C.L. Taylor never fails to grip you from the very first pages.
The opening chapter is a killer! Then, Anna is driving three work colleagues back to London in atrocious weather, just following the rear lights of the car in front because conditions are so poor. One of them feels ill and wants to open one of the back windows. This knocks Anna’s concentration and before she realises what’s happening, the car spins out of control and rolls. On waking in hospital, Anna comes to realise that two of her passengers are dead and one has serious life changing injuries. As Anna recovers, she has the feeling that she’s being watched and followed. Scared, having just broken up with her boyfriend and needing a new start in life where nobody knows who she is, Anna takes a job as a hotel receptionist on the remote Scottish island of Rum. The holidaymakers are flaky and flawed and as a storm comes in, Anna realises that whoever was following her in London is still following her now.
Sleep started off like her novels usually do – normal, believable characters but in unusually tense situations – but once it got going, Anna is put in an isolated situation with a new group of characters. It reminded me very much of an Agatha Christie style whodunnit with red herrings throughout and only a limited number of people out to get Anna.
C.L. Taylor is brilliant at creating suspense, that nail-biting, seat-of-your-pants thriller that keeps you turning pages. I’d recommend any of her books.
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Chapter One opens with Kenver Penhallow and his family escaping from their home during the night which is well ablaze. Kenver and Wenna do a quick head count of their children and realise that little Jago is missing, last seen in the barn looking after a sick puppy. The barn is a pile of charred wood and the little boy is perished. The language in this chapter is old Cornish, told of the olden days, of a time 200 years ago when the Feud began.
Matt Trevelyar moves to St Agnes in Cornwall after giving up teaching in London following the sad death of his wife. Within days, he receives messages in no uncertain terms that he is not welcome and that he should return to London. Not easily put off, Matt takes up his teaching position in the local school and starts to make enquiries with the locals about who might want him to leave. He learns of a feud between two families, one of which he is a descendent.
The characters are a delight to read about and are realistic for small village life. Lavender is typical artist-hippy, and when Matt and Lavender first meet it’s obvious that love will blossom – but how do they overcome the fact that he is a Trevelyar and she is a Penhallow.
This starts out as a vicious crime but is ultimately a romantic suspense novel. Amanda James is a talented writer and writes beautifully about her beloved Cornwall.
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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.
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.
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Rosie and Ruby was first published under the title Three Mothers, (Trois Meres) and was Patricia Dixon’s second novel. Her writing and storytelling in this book is flowing and confident, not afraid to tell it how it is.
Briefly, this is the story of cousins Rosie and Ruby, starting with their childhood and teenage years living in Manchester with their parents. Both have equally awful mothers in different ways, and both girls, and later young women, come to terms with and overcome the mental scars that haunt them for years. Rosie follows her dream of being a hotelier and ends up in France, while Ruby marries her wealthy whirlwind heart throb who turns out to be a violent and vicious monster. I don’t want to give the whole story away so won’t go any further with that.
There were tense and, at times, quite viciously nasty parts in this book and I can see that a more sinister genre was waiting to escape – Over My Shoulder by the same author.
Patricia Dixon writes fluidly and interestingly and never leaves any loose ends. When a new character comes on the scene she gives a concise and engrossing outline of who they are and what sort of personality they have.
Whose books are hers similar to? Well, the Manchester element reminded me of Mandasue Heller but her warmth and friendship within the story is much like Patricia Scanlan or Maeve Binchy – lovely fulfilling stories. I have read all Patricia’s books and the warmth, emotions and characters never fail to give me a fuzzy loved feeling.
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Death’s Dark Veil opens with someone on their death-bed being taunted and observed by ghostly figures. She knows who they are and knows they have come to escort her to the next world, but their descriptions are terrifying and I wondered if she could ever rest in peace.
The first chapters introduce two very different characters, Georgie and Ivy, and these two young girls create the theatre for a very dark and dangerous show. Each has a tragic start to their adult lives but grow into strong and capable young women. We follow them individually to the time their lives collide at Tenley House, the Gothic towering home of first Daphne and Kenneth, then Georgie and Kenneth, as well as a dreadful old bat mother-in-law, Phyllis. Evil is all around, too many deaths for comfort (and coincidence), so who is behind these suspicious deaths?
Well written in a dark and menacing way with a good amount of humour to keep things light – the nick-name for curmudgeonly Phyllis, (Syphilis) had me howling. There are gasp out loud moments at tragedies and deaths, and there is a great twist at the end. I certainly didn’t guess the outcome and I loved the ending.
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The Bad Mother is a rather chilling tale of expectations and realities of becoming a new mother. Lucy is expecting her first baby but rather than all the excitement of buying all the baby things and decorating its room, Lucy is worrying about lapses in her memory, a complete loss of confidence and her capabilities of looking after a new baby. Lucy’s mother puts it down to ‘baby brain’ and hormones but her husband isn’t so sure it’s as simple as hormones, he’s convinced it is a mental problem which she may have inherited from her father.
For a good way through the book I was trying to convince myself that all Lucy’s problems were down to her husband, Adam – well, the blurb on the cover tells us this – but thought that was too simple and that there must be a twist. I disliked Adam as a character from early on. He comes over as a whiny, spoilt, petulant person who likes to get his own way.
After Lucy and Adam’s little girl is born, things don’t get any better and Lucy is convinced that she is a danger to her baby and incapable of keeping her safe and cared for. The story moves at a reasonable pace and finally comes to a head in a breathtaking way.
This was a well written book touching on many issues but I didn’t find it a page-turner, it should have been shorter instead of reiterating the same things. I would have liked to have known what made Adam tick. His upbringing was similar to many children but they don’t all act like him, just what clicked in his brain to make him so selfish and duplicitous. Equally, why did Lucy so quickly and easily change from being a strong, confident, working woman with many friends into a whimpering wet lettuce.
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 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.