Tag: Thrillers

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.

About The Author

Review: About The Author – John Colapinto

To start with a gross generalisation, there’s little more interesting to writers than writers, and the most interesting writer to any writer is themselves. We marvel at our own artistic process, the way we can torture ourselves and hate ourselves and bleed into the page, and create unreadable rubbish and then – on magical moments – emerge with words of true genius. Words we may not even remember writing, but which speak to humanity with truth and ageless wisdom.

It’s the allure of the artist, the god creator, world builder, and purveyor of lies and truth in equal measure. And we write about ourselves, and then lie about it.

Experience colours what you write, and I am written into every line of sin and murder in my own books by dint only of having written them, (not, I hasten to add, due to having done any of that stuff). Perhaps that’s because I’m a ham writer, but perhaps it’s just the nature of being human. We can never fully dissociate from ourselves.

Enter About The Author, a Hitchcockian thriller about precisely that – the separation of the story and the writer.

Cal Cunningham lives a debauched life filled with hollow love affairs, only so at some point he can write the next great American novel about it all.

He doesn’t write a word for years.

Unbeknownst to him, his quiet flatmate Stewart harbours his own dream to be a writer, and has written a novel based on stories Cal has told him, even using Cal’s title – Almost Like Suicide.

Following a freak accident which claims Stewart’s life, Cal feels no qualms about stealing the manuscript and passing it off as his own – he is the protagonist, after all! It’s based on his own past, his own words are quoted. Never mind that Stewart’s skilled prose far exceeds anything Cal could hope to have matched.

What follows is a tense path to fame and riches, followed by increasingly desperate actions on Cal’s part to try and prevent his fall from grace.

Let’s not beat around the bush – Cal’s an asshole. An unmitigated asshole. He is selfish and self-obsessed, and the bruising of his ego at the discovery of Stewart’s hidden talents is the catalyst for the hot mess of Cal’s ascent to the glory he thinks he deserves, but has yet to earn.

But Stewart, the poor, wronged genius taken too soon, is also an asshole, and so too are most of the people in the book. Yet in spite of all this assholery, I found myself warming to Cal. I wanted him to succeed because by the end, boy did he work for that success. As to whether or not he gets it, I’ll leave to you to find out.

About The Author is a masterclass of rising tension, and a pleasantly uncomfortable read.

See if you agree here, and I’d love to know what you think!

Glory and Gore

Review: The Girl With All The Gifts – M. R. Carey

I was one of those kids who hated gore. I hated seeing gory things on tv, hated reading about them in books, hated hearing people talk about things which might possibly have been related to gore, hated things which maybe once were near something which then went on at a later date to be gory…

How times have changed. No longer do I want to throw up whenever anyone mentions anything remotely gross. When I was on my work experience, a guy there told me about trapping his fingers in a door and scraping the skin off. I almost passed out! Now, my legs only go a tiny bit wobbly when I think of it! And now, I am the kind of person who can watch 98% of Game of Thrones. I’m so proud of my lessening sensitivity!

This new me is extending beyond tv, and into zombie books. Yes! Zombie books! The blurb of The Girl With All The Gifts doesn’t give that much away, and I bought it on a whim because… actually, I’m not sure why I bought it. I think I was trying to extend my reading with a few random picks, and this happened to catch my eye.

Well, it is very yellow.

I’m glad I didn’t know it was a zombie book, because then I wouldn’t have read it. I would have denied myself this beautiful book, so far from what I imagine a zombie book to be. It’s a book about humanity, with an ending that will tear your heart.


Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.

When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite. But they don’t laugh.

Melanie is a very special girl.

Melanie’s gifts place her in grave danger, but her rescue puts the one person she cares about in graver danger still. She will do anything to protect the person she loves, even if that means protection from Melanie herself.

A little girl being a monster is not necessarily an unusual premise. I’m thinking of what I would call the “creepy Victorian children” trope. The twins in that horror thing with twins in. You know the one I mean. But Melanie is more like Frankenstein’s monster. She works against what is expected of her. Her love is what defines her, rather than her monstrousness.

On the run with two people who, for their own reasons, wish her dead, Melanie is forced to confront the reality of her condition. The most touching bit – and it chokes me up to think about it, is when we are reminded that Melanie is a little girl. At one point she’s given new clothes for the first time in her life, and can’t believe how beautiful they are. Unicorn jeans! Gah! What a terribly written review this is. But I don’t want to give too much away – if you haven’t read this, you need to discover it yourself, then you can join me in wailing “unicorn jeans!” and clutching at your chest.

This big book of monsters makes us question who the heroes really are.

All that said, I bet I’m too scared to see the film…

Buy The Girl With All The Gifts here, and wail “unicorn jeans!” with me.

The Butterfly Garden – Review

Review: The Butterfly Garden – Dot Hutchinson

Hey, look at me! I’m reviewing a book that isn’t even out yet! And it was freakin’ weird.

Don’t be fooled – this book will rip your insides out and make you look at them.

Due to my complete lack of status and/or blog visitors, I don’t get sent ARCs for review, but happily Amazon has given me the opportunity (due to our paying them for Prime Membership) to purchase from a small selection of books ahead of their release.

This month, I chose The Butterfly Garden, because… it sounded both the most interesting and the most weird. And weird it certainly was. Have I mentioned that it was weird? Think Sucker Punch, and you’re in the right area. Less… pornographic, but kind of similar? Weird.

Maya lived in the garden with the other butterflies, under the care of The Gardener. Yet in spite of the wings etched into their backs, these are girls, all under 21 and all snatched from the real world and held captive in a beautiful but terrible harem. Now the garden is no more, and Maya is avoiding questions from the FBI. Why won’t she talk, and what is she hiding? Over the course of a long interview, Maya slowly reveals the terrible truths about what went on in the garden, and how the walls came tumbling down.

I read this in one sitting, both out of intention and need. Each page revealed something more terrible, more enthralling, and I could not have put it down had I wanted to. Maya is tough to get to know, and her narration reveals her as guarded and tentative, hiding her heart and refusing to feel. Yet I could not help but warm to her, and admire her courage as her story comes to light.

There’s not much to say without giving away the story, and part of the horrific joy of this book is the slow reveal, discovering new layers of horror at the turn of each page.

The Butterfly Garden also raises the question of how complicit we are when we do nothing. If we see a crime and ignore it, are we as guilty as those who  perpetrate that crime? In life this is generally not so bad as pretending your father doesn’t have an illegal harem, but hey, a lesson is a lesson.

I know this book will stay with me for a very long time, and Maya a strong female lead who I admired greatly. The Butterfly Garden was unlike any book I have ever read, and while it makes for an uncomfortable read, I highly recommend it.

The Butterfly Garden will be available on June 1st.

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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