Book Review – Bone China by Laura Purcell

Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft’s family, leaving her and her father alone and heartbroken. But Dr Pinecroft has plans for a revolutionary experiment: convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children needed, he arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the same disease in the cliffs beneath his new Cornish home. While he devotes himself to his controversial medical trials, Louise finds herself increasingly discomfited by the strange tales her new maid tells of the fairies that hunt the land, searching for those they can steal away to their realm.

Forty years later, Hester Why arrives at Morvoren House to take up a position as nurse to the now partially paralysed and almost entirely mute Miss Pinecroft. Hester has fled to Cornwall to try and escape her past, but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers that her new home may be just as dangerous as her last.

Published October 2019 by Raven Books UK

You know I’m a sucker for a pretty cover right? Well would you just look at this one. What an absolute beaut! There’s no way it wasn’t going to make it on my shelves.

WHY have I never read Laura Purcell’s books before! This creepy, gothic story was right up my street. A creepy old house, strange and eccentric characters, myth and folklore and a touch of the supernatural- Bone China ticked all the boxes ✅

I adored the atmospheric writing which richly evoked the isolated and wild setting and the sinister tension rippling throughout. I loved the myth and folklore littered throughout the pages. This is a perfect book for winter, demanding to be read with the curtains shut tight and the fire burning brightly.

Beautifully written and deliciously sinister and gothic, I enjoyed every unnerving and spine tingling moment of this book. 💙💙

 

#BookReview – Our House by Louise Candlish (@TeamBatc @Louise_Candlish)

On a bright January morning in the London suburbs, a family moves into the house they’ve just bought in Trinity Avenue. 
Nothing strange about that. Except it is your house. And you didn’t sell it. 

When Fiona Lawson comes home to find strangers moving into her house, she’s sure there’s been a mistake. She and her estranged husband, Bram, have a modern co-parenting arrangement: bird’s nest custody, where each parent spends a few nights a week with their two sons at the prized family home to maintain stability for their children. But the system built to protect their family ends up putting them in terrible jeopardy. In a domino effect of crimes and misdemeanors, the nest comes tumbling down.

Now Bram has disappeared and so have Fiona’s children. As events spiral well beyond her control, Fiona will discover just how many lies her husband was weaving and how little they truly knew each other. But Bram’s not the only one with things to hide, and some secrets are best kept to oneself, safe as houses. 

Published 5th April 2018 by Simon and Schuster (UK)

~ Review ~

Imagine coming home to find strangers moving into your home? All your furniture has gone and they insist they now own it. Imagine then finding out that maybe this isn’t some kind of misunderstanding and your husband may well be behind it. That’s what happens to Fiona, when after a couple of days away she arrives back at her beloved house to find the life she knew entirely turned upside down.

I mean, how’s that for a hook? Within a couple of pages Louise Candlish sets the scene of a domestic nightmare and piques the intrigue of the reader. There was little doubt I was going to devour this book. I had to know what the hell was going on! Through Fiona’s podcasts and Bram’s desperate and tortured word documents the full horror is revealed.

What’s so fascinating about this book is that it’s both far fetched and believable in equal measures. On one hand, how the hell can a house be sold from beneath you? Yet, as we are taken deeper into the story and the full extent of the situation is revealed, it becomes more and more plausible.

Fiona and Bram’s marriage is crumbling after Fiona discovers her husband has cheated again. In a grown up attempt to maintain the lifestyle and beloved home of their children, Fiona suggests the completely modern approach of ‘birds nest’ parenting, where the children will remain where they are and it’ll be the parents who move in and out for their allocated contact time. It’s one of those concepts that sound great in theory right? But you can see the disaster waiting to happen right from the start, almost like watching through your fingers.

The problems begins when Bram – impulsive, deceitful and weak, gets a speeding ticket. What begins as a slight misdemeanor turns into a snowball of lies, tragedy, panic, manipulation and blackmail. I thought Louise Candlish captured the runaway-train-out-of-control effect fantastically, as Bram’s life literally spirals and he finds himself deeper and deeper in a situation he can’t get out of. I wanted to scream at him STOP!! I also thought Fiona’s character contrasted brilliantly against him, coming across as calm and capable, completely reasonable yet unable to see what was happening around her.

Our House really is a story of one lie leading to another and events which spiral out of control. It’s a roller-coaster at times, fueled with adrenaline and increasingly frenzied panic,  an intensifying sense of foreboding and an ending to leave you gasping in horror.  This is the very best kind of domestic noir – where the reader feels like an outsider looking in, can see the cracks and sense the impending doom but just doesn’t know how it will all unravel. Reading it to find out was an absolute joy of speeding pages and held breaths. I was gripped throughout and just couldn’t tear myself away.

(I read an advance e-copy courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley)

#BookReview – Skin Deep by Liz Nugent (@PenguinRandomIE @LizzieNugent)

skin deepThe sinister new novel from the No 1 bestselling author of Unravelling Oliver and Richard and Judy Book Club pick Lying in Wait.

‘Once I had cleared the bottles away and washed the blood off the floor, I needed to get out of the flat.’

Cordelia Russell has been living on the Côte d’Azur for ten years, posing as a posh English woman fallen on hard times. But her luck is running out. Desperate to escape her grotty flat and grim reality, Cordelia spends a night at a glittering party. Surrounded by the young, beautiful and privileged she feels her age and her poverty. As dawn breaks she stumbles home through the back streets. Even before she opens her door she can hear the flies buzzing. It hasn’t taken long for the corpse in her bedroom to commence decomposing …

Liz Nugent’s novel is the dark, twisted and shocking story of what takes Cordelia from an island childhood in Ireland to ruins in Nice. 

Published April 5th 2018 by Penguin Ireland

Reeling. That’s the only word to describe how I was feeling when I finished Liz Nugent’s novel, Skin Deep, last night before promptly taking to twitter to declare it my book of the year so far. And now I’m going to try and tell you coherently why. And I don’t know if I can because it was just SO. DAMN. GOOD!!! 

Skin Deep tells the story of Delia, the only daughter on a remote and wild Irish island – she is adored by her obsessive father. Delia is beautiful, but beneath the exterior there’s a mean, dark streak. When tragedy befalls the island, nine-year old Delia finds herself ostracised  and is brought up on the mainland by foster parents. But Delia wants more, and her manipulative, selfish ways will bring tragedy to all she comes across.  Delia reinvents herself time and time again while leaving a trail of destruction and misery behind her as she seeks the life she so strongly believes she deserves. But when her luck finally runs out, who is left for Delia to turn to?

This book starts with an absolutely gripping first line and holds you captive right until the end of the book. It starts with a bedraggled and middle aged socialite abandoning a dead body in her grubby flat on the Riviera in search of food and alcohol among the rich and powerful of the island. From then on we follow Delia’s story from childhood, as a deeply dark and twisted tale of obsession, manipulation and one woman’s deluded and narcissistic path to eventual  self destruction.

This is a dark, dark story – very different from any other psychological thriller’s out there at the moment. It’s character driven, rather than plot and is a study of the abhorrently selfish Delia and the destruction she leaves in her wake. It’s difficult to find any empathy with her at all, yet I was mesmerised by her and found her one of the most intriguing characters I’ve come across in a long time.

This book is seeping with cloying, sinister atmosphere, accentuated by the sporadic inclusion of Irish folklore tales. I absolutely adored these deliciously dark cautionary fables of old and how they related to Delia’s own story as she told it. You could say that Skin Deep itself is a cautionary tale, and it indeed has the feel of a modern twist on a fable where the perils of vanity, greed, obsession and selfishness are driven home.

And still there was a mystery at the very heart of this book, introduced at the very beginning. Spanning decades, Skin Deep takes the reader through the moments that lead to this point. I became so engrossed in Delia’s life from feral childhood to conniving socialite that I almost forgot about it, but in the final chapters Liz Nugent absolutely blew me away with a twist that left me reeling and an ending as dark and chilling as any myth.

Skin Deep was, in my opinion, overwhelmingly good. I was utterly mesmerised and disturbed by the deluded and twisted Delia and the sinister and atmospheric writing shrouded me from beginning to end. If you like your stories as dark as they come, with thick atmosphere and a hint of fable, then look no further – this book ticks ALL THE BOXES for me and sits firmly at the top of my books of 2018.

(I read an advance proof courtesy of the publishers)

#BlogBlitz – Manipulated Lives by H.A Leuschel (@Rararesources)

manipulated lives cover.jpgFive stories – Five Lives

Have you ever felt confused or at a loss for words in front of a spouse, colleague or parent, to the extent that you have felt inadequate or, worse, a failure? Do you ever wonder why someone close to you seems to endure humiliation without resistance? Manipulators are everywhere. At first these devious and calculating people can be hard to spot, because that is their way. They are often masters of disguise: witty, disarming, even charming in public – tricks to snare their prey – but then they revert to their true self of being controlling and angry in private. Their main aim: to dominate and use others to satisfy their needs, with a complete lack of compassion and empathy for their victim. In this collection of short novellas, you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual. First you meet Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself, followed by a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Lastly, there is Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret. All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth. 

Published June 8th 2016

Manipulated Lives is a book of five short stories, all very different but centred around the theme of manipulation.  The characters in each story range from an elderly lady who is dying, a young woman swept up in a relationship with a single father and his young son, a teenager who is desperate to fit in and a woman who motherhood comes to later in life. What’ makes each of these stories stand out is that manipulation can come from anywhere, and was often not from the person you may expect. It also draws attention to the fact that anyone is open to manipulation, victims coming from all walks of life and at any age.

There’s something deeply dark and disturbing about Leuschel’s  writing that really unnerved me. Perhaps, having been the victim of manipulation myself, the incredibly raw and stark narrative hit a nerve. It made it a little uncomfortable to read, because I truely believed in these character’s. This is not a criticism, more testament at the author’s ability to really understand and convey the emotional as well as the physical abuse her characters go through. I think for me, it hit a nerve slightly and made me feel uneasy at times.

Of all the stories, I think the first book stands out. Tess and Tattoo’s tells the story of an elderly woman in a care home, who reveals some of her past to a carer she befriends. The book shows though that we should never assume or judge, as her carer eventually finds out that Tess’s past wasn’t the one she’d initially thought. I also thought The Runaway Girl captured the vulnerability of teenagers well while My Perfect Child tackles the taboo and less talked about topic of parents being abused by their offspring.

I’ve read very few short story collections in my life, feeling that they weren’t for me. After reading Manipulated Lives I remain unsure. On the one hand, I appreciated the snapshots – like peeking into other peoples homes and understanding what happens behind closed doors. I also was impressed which how well drawn each story and character was in such short pieces of writing. However, I also felt that I wanted to know more, have more closure, follow them through a journey.

Manipulated Lives isn’t an easy book to read being so disturbingly true to life. It’s extremely intimate, almost confessional and got under my skin at times but at the same time thought provoking, intriguing and compelling to read. If you are intrigued behind the psychology of manipulation, then I think this is a book you may not enjoy but will certainly appreciate.

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About The Author 

manipulated lives author.jpgHelene Andrea Leuschel grew up in Belgium where she gained a Licentiate in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She now lives with her husband and two children in Portugal and recently acquired a Master of Philosophy with the OU, deepening her passion for the study of the mind. When she is not writing, Helene works as a freelance journalist and teaches Yoga.

 

Facebook | Twitter  | Website

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#BlogTour #BookReview – The Fear by C.L Taylor (@AvonBooksUK @CallyTaylor)

the fear‘Grabs you by the metaphorical throat right from the start and doesn’t let up until the end.’ Heat

When Lou Wandsworth ran away to France with her teacher Mike Hughes, she thought he was the love of her life. But Mike wasn’t what he seemed and he left her life in pieces.

Now 32, Lou discovers that he is involved with teenager Chloe Meadows. Determined to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself, she returns home to confront him for the damage he’s caused.

But Mike is a predator of the worst kind, and as Lou tries to bring him to justice, it’s clear that she could once again become his prey…

The million copy Sunday Times bestseller returns with a taut, compelling psychological thriller that will have you glued to the edge of your seat. 

Published 22nd March 2018 by Avon (UK)  

C.L Taylor has become a hotly anticipated author among fans of psychological thrillers, and having read every single one of her four previous novels I can see how she improves with each one. The Fear is no exception, and once again I was hooked right from the start, drawn into the gritty plot and completely immersed in the character’s story.

There’s a slightly different feel to The Fear. Despite the title, I didn’t think this book was as twisty as I’d been expecting. It’s dark though. Disturbingly so as C.L Taylor tackles the theme of child grooming, abduction and psychological trauma. When Lou’s new boyfriend surprises her with a trip to France, her reaction as she approaches Dover is extreme. Then through a series of flashbacks and the discovery that history may just be about to repeat itself, we discover just what happened to a teenage Lou all those years ago as she faces her fear to save a young girl from becoming the latest victim of her abuser.

One thing’s for certain, this author can write excellent characters, crafting them to be so convincingly real that it makes the reader question how easily such a trauma could happen to them too, and puts them firmly in the shoes of her protagonists. It’s told from the viewpoint of three women, Lou – who ran away to France at fourteen after being groomed by Mike, his ex-wife Wendy, still angry and resentful at how her life turned out, and thirteen year old Chloe, the latest focus of Mike’s attentions. Having the three view points gave a really thorough and clear perspective and worked very well.

Being the mother of a thirteen year old daughter, I found it chilling and difficult to read at times, yet I also appreciated the reminder of just how easily a vulnerable young adult could be influenced. I found Chloe’s sections of the book heartbreaking, and was angry at the chips at her self esteem which made her so vulnerable. The book throws up many questions, about parental culpability, the long term effects of abuse and the far reaching ripple effect created. It’s not just Lou’s life that’s affected, while Mike’s ex-wife is initially difficult to like due to her feelings towards her ex’s victim, during the book we begin to understand and empathise with her. But it was Lou’s development over the course of the book which I really liked, as the reversal of power see’s her conquer her fear.

As I’ve come to expect from this author, The Fear was effortless to read, gripping and compelling from the start and I read it over the course of a day. While I didn’t feel it had the twists and shocking moments I expected when I started, I felt this was appropriate to the theme and instead found it a chilling and dark, yet completely believable and thought provoking book. The ending was maybe a little, teeny bit contrived and lacking in impact, but I’m willing to ignore that. The Fear definitely shows the authors growth as a writer, with compassion and understanding of everyday victims of abuse – be it domestic, emotional or sexual, and the psychological effects on mental health. But it also conveys strength and hope in facing up to and overcoming your fear. This is C.L Taylor’s best book yet.

(I read a readers copy courtesy of the publisher)

The Fear - Blog Tour Banner - Part 1

 

#BlogTour – The Devil’s Dice by Roz Watkins – Guestpost and #Giveaway

I’m absolutely thrilled to be kicking of the blog tour today for Roz Watkins new crime debut, The Devil’s Dice! The first book in the DI Meg Dalton series, this is a gripping and atmospheric thriller you won’t want to miss! One of the most striking things I found about this book was the Peak District setting and I’m delighted to welcome Roz Watkins to Cosy Books today to tell us just why she chose it.

Detective Inspector Meg Dalton has recently returned to her Peak District roots, when a man’s body is found near The Devil’s Dice – a vast network of caves and well-known local suicide spot. The man’s initials and a figure of the Grim Reaper are carved into the cave wall behind his corpse, but bizarrely, the carvings have existed for over one hundred years.

The locals talk about a mysterious family curse that started in the times of the witch trials, and Meg finds it increasingly hard to know who to trust. Even her own mother may be implicated.

For Meg, the case is a chance to prove herself in a police force dominated by men, one of whom knows a lot more about her past than she’d like, and is convinced she’s not fit for the role. In a race against time, Meg finds her own life at risk as she fights to stop the murderer from killing again.

Published March 8th 2018 by HQStories

Roz Watkins is the author of the DI Meg Dalton crime series, which is set in the Peak District where Roz lives with her partner and a menagerie of demanding animals.

Her first book, The Devil’s Dice, was shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger Award, and has been optioned for TV.

Roz studied engineering at Cambridge University before training in patent law. She was a partner in a firm of patent attorneys in Derby, but this has absolutely nothing to do with there being a dead one in her first novel.

In her spare time, Roz likes to walk in the Peak District, scouting out murder locations.

Why I chose to set ‘The Devil’s Dice’ in the Peak District  

The original reason was my dog and his foul habits. I live on the edge of the Peak District, which my dog approves of because of the excellent walking. We were out one day when he disappeared. This is always a bad sign as it means he’s:

a) Found a group of picnickers and decided to invite himself along;

b) Found a stinking foetid pit in which to take a bath;

c) Found a decomposing rabbit, sheep, or on one horrible occasion cow, to devour.

So it was with some trepidation that I watched him emerge from the undergrowth looking very pleased with himself, with something dangling from his mouth, swinging pendulously with every bounding step. I caught my breath and took a step back, because (to my brain at least) it looked just like a human spine.  

As he got closer, I realised it was a hare, but it got me wondering what it might be like to come upon a human corpse when on a dog walk. And that’s what happens in ‘The Devil’s Dice’. A man dies in a cave and is found by a Labrador.  

Here’s Starsky, very proud of himself!  

I soon realised that The Peak District is a perfect location for crime novels. It has underground passageways, cliffs, quarries, and pools where evil mermaids are supposed to lurk. It also has some lovely towns, and I used Wirksworth as the inspiration for my fictional town, Eldercliffe. Wirksworth has an incredible area called The Puzzle Gardens where a jumble of tiny cottages and random gardens perch on a hillside so steep it feels like you can step out of one cottage onto the roof of another.  

There are also miles of tunnels running underground in the area of the Peak District where I live. Being trapped underground with water rising around me is one of my worst nightmares, so it seemed natural to inflict this on my poor, long-suffering character in my fist book. I invented a network of tunnels called The Labyrinth, but it was based on real cave systems like the ones at The Heights of Abraham and Castleton.  

I gave my main character a fear of heights so I could torture her some more by making the victim live in a house perched on the edge of a quarry. This was based on the quarry at Wirksworth, where the houses almost teeter on its edge.  

This Peak District is also rich with folk tales and legends. I tend to make up my own stories to fit with the themes of the books, and in the first book, suspected witches were historically taken into the Labyrinth to be hanged. But my ideas are often inspired by real local folk tales which are usually quite gruesome.  

Friends think it’s strange (and a little worrying) that the beauty of the Peak District gets me thinking about murder, but my excuse is that it all started with the dog.  

Win!!!

Thanks to the very generous people at HQ Stories I Have THREE hardback copies of The Devil’s Dice to giveaway. Simply pop over to follow my twitter account @Vicki_cosybooks and Re-tweet my pinned post. U.K. Only I’m afraid. Ends Midnight 22nd March 2018 .

#CoverReveal – Spring At The Little Duck Pond Cafe by Rosie Green (@rararesources @Rosie_Green1988)

spring duck banner

Good Morning all! Well, following from #snowmaggedon the other week there’s definitely been a few signs of spring in the air recently. The nights are a bit lighter, the Daffodils are finally rearing their heads and there’s even been a little bit of sun! This does feel like the most drawn out winter ever though, doesn’t it? So I’m completely gushing over today’s cover reveal, with its idyllic spring imagery – here’s hoping it brightens your day a little too!

And here it is…  

spring at little duck pond.jpg

Spring at The Little Duck Pond Café  

 Fleeing from a romance gone wrong, Ellie Farmer arrives in the pretty little village of Sunnybrook, hoping for a brand new start that most definitely does not include love! Following an unscheduled soak in the village duck pond, she meets Sylvia, who runs the nearby Duck Pond Café. Renting the little flat above the café seems like the answer to Ellie’s prayers. It’s only for six months, which will give her time to sort out her life, far away from cheating fiancé Richard. 

But is running away from your past ever really the answer? 

Clashing with the mysterious and brooding Zak Chamberlain, an author with a bad case of writer’s block, is definitely not what Ellie needs right now. And then there’s Sylvia, who’s clinging so hard to her past, she’s in danger of losing the quaint but run-down Duck Pond Café altogether. 

Can Ellie find the answers she desperately needs in Sunnybrook? And will she be able to help save Sylvia’s little Duck Pond Café from closure? 

 

This novella is part of a trilogy: 

Spring at The Little Duck Pond Café 

Summer at The Little Duck Pond Café 

Winter at The Little Duck Pond Café 

 

Publication date: 22nd March 2018 

 About the author

Rosie Green has been scribbling stories ever since she was little. Back then they were rip-roaring adventure tales with a young heroine in perilous danger of falling off a cliff or being tied up by ‘the baddies’. Thankfully, Rosie has moved on somewhat, and now much prefers to write romantic comedies that melt your heart and make you smile, with really not much perilous danger involved at all, unless you count the heroine losing her heart in love. 

Rosie’s brand new series of novellas is centred on life in a village café. The first, Spring at the Little Duck Pond Café, is out on March 22nd 2018. 

 Follow on Twitter @Rosie_Green1988

#BookReview – Only child by Rhiannon Navin (@MantleBooks)

only childWe went to school that Tuesday like normal.

Not all of us came home . . .

Huddled in a cloakroom with his classmates and teacher, six-year-old Zach can hear shots ringing through the corridors of his school. A gunman has entered the building and, in a matter of minutes, will have taken nineteen lives.

In the aftermath of the shooting, the close knit community and its families are devastated. Everyone deals with the tragedy differently. Zach’s father absents himself; his mother pursues a quest for justice — while Zach retreats into his super-secret hideout and loses himself in a world of books and drawing. 

Ultimately though, it is Zach who will show the adults in his life the way forward — as, sometimes, only a child can. 

Published 8th March 2018 by Mantle Books  

I knew this was going to be hard hitting well before I sat down to read it. It’s a book about the aftermath of a shooting in a school after all, but I’d also read some fantastic reviews from fellow bloggers. However, despite being forewarned, I still wasn’t prepared for the sheer horror and sadness I felt while reading it.

Only Child starts with six year old Zach huddled in a cupboard, along with his school teacher and classmates, listening to the “pop, pop,pop” of gun shots from the corridor. Immediately, the author puts the reader into the mind of a frightened six year old child with startling authenticity. While Zach knows something bad is happening outside, it’s small things like his teachers “coffee breath” which he notices. This struck me, I’m not sure why, but it was just so convincingly childlike and naive. Right there and then Zach stole my heart.

The majority of the book focuses on the aftermath of the shooting, as Zach’s family deal with first the relief that he survived, then the trauma that his older brother didn’t. I don’t think I’ve read such crushing and all consuming grief the way Rhiannon Navin writes it, when Zach’s mother is given the news. It was horrifically heart breaking, almost painful to read, but so exquisitely written, I can still picture the scene and feel how it made me feel days after I read it.

I felt an array of emotions as Zach lead us through the following months, as through his eye’s we see the impact of such a trauma on a family and a community. I felt angry at his parents at some points, particularly his mother, as they are so consumed by their own grief they seem to forget that Zach is also experiencing  grief of loosing his brother, but he’s also dealing with actually being at the shocking event himself. He doesn’t fully understand what happened, and has feelings he doesn’t know how to deal with. I wanted someone to stop and just hug this little boy. Of course, it’s easy to criticise from the outside. I can’t begin to imagine how I’d react if I were to experience something like this and I think the author portrayed an honest, raw and human side of a family struggling with grief and trauma.

When atrocities like this happen it is always shocking and horrific. However, once the news stops, we rarely see the far reaching effects such experiences have on individuals. In Only Child, Rhiannon Navin, takes us beyond the initial aftermath in heartbreaking honesty as Zach watches the effects on his family, his community and the parents of the gunman themselves. Only Child is powerful, brutal and heartbreakingly sad yet there are moments that feel positive and uplifting – where amongst the sadness there’s flashes of purity and forgiveness. It’s impossible to say I enjoyed this book, but it is one I appreciated reading, found incredibly powerful and important and will remember for a long time to come.

(I read an advance ebook courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley

#BlogTour ~BookReview – Need To Know by Karen Cleveland (@Transworldbooks) #NeedToKnowBook

Need to knowIn pursuit of a Russian sleeper cell on American soil, a CIA analyst uncovers a dangerous secret that will test her loyalty to the agency—and to her family.

What do you do when everything you trust might be a lie?

Vivian Miller is a dedicated CIA counterintelligence analyst assigned to uncover the leaders of Russian sleeper cells in the United States. On track for a much-needed promotion, she’s developed a system for identifying Russian agents, seemingly normal people living in plain sight.

After accessing the computer of a potential Russian operative, Vivian stumbles on a secret dossier of deep-cover agents within America’s borders. A few clicks later, everything that matters to her—her job, her husband, even her four children—are threatened.

Vivian has vowed to defend her country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. But now she’s facing impossible choices. Torn between loyalty and betrayal, allegiance and treason, love and suspicion, who can she trust? 

Published 25th January 2018 by Bantam Press (UK)  

I’m not going to lie, Spy Thrillers are not usually my thing. As a child, I had no interest in Bond whenever it was on the TV and since then have avoided stories of espionage like the plague. I don’t really know why – other than I thought I wouldn’t enjoy this kind of book. But something about Need To Know appealed to me – perhaps the promise of “psychological depth” on the cover or the fact that this book centred around a marriage built on lies. Anyway, with some glowing reviews from the blogging world, I thought I’d give it a go.

And yes! I’m so glad I did! Need To Know is such an incredibly gripping and catchy read right from the start. When Vivian, a CSI agent working on bringing down a Russian sleeper cell, discovers a picture of her husband of twenty years  on the computer of a Russian agent everything she knows and trusts is suddenly up in smoke. How exactly is the man she knows and trusts involved? How can she have been living with someone all these years and not know them at all? And what does she do when faced with the dilemma between loyalty to her country and protecting her own family?

I wanted to know the answers to all these questions and sped through this book at break neck speed to find out! I thought the conflict between loyalties that Vivian feels was very well written and believable – her turmoil coming across as she struggled with the betrayal of her husband and fear of the complex and dangerous situation her whole family now faced. Along with Viv, her husband Matt kept me on edge as unease and doubt about him conflicted with some pity and optimism that he was a good guy. Karen Cleveland kept the momentum up right to the very last sentence, so that the reader never knows who exactly can be trusted in this twisty, tense thriller.

The book also mixes psychological elements as claimed on the front cover, with heart stopping danger meaning that as a reader who generally avoids the more physically action packed crime and spy genres, I found this incredibly accessible and satisfying. It turned out to be a breathtakingly quick read for me, which I couldn’t put down and read over a few hours. Would I read more from this author? YES! Definitely! Has it changed my feelings that all spy books aren’t for me? Absolutely! I’m glad I took a chance with this one, and would urge anyone else with an aversion to spy thrillers to give this one a go too. You won’t be disappointed!

need to know blog tour

#BookReview – The Woman In The Window by A.J Finn (@Fictionpubteam)

the woman in the windowWhat did she see?

It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside.

Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers.

But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself? 

Published 25th January 2018 by HarperCollins (UK)  

The Woman In The Window was put firmly my on my most anticipated reads list of 2018 list months ago, drawn in by both the synopsis and that atmospheric cover. And boy, when I picked it up last weekend I was not disappointed – right from the start I was gripped by this intensely addictive read, struggling to put it down and staying up way later than I should to finish it.

Agoraphobia sufferer Anna Fox hasn’t been out of her house for almost a year. Alone and reclusive, she fills her days with online activities, watching old thrillers and spying on her neighbours with only occasional and brief conversations with her husband and daughter who are no longer around.  But when new neighbours, the Russell’s, move into the house across from Anna, things begin to change. After Ethan and Jane Russell both call on Anna, she becomes convinced there’s something dark and dangerous going on within the family, lapping up hints of a controlling husband and domineering father. Then when she see’s something shocking through her window, she tries to help. But with no evidence of a crime, Anna has a fight on her hands to make herself believed, eventually even to convince her own fragile mind that she knows what she saw.

Immediately, Anna is a fascinating character – a former child psychologist now struggling with her own mental health, she is shrouded in mystery and doubt. What happened to make her this way? Why aren’t her husband and Daughter around anymore? How reliable is she? Or is everything just a figment of her disturbed imagination? I thought the author conveyed Anna’s fragility very, very well meaning I could feel her panic and sense the suffocating loneliness and despair she felt. I was torn between doubt at Anna’s reliability about what she saw – she drinks too much and double doses on the many pills she takes to control her crippling anxiety, and frustration and pity that no-one believed her and dismissed her as crazy.

The pacing of the book is perfect, with a tense and atmospheric prose drip feeding information about Anna’s past and creating an increasingly desperate need in me to know the truth. Even when I realised before one of the reveals what was going on, it didn’t matter, it still sent chills down my spine and had me turning pages at lightening speed.  And with plenty of other twists and turns, it managed to keep me guessing right until the end, continuing to surprise and shock me along the way.

The Woman In The Window is exactly the type of psychological thriller I love to read – twisty, intense, shocking, conflicting and utterly gripping, leaving me unable to look away.  A fantastic debut from A.J Finn – I’ll be sure to watch out for more from this author in the future – and a great start to this years thrillers. I’ve got a feeling we’ll be hearing a lot more about this book.

( I read an advance proof courtesy of the Amazon Vine Program)