Tag Archives: #psychologicalthriller

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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BOOK REVIEW – Play Dead by Angela Marsons

Play DeadMany thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture for my advance copy of this book in return for my honest review.

Picking up a Kim Stone book is like catching up with an old friend who you haven’t seen for a while. You’re immediately comfortable with each other, and you pick up right where you left off. That’s exactly how I felt as soon as I started reading Play Dead.

Angela Marsons has created a complex character in Kim; someone with a horrific background, who’s managed to create some sort of a life for herself, while attempting to keep these dark recollections boxed somewhere in a corner of her memory. With each new instalment of her books, Marsons uncovers a little bit more of Stone’s dark past, and scratches away some more of the hard shell she’s created to protect herself.

This time Kim and her trusted team are off to a body farm, well actually it’s a type of reward for work well done! For most of us, it doesn’t bear thinking about, but for people in their line of work, it’s just one more way to get some more experience in their already complex field. How exactly do researchers and CSI’s discover what they know about bodies and decomposition – well they learn all about stuff like that here at Westerley research facility. Except that they’re meant to learn it from old bodies in differing stages of decay, so when a brand new body turns up on the premises, things take a turn for the peculiar. Then another fresh body is discovered and it seems a serial killer is on the loose dumping bodies at the facility, which is meant to be a secret location and unknown to any members of the public.

The team is under pressure to keep the entire case under wraps – here comes Kim’s nemesis, nosy journalist Tracy Frost, who just knows how to press all of Kim’s buttons. But this time, something just doesn’t sit right. Why is Tracy bugging Kim about a cold case from years ago? It’s niggling at Kim and it just won’t go away. So in her usual stubborn way Kim attempts to work on the two cases in parallel, against the wishes of her boss and against serious opposition from the internal powers that be.

And the body count rises.

Once again, Angela Marsons manages to maintain, if not improve on, the incredibly high standard that Kim Stone fans have come to expect and anticipate. This is a fast-paced page-turner, and a welcome addition to an absolutely addictive series!

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BOOK REVIEW – Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica

Don't You CryMany thanks to NetGalley and the publisher, Harlequin UK for my advance copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Quinn Collins is at a bit of a loss when she realises that her reliable, dependable flatmate, Esther, seems to have inexplicably disappeared from their Chicago apartment one Saturday night. Quinn, being slightly scatterbrained and not quite as grounded as Esther, isn’t quite sure what to do about this strange turn of events. She depends on Esther to keep her centered, well actually she depends on Esther for most things! In fact, she’s not even sure what to eat without her friend there. Actually, initially, she’s not even sure Esther’s really disappeared. Surely someone so sensible and down-to-earth wouldn’t do something like that? But as the hours stretch on, Quinn slowly realises that this is indeed the case. She decides that maybe if she takes a look through Esther’s belongings, she might find out something that will hint at where she’s gone, and why. As she does this, she becomes increasingly aware of the fact that she knows very little about someone who she considers to be her best friend!

Not far from Chicago, a young man named Alex is living a simple life in a small town where not much appears to happen. But as with most small towns there are secrets, and the odd legend or two. Everyone knows that Alex had great potential when he was in school, but because his mom left when he was still just a small boy and his dad is the town drunk, Alex has stayed home washing dishes in the local diner and doing various other chores for whoever might need them in his immediate neighbourhood. He’s pretty much on a road to nowhere, until he becomes intrigued by a beautiful stranger who walks into the diner one day.

Told from the alternating perspectives of Quinn and Alex, this is a slow-burning psychological thriller. Don’t expect fast-paced, page-turning action. This is one of those cunning, crafty, deftly woven stories that insinuates itself into your mind until you’re so absorbed that everything else tends to fade away!

As Quinn learns more and more about Esther, she questions everything she thought she knew about her, and in turn, so does the reader. And as Alex pursues his mystery lady, we wonder if he’ll find the type of happiness he thinks he’s looking for.

I enjoyed reading Quinn’s story more than Alex’s purely because I think I related to the city perspective more than the small-town point of view. But I did find the telling of Alex’s side beautifully atmospheric – in a Twin Peaks kind of way!

It took me a while to truly find my way into Don’t You Cry, but once I did I was hooked! 4 stars from me.

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