Tag Archives: psychological thriller

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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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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Here and Gone by Haylen Beck




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



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



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.


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



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…


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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