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.

Stranded by Sarah Goodwin

For some reason I am in a bit of a thriller-reads mood. So, I decided on ‘Stranded’ by Sarah Goodwin, which I managed to pick up at ‘The Tasting Notes Live’ in the Spring. Now, I know I say it every time, but it is difficult to write about some of these books without spoilers, so my post may be short but sweet.

‘Stranded’ reminded me ‘Lord of the Flies’: that great social experiment of what happens when you strand a group of people together on an island. Brought into the 21st century, a group of eight people are ‘stranded’ on an island, all in the name of reality TV. Something that will be a challenge of a lifetime, and the opportunity for them to build their own little community working together. Of course, nothing quite goes to plan and nobody seems to be quite as you expected.

This is a well-crafted, psychological thriller. And the characters are definitely brought to life on the page; I am not sure I would want to meet many of them in the real world. It is quite a study of people, their behaviour in extreme situations, and the importance of a clear structure to the society we live in.

A page-turner, and a thrilling and chilling read, it was certainly a book I enjoyed in my thriller mood. In fact, it made me pick up another thriller immediately – so I think that must be a sign of a good read that it has kept me wanting to read the same genre.

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.

Anatomy of a Scandal – Readalong and Watchalong

Tandem Collective UK not only kindly allowed me to read ‘Reputation‘ by Sarah Vaughan, but also gifted me a copy of ‘Anatomy of a Scandal’, which has also been adapted into a Netflix Limited Series.

So, let us start with the book – this is really a book for our time as the reputation of a leading politician is on the line as he is caught out for an affair with a junior aide. However, things become far worse for Mr Whitehouse, as he is to stand trial for the rape of the same woman.

This is not an easy read – and would carry some trigger warnings – yet it sensitively tackles the issue of consent and what really constitutes consent. But it also raises all those issues surrounding the ‘old boys club’ mentality of the corridors of power, and how gender and social equality is still not as it should be in those very same corridors. This is a novel of twists and turns which has you turning every page keen to see what may be revealed next – some of the secrets may seem to be clear, but I do think that the conclusion leaves some additional questions for the reader; is it really all tied up at the end?

As I read this, I did consider that it would make a great television courtroom thriller. I could even see some of the characters portrayed by certain actors. So, I was excited to start watching the series when it was released on Netflix. As TV adaptations go, it is pretty accurate to the story (maybe a couple of liberties) and the characterisation, overall, is excellent, just how I saw it as I read the book.

It is definitely a bingeable series with the same important messages that are carried through the book (carrying the same trigger warnings). In fact, as we watched, Mr Bookwormandtheatremouse muttered the words ‘and this is who we have running the country’, which is a key reason that I think that this is a novel for our time, as it reflects so many of the concerns we have with those who are in power.

Sarah Vaughan’s careful observation of the world around us and the issues that are constantly being raised in our society is bringing some brilliant books to the public. Books that will leave you reflecting on the world we are in, and possibly even reflecting on your own moral ideals. She has definitely become an author that I will always be keen to read more from – especially as she continues to create some fantastically strong female leads.

I Know What You’ve Done by Dorothy Koomson

This month’s book pick for ‘The Tasting Notes Book Club‘ was ‘I Know What You’ve Done’; the first thriller for book club, so I think it will spark quite some discussion.

This is my first Dorothy Koomson thriller – I have read ‘My Best Friend’s Girl’ which, like so many, I loved – and this is certainly quite a different style of story.

Thrillers are always harder to review because I absolutely do not want to risk any spoilers. However, this is an interesting study of life at Acacia Villas and how relationships between characters develop, and the effort many go to ‘to keep up appearances’. After all, what do all of these characters really know about each other?

Although, it also becomes quite clear how simple it can be to misinterpret information and create alternative truths about events.

The question is – exactly what did Priscilla know, and about who, to lead to her attack?

We are kept guessing until the very end, as we should be by any good thriller. I’m looking forward to finding out if my fellow readers solved it or if everyone was left guessing until the end.

One by One by Ruth Ware

Thrilling reads continue in October with ‘One by One’ by Ruth Ware. Even the cover of this book says thrilling read ahead, with its grey tones and isolated chalet.

Told from the perspectives of Liz and Erin, we escape to the chalet for a skiing holiday, combined with a business trip with the team behind a new music app ‘Snoop’. However, there is nothing relaxing about this trip as, one by one, members of the group are killed or disappearing. But why is this happening? And who is responsible? Especially when there is no escape.

Although the pace was a little slow to begin with, once it picked up, this became a book where you just needed to read one more chapter to find out what was going to happen next.

Definitely a good pick for these autumn evenings.

As Good As Dead by Holly Jackson

We have been reunited with Pip for one final time as we reach the end of her trilogy. Like so many, this was a most anticipated read of 2021 for me. I was so excited to see how Holly Jackson would conclude this for us all.

You can feel the tension from the first page of this YA thriller. Pip is clearly suffering from the events of her last case, but there is still a mystery to solve. Who is taunting her and stalking her? And why? And is it linked to the case of the Duct Tape Killer and another miscarriage of justice?

This book has everything we love: Pip, Ravi, Pip’s family and friends, and her usual determination. However, as much as I enjoyed reading this book, I am not sure if all of the action was ‘realistic’ or true to the Pip we know. I realise that this is about Pip dealing with trauma and her own ideas about a miscarriage of justice, but I was just not completely convinced I could see some of the behaviour as true to her previous actions.

But, don’t get me wrong, I loved the book and, like so many, I am sad that we have come to the end of Pip’s story. And I am definitely imagining the best future for her…and Ravi.

Holly Jackson has given us a wonderfully engaging YA trilogy, and I hope that we will hear more from her soon.

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’?