The Girl She Wanted by K.L. Slater

EXCERPT: … this was the second case in the last few months where a patient admitted to the emergency ward with a seemingly fairly minor condition had deteriorated dramatically.

Nathan recalled the six-month-old baby girl who’d been admitted with a high temperature and vomiting – a suspected nasty viral infection. Following a period of intravenous rehydration, the child had appeared to be recovering; then, completely without warning, her condition had rapidly declined. Urgent tests had shown the onset of kidney failure and two days later she had died.

And now Angus Titchford was fighting for his life, even though his initial prognosis had been perfectly routine. It was unusual and troubling. Very troubling indeed.

ABOUT :

What if my sister is unstable and everyone can see it but me? What was she really doing standing over Florence’s cot in the middle of the night?

Alexa has always looked up to her older sister Carrie. Carrie lives in Alexa’s family home, and adores her one-year-old niece Florence. Alexa doesn’t know how they would cope without her. So when Carrie is suspended from her job as a senior nurse, accused of the most terrible crime, Alexa reels in disbelief. Alexa knows how caring Carrie is, and as she watches Florence gurgling and cooing whenever Carrie is around, she knows her little girl is in safe hands.

Alexa’s husband doesn’t trust Carrie. He wants her out of the house, unable to ignore what people are saying about her. But when he suggests that Carrie could be a danger to their daughter, Alexa shuts him out. Nobody will ever come between her and her sister.

Then Florence is hurt while in Carrie’s care and Alexa at last starts to wonder. Alexa has always wanted to protect Carrie from the past they have hidden. But does Alexa know what Carrie wants? And will the secret that has kept the sisters together now destroy her little girl?

MY THOUGHTS: I don’t get the title. 🤷‍♀️ If anyone can explain the relevance, I would appreciate it.

The Girl She Wanted by K.L. Slater is quite slow moving initially. There is a lot of repetition of accusations, and of veiled clues to some past trauma in Alexa’s life that has affected her ability to cope with almost anything. She comes across as very neurotic, dependent and needy. I preferred Carrie’s character, although at times she could be quite manipulative of Alexa, and can appear unbalanced. There is a lot of tension in this household, with Alexa’s husband, Perry, resentful of the close relationship between the sisters and putting pressure on Alexa to make Carrie move out.

Ms Slater can also be manipulative. I shifted my suspicions of who, if anyone, was responsible for the deaths of the patients in A&E several times. To begin with I wasn’t entirely sure that anyone was responsible. These things do happen, especially with the very young and the elderly. But someone was responsible . . . and some of my suspicions were rather wild!

This is a quick, easy read. It is not my favourite amongst Ms Slater’s books, of which I have read most, if not all, but it is a decent read that contains a few surprises, and will have you scratching your head as to whom the culprit could be.

⭐⭐⭐.3

#TheGirlSheWanted #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: Kim is a full-time writer and lives in Nottinghamshire with her husband. For many years, Kim sent her work out to literary agents and collected an impressive stack of rejection slips. At the age of 40 she went back to Nottingham Trent University and now has an MA in Creative Writing.

Before graduating in 2012, she gained literary agent representation and a book deal. As Kim says, ‘it was a fairytale … at the end of a very long road!’

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Girl She Wanted by K.L. Slater 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 Housewarming by S.E. Lynes

EXCERPT: Ava

When I think about that morning, it is beat by beat, like a heart – my own heart, my daughter’s, at the time so enmeshed it seemed she was part of me: my body, my tissue, my bones. She is part of me. She will always be part of me.

When I think about that morning, I watch myself, over and over, as if from above. I watch myself like you watch your children in a school play or a sports match, silently willing them to succeed, to shine, to not get hurt. I watch myself bleeding on the sidelines of slowly unfolding disaster, alive with the pain I know is coming but she, the me of that moment, does not.

I do this every minute of every hour of every day. And I have done this for almost a year.

I watch myself: there I am, making my way downstairs with an armful of laundry. I can’t see over the top. I take it slowly, both feet on one step before I lower myself to the next. Another step down, another. I am always so careful these days. I used to be carefree, but now I see danger everywhere: an electric socket is a hazard, a glass left too near the edge of a tabletop risky, a staircase perilous.

Another step. I call her name. Abi.

ABOUT THE HOUSEWARMING: Everyone is going to the housewarming party.
All the same people who lived on the street the day Abi vanished…
Will her mother finally learn the truth?

Ava only left her daughter in the pushchair for five minutes. The buckle was fastened, and she was sure it was safe. But when she came downstairs, the door was open and Abi was gone – she walked down the road, past the Lovegoods’ house, and was never seen again.

A year later, the Lovegoods throw a housewarming party, showing off the results of their renovation. Ava doesn’t want to go. She can’t bear to look down that end of the road, to see the place where Abi vanished, and she doesn’t want to spend time with people who don’t share her grief. Her husband Matt persuades her: he’s worried about her. A night out might do her good.

But as her friends and neighbours chat, and the drink and gossip flows, Ava learns something new about the day she has re-lived a thousand times. A throwaway comment which could change everything.

Ava thought she knew every last detail of that day.

She’s about to find out she was wrong…

MY THOUGHTS: The opening chapters left me stunned and breathless. And it didn’t stop there. The pace is relentless. The tension palpable. As is the grief, the despair, the guilt. Lynes has written a blockbuster of human emotion that left me exhausted, drained, wrung out, and absolutely certain that this is the best book she has ever written!

The characters are superbly depicted. They are complete. They are you. They are me. They are our husbands and wives, our friends and neighbours. They gossip and assume. They are horrified, and smug. They have their own pristine lives that they don’t want touched by tragedy. Ava becomes isolated, a prisoner of her anxiety and her feeling of being contagious in her unresolved guilt and grief.

Her neighbour Jen is the only person she feels any connection with. Jen, who never pressures her, who lets her just be. So when Jen throws a party to celebrate the end of the renovations on their house, Ava reluctantly agrees to attend, just for an hour. And there begins the unravelling of everything Ava thought she knew about Abi’s disappearance.

Gripping. Heartwrenching. Devastating. Dark. The Housewarming lives up to every promotional promise.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#TheHousewarming #NetGalley

‘My eyes are incontinent.’

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 Housewarming 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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

It’s the middle day of our long weekend . . . I always think that I am going to accomplish so much over a three day weekend, but in reality it’s a different matter.

I did get a bit of gardening done at Dustin’s yesterday, and I have done a little bit at home today, but mainly I have been catching up on laundry and housework, both of which have been somewhat neglected over the past couple of weeks.

Now it has started to drizzle, so I have come back inside for a late lunch. Hopefully it won’t come to much and I can finish tidying up the front gardens.

This morning I started reading The Housewarming by S.E. Lynes. The first few chapters have left me stunned and breathless! This is going to be a great read.

Currently I am listening to The House Swap by Rebecca Fleet.

A little over a quarter of the way in, and suddenly it is becoming very interesting . . .

Now, as to what I am planning on reading this week, I veered completely off track last week and read neither of my planned books 🤦‍♀️ I will see if I can do better this week 🤣😂

You Beneath Your Skin by Damyanti Biswas

It’s a dark, smog-choked new Delhi winter. Indian American single mother Anjali Morgan juggles her job as a psychiatrist with caring for her autistic teenage son. She is in a long-standing affair with ambitious police commissioner Jatin Bhatt – an irresistible attraction that could destroy both their lives.

Jatin’s home life is falling apart: his handsome and charming son is not all he appears to be, and his wife has too much on her plate to pay attention to either husband or son. But Jatin refuses to listen to anyone, not even the sister to whom he is deeply attached.

Across the city there is a crime spree: slum women found stuffed in trash bags, faces and bodies disfigured by acid. And as events spiral out of control Anjali is horrifyingly at the centre of it all. . .

The Great Escape From Woodlands Nursing Home by Joanna Nell

At nearly ninety, retired nature writer Hattie Bloom prefers the company of birds to people, but when a fall lands her in a nursing home she struggles to cope with the loss of independence and privacy. From the confines of her ‘room with a view’ of the carpark, she dreams of escape.

Fellow ‘inmate’, the gregarious, would-be comedian Walter Clements also plans on returning home as soon as he is fit and able to take charge of his mobility scooter.

When Hattie and Walter officially meet at The Night Owls, a clandestine club run by Sister Bronwyn and her dog, Queenie, they seem at odds. But when Sister Bronwyn is dismissed over her unconventional approach to aged care, they must join forces — and very slowly an unlikely, unexpected friendship begins to grow.

I have three ARCs this week from Netgalley:

Weekend Pass by Paul Cavanagh

Seven Perfect Things by Catherine Ryan-Hyde

One Way Street by Trevor Wood

No doubt after I have visited Susan’s, Carla’s and Carol’s posts today, I will be rushing back to Netgalley, my requesting finger itching! I still also have several requests pending.

Happy reading my friends and stay safe, particularly if you are living in those parts of the world which are having a Covid resurgence. Stay home and read. It’s safer. ❤📚

Cheers

Sandy

The Vow by Debbie Howells

EXCERPT: Lost in my thoughts, at first I don’t notice the footsteps behind me.

‘Excuse me . . .’

The voice is unfamiliar. I hesitate, unsure if it’s directed at me, then as the footsteps come closer, I turn around to find myself staring at a stranger.

‘I need to talk to you.’ As the woman speaks, I feel myself freeze. She looks older than her voice sounds, her grey hair wispy, her face strangely unlined. But it’s the colour of her eyes, a transparent ice-blue, that is hypnotic. For a moment I’m mesmerised then, as a van speeds past, her hand grips my arm, pulling me away from the road. ‘I have to talk to you.’ There’s an unmistakable urgency in her voice.

‘Someone’s watching you. They know where you go, everything you do.’

As she speaks, my blood runs cold. ‘Who are you?’

Without telling me, she goes on. ‘You think you’re meant to be together.’ Each word both softly spoken and crystal clear, her eyes fixed on mine so that I can’t look away. ‘You think he’s the love of your life.’ She pauses for a moment. ‘He isn’t who you think he is.’ Then a strange look crosses her face. ‘You’re in danger.’

ABOUT THE VOW: Everything was perfect. And then her fiance disappeared…

Two weeks before her wedding, a stranger stops Amy in the street and warns her she’s in danger. Then that night, Matt, her fiancé, doesn’t come home. Desperate, Amy calls the police – but when Matt fails to emerge, she’s forced to call off her wedding day.

Then another man is reported missing, by a woman called Fiona – a man meeting Matt’s description, who was about to leave his fiancée for her. He was supposed to be moving in with her – but instead, he’s vanished.

Amy refuses to believe Fiona’s lover can be her Matt – but photos prove otherwise, and it soon becomes clear that Matt has been leading a double life. As the police dig deeper, two conflicting, yet equally plausible stories emerge from two women who allegedly have never met.

The wedding day never happened. But the funeral might

MY THOUGHTS: Starting with something positive:I love the cover. And the flowers were a brilliant touch.

But the book? Repetitive and contrived. There are a lot of things that I would like to say, but it would create spoilers so I won’t.

I prefer the second half of the book, starting from where we get Fiona’s narration. I didn’t like Amy at all. I didn’t enjoy Jess’s input in the first half of the book because I think it gave too much away, but she really comes into her own in the second half.

Even then, I found myself skimming large tracts of text. This totally failed to keep my interest. I adored two other novels by this author, The Bones of You, and The Beauty of the End. After them, The Vow is a big disappointment.

Many other readers love this book. Reading is a very personal subjective experience, and not every book is for every reader. So, if you enjoyed the extract, and the plot summary interests you, please do read The Vow by Debbie Howells. I hope that you are one of the many who enjoy this read.

Improbable, implausible, contrived and repetitive (at the risk of repeating myself)

⭐.8

There are two sides to every story. But there’s only one truth.

THE AUTHOR: After a number of career changes, Debbie now writes full time, inspired by the peacefulness of the countryside she lives in with her partner Martin, Bean the rescued cat and a rather elderly golden retriever called Bernard.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Avon Books UK via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Vow by Debbie Howells. 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

My Darling by Amanda Robson

EXCERPT: Jade: We move into our new house, Fairlawns. A large Victorian detached, near the river in Henley-on-Thames. Top end comfort. Top end price. Arriving in our Porsche, just as the removal men are entering the house with our walnut dining table, I look up and see a man and a woman standing at the side window of the house next door, staring down at us.

The woman is seriously tarty. Long blonde hair, bleached, not natural. Smelling of Botox. Not wearing very much clothing. Her short house coat does not leave much to the imagination. Very much your sort of thing, Tomas. Not a woman, but a stereotype. As I watch her looking down on us, I determine you will not get away with it again. Don’t even try it, I tell you with my eyes.

ABOUT MY DARLING BY AMANDA ROBSON: A new couple moves in next door.
And nothing will ever be the same again…

I watched you move in and thought we might be friends.

I saw you watching from the window – and knew I’d have to keep you away from my husband.

I started to trust you. Confide in you.

I started to mistrust you. Suspect you.

I was confused when I blacked out after an evening at your place. Was I really that drunk?

I came up with a plan. A plan to make you both pay . . .

MY THOUGHTS: are liable to be quite incoherent. Firstly, when you plan on reading My Darling by Amanda Robson, don’t plan on doing anything else until you have finished the book. It’s that good. I only planned on reading a few pages before I went to sleep last night. I read the whole book. Couldn’t put it down. Didn’t even think about going to sleep.

Twisty doesn’t even begin to describe the plot. It’s like a corkscrew that has been tied in knots! Breathtaking. Heart pounding. Diabolically clever. Dark. Wicked. Absolutely sublime. There was barely a moment in which I was able to stop and draw a breath!

I loved the characters. I hated the characters. I loved to hate them. I admired their ingenuity. I admired Robson’s ingenuity. I don’t ever want to cross her. But I do want to read everything she has ever written, immediately.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

ABOUT 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. Her debut novel, Obsession, became a #1 ebook bestseller in 2017. She is also the author of three more domestic suspense novels: Guilt, Envy and My Darling. (Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: A huge thank you to Avon Books UK via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of My Darling 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 and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Another Sunday, and another week’s reading completed. I even managed to sneak in an extra book this week . . . I picked it up last night, intending to read just a chapter or two before I went to sleep. Instead I read the whole thing. But more about that later in the post.

I am currently reading The Whisper Man by Alex North. Two of my Goodreads.com reading groups, the Crime, Mystery and Thriller group and the All About Books group, have picked this as the October group read.

I am about to start You Can Trust Me by Emma Rowley

Currently I am listening to Bodies From the Library 2: Forgotten stories of mystery and suspense by the Queens of Crime and masters of Golden Age detection.

I am also planning on reading The Book of Carol Sue by Lynn Hugo this week.

CarolSue and her sister, Louisa, are best friends, but haven’t had much in common since CarolSue married Charlie, moved to Atlanta, and swapped shoes covered with Indiana farm dust for pedicures and afternoon bridge. Louisa, meanwhile, loves her farm and animals as deeply as she’d loved Harold, her late husband of forty years.

Charlie’s sudden death leaves CarolSue so adrift that she surrenders to Louisa’s plan for her to move back home. But canning vegetables and feeding chickens are alien to CarolSue, and she resolves to return to Atlanta–until Louisa’s son, Reverend Gary, arrives with an abandoned infant and a dubious story. He begs the women to look after the baby while he locates the mother–a young immigrant who fears deportation.

Keeping his own secrets, Gary enlists the aid of the sheriff, Gus, in the search. But CarolSue’s bond with the baby is undeniable, and she forms an unconventional secret plan of her own. How many mistakes can be redeemed?

I am keeping my reading load deliberately light this week as I have a busy week ahead at work, culminating next Sunday so am probably going to be very late with my Watching what I’m reading post – like Monday!

Four new ARCs this week:

The Girl Who Never Came Home by Nicole Trope

The House at Magpie Cove by Kennedy Kerr

Consolation by Garry Disher

And The Open House by Sam Carrington

Now, the extra book that I read this week? My Darling by Amanda Robson. WARNING: don’t start reading this unless you have cleared the rest of your day. Yes, it is THAT good. Review coming tomorrow!

Have a wonderful weekend to all of you who still have some left to enjoy. It’s time for me to start planning the meals for the rest of the week….

Happy reading!

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Today seems to have sped past. I worked this morning, a friend called in for coffee as soon as I got home. TMOTH had been fishing so I had fish to fillet and drop around to friends. I managed to get a little time in the garden then all of a sudden it is time to come in and prepare dinner. Pan fried snapper with herbs served on lemon parsley potatoes with avocado salsa.

My reading schedule didn’t go to plan again this week. I have just started The Second Wife by Rebecca Fleet

because I snuck in the absolutely amazing Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz, #1 in the Susan Ryeland series

Which I wanted to read before I started Moonflower Murders, the second book in the series.

After being totally captivated by Magpie Murders, I can’t wait to start this!

Featuring his famous literary detective Atticus Pund and Susan Ryeland, hero of the worldwide bestseller Magpie Murders, a brilliantly complex literary thriller by Anthony Horowitz. The follow-up to Magpie Murders.

Retired publisher Susan Ryeland is living the good life. She is running a small hotel on a Greek island with her longterm boyfriend Andreas. It should be everything she’s always wanted – but is it? She’s exhausted with the responsibilities of making everything work on an island where nothing ever does, and truth be told she’s beginning to miss her old life in London.

And then a couple – the Trehearnes – come to stay, and the story they tell about an unfortunate murder that took place on the same day and in the same hotel in which their daughter was married, is such a strange and mysterious one that Susan finds herself increasingly fascinated by it. And when the Trehearnes tell her that their daughter is now missing, Susan knows that she must return to London and find out what really happened …

I am currently listening to The Wife Who Knew Too Much by Michelle Campbell

This week I am planning on reading Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz, and The Killings at Kingfisher Hill by Sophie Hannah.

The world’s most beloved detective, Hercule Poirot—the legendary star of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile—returns in a delectably twisty mystery.

Hercule Poirot is travelling by luxury passenger coach from London to the exclusive Kingfisher Hill estate. Richard Devonport has summoned him to prove that his fiancée, Helen, is innocent of the murder of his brother, Frank. There is one strange condition attached to this request: Poirot must conceal his true reason for being there from the rest of the Devonport family.

On the coach, a distressed woman leaps up, demanding to disembark. She insists that if she stays in her seat, she will be murdered. A seat-swap is arranged, and the rest of the journey passes without incident. But Poirot has a bad feeling about it, and his fears are later confirmed when a body is discovered in the Devonports’ home with a note that refers to “the seat that you shouldn’t have sat in.”

Could this new murder and the peculiar incident on the coach be clues to solving the mystery of who killed Frank Devonport? And can Poirot find the real murderer in time to save an innocent woman from the gallows?

And six new ARCs this week . . . The Wrong Family by Tarryn Fisher

The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson

The Rosary Garden by Nicola White

Death Score by Angela Marsons

The Whole Truth by Cara Hunter

and and finally, The Drowned Woman by C.J. Lyons

And if you missed my post yesterday, do take a look see what I scored at the second hand bookstore Tuesday!

Happy reading and have a wonderful week!

❤😍📚☕🍪

The Girls Weekend by Jody Gehrman

EXCERPT: The rest of the night is a series of blurred snapshots: the feel of someone’s warm lips closing over mine. Hands in my hair. Golden light all around us.

There are large black patches where everything goes dark. I can see myself sitting on a beach. The stars pulse with clear silver joy; I can feel their happiness coursing through my body. There’s cold sand beneath my toes. Somebody is braiding my hair.

A scream, high and sharp, full of panic; my throat aches as I realise it’s coming from me.

These are the fragments I’m left with – shards of sensation, broken and scattered. I’m aware only of the gaps, the dark places where my memories crouch, unwilling to be coaxed into the light.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: June Moody, a thirty-something English professor, just wants to get away from her recent breakup and reunite with girlfriends over summer break. Her old friend and longtime nemesis, Sadie MacTavish, a mega-successful author, invites June and her college friends to a baby shower at her sprawling estate in the San Juan Islands. June is less than thrilled to spend time with Sadie–and her husband, June’s former crush–but agrees to go.

The party gets off to a shaky start when old grudges resurface, but when they wake the next morning, they find something worse: Sadie is missing, the house is in shambles, and bloodstains mar the staircase. None of them has any memory of the night before; they wonder if they were drugged. Everyone’s a suspect. Since June had a secret rendezvous with Sadie’s husband, she has plenty of reason to suspect herself. Apparently, so do the cops.

MY THOUGHTS: Brooding? No. Atmospheric? No. Suspenseful? Mildly, in parts. Interesting like a carwreck? Yes.

I really didn’t like this book, but I just had to keep reading it, although I must admit to doing a fair bit of skimming around halfway.

The characters are just awful. Obnoxious. Self obsessed. Insecure. Jealous of one another. People you love to hate. I felt like I was reading about teenagers rather than a group of supposedly mature women. Bitchy. Manipulative. Sulky. Drama queens. They do not like or trust one another. Why would they want to spend a weekend together? I would rather have run to the other side of the world than spend a weekend with this lot.

The missing, presumed murdered woman, Sadie, is the hostess. Outwardly successful, her life is crumbling around her. She is a control freak. Her daughter is leaving home, her marriage falling apart. Her life is becoming a series of tangled knots of angst as those whose lives she has controlled are wriggling free. So why has she chosen now to bring her ‘friends’ together?

A quick, okay, but not great, read. Far too much dialogue. But that ending? . . . That made the whole read almost worthwhile and bumped up my rating a few points.

⭐⭐⭐.4

#TheGirlsWeekend #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: Jody Gehrman is a native of Northern California, where she can be found writing, teaching, reading, or obsessing over her three cats most days.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Crooked Lane Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Girls Weekend by Jody Gehrman 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 Chain by Adrian McKinty

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

EXCERPT: Her phone rings, startling her,

‘Unknown Caller,’ it says

She answers with the speakerphone: ‘Hello?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Who are you?’ she asks.

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

The line goes dead.

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

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

Another Unknown Caller.

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

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

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

‘Yes,’ she says.

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

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

‘I’ve kidnapped your daughter.’

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

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

#DONTBREAKTHECHAIN

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

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

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

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

Riveting. Compelling. Thrilling. Just read it.

❤❤❤❤❤

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Suicide House by Charlie Donlea

EXCERPT: I killed my brother with a penny. Simple, benign and perfectly believable.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Inside the walls of Indiana’s elite Westmont Preparatory High School, expectations run high and rules are strictly enforced. But in the woods beyond the manicured campus and playing fields sits an abandoned boarding house that is infamous among Westmont’s students as a late-night hangout. Here, only one rule applies: don’t let your candle go out–unless you want the Man in the Mirror to find you. . . .

One year ago, two students were killed there in a grisly slaughter. The case has since become the focus of a hit podcast, The Suicide House. Though a teacher was convicted of the murders, mysteries and questions remain. The most urgent among them is why so many students who survived that horrific night have returned to the boarding house–to kill themselves.

Rory, an expert in reconstructing cold cases, is working on The Suicide House podcast with Lane, recreating the night of the killings in order to find answers that have eluded the school, the town, and the police. But the more they learn about the troubled students, the chillingly stoic culprit, and a dangerous game gone tragically wrong, the more convinced they become that something sinister is still happening. Inside Westmont Prep, the game hasn’t ended. It thrives on secrecy and silence. And for its players, there may be no way to win–or to survive. . . .

MY THOUGHTS: I haven’t read ‘Some Choose Darkness’ #1 in the Rory Moore/Lane Phillips series. If you haven’t either, it’s not a problem. Both books are written as stand-alones although they feature the same main characters. But, first thing Monday I am off to the library to get a copy of Some Choose Darkness. I want to read it and am annoyed with myself that I missed it when it came out.

There’s a lot that goes on in this book and it takes a little while for it to start to tie in together. One thing is for sure – I never wanted to go away to school, and The Suicide House has reinforced that decision! Secret societies, dangerous pranks, dares and hazing form the background for this story of death and a dangerous obsession.

The two characters around whom this book is centred don’t actually feature as prominently as I expected they would. The Suicide house begins with a rather enigmatic journal entry by a boy who has killed his brother, and gotten away with it. These journal entries continue sporadically throughout the novel.

The timelines are split between Summer 2019 when the murders occur and August 2020, at which time we meet broadcaster Mack Carter and journalist Ryder Hillier, who are both independently working on the Westmont Prep School Murders.

August 2020 is also when we meet Dr Lane Phillips, forensic psychologist and criminal profiler. I found it quite hard to get a handle on his character, another reason I want to read the preceding book. His partner, Rory Moore, is a forensic reconstructionist specializing in cold-case homicides, with a passion for the reconstruction of antique dolls. I found it quite disappointing that more use was not made of their skills.

While I really enjoyed this read, there are a few things that don’t make much sense to me. There seems to be a point to most secret societies, but with the one at the centre of The Suicide House, there doesn’t seem to be any point other than to participate in game of ‘The Man in The Mirror’. Missing man, Marc McEvoy, was an unnecessary distraction and overcomplicated the storyline.

A new character, Gus Morelli, is introduced towards the end of The Suicide House, and I hope that we see more of him in the future.

The Suicide House certainly held my interest from start to finish. There’s a few relationships between characters that didn’t quite sit right for me and left me with a few questions about the resolution, therefore only a 4 star rating rather than 5 stars.

Definitely a series I want to read more of. I have enjoyed everything I have ever read by this author, and The Suicide House is no exception.

😲😲😲😲.1

THE AUTHOR: Charlie Donlea resides in Chicago with his wife and two young children.

He spends a part of each year fishing with his father in the far reaches of Canada, where the roads end and lakes are accessible only by floatplane. These majestic trips to “God’s Country” inspired the setting for his first novel, Summit Lake.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Kensington Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Suicide House by Charlie Donlea 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