The Other Daughter by Shalini Boland

This was extremely intriguing, fast-paced, with a brilliant ending.

Nine years ago her daughter was taken.
And now she’s back. Two-and-a-half-year-old Holly is playing happily in a pink plastic playhouse, while her mother Rachel sips coffee and chats with a friend nearby. It should be an ordinary day for all of them. But, in the blink of an eye, it turns into every family’s worst nightmare.
Holly is taken by a stranger and never found.
Nine years later, Rachel is living a quiet life in Dorset. She’s tried to keep things together since the traumatic day when she lost her eldest daughter. She has a new family, a loving partner and her secrets are locked away in her painful past.
Until one afternoon when Rachel meets a new school parent Kate and her teenage daughter Bella. Rachel’s world is instantly turned upside down – she’s seen Bella before. She’d recognise that face anywhere – it’s her missing child.
And she will stop at nothing to get her back…

This was such an emotional novel which really tugs at the reader’s heartstrings. When the two-year-old Holly is kidnapped it’s chilling, but even more so because we see it happen from the perspective of the kidnapper. It’s devastating to watch and genuinely quite disturbing to see the logic of the kidnapper, but it’s unique for sure.

The book then moves on to the perspective of Rachel, who becomes obsessed with a child she sees who would be the same age her daughter would be. Again, watching her slowly unravel has quite a chilling undertone to it. For some reason there are elements which were seriously creepy, but others where I totally understood why she was doing what she was doing. Watching the development of Rachel’s character became more and more intriguing, and the ending was particularly revealing and fascinating. It’s also great to see bits of the impacts it has on the other family involved, as it really adds to the whole suspense of the novel.

I really liked the contrast between the past and the present as the differing tones made the book really fast-paced. The flashbacks into the past could be especially chilling and slowly the mystery of what happened to the child was revealed. It was quick, unnerving and the characters were brilliantly written. I’d definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a great thriller to read and Boland’s books are always enjoyable.

The Other Daughter
Shalini Boland
Bookouture, 5th November 2019

Safe House by Jo Jakeman

Full of mystery, suspense and a stormy setting, this book is intriguing throughout.

The morning after a terrible storm, a woman turns up in a remote Cornish village. She calls herself Charlie, but it’s a name she’s only had for a few days. She keeps herself to herself, reluctant to integrate with the locals. Because Charlie has a secret.
Charlie was in prison for providing a false alibi for a murderer. But Lee Fisher wasn’t a murderer to her; he was the man she loved. Convinced of his innocence, Charlie said she was with him the night a young woman was killed. This sacrifice cost her everything.
And now she has a chance to start again. But someone is watching her, waiting for her, wondering if she’s really paid the price for what she did.

This is not your normal thriller – this is a thriller with a domestic drama feel to it and it really keeps you hooked throughout. Charlie’s flashbacks and memories of the past played strongly on domestic themes and the reader was made to feel really conflicted about Charlie herself. It was clever writing at times, making the reader question how they felt about Charlie.

The plot is fast-paced and tricky to predict – with lots of new characters being introduced and the finger of suspicion being pointed at all of them, there are times when it’s hard to guess who is behind the mysterious things that keep happening to Charlie. All the characters bring something to the story, there’s not one person who seems to be involved for the sake of it. Each person helps deflect suspicion, leaving the reader confused and curious right until the last minute.

I thought the ending was built up perfectly, with a nice storm to go alongside the suspense and emotions that Charlie was feeling. It was one of those chapters you just have to finish, and left the reader feeling satisfied by the end. The whole way through Charlie’s character and choices was described brilliantly, making the reader feel a connection with her right until the end and I loved the parts that delved into her past. It made the ending mean even more and overall everything tied in together nicely.

This is the perfect book to blend the genres of thriller and domestic drama together, with great characters and a plot full of suspense. I was hooked throughout and would recommend this to anyone.

Safe House
Jo Jakeman
Vintage, 31st October 2019

BLOG TOUR: All The Wrong Places by Joy Fielding

This was fast-paced, full of suspense and with a chilling mystery character.

You always know who you’re meeting online . . . don’t you?
Four women decide to explore online dating, downloading an app that promises they will swipe their way to love and happiness.
But not everyone is who they seem online. Hidden behind a perfect smile and charming humour, one man appears to be the perfect date. But the night he has planned is unlike any other.
The clock is ticking, and for one woman, this date might just be her last . .
.

I really liked the characters in this, I felt that Paige was definitely likeable to the reader, even if she was a little bit perfect! I think she was written excellently, because it meant when she did break out of her perfect little bubble, her emotions and choices were all the more impactful because it was so different for her. Chloe’s story was again particularly emotional to read – it hit quite deep for the reader to see her going through a difficult marriage, and the ending definitely took me by surprise.

I personally loved Joan, Paige’s mother – what a brilliant and confident woman! She was funny, bold and not afraid to be herself, and I personally loved seeing her character development throughout. Heather was actually quite a tragic character, as in the struggles she faced were not so obvious on the outside, but as the book revealed more about her life I felt quite sad for her. For me, this focus on the four women blended the best bits of both thriller and women’s fiction.

The chapters written from the perspective of the killer were genuinely chilling… His thought process and his ability to switch personas and stories was definitely quite terrifying. As his plan becomes clearer throughout the book, the tensions rises and the pace quickens as well. It’s a real rollercoaster and I was hooked throughout.

The ending really does just happen so quickly there’s barely time to blink. I loved this, as there’s so much that happens that among all the action there is a sinister build up to something else. I only saw it coming at the last minute, and honestly I thought the ending was great. A very sinister ending to a book that gave chills throughout.

All The Wrong Places
Joy Fielding
Zaffre, 12 December 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: The Pact by Amy Heydenrych

What an unusual, creepy and fast-paced thriller full of action.

What if a prank leads to murder?
When Freya arrives at her dream job with the city’s hottest start-up, she can’t wait to begin a new and exciting life, including dating her new colleague Jay.
However, Nicole, Jay’s ex and fellow employee, seems intent on making her life a misery. After a big deadline, where Nicole continually picks on her, Freya snaps and tells Jay about the bullying and together they concoct a revenge prank. The next morning, Nicole is found dead in her apartment . . .
Is this just a prank gone wrong? Or does Freya know someone who is capable of murder – and could she be next?

This book starts with such a positive outlook, a book that shows someone achieving her dream role and looking to the future. It feels a bit too good to be true, and this soon turns out to be right as the atmosphere quickly changes, with a sinister undertone of bullying and manipulation taking front and centre.

Freya herself seemed innocent, although my instinct was that all was not as it seems in this book. Everything seemed to be against her, apart from her relationship with Jay. She was clearly struggling and the reader is supposed to feel some sympathy for her at these points. I did feel like there was something not quite right throughout though…

The idea of the prank that Freya played on Nicole runs throughout and it’s a constant reminder that something happened and it makes the reader desperate to know what. I really liked the pace of this, it was fast and held my attention but kept enough details to keep the momentum of the story going. I was desperate to know what exactly happened, and the ending definitely didn’t disappoint.

I don’t want to give too much away, but I loved the ending. It kept the tone and style of the story going right up until the last page and I was left very satisfied. This was such a great thriller and I’d definitely recommend!

The Pact
Amy Heydenrych
Zaffre, 28th November 2019

Bookish Bites: The Doll House by Phoebe Morgan

You never know who’s watching…
Corinne’s life might look perfect on the outside, but after three failed IVF attempts it’s her last chance to have a baby. And when she finds a tiny part of a doll house outside her flat, it feels as if it’s a sign.
But as more pieces begin to turn up, Corinne realises that they are far too familiar. Someone knows about the miniature rocking horse and the little doll with its red velvet dress. Someone has been inside her house…
How does the stranger know so much about her life? How long have they been watching? And what are they waiting for…?

Loved the chilling nature of the crime, it was so emotionally manipulative and extremely clever. I liked how both Corinne and Ashley had their own stories that were different but also parallel.

Disliked … nothing? I thought this was a gripping, unusual psychological thriller!

Favourite moment? Probably the scene in the graveyard! I wasn’t sure how exactly it was going to turn out, and there were some chilling details and a great twist that all came to light. The ending was also unexpected and left me wanting more!

Favourite character was Corinne, as I felt her psychological state was written so well, and I was more invested in her, but I actually really liked all of them. I also loved that there were chapters from different perspectives as it offered a wider range of emotions and plots.

Final comments: This was a chilling, unusual and fast-paced story, with chapters from an unknown person that provided a truly unnerving atmosphere throughout.

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