The Escape by C. L. Taylor

32790943When a stranger asks Jo Blackmore for a lift she says yes, then swiftly wishes she hadn’t.

The stranger knows Jo’s name, she knows her husband Max and she’s got a glove belonging to Jo’s two year old daughter Elise.

What begins with a subtle threat swiftly turns into a nightmare as the police, social services and even Jo’s own husband turn against her.

No one believes that Elise is in danger. But Jo knows there’s only one way to keep her child safe – RUN.

After reading more than one good review of C. L. Taylor’s books, I felt I needed to read at least one myself.  Seeing The Escape on Netgalley seemed the perfect opportunity, especially as it was a standalone and I am not sure I could leap into another series at the moment when I already have so many on the go.

The Escape starts as it means to go on, by throwing you right into the action and not letting up until it’s all over.  It opens with Jo walking to her car, running late for picking up her daughter.  She never leaves her office this late and she’s in a rush.  Just in these first few sentences you realise that Jo is tightly wound, no more so than when a stranger comes up behind her whilst she is trying to get into her car.  You see her internal struggle – does she know the woman? is she really a neighbour? should she offer her a lift? and now that’s been asked for, should she say yes?

All Jo’s instincts are telling her no, not to let the woman (Paula) into her car, not to agree to a lift, but she ignores them – thinking instead about how she will appear and questioning whether her concerns are genuine.  It turns out they are, genuine that is – Paula threatens her and her daughter.  The problem is no one else seems to take her seriously, not least her husband (Max) who won’t even contact the police.  He’s convinced it’s Jo’s imagination, running away with her because of mental health problems, and that there is a perfectly rational explanation.

From this first, slightly scary but potentially harmless meeting, things spiral  quickly and the threats to Jo become more real and more dangerous.  Someone has invaded her life and is determined, it seems, to make it a living hell.  As a reader, you know she’s not loosing her mind, you can read the thoughts of the person who is after her in short chapters interspersed through the book. Still, though, Max won’t believe her – no matter what she says – which is incredibly frustrating but possibly understandable as you start to understand Jo’s history and the reasons she isn’t being believed.

I say possibly because if I was Jo I would have gone on the run a lot sooner than she did and I wouldn’t have tried to reason with Max (though there wouldn’t have been much of a story then I guess).  With the running, the book ratchets up another notch because now is Jo not just trying to escape Paula, she is hiding from the police, and trying and failing to come up with credible lies for the people she comes in contact with.  Whilst you hope for the best, that she can keep her head down till it all blows over, you know that isn’t going to be the case and I felt tense waiting for it all to come crashing down.  And come crashing down it did in a great, big, page turning finale.

If you can’t tell, I really liked this book.  It was such a fast paced, edge of seat read.  Jo was a great character, nice and unpredictable which kept the story moving along, and there were a few twists in the tale I really didn’t see coming and changed how I was feeling about more than one character.  There were, as always in these books, a few times when I had to suspend belief slightly to allow for a plot twist but that was more than o.k. for this book, which I highly recommend.  Liked it a lot!

Enjoy!

Emma

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Source: Net Galley
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: 23rd March, 2017
Pages: 433
Format: ebook
Genre: crime fiction
Buy now: Amazon UK / Amazon US

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

 

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The Stranger by Saskia Sarginson

Wimagee all have our secrets. Eleanor Rathmell has kept one her whole life. But when her husband dies and a stranger arrives at her door, her safe life in the idyllic English village she’s chosen as her home begins to topple.

Everyone is suspicious of this stranger, except for Eleanor. But her trust in him will put her life in danger, because nothing is as it seems; not her dead husband, the man who claims to love her, or the inscrutable outsider to whom she’s opened her home and her heart.

I was really looking forward to reading The Stranger – not just because I had enjoyed the other book I had read by Sarginson (Without You) but because the opening, which I used for last week’s Tuesday intro, completely drew me in.  I found it beautifully, though simply written and it painted a picture in my head that I still haven’t quite shaken.

The prologue (from which the intro was taken) has a young girl, a new mother, giving away her baby for adoption.  It is heart breaking.  It also suggests darker things might follow; “After all the hate, there you were.”  And, given the type of books I normally read, I have to admit I envisioned an angry and bitter son appearing years later with an axe to grind, figuratively and literally.

This wasn’t the case though and, whilst what I got was still a thriller, it was a much more nuanced and thoughtful piece of writing than I had maybe being expecting.  The prologue, rather than hinting of what was to come was rather an explanation of some of the behaviours of the central character, Ellie.  These are further explained by flashbacks to her teenage years, which show how she has become the woman she has.

Most of the story, though, takes place in the present and in Kent, a region on the front line of the migrant crisis that played out on our screens the last few years.  Migrants, their role in our lives (picking the food we eat, offering cheap labour) and our attitudes towards them (anger, distrust, general wariness as well as compassion) are front and centre in this book.  Sarginson manages to highlight these issues without being preachy and turns their plight and our response to it into a gripping read, one that kept me turning pages.

She does this by making it about human beings and about love.  Yes, this is a novel full of suspense but it is also a story with love at it’s heart (not a soppy love story but one about caring for and about people).  The question is, who does Ellie love and who is lying to her, because there are two men vying for her heart and each believes the other is the bad guy, the one she can’t trust.  It’s up to Ellie to figure it out, slowly unpicking the web of lies she has found herself at the centre of and which could end up threatening her life.

Possibly the only downside to the book is the who became clear a bit too early for me as I like to be kept guessing  BUT to make up for this there were other twists in the tale I didn’t see coming at all and which kept me reading.  And, I have to remember this wasn’t a standard domestic thriller of girl meets boy, boy turns out to be a psychopath.  It was deeper than that and better for it.  I liked it a lot and would definitely recommend it.

Enjoy!

Emma

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Source: Net Galley
Publisher: Piatkus
Publication Date: 23rd March, 2017
Pages: 384
Format: ebook
Genre: crime fiction
Buy now: Amazon UK / Amazon US

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

The Dead Room by Chris Mooney

6679766When CSI Darby McCormick is called to the crime scene, it’s one of the most gruesome she’s ever seen. But the forensic evidence is even more disturbing: someone watched the murder unfold from woodland behind the house – and the killer died in a shoot-out two decades earlier.

The deeper Darby digs, the more horrors come to light. Her prime suspect is revealed as a serial killer on an enormous scale, with a past that’s even more shocking than his crimes, thanks to a long-held secret that could rock Boston’s law enforcement to its core.

Is it possible to steal an identity? Or are dead men walking in Darby’s footsteps? The line between the living and the dead has never been finer.

The Dead Room has been sat on my kindle for a while, a long while (around about five years) and was released earlier than that (2009).  I have to say, finally opening it up I was feeling rather guilty about having waited so long to read it and I was also rather nervous.  I had it in my head it wouldn’t be any good or I would have read it by now.  Thankfully, whilst the guilt didn’t go away, the nerves did after a few pages because this was a pretty good read.

Darby is the type of strong female character I like – determined, driven, incredibly smart and incredibly loyal to her partner (and best friend) Coop, who finds himself in the middle of her investigation and not in a good way.  This is because it takes place in the Boston suburb he was born, raised and still lives – a suburb that was once run by Irish gangs and has never quite gotten over it.  There is still a code of silence that it’s residents live by, even when the bodies of dead girls are found buried in the basement of a house, and secrets that not even Coop are willing to share.

How these bodies link to the murder of a young mother in another part of Boston and the trail of destruction being left by a mystery gunman is for Darby to figure out, whilst trying not to get killed.  She does manage it but not before heading down more than one dead end and getting into more than one dangerous situation.  Thankfully, she’s pretty handy with a gun as well as a forensic kit and can take care of herself.

Because I haven’t read the first two books of this series (this is the third) I am not sure how Darby got to be so handy with a gun or why a crime scene investigator also seems to be in charge of the investigation of a murder (people seem to defer to her at each stage).  I have to say, I feel like I have missed something as a result, some part of her past which explains who she is and how she behaves.

It wasn’t the end of the world but it did bring me up short a few times in reading the book and pull me out of it.  I did find myself wishing I had started at the beginning of the series or had a cheat sheet of characters and their backgrounds. This probably wouldn’t be the same for everyone but for me it meant it didn’t quite stand alone.  That said, it was the one downside in a well written, fast-paced, book which I had thought might feel a bit dated but wasn’t at all.  I liked it a lot and will definitely read Chris Mooney again.

Enjoy!

Emma x

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Source: Purchased
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: 31st May, 2012 (first published 1st August, 2009)
Pages: 464
Format: ebook
Genre: crime fiction
Buy now: Amazon UK / Amazon US

 

Quieter Than Killing by Sarah Hilary

imageIt’s winter, the nights are dark and freezing, and a series of seemingly random assaults is pulling DI Marnie Rome and DS Noah Jake out onto streets of London. When Marnie’s family home is ransacked, there are signs that the burglary can have only been committed by someone who knows her. Then a child goes missing, yet no-one has reported it. Suddenly, events seem connected, and it’s personal.

Someone out there is playing games. It is time for both Marnie and Noah to face the truth about the creeping, chilling reaches of a troubled upbringing. Keeping quiet can be a means of survival, but the effects can be as terrible as killing

London, in winter.  It’s not the most welcoming place and, for three ex-offenders, it’s also not the safest.  When each are found with increasingly violent injuries (eventually leading to murder), Marnie and Noah aren’t sure if they have a vigilante on their hands or a series of random crimes. They are leaning towards vigilante but it’s a strong word and not one their new boss (DCS Ferguson) wants to hear, even if it might be the truth.

The question is, if it is the truth, why have these victims been picked.  What is it about them that made them targets (other than their records) and how are they connected to a missing child and London’s street gangs.  Marnie knows that if they can find the link, she can find the killer.  What she doesn’t expect to find is a link back to her, and her own past – one where her parents were killed by their foster child – and which she has never really recovered from. It all makes for a tense read and real page-turner of a book.

It’s also quite a complex read, with lots of threads weaving together and then unravelling just when you think you have it all figured out.  I liked this about it and thought Sarah Hilary did a great job of keeping things interesting without making them confusing. When I was thinking of how to describe this book, I kept coming back to the word relentless – it really didn’t give you a moments pause or let up for a second.   I didn’t feel bored for an instant and found myself challenged to guess who dunnit (I did, but only a few pages before Marnie so it was pretty obvious by then).

There is an intensity to the writing and to Marnie.  She’s another complicated female, my favourite kind, but compared to some I’ve read recently pretty stable and down-to-earth.  I got a chuckle when she says “Maverick detectives don’t exist outside of fiction”.  She’s probably right and isn’t someone I would describe as a maverick, just a very good policewoman – albeit one who is damaged by her past so slow to let people in and definitely married to her job.  It felt refreshing that she didn’t keep running off on her own and ignoring her team or her boss.  I also liked Noah, the other main character who has his own story (which nicely intercepts the main plot) which helped make him real, not just a side-kick to Marnie.

In fact, there isn’t really anything I didn’t like here (other than realising I haven’t read the third in the series).  It is well written, with great pace and interesting characters.  I felt involved in the story all the way through and was a bit disappointed when I had to say goodbye to it.  For those who haven’t read the other books, it works well as a standalone.  So, all in all, a great read that I highly recommend and liked a lot.

Enjoy!

Emma

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Source: Publisher
Publisher: Headline
Publication Date: 9th March, 2017
Pages: 416
Format: paperback
Genre: crime fiction

Pre-order on Amazon UK

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

 

 

The Accidental Life of Greg Miller by Aimee Alexander

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Lucy Arigho’s first encounter with Greg Millar is far from promising, but she soon realises he possesses a charm that is impossible to resist. Just eight whirlwind weeks after their first meeting, level-headed career girl Lucy is seriously considering his pleas to marry him and asking herself if she could really be stepmother material.

But before Lucy can make a final decision about becoming part of Greg’s world, events plunge her right into it. On holiday in the South of France, things start to unravel. Her future stepchildren won’t accept her, the interfering nanny resents her, and they’re stuck in a heat wave that won’t let up. And then there’s Greg. His behaviour becomes increasingly bizarre and Lucy begins to wonder whether his larger-than-life personality hides something darker—and whether she knows him at all.

I am not completely sure what I expected from The Accidental Life of Greg Miller, having added it to my TBR many months ago and not really remembering much of the reviews I’d read that had me doing that.  Reading the description, I knew this was outside of my regular reading, and possibly comfort zone, and that it was a relationship book but references to a personality that hides something darker made me think maybe there was a thriller in here as well.

Long story short(ish), there wasn’t, though it wasn’t a boring read in any way.  At it’s heart this is a love story, not my usual read at all.  That said, I still found myself enjoying it because I really liked the characters and quickly fell into their story.  I thought they were well rounded with plenty of quirks to make them real and Lucy’s reactions to Greg’s behaviour as the book progresses felt genuine.

The way they met was right out of a rom-com and it’s hard not to be as charmed as Lucy by Greg’s love of life and spontaneity.  Given Lucy’s past you want her to find happiness and you believe she has in Greg. It’s also hard not to feel as thrown as she is when confronted with what are huge changes in Greg’s behaviour, changes which put her and his children’s lives at risk.

Whilst I don’t like spoilers, I am going to give things away next so please skip to the last paragraph if you don’t want to find out more.

I blame the type of books I normally read for making me think that Greg’s behaviour, when it changed, would come from a bad place.  That’s what Lucy thought too.  She was convinced it was drugs.  I wasn’t so sure but I did think he was hiding something.  He wasn’t though.  He actually wasn’t aware of what he was doing because he was in the middle of a manic episode and suffering from bi-polar disorder. The reason I decided to share this is because, for me, it was one of the things that made the book stand out.

I work in the mental health sector and mental ill health is often called the hidden disease because you can’t see it, just witness the behaviours.  As a result, a lot of people don’t understand what is happening to them, friends or family members who are ill.  They will see other causes (like drugs) when there are none or think people can “snap out of it”, which they can’t.  To be suffering from a mental illness is scary for the person who is ill but also those around them.

Here, Greg’s mental illness was a huge part of the story, the main part really as without it and Lucy / his family’s reaction there would be no drama at all, but I thought it was handled really well.  It showed the impact mental illness has on everyone, including Greg’s children, who don’t really understand and who have to grow up a lot more quickly than they might otherwise (even though the adults try to protect them).  For Lucy, there are stages to her acceptance and you see how she struggles to decide if she can handle their future when there is a risk of relapse.  Nothing here felt sensationalised and it wasn’t glossed over.  It takes a talented writer to do that well and I tip my hat to Aimee Alexander for doing just that.

Spoiler’s are over – feel free to read on…

Which leaves me just to say what I felt about this book.  And I have to say I liked it a lot.  Not may usual read but a very good one I can definitely recommend.

Enjoy!

Emma

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Source: Purchased
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: 26th April, 2016
Pages: 390
Format: ebook
Genre: Romance, General Fiction

Find on Amazon UK

Where My Heart Used To Beat by Sebastian Faulks

30738612On a small island off the south coast of France, Robert Hendricks – an English doctor who has seen the best and the worst the twentieth century had to offer – is forced to confront the events that made up his life. His host is Alexander Pereira, a man who seems to know more about his guest than Hendricks himself does.

The search for the past takes us through the war in Italy in 1944, a passionate love that seems to hold out hope, the great days of idealistic work in the 1960s and finally – unforgettably – back into the trenches of the Western Front.

I have been a huge fan of Sebastian Faulks since reading Human Remains over ten years ago.  After I had, I went on a bit of a Faulks binge and read everything he’d written up to the that point and have read every book he’s written since.  Some I’ve loved, some I’ve not.  None have been boring and one, Engleby, is one of my favourite books of all time. Why, then, it’s taken me over a year since it’s release to read Where My Heart Used to Beat is beyond me – other than there are too many books on my shelves and my kindle for me to keep up.

The book opens in the early 80’s with Dr. Robert Hendricks’ leaving New York in a hurry.  Why he’s in a hurry is never completely clear, though as you start to get to know him you wonder if he isn’t always slightly on the run – from his past and from his life in general.  Back in London, he decides to respond to a letter that he received weeks before from a Dr. Pereira, inviting him to visit the doctor at his home on a small island off the coast of France.  Faulks likes France and a lot of his books are set there (even if just in part); the way he writes about it, with affection, is so clear I felt that I was there with him.

He is drawn to the Pereira because he says he knew Hendricks’ father during WWI and has things to tell him.   Hendricks never knew his father, he died when he was two, and has mixed feelings about knowing more but feels compelled to accept the offer of a visit.  In fact, he has mixed feelings about everything to do with his life.  He seems incapable of forming lasting relationships, keeping himself at a distance from those who try to become friends and pulling away from romantic relationships as soon as they become serious.

Pereira instinctively sees this in Hendricks and, over the course of several weeks and several visits, slowly draws out the story of his past, what in it has led him to become the man he is in the present.  It’s a past that starts with his dead father before focusing on his experiences in WWII and his lost love, Louisa, a woman he has never been able to forget.  Weaving between past, present, his time in France and his time in England, slowly the story that emerges is of a man who is in pain, and always has been.

The irony in it is that he is a psychiatrist, he should have been able to see and understand his behaviours, yet it takes a stranger to bring him out of himself and help him try and maybe find some peace during the last years of his life (Hendrick is 64 in the present).  I found this side of it very sad and the story overall very touching.  Faulks has an amazing ability to paint a picture of what a person is thinking and feeling without beating you over the head with it.  I felt like I was discovering the truth at the same time as Hendricks.

The story itself focuses on themes that are familiar to a lot of Faulks’ writing.  His books look at love, loss, the war and also mental illness.  Faulks’ description of the battlefield is unflinching and unflattering at times.  The men he writes about were heros but the war itself was not a heroic time.  How men and women lived, how they behaved, in order to survive is shown here in all its glory and tragedy.  His description of how mental illness was seen over a period of around 80 years was also fascinating, especially as I work in the mental health field.  There is tragedy in this too, in how people were treated – especially things like PTSD – and how they were judged.

In fact, tragic could sum this book up in many ways – I felt a lot of sadness whilst reading it, as Hendricks laid himself bare and I came to understand just how he had never truly lived despite having an interesting life and successful career.  Don’t get me wrong, there are moments of joy in his memories and light at the end of the tunnel as he comes to terms with his past, but this is not a happy book.  Because of that, it won’t be for everyone I’m sure.  I know other reviews I have read have said as much.  For me, though, it was a wonderfully written window into a damaged soul and I really liked it a lot.

Enjoy!

Emma

 

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Source: Library
Publisher: Vintage Digital
Publication Date: 30th June, 2016 (first published 10th September, 2015)
Pages: 337
Format: ebook
Genre: Literary fiction

 

Captive on the Fens by Joy Ellis

33970054A young woman’s body is found in a remote barn on the Fens. Before she was killed, one of her fingers had been cut off. Who is inflicting this violence and why? And can DI Nikki Galena stop them before anyone else suffers?

The young woman in the barn had been kept captive for some time. And the case shows strong similarities to an unsolved murder in Derbyshire. When another woman is found alive with similar injuries the case grows even more complicated.

At the same time, the Fenland police have received intelligence that the ruthless criminal Freddy Carver plans to make Greenborough the hub for his new enterprise. DI Nikki Galena is desperate to track down Freddie Carver and make sure that he does not put down roots in the Fens, but finding him is not easy. And what’s his connection to the kidnapped girls?

And who is the woman being held captive in a remote location? DI Nikki Galena must rally her team of detectives, while facing a traitor on the inside, in this captivating mystery which will have you gripped as Nikki races against time to save more than one victim, including someone she care deeply about

Detective Nikki Galena is back for the sixth book set in the Lincolnshire Fens, a place of beauty but also danger – at least in Joy Ellis’ world, where roads lead nowhere but the back of beyond and at night, even headlights aren’t enough to stop you getting completely lost or falling in a ditch.  I have to say it’s not the fens I saw when I visited but I was only there a day or so. Now, I’m not sure sure I would go back. Unless of course I was in trouble and needed Nikki’s help.

Here, she and her team are on the hunt for a serial kidnapper, a man who takes young women, traps and tortures them; a kidnapper who seems linked to a local gangster (Carver) no police officer has ever been able to pin anything on – even though they know he is guilty of murder and worse. Nikki is convinced if they can catch the kidnapper, they can catch Carver, and sets her team on the trail of both. It’s a trail that leads them into the Fens and into neighbouring Derbyshire where more young women are turning up dead.

By heading into Derbyshire, Ellis was able to introduce a new character, Ben, who I hope we’ll be seeing more of, and give space to Cat, a member of Nikki’s team. I really liked that she did this, having Nikki not be centre stage the whole time and letting other characters come to the fore. Because there were different voices in Cat and Ben, it also changed the tone and the pacing of the book as it alternated between their investigation and Nikki’s. Neither of these were bad things and made the book feel different than previous reads and kept it fresh (something not always easy in series). Woven through is the voice of a kidnapped girl, one in pain, scared and possibly with not long to live – adding to the tension.

This is the third Nikki Galena novel I’ve read and one of the things that keep bringing me back is the tension Ellis brings to her stories, making you turn the pages. Another is that each has had a twist that turns the story on it’s head and makes you look at it afresh. They lull you into a false sense of security, making you think you are reading one story then realising you’ve been reading another. It’s taken me a while to catch on each time and, even though I should be prepared for it now, I still got caught out here.

I won’t say more than that for fear of spoilers, other than this is a well written, well plotted and well paced book with a strong and interesting female lead surrounded by characters I like in their own right.  I liked it a lot and would definitely recommend it.

Enjoy!

Emma

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Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Joffe Books
Publication Date: 23rd January, 2017
Pages: 317
Format: ebook (Kindle)
Genre: crime fiction

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

The Breakdown by B. A. Paris

29091461If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

Driving along country roads at night is never fun, especially in the pouring rain, and – for a woman alone – it can be especially scary, the idea of being stranded, alone, in the dark. For Cass all these fears start to come to the fore when she pulls over to help a stranded vehicle but can’t then get herself to get out of the car to see if the woman she sees sitting in the driver’s seat needs help. The fact that the woman doesn’t call out to her or get out of her car to talk to her convinces Cass she’s ok and so, instead of doing more, she heads home….only to wake up the next morning to the news that the woman is dead.

The news is bad enough, flooding Cass with guilt as she realises she may have been able to save the woman, but it’s made worse when she finds out that it’s someone she knew. This sends her spiralling, unable to sleep and a unable to concentrate. As the days and weeks go on, Cass struggles to get her mind back on track and starts to become more forgetful still, something which could be down to the murder, the mysterious calls she’s been receiving since then (with nobody speaking when she picks up), or it could be something worse – a sign of the early on-set dementia that killed her mother.

Her husband tells her it’s stress, her best friend tells her she’s been silly but Cass isn’t so sure. Something is wrong, a killer coiled be after her. The only problem is no one will believe her. That included me as a reader, at least at times. Her behaviour was so erratic; her friends, husband, doctors, are convinced she is stressed, anxious, cracking up and it does seem to be the case. B. A. Paris does a great job leaving you guessing almost all the way to the end as to who is right, then they reveal the truth and turn the story on its head.

It’s a formula followed by a lot of authors in this genre – the fragile woman who seems to be loosing her mind, the family and friends who want to support her but don’t believe her, the strange occurrences and odd happenings, before it all becomes clear at the end. I don’t mind formulas at all though as long as they are done well, and that was definitely the case here.  B. A. Paris created an interesting character in Cass, one I couldn’t help but like and root for. She was well written, as was the book, with short chapters to keep you turning pages – which I did – and a strong plot.

When it got to the twist I had an inking but wasn’t 100% sure what was going to happen or how it would turn out. I thought B. A. Paris’ answer was clever and I was left completely satisfied. I hadn’t felt quite that way with their first book, though I had enjoyed it but this felt much more accomplished and much more confident. I am really glad I got the chance to read it – liked it a lot.

Enjoy!

Emma

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Source: Netgalley
Publisher: HQ
Publication Date: 9th February, 2017
Pages: 352
Format: ebook (Kindle)
Genre: crime fiction

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

 

 

 

A Deadly Thaw by Sarah Ward

32490759Every secret has consequences.

Autumn 2004
In Bampton, Derbyshire, Lena Fisher is arrested for suffocating her husband, Andrew.

Spring 2016
A year after Lena’s release from prison, Andrew is found dead in a disused mortuary.

Who was the man Lena killed twelve years ago, and who committed the second murder? When Lena disappears, her sister, Kat, sets out to follow a trail of clues delivered by a mysterious teenage boy. Kat must uncover the truth – before there’s another death . . .

Sometimes a book pulls you in from the start with an idea that makes you stop, take a moment and then think “well, I have to see how this is going to end up.”.  A Deadly Thaw is one of those books.  It’s different from the start, with a dead body turning up and looking fairly fresh despite the victim (Andrew) having being dead for 12 years and his wife (Lena) having just being released from prison for his murder.  All nice and confusing,  promising for lots of knots to unpick as you watch the police and Lena’s sister, Kat, try to figure out just what is going on.

Lena doesn’t help herself from the start.  First the police come to ask her questions, which she basically refuses to answer, and then she disappears.  It looks like she went of her own free will, is probably still alive, but it’s really not clear – and neither, it seems is anything about her past or how she could (seemingly) have mistaken a stranger for her husband, especially as he was found in her bed, suffocated.  I have to say, as a reader, I loved trying to figure out what was going on – coming up with quite a few solutions, none of which were right in the end.

As far as the plot went, then, this was a brilliant book for me and, for the most part, the same can be said of the characters.  I really liked the detectives involved in the case, watching how they interacted with each other and wondering whether the rivalry of the two junior detectives or their seeming liking for each other would win out.  They did make a few leaps in logic I wasn’t sure of but, with this type of story, sometimes you have to suspend belief and I was enjoying myself enough to do just that.

Where I struggled a bit was with Kat, the sister, who I really didn’t like too much.  There wasn’t anything wrong with her as such – if anything, Lena was the difficult one, the one I should have disliked – but I just found her a bit dim.  There was a trail of clues being laid out before her and she seemed unable to make any links (unlike the police who made plenty) between them, her past and what Lena did.  I wanted to shake her at times and say “come on, think a little”.

Was it the end of the world? Absolutely not, it didn’t stop me reading the book or turning the pages (I finished it in just a day…well, just over as I stayed up late to finish it).  It wouldn’t stop me recommending it either.  This is a cracking read, with a strong story line, plenty of red herrings, a great small town setting – where everyone knows your secrets and aren’t always afraid to tell them – and a great twist in the tale.  I liked it a lot if you couldn’t tell and, whilst this was my first Sarah Ward, will definitely be reading more in the future.

Enjoy!

Emma

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Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Publication Date: 2nd February, 2017 (originally published 30th August, 2016)
Pages: 384
Format: ebook (Kindle)
Genre: crime fiction

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

Don’t Look Behind You by Mel Sherratt 

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She got into bed but sleep didn’t come easily. Every creak in the house made her alert. She was waiting for him to come and get her.

The small city of Stockleigh is in shock as three women are brutally attacked within days of each other. Are they random acts of violence or is there a link between the victims? For Detective Eden Berrisford, it’s her most chilling case yet.

The investigation leads Eden to cross paths with Carla, a woman trying to rebuild her life after her marriage to a cruel and abusive man ended in unimaginable tragedy. Her husband Ryan was imprisoned for his crimes but, now he’s out and coming for her.

As Eden starts to close in on the attacker, she also puts herself in grave danger. Can she stop him before he strikes again? And can Carla, terrified for her life, save herself – before the past wreaks a terrible revenge?

So I want to start this review not with an overview of the story but with a comment on the tagline “He destroyed your life once. Now he’s back to do it again.” because I don’t think it – or the overview above – do this book justice.  They suggest this is the story of one woman at risk from one man, a popular theme in the books I read at the moment and I have to say that it caught my eye when requesting.  These books tend to follow a pattern though that Don’t Look Behind You doesn’t, which for me was a welcome change and a nice surprise.

What it is does have in common with other books is men’s behaviour towards women, how it can often be violent and how abuse isn’t always physical but emotional, with the effects lasting long after the violence stops or a relationship ends.  It’s a powerful topic that leads to a powerful book, one that doesn’t just entertain as a police procedural / piece of crime writing but makes you pause and think about how much more commonplace attacks on women, by strangers as partners, might be and how hard it is for them to stay safe and live full lives afterwards, lives not shrouded in fear.

Sherratt shows it here with two stories running side by side. The first is Detective Eden Berrisford’s search for a man attacking young women on their way home at night; the attacks are escalating and she needs to figure out who is responsible before someone ends up dead. The second focuses on Carla, who works at a women’s refuge but is also in hiding from her ex-husband Ryan, recently released from prison and out for revenge, blaming her for putting him there despite the fact that he had nearly killed her before he was arrested.

Both stories are compelling and well plotted, alternating in chapters and occasionally crossing over into each other. Because Eden knows Carla through her own work with the shelter she is the common theme running through each but I liked that I heard Carla’s voice too. She is a strong women with a sad history who is trying to rebuild her life – I admired her and wanted her to be happy and safe.

Each story could have probably been expanded into books in their own right but they did work well together and I didn’t find it distracting or difficult to move between the two. I did wonder if they would come together in a big twist at the end and was quite happy when they didn’t because I think that would have spoilt it and the conclusion to both was just right.

For me, it was much more satisfying than my first outing with Eden (and the first book to feature her) The Girls Next Door, where I struggled with some of the characters. Here, I didn’t have any of those problems so was able to settle in and enjoy the book and get to know Eden, who I think could become a firm favourite of mine – and not just because she wears doc martins (the best footwear ever) and drives a scooter (the coolest thing ever).

She is kind, caring, passionate about her job but there is a darker side too potentially, one that is hinted at when she and her daughter are threatened and I do wonder if that will come out in future books? There definitely seemed to be some teasers for what might happen next in her life in this book that I can’t wait to see develop.

I said at the beginning of this post that it was the tag line that caught my eye but it wasn’t the main or only reason. The other was Mel Sherratt, whose books I really enjoy and who is probably starting to rank as a favourite author. Her books have all the elements I love – crime, drama, twist, turns and strong female characters. They are well written, well plotted and keep me turning pages. I never know quite what to expect and I have – so far – always been pleased with what I’ve gotten. You can’t ask for more than that from an author or a book really, leaving me liking this one a lot.

Enjoy!

Emma

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Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Bookouture 
Publication Date: 31st January, 2017
Pages: 287
Format: ebook (Kindle)
Genre: crime fiction

Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.

Interested in what I thought about other Mel Sherratt books, check out my reviews below:

The Girls Next Door (Eden Berrisford 1)

Only The Brave

Follow The Leader

Taunting The Dead