What I Read: May 2020

Alex North: The Whisper Man

After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank. But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed “The Whisper Man,” for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night. Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter’s crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man. And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window…

So I kept this book on my TBR list for such a long time because I kind of stopped loving serial killer books. They can be too dark and upsetting and in the current world situation I felt like I didn’t need a book like this. But I loved it! It was a bit slow at the beginning but somewhere towards the middle I was hooked and ended up finishing it in one sitting! This is a dark, suspenseful and at times creepy thriller. On the surface this is just another serial killer book but I liked how North explored the real psychology behind each of the characters’ behaviors and also portrayed the relationship between father and son which is not often done in fiction books. This is also the first book I’ve read that is very masculine, with a few female characters but still there was no typical alpha male in it which was surprising and welcome. Instead the male characters were vulnerable and flawed. Overall I loved this authors debut novel and I’m looking forward to his next book!

4.5/5

John Marrs: What Lies Between Us

They say every house has its secrets, and the house that Maggie and Nina have shared for so long is no different. Except that these secrets are not buried in the past.Every other night, Maggie and Nina have dinner together. When they are finished, Nina helps Maggie back to her room in the attic, and into the heavy chain that keeps her there. Because Maggie has done things to Nina that can’t ever be forgiven, and now she is paying the price.But there are many things about the past that Nina doesn’t know, and Maggie is going to keep it that way—even if it kills her.Because in this house, the truth is more dangerous than lies.

When I finished this book my first thought was: What the hell did I just read?! There are so many twists that I didn’t see coming. Dark and intriguing, the story explores the unusual mother-daughter relationship between Maggie and Nina, moving back-and-forth in time from when Nina was a defiant teenager to now as a 38-year old keeping her mother locked in as a permanent prisoner in the attic of their house. It’s really hard to know who was the crazier of the two and the more you know the worse it gets! Once I started reading it I could’t put it down. I won’t say much more because there are spoilers everywhere but I highly recommend it especially if you are as big a fan of John Marrs as I am.

5/5

Rachel Abbott: The Murder Game( Stephanie King #2)

The first time Jemma and Matt were invited to Polskirrin – the imposing ocean-view home belonging to Matt’s childhood friend Lucas Jarrett – it was for an intimate wedding that ended in tragedy. Jemma will never forget the sight of the girl’s pale body floating listlessly towards the rocky shore. Now, exactly one year later, Jemma and her husband have reluctantly returned at Lucas’s request to honor the anniversary of an event they would do anything to forget. But what Lucas has in store for his guests is nothing like a candlelight vigil. Someone who was there that night remembers more than they’ll admit to, and Lucas has devised a little game to make them tell the truth.Jemma believes she and Matt know nothing about what happened to that woman… but what if she’s wrong? Before you play a deadly game, make sure you can pay the price…

This is the second book in a series (you don’t have to read the first to understand the plot) and I loved it even more than the first! Recently I’ve gotten into a habit of reading books with an Agatha Christie vibe and this book is definitely the best one I’ve read. The Murder Game is cleverly split up into two parts. Part one deals with the events that happened a year ago, while part two deals with the present. The story is mostly told through the eyes of Jemma. Like the reader, Jemma doesn’t know the other characters that well and through her you need to find the clues. Most of the characters aren’t particularly likeable, nor should they be because that just adds to the mystery aspect. Even though I was suspicious from the beginning about one of the twists, it didn’t take away the suspense. It is incredibly well-paced, full of suspense and intrigue, completely immersive and addictive.

Kristin Hannah: The Nightingale

FRANCE, 1939. In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do. When a German captain requisitions Vianne’s home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive.Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.

This is probably my favourite book ever. I absolutely adored it! I don’t think I can even find the right words to describe how much it moved me. As a person who doesn’t cry very easily, especially not over fiction, this book left me in pieces. It’s about women in wartime, and it’s an interesting, moving portrait of the Nazi occupation of France and what this meant for all the wives, daughters and widows left behind. We’re told in the book that men always assume war is about them – it’s true – so this is the untold story of the home front. You know that feeling when a book is so absorbing that you just want to cancel all your plans so you can keep reading it… and even when you can’t read it, you’re thinking about it? That was me with this book! Once I started reading, I could’t put it down until the last page. This was one of the most powerful stories I’ve read. So long story short, if you love WWII stories or even if you don’t, read this. I’m sure I will be encouraging everyone I know to read it!

5/5

Riley Sager: The Last Time I Lied

It all began at Camp Nightingale 15 years ago when three girls disappeared from Dogwood cabin. Emma, the youngest of the four girls in the cabin was the only one left. She is deeply affected by the disappearance of her friends and is haunted by the girls throughout her life. Emma is unable to come to terms with the terrible tragedy because they never fully learned what happened to the girls that summer night.  Flash forward 15 years and Camp Nightingale is once again opening its doors to campers. When Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale, implores Emma to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends. Yet it’s immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present.

This is the second Sager’s book I’ve read and I have to say his stories are extremely detailed, twisty and atmospheric. Even though a huge part of the book was very gripping, the beginning was very slow and I have to admit I ended up skipping some paragraphs. There were also too many characters and I didn’t care about some of them. But when the pace finally picked up I could’t put it down. The story was a little dark but it wasn’t graphic. It is a thriller with a little bit of horror thrown in. There are lots of twists and turns and it kept me guessing and guessing, and the ending just shocked me.  When you read as many thriller and mystery books as I have, you usually figure out most of the stuff that is going to happen but this time I was way off.

4/5

Mike Gayle: Half a World Away

Kerry Hayes is single mum, living on a tough south London estate. She provides for her son by cleaning houses she could never hope to afford. Taken into care as a child, Kerry cannot ever forget her past.Noah Martineau is a successful barrister with a beautiful wife, daughter and home in fashionable Primrose Hill. Adopted as a child, Noah always looks forward, never back.When Kerry reaches out to the sibling she lost on the day they were torn apart as children, she sets in motion a chain of events that will have life-changing consequences for them both.

I’m not really sure how to review this book. I feel the blurb is misleading. And if I knew this book was actually about cancer I wouldn’t pick it up no matter how well it was written. It is a sweet story about siblings who find each other after 30+ years. But it’s also so sad that it made me feel exhausted by the end. Also as you read you will guess where the story goes, it’s predictable and the conversations are a bit cringy at times. There was also a lot more text than dialogue, which put me off a bit. I ended up skimming the text quite a bit. I gave it 3 stars because it moved me and made my eyes teary at the end, otherwise it would probably be a 2.

3/5

S.K. Tremayne: The Assistant

Newly divorced Jo is delighted to move into her best friend’s spare room almost rent-free. The high-tech luxury Camden flat is managed by a meticulous Home Assistant, called Electra, that takes care of the heating, the lights – and sometimes Jo even turns to her for company. Until, late one night, Electra says one sentence that rips Jo’s fragile world in two: ‘I know what you did.’ And Jo is horrified. Because in her past she did do something terrible. Something unforgivable. Only two other people in the whole world know Jo’s secret. And they would never tell anyone. Would they? As a fierce winter brings London to a standstill, Jo begins to understand that the Assistant on the shelf doesn’t just want to control Jo; it wants to destroy her.

I really wanted to love this book but it just didn’t make any sense. There were so many good things, a frightening plot, dark and creepy setting and great red herring (I didn’t figure out who the bad guy was). On the other hand the story was slow and repetitive, at times even rambling and Jo’s actions were annoying and inexplicable, so much so that I rolled my eyes a few times . It was constantly repeated how Jo was very smart but I couldn’t see it. That being said, I love how the story was current, showing us how easy is to be hacked through social media, emails and if you have an Alexa by Amazon or any other home assistant you might end up throwing it away after this book.

3.5/5

Claire McGowan: The Other Wife

Suzi did a bad thing. She’s paying for it now, pregnant, scared, and living in an isolated cottage with her jealous husband, Nick.When Nora moves into the only house nearby, Suzi is delighted to have a friend. So much so that she’s almost tempted to tell Nora her terrible secret. But there’s more to Nora than meets the eye. It’s impossible—does she already know what Suzi did? Meanwhile, Elle spends her days in her perfect home, fixated on keeping up appearances. But when her husband betrays her, it unravels a secret going all the way back to her childhood. She’ll do whatever it takes to hold on to him, even if that means murder. After all, she’s done it before…Caught up in their own secrets and lies, these strangers will soon realise they have more in common than they could ever have imagined. When a shocking event brings them together, their lives will never be the same again.

This is one of those addictive thrillers that you just can’t put down. The pace is slow and alternates between different viewpoints, Suzi, Nora and Elle in the past and present. At times I just wanted to shake all of them and say: What is wrong with you?! So don’t expect any likeable characters here! But that didn’t ruin the book for me. The story was smart, well written, kept me guessing and it wasn’t as predictable as I thought. It was full of twists and turns, some I saw coming, but others I didn’t and I’m happy it surprised me. I will definitely read more in future by this author. 

4/5

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