Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Three Reviews from my Psychological Thriller shelf!

Time to see which novels hit the spot and which didn't...

Remember Me This Way  - Sabine Durrant
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'Everyone keeps telling me I have to move on. And so here I am, walking down the road where he died, trying to remember him the right way.' A year after her husband Zach's death, Lizzie goes to lay flowers where his fatal accident took place. As she makes her way along the motorway, she thinks about their life together. She wonders whether she has changed since Zach died. She wonders if she will ever feel whole again. At last she reaches the spot. And there, tied to a tree, is a bunch of lilies. The flowers are addressed to her husband. Someone has been there before her.

Lizzie loved Zach. She really did. But she's starting to realise she didn't really know him. Or what he was capable of . . .

This book really hit the spot! From the start, the story is riddled with deception, lies, undercurrents of emotional abuse, obsession and manipulation. Nothing is as it seems. Who left the flowers at the road-side? Who is following Lizzie? Did Zach read Lizzie's letter that told him it was all over between them? As Lizzie goes back to fill in the gaps in the persona Zach presented to her, she finds more questions than answers. Seen through Lizzie's eyes in the present with Zach's chilling account in the past, we witness the dissonance in their relationship, driven by passive/aggressive behaviour and co-dependency. Is Zach alive? Is he waiting to pounce? A tense suspense novel that won't let you put it down. Highly recommended.

Finders Keepers - Belinda Bauer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

At the height of summer a dark shadow falls across Exmoor. Children are being stolen from cars. Each disappearance is marked only by a terse note - a brutal accusation. There are no explanations, no ransom demands... and no hope.

Policeman Jonas Holly faces a precarious journey into the warped mind of the kidnapper if he's to stand any chance of catching him. But - still reeling from a personal tragedy - is Jonas really up to the task?

Because there's at least one person on Exmoor who thinks that, when it comes to being the first line of defence, Jonas Holly may be the last man to trust...

I love Belinda Bauer’s books – Rubbernecker was my favourite novel of 2014, but sadly this one didn’t grab me. I’ve read the books in order, but I still found it disconcerting that this book was giving away vital information that would spoil a reader’s enjoyment of the earlier book, Darkside. The twist in that book is excellent and this book somehow took something away for me.

The style is beautiful as ever; quirky, funny, poignant, dark and verging on gruesome – how does she do it?! But the storyline itself didn’t sweep me away. It felt too familiar after the earlier ones. Just a little bit too samey with 'chaos in a village when disaster strikes'. There were a number of references to the previous two stories (and characters, of course) and I wanted something fresh. Those other stories were great, but I preferred them to be self-contained and closed. I saw no benefit from making them linked. I suppose that’s the risk you run with a series – but I felt it particularly diminished my enjoyment here, in a way that other series books haven’t. The story wasn’t enough to lift me out of that, I’m afraid.

Roll on the next – The Facts of Life and Death, which sounds like a standalone and which I will certainly read as I won it in a competition!

The Cement Garden - Ian McEwan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the relentless summer heat, four abruptly orphaned children retreat into a shadowy, isolated world, and find their own strange and unsettling ways of fending for themselves...

This is one of those books where you know right from the start it isn't going to end well. The only downside about it is that it is fairly short and it's a book you'll want to go on and on reading. The writing style is extremely accomplished - the narrator being a fourteen year old boy, Jack, with all his awkwardness and self-doubt. Jack doesn't come across as warm - he's not outgoing or kind - he's troubled and fighting to hold his place in a world where his older sister has taken over the reins in the family. What unfolds is a beautiful portrait of the inner turmoil of an increasingly dysfunctional family.

Words like macabre, dark, morbid, shocking and repellent describe this novel and make it compelling in the way it brings up those goose pimples! It's never explicit or melodramatic. I've read this book several times and I'm always struck by the way the shocking events are delivered with a 'dead-pan' style that makes them even more disturbing. Highly recommended.
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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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