Bloodline by Mark Billingham

 

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Hellllo readers – SUPER INTERESTING BOOK TODAY.  I read a book by Mark Billingham called Buried and it’s the first book in ages that has made me really angry. I thought it was going to be amazing and it was just rubbish, really rubbish. Any, spoke to my sister a weekend or so ago and told her how annoyed I was and she told me I had read the crap book she had by him and to read this one. AND? Well, it was FANTASTIC and I’m going to tell you why.

It seems like a straightforward domestic murder until a bloodstained sliver of X-ray is found clutched in the dead woman’s fist – and it quickly becomes clear that this case is anything but ordinary.

Thorne discovers that the victim’s mother had herself been murdered fifteen years before by infamous serial killer Raymond Garvey. The hunt to catch Garvey was one of the biggest in the history of the Met, and ended with seven women dead.

When more bodies and more fragments of X-ray are discovered, Thorne has a macabre jigsaw to piece together until the horrifying picture finally emerges. A killer is targeting the children of Raymond Garvey’s victims.

Thorne must move quickly to protect those still on the murderer’s list, but nothing and nobody are what they seem. Not when Thorne is dealing with one of the most twisted killers he has ever hunted…

A chilling, relentlessly paced thriller, Bloodline is the most gripping Tom Thorne novel yet.

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So, I’m not going to go into too much detail about the blurb because it’s all there – it’s a very extensive blurb actually and I don’t want to give away any more plot spoilers. The book throws us straight into the action; Debbie and her challenged son Jason are about to jump from a bridge in front of a train. Then we’re whipped away, back to the death a young woman who is found with a piece of plastic found in her hand. DCI Thorne needs to find the motive behind the murder. At this point Thorne and his girlfriend Louise find out some really horrible news – the author really works around this and uses it within the plot to create subplots that integrate with the murder investigation really well.

The writing is really exciting; the crime ^ as explained the blurb annoyingly, is really exciting. The murders come thick and fast and Thorne has to try and place them together, their time of death and why it’s all happening. There are twists and turns, there’s a red herring or two, it’s fast paced and exciting and it’s just great. Later on we get to see into the mind of the murder, which I normally dislike. I kind of like to feel like I’m only in the mind of the detective so you’re fully engaged in the plot from the detective POV but it worked. It was just enough. I loved that Hendricks was back; a little wobble I wish we got to learn more about him, the heavily tattooed and pierced pathologist is a really big part of the story and I just wish I got to know more about him.

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As always Tom Thorne is the disallusioned detective you just can’t help but love – he has this hard exterior and yet as he has to deal with the stresses and emotional pain of the situation he and Louise are in, it means he’s constantly evolving and changing and although we never get a description as such of him, we create Thorne in our own minds making him a lot more personal and helping us interact with him. Additionally unlike Buried although there were lots of characters, they were written and had enough characteristics to distinguish between them.

So, the big question – what did I think? I loveddd this book, it had everything I wanted from a crime thriller –  in contrast to Buried, the murder was really well constructed; it was integrated throughout, the murdered was constantly involved. One of the major wobbles with Buried was when I got to the end I didn’t know who the murderer was! Here I was so engaged I didn’t want to put this down, and immediately after picked up another Billingham book. Overall, this is much better than Buried and I can’t wait to read more!

Linnnks

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What to do When Someone Dies by Nicci French

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Heeeeellllo readers, hope you’re well! Today’s book is one by Nikki French and it’s actually pretty good! At home we have a book shelf where you can put books once you’ve read them but don’t mind if they’re borrowed, used, lost. It’s supposed to be a way of allowing you to keep the books you want safe and also share ones you don’t mind others reading; although it doesn’t always work that way – anyway, this is one that I borrowed from the shelf from my Mumma and it was pretty good.

‘This is not my world. Something is wrong, askew. . . I am Ellie Falkner, thirty-four years old and married to Greg Manning. Although two police officers have just come to my door and told me he is dead . . . ‘

It’s devastating to hear that your husband has died in a horrific car accident. But to learn that he died with a mystery woman as his passenger is torment. Was Greg having an affair?

Drowning in grief, Ellie clings to Greg’s innocence, and her determination to prove it to the world at large means she must find out who Milena Livingstone was and what she was doing in Greg’s car. But in the process those around her begin to question her sanity and motive. And the louder she shouts that Greg must have been murdered, the more suspicion falls on Ellie herself.

Sometimes it’s safer to keep silent when someone dies.

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I’m not going to spend anytime re-writing the blurb because it’s allll there to read. The first thing to mention, is that although this is marketed as a thriller, it’s more of a find out the truth style book – Ellie’s husband Greg’s body is found in a burned out car with another woman; rather than taking the police’s belief that it is a simply a horrific accident and the two were having an affair, Ellie denies this and decides instead to take the investigation into her own hands.  From this point onwards the story is narrated by Ellie in first person narrative. She has a clinical and dry personality; she doesn’t cry at the funeral  she is consumed by proving that Greg wouldn’t , and couldn’t have had an affair.

The writing despite Ellie’s strained personality has a certain quality that draws the reader in. The word lyrical isn’t quite right but the contrast between her feelings; this constant desperation to find the truth in an almost soulless way and the writing style that is so engaging and interesting to read. Her constant rejection from the police’s discussions, they’re rejection of her desperation saying it is all grief and nothing else contrasted with the lyrical writing style is incredibly engaging. Lots of the reviews on Goodreads say that it’s too cold and un-engaging but I found that the stifling lack of emotion of Ellie just helped to prove the true roots of the love between Ellie and Greg and her constant persistence to clear his name.

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Yes at times what she does it a little bizarre and it does make her come across a little deluded but there’s such a devotion to Greg and because he’s not there tell his side of the story it’s difficult to get a feel for Ellie before the terrible event happens. We learn more about her through her actions; sneaking herself into the place where the woman that died with her husband worked, meeting Frances, mix in the friends and family around her and the authors manage to construct a really true and intriguing character. YEs, she might be a little difficult to warm to, but in her position it is understandable.

Did I work out who did it? Yes, I did I have to admit and it wasn’t too difficult to but I didn’t think that hindered the plot or my enjoyment on the book on the whole. I must admit that I enjoyed this, but only really as a calm, interesting thriller-ish book. It didn’t really rock my world, it didn’t feel like a punch you in the face book, and on the whole it’s a little tame but it’s definitely an exciting read and definitely if you want a book that really plays with the feelings of the main character it’s on to definitely pick up.

Linnnnksssss

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Dwelling by Thomas S Flowers

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Hellllo readers and happy Christmas Eve. I’m going to put in a small spoiler – this is a seriously gushy review. There are some authors that I continue to go back to and this author is up there with my favourites – I think I’ve read three of his books/novellas now and they are all seriously brilliant. Some authors just have a way with words – character build up, action, description, feeling, emotion it all just works. I’ve got so much to talk about it so little time so onto the review lovely readers.

A group of inseparable childhood friends are now adults, physically and psychologically devastated by war… A horrifying creature emerges from a sandstorm just before Ricky Smith dies in battle. Forced to leave base housing, his widow Maggie buys a home on Oak Lee Road in the town of Jotham. Maggie is isolated in the historic house…and disconcerted by strange clicking sounds inside the walls. 

When Maggie wakes in a strange subterranean cavern, she can’t deny her home harbors dark secrets. Desperate, she sends letters to her old friends to reunite in Jotham, and events conspire to draw them all to the house…unaware of the danger awaiting them. The friends have already been through hell, but can any of them survive the evil dwelling beneath the House on Oak Lee?

I’ve had to cut down the blurb a little because it is quite long but the crux of the book follows a group of former childhood friends (once named the Suicide Squad) who now as adults are each in situations they could never have foreseen happening. Each of them has been affected by war whether physically, mentally or emotionally but these are the least of the groups worries – there is something even more dangerous at play. When Maggie moves back in 1475 Oak Lee Road she unleashes an evil that is desperate on completely ruining everything.

So there’s kind of the nitty-gritty – onto the rest of the review. In terms of the group of friends the characterisation is utterly brilliantly. Each character is seamlessly created and they spring from the pages easily and with force.Maggie is a delightful character but the stresses and troubles from her past constantly undermine her and make her vulnerable, Jonathon wounded in battle and deeply traumatised by the death of Ricky is struggling with PTSD. Watching him try to deal with everything around him was deeply intriguing but utterly heartbreaking. Minister Jake Williams and Bobby are equally well drawn – both completely different and yet struggling to deal with the situations around them.
From the very first meeting with each of the characters you can relate completely to each and every one. It is very rare you can connect with so many characters so strongly so quickly. It is seamless. Utterly brilliant in fact. Additionally throughout we see each of the characters personally go through their minds for peace and understanding. There may be just one character in the scene and yet I was awestruck, mesmerised even, by the author’s ability to get me inside the characters head.
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The writing style (as always) is utterly brilliant – read this, the first paragraph;
Gunfire rattled off in the distance. Screams, but here in this place there’s a strange way the dust swallows the sound, making it impossible to tell where the shots were coming from. An eerie yellowness interfused and covered everything, like some symbiotic creature, draining life. It’s in the air we breathe. On our uniforms and the thawbs the locals wear. It cakes the ground. You can see tire and feet tracks in the soft plumes of smoke kicked just a few inches off the ground. It even covers the garbage. God…the garbage seems to have no end. 
and it continues all the way through. Every single paragraph, every sentence has been written with thought. You can tell that it’s all been utterly thought through and created to create this atmosphere that’s slightly uneasy and tense. I don’t know many authors that can do this. (Lizzy stop gushing) but honestly – bloody spot on.
In terms of the plot not all has been given away – we know there is evil, we know where it is but we’re not quite sure what it is, why is doing this and what it is doing. However throughout you are so compelled with drawing everything together it only leads the way to the next book and what further plot Thomas is going to draw together. I for one cannot wait. The writing is tense, exciting draws you in. This book is more of build up – getting to know each of the characters and yet the evil is building slowly but morbidly.
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This is  a fantastic horror story and I’m not surprised as soon as Thomas sends me a book I make a point to get it read as soon as. His writing is stunning, honest, open and full of passion and emotion. I believe Thomas served in the military and the emotion that is strong and honest especially in Johnathan’s story is just – perfect. Heartbreaking but perfect. I’m just going to leave with this. Hats off to you Thomas Flowers.
Linnnks

Close My Eyes Paperback by Sophie McKenzie

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Helllllllo readers and happy Thursday – it’s an odd day of the week for me because it’s so close to the weekend but still so far away. It’s been an interesting week – a lot of ups and downs and still trying to slowly get through this quarter life crisis. I’m currently using the excuse of not yet passing my driving test but I’m getting closer and closer to passing and then I have to start making life decisions – like nuh-uh, still not ready. For now imma going to ignore all of that and bring you a review – enjoy bookworms.

It’s been eight years since Gen Loxley lost her daughter, Beth: eight years of grief in which nothing’s really moved forward, for all that her husband, Art, wills it to. Gen, once a writer of novels, has settled in to a life of half-hearted teaching, while Art makes his name and their fortune – and pressures her into trying IVF once again. For Gen, it seems a cruel act of replacement; life without Beth is unthinkable, unbearable – but still it goes on. And then a woman arrives on Gen’s doorstep, saying the very thing she longs to hear: that her daughter was not stillborn, but was spirited away as a healthy child, and is out there, waiting to be found…So why is Art reluctant to get involved? To save his wife from further hurt? Or something much more sinister? What is the truth about Beth Loxley?

As the blurb suggests the book follows the life of Gen and Art who terribly lost their little girl when she was born stillborn; something that Gen is yet to recover from. As Art moves on with his life Gen is trapped in the grief of her daughter’s death – however when a lady arrives on her doorstep tell her, her sister was there at the birth and the little girl was fine alarm bells start ringing. As Gen starts to dig into the history of the birth, her life is turned upside down as she struggles to come to terms with the fact her baby may be alive – is Art involved? How could the doctor have orchestrated anything like that? What did happen the day her daughter was born – read le book to find out.

Did I like this book? Difficult question – it did at the start pull me in, Gen is written with gusto and understanding although quite a tiring character at the beginning she begins to grow with every page turn – gutsy and determined she really grew on me as a character. Art is also really well written – mysterious, a total gentleman but quick to act he really gave this book strength and helped to cement my interest. In terms of plot the book the book does move with pace; the story kicks in very quickly and immediately we start pulling together clues as we discover what really happened in the hospital that night and I did find myself gabbling through.

Although predictable there is an original storyline and the plot moves with pace. The writing is evocative and mixes in a number of interweaving character plot-lines and the secondary characters are built up so that they become more involved with the main premise of the book. One major wobble though was the author tended to really build up a scene in a couple of chapters and then the actual scene would be over maybe in a couple of lines. I think if these scenes had been slowed down it would have created a much stronger impact and helped to tell the story better on the whole.

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However, and this seems to be the same as many of the readers I’ve seen review this book it is mindbogglingly far-fetched lapsing on pretty ridiculous. As the plot grows we encounter a number of murders, attempted kidnaps and a whole lot of mixed up character relationships. It felt a little like the author thought how the hell do I sort all of this mess out. I did enjoy it but the ability to believe what was happening meant I read it without really investing in the plot or the characters which was a little tiring because I had made it so far through.

Once the story is over it’s a very abrupt ending which although underwhelming was the only way it could have really ended – we then suddenly fly a number years later and Gen is  recounting all that has happened – the ending is a little dark which I liked but it was overwhelmed with the feeling of it all being too over-dramatised to really make me feel anything at all.

Overall I did enjoy reading this – but almost from the sense of what on earth is going on towards the end. Would I recommend buying a copy of this book and searing it out no, but if you saw in the library and thought I want something a little dramatic and over the top with touch of romance and suspense – maybe.

Linnnnnnks

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Four Seats by Aaron Cooley

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I rather dislike Thursday’s it has to be said.  I think it’s because it’s supposed to be my day of the week where I drag my body out of bed and go for a run. Yes, a run. Normally however I’m in bed till twenty to eight, have time to jump into the shower, throw on clothes (hoping I haven’t picked up yesterday’s pyjamas) slap some cover on my face and whip mascara on my eyelashes. Grabbing keys, my purse (note not handbag) and a book I throw myself out the door and run to the bus station. It’s not a pretty sight. However, this is a book that could stir the most tired of reader to get up half an hour early to get a little reading done. Today I bring you Four Seats by the rather wonderful Aaron Cooley.

Each year on the first Monday of October, the Supreme Court reconvenes for another new term. But this year, the first Monday brings only terror and tragedy, as six bombs tear through their temple of law, killing 124 people.

Homeland Security immediately brands Supreme Court Police officer Jason Lancaster as their prime suspect. Jason must go on the run to find the persons responsible for the attack – and for the murder of his fiancée, Supreme Court Marshal Miranda Whitney.

Meanwhile, former First Lady Rosemarie Irving volunteers to assist the current President in nominating replacements for the four Justices lost in the tragedy. Is her motivation the lasting legacy of her husband, or something more nefarious?

Part legal potboiler, part HOUSE OF CARDS deal making drama, part 24-esque espionage cliff-hanger, FOUR SEATS is an enthralling new entry to the conspiracy thriller tradition.

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First a little apology; I was supposed to review this book a while back but somehow managed to open the wrong PDF file and read a book that has nothing whatsoever to do with this series (although still written by Aaron) which caused a little confusion when posted on MLBB. However I think it was a sneaky plan to get both reviewed on the blog, although I cannot complain because both were terribly exciting to read.

Being an advocate of historical fiction, political style drama often features and here we get it full on, in-yer-face style commotion. I must admit now I haven’t watched House of Cards (forgive me) however the intrigue of the first chapter really pulled me into the book and has kind of stirred a want to watch the series. The book really starts with a bang; pulling the reader straight into the action with the bombing of the Supreme Court. We’re given very little time to breathe but the swift movement and cuts between different scenes and inter-changing characters helps to plunge the reader straight into the action. We follow the movements of Jason Lancaster as he struggles to reveal the truth and learn more about what the hell is happening.

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I thought the writing was strong and incredibly intense; it moves with such cuts and the frenzy of the characters movements builds as the chapters whir on. The book isn’t long (this is a series of six books) and therefore the author doesn’t hang about in swathes of description or mountains of character detail. The intense plot and the quickening pace kept me so engaged from start to finish. The book dallies between the terrorist attack and the consequences of such an event whilst also managing the potential of a conspiracy plot; what the hell is really going on? I like that our main character is kept in the dark much like us to help increase the stress and excitement. Although I don’t know too much on the subject I liked the search for the information on the victims and the constant confusion whether to find new replacements for the fallen Justices.

I liked the inclusion of the framing of our main character due to a rather intoxicated evening; the lack of alibi and his inability to piece what has happened together really plays on the readers feelings. Can we trust this character? I love it when everything’s a little uneasy. The writing is punchy; lots of whizzing between scenes but it never feels rushed. Everything is planned and written out wonderfully. My only complaint is I wonder whether it needed to be six books. This one isn’t particularly long and I have a problem sometimes with books that seem to be split up for the hell of it but I’m sure our writer has it all planned out.

So overall I really enjoyed this book; I’ve written this review a little jumbled but it has a wonderful writing style and really keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. Our main protagonist is well written gutsy and exciting I can’t wait to read more and learn more about this plot. Only wobble is I hope the author doesn’t run out of plot by book six or loses something in the telling by splitting it so much but I’m sure Aaron will keep his cards close to his chest in terms of that. If you like a thriller or are interested in political plot-lines get a copy of this daring book and see if you can put it down.

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The Forsaken Queen by Paul Nolen

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Afternnnnnnoon readers and once again happy Monday; If you haven’t noticed there have been many a review here recently and it’s because I’m having a little bit of a lifestyle change. When you’re at university and you’ve drank a pink of vodka the night before and eaten a pile of cheesy chips knowing you only have to attempt to make it to your four o’ clock lecture which will be on the Internet for you to look back at what you’ve missed you don’t have a huge amount to worry about. Now, as an adult with a full-time job you kind of have to look after yourself a little more; this means going to bed earlier, getting up earlier, reading instead of binge watching Supernatural and going for runs. I’ve just given myself a little more time, I try to stay off my phone a little more. It means I’ve got a lot more time to read and so a lot more books to review. I’m sure the influx will eventually die down but for now: the reviews are going to continue coming out of my ears. Today’s is an adventure you don’t want to miss.

What if our history is not as we think it – but as others want it to be? What if we believe only what others want us to believe? When a security guard at Hampton Court claims to have been attacked by a ghost, no one believes him, except that is, for three inquisitive children. A school trip provides them with an opportunity to investigate the guard’s claims, but when they slip away from their party, and conceal themselves within the darkest recesses of the palace, they encounter far more than they could possibly have imagined.Together with his new found friends, Dominique and Simeon, he scours the Great Castles of London, to unravel the secrets of the past, that have so long been locked away. The nearer he comes to the truth, the more he realises that not everything, or everyone, is what he once thought them to be.

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So the blurb is quite extensive so I’m not going to re-tell it to you but instead I’m going to get straight into the nitty-gritty if you like. The plot is really strong and a brilliant fit for the target audience of eleven plus. I think the genre mix of historical fiction/fantasy/adventure is a really strong mix and makes it a versatile read. As the blurb states the book follows the attack of a security guard at Hampton court which leads to Henry and his friends, Simeon and Dominque, going on a quest to unearth what is really going on. They deal with missing shoes, a surprise finding of a letter, the spilling of some rather special ink, an unfortunate event in the boiler room and a near miss with death. What more could an eleven year old reader want from a book.

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In terms of characterisation all three are contrasted and written really strongly. I loved that Henry was a little quiet and stubborn but we really see him challenge himself through the book. I didn’t warm to Simeon throughout the book and at the end when the final twist occurs I think I was right to make that judgement however he’s still described well; a little stuck-up, intelligent and sure of himself he contrasts with Henry brilliantly. Dominique is both determined, graceful and full-on and I empathised with her and the pressures her parents were putting upon her. It all felt very genuine and lovingly portrayed. I thought the plot was really intriguing; I’m not going to give too much away because if I do it will spoil it, but it revolves around some rather special letters that could change the way we thought of Henry the 8th and his wife Jane Seymour.

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In terms of writing style it’s quite simple which is good because the plot it so full-on. There are twists and turns, adversities, near misses and with too much description it could bog down the plot and make it a lot slower. It moves with a lot of pace so you’re constantly gabbling to keep up and I think in terms of the target audience that’s what you want rather than long twisting descriptions. Overall this is a real credit to the author and I would have adored this as a younger reader. The mystery, suspense and the adventure added to the fantasy feel. In terms of the plot I don’t want to give too much away so I’ll say this, parents, if you’re trying to get your troublesome early teens to read a little more; this is for you and anyone else that just loves a good adventure.

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The Girl on the train by Paula Hawkins

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So, I finally got round to reading, The Girl on the train. I have seen this book doing the rounds on WordPress for months and it’s been underlined and underlined on my TBR list. I’ve mentioned this a little but recently I’ve been struggling a little with anxiety it’s nothing that can’t be fixed fingers crossed but after a big talk through with the wonderful Mumma B a couple of days later this book arrived with the note ‘just because x Lots of Love Mum xxx.’

I’m nearly twenty two and she’s still there for me every step of the way… what’s that quote again? Mothers hold their children’s hands for a while but their hearts forever. She is my saving grace and one of my best friends. I read this in two sittings; on the way to Copenhagen and the way back. Done and dusted and I utterly devoured it. It is definitely worth a read, and I bloody loved it.

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar. Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train.

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So, the blurb had me from the word go. There’s something about it that really draws you in and makes you sit up and listen. The book, as the blurb states follows Rachel the girl on the train. We first meet her as she is cracking open a pre-mixed G+T on the way home from work. She states wearily, “it’s Friday, so I don’t have to feel guilty about drinking on the train. TGIF. The fun starts here.” But not is all as it seems; as Rachel travels along the backs of the house, ignoring number twenty three and the one in which she used to live, (and where her ex-husband Tom still does) she instead focuses all her attention on number fifteen. Rachel watches out for the youthful couple who live there, named by her Jess and Jason. Each time she takes the train she looks out for them, whimsically dreaming about their perfect life.

However, one day she sees something that shocks her and then next day seeing that Megan (Jess) is missing she decides to tell the police what she has seen. But there’s a problem; Rachel has a problem with blackouts brought on by her drinking habits and the police immediately dismiss her labelling her a ‘rubber-necker.’ She has also been harassing Tom and Anna (his new wife) and sending drunken emails, calls and turning up at the house the night that Megan goes missing. We watch as Rachel struggles with her alcoholic tendencies as she tries to remember the night. She knows there was a man with red hair, a blue dress, blood and she was in the underpass. But that’s all. What really happened to Megan? Is Scott (Jason) to blame? Or are there others that need to come forward.

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There are many reasons why I loved this book and I’m going to try my damned hardest to put it all down coherently. I thought the writing and the move to make Rachel such a flawed character was a really bold mood by the author. Rachel is often in a state of drunkenness, and we see the vomit on the stairs, the excuses for her abrasive behaviour and the soggy urine soaked underwear in clear clarity. It’s a strong writing of the cycle of alcoholism and the struggles that Rachel goes through to break them.

Rachel is written in an odd tone, she’s a little spiteful especially of Anna and her self-pitying throughout. She comes across weak however you want, or need her to come to terms with it all. She is written as both over-weight and a little unattractive and you can’t help but feel a sense of compassion for her. Anna is a glossy, yummy-mummy but as the plot continues we begin to see more similarities between her and Rachel. Megan is bright and buoyant but as we learn more about her and the plot dirties we see her in a different light, much like both Tom and Scott (Jason.) I thought the authors ability to change the characters so subtly throughout so you’re constantly re-evaluating each of them was skilfully done.

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This review is going to go on forever so I apologise. The writing is strong and pure, the perfect amount of description but not so much that the plot stilts or becomes boggy. I loved the writing about the trains (I’m a bit of a train fan: sad to say but true) and thought the clever contrasts between the three women was written with a real understanding of character build up. The plot conjures up a number of red herrings which help to sway the reader in the wrong direction and although I did guess the twist before it finally appeared it was written with dexterity and a real understanding of how to feed a story to the reader.

I could have gone on another page but my mother tells me my reviews are too long already! Hawkins is a stunning author, her ability to mix different time frames, and characters whilst also weaving a thriller plot line and the devastating tale of Rachel’s drinking was wonderfully done. It’s not so much a punchy thriller but one that tells a chilling tale that will stay with me for a long time. Bang on.

Linnnnks

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Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Good afternoon readers and a happy Monday to you all. I have so many things to tell you about Copenhagen however for now a really exciting book review. It’s the first time since starting a book blogger that a publishing house of such calibre has got in contact with mylittlebookblog to ask for a review.  Little old me blogging from my tiny terraced house in my sonic pyjamas and a my over-washed woolly jumper was approached by Penguin. Now, for some of you this may be a daily occurrence, but for me this is one of the most exciting things that has happened all year. What adds to this, is the book they sent was fantastic and a total knock-out and I adored it. I read it in two sittings, one snuggled up in the car from Silvy to Nottingham and the second on the journey from Nottingham back to Stoke-on-Trent and it is absolutely brilliant. I am so nervous to bring you this today but I cannot help but sing praises for this superb book.

 Oliver Ryan is a handsome and charismatic success story. He lives in the suburbs with his wife, Alice, who illustrates his award-winning children’s books and gives him her unstinting devotion. Their life together is one of enviable privilege and ease – enviable until, one evening after supper, Oliver attacks Alice and beats her into a coma. In the aftermath, as everyone tries to make sense of his astonishing act of savagery, Oliver tells his story. So do those whose paths he has crossed over five decades. What unfolds is a story of shame, envy, breath-taking deception and masterful manipulation. Only Oliver knows the lengths to which he has had to go to get the life to which he felt entitled. But even he is in for a shock when the past catches up with him.

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 The first thing to point out is that I have not read a book with such a suitable title for a little while now but Unravelling Oliver works perfectly here. It is the book in a nutshell; we read through whilst unknotting the stories that lead to the terrible event that leads to us now. See, Alice and Oliver appear to have the flawless relationship. He writes terribly successful children’s books under a pseudonym and she expertly illustrates them. However, one evening, Oliver cracks and he hits Alice. He beats her savagely and without abandon. From this moment on we unravel the man that is Oliver from numerous and differing points of view and from different points in history. We begin to build the real picture of Oliver and the path that his life has taken and the relationships he has been a part of until we turn the final few pages and find out the final shocking secret.

 This book is sublime; utterly riveting and unspoiled throughout. The first thing to mention is the outstanding writing style. From the very first paragraph, even the first line I knew I was going to enjoy this. The writing has a way of curling itself around you and pulling you so deeply into the plot you know you won’t be able to stop reading till the very, very end. The story weaves a number of strands that clot an overall perspective of Oliver woven from a discussion of his childhood, his relationships, his affairs and his dark and cold personality. These are told by people that know Oliver. However, the author juxtaposes this with Oliver’s own view of himself, a look into his own psyche and the differences are mind-blowing. I was continually on the edge of my seat trying to understand this character. You realise early on that Oliver is not going to be a character you admire, respect or like at all however you can’t quite stop yourself wanting, no, needing to know more about him. His speech his brutal, his ideals and his way of speaking often blunt and rude, he is a chilling but stunningly written character.

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 I don’t want to give too much away about the supporting characters because you meet them along the way and their subtle differences help to paint a more succinct picture of Oliver. They slowly, chapter by chapter tell us more and more about this dangerous character. Each is written with true style and strongly built character profiles. I could easily describe each of them one by one which is a testament to the authors ability to build characters but I’ll let you discover that for yourselves. In some ways this book is a thriller but for me it comes across more as a psychological drama. I thought the contrast between what the supporting characters gave away was done with maturity and an understanding of how to give the book pace but not leave the reader constantly in anticipation. Some of the reveals could be guessed however a number were truly shocking.

 So, this book is not a happy read, no, not in the slightest but it was an all-consuming tale of neglect, hatred, and need. It moves fluidily pulling the reader deeper and deeper into the tale until the final pages have turned. Reading the epilogue which is a brilliant addition I realised that I had been holding my breath for some time and had to let all out at once. It deals with uncomfortable issues but it does it with such skill and understanding I could hardly believe this was a debut. A truly inspiring read that will stay with me a long time into the future: Definitely, definitely worth a read.

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