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: The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

This was a claustrophobic, fast-paced and clever book, with characters who were explored in lots of detail.

Welcome to the escape room. Your goal is simple. Get out alive.
In the lucrative world of Wall Street finance, Vincent, Jules, Sylvie and Sam are the ultimate high-flyers. Ruthlessly ambitious, they make billion-dollar deals and live lives of outrageous luxury. Getting rich is all that matters, and they’ll do anything to get ahead.
When the four of them become trapped in an elevator escape room, things start to go horribly wrong. They have to put aside their fierce office rivalries and work together to solve the clues that will release them. But in the confines of the elevator the dark secrets of their team are laid bare. They are made to answer for profiting from a workplace where deception, intimidation and sexual harassment thrive.
Tempers fray and the escape room’s clues turn more and more ominous, leaving the four of them dangling on theprecipice of disaster. If they want to survive, they’ll have to solve one more final puzzle: which one of them is a killer?

The concept of this was really fascinating. This is an escape room like no other, with obscure clues and a real sense of claustrophobia throughout. At first, it’s slightly confusing, with a prologue that seems to make no sense, and the introduction of a character who seems to be unconnected. It’s confusing but ultimately fascinating, and I was hooked immediately. The beginning works well because it seems to be disjointed – the scenes are cleverly shocking, and entices the reader to keep going to find out what exactly is going on.

It’s hard not to give too much away about this book… The scenes in the elevator offered insight into the four characters, and showed their twisted relationships with each other as well as their own personal battles. As time went on, it was clear they were losing hope, becoming frustrated and getting increasingly desperate. The emotions were right on the surface, and these scenes were written so well.

There are also chapters that don’t take place in the elevator, and these were actually some of my favourite scenes in the book. They were clever, seemingly not linked, and kept me really hooked until I knew how it all worked together. I don’t want to give too much away, but these chapters become more intense as times goes on and it’s so clever.

Although I partly predicted one aspect of the ending, I definitely didn’t get any of the details. The ending was less about the sudden shock factor, and more about a slow, tense and twisted ending that left the reader feeling both shocked and satisfied. I’ve not read an ending that had so much going on in a while, but it really worked with the tone of the novel, and I couldn’t have put the book down if I tried.

I read this in the space of a day, it was frightening, tense, clever and definitely twisted. Each of the characters brought a lot to the book, especially the women, and I loved the strong personalities. I’d definitely recommend this if you want something different to read!

The Chain by Adrian McKinty

I thought this started really well, the shock and fear was so powerful, but this didn’t continue throughout, and I was left disappointed by the second half.

Your phone rings.
A stranger has kidnapped your child.
To free them you must abduct someone else’s child.
Your child will be released when your victim’s parents kidnap another child.
If any of these things don’t happen:
Your child will be killed.
You are now part of The Chain.

This book starts off really powerfully. Rachel’s daughter is kidnapped, and she therefore becomes part of The Chain, a spooky entity forcing people to commit crimes to get their kids back. I was hooked from the start, as it was quite an unusual concept, and one that I really liked. Rachel herself was a great main character, she was strong, stubborn and resourceful, as anyone would need to be in this situation. Her daughter, Kylie, was also a strong person, and just as determined to get herself out of the situation.

I felt like the first part of the book was clever, fairly fast-paced, and the story showed a detailed look into the complexity of human nature. Rachel’s emotions were closely examined throughout, her guilt, determination, love, relief and her dangerous side were all shown.

Unfortunately, it’s the second half of the book that I felt let it down. To me, it felt really disconnected. McKinty starts dropping sections written from the perspective of the people behind The Chain. I personally feel this would have been more powerful if it had started earlier in the book, and there hadn’t been such a strong division between Parts 1 and 2. Learning more about The Chain’s leaders was definitely interesting however, so I did like that this was added in.

I also expected more characters to be introduced in part 2, but instead it was the same people, but with more personal issues being thrown at them. I would have liked to see a character who was just a strong, independent and courageous person, without having them battle through an emotional or tragic backstory just for the sake of it. It just felt like a lot to me, for both main characters to have a really intense story, and I would have liked to see some more in-depth analysis of their personality, as was shown in part 1.

The ending was a little cliche for me. There was a lot of heroics thrown in, and it was a bit much. I know it’s a bit ridiculous to say it didn’t feel realistic, as the whole concept is very ‘out there’, but it just felt a little overdone, and I was just reading through it super quickly to get past all the dramatics. I was disappointed by the ending, as I was hoping for something more deeply thought out.

There are definitely things about this I loved, but it mostly comes in the first half of the book, and the second half didn’t live up to how awesome that was. Still a great read, but just not my favourite, and I’d probably rate it a 3* read. However, I know that lots of people have loved this book, so maybe this is just me!

The Chain
Adrian McKinty
Orion, 9th July 2019

What She Saw by Wendy Clarke

What a brilliant, fast-paced, intriguing and consistently surprising book!

She lied to her daughter to save her family.
Everyone knows Leona would do anything for her daughter Beth: she moved to Church Langdon to send Beth to the best school, worked hard to build a successful business to support them and found them the perfect little cottage to call home. Leona and Beth hike together, shop together, share their hopes and fears with one another. People say they’re more like best friends than mother and daughter.
It’s the relationship every mother dreams of.
But their closeness means that Beth struggles to make friends. Her mother has kept her sheltered from the world. She’s more reliant on her mother’s love. More vulnerable.
When Beth finds an envelope hidden under the floorboards of their home, the contents make her heart stop. Everything she thought she knew about her mother is a lie. And she realises there is no one she can turn to for help.
What if you’ve been protected from strangers your whole life, but the one person you can’t trust is the person closest to home?

I thought this was a genuinely clever thriller/drama. I loved the elusiveness of Leona, the sense that she was holding something back, even during the scenes with her therapist. It was so brilliantly written, as the reader felt both connected to her and distant from her at the same time. Ria was also a really fascinating character, as she was clearly vulnerable but there was a definite sense of strength and resolve underneath it all. Finally, the other main female character was Leona’s daughter, Beth. Again, she was really well written, both a typical teenage girl but also an unusually independent one, and the friendship she formed with David seemed super suspicious throughout.

I liked how Leona told Ria’s story herself, it gave the reader a sense of dread about what happens to Ria. Gareth was a particularly manipulative character, but I felt that Clarke built up his character at the perfect pace, giving the reader enough dread and suspense without giving too much away too soon. There were points when I literally felt shudders running through me as he was such a creepy and nasty man.

There were definitely things about the story that I questioned throughout, as the reader was meant to, and I was absolutely desperate to find out what happened. The mysterious flashbacks to Ria’s life, the box Leona keeps, Beth’s artistic fascination, all of these details kept me hooked until I found out what they could possibly mean.

The ending was really satisfying. It was definitely dramatic, but after such an intense book I was ready for an emotionally satisfying, happy ending, and Clarke definitely provides this. What I didn’t expect was the main plot twist! I had my suspicions about something else, which turned out to be completely wrong, and I was blind-sided by the turn the plot actually took. Genius writing from Clarke, as she subtly leads the reader into suspecting one thing, in order to completely shock them later on.

This is intense, deliciously creepy, fast-paced, with some absolutely brilliant characters and a shocking ending. A definite must-read book!

What She Saw
Wendy Clarke
Bookouture, 1st May 2019

BLOG TOUR: The Divorce by Victoria Jenkins

I thought this was a really unusual thriller, that absolutely flew by, in a fascinating setting.

I thought I knew how to help them. I knew nothing.
When Lydia and Josh Green walk into Karen’s office for counselling one rainy February morning, Karen sees a couple under stress, almost at breaking point. A husband working long hours at the hospital, a wife working longer hours at home with their young children.
They’re just a normal couple, with normal problems, and Karen is determined to help, but she knows she must be careful. Once in the past, she went too far – her need to fix other people’s lives tipped her over the edge… and someone got hurt.
But the couple won’t open up. And just as Karen begins to feel the couple are hiding a secret darker than the problems of an everyday marriage, she receives something which makes her question her own safety.
With everything she has been through, can Karen trust herself? She needs to listen and she needs to watch Lydia and Josh carefully – there is something there that could be the key to saving them all, if only she can unlock it in time…

I loved that this book was set, for the most part, solely in Karen’s office. It created a very claustrophobic atmosphere within the book, making it more intense than it already was, and it was really clever. Karen’s office, which started as a safe space, slowly became more and more invaded with Lydia and Josh’s problems, and throughout the novel this extended into other parts of Karen’s house, as the issues became more serious. For the odd scene which was set outside the house, there was a real sense of vulnerability and feeling unsafe, which was only reconciled when she returned to her office. Even the scenes in the kitchen were creepy and unsettling, and this use of place really enhanced all the themes throughout the story.

I also really liked how this book swapped perspectives, with different chapters being written from Josh, Lydia or Karen’s perspective. It gave an insight into how they all reacted differently to the counselling sessions, and allowed the reader to compare Karen’s assumptions and thoughts to Lydia and Josh’s thoughts. They were all such well written characters. I was definitely unsure what to make of Lydia and Josh, and had no idea where the story was going. Karen’s vague backstory was also intriguing, and Jenkins gave just the right amount of detail to make the reader feel tense and concerned for Karen.

The story itself goes so quickly – because nearly all the chapters take place as counselling sessions, no substantial time is spent on what happens in-between the sessions, so the plot is very focused. It’s really fast-paced and I was hooked throughout. The spooky little details that Jenkins puts in are perfectly timed to raise the suspense again, from pictures being misplaced to mysterious flowers arriving – they are small details, but they’re essential in building the tension.

The ending was really clever, it linked everything together in a really intense couple of chapters. It was explained really well, and Jenkins offers a much more insightful look into all three characters than the reader is allowed previously, so it’s a really satisfying ending. I was definitely taken by surprise, and the details within the plot make it even better. The last page or two is just as tense and fast-paced though, and even the rather abrupt end works really well – it keeps the pace of the book consistent, but still manages to leave the reader satisfied.

I loved this, it’s a clever, detailed, intense and fast-paced story, with three intriguing characters and a claustrophobic but brilliant setting. I would absolutely recommend this!

The Divorce
Victoria Jenkins
Bookouture, 4th July

BLOG TOUR: Death in Avignon by Serena Kent

This was a detailed and different murder mystery, with a quaint setting and a likeable main character.

Glamour, intrigue, and a mystery to die for…
When Penelope Kite attends a gallery opening on the arm of the gorgeous mayor of St Merlot, her dream life in Provence seems finally to have become a reality.
But beneath the glamour, scandal is brewing. Shockwaves ripple through the art world when a controversial painter, Roland Doncaster, chokes on an almond-stuffed olive.
A tragic accident? Or a ruthless poisoning? Embroiled once more in a murder investigation, Penelope discovers that any number of jealous lovers and scheming rivals could be in the frame. And with dashing art dealers to charm, patisseries to resist, and her own friends under suspicion, Penelope will need all her sleuthing talents to uncover the truth…

I really enjoyed this! It starts off with a simple setting, re-introducing the character of Penelope, and highlighting the cute, very French, setting that she’s living in. Her life seems full of croissants, fashion advice, house renovations and new friends, and I instantly warmed to her.

Once the background and feel for the book has been established, it quickly moves on to the exhibition Penelope is attending, and the art world is where the mystery really starts to show. The sudden collapse and subsequent death of painter Ronald Doncaster is very shocking, and Penelope’s instincts to solve it rise quickly. The reason I liked this is because it’s different to the usual detective mysteries. Firstly, Penelope isn’t a detective herself, although she previously worked in forensics, and secondly she definitely doesn’t get along with the detective actually in charge! I liked this as it would have been easy to write them as two best friends, but their relationship was actually more tricky than that and so it made Penelope’s determination to solve the murder even more interesting as she had no help from the police department.

All the characters in this were brilliant as well, and I liked that Kent included lots of detail about Penelope’s personal life, making the reader feel more connected to her. She was just such a loveable main character, with a whole range of emotions. Seeing her children visit her from England gave the reader a respite from the murder mystery, and the addition towards the end of Penelope’s best friend Frankie was really fun as well. There were so many awesome characters, and Kent wrote Penelope’s relationship with all of them really well, including all the ups and downs that happen with friendships.

The ending of this definitely took me by surprise, and trust me, if you read this then you’ll definitely feel the same! I was 100% blindsided by the ending, and finding out who was responsible was a genuine shock. It made perfect sense as well, and although it was a great ending, it still fitted the general tone of the novel by being slightly outlandish! I just loved it, the inclusion of all the characters worked really well as they all brought something to the story. I’d definitely recommend this if you’re a fan of murder mysteries and want something a bit different!

Death in Avignon
Serena Kent
Orion, 26th June 2019

BLOG TOUR: The Perfect Betrayal by Lauren North

What. A. Book. This kept me hooked the whole way through the book, and I had no idea what was going to happen until the end.

After the sudden death of her husband, Tess is drowning in grief. All she has left is her son, Jamie, and she’ll do anything to protect him – but she’s struggling to cope.
When grief counsellor Shelley knocks on their door, everything changes. Shelley is understanding and kind, and promises she can help Tess through the hardest time of her life.
But when a string of unsettling events happens and questions arise over her husband’s death, Tess starts to suspect that Shelley may have an ulterior motive. Tess knows she must do everything she can to keep Jamie safe – but she’s at her most vulnerable, and that’s a dangerous place to be.

This book had some of the strongest characters I’ve read in a psychological thriller in a long time. Tess was so hard to read, she was clearly drowning in her grief and trying to take care of her son, but her mood swings showed the reader that something was not quite right. The whole way through the book the suspense just kept building, with Tess’s fear and paranoia increasing, and her protectiveness of Jamie eventually coming to a head. Shelley was definitely the most interesting character, her kindness seemed too good to be true, and the way Tess described Shelley’s emotions and actions convinced the reader that something is not quite right. The two women are simply brilliant characters, and while the others add detail and depth, Tess and Shelley are where the real story is.

It’s difficult to discuss the story without giving too much away, but as Tess and her son Jamie grieve for their lost husband/father, the tension throughout the novel increases. Gradually the reader learns more and more about what happened, and the suspense simply keeps building. As Tess becomes more suspicious of Shelley, who has lost a son previously, the reader becomes quite fearful for Tess and Jamie.

I was actually a bit lost for words at the ending. It was enthralling, unexpected and completely blindsided me. The pace is so fast that the reader doesn’t have time to stop and think, you just keep going until all is revealed. Throughout the book there are interview scenes between Tess and a detective, and these are also connected to the story at the end, and everything ties in really well.

You simply have to read this. Breathtaking, fast-paced, full of suspense and a little bit creepy – it’s honestly got everything.

The Perfect Betrayal
Lauren North
Corgi Books, 27th June 2019