Keep Him Close by Emily Koch

Experiencing the same event from two points of view, this books pulls at the heartstrings of the reader with an excellently written crime at the centre of everything.

ONE SON LIED. ONE SON DIED.
Alice’s son is dead. Indigo’s son is accused of murder.
Indigo is determined to prove her beloved Kane is innocent. Searching for evidence, she is helped by a kind stranger who takes an interest in her situation. Little does she know that her new friend has her own agenda.
Alice can’t tell Indigo who she really is. She wants to understand why her son was killed – and she needs to make sure that Indigo’s efforts to free Kane don’t put her remaining family at risk. But how long will it take for Indigo to discover her identity? And what other secrets will come out as she digs deeper?
No one knows a son like his mother. But neither Alice nor Indigo know the whole truth about their boys, and what happened between them on that fateful night.

Alice and Indigo offer different sides of the same tragedy – one’s son confesses to murdering the other. It’s devastating for both women and this story follows the impact this crime has on both of them. It combines all the best bits of the drama and crime genres, with an element of psychological investigation incorporated as well.

Alice’s uptight, unemotional reaction is hard to connect to at times, but Indigo’s out-of-touch nature is just as alien in some ways, so it’s fascinating for the reader to watch how these two unusual women cope with what’s happening around them. The plot soon turns from the tragedy of the death of one of the boys, to solving the mystery of what really happened on that night.

It’s not an overly fast-paced novel, but it works because of that. What is left is plenty of time to investigate the emotions of the two women and delve into their different personalities and characters. It’s a wonderfully written psychological investigation, with powerful and touching emotions being demonstrated throughout from both women. I felt that Koch incorporated brilliant elements of toughness, devastation, genuine sadness and a touch of female independent strength.

For a novel that has drama, intrigue, mystery and plenty of emotion, this is the book you need. It really is fascinating and the mystery is more than enough to keep the reader hooked by itself so the emotional investigation is an added bonus that made me feel more connected to the characters.

Keep Him Close
Emily Koch
Vintage, 19th March 2020

BLOG TOUR: The Prized Girl by Amy K. Green

This is a compelling, fast-paced and creepy thriller that everyone will be hooked by.

Jenny Kennedy appears to have it all. She’s the perfect daughter, the popular girl at school and a successful beauty queen. But then Jenny is found dead in a murder that rocks the small town she grew up in to the core.
Her estranged half-sister Virginia finds herself thrust into the spotlight as the case dominates the news and is desperate to uncover who killed Jenny. But she soon realises that maybe Jenny’s life wasn’t so perfect after all.
The truth is that Jenny has more than a few secrets of her own, and so do her neighbours… What really happened that night?

This book starts off with a bang and goes right into the death of Jenny from the start. As a reader, it immediately hooked me as I wanted to know more. It starts from the perspective of Jenny’s sister Virginia, who is an interesting character. She feels unreliable as her blackout drunk moments make everything a bit uncertain for her, so I was unsure whether to trust her which again made it all that bit more intriguing.

The way the plot moves is very gripping, as it switches between Virginia in the present and Jenny in the past, building up to her death. Jenny is sweet, she’s a kid desperate to do her own thing, but there’s a sadness in reading her chapters as the reader knows it doesn’t work out for her. Her need to be independent and escape is tinged with sadness the whole way through, but it’s clever writing as I felt connected with Jenny and desperate to know who killed her.

At no point did I really feel confident in guessing who did it until the very end. Green’s writing is so clever, the twists and turns happen so suddenly that the reader is left reeling and confused. It’s brilliant, as it means the suspense is held the whole way through the book – each time Green hints at something, I learned not to take it for granted, as you never know whether something will actually be revealed or not.

The ending is fascinating, as it investigates morality and decisions made in the heat of the moment. Virginia really comes into her own at the end, seeming stronger and more confident in herself. But here is where Green is really clever, as she doesn’t make Virginia magically perfect, she still has her struggles and poor thinking at times, but she also seems more content, strong and independent.

This should definitely be your next thriller read, it’s got great characters, a fast-paced and constantly moving plot and excellent writing.

The Prized Girl
Amy K. Green
HQ, 19th March 2020

BLOG TOUR: My Perfect Wife by Clare Boyd

This was a gripping and unusual thriller, which swaps between the perspectives of the two key women involved in a really intriguing manner.

I finally have everything I ever wanted. A home with floor-to-ceiling windows, a devoted husband who dazzles everyone he meets, and two angelic children I adore. But as I watch my husband chatting with the girl next door, I wonder if anyone can see the sadness in my pretty pink smile, or hear the scream behind my straight white teeth?
I know I’m crazy to think there’s a hint of desire in his eyes.
I know it’s madness to see a flicker of fear in hers.
I know all this, because I’ve been wrong before.
And if I’m wrong again, he’ll try to take my children away.
The party is my last chance to prove to my husband that I’m on the mend, that I can handle something as simple as a drinks reception without snapping under the pressure. It’s all going perfectly, until I see something in the swimming pool that changes everything. But if I can’t trust myself to believe it’s real, who will?

I really liked the intriguing plot of this book – the contrast between Elizabeth and Heather, the two women at the centre of this book was really fascinating. Elizabeth with her fancy life and the apparently perfect husband and Heather with the fantasy of what could have been – they give two sides to the same story and at times it’s difficult to know who I believe. I loved the focus on these two women, both strong in their own way and both dealing with their own issues. They are simultaneously at odds with each other but also struggling with the same things and I loved this contrast. It was different seeing them having to battle to work together, so the power struggle between them was excellent.

The plot moved at a great pace – it was fast and kept me hooked but there was enough time spent on some of the details and dramas. The psychological thriller elements of this book are a great addition, Elizabeth is hard to follow and her disorientated thoughts make this even more fascinating and interesting. The mind games between Elizabeth and Lucas are one of my favourite elements of this book, it’s full of twists and turns and unexpected elements and the action really builds throughout.

I feel like it’s hard for me not to give too much away but honestly this is a compelling book full of intrigue and twists throughout. The characters are strong and I never knew who to trust so it was really difficult to put the book down at times. The ending is really good, the suspense and drama simply doesn’t let up and Boyd manages to keep an element of uncertainty right until the end. I would absolutely recommend this book.

My Perfect Wife
Clare Boyd
Bookouture, 4th March 2020

The Holdout by Graham Moore

This book had a brilliant concept, strong characters and a very engaging way of writing.

One juror changed the verdict. What if she was wrong?
‘Ten years ago we made a decision together…’
Fifteen-year-old Jessica Silver, heiress to a billion-dollar fortune, vanishes on her way home from school. Her teacher, Bobby Nock, is the prime suspect. It’s an open and shut case for the prosecution, and a quick conviction seems all but guaranteed.
Until Maya Seale, a young woman on the jury, persuades the rest of the jurors to vote not guilty: a controversial decision that will change all of their lives forever.
Ten years later, one of the jurors is found dead, and Maya is the prime suspect.
The real killer could be any of the other ten jurors. Is Maya being forced to pay the price for her decision all those years ago?

What I loved about this was the way the chapters focused on Maya, but divided it up by going back ten years ago with each divide focusing on a different juror. Gradually throughout the book we got to see the thoughts of each juror and why they voted ‘Not Guilty’. It was so fascinating to see and I really liked this view into the minds of each juror.

This was a very fast-paced book, with the plot moving quickly and the writing easy to follow. I love it when a book is easy to read, it makes it easier for me to engage with the story and stayed hooked on the book. This was one of those books, it was clear and concise, descriptive when needed and really kept me gripped. The chapters are also clearly titled so I always knew who was at the centre of which chapter and which year we were in, so it was just excellently written.

The plot itself was also fantastic. It really investigated the moral roles of the jurors involved and how they had been affected by their decision to rule ‘Not Guilty’. Maya, the main character, was very self aware throughout and able to dissect her feelings so the reader can easily feel connected to her. I was with Maya the whole way through, urging her to find out the truth and discover what happened, frustrated when she struggled and elated when she uncovered more and more. It was up and down throughout and I was kept guessing right until the end.

The ending was a surprise but I think it was always going to be because of how the plot worked. The constant back and forth meant that it was easy to follow but hard to get close to any character other than Maya so I wasn’t able to guess who was at fault. The moral side of this book was excellently written, with no black and white answer available. Every person has their own moral limit and this book highlighted this very clearly.

I loved this, it was such a great book and so brilliantly written. The characters were all excellent, the plot different and unique and the pace was perfect.

The Holdout
Graham Moore
Orion, 18th Feb 2020

Grace is Gone by Emily Elgar

This is such a gripping book, with characters that aren’t what you expect them to be and a story that’s genuinely quite horrifying at times.

Meg and her daughter Grace are the most beloved family in Ashford, the lynchpin that holds the community together.
So when Meg is found brutally murdered and her daughter missing, the town is rocked by the crime. Not least because Grace has been sick for years – and may only have days to live.
Who would murder a mother who sacrificed everything, and take a teenager away from the medication that could save her life? Everyone is searching for an answer, but sometimes the truth can kill you . . .

If anyone knows what real-life story this book is based on, then you’ll know roughly what to expect from this. If not, you’re in for a great read! This book is definitely not what you expect, with a brilliant hook that just builds the suspense throughout.

The characters in this are really varied, from Cara to Jon, who are determined to uncover the truth, to Grace herself, and all the others who become involved throughout. I felt like I was able to engage with all of them and that they all brought something to the story. Each person added a layer of mystery and intrigue and I loved how it all came together to add to the final story.

I think that the general pace of this was great, perhaps as I realised what was happening early on I kind of knew what to expect so was waiting for the reveal but the writing was excellent so this didn’t matter too much. It was the bit after the reveal that I was looking forward to and it was fast-paced, full of action with some really chilling moments.

This book is also a great examination of moral obligation, with feelings of guilt running the whole way throughout the story. It really looks deeply into how the other characters feel about Grace and her story and the way they feel about their own role in it. It’s fascinating at times and this is the element of the book that I really enjoyed. It’s a great book, but where the excellence really lies is in the investigation into the morals and feelings of the characters involved. I’d definitely recommend this as a chilling, character-driven book.

Grace is Gone
Emily Elgar
Sphere, 20th Feb 2020

BLOG TOUR: Conviction by Denise Mina

This is unique, chilling and fascinating thriller, with a strong and independent female lead who I absolutely loved.

It’s just a normal morning when Anna’s husband announces that he’s leaving her for her best friend and taking their two daughters with him.
With her safe, comfortable world shattered, Anna distracts herself with someone else’s story: a true-crime podcast. That is until she recognises the name of one of the victims and becomes convinced that only she knows what really happened.
With nothing left to lose, she throws herself into investigating the case. But little does she know, Anna’s past and present lives are about to collide, sending everything she has worked so hard to achieve into freefall.

The style of writing in this book is so unique, it drew me in right from the start. It’s blunt, bizarrely honest and at times feels fragmented when it follows Anna’s real-time thoughts, but I loved it. It was different, but the slightly jarring effect was actually very captivating. It was this that hooked me in to this book before the plot even got going.

What drew me to this book in the first place was the concept of the podcast being the catalyst. The way this was executed within the book was excellent, as the plot didn’t rely too heavily on the podcast but used it as very gripping starting point. Mina gave just enough of a link between the podcast and Anna to keep me curious throughout, without giving away too many of the precise details as to why they were linked. The tension just kept building, and even though the story was a little bit out there, it was just fantastic. The way it was written from Anna’s blunt and unapologetic perspective made it so believable that I never stopped to question what was happening, I just enjoyed reading it.

As we got nearer to the end I was honestly starting to wonder if we were ever going to find out the truth – Mina kept it going right up until the very end. Surprisingly it didn’t drag at all, and instead I found myself desperately turning the pages as I had to find out what happened. I was genuinely shocked, and although I don’t want to give too much away, I will say that this was one of those endings where it just crept up on me and I was left totally shocked. The way that Mina writes keeps the reader totally focused on the main thread of the story, leaving you blind-sided when she reveals something that should have been obvious.

I honestly absolutely loved this. It was deliciously creepy, twisty throughout and full of suspense with a very strong female lead character. If this isn’t on your list to read, it should be now.

Conviction
Denise Mina
Vintage, 20th February 2020

The Neighbours by Nicola Gill

This is such a cute, feel-good story, that everyone who likes strong and funny characters will enjoy. Warning – spoilers in the review below

Meet Ginny, 34, and Cassie, 55. Neighbours, and (very) unlikely friends.
Some women have it all. Others are thirty-four and rent a tiny flat alone because they recently found their long-term boyfriend in bed with their boss. Ginny Taylor is certain her life can’t get any worse. But then she meets her downstairs neighbour…
Cassie Frost was once a beloved actress, but after a recent mishap she desperately needs a new publicist. And Ginny is a publicist who desperately needs a job – but can she be persuaded to work for the prickly woman who lives below her floorboards?
Ginny and Cassie are two very different women, but they have more in common than they’d care to imagine (or admit). And when their worlds collide, they realise that bad neighbours could become good friends…

This is such an amusing, and in some ways lighthearted book, that everyone would enjoy. The two characters, Ginny and Cassie, are such an excellent pairing and they compliment each other perfectly. I found them really funny at times but other times it was very touching. The way that the two women come together at the beginning is really sweet – neither one is totally happy, and they’re both going through what could be called a rough patch. This is what bonds them and some of the things they get up to together are really hilarious and relatable. I loved seeing them progress and change together, but it was also heartbreaking at times to watch them go through difficult times.

This book really helps the reader connect with the characters, I felt really bonded them and this meant that the story held a lot more emotion than normal. I was with Ginny and Cassie through all the good and bad bits and so I was hooked throughout. This book is special because it takes issues or experiences that the reader can relate to and manages to express those emotions really well, while also injecting a little bit of comedy to lift the tone when needed. I thought it was done very tastefully and really would recommend this to anyone who wants to read something that tackles topics like mental health, love and friendship in a way that’s very easy to read and follow.

The way that Ginny dealt with Cassie’s depression later on in the book was very human and real – it wasn’t perfect by any means, but that’s what made it realistic. There were times when Ginny handled things badly, but the effort was made to point out why it was unhelpful and how she could do better. I thought this aspect of the book was great and made it really emotional at times. There are events that are difficult to read, and so perhaps for this reason I would say there’s a content warning for mental health, but I really thought it was done well, considering the genre of this book. Despite the comedic moments, there are times when this book has elements of such piercing honesty and seriousness, that it almost took me by surprise. Cassie’s good and bad days are written in such an honest and straightforward way that it definitely has an element of real-ness to it that makes it very readable.

The actual story is also excellent, it has the right amount of ups and downs, with a dash of comedy and a bit of heartbreak, but that’s why it works so well. The ending was wonderful, I finished the book feeling very satisfied and happy, which is exactly how I wanted to feel. After a rocky journey, I was left feeling genuinely delighted for both women and was really sad to finish this. This is a definite must-read for me as I loved every second.

The Neighbours
Nicola Gill
Avon, 6th Feb 2020