The Mother’s Fault by Nicole Trope

EXCERPT: His teachers call him ‘spirited’, or ‘full of energy’, sometimes ‘boisterous’. They have a lot of different words for what he really is in class, which is disruptive and occasionally rude. Too disruptive? Too rude? She feels like there’s some sort of memo she missed on raising a child. The other mothers at the school gates seem to know exactly what to do in any situation. She watches them, listens to them, while she waits for Riley, her ears tuned for exchanges of information she’s reluctant to ask for. They would be friendly enough, she supposes, if she just stepped forward and said ‘Hello,’ but she worries about saying the wrong thing, about giving too much away.

She can see the way they look at her when Riley calls her ‘Mum’. ‘My goodness,’ his teacher from last year said on parent-teacher night, ‘and how old-‘

‘Twenty,’ Beverley replied before the teacher could finish the question. ‘I was twenty when I had him.’ It’s a lie. She was actually only eighteen, but people tend to look at teenage mothers a certain way, make an assessment a certain way. A single teenage mother is met with pursed lips and narrowed eyes. It’s why she works so hard at getting everything right, at making sure Riley arrives at school with a full lunch box and a clean uniform every day. She makes sure that he never leaves homework undone and that he’s always got his hat and sports kit on sports days. Things that other mothers brush off, like forgetting to send in money for an excursion, bother Beverley because they make her feel that she’s falling. She cannot fail at this.

ABOUT ‘THE MOTHER’S FAULT’: I am cooking spaghetti, his favourite, while he plays in the garden. But when I look up, he’s gone. I call the police, my hands shaking so much that I hit the wrong digits twice. ‘My son is missing.’

When the police turn up, I’m trapped in the web of my lies.

I have hidden the truth from eight-year-old Riley, my little boy who loves climbing trees and always has scraped knees. I have hidden my secret from everyone.

Riley knows his father is dead but he has no idea why. He doesn’t know his dad’s real name, and there are no pictures in the house. Not a single person knows what happened eight years ago.

I love my son more than anything but the truth is, I have always feared for him. When the first gift arrived in our mailbox, wrapped in blue paper with silver stars, I realised I was right to be afraid.

Now, I can see the question in the detectives’ eyes. Am I a mother with a missing child or a mother with a lot to hide? I need them to save my son – but how much can I tell them without losing him forever?

MY THOUGHTS: A quick, easy and enjoyable read that certainly won’t overwork the little grey cells, although there was one twist that I was not expecting.

The story is told mainly by Beverley, her son Riley, and in latter parts, an unknown narrator. There is plenty of misdirection to keep the reader on their toes, and although the perpetrator is decidedly ‘unbalanced’ I am not convinced that this is a true psychological thriller. Personally I would have liked a little more subtle manipulation to ramp up the tension and a little less of the soap-opera style drama.

Sam and his dog ‘Scotty’ were my favourite characters.

I know that I can always rely on Nicole Trope for a good read, and The Mother’s Fault definitely doesn’t disappoint, although I do feel that it would have been better titled ‘The Mother’s Lie.’ This is a book that will fly off the shelves.

⭐⭐⭐.6

#TheMothersFault #Bookouture

I: @nicoletropeauthor @bookouture

T: @nicoletrope @Bookouture

#australianfiction #contemporaryfiction #familydrama #mentalhealth

THE AUTHOR: Nicole Trope went to university to study Law but realised the error of her ways when she did very badly on her first law essay because-as her professor pointed out- ‘It’s not meant to be a story.’ She studied teaching instead and used her holidays to work on her writing career and complete a Masters’ degree in Children’s Literature. After the birth of her first child she stayed home full time to write and raise children, renovate houses and build a business with her husband.
The idea for her first published novel, The Boy under the Table, was so scary that it took a year for her to find the courage to write the emotional story.
She lives in Sydney with her husband and three children.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Mother’s Fault by Nicole Trope 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 is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The New Home by Chris Merritt

EXCERPT: The key slides smoothly into the padlock, and it clicks open. I remove it from the hasp and pull the door open. It sticks, the wood groaning as the door separates from the lintel, while the hinges screech as if in pain. I’m sure someone must have heard me. With a final look over my shoulder, I hang the open padlock back on the hasp and step inside, pulling the door closed behind me to avoid being seen.

The interior is almost pitch black. Whatever light there is has been filtered through the cobwebs and mold coating the inside of the tiny, smeary window. I take out my phone and switch on its torch.

The first thing I see is more cobwebs, and I’m temporarily paralyzed with fear as I clock the number of them, lying as thick as wads of cotton wool in the corners. My torch beam picks out a cluster of huge, fat spiders, motionless, as if they’re waiting to attack me. I know it’s ridiculous to be frightened of them, that they won’t hurt me. I tell myself that out loud and remind myself why I’m here: to find out what happened to Emily and Thea.

I sweep the beam around the edges of the space. It’s full of junk. I see big sacks of compost, plant pots, folded garden chairs and tools. None of it looks as though it’s been used in years, and part of me wonders if this is a wild goose chase, and whether Michael and Emily haven’t even set foot in this place the whole time they’ve lived here.

But I remember the shoe and the ring I discovered outside. And the brand new padlock that must have been put on the door for a reason. As I shine the beam down to the floor, I freeze. I think I’ve found that reason.

Blood.

ABOUT ‘THE NEW HOME’: Freya loves her new home on a quiet suburban street. And her beautiful neighbour Emily is everything she’s ever wanted in a best friend. Finally, she has somebody to share her secrets with over a glass of wine. But as Freya watches her new friend setting the table for dinner one evening, she sees something shocking that makes her think that Emily’s life might not be as perfect as it seems. Days later, Emily and her daughter vanish…

When you meet Emily’s husband, you will think you know what he’s hiding.

You will ask yourself whether Emily and Freya really did meet by chance.

You will think you know what happened to Emily and her little girl the night they went missing.

But when you discover the truth, it will shake you to your core and you will lie awake at night wondering if you can ever really trust the people in the house next door…

MY THOUGHTS: The New Home is a suspenseful, slightly creepy mystery that had me flipping the pages. My suspicions flitted from one character to another to yet another. I just didn’t know who, if anyone, I could trust, including the narrator, Freya.

None of the characters are particularly likeable, except Cathy, Freya’s elderly next door neighbour who appears to be in the early stages of dementia. But in amongst her ramblings, there may just be a few grains of truth.

Freya herself tends to be obsessive, which is fine in her career as a documentary maker, but it can lead to problems in her day to day life. She’s a complex character. One moment my heart would be breaking for her, the next I would be wanting to tell her to get a grip. By the way, did you know that 62% of violence against women is committed by family members or partners. If you didn’t, you certainly will by the time you get to the end of this read. Freya produces this statistic regularly, almost like a mantra.

Freya’s partner, Jack, is an overworked cardiologist, but the clinical approach he uses in his work probably isn’t the best approach to take with his fiance at home. He loves Freya, and thinks he’s doing his best for her, even after he discovers the secret she’s been hiding from him.

Michael is the missing Emily’s husband, he’s not particularly sociable, and borders on rude a lot of the time. He comes across as aggressive and uncaring. He doesn’t seem particularly concerned about her whereabouts, and neither do the police.

Although I enjoyed this book, there were a couple of things I thought could have been done better. The author hasn’t spent much time or effort establishing the friendship between Freya and Emily. We are told by Emily that they were great friends, but I didn’t feel it. At one point I wondered if this friendship was a delusion on Freya’s part, which could be a deliberate ploy by the author. I certainly didn’t feel that the friendship was close enough to account for Freya’s reaction and subsequent actions after Emily and Thea going missing.

I also found the short chapters told from the point of view of an unknown person annoying. I don’t feel that they added any value to the reading experience. Each one was essentially the same, and eventually I began skipping them. I know that this is currently a popular trope, but I have found very few novels where it has actually worked as intended. It doesn’t work here, even after the final revelation.

Chris Merritt has written a good, suspenseful mystery; one that I enjoyed.

⭐⭐⭐.8

#TheNewHome #NetGalley

I: @cjmerritt81 #chrismerritt @bookouture

T: @DrCJMerritt @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #domesticdram #mentalhealth #mystery #suspense

THE AUTHOR: Hello! I’m a British author whose crime thrillers combine psychology, suspense, and characters you care about.

All my novels are set in London, where I live. My first trilogy starred Zac Boateng and Kat Jones, two detectives motivated by family, who tackle organised crime and police corruption. LAST WITNESS, the second Boateng and Jones book, reached #13 in the UK Kindle chart in 2019.

My second series features detective Dan Lockhart – an ex-soldier with a missing wife – and psychologist Dr Lexi Green, an American living in London. These novels are darker, more psychological serial-killer cases, with romantic relationships as a central theme.

I began writing fiction in 2014, after previous careers as a diplomat, based in Iraq and Jerusalem, and later as a psychologist working with victims and perpetrators of crime. I specialised in treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which sparked my interest in telling stories about how people cope when faced with extreme adversity.

Now, I spend most of my time writing novels and drinking coffee while ‘thinking’ about writing novels. When I’m not writing, I love climbing and playing basketball.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The New Home by Chris Merritt 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 is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Affair by Hilary Boyd

EXCERPT: The silence in the car was profound, as if she’d suddenly gone deaf.

‘Are you completely out of your mind?’ she whispered, all strength gone from her body.

With a puzzled frown, he leaned over and put both his hands firmly on her crossed forearms, staring intently into her eyes. ‘You look terrified, Connie.’ He drew back a bit. ‘Oh,my God . . . you’re not worried about your husband finding out about us, are you?’ He sighed. ‘You know I’d never betray you. I will never tell a living soul what happened between us, not in a million years.’ He smiled his gentle smile. ‘I just want to be near you.’

ABOUT ‘THE AFFAIR’: Connie McCabe longs for the summer where she spends the days leading tours across the continent.

But it’s on the glamorous shores of Lake Como where she is truly swept away, when Jared, a much younger man, falls for her.

Despite resisting his advances, Connie finds that he’s got under her skin.

And so begins a long, hot, intoxicating summer where Connie succumbs to temptation – breaking her marriage vows.

At the end of the season, Connie returns home to her husband, ready to put this affair behind her.

MY THOUGHTS: Hilary Boyd writes about how easy it is to make a wrong decision when vulnerable. Decisions, actions and consequences are the theme of The Affair.

Connie is an extremely relatable character. Who amongst us has never felt unappreciated, has never wondered if their significant other may have fallen out of love, be bored by them. Who has never felt exasperated by their partner, lost patience with them? Whose marriage has never gone through a rough patch, where you seem to have lost your connection, to be moving in different directions? We’d all like to think that it would never happen to us, but chances are it has, or it will.

Devan, Connie’s husband is a retired G.P. who, now he doesn’t have a purpose in his life, is feeling lost and resentful towards his wife who continues, despite his pleas for her to retire with him, with the job she loves.

Jared is a younger man dancing attendance on his elderly godmother on one of Connie’s tours. One evening, he kisses her . . . and Connie’s life will never be the same.

The Affair is a great cautionary tale, one everyone should read, because what happens after?

Hilary Boyd has written a story that begins as a small meandering stream which gathers power and develops into a raging torrent, one that swept me off my feet.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#TheAffair #NetGalley

I: @hilaryboyd3837 @michaeljbooks

T: @HilaryBoyd @MichaelJBooks

#contemporaryfiction #domesticdrama #mentalhealth #suspense

THE AUTHOR: Boyd was born and spent the first six months of her life in Prestatyn, North Wales, where her father, an army major, was stationed after the war. She was later educated in London, then at the boarding school Roedean. She trained as a nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, and subsequently as a marriage guidance counsellor with Relate before reading English Literature at London University in her late 30s.

After college, Boyd became a health journalist, writing about depression, step-parenting and pregnancy. She began writing fiction as a hobby whilst raising three children and working at various day jobs including running a cancer charity, Survive Cancer, working for an engineering company, and an online vitamin site.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Penguin, Michael Joseph via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Affair by Hilary Boyd 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 is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Sisterhood by V.B. Grey

EXCERPT: Mum shakes her head decisively in answer to my question: there’s nothing more for me to see. Frustrated, I try another tack.

‘It’s important to Tomasz, too. He barely remembers Gosia and never knew his father, but the man who gave him the photograph when he was a teenager, said that Shona knew his father.’

She looks at me with an expression that is not encouraging.

‘I said I’d ask if you could think of anyone he might talk to.’

She pointedly turns her head to look out at the wintry garden. I keep trying.

‘The man Tomasz spoke to at the Polish Hearth Club who remembered that you were a doctor also said that Shona had a Polish boyfriend. Is that true? Did you ever meet him?’

She stands up abruptly, walks past me out of the kitchen and into the living room, slamming the door behind her.

I’m shocked by the intensity of my reaction when she does this. I’m furious. Nothing ever changes. Even if Shona’s wartime mission had to be kept secret at the time, how can it hurt to talk about it now? Why can’t Mum be happy that I want to understand her sister’s past? But she’s never let me in, never shared her feelings or admitted any frailty. She’s kept me at arms length all her life and now she’s dying, and all she can do when I try to learn more about her is slam a door against me.

ABOUT ‘SISTERHOOD’: Identical twin sisters Freya and Shona take very different paths, leading to long-buried family secrets that reverberate through the generations in this thrilling novel of psychological suspense by the author of Tell Me How It Ends. There are some choices you can’t come back from.

It is 1944 in war-battered London. Freya and Shona are identical twins, close despite their different characters. Freya is a newly qualified doctor treating the injured in an East End hospital, while Shona has been recruited by the SOE. The sisters are so physically alike that they can fool people into thinking that one is the other. It’s a game they’ve played since childhood. But when Shona persuades her twin to swap roles to meet her Polish lover, he is angered at being tricked.

Then Shona proposes a far more dangerous swapping of roles. At first Freya refuses but finally she agrees, with consequences that threaten not only the happiness but the lives of both sisters.

Forty-five years later in November 1989 Freya, now aged 69, is watching television with her daughter Kirsty. Freya is gripped as she witnesses crowds of Berliners attempting to knock down their hated Wall. This sight stirs memories of her own and her sister’s war, especially the tragedy of the Warsaw Uprising – memories that she has never shared with anyone. Even if she wanted to reveal them now, she can’t. She’s suffering from a brain tumour and is unable to speak although her reason is unimpaired. And this is what she’s thinking: if they succeed in knocking down the Wall, what secrets will come tumbling through? If her own were revealed, it would be devastating for all those close to her, especially her daughter, Kirsty.

MY THOUGHTS: I felt a personal connection with Kirsty, Freya’s daughter in this story. I know next to nothing about my mother’s life, and now it’s too late. I felt Kirsty’s anguish and frustration at constantly being pushed away.

But aside from touching me on a personal level, I enjoyed the mystery and intrigue of Sisterhood. The story is told over two timelines, from Kirsty’s point of view in 1989 as the Berlin Wall is demolished, and a stranger arrives with a photo looking for her mother Freya’s identical twin sister, Shona, who had been recruited by the SOE; and in 1944 from Freya’s point of view.

But it’s not just her mother’s ill health, and the mystery surrounding her aunt that Kirsty has to contend with. Her Australian husband Martin has been offered his dream job – in Australia.

I started to read this over my morning coffee, intending to read just a chapter or two to get a feel for the story. Instead, I read until I was finished. Yes, a one sitting read that intrigued me from the outset; one that never let me go. This is a multi-generational storyline which starts with Freya and Shona, and moves on encompass Freya’s daughter Kirsty and her family. The plot progresses at a steady pace, and is full of mystery, intrigue, and drama.

Strongly recommended for lovers of historical fiction and family dramas/mysteries.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.2

#Sisterhood #NetGalley

I: @quercusbooks

T: @IsabelleGrey @QuercusBooks

#familydrama #historicalfiction #mentalhealth #mystery #WWII

THE AUTHOR: I grew up in Manchester, England, and have an English degree from Cambridge. My first job was with a London antique dealer and I spent many years as a freelance journalist and non-fiction author (as Isabelle Anscombe) writing initially about the fascinating world of the art market and the history of decorative arts before going on to contribute features and reviews to national newspapers and magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Country Living and Psychologies. I have also written for film, television and radio drama.

I live and work in north London.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Quercus via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Sisterhood by V.B. Grey. 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 is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Mrs March by Virginia Feito

EXCERPT: When she padded back to bed, something caught her eye in the building opposite. A red light in one of the windows. She tensed, her first thought that it was a fire, but as she looked longer, she realized it was a lamp draped in cherry coloured organza, which cast a warm glow. The various other windows in building were mostly dark, some strobing with the soft pulse of a television screen.

She moved closer to her own window, her nose almost pressing against the glass. It had begun to snow. The snowflakes floated down, the ones passing by the window illuminated red for a split second, lighting up like embers before continuing their descent, the black night flickering saffron, hellish.

Her eyes went back to the glowing room. It was a bedroom, dark except for the reddish glow. After some seconds she managed to make out a woman, bent over, her back to the window. She was wearing a pink silk slip, her milky thighs on full display. Mrs March cleared her throat, then looked over her own shoulder, as if someone had caught her spying. She trained her eyes back on the woman. What was she bending over? Mrs March could see the corner of a mattress, or a couch cushion. Leaning further, she bumped her forehead against the windowpane and, as if she had heard her, the woman in the pink slip turned around.

From Mrs March’s throat issued an unwilling sound, some tortured garble between a gasp and a scream. There was blood – so much blood – soaking the front of the woman’s slip and matting her hair and staining her hands – hands now pressed against the window to form bloody prints. Mrs March pushed herself away from the window in one jerky movement, falling backward onto the bed, her book crunching underneath her spine. She failed her arms toward George’s bedside table, shaking her hands free of the numbness creeping up to her fingers. She pulled the telephone to her and crept to the window. The cord went taut, halting her movement.

She stood there, the receiver pressed to her ear – the dial tone now a harsh beeping – as she looked out across the courtyard. The red glow was gone. The woman was gone, too.

ABOUT ‘MRS MARCH’: George March’s latest novel is a smash hit. None could be prouder than Mrs. March, his dutiful wife, who revels in his accolades and relishes the lifestyle and status his success brings.

A creature of routine and decorum, Mrs. March lives an exquisitely controlled existence on the Upper East Side. Every morning begins the same way, with a visit to her favourite patisserie to buy a loaf of olive bread, but her latest trip proves to be her last when she suffers an indignity from which she may never recover: an assumption by the shopkeeper that the protagonist in George March’s new book – a pathetic sex worker, more a figure of derision than desire – is based on Mrs. March.

One casual remark robs Mrs. March not only of her beloved olive bread but of the belief that she knew everything about her husband – and herself – sending her on an increasingly paranoid journey, one that starts within the pages of a book but may very well uncover both a killer and the long-buried secrets of Mrs. March’s past.

MY THOUGHTS: Mrs March by Virginia Feito is a strangely compelling and disturbing read.

We follow the journey of Mrs March as she descends from a lifestyle of privilege and status as the wife of a successful author, into the realms of paranoia and psychosis as she comes to believe that the main character in her husband’s latest book, an ugly prostitute named Johanna, is based on her.

Mrs March is very much a character driven book, and Mrs March is very much the main character. She appears to have no friends, merely acquaintances. She is terrified of her housekeeper. She maintains a very distant relationship with her son. And even the relationship between her and her husband is very formal. We don’t even know Mrs March’s first name until the final few sentences. She is quite childlike in her inability to take care of herself and her family.

The era Mrs March is set in isn’t specified, although I would guess it to be the late 1950s or early 1960s.

The book itself is a bit of an enigma. I had questions racing through my mind all the time I was reading. Some were answered. Some weren’t. The finale is quite spectacular, and for me was totally unexpected.

This is an outstanding debut novel.

⭐⭐⭐.9

#MrsMarch #NetGalley

I: @4thestatebooks

#domesticdrama #historicalfiction #mentalhealth #mystery #psychologicalsuspense

THE AUTHOR: A native of Spain, Virginia Feito was raised in Madrid and Paris, and studied English and drama at Queen Mary University of London. She lives in Madrid, where she writes her fiction in English. (Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to 4th Estate and William Collins via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Mrs March by Virginia Feito 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 is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Rabbit Hole by Mark Billingham

EXCERPT: ‘So, what do you think happened, Al?’ L-Plate asked.

I didn’t tell her what I thought because, to be honest, I was scared as much as anything. I was excited, don’t get me wrong, all those professional instincts starting to kick in, but I was . . . wary. Right then, with a body cooling just yards away, it was no more than a feeling and I try to steer clear of those, with good reason. Eighteen months before, I’d had a feeling that the crack-head who’d invited us into his flat on the Mile End Road was harmless. If it hadn’t been for that, there wouldn’t have been any PTSD or any need for the variety of things I poured and snorted and popped into my body to numb that pain. I would not have ended up thinking that the people I loved most in the world were trying to kill me or that strangers could read my mind. I would not have hurt anyone.

ABOUT ‘RABBIT HOLE’: Alice Armitage is a police officer. Or she was.

Or perhaps she just imagines she was.

Whatever the truth is, following a debilitating bout of PTSD, self-medication with drink and drugs, and a psychotic breakdown, Alice is now a long-term patient in an acute psychiatric ward.

When one of her fellow patients is murdered, Alice becomes convinced that she has identified the killer and that she can catch them. Ignored by the police, she begins her own investigation. But when her prime suspect becomes the second victim, Alice’s life begins to unravel still further as she realizes that she cannot trust anyone, least of all herself.

MY THOUGHTS: Mark Billingham is an amazing author. His depiction of Alice Armitage is brilliant, his forays into her mind, scary.

Reading Rabbit Hole was a nostalgic experience for me. It reawakened a lot of memories of patients and incidents from my psychiatric nursing days, some amusing, some not. Billingham has done his research well.

I particularly loved his reference to ‘the seven dwarves of lunacy’ – Angry, Jumpy, Nervy, are the three he named, but let me add Twitchy, Dopey, Spacey, and Deluded to his list. He definitely hasn’t lost his trademark sense of humour, e.g. the Detective Constables who, when she can’t recall their names, Alice dubs French and Saunders. In fact, in Rabbit Hole, Billingham has been able to give his sense of humour free reign. He certainly got plenty of chuckles out of me! Neither do I think naming his main character Alice was a random inclination.

He also has a lot of fun with the nicknames that Alice gives her fellow patients, and I apprecited the run down we got on both them and the staff who care for them.

Billingham uses first person narrative to tell this story. Everything you see, you see from Alice’s perspective. So we are privy to all Alice’s erratic and, at times, manic thoughts, as well as her flashes of lucidity. But, just like Alice, we don’t know what happens when she has her blackouts, or even that they are occurring, which makes for very interesting reading.

Please don’t go into Rabbit Hole expecting a Tom Thorne thriller/police procedural. You will be disappointed. Instead, go into Rabbit Hole with an open mind and be prepared to enjoy a ‘locked room’ murder-mystery set in a (supposedly) secure acute psychiatric ward told from the not always reliable point of view of one of the patients. I had a ball with this read, and I hope that you do too.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#RabbitHole #NetGalley

I: #markbillingham @groveatlantic

T: @MarkBillingham @groveatlantic

#contemporaryfiction #crime #mentalhealth #murdermystery

THE AUTHOR: Mark Billingham was born and brought up in Birmingham. Having worked for some years as an actor and more recently as a TV writer and stand-up comedian his first crime novel was published in 2001. Mark lives in North London with his wife and two children.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Grove Atlantic via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Rabbit Hole by Mark Billingham 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 will also be published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

I tried to take Luke to the library to borrow some books a couple of weeks ago, but he told me he wanted to keep the books forever, so we didn’t go. I had a book to return yesterday, so I took him with me and he brought 4 books home, and suddenly it’s a really good idea to borrow books then take them back and swap them for new ones. These were his selections:

Currently I am reading and loving Rabbit Hole by Mark Billingham. I can see myself reading late into the night tonight despite having an early start tomorrow so that I can get done what I need to before going for my Covid vaccination.

I am also reading A Vineyard Crossing by Jean Stone, a new author for me. I have to admit it was the cover that first attracted me. I just wanted to plonk myself down on the sand and soak up the view. The Adirondack chair? Am I the only person earth who finds these uncomfortable? It probably has something to do with my short legs…. But however I came select this, I am enjoying this warm, gentle read.

I am not currently listening to an audiobook, but I have All the Little Hopes by Leah Weiss ready to go.

Deep in the tobacco land of North Carolina, nothing’s the same since the boys shipped off to war and worry took their place. Thirteen-year-old Lucy Brown is curious and clever, but she can’t make sense of it all. Then Allie Bert Tucker comes to town, an outcast with a complicated past, and Lucy believes that together they can solve crimes. Just like her hero, Nancy Drew.

That chance comes when a man goes missing, a woman stops speaking, and an eccentric gives the girls a mystery that takes them beyond the ordinary. Their quiet town, seasoned with honeybees and sweet tea, becomes home to a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp—and more men go missing. The pair set out to answer the big question: do we ever really know who the enemy is?

This week I am planning on reading Stolen by Tess Stimson

You thought she was safe. You were wrong…

Alex knows her daughter would never wander off in a strange place. So when her three-year-old vanishes from an idyllic beach wedding, Alex immediately believes the worast.

The hunt for Lottie quickly becomes a world-wide search, but it’s not long before suspicion falls on her mother. Why wasn’t she watching Lottie?

Alex knows she’s not perfect, but she loves her child. And with all eyes on her, Alex fears they’ll never uncover the truth unless she takes matters into her own hands.

Who took Lottie Martini? And will she ever come home?

And The Noise by James Patterson and J.D. Barker

If you hear it, it’s too late. Can two sisters save us all?

In the shadow of Mount Hood, sixteen-year-old Tennant is checking rabbit traps with her eight-year-old sister Sophie when the girls are suddenly overcome by a strange vibration rising out of the forest, building in intensity until it sounds like a deafening crescendo of screams. From out of nowhere, their father sweeps them up and drops them through a trapdoor into a storm cellar. But the sound only gets worse .

I received 8 new ARCs this week 🤦‍♀️

Lil’s Bus Trip by Judy Leigh – I was excited by this as I have been requesting this author for some time, and this is my first approval.

The Sunshine Club by Carolyn Brown

Darkness Falls by David Mark

The Midnight Hour by Elly Griffiths

Plus Cause of Death by Jeffery Deaver. This is an excellent novella which I read last night. Watch for my review later this week.

The Noise by James Patterson and J.D. Barker which I am reading this week

A Vineyard Crossing by Jean Stone, which I am currently reading

And the audiobook All the Little Hopes by Leah Weiss, which I will start tomorrow.

I have travelled mainly in USA this week, Atlanta, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; Porto Rico; Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts; Martinsville County, also Massachusetts; with side trips to Porthteal,Cornwall; and Hendon, a suburb of London. Where have you travelled this week?

Have you read any of the books I have coming up, or are they on your TBR? Or have I tempted you to add them to your TBR?

Have a wonderful week. Stay safe and keep on reading!❤📚

A Mother’s Lie by Leah Mercer

EXCERPT: Ali reached into the bag and pulled out a tiny onesie in a soft, buttery yellow. Her heart shifted, and she met Meg’s eyes. Meg was watching her with a smile. ‘I know,’ she said quietly. ‘It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? That the baby inside of you now, will one day – soon! – be in your arms.’ She reached out to touch Ali’s arm. ‘You’ll be her mother, her whole world. You’ll do anything for her.’ She smiled. ‘It’s wonderful, really.’

Ali nodded again, a moment of understanding swirling around them. Meg was right. Ali would do anything to keep her baby safe, away from anyone who might harm her. Wasn’t that the very reason she’d come here? In the midst of this turmoil, her daughter was the most important thing. This pregnancy was special, and no one should ruin that – nothing should ruin that. If Ali focused solely on her baby, she didn’t have to let even one day be darkened by fear or uncertainty.

‘Thank you,’ she said, then turned and went into the night, clutching the yellow onesie like a guiding light.

ABOUT ‘A MOTHER’S LIE’: My darling child… all I’ve ever yearned for. But how do I keep you safe?

When Ali retreats to her seaside cottage, all she wants is to be alone. To reconnect with a place that has always felt like home until her baby is born.

But then her life collides with the people living in the house next door, Michael and Meg, and she is immediately welcomed into their perfect life with their beautiful baby Jem. As they help her prepare for her own arrival, Ali knows she has made the right choice for her baby in returning to Seashine Cottage.

When Michael leaves suddenly for a work trip, and Meg impulsively invites Ali to move in, it becomes clear things aren’t as perfect as they first seemed.

Meg is holding on to a dark secret. And as her behaviour becomes ever more erratic – leaning on Ali for increasing amounts of help – while Michael shows no signs of returning, Ali begins to worry.

Does she need to protect herself and her unborn child from the new friend she thought would help keep her safe? And what about her own devastating secret… the one she’s been running from?

This book was previously titled ‘Safe From Harm’.

MY THOUGHTS: It took me a week to read A Mother’s Lie by Leah Mercer. I found it difficult to relate to the characters of Ali and Meg, even after the revelations. Ali’s and Meg’s stories were dramatic, but almost soap-operaish.

The most interesting facet of this book for me was Violet’s story, which both intrigued me, and broke my heart. Violet seemed very real to me, more so than Meg or Ali.

The story is told over two timelines: in the present by Ali, and 2018 from Violet’s perspective, her past being recalled in memories.

I’m sorry I didn’t like A Mother’s Lie so much, particularly as I loved Leah Mercer’s last offering, Ten Little Words.

I don’t recommend reading this book if you are pregnant.

⭐⭐.7

#AMothersLie #NetGalley

I: @leahmercerauthor @bookouture

T: @LeahMercerBooks @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama #domesticdrama #mentalhealth

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leah can’t remember a time when she didn’t love writing. From creating fake newspapers to writing letters to the editor, scribbling something was always on the agenda. Even the rejections she received after completing her first novel at age 13 didn’t dent her enthusiasm.

So it makes sense, then, that she pursued a career in anything but writing. Public relations, teaching, recruitment, editing medical journals — even a stint painting houses — until she finally succumbed once more to the lure of the blank page.

When she’s not being jumped on by her young son or burning supper while thinking of plot-lines, Leah can be found furiously tapping away on her laptop, trying not to check Twitter or Facebook.

Leah also writes romantic comedies under the name Talli Roland.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Mother’s Lie by Leah 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

Geraldine Verne’s Red Suitcase by Jane Riley

EXCERPT: I stared at the clock on the wall. It said one-thirty, but surely it wasn’t the afternoon already.

I sunk further into the sagging back of the chair. I felt small and sad and very sorry for myself. Things that had previously consoled or even gladdened me were no longer doing the trick. I felt out of kilter, like a crooked painting on the wall, or a cheese straw without paprika. A house with no windows. A dog with one ear. I could go on. I could go to the library and look up section 400-499 English Language to find the perfect metaphor, but would it actually fix anything? I glanced at the clock again. It was still one-thirty. Had the clock stopped? Who knew? All I did know was that I was frozen in time, shackled to my self-pity, my grief, my fears. I was like the ‘i’ in the middle of my name, trapped between other letters, unable to break free. I wanted to be alone, yet I was lonely. I wanted to stay home, yet I felt isolated. I wanted to be with my husband, but he was dead. Tears sprung forth as if I was chopping onions, and my heart flapped so vigorously that, had it been windy outside with no roof over the house, I may have taken off. I couldn’t bear the sight of the clock looming over me, reminding me of my fate, any longer.

With a surge of adrenalin and rage, I exploded from the armchair, my focus solely on pulling the wooden-framed clock with its black numbers and unmoving hands off the wall. I saw nothing else, not even Jack. I should have, because there he was, in the way. My foot clipped the underside of the suitcase and got stuck. I upended the wheels, lost my balance, and floundered. A flaying arm knocked the christmas tree, the suitcase handle right-jabbed my chin and I fell as if in slow motion, landing with a thud on the living room floor, two suitcase wheels and five christmas tree branches needling me in the back. My right ankle was at a wrong angle and my left wrist in pain. And it was still one-thirty.

ABOUT ‘GERALDINE VERNE’S RED SUITCASE’: Jack had two dying wishes: that his wife scatter his ashes somewhere ‘exotic’, and that she not give up on life once he was gone. He intended to spur her on to new adventures, but despite clinging to her red suitcase, Geraldine Verne hasn’t left the house for three months.

It takes an accident for Geri to accept help from her friends, but when Meals on Wheels arrive she is mortified. Yet heartbroken volunteer Lottie brings with her more than cottage pie and custard. Like Geri, she too is struggling to cut loose.

As a gloriously unlikely friendship blossoms, Geraldine begins to feel a long-lost spark of life and a newfound confidence. Perhaps what both women needed most, after all, was each other.

MY THOUGHTS: I loved this book. I loved Geraldine. I loved Lottie. I enjoyed every tear I shed as I was reading, and every laugh that escaped my lips. And there was plenty of both. I even loved the chapter titles: 306.7 Love; Apple Crumble Days; Toilet Paper; Whisky and Cake . . .

Divided into four parts, the story is told entirely from the perspective of Geri (Geraldine), mostly in a linear timeline with occasional flashbacks in the form of memories. It is a story of grief, the grief of a woman who has lost the love of her life after more than 50 years together. Geraldine describes their relationship as being like a pair of shoes, one left, one right. They were not the same but complemented one another, they worked well together. But now that she is only one shoe . . . well, you see her problem.

She thinks that if she just pretends he’s still there, and he is, then everything will be all right. She still makes him cups of tea, puts out biscuits for him, dances with him. And if she can shut out the world that is going to remind her that he’s not there, all the better. But the world has other plans for Geri, as did ‘Jackie-Boy’.

Geri is one stubborn lady. I have to admit to seeing more than a little of myself in her. I loved her kind heart, her sense of humor. I loved her devotion to Jack. I loved Jack.

Even the supporting characters are ‘characters’. I am sure that we all know a Len, a Crystal and a Sue.

The first part of this book is sad. I cried a lot, and laughed a little. The second part I laughed a lot and cried a little. Parts three and four are mostly humorous, heartwarming and just occasionally sad.

This is the second book by this author, but the first that I have read. I will be seeking out her first.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#GeraldineVernesRedSuitcase #NetGalley

I: #JaneRiley #AmazonPublishingUK

T: @JaneRileyAuthor

#australianfiction #contemporaryfiction #mentalhealth #mystery #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Hi, I’m Jane Riley!

I was born and raised in New Zealand. After graduating from Auckland University with a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in French and English literature, I headed to Europe to practise my French, got waylaid in Germany and ended up in Australia.

I have had a varied career in public relations, publishing, freelancing as a writer and editor, and launching an online e-commerce business, which involved writing a design blog interviewing makers and creators. When The Likely Resolutions of Oliver Clock was published, I achieved my dream of becoming a full-time author.

I live in Sydney with my husband, an energetic but scared-of-heights Australian cattle dog-staffy cross, and two daughters old enough to not be living at home anymore. I volunteer as an English language tutor for the Adult Migrant English Program, am learning the piano and teaching myself Italian.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Amazon Publishing UK for providing a digital ARC of Geraldine Verne’s Red Suitcase by Jane Riley 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

The Vacation by John Marrs

EXCERPT: ‘So you are never curious how Joe’s life became such a waste?’
‘Who are you to judge him? Just because he hasn’t got what you have doesn’t mean he’s wasted it.’
‘He’s got no money, no home, no family . . . Nobody deserves that.’
‘But a man can live without all those things. And you have more in common with him than you think.’
‘Please enlighten me, oh divine oracle.’
‘Neither of you has any freedom.’
‘Well that’s crap. I may not have much money but I’m not a slave to my next fix.’
But you’re not free from the limits you set yourself either. You’re one of the most uptight, frightened little shits I’ve ever met. You went travelling to escape something – that’s clear – then you separate from your friend and you end up here where you hide in the margins, never in the middle of the page. You’re too scared to embrace freedom . . . you’re like a fish in a bowl looking out towards the ocean but too gutless to make the jump.’

ABOUT ‘THE VACATION’: How far would you run to escape your past?

Venice Beach, Los Angeles. A paradise on earth.

Tourists flock to the golden coast and the promise of Hollywood.

But for eight strangers at a beach front hostel, there is far more on their mind than an extended vacation.

All of them are running from something. And they all have secrets they’d kill to keep…

MY THOUGHTS: I never did the backpacker experience when I left school. It wasn’t much done back then, so I enjoyed this experience. I like stories where a disparate group of people are thrown together. I enjoy the dynamics of them all getting to know one another.

In The Vacation we are introduced to eight characters who are staying at the same hostel in Venice Beach. Their stories move between the current time and the past, as the reasons behind their travels are slowly revealed. It is all a bit disjointed in the beginning, and it doesn’t really come together cohesively until two thirds of the way through the book when things begin to get really interesting. So be patient.

The characters, although all running from their pasts for various reasons, are all very different and easily distinguishable. It really is no mean feat to be able to tie together this number of threads without it becoming confusing, but John Marrs succeeds admirably.

There were a few things that initially puzzled me, but the author ties everything up before the ending. There are plenty of twists and turns, especially in one of the threads. Every time I thought I had that storyline figured out, Marr would double back on himself and disrupt my theories.

While The Vacation is not the best book I have read by this author, it is entertaining and enjoyable.

⭐⭐⭐.8

#TheVacation #NetGalley

I: @johnmarrs.author @panmacmillan

T: @johnmarrs1 @PanMacmillan

#contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama #mystery

‘…trying to second-guess a crystal meth addict was as pointless as giving a dog a Rubik’s cube.’

THE AUTHOR: After working as a journalist for 25-years interviewing celebrities from the world of television, film and music for national newspapers and magazines, John Marrs is now a full-time writer.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Pan Macmillan via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Vacation by John Marrs 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 and Goodreads.com