‘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.

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.

Publication Day – ‘The Evidence Against You’ by Gillian McAllister ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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It’s the day her father will be released from jail.  Izzy English has every reason to feel conflicted – he’s the man who gave her a childhood filled with happy memories. But he has also just served seventeen years for the murder of her mother.

Now, Izzy’s father sends her a letter. He wants to talk, to defend himself against each piece of evidence from his trial. But should she give him the benefit of the doubt? Or is he guilty as charged an luring her into a trap?

Thank you to NetGalley, Penguin UK – Michael Joseph and Gillian McAllister for the chance to read and review this novel.

Gillian McAllister has written another riveting character-driven story that I couldn’t put down.I was completely hooked and so desperate to know what happened that I forced my eyelids open and stayed up until 4am to finish it.

Izzy English lives on The Isle of Wight with her husband Nick. Tomorrow her father, Gabriel, will be released from prison after serving seventeen years for killing her mother. His release resurfaces her conflicted feelings about him: her memories of a loving father versus the monstrous murderer. His guilt has always been an indisputable fact, something she wasn’t allowed to question at first and then something she avoided looking at and her mind would repel if she tried.

The day he’s released from prison her father turns up at the restaurant her mother used to run, the one she took over after her death. He wants to come in but Izzy is too scared to do it. He puts a letter through the door protesting his innocence and asking her to go and see his best friend to hear him tell her his side instead. More letters arrive over the next few days until Izzy finally relents and agrees.

Gabe has been unwavering in his claims of innocence since her mother was killed but the evidence was against him, he was convicted so he must have done it, right? Izzy decides it’s time to open pandora’s box despite the myriad of problems and unwanted emotions it means she will face. She has to know the truth about that Halloween night eighteen years ago. So she starts to investigate what happened: looking through long sealed boxes in the attic, talking to everyone she can, trying to discern the truth for herself for the first time. Despite her decision Izzy is plagued with uncertainty and worries he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing, luring her in before going for the kill just like they say he did to her mother.

The story is narrated by Izzy with Gabe also narrating once she agrees to listen to his version of events. They do this very differently: Izzy’s narration involves a lot of her private thoughts and memories that she doesn’t speak aloud while Gabriel speaks directly to Izzy. Not giving us a glimpse inside his head means the reader can only take him on face value and judge him on what he claims to be true and the way he acts, just like Izzy. I found that like Izzy I doubted his integrity as not only did she uncover suspicious things in her investigations, but when he told her a part of his story we would immediately get Izzy’s memories of the same events, revealing that Gabe had changed what happened or what was said to paint himself in a better light. How can you believe what someone tells you when you know they speak so many lies? And how can you comprehend loving the man who was convicted of taking one of the most important people in the world away from you? These questions, and Izzy’s attempts to answer them, are woven through the entire book. As a reader I rarely had any doubts of his guilt but understandably Izzy wavered. Her doubts of his guilt a constant whisper in her ear, an inviting chance to have one of her parents back and rebuild some of what she lost.

The Evidence Against you is a complex, multi layered story about love, grief, family, truth, lies, secrecy, pain and betrayal. It is also a story about living life in a prison, though not necessarily one made of bars with guards at the doors, institutionalisation and what happens to the family of victims of a crime and those who are convicted of a crime. It is intelligently written and thought provoking with flawed characters who are the key to the story being so compelling. It is steadily paced and pulls you in so you’re completely immersed in Izzy’s search for the truth. This book has cemented my love for this author’s writing style and I can’t wait to read more of her work.

Out today.

‘I Know Who You Are’ by Alice Feeney ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Aimee Sinclair: the actress everyone thinks they know but can’t remember where from. But I know exactly who you are. I know what you’ve done. And I am watching you.

When Aimee comes home to discover her husband is missing, she doesn’t seem to know what to do or how to act. The police think she’s hiding something and they’re right she is – but perhaps not what they thought. Aimee has a secret she’s never shared, and yet, suspects that someone knows. As she struggles to keep her career and sanity intact, her past comes back to haunt her in ways more dangerous than she could have ever imagined.

Thank you to NetGalley, HQ and Alice Feeney for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Wow! This was my first read by Alice Feeney 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 just couldn’t stop reading.

Aimee Sinclair is an actress who’s star is rising. But while things are on the up professionally her personal life is flailing as her two year marriage to Ben is on rocky ground. The day after a particularly awful fight Aimee returns home to find Ben missing. Ashamed of things she said and did the night before Aimee isn’t sure how to act, leading the police to become suspicious of her behaviour. But what they think she’s hiding isn’t what she’s actually afraid of being discovered. You see, Aimee has no idea what happened to Ben but is terrified of the lie she’s been living almost all her life being discovered.

Mysterious, atmospheric, unnerving, perplexing and startling, this is a story where you’re never quite sure who the good and bad guys are. Can we trust what Aimee tells us? Can she trust her own memories? Should Aimee have our sympathy or disdain? What really happened to Ben?

Told in the present day with jarring flashbacks to Aimee’s childhood, we slowly learn what it is that Aimee is hiding and the shocking truths of this twisted tale. The final revelations were dark, heinous and mind-blowing. This year I’ve read some fantastic thrillers and this one definitely ranks as one of the best. A must read for anyone who loves psychological thrillers.

Released April 23rd

‘Little’ by Edward Carey ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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The wry, macabre, unforgettable tale of an ambitious orphan in Revolutionary Paris, befriended by royalty and radicals, who transforms herself into Madame Tussaud.

In 1761, a tiny odd-looking girl named Marie is born in a village in Switzerland. After the death of her parents, she is apprenticed to an eccentric wax sculptor and whisked off to the seamy streets of Paris, where they meet a domineering widow and her quiet, pale son. Together, they convert an abandoned monkey house into an exhibition hall for wax heads, and the spectacle becomes a sensation. As word of her artistic talent spreads, Marie is called to Versailles, where she tutors the princess and saves Marie Antoinette in childbirth. But outside the palace walls, Paris is roiling: The Revolutionary mob is demanding heads, and…at the wax museum, heads are what they do.

In the tradition of Gregory Maguire’s Wicked and Erin Morganstern’s The Night Circus, Edward Carey’s Little is a darkly endearing cavalcade of a novel–a story of art, class, determination, and how we hold on to what we love.

 

This breathtaking book reached into my soul and took up residence there. A magnificent work of historical fiction that I found all-consuming and enjoyed so much that I took my time reading so I could savour it for as long as possible.

When I started this book all I knew about Madame Tussaud was that that it’s the name of the wax museum in London and Blackpool. I had never thought that it was named after a real person or what that person’s life may have been, but the synopsis was intriguing and the cover was such a work of art that I couldn’t resist.

Although this is a fictionalised version of Marie’s life, there are many things in the story that did or were rumoured to have happened. I don’t know a lot about the time in history this was written but I have always loved history and learning more about the past. There were many amusing anecdotes woven into the story that I was surprised to find were facts and not things embellished for histrionic entertainment. I guess it’s like they say, there are some true facts that if you made them up would seem unbelievable. While entertaining us, thee author didn’t shy away from some of the more disturbing realities of the era and vividly described the true horror of the revolution, leaving me with some images I will never forget.

Though we were born over 200 years apart there are some similarities between us that helped me forge an immediate connection to Marie: I was born a similar tiny size, it was predicted I wouldn’t live and our heights are roughly the same. I also get called ‘little’, although for me it’s part of an affectionate nickname and isn’t used instead of my name like in the story. I thought she was feisty, determined, intelligent and compelling person who lived a fascinating life. She seemed to have an air of rebellion about her and often got into trouble for not abiding by society’s rules. Also she didn’t just dream of a life beyond what she was told was befitting of her, but strives to make it happen despite the many obstacles and disappointments.

The author takes this mesmerising book to another level with his remarkable storytelling and the phenomenal illustrations that illuminate the story. I haven’t read an illustrated book since I was a child and it was great to be able to visualise things exactly the way the author intended. I spent a long time just looking at the illustrations in awe.This really was a book you need to buy in print to fully experience its magic.

Filled with anguish, desperation, ambition and triumph, Little is a dark, sardonic and morbid comedy. It is one of those under-hyped books you will be glad you took a chance on. It was the first time I had read anything by this author and I became an instant fan. This is the best book I’ve read so far this year and has taken a place among my all-time favourites. Anytime this author has a new release I’ll be at the front of the queue impatiently waiting for sure. I can’t recommend this novel highly enough.

Out Now

Thank you to Gallic Books for my Little Tote bag.

‘The Island’ by Ragnar Jonasson ⭐⭐

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Four friends visit the island.

But only three return…

Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdottir is sent to the isolated island of Ellioaey to investigate and soon finds haunting similarities with a previous case – a young woman found murdered ten years ago in the equally deserted Westfjords.

Is there a patient killer stalking these barren outposts?

As Hulda navigates a sinister game constructed of smoke and mirrors she is convinced that no one is telling the truth, including those closest to her.

But who will crack first? And what secrets is the island hiding?  

Thank you to NetGalley, Penguin UK, Michael Joseph and Ragnar Jonasson for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

I’m afraid this book wasn’t for me. The synopsis sounded gripping and sinister and I’d read some reviews saying how much people had enjoyed this book so went into it thinking I would find the same.

When I read the prologue I had been left with chills at the last few sentences. It was eerie and ominous and the first few chapters seemed to be setting the scene for an interesting story. But unfortunately it fell apart quickly. The pacing felt disjointed and messy, chapters seemed rushed, the story would jump forward massively all of a sudden leaving me feeling confused instead of full of anticipation. I found that there were too many characters and we didn’t really know who they were. I know this is a sequel but this didn’t just apply to the Detective but all characters. I didn’t feel like the characters were developed sufficiently and I found it a chore to finish as I had zero investment in any of it. I hoped that when the characters reached the island it might pick up but again it felt like things were rushed and all over the place.

I know not everyone can enjoy every book but I always feel terrible when I don’t enjoy an ARC as I know the author will have poured their heart into the book and try to find what I did like about it. For me as well as the eerie start I enjoyed the first few chapters and the promise of an element of witchcraft and the supernatural in this book. But the most enjoyable part for me was the vivid detail in the descriptions of the beautiful Icelandic scenery. It made me want to visit the country and see it for myself.

So while I sign my membership to #blacksheepofbookstagram with this review, I encourage you to read other reviews and decide for yourself about this book. I’m in the small minority in not being gripped by it and you may find that you are.

Out today.

‘A Good Enough Mother’ by Bev Thomas ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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The most dangerous lies are the ones we tell ourselves.

Dr Ruth Hartland rises to difficult tasks. She is the director of a highly respected trauma therapy unit. She is confident, capable and excellent at her job. Today she is preoccupied by her son Tom’s disappearance.

So when a new patient arrives at the unit – a young man who looks shockingly like Tom – she is floored.

As a therapist, Ruth knows exactly what she should do in the best interests of her client, but as a mother she makes a very different choice – a decision that will have profound consequences.

Thank you to NetGalley, Faber and Faber and Bev Thomas for the chance to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Ruth Harland is Director of the Trauma Unit which treats patients by encouraging them to talk through their experiences in a safe space in order to begin to heal. It’s a difficult job. To everyone around her Ruth is calm, collected and can deal with anything. But that isn’t the truth. They have no idea about her son Tom’s disappearance eighteen months ago and how preoccupies her thoughts. When Ruth meets new patient Dan Griffin she is struck by his likeness to her son. She knows this will cloud her ability to treat him but all she can see is a chance to save Dan in the way she wasn’t able to save Tom, setting into motion a chain of events with far-reaching consequences.

*Possible trigger warning*

I wanted to read this book as soon as I saw the synopsis but somehow didn’t connect the dots that it would mean so much vivid detail regarding trauma and PTSD. As someone who is struggling with those very issues I found it overwhelming to read at first and very nearly put it aside. But I was enjoying the way it was written, found Ruth interesting and was already invested in knowing what had happened to both Tom and Dan, so I persevered. I’m glad I did as I found that as the story went on it broadened, enabling me to feel more comfortable reading. I wasn’t sure about including this in my review at first but decided that ultimately it might be best so that other readers are aware.

A Good Enough Mother is a cryptic story of love, loss, family and secrets. While I had tremendous sympathy for Ruth in regard to the pain of son’s disappearance, I found she was a protagonist that evoked mixed feelings. Although her job involves telling others they need to work through their trauma by talking about it and facing it, she hides Tom’s disappearance from her co-workers, pretending everything is fine while inside she’s broken and desperately trying to piece herself together. After meeting Dan she compounds the secrets and lies by ignoring not just her instincts, but the boundaries, rules and warning signs of treating him herself. This plunges her and many others headlong into a danger far greater and darker than anyone anticipated.

A large part of this story was about motherhood. While Ruth is proud of her work and ability to help people, what she lives for is motherhood. She loves her twins but it is clear from the flashbacks that she has always favoured her son and has used his personal struggles to reason this was necessary. She has a distant and difficult relationship with her alcoholic mother and in trying to avoid those same mistakes she is blind to her own. All these things negatively impact her marriage and her relationship with her daughter who feels she’s been forgotten behind her brother’s needs. When Tom disappeared it shattered Ruth on so many levels and she has tethered herself to him all his life. She doesn’t just fear that something bad may have happened to him, but that he has chosen a life without her, which is almost even worse.

I devoured this book in just over 24 hours. It was steady paced and held my interest without exception. One of the things I enjoyed was how the book was written in a way that makes the reader aware these are past events. There are references to an incident and the police many times but we never really know who or what this entails other than the events Ruth is describing are leading up to whatever occured. I loved trying to use the breadcrumbs to figure out what had happened and what part each character played. I had a few ideas and really thought I’d figured it out but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

As we got closer to the big reveal I could predict the storm but felt powerless to stop it. There was a roaring dread in my ears and my heart seemed to stop as I held my breath. Surely not? Please let me be wrong? I felt like I was feeling Ruth’s pain at that moment, my heart shattering with hers as all was revealed. This was an emotional novel and fantastic debut from the author.

Out today.