Black-Eyed Susans

Title: Black-Eyed Susans
Author: Julia Heaberlin
Publisher: Penguin Group
Publication Year: 2015
Genre: Crime | Mystery | Thriller
Rating: 3

That was my grandfather’s one survival tip if I ever found myself trapped in a fairy tale. Keep your promises. Bad things happen if you don’t.

I read the blurb for this on Amazon and I instantly fell in love with the plot. There was just something about Tessa thinking that she was safe, but then the murderer starts leaving her flowers and that really intrigued me. I wanted to see how she reacted and where the murderer was going to attack again. However, when I started reading the book was not what I expected at all. For starters the plot wasn’t about the murderer returning in modern time, as I was expecting, but was more about the trial resolving around the man who was originally convicted as the Black-Eyed Susans’ murderer. At first I was a little disappointed but I quickly became invested in the plot when everything began to unfold.

Another thing that I wasn’t a fan of was the alternating point of views. Heaberlin worked it really well to introduce shocking things in one point of view that quickly produced a parallel in the other. They worked really well and it was a great technique by Heaberlin but personally I still didn’t like it. It was irritating and quickly became annoying as the book developed. Young Tessa’s point of view quickly became uninteresting and her character was too stuck up for my liking. All she seemed to want to do was disrupt the trial and she didn’t seem that impacted by her situation, which seems pretty improbable.

Some of the characters were really interesting. Older Tessa was such a great character for me. It was easy to see how much she worried about her little girl and the lengths she went through to defend her girl were admirable. Effie was such a great character as well, although I felt like she was a bit useless. She didn’t have a huge role in the novel other than as a supporting character. In young Tessie’s life, I was really intrigued by Lydia’s character. She was so dynamic and different and she was so loyal to Tessa! Although the ending ruined that a little.

Speaking of the ending, I don’t know about anyone else but the ending/cliffhangers were really predictable as far as I was concerned. I felt that young Tessa’s twist was much more interesting and definitely the most predictable of the two, however there were a lot of hints dropped throughout the novel.

In my opinion this book is quite good. It’s not as bad as I make out, I assure you of that! I just had quite a few faults with it. I would definitely suggest giving it a read!

Top 5 Crime Novels

First can I apologise for our weird activity last week, it was a busy week for us but we’re back and ready to roll. This week we decided to pick our top five Crime novels because I don’t know about Ellie but its one of my favourite genres.

  1. ‘I let you go’ by Clare Mackintosh -Honestly I can never stop singing praises for Clare Mackintosh’s books. I adored I Let You Go and I See You was just as good! Both were packed with thriller vibes and I loved their plots. Both of her current novels are fantastic standalones and it’s no surprise that they’re my first thought when I think of my favourite crime novels.
  2. Clive Cussler novels – Cussler has been my guilty pleasure for as long as I can remember. It’s definitely not the sort of thing that people would expect me to read but I can’t get enough of the Oregon crew series and the others are quite good too!
  3. ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn – How could this not make it to the list? I mean this book was all kinds of messed up (in a good way) but I didn’t suspect any of it which what makes it such a great crime novel.
  4. Rizzoli and Isles series by Tess Gerritsen – Basically any one of the books from her Rizzoli and Isles series. They’re great and it’s got to be one of my favourite crime series, Tess Gerritsen is such a great writer. There’s actually a tv series called ‘Rizzoli and Isles’ based from her books.
  5. Bones series by Kathy Reichs  – Once again this isn’t a specific book but her whole series based around Temperance Brennan and once again there is also a tv show called ‘Bones’ based around these books. If you haven’t heard of them or you’ve watched the show but haven’t read the books I’d definitely recommend you do so!

I See You

Title: I See You
Author: Clare Mackintosh
Publisher: Sphere
Publication Year: 2016
Genre: Thriller | Mystery | Crime
Rating: 5

It doesn’t matter how fast. Because there’s always someone who can run faster.

I just had to pre-order this one when I heard that Mackintosh was releasing her second book and I am so so glad that I did. I admit that I was on the I Let You Go train and I can understand why it was the crime novel of the year last year but, personally, I think that I See You was even better. I admit that when I first heard about it I was a tad worried that the second book wouldn’t live up to the first but I actually found this book really good. If you were thinking the same thing, then you have nothing to worry about! Panic over!

It’s probably a good idea to start by saying that I’m not a commuter. However this did nothing to impact my reaction to the novel. In fact I ended up putting it down one night in fear of triggering bad dreams. I See You was definitely creepy and at 1am I didn’t think it was a good idea to keep going. Having said that I devoured the rest of it the next morning and the only reason it’s taken me this long to write the review is because I don’t know just how to sing the praises for this one without giving away too much of the plot! 

Although it mainly focuses on commuters I can promise you that even if you’re not a commuter you will still get a chill from this. I See You is also about daily routine. It’s about that trip to the shop you take every morning to get the paper or the route where you walk the dog, you know the one – along the river and through the park. It’s about the times where you’re alone. When you’re oblivious. That’s when they’ll come for you. It doesn’t matter to them who you are, what your ethnicity is or even your age. All that matter is your routine. And that you’re alone.

This book was brilliant, perhaps my favourite crime novel of all time. Zoe is such an ordinary character, making her story that more relatable. She’s no one special; she could be anyone that you pass on the street or sit next to on the sub. She could be anyone. She could be you. Then there’s Kelly, who is a bit too independent and brash but can also hold her own when it comes to it. With a hard past that leaves her dragged down by an invisible weight, she’s yet another great character and really adds a little extra to the story.

Altogether I really enjoyed this one. I would recommend it to anyone who loves a good crime novel and I know that Paige is going to delve into it soon. Seriously Mackintosh’s writing performs at a high-standard yet again, and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

Everyone Pays

Title: Everyone Pays
Author: Seth Harwood
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Publication Year: 2016
Genre: Mystery | Crime
Rating: 3.5

These men needed to be brought to Him. To judgement.

It was hard to decide what to rate this book as – I eventually went with a 3.5 but even now I’m not sure. The book wasn’t bad but I was raving about it either. Would I recommend it? Maybe, but it wouldn’t be at the top of the list.

As far as crime novels go, it held it’s own. There was at least one point in the book where I didn’t want to put it down, though that didn’t last all the way through the book. However, to have a reader feeling like that at some point during the novel is an accomplishment in any book (no pun intended).

Regarding the characters I don’t think I connected with any of them at all! I felt like some of them were a little too one dimensional. Perhaps if there were a little bit more backstory for some of the characters, then I might have been able to connect with them more. I think there was potential to turn the book into a series and then that way there would be more of a chance to get to know the main characters. I did find the killer very intriguing as there was a small twist when it came to finding out who he was. Because the killer was different to most killers I found that the section of the book written in their point of view was really interesting.

The story/motive behind the murders was interesting in itself, let alone the actual murders and solving the murders. The book was quite graphic when it came to describing the murders, I personally didn’t mind it but if you don’t like blood and gore I’d definitely recommend you skim that part!

Overall there were bits of the book I did enjoy, so I’m glad I read it. There’s potential there to be a great book but I do think there were things about the book that did drag it down (if that makes sense).

I’d like to thank Thomas & Mercer and Netgalley for providing me with an ARC of this book to review. This has not affected my review in any way.

The Gauguin Connection

Title: The Gauguin Connection
Author: Estelle Ryan
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Publication Year: 2012
Genre: Mystery | Crime | Thriller
Rating: 4

Emotions had always been a nuisance to me. I knew that they were messengers, telling me what was happening in my psyche, but having them often interfered with rationality.

The Gauguin Connection has one thing that a lot of other mystery novels lack, in my opinion – a truly unique protagonist. There are so many ways that people can be murdered and mystery writers use and create these in abundance. But when it comes to the mystery solvers, we always seem to have the same old Joe in every single one. The smart, charming male detective and his gorgeous female love interest. Then we’re hit with the astounding character that is Genevieve and, well, I was hooked instantly. Unlike most characters, Genevieve copes with a social disorder that prevents her from having a normal life. But that doesn’t stop her from doing what she believes she has to, even when it may put her in incredibly awkward situations!

I stumbled across The Gauguin Connection on yet another search for a free book to read at work and I really did like it! It’s not only the astounding main character who makes the book though, it’s the stellar supporting roles that also made this an interesting read! Colin is an example of the typical suave gentleman but with an interesting twist. He’s a “bad guy” and a thief but he’s not also completely terrible. Then there’s Vinnie, who might just be my favourite character in the novel. He’s a dangerous crook and a gun for hire but he’s also a giant teddy bear, who is amazing in the kitchen! They work together so well and it was so humorous to read all of their interactions and banter.

In fact, this entire novel was such a pleasant read! It was a tangle of clues leading to other clues that could only be unravelled when the entire team worked together. There were many times when I had no clue what was going to happen next and I was actually interested to see the way that Jen-Girl worked everything out. Most of the time books skip over the stage of actually doing the research and, although it may sound boring, The Gauguin Connection actually does that. And it’s really fun. I found it so interesting to see what Genevieve used and how her connections were made!

If you’re looking for a book to read then look no further. This is a nice read and it was free on the Kindle store when I snatched it up so you should definitely have a look over there and see if you can find it too! I was a bit disappointed at the ending but it was just opening up to a new book, which will hopefully be just as good as the first!

‘Elizabeth Is Missing’ Review

Title: Elizabeth Is Missing
Author: Emma Healey
Publisher: Viking
Publication Year: 2014
Genre: Mystery | Crime
Rating: 5

‘Elizabeth is missing,’ I say.’Did I tell you?’ I am looking at Helen, but she isn’t looking at me.

As soon as me and Ellie started discussing today’s book review, I jumped at the chance to do it on ‘Elizabeth Is Missing’. Ever since I read the book about a month ago, I have been raving about it to anyone that will listen. I can honestly say it’s the best book I have read in a long time. I think it’s also the quickest I’ve ever read a book too, as I hardly put it down once I started reading.

If I’m being honest, I was a little sceptical about the book to begin with. When I read about the book and discovered the narrator, otherwise known as Maud, had dementia I was nervous that it would get a little repetitive. I’m happy to say that Healey proved me wrong, and although there was repetition in Maud’s thoughts – due to her forgetting things – it was done in a way where instead of getting annoyed or bored, we felt sorry for her instead.

The thing I liked the most about the book was the way Healey showed us how dementia not only affects the family but also the person suffering. The main focus was obviously on the mystery of the book – Maud’s missing friend Elizabeth and another big mystery in Maud’s life which I wont say because of spoilers – but I was touched most by Maud and her condition. I’ve always felt for the family of people who suffer with dementia but as the book is told from Maud’s perspective we can see how she feels when her family sigh and get annoyed with her repeating questions and conversations. We are also shown how the police don’t take her seriously when she tries to report her missing friend. I’m not embarrassed to say I cried a few times.

For those of you that like more action in a book, don’t stop reading yet as there is more to the book than Maud’s condition. There are also two disappearances , one is her friend Elizabeth which is happening in the present time but the other is her older sister Sukey who went missing when she was a child. For some of you, the actual plot regarding the two missing persons cases may seem a bit slow as the answers aren’t really revealed until the end of the book. This doesn’t mean the cases are scarce from the book though, as we learn more about them as the book goes along.

I could go on about the book forever as there is a lot more I have to say but unfortunately I fear if I did this I’d still be sitting here writing this review tomorrow. I honestly, urge you all to go off and buy the book as soon as possible though! You won’t regret it.

‘Death By Scrabble’ review

Title: Death By Scrabble
Author: Charlie Fish
Publisher: Random House
Publication Year: 2006
Genre: Crime, Humour
Rating: 4

“We’re playing Scrabble. That’s how bad it is. I’m 42 years old, it’s a blistering hot Sunday afternoon and all I can think of to do with my life is to play Scrabble.”

For our last review of the week, we’ve decided to do it another short story.  Unfortunately, short stories are very underrated. Hopefully by doing these short story reviews we can convince you guys to start reading them, as I feel they can be very witty and clever – perfect for when you don’t have the time to read a long book but would like a small pick-me-up.

The story is told from a miserable husband’s perspective, it opens with him and his wife playing a game of scrabble, although we are told that is the last thing he actually wants to be doing. From what we can see he blames his wife for his unhappiness. There are some obvious issues with their relationship – though we don’t actually find out the wife’s opinion on the marriage.

The story’s psychic distance is the closest it could get, which is how we know that there are issues. We are  also able to see inside the husband’s head, so we can hear his thoughts when he thinks about how unhappy he is, in fact he goes as far as thinking about it continuously.

“I hate my wife.”

As the story goes on we can see he is growing bitterer by the second. His hatred and aggression towards his wife builds as the game continues, and then there’s the twist. The husband discovers the game is jinxed and whatever words he plays end up coming true. As he watches, the words come to life and we see him hoping that by playing scrabble – by playing these words – it will help him kill his wife.

Fish uses two main literary devices, foreshadowing and suspense. The words that are played in the scrabble game are used to foreshadow what is about to happen. A key example of this would be when the husband plays QUAKE and then an earthquake actually happens. The use of short declarative sentences creates suspense and makes the reader want to know what will happen next. I think it works really well and, overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the story as it had a good mix of suspense, irony and comedy.