Five Incredible Books About Real-Life Political Scandals

After seeing the trailers for the most recent series of American Crime Story, which centres on the Monica Lewinsky, and I couldn’t help but think about the impact that the scandal had on the world, both in terms of politics and popular culture.

Monica Lewinsky has become a byword for risky sex in the music scene, but in literature she is the perfect example of a young woman who finds herself faced with sexual harassment and contempt in a political arena.

The scandal has been covered extensively in books, both fiction and non-fiction. When I was at University, I read a fair few books about the scandal, and about other political disasters that have helped to shape the world that we live in today.

Real-life political scandals are a fascinating way to learn more about a society and the values that it holds dear, as well as the ways that it holds its politicians accountable for their transgressions.

If you’re eager to check out some intriguing non-fiction books about political scandals, some of which you may have heard of and want to know more about, and some that you might never had heard about before, then here’s a list of five awesome texts to start you off.

I’ve tried to choose books from political arenas and authors from around the world, so there’s something for everyone, wherever you’re from and whatever aspect of politics you’re interested in learning more about. This list is just a brief intro: hopefully it’ll wet your appetite and get you wanting more books about real-life political scandals.

5. Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?: Vladimir Putin is one of the world’s worst living dictators who has caused incredible hurt to minorities and wealthy oligarchs alike. While his rule over Russia is not one specific scandal, but rather one long-running grift, this book is still about the evil that this disgusting man has committed and the lasting legacy that he will leave on Russia, the USA and the rest of the world. Russian Scholar and Writer Karen Dawisha uses a variety of different sources, including insiders from Putin’s regime, Stasi archives, newspapers, journalists and more to put together a comprehensive overview of the impact that Putin’s regime has had. The book was published in 2014, so it is slightly dated, but it’s still a very well-researched insight into how Putin’s Russia has affected the global stage and had an impact on the lives of individual citizens as well.

4. A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President: The book that inspired the latest series of American Crime Story is definitely worth a read if you want to learn more about how Bill Clinton’s affair with a young member of the White House staff destroyed his political power and ruined the trust that the American people once had in their leader. Initially published in 1999, not long after the impeachment trial that bought the scandal to light, Jeffrey Toobin’s book is a full overview of the allegations made by Paula Jones and his affair with Monica Lewinsky. The book has since been updated and expanded to include more information on how the scandal evolved and developed over time. Toobin offers a complete timeline of the allegations and how they led to Clinton’s impeachment and the legal ramifications of his actions, both those that can be proved and those that were alleged. It’s an intriguing read that will give you a complete account of the scandal that you can’t really find elsewhere.

3. No Expense Spared: The UK’s MP expenses scandal almost tore Gordon Brown’s cabinet apart with its wild allegations of immense greed during a time of economic austerity for the rest of the country. Robert Winnett and Gordon Rayner were the Telegraph journalists who led a team of reporters who studied the expense reports and eventually broke the story, so their book is a first-hand account of how they came to realise the true scope of the information they had and how the story changed the way that the British public views its politicians. The book covers everything from the funnier side of the expenses reports, such as the costly duck house and moat cleaning through to the tales of house flipping, downright lies and fraud, all in an engaging and understandable way. The writers break down the scandal and explain the impact it had on the UK’s political world and what has changed since the scandal broke.

2. No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison: This incredible autobiography by Behrouz Boochani is brilliant and poetic even before you learn the true cost to the writer that the book came at. It was written on a phone as WhatsApp messages and was smuggled out of the prison to be translated and then published. Following on from the recent American withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and a rise in prejudice against refugees of that country and many others, this book about the writer’s desperate journey to Christmas Island and subsequent imprisonment in a facility run by the Australian government on Manus Island is a timely reminder that displaced people are not the enemy. It is a deeply human and heartbreaking tale that is all the more vivid and scary because it’s entirely true.

1. The Man Who Sold America: Joy-Ann Reid’s incredible book is a timely reminder of how the Trump administration worked to profit from the presidency and privatise as much as possible before his defeat in the 2020 election. The book, written before the election and updated later, gives an in-depth insight into America’s national accounts and how Trump and his cronies plundered them. It also explores how the former president made it clear that America was for sale and the ways in which he desperately tried to buy foreign favour before he was ousted. If you’re interested in a very recent political scandal and how it could impact the future of what was once the greatest nation in the world then this could be the book for you.

Mo Hayder Obituary

It’s with a heavy heart that I share the news that novelist Clare Dunkel, who wrote under the pseudonyms Mo Hayder and Theo Clare, as died at the age of just 59, after battling Motor Neurone Disease.

Mo Hayder, as she was most commonly known, worked around the world, before her debut novel Birdman was published at the end of 1999. It was a shockingly graphic tale of the investigation into the ritualist murders of multiple women in London. The novel was revered as refreshingly intense and deeply thriller by both readers and critics alike.

In book she introduced her main protagonist, Jack Caffery, who appears in several of her novels. He’s a driven detective inspector who’s not phased by anything. He’s often called to the scene of gruesome crimes. Many of Hayder’s books involve despicable crimes and horrendous crime scenes, or difficult topics, such as paedophilia.

As well as the Jack Caffery novels, the author also wrote four standalone novels and put together the screenplay for a Dutch language version of her novel The Treatment. A versatile writer and supportive member of the writing community, Hayder contributed a great deal to the world of literature and thriller writing. Her work inspired many other dark crime fiction writers, and helped to define the modern thriller market.

Despite having left school at just 15 years old to become a waitress, then working around the world, including in Tokyo, a city which she eventually named a novel after, Hayder later returned to the world of education and earned herself two Master’s degrees; one in film making from the American University in Washington DC and the other in creative writing from Bath Spa University. She also had jobs as a waitress, security guard and international English teacher before she started writing professionally and making a name for herself in the thriller writing community.

These jobs and degrees helped her to hone her writing skills, enrich her already extensive life experiences and get the confidence she needed to start writing professionally. Her first book was beloved by readers and critics alike, and all of her subsequent works have achieved similar success.

Her work is most notable for being gripping and gruesome, without being overly gory. Hayder got the balance just right, making her work appealing to a wide variety of readers. The author created amazing characters who did crazy and often terrible things. Every book was a roller coaster of emotions, and the author crafted beautiful narratives that kept readers hooked from start to well after they were finished reading.

As well as being international bestsellers, many of her novels also won accolades, including the coveted CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award. Her contribution was noted through the winning of these awards and by many reviewers who regularly pointed out the gripping nature of her work. Her work is often seen as similar to the very best Scandinavian crime fiction, as it uses many of the same tropes and similar plot devices to grip the reader and really shock them to the core.

Although Hayder’s bibliography isn’t exceptionally extensive under any name, she has made a lasting impact on the crime fiction and thriller genres thanks to her imagination and amazing skill with words. She helped to pave the way for many other writers to incorporate dark themes into their work and highlight the gruesome side of human nature.

Drawing on her extensive and varied life experiences as well as the people she knew and loved, Hayder created rich narratives and unique plots that would haunt readers long after they put her books down. Her second husband, to whom my thoughts go out at this difficult time, was a retired policeman, and presumably she drew on his past experiences, as well as her own, when writing her novels.

Shortly before her unfortunate demise, Hayder completed a new novel, The Book Of Sand, which was written under her second pseudonym, Theo Clare. The book is set to be released posthumously next year.

Ultimately, this latest novel will be an exciting addition to Hayder’s legacy of writing gripping, tense thrillers that show the very worst that humanity has to offer. It’s such a colossal shame that the thriller industry has lost such a celebrated writer, but Hayder’s work will live on and be loved by many generations to come. She’ll always be known as a master of suspense and turning difficult topics into engaging narratives. She died too soon but her work remains and will be a lasting reminder of her commitment and unique creative mind. My thoughts are with her family and loved ones, and I can only hope that her success in her profession brings them some small comfort as they grieve for their loss. It’s always a shame to lose a talented individual so soon, but she made an impression on millions of readers, as well as those lucky enough to know her and spend time with her in person.

The Noise Review: An Engaging If Overly Long Fantasy Thriller

Having recently reviewed James Patterson and Bill Clinton’s book The President’s Daughter, I was excited to check out his latest book, The Noise.

A collaboration with J.D. Barker, the book is set in modern day America, in a remote settlement where a sudden anomaly tears through the landscape and leaves destruction in its wake. The anomaly is a loud noise, that causes physical and mental devastation to everything in its path. The book switches between perspectives, so the reader gets to see the destruction from various viewpoints.

Among these is a scientist, Dr Martha Chan, who is bought in by the US government to investigate the anomaly and what caused it. There are also two young girls, Tenant and Sophie, who lived in an off-the-grid settlement and survive the disaster, alongside their labrador Zeke. The pair settle into a storm shelter after the noise catching them out while they’re trapping rabbits. Once the event is, seemingly, over, the pair resurface, with Sophie experiencing strange symptoms, including a fever. She also keeps saying ‘Anna Shim’, a name that her sister doesn’t know. Another character whose perspective the authors show to the reader is a US solider who works with Martha to try and understand what’s going on.

The initial team bought in to deal with the anomaly and understand it thins out, as specialists visit the site of the tragedy and promptly disappear. The leader who’s handling the situation instates a 2 hour rule, where everyone has to leave the site of the anomaly after 2 hours or less.

That doesn’t stop him and others from disappearing. As the anomaly hits other towns and other people encounter it, it becomes clear that the problem is spreading and that it is gathering momentum and growing in power. The initial team bought in by the US government thins down to a few, including Dr Chan and the solider, who work together to analyse the two girls that survived the initial blast and work out what’s causing it.

With the threat growing ever more real and major, the US government realises that if it doesn’t do something soon, then other international powers will take action. The anomaly and the destruction it causes are soon covered by the media, both traditional and social. The result is mass panic, and a gripping race for the characters to understand the noise and what it means for humanity.

The Noise starts out a little slowly, with a lot of exposition that makes the book exceptionally and needlessly long. However, as the book picks up its pace towards the middle, it becomes a unique take on the modern fantasy thriller. It blends the writers’ skills in political and thriller writing with a creative dystopian world in which all of humanity is at risk from being consumed by an all-encompassing sound.

What I like the most about the novel is the characterisation. There are loads of great characters and engaging dialogue, so the reader starts to really feel invested in the story and wants these characters to survive. That’s particularly true of Dr Martha Chan, who is an engaging character who is both interesting and empathetic. Her relationship with the two girls who survived the anomaly is endearing and pushes the reader to want her to survive and find a way to deal with the issue facing humankind. She regularly mentions her young twin children, which brings us back to the real facts of the issue: that the anomaly could potentially wipe out everything she and the other experts hold dear.

The chapters that are from Dr Chan’s perspective are intriguing and engaging, as are the ones from Tenant’s point of view. However, as the book jumps around so much, it’s difficult for readers to keep up with the complicated story and feel truly engaged in it. The story jumps not just in perspective but also in space, as the book takes us to different areas near or around the anomaly or to a secure unit where the army is experimenting to find a way to stop the noise from infecting other people.

In the end, it’s clear that Patterson and Barker are trying to emulate Stephen King with this supernatural thriller, right at the time when King is trying his hand at police procedural writing. It makes for a unique insight into the literary world, but as far as reading experiences go, The Noise needs some work. For a first attempt it isn’t half bad, and with a little sharpening and less repositioning of the narrative, I think that the two authors have the potential to become a fantasy thriller powerhouse.

Vicki FitzGerald Interview: “The world we live in is a sinister place with an extremely dark underworld that many people do not know exists”

Thriller author Vicki FitzGerald talks to me about her work, the experiences that inspire her work and her exciting future plans.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards darker fiction?

I’ve always preferred crime and horror books. As a child, I would plough through Point Horror novels, while my sister was reading Point Romance. After covering numerous crimes as a Journalist, I decided that I would one day write my own novel. I decided to draw from personal experience. They say write what you know. My first book, Briguella features Journalist, Kate Rivendale AKA me. Kill List explores drugging, which I’ve encountered. I wanted to explore our sinister world and show how bad things happen to good people. One action can change your life forever.


What is your background in writing and how did you get in to writing crime fiction?

After graduating with a BA (Hons) degree in Journalism, I worked for a regional newspaper for a decade before launching my own public relations firm. I was drawn to crime stories covering anything from murders to assaults. Out of the blue a sex attacker attacked 13 women in 13 days in our town. I was reporting at the heart of it and it gave me a huge buzz being part of a major criminal investigation. I decided to draw from my experiences covering the case to create my debut novel, Briguella.


Where do you take your inspiration? Are there any rituals you do to get yourself in the mood for writing?

From true life. The world we live in is a sinister place with an extremely dark underworld that many people do not know exists. I wanted to explore that and ventured onto the dark web. Trust me, I was horrified at what I found in 30 minutes – a hit man an hour away who was willing to kill babies to pensioners.


I always start writing with a cup of tea. In the summer, I work outdoors. I seem to write better with the sun on my face. I also like to write with a glass of wine in the evening. If I’m ever struggling for ideas, I go out and look for places to set a scene or I delve into a binge Netflix session of true crime or thrillers.


What style of writing do you enjoy yourself? Are there any particular writers you admire?

I tend to stick with thrillers or non-fiction covering forensic knowledge or those that get into the minds of serial killers. I’m intrigued by killers and what happened in their life to turn them into a murderer. I admire every writer for having the guts to put their soul on paper.


If you could collaborate with any person, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

Stephen King. He never gave up on writing despite numerous rejections. After his wife pulled the draft of Carrie out of his bin, he continued writing even though it was out of his comfort zone. It just shows you cannot stop a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively.

Also, Stephen and I have experienced similar traumas with regards to being injured and having to learn to walk again. I guess I admire his fighting spirit.

Have you got any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

Kill List. I’ve signed with Hollywood agent, Ken Atchity, producer of the blockbuster, The Meg. We are finalising a film treatment for an adaption to a TV series. Either Ken may produce or sell Kill List on to Hollywood producers. Ken compares Kill List to Killing Eve, Breaking Bad, Peppermint, and Prodigal Son. I find that mind-blowing, as they all rank with my favourite shows and films.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to later in the year?

I’ve recently enjoyed Lucy Clark and Alice Feeney.


Anything you’d like to add?

I just want to encourage others to chase their dreams. If you do not try, you’ll never know.

Thanks for answering my questions, it’s been great to hear from you Vicki. I’m excited for your TV adaptation!

The President’s Daughter Review: A Punchy Political Thriller That’s Ideal For Summer

Following the success of their first novel together, The President Is Missing, former U.S President Bill Clinton and internationally acclaimed thriller writer James Patterson have collaborated on another book, which is due to be published next week.

This new book is titled The President’s Daughter, and despite the similarities in the titles, it’s a standalone novel, not part of a series with the previous book. That means a whole new cast of characters and a completely new tale. It also means that you don’t have to have read The President Is Missing to enjoy this new novel.

It’s a book about the kidnapping of a teenage girl, who’s father is a former Navy SEAL who later served as the President of the U.S. With his daughter kidnapped by a former enemy, he’s left to use his skills to track down his little girl and get her back safely, a journey that takes him around the world and into dangerous situations.

The title of the book is slightly misleading: by the time she’s kidnapped, Mel Keating’s father Matt is an ex-president, and has been so for 2 years. He’s now living quietly in a small house in a small town in New Hampshire, while his wife is working on an archaeological dig in Boston.

Mel was out hiking when she’s abruptly snatched from the trail and her boyfriend is shot dead in front of her. Now, she’s in the hands of a dangerous terrorist: a man whose own daughters, along with his wife, were killed while Keating’s men were exploring his compound during his presidency.  

Now, this terrorist is out for revenge, and he has the former President’s daughter in his clutches. Emotions run high as the former President and his wife watch in horror as the current administration, which already betrayed them politically, now fails them in trying to recover their precious daughter.

Switching between different perspectives, including Matt Keating, his wife, his daughter and the terrorists who hold her captive, the new President, the secret service agents working with Keating to find his daughter, and various international diplomats, the two authors create a varied and intense narrative. By withholding information from the reading, and showing us the initial, horrified reactions of a variety of characters, the writers turn even simple plot points into thrilling passages.

One of the downsides to this technique is that it does make the book much longer. The President’s Daughter is an immense volume with over 100 chapters split into 5 parts, plus en epilogue. Despite this extraordinary length, the book is surprisingly easy to read.

Clinton and Patterson do a good job of creating tension and making Matt Keating, the former POTUS protagonist, realistic and believable. We can really feel his pain and empathise with his feelings of impotence and inadequacy as he watches the hostage situation unfold. He feels powerless, until he decides to go off-script, in true action hero fashion, and take matters into is own hands.

Armed with a selection of weapons he understands from his days as a Navy SEAL, his grief, and a handful of security operatives and high-level contacts that he can trust, Matt Keating sets out to take down the terrorist who took his little girl. All the while, the truth is obscured and it’s unclear as to who Keating, or the reader, can trust.

While the pair are both clearly very good at writing powerful male characters, they fall seriously short when it comes to portraying women. Despite the sheer volume of female characters, the novel is very clearly written by men. The female characters are almost entirely either women who behave like the male characters and are almost indistinguishable from them, as is the case with the female secret agents, or they’re entirely controlled by men.

That’s the case with the new President, Pamela Barnes. She is married to a former cowboy, who’s now her chief of staff and who controls her. He literally makes decisions on her behalf. Her character is a caricature of what the first female President of America might look like, which is frankly shocking from the husband of a woman who stood a decent chance of becoming the first real life female POTUS if it wasn’t for America’s overwhelming racism and bigotry. Even when Pamela Barnes does eventually wise up to her husband’s debauchery and ditch him, she’s still facing the fallout from his past decision making.

Also, Clinton and Patterson both miss out on the irony of the female characters, particularly the secret service and FBI operatives, being constantly mansplained at and being overlooked for top jobs by incompetent men. There are plenty of male characters in this book who are clearly completely useless at their roles, but meanwhile women are running around cleaning up their messes and generally just doing their jobs for them.

For me, it’s characters and writing like this that makes me wish for more inclusivity and female perspectives in the crime fiction and thriller market. The women in The President’s Daughter have all accepted their fates as helpless and waiting for rescue, puppets or tokens. It’s such a shame that neither of the writers could take the time to consult with a woman, or research real women in power, before they put this book together.

The same goes for the foreign characters, many of whom appear to be a string of stereotypes clustered together. There are a few redeeming paragraphs which show some small international cooperation and appear to suggest that not all foreigners are bad, but for the most part the novel is incredibly regressive and filled with out-dated values. It’s hardly inclusivity if you include diverse characters but write them from your own, ignorant perspective.

This is the biggest let down the novel has, but if you can look beyond the lack of real diversity and the weird characterisation of everyone other than the ex-Navy SEAL turned former POTUS and his male security detail, then this is an interesting read. Patterson has written hundreds of books over the years, many of which have become international bestsellers. Combined with Clinton’s knowledge of the U.S political system, and you’ve got an interesting read that can help make your staycation feel like a really relaxing break. There’s not a lot of complicated plot points or information to absorb, so you can just sit back and enjoy the ride through this action-packed book.

Overall, if you enjoy fast-paced thrillers then you could find that The President’s Daughter is right up your street. Written by a former President and a master of popular thrillers, the book is a well-researched page-turner. It’ll be a great read for the summer. If you’re looking for a book with substances and a social conscience, then this isn’t the novel for you, but it’s still a great way to pass the time. It might be a hefty book, but it’ll fly by and you’ll be shocked by how quickly you finish it thanks to Patterson’s narrative skills.

Guilty Review: A Shocking Thriller With A New Twist In Every Chapter

Having recently interviewed author Jane Hobden, I was eager to check out her book, Guilty.

It’s billed as a unique version of a traditional crime novel, and it’s easy to see why as soon as you turn the first page. The narrative is divided into sections, so that the reader sees the case from multiple perspectives. It offers almost Gone Girl esq perspective flips, but more of them, so that the reader is constantly unsure about whose version of the truth is the real one.

The plot follows the strange case of Megan Sands, a young mother whose six-year-old daughter is taken into care following a fall down some stairs. The teaching assistant who took the child to hospital and urged the staff there to call social services is also a mother with a daughter in the same class; indeed, the two young girls are friends.

Not long after Lola Sands is taken into care, someone breaks into the teaching assistant’s home and throws acid over her husband’s face, before tying her up and berating her before letting her go. The teaching assistant, Becky Thurston, recognises the assailant and identifies her as Megan Sands. She tells the police that Megan had threatened her before and been abusive prior to the devastating attack.

When the police go to visit Megan at her flat to quiz her about the attack, they find a bottle of acid and a blanket out in the hall on the floor below where she lives. It’s this coincidence, and Megan’s lack of alibi and shifty behaviour that leads the police to arrest and charge her with the crime.

The novel details the court case, as well as the events leading up to it and in between. Skipping from different perspectives and narrative styles, Hobden creates an enthralling tale that’s very difficult to put down. The reader is thrust into this captivating story and soon finds themselves wondering who to believe.

Many of the characters that narrate chapters, and deliver witness statements that Hobden uses to change up the writing style, are unreliable, with their versions of events differing drastically from other people’s accounts. So, the reader is left on tenterhooks and you’re unable to guess what’s going to happen next.

Thanks to Hobden’s diverse writing style, which includes witness statements, court dialogue and first person, character narrated chapters, the reader gets a complete perspective over the case. As mentioned, several of the characters are, at specific times throughout the story, unreliable, meaning that we see the action unfold slowly. The tale becomes increasingly complicated as Megan gives her evidence in court, and twisted versions of the truth start to come out.

The book is great, but it’s not without its flaws. The main issue I find is that the witness statements, used at the beginning of the novel to break up the narrative, feel a little samey. For those that are supposed to be written by characters in professional jobs, they don’t quite hit the right note. The same goes for the court proceedings: at times, the lawyers just don’t sound right. I’m not a lawyer or an expert myself, but I’ve read enough crime fiction to know that some of the text isn’t quite accurate.

That being said, accuracy isn’t everything, and while these minor issues might impede the narrative slightly, they don’t change the fact that this is an incredible book that keeps you hooked to the very end. Hobden structures the novel well, so that you feel compelled to keep going to get to the next twist and uncover the next fact.

It’s this propulsion that drives the reader through the novel and makes Guilty such a great read. You’ll be surprised how quickly you finish this compelling read. Once you’ve finished it, you’ll be haunted by the plot. It’s not just the plot that’s unforgettable; the characters are also engaging and memorable. Megan Sands, whose first-person account is interspersed with her witness testimony, is a relatable and understandable character who inspires both pity and understanding.

Her supposed victim’s wife, Becky Thurston, is also relatable and is both suspicious and subtly threatening. Even small, minor characters are intriguing and memorable, including Megan’s lawyer. He’s a robotic career man who has no compassion for his client and is neither sympathetic nor particularly competent. Through characters like him and the unsympathetic policemen who interview Megan, Hobden makes a point that the legal system in the UK is often incredibly prejudice, particularly towards single mothers living in social housing. 

When all’s said and done, Guilty is a unique thriller that works on many levels. It’s not without its flaws, but those don’t detract from the novel. It’s still a great read that will keep you riveted for a long while to come. The book also makes you question the truth and how every story has more than one side. So, if you want to enjoy a gripping summer read, then this could be the perfect solution for you.

Five Books About Unsolved Mysteries To Keep You On The Edge Of Your Seat

True crimes are an exciting trend in non-fiction books, as the world looks for something to entertain and keep itself busy.

You only have to check out your Netflix list to see the world’s fascination with true crime.

Documentaries on the subject are more popular than ever before during the pandemic, as we’re all keen to keep ourselves busy.

While solved crimes will always be fascinating, unsolved mysteries are even more so.

There’s the suspense and the mystery, which makes them all the more intriguing. Think about how well the legend of Jack The Ripper has endured in popular fiction and the media.

If the killer had been caught, then he might not have been as interesting to writers, artists and social commentators.

I’ve already gone over the best true crime books and serial killer books for documentary fans, so now I thought I’d showcase 5 awesome books about true cases of unsolved mysteries.

After all, unsolved mysteries are a unique part of our lives. While you’re never likely to solve the crime by reading a book, it’s interesting to check out all the facts and see them from different perspectives.

If you’re looking for a book about unsolved crimes, then keep reading and maybe you’ll find a new favourite!

5. Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery: Investigative journalist Robert Kolker delves into the lives of five women who worked as escorts and advertised their services on the website Craigslist. Over the span of several years, young women who sold their time and services on the site were lured to their death on Long Island. Kolker worked with the families of the young women who were presumed to be the victims of a serial killer and explores how their lives were shaped by poverty. There could have been many other victims, and not all might be the victims of the same killer, but this story is more about the women and what led them into the work that put them in the path of a killer. The author works to produce a very human portrayal, not of the unknown killer, but of the women whose lives they took.

4. Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident: It’s a chilling tale that could easily be the plot of a film. A group of experienced hikers is taking on a trail in the northern Ural Mountains during the 1950s. They’re bodies are discovered, but it’s clear that something strange has happened. The bodies exhibit signs of violence, they’ve clearly run out of their tents unprepared and there are mysterious photos and other weird information that doesn’t add up. In 2019 the Russian authorities launched an investigation, and branded the incident the work of an avalanche, but many remain unconvinced. In 2013, Donnie Eichar put together this compelling overview of the trip and the incidents leading up to the tragic deaths of the group. He goes into detail about what happened and offers intriguing theories. He presents the tale well, so that the reader is propelled through the story all the way through to the mysterious, and still completely unresolved, ending.

3. The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World’s Largest Unsolved Art Theft: I’d never even heard of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the art heist that rocked Boston until I saw a recent Netflix documentary on the subject. The show wasn’t very well structured and it offered its information haphazardly and out of logical order. However, the one benefit of the documentary was that it did interest me in this strange case. So, in my quest for more information on the subject, I went in search of a book about the case, which was never solved. Journalist Ulrich Boser delves into the case in this insightful book, basing it on the case files of a detective who specialises in art thefts, Harold Smith. He’d dedicated a many years to the case, and after his death Boser took his notes and turned them into a comprehensive overview of the case, all of the evidence in it and potential scenarios that could have occurred when this selection of valuable art was spirited away. The report explores Smith’s leads and a range of ideas, ranging from run of the mill theories to downright crazy suppositions involving tenuous links to big time gangers like James Whitey Bulger. The book also offers an informative insight into the formation of this unique and illustrious museum, which was founded by a wealthy heiress who wanted to make it a hub for art lovers. If you’re interested in learning more about the case, which remains one of the biggest unsolved art thefts in the world to this very day, then this book is a comprehensive and compelling choice.

2. Blood And Money: This insightful book covers the unique case of Joan Robinson Hill, a successful horse rider living in Houston, Texas. She was also the daughter of a ruthless oil tycoon and the wife of an ambitious plastic surgeon. Joan died in suspicious circumstances, and her husband quickly married his mistress shortly after her death. Joan’s father believed that she was killed by her husband, who had been eager to leave her for some time before her death, but he was indebted to her father and being blackmailed by him to stay with his daughter and avoid a scandal. After her death, Joan’s father pursued her husband for murder through medical negligence, as he didn’t take her to hospital for several days after she became sick, and when he was eventually pressured into taking her to one he took her to a small hospital without an emergency room, rather than a larger hospital. It was never proved that John Hill killed his wife, although many people have alleged it. After an initial mistrial, thanks to the sensational claims of his second estranged second wife, John Hill was murdered himself. While his killers were caught and found to have links to his former father in law, he was never charged with organising the hit. The fascinating case is as scandalous and complex as it sounds, with so many twists and complications that it’s almost impossible to keep up. Thankfully, Blood And Money lays out the case in a logical manner, giving the reader access to the facts. Thomas Thompson covers this sensational case clearly and creates a compelling narrative that helps to untangle this confusing tale.

1. Zodiac: Many people have seen the film Zodiac starring Robert Downey Junior, but some people don’t realise that it was actually based on real life events. The zodiac killings shocked America to its core, and the fact that the killer was never identified is unprecedented and incredible. Robert Graysmith’s 1986 book on the subject is acknowledged by many to be a definitive account of what occurred during the killing spree, which occurred in the 1960s and 70s and was highly publicised. It’s also the book on which the movie was based. The book goes into far more detail than the movie does, and discusses every aspect of the case, explores the lives and deaths of the 6 known victims, as well as the killer’s claims and potential motives. It’s a compelling account that’s definitely a must-read for thriller loves and anyone who’s interested in mysteries that may never be solved. 

Lost Souls Review: An Thrilling Modern Mystery You Won’t Be Able To Put Down

Hot on the heels of the amazing and engaging Serpentineis John Kellerman’s latest novel, which he created in collaboration with his son, award-winning playwright Jesse Kellerman.

Part of the Clay Edison series, Lost Souls follows the intrepid coroner as he deals with a case of a baby’s dead body, found decomposing under a stage at a Berkley University park.

The park in question, known as People’s Park, is due to be demolished and turned into a dormitory complex. However, as the building crew come to tear down the park’s infrastructure, including the stage, a bone is discovered.

The bone turns out to be the entire skeleton of a young baby, wrapped in a blanket and clearly old. The discovery turns the park into a political playground, with the University on one side and organisations fighting to protect the park, which they believe to be a Native American burial site, on the other.

In the middle, Edison and his team are trying to uncover the identity of the infant whose remains were under the stage. They find out that he’s a boy, and then they uncover a match for his DNA. This discovery, made early in the novel, takes Edison to a prison cell where a violent white supremacist is in denial about the child, and his kids refuse to acknowledge their previously unknown sibling.

At the same time, Edison is contacted by a wealthy tech entrepreneur, who thinks that the remains might be those of his long lost sister. He’s never met her, and he doesn’t remember ever having done so, but he has a snapshot of his mother and a baby long before he was born. His mother is now dead, and he’s desperate for some kind of closure on the subject. So much so that’s he’s gone to desperate lengths and, so far, found nothing. His father, who doesn’t speak to anymore, has let slip that the child was a girl, but he doesn’t know much more about her.

The remains at the park are not the tech wizard’s sister, but Edison, who has his own little baby girl at home, agrees to take on the case to help find out what happened to the child in the picture. Through the case, which he takes on privately, he comes up against silence, bureaucracy and the FBI, all of which takes him on towards some shocking discoveries.

All the while, the fight over the park and the potential building of the dormitory is reaching fever pitch. Tensions boil over and violence ensues. Edison also receives personal threats, leading him to fear for the safety of his family. While the plot has a lot of twists and turns, it remains enticing and easy to follow. If anything, the multiple plot points help readers to feel engaged in the story.

Thanks to the narrative skills and extensive experience of the writers, Lost Souls is an eye-opening tale that teaches readers a lot about American policing and the process of managing cases. As an English woman, I didn’t realise that American coroners have so much power, and that they act as a combination of pathologist and police officer. Clay Edison is certainly not like the fuddy duddy English pathologist type character that you see in a lot of British crime novels.

Instead, he’s a hardened yet compassionate officer who understands people and has a lot of experience handling individuals in many different painful, dangerous or generally difficult situations. The two Kellerman’s deftly entwine his personal and professional lives in the novel, giving just enough insight to make the issues he’s dealing with at work seem so deeply personal and painful to the protagonist.

As well as Edison, there are so many incredible, believable characters in this novel. There’s the tech mogul, who is both dedicated to finding out more about his long lost sister and disillusioned that his past attempts have all led to dead ends. Also, there is the family of the white supremacist, who are intriguing and more than just the typical stereotypes that you see in many thrillers. Instead, they’re two-dimensional figures who are clearly a product of a very messed-up upbringing and who really enrich the story.

The characters are backed up by punchy dialogue that sounds realistic yet slick. The police characters are all witty enough to keep the novel moving but not so much that they seem corny or completely fake.

One of the few criticisms I have of the novel is that some parts of the storyline, namely Edison taking on a private case, feel a little forced. It seems a bit unbelievable that a busy coroner, in the midst of a hectic investigation and barely sleeping because of his young daughter, would jump so readily at the chance to take on yet more work. The case appears unsolvable, and there while the character of the tech businessman is portrayed as slick and persuasive, I wondered a few times whether a busy public official would stoop to taking on a private job. I also wondered about the legalities of doing so; while Edison doesn’t agree a fee, in the UK such a practice would definitely be frowned upon, if not a definite breach of rules.

However, that’s a minor grumble, and given that it is a book, and not real life, I suppose I can give the Kellerman’s a bit of artistic license, especially since it makes the novel that much more enticing. It’s fascinating to watch the two cases unfold alongside one another, and between them the two entwine to carry the plot through to its dramatic and satisfying conclusion.

Ultimately, Lost Souls is a fascinating addition to the Clay Edison series and incorporates all of the best parts of John Kellerman’s storytelling abilities with the fresh ideas and innovation of his son Jesse. This is a gripping thriller that should definitely be added to your summer reading list. It’ll make the perfect read for when you’re relaxing out in the sun and want to enjoy a fascinating crime caper.

The Whispers Review: A Haunting Thriller That You’ll Remember For All The Right Reasons

As part of her blog tour, I’m excited to share my thoughts on the latest book from renowned thriller writer Heidi Perks.

After Perks’ past works, including Come Back For Me, Three Perfect Liarsand the incredible Now You See Her, comes her latest offering, the deliciously deceitful The Whispers.

The author’s latest release is a gripping thriller with a Gone Girl esq twist. Not to spoil the plot, but honestly, if you love Gillian’s Flynn’s bestseller then The Whispers could be the perfect read for you.

The story revolves around four very close friends, who live in the picturesque, fictional Dorset town of Clearwater, near the very real town of Weymouth. These four friends are all parents of 8 year olds kids, who are all in the same class at primary school.

On the surface, these four live picture-perfect, happy lives. They have great husbands, lovely children, and beautiful homes. Those who have jobs seem to enjoy them, and the rest love being homemakers and taking care of their husbands and children.

All of this is pulled apart with the arrival of Grace, a woman who used to live in Clearwater but moved to Australia when she was a teenager. Now a married mother with an 8 year old daughter in the same class as the four friends’ kids, she comes back and expects to fit in with her former best friend, Anna, one of the four.

However, Anna now has her three new friends, and she is increasingly distant from Grace. The other three women all rally round her and seem to try to keep her away from her childhood best friend. In a desperate attempt to fit in and win her old friend back, Grace agrees to come to a Christmas night out at the local pub.

The night is filled with in fighting and strange revelations. Grace leaves early while the other four women stay and party. The next day, Anna has disappeared, and Grace soon finds that her friends aren’t being honest about what happened to her. In desperation, Grace goes to Anna’s gormless husband, then takes it upon herself to report the disappearance to the police.

Not only is Anna’s vanishing scary for Grace, but it also brings back unwelcome memories of an eerily similar disappearance that happened back when the girls where teenagers. A girl in their class disappeared, only to be found dead having fallen from the cliffs. The cliffs in the area are renowned as dangerous, but now Grace begins to wonder.

She meets up with a policeman who worked the case all those years ago, and the two reminisce. There’s little he can do to help Grace find Anna, and no one else seems to care that she’s missing. Anna has left an amazing husband and a gorgeous small boy behind, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason behind her sudden vanishing.

When Anna reappears suddenly, it’s clear that all is not well. All of her friends are clearly keeping secrets, and the story rattles on to its final, breath-taking conclusion. In between, the story is taut and tense, with Perks teasing the reader with small titbits of information but never giving us the full story until right at the very end.

It’s the author’s masterful storytelling abilities that keep The Whispers so engaging and enticing. The tale itself is a deliciously simple one, but the writing style means that the reader is left hanging on Perks’ every word as they traverse this bitter and backbiting fiction town with her as their guide.

The ending of the novel is insanely captivating. The reader is left wondering who was right: Grace or Anna? Perks does an amazing job of keeping everything ambiguous and leaving it open to interpretation. She keeps you guessing right to the very end, and then leaves you with more questions than answers. By giving various perspectives on the narrative, she makes it tough for you to get a clear view of the plot. You’re constantly wondering who is lying and who is covering for themselves.

It’s for this reason that her latest novel is so haunting. Even after it’s over, you’ll still be questioning everything that you read and wondering who to believe. I’ve been left wondering about the book and dissecting each detail of the plot ever since I finished it a few weeks ago. I struggled to put the book down when I was reading it, and now I can’t get it out of my head.

That’s the hallmark of a good thriller. It stays with you long after it’s over and haunts you at odd moments. There are few truly exceptional books that will stay with you and give you the fear long after they’re done, and this is definitely one of them. You’ll remember the plot and notice random qualities in people you meet that remind you of the characters. It’s also the kind of thriller that you’ll want to re-read as soon as the plot even starts to fade from your memory. I’m already considering giving it another go and I’ve only just finished it!

With all that said, it’s clear that I’d thoroughly recommend The Whispers to anyone who wants to read an engaging thriller that will help you escape from your reality. The book quickly draws you in and makes you feel invested in the fates of the characters. You’ll want to find out what happened to Anna and how her past actions have affected her future reality.

When all is said and done, I think that Perks’ latest novel is a gritty, modern thriller that really packs a punch. Like Now You See Her before it, I believe that this is the sort of novel that’ll soon be optioned by NBC, Netflix or Hulu and I can totally see Reese Witherspoon trying to grab one of the main roles for herself. She’d make a great Nancy, in my opinion. I’d be excited to see a TV adaptation of this terrifying exploration of the depths of human deceit and how quickly families and relationships can crumble under the pressure of past deception.