The Ties That Bind – Erin Kelly

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imageCould a soul once sold, truly be redeemed?

Luke is a true crime writer in search of a story, when he flees to Brighton after an explosive break-up, the perfect subject lands in his lap: reformed gangster Joss Grand. Now in his eighties, Grand once ruled the underworld with his sadistic sidekick Jacky Nye – Until Jacky washed up by the West Pier in 1968, strangled and thrown into the sea.

Though Grand’s alibi seems cast-iron, Luke is sure there’s more to the story than meets the eye, and he convinces the criminal turned philanthropist to be interviewed for a book about his life.

Luke is drawn deeper into the mystery of Jacky Nyes murder. Was Grand there that night? Is he really as reformed a character as he claims? And who was the girl in the red coat seen fleeing the murder scene?

Soon Luke realises that in stirring up secrets from the past, he may have placed himself in terrible danger.

Absolutely brilliant.

For me a new Erin Kelly book is a much-anticipated event where as soon as I get hold of my copy I find quiet and comfortable space and lock myself away from the world so I can read in pure, uninterrupted pleasure, knowing when I’m finished, I will be able to close the book with a satisfying thud.

Delightfully, The Ties That Bind, has done nothing to change that feeling either. As a reader, I love to see growth in a writer, and in her fourth book, for me, Kelly has clearly bloomed. It’s also a pleasure to say that the book hangover I suffered when I finished was purely because I enjoyed the story so much, rather than because the author had left strands of story thread dangling in the wind.

There are some great characters in there too, I loved both gangster gone good, Joss Grand, and ex-journalist now cuttings library keeper Sandy. My particular favourite however, Was Jem, Luke’s controlling ex-boyfriend, who was so well written he really gave me the creeps at times.

The plot was as tightly done as ever with plenty twists and turns I didn’t see coming and a couple I did. Enough to make me enjoy getting those parts right, while also managing to ensure I was completely wrong about where things were going at the same time.

It’s a cracker of a read that I’d happily recommend to anyone looking for something refreshing in their crime fiction thrillers.

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.

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 Life I Left Behind – Colette McBeth

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image“I’m the only one who knows the secrets her friends have hidden, the mistakes the police have made.  I’m the only one who can warn her she’s still in danger. I know exactly who attacked her.  He’s the same man who killed me.”

Six years ago Melody was attacked and left for dead. She survived by burying her memories, confident that her attacker was convicted and imprisoned.  The the body of another woman, Eve, is discovered.

The women were strangers.  But Eve knew all about Melody’s life,  She has left behind her story, the clues that will force Melody to confront her own lies.  The clues that will put her life in danger all over again.

Want to start the New Year with a big book bang?  Published on January 1st, The Life I Left Behind is the book to do it with. After her cracking debut novel Precious Thing, Colette McBeth returns with the legendary ‘difficult second novel’ and immediately proves that there is no such thing.

Written from the perspective of three main characters, Eve, Melody and DI Rutter, The Life I Left Behind is a compelling read, pulling you into its web of intrigue as the individual narratives intertwine brilliantly in order to allow the mystery to unravel and the killer to be revealed.

From the outset the murder of Eve Elliot appears to be an open and shut case. The man responsible for the attempted murder of Melody years before has just been released from prison, and the attacks are strikingly similar. DI Rutter isn’t so sure, not one for cutting corners she doesn’t believe that it is quite so straightforward. With her old boss, the man responsible for solving Melody’s attack keen for Rutter to follow his lead and close the case, she has her work cut out for her, making sure they have the right man.

In the meantime, Melody, now reclusive and withdrawn from the world, is about to discover the true price of her attack, how much of her life she really lost on that fateful day, and just how little has changed in the years since.

I absolutely loved The Life I Left behind, Eve and Melody are well drawn characters that have you keen to find out more about, to find out what happened and to see how everything turns out, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself still sitting reading two hours after you picked the book up to squeeze in a few quick chapters. With a plot you can easily lose yourself in, that has a devilish twist in the tale The Life I Left behind comes highly recommended.

 

Letters To My Daughters Killer – Cath Staincliffe

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Grandmother Ruth Sutton writes to the man she hates more than anyone else on the planet: the man who she believes killed her daughter Lizzie in a brutal attack four years earlier. Ruth’s burden of grief and hatred, has only grown heavier with the passing of time, her avid desire for vengeance ever stronger. In writing to him Ruth hopes to exorcise the corrosive emotions that are destroying her life, to find the truth and with it release and a way forward. Whether she can ever truly forgive him is another matter – but the letters are her last, best hope.

Letters To My Daughter’s Killer exposes the aftermath of violent crime for an ordinary family and explores fundamental questions of crime and punishment. How do we deal with the very human desire for revenge? If we get justice does reconciliation follow? Can we really forgive those who do us the gravest wrong? Could you?

I’m a big fan of books written in letter / diary format as I find they are usually far more emotionally charged and are an enjoyable and easier way in which to connect with a character.

Letters To My Daughters Killer ticks all those boxes for me, in fact I actually sat and read it in just one sitting because there was absolutely no way I was putting this book down once I had started. The rawness of the emotions involved leaps from the page, and you can’t help but feel every shred of anger, rage, hurt and disappointment that Ruth is feeling.

Beginning four years after the murder of her daughter Lizzie, it follows the events immediately after her death, the police investigation and the arrest and trial of her murderer. The trial scenes are some of the best I’ve read, coming across as true to life of real court cases, and as the killer’s legal team spin their case you will feel as uncertain as Ruth as to whether or not the culprit will pay for his crime.

If you are looking for something different from your usual police procedural, psychological thriller, or race against time novel, you will not go wrong in choosing Letters To My Daughters Killer.

Cut Out – Fergus McNeill

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Nigel never meant for it to happen. At first, he just wanted to be Matt’s friend. But when he discovers he can hear what is going on in the flat below him, his fascination with his new neighbour drifts into obsession.

Rearranging his furniture to recreate the layout of the rooms downstairs. Buying the same clothes, going through his post, his things. Becoming Matt without him ever knowing.

And it would have been all right, if Matt hadn’t brought the girl home.

When things spiral out of control, Detective Inspector Harland has to unravel the disturbing truth. But there’s far more to the case than meets the eye . . .

Creepy, disturbing and all too frighteningly plausible.

It’s been a while since I found myself completely unsettled by a novel but Cut Out certainly did that to me. This was probably not helped by the fact I stayed up until the wee small hours of the morning so I could finish the book in one sitting.

Cut Out leaves you in no doubt about the dark themes contained within from the very beginning, by opening with the highly gruesome and sadistic murder of a small time drug dealer, before moving on to the main story of Nigel, an isolated man, with little in the way of social skills who prefers to work from home than amongst his colleagues at the agency he photoshops pictures for.

When a new neighbour moves in downstairs, Nigel’s life is changed completely. Matt is everything Nigel wants to be, good looking, confident, a hit with the girls and after a friendly night in front of the TV as neighbours, Matt soon moves from Nigel’s role model, to the object of his obsession.

As his justification for his deeds becomes more irrational, and his actions more and more intrusive, it is soon clear not just how shocking his behaviour has become, but also how plausible it is for someone with access and a little technical knowledge to do the same to you.

Cut Out is the third of the DI Graham Harland books from Fergus McNeill and the first I’ve read. It works well as a stand alone not revealing much from the previous novels giving those like me a chance to not only enjoy this great read without feeling I was missing something and also giving me the chance to go back and explore an intriguing character. There are certainly questions I have from this book which have been answered already, making me keen to now seek them out.

In the meantime, I’m off to check just who has the keys to my flat……

Pop Goes The Weasel – M J Arlidge

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imageA man’s body is found in an empty house. His heart has been cut out and delivered to his wife and children.

He is the first victim, and Detective Inspector Helen Grace knows he will not be the last. But why would a happily married man be this far from home in the dead of night?

The media call it Jack the Ripper in reverse: a serial killer preying on family men who lead hidden double lives.

Helen can sense the fury behind the murders. But what she cannot possibly predict is how volatile this killer is – or what is waiting for her at the end of the chase…

Pop Goes the Weasel is the sequel to Richard & Judy book club pick Eeny Meeny, and I have to say there is no evidence of that ‘difficult second novel’ here. Arlidge maintains the same great pace from Eeny Meeny in this novel and ensures that the plot is not only as equally dark and twisted, but also that those who are eager to bring down DI Helen Grace are more despicable and determined than before.

Just as with Eeny Meeny previously, Pop Goes the Weasel is a real page turner of a book, that I would have sat and completed in one sitting had it not been for the pesky need of a few hours sleep. Helen Grace is a delightful character, that I really enjoy reading about, constantly unsure of what other people think of her and yet always confident in everything she does.

Overall this is a fabulous read, that as any good novel does leaves you with enough unanswered questions about who will be coming back, and how Helen’s relationships will change or grow that you’ll be keen to discover just when the next installment will be available, and hitting that pre-order button as soon as you can.