Review: Jar of Hearts

August 14, 2018 in Book Reviews, Thriller

I received this book for free from Readers First in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Jar of Hearts Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier
Published by Corvus on 2nd August 2018
Genres: thriller
Format: Paperback
Source: Readers First
Goodreads
four-stars

Georgina, known as Geo, is a 30-year-old rising executive when her world comes crashing down. Her high school boyfriend has been identified and arrested for a series of serial murders, including Angela, Geo's best friend in high school. Angela disappeared without a trace at 16 and her body has just been found. Now Geo is under arrest for helping her then-boyfriend cover it up. And it's one of her other close friends from high school, Kaiser Brody, who arrests her.

While Geo is sent to prison for her part, Calvin escapes from custody and is on the run. Geo, now thirty-five, is about to be released from prison to try and start over. But someone has started killing people and dumping their bodies in her old neighbourhood, with some of the markers of the missing Sweetbay Strangler—her old boyfriend Calvin. Is these killings some kind of message from Calvin? Are they some of revenge? Is she herself now in danger?

Everything turns on what really happened that tragic night back when Geo and Angela were high schoolers. Everyone thinks they know the truth, but there are dark secrets buried deep within other secrets, and it may be too late for anyone to survive the truth.

A Wee Summary

Jar of Hearts opens in the midst of a trial; executive Georgina Shaw, Geo, is giving evidence relating to the death of her childhood best friend, Angela Wong, 14 years ago, when they were just 16 years old.

Angela’s remains had been hidden all these years. Now Geo’s teenage boyfriend, Calvin James, is on trial for her murder, with Georgina herself facing a prison term.

Over the course of the book, we uncover what happened the night of Angela’s death – traversing from the current time to Geo’s high school days.

Five years on from the trial and Geo has finished her time in the Hazelwood Correctional Institute and is facing the challenge of rebuilding her life as an ex-con. Upon getting out, she finds out that, having escaped from prison, Calvin James (aka the Sweetbay Strangler) is being hunted by the police for new, horrendous murders, each of which appear to contain a message for Geo.

My Thoughts

Jar of Hearts is impossible to put down! It’s actually really hard to describe this book without spoilers. It’s a clever novel that is packed with suspense. Hillier toys with her readers’ emotions when it comes to Geo – at times I hated her and then suddenly I wanted to give her a hug; she’s such a well written character.

It’s a gritty novel and I should warn you that its contents may prove distressing to some (View Spoiler »). It doesn’t shy away from detail and yet at no point does it feel gratuitous – it’s essential to the story.

There’s quite a cast of character in this novel, Hillier has a gift for bringing them all to life, no matter how brief their appearance.

This is a well written novel that will keep you thinking and desperate to read on. It’s a twisty, gritty thriller that will capture your attention from the first page, holding it until the very last.

four-stars

Review: Resin

August 4, 2018 in Book Reviews, Thriller

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Resin Resin by Ane Riel
Published by Doubleday on 9th August 2018
Genres: thriller
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Liv died when she was just six years old. At least, that’s what the authorities think.

Her father knew he was the only one who could keep her safe in this world. So one evening he left the isolated house his little family called home, he pushed their boat out to sea and watched it ruin on the rocks. Then he walked the long way into town to report his only child missing.

But behind the boxes and the baskets crowding her Dad’s workshop, Liv was hiding. This way her Dad had said, she’d never have to go to school; this way, she’d never have to leave her parents.

This way, Liv would be safe.

A Wee Summary

Resin is one of those novels that it’s hard to say that you ‘enjoyed’ because it makes you feel so on edge, so deeply uncomfortable. So perhaps I can say that this is an unsettling but good read.

Liv is six years old when her father reports her missing and dead. She lives isolated on an island with her mother and father, hidden from the world. Her father, Jens Horder, was brought up here too, on the Head, a small island attached to a larger one by a strip of land known as the Neck.

Her Grandfather had been a carpenter and instilled a love of trees and nature into his younger son. Liv never met her Grandfather but she had gleaned a similar interest from her father.

Nowadays, the house doesn’t look as it did in her Grandfather’s day – there is stuff everywhere. Her Dad hoards things, convinced that they will be of use, scared that anyone will try to take them away from him. That’s why he told the police that Liv was dead, then no-one could take her.

As I read and uncovered the history of the Horder family, I became increasingly unsettled, and yet unable to stop reading.

My Thoughts

While this book is dark and disturbing, it also captures the emotional relationship between parent and child. Liv’s innocence of youth and her sheltered life add to this, providing quite a contrast from the constant foreboding feeling I had as I read.

It is also a very atmospheric novel. Riel has captured this island location beautifully, with the feel of isolation further compounding the story.

I’m finding Resin a very difficult book to describe without giving away any spoilers. I should give you a warning though that this book contains animal cruelty and infant death. Consequently, it won’t be a book for everyone.

What I can say is that this is a disturbing, but memorable read that will keep you on edge from the first page until the very last.

three-half-stars

Review: A Treachery of Spies

August 2, 2018 in Book Reviews, Historical Fiction, Thriller

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: A Treachery of Spies A Treachery of Spies by Manda Scott
Published by Bantam Press on 9th August 2018
Genres: Historical Fiction, Crime, thriller
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-half-stars

An elderly woman of striking beauty is found murdered in Orleans, France. Her identity has been cleverly erased but the method of her death is very specific: she has been killed in the manner of traitors to the Resistance in World War Two.

Tracking down her murderer leads police inspector Inès Picaut back to 1940s France where the men and women of the Resistance were engaged in a desperate fight for survival against the Nazi invaders.

To find answers in the present Picaut must discover what really happened in the past, untangling a web of treachery and intrigue that stretches back to the murder victim's youth: a time when unholy alliances were forged between occupiers and occupied, deals were done and promises broken. The past has been buried for decades, but, as Picaut discovers, there are those in the present whose futures depend on it staying that way – and who will kill to keep their secrets safe...

When 92-year-old Sophie Destivelle is found murdered in an Orleans car park, it soon becomes apparent that this is no random killing. Her manner of death echoes that of traitors to the Resistance in World War Two.

This is Captain Picaut’s first case since returning from injury. It’s a case that will uncover secrets of her country’s past and provide some startling revelations – such as, who exactly was Sophie Destivelle?

A Treachery of Spies is a thoroughly absorbing read. I didn’t want to put it down, and when I did manage to extract myself from its pages, the story continued to play on my mind.

Firstly, I didn’t realise when I picked this up that it’s actually the second book featuring Captain Picaut. Don’t let that put you off though, I read it as a stand-alone and really enjoyed it. There are references to events in the previous book but I didn’t feel that I was missing out.

As for the story itself, it is clever, intricate, and evidently very well researched. The best way I can describe this novel is that it is historical fiction mixed with a thriller, mystery and police procedural – pretty much the ultimate combination in my opinion.

The investigation of Sophie’s death takes the reader across time and space – from present-day Orleans to wartime Britain and Germany-occupied France, with a focus on Resistance fighters and British Special Operatives of the Jura mountains.

Scott has meticulously researched this historical aspect, blending fact with fiction. I can’t tell you how much I learned from this novel, things which I intend to read up on further (no spoilers though so you’ll need to read A Treachery of Spies to find out what I’m talking about!).

This is a novel that taxed my fog-addled brain but in the best possible way. I had to focus to keep up with all of the characters and their timelines, to keep up with the intricacies of the story and to follow the clues and ciphers. I love a book that makes you think though – and this is a powerful novel that not only challenges in terms of the story, but it makes one thing of history and to consider the lives of those who lived during the war.

All in all, it is a fascinating, well-crafted novel that will keep you hooked until the very last page. I almost wish I could read it again!

four-half-stars

Review: Thirteen

June 10, 2018 in Book Reviews, Crime, Thriller

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Thirteen Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh
Series: Eddie Flynn #4
Published by Orion on 14th June 2018
Genres: Crime, thriller
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
five-stars

The serial killer isn't on trial. He's on the jury.

Hollywood actor Robert Soloman stands accused of the brutal stabbings of his wife and her lover, but he is desperately pleading that he had nothing to do with it. This is the trial of the century, and the defence want Eddie Flynn on their team.

The biggest case Eddie has ever tried before, he decides to take it on despite the overwhelming evidence that Robert is guilty. As the trial starts, Eddie becomes sure of Robert's innocence, but there's something else he is even more sure of - that there is something sinister going on in the jury box.

Because of this, he is forced to ask: what if the killer isn't on the stand? What if he's on the jury?

The premise of Thirteen immediately caught my attention on NetGalley – the serial killer is not the one on trial, rather he is occupying a seat on the jury!

I had high hopes for this read and wow, it even surpassed my expectations.

Let me start by saying that this is actually the fourth book in the Eddie Flynn series but you don’t have to have read the other three – I hadn’t and I loved it! Cavanagh makes his characters easily accessible to us, filling us in while, I imagine, refreshing the memories of long-term fans.

A Wee Summary

Hollywood actor Robert “Bobby” Solomon stands trial for the murder of his equally famous wife and their security guard. All the evidence points towards Bobby’s guilt, but Eddie Flynn finds himself believing in Bobby’s innocence and working his case.

All the while, Flynn is watched from the jury by Joshua Kane who has infiltrated the bench. With chapters told from both Flynn and Kane’s perspectives, we gain a fascinating insight into the minds of the defense lawyer and a highly intelligent killer.

My Thoughts

Cavanagh’s writing is brilliant. He provides us with just enough information that we find our own theories evolving, feeling compelled to read on.

I really liked the character of Flynn, an ex-con-man turned into a defense attorney. I knew I’d love him from the outset, with his tricks in courts piquing my interest.

The whole concept of the trial itself was fascinating to me. The evolving case kept me guessing, with Flynn and Kane head to head.

I don’t think there’s higher praise to give this book than to tell you that the minute I finished it, I downloaded Cavanagh’s first book in the series straight to my Kindle (it’s currently 99p). I’m so excited to learn more about Flynn.

I could gush all day about this book but I’m so wary of any spoilers. It really is an altogether fantastic read. It almost felt like a movie playing out in my mind. Read it!

five-stars

Review: Hangman

March 26, 2018 in Book Reviews, Crime, Thriller

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Hangman Hangman by Daniel Cole
Series: Detective William Fawkes #2
Published by Trapeze on 22nd March 2018
Genres: Crime, thriller
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Eighteen months have passed, but the scars the Ragdoll murders left behind remain.

DCI Emily Baxter is summoned to a meeting with US Special Agents Elliot Curtis of the FBI and Damien Rouche of the CIA. There, she is presented with photographs of the latest copycat murder: a body contorted into a familiar pose, strung up impossibly on the other side of the world, the word BAIT carved deep into its chest.

As the media pressure intensifies, Baxter is ordered to assist with the investigation and attend the scene of another murder to discover the same word scrawled across the victim, carved across the corpse of the killer - PUPPET.

As the murders continue to grow in both spectacle and depravity on both sides of the Atlantic, the team helplessly play catch up. Their only hope: to work out who the 'BAIT' is intended for, how the 'PUPPETS' are chosen but, most importantly of all, who is holding the strings.

I’ve been anticipating Hangman, the second novel in this series, ever since I read the first, Ragdoll, last year (you can find my review here.)

Hangman takes place some 18 months after Ragdoll. Wolf hasn’t been seen or heard of since Baxter let him flee the Old Bailey courtroom. She herself is now Detective Chief Inspector Baxter, and is trying to get on with life, until two US Special Agents enter her London office. There has been a murder in New York and they have reason to believe it connected to the Ragdoll murders. The victim, whose chest was inscribed with the word “bait” shares the same name as Wolf – William Fawkes, and was strung up on the Brooklyn Bridge by a man bearing the word “puppet” on his chest.

Baxter isn’t inclined to jump to conclusions, but when a second ‘bait’ and ‘puppet’ murder occurs in London, that once again connects to Ragdoll, she finds herself headed to New York with FBI agent Curtis and the British CIA agent Rouche to work on the case. While also unofficially roping in the only person she trusts, Edmunds, to help her from afar.

I don’t want to give too much detail about this book. Like Ragdoll, this book is pretty dark, with some shocking and graphic scenes. Yet, Cole manages to lighten this subject matter with his humour, which most definitely appeals to me.

As Cole said himself of sequels (when referring to the film Home Alone 2) …

The first movie was, secretly, one of her all-time favourites, but she found the second an uninspiring imitation falling into the age-old trap of believing that by relocating to New York City, they would create a bigger and better sequel.

In this instance, I think the New York sequel was every bit as good as, if not even better than, the original (Ragdoll).

We enter the story in an interview room with Baxter facing questions from multiple agencies, before we rewind a few weeks and follow the sequence of events that ultimately culminate in that questioning.

When I realised Wolf wasn’t going to be the focus of this book, I was a bit nervous as Ragdoll was really all about him. I needn’t have worried. Baxter is a fantastic, snarky character, suffering no fools – no matter who they may be. She’s a bold, brilliant yet flawed character that really shines in this book.

Perhaps part of the reason she shines is Agent Rouche of the CIA. The interactions between the two are fantastic, making a great partnership. Rouche’s story, his personality, along with his choice of inappropriate songs made me fall in love with his character.

It says a lot of Cole that I’m writing about his book which is filled with blood, mutilation, horrific scenes and a significant number of deaths, and I’m gushing about his characters and humour. For me, this is what made such dark subject matter so readable. It’s truly an art, and one that Cole excels at.

I also liked that we got to check in with characters from the first book, particularly Edmunds who ‘goes rogue’ in the fraud department to help out his friend.

I know that this book won’t be for everyone. There are scenes which are all too close to that witnessed in reality. But I love Cole’s writing, the way he can make your stomach squirm with one sentence, then snort with laughter with the next. I truly look forward to the third book in this series – who knows what way things will turn next?!

four-half-stars