Blog Tour Review: ‘Date Night’ by Samantha Hayes ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

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Today is my stop on the blog tour for this gripping psychological thriller. 

SYNOPSIS:

Returning early from a disastrous date night with my husband, I know something is wrong the moment the wheels crunch the gravel of our home. Inside, the TV is on and a half-eaten meal waits on the table. My heart stops when I find out little girl alone in the house and our babysitter, Sasha, is missing…

Days later, when I’m arrested for Sasha’s murder and torn away from my perfect little family, I’ll wish I had told someone about the threatening note I received that morning.

I’ll hate myself for not finding out who the gift hidden inside my husband’s wardrobe was for.

I’ll scream from the rooftops that I’m innocent – but no one will listen.

I’ll realise I was completely wrong about everything that happened that night…

But will you believe me?

Twisted and absolutely unputdownable, Date Night exposes what goes on behind the closed doors of a happy home and the dangerous truths we ignore to protect the ones we love. Perfect reading for anyone totally gripped by The Wife Between Us, Friend Request or Gone Girl.

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MY REVIEW:

Never in a million years did I see the way this fast paced, taut and twisty whodunit would unfold or its shocking conclusion. 

It starts with a note on Libby Randell’s car one icy autumn morning, telling her that her husband Sean is having an affair. She doesn’t want to believe it and tries to put it out of her mind as a malicious note or a sick prank, but she can’t shake the unease and suspicion that’s been unearthed. After weeks of denials, arguments and mistrust the couple decide to have date night as a way to get back on track. But it’s a disaster and after having the same old argument the pair arrive home early finding the TV on and their babysitter, Sasha, missing. Sasha is dependable, she’s Libby’s employee and friend as well as their babysitter, and Libby knows she wouldn’t just up and leave their daughter Alice alone and all her things behind. Something is terribly wrong…

Libby is a mess. She can’t think straight, can’t work and can’t stop worrying about Sasha. She’s also still convinced that Sean is having an affair. Sean tells her she has to get back to normality, not to worry and to trust him like she’s always done and it will be ok. But then Libby is arrested for Sasha’s murder. She vehemently denies any knowledge of her death or whereabouts but the police seem convinced she’s holding something back. Is Libby hiding something? Could Sean be hiding more than another woman? Or could someone else be to blame? 

This addictive mystery kept me guessing from the first page until the last. I could never decide what I thought had happened to Sasha, who was to blame or if I thought Libby or Sean were involved. I had a number of theories and not one of them came close to any of the bombshells the author dropped. 

The story is told in dual timelines, both of which are narrated by Libby. Libby was an unreliable narrator and I often felt like she was leaving things out, though I didn’t think it was deliberate some of the time. These things, alongside opening with her arrest, meant I was never quite sure if I could trust her despite her proclamations of innocence. She is a woman who has everything she’s ever wanted and her world is rocked when she receives the note about Sean. After that she becomes almost obsessed with the idea that he’s cheating, and most of his responses to her are far from helpful or reassuring. I found her easy to empathise with and relate to, particularly as the true nature of Sean’s character became clearer. 

I hated Sean. From the start he seemed unconcerned with allaying Libby’s fears and instead is angry in a way that seems over the top and that’s used to divert from actually talking about the issues.Though initially you don’t imagine it, he does become a great villain as over time his abusive personality and the way he gaslights Libby becomes more apparent. I won’t say more about it as it would mean giving away spoilers, but I will say that I was definitely rooting the Libby to leave him or for him to be guilty and sent to jail. 

One of the best parts about this book was the quality of the writing. Her vivid and imaginative descriptions brought the scenery to life and made me feel like I was seeing and feeling what Libby did. The author created a tense atmosphere full of mystery that made me want to not put this book down. Even when I was near the end I still couldn’t decide what the outcome would be, which is something I love in a book.

 Date Night is a fantastic, tense thriller full of twists and turns and with a jaw-dropping finale that left me reeling. The more I read of Samantha Hayes work, the more I love her and she is definitely a must-read author for me now. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys this genre. 

Thank you to NetGalley, Bookoture and Samantha Hayes for the chance to read this novel in exchange for my honest review and to Noelle Holten for my invitation to take part in the blog tour.

NEW Samantha Hayes author photo

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Samantha Hayes grew up in Warwickshire, left school at sixteen, avoided university and took jobs ranging from private detective to barmaid to fruit picker and factory worker. She lived on a kibbutz, and spent time living in Australia and the USA, before finally becoming a crime-writer. 

Her writing career began when she won a short story competition in 2003. Her novels are family-based psychological thrillers, with the emphasis being on ‘real life fiction’. She focuses on current issues and sets out to make her readers ask, ‘What if this happened to me or my family?’ 

To find out more, visit her website www.samanthahayes.co.uk

Or connect with Samantha on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/SamanthaHayesAuthor

And she’s on Twitter @samhayes

Date Night - Blog Tour

Review: ‘The Sixth Wicked Child’ by J.D. Barker ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Review: ‘The Sixth Wicked Child’ by J.D. Barker ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

SYNOPSIS:

In the riveting conclusion of the 4MK trilogy, Barker takes the thriller to an entirely new level. Don’t miss a single word of the series James Patterson called “ingenious”.

Hear No Evil.

For Detective Sam Porter, the words “Father, forgive me” conjure memories long forgotten, a past intentionally buried. For Anson Bishop, these three words connect a childhood to the present as he unleashes a truth he concealed for decades.

See No Evil.

Found written on cardboard near each body, these words link multiple victims to a single killer – discovered within minutes of each other in both Chicago and South Carolina – clearly connected yet separated by impossible miles.

Speak No Evil.

Chicago Metro and the FBI find themselves caught in chaos – a hospital on lockdown, a rogue officer, and corruption at the highest levels. When Anson Bishop, the prime suspect in the notorious MK4 serial murders, turns himself in, he reveals a story completely unexpected, one that not only upends the current investigation, but one that will change the lives of all involved.

Do No Evil.

With unrelenting tension and pulse-pounding suspense, the past unravels at breakneck speed as the truth behind the Four Monkey Killer’s motive is finally revealed in this masterfully crafted finale.

MY REVIEW:

Oh. My. God. What an exhilarating, jaw-dropping, crazy and spectacular ride! J. D. Barker has ended the Four Monkey Killer trilogy on a bigger note than the gigantic one I was already anticipating. Not content with blowing our minds at the end of book two and leaving us wondering what on earth happens next for months, he now returns and takes everything you were thinking after the previous books’ revelations and pulls the rug from under you once more. I got book whiplash from all the twists and turns. Nothing you think you know is true. No one you trust is reliable. And you have no idea what to expect as you hold on for dear life while reading this final installment.

Picking up where book two ends we soon catch up with the events of the last book and are immersed in the gruesome and brutal 4MK serial killings, a threat to unleash a virus on the general population, and the hunt for the truth about the person, or persons, behind these events. As before the story is told by multiple narrators in the present day with flashbacks in the form of Anson Bishop’s diaries; though this time we don’t know if they are real or elaborate forgeries created to distract from the real Four Monkey Killer. We also now have two suspects – Anson and Detective Sam Porter. Sam has spent years obsessively hunting 4MK but new evidence suggest this may have been a rouse and he is more involved than his team want to believe. Both men protest their innocence. Both men point their finger at the other. But who is telling the truth and who is chasing who in this deadly game of cat and mouse?

Before you read this book it is vital you read The Fourth Monkey and The Fifth To Die as knowing what happened in the previous books is the only way to make sense of what happens in this one. When reading a book series, one of my favourite aspects is getting to know the recurring characters. Over the course of this trilogy I’ve particularly come to love Detective Sam Porter. He’s a well respected member of his team, dedicated cop and while he might bend the rules a little to catch the bad guy, you know he’s a good man and a good Detective. So it seemed anyway. One of the hardest parts of this book for me is having all that crumble as his true involvement with 4MK is questioned. The idea of him being the Four Monkey Killer sickened me and I honestly read this book dreading that outcome. I didn’t know who to believe and it remained that way right until the final sentence.

I’ve always liked the use of diaries written by Bishop to tell his backstory and even though these were unreliable in this book, they were still some of my favourite parts to read. Learning more about what the diaries claim happened when Bishop went into the foster system, his friends and budding relationship with Libby humanised him more than previous books. He wasn’t as cold, calculated and strange and I thought that was a great way to also make the reader unsure if he was 4MK or is innocent like he claims.

The Sixth Wicked Child takes you to some of the darkest corners of human nature, the despair, depravity and cruelty that lies hidden behind closed doors and the masks people wear every day. The writing and plotting is once again exquisite, cunning and captivating. The author is the master of the dark psychological thriller and has created one of the best book series I’ve ever read. I’m sad that it’s over but excited to see what he writes next. I know I will be first in line to read it.

Thank you to NetGalley, Hampton Creek Press and J.D. Barker for an ebook copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Publication Date: August 27th.

Available to buy from your favourite bookseller.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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J.D. Barker is the internationally best-selling author of Forsaken, a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel, and winner of the New Apple Medalist Award. His work has been compared to Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Thomas Harris. His latest novel, The Fourth Monkey, released in June 2017. His third novel, The Fifth To Die, releases June 2018. He has been asked by the Stoker family to coauthor the forthcoming prequel to Dracula due out in fall 2018. His novels have been translated into numerous languages and optioned for both film and television. Barker currently resides in Pennsylvania with his wife, Dayna, and their two dogs, both of whom sit outside his office door daily, eagerly awaiting his next novel.

 

Review: ‘Mother Knows Best’ by Kira Piekoff ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

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SYNOPSIS:

A mother’s worst nightmare, a chance at redemption, and a deadly secret that haunts a family across the generations.

There’s only room for one mother in this family.

Claire Abram’s dreams become a nightmare when she passed on a genetic mutation that killed her little boy. Now she wants a second chance to be a mother, and finds it in Robert Nash, a maverick fertility doctor who works under the radar with Jillian Hendricks, a cunning young scientist bent on making her mark – and seducing her boss.

Claire, Robert and Jillian work together on the world’s first baby with three genetic parents–an unprecedented feat that could eliminate inherited disease. But when word of their illegal experiment leaks to the wrong person, Robert escapes into hiding with the now-pregnant Claire leaving Jillian to serve out a prison sentence that destroys her future.

Ten years later, a spunky girl named Abigail begins to understand that all is not right with the reclusive man and woman she knows as her parents. But the family’s problems are only just beginning. Jillian, hardened by a decade of jealousy and loss, has returned–and nothing will stop her from reuniting with the man and daughter who should have been hers.

Past, present and future converge in this mesmerising psychological thriller from the critically acclaimed author Kira Peikoff.

REVIEW:

This compelling page-turner jumps straight in with the action and tension not missing a beat before the reader is drawn into the strange, mysterious and reclusive world of Claire, Michael and Abigail Burke. Today is their annual outing into the city to commemorate Claire’s late son Colton’s birthday. It’s the only time they venture into the city, and one of the few times Claire will leave the house, for fear of being recognised after a decade-old scandal saw Claire thrust into the spotlight. All she cares about is protecting her daughter, even though ten-year-old Abby has no idea about the true circumstances surrounding her birth, or that her parents are in hiding and in fear of discovery from not only the law, but a woman who is determined to have her revenge.

But they weren’t counting on a school project that would lead to Abby asking questions they aren’t prepared to answer, or her secretly looking for answers when she is sure her parents are lying to her about something. She has no idea that she’s the world’s first child of three parents, illegally created to avoid inheriting Claire’s mitochondrial DNA that carries the disease that killed her first child. What will happen if she learns the truth? And can her parents keep her safe from the third parent out for vengeance?

What a spectacular book! Full of tension it had me reading with bated breath in anticipation of what would happen next. I loved the use of dual timelines told in parallel and the choice to have the story narrated by Claire, Jillian and Abigail. Giving a voice to three very different characters increased the atmosphere and helped the reader bond to what each of them is going through and their motivations for actions that otherwise might have seemed to not make any sense.

Claire is a Mama Bear. She’ll do anything to protect her child. She’s been through the agony of losing a child after watching them suffer from illness and went to extraordinary lengths to protect her next child suffering the same fate. She then commits to a life in hiding so that her daughter doesn’t become a freak show and can live a normal life. As a mother I always understood her motivations, even if I didn’t agree with them.

Abby doesn’t know how she was created so all she sees is an agoraphobic, anxious, panicky, over-protective mum who won’t go to her games or let her have a smartphone. She can tell she’s being lied to but understandably wants to know what they’re hiding from her. I worried for Abby, for how she’d handle the truth, especially as it was possible she’d not find out in a calm way with her parents explaining things to her. She’s only ten so I didn’t blame Claire and Michael for not having told her yet, although I did think it might have been wise to do so when they learned of the school project.

Jillian was a great villain and was so much fun to read. She’s highly intelligent, ambitious, manipulative, delusional and certifiably insane. She is one of those people you’re very glad are a work of fiction and that you love to hate. Her obsession with Dr Nash and venom towards Claire were both scary and it was no wonder Claire was terrified of her tracking them down. I loved the scenes with Jillian in part three and four most of all as it’s when we see her at her most crazy.

While this is at its heart a story about family it is also a story about a controversial topic. While I can say that I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable with the idea of three parents, I do understand the desire to remove the chance of a child possibly inheriting a disease that causes immense suffering and death. As explored in the book this isn’t a simple issue, but as someone with a non-fatal illness that causes pain daily that is now thought to be hereditary, I don’t know if I’d have chosen to have a child if I had known. I would certainly have jumped at the chance to remove that risk if it had been available. Taking into account how Claire’s first child suffered before succumbing to his illness makes me completely understand everything she did, even if I am uncomfortable with the idea of three parents.

This fast-paced book was full of twists, some I predicted, others that took me by surprise. But all of them were revealed in a way that brought the storylines together perfectly as the tension built to a crescendo. And that conclusion! Wow! My jaw was on the floor and I couldn’t read fast enough. Mother Knows Best is a thought-provoking, compelling, sharp and electrifying thriller that I highly recommend.

Thank you to NetGalley, Crooked Lane Books and Kira Peikoff for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Publication Date: September 10th

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kira Peikoff is a graduate of New York University with a degree in journalism. She also holds a Master of Science degree in bioethics from Columbia University. Her articles have been published in a variety of major media outlets, including The New York Times.

Since 2017 she has been the Editor-in-Chief of leapsmag, a digital publication that cover innovation and ethics in the life sciences for a mainstream audience. Peikoff lives in New Jersey with her husband, son and the world’s cutest dog.

 

Review: ‘The Retreat’ by Sherri Smith ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Happy Publication Day Sherri Smith and her gripping thriller The Retreat. Thank you to Titan books for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.7

SYNOPSIS:

Sherri Smith illuminates the dark side of the self-care and wellness industry in a thrilling ride of revenge perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers. The Retreat is a twisting, bone-chilling suspense that asks: how well do you really know your friends?

Four women.

Four secrets.

A weekend that will change them forever..if they survive.

Katie Manning was a beloved child star until her mid-teens when her manager attacked and permanently scarred her face, effectively ending her career and sending her on a path of all-too-familiar-post-Hollywood  self-destruction.

Now twenty-seven, Katie wants a better answer to those clickbait “Where Are They Now?” articles that float around online. An answer she hopes to find when her brother’s too-good-to-be-true fiancee invites her to a wellness retreat upstate. Together with Katie’s two best friends – one struggling with crippling debt and family obligations, one running away from a failed job and relationship – Katie will try to find the inner peace promised at the tranquil retreat. But finding oneself just might drudge up more memories than Katie is prepared to deal with.

Each woman has come to the retreat for very different reasons. Each has her secrets to hide. And at the end of this weekend, only one will be left standing. 

“This place made a killer out of me.”

The Retreat is a dark and twisted tale of secrets, lies, hate, revenge and murder. It starts with a chilling prologue that had me immediately hooked. 

Former child star Katie Manning has been wandering aimlessly through life ever since her T.V show ended over a decade ago. Her recent planned comeback has been scrapped afTer she drunkenly wrote a homophobic tweet, leaving her with no idea what to do next. Her brother Nate encourages her to go on a wellness retreat with  his fiancee Ellie to see if she can find focus in life and heal her demons. It’s the last thing she wants to do, particularly with someone she can’t stand, but she agrees for her brother and secretly invites her two best friends, Ariel and Carmen, along with them. We soon discover that each of them have things they’re hiding from the others and things that they’re running from. 

When they arrive at the retreat they’re greeted by the owners, Naomi and Dr. Dave. The couple look like strange cult members, insist everyone give up their phones and declare that everyone can become a new person in one weekend if they follow their instructions. Ellie seems excited, while the other girls are skeptical and disappointed; this isn’t the spa like sanctuary they thought they signed up for. As the weekend progresses it’s clear that none of them will leave the retreat the same person. If they leave at all…

I really enjoyed this novel. It was atmospheric and the opening chapter gave the book as sense of foreboding that made me excited for what was coming. 

The four girls each narrate the story offering a great insight into their experience and different perspectives on the retreat. I liked that each of them were multilayered and had depth. Katie and Ellie were the hardest to like but were fun to read. Katie was the perfect spoiled, out of touch Hollywood brat but I did feel for her being made to be the family breadwinner at such a young age and how she didn’t have parents who cared past the money she made. Her only parental figure was her manager who betrayed her and disfigured her in an attack that essentially ended her career at just 15. She’s a lost soul and I really wanted her to find meaning in life beyond money and her former career and feel able to just be herself instead of the former child star. My heart broke for her as she started to remember things she’d long repressed and I understood why she was so messed up. It was a great reminder of that money and fame are far from a guarantee of a good and happy life. With Ellie I had a radar go off about what her real motivations were in her relationship with Nate from early on. She seemed to be harbouring the biggest secrets and have secret motivations for everything she did. She was also very controlling but battled to contain it in order to keep up her perfect facade. 

The girl I probably liked most was Carmen. She was intelligent, level headed and caring, though I felt for what she was going through in having to be the provider and carer for her father and siblings. It’s clear she had a bright career ahead of her until life got in the way and the parallels with Katie as the family breadwinner, albeit in a completely different capacity and wage bracket, were interesting. Especially in how it affected their relationship. Lastly there was Ariel. I had a lot of sympathy for her lack of confidence and need to be loved, even if the choices she makes are questionable and she came off desperate a lot of the time. She seemed like a lovely girl underneath it all if only she could finally feel loved and accepted for who she is. 

At varying times I suspected three of the four might be the mysterious person in the prologue before settling on who I thought was the one. In the end the identity of the survivor involved many twists and was far more complex than I imagined and I was on tenterhooks as we reached the story’s shocking, macabre and gruesome climax and finally learned the answers to our questions and the identity of the final girl.

Out today. 

Review: ‘Never Have I Ever’ by Joshilyn Jackson ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

Happy Kindle Publication Day to Joshilyn Jackson and her electrifying new novel.

SYNOPSIS:

It starts as a game at book group one night. Never Have I Ever..done something I shouldn’t.

But Amy Whey has done something she shouldn’t. And Roux, the glamorous newcomer to Amy’s suburban neighbourhood, knows exactly what that is.

Roux promises she’ll go away. She will take herself and her son, who is already growing dangerously close to Amy’s teenage stepdaughter, and she will go. If Amy plays by her rules. 

But Amy isn’t prepared to lose everything she’s built. She’s going to fight back, and in this escalating game of cat and mouse, there can be only one winner. 

REVIEW:

In Pensacola, Florida, a group of ordinary suburban housewives are holding at their monthly book group when a mysterious stranger knocks on the door. She wants to join their group. Before the end of the night she’s charmed almost everyone and overtaken the group, declaring the book talk boring and instead plies them with alcohol and gets them to play her own version of Never Have I Ever. But these embarrassing, salacious secrets aren’t just a bit of fun. They’re the mystery woman’s ammunition for a much more dangerous game. And now she has secrets that could explode many people’s lives into a million pieces…

“She smiled, and I had no premonition as I smiled back. She didn’t look like my own destruction to me.” 

Amy Whey loves her life. It’s uncomplicated and unremarkable, which is just how she wants it. She knows how damaging and dangerous the extraordinary can be and she’s spent too long burying her painful past to allow anything to threaten what she has. She’s married to Davis and they live with his daughter Maddy and their baby boy, Oliver. Amy is a loyal friend and is fiercely protective of those she loves. But underneath the calm exterior is layers of guilt and a woman teetering on the edge, scared that her darkest secrets will be exposed. 

Angelica Roux is glamorous, sexy, bewitching, hypnotic, wild and charming. This wolf in sheep’s clothing soon takes over the book group with copious amounts of alcohol and a seemingly innocent game of Never Have I Ever. But underneath the shiny and chipper exterior is a cold, calculating, manipulative, and greedy woman who will stop at nothing to get what she wants.  

And so begins a deadly game of cat and mouse that can have only one winner and could cost the loser everything, maybe even their life…

“Roux had begun this as a game. She’d told me not to play. But I already was. I had tol. More than that. I had to win.”

Wow! This book was utterly compelling. Steeped in layer upon layer of drama, intrigue and suspense, this book had me on the edge of the seat.. Past narratives are used to tease us with the events that Amy is so terrified of being revealed as she races against the clock to beat Roux at her game and they hyped up the mystery and tension, leaving more questions I was desperate to know the answer to while also helping to slowly untangle the clues. 

“I did not know I could lead us to a thing so big, so mean, something we can never undo or remove, that will echo in my life, in all our lives, forever.”

While being entertaining this book also makes you think as it asks the question how far would you go to protect your secrets and the life you love? It’s also a book about how every little choice we make can have far-reaching, and sometimes disastrous, consequences, and how your whole life can change in a single moment. 

Part of the brilliance of this book is how similar the Amy and Roux are despite their different roles in the story. Both characters were well written and Roux is a fantastic antagonist. She’s easy to despise but is also fun to read and you can understand why so many people are taken in by her. While I never wavered in Roux being the bad guy, there are times when  you aren’t sure if Amy is the good guy or the bad guy as she’s complex and the more we learn about her the harder it to only see her as an innocent victim. But none of this changed my allegiance. I was team Amy all the way. 

“She’d cracked open the past. I could feel it leaking into my bloodstream, spreading like a toxin through me.”

This was my first read by this author, but it won’t be my last. There has been a lot of hype surrounding this book and with that there is always the worry it won’t live up to expectations. This one did. Spectacularly written, fast-paced, and  full of intricate twists and turns, with one in particular that I’m still trying to recover from the shock of. The author masterfully weaves the pieces of the puzzle together and delivers a nail-biting finale that I was so desperate to get to I stayed up long into the night. 

The book itself gives a great way to describe itself: a book with teeth. Ironically it is exactly the kind of book that Amy and Roux like to read. So if you love books with teeth, mysteries that keep you guessing and psychological thrillers that have you on tenterhooks, then Never Have I Ever is the book for you.

Thank you to NetGalley, Bloomsbury Publishing PLC and Joshilyn Jackson for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Kindle version out July 30th

Hardcover out August 8th.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Joshilyn Jackson lives near Decatur, Georgia with her husband and their two children. For the past six years she has taught creative writing and literature courses for Georgia’s maximum security facility for women. Through their education-in-prison and re-entry programmes, Reforming Arts fosters the development of critical and creative thinking skills, encouraging students to build liveable lives. She’s also an award winning audiobook narrator, performing most of her own work as well as other authors including Lydia Nelzer and Maybeth Mayhew Whalen.

Review: ‘The Poison Garden’ by Alex Marwood ⭐⭐⭐⭐

SYNOPSIS:

Where Romy grew up, if someone died you never spoke of them again.

Now twenty-two, she has recently escaped the toxic confines of the cult she was raised in. But Romy is young, pregnant and completely alone – and if she is to keep herself safe in this new world, she has some important lessons to learn.

Like how there are some people you can trust, and some you must fear. And about who her family really is, and why her mother ran away from them all those years ago. 

And that you can’t walk away from a dark past without expecting it to catch up with you.

REVIEW:

“None of us will be the same, by tomorrow, she thinks.”

Two police officers are called out to investigate an awful smell on a farm by a neighbour: a seemingly innocuous call that gives them no warning of the life-changing and terrible sight they’re about to discover: lifeless bodies piled one on top of each other, frozen in death as they tried to flee. All the adult members of the Ark, the cult that lived on the farm, are dead apart from Romy who was in the infirmary unable to walk, listening helplessly as her family died in agony. 

This book had me hooked from it’s chilling first chapter and kept me guessing until the final page. The story unfolded in a way I didn’t expect, but I loved.The choice to have Romy and her Aunt Sarah narrate offered us very different perspectives on events happening in the book and the world in general. Through the use of flashbacks to their childhoods we learn that these very different women actually have a lot more in common than first meets the eye. 

“How do you explain, to someone who didn’t live it?”

Romy was a baby when her teenage mother, Alison, joined the Ark. She’s known nothing else but their strange, isolated lifestyle that consisted of preparing for the Apocalypse and living off the land while following the teachings of their Father, Lucien. She’s been taught to fear the outside world and those who inhabit it, known to her as the Dead. She sees danger and disaster all around her and is too terrified to leave her flat unless absolutely necessary. We soon learn that Romy is hiding secrets bigger than her fear of life outside the Ark and that there might be more to her story than it first seemed. I really liked how her character was written, especially the fears that she’d been indoctrinated to have. A lot of these fears were of real things that can or have happened, it’s just she’s been taught to see them as a sign of the world’s doom and depravity instead of accidents or evil done by a small few. It highlights how a small change in perception can completely alter our world view and it was fascinating to see the way we live through the eyes of people that had grown up totally removed from our society.   

This wasn’t the first time I’ve read a book by this author, but it is a number of years since I did, and I will certainly be catching up on any others I’ve missed. The writing in this novel is riveting, harrowing and heart-rending. The pace quickened as the story went on and had me on the edge of my seat, the revelations increasingly jarring as we approached the dramatic and chilling finale. The Poison Garden is a multilayered, twisty thriller full of secrets and interesting characters that will delight and surprise lovers of psychological thrillers and mysteries. 

Thank you to NetGalley, Little, Brown Book Group UK and Alex Marwood for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Out now.

 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Alex Marwood is a former journalist who worked extensively across the British press. Her first novel, The Wicked Girls, achieved widespread acclaim and international bestsellerdom. It was shortlisted for ITW, Anthony and Macavity awards, was included in Stephen King’s Ten Best Books of the Year list, and won the prestigious Edgar Award. The Killer Next Door, her second novel, won the coveted Macavity Award for Best Mystery Novel, was nominated for the Anthony and Barry. The Darkest Secret, the tale of the disappearance of young Coco, met with critical and reader acclaim. The Poison Garden will be released in 2019. She has also been shortlisted for numerous other crime writing awards and her first two novels have been optioned for the screen. Marwood lives in south London and is working on her next novel.

Review: ‘The Other Mrs Miller’ by Allison Dickson ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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SYNOPSIS:

Two women are watching each other.

Phoebe isn’t sure when the car started showing up. At first she put it down to the scandal around her late father, but she’s certain now it’s there for her. What’s interesting about an unhappily married housewife, who barely leaves the house?

Only one knows why.

Every morning before your husband leaves for work, I wait for the blinds beside your front door to twitch. You might think I’m sitting out here waiting to break into your house and add a piece of your life to my collection. Things aren’t that simple. It’s not a piece of your life I want. 

When a new family moves across the street it provides Phoebe with a distraction. But with her head turned she’s no longer focused on the woman in the car. And Phoebe really should be, because she’s just waiting for the opportunity to upend Phoebe’s life…

***SOON TO BE A MAJOR TV SERIES***

REVIEW:

This utterly compelling, taut, twisty and explosive debut fizzes with electricity and brings the most shocking twist I think I’ve read in years! I read it within a day and while I know the word unputdownable is overused when it comes to books, this book genuinely was; and when I wasn’t reading it I was thinking about it. 

Told in two parts, the story is narrated by Phoebe Miller and the mysterious woman in the car who’s watching her. Phoebe is unhappily married to Wyatt and lives in self-imposed isolation as she tries to hide from the scandals and media frenzy that her late father left behind. She’s been noticing a car parked near their house and is sure the person inside is watching her. Wyatt thinks she’s overreacting but she’s right, the woman is watching her and just biding her time until she makes her move. We’re given few clues as to the identity of the mysterious woman but a sense of foreboding and trouble radiates from her and I worried for Phoebe’s safety. 

When the Napier family move in across the street Phoebe is surprised to find herself becoming friends with Vicki Napier. For a time her attentions are consumed by the family as she starts playing a dangerous game that, if discovered, could see her life implode and cause further scandal. There’s some mystery surrounding the Napiers too and they seem to have moved to the area in a hurry following a scandal of their own. 

Sophisticated, original, salacious and riveting, this was an electrifying read. It was buzzing with so many possibilities as to where the story could go, who the mystery woman could be and what the outcome of Phoebe’s choices could be, that I had no idea where the author would take it or what would happen next. This added even more tension and atmosphere to a book already sizzling with both.

This is a story full of twists, but there is one in particular that was punch to the gut shocking and still has me reeling. I actually shouted “What the @*&!” when it happened. So many times I was blindsided in this book and in awe of the authors talents for coming up with such spectacular and ingenious plot twists. All the characters were well written and I found myself particularly liking the two narrators. I don’t want to say more as it could spoil the surprises for those who’ve yet to read it and for me those were part of what made this book so fantastic. I was thrilled to see that it’s already lined up to be a TV show as it’s exactly the kind of thing I love to watch.

The small amount of hype I’ve seen online doesn’t do justice to how bloody brilliant it actually is. Anyone who enjoys thrillers NEEDS to read this book! A sensational debut that’s left me excited to see what Ms Dickson writes next. 

Thank you to NetGalley, Little, Brown Book Group UK and Allison Dickson for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review. 

Publication Date: July 16th