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Blog Tours book reviews

Gone Before by Sam Hepburn

Published: October 12th, 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Crime Fiction.

Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the eBook arc.

SYNOPSIS:

‘My name is Phoebe Locklear. I think I’m your daughter.

I rehearse the words as I walk up the path, clutching a faded old photograph of a little girl with thick dark hair.When I knock, the door opens, and there she is: the woman I believe is my mother. The woman whose five-year-old daughter disappeared fifteen years ago.Had I known what would happen next, would I have knocked on that door? Would I take back the lives I’ve destroyed?But now that I’ve started, there’s no going back. I can’t stop until I find out who I really am.Even if the truth could kill me.

Twisty, addictive and utterly unputdownable, Gone Before asks what happens when your whole life turns out to be a lie. Perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell, Gone Girl and The Silent Patient.

MY REVIEW:

“Kay and Roz. Two mothers, two enigmas, two damaged women who each lost a child… Phoebe and Maya. Two little girls, both gone before their time.”

When her mother Roz dies, everything Phoebe Locklear has ever believed to be true is shown to be a lie. Faced with the realisation that the woman who raised her did nothing but deceive her, she tracks down Kay Duncan, the woman she’s now told is her real mother. But instead of answers, all Phoebe finds is more questions. So she goes in search of the truth, delving deeper into Roz and Kay’s past and the disappearance of Kay’s daughter Maya in the hope of solving not one, but two mysteries; what really happened to Maya Duncan, and who Phoebe really is.

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

“If I’m not Phoebe Locklear and I’m not Maya Duncan, then who the hell am I?”

At the heart of this story is the question of identity. Phoebe is already feeling lost when she discovers that what she’d believed about her birth mother and the reason Roz had raised her was a lie, but when she finds out she isn’t Maya Duncan she is cast further adrift, with no clue whatsoever about her real mother or identity. Who we are is the core of our being, a vital part of our sense of self, and through Phoebe we see the emotional trauma and turmoil that is experienced when someone has lost that part of themselves and examines whether identity is something that is a part of our character or what we are told about ourselves.

Gripping and fast-paced, Gone Before combines mystery with a journey of self discovery that is full of twists, turns and shocking revelations. While parts felt a little predictable, there were also a lot of surprises, the author keeping me on my toes right until the unexpected conclusion.

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sam Hepburn read modern languages at Cambridge University and, after a brief spell in advertising, joined the BBC as a General Trainee. She worked as a documentary maker for twenty years and was one of the commissioners for the launch of BBC Four. Since then, she has written several books, including psychological thrillers Gone Before and Her Perfect Life, and novels for young adults and children. She won the 2017 CWA Margery Allingham Short Story award and has been nominated for several other prestigious prizes, including the CILIP Carnegie Medal for her YA thrillers.

Sam has worked and travelled widely in Africa and the Middle East, and is a trustee of the Kenyan’s children’s charity, I Afrika. She now lives in London with her husband and children.

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Blog Tours book reviews

All Your Little Lies by Marianne Holmes

Published: October 22nd, 2020
Publisher: Agora Books
Format: Kindle, Paperback
Genre: Mystery, Thriller

I’m thrilled to be one of the bloggers opening the tour for this wonderful novel. Thank you to Peyton at Agora Books for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

When everything you say is a lie, can you even remember the truth?

Annie lives a quiet, contained, content life. She goes to work. She meets her friend. She’s kind of in a relationship. She’s happy. Not lonely at all.

If only more people could see how friendly she is — how eager to help and please. Then she could tick “Full Happy Life” off her list. But no one sees that side of Annie, and she can’t understand why.

That all changes the night Chloe Hills disappears. And Annie is the last person to see her.

This is her chance to prove to everybody that she’s worth something. That is, until she becomes a suspect.

Drenched in atmosphere and taut with tension, All Your Little Lies takes a hard look at why good people do bad things.

MY REVIEW:

When everything you say is a lie, can you even remember the truth?

Atmospheric, tense, unsettling and compulsive, this had me intrigued from the start, my mind blazing with questions I needed answered.

Our protagonist, Annie, is a strange character who I simultaneously liked and disliked. She’s awkward, judgemental, obsessive and reclusive. But she’s fantastic to read. We soon learn she has a big secret and that she lies about who she is to everyone, making her an unreliable narrator. I loved this as it added to the tension I felt as I tried to figure out what her secret was, and if she had anything to do with Chloe’s disappearance.

I was a big fan of the author’s debut novel, so I had high hopes before starting this one. Within a few pages I remembered why I had loved her first book so much; the prose is beautifully written, the plot intriguing, and she weaves a layered mystery for the reader to unravel. It is a character-driven story and relies on that, rather than tension or twists, to drive the story onwards.

Mysterious, dark, poignant and absorbing, this was hard to put down. I would highly recommend both this, and her debut, A Little Bird Told Me. I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Marianne Holmes is the author of A Little Bird Told Me, published by Agora Books in 2018. She was born in Cyprus and bounced around the UK, Germany, Kuwait and Belgium with her RAF parents as a child but is now firmly based in London with her own family. She has degrees in Classics (RHUL) and Linguistics (UCL), neither of which got much use while she worked in marketing.

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Blog Tours book reviews

Watch Her Vanish by Ellery Kane

Published: October 9th, 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Psychological Fiction, Crime Fiction, Noir Fiction, Hardboiled, Police Procedural, Medical Thriller, Romance Novel

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this gripping thriller. Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the gifted eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

The beam from the lighthouse slices through the dawn sky as she runs down the rocky stairway to the beach. She tries to take it all inthe waves crashing against the cliffs, the whip of salt grass in the windbefore finally dragging her eyes down to the innocent girl’s blonde hair, strewn across the bottom step like seaweed…

Returning home to Fog Harbor, California, to be closer to her little sister, Olivia Rockwell is struggling to adjust to life in a town so small she can hardly breathe. That is, until the sound of a scream leads her to the body of a local teacher in the shallows nearby. All the evidence points to Olivia’s most threatening criminal psychology patient, Drake, who is safely locked up behind bars…

Convinced of Drake’s innocence—and desperate to believe in the system that’s keeping her murderer father in prison and away from her sister—Olivia gets to work on her own suspect list. All her life she’s run towards trouble, but this time she’s treading on the toes of Detective Will Decker, whose past mistakes mean this case is his last chance to make amends.

Then a second woman’s body is discovered, strangled while out on an evening jog. The strip of blue material used to choke her implicates Drake once again, forcing Will to admit he needs Olivia’s special talent for understanding the minds of killers. It’s clear more innocent women will die if they don’t get one step ahead of the murders, and Olivia knows she will need her estranged father’s help to get close to Drake.

But when Olivia’s profile leads them to believe Drake could be masterminding murders from within the prison walls, a message written on a scrap of paper found in the latest victim’s car leads them to a terrifying realization: Olivia’s little sister will be next…

MY REVIEW:

“Trauma can stunt growth. Could change a sapling to a weed, a magnolia bush to oleander.”

Young mother Bonnie McMillan vanishes without a trace after a late night trip to the movie theatre. The residents of Fog Harbor are worried and hold a vigil praying for her safe return. But the event is shattered by a piercing scream and the discovery of Bonnie’s body outside the church. The murder rocks the community. 

Detective Will Decker is in charge of catching her killer and immediately finds himself clashing with Dr Olivia Rockwell, a psychologist who worked with Bonnie at Crescent Bay Prison. 

When the body of another woman is found, they fear they have a serial killer on their hands. With few clues and their only suspect a shadowy figure seen leaving the theatre at the same time as Bonnie, they face a race against the clock to find their killer before they strike again. 

Watch Her Vanish is the first book in a new crime series, which almost made me not ask to be on this tour as I read so many of them already. But the synopsis had me intrigued so I took a chance. I’m so glad I did. While the story follows some predictable tropes, overall this was a gripping, twisty, clever and surprising thriller that I couldn’t put down. 

Our dual protagonists have an instant dislike for each other, which I expected to turn into the predictable, but much loved, enemies-to-lovers trope. While they do feel differently by the end, it didn’t take quite the format or end with the outcome I was expecting, which I enjoyed. They were a great duo, with their sharp, barbed banter and reluctance to admit they work well together making them compelling to read. 

Like all great protagonists, they come with mysterious, dark and backstories that still haunt them which are slowly revealed. There is also a great cast of supporting characters that I both loved and loathed. But none that stood out as much as Drake Devere, a serial killer who is an inmate at the prison and a talented writer whose book written from behind bars has gained quite the cult following. He’s a manipulative and sinister character that will turn on you at the flick of a switch. When it seems the killer is bringing his novel to life it’s hard to know if he is involved or being set up like he claims. I’ll be honest; I could never decide. 

This exciting, fast-paced thriller is one I would recommend to anyone who enjoys the genre. I can’t wait to see what’s next for Olivia and Will in book two.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Forensic psychologist by day, novelist by night, Ellery Kane has been writing–professionally and creatively–for as long as she can remember. Just like many of her main characters, Ellery loves to ask why, which is the reason she became a psychologist in the first place. Real life really is stranger than fiction, and Ellery’s writing is often inspired by her day job. Evaluating violent criminals and treating trauma victims, she has gained a unique perspective on the past and its indelible influence on the individual. And she’s heard her fair share of real life thrillers.

Ellery lives in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, a picturesque setting that provides the backdrop for many of her novels. If you don’t find Ellery interviewing murderers behind prison walls or pecking away at her latest novel, she is probably at the gym landing a solid jab-cross to a punching bag; riding bicycles with her special someone; or enjoying a movie the old-fashioned way–at the theater with popcorn and Milk Duds.

Ellery was previously selected as one of ten semifinalists in the MasterClass James Patterson Co-Author Competition, and she recently signed a three book deal with Bookouture for her new Rockwell and Decker mystery thriller series.

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Blog Tours book reviews

The Ex-Boyfriend by Rona Halsall

Published: September 30th, 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Format: Paperback , Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Psychological Fiction

It’s a little late, but here is my review for the outstanding new thriller from Rona Halsall. Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the gifted eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

He promised to love her until her dying day…

When Becca’s first love shows up on her social media feed, she can’t help but smile fondly. Once upon a time Connor was the love of her life, and though it was over ten years ago, he’s always held a place in her heart.

Then he sends her a message. He sounds happy – still kind and funny, still living across the world in Australia. But he wants to know everything about her life now. How can Becca tell him the truth? About her workaholic husband, her stressful job, and the challenges of caring for her elderly father and her longed-for, adorable but exhausting three-year-old daughter Mia?

Becca hesitates, knowing she shouldn’t even reply. But Connor lives on the other side of the world. Just how dangerous can becoming friends again be?

It feels harmless. Until Mia gets sick – in a way that no one can explain. And it starts to become clear – someone will do absolutely anything to make sure Becca never escapes her past…

A completely unputdownable psychological thriller – perfect for fans of My Lovely WifeThe Girl on the Train, and The Woman at the Window.

MY REVIEW:

“How well do you know the ones you love?”

Gripping, dark, sinister and atmospheric, this is another outstanding thriller from Rona Halsall. 

The story opens with a worried Becca waiting for news about her three-year-old daughter Mia at the hospital. For weeks she’s been telling everyone there’s something wrong, but no one would believe her. Who is making little Mia sick? Could Becca really be guilty?  And what does the reappearance of her ex-boyfriend Connor have to do with it all? 

This book had me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. The characters and plot felt frighteningly real. Though Becca is an unreliable narrator who makes some bad decisions, it was impossible not to feel sympathy for what she was going through. Her pain, heartache and torture at the thought of someone harming her daughter was palpable, but there was always the nagging question in the back of your mind of whether we could really trust her. I had that doubt in my mind right until the reveal, though my gut was saying she didn’t hurt Mia. I’m not going to tell you if I was right because I don’t do spoilers.  

Ms Halsall has become a must-read author for me and I have loved every one of her books. She sucks you in quickly and is a master at drip feeding the reader little pieces of the puzzle, keeping us on tenterhooks as we try to piece them together. And this book was no exception, keeping me guessing right up until the big reveal. Boy was my jaw on the floor! 

The Ex-Boyfriend is a chilling, clever and suspenseful novel. It’s perfect for those who like a well-written thriller that is more psychological than gory and will make you question just how well you know those you love. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Rona lives on the Isle of Man with her husband, two dogs and three guinea pigs. She has been a bookworm since she was a child and now she’s actually creating stories of her own, which still feels like a dream come true.

She is an outdoorsy person and loves stomping up a mountain, walking the coastal paths and exploring the wonderful beaches on the Island while she’s plotting how to kill off her next victim. She also makes sure she deletes her Google history on a regular basis, because… well, you can’t be too careful when you spend your life researching new and ingenious ways for people to die.

She has three children and two step-children who are now grown up and leading varied and interesting lives, which provides plenty of ideas for new stories!

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Blog Tours book reviews

Mother Loves Me by Abby Davies

Published: September 17th, 2020
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Fiction, Adventure Fiction

I’m thrilled to share my review as part of the tour for this spine-tingling debut. Thank you to Jennifer at Harper Collins for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

The creepiest debut thriller you will read this year!

One little girl.
Mirabelle’s mother loves her. She’s her ‘little doll’. Mother dresses her, paints her face, and plaits her hair. But as Mirabelle grows, the dresses no longer fit quite as well, the face paint no longer looks quite so pretty. And Mother isn’t happy.
 
Two little girls.
On Mirabelle’s 13th birthday, Mother arrives home with a present – a new sister, 5-year-old Clarabelle, who Mother has rescued from the outside world.
 
But Mother only needs one.
As it dawns on Mirabelle that there is a new ‘little doll’ in her house, she also realises that her life isn’t what she thought it was. And that dolls often end up on the scrap heap…

MY REVIEW:

Mother Loves Me is a darkly atmospheric, claustrophobic and sinister debut that sent shivers down my spine. From the opening pages there’s prevailing unease malevolence that hangs in the air, making me read with a breathless anticipation.

Thirteen-year-old Mirabelle’s mother paints her face and dresses her like the doll she has nicknamed her, the windows are boarded up, the doors locked and the young girl has never left the house.

When Mother returns home with another little girl hidden in a bag and tells Mirabelle this is her new sister Clarabelle, she begins to question things she’d always believed, wonders if there are things Mother might be hiding; sparking a series of events that will turn her world upside down.

This is exactly the kind of twisted read I love. The book I’d just finished was one I loved so much that I was worried I’d struggle to read this, but, thankfully, this was so creepily addictive I couldn’t get enough. The author’s prose is beautiful, eerie and immersive, pulling me into Mirabelle’s small world with such vividness that I could see the story playing in my head as I read.

The characters are richly drawn and felt so real, despite their absurd situation. Mirabelle is a great narrator. The author perfectly captured her childish innocence, inquisitiveness and obedience and her fledgling desire for independence. We meet her at an age where she would have both that desperation to please desire to rebel against Mother, which combined with the jealousy that arises upon having to share her mother with Clarabelle, creates a perfect storm that the author mines to perfection.

Mother is one of the most sinister characters I’ve read for a while. She was clearly unhinged, the author capturing every shade of her evil and madness and made it leap from the page, chilling me to my core. I was terrified for both girls in her “care”. Over the course of the story we do learn what happened to make her this way, but I liked that the author didn’t let that make her a sympathetic character, despite Mirabelle’s desire to feel that way about her. It felt right that she remained an abhorrent, evil figure no matter what had happened in her past.

So, if you like a book that sizzles with tension, sends shivers down your spine, and has you on the edge of your seat, then this is the book for you. It’s as good as any chilling horror film and I would love to see it on screen.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

After acquiring a degree in English Literature, Abby taught English in state and private schools, and earned a Creative Writing MA in 2013. She wrote a great deal throughout her twenties and early thirties. To stay motivated, she told herself that even if it took her until 80 to get her work out to readers, she’d do it.

Abby lives in Wiltshire with her husband and daughter. MOTHER LOVES ME is her debut novel.

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Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Emma’s Anticipated Treasures – October 2020

October is almost upon us, so it’s time for the books I’m most excited about being released. Thanks to October 1st having even more releases than Fiction the Third, this was another month that was difficult to decide, which is why I’m so late posting this month.

So, without further ado, here are my most anticipated books for October:

The Devil and the Dark Water by Sturart Turton

Published: October 1st, 2020
Publisher: Raven Books
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Occult Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
A murder on the high seas. A detective duo. A demon who may or may not exist.

It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported to Amsterdam to be executed for a crime he may, or may not, have committed. Travelling with him is his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, who is determined to prove his friend innocent. But no sooner are they out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage.

A twice-dead leper stalks the decks. Strange symbols appear on the sails. Livestock is slaughtered. And then three passengers are marked for death, including Samuel. Could a demon be responsible for their misfortunes?

With Pipps imprisoned, only Arent can solve a mystery that connects every passenger onboard. A mystery that stretches back into their past and now threatens to sink the ship, killing everybody on board…

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
As a big fan of historical fiction and mysteries, this synopsis sings to be. I’ve also heard great things about this author. I’m lucky to have a proof so will be diving in ASAP.
Pre-order here

People of Abandoned Character by Clare Whitfield

Published: October 1st, 2020
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Crime Fiction, Gothic Fiction, Historical Mystery, Medical Thriller

SYNOPSIS:
He is my husband.
To honour and obey.
Until murder do us part.

London, 1888: Susannah rushes into marriage to a young and wealthy surgeon. After a passionate honeymoon, she returns home with her new husband wrapped around her little finger. But then everything changes. His behaviour becomes increasingly volatile and violent. He stays out all night, returning home bloodied and full of secrets.

Lonely and frustrated, Susannah starts following the gruesome reports of a spate of murders in Whitechapel. But as the killings continue, her mind takes her down the darkest path imaginable. Every time her husband stays out late, another victim is found dead.

Is it coincidence? Or is he the man they call Jack the Ripper?

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
Murder, one of my favourite historical eras, medical fiction and based on a true crime that’s one of the most enduring unsolved murder mysteries in history. This ticks all my boxes.
Pre-order here

The First Woman by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

Published: October 1st, 2020
Publisher: Oneworld
Genre: Fairy Tale, Coming-of-Age Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
For one young girl, discovering what it means to become a woman in a family, a community and a country determined to silence her will take all the courage she has.

Growing up in a small Ugandan village, Kirabo is surrounded by powerful women. Her grandmother, her aunts, her friends and cousins are all desperate for her to conform, but Kirabo is inquisitive, headstrong and determined. Up until now, she has been perfectly content with her life at the heart of this prosperous extended family, but as she enters her teenage years, she begins to feel the absence of the mother she has never known. The First Woman follows Kirabo on her journey to becoming a young woman and finding her place in the world, as her country is transformed by the bloody dictatorship of Idi Amin.

Jennifer Makumbi has written a sweeping tale of longing and rebellion, at once epic and deeply personal, steeped in an intoxicating mix of ancient Ugandan folklore and modern feminism, that will linger in the memory long after the final page.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
The striking cover and fascinating synopsis made this an immediate addition to this list. I’ve been seeing great reviews for it too, so I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on a copy.
Pre-order here

Mother Mother by Jessica O’Dwyer

Published: October 1st, 2020
Publisher: Apprentice House Press
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Literary Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
A married couple in California grapples with race, betrayal, love, and loss when their son comes home from a Guatemalan orphanage. 

Contemporary art museum curator Julie Cowan achieves her dream of motherhood through adoption, but her life is far from perfect. Her pathologist husband, Mark, is distracted by his gorgeous, young intern, while her hotshot new museum director boss doubts Julie’s curatorial chops. And Julie’s six-year-old son, Jack (born Juan), may never recover from trauma inflicted by early life spent in a Guatemalan orphanage. 

Then Jack suffers a major health crisis, and everything pales next to saving his life. As much as Julie clings to being Jack’s “only” mother, she needs to find his Guatemalan mother to unlock his medical history. Julie hires a professional searcher, and what she learns turns her world upside down. At the same time, Jack’s birth mother, an indigenous Ixil Maya, navigates her own tumultuous path, beginning with surviving a horrific massacre. 

In this gripping tale told from alternating perspectives, both mothers must draw on fierce inner strength to reckon with their life choices.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
This sounds like an emotional read and I was excited to see it was available to ‘read now’ on Netgalley. So of course I broke my self-imposed request ban to download it.
Pre-order here

The Haunting of Alma Fielding by Kate Sumnerscale

Published: October 1st, 2020
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Genre: Biography, True Crime

SYNOPSIS:
London, 1938. In the suburbs of the city, an ordinary young housewife has become the eye in a storm of chaos.

In Alma Fielding’s modest home, china flies off the shelves, eggs fly through the air; stolen jewellery appears on her fingers, white mice crawl out of her handbag, beetles appear from under her gloves; in the middle of a car journey, a terrapin materialises on her lap.

Nandor Fodor – a Jewish-Hungarian refugee and chief ghost hunter for the International Institute for Psychical Research – reads of the case, and hastens to the scene of the haunting. But when Fodor starts his scrupulous investigation, he discovers that the case is even stranger than it seems.

By unravelling Alma’s peculiar history, he finds a different and darker type of haunting: trauma, alienation, loss – and the foreshadowing of a nation’s worst fears. As the spectre of Fascism lengthens over Europe, and as Fodor’s obsession with the case deepens, Alma becomes ever more disturbed.

With rigour, daring and insight, the award-winning pioneer of non-fiction writing Kate Summerscale shadows Fodor’s enquiry, delving into long-hidden archives to find the human story behind a very modern haunting.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
As I’ve already said, I love history and true stories, so this so this immediately jumped out at me.
Pre-order here

What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez

Published: October 1st, 2020
Publisher: Virago
Genre: Literary Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
A woman visits a friend who is dying of cancer. Brilliant and stubborn, her friend makes a momentous request. She wishes to end her life on her own terms – and she wants the narrator’s help. Stricken, she agrees. ‘I promise,’ says the friend, ‘to make it as much fun as possible.’

What follows is an extraordinary tale of a friendship put to the greatest test: to witness, unflinching, its end. It is also a portrait of the way we live now, in a world endlessly troubled by crises, and the dramatically changing nature of human relationships in our time.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
As someone living with chronic pain, the question of assisted dying is one that fascinates me. And the idea of examining that issue through not only the eyes of someone who wants to die, but the person they ask to help them, is one I knew I had to read.
Pre-order here.

The Silk House by Kayte Nunn

Published: October 1st, 2020
Publisher: Orion
Genre: Historical Fiction, Gothic Fiction, Horror

SYNOPSIS:
Weaving. Witchcraft. Wonder.

Present day: Thea Rust arrives at an exclusive boarding school in the British countryside, only to find that she is not only having to look after the first intake of girls in its 150-year history, but that she is to stay with them in Silk House. A converted silk factory from the 18th century, where the shadows hide more mysteries than she could ever imagine…

1700s, Oxleigh: Leaving her village to work in the home of an English silk merchant Rowan Caswell finds herself thrust into a new and dangerous world, where she must hide her secret even more than ever before.

1700s, London: Mary-Louise Stephenson lives amid the clatter of the weaving trade and dreams of becoming a silk designer. Arriving in Oxleigh she brings with her a length of fabric woven with a pattern of deadly plants, that will have far-reaching consequences for all who dwell in the silk house.

Intoxicating, haunting and inspired by the author’s background, The Silk House is the exceptional new gothic mystery by Kayte Nunn.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
This is another book that ticks so many of my favourite boxes. It also helps that I’ve been meaning to read a book by this author for a long time.
Pre-order here.

The Stolen Sisters by Louise Jensen

Published: October 1st, 2020
Publisher: HQ
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Domestic Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
Sisterhood binds them. Trauma defines them. Will secrets tear them apart?

Leah’s perfect marriage isn’t what it seems but the biggest lie of all is that she’s learned to live with what happened all those years ago.Marie drinks a bit too much to help her forget. And Carly has never forgiven herself for not keeping them safe.
 
Twenty years ago The Sinclair Sisters were taken. But what came after their return was far worse. Can a family ever recover, especially when not everyone is telling the truth…?

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
I loved Louise Jensen’s last novel so as soon as she announced this one I knew it would be on this list.
Pre-order here.

Mr. Cadmus by Peter Ackroyd

Published: October 1st, 2020
Publisher: Canongate
Genre: Thriller, Mystery

SYNOPSIS:
Two apparently harmless women reside in cottages one building apart in the idyllic English village of Little Camborne. Miss Finch and Miss Swallow, cousins, have put their pasts behind them and settled into conventional country life. But when a mysterious foreigner, Theodore Cadmus – from Caldera, a Mediterranean island nobody has heard of – moves into the middle cottage, the safe monotony of their lives is shattered.

The fates of the two cousins and Mr Cadmus, and those of Little Camborne and Caldera, become inextricably enmeshed. Long-hidden secrets and long-held grudges threaten to surface, drawing all into a vortex of subterfuge, theft, violence, mayhem . . . and murder.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
I’ll admit, it was the gorgeous, purple cover that first caught my attention. But it is the synopsis that had made it one of my most anticipated reads. I’m a sucker for a mystery.
Pre-order here

Pandora’s Jar by Natalie Haynes

Published: October 1st, 2020
Publisher: Picador
Genre: Fairy Tale, Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
Sisterhood binds them. Trauma defines them. Will secrets tear them apart?

Leah’s perfect marriage isn’t what it seems but the biggest lie of all is that she’s learned to live with what happened all those years ago. Marie drinks a bit too much to help her forget. And Carly has never forgiven herself for not keeping them safe.
 
Twenty years ago The Sinclair Sisters were taken. But what came after their return was far worse. Can a family ever recover, especially when not everyone is telling the truth…?

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
I’ve been seeing rave reviews for this online. And the combination of fairy tale and an exploration of how they are affected by trauma is intoxicating to me.
Pre-order here

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E Schwab

Published: October 6th, 2020
Publisher: Titan
Genre: Historical Fantasy

SYNOPSIS:
For someone damned to be forgettable, Addie LaRue is a most delightfully unforgettable character, and her story is the most joyous evocation of unlikely immortality. Neil Gaiman
In the vein of The Time Traveler s Wife and Life After LifeThe Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is New York Times bestselling author V. E. Schwab s genre-defying tour de force.

When Addie La Rue makes a pact with the devil, she trades her soul for immortality. But there’s always a price – the devil takes away her place in the world, cursing her to be forgotten by everyone.

Addie flees her tiny home town in 18th-Century France, beginning a journey that takes her across the world, learning to live a life where no one remembers her and everything she owns is lost and broken. Existing only as a muse for artists throughout history, she learns to fall in love anew every single day.

Her only companion on this journey is her dark devil with hypnotic green eyes, who visits her each year on the anniversary of their deal. Alone in the world, Addie has no choice but to confront him, to understand him, maybe to beat him.

Until one day, in a second hand bookshop in Manhattan, Addie meets someone who remembers her. Suddenly thrust back into a real, normal life, Addie realises she can’t escape her fate forever.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
The synopsis of this book immediately piqued my interest; but it was when I saw the comparison to The Time Traveller’s Wife – one of my favourite books of all time – I knew I had to read it.
Pre-order here

The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida by Clarissa Goenawan

Published: October 8th, 2020
Publisher: Scribe
Genre: Literary Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
A bewitching novel set in contemporary Japan about the mysterious suicide of a young woman.

Miwako Sumida is dead.

Now those closest to her try to piece together the fragments of her life. Ryusei, who has always loved her, follows Miwako’s trail to a remote Japanese village. Chie, Miwako’s best friend, was the only person to know her true identity ― but is now the time to reveal it? Meanwhile, Fumi, Ryusei’s sister, is harbouring her own haunting secret.

Together, they realise that the young woman they thought they knew had more going on behind her seemingly perfect façade than they could ever have dreamed.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
I’m guilty of another cover-love addition here. But, in my defence, it sounds like a fantastic story. I first saw this recommended on a friend’s Instagram stories and knew that if she loved it, so would I.
Pre-order here

A Time For Mercy by John Grisham

Published: October 13th, 2020
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Legal Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
CAN A KILLER EVER BE ABOVE THE LAW?

Deputy Stuart Kofer is a protected man. Though he’s turned his drunken rages on his girlfriend, Josie, and her children many times before, the police code of silence has always shielded him.

But one night he goes too far, leaving Josie for dead on the floor before passing out. Her son, sixteen-year-old Drew, knows he only has this one chance to save them. He picks up a gun and takes the law into his own hands.

In Clanton, Mississippi, there is no one more hated than a cop killer – but a cop killer’s defence lawyer comes close. Jake Brigance doesn’t want this impossible case but he’s the only one with enough experience to defend the boy.

As the trial begins, it seems there is only one outcome: the gas chamber for Drew. But, as the town of Clanton discovers once again, when Jake Brigance takes on an impossible case, anything is possible.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
John Grisham is one of my favourite authors. I’ve loved his book ever since I read A Time To Kill, my favourite of the many he’s written, over two decades ago. So as soon as the author announced a follow up it became one of my most anticipated books this year.
Pre-order here.

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

Published: October 13th, 2020
Publisher: Little Brown Book Group
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, Domestic Fiction, Alternative Fiction, Occult Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the three Eastwood sisters join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote – and perhaps not even to live – the sisters must delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
Gorgeous cover ✔️ Historical Fiction ✔️ Creepy ✔️ This sounds like just the kind of book I will love and a perfect Autumn read.
Pre-order here.

The Nesting by CJ Cooke

Published: October 15th, 2020
Publisher: HarperCollinsUK
Genre: Fairy Tale, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Horror Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
It was like something out of a fairytale…
The grieving widower.
The motherless daughters.
A beautiful house in the woods.

Deep in a remote Norwegian forest, Lexi has found a new home with architect Tom and his two young daughters. With snow underfoot and the sound of the nearby fjord in her ears, it’s as if Lexi has stepped into a fairy tale

But this family has a history – and this place has a past. Something was destroyed to build their beautiful new house. And those ancient, whispering woods have a long memory.

Lexi begins to hear things, see things that don’t make sense. She used to think this place heavenly, but in the dark, dark woods, a menacing presence lurks.

With darkness creeping in from the outside, Lexi knows she needs to protect the children in her care.

But protect them from what?

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
Again, this has so many elements I love. I’m lucky to be on the blog tour for this one. My review will be posted on October 26th.
Pre-order here.

Ghosts by Dolly Alderton

Published: October 15th, 2020
Publisher: Penguin UK
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
Nina Dean has arrived at her early thirties as a successful food writer with loving friends and family, plus a new home and neighbourhood. When she meets Max, a beguiling romantic hero who tells her on date one that he’s going to marry her, it feels like all is going to plan.

A new relationship couldn’t have come at a better time – her thirties have not been the liberating, uncomplicated experience she was sold. Everywhere she turns, she is reminded of time passing and opportunities dwindling. Friendships are fading, ex-boyfriends are moving on and, worse, everyone’s moving to the suburbs. There’s no solace to be found in her family, with a mum who’s caught in a baffling mid-life makeover and a beloved dad who is vanishing in slow-motion into dementia.

Dolly Alderton’s debut novel is funny and tender, filled with whip-smart observations about relationships, family, memory, and how we live now.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
Dolly Alderson is an author I’ve seen all over bookstagram, and her first fiction novel sounds like a great, lighthearted read.
Pre-order here.

The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult

Published: October 20th, 2020
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
Who would you be, if you hadn’t turned out to be the person you are now?

Dawn is a death doula, and spends her life helping people make the final transition peacefully.

But when the plane she’s on plummets, she finds herself thinking not of the perfect life she has, but the life she was forced to abandon fifteen years ago – when she left behind a career in Egyptology, and a man she loved.

Against the odds, she survives, and the airline offers her a ticket to wherever she needs to get to – but the answer to that question suddenly seems uncertain.

As the path of her life forks in two very different directions, Dawn must confront questions she’s never truly asked: What does a well-lived life look like? What do we leave behind when we go? And do we make our choices, or do our choices make us?

Two possible futures. One impossible choice.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
I’m a total Jodi fan-girl and anything she publishes is one of my most anticipated books of that year. I’m taking part in a Tandem Collective readalong for this one, which begins on October 6th.
Pre-order here.

The Illustrated Child by Polly Crosby

Published: October 29th, 2020
Publisher: HQ
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime Fiction, Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
Romilly lives in a ramshackle house with her eccentric artist father and her cat, Monty. She knows little about her past – but she knows that she is loved.

When her father finds fame with a series of children’s books starring her as the main character, everything changes: exotic foods appear on the table, her father appears on TV, and strangers appear at their door, convinced the books contain a treasure hunt leading to a glittering prize.

But as time passes, Romilly’s father becomes increasingly suspicious of everything around him, until, before her eyes, he begins to disappear altogether.

In her increasingly isolated world, Romilly turns to the secrets her father has hidden in his illustrated books, realising that there is something far darker and more devastating locked within the pages…

The truth.

The Illustrated Child is the unforgettable, beguiling debut from Polly Crosby.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
I first heard about this book early this year and it instantly became one I was desperate to read. I’ve unsuccessfully tried to get my hands on a proof but was accepted on the blog tour, so I’ll finally be reading it soon. My review will be published on October 27th.
Pre-order here.

One August Night by Victioria Hislop

Published: October 29th, 2020
Publisher: Headline
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
25th August 1957. The island of Spinalonga closes its leper colony. And a moment of violence has devastating consequences.

When time stops dead for Maria Petrakis and her sister, Anna, two families splinter apart and, for the people of Plaka, the closure of Spinalonga is forever coloured with tragedy.

In the aftermath, the question of how to resume life looms large. Stigma and scandal need to be confronted and somehow, for those impacted, a future built from the ruins of the past.

Number one bestselling author Victoria Hislop returns to the world and characters she created in The Island – the award-winning novel that remains one of the biggest selling reading group novels of the century. It is finally time to be reunited with Anna, Maria, Manolis and Andreas in the weeks leading up to the evacuation of the island… and beyond.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
I only heard about this book a few weeks ago (I know, I must have been living under a rock) and I immediately added it to this list. The Island is a book I fell in love with when I read it many years ago and I can’t wait to see where the author takes the story next.
Pre-order here.

Starve Acre by Andrew Muchael Hurley

Published: October 29th, 2020
Publisher: John Murray Press
Genre: FaHorror, Ghost Story

SYNOPSIS:
The worst thing possible has happened. Richard and Juliette Willoughby’s son, Ewan, has died suddenly at the age of five. Starve Acre, their house by the moors, was to be full of life, but is now a haunted place.

Juliette, convinced Ewan still lives there in some form, seeks the help of the Beacons, a seemingly benevolent group of occultists. Richard, to try and keep the boy out of his mind, has turned his attention to the field opposite the house, where he patiently digs the barren dirt in search of a legendary oak tree.

Starve Acre is a devastating new novel by the author of the prize-winning bestseller The Loney. It is a novel about the way in which grief splits the world in two and how, in searching for hope, we can so easily unearth horror.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
This sounds like a fantastic and haunting read. I’ve also heard great things about this author and I’m excited to read his work for myself.
Pre-order here

Are any of these on your tbr or wishlist? What book out next month are you most looking forward to?

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

Published: September 3rd, 2020
Publisher: Viking
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime Fiction, Cosy Mystery, Humorous Fiction

Today is my stop on the tour for this spectacular debut. Thank you to Ellie at Viking for the inviation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

THE FIRST BOOK IN THE #1 BESTSELLING THURSDAY MURDER CLUB SERIES BY TV PRESENTER RICHARD OSMAN

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders.

But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?

MY REVIEW:

“This morning the Thursday Murder Club has a real-life case. Not just yellowing pages of smudged type from another age. A real case, a real corpse, and, somewhere out there, a real killer.”

One of my most anticipated books this year, The Thursday Murder Club was everything I’d hoped and more. 

Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim, who all live in Coopers Chase Retirement Village. Through a shared fascination with solving crime, they form the Thursday Murder Club, meeting each week to try and solve unsolved cold cases. But when local businessman Tony Curran is murdered, they finally have the chance to solve a real case. Using their wiles to befriend the local police and other secret weapons up their sleeves, can the unlikely gang catch the killer?

This cosy murder mystery was an utterly delightful read. Whip-smart, lighthearted, witty and addictive, this was impossible to put down. Richard Osman’s fictional debut showcases his skill as a master storyteller who had me in his thrall from start to finish. The richly crafted community he has created is filled with vibrant and authentic characters that leap from the pages and red herrings are skillfully woven into the story, keeping you guessing right up until that big reveal.

My favourite thing about the book is without a doubt the author’s decision to base the story around a group of retirees in a retirement home who like to solve mysteries. It’s fresh, original and means they can do things that younger characters wouldn’t get away with because, as it says in the book, people let you get away with so much more when you get to a certain age. This year in particular I have noticed there is an increasing number of books with older characters at their centre, and I love that the industry is giving a voice to a generation whose voices are often forgotten beyond being the doting grandparents. It is fantastic to see stories where they are flawed characters with complex and interesting lives. I loved the quartet who make up the Thursday Murder Club. I loved their dynamic and how well they work together despite being people who would have never had anything to do with each other if they hadn’t all been living at Coopers Chase and had a mutual interest in murder. Joyce’s diary entries were a brilliant insight into the group and I could vividly picture her sitting at her typewriter to write them. 

Charming, funny and so British it’s like a warm cup of tea on a cold day, The Thursday Murder Club is an absolute triumph. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I loved the gang and am thrilled that this is the start of a new series as I can’t wait to revisit them and see what antics they get up to next. An easy five starts from me. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Richard Osman is an author, producer and television presenter. The Thursday Murder Club is his first novel. He is well known for TV shows including Pointless and Richard Osman’s House of Games. As the creative director of Endemol UK, Richard has worked as an executive producer on numerous shows including Deal Or No Deal and 8 Out of 10 Cats. He is also a regular on panel and game shows such as Have I Got News For You, Would I Lie To You and Taskmaster.

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Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

To Cook A Bear by Mikael Niemi

Published: September 3rd, 2020
Publisher: MacLehose Press
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Translated Fiction

I’m delighted to be sharing my review today as part of the blog tour. Thank you to Corinna at MacLehose for the invitation to take part and for the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

The legendary Læstadius becomes a kind of Sherlock Holmes in this exceptional historical crime novel.

It is 1852, and in Sweden’s far north, deep in the Arctic Circle, charismatic preacher and Revivalist Lars Levi Læstadius impassions a poverty-stricken congregation with visions of salvation. But local leaders have reason to resist a shift to temperance over alcohol.

Jussi, the young Sami boy Læstadius has rescued from destitution and abuse, becomes the preacher’s faithful disciple on long botanical treks to explore the flora and fauna. Læstadius also teaches him to read and write – and to love and fear God.

When a milkmaid goes missing deep in the forest, the locals suspect a predatory bear is at large. A second girl is attacked, and the sheriff is quick to offer a reward for the bear’s capture. Using early forensics and daguerreotype, Læstadius and Jussi find clues that point to a far worse killer on the loose, even as they are unaware of the evil closing in around them.

To Cook a Bear explores how communities turn inwards, how superstition can turn to violence, and how the power of language can be transformative in a richly fascinating mystery.

MY REVIEW:

“A man of violence walks free. A killer bear in human form.”

This English translation of a Swedish mystery is like no other mystery I’ve read before. Set in Sweden in 1852, it follows Jussi, a runaway Sami boy who has been taken in by the revivalist preacher, Laestadius, and his family.

When a young woman goes missing and is later found dead, it appears that a killer bear is at large and a reward is offered for its capture. But Laestadius sees clues that point to a much more sinister suspect. So, with Jussi assisting him, he begins his own investigation.

But when another young woman is taken and it seems they have identified their killer, the pair find themselves in danger. For this is a killer who will do whatever it takes to remain hidden.

“People are greatly in fear of the devil. Especially when he comes in the guise of a wolf or a snake. But he is far more dangerous in human form. And most dangerous of all in the form of an angel. For when Satan himself transforms into an angel of light, it is hard to escape him.”

A sweeping Swedish historical fiction, based in fact, with elements of mystery and Scandi-noir, this is a beautifully written novel. It is a little strange at times, and took me a little while to get into, but I loved the richly drawn world the author brings to life, transporting you back to 1850s Sweden. It is a time I knew nothing about and I enjoyed learning more about that era. And just because it’s beautifully written, don’t think that means it doesn’t touch on more brutal aspects— it is a historical murder mystery after all. There were some gruesome scenes, including one involving the bear mentioned in the title that I’ll not soon forget. I also enjoyed historical elements such as the beginnings of forensics that Laestadius uses in his investigations. But, for me, it was the characters that I found most fascinating and compelling.

“By itself, each letter was frail. But when the pastor taught the young Sami boy to place them next to one another, something happened. It was like lighting a fire ; one single piece of wood was of little use, but if you added another, it instantly grew hotter. The letters derived life from each other ; in the company of others they began to speak.”

Our narrator, Jussi, is a Sami boy who was found by the preacher after fleeing his abusive home. And it was his journey I was drawn to most of all. Shy, unsure and longing for acceptance, Jussi pulled on my heartstrings. I loved his journey of self-discovery and learning. His descriptions of learning to read and exploring books brought to life the wonder, joy and transformative power of words; how they open up the world to you and change your perception of life. It was a magical thing to witness him as he discovered these things. What was harder to bear were the injustices he suffered at the hands of locals, who judge him as the weird Sami boy. There was one particular point where I shed a tear for how savagely treated and despaired at the cruelty with which some treat their fellow man.

Laestadius is a diversive figure, loved and loathed in his community depending on their views on the Lutheran revival that he is spearheading. I was ambivalent towards him myself, but liked that he saw details others didn’t and persued his quest for the truth even in the face of great opposition.

To Cook A Bear is a captivating and touching story that is unlike anything you will have read before. It kept me guessing from start to finish and the with characters are ones that will stay with me.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Mikael Niemi was born in 1959 and grew up in Pajala in the northernmost part of Sweden, near the Finnish border, where he still lives. Before the publication of To Cook A Bear, his breakthrough novel was Popular Music From Vittula (2000), selling more than one million copies. It won the Swedish August Prize and has been translated into more than thirty languages. To Cook A Bear has now been sold for translation to fifteen territories.

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Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

A Song of Isolation by Michael J. Malone

Published: September 17th, 2020
Publisher: Orenda
Format: Paperback , Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Crime Fiction, Psychological Thriller

Today is my stop on the tour for this riveting thriller. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Orenda for the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

In this breathtakingly brutal and intensely topical psychological thriller, a man is accused of child sexual abuse, and his life and that of his actress girlfriend are thrown into turmoil


Film star Amelie Hart is the darling of the silver screen, appearing on the front pages of every newspaper. But at the peak of her fame she throws it all away for a regular guy with an ordinary job. The gossip columns are aghast: what happened to the woman who turned heads wherever she went?

Any hope the furore will die down are crushed when Amelie’s boyfriend Dave is arrested on charges of child sexual abuse. Dave strongly asserts his innocence, and when Amelie refuses to denounce him, the press witch hunt quickly turns into physical violence, and she has to flee the country.

While Dave is locked up with the most depraved men in the country and Amelie is hiding on the continent, Damaris, the victim at the centre of the story, is isolated a child trying to make sense of an adult world.

Breathtakingly brutal, dark and immensely moving, A Song of Isolation looks beneath the magpie glimmer of celebrity to uncover a sinister world dominated by greed and lies, and the unfathomable destruction of innocent lives in an instant.

MY REVIEW:

“How can a normal day turn into a nightmare so quickly?”

Movie star Amelie Hart is living a quiet life with her boyfriend Dave Robbins after retiring from the limelight following a traumatic experience with a stalker. But her quiet idle is shattered when Dave is accused of abusing their neighbours’ eleven-year-old daughter. 

Dave protests his innocence and Amelie believes him, but the court of public opinion has him convicted even before the trial begins and they judge Amelie guilty too, saying she ‘must have known’ what was happening.

“He felt shame bubble on his veins until it lay over his mind and heart and soul like a tombstone slab. He was better than that. He was a good guy, wasn’t he? “

Michael J. Malone is a truly gifted writer. This isn’t a story you can write without exploring the dark side and Malone manages to examine the dark and difficult topics in this book with honesty and sensitivity. Instead of taking sides he allows the reader to make up their own mind about the truth of the allegations. We know that Dave believes he did nothing wrong and that Damaris believes her story, and the author makes it clear they are both victims who have been living in a nightmare ever since that day. There is a real sense of helplessness and vulnerability in both characters. Whatever the outcome there will be no winners in this story. 

The decision to have multiple narrators is one I liked as it offered not only more pieces of the puzzle, but showed the ripple effect of such allegations and its different effects on the lives of all those involved. He makes the characters leap from the page and immerses you so completely that you are drawn into their world and invested in what happens to them. At times the author evoked such a visceral reaction in me that I wanted to scream and shout as I witnessed the agony, heartache, injustice and manipulation that was suffered.

“Although she’d managed to rebuild and get on with her life with little impediment, it dismayed her that the terror that man caused her had never really left.”

As someone with PTSD I particularly appreciated the accuracy with which the author portrayed Amelie in the book, showing how the accusations against Dave trigger her memories and the feelings from her earlier trauma, and caused a resurgence of habits and emotions she believed she was over. From my own experience I know that it’s easy to think we’re over a situation only for the smallest thing to trigger it coming back and that another large trauma leads to devastating feelings that are hard to work through. Poor Amelie has the added pressure of being a celebrity, allowing the author to look at the darker side of fame and the media’s hunger for any gossip on those in the public eye. 

Dave meanwhile never once wavers about his innocence, but goes through an incredibly dark time. He feels like he doesn’t know who he is anymore and is forced to examine every interaction he’s ever had not only with Damaris, but all women. He can’t believe anyone could think him able to do such an evil thing or that by being kind to a lonely child he would see his whole life destroyed. Life in prison is frightening and he’s in real danger but there is nothing he can do but ride it out and hope he survives. But he has no idea what will be waiting for him when he leaves and fears his whole future has been taken from him. 

While I obviously felt for what Amelie and Dave were going through, from the start, the character I felt most moved by was Damaris, the child at the heart of the allegations. She is lonely, afraid and confused. She can’t remember being hurt but believes that must be her mind protecting herself from the trauma. You get the sense early on that this little girl is just a pawn in her parent’s game and how she feels or is affected matters little to them. I was so angry at how she was being treated. If she was abused then they were not giving her adequate support in her biggest time of need. And if she wasn’t, then they’ve planted the seed of something that will psychologically damage their daughter forever. 

Powerful, raw, moving, twisty and darkly atmospheric, A Song of Isolation is a riveting and affecting novel that I highly recommend. I am so glad that I finally read a book by this author and I’m looking forward to reading his back catalogue. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes: Carnegie’s Call; A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage; The Bad Samaritan and Dog Fight. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines and After He Died soon followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller. Michael lives in Ayr.

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Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

A Ruined Girl by Kate Simants

Published: August 27th, 2020
Publisher: Viper
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Crime Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this gripping thriller. Thank you to Miranda at Viper Books for the invitation to take part and my gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

TWO BOYS LOVED HER.
BUT WHICH ONE KILLED HER?

On a dark night two years ago, teenagers Rob and Paige broke into a house. They beat and traumatised the occupants, then left, taking only a bracelet. No one knows why, not even Luke, Rob’s younger brother and Paige’s confidant. Paige disappeared after that night. And having spent her life in children’s homes and the foster system, no one cared enough to look for her.

Now Rob is out of prison, and probation officer Wren Reynolds has been tasked with his rehabilitation. But Wren has her own reasons for taking on Rob as a client. Convinced that Rob knows what happened to Paige, and hiding a lifetime of secrets from her heavily pregnant wife, Wren’s obsession with finding a missing girl may tear her family apart…

MY REVIEW:

A Ruined Girl is a raw, dark, tense and riveting thriller. Told in dual timelines by dual narrators, we move between past and present as the story of what really happened the night two years ago the teenagers Rob and Paige broke into a house is told.

In a seemingly motivationless crime, the pair beat and terrified the occupants before taking a bracelet and leaving. Rob was captured and imprisoned for his role in the crime, but Paige hasn’t been seen since that night. Now, Rob is being released, and probation officer Wren Reynolds is tasked with his rehabilitation. But she has an ulterior motive for taking on his case.
She’s sure he’s hiding something, and is determined to find out what it is. And, as time goes on, she becomes increasingly obsessed with finding out what happened to Paige. Whatever the cost…

Complex, layered and dripping with suspense, this was a real page-turner. On a normal day, I would have flown through this in one sitting, but even in a pain-filled haze this book held my attention and had me thinking about it when I wasn’t reading. Flawlessly plotted, the author had me in her thrall from the chilling prologue to the final page.

I loved the many subplots that made up the narrative of this story. In a thriller, every little thing, however benign, becomes potentially significant, and I enjoy trying to figure out what is important or a potential clue. I was sure I had this one figured out. And that feeling was only confirmed when some of the revelations were as I predicted. I sat back, planning to just enjoy the book, safe in the knowledge that I knew what was coming, only to be completely blindsided by a jaw-dropping revelation that turned everything I thought I knew on it’s head. I’m still in shock!

All of the characters in this book are richly drawn, intriguing, flawed and real. I liked Wren, for all her faults, and thought she made a great protagonist. But the character I found myself particularly drawn to was Paige. We only see Paige through the eyes of others; the rose-tinted glasses or betrayal of Luke’s crush, or Wren’s investigation. I understood their fascination with her, the author creating an aura of mystery and sadness surrounding her that made me want to rescue her. It seemed inevitable that there was to be no happy ending, but, like Wren, I hoped for justice.

Atmospheric, taut, twisty and utterly addictive, I highly recommend this novel. This was my first read by this author, but it won’t be my last.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Kate Simants is a writer of psychological thrillers and crime fiction.

After a decade working in the UK television industry, specialising in investigative documentaries, police shows and undercover work, Kate relocated from London to Bristol to concentrate on writing. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Brunel Univeristy (2007) and another in Crime Fiction from the University of East Anglia (2018), where she was the recipient of the UEA Literary Festival Scholarship. Her novel LOCK ME IN was shortlisted for the 2015 Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger, and is published by HarperCollins.

Kate won the 2019 Bath Novel Award with her second novel A RUINED GIRL, which is published by Viper/Serpent’s Tail in August 2020.

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