The Couple in the Cabin by Daniel Hurst

EXCERPT: The cabin looked like a warzone. Something truly terrible had happened in there. And it was up to the police to figure it all out.

Sure, the cabin at the bottom of the garden might have been a good idea at one time.

But in the end, it became nothing more than a crime scene.

And worse than that, it became the place where Grace and Dominic really learnt the truth about one another.

ABOUT ‘THE COUPLE IN THE CABIN’: When happily married Grace comes home early one night and catches her husband, Dominic, with another woman in the cabin at the bottom of their garden, she is shocked, angry, and most of all, hell-bent on revenge. That’s why she acts quickly, locking the pair in the cabin while she decides what she wants to do to them.

While Dominic and his mistress desperately try to get free, Grace makes a plan on the outside, but it’s a plan that is formed based on her previous experiences. That’s because this might not be the first time Grace has done something like this…

Who is the real villain? The cheating husband? Or the vengeful wife?

MY THOUGHTS: They say revenge is a dish best eaten cold. Grace has absolutely no intention of letting her desire for revenge go cold. People she loves shouldn’t hurt her, should they? And if they do? Then they deserve everything they get.

Crazy fun is the best description I can come up with for The Couple in the Cabin by Daniel Hurst. This is one of those books where it is best to go in cold, and just enjoy the ride.

Told from multiple perspectives – mainly Grace’s and Dominic’s – and over multiple timelines, we learn what has happened in Grace’s past that made her into the person she is today. While I was outwardly appalled at her actions, some little inner part of me was cheering her on.

The Couple in the Cabin is a quick, fast-paced read that appalled and enthralled me. But there was one set of circumstances that really did not sit well with me – (view spoiler) – and kept this from being a five star read.

I listened to the audiobook of The Couple in the Cabin, superbly narrated by Eilidh Beaton and Matt Bates.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#TheCoupleintheCabin #NetGalley

I: @danielhurstbooks @bookouture

T: @dhurstbooks @Bookouture

THE AUTHOR: Writer/wanderer.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture Audio via NetGalley for providing an audio ARC of The Couple in the Cabin, written by Daniel Hurst and narrated by Eilidh Beaton and Matt Bates, for review. All opinions expressed in the review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

This review is also posted on Twitter, Instagram, Amazon and Goodreads.com

The Dark Room by Lisa Gray

EXCERPT: In the more than two years since Angela, his finds had ranged from complete garbage to pretty fascinating. The latter were the ones that made it onto the bedroom wall. There had never once been anything even close to illegal in what he’d picked up from e-Bay, estate sales and flea markets.

Anything could be on those rolls.

Even so, Leonard knew he was wise to take precautions; that there was a chance he could come across a roll of film one day that contained something so damaging, so shocking and horrifying that the police would be called, no doubt about it, if anyone other than Leonard was responsible for developing it.

Today was that day.

ABOUT ‘THE DARK ROOM’: Ex–crime reporter Leonard Blaylock spends his days on an unusual hobby, developing forgotten and discarded rolls of film. He loves the small mysteries the photographs reveal to him. Then Leonard finds something no one would ever expect, or want, to see captured on film—the murder of a young woman.

But that’s impossible, because the woman is already dead. Leonard was there when it happened five years earlier.

He has never been able to shake his guilt from that terrible night. It cost Leonard everything: his career, his fiancée, his future. But if the woman didn’t really die, then what actually happened?

MY THOUGHTS: The Dark Room by Lisa Gray is a book best gone into cold. For that reason I am not going to expand on the plot whatsoever, other than to say that it’s clever. Very clever. And I loved it.

This is an intense slow burn psychological drama with some great twists. The Dark Room is the second book that I have read this week that is reminiscent of the detective/crime pulp fiction that my dad used to read, and I used to surreptitiously sneak from his bedside table when he wasn’t home. There are a few cracking one liners, sleezy bars, and a beautiful woman with ‘legs longer than a ten year stretch in Sing-Sing’. I have a real appreciation for those early crime novels.

The main character, Leonard, is a reporter rather than a detective. There are conniving, manipulative characters: a private investigator/photographer who sets up ‘honeytraps’ for people who suspect their spouses of cheating; a woman who will do whatever it takes to get to where she wants to be; and another who is only to happy to help other women to get real revenge following her own betrayal.

I was intrigued by the premise that some people actually go around buying up old undeveloped rolls of film, and develop them. It is something that never would have occurred to me, but now, I’m tempted.

The characters are not particularly likeable, except for maybe Martha, but even she surprised me in the end.

I liked the twisted sort of justice that is delivered. Unconventional, twisted, yet somewhat satisfying.

And I loved the final words in the book: ‘Just in case’. Which, to me, indicates that nothing is ever really over.

A one sitting read for me.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#TheDarkRoom #NetGalley

I: @lisagraywriter @amazonpublishing

T: @lisagraywriter @amazonpub

#contemporaryfiction #crime #murdermystery #psychologicaldrama #romance #suspense #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Lisa Gray decided at a young age that she wanted to write features for magazines and somehow ended up working as a football journalist for almost 20 years instead. She now writes novels full-time.

An avid reader, she was hooked on Sweet Valley High and Point Horror books as a youngster, before turning to crime.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Amazon Publishing UK, Thomas & Mercer, via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Dark Room by Lisa Gray 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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Welcome to a wet and windy New Zealand Sunday afternoon. The wind howling around the house, the heavy rain and the thunder and lightning kept me awake last night. Today is a lot calmer, I’m pleased to say.

Unusually for me, I am not currently reading anything! Sorry, should I have warned you to be sitting safely down before I made that statement? But be reassured, it’s not as bad as it sounds. I finished reading two books this morning: The novella Foster by Claire Keegan

A small girl is sent to live with foster parents on a farm in rural Ireland, without knowing when she will return home. In the strangers’ house, she finds a warmth and affection she has not known before and slowly begins to blossom in their care. And then a secret is revealed and suddenly, she realizes how fragile her idyll is.

The Plot Thickets by Julia Henry, A Garden Squad Mystery #5

Ever the quintessential New England town, Goosebush, Massachusetts, truly shines in springtime, but when an underhanded undertaker digs herself an early grave, only Lilly Jayne and her Garden Squad can unearth the cryptic killer . . .

With spring’s arrival in Goosebush, Lilly and the Beautification Committee turn their eyes to new projects. A cleanup of the historic Goosebush Cemetery may be in order, after Lilly and Delia find the plots there sorely neglected and inexplicably rearranged. Lilly soon discovers that Whitney Dunne-Bradford snapped up custodianship of the graveyard once she inherited Bradford Funeral Homes. But before Lilly can get to the bottom of the tombstone tampering, she stumbles upon Whitney’s body at the Jayne family mausoleum . . .

Though at first it appears Whitney died by suicide, Lilly has doubts, and apparently, so does Chief of Police Bash Haywood, who quickly opens a murder investigation. Plenty of folks in town had bones to pick with Whitney, including her stepdaughter, Sasha, and funeral home employee, Dewey Marsh–all three recently charged with illegal business practices. But when the homicide inquiry suddenly targets an old friend, Lilly and the Garden Squad must rally to exhume the truth before the real killer buries it forever . . . 

I have written reviews for both of these, and I also finished listening to The Tilt by Chris Hammer, but am still to write my review on this Australian crime thriller.

A man runs for his life in a forest.
A woman plans sabotage.
A body is unearthed.

Newly-minted homicide detective Nell Buchanan returns to her home town, annoyed at being assigned a decades-old murder – a ‘file and forget’.

But this is no ordinary cold case, as the discovery of more bodies triggers a chain of escalating events in the present day. As Nell starts to join the pieces together, she begins to question how well she truly knows those closest to her. Could her own family be implicated in the crimes?

The nearer Nell comes to uncovering the secrets of the past, the more dangerous the present becomes for her, as she battles shadowy assailants and sinister forces. Can she survive this harrowing investigation and what price will she have to pay for the truth?

I actually read all the books that I had planned to read for the week (1 dnf) , a definite bonus of having a chest infection.

I have loaded Day’s End by Garry Disher, #4 in the Paul Hirschausen series, to start reading when I have finished this post.

Hirsch’s rural beat is wide. Daybreak to day’s end, dirt roads and dust. Every problem that besets small towns and isolated properties, from unlicensed driving to arson. In the time of the virus, Hirsch is seeing stresses heightened and social divisions cracking wide open. His own tolerance under strain; people getting close to the edge.

Today he’s driving an international visitor around: Janne Van Sant, whose backpacker son went missing while the borders were closed. They’re checking out his last photo site, his last employer. A feeling that the stories don’t quite add up.

Then a call comes in: a roadside fire. Nothing much—a suitcase soaked in diesel and set alight. But two noteworthy facts emerge. Janne knows more than Hirsch about forensic evidence. And the body in the suitcase is not her son’s.

I have also loaded The Work Wives by Rachel Johns to start.

For work wives Debra and Quinn, it’s a case of opposites attract. They are each other’s lifelines as they navigate office politics and jobs that pay the bills but don’t inspire them.

Outside work, they are also friends, but where Quinn is addicted to dating apps and desperate to find love, Deb has sworn off men. Although Deb is not close to her own mother, her teenage daughter is her life and there’s nothing she wouldn’t do to protect her. But Ramona has other ideas and is beginning to push boundaries.

Life becomes even more complicated by the arrival of a new man at the office. One woman is attracted to him, while the other hoped she’d never meet him again.

But when Deb, Quinn and Ramona are forced to choose between friends, love and family, the ramifications run deeper than they could ever have expected.

And No Strangers Here (County Kerry Mystery #1) written by Carlene O’Connor, and narrated by Emily O’Mahony, to listen to.

On a rocky beach in the southwest of Ireland, the body of Jimmy O’Reilly, sixty-nine years old and dressed in a suit and his dancing shoes, is propped on a boulder, staring sightlessly out to sea. A cryptic message is spelled out next to the body with sixty-nine polished black stones and a discarded vial of deadly veterinarian medication lies nearby. Jimmy was a wealthy racehorse owner, known far and wide as The Dancing Man. In a town like Dingle, everyone knows a little something about everyone else. But dig a bit deeper, and there’s always much more to find. And when Detective Inspector Cormac O’Brien is dispatched out of Killarney to lead the murder inquiry, he’s determined to unearth every last buried secret.

Dimpna Wilde hasn’t been home in years. As picturesque as Dingle may be for tourists in search of their roots and the perfect jumper, to her it means family drama and personal complications. In fairness, Dublin hasn’t worked out quite as she hoped either. Faced with a triple bombshell—her mother rumored to be in a relationship with Jimmy, her father’s dementia is escalating, and her brother is avoiding her calls—Dimpna moves back to clear her family of suspicion.

Despite plenty of other suspects, the guards are crawling over the Wildes. But the horse business can be a brutal one, and as Dimpna becomes more involved with her old acquaintances and haunts, the depth of lingering grudges becomes clear. Theft, extortion, jealousy and greed. As Dimpna takes over the family practice, she’s in a race with the detective inspector to uncover the dark, twisting truth, no matter how close to home it strikes . . .

Other books that I have to read for review this week are: Auld Acquaintance by Sofia Slater

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

And never brought to mind?

Millie Partridge desperately needs a party. So, when her (handsome and charming) ex-colleague Nick invites her to a Hebridean Island for New Year’s Eve, she books her ticket North.

But things go wrong the moment the ferry drops her off. The stately home is more down at heel than Downton Abbey. Nick hasn’t arrived yet. And the other revellers? Politely, they aren’t exactly who she would have pictured Nick would be friends with.

Worse still, an old acquaintance from Millie’s past has been invited, too. Penny Maybury. Millie and Nick’s old colleague. Somebody Millie would rather have forgotten about. Somebody, in fact, that Millie has been trying very hard to forget.

Waking up on New Year’s Eve, Penny is missing. A tragic accident? Or something more sinister? With a storm washing in from the Atlantic, nobody will be able reach the group before they find out.

One thing is for sure – they’re going to see in the new year with a bang.

The Next Best Day by Sharon Sala

A fresh start for a young teacher to build the life she’s dreamt of
A second chance at romance for a single dad
The warm and uplifting small-town community cheering them on

After two back-to-back life-changing events, first grade teacher Katie McGrath left Albuquerque for a fresh start in Borden’s Gap, Tennessee. She is finally back in the classroom where she belongs, but it will take a little while for her to heal and feel truly like herself. She’ll need to dig deep to find the courage it takes to try again—in life and in love—but with some help from her neighbor Sam Youngblood and his adorable daughters who bring her out of her shell, her future is looking brighter than she dared imagine. 

A Body at Lavender Cottage, (A Kate Palmer mystery #6) by Dee MacDonald

Nurse Kate Palmer is Cornwall’s answer to Miss Marple! But when a body turns up in her own garden can Kate solve the crime? Or is the murder a bit too close to home?

Kate Palmer is stunned when she wakes up one morning to discover the body of a man in the beautiful garden of Lavender Cottage. She’s spent the last few years renovating her cozy, clifftop cottage with its gorgeous views of the sparkling Cornish sea. And a death right under her nose is more than a little unsettling…

When Woody Forrest, Kate’s new husband and the village’s retired detective inspector, takes a closer look he realises the victim is none other than Frank Ford – Woody’s old nemesis. Now, Frank is lying dead amongst the daisies… strangled with Woody’s blue police tie.

Kate is certain the man she loves is not a murderer and is determined to prove his innocence. But who would want to kill Frank and frame Woody? As Kate investigates, Frank’s family seem to be the obvious suspects. Could it be Jason Ford, the youngest son, who has an odd obsession with birdwatching? Sid Kinsella, the angry father-in-law? Or Sharon Mason, the troublesome daughter?

When another member of the Ford family bites the dust while Woody is tending his allotment, it’s clear the killer is determined to bury Woody’s reputation. But when a chance conversation on Bluebell Road provides Kate with a clue, she must find a woman named Rose, who could hold the answers Kate is looking for.

But Kate needs to dig up the truth – and fast! – before poor Woody is thrown behind bars. Can she solve the case and save her husband before it’s too late?

I received six new ARCs from Netgalley this week, including the audio of No Strangers Here. They are: Devil’s Way by Robert Bryndza

Those Empty Eyes by Charlie Donlea

On Spine of Death by Tamara Berry

Tell Me Lies by Teresa Driscoll

And the audiobook, The Couple in the Cabin, written by Daniel Hurst and narrated by Eilidh Beaton and Matt Bates

Do you have any of these on your tbr shelf?

Before I go, does anyone have a nice, tasty pumpkin pie recipe that they don’t mind sharing? I love pumpkin pie, but there are so many recipes out there it’s mind boggling!

Have a great weekend.

Watching what I’m reading . . .

This will be a short post today as I am laid low with ‘flu and can’t concentrate for long.

Currently I am reading The Glass House by Brooke Dunnell, due for publication 01 November.

Julia Lambett heads across the country to her hometown where she’s been given the job of moving her recalcitrant father out of his home and into care. But when Julia arrives at the 1970s suburban palace of her childhood, she finds her father has adopted a mysterious dog and refuses to leave.

Frustrated and alone, when a childhood friend crosses her path, Julia turns to Davina for comfort and support. But quite soon Julia begins to doubt Davina’s motivations. Why is Davina taking a determined interest in all the things that Julia hoped she had left behind? Soon Julia starts having troubling dreams, and with four decades of possessions to be managed and dispersed, she uncovers long-forgotten, deeply unsettling memories. 

A Fearsome Moonlight Black by David Putnam

Dave Beckett is a wide-eyed young man when he joins the police department in a small town in Southern California. His naivete allows him to believe in his world, a vision where the cops are the good guys championing the rights of the wronged. He learns quickly that crime is not black and white, and the bad guys aren’t always the ones committing the crimes. This is the story of a victim turned predator, a young man who grows up too fast and becomes an apt pupil in the pursuit of criminals on both sides of the fence. 

And listening to The Tilt by Chris Hammer

A man runs for his life in a forest.
A woman plans sabotage.
A body is unearthed.

Newly-minted homicide detective Nell Buchanan returns to her home town, annoyed at being assigned a decades-old murder – a ‘file and forget’.

But this is no ordinary cold case, as the discovery of more bodies triggers a chain of escalating events in the present day. As Nell starts to join the pieces together, she begins to question how well she truly knows those closest to her. Could her own family be implicated in the crimes?

The nearer Nell comes to uncovering the secrets of the past, the more dangerous the present becomes for her, as she battles shadowy assailants and sinister forces. Can she survive this harrowing investigation and what price will she have to pay for the truth?

This coming week I have six books to read for review. They are:

The Missing by Lisa Childs

Drawn to the former Bainesworth Manor in the wake of a murder, reporter Edie Stone wants answers. It’s been over forty years since the psychiatric hospital on Bane Island shut down, and the mystery of women vanishing there remains unsolved. But the exclusive retreat isn’t just protected by the dark pine forests and crashing waves of Maine’s rocky coast—it’s surrounded with silence. Everyone on the island is keeping secrets.

Especially the Dr. Elijah Cooke, grandson of the man who headed Bainesworth Manor and the psychiatrist-proprietor of a new wellness resort on the same premises. His desire to help people seems at war with his fierce loyalty to his family. He’s sure the world is out to get him. And as the accidents and coincidences pile up, Edie becomes convinced someone is trying to kill them both. But if she’s close enough to be a threat, she must be close to the truth . . . 

The Dark Room by Lisa Gray

Ex–crime reporter Leonard Blaylock spends his days on an unusual hobby, developing forgotten and discarded rolls of film. He loves the small mysteries the photographs reveal to him. Then Leonard finds something no one would ever expect, or want, to see captured on film—the murder of a young woman.

But that’s impossible, because the woman is already dead. Leonard was there when it happened five years earlier.

He has never been able to shake his guilt from that terrible night. It cost Leonard everything: his career, his fiancée, his future. But if the woman didn’t really die, then what actually happened? 

The Plot Thickets by Julia Henry (A Garden Squad Mystery #5)

With spring’s arrival in Goosebush, Lilly and the Beautification Committee turn their eyes to new projects. A cleanup of the historic Goosebush Cemetery may be in order, after Lilly and Delia find the plots there sorely neglected and inexplicably rearranged. Lilly soon discovers that Whitney Dunne-Bradford snapped up custodianship of the graveyard once she inherited Bradford Funeral Homes. But before Lilly can get to the bottom of the tombstone tampering, she stumbles upon Whitney’s body at the Jayne family mausoleum . . .

Though at first it appears Whitney died by suicide, Lilly has doubts, and apparently, so does Chief of Police Bash Haywood, who quickly opens a murder investigation. Plenty of folks in town had bones to pick with Whitney, including her stepdaughter, Sasha, and funeral home employee, Dewey Marsh–all three recently charged with illegal business practices. But when the homicide inquiry suddenly targets an old friend, Lilly and the Garden Squad must rally to exhume the truth before the real killer buries it forever . . .

The Locked Attic by B.P. Walter

There’s something in my neighbour’s attic.

Something steeped in shadows. A secret to everyone. Seen by no one…

He stands sometimes at the window. Hidden in the corner of my eye.

I know he’s there. I know he’s watching.

Now my son is dead. My neighbour is not.

And I’m going to find out why.

Silent Victim (DCI Matilda Darke #10) by Michael Wood

A CENSURED DETECTIVE WITH NO LEADS

DCI Matilda Darke and her team have been restricted under special measures after a series of calamitous scandals nearly brought down the South Yorkshire police force.

A BRUTAL ATTACK WITH NO WITNESSES

Now Matilda is on the trail of another murderer, an expert in avoiding detection with no obvious motive but one obvious method.

A DEPRAVED KILLER WHO LEAVES NO TRACES

When his latest victim survives the attack despite her vocal cords being severed, Matilda is more convinced than ever of the guilt of her key suspect. If only she had a way to prove it… 

Retribution by Sarah Barrie

Ace hacker, ex-prostitute, Jack Daniels drinker and part-time vigilante Lexi Winter returns, now working with the police – mostly – with a new enemy in the target and an old foe at the back of her mind.

Most probationary constables would baulk at chasing a drug dealer into a train tunnel in the dead of night. Not Lexi Winter. She emerges injured but alive, to face the wrath of her boss. Lexi may now be in uniform, but she has as much trouble with authority as ever, and is quietly using her hacking skills to investigate a notorious drug-dealing Sydney crime family with links to her old prey, the paedophile Damon Vaughn.

Meanwhile, Detective Sergeant Finn Carson investigates a death on a Sydney building site … which oddly enough, leads him to the picturesque Wondabyne station on the Hawkesbury River, and Inspector Rachael Langley oversees an investigation that could tie it all together. Lexi holds the key … if only she’ll toe the line …

I received only one ARC via Netgalley this past week – have they put me on drip-feed or something? It is Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six by Lisa Unger

Have a wonderful weekend. I’m going back to sleep. 🤒😷😴

On A Quiet Street by Seraphina Nova Glass

EXCERPT: I can’t imagine being inside my house all day. We live on the Oregon coast for the exact opposite reason, in fact. The Douglas fir and hemlock dwarf the neighbours and make the minimansions along the coast look like hobbit houses beneath their majestic canopy. The houses on our side of the road have woodsy back yards that slope slightly to meet the lakefront. Each long dock stretches out into the clear water and most have recreational boats attached for lazy weekend rides up to Dockland’s country club on the other side of the lake a few miles down. Georgia’s side of the street backs onto a forest of Douglas firs with a clearing, which holds a picnic table and a swing set passing for a small park. The air perpetually smells like moss-covered tree bark, sandalwood,and pine, and it’s paradise, if you ask me, so how she could be afraid of all of this and not leave the house is baffling.

I wonder what the thing was – the trauma that happened to her.

ABOUT ‘ON A QUIET STREET’: The perfect neighborhood can be the perfect place to hide…

Who wouldn’t want to live in Brighton Hills? This exclusive community on the Oregon coast is the perfect mix of luxury and natural beauty. Stunning houses nestle beneath mighty Douglas firs, and lush backyards roll down to the lakefront. It’s the kind of place where neighbors look out for one another. Sometimes a little too closely…

Cora thinks her husband, Finn, is cheating—she just needs to catch him in the act. That’s where Paige comes in. Paige lost her son to a hit-and-run last year, and she’s drowning in the kind of grief that makes people do reckless things. Like spying on the locals, searching for proof that her son’s death was no accident. And agreeing to Cora’s plan to reveal what kind of man Finn really is. All the while, their reclusive new neighbor, Georgia, is acting more strangely every day. But what could such a lovely young mother possibly be hiding?

When you really start to look beyond the airy open floor plans and marble counters, Brighton Hills is filled with secrets. Some big, some little, some deadly. And one by one, they’re about to be revealed…

MY THOUGHTS: This was a great read/listen, BUT there’s more than one hole in the plot leaving me a little disgruntled.

It took a while to get involved in this story. Initially it seems very ‘Real Housewives of Wherever’, and I found it difficult to warm to or relate to the characters. But slowly the three women began to intrigue me, the story gained some depth, and from thereon in, it became an interesting game of cat and mouse. These women turned out to be surprisingly clever, innovative, and resourceful. Justice is served in an unexpected but deeply satisfying way.

The plot holes: (view spoiler)

I always enjoy Imogen Church’s narration, but the voice she uses for Cora is really irritating. This also impacted on my pleasure, but by the time I had finished listening I had become reasonably accustomed to it.

Overall an interesting and entertaining read, but one that could do with just a little more polishing.

⭐⭐⭐.7

#OnaQuietStreet @seraphinanovaglass @harperaudio @seraphinanova @HarperAudio

#contemporaryfiction #domesticdrama #mystery #psychologicaldrama #suspense #thriller

Thank you to Waitomo District Library for the loan of the audiobook of On A Quiet Street written by Seraphina Nova Glass and narrated by Imogen Church

The Party Guest by Amanda Robson

EXCERPT: A special holiday. After working ninety-hour weeks for so long, two weeks off should be a real treat. But I’m stuck in a taxi with my girlfriend, Gemma, my seventeen-year-old daughter, Janice, my twenty-year-old son, Patrick, and his girlfriend, Anna, while you, Sarah, the love of my life, are about to arrive at the villa that I’ve paid for, with your new lover. Whoop-de-dooh. (What a) fabulous forty-fifth birthday. Congratulations, Ralph Kensington. Let’s crack open the Louis Roederer as soon as we arrive.

ABOUT ‘THE PARTY GUEST’: Ralph is turning 45, and the only gift he wants this year is his ex-wife.
Gemma, his trophy girlfriend, is trying to ignore this.
Sarah, the ex-wife, has agreed to attend Ralph’s birthday party, but with her new man in tow.
And Jack, Sarah’s partner, is keen to accompany Sarah to keep an eye on the proceedings.

It’s a birthday trip like no other. The whole extended family in a villa on the beautiful Amalfi coast. But under the politely strained surface, every party guest harbours their own agenda.

By the end of the trip, two people will be dead. But while Ralph unwraps his presents, will anybody be able to unwrap the truth…?

MY THOUGHTS: I have read two previous books by Robson: The Unwelcome Guest (⭐⭐⭐⭐); and My Darling (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐). Both were fresh, engaging, compelling and twisty.

Unfortunately The Party Guest just doesn’t measure up. It doesn’t flow. It’s often repetitive. I lost count of the number of times we were told that Sarah wears Rive Gauche perfume. In fact, the author seems to have some sort of obsession (or promotional deal) for perfume. We know what every character – even the men – wear.

The chapters are brief and narrated by the seven main characters: Ralph, his girlfriend Gemma, his ex-wife Sarah, her fiance Jack, Ralph and Sarah’s two children, Patrick and Janice, and Patrick’s girlfriend Anna. This means much of the information is regurgitated with minor variations.

This is a quick read, but not a great one. There are a multiplicity of silly errors that quite spoil the reading experience. The most jarring one for me was Sarah talking about her seventeen-year-old daughter, Janice: ‘My darling, brave girl. You never had children, did you? That must have been a great sadness for you.’ WTF????

None of the characters are particularly likeable, nor realistic, except for Jack, who’s an absolute sweetheart. I really disliked Ralph and found myself wanting to give him a good, swift kick you-know-where more than once. Additionally, he doesn’t like books!

I don’t know what Robson was thinking with this one, but it certainly didn’t work for me. Even the final resolution was decidedly ‘meh’.

⭐⭐.1

#ThePartyGuest #NetGalley

I: @amandarobsonauthor @avonbooksuk

T: @AmandaRobson @AvonBooksUK

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #mystery #psychologicaldrama

THE AUTHOR: After graduating, Amanda Robson worked in medical research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and at the Poisons Unit at Guy’s Hospital, where she became a co-author of a book on cyanide poisoning. Amanda attended the Faber novel writing course and writes full-time.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Avon Books UK via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Party Guest by Amanda Robson 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

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

Hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend. It’s Sunday afternoon here in New Zealand, and it’s been a beautiful day, albeit with a chilly breeze. I’ve been at work for a few hours today playing catch up from last week. Surgery went well, though took longer than expected, and then I had to stay in as both blood pressure and O2 levels plummeted. But I came home the following day and, other than some mild discomfort and a lack of energy, I am fine. There’s a two week wait for the pathology. I’m back looking after Luke tomorrow through to Wednesday, and am planning on catching up with an old friend who I haven’t seen for some time Tuesday while he is at school. Other than that I am just going to be taking it easy for a few days more.

Currently I am reading Blood & Ink by Brett Adams and really enjoying it. I don’t know just how reliable the main character, a Professor of Literature, is.

Literature professor Jack Griffen has recently suffered a nervous breakdown. His wife has divorced him and she and their adult daughter have moved to the USA. Into the void steps exchange student Hieronymus Beck, claiming to be the professor’s greatest fan.

But everything changes when Jack finds Hiero’s list. Five sheets of paper. Five ways to commit a murder.

His student has told him he’s writing a crime novel, but is that all he is doing? Caught up in his protégé’s dangerous game, the mild-mannered professor finds himself asking how far will he go to save a life. As far as murder? 

I am also reading Me and Paul: Untold Stories of a Fabled Friendship by Willie Nelson, a series of anecdotes about Willie and his drummer Paul English who died in 2020. Some of the stories are hair-raising!

I’ve got this song that begs to be a book and a book that begs to read like a song–a long, romping ballad of sweetness and scandal bridging seven decades of friendship . . .”

Immortalized in Willie Nelson’s road song “Me and Paul,” Paul English was the towering figure who for 70 years acted as Willie’s drummer, bodyguard, accountant, partner in crime, and right-hand man.

Together, the two men roamed the country, putting on shows, getting into a few scrapes, raising money for good causes, and bringing the joy of their music to fans worldwide. Stories of Willie and Paul’s misadventures became legendary, but many have gone untold–until now.

Set against the backdrop of the exploding Americana music scene and told in Willie’s inimitable, colorful style, Me and Paul follows the two performers through their decades-long careers.

And I have loaded Aftermath (Inspector Banks #12) by Peter Robinson to start listening to tomorrow. This is a series that I have been following for years.

Aftermath centres upon a grim case in which attractive young girls have disappeared, victims of a cunning psychotic killer whose identity is well concealed behind a façade of respectability. Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks of the Yorkshire Police is in charge of the case, but he’s also got unavoidable personal distractions. His estranged wife is pregnant by her lover and wants the divorce he’s been dragging his heels over.

This week, other than Me and Paul, and Blood & Ink, I am also planning to read The Three Loves of Sebastian Cooper by Zoë Folbigg. I know it’s morbid but I love books about disputed family Inheritances, funerals that go spectacularly wrong, and long lost family members who pop up at the most inconvenient times.

As friends and family gather for the funeral of charming and charismatic Seb Cooper, three women sit in the congregation, mourning his loss.

First there is Clair, Seb’s wife and partner of twenty years, and mother of his two children. Furious at Seb for dying and leaving their children without a father, Clair isn’t sure of her place, and has been left baffled and bemused by the conflicting stories of Seb’s last days.

Then there’s Desiree, the woman Seb left Clair for. Heartbroken, self-conscious, and wondering if she made a mistake coming today.

And the third and noisiest mourner of all is Noemie – Seb’s lover and the last woman to see him alive.

Three women who loved Seb in their own different ways.

Three women whose lives have now changed forever.

But only one woman knows what really happened at the end…and only one truly had his heart…

I received five ARCs from Netgalley for review this week and bought three new books, making a total of 8 titles added to the TBR mountain range.

First, the Netgalley titles: Picking up the Pieces by Amanda Prowse

Maureen Fry and the Angel of the North (Harold Fry #3) by Rachel Joyce. The Love Songs of Miss Queenie Hennessy is one of my favourite books ever.

Winter People by Gráinne Murphy

We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman

And Retribution by Sarah Barrie

The three new books I bought were: Sweetheart by Peter James

Blowback (Enzo files #5) by Peter May

Haven’t They Grown by Sophie Hannah

Enjoy whatever is left of your weekend. I have roast of lamb in the oven which smells delicious, so now I will go prepare vegetables for roasting.

Happy reading!

Photo by Malidate Van on Pexels.com

The Ex by S.E. Lynes

EXCERPT: In the silent dimness, he listens to his son breathe. He feels capable. Trusted. When they were together, she was always snatching things from him, low mutters escaping from pursed lips – ‘oh, for God’s sake, or ‘I can’t watch’, or ‘honestly, it’s too painful – before performing whatever task it was correctly. But now he has passed all the tests she set for him, with flying colours.

After a moment, he kneels on the floor and rests his head on the old carpet before lying flat on his stomach. He will pull up this carpet, he thinks. Sand the boards. The mesh sides of the cot allow him to watch his son: the bud of his tiny mouth; his papery, shell-like nails; his whipped downy hair.

His breathing stops. For a moment, Sam’s heart clenches. But then Tommy releases the warmest, sweetest, gentlest breath.

‘Miracle,’ Sam whispers, fingertips pressed to the mesh. There are no words for what he feels in his heart. To be a father, to lie on the floor and watch his son sleep, is the most everyday thing and yet so extraordinary it makes his breath catch in wonder. Nothing must be allowed to spoil this, he thinks.

Nothing must be allowed to take this away.

ABOUT ‘THE EX’: The love of your life… or your biggest mistake?

It’s hard, meeting your ex after so much time apart. You remember the hurt, the tears and accusations, but you try not to show it. You smile politely, even while your heart beats faster.

You watch as he looks down into the stroller, at the beautiful blond-haired blue-eyed baby kicking his little legs in the sunshine, whose innocent smile lights up your world.

You see his face change. You know what he’s thinking.

The next day he calls. His voice is shaking. He wants the truth. Is it his child?

You hesitate, your throat dry, good and bad memories swirling in your mind. You’ve missed him so much… but can you ever trust him again?

After a sleepless night, you arrange to meet, agreeing that the most important thing is doing what’s right for baby Tom.

But months later, when the sirens wail in the night, you have to admit: you never thought either of you would go this far…

MY THOUGHTS: Deliciously evil, Ms Lynes. You had my emotions all over the place. And there’s still a wee hitch in my breath when I think of what you put poor Sam through. My heart was pummeled by his anguish and distress. I shredded tissues!

The Ex is a fast and exciting read. It has all the hallmarks of a good psychological drama. It’s twisty. The characters are unpredictable – yes, even Sam! Naomi is . . . Naomi. Definitely two sides to her coin. Nonna Joyce is lovely, but I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of her. I could see why Sam left Naomi to move back in with her at the start of lockdown. She reminds me of my own grandmothers. And Miranda – what a wonderful friend she is.

I loved the way Lynes set the story up at the beginning. I was curious. No, more than curious. I was hooked! And I stayed firmly on that hook right the way through. This addictive read had me flipping pages into the early hours of the morning when I finally put it aside with a shocked gasp and a satisfied smile.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#TheEx #NetGalley

I: selynesauthor @bookouture

T: @SELynesAuthor @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #domesticdrama #psychologicaldrama

THE AUTHOR: After graduating from Leeds University, S E Lynes lived in London before moving to Aberdeen to be with her husband. In Aberdeen, she worked as a Radio Producer at the BBC before moving with her husband and two young children to Rome, where she lived for five years. There, she began to write while her children attended nursery. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. She combines writing with teaching at Richmond Adult Community College and bringing up her three children in Teddington, Middlesex.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Ex by S.E. Lynes 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

One Good Turn and Other Stories by Angelo Marcos

EXCERPT: taken from ‘You’ve Got a Friend’

Why could none of them see how easy this all was? Listen to the first bit, reflect it back to them, listen to the next bit, then tell them how difficult it sounds. Reassure them they’re doing the best they can, reflect a bit more and ask them what they think would help. Tell them it sounds like a good approach. The end.

In essence, repeat what they say but in a calmer voice. Chuck in some sympathetic noises here and there, and that’s it, job done. No need to get emotionally involved, no need to care.

‘You’re such a good man,’ Hayley suddenly blurted, ‘I always feel better after talking to you.’

He gave a sheepish smile and lowered his head as if he felt embarrassed by the compliment.

He didn’t.

Most of the time, he didn’t feel anything at all.

ABOUT ‘ONE GOOD TURN: AND OTHER STORIES’:

You’ve Got a Friend

Mark is on nightshift duty on the You’ve Got a Friend Helpline. Unfortunately for the callers, his idea of help is very different to theirs.

One Good Turn

Two young tourists in London find themselves on the last train out of the city, and begin to wonder if they’ll ever get to their hotel…

Fare Game

An illegal cab driver picks up an old, confused man and offers him a lift home. It’ll be a journey they both may regret.

MY THOUGHTS: You can always rely on Angelo Marcos for chilling. Here’s a very quick Q & A with the author.

What inspired you to write this story?

I’ve always loved reading psychological thriller novels, as well as behavioural science and criminal psychology books.

(You might be able to guess that I’ve always had an interest in the darker side of human nature…)

After writing my second novel I had loads of ideas that weren’t quite right for full-length novels, but which I thought would work well together as a short story mystery collection. I decided it would be interesting to write three linked short stories all set in the city of London and featuring people with malicious intentions.

Who will enjoy this book?

Anybody that likes forensic psychology fiction, suspenseful books, and sinister tales.

Oh, and anybody with psychotic tendencies who has ever worked on a helpline…

They say that one good turn deserves another, but what about the opposite kind? After all they say that no good deed goes unpunished so, is the opposite also true?

Give this collection an hour of your time . . . it’s worth it. And as a bonus, the author has included the first two chapters of his novel ‘The Artist’.

And see if you can spot the clever little links between the stories – it’s not only that they are all set in London. 😉

⭐⭐⭐⭐

THE AUTHOR: Angelo Marcos is a writer, actor and stand-up comedian, who for some reason refers to himself in the third person.

He writes psychological thrillers and crime fiction, often with a dash of humour thrown in for good measure.

Drawing on his background in law and psychology, he crafts memorable characters and suspenseful mysteries which shine a light on human behaviour and why people do what they do.

See? I told you he refers to himself in the third person…

Website – http://www.angelomarcos.com

Twitter – @theangelomarcos

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/theangelomarcos

YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CyDHu..

Sandy’s August 2022 Reading Roundup

Wow! Where did August go? It’s the meteorological first day of spring here in New Zealand, and it has been a beautiful spring day, but now – late afternoon – it’s clouded over and is cooling off. The daffodils and daphne are almost finished flowering, but the freesias look and smell beautiful; the hyacinths are about to flower, closely followed by the tulips. The kowhai trees are flowering – I planted two more over winter – and so the tui are back. I love listening to them; they are such clever mimics.

I started August with seventeen books to read for review, and managed not to add any during the month. That’s a first! I managed to complete twelve and am currently reading and almost finished three more. I will probably finish all three tonight. That’s an 88% completion rate. I read two more books purely for pleasure, but didn’t get to any of the titles on my backlist. So that was a total of seventeen books read during August.

One of the titles I am currently reading is a debut author – And Then There’s Margaret by Carolyn Clarke.

Two of the books I read in August were by new to me authors. They were: The Hidden Truth by Hilary Boyd ⭐⭐⭐.8





And one of my reads for pleasure, The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James. ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

The two books I didn’t get read during August were Solace and Other Stories by M. Syaipul Nasrullah

and Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid, which I intend to start tonight.

I only had one five star read in August – The New House by Tess Stimson. I loved this so much I had a huge book hangover afterwards which lasted until almost the end of the month.

I have somehow managed to collect twenty-five books for review in September 🤦‍♀️ – I’m sure that request button operates on its own volition while I’m asleep!🤷‍♀️

So, I’m off to finish my three almost finished titles. Happy September reading!❤📚