Published: August 5th, 2021 Publisher: Michael Joseph Genre: Historical Fiction, Thriller, Crime Fiction, Biographical Fiction Format: Paperback, Kindle, Hardcover, Audiobook
Today I’m sharing my review for this brutal and brilliant novel. Thank you Michael Joseph for the gifted copy and Ceri for asking me to buddy read this one with her.
You’ve never met a woman as dangerous as Bella Sorensen . . .
THE FASCINATING REIMAGINING OF THE LIFE AND TIMES OF HISTORY’S ORIGINAL FEMALE SERIAL KILLER ________
Bella Sorenson knows that the world is made for men.
They control everything: jobs, property, money. Marriage makes women like her their slaves. But now Bella is fighting back.
Because she’s angry. She’s bloodthirsty. She’s willing to kill to get what she wants – starting with her husband.
And then her next husband. And the next one . . .
“They thought that was it, then-that I was safe and would not bite. That I would take my lesson and learn from it, be humble and meek and know my place… They never expected me to hold a grudge…”
Bella Sorenson was the original female serial killer. As a big true crime junkie I had heard her name but knew little about her or her crimes and knew this was a book for me. It had been languishing on my shelves ever since I received an ARC last year so I was delighted to finally get around to reading it as part of a buddy read with my lovely blogger friend Ceri.
Brutal, bold and brilliant, author Camilla Bruce seamlessly blends fact with fiction to reimagine Bella’s story. It is a dark character study of the life and psyche of the woman behind the sensational headlines while never making excuses for her crimes or shying away from the grim facts. In the must-read author’s note at the end Bruce explains that the aim of this book was to try to understand what drove Bella to commit her crimes and I think she has achieved that, helping us see the nuances of her character, bond with her and even feel some sympathy for her. She claimed my attention instantly and kept me hooked until the final page, taking me on a journey that spans multiple decades and two continents. And while it is well researched and mindful of attention to detail, the author never allows it to become bogged down by them, instead being driven by the story and characters.
“She had been swallowed up by something else, something dark with terrible jaws – like a wolf.”
Bella is a terrifying character. She is a woman fuelled by spite, anger and contempt with an unquenchable thirst for revenge. I both loved and loathed this ruthless and remorseless killer who fails to understand why she shouldn’t hurt those she feels have wronged her. And knowing she was a real person, that she existed and committed these crimes rather than being simply a creation of an author’s twisted imagination, made her all the more fearsome. But despite all of this, Bruce manages to humanise her by exploring the pivotal moments of trauma in her life she can’t escape; the things that haunt her and helped shape her into a merciless killer. And while I never condoned her actions, I did have a lot of sympathy for some of the things she had endured.
But Bella isn’t our only narrator. Her older sister, Nellie, also shares her perspective. She is the voice of empathy and a morally complex character whose dilemmas raise both tension and emotion. I really enjoyed how Nellie provided another side to everything that happened, moved the story forward, and helped to create nuance in the story that would have otherwise been missing. There was also a cast of compelling and richly drawn background characters who leapt from the pages and helped bring the whole tragic tale to life in vivid technicolour.
“I would rise, if only to spite.”
Captivating, suspenseful, devilishly dark and dripping with malice, Triflers Need Not Apply is a phenomenal story that thriller lovers and crime junkies will love.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Camilla Bruce is a Norwegian writer of speculative and historical fiction. She has a master’s degree in comparative literature and has co-run a small press that published dark fairy tales. Camilla currently lives in Trondheim with her son and cat.
SYNOPSIS: You’ve got no idea what you’re dredging up. You’re going to ruin everything.
The past is not going to stay buried in this unputdownable crime novel, the first in a series featuring Detective Hanna Duncker. Fans of Ragnar Jonasson and Ann Cleeves will be gripped by this moving and atmospheric crime novel, already a bestseller in Sweden.
Hanna Duncker has returned to the remote island she spent her childhood on and to the past that saw her father convicted for murder. In a cruel twist of fate her new boss is the policeman who put him behind bars.
On her first day on the job as the new detective, Hanna is called to a crime scene. The fifteen-year-old son of her former best friend has been found dead and Hanna is thrown into a complex investigation set to stir up old ghosts.
Not everyone is happy to have the daughter of Lars Duncker back in town. Hanna soon realises that she will have to watch her back as she turns over every stone to find the person responsible…
SYNOPSIS: Six friends. One college reunion. One unsolved murder.
Ten years after graduation, Jessica Miller has planned her triumphant return to her southern, elite Duquette University, down to the envious whispers that are sure to follow in her wake. Everyone is going to see the girl she wants them to see—confident, beautiful, indifferent. Not the girl she was when she left campus, back when Heather Shelby’s murder fractured everything, including the tight bond linking the six friends she’d been closest to since freshman year.
But not everyone is ready to move on. Not everyone left Duquette ten years ago, and not everyone can let Heather’s murder go unsolved. Someone is determined to trap the real killer, to make the guilty pay. When the six friends are reunited, they will be forced to confront what happened that night—and the years’ worth of secrets each of them would do anything to keep hidden.
Told in racing dual timelines, with a dark campus setting and a darker look at friendship, love, obsession, and ambition, In My Dreams I Hold A Knife is an addictive, propulsive read you won’t be able to put down.
Published: August 4th, 2021 Publisher: Orion Genre: Suspense, Psychological Fiction
SYNOPSIS: Now I’m in charge, the gates are my gates. The rules are my rules.
It’s an incendiary moment for St Oswald’s school. For the first time in its history, a headmistress is in power, the gates opening to girls.
Rebecca Buckfast has spilled blood to reach this position. Barely forty, she is just starting to reap the harvest of her ambition. As the new regime takes on the old guard, the ground shifts. And with it, the remains of a body are discovered.
But Rebecca is here to make her mark. She’ll bury the past so deep it will evade even her own memory, just like she has done before. After all…
Published: August 5th, 2021 Publisher: Head of Zeus Genre: Humorous Fiction
SYNOPSIS: If you were offered a chance to cure your child’s disease, would you take it?
The Willows have been through a lot. Louise has devoted her life to caring for her disabled youngest daughter. Pete works abroad, almost never seeing his loved ones. And their eldest, Eliza, is burdened by all the secrets she’s trying to keep from her overloaded family.
Meanwhile, Patience observes the world while trapped in her own body. She laughs, she cries, she has opinions and knows what she wants. But those who love her most – and make every decision about her life – will never know.
Or will they? When the Willows are offered the opportunity for Patience to take part in a new gene therapy trial to cure her Rett syndrome, they face an impossible dilemma. Are the very real risks worth the chance of the reward, no matter how small?
Published: August 5th, 2021 Publisher: Michael Joseph Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Thriller, Crime Fiction, Biographical Fiction
SYNOPSIS: THE DELICIOUSLY DARK REIMAGINING OF THE LIFE AND TIMES OF HISTORY’S ORIGINAL FEMALE SERIAL KILLER
Bella Sorensen loves men. She loves them to death . . .
Early in life Bella Sorensen discovers the world is made only for men. They own everything: jobs, property, wives. But Bella understands what few others do: where women are concerned, men are weak.
A woman unhampered by scruples can take from them what she wants. And so Bella sets out to prove to the world that a woman can be just as ruthless, black-hearted and single-minded as any man.
Starting with her long suffering husband, Mads, Bella embarks on a killing spree the like of which has never been seen before nor since.
And through it all her kind, older sister Nellie can only watch in horror as Bella’s schemes to enrich herself and cut down the male population come to a glorious, dreadful fruition . . .
Based on the true story of Belle Gunness whose killing spree began in Chicago in 1900, Triflers Need Not Apply is a novelistic tour de force exploring one woman’s determination to pay men back for all they have taken.
Published: August 5th, 2021 Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Thriller
SYNOPSIS: He thinks he’s safe up there. But he’ll never be safe from you.
The Heights is a tall, slender apartment building among the warehouses of Tower Bridge, its roof terrace so discreet you wouldn’t know it existed if you weren’t standing at the window of the flat directly opposite. But you are. And that’s when you see a man up there – a man you’d recognize anywhere. He’s older now and his appearance has subtly changed, but it’s definitely him.
Which makes no sense at all since you know he has been dead for over two years. You know this for a fact.
Because you’re the one who killed him. It’s time to confess what we did up there.
‘Kieran Watts has been dead for over two years when I see him standing on the roof of a building in Shad Thames…’
SYNOPSIS: Shirley Jackson meets Ottessa Moshfegh meets My Sister the Serial Killer in a brilliantly unsettling and darkly funny debut novel full of suspense and paranoia
George March’s latest novel is a smash hit. None could be prouder than Mrs. March, his dutiful wife, who revels in his accolades and relishes the lifestyle and status his success brings.
A creature of routine and decorum, Mrs. March lives an exquisitely controlled existence on the Upper East Side. Every morning begins the same way, with a visit to her favourite patisserie to buy a loaf of olive bread, but her latest trip proves to be her last when she suffers an indignity from which she may never recover: an assumption by the shopkeeper that the protagonist in George March’s new book – a pathetic sex worker, more a figure of derision than desire – is based on Mrs. March.
One casual remark robs Mrs. March not only of her beloved olive bread but of the belief that she knew everything about her husband – and herself – sending her on an increasingly paranoid journey, one that starts within the pages of a book but may very well uncover both a killer and the long-buried secrets of Mrs. March’s past.
A razor-sharp exploration of the fragility of identity and the smothering weight of expectations, Mrs. March heralds the arrival of a wicked and wonderful new voice.
SYNOPSIS: In the quiet, wealthy enclave of Brecken Hill, an older couple is brutally murdered hours after a tense Easter dinner with their three adult children. Who, of course, are devastated.
Or are they? They each stand to inherit millions. They were never a happy family, thanks to their vindictive father and neglectful mother, but perhaps one of them is more disturbed than anyone knew. Did someone snap after that dreadful evening? Or did another person appear later that night with the worst of intentions? That must be what happened. After all, if one of the family were capable of something as gruesome as this, you’d know.
SYNOPSIS: Could one rare plant hold the key to a thousand riches?
It’s the summer of 1822 and Edinburgh is abuzz with rumours of King George IV’s impending visit. In botanical circles, however, a different kind of excitement has gripped the city. In the newly-installed Botanic Garden, the Agave Americana plant looks set to flower – an event that only occurs once every few decades.
When newly widowed Elizabeth arrives in Edinburgh to live with her late husband’s aunt Clementina, she’s determined to put her unhappy past in London behind her. As she settles into her new home, she becomes fascinated by the beautiful Botanic Garden which borders the grand house and offers her services as an artist to record the rare plant’s impending bloom. In this pursuit, she meets Belle Brodie, a vivacious young woman with a passion for botany and the lucrative, dark art of perfume creation.
Belle is determined to keep both her real identity and the reason for her interest the Garden secret from her new friend. But as Elizabeth and Belle are about to discover, secrets don’t last long in this Enlightenment city . . .
And when they are revealed, they can carry the greatest of consequences.
Published: August 5th, 2021 Publisher: Picador Genre: Biography, Autobiography, Cookbook
SYNOPSIS: From the indie rockstar Japanese Breakfast, an unflinching, powerful, deeply moving memoir about growing up mixed-race, Korean food, losing her Korean mother, and forging her own identity.
‘As good as everyone says it is and, yes, it will have you in tears. An essential read for anybody who has lost a loved one, as well as those who haven’t.’ Marie–Claire
In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humour and heart, she tells of growing up the only Asian-American kid at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother’s particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother’s tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food. As she grew up, moving to the east coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, performing gigs with her fledgling band – and meeting the man who would become her husband – her Koreanness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother’s diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer, when Michelle was twenty-five, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her.
Vivacious and plainspoken, lyrical and honest, Michelle Zauner’s voice is as radiantly alive on the page as it is onstage. Rich with intimate anecdotes that will resonate widely, Crying in H Mart is a book to cherish, share, and reread.
Published: August 5th, 2021 Publisher: John Blake Genre: True Crime
SYNOPSIS: ‘The whole story is so terrible. You will be disgusted and amazed.’ Graham Young, confessing his crimes to detectives
There are few criminal cases more astonishing yet less well known than that of Graham Young. A quintessentially British crime story set in the post-war London suburbs, it involves two sensational trials, murders both certain and probable, a clutch of forgiving relatives, and scores of surviving victims.
Fourteen in the summer of 1962, Graham stood in the Old Bailey dock charged with poisoning a schoolfriend and family members by adding antimony to their packed lunches, Sunday roast and morning cups of tea. Diagnosed with multiple personality disorders, Graham’s trial resulted in his detainment at Broadmoor, where he was the youngest patient.
But it was on his release from Broadmoor that Graham caused the greatest harm. Finding employment in Hadlands, a photographic supplies firm, his role as junior storeman meant he was expected to make tea and coffee for his colleagues. And very soon, numerous members of staff began experiencing crippling stomach pains…
A psychologically astute insight into the mind of a complex and intriguing individual, A Passion for Poison is true crime at its best.
Published: August 12th, 2021 Publisher: Grand Central Publishing Genre: Suspense, Thriller
SYNOPSIS: Carrie wants a normal life. Carrie Lawrence doesn’t need a happily ever after. She’ll just settle for “after.” After a decade of helping her sister hide her victims. After a lifetime of lies. She just wants to be safe, boring, and not trekking through the woods at night with a dead body wrapped in a carpet.
Becca wants to get away with murder. Becca Lawrence doesn’t believe in happily ever after because she’s already happy. She’s gotten away with murder for a decade and has blackmailed her sister into helping her hide the evidence-what more could a girl want?
But first they have to stop a serial killer. When thirteen bodies are discovered in their small town, people are shocked. But not as shocked as Carrie, who thought she knew all the details of Becca’s sordid pastime. When Becca swears she’s not behind the grisly new crimes, they realize the town has a second serial killer who has the sisters in his sights, and what he wants is . . . Carrie.
SYNOPSIS: ONE DEAD BODY. TWELVE SUSPECTS. TWENTY-FOUR-HOUR DARKNESS.
In the most inhospitable environment – cut off from the rest of the world – there’s a killer on the loose.
A&E doctor Kate North has been knocked out of her orbit by a personal tragedy. So when she’s offered the opportunity to be an emergency replacement at the UN research station in Antarctica, she jumps at the chance. The previous doctor, Jean-Luc, died in a tragic accident while out on the ice.
The move seems an ideal solution for Kate: no one knows about her past; no one is checking up on her. But as total darkness descends for the winter, she begins to suspect that Jean-Luc’s death wasn’t accidental at all.
And the more questions she asks, the more dangerous it becomes . . .
Published: August 19th, 2021 Publisher: Picador Genre: Political Fiction
SYNOPSIS: From the widely acclaimed author of American War, Omar El Akkad, a beautifully written, unrelentingly dramatic and profoundly moving novel that brings the global refugee crisis down to the level of a child’s eyes.
More bodies have washed up on the shores of a small island. Another over-filled, ill-equipped, dilapidated ship has sunk under the weight of its too-many passengers: Syrians, Ethiopians, Egyptians, Lebanese, Palestinians, all of them desperate to escape untenable lives in their homelands. And only one had made the passage: nine-year-old Amir, a Syrian boy who has the good fortune to fall into the hands not of the officials, but of Vänna: a teenage girl, native to the island, who lives inside her own sense of homelessness in a place and among people she has come to disdain. And though Vänna and Amir are complete strangers and don’t speak a common language, Vänna determines to do whatever it takes to save him.
In alternating chapters, we learn the story of Amir’s life and of how he came to be on the boat; and we follow the duo as they make their way towards a vision of safety. But as the novel unfurls, we begin to understand that this is not merely the story of two children finding their way through a hostile world. Omar El Akkad’s What Strange Paradise is the story of our collective moment in this time: of empathy and indifference, of hope and despair – and of the way each of those things can blind us to reality, or guide us to a better one.
SYNOPSIS: The case is unexceptional, that is what I know. A house full of stuff left behind by a dead woman, abandoned at the last . . .
When trauma cleaner Essie Pound makes a gruesome discovery in the derelict Edinburgh boarding house she is sent to clean, it brings her into contact with a young policewoman, Emily Noble, who has her own reasons to solve the case.
As the two women embark on a journey into the heart of a forgotten family, the investigation prompts fragmented memories of their own traumatic histories – something Emily has spent a lifetime attempting to bury, and Essie a lifetime trying to lay bare.
Emily Noble’s Disgrace is the third novel from Mary Paulson-Ellis, the bestselling author of The Other Mrs Walker, a Waterstones Scottish Book of the Year.
Published: August 19th, 2021 Publisher: Orenda Books Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Political Fiction, Religious Fiction, Adventure Fiction, Urban Fiction
SYNOPSIS: A young woman defies convention in a small Pakistani village, with devastating results for her and her family. A stunning, immense beautiful novel about courage, family and the meaning of love, when everything seems lost…
In sixteen-year-old Abida’s small Pakistani village, there are age-old rules to live by, and her family’s honour to protect. And, yet, her spirit is defiant and she yearns to make a home with the man she loves.
When the unthinkable happens, Abida faces the same fate as other young girls who have chosen unacceptable alliances – certain, public death. Fired by a fierce determination to resist everything she knows to be wrong about the society into which she was born, and aided by her devoted father, Jamil, who puts his own life on the line to help her, she escapes to Lahore and then disappears.
Jamil goes to Lahore in search of Abida – a city where the prejudices that dominate their village take on a new and horrifying form – and father and daughter are caught in a world from which they may never escape.
Moving from the depths of rural Pakistan, riddled with poverty and religious fervour, to the dangerous streets of over-populated Lahore, No Honour is a story of family, of the indomitable spirit of love in its many forms … a story of courage and resilience, when all seems lost, and the inextinguishable fire that lights one young woman’s battle for change.
SYNOPSIS: No one even knew they were together. Now one of them is dead.
56 DAYS AGO Ciara and Oliver meet in a supermarket queue in Dublin and start dating the same week COVID-19 reaches Irish shores.
35 DAYS AGO When lockdown threatens to keep them apart, Oliver suggests they move in together. Ciara sees a unique opportunity for a relationship to flourish without the scrutiny of family and friends. Oliver sees a chance to hide who – and what – he really is.
TODAY Detectives arrive at Oliver’s apartment to discover a decomposing body inside.
Can they determine what really happened, or has lockdown created an opportunity for someone to commit the perfect crime?
SYNOPSIS: THE STANDALONE THRILLER FROM THE MILLION-COPY BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF RAGDOLL – SOON TO BE A MAJOR TV SERIES
The Women of Troy by Pat Barker
Published: August 26th, 2021 Publisher: Hamish Hamilton Genre: Historical Fiction, War Story
SYNOPSIS: Following her bestselling, critically acclaimed The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker continues her extraordinary retelling of one of our greatest myths.
Troy has fallen. The Greeks have won their bitter war. They can return home as victors – all they need is a good wind to lift their sails. But the wind has vanished, the seas becalmed by vengeful gods, and so the warriors remain in limbo – camped in the shadow of the city they destroyed, kept company by the women they stole from it.
The women of Troy.
Helen – poor Helen. All that beauty, all that grace – and she was just a mouldy old bone for feral dogs to fight over.
Cassandra, who has learned not to be too attached to her own prophecies. They have only ever been believed when she can get a man to deliver them.
Stubborn Amina, with her gaze still fixed on the ruined towers of Troy, determined to avenge the slaughter of her king.
Hecuba, howling and clawing her cheeks on the silent shore, as if she could make her cries heard in the gloomy halls of Hades. As if she could wake the dead.
And Briseis, carrying her future in her womb: the unborn child of the dead hero Achilles. Once again caught up in the disputes of violent men. Once again faced with the chance to shape history.
Masterful and enduringly resonant, ambitious and intimate, The Women of Troy continues Pat Barker’s extraordinary retelling of one of our greatest classical myths, following on from the critically acclaimed The Silence of the Girls.
Laura has spent most of her life being judged. She’s seen as hot-tempered, troubled, a loner. Some even call her dangerous.
Miriam knows that just because Laura is witnessed leaving the scene of a horrific murder with blood on her clothes, that doesn’t mean she’s a killer. Bitter experience has taught her how easy it is to get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Carla is reeling from the brutal murder of her nephew. She trusts no one: good people are capable of terrible deeds. But how far will she go to find peace?
Innocent or guilty, everyone is damaged. Some are damaged enough to kill.
Look what you started.
THE SCORCHING NEW THRILLER FROM THE BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN and INTO THE WATER