Blog Tour, Crime, Thriller

The Killer You Know by S. R. Masters – Blog Tour Review

I’m delighted to be joining the blog tour for this new psychological thriller and debut novel by S. R. Masters. He’s woven a well crafted story centring around a group of five friends who, as teenagers in the late 90s, do all the things teens do – hang around their small village, drink illicit alcohol, hole up at the house of the kid whose parents are out the most and let their overactive imaginations create all sorts of stories about the adults around them. And like all teenagers they spend hours talking about their futures – for one a career in medicine, for another a longing to be an actor, and for Will, the one teen who really can’t think what to do – a joke that one day he might become a serial killer.

You need to kill at least three people to be a serial killer, right? So that’s what I’ll do.

The author flips the story between the late 90s and 2015, when one of the group contacts the others and suggests a reunion. By this time, Adeline, the main narrator for the 2015 segments of the book, has a terrible relationship with her parents and is reluctant to come back to her childhood home. But she’s proud of her popular podcast series on movies, and deciding that’s something she can talk about with the others, she agrees to come home for Christmas and get together for old time’s sake. Although the group are happy to be reunited, Will is a no show, and eventually their thoughts turn to what he said about his future when they were younger. Thus begins a search to see what had happened to Will, and if he could possibly have carried out what they thought were idle threats.

This book swaps between time periods and narrators, so does take a little bit of concentration, but it’s well worth the effort. It’s a cleverly woven narrative and I really liked that the protagonists had very different adult lives, which all played into the story in different ways. S. R. Masters also puts plenty of doubt into your mind as to how the story will pan out, and peels away the layers of the plot deliberately and carefully. My overriding sense from this book is of the oppressiveness of the tiny village in which the group grew up, where everyone knows everyone else’s business, prejudices and connections, and how this carries through into the teenagers’ futures. A strong long form debut from an author who has written a lot of short stories, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he comes out with next.

This review is of an advance copy, provided in exchange for an honest review. Please do visit the other blogs on tour, as shown below. The Killer You Know is out now in paperback and ebook.

Thriller

A Single Source by Peter Hanington – Review

Peter Hanington is a BBC journalist and this shows very strongly in his new thriller, A Single Source. The book is set in the Arab Spring of 2011 and follows three parallel tracks. The main track is around a BBC journalist called William Carver and his colleague Patrick, who are sent to Cairo to cover the unfolding events there, but there are subsidiary plot strands involving two brothers so desperate to leave Eritrea and find a better future in Europe that they are prepared to undertake a hugely dangerous journey, and a former BBC editor who has now changed sides and is working in the press office of the Ministry of Defence.

Carver is a maverick, old school journalist who is a luddite when it comes to technology but has a nose for a story and for finding the best sources. A brilliant story comes to him, but he only has a single source, and with forces trying to push him off course he fights a battle to get the story on air.

The writing around the fictionalised version of the Arab Spring is very evocative and I very much enjoyed reading a journalist’s view of what was unfolding and how it was reported. Hanington’s BBC credentials mean that this is wholly believable and authentic (sometimes too much so, as some of his references to Broadcasting House are a bit niche). Carver is a hugely flawed character, but you can’t help rooting for him. I felt the plot strand involving the brothers from Eritrea was a little neglected – although the description of their journey was heartbreaking, I felt the weaving in of this to the main plot was underdone. Overall though, a really good and educational read, and understandably praised by many other journalists.

This review is of a NetGalley edition, that I received for free in return for an honest review. A Single Source by Peter Hanington is published on 2nd May 2019.

Fiction, Thriller

Stone Mothers by Erin Kelly – Review

Such a cleverly plotted and worked book. Erin Kelly’s story revolves around a “stone mother” – a Victorian asylum that has, as so many others, been converted into flats. This is a psychological thriller which weaves together families and mothers with the history of the hospital, and which works its way back in time, peeling off layers to get to the core of the story. Prepare to be led down literal and plot corridors as Kelly navigates us through the generations. I read this in one extremely long sitting, I simply couldn’t put it down. Highly recommended and perfect bank holiday reading.

Fiction, Thriller

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides – Review

I read this in two sittings and wow. Just wow. A brilliant psychological thriller that totally had me until the final page. Theo Faber is a psychotherapist who begins working in a secure unit. He becomes somewhat obsessed with cracking the case of Alicia, who had murdered her husband and never uttered a word since. Theo is convinced that his skills could bring her speech back and help her move forward, but as he slowly unpicks the circumstances leading up to the murder, his own life starts to unravel. These two plot strands move side by side through the novel as Theo gets deeper and deeper into trying to work out what happened to Alice and her husband.

An utter and complete page turner with an astounding twist. I’ve read that others saw the twist coming, but I guess that might depend how you read a thriller. Sometimes the twist is obvious, but for my part I try not too hard to second guess what’s coming as I genuinely want to be surprised. In this case, i didn’t think it was at all jumping off the page – Michaelides really weaves all the strands together brilliantly. I absolutely could not put it down. Alex Michaelides is also a screenwriter (this is being made into a film) and I think it really shows – the plot is so strong and the dialogue completely believable. Bravo – an amazing debut novel.

This review is of a purchased copy.

Crime, Fiction, Thriller

The Wych Elm by Tana French – Review

It took me a while to get into this – I felt the set up was quite protracted – but once it got going I was completely hooked. This is the story of Toby, a young man who suffers a serious assault at home. As a result of this, and his uncle’s terminal diagnosis, it’s decided that he should move in with his uncle at the old family home. There he can continue to recuperate whilst supporting his uncle.

When a skull is later found in a Wych Elm in the garden, the story slowly unravels until all sorts of long hidden secrets tumble out. Thoughout the book the police are an almost sinister presence as they try to solve the case in parallel with Toby trying to understand what has happened. This is so cleverly plotted (as you’d expect from Tana French). I wasn’t sure to start with, but loved it by the end. For that reason it’s a four not five star read for me, but very nicely done.

This review is of a purchased copy.

Crime, Thriller

Keep Her Close by M.J. Ford – Review

This is the second in the DS Jo Masters series, and this time out she’s tasked with investigating the disappearance of an Oxford student. The original investigation broadens out as other young women begin to disappear, and Jo Masters’ history means that she starts to distrust all around her.

This is a pacy police procedural that can be read as a stand-alone, although there are references to her previous outing in Hold My Hand, which I will definitely put on my To Be Read list. Fans of UK crime fiction will enjoy this I feel – a solid plot and nice pace pulls you through the story and Jo Masters is an interesting protagonist. Thoroughly enjoyable.

This review is of an advance copy provided by NetGalley and Avon Books.

Crime, Thriller

The Flower Girls by Alice Clark-Platts – Review

I read this in one sitting and was captivated. It opens with the disappearance of a five year-old girl from a remote Devon hotel during an an ice storm – a hotel at which one of the other guests is now extremely concerned about hiding her past. Hazel is the name she she is now known by, but as a child she had another name – a name which had become notorious as she and her older sister had been caught up in the killing of a toddler and collectively become known to the public as The Flower Girls.

As the story unfolds the author takes us through several twists and turns, with various protagonists taking us down blind alleys and off on tangents. As well as a tale of (potentially) two crimes, one current and one historic, it’s tale of family loyalty and disloyalty, of persistence and of walking the tightrope of moral justice and outright revenge. The story also explores the rehabilitation of those that commit the most serious of crimes at a tender age, and how society should deal with these children.

The opening gave me very strong Christie vibes, with the windswept clifftop hotel, cut off by snow and ice and only a limited cast of characters that could possibly be involved in the girl’s disappearance. But the book as a whole is much more like Barbara Vine’s works (Ruth Rendell’s pen name for her more psychological thrillers), so if you’re a fan of that genre I think you might love this. And if you do, you might also love the books by Alex Marwood which I think have a similar vibe (although I should warn you that one of them, The Wicked Girls, has a very similar theme). A cracking five stars from me – it transported me on a journey to an unexpected conclusion.

This review is of a purchased copy. The Flower Girls by Alice Clark-Platts

Crime, Thriller

Bitter Edge by Rachel Lynch – Review

This is the first book I’ve read from the DI Kelly Porter series and I will confess I started to feel a little nervous as the plot strands mount up. Rachel Lynch does not shy away from dark themes – the book opens with a teenage girl taking her own life and then draws in teen drug use, a parent out for revenge, potentially unfounded accusations and family drama. There are some very fine plotting skills on display as these various strands weave their way through the book and to (for me at least) an unexpected conclusion. Of particular note is that the story is set in one of the UK’s most beautiful regions, the Lake District, which it would be tempting to portray as chocolate box scenery. Although you get a feel for the raw beauty of the area, Lynch does not ignore the significant social issues facing rural populations. Highly recommended and for me a chance to go back and read the first three in the series.

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This is a review of an advance copy  provided by NetGalley and Canelo.

Historical fiction, Thriller

The Missing Sister by Dinah Jefferies – Review

This book is an interesting mix of mystery and romance set in 1930s Burma, and swaps between the stories of Belle, a nightclub singer and Diana, her mother. I found it a gentle read, as Belle explores the mystery of her missing baby sister, although there are a couple of points of high tension.  It’s nicely woven together and there’s clearly a huge amount of research that’s gone into the historical background of colonialism in that region. Ultimately I’d prefer something a little more tense and pacy, but if you’re a fan of historical fiction and in particular that between-the-wars period where colonialism was in a period of decline, I think you might love it.

This is a review of an advance copy provided by NetGalley and Penguin Books.

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