Over My Dead Body by Jeffrey Archer

EXCERPT: ‘Are you a detective, sir?’

William looked up at the young man who’d asked the question. ‘No, I’m the assistant manager of the Midland Bank in Shoreham, Kent.’

‘In that case,’ continued the young man, not looking convinced, ‘you’ll be able to tell me what the exchange rate was between the dollar and the pound when the currency market opened this morning.’

William tried to remember how much he’d received when he changed a hundred pounds into dollars just before he’d joined the ship the previous evening. But he hesitated for too long.

‘One dollar and fifty-four cents to the pound,’ said the young man before he could reply. ‘So, forgive me for asking, sir, why aren’t you willing to admit you’re a detective?’

William put the book he was reading on the table in front of him and took a closer look at the earnest young American who seemed desperate not to be thought of as a child, although he hadn’t started shaving. The word ‘preppy’ immediately came to mind.

‘Can you keep a secret?’ he whispered.

‘Yes, of course,’ the young man said, sounding offended.

‘Then have a seat,’ said William, pointing to the comfortable chair opposite him. He waited for the young man to settle. ‘I’m on holiday, and I promised my wife that for the next ten days I wouldn’t tell anyone I was a detective, because it’s always followed by a stream of questions that turn it into a busman’s holiday.’

But why choose a banker as your cover?’ asked the young man. ‘Because I have the feeling you wouldn’t know the difference between a spreadsheet and a balance sheet.’

‘My wife and I gave that question some considerable thought before we settled on a banker. I grew up in Shoreham, a small town in England, in the sixties, and the local bank manager was a friend of my father’s. So I thought I’d get away with it for a couple of weeks.’

‘What else was on the short list?’

‘Estate agent, car salesman, and funeral director. All of which we were fairly confident wouldn’t be followed by never ending questions.’

The young man laughed.

‘Which job would you have chosen?’ asked William, trying to regain the initiative.

‘Hitman. That way nobody would have bothered me with any follow up questions.’

‘I would have known that was a cover immediately,’ said William with a dismissive wave of his hand. ‘Because no hitman would have asked me if I was a detective. He would have already known. So, what do you really do when you’re not a hitman?’

ABOUT ‘OVER MY DEAD BODY’: In London, the Metropolitan Police set up a new Unsolved Murders Unit—a cold case squad—to catch the criminals nobody else can.

In Geneva, millionaire art collector Miles Faulkner—convicted of forgery and theft—was pronounced dead two months ago. So why is his unscrupulous lawyer still representing a dead client?

On a luxury liner en route to New York, the battle for power at the heart of a wealthy dynasty is about to turn to murder.

And at the heart of all three investigations are Detective Chief Inspector William Warwick, rising star of the department, and ex-undercover agent Ross Hogan, brought in from the cold.

But can they catch the killers before it’s too late?

Due for publication 12 October 2021

MY THOUGHTS: I first read Jeffrey Archer in 1979,or shortly thereafter, having bought my father Kane and Abel as a gift, which I promptly borrowed back to read. My father is long passed away, but I still have that copy. Thus began my love affair with this extraordinarily talented storyteller.

Now in his eighties, he certainly hasn’t lost his touch, and has created a wonderful character in William Warwick who has risen to the rank of Detective Chief Inspector (youngest in the history of the Met), and also in Ross Hogan, an ex-undercover agent and loose cannon.

The cruise that William and his delightful and clever wife Beth are taking, doesn’t turn out to be the relaxing holiday they were planning on. A suspicious death on board puts paid to that, and William leaves his wife in New York after they dock and flies back to England where he becomes embroiled in a plan to catch the escaped, and previously thought dead, criminal Miles Faulkner.

Over My Dead Body is fast paced and kept me spellbound from beginning to end. It’s not often that I will listen to an audiobook in two days, but I had my earbuds in every chance I had. It’s brilliantly written, with plots and subplots, twists, turns and drama. I frequently had my heart in my mouth, and at one point I called out a very loud and anguished, ‘Nooo!’ If you read Over My Dead Body, and I hope that you do, you will know exactly at which point I did this.

Archer has left me on the edge of my seat, waiting for #5 in this planned series of 8 books.

Narrator George Blagden gave an excellent performance, but then I would expect nothing less from such a distinguished actor.

At the end of the audiobook is an excellent interview with Jeffrey Archer. Please don’t skip this, it’s priceless.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#OverMyDeadBody #NetGalley

I: @jeffrey_archer_author @harpercollinsuk

T: @Jeffrey_Archer @HarperCollinsUK

#fivestarread #detectivefiction #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Jeffrey Howard Archer, Baron Archer of Weston-super-Mare (born 15 April 1940) is an English author and former politician.

He was a Member of Parliament and deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, and became a life peer in 1992. His political career, having suffered several controversies, ended after a conviction for perverting the course of justice and his subsequent imprisonment. He is married to Mary Archer, a scientist specialising in solar power. Outside politics, he is a novelist, playwright and short story writer.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Collins UK Audio via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of Over My Dead Body 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

Bad Apples by Will Dean

EXCERPT: An arm catches around my neck. I fall.

A body on top of me. Heavy. Smells of waxed jacket. A forearm to my face.

‘Get off me!’

‘Please,’ she says.

I roll away and she is staring at me, her eyes bulging and red, her fingers bloody.

‘Please.’

‘Who are you?’ I ask, the fog managing to drift between us, her face breaking up behind the static.

She gets to her knees and stands and I see her jeans are red. Stained. Splattered.

I pull my knife from my bag and she says, ‘No’ and puts her palms to her face, and she says, ‘No, no, no.’

I take a deep breath of forest air, dense with spores and rotten leaves. It’s thick autumn air laced with the tang of rot and decay.

‘Over there,’ she says, pointing into the mists.

I swallow hard and stand up and move to where she’s pointing. A fallen pine, its root system flat and sprawling like a metro map. A dash of colour behind. A coat? I clamber over the pine, its rough bark scratching at my trousers like the nails of a grasping hand.

Two boots.

And two legs.

‘Dead,’ she says.

ABOUT ‘BAD APPLES’: It only takes one…

A murder

A resident of small-town Visberg is found decapitated

A festival

A cultish hilltop community ‘celebrates’ Pan Night after the apple harvest

A race against time

As Visberg closes ranks to keep its deadly secrets, there could not be a worse time for Tuva Moodyson to arrive as deputy editor of the local newspaper. Powerful forces are at play and no one dares speak out. But Tuva senses the story of her career, unaware that perhaps she is the story…

MY THOUGHTS: Dark. Intense. Spine chilling. Unsettling. Gory. Almost nightmarish. And set at Halloween.

I read Bad Apples, my first book by Will Dean, with a kind of fascinated horror. I was constantly on edge, at times not daring to breathe as I read.

The setting is the fictional towns of Gavrik and Visberg, a few hours north of Karlstad, a real city, in Sweden. Surrounded by the Utgard Forest, the winters are cold and dark, the animals wild, the towns sparse, insular, and isolated. Even the difference in the inhabitants of Gavrik and the even more isolated Visberg is noticeable.

The characters are outstanding and many exude an air of mystery and menace. There is a pair of elderly sisters who carve trolls, adorning them with animal parts; a clock maker with a macabre basement museum; a mother and son who run a strange storage facility; a Bosnian pizzeria owner reputed to be a war criminal; and twins who run an eerie 24 hour gaming parlour. There are many more characters who range from eccentric to downright scary, so there’s no shortage of suspects, and there’s plenty of red herrings to exercise those little grey cells.

But there are tender moments too, such as with Danny, the delightful and lovable small child of the warring couple who live next door to Tuva. There is definitely something about this couple, and I am sure that they will feature more in future books.

While Dean may lack the finesse of Mr King, he still knows how to create an atmosphere.

I haven’t read any of the previous books in this series, but that is something I intend to remedy. I didn’t have any problem with continuity, and Bad Apples is easily read as a stand-alone.

Bad Apples ends on a cliffhanger, but I am sure that there is more to come.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

#BadApples #NetGalley

I: @willrdean @oneworldpublications

T: @willrdean @OneworldNews

#contemporaryfiction #crime #murdermystery #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Will Dean grew up in the East Midlands, living in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. He was a bookish, daydreaming kid who found comfort in stories and nature (and he still does). After studying Law at the LSE, and working in London, he settled in rural Sweden. He built a wooden house in a boggy clearing at the centre of a vast elk forest, and it’s from this base that he compulsively reads and writes.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Oneworld Publications, Point Blank, for providing a digital ARC of Bad Apples by Will Dean 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

Brutal Crimes by Michael Hambling

EXCERPT: They watched as the pumps started up. The plastic pipes jerked like injured snakes as water began to move through them on its short journey to the next pool, hidden from view some four hundred yards away. At first it was difficult to believe anything was happening, other than the discordant sound of the generators. It was ten minutes before Sophie could spot any sign of a drop in the water level. She walked away to make a quick phone call to Matt Silver, her boss at headquarters. He’d been less than pleased about the cost of the operation and was obviously still jittery about it. By the time Sophie returned, the level had dropped a foot. As time slowly wore on, a few scattered bits of junk started to appear, dripping with muddy liquid. Some were unrecognisable, thickly coated in an orange-brown layer of muck. Bits of piping, tin buckets and an old set of bed springs. Sophie looked at Greg and shrugged.

By mid-morning the pool had shrunk to half its original volume and more objects were beginning to appear, all coated in slime. It looked like something from a ghastly horror movie or art tableau. The macabre scene wasn’t helped by the stink of decay. Several suspiciously lumpy shapes appeared, impossible to identify from the bank. All were coated in a brown slimy ooze.

‘I don’t like the look of them,’ Sophie said to Barry and Rae, both of whom had just arrived from the incident room.

The onlookers ranged around the rim of the pit watched in silence as the water level fell to a few inches and more grotesque shapes appeared in the sticky ooze. Greg Buller gave a thumbs up and several of his team, clad in chest high waders, moved into the remaining puddles, each roped for safety to a colleague on the bank above. They carried hoses and sprayed water over the lumpy shapes as they advanced, revealing their original form. An ancient bicycle. Several half-rotted tree stumps. A couple of sheets of corrugated iron. An old mattress near to another set of bedsprings. A hose was played onto a lumpy shape that could have been another tree trunk. It wasn’t.

ABOUT ‘BRUTAL CRIMES’: Ten-year-old Amy Birkbeck is checking her bat boxes late one cold January evening in the woods by her house.

She witnesses something no child should ever see — a group of men rolling a body into the deep pool of the disused old clay pit.

Meanwhile, DCI Sophie Allen’s team is falling apart.

Local officer — and suspected bent copper — DS Stu Blackman is missing.

And new recruit, DC Tommy Carter, is knocked off his bike in a serious hit and run.

Then a second body is found in the disused clay pit. And it seems the dead man is connected to a suspected arms dealer . . .

There are dangerous goings-on in Detective Allen’s quiet patch of Dorset, and she doesn’t know who to trust.

MY THOUGHTS: Although I didn’t enjoy Brutal Crimes as much as I did other books in this series, it is still a good read.

I loved the character of Amy Birbeck – she is an incredibly resilient and resourceful child – and she was definitely the shining star of this story.

There’s a lot going on to keep Sophie and her team occupied – a missing child, and two missing policemen to start with – and the situation just gets worse from there. But for some reason, this read just didn’t flow as easily for me as previous books in this series have.

One reason I enjoy Sophie’s character is that she is strong female lead detective who isn’t carrying loads of baggage and who lives a relatively normal life. A female Alan Banks. DCI Sophie Allen is happily married to the father of her two adult daughters. She has a great relationship with both her daughters and with her mother, who’s quite a colorful character. She works well with her team. A nice woman who gets the job done. A breath of fresh air!

One of the downfalls of Brutal Crimes is I missed the insights into Sophie’s personal life. She has a delightful family and we see nothing of them in Brutal Crimes.

A good solid addition to, but definitely not the best book in this series.

⭐⭐⭐.6

#BrtalCrimes #NetGalley

I: @joffebooks

T: @JoffeBooks

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #policeprocedural

THE AUTHOR: The mystery writer Michael Hambling is a novelist very much one of his background, hailing from Dorset in the United Kingdom. Writing with a definite British set of sensibilities, he manages to convey a different style of writing through his books, which is why so many have taken to his work. Using his British surroundings as the backdrop for most of his works, he creates mysteries that really keep his readers guessing constantly throughout.

Michael Hambling is not a social media user.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Joffe Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Brutal Crimes by Michael Hambling 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

My Daughter’s Mistake by Kate Hewitt

EXCERPT: Glancing at Amy Rose lying so still, I reach over and take her hand; it feels so tiny and lifeless, her skin dry and papery. Gently I press her fingers between mine, as if I can imbue her with my strength, my vitality. I can almost imagine her eyes opening as she smiles sleepily at me.

Hey, Mama. What are you doing here?

Hey, baby girl. You had such a big sleep.

Did I dream?

You had the best dreams, sweetheart. The very best dreams.

A choked sound escapes me, something far too close to a sob. I can picture it so perfectly; I can’t believe it’s not real, that it’s not going to happen in just a few seconds. Every morning as she sits tangle-haired before her bowl of Cheerios, Amy Rose asks me if she dreamed the night before.

It’s become a thing between us; I tell her all about the dreams she had. I make up stories about ice-cream castles and fairies with sparkly wings, and she listens, rapt, and she always wants more.

I want to tell her about her dreams now. You flew up to heaven on your sparkly wings and then you came back, baby girl, and you had such stories to tell! Up there in the sky, you saw everything there ever was – the Great Wall of China, the lions in Africa, and that big red rock in Australia you think is so cool. You saw it all, and then came back to tell me about it.

Please come back, Amy Rose, 
I plead silently. Please come back and tell me all about it.

ABOUT ‘MY DAUGHTER’S MISTAKE’: I look at my daughter. My darling girl. I remember her tiny hand in mine, her first smile. I recall her tears when she’d tumble over, healed instantly with a band-aid and a little kiss. I have to keep her safe. Even if it means someone else gets hurt…

In the pretty, privileged college town of Milford, New Hampshire, everyone is friendly, everything is safe. And on this cold autumn day, as red and yellow leaves begin to fall from the trees, and everyone wraps up for the first time, it would be easy to believe nothing bad could ever happen here.

Until a screech of tires is heard, a thud, a child’s scream. The crash that sees Jenna’s six-year-old daughter Amy Rose being hit by a car driven by seventeen-year-old Maddie.

Maddie’s mother, Ellen—a college professor with a warm, approachable reputation—insists it must have been an accident. Her daughter is always safe on the road—and she’s vulnerable herself.

But as Amy Rose lies unconscious in hospital, the town begins to take sides. With Ellen, who just wants to defend her daughter. Or with Jenna, a single mother with a past, whose child hovers between life and death…

The truth is that both mothers have secrets they’re trying to keep. And, with Amy Rose’s life hanging in the balance, one of them will stop at nothing to protect the person she loves—her daughter.

MY THOUGHTS: Am I a masochist? Whenever I pick up a Kate Hewitt book, I know that I am about to have my heart shredded into tiny little pieces; but I keep on doing it.

Hewitt will wring every possible emotion from you as you read this heart-wrenching story. Each and every copy of it should come with its own extra large, extra absorbent, box of tissues.

Two mothers, both in desperate situations, are battling head to head over an accident that has critically damaged both their daughters. My Daughter’s Mistake is told from the points of view of the two mothers, Jenna – mother of the beautiful six year old Amy Rose; and Ellen – mother of the vulnerable Maddy.

My Daughter’s Mistake is the story of two families torn apart by one tragedy. Like any tragedy, this doesn’t stop with just those in the accident. Hewitt explores how the effects ripple outwards, affecting every member of the families and beyond.

As always in her books, Hewitt presents us with a situation that could befall any of us. Her characters are very real and I could not help but experience all the emotions of the characters – I seesawed in my sympathy between Jenna and Ellen – but I also felt their love, their loss, their fear and their anger. A master of family dynamics, Hewitt also involves the fathers, the siblings, and grandparents, friends and work colleagues in a story that will leave you emotionally drained but satisfied.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#MyDaughtersMistake #NetGalley

I: @katehewitt1 @bookouture

T: @KateHewitt1 @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #mystery #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Kate is the USA Today-bsetselling author of many books of both historical and contemporary fiction. Under the name Katharine Swartz, she is the author of the Tales from Goswell books, a series of time-slip novels set in the village of Goswell.

She likes to read women’s fiction, mystery and thrillers, as well as historical novels. She particularly enjoys reading about well-drawn characters and avoids high-concept plots.

Having lived in both New York City and a tiny village on the windswept northwest coast of England, she now resides in a market town in Wales with her husband, five children, and two Golden Retrievers.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of My Daughter’s Mistake by Kate Hewitt 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

At the End of the Day by Liz Byrski

EXCERPT: May 2019 – On the day she is due to fly home to Australia, Miriam Squires is sitting at a table in the hotel restaurant, sipping her second cup of coffee and staring at the English Channel, which is so still it looks more like a lake than the sea. It’s the end of her annual visit to the UK, always a month or six weeks with her sister Alice in Oxford, followed by a few days of nostalgia here in Brighton, where they had grown up. The town, with its stony beach and two piers, one thriving, the other now a wreck, always lures her back. But now – at seventy-five, with painful mobility problems – the prospect of long queues, struggles with baggage and long hours in the air is daunting. Today, she thinks, is probably the last time she will see the place where she was born. It’s not just the misery of the journey itself, but her increasing disenchantment with England. Beautiful villages have become ugly towns bordered by industrial estates; unique country pubs have been swallowed up by hospitality chains, and those shops who can’t withstand the shift to online shopping are disappearing, leaving high streets sadly diminished.

‘Even Marks and Spencer’s is fading away,’ Alice had told her. ‘Imagine no M and S knickers or bras! And then there’s Brexit. England’s a basket case – it’ll be a disaster if we leave the EU. You’re so lucky with that Jacinda Adern.’

‘She’s the Prime Minister of New Zealand,’ Mim had said, ‘but I do think you’d love Australia. You should come and stay with me, Al.’ She has issued the invitation many times over the years.

‘I’ll think about it,’ Alice had said. ‘I really will.’ That’s what she always said.

ABOUT ‘AT THE END OF THE DAY’: When Mim Squires and Mathias Vander are stranded together on a disrupted flight home to Perth, they are surprised to find that they have much in common. Mim owns a bookshop, Mathias is a writer, and both are at turning points in their lives. Mim’s childhood polio is taking a toll on her life. Mathias is contemplating a cross-continent move to be nearer his daughter.

But life back in Perth is not smooth sailing, with their respective family members going through their own upheavals. As Mim and Mathias both struggle to adjust to the challenges of being in their late seventies, secrets from the past that neither wishes to face rise to the surface, challenging their long-held beliefs in their independence and singularity.

At the end of the day, can they muster the wisdom and the courage they need to change?

MY THOUGHTS: Immersing myself in a Liz Byrski book is my happy place. At the End of the Day is a beautifully written story of family, love, friendship and making peace with the past.

Liz’s characters are loveable – people I could be friends with, realistic people with quirks and faults, having to make decisions that many of us will face in our lives. She writes with a gentle humour and an obvious affection for her characters.

2019 is a time of turmoil for both families. Mim is acknowledging her health problems which are again beginning to impact on her life. She wonders if she will ever see her sister Alice again, and how she is going to cope with running her bookstore, Life Sentence, in the future. An accident causes friction between her and Jodie, whom she treats like the daughter she never had, and she feels like she is losing control of her life.

Mathias is at a crossroads in his life. Lifelong friend Luc, is dying, he seems to have lost his motivation to write, and an incident from his past that has haunted him all his life is causing debilitating panic attacks. On top of all that, his daughter Carla has broken up with her partner, who Mathias never much liked anyway, and is wondering if she will ever find anyone to share her life with.

We follow these two families as friendships are forged, fears are faced, and secrets revealed. Not all questions are answered, but that’s okay, because that’s just the way life works. Covid-19 gets a fleeting mention as this story concludes in early 2020.

At the End of the Day tugged at my heartstrings. It shows that how we remember the past isn’t always how it happened. It demonstrates that there is always hope for the future, and that independence isn’t always the prize it is made out to be.

This read was made even more poignant when, reading the author’s acknowledgments, I discovered that Liz Byrski had suffered a stroke during the writing of At The End of The Day, and finished it post-stroke, a feat to be admired. I wish you a full recovery Liz, and many happy and healthy years to come.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#AttheEndoftheDay #NetGalley

I: @lizbyrski @macmillanaus

T: @LizByrski @MacmillanAus

#aging #contemporaryfiction #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Liz was born in London and spent most of her childhood in Sussex. As an only child she spent a lot of time alone, much of it buried in books. She began her working life as a secretary and later moved into journalism working as a reporter on a local newspaper until she took up freelance writing when her children were born. Before moving to Western Australia she also worked as an appeals organiser for Oxfam.

After moving to Perth with her family in 1981 she once again established a freelance career writing for Australian publications including The Australian, Homes and Living, Cosmopolitan and Weekend News.

Liz lives between Perth and Fremantle and in addition to enjoying the company of family and friends, she spends most of her time reading, writing and walking. She has two adult sons and twin grandsons.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of At the End of the Day by Liz Byrski 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

Stranded by Sarah Goodwin

EXCERPT: Prologue: Frozen to the bone, I stumble from the boat and look around me at the village. It’s not Creel, but some place exactly like it; houses tumbling like rocks down towards the hungry sea. Fishing boats and cracked concrete. I stand there, swaying slightly with the motion of the boat I’ve left behind. There’s no sound or movement from the houses.

Somehow, despite coming so far, through so much, the idea of going up to one of those doors and knocking, being confronted by a stranger, has me frozen. What is waiting in those houses? Is there even anyone there?

‘Are you all right, poppet?’

I turn so fast I nearly fall over. On the doorstep of a tiny cottage is an old woman in a wool skirt and fluffy slippers. Her eyes are wide and she has a wire cage of milk bottles in one hand, her back still half stooped to put it on the doorstep.

As I turn, her eyes fall to the strap of the rifle and she drops the bottles. They smash, throwing glass all over the concrete step. Fear is etched on her face as I remove the rifle and lay it on the ground.

I rise, and glance down at my ripped and muddy clothing, hanging off my skeletal body. With effort, I part my sticky, salt encrusted lips.

‘I need the police.’

ABOUT ‘STRANDED’: Eight strangers.
One island.
A secret you’d kill to keep.

When eight people arrive on the beautiful but remote Buidseach Island, they are ready for the challenge of a lifetime: to live alone for one year.

Eighteen months later, a woman is found in an isolated fishing village. She’s desperate to explain what happened to her: how the group fractured and friends became enemies; how they did what they must to survive until the boat came to collect them; how things turned deadly when the boat didn’t come…

But first Maddy must come to terms with the devastating secret that left them stranded, and her own role in the events that saw eight arrive and only three leave.

MY THOUGHTS: In all honesty, I believe you would need to be a fan of TV ‘reality’ shows like Survivor to appreciate this book. In hindsight, I am probably the wrong demographic. I was thinking that this would be more of a murder mystery, and it is not.

Maddy is the narrator. She is grief stricken following the death of her parents. She lost her job as a botanist after clashing with her boss, and is temping office work. She is lost and lonely and believes she needs this challenge to find herself. So she isn’t very happy when life on the Island starts to mirror the life she left behind. Tensions between the contestants escalate until . . .

Initially I found the personality clashes between the contestants interesting, and while I knew that bad stuff had to happen, I was expecting a more even division into ‘sides’ than occurred.

While I never quite lost interest, Stranded seemed inordinately long. It felt like we lived through every day of those eighteen months, task by repetitive task. And in the end? It became tedious. And frankly, unbelievable.

⭐⭐.7

#Stranded #NetGalley

I: @sarah_goodwin_author @harpercollinsuk @avonbooksuk

T: @SGoodAuthor @HarperCollinsUK @AvonBooksUK

#contemporaryfiction #crime #mystery

THE AUTHOR: Sarah Goodwin is a novelist who grew up in rural Hertfordshire and now lives in Bristol. She was raised on C. S. Lewis, Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie by her parents and spent her summers in castles and on battlefields making up stories about women struggling for survival against war, poverty and dragons.

At Bath Spa University Sarah studied for a BA in Creative Writing and self-published seven novels across various genres, including YA magical realism, contemporary women’s fiction, romance and horror.

While undertaking her Master’s degree, Sarah participated in writing and performing in sketches for Bristol-based What Have You Comedy and now appears regularly on Bristol Youth Radio Rocks as part of a weekly mental health hour for young people.

Sarah graduated in 2014 with an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Collins UK audio for providing an audio ARC of Stranded by Sarah Goodwin, and narrated by Esme Sears, for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

The Parents by Claire Seeber

EXCERPT: ALEX: Mist had begun to gather all along the edge of the woods – the Whispering Woods – as day slipped into night. When I’d arrived, I’d parked the Land Rover beside other cars, but now it stood alone near the looming trees, which looked like they were floating behind the carpark as tendrils of mist crept through them like smoky fingers.

There was something nameless but intensely intimidating in the air; something about the height and thickness of the trees, the twisted trunks just visible as I hurried to the car; something ancient and mythical and utterly uninviting. The surface of the dark pool by the gates was also seething with mist now, and the strange bottles stacked along the wall no longer glinted, the weak autumn sun having given up for the day.

ABOUT ‘THE PARENTS’: Moving to this village was supposed to be a fresh start for me and my thirteen-year-old son Harry. After the tragic death of my husband, it was a chance to leave everything bad behind and make better memories at Primrose Cottage, the postcard-perfect house with honeysuckle around the door.

However, things haven’t exactly been easy since we arrived, and after what we’ve been though, I’m scared of letting anyone new into our lives.

But when one of the local dads asks Harry to join the weekend sports club, I find myself saying yes. The smile on my son’s face gives me hope that I might have made the right decision in uprooting our lives.

All the other parents seem so kind in welcoming me into the fold. At least, they are to begin with… Until someone begins anonymously exposing secrets about everyone in the group.

As betrayals surface and the claws come out, I see how imperfect these people really are; and how far they’ll go to hide the truth. Then when one of the parents ends up dead at the end of a party, I realise that it’s not just lies and scandal they’re covering up.

Too late, I realise that I should have stayed away…

MY THOUGHTS: I should have stayed away too.

At 47%, when I found myself thinking that I would rather go get a tooth pulled, I closed the covers for the final time.

This author can write; there’s no disputing that, and had she continued in the vein of the extract above, I would still be avidly flipping pages. Instead we get cardboard cutout characters with absolutely no depth, who fancy themselves as WAGS, and a bunch of wannabe footballers pushing their failed aspirations down the throats of the under 14 team.

Mystery? Who’s behind the ‘revealing’ video clips that are tearing apart the lives of the footballers enclave? Don’t care. Mysterious death? Hasn’t happened yet, and I am not interested enough to wait around for it.

And I never want to hear the term ‘babs’ again – unless it’s an abbreviation of Barbara. What is it, anyway? ‘Babe’ I can understand, but ‘babs’?

Sorry, but The Parents gets a resounding thumbs down from me.

The Parents by Claire Seeber may well be a book that you enjoy, so please check out a selection of the more positive reviews if you are considering reading it.

⭐.5

#TheParents #NetGalley

I: @claireseeberauthor @bookouture

T: @claireseeber @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #domesticdrama #mystery

THE AUTHOR: After a stab at being a (bad) actress, best-selling author Claire directed factual TV for years, before writing the first of eight psychological thrillers, including the chart-topping Never Tell and The Stepmother. In 2012, she was nominated for a CWA Dagger for He Does Not Always See Her. She also writes for stage and screen, features for newspapers such as The Guardian & The Independent and is a qualified Gestalt therapist, when she’s not writing or herding feral kids (hers) or animals.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Parents by Claire Seeber 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

Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune

EXCERPT: His funeral was sparsely attended. Wallace wasn’t pleased. He couldn’t even be quite sure how he’d gotten here. One moment, he’d been staring down at his body, and then he’d blinked, and somehow, found himself in front of a church, the doors open, bells ringing. It certainly hadn’t helped when he saw the prominent sign sitting out front. A CELEBRATION OF THE LIFE OF WALLACE PRICE it read. He didn’t like that sign, if he was being honest with himself. No, he didn’t like it one bit. Perhaps someone inside could tell him what the hell was going on.

ABOUT ‘UNDER THE WHISPERING DOOR’: When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.

Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.

But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.

When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

MY THOUGHTS: Under the Whispering Door is an utterly amazing, beautiful and inspiring story. I finished with a great sense of peace and awe.

Wallace was not a nice person. This is evident at his funeral. He lacked empathy, had no friends. There is a woman at his funeral he doesn’t recognize, not difficult since there are only six people there. She is different from the others – she can see him. Here starts Wallace’s journey.

I am so glad I got to go on that journey with him. It was a wondrous experience. This is a magical and emotionally powerful read. I cried for Wallace, for Cameron, for Nancy. I laughed at Mei’s ascerbic tongue, at Nelson’s antics.

Under the Whispering Door is a book that will stay with me a long time, and one that I am going to purchase a hard copy of.

If you haven’t read this yet, please do. It’s a beautiful experience.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#UndertheWhisperingDoor #NetGalley

#fivestarread #fantasy #humour #paranormal #romance

I: @tjklunebooks @macmillanusa

T: @ tjklune @MacmillanUSA

THE AUTHOR: TJ KLUNE is a Lambda Literary Award-winning author (Into This River I Drown) and an ex-claims examiner for an insurance company. His novels include The House in the Cerulean Sea and The Extraordinaries. Being queer himself, TJ believes it’s important—now more than ever—to have accurate, positive, queer representation in stories.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you, thank you, thank you to Macmillan-Tor/Forge for providing a digital ARC of Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

The Couple Upstairs by Shalini Boland

EXCERPT: ‘Nina? Are you coming in, then? ‘ Zac’s warm brown eyes beckon.

I realise I’m standing on the doorstep in a dream while Zac has stepped into the hallway. Suddenly, I’m giddy with nerves and excitement. I can’t wait to get inside, but I’m also a little anxious. The one and only time we saw the inside of the flat was three months ago before we put in the offer. I knew we had to move fast to secure it. Property gets snapped up so quickly in this area. I hope it lives up to my memory.

ABOUT ‘THE COUPLE UPSTAIRS’: I should never have become friends with the couple upstairs…

The first time I step inside this cosy apartment with its sash windows, just minutes from the sea, I think it would be the perfect place for me and my partner Zac to start again. A chance to leave our troubled past behind.

Chris and Vanessa, the couple upstairs, are so welcoming: smiles, flowers, a home-baked cake. It’s strange how he does all the talking, and she seems so shy, but I’m just thrilled to have new friends nearby.

But everything starts to go wrong… my business begins to crumble, I can’t ignore the whispers at our housewarming party and loud arguments from upstairs keep me awake at night. I can’t sleep, I can’t think straight and I feel like someone is watching me in my own home.

And then Zac comes home one afternoon, his face clenched with fury, and says he knows what’s going on. He knows about my secret…

He won’t listen to me. He storms out and I’m left in tears, completely devastated.

Why has my life fallen apart since we moved here? Am I going mad? Or is someone trying to destroy us?

If only I’d known what I know now.
If only I hadn’t trusted the couple upstairs.

MY THOUGHTS: I have read, loved and rated books by this author at five stars in the past but, to be honest, The Couple Upstairs was a very average read. As I got to the 50% mark, I realised I was bored. I seriously debated not finishing, and couldn’t quite believe I was considering doing this to a book by Shalini Boland! I had decided to read one more chapter – they are very short – when Boland threw me a curveball, and I kept reading.

Even though I kept reading, The Couple Upstairs was ultimately a disappointment for me. ‘Average’, and ‘obvious’ are the words that come to mind, and there’s no way that I consider this to be a psychological thriller. No thrills, no suspense, and the psychological motivation is very weak.

Even though this is written in the first person, I didn’t feel that I was there, living Nina’s experiences. I didn’t like Nina, or Zac, their families, or their neighbours. I didn’t relate to any of them.

There were a number of things that seemed totally unrealistic to me, from buying a flat after only one viewing, to the end where (view spoiler)

Not a read that I will be recommending. This author can do, and has done, much better. Had this been the gripping psychological thriller it’s promoted as, I would have read the 260 odd pages in one sitting rather than taking 3 days, as I did.

⭐⭐.6

#contemporaryfiction #domesticdrama

I: @shaboland @bookouture

T: @ShaliniBoland @Bookouture

THE AUTHOR: Hello 🙂 I write suspense thrillers and dark adventures, and I live in Dorset, England with my husband, two children and our dog. I only write reviews for books I enjoy!

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Couple Upstairs by Shalini Boland via Netgalley for review.

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

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

The Best Mystery Stories of the Year: 2021 edited by Lee Child and Otto Penzler

EXCERPT: taken from 30 and Out by Doug Allyn

The sign on the door read Sgt. Charles Marx, Major Crimes. I raised my fist to knock, then realised the guy at the desk wasn’t just resting his eyes. He was totally out, slouched in his chair, his grubby Nikes up on his desk, baseball cap tipped down over his eyes, snoring softly. Looked like a Class C wrestling coach after a losing season. Edging in quietly, I eased down into the chair facing his desk. When I glanced up, his eyes were locked on mine like lasers.

‘Can I help you?’

‘I’m Jax LaDart, Sergeant Marx. Your FNG.’

He frowned at that, then nodded. ‘The f*****g new guy,’ he said, massaging his eyelids with his fingertips. ‘Ah, right. You’re the home boy the chief hired, straight out of the army. I was reading your record. It put me to sleep.’ He spun the Dell laptop on his desk to show me the screen. ‘According to the Military Police, you’ve closed a lot of felony cases overseas, but the details are mostly redacted, blacked out.’

‘The army’d classify Three Blind Mice if they could. You don’t remember me, do you?’

ABOUT ‘THE MYSTERIOUS BOOKSHOP PRESENTS THE BEST MYSTERY STORIES OF THE YEAR: 2021: Under the auspices of New York City’s legendary mystery fiction specialty bookstore, The Mysterious Bookshop, and aided by Edgar Award-winning anthologist Otto Penzler, international bestseller Lee Child has selected the twenty most suspenseful, most confounding, and most mysterious short stories from the past year, collected now in one entertaining volume.

Includes stories by:

Alison Gaylin
David Morrell
James Lee Burke
Joyce Carol Oates
Martin Edwards
Sara Paretsky
Stephen King
Sue Grafton (with a new, posthumously-published work!)

And many more!

MY THOUGHTS: There are a couple of absolutely brilliant stories in here – Sue Grafton’s ‘If You Want Something Done Right . . .’ and Stephen King’s ‘The Fifth Step’ are the two that stood out for me. Others that I enjoyed were: ‘The Locked Cabin’ by Martin Edwards, Janice Law’s ‘The Client’, and David Morrell’s ‘Requiem For A Homecoming.’ There was one story I absolutely detested – Parole Hearing by Joyce Carol Oates, and I didn’t much care for David Marcum’s ‘The Home Office Baby’ either, or the first two stories which were ‘tough guy’ fiction and almost completely put me off reading any more of the collection. The rest fell somewhere in the middle and were mostly quite mediocre.

This is by no means anywhere near my favourite collection. Quite a few, I zoned out of as I was listening, and had to return to. They just didn’t hold my interest; absolutely no reflection on the narrators who, on the whole did an excellent job.

I know 2020 was a difficult year for all, but I am sure that there were far better mystery stories out there that could have been included in this collection.

⭐⭐⭐

#TheBestMysteryStoriesoftheYear2021 #NetGalley

#audiobook #contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #murdermystery #mystery #shortstories

Edited by Lee Child and Otto Penzler

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Highbridge Audio via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of The Best Mystery Stories of the Year:2021 edited by Lee Child and Otto Penzler 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