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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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 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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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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Do Not Disturb – Claire Douglas

40194371.jpgHaving opened a hotel in a small village in Wales with her mother, Kirsty anticipates some challenges. Living and working under the same roof as her mother at the same time as raising her two daughters and trying desperately not to put any stress onto her husband, who has suffered from severe depression in the past, certainly isn’t easy. What she doesn’t anticipate, however, is the return of ghosts from the past and their guest-house becoming the scene of a murder.

Do Not Disturb is incredibly suspenseful. The twists and secrets are revealed very slowly throughout the story which, although frustrating because I spent much of the book unable to work out what was going on, definitely kept me interested. Claire Douglas’ writing is always skilful; she definitely knows how to write a psychological thriller.

The characters were a little problematic for me. Kirsty, Adrian, Kirsty’s mother and Selena were all pretty difficult to get along with. It made it hard to really support any characters, but at the same time it meant nobody was quite clearly innocent.

I especially enjoyed the reveal in this book. It was unexpected and entirely plausible. I was gripped throughout.

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

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The Winters – Lisa Gabriele

41554703Drawn into a whirlwind romance, a young woman moves into the grand, secluded mansion of her fiance, Max Winters. But the house is drenched in memories of his dead wife, Rebekah, and their teen daughter, Dani, is determined to make her life a living hell. As the future Mrs Winter’s fears grow, she is dragged further and further into the family’s dark secrets.

The Winters is apparently a re-telling of the classic novel Rebecca. This information doesn’t seem to be made as obvious as it perhaps should be. I haven’t read Rebecca so can’t make comparisons, but it feels important to note than the story isn’t entirely original.

The unnamed lead character is incredibly annoying. It also seems very unlikely that someone so self-deprecating and self-conscious would ever end up with a man like Max Winter. It frustrated me to no end that she let him shout at her and make unreasonable decisions like keeping the greenhouse locked without any explanation or discussion. Their relationship was very one-sided and I kind of hated her for being so weak and useless. Also, I didn’t see how she could have spent her whole life on an island and not have made a single friend or important relationship. Yes, she has no family, but how has she lived this long without a single friend or close acquaintance. I just didn’t find it believable.

I didn’t love this book, or particularly like it. But, I did read it all the way to the end, so it wasn’t completely bad.

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

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The Corset – Laura Purcell

39691481Determined to learn more about phrenology and test her hypothesis that the shape of a person’s skull can determine whether or not they will commit a crime, Dorothea Truelove regularly visits prisoners at Oakgate Prison. Ruth Butterham is the youngest murderess Dorothea has visited, who offers an alternative theory: She claims her crimes are caused by a supernatural power in her sewing. Is Ruth mad, or a murderer?

The Corset is undoubtedly dark, but not a horror like The Silent Companions. Instead, it is more of a murder mystery story with supernatural vibes. The narrative is told through the perspective of both Dorothea and Ruth, as Ruth explains her story and Dorothea tries to get to the bottom of things. The two women come from very different backgrounds, with very different outlooks, and complement each other exceptionally well. The writing is a joy to read, with each woman’s voice clearly distinct and well-developed.

I found this book compelling, original and unpredictable, but not particularly creepy (which would be totally fine, if it wasn’t marketed as “chilling”). It also felt slightly too long at times. I’m not sure that I could pull out specific parts of the story and label them as unnecessary, but there were moments where things started to drag and I felt myself rushing to reach the end.

I have seen other readers complain that The Corset includes too many characters, but I personally didn’t fell that this was a problem. Yes, there is a reasonably large cast, but Dorothea and Ruth really hold the story and the rest, even those who play a big role, fade into the background a little. That could sound like a criticism, but it isn’t. I found this book incredibly easy to read and didn’t find myself worrying about other characters in the slightest.

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

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Pretty Little Things – T.M.E. Walsh

38091257.jpgAfter miraculously surviving a horrific car accident six months ago, Charlotte is determined to keep her daughter, Elle, safe. When local girls of a similar age to Elle start going missing, it’s Charlotte’s worst nightmare. On top of worrying about her daughter, Charlotte has to deal with her marriage falling apart, threats and forgetfulness. Things take a turn for the worst when the girls are found and the search turns into a murder investigation.

This book was a struggle to read because of the characters. I didn’t like a single one except Madeleine, who was more of a side-character. Charlotte is one of those lead characters that inexplicably doesn’t ask for help even though she obviously needs it. Iain, her husband, comes across as selfish and creepy. Elle is a judgemental teenager, which is fair enough, but I still didn’t like her. And Savannah seems to be the worst friend ever, apparently trying to steal her mate’s husband. Charlotte’s memory loss is mentioned as being a result of her accident, confirmed by her doctors and completely not her fault. However, Elle and Iain both absolutely drag her for it which means they either don’t know about it (which would be weird because they’re her family and why would she not tell them?) or they just don’t care (which would be completely unfair). It just doesn’t make sense.

The story started out quite well and gradually ramped up in excitement and intensity, as you’d expect from a thriller novel. The writing is generally good and the plot twists were genuinely rather shocking. However, the big ‘whodunit’ reveal was problematic and pretty far-fetched. I can’t say more on that without giving away spoilers.

Overall, the story was suitably surprising and thrilling, but I didn’t particularly enjoy it and I wouldn’t read it again.

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

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Last Time I Lied – Riley Sager

38206879.jpgWhen Emma was thirteen, she spent her first summer away from home at Camp Nightingale. That summer, three of her friends disappeared and were never found. Now, years later, the owner of Camp Nightingale invites Emma back as an art teacher for the camp’s reopening. Determined to find out what happened to her friends, Emma does her own investigating. But she can’t shake the feeling that someone is watching her, and she can’t let go of the lies she told and secrets she kept all those years ago.

Riley Sager is an undeniably good writer. His books are atmospheric and dark, and I really enjoyed Final Girls which is what attracted me to this book. As another psychological thriller, the storytelling and style is very similar to Final Girls, but I’m not sure that I enjoyed it quite as much. Although still very good and well thought out, Last Time I Lied felt slightly more forced and convoluted – it didn’t capture me as fully as I’d hoped.

There isn’t a whole lot I can say about this book without giving away spoilers, but what I can say is that it was never boring. The story is completely unpredictable and suspenseful. There are so many red-herrings and unexpected turns, making the shock of the reveal very effective.

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

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