Publication Day Review: ‘The Au Pair’ by Emma Rous ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Happy Publication Day to Emma Rous!

SYNOPSIS:

Seraphine Mayes and her brother Danny are the first set of twins to be born at Summerbourne House. But on the day they were born their mother threw herself to her death, their au pair fled, and the village thrilled with whispers of a stolen baby.

Now twenty-five, and mourning the recent death of her father, Seraphine uncovers a family photograph taken the day the twins were born featuring both parents posing with just one baby. Seraphine soon becomes fixated with the notion that she and Danny might not be twins after all, that she wasn’t the baby born that day and there was more to her mother’s death than she’s ever been told…

Why did their beloved au pair flee that day?

Where is she now?

Does she hold the key to what really happened?

REVIEW:

This family saga echoes the writing style of V. C. Andrews and combines it with the mysteries of Gillian Flynn. There is something lurking behind the facade of the prestigious family. Could the folklore and whispers in the village be true? Who is Seraphine? What really happened the day she and Danny were born and their mother plunged to her death?

Twins Seraphine and Danny Mayes are born on the family estate, Summerbourne, in July 1992. They are the first “summer-born twins of Summerbourne” in decades even though the family has a history of twins. There are no pictures of the twins first six months because the day they were born is also the day their mother died after jumping from a cliff. Seraphine has always been full of questions about that day, questions that are left unanswered when twenty-five years later her father dies in an accident. When she finds a picture of her parents and older brother with just one baby taken the day of her birth, Seraphine’s questions only increase. She has always felt like an outsider in her family, always been bothered by the village whispers of a stolen child and teasings of “the sprite twins” because she and her brothers look nothing alike. With her Grandmother refusing to give her answers and her brother, Edwin, too young at the time to really understand, Seraphine decides to search for Laura, the au pair who worked for the family the year prior to her birth and disappeared the same day she was born. Surely she will have the answers she craves.

One of the things I loved about this book is that for most of it I couldn’t tell where it was going. The narration is split between Seraphine in the present day and Laura who tells the story leading up to the twins birth. These alternating chapters provided details of the many different dynamics in the story between the main and secondary characters. They also increased the tension and mystery as the revelations unfolded.

The characters in this story were well written. Out of the two narrators I found Laura’s story more interesting as it was the one with the history of the family and events up until the twins’ birth. Who we are is the core of our being so I understood Seraphine’s need to know the truth about herself despite the fact it had the potential to tear her family apart. You were never sure who was a villain in this story which is something I liked. The author wrote this aspect of the plot expertly as Seraphine suspects almost everyone and has you second guessing what you know as she’s threatened to stop searching, the mystery deepens and the revelations about the family’s history and what happened that summer keep coming.

I found the book impossible to put down as I raced to the end desperate to know the truth.  But just when I thought I’d got to the big reveal there were more shocking twists still to come. The Au Pair is an absorbing debut novel that kept me guessing throughout. 

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

Out today.

 

 

Review: ‘Dead Inside’ by Noelle Holton ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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*** TRIGGER WARNING *** Domestic abuse.

A dark and gripping debut crime novel – the first in a stunning new series – from a huge new talent.

The killer is just getting started…

When three wife beaters are themselves found beaten to death, DC Maggie Jamieson knows she is facing her toughest case yet.

The police suspect that Probation Officer Lucy Sherwood – who is connected to all three victims –  is hiding a dark secret. Then a fourth domestic abuser is brutally murdered.

And he is Lucy’s husband.

Now the police are running out of time, but can Maggie really believe her friend Lucy is a cold-blooded killer?

Thank you to NetGalley, Harper Impulse and Killer Reads, and Noelle Holten for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Everyone has a motive and you can’t help but think the victims got what they deserve in this dark, gruesome and hard hitting debut novel. Beginning with a prologue that details a woman’s dread as her husband arrives home drunk, how that night something even worse than usual happens as he rapes her for the first time, I knew instantly this would be hard to read in places.

Though this book was filled with lots of characters and is written from more points of view than any other I’ve read, it was never confusing which was a testament to the skill of this author. Some of these were obvious stereotypes while others, like Lucy weren’t. She isn’t what you think of when you imagine an abused spouse and this helped to highlight that anyone has the potential to find themselves in that kind of relationship. Reading her chapters was often difficult but for me the ones I found most sickening were those told from the point of view of the perpetrators. The ones who first come to mind are Patrick and Robert. The insight into their twisted minds, the sheer enormity of their rage over the slightest perceived wrong, and how they recognised and enjoyed their behaviour made my stomach crawl.

Probation isn’t a side of crime usually included in crime fiction so it was interesting and refreshing to read about it in this book. It’s a side of the law I have never really thought about and I was sad but not surprised to read how so many of those convicted of domestic abuse re-offend, as it was to read how many victims are almost complicit in the cycle as they struggle to break free of their abusive partner or spouse.

The unsettling subject matter made this an emotive read. I’d veer from empathy for the victims of abuse to anger and disgust at the perpetrators, to feeling quite glad the men had been killed and thinking the murderer was actually doing society a favour by administering their own version of justice. Though at times predictable, this was a compelling and provocative novel and I look forward to reading the next installment in the series.

Out May 31st

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

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Happy Publication Day to this amazing thriller!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Publication Date: 21st May 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He’s trapped me in the nineties.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out today.