The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Bookstagram made me do it – this was the novel that closed 2019 for me and I am so pleased that it did.

‘The Hunting Party’ was a book that I could not put down. In fact, it was the perfect travel companion as it made a recent train journey absolutely fly.

A New Year’s Eve tradition of a getaway for a group of old friends does not quite go according to plan when one of the party ends up dead. Which, as a reader, comes as no surprise as the destination of the getaway is the remote Scottish Highlands.

As the tale unfolds, there are colourful characters, dark secrets, and twists and turns. For once, I did not hold a lot of sympathy for the victim – but maybe their character was as insecure as those around them.

I enjoyed that the narrative is told from different viewpoints – each revealing different hints, clues and secrets as the tale unfolds. It was also quite a treat that the conclusion hinted at a happy ending for two characters who may have been running from their past. (And become caught up with quite a complex group of ‘friends’).

This is a book that may lead you to question if we ever really know anyone. A great read!

Safe House by Jo Jakeman

I was sent a copy of ‘Safe House’ by Jo Jakeman as part of its blog tour. I was rather excited, as it is the first time I have had the chance to take part in such an event. And, wow, what a novel to start with.

‘Safe House’ is an excellent contemporary thriller, the perfect novel for these dark nights. Charlie Miller is ready to start a new life in Cornwell; it has been a difficult couple of years and it is time to shake off the ghosts of the past. Steffi Finn was that past, but Charlie knows she has to be long forgotten, as does the relationship she had with the now convicted murderer, Lee Fisher. However, how ever far she goes, she can not shake the feeling that the past is following her.

The thriller has all the ingredients of an excellent tale. A colourful collection of characters, an excellent atmospheric setting, and a number of twists and turns that take you on quite an adventure with Charlie as she tries to start a new life.

I could not put this book down, as the story is told through the past and present, which means there are two tales being told. You are drawn in, wanting to know what forced Charlie Miller to want a safe house so far from everything she has known before…and who she was.

This is a five-star read for all of you who are fans of a chilling thriller. So, I would suggest picking up a copy of Jo Jakeman’s novel and finding a cosy place to settle down and read on these dark nights.

And, as a bonus, the ebook of ‘Safe House‘ will be 99p, on Amazon, throughout November – so why not treat yourself?

The Hound of Death by Agatha Christie

Short stories are not usually my thing, although as I have got older, I have become less averse towards a collection of shorter tales. Ones from the pen of Agatha Christie are sure to be a crowd-pleaser – especially if they are spooky at this time of year.

However, for me, this was not a classic from Agatha Christie. In fact I was a little conflicted by this book. Some of the tales were excellent – especially those that had a crime element. I love a bit of supernatural mind games, especially when there is another twist for the culprit. The traditional ghostly tales were good too. Yet, I found a few of the stories did not hold my attention and when I had reached the conclusion, I was not sure I had taken in what had happened.

This was October’s ‘Maidens of Murder’ choice, which means I was again encouraged to pick up a title by Agatha Christie that I may have otherwise missed. I am glad that I have read this book because I am a fan of Christie’s work but can risk falling into the trap of only reading the famous titles. This just won’t go down as one of my favourites.

The Taking of Annie Thorne by C J Tudor

C J Tudor is another author that I immediately associate with October. I read ‘The Chalk Man’ this time last year, so when I saw that ‘The Taking of Annie Thorne’ was out, I had to add it to the October reading list.

C J Tudor certainly knows how to write an atmospheric thriller. This novel does not disappoint as a gripping page-turner, with quite some twists and turns. It is a novel woven from the past and present of the central character, Joe Thorne, as he is drawn back to his old home town and is forced to face up to the events of the past. Can he stop history from repeating itself?

For me, the only issue is it leaves a big question unanswered as reach the conclusion. I suppose that can add to the mystery of the novel, however as I am quite a fan of detective-style mysteries, I like a clean and finished story – not a question mark.

This does not take away from the fact that this is a brilliant book for these dark autumn nights. It will certainly chill and thrill you as you read it, and you will want to know what happened – past and present.

I do hope that there is more to come from the pen of C J Tudor, as I feel her novels need to be a regular feature of my October reading list.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirely Jackson

I have only ever read Shirley Jackson books in October. She is just an author I associate with these Autumn nights since picking up ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ last October. I am also going to make a bold statement – ‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’ is better than ‘The Haunting of Hill House’.

‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’ may not be as openly ‘horror’ as ‘The Haunting of Hill House’, but Jackson’s excellent writing builds a chilling tale with excellent black comedy. As I read this novel, I enjoyed the fact that you never know exactly what is ‘reality’. There is so much mystery surronding the Blackwood family and their dark secret – and they let it engulf them such that, even as the reader, there are points where you don’t know if you can believe what you are reading.

However, there is also a lot of charm to this book as you build empathy for the characters. After all, if the village you live in has isolated you from society, then that could well skew your idea of quite how live should be. And, just as with Hill House, the Blackwood House is as much of a character as the ‘people’ of the book.

Throughout the story, there are hints to the truth. Although, by the end, I think there are still some loose ends – depending on how you take the tale.

For me, the thing that really freaked me out was the little spider icon at the close of he novel. After all, I really do not like spiders.

Our House by Louise Candlish

Sometimes you just need to read a thriller book, unfortunately, this book was not as much of one as I would have liked.

There were all of the ingredients of a successful thriller; however, somewhere a little something was missing to make it as thrilling as it could have been. The idea of someone’s house being sold without their knowledge and the motive behind it was fascinating – the method of telling the story was brilliant, as it tapped into the current fascination with true crime stories. Also, the narrative allowed the victim and the perpetrator a voice. However, the characters were difficult to warm to or engage with. And one of the ‘twists’ is visible from the moment it starts.

Don’t get me wrong, I still read the novel until the end but it is not a book I would pick up again. If you like the pacer thrillers this won’t be a book for you, but I do think it would be a good beach read if you are ready to unwind. And you may well be left questioning who you should trust.

An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena

Sometimes you just want to read a contemporary thriller – often with a dark or blue cover with a white or yellow font – and ‘An Unwanted Guest’ fits that criteria perfectly.

This is a locked room mystery – by this I mean it is set in one confined space with a small cast of characters, one of whom must be the villain. It reminded me a little of the Christie classic ‘And Then There Were None’.

Our cast of characters have all arrived at a secluded guest house during a winter storm. So, let’s be honest, we know that there are going to be problems of some kind. Of course, it also appears that this combination of people is not going to have anything in common. However, as the atmosphere becomes more tense, secrets begin to be uncovered and cracks appear in the facade.

Of course, I do not want to write a review that contains spoilers (which can sometimes be difficult with these thrillers), so this may be a little short and sweet. I will say that this is a page-turner because, to be honest, we are always keen to know who did or did not do it. However, for me, I would have liked a little more of the investigation process, as it was a little bit of a simple solution after a good build-up. Although, like all good thrillers, there was another sudden twist in the tale – the story is never quite over.

Have you read any good thrillers recently? I am always keen to hear recommendations.

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

I was swept up in the hype of ‘Big Little Lies‘ – and enjoyed it. I read ‘Truly Madly Guilty‘ – and was not as big a fan but finished it all the same. However, ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ found its stride and swept me away again.

This novel is not something that you will ever predict. Nine strangers are thrown together on a health retreat, all with the aim of making a change or escaping it all. However, not is all as it seems with the health retreat, those that run it or the characters.

I, personally, do not think that any reader will predict this tale or its rather dark twist. You do become rather invested in these nine perfect strangers and, when the novel reaches its end, you are given a small chance to draw your own conclusions about their futures. It is clear, however, it will all never be quite be the same again.

I could not out this book down. It has been a prefect holiday-time read, as it includes mystery, a little romance and humour along the way. Although I am not sure I would want check out an isolated health farm with ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ (whatever its Trip Advisor rating).

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M McManus

I was excited when I realised that this novel was hitting the bookshops this year. I had really enjoyed ‘One of Us is Lying’, so could not wait to see what thrilling intrigue there was going to be amongst the pages of this tale.

Stories like this can be difficult to write blog posts about as I do not want to spoil this book for anybody, so I will do my best to share my thoughts.

The small town of Echo Ridge has been the scene of two crimes involving the disappearance of teenage girls, although the crimes have been several years apart. When Ellery and Ezra end up with their grandmother, another disappearance occurs and Ellery’s true crime-loving side leads her to carry out her own investigation – although some mysteries she solves are not the ones she expects.

The is edge-of-your-seat stuff right up until the final line. McManus weaves the tale with mystery and intrigue. You are drawn into it all and you really do want to know what will happen next. Especially as the cast of characters are almost a collection of red herrings in themselves. One minute, like Ellery, you may have one suspect in mind only to be completely thrown off. As with ‘One of Us is Lying’, it is a gripping read; a great one for thriller fans.

No Time For Goodbye by Linwood Barclay

Books are such a magical thing because not only do they allow you to escape, but they also bring people together. I read my first novel by Linwood Barclay last year and made sure I passed it straight on to my sister-in-law when she was looking for some reading inspiration because I knew she would love it. And so, she returned the favour with ‘No Time For Goodbye’ this year.

This was a bit of a slow burn for me; I was not sure it was going to grab my attention in the same way. However, I was so wrong. Barclay takes his time to really establish the scene, which of course is necessary if you want to build a good thriller. And this is a good thriller: the tension builds throughout the tale and what appears to be the big reveal is gripping. However, that is not where the story ends, and you actually face another twist, just when you think not much else can surprise you. The slow burn is certainly worth it, for the thrilling pace you face once it picks up is pretty edge of your seat.

So, this may be a short but sweet review, as I do not want to spoil the read for anybody else, but if you like a good thriller that builds to quite a page turner, then ‘No Time For Goodbye’ is worth seeking out.