Monday 27 March 2017

Book Review: THE MISSING ONES by Patricia Gibney

The Missing Ones (Detective Lottie Parker, #1)

Author: Patricia Gibney
March 2017

Synopsis (Goodreads):

The hole they dug was not deep. A white flour bag encased the little body. Three small faces watched from the window, eyes black with terror.

The child in the middle spoke without turning his head. ‘I wonder which one of us will be next?’

When a woman’s body is discovered in a cathedral and hours later a young man is found hanging from a tree outside his home, Detective Lottie Parker is called in to lead the investigation. Both bodies have the same distinctive tattoo clumsily inscribed on their legs. It’s clear the pair are connected, but how?

The trail leads Lottie to St Angela’s, a former children’s home, with a dark connection to her own family history. Suddenly the case just got personal.

As Lottie begins to link the current victims to unsolved murders decades old, two teenage boys go missing. She must close in on the killer before they strike again, but in doing so is she putting her own children in terrifying danger?

Lottie is about to come face to face with a twisted soul who has a very warped idea of justice. 

My thoughts:

Three years after losing her husband Adam to cancer, Detective Lottie Parker is still trying to come to terms with her grief and juggle her all-consuming job in the police force with the demands of bringing up three teenagers singlehandedly. Murders are not a common occurrence in the small Irish town of Ragmullin, so when two people are killed in short succession it rocks the community to the core. With her team of detectives, Lottie is at a loss to connect the two deaths, until her enquiries lead her to the gates of St Angela’s, a deserted old mansion that used to serve as a home for wayward teenagers and the unwanted children of unmarried mothers until the 1970’s. The mere look at the old building sends shivers through Lottie, as she is reminded of her own personal connection to the place. As her enquiries lead her further and further into the dark history of the home and the secrets buried deep in Ragmullin’s past, she realises that she is dealing with some powerful people who will not stop at murder to keep the truth hidden. And soon the body count mounts ...

Giving Lottie Parker’s richly drawn history, I was surprised to read that The Missing Ones was Patricia Gibney’s debut novel! With her opening sentences, she instantly mastered that most difficult of all arts – to draw me into the story immediately, and keep me deeply rooted there. The Missing Ones is a very dark book, with sinister themes that haunted me in my sleep, even more so since we know that the abuse described has its origins in true historical facts. I was somewhat shocked and surprised at the timeline of the story, which had its origins in the 1970’s, a time when I had assumed that there would have been more awareness and compassion preventing the hideous acts depicted. Terrifying! Linking the past with greed, corruption and depravity in the present time, the novel skips back and forth through history, exposing the true – and horrific – extent of the crimes Lottie is investigating.

Whilst I haven’t quite yet welcomed Lottie into the fold of my personal favourite fictional female detectives, such as Maeve Kerrigan (Jane Casey), Lacey Flint (Sharon Bolton), Fiona Griffiths (Harry Bingham) and ErikaFoster (Robert Bryndza), she certainly has the potential to be included on that list. Most women trying to juggle a demanding career with family will be able to relate to her struggles, and the guilt she feels on a daily basis as she is constantly torn between the two areas of her life. And as much as she is trying to keep work separate from family, the more impossible it becomes, until she finds that the nature of her work has put one of her own in danger. There are also the tentative hints at office politics involving Lottie and her colleagues, which I am hoping will further play out in future books and make this a very addictive series with many characters we will want to revisit.

Although this was a dark and disturbing read, I enjoyed the slow methodical unravelling of the clues leading to the story’s chilling finale. At times, the sheer amount of different characters was a bit overwhelming, and the book was perhaps just a tad too long, but these are minor quibbles. I loved the cold, damp and grey Irish winter setting, which was beautifully evoked on every page, and added its own chilling atmosphere to the story.

Gibney definitely is a writer to watch and an exciting new voice in crime fiction. I look forward to seeing Lottie Parker featuring in many more novels to come.

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


The life in Ragmullin appeared to have died with the economy.

To get to high places, some people have to bark their way through a dog eat dog world. It erodes their humanity.

How did everyone else get the conscientious brainy children while hers lounged around listening to music or twiddling their thumbs on a PlayStation?

Tuesday 21 March 2017

Book Review: FOLLOW ME DOWN by Sherri Smith

Follow Me Down

Author: Sherri Smith
Forge Books
March 2017
Expected publication: 21 March 2017

Synopsis (Goodreads):

Mia Haas has built a life for herself far from the North Dakota town where she grew up, but when she receives word that her twin brother is missing, she’s forced to return home. Once hailed as the golden boy of their small town, Lucas Haas disappeared the same day the body of one of his high school students is pulled from the river. Trying to wrap her head around the rumors of Lucas’s affair with the teen, and unable to reconcile the media’s portrayal of Lucas as a murderer with her own memories of him, Mia is desperate to find another suspect.

All the while, she wonders, if he’s innocent, why did he run?

As Mia reevaluates their difficult, shared history and launches her own investigation into the grisly murder, she uncovers secrets that could exonerate Lucas—or seal his fate. In a small town where everyone’s history is intertwined, Mia will be forced to confront her own demons, placing her right in the killer’s crosshairs.

My thoughts:

I love it when I accidentally stumble across a book that is exactly the type of taut and atmospheric thriller I enjoy reading – and from an author I had  previously not discovered, which hints at many more reading pleasures yet to come (please keep writing, Sherri Smith!).

Mia and Lucas Haas had a tough childhood growing up with an alcoholic mother, Mimi, who despite the siblings’ pleas has never revealed the identity of their father. After an accident that left Mimi brain damaged and living in an assisted care facility, the siblings were propelled into an early adulthood with responsibilities far beyond their years. Whilst Mia has made her life far from home, working as a pharmacist in the city, Lucas has returned to their hometown in North Dakota, teaching English at the local high school and shouldering the responsibility of visiting Mimi regularly. Whilst the twins are still close, the geographical distance means that they don’t get to see each other very often. When Mia receives a phone call from the police informing her that Lucas is missing, suspected of having murdered one of his teenage students, Mia is horrified. It is impossible that her brother, one of the town’s battlers made good against all odds, who manages to charm everyone with his good looks and gentle nature, is capable of such an act of violence. And yet there are many witnesses who claim to have seen Lucas and the dead girl together, and Lucas is nowhere to be found to defend himself. As Mia investigates some of the rumours going around town, she becomes increasingly afraid not only for her brother’s reputation, but also for his safety.

“His need to be known as a good guy was almost pathological. We were the approval seeking byproduct of our histrionic alcoholic mother; we just went about it differently. I cared less about being likeable than being considered impressive, whereas Lucas really wanted to be liked, the guy everyone wanted around, and that was who he’s always been. Unless. Unless he’s dead too.”

But since the police are convinced that he is guilty, they refuse to take her seriously. To clear her brother’s name, Mia has no choice than to start her own investigation. Even when it may put her own life in danger ....

Follow Me Down offers everything a good thriller should: featuring a gutsy, if flawed, main protagonist who takes on the role as sleuth, slowly and methodically unveiling layer after layer of secrets and scandal to finally reveal all in an explosive, action-packed and totally unexpected finale. I hungrily devoured page after page until late into the night, only reluctantly putting the book aside from sheer exhaustion and the knowledge that I had to look semi-alive at work the next day.

Mia is a wonderful protagonist. Whilst flawed (or maybe because of it), she is the type of gutsy female that drives a storyline and makes you fear for her as she faces one obstacle after another, not cowed by the town folk’s hostility or the danger she is putting herself in. And of course there is the guilt and doubt she lives with on a daily basis, which gives her the kind of dry humour and no-nonsense outlook on life I find refreshing. It made a welcome change from what seems to be a current trend in crime fiction, of presenting feeble confused females as unreliable narrators (which works well sometimes, but can be very irritating if not done correctly). Mia was relatable, from her loyalty and love for her twin against all odds, and her brave perseverance in the face of adversity and hostility from the people she has grown up with. By endowing her with a dysfunctional parent and a traumatic childhood, Mia’s background provides an interesting and three-dimensional base on which her whole character is built – warts and all.

Well done to Sherri Smith for tackling a completely new genre with such finesse! Follow Me Down is a taut, compelling and well-constructed thriller that kept me totally enthralled until the very last page. I recommend it highly and will be looking out for more books from this talented author in future.

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


The past was crammed down your throat everywhere you turned here; you could never escape it.

I really, really wanted her to be fat – like, had-to-rent-a-crane-to-be-removed-from-her-house fat – and was truly disappointed that she wasn’t.

That’s the thing with siblings – you never stop seeing the children you once were floating beneath your grown-up faces.

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Book Review: THE MEASURE OF THE MOON by Lisa Preston

The Measure of the Moon

Author: Lisa Preston
Thomas & Mercer
March 2017
Expected publication: 18 April 2017

Synopsis (Goodreads):

“If you ever say anything to anyone, they all die.”

When eight-year-old Greer Donner falls off his horse in the Washington wilderness, he braces himself to face the long hike home alone. But screams pierce the darkness, and he stumbles upon a dead-end road where a man is beating a woman—nearly to death. In a moment of courage, he stops the assault, but he’s left to face the man, who turns his wrath into an ominous threat: if the boy ever reveals what he has seen, his family will pay the ultimate price. The secret Greer now carries begins his emotional unraveling.

In Seattle, Gillian Trett is a photographer with a troubled marriage and a childhood she’s trying to forget. Domestic tension mounts when her husband’s stepsister arrives. Desperate for a distraction, and a way to advance her career, Gillian throws herself into uncovering the history behind an old man’s Holocaust photo of boys in a forest. The mysterious children and the truth behind the scene haunt her—she can’t let go of the image, or of her own shadowed past.

Then a horrifying revelation entangles Gillian’s path with young Greer’s. The boy and the woman, separated by a generation and a hundred miles, each confront the terrible power of harbored secrets—not only to eclipse the truth but also to illuminate the dark, unknown dimensions of their loved ones and themselves.

My thoughts:

8-year old Greer has everything a little boy could ever want: loving parents, a sheltered childhood growing up in the natural beauty a stone-throw away from the Olympic National Park, and five older siblings who nurture and protect him. But his life changes for ever on the night he witnesses a man assault a woman in the woods. Little Greer knows wrong when he sees it, and he is not afraid to step in and confront the assailant. Due to his brave intervention, the woman manages to escape, but the man’s angry last words will ring in his ears forever: If you tell, I will kill your whole family. His family, the people he loves most in the whole world. Greer’s lips are sealed as he pictures images so horrible they haunt him in his sleep. With a secret so terrible, Greer begins to unravel, and no one knows why ....

In Seattle, Gillian dreams of a different life, and feels terrible to be so ungrateful. Doesn’t she have everything a woman could possibly want? A loving husband, a beautiful home, enough money to be comfortable for the rest of her life, and her job as photographer which has so far fulfilled her. But there is a burning desire for excitement that will not go away. When she stumbles upon an old photograph of a group of solemn-faced children hidden in an antique camera, she is intrigued to find out more about their background, not realising that the story she will discover will change her life ....

The Measure of the Moon is a thought provoking, haunting tale of the burden of childhood trauma and its effects on different people from different family backgrounds. Greer, who has a big loving family to support him. Gillian, whose alcoholic parents had left her and her sister Becky to fend for themselves as children, and who both cope in different ways with the after effects of neglect. Alex and Alice, orphans growing up in an unimaginable time with terrible choices to make. And Liz, the mysterious woman on the run with a young child. As their stories intersect, each one must rely on their inner strength to make choices, right or wrong, which will shape their lives in different ways.

The author’s background in emergency services obviously stays her in good stead when it comes to understanding different people and their motivations, and her characters and their backgrounds are richly drawn and authentic. In fact, I thought I must have missed an earlier book in a series, as the novel assumes a certain familiarity with the Greer clan that made me feel like they have featured in other novels before, so detailed were their individual histories. I could picture them vividly in my mind, feeling their confusion and pain in seeing their youngest family member unravel before their very eyes without knowing why. What greater agony could there be for a parent than seeing their child suffer and being helpless to help? It was agony to read about the fear locked into the boy’s heart from a threat so carelessly uttered by a violent man. Whilst I also found Gillian an intriguing and likeable character, I found her story to be a bit overshadowed by the many side-stories relating to the Greer clan.

The Measure of the Moon is a slow, contemplative and character driven drama rather than a fast-paced mystery, and I especially loved the historical element introduced by the old photo, which I felt intriguing. At times I longed for a bit more action as the story slowly simmered along, but all in all I really enjoyed the journey. I look forward to reading more from this author!

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

Wednesday 15 March 2017

Book Review: LET THE DEAD SPEAK by Jane Casey

Let the Dead Speak (Maeve Kerrigan #7)

Author: Jane Casey
Harper Collins UK
March 2017

Synopsis (Goodreads):

When eighteen-year-old Chloe Emery returns to her West London home she finds her mother missing, the house covered in blood. Everything points to murder, except for one thing: there's no sign of the body.

London detective Maeve Kerrigan and the homicide team turn their attention to the neighbours. The ultra-religious Norrises are acting suspiciously; their teenage daughter and Chloe Emery definitely have something to hide. Then there's William Turner, once accused of stabbing a schoolmate and the neighborhood's favorite criminal. Is he merely a scapegoat, or is there more behind the charismatic facade?

As a body fails to materialize, Maeve must piece together a patchwork of testimonies and accusations. Who is lying, and who is not? And soon Maeve starts to realize that not only will the answer lead to Kate Emery, but more lives may hang in the balance.

My thoughts:

Having compulsively followed the Maeve Kerrigan series since Book 1 (The Burning), Let the Dead Speak was on my wishlist before it had even been written. It was therefore like early Xmas when Netgalley granted me an early preview copy – time for a happy dance around the kitchen! This was the last exercise I was going to get for a while, until I had devoured it in a massive one-night read-a-thon.

In Let the Dead Speak, Maeve has been promoted to Detective Sergeant, and has a new detective constable, Georgia Shaw, under her wing. The pair is dispatched to investigate a potential murder scene after 18-year old Chloe Emery returns home from a weekend visit to her father’s place, only to find the house covered in blood and her mother gone without a trace. However, there is no body, no suspect and no obvious motive, and with Chloe reluctant to talk to police, the detectives are at loose ends as to where to start their investigation. Enter DI Josh Derwent, and the investigative team is now complete, with its usual interesting dynamics. As the detectives start to canvass the neighbourhood for any leads, it soon becomes obvious that the quiet, middle class street is rife with secrets and unsavoury characters that make your blood curdle, even more so since they come in the guise of ordinary model citizens. These people could be your neighbours, your colleagues, your friends, people you trust. As Kerrigan and Derwent slowly chip away at the lies, tensions build and people get nervous. Soon the investigation takes a different direction they did not seen coming, and the body count mounts ....

In Let the Dead Speak, Casey once again proves why she is firmly engraved on my list of favourite crime authors. With her unsettling talent for looking into the darkest corners of the human soul and bringing them out for everyone to see, her tales are all the more chilling in their ordinariness. These are normal people, in ordinary neighbourhoods, pushed to extraordinary acts of violence by anger, greed, misguided love or arrogance.
Humans were still animals when it was all said and done.

Strongly character-driven, with vivid dialogue and non-stop action, the investigation carries the reader along in its wake to its shocking finale (which I did not see coming, by the way). The dynamic in Kerrigan’s and Derwent’s relationship is as sparkly and snarky as ever, and I felt like I was re-visiting old friends (or foes).
He frequently threw himself into my private life with all the delicacy of a Labrador bounding into a stagnant pond, but it wasn’t something I encouraged.
There is something about the dry and often obnoxious Derwent that gets under my skin (in a good way), and sometimes his abruptness and political incorrectness is laugh-out-loud funny:
 “But then, I don’t know how much the cat ... er ...” 
“Shits?” Derwent suggested, sitting down again.

I am not the right person to judge whether the book would work well as a stand-alone novel, as I have hungrily devoured each one of Casey’s books, and would recommend other readers do the same. Whilst the murder-mystery would work well in its own right, part of the fun comes from watching the relationships between the detectives evolve over time. Kerrigan herself was the one I felt had changed the most in this latest instalment, with her new responsibilities making her not only more mature but also weighing her down to a point where it seems that burn-out is not too far away. Still prepared to take risks for the sake of finding justice, this new Kerrigan is somewhat more tired and disillusioned than in previous novels, which makes me wonder how her career will progress in future books in the series. Derwent, whilst still blundering into action with the finesse of an elephant in a china shop, has acquired a few new soft edges with his new relationship with Melissa and being a step-dad to Thomas from After the Fire. Adding new blood in the form of DC Shaw added a new dimension to the team and made for some interesting dynamics – I will be watching this space very closely to see how it plays out.

Let the Dead Speak is a cleverly constructed mystery by a master on top of her game. As each layer of lies gets stripped away, a new truth is uncovered, like a whole series of Russian dolls cleverly slotted into each other, each with a different face and new reality. Slowly, carefully, each thread of the story is woven together to form a whole, which is totally different from the one first constructed when I started to read the story. This is not a book where you can be complacent for a single moment. Packing punch after punch, it left me somewhat stunned and exhausted after a night of compulsive reading like only the best of the best can do. I thoroughly enjoyed Let the Dead Speak and recommend it highly to all lovers of the series. If you have not read any books by Jane Casey yet, you are definitely missing out!

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


You spent a few hours judging someone else for how they lived and it gave you perspective on your own life, whether you wanted it or not.

He wasn’t a morning person. He wasn’t an afternoon of evening person either.

Burt’s attention swung around to Derwent, and it was like seeing an artillery piece wheeling into position.

It took a practiced back-stabber to slide the knife in without checking for a reaction.

There is no loathing like self-loathing.

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If you like a good police procedural, I recommend starting this series from the beginning:
The Burning (Maeve Kerrigan... Maeve Kerrigan series, by Jane Casey

You may also enjoy:

Now You See Me (Lacey Flint... Lacey Flint series, by S.J. Bolton
In the Woods (Dublin Murder... Dublin Murder Squad series, by Tana French

Wednesday 8 March 2017

Book Review: CAST IRON by Peter May

Cast Iron (The Enzo Files, #6)

Title: Cast Iron
Author: Peter May
Quercus Books
March 2017

Synopsis (Goodreads):

West of France, 1989.

A weeping killer deposits the unconscious body of nineteen year old Lucie Martin, her head wrapped in a blue plastic bag, into the water of a picturesque lake.

Lot-et-Garonne, 2003.

Fourteen years later a summer heatwave parches the earth, killing trees and bushes and drying out streams. In the scorched mud and desiccated slime of the lake a fisherman finds a skeleton wearing a bag over its skull.

Paris, October 2011.

In an elegant apartment in Paris, forensic expert Enzo Macleod pores over the scant evidence of this, the sixth cold case he has been challenged to solve. In taking on this old and seemingly impossible task he will put everything and everyone he holds dear in a peril he could never have imagined.

My thoughts:

In 2003, the skeleton of a young woman is recovered from a dry riverbed in France, but her murder remains unsolved. Until the cold case falls into the hands of forensic expert Enzo McLeod, who has vowed to solve six cold cases as part of a bet with his son-in-law, journalist Roger Raffin. But the closer Enzo gets to uncovering the truth, the more dangerous the game becomes, and soon he finds that his own family is in danger from people who will stop at nothing to keep the truth hidden.

Cast Iron is the sixth book in the Enzo McLeod series, and I can see that for followers of the series it would provide many answers and bring together threads woven in earlier books. May’s writing style is engaging and driven by action and dialogue, making this a very readable and intriguing mystery. Unfortunately I did not think it worked well as a stand-alone book. Not having read any of the previous novels in the series, I was often confused about the intricate family relationships of the McLeod clan. Enzo seems to have a maelstrom of ex-partners and children from different relationships, one of whom is not even his blood relation since his ex-wife had an affair with his best friend. Another one of his ex-wives (who seems to loathe him) is also the ex-partner of Enzo’s daughter’s fiancé, who Enzo had an affair with - which would make for a rather strained relationship on all levels! Enzo’s bad track record with women has not deterred him from pursuing new romances, however, so the book is a tangle of old and new relationships like an intricate Celtic knot I had no hope of unravelling in one sitting. Since character development had obviously evolved over the previous five books, I felt very estranged from most of the protagonists and never really warmed to any of them, which greatly affected my reading enjoyment. As it was, I felt like I had walked in at the end of a movie, and missed all the lead-up to the grand finale.

I am sure that fans of the series will enjoy this novel much more than I did, as it is cleverly constructed and has elements of action and suspense which at times distracted even me from my confusion and carried me along in their wake. May clearly knows how to write, with plenty of red herrings and a surprising twist I did not see coming. However, I would recommend reading the series in order to get the most out of the different threads of the storyline as well as the multiple characters featuring in it.

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

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Monday 6 March 2017

Book Review: SHALLOW END by Brenda Chapman

Shallow End (Stonechild and Rouleau Mystery, #4)

Title: Shallow End
Author: Brenda Chapman
February 2017
Expected publication: 4 April 2017

Synopsis (Goodreads):

Teacher, mother, wife, and convicted child molester Jane Thompson makes parole after losing everything — her husband, her children, her career, and her reputation. But just as she begins trying to build a life out of the public eye, the bludgeoned body of the student she abused four years earlier is found on the shores of Lake Ontario. Sergeant Rouleau assigns officers Stonechild and Gundersund to head up the murder investigation and Jane quickly becomes their prime suspect.

Meanwhile, Stonechild’s niece, Dawn, has been skipping school and running into trouble in foster care. Gundersund is more trapped than ever in his failing marriage, and Rouleau struggles to come to terms with the death of his ex-wife. But all their problems take a back seat as the investigation picks up steam. Stonechild and Gundersund wade through buried secrets to find the truth, which will take them on a twisted journey to the heart of cruelty. The question is — who will come out alive on the other side? 

My thoughts:

Five years ago, Jane Thompson, wife and mother of two, lost everything she held dear when she was convicted of sexually abusing one of her students, 12-year-old Devon Eton. Now, having served her prison sentence, she is out on parole, trying to get her life back together and fighting to get access to her kids, who are living with her ex-husband and his new partner. Living in a shabby flat and working as an unskilled shop assistant to make ends meet and comply with the conditions of her parole, her existence is about as far removed from her previous life as it can get. Then Devon’s body is found murdered on the shores of Lake Ontario, and she is suddenly the prime suspect again. But what motive would she have to murder Devon? This is a question Detectives Stonechild and Gundersund will be asking themselves many times in the course of a murder investigation which has as many turns and twists as an elaborately constructed labyrinth. Trying to see their way through the lies, they must uncover the truth to bring the murderer to justice.

Shallow End was an intriguing and clever murder mystery, and I was delighted to find out that this is part of a series featuring the troupe of detectives I had become very fond of in the course of reading this novel. Thankfully, I did not feel disadvantaged by not knowing the characters’ previous histories, though I am now more than eager to pick up earlier instalments in the series to remedy that. Why did Kala lose custody of her niece Dawn? And why did Gundersund’s marriage get into trouble? I must say I thoroughly enjoyed all the characters Brenda Chapman has created in this addictive series, and look forward to reading a lot more about them. Chapman’s skill as a writer is evident in her well rounded, true-to-life characters, who seem to leap off the page and acquire a personality all of their own.

As to the events in Shallow End: if the band of detectives wasn’t enough to keep my interest, the rest of the storyline alone kept me devouring this book until late into the night. A teacher accused of abusing one of her students – certainly a current and contentious topic. As a former special education teacher herself, it is obvious that the issue lies close to the author’s heart and she tackles it with sensitivity and grace whilst weaving it into an utterly compelling story. There are a lot of surprises along the way, so don’t get complacent reading it – just when I thought it is all over, a surprise revelation delivers a final sucker punch I did not see coming. I thoroughly enjoyed Shallow End – even better that it opens the door to a whole crime series I am sure will keep me entertained for hours to come.

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


He prided himself on his reasonableness. He wore it like a sanctimonious cloak every day of their marriage.

"Are you naturally creepy or do you have to work at it?"

"This isn't your circus, son. Those aren't your monkeys."

Wednesday 1 March 2017

Book Review: THE BREAKDOWN by B.A. Paris

The Breakdown

Author: B. A. Paris
St. Martin's Press
February 2017
Expected publication: 20 June 2017

Synopsis (Goodreads):

If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her… 

My thoughts:

One split decision can change your life ... Young teacher Cass is on her way home from a party when she decides to take a shortcut, turning onto a deserted road leading through dense forest. Whilst it is a popular and picturesque drive during the day, at night it is dark and lonely and not considered safe by her husband Matthew. In fact, she has promised him to stick to the main roads, but it’s late, and it’s raining and she just wants to get home to her warm bed. On her way through the woods she notices a car parked in a parking bay on the side of the road with its headlights on. Pulling over to check if the person needs assistance, she sees the outline of a young woman behind the steering wheel, looking back at her through the rain. The woman makes no move to signal distress, so thinking that she is not needed, Cass drives on home through the storm and forgets all about the encounter. Until she hears on the news the next morning that a young woman has been found murdered in her car on the very same road. And the nightmare begins ....

Paris quickly reeled me in with her story, partly due to the fact that I do a lot of driving on lonely country roads without phone reception at night. Would I stop if I was in Cass’ position? To be honest, I am not sure. The roads are scary places alone at night, and you feel very vulnerable. Paris’ description of Cass’ moral dilemma is well executed, as is her subsequent disintegration as guilt and fear weigh heavily on her.

“Anybody would stop if they saw someone in trouble, wouldn’t they?”
“Would they, though? On a lonely road and in a storm?” I desperately wanted the answer to be “No.”
“Well, not unless they didn’t have a conscience. Nobody would just drive on. They’d at least do something.”

I liked the portrayal of a vulnerable young woman, scarred by the untimely death of her mother after a battle with early onset dementia. When strange things start happening around her, Cass is convinced that she must surely be going crazy and follow the same downward spiral as her mother did. Cass is a likeable protagonist, and one I wanted to root for in the face of the challenges she faces, even though I felt that the whole “unreliable narrator” concept was a bit overdone at times with Cass acting quite irrationally for an educated, smart young woman.

Whilst the start of the book had me firmly in its grip, parts of the last third fell a bit flat for me, but I can’t go into that for fear of spoiling things for other readers. Let’s just say that I guessed early on what was happening, and felt that the grip the book had on me loosened considerable once that part of the mystery had been solved. Whilst the ending was clever in a double jeopardy kind of way, it all came together a bit too neatly, losing some credibility. The mystery and its final twist could have been more convincing had more time been spent on character development of some of the supporting characters. I also disliked that a lot of time was spent relaying SMS messages, which seemed like an unexciting way to resolve an element of the story that had so much more potential to be clever and tense. This may not be an issue for other readers, but for me the tension that the author had been trying to build up suddenly deflated with a loud pffffft like a flat tire. Shame!

Whilst  The Breakdown was a quick, entertaining and reasonably enjoyable read, it didn’t mess with my head enough to make it memorable. However, I do think its atmospheric setting would make a fantastic movie! I also really enjoyed Paris’ writing style, which will make me look out for other titles by the same author. 

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

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