End Game by Matt Johnson #BlogTour #GuestPost @Matt_Johnson_UK @orendabooks @annecater

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour of End Game by Matt Johnson! First of all thank you to Orenda Books and Anne Cater for having me on the tour for the final novel in the Robert Finaly series (a trilogy).

I have a great guestpost to share today in which Matt Johnson explains why he started writing but let’s have a small introduction first:

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Robert Finlay seems to have finally left his SAS past behind him and is settled into his new career as a detective. But when the girlfriend of his former SAS colleague and close friend Kevin Jones is murdered, it’s clear that Finlay’s troubles are far from over. Jones is arrested for the killing, but soon escapes from jail, and Finlay is held responsible for the breakout. Suspended from duty and sure he’s being framed too, our hero teams up with MI5 agent Toni Fellowes to find out who’s behind the conspiracy. Their quest soon reveals a plot that goes to the very heart of the UK’s security services. End Game, the final part in the critically acclaimed Robert Finlay trilogy, sees our hero in an intricately plotted and terrifyingly fast-paced race to uncover the truth and escape those who’d sooner have him dead than be exposed.


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Matt Johnson Author PictureMatt Johnson served as a soldier and Metropolitan Police officer for twenty-five years.

A keen biker, Matt rides a ’99 Harley Davidson Fatboy and is patron to the UK based ‘Armed Forces Bikers’ charity. He is also patron to a newly-formed charity, ‘Shoeboxes for our Heroes’.

In his spare time Matt keeps honey bees and produces his own honey. He scuba dives, collects unusual hats and enjoys hill-walking with his three dogs at his home in Wales, UK near the Brecon Beacons.


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A reason to write

I’ve spoken many times on how a form of therapy that included writing helped with my treatment for PTSD. And I’ve explained that it was a comment made by my counsellor that first planted the idea in my mind that I might write a book.

What I’ve never fully explained is why I agreed with the suggestion to the degree that I was sufficiently motivated to go along with the suggestion. To do so, I need to take you back to 1985. I was a PC in those days, and had just passed the promotion examination to become a sergeant. I was posted to Tottenham and Hornsey police stations for a short period to work as an ‘acting sergeant’ while I waited to go on my pre-promotion course at Hendon police college.

On my first evening at Tottenham, a young man came running in from the street, screaming and shouting. He jumped over the front counter towards me and collapsed in a heap on the floor. I moved towards him and saw blood, a lot of blood spreading out on the floor around him. He had been stabbed and had run into the police station to escape his attacker. This was my first introduction to Tottenham in the 1980s.

I also spent some time at Hornsea Police station where I met a sergeant called David Pengelly. David gave me some tips about the job and about what to expect on my sergeants course. He introduced me to some of his community beat officers, we called them ‘homebeats’ in those days, including PCs Keith Blakelock and Richard Coombes.


Pc Keith Blakelock

I left Tottenham when my promotion course started. As I did so, I was aware that trouble was brewing in the local area. Mobile car patrols had been stopped on certain estates and foot patrolling in the area was only being done by well-known local PCs and, even then, they were always in pairs. There had been some sporadic outbreaks of hostility towards police officers and some vehicles had been damaged by stone-throwing youths. It seemed that the area was a powder keg just waiting to explode.

On 5th October 1985, the Broadwater Farm riots started. David Pengelly, the sergeant who had befriended me at Hornsey, was deployed with several of his homebeat officers into the fray. They were ill-prepared, inadequately equipped and completely unaware of what they were going into.


Police during rioting on the Broadwater Estate in which PC Blakelock would be killed

That evening, in the darkness and confusion on an estate they were unfamiliar with, they were stoned, petrol bombed and, eventually their position was over-run and they were isolated. They ran for their lives. Keith Blakelock slipped on wet grass, fell to the ground and was set upon by the rioters. He was killed – stabbed and hacked to death. Showing immense bravery and armed with ridiculously inadequate wooden truncheons, PC Coombes and others attempted to rescue PC Blakelock while Sergeant Pengelly fought alone with the rioters to try and buy some time for his colleagues.

David Pengelly was awarded the George Medal for his bravery that evening.


But there were many other police officers at Broadwater Farm that night. As with the officers from Hornsey, they were also ill prepared for what they faced. Many were injured, all were traumatised.

Some of them were from Barnet police station, where I was posted on promotion. In the aftermath of the riot, an enquiry team was set up and all officers who had been present were told to write statements including as much information as they could about what had happened to them, what they had seen and any evidence they could include to help bring rioters to justice.


In many cases, the statements produced by the officers from my station were woefully inadequate. Often they said no more than “I went with my serial to an estate in Tottenham. We stood behind plastic shields while hundreds of people tried to kill us with petrol bombs, knives and rocks.”

I was given the job of obtaining better statements from these officers. It wasn’t easy. Many of them were resentful, angry and upset by what they had been through. Many simply didn’t want to talk about it, let alone write a statement.

I remember one particular PC, I’ll call him Michael. He was in his early twenties. In the months that followed the riot, Michael steadfastly refused to write a full statement. He was interviewed by senior officers and even threatened with disciplinary action but nothing could persuade him. He was thought of as a bad egg, not a good police officer. He had started drinking, often to excess and was regularly late turning up for work. He seemed to have an ‘attitude problem’ was insubordinate to senior officers and surly. One day, he was arrested for drink-driving. He was disciplined and sacked. Nobody missed him.


I forgot about Michael until many years later. I was undergoing counselling for PTSD and I began to realise that young Michael, and many of the PCs who had been at Broadwater Farm had been displaying similar symptoms to my own. I hadn’t recognised it at the time, indeed I had never heard of PTSD.

Nothing was done for them by way of counselling or post-trauma care. They were simply left to fend for themselves.

It was too late to help Michael, but I was left thinking ‘if only I had known, if only I had been aware, maybe I could have helped him’. I felt guilt as I knew that I had failed him, as had the organisation I worked for, when we allowed his behaviour to deteriorate to the point where he was arrested and kicked out of the police.


I promised myself then that I would do my level best to make amends for my failure. So, when my counsellor suggested the idea of a book, it sparked an idea. An idea that one day I might write a book that could educate and inform people about PTSD and about how it affects people’s lives.

But I knew that as one individual former soldier and police inspector, I had neither the power or the influence to bring about change, to ensure that all men and women in all the armed and emergency services are prepared for the trauma they will face and properly supported when they do. But, it occurred to me that what I might be able to do is introduce people who can influence change to the realities of PTSD, through the medium of creative writing. Where people might not be inclined to pick up and read an informative work on PTSD, I might be able to pick up a thriller.

And so, I began to write.

Make sure to check out the other tour stop today as well: @Chocolate’n’ Waffles blog

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The Intruder by P.S. Hogan #BookReview

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William Heming is an estate agent. He’s kept a copy of every key to every house he’s ever sold. Sometimes he visits them. He lets himself in when the owners are out. But what will happen if he gets caught?

What will he do next?

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star three and a half

William Heming seems like a righteous man at first but looks can be oh so deceiving and don’t I love it!  That hidden side of people is so fascinating to discover and what’s better than a voyeuristic side of one’s personality to explore? His voyeurism doesn’t apply to people though, there’s no funny business, but he likes to look at people’s lives and homes.. the things that really tell a story about them. Now if you’re following the voyeur around, do you become one yourself then too :-)? I must assume so. I didn’t really mind slipping inside and looking into the houses myself so hmm maybe everyone has a little bit of that side in him or her and that’s why this novel is so fascinating?

It’s actually quite funny how Heming thinks of himself as a ‘concerned citizen’ and a model for the community and succeeded so well in making me wonder if he’s really bad or just someone harmless with a few quirks. I wouldn’t find it okay either if people didn’t pick up their dog’s poo or would damage a car’s mirror and just leave without taking responsibility for it. He wants to do something about it and even though it is wrong in every way I couldn’t help but feel somehow relieved someone wanted to right a wrong.

That feeling diminished however the further I went into the story and I realised he really had a nasty side. It’s not that Heming became unhinged because his personality never really changes throughout the novel, he is who he is, but while he cleverly holds up the façade for his co-workers, I became more intimate with his true self and he’s so creepy in his ways of addressing the reader and stating what the obvious for him, defending his ways as if they are normal.

I am simply sharing an experience, a life as it happens. Think of me as an invisible brother or uncle or boyfriend. I’m no trouble. I may be there when you are, or when you’re gone, or more likely just before you arrive. I agree it is an idea that takes some getting used to.

The novel slowly reveals not only what an oddball he is but also how his actions of spying on people, of lurking in the shadows and tresspassing started in his childhood. The author goes back and forth and while he’s trying to convince me of his harmlessness his childhood is slowly starting to make me doubt him.

His actions and his focus of attention become highly worrying, both for him as for his mark, a girl he lays eyes on and he’s smitten with from the moment he sees her red cape, just like Little Red Ridinghood. What he doesn’t see though is that he would be the Big Bad Wolf :-). I can’t tell you how the plot evolves but it does get a bit out of hand and dangerous and he’ll have to try to jump through a lot of hoops to keep himself the unsuspicious guy he’s been for most of his life. The ending did feel a tad anticlimatic for me because I expected maybe an extra twist as a final topping on an ice sundae but it wasn’t a bad ending per se. It makes you think even more about what you don’t know that is going on under your own nose.

This was a great unsettling read, very character-driven, and Heming was fascinating to read about. He felt quite real and his way of talking to the reader directly didn’t miss its effect.

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

Kiss Me Kill Me by J.S. Carol #BlogTour #Guestpost

Thank you to Bonnier Zaffre for inviting me and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Kiss Me Kill Me by J.S. Carol. I have a super interesting guestpost for you today about the strong pull of domestic noir on you and me these days.



How far would you go to escape the one you love?

When Zoe meets Dan, he’s everything she is looking for in a man – intelligent, charming, supportive.
It’s only after they’re married that she realises that he’s controlling, aggressive, paranoid.
And there’s no way out.

Or is there?

Zoe knows she has to escape, but Dan’s found her once before, and she knows he can find her again.
But Dan has plans of his own. Plans that don’t necessarily include Zoe.

Be careful who you trust . . .


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James CarolJ. S. Carol is the author of The Killing Game, which has been shortlisted for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award. As James Carol, he has also written the bestselling Jefferson Winter series. Broken Dolls, the first of these, was published in 2014 to rave reviews and reached #1 on the Amazon fiction and thriller charts. In addition James is writing a series of eBooks set during Winter’s FBI days. Presumed Guilty is the first of these.

James lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and two children. When he’s not writing he can usually be found in a pair of headphones, recording and producing music.


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Old Monster, New Face

Over the last few years a new breed of monster has snuck out from the darkness and made its way onto the pages of our novels. This one doesn’t have supernatural powers or snarling teeth; it doesn’t sleep in a coffin and drink blood. These monsters look like normal people on the outside but inside the darkness runs deep. These are the monsters who share your lives and beds. These are the monsters you’re married to.

But how different are they from the creatures who inhabited the works of Edgar Allen Poe, Bram Stoker or Stephen King? Or to put it another way: is Domestic Noir just a way of repackaging the horror genre?

Back in the seventies an author could call himself a horror novelist and get away with it. However, at some point during the eighties, horror became a dirty word in publishing and that has carried on all the way through to today. Present an agent or publisher with a horror novel and you’re likely to get met with a polite but firm “thanks but no thanks”. Serve up a slice of Domestic Noir, though, and you might just find yourself getting a seat at the table.

That doesn’t mean those monsters have gone away. No, sir. Remember these monsters are masters of disguise; they’re shapeshifters. One of my all-time favourite writers is Thomas Harris. Dr Hannibal Lecter is without a doubt one of the scariest horror monsters ever created. This is a character who can be mentioned in the same breath as Dracula or Dr Frankenstein. And for anyone still not convinced that he’s a horror monster, take a look at where he lives. A dungeon. That’s right – he lives right down there in the dark amongst the crazed and the insane.

So how did Harris get away with writing a horror novel when the genre was as fashionable as flares and platform boots? Simple. He called his monster a serial killer and sold the book as a psychological thriller. Next thing you know his dark little horror tale has shifted a gazillion copies and landed an armful of Oscars. And who would have thought that? A horror film winning an Oscar! Do you see how sneaky these monsters can be?

Fast forward to the present day and the monsters have got tired of living in the dark; they want to live in the light. What better than a nice suburban house in a nice suburban neighbourhood? I mean, what self-respecting monster doesn’t crave a little bit of comfort every once in a while? Even Dr Lecter managed to escape his cell and swap it for a luxury palazzo in Florence.

Like modern-day vampires they need to be invited into our lives, though. Authors do this by enticing us to open up their books. In the brilliantly creepy Behind Closed Doors, BA Paris invited us into Jack and Grace’s lives, then scared the living daylights out of us. And isn’t that what a good horror novel is supposed to do? Lull you into a sense of security then rip the rug out from under your feet?

At some point our interest in Domestic Noir will fade. That’s as inevitable as the sun setting at night and rising the next day. Tastes change; fashion moves on; people decide that flare and platform boots do look kind of ridiculous. That doesn’t mean the monsters will just disappear, though. That’s not how it works. They’ll just morph into something else. I for one can’t wait to see what face they’ll choose to wear next.

Check out the other blog tour stops as well. Coming up tomorrow: Favourite Novels


Hangman (Detective William Fawkes #2) by Daniel Cole #BookReview

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Eighteen months have passed, but the scars the Ragdoll murders left behind remain.

DCI Emily Baxter is summoned to a meeting with US Special Agents Elliot Curtis of the FBI and Damien Rouche of the CIA. There, she is presented with photographs of the latest copycat murder: a body contorted into a familiar pose, strung up impossibly on the other side of the world, the word BAIT carved deep into its chest.

As the media pressure intensifies, Baxter is ordered to assist with the investigation and attend the scene of another murder to discover the same word scrawled across the victim, carved across the corpse of the killer – PUPPET.

As the murders continue to grow in both spectacle and depravity on both sides of the Atlantic, the team helplessly play catch up. Their only hope: to work out who the ‘BAIT’ is intended for, how the ‘PUPPETS’ are chosen but, most importantly of all, who is holding the strings.

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Hangman is the second novel of Daniel Cole’s trilogy about the Ragdoll murders. His first novel, the original ‘Ragdoll’, left me with a lot of anticipation in the end and I was quite eager to see how the story would continue but I’m afraid the plotline didn’t pick up where it left off and the focus in this novel is really on Baxter who teams up with detective Rouche and Curtis in this novel while she also still manages to get assistance from Edmunds on the side (poor Edmunds helps out in his own private time). Baxter has been promoted to Chief Inspector and thrown into an international inquiry to assist the FBI and CIA when they are facing their own Ragdoll murders, which takes her from London to New York. Meanwhile new murders commence in London once again as well.

Hangman is everything Ragdoll was but more. It was more gruesome, it was more (way more) spectacular, it was bigger, it was bolder, it was more complex and with a much higher body count.

I really liked the new team surrounding Baxter and I even think I liked the team’s interactions more than the murder inquiry here for most of the story. Ragdoll was perhaps a bit easier to follow than Hangman as well. Rouche (pronounced like whoosh) was very likeable and the brilliant opening scene where Baxter is being interviewed had me fearing the worst already for what was about to happen. The hunt for the killer wasn’t as much about finding out who was responsible but more their efforts for capturing him without going under themselves. In the final and third part of the novel I was almost breaking a sweat as the situation became increasingly dangerous when they try to infiltrate and get closer to the killer. Mr. Cole doesn’t hold back at all and it already felt like a movie. Seven will get some competition soon ;-).

This was a good follow-up for Ragdoll – even though that remains my favorite for reasons I can’t really point out other than that this one is perhaps just a little bit more chaotic to read with everything that is happening in both countries – and I’m definitely looking forward to reading the next one in the series!

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

This Is How It Ends by Eva Dolan #BookReview

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What’s it about?

This is how it begins.

With a near-empty building, the inhabitants forced out of their homes by property developers.

With two women: idealistic, impassioned blogger Ella and seasoned campaigner, Molly.

With a body hidden in a lift shaft.

But how will it end?

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Waw. That ending! Those final chapters were so good they had me sitting on the edge of my seat. I really tore through the part ‘where it ends’ and couldn’t put it down. Needless to say that I’m still tired the morning after, but it was all very worth it. I can’t imagine anyone stopping in the middle of those final revelations.

If I have to be honest, I did have some niggles in the beginning which I want to share but I can assure you that they melted away in the end. The story is told by two protagonists, Molly the photographer and Ella the student protestor, but also jumps from present to past and I had some difficulty placing the time shifts of Then and Now (told by either Molly or Ella). I had to search my memory where and when the plotline was taking place and I often felt slightly disoriented, which was weird because I’ve read plenty of novels with a past and present timeline and it’s the first time it tripped me up. Thinking back it’s probably due to the fact that they are going backwards in time and it’s more like a drop-in at another point in time. The only other thing that caused some problems were the side characters that were involved but were never formally introduced. They just appear in the story and you have to read between the lines who they are and what their relationship is to the two main characters. I understand why the author didn’t feel it necessary to present them, but it’s not one of my strong points and when I can’t define them exactly it’s also harder to remember and really get a good visual and feel for them.

So in short, I wasn’t sure how I felt about this novel, until it all changed drastically and went from okay it’s a good read to OMG what IS THIS BOOK, this is incredible. I take all of my previous reservations back, I regret having had them as well! The more I think back now, the more I like everything that happened from the beginning as well and it makes me want to reread the entire novel with a new set of eyes. I feel like I seriously underappreciated all the effort that went into writing this because I assumed lots of it was just background and I willed them to concentrate on that body found in the elevator more, but let me just say that it’s all very very relevant and key to who that person in the elevator is. I think I’d like it even more when reading a second time, even if – especially when – I know what’s coming. It really has a very good plotline that I didn’t see coming at all. I seriously didn’t know there was so much to the story and I will never underestimate Eva Dolan again, I vow to that.

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

The Doll House by Phoebe Morgan #BookReview

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What’s it about?

You never know who’s watching…
Corinne’s life might look perfect on the outside, but after three failed IVF attempts it’s her last chance to have a baby. And when she finds a tiny part of a doll house outside her flat, it feels as if it’s a sign.

But as more pieces begin to turn up, Corinne realises that they are far too familiar. Someone knows about the miniature rocking horse and the little doll with its red velvet dress. Someone has been inside her house…

How does the stranger know so much about her life? How long have they been watching? And what are they waiting for…?

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So it might well be that it’s been done before and yes I might have read quite a few novels where the main character is stalked, finds secret messages and sees things that cause raised eyebrows, all while they’re not taken serious by anyone (I’m thinking about The Breakdown here) but THIS novel is better and more captivating than the ones I read before.

Two of the main characters, sisters Corinne and Ashley are carrying this novel in a magnificent way. They both think that the other has the perfect life but neither was ideal and without trouble. It was so very interesting to see Corinne’s struggle with her unfulfilled child wish, but also all the problems and struggles her big sister Ashley has with her 3 children. Her eldest is 15 and hard to control, half the time she doesn’t know where she is or hangs out with. Her little boy gets into a fight at school and her youngest, Holly, has nightmares every night. Ashley is almost at the end of her wit but pretty much on her own to handle them, as James seems to work all hours. It’s so unlike him and he’s so distant that she’s even starting to doubt if he’s having an affair. At least Corinne and Dominic are a perfect couple. He’s protective, supportive and loving.

The sisters’ stories are so contrasting, it was fabulous to see that pendulum swing this way and that. It also made me wonder continually for which sister I had the most sympathy and in which situation I’d rather find myself in. I think my favorite character in the story was most of all Ashley because she’s such a strong woman who doesn’t break but does everything in her power to keep everyone in her little family happy. My heart also went out to toddler Holly. Why those nightmares? They didn’t seem to make much of it but the author did a brilliant job making me imagine the absolute worst by being so subtle. I was actually scared of what I might discover and that I’d be forced to read some very disturbing scenes. I was spared and very relieved that didn’t happen, so don’t worry.

That’s not to say there are no hard-hitting scenes found in this novel, but they all circle around an ‘unknown’ lurker operating in the background. This mystery woman spent her entire childhood ‘watching’ a family from a distance. She had quite a heart-breaking and sad childhood and it’s clear that the hatred was passed from mother to daughter. I didn’t know who this person was, or why they were acting like this in the past and present, but there were a few suspects in the story. Although it didn’t come as a complete surprise, I was never completely sure of who this person was so I was actually quite happy when it all came out in a chilling finale.

I found this a very entertaining and brilliant debut novel with lots of intrigue and an ever-present sense of threat and creepiness. I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of Phoebe Morgan!

Hydra by Matt Wesolowski #BlogTour #BookReview

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What’s it about?

One cold November night in 2014, in a small town in the northwest of England, 21-year-old Arla Macleod bludgeoned her mother, stepfather and younger sister to death with a hammer, in an unprovoked attack known as the Macleod Massacre. Now incarcerated at a medium-security mental-health institution, Arla will speak to no one but Scott King, an investigative journalist, whose Six Stories podcasts have become an internet sensation.

King finds himself immersed in an increasingly complex case, interviewing five key witnesses and Arla herself, as he questions whether Arla’s responsibility for the massacre was as diminished as her legal team made out.

As he unpicks the stories, he finds himself thrust into a world of deadly forbidden ‘games’, online trolls, and the mysterious black-eyed kids, whose presence seems to extend far beyond the delusions of a murderess…

Dark, chilling and gripping, Hydra is both a classic murder mystery and an up-to-the-minute, startling thriller that shines light in places you may never, ever want to see again.

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Six Stories is listed as one of my favorite reads of 2017 so I’m very excited I’ve had the opportunity to read Hydra, the second novel by author Matt Wesolowski. This is a standalone novel but follows the same format as before: the exquisite idea of building up a story through the narration of several voices, each time providing new insights and a new angle. It never gets repetitive, on the contrary, with every new interviewee you get a better picture, a better perspective. It pushes you to refocus and adjust your own beliefs and thoughts, it makes you think. When you start reading you might believe this is pretty much a black and white story, she confessed to murder after all, but all the different podcasts that Hydra is made up of provide the perfect shades of gray and will ultimately shine a light on the reasons she committed such a horrendous crime.

I was instantly hit by a feeling of unease and creepiness when I started reading this novel. I’m pretty sure that whatever other review you might read you’ll read this again and again as well. It creeped me out so much, I had frissons running down my spine the whole time. I have not read a novel like Hydra before and it is in fact very different from my usual thrillers, much more atmospheric and the descriptions of the black-eyed children that Arla sees with eyes like soulless orbs scared me quite effectively. I would catalogue this novel under the horror genre more than thriller or mystery and I’m happy that I didn’t know this beforehand because I always thought I wouldn’t enjoy this genre. This novel just proved me wrong!

The whole vibe is heightened even more through Arla’s interest in playing games, games I’d laugh at if they weren’t taken so seriously by Arla. She genuinly believes that you can transition to another world when performing different rituals and that’s what she wants, escape her life here in some way. There’s only one catch, if you don’t do it right then something could come back with you… Even if you don’t want to believe any of it, the setting creates just the perfect sense of unease and a menacing, dark atmosphere that is carried on from start to finish.

The dark music Arla listens to and the messages she finds in the lyrics, the frightening Elevator Game she plays, her disturbing behaviour, her isolation in the family because she’s not so perfect as her little sister, the light it shines on her strict and pious parents.. all of it made me mull over and investigate its significance on my own. What is it that set her off, what were the signs that she wasn’t doing well? Hydra is a novel that you can really sink your teeth in, the possible triggers why she might have gone off the rails are all held up to the light and scrutinized and little by little we get to the core of the story. I  truly am a big fan of Scott King, the presenter of the podcast. He’s intelligent, dedicated and unstoppable. While he’s preparing his podcasts Scott is receiving threats to stop the series. It’s very mysterious who and especially why someone would want to put a stop to this and it was definitely an extra bonus that was added to the story.

In the end I actually felt sorry for Arla, a very surprising feeling that I marvelled at when the realisation hit me and something I couldn’t believe would be happening at all when I started reading this novel. I am also sure this didn’t have to end this way, which makes it so tragic and sad.

This truly was an amazing read to kick-off the year and one that will be lingering in my thoughts again for a long time. Hydra was everything I wanted it to be and more; I couldn’t have wished for a better sequel. A very recommended read!

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

Don’t forget to check the other stops on the tour as well, I’m sure you want to hear more so check out today’s other stop @Portable Magic ! 

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