The Ice Twins – S.K. Tremayne

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imageOne of Sarah’s daughters died. But can she be sure which one? A terrifying psychological thriller that will chill you to the bone.

A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcraft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.

But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity – that she, in fact, is Lydia – their world comes crashing down once again.

As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, Sarah finds herself tortured by the past – what really happened on that fateful day one of her daughters died?

Not a book for an early night…

I picked The Ice Twins up to read one night, just as I was getting into bed, which wasn’t one of my best ideas because 3 hours after picking it up, my eyes, despite being somewhat more droopy, were still firmly glued to the screen of my Kindle. A quick glance at my reading statistics showed that I was already beyond halfway through the book, I was amazed, but not at all surprised. It is simply brilliant.

Following the death of one of their daughters, Angus and Sarah are a typically broken couple, creating more problems than they are solving by their lack of communication as they each grieve for a different child.  Their remaining daughter is grieving too, and every day in the mirror must look at the face of the sister she lost.  As the three of them stumble separately through the aftermath of the tragedy that haunts this family we discover that all was not as it seems.

Although they were identical twins, Kirstie and Lydia were remarkably different children, and both Angus and Sarah had their own favourite.  Is this why their remaining daughter claims to be the other? In turn, lies, omissions and the solitude of her new home have thrust Sarah into a world of confusion, could this affecting her daughter and be why Kirstie believes she is Lydia or is there a more sinister reason yet to be uncovered?

Haunting, spooky, melancholy and with tragedy at its heart, this is not a book you want to read if you’re planning an early night, because even if you manage to put it down, The Ice Twins is one book that just won’t let you go.

I Can See In The Dark – Karin Fossum

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imageRiktor doesn’t ask the policeman why he’s stormed into his house without knocking – he’s certain that someone has finally realised what happened that day.

As the policeman questions him however, Riktor realises that he’s being accused of something completely unexpected – something he has nothing to do with.  But can Riktor convince the policeman that he’s innocent of one wrongdoing without revealing that he’s guilty of another, far more terrible, crime.

It took me a little longer than usual to get into I Can See In The Dark, but once I reached that point where everything just began to slot neatly into place, the pure genius of Fossum’s writing came to the fore.

Riktor is a truly awful character whose behaviour will have your skin crawling as you read. he is genuinely evil and takes great pleasure in tormenting those in his care, expressing in bursts of cruelty the carefully controlled rage that bubbles beneath the surface.

What I really enjoyed about the book, was not only how ‘creeped out’ I felt at Riktor’s behaviour, and his lack of even unreasonable reasoning behind it which comes across clearly in his narrative, but also the irony of his situation, being suspected and prosecuted for a crime, although not the one he really committed, and yet this isn’t even the delicious twist in the tale that comes further in. 

If you fancy a something a bit different from your usual crime read, I Can See In The Dark is a fantastic book, from a Queen of crime.

 

 

The Nightmare Place – Steve Mosby

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Sometimes, there’s a thin line between love and hate. Or at least that’s one theory for DI Zoe Dolan, tracking the Creeper – a stalker who’s been breaking into women’s homes and attacking them. But the Creeper’s violence is escalating and there’s no pattern, no clue as to how he’s getting in, and no clue as to who’s next.

Until Jane Webster gets a call to the help line where she volunteers. It’s meant to be a confidential service and Jane is torn – it could be a hoaxer, but the soft voice at the end of the line has the ring of truth about it. He says he loves these women – but it’s a love that ends in blood.

When Jane tells the police, it should be the lead that Zoe needs – but it only pulls her further into a case that is already taking her dangerously close to the past she’s never fully escaped. For Jane, Zoe and all the other young women of the city, suddenly nowhere is safe. Particularly their own bedroom at the dead of night…

 Whatever you do, don’t read it alone at night.

Your own home,  the one place you’re guaranteed to be safe, aren’t you? In the case of The Nightmare Place this is one thing that is just not so. ‘The Creeper’ is finding a way into women’s houses, through locked doors and closed windows.  No one knows how he is getting in, they just know the pain, devastation, and increasing level of violence that is going on once he is inside.

DI Zoe Dolan is trying to find out who he is and how he is getting in and Jane just might hold the key, but for her talking to the police means breaking the fundamental rule of the help line where she works, trust is paramount and confidentiality is guaranteed.  Can she reconcile passing on what she knows with breaking the rules of the organisation?

Despite its difficult and violent content, it’s got some well portrayed, down to earth characters and a with its fabulously woven plot it is an easy book to read and become enthralled by.  The Nightmare Place is a brilliant, and brutal book.  It will scare you, play to your paranoia and have you checking your locks. Whatever you do, don’t read it alone at night.

The Missing and The Dead – Stuart MacBride

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imageOne 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 animal.

Then a little girls 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 alive.

His best yet….

In keeping with the changes to Scottish policing over the last few years, MacBride has given protagonist McRae a ‘development opportunity’ in the back of beyond, and it’s one of his most brilliant moves yet. It has opened up the way for a great new cast of characters, good and bad alike, to meet and discover,  like Klingon and Gerbil,  Deano, Nicholson and my person favourite, Constable ‘Tufty’ Quirrell.  (particularly as I’m old enough to remember the ‘Tufty’ club… ahem… onwards)

At the same time we haven’t lost the books best character (aside from protagonist McRae obvs), the brilliant DCI Roberta Steel. In The Missing And The Dead, she is as grizzly, cantankerous and as non politically correct as ever, while she does what she does best, helping McRae every which way she can, even if it never seems so at the time.

The backdrop of the normality of everyday policing that features throughout the books is also a real breath of fresh air when it comes to police procedurals, against the starkness of the crimes being investigated, it almost comes as ‘light relief’ and yet never takes away its seriousness, or the important part it plays in the plot.

Speaking of the plotting, as always it is sublime, as intricately woven as ever, with not a wasted anecdote amongst those told.  Everything fits together perfectly.  This is one series that does nothing but improve, nine McRae novels in and MacBride has gone from strength to strength with The Missing and The Dead being quite simply his best yet.

 

Can Anybody Help Me? – Sinead Crowley

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image“It was crazy really, she had never met the woman, had no idea of her real name, but she thought of her as a friend. Or at least, the closest thing she had to a friend in Dublin”

Struggling with a new baby, Yvonne turns to NetMammy, an online forum for mothers, for support. Drawn into a world of new friends, she spends increasing amounts of time online and volunteers more and more information about herself.

When one of her new friends goes offline, Yvonne thinks something is wrong, but dismisses her fears. After all, does she really know this woman?

But when the body of a young woman with striking similarities to Yvonne’s missing friend is found, Yvonne realises that they’re all in terrible danger. Can she persuade Sergeant Claire Boyle, herself about to go on maternity leave, to take her fears seriously?

 

Can Anybody Help Me? is a nicely done psychological thriller, that highlights people’s misunderstandings of internet security, shows how easy it is to become ‘friends’ with total strangers, how desperate people can be for interaction with others and above all plays on our fears of what we can ever really know about who is behind a screen name?

NetMammy is a chatroom for new mums looking for help, but someone is out there looking for new mums… At first Yvonne believes it’s just a coincidence that her friend has disappeared from the forum.

The forum sections themselves are well written, and highly realistic of chat rooms around the world, where the false sense of security of being behind a screen, means that every day people offer up a little too much of themselves before realising too late that once it’s out there it’s out there for good.

Sargeant Claire Boyle is a genuine character, enjoyable to read, as she tries, and often fails to balance out her work and home life due to this difficult to crack case and her own pregnancy woes.

With young mothers being the killers victims it’s a disturbing and twisted read with a kicker of a sting in the tale when the villain is revealed, as there are enough false leads to keep you second guessing all the way through, then leaving you staring at the page in disbelief when you know ‘whodunnit’.

The Liars Chair – Rebecca Whitney

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imageRachel Teller and her husband David appear happy, prosperous and fulfilled. The big house, the successful business . . . They have everything.

However, control, not love, fuels their relationship and David has no idea his wife indulges in drunken indiscretions. When Rachel kills a man in a hit and run, the meticulously maintained veneer over their life begins to crack.

Destroying all evidence of the accident, David insists they continue as normal. Rachel though is racked with guilt and as her behaviour becomes increasingly self-destructive she not only inflames David’s darker side, but also uncovers her own long-suppressed memories of shame. Can Rachel confront her past and atone for her terrible crime? Not if her husband has anything to do with it . . .

A startling, dark and audacious novel set in and around the Brighton streets, The Liar’s Chair will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the final page has been turned. A stunning psychological portrait of a woman in a toxic marriage, Rebecca Whitney’s debut will show that sometimes the darkest shadow holds the truth you have been hiding from … 

A definite winner…

I thought 2014 was a fantastic year for debut novels, but already it seems that whilst we are barely into 2015, this is shaping up to be an even better year.

Rebecca Whitney’s debut has, for me, firmly established her as a writer of fabulous dark psychological thrillers, this is an amazing depiction of what can happen when one person relinquishes control, and how explosive and destructive the results can be when the balance of power in a relationship changes by even the smallest amount.

The Liars Chair is a totally addictive book, and I found reading it was like watching the most uncomfortable and disturbing piece of TV you can imagine and being unable to tear your eyes away from it.   You know you don’t want to bear witness to, or to be part of Rachel’s complete unravelling, but you cannot do anything except carry on reading and watch her complete breakdown, all the while praying for her salvation.

Rachel’s husband David is a completely vile character who immediately sets your teeth on edge with his controlling behaviour and all the way through the novel, as he becomes more and more loathsome all you want is for him to get his ‘just desserts’. That said Rachel is in no way a particularly likeable character either, the uncomfortable sense of her own complicity in the poisoning of her marriage and her totally selfish actions at the time of the accident, never quite leave you even though you feel sympathy for her situation, and find yourself willing her to find a way out of it.

The Liars Chair is a fantastic first novel that had me wanting to scream and shout at its characters, then forced me to throw it down in frustration, before immediately picking it back up to find out what happened next, and to me any book that can provoke such a strong emotional response is a definite winner.

The Killer Next Door – Alex Marwood

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No. 23 has a secret. In this bedsit-riddled south London wreck, lorded over by a lecherous landlord, something waits to be discovered.

Yet all six residents have something to hide.

Collette and Cher are on the run; Thomas is a reluctant loner; while a gorgeous Iranian asylum seeker and a ‘quiet man’ nobody sees try to stay hidden. And watching over them all is Vesta – or so she thinks.

In the dead of night, a terrible accident pushes the neighbours into an uneasy alliance. But one of them is a killer, expertly hiding their pastime, all the while closing in on their next victim…

As a cloying heatwave suffocates the city, events build to an electrifying climax in this dark, original and irresistibly compelling thriller.

“Not to be read while you’re eating lunch…”

I’ve had this book on my To Be Read pile ever since it first came out back in June last year and am now kicking myself that I didn’t read it sooner, because it is absolutely brilliant. If it’s sitting in your to be read pile I recommend you go and move it now to your next read, and if it’s not there, why not?

Dark, chilling and impeccably plotted, The Killer Next Door is an intriguing look into the secrets that lurk behind closed doors, how little notice we often take of the world around us and asks the question just how well do we ever really know our friends and neighbours?

We begin with Collette, discover the reason she is on the run and about her arrival at Beulah Grove, where she takes over the room of the mysteriously vanished Nikki.  From there we meet each of her ‘neighbours’ in the house that they all share, learning about their lives, their secrets and the circumstances that have brought them all to renting a single room with shared bathroom, cash in hand and no questions asked from #23’s slum landlord.

Their intertwining stories are at times scary, tragic, and filled with melancholy showing how easy it can be to find yourself in such dire situations as much through the actions of others, as well as your own.  My favourite part was how the characters all appeared drawn towards Vesta, finding it easy to tell their stories and offer up their secrets to her for safe, or perhaps not so safe, keeping. 

It’s a brilliant read that you won’t want to put down, although in my case it was easier for me to read and read, as I actually downloaded my copy of The Killer Next Door as an unabridged audiobook, via audible.co.uk.

The narrator is perfectly selected, and the editing slick, which meant listening to the story added an extra creepy dimension to the haunting passages of the killer and his thoughts.  It also highlighted just how vividly descriptive Marwood’s writing is, making sure you experience all of the sights, sounds and smells of the situation, which is a fabulous thing to read but certainly in my case means there is at least one bathroom section you may not want to be reading (or listening too) while you’re eating lunch…

The Final Minute – Simon Kernick

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image‘It’s night, and I’m in a strange house.

The lights are on and I’m standing outside a half-open door.

Feeling a terrible sense of forboding, I walk slowly inside.

And then I see her.

A woman lying sprawled across a huge double bed.

She’s dead. There’s blood everywhere.

And the most terrifying thing of all is that I think her killer might be me …’

A traumatic car-crash. A man with no memory, haunted by nightmares.

When the past comes calling in the most terrifying way imaginable, Matt Barron is forced to turn to the one person who can help.

Ex Met cop, turned private detective, Tina Boyd.

Soon they are both on the run .….

Master of the race against time thriller, Kernick will have you racing against time to reach the end of The Final Minute. 

Once again he has delivered a thrilling read, one that despite featuring several recurring characters, can be easily read on its own by anyone who is new to his fiction, and is satisfying for his legions of loyal fans who will be eagerly downloading the kindle version, or snapping up bargain publication day copies when it is published today.

The Final Minute will get its claws into you from the very beginning as you try, along with Matt Barron, to uncover his lost memories, and discover just who is out to get him and why.  He’s also so well written that you will alternatively love and hate him, because fundamentally he’s really not a nice guy, but you can’t help feeling for his situation, no matter how he ended up where he is.

It’s packed with action that never feels like it’s been put there for the sake of it, it all feels natural and genuine, and ensures there are none of those annoying ‘flukey getaways’ to spoil your enjoyment.  With twists and turns a plenty to keep you on your toes as you search for clues to who is behind the plot, The Final Minute is another sure-fire winner.