July 28

Her Deadly Secret – Chris Curran

A young girl has been taken. Abducted, never to be seen again.

Joe and Hannah, her traumatized parents, are consumed by grief. But all is not as it seems behind the curtains of their suburban home.

Loretta, the Family Liaison Officer, is sure Hannah is hiding something – a dark and twisted secret from deep in her past.

This terrible memory could be the key to the murder of another girl fifteen years ago. And as links between the two victims emerge, Joe and Hannah learn that in a family built on lies, the truth can destroy everything…

 

A story which unfolds from the point of view of three families. The key players in my eyes were Joe and Hannah, they are in a dark, dark place as their daughter Lily is gone.

The police are investigating Lily’s disappearance and they have Family Liaison Officer, Loretta, working with Joe and Hannah.  Loretta is there to provide support to the family at a difficult time but she is also expected to establish a bond with a view to obtaining information about Lily which could help the investigation.  Unfortunately for Loretta Hannah is virtually catatonic and hardly speaks. Meanwhile Joe is doing what he can to get Hannah to speak with him but he is acutely aware that the police suspect he may even be involved in Lily’s murder. Joe had been away from the house quite frequently prior to Lily’s disappearance so he finds he cannot answer Loretta’s questions about Lily’s behaviour of late.

Unable to gain any significant information from Hannah or Joe we see Loretta coming under increasing pressure from her boss. Not helping her situation is a bullying colleague and, at home, a recent separation from her husband problems with the behaviour of one of her kids.

Two families down and we turn to Rosie.  Years ago Rosie’s sister was murdered and her father was arrested and jailed for killing his eldest daughter. Now Rosie’s father is out of prison and she learns that her mother has allowed him to return home. Having cut off communications with her father years prior to events in the story, Rosie’s mother tries to encourage her to come meet her father – they both believe that someone knows her father is innocent of the killing…he received letters whilst in prison in which the anonymous sender indicated they knew he did not kill his daughter.  Rosie is determined to find out who may have written the letters.

With three narrative threads to keep track of I thought Chris Curran did a great job of keeping each of the families interesting and under pressure.  You want to keep reading to find out how they will overcome their immediate problems, plus you know that there is a reason there are three viewpoints to a single story – at some stage you expect paths to cross, I just didn’t know where that may happen. The only way to satisfy that curiosity was to read more and more chapters.

I read of many murders, kidnapping and violent attacks during the normal blogging year but the suffering of Joe and Hannah troubled me more than I am used to.  Perhaps it is because most tales focus on the killer or the investigation and less so upon the family of the victim?  Sharing Hannah and Joe’s grief and watching them struggle to comprehend the position they are in was unsettling and I put this entirely down to Chris Curran’s sympathetic unpicking of their lives.

I refer to books like Her Deadly Secret as “people stories”.  Now I know that most books are “people stories” but this is a tale which is very much driven by the characters and their lives, we don’t rely upon clever action set pieces. No witchcraft or demons are lurking in the cellar and is unlikely the TARDIS will land to allow The Doctor to put everything to right. This is pure human and emotional drama and it works very well. Highly recommended.

 

Her Deadly Secret is published by Killer Reads and can be ordered here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Her-Deadly-Secret-gripping-psychological-ebook/dp/B06Y5ZFF1Z/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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April 8

The Stolen Child – Sanjida Kay

 

Zoe and Ollie Morley tried for years to have a baby and couldn’t. They turned to adoption and their dreams came true when they were approved to adopt a little girl from birth. They named her Evie.

Seven years later, the family has moved to Yorkshire and grown in number: a wonderful surprise in the form of baby Ben. As a working mum it’s not easy for Zoe, but life is good.

But then Evie begins to receive letters and gifts.

The Stolen ChildThe sender claims to be her birth father.

He has been looking for his daughter.

And now he is coming to take her

 

My thanks to Kirsty at Atlantic Books for my review copy

 

Last year I read Sanjida Kay’s debut novel, Bone By Bone, and it messed with my head. Bone By Bone tells an intense story which focusses heavily on bullying and the impact that it can have. Despite all the terrible things I read about in the many dozens of crime thrillers I read each year, I find it hardest to read about bullies. Sanjida Kay did an amazing job of crafting a story around bullying which drew me in and kept me reading – I had to see how the story would be resolved.

Spin forward to yesterday morning and I don’t mind admitting that I was more than a little wary of picking up Sanjida Kay’s new novel: The Stolen Child.  Yup that DID say “yesterday morning”  I poured through The Stolen Child in superfast time as Sanjida has written another nail-biting emotional rollercoaster of a novel.

Zoe and Ollie adopted Evie 7 years ago. The story actually opens when Evie’s mother goes into labour – early. A tricky birth and a spell in intensive care for a baby, could this have had some impact upon Evie’s behaviour as when we meet her (aged 7) she appears a flighty, distracted girl?  Zoe is struggling to cope with the demands of young children, managing a home, trying to find time to work on her painting and she has, in Ollie, a husband who appears more focussed on work than his family. It is not an uncommon situation but Sanjida Kay brings the reader into the family home and exposes all their insecurities and weak moments.

As is indicated in the book description, Evie is receiving notes which appear to come from her father. Zoe finds the notes and the family face the challenge of explaining to a headstrong child that she was adopted. Evie’s reaction is initially one of acceptance, however, when her temper is raised she starts to lash out at Zoe and indicates that she want’s her “real” family.  Once again Sanjida Kay has a story which unsettles and I can honestly say that during the course of the book I was empathising with almost all of the characters at some point (and wanting to give them a stern talking to at others).

There are loads of discussion points which could arise from The Stolen Child and after this review I have some possible topics for consideration – this book is a dream for reading groups.

 

The Stolen Child is published by Corvus, is available now in paperback and digital format and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stolen-Child-Sanjida-Kay/dp/1782396918/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1491607094&sr=1-1&keywords=sanjida+kay

 

Book Club Questions:

  • What do you think about the attraction between Zoe and Harris?
  • Sanjida KayWho do you think is the best person for Zoe to be with – Ollie or Harris?
  • How does Ollie and Zoe’s marriage and their relationship change as the
    novel progresses?
  • Zoe says she feels almost like a single mum at times. Do you think this
    is true for many modern-day families?
  • Zoe is trying to be an artist. How hard to you think it is for her, and
    women like her, to juggle creativity and motherhood?
  • The novel is set in Ilkley, with some of the key scenes taking place on
    Ilkley Moor. Do you think such a large expanse of wilderness can be
    strange and frightening?
  • What do you think of the relationship between Jack and Evie?
    How do you feel Zoe and Ollie handled Evie’s adoption? Do you think
    she’s simply a ‘quirky child’ as Ollie does, or has she been damaged by
    her biological mother?
  • Zoe initially thinks that Harris is not from Ilkley. Later she and the police
    make some key assumptions about him based on what they believe
    about his religion and ethnicity. What role does race play in this novel?
    The title of the novel comes from a poem by WB Yeats, also called, The
    Stolen Child. How much of an influence do you think fairy tales, like the
    one described in Yeat’s poem, play in the novel?
  • Sanjida Kay has said that one of her favourite books is Emily Brontë’s
    Wuthering Heights. Can you see the novel’s influence on The Stolen
    Child?
  • Were you surprised by the ending?

 

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February 27

Say Nothing – Brad Parks

Say NothingOn a normal Wednesday afternoon, Judge Scott Sampson is preparing to pick up his six-year-old twins for their weekly swim. His wife Alison texts him with a change of plan: she has to take them to the doctor instead. So Scott heads home early. But when Alison arrives back later, she is alone – no Sam, no Emma – and denies any knowledge of the text . . .
The phone then rings: an anonymous voice tells them that the Judge must do exactly what he is told in an upcoming drug case and, most importantly, they must ‘say nothing’.

So begins this powerful, tense breakout thriller about a close-knit young family plunged into unimaginable horror. As a twisting game of cat and mouse ensues, they know that one false move could lose them their children for ever.
Hugely suspenseful – with its fascinating insight into the US judicial system and its politics of influence and nepotism – Say Nothing is, above all, the poignant story of the terror these parents face, and their stop-at-nothing compulsion to get their children back.

 

My Thanks to Lauren at Faber & Faber for my review copy.

 

When I get asked what book I would recommend, Say Nothing is now my first answer. I have just spent the last two days pouring over this thriller, devouring every word and I cannot say too many good things about it. Let me save you a skip to the foot of the page…Say Nothing gets an epic 5 stars from me.

<And breathe>

We meet Scott Sampson. He is a judge with a good reputation. He has a happy home life, a loving family and life is grand. But things are about to change.  Scott receives a text message from his wife telling him she is taking their young twins to an appointment with the doctor and that he need not collect them from school. No cause for concern, just a change to their normal routine – until Scott’s wife returns home without the kids and they realise something has gone wrong. As the couple try to make sense of their conflicting understanding of the afternoon’s events the phone rings and their world is turned upside down.

Their twins have been kidnapped. Further instruction will follow in due course but in the meantime neither Scott or Alison can let anyone know what has happened – SAY NOTHING.

Scott has to continue going to work and hearing cases so in addition to a tense kidnap story we are treated to an engaging courtroom drama too. I have not read very many legal thrillers of late and I realise that I miss them – Say Nothing handles the switches between courthouse and domestic drama brilliantly and both elements to the story play out fabulously well.

The story zips along at a fast pace and, with the constant worry over what may happen to two helpless kids at the hands of their abductors, you find that you just have to keep reading.

The book asks how far you would go to protect your children and Scott and Alison will be pushed to the limit. Doubts and suspicion of family, friends and colleagues will threaten to overwhelm them and events outwith their control will seem to conspire against them and try to thwart the safe return of the twins.

Gradually it becomes clear exactly why the kidnap was arranged and Scott will become increasingly pressured into following orders to keep his children safe. But if a high profile judge starts behaving erratically then people will start to notice. How long can Scott maintain the façade of normality when someone else is calling the shots and seems to know his every move?

Brilliant, brilliant storytelling which I cannot recommend enough. I mention it was a 5 star read?

 

Say Nothing is published on 2 March 2017 by Faber & Faber and you can order a copy here.

Follow the Say Nothing tour

SAY NOTHING_blog tour graphic

 

 

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June 9

Dear Amy – Helen Callaghan

Dear AmyMargot Lewis is the agony aunt for The Cambridge Enquirer. Her advice column, Dear Amy, gets all kinds of letters – but none like the one she’s just received:

Dear Amy,
I don’t know where I am. I’ve been kidnapped and am being held prisoner by a strange man. I’m afraid he’ll kill me.
Please help me soon,
Bethan Avery

Bethan Avery has been missing for years. This is surely some cruel hoax. But, as more letters arrive, they contain information that was never made public. How is this happening? Answering this question will cost Margot everything . . .

 

My thanks to Michael Joseph for my review copy which I received through Netgalley

Dear Amy opens with Katie Browne packing to run away from home. She has had enough of life with her mum (and her mum’s new partner) so Katie is setting off to go to her father’s house. But as she makes her way through the darkening streets she finds there are worse things than being unhappy at home.

Katie doesn’t make it to her father’s house.

Margot is a teacher who also runs a feature column (entitled Dear Amy) for the local Cambridge newspaper. She provides guidance and advice on health and relationship issues, suggests shelters for victims of domestic abuse and offers a reliable and confidential option for those in need who feel that they have no one else to turn to.

Margot collects her Dear Amy mail from the newspaper offices. She finds a letter from a young girl who is claiming to have been abducted and that she is being held captive against her will. But the letter states that the girl is called Bethan Avery – a girl who disappeared almost 20 years earlier.  How can Margot be receiving letters from a girl who has been missing for so many years?  How is a kidnap victim able to send a letter? And why has she suddenly decided to write to Margot? I HAD to know so I HAD to keep reading.

Taking the letters to the police Margot finds herself caught up in a missing person investigation. Although Bethan has been missing for 2 decades there is a small ‘cold case’ team who believe that there may be links between Bethan’s disappearance and the recent disappearance of young Katie Browne.

Dear Amy falls into the vulnerable narrator category. Margot, despite enjoying success through her Dear Amy column and being a popular teacher (rare), has a few issues to face. She is negotiating the final stages of a divorce settlement with her (soon to be ex) husband and as the story unfolds we learn that Margot has managed to overcome some troubled teenage years.  I particularly enjoyed Helen Callaghan’s skilful drip feed of important elements from Margot’s background and I enjoyed learning how she managed to overcome these issues and face them down.

Margot’s story and her bid to help Bethan (and possibly Katie) took some unexpected twists and turns. I had lots of fun reading Dear Amy, it certainly did not follow a path I was expecting  and I really enjoyed how Helen Callaghan was able to draw me in to the story  and keep me hooked.  Definitely one to watch out for and BEWARE SPOILERS.

 

Dear Amy is published by Michael Joseph on 16 June 2016 and can be ordered here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0718183754?keywords=dear%20amy&qid=1458165185&ref_=sr_1_1_twi_har_1&sr=8-1

 

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February 11

Perfect Days – Raphael Montes

Perfect DaysThe path to true love rarely runs smoothly…

Teo, a medical student, meets Clarice at a party. Teo doesn’t really like people, they’re too messy, but he immediately realises that he and Clarice are meant to be together. And if Clarice doesn’t accept that? Well, they just need to spend some time together, and she’ll come to realise that too.

And yes, he has bought handcuffs and yes, he has taken her prisoner and yes, he is lying to her mother and to his mother and to the people at the hotel he’s keeping her at, but it’s all for her own good.

She’ll understand. She’ll fall in love. She’ll settle down and be his loving wife.

Won’t she?

 

My thanks to Vintage for my review copy which I received through Netgalley

 

Perfect Days is one of those books that I cannot actually talk about in any great detail.  It needs to be read. And once you find out what Teo has planned you will probably want to read it in a single sitting!

This one comes with a warning though – not for the squeamish or the faint of heart. The story will take some very nasty turns along the way, there will be bad language and there were even some scenes which had me wincing as I read them. I couldn’t put it down!

Perfect Days is a dark tale of obsession and neurosis. Teo is socially awkward but believes that he may have found his soul mate in Clarice. He is prepared to go to any lengths to ensure Clarice gets to see him in the best light. Unfortunately for Teo, Clarice is just about to take an extended vacation to work on her screenplay and has no plans to be around Teo long enough for him to show her his limited charms.

Taking matters into his own hands Teo plots to abduct Clarice so that they can spend some quality time together. What follows is a sequence of events that will spiral out of Teo’s control in ways which he could never have anticipated. Oh and it gets messy. Very messy.

Perhaps the most chilling aspect of Perfect Days is the finale. I was NOT prepared for the ending that Raphael Montes delivered. My gob was smacked. I utterly loved the journey but the finale was…well I cannot tell you THAT. But trust me when I say it will get to you.

 

Perfect Days is published on 18th February by Vintage and you can pre-order your copy here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Perfect-Days-Raphael-Montes/dp/1846559529/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1455142355&sr=8-2

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November 5

Lost Girls – Angela Marsons

Lost GirlsTwo girls go missing. Only one will return.

The couple that offers the highest amount will see their daughter again. The losing couple will not. Make no mistake. One child will die.

When nine-year-old best friends Charlie and Amy disappear, two families are plunged into a living nightmare. A text message confirms the unthinkable; that the girls are the victims of a terrifying kidnapping.

And when a second text message pits the two families against each other for the life of their children, the clock starts ticking for D.I. Kim Stone and the squad.

Seemingly outwitted at every turn, as they uncover a trail of bodies, Stone realises that these ruthless killers might be the most deadly she has ever faced. And that their chances of bringing the girls home alive, are getting smaller by the hour…

Untangling a dark web of secrets from the families’ past might hold the key to solving this case. But can Kim stay alive long enough to do so? Or will someone’s child pay the ultimate price?

 

My thanks to Bookouture for my review copy which I received through Netgalley.

Back in March I reviewed the debut appearance of DI Kim Stone in Angela Marson’s Silent Scream, I really enjoyed it. Then in late June I reviewed Evil Games  (the second in the series) and it blew me away – a really gripping thriller.  Now it is early November and I get to review the 3rd Kim Stone novel: Lost Girls. I may need to break out my thesaurus to find some new superlatives I can use in my review.

Lost Girls is stunning. A majestic race against time for DI Kim Stone to recover two kidnapped girls. But the twist is that the kidnappers are only interested in returning one of the girls and are playing the parents off against each other to see who will pay the most to recover their child.  Nasty and brutally effective – the emotion Angela Marsons generates between the families makes for compelling reading and Stone is caught in the middle.

The reader gets to see the investigation into recovering the girls but also we follow the kidnappers and experience the trauma of the girls too. The shifting viewpoint really emphasises the enormity of the task facing the police. We share the fear of the victims, the hopeless and angry tension of the families and we see the stone cold evil from the kidnappers – one of whom is delighting in the possibility of harming the children. A comprehensive overview of the whole story and it works splendidly, you cannot help yourself from being hooked by this thriller.

A double kidnapping is more than Stone can be expected to co-ordinate on her own and good use is made of Stone’s squad. I enjoy seeing the return of these characters and I always feel that the supporting cast in any series needs to be believable and enjoyable to keep me returning book after book. Added to the existing team members are external specialists in hostage/kidnap scenarios and these new faces cause Stone some additional issues to contend with – she is not a woman who enjoys being out of her comfort zone and this case is really stretching her to her limits.  Factor in the additional pressure from the police chiefs and the need to maintain a press black-out (while a local journalist is snooping around determined to score points off Stone) and you have all the key ingredients for a tense thriller.

Lost Girls was an amazing read, I read the final chapters with a racing heart as the endgame played out. There were twists and shocks right up to the very end and it is hard to think of any other books this year which have held my attention as much as this one did. Lost Girls easily scoops a five star score from me – loved it, didn’t want it to end.

Angela Marson’s DI Kim Stone books are essential reading for any crime fiction fan. For Angela Marsons to have produced three top quality novels in a single year is a phenomenal achievement, a quality writer on stunning form. I am already looking forward to seeing what the future may bring when the next Kim Stone novel is due, hopefully there will not be too long to wait.

 

Lost Girls is published by Bookouture and is available from 6th November.

Follow Angela Marsons on Twitter at : @WriteAngie

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