Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview THE HIDDEN LIVES OF JACK THE RIPPER’S VICTIMS by Robert Hume (@penswordbooks). Their plight should not be forgotten #non-fiction #truecrime

Hi all:

Today’s review is about a non-fiction book on a very popular subject but from a different perspective.

The Hidden Lives of Jack the Ripper’s Victims by Robert Hume

The Hidden Lives of Jack the Ripper’s Victims by Robert Hume

Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly are inextricably linked in history. Their names might not be instantly recognisable, and the identity of their murderer may have eluded detectives and historians throughout the years, but there is no mistaking the infamy of Jack the Ripper. For nine weeks during the autumn of 1888, the Whitechapel Murderer brought terror to London s East End, slashing women s throats and disembowelling them. London s most famous serial killer has been pored over time and again, yet his victims have been sorely neglected, reduced to the simple label: prostitute. The lives of these five women are rags-to-riches-to-rags stories of the most tragic kind. There was a time in each of their lives when these poor women had a job, money, a home and a family. Hardworking, determined and fiercely independent individuals, it was bad luck, or a wrong turn here or there, that left them wretched and destitute. Ignored by the press and overlooked by historians, it is time their stories were told.

Author Robert Hume

About the author:

Robert Hume was born in 1955 and grew up in Beckenham where he attended Beckenham and Penge Grammar/Langley Park School.
At Keele University he read History and Psychology, before undertaking research studies into the history of education for his M.A. and Ph.D degrees.
An experienced teacher, moderator, G.C.S.E. History examiner, ‘A’ level History, ‘A’ level Psychology and IB examiner, he began his teaching career in Kent in 1982, when he joined the staff of Chaucer Technology School in Canterbury.
In 1985 he moved to Tonbridge to become Head of History at Hillview School for Girls.
From 1988 to 2010 he was Head of History at Clarendon House Grammar School in Ramsgate, where he was voted ‘Kent Teacher of the Year’ in 1992. For many years he managed the football teams and ran the Scrabble club which won the U.K. Schools’ Scrabble competition in 1999, the first Scrabble tournament in the world to be broadcast live over the internet.
Robert has lectured before audiences of teachers in Kent (where he was Secretary of the Kent History Teachers’ Association between 1984 and 1989), Italy and the U.S.A.
In December 1992, as part of the 500th anniversary commemorations, he was invited to give lectures on Christopher Columbus and emigration on board the QE2.
In addition to a number of articles in history journals and magazines (including BBC History Magazine and History Today), Dr Hume has written several books, including Early Child Immigrants to Virginia, 1618-1642 (Magna Carta, Baltimore, 1986); a G.C.S.E. History textbook, Education Since 1700 (Heinemann, 1989); a biography of Christopher Columbus, Christopher Columbus and the European Discovery of America (Gracewing, 1992); a historical novel (Ruling Ambition); an investigation into a Victorian railway disaster (Death by Chance); and six children’s books – on Perkin Warbeck, Dr Joseph Bell, Olaudah Equiano, Mary Shelley, Thomas Crapper and Gretel Bergmann.
Recently, he appeared in an episode of BBC TV Crimesolver that investigated the Abergele train crash.
Robert lives in Broadstairs, Kent where he is currently a home tutor for the East Kent Health Needs Education Service (‘The Willows’), a reviewer for The School Librarian, and a feature writer for the Irish Examiner from 2010 to the present.

His website is

My review:

Thanks to Rosie Croft of Pen & Sword for providing me a hardback copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

The mystery of Jack the Ripper, one of the greatest unsolved series of crimes in history, is also probably one of the best known, at least superficially. Most of us have heard of it and have watched movies, read novels, or even perused and researched the different theories about who Jack might have been. Many authors and experts have also written about it, proposing solutions to the puzzle, or using it as an inspiration for their own fiction.

It’s difficult not to feel curious about it, due the nature of the crimes, the fact that they all took place in a short period of time in a very small area of London, and because the Victorian Era seems to have a hold on a lot of people’s imagination. While for many it is a historical period looked at with nostalgia and wishful thinking, others are fully aware of its dark side. It is not all full of sweet traditions, big houses, Queen Victoria, Christmas trees and the family singing around the fire… As anybody who has read Charles Dickens will know, things were quite hard for those who weren’t well off or whose luck had run out.

I am not an expert on Jack the Ripper, and I am aware there are Ripperologists who have read everything (or almost everything) written about him. That is not my case, and I chose to read this book because the idea behind it felt right. The media pay so much attention to murders and murderers (especially serial killers) that sometimes the victims and their families become an afterthought or a footnote at best. That is true here, where although the names of these women have reached us, they are often seen as just that, his victims, and we know little about their lives before they crossed his path.

I know there has been another recent book published on the subject, but I haven’t read it, so I can’t make any comparisons. I have read in some reviews that there are some mistakes and inaccuracies in this book, but I don’t know enough to comment, and because my book is an ARC copy, it might well be that any inaccuracies were corrected later. I can say that I learned a lot (within the limited amount of information available) about these five women and their sad circumstances.

The author dedicates a separate chapter to each, he includes an introduction, a list of illustrations, plenty of photographs (some very graphic, so I recommend caution to readers who prefer to avoid that kind of content), abundant notes offering information about the sources used in each chapter, and also a conclusion and a bibliography that will be useful for those who want to learn more.

What I found particularly compelling was the way in which Hume tries to bring to life these women by quoting the words of those who knew them, and trying to paint a picture of their lives and of the places they lived in. He is very successful in illustrating what Whitechapel was like at the time, and how easy it would have been for somebody to fall on hard times and end up homeless and without any means. Women had a harder time finding work than men, and he makes a point of emphasising that at the time there was little to no help for those who fell on hard times. Somebody might have been living a decent life one day, and be kicked out because of an accident and losing one’s job the next. He is very sympathetic and understanding towards the circumstances of these women, who were judged at the time as being morally deficient at best, or corrupt and not deserving of help at worst.

Although scarcely angels, these women were trying hard to survive poverty independently, by taking on any casual work that became available. Homeless and without support, their gradual move into prostitution was not due to laziness or depravity, but personal circumstances: betrayal, bereavement, unemployment, domestic violence, or a simple mistake here and there.’

One wonders what would have happened if the victims had belonged to one of the “better” sections of society and how much more effort would have been invested in finding the culprit.

I have read about the historical period in other books, and I was familiar with some of the information but was impressed by the amount of detail on the locations, the way the workhouses were run and functioned, and the day-to-day life of the inhabitants of the era. We become familiar with pubs, accommodation, brothels, churches, and we learn of the friendships and relationships between the residents of the neighbourhood, their often broken relationships with their relatives, and how this underworld was connected to the rest of London. It is not a place I would have wished to set foot in at the time, but some members of the best of society (mostly men) enjoyed visiting “the den of iniquity” as if they were going to the zoo to see the wildlife or to engage in some anthropological research, when not simply looking for other pleasures.

In his conclusion, Hume reminds us of how little things have changed in some respects and mentions the fact that prostitutes have a much higher mortality rate than the general population and are eighteen times more likely to be murdered. As he writes, all those women also deserve to have their stories told, and perhaps that will go some way to change these horrendous statistics.

I recommend this book to people who have an interest in the era and the area, and particularly in women’s lives. I don’t think experts will find anything new here, but for those who want a general overview of the social circumstances of Whitechapel and the East End of London at the time and also for readers who would like to get a different perspective on the murders, this book offers both, a good read and an important resource.

Thanks to the author, to Rosie Croft and the team of Pen & Sword, to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, keep safe and keep smiling!



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 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


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:

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.

Book launch book promo Books for Christmas Escaping Psychiatry launch

It’s here! DEADLY QUOTES. Escaping Psychiatry 3. #psychologicalthriller #only 0.99 #Xmaspresent

Just joking. Or not?

If you’ve been wondering, the latest book in the Escaping Psychiatry series, Deadly Quotes, is here!

Escaping Psychiatry 3. Deadly Quotes. Cover by Juan Padrón
Escaping Psychiatry 3. Deadly Quotes. Cover by Juan Padrón

Deadly Quotes. Escaping Psychiatry 3.

Death by natural causes. That was the official explanation. Until they found the quote.

Killing isn’t as difficult as people think. In fact it can be quite easy.

Was it a novel the dead man had been writing? Was it an eerie suicide note? Was it murder?

Mary Miller and Leah Deakin, friends and doctors, are not sure there is a case worth investigating but are intrigued. Could a serial killer behind bars have orchestrated another killing spree? Can the clues be found in his own autobiography?

The fourth book in the Escaping Psychiatry series sees Mary, psychiatrist, survivor of attempted rape and murder, and amateur crime investigator by default, team up with Leah Deakin, an FBI pathologist, in a case that pitches them against a man who loves to play mortal games. Will they be able to stop him? And at what price?

If you enjoy reading gripping psychological thrillers, prefer strong female protagonists, feel oddly attracted to ultraintelligent and twisted baddies, and can’t get enough of challenging mysteries, you shouldn’t miss this novel.

Discover Mary Miller’s new adventure, and if you’re new to the Escaping Psychiatry series, you can go back and read the prequel Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings, in e-book format without any extra cost.


To celebrate Christmas, and in case you fancy a non-Xmasy reading, my new book will be available at $0.99  throughout the holidays. Go on, give yourself present. Or ask Santa.

Thanks for your patience, for reading, and have lots of fun! 

Book launch book promo Escaping Psychiatry launch

#Booklaunch #Newbook #EscapingPsychiatry3

Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog #Newbook MY SISTER, THE SERIAL KILLER by Oyinkan Braithwaite (@OyinBraithwaite) (@doubledaybooks) Domestic noir, dark humour, and a fantastic new voice

Hi all:

I was intrigued by this book from the moment I saw it…

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

“Feverishly hot”–PAULA HAWKINS

“The wittiest and most fun murder party you’ve ever been invited to.”–MARIE CLAIRE

A short, darkly funny, hand grenade of a novel about a Nigerian woman whose younger sister has a very inconvenient habit of killing her boyfriends

“Femi makes three, you know. Three and they label you a serial killer.”

Korede is bitter. How could she not be? Her sister, Ayoola, is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead.

Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood, the trunk of her car is big enough for a body, and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures of her dinner to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit.

Korede has long been in love with a kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where she works. She dreams of the day when he will realize that she’s exactly what he needs. But when he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and how far she’s willing to go to protect her.

Sharp as nails and full of deadpan wit, Oyinkan Braithwaite’s deliciously deadly debut is as fun as it is frightening.

Editorial reviews:

“This riveting, brutally hilarious, ultra-dark novel is an explosive debut by Oyinkan Braithwaite, and heralds an exciting new literary voice… Delicious.”


“You can’t help flying through the pages..”


“Lethally elegant”

–Luke Jennings, author of Killing Eve: Codename Villanelle

“Strange, funny and oddly touching…Pretty much perfect…It wears its weirdness excellently.”


“Who is more dangerous? A femme fatale murderess or the quiet, plain woman who cleans up her messes? I never knew what was going to happen, but found myself pulling for both sisters, as I relished the creepiness and humor of this modern noir.”

–Helen Ellis, New York Times bestselling author of American Housewife

“Disturbing, sly and delicious, Braithwaite’s novel compels us to consider the limits of loyalty and the insidious weight of silence.”

–Ayobami Adebayo, author of Stay With Me

“Braithwaite’s blazing debut is as sharp as a knife…bitingly funny and brilliantly executed, with not a single word out of place.”

–Publishers Weekly, (starred review)

“A gem, in the most accurate sense: small, hard, sharp, and polished to perfection. Every pill-sized chapter is exemplary. Where others waste ink and trees, Braithwaite can conjure fully-detailed settings and characters with a finger snap. Of these, all shine. One dazzles. Tell Shirley Jackson that the Merricat Blackwood of the 21st century lives in Lagos, her name is Ayoola, and she is so obliviously/adorably/hilariously/heartbreakingly wicked, she’ll make you cry tears of all flavors.”

–Edgar Cantero, New York Times bestselling author of Meddling Kids

“Sly, risky, and filled with surprises, Oyinkan Braithwaite holds nothing back in this wry and refreshingly inventive novel about violence, sister rivalries and simply staying alive.”

–Idra Novey, author of Those Who Knew and Ways to Disappear

Author Oyinkan Braithwaite
Author Oyinkan Braithwaite

About the author:

Oyinkan Braithwaite is a graduate of Creative Writing and Law from Kingston University. Following her degree, she worked as an assistant editor at Kachifo and has been freelancing as a writer and editor since. She has had short stories published in anthologies and has also self-published work.

In 2014, she was shortlisted as a top ten spoken word artist in the Eko Poetry Slam.

In 2016, she was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Atlantic Books (Doubleday) for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

The title of this book hooked me. The fact that it was set in Lagos, Nigeria, made it more attractive. I could not resist the cover. And then I started reading and got hit by this first paragraph:

“Ayoola summons me with these words —Korede, I killed him. I had hoped I would never hear those words again.”

Told in the first person by Korede, the book narrates her story and that of her “complex” relationship with her younger sister, Ayoola, beautiful, graceful, a successful designer, beloved of social media, irresistible to men, the favourite of everybody… She’s almost perfect. But, there is a big but, which you will have guessed from the title. She is a serial killer.

This is a short and very funny book, although it requires a certain kind of sense of humour on the part of the reader. You need to be able to appreciate sarcasm and dark humour (very dark) to find it funny, but if you do, this is a fresh voice and a different take on what has become an extremely popular genre recently, domestic noir. I kept thinking about the many novels I had read where I had commented on the setting of the book and how well the author had captured it. There are no lengthy descriptions in this novel, but it manages to capture the beat and the rhythm of Lagos (a place where I’ve never been, I must admit) and makes us appreciate what life must be like for the protagonists. Because, although Ayoola is a murderer, life goes on, and Korede has to keep working as a nurse, she is still in love (or so she thinks) with one of the doctors at the hospital, their mother still suffers from her headaches, Ayoola wants to carry on posting on Snapchat, the patient in coma Korede confides in needs to be looked after, the police need to be seen to be doing something, and there are more men keen on spending time with beautiful Ayoola…

I found Korede understandable, although I doubt that we are meant to empathise with her full-heartedly. At some points, she seems to be a victim, trapped in a situation she has no control over. At others, we realise that we only have her own opinion of her sister’s behaviour, and she has enabled the murderous activities of her sibling, in a strange symbiotic relationship where neither one of them can imagine life without the other. We learn of their traumatic past, and we can’t help but wonder what would we do faced with such a situation? If your sister was a psychopath (not a real psychiatric diagnosis, but I’m sure she’d score quite high in the psychopathy scale if her sister’s description is accurate) who kept getting into trouble, always blaming it on others, would you believe her and support her? Would you help her hide her crimes? Is blood stronger than everything else?

I loved the setting, the wonderful little scenes (like when Tade, the attractive doctor, sings and the whole city stops to listen, or when the police take away Korede’s car to submit it to forensic testing and then make her pay to return it to her, all dirty and in disarray), the voice of the narrator and her approach to things (very matter-of-fact, fully acknowledging her weaknesses, her less-than-endearing personality, sometimes lacking in insight  but also caring and reflective at times), and the ending as well. I also enjoyed the writing style. Short chapters, peppered with Yoruba terms, vivid and engaging, it flows well and it makes it feel even briefer than it is.

If you enjoy books with a strong sense of morality and providing deep lessons, this novel is not for you. Good and bad are not black and white in this novel, and there is an undercurrent of flippancy about the subject that might appeal to fans of Dexter more than to those who love conventional thrillers or mysteries. But if you want to discover a fresh new voice, love black humour, and are looking for an unusual setting, give it a go. I challenge you to check a sample and see… By the way, the date of publication varies according to format and location, so it might not be available yet depending on where you live…

Thanks to NetGalley, Doubleday, and to the author for the opportunity, thanks to all of you for reading , and remember to like, share, comment. click, review and keep smiling! 




Book launch book promo Escaping Psychiatry launch

#NewBook #Booklaunch #EscapingPsychiatry3

Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview RAGDOLL by Daniel Cole (@TrapezeBooks). Weird murders, a London setting, a ticking clock, and a morally ambiguous hero #amreading

Hi all:

I seem to be reading a lot of thrillers recently, although this one had been on my Kindle for a long time (and I’ve read it will become a TV series…)

Ragdoll by Daniel Cole
Ragdoll by Daniel Cole

Ragdoll: The thrilling Sunday Times bestseller everyone is talking about (Ragdoll 1) by Daniel Cole

‘A brilliant, breathless thriller‘ MJ Arlidge, author of Hide and Seek

‘The most exciting debut we’ve read in a long time.’ Heat Magazine

‘Highly anticipated debut that is surely bidding to be the year’s most gruesome thriller.’ Metro

Terrifyingly brilliant. I dare you to turn the lights out after reading!’ – Robert Bryndza, author of Cold Blood




A body is discovered with the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together, nicknamed by the press as the ‘Ragdoll’. Assigned to the shocking case are Detective William ‘Wolf’ Fawkes, recently reinstated to the London Met, and his former partner Detective Emily Baxter. The ‘Ragdoll Killer’ taunts the police by releasing a list of names to the media, and the dates on which he intends to murder them.

With six people to save, can Fawkes & Baxter catch a killer when the world is watching their every move?

For readers who were gripped by PunishmentThe Guilty WifeThe Girl Before and Dark Matter

‘A first class, dark thriller.’ Emlyn Rees

‘A high concept solution to a mystery.’ Sophie Hannah

Gruesome, twisty and wildly addictive… I couldn’t put Ragdoll down.’ Lisa Hall, author of Tell Me No Lies

I loved Ragdoll. A rip-roaring, inventive and riveting read.’ Jill Mansell, author of Meet Me At Beachcomber Bay

‘A star is born. Killer plot. Killer pace. Twisted killer and a killer twist. Kill to get a copy.’ Simon Toyne, bestselling author of Solomon Creed

‘Give an arm or a leg to get hold of a copy… An exciting thriller.’ – Linwood Barclay

What readers have to say about Ragdoll

‘Quite simply one of the best books I have read for years – and I read a lot of crime novels.I can see this being made into a film. Looking forward to reading the next one.’ Amazon, 5 stars

‘Brilliantly written. Very clever police procedural, crime writing at its best. Murder mystery, psychological thriller, a touch of romance. I can’t wait for the next book.’ Amazon, 5 stars

‘I think this is going to be one of the most memorable crime novels of 2017.’ Goodreads

‘This better be the first in a series Daniel Cole, I want to see Wolf again soon.’ Goodreads

One of the best stories I’ve have read in a long time! A masterpiece if I can say that.’ Goodreads


Editorial Reviews


“Briskly paced. . . . Cole’s grim yet humorous first novel offers a fresh take on British detective drama that is bound to attract admirers of Robert Galbraith and Clare Mackintosh.” (Library Journal)

“A smart, psychologically complex read. Think Luther (BBC) meets Harry Bosch, and toss in some dark, old-country folklore for good measure.” (Booklist)

“[A] strong first novel. . . . Cole uses the rising tension and the mystery of the killer’s true identity to create a page-turning narrative.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Daniel Cole’s Ragdoll is a bold first step in what is liable to be a spectacular career. Disturbing, taut and compelling, this book took me down the rabbit hole as only the best of thrillers can. Bravo, Mr. Cole.” (John Hart, bestselling author of Redemption Road)

“I’d give an arm or a leg to get hold of Ragdoll. . . . An exciting thriller.” (Linwood Barclay, bestselling author of the Promise Falls trilogy)

“A star is born. Killer plot. Killer pace. Twisted killer and a killer twist. Kill to get a copy.” (Simon Toyne, author of Solomon Creed)

“A gruesome delight! Daniel Cole’s thriller Ragdoll, in which gritty detective William “Wolf” Fawkes comes upon a single corpse stitched together out of six bodies, had me flipping pages furiously. It’s an impressive debut, dark, propulsive, and surprisingly funny.” (Gregg Hurwitz, bestselling author of Orphan X)


Author Daniel Cole
Author Daniel Cole

About the author:

At 33 years old, Daniel Cole has worked as a paramedic, an RSPCA officer and most recently for the RNLI, driven by an intrinsic need to save people or perhaps just a guilty conscience about the number of characters he kills off in his writing.

He currently lives in sunny Bournemouth and can usually be found down the beach when he ought to be writing book two instead.

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Trapeze for offering me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

This novel had passed me by (my to be read list is getting longer and longer) when it was first published, but I have been reading quite a number of thrillers recently, saw this book mentioned, and remembered I had yet to read it.

The ARC copy I read includes a funny introduction by the author, which sets the tone for what is to come quite well, although I did not see it in the look inside feature at the front of the published e-book version. The novel is a hard thriller but with a considerable amount of dark humour thrown in (a very British version of it as well). The initial premise is gripping. We have a brief prologue that introduces us to a past case and a deranged detective, and then we discover that four years later he’s back at work, and he has to investigate a very bizarre case. The ragdoll of the title is the name given to the macabre discovery of a body composed of the parts of six different victims. Not happy with that, the killer also releases a list of names of people and the dates when he intends to kill them. And the said detective (Wolf) is the last one on the list. The methods the killer employs are also very imaginative, and there is plenty of violence (and pretty extreme at that).

This thriller, set in London, follows the format of a police procedural novel, but as some reviewers have noted, it does require a certain amount of suspension of disbelief. The fact that somebody who was as disturbed as Wolf, and who very seriously assaulted a suspect in front of a whole courtroom, is allowed to go back to work, stretches the imagination. The way the team works, that seems confused and disorganised, also will surprise those who appreciate the attention to detail and authenticity. As a psychiatrist who has worked in the UK, I didn’t find the portrayal of the mental health secure unit where Wolf had spent time very realistic either (although one could query the fact that he was not well at the time, and other than a brief visit by one of the members of the team, we don’t have any objective accounts of it), and one hopes that news agencies will not be like the one depicted in the novel either (Wolf’s ex-wife works for a TV news station and becomes involved in the case also). But, if we accept the premises of the novel, and forget about how likely it is that this could happen in the real world, it is difficult to fault the book for its imagination, pace, energy, and for the way it grabs and keeps the reader’s attention.

This novel keeps taking us back to the past, and at some points it felt as if it should have been the second novel in the series, as it is evident that what happened four years earlier has a lot to do with the current events, and the way the narration is structured, around the previous case, is one of the strong points, in my opinion. It is as if the whole department had been affected by what happened to Wolf and it has become something of a dysfunctional family. Although there are things that seem far-fetched, on the other hand, the general feeling of pressure, desperation, media attention, cover-ups… felt very real. I have mentioned dark humour, and there is a very cynical undercurrent permeating the whole book, which suits it well and, perhaps, will be easier to appreciate by those who live in or are familiar with the UK, its politics, and its current social situation. I felt as if it was almost a caricature of the truth. Exaggerated and taken to the extreme but easily recognisable nonetheless.

Although it is not a psychologically complex story (and many of the characters play to stereotype: the older detective who is about to be retired, the young rookie who’s just been transferred from a different section and is a stickler for details and rules, the young attractive female detective who looks up to the lead investigator but whose feelings are unclear…), there is plenty of action and many twists and turns, characters, locations, and the ticking clock makes it a rather tense and intense read that will keep most readers guessing. There are a large number of characters, and although we get to know the members of the New Scotland Yard team fairly well over the novel (although quite a few of them keep secrets and are contradictory at best), victims, witnesses, characters from the personal lives of the detectives… all are given a bit of space, and it is important to pay attention not to get lost, especially because of the way the story is narrated.  The story is told in the third person but from quite a number of characters’ points of view, not always the main characters either, and although I did not find it difficult to follow and it is a good way to keep the intrigue (by switching points of view and giving us snippets of information only some characters have access to), it means readers should not miss a beat.

Notwithstanding the dark and sharp sense of humour, there are some introspective moments, guilty feelings, and characters wrestle with the morality of the situation, although I do not think it breaks new ground or is the most successful attempt at delving into such issues. At some point, the novel seems about to enter into paranormal territory, and it did remind me of Jekyll and Hyde, as there comes a moment when you have to wonder what it takes to make somebody step over the fine line between fighting a monster and becoming the monster. I don’t want to go into too much detail to avoid any spoilers, but let’s say that good and bad are not ultimately such clear-cut concepts as we would like to believe.

This is a very enjoyable page-turner, especially recommended for those who like a tense and gripping read and are not put off by some over-the-top characterisations and some stretching of the truth, and who don’t mind graphic violence and dark humour. And if you enjoy a London setting, even better.

Thanks to NetGalley, to the publisher, and to the author, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and REVIEW!

[amazon_link asins=’0062653989,B079J5QDBS,1524760986,1910751774,B06XZWWH6L,0521588391,B00464AVXW’ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’wwwauthortran-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ec854396-0920-11e8-a9bc-8b7bc2d85f23′]

Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview THE FOURTH MONKEY by J.D. Barker (@jdbarker) (@HQstories) A solid thriller, with an intriguing dynamic between the lead investigator and the killer

Hi all:

I read this novel a few weeks back but I decided to wait until it became available to share the review. It is doing quite well, so…

The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker
The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker

The Fourth Monkey: A twisted thriller – perfect edge-of-your-seat summer reading by J.D. Barker

Brilliant. Complicated. Psychopath.

That’s the Four Monkey Killer or ‘4MK’. A murderer with a twisted vision and absolutely no mercy.

Detective Sam Porter has hunted him for five long years, the recipient of box after box of grisly trinkets carved from the bodies of 4MK’s victims.

But now Porter has learnt the killer’s twisted history and is racing to do the seemingly impossible – find 4MK’s latest victim before it’s too late…


“A talented writer with a delightfully devious mind.”
–Jeffery Deaver

“Not since Hannibal Lecter had a friend for dinner has a serial killer been so skillfully rendered on the page.”
―Taylor Elmore, Writer/Producer of Justified and Limitless

“Gripping, addictive, and devilishly clever. From its opening salvo The Fourth Monkey grabs you and never lets go. J. D. Barker is a stunning new talent.”
– Barry Lancet, award-winning author of Tokyo Kill and Pacific Burn

“A chillingly delicious page-turner.”
– NY Times Bestselling Author, Kelley Armstrong

“Creepy, scary… and impossible to put down! THE FOURTH MONKEY is everything a thriller should be―a must read!”
― Heather Graham, New York Times bestselling author

“Gritty, masterful suspense. A dark ride into the mind of a genius killer, and those tasked with stopping him for good. Impeccably written with Barker’s trademark wit and penchant for killer detail. Lee Child, you’ve met your match.”
―Tosca Lee, NY Times Bestselling Author

Author J. D. Barker
Author J. D. Barker

About the author:

J.D. Barker (Jonathan Dylan Barker) is an international bestselling American author who’s work has been broadly described as suspense thrillers, often incorporating elements of horror, crime, mystery, science fiction, and the supernatural.

Early life and Career

Barker was born January 7, 1971 in Lombard, Illinois and spent the first fourteen years of his life in Crystal Lake, Illinois. A staunch introvert, he was rarely seen without a book in hand, devouring both the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series by the age of six before moving on to classics such as the works of Dickens and Twain. The discovery of Shelley, Stoker and Poe fueled a fire and it wasn’t long before he was writing tales of his own which he shared with friends and family. These early stories centered around witches and ghosts thought to inhabit the woods surrounding their home.

At fourteen, Barker’s family relocated to Englewood, Florida, a climate better suited to his father’s profession as a contractor. He attended Lemon Bay High School and graduated in 1989. Knowing he wanted to pursue a career in the arts but unsure of a direction, he enrolled at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale where he later obtained a degree in business. While in college, one of his writing assignment found its way into the hands of Paul Gallotta of Circus Magazine. Gallotta reached out to Barker and asked him to join the staff of 25th Parallel Magazine where he worked alongside the man who would later become Marilyn Manson. Assignments dropped him into the center of pop culture and by 1991 Barker branched out, interviewing celebrities for the likes of Seventeen, TeenBeat, and other national and local publications. In 1992, Barker syndicated a small newspaper column called Revealed which centered around the investigation of haunted places and supernatural occurrences. While he often cites these early endeavors as a crash course in tightening prose, his heart remained with fiction. He began work as a book doctor and ghostwriter shortly thereafter, helping others fine tune their writing for publication. Barker has said this experience proved invaluable, teaching him what works and what doesn’t in today’s popular fiction. He would continue in this profession until 2012 when he wrote a novel of his own, titled Forsaken.

Stephen King read portions of Forsaken prior to publication and granted Barker permission to utilize the character of Leland Gaunt of King’s Needful Things in the novel. Indie-published in late 2014, the book went on to hit several major milestones – #2 on Audible (Harper Lee with Go Set a Watchman held #1), #44 on Amazon U.S., #2 on Amazon Canada, and #22 on Amazon UK. Forsaken was also nominated for a Bram Stoker Award (Best Debut Novel) and won a handful of others including a New Apple Medalist Award. After reading Forsaken, Bram Stoker’s family reached out to Barker and asked him to co-author a prequel to Dracula utilizing Bram’s original notes and journals, much of which has never been made public.

Barker’s indie success drew the attention of traditional agents and publishers and in early 2016 his debut thriller, The Fourth Monkey, sold in a series of pre-empts and auctions worldwide with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt set to publish in the U.S. and HarperCollins in the UK. The book has also sold for both film and television.

Barker splits his time between Englewood, FL, and Pittsburgh, PA, with his wife, Dayna.

My review:

Thanks to Net Galley and to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for offering me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This novel ticks many of the boxes of successful thrillers: interesting and gruesome crimes (and a pretty bizarre serial killer), police procedural elements (and an investigating team easy to connect with and amusing at times), tension ticking (a girl has been taken by the 4MK [Four Monkey Killer] and she must be found before she dies), twists and turns (I suspect most avid readers of thrillers will guess some, at least, of them), red herrings… It is fairly long, although it keeps a good pace. If I missed anything, it was perhaps more psychological insight. And if we stop to think about it, the police force seems pretty ineffective but…

The story is told in chapters written in the third person from different points of view, mostly Porter’s (the lead investigator in the case although not fully back to work after some time off. We learn the reason later in the book) and Emory’s (the young victim), although there is the odd chapter from one of the other detective’s points of view, Clair. Interspersed with this we have fragments of the killer’s diary, which is found in the pocket of a man killed by a bus at the beginning of the book. The diary, that starts out pretty harmless, as the account of what seems to be a pretty normal childhood, gets creepier and creepier as it goes along and it provides an understanding (or justification of sorts) for the killer’s later behaviour (blood is thicker and all that, but there are also lies, secrets and betrayals. That is, if we are to believe the diary).  That and other aspects of the book (and I don’t want to say much to avoid spoilers) including the cat-and-mouse chase, provide us with some interesting insights into the mind of the killer and emphasise the fact that appearances can be very deceptive. A seemingly normal middle-class family can hide all kinds of dirty secrets. And upper-class families can too, as becomes evident through the book. The revenge/avenging aspect of the murders (the sins of the fathers are visited…) is not new, although it makes the murderer more intriguing.

The other parts of the book help move the story forward and the events are set chronologically, from the moment Porter is awakened by a phone call that brings him back to the police, as he’s been chasing the 4MK Killer for over five years. Although Porter’s point of view dominates the novel, I did not feel we got to know him all that well. Yes, something has happened to him (I guessed what it was early on) and he is suffering and unwilling to openly acknowledge that or discuss it; he is not keen on gadgets and seems utterly out of touch with new technologies and social media, and he is determined and driven, putting himself at risk repeatedly for the good of others. But, although I liked the fact that the team of detectives investigating the case were pretty normal individuals (not corrupt, not twisted and bitter, even when it would be more than justified, not morally ambiguous psychopaths), I still missed having more of a sense of who Porter really is. Clair has little page space and I got no sense of her own personality, other than knowing that she cares for Porter and her colleagues and she has an amusing love/dislike relationship with Nash (who is the character that provides the light relief throughout the book). In the case of Emory, who finds herself in a terrifying situation, we get to share her experiences with her, and it is one of the most effective portions of the book, adding to the tension and the need to keep turning the pages.

The style of writing is direct, with only the necessary descriptions to allow us to follow the investigation (including descriptions of clues and places. I particularly enjoyed the idea of the tunnels from bootlegging times that help bring the setting’s history into the novel). The chronological storyline and the signposting of the different points of view, make it a story dynamic and easy to read, and although it is perhaps longer than the norm in the genre it is a fairly quick read.

As I said, there are plenty of twists and turns, enough to keep one’s mind busy, although I suspect avid readers of the genre will guess a few of them, if not all. I have read some of the comments disparaging the fact that the police seem to be pretty ineffective and they only get to rescue the victim thanks to the clues left by the killer. Indeed, that is so (in fairness, Porter, who seems the most clued-on of the team and the expert on this case, is battling personal issues of his own and not at his best) but, if anything, that further emphasises the relationship between Porter and the killer. What attracts the killer to Porter? The ending (oh, yes, very satisfying, although, of course, it creates intrigue for the next book in the series) highlights that issue even more. I get the feeling that this series will improve as it goes along but only time will tell.

In summary, a story of evil hiding in unexpected places, of secrets and lies that are covered by a thin veneer of normality, and a solid police procedural thriller, with a main character and a killer whose relationship holds the key to more mysteries to come.  Ah, a word of warning. If you don’t like graphic violence and torture, you might want to give it a miss.

Thanks to the publishers and the author for this book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW!

Book review Book reviews Rosie's Book Review Team Rosie's Book Team Review

#TuesdayBookBlog DEVIL IN THE COUNTRYSIDE by Cory Barclay (@CoryBarclay) A bizarre true story brought to life in a novel that moves across genres.

Hi all:

Sometimes it’s difficult to know why a book doesn’t seem to work for us. This is one of those cases and most people who’ve read it have enjoyed it a lot more than me, so I suspect it’s me rather than the book, but here is my review. Thanks to Rosie Amber for creating Rosie’s Book Review Team (don’t forget to check here if you’re an author and would like to have your book reviewed).

Devil in the Countryside by Cory Barclay

Devil in the Countryside by Cory Barclay

Devil in the Countryside is a story about the most famous werewolf investigation in history, brimming with intrigue and war, love and betrayal, and long-kept vendettas.

It’s 1588, the height of the Reformation, and a killer is terrorizing the German countryside. There are reports that the legendary Werewolf of Bedburg has returned to a once-peaceful land. Heinrich Franz, a cold and calculating investigator, is tasked with finding whomever — or whatever — the killer might be. He’ll need all the help he can get, including that of a strange hunter who’s recently stumbled into town. Though they’re after the same thing, their reasons are worlds apart. And through it all, a priest tries to keep the peace among his frightened townsfolk, while a young woman threatens his most basic beliefs.

In a time when life is cheap and secrets run rampant, these four divergent souls find themselves entwined in a treacherous mystery, navigating the volatile political and religious landscape of 16th century Germany, fighting to keep their sanity — and their lives.

Author Cory Barclay

About the author:

As far back as he can remember, Cory Barclay has always loved the “big picture” questions. How much knowledge did humanity lose when the Library of Alexandria was burned down? Why has the concept of Heaven remained intact, in one form or another, throughout most of human history and how has it impacted life on Earth?

And even before that, when he first began writing stories in grade school, he’s been fascinated with histories and mysteries. Whether Norse mythology, the Dark Ages, or the conquests of great leaders, Cory’s been that kid who wants to know what’s shaped our world and write about it. Especially the great unsolved mysteries.

So Devil in the Countryside was a natural for him.

Born and raised in San Diego, he graduated from University of California, Santa Cruz, where he studied Creative Writing and Modern Literary Studies. He’s also a songwriter and guitarist, and – no surprise – many of his songs explore the same topics he writes about – the great mysteries of our crazy world.

Devil in the Countryside is his second novel and he’s hard at work on its sequel.

My review:

I write this review as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team. Thanks to Rosie Amber and to the author for offering me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This is a book based on a real case (although so many years later and with the few documents and written clues available it is difficult to know what might have been ‘real’ and ‘true’ at the time) that has all the elements to be a fabulous novel, or a TV investigative documentary, or a movie. You can check the Werewolf of Bedburg and you’ll find a lot of information (or rather, a bit of information elaborated upon and repeated everywhere, but not many different sources). It’s easy to understand why the author would become fascinated with the subject and I also see how a writer would feel that the bare bones of the case that can be found through research would make a great starting point to write a fully-fledged and fleshed-out story. And that is what the author decided to do. In such a case, decisions have to be made as to how close to keep to the facts (such as they are) and how many fictional elements should be introduced. With this particular story, there were also many possibilities with regards to genre. Should it be a historical novel, researching the place and times and fitting in the specifics of the story around the findings? Should it be a mystery/thriller, chasing and investigating an early example of a serial killer? Should it be a horror novel? Personally, I’m not sure what I would have done, but as a reader, this novel was not what I expected. This has probably more to do with me than with the book itself but, in my opinion, it tries to be too many things.

The novel has elements of historical fiction. The author explains, in an end note, who were the real characters, and who the ones he created, and also briefly exposes some of the liberties he took. The historical background and facts are fairly accurate (although if you research the story, it seems that the fate of the daughter was very different to the one in the book, that seems an attempt at introducing a romance and a happy ending of sorts, that, in my opinion, does not befit the subject), and one of the things that the author does very well is to reflect the conflict between Catholics and Protestants at the time, the atmosphere of deep suspicion and hostility, and the paranoia that permeated all levels of society, whereby nobody was safe and anybody could be betrayed and accused of being a follower of the wrong faith. The author uses modern language, a perfectly good choice to ensure more readers access the text, but there are anachronisms and expressions that felt out of place (and perhaps using a more neutral, rather than a very casual language would have been less jarring, as some expressions sounded particularly weird in such setting. We have references to teenager, an expression only in use in the XXc. , characters drink coffee whilst it was never introduced to Germany until the late part of the XVII century…). I also wondered about some of the characters’ actions. Sybil, a young girl who lost her mother and looks after her father and younger brother, challenges her father’s authority with no consequences, goes out by herself and does things I would have thought would be out of character (but I will try and not offer too many spoilers). Dieter is a young and pious priest that seems to change his faith and his mind practically overnight (no matter what he thought about the bishop, the religion he’d dedicated years to, one would expect it would mean more to him than that) as a result of falling in love at first sight (as there is nothing in common between him and the girl) and in general I felt most of the characters were not psychologically consistent. I am not an authority on that historical period, although I have read other books about that era that created a clearer picture in my mind, about the historical period and also about the society of the time.

Whilst the novel opens as if it was going to be a straight investigation into bizarre murders, with a suggestion of the paranormal, there are some elements of investigation (following people, plenty of intrigues, researching paperwork), but a lot of the novel is taken up by telling (more than showing) us about the religious situation, the machinations of the powerful of the time (particularly Bishop Solomon, not a real character who is truly despicable and has no redeeming features at all) and it stirs the book towards the territory of the intrigue/conspiracy-theory novel  (it appears likely that those aspects played a big part during the trial of the man who was found guilty of being the werewolf).

Although at the beginning there is the suggestion that there might be elements of horror in the novel that is not the case. Or rather, the real horror is the way the truth is sacrificed to political and religious interests and how no side is above using any means to win (the Catholics come out of it slightly worse off, but nobody is truly blameless).  There is action, violence (some for comic relief, but some extreme and graphic, including torture scenes and gross deaths), and war, so this is not a gentle novel for people intent on learning a bit about the historical era, but it is not scary in sense horror lovers would expect.

The story is told in the third person from the point of view of different characters, and each chapter starts with the name of the character whose point of view we share, although at times we get reflections and comments from an omniscient point of view (comments about character’s feelings or motivations that do not seem to come from them). Heinrich, the investigator, is an enigmatic character we never get to know well, as although we see things from his point of view, we aren’t privy to his full motivations (and that is aided by the third person narration). He is at times presented as weak and ineffective (a bit like Johnny Depp’s depiction of Ichabod Crane in Sleepy Hollow) and at others, he is clever and manipulative (and the ending is quite eerie, but no, I won’t say anything else). He seems determined to carry on with his investigation and get to the truth one minute, and then he settles for what he knows is a lie, behaving as a corrupt cog-in-the-machine.

I suspect it was partly because of the point of view changes but I found it difficult to connect with the characters (my favourite was Georg, a conflicted character whose motivations are easier to understand and who was, despite his flaws, a good man.  I felt sorry for Sybil but her character didn’t quite gel for me) although it is impossible not to be horrified at what went on and I didn’t manage to get the timing of the events straight in my mind.

Some of the comments expressed unhappiness with the ending, but for me, that is well resolved (perhaps apart from the happy ending part of it, but then that is a matter of genre) and I did not find its openness a problem but rather a plus.

Most of my difficulties with the book stem from my own expectations about what the story was going to be about and how it was going to be told. I’ve read many positive reviews about the book, and as I said, it does create a sense of dread, paranoia, and suspicion that can help us imagine what living in that historical period, so uncertain, must have been like.  And it has a chilling and eerie ending. So, if you are intrigued by the history behind it, don’t take my word for it and check a sample of the book. And do a bit of research. It will prove, once more, that reality can be stranger than fiction.

Thanks very much to Rosie Amber and to the author, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment and CLICK and of course, to leave reviews for the books you read!

Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview GOOD ME BAD ME by Ali Land (@byAliLand) A not so innocent girl in a twisted world. Not heavy on explicit violence but a true psychological chiller.

Hi all:

Today I bring you… surprise, surprise, a thriller. This one has made it quite big, especially in the UK. I couldn’t find it in Kindle version in the US, but I suspect it’s a matter of time only…

Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land
Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land

Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land

ONE OF THE MOST EXTRAORDINARY, CONTROVERSIAL AND EXPLOSIVE DEBUTS OF 2017, Good Me Bad Me is for fans of quality psychological suspense and reading group fiction.

‘The new Girl on The Train, which was the new Gone Girl. You get the picture. This psycho-thriller by Ali Land is set to be massive’ Cosmopolitan

‘Incredible, very special’ Radio 4’s Open Book


Annie’s mother is a serial killer.

The only way she can make it stop is to hand her in to the police.

But out of sight is not out of mind.

As her mother’s trial looms, the secrets of her past won’t let Annie sleep, even with a new foster family and name – Milly.

A fresh start. Now, surely, she can be whoever she wants to be.

But Milly’s mother is a serial killer. And blood is thicker than water.

Good me, bad me.

She is, after all, her mother’s daughter…

Translated into over 20 languages, Good Me Bad Me is a tour de force. In its narrator, Milly Barnes, we have a voice to be reckoned with, and in its author, Ali Land, an extraordinary new talent.

A novel of complex motivations that will test readers’ capacity for empathy, Good Me Bad Me is already a strong contender for debut of the year’ The Irish Times

‘Gripping, unsettling and unforgettable’ Heat

‘Frightening and enthralling’ Grazia

‘Unsettling. Holds our attention from the opening page. There is so much to praise here’ Guardian

‘Spellbinding. Will have you on the edge of your seat. Sure to be a big talking point this year’ Daily Express

‘A creepy, compulsive thriller I read in one breathless gulp. Good Me Bad Me reveals its shocking secrets slowly while reeling in the reader with all the intricate skill of a spider spinning a web. One not to be missed’ Red

‘Original and compelling – what a sensational debut!’ Clare Mackintosh, number one bestselling author of I See You and I Let You Go

‘An astoundingly compelling thriller. Beyond tense. You hardly breathe. Best read in ages’ Matt Haig

‘Intelligent and disturbing, Good Me Bad Me had me hooked from the first page’ Debbie Howells, author of Richard & Judy book club bestseller The Bones of You

Editorial reviews

The new Girl on The Train, which was the new Gone Girl. You get the picture. This psycho-thriller by Ali Land is set to be massive (Cosmopolitan)

A gripping tale about a teenage girl waiting to give evidence at her serial-killer mother’s trial. Unsettling and unforgettable (Heat)

Incredible, very special (Radio 4’s Open Book)

Uncomfortable, shocking, and totally compelling, put this to the top of your to-read pile (Sun)

Unsettling. Holds our attention from the opening page. There is so much to praise here (Guardian)

Had me on the edge of my seat from the first page (Women & Home)

Could not be more unputdownable if it was slathered with superglue (Sunday Express)

Frightening, enthralling, utterly compelling. Everyone’s scrabbling for the new Girl on the Train to get their thriller fix. And 2017’s ‘one’ looks set to be Good Me Bad Me. A gripper. You’ll be hooked (Grazia)

A dark, intensely compelling debut. Terrifying (Daily Mail)

Good Me Bad Me is the story of a girl who hands her serial killer mother over to the police. With a new life and new, welcoming family, she prepares for the coming trial. But this is a battle of wills, of nature versus nurture – of good against bad . . . (from the publisher’s description)

This superbly dark, twister chiller is as gripping as they come (Heat)

An astoundingly compelling thriller. Beyond tense. You hardly breathe. Best read in ages (Matt Haig)

Intelligent and disturbing, Good Me Bad Me had me hooked from the first page (Debbie Howells, author of Richard & Judy book club bestseller The Bones of You)

Milly’s voice is gripping and shocking. This is a book you will want to discuss with everyone you know (Claire Douglas, author of The Sisters and Local Girl Missing)

I absolutely loved it and read it in less than a day. A proper page turner and brilliantly written (Edith Bowman)

A triumph of tension. I doubt I’ll ever sleep again (Cathy Rentzenbrink, author of R&J bestseller The Last Act of Love)

Good Me Bad Me is a novel that explodes off the page, with beautifully drawn characters and carefully executed pace. Heart rending, engrossing and ultimately terrifying, you’ll be thinking about it a long time after you’ve turned the final page (Rowan Coleman, author of R&J bestseller The Memory Book)

Unbelievably good, utterly gripping (Jill Mansell)

This book is a work of twisted genius. It is going to be HUGE. Watch out for Ali Land (Bryony Gordon)

Listen to the early praise for Ali Land’s Good Me Bad Me because it’s all true. It’s dark, utterly gripping, brilliant (David Headley, Goldsboro Books)

I read this book in one compulsive gulp over two days and absolutely loved it. It’s raw, superbly controlled and it chills to the bone (Richard Skinner)

You know from the first page you’re in confident hands. A genuinely disturbing debut that will stay with you long after you turn the last page. Good Me Bad Me is going to be huge – and it deserves to be (Catherine Ryan Howard)

Good Me Bad Me is utterly compelling. Ali Land writes with such clarity, and such imagination, you will fall into her world on the very first page and find yourself unable to leave. An extraordinary and breath-taking debut (Joanna Cannon, author of Sunday Times bestseller The Trouble with Goats and Sheep)

The best crime debut I’ve read in ages. Creepy, edgy and addictively twisted. I loved it (Sarah Hilary)

Ali Land’s Good Me Bad Me is an intensely compelling exploration of nature versus nurture wrapped up in a page-turning psychological thriller. Darkly disturbing and beautifully written. What more could any reader want? (Sarah Pinborough)

Good Me Bad Me is an astonishing debut – technically sophisticated and emotionally heart wrenching. So many things are done well – the status jungle of girls school, the psychological dissonance of a dysfunctional family, the internal machinery of damaged children. I thought it was wonderful (Helen Callaghan, bestselling author of Dear Amy)

One word: Wow. What a brilliant book – believable, shocking, thought-provoking and utterly compelling. The writing, as well as being so pacey, is beautiful. This feels such a current and original book (T R Richmond)

Good Me Bad Me is a compelling page-turner. Chilling and dark, it grips you and won’t let go (Rebecca Done)

Ten pages into Good Me Bad Me, I became an Ali Land fan. Her beautiful, intimate voice immediately tugged me into the heart and mind of a serial killer’s daughter and then wouldn’t let go. Is there hope for this teenager’s new life outside of her mother’s horror? Original, intense, and utterly compelling, Good Me Bad Me is not just a terrific thriller but a psychological dive into a young girl’s soul. It takes subtlety and perfect balance to maintain a dark tale like this, and Land never once stutters or makes you look away (Julia Heaberlin, author of Sunday Times bestseller Black-Eyed Susans)

The new Girl on The Train, which was the new Gone Girl… You get the picture. This psycho-thriller by Ali Land is set to be massive (Cosmopolitan)

2017’s most hotly anticipated psychological thriller (Stylist)

A creepy, compulsive thriller I read in one breathless gulp… Good Me Bad Me reveals its shocking secrets slowly while reeling in the reader with all the intricate skill of a spider spinning a web. One not to be missed (Red Magazine)

Dark, claustrophobic and thought-provoking. You’ll read this outstanding debut while holding your breath! (Prima Magazine)

An incredible narrative voice . . . Very special and different (Radio 4’s Open Book)

Terrifyingly good. The terror of Liz Nugent mixed with the teen angst of Louise O’Neill (The Irish Examiner)

Frightening and enthralling


A novel of complex motivations that will test readers’ capacity for empathy, Good Me Bad Me is already a strong contender for debut of the year (The Irish Times)

Gripping from the first page (Elle UK)

Paperback in the US:

About the author:

Author Ali Land
Author Ali Land

After graduating from university with a degree in Mental Health, Ali Land spent a decade working as a Child and Adolescent Mental Health nurse in hospitals and schools in the UK and Australia. Ali is now a full-time writer and lives in North London. Good Me Bad Me has been translated into over twenty languages.

There isn’t much in the author’s page on Amazon, but there’s a mine of information, interviews, etc. at her author’s page in Penguin:

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin for offering me a free ARC of this novel that I voluntarily chose to review.

This novel has Annie, a sixteen years old girl, as narrator and she tells us, in the first person, what happens when she reports her mother to the police. Her mother is a serial killer. Worse than that, she’s killed 9 children (allegedly). Whilst they are waiting for the trial, she is placed with a foster family and given a new identity (she becomes Milly). Her new family has its problems too. Mike, the father, is a psychologist and seems the most together in the family although he doesn’t realise he might be biting more than he can chew. Saskia, the mother, has problems in her relationship with her daughter and drinks and takes too many pills. Phoebe is a queen bee and not very nice at all. The dog is OK, though. Milly tries to fit in with the new family while getting ready for the trial. It is not easy.

I’m always intrigued by how writers use their narrators and here Milly (Annie) is pretty unreliable. She is very good at keeping under wraps some of the information and only revealing or suggesting other. She talks to her mother, whose voice she seems to have internalised (giving a clear indication of the effect such toxic people would have in the lives of those around them) and has a running conversation with her, convinced that her mother is still playing games with her. Milly insists on giving evidence because in some way that will give her closure (perhaps). She second-guesses not only her mother but all around her; a habit we guess must have grown from trying to survive in an extremely hostile environment.

Milly’s new life has difficulties, as Phoebe, who doesn’t know her circumstances, is jealous of the attention her father gives her and is quite bitchy. She bullies her and gets her friends to do the same at school. Milly manages to make a friend but her relationship with Morgan, a girl from a neighbouring estate, has very worrying traits and is not the healthiest.

The story is well written and paced, revealing information at a slow pace and keeping us intrigued. The subject matter is very hard, but the worst of the violence is psychological and there are few details given although we get to imagine terrible things. There is an air of threat and impending doom hanging over the novel that the author achieves by cleverly hiding some information and foreshadowing other events that not always take place.

The writer, who had worked nursing young people in mental health settings, creates a good plot and it’s difficult not to let our mind wonder and wander, worrying about what might come next.

I’ve read some of the comments about the novel and although most are positive, some of the negative ones deserve some discussion. Some people query the voice of the narrator, whom they feel is very articulate and adult-sounding for a sixteen-year-old. She is very articulate. She is also a girl who’s survived to incredible life events and who’s evidently very intelligent and even gifted (if we’re to judge by the comments of her art teacher) and she’s very good at self-censoring and manipulating others (and perhaps herself and us too). It is not easy to sympathise with her at an emotional level, although rationally it is impossible not to empathise and it might also depend on the reader (and our feelings change as we read on). There are comments about how Milly seems to behave too rationally and how somebody subjected to the abuse and trauma she has suffered would be much more affected. There is no fast and hard rule on that matter and one can’t help but wonder about Milly’s own personality. As she notes, she’s her mother’s daughter. Some of the reviewers felt that the rest of the characters are one-dimensional and have no depth but we need to remember the book is narrated from Milly’s point of view and she’s very self-centered and sees other characters only in the light of their interaction with her, not as individuals with other interests and full lives (her relationship with the art tutor is illustrative of that, although the school doesn’t do a very good job there either).

There are some points that are perhaps given too much emphasis (they are going to perform Lord of the Flies at the school, very aptly and that is subject of much discussion, therefore calling attention once more to children and violence), and we are given data that ends up becoming a red herring or doesn’t go anywhere (Milly discovers information about some of the characters that makes us wonder what’s going to happen next and… nothing does). Personally, I think all of it helps create a picture of the central character as a contradictory individual, who is trying to not be like her mother but at the same time can’t help but want her mother’s approval, and who perhaps has realised that being bad has its pluses too, as long as you don’t get caught.

The ending won’t disappoint, although I think many of us might have suspected what was going to happen but not perhaps how the author builds up to it, and as I said, we might have thought there was more to come.

In summary a disquieting and chilling book, that’s not heavy on explicit violence but explores the darker recesses of the mind of somebody affected by an extremely dysfunctional childhood. A word of warning, although there’s very little explicit violence, I know some readers prefer not to read thrillers where children are the victims and suffer abuse and that’s the case here.

Thanks to NetGalley, Penguin and the author for her book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment and CLICK!

%d bloggers like this:
x Logo: Shield Security
This Site Is Protected By
Shield Security