Monday 23 December 2019

Mini book Review: I, Spy by Claire Kendal

I SpyI Spy by Claire Kendal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a polished, intelligent read with a fabulous sense of increasing jeopardy. I always love the author’s refined, poised and elegant writing style with flecks of detail that make it truly special. The MI5 spy-theme is a clever touch and brought a new angle to this kind of domestic noir psychological thriller. Highly recommended!

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Monday 25 November 2019

Mini Book Review: I Thought I Knew You by Penny Hancock

I Thought I Knew YouI Thought I Knew You by Penny Hancock
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow – what a tour de force! I’ve enjoyed all Penny Hancock’s books, (especially my favourite, Tideline), and this is right up there. 'I Thought I Knew You' is a psychological thriller in its purest and most brilliantly executed form. There are subtle shifts in direction as we hear two mothers’ voices; first Holly’s, then Jules', laying a trail of skewed perceptions, assumptions and judgements, one after the other. It’s like observing an intricate game of chess as the small group of interconnected characters make unexpected moves across the board. I kept having to stand back to look again at the whole picture – because with every chapter, the situation changes.

I love the author’s writing style, giving us delicate details about the setting and atmosphere. The depiction of the fens, the remote detached flatness of the area, drew me in completely. The story is a slow burn at the start, which those who favour quick-skim page-turners may find a challenge, but stick with it. That tiny flicker of a fuse sneaks across the floor, gathering momentum on its way, until it builds into a ginormous explosion. It’s all about action and reaction. Underpinned with ambiguity and the limitations of trust. Throw in several lies and misunderstandings and by the end the author ignites fireworks that are sufficiently dazzling they will blow your socks off. Fabulous! I loved it!

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Monday 11 November 2019

Mini Book Review: Tell No One - Harlan Coben

Tell No OneTell No One by Harlan Coben
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Loved the film (French) when it came out, years ago now - in fact it's up there as one of my all-time favourite films. The premise that someone has been long gone and suddenly seems to re-appear in covert circumstances is SO good! The book is a great page-turning read with Coben's trademark succinct character portraits - giving tiny (often scathing) details which make the players come to life in just a few sentences. There's always a brush of humour there, too - amidst the angst. Reads as an adventure/mystery/thriller. Highly recommended.

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Thursday 31 October 2019

Sales top half-a-million!

Just wanted to share with my lovely loyal readers that I've just sold my 500,000th book. I'm frankly gobsmacked and over the moon to have sold over half-a-million copies in the ten years I've been writing. 

It's been a tough road, but with incredible rewards on the way and I'm so very grateful to everyone who has bought, read and promoted my thrillers!

And just so you know, there's a new one is on its way for April 2020...

Watch this space or sign up for more details nearer the time...


Tuesday 27 August 2019

Book Reviews - Us by David Nicholls

 UsUs by David Nicholls
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Story
Douglas Petersen may be mild-mannered, but behind his reserve lies a sense of humor that, against all odds, seduces beautiful Connie into a second date and eventually into marriage. Now, almost three decades after their relationship first blossomed in London, they live more or less happily in the suburbs with their moody seventeen-year-old son, Albie; then Connie tells him she thinks she wants a divorce. 

The timing couldn’t be worse. Hoping to encourage her son’s artistic interests, Connie has planned a month-long tour of European capitals, a chance to experience the world’s greatest works of art as a family, and she can’t bring herself to cancel. And maybe going ahead with the original plan is for the best anyway. Douglas is privately convinced that this landmark trip will rekindle the romance in the marriage and might even help him bond with Albie. 

Narrated from Douglas’s endearingly honest, slyly witty, and at times achingly optimistic point of view, Us is the story of a man trying to rescue his relationship with the woman he loves and learning how to get closer to a son who’s always felt like a stranger.

LOVED this book - I mainly read psychological thrillers and it was refreshing to have a change of genre. Having enjoyed 'One Day', I new this author would not disappoint. A tale of pursuit - encapsulated within a 'Grand Tour' of Europe, but with deeper layers involving the search for happiness, forgiveness, faded love and nostalgia. Some beautiful poignant moments, delightful wit, cringe-worthy descriptions of Douglas and his clumsy handling of various travel and domestic incidents that I'm sure many will relate to! A gentle book - sad, hopeful and with lovely philosophical resonances. Highly recommended!

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Saturday 6 July 2019

Why I love writing Psychological Thrillers!

As a child, I devoured the Famous Five mysteries by Enid Blyton and was later drawn to crime thrillers, such as A Simple Plan by Scott Smith and The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth. Ever since they became recognised as a distinct category, however, I’ve been captivated by psychological thrillers, loving writers such as Minette Walters and Nicci French, from the 1990’s onwards. At the time, I was in awe of all writers and the idea of actually putting together a psychological thriller myself was completely beyond me!

Before I first had a go at writing fiction in 2008, I was a psychotherapist for 15 years. As well as seeing clients with mainstream issues such as low self-esteem, depression and relationship issues, I was privileged to work with ex-convicts from high-security institutions. I found this work fascinating and aside from giving me ideas for novels, it gave me considerable insight into the disturbed and criminal mind.

So, should I try to write murder mysteries or psychological thrillers..? Which would I choose? In the end I didn’t. I put the two genres together.

In my first attempt at a novel, The Evil Beneath, I wanted to create a story that had a distinct mystery on the surface and a deeper psychological thriller lurking underneath. To create dissonance between what the reader ‘knows’ and what the lead character hasn’t yet worked out. I like to find ways to mislead the reader and to create jeopardy from the ‘inside-out’, rather than from the ‘outside-in’. By this I mean that the characters are exposed to danger on a mental level – mind-games and deception – rather than (or as well as!) a physical one.

I’ve written nine psych thrillers to date, with another in the pipeline, and my plots usually centre around the  hidden unreliability or instability of individuals in the story. My protagonists often face a tortuous situation: a missing child, a death made to look like suicide, a stalker, a simple but deadly mistake, for instance. 

In Don’t you Dare, for example, the story starts with a mother misunderstanding a situation involving her daughter and killing someone. This kind of mystery allows the reader to get right inside the minds of key players. It encourages them to try to anticipate how characters might handle certain dilemmas and tempts the reader towards trying to figure out what their true motives are. Not just ‘who dunnit’– but ‘why’ and ‘how dunnit’! It also invites readers to consider: what on earth would I do if I was faced with this situation..?

Most of all, I like the idea of dramatic events happening to ordinary people. A dark and deadly puzzle involving clues where hidden dangers come to light. I love twists and turns and that big OMG moment at the end, of course – that turns everything on its head! In my novel, No Longer Safe, for instance, nothing is as it seems… Many readers told me that when they got to the end of the book, they were so gob-smacked, they had to go back to the beginning to discover how the events turned out as they did! That’s such a great compliment for a writer. I love to knock my readers sideways – and there’s certainly a delicious sting in the tail in that novel!

In all my books I like exploring moral dilemmas and what happens when relationships are blighted by jealousy, secrets, lies or revenge. I like writing ‘domestic noir’ – what could be more scary than thinking you’re safe in your own home and finding that’s where your worst nightmares begin…

My current favourite authors are Belinda Bauer, Claire Kendall,  Lucy Clarke and Sabine Durrant. Brilliant books I’ve read recently are: Until You’re Mine by Samantha Hayes and Tideline by Penny Hancock.

Wednesday 24 April 2019

Book Review: Skin Deep by Liz Nugent

Skin DeepSkin Deep by Liz Nugent
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Skin Deep isn’t what I expected. It’s billed as a psychological thriller and in my view it isn’t. I’ll explain why in a moment.

Firstly, I’ll give my views on what it IS. It’s the dramatic tale of a woman’s life from a damaged childhood on a remote island, through tragedy and trauma to middle age. The narrative is driven by one woman, Delia, focusing on her family and the impact she has on the lives of others she touches during her life’s journey. It’s about survival and the lengths Delia will go to in order to protect herself. It’s about character and we get to know the many complicated and contradictory layers of Delia’s personality as she moves from place to place, country to country, trying to escape her past and reinvent herself in her new setting.

There’s a dead body, but this only plays a small part at the beginning, to hook in the reader, re-appearing within the context of the story at the very end. The novel is extremely gripping, it’s full of drama.

For those interested in why it isn’t a psychological thriller, in my opinion, a psych thriller usually involves an unreliable narrator of some kind – here, Delia is unlikeable, but at no point in the story are we misled by her narrative. Or anyone else’s. Delia pretty much tells it straight, in terms that are hard-edged and always without emotion. There’s no play on the anxiety of a victim. Unlike a psych thriller, there are no attempts to create tension in the audience, to create dissonance between what the reader ‘knows’ and what the character hasn’t yet worked out. Yet, it IS a page-turner - because Delia’s life is fraught and we watch her stagger from one disastrous situation to another. If you like Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley character, you’ll no doubt enjoy this.
Highly recommended!

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Thursday 11 April 2019

Mini Book Review: The Bones of You by Debbie Howells

The Bones of YouThe Bones of You by Debbie Howells
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A beautiful, tender, touching, deviant, harrowing murder mystery! Love a psychological thriller that can be savoured because the quality of the language is so good, rather than 'raced through' because the plot alone holds a book together. Highly recommended.

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