Have You Seen Her – Lisa Hall

42701375.jpgOn Bonfire Night, Anna takes her eyes off Laurel for one second. That’s all it takes for her to disappear. Hours pass, and then days, and Laurel still hasn’t been found. Her parents, Fran and Dominic, are frantic and cannot stop the cracks in their relationship from growing, while Anna has her own secrets to hide. Someone knows what happened to Laurel, and they’re not telling.

This is one of the most believable thrillers I’ve read. The characters and the plot (including all the twists) were completely logical and plausible. Mystery and thriller novels usually have some inevitable eye-roll moments, but Have You Seen Her manages to avoid that.

It is very well written. The story is gripping and easy to read, making it hard to put down. It’s told from Anna’s perspective (the nanny), who has a really strong narrative voice. She’s likeable enough to generate empathy, but is still mysterious and suspicious enough to stay interesting. And the ending is so satisfying.

I thought the characters were pretty good. Everyone seems guilty in some way, so it was difficult to guess who was actually responsible for Laurel’s disappearance. Fran and Dominic were awful in their own ways but entirely realistic, while Anna was an interesting main character. My only criticism is that Dominic was arguably too hateable. I wanted him to be guilty.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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A Question of Trust – Jonathan Pinnock

44562832.jpgTom’s girlfriend, Dorothy, has vanished, along with all the money and equipment of the company she ran with her friend, Ali. Tom and Ali’s investigations into where Dorothy and their things have gone lead them into some unexpected and dangerous situations, while Tom simultaneously tries to untangle his father from a cryptocurrency scam, locate a missing python, and work out who is messaging him from a dead man’s LinkedIn account.

So, it turns out A Question of Trust is Book #2 in a series. I didn’t realise this, but events from the first book (The Truth About Archie and Pye) were mentioned for context and it became clear very quickly that I’d missed quite a lot. However, although I would say it might be helpful to have read Book #1 first, I think this one also works as a standalone (once you get past the first few chapters).

I wasn’t fully sold on the plot, although I couldn’t tell you why. It’s very fast-paced and there’s a lot going on, but I found myself skimming a fair bit and therefore (my own fault) I wasn’t always entirely sure what was happening. However, I LOVED Tom. He was inept enough to be sweet and funny, but not so much that the whole thing was completely implausible – which is a very difficult line to draw.

Overall, it’s a good read, with a bonkers story-line and some great characters.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Bad Daughter – Joy Fielding

37649581Robin Davis hasn’t spoken to her family in six years. When her father, his young wife (Robin’s childhood best friend, Tara) and daughter, Cassidy, are shot, Robin rushes to be back with them. But her return isn’t entirely welcome, and she doesn’t know who she can trust. Was the shooting really a random robbery, like the police suspect, or was someone close to the family involved?

The Bad Daughter is a really good crime/thriller novel. The official synopsis heavily implies that Robin is the mystery character, coincidentally returning home when her family have been attacked, but this isn’t the case. The story is told from Robin’s point of view, as she tries to figure out what really happened.

This book has some really great characters, all with their own personalities and problems. The relationships within the family were brilliant. They’re a messed up family with a very strained past, but they’re family nonetheless and they want to believe the best about each other despite their considerable doubts. Melanie was my favourite; she’s harsh and defensive, but only in response to the judgement she’s had to put up with in the past.

The plot was very good because the mystery was drawn out effectively with red herrings dotted about here and there, and a really strong twist at the end – which I didn’t really like but definitely didn’t see coming. This is by no means one of the best books I’ve read, but it captured my attention and kept me engrossed in the story. I really enjoyed it.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Lost Man – Jane Harper

40692028In an isolated part of Western Australia, two brothers live three hours apart, but are each other’s nearest neighbour. They meet at a landmark between their properties, the stockman’s grave, where their middle brother, Cameron, lies dead in shadow of the gravestone. How did he end up here, miles away from his fully-stocked car, in the middle of nowhere?

This is the first novel by Jane Harper that I’ve read, but I’d heard great things about her work and had high expectations. I wasn’t disappointed. The Lost Man is a cross between a crime novel and a family drama. Instead of a trained detective investigating Cameron’s death, we have his brother Nathan trying to work out what happened. This is extremely well-written and, combined with the context and setting, is entirely realistic and believable.

The story is filled to the brim with secrets and mysteries, but it is written in such a way that I was consistently intrigued rather than annoyed about not knowing anything. I was desperate to know more, in a way that made it very difficult to put the book down because I just wanted to keep reading. While some aspects of the plot were relatively predictable for an experienced crime reader, it was impossible to guess at everything correctly. The final reveal was well thought-out and satisfying.

The characters are nicely damaged and complex, and the setting is stunning. Thanks to Harper’s atmospheric writing, the scenery comes to life, turning the Australian outback into a character of the story itself. I don’t think this book could have been set anywhere else.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Last – Hanna Jameson

41132572Jon Keller was on a trip to Switzerland when the world ended. Without phone service or an internet connection, he doesn’t know whether his wife and kids survived. He and the other people remaining in his hotel wait for help that never comes. Then, one day, the body of a little girl is found. It’s clear she’s been murdered, so Jon decides to investigate. Is one of his fellow survivors a killer?

I really loved the idea of this book: A murder mystery set during the end of the world. And it turned out to be even better than I expected. The murder mystery aspect gets quite a lot of attention towards the beginning of the book, but then it does sort of drop away and become about the character’s survival in the months after the world has ended. Which is totally fine by me, because it turns out I love apocalyptic fiction.

Jon isn’t always the most likeable character, but he feels very real. The story is told from his point of view, as a kind diary of events because he’s a historian and he feels someone should write down a record of the end of the world. The first-person narrative was really effective in this context. There’s also quite a good range of other characters to fill out the story – all of whom can be believed to be surviving an apocalypse.

The Last is a really solid, well-written piece of fiction. I enjoyed every page.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Flower Girls – Alice Clark-Platts

42954215Laurel and Primrose were children when Laurel (10) was convicted of the murder of 2-year-old Kirstie Swann, Primrose (6) was given a new identity, and the Flower Girls were born. Nineteen years later, another child has gone missing from the same hotel that Hazel (aka, Primrose) is staying at. Her true identity discovered, Hazel in drawn into an investigation that will turn her life upside down and bring her back into contact with her murderous sister…

I enjoyed the majority of this book immensely. It was intriguing, well-written and very engaging. The story is unsettling and believable… Until the ‘twist’. It was predictable and didn’t really fit with how the characters are presented throughout the rest of the book. It was obvious from the very beginning what the big twist was going to be but, when it finally happened, I found that I didn’t really believe it. It’s as though the author decided what she wanted the plot to be and never properly worked out the kinks to make the climax really fit with the body of the story.

The characters were pretty good. The sisters in particular were quite complex and realistic characters, with both good and obviously bad (they murdered a baby, after all) aspects to their personalities. It was interesting to see in the characterisation how their different treatment after the event effected their lives in such profound ways.

Negative points aside, around 90% of this book was excellent and I was completely hooked. It’s just a shame that the ending was so disappointing.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Once Upon a River – Diane Setterfield

36678391.jpgOn the night of the winter solstice in a pub on the Thames, the regulars are telling stories as they do most nights, when a stranger bursts through the door carrying the dead body of a little girl. A few hours later, the girl wakes up. Nobody knows who she is and, when multiple families come forward to claim the child as their own, nobody knows who to believe.

Once Upon a River is a magical fairy tale, but it has a very long-winded plot. There’s a lot of build up to “something’s about to happen”, ending in comparatively little actual climax. The book isn’t actually especially long, but it took me ages to read and I would have found it impossible to read in one sitting. It just didn’t flow particularly well and was quite hard work to get through.

There are loads of different characters, to the extent that we don’t really get to know most of them properly. The only ones I got to know well enough to particularly like were Rita and Daunt, because they appear in multiple threads of the story. Most of the other characters were very forgettable (in fact, as I sit here writing this, I can’t remember the names of any others).

I liked the way the story was told, from the point-of-view of a narrator who was not part of the plot but felt like an integral participant in the book. It is written in a way that feels as though the narrator is telling you the story, but without ever explicitly inserting themselves in the narrative. This has the effect of drawing the reader in and, had the story been more engaging, would have been a wonderful style.

Once Upon a River had a lot of potential to be a great book but, unfortunately, didn’t quite live up to it.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Sentence is Death – Anthony Horowitz

39913740.jpgSuccessful celebrity-divorce lawyer Richard Price is found dead in his home, smashed around the head with an expensive bottle of wine. The Sentence is Death sees the return of Private Investigator Daniel Hawthorne and his writer assistant, Anthony Horowitz. As the investigation unfolds and Anthony’s other projects are put in jeopardy, he finds himself questioning his decision to write another book about Hawthorne. However, the desire to be the one to solve the murder is simply too strong to resist.

This book is another great crime novel from Anthony Horowitz and an excellent follow-up to The Word is Murder. The main characters are already firmly established (I wouldn’t recommend reading this without having read book #1 first), and the partnership of this crime-solving duo really works. Hawthorne is as rude and grumpy as ever, while Anthony is timid but determined to make a contribution in solving the murder.

Considering that these characters and their relationship have already been introduced, there is surprisingly little character development: we learn very little more about Hawthorne. He’s still a strong character, as is Anthony himself, but we are given only a very small amount of new information about either of them. I still find it fascinating that Horowitz has turned himself into the main character of his book, as well as being the narrator. With all the little real-life details in the book, the story feels 100% real and genuine. I think it’s fiction, but it’s honestly difficult to say. The way the book is written, it could easily be based on truth.

The plot is detailed and unexpected. It’s a fun read and very well executed.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Fifth to Die – J. D. Barker

35683027Murder.

It’s a family affair.

In the second book of the 4MK series, teenage girls are going missing and turning up frozen. Detective Sam Porter and his team are brought in to investigate, and it’s not long before the murder’s are linked to none other than the notorious 4 Monkey Killer. Porter isn’t convinced, but he’s distracted. After getting so close to Anson Bishop (4MK himself) only to have him escape, Porter has never been more determined to find this cold-hearted killer. As more girls go missing and his team do their best to stop the body count rising, Porter tracks down Bishop’s mother and discovers that there is nothing scarier than the mind of a serial killer’s mother.

This book is, frankly, one of the best detective/crime novels I’ve ever read. I enjoyed it even more than book #1, The Fourth Monkey, and absolutely cannot wait for the next one to come out.

The team are fantastic and they really make this book great. Porter is a strong, complex lead, and a very convincing detective, while Clair, Nash and Kloz round out group brilliantly with their own personalities and light humour. I also really enjoyed Agent Poole with the FBI and the chapters written from the point-of-view of the girls who had been kidnapped. The story follows multiple simultaneous threads, told from the aspects of various different characters, which has the potential to be very difficult to follow. Surprisingly, the story flows exceptionally well and is an easy read (in terms of flow, not content).

The plot itself is fast-paced, well-developed and full of suspense. Every chapter is filled with drama and enough realism that it is completely believable (at least, believable for someone with no knowledge of what really happens when the police try to catch a serial killer).

There isn’t a single negative thing I can say about this book. Some of the kidnapping and torture scenes could be difficult for some readers, but for me they were an integral part of the plot and added an extra necessary darkness.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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A Keeper – Graham Norton

39287253Elizabeth Keane has never known her father, or even known who he is. Following the death of her mother, Patricia, Elizabeth heads back to her childhood home to sort through Patricia’s things and finds a pile of letters hidden away that just might hold the key to her past.

I went into this book expecting something similar to Graham Norton’s last novel, Holding. The blurb doesn’t give much away, so I didn’t really know what this book was going to be about. It started out a bit dully – I couldn’t see what direction it was going to take – and then, BAM. It unexpectedly turned into some kind of kidnapping mystery story.

The shock factor truly made this book for me, so I’ll keep things vague. Really, the plot is that of a thriller, but the writing style is quite is closer to what you’d find in a family drama or even a romance novel. This had the effect of taking away a lot of the usual tropes of the thriller genre and added an extra layer of sinisterness through how casually the kidnapping is presented.

The characters were fantastic. They were believable and well-developed, with completely realistic lives outside of the general story-line as well as within it. I really enjoyed the Irish colloquialisms in the speech to help set the scene and give the characters more personality.

A Keeper is a deeply emotive and absorbing story. A truly excellent piece of fiction.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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