The Night Stalker by Clare Donoghue #BookReview

 

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What’s it about?

Dead Woman’s Ditch. The site of a grisly two-hundred-year-old murder – and a recent hit and run. When a young woman’s body is found at the macabre landmark in Somerset’s Quantock Hills, DI Mike Lockyer and Sergeant Jane Bennett are called in to investigate.

They find a community gripped by fear and superstition. The locals won’t venture out at night, believing there’s a man stalking the hills; a phantom cloaked in folklore and legend, keeping the sinister legacy of Dead Woman’s Ditch alive.

Confronted by a hostile CID team and a murder victim with close ties to their own squad, Lockyer and Bennett will have to accept what they can’t see before they can find what’s really there . . .

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Review

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Dead Woman’s Ditch, Great Bear, Will’s Neck, Frog Combe.. this is Shervage Woods, the incredible atmospheric setting of this story. Imagine driving home through the winding hills, passing cattle grids, the weather cold with rain hammering down and snow falling all around. A small village where the land still lends itself to ghost tales and plenty of legends, the one with John Walford not even nearly forgotten.

Dead Woman’s Ditch is the place where a woman, Jane, was killed in 1798 by her husband John Walford. A decade old murder finds root in a present case when there’s a woman found dead at the same place and the local population goes on and on about a link between the deaths. Other than the place there’s nothing that binds them, Walford is long dead, and yet. DI Lockyer doesn’t believe in legends and superstitions but the deeper he digs, the more stories he hears and he has to wonder if there really is a connection.

DI Mike Lockyer and DS Jane Bennett are assigned to the case in Somerset because there’s a London connection. In reality though he has to take control of the investigation without the present DI Bill Townsend knowing so. It seems people higher up aren’t very convinced about his competence and Lockyer has to agree, 3 days in and the investigation still stands nowhere. Townsend is convinced the girl was killed in a hit and run at best, but Lockyer conducts the investigation like it should, leaving no stone unturned and he discovers way way more than he bargained for. At the same time there’s also the voice of Steph, a young girl who has the feeling she’s being followed and is scared of driving home at night. Nobody takes her fears seriously though so she’s left to buckle up and just get on with it. I had the strongest sense of foreboding and if I could have spurred the team on myself I seriously would have.

I had no idea how this story was going to play out for such a long time, I kept wrecking my brain who could be behind all of this. I thought I paid attention to detail and figured it all out by myself while they were still fumbling about. I was dead wrong. I can’t say anything anymore than that I fell from surprise into surprise into surprise. No typo, it’s exactly what I mean. The middle part of the novel was maybe a little bit of nothing really big happening at all but it all came rushing down in one spectacular cascade. The ending of this case was great! Now I know why I loved the first novel so much again too, such a great reveal.

This novel can be read as a standalone but I read novel 1 and now number 4 and I advise you to do the same so that you can place the personal lives of Lockyer and Bennett better.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher, PanMacmillan, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Broken Branches by Jonathan Lee #BookReview

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‘Family curses don’t exist. Sure, some families seem to suffer more pain than others, but a curse? An actual curse? I don’t think so.’

A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son. But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family.

There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past. And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse.

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review-2

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Wow! I was a little bit afraid of a plotline centered around a curse – it sounded a little bit too fantastical already for me and I hadn’t even started it – but I can tell you that I didn’t need worrying. Yes of course there’s this talk of a curse, something that is passed on from generation to generation, from father to son, and even when it wasn’t clear from the beginning what this curse really entails, it was obvious that the tree in this novel is tied to it. The tree is important in the past and present, it is described often and detailed and fed the creepy feeling that goes along with a curse, yet it didn’t dominate the story too much, it was verging but never over the top in his creation of a kind of surreal atmosphere.

I’m just going with a brief outline here: the main characters are Ian and Rachel. She’s acting strange, distant, they don’t talk anymore, she sleeps alone.. you get the drift. He’s researching his family history, a tedious job. He hopes to find answers there and get their marriage back on the rails, if he ever gets through the stacks and stacks of paper in his study. Weird things are happening, it’s all very mysterious and I didn’t know what was real and what wasn’t. Even though there were a lot of confusing events and no real answers, I didn’t even understand what he was trying to do compiling a family tree, it never annoyed me and I was and became invested in Ian’s life, even more so after he shared so many about his youth.

I really liked the character of Louisa, his grandmother, the most. She’s like a little ray of light in his past and it seems she was the only one friendly to him in his childhood and as a young adult. She’s straightforward, honest, righteous, kind. The contrast between her and his own parents was so big I felt it in my bones, the unfairness of it all.

I had no shortage of (in hindsight quite rediculous) theories about what was going on but had to give the story its time to unfold by its own accord.

I was pretty astonished when I realised right at the very end of the novel what the author just told me. He took this idea, something that is a delicate thing, but not all that uncommon, and created a perfect plotline around it. This is a memorable story. It was poignant, honest, and it had me under its spell.

I received a free copy of this novel from publisher Hideaway Fall in exchange for my honest opinion.

The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker #BookReview

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What’s it about?

For over five years, the Four Monkey Killer has terrorized the residents of Chicago. When his body is found, the police quickly realize he was on his way to deliver one final message, one which proves he has taken another victim who may still be alive.

As the lead investigator on the 4MK task force, Detective Sam Porter knows even in death, the killer is far from finished. When he discovers a personal diary in the jacket pocket of the body, Porter finds himself caught up in the mind of a psychopath, unraveling a twisted history in hopes of finding one last girl, all while struggling with personal demons of his own.

With only a handful of clues, the elusive killer’s identity remains a mystery. Time is running out and the Four Monkey Killer taunts from beyond the grave in this masterfully written fast-paced thriller.

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Review

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My absolute favorite kind of serial killer stories are those where the killer is trying to outsmart the detectives chasing him. I love to read what makes them tick and how they got this way, making killing their favorite passtime. I not only like to read their point of view in the present, which is a fairly regular feature that pops up these days, but I also love to know their background, what formed them to be this character, and that is something that is not often addressed in the popular detective series. I certainly got what I wanted this time though.

The Fourth Monkey was an amazing read that really exceeded my expectations. I was expecting your usual detective’s hard day’s work of looking for a serial killer but Mr. Barker really lifts the story up from the masses of detective novels, it’s just that little more different. And yes it’s true as well, if there’s one novel that applies to the Se7en meets Silence of The Lambs comparison, it must be this one.

This novel is no less than 475 pages long, and I’m one of those readers who’d rather choose a shorter than a longer novel out of fear of getting bored but I solemnly declare that The Fourth Monkey is so exceptionnally good that I never got bored and I wouldn’t want to have missed any word, any thought or any scene of this novel.

As I already mentioned in the beginning, what really made me love this novel was the fact that there are chapters which read as diary entries that reflect the killer’s thoughts from the moment he was a child. Yes as a child and you can’t possibly imagine what he witnessed and experienced at such a young age. It is so unbelievable yet the author completely got away with it. I couldn’t tear myself away from these pages, the entries were like an addictive treat and they were chilling, horrifying and deliciously grisly to read. I have to warn you that there is quite a bit of torture involved and if you don’t like hard-hitting violence in novels, I advise you to leave this one well enough alone ;-). There’s a scene with a rat that I’ll always associate with this novel now, you’ll know what I mean when you read it.

The other major character in this novel is Detective Sam Porter who finds this diary on the body of the Four Monkey Killer or 4MK as he was called by the media for obvious reasons relating to his MO. The first three monkeys are well known and are used very literally by the killer and it all ends with the fourth one: “Do No Evil“. It seems a bit contradictory but not in the killer’s mind. Somebody has to do the job and the 4MK sees himself as judge and executioner for people who think they can get away with things. Someone has to pay for the consequences and who better than someone they love?

Porter is called to what seems a simple accident of a bus hitting a pedestrian but things turn rather nasty when it becomes clear that the 4MK killer is no more but there’s still a victim who will die if he doesn’t get to her soon. He has to look for a reason why the girl was targeted, which means someone had to have done something wrong but it’s a lot harder to investigate and unearth the truth when the people involved are doing everything they can to stop their secrets coming out. He and his partner Nash also have to read through the diary and look for clues. Can he get to the girl in time?

The longer into the story, the more the pace and tension ramps up. This is one crazy psychopath who will stay on my mind for a long time. His past is so twisted and sadistic, I’m not sure he ever got a chance to be anything other than what he grew up to be. There were unexpected twists when nearing the ending and I really liked that the author ventured off the beaten path here, making me shake my head quite a few times at where he was going with it. The killer’s past just became a lot weirder, if that’s even possible.

If you’re a thriller seeker and you don’t mind a bit of violence and angst then I can highly recommend you read this one!

I reveived a free copy of this novel from the author and his publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

The Other Twin by Lucy V. Hay #BlogTour #BookReview

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What’s it about?

When India falls to her death from a bridge over a railway, her sister Poppy returns home to Brighton for the first time in years. Unconvinced by official explanations, Poppy begins her own investigation into India’s death. But the deeper she digs, the closer she comes to uncovering deeply buried secrets. Could Matthew Temple, the boyfriend she abandoned, be involved? And what of his powerful and wealthy parents, and his twin sister, Ana? Enter the mysterious and ethereal Jenny: the girl Poppy discovers after hacking into India’s laptop. What is exactly is she hiding, and what did India find out about her?

Taking the reader on a breathless ride through the winding lanes of Brighton, into its vibrant party scene and inside the homes of its well- heeled families, The Other Twin is a startling and up-to-the-minute thriller about the social-media world, where resentments and accusations are played out online, where identities are made and remade, and where there is no such thing as truth …

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About the author

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Lucy V. Hay is a novelist, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy. She is the associate producer of Brit Thrillers Deviation (2012) and Assassin (2015), both starring Danny Dyer. Lucy is also head reader for the London Screenwriters’ Festival and has written two non-fiction books, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays, plus its follow-up Drama Screenplays. She lives in Devon with her husband, three children, six cats and five African Land Snails.

Connect with the author

Twitter | Facebook | Website

Review

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I’m delighted to be on the blog tour today and I can tell you that Orenda Books has published a novel that has that little nugget of originality yet again. You will be surprised, I can’t think of anything other to say.

The Other Twin is an intriguing investigation into India’s death by her sister Poppy. She conducts her own search into her sister’s past to find out who her sister really was and if it was even plausible that she commited suicide. It was difficult to find out much about India because she removed her digital presence on all social media but there is one person, someone tagged in a picture as Penny, who seemed close to her and who might know more. But how to find that person is nearly impossible. In the present days social media can be a real source but you can also dissapear if you want. Poppy didn’t really know her sister like she thought she did by the looks of it.

The depth of the secrets and lies in this novel is mountain high and I simply couldn’t fathom the scale of it until I almost got to the end. Poppy runs into a wall everywhere she turns and everyone, even in her own family, keeps their lips pressed together. Maybe they know, maybe they don’t but it won’t keep her from trying even harder. Even though I didn’t know anything – there’s no reader’s advantage here, I was as much in the dark as Poppy was – I just had to keep on reading because the writing was addictive and the mystery kept me in its grip. I had a sense of unease while reading this but I had no idea where this story was going to lead. I loved how unexpected the truth turned out to be. It was staring me in the eyes and I simply didn’t recognize it, understand it, see it. If you want to read this story I would advise you not to read too many reviews though because some are bound to give some spoilers and that would just take away all the fun and would in fact most certainly have an impact on your own rating.

This was a great debut which I am happy to recommend to all readers who enjoy the psychological thriller genre.

I received a free copy of this novel from the author L V Hay, publisher OrendaBooks and tour organiser Anne Cater in exchange for my honest opinion.

Check out the other blog stops as well. I’m sharing today with
Thoughts of a Highly Caffeinated Mind
Tomorrow is not to be missed either at :
Chocolate’n’ Waffles and Rae Reads

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Secrets of the Dead by Carol Wyer

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What’s it about?

When a young mother is found drowned in the bath, clutching a receipt saying ‘all debts paid’, Detective Robyn Carter knows it’s just the beginning of a harrowing case. She recognises the signs of a serial killer, and a second victim with a receipt confirms her worst fears.

There are no witnesses. The victims had no debts. With the body count rising and the local press whipping the public into a frenzy, Robyn is under pressure to solve the crime in record time. But her team can’t find a link between the victims, and the cracks are starting to show.

Just when her leads have dried up, Robyn discovers photographs in two of the victims’ houses, which she thinks could unlock the case. But as she hones in on the killer’s shocking motive, one of her own is put in terrible danger.

Can Robyn stop the most twisted killer of her career before it’s too late?

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Review

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Little Girl Lost was Carol Wyer’s first attempt at writing in another genre, if I can even call it that. I didn’t know this so when I read Little Girl Lost I actually thought she’d been  a thriller writer for ages, I really was so blown away with her debut thriller. I’ve taken a big liking to DI Carter, her team and the complex case she tackled then and I’m thrilled to report that the sequel keeps up the same high standards as her first novel. I am one very satisfied reader for the second time.

The first strangeness ripples through the pages when a manager of the Bronwin Hall spa hotel is found in a sauna, burnt to a crisp. Did he die of a heart attack as reported by the police, or not? A family friend is convinced he wouldn’t go into a sauna of his own volition and DI Carter agrees when she’s heard all of her arguments. She sends her cousin Ross, a private investigator, to investigate further. A few days later, a bar owner is found with a bizarre note on him and her attention is focused on solving this case. She discovers the smallest detail about the bar owner that could tie the two victims together though, even if they don’t seem to have anything other in common; there was no note on the first victim after all and the body of the manager showed no wounds at all. What’s more, he was caught on camera going into the sauna.

I’m not going to say any more than that Carol Wyer has the amazing capacity to think up yet another excellent plotline that’s keeping the reader on its toes again. She’s great at launching a thread, then leaving it to rest for a bit, keeping the reader more than occupied with something that is very attention-grabbing, only to get back to it later on, with the most perfect timing. I loved the whole idea of the calling card left behind by the killer, which was a great way to speculate about who was next and how many there were still to come. I also enjoyed the fact that I really got to know the victims, even if it crushed me every time one of them was killed off. That brief personal connection is what really makes it all the more engaging. There was one person in particular, who I cared and sympathised with right from the start and while his plotline kept returning, I realised there was a big chance he could be next 😉 which made me a bit sad already.

All along the investigation the reader is rewarded with snippets of the killer’s past. Even though his youth was one of bullying and torture, I never sympathised with him at any given time. I found a clue in his past when he relays certain events that happened to him and figured out who DI Carter was after but I’m sure many readers will still be surprised.

The killer’s mind in this novel is quite simple and he’s just a disturbed and weird individual,  so even though I did really liked this one I still like the first novel just that eetsy little bit more.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher Bookouture via Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Exquisite by Sarah Stovell

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What’s it about?

Bo Luxton has it all – a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name. Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend. When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops … Or does it? Breathlessly pacey, taut and terrifying, Exquisite is a startlingly original and unbalancing psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

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Review

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This is one of the best book covers I’ve ever seen, it’s minimalistic but it says it all. There’s sensuality, there’s darkness, it’s simply an amazingly fitting cover and after you’ve read the novel you’ll agree even more! Exquisite is a very orginal psychological thriller that made me feel like I was suffering from a borderline disorder. I mean to say this novel was quite extreme in the emotions experienced by the characters and this is what made it all so enthralling in the end I think.

The writing was lyrical and beautiful and I savoured every moment. So much of it is so recognizable because we all experienced heartbreak sometime so it’s easy to relate to and connect with the characters. The plot was perfect, being very mysterious and captivating all of the time.

The novel opens with an anonymous woman serving time in prison. Why she’s there and who it is, remains a well-kept secret until the end and is a brilliant move because you just can’t imagine this ending badly, until you can :-). It all starts out very lovely though, even though you know it won’t be all roses in the end. The story takes a nasty turn halfway through the novel and suddenly I felt a bit cheated myself ;-). I’m afraid there’s something captivating about reading about another person’s misery which made me want to keep turning these pages.

I have liked, loved and hated one of the characters in the end. It took a long time figuring out who was telling the truth and what the true motives of some actions were though. The story was told by Bo first, making me really like her, then Alice’s who I then warmed up to in a flash because of the lousy background and her young and fragile personality, then Bo again… I’m just keeping it to myself who of these two main characters, Bo or Alice, wasn’t exactly the person I thought she was and made me feel this way so strongly.

This is a story about love and hurt and how painful it is to love. A great debut novel by Sarah Stovell.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher, Orenda Books, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Blood Sisters by Jane Corry

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What’s it about?

Two women. Two versions of the truth.

Kitty lives in a care home. She can’t speak properly, and she has no memory of the accident that put her here. At least that’s the story she’s sticking to.

Art teacher Alison looks fine on the surface. But the surface is a lie. When a job in a prison comes up she decides to take it – this is her chance to finally make things right.

But someone is watching Kitty and Alison.
Someone who wants revenge for what happened that sunny morning in May.
And only another life will do…

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Review

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Blood Sisters starts off as a creepy thriller – think stalkerish things – but gradually turns into an interesting and entertaining mystery.

Ali(son) works as a lecturer teaching stained glass creation and comes in contact with a lot of people. There’s a sense of threat seeping through the pages right from the start and I couldn’t pinpoint where it was coming from, it could have been either one of Ali’s students she teaches in class in the evenings or one of the inmates she teaches at the prison where she recently started to work. But who? I even doubted her in the beginning, thought she was being paranoid for no good reason but no, the threat is very real and serious.

Thankfully, the tension is broken with alternating chapters that follow Kitty, a disabled woman bound to a wheelchair after an accident. She doesn’t remember what happened and can’t talk so we only hear her thoughts throughout the story. Her world circles around Friday Mum, and carers she gives nicknames. When Flab Face turns up she has a crisis and she doesn’t even know why. The author did a great job voicing Kitty’s thoughts in the way she did and it consistently felt authentical and true to form.

The connection between the characters becomes apparent soon enough because the past flashbacks show they know each other and around the halfway point they finally meet in the present and that’s when the story suddenly unfolds a little bit more like a mystery; what happened in the past comes more and more to the forefront for both of them and the one who’s threatening Ali is a bit pushed from centre stage, even if just for a little while.

Kitty starts having small flashbacks about her past (okay those might have come a bit earlier if it were up to me because all that mention of the past was nagging at me, I was so curious for a long time already) and when it was perhaps a bit of a steady flow of events at first, not giving too much away yet, Blood Sisters certainly knows a twisty and turny road towards the end. The author did a great job creating doubt about both Kitty and Alison and how it all went down exactly in the past. The plotline of the person threatening Alison all this time is believable and was inserted into the other storyline in a swift and natural way. The author also kept quite a few secrets to hit you with in the end. All in all, a novel that kept me well entertained and an author I’d like to read more books from.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.