“The Hunting Party” by Lucy Foley – Book Review

“Some people, given just the right amount of pressure, taken out of their usual, comfortable environments, don’t need much encouragement at all to become monsters.”

“There is something unnerving about the isolation, knowing how far we are from everything.”

Seven university friends come together at Loch Corrin, a remote inn in the highlands of Scotland on an estate of fifty thousand acres. It is year end 2018 and they intend to see the New Year in together as is their usual custom.

Miranda and Julien Adams – Never overly clever, Miranda uses her looks and bold behavior to manipulate others. Back at Oxford University, Miranda was the gregarious one. The life of the party. Beautiful, she could have any man she chose. Her choice was Julien, a handsome stock trader with an overwhelming need to be liked by everyone.

Katie Lewis – Back in university, Katie was the quiet one. A friend of Miranda, she was always in Miranda’s shadow. Now, in her early thirties, she is a corporate lawyer in London. Busy at work, she has less time for Miranda than she once did.

Emma and Mark – Mark was a member of the original group of Oxford uni friends and now works in advertising. Emma, his girlfriend of only the past three years is late joining the group and often feels like an interloper… In an effort to fit in, Emma emulates Miranda in dress and makeup. She is the one who organized this year’s holiday and she is a good organizer and an excellent cook. She works for a literary agency.

Samira and Giles – Giles is the clown of the group, always fooling around to entertain his friends. Giles now works as a doctor. Samira, once a fun-loving daredevil, is now a mother to a six-month old baby girl and has settled down into motherhood.

Nick and Bo – (the only gay couple in the group) Nick Manson was at Oxford with the others and now works as an architect. His partner, Bo, is an American now working for the BBC.

“That’s the thing about old friends, isn’t it? Sometimes they don’t even realize that they no longer have anything in common. That maybe they don’t even like each other anymore.”

The employees of the Inn at Loch Corrin:

Heather – a former paramedic, Heather has experienced great loss in her life and has come to Loch Corrin to get away from all the people she once knew. She treats the remote estate as her refuge, relishing her solitude.

Doug – handsome, rugged, solitary, and an ex-marine. Doug has had a traumatic past, one he doesn’t want to share with anyone… he feels he is a bad person. Although attracted to Heather, he will never act upon his feelings because he feels that she should be protected from him.  Doug has severe migraines and occasionally experiences fugue states. He becomes conscious not knowing what he might have done when he suffers these blackouts…. He now works as the gamekeeper at Loch Corrin.

Iain – Unlike Doug and Heather, Iain does not live on the estate. He travels to work from a small neighbouring village. He works as a handyman.

For me, there is nothing like a murder mystery/thriller set in a remote location. The whole closed environment, the limited number of possible killers…

Lucy Foley’s “The Hunting Party” ticked all the boxes for me. A remote Scottish setting made even more isolated by a winter snowstorm. A circle of university friends that have little in common anymore but are trying to maintain the facade/habit of friendship. Two damaged and solitary characters who run the inn in which the story takes place.

And of course, a murder. Just who is the victim – we wait a fair while to find out. Then who could have killed? Could it be one of their own?

The writing held me entranced. “There is a silence here that is different to the silence on the rest of the estate. It’s like a held breath. It feels – as clichéd as this might sound – as though we are not alone. As though something, someone, is watching us.”

The setting and the isolation made for a tense and atmospheric feel. So many characters, yet it didn’t take long to discern one from another due to the excellent, concise, characterization. The friend dynamic is always so interesting. What makes one person befriend another? Is there always a ‘leader’ and a ‘follower’? Is this healthy? Do you ever really know your friends? Or, do you only know what they choose to share with you?

The plot moved along at a good pace and contained more than a few twists. All plausible, so all the more enjoyable.

Secrets, lies, betrayals, “The Hunting Party” had them all – in spades.  Highly recommended!

I received a complimentary digital copy of “The Hunting Party” from William Morrow/Harper Collins via Edelweiss.

  • ISBN: 9780062868909
  • Imprint: William Morrow
  • Pages: 336


Lucy Foley studied English Literature at Durham and UCL universities and worked for several years as a fiction editor in the publishing industry, before leaving to write full-time. The Hunting Party is her debut crime novel, inspired by a particularly remote spot in Scotland that fired her imagination.

Lucy is also the author of three historical novels, which have been translated into sixteen languages. Her journalism has appeared in ES Magazine, Sunday Times Style, Grazia and more.

An avid painter, Lucy now writes full time and lives in London, England.

Follow Lucy Foley on Twitter

Posted in Book Reviews, Edelweiss | Tagged , , , | 18 Comments

Books on my TBR that have an autumn ‘vibe’

Autumn is my favourite time of the year. The fall colours, the crisp air, wearing sweaters, and of course… reading snuggled up under a lovely afghan.

I was scanning my Goodreads TBR and noticed that several of the books on my TBR have covers that give off an autumn vibe.  So, I thought I’d share them with you with the thought that perhaps you were looking for something to read during this glorious season. The publication dates of these titles span from 2006 to 2019.

If I should die” by Matthew Frank

first published in 2014

It begins with vicious, apparently motiveless attacks on down and outs in South London. But when one of the homeless victims dies from his wounds, it’s murder . . .

For the investigation team’s youngest member, Trainee Detective Joseph Stark, death is already all too familiar. Injured in an attack that killed his colleagues, Afghan veteran Stark has enough on his hands just trying to recover without enduring the scrutiny and sideways glances of his new colleagues. The drink and painkillers he’s leaning on to keep him going aren’t helping. And there’s only so long he can ignore the efforts of the military police to speak to him.

When one of the victims fights back it soon becomes clear that there’s much more at stake than gangs preying randomly on society’s weakest members. But as he edges closer to the truth – and to the rotten heart of the crimes – Stark’s own strength is fading. It seems that the ex-soldier’s formidable determination to see justice done may not, this time, be enough to carry him through.


River Bodies” by Karen Katchur

first published 2018

A body just turned up in the small town of Portland, Pennsylvania. The crime is eerily similar to a twenty-year-old cold case: another victim, brutally murdered, found in the Delaware River. Lead detective Parker Reed is intent on connecting the two murders, but the locals are on lockdown, revealing nothing.

The past meets the present when Becca Kingsley, who returns to Portland to be with her estranged but dying father, runs into Parker, her childhood love. As the daughter of the former police chief, Becca’s quickly drawn into the case. Coming home has brought something ominous to the surface – memories long buried, secrets best kept hidden. Becca starts questioning all her past relationships, including one with a man who’s watched over her for years. For the first time, she wonders if he’s more predator than protector.

In a small town where darkness hides in plain sight, the truth could change Becca’s life – or end it.


To the Power of Three” by Laura Lippman

first published 2005

Josie, Perri, and Kat have been best friends since third grade—the athlete, the drama queen, and the popular beauty. Growing up in an affluent suburb of Baltimore, they enjoy privileges many teenagers are denied. But on the final day of school one of them brings a gun with her. And when the police break down the door of the high school girls’ bathroom, locked from the inside, they find two of the friends wounded, one of them critically . . . and the third girl is dead.

From multiple-award winner Laura Lippman, one of the most acclaimed authors of crime fiction writing today, comes a tale of secrets, friendship, and betrayal that illuminates a dark and chilling event with clarity and empathy.


A Friend of Silence” by M. Lee Prescott

first published 2011

What safer haven could there be than a Quaker boarding school in a tiny New England coastal village? What secrets lie beneath its serene and quiet beauty?

Out of the blue, the campus is laid open, the peace of Old Harbor Friends shattered by the murder of lascivious, comptroller, Milt Wickie. Wickie is discovered in his office, a scrimshaw knife protruding from his chest, a knife belonging to beloved teacher and grieving widow, Bess Dore. Initially a suspect, the forty-two year old, Bess is soon exonerated and jumps headlong into a murder investigation along with old flame, police detective, Roger Demaris, and Harry Winthrop, an amateur sleuth, prolific writer, and the son of the school’s wealthiest patron. Will Bess find romance along the way, giving her heart to the gruff police officer, who still adores her, or to the fly-by-night, but charming Harry who is clearly smitten? Will the killer strike again? Will the silence and calm of the 200-year old Friends school ever again be restored?


The Cottingley Secret” by Hazel Gaynor

first published 2017

1917… It was inexplicable, impossible, but it had to be true—didn’t it? When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when one of the great novelists of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes convinced of the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a national sensation, their discovery offering hope to those longing for something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war. Frances and Elsie will hide their secret for many decades. But Frances longs for the truth to be told.

One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story it tells of two young girls who mystified the world. But it is the discovery of an old photograph that leads her to realize how the fairy girls’ lives intertwine with hers, connecting past to present, and blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, can Olivia find a way to believe in herself?


Bring Her Home” by David Bell

first published 2017

The fate of two missing teenage girls becomes a father’s worst nightmare….

Just a year and a half after the tragic death of his wife, Bill Price’s fifteen-year-old daughter, Summer, and her best friend, Haley, disappear. Days later, the girls are found in a city park. Haley is dead at the scene, while Summer is left beaten beyond recognition and clinging to life.

As Bill holds vigil over Summer’s bandaged body, the only sound the unconscious girl can make is one cryptic and chilling word: No. And the more time Bill spends with Summer, the more he wonders what happened to her. Or if the injured girl in the hospital bed is really his daughter at all.

When troubling new questions about Summer’s life surface, Bill is not prepared for the aftershocks. He’ll soon discover that both the living and the dead have secrets. And that searching for the truth will tear open old wounds that pierce straight to the heart of his family…


The Headmaster’s Wife” by Thomas Christopher Greene

first published 2014

Like his father before him, Arthur Winthrop is the Headmaster of Vermont’s elite Lancaster School. It is the place he feels has given him his life, but is also the site of his undoing as events spiral out of his control. Found wandering naked in Central Park, he begins to tell his story to the police, but his memories collide into one another, and the true nature of things, a narrative of love, of marriage, of family and of a tragedy Arthur does not know how to address emerges.

Luminous and atmospheric, bringing to life the tight-knit enclave of a quintessential New England boarding school, the novel is part mystery, part love story and an exploration of the ties of place and family. Beautifully written and compulsively readable, The Headmaster’s Wife stands as a moving elegy to the power of love as an antidote to grief.


Something Wicked” by Kerry Wilkinson

first published 2014

Nicholas Carr disappeared on his 18th birthday and the world has moved on. His girlfriend has gone to university, his friends have got jobs, the police have other things to look into.

But his father, Richard, is still stuck on the three fingers the police dug up from a sodden Manchester wood. What happened to Nicholas on the night he disappeared and why did he never come home?

Private investigator Andrew Hunter is Nicholas’s last hope – but Andrew has his own problems. There’s something about his assistant that isn’t quite right. Jenny’s brilliant but reckless and he can’t work out what she gets from their working relationship. By the time he figures out who’s a danger and who’s not, it might all be too late…


Bitter River” by Julia Keller

first published 2013

Phone calls before dawn are never good news. Especially when you’re a prosecuting attorney in a small Appalachian town. Still, Bell Elkins is not prepared for this: sixteen-year-old Lucinda Trimble’s body has been found at the bottom of Bitter River. And Lucinda didn’t drown–she was dead before her body ever hit the water.

With a case like this, Bell knows the coming weeks are going to be tough. But that’s not all Bell is coping with these days. Her daughter is now living with Bell’s ex-husband, hours away. Sheriff Nick Fogelsong, one of Bell’s closest friends, is behaving oddly. And a face from her past has resurfaced for reasons Bell can’t quite figure. Searching for the truth, both behind Lucinda’s murder and her own complicated relationships, is leading Bell down a path that might put her very life at risk.


Under an English Heaven” by Alice K. Boatwright

first published 2014

When Ellie Kent moves to an English village with her new husband Graham, she fears the villagers will always see her as that young American who snared their attractive vicar during his sabbatical in California. But this challenge is nothing compared to what happens when she stumbles across a body in the churchyard. The villagers insist they don’t know the murdered man, so suspicion mounts that the killer must be the incomer – the vicar’s new wife. As evidence piles up against her, Ellie tries to stay one step ahead of the police to unravel a decades-old literary mystery and love story. Will others die before she can solve it? And what will be left of her new life and marriage, even if she succeeds?


Crossbones Yard” by Kate Rhodes

first published 2012

Introducing Alice Quentin, a London psychologist with family baggage, who finds herself at the center of a grisly series of murders

Alice Quentin is a psychologist with some painful family secrets, but she has a good job, a good-looking boyfriend, and excellent coping skills, even when that job includes evaluating a convicted killer who’s about to be released from prison. One of the highlights of her day is going for a nice, long run around her beloved London—it’s impossible to fret or feel guilty about your mother or brother when you’re concentrating on your breathing—until she stumbles upon a dead body at a former graveyard for prostitutes, Crossbones Yard.

The dead woman’s wounds are alarmingly similar to the signature style of Ray and Marie Benson, who tortured and killed thirteen women before they were caught and sent to jail. Five of their victims were never found. That was six years ago, and the last thing Alice wants to do is to enter the sordid world of the Bensons or anyone like them. But when the police ask for her help in building a psychological profile of the new murderer, she finds that the killer—and the danger to her and the people she cares about—may already be closer than she ever imagined.


The Bones of You” by Debbie Howells

first published 2015

When Kate receives a phone call with news that Rosie Anderson is missing, she’s stunned and disturbed. Rosie is eighteen, the same age as Kate’s daughter, and a beautiful, quiet, and kind young woman. Though the locals are optimistic—girls like Rosie don’t get into real trouble—Kate’s sense of foreboding is confirmed when Rosie is found fatally beaten and stabbed.

Who would kill the perfect daughter, from the perfect family? Yet the more Kate entwines herself with the Andersons—graceful mother Jo, renowned journalist father Neal, watchful younger sister Delphine—the more she is convinced that not everything is as it seems. Anonymous notes arrive, urging Kate to unravel the tangled threads of Rosie’s life and death, though she has no idea where they will lead.

Weaving flashbacks from Rosie’s perspective into a tautly plotted narrative, The Bones of You is a gripping, haunting novel of sacrifices and lies, desperation and love.


Trace of Evil” by Alice Blanchard

first published 2019

Natalie Lockhart always knew she was going to be a cop. A rookie detective on the Burning Lake police force, she was raised on the wisdom of her chief-of-police father. These cases will haunt you if you let them. Grief doesn’t come with instructions.

But the one thing her father couldn’t teach her was how to handle loss. Natalie’s beloved sister was viciously murdered as a teenager, and she carries the scars deep in her heart. Although the killer was locked up, the trace evidence never added up, and Natalie can’t help wondering―is the past really behind her?

As the newest member on the force, Natalie is tasked with finding nine missing persons who’ve vanished off the face of the earth, dubbed “the Missing Nine.” One night, while following up on a new lead, she comes across a savage crime that will change everything.

Daisy Buckner―a popular schoolteacher, wife to a cop, and newly pregnant―lies dead on her kitchen floor. As Natalie hunts for Daisy’s killer in the wake of the town’s shock, her search leads to a string of strange clues―about the Missing Nine, about Daisy’s secret life, and reviving fresh doubts about her sister’s murder.

As the investigation deepens, Natalie’s every move risks far-reaching consequences―for the victims, for the town of Burning Lake, and for herself.


Out in the Country” by Kate Hewitt

first published 2012

Widowed a year ago, Lynne Marshall believes she’s ready to start a new chapter in life. She plans to exchange the bright lights of Manhattan for her home country of Scotland and open a country hotel with her childhood friend Jess and her fiancé Rob. Her daughter Molly will manage the home front as she starts her first year of teaching in one of the city’s toughest schools. When those plans are suddenly and tragically ruined, both Lynne and Jess are left shaken–and unsure what the future holds for either of them.

A weekend trip to Lynne’s husband’s home town in rural Vermont brings new opportunities, decisions, and a second chance at love for both Lynne and Jess… if they dare to risk their hearts again. Meanwhile Molly faces difficult choices of her own, and must decide where her heart truly lies.


The Bourbon Thief” by Tiffany Reisz

first published 2016

Betrayal, revenge and a family scandal that bore a 150-year-old mystery

When Cooper McQueen wakes up from a night with a beautiful stranger, it’s to discover he’s been robbed. The only item stolen–a million-dollar bottle of bourbon. The thief, a mysterious woman named Paris, claims the bottle is rightfully hers. After all, the label itself says it’s property of the Maddox family who owned and operated the Red Thread Bourbon distillery since the last days of the Civil War, until the company went out of business for reasons no one knows… No one except Paris.

In the small hours of a Louisville morning, Paris unspools the lurid tale of Tamara Maddox, heiress to the distillery that became an empire. Theirs is a legacy of wealth and power, but also of lies, secrets and sins of omission. Why Paris wants the bottle of Red Thread remains a secret until the truth of her identity is at last revealed, and the century-old vengeance Tamara vowed against her family can finally be completed.


The Next Time You See Me” by Holly Goddard Jones

first published 2013

Thirteen-year-old Emily Houchens doesn’t have many friends. She finds more comfort playing make-believe in the woods near her house in Roma, Kentucky, than with her classmates, who find her strange and awkward. When she happens upon a dead body hidden in the woods one day, she decides not to tell anyone about her discovery—a choice that begins to haunt her.

Susanna Mitchell has always been a good girl, the dutiful daughter and wife. While her older sister Ronnie trolled bars for men and often drove home at sunrise, Susanna kept a neat house, a respectable job, a young daughter. But when Ronnie goes missing, and Susanna realizes that she’s the only person in Roma who truly cares about her sister’s fate, she starts to question her quiet life and its value.

The Next Time You See Me is the story of how one woman’s disappearance exposes the ambitions, prejudices, and anxieties of a small southern town and its residents, who are all connected, sometimes in unexpected ways. Emily; Susannah; Tony, a failed baseball star-turned-detective, aspiring to be the county’s first black sheriff; and Wyatt, a fifty-five-year-old factory worker tormented by a past he can’t change and by a love he doesn’t think he deserves. Their stories converge in a violent climax that reveals not just the mystery of what happened to Ronnie but all of their secret selves.


The Little Red Chairs” by Edna O’Brien

first published 2015

When a wanted war criminal, masquerading as a healer, settles in a small west coast Irish village, the community are in thrall. One woman, Fidelma McBride, falls under his spell and in this searing novel, Edna O’Brien charts the consequence of that fatal attraction. This is a story about love, the artifice of evil and the terrible necessity of accountability in our shattered, damaged world.


Talking to the Dead” by Harry Bingham

first published 2012

At first, the murder scene appears sad, but not unusual: a young woman undone by drugs and prostitution, her six-year-old daughter dead alongside her. But then detectives find a strange piece of evidence in the squalid house: the platinum credit card of a very wealthy—and long dead—steel tycoon. What is a heroin-addicted hooker doing with the credit card of a well-known and powerful man who died months ago? This is the question that the most junior member of the investigative team, Detective Constable Fiona Griffiths, is assigned to answer.

But D.C. Griffiths is no ordinary cop. She’s earned a reputation at police headquarters in Cardiff, Wales, for being odd, for not picking up on social cues, for being a little over intense. And there’s that gap in her past, the two-year hiatus that everyone assumes was a breakdown. But Fiona is a crack investigator, quick and intuitive. She is immediately drawn to the crime scene, and to the tragic face of the six-year-old girl, who she is certain has something to tell her . . . something that will break the case wide open.

Ignoring orders and protocol, Fiona begins to explore far beyond the rich man’s credit card and into the secrets of her seaside city. And when she uncovers another dead prostitute, Fiona knows that she’s only begun to scratch the surface of a dark world of crime and murder. But the deeper she digs, the more danger she risks—not just from criminals and killers but from her own past . . . and the abyss that threatens to pull her back at any time.


Have you read any of these titles?

Do any of them pique your interest?

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“The Girl I Used To Be” by Mary Torjussen – Book Review

Gemma Brogan, in her late twenties, is married and the mother of a three-year-old son, Rory. She owns and runs her own estate agency in Chester, England. Life is pretty good, though she laments not having more time to spend with her son. The real estate business is not as successful as it once was due to a downturn in the economy –  therefore she spends every spare minute at the office. She is the breadwinner of the family because Joe is a ‘house husband’ who stays at home to care for their young son.

Gemma met her husband Joe via her best friend Caitlin. Joe is Caitlin’s elder brother.

“The only people I wanted to talk to were the ones who mustn’t know what was going on.”

Because of this interpersonal dynamic, Gemma feels that she has no one to talk to once she realizes that she is being blackmailed… Instead she tells lie after lie – sinking herself into a situation that becomes untenable.

I had high expectations of this novel after reading Mary Torjussen’s “Gone Without A Trace” back in 2017. That book was a five star read for me and I anticipated another stellar story. Sadly, this novel did not live up to its predecessor in my humble opinion.

Although Gemma Brogan WAS the victim in the story, I just couldn’t warm to her. I found her to be self-centered, whingy, naive, and just a tad imprudent. Her behavior, and the behavior of some of the other characters just didn’t seem plausible.

I quite liked the Chester setting.

The story did have enough plot twists to please the thriller lovers who appreciate them. I personally just thought that they were ever so slightly ‘over the top’. Also, oftentimes, I found that the character’s reactions to events in the plot were just not believable. The internal dialogue of the protagonist was repetitive and I longed for her to ‘grow a pair‘.

In short, I would recommend this thriller with some reservations. The reader should be able to suspend belief and not take the logic of the story too seriously. This is a novel of secrets, lies, betrayals and revenge.

The ending was neatly tied up – but again, I found it to be implausible. I realize I am in the minority when it comes to my opinions of this book, so I urge you to read it and make your own decisions.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Berkley/Penguin Random House via Edelweiss.

ISBN: 9780399585036

368 pages

 

 

Mary Torjussen  has an MA in Creative Writing from Liverpool John Moores University and worked for several years as a teacher before becoming a full-time writer.

Follow Mary Torjussen on Twitter

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“Sarah Jane” by James Sallis – Book Review

Sarah Jane has had a difficult and complex life to date. Born in the American South to poor parents whose relationship was dysfunctional, she had a troubled childhood. Her adolescence was tumultuous and ended with a court-ordered stint in the military. She was ‘in country‘ and came back with many invisible, indelible scars.  Once again on American soil, she works as a cook in everything from greasy spoons to high end restaurants.  She goes from man to man, from love to love, and from loss to loss…

Almost by accident, she finds herself working at the sheriff’s office of a small, rural town.  This is ironic in that her father once said to her: “We’re from good hillbilly stock, Pretty. We don’t call police.”

Calvin Phillips, the sheriff of a small town called Farr, takes her under his wing and teaches her on the job, much like an apprentice. With no formal police training, (often not required in some states), Cal teaches her everything he knows.  When Cal goes missing, Sarah is appointed acting sheriff and it is her job to discover what happened to Cal and why he left…

Confession time… this is my first James Sallis novel.  Perhaps I was living under a rock?

Sarah Jane Pullman is an unforgettable character. Resilient to all that life throws at her, she perseveres in her own unique way and wears her many scars with composure. She has secrets, but she shares them with no one.

To say that this novel is well written is an understatement. The prose is spare, yet it speaks volumes. I found myself highlighting many quotes to save for rereading later. For me, that is always the sign of a good book.

I did find it hard to get into at first. Sarah Jane’s memories and anecdotes of her life before we meet her were confusing at first. Then, when I got a few chapters in, I didn’t want to put the book down.

To this reader the overall theme was empathy with philosophical observations on the human condition thrown in for good measure. Yes, it was noir. Yes it could be classified as a mystery. Yet it was so much more. A brilliant character study, I would call it a literary mystery. The ending wasn’t neatly tied up – Sarah Jane’s secrets remain with her. It makes you think and draw your own conclusions.

Would I read another James Sallis novel? Most definitely!

I received a complimentary digital copy of “Sarah Jane” from Soho Press via Edelweiss. ISBN 9781641290807
216 pages

Some favourite quotes from “Sarah Jane”

“We hunker down in our daily lives, in the shelter of routines and assumptions. We miss so much.”

“You never know what’s floating down toward you as you plod your way upstream.”

“Often when things happen you realize you’ve felt them coming for a long time.”

“The unexamined life may not be worth living, but the examined life, any examined life at all, is for damn sure going to surprise, confound and disturb you.”

“Nothing is ever final. Things get smaller in the rear view mirror but they don’t go away.”

“Empathy, the ability to put ourselves into someone else’s life however different that life may seem, is what will save us, if anything can.”

“What you see and feel in others, ultimately, is what you’re able to reach down and find in yourself.”

“What people see has as much to do with themselves as with what they’re looking at.”

Born in Helena, Arkansas, James Sallis has published seventeen novels, multiple collections of short stories, essays, and poems, books of musicology, a biography of Chester Himes, and a translation of Raymond Queneau’s novel Saint Glinglin. He has written about books for the LA Times, New York Times, and Washington Post, and for some years served as a books columnist for the Boston Globe. He has received a lifetime achievement award from Bouchercon, the Hammett Award for literary excellence in crime writing, and the Grand Prix de Littérature policière. The Cannes award-winning film Drive derived from his novel of that title. His new novel, Sarah Jane, will be available in 2019. Jim plays numerous instruments with his string band Three-Legged Dog and with other musicians in the Phoenix area. He stays busy.

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Cover Love: part 80 – Flocks of birds

In my 80th installment of ‘Cover Love‘, I thought I’d do a post about flocks of birds that often grace the covers of books.  This time of year it is common in Atlantic Canada to see birds gather together in flocks. Some small, and some large murmurations.

They say you can never have a second chance to make a good first impression. A book’s cover does just that – gives a first impression. A good cover can make a reader pick up a book. A bad cover can leave the book at the very bottom of a dusty pile.

The covers of novels entice the reader to enter a different world. Covers are, after all, the way the publisher ‘hooks‘ the reader into choosing one book over countless others.

These titles encompass a wide variety of genres.  Enjoy!

Some, perhaps, will now be on your TBR!

Just click on the cover to read the book’s synopsis from Goodreads.

You might just find your next favorite book!

Are you tempted by any of these covers?
Have you read one of these titles and absolutely LOVED it?

Please let me know in the comments.

And don’t forget to check out any of the other previous 79 installments of Cover Love, many of which have been updated since they were first published.

Posted in Cover Love series, Dustjackets | Tagged | 17 Comments

“Her Sister’s Bones” by Geraldine Hogan – Book Review

Twenty-five years ago, while Anna Fairley  was helping her mother peg out clothes on the line, Anna’s baby sister Janey, was taken from her pram in the front garden of their cottage. The case of the missing baby girl was never solved, though those working the case at the time had their suspicions…

Jump forward to the present and DS Iris Locke is working back in Limerick after a year spent undercover in Dublin. Not her ideal location because working here, in her hometown, puts her in the long and distinguished shadow of Police Superintendent Jack Locke, her retired father.

When a gruesome and senseless murder gives Iris the opportunity to work in the Murder Squad, she is taken into the team as they are under staffed.

The murder of Anna Crowe and her two small children is seemingly without motive… yet Iris Locke can’t seem to shake the gut feeling that the fact that the victim was formerly Anna Fairley, the big sister in the Baby Fairley case, is just too much of a coincidence.

However, the Baby Fairley case was led by her father and folk around here were loathe to make the connection on that basis alone.

“If he couldn’t solve it, he sure as hell wouldn’t want anyone else coming along and pulling his work apart, pulling his memories apart, pulling his reputation apart. Iris knew that no one would want to discredit her father; no one would want to upset the old man.”

The Corbally Murder Team:

D.S. Iris Locke – Twenty-nine years old and a born policewoman. Single, she is devoted to her career and has always wanted to follow in her esteemed father’s footsteps.

D.S. Ben Slatterey – A fifty-something, cynical, ‘old school’ copper who is devoted to the job in equal measure to his devotion to drink. His two obsessions has alienated him from his wife and daughter. He gets on Iris’s nerves, yet she holds a grudging respect for his work and connections.

D.C. June Quinn – a diligent officer and a widow. She now tries to ‘look out’ for Ben Slatterey, though she tries to do this unobtrusively…

D.C. Dennis Blake – the bookman of the team who organizes and correlates the various reports of any given case.

D.I. Coleman Grady – a remote and solitary man. A perfectionist, he oversees his team with a keen eye. Respectful of everyone on his team, Grady seems to have a soft spot for the errant D.S. Slatterey. Also, Grady seems to have an interesting ‘back story’ which I hope will be revealed in future books.

Superintendent Anita Cullen – new to the Corbally station, she has ‘history’ with Ben Slatterley that will make Ben’s position on the team tenuous at best.


“This was Ireland and still cronyism and cover-up went much further that fact or truth.”

It is a rare treat when a police procedural series debut ‘ticks all the boxes‘. I can confidently say that “Her Sister’s Bones” definitely met all my requirements in a crime novel.

I loved that the author introduced each of the Murder Team in such a way that the reader gets to connect with them all and wants to learn more about them.

The Limerick location, the outstanding characterization and the well executed plot all came together in a package that most readers of the genre will love.

In fact, I can find nothing to criticize (I know… strange for me right?)

One thing is for sure, I’ll be the first to pick up the second installment in what promises to be a stellar series. Can’t wait for DS Iris Locke’s next foray in the Limerick crime fighting scene. Very highly recommended!

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Bookouture via NetGalley. It is listed on NetGalley under its previous title: “Silent Night”.

Geraldine Hogan (aka Faith Hogan) gained an Honours Degree in English Literature and Psychology from Dublin City University and a Postgraduate Degree from University College, Galway. She has worked as a fashion model, an event’s organiser and in the intellectual disability and mental health sector.
Faith Hogan was a winner in the 2014 Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair – an international competition for emerging writers.  Her debut novel, ‘My Husband’s Wives,’ is a contemporary women’s fiction novel set in Dublin.

Faith Hogan was born in Ireland and still lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children, and an overweight cat.

Follow this author on Twitter: @GerHogan

NOTE: This author uses the pen name Faith Hogan for her women’s fiction titles and Geraldine Hogan for her crime fiction titles.

Posted in 1st in series, Book Reviews, Bookouture, Mystery fiction, NetGalley | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

“A Perfect Sentence” by Patrick Starnes – Book Review

Desperately dissatisfied with his comfortable, middle-class life, and meandering through his days, Keir Buchan feels like he is just going through the motions of living. A writer of detective novels, he has just been made redundant from the University where he worked. His wife and teenage children seem disconnected to him. He has lost all of his joy in living…

“…because hope is for what – a not too unpleasant death?”

We follow Keir through a profound mid-life crisis. The fallout of his personal crisis affects many others along the way. Some to an intense and explosive degree.

If you are wondering why I included bubbles in my lead graphic, it is because much of the novel seems to hold Keir and Cassie in a bubble of happiness. We all know that bubbles drift for a few minutes – and then break. I was constantly waiting for their bubble to burst. And burst it did in an extraordinary and staggering way, showing just how fragile happiness is and how we humans are always precariously striving for it.

The writing was polished and skillful, not just for the first novel it is, but for any novel. It included vividly rendered descriptions of the many locales in which the book was set.

Although the characterization was well wrought, I found myself ambivalent toward Keir.  I felt no sympathy or empathy for his character’s situation. Just past his fiftieth birthday, he seemed to be shiftless, selfish, egocentric, and adrift…  In this instance, my feelings for Keir’s character was integral to my enjoyment of the book – especially since the book was written in the first person, from Keir’s point of view.

That being said, the author does seem to have an innate understanding of the suicidal mind and the depression that precedes it.

The title “The Perfect Sentence” couldn’t possibly more suited to this novel. It is in fact a ‘perfect‘ title for the book. Keep in mind that Keir is a writer and writers are always grasping for that ‘perfect sentence’ – also, a sentence can mean a punishment…

At the risk of sounding sexist, I think male readers might enjoy this book more than female readers.  I do not for a minute regret reading Keir’s story, but it wasn’t entirely to my taste. Many other readers and literary critics disagree with me as the book was nominated for the Whitbread First Novel Prize. If you’re looking for a novel that is well written and features a solely male point of view, then this could be a favourite book for you!

My gratitude to David from Thistle Publishing who provided me with a digital copy of this novel for review purposes.

Born in Montreal, Patrick Starnes studied Philosophy and English Literature in Canada and wrote his masters thesis on the novels of Samuel Beckett at Cambridge. He has traveled widely and at one time or another has lived in the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Greece, Spain, and England. He has worked variously as an aid administrator, journalist, freelance researcher, and college lecturer.

He is currently living in Italy with his wife Christine and dogs Mac and Mia.

“A Perfect Sentence” is his first novel and it was nominated for the Whitbread First Novel prize.

Posted in Book Reviews, debut novels, Men's fiction, Thistle Publishing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

“The Scholar” by Dervla McTiernan – Book Review

A complex, character-driven police procedural mystery set in Galway, Ireland.

After almost a year, D.S. Cormac Reilly is still being ‘frozen out‘ of the good cases and relegated to the cold case files. His co-worker, D.S. Carrie O’Halloran, is meanwhile very over-worked with more cases than she can handle. When she reaches a crisis point in her home/work life balance, she goes to their immediate supervisor and requests that some of her cases be given to Cormac. When her request is begrudgingly approved, it looks as though things are looking up for Cormac…. until his beloved partner Dr. Emma Sweeney, finds the body of a young girl outside the college research lab where she works.

D.S. Cormac Reilly – a career policeman, Cormac enjoyed much success in his career while living in Dublin. Now, after following his partner, Dr. Emma Sweeney, to Galway, his work-life hasn’t yet recovered… When he finally gets a chance to get his hands on a few cases, he realizes that he still doesn’t know his team well enough to really trust them.

D.S. Carrie O’Halloran – a diligent and conflicted policewoman. She works very hard at her job, often to the neglect of her children and husband. She is always torn between her home and work life.

D.C. Peter Fisher – greatly admires Cormac Reilly and is loyal to him despite pressures within the squad. A hard-working and diligent policeman, he uses his considerable skills to aid Cormac in his endeavors.

D.C. Moira Hanley – lazy, and resentful of the success of others, Moira deeply resents being seconded to working with Cormac and tries to sabotage his efforts at every turn – even going so far as to enlist Internal Affairs in her vendetta.

“First impressions were wrong as often as they were right and good people did bad things all the time, they were just a bit more inventive at finding justification for it than the average gouger.”

After relishing “The Ruin” last year, “The Scholar” was high on my list of most anticipated titles on my TBR. It didn’t disappoint!  I’ve come to the conclusion that I really enjoy this author’s writing and the well-rounded characters she has created for this series.

Cormac Reilly is a policeman that is highly ethical, yet often conflicted between his home life and his work. He is steadfastly loyal, yet in this book it shows that even the most loyal can succumb to doubts…

The plot was intricate and well thought out. The setting and the research laboratory were at once picturesque and creepy and very vividly described. The cutthroat world of the highly competitive world of pharmaceutical research is the basis upon which the story was written. It examines what lengths people will go to to make a name for themselves and reap the more than generous financial rewards. The book also takes a look at how wealth often does the wealthy no favours – as they often have life challenges/dilemmas that are commensurate with their affluence.  I particularly felt so sorry for the character of Carline Darcy.  Many of the characters were conflicted by trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance at the same time as doing a highly demanding job.

The ending satisfied my need for justice done. I cannot wait to meet D.S. Cormac Reilly in his third outing.

Highly recommended!

I received a digital copy of this novel from Penguin Books via Edelweiss for purposes of this review.

Internationally bestselling and critically acclaimed writer, Dervla McTiernan is the author of The Ruin, her crime debut set in Ireland. The Ruin is the first in the detective Cormac Reilly series and has been published in the United States, the UK and Ireland, and in New Zealand and Australia, where it was a top ten bestseller. It has been named one of Lit Hub’s Most Anticipated Crime Mystery and Thrillers of 2018 and an Amazon Best Book of July 2018 and has been optioned for TV by Hopscotch.

A lawyer, and now a leading crime writer, Dervla was born in Ireland and now lives in Perth, Australia with her husband, two young children, and a golden retriever.

Follow Dervla McTiernan on Twitter

Posted in Book Reviews, Edelweiss, Mystery fiction | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Cover Love: part 79 – Tied up (with string or ribbons)

They say you can never have a second chance to make a good first impression. A book’s cover does just that – gives a first impression. A good cover can make a reader pick up a book. A bad cover can leave the book at the very bottom of a dusty pile.

The covers of novels entice the reader to enter a different world. Covers are, after all, the way the publisher ‘hooks‘ the reader into choosing one book over countless others.

In my 79th installment of ‘Cover Love‘-in light of the fact that my province is due to endure Hurricane Dorian tomorrow, I thought I’d do a post about things tied up/down with string or ribbons.  We’ve battened down the hatches. Now we’re just hoping for no property damage and/or prolonged power cuts….

These titles encompass a wide variety of genres.  Enjoy!

Some, perhaps, will now be on your TBR!

Just click on the cover to read the book’s synopsis from Goodreads.

You might just find your next favorite book!

Are you tempted by any of these covers?
Have you read one of these titles and absolutely LOVED it?

Please let me know in the comments.

And don’t forget to check out any of the other previous 78 installments of Cover Love, many of which have been updated since they were first published.

Posted in Cover Love series, Dustjackets | Tagged | 30 Comments

“Dying Truth” by Angela Marsons – Book Review #MarsonsOfTheMonth


For some time now I have noticed that the D.I. Kim Stone series has been highly praised by my fellow book bloggers. Therefore, I decided that despite my lengthy TBR, I would read the series in its entirety, one title every month. What a wise decision I made!

D.I. Kim Stone – An acerbic, brusque, and driven young woman who works as a Detective Inspector for the West Midlands Police, the second largest police force in the country. She is socially inept, and has been known to break the rules, as well as to disregard instructions and protocols in her search for justice. An insomniac, she is fueled by nervous energy and lots of coffee, and is beautiful, but she works hard to hide it. She is 34 years old, brilliant, hot-headed, and damaged. As a child, she suffered horribly, and was shunted from foster home to foster home. Only once did she experience a nurturing, loving relationship – and that was very short lived…. Now, when not working, her favourite thing to do is work at restoring vintage motorbikes. Bikes are her passion, and she uses a Kawasaki Ninja as her regular form of transport.

Other than her second in command, Bryant, she is friendless. Her one real weakness is her fondness for her adopted dog, Barney.

“No matter what the day held, Barney’s welcome was enough to put a smile on her face.”

Her team respect her and are very loyal. And no wonder – Kim never asks her team members to do anything that she would not do herself.

Police team

D.S. Bryant, twelve years her senior, is Kim’s partner and dearest friend. Devoted to his wife and daughters, Bryant is the glue that holds Kim’s team together. In this novel, we see examples of the great respect Kim and Bryant have for each other. Their camaraderie is a delight to read.
D.S. Kevin Dawson, young, vain, fit, and impulsive is now the father of a two-year-old daughter. Each book in the series shows his growing potential to be a great police officer. This time we learn of his unhappy childhood and why he is so into maintaining his physical fitness. In “Dying Truth” we see Kevin Dawson bonding with a young Heathcrest student who he identifies with.
Constable Stacy Wood, a diligent and hard-working local girl who excels at online research and data-mining which is often invaluable to the team’s success. Stacy is falling in love this time out.
D.C.I. Woodward (Woody) is Kim’s long-suffering superior. Like the rest of her team, he is loyal and stands up for her when the higher-ups would have her removed from the case. This time he goes against Kim’s wishes, but covertly helps her without letting her know his intentions.

We learn more of Kim’s real feelings toward her team as in this novel she is carrying out their ‘performance appraisals’.


In DI Kim Stone’s eighth outing we find her team working on a case centered around a prestigious, elite, boarding school called Heathcrest. After a thirteen year old girl is found dead at the school, Kim’s investigations reveal that this was a murder – masked as a suicide. Then the team uncovers several other deaths and tragic ‘accidents’. All of them, conceivably related to the school’s exclusive and toxic social clubs called the ‘playing cards’. Kevin Dawson uncovers their dangerous/deadly hazing rituals and initiation tasks and wonders how they relate to more current deaths surrounding students and staff of Heathcrest.

“Perfection isn’t real. It is only the top layer beneath which the ugliness lies.”

This eighth novel in the series has proved to be a worthy successor to the first seven – in fact, I think it is my most favourite yet! The series just seems to go from strength to strength. This is a novel of secrets, lies, and the privileged – showing once again that wealth and social status holds its own perils.

Dying Truth” shows how important to the human psyche is the sense of belonging. It portrays some grisly deaths and as usual, the subject matter is gritty and might not be to everyone’s taste. The ending of this particular book was heartbreaking – but I won’t say why as it would ruin the reading experience for those following this series.

The only negative I can find with this series is that Kim is too dependable. She has fierce tenacity and determination to always see justice served. Not a bad thing, but at times almost unbelievable. That being said, I would want Kim and her team in my corner if I was a crime victim.

As I finished this eighth novel in the series, I felt certain that this entire series is one I will certainly recommend to all lovers of gritty crime fiction. Lucky for me I purchased the entire series in order that I might read one installment every month for my “Marsons of the Month” blog series. I look forward to reading the ninth book, “Fatal Promise” in September. Oh, and in case you didn’t already guess… “Dying Truth” is very highly recommended by me.

I purchased “Dying Truth“ in Kindle format.

Angela Marsons discovered her love of writing at Primary School. She wrote the stories that burned inside and then stored them safely in a desk drawer.
After much urging from her partner, she began to enter short story competitions in Writer’s News resulting in a win and three short listed entries. She self-published two of her earlier works before concentrating on her true passion – Crime.
After many, many submissions she signed an eight book deal with Bookouture as their first crime author. Her D.I. Kim Stone novels have sold 3 million copies.

Angela Marsons is from Brierley Hill in the West Midlands and is a former security guard at the Merry Hill Shopping Centre. She continues to live in the Black Country with her partner and their bouncy Labrador and potty-mouthed parrot.

Follow Angela Marsons on Twitter.

Posted in Book Reviews, Bookouture | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Hello September (Fictionophile personal updates)

Hello lovely folks! Summer days will soon be over, it is September already!  The photo below shows my husband and I enjoying the beautiful sunset at our summer cottage.

If any of you were wondering about my online silence recently, I had an operation and just got out of hospital. For that reason my ‘Hello September’ post is a few days late.

Here is a brief breakdown of my naive expectations and the reality of the hospital stay:

When you go through trying times, it is easy to find out who your true friends are. I was blessed with many hospital visitors, and many encouraging texts and emails.

I am SO grateful!



I’m delighted to report that there are now 3.588 people following this blog!

That is up 721 followers since Sept. 1, 2018.  I am so grateful that my little blog continues to attract new readers.  Heartfelt thanks to all who take the time to read my posts, leave a comment or two, and share my posts on other social media. I love you all.


My Goodreads Challenge is doing okay

I’m still hanging on to my 80% NetGalley badge (only just)

My Edelweiss feedback ratio is dismal…


Many of you have inquired about the progress of my little grandson. I’m pleased to report, despite a setback this month, that he is thriving.

Look at how much he has grown over the past two months!

That’s all for now. I hope to catch up with all my social media accounts as time permits.

Now… I must READ!

Posted in Fictionophile report, personal | Tagged , | 42 Comments

Fictionophile’s August 2019 #bookhaul

 

I’ve been trying to curtail my greed when it comes to requesting digital ARCs. I have SO many review commitments that I fear I’m not doing them justice by posting my reviews way after the publication date.

So… for the entire month of August 2019 I have added only FIVE more review commitments.

Here is my current NetGalley feedback ratio:

Three from NetGalley:

 

The Fortune Teller’s Promise” by Kelly Heard

Published this coming October by Bookouture, the blurb is what attracted me to this title from a ‘new-to-me’ author.


 

The Truth Behind the Lie” by Sara Lövestam

Published August 2019 by Minotaur Books, the blurb had me hooked… though I’ve never read anything by this author before.


 

Woman in the Water” by Katerina Diamond

This one is due to be published in November 2019.  Published by Avon, it was the blurb that attracted me.


And two from Edelweiss:

 

The Boatman: and other stories” by Billy O’Callaghan

Published by Harper, I requested this short story collection when I saw it was written by Billy O’Callaghan. I read one of his novels, “The Dead House” last year and really enjoyed his writing.


The Woman in the Park” by Teresa Sorkin and Tullan Holmqvist

This thriller is published by Beaufort Books and it was the blurb that interested me enough to request it. I’ve never read anything by these authors before.


So, that’s IT for AUGUST as far as review commitments go. Well done me! (when you are as greedy as I am,  five new titles in a month shows great restraint LOL)

I did however complete TEN new purchases from Amazon.ca

My total expenditure was only $ 14.11 Cdn.  Not bad for TEN titles.  I can never resist a bargain. LOL

.99¢


$ 1.99


FREE


.99¢


.99¢


.99¢


$ 1.99


$ 3.19


$ 1.99


.99¢


How was YOUR month of August?  Any wonderful acquisitions added to your TBR?

I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Hope you are having a wonderful summer!

Note: I scheduled this post in advance as I underwent major surgery on Aug. 27th and will be in hospital for a week. I may be very tardy when it comes to responding to comments. Please forgive me.

Posted in Anticipated titles, Fictionophile report | Tagged | 33 Comments

“The Beach at Doonshean” by Penny Feeny – Book Review

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It spoke to the dysfunctional nature of families. Even the most stable families can be a tad dysfunctional on the inside.

The characters were all fully developed and people who I enjoyed meeting via the printed page.

“Were all families the same, Bel wondered: existing in a delicate state of checks and balances, compromise and negotiation?”

The settings were deftly described and easily imagined by the reader. The beautiful Irish landscape near the sea and the suburban Liverpool locale separated the narrative into two linked stories featuring different members of the same family in 2010. There is also a backstory set in 1981.

With themes of loss, forgiveness, self doubt, familial obligation, the complications inherent in step-families, parenthood, and fate, I am very confident that this novel will be enjoyed by many. Highly recommended to those who enjoy quality women’s fiction and/or a great family saga.


I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Head of Zeus/Aria via NetGalley in order that I might participate in the Aria Blog Tour for this title.

ISBN: 9781788547321      ASIN: B07TLCVD6H

Pre-order Links:



 

 

Penny Feeny has lived and worked in Cambridge, London and Rome. Since settling in Liverpool many years ago she has been an arts administrator, editor, radio presenter, advice worker, and has brought up five children. Her short fiction has been widely published and broadcast and won several awards. Her first novel, That Summer in Ischia, was one of the summer of 2011’s best selling titles.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Reviews, NetGalley, Women's fiction | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

“The Nanny” by Gilly Macmillan – Book Review

In her late thirties, Jocelyn Holt is a recent widow. She and her ten-year-old daughter, Ruby, still grieving, move from California to the Wiltshire manor house where Jocelyn grew up.  Financially strapped, Jocelyn must depend upon the generosity of her widowed mother whom she has always found to be unloving and cold.

“To have a child whom you love but who does not love you back is a particularly intense and unrelenting source of pain.”

She is surprised that her mother, Virginia, is quite besotted with her granddaughter Ruby. They seem to form an instant bond.  This is something that both surprises and unsettles Jocelyn. She does not want her mother being any kind of influence on her daughter. She fears that Ruby’s spirit will be quelled by her mother’s arrogance, snobbishness and life of aristocratic privilege. Jocelyn was brought up by a Nanny and never really had any real attachment to her mother. When Jocelyn was seven years old, her nanny, Hannah, disappeared and afterward Jocelyn was sent to boarding school.

Not long after they move in, Jocelyn takes Ruby for a boat ride in the lake on the estate’s grounds. When they pull up at a little island in the lake, they make the gruesome discovery of a human skull…

The police descend on Lake Hall’s estate. The discovery of the skull is the talk of the village.

Shortly thereafter, a woman comes to the door of the manor house. She claims to be Hannah Burgess, the long lost Nanny. Jocelyn is overjoyed to make her beloved nanny’s re-acquaintance. Virginia, on the other hand is appalled…

Ruby dislikes her immensely. She posts online about her #evilnanny

This is my third novel by Gilly Macmillan and she never disappoints.

Ironically, the characters that most resonated with me were the ones I felt I was supposed to dislike – conversely, the characters which I felt I was supposed to like the most (i.e. Jocelyn), I felt myself disliking on occasion and I was often impatient with her.

I liked how each character gave their viewpoints in alternating chapters.

The setting, a grand English manor house and estate grounds were very appealing.

how I imagined Lake Hall to look

The plot had more than a few twists which will please those who love that sort of thing. I thought I had the story completely figured out about a third of the way through… needless to say that was probably the author’s devious plan. I was very wrong.

A novel of mistakes made, regrets, family secrets, misplaced trust, intimidation, emotional manipulation, and inter-generational relationships.

The ending I found immensely satisfying, though I suspect there will be a few readers who might not agree with me. I guess it depends on how you feel about what constitutes justice.

In summation, this diabolical psychological thriller is a prime example of the fine writing of Gilly MacMillan. If you haven’t yet tried one of her novels, this is an excellent one to start with. Just saying….

ISBN: 9780062875556 Length: 400 pages

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from William Morrow/Harper Collins via Edelweiss.

Gilly Macmillan is the Edgar nominated and New York Times bestselling author of What She KnewThe Perfect GirlOdd Child OutI Know You Know, and The Nanny. She grew up in Swindon, Wiltshire and lived in Northern California in her late teens. She worked at The Burlington Magazine and the Hayward Gallery before starting a family. Since then she’s worked as a part-time lecturer in photography, and now writes full-time. She resides in Bristol, England.

Author Links: WebsiteFacebook, and Twitter

Posted in Book Reviews, Edelweiss, Psychological thrillers | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Throwback Thursday: “House. Tree. Person” by Catriona McPherson – Book Review

Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favorites. This week I’m showcasing a novel that I read about five years ago. “House. Tree. Person” was, for me, a memorable FIVE STAR read.


It is an understatement to say Alison McGovern’s family has had some setbacks. Once, they had a lovely house, she owned a thriving beauty salon called ‘Face Value’, and her husband, Marco, took over his successful family restaurant.  But… Marco had other ideas. He wanted more – his ideas were grand, but he ended up taking their house AND her business along with his, when he overextended himself financially by borrowing against their assets. Now Alison, Marco, and their teenage son, Angelo live in a tiny rented cottage living on the cheapest of groceries and finding it difficult to make ends meet.

Their circumstances seem to be ‘on the up’ when, within just a few days of each other, they both procure employment. Ali gets work as a beautician/art therapist at an independent psychiatric hospital situated in the Galloway countryside.  Her beautician experience was embellished on her resume, and she feels a sham, but the excellent salary offered causes her to push her guilt to the recesses of her mind. Despite her lack of psychiatric knowledge about her new position, she seems to form an immediate bond with one of the residents of ‘Howell Hall’. Sylvie has been diagnosed as having hysterical catatonia – but she reacts to Ali’s kind advances.

“Touch is a problem for British people and maybe Scots most of all. We’re not huggers. But gentle touch can do wonders for someone feeling the ache of loss or loneliness.”

She begins to enjoy the work, despite herself, but senses that there are many secrets being hidden at Howell Hall.  Nothing is quite what they would have you assume…

“What was the rottenness at the heart of Howell Hall?”

The title of the novel references a psychiatric test called “House. Tree. Person.” in which the patient is asked to draw these three things in order for the doctors to assess their personality.

The reader is made aware that Alison has a dark secret in her past. We know that she had been emotionally unwell, and that she herself had been hospitalized for six months – years ago. Her husband Marco is constantly referring to her past illness with jibes like “when you weren’t so great”, or  “don’t go down that road again”. The reader is also made aware that Alison is estranged from her parents, who live in France. Alison’s son Angelo, though moody and uncommunicative, demonstrates that he wants to protect her.

“that strange couple of days when they found the remains and we got jobs and for some reason the good news turned us sour instead of sweet.”

Dundrennan Abbey

With only the first day of work at Howell Hall under her belt, Ali returns home to their cottage to find that there has been a body found in the grounds of the Abbey across the lane. Her son, Angelo makes a strange remark when the body is discovered. “I’d just about given up, as it goes.”  This grisly discovery sets her life, and the lives of those she loves on an escalating and devastating spiral that will leave none of them unscathed.

This book was an excellent read – but extremely difficult to review as it would be only to easy to divulge too much of the plot and ruin it for future readers.  Suffice it to say that I loved it just as much as a previous novel by this author that I read several years ago, “The day she died“. The characters are so real that you feel you’ve met them before. The dialogue flows seamlessly, and to say the setting was atmospheric would be an understatement. The plot was complicated, yet had a brilliant resolution. Everything I like best when reading a thriller. Very highly recommended by me!

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Midnight Ink via NetGalley, and was delighted to be able to write this review.

Note: This novel was published in the UK by Constable under a different title: “The weight of angels“.  Both titles fit the novel’s content superbly, though if I’m honest I do admit I prefer the UK cover over the North American one.

Catriona McPherson

Catriona McPherson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and is the author of the Dandy Gilver historical mystery series, which was nominated for a Macavity Award in 2012.   She moved to California in 2010 but she returns to Scotland every year for a wee visit to quell her homesickness.

She is now a full time writer.  When not writing, she is reading, gardening, cooking, baking, cycling , and running.


Posted in Book Reviews, Psychological thrillers, Throwback Thursday | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments