Shadow Girls by Carol Birch #bookreview

Manchester, 1960s. Sally, a cynical 15-year-old schoolgirl, is much too clever for her own good. When partnered with her best friend, Pamela – a mouthy girl who no-one else much likes – Sally finds herself unable to resist the temptation of rebellion. The pair play truant, explore forbidden areas of the old school and – their favourite – torment posh Sylvia Rose, with her pristine uniform and her beautiful voice that wins every singing prize.

One day, Sally ventures (unauthorised, of course) up to the greenhouse on the roof alone. Or at least she thinks she’s alone, until she sees Sylvia on the roof too. Sally hurries downstairs, afraid of Sylvia snitching, but Sylvia appears to be there as well.

Amidst the resurgence of ghost stories and superstition among the girls, a tragedy is about to occur, one that will send Sally more and more down an uncanny rabbit hole…

My thoughts on Shadow Girls

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This Little Family by Inès Bayard #BookReview

Life is going well for Marie. She and her husband, Laurent, live a comfortable life in a large apartment in the eleventh arrondissement in Paris. Laurent has a good job at a big law firm and Marie enjoys her work at a bank, where she feels appreciated by her clients and colleagues.

Comfortable and secure, and ready for family life, the couple begin to try for a baby. But not long afterwards Marie experiences a shocking encounter which threatens to derail their plans completely, and her world slowly starts to fall apart.

Less than two years later, the family’s apartment is cordoned off by police tape as forensic officers examine a horrific scene in the family apartment. Three bodies around a dining table. Marie, Laurent and their little toddler, Thomas, in his high chair. All three of them have been poisoned by Marie.

This Little Family is a dark and furiously compelling novel about women, power and control, from a bright young star in French literature.

My thoughts on This Little Family…

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Burncoat by Sarah Hall #bookreview

In the bedroom above her immense studio at Burntcoat, the celebrated sculptor Edith Harkness is making her final preparations. The symptoms are well known: her life will draw to an end in the coming days.

Downstairs, the studio is a crucible glowing with memories and desire. It was here, when the first lockdown came, that she brought Halit. The lover she barely knew. A presence from another culture. A doorway into a new and feverish world.

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One Bad Thing by M. K. Hill #bookreview

She thought she’d got away with it. She was wrong.

Hannah Godley is an agony aunt on a London radio show Queen of Hearts. She’s warm and empathetic; a good listener. Her catchphrase is: Be kind, always. But when a stranger phones in to tell a tragic story about her brother who killed himself after he was the victim of a terrible prank by two people, Hannah goes cold. Because she remembers Diane’s brother well. In fact, all these years later, he still haunts her dreams. All because of that one bad thing she did when she was young…

Is Diane just a sad, lonely woman looking for a friend, or does she know what Hannah did, and is looking for revenge? Because as Diane insinuates herself into her life and family, Hannah is going to discover that you can never truly escape that One Bad Thing you did – sooner or later, you’re going to have to pay the price…

My thoughts on One Bad Thing…

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Left for Dead by Joy Kluver #bookreview

The detective stared at the young woman lying on the bed. She almost looked peaceful, her face like porcelain. Despite everything she had been through, she was still beautiful.

When DI Bernie Noel hurries to Keira Howard’s hospital bedside, she knows that Keira has been lucky. Barely conscious and badly injured, at least she is alive. Convinced that Keira’s attack is the latest in a string of increasingly violent assaults on young women in the area, the next victim might not be so fortunate. So she vows to find the man who did this, and to stop him before anyone else gets hurt.

Spurring her team into action, she quickly hones in on a prime suspect. But then he suddenly dies while on police watch, and Bernie’s investigation goes into freefall. When Bernie’s superiors won’t let her take the case any further, her gut instinct tells her there’s much more to his death than meets the eye. If it was murder, who would want him dead, and why? So she determines to set out on her own to find out what happened.

But the closer Bernie comes to discovering the truth, the more she is putting her own life in danger. And with Keira finally strong enough to talk her about her attack, Bernie worries she may be at risk yet again. There’s someone out there who has killed to stay safe in the shadows; can Bernie stop another senseless death, and save Keira, before it’s too late?

My thoughts on Left for Dead…

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Come Closer by Sara Gran #BookReview

There was no reason to assume anything out of the ordinary was going on.

Strange noises in the apartment. Impulsive behaviour. Intense dreams.

It wasn’t like everything went wrong all at once. Shoplifting. Fighting. Blackouts. There must be a reasonable explanation for all this.

My thoughts on Come Closer

Come Closer is a re-release of a novella published in 2003. I love Sara Gran’s Claire DeWitt series but this one had passed me by until late last year. I asked for it for Christmas without looking at it in too much detail, only to realise it was a horror when I took off the wrapping paper! After romance, horror is probably my least favourite genre.

Thankfully this wasn’t the type of horror I try to avoid. Yes, there was a bit of gore but the horror here was more psychological, which works for me. And even then, there is a question about whether what is happening is real or whether it is really about the societal ‘horror’ when a young woman doesn’t play by the rules.

This is especially true when you think about when it was written, before mobiles were common, and long before anyone had even thought of the phrase #metoo. In 2003, there was an expectation that we would ‘lean in’ and to not do so was somehow to fail (has a lot really changed?)

And so maybe the voice Amanda is hearing is her own – telling her that there is more to life than staying home and waiting for her husband to turn up late for the perfectly cooked meal she prepared (after a hard day at work, of course – because the chores were still her responsibility).

It would make sense, and I can completely sympathise. In fact, I did. I felt for Amanda and her need to ‘fix’ herself. But I also wanted her to find the joy her demon was bringing her. That I felt so much in such a short time is testament to Gran and her ability to squeeze everything out of every word.

Highly recommend. 5/5 stars.

Emma

Find on Amazon UK

Find on Amazon US

Other review of books by Sarah Gran

Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway

The Infinite Blacktop

The Birthday Party by Wendy Dranfield #bookreview

Charlotte waves at her mother across the crowded lawn. Little red boots on, cowboy hat crooked over her blonde pigtails, she’s been looking forward to this party for weeks. Moments later, she disappears without a trace…

Kathy Hamilton drives away from her sister-in-law’s pristine-white suburban house in Maple Falls certain she’s left her daughter in safe hands. On the hottest day of the year, a birthday is the perfect excuse to gather friends, family and neighbors around the pool for a barbecue. But when she returns hours later to find her little girl has vanished, her world shatters.

Nobody laughing and drinking in the garden that day saw anything unusual.

Kathy’s eldest daughter is anxious and hardly eating. Is she sick with worry for her sister, or hiding a terrible secret?

The phone rings and rings, but why can’t Kathy get hold of the babysitter?

And is she imagining it, or when her husband rushed from work to join the search, was he wearing a different shirt to the one she saw him leave the house in that morning?

As the temperature rises, and long-buried secrets begin to surface, it’s clear that even the most perfect families keep devastating secrets. But in a town as small as this, is there anyone you can trust?

My thoughts on The Birthday Party

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Open House by Katie Sise #BookReview

A decade ago in upstate New York, art student Emma McCullough walked into the woods and was never seen again. It’s a mystery that still haunts her bucolic university town and her broken family, especially her sister, Haley, whose need for closure has become an obsession. But now, finally, the first piece of evidence in the vanishing has been found: Emma’s bracelet, lodged in a frozen piece of earth at the bottom of a gorge. For Emma’s three best college friends, for a beloved former teacher, and for Haley, the chilling trinket is more than a clue in a resurrected cold case. It’s a trigger.

Then a woman is attacked during an open house, and the connections between the two crimes, ten winters apart, begin to surface. So do the secrets that run as deep and dark as the currents in this quiet river town.

My thoughts on Open House…

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The Raptures by Jan Carson #bookreview

It is late June in Ballylack. Hannah Adger anticipates eight long weeks’ reprieve from school, but when her classmate Ross succumbs to a violent and mysterious illness, it marks the beginning of a summer like no other.

As others fall ill, questions about what – or who – is responsible pitch the village into conflict and fearful disarray. Hannah, ever the outsider, is haunted by guilt as she remains healthy while her friends are struck down. Frigthened and alone, she prays for help. What happens next will force her to question everything she believes.

Bursting with Carson’s trademark wit, profound empathy and soaring imagination, The Raptures explores how tragedy can unite a small community – and tear it apart. At its heart is the extraordinary resilience of one young girl. As the world crumbles around her, she must find the courage to be different in a place where conforming feels like the only option. 

My thoughts on The Raptures….

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Every Missing Thing by Martyn Ford #bookreview

One family. Two missing children. A lifetime of secrets.

Ten-year-old Ethan Clarke’s disappearance gripped the nation. Just as his parents are starting to piece together a life ‘after Ethan’, their world is ripped apart once more when their daughter, Robin, disappears in almost identical circumstances. They’ve lost two children within a decade…and now doubts about their innocence are setting in.

Detective Sam Maguire’s obsession with the first case cost him his own family, but he has unfinished business with the Clarkes. He is convinced that discovering what happened to Ethan holds the key to finding Robin. But what if the Clarkes know more than they’re letting on?

With the world watching eagerly, the clock is ticking for Sam as he embarks on an investigation that forces him to confront his own demons. To uncover the truth, he must follow a trail of devastating deception—but the truth always comes at a cost…

My thoughts on Every Missing Thing…

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