April Book Watch: Waking Gods – Sylvain Neuvel.

Publication Date: April 2017 from Randomhouse Del Rey (US) and Penguin Michael Joseph (UK)

Source: Review Copy (Del Ray)

As a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer now than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force.

Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology. The greatest weapon humanity wields is knowledge in a do-or-die battle to inherit the Earth . . . and maybe even the stars.

This book kicks serious ass. No honestly it does. It was just the best read – thrilling, emotional (we’ll get to that!) incredibly addictive and insane as all heck. Sylvain Neuvel the punk rocker of American SciFi.

ANYWAY in case you missed me banging on about the first book in the series, Sleeping Giants, you can have a read of that review HERE and I strongly suggest starting there if you are not on this train yet – look we’ll only be at the station for a short while so jump on board.

Moving onto Waking Gods then, this has that quality increased by a factor of ten – it is fast yet complex, frenzied yet considered and has a whole lot of action, quite a bit of edge of the seat hair clutching and so much book trauma I can’t even come up with enough words to tell you how completely mad I was with the author when I was done. He’s going to hear about it though, especially if he’s stupid enough to let me interview him again – YOU CAN’T DO THAT. Even though you just did….

Like Sleeping Giants, Waking Gods has that beautifully authentic scientific edge, making the whole thing utterly believable. You don’t think giant alien robots from outer space can be believable? They can. Completely. As far as immersive reads go you won’t find better than this, or its predecessor for transporting you to a world other than our own which is, well, our own.

I’m not saying anything about my favourite character. Nope. Or the others. I’m keeping my lips sealed except to say be prepared for anything, trust no-one and go along for the ride – embrace the trauma people, there is nothing else like that moment a book grabs you by the throat and won’t let go.

I love these because they are pure, unadulterated entertainment. That’s not to say there are no important themes involved there are. Its not to say that it doesn’t have a cutting edge because it does – boy oh boy does it – but at the end was that beautiful, intensely satisfied feeling you get when you realise the first novel was not a fluke. Nope you are going to be in this until the bitter (cries a bit) end. And now the wait begins for the next one and everyone who knows me knows that I am NOT GOOD AT WAITING AT ALL.

Even if you have never read this genre in your life before make an exception and read Sleeping Giants and then read this. If you have but have missed these, hopefully I’ve given you a little push.

You are welcome.

Hold onto your hats though – tis one HELL of a ride.

HIGHLY Recommended.

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Happy Reading!

 

Latest Reads: The Graces – Laure Eve

Publication Date: Available Now from Faber and Faber

Source: Purchased Copy

Everyone said the Graces were witches.

They moved through the corridors like sleek fish, ripples in their wake. Stares followed their backs and their hair.

They had friends, but they were just distractions. They were waiting for someone different.

All I had to do was show them that person was me.

Like everyone else in her town, River is obsessed with the Graces, attracted by their glamour and apparent ability to weave magic. But are they really what they seem? And are they more dangerous than they let on?

I can’t speak for anyone else but I’m CRAZY about this book. Loved it. Completely.

It is one of those novels that just messes with your head slightly – The Graces are a family who are seemingly magical (it is said they are witches) and River is bound and determined to be their friend. But ulterior motives abound in this story and everyone has their thing…

I loved how Laure Eve kept it fairly ambiguous during the telling – are they Witches? Are they just the kind of rich that seems mysterious? River herself is drawn to them for her own reasons and they keep their own council – but maybe just maybe she can get with the in crowd. But as life shows us over and over again – be careful what you wish for…

It is a beautifully drawn tale of friendships made and broken when you get to the heart of it – all the characters are full of depth and contradictions – I fell for them all for different reasons, took a side, changed my mind, went with it a bit then was hit with an intensely clever and heart stopping ending which made me throw the book down and glare at it for a bit saying WAIT WAIT I need more! Sigh. Blinking authors. Luckily the sequel is out this year so not TOO long to tap my fingers impatiently.

There are some really good themes all hidden in the storytelling here – family ties, growing up and finding your own identity beyond loved ones, the closeness of siblings, its all in here and very beautifully done too. Always with that sense of otherness, the feeling that something is coming you can’t quite grasp and truthfully I didn’t grasp it at all, not really. Just read it. And wait….

The Graces was exactly the book I was looking for – it engaged me, made me want to be part of The Grace family, kept me slightly on edge plus I’m a sucker for a good yarn, this was a darned good yarn.

Bring on book 2! Sooner rather than later please. A pure pleasure of a read.

Highly Recommended.

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To Purchase The Graces clickety click right HERE

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April Book Watch: A Dangerous Crossing. Rachel Rhys

Publication Date: April 2017 from Transworld

Source: Review Copy

It was a first class deception that would change her life forever

1939, Europe on the brink of war. Lily Shepherd leaves England on an ocean liner for Australia, escaping her life of drudgery for new horizons. She is instantly seduced by the world onboard: cocktails, black-tie balls and beautiful sunsets. Suddenly, Lily finds herself mingling with people who would otherwise never give her the time of day.

But soon she realizes her glamorous new friends are not what they seem. The rich and hedonistic Max and Eliza Campbell, mysterious and flirtatious Edward, and fascist George are all running away from tragedy and scandal even greater than her own.

By the time the ship docks, two passengers are dead, war has been declared, and life will never be the same again.

I loved this SO MUCH. I’m on a run of excellent reads right now (bows down before the Gods of Literature) but A Dangerous Crossing was perhaps the one that I fell into absolutely – I have not read a novel in years that has so much rich, relevant and beautifully drawn detail about it whilst telling an utterly riveting, completely compelling and ultimately unexpected story. With characters to die for. This is seriously good stuff right here. I genuinely did not want this book to end because then it would be over. But all good things and all that…

I don’t think it is any surprise to anyone that Rachel Rhys is in fact the alter ego of Tammy Cohen – an extraordinary writer of psychological thrillers – who has now confirmed her writing distinction by giving us a gorgeous, authentic historical drama, still with a hint of mystery, but mostly a brilliantly done retrospective of a time gone by. Taking apart the social divides of the day, throwing her characters into a melting pot of  class and culture division and allowing them all to simmer, A Dangerous Crossing will steal your heart, as will Lily the girl at the centre of the storm.

The world was about to enter a period of utter madness back then (as it appears to be doing right now) and the sense of that is captured perfectly – whilst still not losing sight of the fact that people were still people, human nature is both a wonderful and an awful thing, on the ship with Lily are a whole bunch of people whose biggest problems and worries are little to do with the wider world. It is so cleverly plotted, so engaging that you will, like me, likely fall right into it.

Sublime writing and descriptive sense will put you right in the middle of proceedings, you’ll go through a range of feelings as you are reading, the end is KILLER on the emotions and this is one of those books you come out the other side of feeling vaguely displaced. I felt pretty much like I had BEEN at sea, took me a while to regain my land legs and honestly I just wanted to go back in. A simply wonderful reading experience.

This is the moment I try and sum things up in one easy sentence to finish off the review. How about this.

Completely F***ing awesome.

There.

HIGHLY Recommended.

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April Book Watch: The Killer on the Wall – Emma Kavanagh.

Publication Date: 20th April from Randomhouse UK Cornerstone

Source: Netgalley

The first body comes as a shock

The second brings horror

The third signals the beginning of a nightmare

When fifteen-year-old Isla Bell finds three bodies propped against Hadrian’s Wall, her whole world falls apart. In such a close-knit community, everyone knows the victims, and the man who did it.

Twenty years on and Isla has dedicated her life to forensic psychology; studying the brains of serial killers, and even coming face to face with the convicted murderer who turned her world upside down. She is safe after all, with him behind bars.

Then another body appears against the Wall.

And another.

As the nightmare returns and the body count rises, everyone in town is a suspect.

Who is the Killer on the Wall?

It started with the bodies….Well yes, indeed it did and the opening salvo from Emma Kavanagh in The Killer On The Wall made me actually shiver – the scene setting itself would have been enough but then there were BODIES. And I pretty much continued to shiver my way through the rest of the novel as well and not just because of all the death and desolation.

Basically The Killer on the Wall is an utterly riveting psychological thriller with Ms Kavanagh’s trademark divisive yet endlessly compelling characters all living through a nightmare the likes of which is almost unimaginable. If you live in a small community and you know everyone, what do you do when there is a killer on the loose? Even more so when you thought it was all behind you and there had been many years of relative quiet and recuperation.

That is the situation the author throws her group into, all set against a haunting yet beautiful backdrop which comes to life in the telling. Descriptively this is her best yet, so as well as the really quite twisted yet extremely emotive plot developing you’ve got it all happening in a place of beauty, where nothing so ugly should occur.

I love the psychological aspects, I was particularly drawn to Isla who grew up to make a career out of trying to discover why some people can commit these horrific acts having seen the fallout with her own eyes, she is sympathetic and driven. The crime element – whodunnit – is fascinatingly drawn,  driven very much by the characters and how they see things. You may or may not see the end coming but to be honest, that may be the pay off but the sheer addictive nature of The Killer on the Wall is found not in the solving of the mystery but in the events leading up to it.

Another huge HUGELY excellent book from an author who is becoming one to watch in Crime writing circles. I’m loving each one more than the last and The Killer On The Wall is perhaps my favourite because it has such a brilliantly atmospheric ambience and a true page turning quality – it is honestly hard to put down once you start.

Wonderful writing, clever and taut storytelling and a definite tendency to make you want to sleep with the lights on.

Highly Recommended.

Find out more HERE

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One Sitting Read: Let The Dead Speak – Jane Casey.

Publication Date: 9th March 2017 from Harper Collins.

Source: Review Copy

When eighteen-year-old Chloe Emery returns to her West London home she finds her mother missing, the house covered in blood. Everything points to murder, except for one thing: there s no sign of the body.

London detective Maeve Kerrigan and the homicide team turn their attention to the neighbours. The ultra-religious Norrises are acting suspiciously; their teenage daughter and Chloe Emery definitely have something to hide. Then there s William Turner, once accused of stabbing a schoolmate and the neighborhood s favorite criminal. Is he merely a scapegoat, or is there more behind the charismatic facade?

As a body fails to materialize, Maeve must piece together a patchwork of testimonies and accusations. Who is lying, and who is not? And soon Maeve starts to realize that not only will the answer lead to Kate Emery, but more lives may hang in the balance.

I just want it to be known that Jane Casey is now forgiven for making me wait over a year for this (how did I COPE) because it was worth the wait (and then some) it turns out that delayed gratification really is a thing. Just to be clear I’d rather really that she wrote a book a week but we can’t have everything in life. Never mind.

ANYWAY Let The Dead Speak then – another outing for Maeve and Derwent (swoon) and of course all the rest, much as I adore the main pair the group dynamic over the course of the novels has ingrained itself on my brain, in fact this time it was Chris Pettifer who made me snort a giggle with a throwaway comment that happened to mirror exactly what I was thinking in that moment. But I digress…

In this instalment a young girl arrives home unexpectedly to find her house covered in blood and her mother gone.  A murder enquiry is launched even with the lack of a body. Derwent is back from holiday, meanwhile Maeve is fretting her new power and responsibility whilst dealing with a incomer who doesn’t seem terribly useful. The neighbours are all a bit barmy, everyone is hiding something, so you know. Best get untangling that mess then which is exactly what our guys set out to do. Things are going to be somewhat fraught. WELL it wouldn’t be any fun if they solved it CSI style in an hour would it?

Look what I love about this particular series is the intensely absorbing writing with it’s ironically humerous undertones and the characters that do almost literally live off the page. I honestly have to remember sometimes that they are all fictional, not just those we see every time but anyone caught up in the current investigation. Jane Casey has a character writing superpower, nobody does it better. And I do mean nobody.

Added to that the plotting is so gorgeously realistic and tightly drawn that you never disbelieve any of it. TWISTED too, I do love a good twisty tale and this one had that in spades, especially with reference to some of the personal relationships and goings on. The emotional trauma is in there too, fair warning given, every time I go into a new Kerrigan novel I say SHE WON’T GET ME AGAIN but every time. Bam. Dammit!

I’m not going to say this is the best one yet because I always say that and whilst it may even be true, that is not the point. The point is that this series is consistently of the highest quality and improving ever more with age – Let The Dead Speak is simply one more pearl in an oyster bed chock full of them, it stole my Saturday (I love a good book thief) and I was happily immersed for the entire journey. Never one for backing off from the thought provoking occasionally controversial central themes, always moving her series characters forward and enveloping the reader more into their world, for me Jane Casey is the cream of the crop of UK crime writers. I look forward to each new novel with the fervour of a true believer and I have never once been let down. Not even for a moment, not even with a word.

On a personal note my love for Derwent STILL knows no bounds. Also a new respect developed for Una Burt during this read. I kind of like her. Mainly because I think Maeve really does too. YES I KNOW they are not real…

Sharp, clever, nuanced writing with a truly addictive flair and a deeply delicious dark heart.

HIGHLY recommended.

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Latest Read: My Best Friends Exorcism – Grady Hendrix.

Publication Date: Available Now from Quirk Books

Source: Purchased Copy

Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act…different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?

Thoroughly enjoyed this homage to the 80’s which was my era, the story itself was like an 80’s horror movie, the book is gorgeous, a hardback imitating a high school year book and I spent half of the read going OH YEAH I remember that/them….

My Best Friends Exorcism is a story of big hair and demonic possession – friends for life Abby and Gretchen hit a slight snafu when after taking LSD Gretchen turns into a monster. The adults around are too wrapped up in their own idiocies to be of any use whatsoever and so it falls to Abby to work out what the all hell is going on and to save her friend. Lets just say it is not going to be the best year of their lives…

I like the way Grady Hendrix writes – it was absorbing, occasionally funny, sometimes downright gross, some of the descriptive passages seriously made me go ewwwww. I liked the vibe, the way the setting and the time came alive in the writing and embodied a lot of what I remember about that era – the obsessions and the clothes, the make up and the music, ESPECIALLY the music which is embedded into the narrative in a cool and very organic way.

It was randomly creepy, often addictive and had a melancholy yet somehow uplifting finish to it which left me vaguely teary. Like a trip backwards in time and by the end I just wanted to dig out the entirety of my 80’s movie collection (yes seriously I think I have them all) and indulge in yet more nostalgia.

My Best Friends Exorcism is both modern and retrospective, a throwback to a different way of life and a different way of thinking – a coming of age horror story with bite. Hey whoever said growing up is easy?

Not for the faint hearted but highly recommended none the less.

Find out more HERE

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January Book Watch: The River at Night – Erica Ferencik

Publication Date: 12th January from Bloomsbury Raven

Source: Review Copy

‘A thought came to me that I couldn’t force away: What we are wearing is how we’ll be identified out in the wilderness.’

Win Allen doesn’t want an adventure.

After a miserable divorce and the death of her beloved brother, she just wants to spend some time with her three best friends, far away from her soul-crushing job. But athletic, energetic Pia has other plans.

Plans for an adrenaline-raising, breath-taking, white-water rafting trip in the Maine wilderness. Five thousand square miles of remote countryside. Just mountains, rivers and fresh air.

No phone coverage. No people.

No help.

I raced through this one it was a really rocking read – my geekish love of horror movies came into play here and added to that it had the female friendship vibe on acid – seriously if you are lost in the wild you soon find out what people are really made of!

I liked the way the author took the time to set things up beautifully so that once we hit the rapids so to speak you are deeply involved with this little gang. You’ll probably be randomly annoyed by one or all of them but the group dynamic is well realised and compelling.

Then we are on a rollercoaster ride of sheer exhilaration, Erica Ferencik really uses some beautiful descriptive prose to put you right there in the wilds, you can feel and see it all unfolding. Then there is the fact that this is a bit female Deliverance, with a genuine edginess to the storytelling that keeps you gripped. I refer you back to my horror movie comment – think “Wrong Turn” with a river running through it and the occasional unexpected Samuel L Jackson moment (movie fans will get me)

Overall The River at Night is a fast, fun, strangely endearing reading experience that has an undeniable film feel – one I enjoyed thoroughly and made me huddle further under my duvet, I’m fairly sure I’m never going camping…

Recommended.

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March Book Watch: The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman – Mindy Mejia

Publication Date: 9th March 2017 from Quercus

Source: Netgalley

Seventeen-year-old Hattie Hoffman is a talented actress, loved by everyone in her Minnesotan hometown. So when she’s found stabbed to death on the opening night of her school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of the community.

Local sheriff Del Goodman, a good friend of Hattie’s dad, vows to find her killer, but the investigation yields more secrets than answers; it turns out Hattie played as many parts offstage as on. Told from three perspectives: Del’s, Hattie’s high school English teacher and Hattie herself, The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman tells the story of the real Hattie, and what happened that final year of school when she dreamed of leaving her small town behind . . .

NOTE: This book also has the title “Everything You Want Me to Be”

For me this novel was a simply incredible read. I’ll be honest and say I think the alternative (US?) title suits it better but a rose by any other name and all that…..

The story follows Hattie during the last year of her life, her death is a given and there is an extremely small suspect pool so don’t go into this thinking it’s a whodunnit with a huge twist in the tale, you’ll only be disappointed. This is a brilliantly written and intuitive character study of one young girl trying to find her place in the world and the tragedy that befalls her. Told from 3 separate points of view, Hattie, the sheriff and her high school teacher, the story unfolds with perfect pacing and perfectly placed little gems of information but the real beauty of it is in Hattie herself – a divisive and compelling character who slowly but surely comes into focus and comes into her own.

It is haunting and poignant, because you feel the ending from the beginning – whether you love or detest Hattie you can’t save her, it gives an edge and sense of awareness to proceedings that makes the whole thing utterly gripping. The twist in this novel is in the sense of the characters and whilst this is not a new concept – seeing what comes before the fall – Mindy Mejia does it with a deft touch and a real eye for eliciting emotional responses from the reader making Hattie unforgettable. All of them actually, the ones we hear from and the ones we see through their eyes – families, friends, a community in turmoil and what, or who, brought them to that point.

The author peels back the layers one at a time, drawing you in, keeping you hovering above the crash that is coming – whilst at the same time plunging you into the hidden emotional depths of the people concerned. It is at turns heartbreaking and cruelly ironic, a really intense piece of storytelling that digs deep.

I loved it because I love the ones that make me feel it every step of the way from the first sentence to the last and that is what this did.

Highly Recommended.

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February Book Watch: Purged Peter Laws.

Publication Date: February 16th from Allison and Busby.

Source: Review Copy

Matt Hunter lost his faith a long time ago. Formerly a minister, now a professor of sociology, he’s writing a book that debunks the Christian faith while assisting the police with religiously motivated crimes. On holiday with his family in Oxfordshire, Matt is on edge in a seemingly idyllic village where wooden crosses hang at every turn. The stay becomes more sinister still when a local girl goes missing, followed by further disappearances.

Caught up in an investigation that brings memories to the surface that he would prefer to keep buried deep, Matt is on the trail of a killer determined to save us all.

Purged. Wow. Stole a day of my life and possibly a little of my soul. Definitely my sleep. Well they say there is no rest for the wicked…

From the opening salvo I knew this one was special. I read such a lot including as many debuts as I can get my hands on and I love some, I like more, I detest a few and then there are those few that scream “Ye Gods here is yet another obsession for you batten down the hatches”. Purged falls into that last category and I fell into it, there really was no hope for me.

ANYWAY none of that babble is going to tell you why you might want to read it so here are the headlines. The writing is smart, funny, dark as sin (yes I did that) and incredibly immersive. The plotting is pacy yet considered, the characters live and breathe on the page and the story itself is scary good. No I mean actually scary. And good. And randomly thought provoking. I’m not a religious person but the psychology of it interests me and I’m not one for pretending I know everything. More things in Heaven and Earth and all that…

I should perhaps make clear that this is not a religious thriller as such, no Dan Brown type shenanigans here, but it IS a crime novel that is also character study and has an edge to it that might freak you out somewhat. What? No I’m fine. Didn’t sleep with the lights on at ALL….

Matt Hunter is my new favourite thing. An ex minister, now a Professor, he has a traumatic past and these days writes and lectures, oh and occasionally helps the police with things. When we meet him he is doing just that and by the time he was done with that little taster for the rest I was hook line and sinkered. Also never going to eat lettuce again…

Loved his family too. The dynamic that Peter Laws creates is terrifically involving, I basically want to go and live with them. Just not in Hobbs Hill. Please. Clever because by the time things start to get strange you are so attached to them as a unit that you pretty much hold your breath for the rest of the read.

I don’t want to talk about the actual plot much because why on earth would I spoil it for the rest of you who are yet to head into it – BUT I will say that the shades and the nuances that the author brings to the story are incredible, especially when it comes to Matt Hunter, who I fell madly in love with and just want to follow around like a puppy. There are some dark and intriguing themes running through the narrative and Purged is far from being any one thing. It will make you shiver, it will also make you laugh out loud, I’m not sure where the series will go from here but I’m going to be going there with it. In fact if we could hurry things along please…

It would have been easy, with the authors life story , to write some Exorcist fuelled almost copy but nope, whilst Purged certainly draws from his horror film knowledge and his religious background this is a beauty of a novel, a perfect storm of authenticity and creativity –  it is gripping, utterly riveting, doesn’t hold back and just sends you rocketing down into the reading abyss.

You think I’m a fan? Yep I think I’m a fan.

Highly Recommended. If this one doesn’t make my Top Ten of the year come Dec 1st 2017 then I shall be very surprised.

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January book watch: Her Husband’s Lover Julia Crouch.

Publication Date: 26th January from Headline

Source: Review Copy

She stole her husband. Now she wants to take her life.

After the horrors of the past, Louisa Williams is desperate to make a clean start. Her husband Sam is dead. Her children, too, are gone, victims of the car accident in which he died.

Sam said that she would never get away from him. That he would hound her to death if she tried to leave. Louisa never thought that he would want to harm their children though.

But then she never thought that he would betray her with a woman like Sophie. And now Sophie is determined to take all that Louisa has left. She wants to destroy her reputation and to take what she thinks is owed her – the life she would have had if Sam had lived.

Her husband’s lover wants to take her life. The only question is will Louisa let her?

I love the way Julia Crouch plots her stories – always something to look forward to because they are tightly knitted to perfection, keeping things unexpected and utterly riveting.

Her Husband’s Lover has that in spades as we follow Louisa and Sophie on a rather twisted journey towards a totally draw dropping conclusion. Talk about your unreliable narrators, both these characters have a beautifully imagined edge to them, so much so that even when things seem clear they turn out to be inevitably murky. Still waters run deep and all that – the author has her eyes on the prize throughout, that moment when you go huh? Blimey! Well if you are me anyway. The pay off in this novel is just terrific, one of those moments when you look back on what you have read and see the nuances that should have given you the clue all along.

Its not as easy as it sounds to achieve those moments in this genre – I read everything in it I can get my hands on because often you find the most divisive and memorable characters within, but it is true that you have to read a lot to find the clever ones, the ones that can still surprise you. I would happily put this in that category because you get so caught up in it that time flies and Julia Crouch is superb at that misdirection thing and that memorable character thing – Louisa and Sophie are sharp and unforgettable, two for the price of one.

Then BAM the ending.

Before that though the entire tale is completely addictive, one of those books you read fast and don’t like to put down, if anyone is teaching us that the psychological thriller is far from dead it would be that Julia Crouch.

Highly Recommended.

 

Find out more HERE

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Happy Reading!