Closer Than You Think

This was a compelling thriller, with some interesting insights into the mind of the killer themselves, while tending to focus on Claire, the only surviving victim.

He’s watching. She’s waiting.
Having barely escaped the clutches of a serial killer, Claire Moore has struggled to rebuild her life. After her terrifying encounter with the man the media dubbed The Black-Out Killer, she became an overnight celebrity: a symbol of hope and survival in the face of pure evil. And then the killings stopped.
Now ten years have passed, and Claire remains traumatised by her brush with death. Though she has a loving and supportive family around her, what happened that night continues to haunt her still.
Just when things are starting to improve, there is a power cut; a house fire; another victim found killed in the same way as before.
The Black-Out Killer is back. And he’s coming for Claire…

I thought the main character, Claire, was very well written. Her vulnerability was so clear, but it was inspiring to see her go from strength to strength throughout the novel. Her fear and constant anxiety was so intense I even started feeling on edge myself, clearly showing the high quality writing in these scenes. Claire’s relationship with her mum was really heart-warming, and her mum was so supportive. It was a wonderful dynamic to read, with unspoken actions between them meaning more than words a lot of the time. Claire’s stepdad was another strong presence, offering her support from a distance, and recognising the long-lasting psychological effects that Claire’s past has had on her. The family unit was really strong, perhaps stronger than it would be in reality, but it was still believable due to the great writing.

Claire’s new boyfriend, Paul, was a really intriguing addition to Claire’s life, and I think it really worked that we didn’t get to see his perspective of their relationship, and instead we only saw hers. He seemed to be the perfect man – perhaps too perfect in some ways, so as to make him seem suspicious, but I do have to say that I didn’t feel this really worked. He simply seemed like a generous and patient man, and I didn’t believe he was the culprit behind the Black Out Killings. The segments that were written from the perspective of the Black Out Killer had a couple of details in that didn’t seem to match Paul as the suspect, so it wasn’t believable enough for me.

In terms of Claire’s personal development and trust issues, making Paul a suspect did work, as it highlighted her improvement and confidence, but other than that I didn’t feel it served too much purpose.

I won’t give away who actually did it, but I did suspect it was them. There were a couple of details I picked up on that made me suspect this character, so I was really satisfied to know that I guessed right. However, the ending left me feeling really frustrated. The relationship between Claire and the killer wasn’t explored enough, and I would have liked more insight into their relationship and history. It was quite an abrupt ending, although I do understand that it was meant to suggest at character growth from Claire herself.

Overall, this was an intriguing mystery, with an unusual motive behind them and some fascinating insights into the mind of the criminal. The ending left me feeling unsatisfied, which was a shame.

Closer Than You Think
Darren O’Sullivan
HQ Digital, 15th March 2019

The Girl Next Door by Phoebe Morgan

Oh. My. God. I LOVED this! Fast paced, with twists and turns, this novel really keeps you on your feet. It’s got the best bits of traditional thriller/detective novels, and it combines the genres absolutely wonderfully.

When young Clare goes missing and is later found dead, her small home town is left shocked and devastated.

The characters in this were so intriguing, particularly Jane, the epitome of an unreliable and untrustworthy narrator. Her husband, Jack, was seriously unreadable until about two-thirds through, making it harder to know what was behind Jane’s perfect appearance. DS Madeline Shaw is another great character, and I felt like she had just the right amount of focus on her in the novel. This isn’t a detective novel, but there are elements of that within it, and I loved the way DS Shaw was written throughout the investigation, in interviews and as a member of the town itself – Shaw was not only the investigating officer, but she was also neighbour to many of the other characters in the novel, so the relationship between them and the way they viewed Shaw was super interesting.

I’m a sucker for books that give flashbacks, but oh boy does this book do it well! The brief glimpses into the thoughts and actions of Clare were just enough to make the reader question what she’s doing. Throughout the flashbacks there were often hints of suspicion surrounding other characters she interacts with, and I was gripped by this sense of uncertainty.

I definitely got a sense that not all was as it seemed with Jane and Jack, but Morgan keeps just enough of the story under wraps until nearer the end to leave the reader in suspense.

This was brilliantly written, with wonderfully layered and complicated characters, and a story interwoven with gripping flashbacks. I loved this, and it’s definitely a 5 star book for me!

Credits:
The Girl Next Door
Phoebe Morgan
HQ, 21st Feb 2019

Finding Grace by K. L. Slater

This had a sinister tone throughout, keeping the reader on their toes, and a shocking ending.

When Grace goes missing, Lucie is beside herself to find her. With a dark secret of her own buried in her past, it slowly comes back to haunt her, and it’s difficult to know who she can trust.

The beginning of the novel is surrounded by a sort of cloud of the unknown. It becomes increasingly clear that Lucie is hiding something, but we don’t know what, and Slater really does keep us on our toes, and gives us no more information than we need. The suspense just keeps building, and the flashbacks to the past just emphasise this more. It’s superbly clever, and I was so desperate to know what happened to both Grace and Lucie and how they were linked.

As more and more is revealed, the story gets seriously intriguing. Lucie’s mysterious backstory is definitely not what I thought it would be, and it definitely took me by surprise. There was also a nice twist, meaning that Lucie’s past is not so ‘past’ as she thought it was.

The characters are all really well-written, with lots of extra small twists and turns throughout. Even down to Lucie’s annoying mother-in-law, each character is brilliant in their own way! Suspicion falls on most people in the novel, and some of the side characters pop up unexpectedly to reveal sudden truths. I loved the constant sense of surprise throughout the story.

The ending was brilliant – it definitely wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, and I loved that Slater was able to keep the suspense and surprise up all the way until the end! The whole story, with the switches between past and present, really built up to a great ending, with quite sinister characters.

Great characters, brilliant ending, and a truly sinister undertone. Loved this!

Credits:
Finding Grace
K. L. Slater
Bookouture, 14th Feb 2019

In Safe Hands: A DCI Anna Tate thriller by J. P. Carter

What story about nine missing young children wouldn’t grip you right from the start? This is a fast-paced and intriguing mystery about the type of crime that can’t fail to wrench at your heartstrings.

I felt that the writing was slightly stilted at the beginning. There was a reasonable amount of establishing the past and Anna’s backstory, so it was a bit slow in terms of following the actual mystery, despite the fact that the crime happens almost immediately. Nine children are kidnapped out of a nursery, and no one seems to have seen anything. It’s one of those stories that is immediately filled with emotion.

However, once Anna’s backstory and personal experiences are well established, this novel really comes into its own, and it’s completely gripping. I tore through this book, as I simply couldn’t understand where the clues were leading to. Carter gradually starts to lay the breadcrumbs, and so by the time the reader has figured out who’s behind it, they are so invested in these poor missing children that it comes as a complete shock. I thought the ending was brilliant, and not so simply clear-cut as ‘this is who did the crime’. There were a lot of emotions involved, and it was such a horrific crime that it becomes obvious that some real depths of despair were reached in order to commit it.

DCI Tate becomes an increasingly stronger character throughout the novel, and by the end I was really invested in her, and definitely want to read more Anna Tate novels! As the story goes on it also becomes clearer why there was so much time spent on her backstory, as it allows for a very intriguing cliffhanger at the end…

Brilliant story, with great characters – definitely worth a read! I’m delighted to say that I’ve found a new series and I will be eagerly waiting for the next installment!!

Credits:
In Safe Hands
J. P. Carter
Avon, 24 Jan 2019

The Couple by Sarah Mitchell

This was a novel with a great twist, and some seriously intriguing characters.

At first, I felt that the story was a bit random and directionless. Claire, the focus of the novel, is extremely hard to understand or relate to – although this makes her more interesting in some ways, it also means there is a sense of lack of direction.

However, once the story builds, all I can say is Oh. My. God.

The intensity of the relationships between some of the characters, and the seeming innocence of Claire in the midst of such crimes really hooks the reader in. Claire is so well-written, the reader starts to feel simultaneously more and less connected from her, if that’s even possible!

Mitchell also provides some flashbacks from the perspective of an unknown character, but one which I assumed I knew. The revelation as to whose perspective this is from really shocked me, and from then on the story just keeps building.

The twist at the end is so unexpected, I actually think it overshadowed the rest of the book, but it’s one of the best twists I’ve read in a while. The seeming slowness of the first half of the book all makes sense once you get to the end, and this is definitely a novel which builds and builds to its best right at the end.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone, and it’s for sure a 5 star read, if purely because of the brilliant ending.

Credits:
The Couple
Sarah Mitchell,
Bookouture, 5 Feb 2019