The Night Stalker by Clare Donoghue #BookReview

 

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What’s it about?

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

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

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

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Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zodiac by Sam Wilson #BookReview

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What’s it about?

In a society divided along Zodiac lines, status is cast at birth – and binding for life.

When seemingly random murders plague the city, is it a rebellion against the system or the work of a twisted serial killer? Zodiac is an imaginative and gripping thriller from debut author Sam Wilson.

Even for the most experienced detectives, every once in a while a murder can shake them to the core. Like when the Chief of Police is killed in his own home.

For Detective Jerome Burton, catching the killer will change his life forever.

Because this murder is only the first piece of a vast and twisted puzzle made of secrets, lies and tragedy.

The signs are everywhere. But is the truth written in the stars or hiding in the shadows?

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Review

star three and a half

I really wanted to read this novel when I saw the stunning cover with that caption line. Those who know me won’t be surprised though if I tell that I really never read dystopian books. The first and last one I read was years ago and didn’t really appeal to me in the end. So it might be even more suprising if I say that I actually enjoyed Zodiac.

A lot of it of course is the merit of this really interesting concept of a society based on different signs and the idea that you can’t treat people of different signs the same way because people of different signs behave differently. Sounds plausible right ;-)? Right, until of course there’s a whole hierarchy based upon this principle and some signs are regarded more highly than others. This novel focuses mainly on 2, 3 signs: being a Capricorn or a Taurus brings you a good status, but the lowest sign of all is Aries. They are prone to violence, they live in bad neighbourhoods, they are the most unemployed and the biggest population in prison are Aries too. But then of course they get caught most because – according to some – they are sought out, a stop and search for them is the new norm. One of them who raises his voice against the oppression of his sign is Solomon Mahout, leader of Aries Rising. On the other side there’s also the RAM Squad, a special unit set up to control the Aries population.

I read it all with a lot of interest and really didn’t think I could get lost in this world as much as I did. There is an overview about each sign before the novel kicks-off. I was apprehensive about what I would find further on in the novel because the mention of a sci-fi and fantasy culture didn’t seem like it was talking about me as a Virgo. In the novel itself I did find one reference to my own sign that sounds more like it though ;-):

Virgos […] were smart and interesting and independent, but they were often so socially blunt that talking to them was like boxing.

Anyway, onto the story itself. The first murder victim they find was working at the police force in one of the highest ranks. Detective Jerome Burton is assigned to the investigation and gets help from astrologer Lindi Childs. She’s going to see if the murderer’s profile fits based on his birth charts. Riiiight. Queue my sigh ;-). Thankfully the weight of this approach wasn’t hanging over the novel at all :-). Burton has his own personal struggles too, about his sign and about the sign his unborn child will be born into. Children will be born sooner to get the right sign but that might have consequences for its health too of course. Of course there’s also fraud with birth certificates and there’s even a school, The True Signs Academy, for children who have to learn the necessary code of behaviour to fit into their sign then. There was obviously put a lot of thought in all of this and it’s strange but I was completely loving this!

At the same time there’s a guy (capricorn) Daniel who stumbled upon a secret his father kept from him and is following his own investigation with the help of some Aries kid he ran into. Until suddenly someone Burton interviews leads them to the same place. The thing that confused me a little were these two plotlines and it took me quite a while to realise that they don’t start out at the same time.. the plotline with Daniel starts much earlier than the other one but that wasn’t made clear, it’s actually years ago in the past and it’s only towards the ending that they are both coming together gloriously in the present.

The last part of the novel held threats, danger and quite a bit of battle and action. Unfortunately, I still didn’t grasp all that well what the murders were about in the end and I found that the motive for the murders wasn’t explained thoroughly enough. Personally, I found the world-building and everything in it a little more interesting than some people’s fantastical ideas but then it might be just me, so don’t let that put you off.

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

Brothers and Sisters by Adele O’Neill #BlogTour #Guestpost

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About the book

Nothing remains buried forever… What would you do to protect the ones you love?

A gripping, highly emotive story of love, survival, dark family secrets and sibling loyalty. Perfect for the fans of Kathryn Hughes and Dorothy Koomson.

When human remains are found on Fitzpatrick Estate, Detective Kelly is drawn deep into the complex web of Fitzpatrick family secrets as Timothy and his sister Rose, now in their sixties, are catapulted into the centre of the investigation.

When the pathology report identifies the remains as that of their uncle, Patrick Fitzpatrick, missing from Fitzpatrick Estate since 1970, they scramble to protect their past.

What would you do to protect the ones you love?

Buy links

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About Adele O’Neill

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Having lived and worked in the UK and Dublin since college, Adele now lives in her hometown of Arklow, Co. Wicklow on the east coast of Ireland, with her husband and two teenage daughters. She writes overlooking the Irish Sea and is an active member of the Wexford Literary Festival committee.

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Guestpost

When your Characters have a mind of their own

When I first began to write Brothers and Sisters and the dark tale of sibling loyalty and the lengths we would go to, to protect the ones we love, I had a plan. A well-researched plan that brought me from the depths of Kilkenny checking the acidity of the soil to the corporate offices of London and Dublin, and plenty of other places in between. My characters were imagined and created with detail and purpose, the perfect narrators of a story that spanned five decades. My plot was riddled with impossible choices that resulted in devastating outcomes. All the makings of an un-put-down-able story, what can be the problem with that, I hear you say?

My characters decided how the story was going to end, that’s the problem. The devastating outcome that I spoke about and the perfectly planned and meticulously plotted ending that I had imagined wasn’t happening all because my characters had a say.

Liken it if you will to the development of your child. The parent being the author and the character being the child.  You plan and fantasise about how wonderful they will be, you anticipate their arrival with excited musings of their future. You nurture and nourish them, investing your time and energy giving them every chance to become fully formed contributing individuals and then one day, everything you have hoped for them, everything you have wished for them happens, they become independent, will-full thinkers, the architects of their own destiny. My characters grew and developed a mind of their own, they had a plan for how this story was to unfold and who was I to tell them otherwise.

Normally, the writing process for me is planned, organised and researched. Before I place a finger on the keyboard, I like to know who I’m working with. What my character’s motivations are, what they like and don’t like and where their limits lie just so I can push them a little past it. I like to know where the characters are coming from and where they’re going to end up so when Rose and her brother Tim had other ideas for the devastating outcome and who was going to be on the receiving end of it, I was as surprised as I hope all the readers of Brothers and Sisters will be. I shouldn’t complain though, it was their loyalty to each other, the loyalty and bond that I imagined for them that put us on this detour.

If I had one piece of advice to other writers it is this; listen to what your characters have to say, you may be as surprised as you want your reader to be!

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Take a look at the other tour stops too! Tomorrow: Love Books Group

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The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker #BookReview

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What’s it about?

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

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

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

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Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secrets of the Dead by Carol Wyer

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What’s it about?

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

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

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

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

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Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deceived by Heena Rathore

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What’s it about?

How well do you know your loved ones?

A girl struggling to cope with the murders of her mother and five-year-old brother.
A journalist chasing the ghost of a potential serial killer.
A thirteen-year-old girl who slaughtered her parents.
And a revenge-driven psychopath who is about to destroy everyone’s life.

After 9 years, a young writer is still coping with the brutal murders of her mother and five-year-old brother, as she moves into a house of horrors, unwittingly to start a new life with her lover. Will friends and family be able to redeem Ally out of the impending doom in time? Will her infallible love become the key to the destruction of her already fragile world? Will madness prevail over love; true love over revenge?

Deceived is a gripping psychological thriller that mazes through the deepest, darkest emotions of human mind through the story of a vulnerable girl who treads in the mist of deception bred from a long unforgiven betrayal.

Review

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First of all, I was completely sold when I saw the cover of this novel. It’s such a strong image, I knew this would have to be an interesting story and I wasn’t wrong in my assumption.

The prologue of Deceived contains a very interesting insight that makes it possible to make a distinction between a psychopath and a sociopath. It ends with the instruction to look out for the listed traits for one or the other throughout the novel and I was keen to make my own discoveries of these personality disorders… I didn’t need to be told twice to dig into the story.

The story has a brilliant opener with an old newspaper article reporting a 13 year old girl’s disappearance after she seemingly has killed her parents. The girl, Elisabeth, is one of the voices in this novel and she will make an appearance now and again between chapters of the present. I was clueless how she fit in to the present story but I was quite hooked on her storyline and paradoxically, even though she’s a bad character, I was still concerned for her well-being.

In the present day we follow Allison Stone, a girl whose mother and baby brother were murdered 9 years prior. She lives with her best friend Sam and Max, her dog. There’s so much interaction with her dog that at times he felt like a real person to me. He stole my heart easily, as well as her best friend Sam. It’s great to have such a good friend who you can call no matter what. Sam would drop everything and come running to the rescue. I never really did warm up to her boyfriend Danny, however, even though she’s so in love with him that she goes to live with him. As soon as she moves in, things are starting to get really weird and it looks like her family’s tormentor is back and she’s next on his list. It doesn’t help that her cousin Steve has moved back as well and he’s got his investigating hat on. Will that keep the killer in check? I wouldn’t place any bets :-).

I found the story interesting and there was a lot of creepiness and unease, especially when I read the diary entries from one very disturbed individual, as well as the onslaught of unsettling events happening to Allison in an attempt to destabilize her. It gets worse even, there’s quite a bit of violence in the final act that made me cringe. Unfortunately I did figure out who was behind it all quite early on and I didn’t even have to put much effort into it. I would have liked it to have been a bit more inconspicious and to have seen a few real herrings planted perhaps. What I really couldn’t see though was what Elizabeth’s connection to the story was, if any. I was amazed how this plotline morphed into the present one in the end.

Overall, it wasn’t as spectacular as I expected but it was a good, enjoyable read nonetheless and a great debut. It reminds me a lot about another novel written by a bestselling author, which has been getting a lot of praise and they both have a few similar elements, only this one is for the readers who can take it just a little harder.

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

Blood Sisters by Jane Corry

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What’s it about?

Two women. Two versions of the truth.

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

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

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

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Review

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

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

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

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

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

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