Mystery

All posts in the Mystery category

Western Fringes – Amer Anwar

Published October 1, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

THE HARD-EDGED DEBUT THRILLER SET IN THE HEART OF WEST LONDON’S ASIAN COMMUNITY

A SIKH GIRL ON THE RUN. A MUSLIM EX-CON WHO HAS TO FIND HER. A WHOLE HEAP OF TROUBLE.
Southall, West London.
Recently released from prison, Zaq Khan is lucky to land a dead-end job at a builders’ yard. All he wants to do is keep his head down and put his past behind him.
But when he has to search for his boss’s runaway daughter it quickly becomes apparent he’s not simply dealing with family arguments and arranged marriages as he finds himself caught up in a deadly web of deception, murder and revenge.
With time running out and pressure mounting, can he find the missing girl before it’s too late? And if he does, can he keep her – and himself – alive long enough to deal with the people who want them both dead?

If you like gritty action, sharp dialogue and pacy plotting, then you’ll love this award winning action thriller from Amer Anwar.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to the author Amer Anwar for providing me with a copy of his hard-hitting, award winning debut thriller in return for an honest review. When he reached out to me by email with a teasing glimpse of the synopsis I was instantly intrigued and knew it was a novel I had to get on board with. I have to admit it took me a little while to get into the story but there was a certain point in the narrative when the action ramped up extraordinarily and from then, I found myself hooked and completely invested in the novel until the end.

Our protagonist for the story is Zaq who has recently got out of prison with a fearsome reputation and is working a menial job for his boss, Mr Brar at a building supplies company. However, his life is about to change forever when Mr Brar calls him into his office one day (accompanied by his brutal sons, the “heavies,” Rajinder and Parminder). Mr Brar is a Sikh and his only daughter, Rita appears to have run off with a Muslim man, bringing shame and embarrassment on the family. He wants Zaq to find his daughter again with the least fuss and hullabaloo possible and threatens him with a return to prison if he does not co-operate. With the help of his loyal friend Jags, Zaq is instantly pulled into a murky criminal world of deception, extortion, violence and murder that puts him in an incredibly dangerous situation that could have deadly consequences for him, anyone that helps him and threaten the life of the woman he is working so hard to protect.

Western Fringes won the CWA Debut Dagger award and it’s easy to see why. The author focuses on the Asian community of Southall, West London and the vibrancy of their culture, tradition, religions and beliefs is portrayed beautifully. Of course, it’s crime fiction and this novel has a bitter and quite frightening dark side. In fact, I wasn’t in any way prepared for how dark the author was going to take it and although parts of the story were graphic and extremely horrific to read, I couldn’t help but be captivated by the plot and was at all times, compelled to see it through to the final pages. After a bit of a slow start, this novel became an easy page-turner for me although I did feel terribly sorry for the character of Zaq whom the author constantly subjected to a never-ending circle of violence and brutality! I approached this novel anticipating something a bit different and hoping to learn a few things about Asian culture/traditions and Western Fringes fulfilled all these things for me, personally speaking. Amer Anwar has a clear, obvious talent for writing an exciting, gritty plot and I look forward to seeing what he’s going to do in the future.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

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Horns – Joe Hill

Published September 28, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with a thunderous hangover, a raging headache . . . and a pair of horns growing from his temples.

At first Ig thought the horns were a hallucination, the product of a mind damaged by rage and grief. He had spent the last year in a lonely, private purgatory, following the death of his beloved, Merrin Williams, who was raped and murdered under inexplicable circumstances. A mental breakdown would have been the most natural thing in the world. But there was nothing natural about the horns, which were all too real.

Once the righteous Ig had enjoyed the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned musician and younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, he had security, wealth, and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more—he had Merrin and a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.

But Merrin’s death damned all that. The only suspect in the crime, Ig was never charged or tried. And he was never cleared. In the court of public opinion in Gideon, New Hampshire, Ig is and always will be guilty because his rich and connected parents pulled strings to make the investigation go away. Nothing Ig can do, nothing he can say, matters. Everyone, it seems, including God, has abandoned him. Everyone, that is, but the devil inside.

What did I think?:

Regular visitors to my blog might remember that I have a teeny tiny Stephen King obsession. Seriously, I’m in love with (almost) every word he has ever written. However, I was absolutely determine to judge Joe Hill’s books on their own merits and not to compare him to his father and when I read his debut novel, Heart-Shaped Box, I was delighted to find another writer of such skill and panache where I would instantly pre-order and devour everything they have published and are due to publish. Next up on the small-ish Joe Hill back-list was his second novel, Horns which was also made into a film starring Daniel Radcliffe. Would it be as good as Heart-Shaped Box? The expectations were sky high and I’m happy to say, completely fulfilled. Horns is a disturbing, fantastical and eerily supernatural read that enthralled me from the beginning and was structured so beautifully that I was compelled to read it at the speed of light whilst savouring the deliciousness of Joe Hill’s prose.

Our protagonist for the novel is a young man called Ignatius Perrish (Ig for short) who hasn’t had an easy life. He was head over heels in love with his girlfriend, Merrin Williams until she was raped and brutally murdered. Worse thing is, everyone in town including some of his family, think Ig carried out the crime and it was only because of a lack of evidence that the case was thrown out of court and he didn’t go to trial. Ig has been beating himself up about Merrin’s death since it happened and is drinking heavily. One day he wakes up with the world’s worst hangover and two extra unexpected gifts on the top of his head – horns, that no-one else can see and that he soon discovers gives him the supernatural powers to find out what people are thinking and encourage them to act on their deepest and darkest desires. The novel follows Ig as he uses the horns to his own advantage, finding out some heart-breaking, disgusting and life-altering truths in the process. We also get a look back into the heady days of his youth when he was in love with Merrin, his relationship with his friends and finally, answers to what really happened to Merrin all those years ago.

I have to admit, when I read the premise for this novel I was a little unsure. Interested – definitely but I wasn’t sure if a story about “magic horns,” could grab my attention as much as it ended up doing. I needn’t have worried, within just a few pages Joe Hill, storyteller extraordinaire, had completely captivated me and I found myself both shaking my head at Ig and rooting for him in equal measure as certain secrets begin to be revealed and he begins to find some sort of closure after years of suffering and unhappiness. He makes some dodgy decisions, that’s for sure but I loved how flawed yet strangely vulnerable he was as an individual and this made him all the more easier to love. There are some real shocking moments in this novel as well, especially surrounding Ig’s family and friends but I must leave you to discover all the juicy and disquieting details for yourself! Once more, Joe Hill has written a novel that was so immersive and utterly brilliant in its denouement that I’m struggling to see how he could ever write a bad novel! I’m looking forward to dipping into his short story collection, 20th Century Ghosts soon on my Short Stories Challenge and I also have big plans for his next novel, NOS4R2 coming soon on bibliobeth.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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My Mother’s Shadow – Nikola Scott

Published September 23, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

It is the year 1958 and Elizabeth Holloway has been sent away from her London home to spend the summer at Hartland, a beautiful, rambling country estate by the Sussex coast. To lovely, innocent Elizabeth, the Shaws are the height of sophistication and they treat her as one of their own, but when she falls in love, no one warns her that her dreams are dangerously naïve.

Forty years later, Elizabeth’s daughter Addie finds a stranger on her doorstep, a woman claiming to be her twin sister. At first, Addie refuses to believe it — until her beloved father admits that the circumstances surrounding her birth were not what she’d been led to believe.

The discovery challenges everything Addie thought she knew about the brilliant, difficult woman that was her mother. And as their journey takes them back to Elizabeth’s past, Addie and her new sister Phoebe uncover the extraordinary story of a lost child, a mother’s secret, and one golden summer that changed a woman’s life forever.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Becky Hunter and the team at Headline for sending me a copy of this fantastic debut novel by Nikola Scott in exchange for an honest review. My Mother’s Shadow is a cosy and compelling read that I found myself instantly intrigued by and it was easy to race through it as I became determined to discover the root of the mystery which also provided a very satisfying conclusion. I’m also a huge fan of a dual timeline and was delighted to realise that I enjoyed the narrative set in the present day just as much as the story set in the 1950’s (usually it’s the opposite way around for me!).

The novel follows our main character Addie in the present time and her mother, Elizabeth Holloway when she was a young adult in the fifties. It comes as quite a shock to Addie exactly one year after her mother’s death to find a stranger on her doorstep claiming to be her long lost twin sister. At first, it’s inconceivable to Addie and her family that this woman, Phoebe is telling the truth although the evidence she provides is highly stacked in her favour. When it turns out that Phoebe might actually be who she says she is, the two girls join forces to uncover the secrets behind their birth. As Addie had quite a tumultuous relationship with her mother, the details of what they find are incredibly eye opening, moving and surprising and makes her look at her late mother in a whole different light.

I was so happy when this book turned up on my doormat – I was just in the right sort of mood for a novel such as this, something which was gripping, poignant and heart-warming all at the same time. The author has an obvious gift for creating characters that you immediately become fond of, especially the two main characters of Addie and her mother, Elizabeth. As I mentioned, I loved the dual timelines and I felt each characters story was captured to perfection, in a way that always made me want to read just “one more chapter.” My Mother’s Shadow is a beautiful combination of historical and contemporary fiction with a slice of mystery on the side and I loved attempting to unravel what had happened to Elizabeth in her past that led to two estranged twin sisters, multiple secrets and a bucket load of questions. It’s the ideal book to cuddle up with if you like a bit of a puzzle to solve and I’m really looking forward to what this author writes next.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

The Watchmaker Of Filigree Street – Natasha Pulley

Published September 5, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

1883. Thaniel Steepleton returns home to his tiny London apartment to find a gold pocket watch on his pillow. Six months later, the mysterious timepiece saves his life, drawing him away from a blast that destroys Scotland Yard. At last, he goes in search of its maker, Keita Mori, a kind, lonely immigrant from Japan. Although Mori seems harmless, a chain of unexplainable events soon suggests he must be hiding something. When Grace Carrow, an Oxford physicist, unwittingly interferes, Thaniel is torn between opposing loyalties.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is a sweeping, atmospheric narrative that takes the reader on an unexpected journey through Victorian London, Japan as its civil war crumbles long-standing traditions, and beyond. Blending historical events with dazzling flights of fancy, it opens doors to a strange and magical past.

What did I think?:

I think this book has to win a prize based on that beautiful cover art alone, right? It’s absolutely stunning and has been staring at me from my shelves for the longest time. You know when you have a book on your TBR that you keep looking at but is almost too beautiful to read even though you’re eagerly anticipating it? (Maybe that’s just me then?!) Well, that’s what The Watchmaker Of Filigree Street was to me. My boyfriend had already listened to it on audio book and kept telling me that I needed to read this novel, I would love it but for some reason I kept hesitating. Thank goodness I’ve finally given in to my own hype and cracked it open because what I found within was truly wonderful and I’m still thinking about it now, weeks after finishing it, it made that big of an impression on me.

It’s approaching the end of the nineteenth century and our main character, Thaniel Steepleton is working at the Home Office in London as a telegraph operator. He is living in dangerous times where a rebel group of Irish terrorists, the Fenian Brotherhood are setting off bombs all across London. In fact, he almost loses his life to one of these bombs if it were not for a mysterious gold pocket watch that he finds in his bedroom one night that begins alarming just before the bomb explodes giving him time to leave the building and cheat certain death. Fascinated by the watch and how it came to be in his possession, he tracks down the watch-maker, one Keita Mori, a Japanese immigrant who has an intriguing back story all of his own and is wonderfully talented in the making of clockwork mechanisms, including Katsu, a rather annoying (but incredibly endearing) sock stealing, mechanical octopus. This is the story of the relationship between Thaniel and Keita but also of Thaniel’s relationship with Grace Carrow, a young scientist who tests his loyalty and bond with Keita in numerous ways.

The Watchmaker Of Filigree Street has such a convoluted plot that I’m very wary of going into too much detail. The beauty with a story like this is definitely discovering all the magical twists and turns and divine mixture of fact and fantasy for yourself. At times, it really is a slow burner of a novel – don’t expect much action or thrills if you decide to read this but this is more a story to be savoured, to understand and enjoy the delicious characters that Natasha Pulley has created and to marvel at all the small details you could easily miss if you weren’t fully invested in the story. Believe me, I was fully invested and at times completely overwhelmed with how gorgeous both the plot and the characters were. It gets complicated at times, that’s for sure but I thoroughly enjoyed the directions the author chose to take her characters in (which were wholly unexpected at points!). I fell head over heels in love with the writing, with Thaniel, Keita and Grace and in particular, with a certain clockwork octopus called Katsu where I fully believe that I desperately need one for myself! I’m so excited to find out that this is going to be a series, the next book is called Pepperharrow and is due for release by Bloomsbury at some point in 2018. I honestly can’t wait – I need it like right now.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Wolf Winter – Cecilia Ekbäck

Published September 3, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A brilliantly written and gripping historical Nordic Noir thriller with all the intrigue and atmosphere of Burial Rites, the pent-up passion of The Piano and the suspense of The Tenderness of Wolves.

There are six homesteads on Blackasen Mountain.

A day’s journey away lies the empty town. It comes to life just once, in winter, when the Church summons her people through the snows. Then, even the oldest enemies will gather.

But now it is summer, and new settlers are come.

It is their two young daughters who find the dead man, not half an hour’s walk from their cottage.

The father is away. And whether stubborn, or stupid, or scared for her girls, the mother will not let it rest.

To the wife who is not concerned when her husband does not come home for three days; to the man who laughs when he hears his brother is dead; to the priest who doesn’t care; she asks and asks her questions, digging at the secrets of the mountain.

They say a wolf made those wounds. But what wild animal cuts a body so clean?

What did I think?:

There were so many things that immediately appealed to me when I first found this book and was determined to have a hard copy for my shelves. For example, the cover is incredibly simple yet very effective and I find it quite striking and eerie – a perfect accompaniment to the story within. Secondly, the synopsis for the novel really pulled me in and made it one of those books that I instantly had to bump to the top of my teetering TBR. In the end, I really enjoyed this debut novel from Cecilia Ekbäck, it is filled with suspense, is dramatic and atmospheric and has a sort of quiet dread or menace throughout the narrative that constantly thrilled and delighted me as I made my way through the story.

Our main character is Maija who comes to settle on the foreboding Blackåsen Mountain with her husband Paavo and her two daughters, Frederika and Dorotea. In the harsh climate of Swedish Lapland in 1717, each day surviving, foraging for food and maintaining their shelter in the harshest of conditions is a bonus and there is no room for idleness or hesitation when navigating through the ice, wind and snow. There are only five other homes on the mountain, the neighbours tend to keep to themselves and it is rare to see another person out and about on the land that isn’t your own family. When Frederika makes the shocking discovery of the body of Eriksson, one of their neighbours whilst herding goats one day, her whole world is turned upside down. The attack is put down to wolves but Maija is certain that no wolf on earth could have made the marks that present themselves on Eriksson’s body. Furthermore, when she tries to voice her worries she meets a wall of silence, not only from the other surrounding neighbours but from the authorities in the village down from the mountain. Someone out there is determined that secrets should stay buried and this may not bode well for Maija if she carries on fighting in pursuit of justice.

This is such a beautiful piece of Scandinavian fiction that I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved the historical setting and the mystery behind Eriksson’s death but what I loved most of all was the lyrical writing and the entire atmosphere of the novel which was set up so gorgeously I could almost feel the ice cold temperatures and the bitter wind as I was reading. Strong female characters are always an added benefit to a narrative and Cecilia Ekbäck treats us to two in the form of Maija and her daughter Frederika who were wonderfully persistent and brave and in Frederika’s case, wise beyond her years. I was also overjoyed by the superstitious elements that characterised parts of this novel which only served to make the setting bleaker, darker and infinitely more intriguing. It has an intricate plot, plenty of surprises along the way and is written so gorgeously that I could see myself reading it over and over again. I’ll certainly be watching out (with gleeful anticipation) for what this author does next.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Talking About Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land with Chrissi Reads

Published September 2, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Milly’s mother is a serial killer. Though Milly loves her mother, the only way to make her stop is to turn her in to the police. Milly is given a fresh start: a new identity, a home with an affluent foster family, and a spot at an exclusive private school.

But Milly has secrets, and life at her new home becomes complicated. As her mother’s trial looms, with Milly as the star witness, Milly starts to wonder how much of her is nature, how much of her is nurture, and whether she is doomed to turn out like her mother after all.

When tensions rise and Milly feels trapped by her shiny new life, she has to decide: Will she be good? Or is she bad? She is, after all, her mother’s daughter.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: I started this book a bit before you and told you how disturbing it was. Did you agree with my initial impression? What were your first impressions?

BETH: It was quite funny in a way. You started reading it and then texted me just two words – “Woah dude.” Then I got to the exact same point in the book that you did and texted you exactly the same thing! I know we usually hate comparisons and like that a book should stand on its own but as you said to me, this was one of the most disturbing things I’ve read since Gone Girl, I think. Obviously I don’t want to go into too many details for fear of spoilers but this novel is a lot darker, a lot twistier and more warped than I could have ever expected. You would think I might be expecting this if you read the synopsis? No, I wasn’t prepared for how “wrong,” it was going to get.

BETH: What did you think of the character of Phoebe? Could you sympathise with her at all?

CHRISSI: It’s an interesting question as Phoebe is such a complex character. I felt sorry for her because her home life was pretty horrific. Her mother didn’t have a great bond with her and she was feeling left out when Milly was getting a lot of attention from Phoebe’s parents. That can’t be nice. Especially when Phoebe’s mum gave Milly a gift that Phoebe thought was a precious thing between Phoebe and her mother. However, I didn’t feel comfortable with the bullying that Phoebe and her friends were inflicting upon Milly. Bullying should never be excused in my eyes!

CHRISSI: Ali Land is a Child and Adolescent Mental Health nurse – how do you think this affects the way she has written this novel?

BETH: I think it’s given her a perfect insight into mental illness in children, to be honest. She’s probably seen and experienced some things in her career and understands how a child may view a certain situation, what they might do and what kinds of emotions they might be experiencing as a result. Because of this, the novel came across as very authentic to me and as I mentioned before, I certainly wasn’t prepared for the directions the author took with the story.

BETH: Milly has to give evidence in a court in front of her mother – how do you think this was handled in the novel?

CHRISSI: I thought this was dealt with really well in the novel. Milly wanted to be there in court and this wasn’t disregarded because it was too tough for her. The adults around Milly seemed to listen to her. I also enjoyed how the court scenes were written. I loved how Milly’s mother’s presence was so strong in the novel. It was almost creepy. She felt like an incredibly evil character (what she did was awful!) and her little movements mentioned in the court scene made my skin crawl. I loved how the author made us feel her presence in court (despite Milly not physically seeing her) and how much Milly was aware of it.

CHRISSI: What does this story tell us about the question of nature vs nurture?

BETH: As a scientist (by day!) I probably could have a very scientific answer for you… 😝 but to be honest, I think the book explores both aspects. Is it the genes within us that programme us to be what we are and how we react to certain situations? Or is it the environment outside i.e. how we are brought up, who we interact with that determines our behaviour and actions. If I’m fair, poor Milly didn’t have much of a choice either way considering she was brought up with a serial killer for a mother. It’s how she responds when taken out of that situation however that gets very interesting.

BETH: How would you describe the relationship between Milly and her mother?

CHRISSI: In two words… incredibly unhealthy! I felt like Milly constantly struggled with the feelings towards her mother. It says it all really in the title ‘Good Me, Bad Me.’ Milly was so aware of what was right and wrong. She knew what her mother had done was wrong, yet she still felt a strong pull towards her, despite all of the awful things that had happened to her. Milly really was messed up by her mother and understandably so. Their relationship was toxic. Milly’s mother ‘training’ her daughter for such awful things…

CHRISSI: How does this book compare to others in its heavily populated genre?

BETH: I was a huge fan of this book. I think it stands heads and shoulders above quite a few books in the genre. I don’t know if it’s the writing style, the subject matter or the fact that the author isn’t afraid to go to incredibly dark places but I loved what she did with the story and even though it made me feel intensely uncomfortable and disgusted it was an unforgettable reading experience.

BETH: Would you read another novel by this author?

CHRISSI: I really would! This is such a promising debut novel. I loved how Ali Land didn’t shy away from such an uncomfortable topic.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Without a doubt!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

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CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

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Did You See Melody? – Sophie Hannah

Published August 25, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Pushed to the breaking point, Cara Burrows abandons her home and family and escapes to a five-star spa resort she can’t afford. Late at night, exhausted and desperate, she lets herself into her hotel room and is shocked to find it already occupied – by a man and a teenage girl.

A simple mistake on the part of the hotel receptionist – but Cara’s fear intensifies when she works out that the girl she saw alive and well in the hotel room is someone she can’t possibly have seen: the most famous murder victim in the country, Melody Chapa, whose parents are serving life sentences for her murder.

Cara doesn’t know what to trust: everything she’s read and heard about the case, or the evidence of her own eyes. Did she really see Melody? And is she prepared to ask herself that question and answer it honestly if it means risking her own life?

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to the lovely people at Hodder & Stoughton publishers for sending me a copy of Sophie Hannah’s latest stand-alone work of crime fiction in exchange for an honest review. I have to admit, I have tried Sophie Hannah’s very early novels a long time ago and whilst I enjoyed them I haven’t felt compelled to keep up with what she’s writing. Until now. Now I’m just thinking perhaps I wasn’t in the mood when I last read a novel by her because it’s as clear as day that she writes such a compelling and fascinating narrative which it’s hard to find any fault with. It’s actually made me more determined to go search out her previous novels and catch up on a great author’s work that I’ve obviously been missing out on.

I understand that Sophie Hannah has published a number of novels as part of a series (Waterhouse and Zailer) but Did You See Melody is a stand-alone story whose synopsis instantly appealed to me (as well as the fact that I’m a bit of a stickler for reading things in order, even when it doesn’t really matter!). Our main character is Cara Burrows who travels to Arizona from England after having some family problems and checks into an exclusive spa for rest, relaxation and to get her head together and figure out what she’s going to do next. While she is there, she is mistakenly checked into a room that already has occupants – a middle-aged man and what seems to be his teenage daughter.

Next, Cara finds out about an old case involving a young girl called Melody Chapa, who was thought to have been murdered by her parents, currently serving a sentence in prison as a result. Before long, Cara realises that the girl she saw in the room could actually be Melody and, if this is the case, why exactly do people think that she is dead? Why is there so much secrecy if she is in fact alive and well? Why are her parents serving time? Furthermore, there seems to be a dangerous plot afoot that could threaten the well-being of anyone who admits to having seen Melody and Cara suddenly finds herself in very real and terrible danger.

This novel had me hooked almost instantly. Cara has her own little back story about why she comes to Arizona and what exactly she is fleeing back home and of course, I was insanely curious to find about her life and what has gone so horrifically wrong for her that she has to leave her husband and two children behind without any warning. Then there is Melody and all the mystery surrounding her situation. Desperate to understand what was going on, I couldn’t help but frantically turn the pages (and probably made it through the novel in record time as a result!). I’m also delighted that although I kind of guessed the perpetrators of the crime, I definitely didn’t envisage all the mini twists and turns that encompassed such a fascinating and exciting story. I’m so glad I gave this novel and Sophie Hannah another go, her back catalogue is now one hundred percent on my radar and I can’t wait to get started!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0