Do Not Disturb by Claire Douglas

Publisher: Penguin Random House Publication: 9th August 2018

Review: 12th January 2019

Blurb

Could your dream home be your worst nightmare?

After what happened in London, Kirsty needs a fresh start with her family. And running a guesthouse in the Welsh mountains sounds idyllic.

But then their first guest arrives. Selena is the last person Kirsty wants to see. It’s seventeen years since she tore everything apart.

Why has she chosen now to walk back into Kirsty’s life? Is Selena running from something too? Or is there an even darker reason for her visit?

Because Kirsty knows that once you invite trouble into your home, it can be murder getting rid of it…

My Review

This chilling first-person narrative had me hooked right from the start. The novel starts with the discovery of a body then the book is split into ‘Part One: Before’ and ‘Part Two: After’. This cleverly structured plot keeps you guessing as to who has been murdered right until the end of part one, which is about half way through the story.

The story is told from the perspective of Kirsty (the protagonist), and this point of view is consistent throughout, where lives of the other characters come to life through what Kirsty knows about them. This meant when the twists and shocks came to Kirsty, they were a shock to me as a reader too. The language is colloquial and made the story real. It was an easy read but don’t mix that with a simple story. It was easy to read because the language was so compelling and the focussed first-person narrative sucked me into Kirsty’s world. I managed to read the first few chapters on a chapter by chapter basis, but it wasn’t long before everything went on hold and I just had to finish the book.

The narrative has an abundance of twists and turns that are so believable they make you think it could happen to anybody living anywhere. Just one small wrong turn here and another there. The story’s setting, and what happened in the guest house previously, adds to the creepy atmosphere. I started off thinking how lovely it would be to live in such an idyllic place, but it wasn’t long before I was willing Kirsty to pack her bags and whisk her family right out of the spooky place. But Kirsty is made of much sterner stuff than I am!

I was starting to get a bit fed up with psychological thrillers and how they were becoming more and more obscure. I like books that have an element of realism: ordinary everyday characters who make ordinary everyday mistakes, but those ordinary mistakes become twisted into something much more sinister. Claire Douglas has managed to execute this to perfection, and this resulted in a very enjoyable read.

I absolutely loved this book and can’t wait to read more from this author. As well as this, as a new writer myself, the writing inspired me, and reading this book taught me a valuable lesson in taking my writing to a new level. In this case, it was the story’s clear focus on the protagonist herself, as well as how twists and turns can still have a dramatic impact without being ridiculous.

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for an Advance Review Copy of this book.

Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough

Publisher: Harper Collins

Date of Publication: 17th May 2018

Date of Review: 11th December 2018

When you think you’re safe,
YOU’RE NOT.

When you think the past is over,
IT ISN’T.

When you think know someone,
YOU DON’T.

When you think you’ve guessed this twist,
YOU HAVEN’T.

One moment will change three women’s lives forever.

My Review

OMG the twists and turns in this rare gem of a read made for one hell of a roller-coaster ride! The story centres around Lisa; a seemingly ordinary, loving, single mum whose priority is that of her only child. We learn early on that Lisa is haunted by the death of a young boy but just how she is connected to him isn’t revealed until about a quarter of the way into the book.

Lisa’s daughter is sixteen-year-old Ava. Ava belongs to a swimming club where she is part of a close-knit group of four girls who she calls ‘my bitches’. The eldest in the group is Jodie. Ava has a close affinity with Jodie as they both have issues with their mothers. Ava because Lisa is claustrophobic and overprotective, and Jodie because her mother is never around. Ava has a boyfriend too, but she’s getting fed up with him and has become infatuated with a ‘mystery man’ who she has been chatting to online.

Lisa’s best friend is Marilyn. To the outside world Marilyn has the perfect life but she carries a secret that she hides even from her best friend.

When Ava is thrown into the spotlight through an act of bravery, she unwittingly uncovers Lisa’s secret past (a past that Ava knew nothing about). At this point, Ava already has issues with her mother but now she hates her more than ever, and escaping with the ‘mystery man’ she has met online is the only thing that keeps her going. When Ava goes missing the plot really starts to thicken and a whole web of lies and deceit begin to worm their way into the story.

There are so many shocking twists in this book I could talk about but I don’t want to give any spoilers. There are, however, two main things that make this psychological thriller stand out. Firstly, whilst there are times when you will hate the protagonist for some of the things she has done, the author has developed the character so thoroughly and given her such an utterly compelling story, you can’t help but empathise with her too. Secondly, this characterisation is so tightly interwoven into the skilfully structured plot, one minute you will want to throw the book against the wall and the next you will almost set the pages on fire where you are turning them so fast.

As well as being shocking, heart-breaking, and horrific, Cross Her Heart is also a story of love and true friendship. Lisa isn’t the only one who has been well characterised; Marilyn is fabulous and everybody should have a friend like Marilyn!

In the same fast-paced style as the overall plot, the climax and the conclusion come in fairly quick succession, resulting in one of my most satisfying reads of 2018. I would recommend this book for anybody who likes Louise Jensen or Jane Shemilt.

Under Literature Love’s rating scheme,

this book has been awarded 5 out of 5 stars.

This means:

I absolutely loved this book and couldn’t put it down.

I recommend you stop what you’re doing and go and buy this book now!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cross-Her-Heart-psychological-bestselling/dp/0008132011/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1544457299&sr=8-1

https://www.waterstones.com/book/cross-her-heart/sarah-pinborough/9780008132019

You can find out more about the author at:

https://sarahpinborough.com/about/

How Far We Fall by Jane Shemilt

Publisher: Michael Joseph

Date of Publication: 28th June 2018

Date of Review: 23rd Nov 2018

A wife who must keep her affair secret. A husband who has the power to bring her lover down.

A marriage that could end in murder.

Beth was still reeling from the end of her affair the night she met Albie – a man who knows her ex better than anyone, but has no idea of their history.

He’s perfectly placed to give Beth the revenge she craves – if only she can keep her secret safe.

But how far is she willing to go?

My Review

Set within the world of neurosurgery How Far We Fall by Jane Shemilt is a creepy revenge thriller where supporting characters from Daughter (Jane Shemilt’s first novel) take centre stage for this modern twist on Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The novel is full of unreliable characters, which is particularly chilling considering the characters are people who we put our utmost faith in.

Beth is a theatre nurse who is recovering from an affair with Ted, a married neurosurgeon. The affair ended badly and whilst Ted seems to have his life back on track, Beth is still heartbroken after the still-birth of their daughter. She’s also had to change her job (neuro to orthopaedics). When Beth meets Albie, the fact that he’s Ted’s surgical registrar/research fellow is a reason for Beth to run a mile; but there’s a spark between Albie and Beth that can’t be ignored and before we know it they’re married and planning a family of their own.

Like Macbeth, at first Albie is characterised as a man of integrity who is out to help others. He is a bright up and coming neurosurgeon who has researched and developed an innovative neurosurgical procedure for brain cancer. Ted has helped Albie along in his career, and Albie has great respect and admiration for him both professionally and personally. However, when Ted takes credit for Albie’s research project, Albie starts to doubt Ted’s integrity. This isn’t helped by Beth, who is still reeling from the way he took what he wanted from her, before leaving her to deal with the death of their daughter all on her own. But Albie is still in the dark on that one; he has no idea that his wife and his boss knew each other before.

At the beginning it was easy to empathise with both Beth and Albie. Although Beth had an affair with a married man, she’d had a raw deal; and at this point there was no reason to believe Albie was none other than a kind and talented neurosurgeon who wanted to help cure others. But with Beth subtly poisoning his mind against Ted, and his research assistant (who just so happens to have a couple of sisters, making them reminiscent of the three witches) providing him with snippets of overheard conversation regarding Albie’s promotion, Albie doesn’t know who to believe.

The deceit starts off seemingly inconsequential but before we know it, it has built into a web of lies with layer upon layer of dramatic tension ready to explode just like Albie’s research trial! The narrative moves up a gear as we move towards the climax but unlike a lot of novels, where the last couple of chapters drag after the conclusion, the author has added a further plot twist that had me racing towards the very end.

Jane Shemilt has a wonderful talent for bringing the narrative to life: the setting really drew me in and the characters leaped off the page. I really enjoyed reading this book and it was great to catch up with some of the characters from Daughter. I would love to see another book that reveals what happened to Naomi (the daughter from Daughter) and can’t wait to read more from this author.

Under Literature Love’s rating scheme this book has been awarded

5 out of 5 stars.

I absolutely loved this book and couldn’t put it down.

I recommend you stop what you’re doing and go and buy this book now!

Thank you to the author

for a copy of this book

in return for an honest and unbiased review.

https://www.waterstones.com/book/how-far-we-fall/jane-shemilt/9780718183493

The Locksmith by Jo Ullah

Publication

18th April 2018 – Scabious Press

Date of Review

1st November 2018

Synopsis

Jude doesn’t like secrets, they breed poison, but she knows her husband is hiding something from her. To uncover the truth she flees with her three young children to stay with her mysterious mother-in-law, Audra. Through Audra, Jude believes she can uncover the truth that will heal them all. Only Audra has secrets of her own and will stop at nothing to keep them.

My Review

Written in third-person from the perspective of Jude, this debut psychological thriller pulled me in right from the first page. The well-drawn-out characters are utterly believable and the narrative is spiced with a wonderful imagery that sucks you right into Jude’s story. The story itself has a brilliantly original plot that will send shivers down your spine.

The beginning of the story is set in Bristol (I am a Bristolian born and bred so can personally vouch for just how well the author has brought this setting to life). Right from the start, we know Jude is up to something when we see her posting a mysterious letter. We also know that whatever it is she’s doing, her new husband isn’t going to like it. When Ben, Jude’s teenage son, starts to hang around with the wrong crowd, Spider (Jude’s new husband and Ben’s stepdad) takes Ben under his wing, working on an old bike engine in his workshop. But just as Jude thinks things are turning a corner – WHAM – Ben has a terrible accident and Spider is left traumatised. However, when Jude starts to think everything is beyond her control, she receives a reply from her mysterious letter which acts as the catalyst forcing Jude to confront whatever it is that’s destroying the relationship she has with Spider.

Jude herself is a feisty heroine, and it is this personality trait the both puts her whole family in danger as well as rescues them. In places I was too scared to put the book down. Jude has three children and when she has to abandon her eleven year old daughter in order to save her baby I felt I just had to read Jude out of the horrifying situation that faced her. This scene will have mothers everywhere clinging on the edge of their seats. Putting the book down at this point really is not an option!

I won’t say how the story ends, but for me it was a very satisfying one. Jo Ullah certainly knows how to tell a good story and I can’t wait to hear more from this author.

Under Literature Love’s rating scheme this book has been awarded

5 out of 5 stars

I absolutely loved this book and couldn’t put it down.

I recommend you stop what you’re doing and go and buy this book now!

Thank you to the author for a Review Copy of this book in return for an honest and unbiased review.

About the Author

Website: www.joullah.com

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Locksmith-Jo-Ullah-ebook/dp/B07977CZZ4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1541018469&sr=8-1&keywords=jo+ullah

https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-locksmith/jo-ullah/9781999906504