Jim is lying to her and holding her captive rather than protecting her. But who can she trust? And when she sees what’s being written about her online she is once again unsure where to turn and what’s real.

As the book goes on we learn more about Evie’s life back in Melbourne, her relationship with her dad, friendships and blossoming relationship with a boy named Thom. But we still don’t know much about that night or who Jim really is. I had my suspicions but they went back and forth as more of the story was told.

“Sometimes if you bite into a joke you find a stone of truth at the centre.”

This was a strange book at times but highly addictive and I devoured it in one sitting. I needed to fit the pieces of the puzzle together, to know what she supposedly did, if she did it, if I’m right about who Jim is and if people really are after her. I wasn’t prepared for the shocking twists in this story and how even the one I had guessed correctly would play out. The complex plot and multifaceted characters are cleverly written and you are kept guessing until the final sentence. Call Me Evie is a story about love, anger, fear, truth and lies. It makes you question the truth of your own memories and what reality is. A spectacular debut that I can see making a great movie. This book is a must read for anyone who loves mystery and thrillers.

Out today.