Book Review – The Dead Ex by Jane Corry (@Janecorryauthor @PenguinUKbooks #TheDeadEx #BookReview )

One man’s disappearance throws four women’s lives into chaos–and not all will survive. . .

Vicki works as an aromatherapist, healing her clients out of her home studio with her special blends of essential oils. She’s just finishing a session when the police arrive on her doorstep–her ex-husband David has gone missing. Vicki insists she last saw him years ago when they divorced, but the police clearly don’t believe her. And her memory’s hardly reliable–what if she didhave something to do with it?

Meanwhile, Scarlet and her mother Zelda are down on their luck, and at eight years old, Scarlet’s not old enough to know that the “game” her mother forces her to play is really just a twisted name for dealing drugs. Soon, Zelda is caught, and Scarlet is forced into years of foster care–an experience that will shape the rest of her life . . .

David’s new wife, Tanya, is the one who reported him missing, but what really happened on the night of David’s disappearance? And how can Vicki prove her innocence, when she’s not even sure of it herself? The answer lies in the connection among these four women–and the one person they can’t escape. 

Published June 28th 2018 by Penguin UK  

~ Review ~

I absolutely loved Jane Corry’s previous novel, Blood Sisters (reviewed here) and was so looking forward to reading her 2018 release, The Dead Ex. But then life got in the way, reading unfortunately got pushed aside as I seemed to roll from one drama of my own to another and I didn’t get around to it. Well, aren’t I kicking myself now after finally picking it up this week? Once again, I was completely sucked in and held captive by Jane’s twisty, compulsive writing as I devoured this addictive book in a couple of days.

The Dead Ex begins with alternating chapters told from the perspective of Vicki, a reclusive, seemingly timid aromatherapist who definitely has something to hide in the present, and Scarlett, ten years previously, an eight year old child who’s caught up in her chaotic mother’s criminal activities. Both narrators where fascinating and gripping, but what really intrigued me was trying to work out just what connected the two of them together. There is absolutely no way I could have guessed, and loved the turn the book took!

There’s a LOT of theme’s running through this book – child neglect and family loyalty, Female relationships and bonds, a need for a sense of belonging, ambition, power, loss of identity…it goes on. Vicki is a fascinating character with so many layers that even by the end I’m not sure I’d seen them all. Jane Corry writes each aspect of her so convincingly, I completely believed in her. I also absolutely loved the references to aromatherapy oils and uses, which I find fascinating and felt really complimented the book.

I flew through this book, despite reading it over a couple of busy days, grabbing any moment I could to read a bit more. With fascinating and complex characters and a plot that left me second guessing at every turn, this is compulsive reading at it’s best. An absolute page turner that manages to surprise and shock over and over again.

(I read proof copy courtesy of the publishers and Netgally)

 

#BookReview – The Echo Killing by Christi Daugherty (@CJ_Daugherty @Fictionpubteam) #EchoKilling

The echo killingFifteen years ago her mother’s killer got away. Has he finally struck again?

MURDER SHOCKS PEACEFUL NEIGHBOURHOOD

A woman in her thirties. Found naked and stabbed on the kitchen floor. Discovered by her twelve-year-old daughter after school.

As top Savannah crime reporter Harper McClain stares at the horrific scene before her, one thought screams through her mind. This murder is identical to another murder she has witnessed. Her mother’s murder…

For fifteen years, Harper has been torn apart by the knowledge that her mother’s killer is walking free. And now, it seems he’s struck again. There are no fingerprints. No footprints. No DNA. Yet still, Harper is determined to discover the truth once and for all.

But that search will come at a cost…and it could be one she isn’t yet ready to pay. 

Published January 2018 (Ebook) and March 2018 (Paperback)  

Hold The Front Page! There’s a new crime series in town, and this is one you will not want to miss!

When Crime reporter,  Harper McClain, takes a sneaky look at a murder scene, she’s suddenly hurtled back fifteen years to her own mother’s murder. Everything about it tells Harper that the similarities between the two murders, over a decade apart, are far from coincidental. But the police disagree, dismissing her suspicions outright. Taking it upon herself to prove them wrong, Harper begins her own investigation. But what connects the two murder victims and why has the killer struck again after fifteen years? In a desperate bid to get to the truth, Harper must cross professional boundaries, test friendships to the limit and reconsider everything and everyone she’s close to.  And with someone desperate to stop Harper revealing the truth, put her own safety in jeopardy too.

Wow! what an absolute gripper of a book this was! Right from the first page I was hooked by the snappy, clean writing and the twisty, fast paced plot. It’s an intriguing premise – a murder which appears to be identical to one committed years ago, giving two mysteries for the price of one as past and present collide and overlap, and we join Harper as she aims to solve the complex case. Add in the personal and emotional involvement of the crime reporter turned sleuth, and The Echo Killing becomes an even more intense and fascinating roller-coaster of a read.

 

The plotting and pace of this book is immaculate. At just over 440 pages, it’s not short and I wondered if Daugherty could maintain the momentum set in the early chapters. I needn’t have worried though, there’s no dips or fillers – the plot is constantly moving forward, with many twists and turns. As Harper digs deeper, more and more unanswered questions are thrown up and I was desperate to know the answers. I was compelled to keep on reading as “one more chapter” quickly turned into me devouring the entire book in a few hours.

But what really made this book for me was the character of Harper herself. Fresh, feisty, smart, impulsive, brave, flawed and determined, I absolutely loved her. Part of me was in awe, while the other part wanted to put my arms around her as both her ferocity and vulnerability shines from the page. Giving Harper a deeply emotional involvement in the case worked so well, allowing extra layers of her personality to show and develope and ensuring I was right on side with her throughout the book. There’s also a nice dose of romance too in the form of Detective Luke Walker, which is both passionate and captivatingly tender – the chemistry between them is sparking! yet it never becomes slushy or out of place in the story, adding to rather than detracting from the atmosphere of this suspenseful book.

So, as you can tell, I pretty much loved this book. There’s one aspect that remained unsolved, and I’d have loved to have had that wrapped up, but as The Echo Killing is book one in a series, I’m assuming it’s still to come. One thing’s for certain, I’ll be looking forward to more from Harper McClain in the future.  A brilliant start to a fresh new crime series which I’m happy to recommend!

 

#BookReview – Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister

anything you do sayJoanna is an avoider. So far she has spent her adult life hiding bank statements and changing career aspirations weekly.

But then one night Joanna hears footsteps on the way home. Is she being followed? She is sure it’s him; the man from the bar who wouldn’t leave her alone. Hearing the steps speed up Joanna turns and pushes with all of her might, sending her pursuer tumbling down the steps and lying motionless on the floor.

Now Joanna has to do the thing she hates most – make a decision. Fight or flight? Truth or lie? Right or wrong? 

Published 25th January 2018 by Penguin (UK)

 

I went into Anything You Do Say knowing very little about it. I knew that Gillian McAllister’s books had been highly praised by lots of my blogger pals, and so when I was browsing Amazon a few weeks ago on a bit of a kindle splurge, I clicked the buy now button without even reading the synopsis. If I had read it, then I’d have excitedly bought it thinking it sounded right up my street, but you know what? It was an absolute treat to know so little and be so completely blown away by a plot I wasn’t expecting and a thrilling story of what if’s, alternative paths and many twists and turns.

The book begins when, after an unpleasant experience in a nightclub, Joanna hears footsteps behind her. Convinced she is being followed she acts out impulsively to protect herself and is then left with a moral dilemma. Should she stay and help the injured man who she believed was about to attack her? Or should she run? I have to say, this tense introduction to Joanna’s dilemma is both chilling and completely believable. I could imagine the scenario acting out, feel her unease and fear as she hears the footsteps, and sense the building panic that explodes in a rash action which will turn her world upside down, whatever she decides to do.

But will Joanna make the right decision? Well, we get to find out the consequences of both with alternating chapters titled reveal and conceal. I LOVED this! I’ve read books that use the Sliding Doors concept before, but Gillian McAllister does it so very, very well. I was hooked to both stories – becoming riveted as Joanna’s life hurtles in one direction before having it all upended and becoming immersed in an alternative version, as she battles in each with the aftermath of her decision.

Yet, what struck me was that whichever version I was reading, I was absolutely convinced by the characters and their actions, and despite the tension and drama which unfolds, McAllister maintains an air of authenticity throughout. I believed this could happen. I believed in both outcomes to Joanna’s dilemma. And I was gripped from beginning to end. Anything You Do Say is clever, complex and thought provoking.  I flew through the pages, thinking just one more chapter before suddenly finding I’d read a huge chunk of book, desperately wanting to know the outcome to both scenarios. A fantastic read, which will have you questioning what you’d do in that situation and pondering how a split second can change your whole life.

 

 

#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.)