Sunday, July 25, 2021

When you are mine by Michael Robotham

Philomena "Phil" McCarthy has worked hard to become a police officer with the Metropolitan Police - no easy feat for the daughter of a notorious criminal.  Phil fought hard to become a police officer, pushing past all the rejections and working harder than anyone else in her class to make it - and she has also cut all ties with her father, and her father's side of the family.  Life isn't easy, but she has found happiness with her fiancée and his son, and she is looking forward to her wedding.  That peaceful normalcy is rocked when she attends a domestic violence complaint with her partner and has to defend herself in an unorthodox fashion.  Blindsided with the identity of her assailant, Phil finds herself on the outside once again, fighting for her place.  Phil soon discovers that she has a connection to the victim, Tempe Brown, and an unexpected friendship develops between them.

As the friendship grows, Phil finds herself in the unusual position of needing a favour from her father - the only person who can help her keep Tempe safe.  Contact with her father comes with a price though, her career with the Metropolitan Police is on shaky ground, and reconnecting with her family is not a good look.  Phil has been told she is obsessed, that she needs to stop investigating Tempe's case, that she is done - but she is determined to stop the harassment that Tempe is facing.  Something isn't quite right with Tempe though, she seems nervous and edgy, and she tells Phil's friends the wildest stories.  Phil tries to shrug it off, Tempe is helping plan her wedding after all, but things aren't adding up.  When her friends and fiancée raise questions about Tempe and her story she tries to brush it off, but she soon finds herself chasing Tempe's story down a rabbit hole that could destroy everything she has worked for.

When you are mine is a standalone novel that is a roller-coaster ride of emotions, conspiracies, betrayals and family that stands out from other books in the crime genre because of the weight of the characters and the situations they find themselves in.  Phil is an interesting character to build the story around, her links to the criminal world and the her work as a police officer making her a pariah in both worlds.  She is also impulsive, stubborn, and loyal - which makes her chasing the story to the end a foregone conclusion.  The people in her world are also complete people with their strengths, flaws, and weaknesses and they make her world completely believable and absorbing.  The theme of a young police officer standing up to a corrupt system is not a new one, but Robotham puts a very good spin on it and keeps you hooked on the story from start to finish. 

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, July 16, 2021

Choose me by Tess Gerritsen and Gary Braver

When Taryn Moore is found dead in the street outside her apartment after a fall from her balcony it is easy to conclude that she killed herself, a sad case of a young woman who took her own life.  Detective Frances "Frankie" Loomis is not convinced, and not just because her cellphone is nowhere to be found.  As she investigates the case with her partner, Frankie learns more about Taryn and her life, and the events that lead up to her death.  

Taryn left her home town in Maine to study at Commonwealth University in Boston, and she has impressed a few professors in the English Department with her brilliant mind and interesting analysis of English texts.  She is not as popular with some of her classmates, but she has a bright future in academia - as long as she can convince her mother to keep supporting her studies.  The class where she shines the most is Professor Jack Dorian's Star-Crossed Lovers seminar.  Taryn brings a spark to the class, intelligent and thoughtful debate, and Jack is more than a little taken with his star pupil - not in a romantic sense, but he is drawn to her.

As Frankie digs deeper into Taryn's life she discovers that Taryn was a complex young woman - and that there was a lot going on in her life.  Liam, the boyfriend that Taryn followed to Boston had started a new relationship while on a 'break' from his relationship with her, something that Taryn doesn't take well.  Her relationship with Professor Jack Dorian also proves to be more complicated than that of teacher and student - and some of her fellow students are not afraid to try and use that relationship to their own advantage.  As Frankie untangles the story of Taryn's death she makes some startling discoveries that prove you never really know people - not completely.

Choose me is one of those difficult books to review because talking it up requires spoiling some of the best elements of the book.  It is relatively safe to say that this is an outstanding work of psychological fiction, as no one is what they seem, and victims aren't always the victims they seem.  Taryn is a complex and very real person, not only in her death, but also in her life.  She has depth, history, emotion, and it is all too easy to see her actions played out in real life with real people.  Gerritsen and Braver have done an amazing job of creating people who fully come to life with their aspirations, histories, secrets, lies, and desires - no one is under or over done, and the conclusion is thoroughly satisfying.  A great find.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, July 12, 2021

The puppet show by M.W. Craven

The Serious Crime Analysis Section (SCAS), lead by Detective Inspector Stephanie Flynn, uses a range of data sources and information to identify the emergence of serial rapists and serial killers - as well as providing Police forces with analytical support for their trickier cases.  It's not typical Police work, and involves some rather unusual skill sets, and personalities.  Tilly Bradshaw is one of the more unusual members of the team, she can see mathematical patterns that others miss, and if she needs a programme to do a job and can't find one she writes the programmes herself.  While she may be a genius and something of a prodigy when it comes to seeing patterns, she lacks many of the common social skills that are important when working in a team.  When Tilly sees a pattern with the third victim of  killer the press has dubbed The Immolation Man, because he likes to burn his victims, she makes a phone call that leads to a startling discovery.

Washington Poe is minding his own business in Cumbria, waiting for the day when the hammer finally drops on his career.  Suspended in disgrace more than a year ago after a careless act that leads to the death of a suspect, Poe has been quietly working on his new home Herdwick Croft.  When DI Flynn appears with the news his suspension has been lifted he has mixed feelings, especially when she gives him the choice of coming back to work or resigning, but the details of the case are too tempting to ignore.  The Immolation Man is not only leaving his victims in the stone circles of Cumbria, he has also linked Poe to the latest victim.  Poe is a brilliant profiler, even if he is unorthodox and prone to break the rules - and one of the first rules he breaks is taking Tilly Bradshaw into the field.  It's a partnership that shouldn't work, but it somehow does - even if Poe seems to spend a lot of time helping Tilly navigate the real world rather than working on the case.  It is a race against time for Tilly and Poe to find The Immolation Man before he finds his next victim - or before the rich and powerful stop their investigation in it's tracks.  Poe has never been afraid to fight the hard fights and pursue a case to the end, but this time he has Tilly to think about too.

The puppet show was an engrossing read which fits the old cliché of 'the pages almost seemed to turn themselves' - which doesn't do the story or the characters justice.  I wasn't sure what to think about Tilly when she was first introduced, you would expect the main character to be the introduction, but starting with Tilly was the perfect place to start.  I could see a lot of people in Tilly, and while some might dismiss her as a cliché (brilliant but socially awkward), she is an engaging character in her own way and allows you to find a different view from the traditional Police perspective in crime novels.  Poe in his own way is also both a walking cliché and refreshingly different - he is the Police officer on the edges, loathed by some of this colleagues, but also brilliant at what he does and with a good heart.  The combination of Poe and Tilly leads to some heart warming moments as well as some laugh out loud moments - and the story they are investigating is complex enough to keep you guessing but still challenges you to solve the case before they do.  

The puppet show is the first book in a series and I have already ordered the next book in the series so I can read it.  A highly recommended read.


If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, June 7, 2021

Invisible girl by Lisa Jewell

The Fours family has been living in a rented apartment while work is done on their house and living in the 'posh' neighbourhood is not what they expected.  The area is quiet, with most of the residents keeping to themselves, not so different from the Fours family themselves.  Dad Roan is out of the home most of the day, as are the children Georgia and Josh - it is mum Cate who is home most of the day, or running errands in Hampstead Heath.  The strangest thing about their neighbourhood is the man who lives across the road, a man that Georgia said was following her home and giving her the creeps.  Roan isn't bothered by the incident, and Georgia isn't particularly bothered either, but Cate is worried - especially when there are increasing reports of sexual assault in their local area.  

When a young girl goes missing in their area it doesn't appear to involve them - but then it comes to light that missing girl Saffyre Maddox was Roan's patient for three years, and that she was seen in the area around the time of her disappearance by the man who lives across the road from the Fours.  Owen Pick, the witness, is a teacher from a local college who has resigned from his job after students came forward with complaints of inappropriate behaviour.  Owen is angry and frustrated about the whole thing and finds himself drawn into a strange new world - incels, people who are involuntarily celibate.  But falling down the rabbit hole of the incel community will only bring him more trouble.

Invisible girl was an interesting, if slightly laborious, read that took a little more effort to engage with than I would normally like - but that I was glad I read all the way through.  The story itself is solid, and where Jewell takes the characters is both engaging and satisfying - but it was the constantly moving around timeline that was frustrating, sometimes it was hard to tell what point of the story you were in.  There is great character development and growth across the novel, and you do form a connection with the characters, but the lack of a clear timeframe and moving backwards and forwards through time is a little frustrating.

If you like the crime genre, and like challenging yourself to unravel what is happening before the big reveal at the end, then Invisible girl is the book for you.  If you like books that are seamless and smooth, with a clear chronology and easy readability then Invisible girl is not for you.  Best summed up as a solid crime novel, but not one of my favourites.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Every last fear by Alex Finlay

After a tragic accident in Mexico the Pine family is dead - except for the two oldest sons Matt and Danny.  Matt is studying at NYU, and Danny is in prison for the murder of his girlfriend Charlotte.  When Matt hears the news it is only the start of the nightmare - he is the one who has to break the news to his brother Danny, a brother he hasn't seen since he was convicted and locked up seven years earlier, and he has to travel to Mexico to have the bodies of his family released.  Special Agent Keller sets up everything for Matt so he can travel to Mexico, but when things go wrong Matt finds himself on his own and in danger.  Once he has his family he still has to face the return to their home town, a place where they are not particularly welcome - and where Matt has to face the fallout from the Netflix documentary that he refused to take part in, the documentary that made his father look unhinged and fueled an obsession for both his father and his sister Maggie.

For the past seven years Evan Pine has been down the rabbit hole of chasing the truth about what happened on the night Charlotte died.  Danny is no help, the memories buried in a drunken stupor with huge gaps, but Evan and his daughter Maggie have uncovered clues over the years that give them hope.  They are convinced that Danny is innocent, that he was manipulated into the confession by the police investigating the murder.  The documentary about Danny's case, A Violent Nature, made Evan look crazy, and his obsession with finding the real killer hasn't helped.  When a new piece of evidence appears he books a family trip to Mexico, something he can't afford after losing his job, a last ditched effort to prove his sons innocence.  His dedication to the case hasn't gone unnoticed, and some secrets are meant to stay buried.

Every last fear was an interesting and thoroughly engaging read, several storylines blended together to form a single story - switching points of view keeping you in the story and in each characters head space, along with excerpts from a documentary about the case that has affected the family so badly.  This was a unique take on the crime thriller, and partnered with the rapidly cycling chapters made it an addictive read.  Alex Finlay's debut novel is deftly written, giving you enough information to suck you and into the story, without drowning you in detail or pointing out the obvious.   There are bread crumbs throughout the story, little hints that test if you are paying attention, that ultimately will either lead you to the truth before it is revealed or leave you doubting what you know (or think you know).  

Finding a unique voice in the increasingly crowded crime/thriller market is no easy task - but Finlay has managed to pull it off with ease.  Looking forward to seeing what comes next.

If you like this book then try:
  • Sticks and stones by Katherine Firkin
  • The liar's daughter by Claire Allan
  • The nowhere child by Christian White
  • Nine Elms by Robert Bryndza
  • The half sister by Sandie Jones
  • Hidden lies by Rachel Ryan
  • When I was ten by Fiona Cummins
  • Before she was Helen by Caroline B. Cooney
  • My best friend's murder by Polly Phillips
  • Crimson Lake by Candice Fox
  • The better sister by Alafair Burke
  • Either side of midnight by Benjamin Stevenson
  • Two wrongs by Rebecca Reid
  • Then she was gone by Lisa Jewell

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

The Passengers by John Marrs

The days of getting into your car and not knowing if you will make it to your destination in one piece are nearly a thing of the past.  With developments in technology we have moved rapidly from artificial intelligence assisting us with driving, to fully automated cars that do everything for you.  You don't have to worry about avoiding other cars, and your car will react to potential hazards so all you need to do is sit back and relax.  The new cars are safe, easy to use, and impossible to hack - or at least that is what everyone has been told.  People are no longer drivers, they are Passengers.  There is a dark little secret hidden within the industry though, one that has to involve a member of the public, but is so secret that they are essentially gagged to prevent them talking about - a jury that investigates crashes involving driverless cars and assigns blame.  

Libby Dixon is the latest civilian drafted into the five person Vehicle Inquest Jury, and things have not been going well.  Every time she voices an opinion she is ignored, talked over, or treated like an idiot.  Any hopes she had of making a difference are quickly evaporating - and then the unthinkable happens.  Eight driverless cars have been hacked and are under the control of a hacker who has exposed Libby and the rest of the jury to the world - and who has set them the task of choosing which of the Passengers should live, with the rest set to die in a fatal collision in a few hours time.  It's not just up to the jury though, public opinion matters too and various hashtags are trending on social media almost too quickly to follow.  At a glance the Passengers represent all aspects of society, and people are quick to make snap decisions about their value - but noone is truly what they appear on the surface.  When the first Passenger dies it becomes clear that the Hacker means business, and that they know more about the jury than they are supposed to.  Who will the jury and public choose to save - and what connection does Libby have to the Passengers and the work of the jury?

John Marrs was a surprise find for me with The one and I was a little tentative to pick up The passengers as I was worried it wouldn't be as good - I shouldn't have worried at all because it was just as good if not better.  The speculative fiction end of science fiction is challenging to write because it is so close to our current world/time that you really need to get people to shake off now quickly and commit to the story and John Marrs is very good at doing that.  Like many other authors Marrs also uses the switching character viewpoint, and he does it very very well indeed.  It is easy to connect to his characters because you spend time in their shoes, and it is a very effective way to drag you through the story in the passenger seat (so to speak) because you feel more involved with the action.  The way Marrs reveals his characters and their secrets is a masterclass in making you feel connected to the characters while also testing how observant you are (and often how empathetic and observant you are).  These are characters you care about, and care about quickly.

After thoroughly enjoying reading The one, I picked up The Passengers in the hopes of finding another great read and was not disappointed.  Writing speculative fiction is challenging and it can be just as challenging to read - but I had no problems getting into the storyline.  John Marrs has a knack for writing his story in short sharp bursts that somehow manages to hook you into the story, connects you with the characters, and rapidly builds the tension.  One of the taglines I have seen quite often is that he is writing five minutes in the future, and you get that sense - we are currently hearing all about self driving vehicles and how they are trialing them.  It's not hard to think about the next step, with AI driving the vehicles and drivers becoming a thing of the past - we already hear stories of Tesla 'drivers' asleep at the wheel (complete with video).  

As someone who drives a lot I already see people distracted by their phones and devices and can easily see how people would embrace the idea of a completely self driving car - even with the ethical dilemmas that might arise.  As you read The Passengers it quickly becomes clear that there is more to the story than just a self driving car - in much the same way as there is more to The one than just a love match app.  I have The minders on my to be read pile so I look forward to seeing if it manages to live up to its predecessors.  Very well written and thoroughly engaging books that suck you in completely.

If you like this book then try:
  • The one by John Marrs
  • Next by Michael Crichton
  • The dolls by James Patterson and Kecia Bal
  • The runner by Stephen Leather
  • Crimson Lake by Candice Fox
  • The Store by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo
  • Eeny meeny by M.J. Arlidge
  • Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz
  • Spare me the truth by C.J. Carver
  • Kill a stranger by Simon Kernick

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, April 26, 2021

Song of the crimson flower by Julie C. Dao

Note: Song of the crimson flower follows on from the events in Forest of a thousand lanterns and Kingdom of the blazing phoenix but it can be read as a stand alone novel.

Lan is a young woman waiting for the day that she marries Tam, the young man she has been promised to.  Tam is her perfect match, he may not be a nobleman and the son of a minister like she is, but his father is a physician and equally wealthy.  She has known Tam her whole life, and has come to enjoy the secret visits he makes at night to play her a special song on his flute.  Tam is so much more than Bao, the orphan taken in by Tam's family - a man child who is all awkward manners and gangly limbed.  Lan tries to be patient as she waits for Tam, but when Bao professes his love for her and tells her a startling truth Lan lashes out at Bao and sends him running straight into a terrible fate.

While running from Lan's anger and her hateful words Bao runs into the mythical river witch and when he asks her to help him forget she curses him instead.  Bao is tied to his bamboo flute in the most brutal way possible and he is doomed to fade into the instrument forever - unless someone who truly loves him can save him in time.  Wracked with guilt about her hateful words towards Bao, Lan is desperate to set things right and when Bao reappears and tells her about the curse she is determined to help free him from his fate - even if it means defying her father and travelling to a far off city.  As they journey towards their destination they find new friends, uncover secrets, and discover more about themselves than they would have ever thought possible.

Finding authors with a fresh voice can be challenging, especially when you read a lot - so it was a real treat to discover Julie C. Dao and her Forest of a thousand lanterns duology.  It was a world that was well developed and had a sense of 'realness' that partly came from Dao drawing on her Asian heritage.  When I discovered Song of the crimson flower I was a little reluctant to pick it up as I was worried that a single, stand alone novel would not be able to deliver the power and strength of the original duology - but was I ever wrong.  Although the cast of characters may be smaller for Song of the crimson flower, that smallness improves the story rather than taking away from it.  All the rich background mythology is there, the relatable characters are there, and the sweeping story is there - it is just a more intimate experience rather than a sweeping epic story.  

There is a certain amount of predictability to the storyline because that is the nature and style of the story, but there are surprises along the way and it is so well written that you don't really notice.  Updated fairytales and traditional stories has been a popular genre over the past few years and it is a real treat to find a story that is both familiar and richly reimagined with a mythological/cultural background that makes everything fresh and new again.  Hopefully this is not the last we have seen of Dao and her world building.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, April 24, 2021

The one by John Marrs

Welcome to the new world, where a simple test will connect you with your perfect match through the MatchYourDNA website.  It seems too good to be true, finding the perfect match, but that is exactly what a scientific break through has allowed us to do.  Ten years ago scientists discovered that everyone has a gene they share with just one other person - their perfect genetic match.  A simple DNA test lets you find the one person in the world for you, and reports show that people who meet their Match for the first time feel an undeniable spark and connection.  Millions of people have taken the test and paid the modest fee to find the details about their perfect match - including Mandy, Christopher, Nick, Ellie and Jade.

Taking the test is supposed to make things easier - but only if your perfect match is in the database.  Being a perfect match doesn't make the other person perfect though.  Mandy already has one failed marriage under her belt so the promise of her perfect match is too good to resist - but then she discovers she is too late, which could lead to heartache but instead leads to something else, something more.  Christopher is working on a project with single minded focus until he is matched with Amy - a match that is highly ironic considering what his special project is.  Will Amy be his perfect match or will it lead to disaster?  Nick is content with his fiancée Sally, but she wants to do the test to make sure.  Sally and Nick should have left well enough alone because you can't keep secrets forever.  Jade has always played it safe and resented it so racing off to meet her Match goes against everything she has held onto - and what she discovers will change everything.  Ellie is always guarded and controlled, so when she finally receives her Match she is surprised and treads carefully, but then her romance blossoms and she starts bringing down her walls.  What would you risk to find your one true love?

Speculative fiction is challenging to write - you have to create a world that feels like ours, but just a little bit more than ours.  John Marrs has tackled the challenge and pulled it off very well indeed.  Some people may find the constantly changing point-of-view frustrating but it is this technique that builds rapport with the characters quickly and allows you to see the world and understand it without being buried in too much information right from the start.  Reading this addictive (best read in one sitting) book it is very quickly apparent why it was adapted into a television series on Netflix.  Marrs not only creates a world where science has discovered something amazing and believable, he also creates characters that are perfectly flawed like all of us are - they seem real because everything about them could be about you, or a family member, or a friend.  

I've been saying this a lot lately, but this is a highly recommended read and I look forward to reading more books by Marrs in the future.  Even if The one doesn't sound like something you would normally read - give it a go, because it combines elements of other genre together into a very nice package indeed.

If you like this book then try:
  • The dolls by James Patterson and Kecia Bal
  • The runner by Stephen Leather
  • Crimson Lake by Candice Fox
  • The Store by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo
  • Eeny meeny by M.J. Arlidge
  • Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz
  • Spare me the truth by C.J. Carver
  • Kill a stranger by Simon Kernick

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Then she was gone by Lisa Jewell

Ten years ago Ellie Mack walked out the door on her way to the library to study and never came home - leaving her family behind, frozen in time and grief.  There was a flurry of activity when she disappeared, but over time the Police concluded that she ran away, and the case was forgotten by everyone except her family.  Her mother Laurel has never been able to move on, she has never believed that Ellie ran away, and when a special programme airs around the tenth anniversary of Ellie's disappearance she has a faint hope that she might find out what happened - but she never expected them to find Ellie's remains a few months later.  After ten years of existing rather than living, Laurel now has the concrete proof that her golden girl will never be coming home.  

With her two other adult children keeping her at a distance, it is no surprise that Laurel is swept up rather quickly by the attention from a charming and charismatic man who crosses her path at a local café.  Floyd is intelligent, interesting, and has a daughter named Poppy who has an uncanny resemblance to Ellie.  Swept off her feet in a whirlwind romance, Laurel takes chances and starts to blossom again, and the more time she spends with Floyd and Poppy the more she sees a resemblance with her missing daughter.  As she starts poking around in their lives, Laurel uncovers some startling connections to her own life and that of Ellie - and soon she will make the most startling discovery of all.

Picking up books to read based on their blurbs can be a risky gamble - most of the time the blurbs are pretty accurate but sometimes the book and the blurb seem to have nothing in common - that was definitely not the case with Then she was gone.  I was absorbed in the story quickly and read the book in one sitting because I didn't want to put it down.  The characters are the biggest part of what makes this story so good - you connect with them, empathise with them, care about them, and experience the story through their eyes.  There are parts of the story that are somewhat predictable (especially for readers who read a lot of crime/thrillers like I do), but Lisa Jewell handles those (almost) clichés well.  

Reviewing books like Then she was gone is always tricky because you want to share how great it was - while also not spoiling any of the things that make it such a good read.  I have to confess to having a tendency to like books that would make great movies or television series and this is one of those books that reads like it could be made into either easily - there's nothing challenging about the text to slow you down with complications and overly flowery descriptions, but the characters are well developed and easy to connect with.  Highly recommended read, and I can't wait to read more from the author.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Broken wish (The Mirror) by Julie C. Dao

It all stated with a simple kind gesture, a gift left for a neighbour - but it leads to a friendship and so much more.  When Agnes and her husband Oskar move to a small cottage near Hanau it is a chance to start a new life together, and Agnes gives small gifts to their neighbours which leads to a friendship between Agnes and Mathilda.  Mathilda is not popular among the people of Hanau, they call her a witch and say she has cursed people who have crossed her - but Agnes has trouble seeing evil in the woman who gives her thoughtful gifts and heartful letters.  Oskar, who is desperate to have a good standing in the community feels that keeping the friendship is dangerous, but Agnes tries to keep hold of it as long as she can.  

When Mathilda offers to help her have the child she desperately wants Agnes and Oskar agree to try - but Oskar insists that she drop the friendship as soon as she is pregnant.  Agnes wants to be a good friend, but she wants the child more, even though it will mean breaking a promise that is part of the spell.  When Agnes follows though with her promise to Oskar and breaks off the friendship with Mathilda she has no idea of the true cost.  Years later Oskar and Agnes are well respected in their community, but their daughter Elva seeks out Mathilda because she has a magical gift that she can not control and has almost exposed her to the people of Hanau.  This is a chance for Elva to change her fate and the fate of her family but is it too late?  Mathilda has a lot she can teach Elva, but she has to let down her walls first and that could lead to more pain than she is willing to face again.

Broken wish is the first book in a series written by four different authors and will be followed by - Shattered midnight by Dhonielle Clayton - Fractured path by J. C. Cervantes - and Splintered magic by L.L. McKinney.  If the rest of the series is as good as the first this is going to be a real treat.  Broken wish is one of those rare books that will appeal to a wide age range because it is not particularly challenging to read (making it easier to enjoy for younger or less confident readers), it doesn't have particularly adult themes (making suitable for younger teen readers), and it has great character development and world building that will appeal to teens and adult readers.  There are echoes of the great traditional stories here, a nod to the brothers Grimm, and hopefully the other three authors will be able to keep that spark through their part in the story.  This is an intriguing way to write a series and I look forward to reading more.  Highly recommended.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, April 5, 2021

Either side of midnight by Benjamin Stevenson

Sam Midford is the presenter of the popular Midnight Tonight current affairs show, a charming smile and witty lines wrapped up in an attractive package with wide audience appeal.  He is cool calm and collected under pressure, except for tonight - the crew saw a ring in his dressing room and think he is going to propose to his long time girlfriend in the most public way possible, but Sam does something else instead.  When his nerves seem to have reached an absolute peak he pulls out a gun, points the gun at his head and pulls the trigger.  Thanks to the wonders of modern TV the delay of several seconds is enough for the nation to avoid seeing the violent result, though people searching online manage to uncover unedited footage.  Such a dramatic and public death makes headlines around the country, so when Sam Midford appears to talk to disgraced and incarcerated television producer Jack Quick there is a certain amount of confusion - which only slightly lessens when Jack discovers that the man he is talking to is in fact Sam's twin brother Harry.

Harry is a man on a mission, convinced that his brother was murdered - that he was forced to pull the trigger.  Jack isn't convinced, but when Harry offers him a lot of money to look into the case it is an offer he can't refuse.  Everyone has secrets and demons in their lives, and apart from his battles with food and bulimia, Jack is haunted by his older brother who lives in a permanent vegetative state that requires expensive care … and the money is running out.  It seems like an easy case to explore, Harry has promised to accept the results of Jack's investigation, but Jack is not convinced he is ready to hear the truth.  But as Jack digs into the case and the twins background, he discovers that they have both been keeping secrets and that something that happened in the past has a resounding echo in the present.  Will Jack be able to solve the case - or will he become another victim of the twisted web that surrounds Sam Midford?  It seems that everyone in Sam's life had secrets to keep, some of them just kept them better than others.

I picked up Either side of midnight after seeing it on a new books list and it was only after reading the whole book that I discovered that it is the sequel to Greenlight (also published as She lies in the vines) which was disappointing as I like to read books in series order if possible.  I was not disappointed with the book itself however - Either side of midnight was a rare find for me, a book that was original and kept me guessing what was happening.  The characters were interesting and easy to connect with, and as a New Zealander it was nice to read a book set over the 'ditch' in Australia.  This was a great find and highly recommended reading.  See if you can figure out what is happening before the explosive ending.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, April 4, 2021

The half sister by Sandie Jones

Sunday lunch is a family tradition for Kate and her family - a tradition that feels more like a chore since her father died ten months ago.  Spending time with her mother is uncomfortable, their relationship strained since Kate was young - and spending time with her sister Lauren and her three children is a strain, and a reminder of the child she so desperately wants.  Going through yet another round of IVF is exhausting and stressful, so the sudden arrival at Sunday lunch of a young woman claiming to be their half sister is a shock that Kate doesn't need. 
 
Lauren takes Jess at her word, that she is their half sister, but Kate refuses to believe that their father cheated on their mother all those years ago.  As Lauren tries to form a relationship with Jess it drives a wedge deeper into her relationship with Kate.  The sisters have never really seen eye-to-eye, with Lauren and their mother forming a tight relationship on one side, and Kate and her father forming a tight relationship on the other.  As Kate digs into who Jess really is and what she is trying to achieve, she starts uncovering long buried family secrets that shake her certainty about her life.  As Jess worms her way further and further into their lives she has no idea that their lives are about the change forever.

The half sister is a deftly written novel that weaves together strands of family drama and psychological suspense into a deeply addictive read that deserves to be read in one sitting.  I recently read The other woman by Sandie Jones and was deeply impressed with the writing style and the way Jones developed the story and let in unravel.  Jones brings that same skill and style to The half sister, creating characters and a situation that is instantly relateable, while also bringing a strong psychological thriller element that makes you question what you know or what you think you know.  Kate and Lauren as both real people on the page, everyone would either relate to them directly or know someone just like them - and the roadblocks and challenges they have experienced.  A fantastic find, and hopefully there are many more to come.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, April 3, 2021

My best friend's murder by Polly Phillips

Bec and Izzy have been best friends since school - a friendship that has seen them through good times and bad.  When Bec's mother died Izzy stuck by her, when all the other kids at school avoided and shunned her because they didn't know how to deal with the death of a parent.  Through thick and thin they have been together, and it seems like nothing is going to change that.  Bec has seen Izzy marry Rich and have their beautiful daughter Tilly, and now she is engaged to Ed and looking forward to starting a family of their own.  It's only natural that Izzy and Rich through an engagement party for Bec and Ed, but it seems as though the good deed is not going to go unpunished.

Bec's brother Rob isn't shy about challenging her relationship with Izzy, he's never been shy about saying the relationship is toxic - but Bec has never seen it before, until now.  Suddenly little things pop up that make Bec question their relationship, is Izzy really her friend or their relationship something else?  When Izzy is discovered at the bottom of the stairs, inches from death, Bec can barely believe it when the Police swoop in to search for a killer.  What really happened to cause Izzy to fall, and what part did Bec play in what happened?

My best friend's murder is a psychological thriller that is challenging to review because I don't want to risk revealing clues or spoilers about what happens.  The relationship between Bec and Izzy is a interesting one, and I would bet that most people have had a similar relationship at some point in their lives - a relationship where one of the friends plays second fiddle and seems to be a way to make the other person feel better about their life.  Izzy is, on the surface, the dominant friend - she is successful and seems to have the perfect life, and she's not afraid to show Bec how much Bec depends on her.  In contrast Bec is the grateful friend, who owes her sanity and success to her friend - or does she?  

My best friend's murder is well written and I was compelled to read it in one sitting to keep pace with the story.  As you read their story you uncover layers of their friendship and history that make you question what you know about Bec and Izzy - their friendship, their present lives, and their motivations and secrets.  There are some interesting twists and turns through this character driven story, and I am not going to spoil them for you.  A fantastic find, and hopefully Phillips will be continue to write similar books as well written psychological thrillers are hard to come by.

If you like this book then try:
  • The vanishing season by Joanna Schaffhausen
  • The nowhere child by Christian White
  • Good me bad me by Ali Land
  • Crimson Lake by Candice Fox
  • Vodka doesn't freeze by Leah Giarratano
  • The coast to coast murders by James Patterson and J.D.Barker
  • Eeny meeny by M.J. Arlidge
  • The tattoo thief by Alison Belsham
  • Sticks and stones by Katherine Firkin
  • The liar's daughter by Claire Allan
  • Safe by S.K. Barnett

Reviewed by Brilla