Psychological Thrillers

COME A LITTLE CLOSER by Karen Perry

#psychologicalthriller #bookreview #literaturelove

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Publisher: Penguin

Published: 28th Nov 2019 (paperback)

27th June 2019 (ebook)

Reviewed: 28th July 2019

Blurb

Leah is in love. It should be the happiest summer of her life, but she can’t help feeling lonely with Jake’s attention divided between her, his ex-wife and his young son. As insomnia sets in, the walls of their new basement flat feel as if they’re closing in around her. Until she meets her upstairs neighbour, Anton, who has recently moved back in after a long absence from the street. He’s a sympathetic ear when Jake can’t be, and even though others on the street seem strangely hostile towards him, Leah soon comes to rely on Anton and their secret conversations in the night.

Leah has no idea that nineteen years before, Anton was convicted of killing his wife. A wife who looked a little bit like Leah. He has always said he didn’t do it. Is Leah his redemption? Or is she befriending a killer intent on luring her closer and closer?

My Review

Written in third-person from the limited perspectives of Leah, Anton, and Hilary, Come A Little Closer is a spine tingling narrative that had me changing my mind and guessing right up to the very end. Although my first thought was the correct one, there were many times throughout the book where I thought the complete opposite. And there was a thought I had which I was certain would be the big twist but it turned out to be a red herring. I won’t say what that was in case other readers have this same thought!

Leah has a secret past of her own, a past that her boyfriend (Jake), knows nothing about, so when her new landlord (Anton) claims he is innocent of murdering his wife (Charlotte), a crime he has spent the last 19 years in prison for, she is quick to give him the benefit of the doubt. But with Leah being similar in appearance to Charlotte, he soon becomes infatuated with her; and with neighbour Hilary obsessed with Anton, Leah is in a very dangerous place within this creepy triangle.

Certain events are repeated, being told from the different points of view of one or more of the characters. I really liked this narrative form; how one character saw something another didn’t, or how another character was privy to something that another character knew nothing about. It is through this form of dramatic irony that the truth about Charlotte’s fate is gradually revealed. The narrative also includes quite a lot of internal monologue, especially from Hilary’s perspective, with certain events triggering past memories. This meant the narrative did jump around quite a lot from past to present within the same chapter, which was a little confusing in places but not overly so. The steady pacing throughout the first part of the story meant that actions of the characters were more believable: one small act, leading to another, building to terrifyingly disturbing scenes and a fast-paced climax.

I really enjoyed reading this book, even more so than Your Closest Friend, and would recommend this for fans of Ella Drummond or Shalini Boland.

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley

for an Advance Review Copy of this book

in return for an honest and unbiased review.

About the Author

Karen Perry is the Sunday Times bestselling author of Your Closest Friend, Can You Keep a Secret?, Girl Unknown, Only We Know and The Boy That Never Was, which was selected for the Simon Mayo Radio 2 Book Club. She lives in Dublin with her family.

Post Settings

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Come-Little-Closer-Karen-Perry/dp/1405936673/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1564259195&sr=8-2

https://www.waterstones.com/book/come-a-little-closer/karen-perry/9781405936675

Women's Fiction

After the End by Clare Mackintosh

Publisher:           Sphere

Published:           25th June 2019

Reviewed:           19th July 2019

Blurb

Max and Pip are the strongest couple you know. Only now they’re facing the most important decision of their lives – and they don’t agree.

As the consequences of an impossible choice threaten to devastate them both, nothing will ever be the same again.

But anything can happen after the end . . .

My Review

I knew this book was different to the author’s usual genre, and after reading the author’s note (I always read these before the book) I also realised it would be a heart-wrenching story. What I wasn’t prepared for was putting everything on hold as I found myself gripped for hours on end as the characters worked their way into my heart.

Split into two parts, part one has a triple narrative that draws the reader into the shoes of Pip, Max, and Leila. Pip and Max are a happily married couple whose lives are turned upside down when their two-year-old son, Dylan, is diagnosed with a brain tumour; Leila is Dylan’s paediatric neurologist. As the main bread earner, Max juggles his demanding career (and unforgiving wanker of a boss), whilst Pip gives up her job to spend every waking moment at Dylan’s bedside. Geographically the couple are miles apart for the best part of the week, but the bond between them is stronger than ever as they hold each other together, willing their boy to get well. As well as Pip and Max both having their own voice through first-person narratives, we also see how they are perceived from the outside world through the limited third-person perspective of Leila. Leila is a well-drawn out character where we also see how the everyday strain of working as a doctor for the NHS impacts on her life and relationships as a young woman.

But when Dylan’s condition takes a turn for the worse, Pip and Max’s relationship is put to the test when they have different ideas of what the best treatment options are for their son, and when the couple aren’t able to agree, the hospital steps in and takes the case to court. With Pip, Max, and Leila, each having individual voices through their own designated chapters, this allows the reader to empathise with their different perspectives: what it is like to be them and how they reach the decision they have regarding what is best for Dylan. Part one of the narrative ends as the judge gives his verdict.

With the world and his wife having a view on what the right decision should be, part two of the story is where the author really ups her game. Although a bit confusing at first, this part of the narrative has a sliding doors structure where the different outcome scenarios of the court-case are played out. It is these kind of stories where I do prefer a real book rather than an e-book, so I can flick back and work out what’s going on. Anyway, once I’d figured out that this was actually a sliding-doors structure, and that I wasn’t going mad, this made the story all the more compelling. During this part of the story, chapters alternate between the perspectives of Pip and Max, and there are different time periods as the cleverly structured plot, addresses the question as to whether one decision is any better than the other. It also makes you consider whether fate is a factor: no matter what route you take will you end up in the same place?

The story also explores the theme of unconditional love. Not just the love between Pip, Max, and Dylan; but maternal love between Max and his mother, Pip and her mother, Leila and her mother, Blair (no spoilers as to who she is!) and her children.

One of the first things I was taught as part of my English Literature and Creative Writing degree was to ‘write what you know’ in a fictionalised way, adding elements of ‘what if’. After the End by Clare Mackintosh is an absolute masterclass in this, and should be considered essential reading material for every serious creative writing student. I’ve long admired the work of Clare Mackintosh, her first book I Let You go, in particular, is one that years later has still stayed with me; After the End will be no exception.

As I said earlier, After the End is very different to the author’s usual style of writing, and this beautifully written narrative reminded me of Carol Mason, Kit de Waal, and Emma Cooper.

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley

for an Advance Review Copy of this book

in return for an honest and unbiased review.

About the Author

With over 2 million copies of her books sold worldwide, number one bestseller Clare Mackintosh is multi-award-winning author of I Let You Go, which was a Sunday Times bestseller and the fastest-selling title by a new crime writer in 2015. It also won the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year in 2016.
Both Clare’s second and third novels, I See You and Let Me Lie, were number one Sunday Times bestsellers. All three of her books were selected for the Richard & Judy Book Club, and together have been translated into over thirty-five languages.
Clare is patron of the Silver Star Society, a charity based at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, which supports parents experiencing high-risk or difficult pregnancies. She lives in North Wales with her husband and their three children.

https://www.waterstones.com/book/after-the-end/clare-mackintosh/9780751564945

Uncategorized

After the End by Clare Mackintosh

#aftertheend #bookreview #literaturelove

After the End

 

Publisher:           Sphere

Published:           25th June 2019

Reviewed:           19th July 2019

 

Blurb

Max and Pip are the strongest couple you know. Only now they’re facing the most important decision of their lives – and they don’t agree.

As the consequences of an impossible choice threaten to devastate them both, nothing will ever be the same again.

But anything can happen after the end . . .

My Review

I knew this book was different to the author’s usual genre, and after reading the author’s note (I always read these before the book) I also realised it would be a heart-wrenching story. What I wasn’t prepared for was putting everything on hold as I found myself gripped for hours on end as the characters worked their way into my heart.

Split into two parts, part one has a triple narrative that draws the reader into the shoes of Pip, Max, and Leila. Pip and Max are a happily married couple whose lives are turned upside down when their two-year-old son, Dylan, is diagnosed with a brain tumour; Leila is Dylan’s paediatric neurologist. As the main bread earner, Max juggles his demanding career (and unforgiving wanker of a boss), whilst Pip gives up her job to spend every waking moment at Dylan’s bedside. Geographically the couple are miles apart for the best part of the week, but the bond between them is stronger than ever as they hold each other together, willing their boy to get well. As well as Pip and Max both having their own voice through first-person narratives, we also see how they are perceived from the outside world through the limited third-person perspective of Leila. Leila is a well-drawn out character where we also see how the everyday strain of working as a doctor for the NHS impacts on her life and relationships as a young woman.

But when Dylan’s condition takes a turn for the worse, Pip and Max’s relationship is put to the test when they have different ideas of what the best treatment options are for their son, and when the couple aren’t able to agree, the hospital steps in and takes the case to court. With Pip, Max, and Leila, each having individual voices through their own designated chapters, this allows the reader to empathise with their different perspectives: what it is like to be them and how they reach the decision they have regarding what is best for Dylan. Part one of the narrative ends as the judge gives his verdict.

With the world and his wife having a view on what the right decision should be, part two of the story is where the author really ups her game. Although a bit confusing at first, this part of the narrative has a sliding doors structure where the different outcome scenarios of the court-case are played out. It is these kind of stories where I do prefer a real book rather than an e-book, so I can flick back and work out what’s going on. Anyway, once I’d figured out that this was actually a sliding-doors structure, and that I wasn’t going mad, this made the story all the more compelling. During this part of the story, chapters alternate between the perspectives of Pip and Max, and there are different time periods as the cleverly structured plot, addresses the question as to whether one decision is any better than the other. It also makes you consider whether fate is a factor: no matter what route you take will you end up in the same place?

The story also explores the theme of unconditional love. Not just the love between Pip, Max, and Dylan; but maternal love between Max and his mother, Pip and her mother, Leila and her mother, Blair (no spoilers as to who she is!) and her children.

One of the first things I was taught as part of my English Literature and Creative Writing degree was to ‘write what you know’ in a fictionalised way, adding elements of ‘what if’. After the End by Clare Mackintosh is an absolute masterclass in this, and should be considered essential reading material for every serious creative writing student. I’ve long admired the work of Clare Mackintosh, her first book I Let You go, in particular, is one that years later has still stayed with me; After the End will be no exception.

As I said earlier, After the End is very different to the author’s usual style of writing, and this beautifully written narrative reminded me of Carol Mason, Kit de Waal, and Emma Cooper.

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley

for an Advance Review Copy of this book

in return for an honest and unbiased review.

 

About the Author

clare-mackintosh-2019-500x500With over 2 million copies of her books sold worldwide, number one bestseller Clare Mackintosh is multi-award-winning author of I Let You Go, which was a Sunday Times bestseller and the fastest-selling title by a new crime writer in 2015. It also won the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year in 2016.
Both Clare’s second and third novels, I See You and Let Me Lie, were number one Sunday Times bestsellers. All three of her books were selected for the Richard & Judy Book Club, and together have been translated into over thirty-five languages.
Clare is patron of the Silver Star Society, a charity based at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, which supports parents experiencing high-risk or difficult pregnancies. She lives in North Wales with her husband and their three children.

Clare Mackintosh

 

https://www.waterstones.com/book/after-the-end/clare-mackintosh/9780751564945

 

 

 

 

Psychological Thrillers

THE DREAM HOUSE by Jess Ryder

# bookreview #psychologicalthriller #twisty

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Publisher: Bookouture

Published: 21st June 2019

Reviewed: 10th July 2019

Blurb

When I first set eyes on Westhill House with its breath-taking views of the sea I knew it was the perfect place for a fresh start. The place may be falling apart, but it can be fixed with some tender loving care. And as Jack and I work to repair this beautiful building, maybe we can repair our relationship too. Maybe we can make Westhill House a refuge from all the tragedies that came before.

Lori has come to Westhill House for shelter too. She says it used to be a place where women went for safety. How can I turn her away, when violence waits for her outside these high walls?

But the longer Lori stays, the more time Jack spends away. And the more she helps me restore the house, the more secrets start to be revealed. Like the children’s drawings under the wallpaper in the back bedroom, and the hidden papers underneath the floorboards in the turret room. But why does Lori know so much about Westhill House, if she’s never been here before? What does she really need protection from?

And now I’ve invited her into my dream house, is there any escape for either of us?

My thoughts

Beginning with a prologue where a girl escapes to an isolated place to give birth, the story switches back and forth between the present-day/first-person perspective of Stella – and the past/third-person limited perspective of Kay.

A year ago Stella’s parents were killed in a hit and run, and still grieving, Stella has bought a huge neglected house with the inheritance her parents have left her. As foster carers, her parents worked tirelessly to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds, but it is clear Stella is hiding a secret from her past that has left her dredged in guilt. When a stranger (Lori) turns up on the doorstep covered in bruises and claiming to be a victim of domestic abuse, Stella sees this as an opportunity to redeem herself from whatever it is she has done, but with Stella’s boyfriend, Jack, believing Lori has a hidden agenda, Stella soon starts telling white lies to keep Lori hidden from him. True to the psychological thriller genre, these small lies soon escalate and before we know it there is a whole cast of unreliable characters. Jack might not trust Lori, but Lori doesn’t trust him either, and with Stella’s first-person narrative putting the reader right in her shoes, it is difficult to know exactly who she can trust. And then there’s the builder: a great bloke, salt of the earth, so why does he go missing as soon as the police start sniffing around?

The past timeline tells the story of Kay who got pregnant when she was fifteen. At first I thought this related to the prologue but we soon learn that fifteen-year-old Kay has supportive parents (well sort of) so it can’t be. Kay goes on to marry an abusive ‘man’ who everybody thinks is wonderful, unaware of what goes on behind closed doors. This part of the story deals with some dark and gritty issues and with such a slow build up, where Kay’s husband goes from being somebody who is over-attentive to somebody who is controlling and violent, this makes you consider relationships in the present timeline. Is Jack’s behaviour because he is genuinely concerned for Stella or because he is controlling? It also links to the present timeline theme of things not being as they appear to the outside world.

Ping-ponging between past and present, The Dream House made for one hell of a read. I’m usually pretty good at second guessing what happens but this was full of surprisingly clever plot twists. For most of the story, Lori’s identity is kept secret but once it is revealed, everything (including the prologue) all makes sense. I really enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it for anybody who likes Lisa Jewell, Louise Jensen, or Jo Ullah.

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for an Advance Review Copy of this book in return for an honest and unbiased review.

About the Author

http://jessryder.co.uk/

How to buy this book

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dream-House-absolutely-gripping-psychological-ebook/dp/B07PY3XWW5/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+dream+house&qid=1563194564&s=gateway&sr=8-1

https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-dream-house/jess-ryder/9781786819710

Women's Fiction

THE PRINTED LETTER BOOKSHOP by Katherine Reay

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Published: 14th May 2019 (e-book)

13th June 2019 (paperback)

Reviewed: 11th June 2019

Blurb

One of Madeline’s happiest childhood memories is of working with her Aunt Maddie in the quaint and cozy Printed Letter Bookshop. But by the time Madeline inherits the shop nearly twenty years later, family troubles and her own bitter losses have hardened Madeline’s heart toward her once-treasured aunt-and the now struggling bookshop left in her care. While Madeline intends to sell the shop as quickly as possible, the Printed Letter’s two employees have other ideas. Reeling from a recent divorce, Janet finds sanctuary within the books and within the decadent window displays she creates. Claire, though quieter than the acerbic Janet, feels equally drawn to the daily rhythms of the shop and its loyal clientele, finding a renewed purpose within its walls. When Madeline’s professional life falls apart, and a handsome gardener upends all her preconceived notions, she questions her plans and her heart. Has she been too quick to dismiss her aunt’s beloved shop? And even if she has, the women’s best combined efforts may be too little, too late.

My Review

I haven’t read within this genre for a while but as a book-lover I was drawn not only to the title of this novel but also to its gorgeous cover. Admittedly, I did find it to be a bit of a slow starter, but it wasn’t long before the characters had grown on me and I wanted to find out more about them.

With three different perspectives, Madeline, Janet, and Claire, are all at different stages in their lives: Madeline is a single high-flying career woman; Claire is married with two teenage children; and Janet is divorced with two grown-up children. Madeline is the protagonist and has inherited The Printed Letter Bookshop from her estranged Aunt Maddie. The plot had a bit of a Sophie Kinsella’s Domesticated Goddess feel about it at the beginning: when Madeline is turned down for promotion, she jacks in her job as lawyer and runs away to the small town of Eagle Valley for a more simple life. Madeline has every intention of selling her aunt’s bookshop at the earliest opportunity, but as Madeline gets to know the residents of Eagle Valley, she realises just how wrong she was about what happened in the past between her parents and her aunt.

To confuse things even more for Madeline, is Janet and Claire who work at the bookshop. Janet and Claire also both have first-person narratives so the reader gets closely drawn in to their worlds, as well as Madeline’s. As well as the prospect that they will shortly be losing their jobs, both characters have their own sets of problems. Claire is married with two teenage children, and it is the problem with her daughter that troubles Claire. Janet is divorced with two grown up children; but her children have disowned her, blaming her for splitting up with their father. At first Claire and Janet resent Madeline, but there was more to old Aunt Maddie than the women bargained for, and the individual Printed Letters that she left each of them gradually bring the three women together as friends. But this isn’t just about friendship, there’s also a sprinkling of romance – but is grumpy gardener Chris really that grumpy, and is he really a gardener?

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley

for an Advance Review Copy of this book

in return for an honest and unbiased review.

About the Author

https://katherinereay.com/

https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-printed-letter-bookshop/katherine-reay/9780785222002

Psychological Thrillers

SLEEP by C L Taylor

#Psychologicalthriller #bookreview #bookbloggers #literaturelove

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Publisher: Avon Books UK

Published: 4th April 2019

Reviewed: 25th June 2019

Blurb

All Anna wants is to be able to sleep. But crushing insomnia, terrifying night terrors and memories of that terrible night are making it impossible. If only she didn’t feel so guilty…

To escape her past, Anna takes a job at a hotel on the remote Scottish island of Rum, but when seven guests join her, what started as a retreat from the world turns into a deadly nightmare.

Each of the guests have a secret, but one of them is lying – about who they are and why they’re on the island. There’s a murderer staying in the Bay View hotel. And they’ve set their sights on Anna. Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One deadly lie.

My Review

Well, this wasn’t the read I was expecting at all. It was even better!

After reading the blurb, I thought the story’s title related to Anna, the protagonist, being too scared to go to sleep. To an extent it is, but the plot is much more complex than that and it wasn’t until the story reached its climax that the title of Sleep really hit me as being quite clever. I won’t say why as this would be a spoiler; but when you read it, it will make sense!

The author’s skilful use of language and sentence structure makes this an enjoyable read that sucks you right into the narrative, which combined with its fast paced plot made it difficult to find a natural break where I could put the book down without itching to pick it back up again for another sneaky read. There are a lot of flawed and damaged characters who feature prominently in the story, and with the four women guests having names that weren’t tied down to a particular age group, at times it was difficult to keep track of who was who. However, this kind of added to the story’s overall sense of confusion and unease. Anna knows one of the guests is out to get her but she doesn’t know which one.

Anna narrates through first-person, and the other characters are brought to life through limited third-person perspectives. This is the case not only for guests at the Bay View Hotel but also for characters from Anna’s past. This multiple narrative works particularly well for this ‘whodunnit’ type thriller. The first-person narration puts the reader in Anna’s shoes, feeling her guilt, whilst the third-person narration allows access to information that Anna isn’t privy to. To a degree, the guilt Anna feels isn’t justified, and the way she has been treated by both her colleagues and her boyfriend, adds to the sense of injustice. Following the climax, the story temporarily switches to first-person narration from the antagonist’s point of view. In complete contrast to Anna’s overwhelming yet unjustifiable guilt, the antagonist (sorry not going to name them here!) feels their psychotic perspective is rational. The author’s decision to portray this directly through the antagonist’s twisted sense of right and wrong really is quite chilling to the core.

The sense of claustrophobia and panic is intensified by the novel’s setting. Whilst the island of Rum is surrounded by wide open spaces, this is juxtaposed with it being cut off from the mainland. Modern technology is unreliable at the best of times on the island, but with the storm raging, communication with the outside world is impossible. With no immediate neighbours and no way of calling for help, this makes this ordinarily fresh rural setting a place of intense fear that is impossible to escape.

Whilst C L Taylor is in a league of her own, Sleep is an addictive and twisty read recommended for anybody who likes traditional Agatha Christy type thrillers as well as more contemporary thrillers such as An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena.

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

in return for an honest and unbiased review.

About the Author

https://cltaylorauthor.com/

https://maxminervas.co.uk/collections/signed-books/products/personalised-message-on-any-c-l-taylor-book

https://www.waterstones.com/book/sleep/c-l-taylor/9780008301316

Psychological Thrillers

THE WIFE’S SHADOW by Cath Weeks

#gripping #twisty #psychologicalthriller

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Publisher: Little Brown, Piatkus

Published: 28th March 2019

Reviewed: 12th June 2019

Blurb

Everyone admires Suzy and her doll’s house life. She has a gorgeous family, a beautiful home and a successful business. But Suzy hasn’t always been in control. In her past lies a shadowy tale of fear and instability – a life that she once ran away from, and has hidden from ever since.

When Suzy starts being followed, she fears that her past may finally be catching up with her. And when she finds herself unable to do what to her is the most important thing – keep her loved ones safe – she has to decide how far she’d be willing to go to win everything back.

Even if it means sacrificing everything she knows and loves…

My Review

Now and again I come across a book that totally takes me by surprise. I knew The Wife’s Shadow had already received some pretty good reviews but I wasn’t prepared for just how good this book was. The narrative starts off from the first-person perspective of Suzy, where we see her going to some kind of therapy. On the surface, Suzy has it all, cute kids, loving husband, good friends, nice home, growing business – but there’s something from her past that she’s kept secret from her husband, and now juxtaposed to her perfect life there is an ex-boyfriend and a stalker thrown into the mix.

The story starts off at a good pace, intriguing enough to hook you in but not overly so. The writing is good: characterisation and dialogue is real; sentence structure is varied with a good balance of showing and telling which gives just the right amount of pacing. But with such a twisty plot wow those pages soon start turning, and before you know it everything has gone on hold because you just can’t put this book down!

The Wife’s Shadow has twists galore and Suzy’s perfect life is not as it first seems. I did have my suspicion over one of the characters but was genuinely surprised at most of the twists. As a book-blogger I get to read some pretty amazing books but this one is right at the top of the pile. Another one that, as a new writer, I have really been able to learn from.

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for an Advance Review Copy of this book in return for an honest and unbiased review.

About the Author

Cath Weeks was born and raised in Somerset. Her debut novel, Blind, was published in 2017 and she was named as an Author to Watch by Elle magazine. Cath lives in Bath with her husband and two sons.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wifes-Shadow-gripping-heartbreaking-turner-ebook/dp/B07BQBDW2Z/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+wife%27s+shadow&qid=1560261936&s=gateway&sr=8-1

https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-wifes-shadow/cath-weeks/9780349418698