Believe Me by JP Delaney [review]

Believe Me - JP Delaney

Title: Believe Me
Author: JP Delaney
Publisher: Quercus

[Synopsis]

A struggling actor, a Brit in America without a green card, Claire needs work and money to survive. Then she gets both. But nothing like she expected.

Claire agrees to become a decoy for a firm of divorce lawyers. Hired to entrap straying husbands, she must catch them on tape with their seductive propositions. The rules? Never hit on the mark directly. Make it clear you’re available, but he has to proposition you, not the other way around. The firm is after evidence, not coercion. The innocent have nothing to hide.

Then the game changes.

When the wife of one of Claire’s targets is violently murdered, the cops are sure the husband is to blame. Desperate to catch him before he kills again, they enlist Claire to lure him into a confession.

Claire can do this. She’s brilliant at assuming a voice and an identity. For a woman who’s mastered the art of manipulation, how difficult could it be to tempt a killer into a trap? But who is the decoy . . . and who is the prey?

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[My Review]

This struck me as very a very different novel to what I’d expected it to be. I thought it would be more of a formulaic thriller that fits right into the typical tropes of this genre, but it was quite a surprise when I started it, both in terms of the plot and the way it’s written.

The plot had more atmosphere and perhaps less ‘action’ than you’d normally expect from the thriller/ mystery genre, and it developed the characters more, with an added focus on the world of the honeytrapper mixed with police investigations and undercover work, which I found really interesting! There’s definitely slightly sexy overtones at times, just due to main character Claire’s work, but it doesn’t stray too far that way, always coming back to the predicament Claire is in. There are definitely twists and turns which kept me completely engrossed. Sure, there were a few parts which were less believable, but you’re here to be entertained, right?

Whether you love or hate Claire (or are somewhere in the middle, like me!), she’s certainly an interesting character and someone that makes you want to read more about her. I wanted to find out whether she is what she makes out to be, or whether she’s hiding more than we first thought – and I was pleased to see this explored throughout the book.

The format of the story is also a bit of a change from the usual read; some parts are written as if you’re reading a play, whilst others revert back to a slightly more standard ‘speak directly to the reader’ format, and I liked this mix – it gave the novel a fresher, unique feel.

I don’t want to give too much away about this novel but I will say that it has some dark themes and a good few twists along the way. Definitely give this a go if you fancy a slightly different, slick pyschological thriller.

[Rating: 4.5/5]

Many thanks to Quercus for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

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In Bloom [review]

In Bloom - C J Skuse

Title: In Bloom
Author: CJ Skuse
Series: Sweetpea
Publisher: HarperCollins UK

[Synopsis]

If only they knew the real truth. It should be my face on those front pages. My headlines. I did those things, not him. I just want to stand on that doorstep and scream it: IT WAS ME. ME. ME. ME. ME!

Rhiannon Lewis has successfully fooled the world and framed her cheating fiancé Craig for the depraved and bloody killing spree she committed. She should be ecstatic that she’s free.

Except for one small problem. She’s pregnant with her ex-lover’s child. The ex-lover she only recently chopped up and buried in her in-laws’ garden. And as much as Rhiannon wants to continue making her way through her kill lists, a small voice inside is trying to make her stop.

But can a killer’s urges ever really be curbed?

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[My Review]

Can anything follow the sheer, utter brilliance of Sweetpea(If you missed it, read my review here). I am so pleased to say that the sequel, once again following serial killer Rhiannon, is in my opinion even better!

It’s another dark, crazy and laugh-out-loud-funny story which I didnt want to put down Rhiannon is as brilliant as ever, with razor sharp observations and utter disdain for certain aspects of human relationships and nature and just everyday life. Her ‘kill lists’ are always entertaining and the fact that she is now ‘with child’ takes nothing away from the level of dark humour; in fact I’m amazed to say that it’s even more crude, even more shocking and even more twisted than Sweetpea was. I love the different take on the serial killer genre, turning various conventions on its head with one bolshy character.

The plot is incredibly engaging and the pace is perfect; if you haven’t read Sweetpea then I say enjoy that first, then jump into In Bloom. I devoured it in (almost) one sitting. Highly recommended!

[Rating: 5/5]

Thank you to HarperCollins UK for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

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Snap [review]

Snap

Title: Snap
Author: Belinda Bauer
Publisher: Transworld Publishers

[Synopsis]

On a stifling summer’s day, eleven-year-old Jack and his two sisters sit in their broken-down car, waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them. Jack’s in charge, she said. I won’t be long.

But she doesn’t come back. She never comes back. And life as the children know it is changed for ever.

Three years later, mum-to-be Catherine wakes to find a knife beside her bed, and a note that says: I could have killed you.

Meanwhile Jack is still in charge – of his sisters, of supporting them all, of making sure nobody knows they’re alone in the house, and – quite suddenly – of finding out the truth about what happened to his mother.

But the truth can be a dangerous thing…

[My Review]

Punchy, atmospheric and addictive, Snap made me turn page after page in a quest to know more. It starts with an opening scene to really make you sit up and take notice, and made me care more about the characters introduced to us here. I found the people in this story to be convincing and, most importantly, interesting to read about – it doesn’t focus on the police or investigators but instead the people affected by the crimes beung investigated, and also those committing the crimes. This was a nice break from the usual detective/ police structure, and the various narratives begin to weave themselves together as the story goes on, so yoy slowly realize that certain people are connected. I love stories that do this, and certainly held my attention even in parts that were a little slower.

There’s a mix of emotions within these pages, with some people feeling like they’re beyond redemption and others I felt pity for; I enjoyed reading from the perspective of both Catherine and Jack and particularly liked the ever-present mystery of what exactly happened to Jack’s mother, all those years ago? It’s definitely bleak at times and sometimes uncomfortable reading, but definitely punchy and a great read.

I’d definitely recommend this cleverly plotted thriller, with plenty of emotion and just the right level of mystery to ensure that you won’t want to put it down!


Many thanks to Transworld for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

The Brighton Mermaid [review]

The Brighton Mermaid

Title: The Brighton Mermaid
Author: Dorothy Koomson
Publisher: Century

[Synopsis]

Brighton Beach, 1993: Teenagers Nell and Jude find the body of a young woman and when no one comes to claim her, she becomes known as the Brighton Mermaid. Nell is still struggling to move on when, three weeks later, Jude disappears.

Twenty-five years on, Nell quits her job to find out who the Brighton Mermaid really was – and what happened to her best friend that summer.

But as Nell edges closer to the truth, dangerous things start to happen. Someone seems to be watching her every move, and soon she starts to wonder who in her life she can actually trust…

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[My Review]

I am a huge fan of Dorothy Koomson, having loved the other novels I’ve read by her (including The Ice Cream Girls [my review here] and The Friend [my review here]), so I was incredibly excited to get the chance to read her newest release, The Brighton Mermaid. The premise sounded really interesting and I knew I’d be treated to Koomson’s excellent writing.

I wasn’t disappointed – once again, readers can enjoy some brilliantly convincing characters (people you can actually imagine meeting in real life) and an intriguing, just-one-more-page plot, as well as the great location of Brighton.

I really enjoyed reading about Nell and the two key narratives: one focussing on her time as a child – before, during, and after the discover of the mysterous murdered woman and the disappearance of her her best friend, Jude) – and one set in the present day, as Nell deals with her past and tries to work out who could be watching, following and slowly torementing her…

The narrative is fast-paced and kept me wanting to read on, and I love the element of mystery interwoven with topics around family, friendship and secrets. There’s a mix of emotions, with some quite disturbing themes cropping up alongside slightly more light-hearted parts. I loved the sense of time and place that Koomson always creates so well – I may only have been a very small child at the time this was set but I could picture myself there, in the early 1990’s, right there with Jude and Nell as they made their horrifying discovery.

Another addictive release from this brilliant author – definitely recommended!

[Rating: 5/5]

Many thanks to Century for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

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Turn a Blind Eye [review]

Turn a Blind Eye

Title: Turn a Blind Eye [audiobook version]
Author: Vicky Newham
Series: DI Maya Rahman
Publisher: HQ

[Synopsis]

A twisted killer has a deadly riddle for DI Maya Rahman to solve in this pulse-racing thriller, the first in an addictive new series set in East London.

A headmistress is found strangled in her East London school, her death the result of a brutal and ritualistic act of violence. Found at the scene is a single piece of card, written upon which is an ancient Buddhist precept:

I shall abstain from taking the ungiven.

At first, DI Maya Rahman can’t help but hope this is a tragic but isolated murder. Then, the second body is found.

Faced with a community steeped in secrets and prejudice, and with a serial killer on her hands, Maya must untangle the cryptic messages left at the crime scenes to solve the deadly riddle behind the murders – before the killer takes another victim.

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[My Review]

I really enjoyed this novel which had all the elements of a police procedural that I tend to enjoy, and plenty of mystery and tension too.

I really liked Maya – she’s an intelligent, quick, hard-working detective who also happens to be Bengali. This makes a bit of a change from other white-male-driven novels in this genre, and her background and family life growing up affects Maya’s way of thinking and policing in Tower Hamlets and the surrounding area, where a headmistress has been murdered.

The story is really well structured, allowing the reader to slowly piece together what has happened whilst revealing more about Maya and her colleagues, and also touching upon many issues and subjects that are incredibly relevant today. There’s plenty of clues and along the way, and I really enjoyed listening to this on audiobook. It’s an easy listen (narrated really well by Sonia Kaur) and very engaging. The plot is tight, the characters are (on the whole) likable and interesting, and the setting in London is great with its multicultural characters – I would definitely recommend this for anyone looking to discover a gripping new crime series with a strong and likable female lead.


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Deadly Secrets by @RobertBryndza [review] @bookouture

Deadly Secrets - Robert Bryndza

Title: Deadly Secrets
Author: Robert Bryndza
Series: Detective Erika Foster (#6)
Publisher: Bookouture

[Synopsis]

To commit the perfect murder, you need the perfect cover.

On a cold icy morning, a mother wakes to find her daughter’s blood-soaked body frozen to the road. Who would carry out such a horrific killing on the victim’s doorstep?

Straight off her last harrowing case, Detective Erika Foster is feeling fragile but determined to lead the investigation. As she sets to work, she finds reports of assaults in the same quiet South London suburb where the woman was killed. One chilling detail links them to the murder victim – they were all attacked by a figure in black wearing a gas mask.

Erika is on the hunt for a killer with a terrifying calling card. The case gets more complicated when she uncovers a tangled web of secrets surrounding the death of the beautiful young woman.

Yet just as Erika begins to piece the clues together, she is forced to confront painful memories of her past. Erika must dig deep, stay focused and find the killer. Only this time, one of her own is in terrible danger…

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[My Review]

Another fantastic, well-written release from Robert Bryndza and the Detective Erika Foster series, which has quickly climbed to one of my favourite detective/ crime series, and which never fails to draw me into Erika’s world so completely. I know once I pick up a novel in this series I won’t be able to do anything else until I’ve finished it!

As well as lots of gripping investigation and police work, plus glimpses into the life of a disturbing killer, we also see a bit more of Erika’s soft side as she helps her father in law and deals with some surprising news from a certain someone…

I love the police procedural element of the story – as always the plot is gripping, tight and excellently written, with the perfect mix of personal elements surrounding Erika’s team and the police work itself.

Deadly Secrets could be read as a stand-alone, but with five previous (brilliant) novels to get stuck into, I recommend starting from the beginning so you know as much as possible about Erika and her background, as this only enhances each story!

[Rating: 5/5]

Many thanks to Bookouture for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_BOOKS_ / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

Briguella by @AuthorVickiFitz [review]

Briguella - Vicki Fitzgerald

Title: Briguella
Author: Vicki Fitzgerald
Publisher: Creativia

[Synopsis]

After seven women fall victim to a serial killer, journalist Kate Rivendale becomes embroiled in the manhunt. The authorities have no suspect, only one forensic link dating way back to the 1930s.

Detective Chief Inspector William Beckley needs to salvage his career; he has too many deaths on his conscience. Beckley entices Kate to go undercover, a decision which backfires with devastating consequences.

While DCI Beckley reaches a horrifying conclusion about the murderer Kate enters a desperate fight for her life… while battling to keep her own secrets buried.

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[My Review]

Briguella is a gripping crime debut from Vicki Fitzgerald, an author I’ll certainly be following!

The novel itself has two main narrators: DCI William Beckley and reporter Kate Rivendale, and having both of these characters tell us their side of the story means the readers gets just the right blend of police procedural elements and ‘non-police’ actions and jargon. I really warmed to Kate, though she had her faults, and found myself caring what happened to her. I have to say, I wasn’t a big fan of Beckley due to the way he treated some characters and really mooned over *someone* (I found this rather irritating but I don’t want to be more specific as I don’t want to give away any elements of the plot). He just grated on me  – and don’t get me started on Kate’s mother and sister – no excuses for their behaviour! At times I felt the descriptions were a bit too long and flowing, but nevertheless I hugely enjoyed reading about the police’s (at times very flawed) investigation into the mysterious serial killer terrorising Westhaven’s streets. The plot it moved along at the right pace and kept me really wanting to read on.

There’s elements of gore and some pretty nasty parts – it is about a serial killer, after all -but this didn’t feel too over the top. I had guessed the killer’s identity towards the end of the book but it didn’t hamper my enjoyment at all, and overall I am hugely impressed by this brilliant debut which I would definitely recommend!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Vicki for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

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The Darkness [review]

The Darkness - Ragnar Jonasson

Title: The Darkness
Author: Ragnar Jonasson
Publisher: Michael Joseph

[Synopsis]

Be the first to read the incredible, chilling first novel in the new Hulda crime series from Icelandic superstar Ragnar Jónasson…

At sixty-four, Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdottir of the Reykjavik Police is about to take on her last case before she retires: A young woman, an asylum seeker from Russia, found murdered on the seaweed covered rocks of the Vatnsleysuströnd in Iceland.

When Hulda starts to ask questions it isn’t long before she realizes that no one can be trusted, and that no one is telling the whole truth. Spanning Reykjavik, the Icelandic highlands and the cold, isolated fjords, The Darkness is a thrilling new crime thriller from one of the biggest new names in Scandi noir.

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[My Review]

This is an intriguing, well-crafted novel which I hugely enjoyed. I have to admit I haven’t read any other novels by Ragnar Jónasson despite hearing so many great things, so I jumped at the chance to review the first book in a new series, as then it doesn’t matter if I haven’t read others. And I’m so glad to say that The Darkness is was a solid, really enjoyable read!

Firstly, this series (Hidden Iceland #1) looks set to be pretty unique as it’s actually the end of a series; subsequent novels will apparently cover previous cases (something I actually didn’t realise until I finished this book!). I really like the idea of this, and also Hulda as a character – she’s pretty abrupt and may to some seem unlikable, but I did warm to her as the novel went on – you see as you continue reading that she has had a lot to deal with over her lifetime. Plus, the police haven’t exactly been great to her – she’s being forced into an early retirement because they seem to want to create a younger workforce! I really liked that the main character is someone older as this makes a change from many other books.

The plot isn’t overly complex but enjoyable to read, and though there are quite a few people involved in the case it wasn’t too confusing. I found the writing really easy to read and raced through this (at under 300 pages it’s not too long, either). It’s not too gorey but has the right level of darkness and eeriness, making you imagine you’re there with Hulda in the Icelandic landscape.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Darkness and it’s definitely made want to read both more of this series and other novels by Ragnar Jónasson too!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

The Darkness is out in the UK in ebook and hardback on 15 March 2018! Pre-order / buy on Amazon here.


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The Dark Lake [blog tour review] @sarahbailey1982

The Dark Lake

Today I am so excited to be on the blog tour for Sarah Bailey’s crime debut The Dark Lake. Read on to find out what I thought…

Title: The Dark Lake 
Author: Sarah Bailey
Publisher: Atlantic Books

[Synopsis]

A hot summer. A shocking murder. A town of secrets, waiting to explode…A beautiful young teacher has been murdered, her body found in the lake, strewn with red roses.

Local policewoman Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock pushes to be assigned to the case, concealing the fact that she knew the murdered woman in high school years before.But that’s not all Gemma’s trying to hide. As the investigation digs deeper into the victim’s past, other secrets threaten to come to light, secrets that were supposed to remain buried.

The lake holds the key to solving the murder, but it also has the power to drag Gemma down into its dark depths…

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[My Review]

The Dark Lake ticked all the boxes for a great crime debut for me: an intriguing plot, convincing and three-dimensional characterisation, and police procedural details, not to mention plenty of atmosphere! AND it’s the first in a new series, too!

Firstly, I really warmed to the brilliant DS Gemma Woodstock. She’s a wonderfully flawed female lead (the kind of character I always enjoy reading about) but she’s also sharp, strong and determined. I don’t agree with everything she has or does do, but she’s definitely interesting to read about! If you only really enjoy reading about ‘likeable’ characters, then Gemma – with all her angst and dubious decisions in her personal life – won’t be for you – but to those people I’d also say, who in real life is really like that anyway? She’s also the first in a whole array of convincing and, most importantly, interesting characters that end up being linked in unexpected ways, which I loved.

What sets this apart from some other novels of the same genre is it’s definitely a character-focussed/ driven crime novel; I felt myself being drawn more and more into the book’s world, not just because I wanted to know ‘whodunnit’, but because I cared about what would happen to these characters who had been so skillfully developed. Sarah Bailey’s writing is, for me, spot on – full of imagery without the language being too flowery and people who don’t fit too neatly into a certain ‘type’ of character – ‘baddie’, ‘goodie’, ‘sensible’ etc. They feel like real people, not caricatures.

The mystery itself kept me interested throughout; I really do enjoy following the steps in an investigation from start to finish, and The Dark Lake‘s slightly slower pace allowed for this, as well as throwing in plenty of twists and red herrings too. The case definitely had some dark elements which added to the chilled and slightly eerie atmosphere, and the novel finished with an ending that left me satisfied. Great stuff – bring on book two!

[Rating: 4.5/5]

Many thanks to Anne Cater and Atlantic Books for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review, and for inviting me onto the blog tour!

The Dark Lake is out now – buy on Amazon here!


Sarah Bailey Author Picture

About the author

Sarah’s first novel, The Dark Lake, was published in Australia by Allen & Unwin in May 2017 and in the USA and Canada in October.

Sarah lives in Melbourne, Australia and has two young sons. She has fifteen years experience in the advertising industry and is currently a director at creative projects company Mr Smith.

Sarah’s second book, Into The Night, featuring Detective Gemma Woodstock, will be published in 2018.

Follow Sarah on twitter @sarahbailey1982 or visit her website: www.sarahbaileyauthor.com


Follow the rest of the tour…

The Dark Lake Blog Tour Poster

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The Dry [review]

The Dry - Jane Harper

Title: The Dry
Author: Jane Harper
Publisher: Little Brown UK

[Synopsis]

After getting a note demanding his presence, Federal Agent Aaron Falk arrives in his hometown for the first time in decades to attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke. Twenty years ago when Falk was accused of murder, Luke was his alibi. Falk and his father fled under a cloud of suspicion, saved from prosecution only because of Luke’s steadfast claim that the boys had been together at the time of the crime. But now more than one person knows they didn’t tell the truth back then, and Luke is dead.

Amid the worst drought in a century, Falk and the local detective question what really happened to Luke. As Falk reluctantly investigates to see if there’s more to Luke’s death than there seems to be, long-buried mysteries resurface, as do the lies that have haunted them. And Falk will find that small towns have always hidden big secrets.

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[My Review]

FINALLY I got around to reading this much-loved book, and wow – I was not disappointed!

The Dry is a force to be reckoned with because it ticks so many boxes for me – brilliant, three-dimensional characters that I want to read more about (lucky we’ll see more books with Aaron Falk in, then!) mixed with a gripping storyline full of mystery and surprises AND the truly atmospheric setting, where each page made me feel more and more like I was actually there, dealing with the heat from not just the sky but the heightened tension.

The writing is excellent, bringing every conversation and every dark look alive for the reader so effortlessly right from the off. We see some of the present day narrative and some of what happened ‘back then’, in fragmented pieces which the reader can slowly start to put together.

The storyline also combined various ‘mysteries’ without following a traditional crime/thriller ‘police procedural’ setting; it’s more about the investigation from Aaron without all the red tape and procedures of the police investigation which was refreshing to read. Plus we never quite know how trustworthy Aaron himself is, despite the fact that I hugely like him as character – some of the story he recalls has that element of doubt around it, and that only added to the intrigue for me!

The ending was also just perfect for me; not too ‘tied up neatly with a box’ but with enough conclusion to satisfy. I started to suspect who it might be towards the end but I could never have guessed why, and I loved that there were essentially two ‘mysteries’ to unearth- one long in the past, and one only a few months ago.

Anyway, so as not to give anything away I’ll just finish by saying I HUGELY recommend this stunning debut, so if, like me, you’ve somehow not read it yet, go and buy it NOW! I now can’t wait to read the second book by Jane Harper, Force of Nature!

[Rating: 5/5]

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