The Disappearance of Stephanie Mailer by Joël Dicker #BookReview

Blank bookcover with clipping path

whats-it-about-2

In the summer of 1994, the quiet seaside town of Orphea reels from the discovery of three murders.

Confounding their superiors, two young police officers, Jesse Rosenberg and Derek Scott crack the case and identify the killer, earning themselves handsome promotions and the lasting respect of their colleagues.

But twenty years later, just as he is on the point of taking early retirement, Rosenberg is approached by Stephanie Mailer, a journalist who believes he made a mistake back in 1994 and that the real murderer is still at liberty, perhaps ready to strike again. Before she can give any more details however, Stephanie Mailer mysteriously disappears without trace, and Rosenberg and Scott are forced to confront the awful possibility that her suspicions might have been accurate.

What happened to Stephanie Mailer?

What did she know?

And what really happened in Orphea all those years ago?

amazon uk amazon com

review-2

5_Star_Rating_System_3_stars_1457015858_81_246_96_2

First of all I just want to say how great the cover is of the proof copy I received (courtesy of MacLehose Press and distributed at the Capital Crime festival 2019). I swear it’s even more gorgeous than the published novel and people even asked me if I was reading true crime (if you want to see it head over to my IG page).

Now The Disappearance of Stephanie Mailer is a massive novel of 635 pages. This usually scares me so I’m not in a habit of picking a book this size but since I received a free copy and it’s really difficult (well, virtually impossible) not to see it standing in your library, I decided to gather my courage and just dive in. Before you continue I might want to say that even though I’m trying hard not to, there may or may not be spoilers ahead, so continue at your own risk :-).

In the first few pages we find ourselves witness to the first opening night of the Orphea Theater Festival of 1994 and while most people are at this event, four people will not live to see another day as they are brutally murdered. After these dreadful events we jump to 2014 where Stephanie Mailer talks to Detective Jesse Rosenberg and she tells him that he didn’t in fact solve that case in 1994, he made a mistake. Before she can talk to him again, she disappears… but the last words she spoke to him were quite memorable:

She raised her hand and placed it at the level of my eyes.
“What do you see captain?”
“Your hand”
“I was showing you my fingers.”
“But I see your hand”, I said, not understanding.
“That’s the problem right there” she said. “You saw what you wanted to see, not what you were being shown. That’s what you missed twenty years ago.”

This little statement played on my mind and I just think I’m really good at this thing or the author really underestimates his readers because 420 pages later the detective came to the same findings as I had after page 16 and the novel can finally take off.

The two cases and timelines are obviously connected, solve one and you’ll solve the other but there’s a lot to untangle and the author makes the detectives really run around. In the end I felt the denouement of the plot was clever, I never could have foreseen how things fit together and there was much more at play than I had expected but the execution was a bit slow and winding. The plot was speckled with red herrings and twists but I knew where to focus my attention to, it only wasn’t getting me anywhere and it frustrated me at the beginning that they weren’t looking where they should.

Apart from that, the other problem I encountered was that the author hammered the term ‘The Darkest Night’ into my reader’s brain so much, it started to annoy me, especially since it wasn’t clear what it meant, apart from the fact that it became some urban legend referring to THAT night in 1994. Yes, The Darkest Night is also the name of a play but after all these pages I STILL DON’T KNOW what the play is about, even when they practice the first scene of the play over and over again. The director of the play – a former police officer – is also an utterly weird guy and it didn’t feel very believable considering his previous profession. Bottomline is that the play is a big part of the story and in the end it marvelously brings all the side characters, the famous theater critic, the CEO with his mistress, the father with his daughter, back to Orphea and I was surprised when the who, how and why of the 1994 killings was revealed. Unsurprising, the final 150 pages or so were the best part of the story for me and I couldn’t put it away then, needing to know the answers and feeling I was getting closer and closer to the truth. A truth that is a real shocker after all

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher for review. This is my honest opinion.

 

My Mother’s Secret by Sanjida Kay #BookReview

MyMothersSecret def

whats-it-about-2

You can only hide for so long…

Lizzie Bradshaw. A student from the Lake District, forced to work away from home, who witnesses a terrible crime. But who will ultimately pay the price?

Emma Taylor. A mother, a wife, and a woman with a dangerous secret. Can she keep her beloved family safely together?

Stella Taylor. A disaffected teenager, determined to discover what her mother is hiding. But how far will she go to uncover the truth?

And one man, powerful, manipulative and cunning, who controls all their destinies.

amazon uk amazon com

review-2

star three and a half

I’m not sure what’s going on with me lately but I’m still working on it to find my next top read. I really need to finish this review now because it is taking me forever to write something down and the funny part is that I actually liked the novel, I just wasn’t blown away by it. My Mother’s Secret is the second novel I read by Sanjida Kay and I do really enjoy this author’s style of writing so there is definitely that and right from the beginning the story had me hooked again. Differently from my first experience with her previous novel, The Stolen Child it didn’t have that same shocking quality though. It did have several twists but none of them really surprised me.

The story is narrated by Lizzy in the past and Emma and Stella (mother and daughter) in the present. It became clear that Emma knew things about Lizzy’s past and about her husband so I knew there was some connection, there was no denying that. Was she someone close or could it even be that she was Lizzy, but how and why? This little mystery was what actually kept me guessing the longest. Emma did make some strange decisions and I didn’t really like the way she treated her husband, seeking the company of another man. The story flowed nicely but it was all quite predictable, there was a lot of foreshadowing and I knew who everyone was before it was revealed.

There were some serious Gone Girl vibes weaved into the plot in the end and I did enjoy that part though so I’m hoping she’ll surprise me more next time, I’ll be her biggest fan again then.

I won a free copy of this novel in a Twitter giveaway. This is my honest opinion.

Mini #AudioBookReviews – liar, liar, tongue on fire!

The Last Wife audio

whats-it-about-2

Two women. A dying wish. And a web of lies that will bring their world crashing down.

Nina and Marie were best friends-until Nina was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Before she died, Nina asked Marie to fulfill her final wishes.

But her mistake was in thinking Marie was someone she could trust.

What Nina didn’t know was that Marie always wanted her beautiful life, and that Marie has an agenda of her own. She’ll do anything to get what she wants.

Marie thinks she can keep her promise to her friend’s family on her own terms. But what she doesn’t know is that Nina was hiding explosive secrets of her own…

amazon uk amazon com

review-2

star three and a half

I read Karen Hamilton’s debut novel The Perfect Girlfriend in 2017 as one of the first and I couldn’t shut up about it at the time so it went without saying that I had to read – or listen to – her next novel. It did take me a while to get into the story but it was worth pushing through. I like revenge stories but sometimes it grows old to read about an obsessive jealous protagonist. Marie, the main character, seems calculated, wanting nothing else than Nina’s life who seems to have all her ducks in order. Nina has a wonderful relationship with Stuart and two children, a boy Felix and a girl Emily, until she dies. Cue Marie who sees an opportunity there… but while I thought I knew how this story was going to go it veered into a completely different direction and the past that I had overlooked at first, plays a much more important role than I initially thought and I saw literally everyone in another light by the end of the novel.

The narration of Marie’s and Camilla’s (the other woman in the picture who Marie rather want to see going than coming) voices were quite pleasant to listen to but I didn’t really like Stuart’s. The narrator (Michelle Ford) made his voice croak and he sounded much older than he should be in my head, he also spoke rather slowly, making me feel that he was a bit simple minded. It’s a small qualm but still. I know I was wrong about him though, he’s not a dumb ass and neither is Marie. My opinions about her changed greatly and I even felt sorry for her (the one I called the bitch in my head I have to admit) at a given point. She tries so hard to have Nina’s life and when she finally almost has it, only then does she realize that Nina had quite a few secrets and now she’ll have to make her own decisions if she wants to keep the secrets too. Personally, I think I’d give this 4 stars if I had read it, it had quite a few suspects and twists involved in the second part of the novel, there’s only a teensy bit more love for this author’s debut that had me hooked right away.  

Line

HowNotToDieAlone audio

whats-it-about-2

Andrew’s been feeling stuck.

For years he’s worked a thankless public health job, searching for the next of kin of those who die alone. Luckily, he goes home to a loving family every night. At least, that’s what his coworkers believe.

Then he meets Peggy.

A misunderstanding has left Andrew trapped in his own white lie and his lonely apartment. When new employee Peggy breezes into the office like a breath of fresh air, she makes Andrew feel truly alive for the first time in decades.

Could there be more to life than this?

But telling Peggy the truth could mean losing everything. For twenty years, Andrew has worked to keep his heart safe, forgetting one important thing: how to live. Maybe it’s time for him to start.

amazon uk amazon com

review-2

5_Star_Rating_System_3_stars_1457015858_81_246_96_2

First of all, the narration was performed by Simon Vance and we hit it off right away, I loved the fast tempo in which he told the story. He sounded a bit on speed, going a hundred words an hour, but I liked it. You had no choice but to pay attention, there’s not a single chance that you risk a wandering mind when listening to this one. Peggy’s accent was rather special to my ears, I don’t know where she was from. It was still understandable so there were no worries but let’s just say Andrew’s voice was easier.

Secondly, I really liked Andrew’s job. He works for the city council and he has to investigate dead people’s homes, looking for evidence of next of kin in the form of letters, cards, any contact details, and also see if there are any financial statements or official documents lying around that can shed a light on their finances. I was intrigued and interested in witnessing what he came across when entering someone’s home.

I know this might sound weird but I had already thought about this before this audiobook and I actually think this could happen to me when I’m old. I think that’s why I also connected quite well with Andrew, we are actually pretty much alike. For one, he’s also in the same situation as the people of the houses he visits, he lives a very solitary life and he also happened to have told a little white lie about having a family. A white lie that is hard to keep up and is going to get him into trouble, especially as his boss is insisting at organizing dinner’s at everyone’s homes. Where is he going to find a wife and two kids in a fortnight so to speak? 

I found the story itself rather slow and not all of the characters were equally interesting or fleshed out enough. I liked the friends Andrew had online and the plotlines revolving around them, and I liked how understanding Peggy was but I didn’t care for his other colleagues or his boss at all. In the end you know how this is going to end and while the journey towards the end is just as important, I felt was just not quite so memorable as I would have liked and for once I liked the narration more than the story itself. 

The Chalet by Catherine Cooper #BookReview @HarperCollinsUK @catherinecooper

Blank bookcover with clipping path

whats-it-about-2

French Alps, 1998

Two young men ski into a blizzard… but only one returns.

20 years later

Four people connected to the missing man find themselves in that same resort. Each has a secret. Two may have blood on their hands. One is a killer-in-waiting.

Someone knows what really happened that day.

And somebody will pay.

amazon uk amazon com

review-2

5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

The Chalet is a wonderful wintry novel set at the foot of the ski slopes in the French alps. The plotline jumps between two time periods following different sets of people in each storyline. In 1998 two brothers came to the Alps with their girlfriends Louise and Nell and they went skiing in very bad weather. There was an accident and only one of them made it from the mountain.

In the present two couples are spending a week at La Madière (Ria and Hugo who invited Simon and Cass with their little baby and the nanny in the hope of reigning in Simon as a new investor for Hugo’s travel agency) and Millie and Cameron (the ‘cabin girl’ who cooks and cleans and the owner of the luxurious chalet). Someone among this (not always very lovely) bunch of people is putting on a show and it becomes clear that there are some invisible ties to the past and someone has to pay for what this person believes is not an accident but murder.

The Chalet intrigued me from the word go! I was looking for someone with a hidden agenda and at least one of them seemed to fit the bill a little too perfectly but could it be that easy? It took me a long time to make up my mind but in the end I settled on a suspect, even though my conclusion didn’t even sound very logical to my own ears, there was just this thing that didn’t add up, but in the end I was still right on the money! It is only with the big reveal that everything falls in place though and it finally makes so more sense. I loved how the background story of the past bleeds so well into the present happenings and I didn’t even mind that I had a hunch who was masquerading in The Chalet because I was so engrossed in untangling the secrets in the lives of all these people. I did feel Ria and Louise were the most developed and deep of the whole cast and I liked to read about these women most of all. It felt to me that the bad guy was in this case actually a bad woman so I didn’t mind that the men’s contributions to the story were smaller or at least didn’t leave the same impression as the women’s, I was interested most of all in the women anyway. Revenge is a dish best served cold and The Chalet hits the spot.

The Chalet is a great debut with interesting characters and a decent revenge plot, and it didn’t disappoint at all. Mystifying, addictive and surprising!

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

Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough #BookReview

CrossHerHeart def

whats-it-about-2

Lisa lives for her daughter Ava, her job, and her best friend Marilyn, but when a handsome client shows an interest in her, Lisa starts daydreaming about sharing her life with him too. Maybe she’s ready now. Maybe she can trust again. Maybe it’s time to let her terrifying secret past go. Then her daughter rescues a boy from drowning and their pictures are all over the news for everyone to see. Lisa’s world explodes, and she finds everything she has built threatened. Not knowing whom she can trust, it’s up to her to face her past to save what she holds dear.

amazon ukamazon com

review-2

5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars_1457015727_81_246_96_2

Whatever you do, if you can help it then don’t read the blurb on Amazon. I can’t believe they printed a major spoiler that wasn’t necessary at all because believe me, before I read the novel I didn’t know and I loved that I was totally wrong-footed what this novel was about, led to believe something else was going on, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

This is only my second novel by the great Sarah Pinborough and she really deserves that noun before her name. I absolutely loved the fantastical Behind Her Eyes and although this one’s more normal (well that’s debatable but it’s not fantasy anyway) it’s brilliant in its own genre. I read a few of these novels with a plot leaning towards this one but none that were written this way. Again, it felt different for me and so well-written I found it an outstanding novel.

Lisa and Marilyn are colleagues but also friends and if feels like there’s more that bonds them. I was sucked in. Both their stories are tragic, a horrible childhood and an abusive relationship won’t let your attention slip for a second and it was so well-written that it couldn’t be any other way then that they krept under my skin. I honestly thought I knew what each of the secrets was that they are trying to hide from each other but at least one of them left me completely thunderstruck at the end of Part One of the novel. In Part Two there are other new secrets waiting to be revealed 😊 The author made me feel even more sympathy for Lisa, even when it seems she doesn’t deserve it, at least some of the characters are not sympathetic towards her at all. I had to examine my own feelings here for a moment. Should I feel guilty, as some of her colleagues were trying to make me feel? Is she not the woman I came to know in the first pages, a sweet and loving yet somewhat overprotective mother for her daughter Ava? Lisa wasn’t the only questionable one though..

Who is the threat in this novel, leaving unsettling clues at Lisa’s house? I’ll make you a promise… you’ll never guess. And when you finally learn know who it is then there’s a whole new mystery about the reason why…  Sarah Pinborough has so many twists and turns up her sleeve, I haven’t counted them but it’s seriously one of the reasons she’s now definitely one of my favourite authors and I want to read many more of her novels! The story has a definite emotional side to it, I loved how heartfelt it was and all of the mysteriousness of it made me race through it. I can’t wait to read her other novels!

I received a paperback copy of this novel from a lovely blogfriend. This is my honest opinion.

 

Lost You by Haylen Beck #BookReview

LostYou def

whats-it-about-2

Libby would do anything for her three-year-old son Ethan. And after all they’ve been through, a holiday seems the perfect antidote for them both. Their hotel is peaceful, safe and friendly, yet Libby can’t help feeling that someone is watching her. Watching Ethan. Because, for years, Libby has lived with a secret.

Just days into their holiday, when Libby is starting to relax, Ethan steps into an elevator on his own, and the doors close before Libby can stop them. Moments later, Ethan is gone.

Libby thought she had been through the worst, but her nightmare is only just beginning. And in a desperate hunt for her son, it becomes clear she’s not the only one looking for him.

Who will find him first?

amazon uk amazon com

review-2

5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

Oh this one’s a sneaky surprise!

I was eating the cake right away in this novel because my lord, the opening chapter couldn’t have been a more harrowing scene. A woman is standing on a hotel’s rooftop ledge with a little boy in her arms, claiming he’s her son and threatening to jump. All I can say is that the chapter ended what a real cliffhanger and a lot of screaming. It immediately begged for answers. Who is she? Did she really do it and what on earth got into her?

With this in mind I dove into the next chapters where I was introduced to the three and half year old boy’s ‘real’ mother Libby where she is preparing herself and toddler Ethan for their first holiday together. I followed Libby and Ethan enjoying their first days at a splendid hotel and the lead-up to that heart-pounding moment. There was not a doubt in my mind that she wasn’t his mother until

… the story backpedals to 4 years earlier. I’m not saying I was disappointed because I love the writing style but as the story unfolded I could clearly see how this one was going to unfold… Libby wants a baby so much but it looks like nature is not on her side in this, while Anna is having financial problems. Surrogacy isn’t far from anyone’s mind right? Well it certainly comes into play but the story really isn’t so simple, and while it might seem very easy whose side to take, it really wasn’t, my loyalties and beliefs about who should raise this boy went in the tumbler while reading.

Libby and Anna were both well-developed characters that you can’t help sympathise with at different moments. Love is beautiful and ugly at the same time and I certainly felt a few stabs in my heart. But what is right and what is wrong and how far can they go for what they want? Who to root for? I found this a tough decision! There were some not so smart decisions on both sides and it made me totally invested in their stories but then the author made it even better by adding a thunderbolt of a twist so the story didn’t end up where I thought it would at all. I think I even cried out at one specific moment when I saw what was happening! I was maybe not entirely convinced at first about the novel’s originality but I seriously had to reconsider that opinion. I’m not really a fan of novels about surrogacy but if it’s like this… more please!

Final verdict: emotional, thought-provoking and twisty! I promise I won’t underestimate Haylen Beck (aka Stuart Neville) again ;-).

I received a free paperback copy of this novel from the publisher for review. This is still my honest opinion.

The Chain by Adrian McKinty #BookReview

The Chain def

whats-it-about-2

You just dropped off your child at the bus stop. A panicked stranger calls your phone. Your child has been kidnapped, and the stranger explains that their child has also been kidnapped, by a completely different stranger. The only way to get your child back is to kidnap another child within 24 hours. Your child will be released only when the next victim’s parents kidnap yet another child, and most importantly, the stranger explains, if you don’t kidnap a child, or if the next parents don’t kidnap a child, your child will be murdered. You are now part of The Chain.

amazon uk amazon com

review-2

star three and a half / 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

I’m late to the party as ever because I had this book for a while but then I suddenly had a really good reason to bump this novel to the top of my reading list. See just last month I found out that The Chain is the 2020 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel Of The Year. The author leaves Lee Child, Jane Casey, Will Carver and Chris Brookmyre behind him by winning this award. You can imagine that I just had to see for myself what made this novel so special.

And yes The Chain is special, the concept of the novel most of all. It’s a living nightmare when your child is kidnapped and when you are driven to do things that are immoral and criminal even. But wouldn’t you do anything for your child? How far would you go? Is there a limit? Would you harm another child in order to save yours? The whole system is quite a clever set up from the kidnappers and it looks flawless as well. Is there any way to stop this insane thing from happening over and over again? It would seem not and so I kept on reading, hoping that there was going to be a twist, something to change the odds and let the people behind all of it become the ones hunted.

The first half of the novel was gripping and frightening, the tension was hanging in the air and I had my eyes glued to the pages, but when the worst of the worst was over and I relaxed in the second part of the story, it also kind of lost its momentum a little bit. It picked back up again in the very end but it never really reached that same riveting level again as at first.

I did enjoy the characters of Rachel and Pete and they certainly made me wonder how a cancer patient and a heroin addict were going to lead to a twist to the story. Why do Americans always go looking for trouble? I didn’t see this ending well! Rachel and Pete are clever but so are the people behind The Chain so the game is on! I really enjoyed the way the author also wove the past of one of the characters into the present events. I believe that both parties surprised each other, and me in the process as well.

The whole novel is so movie-worthy, I could easily see it vividly in my head so I’m very happy it is already snapped up by Universal and is going to be turned into a movie. I’ll be at the front row to see this one!

 I own a copy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

PS. The new WordPress editor didn’t save most of my review the first time I wrote it (which I was much happier with) but it is what it is now ;-). Also I hate that I can’t justify text anymore (at work I have to so it feels wrong) but what can you do huh?

Testing one, two.. one, two.. Are audiobooks for me? 2 #audiobookreviews

listen

Hello bookworms!

During lockdown I discovered the real deal of audiobooks. Before that I had only listened to a book on the radio via BBC 4 Book at Bedtime (How to Stop Time) but two months ago I was invited to listen to The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney by a publisher and that went ok so I thought I was ready for more. I certainly want to enjoy audiobooks because I can only read one book at a time and if I can listen to books at moments I can’t read then that would be a dream.

After listening to these two novels I still don’t know if it’s something for me though.. maybe I haven’t found the right book, maybe I’m just a very demanding listener, or maybe I haven’t found the right moments yet to listen to them.

A lot of questions and I don’t have the answers yet. Is it worth trying again after these? I think so. I might listen to an extract first though only to hear the narrator’s voice and see if I like listening to that voice because it appears that’s really important to me, and I might continue listening on the train to work, even if that’s only for short periods each day, and not in bed for the moment. I still have to figure out what works best for me but I’m not giving up yet. Even if I can only listen to one audiobook a month that would be twelve more books I could devour each year. Are there any things that work better for you? Let me know if you have! 

The Seventh Victim by Michael Wood

TheSeventhVictim

whats-it-about-2

On Sunday, February 3rd 1990, seven-year-old Danny Redpath disappeared from his home. Four months later, his body was found in the nearby forest, washed clean of all evidence. Over time, more bodies were discovered; more families devastated forever.

Apprehended while attempting to abduct another child, Jonathan Egan-Walsh was charged with the murders of thirteen boys. Convicted on all counts, he received life in prison and went unrepentant, still refusing to reveal the whereabouts of one of his victims, Zachery Marshall.

Twenty-five years later, Zachery’s mother Diane is still searching for his body. When Jonathan dies in custody, she realises she will never know its location – until she receives a letter he left in his cell, in which he admits he was guilty of all the crimes of which he was accused, except the murder of her son.

Diane tracks down the woman in charge of the case at the time, former DI Caroline Turner, and together with Jonathan’s biographer Alex Frost they start to investigate. Could this be the killer’s final twist of the knife – or is he telling the truth at long last? Sooner or later, this secret buried and undisturbed for a quarter of a century will come to light.

amazon uk amazon com

review-2

star three and a half

My second audiobook and I really loved the narration this time. Mathew Horne gave a voice to Jonathan Egan-Walsh and Joanne Froggatt narrated all of the women’s voices and I loved listening to her outstanding performance in particular. A trembling voice, shouting with the right amount of anger, she did it all very naturally. I especially loved hearing Hannah, Diane’s mother in the story, she really sounded old!

I’d almost forget to talk about the story itself which was a heart-breaking one although it didn’t break my heart but for the chapters from Jonathan Egan-Walsh, where he tells a little about some of the boys he took. It’s normal in his head, which makes it more shocking to the reader to hear him talking so casually about it. I still don’t really know why he killed them because some of them appeared – his words – happy. Did he just grow tired of them, were they not enough? I was unwillingly fascinated and actually wanted to hear even more from him but the novel focuses on Diane, the woman whose life stood still since the day her little boy Zachery went missing, her ex-husband who tried to move on, and it highlights the difficult relationship with her younger son Markus who suffered greatly throughout the years after his brother went missing.

Retired DC Caroline Turner and her husband Jamie, and Alex Frost, his daughter and his wife Melanie, also each have their own personal and interesting stories to tell while investigating Jonathan’s claim.

It takes a while to fully take off and the mystery stays at the same stage of development for a while but there are twists and turns in the end. I had a hunch how it would end though from very early on so I didn’t feel that elation as others might have had. I liked it overall but didn’t find it a very extraordinary story, we’ve read this plotline before and I think it’s mostly the secondary characters Caroline Turner and Alex Frost and the snippets of Jonathan made it memorable.

Line

All The Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson

All The Beautiful Lies 05

whats-it-about-2

On the eve of his college graduation, Harry is called home by his stepmother, Alice, to their house on the Maine coast, following the unexpected death of his father. But who really is Alice, his father’s much younger second wife?

As her past entwines with Harry’s in the present, things grow increasingly dark and threatening – will Harry be able to see any of it clearly through his own confused feelings?

amazon uk amazon com

review-2

star three and a half

All The Beautiful Lies was my first novel by Peter Swanson, although I have another paperback of his in one of my unpacked boxes which I hope to get to before I ever move again ;-).

It took me some time to get into the novel because I found it hard to enjoy the narration at the very start. The female narrator ended all the descriptive sentences the same way, with a strong emphasis on the last word, making the last word of each sentense sound a bit elongated and it all sounded a little robotic to my ears. Maybe I’m really fussy now but I didn’t have this issue in the previous audiobook even if there were descriptive paragraphs as well. It went better after a while when there were more conversations breaking up these sections and I felt it went a little more natural in the end (or maybe I got more used to it). I did end up missing a few sections of the novel because I fell asleep a few times though so it didn’t always keep my attention. I think it’s safe to say I love novels with lots of intonation and changes in voices most of all.

As for the story, there’s an enjoyable plotline in the past that follows a young 15 year old Alice and a present plotline from Harry’s point of view who comes back when he hears his father died. He finds it hard to believe that his father had an accident and wonders if his stepmother – the same Alice but older now – has anything to do with it. There’s a recurring theme of young women falling for older men in the novel, of affairs and betrayal.

Most of the novel felt more as family drama than thriller, it’s only in the second part of the novel that the threat becomes really pressing. This certainly made me pay close attention as to what was going on but I found the outcome and truth about what happened to Bill written as a little bit of an easy way out. There was another twist though, almost after the main events were finished, that was hugely unexpected and I found very entertaining. So in the end the story left me quite satisfied after all.

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware #BookReview @vintagebooks

Blank bookcover with clipping path

whats-it-about-2

Four friends. One promise. But someone isn’t telling the truth. The twisting new mystery from bestselling phenomenon Ruth Ware.

The text message arrives in the small hours of the night. It’s just three words: I need you. Isa drops everything, takes her baby daughter and heads straight to Salten. She spent the most significant days of her life at boarding school on the marshes there, days which still cast their shadow over her.

At school Isa and her three best friends used to play the Lying Game. They competed to convince people of the most outrageous stories. Now, after seventeen years of secrets, something terrible has been found on the beach. Something which will force Isa to confront her past, together with the three women she hasn’t seen for years, but has never forgotten.

Theirs is no cosy reunion: Salten isn’t a safe place for them, not after what they did. It’s time for the women to get their story straight…

amazon uk amazon com

review-2

5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars_1457015900_81_246_96_2

This was the first novel I read by Ruth Ware and in case you missed it on Instagram, I brought a copy of this novel back with me from my holiday in Turkey last year where I swapped it with one of mine (I can’t remember which one) at the hotel. Whatever it was I’m pretty sure it wasn’t nearly as good as this novel though! I chose The Lying Game because I heard only positive echos about the author and her books and also the mere mention of ‘lying’ made me want to be in on whatever secret was being kept. Oh and what a secret it was. Even when you undoubtedly think you’re the only one in the know, you’ll soon find out that you knew just as much as the person sitting next to you.

I liked the present narrative, where Isa, Kate, Thea and Fatima – once 15-year old best friends – are brought back together as adults because something from their past is causing a stir, something is going to come out and it is clear that the bond they had is still in place because they all come running at a moment’s notice after years with barely or no contact at all. What is it that binds them and nobody talks about? Are they going to get their stories straight, are they going to lie some more? 

I loved the other chapters in which Isa revisits her past possibly even more. There was such friendship and loyalty in the chapters and it was very enjoyable to follow them and see the story unfold. The author fed me an idea about what happened through some of the conversations in the present but I couldn’t entertain the idea that what was in my mind could be true. Present and past just didn’t seem compatible and I had no explanation for it at all, it was impossible to see beforehand how and why things would take a bad turn and I just had to sit tight and let all unfold in its own time.

Oh the truth, that horrible, wonderful truth. It startled and surprised me after all. I’d be lying if I said it was anything but amazing. The author really came through in the end and delivered quite a grand apotheosis after such careful world building. It was a slow-burn towards the truth but that last quarter of the book was impossible to put down.

I’m definitely a satisfied and happy reader and I can see why so many others love this author so much. I’m totally joining the club. This novel isn’t going anywhere anymore but is going to have a prominent place in my library!

I received a free copy of this novel from another (unknown) reader. This is my honest opinion.

The Suspect by Fiona Barton #BookReview

Blank bookcover with clipping path

whats-it-about-2

When two eighteen-year-old girls go missing on their gap year in Thailand, their families are thrust into the international spotlight: desperate, bereft and frantic with worry.

Journalist Kate Waters always does everything she can to be first to the story, first with the exclusive, first to discover the truth – and this time is no exception. But she can’t help but think of her own son, who she hasn’t seen in two years, since he left home to go travelling. This time it’s personal.

And as the case of the missing girls unfolds, they will all find that even this far away, danger can lie closer to home than you might think . . .

amazon uk amazon com

review-2

star three and a half / 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

Well I was pulled into this as soon as I read that Alex and Rosie’s carefully planned accommodation in Thailand fell into the water when they arrived and everything was coming down on Alex to find them a place to sleep. I sort of recognized this terrible situation from my own experience and so the start of the story was in this way pretty much a matter of same thing, different country! You see, I was the same age, 18 or 19 years old when I went for a few days to Rome with a school friend and the hostel we didn’t or couldn’t book in advance was not able to put us up when we arrived. My friend wanted to go home right away and although I felt the same, someone had to actually find a solution instead of sulking about it. Looking back now that I finished reading The Suspect, I see it could have turned out very differently when you don’t end up where you’re supposed to be, and I was still quite lucky my friend didn’t turn out to be such a poser like Rosie. Yep there was no love lost for her and if it would have been only her who went missing I wouldn’t have nearly felt as bad about it as I felt with both girls gone missing but as it was I did feel much concern for Alex and I (secretly) hoped she’d ditch Rosie in time.

This is the second novel I read by Fiona Barton and I enjoyed this novel more than my first one, The Widow. It’s still a bit of a slow burner too with lots of vagueness and mystery but I was more invested in the story, and I especially liked the multiple POV’s and timelines. The story is partly told by Alex – one of the girls – through e-mails to her friend Mags at home about her time in Thailand, and she gives the unfiltered truth about her time with Rosie who forgets about their planning as soon as she sets foot there and is only interested in guys and partying. The author builds up the suspense with every new and worrying email from Alex and it didn’t take long at all to feel that nothing good could come out of this.

The rest of the story of the missing girls is covered by 3 more perspectives, namely by The Reporter (Kate), The Detective (DI Bob Sparkes) and The Mother (Lesley O’Connor). The author mixes things up nicely by changing Kate’s perspective drastically because yes she might be a journalist always looking for that next scoop but she is also a mother and as it happens she’s not a stranger to the situation Lesley and Jenny, the girls’ mothers find themselves in with her own son Jake travelling in Thailand for 2 years without giving a peep himself the last few months. Suddenly the media, fellow colleagues, are chasing her too for an interview and how much is she supposed to say?

Of course I knew the mention of Jake meant something and that he must be involved in some way. The girls were maybe a little too straightforward good girl/bad girl characters but the author put a lot of effort into creating this ambiguity about Jake, she kept me guessing if he was a good guy or a bad guy. The ending was satisfying although I found the biggest twist to be one that came well before the end of the story and from a corner I totally hadn’t anticipated.

All in all a good story you might want to let your children read before going on holiday on their own for the first time. If they ask one more time what could possibly go wrong you should simply put this novel into their hands.

I received a copy of this novel from a blogfriend. This is my honest opinion.