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S is for Stranger by Louise Stone

519N8czdefL._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_Estranged from her husband and in the midst of a custody battle, Sophie loves nothing more than spending time with her daughter, Amy. Maybe she should have taken Amy’s announcement that a strange woman had been watching them more seriously because now, after a trip to the fair, Amy is missing. Sophie’s history of alcoholism means that the police and Paul, her ex-husband,  are suspicious of her story and this mistrust is exacerbated when new information emerges. What has happened to Amy? Who is the strange woman? Who is telling the truth?

This book is described as a ‘gripping psychological thriller’ and that is most certainly the case. Fast-paced from the start, the author takes you on a roller-coaster of emotions as you feel sympathy and despair as Amy goes missing, anger as Sophie desperately looks for someone who will believe her story and fear as it slowly emerges exactly what has happened to the child. Throughout the book, you find yourself willing Sophie to succeed as she battles the demons of her past.

One of the main strengths of this book is that, right until the end, you genuinely have no idea as to Amy’s fate. This uncertainty made S is for Stranger a quick read as I read chapter after chapter, hoping that the next part would reveal even the smallest of clues to explain exactly what was going on.

The only thing that stopped this being rated 5 stars was the ending. I felt that there were still too many unanswered questions and that made the solution a bit ambiguous. I would have liked a more conclusive finish.

With thanks to NetGalley and Carina for the advance copy.

 

 

 

The Emerald Comb by Kathleen McGurl

51gHd5j42SL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Whilst researching her family history, Katie Smith falls in love with Kingsley House, the crumbling former home of her ancestors, the St Clairs. To her surprise, when the house appears on the market, her husband is very keen to purchase it. As he doesn’t share her love of genealogy, Katie decides to keep her connection to the building secret. This subterfuge ends, however, when a terrible discovery is made and Katie must come to terms with the fact that her family is harbouring a dark secret.

The story is told from the perspectives of two people – Katie in the twenty-first century, and Bartholomew St. Clair in the nineteenth century. Despite being almost 200 years apart, the two stories collide as we discover the truth about Bartholomew, his young wife Georgia Holland and her trusted lady’s maid, Agnes Cutter. Without giving too much away, it is quite apparent early on in the book that Agnes is going to play a larger role than that of just a servant but the extreme measures she takes to secure her needs were a bit of a surprise!

Like Kathleen McGurl’s latest book, The Daughters of Red Hill Hall, there are similarities in the stories that are being told in the past and the present, namely that of disfunctional families and the secrecy surrounding them. It is interesting to see, however, how society has changed in that time and how an indiscretion that happened in the past would be dealt with differently nowadays.

Although the ending does not give complete closure to the story, it is real-life as it is acknowledged that not every genealogical mystery can have a complete conclusion. Enough clues are given, however, to infer that Katie has her own suspicions and I would like to think that she carried on to discover what really happened.

After receiving an advance copy of The Daughters of Red Hill Hall from Net Galley, I was keen to read other books by Kathleen McGurl and I am pleased to say that this one lived up to my expectations. Superbly written with great characterisation, I am looking forward to reading The Pearl Locket next!

The Daughters of Red Hill Hall by Kathleen McGurl

Bored with cataloguing boxes of fossils in the museum where she works, Gemma’s curiosity is piqued when she finds, in one of he boxes, a pair of ruby-encrusted duelling pistols. Realising that there must be an interesting history behind the artefact, research takes her back to the year 1838, when two sisters were found shot in the cellar of Red Hill Hall. A tale of intrigue follows and soon Gemma finds that history is repeating itself as the relationship between herself and her best friend, Nat, falls into disrepair. Will Gemma end up like one of the daughters of Red Hill Hall?

This is actually a story within a story as we find out about Gemma’s life alongside the lives of Rebecca and Sarah, the daughters referred to in the title of the book. There are many parallels in their respective stories, not least the idea that there is a perceived inequality felt by two of the characters: Sarah has always felt that Rebecca is the favoured daughter, while Nat appears to harbour an intense jealousy of Gemma due to her stable upbringing. The way both sets of relationships break down dramatically with fateful consequences is a key part of the book, well-written by the author.

The Daughters of Red Hill Hall was an easy read, mainly because it was so enjoyable. This is the first of Kathleen McGurl’s books that I have read but it certainly won’t be the last – the preview chapters from her next book that were included at the end have already whetted my appetite for ‘The Pearl Locket’.

This book was received from Net Galley and Carina in return for an honest review.

The Silent Girls by Ann Troup

The Silent Girls, the second novel from Ann Troup, tells the story of Edie who has the unenviable task of clearing out her recently deceased aunt’s house. Coronation Square, where the house is situated, has a macabre history due to it being the site of five murders many years before and Edie soon finds herself drawn into the past where secrets refuse to stay hidden. It seems that everyone in Coronation Square has a link to the murders but who is telling the truth and who is more involved than they dare to mention?

One of the strengths of this book is the author’s descriptions. It is easy to imagine the contrast between the homely abode of Lena Campion compared to the damp, dark house of Edie’s Aunt Dolly. Indeed, each new scene in the book brought vivid images and aromas to mind. The character development is also well-written – the relationship between Edie and Sophie, in particular, is a joy to read.

The Silent Girls is a beautifully-written yet dark story with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. Although I did work out who had committed the murders, the book is filled with enough red herrings and sub-plots to keep you interested.

This is a really good read – I look forward to Ann Troup’s next offering!

This book was received from Net Galley and Carina in return for an honest review.

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