Gina is incredibly thankful when a personal reference from her new boyfriend lands her an assistant position role in a television production company. It’s not Gina’s ultimate dream job and the new boss is something of a controlling horror, but Gina has high hopes. Her suggestions for ways to increase the station’s market share will surely be taken seriously soon and the result will be Gina powering up through the ranks. Her employers need to reach new digital audiences in the fickle age of social media immediacy and Gina is sure much more could be done in this arena.
THE OTHER SISTER has some good structural bones in the scene setting and a little included social commentary (as in that we’re all critical posters online) and so the first half of this book flies by. Protagonist Gina has a lot going on in her life, as does her brother Ryan. The loss of their sister when they were all young children haunts them still and created family rifts that were never repaired. The tension levels off as we find out more of Gina’s family history, and how reliant she is on her present day relationship with her illusionist boyfriend.
The separate storylines of Gina’s family history however and the modern day murders unfortunately just don’t come together convincingly. THE OTHER SISTER struggles to create a believable framework to support the intrigue. The family backstory has substance, and it is this that gives strength to a novel that falters with incorporating the crime element. The specifics of how the murders were carried out is not explored satisfactorily which would have helped with buying into the identity of the murderer. The motives… hmm. It might be a stretch, considering the work put into explaining how Gina came to be where she is now. This is where we wanted to source our reasonings from.
It’s true that it is not always necessary to have a likeable character to focus your concerns on and some readers may be invested enough to see the unlikeable folk in this novel receive their comeuppance. THE OTHER SISTER reinforces that our childhoods will always impact upon our future selves, and that everyone around us harbours their own secrets and biases.
The Anomaly, Michael Rutger
It’s a battle to keep the public’s interest in such a flash happy digital world. Nolan Moore and his production team are suitably buoyed at the prospect of a possible sponsor coming on board to kick their work up to the next level. It’ll mean a ridealong or two, but that’s okay.
Having dived into this adventure thriller as a result of reading its enticing book blurb, I immediately had to go and do some googling on the author. Knowing now that this is the latest work of UK author Michael Marshall (Smith), it all makes sense. Also, I appreciated the nod in THE ANOMALY to Marshall’s classic and frightening 2002 thriller THE STRAW MEN (a brilliant book, should you wish to go and snaffle up another by this author after reading THE ANOMALY).
There’s nothing like a good cave thriller and THE ANOMALY is a great example of what can be achieved with not much about but the natural environment to work with. In THE ANOMALY we have all the good ingredients such as an interesting global conspiracy theory, cave creepies, goopy biohazards and best of all, brilliant dialogue delivered by relatable heroes. The interactions between Nolan and Ken are whipsmart funny and an absolute joy to read. What a huge difference the inclusion of a bit of humour makes when let’s face it, everyone is waiting to be popped off the mortal coil as they stumble around in the dark.
A small warning no to be too fussy about the mechanics of the cave system. Why spoil it for yourself? This is sheer escapism reading. Check in your reality at the door and enjoy. THE ANOMALY is a wild ride into the horrors of the dark that would of course (the author being a screenwriter and all) make a terrific film. Thrills, spills, laughs and buckets of the cool stuff. Here’s hoping that we encounter Nolan Moore and his film crew again in another novel as they were straight up perfect and absolutely character gold. More please!
The Rival, Charlotte Duckworth
Ashley prides herself on her keen ambition and sees no reason why she shouldn’t achieve what she feels she deserves. There is always a cost, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be a cost borne by herself. The other employees in her new firm need to be conquered either by charm or clever manoeuvring but as long as the end result is that she powers up the corporate ladder, Ashley considers that things are progressing exactly as they should be.
We could perhaps say ‘plot twist’ or ‘pivot’ (you know, to be irritating like the cool kids) but either way you are getting a bit more bang for your buck than usual with THE RIVAL. It is very much like two novels found each other somewhere in the middle and decided to merge; one being a workplace psychological thriller, the other a drama piece about the horrors of new motherhood. We do have past and present perspectives so there is that fore knowledge that something horrific has happened to Helena since the motherhood train pulled into the station. We just don’t know during the read how that is connected to her working life. Were clues there all along?
THE RIVAL has a huge ticking bomb threaded throughout most of the read but it might not be what you think. It is definitely there (oh the wonders of hindsight when you’ve just finished a book) but the power of it is understated. Every single mother out there knows that your first pregnancy was the one where everyone began to look at you in a different way. You’ve suddenly been assigned a different role, and your own opinions on this altered status seem to have little or no relevance as to how people intend to newly perceive you. Also, every single woman out there knows that other women in the workplace are not necessarily there to support and lift you up. They too need to look after themselves first.
What THE RIVAL does extremely well is to keep the reader glued to the page. There’s a lot of subtleties and nuances here that will have you leaning one way or the other with your suspicions and sympathies. It’s possible to make the assessment that there are no outright bad guys, just different personality types and different approaches encountered. Just as you find in every large workplace. Odd bosses, easy going co-workers, paranoid desk jockeys etc. The creeping sense of unease that Helena is blindly walking into a nasty quagmire tensely propels a book that is not just all about women crawling over each other to get to the top. THE RIVAL is a reminder that when it all goes to hell, your safety and personal wellbeing are more important than any job. The earth is crumbling underneath Helena’s feet in this novel and she seems powerless to stop it.
British author Charlotte Duckworth has written a slow burn novel of what it means to confront a demon on more than one front at the same time. What are our strengths and who are our allies when life takes an unexpected turn? THE RIVAL will resonate with a broad spectrum of readers who will recognize that they’ve likely crossed paths with an Ashley at some point throughout their careers. It’s always an interesting question to put to yourself as to what lengths you are prepared to extend to when challenged.
Take Me In, Sabine Durrant
Parental guilt being the relentlessly crushing weight that it is on all of us takes shape in the form of a near drowning in TAKE ME IN. Holidaying couple Tessa and Marcus are making the best of things on their week by the seaside, but in their right mind know that taking a toddler on a holiday is classic SSDS. Collapsing onto a pebbled beach and tasked to keep an eye on his young son whilst wife Tessa goes to change, Marcus very quickly nods off and awakens to shouts and screams. Three-year-old Josh is rescued from the water by a tall and unsettling stranger, the epitome perhaps of capab
Four thriller novels in, Sabine Durrant is already in the stable of authors of whose works I will read no matter what the blurb on their upcoming release has to say. Each book has been just as good as the one before, and Durrant knows exactly what needs to be done in order to pull the reader in close by the end of the very first chapter, if not the very first page.
The central premise of TAKE ME IN is an interesting one. The notion of gratitude, and the varying levels of what that can ascend to, comes up often in work and personal relationships. There’s nothing more precious than our kids, and there’s nothing we wouldn’t do to keep them safe. When someone else has had to take the reins of that responsibility, how big has our failure been and how much do we owe the other person? Throw in parental co-blaming as a deflection of guilt, and bang you have an even more fraught situation.
TAKE ME IN is an immersive read of guilt, deflection and the tangled webs we weave when everything goes wrong in our lives at once. We deflect, we over compensate, we are inattentive to what we should be paying most attention to. You can’t help but feel for Marcus and Tessa, a very believable and modern couple, as their lives descend into spiralling chaos after the beach incident. When this couple should have been drawing together, they do of course, draw apart. Author Sabine Durrant has us keenly awaiting some sort of resolution as the real threat to the family methodically scratches away at their defences. Misdirection, the secrets of married couples, an over familiar stranger and the pressures of modern life all combine in TAKE ME IN to give the reader an absorbing crime thriller that cleverly questions what it is we should really be fearful of.