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The Wilderness Retreat by Jennifer Moore – a review

The Wilderness Retreat was one of my latest Netgalley reads. The main character of Bella waves her son off to university before she heads of to Sweden on a wellness retreat, a gift from her sister. She arrives in the luxurious surroundings in the hope of making headway with her latest musical composition. However some mysterious notes under her door are just the start of a downward spiral that will leave Bella and the reader not knowing who to trust.

The Wilderness Retreat was a good read that I really enjoyed. There was a big cast of characters that all played their part in creating an intriguing background for the main character of Bella. She was one of those where you find yourself on the one hand shouting at them for making stupid decisions and on the other you have absolute sympathy for them having ended up in such a terrifying situation.

This was an atmospheric story that was full of twists which I didn’t see coming. The fact that all the story takes place in one remote cottage gives the whole thing a real locked room feeling. You know that the guilty party must be one of the guests but just like Bella you are left not knowing who you can trust and who not.

The setting in the middle of a deserted forest adds to the disconcerting feeling of the book. We see everything through the eyes of Bella so the claustrophobic feel is intense with no other viewpoints to give any kind of clarity on her thoughts. It’s not a fast action high body count story, but the tense atmosphere throughout will keep you turning the pages.

I thought this was a really good read that a fascinating group of characters, throws in a sense of unease and impending doom and mixes it up with crime and cover ups. Definitely worth a read.

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The Other Half by Charlotte Vassell – a review

I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of The Other Half by the publisher Faber who promised it was an incredible debut and they weren’t mistaken!

The Other Half starts with Rupert’s birthday. It’s his 30th and he is hosting a black tie event complete with champagne and cocaine, the venue is McDonalds on Kentish Road. The morning after the party Rupert’s girlfriend Clemmie is found dead on Hampsted Heath. Detective Cauis Beauchamp is called in to investigate. He soon finds out that when it comes to crimes of the wealthy secrets are well hidden.

The Other Half is the debut novel by Charlotte Vassell and I can safely say it is one of the best books I have read in a long time (and I have read a lot of superb books) It is a really fun read with a great mix of comedy threaded through the crime story. Some of the one liners in the book are absolutely whip smart, the type that suddenly hit you a second after you have read it.

There is a great range of characters in this story although very few were actually likeable. To say they were flawed would be rather an understatement. Rupert was a typical narcissist who believed that his wealth meant he was not only above the law but above basic morals. He completely lacked self-awareness, and almost seemed to believe that every thing he did he did for love.

I did however like the character of Cauis, having recently been dumped he is on a a mission of self-improvement. His attempts at healthy eating and conquering a hill make a nice break from the champagne swilling, cocaine sniffing party set.

The writing style was sharp and punchy. The short fast sentences along with the tightly woven chapters and the quickly changing points of view made it a really fast paced read that was an absolute page turner.

I would highly recommend The Other Half and look forward to reading more from Charlotte Vassell.

Buy your own copy here https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-other-half/charlotte-vassell/9780571374939

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Expectant by Vanda Symon – a review BLOG TOUR

I am a huge fan of Vanda Symon so was really excited to join the blog tour for her latest novel Expectant, the 5th novel in the author’s Sam Shepherd series.

In Expectant the New Zealand town of Dunedin is devastated by the callous murder of a pregnant woman. Detective Sam Shepherd must find the killer before they strike again. However there is an added complication as Sam is heavily pregnant herself and about to head off on maternity leave. It soon becomes clear that someone is targeting pregnant woman and Sam finds herself as the hunted as well as the hunter.

Expectant was another superb read that kept me on the edge of my seat. The writing is as always spot on, and the short chapters with punchy sentences make it a fast read that is difficult to put down. The plot will keep you guessing and even when you think you’ve cracked it there will be another cog thrown into the mix.

The story in this felt like it was slightly lower paced than her previous ones. This gave it a sense of authenticity when the central character was about to give birth, but still kept the intrigue and the page turning suspense that we’ve come to expect from a Vanda Symon novel.

I love the character of Sam, she’s clever and sharp and funny, yet still makes daft decisions and goes off on mad tangents without always thinking of the consequences. It was nice to see her settling down a bit and I enjoyed how the family and friend dynamics are changing throughout the series. Whilst this can be read as a standalone I’d recommend reading the full series first because they are such good novels.

Expectant was another superb read by a writer who is fast becoming one of my favourite authors.

Find out what others thought of the book by visiting the other stops on the tour:

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How To Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie – a review

I bought this novel a while ago as Bella Mackie was due to appear at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate. Unfortunately she was ill at the time, so it ended up at the bottom of my book pile until recently.

How to kill your family is the debut crime fiction novel from Bella. It introduces us to Grace. Grace is in prison for a murder she didn’t committee, however there is the matter of a few murders she did commit but just hasn’t been caught for. When Grace found out that her absentee father was rich and had refused to acknowledge her Mother she decided to make him pay by killing off members of his family.

How to kill your family was an at time hilarious, at times dark read, that I thoroughly enjoyed. The premise of the book was relatively simple – a wronged woman taking revenge, but there was much more to it than that. We find out about Grace’s real crimes through her diary which she starts in prison (lets skip the probably not sensible plan of admitting to things in writing whilst in prison!) and details all the whys and hows of her crimes.

The character of Grace was a bit of a mixed one for me, although there were bits of her I liked, there were also bits that just seemed a bit too needy for someone who had killed 6 people. Her observations on life and the people around her were exactly what so many of us think but don’t want to admit. It reminded me a little of American Psycho but with a more likeable protagonist. There was a lot of rambling about the state of the world and the varying groups that Grace didn’t like (think everyone but her!) but these observations were often funny and very sharp. They did occasionally make for some longish chapters but they added to the overall tone of the story.

I loved the way the story went backwards and forwards between the prison and the planning and execution of the killings. Each murder is planned to be a fitting end to the family members life so they are all different and take Grace from a frog conservation pond to Puerto Banus in order to realise her plan.

How to kill your family was a superb novel that I very much enjoyed and I look forward to reading more from Bella Mackie.

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