Thursday, 14 December 2017

Audiobook Review: SILENT CHILD by Sarah A Denzil

Title: Silent Child
Author: Sarah A Denzil
Joanne Froggatt
November 2017
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟1/2

Book Description:

In the summer of 2006, Emma Price watched helplessly as her six-year-old son's red coat was fished out of the River Ouse. It was the tragic story of the year - a little boy, Aiden, wandered away from school during a terrible flood, fell into the river, and drowned. 

His body was never recovered. 

Ten years later, Emma has finally rediscovered the joy in life. She's married, pregnant, and in control again...

... until Aiden returns. 

Too traumatized to speak, he raises endless questions and answers none. Only his body tells the story of his decade-long disappearance. The historic broken bones and injuries cast a mere glimpse into the horrors Aiden has experienced. Aiden never drowned. Aiden was taken. 

As Emma attempts to reconnect with her now teenage son, she must unmask the monster who took him away from her. But who, in their tiny village, could be capable of such a crime?

It's Aiden who has the answers, but he cannot tell the unspeakable.

My musings:

Silent Child deals with an intriguing and heart-breaking premise – a child disappears when he is only six years old and is believed to have drowned in the surging waters of a hundred-year flood. His mother Emma is heartbroken, but has tried to finally move on ten years after the tragedy. She has since married again and is expecting another baby in a few weeks time. Then the unthinkable happens – a 16-year old lost and traumatised boy, found by a motorist on a deserted road, turns out to be Emma’s son Aiden. Where was he in the ten years he has been missing? And what has been done to him during that time?

As a mother, there were many parts of the book that were disturbing and gut-churning, and I couldn’t imagine what it must feel like to be in Emma’s shoes. The joy of finding that your child is alive, and the heartbreak in seeing that he is broken, damaged – no longer the innocent little boy you said good-bye to at the school gates ten years ago. I listened to this book on Audible, and the narrator Joanne Froggatt did an excellent job in bringing Emma to life for me, her expressionate voice embodying Emma’s anguish and making this a compelling story to listen to.

Set in a little Yorkshire town, the book contained all the elements that make for an intriguing mystery: a small town setting with plenty of odd people and possible suspects, an emotional connection to the main character and a series of clues that slowly lead the reader to the conclusion. There were a few red herrings thrown in to try and throw the avid armchair detective off track, and it almost had me fooled, through I admit that the conclusion didn’t come as a total surprise. However, the solving of the mystery was never the main focus of this story for me, which dealt with Emma’s anguish as she is trying to re-integrate her son back into her family. Her character is so well depicted that my heart ached for her, and I often questioned what I would do in a similar situation (God forbid!). And even though her judgment in the people she surrounds herself with seemed to be particularly terrible, I thought she made for a solid main protagonist that drove the story along well and kept me emotionally involved. I admit that I was a tiny bit disappointed with the final conclusion, expecting a bit more of a surprise and less suspension of disbelief, but overall this was an enjoyable read for me.

To summarise, if you are looking to be surprised and blind-sided and are looking for a complex and un-solvable mystery, this may not be the right book for you. But if, like me, you enjoy emotion-charged books about human relationships and people finding themselves thrown into impossible situations, then this is a good book to pick up. I thoroughly recommend the audio version, brought to life by Downton Abbey’s Joanne Froggatt! 

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Book Review: IN THE DARK by Andreas Pflüger

Title: In the Dark
Author: Andreas Pflüger
Head of Zeus
December 2017
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟 1/2

Book Description:

Jenny Aaron was once part of an elite police unit tracking Germany's most dangerous criminals. She was the best. Until it all went wrong. A disastrous mission saw her abandon a wounded colleague and then lose her sight forever.
Now, five years later, she has learnt to navigate a darkened world. But she's still haunted by her betrayal. Why did she run?
Then she receives a call from the unit. They need her back. A prison psychologist has been brutally murdered. And the killer will only speak to one person...

My musings:

I am always keen to read about protagonists that stand out from the rest, so was very interested to meet Pflüger’s Jenny Aaron. How ambitious, I thought, to cast a blind woman as a highly trained police interrogator, who chases down a serial killer. Ambitious – perhaps. But Pflüger has certainly done his homework, and somehow a blind detective works, especially since Aaron has come to train other senses to such an extent that she is able to function quite efficiently without the sense of sight that most of us are totally reliant on. I found Pflüger’s descriptions of Aaron’s special skills fascinating, especially echolocation, her ability to use sound as a kind of sonar device similar to how bats and dolphins find their way around. Very kindly, Pflüger provides some links to find out more about his research in the postscript, which explained the skills in more detail and were certainly an “eye-opener” (pun intended) for me!

To get back to the book, here we have Jenny Aaron, who is basically an indestructible machine – super intelligent, highly skilled and afraid only of her own failings. Picture a type of female Jack Reacher. Noone messes with Aaron and gets away with it. Whilst being blinded in the line of duty may have slowed her down slightly, she has bounced back with a vengeance, even beating some of her colleagues at the shooting range. So catching a serial killer should not present much of a challenge to Aaron, except when the killer is just as ruthless, intelligent and fearless as she is. There is also a great cast of supporting characters, which at times held more interest for me than Aaron herself, especially the equally clever and fearless sniper  Pavlik. And strangely the killer, Holm, was so compelling that I yearned for a “let’s all be friends and live happily ever after” ending.

In the Dark is an action packed thriller that will have you at the edge of your seat many times. I imagine a few casualties amongst the stunt crew if there ever is a film version – especially scenes where the blind Aaron must balance on the tow bar of a truck to escape her captors; or swim against the strong pull of a ship propeller in freezing water to save her life. Yes, there is a strong degree of having to suspend disbelief, but this is an action thriller, so this is almost a no-brainer. In fact, I would be surprised if no one snaps up the movie rights to this book, as it would make a fantastic film. It is certainly a story that will appeal to a wide audience, containing not only a solid murder mystery, but also the kick-ass action packed elements of a thriller.

Ok, now to the things that didn’t work for me – and mind you, I had a preview copy of the book that had a few formatting issues, which didn’t help. But I felt that in parts the book was too long and convoluted and could have done with some paring down. The large number of characters, some of which appeared under several names (family name, first name, nick name) didn’t help and I did a lot of flicking back and forth to find my bearings. With several plots and timelines intertwined throughout the book with little to distinguish them, it was easy to get lost and disorientated to person, time and place. Aaron’s inner dialogue, in which she reflects on her past experience in Barcelona, constantly cut into the current plot to a degree where it interrupted the smooth flow of the story. Perhaps some of these issues are related to the translation from German, but I felt that the 446 pages could have been edited down a bit to put more emphasis on the focal story. Seeing that this is the first book of a trilogy (I believe), some of these issues may naturally get ironed out as the characters evolve and grow. I am certainly interested in seeing this die-hard cast back in a new setting and look forward to Book 2! 

Thank you to Netgalley and Head of Zeus for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Book Review: THE CONFESSION by Jo Spain

Author: Jo Spain
Hachette Australia
December 2017
Expected publication: 11 January 2018
My Rating: 🌟🌟1/2

Book Description:

Late one night a man walks into the luxurious home of disgraced banker Harry McNamara and his wife Julie. The man launches an unspeakably brutal attack on Harry as a horror-struck Julie watches, frozen by fear.

Just an hour later the attacker, JP Carney, has handed himself in to the police. He confesses to beating Harry to death, but JP claims that the assault was not premeditated and that he didn't know the identity of his victim. With a man as notorious as Harry McNamara, the detectives cannot help wondering, was this really a random act of violence or is it linked to one of Harry's many sins: corruption, greed, betrayal?

This gripping psychological thriller will have you questioning, who - of Harry, Julie and JP - is really the guilty one? And is Carney's surrender driven by a guilty conscience or is his confession a calculated move in a deadly game?

My musings:

A man walks into the house of a wealthy businessman and brutally beats him to death in front of his wife. He then hands himself over to police and confesses to the crime, claiming it was a random act of violence. Seems straight forward enough. We now have a crime and a killer. So why are DC Alice Moody’s alarm bells ringing that there is more to the story than it first seems?

The Confession is a thriller written in reverse – we know from the start who the killer is, but the question is: why? Spain explores this mystery through the eyes of her three narrators: JP Delaney, the killer; Julie, the victim’s wife; and DC Alice Moody, who is trying to solve the case. Not everyone is a reliable narrator, so readers have their work cut out for them trying to decipher the clues that lead to the final answer.

Warning – if you want characters you can like, admire and bond with, this may not be the right book for you, as each and every one of the people featuring in The Confession are thoroughly unlikeable. Even DC Moody, who was the only one that seemed sane, was depicted in the most unflattering light and played quite a peripheral role. So whilst Spain tells her story well, and offers a solid background story to the murder, I floundered a little bit reading this book. I admit being a reader who needs to be able to bond with at least one character, and in this case the only person who sounded remotely likeable was already dead. What followed was a glimpse into the lives of the other highly dysfunctional characters, which left me feeling slightly depressed and miserable. Some passages seemed to add little to the story except more misery, and I admit I struggled to finish the story despite the author’s skill in evoking an atmospheric setting and an overall intriguing plot. Whilst I liked the theme of innocence corrupted by power, and its ultimate consequences, I concede that I am probably not the right audience for this book, needing a glimpse of hope or at least a character I can root for in my stories.

The Confession will appeal to readers who will not let a cast of unlikeable characters get in the way of a good story, without the need to bond with a protagonist in order to enjoy the read. Written in reverse, The Confession offers a thriller with a difference that stands out from a lot of “been there, done that” books in the genre. Spain tells a good story, so even though this might not have been exactly my cup of tea, I look forward to reading more from this author in future. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Hachette Australia for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Book Review: 29 SECONDS by T.M. Logan

Title: 29 Seconds
Author: T.M. Logan
Bonnier Zaffre
December 2017
Expected publication: 25 January 2017
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟1/2

My musings:

I went into this story totally blindly, only lured by the intriguing title, and am glad that I did. 29 seconds of what? The clock is ticking .... I will try to write this review without giving anything away, since this story very much relies on its original premise and the surprises it holds in store  - and this is also the reason I am not giving a book description here (if you absolutely want one, you will have to google this book, but be mindful that the blurb contains huge spoilers).

Our main protagonist is Sarah, an accomplished academic in her early thirties, whose career is being thwarted by members of the “old boys club” at the university she is working at. Her boss is a sexual predator of the worst kind, lording his power over all female employees and exploiting his position to garner sexual favours. All the women know it, but unless they want to jeopardise their careers they feel powerless to do anything about it. The last woman who lodged a complaint with HR lost her job, her reputation and her sanity. Sarah, who has been hoping for a well-earned promotion, has so far successfully avoided being in that position, but lately the man has made it clear that he expects some favours from her as well. How can she say no and still keep her job? Who can she turn to when everyone is in his pocket? Something needs to be done. And sometimes help comes from the most unexpected direction ....

Logan does well to get the reader emotionally involved in the story, and I felt an intense burning anger a few pages into the book, as it becomes clear that Sarah has her back against the wall. Slowly stoking the fire with mounting injustices, the story may have been off to a bit of a slow start with its direction a bit unclear – until BAM! – there it was, the big twist that made the story both original as well as very intriguing. With my boiler already on full red alert I experienced the same gut reaction Sarah must have felt when confronted with her unusual situation. And just to make it all more interesting, there are a few ethical dilemmas along the way. Have I wetted your appetite yet? No, I will not say any more about the plot, except that the 29 seconds of the title may change Sarah’s life. 29 second of what? You will have to read it to find out. It does rely a tiny bit of the reader’s ability to suspend disbelief, but then again, we live in a strange world where strange thing happen, so who says it’s not possible? 


29 Seconds may be a bit of a slow burner at the start, but don’t be fooled – this is a very clever and original thriller that will have you questioning a few ethical and moral dilemmas along the way. It took a few unexpected turns that had me on edge, wondering how it would turn out in the end – and then I was still wrong with my guesses. This is the perfect book to pick up if you want a thriller with an original premise and some surprising twists! 

Thank you to Netgalley and Bonnier Zaffre for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Book Review & Giveaway: FORCE OF NATURE by Jane Harper

Author: Jane Harper
Macmillan Australia
November 2017
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Later, the four remaining women could fully agree on only two things. One: No-one saw the bush land swallow up Alice Russell. And two: Alice had a mean streak so sharp it could cut you.

Book Description:

Five women go on a hike. Only four return. Jane Harper, the New York Times bestselling author of The Dry, asks: How well do you really know the people you work with?

When five colleagues are forced to go on a corporate retreat in the wilderness, they reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking down the muddy path.

But one of the women doesn’t come out of the woods. And each of her companions tells a slightly different story about what happened.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing hiker. In an investigation that takes him deep into isolated forest, Falk discovers secrets lurking in the mountains, and a tangled web of personal and professional friendship, suspicion, and betrayal among the hikers. But did that lead to murder?

My musings:

Seeing how much I loved Jane Harper’s debut novel The Dry, Force of Nature was one of my most anticipated new releases this year, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. With due reason, I found, as it is just as great as The Dry, and as chilling!

Picture this: five colleagues take part in a corporate bushwalking retreat in the remote Giralang Ranges, but only four return. What has happened to Alice Russell? And why don’t her colleagues know, if she was part of their team? Federal Agent Aaron Falk, who features here with his new partner Carmen, has been drawn into the search for the missing hiker, who is an important informant in a case he is currently working on. On the night of her disappearance, she managed to leave a garbled message on his phone and he is worried that she might be in danger.

I listened to Force of Nature on Audible, and never has my house looked so clean and my petrol bill so high, as I found excuses to drive around the block to listen just a little bit longer, or go to such lengths  as cleaning windows in order to have an excuse to plug in my earphones. This book was so good! The whole time I was listening I could not stop thinking how utterly clever Harper is to have created such tension with character interactions and “force of nature” alone.

Unlike The Dry, there is no gruesome murder to start off the story, and it begins as a slow character driven drama focusing on the group of five women as they embark on their fateful bushwalking adventure. It is pretty clear from the start that none of them really want to be there, and that most of them don’t particularly like one another either. Isn’t that already a perfect recipe for a delicious story of conflict and personality clashes, especially in the wild and remote setting of the Australian bush? In my opinion, there are not enough good survival stories out there that pack such punch, but Harper has done her bit to remedy that. The ensuing drama reads like Survivor meets Lord of the Flies, as the women battle out their personality clashes that ultimately lead to a fight for their survival.  From here, the story unfolds in a dual timeframe – one dealing with the search for the missing woman, and one telling about the hike and reflecting on what went wrong from each of the individual women’s perspectives. Whilst there is not much action, the tension is often unbearable, and the atmospheric setting providing a terrifying backdrop. There was one scene involving a dilapidated cabin in the bush that literally had me holding my breath! It brought back memories of camping in a lonely bush cabin whilst hiking with a friend, and hearing a creepy figure stalking us in the middle of the dark night, which saw us running into the bush to hide until daylight. Brrr, I am getting goosebumps even whilst writing this.

Harper’s writing is descriptive and claustrophobic, drawing you deeply into her story and keeping you captured there – whether you like it or not. Her imagery will haunt you in your nightmares, as the impenetrable bushland closes in around you in a terrifying embrace. As each of the women reflect on their three days together, I was never sure whose story I could trust – and there were a few surprises in store. Undoubtedly basing her tale on some true historic Australian crime stories, Harper again proves that she can weave a chilling tale the embodies the Australian spirit at its most chilling – the setting forming its own character that is as much part of the story as its human counterparts.

I also loved that we got to know Aaron Falk a bit better as he shares some of his past with the reader that has shaped his adult self. I am an absolute sucker for stories that combine adventure and survival with a good mystery, and in my opinion Harper has absolutely nailed it! I loved every minute of the book and can’t wait for the next book in the series. 



To celebrate the beginning of summer here in Australia TOMORROW I would love to share this prime example of Australian crime fiction at its best with other readers and wonder if any book bloggers would be interested in starting a “book train”. The idea is to read the book, post a bookstagram photo +/- a short review on Instagram or your book blog and then pass it on to the next reader.

I have one brand new copy of Force of Nature to send to one lucky recipient who would like to participate. All you have to do is to head to my giveaway post on Instagram and tag the person you would like to pass the book on to next. Or leave me a smiley face in the comments on this blog post and tell me which book you would most like to find under your Christmas tree this year.

A winner will be drawn at random in one week’s time – entries close Thursday 7th December at 12 noon AWST. This is an international giveaway – I will post anywhere in the world. The winner will be announced on this blog plus my Instagram post. Hope to see you there!

Image result for 5 stars

You may also like:

The Dry (Aaron Falk, #1)