The Silent Wife by Karin Slaughter

Reviewed by Lotte:

Firstly, this book needs a serious content warning. It’s not that I wouldn’t advise reading it, more just to be aware it contains some pretty graphic details and events that some people may find difficult.

A dead body, an arrested perpetrator, all things seem to add up. That is until another body turns up 8 years later with an identical MO yet the original attacker is still in prison. So is it a copycat? Or was the wrong person put away? Our convict is certainly saying he’s innocent and apparently now has proof. Will Trent – Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) Agent for Grant County (GC) – has to work alongside medical examiner Sara and fellow officers both past and present to find the killer, but will he have to go back to those incidents 8 years ago and why does there seem to be a pattern emerging for a serial killer? Both timelines play out until the two come together in a shocking conclusion.

This book is the tenth in the Will Trent series but it works well as a standalone novel. It was truly compelling! I did initially struggle with the content, mainly because I had no warning of quite how graphic it would be so be prepared for detailed, brutal descriptions that leave nothing to the imagination. But despite that, each chapter ending left me wanting more and more, and as the two timelines began to play out, I became even more enthralled. Even as the facts came to light it seemed the questions just kept coming, pulling me further and further into the story. I definitely didn’t have to work to stay engaged!

Having both past and present timelines playing out simultaneously, flicking between them, was incredibly clever. It provided such a rich tapestry for Slaughter to fill with complicated, interwoven details that she brought together as we made our way through the plot. I really loved this continuing change in perspective!

Then there were the twists and turns, the unfolding of the investigation…wow…I really didn’t see them coming! Slaughter staged them well and shared them between characters so each one was tempered and experienced in a slightly different way, only adding to the depth and scope of her writing. The whole storyline was so intense, twisted, dark and at times utterly horrifying – but in that good way – everything you’d want from an epic crime/thriller novel.

I did find all the names and the two timelines a little difficult to get my head around to begin with but within a few chapters I got into a rhythm and really appreciated that fully fleshed approach. Slaughter has a well-built world with really well-developed characters, making the whole thing feel so complete. I’m sure this comes from having 9 previous novels in this series but she managed to write in such a way that I still felt like I really knew the characters well, like I was living it with them. I felt the heartbreak of Jeffery, the complexities of Sara’s past and the overall reactions of each character to the disturbing events. I found myself relating to different characters at different times, feeling their shock, fear, hope, devastation, and love. The way Slaughter weaves in this very human experience: it’s messiness; it’s brutality; it’s beauty; only added another layer to the story. It was so honest, so raw, so real.

It’s been such a good read that I’m pretty certain I’ll be reading the previous 9 books!

Thanks to NetGalley and Harper Collins UK for the opportunity to read this ARC post-publication date.

Author: Karin Slaughter
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Release date: 23 June 2020

The Butterfly Lampshade by Aimee Bender

Reviewed by Lotte:

The Butterfly Lampshade is about a mother with a mental illness, psychosis, and a daughter trying to decipher her past and work through her present. We begin by seeing the extent of Francie’s mother illness and the facts of what happened next. However as we get further into the story Francie recalls these memories and gives them more details and context.

I’m going to be honest from the start, this wasn’t a book for me. It was more of an introspective study of a mind experiencing psychoses than a story. It was told from the perspective of the protagonist, Francie, mainly through her internal voice which only added to that inside perspective. There were whole passages of internal monologue that were so long it became boring and dry. Despite Francie searching for answers, to remember and understand, there just didn’t seem to be much happening. It’s definitely a very subtle approach which maybe had a beauty to it that I missed.

The pacing was also pretty slow with lots of overlapping and repeating which, in my opinion, was totally unnecessary. If you enjoy a book that meanders then you’ll probably enjoy this, but I prefer stories with a bit more going on. I just found myself becoming a bit frustrated which made it harder to relate to Francie even though I desperately wanted to.

As with a previous book of Bender’s, I felt the premise was really good and held so much potential, but it just didn’t quite play out as I’d expected. So don’t let me put you off if you think you’ll enjoy – maybe it’ll play out well for you. It was a pretty quick book to read so if you’re wanting to give it a chance I found it easy to get through.

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House UK, Cornerstone for the opportunity to read this ARC.

Author: Aimee Bender
Publisher: Random House UK, Cornerstone
Release date: 30 July 2020

Dead to Her by Sarah Pinborough

Reviewed by Lotte:

This book is pretty hard to surmise without giving away two many spoilers. Basically it follows the lives of some members of high society in a small Georgia town, in particular the two ‘outsiders’ as such, who had married into that world. At first everything is as you’d expect in those circles but as things get tense between these main two couples, one of the wealthy husbands is taken unwell. What has happened soon becomes clear but how it happens will keep you guessing right up to the end.

If you’re a fan of sordid love affairs, high society rules, cheating partners, trust issues and a good ole fashion ‘who dunnit’ then this is a book for you. Pinborough takes time to build a world of high class where standards are everything and one must do everything to maintain them. Within this she also takes the time to weave all the elements needed for later as the mystery plays out. This is where the twists and turns began to happen. As each new pieces of the puzzle was uncovered more questions were raised until eventually it all linked up into a neat, all loose-ends tied in conclusion, one I’m betting most won’t figure out.

However, this wasn’t the book for me. It seemed to meander through the first 60% or so before the plot twists, lies and subterfuge started to happen and it wasn’t until around 75% in that these started to come together to create all the questions. I would have preferred to have sped through to this part and spent more time in the throes of uncertainty. I also found myself really disliking the characters and finding them totally unrelatable which probably didn’t help.

This book has its merits but as I said, it wasn’t really my thing. I have enjoyed Pinborough’s work in the past though so don’t let me put you off. Thank you Netgalley and Harper Collins for the opportunity to read this ARC.

Author: Sarah Pinborough
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release date: 4 June 2020

The Garden of Forgotten Wishes by Trisha Ashley

Reviewed by Sophie:

A charming, heartwarming story of unlikely love that stems from two people who find it hard to trust again.

I am a huge Trisha Ashley fan so a massive thank you Netgalley and Random House UK, Transworld Publishers for the opportunity of reading this book.

Trisha always manages to make me feel nostalgia when reading her books. Jericho’s end has the familiar and comforting sights and smells of my local Welsh villages. She states that she often seeks inspiration from Portmeirion, but this novel specifically speaks about ‘Fairy falls’ which reminds me of a combination of Aberfalls and the Fairy Glenn.

Trisha introduces the new character of Marnie and weaves her into the already established characters of Jericho place. Fans of Trisha Ashley know that this is something she does often with her books, introducing new characters to the stories of town. However, the beauty of Trisha’s tales is that you don’t need to have read the other books to know about these characters. This book is no exception. A beautiful stand alone novel or can link with past books to add hidden detail to the reader.

I really felt for the protagonist. Trisha writes carefully about a woman who has been mentally and emotionally abused by an ex partner. She writes about this truthfully yet sensitively, allowing the reader to become protective over her future.

I was kept guessing all the way through. I enjoyed the “budding” romance formed (excuse the pun), but I had a feeling of trepidation throughout and I knew Marnie’s possessive ex husband was going to come back into the picture but was kept waiting for the moment it would happen and I didn’t see the way Trisha wrote it happening. Trisha spends more time writing about Marnie’s secret family connections and how she is reluctant to tell her new boss.

The story itself is based of Marnie helping to restore Grace gardens and Lavender cottage and the antics surrounding the restoration. I’m no gardener myself and found myself lost sometimes with some of the “green fingered” conversations that occurred throughout the book but it didn’t take away from the imagery that were formed of the stunning gardens the characters all helped to create.

I enjoyed the book. Another lovely read from Trisha Ashley. She never fails to write stories that make me smile. Always enjoy the end of the book recipes too.

Author: Trisha Ashley
Publisher: Random House UK, Transworld Digital
Release date: 23rd July 2020

The Friendship List by Susan Mallery

500

Reviewed by Sophie:

Quirky and funny. Thank you Netgalley and Mills & Boon for allowing me the opportunity to read this new novel.

The story explores the lives of a group of friends and how their lack of love life and commitment have effected each of their lives, individually.

This is the first time for me reading anything by this author and they write beautifully. Easy to read story with some laugh out loud moments. The story is set in America so at times the overall feel became difficult for me to feel involved in as a British reader. I felt it almost transported me into a sit-com rather than me feeling sympathy and empathy for the characters.

The story missed notes for me regarding characters ages. I myself, like the protagonists, am 34 however, I felt they were written much older and felt, mostly, no empathy for them. I’m aware that this is how their stories take them. Ellen, pregnant at 17, single parent who had to grow up before her time and Unity’s loss of her husband makes her seek solitude amongst a retirement community, but I just didn’t relate to either of them.

I enjoyed how Susan writes in a number of supporting characters , so it allows for a wider audience. It was refreshing to read as these smaller characters really helped support the main protagonists.

The character’s goals that they set themselves show some funny and lovely outcomes and the plot did keep me reading wanting to know how their stories ended. There is definitely opportunity for another book with these characters.

A genuinely nice story; a quick read and one for you to pick up with a cup of tea and a biscuit. Overall, a light-hearted read which I enjoyed.

You can find this book on Amazon.

Author: Susan Mallery
Publisher: HQN Books
Release date: 4 August 2020

Her Last Secret by P.L. Kane

Reviewed by Lotte:

This book kicks off with an eerie prologue playing out Jordan’s last moments alive written from her perspective. From there we’re introduced to Jordan’s mother, her estranged father and what appears to be an open and shut case that sees her current boyfriend as the perpetrator of her murder. However, her father believes there’s more to it and takes it upon himself to delve deeper into the details, taking on the investigation himself, getting into trouble along the way but ultimately uncovering the real truth.

Kane combines all the best parts of a crime thriller with all the heartbreaking elements of a family tragedy. One minute Jake was investigating his daughter’s death and the next he was experiencing all the pain and loss you’d expect in such a situation. The added complication that Jake was divorced and hadn’t seen his daughter in three years made that splintering feeling even more real. I was torn between wanting to follow the case, to discover the truth and wanting to explore the heartache of his loss and the confusion within the family dynamic.

The storyline kept me guessing right up until the last minute with each plot twist a shock, both with the case and with the personal side. Even each chapter had me wanting to carry on reading because there was usually an unanswered question, a cliffhanger or a massive plot twist. So I just had to read the next chapter (and the next!). I think my only drawback was the final reveal. It was so unexpected and contained so many elements that I would have liked to have had more details and spent more time with that part playing out in full.

At first I found it hard to get into the cadence of the writing and the language used but once I did it was a game changer. It was more conversational, more what you’d expect if you were submersed in the situation yourself which just made it all more real.

I’m really looking forward to reading Kane’s next book – Her Husband’s Grave – and hosting a day of his book blog tour on August 4th 2020. Check back then for the review!

Author: P. L. Kane
Publisher: HQ Digital
Release date: 8 January 2020