Tag: Psychological Thriller

Between You And Me by Lisa Hall

4 and half 1

 

I love a good twist in a book, getting that ‘WOW’ moment when everything flips on its head is better than a bar of chocolate for me. Between You And Me has the best twist I’ve read for a long time, so much so, I had to go back and re-read the last couple of chapters just to make sure.

Between You And Me

This is a psychological thriller based around domestic abuse. To outsiders Charlie is charming, but in reality is a dominating manipulator and Sal gets the brunt of anything that Charlie doesn’t like. This only happens behind closed doors in their own home, and when Charlie begins to use Maggie, their daughter, as a bargaining tool, Sal has had enough and schemes to leave, taking Maggie too.

Tension is high all the way through, there’s never a dull moment, the reader always wondering what Charlie will mete out next on Sal. Lisa Hall is a great writer and I can thoroughly recommend all her books if you like a taut, gripping read.

 

 

 

 

SHE by HC Warner

four-stars

She is a book of two halves. First we start with Ben and how shattered he is when his long-term girlfriend, Charlotte, leaves him.  He was about to propose but she didn’t get to know that.

She

Then in a whirlwind romance he meets Bella, she quickly becomes pregnant and they marry, but everything is on her terms. Bella, the ‘She’ doesn’t come over as a very nice person and I’m sure if it wasn’t for the baby, their relationship would not have lasted. She’s rude to his parents and he’s no longer allowed to see his friends. The brass neck of the girl makes for perfect poolside reading. Part two, and the story flips to Bella’s version of events. I can’t say it made me like Bella any more but one or two things slipped into place. There’s quite a bit of repetition of events with living Bella’s slant and perspective, but this just confirmed what a schemer she is.

I found She to be a cleverly plotted book and quite refreshing in its unusualness.

 

 

His And Hers by Alice Feeney

Five Stars 1

 

His and Hers

Alice Feeney never fails to give a good depth crime thriller with tension and suspense. In this one, we get His, DCI Jack Harper, and Her, TV presenter Anna Andrews, perspective of a series of murders centred around a village from their past.

We quickly learn that Jack and Anna used to be married and that the first murder victim is known to both DCI Jack Harper and Anna Andrews. After murders two and three it looks like Anna’s circle of school friends are being targeted. It’s also clear that the DCI Jack Harper is being framed, or at least he thinks so.

I found this story to be utterly gripping, full of twists and at any one time I could fit any of the characters into being the murderer.  I very much recommend this and all other novels by Alice Feeney.

 

Liars by Anita Waller & Patricia Dixon

4 and half 1

 

Liars

Some dual writer partnerships work really well – husband and wife team Nicci French, Greer Hendricks & Sara Pekkanen – and this Waller-Dixon is seamless and flows beautifully. I know Patricia Dixon‘s writing very well but have only read one of Anita Waller‘s books, both are accomplished writers in their own right, and I guessed quite early on who wrote which character.

Wendy and Nell have been friends since primary school and know each others deepest secrets.

Nell travels Europe for work and they write to each other constantly, that is until and Wendy marries a man who Nell knows is a creep and a womaniser and Wendy’s letters become sparse and formulaic. When Nell returns to Sheffield, Wendy’s husband is unexpectedly nice to her until she’s due to fly back to France and then shows his true colours when he brutally attacks her, both verbally and physically.

There is suspense, intrigue, love and friendship, as well as the odd murder or two. The mix of psychological/crime writer with romantic suspense writer works really well to give softness and reality to quite nasty, sometimes vicious, characters and situations. Very much recommended.

 

34 Days by Anita Waller

4 and half 1

 

34 Days

Anna is in an unhappy marriage. Ray is not a kind person, and now that her children are grown up she decides to take back control of her life. On the day of her 35th wedding anniversary, she packs her bags and leaves her home and Lincoln for good.Ray is furious but believes she will go back to him after a few days but, as she finds herself a modern apartment in a new town, she starts to feel safe and joyously elated. Then Jenny, her daughter-in-law, drops two bombshells which rocks Anna to her core.

This is a serial killer thriller like no other. I’ve never before read such an impacting and unique storyline – family secrets past and present, murder to hide murder – and I rushed through the book needing to know whether Anna and Jenny’s secret, their lives, were safe.

Anita Waller is a fabulous writer. She creates friendly, believable characters and puts them in monstrous situations. This is the first of her books I’ve read, but now I’ve discovered her I have several earmarked for the top of my reading mountain.

Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

4 and half 1

 

Beautiful Bad is truly one of the most psychological of psychological thrillers. The story builds and builds, goes back in time several years from the day of the killing, returns to the day of the killing, goes back a few weeks before the day of the killing, and all this back story really intensifies the suspense.

Beautiful Bad K

The book starts with the police entering the house after a distressing call to 911. There is so much blood inside that there has to be a body – we don’t know who is dead until close to the end of the book, it is just referred to as ‘the killing’. We are taken back to when Jo and Maddie were best friends and both had a love of eastern bloc countries, their languages and the cultures. Jo lives in Macedonia and Maddie lives in Bulgaria but they get together, often in dangerous travelling situations, as often as they can. The two girls meet a group of men, including Ian, who they party and drink with and this is when the friendship starts to go awry.

Ian is working in security for army officers, escorting individuals and companies in war torn areas of the middle east and Africa. He is clearly suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, drinking astronomical amounts of vodka and doesn’t seek professional help. Ian and Jo have some history, possibly a relationship, when Maddie isn’t around, and later when Maddie and Ian are married, she still doesn’t know why Ian and Jo hate each other so much.

The past story meets with present time and all secrets are laid out to be shouted about. I thought the description of their lives in the eastern bloc countries was intense and fascinating. The tension and suspense was high throughout and I loved the twisted turnaround ending.

 

Codename Villanelle: The Basis For Killing Eve

4 and half 1

 

When a book goes to screen I always try to read the book before it appears at the cinema or TV. I did this one the other way round, and I’m so pleased I did. After watching the Killing Eve series, I just had to read the book – Villanelle was under my skin. After reading a few book reviews, I realised that it wasn’t liked by all but I felt that watching the series first gave a head start on Villanelle’s character.

Codename Villanelle

With visual characters already in my head, I quickly got into the story, slightly different from the TV series, and immediately loved Oxana (later becoming Villanelle) and Konstantin. The book does flip about and has a rushed, almost the book in a draft form feel about it, but this staccato, slightly detached writing style really fits with Villanelle’s character. She is seriously flawed, crazy and uncontrollable at times and her lack of emotion makes her a perfect assassin.

Eve is a character who seems to be always running on catch-up. She never makes dinner with her husband even when they have guests round. She’s uncomfortable in fashion and barely has time to do her hair or apply make-up – she knows she should make more of an effort but it just doesn’t seem to work for her. The final straw is when she’s kicked off her job of finding the mystery female assassin who killed on her watch. She knows she’s close and just has to find this cold killer.

Villanelle has certainly got under my skin and I now have to read book two before it hits the screen.

 

Villanelle

Those Who Lie by Diane Jeffrey

 

Four Stars

Emily Klein doesn’t know her husband Greg is dead until the day of the funeral. From her hospital bed, she doesn’t yet know that she killed him. Once home and beginning to recover from the dreadful car crash, she sees her husband at a distance, in coffee shops, around town and in his car, yet when she gets home the car is on the drive.

Lies 1

Posts appear on his Facebook account and she begins to get text messages from him, it can only be him as he’s the only one who called her Alice when her name is Emily. She thinks she’s losing her mind and the reader is reminded of her past when  she was in a mental institution after killing her father.

The book switches back to her childhood home with her sister and their abusive father. We get an idea of Emily’s mental state and the reason behind her spell in a mental institution. Emily’s sister is key throughout the story giving support when she’s just lost her husband. Most of the story is in present day, just a few switches to childhood as memories resurface.

Emily’s friends are all under suspicion of imitating Greg and she doesn’t know who to trust or believe. There are several twists and jaw-drops before all lies are revealed and unravelled at the end.

Diane Jeffrey

 

 

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The Rival by Charlotte Duckworth

4 and half 1

Helena is a confident and successful business woman heading her own department in an international make-up company. Then Ashley is interviewed and taken on and everything goes out of kilter.

The Rival

The story is told in a present day and back a year or so style, and although I felt that sometimes the timeline wasn’t quite clear (only realising we’d gone back/forward after a paragraph or two,) it worked well to show how quickly Ashley was taking over and Helena was spiralling down with pregnancy, childbirth and depression.

Both main female characters had their faults, pushy, deceptive, unfaithful etc., and the author making them both unlikeable at times made them feel realistic, more true to life, just a bad combination when they got together.

I thought the book was well written and well plotted, it had a couple of unexpected twists at the end and I enjoyed it very much.

 

Over My Shoulder by Patricia Dixon

Five Stars

This is a dark and addictive story of how lovely Freya becomes manipulated and controlled by Kane. Freya’s character is portrayed to be a normal working young woman of the 1990s. She has a very real personality, the sort of girl we could have worked with and from a family we could know of. She meets Kane whilst at work and quickly becomes quite besotted by him, even though she has a steady boyfriend. From the start, Kane is a manipulator and engineers meetings with Freya until their relationship takes off, just as he had planned it. Kane is a complex character and is a truly nasty piece of work. Kane has a beautiful and kind young woman by his side, but his cruel side surfaces when least expected, and as Freya becomes more isolated from her friends and family, her traumatic life becomes insufferable.

OMS

Much of the early and middle part of the book is set in 1990s Manchester and and shows a reflection of how times have changed in such a short time; the lack of technology, few mobile phones and attitudes of the police. Later, we move forward to the present day to conclude the story in a nail bitingly tense final few chapters. It is truly a gripping and shocking story from start to finish and just shows how easy it is to fall in with the wrong people.

Patricia Dixon writes in a very relaxed and northern style and her characters are totally believable. This book covers a lot of issues which might shock some readers, so be warned there is some violence and domestic abuse. Patricia Dixon has written sympathetically and emotionally about some very difficult issues and I think she’s done a great job of giving realism to a fictional story. This is her first psychological suspense novel and I do hope she writes more in this genre.

I was asked to be an early reader of this book and feel very privileged to have seen the story grow and change. Fourteen months after the first spark of an idea, several edits, a cut of around 50 pages, and a few tears along the way, Patricia now has a very gripping, tight plot which I feel rivals the ‘Behind Closed Doors’ style psychological books. Very well worth reading and there’s even a cameo of me in the final chapters!

Patricia Dixon

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The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings

Five Stars

This is a brilliant holiday read, full of toxic friendships that you just know are going to end in tragedy.

The Cliff House

Tamsyn lives in a Cornish village with her family who struggle financially since the death of her father. She has an unhealthy obsession with the house on the cliff which her mother is the cleaner, and thinks nothing of occasionally stealing the key, snooping around the house and using the swimming pool – until she is caught by the teenage daughter, Edie.

Edie is rich, rude and rebellious whereas Tamsyn is loved, poor and friendless. A friendship with Edie is almost too good to be true for Tamsyn and she spends as much time as possible with Edie in the Cliff House. That is until it all starts to turn sour.

This is a book I found hard to put down. The anger and hatred coming from Edie is palpable and add teenage hormones, alcohol and motorbikes to the mix and you have one very gripping summer read.

Amanda Jennings

 

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The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Four Stars

This is cleverly written using first person for Vanessa, now, in present day, and third person for ‘Nellie’ some years earlier when she was working as a nursery teacher and preparing for her marriage to Richard Thompson.

The Wife Between Us

Vanessa comes across as an unstable, slightly damaged woman following the breakdown of her marriage to Richard. We learn in the early chapters of Vanessa’s difficult relationship with her mother, her rather chaotic single life when she lived with her girlfriend Sam, and her more steady near normal life living with aunt Charlotte.

As Richard is preparing to marry his new fiancée, Vanessa turns stalker to warn her off Richard. I wasn’t sure for a good way into the book whether Vanessa was jealous and wanted the engagement to end so that she could get back with Richard, or if she wanted some sort of revenge just to spite Richard.


The Wife Between Us is unusual in that it is written by two authors but it does read as one smooth flowing story, no guesses at all as to who wrote which parts, and seamlessly and cleverly weaves in and out of Nellie’s relationship with Richard, how he is controlling and manipulating every step of their marriage.

The ending has a good twist but I would have liked to know more about Richard and his sister and what happened with their parents, why was Richard like he was. A good psychological story of complex and flawed characters.

 

The Perfect Girlfriend

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If you like a tense story of a manipulative, bunny-boiling stalker then this is the book for you.

The Perfect Girlfriend

The book opens with a short prologue of Elizabeth as a child on the day her little brother, Will, died while he was in her care. We then very quickly move on to present day when Elizabeth, who now uses her middle name, Juliette, is coming to the end of her air steward training. This isn’t her preferred career choice, no, this is solely to facilitate her obsessive stalking of her ex-boyfriend, Nate, who is a pilot. Their relationship finished several months ago but Juliette just can’t let him go. He doesn’t know it yet, but he soon will.

Juliette changes work rosters to enable her to crew on the same flights as Nate, and when he is away she lets herself in to his apartment knowing how long he will be away for, and snoops, takes photos of private documents and even stays overnight. She is scheming, devious and intelligent with it.

Nate is the brother of Belle, Juliette’s school friend who was more of a mental bully than friend, and Juliette being a little unhinged has kept track of both of them to mete out her revenge.

Juliette is a fabulous character, I loved her neurotic, unbalanced personality and she makes for great reading. This is Karen Hamilton’s debut novel and I think she has done a great job of creating a seriously flawed yet likeable character in Elizabeth/Juliette. Her writing keeps you on your toes all the way through the book – I wondered where some of the crazy situations were going and was never disappointed when Juliette’s intentions were revealed. The pace is fast, is never dull, and has just enough description to let us realise what devastation she has caused. The only slight disappointment was the ending, I wanted more, more of the life all the main characters were leading. I’d got used to Juliette’s scheming ways and I didn’t want it to end.

 

The Secret Mother by Shalini Boland

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I’ve read all of Shalini Boland’s earlier thriller style novels and I must say that she has a great knack of creating suspense and getting your heart racing.

The Secret Mother

Tessa Markham arrives home to find a little boy in her house who insists on calling her his new mummy. Her automatic reaction is to call her estranged husband, Scott, who she is secretly hoping to get back together with. Scott gives her short shrift and implies that she might have ‘taken’ a child and because of her mental state forgotten what she’s done. Tessa has had a terrible few years following the death of one of her twins at birth and then the remaining twin son died at age three. She is in a sad place after her split from Scott and it’s easy to say that she is emotionally unstable.

We feel the emotional heartache of Tessa’s situation with the police seriously thinking she has abducted the child and the pressure is exacerbated by the media camping outside her house and workplace once the story hits the headlines. She does get a glimmer of a lifeline from the most unexpected of people, but at the same time I was screaming ‘don’t do it’ as she pursued this lifeline.

This is one of those books that you don’t want to put down, it really is a page turner and the suspense got my heart racing reading in bed – not a good time. I woke with the story so far in my head and couldn’t wait to get into it the next day. Parts were a bit predictable and I did have a suspicion of the ending, but this didn’t distract from the need to find out for myself how it ended.

Shalini Boland

 

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Fear by Dirk Kurbjuweit

Four Stars

At the front of this book is a ‘Dear Reader’ and a short explanation of how this book came about. It’s loosely based on a true story but, of course, we don’t know which parts are fact and which are fabrication to bolster a sinister fictional story.

The book has been translated from German and has an unmistakable precise, clipped, Germanic feel. It is also compared with We Need To Talk About Kevin and I can see some similarities, but this is not so depressing.

Fear

This is one of those stories that starts at the end, we know what the outcome is. In this case, we are told in the first chapter that Randolph’s father has been sentenced to imprisonment, at the age of seventy-seven, for shooting in the forehead at point blank range, Randolph’s basement neighbour, Dieter Tiberius.

The story then goes back and forth in time from when Randolph and his family first moved in to their apartment above Dieter, and back further to give us a view of Randolph’s childhood with a father he was scared of who ‘collected’ guns and was a master marksman.

At first, Randolph, Rebecca and their two children, have a good relationship with Dieter. Dieter bakes cakes and biscuits and even leaves plates of them on their doorstep. All goes well until the day Rebecca meets Dieter in the laundry room and he makes a lewd comment about her underwear. Then the accusations start that he hears them sexually abusing their children. Randolph needs to clear their name before social services are called in to remove their children.

Much of the book, although there are many facets to the story and characters, is of Randolph’s struggle with the brick wall legal system in trying to prove their innocence and that Dieter Tiberius’ is guilty of slanderous assaults on them.

I really enjoyed the book. The characters are well developed and interesting to read about. There is an element of tension with the promise of doom running all the way through – this can’t possibly end well. This is a realistic, sophisticated and grown-up version of the usual psychological thriller.

 

Emma In The Night by Wendy Walker

four-and-a-half-stars

Without feeling like a text book, this is the best and most detailed story of a narcissist I’ve read.  It goes into great analytical detail of what a narcissist is and what their needs, feelings and insecurities are.

Emma In The NightSisters, Emma and Cassandra Tanner, have been missing for three years. Many presumed they’re dead until Cassandra turns up on her mother’s doorstep.  Cassandra was not the favoured child as her and Emma were growing up and their narcissistic mother, (Mrs Martin to her daughters!) without laying a finger on them did and said some cruel things, things which play on the mind, make you learn to think like they do, act like they do.  Therefore, when Cassandra returns after being missing for three years, she plays her mother like a fiddle – drip, drip, little bits of information, mentally torturing her mother.  Only Cassandra knows the truth of the missing years but Dr Abby Winter has worked most of it out and is one step ahead at the crucial time.

The chapters alternate between Cassandra (Cass), written in first person, and Abby, written in third person, and give points of view of the ‘missing time’ from Cass and the development of the police investigation from Abby. I really liked the personal, up close chapters written in first person and they were complimented by Abby’s third person view.

If you really like to psycho-analyse, this is the book for you.

Wendy Walker

 

 

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All Is Not ForgottenEmma In The Night

 

 

 

 

 

Web of Scars by Farah Ali

Four Stars

If you like your psychological characters to be absolutely psychopathic nutcases, then you’ll love reading about Hester in Web of Scars.

Web of Scars

The opening chapter is of a car crashing down a cliff side with Frances being the only survivor. Her friend and fellow passenger, Rosie, is dead and so is Rosie’s daughter, Nilah.  After so much heartache, injury and relationship deceit, Frances leaves her husband and goes to live in her grandmother’s house which she has recently inherited.  She tries to start a new life for herself with the comfort and familiarity of her childhood neighbours and village, continuing to write her series of children’s book for income. Things really start to take off when Frances hires Josh and Hester to tend the enormous garden.  Josh is a lovely quiet local man with an unfortunate stammer and Hester is a vile and evil individual – except she’s sure to have Frances only see the good in her.

Lots of things mysteriously start to go wrong for Frances and we, the reader, get to see Hester’s cruel and vicious ways.  But why? Who is Hester, why is she so cruel and what has any of this got to do with Frances?

Written in third person, each of the chapters have the individual characters’ viewpoints and a full picture emerges around their relationship to and with Frances.  This gripping story gives a climatic end, allowing the reader to breathe again for the final concluding chapter.

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Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda

Four Stars

This is quite a slow burner of a book, so much so that I felt I didn’t want to carry on with it when I was about 25 – 30% of the way through – but I’m so glad I did.

Best Day Ever

The scene is being set during the first three quarters of the book – yes, that’s a lot of scene setting but it is worth the wait to get a very satisfying ending. Paul is a narcissistic psycho with an ego the size of Greenland. He is a big ‘I am’ and I quickly came to dislike him. He brags about what a lovely little wifey he has got and what beautiful little boys he has, when in fact, his children are scared of him and his wife has no life because he’s such a control freak and has isolated her from all her friends and family. The major part of the book is a car ride from their marital home to their lakeside second home where he is planning ‘the best day ever’ for his lovely wife, Mia. Paul reflects over parts of his life during that car ride giving the reader an insight into his childhood and relationships with family and past girlfriends. There are lots of little hints in the narrative, such as – “I never did get the blood stain off the band” (watch band) to tease us into thinking he did something really bad in the past.

The final quarter or so of the book becomes tense and fast paced. Things start to unravel so we see the true Paul and the strong Mia emerge. I felt a bit disappointed with the ending as far as Paul is concerned (I wanted nasty things to happen to him,) but after reading the author’s notes at the back of the book, there’s a hint of the possibility of a second book with Paul’s character.

Kaira Rouda

 

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Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

Five Stars

This is one of those books I’ll be telling all my friends about. It is totally gripping, keeps you guessing and has an unexpected twist at the end.

I was initially drawn to this book by its tagline – I am in a coma, my husband doesn’t love me any more, sometimes I lie.  I love stories with lies and deceit, they always have strong psychological turmoil between the characters.

Sometimes I Lie

The story is written over three timelines – Now, whilst Amber is in a coma – Then, the days leading up to Amber’s accident – and Before, written as diary entries from 1991.  The diary entries give a deeper background of the lead characters, how their minds work and why they have become disturbed complex people.  Amber writes as much as she can think about in her diary as a child but if she can’t express herself she writes three facts for the day. In the present, while Amber is in a coma, she carries on with this three facts style in her mind and that’s how we get the tagline on the book cover.

The story becomes very complex, not confusing or muddled but you do need to pay attention, and much of the scary part is while Amber is in her coma and she hears everything around her. She can’t yet remember what happened to her but she suspects her husband has something to do with her accident, she doesn’t trust him and feels frightened when he visits.  She’s not convinced Claire, her sister, has her best interests at heart and so desperately needs to remember what’s happened to her.  There are some sinister characters, her ex-boyfriend who has access to her as he works in the hospital, and a little girl who Amber doesn’t think is real keeps paying her mind a visit.  Who is Jo? Why is it so important to see Madeleine off the radio show that Amber works on? and what about the recognition of Madeleine’s house?  Such a lot keeps your mind flicking back and forth wondering what the relevance is of a new piece of the story.

As psychological thrillers go, this is one of the best I’ve read.  Some of the phrases used are so very eloquent and really describe a situation well, paints a picture with words. This is one I will certainly recommend and look forward to more by Alice Feeney.

Alice Feeney

 

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Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

Five Stars

This debut by B A Paris is a stunning psychological thriller at it’s very best. It felt so simple and easy to read that I devoured it in great chunks. I feel that the simplicity comes from there being very few characters. Grace and Jack are at the fore the whole way through with Millie, Grace’s sister, not far behind.

Behind Closed Doors

Simply told, yet Jack is such a complex character, a true unbalanced psychopath. He has so charmingly wooed and courted Grace and is the apple of Millie’s eye. Until the moment of marriage when BANG! the real Jack makes his debut. He is cruel and manipulative, his remarks are cutting, he is totally sadistic and spiteful. What he might do next had me on the edge of my seat. It’s creepy and subtly dark and the tension becomes unbearable.

The story is set over two very close timelines – present time, and the time of Grace and Jack’s marriage just a few months earlier. The timelines come closer together the further we read through the book until the final gripping chapters are in present time giving a very taut and satisfying finale.

You need to read this. I really don’t want to give any clues of the plot away but you will need to set time aside to read as this is not a pick-it-up-put-it-down sort of book. I haven’t read one as good as this little gem for a while.