The Binding Song by Elodie Harper

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Dr Janet Palmer is the new lead psychologist at HMP Halvergate in a remote, bleak area of Norfolk. At first, she was excited by the promotion. Then she starts to see how many secrets are hiding behind the high walls.

A string of inmates have committed suicide, leaving no reasons why, and her predecessor has disappeared – along with his notes. The staff are hostile, the threat of violence is ever-present, and there are rumours of an eyeless woman stalking the corridors, punishing the inmates for their sins.

Janet is determined to find out what is really going on. But the longer she stays and the deeper she digs, the more uncertain she feels.

Halvergate is haunted by something. But it may be a terror worse than ghosts…

First off, and shallow as it may sound, I have to say that I think the cover of The Binding Song is one of my favourites this year.  It is so simple yet says all it needs to about a book that is spooky and scary and right up my alley.  It’s what drew me to it (see I said I was shallow) so thank you to whoever designed it because what was inside the pages was a great read and an excellent debut.

It starts as it means to go on, with a man on the run, making his way through the woods in the dead of night and scared of his own shadow…as well as the shadow of someone else, the woman who has been haunting his dreams, urging him to kill himself – which he kindly obliges her by doing.  It’s a great opening, one that had me hooked.

The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray-Browne

34604719Eleanor, Richard and their two young daughters recently stretched themselves to the limit to buy their dream home, a four-bedroom Victorian townhouse in East London. But the cracks are already starting to show. Eleanor is unnerved by the eerie atmosphere in the house and becomes convinced it is making her ill. Whilst Richard remains preoccupied with Zoe, their mercurial twenty-seven-year-old lodger, Eleanor becomes determined to unravel the mystery of the house’s previous owners—including Emily, whose name is written hundreds of times on the walls of the upstairs room.

I am a big fan of ghost stories, where things go bump in the night and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and that is what The Upstairs Room promises with it’s tale of a young family and their lodger who move into a house that fills all but one of the adults with dread the moment they walk in the door. 

Tuesday intro: The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray-Browne

Once again I’m linking up again with Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea who hosts a post every Tuesday for people to share the first chapter / paragraph of the book they are reading, or thinking of reading soon. Diane is currently on a summer break but I have decided to carry on regardless because these are some of my favourite posts. I see others are doing the same – if you are, please leave a link to your post in the comments so that I don’t miss checking out your reads.

tuesdayI’m also joining in with Teaser Tuesday, hosted by The Purple Booker, where you share two teasers from your current read. I read a lot of these posts over the course of an average Tuesday so thought it would be fun to join in here too.

So, after a very long intro, this is what I’m reading this week…

Month in review: June, 2017

Hi All – and welcome to the end of June.  I’m hoping you had a good month.  Mine has been a bit up and down in that I’ve been feeling more than a bit grumpy – I think I’ve been waiting for my holidays and then leaving work so I can start my new adventures.  That I started off with a few so-so books didn’t help I have to say – though it has ended with a bit of a bang with two brilliant books, making me just a little bit happier.

loved-it

Forgotten by Nicole Trope, and a frantic search for a stolen baby which left me on the edge of my seat and staying up late into the night to finish.  Can’t recommend this one enough and it’s my book of the month!

Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica, another corker from one of my favourite authors who has crafted a twisty, turny, thriller that left me guessing until the end.

Black Hornet by James Sallis, with it’s wonderful noir tale of a sniper on the lose in 1960’s New Orleons.

liked-it-a-lot

Buried Secrets by Lisa Cutts, where I return to the rather seedy East Rise and the death of  high ranking police officer and his wife and the secrets they were hiding.

Guiltless by Viveca Sten, my third visit to Sandhamn island with it’s small population and high murder rate.

Cold Kill by P. J. Tracy, an enjoyable crime novel with conspiracy at it’s heart and a cold Minnesota winter to keep the tension high.

Roots, Radicals, and Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World by Billy Bragg, a fascinating walk through a musical genre that rocked Britain for two years and was responsible for bringing us the Beatles.  Now no one has heard of it – well, hardly anyone!

liked-it-a-little

My Sister by Michelle Adams, a good debut with plenty of twists and turns but – unfortunately – I just couldn’t get away with characters that were too unreliable, even for me.

The People at Number Nine by Felicity Everett, another book where the characters let it down for, or at least one – whose story it was I was reading.  Plus, I felt I had been promised more suspense than I actually got.

Again, there were not books I really disliked this month, so overall a good month which has ended with quite a bang with my favourite read of the month.  Here’s hoping July is as good!

How has your month in reading been?  Good, I hope.

Emma x

This month, I’m linking with Kathryn at Book Date and Nicole at Feed Your Fiction Addiction with their monthly round-up posts (clicking on the images will take you to the posts to check out what others have been reading).

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Tuesday intro: The Binding Song by Elodie Harper

Once again I’m linking up again with Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea who hosts a post every Tuesday for people to share the first chapter / paragraph of the book they are reading, or thinking of reading soon. Diane is currently on a summer break but I have decided to carry on regardless because these are some of my favourite posts. I see others are doing the same – if you are, please leave a link to your post in the comments so that I don’t miss checking out your reads.

tuesday I also thought I would join in with Teaser Tuesday, hosted by The Purple Booker, where you share two teasers from your current read. I read a lot of these posts over the course of an average Tuesday so thought it would be fun to join in here too.

So, after a very long intro, this is what I’m reading this week…

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Dr Janet Palmer is the new lead psychologist at HMP Halvergate in a remote, bleak area of Norfolk. At first, she was excited by the promotion. Then she starts to see how many secrets are hiding behind the high walls.

A string of inmates have committed suicide, leaving no reasons why, and her predecessor has disappeared – along with his notes. The staff are hostile, the threat of violence is ever-present, and there are rumours of an eyeless woman stalking the corridors, punishing the inmates for their sins.

Janet is determined to find out what is really going on. But the longer she stays and the deeper she digs, the more uncertain she feels.

Halvergate is haunted by something. But it may be a terror worse than ghosts…

I have to admit that the cover is what has gotten me on this.  It is so creepy.  I hope the story itself lives up to my very shallow expectations.  Here’s how it starts…

The break in the trees told him nothing.  Ryan had no idea how far he had travelled or in what direction.  He longed to sink down into the mud, rest just for a moment, but instead he scuttled across the open patch of long grass, bent double like a crab.  He tried not to think about the lorry he’d left behind, the warm seat, the friendly driver. Perhaps if he’d styed, he could have hitched  lift out of Norfolk. But it had made him nervous when his companion turned up the radio. At every ad break he started to sweat, wondering when his description was going to blare out over the news.

And here are a few teasers…

“The return to Cherry Tree Drive was almost a relief.  Janet headed straight to the shower, standing under the water at its hottest temperature, washing away as much of Harrogate as she could.  After her scare last week, she had been feeling uncharacteristically on edge, not just around me but also with her colleagues. “

and

“From the street below came a woman’s steady wailing. Steven crossed to the window again. Fiery shadows played over the group’s movements, the orange street lights illuminating their faces.”

What do you think – would you keep reading?

Emma x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perfect Remains by Helen Fields

 

32580398On a remote Highland mountain, the body of Elaine Buxton is burning. All that will be left to identify the respected lawyer are her teeth and a fragment of clothing.

In the concealed back room of a house in Edinburgh, the real Elaine Buxton screams into the darkness.

Detective Inspector Luc Callanach has barely set foot in his new office when Elaine’s missing persons case is escalated to a murder investigation. Having left behind a promising career at Interpol, he’s eager to prove himself to his new team. But Edinburgh, he discovers, is a long way from Lyon, and Elaine’s killer has covered his tracks with meticulous care.

It’s not long before another successful woman is abducted from her doorstep, and Callanach finds himself in a race against the clock. Or so he believes … The real fate of the women will prove more twisted than he could have ever imagined.

In a remote part of the Cairngorm mountains, a man carefully buries the body of the young woman he has recently killed.  He takes his time, is almost ritualistic about it, leaving clues as he goes.  He doesn’t want to get caught but he does want the police to know who his victim is.  It’s all part of his plan.

In this pretty much perfect opening to Perfect Remains, we meet Dr. King – serial kidnapper and killer and man on a mission, though what that mission is isn’t yet clear.  As King is introduced in chapter five, I don’t feel I’m giving away too much naming him but am going to stop there to avoid spoilers – this book is such a good one I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who wants to read it.

What I will say is that, whilst I don’t normally like books that tell me who did it so early on (I like to do the guessing), here it worked and didn’t bother me at all.  King is such a big character and his actions so off that I still felt there was plenty to discover.  I really wanted to know what had led him to this point and what he would do next, especially as the police net closed around him and his best laid plans didn’t go quite the way he thought they would.  It makes the book a bit more of a “why-dunnit” versus “who-dunnit” then for the reader.  Not so much for the police though, who are at a loss as to who the killer is, who his next victim will be and why they are his victims.

Leading the case is DI Luc Callanach, a man with a past. Formerly of Interpol, he has left his native France under a cloud, hoping to settle in the chillier climates of Edinburgh (one of my favourite settings for books).  His new life is not without problems, not just because there is a killer on the loose – his new team are wary of him, bordering on resentful, he has anger issues and his past seems to be catching up with him.

Callanach is an interesting and powerful character, one I started off not liking but who grew on me – what is it they say about a bark being worse than a bite?  His attitude could easily have overpowered the story but thankfully it was tempered by another DI, Ava Turner who is equally as powerful but more grounded, able to pull Luc back when he goes too far.  Ava isn’t his partner – she has her own case which runs parallel to Luc’s – but they make a good team, bouncing off each other to solve problems.

As characters, they are well written and well developed, just what you want in a book and impressive not only because this is the first in a series but also because it is a debut (well, kind off, Fields has self-published two fantasy novels before this was picked up).  This is a great read – the book is well written and well plotted with good pace – it kept me turning pages well into the night and, like my first read this week (Evil Games by Angela Marsons) there really isn’t anything I could say I would change.  I loved this one and can’t wait for the next in the series.

Enjoy!

Emma

loved-it

Source: Library
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: 26th January, 2017
Pages: 369
Format: ebook
Genre: Crime, Mystery

Find it on Amazon UK / Amazon US

Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris

29437949Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace: he has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You’d like to get to know Grace better. But it’s difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are never apart. Some might call this true love.

Picture this: a dinner party at their perfect home, the conversation and wine flowing. They appear to be in their element while entertaining. And Grace’s friends are eager to reciprocate with lunch the following week. Grace wants to go, but knows she never will. Her friends call—so why doesn’t Grace ever answer the phone? And how can she cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim?

And why are there bars on one of the bedroom windows?

The perfect marriage? Or the perfect lie?

Despite the fact that, no, I don’t know a couple like Jack and Grace (I obviously don’t mix in the right circles), I was still drawn to this book because of excellent reviews when it first came out.  It’s been on hold at the library for a while and so I was excited when it was finally available.  Overall, I have to say the wait was definitely worth it.

This is a fairly quick read – I managed it in just over a day – and a good one.  Tightly plotted, it moves at quite a pace, and builds the tension right through to the end.  All very good for a debut novel.  It also presents a pretty disturbed world and does make you wonder what is happening behind the curtains of the people you know, your neighbours on the street.  I spent a lot of time thinking Jack couldn’t get any worse or be any crueller.

All that said, and possibly because it’s a debut, I don’t think that the characters are as well developed as I would have liked.  Jack is the stereotypical good looking, wealthy, man you find in these domestic thrillers – perfect to the point of being annoying and just a little sickly – and Grace is the woman who falls under his thrall way too quickly because of her own personal baggage. I would have liked to see a little more here that made me feel I could relate to them (I couldn’t).  By the end, I was seeing it with Grace but it would have been nice so see it sooner as she was the main (only) narrator.

Still, it didn’t stop me reading or enjoying the book and I will definitely pick up B. A. Paris’ next offering as I have a feeling she is one to watch because, at it’s heart, this was a good story and a good book, one I liked and would recommend.

Enjoy!

Emma

About the book…

Publisher: St. Martins Press
Pages:
336 (kindle)
Published on:
11th February, 2016

Himself by Jess Kidd

img_0485-1When Mahony returns to Mulderrig, a speck of a place on Ireland’s west coast, he brings only a photograph of his long-lost mother and a determination to do battle with the village’s lies.

His arrival causes cheeks to flush and arms to fold in disapproval. No one in the village – living or dead – will tell what happened to the teenage mother who abandoned him as a baby, despite Mahony’s certainty that more than one of them has answers.

Between Mulderrig’s sly priest, its pitiless nurse and the caustic elderly actress throwing herself into her final village play, this beautiful and darkly comic debut novel creates an unforgettable world of my

Mystical, murderous, and magical, all words that describe Jess Kidd’s debut novel set in a small Irish village where nothing is as it seems, including the dead with their tales to tell.

The murderous starts early, with the murder of a young woman whilst her baby lays beside her on a woodland floor before jumping forward 26 years to when the baby is a young man himself, Mahony. Growing up an orphan in Dublin, he knows nothing of his mother or the small village of Mulderrig in which he was born. Once he arrives, it seems most of the villagers want to make sure it stays that way.

As is the way with small villages there are secrets behind every person he encounters, some small and not really worth keeping, others much bigger. Big enough to kill for, including knowing what happened to Mahony’s mom. Trying to help him find out the truth is Mrs. Caulty, a former actress who settled in the village as a young woman herself. She is now old, bossy and determined. She understands Mahony the moment she meets him and won’t let him give up, dragging friends and her landlady into the investigation as well. 

All the characters are quirky, some in a not so nice way like the priest, and all are richly drawn in a lyrical style which I can’t always get away with but suits this book and the supernatural element, because Mahony can see ghosts. Again, this isn’t something I normally go for in a book but here it fit. The village, the landscape, the people, they seemed perfect for a haunting, which is what happens to the village once Mahony arrives. The dead, it seems, want to be heard as much as he wants to find his mom.

Given the opening, the secrets and the ghosts it could all be very dark but Jess Kidd has added humour with the characters and depth with her descriptions of the people and place. She has also managed to stray away from it becoming silly, which I think is a danger when you try mixing quirky characters, murder and supernatural elements. It’s a fine line and she walks it well. That there are ghosts seems perfectly natural. She also has enough plot twists to keep you guessing.  I thought I knew who did it but I wasn’t 100% till near the end.

For a debut, there is a confidence in all this that is really impressive. I found the book well written, with good pace and great characterisation. I’m not sure it’s my normal type of read but I am glad I got a copy and would definitely recommend it. Liked this one a lot.

Emma

Note: I received this book from net galley in return for a fair no honest review. All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.

Tuesday Intro: Himself

imageOnce again, I’m linking up again with Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea who hosts a post every Tuesday for people to share the first chapter / paragraph of the book they are reading, or thinking of reading soon. In really enjoy these tasters when I read them on other blogs so wanted to join in.

This week, I’m reading Himself by Jess Kidd, a review copy I’ve been waiting ages to read. I’m only a few chapters in and so far the wait seems to have been worth it. Here’s what it’s about…


When Mahony returns to Mulderrig, a speck of a place on Ireland’s west coast, he brings only a photograph of his long-lost mother and a determination to do battle with the village’s lies.

His arrival causes cheeks to flush and arms to fold in disapproval. No one in the village – living or dead – will tell what happened to the teenage mother who abandoned him as a baby, despite Mahony’s certainty that more than one of them has answers.

Between Mulderrig’s sly priest, its pitiless nurse and the caustic elderly actress throwing herself into her final village play, this beautiful and darkly comic debut novel creates an unforgettable world of mystery, bloody violence and buried secrets.

And this is how it starts…

Prologue

May 1950

His first blow: the girl made no noise, her dark eyes widened. She reeled a little as she bent and put the baby down. The man stood waiting.

She straightened up into his second blow, which knocked her to the ground. She fell awkwardly, with one leg crumpled beneath her. He dropped down with his knees either side of her, so that she would hardly see the light greening the trees if she looked up, but she didn’t look up. She turned her head to see her baby on the ground, with his face pale between the folds of the blanket. He’d kicked his tiny foot out, his toes all in a line like new peas in a pod. Because she couldn’t hold her son in her arms she tried to hold him with her eyes as she willed him to be quiet, to be saved.

What do you think – would you keep reading

Emma

Note: intro is from a proof copy

The Sisters by Claire Douglas

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One lied. One died.

When one sister dies, the other must go to desperate lengths to survive. Haunted by her twin sister’s death, Abi is making a fresh start in Bath. But when she meets twins Bea and Ben, she is quickly drawn into their privileged and unsettling circle.

As Abi tries to keep up with the demands of her fickle friends, strange things start to happen – precious letters go missing and threatening messages are left in her room. Is this the work of the beautiful and capricious Bea? Or is Abi willing to go to any lengths to get attention? When the truth outs, will either sister survive?

When Abi sees a young blonde woman standing in the rain handing out flyers to an art show, she is immediately drawn to her.  Not because she looks cold and wet but because she looks just like her twin sister Lucy.  A twin she sees everywhere but nowhere because Lucy died a year previously.

How she died isn’t immediately clear but what is, is that Abi blames herself and is desperately trying to fill the gap Lucy’s absence has left in her life; they were best friends and she misses that.  The young woman in the rain, Bea, seems like the perfect person to fill the gap and they fall into an easy friendship, one that is strengthened when Bea asks Abi to move into her shared house.

Things aren’t, however, quite as happy go lucky as they seem in Bea’s house – which she shares with her twin brother Ben and a number of local artists.  Bea’s moods change with the flip of a switch and she is incredibly jealous of Abi’s burgeoning friendship with Ben.  Both brother and sister seem to be hiding something.  Or is it Abi, whose friends and family are worried that she is repeating mistakes of the past.

Who is who and what they really want leads to plenty of twists and turns in this book, which is a page turner and kept me interested throughout.  It’s a debut novel, and a good one, though there are times when I felt that I was reading something not fully formed – phrases repeated to describe how Abi felt, giving me flashes of “have I read this before” and causing a break in my concentration – and the final reveal wasn’t as good as I’d hope (rather something I’d guessed early on).

This meant I was left slightly dis-satisfied by the end.  It wouldn’t stop me recommending it but it just means I can’t say I loved it – rather, this is a solid “liked”.

Emma