Little Liar by Lisa Ballantyne

Little Liar Lisa BallantyneNick Dean loves his family.  He has gorgeous wife and two beautiful young children.  Life couldn’t be better – until it couldn’t get any worse.  An acting coach who specialises in working with teenagers, one of his students has accused him of abuse.  And everyone believes her, even – eventually – his wife.  Nick swears he’s innocent but it seems that, despite there being no evidence, he is considered guilty until proved innocent.

Angela, Nick’s accuser, loves her family too, they just don’t make her happy.  Her parents are divorced and she is struggling to cope with the break up.  She’s eating too much and unhappy with how she looks.  Kids at school pick on her and she reacts by striking out.  The police look at her and see a vulnerable child very much at risk of being abused.  She is believed immediately, as she should be, but then – after her first statement – refused to say more.

Whistle in the Dark by Emma Healey

Whistle in the Dark Emma HealeyElizabeth is Missing was one of my favourite books of recent years.  I thought it was a clever story with an interesting protagonist.  Something I hadn’t read before.  I had hoped for the same with Whistle In The Dark and, in many ways, I got that.

This is the story of Jen, mother to Lana, a fifteen year old who goes missing for four days only to turn up battered and bruised and refusing to tell anyone what happened to her.  Or at least Jen think’s Lana is refusing.  Lana herself says that she can’t remember anything.

The Feather Thief by Kirk W. Johnson

The Feather ThiefNon-fiction books are a wonderful way to learn more about the world and the people who live in it.  In The Feather Thief, I learnt more than I thought was possible about the world of fly-fishing, or more specifically fly-tiers who have a passion for Victorian fly tying designs and a commitment to recreating them.

It’s a passion that led to one man, Edwin Rist, breaking into the British Natural History Museum and steal over 200 rare birds specimens.  Scientists consider the specimens priceless.  And, while Rist said that the theft had nothing to do with money and was all about his art, he ended up making thousands of pounds from the brightly coloured feathers he harvested and sold on.

The Burgas Affair by Ellis Shuman

The Burgas Affair In 2012 a suicide bomber got on a bus in Burgas, Bulgaria, killing not only themselves but five Israeli citizens and the Bulgarian bus driver.  A further 32 people were injured in the blast.

The attack was almost immediately linked to Hezbollah, with Israeli security services (Mossad and Shin Bet) arriving in Bulgaria and working with their Bulgarian counterparts to find those responsible.

This is the background to The Burgas Affair a fictionalised account of what might have happened if two officers, one male, one female, one Bulgarian, one Israeli are thrown together to track down the terrorists. 

Macbeth by Jo Nesbo

Macbeth Jo NesboIn a town rife with corruption, it’s hard to know who is good and who is bad.  Or, at least that is the case in Jo Nesbo’s Macbeth, which seems to sit permanently in the grey.

The city, somewhere in Scotland in the 1970’s is grey, overhung by smoke and smog. The settings seem to be mainly grey, with a lot of the action taking place at night or in the evening.  And the characters are grey, so many walking a fine line between what is right and wrong, it’s no wonder some of them start to fall.

In a way, it’s perfect Nesbo territory and why I love his books – there is a darkness there that draws you in and, even with characters that tend to chose the moral right versus the legal one, I can’t help but want them to succeed. 

The Half Sister by Catherine Chanter

The Half-Sister by Catherine ChanterCatherine Chanter’s The Well was one of those books I picked up at the library based purely on the cover and ended up really enjoying. Years later, the story and the characters have stayed with me – something that isn’t easy given the number of books I read.

Seeing Chanter’s new book on Net Galley then, it was an obvious choice to request it. I have to say, I expected great things. Maybe my expectations were too high, maybe it’s my current reading mood, but unfortunately, The Half Sister hasn’t had the same impact on me.

The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey

The Dark Lake

When the body of a young and popular teacher turns up in the waters of Sonny Lake, the first detective called to the scene is Sergeant Gemma Woodstock, a local who not only knows the area but also the victim – Rosalind Ryan, at least in passing (they went to school together).

The connection, Gem insists, is slight.  The relationship between the two women non-existent.  So she stays on the case, along with her partner Felix. Unfortunately, Gem isn’t quite telling the truth; she has a history with Rosalind (Rose), holding a secret that might put the case in jeopardy.

The Killer is Dying by James Sallis

the killer is dying James Sallis is one of my favourite authors.  I came to his work late and, over the last few years, have been slowly working my way through his back catalogue.  He is also the most-reviewed author on my blog – with nine reviews where I basically tell you he is brilliant.

It probably had to happen, then, at some point, that I would come across a book that wasn’t and – unfortunately – that day has come.  I’ve just finished The Killer Is Dying and – very much like my last review (The Last of the Greenwoods by Clare Morrall), I’ve been left more than a little flat.

I am not sure why – the writing style is the same – sparse and to the point in that noir way I love.  The characters are just as damaged as in other books, unsure how to live their lives without messing them up but doing the best they can. And the dark setting is there too – this time Pheonix, with the harsh, hot weather almost becoming a character in and off itself at times.  Yet, for me – this time – it just didn’t work.

The Last of the Greenwoods by Clare Morrall

last of the greenwoodsWhen Zohra, a postwoman with a past that has derailed her life, is asked to deliver a letter to two brothers who time seems to have forgotten, she can’t help but be intrigued – especially when she finds out they live in a railway carriage (also lost in time).

Zohra has an interest in trains, is helping to restore a local station and train line, and an interest – it seems – in people who, just like her, have secrets.  And the Greenwoods, Johnny and Nick, have secrets, a whole lifetime of them.

Johnny and Nick bury everything in a shield of anger at each other, they always have, but it got worse when – forty odd years ago – their sister died and their mom fell apart.  Still only young, they were left to their own devices and to pick up the pieces.  They didn’t pick them up very well.   

The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond

marriage pact

The Marriage Pact was not a book that first appealed to me if I’m honest.  In theory it should have been right up my street, a psychological thriller where a young, newly married couple, find themselves in trouble with a group of mysterious, powerful, strangers.  But it also sounded a little silly and I wasn’t sure if I would like it.  Then I read a batch of good reviews and decided to give it a go.

Was it worth it?  Yes, on balance, definitely.  BUT you do need to be able to suspend belief because the story is all a bit silly and far-fetched.  It doesn’t start out that way but – by the end – the situations Jake and Alice find themselves in get increasingly unbelievable.  Perhaps, if they had been in some dystopian future they wouldn’t have been but, for something set in the here and now, I couldn’t quite see it myself.

Saying that though, there was a lot to recommend this book.  Michelle Richmond sets a great scene and managed to draw me in enough at the beginning that I found myself turning pages till the very end, staying up late into the night to finish the book, despite my not quite falling for the plot.  The central characters, Jake and Alice were a big part of that – they were complex and complicated and, as everything was told from Jake’s point of view, I could never be quite sure who Alice was and what she was thinking; this mean the final twist at the end did have me guessing as to which was she would fall.  It didn’t go as I expected but there is nothing wrong with that.  A story that can leave me saying I didn’t see something coming is always a good thing in my book.

So, a mixed bag, but not a bad one at all.  Would I recommend the book? Yes, I would but with the proviso to leave any need for a plot without holes or leaps of logic at the door.  Still, an enjoyable, fast paced, and fun read.

Emma x

About the book…

Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice’s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.

The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact, and most of its rules make sense: Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter. . . .

Never mention The Pact to anyone.

Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples–and then one of them breaks the rules. The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life, and The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule. For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.

Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Penguin UK – Michael Joseph
Number of Pages: 415
Publication Date: 14th December, 2017 (paperback)
Rating: 3.75 / 5

untitled