The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware.

 

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This was meant to be the perfect trip.

The Northern Lights. A luxury press launch on a boutique cruise ship.

A chance for travel journalist Lo Blacklock to recover from a traumatic break-in that has left her on the verge of collapse, and to work out what she wants from her relationship.

Except things don’t go as planned.

Woken in the night by screams, Lo rushes to her window to see a body thrown overboard from the next door cabin. But the records show that no-one ever checked into that cabin, and no passengers are missing from the boat.

Exhausted, emotional and increasingly desperate, Lo has to face the fact that she may have made a terrible mistake. Or she is trapped on a boat with a murderer – and she is the sole witness…
My Review:
Having loved Ruth Ware’s debut novel In a Dark, Dark Wood last year I was looking forward to her latest book. A stand-alone it features a young travel journalist Lo who is excited to be given the chance to report on a new cruise. She has had a few problems, had a break in that left her injured and suffers from anxiety.
There were only a few people on the ship, all of them were on board to publicise the cruise and she was eager to make a good impression. She is nervous, feeling claustrophobic and has quite a bit to drink. When she finally gets back to her cabin she hears a disturbance from the cabin next door and sees what she thinks is a body being thrown into the sea. She reports it to security and is told that she must be mistaken because the cabin is unoccupied.
The level of claustrophobia was quite high and I found it to be a little intimidating. I felt the same tension as Lo when she was walking through the ship. There was also a feeling of isolation, being out at sea with no way of making contact with anybody who wasn’t on board.
I thought that Lo was a great character, she had her faults but refused to back down to the ones who didn’t take her seriously. There were a few parts that I really admired her for how she coped with what she experienced. There were also parts that didn’t really work for me but I still did enjoy the book a lot. It has convinced me not to go on a cruise though.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy via NetGalley.

All Things Cease To Appear by Elizabeth Brundage.

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Upstate New York, 1980s

The farm stood at the foot of the hill. Around it, an aching emptiness of fields and wind. Within, a weight, a sense of being occupied, with more than its inhabitants.

The Clares got it cheap. George knew why, though he didn’t let on ­- he didn’t want to give Catherine any excuses. He’d given her an easy excuse to get married. He wasn’t prepared to give away much more.

Catherine, at home with their young daughter, has the feeling they’re not alone. She is helped by the Hale boys, young Cole and his brothers. Though they never tell her what happened to their mother in this house.

As the seasons burn and then bite, the Clares will find their place in this small upstate community. George, the inscrutable professor; his beautiful, brittle wife. He will try to tame the hollow need inside him. She will pull strength from the friends she makes. But as their marriage splinters, so too does the border between sanity and rage; between this world, and the inexplicable beyond.

With masterful tension and understanding of human nature, Elizabeth Brundage has crafted a novel that is at once a community’s landscape spanning twenty years and an intimate portrait of a disturbed mind. This is new American fiction at its most piercing, ambitious and chilling.

My Review:
I had expected this novel to be everything I enjoy in a novel, a combination of crime, history and ghost but ended up being a little disappointed. It started well, discovering what happened to the Hale family and then moving abruptly to the murder of Catherine Clare. It then covers the years that they spent together, starting from when they first met and finishing with her murder.
Unfortunately, most of this was slow going and it was only in the last third of the novel where I felt the need to read a little bit more. It was here that you started to realise exactly what type of person George was, self-obsessed, cruel and controlling. I could only admire Catherine for the way she tried to stand up to him.
The last part of the novel was mainly about the detective still haunted by the case twenty years later. I felt this part of the novel didn’t connect properly to the rest of it. Franny reappears, now an adult with no clear memories of her mother. I would have liked to get to know her more but she only had a fairly small role and I felt slightly unconvinced by her. Despite my misgivings about the actual story I liked the way it was written. I found it beautiful, atmospheric and the isolation was very convincing.
With thanks to Real Readers for the copy received.

Wendy Walker guest post and review.

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Today, I am delighted to welcome to my blog Wendy Walker to talk about her novel All is Not Forgotten. My review follows the post.

Talking Genres: Psychological Thrillers.

As an author, I am frequently asked why psychological thrillers have become so popular in recent years. While I don’t believe we can ever fully understand what drives social trends, I do think the answer lies within the fact that we are moving, as a world culture, toward more complex and non-linear forms of entertainment. Because of the overwhelming amount of devices and applications, we often have numerous inputs running all at once. We can follow them all if they are simple and moving in a straight line. But this takes away from the pleasure of certain types of entertainment, such as television drama, film and books. Most of us want to be so engrossed in a story that we live and breathe it and forget our own lives. Entertainment is about escaping and feeling things we don’t normally feel. Some of the newer films and television dramas that have been successful have captivated audiences with their multidimensional deliveries. We see the plot from years ahead, and years behind. We see the characters in the past and present and future. And we have to piece together the plot using the clues given to us. This forces us to be engrossed and occupies every part of our brains and in the end we do escape because we cannot follow the story if we don’t give it our full attention. I know something is good when I have to shut my computer screen (and with it facebook, twitter and my three email accounts!).

Today’s psychological thrillers are structured in a way that makes us close our screens. By using an “unreliable” first person narrator, a new layer of suspense is added. Not only is the reader trying to solve the mystery or guess the ending, he or she is having to figure out when the story teller is being truthful or not. This requires far more attention than a reliable narrator structure. Also, writing in the first person gives the reader a higher level of intimacy with the narrator. Through techniques such as word choice, sentence structure and cadence, the author can deliver subtle, even subliminal information to the reader about the narrator. This, too, pulls the reader in. We are a culture that is very used to intimacy through our social media interactions. First person narration satisfies that need.

In writing my novel, All Is Not Forgotten, I had all of this in mind! The structure attempts to create that feeling of total escape by telling the story in a way that is new, but that is as seamless as an engrossing conversation with a friend. It has a first person narrator who is “unreliable,” which gives the reader that new layer of suspense. I also designed it to move in different directions, backwards and forwards and sideways, but in a fluid, conversational way. It was my goal to grab the reader, make him or her stop everything else, put away computers and phones and televisions, and focus on the characters and the story and emotions they contain. I wanted reading this novel to feel like those times when you get lost in a story by a friend to the point that you don’t open the menu, don’t order a drink and wave off the waiter because you just have to hear the ending! Finally, I chose subject matter that is grounded in real world issues that every one of us can relate to. What would we do in Jenny’s situation? What choice would we make for ourselves or our child? It is my hope that All Is Not Forgotten will give readers everything they want from a book – total escape, emotional connection to the characters, and a thought provoking topic!

About the book:

You can erase the memory. But you cannot erase the crime.

Jenny’s wounds have healed.
An experimental treatment has removed the memory of a horrific and degrading attack.
She is moving on with her life.

That was the plan. Except it’s not working out.
Something has gone. The light in the eyes. And something was left behind. A scar. On her lower back. Which she can’t stop touching.
And she’s getting worse.
Not to mention the fact that her father is obsessed with finding her attacker and her mother is in toxic denial.

It may be that the only way to uncover what’s wrong is to help Jenny recover her memory. But even if it can be done, pulling at the threads of her suppressed experience will unravel much more than the truth about her attack.

My Review:

I can say that All is Not Forgotten will be one of the books that I will thinking about that long after I finished reading it.When Jenny is brutally raped she is given a drug to help her forget the event, despite her father’s wishes. When she attempts suicide eight months later the family start seeing a psychiatrist.
The psychiatrist is the main narrator, but parts are also narrated by other people during the counselling sessions. You get to see how each family member is coping or otherwise. He is also counselling an ex soldier who has had the same drug administered after he was injured whilst on duty. He becomes a good friend to Jenny under the watchful eye of the psychiatrist.
I found it a little slow at first. It become much more gripping after the suicide attempt when the sessions started. Even though the novel is mainly about Jenny and her parents the psychiatrist and his family are also prominent. At first I liked him but when I read his thoughts about his family, especially his wife, I saw him in a different light.
It would be very easy to dislike both parents and the psychiatrist but they were all trying to do the best thing for Jenny and help her deal with what happened to her. All of them were affected by events in their own childhood and when you realised what they were you understood more why they handled the crisis the way they did.
How they handled it might not have been the correct way but what the author does very well is demonstrate how fear, loyalty, guilt and anger all affect rationality. It’s a great read, brutal and shocking at times but very clever.

Die of Shame by Mark Billingham.

 

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Every Monday evening, six people gather in a smart North London house to talk about addiction. There they share their deepest secrets: stories of lies, regret, and above all, shame.

Then one of them is killed – and it’s clear one of the circle was responsible.

Detective Inspector Nicola Tanner quickly finds her investigation hampered by the strict confidentiality that binds these people and their therapist together. So what could be shameful enough to cost someone their life?
My Review:
It’s a while since I read a Mark Billingham novel and Die of Shame was a welcome reminder of how good they are and a slap on the wrist for falling behind. It’s a stand-alone novel that concentrates on a group of people who all suffer from an addiction. Most of the novel focuses on the group instead of the detectives who are investigating the case.
All of the group had different addictions and there were times when I had sympathy for all of them but this feeling diminished the further I read, when I knew them better. There was one exception though. I’m not saying who they were, you will have to make up your own mind.
The surprises started straight away. The identity of the victim isn’t revealed immediately and it wasn’t who I expected it to be. You are given no clue why the individual was killed and I couldn’t work out who had killed them. Each chapter focused on a different person, their problems and the relationship that they had with each other and the victim. Every time I finished a chapter there was something to convince me that they were the murderer.
At first I was a little unsure about the ending but a couple of days after finishing it I decided it worked and I liked it a lot. It’s a great novel, one that somebody new to his work would enjoy, but I can certainly recommend his previous novels. I now need to work out which of the Inspector Thorne books I’ve not read.