The Lost Children (Detective Lucy Harwin #1)

Title: The Lost Children (Detective Lucy Harwin #1)

Author: Helen Phifer

Genres: Crime | Psychological Thriller

Length: 320 pages | 4066 locations

Source: Negalley

Publisher: Bookouture

Publishing Date: March 24th, 2017

Rating: 2.5/5

Premise:

Lucy’s return to the police force is anticipated when a body is discovered in a terrible state.
Why was he found on the grounds of the town’s old asylum? Is there a connection to the horrid things that happened there all those years ago?

Review:

So we have another detective series beginning, this time featuring DI Lucy Harwin. I did not find her particularly likeable or otherwise; to be honest, she seemed kind of bland to me. Just your average single cop who lives for her job and goes home to ready made meals and a bottle of wine or vodka.

There was one thing that kept bugging me – Lucy is made to have this terrific sixth sense when really it’s all conjecture and the only way the reader can buy it is because she says those things after we know the killer’s perspective and therefore what exactly happened. Her ‘gut feeling’ is always on the money, even though there is nothing much to support it (example: an open gate).

The book focuses a lot on Lucy and her sidekick Mattie. When that happened I sped read because I wanted to get to the juicy bits and I found those utterly uninteresting. The blurb got to me with the mention of the asylum and I really wanted to learn more about that part. I wish it had been more developed.

I thought certain things were unnecessary clichés, like Mattie’s crush on her. Also, when well used, I don’t even notice swearing in the books, but here it felt completely out of place and unnatural.

I liked the structure of the narrative. The timeline switches between 1975 at the asylum and present day and there are a couple of entries from our killer after the crimes have been committed, which brings the reader a nice perspective. The story flows fairly well, slowly connecting the dots, though a bit slow-paced for my taste because there were just some things I did not appreciate and wanted to move on.

There are several red herrings, some don’t tie that well in the end, several things are unnecessarily repeated (like the mentions of Isabella and her mother) and the ending felt rushed. Although there are some exciting bits my overall assessment is that, considering the amount of series of the sort that are out there and done in a more appealing manner (to me at least), I do not intend to follow this one.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Apr 14th to Apr 17th, 2017
GR Review

The Fifth Reflection

Title: The Fifth Reflection

Author: Ellen Kirschman

Genres: Crime | Mystery

Length: 272 pages | 3013 locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 3/5

 

Premise:

Dot is a Psychologist at the police Kenilworth PD in her fifties trying to give another chance at having her relationship. But when her fiancée’s teacher and friend calls him distraught because her toddler was taken, this will affect both Dot’s personal and professional life. Who took Chrissy? And what will finding the truth cost Dot?

Review:

The Fifth Reflection was not a bad book but it wasn’t utterly amazing.

I actually really enjoyed the first chapter, almost more than the rest of the book, because of the familiar setting and the fact that the characters were older than I am used to finding in fiction I enjoy reading. It was interesting to see how they related and how they welcomed Frank’s girlfriend into their mist. However, Dot came across as much more posh than she turned out to be, whereas Frank developed into almost the opposite, with all his fancy cooking.

When the author jumps back in time to introduce us to the very particular circumstances of Chrissy’s disappearance, I lost a bit of interest, probably because it was a brake in the pace I had so enjoyed. And as the narrative evolved I could not understand why Dot kept inserting herself to the investigation when it was obvious it was putting a strain on her relationship with Frank and that the results of her doing so weren’t good for the investigation either. It’s almost as if she was investigating for our benefit. It would have made more sense to follow someone more personally invested in the event.
On the other hand, I enjoyed discovering what a psychologist at a police station is supposed to do.

Towards the end things just felt clumsy and rushed. Things begin falling into place much too nicely, with a character even spelling things out for us: It would cut down considerably on the investigation if this were a rare comestic not widely available for sale. I didn’t even get why no fingerprints were recovered from either Chrissy, the blanket or the box. I don’t remember any mentions of the perp wearing gloves.

The Fifth Reflection is not your typical psychological thriller full of twists and turns, where you are utterly surprised by each revelation. It has its own pace, with an unusual but fairly relateable main character and it was an enjoyable read, just not something I was absolutely looking forward to pick back up.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Mar 5h to Mar 10th, 2017
GR Review

The House

Title: The House

Author: Simon Lelic

Genres: Mystery | Thriller

Length: 340 pages | 3075 locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 4.5/5

 

Premise:
Jack and Sydney move in to the perfect London house. A house where they can see themselves growing older.
But why was it so easy to get it? What secrets does the house hold? And what about their mysterious neighbours?

Review:

The House had quite a peculiar narrative style. Jack and Sydney, our main characters, are also our narrators. They write the story as a way of coping with the grisly events they have faced as well as figure out what to do next. It is almost a form of couple therapy too, since they end up writing as much to each other as to the one they want to read the manuscript. The narrative evolves at first as you would expect from someone who is not used to writing, gradually becoming more cohesive and culminating in a chilling diary for both parts.

The House was extremely enthralling. I could not bring myself to put it down and ended up reading it in two sittings, several hours past my usual time to turn in.

There were a few things I am still not sold on. I needed to know why a man would hate his children so much – thirst for control is not nearly enough to cut it for me because he was just plain malevolent and considering I read and watch a lot of profiling stuff I don’t remember coming across anything quite like this. I think that when Syd mentions her therapists would be a great opportunity to insert some relevant researched information about what would make someone tick like that.

Some things felt like plot devices to make the story move along a certain way, that the characters came across certain information only later on to cause the plot twists. For example, Jack not asking for Evan’s future contact since he basically told him he would be moving. Or Syd’s dismissal of her mother’s attitude towards the picture. I don’t get why she didn’t remove it from the frame then since it was obvious her mother knew that person and expected Sydney to know her too. And I feel that the owner leaving absolutely everything behind was not realistic at all – he should at least have taken some personal items that meant more to him; that was just too convenient.

Other than those things, this was a superbly written book featuring very real, vulnerable characters struggling to find happiness. Even if at first I did not like Syd’s voice (she came across as a wee bit bitchy and implicative), she grew on me and I felt all characters were pretty well developed, even the secondary ones.

The House is an utterly amazing read that will surely have you glued to the screen/pages, flipping them as fast as you can.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Feb 26h to Feb 27th, 2017
GR Review

See What I Have Done

Title: See What I Have Done

Author: Sarah Schmidt

Genres: Crime | Historical Fiction

Length: 324 pages | 3368 locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 1.75/5

 

Premise:
On the morning of August 4th 1892 Lizzie Borden cries Someone’s killed Father.
As we go through Lizzie’s fractured memories, as well as three other people’s entries, we try to figure out what exactly happened to Mr Borden.

Review:

Boy, I struggled with this one. At first I thought it was because I am not very used to Historical Fiction and the little I read the prose was not quite so lyrical and random, so I took it as a challenge to read something different and try to enjoy it. However, the more I read the less invested I felt.

I have read quite a lot of books where the narrative jumps back and forth and if done well it adds a new dimension to the story and I feel very involved in it, wanting to know what happened both back then and present day. But here it was just confusing. There are a lot of flashbacks in the middle of chapters so even when they were dated I never knew what was going on or when. One minute a character is having a pretty straight thought, then she thinks of something else and there’s paragraphs and paragraphs of that and by the time that was done I had to really make an effort to remember what she was doing before and catch the thread of the narrative again.

The prose could be absolutely enthralling. Some descriptions were extremely vivid, reaching out to all our five senses and making me feel like I was there. On a couple of occasions where things got pretty gross I was actually sick to my stomach. But good writing is just not enough when nothing much seems to happen and it gets really tiring after a while. Sure, the characters were peculiar and the writing was very good, but after a while that is just not enough.

To this day I don’t get why people kept eating a stew that was obviously spoiled. It felt like they had it for days but then again maybe it was just that one day.

And the worst part is I could not even get closure. The more the book approached the end the more enigmatic and riddled with innuendo the prose got. I never got how Bridget got her money back after it had been confiscated by the police, what was in the mutton broth and if it really was Lizzie who put it there and especially what happened to Abby and Mr Borden. There is only a half-hallucination by Lizzie about her father’s last moments but nothing concrete.

I was extremely disappointed at See What I Have Done. I do think others will enjoy it if they are okay with this prose and not getting closure at the end of the book. It’s one of those I classify under read it for the journey, not the destination, although I am sure even the ending will please folks who love lyrical writing.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Feb 17h to Feb 21st, 2017
GR Review

Hope’s Peak (Harper and Lane #1)

Title: Hope’s Peak (Harper and Lane #1)

Author: Tony Healey

Genres: Crime | Mystery | Thriller

Length: 207 pages | 2848 Locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 3/5

Premise:

A young black girl is found dead, a crown of vines over her head, her eyes closed. She has been brutally assaulted. And she is not the last… nor the first.

Review:

The first book of Hope’s Peak was quite thrilling at times but it left me wanting on several aspects.

First of all, I never even got a clear image of how the detectives look or who they were really. They seemed bland.

Many things did not feel realistic, much like the dialogues. Even the way the detectives addressed each other, particularly Stu calling Harper ‘kiddo’ when they were sleeping together, irked me.

The procedural aspect felt lacking as well. All the time they were using a psychic to move forward in the case I kept wondering how they would justify their findings and it bothered me that neither of the detectives did that.

The scenes where the killer is described are what kept the book up for me and, consequently, the rating. He was a truly wicked fellow.

Hope’s Peak had its highlights but I would not say it shines amongst other of the genre. It is still an exciting read, for the most part.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Jan 29th to Jan 31st, 2017

GR Review

A Deadly Thaw (Inspector Francis Sadler #2)

Title: A Deadly Thaw (Inspector Francis Sadler #2)

Author: Sarah Ward

Genres: Crime | Mystery | Thriller

Length: 384 pages | 3989 Locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 4/5

Premise:

Lena went to jail in 2004 for killing her husband.
However, his body is found in 2016. So who did she kill back then?
And why?

Review:

A Deadly Thaw took a bit to pick up but once it did it turned into quite the page-turner. I just did not want to put it down and kept wanting to know what came next.

Sarah Ward did a great job creating a dichotomy between mysterious Lena Gray and her down-to-earth sister Kat, and the detective team kept their voices from the first book of the series but also developed in an interesting manner that has created food for thought about what may come next.

There were a few downsides for me besides the beginning:
– There were a few awkward phrasings that put me off, such as Connie saying suspects kept surprising her and then right after saying that said suspect’s sentence did not surprise her or Sadler using almost the same exact phrasing with a character as was used previously in the narrative (explaining what he did in high school).
– I don’t understand how Lena could have physically done what she did. Sure, the guy was sleeping, but surely if you are being suffocated you wake up and he was a fit rugby player.
– There was one character that seemed much too perfect. Mark just seemed to know and say all the right things and the way he bossed Kat around bothered me; at one point it stopped sounding protective and became more like possessive.
– Lena’s explanation for what she did just didn’t sit with me. You just don’t go to prison for a decade and set a known rapist free just to protect the identity of victims, whose privacy I am sure would be kept to as much extent as possible. I know the author tried to back it up with Lena’s mistrust of the police force and her belief that the other guy was the instigator but still, it’s too much.

However, the book really is well done. I think a large part of what kept me so interested, just as it had happened in the first book, was that the chapters were short. They were nice and straight to the point and finished in a way that made stopping utterly impossible, even when you knew the voice would change and so you wouldn’t yet find out what happened. I was just so mad when I absolutely had to put the book down.

A Deadly Thaw was an incredibly suspenseful page turner that I highly recommend, with twists that will set your mind spinning, and I look forward to the next book of the series.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Jan 7th to Jan 11th, 2017

GR Review

In Bitter Chill (Inspector Francis Sadler #1)

Title: In Bitter Chill (Inspector Francis Sadler #1)

Author: Sarah Ward

Genres: Crime | Mystery | Thriller

Length: 353 pages

Source: Gift

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4.25/5

Premise:

In 1978, two girls were kidnapped. One returned, the other didn’t.
Thirty-six years later, the latter’s mother is found dead in a hotel room, apparently a suicide.
What really happened then and on that faithful day?

Review:

In Bitter Chill engaged me from the beginning. I don’t usually enjoy crime novels because I either don’t have the patience for the procedural aspect or find it lacking, but in this case there was a great balance between story, procedure and characters. I actually found myself shivering when reading this because the cold truly travelled across the pages and I enjoyed meeting all characters. They each had their particularities and they were obviously much better constructed and developed than my previous experiences on the genre.

It was pleasant to see a variety of female characters. Not only were their personalities quite different but there were both big and small ones, which was a very welcome change. Almost overweight women still had appeal and that was amazing.

I felt the book dragged on a bit around the middle and there were a bit too many characters. Also, I could not understand certain characters’ actions, like why to keep some things from the police. It felt like it was done to drag the plot.

Still, things wrapped up very nicely towards the end culminating in a thrilling conclusion. The parallel narrative of 1978 and current day was so nicely done, as well as both stories’ development – there were enough clues laid out to be satisfied everything would fit in if I chose to reread everything, but not too many that I would guess the conclusion.

For the most part, In Bitter Chill enthralled me, and I am looking forward to beginning the sequel, A Deadly Thaw.

Read from Jan 1st to Jan 7th, 2017

GR Review