Keeper by Jessica Moor

4 Stars from me

This is a sad yet captivating psychological thriller which will (and should) get under your skin.

Split into ‘Then’ and ‘Now’ we follow (mostly) Katie and how she falls prey to a calculating abuser and becomes trapped in a spiral of subtle and steady abuse. I think anyone reading this book needs to think about their own family members and their own circle of friends – a hugely sad part of this story for me was that Katie’s friends and family essentially let her down and pretty much helped Jamie build his prison of coercive control around her. Her mum was taken in by his charm and ignored the red flags and her friends just let go…

‘Now’ focuses on the police who are initially investigating Katie’s death, and is told primarily from the point of view of Detective Sergeant Whitworth, although also by some of the women living in the Widringham women’s refuge.

DS Whitworth is old school and seemed a little of out his depth at times. I felt he was lacking in awareness and quite possibly this is real issue for victims. His younger side kick, DC Brookes seems more able to relate and there are hints at some darkness from his past which suggest a reason for him being able to connect with the women and children at the refuge.

Val who runs the refuge is a great character and I like to think that there are plenty of Vals in the world striving and pushing in order to provide a little bit of sanctuary and safety for people in this situation.

There is a great pace to the plot of this book and the alternating between ‘Then’ and ‘Now’ added a measure of urgency – particularly so in the ‘Then’ parts as it almost felt like Katie could be saved.

Knowing the writer has experience of working in the sector adds a layer of credibility.

I didn’t enjoy the ending.

Just BTW, I found Keeper hard to find on Good Reads, it seems to be listed on there are The Keeper but I could only find it by searing the authors name.

 

Synopsis: He’s been looking in the windows again. Messing with cameras. Leaving notes.
Supposed to be a refuge. But death got inside.

When Katie Straw’s body is pulled from the waters of the local suicide spot, the police decide it’s an open-and-shut case. A standard-issue female suicide.

But the residents of Widringham women’s refuge where Katie worked don’t agree. They say it’s murder.

Will you listen to them?

An addictive literary page-turner about a crime as shocking as it is commonplace, Keeper will leave you reeling long after the final page is turned.

The One Who Got Away by L A Detwiler

3 Stars from me

I wish I could give it more, I’m a bit torn here for in places (pretty much the middle chunk) it deserves more but there are a few reasons why I am going to stick with a 3:

a) It depicts a dreadful state of affairs and abuse which is not addressed

b) There are so many loose ends

c) The beginning and end really let the book down

The biggie there is a), this book paints a dreadful and frankly terrifying picture of life in a residential care home – the residents of the home or subject to appalling behaviour from the staff and it is portrayed in a ‘oh you will get used to it’ kind of a way. Anyone who was at that point in their life (either as a parent or a child) would be devastated to read this. It would have been better if there had been ‘a couple of bad apples’ among the staff, Jones for example but the rest were good and the system was good.

Overlooking that for a moment, there were some great elements of suspense and drama – and the main thrust of the storyline was good. However the chances of her ending up in a home with two people from the past were, I thought, a stretch too far.

 

Synopsis: “Get out while you can. You’ll die here…”

Adeline Evans has recently moved into a home for the elderly. A safe space, where she can be cared for.

When she begins to receive cryptic and threatening notes, she is certain that someone is out to get her.

But the residents are warned against listening to a woman who is losing her memory. It would seem Adeline is tormented by the secrets in her past, and that the menace is all in her mind.

Until danger comes down the corridor and starts knocking in the night

A compelling serial killer thriller from the bestselling author of THE WIDOW NEXT DOOR, perfect for fans of A.J Finn, K.L. Slater and Teresa Driscoll.

Her Last Breath by Alison Belsham

4 Stars from me

Worth adding that is a really solid 4 stars too, this is crime thriller well worth a read.

This is actually the second in a series and, although it does work as a standalone, I would personally recommend that you go back and read The Tattoo Thief first so that you have a greater understanding of the key characters.

Her Last Breath has an intriguing and unusual storyline and there are some fab high drama scenes as DI Sullivan and his team struggle to catch the murderer before he strikes again.

A bit like with The Tattoo Thief, I felt quite sorry for Detective Francis Sullivan as he seems to perpetually take a bit of a kicking from all sides and I hope he has more luck in future books. Even his family seem to let him down in this one.

I loved it being set in Brighton, there are some great references in the background scenery and it is easy to imagine where the events are unfolding.

Synopsis: The body count is rising…and the clock is ticking.

When a young woman is attacked and left fighting to survive in hospital, the police are pulled into a race against time to save her life. But just 24 hours later, she dies and a deadly tattoo is discovered on her body.

And when another young woman disappears, Detective Francis Sullivan and his team fear a serial killer walks the streets of Brighton.

His team identify a suspect, Alex Mullins, son of Francis’s lover, Marni. Can Francis forget their shared past and save the next victim before it is too late?

A gripping crime thriller from the author of The Tattoo Thief.

Blood Family by Graeme Hampton

4 Stars from me

I love meeting new police characters and I enjoyed following DI Matt Denning and DS Molly Fisher of the East London MIT in this second book of the series.

The books starts with a brutal and gruesome crime as a family home is set on fire and it doesn’t take long for fire investigators to discover the five bodies, three generations of the Galloway family, inside. I couldn’t hep but feel relieved that they had been shot first.

Denning and Fisher are a bit of an odd pairing and I plan to go back and read the first book in the series so that I can get to know them better. However, you learn a lot about them and their own dysfunctional families in Blood Family, with Matt Denning jugging his dedication to his career along with caring for his autistic son and Molly Fisher struggling with brother.

There seemed to be a different dynamic here than in other police procedurals that I have read recently and it made the book all the more engaging as Molly is actively encouraged to take risks and more cautious Denning plods doggedly onwards to solve the crime and catch the murderer.

The aspect of dysfunction and no such thing as a normal family is a strong message and not a bad one to promote.

Blood Family is a enjoyable read and I will look out for more in the series. My thanks to Graeme Hampton and BOTBSPublicity for letting me take part in this blog tour.

Synopsis: When D.I. Matthew Denning is called in to investigate a house fire in a North London street, he never anticipated the horrors that awaited him. As Denning and D.S. Molly Fisher search the wreckage, the bodies of the Galloway family – Brian and Ellie, son Simon, daughter Amber and 9-year-old grandson Caleb – are discovered in the smouldering house.

All evidence points to a tragic accident… until Matthew and Molly discover that the family was dead before the fire, murdered in their home by a faceless psychopath. What started as a routine investigation swiftly turns into a murder investigation, with Denning and Fisher hunting a killer who has wiped out three generations with a shotgun.

But as the case deepens, Denning and Fisher discover that the Galloways were no ordinary family. Like all families, they harbour secrets – but unlike others, their secrets were so deadly, someone is willing to spill blood to keep them hidden…

An utterly gripping detective novel set in London, Blood Family will thrill fans of Angela Marsons, Mark Billingham and Robert Bryndza.

Hold Your Tongue by Deborah Masson

4 Stars from me

I love stumbling across the beginning of a new series and so was delighted to read Hold Your Tongue featuring DI Eve Hunter. Set in Aberdeen, this is a gruesome crime thriller and it very literally made me cringe in a few places. It’s so hard not to imagine the awfulness of someone sawing away at your tongue with a breadknife!

DI Hunter was an interesting character with a boot-load of baggage, making her a perfect police lead for this style of book.

Her team were a mix of deeply loyal and deeply suspicious – again perfect for the genre. There is a history behind the suspicion and the resentment from some members of her team and this is revealed throughout the story.

Overall, this is a satisfying crime thriller with nice mix of human interest and gore and enough intrigue to hold your attention while you work out ‘whodunnit’.

I look forward to reading more by Deborah Masson and I am hopefully that future books will delve deeper into the Cold Granite of Aberdeen and immerse us in even darker and more uncomfortable crimes.

Synopsis:

A brutal murder.
A young woman’s body is discovered with horrifying injuries, a recent newspaper cutting pinned to her clothing.
A detective with everything to prove.
This is her only chance to redeem herself.
A serial killer with nothing to lose.
He’s waited years, and his reign of terror has only just begun…

Introducing DI Eve Hunter, HOLD YOUR TONGUE is your new obsession.

Are You Watching by Vincent Ralph

5 Stars from me

This little belter of a book had me utterly hooked. I read it in one day and found it incredibly hard to put down.

Jess is a likeable character and her little family are filled with charm despite the obvious hole in their lives left behind by Jess’ mum who was murdered by ‘The Magpie Man’.

There is a nice balance of tension, emotion, relationships, peril and intrigue throughout the story and a good solid whodunnit with a few clever red herrings, some clues and satisfying outcome!

I loved the use of the YouTube reality show as the platform for Jess to try and find her mother’s killer and thought the concept was very well described and enacted – perfect for the YA audience but I have to say I read this book without realising its target market and I absolutely loved it. So I would say it is perfect for the not-so-young-adult market too!

Synopsis: A page-turning new YA thriller for the social media age, perfect for fans of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder and One Of Us Is Lying.

Ten years ago, Jess’s mother was murdered by the Magpie Man. She was the first of his victims but not the last. Now Jess is the star of a YouTube reality series and she’s using it to catch the killer once and for all.

The whole world is watching her every move.

And so is the Magpie Man.

Joining Blogging Book Tours – pros and cons

2019 has proved to be a wonderful year for me from a book blogging perspective. I have read some incredible books (I’ve read 72 according to Good Reads but I know it is a few more than that!).

I have always been a keen and regular reader – escapism at it’s finest!

During 2019 I’ve really embraced taking part in blog tours for books and I’ve hugely enjoyed it, it feels really good to be tiny part of the publicity and promotion for an author and to feel like I might in some small way have contributed to their sales 🙂

At this point, I would like to offer very genuine and heartfelt thanks to those who have welcomed me into their reviewers fold:

Damp Pebbles Blog Tours – got to start with Emma and Damp Pebbles as this was the first blog tour I joined and I have read some fabulous books thanks to Emma and the excellent service she offers to authors and reviewers.

Tony Marturano – next I move to Tony who introduced me to the fascinating and hugely exciting world of being invited to join a readers panel with a view to being an early reader to provide honest feedback intended help shape the editing process prior to publication. I was honoured to be able to this for Tony with his own books and also with Eye for Eye by J K Franko.

Book on the Bright Side Publicity – then there is the lovely Sarah from BOTBS who again I have taken part in some brilliant tours with and is super lovely to deal with too.

R&R Book Tours – now the lovely Shannon from R&R tours… Not only do I get to discover new books with her but she sends me MAGIC content that is all whizzy and HTML codey wizardry!

Random Things Tours – the most recent sign up for me is with the lovely Anne from Random Things Tours. Anne is great to deal with and super organised – thanks again for letting me take part.

Last but by no means least, I have also done a couple of reviews with Mirror Books and have a couple more lined up for the New Year. They are also great to work with and have some really exciting publications.

Also a nod to NetGalley, I absolutely love NetGalley!

So again, huge thanks to you all.

Now to Pros and Cons

I’ll start with cons as then they are out of the way. It can, at times, feel pressured. It can, sometimes, feel as though you are reading to meet a deadline rather than reading for enjoyment. There will be times when you don’t like the book. You will need to be clear and strong with your own opinions – without damaging the tour. You will need to be organised and meet the commitments you have made in terms of reviews – people are relying on you to publish on the right date. Never ever do it for the ‘free’ books, they aren’t free, think about the cost of your time!

Phew, now, on to the pros! So many positive aspects here, you get to read some amazing books – for me personally I’ve read books that I would probably not have ever encountered and a lot of them have been brilliant! You get to make connections with other people who love books 🙂 it’s a beautiful thing giving someone a book recommendation and then getting a tweet in a couple of weeks time to say they loved it. Reading an advance copy of a book for a nerd like me is exquisite! And, for me, the best thing is knowing that I’ve helped an author or made them smile when I can honestly say ‘I loved your book’.

So thank you all once again and I look forward to reading and reviewing many more fabulous books in 2020.

Lisa x

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

3 Stars from me

Yes, 3, unpopular opinion I know. I do feel conflicted over this as it is not owing to the quality of the writing which, for the record, is excellent.

For me, My Dark Vanessa should have ended at about the 55% mark. Even up to this point I found the book a little laborious but I distinctly recall looking up to see how much of the book was left as I couldn’t believe it hadn’t ended, and it then being 58%. I truly felt the book had reached it’s natural conclusion. (I did go on to finish the book but felt it really dragged after that point.)

The subject matter isn’t great but that’s not to say it wasn’t a good story and an important story. This level of grooming and abuse goes on far too frequently and it is important that attention is drawn to the issue so that people can stop turning a blind eye out of misplaced politeness. However, having said that the books goes to great lengths to stress that both Stane and Vanessa see it more as a love story which, for me, muddies the waters massively on this being a positive message.

I would very much read something else by the same author as the depth and quality of the writing really was great, the characters were all credible and scenes and places were are well described.

Synopsis:

An era-defining novel about the relationship between a fifteen-year-old girl and her teacher

ALL HE DID WAS FALL IN LOVE WITH ME AND THE WORLD TURNED HIM INTO A MONSTER

Vanessa Wye was fifteen years old when she first had sex with her English teacher.

She is now thirty-two and in the storm of allegations against powerful men in 2017, the teacher, Jacob Strane, has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student.

Vanessa is horrified by this news, because she is quite certain that the relationship she had with Strane wasn’t abuse. It was love. She’s sure of that.

Forced to rethink her past, to revisit everything that happened, Vanessa has to redefine the great love story of her life – her great sexual awakening – as rape. Now she must deal with the possibility that she might be a victim, and just one of many.

Nuanced, uncomfortable, bold and powerful, and as riveting as it is disturbing, My Dark Vanessa goes straight to the heart of some of the most complex issues our age is grappling with.

The Dinner Party by R J Parker

4 Stars from me

What a great read – would make for a fab film – think along the lines of Shallow Grave!

The Dinner Party jogged along nicely to start with and then you find yourself on a bit of a roller coaster ride as the story gathers pace. Both dangerous and silly in equal measures and definitely a book to be devoured in two sittings.

Ok so none of the characters were overly likeable, except maybe Ted, maybe, but that just means you don’t get attached to them which is good for a standalone.

I don’t think I’ve read anything by R J Parker before but I will certainly look out for his books now!

Synopsis: All your friends are invited. But which of them will survive?
An addictive and twisty psychological thriller about the dark secrets that lie within a peaceful neighbourhood.

Eight friends. Eight secrets. One killer.

A group of old friends gather in a peaceful suburban street for a dinner party.

They are expecting a fun evening of wine, food and pleasant company. But then they start to play the game…

It’s about trust and dark secrets – it tests marriage to its limits – and none of them can begin to imagine its consequences.

Because the next day, two guests are dead and the others are trapped in a nightmare…

Remain Silent by Susie Steiner

4 Stars from me

There is a simple beauty within these pages – among the chaotic debris of Manon’s life, and the depravity, abuse, racism, squalor and disappointment in the story – that is found within the relationship based narrative. It is so acutely observed, so raw, so natural and so accurate. A truly wonderful and unexpected delight. The way Susie Steiner has captured the relationships and emotions is quite brilliant.

DS Manon Bradshaw is a great character, she leads us unflinchingly through every aspect of this book and she shares a lot along the way.

There is an uncomfortable truth in this story as the thread of the abuse of immigrants is all too close to home. The inhumane way in which these men are treated was captured perfectly and highlights a sad truth within our society.

I really enjoyed the setting of the book too as it is reasonably local to me which I guess made me connect with the book virtually from page one – ‘oooh I’ve walked through that park where the dead guy was hanging…’

I very much enjoyed this book although was saddened to read in the authors notes at the end of her own ill health. It made for very humbling reading and I hope that treatment is going well.

Synopsis: Newly married and navigating life with a toddler as well as her adopted adolescent son, Manon Bradshaw is happy to be working part-time in the cold cases department of the Cambridgeshire police force, a job which allows her to “potter in, coffee in hand and log on for a spot of internet shopping – precisely what she had in mind when she thought of work-life balance.” But beneath the surface Manon is struggling with the day-to-day realities of what she assumed would be domestic bliss: fights about whose turn it is to clean the kitchen, the bewildering fatigue of having a young child in her forties, and the fact that she is going to couple’s counseling alone because her husband feels it would just be her complaining.

But when Manon is on a walk with her two-year-old son in a peaceful suburban neighborhood and discovers the body of a Lithuanian immigrant hanging from a tree with a mysterious note attached, she knows her life is about to change. Suddenly, she is back on the job, full-force, trying to solve the suicide – or is it a murder – in what may be the most dangerous and demanding case of her life.