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One Year Later by Sanjida Kay

A year ago, Amy lost her daughter Ruby-May in a terrible accident. With the anniversary of her death looming, the family decide to go on holiday, away from the scene of the incident, to a place where, they hope, they can begin to heal the rifts that have happened since their loss. It soon becomes apparent, however, that all is not quite what it seems and there is at least one person hiding something that could change their perception of what exactly happened one year ago. Just exactly who caused Ruby-May’s death and what other secrets have been concealed over the years?

The tone is set from the very start when what seems to be the body of a woman is discovered. For the majority of the book, this is not mentioned, leaving me wondering who is was and how it fit in with the tragic death of Ruby-May one year earlier. By the time this is, again, referenced, we are aware that there is, indeed, a lot more to Ruby-May’s death than we realised and there has been a huge cover up to stop the real guilty party from coming to light.

We read the story from the perspectives of Amy, Ruby-May’s mum, and Nick, the dead girl’s uncle. Their grief is portrayed in different ways and was definitely one of the strengths of the book. In Amy, we see real visceral grief, struggling to come to terms with the death of her youngest child while trying to keep going for the sake of her two other children. The scene where she realises how much she neglected them in the weeks following the death was truly heartbreaking, more so because of the way the children dealt with the terrible situation.

Nick displayed his grief in a different way as he has been carrying around the guilt of not being there when Ruby-May died. His head full of ‘what ifs’, it is understandable why he is intent on trying to heal his family’s rifts, even if his good intentions often result in more unrest.

While it is obvious that the official version of the accident is not correct, and that there has definitely been a conspiracy of silence, I did not predict the ending. This is one of those books where you realise that you have been drip fed information throughout the plot, and the ending is completely in-keeping with what you have read. The several references to Dante’s The Divine Comedy are also very apt, with salvation and repentance being running themes in both texts.

I really enjoyed One Year Later and I thank Readers First and Corvus Books for my copy.

Take a look at my review of My Mother’s Secret, one of Sanjida Kay’s earlier books.

 

Night by Night by Jack Jordan

Rose Shaw’s life is on a downward spiral. Haunted by events from her past, unwanted by her family and plagued by insomnia, her life is going nowhere. After colliding with a stranger one dark evening, she finds a journal written by newspaper editor, Finn Matthews. When her eye catches the sentence, ‘If you’re reading this, I‘m dead.’, she immediately becomes obsessed with trying to trace the missing man. Why did Finn think that someone wanted to kill him and why are the police reluctant to investigate? Refusing to give up on her search, Rose is soon putting her own life and the lives of her loved ones in danger…

From the very beginning of the book, I had nothing but sympathy for Rose. Suffering from debilitating insomnia, the people around her seemed unable to offer her reassurance and, instead, seemed intent on making life difficult for her. When a particularly heart-wrenching incident occurs, her life goes from bad to worse. With nothing else left for her, I could understand why she became so obsessed with the hunt for Finn and as the story progressed, we could see why the search became so personal to her.

There are several sensitive issues in Night by Night, namely police corruption and institutionalised homophobia. With the latest series of BBC’s Line of Duty coming to a close, police corruption is a very topical issue and after reading this book, one that leaves a nasty taste in your mouth. As it is revealed that Finn is not the only missing person and that there appears to be no investigations into their disappearance, it poses the question, just who can you trust if you can’t trust the police? This is something that Rose comes to learn and soon, she feels that she can’t put her faith in anyone for fear of retribution.

I ended the story with as much compassion for Rose as I had at the start, even if her circumstances were now completely different. Leading up to this, as the plot culminated in a thrilling showdown, I found I could not put the book down and raced through the final chapters, desperate to know how it would all end.

This is my second Jack Jordan book (after reading Before Her Eyes) and it will definitely not be my last!

With thanks to Corvus and Readers First.

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Georgina (or Geo as she is known) seems to have it all with her high-powered job and wealthy fiance. It all comes crashing down, though, when the body of her high school friend is discovered over a decade after she went missing. Geo’s then boyfriend, Calvin, is found guilty of her murder and Geo is also sentenced for her part in covering it up. Calvin is also convicted of the killings of several others and has now has the moniker Sweetbay Strangler. 

Now, five years later, and Geo is about to be released from prison. She knows that it is going to be hard to readjust to the outside world, but she wasn’t bargaining in having to protect herself from her ex who has escaped from prison. When other bodies are discovered bearing the hallmarks of the Sweetbay Strangler, Geo knows that her own life may be in danger. Are the bodies a message to her and is she going to be the next victim?

Books that grab me from the very first page are few and far between but this was exactly what Jar of Hearts did. We are introduced to Geo, who despite the crime she has been accused of, seems to be an ordinary woman who, for some reason, has helped to conceal the murder of her best friend. We then follow her to prison, and here we witness the first of several disturbing scenes in the book. My heart really went out to Geo as I was sickened by what she had to endure.

The book jumps about in time as we discover what really happened to Angela Wong, Geo’s best friend. Sometimes, this can become a bit confusing but I didn’t find this here. If anything, it helped to build up the suspense in several of  the plot lines: Why did Angela get killed? Where is Calvin? Is Geo the next victim? I found that, as I reached the end of each chapter, I needed to read the next one, then the next one, then the next one…

I love a book where, all of a sudden, you have a ‘lightbulb’ moment when all becomes clear. This definitely happened here, making me actually declare my discovery out loud! Despite this, I did not anticipate what was going to happen at the end – a great twist I did not see coming.

Jar of Hearts is a well-written, twisty thriller that I could not put down. This is the first of Jennifer Hillier’s books that I have read but it will definitely not be the last!

With thanks to Corvus and Readers First for my ARC.

My Mother’s Secret by Sanjida Kay

61RUGiggOTLEmma and Stella Taylor are a mother and daughter with very different personalities. Emma has a secret, one that could threaten her family, and Stella is determined, at any cost, to discover just what her mother’s secret is. Meanwhile, Lizzie Bradshaw, a young mother and wife, is forced to leave her family for several days each week as part of her job. When she witnesses a terrible crime, more than one life will be affected. Will any of them be able to put the past behind them and live the life they want?

I was hooked right from the prologue of My Mother’s Secret, when we are privy to an altercation in a shop that leads to grave circumstances for all those involved. This was a great start to the book and left me asking questions that I hoped would be answered as I read. It also gave a hint as to the troubles that were to come. Initially, as the chapters moved between the perspectives of Lizzie, Emma and Stella, it was a bit confusing but I found that once the plots developed, it became much easier to follow.

The main message in the book is probably how, no matter how perfect our life is, it only takes one event to change it all in the blink of an eye. Although Lizzie was struggling financially with her new family, she did appear to be at the brink of a fantastic life, only for it to be cruelly taken away from her. I felt a great deal of sympathy towards Lizzie and did not envy the decisions she had to make.

Emma, on the other hand, I did not initially warm to as I found her overprotective and, at times, rather odd! As we get to know more about her past, however, and discover what made her the way she is, she became much more of a fascinating character. Stella, I found just like any other teenage girl, desperate to grow up but hampered by her parents.

There are a few twists in the story that were not that hard to figure out but there was one revelation towards the end that I did not see coming. It filled me with anger to discover how one of the characters had been manipulated and would probably continue to be so for the rest of their life.

I really enjoyed My Mother’s Secret and will definitely be looking out for more of this author’s work.

With thanks to Corvus and Readers First for my ARC.

 

 

Perfect Match by D. B. Thorne

When Solomon’s sister, Tiffany, is found almost drowned, drugged and in a coma, he refuses to believe, as the police do, that this is the result of some terrible accident. With the police refusing to help, he undertakes his own investigation, soon discovering that there are similar cases of women who have been attacked and murdered after arranging an online date. Convinced that he is a fantasist, the authorities still refuse to take him seriously, leaving Solomon with no option – he will put his own life at stake to bring the assailant to justice.

I enjoyed D. B. Thorne’s previous book, Troll, and was pleased to see that the follow-up book also deals with the dangers of social media, in this case, dating apps. Perfect Match serves as a perfect reminder of how not everything is what it seems online, as discovered by Tiffany when her online date is not the person she thought he was. It soon becomes apparent that this is not an isolated incident and that, in some respects, Tiffany has been one of the lucky ones as some of the methods used by the mysterious date are truly horrific.

The main protagonist, Solomon, is a fascinating character and one that I warmed to immediately. Having not left the house for two years after an incident which is referred to in the book, he overcomes his fears to spend as much time with his sister as he can, showing how important his family are to him. He is an incredibly brave man who is able to use his intelligence to try to outwit his sister’s attacker by predicting his next move. Ably assisted by his own online associates, I loved how they figured out the connection between the crimes and thought that the actual links were brilliantly constructed by the author.

In direct contrast, I could not take to Fox, the police officer in charge of the case, at all. Although the reasons for her dismissiveness were explained, she treated Solomon, a man whose sister had just been brutally attacked, with nothing but contempt. I shared Solomon’s frustration as she refused to listen to his theory and put the lives of others in danger. It was pleasing to see how she showed some remorse towards the end, but even then she had one eye firmly on the case she was determined to solve.

As Solomon’s plan is put into action, the pace moves on rapidly and I found it hard to stop reading. There are several heart-in-mouth moments when you don’t know exactly what is going to happen as there is literally a race against time to save the final victim. I did want the book to end in a slightly different way that it did, but that is just a personal preference.

Perfect Match is a great read and one which reinforces how careful you should be online.

With thanks to Readers First and Corvus for my ARC.

Troll by D. B. Thorne

Sophie has disappeared, the police coming to the conclusion that she has taken her own life after losing her home and job. Her father, Fortune, is not convinced, though, and after flying in from Dubai, his own investigations lead him to an online troll that was sending his daughter vile messages on her blog. Is her disappearance as a result of a recent sting she was part of or is there something even more sick and twisted at the root?

Recently, I have read several books where the internet has played a vital role in the plot – Trust Me and Last Breath to name two. What I particularly liked about Troll was that, initially, we were kept in the dark as to what had happened to Sophie, our only information coming from flashbacks telling us about the events leading up to her disappearance. The rest of the information we discover in ‘real time’ as Fortune follows the clues to discover her whereabouts. I felt a lot of sympathy for Fortune who was, to all intents and purposes, an absent father as Sophie was growing up and is now trying to make up for lost time by helping her in her hour of need. This was made even more poignant as we discover that Fortune is ill and time is running out.

I also liked Sophie who, through her flashbacks and blog, we find was a determined young woman who had been driven to intense paranoia due to events totally out of her control. Looking from the outside in, it is easy to see the mistakes she made when deciding who to trust, but as, by this point, she was being pushed to the brink of insanity, Sophie was in desperate need of a friendly face.

Troll is a twisted tale of ‘cat and mouse’ where there can only be one victor, and I found the ending satisfying if sad. A great read!

With thanks to Corvus and Readers First for the ARC.

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