Contemporary

All posts in the Contemporary category

Dark Pines (Tuva Moodyson Mystery #1) – Will Dean

Published January 13, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

An isolated Swedish town. A deaf reporter terrified of nature. A dense spruce forest overdue for harvest. A pair of eyeless hunters found murdered in the woods.

It’s week one of the Swedish elk hunt and the sound of gunfire is everywhere. When Tuva Moodyson investigates the story that could make her career she stumbles on a web of secrets that knit Gavrik town together. Are the latest murders connected to the Medusa killings twenty years ago? Is someone following her? Why take the eyes? Tuva must face her demons and venture deep into the woods to stop the killer and write the story. And then get the hell out of Gavrik.

What did I think?:

Dark Pines was originally published about this time last year and just prior to publication, I remember the huge buzz about it from some of my fellow bloggers. Rave reviews began pouring out of the blogosphere and I completely bought into the hype, desperate to figure out why they were all shouting from the rooftops about it. Then I did what I so often do – purchased the book and let it sit on my shelves for months, gathering dust. Well, thank goodness for the second book in the series, Red Snow, which has just been released from Point Blank, Oneworld Publications because I was invited to be on the blog tour for it (check out my post tomorrow!) and it gave me the kick up the butt that I sorely needed to read the first in the series. I’m a bit of a stickler for reading things in order, which you might know if you’re a regular reader but I’m really glad I did with this series. I’ll talk about that a bit more in my review for Red Snow but for now, if I could choose three words to describe Dark Pines? Atmospheric, intricate and chilling – and that’s the story I’m talking about, not just our freezing, Swedish wintry setting!

Will Dean, author of the Tuva Moodyson Mystery series which begins with Dark Pines.

The author, Will Dean, is actually British by birth but now lives in rural Sweden in the midst of a huge forest within a house that he built himself. This gives him the perfect licence to become a giant within the field of Scandinavian crime fiction and he does an excellent job, fitting admirably within that tight little niche. As a Swedish resident, he has obviously put the work in when creating a cast of Swedish characters in a small town with all the tiny quirks and oddities that come with living in such a remote location. It feels like he has drawn heavily and been inspired by his own experience and expertly describes the isolating quality of such a difficult place to live in, especially when you throw in the inclement weather, dangerous animals and indeed for the world of Dark Pines…..dangerous people.

A Swedish forest in winter – perhaps similar to Utgard forest in Dark Pines?

Dark Pines boasts some absolutely terrific characterisation – authentic characters that jump off the page and stay with you long after you finish the novel. I was particularly impressed with our lead female protagonist, journalist Tuva Moodyson who has been deaf since a young age and requires hearing aids but her slight disability does not affect in any way her ability to do her job or impacts the way she interacts with other characters in the story. She encounters prejudice, misunderstanding and plain ignorance along the way but I adored the way she didn’t let it defeat her and counteracted the minority of doubters with intelligent and inoffensive remarks of her own. It was wonderful to see Will Dean bringing the outsiders like Tuva and her friend Tammy, who runs a Thai food van and giving them the starring roles and kick-ass personalities that they deserve in an otherwise homogeneously white Swedish town.

As I may have already alluded to, the setting of this novel was superb. I read it recently on a short break away in a cottage and it was the ideal time to enjoy it as the temperature was freezing outside and Mr B and I had a roaring fire to curl up by. On every page I read of Dark Pines, I could feel the snow, the ice, the wind and more specifically, the quiet, secluded tension of it all. In fact, the solitary nature of our setting combined with a dark and eerie forest, the potential that you could always get lost just added to the thrill of the narrative without even mentioning that there’s a killer out there with a shotgun that may be replicating heinous murders of the past and removing the eyeballs of the dead!

As the first novel in a series with such a fantastic and inspirational female lead, there wasn’t much not to like about Dark Pines. My only slight disappointment was that I had figured out who the murderer was fairly early on. I do like to be surprised in novels like this so I was hoping that I was wrong but unfortunately, I was right. However, it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story in general, particularly with such a strong cast and setting and it did make me eagerly anticipate the next outing for Tuva Moodyson.

Visit my blog tomorrow for my review of Red Snow (Tuva Moodyson Mystery #2) as part of the blog tour!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

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In Servitude – Heleen Kist

Published January 4, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Grace thought her sister led a perfect life.
She was wrong. Now she has to pay the price.

When Grace’s beloved sister Glory dies in a car crash, her carefully considered life spirals out of control. She discovers Glory was laundering money through her café for a local crime lord. What’s worse, Grace finds herself an unwitting accomplice, now forced to take over her sister’s shady dealings.

Determined to protect herself and those Glory left behind, Grace plots to turn the tables on Glasgow’s criminal underworld. But her plans unravel when more family secrets emerge and she starts to question Glory’s past intentions.

Grace grows convinced her sister was murdered. Seeking justice, she finds betrayal…

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to the author, Heleen Kist for reaching out to me via Twitter and offering a complimentary digital copy of her debut novel, In Servitude in exchange for an honest review. As you may have realised if you’ve read my review policy recently, I’m being very selective about the books I will accept for review and am having to say “no” to the vast majority of them. I have a huge backlog of reviews, four bookshelves worth of unread books on my own TBR that I’d love to get to at some point and I just have to be a bit more strict with myself and what I choose to read. This is all a rather long-winded way of getting round to the point which is….. it’s got to be quite a special request that has me intrigued, makes me drop my rules and regulations and want to read it. As soon as I read the synopsis of In Servitude and was made aware of the number of five star reviews on Amazon/Goodreads – well, it would have to be a much stronger and less curious person than I who was able to resist!

Heleen Kist, author of the debut psychological thriller In Servitude.

I have to briefly mention that whilst this wasn’t a five star read for me, I really appreciated what the author was trying to achieve and there were moments of the narrative where I was completely gripped and desperate to know what was going to happen next. Rattling along at an astronomically fast pace, In Servitude begins with the tragic death of Grace’s sister Glory, continues with the surprising events that Grace discovers connected with her sister and the Glasgow criminal underworld and concludes with some eye-watering, astonishing and unexpected revelations that left me with a whole new respect for the author, her timing and story-telling abilities.

Glasgow, Scotland – the setting for In Servitude.

I was delighted to discover that the novel was set in Glasgow, a city I know quite well and was strangely comforted by the way the author describes it, as a perfect mixture of beauty, culture, grittiness and as with most other cities around the world, potential danger in the wrong parts. As Grace takes over her sister’s business venture, a vegan cafe, she becomes enveloped in the seedier element of the city and is shocked to discover that she didn’t know her sister half as well as she liked to think she did. Grace is determined, independent and brave in the face of adversity and emotional trauma and I admired the way she dealt with an impossibly crazy situation in order to try and “do the right thing,” and protect her sister’s memory.

The ending? Well quite honestly, it knocked me sideways. I believe I just stared at my Kindle for a few minutes in confusion (which was swiftly followed by excitement) until Mr B, my long-suffering other half, had to ask if I was feeling well! It was the most perfect conclusion to an interesting psychological thriller which I devoured within just two days as the rapid pace of the narrative wouldn’t allow for anything longer than that. Heleen Kist is certainly a promising new author in the genre and I look forward to seeing what she produces next.

Would I recommend it?:

Yes!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Talking About The Cactus by Sarah Haywood with Chrissi Reads

Published January 3, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO BLOOM

People aren’t sure what to make of Susan Green—a prickly independent woman, who has everything just the way she wants it and who certainly has no need for messy emotional relationships.

Family and colleagues find her standoffish and hard to understand, but Susan makes perfect sense to herself, and that’s all she needs.

At forty-five, she thinks her life is perfect, as long as she avoids her feckless brother, Edward—a safe distance away in Birmingham. She has a London flat which is ideal for one; a job that suits her passion for logic; and a personal arrangement providing cultural and other, more intimate, benefits.

Yet suddenly faced with the loss of her mother and, implausibly, with the possibility of becoming a mother herself, Susan’s greatest fear is being realised: she is losing control.

When she discovers that her mother’s will inexplicably favours her brother, Susan sets out to prove that Edward and his equally feckless friend Rob somehow coerced this dubious outcome. But when problems closer to home become increasingly hard to ignore, she finds help in the most unlikely of places.

This sparkling debut is a breath of fresh air with real heart and a powerful emotional punch. In Susan we find a character as exasperating and delightful as The Rosie Project‘s Don Tillman. An uncompromising feminist and a fierce fighter, it’s a joy to watch her bloom.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: Initially, you didn’t think this book would be a book for you. Did your opinion change?

BETH: Kind of! I hadn’t heard much about this novel or author prior to seeing it on the Richard and Judy book club list and I know it’s bad and I shouldn’t do it but I totally judged it by its cover. I really should know better by now and NOT do that as occasionally it has no reflection on the story within but I can’t help myself, I still do it! Generally, I found The Cactus to be an enjoyable read with a fascinating female lead that I was intrigued to know more about and the narrative was interesting enough to make me want to carry on reading.

BETH: What did you make of the relationship between Susan and her brother Edward?

CHRISSI: Ooh, I think it was a rather broken relationship. I think there was a lot of sibling rivalry between the two. I don’t feel like it was a very loving relationship at all. I think Susan was too different. I feel like Susan felt her brother wasn’t as organised as her and she looked down on him for the way he was. Susan felt superior to her brother and couldn’t possibly understand why he would be left the house in their mother’s will.

CHRISSI: Did you have a favourite character in this book? If so, who and why?

BETH: I think Susan herself was a very well drawn character and as I mentioned above, I was curious enough about her story to become invested in the novel as a whole. She has quite a prickly disposition when you first meet her (one of the reasons for the name of the book?) and she appears to be quite a difficult individual but she does grow on you and when you understand more about her past, you can understand why she has such an impenetrable wall built around her.

BETH: How would you classify this novel? i.e. which genre does it fall into?

CHRISSI: Tricky question. I think I would probably put it in contemporary fiction, that’s if you don’t let me just call it adult fiction. Is that cheating? Oh well. Contemporary it is in my opinion! I think it’s a book that can be enjoyed by both sexes. It actually reminded me a little bit of The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. That’s a book that I feel appeals to both male and female readers too.

CHRISSI: Share a favourite quote from this book. Why was it your favourite?

BETH: “But these days fairy-tale endings come in all shapes and sizes. It’s okay for the princess to end up with the prince, it’s okay for her to end up with the footman, and it’s also okay for her to end up on her own. It’s okay for her to end up with another princess, or with six cats, or to decide she wants to be a prince. None of these make her any more or less a feminist. It’s about finding out who you are and what you want, and then being true to it.”

I actually resonated with this quote so much that I shared it to my personal Facebook page! I love that it refers to fairy-tales, I love that the author is saying that it’s okay to be who you are and do what you do as an individual, as a feminist and as a woman. She hits the nail on the head and I just adore it.

BETH: Susan has a unique way of interacting with other people. Did you sympathise with her at all?

CHRISSI: I did! I can see that Susan would irritate a lot of people and put people’s backs up with her ways of interacting. To me, Susan was a character that would be diagnosed with autism. Her way of dealing with the world reminded me of a few children that I teach that are on the autistic spectrum. As you get to know Susan, I feel like you begin to understand why she is the way she is. The past can define us and I think it does define Susan.

CHRISSI: Can you compare this book to another or is it quite unique?

BETH: I have to admit, when I first started this book I thought it was going to be quite similar to Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fineby Gail Honeyman. In a way, it kind of is – with a tricky, somewhat isolated main female lead but in other ways The Cactus is very different. This was such as a relief as even though Eleanor Oliphant was one of my favourite books of 2018, I didn’t want another book so similar to it. Luckily this novel stands on its own perfectly.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would definitely give it a go! 🙂 I thought it was a decent read.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

CHRISSI’S Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

An Act Of Silence – Colette McBeth

Published January 1, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

MOTHER. WIFE. POLITICIAN. LIAR.

THEN: How far did she go to conceal the truth?

Politician Linda Moscow sacrificed everything to protect her son: her beliefs, her career, her marriage. All she wanted was to keep him safe.

NOW: What will she risk to expose the lies?

When the voices she silenced come back to haunt her, Linda is faced with another impossible choice. Only this time, it’s her life on the line . . .

An Act of Silence is about the abuse of power, the devastating effects of keeping the truth buried, and the lengths a mother will go to save her child.

What did I think?:

I’m ashamed to say that I’ve had this book, my first read by Colette McBeth on my Netgalley TBR list for a long time now and all these naughty other books kept getting in the way, preventing me from starting it. After finally getting round to experiencing the author’s style, I’m delighted to report that she writes precisely the sort of books I want to be reading. I was instantly pulled into the world of our lead female character, her son and her past and the story moved at such a steady pace (with some very clever reveals) that even when I wasn’t reading it, I was THINKING about reading it, a sure sign that I’m invested.

Colette McBeth, author of An Act Of Silence.

An Act Of Silence is McBeth’s third novel, following Precious Thing and A Life I Left Behind and although I can’t make any comparisons as yet with her previous work, it reads like an established and very confident thriller writer with oceans of expertise under their belt. We follow our female protagonist, Linda Moscow in an utterly compelling opening where she is tasked with the ultimate quandary – her only son is accused of murder and she must decide first of all, whether she believes his protestations at his innocence. Secondly, as a can of worms from the past is well and truly opened up, she must protect herself and her family in the safest way possible whilst ensuring any villains have the potential to be finally unmasked.

The Houses Of Parliament in London, UK where our character Linda Moscow spent most of her political career as Home Secretary.

I have to admit when I read initial reviews of this novel and I saw it marketed as a “political thriller,” I was slightly wary. I’m not the biggest fan of politics, in or out of literature and novels that I’ve read in the past that tend to follow this particular narrative have more often than not, sadly fallen flat for me. However, I had no need to worry. The politics does play an important part in the narrative, specifically concerning Linda’s past and a horrific scandal that she found herself embroiled in but, interestingly enough, the novel focuses much more on characters, the relationships between them and how events from the past have influenced their individual actions and reactions in the present.

From the very first early moments of this story, I was captivated by the relationship between Linda and her son Gabriel. If I had to describe it in three words I would say: complicated, fractured and uneasy. As a reader, I became desperate to know what precipitating events had led to the point where every word and movement they make around each other becomes so tentative and weary. There’s so much more bubbling under the surface of An Act Of Silence than that which is initially suggested and the joy of reading this is discovering all those surprises for yourself. The author visits some very murky places and incredibly dark subject matters but this only results in an even more fascinating plot which unravels slowly, deliberately and quite brilliantly as all begins to be revealed.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Thank you so much to Headline books for providing a complimentary digital copy of An Act Of Silence via Netgalley.

Talking About Only Child by Rhiannon Navin with Chrissi Reads

Published December 14, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

For readers of Room and The Girls, a dazzling, tenderhearted debut about healing, family, and the exquisite wisdom of children, narrated by a seven-year-old boy who reminds us that sometimes the littlest bodies hold the biggest hearts and the quietest voices speak the loudest.

Squeezed into a coat closet with his classmates and teacher, first grader Zach Taylor can hear gunshots ringing through the halls of his school. A gunman has entered the building, taking nineteen lives and irrevocably changing the very fabric of this close-knit community. While Zach’s mother pursues a quest for justice against the shooter’s parents, holding them responsible for their son’s actions, Zach retreats into his super-secret hideout and loses himself in a world of books and art. Armed with his newfound understanding, and with the optimism and stubbornness only a child could have, Zach sets out on a captivating journey towards healing and forgiveness, determined to help the adults in his life rediscover the universal truths of love and compassion needed to pull them through their darkest hours.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: What were your first impressions of this book?

BETH: Wow. As soon as I read the initial few chapters I have to admit, I found it a struggle to put it down. It begins with Zach and his teacher in a closet desperately hiding from a gunman in their school with numerous other children and it was so powerful and moving I had trouble catching my breath at points. I have such strong opinions on gun violence myself and to read a book about a school shooting was poignant and troubling. It certainly left its impression on me.

BETH: As a teacher yourself, how was the reading experience of Only Child for you?

CHRISSI: Absolutely terrifying. Absolutely. It is my worst fear. I can’t even begin to imagine something this awful happening in my classroom which I try to create as a home away from home. Like many other educators, our classroom is our home and a place for the children to feel safe. A teacher likes to control their classroom and rightly so. Something this horrific makes you lose control and that is terrifying. I hope I am never in the position where I have to save my children’s lives. I’m not sure I could go back to the classroom if that happened to me. I’m in awe of educators that do return to the classroom. I can’t even begin to imagine how much strength that takes. Gun crime is horrific and I feel blessed that I work in a country where this kind of crime is incredibly rare. It doesn’t mean that dangerous things wouldn’t happen in the classroom. We’ve even had to develop a lock down policy, just in case, which is a terrifying idea. It really would be my worst nightmare.

Excuse my little rant. Aside from the fear it gave me, this book was utterly compelling to read. I was really impressed with Zach’s narration. How clever to tell the story from his point of view. It’s horrifying what children go through when this happens in their safe place. 😦

CHRISSI: Many books have been written about gun crime, but rarely from the point of view of a child as young as Zach. What did you make of Zach’s narration?

BETH: That’s true! I never realised that before. I think writing it from the point of view of a child was an incredibly clever thing for the author to do. In a way, it made it more horrific as you were seeing it directly through a child’s eyes and although in some instances, Zach came across a little older than his years, I think these parts were necessary so we could feel the full impact of what he has been through, how he continues to suffer and how he manages to pull himself and his family through the other side.

BETH: How do you think Zach, his mother and his father differed in their experiences of grief?

CHRISSI: Zach, his mother and his father definitely differed in their experiences of grief. Grief affects in all in different ways. Zach has nightmares, bed-wetting and feels guilt because initially he feels his life will be better without his brother. Zach’s father retreats into work. He tries to be there for Zach as much as he can. Zach’s mother is initially very shocked and then her shock turns to seeking revenge and justice for her son.

CHRISSI: Do you think this book should have been longer?

BETH: For me, I felt it was the perfect length. I don’t think there was anything else the author could have done or said – I think she got her point across and it ended on a rather hopeful note for the future which was pleasant to read amidst all the darkness and despair.

BETH: Reading the Magic Tree House books aloud “to Andy” helps Zach cope with his grief. Which books have helped you through difficult times in your life?

CHRISSI: One of the most powerful books I’ve read that have helped me is Matt Haig’s Reasons To Stay Alive. I was absolutely amazed and how Matt Haig just ‘got’ me. I believe I have suffered from anxiety since I was younger. Matt’s words were the only words that I’ve really connected with. I felt like he understood what was going on in my head which is a very powerful thing.

CHRISSI: Should Zach have returned to school earlier?

BETH: Absolutely not. He had obvious PTSD about the terrifying incident that he had to go through and was amazingly resilient considering how he suffered. I know if it was me, I’d have trouble going back into that situation, especially if I was still having nightmares so a child as young as Zach was certainly shouldn’t have been forced into going back before he was ready. Yes, it’s important to move on and realise that it was a rare occurrence that was unlikely to happen again but the extent of the trauma that people go through in these situations is not realised enough, in my opinion.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would definitely. I was really impressed with this book.

Would WE recommend it?

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

CHRISSI’S Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Blog Tour – Attend by West Camel

Published December 7, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

When Sam falls in love with Deptford thug Derek, and Anne’s best friend Kathleen takes her own life, they discover they are linked not just by a world of drugs and revenge; they also share the friendship of the uncanny and enigmatic Deborah. Seamstress, sailor, storyteller and self-proclaimed centenarian immortal, Deborah slowly reveals to Anne and Sam her improbable, fantastical life, a history of hidden Deptford and ultimately the solution to their crises.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and to Karen Sullivan from Orenda Books for the complimentary digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I have to admit, when Anne first emailed me about this book I was immediately entranced by that simplistic yet stunning front cover. It really draws the eye (and perhaps also threads the eye?!) and is a perfect example of how beautiful cover art can entice a reader to want to know more about the story. Luckily it had a fantastic synopsis too – I mean, “self-proclaimed centenarian immortal?” I simply HAD to read this book when that line jumped out at me! Please pardon the pun but this is a beautifully woven story that I thoroughly enjoyed. It has its darker moments, which to be honest, I’m always a fan of but there were softer, more gentle periods too that I really appreciated.

West Camel, author of Attend.

This is the story primarily of three people. Anne is a former heroin addict, mother to Julie and grandmother to Tom. She has been away from her family for some time while she recovers from her addiction and is determined not to see any of them until she can ensure she won’t succumb to her demons and let them down again. As a result, she hasn’t even met her grandson and at the time the novel is set, she is slowly trying to integrate herself back into their lives whilst attempting to fight her own personal battles. Sam is a young gay man who has also had some hardships in his life and eases his loneliness by going out a lot, desperate to find someone who will finally “see” and appreciate him. Our final protagonist is Deborah, an older lady with a plethora of stories to tell, primarily how she has become immortal through working on a small piece of sewing. All three characters are drawn together by seminal events that occur in their lives and by finding each other, there is an opportunity for each one to eventually find happiness and contentment.

Deptford, South-East London, England where Attend is set.

The more I think about this novel, the more I realise what the author might have been trying to say and how moving the narrative is in general. We have three characters, all three are intriguing, have a story to tell, have had difficulties in their lives in the past and present and crucially, all of them are struggling with being seen by other people. I think my favourite part of the narrative had to be Deborah’s story, particularly when she told parts of her past that were incredibly heart-breaking. There’s a particular moment during the war when she is trapped in a shelter that was so moving and written so beautifully I couldn’t put the book down until I had finished that specific chapter. Additionally, I loved how all the characters find that inner strength they eagerly desire from each other and they emerge more resilient by the end.

Finally, I really appreciated that you can’t really categorise this novel. It’s such a heady mixture of contemporary fiction with a dashing of historical and crime elements and a sprinkling of magical realism. I feel like the more fantastical, whimsical parts of the story worked very well as a whole and it never strayed into the realms of unbelievable. From that beautiful front cover, to an equally beautiful story within the pages, Attend is an imaginative piece of work that will touch your heart and potentially make you believe in magic all over again.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Born and bred in south London – and not the Somerset village
with which he shares a name – West Camel worked as an editor in
higher education and business before turning his attention to the
arts and publishing. He has worked as a book and arts journalist,
and was editor at Dalkey Archive Press, where he edited the Best
European Fiction 2015 anthology, before moving to new press
Orenda Books just after its launch. He currently combines his
work as editor at Orenda Books with writing and editing a wide
range of material for various arts organisations, including ghostwriting
a New-Adult novel and editing The Riveter magazine for the
European Literature Network. He has also written several short
scripts, which have been produced in London’s fringe theatres,
A highly anticipated debut, blending the magical realism of Angela Carter
and the gritty authenticity of Eastenders
and was longlisted for the Old Vic’s 12 playwrights project. Attend is his first novel.

Find West on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8283285.West_Camel

or on Twitter at: @west_camel

Thank you so much once again to Anne Cater, Karen Sullivan and Orenda Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. Attend will be published on 13th December 2018 and will be available as a paperback and a digital e-book. If you fancy more information don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour for some amazing reviews!

Link to book on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41967084-attend

Link to book on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Attend-West-Camel/dp/1912374390/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1544092398&sr=8-1&keywords=attend+west+camel

And So It Begins – Rachel Abbott

Published November 25, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

So this is how it ends. It is clear to me now: one of us has to die.

Mark and Evie had a whirlwind romance. Evie brought Mark back to life after the sudden death of his first wife. Cleo, Mark’s sister, knows she should be happy for him. But Cleo doesn’t trust Evie…

When Evie starts having accidents at home, her friends grow concerned. Could Mark be causing her injuries? Called out to their cliff-top house one night, Sergeant Stephanie King finds two bodies entangled on blood-drenched sheets.

Where does murder begin? When the knife is raised to strike, or before, at the first thought of violence? As Evie stands trial, the jury is forced to consider – is there ever a proper defence for murder?

And So It Begins is a darkly compulsive psychological thriller with all the hallmarks of a Rachel Abbott bestseller – a provocative dilemma, richly-layered mystery, knife-edge tension, and brilliant characterization.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Becky Hunter and Wildfire Publishers for sending me a copy of Rachel Abbott’s latest stand-alone novel in exchange for an honest review. The aim of the new imprint from Headline according to publishing director Alex Clarke is to publish books that “spread like wildfire,” and with an objective like that, it definitely sounds like something I want to be part of! I was lucky enough to be part of the blog tour for Rachel’s previous novel (the seventh book in her DC Tom Douglas series), Come A Little Closer and really enjoyed my first experience of reading the author’s work so jumped at the chance to try something new, especially when the initial rave reviews from my fellow bloggers came flooding in. Ultimately, I was delighted to find And So It Begins to be an even more enjoyable experience than Come A Little Closer and really believe the author has found a very special niche within the psychological thriller genre.

Rachel Abbott, author of And So It Begins, a stand-alone thriller and courtroom drama.

As with most novels in the genre, it really helps for future readers if I’m as annoyingly vague as possible because with this particular book, believe me, I’m going to have to be. It’s a fascinating and compelling story of a couple, Evie and Mark who fall in love, have a baby and move in together relatively quickly. To anyone on the outside, they appear to be the picture of matrimonial bliss with Mark’s high-flying career as a talented, sought after photographer, a gorgeous baby girl and a stunning, opulent house with sea views. The thorn in their side initially appears to be Mark’s sister Cleo whom for many years had taken on the role of care-giver with her younger brother Mark and is incredibly protective of him, including his relationship with women which so far has been demonstrably shaky over the past few years. Then one night, Sergeant Stephanie King is called to the extravagant house and finds two bodies on a bed, covered in blood. What has happened? Furthermore, can people on the outside ever know what really goes on between a couple in the privacy of their own home?

I know it probably doesn’t look anything like this as the story is set in England (!!) but when I read about the house that Evie and Mark live in with views of the sea on just one side, making it feel quite isolated, I immediately pictured the house from Sleeping With The Enemy, one of my favourite ever films starring Julia Roberts.

Well. What can I say? Since Come A Little Closer, I feel Abbott’s writing has got a whole lot murkier – in a good way! I was immediately entranced by the synopsis and the promise of a mystery that would take the entire novel to unravel – this is obviously the best kind of course and I wasn’t disappointed. Instantly, I needed to know what on earth happened to this couple where we find them in such a horrendous situation and piece by piece, the answers are gradually revealed with more surprises than you could have ever imagined. I think what really sold this book to me however was the inclusion of the courtroom drama, adding a different dimension and layer to the author’s style and it had me captivated throughout, right to that final, tantalising moment where the jury pronounce their verdict.

As with all my favourite thrillers, And So It Begins focuses on a multitude of characters – Evie, Mark, his sister Cleo and Sergeant Stephanie King and each individual brings something fresh and intriguing to the narrative, making you wonder exactly what is going on and who exactly you can trust. Everyone has their part to play and story to tell and it’s certainly a book that you might find difficult to put down once you become invested. This was definitely the case for me and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0