Tag Archives: Must reads 2019

#TheFive by Hallie Rubenhold @HallieRubenhold @DoubledayUK #thefivewomen #iamPollyAnnieElizabethKateMaryJane

Today I’m sharing my review for The Five, the untold lives of the woman killed by Jack The Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold. I’ve recently started reading historical crime  novels and I must say I found this book to be a fascinating read. Read on for my thoughts…..

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Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers.

What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888.

Their murderer was never identified, but the name created for him by the press has become far more famous than any of these five women.

Now, in this devastating narrative of five lives, historian Hallie Rubenhold finally sets the record straight, and gives these women back their stories.

Five devastating human stories and a dark and moving portrait of Victorian London – the untold lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper

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I have read many true crime books over the years, and they have always focused on infamous killers with little thought given to the victims. I’m sure you can all think of a list of infamous killers, but can you remember any of the victims’ names or their life stories? Probably not I know I can’t, which is desperately sad. This book provides the reader with an incredible insight into the five victims of Jack The Ripper, Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane. Yes, they were victims of the most atrocious crimes,  but Helen Rubenhold’s The Five finally gives these women a voice. Beautifully written the author brings 1888 London to life, but more importantly she brings to life the five women, giving them back their dignity, which for almost 150 years they have been cruelly denied.

As a reader of true crime I have read many books on Jack The Ripper and many of them describe the five victims as prostitutes, a fact that obscured the truth about the women’s real life’s, (only one of the five women sold her body for money). Even back in 1888 the victims of Jack The Ripper were blighted by ‘here say’ and speculation, they were shaped and embellished to make the crimes more newsworthy (sound familiar?).  As most of the victims had no permanent roof over their heads or a husband to protect them, they were seen to be outcasts and so considered to be corrupt and impure, they faced violence, abuse, lived day to day, hungry, cold and unloved, was it any wonder every single one of the woman had struggled with alcohol addiction.

Towards the end of their short life’s circumstances for each woman changed, either through bad choices or misfortune.  Perceived to be either “broken women” or  “fallen women” It’s at this point they were treated with contempt,  and even in death the rumour mill spewed false accusations and showed little sympathy for the Ripper’s victims. None of the women were treated as individual victims in death, but were banded together as victims of “an unfortunate class”, which made me angry and incredibly sad. For the first time ever someone has taken the time to share their stories, they are desperately sad and harrowing but at the same time we see them as wife’s, daughters, and mothers, who faced adversary, and poverty, where every day was a struggle for survival, sometimes wrong choices were made, but then the choices these women had were very limited by circumstances.

Helen Rubenhold’s descriptions of a London in 1888 are vividly described, the sounds, the smells, the doss houses, overcrowded slums, the pubs, transport you back to an age where poverty, malnutrition and disease were rife. It’s obvious the author has extensively researched her subject. Although some parts are speculative, she has incorporated as much factual detail where ever possible. I should mention, if you’re expecting gruesome details of the murders of these five women, or another theory to the ripper’s identity then this book won’t be for you. If you are looking for a powerful book, that blends true crime and one that’s rich in historical detail, that gives a voice to #FiveWoman, Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane, then The Five is definitely a book I would recommend.

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (28 Feb. 2019)

Buying links :  Amazon UK 🇬🇧   Amazon US 🇺🇸

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The Neighbour by Fiona Cummins #BookReview @FionaAnnCummins @panmacmillan #MustReads.

Today I’m sharing my review for The Neighbour by Fiona Cummins, a stand-alone Psychological thriller. 

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FOR SALE: A lovely family home with good-sized garden and treehouse occupying a plot close to woodland. Perfect for kids, fitness enthusiasts, dog walkers . . .

And, it seems, the perfect hunting ground for a serial killer.

On a hot July day, Garrick and Olivia Lockwood and their two children move into 25 The Avenue looking for a fresh start. They arrive in the midst of a media frenzy: they’d heard about the local murders in the press, but Garrick was certain the killer would be caught and it would all be over in no time. Besides, they’d got the house at a steal and he was convinced he could flip it for a fortune. The neighbours seemed to be the very picture of community spirit. But everyone has secrets, and the residents in The Avenue are no exception.

After six months on the case with no real leads, the most recent murder has turned DC Wildeve Stanton’s life upside down, and now she has her own motive for hunting down the killer – quickly.

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The Neighbour is a stand-alone psychological thriller from Fiona Cummins, and very different in tone to Rattle and The Collector   (I loved both books). So I opened this book with some trepidation, and the reason for my trepidation? I have read many crime thrillers with “neighbours” as the main theme, so I wasn’t convinced the author could come up with a plot that would standout from the crowd. As usual, any doubts I had were dismissed once I read the prologue and the first couple of chapters. The Neighbour has to have one of the creepiest prologues EVER! It literally sent shivers down my spine.

FOR SALE: A lovely family home with a good-sized garden and treehouse occupying a plot close to woodland. Perfect for kids, fitness enthusiasts, dog walkers . .. sounds perfect doesn’t it? but there’s a catch the area where the house stands is the hunting ground for a serial killer dubbed the Doll Maker. This doesn’t stop the Lockwood family moving into their new home on The Avenue. Even before the removal vans unload, a fifth body is found in nearby Woods. The police seem to be struggling for leads and the Lockwoods’ neighbours all seem to have guilty secrets they would prefer to remain hidden, but which one is capable of murder?

The chapters give a “through the keyhole” view into each of the neighbours lives, allowing the reader to learn more about the secrets each one is hiding, there’s a growing sense of mistrust as you try to work out which of the oddball neighbours is most likely to be the killer. The story is told in short chapters, some of the chapters shine the spotlight on the owners living in the Avenue, whilst others relate to the investigation, but it’s the chapters that are narrated from the killers POV I found the most unsettling. You can’t beat a well-depicted serial in a crime thriller and the author has created a monster, as you learn more about them through past events, and their very dark thoughts regarding the crimes they committed I found myself repulsed by the killer, but a small part of me also found this insight strangely fascinating. 

Fiona Cummins has a remarkable talent she can write gruesome crime scenes, layered in horror and menace, and yet her writing is memorising and very descriptive, which seems at odds with the books she writes, but they fit perfectly together, making her books even more compelling to read. Without a shadow of doubt the author knows how to write a top-notch psychological/crime thriller, the sense of  horror, menace, and trepidation is palatable throughout. The Neighbour is a powerful, dark and disturbing story with plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing right up until it’s heart stopping conclusion, cliched I know but also very true. Highly recommended to those who enjoy a crime thriller with a dark heart and a chilling premise.  

  • Print Length: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Pan (28 Mar. 2019)

Buying links:   Amazon UK 🇬🇧        Amazon US 🇺🇸

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Breakers by Doug Johnstone #BookReview @doug_johnstone @OrendaBooks #Breakers #BookHangoverAward

Today I’m sharing a review for a book by a new author to me, Breakers by Doug Johnstone. If you are looking for a gritty, no nonsense, deeply moving crime  thriller, then I may have just found the book for you……

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Seventeen-year-old Tyler lives in one of Edinburgh’s most deprived areas. Coerced into robbing rich people’s homes by his bullying older siblings, he’s also trying to care for his little sister and his drug-addict mum.

On a job, his brother Barry stabs a homeowner and leaves her for dead, but that’s just the beginning of their nightmare, because the woman is the wife of Edinburgh’s biggest crime lord, Deke Holt. With the police and the Holts closing in, and his shattered family in devastating danger, Tyler meets posh girl Flick in another stranger’s house, and he thinks she may just be his salvation . . . unless he drags her down, too.

A pulsating, tense psychological thriller, Breakers is also a breathtakingly brutal, beautiful, and deeply moving story of a good kid in the wrong family, from one of Scotland’s finest crime writers

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This is the first book I have read by Doug Johnstone, so I wasn’t sure what to expect,  but one thing I wasn’t expecting was to have my heart shattered into a thousand pieces. Breakers could have been a depressing read considering it’s a modern tale of poverty, and deprivation, and yet it’s not, it’s a plausible and heartbreaking story, but buried amid all the ugliness is the beautiful and moving story of Seventeen-year-old Tyler who lives in one of Edinburgh’s most deprived area’s. The cards aren’t stacked in his favour, living with his junkie mum and younger sister, he lives hand to mouth stealing from people’s homes to support his family. The contrast between the affluent areas of Edinburgh and the more deprived areas are stark, but very credible. The author doesn’t sugarcoat the difficulties of living in such a grim environment where violence, drugs and crime are part and parcel of everyday life for its residents. 

I really did not expect to like, let alone sympathise with Tyler’s character, after all he steals from people’s houses,  causing upset and trauma to the people from whose homes he steals. Yet once the author scratches away below the surface you realise Tyler isn’t all bad, his relationship with his little sister Bethany is heartwarming to say the least, he’s her loyal protector and desperate to shield her from the ugly and harsh realities of the life she has been born into. On the other hand, his relationship with his junkie mother is toxic, despite her shortcomings and she has many, Tyler still isn’t ready to give up on her, he sees things no child should have to witness, and it’s these scenes that are heartbreaking and harrowing, as the reader you want to wrap him in a big hug and tell him “everything is going to be alright” even though you know the realities of the world he lives in and the chance of him finding a “happy after” are slim to none. The author has the unique ability to create characters that despite their flaws, you find yourself rooting for, you feel their pain, experience their joy and cry at the injustice of the world we live in.

Doug Johnstone’s writing is superb every word, in fact every sentence has a deep impact on the reader, his characters are superbly depicted, and if this book doesn’t leave you an emotional wreck, then I’m sure you will be in the minority. Breakers is a searing and heartbreaking portrayal of modern day Britain, the author takes the reader on an emotional journey, one that at times feels uncomfortable, it packs a hell of a punch, you will find yourself questioning your own assumptions, it’s a book whose characters will remain with you long after you reach the last page. In case you haven’t already guessed I loved this book, and it will definitely be one of my top reads of 2019.  Highly recommended to those who enjoy a gritty thriller with a powerful and moving plot.

  • Print Length: 300 pages
  • Publisher: ORENDA BOOKS; (16 Mar. 2019)

Buying links:  Amazon UK 🇬🇧    Amazon US 🇺🇸

It will come as no surprise but I’m giving Breakers my Book hangover award, It’s given to a book I feel is particularly outstanding, a book that covers every aspect of what I look for in a read, an original  plot, great characters and a storyline that draws me in from the first page and keeps me in its grips until I reach the very last page.

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My thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my ARC in exchange for an unbiased review.

The book review café Book of the month **March 2019**

 

 

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April has finally arrived and hopefully Spring is on it’s way, although it’s not feeling very spring like at the moment!

I normally post my book of the month on the first day of every month, but unfortunately I haven’t been well and decided to take a short break from blogging, but I’ve finally got a round to choosing my book of the month.

For the third month running I’m determined to stick to there only being one book of the month, yet again this was an impossible task as I read so many books in March that I really enjoyed, but finally I narrowed it down to ONE book and here it is……..⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️

On My Life by Angela Clarke

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Hells bells what an exciting and engrossing read On My Life by Angela Clarke turned out to be. If you love a prison drama, then look no further, it’s definitely dramatic, the vivid prison scenes depicted by the author give a sense of malevolence that radiate from its pages, it’s a book that’s fraught with tension. The author’s depiction of  HMP Fallenbrook is so convincing it doesn’t take much imagination to sense the claustrophobic feel of the prison, the constant noise, the lack of privacy, a world where violence and fighting for survival going hand in hand. This book is more than a crime thriller, it’s a searing account of one woman’s journey through a failed Justice system. You can find my full review here…..#OnMyLife by Angela Clarke #MustReads #BlogTour @TheAngelaClarke @

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A Gift For Dying by M.J.Arlidge @mjarlidge @MichaelJBooks #MustReads2019

#FourFeetUnder By Tamsen Courtenay @TamsenC_writer @unbounders #Recommended #TrueStory #Homeless

#NoLookingBack by Alex Kane #BlogTour #MustReads @AlexKaneWriter @HeraBooks @BOTBSPublicity

#DayOfTheAccident by Nuala Ellwood #BookReview @NualaWrites @PenguinUKBooks #Giveaway #SignedPaperback

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen @greerkh @sarahpekkanen @panmacmillan #2019MustReads

#TheSting by Kimberley Chambers #MustReads2019 @

The Secret Child by Caroline Mitchell #CrimeSeries #MustReads @Caroline_Writes

Books I’m hoping to read in April

Although these books could change depending on my mood, also I have a few books sitting on my own TBR list that I’m desperate to read.

 

 

 

55 by James Delargy #WhoIsFiftyFive? @JDelargyAuthor @SimonSchusterUK #GuestPost #RandomThingsTours #BlogTour @AnneCater

Today I’m thrilled to be part of the blog tour for 55 by James Delargy. This is one book I want to read at some point it sounds fantastic. (Update I’ve actually just bought the book after reading Eva’s fab review on the blog tour  yesterday at noveldeelights)

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This book has been described as a thriller with a killer hook, and an ending that will make you gasp! Intrigued? Me too but in the meantime I have a brilliant guest post from the author himself, but first the book description……
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*** There were 54 victims before this. Who is number 55? ***
A thriller with a killer hook, and an ending that will make you gasp!

Wilbrook in Western Australia is a sleepy, remote town that sits on the edge of miles and miles of unexplored wilderness. It is home to Police Sergeant Chandler Jenkins, who is proud to run the town’s small police station, a place used to dealing with domestic disputes and noise complaints.

All that changes on a scorching day when an injured man stumbles into Chandler’s station. He’s covered in dried blood. His name is Gabriel. He tells Chandler what he remembers.
He was drugged and driven to a cabin in the mountains and tied up in iron chains. The man who took him was called Heath. Heath told Gabriel he was going to be number 55. His 55th victim. 

Heath is a serial killer.

As a manhunt is launched, a man who says he is Heath walks into the same station. He tells Chandler he was taken by a man named Gabriel. Gabriel told Heath he was going to be victim 55.

Gabriel is the serial killer.

Two suspects. Two identical stories. Which one is the truth?

James Delargy has written one of the most exciting debuts of 2019. He masterfully paints the picture of a remote Western Australian town and its people, swallowed whole by the hunt for a serial killer. This novel has been sold in 19 countries so far and has just been optioned for film.   

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (4 April 2019)

Buying link:  Amazon UK 🇬🇧

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Favourite writers

I like a number of genres of novels but I guess my love of Crime, Thrillers and Mystery novels comes from early on in my life. I would get The Hardy Boys novels from the library in school or in the next town over and go to bed reading them, often waking up the next day with my fingers in the pages where I had fallen asleep or the poor book sprawled on the floor beside the bed. Fingers in the pages was preferential as with a floor book I was left guessing where I had finished off.

After the Hardy Boys I moved onto other writers but the main one was Stephen King. I love his storytelling and was overawed by the range of styles and genres he could produce – horrors, dramas, crime, coming of age tales – all punctuated by characters and plots that were so engrossing. Of any writer I think that he has had the most influence in terms of wanting to write, even though it took to my thirties to turn to novel writing.

Despite this the book that might have influenced me the most is The Count of Monte Cristo, the innocent man seeking his revenge on those who imprisoned him falsely. I fell in love with the elaborate plot, the twists and turns and how his desire for revenge causes the protagonist to evolve from naïve, to vengeful, to compassionate.

Other writers to have influenced me include Chuck Palahniuk for the visual, sometime stomach-churning visceral nature of his writing. Ian Rankin for the depth of his characters and the world he creates. Val McDermid for her delicious plotting, mystery and characters. Colin Bateman for the characters, the setting and the sarcastic humour. Lee Child for the wit, plotting and energy of his books.

But there are many others in recent years such as, Cara Hunter, Jane Harper, Ann Cleeves, Simon Kernick, Joseph Knox, Steve Cavanagh, Michael Connolly and Fiona Barton. Not to mention novels such as The Great Gatsby, Catch 22, The Catcher in the Rye, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Dracula, Frankenstein, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and authors such as Edgar Allen Poe, Homer (not Simpson), George Orwell, John Steinbeck, James Ellroy, Dennis Lehane. An almost endless list. So I’ll stop there. Although no doubt I’ll remember someone in the next few hours that I’ll regret leaving out. Kazuo Ishiguro. Annie Proulx. Roddy Doyle. Irvine Welsh.

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James Delargy was born and raised in Ireland and lived in South Africa, Australia and Scotland, before ending up in semi-rural England where he now lives. He incorporates this diverse knowledge of towns, cities, landscape and culture picked up on his travels into his writing. 55 is his first novel.

My thanks to author James Delargy and Ann Cater for the fabulous guest post.

Follow the blog tour…..

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#FourFeetUnder By Tamsen Courtenay @TamsenC_writer @unbounders #Recommended #TrueStory #Homeless

Today I’m sharing my review for a very different book from my usual reads, Four Feet Under by Tamsen Courtenay. It’s the untold stories of the homeless living in London, this has to be one of the most powerful and poignant books I’ve ever read.

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Tamsen Courtenay spent two months speaking to people who live on London’s streets, the homeless and the destitute – people who feel they are invisible. With a camera and a cheap audio recorder, she listened as they chronicled their extraordinary lives, now being lived four feet below most Londoners, and she set about documenting their stories, which are transcribed in this book along with intimate photographic portraits.

A builder, a soldier, a transgender woman, a child and an elderly couple are among those who describe the events that brought them to the lives they lead now. They speak of childhoods, careers and relationships; their strengths and weaknesses, dreams and regrets; all with humour and a startling honesty.

Tamsen’s observations and remarkable experiences are threaded throughout. The astonishing people she met changed her for ever, as they became her heroes, people she grew to respect. You don’t have to go far to find these homegrown exiles: they’re at the bottom of your road. Have you ever wondered how they got there? 

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This is probably one of the most difficult books I’ve ever chosen to review, it’s definitely not one I would consider to be an enjoyable read, far from it, in fact It’s heartbreaking, shocking, and disturbing, as I turned each page I found myself grateful for the small things I take for granted, hot water, heating, clean clothes, the love of my family, the list is endless. Four Feet Under is a powerful and moving insight into the day-to-day lives of some the unfortunate people who through tragedy, misfortune and bad decisions have found themselves living on the streets of Britain, displaced, dispossessed and destitute. This book deals with complex issues such as drug use, prostitution, and mental health issues although very upsetting but it also gives an incredible insight into the homeless.

Four Feet Under a collection of stories told by the homeless, Tamsen Courtenay presents them in such a way the voices and personalities of the people she interviews shine through, they answer questions with honestly and despite their desperately sad stories and the circumstances they find themselves in, there are humorous moments amid the heart breaking ones. Some of the  stories challenge our own assumptions, others show how easily homelessness can happen through bad luck, misfortune, or making a wrong decision. Harsh treatment by impoverished authorities is also a common theme, some of the homeless featured aren’t considered not to be “enough of a hardship case” to qualify for help, despite them having serious medical problems.

As I read Four Feet Under there were so many stories that deeply affected me Charisse, who walked out on an abusive relationship, Jane and Kenny, a couple in their 60s who sleep beneath the Waterloo Imax cinema, Jade born to a teenage mother and a father who’s a paedophile and a pimp, were just a few that broke me.   Despite the hardship and the brutality many have suffered on the streets, their resilience is incredible and inspiring.

In the past I have given money to the homeless but is that enough? If anything, this book made me realise “yes” they need money to live day to day, but they also need a smile, a kind word, a cup of coffee, anything to make them feel less invisible than they already are. Tamsen Courtenay writes in a sympathetic and non judgemental way,  she doesn’t sugar the atrocities of the people she has interviewed, it’s the harsh reality for the people who live “Four Feet Under”. Although this book will not bring about big changes, the author has given the homeless a voice, a chance to share their fears, dreams and more importantly their stories, something they miss living on the streets where conversation is limited. This book has left me with a massive book hangover, but for all the wrong reasons, I can’t help wondering what happened to the characters in the book, and I’ve a feeling their stories will stay will haunt me for a long time to come. Highly recommended.

  • Print Length: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Unbound (23 Aug. 2018

Buying link:    Amazon UK 🇬🇧

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#DayOfTheAccident by Nuala Ellwood #BookReview @NualaWrites @PenguinUKBooks #Giveaway #SignedPaperback

Today I’m sharing my review for Day Of The Accident by Nuala Elwood, what a cracking psychological thriller this one turned out to be. I’m also giving away a signed paperback copy of the book, details further down the post. Before I share my review here’s the book description……

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They say you killed…But What If They’re Wrong?

Sixty seconds after she wakes from a coma, Maggie’s world is torn apart

The police tell her that her daughter Elspeth is dead. That she drowned when the car Maggie had been driving plunged into the river. Maggie remembers nothing.

When Maggie begs to see her husband Sean, the police tell her that he has disappeared. He was last seen on the day of her daughter’s funeral.

What really happened that day at the river?
Where is Maggie’s husband?
And why can’t she shake the suspicion that somewhere, somehow, her daughter is still alive?

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I was a huge fan of author Nuala Ellwood’s debut novel My Sister’s Bones and after reading Day Of The Accident  the author is now firmly on my “favourite author’s list”. What an exciting, nerve-wracking read Day Of The Accident turned out to be. If you are looking for a psychological thriller that will keep you up late I’ve found it, if you are looking for a deliciously devious plot, you guessed it I’ve found it! I think an author has done their job well if they can surprise me, but  Nuala Elwood has gone one better and left me stunned.  I smugly thought I had pretty much worked out the plot half way through, EPIC fail as I reached the conclusion I realised the author had well and truly duped me and that’s the reason you will hear me shouting from the rooftops about how much I enjoyed this book. 

From the start of the Day Of The Accident the author draws you. We first meet Maggie as she wakes from a coma and to be told that her child Elspeth had drowned in an unfortunate accident and add to her heartache husband Sean has vanished. Maggie’s life is in tatters, she has lost everything that is dear to her, not only does she have to cope with her grief but she also desperate to find out what happened on that fateful day. The author has done a superb job in maintaining the tension throughout the Day Of The Accident I’m surprised I never ended up with repetitive strain injury as I was flipping the pages of my kindle so fast, desperate to get to the truth.  

Maggie isn’t the most reliable narrator partly due to her memory loss from the accident, but also the events the author alludes to regarding Maggie’s past, which encourage the reader to be suspicious of her. I raced through this book I read the first 60% in one sitting so engrossed was I in Maggie’s story, if life hadn’t got in the way I’m sure I would have read the book cover to cover in one sitting. Apologises if this review appears to be vague, but I’m desperate not to spoil the read for others, I want the book to surprise you, just as I was, it makes the read all the more enjoyable. Nuala Ellwood is a master of deception and misdirection, Day Of The Accident is a brilliant crafted, psychological suspense-filled read, with lashings of deceit, it’s a book that will keep you guessing to the last few chapters, cliched but true. Highly recommended.

Buying link:       Amazon UK 🇬🇧

  • Print Length: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (25 Jan. 2019)

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One paperback signed copy of Day Of The Accident by Nuala Ellwood, you can enter here…… Click here to enter #Giveaway

Please note this giveaway is open to UK residents only. I will notify the winner via email within 24 hours of  the giveaway ending. Good luck 🍀

Giveaway ends midnight Thursday 21st March 2019.