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Posts Tagged ‘psychological thriller’

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The Blurb:

We’ve all seen him: the man – the monster – staring from the front page of every newspaper, accused of a terrible crime. But what about her: the woman who grips his arm on the courtroom stairs – the wife who stands by him? Jean Taylor’s life was blissfully ordinary. Nice house, nice husband. Glen was all she’d ever wanted: her Prince Charming. Until he became that man accused, that monster on the front page. Jean was married to a man everyone thought capable of unimaginable evil. But now Glen is dead and she’s alone for the first time, free to tell her story on her own terms. Jean Taylor is going to tell us what she knows.

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My thoughts:

First, let me warn anyone who is thinking of reading this, that the blurb on the back cover – as above – is somewhat misleading. Second – I’m in two minds about this one. I definitely think Fiona Barton can write, and the characters were all well drawn and fleshed out.

There are two timelines – 2010, which for the purposes of this novel is the present day, and 2006, which is when the little girl that Glen Taylor was accused of abducting, disappeared. The vast majority of it actually takes place in 2006, with the 2010 storyline concentrating on a journalist called Kate who wants to get Jean’s story.

The chapters are told from separate points of view – ‘The Widow’ – Jean Taylor; ‘The Reporter’ – Kate; ‘The Detective’ – Bob Sparkes who was in charge of the original investigation and is still haunted by the matter years later; and ‘The Mother’ – Dawn, the mother of the abducted child. I liked Bob and I quite liked Kate, but Jean and Dawn both left me cold.

At times the book was very suspenseful, but at times it did drag slightly as there seemed to be a lot of back-and-forth, and did-he/didn’t-he, with the same ground being trodden over. But despite that, I did quite enjoy this book and would almost certainly read more by Fiona Barton. It doesn’t have the twists and turns of a book like Gone Girl, but for my money it’s better written than Gone Girl (and as with every other psychological thriller which has been released since that book, this one has been compared to it – ignore the comparisons, it’s totally different).

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Year of first publication: 2016

Genre: Psychological drama

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A year after her husband Zach’s death in a horrific road crash, Lizzie Carter finally feels able to visit the accident site and leave flowers for him. However when she gets there she sees that someone else has left flowers for him with the name ‘Xenia’ in a note, and she wonders if he had another woman in his life. As Lizzie digs deeper into Zach’s past to try and find out who Xenia is, she discovers all sorts of things which make her question whether she ever really knew him at all.

Interspersed with the chapters narrated by Lizzie in the present day, are chapters from Zach’s diary which start from around the time he and Lizzie met. It is clear from both narratives that Zach has anger issues, and is a sociopath. Lizzie starts to question whether or not he is even dead, or whether he has faked his own death and is now stalking her.

I listened to this as an audiobook, and it was narrated by Penelope Rawlins (Lizzie) and Daniel Weyman (Zach). I thought they both did a good job. Unfortunately however, I did not really enjoy the book. I had previously read Lie With Me by the same author, and enjoyed it, despite it being far-fetched. Based on that, I thought Remember Me This Way would be a good book to pass a few hours while I was out running, but I actually almost gave up on it. The main issue was that there were no redeeming characters at all, except for Lizzie’s dog Howard! I have no issue with unpleasant characters but these were just frustrating. Lizzie herself was a wet blanket who was seemingly incapable of seeing what was staring her in the face and who got walked over not just by her husband, but also by her unbearably selfish sister. The character of Onnie – the teenage daughter of an old friend of Zach – was annoying beyond belief, and I just wanted to shake them all into sense.

I didn’t give up on it and in the end it did keep my fairly occupied, but after it had picked up a bit in the second half, the actual ending turned out to be a bit of a damp squib. I think I am bit fed up of the glut of books about people who turn out not to be who their nearest and dearest thought they were. How many people in recent books have married people with dark secrets in their past? I sometimes feel as though I am reading the same story over and over again, so maybe I need a break from these kinds of stories for a while.

Unfortunately, and based on this book, I would probably not be interested in reading/listening to anything else by this author.

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Paul Morris is a compulsive liar – he lies about his success as a writer, the flat he lives in, his prowess with women; he lies to the people he meets, he lies to himself; he lies about his past, he lies about his future. And he manages to lie his way into a crowd of friends who he once knew briefly, starts a romance with the enigmatic Alice, and wangles his way into joining them for a holiday in Greece. But there are secrets lingering below the surface with these friends – a decade old mystery about a missing girl, and further events which take place during the holiday, all of which cause more trouble for Paul as his lies entangle him further and further into a web of deceit bigger than his own.

I really enjoyed this book, but unfortunately it’s really hard to review without giving away any spoilers. And I REALLY do not want to give away any spoilers, because this is a story with the power to really shock, if you do not know what’s coming.

The narrator is Paul himself, who is actually largely honest with the reader; he openly shares the fact that he lies to everyone else. It’s true that he isn’t very likeable, but it’s fair to say that none of the other characters are particularly likeable either. Alice is somewhat distant, and hard to read, and I was never able to warm to her. Paul’s old friend Andrew is frankly unbearable, and Andrew’s wife Tina, while nicer than the others, is basically a side character with very little to say for herself.

The build up to the climax of the story is fairly slow, but this didn’t bother me. It was well written and I wanted to keep reading to see what would happen. Small and seemingly inconsequential parts of the story did turn out to have a greater significance at the end, and I thought the ending itself was very cleverly done.

If you are a fan of psychological thrillers, and don’t mind a protagonist who you probably won’t want to root for, I would highly recommend this book.

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Carys, Andrea and Zoe are invited by their friend Joanne to spend her 40th birthday with her in a remote and – to the other three – unknown location. As soon as they start out on the journey there, it becomes clear that nothing is what it seems. There have been tensions between Joanne and the others for some time and it seems that this is the weekend she wants to have it out with them. Nevertheless the group try to make the most of things until things take a shocking turn and it seems that there is danger lurking, and friendship turns to suspicion as everyone starts to suspect each other. From there, things only get worse and the story builds to a shocking climax.

I listened to this as an audiobook, which are my preferred method of keeping me distracted during long runs. Inasfar as this goes, this book did keep me occupied but overall I cannot say I was terrifically impressed. The narration was fine, although I always feel sorry for narrators who have loads of characters’ voices to deal with, and some of these were a tad annoying. Overall though, I have no issues with the narration, but the storyline itself dragged on and as it became more and more implausible I grew irritated with it. It’s fiction and of course you expect some dramatic licence, but some of the characters behaved so oddly for supposedly intelligent women, and many of the events were so crazy that it lost all sense of possibility for me. Also, I guessed the ending pretty early on.

So generally I would say…not terrible, but not particularly mind blowing either. If you’re looking for something just to pass time, you could do worse, but if you’re looking for a genuinely thrilling read, I cannot recommend this one.

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Jenny Kramer is the subject of a brutal rape and in the immediate aftermath her parents make the decision to give her a controversial treatment which causes her to forget the attack. However, the drug does not wipe out the knowledge of the attack or the trauma and fear that the attack caused, and eventually Jenny has to decide whether it would be better to regain her memories so that she can begin to cope with what happened. There is also the question of bringing the perpetrator to justice – without her memories, finding the guilty party is nigh on impossible – and in a small town, nobody wants to believe that one of their own could do this to someone.

I had high expectations for this book – I think it had an interesting premise with a moral dilemma at it’s core…is it ever ethical to remove someone’s memories, even if done with the best intentions? However, I have to admit that while the book held my attention and kept me reading, I was somewhat disappointed. This was largely due to the narrator. The story was told by Dr Alan Forrester, who became Jenny’s therapist – and also therapist to her parents who were struggling with holding their family together. Unfortunately Dr Forrester was condescending and pompous in the extreme; I have no idea if it was the author’s intention to make him so dislikable but if so, it certainly worked. When talking about his wife for example, Dr Forrester makes no bones about stating that he is intellectually superior to her but he loves her anyway. Indeed, he clearly considers it extremely generous of him when he states that he has encouraged her to study for a Masters degree, so that they might be able to enjoy more intellectual discussion!

The other problem for me was that of all the characters in the book, the one who I felt I never got to know at all was Jenny. The narrator ended up telling his own story far more than that of Jenny and it seems a shame that after she was violated in such a terrible manner, the author did not then do her the justice of at least making her into a fully rounded out character.

On the positive side, the revelation of who had committed the violent crime genuinely surprised me, and I thought that aspect of the story was well plotted, although the plot line relied somewhat on coincidence and things that did not strike me as very feasible. I can’t say that it didn’t have any sort of flow to it – the writing was well paced although sometimes the timeline seemed a little confused – Dr Forrester is talking about the events in the book from some time in the future but how far in the future is not really clear.

Overall, this book was not a terrible read for me, but did not live up to the expectations that I initially had for it. If you choose to read it be aware that the rape and another similar event are both described in quite graphic detail.

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This book – along with every other psychological thriller written in the last couple of years, or so it seems – has drawn numerous comparisons with Gillian Flynn’s bestseller, Gone Girl. Full disclosure here – I loved Gone Girl while I was reading it, but after I had finished and thought about it, it all seemed a bit daft, and the more I thought about it, the more I decided it wasn’t as good as I had initially thought – so what I would make of Disclaimer, I wasn’t sure.

The story revolves around Catherine, a high powered, happily married woman, who finds a novel in her and her husband Robert’s new house – only when she starts reading it, she realises that the story is based on an incident from her own life some 15 years earlier, and one which she had hoped to put behind her forever.

The chapters alternate between those concentrating on Catherine – told in the third person – and the story of a lonely old man widower named Stephen Brigstocke. The connection between these two characters is revealed about a third of the way through, but I had already guessed at it beforehand.

With Catherine desperate to find out how the secret from her past has come to light, and Stephen bent on seeking revenge for what he believes are injustices that he has suffered, the two stories eventually converge and secrets are revealed. There is a huge twist towards the end, which I had not guessed – but I did guess that a twist was on the way.

This book is certainly a page turner – the writing flows easily and it’s an undemanding read. However, what let it down for me was the sheer implausibility of the characters’ actions – yes, characters plural. I can’t say too much without giving spoilers, which I am reluctant to do, but almost every character seemed to do something which didn’t make sense, and which was clearly only included to move the story along. Also, none of the characters were particularly likeable, although that in itself is not necessarily a bad thing.

Overall, this is what I call a ‘cheap chocolate’ book – it’s fine while you’re consuming it, but you know it’s not that good and when it’s over, you probably won’t feel satisfied. I’m giving it 3 out of 5 for it’s page turning pace, but I don’t think I’d be in a hurry to seek out more by this author.

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I am aware that Sophie Hannah is a prolific and popular writer of psychological thrillers, and I have three or four of her books on my shelf. However, Little Face is the first one I’ve actually picked up to read, and I still have mixed feelings about it.

The story gets going immediately when new mother Alice Fancourt goes out for the afternoon for the first time since the birth of her two week old daughter Florence. When she gets home, she is convinced that the baby in Florence’s cot is a stranger, and that someone must have come in and exchanged Florence for another baby – it is this baby that Alice comes to call ‘Little Face’.

Alice’s husband David is initially confused and horrified by his wife’s assertion that their baby has been adducted – he is certain that the baby in their house is indeed their daughter. As Alicen’s conviction grows and the police become involved, David becomes more hostile and increasingly abusive towards Alice.

Completing the Fancourt family is Vivienne, David’s mother, in whose house David and Alice live. It is clear from very early on in the narrative that David is completely dominated by his mother, and that Alice appears to be too. David’s first wife Laura was murdered years earlier, and as a result, Felix – his son from that marriage – also lives with them, though he does not feature heavily in this book.

The chapters alternate between Alice’s point of view, and a third person point of view describing the police investigation. The two main police officers are Simon Waterhouse, a diligent man who has trouble connecting with others; and his boss Charlie Zailer, who has a troubled relationship with Simon.

I am in two minds about this book. On the one hand, I thought the premise was interesting and while I was able to guess part of the ending, I genuinely had no idea about what had happened to Florence. Was Alice losing her mind as David’s abuse was designed to make it appear? Or was she correct that her daughter had been taken and replaced with another unknown baby? And here lies the problem for me – while the ending certainly took me by surprise, it was also a major let-down. Without giving away any details, I will only say that when the truth behind the this is revealed, it makes a lot of what has been said beforehand make a lot less sense. And the reasoning behind what happened is so convoluted as to seem ridiculous. However, the journey to get to the disappointing ending was really enjoyable – it was one of those books that when I put it down, I was eager to get back to it and read more. I do think Hannah made a good job of ratcheting up the suspense and keeping the reader guessing.

I have read other reviews of this book, and it seems that it is generally regarded as inferior to this author’s subsequent work. I’m glad about that because I would like to try more by Sophie Hannah, but I would have been put off doing so by the disappointing ending of this story, had the other reviews not convinced me that her later work is much better.

So would I recommend it? Not sure. I’d recommending giving Sophie Hannah a try I think, but I’m not sure if I would suggest this specific one to start with.

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