#BookReview – The Chalk Man by C.J Tudor (@cjtudor @michaeljbooks) #Chalkman

chalk manIn 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy little English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code; little chalk stick figures they leave for each other as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing will ever be the same.

In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he’s put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out his other friends got the same messages, they think it could be a prank… until one of them turns up dead. That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.

Expertly alternating between flashbacks and the present day, The Chalk Man is the very best kind of suspense novel, one where every character is wonderfully fleshed out and compelling, where every mystery has a satisfying payoff, and where the twists will shock even the savviest reader. 

Published by Michael Joseph January 2018 (UK) 

I’d heard a LOT about this book before reading it. Bloggers and reviewers were raving about it. When I asked what I should read next on Twitter and Instagram recently, the response was almost unanimous – this one! So, not being one to argue, I picked it up, curious to see what the fuss was about and also with a little apprehension. I mean, when everyone tells you how good something is there’s always the worry that it won’t live up to expectation, right?

Well, it wasn’t after too many pages that I could see why The Chalk Man had proved such a popular choice. C.J Tudor instantly grips the reader, with a shocking scene of murder on the first page and a tantalising way of leading the reader on to “just one more chapter” with constant twists and unanswered questions. This is a book that once you start, there’s just no way you’ll be able to put it down.

I loved the alternating chapters of past and present. Being an child of the eighties myself, I particularly loved the chapters set in this decade, and felt the sense of time was perfectly captured. I loved the dynamics of Eddie’s gang of friends, could imagine them vividly racing about on bikes and making dens in the woods. The chalk drawings are absolute genius. I could completely relate to the idea behind the coded messages between the friends, yet also found them disturbingly creepy!

The atmosphere of this book was vivid – expertly  told from a naive adolescent perspective, casting doubt as to whether dangers were always real or the result of an overactive imagination. This cleverly distracts the reader, meaning the twists are unexpected – yet make perfect sense.  The chapters in the present are equally gripping although I probably did favour the past slightly, but only for the haunting atmosphere found there. There were a couple of moments throughout the book which genuinely shocked me and made me jump, while the twists keep on coming right up until the very last page. This is a very clever and original book, full of atmosphere and suspense meaning that “one more chapter” turned into the entire book very quickly.

An atmospheric, unnerving and constantly surprising book with a haunting nostalgia that’s irresistible. I can see why The Chalk Man is so popular – it’s certainly deserves it.

 

#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 – Broken Branches by M. Johnathan Lee – @HideawayFall

Broken branches‘Family curses don’t exist. Sure, some families seem to suffer more pain than others, but a curse? An actual curse? I don’t think so.’

A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son. But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family.

There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past. And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse. 

Published July 27th by Hideaway Fall (UK) 

 

 

I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Broken Branches – the blurb gives very little away, neither does the cover. I wasn’t even one hundred percent certain what genre this book would fall into! Was it a ghost story? A thriller? However, I was intrigued by this mysterious little book and wanted to give it a shot. I finally managed to read it a few days ago and despite some initial misgivings about whether this book was going to be something I’d enjoy, I ended up really liking it and kicking myself a little at not getting around to it sooner.

Broken Branches tells the story of Ian, current owner of the creepy and mysterious Cobweb Cottage. It’s been passed down the family for generations – always to the eldest living child of the former owner. However, Ian’s family history isn’t a happy one and has been beset by tragedy after tragedy – believed by many to be the result of a curse. As Ian decides to delve into the family’s murky past and solve the mystery of the curse, he finds himself drawn into a dark spiral of obsession and paranoia. Is he about to become the next victim of the relentless curse?

Right from the start this is a story that grips you, with beautifully atmospheric writing casting an eerie and foreboding spell. It’s told mainly from Ian himself, but in two time frames – both as a child growing up at Cobweb Cottage and as the current owner- a husband and father of a small son himself. I liked the opportunity to have glimpses into the family history from a more naive and uncertain younger Ian, and then fitting everything together with older Ian piece by piece.

The author does an amazing job of setting the scene, diverting attention and leading the reader down a path right until the very end, before turning everything completely on its head. There’s an unsettling and suspenseful tension throughout with a deliciously Gothic air that had me glued to the pages. Broken Branches surprised me – both in how much I actually enjoyed it and by the story, which took a turn I wasn’t expecting in the slightest and caused me to gasp out loud. A short book, this one is ideal for the coming dark autumn evenings, to curl up beside a warm fire with – although it may leave you jumpingly unnerved as the wind whistles outside!

(I read an advance proof courtesy of the publisher)