The Stranger by Harlan Coben

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The Stranger appears out of nowhere, perhaps in a bar, or a parking lot, or at the grocery store. His identity is unknown. His motives are unclear. His information is undeniable. Then he whispers a few words in your ear and disappears, leaving you picking up the pieces of your shattered world.

Adam Price has a lot to lose: a comfortable marriage to a beautiful woman, two wonderful sons, and all the trappings of the American Dream – a big house, a good job, a seemingly perfect life.

Then he runs into the Stranger. When he learns a devastating secret about his wife, Corrine, he confronts her, and the mirage of perfection disappears as if it never existed at all. Soon Adam finds himself tangled in something far darker than even Corrine’s deception, and realises that if he doesn’t make exactly the right moves, the conspiracy he’s stumbled into will not only ruin lives – it will end them.
I really like Harlan Coban’s writing, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s a good guy, too. Wasn’t sure what to expect from this one, as I hadn’t enjoyed Missing as much as some of his other books, but The Stranger is a great read and something of a return to his early prose with fast paced action, a likeable average guy central character and a mystery that is novel, intriguing and ultimately devastating.

It starts simply enough- a stranger walks up to Adam at a kids lacrosse game his son is playing in and tells him a secret about his wife that he had no idea about. That secret leads to the disruption and devastation of his world.

And when he sets out to find the truth, he is stepping out on a path that twists and turns and which will lead to lies, the betrayal of friendships and ultimately to more than one death.

It does require a bit of suspension of disbelief, and I did think that the character of the wife, Corrine, could have been drawn out a bit earlier, but it is a really fast paced and engrossing read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The hidden Blog Tour. Guest post by Emma Kavanagh – My Book Deal Moment

I am delighted to host Emma Kavanagh’s latest stop on her blog tour for her new novel, hidden which I review next week.

After graduating with a PhD in Psychology from Cardiff University, Emma Kavanagh spent seven years working as a police and military psychologist, training firearms officers, command staff and military personnel, throughout the UK and Europe, to deal with the most extreme situations. An expert in her field, she now applies her knowledge to her writing.

hidden will be published on 23 April. There’s a sneak preview link at the bottom of this post.

 

 

hidden

HE’S WATCHING

A gunman is stalking the wards of a local hospital. He’s unidentified and dangerous, and has to be located. Urgently.

Police Firearms Officer Aden McCarthy is tasked with tracking him down. Still troubled by the shooting of a schoolboy, Aden is determined to make amends by finding the gunman – before it’s too late.

SHE’S WAITING

To psychologist Imogen, hospital should be a place of healing and safety – both for her, and her young niece who’s been recently admitted. She’s heard about the gunman, but he has little to do with her. Or has he?

As time ticks down, no one knows who the gunman’s next target will be. But he’s there. Hiding in plain sight. Far closer than anyone thinks…

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Emma talks about the nerve-racking business of  getting her first book deal

My Book Deal Moment

I cannot talk about this day without getting teary. Largely because it had begun to feel like it would never happen. I had been signed by my agent – the extraordinarily wonderful Camilla Wray at the Darley Anderson Literary Agency – on a previous book which failed to find a publisher. It’s never easy when you come to the realisation that the book you have spent so many months writing and cultivating is not going to be THE book. I won’t lie. There were tears. Many tears. I was pregnant at the time with my eldest son, so I’m going to blame the lions share of the tears on that. Hormones. Psh!

When my son was three months old, I began again, over the coming months writing the book that would become Falling.

I was terrified. I had already gone through this once. How on earth was I going to deal with the emotional fall-out of hearing another no on another book?

Falling had been out on submission for a couple of weeks. It had come close, but so far no cigar. I was starting to crumble. On what would turn out to be the day before my book deal day, I went out for lunch with my sister in law. Reader, I cried. She held my hand and told me that everyone believed in me and that I could do it. I cried a bit more.

The following day, I was bundling my then 18 month old up ready to take him to his grandparents. Leaving the house is always a trauma, and it was chaos as usual when my phone began to ring in my pocket, with Camilla saying that an editor wanted to talk to me. I have a vague recollection of my son being under the dining table at the time trying to hand feed cheerios to the cat. We set up a time for the phone call and I carried on with my day, with only the sketchiest of understandings about what was to come.

Then came the call with Jenny Geras. I was shaking. We talked for a while about the edits that would need to be done, chatted generally and got a feel for one another, and I hung up feeling pretty elated. An editor had called me. AN EDITOR! I wasn’t expecting to hear anything else that week, had been told these things take time.

But a couple of hours later, Camilla called back. Jenny at Arrow had offered me a two book deal. I was going to be a published author.

Yes.

Yes, I cried.

Emma Kavanagh 2014  Matthew Jones
Author Emma Kavanagh (c) Matthew Jones

Praise for Emma’s first book: Falling

‘A brilliant debut’
Marie Claire

‘We predict big things for Emma Kavanagh … addictive’
Good Housekeeping

‘Kavanagh tells the story with great verve, weaving the strands of her story expertly’
Daily Mail

‘Dark, tense and convincing, this is a brilliantly executed and engrossing thriller.
An extremely assured debut’
Sunday Mirror

‘an up-all-night thriller, fuelled by grief, anger and infidelity’
Book of the Month, You Magazine, Mail on Sunday

‘swift-moving crime tale’
Independent on Sunday

A gripping psychological page-turner’ 4 stars,
Closer

‘A stark and dramatic thriller’
My Weekly

‘complex thriller from a former police psychologist, who knows her stuff’
Prima

‘separate strands are neatly woven into a gripping, credible human story’
Literary Review

‘Thoughtful, often dark and devastatingly honest … Falling marks the arrival on the crime scene of a major new talent’
SHOTS Magazine

You can read an extract from hidden here : http://www.deadgoodbooks.co.uk/index.php/extract-hidden-emma-kavanagh/

 

Three Twisted Stories by Karin Slaughter

From the hallucinatory noir story ‘Go Deep’ to the twisted short stories ‘Necessary Women’ and ‘Remmy Rothstein Toes the Line,’ this collection showcases the Sunday Times No. 1 bestselling author’s dark humour, limitless imagination, and masterly command of voice and character. (‘Go Deep’ and ‘Remmy Rothstein Toes the Line’ also available as single stories and ‘Necessary Women’ also available as part of a bundle with ‘The Mean Time)

I read this because I really enjoy Karin Slaughter’s books. Though short stories are not my usual format, I thought these were worth a look. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Each is a dark tale, and quite, quite twisted. More laughs than I expected, especially in the last one, which is both raunchy and very funny.

GO DEEP
Charlie Lam is an archetypal car salesman in Atlanta. His business supports his wife and daughter, his girlfriend, an extended family who all just love to live off his money, and 70 employees.

He is also in over his head with the local gangster.

One day, he has an accident and that leads to changes in Charlie’s life that he could never have imagined. Dark and bold, this story leads in a direction I just did not expect.

NECESSARY WOMEN
In a poor town in the South of the U.S. a fourteen year old girl is warned by her mamma about the dangers of sleeping with boys and how important it is not to end up the way her mamma did, married to a long distance trucker who likes nothing better than to beat on her when the mood takes him. Then her mamma dies and she is left to take care of her daddy.

But there’s more to this little lady than anyone might imagine, including her daddy, and how she resolves the issues she encounters is a dark, gruesome and macabre tale that shines a light on the darkness of a soul.

REMMY ROTHSTEIN TOES THE LINE
This is a very funny tale. Told in the form of memo/reports. Mindy is an adjudicator for the organisation that verifies World Records. Mindy is sent to the swamps to verify a claim that Remmy Rothstein has the world’s longest tongue.

The challenges she encounters in her travels are well documented in the reports she sends back, and they are hilarious. Not to mention Remy and his family, who would make a novel in themselves.

The stories are quite different, and enjoyable, though the middle one in particular is very dark and twisted. Highly enjoyable though and a good price for an easy read.

Crash and Burn by Lisa Gardner

My name is Nicky Frank. Except, most likely, it isn’t.

Nicole Frank shouldn’t have been able to survive the car accident, much less crawl up the steep ravine. Not in the dark, not in the rain, not with her injuries. But one thought allows her to defy the odds and flag down help: Vero.

I’m looking for a little girl. I have to save her. Except, most likely, she doesn’t exist.

Sergeant Wyatt Foster is frustrated when even the search dogs can’t find any trace of the mysterious missing child. Until Nicky’s husband, Thomas, arrives with a host of shattering revelations: Nicole Frank suffers from a rare brain injury and the police shouldn’t trust anything she says.

My husband claims he’ll do anything to save me. Except, most likely, he can’t.

Who is Nicky Frank, and what happened the night her car sailed off the road? Was it a random accident or something more sinister given the woman’s lack of family and no close friends? The deeper Wyatt digs, the more concerned he becomes. Because it turns out, in the past few months, Nicky has suffered from more than one close accident. . . . In fact, it would appear someone very much wants her dead.

This is my life. Except, most likely, it’s not. Now watch me crash and burn.

Nicky Frank is found one night after escaping from a bad car wreck in which she seems to have been the only passenger. When the police reach her, Nicky is clearly seriously confused and is desparately looking for ‘Vero’.

Reeking of scotch and with memory loss and bad headaches, Nicky is clearly distraught and confused. Sergeant Wyatt Foster of the New Hampshire Police thinks that at worst they are dealing with a suicide attempt, at best a drink driving mishap.

A search finds no trace of Vero. Is she a figment of Nicky’s imagination, or a sympton of previous head traumas that she has suffered?

As Wyatt looks into Nicky’s life and that of her husband, Thomas Frank, he finds blank walls put up in all directions. Is Nicky an abused wife and is Vero her child? The questions come thick and fast in this stand alone thriller that also brings in P.I. Tessa Leoni and D.D. Warren, characters from Gardners previous crime novels.

As Nicky starts to piece together fragments of her past, the story that is revealed is full of teasers, twists and unexpected turns. Nicky’s story is a deeply traumatic one; terrifying, haunting, sickening.

Why does she think November is such a sad month? Something happened, but does Nicky have the nerve to piece together the fragments of her shattered memories?

Wyatt Foster means to find out and when he discovers that his girlfriend, Tessa Leoni, has links to the case, he puts the two women together to see what he can learn.

I read this book pretty much in two sittings and thoroughly enjoyed it. I wanted to know Nicky’s story and couldn’t put it down until It reached its life affirming conclusion. The pace is fast and the tension builds excellently. There are false clues and many devious turns on the way to the conclusion of this excellent thriller in which nothing is quite as straightforward as it seems. Highly recommended.

Crash and Burn is published by Headline on 3rd February 2015

The Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer

Five footprints are the only sign that Daniel Buck was ever here.

And now they are all his mother has left.

Every day, Anna Buck guards the little prints in the cement. Polishing them to a shine. Keeping them safe. Spiralling towards insanity.

When a psychic offers hope, Anna grasps it. Who wouldn’t? Maybe he can tell her what happened to her son…

But is this man what he claims to be? Is he a visionary? A shut eye? Or a cruel fake, preying on the vulnerable?

Or is he something far, far worse?

The Shut Eye is set in Lewisham, South London. Detective Chief Inspector Jack Marvel is part of the Met, but working on the cusp of its jurisdiction. He is one step away from his next drink, in a marriage that is less than perfect and he is not exactly on the fast track to success. He’s always got an eye on how to leverage any small advantage.

Jack Marvel doesn’t believe in psychics and his one experience of a case that used one, Richard Latham, has left him with no warm feelings towards claims of connecting with the departed. That case is a cold case that still obsesses him;the disappearance of a young girl, Edie Evans. Despite his best efforts, all that is left to tell the tale of Edie’s disappearance is a buckled bicycle, still in the evidence room, but yielding no clues.

Anna Buck blames her garage mechanic husband James for leaving the door open; the door that let out her young son Daniel. It is his footprints in the cement that she ritually cleans every day. She is more than anguished, she is in physical pain, tortured at not knowing whether Daniel is alive, but feeling he can’t be dead. She  looks for hope in the one place she can – in a visit to a psychic.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this book, because of the psychic element.  But I really enjoyed it, because the writing is strong, the  structure is clear and the narrative is excellent.

The characters felt true to life  – I really liked W.P.C. Emily Aguda – “her job was to be nice to people and smile – what with her being black and a woman and a symbol and all.”

Overall, the story is told in such clear prose that you feel the grief of the parents and understand what drives Anna to do the things she does in order to cope with her aching grief at losing her son.

A shut eye is somebody who believes they have psychic powers. And while psychic powers do play a strong role in the narration of this crime story, they do so in a way which is ultimately satisfyingly well told.

Jack Marvel is a flawed and well drawn character and there is some good internal political power play between him and his Chief Superintendent, – only one of them can come out on top.

This is more than a run of the mill crime thriller, it is a haunting, well constructed and moving story that starkly shows the anguish parents go through when a child goes missing.  Well worth reading.

The Shut Eye is published by Bantam Press on 12 March 2015

The Dangerous Game by Mari Jungstedt translated by Tina Nunnally (Knutas/Jacobsson 8)

This is the 8th book in Mari Jungstedt’s series about Detective Superintendent Anders Knutas and Assistant Superintendent Karin Jacobsson of the Visby police force on the Swedish island of Gotland. Also involved in this case is Johan Berg, television reporter in the local Visby office of the Regional News Division, his partner Emma and their four children. Emma is friendly with Jenny’s mother, Tina.

The book deals with the fashion industry and the pressures that models are put under to conform to fashion and society’s idea of beauty – and in particular how young and how thin some of the models really are.

When controversial fashion photographer Markus Sandberg sets out on a photo shoot with his crew of stylists and new darling of the fashion industry, model Jenny Levin to work at the chic but remote Hotel Fabriken on the Gotland peninsula, no-one could have predicted that he would be the victim of a savage attack.

Knutas and Jacobsson investigate, though both have their personal issues to deal with. Knutas and his wife, Lina are having relationship problems and Karin Jacobsson has finally decided to make contact with her daughter, Hanna whom she gave up for adoption.

Sandberg is left hospitalised unable to aid the police in their investigation throughout its duration. All are agreed that even if he survives it is unlikely he will ever work again.

Agnes is also in hospital – The Anorexia Hospital – and Jungstedt’s description of anorexia and its effects are realistic and chilling. She has a routine that helps her to mitigate the impact of the food that she is faced with every day. Agnes lost her mother and brother in a car accident some years ago and now her only family is her father, Rickard, whose visits she looks forward to, though she always makes his new girlfriend, Katrina wait in the day room when he comes to visit her.

Robert Ek is the Director of the Fashion for Life modelling agency. It’s the agency that Jenny belongs to, and where she first met the promiscuous Markus. When Ek is brutally murdered, having been lured to his office on New Year’s Eve, the murder has the same hallmarks as the attack on Sandberg, but the police are making little headway.

The chapters are in the book quite short, but easy to read, and although the description is very good, at times it feels as if it is there for padding rather than impact. It does take a while for the book to get going.

The police procedural element of the book is surprisingly small; it is luck more than judgement that helps to establish who killed whom, and the tension in the scenes comes from encounters that Jenny has. Jonas Berg is pretty tangential to the story; he does not add much to the narrative.

It was fairly easy to work out who had committed the attack and murder, though there is a neat twist at the end, which I did enjoy.

All round, a fair read, but not necessarily one that has me reaching for more.

The Dangerous Game is published on February 12th 2015 by Random House UK.

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

YOU DON’T KNOW HER. BUT SHE KNOWS YOU.

Rear Window meets Gone Girl, in this exceptional and startling psychological thriller

Three young women, three different lives, but each linked in a specific way. Rachel is divorced and raw; she’s been drinking way more than she should for some time now. She is lonely and has let herself go. She drinks on the commuters’ train and as she does so, she imagines the lives of the people who she sees as the train passes a particular spot each morning and evening. She finds comfort in the mental pictures she paints of the lives of the lovely couple she sees every day, in contrast to her own wreck of a life.

Megan is married to Scott. She used to run an art gallery, then looked after Anna’s baby after her gallery failed. Megan has secrets she has never told anyone until now.

Anna is married to Tom, and they live together with their baby, Evie. Anna is the other woman. She was Tom’s mistress before she was his wife, and she loved the thrill of being a mistress, the drama of the secret meetings, the passion of being desired.

Each of these women narrates her story, each is hiding something either wilfully or in Rachel’s case, because she can’t quite remember. On the surface, each is living a normal, if not placid, life.

The story is told through the narration of Rachel, Anna and Megan over the course of just under a year. Each has her own secrets. Rachel her drinking; Megan has her own demons and Anna is living in what used to be Rachel’s house.

One day, while looking from the train at her favourite house, Rachel sees something that tells her that the fantasy she has woven about her perfect couple, a couple she may be just a little obsessed with, ‘Jess and Jason’, is not at all what she imagined.

What she has seen proves to be important in the subsequent police investigation. But is her recollection reliable? She has had blackouts and she is hardly a believable witness. But her obsession with Jess and Jason leads her to want to intervene, to tell what she has seen.

This is Paula Hawkins’ first novel and it is an assured debut. The characters are well drawn, especially Rachel, whose flaws are acutely observed. The pace is fast and this psychological thriller draws the reader into the lives of each of these women as they tell their stories alternately.

As each character’s story unfolds, there are twists and false turns, and it gets harder for the reader to tell where the truth lies. The different perspectives make it hard for the reader to know what information to trust.

This is a clever and gripping read, with deceptions and tensions in abundance. A great first novel and an author to note.

The Girl On The Train is published on 15th January 2015 

Blood Moon (The HUNTRESS /FBI Thrillers 2) by Alexandra Sokoloff.

Twenty-five years have passed since a savage killer terrorized California, massacring three ordinary families before disappearing without a trace.

The haunted child who was the only surviving victim of his rampage is now wanted by the FBI for brutal crimes of her own, and Special Agent Matthew Roarke is on an interstate manhunt for her, despite his conflicted sympathies for her history and motives.

But when his search for her unearths evidence of new family slayings, the dangerous woman Roarke seeks – and wants – may be his only hope of preventing another bloodbath.

I hadn’t read the first book, but that didn’t affect my impression of the second in this series.
As I was reading this, I couldn’t help but wonder why it is that I like very bloody books about serial killers, but have decided that’s too much introspection into my psyche to be entirely comfortable.
I know nothing about Alexandra Sokoloff, so was intrigued to read this novel. At first, I found it quite slow going, and reminiscent of the Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell relationship in Chelea Cain’s books.

Cara is the only surviving victim of a serial killer; a crazed killer who seeks out families and kills them at the full moon. Matt Roarke is the cop who rescued her.  Cara is wanted by the FBI for the vigilante style murders of pimps, traffickers and abusers.

There is a connection and a strong sexual tension between Roarke and Cara, creating conflict between Roarke and other agents in his team, and creating the picture of a slightly rogue cop who knows that while Cara will never hurt him, nevertheless she is a dangerous killer.

Blood Moon begins when Roarke and his team liberate a number of underage girls from a brothel; a site that Cara has helped lead them to. As the team focuses its energy on hunting Cara down, in an attempt to draw Cara out  in the hope that they can capture her,   they look for and find another family slaying that has all the echoes of the previous killings by the notorious ‘Reaper’.

But when Roarke stumbles upon a new clue to the old killings, everything changes, and the pace of the book really picks up. Once again Roarke finds that he needs Cara’s help and the tension builds as their connection once more intensifies.

I wasn’t sure about Bold Moon at first, but as the book got into its stride it held my attention well and I would read the next one which is due out later this year.

Entry Island by Peter May

I loved Peter May’s Lewis Trilogy, and thoroughly enjoyed his China Series, and boy would I love his travel budget.

He writes evocatively, especially when describing places and landscape; there’s a richness to his language that enhances the story he is telling.

Set in Montreal, Sime Mackenzie is a detective with a Hebridean heritage, an insomnia problem and as if lack of sleep were not enough, he’s working alongside his ex-wife.

There are two interlinked stories here – one set in the time of the clearances and involving Sime’s ancestors and the present day Sime investing the murder of a wealthy islander on Entry Island – the place where those driven out of their homes in Scotland, first landed on their way to French Canada. It is a bleak place with a 100 or so inhabitants, and a place where islanders don’t bother locking their doors due to its isolation.

Prime suspect is his widow, Kirsty. From the first moment Sime meets Kirsty he is drawn to her. He can’t help but feel that somehow he knows her.

As the investigation gets underway, the two interlinked stories drive the troubled Sime to get to the truth of what happened and resolve not only the murder but also an old story that was long in the waiting for its conclusion.

The story itself is not overly strong and requires something of a suspension of disbelief, but the writing is strong and hauntingly evocative. Certainly worth reading.

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