Iron Gold – Pierce Brown. Release Day!

Available Now from Hodder and Staughton

Source: Review Copy

They call him father, liberator, warlord, Reaper. But he feels a boy as he falls toward the pale blue planet, his armor red, his army vast, his heart heavy. It is the tenth year of war and the thirty-second of his life.

A decade ago, Darrow was the hero of the revolution he believed would break the chains of the Society. But the Rising has shattered everything: Instead of peace and freedom, it has brought endless war. Now he must risk everything he has fought for on one last desperate mission. Darrow still believes he can save everyone, but can he save himself?

And throughout the worlds, other destinies entwine with Darrow’s to change his fate forever: 

A young Red girl flees tragedy in her refugee camp and achieves for herself a new life she could never have imagined.

An ex-soldier broken by grief is forced to steal the most valuable thing in the galaxy—or pay with his life.

And Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile to the sovereign, wanders the stars with his mentor, Cassius, haunted by the loss of the world that Darrow transformed, and dreaming of what will rise from its ashes.

At last it is time for Iron Gold, the continuation of the Red Rising Saga and first of the new trilogy, boy oh boy what a book this is.

I was one of the lucky few to get an early copy and I banged through it without really noticing the world around me – I shall not give away any real plot details, fans of the saga will genuinely not want to know until they get there – but suffice to say that Iron Gold is a book that was worth the wait. I’ve been saying this is the best yet and have had some odd looks, possibly due to the sheer brilliance of the finale to Red Rising – but it’s true I promise- Pierce Brown, although I didn’t think it was possible, has played a sheer blinder here.

The old world is dead but is the new world going to be any better? Well that is the question, now we get an expanded view of what is going on, moving away in parts from Darrow  and the rest (but fear not, there is plenty from them too), meeting new characters (Lyria I can tell you is going to be a superstar favourite) and old, with that strong emotionally resonant prose that digs deep into your soul and clings there long after the read is done.

We are taken through this shiny new reality, which is not nearly as shiny as the revolution promised, Darrow faces new challenges, the reader faces new heartbreaks and honestly honestly you’ll be absolutely drained when you get to the end. In that satisfied, half tearful half excitable way that anyone who read the Red Rising trilogy will know very well indeed.

Iron Gold is quite simply incredible. The sheer breathtaking scope of it, the world building, the character arcs, the genuinely compelling political landscapes, every part of this book is made up of pure reading joy. Oh and the random shouting out, an odd bit of hair pulling, the need for a lot of chocolate and the occasional bout of crying into a pillow. That too. But mostly pure reading joy.

I’ve heard that we don’t have to wait TOO long for the next part but frankly if I had it now it wouldn’t be soon enough.

Creative, passionate, addictive and dazzzling. THAT is Iron Gold.

Obviously Highly Recommended. Go get it!

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Latest Reads: Skin Deep Liz Nugent.

Publication Date: 5th April 2018

Source: Review Copy

Once I had cleared the bottles away and washed the blood off the floor, I needed to get out of the flat.’

Cordelia Russell has been living on the Côte d’Azur for ten years, posing a posh English woman fallen on hard times. But her luck is running out.

Desperate to escape her grotty flat and grim reality, Cordelia spends a night at a glittering party. Surrounded by the young, beautiful and privileged she feels her age and her poverty.

As dawn breaks she stumbles home through the back streets. Even before she opens her door she can hear the flies buzzing. It hasn’t taken long for the corpse in her bedroom to commence decomposing …

Liz Nugent’s novel is the dark, twisted and shocking story of what takes Cordelia from an island childhood in Ireland to ruin in Nice.

Skin Deep is genuinely amazing. A truly memorable psychological character study.

It is a difficult one to review if I’m honest – the basis of the tale is simply the story of one woman and those whose lives she enters and leaves, but it’s impact on you is subtle, immeasurable and difficult to describe. Beauty may indeed only be “Skin Deep” but what lies beneath the surface is fascinating, absorbing and taken apart by the author in amazingly clever and intelligent ways.

The writing is beautiful, full of thought provoking prose and is also descriptively stunning – the settings are alive, Cordelia herself provides the light and dark and the story unwinds in a hugely addictive fashion, taking us from small islands to vibrant cities as she lives a life less than ordinary.

The whole novel is completely and utterly brilliant but the final resolution is stunning. Days later I’m still worrying away at it, my mind goes back there at odd moments, not only to the ending but to the entirety of the story. It is dark yes, it is a twisty tale indeed, in character and event, but is entirely believable and utterly authentic.

Liz Nugent wastes not one word – every part of Skin Deep is plotted to perfection, designed for emotional impact and hits the mark every single time. I will never forget Cordelia or those whose lives she affects, her story is ingrained on my soul. Without doubt this is the author’s best novel to date.

Hauntingly beautiful, achingly sad.

Highly HIGHLY recommended.

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On A Beautiful Day – Lucy Diamond. Blog Tour Review.

 

Publication Date: Available Now from Macmillan

Source: Review Copy

It’s a beautiful day in Manchester and four friends are meeting for a birthday lunch. But then they witness a shocking accident just metres away which acts as a catalyst for each of them.

For Laura, it’s a wake-up call to heed the ticking of her biological clock. Sensible Jo finds herself throwing caution to the wind in a new relationship. Eve, who has been trying to ignore the worrying lump in her breast, feels helpless and out of control. And happy-go-lucky India is drawn to one of the victims of the accident, causing long-buried secrets to rise to the surface.

On A Beautiful Day is a really excellent and beautifully written story of friendship through the ups – and in this case downs – of life.

One day a group of four friends witness a horrifying accident. How they cope in the aftermath of that, how it is the catalyst for life changes, how it changes their friendship, that is the basis for this novel and it is entirely compelling throughout.

Lucy Diamond creates wonderfully observed, layered characters who are entirely realistic and easy to engage with – we see how this event changes their perspectives and makes them look at the world in a new way – and into themselves and what in their lives needs fixing. The problems they face are all those which any of us might and this gives it a really addictive quality – you want to find out what happens to them all.

Right at the heart of On A Beautiful Day are these four women and their relationship, how they cope and help each other cope with everything that is thrown at them.  It is sometimes melancholy, always uplifting, occasionally funny and leaves you with the feeling that there is, indeed, always the possibility of second chances.

I loved it.

Recommended.

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The Radio Not The Song – writing Lucky Ghost. Matthew Blakstad.

Today the brilliant Lucky Ghost comes out in paperback and to celebrate I made Matt do yet more work and come along and have a little chat about -well anything he liked really- and here is what he liked to talk about.

Details on the book and a link to my review follow. It is a truly excellent read – if you missed it before I do recommend giving it a go.

The radio not the song Matthew Blakstad.

Here’s a tip for when you next hear to a writer talk about their writing process. If they sound like they know what they’re doing at each stage, they’re probably lying.

Mostly, we writers don’t know what made us come up with a particular story. When we set out, we probably found ourselves obsessed with some apparently random image, some story on page 14 of the paper, some ‘what if’ question; and we found we had no choice but to set it down on paper. As we did so, fully-formed characters started to pop up from nowhere, like those random people who connect with you on LinkedIn but who you’ve never heard of. Before long, our seed of an idea blossomed into incidents, conflict, story – and before we knew it, we’d birthed an entire world. Then began the long, mad grind of draft and counter-draft, as we chiselled this accidental thing we’d started into something crisp and sparkly enough that somebody might want to read it.

Then the book came out into the world, and we realised: “Uh oh. Now I’m going to have to explain this to people.” Somehow we had to post-hoc invent a Grand Scheme behind this thing we barely even recognised as our own any more.

Sometimes we’re lucky. Sometimes, by the time our novel is published, the hazy notions that gripped us as we wrote have become the very ideas that everyone in the world happens to be talking about at that moment. When this happens, it seems we must have some kind of second sight. Where in reality, we’re just dumb receivers of something that’s been floating through the ether. More the radio than the song.

This is what happened with my second novel, Lucky Ghost, which is out today in paperback. I started writing the first draft in January 2016, just before David Bowie’s death, and finished it around the time of Donald Trump’s gobsmacking election victory. So this was before we’d learned all the things we’re learning now – about how, throughout that year, Russian bots and trolls were bombarding the American consciousness with fake information, while pointy-headed data wonks, working for companies we’d never heard of, built psychological profiles of millions of voters based only on their Facebook data, and used these to sway their feelings and beliefs about the candidates.

Like most people, I didn’t know about any of this at the time. Yet somehow, by breathing the fetid air of that year (remember when 2016 seemed as bad as it was going to get?) – somehow, I became infected by the idea that our beliefs and emotions were being manipulated by unseen online forces. The idea that, by buying into the highs and lows offered us by social media upvotes, likes and shares, the apps we love and depend on have been playing us for fools.

So I started writing about a new, immersive online game that’s captured everybody’s lives. About how in this game, people enter a twisted version of reality – a world they call The Strange. In the Strange, every interaction they have with another human being becomes a game, and the players hunger to be rewarded in Emoticoin, a digital currency that they earn based on the strength of their feelings as they play. I wrote about how someone with evil intentions starts working with eastern European criminals to gain control of The Strange. About the mayhem and murder this causes, and how in the end it’s up to two very ordinary, damaged people – a trolling victim and a Syrian refugee – to fight for people’s right to live their own real lives.

The story ended up scaring even me, so I thought I was maybe onto something. But, I thought, thank goodness this was just my crazy imagination. Thank goodness we’re not all having our strings pulled like this, by unseen online forces.

Then 2017 happened.

Ah well. With any luck you’ll find Lucky Ghost a good deal more entertaining than reality. If not, don’t blame me: I’m just the radio..

About the Book:

Early one Monday morning, much like today, journalist Alex Kubelick walks up to a total stranger and slaps him across the face. Hard.

He thanks her.

They’ve both just earned Emoticoins in a new, all-consuming game that trades real-life emotions for digital currency. Emoticoins are changing the face of the global economy – but someone or something seems to be controlling the game for their own, nefarious purposes.

As Alex begins to pick apart the tangled threads that are holding the virtual game together she finds herself on the run from very real enemies. With the world economy teetering on the brink of collapse, it seems there’s only one person who might have the answers she seeks.Someone who hides behind the mysterious name ‘Lucky Ghost.’

But who is Lucky Ghost… and can they really be trusted?

And what do they want?

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Latest Reads: The Fear C L Taylor

Publication Date: March 22nd from Avon

Source: Netgalley

When Lou Wandsworth ran away to France with her teacher Mike Hughes, she thought he was the love of her life. But Mike wasn’t what he seemed and he left her life in pieces.

Now 32, Lou discovers that he is involved with teenager Chloe Meadows. Determined to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself, she returns home to confront him for the damage he’s caused.

But Mike is a predator of the worst kind, and as Lou tries to bring him to justice, it’s clear that she could once again become his prey…

Definitely without doubt for me the best novel yet from this author – she usually gets me mad at a particularly beautifully annoying single character, this time that trademark brilliance in characterisation is there but I’m getting mad for all the right reasons and the story is twisted as sin and twice as dark, with an emotionally resonant theme at the heart of it.

Also, I was rather gleefully fond of Wendy, not sure what that says about me and probably a little too enthusiastic at one particular scene in this book because I did a small fist pump and managed to knock a pile of books off the bedside cabinet. IT’S FINE THE BOOKS LIVED.

What I loved about this one mostly is the way the story pans out in strange yet such believable ways. Lou discovers that the man who groomed her in her youth has his sights set on another teenager – desperate to prevent another child from going through that horrifying experience she sets out to stop him. What follows is an utterly gripping, often quite scary and genuinely compelling story, with many clever little psychological levels exploring the fallout from all those years ago upon more people than just Lou..

The Fear is as emotionally resonant as it is entertaining, we learn what Lou experienced all those years ago and no punches are pulled – when in the present day Lou starts to get to grips with her trauma through the sheer determination she has to make sure no more lives are ruined, it is kind of uplifting. Even with the rather rash actions she takes, often with no filter, which kind of brings on the entertaining part…

Whether intentional or not, for me Wendy was the shining character in The Fear – for a start she is definitively divisive in that C L Taylor way, but oddly easy to love. It was another strong feature of this novel that the author didn’t stick with victim and perpetrator but explored wider angles and implications which just gave it an added depth beyond that of twisty psychological thriller.

Overall an excellent read. You’ll be glued to the pages, enthralled, often aghast, compelled to the rather excellent end game.

Big thumbs up from me.

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Latest Reads: An Engineered Injustice William Myers.

Publication Date: January 23rd from Thomas and Mercer

Source: Netgalley

What if the deadliest train wreck in the nation’s history was no accident?

When a passenger train derails in North Philadelphia with fatal results, idealistic criminal defense attorney Vaughn Coburn takes on the most personal case of his young career. The surviving engineer is his cousin Eddy, and when Eddy asks Vaughn to defend him, he can’t help but accept. Vaughn has a debt to repay, for he and his cousin share an old secret—one that changed both their lives forever.

As blame for the wreck zeros in on Eddy, Vaughn realizes there’s more to this case than meets the eye. Seeking the truth behind the crash, he finds himself the target of malicious attorneys, corrupt railroad men, and a mob boss whose son perished in the accident and wants nothing less than cold-blooded revenge. With the help of his ex-con private investigator and an old flame who works for the competition, Vaughn struggles to defeat powerful forces—and to escape his own past built on secrets and lies.

An Engineered Injustice follows the same law firm from A Criminal Defense which I purchased and loved recently, but either could be read as a standalone and I highly recommend both especially if you have been lacking good legal thrillers in your reading life…

A train crash, a huge loss of life, and  immediately there are lawsuits – but in the case of Vaughn’s cousin Eddy, a possibility of criminal charges as it may well be that he is responsible for the crash, an event he has no memory of.

This is a clever, absorbing and often thought provoking read – with some excellent characters, proper full on courtroom drama and a mystery element that is unpredictable and highly intriguing. History comes into play as we learn more about the relationship between the cousins and the wider family – we have a mob boss out for blood, a nefarious civil litigation firm and a horrifying incident tying them all together..it is a fast, addictive read and one that really gets the blood up.

If you watched “Goliath” and enjoyed it you’ll probably love this – whilst Vaughn is not quite a lone wolf he is often the lone voice supporting Eddy, often having to push against his own colleagues and friends – danger lurks, not only from the mob but also in unexpected places. The story twists and turns towards a really excellent finale, overall it is just a really really good read.

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: It’s Always the Husband Michele Campbell

Publication Date: 11th January from HQ

Source: Review Copy

On the night of a 40th birthday party, a woman is encouraged to jump from a bridge by a friend. Kate, Aubrey, and Jenny. They met at college and became inseparable, despite being as different as three women can be. Kate floats through life on family money and privilege; Jenny’s parents have taught her to hustle for every opportunity; and Aubrey, from the wrong side of the tracks, is determined to put a broken home behind her. Their friendship sees them through decades: boyfriends, weddings, affairs, divorces… until the night of the party.
How can three women love and hate each other so much? Can feelings this strong lead to murder?

It’s Always the Husband is a hybrid of domestic drama, family saga and a hint of psychological thriller featuring 3 friends all of whom are randomly horrible. Seriously. Each in their own way horribly entitled and whiny. Still they were utterly compelling.

This is a story about people getting exactly what is coming to them – I enjoyed it thoroughly on that level and was rather nastily gleeful when a certain death happened. I found it to be a page turner especially from the half way mark but in the end it’s ALWAYS the husband. Isn’t it?

Maybe not…you’ll have to read to find out……

The ebb and flow of female friendships is examined in this story with a genuine realism, even though most of our friendships don’t end in death you know, sometimes you feel they actually might. As we follow along with these 3, seeing the secret resentments and honest underneath of the surface smiles it is utterly gripping. I loved the past/present vibe as we discover what happened then and it seeps into what is happening now – the strength in this story comes from the multi-layered characters, their deeper emotional core and the life influences that define who these women are.

The mystery element is clever, but for me not the heart of this – the dynamics of friendship is the main theme and it is beautifully done. The end did make me raise an eyebrow however so that deserves points – an intelligent resolution always being a huge plus.

Overall “It’s Always The Husband” was an intriguing, addictive read with plenty of divisive personalities within the pages to get the reading blood up.

Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Games with the Dead James Nally.

Publication Date: Available Now from Avon

Source: Review Copy

Irish runaway. Insomniac. Functioning alcoholic.
Life is about to get complicated for DC Donal Lynch.

When a young woman is kidnapped, Donal is brought in to deliver the ransom money. But the tightly-planned drop off goes wrong, Julie Draper is discovered dead, and Donal finds his job on the line – a scapegoat for the officers in charge.

But when Donal is delivered a cryptic message in the night, he learns that Julie was killed long before the botched rescue mission. As he digs further into the murder in a bid to clear his own name, dark revelations make one thing certain: the police are chasing the wrong man, and the killer has far more blood on his hands than they could even imagine.

I love this series. The setting makes it far more intriguing than a lot of crime thrillers due to the slightly lesser technology available, the relationship between brothers Donal and Fintan is extraordinarily entertaining and the added “supernatural that might not necessarily be supernatural” element is really well done and gives an added edge to proceedings. Often very funny, Games with the Dead is a brilliant addition to this series and I hope we see more of Donal very soon.

VERY soon.

Poor Donal he doesn’t half get put through the wringer here – on the hook for losing a kidnap victim, trouble and strife in his relationship, plus ghostly visits in the middle of the night and it is really unsurprising that he drinks. James Nally manages all the layers  of this story with aplomb, it is incredibly addictive, occasionally laugh out loud hilarious, but also dark as you like – with a twisty storyline full of the unexpected.

Considering I accidentally read the first one (don’t ask!) I think fate was at play because this is easily one of my favourite crime series out there today, one of those I wish they’d make for television. There were various strands in this novel (especially relating to Donal’s more,erm, unusual skills) that I can’t wait to read more about.

Quirky, Offbeat and beautifully done Games with the Dead (and the rest) come highly recommended from me.

 

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Dark Pines Will Dean – Author Interview.

Today I am VERY happy to ask Will Dean a few little questions about the amazing Dark Pines as part of the blog tour. One of my favourite reads of last year, in my Top Ten and available now – genuinely you shouldn’t miss it.

 

So, we all know I LOVED Dark Pines so I’m very interested in the inspiration for it – obviously where you live for the setting which is beautiful, but also for the main character. So tell me!

So, so pleased you loved Dark Pines. Thank you! Tuva was partly a reaction to my awful first novel (now locked in a drawer). The protagonist of that story was basically me but 5cm taller. So I knew I wanted to write a POV character that wasn’t myself. I wanted to write someone interesting.

Tuva came to me (kinda) fully-formed. When I imagined Dark Pines I saw a huge, overgrown spruce forest. I zoomed in and saw a pick-up truck snaking its way along a gravel track through the trees. I zoomed in further and saw a young, deaf journalist driving the truck.

I wanted Tuva Moodyson to be like someone you know. A normal, relatable person. I didn’t want to write a superhero. Tuva can’t do martial arts or hack computers or read minds. She’s you and me. She’s a complicated, determined, fragile person. I love writing her.

As for inspiration, the setting of Dark Pines is inspired by the huge forest I live in, and also by my travels around Sweden. I’m interested in the interplay between character and place. Tuva, for example, hates nature. She’s terrified of it. I think she’s probably an amalgamation of many different people I know: my sister, my mother, my wife, my friends. But she is also, very much, just Tuva Moodyson. I’m excited to see how she develops in future books.

Start of a series. Anticipation is high for book 2 (definitely from me anyway and I believe from quite a few other people now)) – so are you having book 2 trauma? Not that I want you to relive it or anything…

Liz, I have had SO MUCH book 2 trauma. So, so much. I’m a walking cliché. Dark Pines came out in pretty good shape. It needed work but the fundamental structure was there from day one. Red Snow, the second Tuva Moodyson book, was altogether more tricksy. My first draft didn’t really contain any crimes?! That’s partly because I’m most interested in character and sense of place and mood. And it’s partly because the crimes were there in my head, and I’d alluded to them in the narrative, but I needed to make them much clearer to the reader. It’s been a tough period but I’m starting to really like Red Snow (thank God). And I’ve realised that I learn so much more writing the tough books than writing the (relatively) straightforward ones.

Tell us a little about your writing habits. Lock yourself away? Music? No music? Random banging of head against wall (either to music or to silence)?

In Sweden people split parental leave roughly 50:50. I wrote Dark Pines during 8 months of parental leave, and the routines I established then are now set in stone. I write a first draft once I know the rough arc of the story, and once I know who my cast of characters are. I take a train ride up to Varmland, the region where Dark Pines is set, for a one night trip, about a week before I start writing. That train ride (earplugs, no phone) allows me a string of hours to flesh out the story.

The first draft (Stephen King’s ‘you may not come lightly to the blank page’ plays in my head like a mantra) takes me 4 weeks. I wrote Dark Pines in my then one-year-old’s naps (2.5 hours in the morning, 2.5 hours in the afternoon – he was a great napper) because it was the only time I had. And that rhythm worked. One chapter in the morning and one in the afternoon. I think I’ll always write in his naptimes (even when he’s 30). I’m a bit of a zombie for those 4 weeks as I’m constantly thinking/daydreaming about Tuva and Gavrik when I’m not actually writing. I work in a spare bedroom with the blinds pulled. Earplugs. No music.

Then I leave it for a few weeks. And then the rewrites begin (months and months of rewrites).

Was there a lot of research involved in writing Dark Pines?

There was. I split my research into three parts. The largest and most important body of research concerned deafness, the deaf community, and deaf culture. I read a lot, I followed deaf YouTubers and bloggers, and I dedicated time to imagining how Tuva would live. I still research deafness now and I feel a big responsibility to do Tuva justice, and to write as accurately and sensitively as I can.

The other research I undertook concerned hunting (I am not a hunter), and small town journalism.

So Dark Pines made it into my top ten this year (OBVIOUSLY) so let’s just say you could swap that out for a read that has been one of your favourites this year. Well last year now I suppose by the time this runs. Which book would you choose? Just one. Yes I l know I had ten, you just get one.

(Thank you!)

I’m going to break your rules and choose two (please!). One non-crime, and one crime. My favourite book of 2017 was Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. It’s such an ambitious, beautiful novel and I am in awe of the author. As for crime novels, it’s so difficult to choose just one! But I’ll go with You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood. This book knocked me sideways. It’s written from the perspective of a defendant in a murder trial. It’s his closing speech (he fires his barrister). The voice and the storytelling are sublime.

Finally, if you could meet any character in Dark Pines for a few drinks who would it be any why? Just to make it more interesting, you can’t choose Tuva.

I’d love to meet Tammy for a drink. She’s hilarious and straight-talking and fiercely loyal to Tuva. I like Tammy a great deal and I’m so pleased that her and Tuva are best friends.

Thank you! (I loved You Don’t Know Me as well and would second that recommendation!) A pleasure to chat with you.

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Latest Reads: The Killing House Claire McGowan

Publication Date: 5th April 2018 from Headline

Source: Review Copy

Renovations at an abandoned farm have uncovered two bodies: a man known to be an IRA member missing since the nineties, and a young girl whose identity remains a mystery.

As Paula attempts to discover who the girl is and why no one is looking for her, an anonymous tip-off claims that her own long-lost mother is also buried on the farm.

When another girl is kidnapped, Paula must find the person responsible before more lives are destroyed. But there are explosive secrets still to surface. And even Paula can’t predict that the investigation will strike at the heart of all she holds dear.

A brilliant “conclusion” to Paula Maguire’s journey. A genuinely compelling and thought provoking series overall and this one had me on the edge of my seat to find out if Paula would get her happy ending. Y’all better read to find out..

From the first book to this book, the stories have been absolutely gripping – each separate mystery brilliantly plotted and compelling – throughout though has been the thread of loss- what did happen to Paula’s mother? Every book has had a moving forward of sorts, now here we are and the end is in sight…

Claire McGowan writes with a quiet intensity that just draws you in, her characters are beautifully flawed and authentic, the Irish setting comes to life not only in style but in substance. There is an underlying emotional sense to these books that is really impressive. Poor Paula, she has been through the wringer over the years, with her relationships and her difficult career – the author offers no guarantees that the rug won’t be pulled out from underneath her yet again in this final reckoning – so to call it a page turner doesn’t really do it justice. You honestly wont be able to put it down.

As a reader who has followed these from the start I was very emotional myself when I got to the end of The Killing House – whether in a good, cathartic way or a completely destroyed sobbing heap way I’ll leave you to find out for yourselves – but I HIGHLY recommend this and the books leading up to it. If you haven’t read them yet get the lot, go on a binge read, it’ll be more addictive than anything on Netflix I can promise you that. If you, like me, have been waiting for this “closure” then you won’t be disappointed. Absolutely and completely brilliantly done.

 

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