Tag Archives: Psychological thriller

Review: Obscura (By Joe Hart)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 348 pages

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Dr. Gillian Ryan could do nothing but watch helplessly as her husband withered away into someone she couldn’t even recognize. Affected by a new and fast-acting form of dementia, he lost his memory, then himself, and finally his life. Her infant daughter was the only ray of sunshine in her life at that dark time. But eight years later, her daughter begins to show the terrifying symptoms of the disease. Gillian has already dedicated her life to finding a cure, but her daughter’s sickness renews her determination. Until the university cuts her funding. Gillian is on the brink of losing hope when her college boyfriend comes back into her life. He wants her to travel with a NASA team to a space station where the crew members are showing symptoms similar to the psychosis that’s threatening her daughter’s life. Without any other option, Gillian accepts, hopeful that her research will help save her daughter too.

But things are not as she was made to believe. Gillian’s apprehension turns to paranoia as strange events begin to unfold around her. Something is terribly wrong with the crew, and things are only getting worse. Battling her own problem of addiction, one that she’d kept secret from almost everyone, she begins to lose sight of the line between reality and nightmare. But, as she realizes, the worst is yet to come. Desperate to find the solution that could save her daughter’s life, Gillian is forced to fight against an unknown danger, the unimaginable threats of space, and her own self. As precious days and weeks tick by, Gillian begins to wonder just what she’ll lose first to the horrors she faces – her daughter, her life, or her sanity.

The Bottom Line:

An edge-of-your-seat read that brilliantly blends science fiction and thriller to create the written equivalent of LIFE meets Alien meets Hollow Man.

My take:

The first thing to know about Obscura is that even though its cover says Obscura: A Thriller, it’s quite predominantly science fiction. The science fiction part of it is quite interesting although I won’t claim to fathom its actual possibility. It’s not Jurassic Park type science fiction; maybe a little simpler. But if you take it at face value, you can really get into the story.

The book has a lot of crazy plot twists. Some are expected, but most aren’t. It moves along at a very brisk pace and keeps you turning the pages relentlessly. But the best part about the book is its rawness. Every character is very real. They’re very human. They’re weak, strong, good, bad, kind, selfish, and everything in between. But more importantly, every emotion is blunt and honest, while not being dramatized. You can really experience the characters’ emotions, and this is done so subtly that the suddenness of those emotions makes them even stronger.

The book doesn’t shy away from reality and, in no way, romanticizes the notion of good vs. bad. It dabbles predominantly in gray areas (for events and people), and has parts that are graphic and disturbing primarily because of their straight-forwardness. Like in life, it offers no guarantees, and all these factors make the entire book very hard-hitting.

The only thing that works against it is that it moves back and forth a lot, which makes it a tag confusing. But other than that, the book has very little to affect the excellent reading experience it offers. While it is a bit difficult to break down the elements that make it a good read, Obscura, as a whole, is very thrilling, beautifully raw, and even emotional. It’s one of those books that stays with you long after it’s done.

I would highly recommend Obscura to:

  • fans of science fiction
  • fans of thriller and mystery (who don’t shy away from graphic details)
  • those who love/enjoy movies like Alien and LIFE

A big thank you to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for an ARC of Obscura. It got Joe Hart on my radar and I’m looking forward to reading more of his stuff.

Obscura is available for purchase, so get your copy, have a read, and share your thoughts on why you loved/hated it in the comments below! And thanks for stopping by my blog – I hope you find your next read here.

– Rishika

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Review: The Retreat (By Mark Edwards)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 335 pages

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Horror novelist, Lucas, decides to travel back to the town he grew up in, taking up residence in a writer’s retreat as he works on his latest novel. He hopes that the peaceful town and surrounding forests will help him get over his writer’s block and finish the book that his agent and editor are waiting for. But within days of arriving, he discovers the tragic past of the woman who runs the retreat.

Two years ago, Julia’s husband, Michael, died while trying to save their daughter, Lily, from the river that ran near their home. Lily’s soft toy floating in the river had been the only indication that she’d even fallen in. But the police never found her body. Julia believes that her daughter is still alive. Caught in limbo, she’s not able to even mourn the death of her husband. After the tragedy, she turned their home into a writer’s retreat as the only way to save herself from going broke and to keep her mind away from the loss that tore at her every day.

Lucas’ interest in Julia’s story grows every day. Until he finds himself doing everything he can to find out what really happened to Lily that day. But as Lucas continues to search for answers, eerie events begin to unfold at the retreat. Someone, or something, is watching from the shadows. Lucas soon discovers that something is amiss in the events of the day when Michael died. And that a dark secret plagues the town, the retreat, and the forests surrounding the house – a secret that will always remain protected, no matter the cost.

The Bottom Line:

The Retreat has an intriguing storyline and hits all the right notes on suspense, thrill, eerieness, setting, and pace, making for a fast, engaging read.

My take:

What I liked the least about The Retreat was Julia. Although you do feel for her after everything she’s been through, she comes across as a little too annoying, too often. Of course, the woman lost her husband and her daughter and is living in a state of limbo. So you can understand the irritating attitude. But what I couldn’t understand about it was how Lucas seems to be oblivious to her flaws. The dynamic between them, for that reason, didn’t make all that much sense to me. Still, it wasn’t the worst, could be written off as the result of the experiences they’d had in life, and was the only slightly irritating part about the book. And the rest of it more than makes up for this.

The story is quite intricate, with a lot of things happening across decades, leading up to the events of the present. The characters are all well defined and have a good real-ness to them. They are all incredibly human in their arrogance, humility, successes, and failures, and in their good and bad. That is what makes the story so relatable – you can actually imagine everything that happens really taking place in a similar setting. It’s also got great suspense and a great setting. It pulls you in right from Page 1 and keeps you hooked throughout.

The best part about the book, though, was its thrill. The Retreat isn’t one of those books where scary faces look out at you from the dark. The thrill it evokes is more subtle and, consequently, incredibly effective. It’s one of those books where the creepiness is brought on by that feeling that you’re being watched, when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, but when you turn around there’s no one there. Yet, you know that someone, or something, was there. It’s the kind of thrill that gets under your skin and stays there, making you a little jumpy at sudden sounds and dark areas. That’s why it stays with you longer and really makes you experience everything that’s happening in the book.

I received The Retreat from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It’s the second Mark Edwards book I’ve gotten from them and although the first one I’d read – The Lucky Ones – was quite good (you can read the review for that here), this one was definitely better. Edwards, who I’d started following after The Lucky Ones, is definitely one of the better (newer) thriller writers and I would love to read more from him. What really makes his work interesting is the variety he brings. It’s not just serial killer thrillers. Edwards writes different stories that just come to him, and while all are of the thriller genre, each of them has a different take on the category. The Retreat, especially, does more than enough justice to the psychological thriller genre under which it’s pitched, which is quite refreshing because (lately) too many books are sold as psychological thrillers when just ‘thriller’ would be more suitable a tag.

I’d strongly recommend The Retreat to:

  • fans of thrillers and crime fiction novels
  • anyone who wants to try out a new thriller author (I’m sure you’ll enjoy Edwards’ style)
  • those who want a thriller with a twist

A big thanks to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for an ARC of The Retreat! The book released on May 10, so grab your copy right away!

Share your thoughts on The Retreat or any other books you’d like to recommend in the comment section below!

– Rishika

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Review: Silent Child (By Sarah A. Denzil)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 416 pages

My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Emma was only twenty-four when her six-year-old son wandered away from school during a flood and was never seen again. She watched as they pulled his red coat out of River Ouse. They never found his body, but everyone knew what had happened – young Aiden had drowned. The tragedy tore her and Aiden’s father apart even before they could truly come together. When her parents died a few years later, Emma felt truly and completely alone.

But ten years after the flood that took her son from her, Emma has moved on as much as humanly possible. She found happiness again with her new husband and is weeks away from having a daughter. Life finally seems to have turned in her favor. And then Aiden returns.

Aiden is too traumatized to speak. But the signs of years of abuse and neglect evident on his small, frail body reveal the truth – Aiden hadn’t drowned, he had been kidnapped, and caged and tortured for ten years. And someone in their small town is responsible for the heinous act. Emma attempts to reconnect with her now-teenaged son but finds that she may not know him at all. Aiden has the answers she wants, but he can’t speak. And as Emma desperately searches for the answers that can help Aiden get justice, the world she’d carefully build begins to crumble all around her. And this time, she may not be able to survive the fallout.

The Bottom Line:

A book that has an interesting premise and well-developed characters, but that falls short due to its predictability and small, but many, inconsistencies.

My take:

The best part about Silent Child is the character of Emma. She is shown, through actions over the course of the story rather than in just a few narrative paragraphs, to be a very human, very raw person who deals with life because, like in reality, you don’t have any choice but to do so.

You clearly see her growth where she goes from a young, teenaged Mom, to a broken woman, to someone who finds it within herself to do that which is necessary for her survival, and the protection for her family. At the same time, you see the immense stress this causes her as she occasionally breaks down, makes very human mistakes, but moves on to try and do the right thing. In other words, her character is very realistic in its strengths and flaws, and the development of this personality over the course of the book is really well done.

Which is why the few random mentions of pro-feminism and anti-sexism seem so out of place. I have nothing against either of those concepts. But Emma’s story isn’t about that; it is about a parent’s fight for the protection and justice of their child. It doesn’t matter that she’s a woman, she is just a strong person. And Denzil does a great job of depicting this until those obscure moments, which honestly seem like jumping on the slimmest opportunities to toss in a social angle. From a reader’s perspective, it just seemed like unnecessary fluff to an otherwise good character arc.

The premise of the book is very interesting. Unfortunately, the story is just as predictable (at nearly every point of apparent suspense/revelation). The pace of the book is good, but it does seem like an equally effective story could have been told with a few pages reduced. There are sections that seem to go on for no reason.

The storytelling style isn’t as established as many others I’ve read, but by no means does Denzil come across as a novice. In fact, some parts are really well written, while the majority is well above average. The characterization has a similar feel where Emma’s personality is really well-developed, but the others just… hang about… until useful.

The most irksome part, though, is the loose ends. A lot of points brought up during the book seem to go nowhere and are never explained. A large part of this is related to Aiden and his story itself. The book ties up well on the major plot points but could have delved deeper into some smaller aspects (that’s where those extra pages should have been used).

Thrillers place a lot of importance on unpredictability and suspense development. Unfortunately, Silent Child falls incredibly short on both. Yes, you turn the pages out of curiosity, but you’re not compelled to do so. And the twists and climax are altogether too predictable. So, I would recommend that you go for this book only if you’re really out of options for thrillers and crime fiction. There are some great ones out there that’ll probably make for a better read.

Drop a comment below to share your thoughts on Silent Child and this review.

 

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Review: The Neighbor (By Joseph Souza)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 352 pages

My rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

Leah and her husband, Clay, move from Seattle to Maine along with their eleven-year-old twins so that Clay can fulfill his dream of opening his own brewery. Leah envisions a life where she’s part of a thriving community in a plush neighborhood, surrounded by a loving family, and good friends with whom she can bond and share things large and small. Instead, she gets a husband who’s too busy to ever be around, twin kids who have no friends, and an empty neighborhood which is the result of a housing project abandoned midway. Now, all her hopes of building strong friendship bonds rest on the only other couple in the neighborhood. But Clarissa and Russell Gaines are aloof and uninviting. Leah’s interest in Clarissa begins as a potential friend. But the more the couple stay distant, the more Leah’s interest grows. Until it becomes an obsession that affects every part of her life. Before she can control it, she’s sneaking into her neighbor’s home, taking small objects, and allowing her envy of their elegant lifestyle to grow. Then she finds Clarissa’s diary. As she begins to read through the private pages, she discovers that Clarissa’s life isn’t as comfortable as it seems. Secrets run deep between the couple, secrets that have a direct effect on the mysterious kidnapping of a local college girl. Equally obsessed with the disappearance of the student, Leah finds herself investigating the crime even as she hopes that a solution would help bring Clarissa closer to her. But Leah has her own secrets that she doesn’t want exposed. As she begins to lose herself in her obsession, secrets, reputations, relationships, and even lives begin to come under threat. Yet, Leah pursues, unaware of the fact that things are even stranger than they seem. And that discovering the truth may not give her what she wants. In fact, it may shatter lives forever.

The Bottom Line:

The Neighbor is made slightly interesting with a lot of layers, but they fail to hide the fact that the book is nothing more than the unpleasant story of two whiny, selfish, clueless adults who you just cannot like.

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Psychological thriller. As riveting as Gone Girl. Twisted. Page-turner.

These are some of the terms you’d find associated with The Neighbor. I completely agree with the last one, but definitely not the others. In fact, my allegiance lies with those reviews and reviewers who chose to express themselves (while speaking about The Neighbor) with terms like illogical plot, shallow and unlikable characters, and unbelievable actions.

The Neighbor has a lot going on. There’s a missing girl. There’s a lonely housewife who wants some friends with whom she can connect. There’s a murder. There are secrets. There are a whole lot of references to racism and discussion on the topic. There are marital concerns. There’s alcoholism. And there is some BDSM-esque kinkiness tossed in too.

The problem is that all these aspects are just annoying.

To better explain, I need to mention that the book is written from the perspectives of Leah and Clay. And it starts with Leah, who is so dang annoying, saying that she gets “giddy with excitement” when she steps out of the house to good weather. It was actually difficult to continue reading after that start. But a twist thrown at you a couple of pages later gives you hope and keeps you going.

There are innumerable twists in The Neighbor. And that’s the reason you want to know what happens next, the reason you turn page after page. There is a lot of stuff going on, most of which can add interesting elements. But what you can never get away from is the fact that, at its very essence, the story is about two incredibly selfish, annoying, and oddly stupid people – Leah and Clay.

These are two individuals who live life in their own bubble of misunderstanding (regarding each other). They are both alcoholics in denial who are quick to (hypocritically) blame each other. There are a few moments where they seem to show an inkling of self-awareness. Until it’s drowned in their go-to habit of making excuses. All in all, they are incredibly unlikable as human beings, spouses, and parents.

As a result, you don’t really care that anything is happening to them or that they’re facing a problem. You’re more interested in discovering which of the events is a lie, which isn’t, and what’s really going along. The only people you feel for in the book are Leah and Clay’s kids and their dog, and that’s mainly because they are stuck with terrible people for no fault of their own.

Leah and Clay’s relationship and the way the book is told from their perspectives is what makes people draw the similarity to Gone Girl, I think. To be honest, similarities do exist. But the intentional, selfish twistedness of the characters in Gone Girl also made them associable. You could actually envision people like that – those who would do what it took to get what they wanted. It’s what made the book uncomfortably good (check out my review of Gone Girl here for more deets on that!). In The Neighbor, the characters are selfish but too clueless. I mean, seriously – Leah’s only goal in life is, “I want to be Clarissa’s friend.” These are selfish people who are too lost to actually do anything about what they want, except for crib when things do change. And that just makes them annoying, especially in their abrupt bipolarity (seriously, they keep contradicting themselves in consecutive sentences until their motivation, meaning, and drive is completely lost on the reader).

Putting the Gone Girl comparison aside, The Neighbor is just not a likable book. It’s got some suspense and enough storytelling power to keep you turning the pages. But the many social problems it addresses seem to just be layers on an otherwise dry story of two not-nice people.

So should you read The Neighbor? I’d say give it a pass. There are other psychological thrillers out there that have real depth in their stories, that go deep into the chaos that is the human mind and what it can make one do. Try one of them instead. If you still want to give The Neighbor a shot – it releases on 24th April 2018.

Want to share your thoughts on The Neighbor? Drop a comment below!

– Rishika

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Review: Never Rest (By Jon Richter)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 242 pages

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Salvation Island has a disturbing history, one that has left a shroud of darkness over the island. Ex-police inspector, Chris Sigurdsson, had experienced this darkness first-hand when he’d spent one week on the island investigating a case. The week had left him with terrifying experiences that still haunted his memories. Now, five years later, he has left his police life behind to become a successful private detective with a good reputation.

Then Erina Brennan calls him. She tells him she wants his help in finding her estranged husband, David Lithgow. A writer suffering from bipolar disorder, Lithgow had gone to Salvation Island in search of inspiration. Erina had lost all contact with him days ago. Chris decides to explore the case a little more before taking it up, unable to resist the macabre pull of the mysterious island; and unable to deny his growing desire to meet Carin Mason, the police officer he’d worked with on the island case five years ago, the woman who he’d wanted to call after, but hadn’t.

When Chris reaches the island, he finds much more than he’d bargained for. Lithgow had hurled himself into the depths of the island’s terrifying past. Chris tries to make sense of what Lithgow had been doing before he’d disappeared in the hope that it would help him find the man. But he finds only growing chaos instead. Before he realizes, he gets pulled into a world of insanity where reality and fantasy, past and present begin to merge. And as Chris soon discovers, his mind is not the only thing he risks losing. Salvation Island has more secrets than anyone could have imagined. And someone is hell-bent on keeping them protected, even if it means killing anyone who discovers the truth.

The Bottom Line:

Terrifying at times while being a page-turner throughout, this book does extremely well until the very end where, in some ways, it falls short of excellent.

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and Bloodhound Books for an ARC of this book.

Never Rest is not for the faint of heart. It is chaotic, insane, and disturbing. Incredibly graphical, it does not just tell you about the madness inside someone’s mind, but takes you right into its depth. It starts and ends by making your skin crawl. And it keeps the pace up in between, too. Chaotic in a good way, it keeps pulling you into labyrinths of thoughts and ideas that mingle with reality, until the line begins to blur.

The characters are easy to associate with, while not being too two-dimensional. They’ve got some complexities, but are not highly complicated individuals, making them very relatable. There are aspects of the story (and to some of the characters) that, in retrospect, seem highly improbable. But this isn’t something you would notice in the flow of the story and, in fact, the oddity adds to the thrill of the tale.

The only part that left me wanting is the end. The story is well written and comfortably fleshed-out. But the end seems a bit hurried, leaving a few things unanswered and some things to the reader’s choice. While the latter isn’t a problem, a few pages extra may have made the former less of a problem.

There are three stories over three timelines referenced in the book. A disturbing past, Chris’ first case, and the current case. While the first and third are well explained, the second seems to only appear in brief mentions. As it turns out, this is because the second story is the main plot of Book 1 in the Chris Sigurdsson series (Deadly Burial). (Now I wish I’d read that first.) The end of Never Rest leaves you slightly dissatisfied because it leaves you with a lot of questions. The next book in the series will probably answer some of them (I hope).

The main thing I realized about the book is that it reminded me a lot of the work of Simon Beckett – specifically, Written in Bone (you can read my review of that great book here). It’s got this spooky, chaotic, disturbing feel that is hugely compelling and intriguing.

I’m going to read Richter’s first book, Deadly Burial, very soon. I don’t know if my experience with Never Rest would have been different had I read the first book before. What I do know is that you can read Never Rest as a standalone or start here at least, and other than a few things seeming random, you won’t really be lost.

Highly recommended to:

  • fans of Simon Beckett
  • fans of Tim Weaver
  • crime fiction and thriller fans
  • fans of psychological thrillers (this actually does check the boxes for both psychology and thriller)

Never Rest released on 30 March 2018, and is available in both paperback and Kindle editions. Let us know what you thought of Never Rest or Deadly Burial (or just say Hi!) in the comments below.

– Rishika

 

 

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Review: Daddy Darkest (By Ellery A. Kane)

 

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Source: Goodreads

 

Length: 358 pages

My rating: 0.5 out of 5 stars

Small-town girl, Samantha ‘Sam’ Bronwyn heads from Texas to San Francisco with her best friend, Ginny, on an after-graduation trip. But Ginny disappears from the airport bathroom while wearing Sam’s letterman jacket. Suddenly, the guy who had been sitting next to her on the plane, and who had managed to carry a gun onboard, is her only ally. But she knows nothing about him or even whether she can trust him.

A dangerous serial killer escapes from San Quentin and is on the loose in San Francisco.

Spanish speaking, vicious looking men attack Sam’s hotel, the guns in their hands and tattoos on their body telling her that they’re affiliated with a notorious gang.

The FBI agent looking into the disappearance of Ginny’s case seems to know Sam’s mother.

And Sam’s mother, Clare Bronwyn, seems to be a whole other person – someone who knows too much about the events unfolding around Sam, someone who has too many secrets, and someone who Sam can barely recognize.

Sam does not know whom to trust. And every step that she takes pulls her deeper into a web of lies. Soon, Sam discovers that her life, and identity, isn’t what she believed them to be. And she may not live long enough to discover who she really is.

The Bottom Line:

A terrible waste of time, Daddy Darkest is a story that does not (even remotely) do justice to the psychological thriller claim and is actually painful to read at most parts.

My review:

A big ‘Thank you’ to NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review (‘honest’ being the key word here).

Daddy Darkest begins with a lot of promise. It starts with Samantha and Ginny traveling to San Francisco, Ginny’s disappearance, and a shifty but somewhat-trustable man coming to help Samantha. All intriguing factors, and all with great promise.

Then, it goes back to the past, to the story of Clare Keely, which (as it’s painfully obvious in the first three sentences) is the story of Samantha’s mother. It’s about two chapters into the past when everything gets really bad.

At the outset, I should probably state that I don’t really have a problem with characters who are anti-heroes or anti-heroines. No one is categorically black or white. And gray makes books and characters interesting. I think ‘gray’ was what Ellery Kane was aiming for with Clare (Bronwyn) Keely. What she ended up with, instead, is a very whiny, annoying, selfish, bratty b***h of a main character.

Sure, Clare has a past – one that’s not too nice either. It messes her up a bit. But that is really not enough of a foundation to become the person she does. In fact, most of her personality traits were highly conflicting with one another. And much more than the ‘this is who I need to be, but this is who I really am’ conflict that complex characters have. Plus, who she needs to be and who she is are both really annoying. To put it down in some discernable order, this is what she’s like:

Oh! I’m so pretty, it’s such a curse. Oh! I’m so pretty, every man lusts after me. Oh! I wish they wouldn’t. Oh! I need some information from this guy, let me just flirt with him and sleep with him and he’ll tell me. Oh! I wish he wouldn’t touch me. Oh! Come, let’s jump into bed together again so I can get you to do what I want. Oh! I wish every man didn’t lust after me, it makes me feel uncomfortable. Oh! I’m so bad. And I love it. No, I hate it. Oh! I’m such a good girl, why don’t people just let me be? Oh! My beauty is my curse. Oh! My beauty is my power. No, curse. No, power. And so on and so forth. Until Clare Keely whined about everything she didn’t like, and everything she liked too.

There are characters who are tainted but who you call still sympathize with – but Clare Keely is not such a character. She’s just annoying, and there is a point where you just want her to shut up.

And Samantha isn’t the brightest bulb either. Likable at first, you can sympathize with her for a bit. Until Kane seems to absolutely lose the shape of the character and Samantha melts into some kind of mix of her old self and her mother.

As the book proceeds, all characters other than Clare sort of slip away from the limelight and become secondary, to the point that the book doesn’t even wrap up their story cleanly. The story actually had the potential to be multi-arced, but all of it is pushed to the sidelines while Clare Keely rambles on and on, until you just don’t care about any of those promising angles.

That, unfortunately, is how this book makes you feel – uninterested. I actually found myself physically straining to push ahead instead of just giving up (a lot of people gave up, so I know I wasn’t alone in this struggle). Then I reached a point where I started fast-reading a lot of the book to remain informed of the points that mattered (skimming over the whining and lamenting, which made up for a surprisingly large amount of the book throughout). I did this in the hope that the book somehow redeemed itself. Short answer? It does not, in any way. I actually think it just gets worse as it goes on.

So all in all, this book has no redeeming factors. There’s nothing dark or psychologically thrilling about it. The story isn’t really twisted like the blurb states. And the only thing criminal in it, is Clare Keely’s character.

I would recommend this book to:

  • No one.
  • Seriously. Pick up any other book. Literally, any!

I’m sure there are people who disagree with my view on Daddy Darkest. Drop me a comment or two below to say why. And, of course, say why if you agree too!

Thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

 

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Review: The Lucky Ones (By Mark Edwards)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 380 pages

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Fiona had never been happier. In fact, today was the happiest day of her life. The only thing she didn’t know was that it was also the last day of her life.

Ben Hofland moves from London back to his small hometown of Shropshire after the discovery of his wife’s infidelity. Along with him is his eleven-year-old son who is struggling to come to terms with the separation and fit into this new life. Ben believes that the quietness of the town that had driven him away years ago is the very thing he needs to heal and build a new life for his son and himself.

Detective Inspector Imogen Evans had similar expectations when she left London, the city she’d grown up in, and its painful memories behind to move to Shropshire. The last thing she’d expected from the sleepy town was murder. But when another body turns up, Evans realizes that she’s dealing not only with murder but with a serial killer. And one who has already left three victims in picturesque locations with their eyes open and lips turned into frozen smiles of deadly bliss.

When Ben finds work and learns that his son’s bullies have decided to leave him alone, he finally feels like his bad luck has ended. That it’s finally time for him to have the happiness he deserves. But Ben has no idea that someone is watching him – someone who wants him to have much more than happiness. Someone who wants him to have eternal bliss. Will DI Evans be able to understand what drives the killer before he claims another life? Or will Ben pay the ultimate price for his happiness?

My take:

First off, I’d like to give a big ‘Thank You’ to NetGalley for a copy of this book and the opportunity to read (and review) it.

Now, to the book itself.

The Lucky Ones has all the right elements for a serial killer themed psychological thriller, and they’re all executed really well. It’s got great suspense with the end being quite unexpected. Even if you have figured out a part of it, there’s a whole lot more to the conclusion that you will not see coming. It’s got the right amount of gore, disturbing descriptions, and suspicious characters. And it’s got a relentless pace with something interesting happening on almost every page.

What I liked most about the book was the depth with which it went into the antagonist’s point of view. Many novels tend to have more implied explanations of why people do the things they do. But Edwards leaves nothing to your guessing capabilities. He lays it all out clearly, and that gives the story this rounded feel that I have always enjoyed. At the same time, it gives you insight into some seriously twisted ideologies that act as motivation for the antagonist’s actions. In fact, Edwards even goes on to say that the inspiration for this book was a conversation he’d overheard at a café. And this leaves you wondering just what people of our the world may be capable of thinking and doing.

All the characters are well-defined and you get a very real view of their struggles. Although protagonists, Ben and Evans have their own demons. Their decisions and emotions aren’t clearly segregated into black and white. Much like with most people in real life, they fall in a gray area. This realistic take on his characters adds good value to the book and allows you to relate with it on a much stronger level.

There were two aspects, though, that I thought could have been done better. There should have been more detail about how Ben and Imogen felt about their own emotional lives individually before that aspect abruptly appears in the latter part of the book (I would’ve called this a spoiler but c’mon… like you hadn’t already expected this angle to be present!). The second is that there were some parts, although not exclusively evident, that seemed to be missing depth. This was more of a feeling than a line or paragraph that I could point out – but the result was that it made certain parts of the story, and hence the book, stay just below the ‘this is brilliant’ line.

In spite of those problems, I would highly recommend The Lucky Ones to:

  • fans of thrillers, serial killer stories, crime fiction, and psychological thrillers
  • people interested in trying out a new author – Mark Edwards does not disappoint
  • people wanting to add a new author to their ‘I need to read all his books’ list

I’m definitely going to be reading more of Mark Edwards’ work. In fact, I’d had another of his books on my TBR pile for a while. Which is why I was even more excited when I got this book from NetGalley.

The Lucky Ones is expected to come out on June 15. Don’t miss this psychological thriller and let us know what you thought of the book and/or this review in the comments below!

– Rishika

 

 

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