Monday, 29 February 2016

Book Review: DARKEST PLACE by Jaye Ford

Darkest Place

Darkest Place
Author: Jaye Ford
Publisher: Random House Australia
Read: February 2016

Synopsis (Goodreads):

An adrenaline-pumping suspense novel from the author of Beyond Fear. What do you do when your nightmares are real – and no one believes you?

Carly Townsend is starting over after a decade of tragedy and pain. In a new town and a new apartment she's determined to leave the memories and failures of her past behind.

However that dream is shattered in the dead of night when she is woken by the shadow of a man next to her bed, silently watching her. And it happens week after week.

Yet there is no way an intruder could have entered the apartment. It's on the fourth floor, the doors are locked and there is no evidence that anyone has been inside.

With the police doubting her story, and her psychologist suggesting it's all just a dream, Carly is on her own. And being alone isn't so appealing when you're scared to go to sleep . . .

My thoughts:

Jaye Ford has been on my to-read list for a long time, and I was very excited to receive a free copy of her latest novel from the publisher – and it did not disappoint!

After the tragic death of her friends in a climbing accident and the breakdown of her marriage, Charlotte Townsend finds the burden of guilt and grief too much to bear and decides to move to the city to leave her sad past behind. Reinventing herself as “Carly” she buys a new funky apartment in a converted warehouse and enrols in a TAFE course with the intention of reconnecting to her younger, confident self. The first days in her new home are wonderful – as Carly meets some of the other residents of the apartment building, she feels for the first time in years that she is not burdened by her past. Perhaps there is hope for the future yet?

On the third night in her new home, Carly wakes in the middle of the night to the presence of an intruder in her room. The dark silhouette of a man is sitting on the side of her bed, gently stroking her, his breath touching her skin whilst she feels pinned to the bed, unable to move. Terrified, Carly calls the police, but despite an intense search of her apartment they cannot find any sign of illegal entry. Shaken, Carly is determined not to let the incident shatter her new found confidence. She makes sure that her doors and windows are locked at all times, and installs a security chain on the door for extra protection. But a few nights later the intruder appears again – and again. Without evidence, Carly’s credibility is questioned, until she can no longer trust anyone around her – including her own sanity.

Ford is a master of building suspense – once I picked up the book I could not put it down, which made for very little sleep! I loved the balance of suspense, drama and romance, which worked very well in this context. With well-drawn characters, each one coming with a complex and somewhat murky past, the shadow of suspicion falls heavily on many of them throughout the story’s progression, most of all on Carly herself. Can the reader really trust her account of events, given her fragile psyche?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it highly to anyone who enjoys a good suspense story – especially one with an Australian setting. A couple of elements in the ending did not quite work for me, but as a whole these minor quibbles did not dampen the enjoyment of reading this book to the end. One of my favourite reads this year so far.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Image result for 4.5 stars

Friday, 26 February 2016

Book Review: FOOL ME ONCE by Harlan Coben

Fool Me Once

Title: Fool Me Once
Author: Harlan Coben
Publisher: Dutton
Read: February 2016
Expected publication: 22 March 2016

Synopsis (Goodreads):

In the course of eight consecutive #1 New York Times bestsellers, millions of readers have discovered Harlan Coben’s page-turning thrillers, filled with his trademark edge-of-your-seat suspense and gut-wrenching emotion. In Fool Me Once, Coben once again outdoes himself.

Former special ops pilot Maya, home from the war, sees an unthinkable image captured by her nanny cam while she is at work: her two-year-old daughter playing with Maya’s husband, Joe—who had been brutally murdered two weeks earlier. The provocative question at the heart of the mystery: Can you believe everything you see with your own eyes, even when you desperately want to? To find the answer, Maya must finally come to terms with deep secrets and deceit in her own past before she can face the unbelievable truth about her husband—and herself.

My thoughts:

Ex-soldier and helicopter pilot Maya Burkett has had a lot of tragedy in her life – her last tour of Iraq ended in tragedy, her sister was murdered whilst she was overseas, and her husband was shot in front of her eyes in an apparent mugging in Central Park. Every night she has to live with the demons of her PTSD, vivid dreams of haunting images which torture her and keep her awake. Only her 2-year old daughter Lily keeps her grounded, although life as single parent and sole income earner is tough. Maya has never been a stay-at-home mum, so she hires a nanny to look after her daughter whilst she is at work. To make sure Lily is in good hands, Maya installs a “nanny-cam” on advice of a good friend, a hidden camera concealed in a digital photo frame in the living room. She gets the shock of her life when she checks the footage one day to see her dead husband Joe Burkett playing on the sofa with Lily.

Not to give too much away, the incident is a catalyst for Maya to look deeper into her husband’s death, finding links to events of the past deeply shrouded in secrecy and fiercely protected by Joe’s wealthy family. More shockingly, some links seem to lead to her sister, and may ultimately be related to her death. But can Maya trust her own instincts, or are these links figments of her imagination related to her PTSD?

In typical Harlan Coben fashion, the story twists and turns and leaves the reader guessing constantly – just when you think you have worked it out, there is another link in the chain leading off into a completely different direction. Fast-paced and full of suspense, this book will appeal to readers who like to be kept guessing until the very end.

I have been a long-time fan of Coben’s writing and was very excited to receive this preview copy from the publisher. Unfortunately the book did not totally work for me. Whilst I enjoyed the different elements of the plot, I found it hard to engage with the characters, which I do not usually experience with Coben’s novels. Whilst Maya was a tough and strong protagonist, I also found her very remote and difficult to relate to. Her PTSD somehow did not convince me, and I struggled to connect on every level. 2.5 stars from me for that reason.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.