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Last Seen Alive by Claire Douglas

514-fU+PfcLLibby Hall, the school teacher who saved a child from a burning building, should be revelling in her new-found hero status. Instead it has brought back memories of what took place nine years ago – the last time she saw her friend, Karen, alive. So when she has the opportunity to put it all behind her and undergo a holiday house swap with a couple in picturesque Cornwall, it seems like the ideal way to solve the problem. All is not what it seems, however, and soon Libby feels that she is being watched and she begins to mistrust even the person closest to her – her husband, Jamie. Just what is happening to her and is it linked to the terrifying events of nine years ago?

From the start, I was suspicious about the circumstances behind the house swap. It was plain to see that the couple had been targeted but we do not find out why or by whom until much later in the book. Although Libby and Jamie are spending time in a spacious house in the vast Cornish countryside, the author has created a setting which is extremely claustrophobic and unsettling as we learn to anticipate that something untoward is about to happen. There were several times when I was urging Libby to trust her instincts and get away from a potentially dangerous situation and I could understand the reasons behind her falling suspicious of her husband as he tried to convince her that all was well.

In books of this genre, you become accustomed to there being a twist involved and, indeed, there was one in Last Seen Alive. I was convinced that I had the plot all worked out, only to find that I could not be more wrong! There was a certain point in the book where I had to completely reevaluate everything I thought I knew, making me think carefully about everything that I had already read. Just when I thought I finally had it all worked out, another curveball was thrown, making me gasp once again!

I thought that the previous book from the author, Local Girl Missing, was good but Last Seen Alive even manages to eclipse it! A gripping, claustrophobic delight of a book that I cannot recommend highly enough.

With thanks to Penguin UK – Michael Joseph and NetGalley for my ARC.

Cockroaches by Jo Nesbo

CockroachesAfter his success in Australia, detective Harry Hole is summoned to Thailand to investigate the murder of  the Norwegian ambassador. Found in a seedy hotel, known to be frequented by prostitutes, the ambassador’s family are reluctant to talk and are clearly hiding some secrets of their own. When Harry finds some vital CCTV footage, only for the person who gave it to him disappear, he realises that there may be more to this case than meets the eye.

After being slightly disappointed with The Bat, but being assured that the series gets better, I read Cockroaches with a touch of trepidation. Although I know that this still isn’t one of Jo Nesbo’s most well-liked books, I did enjoy this one a lot more as, unlike the previous book, there was more plot and less filler. The book starts with Harry, again, being sent out to solve a murder in another country, this time one that has the potential to be politically sensitive – a strange appointment seeing as, after events of the previous book, Harry seems intent on drinking himself into oblivion! It is clear that Harry’s personality is starting to emerge and, as a result, I liked him much more than in The Bat.

Dealing with the seedier sides of Thailand, namely prostitution and paedophilia, Cockroaches is, at times, an unpleasant read, and is occasionally fairly graphic. These scenes are vital, however, in helping you to build up a true picture of the circumstances Harry finds himself in. I did find that the plot was occasionally hard to follow as I tried to remember how each character fitted in to the story. As a consequence, I was nowhere near working out who the guilty party was but was happy with the explanation.

Cockroaches is a big improvement on the previous book and I am looking forward to reading The Redbreast next.

 

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