Her Husband’s Grave by P.L. Kane

Reviewed by Lotte:

Kane kicks this novel off with a gripping opener, giving us Dr Robyn Adam’s harrowing backstory before taking us straight into a murder investigation – the death of her cousin’s husband. As a consultant psychologist, Robyn’s cousin asks her to use her skills to help solve the mystery of who did it, but despite her reputation from some high profile cases, she is initially met with resistance from the local police. Meddling in a small town causes waves and soon Robyn find herself in trouble which only escalates as she digs deeper and the questions surrounding the murder become greater. Eventually it seems like Robyn has cracked it, but will she live to bring the guilty to justice and is that really the end?

We already know that Kane can combine a crime thriller with a family heartbreak but in this novel he manages to weave in a psychological element complete with an extensive and complex backstory – mastery! This created a dark, intense and twisted plot!

This books really packs a punch in the opening chapters! I love that we get such an insight into the shocking backstory of Robyn, it feels like we’ve already read a full novel about her before we even get started on this one. Having such a fully established character added depth and a layer of complexity that I really enjoyed. You could see how this history, along with the clever way that Kane shares additional flashbacks, really influenced how Robyn questioned and saw the world in front of her. It also heightened that emotional reaction to the events happening.

As I said before, this multi-layering of approaches meant one minute we were experiencing those raw human emotions and just how real they were, then we were processing the twisted psychological moments, while in the next minute puzzling over the crime details. This constant change in focus kept me hooked pretty much throughout. I think the only time the pacing dipped a little was during the middle of the book when Kane needed to do some fact/world building in order to deliver the impressive latter half of the book, which was totally worth it. I was kept guessing right up until I was reading the plot unfold and loved all the twists and turns. I honestly thought I had it figured out at one point until everything was thrown into uncertainty again.

This was, for the most part, a fast paced and easy to read book. Kane structures his chapters to finish in such a way it entices you to read the next, be that with plot twists, more questions or gut-wrenching events, making it hard to put down. Although it is definitely a standalone story, for those that have read Kane’s previous novel – Her Last Secret – there was a very small but incredibly interesting link. I’m wondering if a third book might reveal more…I’ll be keeping my eye out!

Thanks to NetGalley, HQ Digital and Paul Kane for providing me with this ARC.

Author: P.L. Kane
Publisher: HQ Digital
Release date: 26 June 2020

Seven Devils by Elizabeth May & Laura Lam

Reviewed by Lotte:

I’m not sure how to summarise Seven Devils because so much happens! We have 5 main characters: Eris, an ex-heir to the throne; Clo, a natural born, mechanic; Nyx, an ex-soldier; Rhea, a courtesan for the empire; Ariadne, a teenage genius behind the workings of the Oracle. We kick of this novel with Eris and Clo being sent on a difficult intel mission, one where neither wish to be with the other. During this mission they end up colliding with Nyx, Rhea and Ariadne, Tholosian fugitives looking to join the resistance and escape the Empire. However, with the Empire’s new plans for a truce with their previous sworn enemies and suspicious findings, things don’t seem to add up, so these five are forced to work together to uncover and prevent the Empire’s plans. The fate of the entire galaxy and millions of lives rests on their success but can they pull it off when al the odds are against them?

What a fantastic read! Seven Devils has pretty much everything you could want from a sprawling space saga: great characters, detailed back story, well-built worlds and so much action! And I love where the name for the book eventually came from – nicely done!

I really enjoyed the five main protagonists that Lam and May created. Their diverse characteristics were subtly woven into the plot bringing different elements and so much more depth. With each chapter being told from one of the five perspectives we experienced such a range of emotions and responses.

I appreciated having no repetition in the chapters as we switched between characters, instead it was either a flashback or the next step of the story. The flashbacks themselves were really useful and added a lot of context to the plot and world-building without requiring a ton of effort. It almost felt like we’d read a prequel! I also loved that there were so many ‘events’ plus twists and turns within the story which didn’t all end in doom, halting the progression of the story and requiring some farfetched solution. It was refreshing to see the characters face difficulties but find ways to get through them meaning we got so much more story and the plot continually moved forward without losing out on the drama. The Sci-Fi element was pitched perfectly for me too. There was enough for us to understand the different empires, races, space craft, technology etc. without it being too overwhelming and confusing. Elements like the Oracle’s all knowing, all controlling influence were neat little complexities Lam and May added to their novel.

The chapters themselves were short and easy to get through but I did find the pacing in the first half of the book a little slow and I didn’t always feel compelled to read the next chapter. I think part of this was because Lam and May were fleshing out both the characters and the worlds. It completely paid off though! The story reached a gripping crescendo, and cleverly one that left us wanting more, despite all the action. Seven Devils ended with so much drama, I could hardly believe it when they wove in such suspense for the next novel. It had me checking to see when Lam and May were planning on releasing it (please be soon!) as they’ve proved themselves to be a stellar writing duo!

There has been quite a bit of discussion around categorising Seven Devils as an adult novel or a YA. In my opinion it’s definitely aimed more at adults, but reading is subjective so if this sounds like your thing I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Author: Elizabeth May & Laura Lam
Publisher: Gollancz
Release date: 6 August 2020

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

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

Before I Die by Jackie Morrissey

Reviewed by Lotte:

We begin with our main character – Maureen – an elderly lady that found herself recovering from an ankle injury. In a bid to help her during that time, her well-meaning but totally misguided daughter, asked a carer to drop in to assist Maureen. Afterall, Delores was the live-in carer for a friend of Maureen’s so what could possibly go wrong? Different events unfold that throw suspicion on both sides…is Maureen starting to get confused and mixing things up? Or is Delores not quite what she seems? And how on earth would you go about proving it when everything seems so reasonable?

This story isn’t overly elaborate but my, it packs a punch. There aren’t the usual overt, outlandish actions and plot twists that you’d expect from a book like this. Instead, it’s made up of clever, subtle events that could be completely believable in real life. That is where the beauty lies. I’m still reeling from the ease and realness of the events. It’s this very realness that makes this tale so dark and utterly twisted.

With this in mind I loved the plot! Despite the small twists and little changes, it still managed to move quickly. Morrissey built the intensity throughout until I was so on edge by the time we came to the last ‘scene’ I felt like I was barely breathing as it all unfolded. The way it all came together was well thought out too. We weren’t given all the answers straight away or in a linear way which kept up the mystery. There was also no knowing how much the other characters knew, apart from Maureen, or when they might show up which again, just heightened the unknown and the questions. At one point Maureen’s inner monologue said “She assembled what she knew for Michael” which was pretty much how I felt around that time and throughout the rest of the book, trying to rearrange my thoughts and the events until things started clicking in to place. Lastly, Morrissey’s choice of demographic was very smart because the more Maureen protested, the more it cast doubt and fuelled the senile theories. Very catch 22!

This was a fast, easy to read book, that delivered in its ability to create suspense and characters that you wanted to get behind. I really enjoyed reading it – well as much as you can enjoy reading something that unsettles you so much!

*Advanced review copy provided by the publisher / Netgalley*

Author: Jackie Morrissey
Publisher: Inkubator Books
Release date: 27 June 2020

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Reviewed by Lotte:

This mystical fable starts in an Inn along the banks of the river Thames, famous for its stories. One evening a stranger arrives with a seemingly dead child, and severely injured himself. No one knows the pair and thus the unknown begins. The girl, first confirmed dead, returns to life. But who is she? And how did this happen? We are taken through the lives of three separate groups who each believe she is their missing child. But what is real and what is just hope? What is the truth and what is old folklore?

Straight off this is not a fast paced, action packed story. Instead it is a slow, meandering tale with the beauty and the magic being found in the subtleties of the writing and the stories within the main storyline. It is enchanting in its mystery combined with the sadness and complexities of human nature and spirit. Setterfield takes us through the lives of these three groups, the heartbreak they’ve endured, the hope they hold on to and ultimately the truth…or thereabouts. Because not all can be explained. The gentle magic running throughout this plot left you hanging on, even to the end, never completely revealing everything…Quietly.

I felt drawn into each of the lives of these people, wishing that in some way this girl could magically belong to all. Each group had very different circumstances and reasons to like them, to feel for them. I found myself rooting for all three!

As I said, this was a slower read and if I’m honest I would have liked a little more pace. However, the chapters were almost self-contained additions to the plot, so it was possible to just chip away at the story, and in some way, this worked well, allowing the details, the implied notions and the query of reality to fully sink in.

Author: Diane Setterfield
Publisher: Atria
Release date: 4 December 2018

The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal

Reviewed by Lotte:

This Victorian, art inspired novel is based in 1980 London and centres around obsession – of art, lovers and peculiar possessions. It is both beautiful and disturbingly dark in equal measures, following the lives of very different characters that become entwined in the most unlikely way. It is also the story of an unlikely love and the plight of a woman destined to find her own way in man’s world.

This book just didn’t completely hit the spot for me. It had many elements that I enjoyed – dark and twisty hints, suspension, and what appeared to be a good plot, but I felt it didn’t quite deliver fully. I found myself hoping for so much more from the storyline because it had so much more to give. Large parts of the plot that would have had a great impact were swept over, leaving great gaps in both storyline and character reactions. Albie’s ending situation is one of those moments. The dynamics between the characters could have been embellished more too. I wanted to know and feel more of the unrequitted love between two people from differing worlds because I was drawn in my them. Even Silas, who had no functional relationships, could have been expanded upon more. Only some of his work was explained, like his mice collection, which was inherent to the plot, yet we were only told the story of a few of them. Maybe we could have a Novella (both a prequel and a sequel with these additions in!)

This book got really good from the 50% mark and I found myself falling into the world as the pace and storyline picked up. Initially I had found the prose pretty hard to follow but as I got used to the cadence of the writing I became more intrigued and compelled to continue reading. So weirdly, despite the lacking described above, I did feel suspense and enchantment. However, I wish the ending had been different! The book focuses on this style of artistry that shows the world in its messy, non-fictionalised way and yet it skims over the messy aftereffects in a dreary and predictable, fictionalised last chapter (again – sequel novella?!).

Author: Elizabeth Macneal
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Release date: 5 March 2020

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Reviewed by Lotte:

I had heard good things about Hannah and I have to say her style of writing didn’t disappoint one bit. Her descriptions were simply beautiful and her use of language evoked such vivid images it was as if the characters and settings were playing out real-time. This was the story of a family trying to survive post Vietnam War with the father being a POW. They embark on a move to Alaska with the hope that it’ll be the fresh start. Within this book there are many love stories, with the Alaskan life as well as with each other. Ultimately the question became will this unrequited love prevail? I feel the book needs a censor warning though as it heavily contains references to veteran PTSD and physical abuse.

I found the pace of the story slightly out of sync for me. The first half felt slow and hard to get through, with the focus being on building the world and the details needed for the story to really start. The second half was paced much faster, which I much preferred. It felt like this was where the main part of the story was and I was eager to keep reading. In a way I was slightly disappointed that there wasn’t more time spent on these latter events, rather than all the build up at the beginning.

Despite being keen to keep reading and finding out what comes next, there were some discrepancies in the storyline that I found hard to overlook. Like why they mentioned only making one mistake in Alaska because the second will kill you, yet Hannah then writes this major life changing event in which the characters knowingly made more than one mistake and practically did the opposite of every warning that had ever been given (desperately avoiding spoilers here!). Then there were the inconsistencies, for example, when the other towns-people acted to help Leni and Cora but then later on in the book, fail to follow through on their promise. And finally the secrets that were kept at the end didn’t feel real to me. Like Large Marge holding on to that knowledge without telling those close to her who would have been hurting desperately. It just didn’t quite fit into the narrative and sense of unity that Hannah created within the Alaskan community.

I did enjoy this book and it was definitely worth it in the end but I couldn’t quite give it four stars.

Author: Kristin Hannah
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Release date: 30 January 2018