Carrie’s best friend has an accident and can no longer make the round-the-world trip they’d planned together, so Carrie decides to go it alone.
Violet is also travelling alone, after splitting up with her boyfriend in Thailand. She is desperate for a ticket on the Trans-Siberian Express, but there is nothing available.
When the two women meet in a Beijing Hotel, Carrie makes the impulsive decision to invite Violet to take her best friend’s place.
Thrown together in a strange country, and the cramped cabin of the train, the women soon form a bond. But as the journey continues, through Mongolia and into Russia, things start to unravel – because one of these women is not who she claims to be…
It’s always a thrill to be on a tour for a new Orenda title, so I’m delighted to be taking part in this one today for Violet by SJI Holliday. Huge thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
This is my first book by Susi Holliday, although I have had The Lingering…er, lingering on my TBR since last year. After reading this book, I will definitely be bumping that one to the top of the pile. This book grabbed me by the throat, gave me a good shake and refused to put me down until I reached the very last page, and I was practically holding my breath throughout the whole experience. This is one of those books that results in book lovers being accused of being anti-social by non-readers, because it is almost impossible to pull your eyes, or your thoughts, away from the plot.
It has every element that you would want to see in a superior psychological thriller. Unreliable characters driving the plot so you don’t know who is telling the truth, who is lying or what you can believe? Check. Excrustiating tension between the main characters that almost makes you want to scream in agony? Check. Dark and twisty plot that you can’t possibly work out until the very last chapter, and even then takes you somewhere you weren’t anticipating? Check. Riveting and original premise unlike anything you’ve seen before that takes you to new and exciting places? Double check.
Every element is present and correct, but the author has taken them and shaken them up, then put them back together in a book that is unlike anything you will have read before and is really fresh and exciting for us prolific readers who may have become over-familiar and a little jaded with the genre. This is one of the best examples I have read this year of a psychological thriller, and I absolutely loved it.
The stand out joy of this book for me was the setting, a journey on the Trans-Siberian Express. Any regular readers of the blog will know that I am a travel junkie, and this journey is one of those bucket list trips that we dream of taking but probably never will. Well, this author did, and she has shared the experience vividly with the readers through the pages of this novel so you almost feel like you are having the experience alongside her (although I hope Susi’s trip took less of a noir turn than that of her characters!). I love to read literature focused around travel, and it was a particular delight to read on that takes a detour from the familiar, picture-perfect, sunny locations to a place altogether more remote, more alien and, hence, more threatening which provided the perfect backdrop for the story.
The characters in the book also fit the non-standard pattern. We have a couple of young backpackers on the seemingly typical ‘gap year’ adventure. But these are not the shiny, happy, glowing teens we are often presented with, but the much more realistic selfish, grubby, hedonistic and often unpleasant world wanderers, and their adventures are equally torrid to behold. This is much more ‘The Beach’ than ‘Love Island,’ and all the more interesting and authentic to read about because of it.
Reading this book was a bit like riding one of those really terrifying theme park rides that you make yourself go on, even though you aren’t quite sure you want to. You buckle in, still having second thoughts, but it’s too late and you are off. Your heart is in your mouth from the beginning, you aren’t quite sure what is coming or when, you can’t catch your breath, and each spin and drop is equal parts excruciating and exhilarating. It is only when you get to the end that you whoop with joy at how much you enjoyed it, and you can’t wait for another ride, even while your pulse is still racing and you are trying to come back down to earth. Everything you could wish for. But yourself a ticket, you’ll have the ride of your life.
Violet is out now in ebook format and will be released in paperback on 14 November, and you can get your copy here.
Please make sure you do check out some of the reviews from the other fabulous bloggers taking part in the tour, as detailed on the poster below:
About the Author
S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday is a scientist, writing coach and the bestselling author of five crime novels, including the Banktoun Trilogy (Black Wood, Willow Walk and The Damselfly), the festive chiller The Deaths of December and her creepy Gothic psychological thriller The Lingering. Her short story ‘Home From Home’ was published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and shortlisted for the CWA Margery Allingham Prize.
Encapsulating her love of travel and claustrophobic settings, her latest novel, Violet, explores toxic friendships and the perils of talking to strangers, as well as drawing on her own journey on the Trans-Siberian Express over 10 years ago. All of her novels have been UK ebook number-one bestsellers.
Susi was born and raised in Scotland and now divides her time between Edinburgh, London and as many other exciting places that she can fit in.
Connect with Susi:
Facebook: SJI Holliday