The Blame Game

by C. J. Cooke

Thriller and Suspense Books of the Month Books with reviews by our Reader Review Panel Crime and Mystery eBooks of the Month Family Drama

LoveReading Expert Review of The Blame Game

A dramatic, enthralling and addictive tale that thrills and provokes thoughts and feelings.

What an addictive and powerful book this is, I gobbled it up in one heady sitting and then sat and had a good ponder as certain aspects of this read knocked at the door to my consciousness. Two people have spent the last twenty-two years trying to forget, but someone is determined, no matter what, that they will remember. The first few pages really set the scene in a simple yet clever way, then I was hit by a wallop of an opening. Each chapter is headed by a character and a date, two main time frames are explored, time is sliced, spliced, offering a doorway to answers. As I read my mind explored possibilities, evaluated decisions, examined each character, their thoughts, their feelings. C. J. Cook balances the plot beautifully, keeping it taut, yet encouraging exploration in the moment. ‘The Blame Game’ (which is an absolutely perfect title) is a dramatic, enthralling and ultimately very satisfying read.

Liz Robinson

The Blame Game Synopsis

The gripping new thriller from the author of I KNOW MY NAME He said he'd do anything to protect her. She said she'd do anything to protect her family. And they both said they would forget what happened twenty-two years ago. But now it seems that there is someone who will stop at nothing to make them remember... Who is playing the blame game?

About This Edition

ISBN: 9780008237561
Publication date: 7th March 2019
Author: C. J. Cooke
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 416 pages
Primary Genre Thriller and Suspense
Other Genres:
Recommendations:
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What To Read After The Blame Game

I Know What You've Done
Then She Was Gone
Daylight
The Memory Wood

The Blame Game Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

Intriguing, intense and addictive – a must-read for anyone who loves a great psychological thriller.

The Blame Game is an amazing psychological thriller that gets under your skin from the very first page to the last.

The book depicts life after a tragedy that happened to a couple 22 years ago in the Swiss Alps, and shows us the lasting effects it has on Helen, Michael and their two children.

All they want to do is forget what happened, but somebody is going to great lengths to ascertain that the past remains prominent in every day of their lives.

If you enjoy great dialogues, intricate plots and surprising twists, this is the book for you!

Alexandra Harper-Williams

A real page-turner - keeps you guessing all the way through.

This is a story which keeps you guessing all the way through. Michael and Helen Pengilly are living with a secret, a traumatic event in their early lives which affected them both deeply and controlled their future, to the extent that they are constantly moving their family so that the past can’t catch up with them. But they can’t escape it – when their business is destroyed by fire in suspicious circumstances, they decide to take their two children on an extended holiday and end up in Belize where they are involved in a mystery car crash which raises some serious questions in Helen’s mind and spurs her on to finally get to the bottom of the mystery they live with. As the title suggests, the blame for the traumatic event which ruined their lives is at the heart of everything, and the reveal was a great twist – I certainly didn’t see it coming. There is tension all the way through this book, and I found it a real page turner. C. J. Cooke is a new author to me – I believe this is her second novel, and I will definitely be looking out for her first one.

Doreen McKeown

Told from various points of view. This well-crafted thriller flits from the past to the present and cleverly ties the two together. An enjoyable read.

The story follows Helen and Michael on a dream holiday with their children, Reuben and Saskia. The family believe they are being watched and on their way to the airport for their return journey home, there is a tragic accident which has life-changing consequences.

Whilst in hospital, their family and lives begin to fall apart. As the story moves between Helen and Michael’s past and the whole family in the present, we slowly discover the underlying plot when Michael and Helen initially met. This has a dramatic impact on the present day. The story explores many aspects of the fallout from this earlier event and is told by Michael, Helen and Reuben.

It is a cleverly crafted thriller with a unique story. I especially enjoyed the story told from Reuben’s point of view and how it explores the relationships he has. I would have liked this book to grab and draw me in more and I would have preferred it to have a quicker pace, having said that, I did enjoy reading it.

Gail Phillips

A heart-wrenching story of grief, guilt and family, and the extreme lengths you’ll go to save those you love.

The Blame Game is a remarkable but devastating depiction of the after-effects of trauma. When two young people make life-shattering decisions, those choices echo through their lives over the next two decades, infiltrating their relationships, daily lives and futures.

C. J. Cooke unravels the fate of her characters with the delicacy of a surgeon, revealing hints of what lies beneath whilst keeping the dark red depths just out of reach. The chapters of ‘before’ don’t feel worn or overdone, but rather weave into the narrative to complete the web of Helen and Michael’s lives.

This novel questions morality and responsibility but also handles mental distress with compassion. It makes you wonder what you would do, what could have been done differently, and whether, in the end, all that matters is protecting those you love.

Tiffany Chevis

Each chapter of this book created more questions then it answered, resulting in an addictive book I found difficult to put down.

This is a book all psychological thriller lovers should read. The concept was unlike any I had read before. Each chapter led to more questions than it answered which made it addictive to read. The stark contrast between Belize and the Alps helped increase the juxtaposition between the past and the present. The storyline explored amazingly how one action taken through a split second decision can have devastating consequences which not only impacts your life but also those around you for years to come.

An intriguing, well-written and an addictive read.

Rebecca Gilpin

Was unable to put this book down.

Was unable to put this book down. The Blame Game is a fantastic, edge of the seat family expedition turning into a gripping read.
Both past and up to date storylines linked together. The book also has some great twists and turns in the writings.

James Wilson

Twists and turns galore and sympathetic characters made this a great read!

I read this in 2 sittings and had no idea whodunnit until right at the end. The plot twisted and turned and I had 4 suspects in my head almost all the way through.
Although I felt that I needed to suspend belief at times the story and the characters were engaging enough to make me sympathatic, especially Reuben.

Gill Burn

Intricate and suspenseful, this will keep you guessing right up to the very end and pondering long after. The Blame Game is a cracking read!

Helen and Michael have a past, a dark history that shrouds their lives. No matter how many times they move and how far they travel it’s impossible to leave it behind and now the event that changed the course of their lives forever has finally caught up with them. The letters are clear – it was murder.

As Helen recovers from a near-fatal car crash in Belize, the details of the pivotal event in Mont Blanc are revealed. Now Helen must fight for the survival of her family, her daughter Saskia on life support and her autistic son Reuben, but she must do it alone. Everything she thought she knew about Michael and her family comes into question and with that comes the isolation of not knowing who you can really trust.

Intricate and suspenseful, the different strands of the story aren't drawn together until the very, very last minute. I found myself questioning everything, the cause of the car accident, the bookshop fire and the motives of each character in turn, right up to the very end. It certainly kept me guessing but the questions didn't end with the final chapter, I was left pondering the outcome and considering the extent to which our past experiences mould us. The Blame Game really is a cracking read!

S. Harper

Helen and Michael have been trying to keep 'under the radar' for the last twenty odd years but now their past may have caught up with them. An unusual psychological thriller with a dramatic ending.

Helen and Michael have been trying to keep 'under the radar' for the last twenty odd years but now their past may have caught up with them. An idyllic holiday in a remote location with their two children ends in tragedy, hot on the heels of another devastating incident back home in Northumberland.

It quickly becomes obvious that there is a poisonous secret at the heart, and origin, of Helen and Michael's relationship. Told from multiple points of view and with events taking place in the present and twenty-two years previously the story gradually unfolds but it keeps the reader on tenterhooks for a long time over the incident that is the root of the story. There is a risk when told like this that the event won't be as dreadful as the reader imagines and although this was perhaps the case here it's about the way that Helen and Michael feel about the event and react after it, not necessarily how it appears to an outsider.

This is a psychological thriller which doesn't quite fit the normal mould.

Sue G

A grippng read, twists and turns from the first page to the last.

A very enjoyable thriller. Michael, Helen, Reuben and Saskia are on a holiday of a lifetime when things change drastically.
Well written in a semi-diary/flashback way, letting the story unfold from the perspective of the main protagonists. Careful drop feeding the reader small details, pulling you deeper into the secrets of the past. Would happily recommend.

Neil Williams

This was an absolutely amazing read that I could not put down!

The mystery of what happened 22 years before is touched upon from the very beginning and the reader is desperate to know what happened and who is to blame. Cooke cleverly unwraps the intricate details layer by layer, chapter by chapter. I laughed, cried and discussed the morality of the characters with my family who all then became drawn into unveiling the plot!

The story follows a family on a dream holiday to Mexico, but slowly you begin to realise that all is not as rosy as it first appeared and there are many skeletons in cupboards - love, trust, deceit - this book has it all. It is written from the viewpoints of the wife, the husband and also their son, Reuben, who is autistic. The accurate portrayal of Reuben, particularly during stressful times, is very accurate and adds another dimension to the story.

I enjoyed this book so much that I could easily see it being made into a blockbuster movie! A must-read.

Rachel Corlett

A great fast-paced page-turner that will leave you in a spin.

Wow, this was definitely a fast-paced and compelling page-turner. It has taken me a few days to get my comments together after finishing the book so here is my opinion of the book.


Helen and Michael are on holiday trying to put behind them a fire that has ruined their livelihood but the surprising thing is that they seem to have someone following them and whilst they had a great holiday with the children Reuben and Saskia they were on edge the whole time and when it came to returning home there were mixed feelings. It seems they could have been right when on the way to the airport they are in a tragic and critical accident that will change their lives forever. It seems they have a lot to hide and when this all unravels who will you believe?

I found myself on the edge of my seat and racing to the end but then didn't want the book to finish. I really enjoyed this and found myself reading until the early hours to finish it. It's a fantastic read and I would tell everyone to read it.

Carol Peace

Fast paced and easy to read with a shocking twist. Great book!

I was hooked from the start.

Helen and Michael have a shared tragedy from their past that they are constantly trying to outrun, and which all comes to a head after an accident on a family holiday in the present.

The characters were believable, and well described, especially Reuben’s autism, and showing how easily a child can be led using social media.

The story was fast paced and kept you guessing right until the end, with a shocking twist.

Great book and I look forward to reading more from this author!

Natalie Plant

This is a fascinating psychological thriller which managed to bring a new perspective to the exploration of memory and loss. Heartily recommended!

This is a fascinating psychological thriller which managed to bring a new perspective to the exploration of memory and loss. The novel moves deftly between time periods and geographical locations, building suspense and a growing sense of menace until the final denouement. Heartily recommended!

Jennifer Stoddart

A gripping, page turning thriller. Hard to put down.

This is a great mystery thriller and very well crafted. I was hooked from the first page and read this within 3 days. The plot is very clever and the characters well developed. The book's transition from present to past is interesting, and the reader is kept guessing until the end. I look forward to reading more from this author.

Maya ehrmann

C. J. Cooke Press Reviews

Praise for C. J. Cooke:

`An atmospheric, mysterious and intense read that resonates long after you turn the last page. It's a stunning psychological thriller, rich with mystery and full of heart' C. L. Taylor

`If you haven't read it, you MUST! So, so good and very clever. Will keep you guessing the whole way through!' C. J. Tudor

`Chilling and intelligent' Nuala Ellwood

`Utterly compelling and unnervingly twisty' Caroline Smailes

`Intense, thrilling and layered with issues of modern life, this is grip-lit at its best' ELLE

This is an astonishing thriller...with gorgeous writing and a stunning conclusion, this novel has catapulted onto my shortlist of the best suspense novels I've read all year

Chevy Stevens, New York Times bestselling author of Still Missing

`An intriguing and psychological thriller' Sunday People

'Dark and emotionally compelling. Cooke handles the subject matter expertly. Eloise is just mesmerising. Excellent' northerncrime.wordpress.com

'Beautifully complex yet simply told in a way that really digs deep into the themes that anchor the tale... Really terrific. Just excellent' lizlovesbooks.com

'So intriguing and well written that I was unable to prise myself from the book until I had read every word within' - bookyramblingsofaneuroticmom.blogspot.co.uk

'I Know My Name is cleverly complex and thought provoking as well as being a compulsive page turner and comes thoroughly recommended' www.cosybooks.com

`This book has really left me speechless. I cannot begin to explain how utterly brilliant this book was and I have a feeling that it's going to stay with me for a long time' readingwillingable.blogspot.co.uk

'This is a thriller with more than just the usual twists and turns. It could well be described as dark and disturbing' thelastwordbookreview.wordpress.com

Other editions of this book

ISBN: 9780008237561
Publication date: 07/03/2019
Format: Paperback

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About C. J. Cooke

C.J. Cooke is an acclaimed, award-winning poet, novelist and academic with numerous other publications under the name of Carolyn Jess-Cooke. Born in Belfast, she has a PhD in Literature from Queen's University, Belfast, and is currently Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, where she researches creative writing interventions for mental health. I KNOW MY NAME was C.J. Cooke's first psychological drama and was inspired by her creative work in mental health.There is a TV adaptation is in development. C.J. Cooke lives by the sea with her family.

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