The Silent Patient – Alex Michaelides

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him…. 

The Silent Patient starts with the shocking murder of Gabriel Berenson, tied to a chair and shot in the face five times by his wife, Alicia. The police find her covered in blood, having tried to cut her own wrists. A clear-cut case, it seems. Alicia is taken into custody and ends up in a secure psychiatric unit where she doesn’t speak a single word for the next six years.

Enter Theo Faber, a psychotherapist who has worked hard to get the chance to work with Alicia. He’s convinced that he can make her talk and uncover the truth of what happened on that hot summer night, six years ago.

The Silent Patient is a splendid psychological thriller with some fantastically complex characters and a neat ability to make you think ‘aha! got it!’, only for you to realise a dozen pages later that no, you haven’t. I thought I had it figured out a few times and got kind of close, ish. But the ending is one of those neatly satisfying ones which make you want to flick back and see exactly how it was done.

I really liked the structure of the book too, jumping from Alicia’s diaries to Theo’s perspective, each throwing new light on the events of that fateful night. It was one of those books which you find yourself having to read in one go. Make sure you’ve got plenty of biscuits and a really big mug of tea!

Huge thanks to Poppy Stimpson and Orion for the advance copy of The Silent Patient to review.

Call Me Star Girl – Louise Beech

Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech
Published by Orenda Books, April 2019
Source: review copy

Tonight is the night for secrets…
Pregnant Victoria Valbon was brutally murdered in an alley three weeks ago – and her killer hasn’t been caught.
Tonight is Stella McKeever’s final radio show. The theme is secrets. You tell her yours, and she’ll share some of hers.
Stella might tell you about Tom, a boyfriend who likes to play games, about the mother who abandoned her, now back after twelve years. She might tell you about the perfume bottle with the star-shaped stopper, or about her father …
What Stella really wants to know is more about the mysterious man calling the station … who says he knows who killed Victoria, and has proof.
Tonight is the night for secrets, and Stella wants to know everything…

Welcome, dear listener. It’s five after midnight and have I got a tale for you to take us through the small hours. Are you sitting comfortably? Got your hot chocolate? You might want something a little stronger this time.

You see this is a story of love and loss, of secrets and lies, of families that once were and might have been. Of obsession. And murder.

Are you still with me, out there in the dark? It feels strange, sat here with just the glow of the mixing desk, talking into the ether. There’s no-one here but you and me. It’s almost like a confessional. A final show, our last chance to share.

So this is a story about a girl and her mother. And what happened when her mother disappeared. As all such stories go, the girl grew up and met a boy and fell in love. Stella and Tom forever and ever.

And then, twelve years later, Stella’s mother came back. And long-held secrets started coming to light. And the world changed. For everyone.

There’s another girl in this story, Victoria Valbon. Poor Victoria is brutally murdered not far from the station where Stella works. And one of Stella’s callers says that he knows who did it…

Secrets and lies. Twists and turns. Where will it all lead, dear listener? Dare you find out?

I read a lot of crime books. Some are good, some are great. This one falls firmly into the latter category. Call Me Star Girl is tautly written, cunningly plotted and twistier than a curly wurly.

Louise Beech has crafted a beautifully dark little tale in Call Me Star Girl, with a creeping sense of menace that leaves you wondering if you locked the doors. You might want to go and check. You never know who might be lurking outside.

Highly recommended.

Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech is published by Orenda Books in April 2019. You can find Louise on twitter @LouiseWriter.

The Lost Man – Jane Harper


Published by Little, Brown, February 2019
Source: NetGalley review copy

Two brothers meet at the border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of outback Queensland, in this stunning new standalone novel from New York Times bestseller Jane Harper

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old, no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish. Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he lose hope and walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…

I was (and still am) a huge fan of Jane Harper’s first book, The Dry, one of my books of the year when it was published back in 2017. Her follow-up was Force of Nature, in which we moved from the drought-ravaged tight-knit farming community of Kiewarra to an outward bounds retreat in the rain-drenched forests of the Giralang Range.

The Lost Man is a lovely slow burn of a mystery, leaving you with the dust of the Outback under your nails. Jane Harper has a wonderful ability to evoke the essence of a place and here she really shows off that skill to magnificent effect. You really feel the atmosphere here, the dust-soaked landscape, the incessant sun, the constant knife-edge balance between life and death.

And the death here is one of those properly splendid whodunnits. A man is found next to a remote grave, a circle etched into the sand as he’s struggled to follow the meagre shade whilst slowly dying of exposure and thirst.

Why is he here? Why is a seasoned, experienced farmer, who knows the Outback like the back of his hand, miles from the safety of his car? What has brought him to this place with none of the essential survival equipment that everyone carries by default in this unforgiving environment?

The writing here is wonderfully atmospheric and the characters are beautifully realised and nuanced. The Lost Man of the title initially suggests the dead brother Cameron, lost in the wilderness, but as the story progresses you realise that it applies equally well, if not moreso to the other brothers, Nathan in particular. He’s the point around which the story circles, with flashbacks to earlier times giving glimpses into what drove him to his current lonely existence.

It’s a real character piece which doesn’t feel the need to rush and is all the better for it. The pace does pick up in the second half of the book, and I found myself engrossed, wanting to read just one more chapter as the layers fall away to reveal one of the most satisfying endings to a book that I’ve read for a long time.

The Lost Man is a standalone book which hints at links to the first two Aaron Falk stories, but is an entirely different beast and cements Jane Harper’s place on my list of authors whose books I’ll look forward to, and who I’ll nag you about reading. You have been warned.

Highly recommended. Just don’t forget to pack plenty of water. It’s hot out there.

The Lost Man by Jane Harper is published by Little, Brown and is out now. Many thanks to Caolinn Douglas(@caolinndouglas), Grace Vincent (@GraceEVincent), and Little Brown (@LittleBrownUK) for inviting me to take part in the blog tour, and for the advance copy of the book.

You can find Jane Harper on twitter @JaneHarperAutho or at her website janeharper.com.au

Guest post: A Fractured Winter – Alison Baillie

Delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for Alison Baillie’s A Fractured Winter, freshly published by Bloodhound Books. More about the book later! I’ve got a guest post for you first:

The lure of the sea

I love the sea – it is in my blood. My father was from Aberdeen, from an old fishing family, and my mother was from Portobello, the seaside suburb of Edinburgh, and grew up in a house a few yards from the beach. I live in Switzerland, and could hardly be further from the sea, and perhaps because of this, seaside places always feature in my books.

Part of A Fractured Winter is set in Scarborough, a seaside town in Yorkshire, and features Marie, a lonely, bookish eight-year-old girl, with an over-protective mother and a cruel, mentally-abusive father. Her parents are Scottish, but she has never been to Scotland or seen any of her relatives, and can only escape from the cold atmosphere at home and the bullying at school by reading books from the library.

My life is very different from Marie’s, but I used some of my childhood memories when I was writing her story. Like her, I was born in Scarborough of Scottish parents. We moved away when I was only three years old but we often went back to visit and through stories and photos I feel as if I can remember that time.

When I was researching A Fractured Winter, I went back to Scarborough and photographed some of the scenes I’ve used in the book.  I visited the beautiful North Bay, a long beach divided from the more commercial South Bay by the castle. Not far from the sea is the flat where we lived, above the chemist’s shop where my father worked, in a row of shops opposite Peasholm Park. It is now a bookie’s, and Marie lives in this flat.

Another character in A Fractured Winter, Lucy, goes to university in St Andrews, to study German. I also went to university there, although I studied English, but like Lucy I chose it solely from pictures, because of the sea and the historic buildings.  I’ve used some of my memories for the description of Lucy’s experiences, although once again my story is, fortunately very different from hers.

Like me, Lucy then goes to Edinburgh for her teacher training. She then, gets a job in Portobello, as I did, although she is different from me in that she teaches German and has a young son (and our experiences in the school are very different!) But we both love the beautiful Portobello Beach. This beach played a large role in my first book, Sewing the Shadows Together, and also features in my third book which I am working on at the moment. It is one of my favourite places in the world, and whenever I go back to Scotland, as I do frequently, I always walk along the wonderful promenade, smelling the salt air and watching the colours change on the waves.

My books are fiction, but I always base them in places I know, and love to walk the streets, and beaches, with my characters, reliving memories.

A Fractured Winter by Alison Baillie is published by Bloodhound Books (@bloodhoundbook) and is out now. You can find Alison at her website alisonbaillie.com or on twitter @AlisonBailliex

When someone is out to get you, is there anywhere you can hide
From the outside, Olivia seems to lead an idyllic existence with her husband and children. But when she starts receiving notes, she knows her perfect life is under threat.
She thought she’d managed to put the past behind her, but someone seems determined to reveal her secret.
Meanwhile girls are vanishing in the area and Olivia fears for her family’s safety.
Has someone discovered the real reason she left Scotland all those years ago?
And does her secret have links to the recent disappearances?
When someone is out to get you, is there anywhere you can hide?

Alison Baillie was born in Scarborough of Scottish parents and lived in County Durham, Somerset and the Yorkshire Dales before going to university in Scotland. She then taught English in several Edinburgh secondary schools before moving to Switzerland where she still lives now. She’s taught English as a Foreign Language in Finland and Switzerland.
When she stopped teaching full-time, she fulfilled a life-time ambition and wrote Sewing the Shadows Together, a psychological suspense novel inspired in part by events when she was teaching in Scotland. She is fascinated by the way we are influenced by the events of our past and has now written a second novel, A Fractured Winter, set in Switzerland, Scotland and Yorkshire.
She has two sons and three grandchildren and is proud of their international roots, having a mixture of Scottish, Swiss, Polish and Finnish heritage. As well as spending time with them, she loves travelling, walking in the mountains and by the sea, reading and writing.

Deep Dirty Truth – Steph Broadribb

A price on her head, and just 48 hours to expose the truth, and save her family…

Single-mother bounty hunter Lori Anderson has finally got her family back together, but her new-found happiness is shattered when she’s snatched by the Miami Mob, who they want her dead. But rather than a bullet, they offer her a job: find the Mob’s ‘numbers man’ – Carlton North – who’s in protective custody after being forced to turn federal witness against them. If Lori succeeds, they’ll wipe the slate clean and the price on her head – and those of her family – will be removed. If she fails, they die.

With only 48 hours before North is due to appear in court, Lori sets across Florida, racing against the clock to find him, and save her family…

Deep Dirty Truth is the third book in Steph Broadribb’s Lori Anderson series. Now, I loved the first two books, Deep Down Dead and Deep Blue Trouble, so it was with some sense of anticipation that I started book 3.

Never really in any doubt. Steph has delivered yet another fantastic instalment in the ongoing adventures of Lori Anderson, bounty hunter. This time the stakes are higher, with Lori sent off on an almost impossible mission – recover mob “numbers man” Carlton North from the FBI. In 48 hours, before he testifies against his former employer. Oh, and his location is secret. And if she fails, JT and her daughter Dakota will be killed.

Nothing like a bit of motivation, eh?

The action comes thick and fast, on a rattly rollercoaster of an adventure, throwing us hither and yon and back again, hanging on by our fingernails. JT and Dakota get their own adventure on the sidelines, though the focus is firmly on Lori, kicking ass and taking names (then kicking ass again to make sure it’s well and truly kicked). She’s a brilliant character though I think Steph Broadribb rather enjoys putting her through the wringer. Just when you think there’s a moment to draw breath, we’re off again.

Steph proved in the first two books that she can do Americana so very well, and the same deft skill with place is on show here. Hugely entertaining, fast-paced adventure that will leave you wanting just one more chapter until you look up and it’s 1.30am and it’s finished and how on earth are you supposed to get to sleep now?

Highly recommended, though you need to read Deep Down Dead and Deep Blue Trouble first!

Deep Dirty Truth by Step Broadribb is published by Orenda Books and is out now.

You can find Steph Broadribb on twitter @crimethrillgirl.

Many thanks to @OrendaBooks and @AnneCater for organising the blog tour.

Steph Broadribb was born in Birmingham and grew up in Buckinghamshire. Most of her working life has been spent between the UK and USA. As her alter ego – Crime Thriller Girl – she indulges her love of all things crime fiction by blogging at crimethrillergirl.com, where she interviews authors and reviews the latest releases. She is also a member of the crime-themed girl band The Splice Girls. Steph is an alumni of the MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) at City University London, and she trained as a bounty hunter in California, which inspired her Lori Anderson thrillers. She lives in Buckinghamshire surrounded by horses, cows and chickens. Her debut thriller, Deep Down Dead, was shortlisted for the Dead Good Reader Awards in two categories, and hit number one on the UK and AU kindle charts. My Little Eye, her first novel under her pseudonym Stephanie Marland was published by Trapeze Books in April 2018.

Red Snow – Will Dean

TWO BODIES
One suicide. One cold-blooded murder. Are they connected?
And who’s really pulling the strings in the small Swedish town of Gavrik?
TWO COINS
Black Grimberg liquorice coins cover the murdered man’s eyes.
The hashtag #Ferryman starts to trend as local people stock up on ammunition.
TWO WEEKS
Tuva Moodyson, deaf reporter at the local paper, has a fortnight to investigate the deaths before she starts her new job in the south. A blizzard moves in. Residents, already terrified, feel increasingly cut-off. Tuva must go deep inside the Grimberg factory to stop the killer before she leaves town for good. But who’s to say the Ferryman will let her go?

Regular readers might recall that I loved Will Dean’s first book, Dark Pines, the first book I read in 2018. I said at the time that it was splendid Noir, beautifully written and unsettling. Will Dean had come up with a brilliant character in Tuva Moodyson, and I said that I’d love to see her again.

So here we are in 2019, and Red Snow was one of the first books I read this year. Welcome back Tuva Moodyson. It’s great to see you again.

Tuva is coming to the end of her time in the little town of Gavrik when she witnesses the suicide of one of the Grimberg family, owners of the liquorice factory which provides employment for most of the town. Except not everything is quite as it seems. Another body turns up in fairly short order, could it be the work of the mysterious Ferryman?

Dark Pines was firmly rooted in the creepy Utgard forest, with its host of slightly odd inhabitants. Red Snow takes place in and around the equally odd Grimberg Liquorice factory, which looms over the town and is as much a character in this tale as any of the human residents of Gavrik. The residents of the forest community might not like outsiders, but that’s nothing compared to the reclusive, highly superstitious Grimbergs.

Will Dean proved that he has a real knack for character in the first book, and he’s on fine form here. It’s great to see Tuva back again, torn between her move down south to (slightly) warmer climes and her investigations in the Ferryman murders. It feels bittersweet in a way – she’s looking forward to getting out the small town, but having to say goodbye to friends plays heavily on her and the pressures of that coupled with creeping sense of dread from the murders mean that the cracks start to show.

I loved this book. Tuva is a wonderfully complex, interesting and flawed young woman dealing with an awful lot of things in this book. I’m hoping that her move south will give her at least a little rest, but I’m sure Will has some devious plans for her in book 3, which can’t come soon enough.

Highly recommended.

Red Snow by Will Dean is published by Point Blank in January 2019. You can find Will on twitter @willrdean. Many thanks to Anne Cater and Point Blank for inviting me onto the blog tour.

WILL DEAN grew up in the East Midlands, living in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. After studying at the LSE and working in London, he settled in rural Sweden with his wife. He built a wooden house in a boggy forest clearing at the centre of a vast elk forest, and it’s from this base that he compulsively reads and writes.

The Unforgotten – Amy Mackinnon

Let the dead stay dead.
Clara Marsh is an undertaker. She spends her solitary life among the dead and bids them farewell with a bouquet from her own garden. But Clara’s carefully structured life shifts when she discovers a neglected little girl, Trecie, playing in the funeral parlour, desperate for a friend.
It changes even more when Detective Mike Sullivan starts questioning her again about a body she prepared three years ago, an unidentified girl found murdered in a nearby strip of woods. Unclaimed by family, the community christened her Precious Doe. When Clara and Mike learn that Trecie may be involved with the same people who killed Precious Doe, Clara must choose between her solitary but steadfast existence and the perils of binding one’s life to another.
Clara’s search for the girl pulls her into a spiralling series of events that threaten to endanger the few people Clara has grown to love – and finally brings her own tragic and long-buried past to the surface.

Delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for Amy MacKinnon’s superb The Unforgotten.

It’s a slow burn, this story, with some wonderfully realised characters and an intriguing, if dark plot. Undertaker Clara looks after the dead, preparing them for their burials at the funeral parlour. She’s an interesting character is our Clara, a loner who spends most of her time with her work or her flower garden. She leads us through the story with the same care and precision that she attends to her work. We also meet Trecie, a young girl who plays in the funeral home, but who may be linked to the death of another girl, named Precious Doe, three years earlier.

It’s not an easy read in places, and deals with some very dark themes as the book progresses. But Clara is there to guide us through, taking our hand to lead the way, as she does with her charges in the mortuary under the funeral home.

The storytelling is lush with atmosphere, and I really warmed to Clara after a somewhat chilly start. It’s a book to savour, though I got through it in the course of a day, absorbed in the story.

The Unforgotten by Amy MacKinnon is published by Trapeze and is out now. Many thanks to Tracy Fenton for organising the blog tour and inviting me to take part. The tour continues tomorrow with Liz from Liz Loves Books