Archive for the ‘mystery’ Category

Review: Mother, Mother – Koren Zailckas

Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas

Title: Mother, Mother
Author: Koren Zailckas
Publication date: 16 January 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9780007547388
Length: 384 pages
Genre: Psychological thriller
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository

In a nutshell

All is not well with the Hurst family.

There is gentle teenage daughter Violet, whose experiments with fasting and drugs land her in a psychiatric ward; eight-year-old Will who is smart, funny and caring but has already been labelled autistic and is being home-schooled; and mother Josephine, whose subtly controlling and seemingly innocent manoeuvres may just be the source of everyone else’s despair.

And then there’s Rose, the sister who got away. Tired of Josephine’s interferences, Rose ran away from home years earlier and hasn’t been heard from since. But as her mother’s intentions become more terrifyingly clear, Violet begins to wonder whether something far, far worse happened to her older sister…

My thoughts

Mother, Mother is typically one of those books which left such a great impression on me that I have no idea where to even begin. I’ve always been a big fan of psychological thrillers and suspense – both in terms of films and books – so even though I went into this book not knowing what to expect, I was secretly hoping it would render me speechless. And render me speechless it did. I finished reading it in late December and, without exaggeration, it’s been on my mind ever since.

There’s something very disturbing about the story, something which makes it impossible for you to put it down. You get a sense that there’s something very, very wrong with Josephine. You don’t know what she’s capable of, why she’s acting the way she does and this sense of unease, uncertainty is one of the reasons why it’s such a compelling story and why it has such an impact. Zailckas manages to keep you in constant suspense and make you feel a deep sense of unease until the very end. You keep wondering how far it could go, how far Josephine (who really is the master of manipulation) could take things before the unthinkable happens and whether anyone realises how powerful she is before it’s too late.

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Review: The Bunker Diary – Kevin Brooks

The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks

Title: The Bunker Diary
Author: Kevin Brooks
Publication date: 7 March 2013
Publisher: Penguin
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780141326122
Length: 246 pages
Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Age group: Young Adult
Source: Won
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository

In a nutshell

I can’t believe I fell for it.

It was still dark when I woke up this morning. As soon as my eyes opened I knew where I was. A low-ceilinged rectangular building made entirely of whitewashed concrete. There are six little rooms along the main corridor. There are no windows. No doors. The lift is the only way in or out. What’s he going to do to me? What am I going to do?

If I’m right, the lift will come down in five minutes.

It did. Only this time it wasn’t empty…

My thoughts

Have you ever read a book that completely broke your heart but you still loved every second of it? That’s how I felt about The Bunker Diary. It’s sad, it’s cruel, it’s chilling, but it’s so beautiful at times.

The idea behind the story reminded me a little of the Saw movies. Random people thrown into an empty building and being surrounded by security cameras everywhere they go. They’re pieces in a sick mastermind’s even sicker game and we have no idea why or what they might have done to deserve this. The Bunker Diary is something very similar. A young guy – our main character and narrator - called Linus is kidnapped and wakes up in an underground bunker. And then day by day, six other people arrive. They don’t know each other, they have nothing in common, and they have no idea why they’re held captive. All they know is that their captor’s cameras follow their every step twenty-four hours a day and their conversations are being tapped. And that’s it.

How do you get out of such a place? How do you survive? How on earth did you end up there, anyway?

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Review: Cruel Summer – James Dawson

Cruel Summer by James Dawson

Title: Cruel Summer
Author: James Dawson
Publication date: 1 August 2013
Publisher: Indigo
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781780621081
Length: 324 pages
Genre: Thriller
Age group: Young Adult
Source: Won
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository

In a nutshell

A group of friends enjoy a long, hot summer in a Mediterranean villa – until someone starts killing them one by one…

A year after the suicide of one of their friends, the rest of the group decide to spend the summer together in a holiday villa in the Mediterranean. They’re hoping to get over the terrible events of the previous year, but then a new guest arrives – claiming to have evidence that the suicide was actually murder. When she is found dead, it becomes clear that the killer must be one of them – but who is it? And will they strike again?

My thoughts

I’ve heard a million wonderful things about this book even before I picked it up so I was pretty sure I was in for a treat, but I would have never predicted how much of a nail-shredder it actually is and how much I fell in love with it by the end. If I had to sum it up in a nutshell, I would say Cruel Summer is like a modern, young adult version of Agatha Christie’s timeless classic (and one of my favourite books of all time), And Then There Were None . It’s just as twisted, just as gripping as Christie’s book and is a definite must-read for adults and younger readers alike.

When I started reading the book it seemed a little slow paced compared to what I was expecting but once you get through the first couple of chapters it all makes sense. Every little detail from the characters’ past is relevant to the plot and what they’re going through at the moment and – as much as I dreaded it – it never gets dull. Not for one moment. In fact, once you realize that all of these characters all had a lot to lose  and could have easily killed Janey you just won’t be able to put the book down. I raced through the second half of the story in no time and couldn’t get it out of my head ever since.

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Review: A Tap on the Window – Linwood Barclay

A Tap on the Window by Linwood Barclay

Title: A Tap on the Window
Author: Linwood Barclay
Publication date: 10 October 2013
Publisher: Orion
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9781409115052
Length: 512 pages
Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository

In a nutshell

It’s been two months since private investigator Cal Weaver’s teenage son Scott died in a tragic accident. Ever since, he and his wife have drifted apart, fracturing a once normal life. Cal is mired in grief, a grief he can’t move past. And maybe his grief has clouded his judgement. Because driving home one night, he makes his first big mistake.

A girl drenched in rain taps on his car window and asks for a ride as he sits at a stop light. Even though he knows a forty-something man picking up a teenage hitch-hiker is a fool, he lets her in. She’s the same age as Scott, and maybe she can help Cal find the dealer who sold his son the drugs that killed him. After a brief stop at a roadside diner, Cal senses that something’s not right with the girl or the situation. But it’s too late. He’s already involved.

Now Cal is drawn into a nightmare of pain and suspicion. Something is horribly wrong in the small town of Griffon in upstate New York. There are too many secrets there, too many lies and cover-ups. And Cal has decided to expose those secrets one by one.

That’s his second big mistake.

My thoughts

I fell in love with Linwood Barclay’s writing about a year ago, so seeing A Tap on the Window among bookshops’ ‘soon to be released’ titles was almost like an early Christmas present. Although I’ve yet to read the majority of his previous books, I simply cannot recommend him enough.

Having read No Time for Goodbye earlier I already knew I was in for one hell of a ride but the author’s ability to grab you within the first few pages of the book still managed to take me by surprise. If you think you can read this before going to bed, one chapter a day, think again. Barclay’s books are as addictive as chocolate – once you start reading them it’s literally impossible to stop. I’ve always considered myself a slow reader but I probably read the first half in one sitting.

Initially I was a bit worried about the plot because, as it turns out, the girl who goes missing and who seems to be at the centre of things is the local mayor’s daughter and politics in crime fiction has never been my thing. At all. Luckily, I shouldn’t have worried – the book doesn’t really feature any power struggles or political scandals, after all. Phew.

One of the things I love about Barclay’s books and the way he builds up his stories the most is that they’re like puzzles. You end up reading four hundred pages desperately looking for clues and answers, not having the faintest idea what’s going on and getting more clueless by the second. And then a small piece of the puzzle clicks into place and you go…

Oh my God. No way. NO WAY.

Which is also the time when things start to get interesting. Secrets are revealed, guns are drawn and a mad race against the clock begins. Brilliant set-up and such a strong ending. I absolutely loved it.

Rating:
4.5 star review
*Many thanks to Orion Books for sending me a copy for review*

Review: Knife Edge – Fergus McNeill

Knife Edge by Fergus McNeill

Title: Knife Edge
Author: Fergus McNeill
Publication date: 1 September 2013
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 978-1-444-73966-4
Length: 406 pages
Genre: Mystery
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon | The Book Depository

In a nutshell

He didn’t intend to let her get so close. But now that Kim’s become important to him, Robert Naysmith decides to tell his girlfriend his deadly secret. He wants her to recognise the power he holds.

He hopes he won’t have to kill her.

Detective Inspector Harland hasn’t forgotten the serial killer who got away from him. But with nothing to go on, he fears he will never bring him to justice. Until he is seconded to investigate the brutal murder of a woman in her Bristol home. A random attack, a murderer who has carefully covered his tracks . . . alarm bells start ringing.

Then Harland meets Kim. One last game of life and death is about to begin.

My thoughts

Fergus McNeill has been on my ‘top 10 favourite crime writers’ list ever since I read his debut, Eye Contact, last year. Needless to say the sequel, Knife Edge, was one of my most anticipated books of the year and I’m glad to say that McNeill didn’t disappoint. While Knife Edge seemed a bit slower paced than its predecessor, all in all I really enjoyed it.

The book pretty much starts where the previous one ended so it won’t make much (if any) sense if you haven’t read Eye Contact yet. Serial killer Robert Naysmith is on a holiday on a remote island and, seeking recognition, he is just about to tell his girlfriend his deadly secret. How do you go about confessing such a thing? How will Kim react? Will she try to get away or will she stay with him? These are the questions Knife Edge focuses on while it follows Kim’s journey after Naysmith’s revelation.

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Review: The Crossing Places – Elly Griffiths

The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths

Title: The Crossing Places
Author: Elly Griffiths
Publication date: 6 August 2009
Publisher: Quercus
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781847249586
Length: 288 pages
Genre: Mystery
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon | The Book Depository

Synopsis

Dr Ruth Galloway is in her late 30s. When she’s not digging up bones or other ancient objects, she lectures at a university in Norfolk. She lives, alone but happily so, in a bleak, marshy area called Saltmarsh overlooking the sea and Norfolk’s vast skies with her cats and Radio 4 for company. She’s a salty character – quirky.

When a child’s bones are found in the marshes, near a dig that Ruth and her former boyfriend Peter worked on ten years before, Ruth is called upon to date them. They turn out to be bronze-age bones and DCI Harry Nelson, who called on Ruth for help, is disappointed. He had hoped they would be the bones of a child called Lucy who’s been missing, presumed dead, for ten years. He has been getting letters about her ever since – odd letters with references to ritual and sacrifice, and including quotes from the Bible and Shakespeare.

Then a second girl goes missing and Nelson gets another letter – like the ones about Lucy. Is it the same killer? Is it a ritual murder, linked in some way to the site near Ruth’s remote home? Then one of Ruth’s cats is killed and clearly she’s in danger from a killer who knows that her expert knowledge is being used to help the police with their enquiries…

My thoughts

Elly Griffith’s books have been on my wishlist for a while but, as much as it pains me to say this, after reading The Crossing Places I’m not sure if I will read them after all. The book sounded great but, even though there were some elements in the story which I really liked, I was quite disappointed with it by the end.

Firstly, it is written in third person singular and the present tense which really bothered me. There are books where this combination works but here it didn’t – or at least it didn’t work for me. It probably wouldn’t have vexed me as much as it did if the writing itself was better, but it’s not. Which brings me to the second thing on my list, which is that Griffiths’ writing is nothing special. In fact, it’s mediocre at best. Which, again, wouldn’t have bothered me as much as it did if at least the plot was great and something that made me want to keep on reading, but it wasn’t.

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Review: Talking to the Dead – Harry Bingham

Talking to the Dead by Harry Bingham

Title: Talking to the Dead
Author: Harry Bingham
Publication date: 28 March 2013
Publisher: Orion
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-4091-3722-1
Length: 378 pages
Genre: Mystery
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon | The Book Depository

Synopsis

It’s DC Fiona Griffiths’ first murder case – and she’s in at the deep end. A woman and her six-year-old daughter killed with chilling brutality in a dingy flat. The only clue: the platinum bank card of a long-dead tycoon, found amidst the squalor.

DC Griffiths has already proved herself dedicated to the job, but there’s another side to her she is less keen to reveal. Something to do with a mysterious two-year gap in her CV, her strange inability to cry – and a disconcerting familiarity with corpses.

Fiona is desperate to put the past behind her but as more gruesome killings follow, the case leads her inexorably back into those dark places in her own mind where another dead girl is waiting to be found…

My thoughts

It’s been a few weeks since I finished Talking to the Dead but I’m still in two minds about it. On the one hand, I do like the idea behind the novel. Bingham managed to create a realistic setting and a plausible crime which isn’t far-fetched and could easily happen in today’s Britain. Which is great. I’ve never been a big fan of fantastic plots so his ability to create a world which is so similar to our own is something I definitely enjoyed about the book.

The fact that he doesn’t try to be violent, sensationalist and gory just to make his story more popular is also something to be appreciated. There is no torture, no detailed description of corpses and bloody crime scenes in the book, nothing that more imaginative readers couldn’t handle. Which, again, is great.

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