Clear My Name by Paula Daly #bookreview

Clear My Name by Paula Daly is another book which has been sat on my TBR pile for quite a while now and I’m glad I’ve finally had the chance to read it.

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Innocent?

When Carrie was accused of brutally murdering her husband’s lover, she denied it. She denied it when they arrested her, when they put her in front of a jury, and when they sent her to prison.

Now she’s three years into a fifteen-year sentence, away from the daughter she loves and the life she had built. And she is still denying that she is to blame.

Guilty?

Tess Gilroy has devoted her life to righting wrongs. Through her job for Innocence UK, a charity which takes on alleged miscarriages of justice, she works tirelessly to uncover the truth.

But when she is asked to take Carrie’s case, Tess realises that if she is to help this woman, she must risk uncovering the secrets she has struggled a lifetime to hide . . .

We’ve all done things we’re not proud of.

MY THOUGHTS

Clear My Name is a powerful novel by Paula Daly. It is also the first novel by Paula which I’ve read, and I can see what I’ve been missing out on.

Paula Daly tells a haunting story. Tess and Avril both work for Innocence UK, a charity specialising in helping people wrongly convicted of a crime. They are facing a particularly tough case. Carrie has been found guilty of killing her husband’s lover. But Carrie continues to insist that she is innocent. When Innocence UK takes up the case, Tess is convinced that Carrie is telling the truth. Tess is determined to help Carrie, just as she is to find the real culprit, who Tess believes is walking around free and is a potential danger. This is what she must do to prove Carrie’s innocence.

I thought Tess and Avril were both very well rounded characters. I think a lot of readers may struggle to warm to Tess, however. Tess can be quite spiky but what I really liked about her is her determination to see the case through. You can see how much she cares about delivering justice for Carrie. I think her character did improve towards the ending of the book, which is what made the ending feel, for me, very satisfactory.

I found it fascinating as I read the scenes when Tess and Avril set about trying to prove Carrie’s case. You can really sense Tess’s frustration as she begins to unravel the true backstory, and what the police potentially may have missed. As the reader, it made me feel really angry, and I wanted Tess and Avril to succeed. It made me think about real-life cases when this has happened as well; I can’t imagine what must go through a person’s mind when they know they have been wrongly convicted of a crime. This is what makes the book really intriguing, as well.

Although I could see that Tess really believed that Carrie was innocent, I still couldn’t quite make up my mind about her. Carrie is definitely a troubled character. As the plot thickened, I began to wonder if I could trust what she was really saying.

I found Clear My Name to be a really suspenseful read, and I could not put it down; I finished it in just a couple of days. I thought it was a really refreshing take on a crime thriller and I’m eager now to read more of Paula Daly’s novels. Highly recommended!

Publisher: Bantam Press

Publication date: 8th August 2019

Print length: 304 pages

Clear My Name is available to buy:

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A Song of Isolation by Michael J Malone #bookreview #blogtour @michaelJmalone1 @OrendaBooks @RandomTTours

I’m delighted to be sharing my thoughts on the stunning new novel by Micahel J Malone, A Song of Isolation on my blog today. With thanks to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part.

A Song of Isolation by [Michael J. Malone]

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Film star Amelie Hart is the darling of the silver screen, appearing on the front pages of every newspaper. But at the peak of her fame she throws it all away for a regular guy with an ordinary job. The gossip columns are aghast: what happened to the woman who turned heads wherever she went?

Any hope the furore will die down are crushed when Amelie’s boyfriend Dave is arrested on charges of child sexual abuse. Dave strongly asserts his innocence, and when Amelie refuses to denounce him, the press witch hunt quickly turns into physical violence, and she has to flee the country.

While Dave is locked up with the most depraved men in the country and Amelie is hiding on the continent, Damaris, the victim at the centre of the story, is isolated – a child trying to make sense of an adult world.

Breathtakingly brutal, dark and immensely moving, A Song of Isolation looks beneath the magpie glimmer of celebrity to uncover a sinister world dominated by greed and lies, and the unfathomable destruction of innocent lives … in an instant.

MY THOUGHTS

Michael J. Malone explores some dark themes in his latest novel, A Song of Isolation. Hollywood film start, Amelie Hart is left feeling devastated when her partner, Dave is accused of child abuse by their neighbours. Because of her connection to Dave, the case is catapulted into the spotlight. They soon find themselves under intense scrutiny from the public and the media. Amelie is certain of Dave’s innocence, as is his family, but now that the wheels have been set in motion; it seems that there is little that can be done to stop the changing tide of events.

I wanted to shout at the injustice being done to Dave and Amelia while I was reading this book. I felt sure that he was being stitched up the family of the victim; I couldn’t believe they were being allowed to get away with it. Sadly, I couldn’t help but think of how very likely it is that this could happen in the real world. I’ve always believed that the names of suspects should never be released until it is proven without a doubt that they are the person responsible for the crime.

Dave’s trial garners more publicity from the media as he is currently dating a Hollywood film star. You can see the level of scrutiny that is opposed upon them, especially upon Amelia as well just for supporting her partner. Michael J. Malone also explores the effect that this has on Dave’s parents. They run a successful business, and you can see the fears that the publicity will have on his work. I kept thinking that at any moment, even Dave’s family; especially Amelia, would abandon him to save their careers. I was desperate for this not to happen. This again made me feel angry as Amelia was being pressured to drop all contact with him to save her career.

What this novel explores well, is that we are all too quick to judge people, especially celebrities, when a lot of articles printed about them can be misleading. You can see this in the way that people speak of Dave when the media essentially portray him as guilty before the case has even been brought to trial. The public soon starts talking about him, people who know him as well and say, “I always thought he looked a bit shifty.” This happens in real life, as well. All of a sudden people’s perception of a person seems to change. They convince themselves that he is guilty without looking into the facts. Is this a way, perhaps, to convince themselves that the police have convicted the right person? Does this make them feel somehow comfortable that a dangerous person, local to them, has been rightly put behind bars, removing that threat?

Throughout the book, I was rooting for Dave and Amelie to get the justice that they deserved. I felt for the alleged victim as well, Damaris, as you can see that she is being manipulated. This kept me, even more, gripped to the book as I wasn’t sure how things were going to pan out for Dave. I could see that things could go either way for him, and this made me root for him even more.

Michael J. Malone has created another stunning, powerful piece of writing that will stay with you. A Song of Isolation is a powerful, heart-wrenching read. It’s a book that challenges your thought process, and it should be on everyone’s reading pile. Highly recommended!

Publisher: Orenda Books

Publication date: 17th July 2020 (kindle) 17th September 2020 (paperback)

Print length: 300 pages

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The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell #bookreview

On my blog today, I’m sharing my thoughts on The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell.

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In a large house in London’s fashionable Chelsea, a baby is awake in her cot. Well-fed and cared for, she is happily waiting for someone to pick her up.

In the kitchen lie three decomposing corpses. Close to them is a hastily scrawled note.

They’ve been dead for several days.

Who has been looking after the baby?

And where did they go?

Two entangled families.
A house with the darkest of secrets.

MY THOUGHTS

I remember hearing Lisa Jewell talk about The Family Upstairs when I was at the Theakston Crime Festival back in 2019. Hearing Lisa speak about her book made me want to buy it as I thought the idea sounded so unique and so chilling. It did not disappoint; I’m only sorry that it’s taken me this long to read it.

Twenty-five-year old Libby can’t believe her luck when out of the blue; Libby discovers that she has inherited a mansion in Chelsea. The property has been held in trust for her since she was a baby. Libby has no idea about her past or the dark secrets that are connected with it. The moment she steps foot in her new home, she realises there is something very eerie about the place. Soon the secrets of her past come back to haunt her.

This book is steeped in mystery. As Libby starts to learn more about her past, I wanted to find out more about her family, and the cult, it’s said, that she was born into. I wanted to know why she was the only one who survived, when the rest of her family were killed, and where her siblings were who disappeared. Libby teams up with a journalist, Miller, to try and uncover what really happened in the house all those years ago. He has previously tried to find the answers, but now that he has Libby on board, he feels that he is one step closer to getting to the truth.

Definitely, the most chilling scenes in this book were when Lisa Jewell takes us back in time before Libby was born. It made it even more disturbing to think of Libby staying in the house where the dreadful things Lisa Jewell describes, once happened. It made me think that someone was watching her and that it was only going to be a matter of time before she discovered who that was. The flashback scenes are filled with a strong sense of foreboding, especially when Libby’s family, first become acquainted with their new guests. You can see that there is something off here with them right from the start and I wanted to know what it was that they were planning.

The story is also told from the point of view of a character called Lucy. I connected with Lucy straight away, and you can’t help but feel sorry for her, as she struggles to keep her family together. Lucy is currently living abroad, but she is desperate to get back to the UK. It is clear that she has to go to extreme lengths to achieve this goal, to ensure safe passage for her and her children, but what connection does she have to Libby?

The Family Upstairs is very creepy right from the start, and it is very dark. It kept me asking questions as I was reading it. I’ve only read one other thriller by Lisa Jewell, and I need to catch up on the rest. This is a complex, multi-layered book that is very cleverly constructed. I thought it culminated in a very satisfactory ending as well.

Publisher: Arrow

Publication date: 8th August 2019

Print length: 442 pages

The Family Upstairs is available to buy:

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The Dry by Jane Harper #bookreview

I’m really kicking myself that I’ve taken this long to read The Dry by Jane Harper. I’m sharing my thoughts on my blog today.

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WHO REALLY KILLED THE HADLER FAMILY?

I just can’t understand how someone like him could do something like that.

Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, it hasn’t rained in small country town Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty.

Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke’s death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past and why he left home bubble to the surface as he questions the truth of his friend’s crime.

MY THOUGHTS

Jane Harper hooks you straight away, with a disturbing opening chapter, as she describes the haunting opening scene. As I’m typing this, I can still picture the blowflies that appeared so sharply in my mind as I was reading. The Dry quickly swept me into the story, and I became totally immersed in the lives of the characters, living in the small, seemingly forgotten, town of Kiewarra in Australia.

Jane Harper portrays a harsh landscape. Kiewarra is facing its harshest drought in years. As businesses struggle, a grisly discovery is made. A family has been shot dead at their farm, with only one survivor, a baby, who will never be able to say who shot her family. This is where the lead character, Federal Agent, Aaron Falk steps in. He once lived in the town, but has since been ostracised by the locals, following the mysterious death of a young girl, years earlier, who Aaron was linked to. Many of the locals believe he was the person responsible for her death, and they don’t want him hanging around. It isn’t long before he starts to receive threats.

I think The Dry is definitely more of a slow-burner, although I did find Jane’s writing very addictive. I thought this worked really well with the setting, and the writing pulls you in to the sleepy town. It seems, at first, that this is a case of a triple suicide, and that the baby’s father, Luke Hadler, is responsible for his family’s deaths. The reason Aaron has returned, is for their funeral, as he was once best friends with Luke. But he is soon roped into the investigation, in an unofficial capacity. Aaron is determined to get to the bottom of the killings. He soon comes to believe that a third party was involved, but his investigations quickly make him unpopular.

Aaron Falk is a brilliant character. Right from the beginning, I thought there was something mysterious about him. It was the way in which he returned to his former home that made me question what had happened in his past. He doesn’t want to stay long here. As more details are revealed about him, and his friend’s history, I really wanted to find out the truth.

Jane Harper also takes us back in time, as we revisit the time when Aaron once lived in the town. This is where the plot really begins to thicken, as we begin to understand what happened. We can even begin to see why the people of the town suspect Aaron of being a killer. It’s these flashbacks that haunt Aaron, as he tries to reach the truth behind his friend’s death.

My heart was in my mouth as I was reading the final chapters, as the book raced towards a tense finale. Jane Harper has created a really riveting read, and I can’t wait to catch up on her other books.

Publisher: Abacus

Publication date: 12th January 2017

Print length: 416 pages

The Dry is available to buy:

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The Binding by Bridget Collins #bookreview

I know I’m very late to the party but I finally got round to reading The Binding by Bridget Collins this week and I loved it!

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Emmett Farmer is a binder’s apprentice. His job is to hand-craft beautiful books and, within each, to capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory.
 
If you have something you want to forget, or a secret to hide, he can bind it – and you will never have to remember the pain it caused.
 
In a vault under his mentor’s workshop, row upon row of books – and secrets – are meticulously stored and recorded.
 
Then one day Emmett makes an astonishing discovery: one of the volumes has his name on it.

MY THOUGHTS

The Binding by Bridget Collins is one of the most extraordinary novels I’ve read. I have to admit, when I first spotted it in a bookshop, over a year ago now, I was immediately drawn to its cover. It’s such a stunning design that I couldn’t help not buy it. I’m kicking myself now that I’ve kept it on my TBR pile for so long. When Bridget’s next book comes out, I’ll certainly be reading it as soon as possible.

Bridget Collins’ first novel for adults is set in an alternate world, in which books are almost seen as the devil’s work; they are feared and they are seen as dangerous. Binders have an unusual talent; they can harness a person’s memories, with just one touch and bind them in a book. This act ensures that the client can forget whatever it is they want to about their past. But Binders are hated among many people and they are often thought of as soul stealers.

In the first part of the novel, we meet Emmett Farmer, who is just recovering from a severe illness. It is clear that he has done something that has brought serious shame to his family. He can’t remember anything, which makes it all the more frustrating for him. His family certainly won’t reveal to him what he has done to make them so upset. What is even more horrific, is that it appears that his family are willing to cut all ties with him. When a book binder offers Emmett employment, his family seize the opportunity. But you can see that Emmett is less than keen to go. I really felt for Emmett and I couldn’t understand why his family were doing this. It made me want to find out what it was that Emmett had done to upset them. From this point in Emmett’s life, things don’t go smoothly for him.

It is only in the second part of the novel that we begin to understand what Emmett has done, as Bridget Collins takes us back in time. This is the part of the story where the tension really begins to pick up. As well as this being a fantasy book it is also part romance. Romance is a genre I would never normally read, but I became so invested in this part of the story. This is the part which I also don’t want to reveal too much about, as I don’t want to spoil it for you, if you haven’t read it yet. But it was in this part of the story where I found Bridget Collins’ writing utterly captivating.

I wish I could go back and experience reading this book for the first time, all over again. It was so good I didn’t want it to end. I’m sure I will come back to it again and again, and it’s definitely going to be in my top ten books of the year. I’m going to repeat myself here, but this book really is extraordinary. If it’s still on your TBR pile, you need to read it as soon as possible, you won’t regret it.

Publisher: The Borough Press

Publication date: 7th January 2019

Print length: 445 pages

The Binding is available to buy:

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The Seven Doors by Agnes Ravatn #bookreview #blogtour @rosie_hedger @OrendaBooks @RandomTTours #NordicNoir

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Seven Doors by Agnes Ravatn on my blog today. With thanks to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part.

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University professor Nina is at a turning point. Her work seems increasingly irrelevant, her doctor husband is never home, relations with her difficult daughter are strained, and their beautiful house is scheduled for demolition.
 
When her daughter decides to move into another house they own, things take a very dark turn. The young woman living there disappears, leaving her son behind, the day after Nina and her daughter pay her a visit.
 
With few clues, the police enquiry soon grinds to a halt, but Nina has an inexplicable sense of guilt. Unable to rest, she begins her own investigation, but as she pulls on the threads of the case, it seems her discoveries may have very grave consequences for her and her family.
 
Exquisitely dark and immensely powerful, The Seven Doors is a sophisticated and deeply disturbing psychological thriller from one of Norway’s most distinguished voices.

MY THOUGHTS

I can’t believe I still haven’t read the first novel by Agnes Ravatn, The Bird Tribunal, but after reading The Seven Doors, I will definitely be rectifying that soon.

Nina and her husband Mads are moving out of Nina’s childhood home, which is due to be demolished, much to Nina’s dismay. They are being forced into a compulsory purchase scheme, and if that isn’t upsetting enough for them, their daughter is pushing for an advance on her inheritance. But she ends up moving in with Nina and her husband again after a bad case of silverfish at her home. But things don’t go quite as smoothly as they would have liked when they arrive at their new residence. The current tenant, Mari, is unsettled by their sudden appearance and she soon disappears. As the police become involved in the search for Mari, Nina is desperate to solve the mystery of her disappearance.

An unusual aspect I found about this story was that the author doesn’t use speech marks when her characters are talking. At first, I did find this slightly off-putting, but I eventually got used to it. It’s a style of writing that I haven’t come across before. It did mean, though, that I did have to pay a lot more attention to the writing, but I found that it actually drew me into the story more and I became more immersed.

I became more intrigued by Mari’s disappearance as Nina tried her best to investigate. She begins to speak to people who were close to her. This made me think that Nina was putting herself closer to danger. I could never be sure if there was a sinister reason behind Mari’s disappearance. I wanted to find out more about her, like Nina. I also wondered if there was a more innocent explanation. Agnes Ravatn creates an air of mystery about Mari’s character, and it kept me invested in the book.

I love reading novels set in the part of the world that The Seven Doors is set in, making Nordic Noir one of my favourite genres. I think the Norwegian landscape creates a very atmospheric setting that draws you in and Agnes Ravatn definitely succeeds with that here.

I was completely shocked by the ending of this book, and you can see just how devastating the ending is for the characters. I won’t say any more here than that. It does make you wonder how they are all going to move on from this after the final pages.

The Seven Doors is a novel that really makes you think about the characters as you are reading, and it will keep you thinking about what happened to Mari and what Nina will discover. It is an utterly immersive read. The book has also been very well translated by the translator, Rosie Hedger. If you’re looking for a beautifully written thriller that will draw you in, then look no further.

Publisher: Orenda Books

Publication date: 17th September 2020

Print length: 276 pages

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Imperfect Women by Araminta Hall #bookreview

On my blog today I’m sharing my thoughts on Imperfect Women by Araminta Hall. After finishing it at the weekend, I can see why everyone has been talking about this book.

Imperfect Women: The blockbuster must-read novel of the summer that everyone is talking about by [Araminta Hall]

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Nancy, Eleanor and Mary met at college and have been friends ever since, through marriages, children and love affairs.

Eleanor is calm and driven, with a deep sense of responsibility, a brilliant career and a love of being single and free – despite her soft spot for her best friend’s husband.

Mary is deeply intelligent with a love of learning, derailed by three children and a mean, demanding husband – she is now unrecognisable to herself and her friends.

Nancy is seemingly perfect: bright, beautiful and rich with an adoring husband and daughter – but beneath the surface her discontent is going to affect them all in terrible ways.

When Nancy is murdered, Eleanor and Mary must align themselves to uncover her killer. And as each of their stories unfold, they realise that there are many different truths to find, and many different ways to bring justice for those we love…

Everyone wants a perfect life. But there is no such thing…

MY THOUGHTS

Imperfect Women is a dark and compulsive read by Araminta Hall. It follows the lives of three women, Nancy, Eleanor and Mary; who have been friends since university. It is a book which examines their friendship and the lies which ultimately are revealed when one of them ends up dead. It makes you wonder do you really know the people who you are friends with. Surely friends don’t keep secrets from you?

I found this novel very addictive. There aren’t any chapters in this book. It’s split into three parts as it is told from the viewpoint of the three women. It didn’t bother me at all that there were no chapters, and I flew through it very quickly.

Nancy is found dead in the early chapters of the book, and her devastated family quickly learn that she has been having an affair. Eleanor was the only person from the group who knew about Nancy’s affair, but she never really knew who it was who she was seeing, only that his name was David. She knows that Nancy has been trying to end the affair and that David was angry about her decision. This, of course, puts this person right at the top of people of the list of suspects. It did make me think that Eleanor seemed quite annoyed at Nancy for not giving her more details. But Mary is even more so as she is the one who was kept in the dark.

I liked how Araminta Hall really got inside the heads of her characters. I loved how she gradually unpeeled the layers, and as we got to the truth, we begin to see a different side to the people who we thought we knew.

One of the characters who I really felt for as I was reading was Mary, especially as I was reading the section of the novel from her point of view. I was rooting for her as I was reading this part, but I need to be careful here, so I don’t reveal anything about what she is thinking. It makes for really gripping reading as she gets closer and closer to achieving her aims.

I wanted to get to the bottom of what had happened to Nancy. I wanted the person who was behind what happened to her to face justice. Even though I didn’t feel that Nancy was a particularly likeable character, I still wanted the other characters in the book to know the truth to bring them closure.

This is a dark, absorbing read which I flew through in a couple of days. It’s a book that will keep you thinking about the characters within the pages. I loved it! I can’t wait to read more from Araminta Hall.

Publisher: Orion

Publication date: 4th August 2020

Print length: 271 pages

Imperfect Women is available to buy:

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The Watcher by Kate Medina #bookreview #blogtour @KateTMedina @RandomTTours @FictionPubTeam

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Watcher by Kate Medina. With thanks to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part.

The Watcher by [Kate Medina]

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Some secrets can’t be hidden.

The Fullers are the picture-perfect family, a wealthy couple with a grand home in the middle of remote woodland. But even they have something to hide – and it will prove fatal.

Some crimes can’t be forgotten.

Psychologist Dr Jessie Flynn and DI Marilyn Simmons arrive at the Fuller’s home to find a suburban nightmare. A crime scene more disturbing than anything they have ever encountered.

Some killers can’t be stopped.

Jessie knows that this is no random act of violence. And if she can’t unlock the motivation behind the crime and shine a light into this killer’s mind, the Fullers won’t be the only family to die…

MY THOUGHTS

I’ve enjoyed catching up on the last two books in this series over the last couple of weeks, and I like the direction in which Kate Medina has taken the series.

The Watcher is book number four in the Dr Jessie Flynn series. The case in this book is one of the most complex Jessie has taken part in, alongside the investigative team. A couple is found murdered at their home, but what is even more disturbing is that it is believed that the husband was forced to watch his wife being murdered. The strange thing about it though was that the perpetrator seemed to take great care of the couple’s dog. Is this just a one-off killing? The police don’t want to cause panic by releasing details about the killer too soon. But when another murder takes place in very similar circumstances, they know that the killer is on a mission and that they won’t stop.

Jessie realises very early on that these killings are personal. It is the chilling way in which the killer forces his victims to watch or listen to their loved one being tortured that prompts this idea. But what grudge could the killer have against their victim that is so powerful that means they are willing to resort to murder?

I found this book really chilling as I was reading it. It was the killer’s motive that I kept questioning. Along the way, I was able to guess who the killer was going to be, but I was wrapped up in the mystery. I wanted to understand the reasons why they were doing this, which Kate Medina doesn’t make clear until the final pages. When she does, she wraps the book up in a devastating finale.

I really liked the addition of Lupo, a white husky, in this book. When the first murder takes place, the couple’s dog is taken to an animal shelter. After Jessie visits it, she decides to adopt Lupo, although her partner Callan isn’t particularly keen on taking a dog in. But Callan is quickly won over by Lupo. Kate Medina continues to explore their relationship, which was on a rocky path in the last book, and I’m glad that they seem as solid as ever here.

The Watcher is a pacy, tense and chilling read. If you’re yet to read this series and if you enjoy thrillers with a psychological aspect, then I would highly recommend it.

Publisher: Harper Collins

Publication date: 3rd September 2020

Print length: 400 pages

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My Darling by Amanda Robson #bookreview

Happy publication day to Amanda Robson. Her new novel, My Darling is published today.

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A new couple moves in next door.
And nothing will ever be the same again…

I watched you move in and thought we might be friends.

I saw you watching from the window – and knew I’d have to keep you away from my husband.

I started to trust you. Confide in you.

I started to mistrust you. Suspect you.

I was confused when I blacked out after an evening at your place. Was I really that drunk?

I came up with a plan. A plan to make you both pay . . .

MY THOUGHTS

It feels like it’s been a long time since I read a book by Amanda Robson, so I put her latest novel, My Darling right to the top of my TBR pile. I devoured this book in one weekend. It’s such a dark and twisty read. Once you think you know where the novel is going, Amanda takes it in a completely different direction. I had so much fun reading it.

I was swept straight into the story from the opening chapter. We meet Jade and Thomas, who have just moved into their new home. Amanda lets us in on Jade’s innermost thoughts as she surveys their new neighbour, Emma, a successful dentist who is currently in a relationship with Allister who works as a forensic scientist. There is tension between this group from the get-go. Jade is icy towards Emma, especially when she warns Emma of her husband’s wandering eye. You can see that things are going to end badly for them, but who is really pulling the strings here? This is what Amanda really succeeds at. Throughout the book, I kept changing my mind about what I thought about the characters, and this is what made it such a twisty and exciting read.

The chapters are short and pacy, and this is what kept me utterly gripped to Amanda’s writing. When the novel did start, I did find it a bit confusing when we kept switching between different characters so rapidly. Once I knew who everyone was, though, I really started to enjoy it. The characters in this book are some of the most devious I’ve come across in fiction. Without going into any detail about the plot, it seemed as though each one of them had something up their sleeve; something they were planning to use against other members of the group.

I liked the fact as well that Allister was working as a forensic scientist. He works with the police, and you can see how easily he can manipulate the situation they find themselves in. Because of his connections, it made me ask, are any of them really safe, and it felt as though they were all trapped in this hideous nightmare.

DS Miranda Jupiter is another character who I really liked. You can see that she is really up against things here as she tries to bring the case to a successful conclusion and apprehend the right person. Even Miranda can see just how complex things are here, and she doesn’t know who she can believe or trust. Miranda has her suspicions, but she isn’t sure if she can act on them.

Amanda Robson ties everything up into a neat and satisfactory ending, and the book concludes on a chilling note. The plot and the characters keep the pace driving forward, and I loved the ride. My Darling is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.

Publisher: Avon

Publication date: 3rd September 2020

Print length: 384 pages

My Darling is available to buy:

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Bitter Sun by Beth Lewis #bookreview

This is another book I’ve been desperate to get to over the last couple of years and I’m so glad I’ve finally read it.

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It all started when we found the body.
Then nothing was ever the same.

The Dry meets Stand by Me and True Detective in this stunningly written tale of the darkness at the heart of a small mid-Western town and the four kids who uncover it.

In the heatwave summer of 1971, four kids find a body by a lake and set out to solve a murder. But they dig too deep and ask too many questions.

Larson is a town reeling in the wake of the Vietnam draft, where the unrelenting heat ruins the harvest, and the people teeter on the edge of ruin.

As tension and paranoia run rife, rumours become fact, violence becomes reflex. The unrest allows the dark elements of the close-knit farming community to rise and take control.

And John, Jenny, Gloria and Rudy are about to discover that sometimes secrets are best left uncovered…

MY THOUGHTS

Bitter Sun is the incredible new novel by Beth Lewis, and now I can see why it had so much praise when it was released a couple of years ago.

This is a haunting, heart-wrenching book with a cast of characters who will stay with you. And honestly, that ending, I finished this book at the weekend and I still think it’s going to take me a few more days to get over it.

It all starts with the body. On a hot summer’s day in 1971, four children happen across the body of a young woman abandoned by a lake where they usually hang out. The discovery haunts them all. As the police investigation into the woman’s murder begins, they too, decide to hunt the killer down. But they have no idea what impact this discovery will have on the rest of their lives. It will be a summer the four of them will never forget.

Beth Lewis has created a cast of characters here who felt so real. The person who appears to be the leader of the group is John Royal. Alongside him there’s his sister, Jenny, then there’s Gloria and Rudy. As Beth Lewis begins to peel back the layers of this seemingly forgotten town in America, you can see the darkness that is hidden beneath. The kids soon begin to scratch that layer. Beth Lewis explores dark themes, and as the children begin to grow closer to uncovering the truth, I began to fear for their lives. It didn’t seem that they were willing to stop, even though they didn’t know the woman who they found personally. It seemed that they were steering closer and closer to danger.

John and his sister live a particularly tough life. They live with their mother, referred to in the book as Big Momma. Their father isn’t around, and their mother often brings men back home and is addicted to drinking. John knows he has to protect his sister as his mother seems to have taken an intense disliking to her. Her personality switches and they can never be sure how she is going to react when they are with her.

John strikes up a friendship with the local Pastor. Although John isn’t particularly religious, you can see that he appreciates the sessions that he has and that he views the Pastor as a close friend who he can rely on. But there was something about the Pastor that made me think twice about him.

If you’ve had this book on your TBR pile for a while now, as I have, then you need to bump it to the top. Beth Lewis’s writing is so engaging. The characters are what make this book. I became so engaged in their lives, and I was sad to close the book. Beth Lewis has definitely left me wondering what they’re all up to now. This is a powerful crime novel that will leave you reeling. Highly recommended!

Publisher: The Borough Press

Publication date: 14th June 2018

Print length: 464 pages

Bitter Sun is available to buy:

Amazon UK Kobo Waterstones