Saturday, 31 January 2015

The Crooked House by Christobel Kent - a survivors tale



The Blurb....
Alison is as close to anonymous as she can get: with no ties, no home, a backroom job, hers is a life lived under the radar. She's a nobody; she has no-one and that's how she wants it.

But once Alison was someone else: once she was Esme Grace, a teenager whose bedroom sat at the top of a remote and dilapidated house on the edge of a bleak estuary. A girl whose family, if not happy, exactly, was no unhappier than anyone else's - or so she thought.

Then one night a terrible thing happened in the crooked house, a nightmare of violence out of which Alison emerged the only witness and sole survivor and from which she has been running ever since. Only when she meets academic Paul Bartlett does Alison realise that if she's to have any chance of happiness, she has to return to her old life and confront the darkness that worked its way inside her family and has pursued her ever since.

My Thoughts
I thoroughly enjoyed this rather twisty tale about Alison, a young woman who maintains a low profile, keeps herself to herself and is a survivor, literally.

She survived the unthinkable, surviving a horrific event, in her teens which would make the strongest of us crumble. When she went by a different name, when she was Esme, living in the crooked house in a remote rural location her family were cruelly and brutally slaughtered, whilst she cowered praying not to be dsicovered. But to say she esacped unscathed would be a lie. Witnessing such an awful events is bound to leave a mark. Little wonder as an adult she finds it difficult to make friends, to trust people and maintain a relationship. Her judgement can be flawed and whilst holding it together outwardly she can be a little flaky, and who can blame her.

When she finally meets a man she feels she can trust and is given the chance to return to the place she lost everything, she thinks maybe its time to face her demons, but going back can be as hard as moving forward and she begins to doubt her own memories, who can she trust if she can't even trust herself?

The crooked house is a creepy place set in a very tight knit rural location called Saltleigh where the locals mistrust incomers and seem to close ranks together.

Its a clever and twisty psychological thriller, a real page turner. My only small gripe is there are quite a lot of secondary characters to get to grips with and I did get rather confused especially in the middle of the book, when I wasn't sure who was who and who did what to whom any more!

I did like Alison/ Esme and felt sympathy for her, even when at one point she seems to be losing the plot a bit. I just kept thinking how could anyone go through what she had without being a gibbering wreck and admired her fortitude.

It's gripping and exciting and will probably appeal to anyone who enjoyed Broadchurch on tv as it has that same small town closed shop feel.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Kind Worth Killing - Peter Swanson - Devious thriller



The Blurb

From the author of the acclaimed The Girl with a Clock for a Heart--hailed by the Washington Post as crime fiction's best first novel of 2014"--a devious tale of psychological suspense involving sex, deception, and an accidental encounter that leads to murder that is a modern reimagining of Patricia Highsmith's classic Strangers on a Train

My thoughts

A very enjoyable devious thriller, told from several points of view.

Ted who is waiting in an airport lounge when he is approached by the enigmatic Lily. Having a few drinks together he reveals to her that having recently discovered his wife's infidelity he feels like killing her and this notion sets off a whole plot for murder.

But all of those involved in this warped tale aren't what they would at first seem to be, some harbour shady little secrets and some are downright liars.

There is more than one murder and the plot is good and convoluted enough to satisfy the most twisted mind yet easy enough to follow. The characters are all loathsome and pretty darned evil, although I kind of admired one of them in their single minded, totally amoral, determination. I wouldn't like to meet any of them but that's far from a complaint its praise indeed to be able to create characters with hidden depths of nastiness.

Its very clever and a real page turner, great for thriller lovers who adore dirty little secrets and psychological twists.

Thankyou Netgalley and Faber & Faber for my copy.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Second Life - S J Watson - Intriguing and chilling




The blurb:

Julia’s life is comfortable, if unremarkable, until her sister’s brutal murder opens old wounds. She finds solace in her sister’s best friend, Sophie, but when Sophie reveals the extent of her sister’s online life, Julia becomes convinced that the truth about her death lies deep in the dark, sordid world of online chatrooms and internet sex.

What begins as Julia’s search for the truth about her sister quickly turns into an exploration of herself and her own desires. After all, the internet is her playground, and why be just one thing when you can be as many as you like? What could possibly go wrong? After all, it’s only cybersex, isn’t it? No one’s going to get hurt.

But then she meets the dark and mysterious Lukas in an online chat room, and things begin to get very dangerous indeed.



My Review:

The eagerly awaited second novel by the author of the hugely acclaimed Before I Go To Sleep was always going to have a bit of a hard time meeting expectations, following in the footsteps of such a brilliant and much hyped debut novel and it was with some trepidation I began to read this psychological thriller, but I worried needlessly as it turned out to be a gripping and enthralling read.

Julia is the main protagonist, a middle aged Mum with a bit of a past and a few character flaws who is devastated to learn of her younger sister Kate's death. She sets out to discover what really happened in Paris to Kate and as she delves into the murky side of internet dating her sister appears to have been part of begins to build a secret life of her own.

Devoted to her teenage son Connor and her reliable and loving husband Hugh she is nevertheless a bored housewife and when temptation presents itself her addictive personality rises to the surface once more and threatens to undo her carefully woven life.

I was intrigued by the cleverly constructed web of mystery and concealment and rash moves followed by even worse decisions. The book is pretty slow to begin with and for the first 40 or 50 pages I began to wonder if it was going to grab me at some point or not .... Then it abruptly seized me by the jugular!

It begins like a dog quietly gnawing on a large and unwieldy bone, then suddenly the bone is being gnashed and crushed and shaken from side to side and theres no way you're going to get that tasty chunk of cartilage out of Rovers jaws. I felt like that with this book.

It's a very cleverly constructed twisting storyline that intrigues and chills and even when Julia makes some really stupid moves I could kind of see why she did and even though I didn't agree with lots of the things she did, it didn't at any point become unbelievable. I did find her husband a little too easy going, the fact that he has a lot of stuff going on at work being little excuse for his placid attitude towards Julia, especially given her background which is gradually revealed. However I forgive the author this because this thriller did what it says on the tin - it thrilled me as I read on far later into the night than is good for the bags under my eyes!

The ending is not so much ambiguous as indecisive, but its actually not the ending thats important as much as how we get there

A confident and sometimes brazen publication guaranteed to give anyone who has considered using internet chat sites to hook up with a potential mate a sleepless night. Highly recommended and destined I'm sure to be another huge success for S.J. Watson

My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher Randomhouseuk/Doubleday for my advance copy of yet another outstanding novel.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Keep Quiet - Lisa Scottoline - moral dilemma thriller


The publishers blurb:

After picking up his sixteen-year-old son, Ryan, from the cinema one evening, Jake Buckman decides to let him practice driving home along a seemingly quiet street. It is a decision that will alter the lives of their family for ever, as Ryan hits a jogger, who does not survive. What follows is not a clear-cut hit and run, but a split-second decision by a father who will do anything to protect his son.

But just how much can a parent sacrifice to protect their own child?

And how will Ryan cope with the consequences of his actions?

My review

"Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive" 

An old saying which sums up this book perfectly, as Jake will discover when he makes a split second decision to protect his teenage son Ryan which sets his life on a downward spiral of terrifying repercussions. When Jake allows Ryan to drive his car at night he doesn't think for one second it will lead to them covering up a fatal accident in order for them both to avoid a prison sentence and keeping it hidden from his wife Pam, who's high powered job as a judge would be compromised too, but one lie begets another and the backlash is so great it seems as though nothing will ever go right again in Jake's life.

I have to be honest and admit the style of writing isn't up to the literary standard I've come to expect from recent psychological thrillers I've read, the characters are very 2 dimensional and unlikeable and the dialogue is stilted, repetitive and downright annoying. So much so, that about 30 pages in I began to think to myself "I may not finish this" .... "I think I'll stop reading it" but the storyline is so fast paced, so relentless, that there wasn't a point I felt I could give up at. I kept on turning the pages to find out what would happen next and before I knew where I was, I was at the end having read the lot in a couple of sessions!

Which is after all the point of a book - to captivate you and keep you wanting to read on. So I forgive the lack of refinement and finesse and applaud the exciting storytelling and sheer gripping entertainment value.

It will be loved by any fans of this authors previous books, I would liken the writing to that of Val McDermid or Linwood Barclay and feel this book wil also appeal to readers who enjoy their books.

A tense and exciting domestic moral dilemma thriller with little depth but tons of compelling drama.

My thanks to Bookbridgr and the publisher Headline for my review copy.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

The Hourglass Factory - Lucy Ribchester - a Victorian mystery



From Goodreads:

1912 and London is in turmoil...The suffragette movement is reaching fever pitch but for broke Fleet Street tomboy Frankie George, just getting by in the cut-throat world of newspapers is hard enough. Sent to interview trapeze artist Ebony Diamond, Frankie finds herself fascinated by the tightly laced acrobat and follows her across London to a Mayfair corset shop that hides more than one dark secret. 
Then Ebony Diamond mysteriously disappears in the middle of a performance, and Frankie is drawn into a world of tricks, society columnists, corset fetishists, suffragettes and circus freaks. How did Ebony vanish, who was she afraid of, and what goes on behind the doors of the mysterious Hourglass Factory? From the newsrooms of Fleet Street to the drawing rooms of high society, the missing Ebony Diamond leads Frankie to the trail of a murderous villain with a plot more deadly than anyone could have imagined.


My thoughts

The Hourglass factory is set in an era I enjoy reading about, historical fiction set in the early 20th century can immerse the reader in a plethora of sights, sounds and smells and this book sets the scene nicely. It's 1912 and in Fleet street London, budding reporter Frankie George is battling to make her voice heard in the male dominated world of newspaper journalism. When she is sent to get an interview and photograph of Ebony Diamond a suffragette trapeze artist she enters a world of corset manufacturing, circus tricks and secrets.

Its a jolly good old romp through Victorian London at a time of great change, a mystery coupled with social commentary.

What I was hoping for was something a little like Tipping the Velvet sadly it failed to meet expectations on that score, it reminded me more of Silent in the Grave which isn't necessarily a bad thing but it meant my expectations had to be adjusted somewhat.

If you like this kind of Victorian mystery you'll probably enjoy the Hourglass Factory. However for me the characters were just a little 2 dimensional and the book deliberately tries to be a little provocative without the real depth and grit I prefer in my historical fiction.

My thanks to Netgalley for providing my advance copy for review.