Tag Archives: psychological thriller

Here and Gone by Haylen Beck

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Audra has finally left her abusive husband. She’s taken the family car and her young children, Sean and Louise, are buckled up in the back. This is their chance for a fresh start.

Audra keeps to the country roads to avoid attention and finds herself on an empty road in Arizona, far from home. She’s looking for a safe place to stay for the night when she spots something in her rear-view mirror. A police car is following her and the lights are flickering. Blue and red.

As Audra pulls over she is intensely aware of how isolated they are. Her perfect escape is about to turn into a nightmare beyond her imagining…

Dark secrets and a heart-pounding race to reveal the truth lie at the heart of this page-turning thriller.

*********

Wow. I loved this book. I was there – right from the first page of Here and Gone. You feel the hot, dry Arizona heat, the dust, Audra’s exhaustion, her aching muscles.

She is travelling through Arizona on her way to California, trying to keep to country roads, with her two children aged 11 and 6 in the back of the station wagon, hoping to make a fresh start, having fled New York and an abusive husband. She’s looking out for a safe place for them to stay for the night.

When a police cruiser appears behind her and gets her to pull over in an isolated area a few miles from where there is a place to stay, she’s fearful that the authorities have found her and will have her charged with parental abduction. The officer tells her the car is overloaded and that it’s not safe to drive and offers to move some of her stuff from the back of her car into his cruiser and to take Audra and the children to the guesthouse in town and arrange for her car to be towed there later. However while moving some of her stuff, the officer finds a bag of marijuana. Audra swears the drugs are not hers but she is arrested, handcuffed and searched, despite no female officer being present. You quickly realise Officer Whiteside is not a nice character. He radios for his deputy to come and get the children and take them to a safe place.

As she sees her children being taken from her in a police car, her thoughts turn to the past 18 months and we get some insight as to why she left her husband and also the fact that in the past she had a history of substance abuse.

I don’t want to give too much away here but when Audra is taken to town the Deputy’s car isn’t there. Aura keeps asking for them but after she is processed and taken to a cell on asking again where her children are, the officer’s reply is “What children?”

Now the real nightmare begins. Audra is totally alone. When she is allowed to phone, she phones the ‘friend’ in California she is told not to contact her again. It gets worse, the authorities suspect she has harmed the children and hidden their bodies. The investigation gets very serious. The FBI’s Child Abduction response deployment team arrive. Someone leaks details of her medical history. The press get hold of the story and it’s all over the television. However someone called Danny sees the news reports and realises he has a similar story to tell: missing child, wife blamed, wife committed. No one had really listened to his thoughts on what had happened. He becomes part of the story too.

The story switches between what is happening to Audra and what is happening to the children. There is also a conversation happening in an internet private members forum and you just know something very bad is being planned. The pace is very good. There is a good balance of the different threads, a race against time, some twists. We get enough back story to make sense of the present. There are some strong characters, both good and bad. Audra’s past has made her stronger and a survivor, but there are a few moments when you feel it would be so easy for her to give in. There is also a wonderful sense of location. Heat and dust, a dying town, closed mine, dry riverbed, empty properties. You get the picture. It’s a well written story.

The story really grabbed me. It’s tense and the pace doesn’t really let up. I read it mostly in one sitting. I didn’t want to put it down. I managed to finish it around 1.30 am. The best kind of book  

I had intended to hold back this post until nearer publication date however Here and Gone is available now in ebook format. The hardcover version will be available later this summer.

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Blink by K L Slater

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What if the person you love most in the world was in terrible danger … because of you?

Three years ago, Toni’s five-year-old daughter Evie disappeared after leaving school. The police have never been able to find her. There were no witnesses, no CCTV, no trace. 

But Toni believes her daughter is alive. And as she begins to silently piece together her memories, the full story of the past begins to reveal itself, and a devastating truth.

Toni’s mind is trapped in a world of silence, her only chance to save herself is to manage the impossible. She must find a way to make herself heard. She must find her daughter. 

*********

I couldn’t put this psychological thriller down. There was no slow build up. Blink grabbed my attention right from the opening lines – the words of an unknown person, “You don’t know this, but I watch you. I watch you a lot …” I couldn’t quite make up my mind if these were the words of the person who abducted 5 year old Evie or possibly her mother or even someone else.

It’s one of these stories that switches between the present and three years earlier. I’ve read a few of these time shift stories and I usually enjoy them. I think the gradual revelation of past events really adds something to the story if written well.

The present is set in a room in the Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham, where a patient lies unresponsive and hooked up to machines that are keeping her alive, apparently having suffered a massive stroke.  The medical staff consider her to be in a vegetative state however the patient can hear and think and inside she is screaming for attention. She just can’t respond in any way. But she can remember some things like Evie’s face and her laughter. She also can hear doctors discussing the possibility of switching off the machines that are keeping her alive.

Three years earlier Toni and her 5 year old daughter Evie had moved to Nottingham to be nearer to Toni’s mother. Toni is a single parent (not by choice) who had suffered a devastating loss and who was not coping well. The move has been difficult for both of them.

Nothing seems to go right for her. She is obviously suffering from depression and anxiety and uses pills that were not prescribed for her to help her calm down and sleep. Toni and her mum, although close, don’t always agree especially where Evie is concerned. You feel as if Toni is starting to lose the plot and on the brink of a breakdown. She is so desperate you feel she’ll believe what she wants to believe and not question other people’s motives too much. When she takes a pill she can’t be roused even when Evie tries to waken her. There are various incidents and mix ups especially in relation to Evie’s attendance at her new school. Is Toni guilty of neglecting her 5 year old daughter? I found Harriet Watson, the domineering teaching assistant who tries to pass herself off as Evie’s teacher, particularly sinister.

Toni manages to find a part time job in an estate agency, despite her mother’s objections that Evie needs her mum at the moment, but that is not without complications either. Her boss seems like a nasty, vindictive person but who can turn on the charm when clients are around, and was perfectly charming to Evie when she and her mum called in at the office one morning.

The tension builds up as Toni’s mental state deteriorates. There are several characters in the book who are frankly a bit strange and any one of them could be involved in the subsequent disappearance of Evie.

There are a few shocking twists in the story and although I felt the ending perhaps came a bit too quickly, I really enjoyed this book.  Nothing was done around my house until I finished it.

You can find my thoughts on Kim’s debut novel Safe With Me here.  I think Blink is just as good, maybe even better.

[My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher, Bookouture, for providing an advance copy]

Author’s website here

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Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land

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Annie’s mother is a serial killer. The only way she can make it stop is to hand her in to the police. But out of sight is not out of mind. As her mother’s trial looms, the secrets of her past won’t let Annie sleep, even with a new foster family and name – Milly. A fresh start. Now, surely, she can be whoever she wants to be. But Milly’s mother is a serial killer. And blood is thicker than water. Good me, bad me. She is, after all, her mother’s daughter… Translated into over 20 languages, Good Me Bad Me is a tour de force. In its narrator, Milly Barnes, we have a voice to be reckoned with, and in its author, Ali Land, an extraordinary new talent.

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Good Me, Bad Me is one tense thriller.  Oh yes.  The tension is there from the start  The writing style demonstrates that – short sentences, fast paced.   At one point I stopped to make a coffee and realised I was so physically tense I was going to have to try and breathe properly and release some of that tension.

Milly knows her mother has done terrible things. Milly’s mother is a serial killer.  Milly is the one who reported her to the Police and her mother is now in jail awaiting trial.  But Milly misses her mum.  She is with a new foster family, has a new name, and has started a new school.  She tries, but finds it hard to fit in.  She thinks about her mum all the time and can’t sleep.  It’s as if her mum is still with her.

Milly’s foster dad is Mike, a psychologist who is an expert in trauma.  And Milly has experienced terrible things throughout her life at the hands of her mother.  Mike is married to Saskia and they have a daughter Phoebe.  It’s clear from early on Phoebe has a problem with Milly.  She also doesn’t get on that well with her own mother. She is bitter and angry that her parents are fostering yet again.

Mike has regular counselling sessions with Millie to try and help her cope with what has happened and the forthcoming Trial.  But does Mike have his own agenda?

The tension just builds and builds.

The story is told from Milly’s point of view but you soon realise that what Milly says to others is not necessarily what she is really thinking.

Although it gets quite dark at times, I really enjoyed this debut novel.  Despite her problems I liked Milly.  I wanted a good outcome for her.  I got a good ending but …… ?

[My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an advance copy]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blood Lines (D.I. Kim Stone Book Five) by Angela Marsons

 

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How do you catch a killer who leaves no trace?
A victim killed with a single, precise stab to the heart appears at first glance to be a robbery gone wrong. A caring, upstanding social worker lost to a senseless act of violence. But for Detective Kim Stone, something doesn’t add up.

When a local drug addict is found murdered with an identical wound, Kim knows instinctively that she is dealing with the same killer. But with nothing to link the two victims except the cold, calculated nature of their death, this could be her most difficult case yet.

Desperate to catch the twisted individual, Kim’s focus on the case is threatened when she receives a chilling letter from Dr Alex Thorne, the sociopath who Kim put behind bars. And this time, Alex is determined to hit where it hurts most, bringing Kim face-to-face with the woman responsible for the death of Kim’s little brother – her own mother.

As the body count increases, Kim and her team unravel a web of dark secrets, bringing them closer to the killer. But one of their own could be in mortal danger. Only this time, Kim might not be strong enough to save them…

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Blood Lines is book five in the D I Kim Stone series.

I have to confess I hadn’t read any of Angela Marsons’ books and this would have been the first but a friend advised me to read her earlier books in the series, or at least book 2, Evil Games.  So I took her advice and read Evil Games first – another cracking thriller.

Dr Alexandra Thorne (who appeared in Evil Games) is now in prison, put there mainly by the persistence of D I Stone and her team. Alex Thorne is beautiful, enigmatic, charming, but she is also manipulative, controlling and taunting. She is an evil sociopath. She blames Kim Stone for the way her life has turned out and is obsessed with destroying her.

There are several threads in Blood Lines: the arrest of a serial rapist; the deaths of two females, one a middle-aged, well dressed professional woman with a responsible job, found in a car with a single stab wound, the other a 22 year old drug addict and a known shoplifter, found in the woods with a single stab wound…. and more.

Meanwhile the evil Alex Thorne is in prison, manipulating other prisoners and plotting to mess with Kim Stone’s mind. She knows of Kim Stone’s traumatic past and knows all the right buttons to press to push Kim over the edge. Kim has to carry out her duties as a detective as well as deal with terrifying personal issues.

It’s a real thriller of a book. Angela Marsons is a good storyteller. The plot is fairly complex and there are several sub-plots but it isn’t too difficult to follow them as the writing is good. The book is quite fast paced with the right amount of dialogue. I like how some of the threads come together leading to a thrilling and terrifying climax.

I think Blood Lines could stand alone but I’m glad I was advised to read Evil Games as that explains a lot of Dr Alex Thorne’s obsession with destroying Kim Stone. It also helps when you know some of Kim’s background and her personal issues.  I suspect I’ll catch up with the rest of the books in the series soon.

There is so much more to this book. I found it a thrilling, entertaining read and one of those books where chores are set aside and you also keep on reading into the wee small hours (the best kind).

[My thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture for providing a digital review copy].

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Safe With Me – K L Slater

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Thirteen years ago someone did something very bad to Anna. Now it’s her turn to get even …

Anna lives a solitary existence, taking solace in order and routine. Her only friend is the lonely old lady next door. She doesn’t like to let people to get too close – she knows how much damage they can do.

Then one ordinary day Anna witnesses a devastating road accident and recognises the driver as Carla, the woman who ruined her life all those years ago. Now it’s Anna’s chance to set things straight but her revenge needs to be executed carefully …

First she needs to get to know Liam, the man injured in the accident. She needs to follow the police investigation. She needs to watch Carla from the shadows…

But as Anna’s obsession with Carla escalates, her own secrets start to unravel. Is Carla really dangerous or does Anna need to worry about someone far closer to home?

*********

Pychological thriller?  Very much so. The tension is relentless right from the start and you feel compelled to keep reading.

The prologue describes a chilling scene where an unknown arsonist starts a fire and then the story switches to the present day and the scene of a road accident ….

When Anna witnesses a road accident she recognises the driver as Carla, someone from her past. You realise she has been obsessed with finding Carla for many years who she considers ruined her life. Anna realises this could be her chance to set things straight and extract her revenge. She also sits with the injured motorcyclist, Liam, until the ambulance arrives.

She then visits Liam in hospital and ‘invites’ herself into his life, desperately wanting to to become part of it even although he lives with his grandmother.

I felt Anna was quite a sad character. You know right from the start she has some issues/problems. She has a job but doesn’t seem to socialise with her colleagues. Her only ‘friend’ is the old lady next door, Joan Peat. Anna seems to have a need to be needed. She must have order and routine just to keep functioning but as the story progresses you sense her obsessions escalating and things spiralling out of control.

Much of the story is told in Anna’s voice and her thoughts are very chilling at times but some of it is told from Joan Peat’s point of view. She has known Anna since she was a little girl and through her we learn a bit about Anna’s past.

The writing is good. It’s not a difficult read although sometimes I felt I would have liked a little bit of relief from the escalating tension. (That’s not really a criticism; in a thriller tension is good. Yes?) There are a few twists in the story which make it a very satisfying read.

It’s a really good debut novel and I would love to read more.

The publisher is Bookouture and Safe With Me is due out on 3 November 2016.  The author’s webpage can be found here.

(My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advance copy).

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Local Girl Missing – Claire Douglas

 

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Twenty years ago
21-year-old Sophie Collier vanishes one night.  She leaves nothing behind but a trainer on the old pier – and a hole in the heart of her best friend Francesca.

Now
A body’s been found.  And Francesca’s drawn back to the seaside town she’s tried to forget. Perhaps the truth of what happened to Sophie will finally come out. Yet Francesca is beginning to wish she hadn’t returned.

Everywhere she turns are ghosts from her past.  The same old faces and familiar haunts of her youth.  But if someone knows what really happened to Sophie that night then now’s the time to find out – isn’t it?

Except sometimes discovering the truth can cost you everything you hold dear – your family, your sanity and even your life . . .

*********

I enjoyed reading Local Girl Missing, Claire Douglas’ second book.  It’s a psychological/mystery full of twists and turns and a very good read.

Francesca is 39 years old, living in London and a successful businesswoman involved in the running of her father’s hotel business.

Out of the blue she receives a call from the brother of her best friend Sophie who, years earlier, had disappeared late one night from a club in the seaside town where they had grown up.  It was assumed she had fallen off the town’s deserted pier and had been swept away by the tide but no body had ever been recovered.

Daniel tells her that remains have been washed up, that it might be Sophie and he persuades Francesca to return to the town to await the official identification and help him find out what had happened to his sister.

Francesca takes a few days off and reluctantly returns to Oldcliffe-on-Sea, despite having sworn never to go back. We learn that there was an incident in the past, when the the friends were 16, involving a young boy, Jason. It appears Francesca and Sophie knew what really happened but swore never to tell anyone.

Daniel arranges for Francesca to stay in a friend’s holiday apartment in a Victorian apartment block, high on a cliff top and overlooking the old pier. As it is out of season most of the flats are unoccupied. There is a sense of foreboding and uneasiness.  It was easy to imagine the bleakness of a seaside town in winter.

Memories soon start flooding back, not always welcome memories. In fact it soon appears that Francesca is not welcome either and someone is sending her poison pen messages. There are various incidents that can’t be explained. She’s terrified someone else knows what happened to Jason. There are people from the past still living in the town. She doesn’t know who’s telling the truth, who she can trust.

The author tells the story from both Francesca’s and Sophie’s point of view. Frankie’s story is set in 2016, Sophie’s story is in the form of her journal from 1997. Because of the two time frames you get to know the characters both as teenagers and as adults. There is one character from the past who is really despicable. Who has access to these diary entries? Are they sending the poison pen messages?

I liked this book – it was a well written, satisfying read – quite chilling in parts and full of twists and turns and secrets. The ending was good and not quite what I expected.

Read an extract from Local Girl Missing here.

[My thanks to NetGalley and Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for providing a review copy of this book]

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