Book Review: The Chalk Man, by C J Tudor #TheChalkMan

Publisher:  Michael Joseph (Penguin)

Publication date: January 2018

Yes, I appreciate this one’s not published for aaages but I really, really need to talk about it because: 1) it’s AWESOME and 2) I’m pressing the pause button for an extended blog break – a separate post that also features a few exceptional reads of 2017 so far, and this title is included!…

What. A. Stunner.

The Chalk Man is highly compelling, the ordeals utterly convincing, and its delivery so captivating I was going nowhere until I had drained the words from every page.

With subtle undertones of Stand by Me, a series of unfortunate events tests the friendship of a gaggle of kids living their 1980s childhood to the max. Not quite understanding how the world works exactly, but knowing that sometimes parts of it get broken, and yet it keeps on turning.

The Chalk Man has all the hallmarks of an accomplished thriller. Combine the appearance of seemingly harmless juvenile ‘Chalk Man’ drawings, a tragic accident, a gruesome discovery in the woods, and a secret so well disguised that it left me beaming from ear-to-ear.

The story creeps seamlessly between the alternating dual timeline of 2016 and 1986. Readers who may remember this era (myself included) will appreciate the nostalgic realism and there’s some bang on dialogue exchanges injected into the plot.

As the forty-something narrator reflects, he also investigates the implications of fresh doomed doodles and it becomes clear that although certain circumstances from their youth have affected the characters’ futures differently, something has given permission for grave consequences to raise its ugly head.

This is undeniably one of the best thrillers I have read this year and I would urge you to keep your eyes peeled for it – in fact, I insist! It’s a colossal and attention-grabbing book that will be arriving at a bookshop NEAR YOU in January 2018.

It’s awesome, and then some.

Rating:  5/5

(My thanks to the publisher for providing an unexpected early copy of this title for which I’m incredibly grateful and it’s my pleasure to provide this review.)

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

THE book of 2018. The Chalk Man is coming . . .

Looking back, it all started on the day of the fair and the terrible accident. When twelve-year-old Eddie first met the Chalk Man.

It was the Chalk Man who gave Eddie the idea for the drawings: a way to leave secret messages between his group of friends.

And it was fun, to start with, until the figures led them to the body of a young girl.

That was thirty years ago and Ed thought the past was behind him. Then he receives a letter containing just two things: a piece of chalk, and a drawing of a stick figure. As history begins to repeat itself, Ed realises the game was never over . . .

Everyone has secrets.

Everyone is guilty of something.

And children are not always so innocent.

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

C. J. TUDOR lives in Nottingham, England with her partner and three-year-old daughter. Over the years she has worked as a copywriter, television presenter, voice over and dog-walker. She is now thrilled to be able to write full-time, and doesn’t miss chasing wet dogs through muddy fields all that much. THE CHALK MAN is her first novel.

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Book Review: Exquisite, by Sarah Stovell

Publisher: Orenda Books

Publication date:

15th May 2017 [Kindle] 

15th June 2017 [Paperback]

Alternating narratives fan the flames of a liaison until its blaze roars out of control and threatens to raze people’s lives to the ground.

Caught up in the emotional inferno are Bo (a celebrated author), Alice (a creative writing student), and a reflective and anonymous voice from a women’s prison, all of whom do a magnificent job of disguising a fundamentally flawed relationship born from the vulnerabilities they each possess.

A disturbing pattern emerges between intervals where faith is restored and promptly eroded. As each of them lose their way their journeys are signposted with compulsive infatuation and an intense ache for something that has been absent from their lives.

As they recount their own interpretation of how their situation progressed their individual stories are highly persuasive, and even though it wasn’t a huge surprise to discover where their dark and twisted path took them I was satisfied with the final destination.

The brooding Exquisite is effective and skilfully written, enhanced by the characters who wear their fictional peculiarities well and the location chosen as the stage for their tragedy to unfold. I’d be very curious to see what this author may have to offer in the future, but for now I’m more than happy to recommend this one.

Rating: 4/5

(My thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for providing a digital copy of this title – it’s my pleasure to provide this unbiased review.)

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

A chilling, exquisitely written and evocative thriller set in the Lake District, centring on the obsessive relationship that develops between two writers…

Bo Luxton has it all – a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name.

Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend.

When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops… Or does it?

Breathlessly pacey, taut and terrifying, Exquisite is a startlingly original and unbalancing psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart. She now lives in Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lincoln University. Her debut psychological thriller, Exquisite, is set in the Lake District.

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Book Review: The House, by Simon Lelic #TheHouse

Publisher: Penguin

Publication date: 17/08/17 [Ebook] 02/11/17 [Paperback]

Once upon a time there were two people in the big city of London who found buying their first fairy tale property together a thoroughly dreadful experience. Then, after many, many disappointments, their dream came true when a detached house, complete with the previous owner’s creepy taxidermy, became theirs.

Those two lucky, plucky people are Sydney Baker and Jack Walsh and The House is where their nightmare begins…

I have one word for this book – fright-tastic. The couple’s alternating written monologue, entitled simply ‘Jack’ or ‘Sydney’ as chapter headings, relays their initial excitement from the shock of winning the auction bid and how that took a massive nosedive the longer they resided in The House.

At first I wondered why the story is being narrated in this weirdly dynamic fashion. I won’t elaborate simply because all becomes clear other than to say it kept me on my toes throughout. Their tale of terror is brought to the boil by casually inserting a few perfectly timed Stephen Kingisms into the dialogue, which raised a smile. And when situations begin to resemble Mr King’s creations you realise just how grim your world has become.

Jack and Sydney’s exchanges are naturally heartfelt and their fear so fresh I could almost smell it. The rhythm and pitch of their voices felt as if their account was being spoken aloud by them, not read by me. I could instantly tell when events unsettled them and they even revealed one or two unsaid things to each other as the true nature of the menace took hold.

This is the “Titanic” of home ownership, only the hazard manifests itself in a way no one could have expected. If only it was dry rot or a cockroach infestation they had to contend with instead of the alarming instances that would change their lives forever.

The House is a deviously chilling and hypnotic read. On the face of it, a young couple’s future is clouded by an unseen shadow. One that watches them, rattles them, and won’t let go – much like the story itself as I was bewitched from the first sentence.

Yes. Yes. I appreciate I have been deliberately cryptic, but that’s only so you can experience The House for yourself without any hint as to what you will discover when you visit. With its cracking momentum and a mystery that does a terrific job of keeping its guard up I liked this one, a lot.

Rating:  4/5

(I received a copy of this title from the publisher with my thanks. It was my absolute pleasure to read this book and provide this unbiased review.

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

THE PERFECT COUPLE. THE PERFECT HOUSE. THE PERFECT CRIME.

‘HUGELY GRIPPING AND SPOOKY AS HELL’ Mark Billingham

Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.

So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake.

Because someone has just been murdered. Right outside their back door.

And now the police are watching them…

‘AN INTRICATE AND POWERFUL THRILLER’ Tana French

‘TAUGHT, TENSE AND TERRIFYING, I LOVED IT’ Sharon Bolton

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Simon Lelic is married, with two young boys. As well as writing, he currently runs his own import/export business. Previously, he worked in London as a journalist for eight years, primarily on business-to-business publications dealing with topics relating to information technology.

Simon has a BA (Hons) degree in History and an MA in European Studies from the University of Exeter, and a Magistar in Sociology, awarded by the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, where he studied for four months. He also holds a post-graduate qualification in journalism.

Other than his family, reading is Simon’s biggest passion, but he also runs, plays golf and takes regular snowboarding trips. Otherwise, his main hobby is karate, in which he trains daily and holds a black belt.

Simon’s father was born in Slovenia, and moved to the UK when he was sixteen. Simon was born in Brighton, England, and recently moved back there with his family.

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Book Review: An Act of Silence, by Colette McBeth

Publisher:  Wildfire Books

Publication date:  26th June 2017

An Act of Silence picks at the scars of the past leaving them forever unhealed, as facts are creatively twisted to provide a sickening substitute for the truth.

The headline of “comic arrested on suspicion of murder” is no laughing matter. Multiple narrators step in and out of recurrent past and present time periods to raise their voices from an orchestrated hush to an almighty roar. They are each painted as wholly unreliable and their dependability remains cleverly disguised in plain sight throughout.

The story takes an outrageous turn when this funny man’s latest celebrity scandal bleeds into his mother’s disgraced political career and the most despicable of monsters groom dispirited residents of children’s home with the lure of fame and the wrong kind of attention.

I suspected the worst in people, questioned every motive, and sat a little further forward in my seat as their vulnerabilities were exposed wondering whether integrity would ever raise its head as the traumatising nature of the deception intensified.

Clever narration is applied too, allowing each of the characters to appear in a first person spotlight and crumble under its scrutiny. They are forever giving their secrets away, yet always holding just a little something back. Even though they each tell their own version of the same event I was left wondering if their judgement was overshadowed by what they had to lose.

An Act of Silence skilfully highlights just how easily someone from any walk of life can be betrayed in the worst ways imaginable. But how far these individuals would go to protect themselves can be very unpredictable for vastly different reasons. It dares to reveal the darkest side of a system that is meant to shelter, leaving the defenceless unguarded, their voices unheard. As overwhelming misery and discouragement invade, getting someone to believe your story is one thing, the price of justice is quite another.

Not an especially quick read for me was this one, but I do think that’s due to me taking a little while to settle into the ‘revolving door’ time switches. While it’s not a complicated plot to follow, personally I found this a little distracting. Nevertheless this author has created a suspense-filled, cracking plot as An Act of Silence is an absorbing, multi-layered story where the distinction between a morally good or bad decision can only be determined by its consequences.

Rating:  4/5

(My thanks to Millie Seaward and Wildfire Books for providing an early proof copy of this title. It was a pleasure to read and provide this unbiased review.)

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

A powerful psychological thriller about a mother faced with an impossible choice, and the consequences of her decision for years to come. Perfect for fans of APPLE TREE YARD, DISCLAIMER, and television dramas STATE OF PLAY and NATIONAL TREASURE.

These are the facts I collect. 

My son Gabriel met a woman called Mariela in a bar. She went home with him. They next morning she was found in an allotment.

Mariela is dead.

Gabriel has been asked to report to Camden Police station in six hours for questioning. 

Linda Moscow loves her son; it’s her biological instinct to keep him safe. But if she’s not sure of his innocence, how can she stand by him? Should she go against everything she believes in to protect him?

She’s done it before, and the guilt nearly killed her.

Now, the past is catching up with them. As old secrets resurface, Linda is faced with another impossible choice. Only this time, it’s her life on the line…

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Colette McBeth had the idea for her first novel Precious Thing in 1998. Instead of writing it she went to work for the BBC where she spent 10 years as TV reporter. In 2011 she enrolled on the Faber Academy Novel Writing course and completed Precious Thing in 2012. She lives in West London with her husband and three children.

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Book Review: The Escape by C L Taylor #TheEscape

Publisher:  Avon Books UK (Harper Collins)

Publication date:  23rd March 2017

the-escape-my-review

the-escape-by-c-l-taylor-coverFirst thing you need to know is: once you start reading there is no escape from The Escape. The exhilarating pace and escalating terror is an excellent motivator for extreme reactions with unpredictable consequences. Its fiendish plot is nothing short of addictive, as it seizes every opportunity to uncover murky secrets, painful memories and a fresh menace at every turn.

Imagine the struggle of trying to recover from your worst nightmare only for it to be replaced with a more hellish one. Take Jo Blackmore, who is juggling most aspects of her life semi-efficiently just like the rest of us. Yet she has the added hindrance of agoraphobia to stop her in her tracks, leaving her exposed and vulnerable at the most appalling intervals.

And what do we all know about offering lifts to strangers? *Tuts* Well, it could be the catalyst for wrecking your entire world. Manipulative people will do anything to get you to let your guard down and Jo finds out that out the hard way when she is slapped by an emotional ambush which threatens her daughter’s safety. The surprise warning is shortly followed by a stinging examination of her parental skills and the probability that her marriage may not withstand the force of the unrelenting onslaught.

Jo is clueless as to what this stranger wants or how to stop someone planting further life bombs. The frustration radiates from every page as there is nowhere left to turn and all she knows is she must protect the only thing that remains precious to her. What would your first instinct be? You might like to think you’d try to work it out, defend yourself, reason with the authorities as the truth is on your side. But these circumstances are quite extraordinary, and I was buzzing with adrenaline waiting for the next ruthless wave to hit followed by Jo’s erratic behaviour with little time for recovery.

CL Taylor is a maestro of domestic malice and The Escape is without doubt her finest. With the perfect blend of a traumatic incidents, marital disharmony, and people willing to take full advantage of the situation, this book possesses some serious brilliance that will take some beating. It pushes its characters not just to the edge but beyond it, and I had no choice but to follow.

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! LOVED IT!

Rating:  5/5

(I received a copy of this book from the publisher with my thanks, and it is my pleasure to provide an unbiased review.)

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the-escape-book-summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Praise for C.L. Taylor:

‘A gripping and disturbing psychological thriller’ Clare Mackintosh

‘Absorbing and disturbing’ Alex Marwood

‘Loved it’ Fiona Barton

‘Claustrophobic, tense and thrilling’ Elizabeth Haynes

“Look after your daughter’s things. And your daughter…”

When a stranger asks Jo Blackmore for a lift she says yes, then swiftly wishes she hadn’t.

The stranger knows Jo’s name, she knows her husband Max and she’s got a glove belonging to Jo’s two year old daughter Elise.

What begins with a subtle threat swiftly turns into a nightmare as the police, social services and even Jo’s own husband turn against her.

No one believes that Elise is in danger. But Jo knows there’s only one way to keep her child safe – RUN.

The Sunday Times bestseller returns with her biggest and best book yet. The perfect read for fans of Paula Hawkins and Clare Mackintosh.

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the-escape-author-profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

CL Taylor lives in Bristol with her partner and young son. She studied for a degree in Psychology at the University of Northumbria, Newcastle and has worked as a sales administrator, web developer, instructional designer and as the manager of a distance learning team at a London university. She now writes full time.

CL Taylor’s first psychological thriller THE ACCIDENT was one of the top ten bestselling debut novels of 2014 according to The Bookseller. Her second and third novels, THE LIE and THE MISSING, were Sunday Times Bestsellers and #1 Amazon Kindle chart bestsellers. Her fourth psychological thriller, THE ESCAPE, will be published on 23 March 2017. She is currently writing her first young adult thriller, THE TREATMENT, which will be published in September 2017.

Sign up to join the CL Taylor Book Club for access to news, updates and information that isn’t available on the web, as well as exclusive newsletter-only competitions and giveaways and the books that CL Taylor thinks will be the next big thing: http://www.callytaylor.co.uk/cltaylorbookclub.html

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Here are my reviews for this author’s previous books:

The Lie 

The Missing

Book Review: Behind Her Eyes, by Sarah Pinborough #BlogTour #WTFthatending

Publisher:  Harper Collins UK

Publication date:  26th January 2017

Welcome to today’s stop on the Blog Tour for Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough!

I’m already familiar with the cracking storytelling of this talented author after reading the brilliance that is Mayhem and Murder, but I hadn’t quite braced myself to be so utterly gobsmacked by the #WTFthatending of her new psychological thriller. 

Heck, I read this back in November and I’m still not over it…

behind-her-eyes-my-review

behind-her-eyes-by-sarah-pinborough-coverThe publisher’s hashtag #WTFthatending is the most terrific lure. Damn, what can I say. I was curious and couldn’t resist!

My verdict? 

A tremendous example of the perfectly crafted crescendo!

Yes. Perception has left the building, trust is hot on its heels, and happiness is a brief yet complicated affair. But it’s what comes after the patiently crafted, brooding calamity that will make you mentally retreat before re-reading that ending to ensure you understood correctly the first time.

Behind Your Eyes is slow thawing mystery, its drip, drip, drip of information doesn’t volunteer much at all. As our three main characters stumble into each other’s lives and we sift through their shifting relationships with each other, it become tricky to determine who the wronged party, who is afraid, misguided, good at keeping secrets, or who is practised at getting what they want, whatever the cost.

Their story takes a triangle of obsession, stirs in a generous helping of manipulation, then relentlessly simmers until the characters are so disorientated the heat is cranked up without anyone noticing, and all we can do is watch them burn.

So, be prepared (be very prepared) for your opinions to be wrung out between the unassuming headings marked Adele, Louise, then, and now.

There’s so much more I’m bursting to say, but I have kept this review deliberately vague as I feel it is too easy to reveal more than I should! Just let me wrap this up by saying it’s well worth a look if you get the chance.

Rating:  4/5

(I received a copy of this title from the publisher, Harper Fiction / Fiction Pub Team, via NetGalley with my thanks and this is my unbiased review.)

behind-her-eyes-book-summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Don’t Trust This Book

Don’t Trust These People

Don’t Trust Yourself

And whatever you do, DON’T give away that ending…

‘Sarah Pinborough is about to become your new obsession’ Harlan Coben

Louise

Since her husband walked out, Louise has made her son her world, supporting them both with her part-time job. But all that changes when she meets…

David

Young, successful and charming – Louise cannot believe a man like him would look at her twice let alone be attracted to her. But that all comes to a grinding halt when she meets his wife…

Adele

Beautiful, elegant and sweet – Louise’s new friend seems perfect in every way. As she becomes obsessed by this flawless couple, entangled in the intricate web of their marriage, they each, in turn, reach out to her.

But only when she gets to know them both does she begin to see the cracks… Is David really is the man she thought she knew and is Adele as vulnerable as she appears? Just what terrible secrets are they both hiding and how far will they go to keep them?

‘Fully realised characters, peerless writing, a tank of a plot that sustains the suspense right to the end, and a whammy of a finale. It takes a lot to catch me out, but this one did. It’ll get you too…’ Joanne Harris

BUY THE BOOK

behind-her-eyes-author-profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK. Photograph Courtesy of Publisher.)

sarah-pinborough-author-photo

Sarah Pinborough is a critically acclaimed, award-winning, adult and YA author. She is also a screenwriter who has written for the BBC and has several original television projects in development.

Her next novel, Behind Her Eyes, coming for HarperFiction in the UK and Flatiron in the US (January 2017) has sold in nearly 20 territories worldwide and is a dark thriller about relationships with a kicker of a twist.

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You can join the other stops on the Behind Her Eyes blog tour here…

behind-her-eyes-blog-tour-banner-final

Book Review: The River At Night, by Erica Ferencik

I do hope everyone’s had a thoroughly wonderful Christmas. I took full advantage of my mini festive blog break by lazily reading a few books that arrived just before the holidays (what a party animal, I know!) and I’m delighted to kick off 2017’s reviews with this little gem…

Publisher: Raven Books (Bloomsbury)

Publication date:  12th January 2017

the-river-at-night-my-review

the-river-at-night-by-erica-ferencikThe River At Night is a pacy, panic-driven story exploring the isolation of the vast wilderness on a trip of a lifetime, where quartet of friends minutely scrutinise themselves and each other when it all goes belly-up during a perilous, life-changing ordeal.

Any ‘break from civilisation’ tale is a fascinating subject as you can discover a lot about the characters from their actions, or lack of. Bizarrely, the allure of the feral outdoors offers temptation for these ladies hoping to inject something into their lives. But not everyone is totally committed to the challenge and it takes encouragement to mentally gear up for the white water rafting experience of a lifetime. Ha! What could possibly go wrong?!

The situation is not helped by their charming guide who is half their age with double the enthusiasm. Despite his qualifications and the aptly fearsome names for the rapids he plans to navigate, some of the group remain cautious. Soon the novelty of how they look in their orange life vests seems insignificant when they are dazed and dishevelled as a result of unexpected events.

Things escalate fairly quickly and I could feel the wild breathing down the necks of the amateurish pack. Familiar urban noises replaced by the snap of a twig, eerie solitude or creepy-crawlies striving to break the group en-masse. Spats and sulks ensue, their friendship recoils, and that promise of a wonderful experience runs for the hills with sense and reason following close behind.

The ordinariness of their ‘are we nearly there yet’ travels compared with the physically and psychologically diminished group they become is grimly compelling. Reading this in a single afternoon was like switching a film on the box where you might have to suspend belief in a few places and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen, but you just can’t tear yourself away from the screen to make a cuppa.

So yes. I was hypnotised by The River At Night and the threats from a remote, cinematic landscape, the forced sense of adventure, and an undiluted fear that can drive people close the edge. I liked it, a lot.

Rating: 4/5

(I received a copy of this title from the publisher with my thanks and it’s my pleasure to provide this unbiased review.)

the-river-at-night-book-summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Raw, relentless and heart-poundingly real, this book knocked me off my feet like a river in flood’ Ruth Ware, bestselling author of In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10.

‘A thought came to me that I couldn’t force away: What we are wearing is how we’ll be identified out in the wilderness.

Win Allen doesn’t want an adventure.

After a miserable divorce and the death of her beloved brother, she just wants to spend some time with her three best friends, far away from her soul-crushing job. But athletic, energetic Pia has other plans.

Plans for an adrenaline-raising, breath-taking, white-water rafting trip in the Maine wilderness. Five thousand square miles of remote countryside. Just mountains, rivers and fresh air.

No phone coverage. No people. No help.

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the-river-at-night-author-profile

(Courtesy of Author’s website)

Erica Ferencik is a graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Boston University. Her work has appeared in Salon and The Boston Globe, as well as on National Public Radio.

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Book Review: Kill The Next One, by Frederico Axat

Publisher:  Text Publishing

Publication date: 

26th January 2016 (UK) – Paperback

28th November 2016 (UK) – Kindle

kill-the-next-one-my-revew

kill-the-next-one-by-frederico-axat-coverThe second I spied the book summary for this one I knew I had to read it. The premise is ingenious by itself, yet Kill The Next One goes beyond the dominion of ordinary psychological suspense to amuse itself with the twisted intellectual intricacies of Theodore ‘Ted’ McKay.

Ted is coming to terms with the thought of his inoperable brain tumour and has decided to take matters into his own hands and end his life. His family is away. Everything’s prepared. There’s nothing to stop him. Nothing, that is, until he is ‘saved’ by the doorbell.

This unexpected caller is insistent and Ted has no choice but to abandon his plans and open the door. A man called Justin Lynch invites himself in and Ted listens in intently as he explains the reason for his visit: people who are contemplating taking their own lives or have a terminal illness are enlisted by an anonymous organisation to kill chosen targets that have evaded justice through the usual channels. The enlisted vigilante receives a name, executes the plan, and in turn for their grateful participation the vigilante’s name is then passed along the ever growing list of willing volunteers until another person, like them, reciprocates.

The reasoning is simple. While it may be shocking for the family to discover you’ve been taken from them, the cause of your death may be easier to process than if you decided to ‘leave’ them behind of your own accord. After questioning exactly how Lynch knew what he was contemplating Ted accepts, receives the names of his targets and we watch as he carries out his part of this bizarre partnership. What I wasn’t banking on, and I don’t think Ted was either, was the immense fallout that follows. Despite meticulous planning and insider information from Lynch, things don’t exactly go according to plan.

Ted may be used to living the dream but now he can’t escape this disorienting nightmare. The combination of paranoia, bordering on a conspiracy theory, allows Ted to replay aspects of his life on a ground hog day loop. As he unlocks his reality deficiencies as a result of his condition, I realised I was reading one of the most unpredictable tangents I’ve come across.

A complex plot emerges, involving a handful of cryptic characters. Their distinctive roles continually challenged my opinions throughout as they unleashed irregularities in Ted’s life I hadn’t remotely prepared for: Dr Laura Hill, Edward Blaine, Justin Lynch, Wendell, his parents, and the curious possum… each of them manoeuvring through Ted’s mind mangle until everything can be straightened out.

The level of mistrust and claustrophobia is exceptional. From the sleight of hand outfoxing to the reward of that epic finale, Kill The Next One is unconventional, inventive and thoroughly, thoroughly riveting. Feeling extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to read and review this one.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

(I requested a digital download of this title from the publisher and NetGalley, and this is my unbiased review.)

kill-the-next-one-book-summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

An audacious psychological thriller where nothing is what it seems.

Ted McKay had it all: a beautiful wife, two daughters, a high-paying job. But after being diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor he finds himself with a gun to his temple, ready to pull the trigger. Then the doorbell rings.

A stranger makes him a proposition: why not kill two deserving men before dying? The first target is a criminal, and the second is a man with terminal cancer who, like Ted, wants to die. After executing these kills, Ted will become someone else’s next target, like a kind of suicidal daisy chain. Ted understands the stranger’s logic: it’s easier for a victim’s family to deal with a murder than with a suicide.

However, as Ted commits the murders, the crime scenes strike him as odd. The targets know him by name and possess familiar mementos. Even more bizarrely, Ted recognizes locations and men he shouldn’t know. As Ted’s mind begins to crack, dark secrets from his past seep through the fissures.

Kill the Next One is an immersive psychological thriller from an exciting new voice.

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kill-the-next-one-author-profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Federico Axat was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1975. His first novel, Benjamin, was published in Spain by Suma de Letras and translated into Italian. His second novel, El Pantano de las Mariposas, was published in 2013 and translated into Portuguese, French, and Chinese. Kill The Next One is his U.S. debut.

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Book Review: A Suitable Lie, by Michael J Malone

Publisher:   Orenda

Publication date:  15th September 2016 (Paperback )

a-suitable-lie-my-review

a-suitable-lie-coverFeeling like an intrusive fly on the wall I read this book during an uncomfortably compelling 24 hours.

The beginning is full of hope, as a widower with a young son meets a young woman who offers him a rare and unexpected chance of happiness. The middle is riddled with disbelief at just how well marital carnage can go undetected if you can become practised in telling A Suitable Lie. The conclusion is ingeniously twisted drama at its finest.

As this story proves, never assume anything. No one has the faintest idea of what goes on behind closed doors, or how they would react if they realised they were living with an abuser. Learning that the receiver of this abuse was a broad shouldered, strong minded, career driven male with the full support of his family took my breath away and was a stark reminder that it can happen to anyone.

Seeing how any individual’s personality is painfully manipulated until their confidence is diminished is dreadful to witness, but how does an ordinary family man respond? He’s no stranger to fighting his corner in a pub brawl or dealing with cantankerous customers at the bank, but in his own home does he stand there and take it all, or defend himself and risk being accused of being a wife beater?  It’s a difficult call. How do you escape such a mentally, emotionally, and physically draining situation, learning your new family is growing and the only choice you have is to do nothing, other than reluctantly accept your wife’s Jekyll and Hyde nature believing your own sacrifice will be enough to protect them?

Andy Boyd’s submissive behaviour following the regular humiliation carried out by his wife, Anna, never seems enough for her, so she approaches their intimate moments with new levels of vindictiveness.

Watching Andy become an expert in eggshell walking was excruciating to see, more so as he became withdrawn from his previously buoyant personality. Some scenes are more difficult to digest than others, but as I watched him on the verge of breaking the strength and composure he demonstrated in front of his children revealed more about his character than anything else.

You can see people hovering with concern at the edge of his life, but not really knowing the cause or extent of his problems they are powerless to guide him on a journey of endurance as dark, dark thoughts enter his mind. But it’s not just Andy Boyd who is suffering, as we meet a few other characters who are praying for release from a personal nightmare they are also living. There are so many secrets being hidden by those afraid that the truth consume them if they admit it to anyone, but mostly themselves.

A Suitable Lie is relentlessly shocking and intensely suffocating at times. Despite the sensitive subject matter and acutely distressing scenes it’s staggeringly well written and impossible to walk away from.

Rating:  4/5

(I received a copy of this title from the publisher with my thanks, and this is my unbiased review.)

a-suitable-lie-book-summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Andy Boyd thinks he is the luckiest man alive. Widowed with a young child, after his wife dies in childbirth, he is certain that he will never again experience true love. Then he meets Anna. Feisty, fun and beautiful, she’s his perfect match… And she loves his son, too. When Andy ends up in the hospital on his wedding night, he receives his first clue that Anna is not all that she seems. He ignores it; a dangerous mistake that could cost him everything. A brave, deeply moving psychological thriller which marks a stunning departure for one of Scotland’s top crime writers.

‘A terrific read, finished it in one sitting. Disturbing but compulsive. It makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Loved it’ –Martina Cole

For fans of Mel Sherratt, C.L. Taylor and Angela Marsons.

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a-suitable-lie-author-profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Michael Malone was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country, just a stone’s throw from the great man’s cottage in Ayr. Well, a stone thrown by a catapult, maybe.

He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. His career as a poet has also included a (very) brief stint as the Poet-In-Residence for an adult gift shop. Don’t ask.

BLOOD TEARS, his debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize (judge: Alex Gray) from the Scottish Association of Writers and when it was published he added a “J” to his name to differentiate it from the work of his talented U.S. namesake.

He is a regular reviewer for the hugely popular crime fiction website www.crimesquad.com and is blog, May Contain Nuts.

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Book Review: The Mountain in my Shoe, by Louise Beech

Publisher:  Orenda Books

Publication Date:  30th September 2016 (Paperback) 

the-mountain-in-my-shoe-my-review

a-mountain-in-my-shoeGuiding me through tainted and tender moments, and the unspoken ones that bring you back down to earth with a bump, The Mountain in my Shoe wrapped its words around my heart. There is no doubt this is one reading experience I will never forget.

From the immense expression of the writing to the skilled switch of characters patiently taking turns to tell the story, we are introduced to an artistically gifted boy who is waiting for his whole life to take off but his unsettled past remains an anchor at times.

Those who care for him record their contributions in a special book, Conor’s “Life Book”. The additions to the book include reports from social workers, heartfelt letters from foster carers, or a simple memory of a treasured day trip, something, anything for Conor to reflect on when he’s grown when hopefully he will have the strength to process the intimate snippets of both the good times and the upheaval.

You can’t help but want to embrace him as people shift in and out of his life. Heck, I wanted to embrace the book itself when I’d finished it. The confusion and rejection was torturously overwhelming – I can’t even begin to imagine this level of emotional chaos.

Bernadette is just one such contributor to Conor’s Book as she is a registered volunteer who reaches out to those children affected by circumstances which see them in foster care. Bernadette was matched with Conor and meets him every other Saturday, without the knowledge of her husband who has some disconcerting ideas on how a marriage should be conducted. She chose this, to dedicate a regular visiting day to Conor, and it proves to be a decision that is as beneficial for her as much as it is for him.

Bernadette’s bravery to finally leave her husband of ten years coincides with the disappearance of Conor’s life book from her bookshelf where she’d hidden it. It’s missing, along with lots of other things from her life: understanding, independence, being worth something. But more importantly, so is the moment she gets to announce she’s walking away from him a man who expects precision-timed dinner as he walks through the door of their flat, but tonight he is late from work and her exit stalls.

In the midst of her trauma, a worrying phone call shadows everything, and she pushes the biggest decision of her own life away as she learns Conor has gone AWOL after leaving school. A traumatic journey to track Conor down involving Bernadette and his long term carer, Anne, see us learning the vulnerabilities of most characters. In no way does it attempt to excuse behaviour, it’s simply a testament to how anyone can take the wrong turn and become hopelessly lost and deserted.

There are admissions and reasoning I would never have anticipated in The Mountain in my Shoe, and there’s so much life nestled among the pages of this boy’s early years that his special yellow book could draw breath. I was willing him to find contentment, no matter how fleeting, not only for the boy but for Bernadette, his young mum, and the countless others who find themselves in similar, distressing situations.

This is an astonishing yet humbling book written with a sensitivity that cannot, and will not, fail to move you.

Rating:  5/5

(I received a copy of this title from the publisher with my thanks, and this is my unbiased review.)

the-mountain-in-my-shoe-book-summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

A missing boy. A missing book. A missing husband. A woman who must find them all to find herself.

On the night Bernadette finally has the courage to tell her domineering husband that she’s leaving, he doesn’t come home. Neither does Conor, the little boy she’s befriended for the past five years. Also missing is his life book, the only thing that holds the answers. With the help of Conor’s foster mum, Bernadette must face her own past, her husband’s secrets and a future she never dared imagine in order to find them all.

Exquisitely written and deeply touching, The Mountain in My Shoe is both a gripping psychological thriller and a powerful and emotive examination of the meaning of family … and just how far we’re willing to go for the people we love.

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the-mountain-in-my-shoe-author-profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

louise-beech-profile-picture

Louise Beech remembers sitting in her father’s cross-legged lap while he tried to show her his guitar’s chords. He’s a musician. Her small fingers stumbled and gave up. She was three. His music sheets fascinated her – such strange language that translated into music. Her mother teaches languages, French and English, so her fluency with words fired Louise’s interest. She knew from being small that she wanted to write, to create, to make magic.

She loves all forms of writing. Her short stories have won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting twice for the Bridport Prize and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Her first play, Afloat, was performed at Hull Truck Theatre in 2012. She also wrote a ten-year newspaper column for the Hull Daily Mail about being a parent, garnering love/hate criticism. Her debut novel was a Guardian Readers’ pick for 2015.

She is inspired by life, history, survival and love, and always has a story in her head. Her debut novel, How to be Brave, came from truth – when Louise’s daughter got Type 1 Diabetes she helped her cope by sharing her grandad’s real life sea survival story. Her second novel, The Mountain in my Shoe, will be released in September 2016 and was inspired by her time working with children in the care system.

When she was fifteen Louise bet her mother ten pounds she’d be published by the time she was thirty. She missed this self-set deadline by two months. Her mother is still waiting for the money.

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