Blog Tour: Don’t Turn Around by Jessica Barry #BookReview

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TWO STRANGERS. DANGEROUS SECRETS. THEIR ONLY CHANCE IS EACH OTHER.

Cait’s job is to transport women to safety. Out of respect, she never asks any questions. Like most of the women, Rebecca is trying to escape something.

But what if Rebecca’s secrets put them both in danger? There’s a reason Cait chooses to keep on the road, helping strangers. She has a past of her own, and knows what it’s like to be followed.

And there is someone right behind them, watching their every move…

On 6 April, I posted an extract from Don’t Turn Around by Jessica Barry and now I am delighted to be able to share my review of the book with you, as we celebrate the book’s paperback publication day. My thanks to Graeme Williams for inviting me to be part of the tour and to the publisher for providing me with a copy of the book for the purposes of review, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This book is a really interesting mix of genres and ideas that take it beyond mere thriller territory and into something more emotionally intense and thought-provoking. That being said, it works excellently as an edge-of-your-seat thriller too!

Cait turns up at Rebecca’s house at midnight to transport her 300-plus miles across Texas and into New Mexico. The two women have never met before. Why Rebecca needs escorting across state lines in the dead of night by a complete stranger is something than unfolds across the course of the book, as do the secrets that Cait herself is hiding, as we flip between the present and the two women’s pasts to learn how they came to be where they currently find themselves.

As they embark on their drive and begin to learn things about what another, it soon becomes clear that they are not alone on the empty, night-shrouded desert roads, and the person keeping them company has intentions that are far from benign. But which of the two women is their target and why? What do they intend to do? Finding these things out are what gives this book its nail-biting edge and will have you racing through the pages to solve the mystery and find out what happens. I have to say, the pursuit of the two women across the desert in the dead of night was extremely frightening and creepy. A terrifying mashup of the movies Thelma and Louise and Duel, if you remember either of those.

Aside from the psychological thriller aspect of the pursuit storyline, the books also explores some much deeper issues that are very topical. It looks at the #MeToo era, inceldom, pro-life activism and women’s rights amongst other things. One thing I really loved about the book was the solidarity and support that develops between women – even those that don’t know each other – when faced with adversity and attacks on their autonomy coming from the patriarchy. There are not many thriller novels that delve so deeply into the idea of women’s rights as this one does, and I think the author has been very brave to do it because the book touches on some areas of controversy, but I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that she didn’t shy away from exploring difficult topics and felt that it elevated the book out of the ordinary.

A great book for anyone who enjoys a scary, psychological thriller with a fierce bite, I highly recommend it.

Don’t Turn Around is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

The other bloggers taking part in the tour will also be sharing their reviews today, so make sure you visit their blogs too:

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About the Author

Jessica Barry is a pseudonym for an American author who grew up in a small town in Massachusetts and was raised on a steady diet of library books and PBS.

She attended Boston University, where she majored in English and Art History, before moving to London in 2004 to pursue an MA from University College London.

She lives with her husband, Simon, and their two cats, Roger Livesey and BoJack Horseman.

Connect with Jessica:

Facebook: Jessica Barry

Twitter: @jessbarryauthor

Instagram: @jessicabarry9

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Blog Tour: Don’t Turn Around by Jessica Barry #Extract

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I am absolutely thrilled to be kicking off the Don’t Turn Around blog road trip for Jessica Barry’s new book, which will be published on 15 April. Over the next ten days, bloggers will be hosting extracts from the book, as well as other author features, leading up to publication of the book. I am delighted to be able to share Chapter 1 of the book with you today. Thanks to Graeme Williams for inviting me to be part of the tour and to the publisher for allowing me to share the extract with you today.

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Two strangers, Cait and Rebecca, are driving across America.

Cait’s job is to transport women to safety. Out of respect, she never asks any questions. Like most of the women, Rebecca is trying to escape something.

But what if Rebecca’s secrets put them both in danger? There’s a reason Cait chooses to keep on the road, helping strangers. She has a past of her own, and knows what it’s like to be followed.

And there is someone right behind them, watching their every move…

*********************

Now for the extract from Chapter 1 of Don’t Turn Around:

 

PROLOGUE

The smell hits her first: burnt rubber and gasoline. Then the pain

comes. The roar of blood in her ears, the gurgled strangle of her breath.

She squints out of the splintered windshield. For a split second, she

can’t remember where she is. When she does, fear rushes over her, a

black, suffocating wave.

And then she hears it: a long, shivering scrape of metal against

metal.

She sees a face at the window.

It’s him.

He’s outside, and he’s trying to get in.

 

LUBBOCK, TEXAS—

322 MILES TO ALBUQUERQUE

Cait kept the engine running.

She’d had the Jeep since college, bought it used the summer before her freshman year with the proceeds of hundreds of hours working retail at Richland Mall, and sometimes it acted up. Normally, she didn’t mind. She relished popping the hood and peering underneath, knowing more times than not that she would be able to fix the problem. Her father had her out in the garage from the time she was six. But at this particular moment, there was no way in hell she would risk the engine stalling.

Outside, there was a glitter of frost on the lawn. The house wasn’t what she was used to, though by now she knew that she should expect anything. Usually, the places were cramped and run- down, cinder block apartment buildings or chipped- stucco bungalows, in neighborhoods where she wouldn’t want to linger after dark.

There was one place about a month ago, on the outskirts of Abilene, that was tucked behind the railroad tracks on Route 20. She drove straight past it the first time, despite the number 22 painted clearly on the side of the mailbox. No way someone lived there, she figured— it wasn’t much more than a shack, and it looked abandoned, the windows boarded up, a rusted- out pickup truck squatting outside, tires long gone. She followed the road another quarter mile, watching for the house, but there was nothing but empty farmland. She double- checked the address: it was right, though she’d known that already. They didn’t make mistakes

about things like that back at the office. So she turned around and parked outside the shack, and sure enough, a girl who didn’t look a day over eighteen ran out from behind the house and climbed silently into the Jeep. Cait could still picture the girl’s nervous smile, the long shining braid that fell down her back, the halfmoons of dirt nestled beneath her fingernails.

But this place was different: a McMansion in a modern development, complete with a two- car garage and a light- up reindeer on the lawn. One of the tasteful ones made of wire and tiny white lights, not the inflatable kind her parents used to stick on top of their house back in Waco, two sagging reindeer pulling a bloated Santa across the roof. The house itself was built of red brick and topped with a series of peaked roofs, and there was a small paved path curving up to the imposing front door. Property was cheaper here than in Austin— most places were cheap compared to Austin— but this was definitely the house of someone who wasn’t shy with a few bucks.

It threw her off a little, this house.

Cait scanned the street for any sign of movement. The windows on the houses were squeezed shut, and the only light came from the pretty streetlamps that lined the sidewalk. A child’s red tricycle lay in a driveway, forgotten until tomorrow. She pictured a plump- cheeked toddler riding up and down the sidewalk, legs pumping, little fingers clutching the handlebars, wind rushing past as she sped up, shrieking with joy or terror, or maybe both.

The road had emptied out pretty quickly once she was out of Austin’s sprawl, and soon it was just her and a few fellow travellers driving along the long, flat, endless road. The view didn’t change much, just empty plains stretching out as far as she could see, briefly interrupted by the green of watered lawns and neatly plotted houses that signaled a town.

Eight hours later, and here she was, waiting. She shifted in her seat, scratched an itch, stifled a yawn. She’d need to get coffee once they were on the road. She didn’t want to stop until they were clear of the city.

She checked the clock on the dashboard: 12:10. Pickup had been at midnight, but she’d gotten there a few minutes early, just in case. She’d been waiting for a while now. It happened sometimes. People got nervous, had second thoughts. If they changed their minds, they were meant to give her a signal: flick the lights three times quick, and she’d know they weren’t coming. Two flicks meant there was trouble and she should call the police.

So far that night, there’d been nothing.

She wasn’t worried, at least not yet. She scanned the road again. All quiet in Pleasantville. Every car tucked up in its garage, every person tucked up in bed.

Out of the corner of her eye, she caught something. One hand gripped the wheel, the other the gearshift. This could be it. Her heart pounded in her chest.

She watched a possum slinking under a thick hedge and shuddered. She’d grown up with possums, but that didn’t mean she didn’t hate them. They were cute enough as babies, but when they were full- grown, they were mean little suckers. Still, a possum wasn’t going to give her any trouble.

Eyes back on the house. Still dark, still nothing. The clock read 12:15. She’d give it another five. They weren’t meant to linger. Lingering attracted attention. If one of the neighbors happened to get up to use the bathroom and see a beat- up old Jeep parked out front, they’d call the cops quicker than a lightning bug in July. And nobody wanted the cops involved in something like this. You never knew which way they’d swing.

One of the curtains in the house twitched, and a moment later, a light came on downstairs. This was it: now or never. She straightened up in her seat and wiped the mascara smudges from under her eyes.

Get ready. As soon as she gets in the car, you’ve got to go.

A few seconds later, a blond woman wearing a pressed white shirt and khakis emerged. She had a bag slung over her shoulder that looked expensive. Actually, her whole person looked expensive— slick and golden and whistle- clean. Cait watched the woman lock the door behind her, hesitate, check again that it was locked.

Sweat pricked at the small of Cait’s back. Comeoncomeoncomeon.

The woman stole glances at the neighboring houses and hurried down the path.

Cait reached over and swung the passenger door open from the inside. The woman’s face appeared.

“Hi, Rebecca?” Cait made sure to smile when she said the woman’s name. It was important to put them at ease as quickly as possible. The woman nodded and climbed in. Her smell filled the Jeep, cotton and vanilla and sandalwood. “I’m Caitlyn,” she said, though the woman would have known that already. “But you can call me Cait.” The woman nodded again and pulled her bag tight to her lap. “The seat belt comes from the back,” Cait said, and the woman frowned before reaching behind and snapping the belt into the clasp. She stared straight ahead, through the windshield, at the deserted suburban street.

Cait shifted into drive and pulled away from the curb. “Do you have a phone?”

The woman blinked.

“A cell phone,” Cait prompted. Sometimes they got nervous and froze. She had learned to coax them. “If you do, you need to turn it off.”

The woman’s eyes widened. “Why?”

“GPS.”

The woman’s frown deepened. “Is that really— ”

“Yeah, it is. Sorry, I know it seems a little extreme, but— ” She left the rest of the sentence hanging in the air. Both of them knew that these were extreme circumstances.

The woman fumbled around in her bag and pulled out her phone. Cait kept one eye on the road and watched until she’d switched it off.

“How long will the drive take?”

“About six hours. Maybe a little less. There’s bottled water in the back if you want it. Help yourself.”

Rebecca hugged her bag tighter to her chest. “I’m fine, thank you.”

In the rearview mirror, Cait saw a light snap on in a neighboring house and a face appear at the window.

Take it easy. Just drive normally; don’t read anything into it.

“Are you close with your neighbors?” She kept her voice casual.

Rebecca looked at her, surprised. “Not really.”

Cait’s eyes were locked on the rearview. The curtain fell back across the window, the light flicked off. She let out a sigh. “It looks like the kind of place where you’d all be friendly. Block parties, that kind of thing. Is there a neighborhood watch?”

Rebecca shook her head. “I don’t think so.”

“Good.” She’d run into trouble with neighborhood watches in the past. Give a guy a fake badge and a pinch of authority and things could go sideways fast. The rest of the houses stayed dark. No cars on the road, either. They were almost out of the development. It would be easier once they got on the major roads. “Do you mind if I put the radio on? It helps keep me awake.”

The woman shook her head. Cait reached over and clicked on the dial. The drone of a talk radio host filled the Jeep— the great scourge of Texas. She flicked through the stations until she landed on the local Magic station. The crooning voice of Billy Joel came through the speakers, singing about drinking alone. She left it on. She figured she couldn’t go wrong with Billy Joel.

The house was on the southeast side of Lubbock, so they had to pass straight through downtown to get to Highway 60. She turned onto Broadway and drove past a banner hanging in the window of a local law firm: WELCOME TO BEAUTIFUL DOWNTOWN! NO WIN, NO FEE! There were stoplights every other block, and all of them seemed to turn red as soon as they got close, plotting together to keep them within the city limits.

“C’mon, c’mon,” Cait muttered, hand tapping the wheel. She didn’t like how quiet it was. That was the hardest part about these night drives: the quiet. It was easier to blend in if there were other signs of life.

A man dressed in a Santa hat walked past holding a filthy cloth in one hand and a sign in the other: HUNGRY, PLEASE HELP. He knocked on the window as they waited for the light to change. Cait tried to wave him away, but he mimed the action of cleaning and started wiping the cloth across the windshield, leaving streaks of grease on the glass. She glanced over at Rebecca, who was cowering in the passenger seat, knuckles white on the straps of her bag.

Cait rolled down the window and shoved a couple of dollar bills at him. “Thanks for the sterling work.” He took them with a tip of an imaginary hat and shuffled off just as the light switched to green. “You okay?” she asked Rebecca.

Rebecca nodded, but her jaw was set tight and she was staring straight ahead, her eyes glassy and unseeing. She hadn’t so much as blinked since leaving the house. “Almost out of Lubbock now,” Cait said.

The wide double lanes were lined with the cash- and- carries and the megachurches and the little Mexican restaurants advertising Taco Tuesday, just like every other town in Texas. Occasionally, a neon- lit billboard would flood a sickly light down on them, conjuring up strange, flickering shadows. The Christmas lights were out— multicolored stars and pale blue snowflakes, an angel strung high above the avenue, her wings sparkling gold— and the signs in the shopwindows advertised half- price champagne and cheap diamond bracelets.

Cait hated Christmas. It was amateur hour for drinking, full of awkward office parties and old guys looking to cop a feel after one too many whiskeys. Her old manager had insisted on hanging a sprig of mistletoe at the edge of the bar, and every time she’d go to open the champagne fridge, there’d be some guy lurking, hoping to try his luck. There was a new manager now, a woman, so maybe it would be different, though given that the staff uniform involved mandatory crop tops and Stetsons, she wasn’t holding her breath. At least the tips would be decent.

She stretched, winced. Her back was killing her already. She’d been driving for hours, pushing through rush hour traffic out of Austin and on to 183. She’d lived in the city for eight years and every year it seemed to get worse, the roads thick with pickup trucks and beaters and shiny new sports cars, clogging up the city’s arteries, strangling its heart.

Friends talked about leaving the city. They said they couldn’t take the traffic anymore, or the ever rising rents for ever shittier apartments, or the Tesla charging stations that had sprung up like dandelions and were perpetually full. It was all talk, though. No one ever left. Where would they go? Someplace like this?

They passed Church’s Chicken and the Eleganté Hotel. The city was starting to lose its grip a little, pockets of land stretching wider between buildings and the buildings themselves growing longer and wider. Cait saw Rebecca’s shoulders inch away from her ears and the grip on her handbag start to loosen.

Finally, they saw the sign for the Lubbock city limit. “We’re out,” Cait said. “The hardest part is over now.” Rebecca cracked a smile.

They drove through Littlefield, past a John Deere dealership and a sign advertising vacancy at the Plains Motel. She’d done this stretch a couple times before— once with a sweet- faced college kid who spent the whole time cramming for her biology exam, and another with a woman from Odessa who wept for most of the journey.

That had been a tough one. But there had been worse.

Some of her clients— those who had jobs flexible enough to allow them a few days off, or partners who weren’t breathing down their necks— stayed within state lines, and she ferried them to Austin or Dallas or Fort Worth. Most went to New Mexico, where the rules weren’t so strict. It was a longer drive but quicker in the long run. Lubbock was in a dead zone: a five- hour drive no matter what direction she drove. It was the client’s choice. Tonight she was heading west.

She glanced in the rearview. There was a tractor trailer behind them. She stepped on the gas, and its headlights receded. No tail that she could detect. She allowed herself to relax a little. It was always most dangerous nearest the home. The more miles they had under their belts, the safer they would be. Until they got to where they were going, of course, but that was a headache she wouldn’t worry about until morning.

Cait had left in a hurry— late, as always— and hadn’t managed to get dinner. Hunger was mixed in with exhaustion, gritting her eyes and making her bones heavy. A cup of coffee and maybe a slice of pie would be enough to keep her going. “Do you mind if we stop once we’re over the border?”

Rebecca’s head snapped toward her. “Why?”

“I need a cup of coffee. I’ve been on the road since six o’clock.”

The corners of her pretty mouth turned down. “I guess. If you need to.”

“Thanks. It’ll be quick, I promise. I know you’re nervous, but we’re out of the danger zone now.”

“How do you know?”

“Ninety percent of all incidents occur within the first ten minutes of the journey. Most of the trouble I’ve seen has happened right outside the front door. Now that we’re out of Lubbock, it should be smooth sailing.”

Rebecca nodded but didn’t look convinced. She had the kind of profile that belonged on a Roman coin, all straight nose and firm jaw. Patrician. Cait smiled at her own description: it was good, she should write it down. Maybe she could use it.

In the meantime, she needed to work out that piece she’d been writing about labor conditions at the organic farm outside of Austin. The editor had been requesting the copy for weeks, but she hadn’t been able to land it. Not that he had much of a right to complain considering how much he was paying her, which was nothing. Still, she couldn’t risk pissing him off. It was rare that someone gave her a chance, especially these days.

A sign announced that they were leaving Littlefield. They were edging toward the desert now. Pretty soon there’d be nothing but scrub and sky. Her stomach rumbled. She couldn’t get to Clovis fast enough. It would be her last chance to get a decent cup of coffee that night.

She glanced over at the woman sitting next to her. “You comfortable? You want me to put the heat on or anything?”

Rebecca shook her head. “I’m fine, thanks.”

“Just let me know. It’s supposed to get down to the twenties tonight. They’re saying it might even snow.” She reached out and patted the dashboard. “Don’t worry, she’s good in the snow.”

Rebecca gave her a weak smile. “That’s good to know,” she said, before turning her face back toward the window.

So she wasn’t a talker. That was fine. There was plenty of time for that.

*******************

If this has whetted your appetite for the book, you can pre-order a copy here. 

Make sure you now head over to Susan Hampson’s blog, Books From Dusk Till Dawn for Chapter 2! The rest of the chapters and other content will be shared over the course of the week as detailed on the tour poster at the top of the post.

About the Author

Jessica Barry is a pseudonym for an American author who grew up in a small town in Massachusetts and was raised on a steady diet of library books and PBS.

She attended Boston University, where she majored in English and Art History, before moving to London in 2004 to pursue an MA from University College London.

She lives with her husband, Simon, and their two cats, Roger Livesey and BoJack Horseman.

Connect with Jessica:

Facebook: Jessica Barry

Twitter: @jessbarryauthor

Instagram: @jessicabarry9

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Friday Night Drinks with… Jo Jakeman

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Time for another tipple with a guest from the publishing world and tonight I am sharing Friday Night Drinks with author… Jo Jakeman.

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Welcome to the blog, Jo, thank you for taking the time to chat to me. First things first, what are you drinking?

A large glass of red wine. 19 Crimes of course because, you know, crime writer!

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If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

There’s a bar I’m quite fond of frequenting on a Friday evening that’s just on the sea front and within staggering distance. They do the most amazing sea food which I like to wash down with a Dark and Stormy cocktail. Bring a coat though, it can get a bit chilly when the sun sets.

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That looks absolutely delicious, you’ve made me hungry! If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

Claudia Winkleman, Ryan Reynolds. They both seem incredibly funny and down to earth.

So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

Just finishing up the line edits for Who Killed Oscar Lomas? which is the book that will be coming out in January 2022. It’s about a woman, called Beth, who refuses to believe that her husband died by suicide, despite all evidence. I’m often moved by that strength families have – that insistence that they know better than the police in the face of all the evidence because they know their loved one wouldn’t have died by suicide, or know that their daughter wouldn’t have run away. Is it faith? Stubbornness? Or is there some sort of bond that we can’t explain?

Really interesting ideas to explore. What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

I’m proud of so much (not in a braggy way!) but getting a book deal was amazing. Selling in America, Canada, Germany, Italy, France, Poland, Greece… Every time I see my book in a shop it gives me a thrill. But I think the thing that makes me the proudest and makes all the knockbacks worthwhile, is when I hear from a reader that my book meant something to them, that it helped in some little way.

The biggest challenge has been dealing with the self-doubt. When the book doesn’t storm the charts or you see an amazon review saying that they didn’t like the book, you doubt yourself. And when I’m full of self-doubt I find it hard to be creative. Book 2, Safe House, was a slog because I was second guessing myself all the time.

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!

I want to be a Sunday Times best seller. Maybe it shouldn’t matter, but it does. It is validation, it’s all that hard work paying off. And it means I might be able to afford a holiday next year.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

This is between us, yeah? I’m a little bit ahead of schedule now seeing as so much has been delayed because of COVID. So, I’m doing a bit of research for a novel set in the 1950s. I was left a few boxes of letters and diaries of a family friend called Moyra, and I’m writing a story based on them. It’s a lot harder than writing my modern day thrillers as there are actual facts and dates to contend with but I am loving it. I feel so lucky to have access to these resources.

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

Right now, I’d settle for anywhere warm. I was born in Cyprus and I have a soft spot for a Greek island, so I’d love to do some island-hopping and cross some others off my list. Kefalonia and Ithaka have been my favourites so far.

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That look beautiful, Kefalonia is definitely high on my bucket list. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I’m addicted to cold water swimming. I was in the sea on Christmas day wearing an elf hat!!

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Brrr! Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

Daisy Jones and the Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid.

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Everybody knows Daisy Jones and the Six.

From the moment Daisy walked barefoot on to the stage at the Whisky, she and the band were a sensation. Their sound defined an era. Their albums were on every turntable. They sold out arenas from coast to coast.

This is the story of their incredible rise: the desire, the rivalry – and the music.

Then, on 12 July 1979, Daisy Jones and the Six split up.

Nobody knew why. Until now…

So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

Drink a pint of water before bed, and makes sure there’s bacon in the house for tomorrow morning’s bacon-buttie.

Perfect. After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

I wake up to a gorgeous sunny day, so I walk the coastal path with my husband and kids round to a secluded cove where I have a quick dip in the sea then back home for a barbecue and a couple of beers.

Jo, thank you so much for joining me this evening, it has been a real pleasure.

Jo’s latest book, Safe House came out in paperback in January, and you can buy a copy here. It is only 99p on Kindle until the end of the month. Charlie has been recently released from prison after providing a false alibi for the man she loved. Now living in a remote Cornish village, with a new identity, she wants to put the past behind her but someone knows who she is. And they don’t believe in second chances.

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SHE LIED TO PROTECT A KILLER. NOW THERE’S NOWHERE LEFT TO HIDE. . .

The morning after a great storm, a woman arrives in a remote Cornish village.

But Charlie, as she now calls herself, steers clear of the locals and keeps a low profile – because she has a terrible secret.

Recently released from prison after providing a false alibi for the man she loved, Charlie wants to move on and start afresh. But someone, somewhere, is watching her, determined that she will never get that second chance.

Jo Jakeman was the winner of the prestigious Friday Night Live Award at York Festival of Writing where she was also shortlisted for Best Opening Chapter for the novel that would become her debut. This book was shortlisted for Best Revenge Novel at the Dead Good Reader Awards.

Born in Cyprus, Jo worked for many years in the City of London before moving to Derbyshire and changing careers.

Following completion of a Creative Writing course with Curtis Brown Creative, Jo has used her experience of family and work life to write stories which challenge readers to think past the respectability of domestic facades.

Her novels are published by Harvill Secker in the UK, Berkley in the US and Random House Canada.

Find out more about Jo and her books on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Blog Tour: The Silent Friend by Diane Jeffrey #BookReview

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Tragedy brought them together. The truth will tear them apart.

It’s supposed to be Laura’s dream holiday: a trip to France with a group of friends to see their favourite band play live. But the holiday quickly turns to disaster, and Laura is left haunted by terrifying images from the worst night of her life.

When Laura finds an online support group for victims like her, she’s not convinced it will help. But when Sandrine replies to her message, she seems to understand what Laura’s going through, in a way that no one else can.

Soon, Laura and Sandrine are sharing their deepest thoughts and feelings with each other. But one of them has a terrible secret – she isn’t who she says she is. And once the twisted truth is revealed, there’s no going back…

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for The Silent Friend by Diane Jeffrey. My thanks to Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog 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.

I have become a little bit jaded with the psychological thriller genre of late. There seem to be a lot of books out there that are very similar, with similar looking covers and titles, and I wonder how many stories there are left to tell. I appreciate I may be in the minority here, as publishers wouldn’t keep putting them out if they weren’t still popular, but in my private reading I’ve tended to stop picking them up and I’m looking for something different. If I had been choosing this book for myself based on title, cover and blurb, rather than taking part in a blog tour, I might have skimmed over this book for this reason, but that would have been a massive shame, because this is a standout book in the genre, and so different as to tone, plot and message, that I don’t think the label ‘psychological thrilller’ even does it justice in describing what it is or the places it will take you.

I am not sure how well I can describe the book without giving away spoilers which might mar the reading experience for you. The publishers have been very careful in the blurb to avoid giving away a major plot point on which the whole book pivots and I don’t want to reveal it, because I think you should go into the book naive as I did to get the full impact of the story. However, that makes it very hard to talk about what I loved about this book in any detail, so forgive me for being vague from hereon in.

This is a story of two women who have different roles in a tragedy, and who are having to come to terms with it from completely different perspectives, but some of the problems they are dealing with are the same. So, they have some common ground on which to base a friendship of mutual understanding and support. However, one of them is not being honest about who they are and their part in events. Can a friendship built on a lie survive?

This is a story about dealing with a horrifying event, and how people recover and deal with the aftermath. there is pain and guilt and sorrow and PTSD. There is the concept of blame. Who should shoulder it, how does society mete it out and how do the people at who a finger is pointed weather the storm? The book deals very sympathetically with some complicated but relevant issues and I was extremely impressed with the author’s framing of the questions and how she resolved them. I liked the way that she avoided over sensationalising the subject, and the empathy she had with both women. The book is intelligently written and sympathetic rather than shocking for the sake of it, and it really pulled me in and made me feel the emotions of both women. I think it is a masterclass in how to write a psychological thriller that goes to the next level; that takes the genre to a place of really saying something interesting and illuminating. It made me feel like the time I spent reading it had garnered rewards beyond the simple pleasure of a good story.

I read this book in almost a single sitting (only sleep getting in the way), I was so engrossed in the story. The characters were really well drawn and both relatable and sympathetic, which is a great achievement as you will understand when you read it. It managed to be a gripping and urgent read without any huge setpieces beyond the central event which happens early one, which is testament to the skill of this author’s writing. I was hugely impressed with every aspect in this book and have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending it to lovers of psychological thrillers and anyone who likes a thought-provoking and intelligent piece of fiction.

The Silent Friend is out now as an ebook and audiobook, and will be published in paperback later this year. You can buy a copy here.

Please do check out some of the other blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

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Diane Jeffrey is a USA Today bestselling author.

She grew up in North Devon and Northern Ireland. She now lives in Lyon, France, with her husband and their three children, Labrador and cat.

Diane’s is the author of four psychological thrillers, all of which were Kindle bestsellers in the UK, the USA, Canada and Australia.

THE GUILTY MOTHER, Diane’s third book, was a USA Today bestseller and spent several weeks in the top 100 Kindle books in the UK.

Her latest psychological thriller, THE SILENT FRIEND, is set in Belfast and Lyon. It was published in ebook in November 2020 with the paperback and audiobook to follow in 2021.

She is currently working on her fifth psychological thriller.

Diane is an English teacher. When she’s not working or writing, she likes swimming, running and reading. She loves chocolate, beer and holidays.

Above all, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends.

Connect with Diane:

Website: https://www.dianejeffrey.com/

Facebook: Diane Jeffrey Author

Twitter: @dianefjeffrey

Instagram: @dianefjeffrey

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Book Review: The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward #BookReview

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This is the story of a murderer. A stolen child. Revenge. This is the story of Ted, who lives with his daughter Lauren and his cat Olivia in an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street.

All these things are true. And yet some of them are lies.

You think you know what’s inside the last house on Needless Street. You think you’ve read this story before. In the dark forest at the end of Needless Street, something lies buried. But it’s not what you think…

It is my great privilege to be reviewing an advance copy of this book provided to me for this purpose by Sahina Bibi at Viper Books. My thanks to Sahina for the opportunity, I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

I’ve been wrestling with writing this post for a few weeks now, because I knew this was going to be a very hard book to review for two reasons. Firstly, it is vital that the reader goes into this book completely in the dark as to plot to experience the full impact of the story, so I have to make sure the review doesn’t contain the slightest sniff of a spoiler, which is not an easy feat here. Secondly, the book is stunning in ways it is hard to convey with my inadequate words. However, a review has been promised so a review I shall deliver to the best of my abilities.

As you can gather from the blurb reproduced above, this is a thriller with a murder at its heart and involving a missing child. That’s about as much of the plot as I can tell you. The story is told through the voices of three narrators. Ted, an awkward, socially-inept man who lives alone on Needless Street. Dee, whose younger sister Lulu went missing years before, and for whom she has been searching ever since. And Ted’s cat, Olivia.

I know. A cat as a narrator. Any book using this device wouldn’t normally be my bag but, trust me, here it works. Truly. Do not let this put you off from picking up the book, it is vital to the plot and you will appreciate the genius of it once you have finished the book, I promise.

That’s it. That’s all I can tell you. You have to go into the book with no more knowledge than this. No more chat about characters, or how the plot is put together, or highs and lows or endings or anything. You need to find these things out for yourself by reading it, so that you can experience the mental impact of the book’s events as they unfold on the page, as the author intended. You need to not know to appreciate it. Instead, let’s talk about the writing.

This book is dark and twisted and disturbing and oppressive and upsetting, and so beautiful and poetic that it makes me want to weep with joy and envy. I was baffled and perplexed and confused and surprised and moved and thrown and distraught and horrified and sorry from one moment to the next. I had no idea what was coming, and could never have understood or appreciated it until right at the end, when I was blown away as everything suddenly fell into place. It was totally shocking and utterly, utterly wonderful. I immediately wanted to go back to the start and read it over again from the new perspective of someone who has finished it and sees it all. This is a book where you can NEVER have the same experience you had on your first reading ever again, so savour that first time. How the author has woven this book together, the depth of exploration of the subject matter, the empathy, the tenderness, the poetry of the writing, the gorgeous metaphors – it is nothing short of astonishing. I have never read anything like this book. I have never come away from a novel with the thoughts and feelings that this novel gave me. I was profoundly surprised by what it achieved and how it made me feel.

I know this review is a bit vague, I’d apologise but there is no other way to do it and leave the reading experience intact for you. Suffice it to say, you should read it. Did I love it? That’s not the right way to express how it made me feel and if you read it you’ll understand why I say this. You may think you know thrillers. You don’t. You may think you have seen it all so nothing can surprise you. You haven’t. This book is something else. Just read it and see, I’m sure you’ll agree.

The Last House on Needless Street will be published on 18 March in hardback, audiobook and ebook formats and on 30 September in paperback, and you can pre-order the book here.

About the Author

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CATRIONA WARD was born in Washington, DC and grew up in the United States, Kenya, Madagascar, Yemen, and Morocco. She read English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford and is a graduate of the Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia. Her next gothic thriller, The Last House on Needless Street, will be published March 2021 by Viper (Serpents Tail).

Ward’s second novel, Little Eve (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2018) won the 2019 Shirley Jackson Award and the August Derleth Prize for Best Horror Novel at the 2019 British Fantasy Awards, making her the only woman to have won the prize twice, and was a Guardian best book of 2018. Her debut Rawblood (W&N, 2015) won Best Horror Novel at the 2016 British Fantasy Awards, was shortlisted for the Author’s Club Best First Novel Award and a WHSmith Fresh Talent title. Her short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies. She lives in London and Devon.

Connect with Catriona:

Facebook: Catriona Ward

Twitter: @Catrionaward

Instagram: @catward66

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Cover Reveal: All My Lies by Sophie Flynn

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It’s a red letter day today because I don’t normally take part in cover reveals. However, I am so excited about the upcoming publication of All My Lies, the debut novel by Sophie Flynn, that, when I was asked to take part in the cover reveal today, I could not possibly refuse!

All My Lies is Sophie’s debut novel and has been compared to books by Phoebe Morgan, Louise Jensen and K. L. Slater. Since these are some of my favourite authors, I am breathless with anticipation for this new addition to the genre. Let’s have a look at the blurb, shall we, before we see the cover?

Anna wants to escape.
She doesn’t know when her marriage to James began to feel like a trap or when he became so controlling. All she knows is that she needs to leave before it’s too late.

And she has a plan.
When Anna reconnects with her childhood sweetheart, Sam, she sees it as the answer to her problems. Finally, they’ll have a life together, like they’d always planned – the life she was meant to have.

But the lies are catching up with her . . .
On the morning of their escape, Sam goes missing. Anna knows he wouldn’t leave her, that something must have happened to him.
Her search for answers will force her to confront her past, something that she has been running from for a very long time . . .

See, sounds fabulous, doesn’t it? You’re excited too now, I can tell! So, to get you even more revved up, let’s finally see that cover.

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Ta dah!

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Perfect, isn’t it? I’m sure it will draw people in to picking the book up. If you’ve now been tempted by this book, it is out on 23 April and you can pre-order the book here.

You can read an interview with Sophie and find out more about the book over on The Glasshouse magazine website now. Follow the link from @glasshousegirls on Twitter.

About the Author

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Sophie is a Cotswolds based psychological thriller author with an MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes. Her debut novel ALL MY LIES will be published by Simon & Schuster on April 23, 2021. 

Alongside writing, Sophie is the Head of Marketing at Jericho Writers. After being awarded a place at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School on the TopWrite scheme for young writers in 2017, Sophie began writing short fiction. She has since had many stories published and placed in competitions with organisations such as Writing Magazine and The Cheltenham Literature Festival.

When not writing, Sophie can be mostly found on muddy walks with her husband and rescue dog or disappearing to Cornwall whenever possible.

She is represented by Kate Nash of Kate Nash Literary Agency.

Connect with Sophie:

Website: https://sophieflynn.com/

Twitter: @sophielflynn

Instagram: @sophieflynnauthor

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Blog tour: Call Me Mummy by Tina Baker #BookReview

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THIS MOTHER’S DAY YOU WILL CALL HER MUMMY

Glamorous, beautiful Mummy has everything a woman could want. Except for a daughter of her very own. So when she sees Kim – heavily pregnant, glued to her phone and ignoring her eldest child in a busy shop – she does what anyone would do. She takes her. But foul-mouthed little Tonya is not the daughter that Mummy was hoping for.

As Tonya fiercely resists Mummy’s attempts to make her into the perfect child, Kim is demonised by the media as a ‘scummy mummy’, who deserves to have her other children taken too. Haunted by memories of her own childhood and refusing to play by the media’s rules, Kim begins to spiral, turning on those who love her.

Though they are worlds apart, Mummy and Kim have more in common than they could possibly imagine. But it is five-year-old Tonya who is caught in the middle…

CALL ME MUMMY. IT’LL BE BETTER IF YOU DO.

I’m delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for Call Me Mummy by Tina Baker. My thanks to Sahina Bibi of Viper Books for inviting me to take part and for supplying me with a digital copy of the book for review purposes. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

It’s your worst nightmare as a parent, losing your child. Even them disappearing out of your sight for a second has your heart plummeting to your shoes and panic grabbing you by the throat. So imagine if they really were gone and you had no idea where or if you would ever see them again. This is the nightmare scenario explored in this book, and the author paints such a vivid picture that my heart was in my mouth from start to finish.

This story is told by three voices. Kim, the mother whose daughter is taken from under her nose whilst out shopping; Mummy, the woman who takes the child in desperation; and Tonya, the abducted girl. This is a very effective construction, as we get to see the story from all sides and it reveals a lot of intimate thoughts and consequences of the abduction that you might not have thought about. Because the reaction of neither woman in the aftermath of the kidnapping is exactly what you’d expect if you have ever given the matter any serious thought.

As well as exploring what motivates such actions by a woman, and what the parents of the missing child might be going through, the book explores the reactions of the world at large, and how we, as an amorphous group rather than individually, judge people on surface appearances without really knowing all the facts. Kim is the ‘wrong sort’ of mother, and she is judged harshly and cruelly as a result. She doesn’t play the sympathy game properly, and people troll and abuse her, despite the fact she is a victim. The pressure put on her family, how it affects her other children, her friendships and her relationships, is all explored with a keen eye and I’m not sure it’s Kim who comes off worst in my judgment by the end.

On the other hand, on the surface, Mummy is the complete opposite. She looks like the kind of woman you might place a child with if they needed a good home. But no one knows what goes on behind closed doors or in the mind of a person, and outward appearances can be deceptive. The book reminds us not to take things at face value and not to believe everything we see. Less than perfect people are capable of empathy, care and love, and the most respectable looking people can be battling with demons.

The book also explores the effect that childhood trauma can have on a psyche and the kind of people we turn into. Despite the fact of what Mummy did, the author tries to dredge up some sympathy for her when we hear about her past, although it is the thinnest of thin threads to hang on to. The author does manage to make clear the pain that not being able to have a child causes to a woman, and for that alone you have to feel for Mummy. But Kim’s pain is greater. Losing a child is like losing an essential part of yourself. But if you can understand the pain a woman feels when they lose a child, then you must also be able to feel the pain of a woman who can never have one to begin with, the two things are inseparable.

The author explores this issue with searing understanding and honesty, but not in the direction you might expect, and what she has produced as a result is a dark, twisted, terrifying but absorbing read that will keep you awake at night and leave you with thoughts and questions that might be painful to address. This is a confident and accomplished debut and is highly recommended for anyone who likes a thought-provoking, gripping but uncomfortable read.

Call Me Mummy will be released in hardback, ebook and audiobook formats on 25 February, and in paperback in September 2021 and you can buy a copy here.

Please do visit some of the other wonderful blogs involved in the tour as detailed below for alternative reviews of the book:

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About the Author

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Tina Baker, the daughter of a window cleaner and fairground traveller, worked as a journalist and broadcaster for thirty years and is probably best known as a television critic for the BBC and GMTV. After so many hours watching soaps gave her a widescreen bum, she got off it and won Celebrity Fit Club. She now avoids writing-induced DVT by working as a Fitness Instructor.
Call Me Mummy is Tina’s first novel, inspired by her own unsuccessful attempts to become a mother. Despite the grief of that, she’s not stolen a child – so far. But she does rescue cats, whether they want to be rescued or not.

Connect with Tina:

Website: http://www.tinabaker.co.uk/books

Twitter: @TinaBakerBooks

Instagram: @tinabakerbooks

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Blog Tour: Deity by Matt Wesolowski #BookReview

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When pop megastar Zach Crystal dies in a fire at his remote mansion, his mysterious demise rips open the bitter divide between those who adored his music and his endless charity work, and those who viewed him as a despicable predator, who manipulated and abused young and vulnerable girls.

Online journalist, Scott King, whose ‘Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the accusations of sexual abuse and murder that were levelled at Crystal before he died. But as Scott begins to ask questions and rakes over old graves, some startling inconsistencies emerge. Was the fire at Crystal’s remote home really an accident? Why was he never officially charged? Are reports of a haunting really true?

Dark, chillingly topical and deeply thought-provoking, Deity is both an explosive, spine-chilling thriller and a startling look at how heroes can fall from grace and why we are willing to turn a blind eye to even the most heinous of crimes…

I’ve been waiting impatiently for my turn on the blog tour for Deity by Matt Wesolowski, the fifth book in his fantastic Six Stories series. Huge thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher, Orenda Books, for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

If you are a follower of the blog, you will be aware what a fan I am of Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories series. His last book, Beast, was one of my Top Twelve Books of 2020, so I was really looking forward to reading this. The original format of these novels, a six episode podcast delving into a cold criminal case from half a dozen diverse perspectives, gleaned from people involved in the mystery, is fresh and exciting and makes for a very unique reading experience. In this book as well we are treated to snippets from the final interview with enigmatic pop god, Zach Crystal, before his mysterious death.

Pop God. I picked those words carefully because this is the main theme running through the book and the reason for the title. Our obsession with celebrity and the elevating of those with talent to a position where they become untouchable, so they are able to hide their true selves from the world. The way some people become so revered that no one is allowed to say a word against them and their fans will defend them to the last, whatever is revealed about their true nature. I’m sure we can all think of people this has applied to in recent times and how hard it has been to bring certain people to justice for crimes because of their huge power and influence. This has been a hot topic in recent years, and Matt mines it for effect very successfully here, weaving a disturbing and thought-provoking tale.

You can draw your own conclusions on what real-life happenings Matt has drawn from to write this book but there is one obvious parallel to me, and this book managed to raise and explore a lot of the questions I have asked myself in the past when these issues have been raised. Is it possible to separate a person’s art from their actions? How, as a society, are we complicit in deifying these people to such an extent that they can do no wrong? How do we allow money and power to shield people in a way that the man in the street is not shielded from scrutiny and question? How do people allow themselves to be so seduced by money and glamour that they will put their loved ones in a situation that they never would otherwise? As in his other books, Matt is exploring the ways in which our society is broken and corrupt and clearly pointing us at some unpalatable truths.

The book is addictive holding you in thrall from start to finish. Each new interviewee peels back another side to the case so you build the picture slowly, only to have it unpicked and rearranged in the next chapter. You can’t know the truth until the last pages, and even then you will find yourself left with questions and conundrums to mull over long after you close the back cover. The book isn’t a comfortable read, that solves a mystery with a neat little bow. It is dark and ragged and fragmented and sinister. It is probing and questioning and revealing and deeply uncomfortable. Matt’s writing explores the dark side of life, bringing the most terrifying childhood stories into stark and too-real adult life. Pick up this book and prepare to be disturbed and challenged and left unsettled. This is no fairytale.

This series just keeps getting better and better, the writer striding into each new episode with increased confidence and bravado. At least that is how it comes across, and the release of a Six Stories book has become one of the highlights of my reading year. If you haven’t discovered these books yet, now is a great time to start.

(Huge apologies to Matt, Karen and Anne for not getting this posted yesterday as promised.)

Deity is out now in ebook format and will be published in paperback on 18 February, and you can buy a copy here.

Please do check out the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour for alternative reviews:

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About the Author

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Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- and US-based anthologies, such as Midnight Movie Creature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013.

Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio. A prequel, Hydra, was published in 2018 and became an international bestseller. Changeling, the third book in the series, was published in 2019 and was longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. His fourth book, Beast, won the Amazon Publishing Readers’ Independent Voice Book of the Year award in 2020.

Connect with Matt:

Website: Beyond The North Waves

Facebook: Matt Wesolowski

Twitter: @ConcreteKraken

Instagram: @mattjwesolowski

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The Fiction Cafe Book Club Reading Challenge 2021: The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins; Narrated by Emily Shaffer, Kirby Heyborne & Lauren Fortgang #BookReview

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A girl looking for love….

When Jane, a broke dog-walker newly arrived in town, meets Eddie Rochester, she can’t believe her luck. Eddie is handsome, rich and lives alone in a beautiful mansion since the tragic death of his beloved wife a year ago.

A man who seems perfect….

Eddie can give Jane everything she’s always wanted: stability, acceptance and a picture-perfect life.

A wife who just won’t stay buried….

But what Jane doesn’t know is that Eddie is keeping a secret – a big secret. And when the truth comes out, the consequences are far more deadly than anyone could ever have imagined…. 

Time to review the second book I have chosen this year as part of the 2021 Reading Challenge for my online book club, The Fiction Cafe Book Club. The challenge is to read a new book every fortnight that fits the prescribed category for that two-week period. The second category is ‘A book with a type of relative in the title.’

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins is a book that is getting a lot of positive attention at the moment. It is a modern retelling of Jane Eyre, but with enough twists to keep you guessing, even if you are a fan of the original book.

The book takes place in an affluent neighbourhood in Alabama, where appearances are everything, but nothing is what it seems to be on the surface. Tensions lurk beneath the polished facades that the residents present to the world, and cracks begin to appear once Jane arrives on the scene and upsets the order of society by taking root where she doesn’t belong. Her relationship with Eddie stirs up secrets that were previously buried and reveals facts about the disappearance of his wife that were hidden.

The book is narrated by three characters, Jane, Eddie Rochester and the missing wife, Bea, so we are getting each of their perspectives on the story, but it is impossible to know whose version of events to believe. I have to say, there were no characters in this book that I particularly liked, which would ordinarily make it hard for an author to carry me through a book with them. I normally need to have some sympathy for at least one of the characters for me to invest in a novel to the end, but I didn’t feel any here. This Jane is very different from the Jane in Charlotte Bronte’s novel and I did not warm to her at all. It is testament to how well the author has constructed the mystery through the book, because it was that and not the characters that kept me listening.

I really enjoyed the setting of the book, the descriptions of the exclusive enclave and the pretensions of the people who lived within it. The show they put on, compared to the reality of what is happening beneath, was entertaining, bitchy and authentic and had me gripped. I loved the ambiguity of the story, the way the author teases us with the different voices so we don’t honestly know who is telling the truth and who has spun their own version of it. There are also questions left hanging at the end for the reader to interpret as they will in the light of what has gone before and I think this added an extra dimension to the story.

The narrators were great, they really brought the story to life, and the book made my chores pass quickly. I am perhaps not as in love with this book as some other reviewers I have seen, but it will not disappoint fans of this type of domestic thriller, and it was an interesting, modern interpretation of a beloved book. A solid read.

The Wife Upstairs is out now in ebook, hardback and audio formats, and will be published in paperback in April and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Rachel Hawkins is the New York Times bestselling author of multiple books for young readers, and her work has been translated in over a dozen countries. She studied gender and sexuality in Victorian literature at Auburn University and currently lives in Alabama with her husband and son. The Wife Upstairs is her first adult novel

Connect with Rachel:

Twitter: @LadyHawkins

Instagram: @ladyhawkins

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Book Review: The Last Thing To Burn by Will Dean

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He is her husband. She is his captive.

Her husband calls her Jane. That is not her name.

She lives in a small farm cottage, surrounded by vast, open fields. Everywhere she looks, there is space. But she is trapped. No one knows how she got to the UK: no one knows she is there. Visitors rarely come to the farm; if they do, she is never seen.

Her husband records her every movement during the day. If he doesn’t like what he sees, she is punished.

For a long time, escape seemed impossible. But now, something has changed. She has a reason to live and a reason to fight. Now, she is watching him, and waiting . . .

How do you write a review of a book like The Last Thing To Burn? It has been seeming like an impossible task to put down in words the feelings I have about this book and yet, review it I must because word of this book needs spreading far and wide so that as many people as possible read it. I’ve yet to come across anyone who has read this book who hasn’t been blown away by it, and I am no different. I am not exaggerating when I say that this is one of the most outstanding books I have ever read.

When I was thinking about writing this review, I was so overwhelmed by the idea of having to put down on the page my complex feelings about it, I joked with a fellow blogger that I was just going to try and sum up a reason for someone to read the book in a single line, and spare myself the pain of trying to communicate with my inadequate words anything more. I still think I could make you want to read this book with that single line, so here it is:

I have never hated anyone, in real life or in fiction, as much as I hate the antagonist in this book.

You see, you want to know why now, don’t you? Why is he the worst person I have ever come across? Well, pick up the book and find out and, by the time you have finished, I know you will agree with me. This person is stone cold evil in a way you will probably have never read about before, and the author will stun you throughout by peeling back more and more depths to his sadism as you go through the book and think you have already plumbed the depths to which a human can sink. The most terrifying part of it is, the plausibility of the scenario. This is no wild flight of fancy where Will is writing a really obvious piece of fiction for entertainment. This book is so horrifying because you know that this could absolutely happen, is likely happening somewhere in this country. That is what makes is so disturbing.

If you are now wondering why you should read a book that I have described as something horrifying and disturbing, I will tell you. On the flip side of cruelty and depravity, this book explores the power of love and the resilience and determination of the human spirit in its face. Brought as low as a human can go, subjected to inhumanity that is too horrible for most of us to think about on a daily basis, inside the protagonist is a spark that the antagonist has not managed to quell. There is life and there is fight and, where that exists, there is a glimmer of hope. This hope, and this evidence of humanity and dignity in the face of adversity that seems insurmountable, is what will keep you glued to the pages. It is what will make you invest in and care for the protagonist as much as you loathe the perpetrator of her misery and will her to prevail. And you will be desperate for it, desperate to know if the human spirit will triumph in the end. You won’t know, but you will hope, and hope and hope as you frantically turn the pages and read until your bath water is cold, and your daughter comes to check you haven’t drowned and all of your chores go undone until you know, one way or another, what will happen. Thank goodness that this book is only 250 pages long, because you will absolutely have to, as if YOUR life depended on it, start and finish this book in a single sitting.

I don’t know if you have come across Will Dean before, but he is a bit of a heartthrob in the book world. He looks like a knitwear model. He lives in a remote forest in Sweden, in a house he built himself. He has the most gorgeous dog you’ve ever seen. But I tell you, this book makes him even more attractive than all of that, because it is obvious that this is a man who really understands women, and you can tell that from the way he writes ‘Jane.’ There are things in this book that this woman goes through that would make most men blush to talk about and yet Will writes about them, and her reaction to what happens to her, as if these are things he has experienced and understands intimately. Honestly, this was one of the things that really struck me, just how truthfully, compassionately and empathetically he writes the experience of this woman, so that she is totally real to the reader. If you really stand back and look at it, it is an astonishing accomplishment.

I still don’t think I’ve done this book justice, but I have done my best. Just read this book, it is an unbelievable piece of literature. One of my writer friends, who finished the book just last night, talked this morning about having to ‘pull herself out of his world,’ and I can relate completely to that statement. This is a completely immersive piece of work that takes you entirely out of your world and plonks you directly into the life of someone else, until that is all you can think about. And, even when you have finished, you still won’t be able to stop thinking about it entirely for weeks afterwards. I already knew, on 10 January when I finished this book, that it would be one of my Top Ten Books of 2021. Scrap that. it might be in my Top Ten books of all time. Just read it. Even the title is absolute genius.

We Begin At The End is out now in hardback, ebook and audio formats and you can buy a copy here. It will be available in paperback in December 2021.

About the Author

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

DARK PINES, the first in the Tuva Moodyson series, was published to huge critical acclaim in 2018, was shortlisted for Not the Booker prize, selected for Zoe Ball’s TV Book Club and named as a Daily Telegraph Book of the Year. THE LAST THING TO BURN is his first standalone novel.

Connect with Will:

Twitter: @willrdean

Instagram: @willrdean

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