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.

John Cox Interview: “I was a prolific reader at an early age”

As part of his blog tour to celebrate the publication of his debut novel, Ashes Of The Living, I interview up-and-coming crime fiction author John Cox.

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

When I first started writing, I focused on paying attention to how many of my favorite thriller writers wrote. Not so much the storyline but rather the style. Did they like first person or third person? How they describe a character’s actions or what a piece of steak tasted like? I tried writing short stories first to see how I would describe an action scene or provide an atmosphere for a tense situation. Most importantly, I have always been drawn to thrillers because the best ones keep you reading until 3 in the morning, and even then, wanting to keep going!

What is your background in writing and how did you get in to publishing your work?

I grew up in a family of teachers who focused on English classes and writing. I was a prolific reader at an early age and wanted to create stories like the ones I was reading. My main passion is telling a good story that other people want to hear. When I got into college, I received some constructive advice and earned awards and accolades that told me that what I was doing was working. I was inspired to start focusing on longer and longer stories until I had my full novel that eventually became my first published work.

Tell me all about your upcoming novel Ashes of the Living. What was your inspiration?

Ashes of the Living is about what grief and anger can do to someone’s morality. My protagonist Detective Tyler Morgan loses everything and must continually ask himself what lines he is willing or not willing to cross to get to his version of justice. I was inspired by my interest in noir and thriller novels and wanted to blend the styles in a book that was fast-paced but still took enough time to examine what people are willing to do in times of duress. It has always been a fascinating subject for me! This is a story about revenge and what a single-minded goal can do to you.

What was your experience getting your work published? Do you have any advice you’d like to share with budding authors looking to get published?

To get my work published, I had to learn to accept that not everyone will respond to your inquiries for review. The book industry is so large that you may have a fantastic story to tell, and publishers and agents will not be able to have time to read it, or perhaps it is not in a genre they can currently accept new writers. Sometimes, being a new writer can be disheartening trying to get others to see your work the way you do. Don’t ever give up on this because the day you are successful is the best feeling in your life.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?

Donald Westlake who also wrote under the pen name of Richard Stark. He turned the crime and thriller genre on its head in the 1960s by writing about topics or characters that were controversial by having morally gray themes or elements. Unfortunately, he has passed away, but if anyone wants to see the groundwork of modern thrillers, I highly recommend his body of work.

What does the future have in store for you? Have you got any exciting plans to develop it that you can share with us?

I am focused on my next novel and cannot wait to share further details as it progresses. I do not want to give too much away because it is tied to the ending of Ashes of the Living, but I am focused on writing about what inspires me, humanity, and how our perception of it can change continually.

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

I have enjoyed Chris McDonald’s work recently and recommend anyone check out his DI Erika Piper series. This is a new author to keep an eye on! He has great talent and is very interactive with his fan base.

Is there anything you want to add?

I am proud to be a part of the writing community and all the phenomenal people I have met in the last several years. Always keep reading, writing, and sharing with others those stories that inspire or move you!

Thanks to John for answering my questions; it’s been awesome to be a part of your blog tour!

Dishonoured Review: A Gripping And Unique Psychological Thriller

From the acclaimed author of Proximity and No Signal, Jem Tugwell, comes a new stand-alone novel, Dishonoured.

I was really excited to check it out, and I wasn’t disappointed. Tugwell creates a gripping thriller that has stayed with me even though I finished reading it at the end of last year.

Dishonoured begins by introducing its readers to Dan. Dan’s a happy dude. He’s got a pretty perfect looking life. He has a family, a nice home and a great job.

He’s also a bit of a creature of habit. One day, one random day, he’s taking his usual train, when he recognises the waitress who served him earlier. In one short moment, everything changes in Dan’s life.

No spoilers, but when Dan gets off the train he’s a criminal with his life in tatters. The waitress said ‘sorry’ to him, but what could she mean by that? Dan’s left to pick up the pieces of his shattered life. He’s a determined guy, so he sets out to try and right the wrongs and find the culprit who’s trying to trash his life.

Through this journey, there are so many twists and turns that, in the hands of a lesser writer, this novel would be hard to follow. Thankfully, Tugwell is a superior writer, so Dishonoured is engaging and unforgettable. It’s remarkably easy to keep up with, despite the fact that there is loads of plot twists to keep you guessing.

Tugwell’s real skill is creating relatable characters, so that the reader invests in them emotionally. Every character is intriguing and enhances the story. The dialogue is also snappy and swift, so the story runs smoothly and you’re kept hooked throughout every plot twist and new piece of information.

One of the best things about this novel is that the really scary thing isn’t violence or monsters, but human nature and cruelty itself. Tugwell creates a psychological thriller that shows the darkest depths of human anguish and how far people will go to destroy each other. If you’re looking for a breathtakingly thrilling tale that will take your mind off the current mad situation, then this is the ideal book for you.

At the end of the day, while Dishonoured doesn’t have the same familiar characters as Tugwell’s past novels, it retains the same cutthroat plotting and razor sharp dialogue as his earlier work. It’s a gripping thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat, and with so many twists and you’ll find it almost impossible to put the novel down.

The Interpreter From Java Review: A Post Colonial Masterpiece That’s Not To Be Missed

The opening sentence of The Interpreter From Java is a little over a page long, and outlines a list of horrific crimes committed by the narrator’s father, the titular interpreter, decades before.

Punctuated by commas, the sentence runs on and on, giving the reader overwhelming feelings of claustrophobia and revulsion, which quickly become a theme throughout the novel.

Written by Alfred Birney and translated into English from the original Dutch by David Doherty, The Interpreter From Java is an intriguing novel told in two halves. The first half is in-depth review of the Indonesian war for independence from Allied rule in the 1940s. Told from the perspective of an interpreter who worked with the marines, this half of the novel is intriguing and enlightening.

The other half of the novel is told from the perspective of the interpreter’s son, Alan, who writes his own story as well as interjecting into his father’s memoirs to remind him of his cruelty and mistreatment. Alan spent half his life scared witless of his father, and the other half in a children’s home facing institutional racism, sexual exploitation and more. The novel dips into each narrative, sometimes tracing large chunks of the memoirs and Alan’s life, other times flitting between the two, so the reader is captivated by the two stories at once, and the lines between the past and the present blur together.

Through this tale of family betrayal and abandonment, Birney highlights the merciless battles that plagued colonial Indonesia and its inhabitants. It also emphasises the identity issues that the children of colonial imperialists and local individuals face. Arto Nolan (he adds the d himself later), Alan’s father, is the illegitimate son of a European colonial businessman and his Chinese concubine living in Indonesia. He isn’t acknowledged by his father, yet he remains a fanatical supporter of the Dutch occupation, and eventually becomes an ‘interpreter’ for the Allied forces, acting as a cross between a local guide and a cold-blooded solider.

The section of the novel that Birney devotes Arto’s memoirs highlights the stark irony of a man who lambasts native soldiers for killing innocent people in the name of liberty, while at the same time committing equally heinous crimes in the pursuit of imperialist greed.

The author emphasises the complicated nature of the relationship that some of the region’s inhabitants had with their identities and how this impacted on colonial rule. He explains how Arto began his crusade against the Japanese invaders, then became a solider for the Allies out of his misguided belief that the Westerns were somehow more civilised, and that their violence served a higher purpose. In this regard, the author showcases the complicated politics of colonialism, and how it was branded to make those who were being invaded believe that they were actually being saved.

In the half of the novel dedicated to Alan’s depiction of life after the war, in which Arto has swapped guns and war for domestic abuse and spending his evenings typing away on an old Remington typewriter, Birney proves that these identity politics extend beyond colonialism. Alan and his brothers and sister are a partially Dutch, partially Chinese but many with darker skin and all with an incomplete understanding of their heritage. Alan describes them as ‘Indos’ at times, and at others as Dutch. He doesn’t understand his heritage, despite trips to meet his extended family on the other side of the world and his raking through his father’s memoirs in search of answers.

Every sentence of this remarkable novel is designed to grab the reader by the throat, shake them awake and keep them that way. The opening line is a continuous list, and the entire novel is an exploration of colonial crimes and the lasting harm that the various European empires caused to multiple generations. It’s not just Arto and those who lived through the occupations that were scarred; his children, and his grandchildren also suffer endure fractured identities and the mental weight that serious abuse has on children.

Overall, The Interpreter From Java is a long and arduous read, but it’s also informative, insightful and enlightening. If you’re looking to broaden your mind and learn more about the affects of Colonialism on the generations that came long after the world’s empires were demolished, then this is the book for you. It’s well worth reading for curious readers

No Signal Review: A Dystopia To Rival The World Outside

no signal

As the world struggles with its own dystopian reality, I thought now was as good a time as any to review a book set in an even more challenging and controlling world.

The second in the iMe series, and the follow up to the incredible Proximity, is another thriller sci-fi masterpiece.

Author Jem Tugwell delivers a searing indictment on technology, control and surveillance as he brings back DI Clive Lussac, a disenfranchised policeman with very little to do now that technology has rendered his job essentially void.

Following the events of Proximity, not much has changed in Tugwell’s compelling setting. Everything and everyone is still tracked through iMe, although many are now campaigning for less state control and more personal freedom.

On the other side of the debate is a tyrannical church, which Clive is compelled to attend by his girlfriend and his doctor, as they both believe it will help him to curb his cravings and make positive changes to his lifestyle and mood.

At the same time, a sinister game is being plotted and played in Europe, with contestants playing to win a coveted place in the Forbidden Island augmented reality universe.

The game takes place in the UK, and when contestants travel here they are forced to wear iTourist bracelets, which track their every move and interaction, much like the iMes that citizens wear.

When these game contestants take drastic measures to take themselves off-grid, Clive finally has some proper work to occupy himself with. It becomes apparent pretty quickly, both to Clive and the players, that this is no ordinary game. Something sinister is happening here, and it’s up to Clive and his limited team to find out what and stop it before it wreaks havoc.

As he did in his first novel, Tugwell has displayed exceptional knowledge of technology, and the ability to explain it brilliantly. There are no wordy explanations or info dumps here; just a gripping thriller that draws you in and doesn’t let go until its jaw-dropping final chapters.

The plot races along thanks to the author’s storytelling prowess, with very few stops to describe the events or technologies involved. Every character, plot twist and setting seamlessly weaves its way into the story, making the book very hard to put down.

The result is a thrilling adventure that takes readers around the world and into the depths of human desperation. Unlike the first in the series, No Signal doesn’t focus on a murderer; this time, it’s about a network and the extreme lengths it will go to achieve its ambitious goals.

So, if, like me, you’re completely aghast by the state of the world right now, then transport yourself to a slightly worse one with the help of this incredible writer.

 

 

The Treadstone Resurrection Review: An Enticing Addition To The Jason Bourne Series

Hood_Treadstone Resurrection (1)

As part of the blog tour for this latest action novel, today I’m reviewing The Treadstone Resurrection.

The latest in the Jason Bourne universe is a heart-stopping, thrill-packed ride that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

It’s obvious from the very first sentence that author Joshua Hood has extensive experience in the military. He understands guns, fights, military weaponry, codes, the CIA and more.

This experience and knowledge is what really sets this book apart from other military thrillers you’ll see in bookshops throughout the summer. They’re a quick read staple, something you can enjoy without having to put much effort in.

The Treadstone Resurrection introduces a new character: Adam Hayes, a witty, battered and bruised former asset turned carpenter who’s trying to turn his life around when his past comes back to kill him.

After he receives a mysterious email from an old friend containing encrypted photos, Hayes is rapidly drawn into a sinister international plot.

He quickly has to leave his new life as a contractor and abandon his plans to visit his family to face his enemies and battle against some of the world’s best military agencies.

With his friend dead, Hayes has to rely on his wits, ingenuity and waning international contacts to fight back and get justice. His journey takes him across the USA and into the wilds of South America, where he battles against deadly foes with far better equipment, teams and plans than he has.

The novel is gripping from start to finish, and Hood has expertly created an engaging replacement for Jason Bourne in the form of Adam Hayes. He’s a smart, wisecracking hard man with the potential to go far.

The only thing I have a serious problem with is the depiction of women in this novel. Hood’s female characters are just pouting, opening extra buttons on their blouses in response to hot guys, or sobbing at the first sign of trouble. Either way, it’s clear that the author hasn’t actually met that many real women. His female characters are a male fantasy, and in today’s action genre, where women read just as many novels as men, this simply isn’t acceptable.

Despite this, I actually enjoyed reading The Treadstone Resurrection. It’s a gripping thriller that might be a little formulaic at times, but for the most part delivers the kind of gritty, deep drama readers of the Jason Bourne series are looking for. The novel sets itself up for a sequel, which I’m looking forward to; I only hope that this time they’ll be more realistic female characters in it.

David Hewson Interview: “I wanted this to be a story driven by character, atmosphere and the extraordinary culture of Calabria”

the savage shore

To celebrate the launch of Black Thorn Books, a new publishing imprint dedicated specifically to crime fiction, I interviewed one of their authors, David Hewson, whose book The Savage Shore, part of his Nic Costa series, is being published by Black Thorn. David talks me through his latest novel and how he came to create such an engaging series through his love of reading.

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

To be honest I never set out to write crime fiction. I just wanted to write original, mainstream fiction that told big stories with bold narratives. It was only a few books in that I was told I was now a crime writer – not that I mind. And of course many books are now classified as crime which may not have been years ago. And maybe even plays too – is Macbeth a crime story? Possibly. Labels don’t really trouble me. It’s the story that counts.
What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally?

I left school at 17 to work as a reporter on a little (now vanished) local newspaper in Yorkshire. A few years later I’d graduated to The Times, then the Independent and Sunday Times. But I always wanted to write fiction so gradually I eased back on the journalism and started trying to write fiction. It took a while but in 1996 I came out with my first book, now republished as Death in Seville and after a while I was able to give up journalism altogether.

Please tell me about The Savage Shore. What do you think sets it apart from your other work?

The Savage Shore is the tenth instalment in a series of books based around a young detective, Nic Costa, who works in the historic centre of Rome. There hasn’t been a Costa book for nine years but readers have been nagging me for once constantly. So I decided to bring the old team back but this time in a new place and with a new challenge.

Usually they’re on home ground in Rome, and in charge of events. But here they’re in the foreign ground of Calabria in the south and having to pretend to be something they’re not. They’re trying to engineer the escape of a crime gang lord who wants to turn state witness. But no one knows who the man really is or how they can get him out safely. Nic has to pretend to join the gang to make contact with him, while the rest of the crew have to sit around on the coast struggling to make escape plans while staying undercover.

I wanted this to be a story driven by character, atmosphere and the extraordinary culture of Calabria. There are no car chases and very little in the way of violence. It’s about how difficult it is for people to pretend to be something they’re not – and the price that can make them pay.

Having written books set around the world, what is your favourite place to set a novel and why?

It’s always the one I’m working on at the moment. It has to be that way otherwise I’d get distracted. But somewhere I come back to time and time again, both for stories and for peace for editing, is Venice. It’s such a magical place and with every book I finish there with a read through and an edit in an apartment I rent. It’s almost a superstition by now.

Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?

I’m not sure I’d call it anything as fancy as inspiration. A lot of writing isn’t about intellectual stimulation. It’s about practicality, craft, sweat, labour. The kind of things a painter thinks about when he or she sets out on a canvas. What kind of colours will I use? What brush? What sort of paint? What’s the perspective? The time of day?

When I set out to create a story I try to find a location, some characters and an inciting incident – in this case the gang lord who wants to defect. Then I place all these players on the board and see how they want to approach events. A writer should be in control only up to a certain point. You have to let your cast be true to themselves in order to find the solution.

Following on from that, what do you read yourself and how does this influence your work?

I try to read widely. I don’t think it’s healthy for a writer to read only in the field in which they work. In fact I think that’s unhealthy on occasion – you subconsciously pick up styles or ideas, and worse you miss out on a lot of good writing in other fields. So I read a lot of fiction – mainly but not only history. The past is such a good mirror of what’s happening today, to a startling degree at times. I’m a sucker for anything about ancient Rome and Greece and follow Mary Beard, Robert Harris and Tom Holland avidly. I also like obscure foreign works which take a bit of tracking down. Most recently a fascinating novel set in Ferrara just before World War Two, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis by Giorgio Bassani.

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

I’m not a natural collaborator, I must say, but I would love to have worked out how Robert Graves went about writing I, Claudius and how long it took him. There were so many sources for that book and they were all in Latin.

Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

My next book with Black Thorn will be a real departure – the first novel set somewhere I’ve never been. I’m usually big on local research – I signed up for language school to write the Costa books and spent ages in Italy. But you can work straight out of your imagination too. So next year my you’ll meet Devil’s Fjord, a mystery set in the fictional wilds of the Faroe Islands about a couple who retire there thinking it’s paradise, only to discover they got things very wrong.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?

No names or titles – as always with books I wait to be surprised.

Thanks to David for taking the time to answer my question. You can find out more about The Savage Shore and Black Thorn HERE.

 

 

Not From Above! Review: A Unique Collection of Curious Tales

Not From Above Cover

The debut collection of stories from musician Alexander Mayor is darkly comic and deeply diverse, featuring a variety of stories across a host of different genres on a wide range of topics.

The book is a compilation of short tales that accompany the album of the same name. Published by Unbound, the stories incorporate innovative characters, creative plotlines and inventive storytelling.

Each story is unique and grips the reader from the outset. Mayor is fond of using short, tantalizing sentences to lead his reader on, and in some ways a number of his stories feel like poetry or song lyrics in the beginning. As they draw on the reader is taken in by a swift narrative and a plot that is surprisingly detailed for having been explained in so few words. The result is a set of separate narratives that pull readers along so that they easily read half a dozen of the stories before they realize how much they’ve gone through.

The album which accompanies the book is billed as ‘Literate, hummable tunes that capture painters on the brink, women on the verge, and men lost somewhere on a hillside.’ Featuring a range of instruments and relaxing melodies, the album goes hand in glove with the book, which involves a range of realistic characters and showcases human nature in its truest form. From spies being pursued in search of answers through to an incredibly unusual board game, there is something to tempt any reader in this eclectic selection of stories.

In all, Not From Above! is a fascinating collection of stories which captures human nature and the great strangeness of life today. A unique combination of music and storytelling, the book and album combination is innovative and offers readers an alternative reading experience that they won’t forget in a hurry.

The Secret Child Review: Another Tense Thriller From Caroline Mitchell

The Secret Child

Following on from Caroline Mitchell’s gripping novel Truth and Lies comes the second in the DI Amy Winter series The Secret Child. Having reviewed the first in the series previously I was keen to take part in Mitchell’s latest blog tour to find out more about the second outing for this dogged and troubled detective.

In the follow-up to the thrilling first novel in her series, which will hopefully be a long one, Winter is still reeling from the news that she is the daughter of a pair of sadistic serial killers and the horrible experiences of her previous case.

Despite this she has no time to grieve as she is thrust straight into another in the form of an investigation into a horrific abduction with a sadistic twist. When another child is snatched Winter faces a race against time which sends her straight back to the one person she wished she’d never have to speak to again: her serial killer mother.

Showcasing her strong characterisation skills and her unique ability to create engaging emotional scenes Mitchell brings this frightening tale to life in her latest novel. Her characters are evolved and emotionally entangled without being annoyingly sappy, and the reader is quickly immersed in the entwined tales of the kidnap and Winter’s relationship with her psychotic mother.

Being a police officer gives Winter access to the case in full, as well as access to a myriad of other insider information and as such her manipulative mother wants a quid pro quo in return for advice on the topic she knows most about: the mind of a depraved child kidnapper.

Having enjoyed both novels I desperately hope that there’s more where this came from. I loved Truth and Lies and The Secret Child was just as thrilling and gritty, so hopefully Mitchell will bring her talent for tension and passion for the police procedural back in the future!