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Blog Tour: Deity by Matt Wesolowski

Published: February 18th, 2021
Publisher: Orenda
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Horror Fiction, Coming-of-Age Story, Crime Fiction, Psychological Fiction, Urban Fiction

I’m a little late posting this due to ill health, but here is my review for the fifth installment in Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories series. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Karen at Orenda Books for the gifted ebook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

A shamed pop star
A devastating fire
Six witnesses
Six stories
Which one is true?

When pop megastar Zach Crystal dies in a fire at his remote mansion, his mysterious demise rips open the bitter divide between those who adored his music and his endless charity work, and those who viewed him as a despicable predator, who manipulated and abused young and vulnerable girls.

Online journalist, Scott King, whose Six Stories podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the accusations of sexual abuse and murder that were levelled at Crystal before he died. But as Scott begins to ask questions and rake over old graves, some startling inconsistencies emerge: Was the fire at Crystal’s remote home really an accident? Are reports of a haunting really true? Why was he never officially charged?

Dark, chillingly topical and deeply thought-provoking, Deity is both an explosive thriller and a startling look at how heroes can fall from grace and why we turn a blind eye to even the most heinous of crimes…

MY REVIEW:

“This journey feels like it’s just begun — pulling apart a myth bit by bit to see what lies within.”

The fifth installment in Matt Wesolwski’s Six Stories series offers what we’ve come to expect: an eerie, mysterious and exhilarating novel exploring a fictional cold case over six episodes of the fictional podcast. This time presenter Scott King is trying to get answers about the life of music superstar Zach Crystal, a controversial, enigmatic and eccentric figure who perished in a fire in 2019.

As always, we jump straight into the action, with a chilling and sinister opening that will leave you both desperate for more and terrified to turn the page. I don’t want to talk too much about the details of the plot as the beauty of these stories is the journey of discovery, the mystery and surprises that unfold. What I will say is that once again Wesolwski has knocked it out of the park.

Wesolowski’s books are always highly anticipated in the blogging and book community; and for good reason. You will never read anything else like it. He has a style that is instantly recognisable as his and has crafted a series that is compelling, memorable and unique. Wesolowski isn’t a man afraid of taking risks or writing about the dark side. And his books aren’t for the faint hearted. They will send shivers down your spine, make you question the world around you and see monsters where there were none before. He is a genius. And I am yet to meet anyone who has read his books that doesn’t agree. I was late to discover this series and I’m still playing catch-up with the earlier books. But what is so good about them is while you will want to, and should, read every one, you can dip in at any point as each one is about a completely new case with all new characters bar the presenter.

Hypnotic, thrilling, innovative and simply brilliant, Deity is an unmissable book by one of the greatest voices in fiction.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

Trigger Warnings: sexual abuse

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care.

‘Six Stories’ was published by Orenda Books in the spring of 2016 with follow-up ‘Hydra’ published in the winter of 2017, ‘Changeling’ in 2018, ‘Beast’ in 2019 and ‘Deity’ in 2020.

‘Six Stories’ has been optioned by a major Hollywood studio and the third book in the series, ‘Changeling’ was longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, 2019 Amazon Publishing Readers’ Award for Best Thriller and Best Independent Voice.
‘Beast’ won the Amazon publishing award for Best Independent voice in 2020.

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Please check out the reviews by the other bloggers on the tour.

Thank you for reading. Until next time Bibliophiles, Emma xx

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Blog Tour: The Long, Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper

Published: February 4th, 2021
Publisher: Manilla Press
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Psychological Fiction, Noir Ficiton

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this mesmerising debut novel. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Tours for the invitation to take part and to Manilla Press for the ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

The sunniest places hold the darkest secrets . . .

A stunning 1950s set debut mystery brimming with atmosphere and perfect for fans of Tangerine, Small Pleasures and Mad Men.
________

Yesterday, I kissed my husband for the last time . . .

It’s the summer of 1959, and the well-trimmed lawns of Sunnylakes, California, wilt under the sun. At some point during the long, long afternoon, Joyce Haney, wife, mother, vanishes from her home, leaving behind two terrified children and a bloodstain on the kitchen floor.

While the Haney’s neighbours get busy organising search parties, it is Ruby Wright, the family’s ‘help’, who may hold the key to this unsettling mystery. Ruby knows more about the secrets behind Sunnylakes’ starched curtains than anyone, and it isn’t long before the detective in charge of the case wants her help. But what might it cost her to get involved? In these long hot summer afternoons, simmering with lies, mistrust and prejudice, it could only take one spark for this whole ‘perfect’ world to set alight . . .

A beguiling, deeply atmospheric debut novel from the cracked heart of the American Dream, The Long, Long Afternoon is at once a page-turning mystery and an intoxicating vision of the ways in which women everywhere are diminished, silenced and ultimately under-estimated.

MY REVIEW:

“Yesterday, I kissed my husband for the last time.”

Sunnylakes, Santa Monica – a town whose radiant name and shimmering skies belies the truth. Look a little closer and you will see what the residents try to hide; a place crawling with deep, dark secrets. Secrets that are slowly unveiled after Joyce Haney disappears from her home in the town one sunny August afternoon, leaving behind a bloodstained kitchen and  two frightened little girls. 

Wow. Just, wow! I can’t believe this mesmerising book is a debut. Inga Vesper is a talented wordsmith who has woven this layered, intricate plot into a work of art. The prose is witty and poetic, transporting me to 50s suburbia and its  sexism, misogyny, and racism. The author also delves deeply into the historical side of the era, examining topics such as the aforementioned sexism and racism, as well as society’s view of women’s roles, civil rights, domestic abuse and mental health. It is a book that would make a perfect film or TV series and the imagery is so vivid that I felt like I could see the bright blue California skies, feel the sun beating down and the sweat forming at every pore. It was so vivid I felt like I was watching it on the screen in front of me; a mash-up of Mad Men and Perry Mason. 

“The world stops. Her breath sticks in her throat. A cocoon rises up around her, drowning out all sound. She can do nothing but stare at what is in her hands. So small and delicate and terrible.”

Stepford wives and fake smiles is what springs to mind when I think of the women of Sunnylake. And it is soon clear that Joyce Hanley didn’t quite fit the mould. We get to know Joyce through the eyes of her husband, friends and maid and from the woman herself, in glimpses of her that fateful August day.  She is an enigma. A presence that lingers on every page. But it’s a chorus of many voices who tell this story, and the author has created a wonderful melody for us. We have Frank, Joyce’s husband who is your typical fifties man. Nancy Ingram, Joyce’s neighbour and best friend. Mick, the detective searching for Joyce. And Ruby, the Hanley’s maid who first raises the alarm about Joyce’s disappearance. Each character, and all of the supporting cast, are richly drawn and compelling, but it was Ruby and Mick I enjoyed reading most of all. 

Atmospheric, beguiling, lush, claustrophobic and evocative, The Long, Long Afternoon is a decadent piece of classic noir. Don’t miss this breathtaking debut from an exciting new author who should be on everyone’s reading list. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

I am a journalist and author of crime fiction. I have an MSc in climate change management and, in my day job, specialise in science journalism with a focus on EU policy, as well as writing about climate change, energy and the Global South. Available for freelance commissions.

I am a member of the National Union of Journalists, the Association of British Science Writers and the Society of Authors. I run the West London Writers, a lively and welcoming fiction writing group in Ealing.

When I am not writing I like to walk, knit and drink copious amounts of tea with sage and honey.

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Don’t forget to check out the reviews from the other bloggers on the tour.

Thank you for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xx

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Love Orange by Natasha Randall

Published: September 3rd, 2020
Publisher: Riverrun
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Humor, Satire, Psychological Fiction, Humorous Fiction

Thank you to Riverrun for my gifted copy of the book and invitation to the readalong.

SYNOPSIS:

A disturbing portrait of a modern American family.

An extraordinary debut novel by Natasha Randall, exposing the seam of secrets within an American family, from beneath the plastic surfaces of their new ‘smart’ home. Love Orange charts the gentle absurdities of their lives, and the devastating consequences of casual choices.

While Hank struggles with his lack of professional success, his wife Jenny, feeling stuck and beset by an urge to do good, becomes ensnared in a dangerous correspondence with a prison inmate called John. Letter by letter, John pinches Jenny awake from the “marshmallow numbness” of her life. The children, meanwhile, unwittingly disturb the foundations of their home life with forays into the dark net and strange geological experiments.

Jenny’s bid for freedom takes a sour turn when she becomes the go-between for John and his wife, and develops an unnatural obsession for the orange glue that seals his letters…

Love Orange throws open the blinds of American life, showing a family facing up to the modern age, from the ascendancy of technology, the predicaments of masculinity, the pathologising of children, the epidemic of opioid addiction and the tyranny of the WhatsApp Gods. The first novel by the acclaimed translator is a comic cocktail, an exuberant skewering of contemporary anxieties and prejudices.

MY REVIEW:

Jenny Tinkley lives with her husband Hank and their two sons, Jessie and Luke, in a quiet suburban town. They’re a picture-perfect family living in the picture-perfect smart home. But behind the glossy, perfect sheen there are cracks: Jenny feels bored and stuck in her life, Hank is frustrated by his lack of professional success and their children are each facing their own worries and challenges.

To try and escape the monotony, Jenny begins a correspondence with a prison inmate named John. She finds excitement in their letters, but things start to unravel when Jenny agrees to become a go-between for John and his wife and develops a strange obsession with the orange glue that seals his letters.

The characters are the driving force of this story. They are compelling, relatable, and instantly familiar as someone who could be your neighbour. Jenny is a typical suburban mum. I found her relatable but did struggle to warm to her, particularly as the story went on and her actions became increasingly selfish as she spiralled into addiction. I hated Hank. He was misogynistic, toxic, controlling, and just generally awful. I thought the author did a great job of writing him and managing to evoke such strong feelings of dislike in not only me, but every other reader I’ve spoken to. For me, it was the kids that drew me to them most of all. My heart broke for them and the things they went through. I think one complaint I have about the book was that I would have liked the children to have featured more.

I also liked how the smart house was like another character. Jenny sees the house as spying on her and controlling their lives. She gets a kick from outwitting it and managing to do things unnoticed. She even tells Hank to ask the house if he has any questions at one point. I would hate to live in a house like theirs and can understand why she felt the way she did. Sometimes you can have too much technology.

I did have two issues with the book that I would like to address. The first one was how the therapist told the family that Luke wasn’t autistic because he showed a high level of empathy. This perpetuates the false narrative that autistic people aren’t empathetic which is completely wrong. While they can struggle with processing and expressing emotion, people with autism are often highly empathetic, my own son included. Second of all was how it portrayed everyone who takes pain pills as addicts. While I liked that the book raised the issue of opiate addiction, I did feel like the portrayal spiraled into harmful stereotypes. My biggest issue was with the following quote:

“The thing about pain pills is that they take away pain. Any kind of pain. It gets so that people can’t even get out of bed for the pain that life becomes… compared to the high.”

As someone who uses opiates for chronic pain, the idea that we all become addicted and care only about the high is harmful, offensive and factually incorrect. I don’t get high. Pain medication is the ONLY reason I can get out of bed and live a life that has a sliver of normality. Dependency to help ease pain is not addiction, and while some people do unfortunately spiral into an addiction, I personally know many more who are languishing in agony with no life because they’ve been tarred with the same brush as an addict and denied any relief from their chronic and debilitating pain. For me the quote above is like saying all people who drink alcohol do so to get drunk and become alcoholics. But these are personal feelings and I don’t think everyone reading will feel the same way. So I encourage you to read for yourself.

But I don’t want this to come across as sounding like I didn’t like the book, because I did. Love Orange is an absorbing and addictive debut novel that explores family, secrets and addiction in modern society. It is beautifully written, immediately draws you into the the Tinkley’s world. I also really liked the quirky humour that runs through the story. There are so many laugh-out-loud moments that made this a joy to read.

I read the book as part of a readalong organised by the publisher and really enjoyed the chats where I got to see the different things others noticed and the varied ways we can interpret the same book.

A beautifully written look at a fractured family and life in suburban America, I would recommend this novel and can’t wait to read more from the author in the future.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Natasha Randall is a writer and translator, living in London. Her writing and critical work has appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, The Moscow Times, BookForum, The New York Times, Strad magazine, HALI magazine and on National Public Radio (USA). She is a contributing editor to the New York-based literary magazine A Public Space. Her debut novel Love Orange will be released by riverrun (Quercus, Hachette) in September 2020.

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The Package by Sebastian Fitzek

Published: November 12th, 2020
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Fiction, Psychological Thriller

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this jaw-dropping thriller. Thank you to Head of Zeus for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

All you’ve done is taken in a parcel for a neighbour. You have no idea what you’ve let into your home.

Emma’s the one that got away.

The only survivor of a killer known in the tabloids as ‘the hairdresser’ – because of the trophies he takes from his victims.

Or she thinks she was.

The police aren’t convinced. Nor is her husband. She never even saw her tormentor properly, but now she recognises him in every man.

Questioning her sanity, she gives up her job as a doctor in the local hospital and retreats from the world. It is better to stay at home. Quiet. Anonymous. Safe. He won’t find her here.

And all she did was take a parcel for a neighbour.

She has no idea what she’s let into her home.

MY REVIEW:

“And all she did was take a parcel for a neighbour.She has no idea what she’s let into her home.”

Omg! What a book! This one starts as it means to go on, jumping straight into the terrifying action with a prologue so chilling it sent shivers down my spine. The author had me in the palm of his hand from that moment on and I devoured the book in one sitting, both unwilling and unable to put it down.

The story moves between multiple timelines, all told from the point of view of the protagonist, Emma. Much of the story is her first person account of what happened starting on the day she takes in a package for her neighbour and shifts between this and her discussing the events with her friend and lawyer. It is clear early on that Emma is in trouble both legally and mentally, and is in custody for a crime, while also being treated for mental health problems.

“The message on the mirror had awoken the darkest memories from her childhood.”

This is an exquisitely crafted novel. The sinister, foreboding and malevolent atmosphere pervades from beginning to end and as we get deeper into the story we discover that this is a more intricate, layered and twisty novel than it first appears.

One of my favourite tropes is an unreliable narrator. And Emma is the ultimate in unreliability. Even she has no idea what is reality and what is her paranoid imagination a lot of the time. I loved that I spent the whole book trying to decide if what she’s telling us is truth, lies or a figment of her imagination. And, honestly, most of the time I felt as clueless as the narrator herself. She is a great protagonist: layered, flawed, fractured, likeable, unlikeable, and, most of all, compelling. You are pulled in by her and I was soon utterly immersed in her world.

“Those who weren’t afflicted were often suspicious of the mentally ill… But these people knew nothing of the demons that would embed themselves, particularly into sensitive souls, then at the moment of that person’s greatest happiness whisper into their ear and reel off their shortcomings

A big part of Emma, and the story, is mental health struggles and how others perceive those who face them. As someone with anxiety, depression and PTSD, I thought the author did an outstanding job of portraying both aspects without judgement. He made it clear that Emma’s mental illness is unquestioned while also showing us how it makes even Emma doubt what she experiences and sees. He makes her pain and torment leap from the page so the reader can’t help but be moved by what she’s going through while also allowing them to see how it might skew her perception of reality, leaving them to make their own conclusions about what the truth is. It is a powerfully observed look at how those who struggle with their mental health are perceived and treated by the mentally healthy that I hope will bring awareness and understanding while also entertaining the reader.

Addictive, chilling, tense and gruesome, The Package is a jaw-dropping thriller you don’t want to miss. Read it now!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sebastian Fitzek is a German writer and journalist. His first book, Therapy (dt. Die Therapie), was a bestseller in Germany in 2006, toppling The Da Vinci Code from the first position. Fitzek is currently one of the most successful writers of Germany.

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The One Before by Miranda Smith

Published: November 4th, 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Crime Fiction, Psychological Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the tour for The One Before which is a little late due to illness. Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

I love him. I trust him… But what if I’m wrong?

Whisper Falls is a fresh start for Madison and her fiancé Cooper. The safe, quiet town on the shores of a beautiful lake is the perfect place to spend the rest of their lives.

But then Madison learns that Cooper’s high-school girlfriend Celia disappeared after a party. Three days later, her body was found in the lake.

And the town thinks it wasn’t an accident.

Madison loves Cooper, but she can’t help wondering. She has to know the truth.

But if she starts asking questions, what other secrets will be revealed? Will she meet the same fate as the woman who came before her?

A dark, gripping psychological thriller with a brilliant twist, The One Before is perfect for fans of Karin Slaughter, Gillian Flynn and Rachel Caine.

MY REVIEW:

“I know he killed my daughter, and one day I’m going to make him pay.”

Madison has moved to her fiancé Cooper’s small hometown of Whisper Lake only to find it haunted by the ghost of his high-school girlfriend Celia who was found dead in the lake over a decade ago and full of the suspicions of those who still believe he was to blame. 

Helena is sure that Cooper Douglas murdered her daughter and has spent years biding her time, just waiting for the moment she can take her revenge. Now he’s back in Whisper Lake with his new fiancée, the time has finally come to make him pay. She needs to tell her the truth about what happened to the one before… 

Wow! What a twist! I did not see that coming! 

Told in the present day with flashbacks to the mysterious day that Celia died and Helena’s final memories of her daughter, the author weaves what appears to be a simple tale. Then just past the halfway point, this predictable but entertaining story turned into so much more as the author delivered an astounding twist that left my jaw on the floor. From that moment on I was captivated and unable to put the book down, reading into the early hours as I couldn’t rest without answers.

Madison, Helena and Celia are great focal characters with distinct voices. I particularly liked that Madison was a protagonist who followed the clues and investigated without a blind acceptance of what she was told and how she went in persuit of the truth no matter her fear or the consequences to her own life, which was on track to being perfect. I also liked how the flashbacks to Celia’s final day added a lot of tension and mystery to the story as it slowly unfolded.  

A cleverly crafted, layered and twisty novel, the author lurs the reader into a false sense of security during the slow-burning first half and then keeping them on the edge of their seat for the second half, not letting go until the final pages.

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Miranda Smith writes psychological and domestic suspense. She is drawn to stories about ordinary people in extraordinary situations. Before completing her first novel, she worked as a newspaper staff writer and a secondary English teacher. She lives in East Tennessee with her husband and three young children.

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The Illustrated Child by Polly Crosby

Published: October 29th, 2020
Publisher: HQ
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Psychological Fiction, Domestic Fiction, Coming-of-Age

Today is my stop on the tour for this spectacular debut. Thank you HQ for the invitation to take part and the gifted eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

A picture paints a thousand lies…

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.

MY REVIEW:

This book is one of my most anticipated books of 2020. I’ve been green with envy at others receiving the gorgeous proofs and am so glad I’ve finally had the chance to read it. 

From the title and cover I had imagined a lighthearted and uplifting read, but thankfully I’d read a few reviews and been warned that it is a darker book than you expect. That being said, it’s one that’s best read blind so I’m not going to reveal much about the plot. 

I absolutely adored this book. I was immediately captivated by the beautiful prose and lost in Romilly’s strange world. The author has crafted an intricate, layered novel that has so much hidden beneath its surface. She holds the reader captive as she slowly unveils the truths waiting to be discovered, like the rumoured clues to the hidden treasure in Tobias’ stories. 

I loved Romilly. She is a fantastic and fascinating heroine who is a paradox in the way many children are: independent but vulnerable, strong but weak, daring but afraid. She hasn’t had the easiest life and I couldn’t help but feel for her, especially as the story went on. From the start I felt an affinity with her as I also had a part-siamese cat with a kink in its tail when I was younger, though he didn’t have a name nearly as important. 

This story consumed me. I didn’t want to put it down, not even to go to sleep, I was so immersed in its pages. Emotionally resonant, there wasn’t a feeling it didn’t make me feel as I lived every moment with Romilly. I needed to know what her future held, where she ended up, if my predictions were right. 

Evocative, dark, haunting and mesmerising, this is one of my favourite books this year. A sensational debut from an extraordinary new talent that you don’t want to miss. 

READ. THIS. BOOK. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

After a whirlwind of a year which saw Polly receive writing scholarships from both Curtis Brown Creative and The University of East Anglia’s MA in Creative Writing, she went on to be runner up in the Bridport Prize’s Peggy Chapman Andrews Award for a First Novel.

Polly’s novel was snapped up by HarperCollins HQ in the UK and Commonwealth in a 48 hour pre-empt, and a few days later by HarperCollins Park Row Books in North America.

Polly grew up on the Suffolk coast, and now lives in the heart of Norfolk with her husband and son, and her very loud and much loved rescue Oriental cat, Dali.

The Illustrated Child is her first novel.

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Dangerous To Know by Chloe Esposito

Published: October 15th, 2020
Publisher: Penguin UK
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Dark Comedy, Satire, Suspense, Psychological Fiction Noir Fiction, Humorous Fiction, Adventure Fiction, Romance, Contemporary Romance

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this darky humorous and addictive thriller. Thank you to Sryia at Penguin UK for the invitation to take part and the eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

The sharp, smart and outrageously funny finale in the Alvie Knightly trilogy

MY REVIEW:

“I’m flawed. Aren’t we all? What’s your fatal flaw? Mine? I love too much. I do crazy shit for love, mad and bad and dangerous…”

Alvie Knightly is a serial killer. After a killing spree in Italy last year she’s been laying low and evading arrest. But vengeance in the name of her now deceased lover Nino is calling, so she sets about changing her identity and luring her next victim…

What. A. Book. Darkly humorous, thrilling and addictive, Dangerous To Know is an uproarious and strangely uplifting read that I absolutely loved. 

Alvie is quite the character. Hilarious, memorable and compelling, I couldn’t help but love her. Yes, she’s a killer, but she’s not a sociopath like Ted Bundy. She knows because she feels bad for some of her murders; like her  hot boyfriend Nino. The author writes her with a killer combination – see what I did there? – of twisted evil, humour and emotion, and her magnetism is impossible to resist.

“I think killing her will cheer me up. I’ve been stuck in a rut this past year. I miss murder.”

Alvie takes quite the emotional journey in this book and begins to question some of her choices. Through her narrative and in flashbacks we learn more about her childhood and discover what shaped her into the person she is today. It was a deeper aspect to the story that I wasn’t anticipating, but I liked how it showed her in a more sympathetic light and gave us a more complete picture that was the opposite of her murderous deeds. 

When I took on the blog tour I didn’t realise it is the final installment in a trilogy, and unfortunately I didn’t have time to read the first two books. But despite this I never felt confused as the author succinctly catches you up on past events, making it easy to read this as a standalone. That said, I will be buying and reading the other books in the series as I enjoyed this one so much. 

I also liked that the author utilises one of my favourite writing techniques in this book by having Alvie addressing the reader. This technique makes it feel like you’re listening to a friend, though none of my friends are killers. That I’m aware of anyway. 

Fast-paced, salacious and wickedly funny, this is an utterly brilliant book. If you enjoyed Sweetpea, then you’ll enjoy this. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮. 5

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Chloé Esposito is from Cheltenham and now lives in London. She has a BA and MA in English from Oxford University, where her dissertation focused on 19th-century feminist writers. She has been a senior management consultant, an English teacher at two of the UK’s top private schools and a fashion stylist at Condé Nast. She is a graduate of the Faber Academy and is now writing full-time.

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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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Betrayal by Lilja Sigurdardottir

Published: October 1st, 2020
Publisher: Orenda
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime Fiction, Psychological Fiction, Political Fiction, Lesbian Literature, Translated Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this outstanding piece of Icelandic Noir. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part in and Orenda for the eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

When aid worker Úrsula returns to Iceland for a new job, she’s drawn into the dangerous worlds of politics, corruption and misogyny … a powerful, relevant, fast-paced standalone thriller.
 
Burned out and traumatised by her horrifying experiences around the world, aid worker Úrsula has returned to Iceland. Unable to settle, she accepts a high-profile government role in which she hopes to make a difference again.
 
But on her first day in the post, Úrsula promises to help a mother seeking justice for her daughter, who had been raped by a policeman, and life in high office soon becomes much more harrowing than Úrsula could ever have imagined. A homeless man is stalking her – but is he hounding her, or warning her of some danger? And why has the death of her father in police custody so many years earlier reared its head again?
 
As Úrsula is drawn into dirty politics, facing increasingly deadly threats, the lives of her stalker, her bodyguard and even a witch-like cleaning lady intertwine. Small betrayals become large ones, and the stakes are raised ever higher…

MY REVIEW:

Oops, they did it again. With this exciting new thriller Orenda once again prove they only publish the best and most original fiction. This is why they’re one of my top publishers and I’m always eager to read an Orenda book.

Ursula, a former aid worker, has returned to her native Iceland after being traumatised and burned out by the horrors she has seen. When she starts a new job as a minister, she hopes it will finally help her to find her place at home and that she’ll be able to continue to help others without having to leave her family or experience further trauma.

On her first day she promises to help a mother who begs for her help in getting justice for her daughter, saying the fifteen-year-old was raped by a police officer the year before but the investigation has stalled. But she finds she’s met with resistance at every turn and can’t help but wonder if there is something more going on. Why does no one seem to want to investigate the accusations? And is Ursula’s sense that she’s a pawn in a game that she’s not privy to just her imagination, or really happening?

This gripping thriller was a roller-coaster ride, full of so many twists and turns I got book whiplash. I loved the short, sharply written chapters, multiple points of view and the intricate, tangled web the author wove. I was on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. But every time I thought I’d untangled the clues the story would take another turn and I’d have to try and figure it out all over again.

Though this was an easy and quick read for me, it is far from an easy plot. Complex and richly drawn, our protagonists must navigate the sexist halls of politics while trying to figure out what game they are playing, dealing with threatening messages, and being stalked by a homeless man who says he knows her and claims to be trying to warn her of some danger only he can see. It’s unclear how it all fits together, but I loved how the author slowly unveiled the truth, taking the reader on a journey that examines topics such as the dark side of politics, misogyny, police corruption, mental health and betrayal.

Like the story, the characters are all well written and readable, but it is Ursula who is the star of this story. She’s a strong, determined and fiesty who is also flawed. Over the course of the book we follow her journey to accept and come to terms with some of those flaws, including PTSD from her time doing charity work and the deep, dark trauma from her childhood: her father’s murder. She is a gutsy and fascinating character who I loved reading, even if I didn’t always agree with her actions.

Atmospheric, harrowing and very real, Betrayal is an immersive page-turner. This is Icelandic Noir at its best. I highly recommend this book to any thriller lover and can’t wait to read more by this talented author.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Lilja Sigurðardóttir is an Icelandic crime-writer born in 1972. She is the author of novels, stage plays and screenplays.

Her novels have been published in Norwegian, Danish, Czech, Macedonian, Polish, French and English and film rights to the Reykjavík Noir Trilogy (Snare, Trap and Cage) have been sold to Palomar Pictures.

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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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