Psychological Thriller

How I Lost You

Available 23rd April 2015 from Headline

Source: Bookbridgr

They told her she killed her son. She served her time. But what if they lied?

I have no memory of what happened but I was told I killed my son. And you believe what your loved ones, your doctor and the police tell you, don’t you? My name is Emma Cartwright. Three years ago I was Susan Webster, and I murdered my twelve-week-old son Dylan. I was sent to Oakdale Psychiatric Institute for my crime, and four weeks ago I was released early on parole with a new identity, address and a chance to rebuild my tattered life. This morning, I received an envelope addressed to Susan Webster. Inside it was a photograph of a toddler called Dylan. Now I am questioning everything I believe because if I have no memory of the event, how can I truly believe he’s dead? If there was the smallest chance your son was alive, what would you do to get him back?

Any book that starts with something a little different to the usual scene-setting intro usually does a good job of grabbing my interest. How I Lost You manages this by starting with a letter written by our protagonist, Susan Webster/Emma Cartwright, to the parole board – getting stuck right in with all the tragic and harrowing details of her crime for which she is seeking forgiveness.

Susan has now been released after 4 years imprisonment for the murder of her infant son, Dylan. She cannot remember anything of the actual event, only what she was told by professionals and heard during her trial. Susan was diagnosed with puerperal psychosis – the most extreme post-natal depression – and has blacked out the whole event. Now trying to rehabilitate in a new town under a new persona, Susan starts to receive mysterious letters and packages relating to her son. She cannot make sense of these ‘gifts’ – has someone local discovered her identity and wants to torture her? Is it a vengeful prank at the hands of her ex-husband? Is she crazy and sending these to herself? Or might Dylan really be alive? Armed with the unlikely help of her best friend and old cell mate Cassie, and Nick Whitely, the journalist who covered her trial; Susan sets out to find out the truth about what happened to her son and who is tormenting her, and she stumbles upon a dark secret that spans back 20 years…

I really enjoyed this book. It is full of mystery that had me hooked from the offset. There is nothing too obvious to begin with, so you will be left scratching your head for a fair old while. And further mystery is added when you are given some flashback chapters that go back some twenty years; and you know that of course these flashbacks must link to our present-day story somehow – but if you figure out how straight away…well then you’re a better person than I!! But, if youare anything like me, you won’t have to wait too long for some answers as you will be speeding through the pages with relish.

This was a real ‘Goodness how many bad guys are there?’ kind of read – where you’ll soon be urging Susan not to trust anyone! Throughout the book I had my suspicions about certain characters, but it’s a very elaborate plot and so you can’t put your finger on the exact roles of all the players here. And the way the author entwines the characters so that practically everyone you come across does indeed play an important part in the story is very well thought out. You really need to take note of every detail in this one.

The character development was fantastic, I found myself really liking people that common-sense states I shouldn’t. Susan has just the right mix of remorse, anger, and confusion to make you really like and sympathise with a woman who is essentially a child-killer. Cassie has enough sass, humour, and compassion to make you warm to yet another murderer. And Nick plays the sleazy-journalist-turned-knight-in-shining-armour role very well. Even your ‘bad guys’ are well developed and some real depth is given to their darkness. Ok so their past may have been a little clichéd, but I was willing to let that one slide as it was a cliché that I genuinely didn’t foresee.

How I Lost You is a real nail-biter steeped in mystery, suspense, tragedy and unknown danger. And it is a cracking read for any fan of the psychological thriller!

My thanks to the publisher for providing this book for review


close to home

Available now from Mulholland Books

Source: Bookbridgr

HOME IS WHERE THE FEAR IS…

The house where Sarah McAdams grew up has always terrified her. But now she’s moved back with her daughters, determined to put her childhood fears behind her.

It’s harder than she thought. Increasingly haunted by the past, Sarah soon realises that the present has its own threats. One by one, teenage girls are disappearing…

Frantic for her daughters’ safety, Sarah feels the house’s walls closing in on her once more. Somewhere deep in her memory is the key to a very real danger.

And only by confronting the terrifying truth can she protect her children from a nightmare that is roaring back to life…

In Close to Home, we have two main plot lines; that of Sarah McAdams and her daughters returning to Sarah’s childhood home to renovate the grand but dilapidated house, and the kidnapping of local teenage girls. Of course, when you have two avenues like this within a book, you know they are eventually going to link up – unfortunately it is pretty obvious how they are going to link up, and so you spend much of the time just waiting for that to happen.

Although I would say this a ‘readable’ story; I wouldn’t particularly call it very enjoyable. Yes there was a bit of mystery to pique my interest, and a little bit of leading me up the garden path as well, however this was overshadowed as there were just far too many flaws.

First of all it was all a bit trite; the old haunted house, the repressed memories, the rekindled high school love (literally with the boy-next-door!), the small town life, the difficult mother/daughter relationship, the tensions between the rebellious teen and the popular girl and the naturally ensuing stealing of the boyfriend… I could go on!

Then there was the fact that there was such an array of characters and yet I couldn’t find a single one to like. Sarah’s relationship with her daughters makes for uncomfortable reading. I get that they are unhappy about having to up sticks to the land that time forgot, but there seemed to be zero love between the three. 17 year-old Jade hated her mother for dragging her from her friends, boyfriend, etc, (although this meant she was missing a grand total of, I think, two) and 12 year-old Gracie seemed to believe everyone was beneath her, and was also completely and utterly useless at foreseeing the coming danger to her family considering how “gifted” she was with the premonitions and such.

As for the ‘love interest’ Clint Walsh, well he was more wooden than the picket fence dividing their properties, and seemed to be there purely for the want of a bit of forced romance. Oh, and there is a whole paternity plot in there that I simply cannot fathom the necessity for. There are a good number of other characters in there that had the potential to be brilliant – but were all very meh… oh and the ex-boss, who had been on precisely three dates with Sarah before she called time on that ‘relationship’, playing the spoilt rich brat who doesn’t like “No!” who then decides to set up camp on her land with the old binoculars…really?!

The ‘twists’ in this story were not exactly very twisty; like I say I was led astray with one mystery regarding Sarah’s past and the flashbacks that she suffered since returning to the house, but where I kept thinking “I know this is what the writer wants me to think, so I wonder how she’ll spin it…” well it was “spun” precisely by being exactly the event I’d presumed but just with somebody else in the spotlight…and it was all a bit icky and didn’t fit the feel of the rest of the book. As for the kidnapping culprit, well we are naturally led to believe it is the local ‘no-gooder’, and so much is focussed on it being him that of course it wont be, will it? And so who was it??? Well obviously it was that guy that you in no way care about because, as his known character, he has had all of one appearance and two lines in the whole book!

I can absolutely guarantee that there will be people who really enjoy this book, I certainly didn’t hate it. But it just had far too much going on – most of which was completely unnecessary. Some of the fat needed cutting, and the lean seasoning.

My thanks to the publisher for providing this book for review.


let you go5 star

Available 23rd April 2015 from Little, Brown Book Group UK

Source: NetGalley

A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn’t have prevented it. Could she?

In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.

Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating…

This is how I wish all books could be! I Let You Go had everything I could possibly hope for; fantastic characters, heart-wrenching emotion, spine-chilling fear, gripping intrigue, nail-biting drama…oh and I love twists, right? Well, I lost count of the number of fantastic shockers in this one!

The story begins with an account of a horrific hit and run accident that instantly claims the life of 5-year-old Jacob. And I can admit that I was welling up very early on… I mean very early on – we’re talking about the prologue here!

Jenna can no longer live with the pain, so has run away from the ghosts of her old life and set up home on the idyllic Welsh coast. Haunted by the tragic events of that day, and mourning the death of her son, she slowly adjusts to her new way of life – even eventually meeting a new love interest. But no matter how far she has run, or how much time has passed since that awful day of the hit and run accident, she is still forever haunted; plagued by nightmares, constantly on edge, and doubting she will ever really find peace again.

The book alternates between what is happening with Jenna, and the goings-on at Bristol CID; specifically for DI Ray Stevens who is still investigating the hit and run incident. A year has passed and they are still no closer to catching the culprit, and it is difficult to keep a case going with absolutely no leads, and where even the victim’s mother has seemingly given up – having disappeared off the face of the earth.

Almost immediately you realise all is not as it seems, but I could never quite put my finger on what it was. Little teasers were peppered about and I knew I was waiting for something… yet Mackintosh was able to distract me with some fantastic story-telling and brilliant character development, so I didn’t spend too much time on attempting to guess.

Nobody was placed in the story merely for the sake of it. Each character was given depth and complexity. Of course, the story centres around Jenna, the accident, and her loss (and the subsequent police investigation), and yet the reader is also given insight into Jenna’s damaged relationship with her family; Ray and his colleague Kate’s questionable relationship; Ray’s struggling marriage and wayward son; even Jenna’s new love-interest Patrick is given a tragic back-story! There is so much going on and yet never too much that it gets messy. Each subject is given adequate attention to earn its place within the story – and there is so much more going on that I won’t even attempt to be vague about, because there are some cracking twists in there and it would be criminal for me to even hint at them! I even went back to early chapters thinking I would catch the author out in some huge continuity mistake… alas, on reading those same lines with new information, I could only admire the sheer genius of it all!

Clare Mackintosh is an amazingly talented writer. Her depiction of a mother’s torment following the loss of a child was authentic, raw, and both sensitively and tastefully done. The romantic sub-plots were realistic; in approach, pace, and awkwardness! Jenna’s fear and torment are palpable throughout. Ray’s struggle for work/home-life balance, and the necessity to constantly question his own integrity is very grounding. And the drama is laden with an urgency that puts all else on hold.

Definitely one where 5 stars are just not enough! I cannot imagine anybody who would not thoroughly enjoy this read. If I could only ever recommend one book for any TBR list, it would most definitely be this one.

Many thanks to the publisher for providing this book for review.

Happy reading x


help me

Available now from Quercus

Source: NetGalley

It was crazy really, she had never met the woman, had no idea of her real name but she thought of her as a friend. Or, at least, the closest thing she had to a friend in Dublin.

Struggling with a new baby, Yvonne turns to netmammy, an online forum for mothers, for support. Drawn into a world of new friends, she spends increasing amounts of time online and volunteers more and more information about herself.

When one of her new friends goes offline, Yvonne thinks something is wrong, but dismisses her fears. After all, does she really know this woman?

But when the body of a young woman with striking similarities to Yvonne’s missing friend is found, Yvonne realises that they’re all in terrifying danger. Can she persuade Sergeant Claire Boyle, herself about to go on maternity leave, to take her fears seriously?

This story centres around the members of ‘Netmammy’ – which is essentiallyNetmums, the online forum where mums get together to discuss their children, offer parenting advice, and generally have a bit of a moan. No offence to the Netmums members out there, each to their own, but it is really not my thing at all. I have two young children – I know newborns are tiring, and strange rashes can be scary, and I’m pretty sure all parents at some time or other wonder if they are doing what’s best – but I certainly didn’t have the inclination to bang on about these things to a bunch of strangers who were ‘in the same boat’. So it did get a little tiresome when large chunks of this book were devoted to listening to these women moan about dirty nappies, night-time feeds, and teething – if I’d wanted to read so much of that I would have just logged onto the website, any chance we could just get on with the story now please?

Anyway, now that I’ve got that out of my system, I did get a bit bored early on with this one, but I figured it was maybe just one of those slow burners and I’d have to give it a chance to get going. The prose was a bit jumpy, I found myself often having to re-read the same sentence because it didn’t really flow very well and that threw me off. But I stuck with it, mainly due to a line of critical acclaim plastered on the book cover…

Brilliantly original… a shocker of a twist that you won’t see coming.” – Melissa Hill

I have to admit that that was probably the deal clincher to my reading the book at all. And… well it was all lies wasn’t it?! If there was a shocker of a twist, I missed it – maybe I nodded off after so much incessant “I love my children but I hate being a parent” chatter – I’m sure it couldn’t be referring to the culprit of the piece – because that twist was so obvious it came with seventy-six trombones very early on!

It was a complete anti-climax. Even though I knew who was responsible, I thought I’d at least be given some sort of dramatic showdown – but no it was all a bit naff and then the story just kind of petered out…

I will say that the basic premise was good; I liked how the story showed that people think they are posting ‘anonymously’ online, but it is in fact very easy for others to deduce your identity from the tiniest clues you give out – but to be honest this probably could have been conveyed in a double page spread in the fiction section of Take A Break or the like.

No, not for me at all.

My thanks to the publisher for providing this book for review.

Happy reading x


lie of you

Published by Head of Zeus

Source: Publisher review copy

Can you hide your deepest fear?

To the outside world, Kathy is the very picture of a happy and fulfilled modern woman. She has a beautiful baby boy, a clever, handsome husband and a glamorous, high-powered job.

But not everybody is fooled. Her employee, Heja, knows the truth: the cracks in Kathy’s marriage, her self-doubt, her fear of failure at work. Heja is perfectly placed to destroy Kathy’s life. And if she succeeds, she can claim the one thing she wants most…

This one was quite a slow burner for me. Told from the perspective of our antagonist, Heja, and with alternate chapters given to the view of the protagonist, Kathy – you are drawn into Heja’s cold world of hatred towards Kathy.

Kathy tends to beat herself up for all her misgivings – for failing to juggle being a new wife and mother, whilst also embarking on a new promotion as editor of a highly rated magazine – all the while completely clueless to the fact that she is in fact being sabotaged by Heja.

And for a while, this is pretty much all the book is made up of. Heja’s sections are basically dedicated to slating Kathy, about her appearance, her ability to do her job, her lifestyle, etc. And Kathy’s sections focus on her self-deprecation and whining about her husband’s coldness towards her. It is all quite dark and makes for some uncomfortable reading.

It is very much a tale of ‘the woman scorned’, and throughout you feel something quite sinister is on its way. However I didn’t really feel much empathy for Kathy – in order for her to be portrayed as the poor, pathetic victim, I think she needed to lay off meeting up with her ex-boyfriend and also having a brief ‘holiday romance’ with a work colleague.

It was difficult to figure out the author’s intentions for Heja. She was portrayed as the ‘Ice Queen’ type and I’m not sure how much of this was supposed to be down to her personality and how much owed to cultural differences – she was a national treasure back in Finland, so are all Finns cold and unfeeling? (If Kathy’s Finnish husband Marcus is anything to go by then yes!)

Heja’s personal plight was then developed – losing the love of her life, losing other people very dear to her, her loveless relationship with her mother – and I’m not sure if this was in an attempt to justify, or at the very least explain, her actions, but it drew me no closer to her either.

As for Marcus, well he was a complete arse to be honest. And I’m still left puzzled as to the reasons behind some of his actions. This story seemed to be trying to focus on love – lack of it, losing it, desperately attempting to hold on to it – and yet I couldn’t see that any of these people even understood the concept.

I’m in a bit of a quandary about the climactic events of the book as well. I cant decide if they were done with class or just lack of emotion. Rather than the huge melodrama you would expect, it was all very reserved…in fact the most dramatic part was actually the way the author described the weather at the time! And I still cannot fathom why Marcus took the actions he did, or why Kathy’s feelings concluded the way they did.

All in all, It wasn’t an awful book, it was kind of chilling, dark, and gritty and I can see why some people would really enjoy it. But without any meaningful connection to any of the characters, it fell short for me.

My thanks to the publisher for providing this book for review.


edge shadows5 star

Published by Legend Press

Source: Publisher Review Copy

Sarah Phillips longs for the simple life – a job to fill her days, a home to return to and a small amount of steps to count between the two. Seriously injured in a car crash when she was thirteen, Sarah has no memory of her childhood or the family she lost.
Ellie Wilson remembers her own past only too well, the cruelty she suffered at the hands of a mother that abused her and a father who couldn’t protect her. She finds Sarah fascinating, a mirror to the life she never had.
But as curiosity spills over into obsession, and as Sarah’s world begins to unravel, Ellie moves ever closer.

Here we have the story of the tragically unfortunate Sarah Phillips – suffering severe amnesia after surviving the car accident that killed her father and sister; and Sarah’s apparent stalker Ellie Wilson – who can only wish that she had the ‘pleasure’ of amnesia such as Sarah’s.

‘To the Edge of Shadows’ was a ‘one-sitting’ book for me. After reading the very first paragraph I just knew that no matter what the story delivered, I would like this book, even if only based on Graham’s stunning use of language and truly in-depth depiction of experience. Graham’s portrayal of Sarah’s mindfulness whilst waking from a coma was truly insightful – I have absolutely no idea if that’s how it feels… But I’m now convinced it surely must be!
Some may argue that some parts are a little overly descriptive, however I found these intense parts to be sublimely indulgent.
Kudos also to the author for her very believable take on the development of such conditions as obsessive compulsive disorder and agoraphobia among other mental health issues.

So as well as being immediately drawn in by the writing within this book, I also very quickly found myself becoming more and more intrigued with the story of Ellie. She was clearly no random, off the rack stalker. There was more to this and it was imperative that I learned what. And so my brain went into its usual early-analysis mode where I always try to pre-empt what is going on and why. Hmm… one theory fleetingly passed through my mind, but was dismissed before I got to the end of a page, never to be pondered again; the next theory didn’t quite fit in chronologically but still seemed the most obvious – I know, I’m terrible, I just cant help it! Of course I cant possibly say more than that , except that as it happens – well it turned out I had dismissed the correct theory after all! Don’t worry Columbo, your mac is still yours!

Each of the main characters had real depth and substance – I’m sure that sounds ridiculously pretentious and I in no way mean that they were ‘deep’ as people – but the contrast that was set between the inner demons that Sarah struggled with on a daily basis, and the external demons that Ellie was so desperately trying to escape and leave firmly in her past, worked so well to harshly, yet beautifully, expose these two girls and all their innermost thoughts. I must admit that when we are listening to their 8 year old or 14 year old narratives – that they seem a little more emotionally mature and articulate that I would expect, but I’m really nitpicking here.

When I enjoy a story such as this I always find myself worrying about the ending before I’m anywhere near it. Will it be dramatic? Will there be closure? Will it leave you with more questions than you started with? Luckily in this instance I did not feel let down. Sure there was no ‘all guns blazing’ showdown, and you are left with only the hope that things would work out for all those concerned , but I found myself surprisingly satisfied with the conclusion.

Essentially this is a fantastic read. I couldn’t put it down – and I can be so very hard to please!

My thanks to Legend Press for providing this book for review


Precious Thing5 star

Published by Headline

Source: Gift

Remember the person you sat next to on your first day at school? Still your best friend? Or disappeared from your life for good?
Some friendships fizzle out. Rachel and Clara promised theirs would last for ever.
They met when Rachel was the new girl in class and Clara was the friend everyone wanted. Now in their late twenties Rachel has everything while Clara’s life is spiralling further out of control. Then Clara vanishes.
Imagine discovering something about your oldest friend that forces you to question everything you’ve shared together. The truth is always there. But only if you choose to see it.

Wow!

Just how intense can friendship be? Is there something special that separates a ‘best’ friend from the rest? How deep does that connection go? And what dark consequences might result from something so soul-consuming?

Precious Thing was a real treat to read. At no point did I have to ‘give it a chance’ to draw me in – the blurb alone had managed that much!
I was instantly drawn into the world of Rachel & Clara – Written as Rachel’s letter to her best friend Clara, you feel that you are being allowed access to a very private, precious thing (sorry!)

There is very little I can say about the story itself, without completely spoiling the experience for you. So I shall just tell you that it is VERY skilfully written, I found myself trying to pre-empt any upcoming twists (a personal fault that I wish I could shake off!) but McBeth cunningly allows you to briefly believe that you have it all figured out, only to throw another whammy right back at you, and only subtly alludes to the overarching twist that you suspected – leaving me in deep contemplation about the identity of the real victim of the story and where should my sympathies lie……

Would a more direct nod to my theory have been better? Would it have given better closure? Perhaps…but then what author wants you to stop thinking about the story as soon as you’ve closed the book?


before i go to sleep

Published  by Black Swan

Source: Own purchase

Christine wakes up every morning in an unfamiliar bed with an unfamiliar man. She looks in the mirror and sees an unfamiliar, middle- aged face. And every morning, the man she has woken up with must explain that he is Ben, he is her husband, she is forty-seven years old, and a terrible accident two decades earlier decimated her ability to form new memories.

But it’s the phone call from a Dr. Nash, a neurologist who claims to be working with Christine without her husband’s knowledge, that directs her to her journal, hidden in the back of her closet. For the past few weeks, Christine has been recording her daily activities—tearful mornings with Ben, sessions with Dr. Nash, flashes of scenes from her former life—and rereading past entries, relearning the facts of her life as retold by the husband she is completely dependent upon. As the entries build up, Christine asks many questions. What was life like before the accident? Why did she and Ben never have a child? What has happened to Christine’s best friend? And what exactly was the horrific accident that caused such a profound loss of memory?

Every day, Christine must begin again the reconstruction of her past. And the closer she gets to the truth, the more un- believable it seems.

Could you imagine waking up each morning and looking in the mirror, only to have someone at least 20 years older than you remembered looking back at you? How debilitating it would be to not know who you are now, to not know who the man lying next to you is, to not recognise anything or anyone that apparently makes up your life…?

Meet Christine. She is living through just that. Every night when she goes to sleep, her memories of the day are erased. Every morning she wakes up with a paralysing sense of fear.

But that’s not all. In her gut, Christine knows that something more is wrong. Is her fear feeding paranoia? Or is there more in Christine’s life that is not quite right? Who can Christine trust….?

Her husband – who isn’t telling her everything. Why? Is he trying to protect his wife’s already fragile state of mind?

Her doctor – who insists she mustn’t tell her husband about their meetings. Why? Are his justifications sound?

Herself – Christine’s own journal seem to not make any sense to her? And she reads things that she couldn’t have possibly written – and yet she very clearly did…

I loved this book. Could not put it down. It had me gripped from the very beginning. At first I was impressed with Watson’s very real portrayal of anterograde amnesia, which I’d only ever seen mocked before in rom-coms! But as you start to discover – along with Christine herself – that all is not right, you find yourself really urging her onto discovering the next piece of the puzzle that is her life.

I’m notoriously terrible for trying to pre-empt twists and overanalyse a story – much to the detriment of my own enjoyment sometimes, but here the author really kept me guessing for a lot longer than usual! And I’m often disappointed when twists in the tale are shoddily added in to up the appeal – with no real continuity to back it up. But this all slotted in nicely – to the point where you kick yourself for not spotting it much earlier on – and yet are so glad you didn’t because it makes those final punches so much better!

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