I received I Know a Secret in exchange for an honest review
This is the twelfth in the Rizzioli ad Isles series, and Tess Gerritsen has done it again! Fast becoming one of my favourite thriller authors, Gerritsen has really mastered creating unputdownable stories which explore complex issues and characters without ever dropping the fast pace.
The story opens, as most of them do, with a body. This one is of Cassandra Coyle, a young amateur film maker who specialises in the horror genre. There’s something horrific about her death too; her eyes have been gauged out and placed in her had post-mortem. Our resident Doctor, Maura Isles, struggles to identify a cause of death, and so the mystery begins.
The characters shine through again in this instalment; I love the story arc of Jane Rizzioli and Maura Isles and their strong friendship (although I don’t think you need to read all the books in order to enjoy this one), unbroken by the countless murders the two have seen. In this novel we have a third point of view, Holly. Holly was fascinating to read as well – she certainly knows a few secrets and it’s unclear until the very end whether she’s a culprit or another victim.
The body count and the suspect list increases, as Gerritsen unfolds a mystery which stems back decades, linking to an old unsolved case of a missing nine-year-old girl, and a scandalous child abuse case which connects the victims. It’s one which not only kept me on tenterhooks, but it’s deeper and more multilayered than many in this genre.
I already know that Gerritsen has a background in medicine which helps with those oh-so-authentic (and gory) autopsy scenes, but this novel feels well researched in other areas too. The tale is rich in symbolism, from religious iconography to to horror movie classics, and clues are scattered behind throwaway lines, just tantalisingly hidden from view until the big reveal. It’s an intelligent story, yet it’s a page-turner too – a rare and extremely satisfying combination.
I received The Good Daughter in exchange for an honest review
Karin Slaughter is an author I’d seen around for a while, but I’d never got around to picking up one of her books until now. I don’t know why it took me so long, because from the first few pages of this book I could tell this was a seasoned, skilled writer; her story jumps off the page and draws you in immediately.
The book opens in 1989, as young sisters Charlotte and Samantha are preparing for dinner. There’s no slow build-up here, we jump straight to action as the family evening is interrupted with a home intrusion which has devastating consequences.
Fast-forward 28 years later, and the sisters are living separate lives as they’ve moved on from their traumatic childhoods as best they can. They have both forged successful careers as lawyers, but yet more tragic events in their hometown force the two to come back together and confront their past in a dramatic courtroom drama. Continue reading
Patrick Ness is an author who has been on my TBR list for years. I’ve heard so many great things about him, so I treated myself to a break from the Netgalley books to pick up one of my own – The Rest Of Us Just Live Here. But, in the end it left me with some mixed feelings.
The premise is an original and intriguing one – the idea of taking your typical YA fantasy and turning it on its head; instead of following the character at the heart of the action, this story instead focuses on the outsiders. But, what I quickly realised, is this essentially makes the story just a standard YA contemporary tale instead. While there’s plenty of action going on with vampires, ‘the Immortals’ and a precious amulet, this activity is sidelined to small snippets which appear at the beginning of each chapter, while the main focus is on Mikey and his group of friends who are living their own lives, watching the aftermath of the ‘indie kids’ encountering ‘the immortals’ from a distance.
This clever concept ironically pokes fun at stereotypical YA novels, whilst being one itself. But once I settled into the unsettling way this novel does things, I found it excelled at both. The background action is fun, there’s echoes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a general sense of nostalgia for this genre. But the strongest thing that really carries this novel is the characters Ness has created in Mike, his sister and their friends Henna and Jared. These characters have all the typical teenage problems and then some, but they’re relatable and entertaining and the strength of their relationships is touching. I finished this book a few weeks ago and the characters still feel as strong as real people.
This wasn’t exactly the epic tale I was perhaps anticipating from such an established author, but it is well-written, quiet novel about friendships, relationships and growing up, set against an original backdrop. Ness is clearly a talented author, and I’m excited to go back and read some of his other novels.
I received The Book of Mirrors in exchange for an honest review
“I remembered the title of Flynn’s book and the maze of distorting mirrors you used to find at carnivals when I was a kid – everything you saw when you went inside was both true and false at the same time.”
This book left me with mixed feelings. The writing style felt slightly unnatural to me, almost devoid of emotion and more just a relaying of various facts about the characters’ lives. Each of the main narrators had their own romantic entanglements but I really struggled to care about them, and, to some extent, all of their voices felt very similar.
But, on the other hand, this psychological thriller has an intelligent, strong, multi-layered plot which, despite some issues with the narrative, was enough to carry it through and keep me avidly reading. Continue reading
I received While You Were Sleeping in exchange for an honest review.
This the third novel I’ve read from Kathryn Croft, and she never fails to have me gripped and entertained throughout her stories. They can be a little farfetched, but suspending disbelief often goes hand in hand with this genre, and they’re always fun to read.
In one of the most original openings to a story I’ve come across, Tara wakes up lying in bed next to her next door neighbour. She’s naked, and he’s dead, the victim of multiple violent stab wounds. With no memory of how she came to be there the night before, Tara flees across the road and back to her own family. Continue reading
I received Local Girl Missing in exchange for an honest review
This was my first Claire Douglas read, and it definitely won’t be my last – in fact, I already have her hit debut, The Sisters on my Kindle ready to go! This was exactly the type of psychological thriller I love; thoroughly entertaining with a page-turning plot, authentic characters and plenty of dark secrets from the past coming back to haunt.
Twenty years earlier, Sophie went missing aged 21 after leaving a nightclub. Her best friend, Frankie, has since moved away and moved on with her life as a successful hotel proprietor, but she’s dragged back to her past when she receives a call from Sophie’s brother informing her that a body has been discovered. She returns to her hometown to help Sophie’s brother, Daniel, identify the body and find answers. Continue reading
I received Dear Amy in exchange for an honest review
I received this ARC a couple of months ago, and I have to admit I’d been dragging my heels and prioritising other novels ahead of this due to the distinctly average rating it has received so far on Goodreads. But, I finally got around to reading and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I raced through this book; it’s a fun, fast-paced psychological thriller packed with unexpected twists that had me glued to the pages.
The protagonist is Margot, a schoolteacher who also doubles as ‘Amy’, an agony aunt for the local newspaper. Aside from an impending divorce, her life is pretty humdrum until she starts receiving some mysterious letters from Bethan Avery, a girl who was abducted over a decade before. Continue reading
I received The Night Stalker in exchange for an honest review
Releasing a follow-up to a successful series debut can be tricky, but with The Night Stalker Robert Bryndza has proven he’s on a roll. I said after reading The Girl In The Ice that it was one of the best of that genre I’d read in years, and this one is perhaps even better. A fantastic, gripping serial killer thriller.
We rejoin DCI Erika Foster as the Night Stalker strikes for the first time, preying on Dr Gregory Munro as he arrives home after a hard day’s work. He won’t be the last.
The serial killer in this second instalment is altogether more well-rounded; they don’t fit the usual profile and actually elicits sympathy, making the murders all the more chilling. This killer murders with purpose, seeking out the victims, getting to know their routines and preying on them in their own homes. The murders are well thought-out, they’re original and they’re brutal – the victims are found naked in their beds, suffocated using a ‘suicide bag’. Continue reading
I have to confess, I love a good psychological thriller and this is a good’un. Melding together different themes and viewpoints driving to a taut and emotional conclusion, I’m so pleased this debut completely lived up to the hype.
A tragic hit-and-run in winter time Bristol leaves a five-year-old boy dead and his young mother devastated. Detective Inspector Ray Stevens is put on the case, heading up a team to try to track down the driver of the car with very little in the way of witnesses or evidence to go on. Meanwhile, sculptor Jenna Gray is so traumatised by the events that she chooses to completely walk away from her life – leaving the city of Bristol for a rural Welsh cottage by the sea.
Shifting between the police force’s investigation and Jenna’s attempt to start her life afresh, this accomplished debut author melds a tense police procedural drama with an emotional psychological thriller, creating a story which was completely gripping from start to finish. She breathes life into all of the characters – not just Jenna and Ray but more minor players too; Jenna’s friend Bethan who runs the caravan park by the beach, the kind vet who helps her when she finds a puppy abandoned and all of Ray’s police force felt incredibly realistic and well-drawn. I was so absorbed in both the police investigation and Jenna’s tender reconnection to society as she began to move on from her loss that I didn’t see the twist coming in a million years.
Similarly to many psychological thrillers released in the last last couple of years, I Let You Go has been compared to Gone Girl. But, unlike most of the empty comparisons plastered on book jackets, I can see the similarities here. Not because the stories are particular similar, but the one thing they have in common is an ingenious, mind-bending twist right in the heart of the novel, where the narration completely changes tack and turns everything you’ve read so far on its head. It had me flipping back over the pages to see how I’d missed it, but the writer uses subtle misdirection to make the reader believe the story has unfolded the way they would expect it to; It’s clever, very clever. And because of that big twist, it’s difficult to review without giving too much away. I’d just recommend you read it yourself because, for a debut, it’s pretty phenomenal.
I received an advanced copy of The Last Of Us in exchange for an honest review
On a remote Scottish island, five children struggle to survive alone in a post-pandemic world. The narrator is nine-year-old Rona who, along with Alex, Elizabeth, Calum Ian and Duncan, lives in a village which has been wiped out by a virus. They are the only survivors. Under the leadership of Elizabeth – the eldest of the group and daughter of two doctors – the group get by, forming routines in order to survive their new world and retain their memories of the times that came before and those they have lost.
The Last Of Us left me with some mixed feelings. One one hand, there’s something unique and affecting reading about a desolate, post-apocalyptic land from the frank, unflinching point of view of a nine-year-old. But Rona’s narration feels somewhat fragmented; her childish thoughts don’t flow easily and as a result I had some difficulty connecting with her character. The plot is quite slow-moving at times too, but there’s something haunting about the the children’s day-to-day activities; dealing with situations no children should have to face. Continue reading