BLOG TOUR: The Night You Left by Emma Curtis

I loved how this switched from the past to the present, offering different perspectives on various events, building up to a fantastic ending.

It only takes a moment to unravel a perfect life…
When Grace’s fiancé vanishes without a trace the night after proposing, her life is turned upside down. But has Nick walked out on her, or is he in danger?
As Grace desperately searches for answers, it soon becomes clear that Nick wasn’t the uncomplicated man she thought she knew. And when she uncovers a hidden tragedy from his childhood, she realises an awful truth: that you can run from your past – but your secrets will always catch up with you . . .

What a book. I really loved this, I loved the switching perspectives and timelines, Grace was a fantastic main character, and the level of suspicion and intensity throughout was brilliant. The story starts pretty much instantly, with the disappearance of Grace’s husband Nick. The reason why I liked this so much is that it doesn’t give the reader much of a chance to gauge Nick as a character, so the reason why he goes missing is even more of a mystery.

It’s really fast-paced, Grace’s urgency and frustration is clear to see, and her pain practically radiates out of the pages. I also liked the chapters that went back in time, and showed Nick’s childhood. It helped build the tension up, especially as there were characters that weren’t present in the current timeline. It also meant that only half the book was written in the present, so the action had to move quickly, and it worked really well. The chapters that were written from the past were actually some of my favourite parts of the book; because the characters in these chapters were children, their emotions were so raw and heightened, that I really found myself sympathising and connecting with them.

Grace herself was a brilliant main character, she was very emotional, frustrated, upset but there was a real determination to find out what happened to Nick. Her relationship with her in-laws was so stifling, and the love and strength she showed to her daughter was so endearing. All the different parts of her character were shown, and the writing was so good. The other characters throughout the book were just as well written; Douglas was a serious, powerful man, and Anna’s vulnerability and wariness came through as well. It was hard to make out who to feel suspicious of, demonstrating yet again why the book was so good. I consistently felt uncertain, tense and desperate to find out what happened.

I thought the ending was brilliant. It’s definitely quite unexpected, and there’s a lot that happens so it really hooked me in, and I couldn’t put it down. It was fast-paced, with lots of action, and it brings in all the elements of both timelines really well.

This is such a great read, it’s thrilling, emotional, tense and has some truly brilliant characters. I’d definitely recommend this!

The Night You Left
Emma Curtis
Transworld Digital, 22nd July 2019

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

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: 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

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

Dead Inside by Noelle Holten

This was a really emotional and hard-hitting read, with a focus on domestic abuse and the pain it causes while also incorporating elements of a traditional detective mystery.

One by one they’re being killed off. Who’s behind it…?
DC Maggie Jamieson has just joined a new team. Confronted with getting to know her colleagues and trying to solve a brutal murder, she soon finds herself suspecting those she works with and knows well. As the body count rises and links between the victims appear, it’s clear this case is personal.
Soon, Probation Officer Lucy Sherwood’s husband is found dead. Maggie struggles to believe that Lucy could be capable of this, but no other suspects seem to be forthcoming.
Can Maggie solve this and find the truth in time?

This novel really built up the suspense, and despite there being lots of characters to keep track of, they were all written brilliantly. From the genuinely creepy Mick O’Dowd, to the strong-minded Shell Baker, and the trustworthy DC Maggie Jamieson, they were all perfectly written and interacted with each other wonderfully.

There were a lot of different types of relationships to include in this book, which Holten has written with nuance and emotion. Lucy and her husband Patrick were a fascinating but heartbreaking pair, and seeing Lucy’s pain was really hard to read in places. In places it was genuinely upsetting to read, but this is credit to the brilliant and emotive writing. Lucy’s reasoning with herself regarding Patrick’s behaviour and why she stayed was equally hard to read considering her job as Probation Officer, and the logic and determination she showed in that role. She was a perfect main character, with just enough focus on her to show the struggle she was going through, but still with enough focus on the crimes themselves.

The police officers themselves were great. PC Kat Everett was hilarious at times with her swearing, and offered a few light-hearted moments in an otherwise hard-to-read book. Her wild emotions and intense anger were also relatable, as was her colleague Mark’s disgust with the domestic abuse offenders they came across. It was interesting seeing how the officers balanced their personal feelings with their professional duties, and I felt their emotions were portrayed really believably.

Moving on to the actual crimes themselves, it was one of those mysteries that genuinely had me stumped as to who was committing them. I had some theories throughout the book, but it was so cleverly written that I almost didn’t have time to spend being too suspicious of anyone or working it out. There was so much going on, and it was nicely fast-paced, that I honestly didn’t think about who was responsible for the murders at all. Although I wouldn’t say I was totally shocked by who did it, I didn’t feel that this was a negative at all, as it felt like it was more about why they did it, the long-lasting effects that abuse has on people, and the person’s relationship with their past.

I also liked that the ending was sort of split in two (I’m trying not to give too much away…), and it wasn’t a clear wrapping up of all the deaths in one go. Lucy’s fragile state towards the end was devastating, but there was a real sense that her inner strength was still there, and she was definitely a survivor.

This book was brilliantly nuanced and emotive, the crimes themselves were fascinating, but the real depth is in the characters themselves. The writing is so clever, so emotional and just genuinely touching. I loved this, it’s a 5 star read, and I’d definitely recommend it.