Review: The Lost Man by Jane Harper

The Lost Man

 


THE BLURB

He had started to remove his clothes as logic had deserted him and his skin was cracked. Whatever had been going through Cameron’s mind when he was alive, he didn’t look peaceful in death.

Two brothers meet at the remote fence line separating their cattle farms under the relenting sun of the remote outback. In an isolated part of Western Australia, they are each other’s nearest neighbour, their homes three hours’ drive apart.

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old that no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron, who lies dead at their feet.

Something had been on Cam’s mind. Did he choose to walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…

The Lost Man is the highly anticipated new book from the bestselling and award-winning Jane Harper, author of The Dryand Force of Nature.


MY REVIEW

Jane Harper author of two of my favourite books of this year The Dry and Force of Nature is back with a new standalone thriller set in the Australian Outback. It’s a tense and atmospheric read with the wonderful descriptions and characterization we’ve come to expect from Harper. The setting of the story is once again the highlight with the writing so brilliant that it’s all too easy to imagine yourself in this hostile and unforgiving place. The intense heat, barren flat ground with nothing for miles creates a real sense of isolation that make this a gripping read despite a relatively slow paced story.

There are very few characters in this story with the focus very much on Nathan as he comes to terms with, and tries to solve, the mystery of his brother’s death which it soon becomes clear was not an easy one. How did he end up miles from his car (which was fully loaded with supplies and running perfectly) in blistering heat when he knew better? Did he deliberately head out there knowing it would mean his death or did something (or someone) happen to him? And why is it these brothers haven’t really spoken in years?

I thought Nathan was a very likeable character, there was something about him and his history that reminded me of Aaron Falk the lead in the author’s other series. He’s an outcast in town due to something that happened in the past, he had a difficult relationship with his father but generally seems like a decent bloke. I found myself very intrigued by him and loved the way his backstory was gradually revealed over the course of the book. It was difficult to imagine just what he could have done that would be so terrible the whole town would turn against him.

There are very few other characters and those there are are predominantly Nathan’s family. Each and every one however is well developed and complex. The relationships between them are similarly complicated. They have a shared history that goes back a long time and know each other incredibly well, or at least think that they do. I loved the way that the dynamic between them shifted and developed over the course of the story and I was particularly fascinated by Nathan’s relationship with his son Xander.

This isn’t an action packed story but with such a tense atmosphere and the hostile environment in which it takes place it still makes for a gripping read. The little reveals and twists are spaced out perfectly, making it difficult to put down. There are also more than a few red herrings thrown in to keep you guessing until the very end, and when the ending does come it’s absolutely perfect.

Overall this is a great read and one I’d recommend to anyone who loves a good mystery with a setting that’s just as compelling as the story.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book. As always all views are my own.

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Review: Deadly Secrets by Robert Bryndza

Deadly Secrets by Robert Bryndza

This may be book 6 in the series but DI Erika Foster shows no signs of slowing down and I think this is possibly my favorite so far.

Note: while this is book 6 in the series it can be read as a standalone so there are no spoilers in this review, although I do recommend the others in the series


THE BLURB

To commit the perfect murder, you need the perfect cover. 

On a cold icy morning, a mother wakes to find her daughter’s blood-soaked body frozen to the road. Who would carry out such a horrific killing on the victim’s doorstep?

Straight off her last harrowing case, Detective Erika Foster is feeling fragile but determined to lead the investigation. As she sets to work, she finds reports of assaults in the same quiet South London suburb where the woman was killed. One chilling detail links them to the murder victim – they were all attacked by a figure in black wearing a gas mask.

Erika is on the hunt for a killer with a terrifying calling card. The case gets more complicated when she uncovers a tangled web of secrets surrounding the death of the beautiful young woman.

Yet just as Erika begins to piece the clues together, she is forced to confront painful memories of her past. Erika must dig deep, stay focused and find the killer. Only this time, one of her own is in terrible danger…


MY REVIEW

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you’ve been reading this series you’ll be familiar with the format, it begins with a gruesome murder (beware Bryndza has upped the ick factor) and the discovery of a body. Erika who’s supposed to be on the way to Christmas lunch with her former boss and old police training pal, can’t resist getting involved and before you know it she’s leading the search for yet another serial killer.

Unlike previous books in the series however, this time Bryndza has put the focus almost entirely on the investigation and this is much more police procedural than thriller and personally, I think it is so much the better for it. There are still some chapters from the killer’s point of view but they’re fairly brief, give little away and are very chilling. It’s rare that an author can present a convincing view from inside the mind of a killer so I’m always happier to stick with the detectives, particularly those in this series.

The characters are definitely what I love the most about this series. They really are such a wonderfully diverse, interesting and well rounded bunch and I love how their relationships have evolved and developed over the series.

There’s a little bit less of Erika this time around as something in her personal life forces her to pass on the case to one of her team but, while less Erika seems like a bad thing, it actually added an extra element to the story as it allowed the personal side of her character to be developed while also providing a bit more insight into her backstory. It also had the benefit of giving some of the other team members the opportunity to shine. Moss, my favorite character, gets a much more prominent role which I really can’t complain about.

The case itself is an intriguing one and it really kept me guessing. There are a few clues and a few red herrings scattered along the way but I can honestly say my theories as to who the killer was were completely wrong.

You may be wondering why if I enjoyed this so much I couldn’t give the full five stars (believe me I wanted to). Unfortunately it suffers from some of the same issues the previous books had in terms of continuity errors (there are some disappearing shoes and inconsistencies in setting). I also felt that at times there was something off about descriptions of expressions and reactions but this may just have been me.

Despite these niggles this is a gripping read and one I’d recommend if you like a fast paced serial killer type story with quite a few twists and turns.

Thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture for providing me with a copy. As always all views are my own.

Review: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart  Turton
The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
by Stuart Turton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. I think this book could be one of my favorite reads of the year and for the author’s debut novel is a seriously impressive feat of ingenuity.


THE BLURB

How do you stop a murder that’s already happened?

At a gala party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed–again. She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day, Aiden Bishop is too late to save her. Doomed to repeat the same day over and over, Aiden’s only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to even comprehend–but nothing and no one are quite what they seem.

Deeply atmospheric and ingeniously plotted, The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a highly original debut that will appeal to fans of Kate Atkinson and Agatha Christie.


MY REVIEW

The overriding feeling from this book is of a classic Agatha Christie style murder mystery and it has all the best elements of this, a number of guests invited to a party on the anniversary of a tragedy, an isolated location, an absent host, old grudges and long held secrets and a general feel that nothing is truly as it seems. Added to this however is a Groundhog Day, or possibly more Quantum Leap, type element with main protagonist Aiden Bishop tasked with solving a murder before it happens by repeating the day over and over again in a series of different roles (hosts) each of which has some kind of link to the mystery.

It’s an absolutely brilliant and unique premise that adds an extra layer of complexity and intrigue to the story I wasn’t expecting. It’s a very intricately plotted mystery and one I would say requires all of your concentration (and probably a notepad to keep track of multiple characters and timelines) but it’s worth it. I read this over the course of a weekend while trapped indoors by snow (and a bit of a cold) and it worked so well as it allowed me to completely immerse myself in the very vivid and atmospheric world the author creates.

The setting feels a little Downton Abbey, with the country estate, Lord of the manor and servants dotted about but from the very beginning it is clear that all is not as it seems. There’s a feeling that there’s more going on than meets the eye and something dark and sinister lurking just below the surface. Something that also seems to apply to most of the characters who are never quite what they appear to be.

This is particularly true for Aiden who spends the story in the guise of someone else, making him a very intriguing character. Who he is and how he’s ended up in the position he’s in is just as much of a mystery as who the murderer is. He has no memories of who he was before and no knowledge of his hosts either and this is where it most reminded me of Quantum Leap (a show I was obsessed with as a teen). Aiden has to look in a mirror to discover what he looks like and slowly unravel who each of his hosts are, and they are a decidedly mixed bunch. Most would definitely not be considered your typical hero, they are downright horrid, and even those who seem initially good often have a little bit of darkness lurking inside.

There is certainly a lot to think about in this story and it’s really worth taking your time over. I very much liked the authors writing style and found myself highlighting sections here, there and everywhere partly in hope of solving one of the many mysteries but mainly because I just really loved it.

In terms of actually solving it, I did get bits here and there but I think that was mostly due to guessing just about everything and suspecting everyone rather than any kind of skill on my part. There are so many twists, turns and red herrings that I think even the most experienced sleuth would struggle. Although I should say that once the truth was revealed I could see the hints the author had scattered throughout and I have been very tempted to read it a second time to really appreciate it.

This book is certainly one of a kind and I even a few days later there are elements of it still buzzing around my head in the best possible way. If you like complicated mysteries and don’t mind a little bit of genre bending I can’t recommend this highly enough.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this. All gushing over this brilliant book is my own.

ARC Review: Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris

Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris
Bring Me Back
by B.A. Paris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This may have a familiar plot but it’s packed full of tension and has enough twists and cliffhangers to make it a truly addictive read.


THE BLURB

A young British couple are driving through France on holiday when they stop for gas. He runs in to pay, she stays in the car. When he returns her car door has been left open, but she’s not inside. No one ever sees her again.

Ten years later he’s engaged to be married; he’s happy, and his past is only a tiny part his life now. Until he comes home from work and finds his new wife-to-be is sitting on their sofa. She’s turning something over in her fingers, holding it up to the light. Something that would have no worth to anyone else, something only he and she would know about because his wife is the sister of his missing first love.

As more and more questions are raised, their marriage becomes strained. Has his first love somehow come back to him after all this time? Or is the person who took her playing games with his mind?


MY REVIEW

A truly addictive read I devoured the whole book more or less in one sitting. It is very much the classic psychological thriller but while parts seemed familiar and it was occasionally predictable the quality of writing made it a very enjoyable read.

It is a classic story, man’s soon to be wife disappears following a row and many years later it seems she, or someone connected to her disappearance, may have returned just as he’s about to marry her sister. What do they want, do they really know what happened to wife to be Layla, could they in fact be her or is someone just stirring up trouble?

This is a very twisty story that’s packed full of tension and almost every character seems to be hiding something. The author keeps you hooked throughout by dropping little hints and teasers, usually at the end of the chapter, so you have no choice but to keep reading. It’s frustrating as hell at times but effective. There are maybe a couple of pacing issues, some sections were dragged out a little too long in my opinion, but these are easily forgiven.

The story is told predominantly from main character Finn’s point of view and while I never really liked him, he has a temper, lies, threatens and is abusive, I did find him an intriguing character to read. I do often think however that it’s the horrible people who are the most enjoyable to read.

In the second part of the story he’s joined by another narrator whose voice I wasn’t so keen on. There was just something a little too much about it, but it was maybe just that I’m not a fan of the whole voices in my head thing. It tends to result in lots of eye rolling by me.

I also think the story was a little light in terms of secondary characters. I would have liked them to feature a little more and to get some more insight into their motivations. Finn’s best friend Harry for example is constantly bailing him out of trouble or riding in to the rescue despite knowing what he’s like and being treated badly. Finn is violent towards everyone but they all seem to want to help him. It just didn’t make sense to me.

Despite these niggles I did very much enjoy this story and even the ending which I guessed around halfway through was worth waiting for.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all thoughts are my own.

ARC Review: Everything is Lies by Helen Callaghan

Everything Is Lies by Helen Callaghan
Everything Is Lies
by Helen Callaghan

My rating: 4 of 5 star

Unexpected and gripping, Everything is Lies is yet another great thriller from Helen Callaghan.


THE BLURB

No-one is who you think they are

Sophia’s parents lead quiet, unremarkable lives. At least that is what she’s always believed.

Everyone has secrets

Until the day she arrives at her childhood home to find a house ringing with silence. Her mother is hanging from a tree. Her father is lying in a pool of his own blood, near to death.

Especially those closest to you 

The police are convinced it is an attempted murder-suicide. But Sophia is sure that the woman who brought her up isn’t a killer. As her father is too ill to talk it is up to Sophia to clear her mother’s name. And to do this she needs to delve deep into her family’s past – a past full of dark secrets she never suspected were there . . .

What if your parents had been lying to you since the day you were born?


MY REVIEW

This is only Callaghan’s second book but she is fast becoming one of my favorite thriller writers. I very much enjoyed her first book, Dear Amy, but I think this may be better. There are still a couple of issues but it’s a gripping read and one that really surprised me with some of its twists.

The story begins with main character Sophia out another pretty much compulsory night out with her work colleagues. She receives a call from her mum begging her to come home as there’s something important they need to discuss but, having had a few drinks and with a handsome architect showing some interest in her, she brushes her off. When she visits the next day however she discovers her mother dead and her father seriously injured. The police believe her mother killed herself and attacked her father when he tried to stop her but Sophia doesn’t believe it. The plot thickens when she discovers some notebooks her mum had been using to write about her past revealing secrets that it seems some people will do anything to conceal.

I don’t really want to say much more about the plot than that, as I think it’s better to experience the twists and turns for yourself. I unfortunately stumbled across a review with a major spoiler but I have to admit that despite this I did find it to be completely different from what I was expecting.

The story begins in the present then flashes back to the past via the notebooks and while I did like the present day story I have to admit it was the flashbacks I found so much more intriguing and actually felt like that was the more developed part of the story. Her mother’s story, and her mother was so different from what I (and Sophie) believed her to be and the other characters that are introduced are so much more fascinating and complex.

Sophie was a pretty likable lead, intelligent, principled and determined but I’m afraid I couldn’t feel much connection to or empathy with her, I think because there just wasn’t enough of her. It seemed to me as if her role was primarily to find and read her mother’s notebooks. Her life and her issues (problems at work) felt a little pushed to the side making it difficult to really get to know her, particularly in the first half of the story where the notebooks make up the majority of the narrative.

I can’t however complain too much about the amount of time spent on her mother’s story as it absolutely fascinated me. She frustrated the heck out of me and a lot of the time I wanted to give her a shake but there was something so understandable about her actions that even when she was doing the stupid thing I still found myself rooting for her and found it impossible to look away.

Callaghan can definitely write an engaging story and this was one book I found myself reading late into the night and thinking about at odd times. I do think maybe too much time was spent on some things and not enough on others but for the majority of the book the pacing is just right. I did see a few of the twists coming but there were certainly elements that caught me by surprise something which is pretty rare.

If I had one main criticism of the book however it would be the ending, not so much that I disagreed, more that it went on a little too long. Again I felt the balance was off between what I wanted to know and what I was happy not to.

Overall a great story and I can’t wait for Callaghan’s next one.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy. As always all views are my own.

ARC Review: Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Force of Nature by Jane Harper
Force of Nature
by Jane Harper

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The second book in Harper’s Aaron Falk series is just as good if not better than the first. Atmospheric and packed full of tension, this story of a corporate retreat gone wrong and a missing woman is absolutely riveting.

Please note that as this is the second book in the series it does follow on from the Dry but could easily be read as a standalone as there are only some very mild spoilers and very little overlap. This review is therefore spoiler free.


THE BLURB

FIVE WENT OUT. FOUR CAME BACK…

Is Alice here? Did she make it? Is she safe? In the chaos, in the night, it was impossible to say which of the four had asked after Alice’s welfare. Later, when everything got worse, each would insist it had been them.

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side.

The hike through the rugged landscape is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case – and Alice knew secrets. About the company she worked for and the people she worked with.

Far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell Falk a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. And as he delves into the disappearance, it seems some dangers may run far deeper than anyone knew.


MY REVIEW

I was a little late in discovering just how good Harper’s first book The Dry was, it felt like everyone had read it but me, but as soon as I finished it I knew I needed more. It was just so atmospheric and I found main character Aaron Falk very likeable and someone I wanted to know more about.

For me the highlight of this book was yet again the setting and character development. Unlike The Dry however there are no high temperatures and no drought but rather a cold, wet and rugged landscape where five women set out on a corporate team building event which ends in disaster. As they lose their way (and their supplies) in this remote and isolated location, the bickering and disagreements on how best to find their way or get help begin and in the end only four of them make it out. It’s one of those classic survival stories, mixed with a missing person investigation and I absolutely loved it.

This has a slightly different format to previous book but the writing is just as good. In The Dry the author interspersed flashbacks to different time periods and events within the narrative (something I found a little jarring at times) to give an insight into the characters motivations and thoughts. In Force of Nature however Harper alternates between two separate timelines, the first following Falk as he investigates the disappearance of his key informant and the other following the five women on the retreat.

I have to say I preferred this format but I did find myself more gripped by the women’s story than Falk’s investigation. It felt like Aaron and his partner Carmen were pushed a little to the side particularly in the first half of the book where they’re getting everyone’s story but that may just have been because I was rushing through their sections to get back to the retreat.

The sections on the corporate retreat are told in more or less chronological order and I found it absolutely riveting to read the changing dynamics within the group as their situation goes from bad to worse. Watching their relationships and attitudes shift as they move from their corporate personas and roles to their more natural, and at times primitive, behavior was by far the highlight of this story. It does make you wonder how well you know your work colleagues and how you would react in that situation. Would you really pull together or would it be every man for himself? What would you do if you thought your life was on the line and someone in the group was risking it?

As it’s told from the points of view of each of the women you do get a real insight into their characters and motives but it still keeps you guessing as to what happened between them until the very end. Did Alice really set out alone and get lost or did she push the others in the group too far?

Added to that there is a mystery around a serial killer who previously operated in the area and Falk’s current investigation into the shady dealings of the company Alice works for. Could someone associated with the killer have taken up where he left off, could someone have found out Alice was informing on them? There are so many potential options for what could have happened to her and so many red herrings thrown in that it’s impossible to figure it out and I suspected everyone at one point or another.

Like the previous book this isn’t necessarily a fast paced story but it’s no less gripping as a result. Yet again Harper creates real tension and atmosphere in the story and while I would have liked a bit more time on Falk I very much enjoyed this book and can’t wait for the next one in the series

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.

ARC Review: Killman Creek by Rachel Caine

Killman Creek (Stillhouse Lake, #2)
Killman Creek
by Rachel Caine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of my most anticipated reads, the sequel to Stillhouse Lake didn’t let me down. It’s a fast paced and gripping story that still has a few surprises in store.

Spoiler Alert: as Killman Creek is a sequel both the blurb and my review contain spoilers for Stillhouse Lake.


THE BLURB

Every time Gwen closed her eyes, she saw him in her nightmares. Now her eyes are open, and he’s not going away.

Gwen Proctor won the battle to save her kids from her ex-husband, serial killer Melvin Royal, and his league of psychotic accomplices. But the war isn’t over. Not since Melvin broke out of prison. Not since she received a chilling text…

You’re not safe anywhere now.

Her refuge at Stillhouse Lake has become a trap. Gwen leaves her children in the protective custody of a fortified, well-armed neighbor. Now, with the help of Sam Cade, brother of one of Melvin’s victims, Gwen is going hunting. She’s learned how from one of the sickest killers alive.

But what she’s up against is beyond anything she feared—a sophisticated and savage mind game calculated to destroy her. As trust beyond her small circle of friends begins to vanish, Gwen has only fury and vengeance to believe in as she closes in on her prey. And sure as the night, one of them will die.


MY REVIEW

I was blown away by Stillhouse Lake when I read it a few months ago so I was beyond excited to finally get my hands on a copy of sequel Killman Creek from NetGalley and while my expectations were ridiculously high, Caine didn’t let me down.

Whereas Stillhouse Lake was a good old fashioned who dunnit which kept you guessing till the very end this is a much different type of thriller. Unlike the first book where Gwen was very much on the defensive this time she’s going on the attack. Her serial killer ex-husband is still on the loose and with help from hacker Absolom he seems to be able to find her and her children everywhere they go. She’s fed up of running and hiding though so she stashes the children Lanny and Connor somewhere safe while she and Sam go hunting.

Due to the nature of the story there’s a lot less mystery this time around, it’s more a game of cat and mouse, but that’s not to say there isn’t the odd unexpected twist and there are still a lot of questions over who can be trusted. It’s a fast paced and gripping story that does somehow make you question everything you previously thought was true.

Rather than being told solely from Gwen’s point of view, Killman Creek is told from multiple pov’s, something that took a little bit of getting used to. As well as Gwen, there are also chapters from Sam, Lanny and Connor’s points of view and while I liked some more than others it did add a new and interesting perspective to the story and let us get to know the other characters a bit better.

I have to say I do love Gwen/Gina. She does get put through the wringer time after time but no one can say she isn’t a fighter and I love how she always puts her kids first. Sam is quite an intriguing character, brother to one of Gwen’s ex-husband’s victims, he’s out for vengeance but is very confused about his feelings towards Gwen. It was great to see them spending so much time alone together this time around. The way the dynamic between them shifts and changes makes for some brilliant reading.

As for Lanny and Connor, gah!!! I know they’re young but really? Did they have to do everything they weren’t supposed to do? So frustrating but you just know they’re going to do the stupid thing that lands everyone in danger.

There aren’t very many new characters, and the ones there are come and go fairly quickly with only one or two making much of an impression, but really this is all about the relationships between those we know, so who cares.

This is pretty much non stop action and suspense from beginning to end and the final explosive showdown makes it all worthwhile. Caine’s writing is as always brilliant, creating just the right balance of tension, action and the more emotional scenes which keep you connected to and rooting for the characters.

Overall I thought this was a great conclusion to the story and definitely one I’d recommend.


Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.

Killman Creek will be published on the 12th December

ARC Review: Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

Genuine Fraud

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A brilliant and cleverly plotted story makes this a truly addictive read. It’s packed full of mystery and questions making it frustrating as hell but impossible to put down.

The characters may not be the most likeable but they are definitely some of the most intriguing. You definitely need your wits about you if you want to figure out what’s real and what’s not.


Synopsis

The story of a young woman whose diabolical smarts are her ticket into a charmed life. But how many times can someone reinvent themselves? You be the judge.

Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.


My Review

Hmm how to review a book where you can’t really talk about the story, you can’t really talk about the characters and you definitely can’t talk about the ending, or should that be the beginning? I think this is going to be quite a short review.

This is a story that begins at the end, yep literally. The first chapter is number 18 and from there it goes back in time to chapter 1 the beginning. Our main character Jule is a bit of a mystery. As the story begins (or ends as it were) she seems to be on the run and pretending to be someone else. The big question is why but this is only the first of many questions.

This is a story that’s absolutely packed full of mystery and secrets and it raises far more questions than it ever answers. As you travel back in time the answers are gradually revealed but every discovery seems to raise a hundred more questions so that you have to read that little bit more. Needless to say I read the whole book from cover to cover in an afternoon and immediately wanted to go back to the beginning and read it again to try and figure out what I’d missed.

It’s a a very intricately and cleverly plotted story that’s full of detail and little hints and clues scattered throughout. The back to front format of the story works incredibly well as you’re always trying to guess how they got to a specific place or moment and why they behave or act in a certain way. You really have to pay very close attention or you’re sure to miss something.

Main character Jule is the definitive anti hero and a bit of an enigma. She’s not particularly likeable, how can you like someone who’s always pretending to be someone else, but she’s definitely intriguing. I did on occasion find myself feeling sorry for her but when you never know what’s real and what’s fake, you never really know if you’re just being played.

This is an absolutely brilliant book but it’s frustrating as hell which means I can’t say it was an enjoyable reading experience. It is however one I’d definitely recommend. Just set aside plenty of time because you won’t be able to put it down.

I received an advance copy of this book free from Readers First. This has in no way influenced my review.

Review: The Rome Affair by Karen Swan

The Rome AffairThe Rome Affair by Karen Swan

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The Rome Affair is an absolutely perfect Summer read. Set in two different time periods, it’s addictive and engaging with a lot of mystery and just the right amount of romance to make it impossible to put down.

Swan’s descriptions will transport you to the Eternal City and some of the most glamorous locations around the world. Definitely one I’d recommend.


Synopsis

The glamorous capital city of Italy is brought to startling life in The Rome Affair, a compelling summer novel by Karen Swan.

1974 and Elena Damiani lives a gilded life. Born to wealth and a noted beauty, no door is closed to her, no man can resist her. At twenty-six, she is already onto her third husband when she meets her love match. But he is the one man she can never have, and all the beauty and money in the world can’t change it.

2017 and Francesca Hackett is living la dolce vita in Rome, leading tourist groups around the Eternal City and forgetting the ghosts she left behind in London. When she finds a stolen designer handbag in her dustbin and returns it, she is brought into the orbit of her grand neighbour who lives across the piazza – famed socialite Viscontessa Elena dei Damiani Pignatelli della Mirandola. Though the purse is stolen, Elena greets the return of the bag with exultation for it contains an unopened letter written by her husband on his deathbed, twelve years earlier.

Mutually intrigued by each other, the two women agree to collaborate on a project, with Cesca interviewing Elena for her memoirs. As summer unfurls, Elena tells her sensational stories, leaving Cesca in her thrall. But when a priceless diamond ring found in an ancient tunnel below the city streets is ascribed to Elena, Cesca begins to suspect a shocking secret at the heart of Elena’s life.


Review

I was a little bit worried when I started reading the Rome Affair that it was simply going to be a rehash of the authors previous book The Paris Secret. From the synopsis it sounds very similar, young woman running away from trouble in her own life goes to stay in a European city and ends up investigating a mystery from the past, and I suppose it kind of is. Despite some similarities however, this is a very different book and for me it was even better.

It has Swan’s usual wonderful writing but there is something compelling and addictive about the story. I picked the book up late one Saturday night and found it impossible to put down, finishing it on Sunday afternoon. The descriptions and feel of the book drew me in so completely that it was actually a bit of a shock to the system to be back in the real world.

The narrative flips back and forth in time and is told from Cesca’s point of view in the present and Elena’s in the past and while I found both fascinating I have to confess it was Elena’s story that captivated me. Her life as a rich heiress, socializing with the rich and famous while struggling to fit in and ultimately being abandoned time after time is compelling reading. The contrast between experiencing it through her eyes and hearing her tell Cesca the story works incredibly well. She edits and spins her experiences to paint the picture she wants to show the world and it definitely makes you question whether her final perfect romance was all it seemed.

Cesca’s story in the present is slightly less intriguing, she’s hiding from something that happened in London and trying to enjoy the simple things in life in Rome, with mixed success. There’s a little bit of romance in the air and she has to admit to and face up to her past but her role seemed to be primarily to dig into Elena’s past. I didn’t think she was necessarily the most likeable of characters but she was perfect for the role of interrogator/investigator and her love of her new home really flows through the pages.

The setting of Rome was definitely one of the highlights for me as, while I’ve only visited once, I absolutely love it. The author’s descriptions are so wonderful they give a real sense of the city as well as the other settings in the novel (Greece, Florida, New York). It’s very easy to imagine yourself getting a pizza and eating outside on the piazza, visiting the tunnels running under the city, visiting a nightclub in New York or sunbathing on a yacht off a Greek Island.

The pacing of the story is spot on and there are plenty of twists and turns to grab your attention. I spent a lot of the book guessing what had happened and while you can see most of it coming there were still a few surprises that I doubt many will guess.

Overall, I would definitely rate this as one of my favorite reads of the Summer. With an addictive story, a wonderful setting and brilliant writing I would recommend this to anyone who likes a novel with a lot of secrets and a bit of romance.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.

Review: Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine

Stillhouse LakeStillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

A exciting, well written edge of the seat thriller that left me almost as paranoid as the main character. This is a book you won’t be able to stop reading.

“What kind of idiot did you have to be to have that going on in your house, your bed, your marriage, and not be part of it? I’m still dimly surprised anyone ever acquitted me at all. I haven’t begun to forgive Gina Royal.”


Synopsis

Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom.

With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.

But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop.

Thoughts

Up until now I’d only come across Rachel Caine through her YA Morganville Vampire and Great Library series so I wasn’t sure what to expect from a thriller.

What I got was an edge of the seat and exciting thriller that I literally couldn’t put down. I found myself reading it late into the night, early morning and at every other possible opportunity.

I didn’t expect to like main character Gina/Gwen (I’m one of those who think the relatives of people who do evil things must know something) but Caine’ s writing is so good that after a few pages I was right behind her and more importantly I believed in her. There’s just something admirable about someone who’s so absolutely determined to protect her kids. She does come across a little bit paranoid at the start but really she’s incredibly single minded and gutsy which makes it difficult not to like her.

The story is pretty much a who dunnit, as the bodies of victims of gruesome crimes are found in the lake and the finger begins pointing in Gwen’s direction. There are however plenty of other suspects to choose from, including a number of other residents in the area as well as the online trolls who have been hunting Gina looking for payback. Gina/Gwen’s distrust of just about every one she comes in contact with seemed to rub off on me and I don’t think I trusted a single person. I think I had almost every character identified as the likely culprit at some point. I’m usually someone who’s quick to figure out the murderer (years of reading thrillers and watching cop shows) but this definitely kept me guessing, something I absolutely loved.

The success of books like this pretty much come down to the ending and in my opinion this one was suitably climactic with a couple more twists revealed right at the very end. This looks like it’s the first in a series so be warned not everything is wrapped up and there are a few loose ends which I know some readers will find frustrating. Personally I don’t mind and am really looking forward to another installment.

Definitely a book I’d recommend if you’re looking for a good suspense thriller that will have you looking over your shoulder.

I received this book free from Amazon through Kindle First.