BLOG TOUR: Kill For Me by Rebecca Bradley

This was a fast-paced, intriguing and unusual crime novel, with an intelligent yet emotional detective and a very satisfying ending.

A deadly game. An unstoppable killer. The perfect alibi.
Lucy Anderson is late collecting her daughter from nursery. A mistake that could prove fatal. 
Her daughter is gone and there is only one way Lucy can get her back. The ransom is simple, she has to kill someone…
And this is just the beginning. A deadly game with a domino effect has started as the real killer forces others to do his bidding.
Can detective inspector Hannah Robbins find the killer’s next puppet before they’re forced to strike or will this be the case where her opponent has found the perfect way to kill?

Straight from the start this hooked me. Lucy was a very emotionally engaging character, she really connected with the reader, and so the choices she made were even more hard-hitting. She’s forced to kill someone in order to get her daughter back, and the detailed thought process she goes through to make her decision and accept it is really quite painful to read. It also forces the reader to confront the choices they would make in this situation, making it even harder to read. The way this novel works is through a domino effect, with someone behind the scenes pulling all the strings. I don’t want to give too much away, but what happens to Lucy is actually really upsetting for the reader as she is the first character we bond with other than the detective. It’s a fast-paced outcome however, with no time to lose, and the next character that the novel focuses on is so different to Lucy that I felt it hardened the reader to their potential outcome and stopped the reader from becoming too emotionally attached to each character. This worked really well, as each time a new character was introduced the suspense built further and further.

Where this book really shines is in the questions it poses on morality and choice. Are the characters really offered much of a choice? The intense emotional blackmail they face would be hard for anyone to resist, but it’s also equally difficult to imagine letting it force them to commit these horrific crimes. But Bradley writes this part extremely well, highlighting the emotional turmoil they go through, their feelings after committing the crimes, and in the case of one of the characters, a sense of relief when they became the victim. It was truly brilliant writing in the face of a difficult moral topic.

The main detective, DI Hannah Robbins, was a really strong detective. She was intuitive, emotional and frustrated with the sense of the unknown. The reader had a real sense of the urgency needed to solve this case, and she was a brilliant lead character to do it. The ending was very emotionally satisfying, especially after such a difficult story. It wasn’t the most surprising, but that’s fine, as it instead provided satisfaction after such a fast-paced and intense novel.

I loved this, it was different to a lot of other crime/detective novels, it was fast and intense, and the characters were all written really well. I’d definitely recommend this!

Kill For Me
Rebecca Bradley
15th February 2019

BLOG TOUR: The Missing Years by Lexie Elliott

Okay wow, I read this in a day and honestly, I’m in love. This was such a gorgeously written, deliciously creepy, in-depth novel.

She thought she would never go back…
Ailsa Calder has inherited half of a house. The other half belongs to a man who disappeared without a trace twenty-seven years ago. Her father.
Leaving London behind to settle her mother’s estate, Ailsa returns to her childhood home nestled amongst the craggy peaks of the Scottish Highlands, accompanied by the half-sister she’s never taken the time to get to know.
With the past threatening to swallow her whole, she can’t escape the claustrophobic feeling that the house itself is watching her. And when Ailsa confronts the first nighttime intruder, she sees that the manor’s careless rugged beauty could cost her everything…

I loved this. A beautiful, haunting and unpredictable novel, both the characters and story hooked me right from the beginning. Ailsa was the type of character I felt both connected and disconnected to – her fear, panic and self-doubt in the face of seemingly unreal events were so relatable, but her closed nature, abrupt phrasing and general disconnect from those around her also isolated her from the reader. This is exactly why she was such a brilliant main character, as she wasn’t perfect, but there was so much to her, she had so many layers. I also really liked seeing her character development, even over the seemingly small things, such as why she always corrected those around her as to her sister being her half-sister. It was little details like these that really cemented Ailsa as a wonderful central character.

Apart from Ailsa, all the characters in this were written simply beautifully. The extra details that Elliott puts in, the time she takes to describe a character, it’s all worth it. The minute descriptions of Ben’s facial movements and expressions were so easy to visualise, and the way she writes Ali speaking was just as clear to imagine. I loved Ailsa’s sister Carrie – she was a stubborn, strong and stunning counterpart to Ailsa herself, especially in moments where she understandably didn’t recognise Ailsa’s fears about the house, otherwise known as The Manse. Fiona is another wonderfully ethereal and yet grounded character, and so was her son Callum – the way that Elliott uses the concept of time with these two characters, and the certainty in which they seem to understand time, was honestly one of the most beautiful things I’ve read in a while. I loved the description of time as ‘folded’, it just completely makes sense within the novel, and these are the kind of details that complete the novel. All the other characters, Jamie, Bryn, Glen etc. are all brilliantly written, but where Elliott’s writing truly shines is in the relationships between all these characters. Ailsa and Fiona’s rocky friendship (if we can call it that) is one of the weirdest friendships, and yet by the end the way they communicate makes total sense. I was hooked by the adorable friendship between Ailsa and Callum, and Callum’s wisdom and factual way of discussing the strangest of topics was brilliant to read. I liked how Elliott uses hints of romance to enhance some of the friendships, and she also includes some lovely LGBT+ representation.

One thing I have to touch on is the disappearance of Ailsa’s father twenty-seven years previously. It offers a sort of indirect look into Ailsa’s reaction to it, all these years on, after returning to her childhood home. Between each chapter is a theory, presumably from Ailsa herself, as to what may have happened to her father, or where he may have gone. It’s genuinely quite heartbreaking at times, as there’s almost a childish sense of pain and confusion as to why he left throughout all these sections. The change in tone as the truth about her father eventually comes to light works really well alongside what’s happening in the story, and it just helped build up the suspense and fear even further.

The Manse deserves it’s own section in my review, because it’s such an interesting character. Despite being a house, it’s definitely got a creepy sense of personality about it (hence why I’ve called it a character…). The way Elliott links The Manse with the theme of time is a deeply unsettling yet interesting thread throughout, but her descriptions of this are really gorgeous. The reason why The Manse is so creepy, and effectively so, is because it’s not something that’s outright stated – instead Elliott weaves descriptions of the sounds and shapes within the house to build up an unsettling sense of the unknown. It definitely works, and I started to feel quite spooked by it all, but I loved it at the same time. This is where the real story lies – what exactly is going on in The Manse. Why don’t animals go near the house? Who is leaving the threatening and creepy signs that Ailsa should leave…? Despite all the other details and plot lines throughout, such as the character relationships and her father’s disappearance, the real gem in this novel lies in the puzzle of The Manse itself.

This book is pure brilliance. I would get shivers up my spine, but I couldn’t possibly stop myself from reading. It’s creepy and unsettling, but it’s also beautiful, ethereal and heart-wrenching. Somehow, Elliott weaves all these emotions together perfectly, in a story examining family, love, time and the home. It’s a must-read book for sure.

Thanks so much to Anne at Random Things Through My Letterbox for organising this tour! I loved being a part of it.

The Missing Years
Lexie Elliott
Corvus, 6th June 2019

BLOG TOUR: The Child Before by Michael Scanlon

This was a detailed, intriguing and complex mystery, with an interesting main detective and a horrific, scary crime.

She began to sing, the girl. Her voice was soft, so soft it was almost of the wind. It was a lullaby. She cradled her arms, rocking them gently back and forth. As if she was holding a baby. But she was not. Her arms were empty.
On a cold morning a cyclist finds the brutally-slaughtered body of a woman in her car, on a remote lane leading to the long-abandoned Irish village of Kelly’s Forge.
But when Detective Finnegan Beck arrives from the nearby town of Cross Beg to investigate he notices there’s a baby’s seat in the back of the car. A bottle of baby’s milk lying in the footwell. And no child.
Little Róisín isn’t the first child to go missing from that same remote location though. There was another baby girl, taken more than fifty years before, who was never found. Has too much time passed for there to be a connection, or does something – or someone – link these two crimes?
Beck claims he does not want to stay in Cross Beg. His heart is back in Dublin, with the woman he loves. But, knowing that a child’s life depends on him changes things. He knows he has to find the missing baby girl. Because if he doesn’t, he fears there’s a chance everyone will give up the baby for dead, just like they did before…

This story was really detailed, so it does require more concentration than other crime novels you might read but because of this it’s much more rewarding.

It starts with some fascinating flashbacks to 1954 when some unknown family is going through what seems like a traumatic incident involving a young baby. It’s very mysterious and creates a real aura of the unknown which is quite spooky. It’s also unclear at first how it’s linked to the present and honestly, when it is revealed, I was definitely not expecting it. It was a very well written and clever twist.

The murder and missing child mystery of the present is quite graphically described, but it’s very intense. The pain and stress of Beck, the main detective, is very clear to see when it comes to finding the missing baby. As the clues as to what may have happened to the baby are revealed, the hunt for her becomes quite emotional. It’s actually quite a stressful read in some places, as the crime and methods of solving it are described in such detail that I felt really involved with it.

Beck himself was an unusual choice for the main detective, his alcoholism and methods of dealing with it were unorthodox, his bluntness was brilliant, but his moments of inspiration were particularly great. I loved seeing his thought process and investigation so in depth, as it made the whole crime seem much more real. The glimpses into his personal life were also fascinating, and his slight character growth/change throughout was really well written.

The ending was seriously shocking. It’s not often that you come across an ending that genuinely and completely blindsides you, but this was it. To be honest, I had no idea where this was going, as there were enough red herrings or confusing clues to mislead the reader entirely. I really loved how Scanlon wrapped it all up, it was detailed, well thought-out, and with a partly happy ending included as well.

This was a very different and detailed crime novel, and if you’re looking for something you can get your teeth into, that has a truly awesome ending, then this is it.

The Child Before
Michael Scanlon
Bookouture, 5th June 2019

BLOG TOUR: The Dangerous Kind by Deborah O’Connor

Wow. What a fascinating, emotional and relevant story, with plenty of plot twists and absolutely brilliant characters! This is dark and thrilling read, which hooks the reader in early on, leading to an incredibly tense ending.

One in 100 of us is a ‘potentially dangerous person’ – someone likely to commit a violent crime. We all know them: these charmers, liars and manipulators. The ones who send prickles up the back of our neck.
These people hide in plain sight. They can be teachers, doctors, lawyers, holding positions of trust, of power. 
Jessamine Gooch makes a living tracking the 1 in 100. Each week she broadcasts a radio show that examines brutal offences, asking if more could have been done to identify and prevent their perpetrators.
But when she agrees to investigate a missing person case involving a young mother, she is drawn into aweb of danger that will ultimately lead to the upper echelons of power, and threaten the sfety of her own family.

*spoiler and content warning*

This is probably one of the best thrillers I’ve read so far this year, with great characters, a brilliant but emotional plot, and a constant sense of frustration for the reader that just makes you want to keep reading. This book starts fairly slowly, but this actually serves to build the suspense in a really clever way. The writing itself has just enough detail in to keep the reader hooked, and so the first few chapters set up the plot and characters really well.

There are quite a lot of characters in this, but they all really worked well. Jessamine was brilliant, she was such a strong and independent person, but her relationship with her daughter also showed her vulnerable side. Jessamine’s progress throughout the novel was really interesting to watch, as she seemed to become more trusting, yet also more stubborn. Her willingness to open up to a relationship to Dougie was counteracted by the fact that it was done on her own terms, as and when she wanted it.

Jessamine’s relationship with her daughter, as mentioned, was quite emotional to watch. Some vulnerabilities were revealed as Sarah became more interested in her birth parents, but these were written as simple little mentions, so they could have seemed small compared to everything else that was going on. I think this worked really well, as instead it showed that being Sarah’s mother was a constant source of emotion for Jessamine, and that above everything else, Jessamine was always thinking of Sarah. I loved their relationship, Sarah was a typical teenager, sometimes moody, sometimes needy, and it gave both characters a sense of ‘real-ness’ throughout. Sarah’s secret was a definite cause for concern for the reader, especially considering what else was going on in the novel, and it was frustrating for the reader to watch Jessamine be so clueless as to Sarah’s behaviour.

Jitesh was 100% my favourite character, if I’m allowed to have a favourite! Watching him cope with his stutter was interesting, but I appreciated the fact that it wasn’t the sole focus of his character. In fact, many of the scenes involving Jitesh had little dialogue in them, and they often focused on Jitesh by himself, his inner monologue and his thoughts and reactions. This meant that out of all the characters, I felt closest to him, as his scenes were the most personal. He was such a sweet and emotional character, and finding out about his past and his mental health was seriously upsetting, mostly because of the immense guilt that radiated from him. His need to help people made him a very likeable character, but he wasn’t portrayed as being ‘too good’ either, he had the perfect balance. I liked his friendship with Jessamine, I loved the way she just accepted him as she was and he did the same with her. It was a lovely friendship, proving that different ages and circumstances doesn’t have to be a barrier to friendship.

The flashback scenes with Rowena were seriously emotional, and they do definitely need a content warning. It’s very relevant content, and relates to a lot of current news stories, but it is quite emotional and hard to read in places. I don’t want to give too much away, but to see a thirteen-year-old child in the situations she was placed it, and to see how easily it happened, was genuinely upsetting. It’s a tough read, but I would say an important one, as it really highlights how power and celebrity can play a big part in these horrendous circumstances. There was one key character that popped up in these scenes, never known by his name, simply known as ‘the celebrity’. This was such a powerful move by O’Connor, as it highlighted really clearly the power and freedom that fame and celebrity can give a person. There’s one scene where some security guards ask for an autograph at an unbelievably shocking moment, and the privilege of the celebrity is so clear it practically jumps out the page.

The ending was so emotionally satisfying. I felt like the entire novel was building up this in such a significant way, due to the fact that the issues being raised were so relevant, but there was also something clearly going on with Sarah that was a constant concern throughout, and to build to an ending after all that seemed near impossible. O’Connor, however, rose to the challenge magnificently, and it was such a fantastic ending I felt like reading it all over again.

There was a plot twist which, although wasn’t the most shocking, still came as a complete surprise because I was so focused on the other parts of the story. It was really clever, and completely made sense as I read it. There was yet another part of the ending which took me by surprise, so it was really a satisfying ending in so many ways! Jitesh’s character development at the end was wonderful to see, his bravery and confidence was incredible, as was his loyalty and determination. The consequences of what was uncovered were interesting to see, and again showed the lack of accountability that was given to people and the lack of evidence available in these years-old crimes. It was upsetting, but then these details are exactly what made this book so realistic, so believable, and so emotional.

I would 100% recommend this to anyone, it’s a clever and emotional read, with characters that tug at your heartstrings, and a storyline that is both difficult but important to read. It’s a fantastic but dark thriller, with a rising tension throughout and constant sense of the unknown.

Thank you so much to Tracey Fenton from Compulsive Readers for organising this tour.

The Dangerous Kind
Deborah O’Connor
Zaffre, 16th May 2019

BLOG TOUR: Fierce Girl by Emma Tallon

Okay, honestly, I haven’t read any of the previous books in this series but after reading this I 100% will be, because oh my god this was awesome.

Anna Davis has grown up. She’s not the naive runaway who escaped her vicious gangland boyfriend anymore. She’s tougher than ever and she won’t let anyone take advantage of her – or the people she loves.
Anna’s devoted boyfriend, East End baron Freddie Tyler, is in trouble. There’s a rat in his organisation and he needs to stop the leaks before a very big mistake from his past is revealed to people who will want swift and brutal revenge.
Anna wants to help Freddie but she’s got problems of her own. Her best friend Tanya’s mother has turned up, and is staking a claim on Tanya’s share of their club. With Tanya buying her mum’s reformed sinner act, Anna knows she needs to act before both their friendship and Club Anya goes up in flames.
But if there’s one thing Anna and Freddie have learned, it’s how to play the game, and as their enemies close in they’ll fight with everything they’ve got to protect the life they’ve built.

I really wish I had read the other books in this series, because I feel like there is so much depth to these characters that I’m missing. Anna and Freddie, the two main characters here, are so well written. They’re incredibly likeable, despite the fact that they are definitely not innocent people, and their emotions are so finely detailed that I felt really invested in them. How on earth did I end up liking the head guy of a crime group so much? Freddie is both hard and disturbing, and caring and emotional, and somehow Tallon combines these two sides of him perfectly. His relationship with Anna is really sweet, and I’ll be going back to the previous books to find out exactly how their relationship has progressed. The past events that have happened (which Tallon details in this book, so I was able to understand the context) clearly affected these two deeply, and watching them both struggle with these emotions was painful. Their pain practically jumped out the page at me. What I really liked was that Anna was portrayed not only as the vulnerable woman who has experienced something tragic, but also as the tough businesswoman who is determined to do things her way. Similarly with Freddie, he is both the tough gang leader, able to commit horrific violence towards people, but also the caring partner struggling with his own emotions after a tragedy of his own. It’s a touching partnership, and I enjoyed how Tallon made them both strong characters in their own ways as well as a strong couple.

I liked the secondary characters as well, from Anna’s friend Tanya, to Freddie’s brothers and friends, to the detective-turned-PI Sarah. They all served a purpose and built the story up further, providing more depth without being confusing. Tallon wrote this really well, as it would have been easy for the reader to be confused at the vast array of characters but it was surprisingly easy to understand, which is purely due to the great writing.

The actual story itself was definitely intriguing, as there were two parts to it that didn’t really seem connected. Freddie’s mafia troubles were different to anything I’ve really read before, but I really enjoyed it, and his reactions and plans were both clever but also impulsive when necessary. Anna’s determination to prove that Tanya’s mother was up to something was tough to read as she became alienated from Tanya, but it also meant the reader was behind her every step at the way, urging her to find out what really happened.

The ending tied everything together really nicely, and while Tallon definitely doesn’t shy away from violence, it was a fast-paced and intriguing ending, building up to a very satisfying conclusion. It was clever how she linked everything together, in a surprising way that still made sense. I liked that there was a slight plot twist/cliffhanger, enough to leave the reader wondering but not too frustrated.

Overall, this is a brilliant, fast-paced and unusual read. The characters are awesome, with lots of depth and emotion that means the reader gets really invested in them. I would 100% recommend!

Fierce Girl
Emma Tallon
Bookoutoure, 21st May 2019

BLOG TOUR: Catch Your Death by Kierney Scott

This was fast-paced, electrifying and super intense, and I thought the crime was a brilliantly written mystery.

There were five of them once. Now the others are all dead. And he’s next.
When FBI Agent Jess Bishop gets an urgent and scared phone call in the middle of the night, she sets off to Gracemount Academy, an extremely prestigious school. When she gets there, she finds the body of a young student, who has apparently taken his own life.
But she soon discovers that he’s not the only one. Five students have died within months of each other, all of them good friends.
Fighting her own inner demons from her past, Jess will stop at nothing to uncover the person behind these deaths, putting her own life on the line in the process. How far will she go to save more lives being taken?

Before I start my review, I just want to note that this is part of a series, but I read this as a standalone. I think I would have enjoyed this more if I had read the rest of the series, as there were clearly some intense backstories, but these were more or less explained throughout this novel.

The actual crime itself was truly sinister, and it soon became clear that there were some properly disturbing activities occurring both at the school and beyond it. The whole ‘undercover/secret society’ element of the mystery worked really well, and it just added to the chilling nature of the story. I’ve always loved stuff like this, and I thought that Scott played it perfectly, making it clear what this secret society was, but keeping whether or not it was involved questionable. It made for a really interesting read, as I was desperate to know the link between the deaths, and Scott added in a couple of clever side characters to add in extra layers of suspicion without it becoming ridiculous.

Jess was a fascinating main character. Her determination to succeed goes almost too far, and she’s actually quite frustrating at times for the reader, as she’s extremely stubborn. This, however, is exactly what makes her a brilliant agent, quick on her feet and an intelligent thinker, and her partnership with Jamison was really interesting. Again, there are clearly problems stemming from events in previous novels which would help the reader’s understanding of their relationship, but they’re still a great team. Jamison was a brilliantly stable character, contrasting Jess’s chaotic stubbornness really well, and at times their level of communication between each other was outstanding.

This was a brilliant novel, I thoroughly enjoyed it as a standalone, but will definitely be going back to read the full series.

BLOG TOUR: I Want You Gone by Miranda Rijks

This was SO good, really intense, fast-paced and genuinely creepy – the kind of creepy that gives you chills as you read it.

The only obituary you never want to read – is your own.
Laura Swallow is dead. 
A life cut tragically short, says the newspaper obituary.
But that’s a lie.
Estate agent Laura did not die in a car accident. She is alive and well.
At first, Laura thinks it’s a sick joke.
But multiple announcements of her death are followed by increasingly sinister real-life events. Already fragile, struggling to recover from a recent divorce, Laura is plunged into a living nightmare.
Who can she trust? Her new lover? Her clients and work colleagues? What about her ex-husband and his smug fiancée? Can Laura even rely on her best friends? And why is it that Laura’s present troubles are so tied up with her sister’s sudden death all those years ago?
But one thing Laura is sure of – someone out there wants her to suffer. Wants her gone.
Forever.

The reason I found this so creepy is that Laura is really easy to relate to in many ways, meaning that the story starts to feel real as well. It starts off with a Facebook post on Laura’s account claiming she has died, followed by a sinister obituary in the newspaper. It’s seriously weird, and the way Laura dismisses the first Facebook post as an odd error is genuinely believable, which is what helps to make it so sinister. The newspaper obituary escalates the situation a bit, and the sheer sense of weirdness surrounding Laura becomes inescapable.

What’s most distressing about this story is the total isolation that Laura feels and experiences throughout the novel – it’s actually really sad to read, and enhances the creepiness further. Laura’s a great character because she is so human – sometimes she’s so annoying because I just wanted her to see what was happening to her, but that’s why she’s a great character as her reactions to these events were realistic.

The other characters in this were brilliant as well. I liked that Miranda played with the reader a bit, making them suspicious of most of the other characters in the book. I would say that perhaps some of this felt a bit contrived, but I could definitely see what the author was trying to do in isolating Laura further by creating this aura of paranoia.

I guessed who was behind in about halfway through, but it didn’t necessarily ruin the book for me at all – the character in question was probably the best one in the book for me, very intriguing and hard to read and I wouldn’t have guessed the reasons behind their actions.

I thought this was an interesting read, I enjoyed the character-focused writing and would recommend if you’re looking for something a bit different to read!

Thanks to Emma from damppebbles for organising this book tour!

I Want You Gone
Miranda Rijks
Inkubator Books, 13th April 2019