The Chain by Adrian McKinty

I have just reread The Chain by Adrian McKinty for a Goodreads.com Mystery, Crime and Thriller group read. Then I discovered that I had never actually published my review on my blog, so here it is!

EXCERPT: Her phone rings, startling her,

‘Unknown Caller,’ it says

She answers with the speakerphone: ‘Hello?’

‘Two things you must remember,’ a voice says through some kind of speech-distortion machine. ‘Number one: you are not the first and you will certainly not be the last. Number two: remember, its not about the money – it’s about The Chain.’

This has to be some sort of prank, one part of her brain is saying. But other deeper, more ancient structures in her cerebellum are beginning to react with what can only be described as pure animal terror.

‘I think you must have the wrong number,’ she suggests.

The voice continues obliviously: ‘In five minutes, Rachel, you will be getting the most important phone call of your life. You are going to need to pull your car over to the shoulder. you’re going to need to have your wits about you. You will be getting detailed instructions. Make sure your phone is fully charged and make sure also that you have a pen and paper to write down these instructions. I am not going to pretend that things are going to be easy for you. The coming days will be very difficult, but The Chain will get you through.’

Rachel feels very cold. Her mouth tastes of old pennies. Her head is light. ‘ I’m going to have to call the police or…..’

‘No police. No law enforcement of any kind. You will do just fine, Rachel. You would not have been selected if we thought you were the kind of person who would go to pieces on us. What is being asked of you may seem impossible now but it is entirely within your capabilities.’

A splinter of ice runs down her spine. A leak of the future into the present. A terrifying future that, evidently, will manifest itself in just a few minutes.

‘Who are you?’ she asks.

‘Pray that you never find out who we are and what we are capable of.’

The line goes dead.

She checks the caller ID again but the number is still not there. That voice, though. Mechanically disguised and deliberate; assured, chilly, arrogant. What can this person mean about getting the most important phone call of her life? She checks her rearview mirror and moves the Volvo out of the fast lane and into the middle lane just in case another call really is coming in.

She picks nervously at a line of thread that’s coming off her red sweater just as the iPhone rings again.

Another Unknown Caller.

She stabs at the green answer key. ‘Hello?’

‘Is this Rachel O’Neill?’ a voice asks. A different voice. A woman. A woman who sounds very upset.

Rachel wants to say ‘No’; she wants to ward off the impending disaster by saying that actually she has started using her maiden name again – Rachel Klein – but she knows there’s no point. Nothing she is going to say or do is going to stop this woman from telling her that the worst has happened.

‘Yes,’ she says.

‘I’m so sorry, Rachel, I’ve got some terrible news for you. Have you got the pen and paper for the instructions?’

‘What’s happened?’ she asks, really scared now.

‘I’ve kidnapped your daughter.’

ABOUT THIS BOOK: THE ONLY WAY TO SAVE YOUR CHILD IS TO KIDNAP ANOTHER.

Listen carefully …
Your child has been kidnapped.
You must abduct someone else’s child to save your own.
Disobey. Break the rules. Go to the cops. Your child will die.
Your victim’s parents must kidnap another child before yours is released.
You are now part of the chain.

#DONTBREAKTHECHAIN

MY THOUGHTS: I may have said this before, but I am going to say it again: Adrian McKinty is one hell of a writer! And versatile with it.

I read this overnight, finishing it at 2am. I have not functioned well at work today, a day when I really needed to be running at 110%.

This is very different to McKinty’s Sean Duffy series, although there is still the odd musical reference, and his sense of humour still shines through, not as often, but it’s still there. But although it is different, it is equally as brilliant in its own way.

I loved the way he wove bits of his own background, when he was struggling as a writer, into Rachel’s background. There was nothing that Rachel did in her efforts to get her daughter back, that I wouldn’t do if my child’s life was at risk. The only difference being that I don’t have the luxury of an ex-marine as a brother-in-law.

Riveting. Compelling. Thrilling. Just read it.

❤❤❤❤❤

‘Oh,Rachel, why do birds suddenly appear every time that you’re near?’ Because they’re actually carrion crows and I’m one of the goddamn undead.’

‘Chemo is a little death that you invite in in order to keep the big death outside on the porch. ‘

THE AUTHOR: Adrian McKinty is an Irish novelist. He was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and grew up in Victoria Council Estate, Carrickfergus, County Antrim. He read law at the University of Warwick and politics and philosophy at the University of Oxford. He moved to the United States in the early 1990s, living first in Harlem, New York and from 2001 on, in Denver, Colorado, where he taught high school English and began writing fiction. He lives in Melbourne, Australia with his wife and two children.

DISCLOSURE: I borrowed my copy of The Chain by Adrian McKinty, published by Hachette Australia, from Waitomo District Library. But I loved it so much I will be buying my own hard copy. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Police at the Station And They Don’t Look Friendly (Sean Duffy #6) by Adrian McKinty

EXCERPT: . . . it is indeed spooky out here, in the hulking shadows of these venerable oaks, four hours after midnight, in the middle of nowhere, while Ireland sleeps, while Ireland dreams. . .

The little rise is a deceptively steep incline that takes my breath away and I can see that I am going to need my new inhaler if it keeps up. The inhaler, of course, is back in the glove compartment of the car because I haven’t yet acquired the habit of taking it with me everywhere. Not that it will make any difference in a few minutes anyway. A bullet in the head will fix an incipient asthma attack every time.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Belfast 1988: A man is found dead, killed with a bolt from a crossbow in front of his house. This is no hunting accident. But uncovering who is responsible for the murder will take Detective Sean Duffy down his most dangerous road yet, a road that leads to a lonely clearing on a high bog where three masked gunmen will force Duffy to dig his own grave.
Hunted by forces unknown, threatened by Internal Affairs, and with his relationship on the rocks, Duffy will need all his wits to get out of this investigation in one piece

MY THOUGHTS: ‘A paranoid man is a man who knows a little about what’s going on’ – William Burroughs

The seven ‘p’s – ‘Proper preparation and planning prevents piss poor performance’ – DI Sean Duffy

What can I say that I haven’t said before about this series? I have just finished #6 with my heart pounding, and if it was 5 pm instead of 5 am, I would pour myself a stiff drink. I am exhausted after having spent the majority of the night in the company of DI Sean Duffy, checking under the BMW 535i sport for mercury tilt bombs every time before we get in, being beaten, shot at (multiple times), kidnapped, threatened, and participating in a car chase involving a 1988 Bentley Mulsanne. All this is set against the background of ‘the Troubles’ which seem to have flared again, with Belfast experiencing riots, the funerals of the three killed in Gibraltar by the SAS, and Michael Stone’s deadly actions at the funerals inflaming the situation.

Duffy now has a partner and a child, but that doesn’t seem to be working out as well as he had hoped, either. Yet despite the troubles, Irish, professional and personal, or perhaps because of them, Duffy sees things that others miss, and while he may never have brought a criminal to trial, his resolution of cases is always interesting and probably more appropriate than any court sentence.

McKinty has evolved Duffy’s character seamlessly without losing the quintessential essence of him. He is still the thorn in the side of his superiors, and those who think themselves superior, like that eejit Kenny Dalziel. He still makes questionable choices – I was pacing the lounge at 4 am ranting ‘Sean, wtf do you think you’re doing?!’ But he also inspires loyalty, is irreverent but charming, has street smarts that I am envious of, and a black sense of humor that I love.

If you haven’t yet read this series, you are missing out on what I seriously believe to be one of the top two thriller series that I have read. I could wax lyrical about both the series and this particular book for pages yet, but honestly? Stop reading my review and just read the books. What are you waiting for?

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

THE AUTHOR: Adrian McKinty is an Irish novelist. He was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and grew up in Victoria Council Estate, Carrickfergus, County Antrim. He read law at the University of Warwick and politics and philosophy at the University of Oxford. He moved to the United States in the early 1990s, living first in Harlem, New York and from 2001 on, in Denver, Colorado, where he taught high school English and began writing fiction. He lives in Melbourne, Australia with his wife and two children.

DISCLOSURE: I borrowed my copy of Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly by Adrian McKinty, published by Serpent’s Tail, from Waitomo District Library. Thank you to head librarian Julie for buying in a copy at my request.

All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions. For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

EXCERPT: Anne feels her scream inside her own head and reverberating off the walls – her scream is everywhere. Then she falls silent and stands in front of the empty crib, rigid, her hand to her mouth. Marco fumbles with the light switch. They both stare at the empty crib where their baby should be. It is impossible that she not be there. There is no way Cora could have gotten out of the crib by herself. She is barely six months old.

‘Call the police,’ Anne whispers, then throws up, the vomit cascading over her fingers and onto the hardwood floor as she bends over. The baby’s room, painted a soft buttery yellow with stencils of baby lambs frolicking on the walls, immediately fills with the smell of bile and panic.

Marco doesn’t move. Anne looks up at him. He is paralyzed, in shock, staring at the empty crib, as if he can’t believe it. Anne sees the fear and guilt in his eyes and starts to wail – a horrible keening sound, like an animal in pain.

Marco still doesn’t budge. Anne bolts across the hall to their bedroom, grabs the phone off the bedside table, and dials 911,her hands shaking, getting vomit all over the phone. Marco finally snaps out of it. She can hear him walking rapidly around the second floor of the house while she stares across the hall at the empty crib. He checks the bathroom, at the top of the stairs, then passes quickly by her on his way to search the spare bedroom and then the last room down the hall, the one they have turned into an office. But, even as he does, Anne wonders in a detached way why he is looking there. It is as if part of her mind has split off and is thinking logically. It’s not like their baby is mobile on her own. She is not in the bathroom, or the spare bedroom, or the office.

Someone has taken her.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all–a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story.

Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they’ve kept for years.

MY THOUGHTS: Highly improbable, but extremely entertaining!

Where to start? This was one crazy read. It twisted and turned, then doubled back on itself. It is fast paced and full of lies and deception. Shari Lapena demonstrates great sleight of hand and misdirection in this, her debut novel. She will have your head spinning, and have you doubting every single one of the characters. And don’t expect to like any of the characters. Except maybe Anne’s mom. And that’s only maybe.

My advice? Hang onto your hat, enjoy the ride, and prepare for a crash landing.

😉😲🤦‍♀️.8

THE AUTHOR: Shari Lapena is a Canadian novelist. Lapena was a lawyer and English teacher before beginning her writing career.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Transworld Publishers, via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Happy Sunday everyone!

TMOTH went fishing yesterday and had a good haul, so all our friends and family now have nice fresh fish. It was a beautiful day, and I spent it in the garden. I have almost finished the steps up to the top level of the section. Another full day should see me finished. Today we went out for lunch to a cafe I often go into for coffee, or take the grandchildren in for hot chocolate, but I had never eaten there. We had a beautiful lunch and will be going back there again. We went through some display homes looking at kitchens, but came away totally uninspired. We also took some fresh vegetables from our garden and visited our son and grandson. So it has been a lovely weekend! (Even if I have done very little reading.)

Currently I am reading Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly by Adrian McKinty. This is currently the final book in the Sean Duffy series. I do hope that it is not the final final one, and that there will be more to come.

I am also reading Imperfect Women by Araminta Hall. I’m not sure quite how I feel about this yet, although I’m almost 80% done with it. There is an awful lot of introspection by the three main characters. It is a book that I can easily put down and walk away from, but I have not considered abandoning it. I hope that the ending is going to clarify things for me.

I am currently listening to The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena.

This week I am planning on reading Final Cut by S.J. Watson.

For generations Blackwood Bay, a quaint village in northern England, has been famous only for the smuggling that occurred along its coastline centuries ago, but then two local girls disappear bringing the town a fresh and dark notoriety. When Alex, an ambitious documentary filmmaker, arrives in Blackwood Bay, she intends to have the residents record their own stories as her next project. But instead of a quaint community, Alex finds a village blighted by economic downturn and haunted by a tragedy that overshadows every corner.

Alex pushes on with her work, but secrets old and new rise to the surface, raising tensions and suspicions in a town already on edge. Alex’s work takes her to dark places and uncomfortable truths which threaten to lead to a deadly unravelling.

And Memories of Wild Rose Bay by Susanne O’Leary

When Kate O’Rourke takes up a temporary position as a doctor in Sandy Cove, she hopes spending time in the place where her father was from will help her find herself again. Ever since his passing she has felt lost, but she imagines the calming sound of the sea on the Irish coast will allow her to heal.

Kate immediately feels at home in the old surgery, and as she takes walks beside the camellia bushes along Wild Rose Bay and meets every resident in the tiny village, she feels like this is where she’s meant to be. And when she’s told about local healer Cormac O’Shea, she’s excited to learn even more about the history of the area, and meet the man who every woman in town says is so charming.

But Kate quickly realises that she and Cormac have different ideas about how their patients should be treated. Kate is efficient and well-organised, whilst Cormac is wild and spontaneous, passionate about his ancestors’ reliance on Irish healing. And their differences cause more sparks than Kate is prepared to admit.

Just as Kate and Cormac begin to understand one another, Kate’s old life threatens to call her away from Sandy Cove forever. And she is finally forced to decide what life she wants to lead, and what kind of person she wants to be…

Only three new ARCs from Netgalley this week 😊

When You Were Mine by Kate Hewitt

Your Neighbour’s Wife by Tony Parsons

Fragile by Sarah Hilary

I hope that those of you who live in that part of the world with weekend still ahead of you, enjoy! I am off to cook supper – farm fresh eggs on toast.

Be careful. Be kind. Happy reading!

The Night Whistler by Greg Woodland

EXCERPT: He was standing atop a small rise staring at something when Evan staggered up beside him and gasped softly. A strange yellowish vehicle-cum-dwelling: they couldn’t take their eyes off it.

The depleted shell of a truck cabin at one end merged into a decrepit caravan at the other. It was like some bizarre caterpillar with extremities so different they might have belonged to separate species. The truck’s bonnet lay on the ground, engine parts flung around it like a mad mechanic’s toys. Where once were wheels, tree stumps now propped the apparition up. Skew-whiff sheds and lean-tos lay scattered around it, rotting in the grass. The caravan was covered in peeling tan and yellow paint and above the door a faded sign declared ‘Highway Palace’. It was a ruined palace though, with oval windows cracked or broken, glinting like jagged teeth, shreds of lace curtains behind them. There was nothing palatial or grand about it now, and probably never had been. But behind the curtains, mystery seemed to lurk in every corner.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: It’s 1966. Hal and his little brother, newly arrived in Moorabool with their parents, are exploring the creek near their new home when they find the body of a dog.

Not just dead, but recently killed.

Not just killed, but mutilated.

Constable Mick Goodenough, recently demoted from his city job as a detective, is also new in town—and one of his dogs has gone missing. He’s experienced enough to know what it means when someone tortures an animal to death: it means they’re practising. So when Hal’s mother starts getting anonymous calls—a man whistling, then hanging up—Goodenough, alone among the Moorabool cops, takes her seriously.

The question is: will that be enough to keep her safe?

MY THOUGHTS: Atmospheric. Very atmospheric. There is a palpable air of menace in this small rural town where most people are either hiding something, or watching … and waiting.

Set in the 1960’s, there is blatant racism in this book that may upset some people. But that is just the way things were then. While we can’t change the past, we can learn from it.

There are multiple layers to this mystery – corrupt police, corrupt town councillors, extra-marital activity, missing and mutilated animals, mystery and murder. But Woodland has also captured the essence of the time, particularly the way kids were allowed to roam about unfettered, the only restriction that they ‘be home in time for tea.’ Parents weren’t at all concerned about where the kids were, who they were playing with or what they were doing, as long as they stayed out of trouble and came home on time. Step out of line, and you’d get a whack around the ear or a slap around the legs for your trouble. People drank and drove. And smoked – everywhere.

Woodland’s writing is vivid, both his descriptions and his characters come alive. I could smell the heat, taste the dust, hear the voices. I knew, well before I reached the end of the first chapter, that I was onto a winner.

The plot is enthralling, and takes place in Aussie time. ‘Don’t worry mate, it’ll get done, some time. Crack a stubby while you wait.’

Mick Goodenough (pronounced Good-no, or as his boss likes to quip, no-good) has two strikes against him before he starts. 1. He’s an indigenous Australian. 2. He’s been demoted from the rank of Detective in Sydney and exiled to Moorabool as a probationary constable. The problem is that Mick still thinks like a detective. And his boss takes great delight in rubbing his nose in the fact that he isn’t.

Hal, twelve, has also only recently moved to Moorabool for his father’s work. Summer holidays, so he hasn’t really had a chance to meet anyone else his own age. Until Allie, an indigenous girl who takes him crawbobbing, and talks to him about the spirits trapped in the Highway Palace, the scene of a murder-suicide years earlier. Hal is more concerned about what happened to the one surviving child. Where did he go, and where is he now? And could it be him that is making the strange and threatening calls his mother is receiving? If not, then who? And why?

I was riveted by this story. Gritty and honest. And I want more.

I have lived in a small town in Australia, a little like this. Some of my happiest years were spent there. Woodland made me homesick. Dust, flies, spiders, snakes and all…

❤❤❤❤.8

#TheNightWhistler #NetGalley

FOR THE ARMCHAIR TRAVELLER: I think that Moorabool is a fictional town in the New England region of New South Wales, Australia.

New England or New England North West is the name given to a generally undefined region in the north of the state of New South Wales, Australia, about 60 kilometres inland, that includes the Northern Tablelands and the North West Slopes regions.

Dubbed the Cathedral City, Armidale in the New England High Country is one of Australia’s most elegant regional cities. With an altitude of a kilometre above sea level, it’s known for vibrant autumn foliage and cool breezes in summer. Wander its streets and find 19th century churches mixed with modern cafes and restaurants.

THE AUTHOR: Greg has been a script developer and consultant for Australian film funding bodies and the Australian Writers Guild for 25 years. He is the founder-director of a leading Australian script service. As writer/director Greg’s award-winning short films and documentaries screened nationally and internationally at over 60 film festivals and many TV channels. His screenplays The Whistler and Pangs won several script competitions including the Fellowship of Australian Writers Best Drama Manuscript, the Inscription Open Script award, and three Varuna Fellowships between them. Greg has lectured in Scriptwriting at Macquarie University, UTS, NIDA, and AFTRS. His script editing credits include feature films ‘Moon Rock for Monday’, ‘Don’t Tell’, ‘Needle’, ‘Cold Turkey’, ‘The Bet’, ‘Broken’, several Project Greenlight and Monte Miller Award finalists, the 2013 Tropfest Best Film Winner, the 2016 AWG John Hinde Science Fiction script award winner and many others. His first crime novel ‘The Night Whistler’ was published by Text Publishing in August 2020, and he’s now writing the sequel, The Carnival is Over.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Text Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Night Whistler by Greg Woodland for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Watching what I’m reading . . .

It is Father’s Day here in New Zealand so happy father’s day to all the dads out there. It’s a fairly dismal day, wet and windy, so we have postponed the plans we had made for this afternoon until next week. Currently we are waiting for the Supercar racing out of Townsville, Queensland, Australia to start. There is the delicious aroma of curried sausages (Chelsea Winters – Eat) simmering away in the slow cooker drifting through to the lounge. All is well in our little world.

I have had a good reading week, although I deviated from my reading plan as you may have noticed if you have been following my reviews during the week.

I am currently reading Cry Baby by Mark Billingham, #17 in the Tom Thorne series. This story is set in 1996 and is the prequel to Sleepyhead which was the first book I ever read by Billingham.

I am listening to an audiobook by a New Zealand author, Katherine Hayton, called The Three Deaths of Magdalene Lynton which is set in the South Island of New Zealand.

You may have a feeling of deja vu as you read on regarding what I plan on reading this week.

Night Whistler by Greg Woodland.

It’s 1966. Hal and his little brother, newly arrived in Moorabool with their parents, are exploring the creek near their new home when they find the body of a dog.

Not just dead, but recently killed.

Not just killed, but mutilated.

Constable Mick Goodenough, recently demoted from his city job as a detective, is also new in town—and one of his dogs has gone missing. He’s experienced enough to know what it means when someone tortures an animal to death: it means they’re practising. So when Hal’s mother starts getting anonymous calls—a man whistling, then hanging up—Goodenough, alone among the Moorabool cops, takes her seriously.

The question is: will that be enough to keep her safe?

Imperfect Women by Araminta Hall

When Nancy Hennessy is murdered, she leaves behind two best friends, a loving husband and daughter, and a secret lover whose identity she took to the grave. Nancy was gorgeous and wealthy, with adoring friends and family—from the outside, her life was perfect. But as the investigation into her death flounders and her friends Eleanor and Mary wrestle with their grief, dark details surface that reveal how little they knew their friend, each other, maybe even themselves.

A gripping, immersive novel about impossible expectations and secrets that fester and become lethal, Imperfect Women unfolds through the perspectives of three fascinating women. Their enduring, complex friendship is the knot the reader must untangle to answer the question: who killed Nancy?

My copy of Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly, by Adrian McKinty, #6 in the Sean Duffy has finally arrived, so I want to read that also.

Belfast 1988: A man is found dead, killed with a bolt from a crossbow in front of his house. This is no hunting accident. But uncovering who is responsible for the murder will take Detective Sean Duffy down his most dangerous road yet, a road that leads to a lonely clearing on a high bog where three masked gunmen will force Duffy to dig his own grave.
Hunted by forces unknown, threatened by Internal Affairs, and with his relationship on the rocks, Duffy will need all his wits to get out of this investigation in one piece.

I have 6 new ARCs from Netgalley this week . . . so I guess you could say that once again, I have fallen off the wagon!

I have Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman, but I plan to read Practical Magic before I start this. I read and loved The Rules of Magic last year.

Peace by Garry Disher, Australian fiction.

The Girls in the Snow by Stacy Green

Without Blood by Martin Michaud

Stolen Children by Michael Wood

And Living Ayurveda by Claire Ragozzino. I have been going to Ayurveda yoga classes over the winter and have really enjoyed them, so couldn’t resist this title when I saw it. Even the cover invokes a feeling of calm and peace.

Have a wonderful week my friends. I hope that, wherever in the world you are, the Covid-19 situation is easing. Keep calm and read on. In our local library, even the books are put into quarantine when they are returned!

Happy reading!

Sandy ❤😍📚☕🍪

Sadie by Courtney Summers

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I think I must be one of the very few people who did not read this when it first came out. I dithered and delayed … and loved it!I think the idea of podcasts put me off. I needn’t have worried.

EXCERPT: Today we’re doing something new – something big. Today, we’re pre-empting your regular scheduled episode of ‘Always Out There’ to launch the first episode of our new serialized podcast, ‘The Girls’. If you want to hear more, you can download all eight episodes – that’s right; the entire season – on our website. We’re pretty sure you’ll want to hear more.

Created and hosted by one of our longtime producers, West McCray, ‘The Girls’ explores what happens when a devastating crime reveals a deeply unsettling mystery. It’s a story about family, about sisters, and the untold lives lived in small town America. It’s about the lengths we go to to protect the ones we love … and the high price we pay when we can’t.

It begins, as so many stories do, with a dead girl.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: A missing girl on a journey of revenge. A Serial―like podcast following the clues she’s left behind. And an ending you won’t be able to stop talking about.

Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray―a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America―overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

MY THOUGHTS: I wasn’t sure that I was going to enjoy this when I first started it. I thought it might be like one of those true crime/reality TV shows where they repeat themselves every few minutes to make sure that you get the point. Sadie wasn’t like that at all. It was intriguing, compelling and I want more. It was tantalizing.

This is a haunting, gut wrenching tale of abuse and neglect, of drug and alcohol abuse/addiction, and of making choices. In this instance, mostly the wrong ones.

Sadie lives a bleak life. Abandoned by their mother, she cares for her younger sister Mattie. Tries to provide for her, protect her, love her, and guide her. When Mattie is murdered, Sadie’s life implodes. She can focus on only one thing: revenge. And this is, amongst other things, the story of her quest for redemption.

Sadie is not always easy to listen to/read. There is nothing explicit, but plenty is implied. There are things no child should ever have to experience, but Sadie has. She had been determined that Mattie should have a different life, one where she was cherished and loved. But she failed. That sense of failure fuels her.

The story of Sadie is told from Sadie’s own point of view and that of West McCray who, diverted from his original task of portraying life in small town America, finds himself caught up in the search for Sadie long after almost everyone else has given up hope.

If you haven’t yet read Sadie by Courtney Summers, I urge you to.

😲😲😲😲.2

THE AUTHOR: Courtney Summers is the bestselling author of several novels, whose career in writing began in 2008, when she was 22. Her work has been released to critical acclaim and multiple starred reviews, received numerous awards and honors including the Edgar Award, the John Spray Mystery Award, the Cybils Award, the Odyssey Award, the Audie Award, and has enjoyed the recognition of many library, state, ‘Best Of’ and Readers’ Choice lists. Courtney has reviewed for The New York Times, is the founder of #ToTheGirls, a 2015 worldwide trending hashtag, and in 2016, she was named one of Flare Magazine’s 60 under 30. She lives and writes in Canada.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of Sadie, written by Courtney Summers, narrated by Rebecca Soler, Fred Berman, Dan Bittner, Gabra Zackman, and a full supporting cast, and published by Macmillan Audio. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system, please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page, or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham

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I picked this up to read because I have the second book in this series, When She Was Good, to read. And I am so glad that I did. It has given me the best read of my year…so far. Read on!

EXCERPT: I’m happy with who I am. I have pieced myself together from the half-broken things. I have learned how to hide, how to run, how to keep safe, despite never knowing a time when my blood didn’t run cold at the sound of footsteps stopping outside my door, or the sound of someone breathing on the opposite side of a wall.

I know the jittery, crawling sensation that ripples down my spine whenever I feel the weight of eyes upon me. Searching my face. Trying to recognize me. And no matter how many times I step into doorways, or look over my shoulder, or yell, ‘I know you’re there,’ the street is always empty. No footsteps. No shadows. No eyes.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: A girl is discovered hiding in a secret room in the aftermath of a terrible crime. Half-starved and filthy, she won’t tell anyone her name, or her age, or where she came from. Maybe she is twelve, maybe fifteen. She doesn’t appear in any missing persons file, and her DNA can’t be matched to an identity.

Six years later, still unidentified, she is living in a secure children’s home with a new name, Evie Cormac. When she initiates a court case demanding the right to be released as an adult, forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven must determine if Evie is ready to go free. But she is unlike anyone he’s ever met—fascinating and dangerous in equal measure. Evie knows when someone is lying, and no one around her is telling the truth.

Meanwhile, Cyrus is called in to investigate the shocking murder of a high school figure-skating champion, Jodie Sheehan, who dies on a lonely footpath close to her home. Pretty and popular, Jodie is portrayed by everyone as the ultimate girl-next-door, but as Cyrus peels back the layers, a secret life emerges—one that Evie Cormac, the girl with no past, knows something about. A man haunted by his own tragic history, Cyrus is caught between the two cases—one girl who needs saving and another who needs justice. What price will he pay for the truth?

MY THOUGHTS: I read Good Girl, Bad Girl overnight. Couldn’t put it down. Ordered in dinner so that I didn’t have to stop reading to cook. I absorbed this book through every pore in my skin. I was there for every moment, every word. There was zero chance of my mind wandering as I read. Good Girl, Bad Girl is a heartpounding, pulse racing, edge of the seat, go away – I’ll tear your arm off if you try separating me from my book – read.

My first Michael Robotham book, and yes! It’s that damned good!

The characters are all interesting, flawed, human. Evie, the child found living in a secret room only feet away from a decomposing body, and who possesses a unique talent. She has no past, no family, no memories, not even a birthdate. She lies, she obfuscates, she casts doubts and misdirects. She’s dyslexic, antisocial and aggressive. And she wants out of Langford Hall, the secure children’s home where she is incarcerated. Cyrus, Forensic Psychologist, is called in by his friend Guthrie when Evie makes an application to the court to be released. Cyrus has his own demons, his own tragic past. Something in him recognizes something in Evie and he sets out to save her, both from the world and from herself.

The plot is gritty, gripping, and fast moving. There is a murder to be solved. One that isn’t quite as simple as it first appears. A rising skating star, an Olympic hopeful, is found dead, murdered, close to her home. Everyone’s darling, Jodie could do no wrong. But a chance remark by one of her classmates sets Cyrus off on a quest to discover the other darker side of this golden girl, and sets off a chain of events he could never have envisaged.

I loved every word of Good Girl, Bad Girl. And there are not enough stars in the rating system to convey just how good a read this is.

❤🤯😲🤯❤

#GoodGirlBadGirl @michealrobotham

And now onto When She Was Good, Cyrus Haven #2.

FOR THE ARMCHAIR TRAVELLER: Good Girl, Bad Girl is set in Nottingham, a city in central England’s Midlands region. It’s known for its role in the Robin Hood legend and for the hilltop Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery, rebuilt many times since the medieval era. In the Lace Market area, once the centre of the world’s lace industry, the Galleries of Justice Museum has crime-related exhibits. Wollaton Hall is an ornate Elizabethan mansion with gardens and a deer park.

THE AUTHOR: Edgar finalist and Gold Dagger winning author, Michael Robotham was born in Australia in November 1960 and grew up in small country towns that had more dogs than people and more flies than dogs. He escaped in 1979 and became a cadet journalist on an afternoon newspaper in Sydney.

For the next fourteen years he worked for newspapers in Australia, Europe, Africa and America. As a senior feature writer for the UK’s Mail on Sunday he was among the first people to view the letters and diaries of Czar Nicholas II and his wife Empress Alexandra, unearthed in the Moscow State Archives in 1991. He also gained access to Stalin’s Hitler files, which had been missing for nearly fifty years until a cleaner stumbled upon a cardboard box that had been misplaced and misfiled.

In 1993 he quit journalism to become a ghostwriter, collaborating with politicians, pop stars, psychologists, adventurers and showbusiness personalities to write their autobiographies.

Michael writes in what his daughters’ refer to as his ‘cabana of cruelty’ on Sydney’s northern beaches where he slaves away daily to cater to their every expensive whim. Where is the justice?

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Waitomo District Library for the loan of their copy of Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham, published by Hachette Australia. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The First to Lie by Hank Phillippi Ryan

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EXCERPT: She looked at him as she gathered her tote bag and new Pharminex briefcase. He seemed thoughtful, his eyes softening as he watched her. ‘Affectionate’, the word came to mind. Or maybe it was more tactics. She thought she’d been the first to lie in this relationship. But maybe he’d been the first. Maybe the first lie was only the beginning.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: What happens when an undercover reporter gets in too deep? And when a practiced liar has to face off with her own truth—how does she choose her true reality?

MY THOUGHTS: Talk about twisty – I was tied up in knots like a pretzel reading The First to Lie by Hank Phillippi Ryan! She bashed my brain around like it was a squash ball in a world championship game. I have no idea how the author managed to keep everything straight in her head as she was writing. Don’t go looking for any rest breaks while you are reading this, because there aren’t any. It’s full steam ahead the whole way!

Told from multiple points of view by Nora, a Pharminex sales rep; Ellie, an investigative journalist; Brooke, the daughter of the Vanderwald family, owners of Pharminex; and Lacey, married to Trevor the Vanderwald son and heir to the Pharminex empire, The First to Lie focuses on pharmaceutical ethics, – or should that be the lack of them? – the lack of culpability of medical and corporate professionals, betrayal, and revenge – the dish best eaten cold.

This is very much a cat and mouse game, but with a different twist. It is often difficult to tell who is the cat, and who is the mouse, and there’s no guarantee that the mouse is the mouse. It may well be another cat. Everyone lies. You cannot trust anyone. You definitely cannot take anyone at face value except, maybe, the detective. And then that’s only a ‘maybe’. ‘I know who I was when I got up this morning, Alice had told the Caterpillar, but I think I must have been changed several times since then. I can’t explain myself, I’m afraid, because I’m not myself, you see.’

Exciting. Compelling. Incredibly clever.

🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯

#TheFirsttoLie #NetGalley

FOR THE ARMCHAIR TRAVELLER: The First to Lie is set in Boston, Massachusetts.

THE AUTHOR: Hank Phillippi Ryan is the USA Today bestselling author of eleven award winning novels of suspense. National reviews have called her a “master at crafting suspenseful mysteries” and “a superb and gifted storyteller.”

Hank is also an award-winning investigative reporter at Boston’s WHDH-TV. In addition to 37 EMMYs and 14 Edward R. Murrow awards, Hank’s won dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism.

Her work has resulted in new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in refunds and restitution for victims and consumers. She’s been a radio reporter, a legislative aide in the United States Senate and an editorial assistant at Rolling Stone Magazine, working with Hunter S. Thompson, Richard Avedon and Richard Goodwin.

Hank is a founding teacher at Mystery Writers of America University and served as president of national Sisters in Crime. She blogs at Jungle Red Writers and Career Authors.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Forge Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The First to Lie by Hank Phillipi Ryan for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

My Mother’s Choice by Ali Mercer

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EXCERPT: Laura’s Diary

Since leaving him I’ve found myself doing all kinds of things I wouldn’t normally do. Coming here, for a start. I didn’t even think twice about the drive – all those hours on the M4 with Dani in the back, the rain sheeting down when we got to the West Country, the tangle of lanes and bad signposts at the end.

But we made it.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Nobody talks about my mother. Absolutely nobody. I have no idea what she was like. I’d always thought they kept quiet about her because they were sad. But what if it was because they were guilty?

I watch them at the school gates, all the mothers with their daughters. I see the hugs and all those thoughtful little adjustments to scarves and ponytails. How their love seems to overflow, they have so much of it to give.

And then I walk home to my aunt’s cold house, where there are a hundred rules for me to follow and only a single photograph of my mother to look at.

She is never spoken about in this house. They tell me that it will be easier if I don’t think about her.

It is strange though, isn’t it? That I know nothing about my own mother?

But they don’t know about the diary I’ve found up in the loft. Maybe they even forgot it was there. It doesn’t matter anymore if they won’t tell me anything. Because within these pages is what I’ve waited fourteen years to find out. And maybe some things I wish I could forget.

All I wanted was to bring our family closer together, but could what I find tear us apart instead?

MY THOUGHTS: I wanted to like this book a whole lot more than I did….. it starts off well with an entry from Laura’s diary revealing that she has left her husband Jon, taking their 4 year old daughter, Dani. She hints at something terrible that has happened that she cannot forgive, and that Jon is also unable to forgive himself.

There are beautiful descriptions of the Cornish coast and I felt that I was settling in for a grand read. Fast forward ten years and Dani is fourteen and living with her aunt Carrie and resenting it. The story is then told over two timelines, past and present, without a great deal being revealed. A lot is intimated, assumptions are made, but not a lot actually happens until Dani finds her mother’s diary.

I felt that the revelation in the diary was anticlimactic and disappointing, although it certainly upset Dani. By this point I had largely lost interest and only kept reading because I thought that there had to be more to this story. And there was. But certainly not what I was expecting and not enough to redeem the book in my eyes. I felt that the author was trying to hide too much initially which didn’t need to be hidden, and which would have given the story some backbone and focus.

This felt like an inordinately long read. There was a lot of ‘filler’ and not much meat. It certainly wasn’t a ‘heartbreaking’ read, and nor did I become particularly emotional about it. For me, this was a mediocre read at best, the only redeeming feature being the wonderful descriptions of the Cornish countryside.

🤷‍♀️🤷‍♀️.6

#MyMothersChoice #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: Ali decided she wanted to be a writer early on and wrote her first novel when she was at primary school. She did an English degree and spent her early twenties working in various jobs in journalism, including as a reporter for the showbusiness newspaper The Stage. She started writing fiction in earnest after getting married, moving out of London to the Oxfordshire market town of Abingdon and starting a family. She has two children, a daughter and a son who is autistic and was diagnosed when he was four years old.
Ali is fascinated by families, their myths and secrets, and the forces that hold them together, split them up and (sometimes) bring them back together again. She always travels with tissues and a book and has been known to cry over a good story, but is also a big fan of the hopeful ending.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of My Mother’s Choice by Ali Mercer for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com