Left for Dead by Caroline Mitchell #BookReview

Left for Dead Caroline MitchellA victim on display. A detective on the rails.
Shopping with her sister, DI Amy Winter is admiring a Valentine’s Day window display of a perfect bride encrusted in diamonds and resplendent in lace—until she notices blood oozing from the mannequin’s mouth.

This is no stunt. A post-mortem reveals the victim was left to die on her macabre throne for all to see. When a second victim is found, it emerges that both women were ‘Sugar Babes’ arranging dates with older men online—and Amy finds herself hunting an accomplished psychopath.

As she tracks down the killer, Amy’s instincts go into overdrive when the charismatic head of the agency behind the display makes no attempt to hide his fascination with her serial-killer parents. What exactly does he want from Amy? With her own world in freefall as her biological mother, Lillian Grimes, appeals her conviction, Amy pushes the boundaries of police procedure when a third ‘Sugar Babe’ disappears…Is she as much at risk as the killer’s victims?

My thoughts on Left for Dead…

The image of a dead body posed as a mannequin in a bridal shop is one of the creepiest and cleverest murder scenes I’ve encountered for a while. It’s stayed with me since I read Left for Dead (which was about a month ago – I’m way behind on reviews), as has the book as a whole because it’s really good.

What did I like about it? The central character Amy Winter for a start. This is the third book in a series – the others are crackers too – and she makes a great main protagonist. She’s smart, dogged, and just that little bit messed up thanks to a crappy childhood that you’ll need to read book one to find out more about.

These traits mean she won’t let go of a case till she’s solved it. They also mean she has a tendency to put herself in danger.  Which brings me to my second ‘like’, the suspense that runs through the book. It does keep you on the edge of your seat, even though you know who the killer is from the beginning. This is hard to do and I think Caroline Mitchell should be commended for doing it so well.

And that leads me quite nicely into the third main reason I enjoyed this book. The writing.  Caroline Mitchell is good. She paints a great picture and makes you believe in what is happening on the page. If the book I’d read before it hadn’t been so mediocre, I may not have realised just how good. It definitely made a sharp contrast. And it’s why – if I used a star rating – I’d definitely go for five stars. A great read and highly recommended.

Note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. All thoughts, feelings and opini

Bitter Falls by Rachel Caine #bookreview

Bitter Falls Rachel Caine

In spite of a harrowing past still haunting her, Gwen Proctor is trying to move forward. Until a new assignment gives her purpose: the cold-case disappearance of a young man in Tennessee. Three years missing, no clues. Just Ruth Landry, a tortured mother in limbo. Gwen understands what it’s like to worry about your children.

Gwen’s investigation unearths new suspects…and victims. As she follows each sinister lead, the implications of the mystery grow more disturbing. Because the closer Gwen gets, the closer she is to a threat that looms back home.

In a town that’s closed its ranks against Gwen; her partner, Sam; and her kids, there’s no bolder enemy than the Belldene family—paramilitary, criminal, powerful, and vengeful. As personal vendettas collide with Gwen’s investigation, she’s prepared to fight both battles. But is she prepared for the toll it could take on everyone she loves?

My thoughts on Bitter Falls by Rachel Caine

How It Ends by Saskia Sarginson #bookreview

How It Ends1957: Within a year of arriving at an American airbase in Suffolk, the loving, law-abiding Delaney family is destroyed.

Did they know something they weren’t allowed to know? Did they find something they weren’t supposed to find? Only one girl has the courage to question what really went on behind closed doors . . .

Hedy’s journey to the truth leads her to read a manuscript that her talented twin brother had started months before he died, a story inspired by an experience in the forest surrounding the airbase perimeter. Only through deciding to finish what her brother started does Hedy begin to piece together what happened to her family.

But would she have continued if she’d known then what she knows now?

Sometimes, it’s safer not to finish what you’ve started…

Then She Vanishes by Claire Douglas #BookReview

Then she vanishesAbout the book…

Everything changed the night Flora disappeared.

Heather and Jess were best friends – until the night Heather’s sister vanished.

Jess has never forgiven herself for the lie she told that night. Nor has Heather.

But now Heather is accused of an awful crime.

And Jess is forced to return to the sleepy seaside town where they grew up, to ask the question she’s avoided for so long:

What really happened the night Flora disappeared?

 

My thoughts on Then She Vanishes…

It’s been three years (give or take) since I read my first Claire Douglas book (The Sisters), a book I liked rather than loved. At the time, I don’t think I’d have believed anyone who told me she would go on to become one of my favourite authors, one who wrote books I find impossible to put down and happy to pass on to friends and family. Yet, here I am, so happy to have read Then She Vanishes, which I devoured over the course of a couple of days on a recent holiday.

It starts with Jess, a newspaper reporter with a past she’s trying to hide. She’s left a job at a national newspaper in London and now finds herself in Bristol writing an article on a double murder, one supposedly committed by her childhood best friend. It’s been years since they’ve spoken (another secret that needs to come out), but Jess can’t believe Heather is guilty. And it’s hard to know the truth as long as Heather is in a coma.

Sent to write a story on Heather’s family, Jess once again finds herself wrapped up in their lives, with memories of just what happened to break her friendship apart rearing their ugly head. Now she has to work out where the truth lies, without turning herself into a potential victim.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book so quickly but, here, I really couldn’t put it down. Douglas deserves huge credit here for making the end of every chapter a cliffhanger without making it feel cliched or predictable given how many of this genre of books are out there. For me, the characters helped too. I liked Jess a lot, and the little I was learning about Heather meant I had a lot of sympathy for her.

I wasn’t so keen on Heather’s husband – but what would a psychological thriller be without a dodgy man in the wings? I do love a good villain and, here, I got one. I also got an ending I didn’t see coming, something which always makes me happy.

Was there anything I didn’t like about the book? No, not really. This was a five-star read for me and I would highly recommend it.

Enjoy!

Emma x

Note: I received this book in return for a fair and honest review. All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.

 

 

 

The Forbidden Place by Susanne Jansson (Book Review)

In the remote Swedish wetlands lies Mossmarken: the village on the edge of the mire where, once upon a time, people came to leave offerings to the gods.

Biologist Nathalie came in order to study the peat bogs. But she has a secret: Mossmarken was once her home, a place where terrible things happened. She has returned at last, determined to confront her childhood trauma and find out the truth.

Soon after her arrival, she finds an unconscious man out on the marsh, his pockets filled with gold – just like the ancient human sacrifices. A grave is dug in the mire, which vanishes a day after. And as the police investigate, the bodies start to surface…

Is the mire calling out for sacrifices, as the superstitious locals claim? Or is it an all-too-human evil?

My Thoughts…

I love a little bit of Scandi Noir, stories that are dark, foreboding, and just a little bit bleak, all of which can be used to describe The Forbidden Place.  It starts with Nathalie returning to her childhood home, or at least close to it, determined to face her demons and – finally – move on with her life. What those demons are isn’t exactly clear, though her story slowly gets told as the book progresses.  That it has to do with the marsh she is staying next to, however, isn’t in any doubt.

To Nathalie, it seems to take on a life of her own, filling her full of dread, never more so than when she finds the body of Johannes, a young man she recently went on a date with, unconscious and close to death in the peat bog. Perhaps she wouldn’t feel so scared if this was the first time a body had been found in the marsh. But it isn’t.  Instead, over the years, more than one person has gone missing…while others who live in the area have ended up dead.

It all makes for a great premise for a book, and just up my street, which it was – at first.  Unfortunately, about halfway through, it ran out of steam because, while I liked Nathalie, she was the only real character in the book and – interesting as she was and intriguing as her secrets were – I needed a bit more variety to keep me going.  Instead, I found myself dragging, losing interest during the final third especially.  IT’s a shame really, given how strong it started, but – in the end – this wasn’t for me.

Sorry!

Emma

Source: Netgalley
Genre: Thriller, Suspense
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Rating: 3 out of 5
Find on: Goodreads / Amazon UK / Amazon US

Rakuten Kobo UK

 

Healthyish by Lindsay Hunt

helathyishThe full title for Healthyish is “A Cookbook with Seriously Satisfying, Truly Simple, Good-For-You (but not too Good-For-You) Recipes for Real Life”.  It’s a mouthful but it does sum up quite nicely what this recipe book is about.   It’s full of food that looks delicious, tastes delicious (from the recipes I’ve tried) and sounds delicious (from those that I haven’t).

The idea behind Healthyish is that you can eat a good, healthy, balanced diet without living on lettuce leaves and by making some simple changes.  So you swap whole grains for refined, add ingredients like olives for natural flavour, and swap processed foods for homemade alternatives (think salad dressing).

Liar Liar by M. J. Arlidge

imageDetective Helen Grace has never seen such destruction. Six fires in twenty-four hours. Two people dead. Several more injured. It’s as if someone wants to burn the city to the ground…

With the whole town on high alert, Helen and her team must sift through the rubble to find the arsonist, someone whose thirst for fire—and control—is reducing entire lives to ashes.

One misstep could mean Helen’s career—and more lives lost. And as the pressure mounts and more buildings burn, Helen’s own dark impulses threaten to consume her…

I don’t like fire, it’s one of those things that has always scared me a little and the thought of being caught in one terrifies me.  Liar Liar, then, is probably not a book I should have been reading.  However, it was next of my list of books staring DI Helen Grace and – as I’ve loved them all so far – I couldn’t say no, afraid I might be missing out on something good.

One of the reasons I don’t like the idea of being caught in a fire is that feeling that there isn’t much you can do about it once your trapped and M J Arlidge has pretty much convinced me I’m right thinking that.  He paints quite a scary picture of just what it feels like to get caught in a fire – the panic people feel when they wake up to find their houses on fire, their bodies in some cases, and the sheer battle they face against the smoke and the heat to escape.  Like I said, the idea terrifies me, and even reading about it made me more than a little uncomfortable.

Thankfully for the people of Southampton, the arsons are being investigated by DI Helen Grace who is like a dog with a bone and the force’s best detective.  Unfortunately for them, for most of the book the arsonist is one step a head and the fires continue to burn.  That’s because they are clever, leaving no clues as to who they are or what their motive is.  Helen and her team seem to be on the loosing side for once and, as they scrambled to make sense of what was happening, as a reader I could fee the tensions rise.

I also had no clue who the guilty party might be, which was great as quite often with these books it becomes pretty clear early on and then it’s just a case of understanding the why. When the big reveal came, it was a good one and – I thought – clever to.  Not your usual suspects and no one that had been on my radar.   Then there was a final twist in the tale which, if you read my reviews regularly, you’ll know I’m not always the biggest fan of but here made perfect sense and was a fitting ending to a great story.

Beyond that there isn’t much else to say other than the things I’ve said about every book in the series so far.  I love Helen, she’s a great character and her team are coming to life more and more with each story, making me care for them too.  The book is really well written, with short, punchy, chapters that keep you turning the pages and wanting to know what happens next.  The only difference with this book to the last three is that this is perhaps more of a slow burn (pun intended) with the arsonist not being revealed until close to the end and not having much of a voice bar a few blog posts throughout the story.  This is no bad thing though and didn’t leave me feeling like I was missing anything.  I liked this book a lot and would definitely recommend.

Emma

liked-it-a-lot

Source: Library
Publisher: Penguin Crime
Publication Date: 10th September, 2015
Pages: 442
Format: paperback
Genre: crime fiction

The Missing by Caroline Eriksson

32875064An ordinary outing takes Greta, Alex, and four-year-old Smilla across Sweden’s mythical Lake Malice to a tiny, isolated island. While father and daughter tramp into the trees, Greta stays behind in the boat, lulled into a reverie by the misty, moody lake…only later to discover that the two haven’t returned. Her frantic search proves futile. They’ve disappeared without a trace.

Greta struggles to understand their eerie vanishing. She desperately needs to call Alex, to be reassured that Smilla is safe, or contact the police. But now her cell phone is missing too. Back at her cottage, she finds it hidden away under the bedsheets. Had she done that? Or had someone else been in the cottage? But who, and why?

As Greta struggles to put the pieces together, she fears that her past has come back to torment her, or she’s finally lost her grip on reality…

The Missing is one of those books that seems to have been written just for me with the mysterious disappearance of a father and daughter and the woman who loves them desperately trying to figure out what has happened to them, at the same time as holding onto her sanity.  Because she has secrets, lots of them it turns out, which mean going to the police or calling anyone else for help doesn’t feel like an option.

It starts innocently enough, a trip across the lake to an island that locals call Malice because legend has it people disappear from it never to be seen again.  Just like Alex and Smilla.  Greta, though, isn’t from the area.  She doesn’t take it seriously.  Until she wakes up from a nap and knows instantly that they aren’t there.  Days of frantic searching lead to nothing but a run in with a gang of youths who are more than a little threatening and who seem to think Greta has stolen from them.

Left on her own in a remote cabin, Greta starts to see things in the water, in reflections in mirrors and windows, and in the eyes of the few people she comes across.  She loses track of time and what is real and what isn’t.  The past, the things she has lived through, the secrets she has kept, all seem to come flooding in.  As they do, tensions build and Greta’s behaviour becomes more and more erratic.

Along the way, I found I had great sympathy for Greta, though I didn’t necessarily warm to her.  She has had a hard life and one that seemed almost destined for her to end up where and how she was.  There was just something missing for me.  I wanted to feel more strongly about her.  Instead, I felt like an outsider looking in. It meant that, even though the book was well written and well translated with lots of twists and turns I found myself easily distracted from it. For me, it wasn’t a page-turner. Though I didn’t dislike it, I just wasn’t connected. A shame but this one is a like not a love review.

Emma

liked-it-a-little

Source: Purchased
Publisher: Amazon Crossing
Publication Date: 1st January, 2017
Pages: 201
Format: eBook (Kindle)

 

The Ice Twins by S. K. Tremayne

imageA year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcraft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.

But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity—that she, in fact, is Lydia—their world comes crashing down once again.

As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, Sarah finds herself tortured by the past—what really happened on that fateful day one of her daughters died?

I had heard a lot about The Ice Twins before I bought it – which was quite a while ago if I’m honest – and I had also read The Fire Child, S. K. Tremayne’s second book, which I’d enjoyed.  This meant I had high expectations for this book even before I’d crack the spine, not always a good thing as it’s much easier to be disappointed.  I have to say, however, that I wasn’t. This is a good book and better than The Fire Child in many ways.

It’s better because the characters feel more solid and real, the husband a little less unrealistic in his behaviour, and because it’s spookier.  I know this isn’t a ghost story but it has elements that definitely lend itself to that, especially whether there are one or two twins living in the remote farmhouse with Sarah and Angus.  They are identical so if there were two, how would you tell?  And what about the toys that keep appearing, the way that children at school respond to Kirstie / Lydia?  It’s a great set up and S. K. Tremayne does a great job of keeping you guessing as, slowly, secrets are revealed.

This is one of those books where nothing is as it seems, no one is telling the truth and no one is quite as perfect as they may initially appear.  At the heart of it all though is a distraught little girl who can’t seem to get anyone to believe her.  But then, to do that, her parents would have to face some hard realities.  I loved all the “is she / isn’t she” Kirstie or Lydia questions and the twists and turns the book took.  I couldn’t decide if I liked Sarah or Angus or if they were right, wrong, good or bad.  Add to that the remote setting, with the harsh conditions and the not so trusting locals and it really did make it a page-turner.

I can see why so many people raved about it when it was released and think I am now one of them.  I would recommend this book, especially as the nights draw in as it’s the perfect time for something a little spooky, and liked it a lot.  Enjoy!

Emma

The Highway by C. J. Box

25586477

It was Danielle and Gracie’s secret. A teenage adventure. A 1,000 mile drive along the spine of the Rocky Mountains to visit Danielle’s boyfriend in Montana. Their parents were never to know.

But now the girls have simply vanished.

The only person who knows they’re missing is Danielle’s boyfriend. He persuades his father – a disgraced, suspended cop – to search for them.

But he too simply disappears.

Now it’s up to rookie cop, war widow and single mother Cassie Dewell to find them. Her investigation will introduce her to FBI’s Highway Serial Killer Task Force, compel her to confront a spate of roadside sexual mutilations and murders, and lure her towards a darkness greater than anything she could ever have imagined.

I love discovering a new author – or at least new to me (C. J. Box has been around a while and has quite a back catalogue) – and new characters that I immediately like and want to get to know more.  There is a feeling of real satisfaction when you do either but both is a real win in my book and it’s how I felt reading The Highway which I really enjoyed.

The story itself is pretty simple – two girls go missing and a serial killer is on the loose.  He is convinced he has a fool proof plan, picking up women in truck stops.  He just doesn’t count on a renegade cop with nothing to lose picking up his trail.  Make that two renegade cops as Cassie is almost as willing to go rogue as her mentor Cody Hoyt.  Both are like dogs with bones, willing to stop at nothing and suspicious of everyone – rightly so it turns out.

I loved Cassie’s doggedness and her need to do the right thing, even if that wasn’t always in line with the law of the land.  At the same time, she isn’t rock-hard, invulnerable.  Often in these books the female detectives don’t have a family or boyfriend and so nothing to connect them to real life.  This can make them hard and unlikeable.  Not so the case with Cassie – she has a life in the form of a little boy.  It meant Cassie was connected to the world and so it made her more human.

I also loved the setting for the story – Montana, a place I’ve always wanted to go and where the rugged and harsh landscape added to the sense of tension and dread as Cassie and Cody searched for the girls.  It also added to a sense of danger, not just for the girls but for the detectives.  It is a place, as described, where people are loners and don’t welcome outside interest, especially not from law enforcement.

It all made for a really cracking piece of crime writing, well-paced and well written and, as said at the beginning, I really enjoyed reading it. I will definitely be reading the follow-up, which I have read is even better, and am definitely recommending this book.  Liked it a lot!

Emma