Valentina - S E Lynes - Gripping and compelling

My Review
When I’m reading a book I sometimes make a few notes for my review after reading it and the first 2 words which sprang to mind for Valentina were - loneliness and betrayal, because these are the first 2 traits which feature heavily but as the story unfolds there are multiple layers to this heart-poundingly exceptional Domestic Noir thriller.

Shona is a new Mum, very much in love with her husband Mikey and devoted to their new baby girl Isla. When Mikeys job in the oil industry takes him off-shore on a dreaded 2 weeks on 2 weeks off shift system the natural solution is for the young couple to move closer to Aberdeen, so he can spend as much of his time off with his family as possible. When he finds a picture perfect country cottage Shona is enchanted and moves there with alacrity, despite its comparative isolation. It’s a far cry from her working class upbringing in Govan.

Shona finds it a little difficult to settle, it’s so different from what she’s used to, she’s a new Mum and finding it hard work but her delightful wee girl makes up for the tiredness. But as soon as Mikey heads off for his 2 weeks off-shore she is beset by doubts and overwhelming loneliness, yet she never came across as needy or pathetic.

She feels a bit like a square peg in a round hole, she’s stuck out in the sticks, where even a wi-fi connection is a very hit and miss affair. She misses her family and her friends, especially best pal Jeanie, she misses her lively job and workmates and the wonderfully descriptive feelings the author uses to create Shona had me living inside her skin. I WAS Shona and I was oh, so, lonely.

But she tries not to let the stress get her down too much, she’s a resilient wee thing brought up amongst the Glasgow city streets and she can count the days to Mikeys longed for return safe in the knowledge that if she whiles away the hours he’s working quickly, soon he’ll be back and they’ll have 2 whole blissful weeks to be a happy family until he has to head back to the rig in the North Sea, she adores her very loving husband and knows the passionate re-unions will be worth the wait and the time apart is the price to pay for living comfortably and provide a great childhood for Isla.

But things don’t work out quite how she imagined and she finds herself feeling even more and more forsaken in this beautiful but secluded cottage. So, when she meets lively, irreverent and amusing, young Mum Valentina with a son much the same age as Isla, life suddenly takes on a rosier hue. She now has someone to share her feelings with, someone to be there for her, she’s no longer on the outside looking in all the time and whilst Mikeys away the time passes quicker and more pleasantly, with a pal to spend time with and someone to share the ordeals of motherhood.

Phew, at last things are looking up for Shona …

Oh no they aren’t!

Insidiously, at first things start to go wrong, little things are off kilter and Shona begins to feel perhaps her new friend isn’t quite as honest as she at first thought, maybe she isn’t quite as trustworthy as she hoped and when things are amiss, the tensions builds, rapidly gathering speed and like an express train hurtling along the tracks – I SAW what was coming, but far too late and as much as I screamed at Shona to get off the tracks she couldn’t hear me. Phew I was as satisfyingly exhausted by this slick and cunningly constructed cliff hanger as if I’d run a marathon.

The writing style is genius, addictively compelling, with stunning literary quality and rhapsodic, eloquent descriptions. Every response contains phenomenally realistic knee jerk reactions and true to life characteristics. It’s sheer reading pleasure from start to end. Oh and it's a debut novel - Wow!

This book has just been released in July 2016 and believe me you want to be one of the first to experience it, I predict it’s going to be the book every enthusiastic booklover will be talking about this summer. This is up there amongst the best fabled tomes which captivate the imagination and if you enjoy a twist and an aarghh I urge you to get your copy now and give it a whirl.

I was generously provided with a review copy by the superb publishers Blackbird Digital books.

The Blurb (from Goodreads)

When  Glasgow journalist  Shona McGilvery moves with her partner  Mikey  and their baby to an idyllic cottage in rural Scotland, they believe that all that lies ahead of them is happiness.

But with Mikey working offshore, the  frightening  isolation of the Aberdeenshire  countryside begins to drive her insane...

That is, until she is rescued by a new friendship with the enchanting Valentina. 

She has the perfect home, the perfect man, and a charismatic new best friend – or does she?

As her fairytale life begins to unravel, the deep dark wood becomes the least of her fears...

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