Bookish Bites: Secret Service by Tom Bradby

To those who don’t really know her, Kate Henderson’s life must seem perfectly ordinary. But she is in fact a senior MI6 officer, who right now is nursing the political equivalent of a nuclear bomb. While heading up the Russia Desk of the Secret Intelligent Service, one of Kate’s undercover operations has revealed some alarming evidence. Evidence that a senior UK politician is a high level Russian informer.
Determined to find out who it is, Kate must risk everything to get to the truth. Until a young woman is brutally murdered as a consequence, which puts Kate and her team under the spotlight.
With blood on her hands, her reputation to uphold, her family hanging by a thread and a leadership election looming, Kate is quickly running out of options and out of time
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Loved Kate, the main character in this. She was tenacious, determined and a really likeable female lead.

Disliked the fact that the beginning took a little while to get into – but after a few chapters I started to really enjoy it.

Favourite moment? The ending – it sounds like the obvious choice but it wrapped up everything plot and sub-plot happening throughout the book. It combined elements of the spy, domestic and mystery genres to create a tense ending with a big reveal.

Favourite character? Kate! It was refreshing to read an action-packed MI6 novel like this with a really strong and well-balanced female lead, especially in a genre which is dominated by male characters.

Final comments? This was a fast-paced, action-packed but unusual spy/crime novel. It had brilliant characters and a plot that really picked up the pace. This has something that would appeal to anyone, so I’d definitely recommend it.

Secret Service
Tom Bradby
Atlantic Press, 5th November 2019

BLOG TOUR: What She Saw Last Night by MJ Cross

I read this in one day, desperate to finish it, and genuinely almost missed my train stop!

Jenny Bowen is going home. Boarding the Caledonian Sleeper, all she wants to do is forget about her upcoming divorce and relax on the ten-hour journey through the night.
In her search for her cabin, Jenny helps a panicked woman with a young girl she assumes to be her daughter. Then she finds her compartment and falls straight to sleep.
Waking in the night, Jenny discovers the woman dead in her cabin … but there’s no sign of the little girl. The train company have no record of a child being booked on the train, and CCTV shows the dead woman boarding alone.
The police don’t believe Jenny, and soon she tries to put the incident out of her head and tells herself that everyone else is right: she must have imagined the little girl.
But deep down, she knows that isn’t the truth.

What a book. I was so hooked on this! I felt that the start had just the perfect pacing – it was both slow enough to make me want to carry on but fast enough to keep my attention.

This is the kind of book where you never know what’s going to happen. Every chapter held something unexpected, and there were points where I was genuinely shocked that certain things actually happened. There are lots of twists and turns, but I liked that there are different character perspectives for the same events, so the reader gets a glimpse into both sides of the story. It’s genuinely sinister at times, sometimes scary and the writing is superb. The descriptions are so vivid that I felt really engaged throughout, I could really imagine and feel what was happening in the story, which is partly why I was so gripped by it throughout.

Jenny was a great main character. Clearly inexperienced, but ultimately super determined, I was always confident that she was going to get what she wanted eventually. It was a very rocky journey, and perhaps didn’t turn out the way I expected, but it was so so good. It wasn’t always realistic, but I find the most gripping thrillers and crime novels never are, so it worked really really well I felt. The plot was always unpredictable, helping to keep the reader engaged throughout.

After such a highly charged book, the ending was really emotionally satisfying and gave me exactly what I wanted. It’s not often a book hooks me as much as this one did, so I would highly recommend it.

BLOG TOUR: Hold Your Tongue by Deborah Masson

This is probably one of the most chilling and gripping detective debuts I’ve read this year.

A brutal murder.
A young woman’s body is discovered with horrifying injuries, a recent newspaper cutting pinned to her clothing, and a particular body part missing.
A detective with everything to prove.
This is her only chance to redeem herself.
A serial killer with nothing to lose.
He’s waited years, and his reign of terror has only just begun . . .
On Detective Eve Hunter’s first Monday back at work following enforced leave, she is called to the scene of this gruesome crime. Hunter and her team spend the week chasing leads, until the following Tuesday, another body is discovered in similar circumstances. Each week brings another death and battling against a team who has lost respect for her and her own personal demons, Hunter must put herself inside the mind of a depraved killer if she is to stop this. . .

This starts off, quite frankly, with a horrendous but brilliant flashback. The insight that the reader is provided with into the mind of this killer is really chilling and helps set the tone for the whole book.

For DI Eve Hunter however, this is not an easy first day back. She is thrust into this horrifying crime, which seems to have no reason or pattern and the number of victims just keeps rising. Two key things for me that I need when reading a new detective book is a gripping start and a solid detective, and this certainly has both of those! I really liked Eve, she’s so easy to connect with but there are definitely elements of her past or personality that Masson keeps hidden, allowing for more in-depth character writing for later books in the series perhaps. There are clear vulnerabilities and weak spots for Eve and watching her battle these throughout the book makes her more likeable for the reader. She isn’t perfect, but that’s why she seems so real and solid.

This book also introduces the rest of Eve’s detective team and yet again Masson has done this excellently! All of the team have their weaknesses and strengths, and I personally liked all of them… even Ferguson by the end! (You’ll need to read it to see what I mean…!) But for me, I also liked the fact that they didn’t work perfectly as a team, they weren’t immediately successful, and watching the conflicts rise within the team kept me wanting more. I wanted to know if they could solve it, if they could all get past their issues, and it was really rewarding seeing each character develop and progress in their own way.

Turning to the actual crime now… how utterly horrible! The idea of taking the tongues of the victims was pretty grim, but it also clearly had a meaning behind it that was always just within reach but not quite figured out yet. The pace of this was really good, I felt that Masson allowed just enough time of the team feeling clueless and not getting anywhere before starting to drop clues and tips and the odd red herring. Once the team started getting somewhere the pace picked up even more. I thought the ending was brilliant, all the dots joined together at just the right time to build to really disturbing final scene.

I really did love this, I would highly recommend this to anyone wanting to find a new detective book to read and I do hope there are more DI Eve Hunter books to come! It’s chilling, fascinating and really gets under your skin at times… you’ll find it hard to put it down.

Hold Your Tongue
Deborah Masson
Transworld, 20th November 2019

BLOG TOUR: Reckless Girl by Emma Tallon

I have loved this entire series so far, and this book was once again a brilliantly fast-paced, intricate and emotional plot!

She’s back and this time she has a score to settle.
Anna Davis and Freddie Tyler are finally getting their lives back on track when an unexpected face turns up on Freddie’s doorstep. Someone from the past. And she delivers a blow that will tear their lives apart.
Reeling from the news, Anna throws herself into her work. Her clubs are doing well and she’s opening a new business venture with best friend, Tanya. But she’s worried that her relationship with Freddie could be about to fall apart.
Freddie’s got big problems with the business. A new gang is in town, and they’re muscling in on Tyler turf and need to be dealt with. Plus, he’s still being closely watched by a Met detective determined to bring him down.
As Freddie plots to take out his rivals, tensions between him and Anna grow. Could this spell the end of their relationship? And will the rogue detective finally get the chance to arrest Freddie – burning the empire he’s built from scratch to the ground?

What an emotional rollercoaster this book was! Just before reading Reckless Girl I re-read the entire rest of the series, so I was totally in the zone to enjoy this even more than I would have done anyway.

I just love the characters in this series. Anna is a really strong, fierce and independent woman, and I’ve always liked the way her and Freddie’s relationship is written. They are not presented as a couple with all the power in one half, they are written as equals, with a great working relationship and real emotion between them romantically as well. Anna uses her emotions to motivate herself through difficult times, and it’s really powerful. I’ve always really liked Freddie as well, he’s a typical strong man, but very attuned to Anna’s emotions and needs. I love the way his morals are investigated at times, and there are clear do’s and don’t’s for him and his family.

The story in this book hits the reader deep. It plays on Anna’s deepest needs and wants, and it’s so emotional at times. It’s particularly interesting seeing how Freddie reacts to Anna. After the last book, where Anna was 100x more vulnerable and fragile, it’s great to see her coming back to her normal self, and how Freddie gives her the space she needs to do this. Their relationship isn’t perfect all the time, but that’s why I like them both so much, as it feels real.

The ending to this totally took me by surprise. It had sort of been building for a while, but I didn’t think Tallon would actually go there and do it! But this is why I like this series, is that it’s different and often unexpected. I would definitely recommend this book, and the whole series, as I love them.

Reckless Girl
Emma Tallon
Bookouture, 8th October 2019

BLOG TOUR: The Keeper by Diane Saxon

This is such an intense, fast-paced and wonderfully creepy psychological crime novel!

Responding to reports of deadly screams in the Ironbridge Gorge, Detective Sergeant Jenna Morgan is first on the scene to investigate.
As the search intensifies, Jenna soon discovers her sister Fliss’s severely injured Dalmatian, Domino and the naked, tortured body of an unknown woman.
Who is the dead woman and where is her sister Fliss?

This book really does kick into action from the start. We see the crime happen from the perspective of Fliss, and it’s genuinely quite terrifying. The intensity, creepiness, and sheer horror of the situation really does come through the pages to the reader.

I really liked Jenna. She’s so determined, and yet her emotions do still come through. Somehow she manages to be a clearly independent and capable woman, as well as vulnerable, and I really liked these depths to her character. The team she works with is brilliant as well, and they all work great together. I loved Mason in particular, his strong attitude and kind personality were so likeable.

I had my suspicions about who was behind the horrific crime, but it turned out I was totally wrong, and it wasn’t until nearer the end that I finally got it. It was a great ending, I felt like all the loose ends were tied up well without being too neat, and it provided the reader with a big sense of relief after such a tense novel!

I’d definitely recommend this for someone wanting a fast-paced, extremely tense, creepy psychological crime novel.

The Keeper
Diane Saxon
Boldwood Books, 1st October 2019

Bookish Bites: At Your Door by J. P. Carter

What happens when the past comes back to kill you?
When DCI Anna Tate is called to the gruesome discovery of a dead woman found on Barnes Common, she is plunged into a high‐profile investigation involving a prominent MP. London is baying for blood – but is there more to Holly’s death than at first meets the eye?
Meanwhile, the hunt is on for Anna’s missing daughter Chloe, who vanished ten years ago when her father kidnapped her. The case has been cold for what feels like forever – but a phone call brings a brand new lead…
Can Anna solve the murder case whilst dealing with her own personal demons? Or is someone from the past planning to get in her way?

Loved the overarching storyline surrounding Anna and her missing daughter Chloe! It keeps the reader really connected to Anna throughout, and I was very emotionally invested. I also thought that the case itself was brilliant, there were a lot of suspicious characters so it was hard for the reader to guess, and I thought the twist at the end was really cleverly done.

Disliked the fact that it felt slightly slow and stilted at the beginning. However, once the book got into its stride this was fine and the flow of it really got going.

Favourite moments were the scenes with Sophie, a new character in this book, and slowly piecing together her story and the link with Anna,

Favourite character has to be Anna – her determination, resilience and utter patience make her a really likeable character, and as this is now the second book in the series, her character is more established as well.

For fans of Carol Wyers, Katerina Diamond and MJ Ford

Final comments: This was a generally fast-paced, complex mystery, with an added sense of tension with Anna’s own storyline. I will definitely be continuing the series.

BLOG TOUR: Perfect Stranger by Jake Cross

This was creepy, unsettling and had an epic ending.

You let her in. You’ll wish you hadn’t.
Following a whirlwind romance, Rose and Chris’s marriage has been unshakeable for twenty years. But when teenager Katie turns up on their doorstep, blonde, wide-eyed and beautiful, their perfect life threatens to crumble to pieces. Because Katie says she’s Chris’s long-lost daughter, the product of a forgotten summer fling.
The couple is still reeling from shock when Katie tells them she has nowhere to go. The couple is her only hope. Kind-hearted Rose invites Katie to stay, despite Chris’s protests. The poor girl has only just lost her mother – they can’t leave her out on the street.
But soon after Katie moves in, strange things start happening. Someone crashes into a neighbour’s fence. An unexplained fire starts in the couple’s kitchen. And a family friend coming to visit disappears on the way to the house. Chris insists Katie has to go. But it’s Chris who won’t explain where he was at the time their friend went missing…
The couple’s dream life seems to be turning into a nightmare. With dark secrets about Chris’s history with Katie’s mother coming to light, Rose no longer knows who to trust. Soon, she isn’t sure whether she’s invited a dangerous stranger into her home, or whether she’s been living with one all along…

What an epic and creepy thriller this is. Chris and his family seem settled and happy, when a shock letter and almost-mugging begins the path of something that will rock their whole life. Every event simply ups the ante, and increase the tension and questions.

Katie is a very unsettling character. To the reader it seems there really is something wrong, but it’s impossible to put your finger on what exactly. Her lies and stories simply don’t add up, but there’s no way to know what’s true or not. Chris seems naturally a bit suspicious of her, but Rose and Julia are such kind people that Katie quickly integrates herself in their family.

As the book goes on, there are a myriad of unexplainable events, such as a beating, a fire and more, and it just keeps escalating. If it’s even possible, the tension rises even further when it seems that Chris is hiding the truth as well, and halfway through the book I genuinely couldn’t put it down as I was desperate to know who was genuine and who was the real monster.

The ending to this was probably one of the busiest but most epic endings to a thriller I’ve read in a while. There was a LOT going on, but it meant that I just simply couldn’t put it down. It was chilling, tense, dark and quite frightening at points. Katie was at her best in these scenes, and the writing was magnificently creepy. The very final scene finishes the book off perfectly, it’s calm, calculated and the final truths all come to light.

This is such a satisfyingly creepy book, with brilliant characters and a tense atmosphere throughout.

Perfect Stranger
Jake Cross
Bookouture, 21st August 2019