Psychological Shenanigans

This page for all things Psychological Thriller related. New to the blog as I’m reading some corkers and thought it would be handy to have them all in one place.

Publication Date: April 2017 from Pan Macmillan

Source: Netgalley

Laura has it all. A successful career, a long marriage to a rich husband, and a twenty-three year-old son, Daniel, who is kind, handsome, and talented. Then Daniel meets Cherry. Cherry is young, beautiful and smart but she hasn’t had the same opportunities as Daniel. And she wants Laura’s life. Cherry comes to the family wide-eyed and wants to be welcomed with open arms, but Laura suspects she’s not all that she seems. When tragedy strikes, an unforgiveable lie is told. It is an act of desperation, but the fall-out will change their lives forever.

The Girlfriend was highly addictive – a read in one sitting tale of the divide between a girl and her boyfriend’s mother – or in this case two rather unlikable manipulative women each trying to one up each other, a scenario that doesn’t end particularly well for anyone.

I loved the character dynamics in this – seriously twisted, I’m not sure if I’m talking about the Mother or the Girlfriend to be honest – it is also quite an intriguing little take on how money divides us. The haves and the have not’s, how just a little bit of jealousy can turn into an untenable situation. Especially if you are not exactly the steady grounded type to begin with.

I felt sorry for Daniel and for his Dad but as for the other two, the best thing about The Girlfriend was my distinct tendency to be really gleeful when horrible things happened to either of them. Cherry was strangely sympathetic at times, Laura was incredibly not so for much of it, but as they were both bringing it on themselves with their own actions, it was a strange kind of pleasure to watch them both get into hot water at various times during the telling.

Who wins in the end? In The Girlfriend it’s a bit like who might be the lesser of two evils and you’ll have to read it to find out but it is a genuine page turner so I don’t think you’ll find that to be much of a  chore.

Thoroughly enjoyed it. It appealed to my wicked side.

You can purchase The Girlfriend HERE

 

Publication Date: May (paperback) Available Now E-book from Ebury.

Source: Netgalley

How far would you go to find THE ONE?

One simple mouth swab is all it takes.

One tiny DNA test to find your perfect partner – the one you’re genetically made for.

A decade after scientists discover everyone has a gene they share with just one person, millions have taken the test, desperate to find true love.

Now, five more people take the test. But even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking – and deadlier – than others…

So how do you know when you’ve found “The One” then? Well according to John Marrs’ imaginative and addictive thriller, its all in your DNA. One little test and BOOM love at first sight.

Excellent you would think. Well no not really. You might already be married or with who you thought was the love of your life. Maybe your perfect partner is thousands of miles away. Maybe he or she is a psychopathic murderer (hey, it could happen!) Maybe they are not even still among the living…

All these scenario’s are explored in what is basically a series of short stories all mixed up together following various characters as they take the test and find their match. It is HIGHLY entertaining speculative storytelling, with a few twists in the tale, characters to love and hate and randomly funny yet sweet nods to the idea of romance.

I think you’ll find a favourite in there – the thread I enjoyed the most belonged to Nick, but there are several other people on this journey of love (??!!??) for you to engage with and it is fast, addictive and very cleverly done.

I really really enjoyed it. One of those books you just gulp down in an afternoon. Pure unadulterated reading mayhem.

Recommended.

You can purchase The One HERE

Publication Date: 20th April from Piatkus

Source: Netgalley

What if you had to choose between your children?

Then:

Madeleine lived for her children. She’d always believed she’d die for them, too. But on the morning of her twins’ tenth birthday her love was put to the test when a killer knocked on their door and forced her to make a devastating choice: which child should live, and which should die – her son, or her daughter?

Now:

Madeleine stands silent on the periphery of her now fractured family, trying desperately to unravel why her world was so suddenly blown apart. But while everyday life continues around her, memories of everything leading up to that tragic day return in agonising flashes.

And that’s when she realises her family’s life still hangs terrifyingly in the balance..

Blimey The Choice is one of those TOTALLY addictive reads that you do basically in one sitting and I read this in two great big gulps.

The premise is brilliantly compelling – could you choose between your children, give absolutely no choice and only moments to do it? This is the question that faces Madeleine and in that moment and the aftermath lies a gripping and enthralling read.

A beautifully twisted tale with a satisfying and heart stopping conclusion, The Choice manages to be many things during the telling and is thought provoking at the same time as being really rather entertaining (I know, sounds difficult considering the subject matter but that is the beauty of fiction)

I liked how Sam King layered her characters, showed them at all their levels and with them driving the narrative, even as told through Madeleine’s eyes this is less about the twist in the tale but more about the facets of human nature and the idiocies of personality that gets them all there.

Overall a really really excellent psychological thriller. Recommended.

You can Purchase The Choice HERE

Publication Date: Available Now from Headline

Source: review copy

No one ever disappears completely…

You leave for work one morning.

Another day in your normal life.

Until you come home to discover that your boyfriend has gone.
His belongings have disappeared.
He hasn’t been at work for weeks.
It’s as if he never existed.

But that’s not possible, is it?

And there is worse still to come.

Because just as you are searching for him
someone is also watching you.

Gone without a Trace is a psychological thriller that worked really well on many levels, excellent writing with some clever little twists in the plot.

Hannah comes home one day, full of excitement about a possible promotion, to find that her boyfriend has mysteriously just gone. Not only that but all traces of him have gone as well. Her house is back to how she left it before he moved in. His phone is off. All her messages and texts and literally everything that showed he existed- just gone.

What follows is pretty much a story of obsession. Hannah is determined to find out where he has gone what happened to him – the rest of her life starts to suffer and everyone in her vortex is dragged into the mire. It is really quite gripping and cleverly done as her world collapses around her and you see the strong independent woman she was fade as her obsession grows. I was very engaged with it and wanted to know whether she would find him. The plot was vaguely repetitive at times but other than that I was gripped.

I did see the ending coming though, and it was a clever one. My one little thing I had with this book is I did wonder if it would have worked better in its eventual theme if the reasoning behind the disappearance had been the thing that the author played with throughout, its difficult to say what I mean without spoilers, because this is set up as a mystery and I don’t want to spoil the reveal for anyone because it is cleverly placed considering this IS a mystery.

That doesn’t take away from the great read I had with this, Gone Without A Trace offers a tense and intriguing tale, with some excellent divisive characters and a thought provoking finale, if a little bit over egged it will certainly play with your emotions.

I’d recommend it for fans of this genre.

You can Purchase Gone Without a Trace HERE

Publication Date: 26th January from W&N

Source: Netgalley

When Nora takes the train from London to visit her sister in the countryside, she expects to find her waiting at the station, or at home cooking dinner. But when she walks into Rachel’s familiar house, what she finds is entirely different: her sister has been the victim of a brutal murder.

Stunned and adrift, Nora finds she can’t return to her former life. An unsolved assault in the past has shaken her faith in the police, and she can’t trust them to find her sister’s killer. Haunted by the murder and the secrets that surround it, Nora is under the harrow: distressed and in danger. As Nora’s fear turns to obsession, she becomes as unrecognizable as the sister her investigation uncovers.

I loved this one – probably for different reasons than I would normally enjoy a psychological thriller – Under the Harrow is more psychological melodrama with a main protagonist who is quite obviously an unreliable narrator and whose stream of consciousness prose makes for a lilting if occasionally odd feeling read.

It keeps you off balance – when Nora arrives at her Sister’s house to find her murdered, she obviously goes into shock but it is a slow path to mental instability. Obsessed with finding the killer, she takes strange and mostly irrational seeming steps to finding them. At the same time we get a sense of her relationship with Rachel – which over the past years has been defined by an attack Rachel suffered in her younger life.

It is clever writing here if you can let yourself go with it – very unsettling, Nora’s thoughts slip from one thing to another and back again seamlessly, sometimes in the same sentence. The sense of place can be hard to grasp because of it, she remembers things from holidays and other events in their lives without due process, her grief is tangible exactly for that reason. At the heart of Under the Harrow is the relationship between siblings, that love/hate/love vibe which can become all mixed up when one loses the other. I found it utterly compelling.

Some of the novel is set in my neck of the woods which made the read all the more poignant for me personally, the solution to who killed Rachel is hidden in the depths of the prose here, this is not really a book where you make best guesses – you just kind of go with it and wait for Nora to get there. The end was melancholy yet fulfilling and Nora is not a character I will forget easily.

Overall I’m a fan of this one. Pushing the boundaries a little in style and substance with some utterly beautiful writing and occasional throw away phrases that just speak to what grief is in an extremely insightful way, I really can’t wait to see what Flynn Berry does next.

If you like your psychological thrillers to send you from A to B to C with huge twists and sudden reveals then Under the Harrow won’t give you that – what it WILL give you is a considered, intelligent, slow burn journey of discovery which is ultimately rather heart wrenching.

Recommended.

You can Purchase Under the Harrow HERE

Publication Date: 20th January from HQ Digital

Source: Netgalley

A daughter’s secret. A mother’s betrayal.
Every mother knows never to let their child out of their sight. But Freya has been distracted recently, and now her teenage daughter, Zoe, is missing.

Freya knows that the only way to bring Zoe back is to tell the truth, but when your whole life is built on secrets and lies, the truth could destroy everything.

Surely there’s no harm in telling just one more little white lie?

Never out of Sight went a weird way for me. I started out thinking I would hate it (the characters are divisive) by the middle I was so absorbed I barely looked up then at the end I was all What? Really? Blimey.

So we have a missing daughter, parents at loggerheads, a mother with questionable judgement (I seriously wanted to slap her at times) and a well written  twisty tale with a clever ending that attacks the senses and lingers once you are done.

Never Out of Sight is one of those novels where you may well dislike everyone you meet within the pages but it doesn’t matter because you simply have to know what happens to them anyway. The more you read the more gripped you will be and the nicest thing is it is not entirely predictable which when you read a lot in this genre is very refreshing.

Louise Stone is a smart writer – addictive prose, great at misdirection and very good at characters, this is a twisty tale that is riveting and occasionally thought provoking and as such very appealing. I enjoyed it very much.

Recommended for fans of domestic noir and twisted tales.

You can order Never Out of Sight HERE

Publication Date: 10th January 2017 from Thomas and Mercer

Source: Netgalley.

Meghan Smith has always been a protective mother. Her baby son, Harry, has a life-threatening condition and is never far from her sight. But on the evening of her wedding anniversary, as she and her husband celebrate in the garden with friends, Harry disappears from his cot without a trace.

In an instant, the perfect life she always longed for is in tatters, her family exposed to interrogation and accusation in the glare of media attention. But none of it gets Meghan answers—or brings back her son.

As her life unravels and suspicion takes hold of her sanity, Meghan begins to question everything she once took for granted. Can she trust her husband? Can she trust her friends? Can she even trust herself?

So another missing child book then, a few of those lately, a lot of which I’ve been a bit down on and haven’t bothered finishing.

Not so “Lock the Door” in which Jane Holland weaves a twisty and addictive tale of one mothers desperate search for her son. I liked the plotting – friends, family, suspects, all given a nice depth – I thought the further urgency brought to proceedings by the fact that Harry was unwell worked to give it a deeper sense and overall yep very good read indeed. Certainly one that will keep you turning the pages late into the night.

I did have a few unreality issues I think it is fair to say, just the odd moment of unbelievable irrationality (that is not really the right time to pop home and check the post Meghan and seriously could we stop with the whole mobile phone signal or dead thing its a rather well worn plot device in psychological thrillers) hence 4* not 5 but hey, this is fiction, for the most part this was a tense, absorbing and beautifully unpredictable tale with one hell of a nail biting finale.

Recommended.

You can purchase Lock the Door HERE

 

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Publication Date: Available Now from Sphere

Source: Netgalley

I cannot go on like this. I feel such a burden to you. You are young and can start again. You deserve that chance. By the time you read this I will be dead. Do not grieve for me, for I am now without pain.

Yours truly for ever,
Monica

Monica suffers from chronic neuropathic pain.Every second of her life is spent in agony and there are years of her life which are a blur to her.
But when she finds a suicide note written in her handwriting she begins to question everything.
If someone tried to kill her once what’s to say they won’t try again.

Painkiller was one of those addictive bang through novels that you just cannot put down and for the most part I thoroughly enjoyed it. Not without its problems for me though, however the premise from which we start is highly intriguing and somewhat emotional.

Monica lives with chronic pain. The HUGE strength of this book is how that is put across, through her words, through her actions and changing attitudes, she is not particularly likeable but extraordinarily sympathetic. I like the way the author starts with “I wake up” and then takes us through a plethora of different emotions, pain levels and acceptance v denial. Extremely well done.

The mystery element is well plotted through the majority- Monica has memory issues due to the immense amounts of medication she has to take and its possible her husband is not as loving as she thinks, her friends may not be entirely trustworthy and those she interacts with may not always have her best interests at heart. Therein lies the hook, that addictive sense as you race through the pages to find out the truth.

Clever misdirection, an off kilter reality, mostly seen through the filter of Monica and her pain, the twists and turns in Painkiller are beautifully placed and unpredictable which of course makes it fascinating and engaging. However…

My problem came with the ultimate resolution. I found it a little over convoluted, the last little bit was a maelstrom of rather ragged sprints to the finish line that were slightly overwhelming and not always as believable as the rest of the novel had been up until that point. That is not to say the finale was unlikely to the extreme, more that I felt it was rather banged together. But you know, sometimes these things can runaway with you.

Overall though Painkiller was a thought provoking, nicely done psychological thriller with a different starting premise that gave it an edge over others that I have seen lately. I would recommend it. You’ll be slightly breathless by the end…

You can purchase Painkiller HERE

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Publication Date: 29th December from Harlequin UK Ltd

Source: Netgalley

Are you ready to question if everything in your life is really as it seems?

When a plane crashes, Iris Griffiths watches the news unfold with horror…and then relief. Her beloved husband Will had just flown out from the same airport, but he was on a different flight. So why is his name on the list of victims? Surely there’s some mistake – her husband would never lie to her. Would he? But wading deeper into the truth of her husband’s deception, Iris begins to think the unthinkable. Maybe she’s glad that he’s dead…

Another day another psychological thriller (there is a reason we love them) and The Marriage Lie was a good one. Exploring as often these things do the secrets that we keep and how we can never truly know the person next to us, The Marriage Lie follows Iris as she discovers that perhaps her husband was not so perfect after all..

Starting with a plane crash in which it is claimed Will died, Iris in her grief just cannot accept that – especially as he was not supposed to be on that flight but a completely different one. Turns out though that Will was keeping secrets from Iris…and off we go on a journey of twisty turny discovery.

I liked this one for several reasons – it was fast and believable, our main protagonist determines to find out the truth and actually takes steps to do that, the plot rocks along and is utterly gripping. I read it in two immersive sittings and although I did have a clue about the outcome I was never entirely sure, Kimberley Belle keeps things randomly unpredictable and holds the attention.

I liked Iris as a character, she was easy to get behind and The Marriage Lie as a whole was a highly satisfying read. With what I thought was a great finale.

Definitely recommended for fans of this genre.

You can Purchase The Marriage Lie HERE

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Publication Date: 6th December 2016 from Grand Central Publishing (US) Sphere (UK)

Source: Netgalley (Grand Central Publishing)

On a cold December day in northern upstate New York, the body of high school senior Joy Enright is discovered in the woods at the edge of a pond. She had been presumed drowned, but an autopsy shows that she was, in fact, strangled. As the investigation unfolds, four characters tell the story from widely divergent perspectives: Susanne, Joy’s mother and a professor at the local art college; Martin, a black graduate student suspected of the murder; Harper, Joy’s best friend and a potential eyewitness; and Tom, a rescue diver and son-in-law of the town’s police chief. As a web of small-town secrets comes to light, a dramatic conclusion reveals the truth about Joy’s death.

Really enjoyed this tense and cleverly twisted psychological thriller – the multiple viewpoint works extraordinarily well in this story, with a range of people affected by the death of Joy Enright giving us the hints and clues that will ultimately reveal the truth about what happened.

Small town secrets abound- Jessica Treadway makes the connections and shows the things that bubble under the surface of seemingly normal lives. It is strangely emotional, utterly compelling and often surprising, a quiet slow burner of a tale that grips utterly.

It is true that this type of novel is popular still and will likely continue to be popular – with How Will I Know You the author shows why that is. Other peoples lives, the darkness within, all that human nature stuff is entirely fascinating and as readers we can’t get enough.

Excellent stuff. Recommended.

You can purchase How Will I Know You HERE.

 

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Publication Date: 20th October from UK Carina

Source: Review copy

Don’t. Trust. Anyone.

It was supposed to be a fresh start.

A chance to forget the past and embrace the future.

But can you ever really start again?

Or does the past follow you wherever you go…

Tell Me No Lies is a psychological mystery with bite that kept me turning turning those pages, to see whether it was madness or messing that was the cause of all Steph’s problems – loved how Lisa Hall wrote it so it really could have been either.

Making a new life start, Steph hopes to leave her rather emotional past behind her, but odd things keep happening and she can’t really trust anyone – least of all herself. As a reader I didn’t trust anyone either and whilst I was ultimately right about who was doing what to who and why I always felt there was a slight chance I was wrong, a lot of this story is highly unsettling which is what you want from a psychological thriller.

It is one of those books that flies by you in no time, getting engrossed into this tale of woe was no problem at all. Add a bit of a killer ending (if I had one bugbear it was that it was very sudden and possibly unlikely due to some other events) that makes you go OH NO and you’ve got a banging read.

Really enjoyed it. One for a rainy sunday afternoon (of which we will have plenty living here in the UK) when you want to curl up with a good book and lose the world for a while.

You can purchase Tell Me No Lies HERE

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Publication Date: Available Now from Canelo

Source: Netgalley

What really happened that weekend?

Four friends go to a remote cabin one summer. Only three return.

Life is good for university friends Sarah, Ruth, Charlotte, and Kathy: exams are over and they’re escaping to a cabin by the Blue Pool.

But when Sarah disappears without a trace, life for the others will never be the same again.

Twenty-five years later a man walks into a police station, claiming to know about the missing girl. Suddenly, the three women – now estranged – become suspects. Forced to revisit that horrifying weekend, they must confront buried memories and decades-old fears.

For not everything was as it seemed. And the greater the secret, the deeper it lies…

Now I loved Twisted River which was the first book I read from this author so I was intrigued to see what she would follow it up with – and I have to say that The Blue Pool is a truly excellent psychological thriller that did actually keep me guessing until over halfway through and that is unusual enough to mean that I rate it quite highly.

There are some interesting characters in the mix and one of my favourite starters for ten – a past/present vibe that is done brilliantly as we see a group of friends as they were and as they are. Before a tragedy and afterwards having drifted mostly apart. When an old mystery comes back to haunt them, Siobhan Macdonald takes us on a twisty turny journey towards the truth. The truth is really quite chilling…

Novels like this are huge at the moment and that is because, I think, they often speak to the darker side of human nature and we all like to vicariously indulge in a bit of darkness – especially when it is as addictive as The Blue Pool was for me – a real page turner. It is actually gripping rather than just claiming to be. Huge points for that one.

I loved how the author knitted the relationships together, many levels of “people” with all their faults and their realities, at the same time telling a stonking good story. Really can’t ask for more than that.

Recommended.

You can purchase The Blue Pool HERE

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Publication Date: Available now from Hodder and Staughton

Source: Netgalley

Two women, two secrets, one murder…

What Goes Around is the story of two women – Ellen and Leila. Ellen is the ex-wife and Leila is the new woman, living in Ellen’s house, sleeping with Ellen’s husband. Each woman has her own secrets to keep

One of the women will end up dead. But which one?

I loved “Tell me no Secrets” from Julie Corbin so I was really looking forward to this – and What Goes Around really is a top psychological thriller with a clever premise, some lovely writing and is honestly terribly addictive.

Told from the point of view of two women, the betrayed and the betrayer, Julie Corbin spins a really quite masterful tale of family secrets, nature and nurture, the ties that bind – whilst taking the reader on a twisty unpredictable journey that ends up nowhere you might expect.

Its an interesting dynamic that is created between Ellen and Leila – Ellen determined to get her revenge on the woman who “stole” her husband, Leila not even caring who Ellen is – but as things move onwards a picture begins to emerge that is hauntingly scary as at least one of these two harbours a dark past and some serious problems.

It is a clever character study incorporating many thought provoking themes – I loved how Ms Corbin managed to play on my sympathies, changing things up as everything unravels, exploring those shades of grey that make human interaction so incredibly fascinating. It all feels terriby real, a superb level of authenticity built into the narrative and when I turned that final page I honestly could not decide who I felt the most sorry for. Clever and intuitive storytelling.

A lot of us love a good psychological thriller, its the thing of the moment – What Goes Around shows that there is plenty of life here yet. Whilst it maybe has nothing unique it DOES have engaging, divisive and utterly seductive characters, a pacy and intelligent plot and overall was a very good read indeed.

Definitely recommended.

You can purchase What Goes Around HERE

 

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Publication Date: 12th July 2016 from Randomhouse: Alibi

Source: Netgalley

‘This is about three deaths. Actually more, if you go back far enough. I say deaths, but perhaps all of them were murders. It’s a grey area. Murder, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. So let’s just call them deaths and say I was involved. This story could be told a hundred different ways.’

Within six months of Pen Sheppard starting university, three of her new friends are dead. Only Pen knows the reason why.

College life had seemed like a wonderland of sex, drugs and maybe even love. The perfect place to run away from your past and reinvent yourself. But Pen never can run far enough and when friendships are betrayed, her secrets are revealed. The consequences are deadly.

All These Perfect Strangers was an interesting read for me, someone who loves twisty pyschological thrillers (which this was, it does really do what it says on the tin for the most part) but prefers them when they add a little something into the mix. In the case of Aoife Clifford’s telling that would be an intriguing look at the subtleties of guilt and innocence – both in feeling and in reality.

Our main character Pen has left behind her small town, where she is somewhat of a pariah, hoping to start anew in a location where nobody knows her and she can escape the assumptions and gossip that have plagued her for a long time. However death seems to follow Pen around and it seems she cannot escape fate. But is it fate? Is she catalyst or cause? Guilty or innocent?

It is a fascinating concept and Ms Clifford gets it across in the form of a diary written by Pen for her psychiatrist – we get to read it all, he gets the parts she wants to tell him. So she tells her story about what happened at home, what happened at college and her part in it. This is not a novel that tries to hide things or come up with some big twist – the twist is all embedded into the narrative already, it is in the heart of the main protagonist who may or may not be telling the whole truth.

I liked that about it – It was a clever little take on an oft done tale in an overcrowded genre and was very addictive, I read it in two sittings. I very much appreciated the way it lead you to the beautifully placed little ending and overall if you are a fan of this type of novel you will find this, I think, an adroit and immersive read.

Recommended

You can Purchase “All These Perfect Strangers” HERE

 

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Publication Date: 19th May from Mira UK

Source: Netgalley

In downtown Chicago, a young woman named Esther Vaughan disappears from her apartment without a trace. A haunting letter addressed to My Dearest is found among her possessions, leaving her friend and roommate Quinn Collins to wonder where Esther is and whether or not she’s the person Quinn thought she knew.

Meanwhile, in a small Michigan harbor town an hour outside Chicago, a mysterious woman appears in the quiet coffee shop where eighteen-year-old Alex Gallo works as a dishwasher. He is immediately drawn to her charm and beauty, but what starts as an innocent crush quickly spirals into something far more dark and sinister than he ever expected.  

I was a HUGE fan of Mary Kubica’s “The Good Girl” one of my favourite books of its year, not QUITE so fond of “Pretty Baby” even though it was still heads and shoulders above a lot of psychological thrillers, so Don’t You Cry was much anticipated. The fact that I banged through it like a grasshopper on acid probably tells you that I’m a big fan of this one too…

The two points of view work very well in tandem and Mary Kubica has such a gorgeous turn of phrase and ability to suck you in.  It really didn’t take long for me to be totally immersed in the problem of the missing Esther, the roommate she left behind and the mysterious girl wandering the streets of a small community inspiring a keen obsession in one of the residents.

The plot weaves a spell and twists and turns towards the ultimate resolution, which I won’t say anything about because obviously that would spoil things – but once again the author spins you around and uses pretty classic (and cool) misdirection to keep you on your toes. Meanwhile there are some great engaging characters and fascinating family dynamics that give a realistic edge to things and will keep you turning those pages.

The psychological thriller is definitely not dead. Not when authors like Mary Kubica can give such good book – whilst a lot of the standard tropes are in here they are often not recognisable as such, plus the prose is authentically atmospheric and intensely absorbing.

Highly Recommended.

You can purchase “Dont You Cry” HERE

 

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