Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Power-packed Psychological Thrillers - 3 Latest Reviews

It's that time of year when we're all getting cosy for Christmas and looking for some cracking books to snuggle up with by the fire.... Here are some reviews of recent novels:

Precious Thing - Colette McBeth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Remember the person you sat next to on your first day at school? Still your best friend? Or disappeared from your life for good? Some friendships fizzle out. Rachel and Clara promised theirs would last for ever. 

They met when Rachel was the new girl in class and Clara was the friend everyone wanted. Now in their late twenties Rachel has everything while Clara's life is spiralling further out of control.

Then Clara vanishes. 

Imagine discovering something about your oldest friend that forces you to question everything you've shared together. The truth is always there. But only if you choose to see it.

'A searing portrayal of a vivid bond of love - and hate - between friends.' Some lovely imagery, intensity and depth in the writing here about a friendship between two women that goes off the rails. One of them goes missing and the truth about their past and present lives starts to unravel with devastating effects. This is not a book that relies on shocks and big-bangs! Beautiful writing - some wonderful 'moments' that the author manages to capture in words. A book to savour - highly deserving of 5 stars. I'm really looking forward to her next one!

The Beauty of Murder - A.K. Benedict
My rating: 3 of 5

Stephen Killigan has been cold since the day he came to Cambridge as a junior lecturer. Something about the seven hundred years of history staining the stones of the university has given him a chill he can't shake. When he stumbles across the body of a missing beauty queen, he thinks he's found the reason. But when the police go to retrieve the body and find no trace, Killigan has found a problem - and a killer - that is the very opposite of reason.

Killigan's unwitting entry into Jackamore Grass's sinister world will lead him on a trail of tattooists, philosophers, cadavers and scholars of a deadly beauty. As Killigan traces a path between our age and seventeenth century Cambridge, he must work out how a corpse can be found before someone goes missing, and whether he's at the edge of madness or an astonishing discovery.

This novel is certainly 'different'. I loved the quality of the writing (set in Cambridge) - it had a gothic, dark, magical feel to it, with unusual, surreal images, original detail ('crinkle-cut corduroy trousers') humour and quirkiness. Such as : 'There is something familiar about him. But then there is about all clergy: they all have that way of looking through you as if your sins were fluttering on a washing line with the labels showing.'

I didn't know when I started it that it had a 'time-travel' element, which wouldn't usually pique my interest, but it fitted well here, although I confess I did get a bit 'lost' in the storytelling at times. Perhaps, I wasn't paying enough attention – but there are a lot of elements to it – murder, maths, magic, time-travel, science-fiction, philosophy. The lead characters all had compelling and unusual traits and even if, like me, you weren't on secure footing with the tale itself (and it does feel like a 'tale') - it's definitely worth a read for the writing style and atmosphere.

The Sleeper - Emily Barr
My rating: 4 of 5

Lara Finch is living a lie.

Everyone thinks she has a happy life in Cornwall, married to the devoted Sam, but in fact she is desperately bored. When she is offered a new job that involves commuting to London by sleeper train, she meets Guy and starts an illicit affair. But then Lara vanishes from the night train without a trace. Only her friend Iris disbelieves the official version of events, and sets out to find her. For Iris, it is the start of a voyage that will take her further than she's ever travelled and on to a trail of old crimes and dark secrets. For Lara, it is the end of a journey that started a long time ago. A journey she must finish, before it destroys her...

This is a great suspense read - and verging on 5 stars. The 'hook' is powerful - a woman vanishes from a train - and I love mysteries involving trains (I've written one myself!). The first part of the novel written from Lara's point of view was done brilliantly. This is where she starts living a double life with the 'safe and tedious' husband at home (who adores her) and the whirlwind romance with the exciting new man on the train. I thought this section made great use of the dissonance between who Lara becomes with each man and the lies and deception she starts to build. When Lara goes missing, I found a slump in energy and suddenly we're seeing the situation through the eyes of Iris, a not-very-close friend. Then we're no longer in Falmouth or London and eventually the pace picks up again, but it becomes rather a different story from the one at the start. It is for me almost two stories in one and the first part is by far the most compelling. Having said that, the writing is excellent, it's engaging and solid good quality. I'll be reading more from this writer.
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AJ Waines is the author of Psychological Thrillers:  The Evil Beneath and Girl on a Train.
Both books went to Number One in 'Murder' and 'Psychological Thrillers' in the UK Kindle charts.

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