Tag: A Bit Murdery

Secrets of A Serial Killer by Rosie Walker

Zoe is a typical teenager – loves her mum, obvs, but wants the freedom to dress how she wants and go out with her mates, schoolwork can wait. Helen and Tony are divorced with Zoe living with Helen and going to her dad’s some weekends. It’s Tony’s turn to have Zoe but she’s quick to eat her evening meal, fiddle with her phone and run off out saying she’ll be back at 10.30pm – only she doesn’t come back. Zoe has met up with her boyfriend and gone to a pub to meet her friend Abby and Abby’s boyfriend, but Abby is being her usual controlling self and gets Zoe talking to a guy at the bar who plies them with drink.

Helen is shocked, stunned that her daughter is missing and that little seems to be happening with the police to get her back. She doesn’t yet realise that she holds a vital clue, but something is niggling her mind, like picking a scab, that someone knows something of Zoe’s kidnapping.

The chapters when Zoe tells her story are harrowing yet exciting. We all love the gory bits, and this book is quite graphic and gory in places. (There’s no nasty sex or rape scenes if that bothers you). Zoe is a likeable character and I felt sympathy and compassion when reading about her.

There is also an aside story of two young cousins, daring each other into doing scary things and visiting the nearby lunatic asylum which closed several years ago. Both stories run parallel and then intertwine to give a semi-conclusive ending.

Secrets of A Serial Killer is cleverly plotted and very well written. It flows well and we get a good back story to each character so we know their personality and understand their thoughts. I would definitely recommend this book and I look forward to more from Rosie Walker.

Epitaph by Anita Waller

I’ve only recently been introduced to Anita Waller’s books and this is just my second, but I’ve been bitten by her bug and will be reading more.

This one is written as a stand-alone novel but does have some of the same characters as in the Kat and Mouse series. These characters have also made me want to read that series starting at the beginning with Murder Undeniable.

Wendy and Doris have an unusual holiday planned but as family secrets start to surface, their plans go awry. A body is found in the river but it’s clear that death came before she hit the water. As more and more people are connected to the dead young woman, all with airtight alibis, Doris and Wendy work together to separate the wheat from the chaff and solve the murder.

Set in and around Sheffield and the Peak District, Epitaph is written with tenderness and wry northern humour. A cleverly plotted murder mystery with charming characters who will get under your skin.

Dead Inside by Noelle Holten

four-stars

 

Out of nowhere and starting with a bang, Dead Inside is Noelle Holten’s debut novel and begins a new police procedurals series.  Holten is a former Senior Probation Officer and has used her skills and experience in creating this gripping crime thriller.

DDead InsideC Maggie Jamieson has been reassigned from homicide to a new team dealing with domestic abuse.  More is actually learned of her move from homicide in the second book in the series, Dead Wrong, after convicting “The Chopper” of several murders. Lucy Sherwood works for the probation services and works closely with the police, especially when the violent men Lucy is working with start to pile up in the morgue.  There are quite a lot of characters, which throws in red herrings for who-dun-it, but all play a necessary role.

Dead Inside is a quick read and so compelling that I immediately followed on with book two – which is even better!

 

 

 

 

The Teacher by Katerina Diamond

Five Stars 1

I first read The Teacher shortly after it first came out in March 2016 and it was so remiss of me not to review this amazing debut at the time. The plot and writing is superb and I’ve been a fan of Diamond’s work ever since. I recently picked up the audio version from my library just to revisit the beginning of the Miles/Grey series, and to see if their ‘voice’ and intonation was as I imagine.

The Teacher

Set in the Cathedral city of Exeter, a spate of gruesome, ritual style murders has the city’s constabulary running round in circles. We are introduced to DS Adrian Miles and DS Imogen Grey, how they were placed together as partners and a little of their complex personal lives which continues through the series. Miles made an error in a past case which has him in the dog house with his bosses, but Miles knows personal details which he sees as an insight to the serial murders and begs to be back on the case.

We meet Abigail and Parker, both flawed and complex characters who are natural loners but actually manage to get on with each other. There are some amazing characters and descriptions in this book, we all have insecurities, shyness and complexities which are beautifully choreographed into these characters.

Each of the Miles/Grey books in the series can be read alone and you will get a full story with a satisfying conclusion, but to get the best from the series, you need to read them in order starting with The Teacher.

 

She Did It by Mel Sherratt

4 and half 1

 

Mel Sherratt is a crime, police procedurals and psychological suspense writer, and if you’ve not read any of hers before, She Did It is a great stand-alone one to start with.

She Did It

The two main protagonists, Tamara and Ester, are both liars and have their own agenda but for different reasons. Tamara runs a publicity business but is broke, lonely and needs to prove herself to her parents. Ester is aggressive, devious, a thief and murderer and Tamara wants to be best friends. The two women are poles apart in class and wealth but while the two rub along well together, there’s no denying that they each know their place. There’s never a dull moment following Ester wearing wigs and disguises, as she picks pockets to fund herself. But then there’s the small question of a gun and dead body.

This is an absolutely riveting read, one I couldn’t put down. It felt special, like the first time I read a Martina Cole.

 

 

 

His And Hers by Alice Feeney

Five Stars 1

 

His and Hers

Alice Feeney never fails to give a good depth crime thriller with tension and suspense. In this one, we get His, DCI Jack Harper, and Her, TV presenter Anna Andrews, perspective of a series of murders centred around a village from their past.

We quickly learn that Jack and Anna used to be married and that the first murder victim is known to both DCI Jack Harper and Anna Andrews. After murders two and three it looks like Anna’s circle of school friends are being targeted. It’s also clear that the DCI Jack Harper is being framed, or at least he thinks so.

I found this story to be utterly gripping, full of twists and at any one time I could fit any of the characters into being the murderer.  I very much recommend this and all other novels by Alice Feeney.

 

Liars by Anita Waller & Patricia Dixon

4 and half 1

 

Liars

Some dual writer partnerships work really well – husband and wife team Nicci French, Greer Hendricks & Sara Pekkanen – and this Waller-Dixon is seamless and flows beautifully. I know Patricia Dixon‘s writing very well but have only read one of Anita Waller‘s books, both are accomplished writers in their own right, and I guessed quite early on who wrote which character.

Wendy and Nell have been friends since primary school and know each others deepest secrets.

Nell travels Europe for work and they write to each other constantly, that is until and Wendy marries a man who Nell knows is a creep and a womaniser and Wendy’s letters become sparse and formulaic. When Nell returns to Sheffield, Wendy’s husband is unexpectedly nice to her until she’s due to fly back to France and then shows his true colours when he brutally attacks her, both verbally and physically.

There is suspense, intrigue, love and friendship, as well as the odd murder or two. The mix of psychological/crime writer with romantic suspense writer works really well to give softness and reality to quite nasty, sometimes vicious, characters and situations. Very much recommended.

 

34 Days by Anita Waller

4 and half 1

 

34 Days

Anna is in an unhappy marriage. Ray is not a kind person, and now that her children are grown up she decides to take back control of her life. On the day of her 35th wedding anniversary, she packs her bags and leaves her home and Lincoln for good.  Ray is furious but believes she will go back to him after a few days but, as she finds herself a modern apartment in a new town, she starts to feel safe and joyously elated. Then Jenny, her daughter-in-law, drops two bombshells which rocks Anna to her core.

This is a serial killer thriller like no other. I’ve never before read such an impacting and unique storyline – family secrets past and present, murder to hide murder – and I rushed through the book needing to know whether Anna and Jenny’s secret, their lives, were safe.

Anita Waller is a fabulous writer. She creates friendly, believable characters and puts them in monstrous situations. This is the first of her books I’ve read, but now I’ve discovered her I have several earmarked for the top of my reading mountain.

Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

4 and half 1

 

Beautiful Bad is truly one of the most psychological of psychological thrillers. The story builds and builds, goes back in time several years from the day of the killing, returns to the day of the killing, goes back a few weeks before the day of the killing, and all this back story really intensifies the suspense.

Beautiful Bad K

The book starts with the police entering the house after a distressing call to 911. There is so much blood inside that there has to be a body – we don’t know who is dead until close to the end of the book, it is just referred to as ‘the killing’. We are taken back to when Jo and Maddie were best friends and both had a love of eastern bloc countries, their languages and the cultures. Jo lives in Macedonia and Maddie lives in Bulgaria but they get together, often in dangerous travelling situations, as often as they can. The two girls meet a group of men, including Ian, who they party and drink with and this is when the friendship starts to go awry.

Ian is working in security for army officers, escorting individuals and companies in war torn areas of the middle east and Africa. He is clearly suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, drinking astronomical amounts of vodka and doesn’t seek professional help. Ian and Jo have some history, possibly a relationship, when Maddie isn’t around, and later when Maddie and Ian are married, she still doesn’t know why Ian and Jo hate each other so much.

The past story meets with present time and all secrets are laid out to be shouted about. I thought the description of their lives in the eastern bloc countries was intense and fascinating. The tension and suspense was high throughout and I loved the twisted turnaround ending.

 

This Is Gomorrah by Tom Chatfield

Four Stars

This is not my usual kind of story at all but the blurb of the book sounded so intriguing, I just had to read it. Just to give you a slight idea of the Dark Web – it is over 500 times bigger than the web as most of us know it and is 99% of the internet you can’t Google. It’s not illegal to access and you can’t ‘accidentally’ find yourself in there.

This Is Gomorrah 1

Azi is a hacker working on the Dark Web in his garden shed. He sees himself as mostly a good guy hacker, he doesn’t exploit companies or hold their data to ransom but he’s capable of severe meddling. After seeing some serious terrorist related information passed to him by an internet ‘friend’ he is within minutes visited by unknown people who persuade him to arrange to meet his friend Munira, and leave the country. For a while in the book I was unsure who were the good guys and who were bad, so I just kept reading with an open mind and accepted it as told until it more fully unfolded. I don’t want to say more about the actual story, but I did find it quite gripping, also amazing, and wondered where the story would end up.

It has a dual storyline with Azi and Munira in the main but also Kabir in Syria trying to make his escape. It also occasionally goes back to Azi’s childhood when he first started his passion for computers. I’ve been around since “dial up” using a 3.1 machine, in fact before then I used a Vic 20 without internet access, so sympathised with Azi in his frustrating early days – kids today don’t know how good they’ve got it.

This Is Gomorrah is well worth a read and think it might suit men and those with computer and internet knowledge more than others – though I enjoyed it so give it a go. It’s well written and Tom Chatfield has certainly got a technological, streetwise and astute mind.

 

 

Thin Air by Lisa Gray


Four Stars

 

Jessica Shaw is a private investigator. She specialises in missing persons and while trawling through online pictures of various missing people wondering which job to take up next, she receives an email with a picture of a three year old with the message ‘your next job’. Jessica recognises the little girl as herself, and with a little bit of investigation realises that she was once that missing person.

Thin Air

The investigation which she obviously has to take up, makes her feel her whole life was a lie and she just has to find out what happened to her murdered mother, who the man was who brought her up, and who her real father is. Someone from the past wants to keep things in the past, and as Jessica faces things head on she unwittingly puts her life in danger.

This is a very intriguing storyline – not knowing you’re a missing person – and it is cleverly written with a dual story of a very brutal murder of a young student. The two stories seem to be separate, and so many years apart, but all is revealed at the end.

 

 

 

Sleep by C.L. Taylor

4 and half 1

C.L. Taylor never fails to grip you from the very first pages.  

Sleep

The opening chapter is a killer! Then, Anna is driving three work colleagues back to London in atrocious weather, just following the rear lights of the car in front because conditions are so poor. One of them feels ill and wants to open one of the back windows. This knocks Anna’s concentration and before she realises what’s happening, the car spins out of control and rolls. On waking in hospital, Anna comes to realise that two of her passengers are dead and one has serious life changing injuries. As Anna recovers, she has the feeling that she’s being watched and followed. Scared, having just broken up with her boyfriend and needing a new start in life where nobody knows who she is, Anna takes a job as a hotel receptionist on the remote Scottish island of Rum. The holidaymakers are flaky and flawed and as a storm comes in, Anna realises that whoever was following her in London is still following her now.

Sleep started off like her novels usually do – normal, believable characters but in unusually tense situations – but once it got going, Anna is put in an isolated situation with a new group of characters. It reminded me very much of an Agatha Christie style whodunnit with red herrings throughout and only a limited number of people out to get Anna.

C.L. Taylor is brilliant at creating suspense, that nail-biting, seat-of-your-pants thriller that keeps you turning pages. I’d recommend any of her books.

Cally Taylor

 

 

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The Feud by Amanda James

4 and half 1

 

Chapter One opens with Kenver Penhallow and his family escaping from their home during the night which is well ablaze. Kenver and Wenna do a quick head count of their children and realise that little Jago is missing, last seen in the barn looking after a sick puppy. The barn is a pile of charred wood and the little boy is perished. The language in this chapter is old Cornish, told of the olden days, of a time 200 years ago when the Feud began.

The Feud

Matt Trevelyar moves to St Agnes in Cornwall after giving up teaching in London following the sad death of his wife. Within days, he receives messages in no uncertain terms that he is not welcome and that he should return to London. Not easily put off, Matt takes up his teaching position in the local school and starts to make enquiries with the locals about who might want him to leave. He learns of a feud between two families, one of which he is a descendent.

The characters are a delight to read about and are realistic for small village life. Lavender is typical artist-hippy, and when Matt and Lavender first meet it’s obvious that love will blossom – but how do they overcome the fact that he is a Trevelyar and she is a Penhallow.

This starts out as a vicious crime but is ultimately a romantic suspense novel. Amanda James is a talented writer and writes beautifully about her beloved Cornwall.

 

Amanda James

 

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Codename Villanelle: The Basis For Killing Eve

4 and half 1

 

When a book goes to screen I always try to read the book before it appears at the cinema or TV. I did this one the other way round, and I’m so pleased I did. After watching the Killing Eve series, I just had to read the book – Villanelle was under my skin. After reading a few book reviews, I realised that it wasn’t liked by all but I felt that watching the series first gave a head start on Villanelle’s character.

Codename Villanelle

With visual characters already in my head, I quickly got into the story, slightly different from the TV series, and immediately loved Oxana (later becoming Villanelle) and Konstantin. The book does flip about and has a rushed, almost the book in a draft form feel about it, but this staccato, slightly detached writing style really fits with Villanelle’s character. She is seriously flawed, crazy and uncontrollable at times and her lack of emotion makes her a perfect assassin.

Eve is a character who seems to be always running on catch-up. She never makes dinner with her husband even when they have guests round. She’s uncomfortable in fashion and barely has time to do her hair or apply make-up – she knows she should make more of an effort but it just doesn’t seem to work for her. The final straw is when she’s kicked off her job of finding the mystery female assassin who killed on her watch. She knows she’s close and just has to find this cold killer.

Villanelle has certainly got under my skin and I now have to read book two before it hits the screen.

 

Villanelle

Death’s Dark Veil by Patricia Dixon

Five Stars

Death’s Dark Veil opens with someone on their death-bed being taunted and observed by ghostly figures. She knows who they are and knows they have come to escort her to the next world, but their descriptions are terrifying and I wondered if she could ever rest in peace.

The firstDeath's Dark Veil chapters introduce two very different characters, Georgie and Ivy, and these two young girls create the theatre for a very dark and dangerous show. Each has a tragic start to their adult lives but grow into strong and capable young women. We follow them individually to the time their lives collide at Tenley House, the Gothic towering home of first Daphne and Kenneth, then Georgie and Kenneth, as well as a dreadful old bat mother-in-law, Phyllis. Evil is all around, too many deaths for comfort (and coincidence), so who is behind these suspicious deaths?

Well written in a dark and menacing way with a good amount of humour to keep things light – the nick-name for curmudgeonly Phyllis, (Syphilis) had me howling.  There are gasp out loud moments at tragedies and deaths, and there is a great twist at the end.  I certainly didn’t guess the outcome and I loved the ending.

 

Patricia Dixon

 

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The Promise by Katerina Diamond

Five Stars

If you’ve been following Katerina Diamond’s Grey and Miles series you certainly won’t be disappointed in The Promise, fourth in the series. If you haven’t read any of the earlier books in the series it’s best to start with The Teacher, but The Promise works well as a complete story in itself.

In the opening chapters a young woman, Erica Lawson, is found strangled, sexually assaulted and bleached clean; then it happens again to another woman. When a third body is discovered, Grey and Miles know they’ve got a serial killer on their hands.

The Promise

The book is written in three interweaving parts:

– A back story, almost in diary form, of a young woman first meeting her boyfriend who becomes very abusive. This part of the story, at first, doesn’t seem to have much relevance to the main story but later on, it is the key main part.

– The return from America of Connor and his abusive father. This kid is such a mixed up, angry and impassioned character. Diamond writes so competently about the mental complexities of teenage children.

– Present day in the busy run up to Christmas, with Imogen Grey and Adrian Miles desperately trying to stop further murders which they know will take place if they don’t catch this serial killer. These two have come a long way since The Teacher in their own individual relationships as well as their working partnership.

There’s never a dull moment, hardly a chapter end you want to stop at even to go to bed. Katerina Diamond has fast become my favourite crime writer and I just know I will love every book she writes.

KD

 

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The Imogen Grey & Adrian Miles series, in order (so far.)

 

 

 

 

Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris

4 and half 1

 

I’ve read each of B.A. Paris’ books, starting with the amazing Behind Closed Doors, and feel that I know her style and will never be disappointed. Bring Me Back is no exception and from the very beginning I was sucked into the night when Finn and Layla pulled in at a lay-by in France, and when Finn returned to the car Layla was gone. Finn was suspected of her murder but without a body he was allowed to return to England.

Bring Me Back

Twelve years later he is about to marry Ellen, Layla’s sister, when there are sightings of the presumed dead Layla around the town. Finn becomes more freaked out when Russian dolls are left by his house and car which only has meaning between Finn, Ellen and Layla.

B.A. Paris creates a level of suspense which continues throughout the book. Just as you think one part is solved, another unknown pops up. I changed my mind so many times during the book of what happened to Layla and though that felt annoying at the time, it smacks of a good plot.

 

 

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Four Stars

This is an old fashioned who-dun-it style crime story but with a fantasy twist. No year is mentioned but I feel it is set around 1900 – give or take a decade or two.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Evelyn Hardcastle is murdered each evening for seven days. Aiden Bishop has the task of solving the crime from the perspective of eight guests at the celebratory party at Blackheath before he can leave the house. Each morning he wakes in the body of a different guest and re-lives the same day using the skills of the ‘host’ body to his advantage. Some host bodies seem, at first, to be of little use in solving the murder but each has something, even if it’s only being in the right place or hearing the right conversation, to find who did it.

This book is quite unique and requires a high level of concentration to remember what has already been learned and to keep up with new perspectives of repeated events.  It’s very well written and the author must have an amazingly well organised mind to create such a faultless and intricate plot as this one.

 

Now You See by Max Manning

4 and half 1

 

Max Manning has created a modern serial killer who likes to upload photos of his victims moments before and after their deaths. He is always one step ahead of the police and taunts them with his messages and following on Twitter.

Now You See

Chief Inspector Dan Fenton is in charge of the investigation but things become personal when his daughter’s nanny is targeted by the killer.

Blake’s ex-girlfriend is the first to be murdered and is a prime suspect for no reason other than being the ex-boyfriend. When Fenton finds himself thrown off the case, he and Blake set out to catch the killer.

This is quite a clever concept, well written, very fast paced and kept me guessing to the end who the killer was.

The Fear by C.L. Taylor

Five Stars

This is the shocking and chilling story of Lou (Louise) who was taken to France by an older man who she thought of as her boyfriend when she was just fourteen. It’s told over two timelines, when Lou was fourteen, and eighteen years later when she wants to confront the man who took advantage of her.

The Fear by C.L. Taylor

Louise as an adult is still fragile and has so many hang-ups from what happened in her past that she can’t maintain a relationship as an adult. When she suspects that another girl is being groomed by Mike, Lou has to step in to try and stop him. Things go way more crazy than she ever anticipated when Mike becomes locked in a cage! I don’t want to give any more of the story away, but take it from me, this gets seriously gripping and just when you think the end is sorted there’s another knock out twist.

C.L. Taylor has a natural talent for suspense and maintaining a good pace. She knows how to pull the reader in and leave them gasping for more at the end of each chapter and always ends with a brilliant twist.

 

 

Cally Taylor

 

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The Angel by Katerina Diamond

five_stars

This is an absolutely stunning book, a great story perfectly executed.  It was one of the few books that I had to have a day to get over, I just couldn’t start another book because it played around my head for hours.

We start with a prologue from back in 1986 and I tried to keep all this in mind whilst reading the rest of the book knowing that there would be some relevance later.  When I finished the book, I totally got it but had to come back and re-read the prologue, just to reassure myself.

The Angel

Chapter 1 starts right up to date in 2017 with the opening line Gabriel Webb was a killer.  He didn’t know it yet, but before the day was out he would know what it felt like to take someone’s life. I was intrigued from the start and just had to know who had died, how and why Gabriel would take someone’s life.

Gabriel is a complex character, in fact all the characters are flawed and complex but this makes for excellent reading.  He and his girlfriend, Emma, are both Goths, they dress for themselves and are misfits in society, but underneath all the black trousers, chains and face paint are two loving and caring people.  As the first line indicated, by the end of the day Gabriel was sitting in a police cell being questioned about a body.

The two detectives, Imogen Grey and Adrian Miles, could solve this case quickly but Imogen has a nagging feeling and a soft spot for Gabriel, and too many coincidences play on Adrian’s mind, that they have to dig deeper. They have their work cut out to solve the murder and obvious mystery surrounding it, the case is not at all straightforward and it really takes its toll on both of them, particularly memories coming to the surface for Imogen. The murder is not simply about one person killing another, it’s so multi-faceted, wheels within wheels that in reality, it’s doubtful the case would really be solved.

The chapters mostly run in turn with Gabriel’s life and then the two detectives. I couldn’t wait to get back to Gabriel’s chapters to find out how he was surviving in the young offenders’ detention centre. He had such a hard and violent time and was totally unprepared for it – a real eye opener.

I loved all the characters, Imogen and Gabriel particularly, and they were so well constructed that they felt like real people, someone I might know.

This is the first book I’ve read by Katerina Diamond and although this one is book 3 in the detective series it is a complete story and can be read as a stand alone novel. I would totally recommend starting with book 1, The Teacher, and move on to book 2, The Secret – I’ve already loaded them onto my Kindle ready to start over again.

KD

 

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The series so far (in order)

The TeacherThe SecretThe Angel

 

 

 

 

 

Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda

Four Stars

This is quite a slow burner of a book, so much so that I felt I didn’t want to carry on with it when I was about 25 – 30% of the way through – but I’m so glad I did.

Best Day Ever

The scene is being set during the first three quarters of the book – yes, that’s a lot of scene setting but it is worth the wait to get a very satisfying ending. Paul is a narcissistic psycho with an ego the size of Greenland. He is a big ‘I am’ and I quickly came to dislike him. He brags about what a lovely little wifey he has got and what beautiful little boys he has, when in fact, his children are scared of him and his wife has no life because he’s such a control freak and has isolated her from all her friends and family. The major part of the book is a car ride from their marital home to their lakeside second home where he is planning ‘the best day ever’ for his lovely wife, Mia. Paul reflects over parts of his life during that car ride giving the reader an insight into his childhood and relationships with family and past girlfriends. There are lots of little hints in the narrative, such as – “I never did get the blood stain off the band” (watch band) to tease us into thinking he did something really bad in the past.

The final quarter or so of the book becomes tense and fast paced. Things start to unravel so we see the true Paul and the strong Mia emerge. I felt a bit disappointed with the ending as far as Paul is concerned (I wanted nasty things to happen to him,) but after reading the author’s notes at the back of the book, there’s a hint of the possibility of a second book with Paul’s character.

Kaira Rouda

 

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Don’t Wake Up by Liz Lawler

four-and-a-half-stars

From the very first words of this excellent debut by Liz Lawler, we feel the chilling horror of Alex’s realisation of what’s happening to her. She slowly wakes to the sounds of beeps and metal instruments but is still in the grips of anaesthesia to be clear what’s being done to her. She’s an emergency room doctor at the hospital and is comforted by the familiar sounds. She’s thinking hard – what can have happened to her, has she been in an accident? As she looks down, she sees that she has a green operating gown on, her thighs are up and calves in stirrups, her arms are velcroed down and her head in blocks with a neck collar, all holding her still.

Don't Wake Up

Then the only person in the room with her, a doctor, tells her there’s nothing wrong with her. Alex is seething at her treatment, then the doctor tells her to shut up or her lips will be stapled together. Terror runs through her veins, this obviously isn’t a real doctor and she’s being held on an operating table in a compromising position at the mercy of this person. From here on, the story becomes a real page turner. It becomes very clear in the first few chapters that Dr Alex Taylor isn’t believed. She claims she was kidnapped and possibly raped, but all examinations of her show nothing has happened to her body. She is so frustrated by her situation – she knows this was real, it really happened to her but no one will accept it as true.


When another young woman turns up at the emergency room in strange circumstances, and then yet another close to dead actually in Alex’s parking space outside her home, things really start hotting up. What is the connection? Have they got similarities with Alex’s unexplainable experience?

Alex’s personal life is pulled apart, her past, her relationships and her mental state. The characters are well drawn and the hospital emergency room and procedures feels very real. I just felt that the story was a little bit too far fetched – all the pieces fell in front of Alex, but it does make a very good fast paced read, perfect for lovers of chilling thrillers and suspense.

 

The Friend Request by Laura Marshall

four-and-a-half-stars

Remember the peer pressure at school? You were a nice person really, but those popular girls you so wanted to impress and be part of, they made you say and do things you didn’t want to do; do things you knew you shouldn’t do. That’s just how Louise feels in trying to be best friends with gorgeous and popular Sophie. Then Maria, the new girl at school who quickly became Louise’s best friend, she disappears after a party, falls off a cliff into the sea. No body was ever washed up or found.

Friend Request

Twenty-six years later, Louise gets a friend request into her Facebook account from Maria Weston, coinciding with a school reunion in a couple of weeks time. From chapter 2 we go back to 1989 when the group of teenagers were at school and what started as mild bullying and peer pressure started. The two timelines neatly explore the girls personalities and the back timeline answers questions and gives explanations of the present timeline.

I found much of the book to be quite gripping. The question on both the characters and the readers mind continues through to almost the end of the book – is Maria Weston alive and has she come back to seek revenge? There are lots of tense moments, never any dull ones, and the telling of the story, the plot, is very well thought out and realistic. I can hardly believe that Friend Request is Laura Marshall’s debut novel, she reads like a seasoned author. I can only expect that future works will be even better.

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Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

five_stars

This is an amazingly tense and impacting story. It’s set over just a three hour timeline with very few characters, in fact, most of the book is mother and four year old son, Joan and Lincoln.

Fierce KingdomVery briefly so as not to give too much of the plot away, Joan and her son Lincoln are packing up to leave the zoo close to closing time. Lincoln doesn’t want the zoo trip to finish and Joan is having a tussle getting him to put a spurt on before the zoo gates are locked for the night. As they get close to the gates, it becomes clear to Joan that the cracking noises she’s been hearing are gun shots and around the exit path are bodies laid dead. Thinking quickly, Joan back tracks with Lincoln to try to hide from the gunman/men. I will say no more of the story, you really need to read this for yourself.

Every moment with Joan and Lincoln is tense and gripping. Imagine trying to keep a four year old quiet and occupied for goodness knows how long the siege will last. Joan doesn’t want to frighten Lincoln with the reality of what’s happening, that could lead to noise and tears, but she needs to instill in him the seriousness of their situation to make him obey her instructions.


The chapters are set into time frames starting at 4.55pm when Joan is coaxing Lincoln to get ready to leave the zoo which closes at 5.30pm, through to the nail-biting concluding climax at 8.05pm. There are some lovely moments of tender conversation between mother and son and also times of great frustration with such a young child needing the toilet, food and non-stop chatter.

This really is one of the most intensely riveting books I’ve ever read. I found it difficult to put down for a meal and at bedtime, and my thoughts stayed with the siege at the zoo for days afterwards. It’s certainly a book to be recommended and an author to watch out for.

Gin Phillips

 

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One Of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus

four-and-a-half-stars

This is a great mystery/crime story aimed at young adults but can be enjoyed by anyone from teens upwards.  I can just remember my teens and I often read Young Adult, I love the fresh originality with a touch of fantasy after some of the more heavy going women’s fiction I read, although this one doesn’t have the fantasy element.  What I did have a little ‘difficulty’ or issue with, was the very American-ness of the writing – lots of ‘dudes’, characters who are ‘pissed’ without a drop of alcohol being consumed, and the young dude’s non-English names (Cooper, Ashton, Addy, TJ.) – if you can get passed that, then the story is quite original and rather gripping.

One Of Us Is Lying

The opening chapters find five teenagers getting detention at a privileged school, Bayview High.  Three are unlikely to step out of line but one, Nate, is often found in detention.  The three unlikelies rightly feel annoyed that they are suffering a detention because they all think that mobile phones (cells), which aren’t allowed in class, were planted on them.  The fifth, well, he ends up dead.  With only those four present in the room this is a really intense twisty turny who-dun-it style story.  For most of the book I honestly couldn’t make up my mind who the culprit was, then it started to dawn on me. I’m not usually very good at guessing endings to books and whether you do or don’t guess correctly is of little relevance.  It’s the journey to the end which is important and this was one very clever telling of quite an original story.

The chapters take turns with the characters and we get to know and love each of them well.  The characters are well developed and each have their complexities.  There’s never a stuttering moment and can honestly say that my interest was kept at a high level all the way through.  Karen McManus has created an amazing debut and I think One of Us Is Lying will be loved and talked about by teenage readers.

Karen McManus

 

 

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Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

Five Stars

This is one of those books I’ll be telling all my friends about. It is totally gripping, keeps you guessing and has an unexpected twist at the end.

I was initially drawn to this book by its tagline – I am in a coma, my husband doesn’t love me any more, sometimes I lie.  I love stories with lies and deceit, they always have strong psychological turmoil between the characters.

Sometimes I Lie

The story is written over three timelines – Now, whilst Amber is in a coma – Then, the days leading up to Amber’s accident – and Before, written as diary entries from 1991.  The diary entries give a deeper background of the lead characters, how their minds work and why they have become disturbed complex people.  Amber writes as much as she can think about in her diary as a child but if she can’t express herself she writes three facts for the day. In the present, while Amber is in a coma, she carries on with this three facts style in her mind and that’s how we get the tagline on the book cover.

The story becomes very complex, not confusing or muddled but you do need to pay attention, and much of the scary part is while Amber is in her coma and she hears everything around her. She can’t yet remember what happened to her but she suspects her husband has something to do with her accident, she doesn’t trust him and feels frightened when he visits.  She’s not convinced Claire, her sister, has her best interests at heart and so desperately needs to remember what’s happened to her.  There are some sinister characters, her ex-boyfriend who has access to her as he works in the hospital, and a little girl who Amber doesn’t think is real keeps paying her mind a visit.  Who is Jo? Why is it so important to see Madeleine off the radio show that Amber works on? and what about the recognition of Madeleine’s house?  Such a lot keeps your mind flicking back and forth wondering what the relevance is of a new piece of the story.

As psychological thrillers go, this is one of the best I’ve read.  Some of the phrases used are so very eloquent and really describe a situation well, paints a picture with words. This is one I will certainly recommend and look forward to more by Alice Feeney.

Alice Feeney

 

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The Gift by Louise Jensen

Four Stars

The gift of life. A heart donated to a dying young woman, Jenna, gives her her life back. But what about where the heart came from, someone had to die to be able to donate it, and what about their family.

The Gift

“Oh Jenna. That’s completely unethical. How did you trace them? I’m going to have to report this, you know” “You know it isn’t encouraged . . . it can be incredibly distressing for everyone”

With the internet and social media it is very easy to find almost every accident and death and trace who they were and where they are from. Jenna has been experiencing dreams and visions which seem so very real to her, although they have actually happened. Some of the visions are a bit scary and she feels that her donor, Callie, was being chased, was in danger and that the accident she was killed in might not have been an accident.

There’s a lot of speculation of whether cells have memory and Louise Jensen has given us a good fictional story based on Jenna’s donated heart having memory of its life when it belonged to Callie. There are some amazing stories out there – just Google it – and this is a clever concept to use to write about the unfolding of a crime.

Louise Jensen

 

 

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the sisterThe Giftthe surrogate

 

 

The Stepmother by Claire Seeber

4 and half 1

 

I really enjoyed this book and found I’d devoured half before I realised what time it was. It’s written in a very easy flowing way with short sharp chapters switching between Jeannie and her sister Marlena.  The characters are well developed, quite complex because of their background and upbringing, and likeable to the reader because we can easily relate to them.

If you’ve been a step-mother, or indeed a step-daughter, you may be able to relate to the anxious first few meetings.  If those meetings don’t go well and you then throw into the pot that the child/children are teenagers, their father is the apple of their eye and their mother is glamorous and jealous, well, scary things can happen and in this book they really do.  I am a step-mother to a boy and girl and I know I tried too hard to make them like me, so I can fully relate to Jeannie’s over the top efforts with Scarlett and Luke. Thankfully mine didn’t terrorise me into submission!

Very loosely, the story is set around Jeannie and Matthew meeting and marrying in quick succession. Matthew is a wealthy businessman with teenage twins and an ex-wife you wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of.  Jeannie comes from a complex and broken background, has hardly had any serious relationships and finds herself swept off her feet by Matthew who is probably on the rebound.  Jeannie moves into Matthew’s former matrimonial home and when his children visit she finds she is on edge and feels a bit of an outsider in her own home.  The narrator of the story keeps referring to Snow White and this does feel very much like a grown up version of the old fairytale.

This is a very readable dark and sinister fairytale of sorts, complete with locked rooms, dead birds, secrets and wicked women.  I enjoyed it very much and will certainly read more by Claire Seeber.

Claire Seeber

 

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Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

Five Stars

This debut by B A Paris is a stunning psychological thriller at it’s very best. It felt so simple and easy to read that I devoured it in great chunks. I feel that the simplicity comes from there being very few characters. Grace and Jack are at the fore the whole way through with Millie, Grace’s sister, not far behind.

Behind Closed Doors

Simply told, yet Jack is such a complex character, a true unbalanced psychopath. He has so charmingly wooed and courted Grace and is the apple of Millie’s eye. Until the moment of marriage when BANG! the real Jack makes his debut. He is cruel and manipulative, his remarks are cutting, he is totally sadistic and spiteful. What he might do next had me on the edge of my seat. It’s creepy and subtly dark and the tension becomes unbearable.

The story is set over two very close timelines – present time, and the time of Grace and Jack’s marriage just a few months earlier. The timelines come closer together the further we read through the book until the final gripping chapters are in present time giving a very taut and satisfying finale.

You need to read this. I really don’t want to give any clues of the plot away but you will need to set time aside to read as this is not a pick-it-up-put-it-down sort of book. I haven’t read one as good as this little gem for a while.