Everything is Lies – Helen Callaghan



No-one is who you think they are  –  Sophia’s parents lead quiet, unremarkable lives. At least that is what she’s always believed.

Everyone has secrets  –  Until the day she arrives at her childhood home to find a house ringing with silence. Her mother is hanging from a tree. Her father is lying in a pool of his own blood, near to death.

Especially those closest to you  –  The police are convinced it is an attempted murder-suicide. But Sophia is sure that the woman who brought her up isn’t a killer. As her father is too ill to talk it is up to Sophia to clear her mother’s name.

And to do this she needs to delve deep into her family’s past – a past full of dark secrets she never suspected were there . . .

What if your parents had been lying to you since the day you were born?


I really enjoyed her debut novel Dear Amy, and Everything is Lies is another cracking story from Helen Callaghan.  It’s well written, tense, and with some good twists.  (You can find my review of Dear Amy here).

Right from the first chapter I felt myself being drawn into something dark, a feeling that something bad was going to happen to Sophia.

Sophia is an architect in her late 20s.  Her parents run a garden centre and coffee shop in rural Suffolk.  They live a quiet, unremarkable life.  Sophia has ‘escaped’ and lives in London and has just started a new job.  Her mother calls her one night when Sophia is out with colleagues and Sophia brushes her off.

The next morning, feeling rather guilty, she drives down to Suffolk and comes across the horrific sight of her mother’s body hanging from a tree and her father lying in blood and near to death. The Police suspect it is an attempted murder-suicide; that Sofia’s mum had tried to kill herself and when Sofia’s father had tried to stop her, she had stabbed him.

Sophia is sure her mother isn’t a killer and wants to clear her mother’s name.  After her mother’s funeral, an elderly couple appear who turn out to be Sofia’s maternal grandparents.  She didn’t know them and they don’t seem very nice.

As she tries to find out more about her parents she discovers she didn’t really know them at all.  She learns from Rowan who works for her father that they had been burgled several times in recent months.  From a letter she also found out that her mother had written a memoir and had been been in touch with a publisher who had seen part of the handwritten manuscript and was keen to publish once they had the final part.  Sophia knew nothing of this.  After a fruitless search of the house she finds two of the notebooks hidden in her father’s shed but no sign of the third and final part of the manuscript.  However during her search she comes across a recent receipt for the purchase of a gun and cartridges and a shotgun licence in her mother’s name but no sign of the actual gun.

Everything is Lies is really two books in one.  Much of it is her mother’s memoir.  Her mother’s manuscript starts with a message for Sophia but ominously, the first line is “Everything is lies and nobody is who they seem”.  Then she starts reading the memoir and learns of some shocking things. Could the revelations in the book have contributed to her mother’s death?

Having read the two notebooks Sophia wants to try and track down the people her mother had been involved with to fill in some gaps but is she about to put herself in danger?

There’s a lot going on in this book and the tension mounts as doubts creep in.  Who can Sophia trust?  She’s dealing with her mother’s death, her father in hospital in a coma, the fact that Rowan seems to know more about her parents than she does.  Her mother has written a book (a memoir) revealing a completely different life before Sophia was born.  Meanwhile Sophia is trying to hold on to her job and also trying to keep her parents’ business afloat; there’s even an attempt on her life; and she’s also trying to trace people who may or may not have had something to do with her mother’s death.

There are enough twists and sub-plots to keep the book interesting.  An excellent psychological/crime thriller.

[My thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for providing a digital ARC]



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Anything You Do Say – Gillian McAllister


It’s the end of the night. You’re walking home on your own.
Then you hear the sound every woman dreads. Footsteps. Behind you. Getting faster.
You’re sure it’s him – the man from the bar who wouldn’t leave you alone.
You make a snap decision. You turn. You push. Your pursuer tumbles down the steps. He lies motionless, face-down on the floor.

Now what?

Call 999
Wait for the police to arrive. For judgement, for justice, whatever that may be. You just hope your husband, family and friends, everyone you love, will stand by you.


Stay silent. You didn’t mean to do it. You were scared, you panicked. And no one saw. No one will ever know. If you leave now. If you keep quiet. For ever.

Which will it be?


Anything You Do Say is the second novel from Gillian McAllister and is another excellent read.  (You can find my review of her debut Everything But The Truth here) …….

I suppose it could happen to anyone. Well maybe not anyone but it happened to Joanna.

It all started on a night out with her friend Laura; a few drinks; a random guy trying to be friendly and taking a selfie with them on his phone. He stands a bit too close, buys them drinks. The girls move away, he follows. He persists, tries to introduce himself. Laura ignores him, Joanna takes the business card he presses into her hand not wanting to offend him. Laura tells him straight they don’t want his company. He’s not put off. They move away to continue their conversation. Sadiq however just won’t take a hint and when they move again he follows, grabbing Joanna as she moves away then grabbing her hand as she turns to leave with Laura. Then he lets go.

The girls part company agreeing to text when they get home. Joanna sets off towards the canal and as she crosses the bridge she hears footsteps behind her. She varies her route and the footsteps follow. She calls Reuben, her husband, and tells him she’s being followed but then the signal disappears. She’s sure it’s the guy from the bar but is too scared to turn round. She tries to call her husband again but the calls fails. Joanna’s imagination is running riot, and as he comes up on her right she pushes him hard and he falls down the stairs and lies motionless on the towpath.

What should she do? Help him? Call for an ambulance? He’s not moving. Or should she run home and pretend nothing has happened? It’s all very tense.

Joanna is good at not facing up to things. She’s an avoider. She’s bright but has no idea what she wants to do. Her head is in the sand and she never finishes anything. She also has a fertile imagination, pondering the what-ifs, making up lives/background for random people she meets.

What would Reuben do? He’s loving and supportive but would always do the right thing even if that was the harder thing to do. She ponders what will happen if she calls 999.

This is where the story gets quite clever. It splits into two with chapters headed Reveal and Conceal. Reveal is the story of what happens when she calls for help and the ambulance and police arrive. Conceal is what happens when she panics, doesn’t help him, doesn’t call for help. She turns and walks away assuming someone will find him.

Each action has consequences and there are no easy answers. Doing the right thing means she ends up having to face the British justice system with potentially devastating consequences. Walking away means she has to live with the guilt and the lies. She can’t tell the truth, she is increasingly anxious, relationships start to unravel, there is increasing paranoia. Is doing the right thing always the best decision?

I really enjoyed the book. I liked the characters and the storytelling. I found both strands of the story gripping and had to stay up till the early hours to finish it.

What would I do? Like Joanna I hate making decisions so I really don’t know.

This title has been available on kindle for a few months but it’s now available in paperback.

[My thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with a review copy}.

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New Year – Old Resolutions?

I don’t really do resolutions. Well apart from deciding every January that I’m going to get my act together and post regular reviews of the books I get from NetGalley AND post on time!

Every year however I soon realise that reading the book is easy; writing a review takes me a bit longer…. and if I leave it too long between reading and reviewing I end up having to read bits of the book again.

Oh how I admire the bloggers who post several times a week, sometimes daily. I’ve tried writing two or three at once and scheduling the posts. It sort of worked but then I sat back, pleased that I was up to date and indeed ahead of schedule, and made the mistake of not keeping ahead of schedule and then realising I had quite a bit of catching up to do.

I suspect I’m just too keen to start reading the next one on the list – just a quick peek you know but I’ll write my review of the previous one before I start properly on the new one. Hah! No chance. Before I know it I’m engrossed in the new one.

So then I think, I’ll not request any more books from NetGalley for the rest of the month and I’ll catch up. So what happens then? That’s when I usually get an invitation or two to read a new book – and those publishing folk know what I’ve enjoyed before, and are so good at tempting me to accept what’s on offer.

For what it’s worth this will be my resolution for 2018: once again I’m going to at least try to be more organised however I’m almost 64 and I’ve never managed it yet. My intentions are good so here’s hoping.

Happy New Year!

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On the Bright Side – Hendrik Groen




On the Bright Side is the sequel to The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen aged 83¼, one of my favourite books of 2016. The Secret Diary was such an unexpected delight. Set in an Amsterdam care home, it’s a wonderful book, full of interesting and sometimes wacky characters and you can read my earlier review HERE .  On The Bright Side is another year of Hendrik’s observations and thoughts on life and many of the wonderful characters are back plus there are a few new acquaintances too.

Who is Hendrik Groen? I know it’s an alias and it’s allegedly a work of fiction.  Is the author really an old person living in a retirement home?  I don’t care. I love both books and there certainly seems to be a bit of truth to the writing.  I hope the author is just like Hendrik.

On The Bright Side continues with the escapades of the 8 members of the Old but Not Dead Club. The members of this club might be getting older and in some cases frailer (Hendrik himself is now 85) but they are all still embracing life and embarking on their outings, enjoying new experiences (often involving lots of food and alcohol) and still causing mayhem in the care home. According to the club rules new members can’t just ask to join, they have to be invited by the members after careful consideration – and there can’t be any more than 8 members at any time. So yes, given their advancing years and health issues, there is a possibility that the club membership could change over the course of the year. Why only 8 members? That is the number that will fit comfortably with walking/mobility aids etc into the minibus.

Hendrik’s diary entries are observant, funny but also at times heartbreaking, especially when they lose members. There is also a serious side when there are rumours that the home may be down for demolition and that they might be forced to move. There are still plenty of laugh out loud moments but perhaps fewer than in the first book. He also reveals a bit more of himself and his life before retirement. Hendrik is just such a lovely character.

Hendrik mentions towards the end of the year that he is of a mind to write a novel next.  I do hope he does.  I look forward to it.

[My thanks to NetGalley and the publishers Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for providing a review copy]

On the Bright Side is due to be published 11 January 2018.

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Then She Was Gone – Lisa Jewell



She was fifteen, her mother’s golden girl. 
She had her whole life ahead of her. 
And then, in the blink of an eye, Ellie was gone.

Ten years on, Laurel has never given up hope of finding Ellie. And then she meets a charming and charismatic stranger who sweeps her off her feet.

But what really takes her breath away is when she meets his nine-year-old daughter.

Because his daughter is the image of Ellie.

Now all those unanswered questions that have haunted Laurel come flooding back.

What really happened to Ellie? And who still has secrets to hide?


Then She Was Gone is the first Lisa Jewell book I have read – and it was rather good.

Laurel’s 15 year old daughter Ellie had disappeared between her home and the library some 10 years earlier. Laurel’s perfect life was never the same after that. She never believed that Ellie had simply run away just before her exams. Ellie was a good student, seemed happy.

Laurel now lives alone, her grown up children living their own lives and her husband now with a new partner. Ellie’s disappearance had a devastating effect on the whole family and Laurel’s relationships with her husband and remaining children.

However one day a man enters a cafe where Laurel is having lunch. They exchange a few words and eventually Laurel goes on a date with Floyd. He’s polite, clever and charming and Laurel finds herself swept off her feet by him. He seems just perfect and Laurel is starting to enjoy life again. However when she eventually meets his young, rather precocious and unusual daughter Poppy she is struck by how much Poppy resembles Ellie at that age and she starts to question her daughter’s disappearance again.

But is the charming Floyd just too perfect? Is he hiding something? Laurel’s son’s girlfriend thinks he is. She says she gets bad vibes from him and that there is something dark and hidden beneath the surface. But Laurel doesn’t really approve of Jake’s girlfriend.

The story is told by several characters, including Ellie at the time she disappeared, and the person who was involved in that disappearance (who is revealed quite early on in the book).

It’s a pretty good psychological thriller/ family drama. It got quite ‘dark’ in parts and there are some very good twists. Although it jumps from past to present and between characters, it is well written and isn’t difficult to follow. The characters are good although you might not like all of them. Although the reader knows who was involved in Ellie’s disappearance from quite early in the book, there is a good build up of tension over time, and some quite disturbing and sinister twists making for a gripping story.  I  got very engrossed and really enjoyed it. It’s one of those that are hard to put down.

[My thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for a digital review copy]

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Bloody January – Alan Parks


When a teenage boy shoots a young woman dead in the middle of a busy Glasgow street and then commits suicide, Detective Harry McCoy is sure of one thing. It wasn’t a random act of violence.

With his new partner in tow, McCoy uses his underworld network to lead the investigation but soon runs up against a secret society led by Glasgow’s wealthiest family, the Dunlops.

McCoy’s boss doesn’t want him to investigate. The Dunlops seem untouchable. But McCoy has other ideas . . .

In a helter-skelter tale – winding from moneyed elite to hipster music groupies to the brutal gangs of the urban wasteland – Bloody January brings to life the dark underbelly of 1970s Glasgow and introduces a dark and electrifying new voice in Scottish noir.


Bloody January is the first in a new series of crime novels from debut author Alan Parks.  It’s a very good debut novel, set in Glasgow in January 1973.  It’s well written and it captures the time and place extremely well. McCoy’s Glasgow is a cold, dark, miserable place populated by violent criminals, drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes, the lost and the dispossessed. It certainly isn’t a nice, cosy detective novel. It’s gritty, dark and bloody.

It opens with Detective Harry McCoy making his way through Barlinnie prison having been summoned there (apparently) by an inmate, who tells McCoy that a girl called Lorna is going to be killed the next day in the city centre.

Despite managing to identify ‘Lorna’ while waiting to speak to her she is shot dead, in front of McCoy and his new sidekick Wattie, by a teenage boy who then shoots himself. Later that day, they find out the prisoner who told McCoy about the girl being killed has been found in the prison showers with his throat slit. No witnesses of course.

There is not much to go on to link the deaths. No obvious connection but McCoy has contacts in the criminal underworld and his enquiries eventually lead him to the home of the very wealthy Dunlop family. Despite his suspicions he might have, he is ordered to stay away from the Dunlops. The whole thing reeks of corruption and the possibility that the rich and well-connected are above the law.

Like many fictional detectives, Harry McCoy is somewhat flawed. Possibly more than most. He is potentially an alcoholic, uses recreational drugs, frequents prostitutes and associates with criminals. I’m not sure if I’ve read a book where the main character seems to get so many ‘doings’ or severe beatings and yet still manages to keep his job and continue to solve cases. There are strong references to problems in his past but we don’t know the whole story. He’s known gangster Stevie Cooper since they were boys and gets information and contacts through him but at what cost?

‘Wattie’ has been transferred from another area to experience big city police work, and is assigned to McCoy to shadow him and learn the ropes. He’s young, bright and keen. McCoy didn’t want to be lumbered with someone but had no choice in the matter. Wattie has really been thrown in at the deep end with three deaths on his first day out with McCoy.

Harry McCoy doesn’t have many redeeming features and yet there is something interesting about him. I’m hoping this is just the first book in the series and that perhaps in time he will get his act together and start to sort out his personal life.

An excellent violent, dark, crime novel.

[My thanks to NetGalley and Canongate Books for providing an advance copy of this title]

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How Hard Can It Be? – Allison Pearson


Kate Reddy is counting down the days until she is fifty, but not in a good way. Fifty, in Kate’s mind, equals invisibility. And with hormones that have her in shackles, teenage children who need her there but won’t talk to her and ailing parents who aren’t coping, Kate is in the middle of a sandwich that she isn’t even allowed to eat because of the calories.

She’s back at work after a big break at home, because somebody has to bring home the bacon now that her husband Rich has dropped out of the rat race to master the art of mindfulness. But just as Kate is finding a few tricks to get by in her new workplace, her old client and flame Jack reappears – complicated doesn’t even begin to cover it.

This is a coming of age story for turning fifty. It’s about so much more than a balancing act; it’s about finding out who you are and what you need to feel alive when you’ve got used to being your own last priority. And every page will leave you feeling that there’s a bit of Kate Reddy in all of us.


How Hard Can It Be? is a real treat and you may find yourself laughing out loud and crying in equal measure.

Kate Reddy is not without a few problems – teenagers and their problems (do you even know what a ‘belfie’ is?); an old house in need of upgrading and almost constant attention from Piotr the builder; a ‘drop out’ husband trying to find himself by studying mindfulness; ageing and ailing parents; trying to get back into work after years away; a big birthday (50) looming; and the menopause is approaching along with the forgetfulness that often accompanies it.  Modern parenting is definitely not easy.

She had once been a successful fund manager and now really needs to get back into the workplace and start earning to support the family. To give herself a chance of getting a job she knocks a few years off her age (and the ages of her children) and gets a bit creative with her CV.

She ends up getting a job at her old workplace where no one recognises her, the company having changed hands twice while she’s been away and her old colleagues long gone.  Her boss and colleagues are all so much younger and less experienced but she keeps quiet about her earlier successful career there.

Of course it seems her boss is trying to set her up to fail.  She gets the difficult clients and there are clashes with work and family life (and a few dilemmas).  It’s definitely not easy juggling work and the demands of family life and trying to keep everyone happy.

I think everyone will identify with at least a part of Kate.  I celebrated the big birthday long ago (and the big one after that). I was never really a career person; my children are grown up with children of their own and yet I can still recognise and sympathise with Kate’s predicament.

It’s brilliantly written and very funny but also quite sad.  Kate is a wonderfully vivid character, in fact all the characters (good and ‘bad’) have their parts to play.  It’s a really good, entertaining read.  I loved it.

How Hard Can it Be? was published on 21 September 2017.

[My thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with a review copy]

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