That Night by Gillian McAllister

As my desire to read crime and thriller fiction continues through the summer months, I picked up my second book by Gillian McAllister for this year – ‘That Night’.

I have to say that I think Gillian McAllister is the queen of the plot twist – and ‘That Night’ was full of them. But, as before, this is not just a crime novel; it is, again, an interesting study of human nature and character.

This book is focused around one set of siblings who have always been very close: they work together and they even live in the same row of isolated cottages together. The question is: how close are they? Are they close enough to cover up a murder?

Again, it is so hard to review such a book as I do not want to spoil any of it for anyone. However, I will tell you that it is a page-turner from the moment you start reading, and there are at least two gasp-out-loud twists – one I even had to re-read to check that was really where the story was now going.

Gillian McAllister writes an incredibly intelligent thriller, and is definitely becoming one of my go-to authors for this genre – I am glad that I still have a few in her back catalogue to read, because they definitely satisfy that thriller reader side of me.

How To Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie

My third book of the summer is one that has been on the shelf since the January sales. ‘How To Kill Your Family’ by Bella Mackie has been everywhere (including my book shelf), so I appreciate I am very late to the party, which is why it had to be on my summer possibility pile.

However, now I have read it, I have had to take some time to process what I think about it. I cannot decide if I liked it or not, or if it was a book that was just a slow burn for me – and the more I read it the more I became invested in it. I almost felt like I needed to immediately speak to others who may have read it and find out if they enjoyed it or not, and try and get my thoughts organised.

I liked the idea of the book, but I do not think I liked Grace – I should have felt empathy for her, but I just found her a bit irritating, not as far-removed from the ‘distant’ family she was attempting to ‘deal’ with. But then, as I finished it, I wondered if in fact that was what I was supposed to think of Grace as the reader – because, no spoilers – the conclusion was clever. In fact, I thought the final quarter of the book was excellent and the twist (if that is what you can call it) was brilliant. In fact, once I approached the final quarter, I could not put the book down and I thought, well, actually perhaps I do like this book.

I understand that this is not a very helpful blog post – and I cannot give any spoilers – but I think this might just be the kind of book which will be a little bit marmite, and needs a bit of a debrief once it has been read. So, the big question is: have you read ‘How To Kill Your Family’? And what did you think? Because I still do not think I totally know what I think about it…

The Holiday by T.M.Logan

It seems very fitting that the first book I finish in my summer break is called ‘The Holiday’. I was not sure what I would think of this book, as sometimes a thriller that has had hype surrounding it can potentially be a let-down; however, ‘The Holiday’ definitely is not.

I found this book to be a thrilling page-turner. A slow burn, but not a slow-paced story (which I realise may sound like a contradiction), this idyllic-sounding holiday with friends soon becomes anything but. There are secrets, the weight of guilt and strange behaviours galore, as these supposedly best friends spend a summer in France.

I refuse to reveal any spoilers, but the ‘twist’, if that is what you can really call it at the end, had me; I fell right into its trap until the very final moment. There are so many great issues covered within the book too, especially the dangers of social media for the young. And it may leave you wondering how far you would be willing to go to protect those that are the most important to you.

This is a well-written and well-crafted crime thriller novel. I enjoyed the fact that we are mainly seeing the story from one perspective, but every now and then we are thrown into another, which may completely alter how you are seeing the story. It would make a perfect holiday read, although possibly not if you are off on a friends holiday to a villa in France…

So, if you want a thrilling read for this holiday season, pick up ‘The Holiday’ and see where it takes you.

Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister

Believe the hype – end of post!

No, in all serious, this book is worth the hype. I picked it up as a result of attending ‘The Tasting Notes Live’ event, and I do not regret it one bit. In fact, I even read past my bedtime as I could not leave it not knowing how the book ended. As with all thriller books, it is so hard to review, as I refuse to spoil it for others. However, I will try and help you understand exactly why you should pick this book up.

This book made me audibly gasp at least three times (page 159 was the loudest – and that moment still sticks with me), had me trying to play detective alongside Jen, and it got my heart racing at points as the tension grew.

It may seem strange that this novel so easily uses time travel (not a spoiler) as a realistic concept to help Jen find the answers that she is looking for – but it works. You do not feel like you are reading any kind of fantasy or unrealistic story; you are drawn into Jen’s adventures as she unpicks the story of her and her family, which she thought she always knew.

You will be hooked from the moment you start reading; you think the most shocking thing that can happen is in those first few pages, but how wrong you will be. Gillian McAllister is a very talented writer.

This book has secured all her other books a place on my tbr pile, and I absolutely can not wait to read more from her, as I know so many bookworms who love her work.

Miss Aldridge Regrets by Louise Hare

I was kindly gifted a proof of ‘Miss Aldridge Regrets’ by Louise Hare, and what a beauty it is. A book with a cover this glamorous is surely going to be a great read – and it was!

‘Miss Aldridge Regrets’ is a brilliant piece of historical fiction set on the Queen Mary as it sails to New York in early 1936. Lena Aldridge is one of its passengers, as she has been promised a new life in New York which will make her a star – or so she believes. However, as the ship’s journey progresses, she is drawn into the lives of the rather wealthy Parker family – but not everything is quite as it seems. And, once murder takes place, Lena is thrown into a dangerous game.

This is a great piece of cosy crime fiction, and fans of Agatha Christie will be fans of this book. In fact, the Queen of Crime herself gets a mention in the novel. However, it is also a little more than just a classic ‘locked room’ crime story; there is clear commentary on the society at the time and its issues. Lack of gender and race equality is a theme throughout the book, and plays a part as a catalyst for some of the events that subsequently take place. I found that as fascinating as the tale itself.

This is a well-constructed story, and I really enjoyed the way it was told, from the current events on the ship, previous events which had taken place before Lena left London, and odd notes from the murderer to punctuate the tale. I worked out one part of the mystery, but did not work it all out, so the reveal did bring with it some insteresting surprises. For all you crime fans out there, I would certainly recommend this book – especially if you are a fan of ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ or ‘Death on the Nile’.

You’ll Be the Death of Me by Karen M. McManus

Whenever I see that there is a new book from Karen M. McManus, I always have to ensure I have a copy – and it was exactly the same with ‘You’ll Be the Death of Me’.

I am a huge fan of crime fiction and really enjoy when it collides with YA fiction. And Karen M. McManus does this well.

However, I was not instantly gripped with the start of this book. I think I found the characters a little difficult to engage with and was not sure how it was going to lead to a thrilling read.

Yet, once the pace picks uo and we are drawn into the mystery, I enjoyed the book, and the characters became more engaging. I even thought I had solved it – or at least caught on to one of the clues; only to be thrown into confusion when things continued not to be quite as they seem.

This was not my favourite of the novels from the pen of McManus, but it was still a satisfying piece of YA crime fiction, and I continue to be a fan.

The Man who Died Twice by Richard Osman

‘The Man who Died Twice’ was one of the most anticipated reads of the year. Like so many others, I had absolutely loved meeting ‘the Thursday Murder Club‘ last year and could not wait to find out what their next adventure would be.

This book did not disappoint – in fact, it is probably the definition of cosy crime on these cold autumn nights. Our fabulous four from book one end up on another rather wild adventure as Elizabeth’s rather charming ex-husband shows up and gets them involved in quite the diamond-related crime.

Absolutely no spoilers being shared here, because I want everyone to be able to enjoy the charm of this page-turner. Other than to say this book is like returning to old friends, and I loved that about it.

There is also so much charm to Osman’s writing. It is warm and witty – making it such an enjoyable read from start to finish.

And, of course, I now cannot wait for book three to be released, because Ron, Ibrahim, Joyce and Elizabeth are like old friends you can’t wait to catch up with and have a cuppa (or a sneaky glass of wind if the kettle is otherwise occupied).

Red Bones by Ann Cleeves

My next book in my ‘TV Detective Challenge’ was a trip to Shetland with Jimmy Perez. (Shetland has been a bit of a theme in 2021 – and I really hope I make it there one day.)

I really enjoyed this cosy piece of crime fiction. A tradtionalt piece of slow-burn crime fiction as we follow Detective Jimmy Perez investigate the death of an elderly lady in a small community, just after the discovery of human remains at an archaelogical dig. Is there a connestion between the two – are the red bones not as old as they seem? Or are they connected to a feud between two local families – are there secrets that need to remain hidden?

This is a beautifully constructed narrative. Where the landscape is as much part of the story as the characters that Ann Cleeves has created. This is the sort of book that should be read on a cosy evening.

This was my first introduction to the writing of Ann Cleeves and the character of Perez on the page. I will definitely be returning to read more, especially as I need to read about Vera too.

The Appeal by Janice Hallett

Bookstagram made me do it. I may as well get that out of the way as I bought this book despite all of the ones on my tbr pile.

However, I have no regrets. This book is a brilliant ‘whodunnit’ – with a fantastic title that has two meanings in this novel – and you are pretty much teh detective. The story is told through emails, text messages, police interviews and the odd newspaper article. So, as a reader, you are drip-fed the evidence as you try to solve the crime. It makes the book incredibly readable but, also, it’s quite a talent of Janice Hallett to be able to put together the story in such intricate detail – ensuring there are no losse ends. As well as creating real characters and all the additional drama that can be created within a small community.

I really can’t recommend this book enough. A new and edgy crime novel which is perfect for those who are longstanding fans of the genre – or those who may want to find a new genre to enjoy.

The Dinner Guest by B P Walton

My lovely booksta buddy Philippa was kind enough to pass ‘The Dinner Guest’ to me. And what a thrilling read it is. (With a book club and a scene in Waterstones, of course book lovers would get hooked).

A murder takes place, Rachel confesses but it is all not as simple as it seems. Why would Rachel murder someone she has just met? And, if she didn’t, why would she confess to it?

I always enjoy a thriller that seems to be a little different. We seem to know who committed the crime, yet there is a whole book ahead of us. There are red herrings, and twists and turns as we move between the present and the past – and have the truth slowly revealed to us as we see story through the eyes of Rachel and Charlie.

This book is engaging and written in a way that makes it a page-turner. And, like so many books, it may be a part of the thriller genre, but is also tackles other key social issues and the impact that they have on human relationships.

So, if you fancy a thriller this summer, why not meet ‘The Dinner Guest’?