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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog DOCTOR GLASS by Louise Worthington (@louiseworthington9) For those who like to dig deep into the workings of the mind (but notice the content warning) #psychologicalthriller

Hi all:

I bring you a book in a genre I read many books in. This is the first in a series, so if you like psychological thrillers, this might be for you. But it does come with a warning. Or several.

Doctor Glass A Psychological Thriller Novel by Louise Worthington

DOCTOR GLASS by Louise Worthington

THE DOCTOR WILL SEE YOU NOW.

Psychotherapist Emma-Jane Glass has prioritized work over leisure for far too long. She does whatever it takes to help her clients, and it’s bordering on professional obsession. When she publishes a controversial article about unstable mothers murdering their children, an anonymous letter arrives on her doorstep:

I will expose you.
Then, I will mutilate you…
Wait for me.

After she is abducted into the night, Doctor Glass finds herself at the mercy of a dangerous sociopath. But being a relentless doctor of the mind, she feels an urge to help her fragile captor, even if it might shatter her sanity—and her life. It becomes a game of survival, and only one mind can win.

For fans of deeply layered thrillers by Ruth Ware, Tana French, and Alex Michaelides comes the newest voice in psychological fiction.

CONTENT GUIDANCE: This novel explores aspects of psychology and mental health and contains depictions of self-harm, alcohol abuse, eating disorders, and suicide. Please read with care.

 Link to the book:

Doctor Glass: A Psychological Thriller Novel

Link to the publisher’s website:

https://www.tckpublishing.com/

Author Louise Worthington

About the author:
Louise Worthington writes psychological fiction for fans of deeply layered thrillers by Ruth Ware, Tana French and Alex Michaelides. She has a passion for exploring the complexity and darker side of the human heart in tales imbued with strong emotional themes and atmospheric settings from poisonous gardens, medieval dungeons to an isolated property by the sea. Common themes are family, motherhood, making money from murder and revenge. 

She is the author of six novels, including Rachel’s Garden and The Entrepreneur, and the gothic horror, Rosie Shadow

 Author’s website:

https://louiseworthington.co.uk/

My review:

I thank Maria from TCK Publishing for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review. This novel had been published before, but this is a new revised edition.

I was intrigued by the premise of the novel (having worked in mental health, I am always interested in seeing how the subject is portrayed), and although the author has published a number of books before, this is the first time I read her work. This is intended to be the first in a series, and I suspect it won’t be the last one I read.

The book’s description offers enough clues as to the story’s content, and I don’t want to spoil it for any future readers by adding too many details. The content guidance also hints at some of the themes. This is a novel that deals with topics that many people might find upsetting or disturbing. Although this is not unusual with psychological thrillers, be warned that this novel is pretty open and honest in its depiction of extreme behaviours (self-harm, abusive relationships, murder/suicide, filicide, somewhat unusual sexual preferences, eating disorders, co-dependency…) and a variety of mental health problems (PTSD, pathological grief, personality disorder, Stockholm Syndrome…) This is not a sanitised version of any of those problems, and readers need to be aware of that. (I worked as a psychiatrist and have seen my share of things, although, thankfully, not everything that goes on in the book, and I didn’t find it disturbing, but I am not the standard reader, so do take the warnings seriously). Oh, I almost forgot to mention that there is a touch of the supernatural/paranormal as well.

I am always interested in the therapist in the novels featuring one, and Emma-Jane Glass is a woman totally dedicated to her work, who at first appears very professional and self-confident, but what she goes through makes her question much of what she thought was certain. Her experiences and thought processes, although extreme (I won’t mention suspension of disbelief, because we all know this is a novel, after all), rang true (not that I’ve ever met a therapist who regularly uses hypnosis in my professional capacity, but then I’ve always worked in hospitals, mostly for the NHS, so it might be more common in private practice), although I missed knowing more about her, where she came from, and her background. We only learn about her friendship with Lucy, who has an office next door and works as a nutritionist, and we also hear about her supervisor, Celia (whom we never meet until very close to the end), but there is nothing else of a personal nature. The story is narrated in the third person, mostly from Dr Glass’s point of view but not exclusively, although that does not help us understand who she is, beyond her professional identity and interest. (It does give us some interesting insights into the minds of some of the minor characters, though). This being a series, it is possible that those aspects will be developed in other books, but I missed that. Lucy is a likeable character, full of doubts and not as self-confident as Emma-Jane. We know about an important loss she suffered, and there are times when it feels as if her friend was living vicariously through her whilst trying to help her at the same time (as Dr Glass seems to be more involved in Lucy’s life than interested in having a private life of her own). I liked her, but I wasn’t sure the relationship between the two was sufficiently developed either.

I don’t want to go into too much detail talking about other characters. The main antagonist (whom I wouldn’t define as a standard baddie) does terrible things, but he has also gone through some soul-destroying suffering, and he is evidently very disturbed. Although his emotions and his most extreme behaviours come across as pretty realistic, there are elements of his characterization I wasn’t too sure about, but I don’t think anybody will feel indifferent about him. There are some other characters that make an appearance, and I was particularly moved by the story of one of Dr Glass’s patients, Vanessa, and her experience of grief. Some reviewers found the details about the sessions, both Dr Glass’s and Lucy’s, unnecessary, as they felt they detracted from the main story. Apart from my personal interest in the subject, I did think that the sessions help give us a better understanding of the thought processes of the protagonists, and also illustrate the kind of strain and pressures they are subject to, which go some way to explaining how they react at times. The rest of the characters are not fully developed, and there are a few things readers will be left wondering about, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

The author writes beautifully, and there are lyrical passages, vibrant images, and masterful use of metaphors, which contrast with the darkness of some of the content while offering readers a reprieve and mirroring how the mind works, finding beauty in unexpected places and in extreme situations sometimes, as a self-defense mechanism and refuge. Some parts of the novel move at a faster pace than others, and, in general, the action picks up speed as the story develops, until almost the very end. There is an unexplained prologue, which many readers have complained about, and although it seems related to one of the topics that appear in the novel, it is not fully contained by it, and it made me wonder.

As usual, I recommend checking a sample of the novel if readers are not sure if it might suit their taste (making sure to heed the warnings first), but I thought I’d share a couple of examples of some of the content I’ve highlighted, to give you a small taste:

She finds the quietness of Vanessa’s sad smile moving, and she respects the way she wears her pain like glass: transparent, fragile. So brave, to not wear a brave face; to wear a real, feeling one.

 She watches a spider slowly crawl across the ceiling and onto the lampshade, sprinkling dust like dandruff. All that ceiling, all those walls, they’re like acres, countries, to a spider. Such freedom. Here she sits, trapped in a web. The spider’s unhurried movement stirs the mounting hysteria building inside her.

I have already mentioned that some things are left to readers’ imaginations, although the main story has an ending, and one pretty satisfying, at least for the main character. Considering the amount of time and detail dedicated to developing the story, I felt the ending was a bit rushed, but as this is a series, such things are likely to get balanced out in the future.

This is an enticing opening to a new series, one that promises to dig deep into psychological subjects, and if the characters keep growing, it will become even more compelling. I’d recommend it to readers looking for psychological thrillers that don’t mind digging deep into dark subjects, but please, make sure to check the content guidance.

Thanks to Maria, to the publishers, and to the author for this novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and especially, don’t forget to keep smiling and keep safe. 

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF LEAH BRAND: A PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER (A Year in the Life of … Book 1) by Lucinda E Clarke (@LucindaEClarke). A solid domestic noir page turner

Hi all:

I bring you a book from an author I’m sure many of you will have come across already. I’m sure it won’t be the last one of her books I read.

A Year in the Life of Leah Brand: A Psychological Thriller (A Year in the Life of … Book 1) by Lucinda E Clarke

A Year in the Life of Leah Brand: A Psychological Thriller (A Year in the Life of … Book 1) by Lucinda E Clarke

Leah’s nightmare began the day the dog died.

A few years earlier a fatal car crash took the lives of Leah’s beloved husband and their two babies, leaving her disabled. Life looked bleak. She was approaching forty, unemployed, broke and desperate.

Then she met Mason. He was charming, charismatic, persuasive, and a successful businessman, well respected in the community. His teenage daughter did nothing to welcome Leah into the family, but life is never perfect.

Then, two years into her second marriage, Leah Brand’s world is turned upside down; inanimate objects in the house move, her clothes are left out for the rubbish collection, pieces of furniture change places, there are unexplained noises and hauntings.

As the disturbances increase, everyone accuses Leah of losing her mind. Soon she begins to doubt herself and she starts to spiral down into a world of insanity. Is she going mad, or is someone out to destroy her? And if so, why?

A gripping, psychological thriller for fans of Mary Higgins Clarke and Louise Jensen.

https://www.amazon.com/Year-Life-Leah-Brand-Psychological-ebook/dp/B07WHJKGXF/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Year-Life-Leah-Brand-Psychological-ebook/dp/B07WHJKGXF/

https://www.amazon.es/Year-Life-Leah-Brand-Psychological-ebook/dp/B07WHJKGXF/

Author Lucinda E. Clarke

About the author:

Lucinda E Clarke was born in Dublin but has lived in 8 other countries to date. She wanted to write but was railroaded into teaching. She fell into other careers; radio announcer, riding school owner, sewing giant teddy bears. She began scriptwriting professionally in 1986 winning over 20 awards. She also wrote mayoral speeches, company reports, drama documentaries, educational programmes, adverts, news inserts, court presentations, videos for National Geographic, cookery programmes and street theatre to name but a few!

She lectured in scriptwriting, had her own column in various publications, and wrote articles for national magazines. She was commissioned for two educational books by Heinemann and Macmillan, and book reports for UNESCO and UNICEF.

She set up and ran her own video production company in South Africa.

“Walking Over Eggshells” was her first self-published book, an autobiography describing the emotional abuse she suffered from early childhood and subsequent travels and adventures.

She published her second book a novel, “Amie: African Adventure” in July 2014, which was a #1 bestseller in genre on both sides of the Atlantic.

Lucinda’s third book “Truth, Lies, and Propaganda”, was followed by “More Truth, Lies and Propaganda” – memoirs about her career in the print and broadcast media, highlighting South Africa and its people.

“Amie Savage Safari” is the 5th in the Amie in Africa award-winning series – the world’s most reluctant and incompetent spy is in trouble again.

In 2019 Lucinda changed genre and published the first in a series of psychological thrillers. “A Year in the life of Leah Brand” was followed by “A Year in the Life of Andrea Coe.” Book 3 is due out in September 2020.

https://www.amazon.com/Lucinda-E-Clarke/e/B00FDWB914

My review:

I purchased a copy of this novel that I am also reviewing it as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, check here if you want to get your book reviewed).

I have been a follower of the author’s blog for some time, and I know that she has been a writer (among many other things) for a long time, in different genres, although this was the first time she published a psychological thriller. Having read many great reviews of this novel and the other two in the series, I was intrigued as this is one of my favourite genres.

I find this review quite difficult to write because I don’t think I am the ideal reader for this book. I am sure people who don’t work in mental health and don’t read as many thrillers as I do will not have the same issues I had. Let me clarify. Clarke knows how to write, for sure. She builds up the tension slowly, creates credible (they might be annoying and irritating at times, but that is what makes them real) characters, has a great sense of rhythm and pace (things seem to be happening slowly at first, then get increasingly faster; we have breaks to allow us to catch our breath, and then things get even weirder and scarier), and piles up ambiguous evidence that can be interpreted in different ways. She also chooses well the point of view of the story; it is told in the first person (so readers who don’t like first-person narratives, be warned) from Leah’s perspective, and that allows us to experience all her doubts, hesitations, and to witness events through her eyes. Due to the nature of the story, that works perfectly well, as it manages to keep the surprises well-hidden. (I suspected what was happening from early on, but then… No, no spoilers).

However, some aspects of the plot stretched too much my suspension of disbelief, to the point where the story lost some of its hold on me. As a habitual reader of thrillers and police procedural novels, I do prefer books in those genres to be —even when the events might be rather extreme— fairly realistic when it comes to details and settings, unless they blend genres or take place in an alternative universe. For me, this book seems to fit into the domestic noir category that has become quite popular in recent years, and I am slowly coming to the realisation that this genre is not a great fit for me. I have similar issues with it as I have with cozy mysteries: I like the premise; in some cases I really enjoy the story and the characters; but there are aspects that don’t work for me, mostly to do with the actual mystery.

I won’t go into a lot of detail about the plot, to avoid spoilers and also because the description offers readers enough information already. My favourite character was Aunt Deirdre. Leah, the protagonist, has survived such tough and dramatic circumstances that it’s impossible not to sympathise with her, but I must admit to finding her annoying at times and wanting to grab her and force her to take charge of things, while at the same time imagining how hard it would be to have to face what she was going through, feeling so helpless after being undermined at every turn. Most of the other characters are dislikeable or ambiguous (they seem to blow hot and cold or are nasty most of the time), and there are some we don’t get to know too well, but, of course, as we see everything from the character’s perspective, sometimes it’s difficult to extricate what is what (and that’s the point, evidently).

As I said, the book is well-written, the pacing, the clues and red-herrings build-up and grab readers’ attention, and there is no excess violence or any explicit sex scenes. The thrill (or the threat) is mostly psychological, and the effect on Leah’s character and self-confidence are compellingly portrayed. The self-doubts and her hesitation ring true as well.

I’ve already said that some of my issues with the believability of the story are probably due to my experience working as a psychiatrist in the UK, and that means that some of the details of the story don’t work for me, but that shouldn’t put off other prospective readers. I also found there was a twist too many in the story, and that’s all I’ll say about the ending.

After reading a sample of Clarke’s Amie: African Adventure, I am sure I’ll be reading more of her books, but perhaps in other genres.

This is a page-turner and I’m sure readers of domestic noir who prefer stories with no explicit violence, love a first-person narrative and an ambiguous/unreliable narrator, will enjoy this story. A fun and fast read, but not exactly what I was looking for.

Thanks to Rosie and her team for their hard work and support (reviewers, please visit and join), thanks to the author for her novel and thank you for reading, liking, sharing, reviewing… And remember to keep safe!

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE WHISPER MAN by Alex North (@writer_north)( @PenguinUKBooks) An entertaining mix of mystery, paranormal, and psychological thriller

Hi all:

I bring you a book today that has been getting a lot of attention, but I was a bit slow catching on. Well, I finally got around to reading it!

The Whisper Man by Alex North

The Whisper Man by Alex North

THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER, RICHARD & JUDY PICK & GUARDIAN BOOKS OF THE YEAR, LONGLISTED FOR THE THEAKSTON CRIME NOVEL OF THE YEAR AWARD

The gripping thriller that will keep you turning the pages all night long . . .

‘An ambitious, deeply satisfying thriller – a seamless blend of Harlan Coben, Stephen King, and Thomas Harris’ A J Finn, bestselling author of The Woman in the Window
______________

If you leave a door half-open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken . . .

Fifteen years ago, a serial killer known only as ‘The Whisper Man’ wreaked havoc on the sleepy village of Featherbank.

But with the killer behind bars, the village is now a safe haven for Tom and his young son Jake to make a fresh start.

Until another boy goes missing. It feels like history is repeating itself.

Could the killer still be out there – and can Tom protect his son from becoming the next victim?


‘THE BEST CRIME NOVEL OF THE DECADE’ Steve Cavanagh, bestselling author of Twisted

‘A true skin-crawler’ Guardian

‘Shades of Thomas Harris and Stephen King but brilliant in its own right’ C. J. Tudor, bestselling author of The Chalk Man

‘This flawlessly plotted thriller absolutely deserves to be shouted about’ Sunday Mirror

‘More than just superbly creepy, this beautifully written thriller might just break your heart a little, too’ Heat

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Whisper-Man-Alex-North-ebook/dp/B07F24WHXJ/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Whisper-Man-Alex-North-ebook/dp/B07F24WHXJ/

https://www.amazon.es/Whisper-Man-Alex-North-ebook/dp/B07F24WHXJ/

Steve Mosby (a.k.a. Alex North)

About the author:

Alex North was born in Leeds, England, where he now lives with his wife and son. The Whisper Man was inspired by North’s own little boy, who mentioned one day that he was playing with “the boy in the floor.” Alex North is a British crime writer who has previously published under another name.

Here an interesting interview with the author:

https://celadonbooks.com/author-alex-north-on-his-suspenseful-thriller-the-whisper-man/

My review:

I thank NetGalley and Penguin UK-Michael Joseph for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

I confess this novel got buried on my e-reader and despite the good reviews I have read and the many times I’ve seen it mentioned since its publication, it kept being knocked down by reviewing commitments and general lack of attention. After coming up as a recommendation in another article right as I finished a book I was reading, I decided its time had come. And? It kept me reading, and I enjoyed many aspects of it, although some worked slightly less well for me, but it has much to recommend it.

I hadn’t come across Alex North before, although that is not surprising as this seemed to be his first novel. As his biography explains, though, he had published a number of books under a different name before (it wasn’t hard to find this is Steve Mosby), but I hadn’t read any of those either. I don’t know if this marked a change of direction or it is part of a marketing campaign, but, in any case, it seems to have worked.

The description provides the gist of the action. We are in a small village where terrible things had happened many years back. The child killer (not molester, let me clarify that) is now behind bars, but another child goes missing. As you can probably imagine, the new police team investigating are drawn to check on the old case, and Pete, the detective who was almost destroyed by that case —which had some loose threads still pending— becomes once more entangled in it. But this is not a straightforward police procedural. It is a bit of a mixed bag. There is the mystery element (as we don’t know who the culprit is but are given a number of clues, red herrings, and repeatedly sent down the wrong path along the way); it also has aspects more typical of a thriller than of a classical mystery (the grisly nature of the crimes, the teasing serial killer, the different points of view, including also snippets from the perpetrator); there are paranormal elements (the young child at the centre of the story, Jake, has an imaginary friend who seems to know a lot about the case) and at times it also veers towards horror; and there  is plenty of attention paid to the psychology and state of mind of some of the protagonists, particularly Tom, Jake’s father, traumatised by the sudden death of his wife and having to look after a young child on his own, Jake himself, also showing evident signs of trauma and not coping particularly well with his grief, and Pete, the detective who caught the previous killer, who struggles to keep the ghosts of his past at bay.

As I said that some aspects of the book did not fully work for me, I thought I might as well say which ones right now, although I’ll try to avoid any spoilers. I’ve just mentioned how much attention the book pays some of the characters and their psychological difficulties. I enjoyed this but was quite puzzled that nobody ever mentions the possibility of getting help. After all, we have a policeman whose work would have been supervised, and a young child going to school, presenting with bizarre behaviour and evidently struggling. I know this is a novel, but it does require quite a degree of suspension of disbelief to imagine that nobody would have picked up on that and suggested a psychological evaluation or some therapy. The novel feels a bit timeless (and it did remind me of some of Stephen King’s novels set on small towns, usually many years back), but there are dates mentioned, and the action is not set sufficiently far back in the past to justify that. Talking about the setting, one of the other things that bothered me was that I had no real sense of where we were supposed to be. Many of the minor characters and locations felt standard, and although the house Tom and Jake move into seems to have a defined personality, the rest of the place is a bit of a mixed bag. The police department seems rather large for a sleepy village; there are parts of the place that are half abandoned and less than savoury (as if we were in the outskirts of a big city), with known drug dealers and criminals tracked by the police as well; and some of the action fits in better with a rundown city than the village suggested. The fact that some aspects of the story reminded me of the typical book or movie about an urban legend (down to the nursery rhyme or playschool song) contributed to that feeling and gave the story a touch of the dark fairy tale. There were some other inconsistencies I won’t mention, as those might easily be explained away, and I don’t think will curtail the enjoyment of most readers.

Apart from the investigation and the mystery side of things, the novel also explores grief and trauma (Jake shows signs of PTSD, and so do his father and Pete), relationships between fathers and sons, and legacy. How much do our childhood experiences influence our adult behaviour? It also looks at memory and the way our minds are not always reliable witnesses of what happened.

I have mentioned the main characters, but there are others like the main investigator (whom I quite liked but didn’t get to know too well, although I understand she plays a bigger part in the next novel by the same author), one of the mothers at Jake’s new school, the serial killer, of course… The story is narrated in the first person by Tom, who is, after all, a writer, but there are also chapters narrated in the third person by other characters, including Jake, Pete, the new detective, and the perpetrator (who only appears a few times, and those chapters do help provide some clues as to motivation). I sympathised with Tom, who had a hard time of life in general, liked Jake (and his invisible friend). I also empathised with Pete but I wouldn’t say I liked him. Although there is something generic about the characters (most readers of the genre will have met other characters in similar circumstances before), I thought the author did a good job of getting inside their heads, but it is true that this slows down the action somehow and might not work for people looking for a page-turner. People who don’t like first-person narration might not appreciate Tom’s narrative voice, although it does make sense in the context of the book, and there are a few instances when it takes on an omniscient quality. As for the third person narratives, each chapter is told from one distinct point of view,  and readers don’t need to worry about getting confused, though I recommend paying close attention to the action. The original serial killer didn’t impress me in particular (for me, it lacked something to make him distinct enough. He seems just thoroughly evil), and I found the new killer more interesting.

The writing is fluid, although, as I said, some readers might not appreciate the emphasis on the psychology of the characters and their obsessive thoughts and guilty feelings. There are some detailed descriptions of some of the objects and locations but this does not apply to the actual murders. The book is not gore, especially considering the topic. There are some violence and blood, but this does not relate to the main crimes an does not involve the children. I think people who worry about explicit or extreme violence would not be upset by this book, but readers must remember the book is about a serial child killer, so the topic is a hard and harrowing one nonetheless.

I enjoyed the ending, which sits well with the genre, rather than being all lights and no shadows, and it sheds new light over the whole book. Some readers have complained about the paranormal aspect, feeling this is not fully explored, and I don’t disagree with the comment, although for me, it is left open and there is much that can be read between the lines.

In sum, a mystery with touches of the police procedural, the thriller, and a paranormal element, with an emphasis on the psychological angle, some pretty eerie touches (although I wouldn’t call it horror), which will grab the attention of most readers intrigued by these kinds of books. It might not work for people keen on realistic crime novels, but it is a very entertaining read, and I’m sure the author will not be short on followers.

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL by Sara Vaughan (@SVaughanAuthor) A great courtroom drama/psychological thriller that will keep you thinking #MeToo

Hi, all:

This is a book that I’d recommend to those of you who prefer non-seasonal reads this time of the year. The book kept me thinking, and I’ve decided to add a reflection that I did not think belonged in the review (I know my reviews are legendary for their length, but there have to be limits!) beforehand, that will give you a bit more background into some of my comments at the very end.

First I’ll share the cover. I don’t want to keep the mystery for too long….

Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan
Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan

The truth is a tricky issue. Rightly or wrongly, adversarial advocacy is not really an inquiry into the truth’…’Advocacy is about being more persuasive than your opponent… You can win even if the evidence is stacked against you provided that you argue better. And it’s all about winning, of course.’

This quote, early on in the book, belongs to Kate, who remembers something one of her teachers at Law School told her. This got me thinking and reminded me of something I knew but I learned more about when I studied Crimonology and the Criminal Justice System. (Yes, I have an MSc in Criminology, in case you’re wondering). There are different types of Criminal Justice Systems, and while the UK and the US have an adversarial system, as the quote mentions, other countries, like Spain, have an inquisitorial one, where the judge is supposed to gather evidence to establish the truth. (Although trial by jury is being introduced in some cases, the system is different in spirit, if nothing else). If you are curious about what that would look like, I recommend a fantastic Argentinian movie that won the Oscar to the best foreign movie a few years back (and I think was going to get an English language version, but please, stick to the original), El secreto de sus ojos (The Secret in Their Eyes). This reflection is also relevant to my comment at the end of the review about a case that has horrified people in Spain and shows how important defining certain types of crimes (in this case sex crimes), and updating the law, can be. You might have heard of La manada and the case. If you haven’t, you can check here, but a word of warning, you are likely to get upset if not enraged.  https://elpais.com/elpais/2018/04/27/inenglish/1524824382_557525.html

And now, let’s resume our usual programme…

Here is the description of the book:

‘People are calling this the new Apple Tree Yard, but I’d beg to differ – fast, pacy and with enough twists and turns to keep you gripped right to the end, I’d argue its infinitely better’ The Pool
‘Well-written, pacy and full of twists and turns’  Independent
‘Gripping. A savage indictment of class, privilege and toxic masculinity in Britain … Almost impossible to put down’ Louise O’Neill
‘Deftly plotted … with an eerie relevance to the current debate surrounding the attitudes to and experiences of women in Westminster, Hollywood and beyond’ Laura Barnett
‘The best courtroom drama since Apple Tree Yard … sensational’ Clare Mackintosh

A high-profile marriage thrust into the spotlight. A wife, determined to keep her family safe, must face a prosecutor who believes justice has been a long time coming. A scandal that will rock Westminster. And the women caught at the heart of it. 

Anatomy of a Scandal centres on a high-profile marriage that begins to unravel when the husband is accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is sure her husband, James, is innocent and desperately hopes to protect her precious family from the lies which might ruin them. Kate is the barrister who will prosecute the case – she is equally certain that James is guilty and determined he will pay for his crimes.

‘A compulsive read with completely layered characters. Superb’ John Boyne
‘I love it when a book lives up the hype – and this one does. It is quite shockingly good’ Sun
‘This page-turning novel reveals the precarious nature of existence as the seemingly perfect lives of Sophie and her husband James unravel… The author anatomises in gripping fashion the inner workings of the corridors of power, as well as the hidden recesses of the mind and heart’ Anita Sethi, The Observer
‘This clever plot raises many issues of the moment” – Marcel Berlins, The Times
‘Once the trial of MP James Whitehouse starts, you could not have prised the book from hands for love or money’ Jake Kerridge, Sunday Express 
‘A plot that is so deftly constructed, you’ll feel as if you’re on a roller coaster wearing a blindfold. It’s an absolute masterpiece – prepare to be very impressed’ heat
‘A lot of reviews claim that a novel has them ‘hooked from the start’ – but with this story, it’s painfully true … The thorny issue of consent is tackled sensitively, while exploring the consequences of the case on both women and the past demons it exposes’ Grazia
‘One of the best books you’ll read this year’ Closer
‘Sarah Vaughan drip feeds revelations while exploring the power and privilege of political elite’ Good Housekeeping
‘Think last year’s drama Liar with a dash of Apple Tree Yard’ Sunday Mirror: Notebook
‘A timely thriller about marriage, but also about power, who wields it, and how that affects who we believe’ Stylist

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Anatomy-Scandal-bestseller-everyone-talking-ebook/dp/B071YS3ZZW/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Anatomy-Scandal-bestseller-everyone-talking-ebook/dp/B071YS3ZZW/

Author Sarah Vaughan
Author Sarah Vaughan

About the author:

Sarah Vaughan read English at Oxford and went on to become a journalist. She spent eleven years at the Guardian as a news reporter, health correspondent, and political correspondent. She left to freelance and began writing fiction the week she turned forty. Her debut novel, The Art of Baking Blind, published by Hodder & Stoughton, St. Martin’s Press, and in seven other languages, was the result. The Farm at the Edge of the World was published in June 2016 and will be published in Germany and France. Sarah lives in Cambridge with her husband and two children.

https://www.amazon.com/Sarah-Vaughan/e/B00J07OBA4/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Simon & Schuster UK for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

I got a copy of this book a while back, but I must confess it got buried under tonnes of other books at a time when there were many things on my mind. I kept seeing the book here and there but wasn’t even sure I had a copy any longer. Eventually, as it always happens at the end of the year, I saw a list with recommended reads for the year that ends, with this novel featured prominently, and it was the push I needed to start reading it. I apologise for the delay because it was well worth a read.

The book opens up the 2nd of December 2016, is set in the UK, and is mostly narrated chronologically by a collection of characters. Kate, a QC (the prosecution lawyer in other countries) working in London tells of her experience in court, prosecuting sexual crimes, in the first person. The rest of the characters’ perspectives we get are narrated on the third person, and include those of Ali, a friend Kate met while she was a college student; Sophie, the wife of a junior conservative minister, James, and now stay at home Mum; James himself, the only male account, an upper-class man who always knew his future was golden, and Holly, whose narration starts in 1992, in Oxford. She is a fish out of the water, a young girl from the North, from a modest family, who has managed to get into an Oxford College to study English with a grant, and she suffers a cultural shock at first, although later things seem to look up until… (No spoilers here). It takes a while for all the strands of the story to fit together, although we soon realise there are some coincidences, and some of the people whose narrations appeared disconnected at first, had crossed paths years back.

The author, who as a political journalist has more insight than most people into what goes on in political office and in the government, provides a detailed and totally immersing account of the life of privilege of those who seem destined for “better things” from the very start, and creates very credible and nuanced characters. Vaughan is skilled at describing the atmosphere of the government corridors and of the Old Bailey, and as skilled at shining a light on the characters and their motivations. We have those who feel entitled to everything; characters who keep lying to themselves because they feel they got what they wanted and should now be happy with it, even if it has turned out to be far less ideal than they had always thought; the survivors who reinvented themselves and paid the price of never being completely at ease in their skins, and we have big areas of grey. (I think this book would be ideal for a book club, as there is much to discuss and plenty of controversial topics to keep the conversation going). What is a relationship and what is not? What is love and what is only lust? And central to the whole book, a big question, what is consent? Is it a matter of opinion? Although the definition of the crime seems very clear, when it comes to what people think or “know” in their heads at the time, is anything but.

Although the book is told from different perspectives, it is not confusing to read. Each chapter is headed by the name of the character and the date, and we soon get to know who is who, because their narration and their personalities are very different. That does not mean there aren’t plenty of surprises in the book, and although some we might suspect or expect, the story is well paced, the revelations are drip-fed and make the tension increase, and with the exception of one of the characters (hopefully!), it is not difficult to empathise and share in the thoughts and the moral and ethical doubts of most of the characters. We might think we know better and we would do the right thing but determining what the right thing is can be tough in some cases. And we all compromise sometimes, although there are limits.

I have read some reviews complaining about the amount of detail in the book and they also say that it is slow and nothing much happens. The book is beautifully observed, and the way it explains the ins-and-outs of the trial feels realistic. Perhaps the problem is that we are used to books and movies where everything takes place at lightning speed, and there isn’t a moment to contemplate or observe what is truly happening, beyond the action. This is a thinking book, and there are not big action pieces; that much is true. I have mentioned there are surprises. Secrets are revealed as well, but they surface through digging into people’s memories, or getting them to recognise the truth, not with a gun or a punch. The way we connect with the characters and the layers upon layers of stories and emotions make for a gripping reading experience but not a light one. I have sometimes read books or watched movies that have such a frenzied pace that I always come out at the other end with the feeling that I’ve missed something, some gap or hole in the plot that I would be able to discover if only I were given some time to breathe and think, but that is not the case here. Even the turns of events you might not have expected are fully grounded and make perfect sense, both action-wise and according to the personality of the protagonists. No big flights of fancy here.

This is a book for those who love psychological thrillers, and courtroom dramas that go beyond the standard formula. Although it is a book with strong roots in England, the British Criminal Justice System and the country’s politics, it is so well-written that it will make readers from everywhere think and will inevitably bring to mind cases and well-known characters at a national and international level. Now that I live in Spain, I could not help but keep thinking about the infamous case of “La manada”, where definitions of sexual crimes have become a hot political potato, for very good reason. The debate that the #MeToo has generated should be kept alive, and anything that contributes to that is useful, and if it is a great book, all the better.

I know it is silly, but I was happy to discover that I had finished reading the book on exactly the same date when the book comes to an end, 7th of December 2018. I take that as a sign and look forward to reading many more books by the author.

Thanks to NetGalley and to Simon & Schuster UK for the book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click, review and aober all, keep smiling!

 

 

 

 

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#TuesdayBookBlog Saigon Dark by Elka Ray (@ElkaRay) (@crimewavepress) A blend of psychological (noir) thriller with domestic drama, with a conflicted protagonist #Bookreview

Hi all:

I had this book on my list for a while and when I read it I realised it can fit in a category of books that seem to have become more and more popular recently. Those who read my blog regularly might remember our discussion about it (waving at you, Debby!).

Book review. Saigon Dark by Elka Ray
Saigon Dark by Elka Ray

Saigon Dark by Elka Ray

“There’s no way this book can be easily described – well written and fascinating subject matter is only the beginning. It could easily become a huge hit and also has all the hallmarks of a Noir classic.”

— Lissa Pelzer, Author & Crime Critic

A STORY ABOUT FAMILY, BETRAYAL AND BELONGING – AND HOW HARD WE FIGHT TO PROTECT THOSE WE LOVE.

In Saigon, a grief-stricken young American mother switches her dead child for a Vietnamese street kid. Then she returns to the US. Good and bad. Life and death. Some choices aren’t black and white

She remarries and starts to feel safe until she gets a note: ‘I know what you did’.
Can she save her daughter from her dark secret?

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Saigon-Dark-Elka-Ray-ebook/dp/B01M4PZWBX/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Saigon-Dark-Elka-Ray-ebook/dp/B01M4PZWBX/

Author Elka Ray
Author Elka Ray

About the author:

Born in the UK, and raised in Africa and Canada, Elka now lives in Central Vietnam. She’s the author of two novels, a short story collection and three kids’ books that she also illustrated. To learn more about Elka’s upcoming projects, please visit www.elkaray.com

https://www.amazon.com/Elka-Ray/e/B004VRXDM0/

My review:

Thanks to the publishers, Crime Wave, for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This novel is a thriller that takes place within the domestic sphere and one of its unique features is that it is set (mostly) in Vietnam. The main character is a paediatric surgeon, Lily, whose family escaped to the United States when she was a child, and after studying Medicine decided to go back and work there. Although she is a successful professional, her personal life is not a happy one. Her husband, another doctor from a similar background to hers, has left her, and her youngest child, a little girl, suffers from a rare genetic condition, and she does not know how well she will develop. Tragedy strikes; the character seems unable to react rationally due to the pain and makes one disastrous decision after another. We all know that secrets have a way of coming back and biting us, and although Lily is quite lucky, not even she can escape the consequences of her actions, or can she? (I am trying not to reveal any spoilers).

The novel is told, in the first-person, from the point of view of Lily, and as was the case with a recent novel in the same/similar genre I read and reviewed, that might be a problem for some of the readers. It is impossible not to empathise with Lily, and although some of her reactions are bizarre, the author is very good at getting us inside her head and making us understand her disturbed mental state. Perhaps we think we would never do something like that, but we can understand why she does. Personally, I did not sympathise with her (or even like her very much) and at times felt very frustrated with her. I had to agree when one of the other characters told her that she was selfish, blind to other’s needs, and she never thought of anybody else. This is all the more evident considering her privileged existence in contrast to that of the general population, and how much of what happens is a direct result of her actions and her decisions, whilst others are victims of the circumstances with no options to escape. She seems to realise this towards the end, when even her son is more together than her, but all that notwithstanding, the action of the novel is gripping, and it is impossible not to feel curious about what will happen next and wonder if fate and karma will finally catch up with her.

The novel moves at a reasonable pace, at times we seems to be reading a standard domestic drama (about child-rearing and the relationship with her new husband), whilst at others it is an almost pure thriller, and we have blackmailers, red herrings, betrayals, and plenty of suspects. I think those two elements are well-combined and are likely to appeal to fans of both genres, although those who love hard thrillers might take issue with the amount of suspension of disbelief required to accept some of the events in the novel.

The ending is fairly open. Some questions (perhaps the main one) are resolved, but some others are not, and this might be frustrating for readers who prefer everything to be tied up in the end. There is a hint of some insight and growth in the character, but perhaps not enough considering the hard lessons she’s gone through.

There is some violence (although not extreme), serious issues are hinted at (domestic violence, poverty, bullying), and I particularly liked the realistic setting, and the way it depicts Vietnam, Hanoi and Saigon, the big social differences, and the expat scene.

In sum, a blend of psychological (noir) thriller with domestic drama, intriguing and heart-breaking at times, which takes place in an unusual and fascinating setting, recommended to those who don’t mind first-person narration and slightly open endings and who prefer their thrillers with more drama and less emphasis on procedural accuracy.

Thanks to the publishing company and the author, thanks to all of you for reading, and please, feel free to like, share, click, review, and above all, keep smiling!

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#Bookreview – Escaping Psychiatry by Olga Nunez Miret

Thanks to Robbie Cheadle for this wonderful review of the first book in my series Escaping Psychiatry. Don’t forget to explore her blog if you enjoy books and cakes! And to check her own books!

via #Bookreview – Escaping Psychiatry by Olga Nunez Miret

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#Bookreview #THE FEAR by C.L. Taylor (@callytaylor) An intense psychological thriller about a disturbing topic.

Hi all:

Today I bring you a book by a popular author I hadn’t read yet.

Cover of the Fear by C.L.Taylor book review
The Fear by C.L. Taylor

The Fear: The sensational new thriller from the Sunday Times bestseller, now in a brand new look for 2018 by C.L. Taylor

‘Claustrophobic and compelling’ KARIN SLAUGHTER
‘A rollercoaster with multiple twists’ DAILY MAIL
’A million dollar new story from a million selling author’ SARAH PINBOROUGH

Sometimes your first love won’t let you go…

When Lou Wandsworth ran away to France with her teacher Mike Hughes, she thought he was the love of her life. But Mike wasn’t what he seemed and he left her life in pieces.

Now 32, Lou discovers that he is involved with teenager Chloe Meadows. Determined to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself, she returns home to confront him for the damage he’s caused.

But Mike is a predator of the worst kind, and as Lou tries to bring him to justice, it’s clear that she could once again become his prey…

The million copy Sunday Times bestseller returns with a gripping psychological thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat.

Praise for The Fear:

‘A skewering portrait of obsessive love and psychological manipulation, this book gets under the skin from the outset and won’t let you go until you’ve gasped at THAT ending. This is Taylor’s best book yet.’
CJ Cooke (author of I Know My Name)

‘Wow! Such a fast-paced, gripping, tense thriller. My heart was in my mouth at the end. Her best yet!’
Claire Douglas (author of Local Girl Missing)

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fear-sensational-thriller-Sunday-bestseller-ebook/dp/B07566QWH4/

Praise for The Fear:

‘Fans of C.L. Taylor are in for a treat. The Fear is her best yet.’
Clare Mackintosh (author of I Let You Go)

‘Smart, packing a punch to the heart, and dark in all the right places, The Fear has bestseller written all over it.’ Sarah Pinborough

‘A terrifying glimpse into a dark subject. This brilliant book stayed with me long after I finished the last page.’
Cass Green (author of In a Cottage in a Wood)

‘A highly original and timely tale that kept me utterly enthralled and entertained from beginning to end.’
Liz Nugent (author of Unravelling Oliver)

‘A total corker! Twisted, unbearably tense and a shock ending.’
CJ Tudor (author of The Chalk Man)

‘When you finish a book and your lungs hurt because you’ve FORGOTTEN TO BREATHE.’
Miranda Dickinson

‘Dark and disturbing. This is a book I will remember for a long time.’
Rachel Abbott

‘A gripping and disturbing psychological thriller, The Fear is as addictive as it is dark.’
Lucy Clarke

Tense, twisty, terrifying―with one of the best premises I’ve read in ages.’
Julie Cohen

‘I lost my entire weekend to it! What an absolutely cracking read…pacy, well written, and anxiety inducing.’
Lisa Hall

‘The Fear is a compulsive read, that forces the reader to consider just how far they would go to protect themselves and those around them. I could not put this book down!’
Emma Kavanagh

‘It’s a close call as the bar’s set so high but this has to be C.L. Taylor’s best yet. SO entertaining, high on the shock-factor and yet totally ‘real’.’
Caz Frear

‘The Fear covers very dark territory, but it is handled realistically and sensitively through her excellent writing…Fantastically plotted and perfectly paced, this dark thriller gets a standing ovation from me.’ S.J.I. Holliday

‘A disturbing and all too real story that tests your own morals as you quickly flick through the pages. Dark, claustrophobic realism – I was completed gripped.’ Mel Sherratt

Author C.L. Taylor Book review The Fear
Author C.L. Taylor

About the Author

C.L. Taylor is the Sunday Times bestselling author of five gripping, stand-alone psychological thrillers: THE ACCIDENT, THE LIE, THE MISSING, THE ESCAPE and THE FEAR. Her books have sold in excess of a million copies, been number one on Amazon Kindle, Kobo, iBooks and Google Play and have been translated into over 20 languages. THE ESCAPE won the Dead Good Books ‘Hidden Depths’ award for the Most Unreliable Narrator and THE LIE has been optioned for TV by The Forge who produced National Treasure featuring Robbie Coltrane.

Cally Taylor was born in Worcester and spent her early years living in various army camps in the UK and Germany. She studied Psychology at the University of Northumbria and went on forge a career in instructional design and e-Learning before leaving to write full time in 2014.

She started writing short stories in 2005 and was published widely in literary and women’s magazines. She also won several short story competitions. In 2009 and 2011 her romantic comedy novels (as Cally Taylor) were published by Orion and translated into fourteen languages. HEAVEN CAN WAIT was a bestseller in Hungary and China and HOME FOR CHRISTMAS was made into a feature film by JumpStart Productions. Whilst on maternity leave with her son Cally had an idea for a psychological thriller and turned to crime. She has also written a Young Adult thriller, THE TREATMENT, which was published by HarperCollins HQ.

C.L. Taylor lives in Bristol with her partner and young son.

Sign up to join the CL Taylor Book Club for access to news, updates, and information that isn’t available on the web, as well as exclusive newsletter-only competitions and giveaways and the books that CL Taylor thinks will be the next big thing. You will also receive THE LODGER for free when you sign up:

http://www.callytaylor.co.uk/cltaylorbookclub.html

www.cltaylorauthor.com

www.twitter.com/callytaylor

www.Instagram.com/cltaylorauthor

www.facebook.com/callytaylorauthor

https://www.amazon.co.uk/C.L.-Taylor/e/B00ICKTWPE/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to the Publishers (Avon) for offering me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

After reading this novel, which is a page-turner and moves at a fast pace, I checked the reviews, and it is one of these odd cases when I agreed both with the positive and with the negative reviews about the book. Some of them compared it to other novels by C.L. Taylor, an author who has a big following (this novel is a bestseller Amazon UK), but as I had not read anything by her before, I cannot comment on that. But I agreed with some of the other opinions.

The novel revolves around three females, two grown women, and a thirteen-year-old girl. In fact, they are three generations, with Wendy the oldest and Chloe the youngest. We follow the points of view of the three women for most of the novel, although there is more of the story told from Lou’s point of view. Her part of the story is narrated in the first person, while the rest are in the third person, and, at least at the beginning, she is the most active of the three. Due to her father’s death she has to go back to the town where she grew up, to deal with her father’s house, and her past comes back to haunt her, both figuratively and literally, when she sees the man who had abused her (Mike) when she was a teenager and worries that he is at it again. The three women have been affected by what Mike did, and the novel is very good at focusing on the emotions of the characters, that go from love to denial, and to absolute fear. Lou’s account is interspersed with fragments from her diary as a teenager, where we get to fully understand the background of the story and how dangerous this man truly is. The combination of charm, manipulation, and his skill at picking up girls lacking in confidence and easy targets for his advances is well portrayed. The subject matter reminded me of an Australian novel I’ve really enjoyed, The Silent Kookaburra (you can check my review here).

The subject remains as relevant (if not more) as ever, unfortunately, and this book offers a good perspective of the psychological damage such abuse can have, not only on the direct victims (that might never get over it) but also on those around them (family, wives, friends…). Should they have believed the abuser’s excuses? Are they guilty by association? What is their responsibility? The book is set in the UK and it refers specifically to changes in Criminal Law (like the introduction of the sex offenders register) but although it does not discuss those issues in detail, I don’t think that would cause difficulty to readers from other places.

The three characters fall (or have fallen) prey to Mike and find themselves in very vulnerable positions. It is impossible not to wonder what one would do faced with their dilemma, particularly that of Lou. Her impulsive actions are extreme and I agree with the readers who have commented that at times the book is over the top, although Lou’s doubts, her continuous hesitation, and her fear feel real. She is not alone in being pushed to the edge, and this is a book where characters do not play safe, rather the opposite.

The writing is fluid, and brings to life the three female characters, whose only connection is through Mike, perhaps with more immediacy in the case of Lou —this is helped by the first person narration and her diary— but it manages to make us empathise and feel for the three by the end of the story. And no, not all of them are likeable, to begin with.  I know some readers worry about head-hopping, but each chapter states clearly which character’s point of view we are following and there’s no possible confusion. Although there are brief moments of relief when things seem to be about to take a turn for the better, this is only to lure us into a false sense of security, and the tension and the pressure keep increasing and so does the pace. The ending is satisfying and will have most readers cheering on.

If you’re wondering what are the negative comments I agreed with, well, I was not necessarily talking about the degree of suspension of disbelief (yes, readers will need a fair deal of this, but as we are engaged with the characters and their plight, this is not difficult to maintain), but about some anachronisms, some details that seemed incongruent to the time when the story is set. I felt that the emphasis on Facebook messages, fake accounts, hacking, etc. seemed excessive for a story set in 2007. Other readers, who decided to research in more detail, discovered that indeed, some of the things mentioned, Apps, songs, etc., were not available yet. One reader noted that she could not understand why the story wasn’t set in the present, as that would have avoided these issues, but another pointed out that some aspects of the plot would only make sense if the story was set up in the recent past (including some of the legal issues). I wonder (as a writer) if the story was originally set in the present but somebody spotted the plot issues and came up with the solution of moving it back in time (without changing some of the modern references).

This novel does a good job of creating believable characters and making readers think about the plight of the victims of paedophiles. Although it might be less satisfactory to die-hard lovers of police procedural books, I think it is difficult to read it without empathising with the female characters and having to pause to reflect on this serious issue. And the questions at the end will further engage book club readers and encourage meaningful discussion. I don’t think this will be the last novel by C.L. Taylor I’ll read and I can easily understand why she is popular. (Ah, and she calls book bloggers book fairies. I like that!)

Thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, read, REVIEW and keep smiling!

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