Latest Reads: Best Friends Forever Margot Hunt.

Publication Date: 23rd January 2018 from HQ Digital

Source: Netgalley

Kat Grant and Alice Campbell have a friendship forged in shared confidences and long lunches lubricated by expensive wine. Though they’re very different women—the artsy socialite and the struggling suburbanite—they’re each other’s rocks. But even rocks crumble under pressure. Like when Kat’s financier husband, Howard, plunges to his death from the second-floor balcony of their South Florida mansion.

Howard was a jerk, a drunk, a bully and, police say, a murder victim. The questions begin piling up. Like why Kat has suddenly gone dark: no calls, no texts and no chance her wealthy family will let Alice see her. Why investigators are looking so hard in Alice’s direction. Who stands to get hurt next. And who is the cool liar—the masterful manipulator behind it all. 

I’m right back into my psychological thrillers right now having had a bit of a meh time about them where I felt I was reading the same story over and over again, so I made it a mission to seek out the ones that can surprise me. If you surprise me you get Brownie points. They are not worth anything but you know, it is fun for me.

Best Friends Forever did manage to surprise me. As well as that it was a brilliant page turner, with a couple of cleverly drawn main protagonists, a supporting cast of possibly nefarious bystanders and the story of one true friendship. Told from the point of view of Alice, who appreciates the light that friend Kat brings into her mundane family life, giving her a break, she begins to realise that perhaps Kat is not QUITE as friendly as she seems..

It is very gripping as we see the present Alice being interviewed by the police and the past Alice meeting Kat, becoming friends, all the ways their lives entwine – but underneath it all it is just a little off, not quite as bright and bubbly as it appears. Margot Hunt layers it well, genuinely keeping you guessing, especially in relation to the psychology of everyone in this – from Kat to Alice, from both the husbands to the extended family – in the end the outcome is highly effective and yes, unexpected although maybe not on the level you would think.

I like the clever ones. I like the ones that keep you reading  bleary eyed into the night to see if what happens and if you’ve guessed correctly. I like the ones with characters that stand out and are not carbon copies of the last book you read in this genre. Best Friends forever scores highly on all of those therefore I will happily highly recommend it.

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Can You Keep A Secret Karen Perry. Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Penguin (kindle) Paperback 30th November. 

Source: Review Copy

It’s time for a reunion

Lindsey hasn’t spoken to Rachael in twenty years, not since her brother’s 18th birthday party at their parents’ remote country house. A night that shattered so many friendships – and left Rachel’s father dead.

Now Thornbury Hall is up for sale, and the old gang are back there, together again. A weekend to say goodbye to the old place, to talk about the past. But twenty years of secrets aren’t given up lightly. Some won’t speak about what happened that night. While others want to ensure that no one does. Surviving the weekend is going to depend on whether you can keep a secret . . 

This is one of those types of stories that I love – school secrets shedding their skin in adult lives – the past/present colliding in dreadful and compelling ways – and with “Can You Keep A Secret?” the writing team that is Karen Perry have come up with a corker.

Genuinely absorbing the author takes us through the relationships between a group school friends, the impressive home of one of them forms its own character in the background – a tragedy at a party has repercussions years later as the friends gather once more to say goodbye to that home before it is sold. This is almost like a Shakespearean tragedy unfolding as events take on new meaning and the true nature of what went on both in reality and in mindset back then come to light. Through the voice of main protagonist Rachel, this is a twisty tale indeed and often actually surprising.

Using the past/present vibe to excellent effect, Can You Keep A Secret weaves a complex web of misconceptions and lies, a character driven narrative that unravels each event slowly but surely until you have an entire picture. Not always predictable, it is one of those page turning stories that keeps you immersed into the lives of these people and stays with you once you are done with it. All in all an excellent and often thought provoking read.

Recommended.

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Latest Reads- The Blinds Adam Sternbergh.

Publication Date: February 2018 from Faber (available Now on Kindle)

Source: Review Copy

Imagine a place populated by criminals – people plucked from their lives, with their memories altered, who’ve been granted new identities and a second chance. Welcome to The Blinds, a dusty town in rural Texas populated by misfits who don’t know if they’ve perpetrated a crime or just witnessed one. All they do know is that they opted into the programme and that if they try to leave, they will end up dead.

For eight years, Sheriff Calvin Cooper has kept an uneasy peace – but after a suicide and a murder in quick succession, the town’s residents revolt. Cooper has his own secrets to protect, so when his new deputy starts digging, he needs to keep one step ahead of her – and the mysterious outsiders who threaten to tear the whole place down. The more he learns, the more the hard truth is revealed: The Blinds is no sleepy hideaway, it’s simmering with violence and deception, heartbreak and betrayal, and it’s fit to burst.

Having been a HUGE fan of both Shovel Ready and Near Enemy from this author to say I was very happy to see “The Blinds” land on the doormat would be putting it mildly. Turns out, although this is very different, I loved it just as much, cleverly imaginative with some top notch divisive characters and a real western vibe about it that I adored.

The Blinds is a town like no other. Part prison, although you can leave if you wish and part social experiment, it houses ex criminals (or possibly witnesses) who have no idea what crime they may have committed. Having had a partial or full memory wipe prior to arriving they all live in sort of a little social bubble, a community both divided and united, cut off completely from the outside world. Into this we come, just after a suicide and a murder – destroying the uneasy peace and creating all kinds of questions for Sheriff Calvin Cooper..

This is a rocking good read, providing both mystery and a hugely thought provoking central theme. Nobody in this story is exactly who they appear to be, nothing is exactly as it looks and as each new day unfolds new events and new revelations abound. It is an addictive and intelligently woven tale which is also utterly gripping. I was riveted by the idea’s entertained here, got emotionally involved with all the characters and was actually bereft when I finished it and had to leave them all.

The characters pop, the setting is claustrophobic yet wide reaching and the writing is, as before with Adam Sternbergh, unique in style and strong in substance – beautifully immersing the reader into the moment. I loved it. I’m a fan. I also couldn’t help but think what a binge worthy Netflix show this would make. If only wishing made it so…

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: The Binding Song Elodie Harper

Publication Date: Available Now from Mulholland

Source: Purchased Copy

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…

The Binding Song is brilliantly compelling, eminently creepy and one of those books that has you looking over your shoulder and eyeing strangers oddly as if they might suddenly leap up and shout BOO.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, the story is utterly riveting, also extraordinarily haunting as you follow Janet, new recruit at Halvergate prison, trying to untangle the web of deceit left behind by her predecessor. Something evil stalks the corridors here but is it  a human evil or something beyond our knowledge of the world?  Well that is the question….

Elodie Harper keeps things off kilter as she explores some of the darkest minds, not all of them belonging to the prisoners. There is a real sense of menace pervading the narrative that creeps up on you unexpectedly and the play between the real and imagined is cleverly manipulated so you are not sure what to believe. Terrific writing with a real storytelling talent, The Binding Song is highly addictive and likely to keep you up at night so you can just read that one more chapter.

The ending is perfectly placed to match the feel of the rest of the novel, eerie and memorable, one of those that stays with you and leaves you pondering the state between fantasy and reality. I loved it. Unsettling and enthralling.

Overall a truly excellent debut that promises so much for the future. I can’t wait to see what Elodie Harper writes next. Stephen King should probably start upping his game…

Highly Recommended.

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Killing State Judith O’Reilly: Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now

Source: Review Copy

The bullet in his brain isn’t the problem. She is.

Michael North is a hero with a bullet in the brain to prove it. A bullet which has rewired his neural pathways and heightened his sense of intuition.

A bullet which is driving him mad.

Working for an extra-governmental agency called The Board, North knows one thing for sure.

He is very good at killing very bad guys.

But what happens when a hero is ordered to kill a good woman rather than a bad man? Because it turns out that rising political start, Honor Jones, MP, can’t stop asking the right questions about the wrong people.

He should follow orders.

Shouldn’t he?

Killing State is a fast paced, bang on target political thriller with an intriguing and double edged main protagonist with a reflective and foreshadowing feel about what the future could hold under an ever more controlling government.

I liked the moral sense of it throughout – the man who kills for a living yet draws lines in the sand, the fact that Michael North faces his own ever unknown death sentence adds a nuance to Killing State, he is an anti-hero who is really very compelling. The action is fast and furious and the political landscape drawn is a darkly terrifying one.

Multi layered characters are key to this story and the author shows their background and motivations really well, the more contemplative moments offset against the high octane ones make this a brilliantly immersive read. There are mystery elements that keep you intrigued, a terrific sense of place and purpose and overall I found this to be highly enjoyable and a right old page turner.

Hope to see more of Michael North very soon.

Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Force of Nature Jane Harper

Publication Date: February 2018 from Little Brown

Source: Netgalley

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side.

The hike through the rugged Giralang Ranges is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case – in just a matter of days she was to provide the documents that will bring down the company she works for.

Falk discovers that far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. But does it include murder?

Weirdly, just as I was finishing this one, an email publicity shot for team building courses popped up. Erm no thank you. Not after reading Jane Harper’s incredibly atmospheric, absorbing and often disturbing tale of a hike gone horribly wrong. But was it Mother Nature or human nature that caused one to be left behind…

I was extraordinarily pleased to see the return of Aaron Falk, the brilliantly drawn character from this author’s masterpiece “The Dry” – whilst “Force of Nature” is a very different beast, the beautiful sense of place Jane Harper brings to her narrative remains, as does the insightful and compelling characterization and the totally gripping plot construction.

Pacy and cleverly done, we watch the search unfold, follow Falk as he attempts to discover whether his witness disappearing is anything to do with his case, whilst in flashback we see the women start their journey and watch them slowly disintegrate in a very Lord of the Flies type manner – although perhaps more realistically. It is utterly gripping, gorgeously unpredictable and a proper literary page turner.

If you loved The Dry you’ll love this. If you haven’t read it then do, THEN read this. This is perfectly placed crime fiction, tackling socially relevant themes against a beautifully immersive backdrop, entertaining, haunting and authentic. You can’t ask for more really.

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Killer Intent Tony Kent.

Publication Date: 25th January from Elliot and Thompson

Source: Review Copy

Britain’s elite security forces seem powerless when an audacious attempt is made to assassinate a former US president in London. This becomes the spark which ignites a chain reaction of explosive events that will see old political sympathies rekindled and personal loyalties betrayed.

Joe Dempsey, a deadly military intelligence officer who witnesses this botched assassination, soon realises that this is just one small part of a complex and dark conspiracy, and only he can stop it. The fallout draws both Dempsey and CNN reporter Sarah Truman into parallel investigations, each compelled to discover the sinister truth behind these violent events. All too quickly they are running out of time as the future of the British government is crumbling. Thrown into these events is Michael Devlin, a Belfast-born criminal barrister with a secret past.

It’s a life or death race against the clock. Dempsey, Devlin and Truman are forced to work in the shadows and call on forgotten loyalties before a lethal showdown presents a devastating finale.

Killer Intent is a proper thriller. By that I mean it’s actually thrilling, whilst showing a huge amount of depth in both plot and character. I’m a fan. It was GREAT.

So our political landscape is pretty FUBAR at the moment, we know this, but I’m kind of hoping that behind the scenes things are somewhat less House of Cards than is happening in this story – bullets are flying, people are dying, there’s a devilish plot going on somewhere and Joe Dempsey is determined to dig down to the very roots of it. Starting with a bang, almost literally, then taking the reader on an often breathtaking race to the finish, Killer Intent is not only considered but cleverly layered, unpredictable and best of all really great fun to read.

It is brilliantly written to have maximum effect and you’ll get hook line and sinkered into this twisty tale of mayhem, you’ll probably fall in love with at least 2 of the characters (if not more) and I’m really quite happy that this is going to be a series because as soon as I’d finished it I wanted more. Thought provoking as well as entertaining, Killer Intent for me was a huge reading hit – so much to appreciate, definitely worth giving a nod to Sarah Truman who was the kind of female protagonist we need more of, no hint from anywhere that she couldn’t and wouldn’t keep up with all our alpha males. Plus there is a strong emotional edge to all of the characters that makes you stick with them through it all.

Taking place over a very short period of time, building an interesting background to be explored presumably in later novels and with a taut, tense and exciting story unfolding, I’m more than happy to highly recommend Killer Intent to any thriller fan. And a few non thriller fans. Ok all of you too…

Incredibly immersive with bang on prose and an intriguingly complex web of deceit that doesn’t feel at all unlikely. Killer Intent in a nutshell.

My advice: Put it on your “must have” list for January.

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Ones to Watch in 2018. The Tall Man Phoebe Locke

Publication Date: June 2018 from Wildfire

Source: Review Copy

THE TALL MAN TAKES DAUGHTERS…

SADIE
Sadie Banner has been haunted by the Tall Man in the shadows since she was a child. Terrified of what he might make her do to her baby daughter, she abandons her family. Sixteen years later, she returns, but she can never escape his voice in her head.

AMBER
Two years later, a film crew follows beautiful, unnerving Amber Banner on a media tour of Los Angeles. She’s just been acquitted of a murder charge in a case that held the world’s attention. But who did she kill – and why?

The Tall Man devoured my whole day yesterday. It is utterly gripping from the very first moments and it is inexorably creepy and gets stuck in your head. I spent the entire evening after reading it jumping at shadows. And once, embarrassingly, at my own reflection in the kitchen window…

Anyway, The Tall Man is a legend. Probably. Or possibly you should lock up your daughters – he’ll make you special if you ask him to but my advice would be to keep quiet and hide in that cupboard over there…

Sadie leaves her infant daughter behind, years later that infant daughter is on trial for murder  – but whose murder and why? Phoebe Locke weaves an intimately fly on the wall style tale, using flashback and current time to excellent effect – slowly the story emerges of a shadowy figure haunting lives – but how much of it is in the eye of the beholder and how much of it may be real. Well that is the question that hovers over this entire cast of very intriguing characters and one that might just haunt your dreams a little later on.

I like the documentary elements, it allowed for outside view, the author puts lots of clever little nuances into the narrative, tapping into the urban legend vibe and keeping things off kilter. It is beautifully absorbing one of those books you just live within – the ending was surprising and unpredictable, which of course I loved, Phoebe Locke manages to leave you with some thought provoking tangles – astutely done.

Overall a really excellent, highly addictive read. Definitely one to watch. Would make an incredible tv drama and The Tall Man is not going to leave me alone anytime soon. Damn him!

Highly Recommended.

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Ones to Watch in 2018: The After Wife Cass Hunter

Publication Date: March 2018 from Trapeze

Source: Review Copy

“I saw you, and I knew instantly that I could grow old with you. We’d be future-proof.”

When Rachel and Aidan fell in love, they thought it was forever.
She was a brilliant, high-flying scientist. He was her loving and supportive husband.
Now she’s gone, and Aidan must carry on and raise their daughter alone.
But Rachel has left behind her life’s work, a gift of love to see them through the dark days after her death.

A gift called iRachel.

The After Wife is an emotional story about love, loss, longing and belonging. For readers who loved The Time Traveller’s WifeMe Before You and The Lovely Bones.

A little while ago now I sat down with an early early copy of The After Wife and I read it first page to last in one huge emotional gulp of a sitting, enthralled throughout, beautiful beautiful writing and one of those stories you devour.

Not my usual kind of thing this – it deals with love. Uurgh. I’m not terribly sentimental – but Cass Hunter has written a barnstormer of a story that is utterly gripping, sad yet uplifting, dealing with love and with loss and with the way we cling to things – and she does it using an unusual and thought provoking premise. A little bit of a genre bender that allows the themes explored to hit you right in the heart. RIGHT IN THE HEART DAMMIT.

Rachel dies but in some ways she is not gone – as her Husband and Daughter attempt to deal with this terrible loss, they also have to deal with the echoes left behind – the relationships Cass Hunter draws between them and how they deal with their new reality is really beautifully done, a multi-layered story that speaks not only to how we cope with loss but how we define being human. It is fascinating, compelling and utterly addictive.

Fair warning, there are a couple of heart wrenching scenes in the finale that had even cynical little old me sobbing into my pillow and unable to speak – but in style and substance The After Wife is a life affirming, ultimately uplifting, poignant and genuinely touching story of life, love and all the things in between.

I loved it.  Consider me converted.

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Grist Mill Road Christopher J Yates.

Publication Date: January 2018 (US – UK Date as yet unconfirmed) from Picador US

Source: Netgalley

Grist Mill Road is a dark, twisted, and expertly plotted Rashomon-style tale. The year is 1982; the setting, an Edenic hamlet some ninety miles north of New York City. There, among the craggy rock cliffs and glacial ponds of timeworn mountains, three friends―Patrick, Matthew, and Hannah―are bound together by a terrible and seemingly senseless crime. Twenty-six years later, in New York City, living lives their younger selves never could have predicted, the three meet again―with even more devastating results.

Now I was a HUGE fan of  Black Chalk, the first novel from this author that I read moons ago now – it was a work of literary genius, a puzzle piece of sheer reading joy, so to say that I was both excited and somewhat apprehensive to read Grist Mill Road is perhaps an understatement.

Turns out Black Chalk was not a one off in the quality sense – Grist Mill Road is a twisted and intelligent tale of three friends and the actions that tie them together – once more the author plays with your perceptions throughout the narrative, showing you one thing that later looks like quite another, all the while digging into the psychology of our main protagonists in a way that is genuinely compelling. Starting off with an emotional punch to the senses within a disturbing scene setter we then start to find out the why’s and wherefore’s and how it came to be, the emphasis being very much on on character and motivation. It is slippery, every assumption you make has to be taken back a little with the next thing you find out and whatever you think at the beginning I can almost guarantee you’ll be thinking something else by the end.

I loved it – it forced me to think outside the box, to consider the difference between what we see and what is true – my sympathies wavered throughout, one of the biggest strengths of this novel is in the authenticity of the characters you are reading about. It is not about good and evil, but all the shades of grey in between those two things – honest human nature. Hannah, Matthew and Patrick all have those very human hidden depths that are in us all, it is not until you reach the end of Grist Mill Road that they are  laid bare for your judgment – on who they are, on what they did, on all of it. Brilliant. Honestly it is just brilliant.

The writing is intense, almost voyeuristic and beautifully beautifully done – it has just reiterated for me that I prefer the more literary side of crime in a lot of ways, the ones that keep me up at night after finishing them pondering life and all it’s foibles and pondering people and all their secrets. Grist Mill Road is absolutely mesmerizing, descriptively passionate and unbelievably addictive, with an ending that resonates and digs deep into your soul. These are the ones we read for!

Highly Recommended.

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