Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Exit by Belinda Bauer

Felix Pink is part of a group where the members are known as Exiteers - although his fellow group members know him as John.  The role of an Exiteer is simple, they enter the home of a person who wishes to die and sit with them while they breath nitrous oxide - a comforting presence for the person ending their life with dignity.  There are strict rules in place for 'John' and his fellow Exiteers, they can only observe and provide comfort, they can't provide the nitrous oxide or provide any assistance.  

It is not a role for everyone, so it is not surprising that members of the group come and go, but when Felix takes Amanda out for her first time things don't go as planned - somehow the wrong man dies and everything Felix has come to depend on seems to fall apart.  Breaking all the rules of the Exiteers Felix goes back to the scene of the crime, drawn back to the disaster to try and understand what went wrong.  But trying to understand what happens places Felix on a collision course with the police investigation into what they initially think is an illegal assisted suicide.  Life is never that neat and tidy though, neither is death, and there are more players in this game of life and death than anyone knows.

Exit is a fascinating and well written crime novel that will keep you guessing about what really happened all the way to the end.  Bauer has created a series of complex, interwoven lives that come together to create a very realistic and multilayered story.  The characters are likeable and engaging, and feel well rounded and whole - like they could actually exist off the page which is what makes the whole story so addictive.  The subject matter would be taboo for some, but it is treated well and makes the characters more sympathetic and brings the plight of the elderly and terminally ill into the limelight.  

Not a light and fluffy read, but there are some moments of real humour and light relief from everyday life.  This is a book that was written to be read, and will appeal to a wide range of crime readers.  I have already ordered Snap by the same author to see if this is a one-hit wonder or just a great read from a talented author.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, April 9, 2023

The ugly truth by L.C. North

On the surface Melanie Lange has it all - her father Sir Peter Lange is a wealthy man running the chain of best friend hotels that bear their family name, she was signed as a model when she was a teenager and had a successful modeling career, she married an amazing man and had two perfect children - she had it all.  Or did she?  Melanie Lange has disappeared which to some comes across as a publicity stunt, while others wonder where she is and why she has broken off all contact.  Her father says that she is taking a break from social media and from the craziness that is her life, but her best friend and her now ex-husband are concerned about her disappearing act and lack of contact.

With an increase of concern, and lack of concern, on social media two hashtags rise in popularity - #SaveMelanie and #HelpPeter.  With the level of interest the social media posts raise it is no surprise that Netflix jumps onboard the curiosity train and commissions a documentary on her life and disappearance.  The documentary raises the ghosts of the past for her friends and family, and it is no surprise when startling revelations are brought to light about the 'perfect' life that Melanie used to live.  It also shouldn't be a surprise that Sir Peter feels the need the protect himself and tell the truth - but why won't he talk to the media or to the team behind the Netflix documentary?  Will the truth about Melanie ever come out?

The ugly truth is the most unique and addictive read of 2023 so far.  The author has taken a leap and written the entire book in the form of interview notes, documentary transcripts, social media posts and other written formats - this is not a 'story' in the traditional sense but it really works.  By using this format the reader is taken on a unique journey that covers the past and the present in a way that would be clunky and disrupted in the traditional format - but works seamlessly in this format.  This is a book that picks apart a life that is picked apart by keyboard warriors and supporters on social media.  Melanie may seen like she has it all, but she has also lived her adult life under the microscope of the paparazzi and social media - something that has a major impact on her whole family.  

I don't usually like to read books that are 'too clever' because they tend to feel like the author is just trying to show how smart they are, but in this case The ugly truth was so clever that you didn't even notice how clever it was until it reached the climax.  This is the must-read book of 2023 for anyone who wants to read a book that could almost be a work of nonfiction rather than fiction - the characters are 100% believable (flaws and all) and you never know quite where it is going until the very end.  One thing we know for sure, the portrayal of social media and it's impact is all too real in The ugly truth and while this is a novel you should start hearing warning bells about the dangers of social media and keyboard warriors and trolls.

If you like this book then try:
Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, April 8, 2023

How to kill men and get away with it by Katy Brent

 Kitty Collins is a social media darling who lives her extra life online - she has a small circle of real friends and thousands (millions) of people who experience her life vicariously through her posts #KittyCollins - what's not to envy right?  Reality and online are two different things, and while her life looks extra with plenty of exotic holidays and fancy clubs and restaurants the 'real' Kitty would prefer a quieter world, one where she doesn't have her very own stalker who wants to make her squirm.  Having a stalker may come with being a celebrity, but the timing couldn't be worse because Kitty has just discovered she has a talent (and taste) for killing men.

It starts with an accident, but soon escalates as Kitty realises that murdering men who do her, and other women, wrong is actually quite an amazing feeling.  When the second kill is just as easy as the first, it makes sense that the third will be just as easy, and maybe even a fourth and a fifth.  It's a heady experience, even if she has to keep a careful eye out for her stalker - not to mention her social media followers or circle of friends.  When the stakes are raised Kitty will have to make the decision about how far she will go to protect herself and keep on killing - or if she can go cold turkey and stop killing again.

Despite the rather grim title, How to kill men and get away with it is actually a rather humourous murderous romp with a rather unlikely (anti)heroine.  It seems so implausible that someone who is living their live in the spotlight could get away with murder, let alone more than one, but that is exactly what happens.  I have to confess it is also rather challenging not to cheer as Kitty takes action and deals with life's dramas in a rather direct fashion.  The one thing I disliked about How to kill men and get away with it is how hard it is to review well without giving away the little twists and tidbits that make it such a great read!  Highly recommended, and highly recommend that you read it in one session.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, January 9, 2023

The Cleaner by Mark Dawson

John Milton is a Cleaner - the person Group Fifteen sends in to deal with problems.  He's not the only Cleaner, but after years of loyal service he has climbed the ranks to become Number One.  It's a position of responsibility and one he has never taken lightly, but during his latest mission his conscience twinged and he failed to follow the exact letter of his orders.  When Control calls him in after the mission he tries to explain his position, to tender his resignation - but you don't get to just 'resign' from the Group. 

On suspension while Control reviews his file Milton is alone in the city, adrift and not really focusing on the world around him - until he finds himself saving a life and becoming tangled in the life of a family at breaking point.  After years of military and Cleaning work Milton is uniquely placed to go undercover in an urban jungle that is more hostile than some war zones.  In a place ruled by gangs and warring factions, Milton has to work extra hard to save a young man on the brink of crossing the line from wannabe to real gangster, and once that happens his life will change forever.  It's not an easy task for Milton, especially with another Cleaner on his tail - but there is more than just his life at stake.

The Cleaner is the explosive and addictive start to the John Milton series.  Fast paced and action packed it is one of those rare books that almost seems to read itself - especially as you get closer to the explosive ending.  Too often series like this push the envelope a little too far, being just a little too unbelievable, but Mark Dawson has managed to create a world that feels very real.  The characters develop naturally throughout the story, you don't just get a character dump, people and their stories are revealed as you go.  The Cleaner is one of those stories that is completely readable and would be easy to translate to the big (or little) screen. 

Highly recommended, and on the bright side, as this is an older title now you can binge read the series.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Sunday, January 8, 2023

A killer's mind by Mike Omer

Zoe Bentley is working as a profiler for the FBIs Behavioral Analysis Unit - she's not an FBI agent, but she is a forensic psychologist which brings the skills they need.  Her personality and qualifications make her a solid addition to the team, she puts in the long hours to unravel clues in cases that help develop suspect profiles.  Her self-care skills are not quite as good as she tends to get obsessed with cases and forget to do simple things.  Things like shop for food and shampoo and she has a tendency to hand in her weekly reports late which means her boss Unit Chief Mancuso is always chasing her for her paperwork.  

When Zoe is assigned to the Highway Serial Killings Initiative it feels like a perfect match to her skill set - even if it means wading through details about a suspect group of 217 truckers.  Zoe is happy to do the work and is more than a little annoyed when she is called to Chicago to support the newest member of their team, Special Agent Tatum Gray.  Gray was sent to Chicago to provide support to the Chicago PD who have a strange series of murders in their city.  He was supposed to just consult, but once he learns more about the case he calls in Zoe to provide more information and a better profile.  When another victim is discovered, there is no denying they are dealing with a serial killer.

Despite encouragement to play nicely with the other children, Zoe focuses on the case and the facts rather than worrying about diplomacy or jurisdiction.  As she digs deeper into the case she feels old memories stirring, memories from her childhood and a series of murders that happened in her home town.  Zoe thinks the cases could be connected, but is worried about how her 'obsession' will be received by the Police and Agent Gray.  There is a twisted killer preying on the women of Chicago and Zoe may be the only one who can stop him before he strikes again.

A killer's mind is the first book in a series and introduces us to forensic psychologist Zoe Bentley and her 'partner' Special Agent Tatum Gray.  The case that forms the base for the start of their working partnership is more than a little twisted, with the right amount of gruesome horror without gory details for the sake of gory details.  We learn a lot about both Zoe and Gray as the story unfolds, details that make them real and sidestep most of the cliches that everyone seems us these days.  This is a well written and engrossing story that feels more genuine than a lot of crime/psychological thrillers and doesn't rely on the same old same old to get the story across.  Best read in a single session if you can manage it - and look for the next book in the series - In the darkness.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Perfect remains by Helen Fields

Luc Callanach has left his life in France as an Interpol officer behind, the start a new life as a Detective Inspector in Scotland.  It should be a relatively straight forward move, he is after all half Scottish (and has the last name to prove it) - but after leaving Scotland at the age of four France is all he knows.  The reception he receives is predictable, the French outsider promoted over local Scottish officers is never going to make friends on his first day - but the level of hostility only rises when he takes officers to investigate a body outside their jurisdiction on the flimsy excuse that it could be a local missing woman.  The body in the bothy is burned to nothing, but scant forensic clues at the scene show that the victim is in fact missing woman Elaine Buxton.  The team is left with the sad task of informing the family of their loss and moving on with the investigation into her murder.  The only problem is - Elaine Buxton isn't dead.

Elaine is the perfect captive - no one is looking for her, a body double providing all the evidence the world needs to see that she is dead.  It's a horrific scenario, made worse by her captors determination to prove that he is protecting her and taking care of her.  He talks about their future together, how they will grow and work together.  When Elaine starts to disappoint him he has no choice but to look for another partner, someone who can meet his intellectual needs and satisfy his demands.  When a second woman goes missing D.I Callanach can't shake the feeling that the two cases are related, especially when a second body is discovered with just enough forensic evidence to prove that the body is that of the missing woman.

What started as a missing persons case soon grows into a massive police operation, complicated by personal relationships and unwanted help.  Luc Callanach may be a Detective Inspector, but he is also the newest member of the team and doesn't have the history and local track record needed to throw his weight around in the case.  His best ally is Ava Turner, another Detective Inspector, but she is wrangling a complicated case of her own and becomes distant when he shuts her out for asking uncomfortable personal questions.  Callanach is playing a game of cat and mouse with a man who's struggling with the reality of a dream turning sour, and no one seems to be looking in the right direction.  Will Callanach untangle the mess in time to save the victims of this crazed jailer?

Perfect remains is an older book now, but that doesn't detract from the fact it is a very good read.  I only discovered the series because my local public library has a new books list, and one of the recent titles appeared on that list - it sounded so good I had to see how the series started!  Perfect remains is the perfect introduction to Luc Callanach and his world - both as a flawed and very human police officer, but also on a more personal level.  I don't like characters that are too perfect, or cases that go too smoothly - they don't feel real and lack the depth and failings that make them relateable.  This is true of the orbiting characters as well as the main characters, and it was a very real feeling world that we enter alongside Luc.  It will be interesting to see how the series develops (book two is on the way).

If you like this book then try:
  • The lost by Simon Beckett
  • When you are mine by Michael Robotham
  • Crimson Lake by Candice Fox
  • Sticks and stones by Katherine Firkin
  • The puppet show by M.W. Craven
  • Eeny meeny by M.J. Arlidge
  • 2 sisters detective agency by James Patterson and Candice Fox
  • When darkness calls by Mark Griffin
  • The coast to coast murders by James Patterson and J.D.Barker

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, January 6, 2023

Alias Emma by Ava Glass

Movies and TV series always make the life of a spy seem glamorous and dangerous with conspiracies and villains around every corner.  It is a seductive image for some, but far from the truth for most spies.  Emma Makepeace's current assignment is neither glamorous, nor particularly dangerous - she is keeping tabs on a person of interest who is anything but interesting.  The job isn't the most exciting in the world, but as they say be careful what you wish for, because wanting a more exciting assignment can lead to you actually getting one!  Her cruisy little assignment ends abruptly when she is called in to bring in a man that has a very large target on his back - and has no interest in coming into protective custody.

An assassination team has been targeting former Russians living in the United Kingdom, and they are very good at their job.  Emma is giving the 'simple' task of convincing a potential target to come into protective custody, but as she soon discovers he is not keen to abandon his job as a doctor for a potential threat.  Convincing him to go with her is only the first part of the challenge, London is one of the most heavily surveilled cities, with CCTV cameras everywhere.  It is a race against time, and as a very junior spy Emma has limited resources and connections to see them safely to where they need to be.  It would be a mistake for Emma to underestimate how badly the Russians want their target dead - but it is also a mistake for them to underestimate Emma and how far she will go to complete her mission.

Alias Emma is an adrenaline fueled read that deserves to be read in a single session.  This is a book that starts with a bang and doesn't stop until the last page.  There have been several action thrillers written over the past few years that are written in the same spare style (possibly best described as the James Patterson effect) and they have all ultimately taken the action thriller and distilled it down to the key elements - creating a fast-paced read that hooks you without distraction from start to finish.  Glass has created a unique and interesting cast of characters that are put to the test in some rather interesting ways.  

Look out for the sequel Game of spies which is due for release in August 2023.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Truly darkly deeply by Victoria Selman

When she was a child Sophie's mother Amelia-Rose packed up their lives and moved them from Massachusetts in the United States of America, all the way to London in the United Kingdom.  Saying it was a shock is an understatement, and not just because of the culture shock - their new lives are very different to the one they had living in the home of Sophie's grandparents.  Determined to do it alone after her parents forced her out, Amelia-Rose starts a new life with Sophie, encouraging her to embrace her new life.  Doing it alone is tough, but then Amelia-Rose meets Matty Melgren and she is suddenly not so alone.  Matty seems to appear at the perfect time, for both Sophie and Amelia-Rose, but then the murders start to happen.  Women are being murdered in the area where they live, women who look a lot like Amelia-Rose and Sophie is terrified that her mother might be next despite confident denials from both Matty and her mother.  It is a tense time for everyone, most of all a sensitive young girl coping with an unsettled home life on top of everything else.

Twenty years later Sophie is quietly going about her life when a letter arrives from Battlemouth Prison stating that Matty would like to see her.  It is a letter she would rather avoid, along with all the memories of what happened when Matty was arrested for the murders.  After years of therapy Sophie has reached a certain kind of peace, but meeting with Matty may be the final piece of the puzzle.  Matty has always professed his innocence, and there are plenty of other people who agree, not to mention all the true crime and justice blogs, podcasts and websites that support his claims of innocence.  None of those people were there though, they didn't have to live through the terror of the murders, or the fall out for the 'daughter' of the man convicted of the murders.  Sophie has to decide if she will meet with Matty, it will be the first time she faces him, and they are both holding onto the past.   His conviction was the start of a downward spiral in her life and sometimes forgiveness is something you can't afford to give.

Truly darkly deeply is an interesting and engaging read where you are never quite sure where things are going until the end - partly because of the writers style which includes the present day, the past, and sprinklings of news reports and other bits and pieces.  It also really challenging to review as the best parts of the story are revealed throughout the book and I don't want to risk spoilers that aren't covered by the blurb!  It could have been a trainwreck of trying to jam too many things together, but Selman has managed to pull it off in a way that is thoroughly readable and allows you to connect with Sophie on many levels.  In some ways Truly darkly deeply is a murder mystery, and in some ways it is a coming-of-age story - although not a coming of age many of us would endure by choice.  Highly recommended, especially if you like an intelligent read that spreads clues throughout the story rather than leading you by the nose.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Monday, January 2, 2023

The Corpse Queen by Heather M. Herrman

Molly Green has spent the last few years of her life living in an orphanage - it's a tough life, made harder by the fact she had to watch as her parents rode away and left her behind.  The only real light in her life is her friendship with Kitty, a beautiful girl with a secret that only Molly and one other knows.  When Kitty is found dead, drowned in the river, Molly is convinced it is murder - not a popular view with the nuns who run the orphanage.  As a punishment for her willfulness and stubborn refusal to accept that Kitty committed suicide the nuns turn Molly out, a few weeks shy of her eighteenth birthday.  Mother Superior takes great delight in sharing the news, the only softening of the blow is the news that her 'aunt' has claimed her and offered her a place in her household.  

Molly is convinced it is a trick, that the orphanage has sold her off as a maid, so she is genuinely shocked to discover that Ava really is her aunt.  Records and documents can be faked, but Ava's uncanny resemblance to Molly's mother can't be faked.  Ava offers Molly a place in her household, the promise of a bright future in polite society.  After growing up so poor, and expecting nothing in life, Ava's promise of a future where she will want for nothing is very tempting indeed - but there is a price to pay.  Ava is well known and respected in polite society, but to another kind of society she is known as the Corpse Queen.  Ava and her workers collect bodies and other specimens for medical students and collectors - an illegal and lucrative practice.  

Determined to find Kitty's killer, Molly is drawn to the medical students who flock around the doctor that Ava works with.  She knows that one of them was involved with Kitty, and watching them makes it clear that they are arrogant and spoiled - given so much when she has so little.  As Molly is drawn deeper into Ava's world she discovers a burning desire she never knew she had - the desire to become a doctor herself.  It's a dangerous time to be a woman working the streets, albeit it in a capacity other than the usual occupation of a woman working at night, because there is a killer hunting and killing women.  Molly has been drawn into a dangerous where no one is what they seem, and everything is covered by a thin veneer of polite society.  Will Molly uncover the truth of what being the Corpse Queen truly means before it's too late?

The Corpse Queen is a well written and addictive read that keeps you hooked from the very start.  Molly's world is rendered in clear (but not exhaustive) detail, and brings to life the stark contrast between the lives of freedom so many of us live now, and what it was like to be a woman coming of age in a world controlled by men.  Molly is brave, determined, but also flawed - as are the people who orbit her world.  There is a mystery and sense of danger that hunts her as the story unfolds, as well as true friends and strange new enemies.  This could be a standalone novel as it is very complete in itself - but there is a sense that there could be a sequel as well.  Another brilliant historical novel for teenagers and adult readers alike.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

James Patterson by James Patterson

James Patterson is one of the most (if not the most) prolific writers of the past few decades - releasing several books each year, the majority of which are collaborations with other writers.  I am very much a James Patterson fan and although I don't read absolutely everything he releases I have read the majority of them.  His memoir is one of the best I have read (and I have read many), the main reason being that it feels like you have met James Patterson and you're just sitting down for a chat rather than reading through a book.  

This is not a chronological story - I was born, I grew up, I did this, I did that - it is instead an introduction to the life and experiences of James Patterson the man, not just James Patterson the author.  For me it very much had the feel of being an appearance on a chat show, just with the host missing or muted so all you can hear is James Patterson talking about James Patterson.

Told in the short, punchy chapters that Patterson is famous for, it is all too easy to start reading and loose track of time as you move from memory to experience, to life lesson.  There are some surprising anecdotes involving some surprisingly famous people. as well as sweet (or bitter sweet depending on the situation) memories of the people who have had an influence on his life.  

This was a surprisingly fun read, partly because of the situations Patterson has found himself in, but also because he has a warmth and charisma that comes through - and a really good sense of humour too!  After reading James Patterson by James Patterson I can now share his co-authoring style when I am asked - something I get asked surprisingly often as a librarian.  

Even if you are not a James Patterson fan - or don't have strong feelings either way - this is a great read.

Reviewed by Brilla

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Be not far from me by Mindy McGinnis

Ashley Hawkins is strong, fiercely independent and doesn't back down from a fight.  Raised in small town Tennessee, Ashley is practically a hillbilly - living in trailer with her father after her mother walked out on them both, hunting to add food to the table, able to shoot a gun and use her fists in a fight.  That fighting spirit has got her into trouble, but it has also lead to her winning running races and earning a full scholarship to college - her chance at a real future.  She also has two close friends who alternate between keeping her sane and driving her nuts, and a boyfriend who takes her as she is.  Life isn't perfect, but it works.  

A party in the woods doesn't seem like a bad idea - booze, good friends, the chance to get cozy with her boyfriend Duke - what more could a girl like Ashley want?  Even though they can't have sex because Ashley has her period, the night seems to be working out great - until she stumbles across Duke and his ex-girlfriend having sex in the woods.  Determined to get away from them both Ashley runs off into the woods after giving Duke a (very physical) piece of her mind and finds herself lost and injured in the woods far from help and with nothing but the clothes on her back and her wits to help her survive.  AS the days pass by and her injury becomes infected Ashley has no choice but to fight on, using the skills she learned from Davey Beet at summer camp to survive - trying to ignore the niggling voice that says Davey walked into the same woods and never returned, so what chance does she have.

Mindy McGinnis has written across different genre, and her book A madness so discreet is one of my favourites from the past decade.  McGinnis writes strong, relateable characters that suck you into their story pretty quickly, and Ashley was no exception.  Ashley is smart, observant, and sees the world for what it is - she has learned that life is hard, but that feeling sorry for yourself doesn't get you anywhere.  As we follow Ashley through her 'now' we learn more about her 'then' and why she is the way she is.  This isn't a fluffy girl power novel, a chance to show perfection - at times it is gritty, scary, and leaves you wondering if you could do what Ashley does, if you could survive.  

I won't say too much more because this is a story that needs to be read more than it needs to be reviewed - but I will say that this is a book for more than the teen audience it was categorised for at my local library.  This is a tightly written novel that has relateable characters and life threatening situations that I was hooked on as an adult reader.  This is also one of those books that may have a female lead character, but will appeal to a wider audience as well.  One of the must read teen (and adult) novels of 2022.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

Friday, July 1, 2022

Child zero by Chris Holm

Welcome to the world of our future, where our overuse (and misuse) of antibiotics has met with ancient bacteria and resulted in the perfect storm of a world where you can die from simple infections and viruses.  The world has plunged from being in a bright and prosperous time, to an almost medieval world of death and an unbelievable gulf between the haves and the have nots.  It's not just down to the lack of antibiotics though, they are also living in a world trying to recover from an act of bioterrorism from a fundamentalist with the goal of reducing the human population to save the planet.  The 8/17 attack as it came to be known wiped out thousands of lives in New York, lead to the creation of a 'refugee' camp in Central Park, a law that requires you to report anyone with a serious illness, and generally created a lack of trust in the people of New York who have found themselves in a world where surviving the rat race has a completely new meaning.

The 8/17 attack left Detective Jacob 'Jake' Gibson a widower with a young daughter to raise and protect, a young daughter who is now sick and that last thing he wants to do is follow the law and report her.  The last thing he needs is for an explosive case to land in his lap, but that is exactly what happens when he and his partner are called to the scene of a massacre at the Central Park camp.  Someone managed to get into the camp and kill an entire settlement with no one being the wiser, and that someone seems determined to track down a young boy who survived the massacre.  Mateo managed to escape but he's not safe yet, and he has no idea how far the men who are chasing him will go to track him down and bring him in.  Jake and his partner have walked into a conspiracy that has it's fingers in the past and the future - and they have no idea who they are facing or how deep the rabbit hole goes.

This book was absolutely terrifying to read - and not for the reason you might suspect - it is because this is a work that is best described as speculative fiction, our future that is just around the corner but coming into view.  For years (decades?) we've been hearing about how bacteria is becoming more resistant to medications, way more than the traditional baddies like MRSA, and that scientists have discovered all sorts of nasty ancient microbes while exploring permafrost layers in far flung places.  Reading the reality of a world where this disaster waiting to happen has actually happened is scary beyond comprehension - simple injuries can kill you, as can viruses, things that have been treated and healed for years are suddenly fatal and medical care has been shot back to the dark ages.  The underlying conspiracy is also all to easy to believe - the rich will always look after themselves, as will the powerful, and no one wants their dirty laundry aired in public.

This is an addictive read that was hard to put down, and a lot of that comes from the realism and the relateable characters.  It is all to easy to put yourself in Jake's shoes, to understand his motivation and drive.  There are moments where it is easy to see the best in people, but also the best of people.  I also laughed out loud a few times, which may seem strange until you realise that I live in New Zealand and there are quite a few references to our little country at the bottom of the world.  I can't help but think that Holm got the idea from our closed borders during the first two years of the pandemic.  A highly recommended, if scary read, for lovers of speculative fiction or action novels.

If you like this book then try:
  • Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
  • Next by Michael Crichton
  • The devil's cure by Kenneth Oppel
  • Antibodies by Kevin J. Anderson
  • Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
Reviewed by Brilla

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

A flicker in the dark by Stacy Willingham

Chloe Davis is a medical psychologist working in Baton Rouge Louisiana.  She specialises in working with young people who have faced trauma and trouble in their past, an uncomfortable niche for some.  Unlike most psychologists Chloe has an added advantage when working with troubled youth, an edge that gives her extra insight into what they are going through.  Chloe knows what it is like to sit on the couch and play the game, knows what doctors keep in their filing cabinets - because twenty years ago Chloe was the one sitting on the couch.  Twenty years ago her world came crashing down when her father was arrested and imprisoned for the murder of teenage girls in their small town of Breaux Bridge.  It was a traumatic time, not just because of losing their father, but also because of what came after.

Escaping from Breaux Bridge was just the start of a new life for Chloe and she has worked hard to get to where she is.  It hasn't been an easy ride but she has a home of her own and a loving fiancĂ©e who accepts her as she is - even after she told him about her past and her father.  Things aren't perfect, her brother Cooper doesn't approve of her whirlwind romance and engagement, and a reporter has started sniffing around about her father and the case - but she's coping.  Then a teenage girl goes missing, and Chloe is drawn to the search, which turns out to be a mistake.  Then a second girl goes missing - a girl that has a connection to Chloe.  Thrust into the police spotlight Chloe is eager to help, but her past is more of a hinderance than a help - and the finger of suspicion can easily point both ways. 

A flicker in the dark is one of the better psychological thrillers I have read in the past few years - and there are parts of the story that make it really tricky to review well without giving spoilers!  Chloe is an interesting character with all the flaws that make us well rounded people - she is a psychologist who really should know better, self prescribing and drinking to deal with her past.  The people in her life are also complex and 'real' - and the interpersonal relationships are part of what makes this an interesting and very realistic read.  The story is straight forward on the surface, but the more you read, and the more you learn, the more you realise that you don't really know anything - about anyone.

This is a rewarding read and it will be interesting to see if Stacy Willingham is able to bring us more books of this caliber in the future - highly recommended.

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Reviewed by Brilla