Today I have reviewed three thrillers that have been somewhat languishing on my TBR pile. Partly because I have been inundated but also because, having read them, I wanted to let my thoughts percolate and settle before writing my reviews. None of these books is, in my view, an outright five star read, but each has something strong and compelling to say and all are well worth reading.
My first is Little Liar by Lisa Ballantyne
Source: Review copy. Netgalley
Publication: 30th May 2019 in paperback from Piatkus
While Nick Dean is enjoying an evening at home with his family, he is blissfully unaware that one of his pupils has just placed an allegation of abuse against him – and that Nick’s imminent arrest will see the start of everything he knows and loves disintegrating around him.
Because, mud sticks, right? No matter if you’re innocent or guilty.
When Angela Furness decides that enough is enough – she hates her parents, hates her friends and, most of all, despises what has recently happened at school – she does the only thing she knows will get her attention: calls the police. But Angela is unaware that the shocking story she is about to tell will see her life begin to topple.
Because, once you’ve said what you’ve said, there’s no way back, right? No matter if you’re innocent or guilty.
In a gripping tale of two families torn apart by one catastrophic betrayal, Little Liar illustrates the fine line between guilt and innocence, and shows that everyone has their secrets, even those we ought to trust the most…
Little Liar is a timely book, coming just at the point where we are debating the issue of police and defence counsel being able to trawl the phone data and social media of people (usually women) who have made a sexual abuse complaint.
This is a well told tale of accusation and denial. Nick is a much liked actor/school drama teacher teacher who has a loving wife and two children. Theirs is a house full of love and laughter.
Then one day that life is shattered and Nick is accused of sexual assault by Angela, a 13 year old student. As the police, social services and inevitably, the tabloids and social media all come into play, the reader is left to wonder who is telling the truth.
Lisa Ballantyne beautifully prepares the way for us to really like Nick and hope that what Angela says just can’t be true. And yet Angela has very clearly been the subject of sexual abuse and she is an angry and distressed young girl.
Ballantyne cleverly had me rethinking my view time and time again as she unravelled yet more aspects of her plot and I thought that the dialogue and characterisation was beautifully done. She explores the issues really well and makes the reader desperate to know who is telling the truth and who is lying. Though there is more than one kind of truth, as the book makes clear.
Verdict: A tense and emotionally impactful book that really explores the effect of this type of crime on all concerned.
The Day of The Accident by Nuala Ellwood
Source: Review copy. Netgalley
Publication: 21st February 2019 from Penguin
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?
Maggie Allan wakes from a coma, to be told that her daughter Elspeth is dead and she was responsible. Not only that, but her husband Sean identified Elspeth’s body and hasn’t been seen since her funeral. With no clear memory of that day, alone and confused Maggie needs learn the truth of what happened on that tragic day.
A compelling prologue in a courtroom starts this novel off really well. I read this because I had really like My Sister’s Bones and Nuala Ellwood writes very well. I didn’t really warm to Maggie, and that was an issue for me, because who wouldn’t warm to a woman struggling to piece together her fragmented memory in order to find out what happened the day is alleged to have drowned her own daughter?
As pieces of her memory begin to come back Ellwood will have you second guessing the outcome all the time, but it never goes quite the way you expect, and that’s what keeps you reading. As if the situation were not sufficiently emotional, there are also letters written by a child to their mummy which wring the heart out just a little bit more.
I found, though that the plot required just a little more suspension of disbelief than I like to give, and that did slightly take the shine off for me.
Verdict: The Day of the Accident is fast paced, nicely plotted and surprising, which is always joyful in a psychological thriller.
Never Go There by Rebecca Tinnelly
Source: Review copy. Netgalley
Publication: 7th March 2019 from Hodder & Stoughton
What if you found out that you’d been married to a stranger? NEVER GO THERE is a chilling psychological thriller debut perfect for fans of Louise Jensen and Jenny Blackhurst.
‘Never go there, Nuala. Please, never go there.’Nuala knows nothing of her husband James’s past. He made her swear that she would never contact his family and never, EVER visit the place he was from.But now James is dead, and Nuala is alone. Grieving and desperate, she decides to ignore his warning.Nuala is about to find out that some secrets are better left buried – and that uncovering the truth about the man she married will have terrible consequences…Gripping, disturbing and utterly addictive, NEVER GO THERE’s twists will shock you to the very core.
James Greene died from a brain aneurysm, leaving his naïve young wife Nuala completely bereft. Nuala is a sad character, even in the beginning of the book. With no friends or family (her parents died in a fire when she was young) James had persuaded her that they needed only each other.
Even when they married, James didn’t invite his mother and told Nuala that they didn’t get on and that she should on no account ever seek out his family or go to where he came from. So, of course, that’s exactly what she does when James dies and she realises she has no-one in the world to share her grief with.
What she encounters is a cast of extremely well drawn and very unlikeable characters, living in a small village somewhere in Somerset. James’ mother Lois is a particularly carnaptious woman. Booking into the local hostelry, Nuala fails to find a warm welcome from either our hostess, Maggie, or her god-daughter, barmaid Emma, both of whom had known James well.
Never Go There is told from the perspective of these three characters and is a dark and unpleasant story of abuse and dysfunction. The writing is good, strong, compelling and certainly propulsive and the plot is very twisty. A well thought through tale of the consequences of prior deeds coming back to haunt you, this is certainly a twisty and riveting story line.
But not liking any of the characters didn’t quite work for me, even when I could see why these damaged characters are as much of a car crash as they are. That combined with a dash of too much naivety, left me wishing for a little more light and shade amidst the unremitting gloom.
Verdict: Dark, twisty and propulsive, but just a little too gloomy for me.