Blog Tour – August 2022 – All The Wicked Games – Lauren North

This is your first Lauren North psychological thriller – how did you find it?

OMG! It may be my first, but I can certainly assure you it won’t be my last! Nerve-shredding, nail-biting, high-stakes, mega-tense – yes, this book will put you the psychological wringer – in the best possible way, of course! The only real disappointment? That I’ve finished it…

So spill the beans – who and what is this book you found so fabulous all about?

It’s about two women in their mid-twenties, Cleo and Rachel, and is set in alternating chapters: some from both girls, and set five years ago. Back then, they’d not long studied make-up artistry together, and became best friends, living in a shared house in Bethnal Green in London owned by Simon. He inherited the house and lets out the rooms, whilst also living in his own converted flat within the house, when he isn’t working away.

Cleo and Rachel work on a make-up counter in Selfridges (which Rachel in particular really dislikes, and does little to hide it), looking out for jobs in television, film, etc in the meantime. At night, skint, they eat and drink cheap food and wine, and, fuelled by the latter, practice their make up skills on each other and go on a website called CamChat, which is a (supposedly) random online site where you can meet new people. You can choose to skip (as they do, when it comes to the numerous pervy blokes), or chat until one of the two parties wants to skip, but the algorithm is meant to be designed so that you don’t run into the same people again – after all, of all the people in the world supposedly using it at any point in time, what would be the chances of running into the same person or people again, on another occasion? Miniscule, right? However, what the girls don’t know is that a feature of the algorithm means that the longer you speak to someone, the higher the chance you’ll be matched again. And because they play what they call, “the game,” making themselves up using their skills with cosmetics, then telling elaborate lies to the people they meet, something really bad eventually happens, due to this unexpected feature of the algorithm, and their propensity for screwing people around and telling lies (Rachel is definitely the keener of the two on CamChat, until it eventually begins to impinge on real life.)

And so what’s happening now, five years on…?

Well, due to that really bad thing happening – the full details of which we don’t get until a good bit through the book, but suffice to say it involves the police – Cleo and Rachel’s lives have taken different paths. Cleo is working as a spa manager on a cruise ship, while Rachel is still in London, living in the same room in the same flat; even driving the same car. They were no longer in touch – until, when the book begins, Cleo receives a text from Beth, Rachel’s sister, saying that Rachel was missing, and had she seen her…? Rachel had told her sister they were back in touch, and were planning to meet up – the very night Rachel disappeared.

Despite both her sister and Cleo reporting her as a missing person, the police refuse to believe she’s done anything rather than gone somewhere of her own volition, and class her disappearance as “low risk.” So it looks like Cleo is her only hope.

And – don’t tell me! – this game of theirs is somehow involved, isn’t it?

It certainly is – and this time someone else is will be deciding what the rules are…and for Cleo to find Rachel, it looks like The Game is the only clue she has. Despite her reluctance to get involved again, and her fear, it appears to be her only way forward.

They survived before, but not without scars – both mental and physical. This time, will they survive the new version of the game…?

Sounds like a great plot! It kept you reading then?

It’s an absolutely superb plot, and it certainly kept me turning pages late into the night, as well as any spare moments I could find during the day. It’s that sort of book – the one you just do not want to put down!

It’s an absolutely perfect example of a psychological thriller – a market which is saturated, but this is superior to 99% of them. I am most definitely going to have to invest in Lauren North’s earlier novels. I can’t believe I haven’t heard of her before now (but that gives me the bonus of a backlist of four previous novels! Yay!)

I only hope this book is as successful as it deserves to be.

This will absolutely be one of my favourite books of 2022 – without question!

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for the blog tour invitation, and to Penguin Random House for the ARC. This has not affected my review of this book, which reflects my honest opinion.

Author Lauren North

Check out the other fabulous bloggers’ views on All The Wicked Games!

BLURB: Are you ready to play?
Best friends Cleo and Rachel spend their evenings pretending to be people they’re not, inventing elaborate stories to escape the monotony of their real lives. It’s all harmless fun – until they play the game on the wrong person…
It’s your move now.

Five years later, Cleo is still struggling to come to terms with the night that destroyed her friendship with Rachel and almost cost them their lives. And then she receives a text: Rachel is missing. Have you seen her?
There’s only one person to blame.
Wracked with guilt for failing Rachel the last time they were in danger, Cleo races to find her friend. But could the past be repeating itself? Only this time, they’re caught up in a far darker game.
The rules don’t matter when the goal is revenge.

Blog Tour – July 2022 – Hostage – Clare Mackintosh

So – the latest Clare Mackintosh! An author whose first couple of books you read and loved; you’ve got all the others in your TBR pile. How did Hostage measure up?

Oh my goodness! I’ve been looking at a lot of the books I own and have read, and – to paraphrase Crocodile Dundee – thinking, “That’s not a book! This is a book!” (meaning, of course, Hostage!) I’ve got to admit – embarrassingly – I’d sort of forgotten how damn good Clare Mackintosh is at the little details that build up into a great book. She’s quite brilliant at the minutiae that builds up to make everyday lives, and fill her books, and their characters, with such a strong sense of authenticity.

Hostage is about an air stewardess who’s on the inaugural non-stop London to Sydney 20-hour flight, and is threatened by an anonymous hijacker who wants her help bringing down the plane – or they’ll kill her daughter. Is that the plot, in a nutshell?

Absolutely – and what a fabulous premise, in one sentence, that is, isn’t it? It makes for a tense as hell situation; one which has you pondering exactly what you would do in her position at many points in the novel. And the fact that the vast majority of the book is set on the flight makes it as claustrophobic as hell too! Occasionally books set mainly in one space can get a little bit dull, or same-y, but not this one – Mackintosh manages to keep you turning the pages long past your bedtime! Not that that should be a surprise to the army of fans she’s built up over the last few years.

Tell us a little bit about Mina, the stewardess and central character…

Obsessed about aeroplanes from an early age, Mina has her dream job. Her family is police officer Alan – who comes across as shifty from the very start; my instant thought was, “affair,” and it seems like that’s what Mina thought too as they’ve recently taken to sleeping in separate rooms. The only reason they haven’t actually separated is because adopted daughter Sophia has “separation anxiety,” amongst a host of other psychological difficulties. These two are pretty much Mina’s world, as obviously her job takes up most of the rest of her life. It also keeps her sane, as Sophia is a pretty demanding child – and so takes up most of the rest of it. But she utterly loves her daughter, that’s clear.

What would be your selling line to readers thinking of picking up Hostage be?

Buckle up for take off! And hold on tight – you’re in for a hell of a trip! (And clear your diary before you begin reading…) Actually, that’s three lines – here’s a fourth: Hostage is all killer, no filler.

Go and buy or borrow this book now! It’s the perfect summer read!

I’d like to thank Anne Cater at Random Things Tours and Compulsive Readers for the invitation to participate in this blog tour, and Sphere Books for the ARC. That has in no in way affected my opinion of the book, and this is an honest review.

Author Clare Mackintosh

Follow all the other wonderful bloggers taking part in this Blog Tour!

BLURB: You can save hundreds of lives. Or the one that matters most.

A claustrophobic thriller set over twenty hours on one airplane flight, with the heart-stopping tension of The Last Flight and the wrenching emotional intensity of Room, Hostage takes us on board the inaugural nonstop flight from London to Sydney.

Mina is trying to focus on her job as a flight attendant, not the problems of her five-year-old daughter back home, or the fissures in her marriage. But the plane has barely taken off when Mina receives a chilling note from an anonymous passenger, someone intent on ensuring the plane never reaches its destination. Someone who needs Mina’s assistance and who knows exactly how to make her comply.

It’s twenty hours to landing. A lot can happen in twenty hours.

Blog Tour – June 2022 – The Other Guest – Helen Cooper

So – a psychological thriller with two protagonists; one in Derby, one in Lake Garda, Italy. How did you enjoy The Other Guest?

I absolutely adored it! It kept me up late on more than one night, and I absolutely flew through it (and I’m not the fastest reader – plus some of the meds I’m on for nerve damage cause me to fall asleep and wake up sitting up, with specs on and a cold hot chocolate next to me!) The Italian setting, particularly, was heavenly sounding – an exclusive resort, run by a glamorous family. But, it being a psychological thriller, there were secrets lurking behind the facade – as was the case in Derby, too…

Tell us a little bit about the basic storyline, and the two characters who propel the plot along…

It’s really about the death by drowning of Amy, one of the daughters of the family who run the highly exclusive resort set on a remote part of the shores of Lake Garda. The book is set a year after her death, and it’s the first time since before it happened that her aunt, Leah, has felt able to return to see her sister Charlotte, brother-in-law Gordon, and remaining niece Olivia, who all run the resort. Leah’s very different to the glamorous Charlotte and Olivia – she was more similar to Amy, who wanted more from life than running the resort. Leah’s a successful lawyer, and enjoys pushing herself with fell running and other sporty pursuits.

The other character, in Derby, is Joanna, who works as a university counsellor. She’s just recovering after a painful breakup with Luke, who she’d bought a “forever house” with before their relationship inexplicably imploded, with Luke ending it. She meets a barman, Callum, who’s just arrived in Derby, knowing no-one, and started work in a pub close to her new home she occasionally drops into. Like all the best barmen, he’s a great listener, and so the two become friends. But Joanna’s somewhat shocked to be summoned to the hospital after Callum is involved in a hit-and-run, leaving him with broken ribs and covered in bruises. Joanna feels somewhat railroaded by the busy hospital into allowing him to move into her spare room…until it occurs to her that she really doesn’t know this man at all. Who is the stranger she has allowed to move into her home?

And in Italy…?

“Auntie Lee,” as she was known by both her nieces, is continuing her investigation into Amy’s death, by, amongst other things, questioning her friends in the nearby village. But her brother-in-law Gordon is trying to intimidate her into dropping her investigation, seemingly more concerned for the PR of the resort – or has he another reason for getting her to drop it? And someone in the household steals photos and a SIM card given to her by Amy’s best friend, and replaces them with photos of Leah taken around the heavily camera-ed resort – along with a threat to drop her investigation into Amy’s death…

It’s not difficult to see where the two situations dovetail – it’s not intended to be, but, beyond that, Helen Cooper keeps you guessing beautifully…the sinister background behind the beautiful and luxurious facade of the resort is wonderfully portrayed, as is Joanna’s growing unease at Callum’s residency in her home. What does he want from her? She realises how much she’s isolated herself, and how naive her behaviour would look to any friends or family. Is she just jumping at shadows, and there’s really nothing threatening about Callum? And she then runs into her ex-partner Luke, and is shocked at how much weight he has lost and how ill he looks…

It all sounds very dramatic…

It is, wonderfully so, like all the best psychological thrillers. And, also like them, you’re jumping ahead, guessing at possible outcomes – and if you’re like me, you’ll get them all wrong! The book suggests that Helen Cooper is an author to keep your eye on – and this book is the perfect summer read. (I’ll also be seeking out her debut, The Downstairs Neighbour.)

Perfect holiday reading!

Thanks to Hodder and Stoughton for my proof copy. This is an unbiased review and reflects my true opinion of the novel.

BLURB: After a shocking death at a luxurious Italian resort, two very different women must question everything—and everyone—they love in order to untangle truth from lies in this twisty, captivating read.

One year ago, Leah’s feisty 21-year-old niece, Amy, mysteriously drowned in the beautiful lake near her family-owned resort in Northern Italy. Now, Leah’s grief has caught up with her, and she decides to return to Lake Garda for the first time since Amy’s death. What she finds upon her arrival shocks her—her sister, brother-in-law, and surviving niece, Olivia, seem to have erased all memories of Amy, and fought to have her death declared an accidental drowning, despite murky circumstances. Leah knows she must look beyond the resort’s beautiful façade and uncover what truly happened to Amy, even if her digging places both her family ties and her very life in danger.

Meanwhile in Central England, thirtysomething Joanna is recovering from a surprising break-up when she is swept off her feet by a handsome bartender. But when she learns that he is on the run from something in his past, and that their meeting may not have been a coincidence, Joanna realized that he may just a bit too good to be true.

What follows is a propulsive cat-and mouse game set against the Italian lakeside as the two seemingly-unconnected women are caught up in a dangerous conspiracy.

Blog Tour – June 2022 – The Loyal Friend – A.A. Chaudhuri

There’s nothing I enjoy better than a psychological thriller that keeps you guessing…

And The Loyal Friend is certainly that – it’s a story about four women (psychological thrillers generally are, aren’t they? Men are much less complicated, although there are exceptions, obviously! I’m instantly thinking of Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley as an example.) There’s Jade, who’s an instructor at a fitness class three times a week, and the story concerns three regulars at these classes: Grace, Natalie, and Susan. Jade seems almost perfect – she’s generous, has lots of friends, is attractive, and just a generally lovely person. So why on earth would someone engineer her disappearance – possibly murder? And could it be one of her (so-called!) friends? I must say, I loved the tagline for this book – “She has your back. And may stab you in it.” It perfectly sums up this book, which I whizzed through, putting off all sorts of chores to read just…one…more…chapter… And isn’t that so the definition of a really juicy psychological thriller…?!

So spill the beans on this disappearance…

When one day Jade doesn’t turn up to take her usual class, Natalie seems the only one concerned enough to call round on her. Her car is outside but, getting no reply, Natalie uses keys she has to let herself in. There’s no sign of Jade, but there’s blood in her bathroom and an abandoned mobile.

DI Donovan Bailey and DS Javid Singh are given the case, and the story unwinds with chapters told from the perspective of the four main characters. The three class members are very different. Susan is pampered, spoilt, and likes to boast about her easy life, in which she pays people to do all the awkward things in life. She’s easy to dislike. Natalie is in her late 20s, works in a library and has little confidence, but is finding her life is getting better under Jade’s encouragement to come to the fitness class, which is helping her lose weight. Grace is somewhat put upon – she tries to be a devoted wife and mother, as well as caring for an elderly parent, but is struggling to keep it all together – understandably. They make an unusual loose group of friends, but that could all unravel with Jade’s disappearance, as her class was the reason for this friendship.

And all the women have secrets, don’t they?

They have indeed – and they definitely don’t want them revealed! And when rumours spread that Jade has a diary where she writes everything she hears, the trio are worried that their secrets will not stay hidden for much longer. But does one of them have a secret that’s so explosive it’s worth killing to keep under wraps…?

Wow! This really does sound like a cracking psychological thriller!

Believe me, it is! It’s been a flooded market since Gone Girl, but this is one of the most compelling psychological thrillers I’ve read for a long time! A.A. Chaudhari wrote the well-received She’s Mine, and is a name to seek out if you’re a fan of books that keep you guessing – and changing your mind, and guessing again – until the very last page…!

Superb stuff! Clear your diary!

I received an eARC courtesy of Hera Books and Netgalley, but it has not affected my opinion of this book, and this is an honest review.

BLURB: She has your back.

And may stab you in it.

Wealthy, pampered Susan is living the perfect life in leafy Kingston. She’ll never let anyone see the darkness she’s concealing behind the diamonds and rosé.

Grace is new to the group, seemingly the perfect wife and mum. Yet no one knows the truth of what’s happening behind closed doors.

Loner Natalie hides the pain of her childhood behind a carefully ordered life. But how long can the past stay hidden?

Three unlikely friends, brought together for a weekly class run by beautiful, friendly, instructor, Jade.

But when Jade goes missing in mysterious circumstances, the group starts to unravel. And as their darkest secrets come to light, it seems that no one can be trusted. Even their closest friends…

June 2022 – Blog Tour – Believe Me Not – Natalie Chandler

This looks rather exciting – tell me more about that dramatic tagline, “They say your baby isn’t real. But you know he is.” That piques your interest straight away, doesn’t it?

It so does, doesn’t it? So, here’s the beginning – Megan wakes up in hospital. She knows she’s had a baby – she even has a caesarean scar, and she also has a name – Luka – for the child, as well as fractured memories! However, she soon begins to realise that this isn’t a hospital for physical ailments, but a psychiatric hospital – she’s had a psychotic break.

So, what’s happened to Luka then? Where is he?

Well, this is the premise of the entire book – everyone else denies his existence. There’s Stef, her husband; Sophia, her sister: Dr Mac, the hospital doctor; Gemma, the nurse…and Megan’s told the “caeserean scar” is actually the result of a hysterectomy, which is sort of plausible….

Is the story told entirely from Megan’s perspective?

No, there is some background told from Stef’s viewpoint, where we learn about his twin brother Isaac.

So who’s telling the truth? Has Megan had some kind of breakdown, or are some – or all – of the people in her life lying to her? If so, why??

That’s the thing with psychological thrillers – you’ve got to try to figure out who to believe! I found certain characters somewhat shifty, but then I started thinking, is this just the author manipulating me to think this way, as a red herring? Because you have to have a few of these in any good psychological thriller! Stef, and Dr Mac particularly, seemed the most dodgy, but Sophia, Megan’s sister, had plenty of problems in her own background – are these relevant, though, I found myself asking myself. She has a daughter too – Amelia.

The big question – did you enjoy this book? And would you recommend it?

I did enjoy it, although it took me a little while to switch from my “police procedural” head – I’ve clearly been reading too many of these recently, when in the not-so-distant past I was reading mostly psychological thrillers! The author’s background in psychiatric medicine means the topic of mental illness was treated realistically – in my (layman’s) opinion – but sympathetically. The book really sped up towards the last third or quarter, and kept me on my toes – not that it was slow-moving previously, but you did notice it shifting up a gear towards the climax!

All-in-all, it was a really promising debut, and I’ll definitely be looking out for the next novel by Natalie Chandler. A thoroughly enjoying way to spend my time while I enjoyed my hot chocolate last week!

A very promising debut psychological thriller, recommended for fans of this genre!

With thanks to Headline Publishing for inviting me on this Blog Tour, and for the ARC. This in no way affected my opinion and this is an unbiased review.

Follow all the other wonderful bloggers on the rest of this Blog Tour!

BLURB: What if everyone you love is lying to you?

When Megan wakes up in a hospital bed, her first question is: where’s my baby?

But her husband, her sister, and her doctor said he doesn’t exist.

Megan’s not in a maternity ward, she’s in a psychiatric unit.

Convinced that they’re lying to her, Megan is determined to find out the truth.

But how can you prove your baby exists when you can’t trust your own memories?

An utterly chilling psychological thriller with a heart-stopping twist.

Blog Tour – January 2022 -Deception – Helen Forbes

That’s Edinburgh on the cover, if I’m not mistaken! I take it this is one of crimeworm’s favourite things – a Scottish-set novel…?

It is indeed! It’s probably best described as a psychological thriller, and is about several different characters, the main one of which is Lily. She’s engaged to Nathan, who’s abusive and has a rich, but rather unpleasant family, particularly his mother and sister. Frankly, I can’t understand what attracted her to him, nor why she stays with him, but he sounds fairly attractive, on the outside at least, and must have been able to turn on the charm at one time. She comes across as a bit of a lost soul, with only one good friend, Julie, who’s helping her to escape the clutches of her horrible fiancée, taking with her their toddler son, Ronan.

Who else is in the picture?

Well, there’s PC David Gunn, a really nice police officer from the Outer Hebrides who has a bit of a crush on Lily, and she likes him too, but probably only as a friend. He knows Lily’s fiancée, and knows he’s a bad lot, but not to what extent.

There’s also Sam, a homeless man who Lily’s become friendly with, and always stops for a chat with on the street. He’s concerned for Lily’s welfare, too, but in his situation, there’s little practical help he can give her.

So what happens with Lily and Nathan?

The night Lily’s preparing to leave him, Nathan returns home early. Later that night he disappears, and Lily wakes up in hospital, unable to remember what had happened due to a head injury. There is, however, evidence of Nathan being attacked in their home. Was Lily responsible? Or was someone else who Nathan was involved with in some way – a dodgy business associate, perhaps? – behind his disappearance? And is he even still alive? These are the questions we have to be answered in Deception.

Did you enjoy the book?

I did actually – very much. It’s always nice to come across a place familiar to you in a book, and Edinburgh was well-portrayed as the small-ish city it is very well. The characters, and their relationships to each other, were quite intriguing, and I couldn’t wait to see what would happen to them all – and see if everyone got the ending they deserved. Helen Forbes is a promising up-and-coming Scottish writer, and I’ll definitely be looking out for more of her work. She has a great understanding of the relationships between people, and how they work.

Thoroughly recommended!

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in the Blog Tour, and also to Scolpaig Press for my signed copy of the book!

BLURB: Lily Anderson has it all. A beautiful son, a wealthy fiancé, and a luxury apartment in Edinburgh. But Lily is living a lie. Estranged from her family, she’s tired of covering up the truth about her relationship with Nathan Collesso.

Lily’s not the only one with troubles. Her friend, Sam, is being pursued mercilessly by a rogue cop determined to silence him. Living on the streets, Sam sees and knows too much.

As Lily’s wedding approaches, a desperate bid to escape leaves her with a head injury and a missing fiancé. Did she harm Nathan? Did she kill him? She can’t remember.

The net tightens, entangling Lily and Sam in a web of deception that stretches from Edinburgh to Poland. Hard truths come to light, and every decision Lily has made since the day she met Nathan Collesso comes back to haunt her.

One false move, and she could lose her son, her friends and her life…

Book Review – January 2022 – A Slow Fire Burning – Paula Hawkins

So, the follow-up to the deservedly massive The Girl On The Train and Into The Water…how is it? Bloody brilliant, if you’ll excuse my language! It’s not such a straightforward whodunit as her debut – it’s a slower, character-driven book portraying a small community around the Regent’s Canal area of London.

But I’m assuming it’s still crime fiction…

It is indeed, and is about the murder of a young man whose body is found on a houseboat on the Regent’s Canal. His name is Daniel, and during the course of the book we are introduced to a community of people who all know – or know of – most of the others in one way or another, even if it’s just by sight. The girl he slept with, the woman in the next houseboat, his aunt, his uncle, his recently deceased mother’s neighbour – they all inhabit this book, and are exceptionally well-drawn characters. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them, and the reveal at the end of the book almost comes as a disappointment, as you’ve enjoyed getting to know the characters so well!

What about the police officers? Sounds like they take second place in this one…

They rather do – it’s not that they aren’t interesting in their own right, but you get the impression they’re there mainly to move along the story of the residents who live around this stretch of the Regent’s Canal, and who, by coincidence, have lives that intertwine in one way or another. It’s a really effective whodunit, and will only increase Hawkins’ reputation as a writer of many talents – originality being one of the most striking ones.

Don’t miss this one!

With thanks to Alison Barrow and all at Doubleday Publishing for the ARC.

BLURB: What is wrong with you?’

Laura has spent most of her life being judged. She’s seen as hot-tempered, troubled, a loner. Some even call her dangerous.

Miriam knows that just because Laura is witnessed leaving the scene of a horrific murder with blood on her clothes, that doesn’t mean she’s a killer. Bitter experience has taught her how easy it is to get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Carla is reeling from the brutal murder of her nephew. She trusts no one: good people are capable of terrible deeds. But how far will she go to find peace?

Innocent or guilty, everyone is damaged. Some are damaged enough to kill.

Look what you started.

Blog Tour – September 2021 – Dark Things I Adore – Katie Lattari

So – Dark Things I Adore! Intriguing title! What’s this one all about?

Well, we couldn’t be further from Berlin in WWII, as we were a couple of days ago! This books skips between 1988 and the present day, and is primarily set in rural Maine.

So first of all, what’s the 1988 section about?

It’s about a rural art school-cum-camp, with cabins for the pupils and teachers to live in, and it’s run by a man called Old Gus, who gives everyone nature-inspired names, starting with the same initial as their real name – so we have Moss, Mantis, Coral, Zephyr…you get the picture. A couple of the characters are from the local area and work in the camp – one of them, Coral, has ambitions of going to art school herself.

And what about the portion set in the present day?

It involves Audra Colfax, a graduating student, taking Professor Max Durant, up to her home (in rural Maine also) to view her thesis work. But Audra has, shall we say, curated their weekend together very carefully, and has big plans for her highly esteemed professor.

And what do his plans for the weekend involve?

To be crude, he wants to bed Audra – and you get the impression she won’t be the first of his students who ends up in his bed, should he succeed. But he may have underestimated his young protegé…

And Audra’s plans?

Well, she has some kind of revenge planned for Professor Durant – and it has something to do with 1988, or at least begins with the events of 1988…

So you say the book moves between the past and present?

Yes, gradually teasing out the events of that summer in Maine, then the weekend in the present day, beautifully dropping hints and clues along the way. I cannot stress how expertly Lattari teases her readers, keeping them guessing as to what happened in 1988, why Audra is so invested in it, and what exactly she wants Max to pay for – and how.

So it would be fair to say you enjoyed this novel?

That is underestimating things just a bit! I was blown away with the skill Lattari had in keeping control of the material, teasing it out…The characters in the camp are just as intriguing as Audra and Max, although it took me a little longer to grasp exactly who they all were, and so to warm to them. But I enjoyed both parts equally, which is unusual – in books where you skip between two different time frames, you generally find you end up preferring reading one. Not so here. I was equally glued to both stories as the author expertly unwound her tale.

What can you tell us about the author?

It’s only her second book – although I’ll be going in search of her debut, American Vaudeville, from 2016, as soon as I’ve finished this review. Katie Lattari is definitely a young author to keep an eye on. I actually opened this book without reading any blurb or the press release that arrived with it, which is really unusual for me, and I was instantly, totally smitten. I really cannot give higher praise than emphasise how quickly this book sucked me in, and kept me engrossed until I finished it – as I said to Sarah, the publicist at Titan Books, I was literally carrying it – or my phone, as I’d emailed her to ask for the Netgalley widget so I could download it on to it – everywhere with me. Everywhere! I lived and breathed this book while I read it – I can’t imagine many books this year beating it! Sarah Weinman, who is a goddess in the US – and to me! – when it comes to crime fiction, gave it a cracking review in the mighty New York Times very recently.

So that’s two 5-star books in a row! Things are good on your bookshelves at the moment!

And there’s more to come – there are some more great blog tours I hope you’ll join me for here at crimeworm, as well as some other belters of Autumn books I hope to squeeze in a review of!

Many thanks to Sarah at Titan Books for inviting me to participate in this blog tour, and for sending me a proof copy. This in no way influenced my review of this book.

BLURB: A psychological thriller for fans of Lucy Foley and Liz Moore, Dark Things I Adore is a stunning Gone Girl-esque tale of atonement that proves that in the grasp of manipulative men, women may momentarily fall. But in the hands of fierce women, men will be brought to their knees.

Three campfire secrets. Two witnesses. One dead in the trees. And the woman, thirty years later, bent on making the guilty finally pay.

1988. A group of outcasts gather at a small, prestigious arts camp nestled in the Maine woods. They’re the painters: bright, hopeful, teeming with potential. But secrets and dark ambitions rise like smoke from a campfire, and the truths they tell will come back to haunt them in ways more deadly than they dreamed.

2018. Esteemed art professor Max Durant arrives at his protégé’s remote home to view her graduate thesis collection. He knows Audra is beautiful and brilliant. He knows being invited into her private world is a rare gift. But he doesn’t know that Audra has engineered every aspect of their weekend together. Every detail, every conversation. Audra has woven the perfect web.

Only Audra knows what happened that summer in 1988. Max’s secret, and the dark things that followed. And even though it won’t be easy, Audra knows someone must pay.

A searing thriller of trauma, dark academia, complicity, and revenge, Dark Things I Adore unravels the realities behind campfire legends―the horrors that happen in the dark, the girls who become cautionary tales, and the guilty who go unpunished. Until now.

Blog Tour – August 2020 – The Night Swim – Megan Goldin

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BLURB: After the first season of her true crime podcast became an overnight sensation and set an innocent man free, Rachel Krall is now a household name―and the last hope for thousands of people seeking justice. But she’s used to being recognized for her voice, not her face. Which makes it all the more unsettling when she finds a note on her car windshield, addressed to her, begging for help.

The small town of Neapolis is being torn apart by a devastating rape trial. The town’s golden boy, a swimmer destined for Olympic greatness, has been accused of raping a high school student, the beloved granddaughter of the police chief. Under pressure to make Season Three a success, Rachel throws herself into interviewing and investigating―but the mysterious letters keep showing up in unexpected places. Someone is following her, and she won’t stop until Rachel finds out what happened to her sister twenty-five years ago. Officially, Jenny Stills tragically drowned, but the letters insists she was murdered―and when Rachel starts asking questions, nobody seems to want to answer. The past and present start to collide as Rachel uncovers startling connections between the two cases that will change the course of the trial and the lives of everyone involved.

Electrifying and propulsive, The Night Swim asks: What is the price of a reputation? Can a small town ever right the wrongs of its past? And what really happened to Jenny?

First things first – I loved The Night Swim. I thought it was topical (as so many books are in these post-#MeToo times), and I enjoyed the dual time story, moving between the current court case Rachel is reporting on for her podcast, and the comparable story she gets dragged into of Jenny, from 25 years previously, and her sister Hannah, still searching for answers to what happened all these years later. Both stories grabbed me – it wasn’t a case of one being much stronger than the other, as is sometimes the case in dual timeline stories.

I have a real weakness for books set in small town America, where everyone of consequence knows everyone else, meaning no-one is truly neutral. The ghosts of the past always haunt the present in such novels, and in this book (like some others set in places like this) it’s a case of the reader trying to figure out who the person from the past is now.

Interspersed in Rachel’s investigations are her podcast episodes, relating the results of her investigations into the court case, and letters from Hannah, tantalizingly left for Rachel, describing what happened that summer all these years ago. She was only a child back then, and some things were beyond her understanding. The fact that her family were poor, and that their mother was dying of cancer, make Jenny – who’s trying to shield her younger sister from what’s going on – even more alone and vulnerable as she attempts to hide what’s happening to her from the rest of her family. She’s alone, with no one to turn to, and so perfect prey for the rich, entitled boys of the town. Her family’s status also makes what happened to her much easier to sweep under the carpet, and for any perpetrators to walk away under the protection of their richer, more powerful families.

Meanwhile, in the present day, it’s a straightforward he said/she said court case that Rachel is reporting on for her podcast. The defendant has a huge amount to lose – not just his liberty. He’s a talented swimmer and could be in line for a place in the next Olympics team, as well as a place at a prestigious college. Again, he’s from a rich and highly influential family who can afford the very best legal representation. Will the prosecution be able to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt if these two people are – as is nearly always the case in rape trials – the only ones who saw and heard what happened? There are some great courtroom scenes in this book which will keep you turning the pages rapidly (I do enjoy some good courtroom drama too!) It’s a book with lots happening – boredom will definitely not be an option! As for one of the reveals at the end – what really happened to Jenny? Who, if anyone, was responsible for what was deemed to be an accidental night-time drowning? – well, it was a satisfying and unexpected twist (and not the only one…) And will the town’s great athletic hope escape justice by buying his way out of the accusations against him…?

Megan Goldin is a hugely talented writer – I gulped this story down, grabbing every spare minute I had to keep reading and discover what happened, both now and 25 years ago. I’ve already bought her very well-reviewed debut novel, The Escape Room, so much did I enjoy this follow-up. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into that one soon, and will be looking out for her future works. Meantime, if you read this polished, very of-the-moment novel, I do hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Highly recommended.

Many thanks to those at St Martin’s Press for inviting me to participate in this blog tour. All views expressed are unbiased.

Book Review – March 2019 – He Said/She Said – Erin Kelly

I snapped this book up when the occupational therapy department at the hospital took us on a pre-Christmas trip to Braehead Shopping Centre – I think the intention was for us to buy presents for other people, but I desperately needed some clothes, toiletries, and of course books – I may have hundreds, but as my fellow bookworms can attest, you can always find something new to read…plus I didn’t exactly get a chance to peruse my library before being taken by ambulance to our local hospital then flown down to the QEUH in Glasgow (yep, always the drama queen!)

Erin Kelly is one of my favourite authors – she’s pretty much an autobuy for me. He Said/She Said focuses, as the title suggests, on a rape case, and the differing accounts given by the alleged perpetrator and his (also alleged) victim. That’s not to suggest this is a courtroom drama, although parts of it do take place in one. The novel also features the two main witnesses, who take turns to tell the story, as well as the background to their relationship – a couple who stumble onto the aftermath of the attack, which Laura is convinced was a rape, whereas her boyfriend, the more pragmatic, scientifically-minded Kit, will only say exactly what he saw and is reluctant to pass judgement, much to Laura’s fury. This all takes place at a festival to celebrate an eclipse, the chasing of which is something of an obsession for Kit.

After the case concludes, the alleged victim, Beth, approaches them to thank them for their support on the day of the attack and their willingness to get further involved by giving evidence in court. They become friendly, as Beth has few people she can talk honestly to about what happened, but as they get to know her better the young couple, particularly Laura, are forced to reconsider their presumptions about what happened.

I don’t think I’m taking this review into spoiler territory if I say that Kelly often specialises in portraying obsession, that most fascinating emotion, particularly to crime fiction fans. In her day, the wonderful Patricia Highsmith was the queen of books featuring obsessive characters, Tom Ripley undoubtedly being the best known. Erin Kelly is probably the closest thing we have to a modern day Highsmith, and throughout her uniformly excellent novels, she allows us to see the danger, desperation, and – sometimes – death that can result from such an all-consuming emotion.

Relevant, provocative, and with an absolutely killer twist, which comes before the dramatic denouement (two sucker punches for the price of one!), this is a strikingly original novel from one of our most accomplished and consistent crime novelists. (Although I hate to pigeonhole her as a genre writer, as she truly transcends any attempt to categorise her.) It’s timely, too, in the wake of the #MeToo scandals which have – not before time – brought down many powerful men from all walks of life. But that’s absolutely not what the book is addressing – Kelly sticks solely to her characters and their motivations. However, it does make you consider how easy to make snap judgements that, as in this case, can alter lives.

I’d probably not characterise this as her strongest novel (although I wasn’t in an ideal state, health-wise, when I read it, my concentration not at it’s absolute best due to a head injury.) But it’s still head and shoulders above what most writers are producing these days. Her latest, Stone Mothers, is due next month and it’s (naturally!) on my list. I really cannot wait to read it. And if you haven’t read Erin Kelly yet, I must ask – why the hell not?

Own copy.

BLURB: In the summer of 1999, Kit and Laura travel to a festival in Cornwall to see a total eclipse of the sun. Kit is an eclipse chaser; Laura has never seen one before. Young and in love, they are certain this will be the first of many they’ll share. 

But in the hushed moments after the shadow passes, Laura interrupts a man and a woman. She knows that she saw something terrible. The man denies it. It is her word against his. 

The victim seems grateful. Months later, she turns up on their doorstep like a lonely stray. But as her gratitude takes a twisted turn, Laura begins to wonder—did she trust the wrong person? 

15 years later, Kit and Laura are living under assumed names and completely off the digital grid: no Facebook, only rudimentary cell phones, not in any directories. But as the truth catches up to them, they realize they can no longer keep the past in the past.