The Only Suspect by Louise Candlish #BookReview

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There’s the obvious story. And then there’s the truth.

Alex lives a comfortable life with his wife Beth in the leafy suburb of Silver Vale. Fine, so he’s not the most extrovert guy on the street, he prefers to keep himself to himself, but he’s a good husband and an easy-going neighbour.

That’s until Beth announces the creation of a nature trail on a local site that’s been disused for decades and suddenly Alex is a changed man. Now he’s always watching. Questioning. Struggling to hide his dread . . .

As the landscapers get to work, a secret threatens to surface from years ago, back in Alex’s twenties when he got entangled with a seductive young woman called Marina, who threw both their lives into turmoil.

And who sparked a police hunt for a murder suspect that was never quite what it seemed.

It still isn’t.

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Yes oh yes! Lemme tell you this one’s not to be missed! I was introduced to author Louise Candlish only last year (first I received a copy of her Quickreads short story The Skylight and then I read The Heights) but this one firmly cements it that she’s one to stay on my readlist going forward

The Only Suspect is told in a dual timeline. The present day handles Alex’s struggle with Zara, the woman who’s temporarily staying with him and his wife Beth. She’s nosy, outstaying her welcome and she basically turns his wife against him. The only upside of it is that Alex is also nervous about the work on the eco trail and Zara helps to keep his wife’s focus off himself. Then the story jumps to the ’90s with Rick meeting a young woman named Marina and there’s a bit of a romance that develops between them. He then discovers that Marina has a secret but Rick wouldn’t be the man he is to just let her go

I loved how the author invited me to constantly examine my loyalty towards the characters. Is Rick a good guy or not? If ‘Alex’ did kill someone, could it be somehow understood? Did he let an innocent person go to prison? I seriously thought I had made all the right connections between Alex and Rick and the situation that was coming back to haunt them but I was SO WRONG. The twist in the story was jawdropping. I flipped the page a few times back and fro to see if I had not imagined this turn in the story. 

I loved the intricateness of the story, the deceipt and the lies and the final twist that made just perfect sense looking back to everything that happened to Alex. The present was maybe a bit slower going in terms of giving up its secrets so I was initially more engrossed in the past with the difficult situation for Marina and Rick, but it definitely catches up in the final part of the novel and it was well worth the wait. I want more of this!

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher Simon and Schuster via Netgalley. This is still my honest opinion.

 

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The House Across The Lake by Riley Sager #BookReview

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Recently widowed actress Casey Fletcher has escaped to her family’s lake house for peace and quiet. She’s been happily losing herself in her thoughts and several bottles of bourbon, until the glamorous couple across the lake catch her attention. They look so perfect – just like Casey and her husband used to be.
But is anyone what they seem?

Casey has a detective sat at her kitchen table.

She has a man bound and gagged upstairs.

Casey will uncover dark truths so life-changing that nothing will ever be the same again.

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What did I just read? I can’t believe those twists! The House Across The Lake was solidly out of my comfort zone and while I knew in advance there was some magical realism involved I completely forgot about it while I was reading. It seemed a very straightforward story for a really long stretch but then suddenly bam, there’s one big twist to this story that literally changed everything and explained so many things that had happened!

The story is set around a lake with only 5 houses surrounding it. Casey is there to get her drinking under control which started after her husband died. I cringed a little when I thought this would be another alcoholic with memory loss and she didn’t get a lot of sympathy from me at first, especially when she has no intention at all to stop drinking. Alternating with her drinking and fraternising with the neighbours she’s also sort of spying on them. Well the house across the lake is one big glass dome and when the lights are on in the evening you get to see everything, and even better when you have binoculars :-). When her neighbour suddenly disappears she doesn’t believe she simply went back to the city and she’s intent to find out if her husband did something to her.

It’s so funny because I was looking for the ‘if he (the husband) didn’t do it, then who did’ answer and although I’m pretty good at this sort of thing, I still didn’t guess it right. It is completely unpredictable! Even though it’s not my usual type of novel and usually a mixed bag of success for me, it worked out amazingly this time and I was really hooked. Casey had turned me around completely and I became a fan of hers, rooting for her and feeling the compassion that I lacked at the beginning, her drinking finally given the place and understanding it was meant to have.

This was quite the rollercoaster read and the ending was like getting to this final looping where you can feel the excitement in your stomach (well I’m really just guessing here, I don’t actually do rollercoasters).

I expected such a simple story of a missing wife but I got so much more than I paid for (99p actually), it was definitely worth every penny! The House Across The Lake was creepy and suspenseful and the paranormal addition so well done that he even got me on his side. The year has started on a great note!

I bought an ecopy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

That Weekend by Kara Thomas #BookReview

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THREE BEST FRIENDS, A LAKE HOUSE, A SECRET TRIP — WHAT COULD GO WRONG?

It was supposed to be the perfect prom weekend getaway. But it’s clear something terrible happened when Claire wakes up alone and bloodied on a hiking trail with no memory of the past forty-eight hours.

Now everyone wants answers–most of all, Claire. She remembers Friday night, but after that . . . nothing. And now Kat and Jesse–her best friends–are missing.

What happened on the mountain? And where are Kat and Jesse? Claire knows the answers are buried somewhere in her memory. But as she’s learning, everyone has secrets–even her best friends. And she’s pretty sure she’s not going to like what she remembers.

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I enjoyed The Cheerleaders last year (here’s my review) so the next one on my wishlist of hers was That Weekend, a novel with an intriguing mystery.

I was all excited for this but I’m not sure what to say about this novel so it’s going to be a short review for once I guess. It was overall an okay story but there were no exhilarating discoveries for me, although I do think it might be a different experience for some readers. The red herrings didn’t work on me this time though, I wasn’t fooled.

My main issue with this novel is that That Weekend didn’t show a lot of progress throughout because Claire doesn’t remember anything. That’s been done a lot before and my opinion often varies how I enjoy this tactic. In this case I felt it didn’t create more mystery or tension but stalled the evolution of the novel a bit too much.

I had actually guessed where the story would go but I’m convinced that the majority of readers will be blindsided by it. I can’t explain why my mind had worked this out other than that I always keep every option in mind and this was one of them. I enjoyed hearing why this had all happened to the three of them but I wish the characters could have had more depth to them from the start of the novel instead of learning about them and finding out their history until I reached the last part.

Unlike The Cheerleaders where there were a lot of different storylines, this one was far on the simpler side. As I’ve come to know this author there is also a darker theme involved which I normally enjoy but it couldn’t give me the happy feeling I was looking for in the end. I am going to give this author another try because I’ve seen her brilliance and I hope the next one will be a whole other story 🙂

I bought an ecopy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels by Janice Hallett #BookReview

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Everyone knows the story of the Alperton Angels: the cult-like group who were convinced one of their member’s babies was the anti-Christ, and they had a divine mission to kill it – until the baby’s mother, Holly, came to her senses and called the police. The Angels committed suicide rather than go to prison, and Holly – and the baby – disappeared into the care system.

Nearly two decades later, true-crime author Amanda Bailey is writing a book on the Angels. The Alperton baby has turned eighteen and can finally be interviewed – if Amanda can find them, it will be the true-crime scoop of the year, and will save her flagging career. But rival author Oliver Menzies is just as smart, better connected, and is also on the baby’s trail.

As Amanda and Oliver are forced to collaborate, they realise that what everyone thinks they know about the Angels is wrong, and the truth is something much darker and stranger than they’d ever imagined.

This story is far from over – and it won’t have a happy ending.

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star three and a half / 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

Although I have a paperback of Janice Hallett’s debut novel The Appeal on my book shelves, The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels is the first novel of the author I actually read. Netgalley didn’t make it easy to read this novel because the formatting of the novel consists of emails between Amanda Bailey and other parties but there were no breaks in the text in my ecopy that clearly stated where each interaction started and ended so that was certainly a little challenging in the beginning but it was readable and I did get used to it towards the end. Hopefully the finished ecopy won’t have this issue, otherwise you can always go for the paperback.

I wasn’t conscious at first of how clever and deceptive this novel was going to turn into. The only thing that became clear was that nothing was adding up, people saw markings and other people didn’t, there was even a discrepancy in the number of bodies discovered at the scene where the cult members committed suicide, and nobody was willing to talk or knew anything significant. I felt quite confused how this could happen and it certainly made me wonder what was going on here. There were a lot of conversations with lots of different people, police, social workers, even an online group investigating cold cases. I wasn’t in the zone for some time because Amanda wasn’t really getting anywhere and the cast was a bit overwhelming but once she started to get some leads and it narrowed down towards some pretty exciting theories I simply couldn’t stop reading.

At about 70% of the novel there was more going on than I could wrap my head around. The story is intricately plotted, even though I had to suspend some belief, especially when it came to Amanda’s rival Oliver Menzies. As Amanda steams ahead with the investigation and her search of the 18-year old who was saved from a ritual, Oliver completely turns into a believer. His falling under the spell of a cult leader was a tad too much but the author had her reasons for making him so gullible. I only hope she didn’t expect her readers to be this easy to convince of angels and the antichrist. It did make me feel sorry for Oliver, especially since Amanda just lets him be, but again, she had her reasons for leaving him with his delusion and her urge to be the one to find ‘the baby’ is only part of it. Still, it didn’t make her the most sympathetic person.

There’s another role in the story for Ellie who transcribes the interviews and while I’ve done the same thing and have never even thought of adding my own thoughts between brackets, it brings a brilliant touch to the story. Ellie acts as her conscience, her friend, and is probably the one with the kindest heart. On a sidenote I also really want to mention the first draft chapters that Amanda writes of what is to be her book and are interspersed throughout the story. She writes each one with another POV and focus and I loved all of them, but of course the last one, with the big reveal explained in detail, most of all.

Nothing is at it seems in this novel, that’s the least I can say and I very much enjoyed how it kept me guessing about the truth for so long. It’s a story about manipulation and even if you normally avoid reading books about cults (like me) you don’t need to worry, it’s still a novel that will compel and will surprise you very much in the end!

I received a free ecopy of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley. This is my honest opinion.

Stay With Me by Alison Gaylin #BookReview

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When the past intersects with the future . . .

Brenna Spector is held prisoner by the past. She has perfect memory, which allows her to recall in vivid and remarkable detail every moment of every day of her adult life. If only she could remember more from her child-hood . . . for she’s still trying to unravel the mystery of her sister Clea’s disappearance twenty-eight years ago when Clea was seventeen. But now her obsession with finding out what happened to Clea is taking a toll on her own teenage daughter, Maya, who’s been very secretive lately. And when Maya goes missing, Brenna fears her worst nightmare has come true.

. . . the outcome can be dangerous

As Brenna relies on her P.I. skills to find her daughter before it’s too late, evidence surfaces showing a possible link between Maya’s disappearance and Clea’s. But could a case from three decades ago really be connected to her daughter? Or is someone hoping that Brenna will play along in a twisted game—one that there’s no chance of winning . . . or surviving?

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star three and a half

Stay With Me is the third novel in a trilogy about Brenna Spector. I had no idea about this being the case but it can certainly be read as a good standalone and I had no problems following the story. It does give away some vital details about an incident in the second novel so unless you don’t want to know who was behind it or how the incident ended you’ll be fine reading this. I actually picked up my copy (published in 2014 and translated in Dutch in 2016) because I recently read about one of her other books, The Collective, which received several five star ratings from other book reviewers already and sparked my interest as well.

In the novel Brenna is a private investigator and her worst nightmare comes true when her 13-year old daughter Maya goes missing almost 3 decades after her own sister Clea went missing at the age of 17. Together with her quirky sidekick Trent, boyfriend/detective Nick Morasco and detective Plodsky of Missing Persons they try to find out what happened at the slumber party Maya went to and what went on in her head in the days beforehand. Both paths turn up a number of disconcerting answers with toxic friendships and secret chats at the base of it.

Brenna’s photographic memory (hyperthymestic syndrome) helped to keep Clea’s disappearance in my head at all times and there seemed to be a small breakthrough there as well when she gets hold of some items that belonged to her sister. The question then is who had them all this time and how did they reach her.

Stay With Me was a good read but remained a bit cursory all the same, it didn’t go in very deep. I especially wanted to know more about what made one of the characters tick and made them so dangerous but I didn’t get the flashbacks that I wanted. The novel was an enjoyable read and I liked Brenna’s special ability (although it definitely is much more a curse than a blessing so not a superpower I want anymore) so I had no trouble steaming through this but at the same time I had a good idea what was in store in the end, even though I do think it’ll come as a surprise if you’re not a seasoned crime reader. It was a bit of a let down for me though and although the author did have one last twist in store, it felt overdone and I suspect it was only written for its shock value.

So with these ups and downs I’m still debating whether or not to add The Collective to my readlist. At the moment it is perhaps a bit more doubtful but of course Gaylin might have only gotten better with her writing and then I’d be missing out on a good story, so the vote is still very much out.

I bought a (Dutch) paperback copy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

The Botanist (Washington Poe #5) by M.W. Craven #BookReview

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Detective Sergeant Washington Poe can count on one hand the number of friends he has. And he’d still have his thumb left. There’s the guilelessly innocent civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw of course. Insanely brilliant, she’s a bit of a social hand grenade. He’s known his beleaguered boss, Detective Inspector Stephanie Flynn for years as he has his nearest neighbour, full-time shepherd/part-time dog sitter, Victoria.

And then there’s Estelle Doyle. Dark and dangerous and sexy as hell. It’s true the caustic pathologist has never walked down the sunny side of the street, but has she gone too far this time? Shot twice in the head, her father’s murder appears to be an open and shut case. Estelle has firearms discharge residue on her hands, and, in a house surrounded by fresh snow, hers are the only footprints. Since her arrest she’s only said three words: ‘Tell Washington Poe.’

Meanwhile, a poisoner called the Botanist is sending the nation’s most reviled people poems and pressed flowers. Twisted and ingenious, he seems to be able to walk through walls and, despite the advance notice given to his victims, and regardless of the security measures taken, he is able to kill with impunity.

Poe hates locked room mysteries and now he has two to solve. To unravel them he’s going to have to draw on every resource he has: Tilly Bradshaw, an organised crime boss, even an alcoholic ex-journalist. Because if he doesn’t, the bodies are going to keep piling up . . .

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Right when you think it doesn’t get any better Craven delivers one heck of a story that is even better than the last. He’s so good even that I have to admit I enjoyed reading the Acknowledgements more than usual :-). I’m not sure how he does it every time but  once again it was a read to devour.

You don’t have to take my word alone for it but look at the 236 reviews that resulted in a 4.67 out of 5 rating on Goodreads; The Botanist was a brilliant read with not one but two ‘impossible’ murder mysteries in a locked-room style. Estelle Doyle, the pathologist from earlier novels in the series, was arrested for murdering her father. Poe believes she’s innocent but if she didn’t do it then who? The evidence is overwhelming and so clear cut that it seems impossible that he was killed by anyone else. On the other hand there are people getting killed – the killer alerts them beforehand – and even with a tighter than tight security detail the murderer gets to his victims! How does he do it?

As hard as it is I can’t share anything more about their findings and the progress in the cases but Poe and Bradshaw are at their best, both in the use of their deduction skills and the socially awkward banter between the two of them. I think it was the funniest out of all the novels so far because there were quite a few awkward remarks and I was happy not be in Poe’s shoes :-). I had no idea about the motive for either of the cases but I did come up with an idea for Estelle’s case which turned out to be the right guess. I guess my Miss Marple / Hercule Poirot switch was on and some logical thinking certainly helped. Even then it was too hard to figure out the rest and I was on pins and needles to be enlightened by Poe.

It’s hard to believe I read all 5 novels in this series which just goes to show how amazing each one of these stories is. The previous one had a plotline that I was maybe a little less attracted to (a military setting) but this one was so clever and absorbing that I can’t wait to see what’s in store next for Poe and Bradshaw! My only hope is that the author can keep this up, I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

I bought an ecopy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

The Cruise by Catherine Cooper #BookReview

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A glamorous ship
During a New Year’s Eve party on a large, luxurious cruise ship in the Caribbean, the ship’s dancer, Lola, goes missing.

Everyone on board has something to hide
Two weeks later, the ship is out of service, laid up far from land with no more than a skeleton crew on board. And then more people start disappearing…

No one is safe
Why are the crew being harmed? Who is responsible? And who will be next?

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This is the second novel I read by this author and after having been impressed with her debut novel The Chalet I couldn’t resist this new mystery set in another secluded location. I’ve not been on a cruise ship yet but the author seemed to know the ins and outs of life on a cruise ship so well and described it so vividly that I almost feel as if I’ve been on one after reading this novel.

The Cruise didn’t let me down, just like last time I was completely engrossed in the chapters set in the past, while the present was puzzling and addictive.

There’s the story of a 15 year old girl named Laura raised by her father. She’s not held captive literally but she has no contact at all with the outside world. This already heartwrenching background of this teenage girl pulled on my heartstrings even more when the consequences of such a life manifest themselves.

Then on New Year’s Eve on the ship there’s one of the staff members missing but reported seen falling overboard, and when the ship is docked for two months before going on their next tour in the Carribean with only a skeleton crew aboard, there’s a murder. The ship’s doctor Stuart, chef Alice and one of the cleaners slash the other part of the trapeze dancer duo, Antonio provide the necessary intrigue in alternating chapters and it seems they all have some secrets they keep close to their hearts. There’s plenty of mystery and secrets which are ultimately unearthed in the last part of the novel so that kept me well on my toes.

The two plotlines were so far removed from each other but it is exactly that contrast that I love, especially when the pieces start to fall into place. There is a connection between the stories and I really enjoyed getting so much background into one of the characters. It wasn’t the biggest surprise though, the biggest twists were ones that made my loyalties change quite a bit in the end and the fact that an author can change my feelings towards characters is another thing that scores high on my reader satisfaction list :-). I can’t say more but there’s quite a few things happening in the last part and someone is being quite devious!

Overall a very enjoyable murder mystery that kept me well entertained and definitely ticked my boxes. If you enjoyed her previous novels you’re guaranteed to enjoy this one too.

I received a free ecopy of this novel from the publisher to read and review. This is still my honest opinion.