Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

I think one of my reading red flags is that I do not always read some long-standing series in the correct order, and it would appear that is the stance that I have taken with the Eddie Flynn novels by Steve Cavanagh. And it has not impacted by enjoyment of these books – so, I guess it is not the end of the world.

I decided to pick up ‘Thirteen’ as I was in quite a thriller mood after some very busy work weeks, and I was certain that this book would not disappoint. And I was correct – this book did not disappoint and it was a joy to be back in the company of Eddie Flynn.

I absolutely cannot give any of this tale away, so all I am going to say is that Joshua Kane is very keen to make it on to the jury for the trial of a Hollywood star. A hero of the silver screen is charged with murder and Kane is keen to ensure he is found guilty. But, as Eddie Flynn is the defence lawyer, it may not all go to plan for Kane – so, how far will he go to ensure that his plan is a success?

This is such a brilliantly constructed thriller. You are on the edge of your seat at moments throughout this book. The dual perspective of the story, the antics of Kane and the experiences of Flynn definitely combine to inspire you to be an armchair detective – but the twists and turns of the narrative won’t guarantee that you get it right. Especially as it is a twisty page-turner of a novel, and it has reminded me that I need to make sure that I read even more about Eddie Flynn’s adventures.

In fact, I have another on my shelf – so, maybe I will have to pick it up sooner rather than later, especially as there is a new Eddie Flynn story out very soon…

The Good Samaritan by John Marrs

I have been told several times that I should try to read a John Marrs novel. So, when I spotted that ‘The Good Samaritan’ was a bargain on Kindle, I decided it was time to take the advice.

And, what I learned immediately is that John Marrs can clearly write a chilling novel. I found the start of this novel rather unsettling (in a good thriller way) and knew that I would be reading all of this book, because I just had to know more. We have a fantastic, unreliable narrator in our lead character, Laura, who works for the charity helpline ‘End of the Line’ – we seem to be presented with a ‘Good Samaritan’ but, as the story unfolds, we doubt so much of what we have learned.

The majority of this story is told from two key perspectives: that of Laura and Ryan. Ryan, particularly, experiences intense grief when his wife commits suicide, apparently with the help of someone else. We follow him as he seeks his revenge – after all, an ‘eye for an eye’ – but that just results in him destroying his life even further as he takes matters into his own hands.

It is actually quite hard to review this book, as there is no way I can reveal spoilers. But I can tell you that this book has all the ingredients of an intense thriller. You have, as previously mentioned, your unreliable narrator; you have your complex characters, you have your secrets, your lies, and your twists and turns. I am not sure at any point you are actually sure what is going to happen next – and, just as you think you are not going to be shocked, something else takes your breath away. It is a truly addictive read.

I am not sure what else I can say about this book without giving too much away, but I will suggest you read it if you are a thriller fan, although please be clear that there are some difficult topics amongst its pages, so you may want to check those out first.

And now I am off to seek out my next John Marrs novel, because one of the best treats about stumbling across a new author is that it means you have a whole back-list of books to catch up on, which is always a treat.

Doing the Double with Lisa Jewell

It is not often that I will read the first book in a duology, trilogy or series and then instantly pick up the next, but Lisa Jewell made me do exactly that. I bought ‘The Family Remains’ last summer but had not picked it up, as someone told me it was actually a sequel to ‘The Family Upstairs’, so I, of course, had to find a copy of that first. And, as usual, my favourite charity bookshop saved the day, not just having a copy of ‘The Family Upstairs’, but having a lovely hardback edition.

So, at the start of this month, I decided it was time to read ‘The Family Upstairs’, as I was pretty certain a thriller by Lisa Jewell was not going to disappoint and was going to be exactly what I needed, as my brain was in the thriller mood. My goodness, it did not take me long to get through this book, as I basically was reading at every opportunity, including staying in the car as Mr Bookwormandtheatremouse did the weekly shop, as I had to know what was going to happen next. This thriller had everything that I love about this genre. There was a dual timeline, as those in the present were trying to find out the mysteries of the past and the history of the house on the Thames and the mysterious family (and their ‘friends’) that had lived there. There is an unreliable narrator, in amongst all the other characters, who is so cleverly constructed that even when you know the truth, you are still not sure it really is the truth. And, of course, there are a number of mysteries and fascinating characters that just leave you wanting more all the time.

In fact, I think it is safe to say that this book is a masterclass in thriller writing. As all the readers want is more, this was certainly proved by the fact that for the first time I was willing to immediately pick up the next book – which, of course, I did.

‘The Family Remains’ mainly focuses on searching for one of the characters that we do not meet in the previous book, although we know that they are out there somewhere in the world. Phinn/Finn is missing but Birdie has been discovered (I cannot say more than that, as we know my feeling on spoilers appearing in blog posts). So, in this book, we find out more about the characters that we met in the first book and we are on a knife edge throughout, as we do not know if the darkest secrets of all will be revealed.

For the reader, this book holds more of a moral dilemma, as it does for some of the characters. Are the worst possible actions ever acceptable in the name of survival or protection? And, this follows you all through the book, and probably stays with you even after you have read the last line – and it is quite a last line! It would be interesting to see if a reader responds differently to ‘The Family Remains’ if they have not read ‘The Family Upstairs’. Would they have the same connections to the characters? Would they have the same responses to some of their actions? In fact, it would make such a brilliant book club discussion if both books were read – there is so much to unpick and work out.

If these books have been on your wishlist or your tbr pile a little too long, then I recommend that you pick them up as soon as you can, because they are a truly brilliant read, and so worth reading together.

A Game of Lies by Clare Mackintosh

When I spotted that ‘A Game of Lies’ was a bargain price on the Kindle, I knew that I had to read it. I discovered the books of Clare Mackintosh last year when I read ‘The Last Party‘ And as ‘A Game of Lies’ is the second book featuring Ffion Morgan, I thought it would be an excellent read to satisfy my thriller/crime fiction genre need.

‘A Game of Lies’ did not disappoint. I absolutley loved the concept of the Exposure reality TV show which eventually revealed the contestants’ deepest secrets and how horrendous this would be if it was a real show. But it fed beautifully into the backdrop of the murder mystery that was about to unfold on the pages. The contestants create quite a rogues’ gallery of potential perpetrators of the crime, and potential victims. But are they victims of a crime, or their own vanity and desire to have their fifteen minutes of fame?

I absolutely cannot reveal any spoilers as it is a thriler, but I can assure you that Ffion Morgan is still a fantastic lead female figure for this book. And her relationship with Leo is still something as a reader you are fully invested in until the very last page. This is as much part of the twists and turns as the mystery unfolding at the foot of the Welsh mountains.

This is a well-constructed, thrilling read; I did not solve it until Ffion Morgan and her team did, and I am okay with that, because I do not read these books to solve the crime – I read these books for the escapism from the real world. And if you want the chance to do the same, then pick this book up. I hope that we are going to meet her and Leo again, because they are a rather fantastic crime-fighting duo.

Conviction by Jack Jordan

I have again had it proved to me that it is worth giving an author another go. ‘Conviction’ by Jack Jordan was a thrilling page-turner and I am so glad that I did not let it pass me by after ‘Do No Harm‘.

I have wondered why I found ‘Conviction’ a better read for me, and I think it is because I felt that we were thrown into a thrilling situation that could well be happening as we speak. Do not get me wrong, there is of course the extraordinary drama added to make the read as thrilling as possible, but there is a level of possibility throughout the pages that keeps you hooked.

The moral dilemma in this book is all around the justice system: can a lawyer misrepresent their client in order to keep their own dark secret? Moral dilemmas make for such a fantastic read, because, I like to think, we assume that everyone woud make the right choice – but do we really ever know if they will? This book hooked me in from the moment I started reading, and I really could not put it down. I found myself picking it up at every spare moment, because I had to see how the story was going to turn out.

And a book that makes you gasp at a couple of twists is a well-constructed thriller. The last sentence of the last page was not something that I was expecting, and I am still thinking about it now.

So, this again proves that you should not read an author once and form all your judgements, because sometimes they have another story to tell that might be the story that you need to read. Or sometimes, their story might be needed a different time. This is a lesson I have certainly learnt recently; I am going to make sure that I keep my mind open, especially when it is authors from my favourite genres. And this does mean I am definitely going to be keeping an eye out for Jack Jordan’s next book, which seems to be already making a splash on social media.

None of This is True by Lisa Jewell

This is a rollercoaster of a book – oh my word! This was recommended to me by a bookseller and, as I am apparently in my thriller era, this sounded like a great read (again, no blurb read, etc).

I am not sure how to put into words my thoughts about this book; I thought it was an outstanding thriller: so well written and so well constructed that you were swept away with the story from the moment you started reading. I really enjoyed the way the story was interspersed with moments from the true crime documentary that had been inspired by the story we were seeing unfold in this book.

Alix and Josie are birthday twins, Alix is a successful podcaster and thinks that ‘Birthday Twins’ could be an interesting new idea for the podcast. However, as Josie shares her story, it seems that maybe she has not been living her best life – but can Alix trust anything that Josie says?

This is a dark and moody thriller that has you second-guessing almost everything that you are reading. It really tackles the idea of trust – who and what can you really trust in the world? And what really makes people create a different narrative of their life? Does Josie really mean to create harm, or does she believe she is actually doing things for the right reasons?

I was absolutely sucked into this book and ended up reading way past my bedtime because I simply had to know what was going to happen next. Especially as Lisa Jewell manages to create a tale that you think you could really be seeing on a true crime documentary. I think this may have secured Lisa Jewell as an author that I would consider an automatic buy (or borrow from the local library). I have a couple of others sitting on the tbr pile, so I may reaching for them sooner rather than later.

So, the big question is – are you a Lisa Jewell fan?

One of Us is Back by Karen M McManus

I feel like I have been waiting f-o-r e-v-e-r for this book. I could not give in to the hardback as it would have not matched with my other books, and as every dedicated bookworm knows, books need to match. (Although, I did give in to the black cover special edition, rather than the traditional white cover, but I just loved it).

So, ‘One of Us is Back’ did not disappoint (thank goodness, imagine if it had – haha). I absolutely loved being back with the Bayview gang as they faced yet another challenge as it appears that someone thinks it is ‘Time for a new game, Bayview’. I am not providing any spoilers other than that you are back with the gang as they tackle another deadly game. And they do not seem as free of Simon just yet, as much as they hope they are.

I just love these books (and pretty much anything I have read by this author); McManus writes brilliant YA thrillers which I wish had been available to me when I was the target audience. Although, as we all know, it does not matter who books are aimed at; as long as you enjoy reading them, you can read what you want.

I think one of the best things about the books of Karen M McManus is that she creates fantastic characters who are relatable; we meet so many brilliantly strong female lead characters who know their minds, and have no fear but love dearly. Which means they face so much head on, that maybe some of us would avoid. I think one of my favourite characters will always be Bronwyn, she is just simply a legend.

So, if you are fan of the Bayview books so far, I recommend this one because it does not disappoint at all – it is a fantastic thriller which is a real page-turner. The question is, do I now need to go back to the beginning of the trilogy to enjoy it all over again?

No One Saw a Thing by Andrea Mara

As I am a real fan of thrillers I had to pick the April book club pick from ‘The Book Taster’ a little early. I was just too excited not to read it.

This is a fantastic thriller, especially as it is something that does not read as complete fiction but has an element of possibility to it that it makes it all the more brilliant to read. As someone who used to travel a lot on the underground as a child with my mum, and always used to worry about boarding that train without her, I could feel all the emotions in this book.

This book is a fast-paced read, as you live through the moments and hours that follow Sive’s daughter not getting off the underground train, but you also find out about the past of the group of friends that led up to the moment in London. There are so many secrets and lies that have taken place between these friends, nobody is quite sure who is telling the truth and, as the story progresses, it appears that nobody is above suspicion.

I could not put this book down because it appeared that every chapter revealed something else about one of the friends and nobody seemed to be quite who they had been saying they were. Even Sive, who is a bit of an outsider amongst the group, has a secret that you would not quite expect. The twists in the tale are excellent.

My only slight niggle as I read this book was that some of the ‘clues’ were really pointed out to the reader. Although this did not happen all the way through the book, so it did not take away from the enjoyment of reading it – it is still a well-constructed thriller which will satisfy fans of the genre.

Girl on Fire by Tony Parsons

A friend of mine passed ‘Girl on Fire’ on to me recently so, as I was in a bit of a crime and thriller mood, I decided I would sneak it in before the end of February. I mean, as we are in a leap year and there is an extra day, I may as well use some of it reading.

‘Girl on Fire’ introduced me to DC Max Wolfe (although not his first case), and I was quite taken with this character. A single parent who loves his dog, his job and follows his moral compass, even when the odds may be stacked against him or his case.

Max Wolfe is caught up in the events of a terrorist attack on a local shopping centre, and becomes involved in trying to draw out those who were responsible but also those who believe that they have a right to carry out vigilante justice. There appears to be danger around every corner, from many different sources but Max Wolfe always keeps his sense of fair justice, which makes him a fascinating character to read about as he faces so many troubles and dangers in his work.

I actually found this quite a thought-provoking read, as there was a study of character along the way as it considered what influences people to carry out some of the actions that they do. And how different people view right and wrong, justice and injustice – how do we form our morals and values?

My only tiny frustration with this book with the punctuation of the flow occasionally to explain a piece of police jargon or abbreviation. Although I appreciate as readers we may not have fully understood these things without that little explanation, I just occasionally felt that it interrupted my flow when I was fully immersed in a moment in the story. But I think that was probably just my personal preference when I read rather than a criticism.

I think I would like to read more about Max Wolfe and will be keeping an eye out for more books which feature him in the lead, because I am keen to see where his character came from and where his character is going. Only six more books to read – so many books, so little time.

The Girls Who Disappeared by Claire Douglas

After the Book Taster introduced us to the books of Claire Douglas, I had made a decision that I need to read her backlist. So, one of my reads in February was ‘The Girls who Disappeared’ (as I found it at a little bit of a bargain price).

This was another great twisty thriller, with atmosphere built from the first page, and a fantastic strong female lead in the form of the journalist Jenna Halliday.

This is a small-town mystery. Twenty years earlier, Olivia Rutherford was in a car accident with her friends, but when she wakes up, the other girls have gone. For twenty years, there has been no explanation for what happened that night, but as the anniversary approaches, Jenna Halliday wants to do a true crime podcast in an attempt to see if it exposes any new information. However, it seems that some people in this small town will go to extreme measures to ensure that nothing new is exposed – or to ensure that any other secrets are exposed.

The small-town setting adds to the claustrophobic atmosphere, as does the forest and the road where the accident happened. Claire Douglas is excellent at using the setting to add to the tension of the story that is being told.

As it is a thriller, it is quite hard to say too much about the plot of the book, other than you are left feeling that everyone has a secret that they are trying to keep hidden, and you never really know who is genuine as a character. It is a quite a ride from start to finish – with a fantastic reveal when we reach the conclusion.