Top Ten of 2017 – How did that happen already?

It is a little insane that we are here again already. But the end of another reading year approaches and as I always do at this time I’ve picked a Top Ten for the year. This is my reading year not necessary the publishing calendar so you may have to wait for some of these should you be encouraged to read them – but all are books I’ve read and reviewed this year.

It was an extremely difficult one. My Best of the Rest post earlier this week encompassed 30 books that could easily be Top Ten. Since I locked this list down I’ve read several that are in the running for next year, every time I struggle with what goes in what stays out. But in the end I go for a mixture of the books that I have completely and utterly adored during 2017 and my No 1 is the one that made me go wow the most times before I finally put it away.

Before we get to that that though I’m giving a shout out to 5 books that in a lesser reading year would quite definitively be in this top ten and I can’t end the year without mentioning them. Louise Beech’s beautiful family drama “Maria in the Moon” made me weepy and I HATE (love) being weepy over a book. Mike Carey’s “The Boy on the Bridge” had such beautiful writing for such a very dark tale and took me back to the world of The Girl with All the Gifts (A top ten book in it’s year). Rachel Rhys (or Tammy Cohen as she is also known) wrote the book that stole a weekend of my life with “A Dangerous Crossing”. Then we have Michael Malone and his BRILLIANT gothic psychological thriller “House of Spines” and last but by no means least the work of utter utter genius that is “Gnomon” by Nick Harkaway. Great books all and all offering something a little different.

So with that slightly guilty feeling of having left so many wonderful books out, here are my Top Ten for the year for your reading consideration…


Khurrum Rahman’s East Of Hounslow  was a purely brilliant read that crept up on you with that brilliance, telling the story of Jay, drug dealer but randomly good guy as he gets caught up in an attempt to bring down extremists and struggles to asses the world around him. It is both witty and hugely thought provoking, with an ending that will resonate and the authors ability to draw deep, divisive and cleverly layered relationships between his characters is second to none. I genuinely cannot wait to see more from this author. You can READ MY REVIEW and/or Purchase East Of Hounslow by clicking the links.



Sylvain Neuvel’s follow up to Sleeping Giants was a huge hit with me this year, not least because he absolutely BROKE MY HEART with one particular plot twist and I still haven’t forgiven him. That aside though, Waking Gods is a dream of a read, fast, funny, incredibly imaginative and it has robots. I mean what more could you POSSIBLY want? You can read my review and purchase Waking Gods HERE.



The Woman in the Window is a book I read really early but it is due out soon and comes HIGHLY recommended from me. An ode to Hitchcock with beautifully immersive writing, an engaging main protagonist and a voyeuristic twist that really resonates, The Woman in the Window was another book that I devoured in short order this year and one of those I wish I hadn’t read yet so I could read it again for the first time. You can read my review and purchase The Woman in The Window here. 



I was introduced to the writing of Jamie Sawyer this year with  the start of a new series – The Eternity War: Pariah was utterly gripping, excellent world building and a thrill ride of a plot with some divisive and brilliantly drawn characters.  At the end I was hanging off the edge of my seat and I’m telling you I’m going to be going after that Nazia for the next book in the series with the passion of the newly converted. You can read my review and purchase The Eternity War: Pariah here.



Poor Evelyn Hardcastle gets both 7 and 71/2 deaths depending on where you are reading it but either way the poor girl is NOT having the best day. Plus it’s like Groundhog Day on acid so she’s not getting out anytime soon. Stuart Turton’s speculative and extraordinarily clever novel is out next year and although I have not yet given it a full review yet, it HAD to be in my Top Ten simply because it’s a work of genius that you should all immediately put on pre-order. Or something. Just don’t ask me how the author managed to keep it straight and ultimately work, this is a puzzle piece that will grip you from the very first page. A teaser review here or purchase The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle HERE. 



As soon as I put “The Feed” down I KNEW it was going to be in my Top Ten. A speculative post apocalyptic joy to read, you will I promise NEED THE FEED next year when you can get your hands on this. I adored it, it was ludicrously addictive and brilliantly paced – you’ll be breathless and possibly slightly emotional by the end of it. You can read my review and purchase The Feed here.



Cold Desert Sky is a book I read so early that there is not even a definitive cover for it yet and you can’t read my review because I haven’t written one – but having obtained Rod’s permission to include it in my Top Ten nonetheless here it is. In a year of brilliant reading, this was dazzling – as I’ve come to expect – the 3rd Charlie Yates novel and by far the best one yet, with mobsters and missing girls and Las Vegas you’ll be hook line and sinkered. Absolutely I’m very pleased to be able to put it well onto the reading radar here and sometime next year (I want to say July but don’t quote me) you should dive into this one and live in the 40’s for a while. God knows we all need a little escape from the modern world right now. You can purchase Cold Desert Sky here. 



Dark Pines has definitely earned its place here -I loved this book, atmospheric, beautifully drawn characters, a setting to die for (literally for some) and another book I devoured in short order, drawn into the life of main protagonist Tuva and the world she lives in. Clever and entirely addictive Dark Pines is simply an amazing debut and you should all give it a go. You can read my review and purchase Dark Pines here. 



Anatomy of a Scandal was NEARLY my No 1 this year but got usurped by my actual No 1 – still Sarah Vaughan’s debut is one of the best crime novels I’ve read this year – beautifully written, socially relevant and absolutely gripping, I don’t even know what words to say to make sure you pick this one up. A genuinely talented writer telling a deeply disturbing yet hugely realistic story I’m going to be fully reviewing this one upon publication. A teaser is here and you can purchase Anatomy of a Scandal here.

So that is 10-2 then so what did make it into the No 1 spot this year? Well I’m about to answer that question and the very MINUTE I put this novel down after holding onto it for ages not wanting to let it go, I knew that it would be in my No 1 spot.




Eva Dolan’s “This Is How It Ends” was simply an incredible piece of writing, not only in style but in substance – It is almost impossible to describe how much this one struck me, not only was the plotting absolutely cleverly divine and a work of pure genius but the characters literally come alive on the page. Not conventionally told, but all the more gripping for it, this book above all the others this year made me go Wow. Then made me go wow again. Then a few days later when I thought back on it made me go Wow AGAIN. Honestly deserving of my top slot this year this is Eva showing us what she’s truly made of. I cannot WAIT to see what she does next. You can read my review and purchase This Is How It Ends here. 


That is IT for another year then. My word what a reading year it has been and next year is shaping up beautifully.

Great books next year including the best Marnie Rome yet from Sarah Hilary and of course Pierce Brown’s Iron Gold which I devoured recently and I can tell you it’s going to be the biggest hit of the Red Rising saga yet – plus many I probably don’t even know about yet, I can’t wait.

Hope you’ve found something here to love and have a great end of 2017 and a thrilling 2018.


So this IS how it ends….

Happy Reading!






The Best of the Rest – Top Ten Teaser.

Well it’s that time of year again – on Friday my Top Ten will post but honestly I’ve read SO MANY great books in 2017 I thought I’d do a quick round up of the best of the rest to get the bookish juices flowing. Since I cut off my top ten considerations and locked it down, I’ve read even MORE great books – not the least of which was Sarah Hilary’s Come and Find Me – so already the list for next year is looking difficult to manage. But it’s what we live for right?

I will have missed books that I adored. The only way to get everything in that I would like to mention would be to relist nearly everything I’ve read this year, I haven’t honestly had that many misses – but I will, of course at the time, have written my true feelings review so if you are not on this list or the next one it is not indicative of anything. I would like to shout out a HUGE thanks to all the brilliant authors whose words I have devoured this year so far. And I still have a month to go.

So the best of the rest:

Well of course in any normal year the undoubtedly talented Chris Whitaker would have my no 1 spot because nobody NOBODY writes like he does. Tall Oaks had my No 1 last year – this year, our friendship having developed to the point that putting All The Wicked Girls in my Top Ten would feel like nepotism, instead I’m giving him the first and the most important best of the rest spot. All the Wicked Girls is quite simply a stunning piece of literature. Read it, love it, you won’t be able to help it. Read my review here.


Our Kind of Cruelty from Araminta Hall is my pick of the psychological thrillers I’ve read this year, a twisted tale with a sympathetic yet dangerous main protagonist and a book that makes you think it is doing one thing when actually it is doing quite another. Out in 2018 any fan of this genre should be putting it on their must have list. Read my review here.



Matthew Blakstad’s Lucky Ghost is another rock and roll novel and a truly brilliant follow up to Sockpuppet – I call him the punk rocker of the writing world because the prose is banging good, the storytelling addictive and clever and if you haven’t read these yet then you should. Any other year of course this would be top ten…but every year those decisions get harder. Don’t miss Lucky Ghost though. Read my review here. 


I read both of this books within this year’s time frame and the Matt Hunter series from The Rev (as I call him) Peter Laws is definitely one to watch. Scary, witty, dark as you like, you should read these with the lights on or preferably during the day if you can – otherwise you never know what might jump out at you. These come very highly recommended from me. Read my Unleashed review here.


Colette McBeth’s An Act Of Silence is an intuitively insightful piece of storytelling that has a psychological thriller tone but actually does so much more than that. Her best novel to date, I devoured it in huge chunks of reading time and it was an emotionally affecting read that has stayed with me. Read my review here.



Sarah Stovell’s “Exquisite” IS Exquisite both in writing and in immersive, cleverly obfuscated plotting with two dangerously engaging women playing a cat and mouse game that is totally unpredictable. Read it in one sitting then ponder it for days. That is how it gets you. Don’t miss it. Read my review here.


Three top Fantasy reads right here – each one getting my blood up at various times of the year. LOVED them all and I wish that I could just put them all in the top slots but I can’t (Maybe I’ll do a top 100 next year!) Different reasons but same recommendation here. Age of Assassins and it’s top notch plotting, Godblind and it’s tendency to make you grimace whilst desperate for the next chapter and The Tethered Mage with it’s brilliantly drawn politics are just simply wonderful reads.



Three of the twistiest tales for you now – Gillian McAllister’s brilliantly speculative sliding doors with death novel Anything you Do Say, Corrie Jackson fast catching up to the queen of the twisty tale Sophie Hannah with her brilliantly unpredictable “The Perfect Victim” and of course then Sophie Hannah herself with the undoubtedly clever Did You See Melody? 



Three literary delights for you now – The emotionally resonant and beautiful “The Immortalists” from Chloe Benjamin, M L Rio’s Shakespearean inspired dark tale “If We Were Villains” and Paul Bassett Davies with the darkly comic “Dead Writers in Rehab” – honestly don’t miss any of these.



The Young Adults have had a great year – here are three of my top picks but I could have had many many more.  Sara Holland’s Everless is so addictive and promises much more to come, Emily Suvada’s  This Mortal Coil was fast, furious and brilliant and Karen M McManus wrote the twistiest tale I’ve ever seen outside of adult psychological thrillers with the genuinely unpredictable “One Of Us is Lying”  Whatever age you are go pick at least one of these up!



The best of the rest of the best of the rest in crime for me this year – Amer Anwar’s incredibly insightful and highly entertaining “Western Fringes” then Emma Viskic’s “Resurrection Bay” which had me sitting engrossed for an entire afternoon and has a terrific main protagonist and I CERTAINLY couldn’t do a top book round up without including James Hazel’s “The Mayfly” which may make you shiver and is probably my favourite one sitting read of the year. You just can’t look away!



Need a thrilling thriller? Look no further. Adam Hamdy’s follow up to Pendulum which is twice as fast and ups the ante “Freefall” will have you on the edge of your seat. Haylen Beck (AKA Stuart Neville) and the psychological thrill ride that is Here and Gone will steal a few hours of your life and finally batten down the hatches with one from my favourite thriller series featuring the extremely cold but really very hot anti-hero Victor, Tom Wood’s “The Final Hour”. 



Some top legal eagles now with lawyers turned writers who are in my top “most entertaining reads” category when it comes to crime – Try William McIntyre’s “Last Will” with his funny Scottish main protagonist and wittily brilliant plots, then of  course I cannot EVER miss the incredibly talented Steve Cavanagh and Eddie Flynn with The Liar another edge of the seat rock and roll legal thriller – finally well we know he’s one of my top 5 favourite authors when he’s behaving himself and Neil White’s “From the Shadows” started off his new series in his usual indomitably excellent style.



Wow. That’s 28 brilliant reads. No wonder my Top Ten was so hard to pin down this year. Perhaps then just two more to round it up to a even 30 I mean why not? Maybe a couple that I just fell in love with for no really good reason whatsoever…

Rowan Coleman broke my heart and made me melancholy happy with her brilliant, gorgeous and heartfelt tale “The Summer of Impossible Things” – then we have Matt Haig’s “How to Stop Time” which is a wonderfully full of heart story about a man who lives a long long long life. These two actually go together well – I could easily recommend that you pick them both up and hunker down for a weekend in front of the fire and just lose yourself in the beautiful writing and magical heart of both these stories, written by true storytellers.

There that is your lot for now. Find out on FRIDAY which books made my top ten reads of 2017 – although like this list, you’ll have to wait to get your hands on one or two – It was genuinely almost impossible to pick both those and these – every year the talent grows, the reads get better and if you search for my “Ones to Watch in 2018” posts you’ll get a feel for how difficult it will be to pick next year too. Every single book mentioned here could easily have been in my Top Ten and many that are not mentioned here could have been too. But this is Best of the Rest – I hope you find something to love.

Happy Reading!


Ones to Watch in 2018. The Tall Man Phoebe Locke

Publication Date: June 2018 from Wildfire

Source: Review Copy


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.

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.

Follow the author on Twitter

Purchase The Tall Man

Happy Reading!

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.

Find Out More

Follow the author on Twitter

Purchase The After Wife

Happy Reading!

Normal Service Will Resume….

……..On 9th October. Apologies for any posts due up last week or this week that did not appear. All missed posts will get a spot next week. Please bear with me. An unusual situation prevents my usual bookish glee. I’m now taking a few days just for me and after that expect the normal book babble to continue…

Happy Reading!


On Hiatus….

Liz Loves Books is taking a short break and will be back somewhere between the 2nd and 4th October 2017.

If I am due on blog tours or to post a specified date review during this time the posts have been set to go but please forgive me if the schedule goes mad and decides to throw out a technical hitch..

If I get time to complete any reading short reviews will appear on Goodreads – fuller reviews will be added here when I am back.

Have a great bookish little while peeps!

Happy Reading!




Ones to Watch in 2018: This Is How It Ends. Eva Dolan.

Publication Date: 25th January 2018 from Raven

Source: Review Copy

This is how it begins.

With a near-empty building, the inhabitants forced out of their homes by property developers.

With two women: idealistic, impassioned blogger Ella and seasoned campaigner, Molly.

With a body hidden in a lift shaft.

But how will it end?

Well to be honest I’m not sure where to begin. I’m certainly sure that the end has left me with that melancholy, low key buzz of a feeling that all real readers will know when they’ve just finished a novel that will  linger in the senses and be the benchmark for future reads for a long long time to come.

Eva Dolan’s Zigic and Ferreira series is one of the best, most authentic police series out there but This Is How It Ends enters a whole new league of subtle brilliance that defies explanation in any kind of review – things to note though are the beautifully immersive writing, the insightful and deeply layered characters and the ability to recreate the world we are living in without need for filter or fuss. Socially relevant, entertaining yes but also utterly genuine and just getting you right in the heart.

This Is How It Ends is masterfully plotted – A party, a body and two friends who live in a world of protest and activism, suddenly faced with a moral dilemma – This is how it began…

I’m not telling you anymore about the detailed plot than that and I hope HOPE that not many reviewers coming after me do either. This is a masterclass of suspense and character study, peeling back layers of both the fact and the fiction of these two women, until you are left with how it ends. If you know almost anything else it won’t have the same impact – and it does have impact, trust me on that one. I was blown away by the ultimate resolution both emotionally and practically, all I could do was sit there and shake my head at the pure resonance of it (and give a small nod of approval to the clever way Eva Dolan had manipulated my head)

Look this is classically good writing right? There are a plethora of brilliant crime and thriller writers around, using language in many different ways to entertain us, but there a few, those very few that just have that depth of emotion, that literary twist to the way they do things, that thing in their storytelling that tells you they were born to do this – and this author is one of those. She’s been showing us for a while now, but with this novel, undoubtedly for this reader her best so far, she’s hit that sweet spot that starts defining a writing career.

Exquisitely understated prose that digs deep, two characters that you will live with, an utterly utterly riveting story with a final denouement that will leave you stunned, This Is How It Ends heads straight onto my favourites of all time list. No messing. Sometimes that’s just the way it is.

Read this. This is what it’s all about. Eva Dolan is the real deal.

Highly Recommended.

Follow Eva on Twitter

Purchase This Is How It Ends

Happy Reading!

Genuine Fraud E Lockhart – Author Interview and Review.

Today I am VERY happy to welcome E Lockhart to Liz Loves Books, telling me a little about the brilliant Genuine Fraud – available now from Hot Key Books. A little review from me follows, but if you are a fan of engaging and clever psychological thrillers this one will definitely be for you.

I’ve just finished reading “Genuine Fraud” which I devoured in two sittings, it definitely engaged me on more than one level – I know you took inspiration from the Ripley tales – but what attracted you first to writing a non linear narrative?


Thank you.  I was inspired by Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley more than by her other Ripley novels.  I was interested in the making of an antihero.  I also referenced superhero origin stories and Victorian orphan novels like Vanity Fair and Great Expectations  — all stories of class mobility and compromises both moral and emotional.  I wanted to tell an antihero story that ended with the reader feeling very connected to the central character.  After you know all that Jule has done — you see her at her youngest and most innocent.  That was a big reason to tell the story  backwards.


The enigmatic “Jule” never really shows us her true self, or does she? What do you think?


The novel is in third person, and the narration is tricky, but not unreliable.  There are no untrue sentences anywhere in the book.   And to answer your question about Jule — I’m not sure anyone has a true self.  It’s a very slippery thing, the self.


 When plotting “Genuine Fraud” did the story come to you in reverse or did you work beginning to end and then write it in the way that you did – I suppose this ties back to the first question in some ways, maybe the attraction to the non linear came after the story was fully formed for you.


I love to play with narrative structures.  In my earlier books, which were comedies, I did this a lot.  A book structured like a list, or with footnotes.  My last novel, We Were Liars, has a structure of two intersecting timelines intercut with fairy tales that are outside the main narrative but which still move it along.  Challenging myself with a structure is like setting myself to solve a puzzle.


It is a very different tale to “Liars” which was hugely popular for good reason, is it your aim to try and write different things every time, try and stay out of any particular comfort zone?


To me, We Were Liars and Genuine Fraud are both psychological thrillers about  class differences and intense friendships.  Both books  also have central female characters who are labelled “difficult” and both have  playful narrative structures and twisty plots.   But Liars is quite romantic, whereas Genuine Fraud is quite violent.  I like to shake things up and still satisfy my readers.


What do you hope readers are feeling at the end, how do you think you would respond to it if you were reading it as a pure reader?


I hope people will feel exhilerated and that they’ll want to read it a second time  and talk it over with their friends.  It’s a good book to argue about, I think.


Finally a question I ask everyone – is there a novel you have read this year that you would like to recommend to everyone?


Bone Gap by Laura Ruby is a cross-genre thriller that’s gorgeously written and very gripping. It won the Printz Award here in the US.  I think you’ll love it.


Thank you so much! And for the book which I loved very much.


Thank you for the fun questions and for featuring me on your blog.  xoE


About the Book: 

The story of a young woman whose diabolical smarts are her ticket into a charmed life. But how many times can someone reinvent themselves? You be the judge.

Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete. 
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two. 
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains. 
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.

My Review: 

I read this in just over 2.5 hours because I couldn’t put it down. Told in reverse, taking masses of inspiration from The Talented Mr Ripley but with a female main protagonist, Genuine Fraud was a huge page turner.

It did, in substance, feel like a homage to Ripley and to Highsmith, the author captures you with her beautiful descriptive prose, rich and layered settings and hugely divisive characters. By the end of it you know everything, yet you know nothing. This is a book that demands a second reading.

It won’t be for everyone and it is nothing like Liars, but for me it worked extraordinarily well and I have been caught up in it all day. I like the backwards story telling, like Megan Miranda’s “All The Missing Girls” a book I would also recommend if you enjoy this, it captured my senses, beginning at the ending and ending at the beginning – each little gem of a timeline giving you that bit more but also taking away, messing with your perception leaving you to work out what you believe.

Yes I’m a fan of books like these. I hope more authors try their hand at this non linear storytelling and hone the craft until I’m genuinely upside down. Genuine Fraud is both Ripley and not Ripley, a beautifully formed novel that yeah, definitely won’t be for everyone.

But it was for me.

Highly Recommended.

Find Out More

Follow the author on Twitter

Purchase Genuine Fraud

Happy Reading!


Recommended Read This Week: Did You See Melody? Sophie Hannah.

Publication Date: Available Now from Hodder and Staughton

Source: Review Copy

Pushed to the breaking point, Cara Burrows abandons her home and family and escapes to a five-star spa resort she can’t afford. Late at night, exhausted and desperate, she lets herself into her hotel room and is shocked to find it already occupied – by a man and a teenage girl.

A simple mistake on the part of the hotel receptionist – but Cara’s fear intensifies when she works out that the girl she saw alive and well in the hotel room is someone she can’t possibly have seen: the most famous murder victim in the country, Melody Chapa, whose parents are serving life sentences for her murder.

Cara doesn’t know what to trust: everything she’s read and heard about the case, or the evidence of her own eyes. Did she really see Melody? And is she prepared to ask herself that question and answer it honestly if it means risking her own life?

So I’m going to be taking one book out of my well loved previous or recent/early advanced reads that I have loved and recommending it each week – these novels will always be available now and may be old, new or somewhere in between the two.

This week I’m going with “Did You See Melody?” the latest twisted thriller from Sophie Hannah – I read this a  few months ago but it is now out there in the world and if you are a fan of the hard to see resolutions and the twisted path to the truth of the matter then you could pick up almost any Sophie Hannah novel to be fair, but Did You See Melody was definitely, for me, one of the most addictive.

This story follows Cara, who has (rather childishly I felt but that somehow made it all the more compelling that she ended up stuck in an enigma wrapped up in a mystery) run away from home. Wanting peace and quiet and time to think, she ends up at a relaxing resort. A mix up on the first night finds her in the wrong hotel room and seeing people who don’t want to be seen – but was the girl she saw REALLY the supposedly murdered Melody Capa or just someone who has a remarkable resemblance to said girl. Should Cara say what she has seen? Oh what to do…

As usual Sophie Hannah peppers her cast with a diverse range of characters, often hard to like ones, then mixes them all up, making everyone seem suspicious at one point or another, draws out the background to tell you everything you need to know but then blindsides you with something you didn’t think about. It is clever writing, I mostly love how I spend the entire time trying to second guess the author, who never ever makes things easy for me.

Added to that of course is the sheer vitality of it – once started pretty much not put down – I devoured this one in two quickfire, immersive sittings, predicting some things and absolutely not predicting others.  As usual Ms Hannah explores some dark themes but makes it just as entertaining as it is thought provoking and makes it almost impossible to second guess. Obviously occasionally you need a slight suspension of disbelief during but then when it all comes together in her  Christie-esque way, you go AH THAT is what that was all about – and give a nod to the genius thinking.

With the poetic prose and intrepid plot construction that is her trademark, Sophie Hannah gives us yet another twist fueled, character driven, intensely intriguing psychological thriller and I will continue reading them as long as she continues writing them. Bring on the next challenge, I anticipate it eagerly.


Recommended for: Fans of psychological thrillers with twists you are actually unlikely to see coming.

Find out More

Follow Sophie on Twitter

Purchase Did You See Melody

Happy Reading!



Ngaio Marsh Awards finalists: Best Crime Novel.



Today I’m very happy to welcome the five finalists for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, announced last month, to talk a little more about their finalist books.

The Ngaio Marsh Awards are New Zealand’s literary prizes for crime, mystery, and thriller writing. Last year’s winner, Trust No One by Paul Cleave, was released in the UK this summer. This year’s winners will be revealed next month in Christchurch, New Zealand.


Detectives Bobby Ress and Pollo Latu are put to the test when someone starts martyring Dunedin priests in the most medieval of ways. The international judging panel called this book “a brutal page-turner with compelling characters that takes a deep-dive into the psychological and a captivating examination of urban and countryside settings”.

Purchase Pancake Money: 

What were the inspirations behind your finalist book?

In my day job (prior to writing) I’ve worked in night shelters, charities, hospitals and prisons. Over the years people have told me absolutely amazing things, spanning the human condition from wondrous to grotesque. After a while some of those things started following me home – writing became a way of making sense of it. Eventually that writing coalesced into my first two books (Dead Lemons and Pancake Money) which I originally wrote as one too big, overly complex story but then separated out into two much more sane looking books. When I started I didn’t have a clear intention or plan to publish. So I couldn’t say the books had a clear inspiration or goal. I just wrote. Because I liked doing it, the process helped me. I didn’t really think much about the end result or what to do with it. The books as they are really just sort of came out. It happened without thinking (and knowing the quality of most of my thinking that’s probably a good thing).

How does it feel to be named a Ngaio Marsh Awards finalist?

Not real at all. The day it was announced I must have checked and rechecked the list five times. I even went back later in the evening and checked again, just to be sure nothing changed. There are some good, good books on the short list. I keep thinking at some point someone is going come tap me on the shoulder and explain that there’s been some kind of mistake.


A man suffering memory loss, a grieving daughter, and disgraced cop all have their lives upturned as they’re plunged into a global conspiracy. “Intriguing characters, twists that keep you guessing, and at heart a complex tale of betrayal and deception – a brilliant page-turner,” said the judges.

Purchase Spare Me The Truth:

What were the inspirations behind your finalist book?

The inspiration behind Spare Me The Truth was reading an article by the Telegraph’s science correspondent Richard Gray, who stated, “Researchers have found they can use drugs to wipe away single, specific memories while leaving other memories intact”. I wanted to explore the ramifications of such an amnesia drug, the downsides being that it could be taken on a whim, say, after a relationship breakup, but the upside could potentially help a severely traumatised victim of crime or war to return to a relatively normal life. All this got my creative synapses firing. What if someone had been administered the drug and couldn’t remember? Why was it done? What if everyone knew about it except the protagonist? I love, “what ifs”. They’re my staple diet.

How does it feel to be named a Ngaio Marsh Awards finalist?

I keep pinching myself. Being explicitly recognised for what I do feels fantastic. I also feel very moved, because it was my Wellington-born father who introduced me to Ngaio Marsh’s writing when I was a teen. We read all of her books, and if Dad knew I’d been finalised for this award, he would just about burst with pride.


Private eye Johnny Molloy and reporter Caitlin O’Carolan get entangled in deadly agendas and union politics as the 1951 waterfront dispute rages. Said the judges: “Cullinane’s characters fizz and sparkle in this historical thriller whose cracking dialogue and ceaseless pace make it feel utterly current.”

Purchase Red Herring 

What were the inspirations behind your finalist book?

I wanted to write a crime novel because: (a) they’re the novels I most enjoy reading; and (b) because like any genre fiction they follow certain rules about plot and atmosphere and characterisation which the better novelists can afford to break but for the first-timer provide a reassuring template. I set Red Herring in 1951 because that was the heyday of hard-boiled fiction so it seemed appropriate – plus the industrial dispute (or lockout or strike, depending on your point-of-view) that closed New Zealand’s ports for 151 days in that year provided such a rich source of material.

There is a photograph in Never a White Flag: The Memoirs of Jock Barnes, Waterfront Leader that shows Barnes, president of the TUC, and a small group of watersiders on the footpath outside the Auckland Town Hall after a stopwork meeting during this period. The men have broad backs and lined faces. They are wearing tweed jackets or coats. A few have ties. Most are wearing hats. Barnes is leaning back, lost in thought. In the middle of the group, George Samways, the top of his short-back-and-sides just visible, is listening intently to the man on his right. Alec Drennan, head cropped on the right of frame, a smoke stuck to his bottom lip, has cauliflower ears and a nose so gloriously broken you could use it for a step-ladder. The men look to be around 40 for the most part (Barnes was 43). All of them would have been through the Depression and at least one world war and they’re still fighting. What would they make of New Zealand now? These were the sort of people I had in mind when I wrote Red Herring.

How does it feel to be named a Ngaio Marsh Awards finalist?

Thrillers, crime novels, tangled conspiracies, pulp fiction of any kind – Elmore Leonard, Paul Cleave, John Godey, James M. Cain, Eric Ambler etc etc etc – those are the novels I love to read. The Ngaio Marsh Awards were established to recognise the sort of writing, by New Zealanders, that I most enjoy reading, so it is a great feeling to have made the finalists this year and to be part of the wider group.


After his witness protection handler is kidnapped, ex-NYPD undercover cop Marshall Grade decides that offense is the best form of defense, infiltrating his old haunts for answers: “Some of the tautest writing and nastiest characters around, an adrenalin-charged tale where no-one emerges unscathed,” said the judging panel.

Purchase Marshall’s Law: 

What were the inspirations behind your finalist book?

Marshall’s Law had to be a sequel to my previous novel, American Blood, so I knew my anti-hero Marshall would take centre stage. In terms of the setting however, I wanted a complete change: American Blood took place in New Mexico during summer, so I decided Marshall’s Law would be a city novel, playing out in New York during winter. The inspiration for the plot came during a trip to the US in 2014, when my friends and I stopped at a restaurant in Connecticut called the Galaxy Diner. There happened to a big SUV parked outside, and for some reason that image of the car stayed with me—I decided it belonged to a heroin dealer named Henry Lee, and that Marshall was meeting him there to talk about something. But I had to start writing to find out what they needed to discuss.

How does it feel to be named a Ngaio Marsh Awards finalist?

The Ngaios serve as a great profile-booster for crime writers in New Zealand. I’m thrilled and grateful to be on the shortlist alongside such talented spinners of criminal yarn.


A survivor and a perpetrator of a brutal home invasion seek to come to terms with their altered lives after the news cycle moves on. “Lyrically and sensitively written, a harrowing yet touching story that stays with you; this is brave and sophisticated storytelling,” said the judges.

Purchase The Last Time We Spoke:

What were the inspirations behind your finalist book?

There were a series of high-profile crimes in New Zealand in the 1990s, which captured my attention both for their senseless brutality and the youth of the perpetrators. Long after the news cycles had ended and the stories disappeared from our national consciousness, I found myself still pondering them. One in particular – a brutal home invasion – would leave its imprint. I had questions. How could the victim of an awful crime ever go on to negotiate some sort of meaningful life again? And what had happened in a youngster’s life to set him/her on a path to murder? From the outset I had two voices in my head – that of a victim and a perpetrator. I realised then that I wanted to bear witness to the fuller story of a crime.

How does it feel to be named a Ngaio Marsh Award finalist?

Special indeed! It is endorsement for a story I was anxious but compelled to write. I’m thrilled The Last Time We Spoke has found its way into the light.

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Find out LOTS more as my fellow book reviewers take a little virtual tour around the awards.

Happy Reading!