The Botanist by M.W. Craven #bookreview

On my blog today, I’m sharing my thoughts on the latest book by M.W. Craven, The Botanist.

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This is going to be the longest week of Washington Poe’s life…

Detective Sergeant Washington Poe can count on one hand the number of friends he has. And he’d still have his thumb left. There’s the guilelessly innocent civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw of course. Insanely brilliant, she’s a bit of a social hand grenade. He’s known his beleaguered boss, Detective Inspector Stephanie Flynn for years as he has his nearest neighbour, full-time shepherd/part-time dog sitter, Victoria.

And then there’s Estelle Doyle. Dark and dangerous and sexy as hell. It’s true the caustic pathologist has never walked down the sunny side of the street, but has she gone too far this time? Shot twice in the head, her father’s murder appears to be an open and shut case. Estelle has firearms discharge residue on her hands, and, in a house surrounded by fresh snow, hers are the only footprints. Since her arrest she’s only said three words: ‘Tell Washington Poe.’

Meanwhile, a poisoner called the Botanist is sending the nation’s most reviled people poems and pressed flowers. Twisted and ingenious, he seems to be able to walk through walls and, despite the advance notice given to his victims, and regardless of the security measures taken, he is able to kill with impunity.

Poe hates locked room mysteries and now he has two to solve. To unravel them he’s going to have to draw on every resource he has: Tilly Bradshaw, an organised crime boss, even an alcoholic ex-journalist. Because if he doesn’t, the bodies are going to keep piling up . . .

MY THOUGHTS

I love this series, and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get round to reading The Botanist. I won’t be making that mistake with the next book. Once again M.W. Craven delivers the goods and he has come up with another action-packed ride for Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw.

Washington Poe is handed an extremely interesting case, following the murder of Kane Hunt, a person with extreme views, on live national television. The person, who is behind the murder, is subsequently known as the botanist, and it seems as though they are on a mission to kill the most hated people in the country. The problem Poe comes up with here, is that some people may agree with the botanist’s methods, particularly as the people who he is targeting certainly aren’t saints.

Another intriguing part of the plot is the arrest of one of Poe’s close friends, Estelle Doyle, following the death of her father. The police are convinced that she killed him, and the evidence is certainly pointing in her direction. Poe is desperate to fight her corner and clear her name. It feels at this point, as though he is facing an impossible task, particularly when the botanist strikes again, and he has to divide his time between the two cases. But Poe isn’t the type of person who would go back on a promise, and this is what makes this book such an incredibly tense and addictive read.

The two mysteries in this book are done so well, and they kept me hooked as I read on. I really couldn’t make my mind up about Estelle, as Poe tried to find out who killed her father and clear her name. I wanted Poe to be right, but another part of me was a tiny bit suspicious that perhaps, Estelle was guilty of her father’s murder, and if this was the case, where would this leave Poe. You can see in this book just how deeply he cares for her and how much he is willing to risk to save her. I loved the cat and mouse chase between Poe and the botanist, and I wanted to understand more about what was driving this person.

Once again M.W. Craven had me howling with laughter throughout the book, especially, as always, from Tilly and Poe’s conversations. They now feel like old friends, who it’s always a delight to spend time with. Tilly is such a well-crafted character, who always makes me smile as I’m reading. I also really like their boss, DI Flynn. I think I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, it’s the characters who really shine through in this series and they keep me coming back.

The Botanist is a brilliant addition to the series and I can’t wait to catch up with Tilly and Poe again.

Publisher: Constable

Publication date: 2nd June 2022

Print length: 496 pages

The Botanist is available to buy:

Amazon UK Waterstones

The Blood Line by Will Shindler #bookreview #blogtour @WillShindler @HodderBooks @AlainnaGeorgiou

On my blog today, I’m sharing my thoughts on the new novel by Will Shindler, The Blood Line as part of the blog tour. With thanks to Alainna Georgiou for inviting me to take part.

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An ordinary day. An ordinary street. A gruesome delivery waiting on the doorstep that’s going to set off an spine-chilling chain of events…

Claire Beacham returns from a busy day at work to a parcel on her doorstep – no note, no label. As a politician, she’s used to being suspicious of anonymous hate mail but today she’s too tired to worry. She opens it, finding a gruesome surprise inside. A severed head falls to her kitchen floor; the rich, red drip of blood on her hands.

It is clear to Claire and those around her that this terrifying package is a message. But who sent it, and why?

It’s Claire’s first delivery – and won’t be her last.

DI Finn cannot enjoy the gentle return to his role in the Murder Investigation Team of the Metropolitan Police that he planned. Someone is targeting Claire and with every message comes another casualty. With the clock ticking, DI Finn and DC Mattie Paulsen must wade through the depths of the murky political sphere before the bodies start piling up.

MY THOUGHTS

Detective Alex Finn is back in Will Shindler’s latest book, The Blood Line. What I’ve come to expect from Will Shindler’s novels is an absolutely gripping opening, and he has delivered that again with this book. We see the murder of a young immigrant in the opening pages, which raises the questions, what has this man done to deserve this fate, who is the person who’s killed him? Then in another shocking twist, the man’s severed head is delivered to the house of MP Claire Beacham, who becomes the central focus point of the plot.

Will Shindler creates suspense really well in his book. I wanted to know what connection, if any, Claire Beacham had to the murdered man. Claire Beacham is just beginning to make a name for herself, due to her work supporting domestic abuse victims. Claire comes across as a character who will fight for you, if you came to her with a problem, so it was intriguing to see what she had done to make herself a target in this way, and this made her such a fascinating person to get to the bottom of. This novel explores some tough themes, which, sadly, have become a real reality in today’s world, particularly with recent news stories here in the UK.

As the investigation into the death of the young man, and any connection to Claire progresses, Will Shindler introduces us to some shady individuals, and one of them has Alex Finn in his sights. I won’t say much more here, but this was such a tense part of the story, as I wanted to know what this man wanted from Alex. You can quite clearly see how much danger Alex is in which adds to the tension, especially when he is unware of it.

I can’t end this review without briefly mentioning that ending. This book really has left me wondering what is to come for Alex and his team next. As things take a darker turn for Alex, it made me wonder what exactly was going to happen, and the final result is devastating.

The Blood Line is another excellent book in this series that continues to keep me invested. Crime fiction fans, you definitely need to be reading this series if you haven’t picked it up already.

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Publication date: 2nd February 2023

Print length: 357 pages

The Blood Line is available to buy:

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Expectant by Vanda Symon #bookreview #blogtour @vandasymon @OrendaBooks @RandomTTours

On my blog today, I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for the new novel by Vanda Symon, Expectant as part of the blog tour. With thanks to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part.

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The shocking murder of a heavily pregnant woman throws the New Zealand city of Dunedin into a tailspin, and the devastating crime feels uncomfortably close to home for Detective Sam Shephard as she counts down the days to her own maternity leave.

Confined to a desk job in the department, Sam must find the missing link between this brutal crime and a string of cases involving mothers and children in the past. As the pieces start to come together and the realisation dawns that the killer’s actions are escalating, drastic measures must be taken to prevent more tragedy.

For Sam, the case becomes personal, when it becomes increasingly clear that no one is safe and the clock is ticking…

The shocking murder of a heavily pregnant woman throws the New Zealand city of Dunedin into a tailspin, and the devastating crime feels uncomfortably close to home for Detective Sam Shephard as she counts down the days to her own maternity leave. 

Confined to a desk job in the department, Sam must find the missing link between this brutal crime and a string of cases involving mothers and children in the past. As the pieces start to come together and the realisation dawns that the killer’s actions are escalating, drastic measures must be taken to prevent more tragedy. 

For Sam, the case becomes personal, when it becomes increasingly clear that no one is safe and the clock is ticking… 

MY THOUGHTS

Vanda Symon knows how to write a gripping first chapter. Expectant is the latest book in her Detective Sam Shepherd series, and it is another belter of a crime novel. We are launched into the story with the discovery of a murdered woman by a group of teenagers, and even more horrifying, it soon becomes apparent that the woman was pregnant, and that her unborn child was taken from her.

This case hits very close to home for Sam. Sam, herself, is pregnant and just about to give birth. You know that the case of the murdered woman is going to become a very personal case for Sam. You can clearly see her determination to get to the bottom of this, and how frustrated she is, when her boss insists on taking her off the case, because she might be too emotionally close to the investigation. I wanted Sam to be the one to get to the bottom of things as I knew she would make sure that no stone would be left unturned, and I thought her boss was treating her very unfairly in this book, which made me want to yell at him in anger. But I was also worried that Sam might be putting herself and her unborn child in danger. There is still no understanding of what the motive is behind the killing of the young woman, and there is a sense of real threat that they may strike again, and this tension continues to build.

There is a real sense of foreboding throughout the novel as Sam and the team race to find the killer. As Sam and the team try and find a motive behind the killing of the woman, Sam looks into recent similar events to see if she can find a link. Although Expectant is a work of fiction, it is horrifying to think that there are cases, like what Vanda Symon describes in her book, that exist in real life. You can see the effect that learning about these cases has on Sam, as she prepares to give birth to her own child.

I was not expecting the revelations that came as Vanda Symon wrapped up the book. There are some heart-breaking reveals, that had me flying through the final chapters at top speed to see what the final outcome was going to be. I would have to say that Expectant is the best book in this series to date.

I can’t wait to see what’s next for Sam Shepherd. This series continues to go from strength to strength. I highly recommend Expectant.

Publisher: Orenda Books

Publication date: 16th February 2023

Print length: 320 pages

Expectant is available to buy:

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The Only Suspect by Louise Candlish #bookreview

On my blog today, I’m sharing my thoughts on the gripping new thriller by Louise Candlish, The Only Suspect.

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There’s the obvious story. And then there’s the truth.
 
Alex lives a comfortable life with his wife Beth in the leafy suburb of Silver Vale. Fine, so he’s not the most extrovert guy on the street, he prefers to keep himself to himself, but he’s a good husband and an easy-going neighbour.
 
That’s until Beth announces the creation of a nature trail on a local site that’s been disused for decades and suddenly Alex is a changed man. Now he’s always watching. Questioning. Struggling to hide his dread . . .
 
As the landscapers get to work, a secret threatens to surface from years ago, back in Alex’s twenties when he got entangled with a seductive young woman called Marina, who threw both their lives into turmoil.
 
And who sparked a police hunt for a murder suspect that was never quite what it seemed.
 
It still isn’t.

MY THOUGHTS

Louise Candlish is a writer who knows how to deliver a twisty plot. I’ve become a huge fan of her writing in recent years. Her latest novel is The Only Suspect. The book is told across two time periods, in the 1990s and the present day, there are long held secrets which are now at risk of being exposed.

In the present day chapters, we meet Alex, who has been living a comfortable lifestyle, but all of that is threatened when it is revealed to him, that a nature trail is about to be created nearby, and the work being done there, could unearth long held secrets he’s tried to keep buried. You can feel the stress this puts Alex under as he realises what is happening, and I wanted to know what had gone on in his past. Then we revert back to the 1990s when we meet Rick, who is in his twenties. Rick has just got together with a young woman called Marina, who he hopes to have a future with, and we see their relationship begin to develop and get more serious. But their relationship begins to get far more complicated than he first thought it would be, and it begins to get dangerous.

Louise Candlish creates such a tense atmosphere around Marina’s relationship with Rick in the 90s. I could sense there was something not quite right here, when Rick first gets together with her. I could see that he was keener on having a relationship with Marina than Marina was. This made me want to know what was going on in Marina’s life, and what it was that she was potentially hiding from him. Rick does come across as someone who is quite vulnerable, and he is desperate to help Marina, when he begins to learn more about what is going on in her life. I did feel quite sorry for Rick at this point, as Marina didn’t appear to know what she wanted from their relationship, and if she wanted to move forward with it. At one point I was thinking that perhaps Rick should walk away from Marina, and that he was making a mistake in helping her, but another part of me wanted to see what was going to happen to them the longer they stayed together, and what the consequences of that would be. Louise Candlish is definitely a writer who knows how to keep her audience invested in her characters. She also always creates real, authentic people who you want to go on a journey with.

As Louise Candlish gradually reveals the truth behind what is going on, she drops some bombshells I did not see coming. There was one twist in particular that floored me. The book was already holding my attention, but after reading that particular twist, I had to read on right to the end, ignoring all possible distractions.

I have a feeling that The Only Suspect is going to be one of my top ten books of the year. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication date: 2nd February 2023

Print length: 429 pages

The Only Suspect is available to buy:

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Exiles by Jane Harper #bookreview

On my blog today, I’m sharing my thoughts on the third book in the Aaron Falk series by Jane Harper, Exiles.

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A mother disappears from a busy festival on a warm spring night.

Her baby lies alone in the pram, her mother’s possessions surrounding her, waiting for a return which never comes.

A year later, Kim Gillespie’s absence still casts a long shadow as her friends and loved ones gather to welcome a new addition to the family.

Joining the celebrations on a rare break from work is federal investigator Aaron Falk, who begins to suspect that all is not as it seems.

As he looks into Kim’s case, long-held secrets and resentments begin to come to the fore, secrets that show that her community is not as close as it appears.

Falk will have to tread carefully if he is to expose the dark fractures at its heart, but sometimes it takes an outsider to get to the truth…

MY THOUGHTS

I’ve really enjoyed Jane Harper’s first two Aaron Falk novels, so I was excited to hear about the release of her latest book to feature Aaron, Exiles. Once again, federal investigator, Aaron Falk, investigates a murky world, following the disappearance of a young mother, Kim Gillespie, who vanished a year ago. She hasn’t been heard from since. It is Kim’s daughter, Zara, who is fighting to keep the search for her mother going. Zara is insistent that something must’ve happened to her, and that Kim wouldn’t have abandoned her family, particularly her baby daughter.

What I love about Jane Harper’s writing is how she reels you into her story and into the lives of her characters. I really liked Aaron Falk’s development in this book. He is invested in the case of Kim’s disappearance, but he is also starting to fall in love with a woman named Gemma. This was part of the plot I really liked about this book. I felt that it was time for him to settle down with someone, and I loved seeing his relationship with Gemma build across the course of the novel. It is not a smooth process getting to this stage for Aaron, and there were times when I wanted to shout at him, as I could see that they would be perfect together and would make each other happy. He seemed a little hesitant about moving things forward.

It’s a shame that this is the last Aaron Falk novel, as I would like to see where his life takes him from this point, but I did feel as though it was the perfect end for him as well. I loved how Jane Harper wrapped up the investigation into Kim’s disappearance. I could see everything coming together. Jane Harper is a master of delving into families and the secrets they keep, and this creates a lot of drama in the final part of the book, which we get to see as Aaron Falk gets closer to the truth of what happened to Kim. It was such a gripping and a devastating finale. I could clearly see the character’s motivations and you can feel the emotions they are experiencing, especially as Jane tells some of the scenes from Kim’s perspective. There is also another intriguing aspect to the plot of this book, as there has been a hit-and-run in the same town. People believe this might be connected to Kim’s disappearance. It was really interesting to see Jane Harper weave the conclusion to this event into the book’s finale as well.

Jane Harper always excels at creating an immersive experience for her readers and she delivers this again in Exiles. I hope that one day in the future Jane will return to Aaron Falk. It has been brilliant following his journey across three novels. If you’re a Jane Harper fan you need to make sure that Exiles goes straight to the top of your TBR pile. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Publisher: Macmillan

Publication date: 2nd February 2023

Print length: 422 pages

Exiles is available to buy:

Amazon UK Waterstones

The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels by Janice Hallett #bookreview #blogtour @JaniceHallett @ViperBooks

On my blog today, I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for the new novel by Janice Hallett, The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels.

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Open the safe deposit box. Inside you will find research material for a true crime book. You must read the documents, then make a decision. Will you destroy them? Or will you take them to the police?

Everyone knows the sad story of the Alperton Angels: the cult who brainwashed a teenage girl and convinced her that her newborn baby was the anti-Christ. Believing they had a divine mission to kill the infant, they were only stopped when the girl came to her senses and called the police. The Angels committed suicide rather than stand trial, while mother and baby disappeared into the care system.

Nearly two decades later, true-crime author Amanda Bailey is writing a book on the Angels. The Alperton baby has turned eighteen and can finally be interviewed; if Amanda can find them, it will be the true-crime scoop of the year, and will save her flagging career. But rival author Oliver Menzies is just as smart, better connected, and is also on the baby’s trail.

As Amanda and Oliver are forced to collaborate, they realise that what everyone thinks they know about the Angels is wrong. The truth is something much darker and stranger than they’d ever imagined. And the story of the Alperton Angels is far from over..

After all, the devil is in the detail…

MY THOUGHTS

Whenever I hear that Janice Hallett has a new book coming out, I get really excited. When I read her debut novel, The Appeal, I knew then that she was a very unique writer. Her books are always so original, and Janice Hallett creates a truly immersive experience for the reader. Her latest book is The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels, which I believe will also appeal to fans of true crime. We are given an instruction at the start of the book. The pages we are about to read is the extensive research by bestselling true crime author, Amanda Bailey, on a horrific crime that took place more than a decade ago involving a cult known as the Alperton Angels. Once we have finished reading the book, we then must decide if the information inside should be made public.

What I love about Janice Hallett’s books is that she makes you feel as though you are reading about true events that have taken place. There is always a unique way in which she writes her books, either through email exchanges, texts, or through audio files. In this book, it is through the research that author, Amanda Bailey, has undertaken for her new book, about the chilling Alperton Angels case, that took place in 2003.

Amanda Bailey’s voice comes through so well in the emails and texts she is exchanging between different people. I could clearly see her enthusiasm for the topic she is researching, and she wants to make sure her new book is a success. But you can also feel the pressure she is under, especially from her agent, to get this right. There is already a buzz surrounding the book, as the Alperton Angels is quite famous and draws a lot of attention. But as Amanda begins to get closer to the truth about what happened, I began to feel fear for her. I was eager to know what was going to happen to her if she continued to probe deeper into the story. It made me wonder if she was putting herself more in danger as she continued to contact people who had a connection to the case she was investigating.

The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels is another top read by Janice Hallett which will thrill her fans. The mystery of the novel pulled me in and kept me hooked and Amanda Bailey kept me engaged throughout the book. A thoroughly entertaining read, I really enjoyed it. I can’t wait to see what Janice Hallett comes up with next.

Publisher: Viper Books

Publication date: 19th January 2023

Print length: 432 pages

The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels is available to buy:

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The Ideal Man by T.J. Emerson #bookreview #blogtour @TraceyJEmerson @BoldwoodBooks @rararesources

On my blog today, I’m sharing my thoughts on the new thriller by T.J. Emerson, The Ideal Man as part of the blog tour. With thanks to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part.

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Three women’s lives are about to change forever.

The Daughter.

My father is innocent. He’s spent almost four years behind bars, but now he’s getting out. I gave up everything to be there for him, just like he was always there for me. It’s all going to be worth it now.

The Girlfriend.

As soon as I opened the paper that day and saw that picture of Sandy, I didn’t care about the story surrounding it. There’s no way he hurt that girl. Now he’s out, we’ll get married and I’ll finally get to meet his daughter. There’ll be no more hiding our love.

The Other Woman.

No one knows what happened all those years ago, and the life I built depends on no one finding out. Now he’s getting out, my secrets may soon see the light. I can’t let that happen.

One Loves Him.

One Needs Him.

One Wants Him DEAD.

MY THOUGHTS

The Ideal Man is a gripping novel by T.J. Emerson, following the lives of three women as they deal with the release of Sandy, from prison, after he has spent time in prison for rape. What follows is an intense narrative as the three women battle with their perception of Sandy and what sort of a man he truly is, a monster or a victim.

Following Sandy’s release from prison, he travels to the French town of Nice to be with his daughter, Colette, who has fought for his release, and has publicly shared her journey to this point on her blog. She believes wholeheartedly in his innocence, which has ostracised her from her brother, who now lives in Australia, and who has no relationship with her, or their father. It also sparked the end to her marriage. I thought it was intriguing to see their relationship begin to move forward when Sandy comes to live with her. He comes across as someone who is dominating, and Colette begins to feel this a little, as Sandy begins to pick up his life again from before he went to prison. I was fascinated to see if whether or not she would begin to change her mind about her dad.

T.J. Emerson also tells the story from the point of view of a woman called Lynne, who is Sandy’s new girlfriend. She contacted him while he was in prison, and like Collette, she can’t believe that he is guilty of the crime he was convicted of. I was interested to see what Collette’s relationship with Lynn would be like, once Sandy introduced the two of them together, and if there would be any tensions between them, particularly as Sandy kept Lynne a secret from Collette.

We also hear from Jane, the woman who Sandy raped. Jane has struggled to move on from the incident, and you can see just how fearful she is, knowing that Sandy has been released from prison. This is also affecting the relationship that she has with her husband and her son. T.J. Emerson keeps the tension ticking up a notch, as I kept wondering, if at any point in the novel, if Jane and Sandy would cross paths again, and what would happen if they did.

I really liked how T.J. Emerson got inside the heads of her characters. Their emotions come through in the writing as they grapple with their thoughts and feelings, and this is what makes this novel an intense read. The Ideal Man makes for an intriguing and an absorbing psychological thriller.

Publisher: Boldwood Books

Publication date: 25th January 2023

Print length: 364 pages

The Ideal Man is available to buy:

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She’s Mine by A.A. Chaudhuri #bookreview

On my blog today, I’m sharing my thoughts on She’s Mine by A.A. Chaudhuri.

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Her missing daughter was just the start of the nightmare

Twenty years ago, Christine Donovan took a call she should have ignored while shopping. In those few seconds while her back was turned, her toddler, Heidi, was kidnapped. She’s never been seen again.

Despite having two other children with husband Greg, Christine remains guilt-stricken that her neglect caused her child to be stolen, while haunted by a secret that consumes her.

Just as she takes measures to finally heal, a note is posted through her door, with the words she has always longed to hear: Heidi isn’t dead.

Christine might finally get the answers she craves – but what she doesn’t know is that finding her daughter will uncover dark secrets close to home.

In seeking the truth, Christine might destroy everything that she loves … so how far is she willing to go to find Heidi?

MY THOUGHTS

She’s Mine by A.A. Chaudhuri is a mind-blowing book. The twists in this book just keep on coming, and the twists show that A.A. Chaudhuri is very talented, and an extremely exciting writer.  

A.A. Chaudhuri introduces us to a seriously twisted family in her novel, but they have also suffered an unimaginable trauma. Twenty years ago, Christine’s daughter, Heidi, disappeared when Christine looked away from her for one moment, to accept a phone call that she shouldn’t have done. There is a really tense narrative as we see how Heidi’s disappearance has affected her family. Her mother hasn’t been the best parent. Before Heidi went missing, she only ever thought of herself and of the affair she was having. And since Heidi’s disappearance she has neglected her two other children, as she blames herself for what happened all those years ago.

Every single character in this book is twisted. I think the only person who I did have a little bit of sympathy for was Greg, Christine’s husband. Greg and Christine’s two other children absolutely hater Christine, you can see this in the way they talk about her and they make no secret of it even when they are with their mother. Although you can see that Christine has been a terrible mother, I did wish that there would be some reconciliation between her and her children. You can see how guilty she feels about not looking after Heidi properly the day she went missing, and how desperate she is to find out what happened. There were times when I did feel sorry for Christine, because of what she has been through, and because of the torture that she goes through in this book, but I also could see why her family hated her the way they did.

A.A. Chaudhuri delivers twist after twist as the book races towards its finale. She’s Mine is a very dark book and there are several brilliant twists. It does take a lot for a psychological thriller to shock me with a good twist. A.A. Chaudhuri definitely succeeded in shocking me in this book. The twists have definitely made me think about what happens next to the characters after the final page, and how they are doing now.  

I thoroughly enjoyed reading She’s Mine and I’m looking forward to catching up on A.A. Chaudhuri’s next book as soon as I can.

Publisher: Hera

Publication date: 18th August 2021

Print length: 386 pages

She’s Mine is available to buy:

Amazon UK

Dirt by Sarah Sultoon #bookreview #blogtour @SultoonSarah @OrendaBooks @RandomTTours

On my blog today, I’m sharing my thoughts on the new novel by Sarah Sultoon, Dirt as part of the blog tour. With thanks to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part.

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This is no utopia…

1996. Northern Israel. Lola leaves an unhappy home life in England for the fabled utopian life of a kibbutz, but this heavily guarded farming community on the Arab-Israeli border isn’t the idyll it seems, and tensions are festering.

Hundreds of miles away, in the Jerusalem offices of the International Tribune newspaper, all eyes are on Israel’s response to a spate of rocket attacks from Lebanon, until cub reporter Jonny Murphy gets a tip from a mysterious source that sends him straight into the danger zone.

When the body of an Arab worker is discovered in the dirt of the kibbutz chicken house, it triggers a series of events that puts Lola and the whole community in jeopardy, and Jonny begins to uncover a series of secrets that put everything at risk, as he begins to realise just how far some people will go to belong…

MY THOUGHTS

Sarah Sultoon is back with her latest novel, Dirt, and once again, it is clear to see that she is an author who is a master of creating atmosphere and a sense of place in her writing. Sarah Sultoon takes us back to 1996 to a kibbutz on the borders of Israel and Lebanon. Sarah opens her novel with such a vivid first chapter, that I don’t think I’ll be able to get it out of my head any time soon. It did send shivers down my spine as I read Sarah’s vivid descriptions of the body waiting to be discovered. I wanted to know who this person was and why they had been murdered.

I’m sure I’ve said this before, when reviewing Sarah’s books, but what I love about her writing, is her ability to draw upon her own experience as a journalist, which she uses very well to create a real sense of authenticity in her books. In Dirt we meet Lola, who is from the UK. She has travelled to this part of the world to join the kibbutz, even though it is fraught with danger. You can especially see what a change in environment it is for Lola, but she struck me as a person who can adapt well to new surroundings. There is also, in this area, the constant threat of an attack and missile strikes. Lola also has to deal with the misogynistic behaviour from men, which made me angry as I was reading. I was drawn in by her story and thought she was a fascinating character to follow.

We also meet journalist Jonny, who, like Lola, is from the UK. He comes across a really likeable character. You can see that he is determined to chase down big stories and to make a name for himself. It is what Jonny is looking into at the farm, where Lola is working, that becomes the main driving plot point of the novel. It becomes clear that there is something more going on here that poses high risks for the characters. Sarah Sultoon delves deep into both Jonny and Lola’s characters, and she makes their stories come through stronger on the page with each new revelation about then.

As this novel is set the year after I was born, I’m not aware of what was going on in this part of the world at all during this time. So once again, for me, Sarah Sultoon has created a really eye-opening story. Sarah Sultoon ratchets up the tension as she reveals what has been really going on at the farm where Lola is working. There is a lot of political tension going on in the background and this was fascinating to learn about as well.

I was totally immersed in Sarah’s story as I was reading. I’m looking forward to seeing what topics she covers in her next book.

Publisher: Orenda Books

Publication date: 19th January 2023

Print length: 320 pages

Dirt is available to buy:

Amazon UK Waterstones

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The Drift by C.J. Tudor #bookreview

On my blog today, I’m sharing my thoughts on the new thriller by C.J. Tudor, The Drift.

BLURB

Survival can be murder . . .

During a deadly snowstorm, Hannah awakens to carnage, all mangled metal and shattered glass. Evacuated from a secluded boarding school, her coach careered off the road, trapping her with a handful of survivors.

Meg awakens to a gentle rocking. She’s in a cable car stranded high above snowy mountains, with five strangers and no memory of how they got on board.

Carter is gazing out of the window of an isolated ski chalet that he and his companions call home. As their generator begins to waver in the storm, the threat of something lurking in the chalet’s depths looms larger.

Outside, the storm rages. Inside one group, a killer lurks.

But which one?

And who will make it out alive?

MY THOUGHTS

The Drift by C. J. Tudor is filled with suspense right from the first page. It is crying out to be a Hollywood movie. Set in a futuristic, but what seems to be, not a too distant future, especially given what has happened in the world recently; the world has been ravaged by a new virus. This is what makes C.J. Tudor’s latest novel so scary. We can see now how easy it is for something like this to happen, and how easy it is for humanity’s progress to come tumbling down. Places, or farms, as they have become known, have been set up to help scientists study the virus and to see if they can find a way to treat and cure it. But this involves testing on humans infected with the disease.

What I thought was really intriguing was the three strands in this book. We have a group of people staying at a ski chalet, and two other groups of people making their way to a location, known only as the retreat; one group in a bus, the other riding on a cable car. C. J. Tudor creates such an intense atmosphere as we get to know the members of each group. The location of where they are heading is deep within the wilderness and they are facing treacherous conditions, with the threat of hungry predators, ‘whistlers,’ and the virus itself, which is the invisible enemy. It is also soon clear that there is a killer amongst them.

You can really feel the desperate need for the people who are trapped in the bus and the cable car to survive. Even though their situation looks hopeless, there is a strong desire among them to get through it. This is what drives the tension forward as they try to think of how they can get out of this crisis alive. I thought Hannah’s story was particularly sad, especially as C.J. Tudor reveals more about her backstory and what led her to the position she is in now.

C. J. Tudor weaves the three strands together so well, and she excels in creating tension. It’s not clear how they are linked at first but they come together seamlessly. I loved The Drift. It is such a creepy read. I loved the chilling atmosphere which makes it the perfect book to read on a cold winter’s evening.

Publisher: Penguin

Publication date: 19th January 2023

Print length: 389 pages

The Drift is available to buy:

Amazon UK Kobo Waterstones