Blog Tour – September 2022 – The Blame Game – Sandie Jones

Okay, hands up and time for a confession – being slightly distracted the day the invitation for this blog tour popped in, I actually assumed it referred to SADIE Jones, who is one of my favourite authors (I’ve loved her since The Outcast, and whenever I see a new book of hers online or in a shop I automatically buy it – and have yet to be disappointed. In fact, I can thoroughly recommend her.)

BUT – it’s most definitely not bad news! Having not read the blurb (it was an eARC, and before I start them I, rarely do) it didn’t take me long to realise I wasn’t reading Sadie Jones…

So what was the book you’d agreed to review?

The Blame Game is about a psychotherapist called Naomi, who specialises in supporting the victims of domestic abuse from the garden shed (as she calls it; it came across more as a posh summer house-type place a bestselling author might use to get peace to write their next, well, bestseller!) Naomi is an American, although her husband Leon is English, and she has a tendency to go above and beyond what’s strictly professional with her clients – this led to her leaving her previous position, within an established practice (where she probably had more protection, both psychological and physical, than in her current system of working from home.) This specialisation – and her tendency to push the boundaries of professionalism – is due to the fact that when she was a child, her father, who’d previously abused their mother, eventually murdered her. It led to Naomi’s father going to prison, her little sister Jennifer being adopted one night, never to be seen again (their foster family spitefully told her she was too old, and no-one would want to be her “forever family”), and the whole family being ruptured in the worst way imaginable. Hence she appears to spend her life trying to right her own family’s wrongs by crossing the professional line in her clients’ lives.

So what exactly is happening at the moment in Naomi’s life?

She has two clients we meet – Jacob Mackenzie, a male client who’s a teacher being abused both mentally and physically by his wife Vanessa; and Anna, a fellow New Yorker whose marriage has deteriorated after the death of their son Ben, to the point where she feels she should leave with her children before things escalate and the minor acts of violence increase. As is her wont, Naomi is getting overly involved: putting Jacob up in her and her husband’s currently empty flat, without his knowledge (her husband’s new job came with accommodation), and offering Anna and her children their two spare rooms!

And aren’t there things happening across in the States, as regards her father?

Yes – her aunt telephones to tell her that her sister, Jennifer, who’d had addiction issues, and had previously blamed Naomi both for them being split up and her subsequent issues, had visited her, now apparently clean, wanting her and Naomi to attempt another rapprochement. (A previous attempt had failed, with Jennifer taking the money Naomi wired her for her flight and disappearing back into her life of addiction.) It also turns out that her father has now, to Naomi’s shock and fear, been released – probably none too pleased with the fact that she lied on the stand as a child giving evidence, making his plea of manslaughter look like a lie and ensuring he’s found guilty of murder. He’s had ample time to plan any revenge he might have had on his mind…

Things are deteriorating over here too, aren’t they?

Jacob disappears, and it turns out much of what he’s told her is lies – even his name. This results in the police appearing, questioning her about their relationship and whether it goes beyonds the bounds of professionality. Leon has similar questions – and it appears he be more aware of what’s been going on than Naomi has given him credit for.

So who is this man who called himself, “Jacob Mackenzie”? Is he connected to Naomi’s American side of her family? Is Anna being entirely truthful about her situation, or is she merely trying to insinuate her way into Naomi’s home? And what about Leon?

Naomi’s getting to the stage where she’s questioning exactly who everyone is – and whether they can be trusted…

Ooh! This sounds like a really dramatic psychological thriller!

It certainly is that! From opening the book with absolutely no expectations at all, I found myself immediately tugged into the undertow of drama that was sweeping Naomi off her feet and destroying her carefully curated professional and personal life. I was kept guessing and changing my mind time after time, as we forever are with the best of these books.

I’d thoroughly recommend this one – and yet again I have an author whose backlist I’ll need to investigate, for the umpteenth time this year…!

Superior domestic psychological thriller, guaranteed to keep you on your toes! A must-read for all fans of the genre.

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for my blog tour invitation, and Macmillan and Netgalley for the eARC. This has not affected my opinion of this book, and my review is an honesrt one.

Author Sadie Jones

Please do check out some the wonderful bloggers – and Instagrammers – on this tour!

BLURB: There are two sides to every story

He came to me for help with his marriage.
I was alone and afraid. She was there when I needed to talk.
I needed to make him understand that he had to get away.
I knew what I needed to do. I just couldn’t do it on my own. I trusted her.
Now it has gone too far. And I can’t tell anyone what I have done.
Now I have nowhere to turn and I just pray they find me before she does.

And then there’s the truth.

The Blame Game is a dark, entertaining and suspenseful thriller from Sandie Jones, the author of The Other Woman and The Guilt Trip.

Blog Tour – September 2022 – The Rising Tide – Ann Cleeves (DI Vera Stanhope)

Now this is one really big hitter – the latest in the acclaimed DI Vera Stanhope series, which has become as well-known for the TV series it spawned as it has the books!

This is the tenth book, and naturally it’s set in Ann Cleeves’ (and Vera’s!) beloved Northumberland – this time on the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne. Now, I’m not a big fan of TV crime, preferring the written word, but Ann Cleeves’ series all make for unmissable viewing – particularly Vera, where Brenda Blethyn brings the oft-times crabbit, and always single-minded, character, so wonderfully to life!

We’ve had a blizzard of island-based “locked room” mysteries, from Lucy Foley to Sarah Pearse to Chris Brookmyre, and here one of the queens of modern-day crime gives us her version.

And what’s the storyline here?

A group, who first met fifty years ago on a local school trip, get together on the island every five years to mark the anniversary of that first meeting. On the first reunion, one of their number, Isobel Hall, died while attempting to make her way across the causeway too late, with her car “tossed from the road like a toy,” as a stormy tide encroached upon it. An event that could have ended the reunions there and then appeared to cement them, curiously enough.

On this latest occasion Rick Kelsall, a journalist who’d recently lost his job at the BBC for inappropriate behaviour towards younger female colleagues, is found hanged naked in an open bathrobe in his room by Annie Laidler, one of his closest friends. Immediately Annie – who still lived locally and was well-known as a part-owner of local artisan deli, Bread And Olives, questions the notoriously vain Rick’s question to hang himself with his naked sixty-something body on show, but she simply assumed he was heavily depressed at losing his celebrity status. However, as he had recently been given a book deal, that assumption doesn’t really hold water.

Who else was present?

There was Philip Robson, an Anglican vicar who was based in London, and Ken Hampton, an ex-headteacher who was succumbing to dementia, and who was married to Lou, who was also an ex-alumni of Kimmerston Grammar, albeit three years younger, and who attended the reunions with her husband. Previous reunions had included babies, then children, then teenagers, now all grown, as well as partners come and gone, and had now reverted to the original core group.

Others connected to this group and living on the island include Rick’s ex-wife, the former model, now owner of a yoga salon, Charlotte; the group’s original teacher, now retired, Judith Marshall; Annie’s ex-husband and now local businessman, Daniel Rede; and his new partner and local Police and Crime Commissioner (!) Katherine Willmore.

And Rick’s will, when revealed, only adds to the mystery…

Does Vera have any early ideas?

It’s no spoiler that Vera’s determined from more or less as soon as she knows she’s dealing with a murder, that the answer in one place: the past. So her investigation concentrates on the relationships between the group, and what happened, from that first school trip, then the reunion which saw Isobel’s death, right up until the present day.

And the real strength in this book lies, as it does in all of Ann Cleeves’ novels I’ve read, in the characters: both from those early days, and in their development. There’s always, in all her books, such an air of authenticity to them all: they feel real, as do the crimes and their motives. I have to say, too, that this book has an absolutely killer conclusion, if you’ll excuse the pun! Cleeves has outdone herself on this occasion!

It’s always hugely enjoyable to come across Joe (DS Ainsworth) and Holly (DC Clarke) again, and their slight rivalry for Vera’s favour – it’s become like meeting old friends. And references to Vera’s childhood, and her difficult relationship with her father, as well as her classmates, remind us that Vera’s real skill lies in examining the worst of human nature, as one who has experienced some parts of it at first hand, and in so figuring out who is responsible for the very worst of it: who, behind their carefully applied mask, is a murderer?

Just when you think she won’t get any better, Ann Cleeves hits you with another utter belter – perfect for long time fans, or those new to one of the best in British crime writing!

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in this blog tour, and Pan Macmillan for the ARC. This has not affected my opinion of the book, and this review reflects my honest opinion.

The unmistakeable Ann Cleeves

Do check out what my fellow bloggers and Instagrammers make of The Rising Tide!

BLURB: Vera Stanhope, star of ITV’s Vera, returns in the tenth novel in number one bestseller Ann Cleeves’ acclaimed series.
Fifty years ago, a group of teenagers spent a weekend on Holy Island, forging a bond that has lasted a lifetime. Now, they still return every five years to celebrate their friendship, and remember the friend they lost to the rising waters of the causeway at the first reunion.
Now, when one of them is found hanged, Vera is called in. Learning that the dead man had recently been fired after misconduct allegations, Vera knows she must discover what the friends are hiding, and whether the events of many years before could have led to murder then, and now . . .
But with the tide rising, secrets long-hidden are finding their way to the surface, and Vera and the team may find themselves in more danger than they could have believed possible . . .

Blog Tour – September 2022 – Blackstone Fell – Martin Edwards

This is the third in the Rachel Savernake books, Martin Edwards’ Golden Age-set series…

It’s also, despite having the first two, the first I’ve read (that teetering TBR pile is responsible, of course) the first I’ve read – something I intend to rectify at my earliest possible opportunity. And yes, I do know that I’ve said that about goodness how many series this year, and then new books come out, and of course the big TBR wheel will keep spinning…

However, I think you’ll realise it means I was mightily impressed with this book! Either it’s a hell of a year for books, or my reading mojo, which kind of deserted me after that attack, is back with a BANG! Anyway, ’nuff about me, let’s get to Blackstone Fell, and the intriguing Rachel, and the intrepid Nell, and this superlative locked room mystery.

But the two men disappeared 300 years apart…?

Yes, from Blackstone Lodge, where – oh dear! – journalist Nell Fagan is staying. She’s originally in the area for another reason: to investigate the mysteriously convenient death of an affluent woman, Ursula Baker, who’d recently married a much younger playboy, Thomas Baker. She’d changed her will in his favour, to her son’s chagrin, and the son, Vernon Murray, had asked Nell to investigate his mother’s death – she’d been in the area as an inpatient at Blackstone Sanatorium, an allegedly cutting-edge psychiatric hospital. Vernon is suspicious as the only occasion his new stepfather, Thomas Baker, had visited his wife was the day before her death.However, before Nell can get down to really investigating, Baker is dead. He’d fallen under a London Tube train – the day after being the victim of an attempt of a hit-and-run, However, the main suspect, his stepfather, was 150 miles away.

Cripes! Sounds like a dangerous place for Nell to be sniffing around…

It is – she’s nearly hit by a falling rock. But did it fall, or was it pushed…? Shortly after filling in Rachel on the goings-on at Blackstone Fell, with the help of Jacob Flint, a fellow journalist (who has his own mission, exposing fraudulent mediums) she returns to the Lodge…and then disappears herself.

That’s an awful lot of deaths and disappearances for a small village, no?

It is, but it ensures Rachel is really hooked and decides Blackstone Fell is worthy of her own mystery solving prowess. The moors make for excellent territory for such a story; the Sanatorium, run by Professor Sambrook, with his children Denzil and the scarred Daphne, is menacing as and suspicious as these places always are. Most of those in the village have secrets of some description – although they may not be as serious as murder. I don’t think it’s any great spoiler to say that the two main storylines – Blackstone Fell, and Nell and Rachel’s mutual chum Jacob Flint’s investigation into Ottilie Curle, a dubious medium – do converge.

With 1930 as it’s setting, Martin Edwards gathers some key issues of the time: spiritualism and fake mediums (so many easy marks after the Great War and Spanish Flu); the taking-off of psychiatry; and eugenics. His vast knowledge of Golden Age Murders (his book, The Golden Age Of Murder, is one of my favourite books to dip in to) means this reads just like one, although there is perhaps a little more character development than we see in them – which makes it chunkier, too, which is a definite plus point!

It’s an easy, fast read, and plenty of dialogue speeds the tale along, with references to era-appropriate props and occurrences adding to the sense of authenticity. Rachel gathers everyone together at the end to unveil the murderer and reveal how she came to her conclusions, as is traditional in books from this era. And, if that wasn’t enough, there’s even a clue-finder, so crime solving readers can see where they went wrong – or right, if you’re smarter than me! An absolute joy to read, from beginning to end – roll on book four!

A fantastic book, guaranteed to please both those who like their Golden Age murder stories, as well as more recent ones!

With thanks to Sophie Ransom for the blog tour invitation, as well as Head of Zeus’s Aries Fiction imprint for the ARC. This has not influenced my review, and this is my honest opinion.

Author Martin Edwards

Check out the rest of this blog tour!

BLURB: Rachel Savernake investigates bizarre crimes and a baffling locked-room puzzle in this Gothic mystery from the winner of the Diamond Dagger.

Yorkshire, 1606. A man vanishes from a locked gatehouse in a remote village. 300 years later, it happens again.

Autumn 1930. Journalist Nell Fagan knows there’s only one person who can get to the bottom of this mystery: Rachael Savernake. But someone wants Nell dead, and soon, while investigating a series of recent deaths at Blackstone Sanatorium, she’s missing entirely.

Looking for answers, Rachel travels to lonely Blackstone Fell, with its eerie moor, deadly waters and sinister tower. With help from Jacob Flint – who’s determined to expose a fraudulent medium at a séance – Rachel will risk her life to bring an end to the disappearances…

A dazzling mystery peopled by clerics and medics and embellished with science and superstition, Blackstone Fell explores the shadowy borderlands between spiritual and scientific; between sanity and madness; and between virtue and deadly sin.

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 – August 2022 – Guilt – Heather Burnside

Having been unwell for much of the end of July and start of August, I have several blog tours I committed too and was unable to complete. However, it’s my intention to post them now I’m on the road to recovery. So, I’ll begin with this book – a gangland thriller set in Manchester..

I’m not usually a big fan of gangland thrillers – I used to read some, but found many of them all blurred into one. However, as I review crime fiction, it seemed only fair I had another look at this genre of books. As I hadn’t read Heather Burnside before, and because Head Of Zeus is one of my absolute favourite imprints, when the blog tour invitation landed in my inbox, it seemed like serendipity, and an ideal place to start!

Who and what is Guilt about?

Our two principal characters are Laura, an ex-prostitute who’s now clean from alcohol and drugs, and now owns a chain of designer clothes shops called Crystals (after her old nom de plume as a working girl) around Manchester, and her daughter Candice, who’s just finished her first year at university. Laura is doing her best to make it up to Candice for the difficult early years of her life, and mother and daughter are very close. Candice has a nice boyfriend, Thomas, and it’s quite a serious relationship. However, there’s someone with a grudge against Laura – and it’s escalating. It begins with grafitti on the shop shutters, then there are attacks on Laura’s employees…but it goes on to get a whole lot closer to home for Laura…

So who’s got it in for Laura? Do we have any ideas?

To be honest, I didn’t find it hugely difficult to figure out who was ultimately behind the vendetta – but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book at all. The big question was, why did this person have such hatred for Laura? What did she do that caused her to suffer the “guilt” of the title? What skeletons did she have in her closet that someone wanted to punish her for…?

Did you enjoy this book? Has Heather Burnside found a new fan?

Well, despite my initial misgivings (all my fault, for being presumptuous about the genre), Guilt proved a really compelling pageturner! It was absolutely packed with action, and Laura proved a great heroine – she was a three dimensional character, not always doing the smartest things. That only made her more realistic and sympathetic. All in all, Guilt was a lesson to me: to not always judge a book by the genre you perceive it to belong to. Also, that by giving something a wee bit different an opportunity, you may just discover a nugget of gold!

And as to the above question – yes, Heather Burnside has most certainly found a new fan!

Thoroughly enjoyable and action packed – definitely worth reading!

With thanks to Sophie Ransom at Ransom PR for the blog tour invitation, and Head of Zeus for the ARC. This has not affected my opinion of the book, and this is an honest review.

Author Heather Burnside

Look back at the reviews by all these superb bloggers!

BLURB: Someone knows what she did…

Businesswoman Laura Sharples owns a fashionable chain of clothing shops, but not so long ago she called herself Crystal and worked the streets of Manchester. Although she’s moved on, she’s never forgotten how far she had to go to beat her addictions and raise her daughter, Candice.

But when Laura’s business is repeatedly vandalised, she begins to fall back into old habits to cope with the stress. As the attacks escalate, the police have no leads. But Laura is terrified: someone must know the truth about who she used to be…

And they won’t stop until she loses everything.

Blog Tour – July 2022 – The Daves Next Door – Will Carver

The new Will Carver! He’s gathering quite an army of fans, isn’t he?

He most certainly is! And I can totally see that continuing to go stratospheric. Now, if you’re not like me – nothing offends me; I believe it’s really important to be able to laugh at bloody everything as that’s what keeps us sane – and you’re one of those snowflake-type people, then it’s probably not a good idea to invest in this book without reading the back, or maybe downloading one of those lethal Kindle samples – but be warned, with this book I suspect you’ll definitely end up purchasing it…

The fact is, our narrator is a suicide bomber, but now we’ve got that wee bit of a warning out of the way let’s get on with the recommendation!

Will Carver is the most hilarious, unusual writers out there!

It’s almost like a stream-of-conscious riff by a comedian, this book. It’s funny, thought-provoking, ridiculously clever, with a host of supporting characters, all of whom have parts of varying size and influence. Even God has a bit part – or is it really him…? Could be someone who’s got psychosis, after all – it’s that’s sort of book. And it gets you thinking about that, “for want of a nail…” thing about how much influence the tiniest of events have. I was really thinking about it, for ages, but I’m a horrendous over-thinker at the best of times anyway.

If you’ve read other Will Carver books, some things will resonate, like a comedian referencing an earlier joke. I wish it wasn’t so hard to review! It’s funny. It’s sardonic. It’s clever. If you have a physical copy, don’t lend it out, as chances are your friends will pass it on too, or get it “borrowed” from them, and you’ll end up chasing it round the town!

I hate being so vague, but it’s horribly hard to review without ruining it. When you’re reading it, expect to find lots of snorts and laughs emanating from your mouth…hell, just read it. Read it immediately. I’ll let you go and buy a copy….

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for the blog tour invitation, and also to Anne and Orenda Books for the ARC. This is an unbiased review and reflects my true opinion.

Author Will Carver

Follow some of the other splendiferous bloggers on this Blog Tour!

The lives of five strangers collide on a London train carriage, as they become involved in an incident that will change them all forever. A shocking, intensely emotive and wildly original new thriller from Will Carver…

A disillusioned nurse suddenly learns how to care.

An injured young sportsman wakes up find that he can see only in black and white.

A desperate old widower takes too many pills and believes that two angels have arrived to usher him through purgatory.

Two agoraphobic men called Dave share the symptoms of a brain tumour, and frequently waken their neighbour with their ongoing rows.

Separate lives, running in parallel, destined to collide and then explode.

Like the suicide bomber, riding the Circle Line, day after day, waiting for the right time to detonate, waiting for answers to his questions: Am I God? Am I dead? Will I blow up this train?

Shocking, intensely emotive and wildly original, Will Carver’s The Daves Next Door is an explosive existential thriller and a piercing examination of what it means to be human … or not.

Blog Tour – July 2022 – The Retreat – Sarah Pearse

Oh my goodness! Hold on to your hats, people, clear your diaries…and check your doors and windows are locked, too…

An over-the-top heading but wow, this is another peach so if you’re heading anywhere, I’d pack this and Hostage for starters…

This is one of these books I’m reticent about revealing too much about, plot-wise – simply because you want all other readers to enjoy the unfolding of events as much as possible!

So what can you tell us about The Retreat without taking us into spoiler territory?

Pearse brings back her detective, Elin, who appeared in The Sanatorium, and who has technically been put on less serious cases after the events of that book. But the fact that she’s close by, coupled with a shortage of staff, means she’s sent to the island to investigate a death which initially looks like an accident – so it’s looking like a box-ticking exercise. Note I said initially there…

I can sense a but coming…

Well, let me change tack here. The family who are featured most in the book consists of three sisters, a cousin, and two of the sisters’ partners. However, one of the sister has cancelled at short notice, citing a work trip – although her partner still comes. It’s a freebie, as one of the sisters is an “influencer,” and is meant as a chance for the family to reconnect. But the holiday starts to collapse as petty resentments from the past are brought up, and secrets revealed that add to the poisonous atmosphere. And meanwhile, around them the island’s malevolent past is revealing itself, both to it’s new occupiers, and to us readers…

I’ve got to say, I’m struggling to write more about the plot. But I’ve got to say, read this book! It’s phenomenal!

Give us some reasons to read it! (Apart from the rollocking plot, obviously…)

Pearse has a way of unveiling information, in a steady and satisfying drip, drip, drip that is guaranteed to keep you turning pages. And I don’t think I’ve ever changed my mind about who’s good and who is not so good so many times in one book – because her characters, like most people, are a mixture of good and bad. The past of the island also keeps rearing it’s head in a highly satisfying way, and the supernatural elements are wound through the book like the ivy in the forest that still covers much of the island. It all works in a splendidly atmospheric way that leaves you feeling like looking over your shoulder as you’re reading…if that isn’t enough reasons, I don’t know what else I can say! Suffice to say, I loved it…but you’ve figured that out, I think!

Absolutely dynamite! A five-star read!

With thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the blog tour invitation, and Bantam Press for the ARC. This is my honest opinion and is an unbiased review.

Author Sarah Pearse

Check out the other fantastic bloggers in this blog tour!

BLURB: Most are here to recharge and refresh. But someone’s here for revenge. . .

An eco-wellness retreat has opened on an island off the English coast, promising rest and relaxation—but the island itself, known locally as Reaper’s Rock, has a dark past. Once the playground of a serial killer, it’s rumored to be cursed.

Detective Elin Warner is called to the retreat when a young woman’s body is found on the rocks below the yoga pavilion in what seems to be a tragic fall. But the victim wasn’t a guest—she wasn’t meant to be on the island at all.

When a guest drowns in a diving incident the following day, Elin starts to suspect that there’s nothing accidental about these deaths. But why would someone target the guests, and who else is in danger?

Elin must find the killer—before the island’s history starts to repeat itself . . .

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…