Thursday, 14 September 2017

Review: The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

Well, I read this one in twenty-four hours flat! I picked it up, meaning to read a few pages and return to it later, but was completely and utterly hooked. I ended up reading the last half in the evening without realising it had got dark outside until I hit the last page. And reading this book while sitting in the dark is not really a good idea!

The Silent Companions is a deliciously gothic mystery/horror with a dual timeline - Victorian England and the reign of Charles I. The story starts with a new doctor meeting one of the patients at St Joseph's Hospital for the Insane. The patient is mute so she writes down the events that led to her incarceration a year ago. We then switch to Elsie Bainbridge, newly married, newly widowed, arriving at her husband's crumbling ancestral home to wait for her baby to be born. She's also running from scandal - her husband was wealthy and the whispers about whether or not his death was natural have already started. Although escorted by her younger brother, he soon leaves her in the company of a few resentful servants and her husband's widowed cousin, Sarah. When Elsie and Sarah explore the house they find two wooden props, skillfully painted to look like children, hidden away in a locked garret: a girl and a gypsy boy - and the girl looks just like Elsie...

As you will have already worked out, I found The Silent Companions absolutely gripping. It's very well-written and very fast-paced - unusual for this kind of novel. Something happens on practically every page and the clever thing is that until almost the very end you are never quite sure whether Elsie is imagining everything that happens, or if she's being 'Gaslighted', or if there really was something evil locked up in that garret.

One of my favourite reads this year. Recommended, particularly if you love authors such as Shirley Jackson and Daphne du Maurier, stories like The Turn of the Screw and The Woman in Black - and terrifying yourself half to death on a dark autumn evening!

Thank you to Laura Purcell, Raven Books/Bloomsbury, and Netgalley for my copy of this book, which I received in exchange for an honest review.


If you're curious as to what a 'silent companion' actually looks like, you'll find pictures on the author's Pinterest page.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Review: Dr Jekyll and Mr Seek by Anthony O'Neill

I downloaded this book because I was attracted by the stunning cover. I was also intrigued as to how this sequel to the famous Robert Louis Stevenson novella, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, would play out. I don't have anything against prequels, sequels and re-imaginings to classic novels, provided it's not a novel (Pride and Prejudice!) that's already been done to death.

After starting this novella, I realised I should have re-read the original, because I only had a hazy memory of some of the characters. But it is very well-written, in the style of a Victorian novella, and I soon became gripped by the story.

Almost seven years ago, murderer Mr Hyde was found dead the same day that Dr Jekyll mysteriously vanished. Only his friend, Mr Utterson, knew that the two men were one and the same. Now that Dr Jekyll has been missing for seven years he can be declared legally dead, and Mr Utterson can inherit his property and propose to the woman he loves. Unfortunately, two days before this can happen, someone moves into Dr Jekyll's old house, changes the locks, and announces that he is Dr Jekyll returned from the dead.

This starts Mr Utterson's obsession with proving the man is a fraud. And, as much as I enjoyed the story, part of me did want to say 'Get over it already!' Also, without going into spoiler territory, I did not like the ending.

However, I did think Dr Jekyll and Mr Seek was a clever story and I liked the writing style (which, for some reason, reminded me of Susan Hill's Victorian ghost stories). I think it would appeal to anyone who likes reading Victorian-style mysteries but fans of the original might be taken aback by that ending.

Thank you to Anthony ONeill, Black & White Publishing, and Netgalley for my copy of this book, which I received in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Review: The Mermaid's Scream (Wesley Peterson #21) by Kate Ellis

I have been a huge fan of Kate Ellis since reading her first Wesley Peterson crime novel (The Merchant's House) about 20 years ago - I won it a competition run by the publisher! I especially love the mix of past and present: DI Wesley Peterson investigates a crime in the present, which usually has a link to something his archaeologist friend is working on.

The story starts with a middle-aged couple on holiday at a caravan park found dead - suspected suicide. Then a journalist, visiting the area to write a biography of a bestselling reclusive author, goes missing. Add to that, an American millionaire anxious to prove his ancestor didn't commit murder a hundred years ago, and this is why I love Kate Ellis's books. There are so many different plot strands it is almost impossible to work out how they will come together - making it ultra-hard to guess the identity of the murderer before the end. A proper puzzle!

The Mermaid's Scream is now one of my favourite Kate Ellis books. I loved the title and the cover, I loved the way the different plot strands tied my poor brain in knots, and the way a certain theme ran through the story - making me want to slap my forehead for not spotting it earlier. A definite 'duh!' moment. There might not be any 'proper' mermaids, but there is a collection of sinister old puppets, and the method the Victorian villain used to bump off his victim was very unique!

So, thoroughly recommended to anyone who loves a murder mystery with a fiendishly clever plot. But if you are new to Kate Ellis, I would suggest starting with one of her earlier books, as there are lots of characters - the police team and the many suspects - which might be confusing.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Review: Day Shift (#2 Midnight Texas) by Charlaine Harris

Day Shift is the second book in Charlaine Harris's Midnight Texas Series - now a TV series - and is set in a small, isolated town, where no one is quite what they seem...

I enjoyed this book more than the first one. Perhaps because the characters had already been set up and it seemed to move with a quicker pace. Manfred, the psychic, finds himself the prime suspect in a murder enquiry when one of his clients dies during a reading, and his friends join together to help clear his name. There is also a new character: a strange young boy who comes to stay with the Reverend. Quinn, a character from one of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, makes a cameo. We also learn more about the mysterious Olivia.

I think this is why I prefer the books to the TV series - the characters' secrets are not revealed at once and there's a proper mystery to solve. I would have given it five stars, but the mystery did fizzle out a bit towards the end, although the identity of the murderer came as a surprise! And justice was served - er, literally.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Review: Midnight Crossroad (#1 Midnight Texas) by Charlaine Harris

I bought this one because I'm a huge fan of Charlaine Harris and I loved her Sookie Stackhouse and Harper Connelly books. Unfortunately, I'm the kind of person who downloads ebooks and then promptly forgets I've bought them, so it was only when I saw the trailers for the TV series (Midnight, Texas) based on this book that I remembered I had it!

Midnight Crossroad is the first book in a trilogy. The others are Day Shift and Night Shift, although I did see an interview with Charlaine where she said she might write more. Psychic Manfred Bernardo has just moved to to the town of Midnight in Texas, which is basically just a few run-down stores around an intersection with one set of traffic lights. His new neighbours seem friendly enough, if a little ... strange ... but he's sure he's going to fit in just fine. He's right about that, because while Manfred has a few secrets in his past, it's nothing compared to those of his new friends.

Midnight Crossroad is basically a cosy mystery crossed with a paranormal. There was a lot I enjoyed. I loved the characters, particularly Manfred, Fiji and Mr Snuggly. I loved the murder mystery, the clever twists and the left-of-field final denouement. I loved the idea of this mysterious town where every inhabitant has a secret, not revealed all at once (unlike the TV series). I liked the fact that it was a quite leisurely read, taking the time to build up the characters, but unfortunately it was a little bit too leisurely at times. There was an awful lot of detail about the way the characters had decorated their houses, what Fiji had planted in her garden, and what was on the menu at Home Cookin'. There are also a lot of characters introduced very quickly and I got a little confused as to who was who.

I wavered between giving this a four or a five star, and settled on four - even though that ending blew me away, and I've just bought the next two books. So I'm feeling a bit mean.

Recommended, but only if you like your cosy mysteries with a gentle pace and supernatural characters - and bear in mind it's a lot different to the TV series.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Review: Don't Let Go by Harlan Coben

I'm a huge fan of Harlan Coben, so I couldn't wait to get my hands on this one - and I read it in two days flat! I absolutely loved it!

Fifteen years ago, Nap's twin brother Leo, and Leo's girlfriend Diana, were found dead on the train tracks in a small town in New Jersey. Their deaths were put down to accident or suicide, and everyone moved on. Everyone except Nap, who is obsessed with finding out what really happened that night and if his brother's death is linked to the disappearance of his own girlfriend, Maura. Now another of Leo's old school friends has been killed, and Maura's prints have been found at the scene. Are the deaths connected, and what is the link to that mysterious old missile base hidden in the woods?

Don't Let Go is a fast paced-thriller and one of my favourite Harlan Coben novels to date. I loved the link between an old mystery and one in the present-day, and the way all the characters have secrets of their own. There is a theme running through the novel, very cleverly done, that I can't reveal because of spoilers, along with lots of false trails and red herrings, several of which I utterly fell for, and some great twists. The missile base is a real place, which I thought was a nice touch, and I found the way the story is told as though Nap is talking to his brother was endearing.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves fiendishly clever mysteries and fast-paced thrillers. Harlan Coben's existing fans will love it. I certainly did!

Thank you to Harlan Coben, Cornerstone/Random House and Netgalley for my copy of this book, which I received in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Review: I Found You by Lisa Jewell

I had not read any books by Lisa Jewell until last month when I read Then She Was Gone, which I loved, so I jumped at the opportunity to download this one. Both books are written in a similar style, with multiple viewpoints, and a clever plot that kept me guessing. Both books are five star reads but this one is definitely going on my list of all-time favourites, mainly because of the ending - which obviously I can't tell you about because of spoilers!

Lily is from the Ukraine, and met her English husband when he attended a course in Kiev. Madly in love, they've only been married for five weeks and she's not had the chance to meet any of his family and friends. When he fails to come home one night, or the night after that, she doesn't know what to do.

Alice lives in a tiny cottage by the sea with her three children and two mad dogs. She's too kind for her own good so, obviously, when she finds a strange man sitting in the rain on the beach, she invites him into her house take shelter. He says he's lost his memory but refuses to go to the police or seek medical help. Should she believe him?

I guessed the first twist fairly early on (I read a lot of books!) but there were a few more that took me by surprise, and I was on the edge of my seat for that ending! I loved the setting (faded seaside town), and the characters, particularly Alice and Frank, who I was really rooting for. All the characters were brilliantly drawn. Alice's teenagers will seem horribly realistic to anyone who has children the same age! I wasn't so keen on Lily, but that was kind of the point. I did warm to her by the end of the story, and really admired her tenacity in trying to find out what had happened to her husband when no one else seemed much interested.

This is a brilliant, superbly-written story, which had me completely emotionally engaged, reading faster and faster until I reached the end. So I have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone who loves psychological suspense, domestic thrillers and old mysteries. I loved it!

Thank you to Lisa Jewell, Cornerstone Digital and Netgalley for my copy of this book, which I received in exchange for an honest review.

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