Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog WHERE THERE’S DOUBT by Terry Tyler (@TerryTyler4) Twisted plots, twisted characters, and a gripping tale #conartists #psychologicaldrama

Hi, all:

I bring you a novel by one of Rosie’s Book Review Team members, who happens to be an extremely gifted author as well. This is not the first of her novels I read and review, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last either.

Where There’s Doubt by Terry Tyler

Where There’s Doubt by Terry Tyler

‘I can be anything you want me to be. Even if you don’t know you want it. Especially if you don’t know you want it.’

Café owner Kate is mentally drained after a tough two years; all she wants from her online chess partner is entertainment on lonely evenings, and maybe a little virtual flirtation.

She is unaware that Nico Lewis is a highly intelligent con artist who, with an intricately spun web of lies about their emotional connection, will soon convince her that he is The One.

Neither does Kate know that his schemes involve women who seek love on dating sites, as well as his small publishing business. A host of excited authors believe Nico is about to make their dreams come true.

Terry Tyler’s twenty-fourth publication is a sinister psychological drama that highlights the dark side of internet dating—and the danger of ignoring the doubts of your subconscious.

Author Terry Tyler
Author Terry Tyler

About the author:

Terry Tyler is the author of twenty-four books available from Amazon, the latest being ‘Where There’s Doubt’, about a romance scammer. Also recently published is ‘Megacity’, the final book in the dystopian Operation Galton trilogy. She is currently at work on a post apocalyptic series, which will probably take the form of three novellas. Proud to be independently published, Terry is an avid reader and book reviewer, and a member of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

Terry is a Walking Dead addict, and has a great interest in history (particularly 12th-17th century), along with books and documentaries on sociological/cultural/anthropological subject matter. She loves South Park, the sea, and going for long walks in quiet places where there are lots of trees. She lives in the north east of England with her husband.

 My review:

I have read several series and single novels (some linked to one of her series) by Terry Tyler, and she’s become one of a group of authors whose next release I automatically add to my TBR list. And no matter what genre she chooses to write in, I’ve never been disappointed yet.

On top of that, I am a fan of books, movies, and series, about con artists, (I even wrote about it in my PhD), so the description of this novel made it sound like the perfect read for me. And yes, it was.

As you can imagine, I cannot describe the plot of the book in too much detail, because among the beauties of heists and con games are the twists, surprises, and trying to guess what comes next, so I’ll keep my peace. The description talks about a couple of the protagonists and two aspects of the business, the romantic con and also the literary con. The romantic con is something most people will be familiar with, as it seems to have existed, in one form or another, for a very long time, but the novel illustrates how much easier things have become nowadays, with the almost universal access to the internet and social media. The literary con will sound very familiar to those of us who are authors or follow and know indie authors, and I thought the combination of both worked really well and allowed Tyler to include some very interesting comments about the current state of the publishing industry. And those who know her work will have the added bonus of recognising some plot descriptions and some locations as well. (But don’t worry, this is a totally independent book, and you don’t need to have read any of the author’s previous books to enjoy this one, although I’m happy to recommend them all).

As you can imagine from the subject, themes such as trust, confidence, honesty, sincerity, love, fraud, hope, caution, betrayal, psychology, manipulation, pretence, friendship, and greed, but also grief, creativity, ageing, fame, small-town society… And a few other things that I won’t mention to avoid giving out too many clues.

For the same reason, I cannot talk too much about the characters. One of the things I most admire about this author is her talent to create both, compelling plots that keep you turning the pages, and characters that grab your attention and whose actions and the reasons behind them will keep you intrigued, irrespective of how much you like them. There were quite a few characters in this novel that I didn’t like very much (if at all, although in some cases this changed, in both directions, as the story progressed), but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to know what made them tick. Quite the opposite. This is, partly, because the novel offers us different accounts of the events, most narrated in the first person, where we get to share in the thoughts and the deepest feelings of the characters, both “good” and “bad” (although these notions are far from being totally black and white). Even though most of the narration follows Kate and Nico, they are not the only ones we hear about, and that means we get a good understanding of the complexity of the con, and also of the reasons why such different people get involved, both as victims and as perpetrators.

Readers don’t need to worry about getting confused, as each chapter is narrated from a clearly indicated character’s point of view, and the story is told in chronological order, with the dates also included. Because we are privy to the characters’ thoughts, we also bear witness to their memories and recollections, and that allows us to get some much-welcomed background information. But, Tyler knows very well how to create tension and when to swap and change points of views to avoid revealing too much. She doesn’t use unreliable narrators (if anybody is an unreliable narrator, that is her), although it is fair to say that some of the characters have very limited insight into how they come across or what their real talents are, but most of us have been unintentionally guilty of that at some point.

This novel runs the whole gamut of emotions, and they are beautifully reflected in the writing. We have “perfect” romance (different versions of it, as that is in the eye and the heart of the beholder), we have grief (different versions of it as well), and we have betrayal, hope, selfishness, coldness, fear, desperation… And although there are sad moments, there are also very funny ones, and plenty of surprises (I suspected some, not others). Each character has his/her own personality, and the way their thoughts are expressed fits them perfectly. You can hear and see them in your head as you read. You can imagine their tone of voice and their gestures. And thanks to the brief samples of the novels submitted, you also get a fair idea of what those might be like (and be thankful for not having to read those). The rhythm is perfect, alternating between quiet and introspective moments, and tense and action-filled ones. As I always say, you can check a sample of the book if you want to know if the style of writing would suit your taste, but I don’t dare to share anything, just in case.

There is very little I can say about the ending, evidently. But, it worked beautifully for me. I am not one for perfect, all-tied-up, endings, especially for this kind of book. There are genres that call for a happy (or a scary, or sad) resolution, but with psychological drama, I’ve always felt something should be left to the reader’s imagination, and a little uncertainty is always called for. That doesn’t mean there isn’t closure, and I love the way things work out for most of the people involved (on both sides of the con). This might be a tale of caution, but it’s not all doom and gloom.

I recommend this novel to readers who enjoy complex plots, books told from different points of view, psychological dramas where one gets to delve into the characters’ minds and their motives, to fans of con games and con artists, and to anybody who enjoys good writing, set mostly in the UK, but with some visits to fancy locations as well. Some of the emotions the characters experience can be tough for readers who’ve suffered recent losses or breakups, and although not extreme, excessively explicit, or prominent, there is violence in the novel, so those looking for a cosy mystery should try elsewhere. Otherwise, go for it. If you haven’t read any of Terry Tyler’s books, I’m sure you’ll become a convert, and if you have… what are you waiting for?

There are glad tidings in the author’s note at the end, and I am eagerly awaiting her next series (while checking some of the old ones as well).

Thanks to the author for her book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to share, like, comment, click, and always keep smiling and stay safe!

Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog Odd Numbers by JJ Marsh (@JJMarsh1) A spider web that traps readers and doesn’t let go #RBRT

Hi, all.

I bring you a great book that will be released on the 1st of May, and I want to recommend. Another great find by Rosie Amber and her team.

Odd Numbers by JJ Marsh

Odd Numbers by JJ Marsh

The Guilty Party meets The Secret History

Can you forgive a friend?

Strange things bring people together. Like a tragic death.

Over two decades, five friends reunite every other New Year. They celebrate, grieve and heal. Memories grow dusty and the nightmare starts to fade.

On the 20th anniversary, in a remote snowy chalet, old doubts surface.
Wounds reopen and morality comes into question.

Is friendship a safety net or a tie that hobbles to the past?

They thought they knew each other’s secrets.
Did they miss the biggest one of all?

When history is rewritten, they must act to preserve the future.
A fatal decision means this reunion will be their last.

A psychological drama with beautifully portrayed characters and an intricately woven plot. The suspense emerges between the lines, grabs you softly but never lets go.

“Twist follows twist in a riveting mystery as sharp as the shards of glass from a shattered champagne bottle.” Abbie Frost, author of ‘The Guesthouse’

Author JJ Marsh

About the author:

JJ Marsh is the author of The Beatrice Stubbs series, featured in The Guardian Readers’ Recommend and The Bookseller’s Editor’s Choice

Jill is:
* A founder member of Triskele Books, an award-winning author collective founded in 2011
* Swiss Ambassador for The Alliance of Independent Authors
* Co-editor of The Woolf, Zürich’s literary ezine and writers’ workshop
* Reviewer for Bookmuse, the readers’ site with a difference

She lives in Switzerland with her husband and three pugs, and in an attic overlooking a cemetery, she writes.

Join Jill’s Newsletter to get:
* Exclusive prequel to the Beatrice Stubbs series – FREE
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My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.

JJ Marsh is an author I’ve read great reviews about and has been on my list for a while, so I took the chance when I saw an ARC for her next book had become available. I can’t compare it to the rest of her works, but based on this novel, which is a new genre for her, I wouldn’t hesitate recommending her books, and I look forward to catching up on some of her previous novels.

I think the description above provides plenty of hints as to the plot, and this is one of those novels where the way the story is told and the fine details are fundamental, so I’ll try to avoid over explaining things or giving too many hints (I want to avoid spoilers at all cost). This is a story built around six friends (three women and three men) who meet at university, while they are studying to become international translators, and grow to be quite close. They come from different countries (mostly Europe, although one comes from the US, and one is from Indian origin), have very different personalities and backgrounds, and it’s likely that their friendship would have fizzled and died if not for a tragic event that takes place while they are away celebrating New Year (and the new millennium) in December 1999. After that, they meet every two years, and the event that binds them together weighs heavily on them all, having a very different impact in each one of them. Things come to a head on the 20th anniversary of that fateful New Year’s celebration and readers are privileged witnesses of another night to remember. This novel reminded me of a book I read and reviewed recently, The Hunting Party, but also of films like The Celebration (Festen), where there is a build-up of tension, strained relationships, plenty of secrets and lies, and a surprise or two. Although I think many readers will smell a rat from early on in the novel, even if they get it right (and let’s say things are left open to interpretation), the beauty of this novel is in the way it is built, the variety of points of view, and the psychological insights it offers into a catalogue of characters that are not miles away from people most of us know. Considering this is the author’s first incursion into the psychological drama genre, I take my hat off to her.

There are a variety of themes that come up in the novel, some more important to the action than others, for instance the nature of friendship, the way different people experience grief, the guilt of the survivor, how we change and evolve over time and how our relationships change with us, love, death, careers, priorities, family, charity missions, and, of course, lies.

As for the characters, I won’t go into too much detail about them, because the author does a great job of building them up through the novel, and readers should discover them as they read. Marsh chooses one of the female characters, Gael, as the main narrator, and she starts the story ‘now’ (in 2020). The whole novel is written in the first person, but not all from the same point of view. Although I’ve said that Gael is the main narrator, and she has more chapters than the rest, we also get to hear the voices of the other characters, who take us back into some of the reunions the friends have had over the years, and that allows readers to compare and contrast Gael’s version of the rest of her friends with their own words and insights. Readers can compose a mental picture and fit in the pieces of the puzzle, making their own minds up and deciding if they agree or not with Gael’s perceptions. It also makes for a more rounded reading experience, as we get to know each character more intimately, and perhaps to empathise, if not sympathise, with all of them. I liked Gael from the start: she is articulate, a journalist, and a bit of a free spirit, but she always tries to understand and accommodate others as well, and she is more of the observer and the outsider in the story, for reasons that will become evident to the readers from early on. I particularly enjoyed the fact that the friends are like an ersatz family, with individual roles they always fall back on when they are together (the nurturing mother, the responsible and dependable father, the youngest and spoilt sister, the rushed and sporty brother, the sister whom everybody confides in [Gael]), and this reminded me of Eric Berne’s Games People Play. All the characters are articulate and savvy enough to be aware of this and play it for keeps as well.

The book flows well, and the language used is appropriate to each one of the individual characters, fitting with their personalities and quirks without calling too much attention to itself. It helps move the story along and manages to build up the tension, even when there isn’t a lot of action in the usual sense. There are mysterious events taking place (some that will have readers wondering if the characters are imagining them or not), clues that sometimes don’t seem to amount to much, hints, and some memorable scenes. But all those elements are woven subtly into the narrative creating a spider web that traps the readers and the more they read, the more they become entangled in the strands of the story and the characters until it becomes almost impossible to put the book down.

There is a closure of sorts, although the ending is ambiguous and most of the surprises and big reveals have come before then. I liked the fact that there is much left to the imagination of each reader, but I know such things are down to personal taste.

This is a great psychological drama, with engaging characters (some more likeable than others), fascinating relationship dynamics, and a mystery at its heart. It’s a gripping read, perfect to keep our minds engaged and to have us pondering the ins and outs of friendships, relationships, and which actions would push us beyond the limits of forgiveness. A gem.

The last 7% of the e-book contains the first-chapter of the author’s work-in-progress, in case you wonder about its length.

Thanks to Rosie and her team, thanks to the author, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, keep smiling, and especially, keep safe!

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