Her Last Move by John Marrs #BookReview

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She’s chasing a killer. He’s watching her every move.

He hides in the shadows, waiting for the perfect moment. Each kill is calculated, planned and executed like clockwork.

Struggling to balance her personal and professional life, young DS Becca Vincent has landed the biggest case of her career—and she knows that it will make or break her. But she can’t catch the culprit alone. Together with facial recognition expert Joe Russell, she strives to get a lead on the elusive murderer, who is always one step ahead of them.

Time is not on their side. The body count is rising, and the attacks are striking closer and closer to home. Can Becca and Joe uncover the connection between the murders before the killer strikes the last name from his list?

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Without exception, I very much enjoyed each of the author’s previous novels. It’s no secret either that John Marrs is one of my favorite authors who I often recommend to other readers. Well if someone’s looking for a new detective novel I can now recommend Her Last Move as well. This novel is his first foray into the police procedural genre, using a detective’s point of view and I have to give him another round of applause because he pulled it off in a genre I read plenty of books in: the plot is original, the cast authentic and the writing superb.

Detectives usually pair up in novels, that’s a standard deal, but I’d never read a novel about a duo like the one (Detective Sergeant) Becca forms with Joe Russell. What am I saying, I hadn’t even heard about the job of a super-recognizer before. Joe Russell is the bunny in the hat and it works brilliantly. I was sceptical of his role and his usefulness but quite fascinated as well.

I didn’t even read half the novel before I absolutely had to know if super-recognizers are really employed in the police force. Google and Wikipedia showed that Scotland Yard has a squad of over 200! Huh! The internet also provides many tests as well apparantly if you want to check if you are in doubt (or convinced) that you have this very special ability of being able to recognise 80% of faces, whereas normal people only score a good 20%.

The author peppers Her Last Move with plenty of revelations and both of the main characters have very interesting backgrounds and family relationships that are out of the ordinary and make you sympathise with them right away as they both have their own personal issues as well. I can’t say much about the investigation but I can tell you that I was hooked as soon as the first murder occured in the very first chapter because I felt I could almost touch the murderer myself. The setting of the unfortunate event was a metro station so the thought that someone can harm someone else so easily if it’s a bit crowded makes me want to keep my distance from everyone from now on, even more than before ;-). The second murder was already more gruesome and I could only guess at the reasons why the killer let his victim suffer without remorse. Marrs kept me on my toes the whole time as I was trying to figure out what connected these people and who might have been doing this but the underlying reasons are of course not easy to spot. Just when Joe’s closing in on the suspect and the story shifts into its highest gear, there’s that one big twist that happened that I was totally unprepared for and it completely knocked me out of balance. I’m talking about one VERY intense scene. I still can’t get over it. There were so many thoughts running through my head at the time and I was holding onto my dear heart too. The author kept me guessing about the outcome for sooo long, it was bloody torture and I could only think nooooo in my head. I didn’t expect this turn of events AT ALL and I loved it as much as I hated what came out of his twisted mind.

Overall, Her Last Move was amazingly entertaining so I definitely recommend!

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

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Before Her Eyes by Jack Jordan #BlogTour #Guestpost

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Welcome to my turn on the blog tour for Before Her Eyes by Jack Jordan. Sincere thanks also to Kirsty Doole of Corvus Books for the opportunity to be part of the tour. I have already read and reviewed both of the novels Jack Jordan wrote this year so I’m sharing an amazing guestpost with you all today that is very touching but first and foremost let’s start with the book itself:

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She can’t see the killer But the killer can see her…

Naomi Hannah has been blind since birth. Struggling with living in a small, claustrophobic town, Naomi contemplates ending her life. But then she stumbles across the body of a young woman who has been brutally murdered. She senses someone else there at the scene – watching her. Naomi may not be able to see the killer’s face, but she is still the only person who can identify him.

As the police begin hunting the person responsible and more victims are discovered, Naomi is forced to answer the question on which her fate hangs: why did the killer let her live?

In a town this small, the murderer must be close, perhaps even before her very eyes…

Click the links below for my book reviews on all of his books so far :

A Woman Scorned and Before Her Eyes, My Girl and Anything For Her.

Purchase

Before Her Eyes is available in paperback and ebook (audio coming soon) from Waterstones, WHSmith Travel, Waitrose, and all good bookshops and online outlets, including all major e-retailers

amazon uk  and links to Anything for Her, My Girl, A Woman Scorned.

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Agoraphobia kept me prisoner, but ultimately set me free 

Most authors will tell you that they have wanted to be writers ever since they can remember, and have always imagined they would have their own stories on the shelves one day. My start, however, was a little different.

            I loved reading and writing as a child. English was one of my favourite subjects in school. I beamed whenever I had the opportunity to exercise creative writing in class and I’ve always loved reading, even if a little out of my age range (I was once told a book was too mature to bring to school… I can’t even remember what it was. All I knew was: it was a book and I was going to read it). But I never remember thinking that my love of reading and writing meant that I could have a book on the shelf too. I never thought that someone like me, a working class kid, could achieve something so monumental. I had put limitations upon myself from the very beginning: I wouldn’t even allow the idea of writing a book, let alone getting it published, to enter my mind, which stayed that way until one day, many years later, my dream finally clicked… but not without struggles along the way.

            Cut to me, aged seventeen. After moving four hours away from home in a wild, rebellious rush, I returned home utterly broken from a traumatic experience. I came home to feel safe, with no idea that the very same home I craved would become my prison for over a year.

            Anxiety is a powerful, intelligent thing. I’ve had it my entire life. Separation anxiety plagued every goodbye. Sunday nights were hell in my house, as my anxiety exploded from having to face another week of school. But even a lifetime of anxiety could not have prepared me for the debilitating power of agoraphobia and PTSD.

            Overnight, I became a recluse. I existed entirely behind closed doors. I gave windows a wide berth to avoid being seen, flinching whenever someone walked by. I shut myself away if there were visitors in the house, and lost all sense of night and day, sleeping in the day and living at night, which made me feel like I was the only person awake in the entire world, a unique breed of loneliness that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. My anxiety was triggered by everything and anything, however irrational they seemed. And then it got so bad that I couldn’t even leave my bedroom.

            I remember when this happened: I had walked down the stairs at the exact same moment the postman delivered our mail, and the shock of it brought on a horrendous panic attack. I collapsed on the stairs and stayed there, hyperventilating with my eyes on the glass in the door, too terrified to move. I stayed there for an hour. Just like that, I was confined to my bedroom, too scared to even look out of my own window.

            One morning, after another sleepless night, I lay in bed filled with unspent energy. Hiding away day and night takes very little physical exertion, and deprives a person of mental stimulation. The energy builds and builds and builds like traffic, and with nowhere to go, it ends up fuelling the anxiety, the very thing that was keeping me hidden in the first place – a never-ending cycle that I felt helpless to stop. So as the sun rose, I wrote a short story to pass the time. It was only a thousand words or so, written in the notes app on my Blackberry. I didn’t think anything of it, it was just something I did for fun, just another idea that had presented itself inside my mind that I had no idea what to do with or felt I had the right to act on. It was just to help me fall asleep.

            Except… when I woke up, I wrote another chapter. And another. And another. I had no idea that I was writing a book, only that I was creating characters who could exist outside of my prison. I was getting the stimulation I craved and a way out of my hell, even if my escape was only imaginary.

            For six months, I lived vicariously through my characters, escaping the confines of my home using my mind, my characters, the power of words, until one day I looked down and realised I had written a novel of one hundred thousand words. Without realising, I had fulfilled the dream I had never allowed myself to fathom. The second I wrote ‘The End’, I knew I was a writer, and that deep down, I had known all along.

            Writing ‘The End’ was only the beginning, but it unlocked a truth from within me, a realisation that might never have occurred, had it not been for my anxiety: I’m a writer. I always have been. All of those ideas that had plagued my mind for years not only had a way of being released, but they had a purpose.

            You’re not reading the words of a university graduate. I never even went to college. I dropped out of school at fourteen because of depression and anxiety (growing up attracted to the same sex is VERY fun, by the way). You’re reading the words of an author whose lifeline was the written word. As my peers moved around the country to study, I taught myself grammar, spelling, punctuation, how to format a novel, how to structure a story, how the whole publishing thing worked, all from the confines of my bedroom. I spent day and night making my dream a reality, and slowly put myself back together again through years of therapy and exposure. Five years later, I went on to publish my debut novel Anything for Her, followed by my second, My Girl, the year after. The two titles sold over one hundred thousand copies.

            So now, at twenty-five, as I prepare myself for the release of my traditional debut, Before Her Eyes, I look back with complete admiration for who I was at seventeen, and for all the strength it took to face and trust the world again, not only as a person, but as a writer, with my past and pain strewn over the pages of my books and dozens of rejections to my name.

Eight years have passed, but I will never forget how I started, and will always feel the same pride, the same overwhelming confirmation that being a writer is who I am, every time I write ‘The End’.

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

Before Her Eyes (Blog Tour)

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton #BookReview

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‘Somebody’s going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won’t appear to be a murder and so the murderer won’t be caught. Rectify that injustice and I’ll show you the way out.’

It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.

But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.

The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…

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Stuart Turton. Man! I don’t know how he managed to write such a maze-of-a-novel. I don’t believe I’ve ever read anything like this before!

I knew this novel was being hugely praised and it made me even more determined and ready to solve this whodunnit on my own. If you already read this novel you’ll know how ridiculous my assumption was because there is no way that you can anticipate and solve this on your own, as I figured out quite soon as well ;-). There’s so much cause and effect in this novel, so much detail that went into this grand scheme of things that it just wasn’t possible to get a clear picture of the whole puzzle. It didn’t spoil any of the fun though, there was so much to be discovered in this novel, there were new insights and revelations with every character change.

Although I loved the start of the novel I was a bit worried how the story was going to develop and if I’d be able to keep up. I felt quite confused with what was going at first… was it just me I wondered? Should I start making notes of timelines and characters? Bell seemed awfully focused on someone called Anna but I thought it was all about a woman called Evelyn Hardcastle.. and then there was quite a large cast of characters in the novel that were kept an eye on. As the story progressed everything became clear though so not to worry, if you keep going it’ll all make sense eventually, you just have to go with the flow and let the main character lead you on, it’ll all become clear as water.

I had a hunch that the present mystery and a past event were in some way connected but I didn’t know how. I also had no clue who was chasing him, trying to get him killed or who this masked man is called The Plague Doctor. He’s the one who doesn’t let him leave unless he solves the murder but also provides him with info. Is he to be trusted and who is he? Lots and lots of intriguing questions *big smiles*. The main character (Aiden) will have to use each character’s strong points to his advantage and learn as much as he can about the others in order to solve this one. I was satisfied with all the answers in the end though and it exceeded my expectations entirely.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is not an easy relaxed read, one where you’re able to have one eye on your cooking, child or husband, but you will want to keep with it when reading anyway, in the end it’s really insanely twisted!

This novel takes you on a mind-boggling trip with many many twists, secrets, and even a little sprinkle of futuristic sci-fi in it. The details of that last part were not developed but it’s not something I wished for either, the idea was enough to make it work. Even the sci-fi part was great for me, go figure!

I’m going to stop here because I could keep going on forever. I think you’ll have realised by now that this is a must-read! Don’t give up in the beginning, it’s totally worth it. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is the most complex novel I’ve probably ever read. It’s incredibly clever and utterly addictive. I don’t say this often but I most definitely would love to reread this in the future even when I know – and won’t forget any time soon – how it ends and who killed Evelyn Hardcastle. It’s that good!

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

The Fifth to Die by J.D. Barker #BookReview

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In the midst of one of the worst winters Chicago has seen in years, the body of missing teenager Ella Reynolds is discovered under the surface of a frozen lake.

She’s been missing for three weeks… the lake froze over three months ago.

Detective Sam Porter and his team are brought in to investigate but it’s not long before another girl goes missing. The press believes the serial killer, Anson Bishop, has struck again but Porter knows differently. The deaths are too different, there’s a new killer on the loose.

Porter however is distracted. He’s still haunted by Bishop and his victims, even after the FBI have removed him from the case. His only leads: a picture of a female prisoner and a note from Bishop: ‘Help me find my mother. I think it’s time she and I talked.’

As more girls go missing and Porter’s team race to stop the body count rising, Porter disappears to track down Bishop’s mother and discover that the only place scarier than the mind of a serial killer is the mind of the mother from which he came.

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I’m reading some incredible novels this year and this rollercoaster of a read is definitely one of them. This is such an amazing series, you’re missing out if you’ve not sprung on the wagon!

There are not one, not two but three very different angles of investigation in The Fifth to Die that made this an extremely tense and high-speed read, where new things were constantly discovered and really keep the ball on rolling. Sam, the lead detective of the first novel, is on his own fairly soon when someone sets him up and they pull him off the case. He doesn’t start twiddling his thumbs though but continues on his own and follows a small lead that makes him team up with an unexpected but very welcome new sidekick who isn’t a detective. It really brakes the mould of so many clichés and I enjoyed their interactions very much. Then there’s FBI man Poole looking into the information about the Fourth Monkey Killer again and everything Sam left behind and finally the third team consists of Nash, Clair and IT guy Klotz who have technology and resources on their side.

Even with all this manpower splashed about, catching this guy who’s abducting girls is not evident at all. They believe they know the identity of the guy but where he is or determining why he’s doing it is unclear. The scenes of the girls held captive were soooo scary and disturbing. I looooved reading them and witnessing the different reactions but was equally horrified when reading about what they had to endure (nothing sexual thankfully although I wouldn’t boast about the alternative either).

I’m going to stop right here because it’s impossible to describe how wonderfully complex and cleverly plotted this novel was. It was very puzzling but so engaging to read that I did not want to end my reading sessions. So the only reason I didn’t give it five stars is because I was left with so many unanswered questions at the end of this novel and I mean big, important, fundamental questions that were there the whole time. I really don’t have a choice but to read the third (and final?) part of this series and I’m all too willing to do so but I wish it had given me some answers at least. You see things unfold in this novel but I can’t wait to hear the explanation of the why’s and how’s to so many questions I have.

If you’re interested in reading this novel then you definitely have to read The Fifth Monkey first. This is a trilogy where you have to start with the first novel, you simply can’t drop in mid-story, there’s too much backstory and character development that is detrimental to understanding and enjoying the sequel to the fullest. The diary entries of the first novel for example play an important role in The Fifth to Die as well and some of it suddenly seems different than before. You also can’t – I repeat – can’t walk away from this story after you finished this one. This was a crazily addictive read to me and J.D. Barker has so earned his stripes for me as a horror/thriller writer. I wish I could  read book 3 already!

I received a free copy of this novel from Booklover Catlady Publicity in exchange for my honest opinion.

Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager #BookReview

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Welcome to my turn on the blog tour for Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager. My thanks also to Anne Cater and Penguin Random House UK, Ebury Publishing for the opportunity to be part of the tour.

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Have you ever played two truths and a lie?

Emma has. Her first summer away from home, she learned how to play the game. And she learned how to lie.

Then three of her new friends went into the woods and never returned . . .

Now, years later, Emma has been asked to go back to the newly re-opened Camp Nightingale. She thinks she’s laying old ghosts to rest but really she’s returning to the scene of a crime.

Because Emma’s innocence might be the biggest lie of all…

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I really loved how original and suspenseful Riley Sager’s first novel, Final Girls, was. It was in my top 10 of 2016 for good reason. Well the impossible is possible, he’s done it again! Riley Sager wrote a brilliant follow up novel that holds one’s own phenominally. If you liked Final Girls, you will like this one too, and that’s no lie!

When girls are disappearing without a trace, you can color me intrigued! Last Time I Lied was eerie, sinister and very very atmospheric thanks to the setting of Camp Nightingale. The summer camp mentioned in the novel is buried in the woods (think no cell phone reception!) with wooden cabins planted here and there and each cabin houses 3-4 summer guests. Lake Midnight, situated on the domain, was so ominous and dark, it felt like a character all on its own and I loved its own interesting and legendary past.

One night, Vivian, Natalie and Allison disappear without a trace, leaving 13 year-old Emma behind in the cabin. They disappear into the night, never to be seen again and it’s funny yet a genius idea to resurrect the feel of his first novel by making Emma a Final Girl or sole surivor in his sequel. Now – 15 years later – camp Nightingale is reopened. Some come back to forget what happened in the past and replace it with more pleasant memories but Emma comes back to remember, find out what happened and get rid of some of her guilt. Guilt for what exactly is something that’ll certainly eat at you as well when you’re following in Emma’s wake. I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt, she’s easy to sympathise with when they look at her like she’s a pariah, but I had to hold back a little bit and couldn’t give her my all because she didn’t show all the cards in her hand either.

Sager then expertly weaves two time periods with unmistakable similarities together. Before she knows it Emma is bunking with 3 young girls, Miranda, Krystal and Sasha and history seems to be repeating. Just like Vivian in the past, Miranda is also a leader type and the other two seem to parallel the girls from the past as well. There are 6 girls to keep track of apart from Emma but I didn’t have any problem following sporty spice and the others. It was pretty obvious as well who was really important and who wasn’t.

The author managed to keep the mystery going for a very long time without letting my attention wane for even a second. Last Time I Lied is a spooky story with suspects and red herrings aplenty. I was led astray numerous times and just when I thought I could reach my own conclusion, he had me tick off another name from my suspect list without a pardon. This happened multiple times and with every new suspect exonerated, I actually worried who would be the last one standing. I thought I knew better all the time and I actually knew nothing at all :-). I shouldn’t have been so surprised that I was completely unprepared for the way it ended. I was hit so hard when I found out what happened to the girls. The denouement came with a pretty big bang and I hung onto every word!

Riley Sager definitely knows what he’s doing and how it’s done right. He knows how to write a novel that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat!

I liked how the story was written but I loved the setting and the atmosphere. Last Time I Lied wasn’t too scary but I still consider it as bordering the horror genre. It’s so easy to imagine yourself at that summer camp yourself. If you enjoyed reading Six Stories, you should definitely add this one to your readlist.

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

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

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Never Go There by Rebecca Tinnelly #BookReview

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What if you found out that you’d been married to a stranger?

‘Never go there, Nuala. Please, never go there.’

Nuala knows nothing of her husband James’s past. He made her swear that she would never contact his family and never, EVER visit the place he was from.

But now James is dead, and Nuala is alone. Grieving and desperate, she decides to ignore his warning.

Nuala is about to find out that some secrets are better left buried – and that uncovering the truth about the man she married will have terrible consequences…

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After a brutal prologue, the intensity fortunately relented for a small stretch with Nuala’s arrival into James’ home town, looking for a place to stay and stumbling into Maggie’s pub, meeting Emma, Maggie’s help and niece. She doesn’t know it yet but I’m guessing she’d have made other choices in hindsight.. nobody wants her there :-). The plotline gives a different perspective from Emma, Maggie, Lois and grieving widow Nuala in turn and it’s kind of sad but all four of these women have had their own share of grief and heartache.

When Nuala meets James’ mother Lois she doesn’t find the comfort she expected to find though. As it turns out, she’s a bitter old woman. Enough for me to dislike her instantly BUT my perception of her started to change as I turned the pages and by the end of the novel I even felt a little guilty of being so prejudiced. Nobody is born a bitter person right.. you don’t just choose to be like this, you become bitter and the author gradually divulged what made Lois the woman she is today and how all she had to deal with changed her so drastically. It really made my heart bleed.

This is not a happy novel, it’s in fact pretty dark and there was so much that happened in the past that have consequences in the present. Sadness, secrets and revenge all play their part. There is plenty of tragedy to go round but I liked Maggie, who never really recovered from her own husband’s death and hits the bottle every night, most of all. She was described so perfectly that I could really see her before me. She’s such a good person, raising her niece Emma since she was fourteen when her stepmother died. Unfortunately, she won’t be able to stop everything from coming out. When the train has left the station there’s nothing you can do :-).

Never Go There already made me hungry with its brilliant title and really, that title was perfectly chosen.. she bloody well shouldn’t have gone :-). The story was very twisted, with a lot of sensitive themes and triggers and yes I’m going to say it again, it’s very tragic. It’s dark, disturbing and the complex backstory made it a very compulsive read.

This book made me feel anger, hatred, heartache and pity. I can’t find any faults, the characters were wonderfully fleshed out and my conclusion is that I can highly recommend this read if you like to unearth secrets of the past. Impressive debut!

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

The Chosen Ones (DI Robyn Carter #5) by Carol Wyer #BookReview

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On a hot summer’s morning, a young father is found murdered in a cornfield, outside the quiet town of Colton. Tied to a post, arms spread wide; Detective Robyn Carter is reminded of the crucifixion, and she knows she’s looking for a killer with a twisted sense of right and wrong.

The victim’s girlfriend is devastated, unable to fathom how she will tell her sick little boy. Still reeling from her own loss, Robyn vows she will find the killer – no matter what.

But then a local doctor – a popular woman with a young family of her own – is found dead outside her surgery. There are similarities between her and the first body and Robyn must take another look at the picture-postcard town, where no one has any enemies.

Can Robyn untangle the hidden web of secrets, lies, and smouldering grudges, at the heart of this close-knit community, before another life is lost?

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I genuinly love every single novel in this series. Each one is a true book-sized treasure trove because it never fails to surprise you when you see where the story takes you. You know where it starts but boy you can never predict where it’ll end. So yes, I stayed up far past my bedtime to know how this one was going to be resolved.

The Chosen Ones was a tad more hard-hitting than the previous one and that makes my reader’s heart beat just a little faster. The crimes committed seemed just a little more graphic and violent than usual and I quite liked the darker tone. I also loved reading the snippets set in the past even if they were cruel and disturbing. I was frantically searching my mind who the little boy who had to endure such unfair punishment from his pious mother could be in the present but I failed to figure out who was so mistreated as a child. I can’t pinpoint the moment exactly when I finally caught on but somewhere over halfway I had a pretty good idea. I still didn’t understand why though. The author can brilliantly steer you in the right direction but still take its time to let all the puzzle pieces fall into place and it wasn’t any differently here.

The plotline went this way and that and the unwillingness of the first victim’s father to disclose his whereabouts at the time of death of his son certainly raised my suspicions but I also knew that it wouldn’t just be as simple and straightforward as that. Carol Wyer never makes it easy and it’s always deeper and more complex so I was anticipating an extraordinary resolve and I wasn’t disappointed at all, she delivered another brilliant whoddunit.

Even with the killer’s revelations, I have to admit the biggest shock for me in this novel came from an entirely other direction. How the, why the… ? I literally gasped and luckily nobody was around to see my state of distress. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes about what was happening and what she’d written but it was seriously jaw-dropping. It’s very daring what she did and I love the author for that, what a bold move! It made me suddenly love someone I grew to hate :-).

The Chosen Ones can be read as a standalone, but there’s a subplot running from book 1 all through the rest of the series, which is addressed in this novel again right at the end, giving another big jolt of excitement. The author just gave us a finger though and I’m ready to grab her whole hand now. I hope she’ll reveal more in the next novel because the details about what happened with her husband Davies and how she’ll carry on now are really killing me!

I was hooked from the first novel in the series, Little Girl Lost, but The Chosen Ones is definitely standing out in the whole series because it made me FEEL. It’s wonderfully mistifying. Overall it’s a cracking crime novel that I can highly recommend.

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