Tag Archives: #psychologicalthriller

BOOK REVIEW – The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond

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From now on, in every book review, I will include the one single idea that stood out the most for me in that book. Every book has one. I’d love it if you shared yours with me from the same book.

The Marriage PactI loved this while I was reading it; couldn’t put it down! But then afterwards, when I gave it some thought (and I suppose that is a plus: that I was still thinking about it for a while afterwards), I started thinking about how much of the story was so highly improbable. Yes, I know it’s fiction, but there does still need to be a certain measure of belief and sustainability to keep a story within the realms of possibility, especially when it’s meant to be happening in the here and now. If this had been set in the near future, I think it would definitely lend more plausibility.

So … the premise is that Jake and Alice are newly-weds. They’re not young or naïve. She is a lawyer, he’s a psychologist. They receive a mysterious wedding gift from one of Alice’s clients – actually he’s a client of the firm that Alice works for; a very prestigious client, and she was instrumental in winning his case. On a whim, she invited him to their wedding and was surprised when he accepted. In hindsight, it’s an invitation she wishes she never extended!

The strange gift turns out to be an offer to join a covert club known as ‘The Pact’. Members of this fellowship are couples who are extremely devout (to the point of fanaticism) about their marriages, and the marriages of all others who are part of this organisation with them. There are rules … oh so many rules! The main ones being that you do not mention The Pact to anyone outside it, and once you’re in, you can never, ever leave! It’s a bit odd that Alice, a lawyer doesn’t seem to grasp the ‘small print’, or even fully read it before agreeing to enter into The Pact.

The amount of time this couple takes of work throughout this book was one of the things that I found myself constantly shaking my head about! There’s a vague reference once or twice to Jake’s colleagues questioning his increasing absence, but other than that, everyone seems pretty accepting of these unaccountable lapses in being present at their places of work.

The concept of this ‘Marriage Pact’ is an interesting one, and I suppose that’s what makes the book highly readable. The execution of the actual idea itself is sometimes a little off kilter though. Clearly the membership is made up of an intricate network of friends in high places, well connected, and well versed in the art of manipulation. Just how are the powers that be so all-knowing and all-seeing?

This book really had me hooked, but my suspension of belief was stretched to its limits so I’m giving it a 3.5. You need to read this one for yourself and decide.

STAND-OUT IDEA: “Answer the phone when your spouse calls. Every time. No exceptions.” While this stood out for me like many other concepts in the book, and the overall notion of the Pact itself, I found myself questioning whether this is actually possible? Jake is a psychologist – surely he can’t answer the phone during a session with a client? Alice is a lawyer – if she’s in court, she wouldn’t be able to answer the phone, would she? Similarly in our everyday lives, while theoretically the idea might be a good one to try and implement wherever feasible, it’s not always going to be achievable. I guess we can try our best though, right?

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25/01/2018 · 09:23

BOOK REVIEW – Mother By S.E. Lynes

MotherChristopher Harris has always been somewhat of a misfit. He’s just never really felt part of anything, especially not his family – and that was even long before his 2 siblings arrived. He just doesn’t know how to ‘be’; doesn’t ever feel comfortable with himself, or with anyone else.  Discovering he’s adopted does go a long way towards explaining his lifelong feeling of not fitting in, and it’s almost as if Christopher’s always known that something like this is what’s prevented him from being part of the life that he finds himself living. He endeavours to set out and find his birth mother, and luckily she’s just as enthusiastic about finding him as he is to find her!

One piece of writing advice I’ve never forgotten refers to characterisation: “When creating your characters, you need to get to know them so well that you know which brand of toothpaste they use.” Well, obviously I’ve remember little else when it’s come to writing advice, as I haven’t quite managed to write that book yet! But S.E. Lynes took that recommendation and ran with it! I have no doubt that she not only knows what toothpaste Christopher prefers, but also what dental floss he uses, and whether he dreams in black and white or full technicolour! She’s created a character so deep and complex that one cannot help but become fully immersed in his twisted persona, and wow, twisted is certainly what he is! Although at times I really did feel terribly sorry for him, he is so difficult to like and I think that this is what the author’s intention is. He hasn’t been created as a protagonist that one warms to.

Likewise with the parallel character of Ben: arrogant and self-assured – the polar opposite to Christopher. Quite an obnoxious character who’s really unpleasant, but who at the same time you can’t help wanting to know more about because you can’t wait to see where he fits into the picture!

The story is related to us by a mystery narrator. This is so clever, and absolutely crucial to the plot. I couldn’t figure out who it was right up until the reveal!

Threaded through the tense plot is the dark shadow of the ongoing case of The Ripper, and Christopher’s increasing preoccupation with the case. Lynes cleverly intertwines this with her own narrative, which works so well to heighten the feeling of unease throughout the book.

Highly recommended!

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BOOK REVIEW – The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

The couple next doorI loved this fast-paced, breathtaking psychological thriller! This is one of those ‘just one more chapter’ books, and before you know it, it’s 2:00 am!
Marco and Anne are invited to their neighbours for dinner. Sounds non-threatening enough doesn’t it? But Anne’s not too sure. Manipulative Cynthia has made it quite clear that the baby isn’t welcome at her husband Graham’s birthday dinner.
Anne’s been struggling with post-natal depression. Baby Cora is just 6 months old. Marco desperately wants a grown-up evening out. And so, a babysitter is arranged and it’s decided that they’ll go.
But the babysitter cancels at the last minute and although Anne’s quite happy to stay at home and let Marco go to dinner without her. He insists that they stick to their arrangements. After all, they’re only going next door. They can take a baby monitor with them, and pop home every half-hour to check on her. By 1 in the morning, Anne’s had quite enough. They’ve all had far too much to drink, and nobody else seems to worried about the fact that Cynthia is shoving her cleavage in Marco’s face!
When they eventually arrive home, their worst nightmare becomes reality when they discover Cora is not sleeping soundly in her cot … or anywhere else. She’s gone! And Anne realises that she was quite right to think she was a bad mother to leave her baby at home unattended.
A roller-coaster ride ensues in which the reader gets whiplash with all the twists and turns, all the allegiances and alliances, deciding who would have, could have taken baby Cora!
Very cleverly written with deep, dark pasts, secrets and causes for motives being revealed and no stones left unturned. Shari Lapena doesn’t disappoint as she drags us along to a gasping finish!

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BLOG TOUR! THE GOOD SAMARITAN by JOHN MARRS

The Good Samaritan

 

I’m thrilled, honoured and most privileged to be here on Day 2 of the Blog Tour of The Good Samaritan by John Marrs. Thanks have to go to Tracy Fenton of THE Book Club, not only for inviting me, but also for creating a truly amazing online haven and marvellous home from home for any discerning book lover and author stalker.

 

 

 

THE BOOK …

Thank goodness for those Good Samaritans who you know you can call when you have absolutely nobody else to talk to (here in South Africa, you call LifeLine). You know they’re there to listen with a non-judgemental ear, and gentle encouragement. And after sharing your problems, even if you’ve been offered no solutions, you just feel better.

For some though, there really is no way out and they feel there’s only one option and that’s when they call End of the Line. Here again, there’s no judgement just people to listen without questioning your choices.

But then there’s Laura … she has an entirely different agenda.

Laura’s a master at the art of illusion. She appears perfectly normal: your typically warm, caring wife and mom who’s content with her life. Someone who has it all and wants to give back to others by volunteering for those in need. She looks after her colleagues, remembering birthdays, names of family members and their ailments and allergies. Is anyone really that ‘lovely’? Doesn’t she seem just a teeny bit too good to be true?

Only one of the End of the Line team isn’t quite taken in by Laura. But that’s OK. Laura knows how to handle her. Because Laura is extremely clever, exceptionally devious, and has excess time on her hands, which seems strange for someone with a family at home to look after, doesn’t it?

The thing is with such clever people, they always think they’ve got everything worked out absolutely perfectly. They assume everyone else is beneath them, that nobody’s quite as clever as them and that they’ll never get caught. And that’s when they take things just that step too far. People forget: someone will always outwit you!

Once again, John Marrs presents his readers with a dark and complex main protagonist.

John Marrs

John Marrs himself!

It becomes clear quite early on that Laura is beset by demons, but exactly who or what these are is not quickly revealed. In true Marrs style, we are made to wait patiently … ok, not patiently at all!! We are forced to read into the wee hours, alternately turning pages (or swiping them, in the case of kindle readers) and biting nails, anxiously desperate to race to the conclusion. And then disappointed with ourselves, because it’s over, and we should have made it last just a little longer because now we’ll have to wait a while for John’s next cracker of a book!!

This is the emotional roller-coaster that The Good Samaritan will take you on. It delves into the emotional and psychological questions of why, when people are at their lowest, most hopeless ebb, they would choose to pick up the phone and call a faceless stranger, and shows the level of vulnerability that person has reached and how easily they can be manipulated.

How do you know that person really has your best interests at heart? What lies behind that soothing voice on the end of the line? How do you know they aren’t going to say the wrong thing, something that might just be the trigger you don’t need to send you over that proverbial edge? They really do have your life in their hands. The moral implications are huge, but when you’ve reached a level of despondency where you feel that you’re so wretchedly irredeemable, that doesn’t occur to you, just as it doesn’t occur to Laura but for entirely different reasons.

Hearing how John describes himself (and basically all authors) as a ‘thief’, reminded me specifically of Jodi Picoult (yes John, I think I’m comparing you to Jodi Picoult!). When she visited South Africa a few years ago, at one of her public appearances, someone asked ‘that’ question: “Where do you get your ideas from?” She replied that her ideas were often sparked by those tiny, obscure articles that you find (or maybe you don’t), tucked away in an almost un-readable little block around page 11 of the newspaper. She’d read these little tidbits of random information, that most people classified as newsless, and she’d think, “What if …?” and then ‘whammo!’ … another bestseller!!

John’s books have become bestsellers. From initially self-publishing his books to now having a publishing deal with Thomas & Mercer, he’s living the author dream, but not without a ton of damn hard work, and not a small amount of stalking by a certain small group of (carefully selected) individuals known as the John Marrs Groupies – of which I am a proud member!!

 

 

 

The Good Samaritan 1

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02/11/2017 · 08:51

BOOK REVIEW – Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Then She Was GoneUtterly riveting! I couldn’t put this one down. 15-year-old Ellie Mack disappears without a trace one day. She’s the centre of her mom Laurel’s world, and her family can’t believe that this beautiful, young ‘golden’ girl (as she’s described) would leave home of her own accord as the police would have them think. But there’s no sign of her. What could have happened?

Ten years later, Laurel and Paul, Ellie’s parents have split up, unable to withstand the aftermath of her disappearance, and her siblings Jack and Hanna are somewhat estranged from their mother who they feel was unable to focus on them, but only on their absent sister.

Laurel leads a sad, solitary life unable to forgive the rest of her family for wanting to move on. Until one day she meets Floyd and he’s quite lovely, which makes her wonder if she’s made a mistake to remain in the past all this time. Laurel starts to slowly come back to life and as her relationship with Floyd begins to blossom, she meets his 9-year-old daughter Poppy. It’s a bit startling though, how very similar Poppy is to Ellie when she was that age. And suddenly Laurel is unnerved and all of those unanswered questions into Ellie’s disappearance come bubbling to the surface once again.

Cleverly told, in five parts, told mainly from Laurel’s point of view, but giving insight into Ellie’s world as well, Lisa Jewell has created an enthralling piece that reminds us that people are so often not how they present themselves to others. Hidden agenda’s are the order of the day and who is hiding what is what Laurel needs to discover in order to return to a semblance of normality.

Jewell’s characters aren’t always likeable, in fact some are downright bizarre, but she creates them with such clarity that one can easily understand why that act and react in the ways that they do.

This is a 5 star read. Highly recommended!

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BOOK REVIEW – The Optician’s Wife by Betsy Reavley

the-opticians-wifeThis one grabbed me even before the first page! When I saw the words ‘Inspired by true events’ I was already hooked.

We meet Deborah in mid-April 1983. She’s 17, unattractive, overweight, unhappy, and practically friendless … until for some reason, the dashing Larry Miller takes an unfathomable interest in her. After that, her life is never the same. Before she knows it, he’s decided that they’re getting married, and that’s fine with her. Larry takes full control of her life, makes all the decisions and Dee (because that’s what he calls her) feels safe and protected, which is actually quite relevant at the time as there seems to be a serial killer doing the rounds in their hometown of Cambridge.

The chapters are fairly short, making the story edgy and fast-paced. The characters are all pretty dysfunctional, and there’s something not quite right about most of them, which only makes you read that little bit faster so that you find out what it is!

And then from about halfway in, we jump ahead about 10 years and Dee is sitting in an interrogation room! Why? What’s happened? The second half of the book then goes backwards and forwards, twisting and turning, leading readers on a disturbing, yet intriguing dance as we try to race to the harrowing conclusion as quickly as we can!

It’s psychological thriller writing at its best, and if you’re a fan of this genre then don’t bypass this one!

 

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BOOK REVIEW – The Damselfly by S.J.I. Holliday

the-damselflyThis is the third of Holliday’s ‘Banktoun’ trilogy, this works well as a standalone too. I’ve only read the first book – Blackwood – and missed the second – Willow Walk.

Katie is a bright teenager who, despite her challenging background, is planning her future in London. Together with her boyfriend Neil, and her teachers she has the support she needs to leave the small town of Banktoun, and her unhappy family life behind her.

But then Katie is discovered dead in her bed and foul play is suspected. Who could have murdered her? It’s up to Detective Davie Gray and his partner Louise Jennings to discover that. Gray is a Banktoun native and knows the lay of the land.

New school counsellor Polly McAllister is realising that although she’s recently returned to Banktoun to make peace with her past demons, new ones seem to be surfacing at a rapid rate! As she tries to handle the fallout of this tragedy that’s occurred on her first day on the job, she’s also trying to deal with the detritus of her own personal life.

As the reader is swept along by all the twists in this well constructed psychological thriller, we also get a shocking look at the mob mentality that’s so easily fuelled by the negative use of social media. Even those who mean well can’t help but be overwhelmed by that crowd influence. In fact, the use of social media and its damning effects are demonstrated throughout the book. Chapters are interspersed with blog posts from The ThreeWiseMonkeys Blog (subtitled ‘Telling it Like it is’), and Facebook posts from a page set up purely to incite – we see the escalating anger as the number of posts increases, and how the voices of reason (very much in the minority) are completely ignored, no matter how hard they attempt to calm the waters.

Susi Holliday has once again created a cast of characters, some of whom are likeable, some not so much. All of them though, are visibly just trying to do their best to make it through each day with the cards they’ve been dealt. Some decisions they make may not be the best ones, and we are clearly shown the consequences of these.  We also get an understanding of the pain that’s so often caused by making snap judgements about people without really knowing them.

This is a fast-paced read … one of those ‘just one more chapter’ books! I highly recommend it.

Thanks so much to Helen Boyce and the TBC Review Group and Susi Holliday for sending me an advance copy of this book in return for an honest review.

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BOOK REVIEW – Duplicity by Sibel Hodge

duplicityOh my very goodness!!! I don’t remember the last time I flew through a book like this! This one ticks all the boxes for a psychological thriller that you just can’t put down. Fast-paced, tons of ‘OMG’ moments, and with enough twists and turns to ensure you’ll need a good physiotherapist to see you right when you’re done!

Max and Alissa Burbeck are the perfect couple: wealthy and gorgeous, they’re the newly-weds who have the world at their feet … until one night an intruder murders Max, inexplicably leaving Alissa to escape unscathed. Who would have wanted him dead? And why didn’t they kill her too?

These are questions that are left for DS Warren Carter (although I must say it took a few chapters for his first name to be mentioned and I wasn’t sure if he was male or female!) to find answers to. Carter has his own demons to deal with – he’s still trying to overcome the loss of his wife to cancer roughly a year ago, and he’s bitter about being passed over for promotion due to a previous case where palms were greased, stopping the true criminals from being brought to book.

And along the way he needs to deal with a preening superior, an obsessive ex-boyfriend (not his own, Alissa’s!), a depressed colleague, and a distraught widow and a band of friends determined to protect her. Throw in an ecological cover-up, hidden jealousy and a mysterious childhood of horrific abuse, which could only lead to the victim becoming a sociopath of epic proportions … but who could it be?

Hodge keeps the action going at a cracking pace. You might have to suspend belief a teensy bit, but hey, it’s fiction, so just go with it! She doesn’t leave anything to chance, and ties it all up very neatly with no loose ends at all. Her characters are well-rounded and she cleverly shows you exactly what she wants you to see of each of their personalities – you’ll only catch on to that afterwards though!

If you’re looking for something that you just can’t put down, then this one’s for you! 5 big shiny stars from me!

Many thanks to THE Book Club (reviewers group) and the author for my copy of this book in return for my honest review.

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BOOK REVIEW – The Devil’s Work by Mark Edwards

the-devils-workSophie Greenwood has decided that the time is right to return to work after taking time off to be a full-time mom to 4-year old Daisy. She’s found her dream job at Jackdaw Publishing (I even found the name a bit sinister), but on day one, she has an unnerving experience. If she thinks that it’s just an isolated incident, she’s sorely mistaken, and so begins a well-constructed meandering tale in which Sophie (and the reader) is led further and further into a frightening and confusing maze of deceit that trails back further than she could have imagined.

Set in the offices of a publishing company (which in itself will intrigue any avid reader), the insular workplace environment will be familiar to anyone who’s ever worked closely with a team of colleagues. The back-biting, the wrong-footing, the gossiping … it’s all there, magnified to the maximum levels! And when you’re the ‘new girl’ you feel like everyone’s out to get you, except this time, maybe someone really is!

As the book alternates between Sophie’s, increasingly fragmenting current life, and her very obviously complex past, we realise that something is most definitely off-balance in Sophie’s world. How is she going to reconcile with her past so that she has any chance of having any type of future, let alone a happy one?

I’m sure Mark Edwards must have whiplash from the razor-sharp twists and turns he incorporates into every single one of his acclaimed psychological thrillers. This one certainly doesn’t miss the mark. There’s a reason why he has a loyal following, which I’m sure is about to increase in numbers with this new addition.

If you’re a lover of plot-twists a-plenty, surprises galore, and a good game of guessing whodunit then you’ve come to the right place. This book delivers all of these, and then some! I can highly recommend it, but maybe not at night, or when you’re home alone!

Many thanks to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for my advance copy.

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BOOK REVIEW – My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry

My Husband's Wife - Jane CorryThis is a breath-taking psychological thriller told in two parts, and from two different perspectives: Lily’s and Carla’s.

The story opens with Lily, a fairly young, recently married, newly employed lawyer, who’s off to a maximum security prison to interview Joe Thomas who’s appealing his life sentence for brutally murdering his girlfriend. I must say my first thoughts were to wonder why such a young, inexperienced lawyer would have been given a case like this, but I suppose one never knows. We learn that Joe is on the Asperger’s spectrum and his previous counsel had insufficient understanding of his condition, which lead to his conviction and sentencing, hence his appeal.

Lily is not a confident person – not within herself (she’s consciously overweight), her career or even her barely begun marriage. Her husband Ed is an up and coming artist (with a day job in advertising – one must pay the bills) with all the mood-swings, drinking and drama that go with it. Their romance was brief and Ed’s proposal when it came was somewhat of a surprise, albeit a welcome one. So Lily hasn’t quite gotten used to being part of a married couple yet and doesn’t feel that they’re on a comfortable footing. She realises though, that they should be a lot happier than they actually are, and wonders why they aren’t. She knows she’s got her own very well hidden secrets that she’s not quite ready to reveal, and realises that Ed might very well have some of his own too, which leads her to believe that maybe rushing into this marriage might not have been as wonderful as she originally thought.

The strain of Lily’s high profile case starts to take its toll as does Ed’s increasing misery with having to work at a job he can’t bear while failing to achieve his goals in the art world. Things start to become even more unbearable when he decides to quit his job to focus on his art full-time. The tension between them increases and an ultimatum is issued.

Watching them carefully is 10-year-old Carla, the unhappy little Italian girl who lives in the next door apartment with her Mamma, Francesca. She’s bullied at school for being different and she hates not having the same things as the other kids, but there just isn’t any money for luxuries. Most of all, she hates not having a father, but Francesca has told her that her father died. Carla manages to manipulate herself into Ed and Lily’s lives and more and more often they find themselves looking after her when her Mamma has to work late, or on weekends.

And then … it’s fifteen years later. Lily is now a confident, successful partner at her law firm; Ed finally achieved fame some years back, but it was short-lived and he’s constantly trying to replicate it. He and Lily are still together. Carla is a law student returning to London from Italy where she and her Mamma had been forced to return when things got too difficult for them living in London. She’s determined to find her old neighbours and get back from them what she feels is her fair due: her share of the money that Ed earned from the sale of a painting many years previously; a painting he did of her as a child, the painting that launched his career.

As you delve into the deep, dark, layers of these profoundly flawed characters, you’d better buckle up for the roller-coaster ride of your life. It starts off slow, and then builds up before taking you on the most convoluted, complex journey with some rather twisted individuals. And this is where Corry shines. She’s created characters who really aren’t likeable … at all! In fact, I don’t think I liked a single one of the central protagonists in her story: Lily, Ed, Joe, Carla, Francesca – they’re all not very nice. But they are all very real. And by starting out in the year 2000, and then jumping ahead to 2015, Corry has filled them out extremely successfully so that we’re able to gain a full understanding to what makes them tick. I think that the author shows incredible talent in having created these unpleasant people while still maintaining the reader’s interest in the story, regardless of their awfulness!

The intricacies of the criminal activity here are so cleverly back-tracked and tied together, that I was literally gasping at the skill with which it was all accomplished (both the writing, and the actual crime)! In fact, once I’d finished the book I think I tweeted something to the effect of “Oh my very goodness!” I was that awed by it all!

So 5 stars from me. It’s really extremely good, I highly recommend it (maybe keep the lights on and check behind doors and under the beds) and I can’t wait to read whatever’s next from Jane Corry.

Many thanks to THE Book Club (FB) and NetGalley for my copy of this book in return for my honest review.

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