The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton

5 (million) stars from me

Oh. My. God.

One look at the cover of this book and I knew I HAD to read it.

Fruitloop Juliette (Elizabeth? Lily?) didn’t let me down! Wait till you have a day free and then read this beauty in one go – it is utterly compelling and trust me you won’t want to be interrupted – this intelligent, psychological thriller will have you glued to your seat.

Juliette’s obsession with Nate is like nothing on earth and she comes up with some pretty inventive ways to win him back. Frankly if I was Karen Hamilton‘s other half I’d be worried 😉

I think what made it so great is that a lot of Juliette is so nice, so normal, so ‘perfect’ and yet she is massively and entirely, all consumingly bonkers! The Perfect Girlfriend is told from Juliette’s perspective so I found myself immersed in her mixed up world, to the point that some of her actions almost seemed justified at points. This lady has no boundaries, no limits and has set her eyes on the prize with dogged determination.

Thank you Karen Hamilton for such a stonker of a debut, I cannot wait to read your next book.

 

Synopsis:Juliette loves Nate. She will follow him anywhere. She’s even become a flight attendant for his airline, so she can keep a closer eye on him.

They are meant to be.

The fact that Nate broke up with her six months ago means nothing. Because Juliette has a plan to win him back. She is the perfect girlfriend. And she’ll make sure no one stops her from getting exactly what she wants.

True love hurts, but Juliette knows it’s worth all the pain…

 

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Outside Looking In by Michael Wood

5 Stars from me!

I am already utterly in love with Michael Wood‘s writing style. I find it incredibly comfortable in a way that I can only liken to picking up a new Peter James DS Roy Grace novel.

DCI Matilda Darke is wonderful. She has the perfect mix of misery and compassion, her own bag of issues and demons that she carries around with her and yet a warmth and compassion bested only by her desire to protect and serve.

Outside Looking In is a simple yet complex tale and, although it stands up on it’s own merits, I would urge you to read For Reasons Unknown first so that you have the back story which is cleverly woven throughout Outside Looking In.

I raced through this book, feeling every shred of Matilda’s pain for her emotional loss and the enormous weight of responsibility she bears for past cases. She is tangible within these pages, a real, credible and believable character. I can picture her and her house and I hope that one day this series will be televised.

Although I said I find Michael’s writing comfortable, please do not think this is a fluffy tale – quite the opposite, it is gritty, raw and fast paced with a descriptive brilliance which brings horror to life and pulls no punches. The storyline throughout Outside Looking In is proper grim and takes the reader on a winding roller coaster before reaching its conclusion.

One other thing I really enjoyed was the continual referencing to other crime thrillers – most of which I have read and loved – I thank Jonathan Harkness for his gift.

I am greatly looking forward to A Room Full of Killers, which sits waiting patiently upon my kindle.

 

Synopsis: The second book in Michael Wood’s darkly compelling new crime series featuring DCI Matilda Darke. Perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride, Mark Billingham and Val McDermid.

When elderly George Rainsford goes to investigate a suspicious noise one night, the last thing he expects to find is a bloodbath. A man has been killed and a woman brutally beaten, left for dead. The victims are Lois Craven and Kevin Hardaker – both married, but not to each other. Their spouses swear they knew nothing of the affair and, besides, they both have alibis for the attack. With nothing else to link the victims, the investigation hits a dead end.

The pressure is on for investigating officer, DCI Matilda Darke: there’s a violent killer on the loose, and it looks like her team members are the new targets. With no leads and no suspects, it’s going to take all Matilda’s wits to catch him, before he strikes again. 

 

A Dark so Deadly by Stuart MacBride

5 stars from me!

I just didn’t want this book to end! As much as I desperately wanted to know who the killer was, I felt like I could have kept on reading about these characters for ever.

Poor DC Callum MacGregor, sometimes life really does rain down on you from a great height doesn’t it but he is such a fantastic character throughout this book, so well defined, and the fact he is essentially just a really decent guy radiates from the pages.

The ‘Misfit Mob’ have all the markings of being more than just a standalone – or maybe they will be the launchpad for a whole new series starring DC Callum MacGregor; I hope so. Mother and her little band of rejects make for a very interesting read.

I also love the parallels between these characters and earlier MacBride genius inventions. The bag of jellybabies is not lost on us.

Really good book, inventive story, interesting new characters and I simply didn’t want to put it down.

 

Synopsis: Gripping standalone thriller from the Sunday Times No. 1 bestselling author of the Logan McRae series.

Welcome to the Misfit Mob…

It’s where Police Scotland dumps the officers it can’t get rid of, but wants to: the outcasts, the troublemakers, the compromised. Officers like DC Callum MacGregor, lumbered with all the boring go-nowhere cases. So when an ancient mummy turns up at the Oldcastle tip, it’s his job to find out which museum it’s been stolen from.

But then Callum uncovers links between his ancient corpse and three missing young men, and life starts to get a lot more interesting. O Division’s Major Investigation Teams already have more cases than they can cope with, so, against everyone’s better judgement, the Misfit Mob are just going to have to manage this one on their own.

No one expects them to succeed, but right now they’re the only thing standing between the killer’s victims and a slow, lingering death. The question is, can they prove everyone wrong before he strikes again?

Lie With Me by Sabine Durrant

5 stars from me!

Wow, you know that phrase ‘it was like watching a car crash in slow motion’? Well, Lie With Me by Sabine Durrant is like watching a car crash in slow motion, and then crash into another car, and then another one, and then, you get the idea.

Bizarrely, for the first few chapters, I started off by thinking I wouldn’t enjoy the book. I didn’t really like any of characters, and reading it made me feel almost uncomfortable.

But then I kept reading.

And if I thought I felt uncomfortable at the start, it is nothing compared to how I felt at the end!

In the synopsis, the book is described and claustrophobic and unsettling – that description is bang on.

There is so much not to like in this book, the people, the situations, the general air of unease and, for me, continually trying to work out what is going on and who is telling the truth.

Truly, great workmanship from Sabine Durrant! It’s a horrible book that I suggest you clear a day and sit down right now to read.

 

Synopsis: “I suppose what I am saying is, how much do we collude in our own destruction? How much of this nightmare is on me?

You can hate and rail.
You can kick out in protest.

You can do foolish and desperate things, but maybe sometimes you just have to hold up a hand and take the blame.”

Breathless.
Claustrophobic.
Unsettling.
Impossible to put down.

From the author of Under Your Skin and Remember Me This Way, Sabine Durrant. The dazzling new must-read for all fans of The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, and The Widow.

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Pretty Girls5 Stars from me!

This book is brilliant, clear a weekend, get stocked up with coffee and biscuits and hunker down for a fabulous time, immersed in a skilfully written book.

I used to read Karin Slaughter books all the time (until she killed of a certain character and I feel out of love with the whole franchise), ahem, anyway fortunately for me I got over myself and picked up a copy of Pretty Girls.

The family relationship struggles had a real feel to them, Claire and her perfect life with Paul had a real feel to it. Lydia and her issues, her hard life, her new ‘is he too good to be true?’ beau, all felt real.

My only gripe was with the letters from their dad, they just didn’t bring anything to the party for me – but maybe I’m just not sentimental enough! They certainly didn’t have a negative impact on the story. Actually two gripes, I couldn’t see the point of including the bit about Claire’s explosion on the tennis court either. I get that it helped to show a peak into someone else’s psyche, but, for me, it didn’t fit with Claire.

They are, however, tiny, minuscule little points – the book and the storyline were really good and I found myself late for two appointments on two different days because I just kept on ‘reading to the end of this bit’.

If you are looking for a book that you won’t want to put down then this is it.

Synopsis: Sisters. Strangers. Survivors. 

More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that’s cruelly ripped open when Claire’s husband is killed.

The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.

Powerful, poignant, and utterly gripping, packed with indelible characters and unforgettable twists, Pretty Girls is a masterful thriller from one of the finest suspense writers working today.

The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

The Passenger5 Stars from me!

I’m going to endeavour to ensure that this review does The Passenger justice as I can see a few reviews online which seem to indicate it isn’t brilliant – but it actually is. Lisa Lutz has created a rollercoaster ride of a read here and frankly I thought it was unputdownable.

There is the slimmest hint of dark humour throughout which maybe some people miss? For me it made the book extra enjoyable. I absolutely loved The Passenger, it was one of those books that I was disappointed to finish because I enjoyed reading it so much.

I thought the storyline was excellent. Simple, clever and fast to read. I liked the main character, mistrusted Blue and fell a little bit in love with Domenic – seriously, what more can you ask for in a book?

This is a perfect ‘weekend to yourself’ or ‘holiday’ read in my opinion because you can just immerse yourself in it and live vicariously through the edgey life of Tanya Dubois.

Loved it. Thank you @Lisa Lutz

Synopsis: In case you were wondering, I didn’t do it. I didn’t have anything to do with Frank’s death. I don’t have an alibi, so you’ll have to take my word for it…

Forty-eight hours after leaving her husband’s body at the base of the stairs, Tanya Dubois cashes in her credit cards, dyes her hair brown, demands a new name from a shadowy voice over the phone, and flees town. It’s not the first time.

She meets Blue, a female bartender who recognizes the hunted look in a fugitive’s eyes and offers her a place to stay. With dwindling choices, Tanya-now-Amelia accepts. An uneasy―and dangerous―alliance is born.

It’s almost impossible to live off the grid today, but Amelia-now-Debra and Blue have the courage, the ingenuity, and the desperation, to try. Hopscotching from city to city, Debra especially is chased by a very dark secret…can she outrun her past?

With heart-stopping escapes and devious deceptions, The Passenger is an amazing psychological thriller about defining yourself while you pursue your path to survival. One thing is certain: the ride will leave you breathless.

Valentina by S E Lynes

Screen Shot 2016-06-19 at 09.53.265 Stars

The best way to start this review would be by telling you to clear a whole day so that you are free to just read this book because once you get into it you will not want to put it down.

Valentina is a dark, insidious, intelligent tale that will hook you and reel you in – it is a brilliant debut.

This is a classic tale in a way of loneliness pushing us towards incorrect choices. There are several points in the book where the main narrator, Shona, knows deep down that things are wrong but she chooses to ignore them.

There are so many clever observations through this book which resonate as you read them. So many occasions where you think ‘would I have done that?’, as psychological thrillers go, this is up there with the big hitters: move over Gone Girl you’ve got company on the top shelf.

I don’t want to spoil the book for you in this review so I won’t say too much about the actual storyline, save to say that I could see early on where the story was headed and rather than that ruining the book for me, it actually enhanced everything. It was a bit like watching a car crash in slow motion, you know what’s coming and you can’t stop it, you can’t do anything but keep reading… faster and faster!

Huge praise to S E Lynes – this is a slam dunk of a debut!

Thank you to Rosalie at Blackbird Books for offering this to me as an ARC in return for an honest review.

(My only criticism… and this is as picky as you like but honest is honest, there were two words early in the book which jarred with me. I suspect the book is still being reviewed and edited at this stage as it is due for release on 1 July so maybe they won’t make the cut. The first is ‘squished’ which is in the first paragraph and the second is ‘wee’. Now I know that wee means small and that’s fine when it is speach but it seemed a bit odd in the narrative style. To me anyway. Did I mention I was being picky?)

Synopsis: When  Glasgow journalist  Shona McGilvery moves with her partner  Mikey  and their baby to an idyllic cottage in rural Scotland, they believe that all that lies ahead of them is happiness. 

But with Mikey working offshore, the  frightening  isolation of the Aberdeenshire  countryside begins to drive her insane…

That is, until she is rescued by a new friendship with the enchanting Valentina. 

She has the perfect home, the perfect man, and a charismatic new best friend – or does she?

As her fairytale life begins to unravel, the deep dark wood becomes the least of her fears…

A hauntingly intelligent, addictive psychological thriller from debut author S. E. Lynes. 

In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings

In Her Wake5 Stars from me!

Just like Sworn Secret and The Judas Scar, In Her Wake takes you on a journey of emotions  as the story unfolds.

I find Amanda’s writing style incredibly comfortable and yet edgy and provocative all at the same time; it feels utterly natural and yet it still manages to make you question yourself at the same time.

In Her Wake has a fabulous story running through it which would be good enough in its own right but Amanda brings it to life with her unique way of uncovering deep rooted feelings and often hidden emotions.

I can’t recommend these books enough – they are all stand alone so can be read in any order – and are absolutely perfect for a weekend of solitude as, trust me, once you’ve started reading you won’t want to put the book down!

Synopsis: A perfect life … until she discovered it wasn’t her own.

A tragic family event reveals devastating news that rips apart Bella’s comfortable existence. Embarking on a personal journey to uncover the truth, she faces a series of traumatic discoveries that take her to the ruggedly beautiful Cornish coast, where hidden truths, past betrayals and a 25-year-old mystery threaten not just her identity, but also her life.

Chilling, complex and profoundly moving, In Her Wake is a gripping psychological thriller that questions the nature of family – and reminds us that sometimes the most shocking crimes are committed closest to home. 

The Missing and The Dead by Stuart MacBride

Missing and Dead

It was so good to catch up with Logan McRae again, it’s been too long! I wish this series would be snapped up for TV rights and it would make for great viewing.

Logan’s new role in the police isn’t filling him with joy but it does seem to be giving him a bit more stability… until Steel pops up again because she’s missing him. They make a great pair though.

The thing I love most about a Stuart MacBride novel is that although at time the subject matter may be silly, or gritty, or gross, the way the sentences are constructed is always intelligent. The words fly across the page because the flow is perfect; I never get bored, skim read or lose my place.

Logan’s ‘relationship’ with his poor girlfriend is both depressing and uplifting as although he is essentially tied to a ghost it also shows what a truly wonderful human being he is as he lives in virtual poverty in order to support her medical care.

Fabulous book (aren’t they all by Mr MacBride?), already looking forward to the next.

Synopsis: One mistake can cost you everything…

When you catch a twisted killer there should be a reward, right? What Acting Detective Inspector Logan McRae gets instead is a ‘development opportunity’ out in the depths of rural Aberdeenshire. Welcome to divisional policing – catching drug dealers, shop lifters, vandals and the odd escaped farm animal.

Then a little girl’s body washes up just outside the sleepy town of Banff, kicking off a massive manhunt. The Major Investigation Team is up from Aberdeen, wanting answers, and they don’t care who they trample over to get them.

Logan’s got enough on his plate keeping B Division together, but DCI Steel wants him back on her team. As his old colleagues stomp around the countryside, burning bridges, Logan gets dragged deeper and deeper into the investigation.

One thing’s clear: there are dangerous predators lurking in the wilds of Aberdeenshire, and not everyone’s going to get out of this alive…

Sleep Tight by Rachel Abbott

Sleep Tight5 Stars from me!

What a creepy, creepy book! Ugh, I felt mostly paranoid while reading Sleep Tight by Rachel Abbott as it utterly gets under your skin! Brilliant.

I was completely hooked all the way through this story, all the of characters were spot on and story and back story of Olivia was very well put together and very intriguing.

The police side of things was also great with the main police characters coming to life on the page with plausible and engaging stories of their own. Their conversations flowed naturally and were highly believable.

Overall I had a love/hate relationship with this book and I read the last half in one sitting (making me late for coffee with a friend!) as I simply had to see how it ended. The final, final twist was one step too far for me but it was clever how integral it was to the story.

A very good and very creepy read, loved it and definitely would recommend to others.

Synopsis: How far would you go to hold on to the people you love?
When Olivia Brookes calls the police to report that her husband and children are missing, she believes she will never see them again. She has reason to fear the worst; this isn’t the first tragedy that Olivia has experienced.

Now, two years later, Detective Chief Inspector Tom Douglas is called in to investigate this family again, but this time it’s Olivia who has disappeared. All the evidence suggests that she was here, in the family home, that morning. But her car is in the garage, and her purse is in her handbag – on the kitchen table.

The police want to issue a national appeal, but for some reason every single picture of this family has been removed from albums, from phones, from computers.

And then they find the blood…

Has the past caught up with Olivia?

Sleep Tight – if you can. You never know who’s watching.