Thursday, 31 March 2016

Book Review: NO ONE KNOWS by J. T. Ellison


No One Knows




Title:
No One Knows
Author: J. T. Ellison
Publisher: Gallery Books
Read: March 2016



Synopsis (Goodreads):


In an obsessive mystery as thrilling as The Girl on the Train andThe Husband’s Secret, New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison will make you question every twist in her page-turning novel—and wonder which of her vividly drawn characters you should trust.

The day Aubrey Hamilton’s husband is declared dead by the state of Tennessee should bring closure so she can move on with her life. But Aubrey doesn’t want to move on; she wants Josh back. It’s been five years since he disappeared, since their blissfully happy marriage—they were happy, weren’t they?—screeched to a halt and Aubrey became the prime suspect in his disappearance. Five years of emptiness, solitude, loneliness, questions. Why didn’t Josh show up at his friend’s bachelor party? Was he murdered? Did he run away? And now, all this time later, who is the mysterious yet strangely familiar figure suddenly haunting her new life?

In No One Knows, the New York Times bestselling coauthor of the Nicholas Drummond series expertly peels back the layers of a complex woman who is hiding dark secrets beneath her unassuming exterior. This masterful thriller for fans of Gillian Flynn, Liane Moriarty, and Paula Hawkins will pull readers into a you’ll-never-guess merry-go-round of danger and deception. Round and round and round it goes, where it stops…no one knows. 


My thoughts:


Aubrey Hamilton is devastated when she receives a letter stating that 5 years after his mysterious disappearance, her husband Josh has now officially been declared dead. Initially under suspicion of his murder, Aubrey has had to deal with the after effects of her grief, drowning her sorrows and loneliness in alcohol and doing time in a mental institution. Just as she finally feels she has her life together again, the letter brings all those memories crashing down on her, making her wonder what really happened to her husband all those years ago. But some things are best left undisturbed, and the deeper Aubrey digs into Josh’s past, the more she realises that there are a lot of things she did not know about her husband.

No One Knows throws up an interesting premise – how well do we really know the ones nearest and dearest to us? Whilst Josh’s disappearance initially sounds like he has met with foul play, it soon becomes obvious that he may have kept secrets from his wife. The story drew me in initially and I settled in for a good read, but sadly the structure of the novel did not work for me. Aside from the multiple POVs, the storyline also skips constantly between the present, the events of 5 years ago and Aubrey’s childhood when she first met Josh. A few authors can pull this off well, but in this case it served only to make the storyline jumbled and disorganised. I also felt that some chapters, especially those telling of Aubrey’s childhood, did nothing to add to the overall storyline and soon lost my interest. I also felt that the suspense  would have been better preserved without Josh’s voice revealing part of the mystery, which was really the only thing that kept me reading on.

 It did not help that I felt it difficult to warm to any of the characters. I wanted to like Aubrey – I really did. The grieving devoted wife, trying to find out the truth. However, from very early on there is something fishy about Aubrey which doesn’t quite fit. Most of the other characters seemed a bit stereotypical to me, not genuine. There are plenty of twists and red herrings thrown into the mix, but some were so unbelievable that the best they evoked in me was a derisive snort. I wish that authors would stop trying to throw in a completely off-centre ending to be in the same category as “Gone Girl”. It rarely works out well. Once the ending was revealed, it left so many loose ends and implausible facts that I felt slightly cheated.


Not the right book for me obviously – for me, suspension of disbelief only works when the story is powerful enough to draw me along, when I feel passionate about the characters and  am swept away by the current of the narrative. This was not the case here. I guess if you want a quick and easy read with a twisty end, you may enjoy this one, but I have read far too many excellent and well constructed mystery-suspense stories this year to give this one any more than 2 stars.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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Monday, 28 March 2016

Book Review: REDEMPTION ROAD by John Hart


Redemption Road





Title:
Redemption Road
Author: John Hart
Publisher: St Martin's Press
Read: March 2016
Expected publication: 3 May 2016



Synopsis (Goodreads):




Over 2 million copies of his books in print. The first and only author to win back-to-back Edgars for Best Novel. Every book a New York Times bestseller.

Now after five years, John Hart is back with a stunning literary thriller.

Imagine:

A boy with a gun waits for the man who killed his mother.

A troubled detective confronts her past in the aftermath of a brutal shooting.

After thirteen years in prison, a good cop walks free. But for how long?

And deep in the forest, on the altar of an abandoned church, the unthinkable has just happened…

This is a town on the brink. This is a road with no mercy.

Since his debut bestseller, The King of Lies, reviewers across the country have heaped praise on John Hart, comparing his writing to that of Pat Conroy, Cormac McCarthy and Scott Turow. With each novel Hart has climbed higher on the New York Times Bestseller list, with his last two books - The Last Child and Iron House - landing squarely in the top ten. His masterful writing and assured evocation of place have won readers around the world and earned history's only consecutive Edgar Awards for Best Novel.

After five years, John Hart returns with Redemption Road, his most powerful story yet.



My thoughts:



Elizabeth Black is a tough cop with the permanent scars of abuse she suffered as a teenager still buried inside her. Her own traumatic past has made her an advocate for abused and suffering children, which has gotten her into trouble more than once. This time it almost costs her her own life when she sets out to free a teenage girl, Channing, from the hands of her abductors. Two bad men die a violent death in the process, and unless Elizabeth is able to justify the killings, she may face losing the job she loves and a murder charge. Her partner knows that there is more to the story than she lets out, so why is she so reluctant to defend herself?

In the meantime one of her other charges, 14-year-old Gideon Strange, steals his father’s gun and sets out to kill the man who has been charged with the savage murder of his mother Julia. He is due to be released today after serving 13 years in prison, a sentence which can never make up for destroying Gideon’s family and turning his father into a hopeless drunk. The prisoner’s name is Adrian Wall, an ex-cop who saved Elizabeth’s life once a long time ago. Maybe this is why she feels a strange kind of allegiance to him even after all that has happened since. Or perhaps it is because she has never really believed that he is guilty of Julia’s murder. Then another woman is killed in the same manner Julia was all those years ago, and everyone is convinced that Adrian is the perpetrator once again. With Elizabeth’s world collapsing around her, she must set out to fight for justice – for herself, for the children she has come to care for so deeply, and for the truth to come out. If Adrian is indeed innocent, the real killer is still out there, and nobody is looking for him. But in this fight there are a lot of players who will do everything to hide the truth and she cannot trust anyone, even those nearest and dearest to her.

I read a lot of mystery and suspense and it is rare that a thriller captures me totally and utterly from page one and has me spellbound until the very last page. I loved John Hart’s “The Last Child” (it is one of my all time favourites), and this book was no exception. Somehow Hart’s voice – graphic, tough and brutally honest – works well for me. Saying that, this book is not for the faint hearted. It contains some very dark scenes of depravity, torture, abuse and betrayal, and a lot of collateral damage. Most of the main protagonists are damaged in some deep fundamental way, which makes me wonder how the human mind could move on from this and whether people would ever be able to lead a normal life afterwards. Whilst some of the more unsavoury characters are victims of circumstance, others are so depraved that they will haunt your worst nightmares. Caught up in amongst all this are the innocent victims. Will justice be served? Is killing justified, if bad men are killed and other lives saved?  This novel will throw up all these questions and more, challenging the reader to find their own moral compass – which is not always black and white, right or wrong.

But the underlying message for me – as the title states so aptly – was about redemption, about doing the right thing and finding out the truth, no matter what the cost. In the words of seasoned lawyer “Crybaby” Jones:

“Then let me tell you a thing I’ve learned in my eighty-nine years. This house, the friends and the memories – I’d trade it for a chance to do what that young woman just did: a noble act, freely undertaken. How many of us have such a chance? And how many the courage to take it?”

Some people in the novel will have the courage, others will betray those nearest and dearest to them for personal gain. Nobody can be trusted – and Elizabeth must find out the hard way.


Redemption Road is a complex, well-constructed and suspenseful thriller with several plot lines converging into one breath-taking and brutal finale. Whilst some of my suspicions were justified and came true, there were still plenty of surprises in store. As intended, the end had me reeling in horror and revulsion as the depth of betrayal was revealed – but no spoilers here! I loved Redemption Road and cannot wait to read more from this author. Very highly recommended. 

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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Thursday, 24 March 2016

Book Review: THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR by Shari Lapena


The Couple Next Door




Title:
The Couple Next Door
Author: Shari Lapena
Publisher: Random House UK, Transworld Publishers
Read: March 2016
Expected publication: 14 July 2016



Synopsis (Goodreads):


You never know what's happening on the other side of the wall.

Your neighbour told you that she didn't want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn't stand her crying.

Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door. You'll have the baby monitor and you'll take it in turns to go back every half hour.

Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last. But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She's gone.

You've never had to call the police before. But now they're in your home, and who knows what they'll find there.

What would you be capable of, when pushed past your limit?


My thoughts:


Imagine this: you are a young couple with a small baby, and have been invited to the neighbour’s house for a birthday dinner. They are a childless couple with little patience for the child’s crying and have requested that you don’t bring the baby. At the last minute, your babysitter cancels. You think – we could still go if we take the baby monitor and check on the child every half hour. After all, it’s only next door. It’s really no different than being in the next room – right?

This is how Ann and Marco justify their decision to leave their baby daughter Cora asleep in the house whilst they go to their neighbour’s place for dinner. Actually, Ann is not all that keen, but she has been suffering from postnatal depression and knows that her friends are getting frustrated with her and that she should force herself to go out more, be social. And for most of the evening all goes well. They take turns to check the baby at regular intervals, feed her, settle her. But Marco has been drinking a lot and is flirting shamelessly with the glamorous Cynthia, and Ann really wants to go home to bed. She is sure that she locked the front door of her house when she last checked on her daughter, but it now stands wide open. Sprinting upstairs she stares at the empty crib – in the half hour between now the last check, her baby has gone ...

This situation must be a parent’s worst nightmare and will prompt every reader with children to quickly sneak upstairs to check they are safe. It therefore makes great material for a psychological thriller, tugging on readers’ heartstrings no matter what age or gender you are. Ironically, I grew up in an era where it was totally acceptable to leave your baby at home whilst going to the neighbour’s place with the baby monitor and regular checking – I realised how times have changed when reading the outrage Ann and Marco are confronted with due to their decision but could not resent them for it. The author does a great job in portraying the real life struggles a young couple would face on having a new baby in the house – Ann with her postnatal depression and Marco with business woes he is too afraid to mention to his wife. Then there are Ann’s parents, who have resented Marco from the moment he proposed to Ann, and are not helping the situation. Give them a break, I thought, they are only human. Little did I realise what would come next, and I will certainly not give anything away here and spoil your fun of finding out for yourself. Just be prepared to be surprised, stunned even, about the lies, the deceit, the manipulation and outright evil some people are capable of to get what they want.

This is the type of psychological thriller where perfectly ordinary and decent people get entangled in a web of lies and deceit that makes their lives spiral more and more out of control with every action they take – which makes it all the more compelling to read, as it is so easy to put yourself in the characters’ shoes. In amongst this chaos put Detective Rasbach, who has the thankless task of following the convoluted leads in order to bring little Cora home alive – an outcome which seems more and more impossible as time goes on. Rasbach is not easily rattled, which is something that cannot be said for the rest of the characters, who make some very poor decisions along the way. With the story being told in multiple POVs, there were times when the author almost gave too much away for my liking, but the ending was so unexpected that it totally blindsided me and made up for the times when I though I had worked it all out.


The Couple Next Door is a well-written and enjoyable debut novel by a promising new voice in psychological suspense. Watch out for it - recommended reading. 

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Book Review: WHEN SHE WAS BAD by Tammy Cohen


When She Was Bad




Title:
When She Was Bad
Author: Tammy Cohen
Publisher: Random House UK, Black Swan
Read: March 2016
Expected publication: 21 April 2016



Synopsis (Goodreads):


YOU SEE THE PEOPLE YOU WORK WITH EVERY DAY.

BUT WHAT CAN'T YOU SEE?

Amira, Sarah, Paula, Ewan and Charlie have worked together for years - they know how each one likes their coffee, whose love life is a mess, whose children keep them up at night. But their comfortable routine life is suddenly shattered when an aggressive new boss walks in ....

Now, there's something chilling in the air.

Who secretly hates everyone?

Who is tortured by their past?

Who is capable of murder?


My thoughts:



Ann Carter is a renowned child psychologist who is still haunted by a horrific case of child abuse at the start of her career. When she sees a current news report about a brutal murder, those memories come back to haunt her.

In a parallel storyline, employees of a recruitment agency office are reeling in shock when their boss is sacked and a new person employed to improve profits and streamline their work. From the very first moment she steps into the manager role, Rachel manages to upset and bully her employees into submission. Feeling that their jobs are on the line, the former tight-knit team of employees are pitched against one another, each fighting for their position and for job security. As the environment in the office becomes more and more toxic, it brings out the worst in people – until they can no longer trust one another. Sooner or later it will drive one of them over the edge ....

Cohen certainly knows to build tension – whilst the book starts quite light, the atmosphere soon grows claustrophobic and tense, with the inevitable explosion just around the next page. With its group of different characters all confined to a tight toxic environment and all pitted against one another in order to survive, it reminded me a bit of Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little Indians”, where there is no escape and you can trust no one.

Cohen certainly knows how to portrait her characters. Whilst I didn’t find any of them particularly likeable,  I felt my empathy building as each had a genuine reason for staying in a work environment which was slowly but inevitable destroying them. Everyone who has ever worked in a team where one bully makes everyone’s life a misery will cringe as the story slowly unfolds. But nothing is as black-and-white as it seems, and Cohen has a few surprises in store just as I thought I had worked it all out.

This is certainly a dark and somewhat sinister read, featuring the worst of humanity, especially in the tale of Ann Carter's case of horrific child abuse. Some scenes are graphic in its horror, and the knowledge that these incidents have been reported in real life. As the stories are linked, it brings up the issue of the effects early childhood trauma and neglect have on an individual for the rest of their lives – and what triggers can push them over the edge.


When She Was Bad is a well-constructed and claustrophobic psychological thriller which is not for the faint hearted.  It will keep you spellbound, even if it is often in horror, pity and disgust as some of the scenes unfold. It is the first book I have read by Tammy Cohen, but it won’t be the last.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Book Review: OUT OF THE ICE by Ann Turner


Out of the Ice





Title:
Out of The Ice
Author: Ann Turner
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Read: March 2016
Expected publication: 1 June 2016



Synopsis (Goodreads):


When environmental scientist Laura Alvarado is sent to a remote Antarctic island to report on an abandoned whaling station, she begins to uncover more than she could ever imagine.

Despite new life thriving in the icy wilderness, the whaling station is brimming with awful reminders of its bloody, violent past, and Laura is disturbed by evidence of recent human interference. Rules have been broken, and the protected wildlife is behaving strangely.

On a diving expedition, Laura is separated from her colleague. She emerges into an ice cave where, through the blue shadows, she is shocked to see an anguished figure, crying for help.

But in this freezing, lonely landscape there are ghosts everywhere, and Laura begins to sense that her own eyes cannot be trusted. Is her mind playing tricks? Has she been in the ice too long?

Back at base, Laura’s questions about the whaling station go unanswered, blocked by unhelpful scientists, unused to questions from an outsider. And Laura just can’t shake what happened in the ice cave.

Piecing together a past and present of cruelty and vulnerability that can be traced all around the globe, from Norway, to Nantucket, Europe and Antarctica, Laura will stop at nothing to unearth the truth. As she sees the dark side of endeavour and human nature, she also discovers a legacy of love, hope and the meaning of family. If only Laura can find her way...

Out of the ice.


My thoughts:



Environmental scientist Dr Laura Alvarado is no stranger to Antarctica, having spent the best part of her career conducting research in this harsh, pristine and untouched wilderness. When she is chosen to conduct an environmental impact assessment on Fredelighavn, an old Norwegian whaling station abandoned in the 1950’s after whaling had been made illegal, she is excited – the area has been an exclusion zone for decades, and Laura hopes to discover some interesting finds there. Yet her arrival on South Safety Island is far from what she had expected – the male scientists at the British base receive her with ill-concealed hostility and she learns that Dr Koch, the scientist assigned to be her partner for the project, has been delayed due to ill-health.

Not easily deterred and aware of time constrictions due to the climate, Laura sets out on her own to explore the old whaling station. Yet she is not quite prepared for what she finds there. Most of the houses appear as if people have left in a hurry, leaving even their most valued possessions behind, ready to step back into their old lives any minute. Even the wildlife is behaving in a bizarre manner, and Laura is horrified when she is attacked by a group of usually peaceful Adelie penguins. What has been done to these animals to make them so hostile towards humans? Looking around in the abandoned buildings, she has the eerie feeling of being watched, and suspects that the safety of the exclusion zone has been breached by intruders. Haunted by ghostly encounters and a strange vision in the ice, Laura questions whether her mind is playing tricks on her from being in Antarctica too long, or whether there is something sinister going on here. As Laura strives to uncover the truth and also come to terms with her own demons, the reader is taken on a journey from Antarctica to Nantucket to Venice, her initial research becoming a matter of life and death as she is trying to  stay one step ahead of people who will stop at nothing to protect their interests.  

I loved “The Lost Swimmer” and Ann Turner’s latest novel also had me spellbound from beginning to end. The setting is pure magic – skilfully evoking the harsh and yet beautiful environment of Antarctica, I felt like I was there myself, surrounded by ice and snow and wildlife I have only ever seen in documentaries. The whaling station is an amazing place of beauty and tragedy, and the perfect setting for the menacing undertones and suspense that were soon driving the story along. What better setting for a psychological thriller than the harsh and isolated environment of a place cut off from civilisation for the best part of the year? From the start, the reader knows that Laura is very much on her own here – ostracised by the male scientists on the island and not privy to the research being conducted here, she must draw on all her inner strength to uncover the truth and find some allies along the way. There is also a vulnerable side to Laura stemming from events in her past, which throws some of her reality into question and adds to the suspense. Is there really something sinister going on in the old whaling station, or is Laura losing her mind?

The history of whaling and the whaling community was both heartbreaking as well as an eye opener for me. Rarely is anything in history black and white – whilst our society abhor whaling and recognise these beautiful creatures as an amazing and intelligent species, some of our ancestors relied on whaling for their survival. Living in an area where whaling also formed a large part of history and where we regularly see these magnificent creatures in the wild, I loved Turner’s honesty regarding the topic and her willingness to explore it from all perspectives. I especially loved the descriptions of how these people set out into an alien environment and tried to make a home for themselves there, very much like the Adelie penguins building their nests.

I was absolutely captivated by the book and could not tear myself away, feeling transported into a different world from which I surfaced only reluctantly for food and water. Do not start reading this novel unless you are prepared to get nothing done! There were a couple of twists to the plot later in the book which seemed a little far fetched, and the end came perhaps a bit too soon and tied up too neatly for me, but all in all the mystery worked really well for me. Highly recommended, I can’t wait to read more from this amazing author.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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Thursday, 10 March 2016

Book Review: WHAT SHE NEVER TOLD ME by Kate McQuaile


What She Never Told Me





Title:
What She Never Told Me
Author: Kate McQuaile
Publisher: Quercus
Read: March 2016



Synopsis (Goodreads): 




'I talked to my mother the night she died, losing myself in memories of when we were happiest together. But I held one memory back, and it surfaces now, unbidden. I see a green postbox and a small hand stretching up to its oblong mouth. I am never sure whether that small hand is mine. But if not mine, whose?'

Louise Redmond left Ireland for London before she was twenty. Now, more than two decades later, her heart already breaking from a failing marriage, she is summoned home. Her mother is on her deathbed, and it is Louise's last chance to learn the whereabouts of a father she never knew.

Stubborn to the end, Marjorie refuses to fill in the pieces of her daughter's fragmented past. Then Louise unexpectedly finds a lead. A man called David Prescott . . . but is he really the father she's been trying to find? And who is the mysterious little girl who appears so often in her dreams? As each new piece of the puzzle leads to another question, Louise begins to suspect that the memories she most treasures could be a delicate web of lies.


My thoughts:



After the sudden death of her vivacious and somewhat eccentric mother, Louise Redmond fears that she may never discover the answer to the secret which had stood between them for most of her adult life – the identity of her biological father. Born an illegitimate child in Ireland in the 1960’s, the topic has never been open for discussion and has been the cause of much pain and longing for Louise. Now the only hope left is that she may find some clues amongst her mother’s paperwork, or from her mother’s estranged family. Burdened by her raw feelings of loss and grief there is also the breakdown of her marriage to deal with, as well as some strange flash-backs to a small girl and a green mail-box which trigger panic attacks every time Louise thinks about them. What is it about the child that would cause such an intense emotional reaction? Even tracking down her estranged uncle cannot shed light on the mystery. Then Louise makes a discovery which may threaten the reality she has come to believe – even her own identity.

I loved the premise of the story – if well executed, family secrets make great material for mystery and suspense. And initially the book hit it off well for me – Louise, the narrator of the story, is a likeable and interesting woman in search of her own identity. It is obvious from the start that there are skeletons in the family closet which will throw Louise’s world into turmoil, and I looked forward to the slow unravelling of the clues. Unfortunately a few parts of the story did not work for me. I found Louise’s constant angst about her failing marriage distracting, whilst parts of the mystery, which could have been explored in more detail, were summarised almost too quickly in order to move the story along. Whilst her failing marriage was an integral part of Louise’s emotional state at the time, I got a bit irritated about the couple’s on again – off again relationship, when the real focus of the novel should have been the family secret she set out to explore. With a bit of tweaking and editing, the story could have made a great psychological thriller, but I felt that a lot of elements of suspense were lost along the way. Despite the message of practising forgiveness to save a relationship (even a betrayal that I felt was almost unforgivable), I found myself wishing that Louise would move on, find an inner strength she never knew she had and solve the mystery on her own as the independent strong woman she could have been.


All in all, a light and enjoyable read with a lovely Irish setting and some interesting characters – just not the psychological thriller I had hoped for.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Book Review: DIFFERENT CLASS by Joanne Harris


Different Class



Title: Different Class
Author: Joanne Harris
Publisher: Doubleday
Read: March 2016
Expected publication: 21 April 2016



Synopsis (Goodreads):

After thirty years at St Oswald’s Grammar in North Yorkshire, Latin master Roy Straitley has seen all kinds of boys come and go. Each class has its clowns, its rebels, its underdogs, its ‘Brodie’ boys who, whilst of course he doesn’t have favourites, hold a special place in an old teacher’s heart. But every so often there’s a boy who doesn’t fit the mould. A troublemaker. A boy with hidden shadows inside.

With insolvency and academic failure looming, a new broom has arrived at the venerable school, bringing Powerpoint, sharp suits and even sixth form girls to the dusty corridors. But while Straitley does his sardonic best to resist this march to the future, a shadow from his past is stirring. A boy who even twenty years on haunts his teacher’s dreams. A boy capable of bad things. 


My thoughts:



In Different Class, Joanne Harris takes us back into the halls of St Oswald’s Grammar School, the setting of her previous novel Gentlemen and Players. Readers of the first book in the series will be familiar with one of the main narrators, Latin master Roy Straitley, a dedicated teacher who once again has to put up a fight to save his beloved school from scandal and progress, which threatens traditions that are the very fabric of St Oswald’s. Following an incident at the school the previous year, a new headmaster has been employed to raise the school’s profile and bring it into the 21st century. Straitley, who recognises the new head as Johnny Harrington, an ex-pupil he had never really warmed to, soon realises that his fight to keep up tradition and his loyalty to an old friend accused of a terrible crime now threaten his position at the school. At the same time, a menacing shadow from the past resurfaces, and murder and mayhem once again befall St Oswald’s.

Told through the eyes of Straitley and a mystery narrator, the story switches back and forth in time, slowly revealing the events of the past that have led to St Oswald’s being under attack. Harris knows how to build tension, and the menace in the story of the mystery narrator is unmistakable. Interpersonal relationships, especially between pupils and teachers, feature strongly in the novel, raising many contemporary issues such as bullying, religion, gender and sexuality crises and the political climate changing the face of education today. Personally, I thought that some parts of the novel were a bit too long, which diluted the building tension and shadow of menace hanging over the school and its occupants – a bit of careful editing could easily fix that. Otherwise, Harris has once again produced a gripping psychological thriller that will appeal to readers who enjoyed Gentlemen and Players. Although it can be read as a stand-alone novel, I would recommend picking up the previous book in the series to become familiar with the setting and the characters, and settle in for a dark and gripping read.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Book Review: THE MISSING HOURS by Emma Kavanagh


The Missing Hours


Title:
The Missing Hours
Author: Emma Kavanagh
Publisher: Random House UK, Cornerstone
Read: February 2016
Expected publication: 21 April 2016



Synopsis (Goodreads):

A woman disappears

One moment, Selena Cole is in the playground with her children and the next, she has vanished without a trace.

A woman returns

Twenty hours later, Selena is found safe and well, but with no memory of where she has been.

What took place in those missing hours, and are they linked to the discovery of a nearby murder?

‘Is it a forgetting or a deception?’


My thoughts:



I have only just discovered author Emma Kavanagh and am halfway through the audio-version of her previous novel “Hidden” (which is great), so was thrilled to receive this preview copy of her latest novel from the publisher.

Psychologist Selena Cole and her husband have established a successful but unusual business together – negotiating ransom with kidnappers in an effort to free hostages. After her husband is tragically killed in a bomb blast during their last business trip, Selena is forced to take a step back from the business and concentrate on bringing up her two small daughters as a sole parent, still reeling from her loss. One afternoon, whilst taking the girls to the playground, Selena disappears without a trace. Considering her recent personal tragedy, police hold grave fears for her safety. When she appears  20 hours later unharmed but without recollection of the time she was “missing”, everyone is relieved and happy to close the case – everyone except DC Leah Mackay, who suspects that there may be something sinister underlying Selena’s “disappearance”. Something which may be connected to her former job as negotiator. Something which may even tie her to the murder of a lawyer who was found stabbed the same day Selena went missing. Leah just can’t let it rest ....

I loved the unusual background of this novel, especially the case histories of kidnap and ransom which are inserted into the storyline in the form of reports and add an intriguing element to this police procedural. Kavanagh has obviously done her research on the subject matter, and I found myself eagerly looking up various snippets of information that intrigued me, especially related to the drug “Devil’s Breath” – scary stuff! Whilst storylines with multiple POV’s can sometimes be disjointed or confusing, they worked well for me in this story, adding to the mystery and providing interesting background information. In the end, all stories come together in a surprising conclusion which perhaps did not answer all my questions but threw in a surprise element I had not considered.

All in all a satisfying and intriguing read – and the discovery of an author I hope to read a lot more from in future.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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