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All engrossing, pure escapist, nail-biting anxiety, mind bending terror and psychological twists. We’re not sure why it’s so appealing. Good though, isn’t it! You might also like to browse our Crime and Mystery category.
A hard-hitting, devastating, wow of a read, Karin Slaughter has hit this standalone thriller out of the park! The past hunts down Defence Attorney Leigh Collier as she takes on a high profile rape case, and it threatens to destroy her. I am still squirming with reading euphoria having finished this novel. It’s no secret that I love Karin Slaughter’s writing and regularly shout about her books, for me, this is her best novel to date. It most definitely isn’t an easy or comfortable read, it travels into the very darkest of places, including violent sexual assault and drug addiction. This is one of the first novels I’ve read that covers Covid 19, it sat in the background, there, but not overtaking the storyline. From the beginning, when the shadows sucked me down into their spiralling depths and understanding hit, I knew this would be a one-sitting read. I didn’t want to put this book down, even when flinching from the pain that transmits from the page. While it packs an overwhelming punch, it also contains Karin’s unmistakable magic touch. She knows exactly when a lighter moment is needed, when a smirk or blurt of laughter will aid the reader. Yes it made me wince, it also made me consider what makes us who we are. False Witness is powerful and provocative, it explores social issues and violence, and is all the more fabulous for doing that. A LoveReading Star Book, this is a novel that’s going to stay with me for some time.
Set in rural Australia in the 1940s, 1960s and 1980s (the plot smartly slips between the decades), Lyn Yeowart’s The Silent Listener - her debut novel - is a dark and stormy psychological thriller focussed on family secrets and the search to fathom terrible truths. When Joy Henderson returns to her family’s farm to care for George, her dying dad, she’s confronted with a succession of horrendous events - both those that occur in her present, and traumatic experiences from her past. The very day after her father confesses to a horrific crime, he’s found dead with his own belt around his neck. As the narrative slips back to 1960, we learn how eleven-year-old Joy existed in utter fear of her father. An abusive bully who forced her to declare herself a “lazy, good-for-nothing sinner”. A brute who scarred her for life - psychologically and physically, for Joy has been left with “thick red strips of raised flesh creeping over the top of her shoulder and under her loose bra strap, wrapping themselves around the top of her arm like the tentacles of a red octopus.” This description is representative of the author’s taut, evocative style. Then there’s the Constable investigating George’s death - Alex Shepherd, a man still haunted by an unsolved case of a missing girl from 1960, and now deeply engrained in this new case, and the Henderson family’s secrets. As Joy and Shepherd talk, Joy is struck by a sickening thought: “The bastard killed himself so that you’d think I killed him. So I’d go to jail for murdering him. It was the ultimate punishment for disobeying him.” Shepherd isn’t sure what to believe, but his instincts lead him back to that unsolved case of the missing child. Exploring coercive control, violence, abuse and revenge with edgy levels of tension through potentially unreliable narrators, this is a satisfyingly suspenseful gothic thriller.
It’s little wonder that Russell Banks has won major awards for his subtle, seductive novels, and Foregone - the author’s first new novel for a decade - also deserves a place among prize-winners. It features famous left-leaning Canadian American documentary filmmaker, Leonard Fife. He’s in his late-seventies and dying of cancer, with a live-in Haitian nurse and attentive wife. The book opens with Fife wondering why he’s agreed to be filmed for a final interview to discuss his life and work. His nurse reminds him it’s “because he’s famous for something to do with cinema, and famous people are required to make interviews”. In the ensuing interview, after the irritation of the production team setting-up (a team led by his former star-pupil), Fife makes a long, dark, unexpected confession, with the plot cleverly switching camera angles from Fife to those who are filming him - a smart device, effectively realised. Taking in the history of US draft evaders who fled to Canada to escape serving in Vietnam (of which Fife was one of sixty-thousand), and written entirely in the present tense, Banks’s style is haunting, meditative and gripping, with its protagonist’s personal revelations striking compelling rhythmic, resonant beats.
An interesting and challenging speculative science fiction novel that begins in 2066. Covering a number of years and several time frames, Ben Holden is on the run after being targeted for his scientific research. It really does feel as though this world could be our future, enough is relatable and touchable to allow you to easily slip into what could be. Author Steve Holloway has a degree in Aquatic Biology and has worked around the world in marine science, it means that the scientific and oceanic world Ben finds himself in teems with possibilities and I particularly enjoyed these sections. The frequent moves in time and locations are clearly marked, which allowed me to flick between the different timelines in the plot with ease. Faith plays a part here, in terms of what is on offer in the future, and the main character’s transformation. I’m not in the slightest bit religious and found that this element, rather than overpowering proceedings, slotted into the story with ease. There is also enough action to keep the plot moving along at a good pace. Pelagia: Between the Stars and the Abyss makes for a refreshing and thought-provoking read.
Hauntingly beautiful and full of slicing suspense, this contemporary thriller twisted itself into my thoughts and still hasn’t let go. 17 year old runaway and former foster child Nell Ballard finds herself in London on the doorstop of a new opportunity, but a dark secret is keeping her company. Sarah Hilary is well known for her outstanding DI Marnie Rome crime series (one of my favourites) and this is her first standalone novel. The writing is unmistakably her, yet travels in a different direction. She was inspired by Rebecca and The Handmaid’s Tale and her publisher perfectly describes Fragile as a: “psychological thriller with a modern Gothic twist”. She tackles subjects such as child exploitation and homelessness, opening a door and allowing apprehension and awareness in. She has the ability to look between, into the forgotten spaces, either in the outside world or within our own minds, and she successfully reveals what most of us are unable at first to see. There was an almost gentle poetic quality to the words before they ganged together to create uncertainty, concern, and tension. At times, as the quiet moments soothed my thoughts, I was lulled into a feeling of calm. The ending, oh that ending, it hit home hard, and I had to read it again, just to allow it to sink in. Fragile is an achingly dark, wonderfully atmospheric novel, and I will more than happily climb a few rooftops to shout about it.
A really smart, readable, and pacy novel that not only thrills, it also encourages thoughts to explore beyond the obvious. Investigate Journalist Casey works to expose the horrors that take place in the factories behind the clothes trade. Holly Watt’s debut and start to this series, To The Lions won the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger in 2019. Dead Line is the second book and continues the winning format. What I really enjoy about these novels is the knowledge that the author is an award-winning investigative journalist, she knows her stuff. There is an immediate relevance to what you are reading, you could look up from the page at the world around you and see these stories taking place right now. Casey is a tenacious and fabulous main character with depth. This is a book that can make you flinch and feel uncomfortable, it’s also balanced with fabulous storytelling that is full of pace and attitude. One of my Liz Robinson Picks of the Month, Dead Line is an intelligent and convincing action-packed thriller.
Leonardo Padura’s Detective Mario Conde crime novels form the basis of Netflix’s Four Seasons in Havana and, after becoming utterly involved in The Transparency of Time (the ninth and final book in the series), it’s clear to see the appeal for producers. Padura’s writing balances a playful spirit of intellectualism with his distinct observations of people, place and time. Multi-layered, and rich with insights into Cuba’s history and current climate, The Transparency of Time sees Mario Conde become immersed in a centuries-old occult mystery. With his sixtieth birthday on the horizon, he ponders his shifting identity (“Didn’t they start calling Hemingway “Old Man” a few years before his suicide at sixty-one? What about Trotsky? Wasn’t he, at sixty, known as the Old Man when Ramón Mercader split his head in two with a Stalinist and proletarian blow from an ice ax?”) and decides “he had reason enough to avoid so much as aspiring to the category of Old Man”. Rather, “he was, at best, going to become an old fart.” That decided, Conde needs a new case to get stuck into and his need is answered when Bobby, a former high school classmate implores him to find a stolen Black Madonna statue that belonged to his grandmother. A vehement follower of Santeria, an African-Cuban religion that fuses Catholicism with West African Yoruba spiritism, Bobby is desperate: “She’s powerful! Truly powerful!.. You’re my only hope. And you have to help me, right? For old times’ sake?” Conde helps, of course, and with him readers are led on a complex journey through occult history, back to the Crusades as he works to ascertain the provenance of the statue, with interwoven episodes from the Spanish Civil War. At once entertaining and challenging, Padura is a writer with distinct style and scope.
Forming part of an incredibly well written, detailed yet vibrant and exciting historical crime series, this is a stonkingly good read. If you’ve not yet explored the Captain Damian Seeker novels (two of them have won the Crime Writers’ Association Historical Dagger Award), then I recommend that you start at the beginning with The Seeker. The House of Lamentations is the final book in the five book series, and while sad that it’s ended, I can shout from the rooftops that this is a series that is most definitely worth reading. Taking place in Bruges in 1658 the Royalists plan to fund a last-ditch attempt to place the exiled Charles on the throne. However, a traitor has been feeding information to Cromwell’s enforcer who now needs all of his wits about him to deal with the threat. While the main story plays out, a number of smaller mysteries weave their way around the plot. As I read my thoughts twisted and turned inside out as I tried to work out who to keep my eye on, and when the ending came it made me smile in satisfaction. The House of Lamentations is a fine final hurrah to the Damian Seeker Novels and I just want to stand up and applaud S. G. MacLean on her wonderful creation, so this sits as a Liz Pick of the Month.
An artfully composed and thought-provoking novel covering several sub genres within crime fiction. When Xander Shute reports witnessing a murder to the police, they don’t believe him, and as he begins to search for answers himself, he finds himself lost in his own mind and a vortex of memories. Xander narrates his tale, he lives on the streets and within a few pages his existence stamped itself all over my consciousness. Imran Mahmood is a practicing barrister and his debut novel was long listed for the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger. He writes with cunning pen, an intricate plot slowly and stealthily reveals itself creating the most wonderful page-turner of a story. Short sharp shocks of sentences ganged together driving my thoughts before them. Sometimes I felt as though I was inside Xander’s mind, a part of his awareness, sometimes I was on the outside, trying desperately to work out what was going on. I found this a clever, provocative novel, and when the ending came sat back and travelled back over my suspicions and presumptions. I Know What I Saw is a smart, stimulating, and compelling psychological thriller and mystery, enter the pages and prepare for your thoughts to scatter and explore.
Whip-smart, incisive and incredibly gripping, Zakiya Dalila Harris’s The Other Black Girl presents a powerful exposé of publishing’s unpleasant underbelly - the elitism, nepotism, poor pay, and petty power-play some senior editors exert over their assistants. Think The Devil Wear Prada with edge - its young editor protagonist wants to publish writers whose voices matter. It’s a world of white gatekeepers, white privilege, with displays of (cue tiny violin) white affront when poor behaviour is called out. And all this is done through twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers, the only Black employee at New York’s prestigious Wagner Books publishing house. After feeling isolated and exhausted by the everyday micro-aggressions of her workplace, Nella is delighted when Hazel, the “Other Black Girl”, starts working next to her - until Nella starts receiving threatening notes telling her to leave the company, while having to deal with increasingly problematic office politics. Though the novel is set in the publishing world, it will resonate with anyone, for example, who’s doubted the authenticity of their workplace’s commitment to diversity. In Nella’s case, she was part of Wagner Books’ diversity group, but company interest soon waned, with no one really getting the point, or understanding why representation matters - why it matters to get it right. The brutal reality of the company’s lip service attitude to equality and representation is exposed when Nella speaks out about a white male author’s offensively clichéd portrayal of a Black female character. When he (cue another tiny violin) gets upset, feeling accused of racism, she’s expected to apologise. Never mind about his lazy, dubious characterisation - the poor man’s feelings have been hurt, goddammit! That this is nothing new is revealed through the interwoven story of Kendra Rae, Nella’s editorial heroine who blazed inspirational trails before her - but what happened to Kendra after editing a huge bestseller, she wonders? It turns out that as Nella faced a backlash after (gently) calling out her author’s caricature, Kendra’s “sin” was also telling it like it is, being “someone who rejected what was expected of her as a Black woman in a predominantly white industry.” Chiming with wit and vital commentary, this debut is a thrilling feat of fiction, with twists that are impossible to see coming.
LONGLISTED FOR THE CWA GOLD DAGGER AWARD She's a murderer. Everyone knows she killed Stuart Rees - why else would his dead body be found in her shed? So now Tabitha is in prison, awaiting trial. Coming back to the remote coastal village where she grew up was a mistake. She didn't fit in then, and she doesn't fit in now. That day is such a blur, she can't remember clearly what happened. There is something she is missing, something important... She only knows one thing. She is not capable of murder. And the only one she can trust to help her out of this situation is herself. So she must fight. Against the odds. For her life. Beautifully written about prejudice, loneliness and fighting spirit, this new book by Nicci French is shocking, twisty and utterly compelling.
A thought-provoking and compassionate story that builds from a murder case, yet at its heart centres around the consequences of decisions made in trying times. Barrister Anna Milburn takes on the defence of a local drug lord who is accused of murdering a police officer. As the case evolves she has to balance home, her own values, and most importantly the safety of her child when she is threatened. This tale links with The Healing Knife though you can definitely read it as a standalone. S L Russell writes with a realistic pen, it feels as though a slice of real life is on the page. Elements of faith enter the picture yet don’t dominate, faith is a part of the story not the whole. The Thorn of Truth is a sensitive and engaging story about one woman’s struggle to balance her life and her job in the most demanding of circumstances.
An all-consuming read awaits in this wonderfully crafted, fast and sharp thriller. Colter Shaw wants to take down crooked company BlackBridge, but they will let nothing get in their way. This action-packed series began with The Never Game, and here we are already at the third book in and I’ve particularly enjoyed how the plot has continued and developed through the novels. Dare I say it, The Final Twist is my favourite in the series so far, Colter is really settling in as a must-read character. Jeffery Deaver is hugely adept at setting whip-smart plotlines and characters you care about. The reader is always kept in the dark about one or two things, which lead to exciting reveals that hit the spot at just the right moment. Here, the wow of the introduction and first chapter explodes into being, and that was it, I was as hooked as a hooked thing can be and read it in one glorious sitting. I felt as though I was in the heart and heat of the action right through to the smile-inducing end. The Final Twist is an engaging and enthralling thriller that proclaims Jeffery Deaver as the master storyteller he is.
NO BODY. NO TRACE. NO CRIME? Niall and Eden Paternoster start their Sunday the same way they always do – with a long drive, a visit to a country house and a quick stop at the local supermarket on the way home. But this Sunday ends differently – because while Niall waits and waits in the car park for Eden to pick up supplies, Eden never returns. She’s not waiting for him at home, and none of their family or friends have heard from her. Gone without a trace, Niall is arrested on suspicion of her murder. When DS Roy Grace is called in to investigate, it doesn’t take long to realize that nothing is quite as it seems – and this might be his most mysterious case yet . . . Sunday Times number one bestseller Peter James returns with the latest installment in his award-winning Roy Grace novels – now a major TV series.
Shalini Bolands’ My Little Girl is a riveting family-centred psychological page-turner that will have thriller fans on the edge of their seats. As whodunits go, it presents an intense tangle of threads for readers to follow as those threads take multiple unexpected turns. “Don’t get angry. Don’t get angry. Don’t panic. Stay calm. It will all be fine. It will be okay. Kids wander off all the time and their parents find them.” So reasons Claire Nolan when her mother-in-law, Jill, tells her that her daughter, Beatrice, has gone missing at the fair. Claire tries not to panic, tries not to think the worst, but she’s upset, and angry too - her husband was supposed to be with them, and he knows how forgetful Jill is, that they can’t trust her to care for Beatrice alone. As she drives to the fair, Claire’s stream of consciousness, first-person narrative captures the panic of her worst nightmare situation in all its intensity. Then the action switches to Jill’s account of events. “What a mess. How did this happen? Why did I take that call from Laurel? Is this really my fault? Surely not.” The fact that the story is told from multiple points of view adds to the suspense and intensity of the horrifying whodunit guessing game. As Claire’s world implodes, her doubts and paranoia escalate - stories aren’t adding up, and she doesn’t know who she can trust. Gripping stuff, and highly readable too. Purchase My Little Girl from: Amazon Apple Kobo Google
A tense and concerningly believable read, ‘Queentide’ by Donna Fisher is a dystopian fiction about women. Set in 2026 Australia (in the near future but not futuristic-feeling), authoritarianism is rife and women are fast losing their voice in the maelstrom of patriarchal outrage. In a sort of exacerbated truth, 2020 pandemic lockdowns led to an increase of domestic abuse reports, and a society that, instead of resolving these cases, turned the blame on women, leading to an escalation in harassment and prejudice. As I read I saw the modern world we live in now but twisted, as though perceived in a carnival mirror. The writing in this book is brilliant. The radio broadcast with Kathleen Rae had my blood boiling and the characterisation of slippery, manipulative politicians and media outlets were all so well crafted and believable. I enjoyed reading as Lillith grows in strength and confidence, and I was intrigued and daunted by Insley’s more aggressive path. There are plenty of strong female characters, with their own backstories, flaws and views that helped to demonstrate a realistic variety of feminist perspectives. Amongst the agenda of Queentide, and as with any brilliant story focusing on people, individual beliefs cause conflicts about what the end goal is, and the means to achieve it. Will Queentide be able to remain united? Will their plans make a positive difference or lead to a direct role reversal? An evocative merging of political thriller and dystopian fiction, ‘Queentide’ has claws. It is a gripping read with grit, heart and good intentions and I’d highly recommend it. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
A MESMERIZING BREAK-OUT CRIME THRILLER FULL OF BREATHTAKING TWISTS Nic always hated clubbing. She only went out that night because she’d promised a friend. She wakes up, naked and bound in an abandoned cottage in the middle of nowhere. Dappled light comes in through a dirty window. Her body is covered in cuts. Across the room her friend groans in pain. A shadow passes the window. He’s back. He picks up a knife. He begins to cut her friend. In that moment of bloody frenzy, Nic wrenches free and runs. She’s finally safe. But this is just the beginning. Detectives Asha Harvey and Aaron Birch arrive at the scene hours later. There is no body, there is no sign of the killer. It’s as if it never happened. YOU THINK YOU KNOW HOW IT ENDS? THINK AGAIN. Fans of Lynda La Plante, Tana French, Patricia Gibney, Brian McGilloway and Helen H. Durrant will devour this electrifying crime thriller by one of Northern Ireland’s newest talents.
AN ADDICTIVE MUST-READ WHODUNNIT FROM THE NEWEST TALENT IN CRIME FICTION A new life. A new town. A dead body. Andrea “Andi” Silvers needs a fresh start. Once a star reporter, she’s been dumped by her lover and by the paper they both worked at. Andi moves to the tiny fishing village of Coffin Cove, on the Vancouver coast, where she lands a job at the local Gazette. Expecting bake sales and unpaid parking tickets to be the biggest news items, she quickly discovers the small town holds dark secrets. Two sea lions wash up on the shore. They’ve been shot dead. Activists point the finger at local fishermen. Then things get far worse . . . A dead body turns up. How does it all relate to a fifteen-year-old girl’s tragic death twenty years ago? The girl was found drowned with her arms and legs tied together. The deeper Andi digs, the more dirt she finds. Discover a web of murder and mystery laced with humour and a thread of romance in this fast-paced whodunnit set on the gorgeous coast of Western Canada. Fans of Joy Ellis, L.J. Ross, Peter Robinson, Thomas King, Louise Penny and Shari Lapena will devour this mesmerizing debut crime thriller.
Paul Carlin’s ‘A Lawyer’s Story’ is a twisting and thrilling mystery filled with deceit and corruption. John Farrelly is a naïve young lawyer, forever in the shadow of his twin brother James and obsessed with a young single mother, Ava. Drawn into a web of secrets, where old patients are poisoned for their wealth, John has to choose between the object of his obsession and his family. 'A Lawyer’s Story’ focuses on John's reflections on his life, the actions he took early in his career as a young property lawyer in his father’s firm and the consequences of his actions. This is a thrilling read, rich in detail and infused with character. This is one of those books that has imagery that makes you pause and appreciate the writing “like a missing tooth in a punched mouth.” being the first of such instances for me. Taking us from 1947 to 2012, we see the landscape and the characters change from post war to the modern era, we see the characters develop and there’s time for the shadows of the past to slowly creep up and envelop the main characters. I found this novel a tense and gripping read. The flipping of perspectives between John and James allows you to witness events from both brothers, frame your opinions and sometimes have your theories on what happened unravelled. A great read for any crime thriller fans and one I’d recommend. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
‘The Spectacular’ by Billy Flynn, is a complex political thriller where three stories intertwine. Focusing on two modern conflicts involving the UK, Flynn’s action packed story is incredibly detailed and shows either his thorough understanding of Ireland and Afghanistan or a great deal of research. I was engrossed in the tense moment and educated on the nuances of both conflicts as I read. Although filled with action and twists, this book is more than a more superficial “all guns blazing” action story. The Author takes the time to introduce you to each storyline, letting you acclimate to each character and their perspective, all the while weaving threads of the storyline together. I was drawn even more into the story as key moments are re-lived from different perspectives, drip feeding extra detail. I felt each story is told objectively, there’s no “good guy vs bad guy” phrasing, as with most real-life conflicts, the perspective and knowledge you have when entering a situation is key. This is an immersive story, with plenty of action and grim gritty reality of warzones. A gripping and tense read from start to finish and a hint of potentially more stories to come. I think ‘The Spectacular’ will appear to anyone with an interest in political/military stories and those looking for a complex and twisting action read. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
A Spy In Quarantine Be very careful who you track and trace. The coronavirus is deadly. Track and trace did not turn out well for Takis Soulivakis. The novel tells the story of two grad students who track the spread of Covid-19 from an infected patient who, unknown to them, is a U.S. spy employed by the CIA. When the grad students published a thesis of their findings — which was written for them by the ghostwriter Takis Soulivakis— they are murdered. The ghostwriter knows he might be the next to be killed. Watch him struggle to survive.
One Left Alive, the first in a new series by Helen Phifer, is a pacey, chilling psychological thriller driven by personality and a creeping sense of time running out. Rookie Detective Morgan Brookes is well and truly thrown in at the deep end when she’s called to a suicide scene. Though new to this, she feels bolstered “as the adrenalin kicked in. She hadn’t attended a suicide on her own before, but she had been to several when she was completing her training and in company with a more experienced officer. She was ready for this.” Ready or not, she’s first on the scene and takes charge. Too late to save the woman hanging from a tree in her front garden, Morgan realises that there’s more to this than initially meets the eye when the woman’s husband and daughters are found in the basement - at least one of her daughters is still alive. This fragile girl drives Morgan to do whatever it takes to solve the case, with added layers of intrigue and suspense coming courtesy of another body, and a case from the past. Fans of in-your-face thrillers will surely take satisfaction from trying to figure out the case alongside Morgan. The writing is bluntly impactful, with short to-the-point sentences, but evocative with it, and the tension escalates as it becomes clear that Morgan must make progress before someone comes for the girl. Purchase One Left Alive from: Amazon Apple Kobo Google
‘22 Stories Falling Up: A Novel’ by David Lawrence is a mystery steeped in technology and science fiction. In a world where technology is now able to merge with human consciousness, Emily and co-worker Phillip are on a quest to discover what happened in a secret project they were involved in. Left with few memories and feelings of distance and concern with no cause, the pair are eager to learn what happened in the Virtual Design project they signed up for, and why it was stopped. There’s lots of science fiction themes throughout this book. The advancement of technology, the AIs and interactions between people and technology are incredibly inventive and detailed, but not so detailed as to go over my head as I read. I like the idea of the party and Phillips and Emily’s journey taking place in a tower block, and their progression through the building almost like layers of encryption, requiring passing through before the truth and their memories are revealed. Aside from the technical aspects of Virtual Design, and the secret project, there’s other subtle science-fiction nods such as Emily’s apparent psychic abilities. These are referenced at the start and towards the end but I wonder whether these could be utilised a little more. The plot gets into full swing fairly quickly and the reader learns more about Phillip and Emily, their work, their relationship and the project as the story progresses. I did find at the start however that I would have liked a little bit more exposition, or something to help me form more of a connection with the main characters before the part got underway. I understand that more is meant to be revealed as the plot opens up but I personally feel I was missing an initial connection that made me care about finding the information out. I also still have questions about Phillip and Emily’s perspective. I felt I needed a bit more of an explanation about why they each perceived certain characters as different sexes, for example. This is a surreal story, which plays on the flaws we have as humans while presenting a technologically advanced quest for truth. Even though I was left with questions, it is a story I enjoyed and pondered over while I wasn’t reading. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
Fast-paced and rippling with revelations, Samantha Hayes’s Date Night is a creepy page-turner for readers who like their thrillers unexpected - recommended for fans of Gone Girl. On the face of it, Libby seems to have it all - a husband, daughter, and expanding catering business. But disquieting truths lurk beneath the façade, beginning with the note left under her windscreen wipers. “Sean is having an affair,” it reads. Unsettled, Libby refuses to believe it, but doubts niggle and she confronts him. Then, on returning from a disastrous attempt at a reconciliatory dinner, they find their daughter alone - the babysitter has vanished and it’s not long before Libby stands accused of her murder. When she’s arrested, Libby’s shock and outraged disbelief are palpable: “This is me! I want to scream. Just me! I’m a mum, a wife, a daughter-in-law, a best friend. Aged thirty-nine with a four-year-old child, a husband, my own business, a stepson and a cat. I’ve got good friends, I’m well liked, I do Pilates and pay my taxes on time.” With shocking twists aplenty, and a dual timeline adding layers of intrigue, Date Night is written in an easily readable style, with lots of domestic detail as Libby is caught in a terrible web, wondering if anyone will believe her, as readers wonder who’s telling the truth. Purchase Date Night from: Amazon Apple Kobo Google
FROM THE BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF OUR HOUSE, WINNER OF THE CRIME & THRILLER BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD COMES A NAIL-BITING STORY OF TRAGEDY AND REVENGE 'Louise Candlish is the queen of the sucker-punch twist' Ruth Ware He thinks he's safe up there. But he'll never be safe from you. The Heights is a tall, slender apartment building among the warehouses of Shad Thames, its roof terrace so discreet you wouldn't know it existed if you weren't standing at the window of the flat directly opposite. But you are. And that's when you see a man up there - a man you'd recognize anywhere. He's older now and his appearance has subtly changed, but it's definitely him. Which makes no sense at all since you know he has been dead for over two years. You know this for a fact. Because you're the one who killed him.
A snaking twisting ride into the middle of a young family torn apart by allegations of murder. When the police knock on the door of Beth and Tom Hardcastle the resulting investigation means that life will never be the same again. The author previously worked for the NHS and on completing a psychology degree then worked in a men’s prison facilitating rehabilitation programmes, she has also written thrillers under another name. While the title screams a high body count, the story weaves through the reactions of community and friendship as the allegation hits. The four narrators each have their own unique voice, with Beth and Tom speaking in the present, Katie in the past, while a further un-named narrator adds a decidedly chilling tone. These are characters who delight in provoking the reader, both in terms of decisions they make, and who they are. As I read my thoughts paused before moving down new paths as each voice and short chapter altered the plot in turn. The Serial Killer’s Wife is a read you can throw yourself into and race through, while the plot corkscrews itself through to a highly entertaining end.
I think the synopsis of ‘Anna’ describes this book perfectly. It is a “chilling” dystopian story. Many times throughout the story I felt chills and shudders of revulsion. Set in a near future where women can be captured, branded chained up and led around like an animal we meet Anna. Captured as she makes her way through the unlands we see her disturbing treatment at the hands of her captor. This is a dark and gritty story focused on domestic abuse, survival and a road to healing and recovery. It’s by no means a comfortable read and at times it reminded me of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. I always think there’s something expressly sinister about dystopian fiction in which characters remember “before”. There’s an initial atmosphere of loss that can be found in ‘Anna’; then not only have her loved ones been taken away, but to have her dignity and humanity stripped from her too is heartbreaking and painful at times to witness. As with ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, what Anna experiences is at times traumatic, and it’s not fun for the reader to watch it unfold, but we do. I carried on reading in the hopes that there would be revenge, redemption or freedom of some form at the end. This is a brutal story about a woman’s survival. This is an immersive read about finding hope in a dreary landscape, and that even idylls have dark corners. There are tempo changes and moments of hope, twists, reveals and times of real darkness too. The characters in this book are well-written and complex. The style of narration is interesting, we learn as Anna does and I was compelled to keep reading to discover what happens to her. The first part of the story made me uncomfortable but, although it sounds daft, I didn’t want to leave her there. A gritty, intense and powerful read. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
Taut, intriguing and compelling, this story just flies as it weaves through the interwar years in Norway. A private investigator and his assistant take on what appears to be a straightforward case but their past haunts their present and they soon find themselves caught up in Nazi schemes. I adore Kjell Ola Dahl’s Oslo Detectives Series, and now his latest novels including The Courier, take a step into the past. He writes with an assured hand and translator Don Bartlett brings his world to life without you even realising he is there. The story flips between 1938 and 1924, each turn releasing information and tightening the connection between the two time periods. The plot is powerful, my thoughts spun, my feelings hesitated and altered as I read. It was fascinating to dwell in the time just before the Second World War, before the world experienced the full force and terror of the Nazi’s. A standalone novel, The Assistant is not only an action-packed, thrilling and chilling tale, it’s also smart and thought-provoking too. The LoveReading LitFest invited Kjell to the festival to talk about this thrilling and chilling tale. You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2, go, see Kjell in conversation with Paul Blezard and find out why you won't want to miss this cracking read. Check out a preview of the event here
THE TRIAL OF A LIFETIME. BUT WILL IT BE HIS LAST? Heading home after winning his latest case, defense attorney Mickey Haller - The Lincoln Lawyer - is pulled over by the police. They open the trunk of his car to find the body of a former client. Haller knows the law inside out. He will be charged with murder. He will have to build his case from behind bars. And the trial will be the trial of his life. Because Mickey Haller will defend himself in court. With watertight evidence stacked against him, Haller will need every trick in the book to prove he was framed. But a not-guilty verdict isn't enough. In order to truly walk free, Haller knows he must find the real killer - that is the law of innocence...
Razor-sharp tightrope time with this belter of a read, it is as dramatic and different as it is fabulous. Discover two books in one novel as true crime is enveloped by breathtaking storytelling. Read Eve Black’s memoir as she searches for the man who murdered the rest of her family 20 years ago. Sitting by its side is the story of the killer Jim Doyle as he reads the book and fears he will be unmasked. This has such a clever premise, Catherine Ryan Howard ensures that this is one of the few instances where knowing the identity of the killer actually adds to the intensity and drama. The change from one book to the other doesn’t jar in the slightest, each embraces and calls to the other and the transition is seamless. The tension increases until it is fairly reverberating through the pages. I let myself be carried away in the story, and don’t forget, this is a story, and it works because there is no sneaking a peek at the end! The Nothing Man is a blast of pure reading entertainment, and has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book. Have a look at our Ambassador Book Buzz for The Nothing Man.
An absolute monster of a fabulous read! I smirked and chuckled my way through this thoroughly entertaining and smart comedic crime novel. It’s charity ball season in Palm Beach, when a prominent high-society member of the POTUSSIES (a group of women who support the President) goes missing, the President declares it was the fault of immigrant hordes. However, wildlife wrangler Angie Armstrong has just been tasked to deal with an influx of huge pythons, so the President might just be talking out of his behind. By the way, I am a titchy bit scared of snakes, but this didn’t affect my reading of this novel in any way. The President’s name is never mentioned, but Carl Hiaasen brilliantly lampoons the President that came between Obama and Biden, and I actually snorted with laughter on a number of occasions. I first read Carl Hiaasen’s novels for young adults, including Skink No Surrender but this is my first of his novels for adults. If you’re already a fan then you might just bump into a much loved character in Squeeze Me. This is a book that you can just throw yourself into and trust in the talent of the author. He isn’t just funny, the humour is pointed and makes a point. Squeeze Me is so irreverent, stimulating, and gorgeously readable, I already know that it will be one of my books of the year. Chosen as a Liz Pick and a Star Book, in the middle of dark times this is just what we needed, unless of course you are a fan of a certain someone!
Smart and smirky as heck, this is a furiously wonderful wow of a crime caper that will no doubt be sitting on my list of favourite books of the year. Ramesh has set himself up with a business sitting exams for the kids of India’s middle classes, it all goes spectacularly wrong when he accidentally scores the highest mark in the country. The opening slapped my attention, in fact from the first sentence I was as hooked as a hooked thing can be! This is Rahul Raina’s debut, and he has created the most extraordinary voice in Ramesh. Ramesh tells his own story, words spill from him in a torrent that feels so incredibly authentic even as my eyebrows reached for the stars. The words ganged together to create the most exhilarating story. The plot alternately sang or punched me in the guts, just when I felt comfortable, bang, my thoughts were swinging in free fall again. There is a political commentary to be found among the whirlwind wit and satire, however it certainly doesn’t preach, it just lays it out you to view, and then consider. How to Kidnap the Rich is a hugely entertaining wild ride, so good it had to be a Liz Pick of the Month and a LoveReading Star Book.
This is beautiful indeed, yet darkly intimate and almost claustrophobic in its intensity. 15 year old Natasha foretells tragedy when lights appear above her seaside town. As she tells the story of her past some 30 years later, she is still consumed by the events that occurred. I love Rachel Donohue’s writing, it is so haunting and powerful, she turns a spotlight on the shadow of things that sit in the background and brings them to the fore. Her first novel The Temple House Vanishing is on the surface very different, yet her assured and elegant eloquence is stamped over both books. I started to read The Beauty of Impossible Things and within a few sentences found myself intrigued and then consumed. I could taste Natasha’s words, they landed as a visual dance in my mind. There is an ageless quality to this storyline, even though it is set in the modern day. It felt as though the trappings of being different is a story that has and will be repeated again and again through history. Rich, close, and heavy with feeling, The Beauty of Impossible Things opens thoughts and sets them free. Rachel Donohue is our Putting Author in the Picture feature for May 2021. Click here to read our Q&A with her.
What an elegant, edge-of-your-seat triumph this is. Set near the ocean in 1980s San Francisco, Vendela Vida’s We Run the Tides explores the coming-of-age experiences of thirteen-year-old Eulabee and her best friend Maria Fabiola, an enigmatic, attractive, gets-whatever-she-wants kind of girl. They stride affluent Sea Cliff with supreme confidence - the streets are theirs, the world is theirs, and nothing can stop them: “We want to want. We want to love. We want to want love. We are on the precipice of having real boyfriends, of making out with them. We know this.” While walking to their elite girls’ school with other friends, they witness something disturbing. Or so Maria and the rest of the girls claim. Eulabee insists it didn’t happen - to her friends, and the police. Then, in the aftermath of this disagreement that sees Eulabee ostracised, Maria goes missing, prompting an outpouring of anxiety in the neighbourhood as the police investigate her suspected kidnapping. And so an intense entanglement - and unravelling - begins. The potency of teenage female friendship is masterfully evoked - tightly knotted, holding powerful sway, but also quick to fray. And Eulabee’s offbeat voice is mesmeric, authentic and often amusing, notably during the toe-curling account of her first sexual experience. Unique, unexpected, affecting and funny - you couldn’t ask for much more from a novel, and reading this has pushed the rest of Vendela Vida’s novels to the top of my must-read list.
From its arresting opening (“The child gushed out from twixt Vern’s legs ragged and smelling of salt. Slight, he was, and feeble as a promise”), Rivers Solomon’s Sorrowland is an exquisite fusion of folkloric atmosphere and raw human experience. Through the eyes of unforgettable, invincible Vern, and in luminously commanding language, Solomon explores racism, religion, misogyny and motherhood with magnificent boldness. Fifteen-year-old Vern’s firstborn arrived in the world without his mother’s albinism and his father’s “yellow-bonedness”. His skin was “dark-dark, and Vern found it hard to believe that the African ancestry that begat such a hue had ever once been disrupted by whiteness.” And then comes his twin - two brothers, Howling and Feral, born in the woods beyond the Blessed Acres of Cain compound that Vern fled two months ago. With origins in the Black Power movement, the religious community’s survivalist ethos stands her in good stead for a life in the wild - “she always had a way of getting what she needed from the earth”. Years pass and Vern tells her now-toddler sons about Cainland’s history, about the “white doctors who came in the night to rob Black People for medical experimentation” as she notices strange shifts in her body - it heals from terrible burns and rotting infections. “A side effect of the poison they’d been giving her giving her since birth” she thinks, soon deciding they must leave the woods. This unfamiliar outside world “increased Howling’s surliness and transformed Feral’s sweet curiosity into spirited adventurousness”, and the trio attract as much bewildered attention as the world bewilders them. As Vern’s sickness intensifies so too does the creeping sense of pursuit, and rising love and lusts, to create a bizarre and beautiful book that’s entirely unbridled by convention.
I rather enjoyed this book. A romance with a difference. Not your usual light romance, which I much prefer, something with a touch of the dark side about it. Grey finally leaves New York and a whole load of baggage behind her and heads to Berry Springs to rebuild her life. After a setback or two, she meets Declan, someone with his own history. Having said that he only appears in the book a third of the way through. The first part deals with Grey’s life challenges and how she takes them on. Ultimately, they both want to turn their lives around. I liked this book, it was refreshing and had honesty in it. Well written and plenty going on to keep my interest. Thanks for the opportunity to read this. Helen Lowry, A LoveReading Ambassador
An exquisitely unsettling and fabulous blast of speculative fiction awaits in this provocative, hard-hitting debut novel. An unknown virus that only kills men hits Glasgow in 2025, as it spreads, confusion, lies, and heartbreak follows. As Christina Sweeney-Baird explains in her author’s note, she wrote The End of Men before Covid 19 affected the world. While the current pandemic remained tucked away in my thoughts as I read, this is very much a work of fiction and the focus lies with a female lead society coping with life during and after a pandemic. This is told on a world scale over five years and is set as a gathering of memories, as though this event has already come to pass and you are reading a piercing slice of history. This novel contains a huge number of characters, and I felt as though I was observing them at a distance. Having said that, some characters return throughout the book, and I formed more of a bond, felt more of a connection with them. Short chapters, headed by the day after the outbreak and name of the character ensured my focus remained sharp and on point. There are bubbles of humour to be found along the way, as well as the more obvious emotions. Yes this is so very close to what is happening right now, but it is different enough to make this novel more readable as a result. Joining our LoveReading Star Book collection, The End of Men is a powerful, thought-provoking read that is both epic in scale and intimate in memories. The LoveReading LitFest invited Christina to the festival to talk about The End of Men. You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2, go, see Christina in conversation with and find out why everyone should read this book. Check out a preview of the event here
A thrilling and enthralling novel that is just so beautifully easy to read I raced through it while inhaling every word. This is the prequel to the Detective Kubu series of books set in Botswana by the writing duo of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. If you’ve not read any of the previous books in the series then of course this is the perfect start! Detective David ‘Kubo’ Bengu is recruited from university straight into the position of Detective Sergeant in CID which causes consternation in his colleagues and makes his first job of a diamond robbery all that much harder. The cast of characters with phonetic pronunciations and map at the beginning are particularly helpful. I love the feel of this novel, it takes all the attributes of Kubo and paints with them, allowing you fall for this gently charismatic and fiercely intelligent man as he learns his trade. The storyline is riveting, sense of place vivid, and characters fascinating. Set in 1998 Facets of Death is an atmospheric, intriguing, and wonderfully readable crime novel I most definitely recommend.
TELL ME YOUR SECRETS… When Alice and Leo move into a newly renovated house in The Circle, a gated community of exclusive houses, it is everything they’ve dreamed of. But appearances can be deceptive… As Alice is getting to know her neighbours, she discovers a devastating, grisly secret about her new home, and begins to feel a strong connection with Nina, the therapist who lived there before. Alice becomes obsessed with trying to piece together what happened two years before. But no one wants to talk about it. Her neighbours are keeping secrets and things are not as perfect as they seem… The million-copy Sunday Times bestselling author B A Paris returns to her heartland of gripping psychological suspense in this powerful tale of a house that holds a shocking secret.
Beautifully-written, smoothly-readable, and waltzing with elegance and the intrigue of espionage, Tessa Morris-Suzuki’s The Lantern Boats is an accomplished work of historical fiction. Melding criss-crossing personal stories with the bigger-picture political climate of occupied Japan, it’s rich in details of time and place, with swathes of charisma that make single-sitting readings all but impossible to resist. Adding to the intrigue, the book’s characters are based on real people. The novel opens with an evocative scene describing the swell of the Sumida River illuminated by paper lanterns in a ritual for the dead, of which there are many as a result of the US firebombing raids that ended six years ago. Then we meet Kamiya Jun, a young war orphan with nothing - “no home, no family, no documents, no identity.” Being invisible makes him ideal spy material, and so he’s tasked by the Americans to spy on Vida Vidanto, a beautiful Japanese poet they suspect of being a communist spy. Meanwhile, part-Japanese, part-Scottish Elly Ruskin feels compelled to spy on Vida herself - she suspects her journalist husband, Fergus, of having an affair with the poet, and all while they’re in the process of adopting a child. The worlds of spy and spied-on intermesh powerfully when Fergus finds Vida’s strangled body, and then follows a gripping quick-fire succession of secrets unveiled, a tragic casualty, and hopeful beginnings.
Helen Stancey’s Relative Secrets is a highly readable story for readers who like to get lost in the drama and intrigue of other people’s relatable lives. Told in a straightforward style, with domestic detail and emotional ups and downs to heighten engagement, three generations of women are at the heart of this saga of family secrets. It’s set in 1999 and follows the family from the 1920s through to the millennium. The eldest of the women, Mary, is in a care home, her mind deteriorating. During a visit from grand-daughter Lucy, Mary makes strange statements that arouse Lucy’s curiosity. She tries to put them out of mind - until she finds a locket while clearing out Mary’s former room. Not wanting to upset her mother (not with her father gone, her elder brother away, and her little brother misbehaving), Lucy takes it upon herself to get to the bottom of the mystery - risking discovering truths that might unsettle the very foundations of their family. The drama builds slowly at first - there’s a considered, unhurried build-up, with lots of family backstory delivered before the revelations come. Then tension builds as Lucy delves deeper, and the questions keep coming - not merely what the secret is, but why it was covered-up. And, a question with universal resonance - is it sometimes better to simply let things be?
DISCOVER ONE OF THE MOST EXCITING CRIME THRILLERS YOU'LL READ THIS YEAR Detective Sara Hirst has moved from London to Norfolk Police’s Serious Crimes Unit. Under the brooding skies of North Norfolk, Sara faces her toughest case yet and finds that great beauty sometimes conceals great violence. Too many secrets. Too much pain. Too many leads. Dawn breaks as a dog-walker finds a dead body, half-naked and wrapped tightly in an old groundsheet. Sara is first on the scene. Who is the victim? And who will be next? Sara must take on some of Britain’s most wanted criminals if she’s to find out the truth. This crackling, twisty thriller set within the mysterious beauty of the east coast will have you flying through the pages right till the gripping end. Fans of Joy Ellis, J.M. Dalgliesh, Matt Brolly, Rachel Lynch and Angela Marsons, get ready for your next favourite detective.
A contemporary story of soulmate love set against the unusual backdrop of the Ithaca County Public Law Library. Jonah, the lead character in ‘A Thing With Feathers’ is a bit melodramatic and endearing as he searches for meaning, literary inspiration and his great love. The plot centres around two lawyers who feel deeply alienated from a corrupt legal system and decide to become law librarians who help the public by offering free legal information and research support in the Ithaca County Public Law Library. As with any community, the visitors and staff at the library are all distinct and unique, with their own problems, flaws and circumstances. The author’s love of literature and research comes through as references to great literary works and creators such as Poe and Emily Dickinson are threaded through the narrative. It almost makes you feel like you’re learning as you read and most definitely inspires you to go back and revisit your own favourite poets and poems. There’s humour and heart in this story and I enjoyed reading it. I understand that ‘A Thing With Feathers’ is in part inspired by the author’s own experience of the law profession and his knowledge of the subject matter shines through in a believable setting and context for Jonah and Julia to meet. I liked Jonah and found myself eager to read on to see if he would find his modern-day Emily Dickinson. A great read for fans of literary fiction.
‘Twilight of Innocence’ is a mystery that follows a resourceful vigilante grandfather a hero-figure pilot and fiery investigative journalist looking to uncover and derail a child sex traffic ring. The mystery around Andreas in the opening made me intrigued. I was eager to learn more about this mysterious man working to capture and interrogate members of the sex trafficking ring using highly specialised methods in order to release and rescue the victims. The subtle hints and brief descriptions were a brilliant introduction to this character, conveying his age and experience briefly, while keeping the quest front and center. As I read I wanted to learn more about this shadow-y figure’s mission as well as more about his past and what he’s had to do in the past in order to acquire his interrogation skills. I was less enamoured with Rebecca and Jon as we are introduced to them, I think the repartee between them, at the end of the contentious flight from Scotland as an example, could have been a bit snappier in my opinion, but I was interested in learning more about both characters and their motives as well as their inevitable connection. Their story and relationship within this dark mystery reminded me a little bit of Nathan Drake and Elena Fisher, and so I was keen to learn more about how they would merge with the Taken style storyline set up with Andreas. This is an interesting and entertaining read that feels like it will have widespread appeal to fans of mysteries, thrillers and action books. There is a dark subject matter at its core but there’s plenty of twists, turns and details throughout that keep you entertained. Action packed and thrilling this is a book I would definitely recommend. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
Hauntingly tender, and written with powerful grace, Clare Chambers’s Small Pleasures is an absolute joy from start to finish. It’s 1957 in suburban Kent, where Jean writes for a local newspaper with every aspect of her life still dominated by her contrary, controlling mother as Jean approaches forty. No post-work drinks with colleagues. No friends. No romance. Enter Gretchen Tilbury, an elegant Swiss woman who writes to the paper claiming her daughter was the result of a virgin birth. As Jean investigates the case, she becomes close to Gretchen, her kind, witty husband Howard, and the alleged miraculous daughter, all four of them finding comfortable joy in each other’s company. “You’ve stirred us out of our routine,” Howard remarks, to which Jean responds, “I would have thought it was the other way about.” While researching Gretchen’s youth, Jean inadvertently sends shockwaves through the Tilbury family when she reconnects Gretchen to a powerful figure from her past. At the same time, she and Howard find themselves falling for each other, both of them remaining faithful to Gretchen, graciously skirting their attraction - until it’s right to act. The novel features some of the most finely drawn, endearing characters I’ve encountered in recent contemporary fiction. For all her lonely frustration, Jean isn’t one to wallow. She’s pragmatic, with ripples of not-quite-regret lapping beneath her smooth, reasoned surface - a woman “who took pride in her ability to conceal unruly emotions.” Her domesticity pieces for the paper have something of Carrie Bradshaw’s musings about them, albeit without any in-your-face sex in the city (or the suburbs, in Jean’s case), with their apparently humdrum themes humorously paralleling soul-stirring events in her own life. Laying bare a quivering three-way tug between obligation, propriety and passion, and the inexplicable way thunderbolt-bonds are formed between similar-souled individuals, Jean’s conflicts and chance to love truly get under your skin. What a remarkable book, with a dagger-sharp climax that will pierce your heart.
TWO BROTHERS. BOUND BY BLOOD...AND A LIFETIME OF SECRETS. When Roy and Carl's parents die suddenly, sixteen-year-old Roy is left as protector to his impulsive younger brother. But when Carl decides to travel the world in search of his fortune, Roy stays behind in their sleepy village, satisfied with his peaceful life as a mechanic. Some years later, Carl returns with his charismatic new wife, Shannon - an architect. They are full of exciting plans to build a spa hotel on their family land. Carl wants not only to make the brothers rich but the rest of the village, too. It's only a matter of time before what begins as a jubilant homecoming sparks off a series of events that threaten to derail everything Roy holds dear, as long-buried family secrets begin to rise to the surface...
This smart psychological thriller slowly and intricately builds layers of tension into a wealthy, modern family setting. Alone at antenatal class after being let down by her family, Helen finds herself talking to Rachel. Rachel, unsettling, overly enthusiastic and inquisitive, begins to push her way into Helen’s life learning every little family secret. This is Katherine Faulkner’s debut, she is an award-winning journalist and Joint Head of News at The Times. The first few pages opened up ‘afterwards’, setting the tone of the story and ensuring that knowledge stayed with me throughout. Returning to ‘before’, I discovered a labyrinthine of snippets and tidbits of information as I read. They caught at the edge of my awareness, digging, pointing, creating suspense. I hovered on the edge of relationships, viewing rather than immersing myself in particular personalities. This lead to me wondering and questioning, investing in the storyline. On occasion I was confident that I knew what was happening, but I changed my mind several times! Even if you find that you are right, there are still surprises along the way. This book really does serve as a reminder that from the outside everything can appear perfect, but of course the inside can be an entirely different place. Encouraging you to stay alert and pay attention to the smallest of details, Greenwich Park is an intelligent and stimulating slow-burner of a read.
A powerful, intense whammy of a debut that is both uncomfortable and exhilarating to read. Set in two time frames, we see 13 year old schoolgirl Carly as she tries to look after her mother and baby sister, and ten years later, journalist Marie as she investigates sex traffickers and allegations of sex abuse at an army base years before. Author Sarah Sultoon is an award-winning former CNN international news executive, and it shows. Chapter one throws you in the deep end, and I re-read it to fully comprehend what was happening. The subject matter is devastating yet thoughtfully handled even as it makes you flinch. Pacy and provocative I felt as though I was racing to keep up in both timelines. The words were sharp edged little missiles that fired into my thoughts and made them scatter. As information began to piece together, as 1996 hurtled towards 2006, I felt the hope that slipped almost silently through the years. Thought-provoking, tense, and expressive The Source is an utterly compelling debut that I can highly recommend.
Oooh, this is one heck of a feisty, dramatic, and addictive tale! On the anniversary of her husband’s death, Marianne stumbles across the dark web and an assassin’s hit list with her name on it. This is a seemingly simple premise, however an intricate plot, two time frames, and a sturdy cast of characters ensures a powerful read. I entered the dark web alongside Marianne as a complete novice, and found what awaited was utterly chilling. Holly Seddon has the ability to really bring a character to life, the words transfer from the page into feelings, thoughts, and actions. These are people who sit on the edge of right and wrong, which way will they topple? Some realisations sneaked into my head, while others arrived with a sledge hammer. The stakes are high, the tension increases and waits ready to trip you up until the ending hits. Provocative and stimulating, The Hit List is a wonderfully unexpected story that I can highly recommend.
A hard-hitting, fast-moving slicing wow of a book. An old case is reopened when new evidence appears, and a violent predator hunts his next victim. It’s no secret that I get jump-up-and-down excited about Karin Slaughter’s novels. She has the most wonderful ability to pitch full-on sharp storytelling and blasts of drama alongside thoughtfully handled social issues and relationship dilemmas. This could easily be read as a standalone, however there are two series that link to this novel, Will Trent and Grant County. Both series are just too good to miss, and I highly recommend them. For those who have read both sets, in this particular book time slides along a different path in order to make two time frames work. The author’s note perfectly explains why at the end, but (big but), make sure you don’t read the author’s note until you have read every last drop of the novel! Will Trent and Sara Linton work with the rest of the team, while the past runs alongside and does some serious meddling. Please note there are some fairly graphic descriptions of medical examinations and brutal attacks within the novel. Karin Slaughter doesn’t shy away from highlighting a distressing subject matter, which she mentions in her notes and the last part of her acknowledgments. While graphic, it is not gratuitous, and I felt every word that made me wince was necessary. The Silent Wife is another winner of a read, it sent goosebumps skittering down my arms and this, her twentieth novel, has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book, Book of the Month, and Liz Pick.
An absolutely cracking spy thriller with a difference, this is one to put to the top of your reading pile. Disgraced spy August Drummond finds himself up to his neck in trouble when he steps into the middle of an Islamic State plot. Author James Wolff (a pseudonym) has worked for the British government for over ten years. There is an undeniably sharp edge to this story that feels all too real, and yet the fabulous writing ensured I couldn’t determine what was outrageously inventive or shockingly authentic. One thing I would definitely recommend, and that’s starting with the first in this trilogy, Beside the Syrian Sea. While you could read How to Betray Your Country as a standalone, to fully understand what has come before is an important part of this tale. August is a loose cannon with a conscience, the loss and sadness that directs his every move is clearly felt. And yet, there is an underlying wit, smirk, and dark humour that skulks through the pages. This is a story that skips and flits and burrows and teases. As the file excerpts filled in missing information and as the plot sky-rocketed towards its conclusion I became more and more consumed. A LoveReading Star Book, How to Betray Your Country is ever so smart, provocative, and thought-provoking, its also thoroughly entertaining. It comes with the hugest of thumbs up from me.
Both charming (yes I know that is a strange word to describe a crime novel) and stimulating, look forward to the feel of a golden age mystery with a modern twist. The death of a 90 year old murder consultant to authors is investigated by DS Kaur and a diverse group of friends who turn amateur detectives. This is the second novel featuring DS Harbinger Kaur, however you could quite cheerfully step in here and read it as a standalone. Set in West Sussex (with a brief sojourn in Scotland), I can say with some glee that the book world takes centre stage. From literary festivals to publishing offices, if you love all things books then this is the crime mystery for you! Elly Griffiths takes the premise and runs with it, which made me clap my hands with delight. I adore the diversity and quirky nature of the characters, the somewhat gung-ho approach by the amateurs is highly entertaining. The Postscript Murders is a wonderfully readable crime novel to cosy up with and joins my Liz Picks of the Month.
Crossing a number of genres, this is a read that both challenges and provokes thoughts. Gabriela works in the Foreign Office, Isobel is a journalist, both women have a drive to succeed that will ultimately put them in danger. This novel links to Part of the Family, and I would suggest starting there as though the main characters are different, there are connections that are needed in order to fully appreciate the plot. Charlotte Philby has created two women that aren’t particularly likeable, but you don’t have to become friends with them in order to experience the story. The focus here is family life, with an investigation sitting brooding and waiting with menaces. The prologue, so short, has huge impact and left questions buzzing around in my mind spoiling for a fight. The two women and two different time frames remain separate until information slowly bleeds into and connects each story. The ending arrived in an unexpected way, and leaves the story wide open for more. With hovering suspense and intrigue, A Double Life is a provocative and stimulating novel.
A smart, thoughtful, intriguing crime novel. DI Helen Birch starts to dig into what should be a simple case, but finds far more than she bargained for. I absolutely adore this series, for me it contains one of the more realistic characters in the modern book world of policing. The first novel in the series All The Hidden Truths, was shortlisted for the 2019 Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger and won the McIlvanney Debut Prize. Here we are at the third book in, and see DI Helen Birch in all her glory, flaws and all, but she doesn’t become a caricature, when I’m reading, she exists. Edinburgh sings, and the investigation sits nicely alongside Helen’s personal life, with certain parts crowding and affecting her thoughts. Claire Askew gets inside the small things, makes them count, she also handles the more difficult subjects contained here with compassion and empathy. The ending is a corker, and slides nicely into place. Cover Your Tracks continues a great crime series, and it’s one I can wholeheartedly recommend.
Subtle in style and fierce in characterisation, Carol Birch’s Cold Boy’s Wood is a haunting psychological enigma. Exploring the flux and fallibility of memory, and the effects of loneliness on the human spirit, the novel is a puzzle, of sorts, as two flawed and damaged characters are confronted with long-buried secrets when a mudslide unearths a body outside their village. Visiting his mother’s grave near the site of the mudslide, Dan observes “Ravens. The wet nose of the pregnant doe. A body returned to light. Things falling into sequence. All these things seemed significant.” Embittered, often drunk, and scared stiff by the supernatural, he’s disturbed by a sound in the darkness and locks up. Then there’s Lorna, who lives nearby in the ancient woods that have called her since she saw a strange “cold boy” here as a teenager. The boy haunts her still, along with her past, as she watches Dan, and helps him when he collapses drunk, all the while delivering a feverish internal dialogue. Both of them provoke intrigue, their lives entangle, their stories haunt and pierce to the end.
A dramatic, intense, and entertaining mystery which is so vivid it feels as though you are watching the story play out rather than reading the words. DCI Jansen joins a house party for the luxury launch of a new tech company after one of the high profile guests receives threats. This is the third in the DCI Maarten Jansen series though only my first outing and I found that it reads wonderfully as a standalone. There is fascinating insight into the guests and it feels as though this is their story rather than Maarten’s. There are a fair few characters to get your head around, but each is distinctly different which helps. The country house chic, the wealthy guests, the backbiting and buzz all adds to the theatre of the piece. Rachael Blok allows information to ebb and flow, slowly filling in blanks, and all the while the interplay between the characters encourages suspicion and intrigue to grow. The ending enters with a roar, with events dramatically concluding. Into the Fire is as much about the setting and characters as it is the crime, which ensures a hugely captivating read.
Delivering a creepy premise, chilling atmosphere, and intricately built suspense, this is a satisfying psychological thriller. As a teenager twenty-five years ago Paul left town after a murder, and he heads home just as a copycat killer strikes. I completely fell for Alex North’s last book, The Whisper Man which held the most deliciously supernatural undertones and was a LoveReading Star Book. On the strength of that, The Shadow Friend jumped straight on to my list of reads I was looking forward to. Two time frames, ’now’ and ‘before’ ensure child and adulthood are very different places yet by the end of part one, the background and foreground have met and set the scene. I thoroughly enjoyed the sense of foreboding, of waiting, of understanding edging into the corner of thoughts before disappearing again. There were several surprises to be discovered along the way and the tiptoeing tension and haunting dream sequences ensured I was desperate to find out what happened. The ending was very neat and rather nicely wraps everything up. The Shadow Friend is a twisty, intriguing, and rewarding tale and has been chosen as one of my Liz Picks of the month.
Telling the gripping tale of a Berlin-based writer’s appropriation of a stranger’s story, Chris Power’s A Lonely Man misdirects and seduces with a magician’s sleight of hand. Readers will teeter on the very edge of their seats as they - and the protagonist - are lured into a snare of distrust, with the novel simmering to an entirely unexpected end. Robert has moved from London to Berlin with his wife and two young daughters. While struggling to find his creative mojo, he meets drunk, charismatic, nervy Patrick. Patrick was ghost-writing a no-holds-barred book on behalf of an exiled Russian oligarch who was recently found hanged. Patrick believes it was murder, that he’s now being followed. Robert notes early on that “he had never known when to stop” and, true to form, despite deciding he’d only meet Patrick for one drink, it doesn’t stop there. Beers, whiskeys, and more for the road flow as Patricks explains how he met the mega-rich oligarch and the high-level secrets his book was due to expose. Though Robert he felt “like he had spent the evening walking into some kind of trap” and he’s not sure if it’s true, Patrick’s story has slithered under his skin and he secretly sets about transforming it into a novel. Highly recommend for readers who like their thrillers laced with chilling intrigue, the novel operates as a kind of puzzle, raising questions around the ownership of stories, and uncertainty planted with elegant aplomb.
A shout from the rooftops type of book, and this is so special, I may be there for some time! Ava is at the peak of her ballet career and about to appear in the most challenging role of her life, but she’s just one small step away from falling from grace, and someone desperately wants her crown. I am always so careful to avoid spoilers, and also wary of stating if there are twists. With this novel though, I feel as though I can proclaim that it is most cleverly unexpected read, without spoiling it in any way! Erin Kelly takes us behind the scenes, to the effort and obsession, to the pain and glory, and sets the most thrilling and intoxicating plot. This novel builds in an intensity that I couldn’t have even imagined when I first opened the pages. It was only as I got further in that my thoughts began to stutter, and then went into free fall. I became absolutely transfixed. The plot is everything, so cunning and smart, yet the characters and descriptions are absolutely on point too. I know this will sit as one of my favourite reads of the year, and along with a standing ovation it also receives a LoveReading Star Book. Breathtaking, sharp, and wonderfully rewarding, Watch Her Fall is an absolute stunner and I proclaim it a must-read.
Reeling with edge-of-your-seat atmosphere and the entangled lives, lusts and obsessions of three compelling characters involved in a unique ménage à trois (of sorts), Helen McClory’s Bitterhall is a brilliantly unnerving novel that explores the liminal blurring of inner life with outer reality. Narrated by the three characters in intense, short, tight episodes, their lives begin to unravel due to the eerie influence of a nineteenth-century diary, with matters coming to an irreversible, bewildering crescendo at a decadent Halloween party. Daniel Lightfoot’s voice opens the book, breaking the metafictional fourth wall by addressing readers direct: “I want you to love me, if I’m being honest. That’s why I start so gently, in the garden, in the present tense. A good story begins tipsily in a garden, and carries on through well-proportioned rooms in the past tense in which blood is being spilled and was spilled.” His work involves futuristic 3D printing technology that aims to “copy important rare objects from all over the world to create replicas, mostly for museums.” He wants to “keep the old things safe... To save the past, but let people in.” Another link to the past is the nineteenth-century diary he’s reading, an intriguing document written by James Lennoxlove, the ancestor of his best friend. The diary finds its way to Daniel’s new flatmate, Tom, who can’t put it down and obsesses over Lennoxlove. Both Daniel and Tom’s girlfriend Órla notice a strange shift in Tom, the extent of which is revealed though Tom’s haunted, tormented narrative, and all three accounts of the Halloween party. Laced with Daniel’s dry wit alongside the growing confusion and creeping sense of madness (“Whatever I had done, I had done with my socks on”), this shrewdly-written read rises to a gripping, question-raising climax.
Action-packed and wonderfully sinister, this is a fabulous addition to the Jackdaw Mysteries Series. Nicholas and Bianca flee to Europe after an accusation of treason, en route they are joined by a strange young woman who claims to predict the future. This is a series I can highly recommend, do start at the beginning with The Angel’s Mark so you can witness the relationships as they grow. S. W. Perry conjures 1594 into being, the sights and sounds, the conspiracies and intrigue, all flourish on the page. Within this novel two main tales sit side by side, with Nicholas and Bianca on the road, and Ned and Rose looking after the rebuilding of the Jackdaw. The intimacy of the two tales is severed when trouble begins to hunt them down. Shivers of goosebumps travelled down my arms on meeting Hella, she is a character I won’t forget in a hurry. I found myself devouring the words as they flung themselves from the page and the ending roared towards me. The Heretic’s Mark really is the most thrilling, stimulating and fabulously readable tale.
There are times when reading Do Not Disturb that you have to pinch yourself to remind you that, although a thriller, it is not made up: It is all real. All true. The murders are of real people. The fear and paranoia of friends and families is real. They are living in the presence of real danger. Criticism of President Kagame of Rwanda, once the darling of the West, will do that. It will force you to go into hiding. It will make you a subject of oppressive surveillance. In the case of Paul Rusesabagina, humanitarian hero of the film Hotel Rwanda, it will get you tricked onto a plane, drugged, renditioned, tortured and imprisoned. It can, and often will, get you killed. When the ubiquitous hotel door sign of the title is used to conceal the killing of a former member of Rwanda’s inner circle, the trails of evidence, methodically and minutely tracked by Wrong over many years and countless interviews, lead straight to Kagame. As Wrong strips away the glossy window dressing from the so-called “Singapore of Africa,” she reveals a nation run by brutal thugs; a supposed economic miracle, dependant on western support, which suppresses the true scale of the hunger, poor health and fear of an uncountable number of its inhabitants. Long admired for her fearless reportage, Wrong has written a crisp, insightful - and importantly - honest, account of institutionalised, no… weaponised national lying. In doing so she has exposed an appalling truth: that Rwanda’s elite have manipulated global shame and compassion to run an entire country with mafia-like grip and murderous avarice, immorality and illegality. By laying bare the bones of a brutal, merciless dictator, driven by Imperial grade fear, greed and the insecurity of shallow ego, Wrong has documented despotism in all its appalling hideousness. We should care very deeply, as Rwanda is a member nation of the Commonwealth.
'He's gone...' When his daughter Samantha calls in the dead of night, John Rebus knows it's not good news. Her husband has been missing for two days. Rebus fears the worst - and knows from his lifetime in the police that his daughter will be the prime suspect. He wasn't the best father - the job always came first - but now his daughter needs him more than ever. But is he going as a father or a detective? As he leaves at dawn to drive to the windswept coast - and a small town with big secrets - he wonders whether this might be the first time in his life where the truth is the one thing he doesn't want to find...
An invitation from an old friend draws Jack Morgan into a deadly conspiracy . . . On a cold January morning, Jack Morgan stands inside the New York Stock Exchange with his former US Marine comrade whose company is being launched onto the market, eagerly awaiting the opening bell. But before the bell rings, a bullet rips through the air and finds its mark. In the aftermath of the murder, the victim's wife hires Jack to find the killer. As the head of Private, Jack has at his disposal the world's largest investigation agency. What he discovers shakes him to his core. Jack identifies another murder in Moscow that appears to be linked. So he heads to Russia, and begins to uncover a conspiracy that could have global consequences. With powerful forces plotting against him, will Jack Morgan make it out alive?
It starts with a shocking accusation . . . Stephanie and Patrick are recently married, with new-born twins. While Stephanie struggles with the disorienting effects of sleep deprivation, there's one thing she knows for certain - she has everything she ever wanted. Then a woman from his past arrives and makes a horrifying allegation about his first wife. He always claimed her death was an accident - but she says it was murder. He insists he's innocent, that this is nothing but a blackmail attempt. But is Patrick telling the truth? Or has Stephanie made a terrible mistake? How will it end?
Sadie loves her daughter and will do anything to keep her safe. She can't tell her why they had to leave home so quickly - or why Robin's father won't be coming with them to London. She can't tell her why she hates being back in her dead mother's house, with its ivy-covered walls and its poisonous memories. And she can't tell her the truth about the school Robin's set to start at - a school that doesn't welcome newcomers. Sadie just wants to get their lives back on track. But even lies with the best intentions can have deadly consequences...
Picture it. You’re going on holiday. The bags are packed and the family is ready, you’re at the gate, the plane is boarding, you’ve decided to start your brand new, especially purchased thriller right away. Suddenly, you’re immersed into the corridors of intrigue, conspiracy, murder, espionage and you don’t know who to trust. The plane has left without you. So has the family. You haven’t even noticed. At least you have a good book … and the whole house to yourself for a week!
This section is crammed with dangerously compelling adventures that will have your nails bitten and nervous system tested to the full. From Dan Brown, Stieg Larsson and James Patterson to Fred Vargas, Bernard Minier and C.J Sansom, there’s enough here to keep you ‘head-down and out-of-it’ for years. There’s certainly time to read one more before the family gets back from Torremolinos … and that’s where we come in!