Book Review: The Marsh King’s Daughter, by Karen Dionne

Publisher:  Little, Brown Book Group UK – Sphere

Publication date:  13th June 2017 (Kindle) | 29th June 2017 (Hardback)


the-marsh-kings-daughter-by-karen-dionneThe Marsh King’s Daughter is a thoroughly engaging read. The pursuit of an escaped prisoner with a history of delirious intention is pretty suspenseful stuff, even more so when you place a family of innocents in his path.

Without a doubt this is Helena’s story, which she narrates candidly and without sensation – when the truth is as newsworthy as this there is no need for embellishment. The static emotion of her voice begged me to settle down to listen as she calmly recounts events of her life, including her parents’ surreal relationship, where her father kidnapped her mother and Helena was the result of that forced union.

To Helena her former life of twelve years was unremarkable as it was the only life she knew. The only remnants of her primitive upbringing are her social peculiarities that slip from time-to-time and the observations of her own children where she watches them interact in the big, wide world that was once alien to her. Yet her husband, her neighbours, and her children are not aware of her past. To them she’s a quirky character who sells preserves to the local market and often forgets the importance of time – nothing would suggest she is the daughter of the infamous Jacob Holbrook currently serving a sentence in a maximum security prison. At least he was until a radio bulletin alerted her to his dramatic escape.               

At this point you can feel the cogs of her still unfamiliar new world grind to a breath-catching halt. What the hell are her unhinged father’s motives after thirteen long years in captivity? The pace intensifies as her immediate concern is to protect her family in the only way she knows. She assuredly practises the harsh life lessons her ‘Marsh King’ father taught her and embarks on a private manhunt, following the brutal trail he appears to have ‘gifted’ to her.

Each checkpoint on her eye-opening journey evokes scenes of the Holbrook family’s curious relationship in a wooden shack so isolated, all young Helena had to taunt her of what lay beyond the swamp were the yellowing pages of National Geographic magazines where so-called new discoveries had occurred decades ago.  The evolving story line must be applauded as the past and the present blur and it’s impossible to tell who is hunting who.

This is an unflinching chronicle of remembrance through the indisputable honesty of the eyes of a child, which shows us everything even though she didn’t realise what she was witnessing at the time. While these hostile and unforgiving experiences would never be considered nostalgic to an outsider, as an adult they now keep her grounded and help her to come to terms with something she can never escape – the earth-shattering truth that she will always be The Marsh King’s Daughter.

Rating:    4/5

(It is my pleasure to provide this unbiased review for this title that was provided by the publisher via Netgalley.)


(Courtesy of Netgalley)

The suspense thriller of the year – The Marsh King’s Daughter will captivate you from the start and chill you to the bone.

‘I was born two years into my mother’s captivity. She was three weeks shy of seventeen. If I had known then what I do now, things would have been a lot different. I wouldn’t have adored my father.’

When notorious child abductor – known as the Marsh King – escapes from a maximum security prison, Helena immediately suspects that she and her two young daughters are in danger.

No one, not even her husband, knows the truth about Helena’s past: they don’t know that she was born into captivity, that she had no contact with the outside world before the age of twelve – or that her father raised her to be a killer.

And they don’t know that the Marsh King can survive and hunt in the wilderness better than anyone… except, perhaps his own daughter.

Packed with gripping suspense and powerful storytelling, The Marsh King’s Daughter is a one-more-page, read-in-one-sitting thriller that you’ll remember for ever.



(Courtesy of Author’s own website)

Karen Dionne is the author of The Marsh King’s Daughter, a dark psychological suspense novel set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula wilderness coming June 13, 2017 from G.P. Putnam’s Sons in the U.S. and Canada, and 20 other countries.

She is co-founder of the online writers community Backspace, and organises the Salt Cay Writers Retreat held every other year on a private island in the Bahamas. She is a member of the International Thriller Writers, where she served on the board of directors as Vice President, Technology.

Karen’s short fiction has appeared in Bathtub Gin, The Adirondack Review, Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine, and Thought Magazine, as well as First Thrills: High-Octane Stories from the Hottest Thriller Authors, an anthology of short stories from bestselling and emerging authors edited by Lee Child.

Karen has written about the publishing industry from an author’s perspective for AOL’s Daily Finance, and blogs at The Huffington Post. Other articles and essays have been published in Writer’s Digest MagazineRT Book ReviewsGuide to Literary Agents, and Handbook of Novel Writing (Writers Digest Books).

Karen has been honoured by the Michigan Humanities Council as a Humanities Scholar for her body of work as an author, writer, and as co-founder of Backspace. She enjoys nature photography and lives with her husband in Detroit’s northern suburbs.



Book Review: Bully Boy Blue, by John Nicholl

Publication date:  13th March 2017

Bully Boy Blue reinforces this author’s trademark to confront sensitive topics head on. This standalone novella may be mini but it’s incredibly mighty.

It voices the raw realism of domestic abuse, capturing the undiluted cruelty of the perpetrator and the torment that his target endures day after relentless day.

The non-believers who dismiss ‘distress signals’ due to the authority of the abuser’s identity shows just how easily victims can be kept captive in a life that is not their own, until all that remains are extreme solutions with unexpected consequences.

Making no attempt to conceal the harrowing daily challenges, it’s not a pleasant read by any stretch of the imagination. But I found it extraordinarily compelling, if only to learn more about the catalyst that may end Kathy’s despair.

In my very recent experience the condensed format of the shorter story makes it difficult to harness substance, atmosphere and characterisation, but Bully Boy Blue ticks ALL the aforementioned boxes. Within the limited time frame of just over seventy pages a genuinely intriguing progression results in the most perfectly satisfying conclusion, which is both powerful and impressive.

Rating:  4/5

 (My thanks to the author for providing a copy of this title for which it is my pleasure to offer an unbiased review.)

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Every aspect of Kathy’s life is dominated by her abusive bully boy husband. Now she’s pregnant and in fear for her life. Can she ever escape him?

A gripping page-turner of a psychological thriller packed with suspense. Discover John Nicholl’s chilling new novella today.


(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

John Nicholl, an ex police officer, child protection social worker and lecturer, has written three dark psychological suspense thrillers, each of which have been Amazon international bestsellers, reaching # 1 in multiple categories in the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Australia, Canada and the USA. John is always happy to hear from readers, bloggers or the media, and can be contacted via his author website at: Rights enquiries should be directed to Mr Toby Mundy – Literary agent at TMA.



Book Review: The Girl Before, by J P Delaney #TheGirlBefore

Publisher: Quercus

Publication date: 26th January 2017

I originally requested to read the sampler of this book from NetGalley and was blown away by this introduction to One Folgate Street. Thankfully the publisher granted my wish to the read the full version, and I couldn’t be more delighted as the suspense was killing me!


The Girl Before is a psychological firecracker. Its tormented twistiness tugs at the fraying strings of the characters as they live in the shadow of a peculiar architect’s unconventional vision of perfection.

Two distinctive, yet interchangeable, time periods, “then: Emma” and “now: Jane”,  begin to reveal the secrets of One Folgate Street. The property itself is quite extraordinary, but so are the uncompromising terms which must be obeyed in accordance to a restricted covenant detailing specific demands of anyone who is granted permission to live there.

Emma and her boyfriend Simon, the previous tenants, were at the centre of a break in at their previous home. Emma needs to feel safer and the hi-tec security of this new property offered that, it’s just the rest of their lives that needed fixing. Jane, the current tenant, suffered a stillbirth. She’s grieving and is striving to start again. A clean slate she what she needs, with nothing holding her back just a genuine desire to be content, process her loss, and try to curb her curiosity about the death of The Girl Before.

Is it possible for any tenant, no matter how meticulous the selection process, to live up the high standards of such a minimalistic environment, bordering on an impossible regime? Even after jumping through hoops, can they truly reap the full benefits of living in this pristine, clutter free, and questionably affordable property?

Well, we soon discover the answer to that question as we meet the key characters desperate to change their lives when completing a curious questionnaire, which initially tests their integrity for selection to their first interview. However, the psychoanalysis continues while they live at One Folgate Street, assessing their quality of life and whether it has improved since becoming a resident.

The reasoning behind the odd rules and why these particular individuals were selected is drip fed into their blurring stories. It’s as though the architect’s desire for perfection for the building and the tenant becomes inseparable. The inflexible, obsessive, supremacy of Edward Monkton knows exactly how he wants his plans to perform and there are certain parts of his tenants’ lives that are surplus to requirements.

The psychological drama rattles unremittingly until its toxic snake bite of an ending. For a simple catalyst of property hunting to ignite such a perfect spark of intrigue is just pure genius. Loved it.

Rating:  5/5

(I requested a copy of this title via the Publisher via NetGalley but to my surprise I also received a wonderful copy of the Hardback with my thanks, for which it’s my pleasure to provide this unbiased review.)


(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Enter the world of One Folgate Street and discover perfection . . . but can you pay the price?

For all fans of The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl comes this spellbinding Hitchcockian thriller which takes psychological suspense to the next level.

Jane stumbles on the rental opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to live in a beautiful ultra-minimalist house designed by an enigmatic architect, on condition she abides by a long list of exacting rules. After moving in, she discovers that a previous tenant, Emma, met a mysterious death there – and starts to wonder if her own story will be a re-run of the girl before. As twist after twist catches the reader off guard, Emma’s past and Jane’s present become inexorably entwined in this tense, page-turning portrayal of psychological obsession.

Following in the footsteps of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, The Girl Before is being brought to the big screen. The film is set to be directed by Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard.



(Courtesy of Publisher’s Website)

The Girl Before is the first psychological thriller from JP Delaney, a pseudonym for a writer who has previously written best-selling fiction under other names who is also a creative director at a major UK advertising agency. It is being published in the US and the UK in January 2017, with subsequent editions in over 30 countries. A film version is being brought to the screen by Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard.


Book Review: When Evil Calls Your Name (Dr David Galbraith Book 2), by John Nicholl

Publication date:  31st December 2015   |   This edition: Kindle (review copy)

When Evil Calls Your Name MY REVIEW

When Evil Calls your Name Kindle CoverThis is Cynthia’s story. It’s a follow up to White is the Coldest Colour written in her own unique words. We now watch as she takes the tentative steps of complete honesty, from her formative years in happier times, until we reach the tragedy where time stood still, then we’re left to stare wide-eyed at the warning signs she failed to interpret until it was too late.

The format is quite different from book one, as this is written in a candid journal form, the details of which hope to offer a greater insight into Cynthia Galbraith’s experience of living her husband, a medical professional, whose main attribute was channelling his Jekyll and Hyde personality to enable him to indulge in his own sick fantasies.  Once again, the story is psychologically acute, touching on some dark and upsetting events.

To give you a little background, as a psychologist, Dr Galbraith (Dr Despicable more like), possessed the knowledge to manipulate those around him and yet his work earned him great status in his field. By the end of the twisted first book we knew precisely what he was capable of, but couldn’t quite believe it.

The words Cynthia commits to paper are part of a therapeutic healing process while she is committed to serving a prison sentence. It allows her to recount the horrendous events that have transpired and come to terms with the haunting visions in her mind. The journal contains the sequence of events leading up to her incarceration, plus the odd random thought to give clarity to her fragile state, including the opinion she holds of herself and of the people she finds herself ‘acquainted’ with behind bars.

There’s a twisted rhythm to this eye-opening sequel. Just like book one time passes flashes by when reading, as Cynthia’s voice speaks volumes this time round. The inclusion of subtle, disturbing details within a relationship that are missed early on could be difficult to project, and yet the author did this with ease. Conveying how someone’s entire life can alter course to this degree in around 270 pages is quite outstanding.

For anyone who hasn’t met ‘Dr Vile’ yet, I suggest you visit White is the Coldest Colour before embarking on Cynthia’s disturbing journey. Whilst this is brilliantly written in its own right, you will despise the hateful character who is the source of many an innocent’s anguish much, much more if you do. Otherwise you could find yourself wondering what it’s all about at first, as it does take a little while to get to the nitty-gritty for those unfamiliar with previous events.

Although certain circumstances can be a little hard going at times and may not be to everyone’s tastes (it’s less psychological thriller and more psychological torment), I have no hesitation recommending both books.

Rating: 4/5

(My thanks to the author for providing a digital copy of his book for review purposes.)

When Evil Calls Your Name BOOK SUMMARY

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

When twenty-nine-year-old Cynthia Galbraith struggles to come to terms with her traumatic past and the realities of prison life, a prison counsellor persuades her to write a personal journal exploring the events that led to a life sentence for murder.

Although unconvinced at first, Cynthia finally decides she has all the time in the world and very little, if anything, to lose. She begins writing and holds back nothing: sharing the thoughts she hadn’t dare vocalise, the things that keep her awake at night and haunt her waking hours.


When Evil Calls Your Name

John Nicholl

John Nicholl’s first novel entered the Amazon top 100 bestsellers chart after just 15 days, and reached # 1 in British Detectives and Vigilante Justice. The author wrote articles relating to child protection for newspapers and a national social work magazine during his career, but this is his first novel. He lives in rural West Wales, has been happily married for many years, and has three adult children and one grandchild.

Connect with author, John Nicholl:


Book Review: The Doctor’s Daughter, by Vanessa Matthews

Published by:  Completely Novel   |  Publication date:  23rd June 2015  |  Edition: Review copy (PDF)

  Doctors Daughter My Review

The Drs Daughter by Vanessa Matthews SmallThe Doctor’s Daughter is brimming with secrets and lies, and tackles the subject of abuse in its various guises: mental, physical and power. It’s undeniably suspenseful, and there’s some thunderously excellent prose with sinister stand-out moments.

Since she was a child, Marta Rosenblit had been treated very differently from her sisters and what she accepted to be an ordinary life to her was a fundamentally cruel existence. She’s an otherwise invisible entity, displayed at gatherings where her father can voice his strong views on psychological matters.

As a well-respected Doctor in this field, her father can dismiss any opinion she chooses to conceive herself as being incredulous, particularly if she’s making more sense than him. To persist with her fervent beliefs on psychological matters would be seen as bordering on the hysterical, and she could see herself joining her mother in an asylum. So, she listens politely, as she is force-fed his ideas and regurgitates these at timely intervals to reinforce her father’s expertise in his chosen subject.

Never knowing what made her mother become unwell, other than because she was born, her sisters are indifferent to her and without acquaintances to call on for advice she is left with her father treating her like a second class citizen, as if her mind were feeble simply because of her gender.

How can a young lady possibly compete with such strong characters in 1920’s Vienna when her voice is being lost amongst the crowd? As you follow her story, you’ll soon discover that it’s quite the impossible task for Marta and this in turn opens a revolving door of hidden suffering for her.

Everything was set to change when she meets Dr Leopold Kaposi, a friend of her fathers. She sees him as a ray of light. Little does this naïve young woman know of Dr Kaposi’s agenda, which will leave her swirling in an eddy of confusion, only adding to her already fragile state.

I was willing her to find the courage to open her eyes. It seemed she might do just that when an anonymous parcel arrived for her. Her furtive investigations to find the sender lead her to some awful truths with the help of an outspoken and newly qualified doctor by the name of Elise, who plays the most magnificent part. It turns out the ladies may have more in common than would first appear.

It all gets very dark indeed. Without a doubt, the appeal for me was whether Marta could find a shred of hope under the emotional debris. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Rating: 5/5

(My sincere thanks to the author for providing a review copy of her book for review. SO happy she did!)

Doctors Daughter Book Summary

A prominent psychiatrist’s daughter realises insanity can be found much closer to home when she unlocks secrets from the past that threaten to destroy her future.

It’s 1927, women have the right to vote and morals are slackening, but 23-year-old Marta Rosenblit is not a typical woman of her time. She has little connection with her elder sisters, her mother has been detained in an asylum since Marta was born and she has spent her life being shaped as her father Arnold’s protégé. She is lost, unsure of who she is and who she wants to be. Primarily set in Vienna, this dark tale follows her journey of self-discovery as she tries to step out of her father’s shadow and find her identity in a man’s world. Her father’s friend Dr Leopold Kaposi is keen to help her make her name, but his interest is not purely professional and his motivations pose greater risks than she could possibly know. Marta’s chance encounter in a café leads to a new friendship with young medical graduate Elise Saloman, but it soon turns out that Elise has some secrets of her own. When Marta’s shock discovery about her family story coincides with her mother’s apparent suicide, Marta can’t take anymore. Nobody she has grown to love and trust is who they seem. Her professional plans unravel, her relationships are in tatters and her sanity is on the line – and one person is behind it all.

Doctors Daughter Author Profile

Vanessa Matthews

In 2014, the first draft of my novel The Doctor’s Daughter was fortunate enough to be selected for a Free Read by The Literary Consultancy (TLC), a manuscript assessment that is awarded on merit and received interest from a number of literary agents and publishing houses.

My debut poetry collection ‘Melodies of my Other Life’ was published by indie press Winter Goose Publishing in 2013. Since then I have been featured in several poetry publications and have developed my fiction writing skills through training with the Arvon Foundation.

I have been writing since my teens and during my career have penned several feature articles printed in the national media. In 2012 I started a 30-day writing and blogging challenge during which I won two poetry contests. I regularly update my blog with poetry, short stories and author interviews.

I live in Cornwall, England with my husband and four children. I am 38 years old.

Connect with Vanessa Matthews, or buy the book

Twitter    |    Facebook   |    Amazon UK


Book Review: Are You Watching Me? By Sinéad Crowley

Publisher: Quercus  |  Publication date: 2nd July 2015  |  Edition: Kindle (review copy)

Well, this got a wee bit sinister, didn’t it? All of the characters have their fair share of issues between them, and although the story starts at a relatively gentle pace, it works itself up to quite the psychological crescendo.

Are You Watching Me by Sinead Crowley

Find simmering suspense in: Are you Watching Me?

After a shaky few years, Liz Cafferky now works as an assistant at a centre in Dublin for  homeless / troubled men. It reaches out to a few ‘regulars’ and she can stand the company of some more than others. (Some are just down on their luck, some are simply lonely, and some are downright creepy.)

But her boss, Tom Carthy, has instilled in her the mantra: treat everyone with kindness and don’t judge – everyone has a story. Well, it’s not easy, but she just wants to continue her quiet life, so she tries to appease him.

Following a television interview to raise the Centre’s profile, that quiet life has unexpectedly disappeared and she’s become something of a local celebrity. When donations start coming in she realises that perhaps it might be worth it.

Except the TV appearance has earned this private lass a special ‘fan’, who is sending her little notes. Even though the whole thing strikes her as incredibly weird she is reluctant to alert the police, as he fears she’ll be forced to give the skeletons in her own cupboard a good airing.

Dear Elizabeth, I’ve been watching you, I hope to see you . . .Soon.

While Liz frets over her anonymous ‘admirer’, we are treated to a read insight into the obsessive state of mind, as we get to read their unnerving, little monologues when their thoughts are of the young Liz. The author has been careful to conceal the culprit’s identity, which adds to the escalating tension.

When the body of a man is discovered in his house by one of his neighbours and he’s identified as one of the centre’s regulars, alarm bells should be pealing, particularly as it’s not natural causes. But as the victim’s a loner who fell out of step with his old life some time ago, and no one except Liz knows about her weird correspondence, the police are well and truly in the dark.

And that’s all the authorities need – a suspected murder case with practically no leads. This is not in the slightest bit helpful to Detective Sergeant Claire Boyle, who is the investigating officer and is recently returned from maternity leave. She *thinks* she’s got everything sussed, but her family balance has changed with the arrival of her daughter. Although motherhood is ‘never-bloody-ending’ (her words) she’s trying not to let her personal circumstances get in the way of her investigation. Life inevitably becomes strained, which is something she doesn’t have time for, especially when she needs to knuckle-down and catch a killer.

With so many flawed characters hanging around the scene, each one carrying their own secret baggage, it was impossible to point the finger at any one of them until the story progressed much further and a motive establishes itself.

And I just love a book that uses local dialects to their full advantage in conversation exchanges. I’ll admit I don’t know anything about Ireland, but for me the phrases and accents gave another dimension to the peeps that starred in Are You Watching Me?

This is full of genuinely fascinating characters with a whole lot of past affecting their current lives. Simply sit back and enjoy the suspense as it bubbles to the surface. Well worth a read.

Rating: 4/5

(My sincere thanks to the Publisher for allowing me to download this title from Netgalley.)

You can follow the author on Twitter: @SCrowleyAuthor  |  Publisher: @quercusbooks