Jen, the much-loved hub of the group, can hardly believe that she now is the mother of three daughters, working a meh career, married to Ian who turns into a total grump when his team doesn’t win. Handsome Dan is on the uncertain precipice of new fatherhood whilst his girlfriend Geri waits patiently for him to get on board the pregnancy train. Newly married Nick is not sure that he has made all the right decisions up to this point and is more than a little suspicious that his family are keeping some secrets from him. Will is in love with someone else but is powerless to anything about it
There is much to like about MY HUSBANDS LIES. We have an intimate view over the shoulders of four people who thought that they would be together forever, but in reality, time has been gradually easing them apart. It’s a long time for a group of school friends to stay at this level of closeness, and you do get the feeling that this closeness has caused the differing levels of arrested development in all four. It’s a little claustrophobic, and no one’s bad behaviour goes unnoticed.
The majority of this book will have you sharply curious as to what will happen to the fab four with growing concern for their welfare as they hurtle to the conclusion. The ending is little short of bizarre but perhaps that was the intention. It’s also unclear, as the character winding it all up has not been under the focus for most of the novel. The title doesn’t quite fit with the book either – whose husband does it refer to?
The characters are written so well in MY HUSBAND’S LIES, including the supporting characters, that there is a burning desire to find out what happens next after the final few explosive pages. This novel will keep you deeply immersed in the various tangled webs woven and leave you with plenty of questions.
Our House, Louise Candlish
Bram and Fiona have two terrific kids, and the most gorgeous of London homes. So pretty from the outside that people stop to take the occasional photo. So warm and welcoming on the inside that the couple dream of their children bringing up their own families within the same walls. Comfortingly, the house is also a huge asset for the family’s financial future.
OUR HOUSE takes a new slant on modern crime and it is that twitchingly horrifying to know that this sort of thing can actually happen. Your homeowner’s hackles will be well and truly up and ready to attack. OUR HOUSE melds a modern relationship drama with a suspense thriller plot that plays out simultaneously with the discoveries of Fi as she tries to figure out what the hell has taken hold of her (cheating) husband. What happened to Bram that he would sell his own children’s home out from underneath them? Where has he gone?
The absolute unfairness of what is happening to Fi rankles throughout, and it is concern for her that will have the reader galloping through to find out if she ends up okay. It is fair cop to say that there is some middle novel lag, but this is the time needed in which to delve a little more into the backstory of how Fi comes to be in the middle of such a tangled mess. There is never any doubt about who is to blame and we realize that the bad guys aren’t only the ones doing dodgy deals with your title deeds.
Compelling reading, OUR HOUSE is a novel about suspicion, fraud and family. It could easily have been a one trick pony but author Louise Candlish has made sure there is plenty going on in this novel and alternates the viewpoints enough so that we are required to think again about what we have just read. The London suburbs prove to be dense enough to hide the most fractured of families and the deepest of secrets.
Now We Are Dead, Logan McRae #10.5
From the No. 1 bestselling author of the Logan McRae series, comes a standalone spinoff featuring DS Roberta Steel
Sergeant Roberta Steel has recently been demoted after being caught fitting up a suspect. The trouble is, the man she got sent down has had his sentence quashed now he’s back on the streets. And women are being attacked again. But if DS Steel goes anywhere near him his lawyers will get her thrown off the force for good.
When I read this back in January I posted a review. Or at least I thought I did. Imagine my surprise when I found it here in the draft queue. Whoops.
NOW WE ARE DEAD is a spinoff from the Logan McRae series featuring the glorious DS Roberta Steel. I say glorious in a "slightly ironic / well of course she's a bit gross but she's unapologetically over the top about everything / has a heart of gold / seriously / if you can't handle your women strong, forceful, and a bit sweary what are you doing reading Stuart MacBride books - especially one about Roberta Steel" way.
I love Roberta Steel. I love everything about the woman from her constant mining in her not insubstantial bosom, to her terrorising of the "deserves to be put upon half the time" Logan McRae, right down to her determination that no scroat will go unpunished on her watch.
Honestly, if you've not read any of Stuart MacBride's books then you really do need to be getting on with them. This is a series that's unashamedly right versus wrong, with a twist. They are police procedurals with the procedures manual propping open the door, and a hefty dose of dry, dark, slightly grotty humour. DS (yep she's been demoted from DI) Roberta Steel deserved her own book yonks ago and I, for one am extremely pleased she's got it.
I'm particularly pleased that NOW WE ARE DEAD is it as well. Of course Steel's not going to be happy when somebody she firmly believed did something, gets his sentence quashed. She's obviously going to take demotion personally as well, and there are times when everybody could be forgiven for thinking she's more than a bit obsessed about all of this for the wrong reasons. But Steel is, aside from everything else, a copper and she's got a copper's nose for a villain, and quite possibly, a big appetite for sacrifice in the line of duty.
If you're a fan of any of Stuart MacBride's books - the Logan McRae series, the Ash Henderson series, his Christmas series (I kid you not), or his standalones then you will have hot footed it to the bookshop for this one already. If for some reason you missed it, then off you go.
THE LAST MRS PARRISH, LIV CONSTANTINE
Amber’s new mission will involve some very daring and complex moves. It will take all of her acting and planning skills to insinuate herself into the exciting life of dynamic millionaire Jackson Parrish. Jackson is a delicious prize worth having. No less than achieving the end goal of becoming the next Mrs Parrish will do for the envious Amber. The fact that there is a current Mrs Parrish is just one obstacle to be overcome. The skeletons rattling in Amber’s closet will need to be quietened but there is no need to be concerned. Amber has it all under control.
Make no mistake, this novel is all about what the two women have in common, rather than what sets them apart. Having a man of course in the middle of the conflict is of course not that surprising, and nor is the fact that whilst the two women are in two very different situations, they both intend to succeed with their plans by whatever means are necessary. Its difficult to wag the finger at the bad guy here in a review without giving away major plot spoilers but you will figure that out fairly early in.
THE LAST MRS PARRISH has the reader hold in a suspenseful breath for an impressive length of time, then changes tack so that we then can then be horribly concerned about the person(s) at the receiving end of Amber’s schemes. The two women are completely believable and whilst this book is about as far from depicting a supportive sisterhood as a story could, it will shine a light on the lengths at which a person may need to go to in order to escape a life they don’t want. Envy and violence are at the heart of THE LAST MRS PARRISH so if you’re a bit squeamish with the details of abuse, you may find yourself somewhat triggered during the read of this book.
THE LAST MRS PARRISH would make a terrific revenge film with its glamorous landscape of the rich and privileged and the determined sociopath that is the reinvented Amber. Cross her to your peril. Bunker down and barrack for your favourite – who that is in the novel might surprise you.
THE CHILD NEXT DOOR, SHALINI BOLAND
Home alone, keeping an ear out for her baby daughter who is sleeping on the floor above, Kirstie Rawlings is jolted out of her doze at the sound of a cry. The baby monitor also relays the sound of someone speaking upstairs which results in Kirstie launching into action. Racing upstairs, Kirstie discovers her baby safely asleep and after a tense search, does not find anyone else in the house. The police don’t seem to believe what Kirstie has to tell them, and Kirstie’s own husband isn’t sold on her story either. The words that Kirstie clearly heard were “Let’s take the child – and go”.
The fear factor of the baby monitor interference is deliciously creepy and so from the very first chapter of THE CHILD NEXT DOOR we know that we are in for a fun ride. Author Shalini Boland has the gift for the quick hook and jerk and it is employed here successfully once again in her latest domestic thriller. It is nerve wracking to read of a new mother who is dealing with the enormity of her child possibly being snatched and the necessity of doing such things as turning her house into a fortress to protect her child. Kirstie is surrounded by people but very much alone.
Crisply written with no spare prose, THE CHILD NEXT DOOR wastes no time on extraneous details and gallops through with a mother’s righteousness and sense of purpose to solve a mystery and avert an incident that everyone else in the street seems to have the blinkers on about. Like a new mother doesn’t have enough on her plate to contend with, our anxiety for Kirstie rachets up with each chapter and we are standing at an anxious precipice by novel’s end.
Oh and yikes! That ending! Don’t entirely trust your instincts on this one as there is a final kick to be enjoyed on the very last page.
LET ME LIE, CLARE MACKINTOSH
Anna is well immersed in her exhausting first few months of being a new mother.
The take home. Clare Mackintosh has created a terrific character here in retired Detective Murray who takes on Anna’s ‘case’ of looking into the death of her mother. Really hoping the author will give her creation another outing as Murray was fabulous to meet and is someone that deserves his own mystery series for sure. The side storyline of his sacrifice in looking after his mentally ill wife is gorgeous and the absolute highlight of the novel. It’s a little unexpected treasure to find in a modern domestic mystery novel.
Now onto the rest. LET ME LIE does have a lot of “filler” that does little to advance the storyline and the book struggles to maintain the needed tension during these times. What LET ME LIE does offer is the terrific central premise of ‘was it murder, was it suicide’, which is doubly weighty to consider with there being two suspicious deaths, not one. The alternate narrator does add a satisfying dollop of creep factor as Anna’s life at home is being secretly observed and the reader will feel sympathy when her concerns are not taken seriously. It is good to see the protagonist is a new mother, as in that Anna is multi- tasking murder inquiries whilst dealing with a new baby, a new relationship, money concerns and a pesky neighbour. All of the things.
LET ME LIE is a well-constructed crime and mystery read that lags a little too much to be truly suspenseful though compensates with the deep diving into such family dynamics of alcoholism and mental illness. That ending though – eek! What does it mean? A sequel? We got it all wrong? Read LET ME LIE to find out!
Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage, M.C. Beaton
In her fifth outing, pushy and endearing Agatha Raisin has wedding to Cotswold neighbor James Lacey interrupted by her first husband, not divorced, thought-dead, Jimmy Raisin. Matters go quickly from bad to worse. Jimmy is found murdered; Agatha and James are the prime suspects.
I'm dangerously close to od'ing on these as I'm starting to feel like I could quote the upcoming lines before they are uttered. Still these sorts of books are the ones I turn to when I'm doing something else that really requires concentration. They are more than a bit silly, weirdly obsessed with the way that people look, and very samey after a while. Perhaps don't binge listen like I've been doing as the repetitiveness really stands out, but on the whole, really good for people looking for something less confrontational that many crime fiction listens. (And don't expect these to match up with the TV series - even when the plot co-incides the characters are so different you'll either be terminally confused, mildly disappointed, or oddly relieved that the perky is well and truly not part of the books).
THE PERFECT GIRLFRIEND, KAREN HAMILTON
Juliette has gone to extraordinary lengths to keep tabs on her ex-boyfriend. Though in Juliette’s mind, this has been more of a pause in their relationship than an actual split. This will give Juliette time to fine tune the parts of herself that complimented Nate, enter his industry, spy on his personal devices and occupy his flat when he is out flying planes. As one aggrieved partner would of course do.
THE PERFECT GIRLFRIEND is perfectly compulsive reading that will literally take you places. Was it wrong, when reading this thriller novel, to want to hear more about what it is to be a flight attendant? Apologies to the author for this take-home but this aspect of the book was very interesting!
The character Juliette kept this reviewer completely under her spell for the entire length of the book. Juliette is utterly credible and fully fleshed out as a force of nature whose grand plans won’t be denied. Going along on Juliette’s completely rational ride to glory is a huge adventure and you can’t help but admire her dedication to the mission. She is focused, she is determined, she has the intelligence, the means to see it all through and never backs down from her goal of firmly reinserting herself back into her ideal relationship.
Author Karen Hamilton has done a bang up of making us like Juliette, despite her dangerous intentions and willingness to do what needs to be done. You will want to like this woman, but you will be frightened of her, and you will never ever want to be on her bad side. THE PERFECT GIRLFRIEND epitomizes the modern psychological thriller and skates deliciously along the edge of all we are not supposed to admire – but sneakily do.
ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL, SARAH VAUGHAN
Rich, gorgeous, popular and charismatic would describe the James we meet in the heady years of his enviably sparkling youth. It is easy for James’ friends and family to see where such was a charmed young man will end up. Some people were always meant for the heights.
ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL is a read that is straddling two worlds. It does come across as somewhat like the experience of reading a BBCTV telemovie script, though the book lacks the heavier drama punch that could easily have been included. Kudos to the author for not going down this path of easy entertainment. This lack of visceral description and emotional drama actually serves the read quite well, but you need to be prepared to settle in for the long haul of tackling yet another novel that spends half of its time immured in the ghosts of a collegial past – here, being those of the accused and his wife who met during their university years. This childhood/young adult focus seems to be a bit of thing in domestic thriller novels that have flooded the crime fiction market in the last couple of years.
ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL takes its reader to a certain point of questioning all of the character’s motives, though also at the same time wondering why they are all a bit vague as to what it is that they want. It is far easier in this novel to get a grasp on the perpetrator rather than understand what it is that bolsters up the survivor.
The journalistic background of author Sarah Vaughan is evident in the writing. It is an economical style used here, with multi-faceted viewpoints included that all shade the same incident and varied personal encounters in different hues. The greatest strength of ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL is that it instantly seems quite familiar; we feel we have read of the events detailed in the book somewhere in real life, in the recent past. All the major characters are successful people, living and working in the rarefied atmosphere of the British upper class and its political system. Precious opportunities are squandered, and the privilege of serving your country is taken as a right by its entitled male politicians.
Courtroom dramas are always a treat when done well and those in ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL are the culmination of our reader expectations - eagerly anticipated and not disappointed. Timely and carefully presented, the events in ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL have a greater impact for not being lavishly over dramatized and will continue to spark weighty conversations amongst its readers for some time.
Bring Me Back, B.A. Paris
Ten years on from the disappearance of his young girlfriend Layla, Finn has well and truly taken charge of his own destiny. Engaged to be married to a wonderful woman, Finn has worked hard and built up enough cash reserves to be able to work from home, support his dog and live the quiet life in an English village. Life for Finn is extremely good. How quickly things can change.
As we’ve discovered with the two previous monster hits from this author (BEHIND CLOSED DOORS and THE BREAKDOWN ), Paris knows how to keep us in the seat and our eyes glued to the page. BRING ME BACK sets its own pace of creeping suspicion, denial, a good re-think, then circling back to rampant suspicion. Having a less than snowy white protagonist is all to the good and it works here that Finn is more everyday narky than a noble wounded survivor of tragedy. There’s more invested in BRING ME BACK than just the possibility of happy ever after for Finn. He has to work to get to that point, unravel and then re-form.
You may however be thinking as you read this book that “whoa, this man is extraordinarily dumb” and it is this colossal realization that takes away from what is otherwise a very readable work of crime fiction. It is so mind bogglingly obvious what is going on, so early on, that you start to question the sanity of the protagonist. Given, our Finn comes across as a bit vain and self-absorbed, but seriously. This is one person not coming across as that bright for someone who is supposed to be a gun financial analyst. His friends aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed either. A small cast, a small setting, few choices in suspects as to the who and why narrows your focus and this will rachet up the tension for the reader who will pile it onto every character encountered.
BRING ME BACK is a fast and enjoyable beach read that will carry you through to a change of shift with the lifeguards. Definitely a one trick pony though. Once that pony ponied up, that was all you could see and the rest of the book was reading on in hope that your insight to the obvious was not all there was going to be.