Tag Archives: Psychological

Best Friends For Life, And For Death…

“A killer that the police are calling ‘Billy Dead Mates’ is murdering pairs of best friends, one by one.

Before they die, each victim is given a small white book…

For months, detectives have failed to catch Billy, or work out what the white books mean. And then a woman, scared by what she’s seen on the news, comes forward.

Stand-up comedian Kim Tribbeck has one of Billy’s peculiar little books. A stranger gave it to her at a gig she did a year ago. Was he Billy, and does he want to kill her? Kim has no friends and trusts no one, so how – and why – could she possibly be Billy Dead Mates’ next target?…”

OK, where to start with this one? This is the tenth full novel in Sophie Hannah‘s “Culver Valley” series featuring police detectives Charlie Zailer and Simon Waterhouse and follows on from 2014’s ninth entry to the series, the excellent “The Telling Error”.

In the meantime, Zailer and Waterhouse appeared in Hannah’s Quick Reads novella “Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen” during 2015.

Published back in 2016, “The Narrow Bed” finds us back in full novel-length territory as we catch up with the two police officers, their colleagues and their caseload.

Sophie Hannah

This particular tale is told from a variety of angles. There are those of both Zailer and Waterhouse and they make their investigations – in Charlie’s case it’s largely to do with finding out what’s going on with her sister Liv and her supposed ex Gibbs, whilst Simon is involved with the “Billy Dead Mates” case. In addition, there are chapters told from the perspective of Kim Tribbeck who may be a target for the killer, extracts from Kim’s to-be-published autobiography which looks back at the case, and various blog posts, emails and letters from other characters. Whilst this may seem, on the surface, to be confusing the author has done a very good job of making the tale easy to keep up with, without giving away any more clues than she wants to.

There is a quote from one of the book’s characters where they say “books are everywhere in this investigation” and that is very true. Whether it be the small white books given to the murder victims, Waterhouse’s dog-eared but beloved copy of “Moby Dick” or Tribbeck’s own book there are indeed plenty of books littered throughout the story, and they play a part in the motivation of the mysterious killer too. And that latter point is perhaps where I felt this book fell down slightly, as the rationale for the baddie to be killing the pairs of friends etc. just didn’t come across as convincing or likely – even allowing for some mental instability. That said, however, there is certainly some food for thought in terms of the advantages / disadvantages that come with the never-ending march of technological progress.

Not her strongest novel, then, but as always Hannah’s writing is clever, witty and insightful and her characters get plenty of room to develop. Whilst Waterhouse is always one step – at least – ahead of his wife and colleagues in determining what’s going on, most readers don’t have his unnatural abilities and so the secrets are kept back until the author wants us to uncover them, making this a jolly good read…

Everything That’s Yours Was Once Hers

“Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.

The request seems odd, even intrusive—and for the two women who answer, the consequences are devastating.

EMMA
Reeling from a traumatic break-in, Emma wants a new place to live. But none of the apartments she sees are affordable or feel safe. Until One Folgate Street. The house is an architectural masterpiece: a minimalist design of pale stone, plate glass, and soaring ceilings. But there are rules. The enigmatic architect who designed the house retains full control: no books, no throw pillows, no photos or clutter or personal effects of any kind. The space is intended to transform its occupant—and it does.

JANE
After a personal tragedy, Jane needs a fresh start. When she finds One Folgate Street she is instantly drawn to the space—and to its aloof but seductive creator. Moving in, Jane soon learns about the untimely death of the home’s previous tenant, a woman similar to Jane in age and appearance. As Jane tries to untangle truth from lies, she unwittingly follows the same patterns, makes the same choices, crosses paths with the same people, and experiences the same terror, as the girl before…”

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Finished reading the psychological thriller “The Girl Before” this week. The book was written by JP Delaney, which seems to be a pseudonym for Ugandan-born author and advertising man Tony Strong. Whether more books will see the light under this nom de plume remains to be seen, but this one has reportedly been picked up for filming with Ron Howard in the director’s chair…

Tony Strong

The story is told from two separate perspectives – from that of Emma Matthews in chapters subtitled “Then” and from the point of view of Jane Cavendish, whose chapters are subtitled “Now”. Thus we have a story that unfolds through a mixture of past and present narrative from the two women.

What ties them together is that, at the time of each’s testimony, they are tenants of architect Edward Monkford’s austere and hi-tech property at One Folgate Street in London. Despite being in an expensive part of the capital city the rent is more affordable than many properties nearby due to the highly restrictive nature of the tenancy agreement. Not simply a case of you can’t put nails in the wall or similar, there are over two hundred specific restrictions for the home!

Despite this for their individual reasons both women chose to live in the house and abide my all the rules that come with it. As details of each come to light it becomes clear to the reader, and to Jane, that the two women have lots of similarities in their experience with both the house and Edward Monkford. In addition to these three main players there are a number of other significant characters including Emma’s ex-boyfriend Simon, police officers, a psychologist and various work colleagues of both women.

It’s not clear what happened to Emma, the girl before, however and Jane becomes determined to find out. Will she regret that taking that route?…

One of the main themes, for me, in this book was about control. Whether that be the tenants of the house being controlled by their contract and environment, characters controlling each other by overt or subtle means, or simply characters seeking to control their own lives and destinies. This is where I think the novel really works as it makes the reader think about things and perhaps even question their own behaviours in relation to others.

The plot itself is not overly complicated but has enough smoke and mirrors to keep you engrossed. Whether or not the actions of some of the characters at any given time are necessarily plausible is open to debate and the final chapters did feel like a slight let down to me. These seem to be common points for some reviewers, whilst others found the book to be uniformly excellent.

All that said, some of the detail was clearly inspired by the author’s own experiences and overall the book makes for a really good read, despite the above remarks, so I would say it’s definitely worth picking up…maxresdefault

Trespasser

“Being on the murder squad is nothing like Detective Antoinette Conway dreamed it would be. Her partner, Stephen Moran, is the only person who seems glad she’s there. The rest of her working life is a stream of thankless cases, vicious pranks, and harassment. Antoinette is savagely tough, but she’s getting close to the breaking point.

Their new case looks like yet another by-the-numbers lovers’ quarrel gone bad. Aislinn Murray is blonde, pretty, groomed to a shine, and dead in her catalogue-perfect living room, next to a table set for a romantic dinner. There’s nothing unusual about her—except that Antoinette’s seen her somewhere before.

And that her death won’t stay in its neat by-numbers box. Other detectives are trying to push Antoinette and Steve into arresting Aislinn’s boyfriend, fast. There’s a shadowy figure at the end of Antoinette’s road. Aislinn’s friend is hinting that she knew Aislinn was in danger. And everything they find out about Aislinn takes her further from the glossy, passive doll she seemed to be.

Antoinette knows the harassment has turned her paranoid, but she can’t tell just how far gone she is. Is this case another step in the campaign to force her off the squad, or are there darker currents flowing beneath its polished surface?…”

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“The Trespasser” was my first exposure to the writing of Irish author Tana French. It is the sixth in a series based on the work of the detectives in a police murder squad in Dublin, and was very impressive..

Tana French

Unusually, from what I gather, French has written each novel from the point of view of a different investigating officer rather than having the same main character each time. Although I haven’t read any of the others – which doesn’t detract from the standalone tale told here – I would imagine that this gives the series a distinctive freshness and difference in perspective whilst still retaining enough of the familiarity you normally encounter in, for example, Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne novels.

So this story is told through the eyes of detective Antionette Conway. Working with her partner Stephen Moran (star of the previous novel “The Secret Place”), Conway is put onto a murder investigation to try to track down the person responsible for the death of Aislinn Murray.

At first this seems like an easy case when an obvious suspect comes almost immediately to their attention. It all seems a bit too easy though and Conway – convinced that the rest of the murder squad are out to get her off the team – begins to see connections and have suspicions everywhere, whilst constantly doubting her own thought processes. Who is telling the truth? Who can she trust?

Meanwhile, Moran is coming up with gangster theories and other officers seem very eager for her to put the case to bed as quickly as possible. The truth of both Aislinn and her killer takes some digging for and when the detective duo eventually get there it’s very far from what they anticipated…

I really enjoyed this book. The dialogue was written such that I felt the Irishness coming through(!) and there was some fabulous wit on display too throughout. The characters are all brilliantly described as well, so that we can really imagine them in lifelike terms.

Ultimately this was a cracking tale with enough twists and turns to keep the reader involved without giving too much away so that we (or at least I) definitely aren’t expecting the guilty party that is eventually unmasked. Great stuff – I shall certainly be looking out for future entries to the series…9781444755626

If You Love Something, Never Let It Go

Last night my wife and I watched the movie “Pet”, a psychological horror thriller from Spanish director Carles Torrens (“Apartment 143”) and writer Jeremy Slater (“The Lazarus Effect”), which turned out to be far more fun than I’d anticipated.pet-new-poster

Dominic Monaghan
Dominic Monaghan

Seth (Dominic Monaghan – “Lost”, “The Lord Of The Rings” trilogy) is a seemingly quiet and introvert guy who has a job working at an animal shelter in Los Angeles. One day on his daily bus ride he spots a girl that he had a crush on back in high school and moves over the speak to her.

Ksenia Solo
Ksenia Solo

The girl, waitress Holly (Ksenia Solo – “Black Swan”, “The Factory”), talks politely with Seth but clearly doesn’t remember him from their school days. Seth is obviously very keen on Holly and tries a variety of rather inept / slightly creepy / stalkerish ways to win her over – but all to no avail.

Da'Vone McDonald
Da’Vone McDonald

Not easily rebuffed, Seth decides to drug Holly and lock her in a cage down in the basement of the animal shelter, naturally enough!, trying to keep his secret from being discovered by the security guard, Nate (Da’Vone McDonald – “Walk Of Shame”, “The Gambler”).

Jennette McCurdy
Jennette McCurdy

Things look more than a little bit bleak for Holly, but then appearances can be very deceptive – and perhaps Holly and her supportive flatmate Claire (Jennette McCurdy – “iCarly”, “Sam & Cat”) will fall into this category too…?

Ksenia Solo & Dominic Monaghan
Ksenia Solo & Dominic Monaghan

It’s safe to say that some of the twists and turns in this movie are easy enough to see coming, others less so, but that doesn’t detract from a thoroughly entertaining 95 minutes in the slightest.

Lysette Anthony
Lysette Anthony

Monaghan portrays Seth very well with a great mix of loneliness, infatuation and simple weirdness and Solo (who reminded me at times of a young Lysette Anthony – it’s the eyes!) is fantastic in her role. A complex and complicated pair living out a very twisted love story that really isn’t what you might be expecting. This one’s well worth a watch…pet_the_movie_poster

Behind Every Perfect Life Is A Perfect Lie

“Everyone keeps telling me I have to move on. And so here I am, walking down the road where he died, trying to remember him the right way.

A year after her husband Zach’s death, Lizzie goes to lay flowers where his fatal accident took place.

As she makes her way along the motorway, she thinks about their life together. She wonders whether she has changed since Zach died. She wonders if she will ever feel whole again.

At last she reaches the spot. And there, tied to a tree, is a bunch of lilies. The flowers are addressed to her husband. Someone has been there before her.

Lizzie loved Zach. She really did.

But she’s starting to realise she didn’t really know him.

Or what he was capable of…”

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A few months ago I read “Under Your Skin”, the debut crime thriller novel by Sabine Durrant. I’ve just finished reading her second offering – the psychological thriller “Remember Me This Way”.

The story is laid out from two differing points of view. You have Lizzie’s narrative as she tries to come to terms with her husband’s death – made all the more difficult when she discovers flowers from a mysterious Xenia attached to the tree that his car crashed into a year previously – and her growing conviction that he isn’t dead after all.

Sabine Durrant
Sabine Durrant

In between this there are extracts from Zach’s diary during the time before he met Lizzie and their subsequent relationship and marriage.

Along the way we meet a number of other characters, including Lizzie’s police liaison Hannah Morrow, rising MP Alan Murphy and his wife Victoria (a friend of Zach’s from way back) and their daughter Onnie, who worms herself into Lizzie’s current life for reasons that take time to become clear.

There are lots of skeletons in various closets here. What was Zach really like? Who keeps playing his favourite Elvis Costello songs outside Lizzie’s house in the small hours? What is Onnie’s role? Will Lizzie ever be free of her feelings of guilt?… The whole thing is very cleverly put together to keep the reader guessing whilst remaining very realistic and all the more disturbing for that fact.

Towards the end of the book one of the characters says “…You can live in the same house, share the same bed, but how much do you ever really know anyone?” which I thought really gets to the heart of the tale in a simple sentence. This novel really takes that idea and runs with it, with the result being a very gripping and dark story. Highly recommended for fans of psychological thrillers…remembermethisway-1

How Do You Stop A Killer, When No-One Believes They Exist?

“This was meant to be the perfect trip.

The Northern Lights. A luxury press launch on a boutique cruise ship.

A chance for travel journalist Lo Blacklock to recover from a traumatic break-in that has left her on the verge of collapse, and to work out what she wants from her relationship.

Except things don’t go as planned.

Woken in the night by screams, Lo rushes to her window to see a body thrown overboard from the next door cabin. But the records show that no-one ever checked into that cabin, and no passengers are missing from the boat.

Exhausted, emotional and increasingly desperate, Lo has to face the fact that she may have made a terrible mistake. Or she is trapped on a boat with a murderer – and she is the sole witness…”

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Earlier this year I read and enjoyed the debut novel from London-based author Ruth Ware, the psychological crime thriller “In A Dark, Dark Wood”. “The Woman In Cabin 10” is Ware’s second book.

The book, told from the perspective of Lo (short for Laura) Blacklock, a travel journalist, and begins with her flat being burgled while she is trapped in her bedroom after a heavy night out.

A few days later, following an unresolved argument with her boyfriend Judah, Lo is off on the maiden trip of an exclusive cruise ship leaving England and then travelling off the coast of Norway while Judah himself is off to Moscow on business.

Ruth Ware
Ruth Ware

On the first night, having again drunk too much, Lo hears a scream and a huge splash and is convinced that someone has thrown the passenger staying in the adjoining cabin overboard. The problem is that Lo seems to be the only person to have even seen the woman in cabin 10 which, when entered by staff minutes after she raises the alarm, is spotlessly clean and empty and the man due to have been that cabin’s passenger didn’t make the trip!

Unable to prove the woman was ever there, Lo becomes increasingly suspicious of everyone around her. With elements of a locked room mystery – after all it’s tricky to get on and off a moving ship at sea unnoticed – every character Lo comes into contact with is a potential killer, or did she just imagine the whole thing?

There’s plenty to keep the reader intrigued here, and a few red herrings too that meant that even when I thought I’d figured something out there was often a twist to prove me wrong!

A solid second outing and a definite page-turner, I would certainly recommend this book to lovers of crime mysteries…9781846558900

People Are Capable Of Almost Anything

“You never know what’s happening on the other side of the wall.

Your neighbour told you that she didn’t want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn’t stand her crying.

Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door. You’d have the baby monitor and you’d take it in turns to go back every half-hour.

Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last. But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She’s gone.

You’ve never had to call the police before. But now they’re in your home, and who knows what they’ll find there…

What would you be capable of, when pushed past your limit?…”

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“The Couple Next Door” is the debut novel from former lawyer / English teacher and now writer Shari Lapena. A book that has certainly divided critical opinion in terms of whether or not the plot is predictable etc., I suppose it might best be described as a psychological crime thriller.

Shari Lapena
Shari Lapena

Young married couple Anne and Marco Conti go to their next door neighbours’ one evening for dinner but leave their baby Cora at home asleep in her crib – taking a baby monitor next door in order to hear if she wakes and taking it in turns to pop back home and check on her every half hour.

Anne’s been suffering from postnatal depression and feels dowdy in comparison to her neighbour Cynthia – a situation made all the worse by Cynthia’s obvious flirting with Marco during the evening. When the couple finally head home they are distraught to find that Cora has vanished.

Naturally the police are soon involved and a ransom demand arrives. As the police investigation gathers pace we gradually find out more about Anne and Marco and their past and present secrets. Nothing is quite what it seems and it’s not until the final chapters of the story that all the pieces finally fall into place.

I mentioned the varied reviews earlier, and a number of reviewers seemed to find the story predictable and lightweight. Maybe I’m a bit thick but I didn’t see most of the twists coming. I’m not entirely convinced by the last few pages – it doesn’t leave you with a nice neat conclusion but, to be fair, does fit quite reasonably with the issues of the characters concerned and, after all, it’s not by book and the author can do whatever she chooses! Whilst on the subject of characters it’s worth noting that there isn’t really a single one that is particularly likeable which makes rooting for any of them less easy than it might have been.

Overall, though, I found this to be a very readable page-turner with a neat spin on the whodunit…facebook_image2

You See The People You Work With Every Day. But What Can’t You See?

“Colleague, co-worker, killer…

Sarah, Amira, Paula, Ewan and Charlie enjoy their routine 9-to-5 life. Until the day an aggressive new boss walks in…

Suddenly, there’s something chilling in the air.

Who secretly hates everyone?

Who is tortured by their past?

Who is capable of murder?…”

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This week I picked up a book that caught my eye in my local library to read whilst I had a brief stay in hospital for a minor operation as I didn’t want to take my Kobo Aura in with me. The book was “When She Was Bad” by Nigerian-born London-based author Tammy Cohen.

I was initially drawn to the synopsis above which, whilst quite brief, struck a chord with me – no doubt due to most of my working life having been spent in an office environment.

Tammy Cohen
Tammy Cohen

The first chapter introduces us to the character of US-based Anne who, we later discover, has a history of working with damaged children. Interspersed between chapters from Anne’s perspective are some from the point of view of the various characters working for Mark Hamilton Recruitment in London. There is the deputy team manager Paula, team members Sarah, Amira, Charlie and Ewan and office junior Chloe. These six are dealing with the sudden sacking of their popular easy-going boss Gill and trying to come to terms with her replacement, the hard-nosed and demanding Rachel Masters.

So throughout the book we are gradually learning about a specific case that Anne worked on a number of years previously and also hearing the different perspectives of the various staff members of the recruitment agency as mind games and office politics become more deadly than is normally (hopefully!) the case.

Now, it’s no great leap of deduction to figure out that the two stories are connected and that the child that Anne talks of is involved in some awful events in the UK. However, when the truth finally gets revealed it is quite a shock and not what / who I was expecting at all!

An excellent story set in an unusual setting – usually murder mysteries involve family members or serial killers etc., rather than being centered within the staff of a single office team. The characters are brilliantly portrayed, with all their insecurities and weaknesses being very believable. Really well written and highly recommended reading…RTL5109

Keeping This Secret Was Killing Her…

“The person you trust most may only be telling you half the story…

Sue Jackson has the perfect family but when her teenage daughter Charlotte deliberately steps in front of a bus and ends up in a coma she is forced to face a very dark reality.

Retracing her daughter’s steps she finds a horrifying entry in Charlotte’s diary and is forced to head deep into Charlotte’s private world. In her hunt for evidence, Sue begins to mistrust everyone close to her daughter and she’s forced to look further, into the depths of her own past.

Sue will do anything to protect her daughter. But what if she is the reason that Charlotte is in danger?”

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Posts have been a bit thin on the ground lately as we had a sudden and unexpected house move which entailed lots of packing, cleaning, decorating etc. which hasn’t left much time for blogging even though I have managed to keep up with listening to new albums and a bit of reading. No doubt I’ll get around to talking about some of those albums before too much longer but for today I am concentrating on the latest novel that I have finished reading.

C.L. Taylor
C.L. Taylor

“The Accident” is Bristol-based author Cally Taylor’s debut book writing under the name C.L. Taylor. A psychological thriller, the story is told exclusively from the perspective of Sue Jackson, whose teenaged daughter is in a coma as a result of walking out in front of a bus.

This is achieved by a present-day narrative as Sue tries desperately to discover just what is the secret that Charlotte mentioned in her diary which, Sue believes, caused her to deliberately walk out into the path of the bus.

This is interspersed with diary entries from twenty years previously when Sue was in an abusive relationship with her the-boyfriend James. These give a bit more of an insight into the reasons for Sue’s actions and thought processes and just why she seems so convinced that James has finally tracked her down after all these years.

Secrets play a large part in this tale with Sue keeping things from her MP husband Brian, trying to unlock Charlotte’s secrets and also being aware that Brian too is keeping things to himself. Numerous other characters in the story have their own secrets to be uncovered. Trust is also an issue for many of the characters that we encounter along the way.

Although I felt that some of the plot twists perhaps stretched believability a little too much I did nonetheless really enjoy the story and thought that in the main it was very well put together. Apparently Taylor used her own experience of being in an abusive relationship years ago as some of the inspiration for this tale, and certainly that aspect of the book would seem to ring particularly true.

All in all well worth a read…the-accident

There Was A Moment When It All Started To Go Horribly Wrong, When Things Started To Unravel…

“Genevieve – office worker by day and pole dancer by night, finds herself implicated on a mob underworld of murder, corruption and betrayal.

She has finally escaped the stressful demands of her sales job and achieved her dream: to leave London behind and start a new life aboard a houseboat in Kent. But on the night of her boat-warming party the dream is shattered when a body washes up beside the boat, and she recognises the victim.

As the sanctuary of the boatyard is threatened, and her life is increasingly at risk, the story of how Genevieve came to be so out of her depth unfolds, and she learns the real cost of mixing business with pleasure…”

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“Revenge Of The Tide” (also known as “Dark Tide” in the US and Canada) is the second novel from author Elizabeth Haynes, following her debut psychological thriller “Into The Darkest Corner” which I read late last year.

The title is taken from the name of the houseboat that the central character (and sole narrator) Genevieve Shipley bought to live on whilst she spent a year doing it up, having earned enough money to do so from her day job in sales for a London firm and her part-time evening job as a pole dancer in a private club, The Barclay.

Five months after quitting both jobs, starting the renovations of her boat, and getting to know her fellow houseboat owners at the marina in Kent where she lives it’s time for a house-warming (boat-warming?) party. She invites a few of her old sales colleagues from London, as well as Caddy – another dancer who she got on well with at the club.

Elizabeth Haynes
Elizabeth Haynes

Caddy doesn’t make an appearance at the party, which doesn’t unduly surprise Genevieve – for reasons that we later discover – but when Genevieve is awoken by a knocking noise on the hull of her boat later that night she finds Caddy’s body in the water between her boat and the marina.

From there on in we switch from present day at the marina to the months leading up to Genevieve’s decision to leave her old life behind and move to the marina and start afresh.

I have to say that I didn’t connect with this novel as much as I did with Haynes’s first effort. This would seem to be a common complaint and one which the author addressed on her website. However, for me it wasn’t the change of tone or subject matter that was the issue. Simply, I didn’t feel that the central figure was a particularly sympathetic, or at times credible, character and the plot felt a bit lightweight too. There was also, and again this is just from my perspective, too much repetition of certain things, such as Genevieve’s motivation for wanting to make as much money as possible in a short period of time and, especially, detailed descriptions of her pole dancing moves. Perhaps if you are a dancer or someone who knows the moves this would be worthwhile but otherwise it’s really a bit too unnecessarily technical.

That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the book, because I did, it just didn’t reach the same quality level as “Into The Darkest Corner”. Still worth a read, but I’m hoping that Haynes’s third novel “Human Remains” is an improvement…91Lzc3Hz5rL