Saturday, 27 July 2019

Book Review: UNRAVELING OLIVER by Liz Nugent

Author: Liz Nugent
Read: July 2019
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ1/2

Book Description:

Oliver Ryan, handsome, charismatic, and successful, has long been married to his devoted wife, Alice. Together they write and illustrate award-winning children’s books; their life together one of enviable privilege and ease—until, one evening after a delightful dinner, Oliver delivers a blow to Alice that renders her unconscious, and subsequently beats her into a coma.

In the aftermath of such an unthinkable event, as Alice hovers between life and death, the couple’s friends, neighbours, and acquaintances try to understand what could have driven Oliver to commit such a horrific act. As his story unfolds, layers are peeled away to reveal a life of shame, envy, deception, and masterful manipulation.

My musings:

What makes up a sociopath? Are people born that way, or are they a sum of their family histories and past experiences? It’s a fascinating topic that can be much debated, and Nugent does an excellent job in exploring it in this character study of Oliver, a man who almost beat his wife to death in a frenzied attack.

I loved the way the author chose to tell this story – not simply through the eyes of Oliver, her sociopathic main character, and not through exploring the events leading up to Alice’s beating through an omniscient narrator. Instead, she uses the voices of multiple persons who have had involvement in Oliver’s life to tell of their experiences with the man. It’s like putting a puzzle together in reverse – we hear snippets of Oliver’s childhood, his youth, and his later years closer to Alice’s attack. Bit by bit a picture of the man forms, and to the author’s credit I always managed to maintain a sense of sorrow and empathy for the man, despite the horrible things he has done. It is possibly the best portrayal of a villain in crime fiction I have ever read. And despite a decided lack of action there was an underlying sense of menace and mystery underlying the story that kept me thoroughly enthralled. As all the pieces fell into place, the sheer magnitude of Oliver’s crimes lay fully exposed – and it was truly shocking in every sense.

For me, some of the peripheral characters’ stories were even more interesting than Oliver’s, especially that of Veronique, who was my favourite character. My heart truly bled for her! I would have loved to hear from Alice herself, especially why she chose to stay with Oliver for so long, which probably remains my most pressing question that never got answered. Perhaps this was the author’s intent all along – it certainly made sure that this book will stay in my mind for a long time to come as I keep replaying some scenes in my mind.


UNRAVELING OLIVER was a book that snuck up on me and took me totally unawares. It very quickly got under my skin and into my brain, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it! I wonder how this got past me when it first came out, and am so glad that I finally read it. If you love a well drawn villain that will haunt you long after the last page has been turned, then this book is definitely for you!

You may also like:

The Good Samaritan The Good Samaritan by John Marrs

Jane Doe (Jane Doe, #1) Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone

My Lovely Wife My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

The Memory Watcher The Memory Watcher by Minka Kent

Book Review: INTO THE JUNGLE by Erica Ferencik

Author: Erica Ferencik
Publisher: Gallery / Scout Press
Read: July 2019
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ1/2

Book Description:

Lily Bushwold thought she’d found the antidote to endless foster care and group homes: a teaching job in Cochabamba, Bolivia. As soon as she could steal enough cash for the plane, she was on it.

When the gig falls through and Lily stays in Bolivia, she finds bonding with other broke, rudderless girls at the local hostel isn’t the life she wants either. Tired of hustling and already world-weary, crazy love finds her in the form she least expected: Omar, a savvy, handsome local man who’d abandoned his life as a hunter in Ayachero—a remote jungle village—to try his hand at city life.

When Omar learns that a jaguar has killed his four-year-old nephew in Ayachero, he gives Lily a choice: Stay alone in the unforgiving city, or travel to the last in a string of ever-more-isolated river towns in the jungles of Bolivia. Thirty-foot anaconda? Puppy-sized spiders? Vengeful shamans with unspeakable powers? Love-struck Lily is oblivious. She follows Omar to this ruthless new world of lawless poachers, bullheaded missionaries, and desperate indigenous tribes driven to the brink of extinction. To survive, Lily must navigate the jungle--its wonders as well as its terrors—using only her wits and resilience.

My musings:

Oh how I wish there were more writers like Erica Ferencik out there! Fast paced and addictive adventure & survival thrillers featuring wild and remote places and plucky women protagonists are so hard to come by, and Ferencik has really perfected the art. I loved THE RIVER AT NIGHT, and although this one was completely different, I devoured it just as greedily.

I was intrigued to read that the author loosely based this story on a real-life account of one of her friend’s experiences living in the Amazon jungle. It really added depth and meaning to the story and made the character of Lily come even more to life for me. Lily was a wonderful character – as an orphan growing up in the foster home system, she is both troubled as well as tough. She is a survivor who will fight to the very end. She is feisty and driven, and made for the perfect lead role in this story of survival against the odds. I loved her gradual coming of age as she forms relationships and matures into a woman and wife, embracing her new life’s challenges. She definitely is a character you cannot help but root for all the way.

And that setting – have I said that I looooove wild and remote settings? Only a 100 times or so? Well, let me say it again. It doesn’t get much better than this: a small village in the middle of the jungle cut off from civilisation and surrounded by a harsh and hostile environment. There was wildlife galore, including some of your worst nightmares, like giant snakes and hairy spiders as big as dinner plates, man-eating jaguars, poison ants, razor toothed piranhas and parasites that eat you alive from the inside out. Who wouldn’t want to live there? So here we have Lily Bushwold, a nineteen year old American girl who may know how to survive in an urban jungle but has never had to hunt for food, wash clothes in a river, sleep in a spider infested hut or live off food gathered in the jungle. But when she falls in love with Omar, a young man from a remote tribe in the Bolivian forest, she will soon experience a life she could have never dreamed of.

My nineteen-year-old self may have found Lily’s story terribly romantic and signed up for the trip. But even living in the land of Oz, were apparently every creature is set to kill you, I could not envisage surviving long in those conditions – and at my age I prefer my own creature comforts too much to envy Lily her great adventure. With good reason, as you will find out when you read this book.

Apart from Lily, the story is brimming with interesting and eclectic characters, from For God’s Sake, the crippled riverboat driver, to the “Frannies”, the two missionaries who have settled in the jungle in an effort of converting the tribes to Christianity. There is also Baya, a shaman living alone in the bush and shunned by the villagers, who has a strange affinity to Lily. And because every good adventure story needs some baddies, there are the poachers, out to rape and pillage and strip the jungle of its treasures. In all this, Omar and Lily’s love endures.

Yes, there may have been a few scenes that stretched the boundaries of believability a bit, but never too far to spoil my enjoyment. And what good adventure tale is not prone to some slight exaggeration? You know that every good fishing story has a bit of journalistic license thrown in. I loved the way Ferencik built the tension to the action packed finale, where Lily really must prove her worth. 


If you love a good action thriller featuring a plucky female heroine, then this one should definitely be on your TBR pile. It certainly made for a great armchair adventure! Apparently Erica Ferencik is planning another action packed book, this time somewhere “very cold”. Alaska? Antarctica? Greenland? Wherever, I am certain it will be another fantastic adventure and I can’t wait to read it! 

Read an interview with Erica Ferencik about her latest book here

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Book Review: SOMEONE WE KNOW by Shari Lapena

Author: Shari Lapena
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Read: July 2019
Expected publication: 30 July 2019
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ1/2

Book Description:

"This is a very difficult letter to write. I hope you will not hate us too much. . . My son broke into your home recently while you were out."

In a quiet, leafy suburb in upstate New York, a teenager has been sneaking into houses--and into the owners' computers as well--learning their secrets, and maybe sharing some of them, too.

Who is he, and what might he have uncovered? After two anonymous letters are received, whispers start to circulate, and suspicion mounts. And when a woman down the street is found murdered, the tension reaches the breaking point. Who killed her? Who knows more than they're telling? And how far will all these very nice people go to protect their own secrets?

In this neighborhood, it's not just the husbands and wives who play games. Here, everyone in the family has something to hide . . .

You never really know what people are capable of. 

My musings:

Do you enjoy books where a character makes one tiny bad decision, and that little fluttering of butterfly wings sets into motion a giant shitstorm that sets about to destroy everything in its path? I may have a little sadistical streak because I love those type of stories. I feel like settling down with a bag of popcorn and just watch it all go up in flames. Maybe it’s just that it instantly makes me feel better about the comparably small disasters in my own life! Well, if you appreciate this special form of entertainment, then you are in for a treat, because Lapena is a master at making her hapless characters stumble blindly from the frying pan into the fire without pausing for breath.

To be fair, it’s a teenager who sets into motion this particular undoing, and teenagers are renowned for making rash and often unwise decisions. Raleigh, an up-and-coming computer hacker, thinks it would be great fun to sneak into people’s houses whilst they are away to do some snooping around on their personal computers. Ha, you say – yes, I immediately spotted the potential as well! The premise is just asking for some skeletons to crawl out of someone’s search history! But it gets even worse for Raleigh when the wife of one of his targets gets murdered. From here on, Lapena sets out to spin a clever and captivating web that had me read this mystery in almost one setting (if not for life and work I would not have wanted to put this down).

SOMEONE WE KNOW relies heavily on neighbourhood dynamics and the terrible decisions people make in everyday life that will have devastating consequences. It’s a lighter mystery that will appeal to readers who do not like too much gore or tension in their books, even though the suspense built to such a crescendo that I had to find out how it would end! There were lots of suspects and everybody lies, which made this a fun mystery to try and solve – I am quite proud that I worked out one suspect quite early in the piece, but was not prepared for all the twists and complexities that developed in the later part of the book.

If you are looking for a lighter but nonetheless addictive and clever mystery this summer (or winter, if you live in Australia like me), then this book should definitely be on your TBR pile.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Pamela Dorman Books for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Book Review: LADY IN THE LAKE by Laura Lippman

Author: Laura Lippman
Publisher: William Morrow
Read: July 2019
Expected publication: today, 23 July

Book Description / Blurb:

The revered New York Times bestselling author returns with a novel set in 1960s Baltimore that combines modern psychological insights with elements of classic noir, about a middle-aged housewife turned aspiring reporter who pursues the murder of a forgotten young woman.

In 1966, Baltimore is a city of secrets that everyone seems to know--everyone, that is, except Madeline "Maddie" Schwartz. Last year, she was a happy, even pampered housewife. This year, she's bolted from her marriage of almost twenty years, determined to make good on her youthful ambitions to live a passionate, meaningful life.

Maddie wants to matter, to leave her mark on a swiftly changing world. Drawing on her own secrets, she helps Baltimore police find a murdered girl--assistance that leads to a job at the city's afternoon newspaper, the Star. Working at the newspaper offers Maddie the opportunity to make her name, and she has found just the story to do it: a missing woman whose body was discovered in the fountain of a city park lake.

Cleo Sherwood was a young African-American woman who liked to have a good time. No one seems to know or care why she was killed except Maddie--and the dead woman herself. Maddie's going to find the truth about Cleo's life and death. Cleo's ghost, privy to Maddie's poking and prying, wants to be left alone.

Maddie's investigation brings her into contact with people that used to be on the periphery of her life--a jewelery store clerk, a waitress, a rising star on the Baltimore Orioles, a patrol cop, a hardened female reporter, a lonely man in a movie theater. But for all her ambition and drive, Maddie often fails to see the people right in front of her. Her inability to look beyond her own needs will lead to tragedy and turmoil for all sorts of people--including the man who shares her bed, a black police officer who cares for Maddie more than she knows.

My musings:

I’ve been wishing for an original but believable mystery to break a chain of far-fetched plotlines that have plagued my reading lately, and am happy to report that this book surely delivered exactly what I was looking for! Actually, if I had to categorise this book, I’m not sure what genre I would assign to it – perhaps “newspaper mystery” (as the author calls it in her author’s notes) would indeed be the most suitable, as Maddie, our main narrator, is an aspiring journalist investigating a crime. However, the crime is not really the main focus of this intriguing mystery, which unfolds slowly and reveals a lot more about Maddie’s life and the circumstances that lead to her “investigation” than the body of the young woman nicknamed the “Lady in the Lake” in Baltimore. In fact, the very role of journalist is more a way for Maddie to break out of her confines as a 1960’s wife and mother than a vocation, though she fits the role very well.

Maddie made for an enigmatic character I could relate to, and her upper class Jewish background was interesting and something that made her stand out from the usual fray of tortured souls that represent your more typical fictional investigator. Maddie had spunk, and I was rooting for her every step of the way, even though she kept sticking her nose into things that would cause a lot of trouble – or perhaps because she was not afraid to stick her nose into things that would stir up trouble! Maddie truly is a rebel: bored with her stale marriage she leaves her husband and teenage son, moves into an apartment in a less “desirable” neighbourhood where she can entertain her black cop lover and inserts herself into a police investigation by writing a letter to the main suspect of the crime. This may not raise any eyebrows in our times, but imagine the gossip it engendered in 1966! By choosing a feisty heroine to tell the tale of an era where women were very much still confined to home and hearth, Lippman really evokes the spirit of the time her story is set in – I felt instantly transported into a different world, the virtual travel possibly more intriguing to me than the actual solving of the mystery.

Ironically, I also really enjoyed the very thing some other readers found annoying, which was the large number of POVs Lippman uses to tell the story of the circumstances surrounding the crime. Here we have everyone from the suspect’s mother, to the victim’s child, to a random waitress and many more peripheral characters recounting random facts that only vaguely connect them to the dead woman. I thought this was a very clever way to set the scene, and it certainly added intrigue and brought the era and the city to life for me. The victim Cleo herself gets to narrate quite a few chapters, and those formed part of a very clever web that finally unravelled right at the end of the book.

I was even more intrigued by the story when I found out that two real life crimes in 1969 inspired the author to write this fictional version of events, and that some of her characters were informed by real personalities of the time. In an interview, Lippman stated that as a reporter herself she had been motivated to write stories about “the kind of people that no one else wanted to write about”, a trait reflected here in Maddie. For me, these kind of novels make up the perfect blend between true crime and fiction, and I really enjoyed doing a bit of digging into the events that inspired this novel. Don’t you love it when a work of fiction also serves as an educational experience? 


All in all, LADY IN THE LAKE was an engaging, original mystery featuring a feisty female protagonist I immediately warmed to and rooted for all the way. Inspired by two true crimes in 1969 Baltimore, the author created a rich cast of characters to tell the tale, which made for the perfect time travel and added depth to the story lacking in many other contemporary crime novels. I really enjoyed the journey and look forward to picking up other books by the author.

Thank you to Edelweiss and William Morrow for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Book Review: GRETCHEN by Shannon Kirk

Author: Shannon Kirk
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Read: July 2019
Expected publication: 23 July 2019

Book Description:

Ever since Lucy was two, she’s been on the run alongside her mother. She’s never understood the reason for a lifetime of paranoia, aliases, and lies. All she understands are the rules: never lock eyes with strangers, never let down your guard, and always be ready to move on.
Finally, after thirteen years and eleven states, their next hideaway seems perfect. An isolated, fortresslike place in the New Hampshire woods is the new home they share with its owner, a gentlemanly pianist, and his lonely daughter, Gretchen. She’s Lucy’s age and soon becomes Lucy’s first real friend.

But Gretchen and her father have secrets of their own—and an obsession with puzzles that draws Lucy into a terrifying new game of hide-and-seek. Lucy’s dark past is about to come calling. And this time, for her and her mother in the house on the hill, it might be too late to run.

My musings:

How crazy was this book????? I think I still have vertigo from the nosedive into the insanity of Gretchen’s world and the events that took place in the last 25% of Kirk’s latest creation. After reading IN THE VINES last year, I knew I would be in for a treat, but had little idea of what exactly I was letting myself in for with this one.

I immediately liked Lucy, the 15-year-old MC who is narrating most of the story. Lucy and her mother have been on the run for 13 years, ever since Lucy was two. She believes her mother when she tells her that her evil, powerful father is their enemy and that she must never, ever try to look for him. As if she would even get the chance, because her mother keeps her strictly offline, and every time there is even the slightest danger of someone getting too personal, they do the midnight runner just to end up in another small nondescript town in the middle of nowhere. Now that Lucy is 15, she longs for normality, but most of all she wants a friend. The sort of girl she calls a “Jenny”. Loyal, kind, not asking much in return for a firm quiet friendship.

When Lucy first meets Gretchen, the daughter of their latest landlord, she knows that she is no Jenny. In fact, Gretchen is batshit crazy, with her penchant for puzzles and her way of creeping up on people and invading their privacy. But beggars can’t be choosers, and Lucy is sick of being a friendless girl on the run. Only that her rebellion may cost them all dearly ....

As with her previous book, Shannon Kirk immediately swept me up with her writing and carried me along in its storm like a tumbleweed, helpless and hopelessly addicted to the story. I was so invested that the house could have blown down around me and I may not have noticed. Because Gretchen is one crazy gal, and the setting is so spooky that it gave me nightmares. I LOVE this type of book!

Then came the 75% mark, and the story took a very unexpected turn. I admit that my “farfetched plotline” meter was immediately triggered, ringing all alarm bells. It was all so out there! But in the crazy nightmare that had been evoked by Gretchen in her apple print dress, it all still strangely worked. Is it horror? I’m not sure, though some may be freaked out by the final scenes. For me, it felt more like a fever dream, the sort where you know you are hallucinating but unable to clear your head. I wasn’t totally in love with the ending, but it was certainly different! I had to put a lot of kindling to my fledgling embers of the art of suspending disbelief, so if you are similarly afflicted with a total lack of that skill you may want to be forewarned. Once you have read this book, and have recovered your senses (it may take a day or two), make sure to check out the author’s website for her “additional information” link, which added much to the story for me.


All in all, GRETCHEN was one hell of a ride like only Kirk can deliver, with the same type of modern Gothic setting that delighted readers of IN THE VINES. It definitely delved into batshit crazy territory! If you are looking for a thoroughly entertaining book with one of the craziest protagonists and creepiest houses I have come across in a while, and an ending that you will never see coming in a million years, then this is definitely for you! 

Thank you to Netgalley and Thomas & Mercer for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Book Review: THE PERFECT WIFE by J.P. Delaney

Author: J.P. Delaney
Publisher: Quercus Books
Read: July 2019
Expected publication: 8 August 2019
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ1/2

Book Description:

Abbie awakens in a daze with no memory of who she is or how she landed in this unsettling condition. The man by her side claims to be her husband. He's a titan of the tech world, the founder of one of Silicon Valley's most innovative start-ups. He tells Abbie that she is a gifted artist, an avid surfer, a loving mother to their young son, and the perfect wife. He says she had a terrible accident five years ago and that, through a huge technological breakthrough, she has been brought back from the abyss.

She is a miracle of science.

But as Abbie pieces together memories of her marriage, she begins questioning her husband's motives--and his version of events. Can she trust him when he says he wants them to be together forever? And what really happened to Abbie half a decade ago?

Beware the man who calls you . . .

My musings:

Careful – enter at own risk. Because under this innocuous title hides a story that is just INSANE! My mind is still reeling from the roller coaster ride, and I’m not sure that my simple hippie mind really understood it all in the end.

Take my advice and go into this one blindly. The title really doesn’t do the book justice, so don’t expect a run-of-the-mill thriller here. It will blow your mind. It will challenge the way you perceive reality, and you will never look at that stranger on the bus quite the same way again. I won’t give anything away here, except that this is one of the most original thrillers I have EVER read. If I could sum it up in just one word, the term “disturbing” comes to mind. This book was a minefield of moral and ethical dilemmas for me as the doomed characters played out their part in the plot. I am so glad I read this as a buddy read, because all I could do after turning the last page was getting online, mouth agape, and write WTH have I just read??????? If not for the inconvenience of work, and family, and actions of daily living, I would have devoured this in one sitting, because it utterly consumed me. I am still waiting for someone to explain the ending to me!

What I can safely say without spoilers is that Delaney incorporates a theme close to his heart here, which is autism. In a heartfelt postscript he writes about his own son and the heartbreaking journey his family went on to help make his life with autism easier. These emotions shine through in one of the characters in the book and added additional depth and heart to the story.

If you liked the creepiness of the techno-house in Delaney’s book THE GIRL BEFORE, then I think you will enjoy this one. Allow your mind to be blown. Read it with a buddy or a group so you can text them at 2 a.m. with questions. Readers who have been disillusioned with predictable thrillers will find that there is nothing predictable or run-of-the-mill here.  Readers who think that their smartphone is scary technology may want to have a stiff drink before embarking on this one. Thank you. J.P. Delaney for blowing my mind. You have restored my faith in the genre for being able to surprise and astound. Mind blown .....

 Thank you to Netgalley and Quercus Books for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Book Review: THE NANNY by Gilly Macmillan

Author: Gilly Macmillan
Publisher: Random House UK
Read: June 2019
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ1/2

Book Description:

Seven-year-old Jocelyn loves her nanny more than her own mother.
When her nanny disappears one night, Jo never gets over the loss.
How could she vanish without saying goodbye?

Thirty years on, Jo is forced to return to her family home and confront her troubled relationship with her mother. When human remains are discovered in the grounds of the house, Jo begins to question everything.

Then an unexpected visitor knocks at the door and Jo’s world is destroyed again as, one by one, she discovers her childhood memories aren’t what they seemed.

What secrets was her nanny hiding – and what was she running away from? And can Jo trust what her mother tells her?

Sometimes the truth hurts so much you’d rather hear the lie.

My musings:

What I love about Gilly Macmillan’s book is that they are so different from each other – you never know what you will get! With THE NANNY, I was half expecting a “hands that rock the cradle” type of story, and partly it was that. On the other hand, it was a slow burning and very intriguing character study of three different women tied together by an old mystery: mother, daughter and the nanny.

Like most character driven stories that rely heavily on family dynamics and the setting, this story started off slowly to set the scene, only to build up tension as the book progressed. I admit I initially struggled a bit with the characters, but as soon as the skeleton pops out of the closet – or in this family’s case, the lake -  it had well and truly gripped me.

Because like most mysteries, this book relies heavily on surprise elements, I will only give the bare bones here. After the death of her husband, Jocelyn Holt returns to her old family home with her young daughter in tow. Having long lost contact with her mother Virginia, who she resents bitterly, this is not a happy reunion but a move borne out of financial hardship. Initially, the two women warily circle one another in the cold, polite fashion of the English upper class, two polite to ever say how they really feel but also not prepared to air out their grievances. Jocelyn is convinced that her mother never loved her, and that she was responsible for the sudden disappearance of her beloved nanny Hannah when Jo was just 7 years old. Virginia Holt, in the meantime, remains tight lipped about the matter, refusing to discuss Hannah. Until an old skeleton is washed up on the shores of the estate’s lake, once again arousing Jo’s suspicions that her nanny has come to harm.

Macmillan is very clever at spinning her web, so it is worth persevering over the initial few chapters where not much happens but which are vital in setting the scene. I loved the gothic vibes of the old family home and the family’s crumbling estate, which is one of my favourite settings and which added much to the intrigue. I also appreciated how the author had me change my loyalties throughout the book – whereas I first found Lady Holt cold and stand-offish, she ended up becoming the character closest to my heart. The mystery relies heavily on family dynamics and old simmering suspicions and emotions, which are explored here through the eyes of the three women. Ruby, Jo’s ten year old daughter, was a refreshing impartial perspective that added some hope and light to the book for me.

I admit that for the first two chapters I was not expecting to like this book very much, and I even put it aside for a few days to try again later. However, it soon became utterly addictive and I became so embroiled in this family’s dynamics that I ended up reading late into the night, muttering a few times as some characters made some very questionable decisions. Such an emotional response is always a good sign that a book is working for me!


All in all, THE NANNY turned out to be an addictive, character driven study of family dynamics and old secrets that have a way of making their way to the surface when you least expect it. There is no ridiculous twist or action packed finale, so if you are expecting either you may be disappointed, but I loved the way this one played out. In short, it made for an entertaining story I devoured in a couple of days and have no qualms recommending to lovers of the genre.

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House UK for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Book Review: GOOD GIRL, BAD GIRL by Michael Robotham

Author: Michael Robotham
Publisher: Scribner
Read: June 2019
Expected publication: 23 July 2019
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ1/2

Book Description:

A girl is discovered hiding in a secret room in the aftermath of a terrible crime. Half-starved and filthy, she won’t tell anyone her name, or her age, or where she came from. Maybe she is twelve, maybe fifteen. She doesn’t appear in any missing persons file, and her DNA can’t be matched to an identity. Six years later, still unidentified, she is living in a secure children’s home with a new name, Evie Cormac. When she initiates a court case demanding the right to be released as an adult, forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven must determine if Evie is ready to go free. But she is unlike anyone he’s ever met—fascinating and dangerous in equal measure. Evie knows when someone is lying, and no one around her is telling the truth.

Meanwhile, Cyrus is called in to investigate the shocking murder of a high school figure-skating champion, Jodie Sheehan, who dies on a lonely footpath close to her home. Pretty and popular, Jodie is portrayed by everyone as the ultimate girl-next-door, but as Cyrus peels back the layers, a secret life emerges—one that Evie Cormac, the girl with no past, knows something about. A man haunted by his own tragic history, Cyrus is caught between the two cases—one girl who needs saving and another who needs justice. What price will he pay for the truth? Fiendishly clever, swiftly paced, and emotionally explosive, Good Girl, Bad Girl is the perfect thrilling summer read from internationally bestselling author Michael Robotham. 

My musings:

To be honest, I never had any doubts whatsoever that this book would be great. I haven’t yet read a Robotham novel that wasn’t! And did it live up to my expectations, you ask? Yes, yes, YES!

If you have ever read any books by this author, you will know how utterly unputdownable they are. The characters practically leap from the pages, taking you by the hand and pulling you into their world, until it is difficult to remember that this is just fiction. GOOD GIRL, BAD GIRL introduces two new characters that soon wormed their way into my heart the way Joseph O’Loughlin (one of my favourite fictional sleuths ever) had. On one hand there is Evie Cormac, a damaged girl without a past who is living in a high security facility for children. Six years ago, she was found living in the house of her suspected abductor, alongside his rotting corpse, sneaking out at night to steal food in order to survive. Dubbed “Angel Face” by the media, her true identity has never been uncovered.

Now that Evie is nearing her 18th birthday, she wants to be set free to start a new life, but will she be able to survive out there on her own? Forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven is sent to evaluate Evie and give his recommendations. He has his work cut out for him, as Evie has resisted all efforts by psychologists to help her uncover her true identity so far, and has absconded from numerous foster homes. Will he succeed where others have failed?

Cyrus’ and Evie’s story runs alongside a murder case Cyrus is helping police with, the murder of a teenage figure skater, which in itself makes compelling reading (though not as much as Evie’s story). As both stories intertwine, Robotham shows what he does best – ensnare readers into his web of suspense, mystery and characters you will want to see more of. My wish may be fulfilled, because on the author’s website the book is introduced as “a new series”. Woohoo! My heart bled as I read the last book featuring Joseph O’Loughlin last year, and I just know that I will be just as eager to see Evie and Cyrus back in action after the all-nighter I pulled with this one. I could not tear myself away! The one thing that some readers may struggle with is that not all threads will be resolved in this one – in particular, I wanted to learn a lot more about Evie’s background, but will have to comfort myself that future books in the series will bring me the answers I crave.

Would it be exaggerating to say that GOOD GIRL, BAD GIRL could be one of Robotham’s best books to date? Because the one thing I haven’t mentioned yet is that Evie has a special gift – she has the uncanny ability to tell if someone is lying. Which would make her a great asset and a great adversary to some. With an ending that leaves the door open for these two characters to return (yes!) I am envisaging that Evie’s story will eventually be told in full, and I want to be there when all the puzzle pieces slot into place.


All in all, GOOD GIRL, BAD GIRL is an utterly compulsive, unputdownable thriller from a master of the genre who knows just what readers want to see: compelling, interesting and fleshed out characters, a clever plot and lots of tension. I am so happy to hear that this is the start of a new series and can’t wait for the next installment.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Scribner for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.