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 Disappeared by Sibel Hodge

EXCERPT: I flicked through a white envelope – bank statement – brown envelope – bill – white, with the name of a loan company on the front that I tossed into the bin without opening. Then I came to another brown one. Maybe it was the fact that my name and address had been written in block capital letters that piqued my curiosity. Most of my mail had computer generated labels or window envelopes that showed my postal details.

I slipped my forefinger underneath the flap and ripped it open.

As I slid the photo out, I didn’t really register what I was seeing initially. Yes, of course, I knew it was of my husband, but I couldn’t comprehend what that meant for a moment.

It was in colour, printed on good quality paper, but those details barely registered at first.

I frowned, my heart slamming to a sudden stop. What the hell? Why would someone send me a photo of Mason?

But before I could even think of possible answers, my gaze was already drinking in the details. His hair was longer than I’d ever seen it before, curling up at the edges of his shirt collar. A beard covered a face that was thin and gaunt. He sat at an outside café table, holding a newspaper across his chest.

I brought the photo closer to my eyes, studied the name of the newspaper, read the date on it. Two days earlier. It felt like my brain was melting inside my head. That couldn’t be right. Mason was dead.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: The Widow. The Secret. The Liar.
The Disappeared…

On a routine flight from Africa to England, Dr Mason Palmer is tragically killed when the light aircraft he’s travelling on crashes and disappears in dense bushland.

The Widow…

Ten months later, Nicole Palmer is still trying to block out the grief of her husband’s sudden death. Until one morning she receives a photo of Mason through the post, along with a cryptic message. A message only he could’ve written.

The Secret…

But when Nicole tries to find out if Mason is really alive and what actually happened to him in Africa, everyone she turns to for answers ends up dead.

Determined to find the truth, Nicole uncovers a conspiracy that spans the globe, and discovers there are powerful people who are prepared to kill to keep her silent.

Who’s lying? Who’s watching Nicole? And can she expose their murky secrets before they catch up with her?

MY THOUGHTS: The Disappeared crosses the borders of so many genres, that I simply don’t know where to start! I wasn’t expecting an action-thriller when I picked this up. And although not my favorite genre, and I had to suspend my belief at some of the ‘coincidences’ that occurred, I enjoyed this and powered through it in record time for an audiobook.

Sibel Hodge is an animal and human rights activist, and in The Disappeared has brought to my attention an injustice of which I was previously unaware – child slave labour in the harvesting of the cacao bean for making chocolate. Hodge has clearly done her research into this topic, and I did wonder if she has based her novel loosely on real events. The treatment of the slave children had me in tears.

Her main theme is wrapped up in a mystery concerning Nicole’s husband, Mason, who was declared dead following the crash of the flight he was on in the African jungle. Ten months on, she receives a photo of him taken with a newspaper only days old. . .

While this is not my favorite of Hodge’s books, it is a story that needed to be written, and needs to be read. If you like a lot of action, and have an interest in human right’s stories, then I heartily recommend The Disappeared.

The narration on the audiobook was excellent.

****.2

THE AUTHOR: Sibel Hodge writes in an eclectic mix of genres, and is a passionate human and animal rights advocate.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of The Disappeared by Sibel Hodge, narrated by Henrietta Meire, and published by Tantor Audio, via Overdrive. 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 sandysbooksday.wordpress.com

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

Memories of Wild Rose Bay by Susanne O’Leary

EXCERPT: As they walked to the front door, she looked up at the old house, the ivy covered walls and the lights in the windows. It was such a welcoming house, and each time she stepped inside, she felt as if the house put its arms around her. ‘Home is where the heart is,’ she thought, ‘even if it has been broken.’ But this house was only a temporary home for her. Would she ever find one of her own?

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

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

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

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

MY THOUGHTS: Memories of Wild Rose Bay by Susanne O’Leary is a pleasant romance set on the west coast of Ireland, Sandy Cove in County Kerry.

Although this is a series, each book can be read as a stand-alone as it features different people.

The author’s descriptions of the scenery are enticing and if I could visit this location, I would. It sounds rugged but beautiful.

There is not a lot of depth to the characters, but probably enough for the author’s purpose. Kate can be quite dogmatic in her opinions, and can also be a little fiery when crossed. Two men cross her path when she takes up her position as assistant GP with the elderly and wanting to retire Dr Pat. The first is famous actor, Mick O’Dwyer, son of Dr Pat who is home for an extended period while he works on writing a play. The two have an easy relationship and enjoy tramping together. The second is Cormac O’Shea, a gentle quiet man who works as a healer and herbalist at the local wellness centre. He and Kate clash as they each regard the other as a threat to their professions, and yet there is an unsettling attraction between them.

I loved the characters of Dr Pat and his nurse/general factotum, Bridget, but while Dr Pat’s wife Helen was an interesting character, she wasn’t at all likeable.

There are lots of descriptions of lovely food, so don’t start reading this book when you are hungry!

Memories of Wild Rose Bay is a quick, easy and pleasant read, if not totally predictable. It is a little too lightweight for my personal taste, but I enjoyed it more than not.

⭐⭐⭐.1

#MemoriesOfWildRoseBay #NetGalley

‘Your path is determined by the choices you make, and those choices depend on your thoughts and feelings and the personality you’re born with.’
‘It’s written in the stars, you mean?’
He laughed. ‘No, it’s all in your own demeanour. And the people you meet and the circumstances you get thrown into. It’s like a giant jigsaw puzzle, but it’s up to you to put the pieces in the right places.’

THE AUTHOR: Susanne O’Leary is the bestselling author of 22 novels, mainly in the romantic fiction genre. She has also written three crime novels and two in the historical fiction genre. She has been the wife of a diplomat (still is), a fitness teacher and a translator. She now writes full-time from either of two locations, a ramshackle house in County Tipperary, Ireland or a little cottage overlooking the Atlantic in Dingle, County Kerry. When she is not scaling the mountains of said counties (including MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, featured in Full Irish), or keeping fit in the local gym, she keeps writing, producing a book every six months.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Memories of Wild Rose Bay by Susanne O’Leary 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

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

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

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

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

EXCERPT: His best friend these days was Gus, a seventy year old black man who lived down the road. They had met a couple of weeks after Noah had bought the house, when Gus had shown up with some homemade liquor and Brunswick stew, and the two had spent their first evening together getting drunk and telling stories.

Now Gus would show up a couple of nights a week, usually around eight. With four kids and eleven grandchildren in the house, he needed to get out of the house now and then, and Noah couldn’t blame him. Usually Gus would bring his harmonica, and after talking for a little while, they’d play a few songs together. Sometimes they played for hours.

He’d come to regard Gus as family. There really wasn’t anyone else, at least not since his father died last year. He was an only child; his mother had died of influenza when he was two, and though he had wanted to at one time, he had never married.

But he had been in love once, that he knew. Once and only once, and a long time ago. And it had changed him forever. Perfect love did that to a person, and this had been perfect.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Set amid the austere beauty of the North Carolina coast begins the story of Noah Calhoun, a rural Southerner recently returned from the Second World War. Noah is restoring a plantation home to its former glory, and he is haunted by images of the beautiful girl he met fourteen years earlier, a girl he loved like no other. Unable to find her, yet unwilling to forget the summer they spent together, Noah is content to live with only memories…until she unexpectedly returns to his town to see him once again.

Like a puzzle within a puzzle, the story of Noah and Allie is just the beginning. As it unfolds, their tale miraculously becomes something different, with much higher stakes.

MY THOUGHTS: I had just written this review, hit enter . . . and it disappeared – ‘Poof!’ So here we go again . . .

Although I am not particularly fond of the story, The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks holds a very special place in my heart. This was the very first book that my now husband ever gave me. I like to take it out every now and then and reread it, not because of the story, but because of the precious memories it inspires.

Books can do that. Bring back wonderful memories. If I was rating The Notebook on that alone, it would earn 5 stars plus from me. But as for the actual story, it earns a little over three stars. It is a bit too sweet for my taste, but perfect for those times when you want a read that you can enjoy without having to think too much.

BTW, this is not the book he would choose for me now. He is the romantic in this relationship. He cries every time he watches ‘Titanic’. I have yet to sit through it.

***.2

THE AUTHOR: Sparks lives in North Carolina. He contributes to a variety of local and national charities, and is a major contributor to the Creative Writing Program (MFA) at the University of Notre Dame, where he provides scholarships, internships, and a fellowship annually.

DISCLOSURE: I own my copy of The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks, published by Grand Central Publishing. It definitely isn’t in pristine condition; it is well traveled and well loved. 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

Final Cut by S.J. Watson

EXCERPT: I lay on the bed staring at the ceiling, my open phone heavy in my hand. I’d found only one number in the memory. It seemed simple. If I wanted to find out who I was, all I had to do was dial it. So why couldn’t I do it?

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

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

MY THOUGHTS: I loved Second Life by S.J. Watson, it earned a glorious five stars from me. But Final Cut? I struggled to finish it. Had I been given this book with no previous experience of the author, I would have said that it was a debut novel, and not a very good one at that.

There is a lot of dialogue, far too much, and far too many questions, endless. These two things killed what little suspense there was for me. And there was very little of that. Occasional flashes of brilliance shine through – like the grave on the moors. I got excited at that point, certain that all was going to come right and that this was going to be the great read I had been expecting. That didn’t happen. Instead, the storyline seemed to get bogged down in itself and I lost interest. I even thought about not finishing it, but read on in the hope that my faith in this author would be justified.

There is nothing new in this plot. We have a young woman with amnesia, drawn back to her home town. Missing teenage girls – of whom ‘Alex’ is one. But no one recognizes her (there’s a reason for that which just didn’t gel for me), and she doesn’t seem to recognize many people in the village either. Her mother is conveniently no longer living there. And no mention is made of people she may have gone to school with . . . So, we have an unreliable narrator, a mysterious man living in an isolated house, an abandoned caravan, three missing girls, and strange behaviour by the villagers. It sounds enticing, doesn’t it? Like it should be a good suspenseful mystery. But it’s not. It flounders.

And it has one of those endings that I just hate – where all is ‘explained’ in a conversation, this one between ‘Alex’ and her psychiatrist.

🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️

#FinalCut #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: S.J. Watson was born in the UK, lives in London, and worked in the NHS for several years.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House, Transworld Publishers via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Final Cut by S.J. Watson for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions. A lot of 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 Final Cut by S.J. Watson. I hope that you are one of the many who love this book.

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 Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

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

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

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

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

Someone has taken her.

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

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

MY THOUGHTS: Highly improbable, but extremely entertaining!

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

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

😉😲🤦‍♀️.8

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

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

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

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

Imperfect Women by Araminta Hall

EXCERPT: ‘Eleanor.’

She sat up because she hadn’t even been aware of answering the phone and the night was still black and nothing made sense. Her head spun, and she dropped it forward to make it stop, which allowed other things to fall into place.

‘Robert?’

‘I’m sorry to wake you.’

‘What time is it?’

‘Just after four.’

‘My God, has something happened?’

‘No. well, I don’t know. Nancy’s not here. I must have fallen asleep when I was reading, because I’ve just woken up and she’s not back. And her phone’s going straight to voicemail.’

The streetlights were seeping in through the cracks in Eleanor’s curtains, and she tried to focus on the strip of artificial light, as if it meant something.

‘You don’t know where she is, do you? I mean, she didn’t by any chance come back to your place after dinner, did she?’ His voice sounded like overstretched elastic.

‘No – no, she didn’t.’ She swung her legs out of the bed, and all the irritation she’d felt for Nancy the night before, for ages really, sloshed about in her body. ‘Look, I can be there in fifteen minutes.’

Oh, God, you don’t have to…’

‘It’s fine, Robert. I’ll throw on some clothes and get into the car.’

The elastic in his voice snapped. ‘Oh, God, do you think, then … I mean, should I call the police?’

‘No, wait for me.’ Eleanor pulled on her jeans as she spoke, and her irritation mutated to anger. She wanted to pick up something and hurl it against the wall. She wanted to scream into Nancy’s perfect face. She wouldn’t let her get away with this. She would recount everything, every last painful second, she would spare her nothing.

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

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

MY THOUGHTS: I finished Imperfect Women with a definite sense of despondency. I felt weighted down by it. It was not the book I needed right at this moment. It has taken a long walk in the sunshine and a couple of hours of my favorite music to brighten my mood.

Imperfect Women is a brutally honest book about the bonds of friendship and marriage, human stupidity, love (or what passes for it), family, and the destructive powers of guilt and deception (in its many forms). It deals deeply with the expectations women place upon themselves, and those that the men in their lives impose upon them. It is a well written and well plotted book. But it is not a book to be read lightly; it is full of despair and introspection. I think that this is a book that will haunt me for some time.

The murder of Nancy is the catalyst for a chain reaction, but it is not the focus of the story. That remains firmly on the after effects of Nancy’s death.

The story is told in three parts: the first by Eleanor, best friend of both Nancy and Mary, philanthropist career woman, unmarried, childless and with no ‘significant other’ in her life; the second part is told from Nancy’s point of view and, believe me, there is not a lot to like about this woman, who has a brilliant brain which she has never put to use, and who is married to wealthy Robert with one daughter, and is careless with her affections; the third part is told from Mary’s point of view, married to University lecturer and narcissist Howard, with three children and no life outside the home. It is incredible to me that these three women have continued to be friends through all the years since their university days as they have absolutely nothing but their past in common.

At no time did I ever consider abandoning this read, yet neither did I rush to pick it up again after putting it down. I think I need a bit of time and distance from this one to gain a better perspective. I plan, in a week or so, to return and edit this review and possibly even my rating. Would I read another book by this author? Definitely.

🤔🤔🤔.3

#ImperfectWomen #NetGalley

‘We live in a world now where there has to be an answer to everything. We wonder about something and Google tells us the answer, but death isn’t always like that. And nor is love.’

‘What seems like great catastrophes to you are really just small sorrows in the big scheme of things.’

‘We have a responsibility to those who love us. … being loved makes us precious, and that means we have to take care of ourselves. You know, I think you and I, and Nancy as well, we’re good at loving, but not good at being loved. But that means we’re missing something important. We’re taking on too much of the bad responsibility and not enough of the good…’

‘There is always the possibility of new chapters in everyone’s stories.’

THE AUTHOR: Araminta Hall began her career in journalism as a staff writer on teen magazine Bliss, becoming Health and Beauty editor of New Woman. On her way, she wrote regular features for the Mirror’s Saturday supplement and ghost-wrote the super-model Caprice’s column.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Farrar, Straus and Giroux via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Imperfect Women by Araminta Hall 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 Night Whistler by Greg Woodland

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

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

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

Not just dead, but recently killed.

Not just killed, but mutilated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

❤❤❤❤.8

#TheNightWhistler #NetGalley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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