Blog Tour Review: The Birthday House by Jill Treseder ⭐⭐⭐.5

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Today is my stop on the blog tour for this novella. Thank you to Anne Cater of Random Things Blog Tours for the invitation to take part, and to Anne and Silverwood Books for my copy of this novella. 

SYNOPSIS:

A friendship. A murder. A life that will never be the same.

The year is 1955, the location picturesque Devon. In a house by the River Dart, schoolgirl Josephine Kennedy posts invitations to her twelfth birthday party – a party that never takes place. Horrific violence is committed that night in the family home, leaving all of its occupants dead.

Based on a disturbing real-life crime, this compelling story explores Josephine’s fate through the prism of friends and family – the victims and survivors who unwittingly influence the events that led up to the tragedy.

Josephine’s best friend, Susan, is haunted by the secrets of the birthday house. Can she ever find a way of making peace with the past?

MY REVIEW:

As a true crime junkie my interest was piqued when I received the email about this book. I had never heard of the crime that it is based on, but I loved the idea of a work of fiction based on true events that explores not only the crime itself, but the effects on those who were left behind to grieve and wonder what they could have done to prevent it happening. 

This novella is a character study of family, friendships, betrayal, grief and mental illness. It was engaging, fascinating and wonderfully written. The beautiful setting of Devon is a striking contrast to the darkness of the murders. Told from multiple points of view that move between dual timelines, we first see the story unfold from the eyes of Susan, Josephine’s best friend, in the present day. Now an adult, she is looking back at what was taken from her and her friend that day, and wondering how different life would be if Josephine was still alive. Susan wasn’t told the truth about how her friend died at first and only learned the extent of what she went through many years later. She ponders on how this has shaped her grieving process and who she is, and looks back at her memories of her best friend while trying to understand what drove an adoring father to kill his family.

Reading the different points of view enabled the reader an understanding that many of those who were left behind never had. All of the Kennedy family narrate chapters that lead us right up until their final moments. Pamela Kennedy is a dutiful wife and loving mother. She tells us about her marriage, what happens behind closed doors, and the things she never dares to say out loud, especially in the months leading to her death. Josephine Kennedy loves her Daddy but not his “monster moods”. She tells us her worries about him, about her best friend Susan and her hopes for the future before her life is cruelly snatched from her. Harold Kennedy was a troubled, angry man who, despite his adoration for his wife and daughter, is someone they fear and tiptoe around. The turmoil he carried inside was overwhelming and these insights into his thoughts made events all the more tragic and heartbreaking for me and his chapter was the most interesting of all. 

The Birthday House offers an intriguing analysis of what motivates a man to kill his entire family and illustrates how we can influence other people and events without realising, sometimes with disastrous results. It is a dark, poignant and heart-rending read that I would recommend to anyone interested in these subjects and crime. 

One last thing: reading the author’s notes at the end of this book is essential. In it she explains more about the real-life crime on which the book is based, and her reasons for writing about it in this way. 

Out now.

Jill Treseder Author Picture

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

(from http://www.jilltresederwriter.com)

I started writing in a red shiny exercise book when I was seven years old. But in that time and place it was an ‘invalid’ activity, was overlooked, but never went away. It was many years before I felt able to call myself ‘writer’.

But there came a day when the phrase ‘I am a writer’ no longer sounded pretentious, but legitimate, and even necessary. Was it because I had a writing room instead of the corner of a landing? Or because I spent more time writing? Or because I’d got better at it? Or because I get miserable and bad-tempered if I don’t write? Probably a combination of all of the above.

Writing is my third career. The first was as a social worker with children and families, a job I loved, but left because I could no longer cope with the system.

This led to a freelance career as an independent management consultant, helping people to handle emotions in the work context. I worked in the IT industry, in companies large and small, as well as public organisations. Later I became involved in research projects concerned with the multi-disciplinary approach to social problems such as child abuse. So, in a sense, I had come full-circle.

All these experiences feed into the process of writing fiction, while my non-fiction book ‘The Wise Woman Within’ resulted indirectly from the consultancy work and my subsequent PhD thesis,‘Bridging Incommensurable Paradigms’, which is available from the School of Management at the University of Bath.

I live in Devon and visit Cornwall frequently and these land and seascapes are powerful influences which demand a presence in my writing.

Writers’ groups and workshops are a further invaluable source of inspiration and support and I attend various groups locally and sign up for creative courses in stunning locations whenever I can. I try doing writing practice at home but there is no substitute for the focus and discipline achieved among others in a group.

I have written some short stories and recently signed up for a short story writing course to explore this genre in more depth.

I live with my husband in South Devon and enjoy being involved in a lively local community.

Twitter @Jill_Treseder

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June Wrap Up

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Another month has passed and it’s wrap up time again. Though it’s crazy to realise that half the year has already gone. I’m seeing loads of posts on Instagram of people’s halfway top ten but haven’t got around to doing mine yet as I’m still trying to whittle it down!

June has been a great month of reading for me. I’ve finished fourteen books and got part way into Notes On A Nervous Planet, which I’m sure I’ll finish in July.  All but one book were between four and five stars and all but one were ones I enjoyed. Thirteen of the books were from NetGalley and one was a completely unplanned mood read, which was exactly what I needed.

So here’s what I read in June…

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1. ‘A Nearly Normal Family’ by M. T. Edvardsson ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Told in three parts, each from the perspective of a different family member, each of our narrators are unreliable and leave us wondering which parts of their versions are true. Part two, narrated by the daughter, Stella, was where this book became impossible to put down. A captivating, ambiguous and twisting story about family, secrets, and the lengths we’ll go to for those we love. As we head towards the end of the book the bombshells are dropped in spectacular style and left me reeling. The author pulled off an amazing coupe de grâce with the way he ended this book. I loved how he pulled everything together and kept the reader on tenterhooks until the very end.

Out now on kindle, July 11th in hardcover. Published by Pan Macmillan. E-book ARC via NetGalley. 

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2. ‘Favourite Daughter’ by Kaira Rouda ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Told from the perspective of Jane, a twisted and delusional Orange County housewife, this book is like going inside the mind of the epitome of a narcissist and sociopath. Controlling, manipulative, condescending, demanding and crazy Jane  is one of the most unapologetically awful people I’ve ever read and, in a strange way, I adored her as much as I despised her. A delicious delight to read, but a toxic nightmare to those around her, I loved every second inside Jane’s mind. The author has written what I think is one of the most addictive thrillers of the year. Favourite Daughter is a definite page-tuner and I couldn’t tear myself away once I began reading. I loved how the author had Jane talk directly to the reader, almost as if we’re friends. It was a great tool in showing the extent of her delusion and connecting us with her.  It is a testament to this author’s talent that she was able to create someone who encompasses such narcissistic and sociopathic traits but still manages to evoke sympathy from the reader. Ms Rouda has found herself a new fan. 

Out now. Published by HQ. E-book ARC via NetGalley.              

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3. ‘The Liar’s House’ by Carla Kovach ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Carla Kovach has done it again. DI Gina Harte and her team are back for the fourth book in this fantastic series. There are multiple suspects but the team are mostly working with hunches and circumstantial evidence as real clues to the culprit evade them. At the same time Gina’s personal life is causing problems and her past and present are entangled in her latest case, threatening the reputation she’s spent years building. Themes of domestic abuse and stalking are handled with raw honesty. We see the way these men control their partners through fear and are shown the long-lasting psychological damage of abuse. The author is skilled at writing domestic abuse, in all its forms, in a way that helps the reader understand these women, why they stay, why they take desperate courses of action and do the various things we see them do to protect their abusers. The Liar’s House is what we’ve come to expect and love from this series: complex characters, brutal, gruesome murder scenes and great writing. This novel was particularly skillfully written and ingeniously plotted. I can’t wait for book five. 

Out July 2nd.  Published by Bookoture. E-book ARC via NetGalley.

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4. ‘The Van Apfel Girl’s Are Gone’ by Felicity McLean ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A beautifully haunting mystery about childhood, adolescence, secrets and regrets, that takes place over the course of one transformative and unforgettable summer. I loved this mesmerising novel. Atmospheric, delightful, captivating, nuanced and nostalgic but also somber, sinister and dire, it had me hooked from the first page. It explores how tragedy can shape our future and how we see things differently with an adult perspective versus a child’s eye. Will we find out what happened to the Van Apfel sisters? I will leave you to find out for yourself when you read it. 

Out now. Published by Oneworld Publications. E-book ARC via NetGalley.

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5. ‘We Were Killers Once’ by Becky Masterman ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I have been fascinated with the Clutter murders ever since I read In Cold Blood over twenty years ago. So when I saw that this novel offered an alternative look at that case and one that was linked to it I couldn’t wait to read it. The author has created a perfect amalgamation of true crime and crime fiction with this gripping and believable novel. I love both genres and loved how she brought them together. I admit that part of my enjoyment of this book came from my fascination with the Clutter murders. Both main characters are connected to the infamous case in different ways and I loved the alternative version that was explored in this novel. There was one drawback which was both of the main characters aren’t likeable. Beaufort is unlikable in the right ways, we aren’t supposed to like the bad guy, but Brigid could have been likeable if not for her tiresome obsession and jealousy over his husband’s late wife which made her appear whiny. It is good for a character to be flawed but I felt this flaw went a little too far. We Were Killers Once is an intriguing, absorbing thriller. A mix of fascinating fiction with tantalising fact reimagined and woven through the pages, I would recommend this book to anyone who loves crime fiction and true crime. 

Out now. Published by Orion Publishing Group. E-book ARC via NetGalley.

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6. ‘Stone Cold Heart’ by Caz Frear ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Jaw-dropping and addictive, I absolutely loved this book and knew I was in for a great read as soon as I read the prologue. Ms Frear has a new fan in this reader after this tantilising thriller. I loved her writing style, particularly the banter between Cat and her colleagues and the wit that had me laughing out loud on many occasions. Cat Kinsella is a unique, flawed and complex protagonist. She breaks the rules, keeps secrets, has told many lies, has a shady family, is dating someone she shouldn’t, and yet she is someone we root for. One of the things I enjoyed about this novel was the array of unreliable and morally ambiguous characters, including almost every witness. Information trickles slowly, frustrating the police but making for an electrifying read. Is Joseph their man? The final part of this twisty thriller had me on tenterhooks and reeling from each bombshell. After the shocking concluding sentences I am now impatiently waiting for book 3. 

Out now. Published by Bonnier Zaffre. E-book ARC via NetGalley.

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7. ‘Here To Stay’ by Mark Edwards ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Another nail-biting, chilling tale of domestic noir from the man that Jennifer Hillier has rightly crowned “The King of domestic horror”.  This book is AMAZING! It started off slowly and while I was enjoying it, I didn’t foresee just how horrifying, mind-blowing and simply incredible it would become. Though this being Mark Edwards I am also not surprised. Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of this author. Ever since I first read The Retreat last summer , which I loved the nod to in this novel, I haven’t been able to get enough of his books. The Magpies trilogy is considered his greatest work, and it’s antagonist, Lucy Newton, is one of the greatest villains I’ve read. But this story and it’s villains give them both a run for their money.  I don’t want to give any details away as the shocks add to the escalating horror and brilliance of this book. I was extremely lucky to get an early ARC of this book from the author himself. and highly recommend this edge-of-your-seat thriller; just be warned that it’s a turbulent ride. And another thing…be careful who you invite to stay in your house. They just might never leave…              

Out September 1st. Published by Amazon Publishing UK. E-book ARC via Mark Edwards and NetGalley.

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8. ‘Evvie Drake Starts Over’ by Linda Holmes ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

When I started this book I felt like I needed something lighter and a bit different. I couldn’t have chosen more perfectly. Reminiscent of Eleanor Oliphant Is Just Fine, I fell in love with this quirky, warm, lighthearted and witty book and it’s delightful protagonist. This is one of those books you find yourself reading with a smile on your face. Evvie, oh wonderful Evvie. I love this character so much! She is sympathetic, relatable, timid, kind, quirky, amiable, lacks confidence and is stronger than she realises. Surviving and walking away from an abusive relationship takes strength. She always wants to do the right thing but like everyone she makes mistakes and can be unlikeable. These flaws added to the realism and I enjoyed seeing her learn and grow from them. I hadn’t seen any reviews for this novel or read anything by the author before so I was unprepared for how much I’d love this enchanting story. Evvie Drake Starts Over is like a breath of fresh air on a warm day and is the perfect summer read.                                                         

Out now. Published by Hodder & Stoughton. E-book ARC via NetGalley.

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9. ‘Someone We Know’ by Shari Lapena ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Everybody has their secrets. And in the wealthy New York suburb of Aylesford the secrets of some neighbours are about to collide when one of them is found dead in her car in the lake. Was it her husband who was sleeping with one of the neighbours? Was it her own secret lover? And did the teenage boy who’s been breaking into neighbours homes see something that could be the key to solving the crime? Once again Shari Lapena takes you on a roller-coaster ride of twists and turns in this surprising thriller. The author masterfully weaves the puzzle pieces together, the secrets began to escalate, and there is one twist after another until we reach the dramatic final reveal showing that she knows how to grip and entertain her audience, building the tension slowly before ramping it up to a point where I was so hooked that I stayed up until ridiculous o’clock to finish it. 

Out July 25th. Published by Random House UK, Transworld Publishers. E-book ARC via NetGalley.

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10. ‘Sister of Mine’ by Laurie Petrou ⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Two girls and a match, but a world of differences in what it looked like after that. A forest fire of debt”

Secrets. Lies. Violence. Desperation. Fire. Smoke. Murder.  This is a claustrophobic story of two sisters both held together and torn apart by a terrible secret and explores how the ripple effect of one decision lasts for decades, impacting both sister’s lives in ways they never imagined. I was quickly drawn into the dark world of sisters Penny and Hattie Grayson, two very different sister’s who’s lives have been far from easy.  It was shocking to me how much they had been through by the time they were 18 and 21, which is their ages at the time of the fire. This compelling, sinister, raw and heartwrenching story is a skillfully written and gripping from the first page. It is full of twists and turns and will surprise you right until the end. It is a magnificent psychological thriller that I highly recommend. 

Out now. Published by Oldcastle Books, NoExit Press. E-book ARC via NetGalley.

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11. ‘And Then She Vanishes’ by Claire Douglas ⭐⭐⭐⭐

An exciting, twisty thriller full of suspense about secrets kept for almost two decades that merge with the shocking, and seemingly motiveless, murder of an elderly woman and her son in a sleepy seaside town. Told from multiple points of view we follow the story of  Heather, a woman accused of two seemingly motiveless and cold-blooded murders, and Jess, her best friend in school who is now a journalist and is given the task of reporting on the crime. The book also flashes back to August 1994 when Heather’s older sister, Flora, went missing and the girls’ friendship fell apart. But is Heather guilty? Both Jess and Margot, Heather’s mother, insist that the murders are out of character for the gentle, kind and loving woman they knew. But both secretly wonder and allude to there being another side to Heather. Something lurking beneath the surface that they’ve tried to ignore…  They didn’t lie when they said the final chapter was even more shocking than the first – Wow! The dramatic prologue was chilling, the whole book had me on the edge of my seat, but the final chapter was sensational and startling. The author cleverly keeps you on tenterhooks playing a guessing game right until the end and the payoff is totally worth it. You won’t be able to put this book down. 

Out now. Published by Penguin UK – Michael Joseph. E-book ARC via NetGalley. Thank you to the publisher for inviting me to read and review this book. 

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12. ‘The Missing Wife’ by Sam Carrington  ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Louisa is about to turn 40 & isn’t handling it well, especially as she’s found herself unexpectedly dealing with sleepless nights and nappies again. Her husband Brian and best friend Tiff are keeping secrets and her teenage daughter Emily is sullen and distant. When she discovers that Brian and Tiff’s secret was a surprise 40th birthday party she’s far from happy. There’s one particular person there that she never wanted to see again, Oliver Dunmore, her first love who broke her heart. She wakes hungover and unable to remember the night clearly. When Oliver then turns up the saying his wife Melissa is missing and was last seen at the part, her memories become more important than ever. But she can’t retrieve them and as she searches for answers, she feels her life is spiraling out of control. I loved that this book was filled with morally ambiguous characters you couldn’t trust, including Louisa. A riveting, mesmerising and sinister tale, this story will make you question even your own memories. I devoured it within a day as I needed the answers to my questions and the tense and dramatic final twist had me on the edge of my seat.

Out now. Published by Avon Books UK. E-book ARC via NetGalley.

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13. ‘Whisper Network’ by Chandler Baker ⭐⭐⭐

I had high hopes for this book and was excited to read it so I’m disappointed to have found that it wasn’t for me.  I didn’t finish this book. I really tried. I’d considered giving up from early on but pushed through until almost 75% when I decided I had better things to read. I found it slow, lacking in depth, the characters felt shallow and I couldn’t connect with them at all. It also felt preachy about women’s issues and while I think I saw what the author was trying to achieve, it just wasn’t executed in the right way. I didn’t feel at all interested in who was dead, if anyone had killed them or what happened in any way for most of the book.  That being said, this wasn’t all bad. I did relate to and recognise the “everyday sexism” that women are often subjected to and how we can be treated if we report it. Also, as I said earlier, the book did have some tension at times and I was initially drawn into wanting to know who had died and what had happened. It just unfortunately didn’t last for the length of the book. I haven’t seen any reviews for this book and it could be a case of #blacksheepofbookstagram so I encourage you to still pick this up if the synopsis appeals to you. 

Out July 4th. Published by Little, Brown Book Group UK. E-book ARC via NetGalley.

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14. ‘The Woman Who Wanted More’ by Vicky Zimmerman  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I started this book on a day I was feeling down, moody and in need of something lighthearted that would cheer me up. I’d heard great things about this book and the cover alone makes me feel warm, so I decided to give it a go. I am so glad that I did. It was a joy to read and was an uplifting, delightful and magical book that made me both cry and smile as it ended. I fell in love with both main characters, but particularly had a soft spot for cantankerous Cecily. I finished this book this afternoon and it was the perfect way to end my reading month and my full review will be posted in the next few days. I highly recommend this refreshing summer read, especially if you’re looking for something that will make you smile.

Out now. Published by Bonnier Zaffre.

You can find the full reviews for all of these books on this blog.

I struggled to pick a favourite this month with so many strong and entertaining books but The Woman Who Wanted More has to take the title for being so uplifting and refreshing, how it made me feel while reading and because I loved the author’s writing style.

Have you read any of the books in my list? Are they on your tbr list? Let me know below. And also tell me what you think of the new format.

Review: ‘We Were Killers Once’ by Becky Masterson ⭐⭐⭐⭐

In 1959, The Walker family murders shook Florida. As many as 587 people were considered suspects – but 60 years on the investigation remains unsolved.

Former FBI agent Brigid Quinn has been obsessed with the Walker case since she was a child. She believes it holds striking similarities to another high profile investigation of the time: the Clutter family murders, made infamous by Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. What if Perry Smith and Dick Hickock – executed for those murders – had killed again? And what if there was a third killer, who remained unknown?

Jerry Beaufort has just been released from prison after decades behind bars, and though he’d like to get on with living the rest of his life, he knows that somewhere there is a written record of the time he spent with two killers in 1959. But following the path of the letter will bring Jerry into contact with the last person he’ll see as a threat: Brigid Quinn.

From the author of Edgar Award finalist and CWA Gold Dagger shortlisted Rage Against the Dying comes this unputdownable and fascinating alternative look at one of America’s most famous crimes.

I have been fascinated with the Clutter murders ever since I read In Cold Blood over twenty years ago. So when I saw that this novel offered an alternative look at that case and one that was linked to it I couldn’t wait to read it.

Brigid Quinn was just six-years-old when she first heard of the Walker family murders when her police officer father and his work buddies were discussing the case as she sat on his knee. Since that night she has been haunted by the unsolved case. Sixty years later she is a former FBI agent living with her husband, Carlo, in Arizona unaware that the case that’s been her obsession is about to affect their lives in unexpected ways.

Jeremiah Beaufort is being released after thirty three years in prison. But before he can enjoy his new found freedom he has business to take care of. Business that has threatened to catch up to him for most of his life. As he follows the trail of a confession by an old acquaintance, he is led to Arizona and a former priest named Carlo DiForenza. What he doesn’t realise is that it has also led him to the man’s wife, Brigid, who is passionate about finding the same answers that he’s trying to bury forever.

The author has created a perfect amalgamation of true crime and crime fiction with this gripping and believable novel. I love both genres and loved how she brought them together. I admit that part of my enjoyment of this book came from my fascination with the Clutter murders. Both main characters are connected to the infamous case in different ways and I loved the alternative version that was explored in this novel.

One potential drawback of this book is that both of the main characters aren’t likeable. Beaufort is unlikable in the right ways; we aren’t supposed to like the bad guy. He sees himself as intelligent and being called stupid or evil are his pet hates. Despite all he’s done he thinks he can’t be a bad person and justifies most of his actions. His many years in prison have made him an alien in the modern world and I thought that this aspect was written particularly well and allowed for some much needed humour at times. Brigid’s character could have been likeable but I found her obsession and jealousy of her husband’s late wife tiresome and felt like instead of humanising her, it undermined her  intelligence and made her appear whiny. It is good for a character to be flawed but I felt this flaw went a little too far. I did like that she maintained an understandable suspicion of people and would do anything to protect those she loved. She clearly has a great gut instinct and isn’t afraid to follow it.

We Were Killers Once is an intriguing, absorbing thriller. I didn’t know when I requested it that it is book four in a series and didn’t feel like I missed anything reading it as a standalone. A mix of fascinating fiction with tantalising fact re-imagined and woven through the pages, I would recommend this book to anyone who loves crime fiction and true crime.

Thank you to NetGalley, Orion and Becky Masterson for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Publication Date: June 13th.

 

My Sentimental Book Stack

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I was tagged by @diaryofabookmum & @silverliningsandpages on bookstagram to create a #sentimentalstack and enjoyed doing it so much that I decided to post it on here too.

𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓓𝓸𝓵𝓵 𝓕𝓪𝓬𝓽𝓸𝓻𝔂 & 𝓕𝓻𝓪𝓷𝓷𝓲𝓮 𝓛𝓪𝓷𝓰𝓽𝓸𝓷 – these were the books from the first author event I went to since starting my bookstagram account. It was such a special moment that I’ll never forget.

𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓒𝓸𝓵𝓸𝓻 𝓟𝓾𝓻𝓹𝓵𝓮 – The first book my other half bought me for my first birthday together. He bought me purple themed gifts and didn’t know I’d always wanted to read this book

𝓜𝔂 𝓢𝓲𝓼𝓽𝓮𝓻’𝓼 𝓚𝓮𝓮𝓹𝓮𝓻 – the first book I read by one of my favourite authors Jodi Picoult.

𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓦𝓲𝔃𝓪𝓻𝓭 𝓸𝓯 𝓞𝔃 – A favourite childhood book and the start of a lifelong obsession.

𝓜𝓪𝓽𝓲𝓵𝓭𝓪 & 𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓑𝓕𝓖 – two of my favourite childhood books that evoke good memories.

𝓘𝓷 𝓒𝓸𝓵𝓭 𝓑𝓵𝓸𝓸𝓭 – I read this as part of my English A Level. It was the first true crime book I read, before this it was only magazine articles. It instantly struck a chord and cemented my interest in true crime.

𝓕𝓵𝓸𝔀𝓮𝓻𝓼 𝓲𝓷 𝓽𝓱𝓮 𝓐𝓽𝓽𝓲𝓬 – I first read this as a teen and have read it many times.

𝓐 𝓣𝓲𝓶𝓮 𝓣𝓸 𝓚𝓲𝓵𝓵 – my first John Grisham book. He’s been a favourite author of mine ever since.

What would be in your sentimental book stack? Comment below.

April Wrap Up

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It’s the end of another month and time for another wrap up. This month I read 13 books and got half way through another. Most of the books I’ve read this month have been thrillers and NetGalley e-ARCs but I enjoyed some variety with the two true crime books and Dear Mrs Bird, the latter of which was a welcome lighthearted read. So here’s what I read in April:

  1. ‘The Stranger Beside Me’ by Ann Rule ⭐⭐⭐⭐5 – This absorbing book tells the story of Ted Bundy, his crimes and how he was brought to justice. The author has a unique insight into the serial killer as the two worked together and were friends. Like many she at first didn’t believe her kind, charming friend could have committed such vile acts, but as the evidence mounted she had to resign herself to the truth of his guilt. I’ve read many true crime books in my life but reading this from the perspective of someone who is not only a friend of the killer but a crime reporter made this a unique book. It is a raw, chilling and interesting book that I would recommend to any fans of this genre. 
  2.  ‘A Good Enough Mother’ by Bev Thomas ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – I devoured this cryptic story of love, loss, family and secrets in just over 24 hours. Ruth is the director of a trauma therapy unit and is good at her job, appearing calm and collected to those around her. But unbeknownst to them she’s traumatised by the disappearance of her son, Tom, 18 months ago and is distracted by thoughts of him when she meets a new patient who reminds her of her son. Seeing a chance to redeem herself she goes against her instincts and treats him, setting into motion a chain of events with far reaching and devastating consequences.
  3. ‘The Island’ by Ragnar Jonasson ⭐⭐ – Unfortunately this book wasn’t for me. Though I found the synopsis gripping and sinister and it got off to a good start before quickly falling apart. The plotting felt disjointed, chapters were confusing and rushed, there was a lack of suspense and too may characters that had no real depth. I am in the minority with this book though, most readers have loved it, so I’d recommend checking out the synopsis and deciding for yourself.
  4. ‘Dear Mrs Bird’ by A. J. Pearce ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – I loved this book. Despite being set in wartime and having some somber moments it isn’t a heavy read. A story of a young woman who becomes a secret advice columnist, this was a joyous, witty and well-written book.
  5. ‘I Know Who You Are’ by Alice Feeney ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – Wow! This was my first read by this author and she absolutely blew me away. Mesmerising from the first page, I loved the way this book was written and devoured it within a day. I’ve read some fantastic thrillers and this definitely ranks as one of the best. 
  6. ‘The Whisper Man’ by Alex North ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – A boy who hears whispers from people no one else can see echoes the spine-chilling moment in The Sixth Sense when Haley Joel Osment’s character utters the immortal words “I see dead people” in this eerie, menacing, unsettling and sinister novel.  This book was full of twists and turns, some so jarring and unexpected I could only sit there in shock. Spectacularly written and one you don’t want to miss. Published June 13th
  7. ‘Dead Inside’ by Noelle Holten ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – 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. The unsettling subject matter made it a hard read in places and led me to actually be glad someone was taking out the trash in their own version of justice. Though predictable at times this was a compelling and provocative novel and a good start to a new crime series. Published May 31st
  8. ‘Last of the Magpies’ by Mark Edwards ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – The final installment in the Magpies trilogy ends things on a high note. The author has created a villain who, if she were real, would be up there with the best known psychopathic killers of our age. Reading reading the unfiltered inner-workings of her mind in this book was truly chilling. I couldn’t tear myself away and was in shock at the jaw-dropping revelations. Mark Edwards is fantastic at writing gripping psychological thrillers and I highly recommend this, the series, and any of his books.
  9. ‘Crushed’ by Kate Hamer ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – This unusual story is narrated by three different friends, from three very different backgrounds, as events unfold that will change each of their lives forever. Phoebe thinks murder and murder happened. She must not let her thoughts unravel as she doesn’t know who will end up hurt if she does. A beautifully written and fascinating story of friendship, love and murder. Published May 2nd 
  10. ‘Columbine’ by Dave Cullen ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5 – This book has been called the definitive account of the Columbine massacre, and it’s easy to see why. Ten years in the making this book is overall a well researched account of the events surrounding the murders, what motivated the killers, what was missed and the cover ups and myths that many still believe to this day. It is a captivating, hard-hitting book that I would recommend to anyone who loves true crime.
  11. ‘The Dangerous Kind’ by Deborah O’Connor ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – The 1 in 100. The “dangerous kind” of people. We have all met them: those who unnerve you as something just doesn’t sit right, the charmers who are another person behind closed doors, the ones who manipulate and control. Hindsight is 20/20 and it’s all too easy after crimes are committed to see the warning signs. But do we really pay attention to them before they go too far? Could we stop them? This was a riveting read that had me gripped from start to finish. The multifaceted story is one where you are never quite sure how the pieces fit together until the jarring revelations that come together in a gut-wrenching crescendo. Published May 16th
  12. ‘The Night Before’ by Wendy Walker ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – Twelve hours earlier she was…Hopeful. Excited. Safe. Now she’s gone.. This was an easy read but also a compulsive roller-coaster ride with a jaw-dropping finale and shocking twists. I loved that it was written in chapters that alternated from Laura being on the date to the search for her and that I had no idea what would happen next right until the last moment. A spectacular thriller by a talented author. Published May 14th
  13. ‘Little Girls Sleeping’ by Jennifer Chase – Kate Scott comes across a cold case involving a missing eight year-old-girl and decides to investigate. When she finds a row of makeshift graves containing young girls she is sure there’s a serial killer on the loose and is determined to stop them before it’s too late. Review and rating coming soon. Published May 31st 

So that’s what I read this month.  I think this month it’s hard to pick a book of the month as I enjoyed so many of them. My favourites have been ‘The Stranger Beside Me’, ‘Columbine’ and ‘I Know Who You Are’ but I think the one that stands out is Columbine, because it’s a case that’s always fascinated me and reading it over the 20th anniversary of the shootings felt particularly poignant.

Have you read any of these books or are they in your TBR lists? Comment below.

Before I finish this I want to talk about reviews. I am behind on reviews by about seven books as I’m finding that the energy to type them and eloquently convey what I want to say is proving difficult at the moment. Because of that I’ve been concentrating on the NetGalley reviews but I do hope to catch up this month as there’s some books I’ve loved that I haven’t had chance to post reviews for yet, including a few I read this month.

Thank you to NetGalley, HQ, Thomas & Mercer, St Martin’s Press, Bonnier Zaffre, Bookoture, Faber & Faber, Penguin UK, Michael Joseph, Harper Impulse and Killer Reads, for the chance to read and review these novels.