#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)

 

#BookReview – Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon (@boroughpress) #threethings

3 thingsThere are three things you should know about Elsie.
The first thing is that she’s my best friend.
The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better.
And the third thing… might take a little bit more explaining.
84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she
waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to
light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly a
man who died sixty years ago?
From the author of THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP, this book will teach you
many things, but here are three of them:
1) The fine threads of humanity will connect us all forever.
2) There is so very much more to anyone than the worst thing they have ever done.
3) Even the smallest life can leave the loudest echo. 

Published January 11th 2017 by Borough Press  

I haven’t read Joanna Cannon’s best selling debut, The Trouble With Goats and Sheep, and so I went into this book with no expectations at all. What I got in return was an intensely poignant story, which left me an emotional  ball of aching sadness mixed with hope, joy and inspiration.

Three Things About Elsie tells the story of best friends since childhood, Florence and Elsie, who now live in sheltered accommodation for the elderly. It begins as Florence take a fall, and as she waits in her apartment to be found, begins reminiscing on a past tangled in her deteriorating memory. It’s a past shrouded in a secret come back to haunt her, and a mystery to solve – if only Florence could rely on knowing if what she remembers is real or not. Thank goodness Elsie is around to help with her remembering…

I loved this book right from the start. Joanna Cannon’s writing style is beautifully accessible yet filled with nuance and depth which I really connected with very early on. The mystery of the secrets of Florence’s past had me intrigued, as did the question about the identity of the new resident of the sheltered accommodation which was causing Florence so much distress. While these elements kept me eager to find out the truth, however, this isn’t what made the book so absolutely stand out brilliant for me.

Joanna Cannon’s depiction of the frail and confused Florence is exquisite.  I have a lot of experience of  Alzheimer’s and dementia, having worked with the Elderly for many years, until not so long ago. However, it wasn’t until my own Grandmother was diagnosed  that I fully understood how this illness takes a person little by little, and saw from a different perspective how society treats the elderly – how carers and health professionals can fail to see the person with a whole life of experiences before this point.  I was immediately impressed with the way she presents Florence as a person, and  conveys the dehumanisation she feels as an elderly resident in sheltered accommodation perfectly. There was one particularly beautifully written passage where she observes the loss of the right to change your mind, which I found incredibly poignant and thought provoking.

I also thought the author expressed the jumbled incoherence of tangled memories with stunning sensitivity and frankness. Again, reminding me so vividly of my own Grandmother, who would mix a number of different stories from her own past. As a family, we could pick out elements of different stories she shared with us before, along with other bits we would now never really know. But to outsiders, it must have just appeared absurd gibberish, and as Florence tries to share something with her carers, the frustration of not being able to make yourself understood and believed was stark.

The most important thing though which I took from this book was, no matter how seemingly ordinary and small a life is, the impact you make on the people around you will continue to live on and spread down the years. As Florence reminisces and explores her past, we see with touching poignancy how her tiniest actions cause ripples in the lives of the people around her, without her ever knowing.

I could go on and on about how wonderful I found this book, as I related to observations, sentiments and scenes throughout. It felt personal to me, what I took from it and after I finished the final page I sat in silence for a long while thinking. About how we feel about the elderly, about my own grandmother and about the fact that every life has impact and one simple action can never define a whole person. I can not do the book justice with my review though, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that you should read this book yourself.

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

 

#BookReview – I Know Where She Is by S.B Caves @Canelo_co @SB_Caves

i know where she isAn explosive, gripping thriller for fans of Karin Slaughter, Linwood Barclay and Karen Dionne, don’t miss this heart-stopping debut.

On the tenth anniversary of her daughter Autumn’s abduction, Francine receives an anonymous note containing just five words: I KNOW WHERE SHE IS

When a young woman approaches her the next day claiming to have sent the letter Francine wants to dismiss it as a cruel, twisted joke.

But the stranger knows things that only Autumn would know.

It soon becomes clear that Francine must go to dark places in order to learn the truth about her child’s kidnapping.

She will discover that danger comes from unexpected sources. She will do things she never imagined herself capable of.

But will Francine get her daughter back – or is it too late? 

Published 14th August 2017 by Canelo (UK)  

When I picked up this book I had no idea I was about to be thrown head first into an action packed, utterly gripping, edge-of-your-seat ride. There’s no gentle introduction – right from the beginning this is high tension reading, with dramatic, explosive scenes coming one after the other at breakneck speed.

The book starts at the approach to the 10 year anniversary of Francine’s daughter’s disappearance. Francine is a mess – drinking to excess then overexercising to counteract the damage. Her fragility and brittleness transcends from the page, and with the help of her aloof, distant and exasperated ex husband, it’s unclear how reliable she is. When first the letter and then the strange and disturbing Lena appear,  I had no idea if this was a trick, a desperate delusion or in fact real.

As Francine discovers more about Autumn’s disappearance and the intervening years, a sense of dread and horror settled over me. There’s some disturbing and upsetting themes covered, and I was physically shaken at some of the scenes. This book is pretty dark – more so than I originally anticipated. Yet there’s a sense of determination, unbreakable spirit and a fight for survival throughout, which had me gripped and praying for a positive resolution.

What I really liked about this book was the developement of Francine, from broken and unstable to quite frankly, kick ass. Yes, there’s quite a lot of suspension of belief needed here (for reasons I can’t really go into to avoid giving away spoilers) but the action scenes towards the end literally had me holding my breath. I thought I’d worked out another big secret, which I expected to be revealed at the end and was surprised when the book petered out much more quietly than I expected. I may have misread the hints, but it just felt slightly unfinished and could have done with a little more closure in my opinion. Overall though, this is a gut-punching, fast paced read which I couldn’t put down. I’d definitely read more by this author in future.

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