Tag Archives: suspense

#BookReview ‘The Snakes’ by Sadie Jones #thriller #suspense

Sadie JonesBea and Dan come from completely different places. He is a mixed race boy from Peckham, South London, trying to make it as an artist but working as an estate agent. She is the daughter of parents with multiple homes, multiple cars, who travel in private jets and stay in luxurious hotels. Dan knows Bea dislikes her parents and their wealth, and applauds Bea’s decision to live an ordinary life with him in a scruffy flat. But Bea hasn’t been honest with him, she is an heiress to billions. Welcome to the Adamson family in The Snakes by Sadie Jones.

Billed as a psychological thriller, to me The Snakes is more a story of 360° snobbishness where characters make assumptions about the lives of others based on prejudice; it is about greed and excessive consumption; moral superiority in all quarters, a conviction of being right; racism; and unfamiliar police procedures, all wrapped up in the story of a seriously messed up family. The setting in rural France is beautifully written. One of the best, creepiest scenes is early on when Bea walks alone across the fields in the summer heat and takes a dip in a nearby stream. This early action suggests that Bea is emotional, an unreliable witness; should we believe her assessment of threat and safety? And if you query her judgement in a small situation, does it follow that she is unreliable as the horrible story progresses? Should we trust her, should we like her?

Most of the action takes place at the country house in Burgundy run by Bea’s brother Alex. Bea and Dan take time off work for a summer road trip, intending to stay with Alex at Paligny briefly before heading to the South of France. But Bea’s concern for Alex, his drinking and drug use, and the strange set-up at Paligny, lead them to stay. Alex fears snakes are in the house, he sets traps and dreams they are in the attic. And then Bea and Alex’s parents – Liv and Griff – arrive, bringing with them money, privilege and expectations. Griff sends Alex on an errand, and Alex is never seen again.

I went through phases of disliking every character, distrusting every character. Dan, though loyal to Bea, cannot help be intrigued by her bombastic father who sprays money around in a way Dan has never seen. Bea is self-righteous, something of a prig, lacking in confidence in the face of her bullying father and good-looking husband. Liv is indescribable; I had no feeling for her character except for understanding the hatred she triggers in Bea. Griff is a self-made man, a bully, unaware of the effect his behaviour has on his children. Everyone is selfish.

I was left with the feeling a different novel was trying to be heard. It is an odd ending, over-milked for every dramatic moment but oddly unthrilling. Difficult to figure out, this novel is like a Russian doll splitting with too many ideas. Perhaps the issue is that everyone seems to be lying, to each other and themselves. Alex is the only honest one and the book is better when he is alive.

If you like this, try:-
The House on Cold Hill’ by Peter James
The Girls’ by Lisa Jewell
The Ice’ by Laline Paull

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THE SNAKES by Sadie Jones #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-41G via @SandraDanby

#Bookreview ‘The Butterfly Room’ by Lucinda Riley @lucindariley #romance #suspense

Lucinda RileyThe latest family saga from Lucinda Riley sweeps from Southwold in Suffolk to Bodmin Moor, London to Cambridge, carrying with it the tangled secrets of three generations. The Butterfly Room is a big book, 640 pages, but I didn’t notice. This is so much more than a romance, though there is love – and betrayal – in its pages; at the centre of it all is Admiral House in Southwold, the home of the Montague family.

The book opens in 1944 as Posy Montague catches butterflies with her Spitfire pilot father, just before he returns to the airforce for the last few months of the war. I actually found this a stuttering start, the first person voice of a seven-year old is difficult to pull off convincingly, even if she is bookish and described as ‘precocious’… a sharp, intelligent child, but one who doesn’t understand the behaviour of adults around her. In fact this first chapter is something of a prologue, setting up behaviour which rattles through the following generations. The story really took off for me when the 2006 strands start – Posy, now seventy; son Nick and girlfriend Tammy; daughter-in-law Amy; old friend Freddie and novelist lodger Sebastian. Off page, Posy married and was widowed, returning to Southwold to open up the family home. She hadn’t been there since her father was killed at the end of the war and Posy went to live with her grandmother in Devon. She raised her family in the house but now it is creaking and crumbling around her, it is too big for her and costs too much to keep going. There is some mystery about Admiral House, something happened there of which Posy is still unaware, but which is going to be disturbed as she sells the house in order to downsize.I had my guesses, and I was wrong.

The luxury of telling a story with this inter-generational scope is that it is possible to feature a number of characters in depth. Posy is the lynchpin of the book and at the centre of her family’s lives. And so we explore her eldest son Sam and his marriage to Amy, who is mistreated, downtrodden but full of love and determination. Posy’s second son Nick, a successful antiques dealer in Australia, has returned home to set up a new business. In London he meets former model Tammy, who is setting up her vintage fashion shop Reborn.

There are three core secrets, mysteries that saw me read late into the night and pick up the book at every available opportunity; something from Posy’s past, something from Nick’s past, and the business dealings of weak, unscrupulous Sam.

One of the type of books that, once you’ve finished it, you wish you’d never read it so you can start all over again. I galloped through it on holiday but some of the issues stayed with me afterwards; that fractured families can re-heal if the will is there, that cutting loose from the past can be both heart-breaking and freeing, and that it is never too late to say yes.

Read my reviews of other novels by Lucinda Riley:-
The Seven Sisters [Seven Sisters #1]
The Storm Sister [Seven Sisters #2]
The Shadow Sister [Seven Sisters #3]
The Love Letter
The Girl on the Cliff

If you like this, try:-
A Week in Paris’ by Rachel Hore
The Invitation’ by Lucy Foley
Amy Snow’ by Tracy Rees

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#Bookreview ‘Pleasures’ by @SFDPBeginnings #thriller #romance #suspense

Helen J ChristmasPart three of a London-based thriller series, Pleasures by Helen J Christmas takes up immediately where books one and two left off. The ‘Same Place Different Place’ series ticks all the thriller boxes. Chases, disguises, London gangsters, phone tapping, dodgy politicians and policemen, threats, kidnapping, lovable victims and baddies to hate.

Book two ends in 1987, Pleasures picks up the story in the same year. Do not read Pleasures without having read books two and three first as you will miss so many references. In a nutshell, in Beginnings Eleanor Chapman is on the run with her son Eli after Eli’s father was murdered after witnessing the killing of a politician. In Visions, Eleanor and Eli have settled in the quiet village of Aldwyk, hopeful of remaining under the radar from the gang who see her as a dangerous witness. But a bitter property deal brings an old enemy to the village.

The handling of the backstory in Pleasures is at times repetitive, exacerbated perhaps by the fact that this book starts immediately after the previous story finished. The old enemy is back in another controversial property deal in the town where Eleanor now lives. The heavies are brought in to threaten Eleanor Bailey, now married to Charlie, and their family. There is a 12 year gap between books one and two, adding fresh air to the plot and enabling the cast of children to grow into early teens. Only months pass before the ending of book two and start of book three. The children are embarking on girlfriend/boyfriend angst, all of which Christmas blends naturally into the story. The Eighties setting is done particularly well, not just random details but made relevant to the plot. There is also the return of an old adversary who adds spice to the mix as he goes straight; but has he really become a responsible businessman, or is it just a front. Eleanor, understandably, is haunted by past threats and is over-protective of son Eli.

At 556 pages this is a long book, very long for a thriller. The first, Beginnings, 314 pages. The second, Visions, 486 pages. There is a fair amount of summarising what has happened and repeating of the threats faced. The story really starts moving as the midway point is neared and the second half is a page-turner as threat after threat, hinted at for so long, begins to happen and Eleanor’s carefully constructed world begins to unravel.

The teenagers are growing up, there’s lots of adolescent angst, snogging and groping. Avalon and William are my favourite characters and I enjoyed the late Eighties references. I wished for a new threat, or a twist on the old one, and admit to expecting a significant death. But perhaps that will come in book four.

Amazon UK

Read my reviews of Beginnings and Visions.

Read how Helen J Christmas researched the past for the ‘Same Face Different Place’ series; and find which book she chooses as her ‘Porridge & Cream’ comfort read.

If you like this, try:-
‘Corpus’ by Rory Clements
‘The Accident’ by CL Taylor
‘The Blood Detective’ by Dan Waddell

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PLEASURES by @SFDPBeginnings #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3ym via @Sandra Danby

#BookReview ‘Fatal Inheritance’ by Rachel Rhys #romance #glamour

Rachel RhysFatal Inheritance by Rachel Rhys is a mystery set in the South of France three years after the end of World War Two. This is a glamorous place of sun and colours and beauty but which hides wartime shade and recriminations, canker beneath the luxury and smiles.

When Eve Forrester receives a solicitor’s letter promising ‘something to her advantage’, she leaves her husband in England and travels to Cap d’Antibes. Clifford disapproves of her journey, he thinks it inappropriate, a waste of time, doubts the veracity of the will of this mysterious Mr Guy Lester who Eve does not know. But Eve defies her husband and goes anyway, curious, listening to the inner voice which tells her there is more to life. This is a novel where you want to shout to the heroine, to encourage her onwards, to have strength to take a new path.

Eve inherits a part-share in the Villa La Perle at Cap d’Antibes, near neighbours are the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Eve, in her ‘make do and mend’ clothing, is thrown into a glamorous social whirl of people she finds awkward, dismissive and arrogant. Rhys draws a layered picture of society where obvious wealth may hide troubled finances, make up and lipstick covers bruises, and smiles hide venom. It is a place where the locals avoid people and businesses which ‘helped’ the German occupiers, where memories of the war are fresh. In the middle of this, Eve struggles to understand her inheritance while delaying Guy Lester’s family from signing papers to sell the villa. And all the time, Eve wonders what Clifford is doing at home, knowing he disapproves of her being there, knowing he worries about the cost.

An entertaining novel in a beautiful, flawed setting – neatly mirroring the flawed people – not quite suspense, not quite a romance in the conventional sense. Rhys writes about women particularly well, not just Eve but the housekeeper Mrs Finch, actress Gloria Hayes, and fellow tourist Ruth Collett. I liked Eve, disliked her husband, and chuckled when the ‘love interest’ switched between surly to over-attentive. If I have one query, it is the solution to the mystery which comes rather out of left-field and left me feeling a little cheated. The ending, though, is unbelievably poignant. A great beach read.

If you like this, try:-
‘The Night Child’ by Anna Quinn
‘The Audacious Mendacity of Lily Green’ by Shelley Weiner
‘The Paying Guests’ by Sarah Waters

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#Bookreview ‘The Love Letter’ by @lucindariley #romance #suspense

Lucinda Riley Lucinda Riley is a new author for me and she has become an instant favourite. The Love Letter is a tightly written combination of mystery and romance unravelling the truths of a long ago love affair. Nothing and no one are as they first seem. As one secret is unveiled, so is another mystery.

When 95-year old actor Sir James Harrison dies, journalist Joanna Haslam attends the memorial service where an incident with a frail elderly lady sets this story in motion. When a few days later Joanna receives a package from the lady, Rose, she visits her to ask questions only to find Rose has died. Is there a story here to write which will win her promotion on her tabloid newspaper? Untangling the truth from the lies turns out to be much more complicated and dangerous than Jo could ever have imagined.

Meanwhile Zoe Harrison, the actor’s grand-daughter, carer, and now facing life as a single mother with her son Jamie, receives a call from the former love of her life, Art. It is a while before the storylines of Jo and Zoe combine. The real identity of Art remains secret for quite a while though I had guessed before the reveal. Jo meanwhile has little luck in love and, after past betrayals, has difficulty trusting. There is a fully coloured-in cast of supporting characters – just enough, not too many – including Jo’s editor Alec and childhood friend Simon. Needless to say, everyone is pulled into the plot by the end.

About two-thirds of the way through what I thought was the plot solution turned out to be wrong and there was still a way to go. Although a bit confusing in parts as the intricate story flits from London to Ireland and France, I thoroughly enjoyed the spy element and the theatrical musical background of Sir James plus two good female leads in Jo and Zoe. More than just a romance, even if the plot gets slightly silly by the end. Definitely a page turner, I read it in two days on holiday.

Amazon UK

If you like this, try:-
Vanishing Acts’ by Jodi Picoult
The House at the Edge of the World’ by Julia Rochester
Angel’ by Elizabeth Taylor

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE LOVE LETTER by @lucindariley #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3xJ via @SandraDanby