The Montclairs are a young married couple who are finding their marriage difficult to negotiate after the tragic death of their baby son. Working and living in the same space is now not as cosy and collaborative as it once seemed, and the pressure is on for both writers to honour their publishing contracts and produce the goods. It is of no surprise to Sutton’s girlfriends when her husband Ethan reports that Sutton has left, leaving a note that she needed to take a break. Sutton and Ethan are two brilliant people who spark creativity and passion each other, and that definitely means that
The reader will need to be patient here as it is not until after the half way mark that LIE TO ME reveals its underbelly with its first major plot twist. Nothing is quite as it seems. LIE TO ME is almost like two novels in one; in the first half we have the classic investigation into the spouse and in the second half, other characters in play begin to reveal their true intentions. Told via both past and present perspectives of Sutton and Ethan, LIE TO ME builds up a picture of a creative marriage which slowly dissembles as more facts are revealed from the relationship’s origin and recent past.
The comparisons made to a certain other wildly popular novel are probably not helpful as LIE TO ME is only vaguely similar in nature. LIE TO ME does struggle with continuity, and the “unseen” voice of the killer addressing the reader does not add much to the suspense; if anything it’s a bit of an irritating vain play. As a beach towel thriller, LIE TO ME does the job and almost (but not quite) ties it all up in a bow by novel’s end. Sharp eyed readers though will pick up on a few unfinished threads; perhaps a sequel in the works? It would be interesting to see if Ethan Montclair can forge on with his life after going through the twin horrors of his child dying and being accused of murder.
An escapist thriller for your summer holiday, LIE TO ME will keep you guessing and wondering just who it is you are supposed to feel for – the missing, or the one that remained?
Book review - Best Day Ever, Kaira Rouda
Determined to make the day run to schedule, Paul sets off for the drive to his river home with Mia, his lovely young wife of ten years. Their kids are being taken care of by the dubious babysitter and this weekend will be all about the two of them. Paul has planned the next few days very very carefully. There are some work arounds that are necessary and Paul does get the feeling that Mia suspects something is up. But not to worry, the course of true love never does run smoothly. Paul is used to leading a complicated life and his increasing money troubles have brought him to this point.
BEST DAY EVER has a slow burn and is very much like a one room thriller, due to the small cast and its real-time play. We’re along for the ride with Paul, our urbane and narcissistic host, and included every step in the way in his Machiavellian plans to come out on top and be in complete control of his life and marriage. We’re not meant to like him, and of course we can’t admire him, but we can marvel at the inflated super ego that has resulted in his life unraveling at a greater speed now that he is finally spending some time alone with his witness, wife Mia.
Paul’s traits are horribly recognizable and therein lies the true horror; it is not inherent misogyny that drives Paul, it is more the extreme love he has for himself. Everyone has met one of these people, and Paul has taken it to an art form with quick thinking on his feet, lying on the spin of a dime and skillfully manipulating people and events to suit his own needs.
With domestic thrillers being so huge right now, many fiction writers have lifted the lid on the most dangerous experiences women can have; that being, those lived as a result of entering into relationships with controlling men. BEST DAY EVER is an excellent reminder that you don’t need to look too far from home to find real monsters. This novel doesn’t over dramatize and it doesn’t over explain, which makes BEST DAY EVER all the more chilling to read.
Review - Not a Sound, Heather Gudenkauf
Amelia Winn’s life after her traumatic accident is completely different to the life she enjoyed before. Once Amelia had an attentive husband, a much-loved step daughter, a fulfilling nursing career – and her hearing.
Hats off to the author for working so well within the constraints that would have been present when writing NOT A SOUND. The challenge would have been not only with what cues Amelia could receive herself but also in relating the expression of others ie ‘he said’ rather than ‘he drawled’ etc. The dialogue flows without any conscience effort needed by the reader to detect any further emotional nuances.
NOT A SOUND has two main highlights; the first is the unique perspective of Amelia being hearing impaired and the second is the inclusion of the dog! Stitch the service dog and his relationship with Amelia is wonderful to read of; Stitch not being the perfect dog in his service role any more than Amelia is the perfect pet owner. Every reader loves to read of pets playing serious roles in novels as that is real life – not many people live without a dog and/or cat.
Mystery wise NOT A SOUND has a small cast and setting so it does not present a huge puzzle to solve. Each step of characterization is carefully placed however and if this is to be the first book in a continuing series, NOT A SOUND is a solid start.
BOOK REVIEW - THE BREAKDOWN, B.A.PARIS
As a woman driving alone on a country road at night, Cass isn’t that inclined to get out of her car when she passes what appears to be a motorist with engine trouble. It’s pouring buckets, and Cass’s cottage is not far away. Finding out the next day that a woman was murdered is a huge shock, more so when the driver is identified and Cass realizes that she knew the victim.
There is only a small cast in THE BREAKDOWN so our suspicious eyes are trained on characters that don’t have anywhere to hide; they are all close to Cass’s life and are becoming increasingly aware that her life is in disarray. Cass becomes more hemmed in by her memory glitches and is desperate to regain control of a life that is being puppet mastered by someone who must be close to her. THE BREAKDOWN is a very suspenseful read, tempered with periods of time where you alternately feel desperately sorry for Cass in her struggles, or frustrated with her as she seems to be going around in circles.
Like this author’s first sleeper hit, BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, THE BREAKDOWN very much narrows the focus to one female character who is struggling without support and is the only one who can save herself. The everywoman leads are frighteningly relatable; we all know someone like them, or have experienced something similar. Compulsive, entertaining and tense reading from an author to watch.
Review - All Is Not Forgotten, Wendy Walker
Teenager Jenny Kramer attends a high school party where most of her town’s young people are in attendance. Friends and people she has grown up with in a small town. Children of family friends. Making the decision to leave the party early, Jenny is brutally attacked nearby by an assailant whose face she never sees.
As the teen struggles to deal with both the mental and physical trauma, Jenny’s parents make the decision to allow medics try a new drug on their daughter that will serve to delete the immediate painful memories of the attack.
Charlotte and Tom Kramer come to regret that decision as they witness Jenny’s struggle to return to her former self in the following months. In comes Dr Forrester, who currently is dealing with a volatile male client who has also has lost trauma memories. It is the belief of the psychiatrist that recovering those lost memories will greatly aid his patients on their road to recovery.
As it is with all books written in the first person narrative, we are required to spend a lot of our reading time immersed in the thoughts of one character. Dr Alan Forrester is also seeing the parents of the victim, and believes in the holistic approach of counselling the entire family. Or is that what he is really doing?
As the doctor pontificates on about his psychiatric profession as it now relates his new case, three quarters of this book become quite soporific to read. In its last quarter ALL IS NOT FORGOTTEN however finds its feet and we are dragged onwards to the conclusion with ill feeling. This is not a novel about the victim of a violent crime; we don’t in fact hear much from the victim. The book is full of self-serving individuals who all have a connection to our narrator, the narcissistic psychiatrist who has an agenda of his own that is always at the forefront. It is very much a book about avoidance.
It does feel too much too late when we are introduced to the major plot twist; backstory at the end when it could have been fed through the narrative to create a greater sense of foreboding. ALL IS NOT FORGOTTEN is an uneasy dark thriller that has a very, very slow burn. It does give an interesting alternate viewpoint to the ripple effect of a violent crime in a small community where each decision made and each confidence revealed can catalyst further catastrophic events.
Review - Only Daughter, Anna Snoekstra
In 2003 Rebecca Winter is doing everything your typical teenager does at sixteen; slaving away at her first job, hanging out with friends and negotiating her way into the world of adulthood with shaky steps. Her family life is at best tolerable and she has no clear idea of what her life will be like even one year down the track. But she hopes that it will change for the better. Someone is either playing terrible tricks on her or her mind is doing that all on its own. That sensation of being watched is now almost ever constant.
ONLY DAUGHTER has two perspectives. The first is that of Bec Winter who disappeared in 2003 and the second is that of her current day doppleganger, a "homeless by choice" young woman. The imposter settles quickly into Bec's life with loving parents, two younger brothers and friends who have been mourning the loss of the vivacious sixteen year old version of Bec for over a decade. Was she really missed? Who knows the truth? It's the opportunistic and not malicious insertion into the Winter family by the imposter which makes this novel interesting. The imposter is someone outside of the circle who is observing them all with fresh and untainted eyes, making her own judgment calls and piecing together what the (still missing) Rebecca was really like. Yes, there is slippage in this read that may be due to editing in the attempt to make the setting more universal (ie American) or it may just simply be that the author felt like mixing things up i.e. Mom (us) and Mum (Australian). Little slips like these don't distract too much away from the moody endless summer/Puberty Blues feeling that ONLY DAUGHTER economically evokes; it's a very familiar (and oddly low-tech) setting/period that most young Australians will recognize; all of us have gone through those rites of passage such as the first menial job whilst still in high school, and battled through those tumultuous teenage relationships that are never built to last beyond our childhood. You'll nip through this novel in one or two sittings; it is not dragged down by the minutiae of a police investigation (though there is a detective still working the case) and the speed and ease in which young people live their responsibility-free lives is conveyed well. As the imposter increasingly becomes aware that she has stepped out of the proverbial frying pan into something much worse, the tension slowly builds. It does take an astonishingly long time for the imposter to realize that if she's around, and Bec isn't, there is possibly a killer still about - observing everyone and faking their personality just as much as the new Rebecca is too.