Posts Tagged ‘Psychological thriller’

As a fan of the DCI Banks series, I was eager to try one of Peter Robinson’s stand alone novels. I found ‘Before the Poison’ a riveting read. Unlike the DCI Banks books it’s not a police procedural, more a mystery story with aspects of supernatural. It’s about a successful musician who buys a secluded and rambling manor house on the North Yorkshire moors. His wife has just died and he becomes obsessed with proving that the woman who owned the house before him should not have been hanged for murdering her husband. Metaphorical ghosts and real ones abound, the later in the form of the hanged woman’s diary.

I loved Peter Robinson’s style of writing. He uses a range of devices together with extracts from the diary of the hanged woman, to imply her story, including chapters from a contemporary true crime book and the protagonist’s dreams and conversations with his own dead wife. But he uses them with great skill and believability. For classical music and cinema lovers there are continuous references from the protagonist’s experience of writing film music which add to the enjoyment.
‘Before the Poison’ is an interesting and satisfying read. Well recommended.

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Finishing my second book about criminologist Kate Trevelyan and starting a new role delivering books to housebound people mean I’ve fallen behind with my reviewing. As crime fiction is by far the most popular genre requested I’ve gone back through my own reading preferences and decided to complete an alphabetical guide to my favourite authors, starting with A for Rachel Abbott.

Rachel is one of the UK’s most successful independent crime writers. Her first seven psychological thrillers have combined to sell over three million copies, and have all been bestsellers. In 2015, she was named the 14th bestselling author over the last five years on Amazon’s Kindle in the UK. Her thrillers feature Detective Chief Inspector Tom Douglas and like Sophie Hannah’s ‘Culver Valley’ series we follow the story of a lone protagonist who may be the perpetrator, victim or witness of a crime alongside the police’s attempts to find the culprit and stop further crime. This creates a strong sense of jeopardy as the reader hopes the victim will survive but knows the police can’t benefit from what they know. DCI Tom Douglas continues to have his own relationship problems which get in the way but make him enduring, and the series provide the satisfaction of getting to know him better with each book.

Rachel Abbott novels always start with dramatic prologues which hint at the suspense to come. My favourite is still the prologue in the first of the series, ‘Only the Innocent’ which starts with an illicit liaison for sex play and soon develops into something more dangerous. The prologue in the last of the series, ‘Come a Little Closer’ is much briefer but is compensated by having more viewpoints to follow before the connections between them become apparent.

Callie, the protagonist of ‘Come a Little Closer’ is a young woman struggling to escape an abusive relationship who is vulnerable to exploitation by others. She’s worn out, depressed and not thinking straight and it takes her a long time to recognise what is happening to her or how she may be connected to other apparently random deaths. The short sharp chapters and varied viewpoints make multiple twists in this riveting suspense a gripping read.

‘Come a Little Closer’ is the seventh and last book of the series. Rachel’s latest novel ‘And so it begins’ was released last month and is the start of a new series about police woman Stephanie King. I’m sure I’ll enjoy that one too, but I hope I haven’t read the last of the Tom Douglas thrillers.

This is the 4th book in a series which can be read as a standalone, although to make the most of Sarah Hilary’s excellent characterisation and follow the connections as they are revealed, reading the earlier books is recommended.

The novel starts with a reference to the horrific event of six years ago which has haunted Marnie throughout the series and ultimately influenced her work as a homicide detective. The streets of London are cold and forbidding. They establish an atmosphere of barriers to Marnie and Noah latest case, finding the vigilante responsible for a series of assaults culminating in a brutal murder. The attacks seem random, but when Marnie’s family home is ransacked, there are signs that the burglary was personal and organised by someone who knows all about her. But it will take a prison visit to her foster brother, Stephen before Marnie starts to see the connections and that someone out there is playing lethal games.

This book is far more complex than the usual police procedural. Although success for Marnie and Noah will be determined by their ability to catch the killer, the management of their personal lives is always a relevant. With themes of revenge, obsession and the impact of early years abuse on survival, ‘Quieter than Killing’ is a compelling read which like earlier books in the series doesn’t disappoint.

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Overall I was a bit disappointed. I loved Sarah Hilary’s first two Marnie Rome novels. They are so powerful and moving with terrific pace and suspense. So I guess I was expecting more. ‘Taste of Fear’ is still an intriguing story beautifully told, but it didn’t have the pace and moments of sheer terror that the first two Marnie Rome novels had. Thinking of Noah shackled to that radiator still makes me shudder.

This narration takes alternating points of view. Those of Detectives Marnie Rome and Noah Jake with some of the missing street girls. I found this detracted from the story and would have preferred more of Marnie and Noah’s POV’s, they are such brilliantly strong characters and I found myself rushing through the other parts to get back to their viewpoint chapters.

In conclusion I agree with another review who stated that Sarah Hilary’s writing is the literary equivalent of ‘A Big Mac’ – you know what you are getting. And what you get is a great plot skilfully told with lots of blind alleys and twists. A lovely sense of place around the streets and luxury new builds around Battersea Power Station, which almost becomes a character in its own right. There is plenty of strong characterisation, not just the leads but the minor characters too, and having said I would have preferred less of the street girl’s viewpoint, I felt immersed in the world of teenage rough sleepers. The opening description of Christie feeling invisible to the people walking past her prompted me to give money to the next beggar that I encountered.

Here’s some information about the novels I enjoyed on my recent holiday in Spain:

‘Under my Skin’ by Sabine Durrantc1yr-square-orig.jpg

This debut psychological thriller has been likened to ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘Girl on a Train’. It is certainly domestic noir and takes the reader straight inside the world of TV presenter Gaby Mortimer as she goes through the horrors of finding a dead woman’s body and then becoming the police’s first in line suspect. I didn’t warm to Gaby as a character but was fascinated to read more about her TV life-style. She was strong enough to carry the plot and I didn’t guess the ending until close to the end. Some of the other characters, especially the police ones like D I Perivale were less convincing. The book takes a while to get going but when it does with the introduction of journalist Jack it rips along. ‘Under my Skin’ was an excellent holiday novel. It was easy to read and interesting with its continuous twists and turns which gave the reader lots to think about under their parasol.

‘Murder at the Lighthouse’ by Frances Evesham – to curl up in comfort with a G & T.murder-at-the-lighthouse

This is the first of the Exham on Sea Cosy Crime Mysteries. It was a very enjoyable light hearted read in the Agatha Christie tradition, bursting with village life idiosyncrasies and implausibility and a litany of very amusing characters. Just right for basking in a temperature of 41 degrees. Libby Forest, the lead character and amateur detective is an endearing and insightful recent divorcee who has moved to Exham on Sea for a fresh start in life. As an incomer she has a refreshing take on the hypocrisy of her fellow residents and the stupidity of the local constabulary. Of course she immediately finds a body by the lighthouse and from then on in refuses to be side tracked until the identity of the victim and then the murderer are discovered. Frances Evesham has invented an array of lively village personalities to get in Libby’s way from her Goth teenage lodger to the pompous chair of the women’s group or the rude but kindly garage proprietor. Fortunately there are two further books in the Exham on Sea Mysteries (based on Burnham on Sea) waiting on my Kindle for my next sunshine break.

‘Cross and Burn’ by Val McDermid9780751551273
Having caught up with all the books in the delicious Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series I am reading them through again enjoying my extra closeness to the main characters and Val McDermid’s masterly plotting. I have reviewed this before but it is worth a second look.

‘Cross and Burn’ is the eighth book in the series of nine. It can be read as a standalone as the plot arc starts with the two lead characters in dark places because of what happened in book seven, something that is deftly revealed without holding up the pace as the book progresses, and ends with a resolution of sorts and a new direction for the future. While Tony Hill and Carol Jordan are sorting out their downfalls a parallel plot with a serial murder unfolds with flashes of scary insights into the mind of the murderer as Paula aided by the few who remain from Carol’s old team try to save the lives of his victims. Like all Val McDermids books the victims are portrayed as real people whose lives you care about, making the whole thing much more suspenseful.

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Ladram Bay, Sidmouth - site of Ladram Heights New Town in Revenge Ritual

Ladram Heights New Town in Revenge Ritual  – another beach where bad things happen

Linda Huber’s is an accomplished author of psychological thrillers whose faultless narrative voice takes you right inside the heads of her characters as she creates stories that keep you on the edge of your seat with suspense. She’s also a lovely person who helped me out when I was researching for a workshop on getting published that I was gave at The Swanwick Writers’ Summer School earlier this month.

‘The Cold, Cold Sea’ is Linda’s second novel. It is set in Cornwall and in a month where the West Country has experienced a number of tragic deaths by drowning on beaches the title drew me in and made me shiver. The story opens with a child going missing from a holiday beach and takes you through a turmoil of emotions as you share the anguish and guilt of the little girl’s parents. The mother, Maggie’s experience is skilfully woven through a parallel story about another family who have lost a child. The multiple viewpoints are written with great skill and finesse as the pace quickens, building up the nail biting tension as you start to realise what has happened to the two families. A novel you have to read in one sitting. Brilliant.

I can’t wait to read her next psychological thriller ‘The Attic Room’.

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I have just finished reading ‘My husband’s wife by Jane Corry. Jane is a well established local writer who also runs writing workshops in Sidmouth. This is her first psychological thriller published by Random House.

I found it a terrific read. It has a very different tone from Jane’s previous novels and has something of ‘Gone Girl’ about it, but in a much more accessible and English way. It’s about relationships both within marriage and between parents and children and what can happen when they go wrong. It’s a novel of two halves. From the prologue at the beginning we know someone’s been murdered and who, but the novel cleverly gives us insights into the two women in the victims life in a way that makes it very difficult to know who will turn out to be the antagonist.

‘My husband’s wife’ is a gripping read and I couldn’t wait to finish it. It’s a novel about guilt, how early experiences leave a stain on adult life and innocence versus morality. The description of children with autism is realistic and empathetic providing another dimension to the relations tangle ensnaring the main characters. A fascinating and enjoyable read and a contender for the Sidmouth Crime Fiction Group when it starts again in September.