Review: Through the Cracks by Honey Brown

 

Title: Through the Cracks

Author: Honey Brown

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin April 2014

Status: Read from April 21 to 22, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

“Within the space of one week Adam grew strong enough to stop him. Somewhere in those seven days a tipping point had been reached….
‘Don’t touch me.’
‘What did you say to me?’
Adam straightened his elbow and shoved his father in the chest.”

After enduring years of confinement and abuse at the hands of his father, Joe, Adam finally pushes back, but having secured his freedom he has no idea what to do with it…until Billy finds him. Placing his trust in the streetwise teen, Adam tentatively ventures beyond his suburban prison for the first time in years, but no matter the direction the pair take to escape, their past refuses to let them go.

Through The Cracks is an intense and provocative read, though not quite the thriller, I have come to expect from Honey Brown. Delving into the darkest recesses of society, Brown explores the fates of two very different young boys and their struggle to survive, and move on from, a shared history of abuse, exploitation and neglect.

Though ultimately a story of hope, Through the Cracks is not an easy read. Written with brutal realism, the themes are disturbing, and certain details, though never gratuitous, can be confronting. Most readers will find themselves heart sore and indignant as Adam and Billy evoke sympathy and admiration, their tormentors engender disgust, and those that fail the boys provoke outrage and guilt, while raising questions about society’s failure to protect its most vulnerable members.

Through the Cracks is a powerfully affecting tale but I think the publisher does a huge disservice to the book by linking Nathan Fisher’s and Adam’s identities in the blurb. It blunts the revelations that come as the story unfolds, and while still an absorbing read, I found there were very few surprises, and little suspense.

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Review: The Accident by C.L. Taylor

The Accident

 

Title: The Accident

Author: C.L. Taylor

Published: HarperCollins Avon UK April 2014

Status: Read from April 15 to 16, 2014 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

The Accident is a fast paced psychological thriller from debut author, C.L. Taylor.

Desperate to understand why her comatose 15 year old daughter would deliberately step into the path of a bus, Susan Jackson begins a frenzied hunt for clues amongst the secrets her daughter kept from her. As Susan slowly begins to piece together information from Charlotte’s diary, phone and friends, shocking evidence of betrayal and blackmail begins to emerge, along with ugly secrets from Susan’s own past.

The author nurtures an uneasy atmosphere from the first few pages of The Accident, building mistrust and dread as the story unfolds. Surrounded by secrets and lies, Susan doesn’t know where to turn or how to make sense of the information she learns but is certain she can find the truth, even if everyone else believes she is simply chasing ghosts.

Taylor quickly establishes Susan an an unreliable narrator, Susan is deeply distressed and confused as you would expect of a mother whose child is lying in a coma but it soon becomes obvious that she is also unusually neurotic, and paranoid. While the present day, first person narrative communicates Susan’s growing nervousness and fear, it’s Susan’s journal excerpts from 22 years earlier that helps to explain why she is so anxious.

A well crafted thriller, The Accident is fast paced and tense, culminating in a dramatic conclusion. A strong debut, I’d recommend it particularly to those who enjoyed Kimberly McCreight’s novel, Reconstructing Amelia.

 

CLICK HERE to read Writing What you Fear by C.L. Taylor posted earlier today on Book’d Out

 

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Guest Post: Writing What You Fear by C.L. Taylor

CL Taylor

I am happy to welcome author C.L. Taylor to Book’d Out today.

CL Taylor lives in Bristol with her partner and young son. Born in Worcester, she studied for a degree in Psychology at the University of Northumbria, Newcastle then moved to London to work in medical publishing. After two years she moved to Brighton where she worked as a graphic designer, web developer and instructional designer over the course of 13 years. She currently works as a Distance Learning Design and Development manager for a London university.

Cally started writing fiction in 2005 and her short stories have won several awards and been published by a variety of literary and women’s magazines. Her psychological thriller The Accident debuts this month in the UK, published  by Avon HarperCollins, and will be released by Sourcebooks in the US in June 2014 (with the title ‘Before I Wake’).

The AccidentTo the outside world Susan Jackson has it all – a loving family, a successful politician husband and a beautiful home – but when Charlotte, her fifteen year old daughter,  deliberately steps in front of a bus and ends up in a coma Sue questions whether any of it was real.

Desperate to find out what caused Charlotte’s suicide attempt, she is horrified by an entry in her diary – ‘Keeping this secret is killing me’.  As Sue spins in desperate circles, she risks everything to discover the truth and finds herself immersed in a shady world she didn’t know existed. The deeper she delves the darker the world becomes and the more danger she puts herself in.

Can Sue wake up from the nightmares that haunt her and save her daughter, or will ‘the secret’ destroy them both?

Writing What You Fear by C.L. Taylor

They say that authors should write what they know but I think that psychological thrillers should write what they fear. When I came up with the idea for ‘The Accident’ I tapped into three of my very darkest fears:
•    Going mad
•    Being stalked by an ex-boyfriend
•    Something terrible happening to my child

Going mad
It might seem strange that someone with a psychology degree would fear going mad but that’s exactly how I felt when, aged 21, I started having panic attacks. I don’t know for sure what sparked them – possibly it was because I stressed about my final year exams at University or maybe there was a deeper underlying reason – but they became so bad that I’d have to leave cinemas because I’d feel like I couldn’t breathe, or I’d lie awake at night counting my breaths – certain that if I stopped something terrible would happen.
Nearly sixteen years later, and long after I’d stopped having panic attacks I began to fear going mad again. I’d just had my first child and I was so severely sleep deprived that I started hallucinating when I’d take my son for a walk in his pram. I clearly the remember the day I saw the pavement tip and shift and I had to cling onto the pram handle for fear I was about to be tipped into the busy road and into the path of oncoming traffic.
When I began writing ‘The Accident’ during my maternity leave I poured my fear of going mad into the main character, Susan who is still suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, twenty years after she left her abusive ex-boyfriend.

Being stalked by an ex-boyfriend
Unlike Susan I was never physically or sexually abused by an ex-boyfriend but I was in an emotionally abusive relationship for four years in my early thirties. I didn’t realise I was in that kind of relationship for a long time – you never do – and when I finally left him he started stalking me online and in real life. I was bombarded with emails, text messages and phone calls. He’d turn up at my flat at random times in the day and stand at the door in the pouring rain, his finger pressed to the buzzer while I’d sit on the sofa, too scared to move in case he saw me. The stalking became so bad I had to move out and live with my sister and I had to ask my dad to ring him and threaten to report him to the police. Fortunately the stalking stopped but the fear that you ex might suddenly show up in your life again never really leaves you. I poured that fear into Susan.

Something terrible happening to my child
When I gave birth to my son back in 2011 I had the same fears as any other mother – SIDS, choking, falls, illness – but there was a tiny part of me that worried what my ex-boyfriend would do if he ever met my child. I knew, rationally, that nothing would happen – that he lived in a city many miles away, he hadn’t been in touch for years and he wasn’t physically abusive, but that didn’t stop my sleep deprived mind from worrying. I poured those worries into the character of Susan. When her teenaged daughter steps in front of a bus and ends up in a coma Susan goes through Charlotte’s diary and discovers an entry that says ‘keeping this secret is killing me’. Susan hasn’t seen her ex-boyfriend James for twenty years but when strange parcels start appearing at her house she becomes convinced that he’s somehow to blame. But Susan has had ‘episodes’ like this before, where she’d imagined James was after her, but it was all in her head. That’s what her doctor and husband told her anyway. Is James responsible for Charlotte’s ‘accident’ or is someone closer to home to blame?

You can read my review of The Accident by clicking HERE

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Review: Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson


Title: Before I Go To Sleep

Author: S. J. Watson

Published: Black Swan: Transworld Publishers March 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from March 29 to 30, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

S.J. Wilson’s debut novel, Before I Go To Sleep attracted much attention on it’s debut in 2011, winning the author a legion of awards, fans, and a movie contract, due for release later this year (2014), starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth.

A taut psychological thriller, Before I Go To Sleep tells the story of Christine Lucas, who each morning looks in the mirror to find her face aged by time she can’t recall passing, while a strange man, who claims to be her loving husband, Ben, patiently explains she experienced a traumatic brain injury nearly two decades ago and as a result suffers a rare type of amnesia obliterating much of her past and able to accumulate memories only for as long as she remains awake. As each day wears on, Christine struggles to understand what has happened to her, until, each day, Dr Nash calls and reminds her to read her journal, secreted in a shoebox in her wardrobe. A journal where underneath her name, on the very first page, she has written ‘DON’T TRUST BEN’.

As the story unfolds, so does the mystery of all Christine has forgotten. Her journal reveals lies, half truths and betrayals but can she trust the secrets spilling across the pages? Watson masterfully builds the tension with each revelation, each contradiction, each truth and each lie.

The narrative is infused with Christine’s confusion, fear and panic as she negotiates her past and present. Without her memory she is extraordinarily vulnerable to the manipulations of others and it is frighteningly easy to imagine yourself in her place.

Though some suspension of belief is required for elements of the plot to work, I found I was more than willing to do so. I turned the pages eagerly, caught up in the breathless pace leading to the shocking denouement.

Before I Go To Sleep is a clever, complex thriller that hooked me from the first page and kept me engrossed to the very last.

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Review: Safe Harbour by Helene Young

 

Title: Safe Harbour

Author: Helene Young

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin Au March 2014

Read an Extract

Status: Read from March 21 to 23, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

From the first pages of her fifth novel, Safe Harbour, award-winning Australian author Helene Young draws the reader into an exciting tale of action, intrigue and romance.

When Darcy Fletcher and Noah Moreton are called upon to rescue a man from his stricken yacht in wild seas, they are not prepared for the tsunami of danger that swamps Banksia Cove in his wake. The stranger’s presence exposes long held secrets and lies, sparking betrayal and violence that threatens to destroy them, and everyone, they love.

Fast paced and gripping, the suspense plot of Safe Harbour delves into family secrets, financial conspiracy and organised crime. The stranger, eventually identified as accountant Conor Stein, proves to be an unexpected link between Darcy’s estranged father, ex-football star turned club manager, Stirling, and the Russian mafia. With evidence of their joint criminal practices, Conor is a target and in helping him, Darcy too is hunted by the ruthless men sent to quiet him at any cost.

Having saved Conor’s life, Darcy feels some responsibility towards him, especially as in the immediate aftermath of the accident he is suffering from amnesia. Darcy’s motivation for helping Conor is altruistic, though tangled with residual guilt involving a tragic event in her past, but quickly becomes personal when her friends are targeted and her father’s involvement in the situation is revealed. The author has created a capable and likeable protagonist in Darcy, whose vulnerabilities – Grant’s death, her father’s abandonment, her mother’s illness and the loss of her restaurant – are also a source of strength.

Darcy also draws strength from Noah, Banksia Cove’s community police officer and childhood friend. Young develops a romance between the two that has been simmering for a decade or more, but is complicated by both the secrets of the past and the present.

Safe Harbour is a first-rate, absorbing romantic suspense novel, balancing a dramatic story with strong characters and an engaging romance. I expect that Helene will adding another ARRA trophy to her case in 2015, I know I will be voting for Safe Harbour to win.

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Review: House of Glass by Sophie Littlefield

 

Title: House of Glass

Author: Sophie Littlefield

Published: Harlequin MIRA February 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from February 23 to 25, 2014 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

A fast paced, gripping novel, House of Glass is the story of a family taken hostage in their own home. Locked in the basement by two gun wielding thugs, Jen Glass, her husband, Ted, teenage daughter, Livvy, and young son, Teddy, can only hope the men will take the money they want and leave but when things begin to go wrong for the hostage takers, the terrifying situation begins to spiral out of control.

Despite outward appearances the Glass family is already a fractured reflection of perfection. Ted is unemployed and Jen suspects him of indulging in an affair, Livvy has become a surly teenager and five year old Teddy is a selective mute, refusing to speak to anyone outside of the immediate family. These stressors, added to the recent death of her estranged father, has Jen feeling particularly vulnerable at the moment when ‘Dan’ and ‘Ryan’ storm into their home. She can’t help but wonder exactly why, and how, these strange men came to target her family and who may have betrayed so many personal details about them. Though determined to keep her family safe, she feels powerless as the crisis worsens and she has to consider they may not survive.

The pace is compelling and the tension is high from the first moment the men appear in the doorway of Jen and Ted’s bedroom. It continues to increase as things begin to go wrong and the Glass’s grow ever more desperate to escape the clutches of their hostage-takers. While I admired the intensity of the story I didn’t feel that the characters were developed as they could have been. The family dynamics were a little superficial and in particular I felt I didn’t know Jen well enough to understand her thoughts and actions, aside from her base motivation to protect her family.

House of Glass is a story of betrayal, of desperation and ultimately of survival. Inspired by a reported home invasion that took place in Connecticut in 2007, Littlefield dramatises a horrifying event that every family fears, creating a page turning thriller.

Available to Purchase from

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Review & Giveaway: The Lost Girls by Wendy James

 

Title: The Lost Girls

Author: Wendy James

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin February 2014

Status: Read from February 23 to 24, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

Read an Extract

My Thoughts:

Wendy James has been described as “A master of suburban suspense” {The Age} after the publication of Where Have You Been? and The Mistake. The Lost Girls, the author’s fifth novel cements this reputation with a compelling story of loss, grief and family secrets.

Fourteen year old Angie’s body was discovered a few days after she went missing in the January 1978, she had been strangled with her own scarf and dumped in the national park. Her unsolved murder, eventually blamed on an unidentified serial killer dubbed The Sydney Strangler, devastated her adoring cousins, Jane and Mick, with whom she was spending the summer, and the loss has haunted them ever since. Thirty years later, a journalist approaches Jane requesting an interview, claiming to be developing a radio documentary about the impact of murder on the loved ones of the victim. After so many years of silence, Jane finds relief in talking about the beautiful teenager idolised by her twelve year old self, but it isn’t just her talking, Jane’s brother Mick, her mother, and Jane’s husband, Rob, all have stories, and secrets, to share about Angie – about the way she lived… and about the way she died.

The Lost Girls is told through memories, interview transcripts, newspaper articles and the story of the present day, revealing the events that led up to, and followed, the death of Angie. As the novel unfolds, moving between time, place and perspective, the reader begins to piece together a wider view of the tragedy, and those affected, than any one character has.

While Jane remembers the cousin she adored with childlike innocence, her mother recalls a manipulative girl who, “…wasn’t really all that nice a child. She was always looking out for herself.” p158. Mick’s teenage crush on Angie colours all of his memories of the girl Angie was, while Rob has held one of her secrets for thirty years. Somewhere amongst their memories is the truth about who Angie was and how that may have contributed to her death.

It soon becomes obvious that the ‘journalist’, Erin Fury, is not motivated by professional curiosity but by a personal connection to the case. Her motivations are obscured for much of the story, helping to raise the tension as Erin digs for the answers to questions she is not even sure how to ask. Her ‘reward’ is learning a truth she wishes she never knew.

With a well crafted, multi-layered plot exploring the ways in which the past shapes us, and the difficulty in leaving it behind, The Lost Girls is an engrossing story of domestic drama and suspense. I’m happy to recommend this slow-burning but gripping suburban thriller.

Available to Purchase From

 

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Review: The Farm by Tom Rob Smith

Title: The Farm

Author: Tom Rob Smith

Published: Simon and Schuster February 2014

Status: Read from February 07 to 10, 2014 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

“Promise that you’ll listen to everything I say with an open mind. All I ask for is an open mind. Promise me you’ll do that, that’s why I’ve come to you. Promise me!”

Daniel is shocked when his father rings in tears to announce his mother is sick, not physically ill but mentally, and he has been forced to admit her to a psychiatric hospital. Distraught, Daniel makes immediate plans to travel to Sweden where his parents now live, but before he can board the plane his mother arrives in London, clutching a battered satchel claiming that his father is conspiring against her. Demanding that Daniel listen, his mother begins to speak, asking Daniel to trust in her tale of secrets, lies, betrayal, corruption and perversion. Daniel doesn’t know who to believe, he can’t imagine either of his quiet, hard working, loving parents capable of deception but he has to know…just who is telling the truth?

The Farm is a psychological thriller where Smith unravels a finely crafted plot that examines the issues of trust, truth and betrayal. The story unfolds from the perspective of Daniel and Tilde, his mother, as she shares a tale with him, exposing her belief in a conspiracy that implicates the residents of a small Swedish community, and his father, in a shocking crime.

“I’m sure your father has spoken to you. Everything that man has told you is a lie. I’m not mad.”

Daniel has never had any reason to distrust either of his parents but as his mother speaks he realises he has been oblivious to his parents lives, underscored by his surprise at the financial crisis that forced his parents move to Sweden. With the awareness that both his parents are capable of lying to him, Daniel is torn, unable to conclusively determine who is telling the truth. While his mother’s story seems outlandish and his father appears genuinely distressed, the uncertainty nags at him and he decides the only way to determine the truth is to investigate his mother’s claims himself.

With consummate skill, Smith keeps the reader guessing, unable to completely dismiss, or fully believe in, Tilde’s conspiracy theory. The author fosters an atmosphere of unease and tension as the reader wonders whose side should they take, and what if it’s the wrong one? The plot is masterful and the characterisation well done, but I have to confess there was something about the author’s style that didn’t quite grab me, and I was unable to completely lose myself in the novel. Nevertheless, I did like The Farm, particularly admiring its original premise, and I would recommend it without hesitation.

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Review: Vengeance by Megan Miranda

Title: Vengeance {Fracture #2}

Author: Megan Miranda

Published: Bloomsbury February 2014

Status: Read on February 11, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

I wouldn’t recommend reading Vengeance without first having read Fracture, Megan Miranda’s debut novel. Fracture introduces the primary protagonists, Delaney Maxwell and Decker Phillips, and provides vital back story that this story relies on.

Vengeance is told from Decker’s point of view (whereas Fracture was told from Delaney’s perspective. It has been a few months since Delaney was trapped beneath the frozen surface of Falcon Lake but the events of the past winter linger for them both and it seems neither the Lake, nor death, has finished with them yet.

Miranda is able to revive the tense and sinister atmosphere of Fracture in Vengeance. From the first pages, death seems to stalk Decker but you are never entirely sure where the threat is coming from. As he struggles with feelings of guilt for Delaney’s accident and still mourning Carson’s untimely death, Decker can’t shake a feeling of foreboding, of worse things still to come.

I loved the ambiguous nature of the threat. You are never quite sure who, or what, is stalking Decker and Delaney until the final scenes of the novel and that uncertainty generates the suspense that kept me turning the pages. I did think the story was diluted in places though, the vengeance angle wasn’t pushed quite hard enough to suit me, and Decker’s emotional angst/relations woe is given too much attention at times.

Though not perfect, I really enjoyed Vengeance. It works well as sequel, and I think Miranda was true to the established characterisation and story. Though some questions may still remain unanswered, I hope the author doesn’t attempt a third book but instead starts fresh, I really want to see what else she can do.

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My Review

 

 

Review: Killer by Jonathon Kellerman

Title: Killer {Alex Delaware #29}

Author: Jonathon Kellerman

Published: Ballantine Books February 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from February 04 to 05, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy Netgalley/publisher}

My Thoughts:

Killer is Jonathan Kellerman’s 29th novel featuring the child psychologist/law enforcement consultant Alex Delaware, partnered with LAPD detective Milo Sturgis. It begins with Alex being asked to assess the maternal fitness of two sisters involved in a custody dispute. It seems a simple case and his report a mere formality, but denied guardianship of her niece, Constance Sykes blames Alex, and contracts a killer.

It may seem odd to nominate the Alex Delaware series as a ‘comfort read’ but my familiarity with it makes it so for me. I find I easily slip into the rhythm of the narrative, lulled by the soporific voice of the Doctor. I can rely on the personalities, and circumstances, of the main characters remaining largely unchanged and the plots, though somewhat predictable, are always satisfyingly resolved. I have to admit my attachment to the series make it difficult to be objective but honestly even at its worst, you can expect a solidly crafted, readable novel.

Is this Kellerman’s best? No, though perhaps the better of the last half a dozen or so novels. With the fate of a missing toddler in question, Milo and Alex disagree about the identity of the suspect assumed not only responsible for the child’s disappearance, but also a string of related murders. And in the face of mounting evidence, and recent events, Delaware succumbs to a rare display of self doubt.

The last few books have been dominated by Delaware’s role as a law enforcement consultant and I like that in Killer, Delaware returns to his ‘roots’ so to speak, as a child psychologist. A subplot involves the reappearance of a former patient, once a truculent teen struggling with Diabetes, now a gang leader in an unique position to repay Alex for his help. Wile I love Milo, I hope that this is an indication Kellerman will be shifting the focus back to Delaware’s practice.

If you aren’t familiar with the series, I think you could pick this up to read as a stand alone but you’d be missing out. As a long time fan,  I enjoyed Killer, zipping through it in a couple of hours, happy to catch up with old friends and lose myself in a new case.

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