Tag: lady books

Thrilling Action!

Review: Doubt (A Caroline Auden Legal Thriller) – by C. E. Tobisman

I saw the later Harry Potter films before I read the books, and one of the things which made me so excited to read them – aside from the obvious – was to see how all that action in the final battle could possibly be described in words.

In big Hollywood blockbusters, once actions sequences take off, it seems to me that the screen is full of STUFF.

I don’t know how you would even begin to write that – the sense of a battle on that scale. And I can’t remember how it was written, only that my heart was beating fast and I raced through the words to find out what happened, even though I already knew.

I wasn’t expecting the same sort of thing from a legal thriller.

My knowledge of legal thrillers is extremely limited, I think I’ve probably watched a couple of films fitting that description (none of which immediately spring to mind). Does Making a Murderer count? Either way, new territory for me. I’m a bit of a fan of environmental documentaries though, so it was an easy way in to the legal thriller genre for me.

Ahhh, I see what they did with that U…

Doubt explores SuperSoy, a soybean spliced with a jellyfish gene to boost the protein. The healthiest members of society start eating it in their protein smoothies – vegans, vegetarians, fitness fanatics, those with dairy allergies – but a large number of them then suddenly develop degenerative kidney disorders.

WOAH THERE. We’re hitting vegans!? Man. As a vegan (and therefore presumably invincible – thanks, Scott Pilgrim) I felt a personal interest in this book. Do tell me more.

When Caroline Auden lands a job at a top Los Angeles law firm, she’s excited for the challenge—and grateful for the chance to put her dark past as a computer hacker behind her. Right away, her new boss asks her to find out whether a popular GMO causes healthy people to fall ill. Caroline is only supposed to dig in the trenches and report up the ladder, but her tech background and intuition take her further than planned. When she suspects a link between the death of a prominent scientist and the shadowy biotech giant, she cries foul and soon finds herself in the crosshairs. The clock is ticking and thousands of lives are on the line…including her own.

Now this rookie lawyer with a troubled past and a penchant for hacking must prove a billion-dollar company is responsible for thousands of deaths…before they come after her.

The mystery starts right away with the death of one scientist just before the publication of a controversial research paper, and then the disappearance of his partner. The reader knows it’s murder – and therefore that the stakes are higher than Caroline realises right from the off.

I’d say it’s a bit Da Vinci Code, as Caroline races around solving clues left to uncover the article in time to submit it as evidence.

Caroline is pretty cool. She can hack any manner of computer systems, she’s got an addictive personality she scrupulously tries to reign in, and a burning desire to both prove herself and fight for justice. She’s extremely clever and she don’t take no sh!t from guys who think she can’t do stuff. She’s thoughtful, hard working and an altogether diamond gal. I like her.

As the stakes get higher and time runs our before the case goes before a judge, the tension really amps up. I found myself reading this, leaning right over my kindle and racing through the pages. I suddenly realised I could feel my heart beating in the top of my chest and hear the blood rushing around my ears.

The thing of it is, and I suppose the sign that tense, thrilling action sequences are well written, is that I can’t remember how it was written. I was swept away in what was happening, to the point where I forgot that I was supposed to be learning. While that isn’t necessarily great for me developing as a writer, it sure makes for a brilliant book. And the really good news? It looks like the first in a series. I’ll definitely be reading more as they come out!

Try Doubt here, and see what you think!

Ladies! Beware!

Review: Kill Me Again – Rachel Abbott

As a person who is constantly aware of the creeping shadow of death, it surely won’t surprise you to learn that I practice constant vigilance. If I’ve learned anything from all of these thrillers and mystery novels I’ve been reading, it’s that most people are psychopaths, and you probably won’t find out until it’s too late.

As a young(ish) lady of a naturally anxious disposition, it’s been reassuring to have what I strongly supposed backed up so consistently. I have the pessimist’s pleasure of being proved right.


Unfortunately for the heroines of what I like to call Lady Mysteries(TM), they do not share my sense of constant vigilance. In Kill Me Again, in spite of her career as a defence lawyer, and therefore regular contact with serial killers, Maggie Taylor is not of an anxious disposition, nor does she mistrust all people. Indeed, she believes she lives a pretty idyllic life, until her husband disappears.

When your life is a lie, who can you trust? 
When Maggie Taylor accepts a new job in Manchester, she is sure it is the right move for her family. The children have settled well although her husband, Duncan, doesn’t appear to be so convinced.
But nothing prepares her for the shock of coming home from work one night to find that Duncan has disappeared, leaving their young children alone. His phone is dead, and she has no idea where he has gone, or why. And then she discovers she’s not the only one looking for him.

When a woman who looks just like Maggie is brutally murdered and DCI Tom Douglas is brought in to investigate, Maggie realises how little she knows about Duncan’s past. Is he the man she loves? Who is he running from?

She doesn’t have long to decide whether to trust him or betray him. Because one thing has been made clear to Maggie – another woman will die soon, and it might be her.

It’s an odd thing, the idea that you can be married to someone for ten years, think yourself blissfully in love, and then find out that you didn’t know them at all.  On the one hand, how could anyone possibly be so stupid? But on the other hand, I regularly find out things I didn’t know about friends or co workers who I’ve known for years, and they weren’t things they were trying to keep secret. I’ve been in close relationships with people who have manipulated and lied to me for years without my knowledge. It happens.

When Maggie begins to unravel her husband’s lies, she struggles to cope with the idea that she’s married to a stranger. Yet the important part of Maggie’s story is less about what she did not know, and more about the choices she makes when she does find out the truth. She’s torn between Duncan’s betrayal of her, and the idea of betraying the man she loves to the police.

As the story evolved and more and more was revealed, I was drawn in to the point where I couldn’t put it down. It’s tense – I read the last 20% with my hand over my mouth and in a mad rush.

I’ve been thinking about this book from a feminist aspect, too. The women in this are almost all victims in the hands of men. They’re lied to, murdered, tortured, threatened. That seems to be the way in these things, doesn’t it? Serial killers usually are men, after all, and historically, women are the victims. Perhaps that’s why I always look out for books which tend the other way – it is fiction after all. I’d love any recommendations, are there any thrillers you’ve enjoyed with female serial killers?

All the men in Kill Me Again are awful in some way or another, apart from DCI Tom Douglas, the chiselled hero and Maggie’s son Josh, who is a small child. I honestly don’t think it would pass the Bechdel test, but that isn’t to say that all of the women are weak, in spite of being victims. I enjoyed the women in this, and that is because of Maggie’s actions towards the end. It was a great twist and I’d definitely read a Maggie-centred sequel, which there would be room for. In lieu of that, I’d definitely pick up another Rachel Abbott book.

Give Kill Me Again a try here, and let me know what you think!

If you like psychopaths (or reading about them, at any rate), and you haven’t yet read Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test, then I can’t recommend it more highly. And if my word isn’t good enough, perhaps Louis Tomlinson will sway you.

Coming Home, a Mystery of Lies and Ladies

Review: Coming Home – Annabel Kantaria

Some books just grab you. I spent about a week dipping in and out of a not-particularly-interesting book that I was glad to finish, then started Coming Home. I wanted something exciting, something a bit dark, and this seemed to fit the bill.

Coming Home by Annabel Kantaria

Hey, if Judy Finnigan loved it…

Boy, did it ever.

Evie, 28, has lived in Dubai for 5 years. She left London to escape from the shadow of her brother’s death, and the demands of her unstable mother. She’s had the time of her life, finally free from the emotional shackles of her family and able to become her own person at last.

Then her father dies.

Evie returns home to face not only her father’s death, but also the mother she left behind.

Struggling to cope with a grief she isn’t able to express, Evie begins to uncover her father’s secrets. These are revealed in tandem with flashbacks of therapy sessions Evie had as a child following the sudden death of her brother. Every page seems to bring new questions, and what would be a main plot twist in another book is just another layer in this one.

Who did her father transfer enormous sums of money to, just before his death?

Where did her father really go during the week when he said he was away working?

Why did Evie’s father not tell her about the cancer which had got so bad, so quickly?

Why doesn’t Evie’s mother speak to her brother?

And most importantly of all, how much did her mother already know?

I got a real sense of the confusion felt by Evie as she discovered hidden truths and faced memories she’d deliberately buried. Having spent her life trying to help her parents at the expense of her own grief, Evie’s shock and confusion at being lied to is palpable. In a world which places so much emphasis on the sanctity and perfection of a mother’s love, I am always interested in stories regarding the significant absence or abuse of that love.

It’s an emotionally complex book, and I welled up several times while reading – and I had to read it all in one sitting. We lost someone a few months ago, and the grief in this book rang so true, it brought back everything I’d felt during that awful period. It was a difficult read, but a worthwhile one.

The numbness of grief coupled with having to grapple with what, at the best of times, would be overwhelmingly difficult truths, are sensitively and honestly brought to life by Kantaria’s delicately woven prose.

I couldn’t put this book down and raced to the conclusion, only to find myself left with a moral dilemma. The question of all questions – how far would you go to protect your family? I know which path I’d have chosen. Why don’t you find out what you’d do?

The best mystery I’ve read in a long time, and one I recommend highly. Read it now, so I can talk to you about it!

And if you like it, you may also enjoy The Disappearance – another mystery of lies and ladies by the same author.

Review Round-Up

I am always late to the party.

Not real parties with real people, because I don’t very often get invited to those, but cultural parties. Take Harry Potter – I only read the books (after giving up on them as a kiddywink because they were too scary) when the last film came out. Same with Hunger Games, and loads and loads of other books. As such, when I “discover” books for myself they tend to have been out for quite a long time. Hence, I shan’t wax lyrical about any of the following books for more than a few sentences, because chances are you’ve read them already! If you haven’t, perhaps this will inspire you to give something different a try; I missed some of these books first time round because back then, I was neck-deep in romance, and murder mysteries just weren’t my bag.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer – Patrick Suskind

I only had a vague idea that this was about a guy who made perfume and killed people. While this is factually correct, what sets this book apart is the fragrant use of language. At times repugnant, scent and odour are conveyed through beautiful prose.

The Tea-Planter’s Wife – Dinah Jefferies

A young woman marries a man she barely knows and begins a new life in another country. A bit Rebecca, a bit Victoria Holt, and a little bit… “what!?”, but in a good way. If you know what I mean.

The Seed Collectors – Scarlett Thomas

An old aunt dies and leaves various members of the younger generation possibly poisonous seeds. Trippy, gripping, and even though I finished it weeks ago, it’s been on my mind ever since.

House of Shadows – Nicola Cornick

I don’t usually like time travelly, magicky stuff, (I’m looking at you, Labyrinth) but I loved this. Three stories revealed consecutively, three pairs of lovers each two centuries apart, their fates entwined with a mirror and a pearl. Who will be brave enough to give themselves to love?

What books have you discovered after the initial buzz had died down?

The Big Reveal

REVIEW – The Sudden Departure of the Frasers, by Louise Candlish

One of the main queries (and concerns!) I have about writing mysteries is what to reveal and when. Too much, and you give the game away too early. Too little and the reader loses interest. I try and read mysteries with one eye on which clues are dropped and when, but it’s usually difficult not to get immersed. Personally, I find it easier when watching mysteries on TV. Constrained by time, clues are a lot more frequent, I think, and it’s difficult to miss all but the subtlest, so long as you’re not distracted by iMDb and where you’ve seen that actor before.

The Sudden Departure of the Frasers is a masterclass of the slow reveal. Told with two alternating view points – first from one of the key players, leading up to the big incident, then one from an outsider, looking in on the carnage after the fact, trying to decipher the clues – the reader is dropped straight into two mounting scenarios, both with the same reveal. What really happened on the 15th January?

I suspect this may be a lady mystery...

I suspect this may be a lady book…

The first narrator is Amber Fraser, darling of Lime Park Road, incandescent beauty and reformed bad-girl. She’s retired to the suburbs with her silver-fox husband and the intention of reincarnating herself as a loving wife and mother to her as yet un-conceived children. But old habits die hard, and pretty soon she falls back into her old habits.

“My name is Amber Fraser. I’ve just moved into number 40, Lime Park Road. You’ll come to think of me as a loving wife, a thoughtful neighbour and a trusted friend.

This is a lie.”

The second is the more relatable Christy Davenport, who can’t believe her luck when she and her husband manage to afford – at a steal – a newly renovated house on one of the most sought-after roads in London. Yet saddled with spiralling debt and much more free time than she’d like, Christy finds herself drawn into the mystery of why her predecessors left, and what precisely happened to make her bear-like neighbour deserving of the censure of the entire street.

What Candlish has done, which I admire hugely and hope I’ve learned from, is drip feed the reader with just enough information- so we think we know what’s going on, but never really do until the end. The pacing was such that I raced through this book, desperate to find out the big secret and to see if the vague ideas I had could possibly be true.

And having finished the book half an hour ago, I feel… deeply satisfied. Often with books which whip the reader up into a spiral of guessing and intrigue, the twist is disappointing and mediocre (or it’s magic, in a universe where magic was never even hinted at, and then the book gets thrown hard and far, and maligned to all who dare mention its name before me.) Yet this? It made perfect sense. And the manipulative twisting of other people’s lives was elegant, in so far as such a thing can be, and as I say, deeply, deeply satisfying.

The Sudden Departure of the Frasers is a sophisticated soap-opera – and I mean that in the best possible way. The high drama of the every day, which builds into a shocking, life-shattering conclusion. We care about these people – and I mean Christy, the fish out of water who has lost her whole identity of self, and tries to find it in that of her idealised predecessor – because we can relate. Less so the rich and beautiful Amber, who wants for nothing but still looks for more, and less so – for me at least – the well-to-do mummies of Lime Park Road. And I am a sucker for stories about manipulative and powerful women – and Amber baby is certainly one of those.

“Personally, I’d never doubted for a moment that women were the more dangerous sex; their interest in others was far sharper than men’s, which made their suspicions more intelligent.”

This was a recommendation from a colleague at the day job, and all through reading it I have been recommending it to all and sundry, with a vigour I usually reserve until after I’ve finished, just in case it’s one of those disappointments. But no – Louise Candlish is now going on my auto-buy list. Highly recommended!

Have you read this, or any other books with a masterful handling of “the reveal”? I’d love to hear what you think!

And if you haven’t read it, you can find The Sudden Departure of the Frasers here on amazon.co.uk.

The End is Nigh

Life never seems to go to plan.

Every new book I start, I intend to go through my research with a robot-like efficiency, then construct an infallible and beautiful structure to follow, from which I can write X-thousand words a day and finish my first draft in a matter of weeks.

Then I’ll be poorly, I’ll have to go visit people for the weekend, talk to people, do extra-curricular work activities, sleep… and the whole thing will go to pot. I don’t know why I don’t expect it any more, or why I don’t factor it in. Then I’ll feel guilty about missing targets, and everything will take even longer.

Many moons ago, back when I was young, fresh-faced and full of hope and bright ideas, I decided to start a podcast.

It has been fraught with error and dogged by misfortune.

2015-03-20 23.00.53

Not that sort of dog, sadly.

From microphone issues to losing my voice, what I intended to take a month or two has stretched to almost a year!

You may think this is a filler blog, and in a way you’d be correct. I have been reading a very long and very good book for about three weeks now, in half hour snatches. I intended to have it as this week’s recommendation but alas, twas not to be. Similarly, I intended to have this post up on time, then…. got food poisoning? And was sick for a day and a half, hence…

Anyhoo, guess what! The podcast is finished, uploaded, and all available on this new podcast tab!

Hurrah! And now I’m going to eat some dry toast and feel sorry for myself.

Before We Met, or, Why I Extensively Googled Anyone I Went on a Date With.

REVIEW: Before We Met – Lucie Whitehouse

I don’t really read thrillers – not knowingly. They were and have long been in the realms of things-too-scary-for-Katherine-to-handle, but before we met [sic] had a really pretty cover and was on Buy One Get One Half Price at Waterstones, so it seemed rude not to.


Ladies love exploding flowers…

So the rough premise is that Hannah Reilly, a commitment-phobe, meets the handsome and wealthy Mark, and after a whirlwind romance they marry and settle down in London. She struggles to find a job while he’s flying all over the world working on a big company takeover thing, but none of that matters, because love conquers all!

Until one night, Mark misses his flight home to London. Hannah investigates, at first tentatively and then with more vigour and tenacity as it becomes clear that Mark is hiding A BIG SECRET from her. And really, how can you ever know what someone was like before you met them?

For example, OH doesn't know about my brief fling with a certain high profile celebrity.

For example, OH doesn’t know about my brief fling with a certain high profile celebrity.

As a person who is both suggestible and prone to anxiety, I was concerned that reading this would cause me to go on a paranoid rampage through all of OH’s things, leading ultimately to the destruction of our relationship. Not because he was hiding A BIG SECRET, but because I had gone on a paranoid rampage through his things.

And perhaps I would have, suggestible as I am, were it not for one thing. When I was dating, I Googled* everyone before I met them. This has always struck me as sensible, because people are scary, perhaps particularly when you are a single woman living alone. But whenever I’ve spoken to any of my female friends about this, they’ve acted like I was weird for doing it. I worried I was, but now I can wave Before We Met in their faces, as a manifesto for pre-date Googling*.

Considering reading this book but worried you haven’t Googled* your partner? DO IT NOW. I’LL WAIT.

Now, aren’t you glad you know for sure that there’s nothing to worry about? I wonder how many women broke off from reading this book to do exactly that.

I highly recommend Before We Met. It’s edge of your seat stuff, and I only had to read it in two sittings because the first was on my lunch break at day job, and for some reason they frown on me taking more than an hour.

Also, it’s always nice to have Wakefield Prison given a shoutout in literature, as the most horrible prison in the country with the most awful people in it. Good to see my home town getting some press that isn’t relating to Black Lace.

That’s what we’re famous for in Wakefield. Housing serial killers and Agadoo.

So I think I’m going to read more thrillers now, even though this is very clearly marketed as a LADY thriller, with quotes from Cosmo and ASOS on, complementing the exploding rose on the front. Perhaps I couldn’t handle one of those thrillers with a dark-grey hue and featuring exposed brickwork and the silhouette of a man with a gun. Who can say?

Are there any thrillers (lady or otherwise) you’d recommend? Let me know in the comments! I’m already two books in to my TBR pile, so looking to stock up again…

Find on amazon.co.uk here…
*Post not sponsored by Google

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