mystery

All posts tagged mystery

Hush Little Baby – Joanna Barnard

Published November 17, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

When baby Oliver breaks his arm, no-one can (or will) say how it happened.

His mother is exhausted.

His father is angry.

His older sister is resentful.

And they all have something to hide

What did I think?:

First of all, a big thank you to Ebury Press, part of Penguin Random House publishers for sending me a copy of this fantastic thriller in exchange for an honest review. Hush Little Baby was released in August 2017 and apologies that I’m only getting round to reading it now, I certainly won’t make that mistake again with any future novel I happen to read by Joanna Barnard. This book was such a wonderful surprise, exciting, tense and twisty that delves into some very dark places and controversial issues with ease and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment, racing through it in less than twenty-four hours like a woman possessed!

The above synopsis says everything you really need to know concerning what this book is about. As you may know, I’m not one for revealing spoilers so I’m hoping to be as deliberately vague as possible regarding the plot. It’s basically the story of a family – Sally, her husband Richard, their baby Oliver and Oliver’s teenage half-sister Martha. All their lives are turned upside down one night when Oliver has to be rushed to hospital after mysteriously breaking his arm with an injury the hospital are certain is unequivocally not accidental. No one is accepting responsibility for the incident and each member of the family has their own issues to deal with about the night in question i.e. where they were, what they were doing etc. Now social services have become involved and have removed Oliver from his parents to his grandparents custody whilst they try to find out what has happened. Hush Little Baby is a novel where parental responsibilities are questioned, dark secrets are unearthed and the actions of all our characters are revealed slowly and steadily with an ending that will leave you dumbfounded and in my case, slightly unsettled.

This fascinating novel is told in one of my favourite ways, from multiple perspectives. We hear from all three “potentially guilty,” parties in alternating chapters: Sally, Richard and Martha who were all there in some way when baby Oliver was injured. It was quite early on in the story that I began to have opinions on all three persons concerned, all of whom have made mistakes on that night but it’s up to the reader to decide who indeed might have made the biggest mistake. The plot itself deals with multiple issues, apart from the obvious issue of child abuse/neglect, it also explores mental illness, relationship difficulties and there are trigger warnings for self-harm which you should be aware of if you are sensitive to this subject. Because of this, it goes to some incredibly murky depths to paint the picture of what *might* have happened to Oliver and who *may* be to blame.

I have to say it made my emotions go haywire at points, particularly with the character depiction. I wanted to shake one of them at one point, I despised another with a passion and then I wanted to just take another far away from it all. It is the story of what happened to Oliver but mainly, it’s a novel about how a relationship can be affected by a crisis such as this, how people either do or do not take responsibility for their actions and how detrimental your actions can be to another person (or people) without even being aware of it. If you’re after a psychological thriller that is much more about the reactions of characters rather than what actually happened to the child, I would definitely read this book. Personally, I’ll definitely be checking out Joanna’s first book, Precocious on the strength of this one and I can hardly wait.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

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A Dangerous Crossing – Rachel Rhys

Published November 10, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

England, September 1939
Lily Shepherd boards a cruise liner for a new life in Australia and is plunged into a world of cocktails, jazz and glamorous friends. But as the sun beats down, poisonous secrets begin to surface. Suddenly Lily finds herself trapped with nowhere to go …

Australia, six-weeks later
The world is at war, the cruise liner docks, and a beautiful young woman is escorted onto dry land in handcuffs.

What has she done?

What did I think?:

I was first made aware of A Dangerous Crossing through a good blogger friend, the wonderful Cleopatra from Cleopatra Loves Books and you can read her fantastic review HERE. She gave it five stars and called it “a story not to be missed.” Cleo also won the opportunity to have her name appear as a character in this novel by means of a charity auction on behalf on CLIC Sargent so look out for her fabulous cameo near the end! Cleo is one of a special group of people to me that when she makes a recommendation I really listen and I’m so glad I did because I cannot stress enough how wonderful this book was. Rachel Rhys (the pen-name of a successful psychological suspense author) writes such a vivid historical fiction novel that I was completely swept up with the time period, the characters and the evocative, mysterious nature of the narrative.

Our main female protagonist is Lily Shepherd and she has recently boarded a massive cruise ship en route to Australia in search of adventure, to see the world and escape certain events from her past. She gratefully seizes an opportunity to pursue domestic work in Australia in the late 1930’s when they were crying out for British workers for a fixed period of time. On the voyage, she instantly connects with a brother and sister, Edward and Helena Fletcher and a Jewish refugee called Maria but also comes into contact with the glamorous and rich couple Eliza and Max Campbell, strange and interfering Ida and fascist bully George. Interestingly, all the characters she comes into contact with appear to be running away from something and as the voyage continues, Lily slowly discovers what this is. At the very beginning of the novel, the prologue describes a woman being led off the ship in handcuffs but just what the woman has done and what precipitated her crime is all left for the reader to discover, piece by delicious piece.

A Dangerous Crossing was picked for the Richard and Judy Autumn Book Club here in the UK and it’s easily one of my favourites in terms of writing style, characters and plot. How can I describe the characters? There’s only one word really – just GORGEOUS. There’s such a variety of individuals to enjoy, each drawn beautifully with their own distinct personality, motives and morals that it’s almost like watching a blockbuster movie in your head. I was taken directly into the author’s world (a very willing and excited participant) from that show-stopper of a prologue right until the sensational finale which shocked and delighted me in equal measure. England is on the brink of war but on this cruise liner, in the middle of the ocean, it’s a completely different world entirely with its very own heroes and villains, morals and obligations, drama and danger. Basically, this book is perfection and I have not got a bad word to say about it – please read it and discover its brilliance for yourself!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Talking About The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel with Chrissi Reads

Published November 2, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.

After her mother’s suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother’s mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran fast and far away.

Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.

As it weaves between Lane’s first Roanoke summer and her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: What did you make of Amy Engel’s first step into adult fiction?
BETH: I haven’t actually read any of her young adult fiction so I wasn’t sure what to expect from her writing. I’m really glad now that I went into this book not knowing what to expect as I think that’s definitely the way it should be read. I had heard so much buzz about it on Twitter and read some really great reviews from bloggers I love and trust so I was really excited to get stuck in. I also managed to avoid any spoilers which is fantastic as this is definitely a book that could be spoiled if a reviewer isn’t careful.
BETH: You had some quite conflicting feelings about this novel. Can you try and explain them?
CHRISSI: I can’t really articulate my feelings around this book because they’re so complex! At some points I thought it was brilliantly dark and deeply disturbing which I don’t mind in a book. I didn’t like any of the characters…again, not something that bothers me, so it can’t exactly be that. It’s incredibly hard to explain my feelings about this book in a way that doesn’t spoil it for future readers. Let’s just say, I didn’t like the way some aspects of the book weren’t challenged by the characters. I couldn’t feel empathy with them because of that. No one seemed to care or challenge issues. That frustrated me.
CHRISSI: Discuss the complex relationship between Lane and Allegra.
BETH: Lane and Allegra are cousins and when Lane’s mother dies, she comes to live at the Roanoke house with her grandfather, grandmother and cousin Allegra who has been raised there from a baby. At first, the two girls are delighted to be reunited and desperate to get to know each other, especially as they are of a similar age. It isn’t long though before tensions mount and their relationship becomes a lot more fragile which is one of the many factors that leads to Lane leaving and Allegra disappearing.
BETH: Without spoilers, did the main shock of the novel come as a big surprise to you?
CHRISSI: It didn’t. I started to guess what was going on as the story progressed. I was hoping it wasn’t going to be that way, but it was! This book is disturbing and I do feel that it should be approached with caution if you’re sensitive about some subjects that could trigger you.
CHRISSI: Discuss the small town setting of the novel and what this adds to the story.
BETH: Amy Engel captures all the quirks of a small town perfectly. Everybody knows who everybody else is and this means they also think that they’re entitled to know all their business too. There isn’t much to do in the town, purely because of the size of it and its distance from neighbouring towns so this gives some of the inhabitants, particularly our female protagonist Lane, the feeling of being too tightly enclosed and trapped. We also see when Lane returns as an adult how many things have stayed exactly the same (including people that she has left behind) and how frustrating this is for her as she fights to be free.
BETH: How do you think this book sits in the genre?
CHRISSI: I think it stands out as a book that is quite polarising. I can imagine some people will love its deep and dark subject matter. Others like me, would hope for some more sensitivity given the subject matter. It’s certainly a dark and gritty read. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mind reading this book and it didn’t take long to read…it’s just not something I’d personally re-read.
CHRISSI: I had a love/hate relationship with this book. How did you feel about it?
BETH: I know you had quite an interesting reading experience with The Roanoke Girls where you couldn’t quite make up your mind whether you liked it or hated it but for me I think it was a bit more black and white. I did really enjoy this novel, purely because it was so dark and twisty which was a welcome bonus – I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be as disturbing as it was! I didn’t particularly like any of the characters at all but I don’t think you have to like a character to appreciate a good story either, sometimes I feel the best novels are where you have such strong feelings of DISLIKE for a character! It also had a great little twist at the end which I kind of guessed just before the final scene but was still a fantastic end to the novel.
BETH: Would you read another book by this author?
CHRISSI: I think I would. I didn’t hate the writing style, I found it particularly engaging! I would be interested to read the YA fiction that the author has had published!
Would WE recommend it?:
BETH: But of course!
CHRISSI: Yes! (With caution)
BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):
 four-stars_0
CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):
 3 Star Rating Clip Art

Kill The Father – Sandrone Dazieri

Published October 29, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

‘The rock cast a sharp, dark shadow over a shape huddled on the ground. Please don’t let it be the boy, Colomba thought. Her silent prayer didn’t go unanswered. The corpse belonged to the mother.’

THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN STOP HIM IS THE ONE WHO GOT AWAY…

Dante Torre spent eleven young years in captivity – held by a man known only as The Father – before outwitting his abductor. Now working for the police force, Torre’s methods are unorthodox but his brilliance is clear. When a young child goes missing in similar circumstances in Rome, Torre must confront the demons of his past to attempt to solve the case.

Paired with Deputy Captain Colomba Caselli, a fierce, warrior-like detective still reeling from having survived a bloody catastrophe, all evidence suggests The Father is active after being dormant for decades, and that he’s looking forward to a reunion with Dante…

What did I think?:

Kill The Father was translated from the original Italian by Antony Shugaar and is the first in a crime series involving a female detective called Colomba Caselli. It was chosen by TV personalities Richard and Judy as part of their Autumn book club here in the UK and is quite a hefty tome compared to other pieces of crime fiction, weighing in at just over 500 pages. I love that Richard and Judy are including a lot more thrillers on their recommended reads recently and usually, I highly enjoy all their choices in this genre. Kill The Father has had some terrific reviews on GoodReads with an average rating of 4.12 which, as I’m sure you know is high praise indeed. So, here comes unpopular opinion time – I really didn’t enjoy it as much as other people seem to have done. There’s so much to appreciate about it (which I’ll go into later) but for some reason, everything just felt a bit too frantic and overly convoluted for me which didn’t make it a particularly enjoyable reading experience.

Our female protagonist is Deputy Captain Colomba Caselli, officially on leave from her work with the police after an incident where she barely escaped with her life. She is vulnerable, damaged but determined and is soon pulled (unofficially) into a new case where a mother has been decapitated and her son has disappeared. The husband is charged for his wife’s murder and questioned over his little boy’s whereabouts but it is not until Colomba starts to investigate further and finds strange parallels with an abduction case twenty-five years previously. The victim in this case, Dante Torre is also psychologically scarred from the years he spent in captivity but as soon as he learns that The Father may once again be active and abducting children, he works tirelessly alongside Colomba, both using their individual specialist knowledge and personal experiences to bring the perpetrator to justice.

There are so many positive things to take away from this book and that’s why I’m wondering if it’s simply a case of wrong person reading it, not necessarily bad book. The characters are magnificent, especially our female lead who is just the right mixture of flawed and fragile but beautifully committed and hell-bent on getting the right result. However, I may have had to suspend my disbelief slightly too much on whether Dante as a civilian would be allowed that much access to a case such as this, especially as he was directly involved with the perp and considering how psychologically damaged he was from both his past traumatic experience and his daily struggles as he works on the case in the present time. I mean, would you really put someone through hell with the constant risk of coming face to face once more with a person who stole eleven years of your life? I mean, really?

If you can get over this however, the thrills don’t stop coming. This is an incredibly fast-paced book where the action doesn’t seem to let up, not even for a second and I have to admit at points I did find myself gripped, wanting to know what would happen next. Then there’s the other points where it all just seems a bit too crazy and chaotic, too much of a whirlwind of information and plot twists and endless questions to the point where it left me feeling quite exhausted just trying to keep up with it all. I have to say again with the suspension of disbelief, I couldn’t quite bring myself to believe the reasons behind why The Father was doing what he was doing. Don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of mystery and a juicy motive to get my teeth into but it has to be credible and I have to think: “Yes, that could happen.” Unfortunately, there was too much to try and understand and the validity of the story just didn’t ring true for me personally speaking. However, I can’t fault the brilliance of the characterisation and the general pacing of the novel which was excellent.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

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

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