Archive for the ‘Penguin Books UK’ Category


Published: 3 November 2016
Reviewed: 17 December 2016

5 out of 5 stars

Copy supplied by Penguin UK – Michael Joseph in return for an honest review



There’s the lost.
There’s the missing.
And there’s the taken.

She asked me once if we had any secrets, and I shook my head.
‘No secrets between us,’ she said.
‘No,’ I answered. ‘Never ever.’

In a Durham hotel at dawn, celebrated preacher Tristan Snow is murdered as he prays. None of the other guests – not even his daughter, his wife, or her sister – saw or heard anything.

But then again, they all had a motive for murder.

Detective Inspector Erica Martin is confronted by secrets and lies, lost in a case where nothing is what it seems.

With no answers, DI Martin is consumed by questions: Is anyone in this family innocent? When the victim might have been a monster – is there such a thing as justice? And does anyone deserve to die?

My Thoughts & Review:

Despite being the second book to feature DI Erica Martin, The Taken reads well as a stand alone – thank goodness for me as I’d not read Bitter Fruits.

When evangelical preacher Tristan Snow is found dead in his B&B in Durham Erica Martin and her team find that there is more to this case than they first suspected.  What then follows is a dark and twisted case with no shortage of suspects, ones who are determined to keep their secrets and reveal as little as possible.

Despite there being so many characters in this novel, the author takes great care to ensure that the reader gets a clear picture of the vital ones.  Using techniques such as writing chapters in italics throughout the reader is privy to a letter written by the wife of the murder victim.  This gives a fascinating insight into this character and allows the reader more opportunity to try and understand her, as well as give more ammunition to dislike her.  In fact, a lot of the characters in this are quite hard to like but this does not make them less interesting, quite the opposite.

This is a deliciously clever book, the plot is well woven so that there are multiple suspects and even more motives for the killing. This seemed to have an added *something* making it better than the average police procedural novel for me, I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there was just something about this one.  It’s the sort of book you desperately want to read on to see “who, what and why” but at the same time you don’t want to finish the book.  A very gripping and compulsive read!

You can buy a copy of The Taken here.


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Ebook Published: 1 November 2016
Reviewed: 10 November 2016

4 out of 5 stars

Copy supplied by Penguin Books (UK) in return for an honest review



Kate Rafter is a high-flying war reporter. She’s the strong one. The one who escaped their father. Her sister Sally didn’t. Instead, she drinks.

But when their mother dies, Kate is forced to return to the old family home. And on her very first night she is woken by a terrifying scream. At first she tells herself it’s just a nightmare, a legacy of her time in Syria.

But then she hears it again. And this time she knows she’s not imagining it…

What secret is lurking in her mother’s garden?
And can Kate get to the truth…before she loses her mind?

My Thoughts & Review:

My Sister’s Bones was a book I had seen increasingly on social media with high praise from fellow book bloggers so I thought it was only fair that I should dive into this one and see if it was worth all the hype.

At the heart of the story is Kate Rafter, a war reporter who is arguably one of the best at what she does, she has the ability to look underneath, roundabout and inside situations to tell the truth about a story.  Unfortunately, having visited various war torn countries has taken its toll on her and she is reliant on sleeping tablets and alcohol to deal with nightmares and hallucinations that plague her.  Her troubled childhood adds considerably to her fragile mental state, having suffered abuse at the hands of an alcoholic father.

It’s very hard to say much about the plot without giving too much away, but the clever structuring means that the reader is taken back to Kate’s childhood to see the mental anguish she suffers at the hands of her father and give explanations for her attitude towards her sister Sally.  But the author also gives wonderfully rich details about the present where Kate is struggling to make sense of what is going on around her.  Recounting tales from her times in Syria as well as from her life in just a few weeks previously gives an insight to the fast paced and hectic life she lives.

Using unreliable narration in the form of both Kate and Sally’s characters the author is able to create a conflicting set of facts in her story.  Two characters seeing the same events or being present in the same situation but having been told differing information shapes what they think and how they see the events which makes for thrilling reading.  Clever manipulations and warped frames of mind are factors that run rife in this story, the reader feels growing unease as the tension escalates, but like Kate, cannot put their finger on the exact cause.  Using the “foggy” thinking of Kate as the driver for the main narrative means that the reader cannot see through the hazy details to know fully what is happening at all times and so is often surprised at events within.

Initially slow to begin, this book slowly builds a claustrophobically tense thriller, there were points that I started to try to guess ahead at what might happen and for the most part I was utterly wrong, one or two things I did guess correctly but this did not impact on my enjoyment of this book at all.  Part two of the book is where the action really picks up, and towards the end this almost becomes a speed reading exercise to try to get to the bottom of it all.

This is a great thriller with filled with lies, conspiracy and twisted manipulation, it is definitely surprising that this is a debut novel from Nuala Ellwood, she writes beautifully and with skill.  Her research into PTSD and its far reaching effects shows in the detail she writes, the harrowing realism adding an authenticity to the storyline.

You can buy a copy of My Sister’s Bones here.


About the Author:

Nuala Ellwood is the daughter of an award-winning journalist. She was inspired by his experiences and those of foreign correspondents such as Marie Colvin and Martha Gellhorn to secure Arts Council funding for her research into PTSD for her debut psychological thriller MY SISTER’S BONES

For more information see her website or follow her on Twitter


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Lying in Wait

 Author: Liz Nugent
Published: 7 July 2016
Reviewed: 6 August 2016 
5 out of 5 Stars
Copy supplied by Penguin Books (UK) in return for an honest review

The last people who expect to be meeting with a drug-addicted prostitute are a respected judge and his reclusive wife. And they certainly don’t plan to kill her and bury her in their exquisite suburban garden.

Yet Andrew and Lydia Fitzsimons find themselves in this unfortunate situation.

While Lydia does all she can to protect their innocent son Laurence and their social standing, her husband begins to falls apart.

But Laurence is not as naïve as Lydia thinks. And his obsession with the dead girl’s family may be the undoing of his own.

My Thoughts & Review:

Lying in Wait is one of those books that sets the tone right from the opening lines.  
Set in Dublin in 1980, the reader meets Lydia Fitzsimmons, a formidable woman with an utterly warped personality who has driven her husband to murder.  Instead of being a traditional murder story where all clues point to the mysterious perpetrator, this story takes the reader on a journey through the motivations for killing, the messes left behind after murder and gives an insight in to the psychology behind it.

With narration from Lydia, the reader is privy to her thoughts which is interesting as it gives a chilling insight to this character and her conniving ways.  Something other characters are unaware of throughout the story which makes it more enjoyable to read.  
Narration also comes from Lydia and Andrew’s son Laurence and Karen Doyle, the sister of the victim.  

All of the characters are expertly created, some that the reader cannot help but hate.  Lydia is one such character, she is narcissistic, manipulative and verging on sociopathic.  Her obsessive tendencies toward her son are claustrophobic; feeling she “owns” him because she gave birth to him, controlling aspects of his life including the foods he eats.   
Karen is a fantastic character, and one that readers will struggle not to feel sympathy for and like.  She’s strong and loves her sister deeply, her determination to find out what happened to her sister is moving.   

With short chapters, this book moves along at a great pace, falling victim to “just one more chapter before bed” I read this in one night.  Nugent is a very skilled writer, evoking a wealth of emotion from readers, creating characters that make the blood boil with rage, and creating a storyline so thoroughly dark and twisted.

A gripping read, dark and extremely thought provoking.  

You can buy a copy of Lying in Wait here. 

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