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Judgment by Joseph Finder @VickyJoss1 @aria_fiction #blogtour

Source: Review copy, Netgalley
Publication: 13 June 2019 from Head of Zeus
PP: 400
ISBN-13: 978-1788544597

It was just one night. But it was a night that would destroy everything.

Judge Juliana Brody is a woman with principles. She is happily married, she doesn’t drink, she doesn’t lose control. She definitely doesn’t sleep with a handsome stranger at a law convention. Except that, last night, that is exactly what she did.

Matias understands that if anyone found out about their one-night stand, it would destroy Juliana’s marriage and, most likely, her career. They agree that they will never see each other again.

And then, a week later, he walks into her courtroom.

Julia knew that her latest brief, a high-profile sex discrimination case, would make her some powerful enemies. But she didn’t expect her own life and the lives of her family to be put in mortal danger…

Judge Juliana Brody has everything. She is highly regarded by her peers, has a happy marriage and two children, one of whom is in remission from cancer and she sits on the Massachusetts Superior Court. On a trip to Chicago to speak at a legal conference she makes an error of judgement that will jeopardise everything she holds dear.

I do love a legal thriller; there’s something about the complexities of the law that makes for a fascinating read and I love those cases where it is one individual pitched against a mighty corporation.

That’s the case here, where Judge Brody is presiding over the case of Rachel Meyers versus Wheelz. Meyers is claiming that the management of Wheelz created a hostile work environment where sexual harassment was rife. You wouldn’t think that would be worth killing over would you? And yet, someone is determined that  Judge Brody needs to bring this trial to a speedy conclusion – in the defendant’s favour and they are prepared to do anything to make sure that happens.

Compromised, with her marriage damaged, Juliana has to decide whether to give up everything she stands for or to find a way to fight back. Along the way she will find a series of Government agencies that have been more than prepared to let the enemy in through the front door and to offer them a seat at the table.

Juliana tries hard to get out in front of the situation; these are seriously dangerous people unused and unprepared to be crossed. Eliciting help from a private investigator and her old friend Martha Connolly, Juliana must prepare for the fight of her life if she is to survive

Part legal thriller, part espionage story we’re back in cold war territory, except for the welcoming in the Russians with open arms, bit. The plot feels very contemporary, and although the basic premise is well –worn, Finder is able to bring some new twists to it.

The reader will, of course, have to suspend their disbelief in order to get the most out of this cat and mouse action thriller where things fall together in a way that does not mimic real life.

The chapters are short and sharp and there’s enough action and suspense in the story to keep you reading. But the plot is a bit of a leap; the middle is quite well padded and the characterisation lacks depth.

Nonetheless, this is exactly the sort of book I might take on a summer holiday. Entertaining, fast paced and you don’t have to think too hard about it.

Verdict: Summer reading for lovers of legal and espionage thrillers.

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Photo Joseph Finder by Ryan Jehangir

Joseph Finder is the New York Times bestselling author of fourteen previous novels including The Switch, Suspicion and The Fixer. Finder’s international bestseller Killer Instinct won the International Thriller Writer’s Award for Best Novel. He studied Russian at Yale and Harvard, after which he was recruited by the CIA. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts.
Photo: Ryan Jehangir

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Lock Ever Door by Riley Sager @riley_sager @EburyPublishing #LockEveryDoor

Source: Review copy: Netgalley
Publication: 25th July 2019 from Ebury Press
PP: 384
ISBN-13: 978-1529104400

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story…until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.

Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew’s sordid past and into the secrets kept within its walls. What she discovers pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.

Lock Every Door is one of those books that grabs you by the collar and drags you with it into every dark corner of your mind.  Gothic, creepy and disturbing, it is a book that gets right under the skin from the first few pages.

Broke and homeless after breaking up with her cheating boyfriend, Jules Larson answers an ad for a flat sitter. Going to her interview for the flat, she finds herself at the iconic Bartholomew building; a gothic luxury block of flats in a prestigious area of Manhattan.

The Bartholomew is home to the rich and famous who, as Julie is informed, relish their privacy. Whoever is selected to house sit here will have to abide by a strict set of rules. No speaking to the owners; no visitors of any kind; no overnight absences. In exchange, Julie will get a rent free luxury apartment and a handsome stipend while she is there.

Unable to believe her luck, Julie is delighted when the flat is offered to her and she moves in with alacrity. She finds the décor somewhat intimidating and the building’s gargoyles are a touch gruesome, but she names the one by her window and settles in to enjoy her marvellous good fortune.

Soon, Jules finds that she is not the only flat sitter in the building and she makes contact with Ingrid, another sitter who is really uneasy, almost scared by what she describes as weird goings-on.

Then Ingrid disappears. It seems that she did a runner in the middle of the night. Researching the Bartholomew’s history, Jules finds that the building has a sinister history. There have been numerous unexplained deaths and suicides and the building has gained something of a cult reputation among conspiracy theorists.

Ingrid’s disappearance adds to Jules’ growing sense of unease the longer she says in the apartment and curious, eerie sounds keep her awake into the small hours.

Sager builds a sense of growing tension, layering spooky goings-on with tension and a sense of menace in this compelling story of disappearing tenants, strange owner occupiers and a flat broker whose motives seem less than honourable.

The more Jules finds out, the more frightened she becomes…and soon she is embroiled in a fight for her life.

Sager neatly draws the reader into a world of wealth and privilege, contrasted with the lowly status of those flat sitters who have nothing and no-one to turn to. His writing is engrossing and he beautifully conveys a creeping sense of dread. The reader will need to embrace a certain suspension of disbelief, but when you do, Sager rewards you with a twisty tale that surprises and astonishes.

Verdict: A dark tale full of gothic menace, serious creepiness and dark doings. Not for those of a timid disposition and certainly not to be read alone and in the dark.

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Riley Sager is the pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer. Now a full-time writer, Riley is the author of FINAL GIRLS, an international bestseller that has been published in 25 languages, and the New York Times bestseller THE LAST TIME I LIED.
A native of Pennsylvania, Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

Life Ruins by Danuta Kot @DanutaJR @simonschusteruk @annecater #LifeRuins

Source: Review copy
Publication: 25 July 2019 from Simon and Schuster
PP: 480
ISBN-13: 978-1471175930

In a small northern town, girls are disappearing.

You won’t see it in the papers and the police aren’t taking any notice, but the clues are there if you know where to look.

Becca sees that something is wrong, but she’s been labelled ‘difficult’ thanks to her troubled past. So when a girl is so savagely beaten she can’t be identified, and Becca claims she knows who she is, no one will believe her.

With the police refusing to listen, Becca digs for evidence that will prove what she is saying. But her search for justice will put herself and those closest to her in danger – and once she finds the truth, will anyone even listen?

Is there anything more dreary than an English seaside town out of season?  Set along the Yorkshire coast principally in Bridlington and Whitby, Danuta Kot’s debut novel is a bleak consideration of some of the evils that pervade our society.

Jared Godwin used to love to explore caves and tunnels; now he is driven to do so despite almost crippling injuries to his back, sustained when his best friend died as a result of something he did. When we meet him, he’s living in a dump of a caravan on a run-down site, popping painkillers and contemplating his next dangerous exploring high.

Becca Armitage is a young woman who has not had to seek out trouble in her life. She’s suffered early for a young girl and was fortunate to meet Kay, a fosterer, who managed to inject some basic goodness into her life and help her to curb the worst of her anger issues. Becca had gone to college, but a malicious prank forced her to drop out and now she is working in a café which offers help to the homeless and vulnerable young people. It doesn’t pay much but she is surviving.

Kay is a widow, struggling to get over the death of her husband, Matt. A genuinely caring woman, she worries about Becca and tries to stay in contact with her.

Life Ruins is very much a character driven novel, focussing on what happens when the rightly untrusting Becca meets Jared and together they set out to find out what has been happening in the caves of Kettleness. The grim Yorkshire coastal landscape of empty winter seaside towns heavy with unemployment and the run down horrible caravan park gives the book much of its character and the bleakness and despair is vividly and authentically depicted.

Told in the third person, the book begins by depicting the lives of the three main protagonists and it does take a while for these lives to converge, linked by violent acts. When they do, the action part of the plot really takes off, though it does take some time to piece together the characters backstories and make sense of the plotting.

At the heart of this book is human drama; the reader roots for a badly served Becca with all her trust issues who never seems to have had a good turn from life since she was born. Watching her begin to form a relationship with Godwin and seeing her fight for the one person who has believed in her is what makes this book really work.

Kot’s writing is strong and her descriptive abilities excellent. Her plot is pretty conventional and somewhat of a slow burn. The bad guys are not terribly difficult to spot, but that should not detract from a solid book that has lots to interest the lover of crime fiction.

Verdict: A bleak tale of exploitation and courage against adversity, this is a solid debut from a writer to watch.

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Danuta Kot grew up with stories. Her Irish mother and her Polish father kept their own cultures alive with traditional tales they shared with their children. For many years, she worked with young people in Yorkshire who were growing up in the aftermath of sudden industrial decline. She uses this background in her books to explore some of the issues that confront modern, urban society: poverty, alienation and social breakdown, using the contexts of the modern crime novel. She has previously written under the names, Danuta Reah and Carla Banks. Danuta was also a former chair of the Crime Writers’ Association. She now works as a senior education consultant, work that involves travel to establish education and training in other parts of the world. She is a regular academic speaker at conferences and literary festivals, and has appeared on radio and television.

In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J Malone. @michaeljmalone1 @OrendaBooks #bookreview #InTheAbsenceofMiracles

Source: Review copy
Publication: 19th September 2019 from Orenda Books. Available in e-book now
PP: 300
ISBN-13: 978-1912374793

John Docherty’s mother has just been taken into a nursing home following a massive stroke and she’s unlikely to be able to live independently again. With no other option than to sell the family home, John sets about packing up everything in the house. In sifting through the detritus of his family’s past he’s forced to revisit, and revise his childhood.

For in a box, in the attic, he finds undeniable truth that he had a brother who disappeared when he himself was only a toddler. A brother no one ever mentioned. A brother he knew absolutely nothing about. A discovery that sets John on a journey from which he may never recover.

For sometimes in that space where memory should reside there is nothing but silence, smoke and ash. And in the absence of truth, in the absence of a miracle, we turn to prayer. And to violence.

Shocking, chilling and heartbreakingly emotive, In the Absence of Miracles is domestic noir at its most powerful, and a sensitively wrought portrait of a family whose shameful lies hide the very darkest of secrets.

Michael J Malone is one of those writers whose work is seriously under-estimated by some. I suspect it’s because all his recent books have been stand-alones that the cumulative impact of his work isn’t better known. But believe me, it should be.

Malone isn’t an easy writer to categorise; already that makes him more interesting. In the Absence of Miracles is a domestic noir, but it’s also so much more than that. It’s a book that quietly and sensitively peels back the layers of a series of dysfunctional relationships, ever so gently sets about exposing the raw nerves, then pokes them with a sharp pin.

John Docherty is a middle aged man in a two year relationship with attractive single parent, Angela. He’s a secondary school English teacher who has never married. Angela tells him that he’s a commitment phobe and he acknowledges that there may be some truth in that.

In this first person narrative, Malone gives us the picture of a man who has a decent life, a good job and a woman who loves him. Yet John Docherty is a bit of a loner. A man who drinks just a wee bit too much, too often and whose headaches recur with annoying frequency.

It is while he is sorting out his mother’s house following her stroke that he stumbles across a huge mystery that sets him on a path from which there is no return.

Together with his younger brother, Chris, John Docherty goes on on a trail that leads to a series of dark and disturbing revelations.

In the Absence of Miracles is an exploration of a deeply difficult area, seldom touched on anywhere, such is the sense of shame attached to it. Malone deals with it sensitively and his depiction of John Docherty, a man whose psyche is impaired because of the trauma he has suffered, is magnificently portrayed through his cognitive dissonance. Docherty doesn’t know it, but the mental stress and discomfort he experiences are the product of years of suppressing the truth. When confronted by new information that conflicts with his existing beliefs, things are bound to get worse before they get better.

Malone gives us the slow disintegration of Docherty as part of a picture that breaks the heart at the same time as it tests our prejudices.

In the Absence of Miracles is in a similar vein to Malone’s earlier work, A Suitable Lie, insofar as he shines a light on an oft ignored, undiscussed social issue and explores it with depth and sensitivity and a very real understanding of the emotional core at the centre of his character’s lives.

Verdict: In the Absence of Miracles is a brave and compelling work from a writer of depth and sensitivity. Beautifully written, substantial and heart-breaking, it is an astonishingly powerful novel for our time. Everyone should read it.

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Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country, just a stone’s throw from the great man’s cottage in Ayr. Well, a stone thrown by a catapult.

He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. His career as a poet has also included a (very) brief stint as the Poet-In- Residence for an adult gift shop.

Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes: Carnegie’s Call (a non-fiction work about successful modern-day Scots); A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage and The Bad Samaritan. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number one bestseller. Michael is a regular reviewer for the hugely popular crime fiction website A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller.
More about Michael here.

Someone We Know by Shari Lapena @sharilapena @ThomasssHill @AnneCater #blogtour #SomeoneWeKnow

Source: Review copy
Publication: 25 July 2019 from Bantam Press
PP: 320
ISBN-13: 978-1787632134

It can be hard keeping secrets in a tight-knit neighbourhood.

In a tranquil, leafy suburb of ordinary streets – one where everyone is polite and friendly – an anonymous note has been left at some of the houses.

‘I’m so sorry. My son has been getting into people’s houses. He’s broken into yours.’

Who is this boy, and what might he have uncovered? As whispers start to circulate, suspicion mounts.

And when a missing local woman is found murdered, the tension reaches breaking point. Who killed her? Who knows more than they’re telling? And how far will all these very nice people go to protect their secrets?

Maybe you don’t know your neighbour as well as you thought you did . . .

The town of Aylsford is charming with a historical centre and excellent access to both Manhattan and the Catskill mountains, so it is no surprise that people of some affluence gravitate there to live and to bring up their children in safe, quiet surroundings.

There are, of course, problems. One teenager drinks too much, another may take drugs, but parents are, on the whole, vigilant. It comes as a shock then, when Olivia Sharpe discovers that her son Raleigh has been breaking into people’s houses for fun; hacking into their computers, sending prank messages and stealing away again like a thief in the night. These are her neighbours and her friends and her son has violated their privacy.

Meanwhile, their neighbour, Amanda Pierce has gone missing. Her husband Robert is an unlikeable piece of work, but seems distressed by her absence and after all, no-one really knows what goes on behind closed doors.

Shari Lapena’s excellent, fast-paced thriller gives us four sets of neighbours and their children; offers up an errant house-breaker and begins it all with a gruesome narration of a woman being bludgeoned to death. This sizzling tale of middle class mores, book clubs, and cabins in the mountains is a finely crafted book with tension in all the right places and a host of suspects with nasty little secrets to choose from.

Secrets and lies abound as neighbour turns on neighbour in an attempt to distance themselves from what the police are uncovering. Husbands and wives look at each other and wonder. It is safe to say, nothing will ever be the same again.

Someone We Know is fast and twisty; full of intrigue, secrets, lies and murderous intent. I raced through it.

Verdict: A sharply written, very fast paced and suspenseful domestic noir that belongs on everyone’s summer reading list.

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Shari Lapena worked as a lawyer and as an English teacher before writing fiction. Her debut thriller, The Couple Next Door, was a global bestseller, the bestselling fiction title in the UK in 2017 and has been optioned for television. Her second thriller, A Stranger in the House and third, An Unwanted Guest, were both Sunday Times and New York Times bestsellers.

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Motive X by Stefan Anhem @aria_fiction @StefanAhnhem #BlogTour #MotiveX

Publication: 2 May 2019 from Head of Zeus
PP: 608
ISBN-13: 978-1786694607

He strikes at random. His motive unknown. No one is safe…

Helsingborg police must solve the unsolveable. A wave of apparently random homicides is sweeping through their idyllic seaside town. The murders have no pattern, no order, no reason. The perpetrator is immune to psychological profiling; forensically untraceable; utterly invulnerable to modern police techniques.

The body count is growing. But lead investigator Fabian Risk is distracted by his mission to expose a corrupt colleague, and his boss Astrid is spiralling back into addiction. As the hunt for the solution becoming ever more desperate, their tight-knit team begins to unravel…

Motive X is both an explosive, multi-layered thriller and a fearless exploration of the darkest side of human nature. To enter Stefan Ahnhem’s world, with its interwoven plotlines and sprawling cast of characters, is to put yourself in the hands of a master storyteller.

I had the great pleasure of meeting Stefan Ahnhem at Granite Noir last year and greatly enjoyed reading his first Fabian Risk thriller, Victim Without A Face.

So I am delighted to be able to bring you an extract from his current Fabian Risk novel, Motive X. Stefan Ahnhem’s books are the essence of dark Scandinavian Noir and Detective Fabian Risk has a complex personality whose resourcefulness and determination ensure that, while he may not always take his police colleagues with him, he is relentless in getting to the truth.

So without further introduction, I am pleased to bring you an extract from Motive X.



For the first time in a month, Fabian went over to his record collection at the far end of the living room and let his eyes rove across the rows of CDs. He owned more than four thousand albums, and that was after weeding out a quarter when he’d left Stockholm over two years ago.

For a whole month, silence had been the only sound he could bear. It was the longest he had gone without music in his whole adult life. A month ago, a madman posing as an art collector had nearly destroyed their family. He had manipulated Sonja, becoming her muse and lover, and inserting himself into all their lives. Then he shot Matilda right here, in Fabian’s own living room. Fabian couldn’t bear to think about what might have happened next if he hadn’t been able to get to a gun himself. And now, with those events playing on a loop in his mind, it was as though his brain was unable to take anything else in. Not even Brian Eno’s soaring escapism had worked. The smallest note had given him an instant headache.

But now, his spirits had finally returned. He felt like doing things again. Getting up in the morning and defying the rain with a jog through Pålsjö Forest. Cooking a nice meal and gathering the family around the dinner table.

What with Matilda’s waking up and her doctors’ assurances that she would be able to go home by the end of the week, he could finally feel firm ground under his feet again. True, she had been acting a bit strange and they were far from done discussing what had really happened to Theodor that night. But somehow, he felt sure everything would be all right. That at the end of the day, there was nothing to prevent them from becoming a proper family once more.

The only X in the equation was Sonja.

Until now, there had been no room or time for her or him. Much less for them. If there even still was a them. Not too long ago, Sonja had informed him she wanted a divorce. A concept he had kicked around himself on and off for the past few years, which she had now appropriated.

The warning signs had been there all along. Flashing red, blaring like klaxons at the end of a bad disaster film. And yet he had been caught off guard by her suddenly being ready to move on without him, declaring in the same breath that there was nothing he could do about it.

But where Sonja stood now, after her lover had revealed himself to be an impostor, he had no clue. He didn’t even really have a clear idea of what had been done to her in the hours before those horrifying events in their living room.

He did suspect the worst, based on what little he knew. For instance, her expensive art piece ‘The Hanging Box’ had, for some reason, been confiscated by the police as evidence. Then there were the bruises all over her body, which he had caught a glimpse of at one point, when he forgot to knock before entering their bedroom. And it wasn’t just the bruises. What he saw was a broken woman who seemed to have lost all faith in herself.

At least when it came to her art, if she was to be believed, she was done with it. She was nothing but a talentless bluff anyway. It wasn’t something they’d talked about, just something that had trickled out in throw-away subclauses; whenever he brought it up, she shut him down. Just like she had every time he’d broached the subject of their future.

The past few weeks had, granted, been one long crisis, and all their energy had been spent sitting by Matilda’s bedside; maybe everything would change now that she was coming home. Maybe things would finally return to normal.

He pulled out Gone to Earth with David Sylvian and studied the cover. It was the second CD he’d bought, after Sign o’ the Times with Prince, and he could still remember playing it for Sonja in the flat they’d just moved into together.

She had liked it so much she had improvised a dance, and he had turned it up so loud their neighbour had eventually rung their doorbell. But they had simply stuffed the bell with cotton wool and opened another bottle of wine. As though no problems would ever find them, so long as they stood united.

He connected the speakers in the kitchen, turned the volume up and started making dinner to the sound of old Japan members Steve Jansen and Mick Karn’s sophisticated groove in ‘Taking the Veil’.

Since Sonja was spending the night with Matilda, it was just him and Theodor. Which meant last night’s leftover pasta, fried crispy in olive oil with some finely sliced garlic, a few chopped tomatoes and olives, would have to do.

The door to his son’s room was closed, as usual, so he tapped it gently before opening it, only to see Theodor startle violently in his desk chair and quickly turn on the screensaver on his laptop.

‘Dinner’s ready.’

‘All right, I’ll be right there.’

Fabian nodded and turned to leave but stopped mid-motion. ‘Actually, what are you up to?’

‘Nothing. I said I’ll be right there.’

Fabian remembered his own teenage years all too well. Like Theodor, he had been prone to shutting himself up in his room, driven by an overwhelming need to be left alone, always worried about the door being thrown open at any moment by a curious parent.

Now he was the annoying parent who put his foot in the door and asked endless questions. The difference was that in this case, it wasn’t about a packet of cigarettes or a few well-thumbed porn rags, but the gun Theodor had brought home. About his broken nose, which even though the surgery was weeks ago, was still swollen and a yellowish blue colour. About what had really happened before he came home that night almost four weeks ago.


I hope that has whetted your appetite to read Motive X. I can’t wait to get stuck into it!

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STEFAN AHNHEM is the internationally bestselling author of the Fabian Risk thrillers. He has worked as a screenwriter on Mankell’s Kurt Wallender series and serves on the board of the Swedish Writers Guild. He lives in Copenhagen.

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The Poison Garden by Alex Marwood @AlexMarwood1 @BooksSphere #ThePoisonGarden

Source: Review copy #Netgalley
Publication: 25 July 2019 from Sphere
PP: 400
ISBN-13: 978-0751570816

Where Romy grew up, if someone died you never spoke of them again.

Now twenty-two, she has recently escaped the toxic confines of the cult she was raised in. But Romy is young, pregnant and completely alone – and if she is to keep herself safe in this new world, she has some important lessons to learn.

Like how there are some people you can trust, and some you must fear. And about who her family really is, and why her mother ran away from them all those years ago.

And that you can’t walk away from a dark past without expecting it to catch up with you…

I adore Alex Marwood’s writing and she never fails to bring her characters vividly to life so that you know how they think and feel. The Poison Garden is a different kind of book to her most recent novels but it is just as dark and unnervingly brilliant.

This time she has taken the world of cults as her subject and shows us just what life is like in a world where children are brought up to believe that the law of the cult is the only way to be safe and that whatever happens, the word of the cult leader is not to be denied. These are children who know nothing of the world outside of their own desolate, harsh rural upbringing; whose rituals and slavish behaviours are difficult to comprehend and whose survival skills whilst exemplary will not equip them for what is to come.

This is a bleak and dangerous world. Those who live in the outside world are referred to as ‘the dead’ and every ounce of energy is put in to preparing for an apocalyptic world end. Members of the cult slavishly follow their charismatic leader, Lucien.

Told from three different perspectives, we first learn about our central characters after a cataclysmic event at their commune in Wales. Romy is young, pregnant and was born in the cult; Somer is her mother and Sarah is Somer’s younger sister who was brought up with her sister in a strict faith and now works at a Finborough school.

Sarah lives alone in the house that belonged to her deceased parents. Her sister Alison, renamed Somer in the cult, was ejected from the family home after she became pregnant. She had three children in the cult, Ilo and Eden, who are Romy’s siblings.

When the story begins we find Romy alone and in the hands of social services. She desperately needs to find her siblings whom Sarah, as their sole living adult relative is now looking after.

Marwood creates a layered narrative moving from present to past and back again to show us what life in the cult was like and how the cult’s power structure worked.

The Poison Garden is not a comfortable read. It is the story of life in a poisonous, pernicious culture where interpersonal relationships are toxic and ever shifting. It is particularly distressing to read at this time in our society, because one is left with the over-riding impression that such cults will grow in number as our political and cultural landscape lends itself to more extremism and the blind following of larger than life figures who promise everything and yet only serve their own needs.

Marwood’s depiction of her characters and their situations feels horribly close to an unpalatable, realistic scenario and it is all the more chilling for that. Monsters do live among us and they can command unswerving adoration which inexorably leads to obsessive, destructive behaviours.

She skillfully lays down a scenario which is disturbing and utterly compelling leaving this reader somewhat shell-shocked and horrified. There are faint echoes for me of The Handmaid’s Tale in her apocalyptic vision of life and that is one of the scariest things about this book.

By no means a conventional thriller, but all the better for it, Marwood has presented a story that will chill you to the bone and give you nightmares because you fear it may not be at all dystopian.

Verdict: Remarkable, chilling, uncomfortable and ultimately devastating. This is a must read.

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Alex Marwood is a former journalist who worked extensively across the British press. Her first novel, The Wicked Girls, achieved widespread acclaim and international bestsellerdom. It was shortlisted for ITW, Anthony and Macavity awards, was included in Stephen King’s Ten Best Books of the Year list, and won the prestigious Edgar Award. The Killer Next Door, her second novel, won the coveted Macavity Award for Best Mystery Novel, was nominated for the Anthony and Barry. The Darkest Secret, the tale of the disappearance of young Coco, met with critical and reader acclaim. She has also been shortlisted for numerous other crime writing awards and her first two novels have been optioned for the screen. Marwood lives in south London and is working on her next novel.

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"It was impossible of course, but when did that ever stop a dreamer from dreaming?" -Strange The Dreamer by Lani Taylor

Curled up with a good book

Honest Book Reviews, Meet the Author, Blog Tours, Cover Reveals & More!

The Magic of Wor(l)ds

Free bookreviews and other free book related stuff


General ramblings of a busy person

Secret Library Book Blog

Books, Books, Books

Jennifer ~ Tar Heel Reader

Reading under the light of a Carolina moon

Nordic Lighthouse

Spotlight on Nordic / Scandinavian crime fiction... and connections