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The Chain by Adrian McKinty

It’s a mother’s worst nightmare. Your child leaves for school in the morning but doesn’t arrive. A phone call from an unknown caller informs you what has happened: Your daughter has been abducted and if you want her back, you must pay the ransom and then take another child to replace them. You have just entered The Chain and the consequences for not following the rules are deadly. You have no choice but to do as they say.

After hearing the rave reviews of this book, I have had it on my TBR pile since last year so decided it was time to finally see what all the fuss was about! It definitely grabs you from the off with mother, Rachel, seeing her world fall apart after hearing some devastating news followed by the terrifying scenario she finds herself in due to the abduction of her daughter, Kylie.

This is a book about desperation and how far a mother would go to protect the one thing she loves the most. It definitely makes you think as, initially, I felt a lot of anger towards the people who had abducted Kylie but as you begin to understand the premise of the book and realise that they, too, are in the same position, my feelings towards them softened.

The book moves at a fast pace and it is easy to imagine this becoming a successful film. I did enjoy the first half more than the second as some of the twists were quite easy to spot. All in all, if you are looking for a good holiday read, then The Chain fits the bill perfectly.

**BLOG TOUR** The Face at the Window by Ruby Speechley

To the outside world, Gemma Adams has it all: a beautiful house, a job she enjoys, a handsome husband and a newborn baby boy. Gemma knows this is all a facade, however, and is harbouring secrets about her marriage that could destroy her. Now her baby has been taken by someone she thought she could trust and her marriage is going from bad to worse. She needs her baby back, even if it puts her own life in danger.

The Face at the Window is told from the perspective of two young women, each of them in an abusive relationship, even if they can’t actually see it. Gemma appears to have the perfect life, something she shares happily on her social media. The photographs she posts hide the true nature of her relationship, however, and we soon discover how controlling her husband, Nick, is. It was quite unnerving as a reader to see this develop, fearing for Gemma and willing her to make the break.

The other main protagonist is Scarlett, a young woman with secrets of her own. She, too, is in a controlling relationship with an older man but is too naive to see this. Perhaps for me, the most interesting aspect of her story was her search for her unknown father. book, leading to an exciting denouement that had me holding my breath.

Although this is about a missing baby and, indeed, this is an integral part of the plot, there is so much more to The Face at the Window. This is a book about coercive control and abuse and serves as a lesson into how we shouldn’t always believe everything we see on the likes of Instagram. Ruby Speechley has written strong, believable characters who made me question whether everyone who commits a crime should receive a punishment if the reason behind it is to save someone else.

This was one of those books that had me hooked from the start and kept my attention right until the very last page. A definite page-turner!

With thanks to Hera Books, Net Galley and Sarah Hardy at Book on the Bright Side Publicity.

The Girl on the Platform by Bryony Pearce

New mum Bridget is on her way home from work on the train when she witnesses something horrific – a young girl being abducted from a passing station. With none of the other passengers claiming to have seen anything and the police reluctant to believe her, Bridget feels that it is up to her to find the girl. As she begins to uncover the truth, she must make the decision as to whether it is worth putting her own life in danger for a child that nobody else seems to care about.

I love a story with an unreliable witness and in Bridget we definitely have this! With a lifetime of metal health problems and suffering from post-natal depression, there is no doubt that she is a troubled woman. Teamed with the fact that she feels that she is not spending enough time with her baby, we have a main protagonist who made me constantly change my mind as to whether to believe her or not.

At the beginning of the book, there was a definite The Girl on the Train feel, with Bridget determined to find the truth even though others are reluctant to believe her. In my opinion, however, The Girl on the Platform is even better than the aforementioned novel, grabbing my interest right from the start and sustaining it until the very last page. I had been suffering from a bit of a reading slump and this was the book that dragged me out of it, not wanting to put it down for a second!

There is a good range of supporting characters although we see the plot from the perspective of two people – Bridget and the girl on the platform. The chapters featuring the young girl were chilling, and made me desperate for Bridget to be believed and for her to be returned back to her family. At the back of my mind, though, was the nagging doubt that maybe this was all being imagined by Bridget due to the medication she was on. I was pleased that she received support from her husband who always seemed to have her best interests at heart and provided her with love, even if she couldn’t always see it.

At one point in the story, I did start to have an inkling as to where the plot was going to go but I was still genuinely taken aback by the explosive ending. If you are looking for a book to become totally engrossed in, then I cannot recommend The Girl on the Platform enough. This is shaping up to be one of my books of the year.

With thanks to Avon Books UK and Net Galley for my copy.

The Lying Kind by Alison James

36652250Detective Rachel Prince is tasked with taking over the investigation into missing six-year-old Lola Jade Harper. Deducing that something is not quite right with the girl’s family, she must untangle the web of deceit if she has any chance of finding her. When the body of a woman is found, and connections are made to the missing girl, Rachel knows that the net is closing around the guilty party and she must move fast before they slip away forever…

Bookouture has this knack of producing must-read police procedural series and they have done it yet again! In Detective Rachel Prince, we have another strong female lead who is a hard-working and tenacious detective with a complicated personal life. She is a very good detective and her doggedness is shown when she has to travel to Europe alone to investigate a lead. Her work partner, DS Brickall, is another great character and the relationship between the two made each scene they were in together a joy to read.

The plot of a missing child is one that appears in many books, but I liked the twists that came with this one. The main suspects are all incredibly shifty and it was fun trying to work out which of their actions were linked to the disappearance of the child. Although it wasn’t too difficult to work out who the major player was here, the way in which it was carried out was very clever and was not something I saw coming at all.

This is not what I would call an action-packed book as a lot of time is given up to the actual investigation and we are privy to police interviews, stakeouts and the like. In some books, this can become tiresome but The Lying Kind is so well-written that each scene was fascinating and helped to build up a picture of Rachel, Brickall and the suspects.

It looks as though Bookouture has got me hooked on another crime series and I can’t wait to see what book two has in store for Rachel!

With thanks to Net Galley and Bookouture for the ARC.

 

Don’t Make a Sound by David Jackson

To the outside world, Malcolm and Harriet Benson seem like a normal couple. A visit to their house, however, might tell a different story as one of the bedroom doors has bolts secured to the outside of it. Not to keep people out, but to keep someone in – a girl called Daisy. Forced to call them ‘Mummy’ and ‘Daddy’, Daisy hasn’t seen her real parents since she was abducted three years ago. Now the Bensons have decided they would like a second daughter…

It may only be January but I’m sure that this is going to be one of the contenders for my book of the year! I had been eagerly anticipating the third book in the Nathan Cody series so was thrilled when I was sent a proof of Don’t Make a Sound ahead of it’s publication in May. My only regret now is that I read it so quickly, I feel slightly bereft that I no longer have it to look forward to!

From the very start of the book, I felt a tremendous amount of sympathy for Daisy, the girl who has spent the past three years isolated in a soundproofed room after being abducted. Terrified of upsetting her new ‘parents’ and fearful of the punishments that are doled out by Malcolm, she has adapted to her surroundings yet yearns to leave her prison. Old and wise beyond her years, she takes on the role of protector when another girl, Poppy, is brought to the room. It was heartbreaking to see how Daisy immediately took the blame when Poppy did something that would displease the Bensons to prevent her from feeling the full force of Malcolm’s anger.

Malcolm Benson is a truly loathsome character. He feels he is giving the girls a caring, loving home yet ‘achieves’ this by locking them in a room with no natural light and being a bit handy with a belt. Of course, everything is not black or white and, when we find out something about his past, it does make you think of him in a different way. His wife, Harriet, is a traditional downtrodden wife, desperate for a child of her own and someone who is fully reliant upon her husband. I did wonder what would have become of their captives had anything happened to Malcolm.

In the previous books in the series, we found out a lot about Nathan Cody’s past and how it is still affecting his life today. Although this is referenced in Don’t Make a Sound, his story takes a back seat for much of the book, the focus being placed firmly on the Bensons. As the story progresses, though, we get to see more of Cody albeit not in the way we would have hoped. It is up to DC Webley to use her instinct to solve the case and we really see her come into her own in this book.

I love a book where the author throws in a curve ball towards the end and there is definitely one here! In a book where you have one opinion throughout, David Jackson has succeeded in making you question everything you have read. It is impossible to say any more without spoiling the plot, but it is safe to say that I’m sure that many readers will experience the same shock as I did. I even had to go back and read several pages again to let it all sink in!

This series is fast becoming one of my favourites and I can’t wait to see what happens next to Nathan Cody and finding out whether the clowns return…

With thanks to Emily at Bonnier Zaffre for my ARC.

See my reviews for the first two Nathan Cody books here:

A Tapping at My Door

Hope to Die

 

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Child Taken by Darren Young

It’s every mum’s worst nightmare. On a hot, summer’s day, two-year-old Jessica Preston vanishes from the beach. Although her mother, Sandra, knows she has been abducted, the police are less than convinced, preferring to think that she has drowned. Twenty years later, Sandra still clings on to the hope that her daughter will be found, and her faith is renewed when she is approached by a journalist, offering to get her story back out into the public domain. When the journalist uncovers a huge cover-up, she realises that someone will stop at nothing to keep the secret of Jessica Preston hidden for ever.

You would not think that this is a debut novel, such is the storytelling and the characterisation. I was drawn in from the start as the retelling of the story starts from the perspective of Sandra and the new ‘father’ of the taken child. Instantly, I felt nothing but despair and sadness for Sandra, and admired her tenacity for never toeing the party line with regards to the whereabouts of her daughter. I willed her to, one day, get the news that she had been longing for – the discovery that her daughter had, indeed, not drowned. The new ‘father’, however, I could not believe how quick he was to accept the child that his wife had brought home.

I also instantly warmed to Laura, the journalist intent on finding out the truth, despite the danger she was putting herself in. Although I did, at times, wish that she had the sense to tell someone about the case, especially when her life begins to be threatened, this would have meant that the terrifying chase near the end of the book would probably not have happened. Although I can’t detail this chase in case I give away some spoilers, it is safe to say that this is one of the most terrifying parts of the book that had me on the edge of my seat!

Like most books of this genre, we are growing accustomed to a twist that completely wrong-foots you. As a result, I did find myself anticipating what the twist would be and I was surprised when I did have it worked out! This did not affect my enjoyment of the book, in any way, however – if anything, it gave me more to think about as I was reading.

This is a fantastic debut and I look forward to following the rest of Darren Young’s career.

With thanks to RedDoor Publishing for my copy of the book.

Blink by K L Slater

img_1033Three years ago, five-year-old Evie Cotter disappeared from school. With no evidence or eyewitnesses, the police are at a complete standstill in their investigation, not even knowing if the child is dead or alive. Toni, Evie’s mum, blames herself – if only she’d paid more attention to what was going on around her. Convinced that her child is still alive, she knows that she must do anything possible to get Evie back…

Told in two timeframes, the present day and three years ago, Blink tells the story of a woman who is spiralling out of control after the death of her husband. At times, I wanted to shake Toni and tell her to trust her instincts – she knew that someone was messing with her head but put it all down to paranoia. From the start, it was obvious that someone close to home was involved, but with so many people in the frame, it was impossible to work out who it was. The author throws in enough red herrings to muddy the waters and keep you guessing right until the end. One of the things I liked about this book was the number of characters. Too often, a book can become confusing with too many characters, but the author has the balance just right.

The cover of the book states that Blink is ‘a psychological thriller with a killer twist’, and I do admit that I spent a lot of the book trying to work out what the twist was! Without giving anything away, I am pleased to say that I did work out part of what was going to happen, but not all of it, which definitely added to my enjoyment of the plot.

For me, a sign of a good book is one that cannot be put down and I managed to read this in less than a day. Written in short chapters, K L Slater has ensured that the plot of Blink moves rapidly to the point where you just want to read one more chapter before putting it down!

A must-read!

With thanks to Net Galley and Bookouture for the ARC.

The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths

crossing-placesPerfectly happy with her secluded life in the remote Saltmarsh near Norfolk, archaeologist Ruth Galloway’s talents are called upon by Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson when the skeleton of a girl is found on a nearby beach. Aware that the parents of local schoolgirl Lucy Downey have been missing their daughter since she was taken ten years ago, the body turns out to be two thousand years old. When it emerges that Nelson has been receiving letters about the girl containing references to archaeology and ritual, Ruth finds herself involved in a case that leaves her questioning who she can trust.

Ever since reading The Woman in Blue, the latest of the Ruth Galloway novels by Elly Griffiths, I have wanted to catch up on the rest of the series so was pleased to finally find the time to begin my journey! It was with trepidation that I started to read The Crossing Places, as I hoped that reading the series out of sequence would not spoil my enjoyment of what was to come. Thankfully, this did not occur!

In The Crossing Places, we are introduced to Ruth and how she first became involved with the police but we are also introduced to the character of Cathbad. In The Woman in Blue, Cathbad was a character whom I immediately warmed to, despite his quirkiness.Here, however, I found myself disliking what I read about him, so I am looking forward to reading the development of his character in subsequent books.

Elly Griffiths does a good job in mixing fact with fiction and also in creating a ‘whodunnit’ that really does make you doubt the motives of nearly every character! Although my suspicions about the child abductor were confirmed, there were still plenty of other parts of the story that I did not see coming.

This is a great start to the series and I already have the next one lined up to read!

Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan

In her capacity as local newspaper agony aunt, Cambridge teacher Margot Lewis is used to receiving  distressing letters. None of them, however, shake her quite like the latest one:

Dear Amy,

I don’t know where I am. I’ve been kidnapped and am being held prisoner by a strange man. I’m afraid he’ll kill me. Please help me soon,

Bethan Avery.

What makes this even more disturbing is that Bethan Avery has been missing, presumed dead for many years. Coupled with the fact that another local girl has disappeared, Margot finds herself caught up in a mystery that threatens her own life.

From the first chapter, I was hooked on this fast-paced psychological thriller. The author has succeeded in writing an opening that grabs you straight away and makes you want to read just one more chapter… As the book progressed, I found it hard to put down and managed to read it in two marathon sessions!

Like all books in this genre, there is, of course, a twist. There is a real ‘open mouth’ moment when you realise what it is – I had thought that it was going to be something else so was pleased to discover that I was wrong.

Although this could definitely be seen as a standalone book, there is definitely more scope for a series of books featuring the ‘Dear Amy’ column.

A thoroughly enjoyable read.

Thank you to Penguin UK and NetGalley for the advance copy.

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