Review: Dark Waters by G.R. Halliday

Dark Waters (Monica Kennedy #2)

Dark Waters, the second book in the DI Monica Kennedy series by G.R. Halliday, is possibly even better than it’s predecessor. It’s darker, more gruesome and very atmospheric. The Scottish Highland setting was yet again the highlight of the story for me, with the sense of remoteness and isolation making for a truly chilling and tension filled read.

While this is the second book in a series it could easily be read as a standalone. There are some references to the events in From the Shadows and you’ll have missed a little of the character background but this is very much it’s own story.


WHAT’S IT ABOUT

THREE MISTAKES. TWO MURDERS. ONE MORE VICTIM TO GO . . .

Annabelle loves to drive. It helps her escape her world, her past. Speeding on a mountain road in the Scottish Highlands, she sees a little girl step out in front of her. She swerves to avoid her. The next thing Annabelle remembers is waking up in a dark, damp room. A voice from the corner of the room says ‘The Doctor will see you now’.

Scott is camping in the woodlands in the Scottish Highlands – but in the middle of the night, he hears something outside his tent. When he goes out to have a look, a little girl is standing among the trees, staring right at him. Scott is never seen again.

When a dismembered body is discovered, DI Monica Kennedy gets called to the scene immediately. After six months away from the Serious Crimes team, they need her back on board.

As Monica searches for the murderer, another body is found. Monica knows the signs . . . She’s on the hunt for a serial killer.


MY THOUGHTS

I knew when I read the first book, From the Shadows, that this series had real promise so as soon as this the sequel appeared on NetGalley I couldn’t resist requesting immediately and I was not disappointed. Halliday has kept all that made From the Shadows such a great read and come up with something even better.

The story picks up a few months after the events of the first book with DI Monica Kennedy and the rest of the team still trying to come to terms with everything that happened. When a dismembered body is found however Monica is called to the scene and finds herself back on the hunt for another serial killer. At the same time it seems there may be something or someone hunting unsuspecting tourists who wander into remote areas alone.

It’s an incredibly dark and creepy read with a few moments which could easily come from a horror film, think Deliverance or Wrong Turn. I do love a creepy tale but even I found myself checking all of the doors and windows in my house to make sure no one could get in. I wouldn’t describe it as a fast paced or action packed read but there’s a real tension to the story that makes it very difficult to put down.

Main character, Monica Kennedy makes for an intriguing main character. I wouldn’t necessarily describe her as likeable or relatable but there’s something about her determination to get to the truth and her love for her daughter you can’t help but admire. In this outing we also get a little more of her backstory, her relationship with her parents and her father in particular seems to be on her mind a lot. It feels like there’s some real character development and I found myself wanting to know more about her.

I also very much enjoyed the sections from the point of view of kidnap victim Annabelle. Her fear at her captivity and the mystery around where she is and what is going to happen to her makes for compelling reading. I did have my doubts around whether I liked her at the start, she seems quite superficial, but I found myself really admiring her and rooting for her. She has such determination to escape and to survive no matter what.

The real highlight of this story was for me however the setting. The beauty and the wildness of the Scottish Highlands are used to full effect by Halliday. There’s a sense of isolation and remoteness that adds to the dark and chilling atmosphere. I loved the use of the small and insular communities who live by their own laws and don’t welcome strangers. There’s no technology, no internet or social media and barely any phone signal. In some ways it sounds like the perfect escape from the modern world but if you’re alone and need help it’s terrifying.

Similar to my thoughts on the first book though I do feel like Dark Waters would benefit from a few lighter moments to balance out the darkness. I can understand why the author decided to keep the tone the same throughout, there’s not really a lot to laugh about in kidnapping and murder, but it’s just so unrelentingly dark. Even when Monica is spending time with her family or when she’s in the car with Crawford there’s no lightness and I think it really needed it.

I also would have liked a little more background on Crawford, Fisher and the new member of the investigative team. We do find out a little more on Fisher this time around but it’s not quite enough to make him feel like a fully rounded character. I felt like we got to know more around victim Annabelle.

Despite these minor niggles though I thought this was a great read and one I’d recommend to anyone looking for a dark and atmospheric murder mystery.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. This has in no way influenced my review.

Review: The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

The Turn of the Key
The Turn of the Key
may be the first book I’ve read by Ruth Ware but it definitely won’t be the last. I loved Ware’s writing style and the dark and sinister atmosphere she created and somehow managed to maintain throughout. It’s a gripping read that kept me compulsively turning those pages until the very end.


WHAT’S IT ABOUT

When she stumbles across the advert, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss: a live-in nanny position, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten by the luxurious ‘smart’ home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare – one that will end with a child dead and her in a cell awaiting trial for murder.

She knows she’s made mistakes. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty – at least not of murder. Which means someone else is.


MY THOUGHTS

The Turn of the Key is an addictive read based loosely on The Turn of the Screw, with the main character Rowan hired as live in nanny to four children. What initially seems like a dream job, however soon becomes a nightmare as she’s left alone to look after the children for weeks in a house with a bit of a dark history, spooky goings on and more than a few secrets. It’s not long before one of the children ends up dead and Rowan gets the blame despite her protestations of innocence.

It’s a genuinely creepy read at times and I loved the way the author built up the tension, revealing little hints and throwing in the odd twist along the way. I very much enjoyed the way the story was told in the form of letters from Rowan to a potential barrister. I’m not sure it felt wholly convincing as a letter but I did love the conversational style to it.

I thought the characters were for the most part well developed and intriguing and I loved how little by little more is revealed about Rowan’s past as the story unfolds. I’m not sure I would describe her as likeable or nice, she’s the typical unreliable narrator so you can’t really trust her, but I certainly felt some empathy for her by the end. The other characters are a little more mysterious and there were a couple in particular whose motivations I’m not sure I ever fully understood. It does however work within a story that keeps you guessing who dunnit so I can’t complain too much.

The real highlight for me however was the atmosphere which is dark and sinister throughout. I loved the Scottish Highland setting and the sense of remoteness and isolation it created. I also loved the use of technology, it’s a smart home with all of the latest gadgets, to give a classic story a much more contemporary feel.

If I had one complaint, it would probably be the ending. I’m not going to say much about it so no spoilers, but it felt a little rushed and unsatisfying to me. Possibly that may be what the author intended but given the build up I would have liked a little bit more.

Overall though I thought this was a great read and one I’d recommend to anyone looking for a slightly creepy who dunnit.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Review: Strangers by C.L. Taylor

Strangers by C.L. Taylor
I think Strangers could possibly be my favourite book yet from C.L. Taylor. Despite featuring three seemingly unconnected storylines, the tension never lets up throughout and I found myself unable to put it down.


WHAT’S IT ABOUT

Ursula, Gareth and Alice have never met before.

Ursula thinks she killed the love of her life.
Gareth’s been receiving strange postcards.
And Alice is being stalked.

None of them are used to relying on others – but when the three strangers’ lives unexpectedly collide, there’s only one thing for it: they have to stick together. Otherwise, one of them will die.

Three strangers, two secrets, one terrifying evening.


MY REVIEW

I think this could possibly be Taylor’s best book yet. I absolutely loved it from the very first page to the very last.

With three different, seemingly disconnected, stories this shouldn’t have worked for me but somehow it did. I usually have problems with multiple povs, there’s almost always one story that I prefer to the others but here I found myself fully engaged with all three.

Annie is a single parent and manager of a fashion store in the Mead shopping centre. At her adult daughter’s encouragement she’s trying to put herself out there and meet someone new but while she does find a guy she likes there’s someone out there who doesn’t want them to get together.

Gareth is a middle aged security guard at the shopping centre who cares for his elderly mother who has dementia. He discovers his mother is receiving postcards from his father who disappeared and was presumed dead 20 years ago. Could he still be alive or is someone trying to take advantage of his mum.

Ursula is a bit of a loner. She blames herself for her fiancé’s death. She works as a courier and lives with a friend until they discover she’s been stealing from them. When they throw her out she’s desperate enough to rent a room from a rather odd guy, who won’t tell her what’s in the basement and insists the radio be kept on at all times.

Add to this rumours in the background of a serial killer responsible for the disappearance of several men in the area and you’ve got a truly gripping read.

I was completely addicted to each of the three stories and I thought the author did a brilliant job of balancing them. Annie, Gareth and even Ursula were very sympathetic characters and they felt very real and relateable. With so much going on in the story you would have thought there wouldn’t be much room to develop the secondary characters or the relationships between them but this wasn’t the case at all as the author took the time to make each and every character well rounded and believable.

It was however the plot that was the star for me. The tension never lets up for an instant and there are some truly creepy moments that had me wanting to hide under the duvet. It also keeps you guessing throughout and I genuinely had no idea where it was going or how the stories would eventually come together. When they finally do merge it lives up to all expectations and the ending is spot on.

Overall, this was a brilliant read and one I’d recommend to anyone who loves a good thriller.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with an advance copy via NetGalley. This has in no way influenced my review.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

ARC Review: Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin

Foul is Fair
Foul Is Fair
by Hannah Capin is an absolutely stunning read and nothing like I thought it would be. Powerful and fierce, I found myself unable to put it down and even when I wasn’t reading it I couldn’t stop thinking about it (or wanting to talk to people about it). I loved it.


WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Jade Khanjara and her three best friends rule their glittering LA circle. They decide how the party ends – every night but one. The night four boys spike Jade’s drink, lock her in a room and brutally attack her. The night they try to ruin her.

But they chose the wrong girl. Certain that the boys will face no consequences, Jade and her friends take vengeance into their own hands. There’s no mercy left: and now Jade won’t rest until she gets bloody satisfaction . . .


MY REVIEW

Wow… Just wow!!!

I was not expecting that and in fact for the first few chapters I wasn’t sure I was going to get on with this book at all. The writing style is unique, it’s heavy on imagery (lots of references to birds and talons and wings), and I’m still not sure I liked it (not a fan of imagery) but this wouldn’t be anywhere near as powerful and original without it.

Despite the pretty big clue in the title I honestly didn’t realise this was a YA retelling of Macbeth till I was around quarter of the way through. The story follows Elle/Jade, the Lady Macbeth, who with the help of her three best friends, vows to get revenge on the group of boys who drugged and sexually assaulted her at a party. She changes her appearance and sets about infiltrating their group with a view to destroying them from the inside.

Jade is an incredibly powerful, complex and unique character and one I don’t think I’ll forget any time soon. She’s a popular, mean girl from a wealthy family who is determined to not let what happened to her change her. While she’s downright nasty to those who are trying to help her and isn’t necessarily that likeable you can’t help but admire her determination to not let what happens change her. She refuses to be a victim or even a survivor and I found myself somewhat rooting for her to succeed even though her plan seems crazy and over the top.

As you can probably imagine this is not an easy read. The assault is off the page but it’s referred to throughout. It’s a violent and twisted story that even I found a little shocking at times. It is however incredibly well done and once I got past my initial uncertainty about the writing style I couldn’t put it down. It’s one of those stories that invades your thoughts, that even when you’re not reading keeps buzzing around your head.

As someone who studied Macbeth at school (many, many years ago). I loved all of the little references to the original. The naming of the characters does make it a little obvious who is in which part (Mack, Banks, Duffy, Duncan) but it’s still fantastic to watch the drama unfold and there are so many other small references and quotes snuck in that it’s a joy for any fans of the original.

That being said, it probably doesn’t matter if you don’t know the play, it’s just as powerful and engaging on it’s own merit, but I think you will get so much more out of it if you do.

Overall this is a stunning read and one that I think I’ll remember for a long time to come.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. This has in no way influenced my review.

My rating: 4.75 of 5 stars

Review: Bitter Falls by Rachel Caine

Bitter Falls (Stillhouse Lake #4)Despite high hopes and a very promising start I’m afraid Bitter Falls by Rachel Caine failed to wow me. It’s still a very enjoyable read and Caine’s writing is as wonderful as always but I kind of wish the story had gone in a slightly different direction.

Spoiler Alert: as this is the fourth book in the Stillhouse Lake series there may be some very mild spoilers for the previous books from here on in. If you’re considering reading the series (and you should) you may be better checking out my review for the first book here


THE BLURB

She’s investigating a cold case no one else could—by going places no else would dare.

In spite of a harrowing past still haunting her, Gwen Proctor is trying to move forward. Until a new assignment gives her purpose: the cold-case disappearance of a young man in Tennessee. Three years missing, no clues. Just Ruth Landry, a tortured mother in limbo. Gwen understands what it’s like to worry about your children.

Gwen’s investigation unearths new suspects…and victims. As she follows each sinister lead, the implications of the mystery grow more disturbing. Because the closer Gwen gets, the closer she is to a threat that looms back home.

In a town that’s closed its ranks against Gwen; her partner, Sam; and her kids, there’s no bolder enemy than the Belldene family—paramilitary, criminal, powerful, and vengeful. As personal vendettas collide with Gwen’s investigation, she’s prepared to fight both battles. But is she prepared for the toll it could take on everyone she loves?


MY REVIEW

I love Rachel Caine’s writing and I love this series but while Bitter Falls, the fourth book in the series had a very promising start I have to confess I found my attention begin to wander partway through and I was left feeling somewhat unsatisfied by the ending.

There is a lot to like about it and overall this is definitely an enjoyable read. The prologue at the start for example makes for some truly chilling reading and I loved the way it introduced the reader to the cult at the centre of the story. I was intrigued by the case Gwen is investigating of a missing young man and I was impressed by the way Gwen goes about getting the information she needs.

Gwen herself remains one of my favourite characters, she’s so resilient and so fiercely protective of her family. I love her determination and her fight but also how she keeps trying to do the best for her children. Her development over the series has been wonderful to watch. I also liked the new characters the author introduced in this story, the Belldene family, Gwen’s new boss and co workers and even relatively minor characters such as the parents of the missing boy. Each and every one felt believable and well rounded and there are a few I hope will pop up again in future books.

I do feel however like the story took a bit of a wrong turn and an opportunity was missed to take things into new territory and really develop the characters. Instead of allowing the characters to do their own thing, the whole family is pulled into the case Gwen’s investigating and it becomes a repeat of the previous books.

What makes it so frustrating is that there are some intriguing routes the story could have gone down. Yes, the cult side is fascinating but I wanted to see the family dealing with every day life now that they have decided to stop running and hiding. I mean they have some serious issues, Sam is carrying a lot of guilt and being targeted by the group he started up to get revenge on Gwen, Connor is understandably suffering from PTSD and Lanny is struggling to figure out where she fits. Add to that the local Hillbilly mafia (paramilitary, criminals & drug dealers) who are trying to run the family out of town and I feel like there was plenty of other material for the story to work with.

I did love the links with the previous books and how certain storylines carry across books, it would be unrealistic if they didn’t, but sometimes there do seem to be too many coincidences and there are only so many times the same things can keep happening to this family. I also felt like there wasn’t really much character development in this story. Sam in particular feels like he’s pushed to the background, he does have an important role in the story and there are a few chapters from his pov but I didn’t feel like there was any real development or that we got to know and understand him any better which is a pity as I find him the most intriguing.

It seemed too as if there were certain threads that were left hanging and the ending felt a little bit rushed to me with many things unresolved. I don’t expect all loose ends to be tied up when reading a series but it just kind of stopped.

Overall this is by no means a bad read and there is a lots to like about it. I’m just a little disappointed that the story fell back into the familiar rather than going in the new direction I hoped for. If you’ve read and enjoyed the other books in the series I’m fairly certain you’ll enjoy this one too.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy. This has in no way influenced my review.

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Review: Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton

Three Hours

Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton

Incredibly well written and terrifyingly believable, this is a very timely and relevant book. Unfortunately however while I could appreciate the author’s skill the multiple pov’s left me feeling detached rather than gripped and it lacked the tension I expected.


WHAT’S IT ABOUT

Three hours is 180 minutes or 10,800 seconds.

It is a morning’s lessons, a dress rehearsal of Macbeth, a snowy trek through the woods.

It is an eternity waiting for news. Or a countdown to something terrible.

It is 180 minutes to discover who you will die for and what men will kill for.

In rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege. Told from the point of view of the people at the heart of it, from the wounded headmaster in the library, unable to help his trapped pupils and staff, to teenage Hannah in love for the first time, to the parents gathering desperate for news, to the 16 year old Syrian refugee trying to rescue his little brother, to the police psychologist who must identify the gunmen, to the students taking refuge in the school theatre, all experience the most intense hours of their lives, where evil and terror are met by courage, love and redemption.


MY THOUGHTS

Unpopular opinion time, I didn’t love this book.

I didn’t dislike it either but while I can certainly appreciate the writing, it wasn’t the tense, gripping read I expected. This was my first book from the author so I had no idea what to expect from it other than what the synopsis and the many rave reviews suggested. The premise is certainly an intriguing one and while there seem to be quite a few books around at the moment that center on a school shooting this is probably the first I’ve come across which is set in the UK and I loved the idea of the whole thing taking place over just three hours.

I did wonder how the author would stretch three hours over the 300 plus pages but I still had hope that it would be a powerful and tension filled read. Unfortunately however this proved not to be the case, or at least not for me. I never felt fully engaged with the story or the characters and I didn’t feel any tension or any emotion from it at all.

The story is really a lot of little stories, following as it does a lot of different characters over the three hour period. There’s the head teacher who’s seriously wounded at the start, a few of the students including two Syrian refugees, teachers, a worried parent and a police psychologist tasked with identifying the gunmen. There is definitely a lot to fill the pages but I think it was these many points of view that were the issue for me.

I’m generally not a fan of multiple pov’s in a novel and this book is a perfect example of why that is. With so many characters I found it difficult to keep track of who was who, where they were and what was happening particularly at the start. I also never felt like I really got to know any of them and consequently wasn’t invested in their story. I was left a detached observer, curious about how it would all play out but not really feeling much of anything.

It was also all rather predictable. There are a few surprises and unexpected twists but for the most part the author sends enough signals early on that you know what’s coming. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it makes it all feel real and believable but without the attachment to the characters I needed something to lift it.

This review is starting to make it seem like I didn’t like anything about the book but that’s really not the case. I loved the author’s writing and the way she set the scene of this remote school in the middle of a blizzard. There’s a real sense of isolation from it that works perfectly. I loved the connections made between what’s going on and the play the students are rehearsing, Macbeth. I loved the small acts of heroism and love. I was also impressed and slightly terrified by how real and how relevant a lot of it feels. The role of the media, the increase in hate and extremism and the vulnerability of young people in this age of social media.

Overall therefore, while I didn’t love this book I would still recommend it. I certainly seem to be in the minority as far as reviews go making me think a lot of the issues I had with it are more personal taste than any fault of the author’s. It’s definitely a unique read and incredibly relevant given how divided society feels right now.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with an ARC via NetGalley. This has in no way influenced my review.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Review: Someone We Know by Shari Lapena

Someone We Know
Someone We Know
by Shari Lapena

Having read and loved Lapena’s previous book, An Unwanted Guest, I was very excited to pick up her latest. Unfortunately while this was an addictive whodunit with a great premise, I never really connected with any of the characters and the whole thing left me a little cold. I do think this was down to my general dislike of books with multiple povs though so I would still recommend to anyone who likes a good plot driven story with plenty of twists and turns.


THE BLURB

Maybe you don’t know your neighbors as well as you thought you did . . . 

“This is a very difficult letter to write. I hope you will not hate us too much. . . My son broke into your home recently while you were out.”

In a quiet, leafy suburb in upstate New York, a teenager has been sneaking into houses–and into the owners’ computers as well–learning their secrets, and maybe sharing some of them, too.

Who is he, and what might he have uncovered? After two anonymous letters are received, whispers start to circulate, and suspicion mounts. And when a woman down the street is found murdered, the tension reaches the breaking point. Who killed her? Who knows more than they’re telling? And how far will all these very nice people go to protect their own secrets?

In this neighborhood, it’s not just the husbands and wives who play games. Here, everyone in the family has something to hide . . .

You never really know what people are capable of.


MY REVIEW

I’m afraid I liked the idea of this book more than the execution. It’s a well written and addictive read but for me to truly enjoy a book I have to connect to the characters, to become invested in their story, and in this case it just never happened.

It is a great premise, how well do you know your neighbours, do you really know what goes on behind closed doors? In this story there is a teenage boy who knows more about the neighbours than he really should as he’s been breaking into their homes and hacking into their computers. When his mother finds out she’s horrified and out of guilt she writes anonymous letters to the residents of two of the houses to apologize. Unfortunately one of those houses belongs to the man whose wife’s body has been found badly beaten in the trunk of a car. What follows is a complex and addictive whodunit involving a number of the residents of the street, most of whom seem to have some secret or another.

As far as whodunit’s go this is a pretty good one and I will admit that I never really guessed the murderer. There are lots of clues and hints but there are also more than a few twists and red herrings to throw you off the scent. The story is told from multiple point of views including the victim’s husband, several of the neighbours and the police detectives investigating the case so you get to follow the investigation from a number of different angles and get some insight into the different relationships.

Unfortunately however, I think it was the multiple povs that were the biggest problem for me. It’s rare for me to really love a book with a lot of narrators. I find it difficult to keep all of the characters straight and I never feel like I get enough of them to really connect with them. I don’t think it helped that I didn’t especially like any of the characters and I didn’t even hate them. I just wasn’t emotionally invested at all so while I could appreciate the complex plot and all of the twists and turns I didn’t care who the killer was or whether they got caught.

Regardless of this though I am still a big fan of the author and would recommend this book to anyone who likes a plot driven murder mystery. Even with the problems I had with it I found it very difficult to put down.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an advance copy. This has in no way influenced my review.

Review: I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney

I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney
I Know Who You Are
by Alice Feeney

As a huge fan of Feeney’s first book I was ridiculously excited about I Know Who You Are but while there’s a lot to like about it I’m afraid it didn’t quite live up to my admittedly too high expectations. There are some great twists and some gripping moments however the final reveal was a step too far for me.


THE BLURB

l Know Who You Are is the brilliant tale of two stories. One is about Aimee Sinclair—well-known actress on the verge of being full-on famous. If you saw her, you’d think you knew her. One day towards the near-end of her shoot on her latest film, Aimee comes home from filming to find her husband’s cell phone and wallet on the dining room table. He never goes anywhere without them. But he’s nowhere to be found. She’s not too concerned—they had a huge fight the night before. They both said things they didn’t mean. He might have done things he didn’t mean, things she can’t forget. Even though she has a history of supposedly forgetting. After all, she’s a very good actress.

The next morning she goes for her morning run and then goes to her favorite coffee shop. But her card is denied. When she calls the bank they say her account has been emptied of $10,000. She immediately suspects her husband. But they say no, it was Aimee herself who closed out the account. And thus begins a bizarre rabbit hole into which Aimee finds herself falling where nothing is at it seems.

Alternating with Aimee’s story is that of a little girl who wandered away from home. We always tell our kids not to talk to strangers or bad things will happen. Well, bad things happen.

In I Know Who You Are, Alice Feeney proves that she is a master at brilliantly complicated plots and twists after twists.


MY REVIEW

As someone who absolutely loved Alice Feeney’s first book Sometimes I Lie I was ridiculously excited to get the chance to read an advance copy of her latest one. I really love her writing, the complex characters she creates and the sudden twists that will literally leave your jaw on the floor. Unfortunately however, while there is a lot to love in this book I’m afraid the ending kind of ruined it. There are a lot of twisty thrillers around at the moment and I can understand the temptation to push the boundaries to make your story stand out with that big surprise ending but I’m afraid for me this pushed things a little too far, becoming unbelievable. It’s a pity, as up until that point there was a lot to like.

Main character Aimee Sinclair for example was wonderful as the unreliable narrator. As an actress on an upward trajectory she knows how to play a part, to show the world what they expect to see. When her husband suddenly vanishes without a trace it’s difficult to tell how she really feels about it (and possibly more importantly, whether or not she had anything to do with it) but it’s clear there were problems in the marriage. As other strange things start happening around Aimee it becomes increasingly difficult to work out what’s real and what’s not and, as she is constantly pretending, it’s hard to tell how she really feels. Consequently I was never too sure what to think about her. I think I liked her and was rooting for her but there were moments when I really had my doubts.

Interspersed with the Aimee in the present day is the story of a little girl in Ireland who wanders away from home to look at the pair of shoes she really wants in a shop window. She knows she’s not supposed to be out on her own and she’s not supposed to talk to strangers but she does and bad things happen.

This for me was the more gripping (and horrifying) part of the story. It’s often dark and occasionally very disturbing (there’s mental and physical abuse, and violence) but I found it difficult to stop reading it (although I may have skimmed over one particularly disturbing scene). It’s clear there’s some kind of connection between these events and the odd things happening to Aimee in the present but it’s pretty much impossible to figure out what.

The big reveal at the end however just didn’t work for me. I’ll try to keep this vague to avoid spoilers but while it was surprising it just wasn’t believable. I kind of wanted to just throw the book at the wall at that point.

Anyway, regardless of the ending it is a well written and gripping story so it hasn’t put me off Feeney as an author. I will still be looking out for whatever she writes next.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy. This in no way influenced my review.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Review: Wolfhunter River by Rachel Caine

Wolfhunter River by Rachel Caine
Wolfhunter River
by Rachel Caine is an enjoyable read but for me was probably the weakest book in the series so far. It still has the wonderful characters and is very readable but I did think the story was a little confused. It does however start to take main character Gwen in a new direction and I think there’s a lot more great books to come in this series.

Spoiler Alert: While there are no spoilers for Wolfhunter River as this is the third book in the series there may be some very mild spoilers for books one and two from here on in.


THE BLURB

She can’t ignore a cry for help. But in this remote hunting town, it’s open season.

Gwen Proctor escaped her serial-killer husband and saved her family. What she can’t seem to outrun is his notoriety. Or the sick internet vigilantes still seeking to avenge his crimes. For Gwen, hiding isn’t an option. Not when her only mission is to create a normal life for her kids.

But now, a threatened woman has reached out. Marlene Crockett, from the remote town of Wolfhunter, is panicked for herself and her daughter. When Gwen arrives in the small, isolated rural community, Marlene is already dead—her own daughter blamed for the murder. Except that’s not the person Marlene feared at all. And Gwen isn’t leaving until she finds out who that was.

But it may already be too late. A trap has been set. And it’s poised to snap shut on everyone Gwen loves. Her stalkers are closing in. And in a town as dark as Wolfhunter, it’s so easy for them to hide…


MY REVIEW

Wolfhunter River is the third book in the Stillhouse Lake series and while I absolutely loved the first two books I have to admit that I thought second book, Killman Creek, was the end of the story. It seemed to wrap things up pretty satisfactorily leaving me wondering whether a third book was needed and where the story could possibly go next. I did consider not picking this up (I’ve found Caine has a habit of keeping series’ running longer than they should) but curiosity got the better of me and I had to know what was next for the Proctors and Sam Cade.

Unfortunately however while Wolfhunter River is an engaging and enjoyable read it lacks the punch of the first two in the series and it feels a little muddled in places. I’ve read a few reviews describing this as a sort of bridging book and I think that’s spot on.

The story picks up not long after Killman Creek and continues some of the storylines and issues from the previous books but also starts to take it in a new direction. Gwen and her family are still facing threats from associates of her serial killer ex husband and dealing with suspicion and accusations of complicity in his crimes, Gwen and Sam (brother of one of her ex husband’s victims) are trying to figure out whether they can really have a relationship, and someone from the past is making threats against them. At the same time Gwen is receiving phone calls from strangers looking for help or advice, one of which leads her to Wolfhunter River, a small town with something sinister going on.

There’s a lot going on in the story but it still manages to feel at times like there’s not much in the way of action and it becomes a little slow in places. The different storylines don’t seem to fit naturally together and it often feel like they’re competing against each other, one elbowing its way to the fore only to be shoved aside by the other a few chapters later.

That’s not to say there’s not a lot to like about this book. Caine knows how to write an engaging story and I more or less devoured this in one go. It may be a little confused in terms of plot but main character Gwen is pretty awesome and I’ve been loving watching her, and her family, develop and grow. It’s also good to see a bit more from Sam this time around, he’s an intriguing and possibly the most conflicted character.

I did get the feeling from this book that there’s a lot more to come in this series and hopefully now that the building blocks are in place it can move forward. I’m not sure I’ll stick with it but I definitely want to read the next one.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with an advance copy via NetGalley. This has in no way influenced my review.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Review: From The Shadows by G.R. Halliday

 

THE BLURBFrom the Shadows

A stunning, atmospheric police procedural set against the grit of Inverness and the raw beauty of the Scottish Highlands, this is the first book in the DI Monica Kennedy series.

Sixteen-year-old Robert arrives home late. Without a word to his dad, he goes up to his bedroom. Robert is never seen alive again.

A body is soon found on the coast of the Scottish Highlands. Detective Inspector Monica Kennedy stands by the victim in this starkly beautiful and remote landscape. Instinct tells her the case won’t begin and end with this one death.

Meanwhile, Inverness-based social worker Michael Bach is worried about one of his clients whose last correspondence was a single ambiguous text message; Nichol Morgan has been missing for seven days.

As Monica is faced with catching a murderer who has been meticulously watching and waiting, Michael keeps searching for Nichol, desperate to find him before the killer claims another victim.

From the Shadows introduces DI Monica Kennedy, an unforgettable new series lead, perfect for fans of Ann Cleeves’ Vera, Susie Steiner and Peter May.


MY REVIEW

From the Shadows is a promising start to a new crime series set in the Scottish Highlands. It’s a dark and atmospheric story that is truly gripping at times and while I didn’t love it quite as much as I hoped I would this is definitely a series I want to read more of.

The story is told primarily from two points of view, DI Monica Kennedy and social worker Michael Bach, and is part police procedural, part mystery/thriller with Kennedy leading a murder investigation and Bach trying to track down one of his clients who has disappeared. It’s an intriguing story, a little chilling and gruesome at times but one that goes in a very unexpected direction and kept me guessing throughout.

Both Monica and Michael make for interesting characters and are for the most part likeable however I’m not sure I ever got to know them well enough to feel truly invested in them. Both clearly have issues and shadows hanging over them from the past but while there are some hints as to what these may be I still feel like there’s a lot to learn about them. I suspect the author is holding things back for subsequent books in the series but I feel like there could have been a bit more development of the characters and more depth given to them. I also found the constant references to Monica’s height (she’s very tall) and her insecurities about it became irritating after a while. It’s great to have a detective who’s different from the norm but it seemed a little overdone.

Similarly, I felt like the secondary characters such as DC Fisher and DC Crawford were also under developed. They seem a bit stereotyped and lacking in depth at times and it was the characters who appeared very briefly who made the biggest impression. It also felt to me like the relationships between characters were all a little too serious and formal. It would have been nice to see some humour (even if it was dark) or an emotion other than anger or guilt to provide a contrast to what is a very disturbing and tense narrative.

The highlight of the story for me was by far the Highland setting and the very dark and chilling atmosphere the author creates. It’s here that his writing really shines and he very skillfully conveys the wildness and remoteness of the rural communities while also taking us into the seedier parts of the city of Inverness, giving a real sense of place. I loved the way he showed the different sides of the area, the beauty and peacefulness and also the isolation and danger. It actually made me want to head up north for a visit despite the plot.

Overall, while not perfect From the Shadows does show some real skill from the author and I think there’s a lot of potential for the characters to grow and develop. As the first book in a series I think it shows promise and I will certainly be looking out for more books by the author.

I received an advance copy of this book via a Readers First giveaway

My rating: 3 of 5 stars