Never Tell by Lisa Gardner #BookReview

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A man is dead, shot three times in his home office. But his computer has been shot twelve times, and when the cops arrive, his pregnant wife is holding the gun.

D. D. Warren arrives on the scene and recognizes the woman–Evie Carter–from a case many years back. Evie’s father was killed in a shooting that was ruled an accident. But for D.D., two coincidental murders is too many.

Flora Dane sees the murder of Conrad Carter on the TV news and immediately knows his face. She remembers a night when she was still a victim–a hostage–and her captor knew this man. Overcome with guilt that she never tracked him down, Flora is now determined to learn the truth of Conrad’s murder.

But D.D. and Flora are about to discover that in this case the truth is a devilishly elusive thing. As layer by layer they peel away the half-truths and outright lies, they wonder: How many secrets can one family have?

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This novel is on fire! It has a burning hot cover and there are actually quite a few fires to put out in this novel as well ;-).

I read a few of the previous books in the series (nrs. 5 and 6 and one in her other series too) and looking back on those reads (I gave Love You More five stars) I was very tempted to read Never Tell even though I didn’t know if it was a good idea to jump in at book 10 again. I took the plunge though and I’m so happy I did. Never Tell is another strong and fabulously suspenseful thriller and can be read as a standalone perfectly. The only thing you won’t really fully experience is the story of Flora at the time when she was held captive in a present narrative (which is a plotline in another novel). In Never Tell she’s looking back on it which was chilling and unsettling to read but makes me want to hear even more as well so I think I’ll go back and pick up that novel later.

The story itself is told in alternating chapters by the woman who is suspected of killing her husband, a detective and this Flora. The latter helps D.D. Warren professionally as an informant but she’s also an important link to the murder because she saw the victim, Conrad Jones, when she was held captive in conversation with her abductor. She tried to bury what happened to her but now she’s feeling strong enough and is determined to unearth Jacob Ness’ secrets and lies with the help of one of those true crime buffs on the internet and to find out who Conrad Jones was and what he was hiding from his wife.

I loved all three characters although Flora, whip-smart and headstrong, is probably my favorite. I don’t think one of them was less than the other two though, they were quite evenly matched. Evie was mysterious and I felt a little unsure about her. She’s the underdog of course, suspected of murdering her husband but on the other hand she might be holding some secrets too. I knew she was smart and resourceful right away, the way she was trying to find out what her husband was hiding in the months leading up to his death and I couldn’t help finding her initial reaction, shooting a computer, quite strange too and certainly enough to raise my eyebrows. I loved hearing about her past as a young girl and how she loved her brilliant father so much but at the same time it also made me wonder even more about his death. What lead to his death, and was it an accident after all?

If you enjoy reading police procedurals then you should definitely put this one on your list, there is excellent investigative work in Never Tell. 

The story is one spidery web of secrets and lies, taking you deep into Flora’s history and Evie’s past and as I said already, it sets quite a few fires alight along the way to the action-packed ending. Surprising twists and a great cast make this a brilliant page-turner that I can recommend to everyone.

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

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The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides #BookReview

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I love him so totally, completely, sometimes it threatens to overwhelm me.
Sometimes I think-
No. I won’t write about that.

ALICIA
Alicia Berenson writes a diary as a release, an outlet – and to prove to her beloved husband that everything is fine. She can’t bear the thought of worrying Gabriel, or causing him pain.

Until, late one evening, Alicia shoots Gabriel five times and then never speaks another word.

THEO
Forensic psychotherapist Theo Faber is convinced he can successfully treat Alicia, where all others have failed. Obsessed with investigating her crime, his discoveries suggest Alicia’s silence goes far deeper than he first thought.

And if she speaks, would he want to hear the truth?

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‘Grasping at vanashing snowflakes is like grasping at happiness; an act of possession which instantly gives way to nothing.’

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If you haven’t heard about this novel by now, I really don’t know where you’ve been hiding. The Silent Patient is promised to become one of this year’s bestsellers and I think they are RIGHT, this novel really has bestseller written all over it!

Alicia Berenson was a very intriguing character because she kept quiet from the start, not saying another word after she’s been caught and arrested for the murder on her husband Gabriel in flagrante delicto. We know the facts, her husband was shot 5 times in the head and he was tied to a chair but what we don’t know is WHY she did it. I wanted to, no needed to know why she did it so badly in the end! The author kept me very much in suspense though and the slow build only added to the story.

The fact that she’s not talking forced me to guess her motive constantly. Her profile just didn’t fit with the murder but I knew she did it. It was very conflicting and I couldn’t flip those pages fast enough to find out more. I also couldn’t understand why she wasn’t talking, the only clue she left was a painting she made. I’m not a big art lover or expert but I was quite fascinated about the meaning behind this painting which name refers to an old Greek tragedy; it made it even more intriguing.

Before there were answers there’ll be a lot more questions and silence though and luckily psychotherapist Theo Faber comes along and is determined he can make her talk after 6 years of silence. In other novels the therapist often remains an authority but in this novel I really got to know Theo, I heard his own thoughts and became familiar with the struggles he’s facing in his personal life as well. I liked him, it was easy to connect with him and it was there from the start. I wished that he would be successful and would be able to get Alicia to talk. As a reader you’re sooooo waiting for that moment to happen!

To help the story along he’s aided by Alicia’s diary entries and this clever literary tool let me hear from Alicia even when she’s keeping quiet. Layer after layer there’s more to be discovered about her life but I was still totally blindsided in the end and I almost had a whiplash inducing shock when all the puzzle pieces fell into place without much of a warning. I was stunned. What the… how the hell did this happen? It all makes sense though when you think about it and I loved the twist. My initial outrage at her was gone, just like that. I understood why she did it, how she was pushed over the edge. It was a brilliant end scene.

If you enjoy psychological thrillers I’d definitely put it on the list like NOW! This is an absolutely amazing debut with an unbelievable stunner of twist! It’s perfect for fans of Jo Spain who read The Confession (also not a who but a why dunnit novel).

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

The Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup #BlogTour #BookReview @JennyPlatt90 @MichaelJBooks

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Welcome to my blog stop on the book tour for The Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup. My thanks to the author, to Jenny Platt and publisher Michael Joseph for the opportunity to be part of the tour. I can’t wait to tell you more so let’s go!

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One blustery October morning in a quiet suburb of Copenhagen, the police make a terrible discovery. A young woman is found brutally murdered in a playground and one of her hands is missing. Above her hangs a small doll made of chestnuts.

Ambitious young detective Naia Thulin is assigned the case. Her partner, Mark Hess, is a burned-out investigator who’s just been kicked out of Europol. They soon discover a mysterious piece of evidence on the chestnut man – evidence connecting it to a girl who went missing a year earlier and is presumed dead – the daughter of politician Rosa Hartung.

The man who confessed to her murder is behind bars and the case is long since closed.

Soon afterwards, another woman is found murdered, along with another chestnut man. Thulin and Hess suspect that there’s a connection between the Hartung case, the murdered women and a killer who is spreading fear throughout the country. But what is it?

Thulin and Hess are racing against the clock, because it’s clear that the murderer is on a mission that is far from over . . .

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Søren Sveistrup is an internationally acclaimed scriptwriter of the Danish television phenomenon The Killing which won various international awards and sold in more than a hundred countries. More recently, Sveistrup wrote the screenplay for Jo Nesbø’s The Snowman. Sveistrup obtained a Master in Literature and in History from the University of Copenhagen and studied at the Danish Film School. He has won countless prizes, including an Emmy for Nikolaj and Julie and a BAFTA for The Killing.

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I was surprised when I received this novel and saw it had a whopping 515 pages to read. It was so captivating though that not even for one millisecond I considered this a disadvantage, I raced through it!

Frankly, I wasn’t nearly prepared enough when I started reading this as this novel had my heart nearly beating out of my chest after turning those first pages. Even though nestled cosily in my chair I felt a deep fear for what was coming. The start of the novel is heads-on disturbing and brutal (yeah just the way I like it). The tension eases slightly when the investigation starts but returns with lightening speed every so often and definitely ramps up towards the end when it gets more gruesome again. I have to say the assaults in this novel were quite brutal and an attack on my senses as well with their vivid imaginary descriptions.

Detectives Thulin and Hess were a great team even if they are quite different. The one green and one blue eyed detective Hess is a bit of an Einzelgänger and was dropped in Copenhagen while they’re investigating his past actions in The Hague. He doesn’t want to be there of course so at first he doesn’t want to invest any time or energy until it comes to his attention that there might – or must – be a link between the present murder and a murder that happened a year earlier which the killer confessed and was arrested for. The killer’s calling card leaves everyone baffled and he can’t help but take an interest after all.

The novel had a brilliant plot and I loved how the storyline was built. Even though I felt that the key to unlocking the mystery had to lie with Ministery of Social Affairs Hartung and her missing daughter Kristine, I wasn’t quite able to figure out how and why she fit into the story and the truth left me gobsmacked. Even though as a reader you know a bit more than the detectives, it’s impossible to stay far ahead of them so you reach the same conclusion almost at the same time, leaving you quite speechless about the outcome.

If you twist my arm about anything I didn’t like about this book it might be that it sometimes took a few moments to know whose POV I was reading at the start of a chapter but that’s really all I can think of. It’s such a minor detail though and I’m still giving The Chestnut Man all the stars. One other thing I want to mention is that the Dutch version of the book is called Oktober (yes the month October) which is in my opinion nowhere near as great a title as The Chestnut Man.

This novel is definitely one of the best thrillers I read of late. I recommend it especially to the readers who read and enjoyed The Fourth Monkey Killer and who don’t mind a bit of torture now and then. You definitely want to add this one to your readlist! It does feel obvious that the author is in the movie business and I really want to see this made into a series or a movie. I know now when to look away after all :-).

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

*** Don’t forget to check out the other blogs stops on this book tour ***

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The first 5 🌟 of the year goes to… Changeling by Matt Wesolowski #BlogTour #BookReview @ConcreteKraken @OrendaBooks @annecater

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Welcome to my blog stop on the book tour for Changeling by Matt Wesolowski. My thanks to the author, to Anne Cater and publisher Orenda Books for the opportunity to be part of the tour. No guestpost today because I’m so excited about this book you’re getting a book review. I can’t wait to tell you more so let’s go!

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On Christmas Eve in 1988, seven-year-old Alfie Marsden vanished in the Wentshire Forest Pass, when a burst tyre forced his father, Sorrel, to stop the car. Leaving the car to summon the emergency services, Sorrel returned to find his son gone. No trace of the child, nor his remains, have ever been found. Alfie Marsden was declared officially dead in 1995.

Elusive online journalist, Scott King, whose ‘Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the disappearance, interviewing six witnesses, including Sorrel, his son and his ex-partner, to try to find out what really happened that fateful night. He takes a journey through the trees of the Wentshire Forest – a place synonymous with strange sightings, and tales of hidden folk who dwell there. He talks to a company that tried and failed to build a development in the forest, and a psychic who claims to know where Alfie is…

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Author

Author Matt Wesolowski

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- an US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie CreatureSelfies from the End of the WorldCold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio. A prequel, Hydra, was published in 2018 and became an international bestseller.

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Oh how long I’ve been dying to tell everyone how much I LOVED this book! I was already a fan of the Six Stories series since I discovered the first novel (ICYMI here’s my review of #1 Six Stories and #2 Hydra) and I knew this would be good but let me tell you this one’s really criminally good.

Changeling was bold, unrelenting and without a doubt my SCARIEST READ EVER. The novel is only 173 pages long but that was more than enough to really rattle me.

I seriously love novels with stories drenched in legend and folklore and Changeling made optimal use of this. I’m actually not superstitious so I made the assumption this story wouldn’t get to me but I assure you that even when you don’t believe, this book will get under your skin. After the spooky forest in Six Stories, the author amped it up another notch by introducing mysterious black-eyed children who come knocking on your door in Hydra. This time he was on such a roll with his descriptions of Wentshire Forest, it gave me goosebumps, made me question everything and scared me so much more than I expected. If you want the full experience you should read it at night, I dare you! As usual I read a little before bedtime and I think I was awake half the night, hearing all kinds of sounds and thinking about what could possibly be going on, wondering about the truth of that forest where strange things occured during construction of some holiday cottages. Is it haunted and was Alfie taken by *dare I even say this out loud* forest fairies? Did the father kill his son?  The story and what was happening in the past and the present was so intriguing it made my head hurt thinking about it.

When I finished reading the novel I just sat there, staring into the distance with a major book hangover. I can best describe the whole experience as going into a horror house, you’re scared and all but once you’ve left all you can think is I want to do it again. Well it’s the same here! Changeling was incredibly atmospheric, and involved a brilliant plotline that really delivered in the end. This is a novel that I’ll recommend to everyone over and over again, and I can’t wait to read another cold case podcast.

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

*** Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour ***

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A brilliant debut! My Name is Anna by Lizzy Barber #BookReview #BlogTour @ByLizzyBarber @arrowpublishing @Rachel90Kennedy

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Welcome to my blog stop on the book tour for the brilliant debut novel My Name is Anna by Lizzy Barber. My thanks to the author, to Rachel Kennedy and Arrow Publishing for the opportunity to be part of the tour. I can’t wait to tell you more so let’s go!

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Two women – desperate to unlock the truth.
How far will they go to lay the past to rest?

ANNA has been taught that virtue is the path to God. But on her eighteenth birthday she defies her Mamma’s rules and visits Florida’s biggest theme park.
She has never been allowed to go – so why, when she arrives, does everything seem so familiar? And is there a connection to the mysterious letter she receives on the same day?

ROSIE has grown up in the shadow of the missing sister she barely remembers, her family fractured by years of searching without leads. Now, on the fifteenth anniversary of her sister’s disappearance, the media circus resumes in full flow, and Rosie vows to uncover the truth. But will she find the answer before it tears her family apart?

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Most surprising novel of the year so far! I loved this debut, it was so much deeper and darker than I thought it would be.

A story always has two sides and I was thrilled the author didn’t choose to write this magnificent story in a single narrative but opted for a dual narrative by Anna and Rosie, sharing their own individual story in alternating chapters. Their very different, contrasting lives made for fascinating reading and the anticipation of seeing these threads come together was agonizing.

As a reader I knew more than the main protagonists right from the start so I had to wait a while for one of the girls to catch up with what I already knew and some readers might perhaps find it a bit of a slow start but it’s oh so important to watch the whole thing unfold in its own time, it’s essential to see how that seed of doubt develops, grows and is cultivated. It can’t be rushed or it wouldn’t be believable anymore so I tried to resist the urge for a quick progression and my desire to see the storylines cross-over. The buildup was subtle and let me see the many nuances in the girls’ lives. Not only were they raised on different continents, they were raised very differently as well. You can’t miss what you don’t have but my heart went out to Anna because I knew of course what they were both missing. As I turned the pages I  was overcome with a sad feeling thinking how different both their lives could have been.

Anna lives with her religious neat-freak mother and she’s destined to lead a strict and frugal life. I didn’t envy her life and I certainly didn’t like her mother. Rosie on the other hand was raised in a warm and affectionate family, she smokes, drinks and goes to parties (without her mum knowing). She’ll never be like other teenagers though, the fact that her sister is missing casts a big shadow on their family. The grief of this entire broken family of parents, a sister and even the brother who doesn’t even know the missing girl was so touchingly described that it made my heart ache.

I was hugely awarded for my initial patience because the last part of the novel was terrific. The story intensified gradually with the help of two other narrators who help reveal the backstory and the reasons why this happened 15 years earlier. It made such compelling reading! I might have had my judgement at the ready from page 1 but hearing the full story that led to the kidnapping, it changed my initial views and condemnation. Never judge a book by its cover, or in this case, by the facts. I’m not saying I’m agreeing with what Anna’s mother did but at least I can say I have some understanding.

My Name Is Anna made me feel a wide range of emotions and quite surprisingly the story turns more and more dangerous. Who does Anna have to be afraid of though? Her mother or this mystery man who knows who she is? The story builds to an amazing climax too that made me hold my breath. Gripping and tense, check and check!

I’m very happy with the way it ended, I loved the epilogue. It could have ended differently or the author could have written clichés to give the story a ‘happy ever after’ ending with no further thought but she didn’t and that’s what makes it so much better and made me close the novel with a sigh of contentment.

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

*** Don’t forget to check out the other 2 blog tour stops today ***

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An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen #BookReview

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Seeking women ages 18–32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed.

When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money and leave. But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive, and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr Shields may know what she’s thinking . . . and what she’s hiding. As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what is real in her life, and what is one of Dr Shields’s manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

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This novel was very high on my wishlist and I might have squeeled a little when I was invited by the publisher to read it on Netgalley. It’s as if they read my mind!

I was’t only very excited to read the novel though, I was a little anxious as well. I don’t need to be reminded how unexpectedly twisted The Wife Between Us was so I didn’t know if the follow-up of that bestseller would be as satisfying as the first. The bar was set quite high but it definitely lived up to my expectations!

An Anonymous Girl really plays the psychological card and is for me THE perfect definition of a ‘psychological’ thriller! The book contains quite a bit of psychological warfare and I couldn’t be happier about that as I’m always fascinated by secrets and lies, how some people can derive answers from non-verbal clues, how they can read people and instinctively know their strenghts and weaknesses, what drives them and what makes them afraid. If you have an interest in the human psyche and psychology then this one is a real hit.

The novel is told in alternate chapters by Jess (Jessica), a girl working as a make-up artist and Dr. Shields, a psychology professor. Their interaction commences with Jess taking part in a survey where she has to answer truthfully on some thought-provoking questions that form the basis of a morality study. I loved getting to know Jess by working my way through her answers. Her thoughts and feelings were there, stripped from every disguise, and I liked her character, it shows she’s flawed but her honesty was touching. It also made me think what I’d answer on the questions myself. The novel takes a bit of a turn when her loyalty is being tested though. It’s not clear what Dr. Shield’s intentions are at first but I did have an unsettling feeling that there was an unseen threat and Jess was being used for something. There’s definitely manipulation in this novel involved but is it Dr. Shields or the third person who joins their little triangle who is lying to Jess? Trust is an important issue in the novel and I have to admit I was quick to judge some people as well… I liked and trusted some characters first, to change my mind about them as the story progressed, until I was completely at a loss about who to trust.

An Anonymous Girl is a novel of action and reaction, and as it nears the end it has something of a chess game with the main characters playing some serious mind games. Halfway through the book Jess doesn’t know who represents the real danger in this tangled web she finds herself in anymore. The tension hung in the air and it was great not knowing what their next move would be. The confrontation and finding out who would lie and who would tell the truth in the end was fascinating to see unfold.

I can’t wait to see what the authors come up with next.

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

The Corset by Laura Purcell #BookReview

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Dorothea and Ruth. Prison visitor and prisoner. Powerful and powerless. Dorothea Truelove is young, wealthy and beautiful. Ruth Butterham is young, poor and awaiting trial for murder.

When Dorothea’s charitable work leads her to Oakgate Prison, she is delighted with the chance to explore her fascination with phrenology and test her hypothesis that the shape of a person’s skull can cast a light on their darkest crimes. But when she meets teenage seamstress Ruth, she is faced with another theory: that it is possible to kill with a needle and thread. For Ruth attributes her crimes to a supernatural power inherent in her stitches.

The story Ruth has to tell of her deadly creations – of bitterness and betrayal, of death and dresses – will shake Dorothea’s belief in rationality and the power of redemption.

Can Ruth be trusted? Is she mad, or a murderer?

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I think I can count the number of historical novels I read so far on one single hand but after reading The Corset I have absolutely no idea why that is anymore. I enjoyed this novel so much! I was truly fascinated by the setting and Ruby’s job as seamstress. Laura Purcell was able to transport me to another era with her detailed and atmospheric writing and although life then was indeed bleak and dreary for many, as I imagined it would be in that Jack The Ripper time-period, the writing and the characters were anything but that. I was hooked right from the start and the whole reading experience was positively amazing!

At first sight the two women in this novel couldn’t be more different from each other as they both had a vastly different upbringing and while one has a sad and tragic life and it resulted for 16-year old Ruby in awaiting trial, 25-year old Dora (Dorothea) is used to a much different lifestyle with a servant following her every move and at her beck and call. Dora doesn’t really ‘work’ but spends her time visiting women at the Oakgate prison so she can subject them to her phrenology hypotheses. She believes that if they change inside then the shape of their head, the areas responsible for their crimes, change too and this can be measured physically. It’s how she meets Ruby and she’s eager to subject her to her theories.

The title of the novel is so enormously apt for this book because it goes far and beyond the sewing of a corset in the novel… it is also a most fitting metaphor for the position of both women in society, whether rich or poor they both don’t have a lot of room to be free and live their life at their heart’s content. The corset itself is an important object though and Ruth’s talent for sewing takes a very unsettling and mysterious turn when she claims she can kill people through her stitches.

The Corset kept me addicted and although I liked how Dora’s entries were a welcome salvation from all the tragedy happening, I have to admit that I was slightly more drawn to Ruby’s account of events, it was quite an emotional and detailed story with one tragedy happening upon another, which made it virtually impossible not to grow fond of her. Why did she do it and most of all is she really responsible for murdering someone? As the story progressed and it moved in a certain direction I had a sense of a possible motive but the question still remained if she really had the power to inflict pain and death with her stitches or not. It was wondrous to find out if her vengeance on the people who weren’t kind to her was inflicted by herself or not. I’m really not a fan of anything supernatural or impossible happening but this uncertainty was very well-developed and it most definitely will keep every reader busy to find an answer to its true nature. I was soon hoping for some divine intervention so that Ruby could be free and finally live a good life because she really wasn’t a murderer to me.

The novel didn’t lose its grip on me till the end with so many unforeseen events. It surprised me countless times with plenty of twists and turns and the ending was brilliant!

I was able to read a free copy of this novel through The Pigeonhole website and this is my honest opinion.