#BookReview: THE DARKEST PLACE by Jo Spain @SpainJoanne @QuercusBooks

The Darkest PlacePublication: 20th September 2018 – Quercus

Christmas day, and DCI Tom Reynolds receives an alarming call. A mass grave has been discovered on Oileán na Caillte, the island which housed the controversial psychiatric institution St. Christina’s. The hospital has been closed for decades and onsite graves were tragically common. Reynolds thinks his adversarial boss is handing him a cold case to sideline him.

But then it transpires another body has been discovered amongst the dead – one of the doctors who went missing from the hospital in mysterious circumstances forty years ago. He appears to have been brutally murdered.

As events take a sudden turn, nothing can prepare Reynolds and his team for what they are about to discover once they arrive on the island . . .

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Never title was more apt to the setting of a novel. This novel by Jo Spain featuring DCI Tom Reynolds and his team investigating a 40-year-old murder is set in a closed-down psychiatric hospital on a remote island that with its secrets and dark halls really gave me the chills and kept me glued to the pages.

The novel starts on Christmas Day and a woman is still hoping for her husband Conrad to knock on the door, after disappearing 40 years earlier, but what she receives is the call she’s been dreading. In another house, DCI Tom Reynolds is trying to enjoying Christmas with his family and trying to forget the last stressful months when he receives a call from his boss: a mass grave full of bodies has been found by St. Christina’s, an abandoned mental institution on the island of Oileán na Caillte. However, that’s not the most disturbing thing. The police is interested because among the bodies of the patients of the hospital, the body of doctor Conrad, who disappeared on Christmas Eve 40 years earlier, has been found and it’s clearly a murder. DCI Reynolds and his team travel to the hospital to try to figure out what happened to the doctor and the secrets that St. Christina’s holds.

I have been a fan of Jo Spain for a while now and I am captivated by her twisty plots, her well-developed characters, and her flawless and brilliant writing style. The Darkest Place is a particularly gripping story, with many surprises and twists and a claustrophobic atmosphere that gave me the chills. For some reason, remote islands are my favourite settings in crime stories and Oileán na Caillte is a fantastic place where to set a thriller: hard to access, bad weather, and few residents, all of them hiding something, and a mental institution full of horrifying story that really gave me goosebumps.

Gripping, compelling, and dark, this is another fantastic story by a great author who keeps churning out amazing novels.

A huge thank you to Quercus and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of the novel.

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ImmagineJo Spain is a full-time writer and screenwriter. Her first novel, With Our Blessing, was one of seven books shortlisted in the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition and her first psychological thriller, The Confession, was a number one bestseller in Ireland. Jo co-wrote the ground-breaking RTE television series Taken Down, which first broadcast in Ireland in 2018. She’s now working on multiple European television projects. Jo lives in Dublin with her husband and their four young children.

#BlogTour: WHAT SHE SAW LAST NIGHT by MJ Cross @MasonCrossBooks @orionbooks @orion_crime @alexxlayt @Tr4cyF3nt0n

45144367Publication: 18th April 2019 – Orion

A secret that could kill her.

A truth no one believes…

Jenny Bowen is going home. Boarding the Caledonian Sleeper, all she wants to do is forget about her upcoming divorce and relax on the ten-hour journey through the night.

In her search for her cabin, Jenny helps a panicked woman with a young girl she assumes to be her daughter. Then she finds her compartment and falls straight to sleep.

Waking in the night, Jenny discovers the woman dead in her cabin … but there’s no sign of the little girl. The train company have no record of a child being booked on the train, and CCTV shows the dead woman boarding alone.

The police don’t believe Jenny, and soon she tries to put the incident out of her head and tells herself that everyone else is right: she must have imagined the little girl.

But deep down, she knows that isn’t the truth.

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Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for What She Saw Last Night, the suspenseful latest novel by MJ Cross. A huge thank you to Tracy Fenton for inviting me to join the blog tour and Orion for providing me with a copy of this brilliant novel.

Even though I had heard of MJ Cross before (he has written novels under the name Mason Cross), I never read any of his novels, so, when I was invited to join the blog tour, I accepted right away because I was really curious about this author and I was intrigued by the plot and I wasn’t disappointed.

Jenny Bowen hasn’t had an easy year. Her father died, her husband had an affair and they are now divorcing, and now she is running to catch the night-train to travel to Scotland to take care of the house that her father left her. On the train, she crosses path with a woman and young girl. Next morning, when Jenny wakes up, she finds the lifeless body of the woman, but there is no trace of the young girl. Except for detective Mike Fletcher, no one else believes Jenny. There is no trace of the young girl on the train, on the passenger list, or the CCTV at the train station. For the police, it’s a simple case of overdose and they are ready to close the case. However, detective Mike Fletcher believes Jenny’s story and they start their own investigation that brings them back to London and on the path of a dangerous man.

Thanks to Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, when I read “train” and “murder” together I am quickly intrigued. I find mysteries set on trains very suspenseful and captivating. With echoes of Agatha Christie’s novels and Alfred Hitchcock’s movies, MJ Cross created a gripping plot set on the Caledonian Sleeper, a night train that travels from London to Scotland every night. Trains are not an easy place where to set a murder because you can find yourself in the middle of nowhere with no escape route and you can be easily caught. In What She Saw Last Night, MJ Cross presents us a woman found dead in her cabin, a witness swearing she was accompanied from a child, and no trace of said child. Did Jenny’s last months finally caught up with her and she imagined the young girl? Or is she right and that young girl is now in danger? And why has no one else seen her?

I loved the plot, I loved the protagonist and her determination in finding out the truth, no matter the cost, I loved the setting and the dark atmosphere. What She Saw Last Night is a compulsive and thrilling story full of twists and shocking surprises and kept me glued to the pages until the very end.

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#BlogTour: A WEDDING IN DECEMBER by Sarah Morgan @SarahMorgan_ @hqstories @LilyCapewell

A Wedding In DecemberPublication: 31st October 2019 – HQ

In the snowy perfection of Aspen, the White family gathers for youngest daughter Rosie’s whirlwind Christmas wedding.

First to arrive are the bride’s parents, Maggie and Nick. Their daughter’s marriage is a milestone they are determined to celebrate wholeheartedly, but they are hiding a huge secret about their own: they are on the brink of divorce. After living apart for the last six months, the last thing they need is to be trapped together in an irresistibly romantic winter wonderland.

Rosie’s older sister Katie is also dreading the wedding. Worried that impulsive, sweet-hearted Rosie is making a mistake, Katie is determined to save her sister from herself. If only the irritatingly good-looking best man, Jordan, would stop interfering with her plans…

Bride-to-be Rosie loves her fiance but is having serious second thoughts. Except everyone has arrived – how can she tell them she’s not sure? As the big day gets closer, and emotions run even higher, this is one White family Christmas none of them will ever forget.

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I love Sarah Morgan’s novels. I know I write this in every review I wrote of her books, but I do love Sarah Morgan’s stories, her characters, and she chooses some amazing locations, especially when it comes to her Christmas novels. She always finds amazing, Christmassy and evocative settings that make me daydream and wish I was inside the novel. Last year, in The Christmas Sisters, it was beautiful Scotland and now, in A Wedding in December, Sarah Morgan takes us to Aspen, Colorado, where everything is covered in snow and a Christmas wedding is being planned.

Weddings are joyous moments (mostly!), but not for the White women. Rosie is very excited to marry Dan. Even if they’ve known each other for just a few months, she knows he is The One, but her sister Katie manages to put doubts in her minds a few days before the big day. Rosie’s always been impulsive and Katie’s always protected her and now she is on a mission: stop her sister from making what could be the biggest mistake of her life, but she hasn’t counted on the handsome best man trying to stop her. And while the organization of the wedding continues, Katie’s has her own problems to figure out and her own secrets to hide from her family. And then, there is their mother, Maggie, who focused her entire life on the well-being of her two daughters while her husband travelled around the world. Now she and Nick are getting divorced but she can’t certainly announce it right before the wedding… so Maggie and Nick have to pretend to be a happy couple for a while and going along with all the romantic trips and dinners planned for them.

If you’d asked me who is my favourite among these three women, I couldn’t tell you because I liked them all, even if they are completely different. I liked Rosie’s impulsiveness and sweetness. I found Maggie hilarious as she got drunk and pretended to be happily married to Nick. And I liked how Katie admitted her own faults and weaknesses. They are surrounded by three charming and handsome prince charmings who are entertaining sweep their women off their feet (I always love Sarah Morgan’s male characters!!!).

So, if you are looking for an engaging, captivating, and romantic Christmas story with fantastic characters and a magical atmosphere A Wedding in December is the book for you and, if you need more convincing, have you seen the gorgeous cover??? A must-read!!!

A huge thank you to Lily and HQ for providing me with a copy of the book.

Follow the rest of the blog tour:

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#BookReview: NO WAY OUT by Cara Hunter @CaraHunterBooks @PenguinUKBooks

No Way OutPublication: 18th April 2019 – Penguin Books UK

It’s one of the most disturbing cases DI Fawley has ever worked.

The Christmas holidays, and two children have just been pulled from the wreckage of their burning home in North Oxford. The toddler is dead, and his brother is soon fighting for his life.

Why were they left in the house alone? Where is their mother, and why is their father not answering his phone?

Then new evidence is discovered, and DI Fawley’s worst nightmare comes true.

Because this fire wasn’t an accident. It was murder.

And the killer is still out there…

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For some reason I had the latest novel by Cara Hunter on my TBR for a while before I decided to pick it up and once I did, I couldn’t put it down. I love her writing style, her characters, and her twisty plots and I was really happy to go back to Oxford and Adam Fawley’s amazing team.

It’s a cold night in Oxford right, after the Christmas holidays, and DI Fawley and his team are called to investigate a house fire. Two children are pulled out from the ruins while her parents are nowhere to be found. The firefights quickly rule out the accident, there was too much accelerant on the scene, but who would want to harm two young children? And where are their parents?

Cara Hunter knows how to capture the author’s attention by using different perspectives and a well-crafted narrative structure: we jump from one character to another, we travel back in time to see the events that led to the night of the fire, and we read emails, detailed police reports, newspaper articles, and comments from readers that make the story feel much more authentic and intriguing.

The authenticity is given also by the author’s focus on the detectives’ personal lives. As DI Fawley and his team work hard to find out the truth, they have their own problems to solve. Following the events of the previous books, there are jealousies and resentments that could cause trouble among the members of the team and DI Adam Fawley has his own marital problems to figure out.

The story is suspenseful and the surprises just keep coming, however, as it happens with stories involving children, there are also a few heartbreaking moments that were hard to read. No Way Out is thrilling and compelling with a cast of likable and engaging characters that I am already looking forward to meet again in the next novel coming out in January!

 

#BookReview: THE ISLAND by Ragnar Jónasson @ragnarjo @MichaelJBooks

The IslandPublication: 4th April 2019 (hardcover & eBook); 3rd October 2019 (paperback) – Michael Joseph

Four friends visited the island. But only three returned . . .

Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdóttir is sent to the isolated island of Elliðaey to investigate a disappearance.

But she finds haunting similarities to an old case – the murder of a young woman ten years ago.

Has a patient killer struck again?

Hulda is soon caught in a web of deceit, convinced everyone is lying, even those closest to her.

What secrets is the island hiding?

And what price will she pay for uncovering the truth?

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I loved The Darkness, the first novel featuring Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdottir so I have been looking forward to reading The Island, the second book in the series. While in The Darkness Hulda was preparing to retire and leave the police force, in The Island we go back in time when Hulda was an established detective, but, because of prejudices against working women, she was still finding it hard getting the promotion she deserved and she wished for. In this new novel, we see a more personal side to Hulda’s life, as she seeks the father she never met and she grieves over the loss of the people she loves.

In the 1980s, we meet a young couple going away for the weekend in a cabin in the Icelandic Westfjords. Their love story is new and exciting and no one knows about it, not even their friends and their families. A few days later, a body is found and the police investigates. Ten years later, four friends, who haven’t seen each other for a while, get together and spend the weekend on an isolated island. Once again, the weekend ends in tragedy and Hulda investigates…

First of all, I love Ragnar Jónasson’s descriptions of Iceland. They are so beautiful, detailed, and evocative that make me wish that I could hop on a plane and go there right away. Also, I love how the remoteness and danger of the places described fit perfectly with the suspense in the story.

I really like the character of Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdottir. She is determined, not afraid to speak up and stand up for herself in a men-only working environment where she is expected simply to make coffee and follow orders. She is smart and good at her job, looking for the truth, no matter what. I found her personal life heartbreaking, but also intriguing. The personal tragedies that hit her family could have broken her, but she still finds a purpose in her job. In The Island, her search for her birth father is central to the plot and it made me like this character more and more.

The murder, the secrets, and the lies kept the suspense high. If you loved Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None you will love the plot created by the author: four friends alone on a remote island, one of them disappears, one (or all) of them is guilty… Brilliant!

Gripping, beautifully-written, and full of twists, I devoured The Island and I am already looking forward to reading the third book of this fantastic trilogy!!!

A huge thank you to Michael Joseph and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this novel.

 

 

#BookReview: MORE THAN JUST MUM by Rebecca Smith @0neMoreChapter_

Not Just A MumPublication: 7th December 2019 (eBook); 20th February 2020 (paperback) – One More Chapter

Hannah Thompson loves her family beyond words… but sometimes she wishes they would recognise her as more than just ‘mum’.

Eldest son Dylan is soon to be flying the nest, sixteen-year-old Scarlet keeps asking about penalties for worryingly specific crimes, they’ve forgotten world book day and Benji absolutely will not be Where’s Wally again, and it’s at least two days before she and hubby Nick can sit down for Wine Wednesdays… and even longer until Fizzy Friday.

Determined to find herself a job that she loves, earn a whole lot of money and to have her teenagers respect her as ‘Hannah’ as well as ‘mum’; it might sound like a tall order, but she’s a mum on a mission.

A laugh-out-loud read of self-discovery, family chaos and love. Perfect for fans of Gill Sims, Fiona Gibson and Nick Spalding.

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If you are looking for a fun and entertaining read that will make you laugh (even on a train full of people that then turn to look at you in a weird way, true story!) then you should pick up Not Just A Mum, the fantastic debut novel by Rebecca Smith.

The protagonist is Hannah Thompson, in her forties, married, three children (two teenagers and one adorable ten-year-old boy), a biology teacher turned into an English teacher to a class of students who are more interested in pulling each other’s chairs than in learning about George Orwell. She is a voracious reader and aspiring author and she decides to start writing erotica, but sex scenes are hard to write when she blushes just thinking about them…

As much as her work life is far from dull, her family life is even more noisy and interesting: her oldest son, Dylan, spends a lot of time alone in his room “revising for the exams” with his new girlfriend; her daughter Scarlet wants to change her name to Scarlett with two tt, she wants the fridge full of cucumbers, and she has her own ideas about feminism; luckily, her ten-year-old son Benji is still innocent and all he wants to do is play. And then, there is her husband, Nick, supportive, always ready to help and experimenting new positions to help Hannah write her erotica book.

As I mentioned, I laughed, a lot! Hannah is hilarious… she is one of these characters that it’s always likable and engaging, even her classes often take a fun turn. The story is told from her point of views so I sympathized with her as she tried to control a class of hormonal teenagers, as she struggled with her children growing up, and as she tried to find a new path in her life that satisfies her.

Not Just A Mum is so well-written that I was surprised to learn that it’s a debut novel. Captivating, refreshing, and riveting, it’s a book I will keep recommending!!!

A huge thank you to One More Chapter and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of the novel.

#BookReview: THE DEVIL ASPECT by Craig Russell @TheCraigRussell @TheCrimeVault @LittleBrownUK

91IpLM5uKFLPublication: 7th March 2019 (hardcover, eBook); 31st October 2019 (paperback) – Constable

How do you find a killer when you’re surrounded by madness?

1935. As Europe prepares itself for a calamitous war, six homicidal lunatics – the so-called ‘Devil’s Six’ – are confined in a remote castle asylum in rural Czechoslovakia. Each patient has their own dark story to tell and Dr Viktor Kosárek, a young psychiatrist using revolutionary techniques, is tasked with unlocking their murderous secrets.

At the same time, a terrifying killer known as ‘Leather Apron’ is butchering victims across Prague. Successfully eluding capture, it would seem his depraved crimes are committed by the Devil himself. Maybe they are… and what links him with the insane inmates of the Castle of the Eagles?

Only the Devil knows. And it is up to Viktor to find out.

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I found the new novel by Craig Russell quite fascinating and scary. It’s an historical novel with gothic and horror elements that make each page highly suspenseful. At the center of the story there is a brutal serial killer on the loose in a pre-World War II Czechoslovakia where the first signs of tension between Jewish and German-born people start to show.

One of the protagonists of the story is Doctor Victor Kosárek who, after finishing his studies under Carl Jung, is starting his new job at Hrad Orlu, an asylum housed in a ancient medieval castle famous because its residents are the notorious “Devil Six”, the worst psychopatics in Central Europe. Victor hopes that his new tecnique of interviewing will help him figure out the Devil Aspect and uncover the truth behind their acts.

In the meantime, in Prague, the serial killer known as Leather Apron is terrorizing the city and detective  Lukas Smolak has to stop him, but the bodies keep piling up and clues lead him to questions some of the residents of Hrad Orlu.

The Devil Aspect is dark, claustrophobic, and chilling. The murders described are gruesome and not for the light-hearted (I found some of the descriptions hard to read). The author couldn’t find apter title for this novel. Through Viktor’s interviews with the inmates of Hrad Orlu we hear some of the worst murders I have ever read and the author masterfully sets them at the beginning of one of the darkest era in history. It’s the year 1935 and the Nazi power is spreading through Europe. We see predictions of a black furutre because of the historical and political situation at the time, we see people not trusting each other because of their religion and origin, the madness and evil inside the asylum going hand to hand with the madness and evil happening outside.

A story of murders, folklore, legends, and beliefs, The Devil Aspect kept me literally on the edge of my seat and it’s full of shocking twists that I didn’t see coming. A real page-turner!

A big thank you to Little, Brown and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of the novel.