Posts Tagged ‘psychological thriller’

Mother, Mother – Koren Zailckas

Posted in American Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Thriller on January 29th, 2014 by admin – Be the first to comment

Mother, Mother


HarperCollins Publishers Ltd

Amazon Vine
My Rating
4 stars

” They f___ you up your Mum and Dad,  They may not mean to but they do. “  Harsh words from Philip Larkin but he has a point…except here it’s Mommie Dearest who is most at fault in the shape of Josephine Hurst, narcissistic mother of 3 vulnerable children with  a rather needy husband too.

It might seem quite trite to state that a book was “unputdownable” but in this case I was so engrossed that everything else had to be put on hold.  I just had to keep  on reading – this was car crash tv, the subject matter was disturbing but fascinating and it’s been a while since a book had such an immediate  hold on me.

From the early stages we know that Josephine Hurst is the manipulative matriarch at the heart of  all her family’s woes.  Eldest daughter Rose ran away, middle child Violet tried to escape through drugs and the youngest, 12 year old Will is so wrapped up in his mom’s web of lies he worships the ground she walks on.  The dad, Douglas, is distracted by his own demons – he is an alcoholic and completely unaware of the danger his children face.

Josephine has psychological abuse down to a fine art.  She knows her family’s pressure points and boy does she exploit any weakness with the seemingly innocuous remark, the pouring out a glass of wine for Douglas, the downright disturbing babying of her son.

It is Violet (Viola) who decides to fight back but as a 15 year drug user with no support from her ineffectual father, it’s not going to be an easy battle to win – especially not against Manipulative Mom.   I loved her gutsiness and determination.

The story is told from the point of view of  Violet and Will in short alternating chapters. It quickly becomes clear that Violet has more of a mind of her own than Will who has a questionable diagnosis of autism and epilepsy – a diagnosis actively encouraged by Mom.

Whilst many of the plot twists are predictable and a tad theatrical, this is still a fascinating read and I think it will have huge commercial success and will also be a favourite for book groups.  I can already see folk entering the nature versus nurture debate re Will Hurst.  It doesn’t have the depth of We Need to Talk about Kevin but it will raise age-old issues which we never tire of debating.

A great debut, this psychological thriller will have you on tenterhooks.



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The Sacrificial Man – Ruth Dugdall

Posted in Thriller on August 3rd, 2012 by admin – 4 Comments



Legend Press Ltd

My Rating – 4 stars

This is Ruth Dugdall’s second psychological thriller featuring Probation Officer, Cate Austin, the first being The Woman Before Me.  Typically, I have got it wrong again and read this one first but I am now looking forward to reading the first book in the series!

Cate Austin’s latest case is a tricky one as she has to recommend a sentence for Alice Mariani, charged with assisted suicide.  Before you sigh, “Oh no, not another euthanasia tale”, this story has very little to do with ethics but more of a reflection on the lengths some folk will go to out of love for another human being, even if that love is born out of a warped sense of loyalty.  Alice is an intriguing character, not the most endearing and often quite chilling in her steely self possession.  As the novel progresses we learn more about Alice’s background, the traumatic events which have made her what she is today and we start to see a chink in her emotional armour.

This thriller will grip you, not letting go until the final page and then you’ll feel quite dazed by the whole experience.  Not for the squeamish, with a dash of cannibalism, this is a dark, bleak, delightfully disturbing read.  It all feels very authentic, testament to Ruth’s previous career as a Probation Officer.   Looking forward to catching up with The Woman Before Me and reading more from this talented author in the future.

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The Sick Rose – Erin Kelly

Posted in Contemporary Fiction, Thriller on July 9th, 2011 by admin – 2 Comments

“When a new rose is planted on the same spot as an old one, you get a sick rose;  it doesn’t bloom and it’ll probably die.  No one really knows why, but it’s not worth replanting.”

These are the ominous words of Louisa, 39 year old botanical expert and one of the two main protagonists of Erin Kelly’s second psychological thriller.  Louisa is striving to restore a Tudor garden at Kelstice House in Warwickshire but distraction comes in the shape of Paul, a 19 year old who the police have relocated prior to his crucial testimony in an upcoming murder trial.  Both characters are haunted by past events and it would appear that their future happiness is as doomed as the sick rose.

This is an extremely clever, well structured novel, with the author gliding effortlessly between the eighties, early noughties and present day to gradually reveal Louisa and Paul’s back stories.  Indeed, lots of chapters end in cliffhangers, teasing the reader who has to wait on edge until the story returns to that particular time frame.  I didn’t find any of the characters especially likeable but they’re very real with their own particular flaws – Louisa, living in the past and trying to rekindle the passion of a long dead relationship;   Paul, whose vacillation throws him headlong from one disaster to another.  My only minor quibble would be that the ending/epilogue felt slightly contrived but then again, endings can be a bit of a bugbear for me.  That aside, this is a compelling read, one which will keep the reader gripped until the very last word.

This is my first experience of Erin Kelly’s work but I will now be swiftly acquiring her debut novel, The Poison Tree (more horticultural references?) and also investigating William Blake’s poetry having discovered his poem, The Sick Rose, en route!

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Before I go to Sleep – SJ Watson

Posted in Thriller on July 5th, 2011 by admin – 3 Comments

SJ Watson has just been voted Amazon’s Rising Star for the second quarter of 2011, his debut novel Before I go to Sleep has been sold in 30 different languages and Ridley Scott will soon start filming the big screen version.  Not bad for a debut novel but does the end product match the hype?

There have been quite a few commercially successful films about memory loss in recent years, Memento, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Groundhog Day come to mind, but I was  intrigued by the concept of Before I go to Sleep and wondered how the author could pull off this complex plot-line.  Christine, wakes up every morning beside a strange man with a ring on his finger, every morning she is surprised to see a 40 something reflected in the mirror instead of the more youthful 20 year old she is anticipating.  Could this be a case of a drunken one night stand which has caused temporary memory loss?  Alas, the truth is less palatable as it turns out that the stranger is, in fact, her husband Ben and Christine has spent the past 20 years or so trapped in a Groundhog Day cycle, with each new day’s memories being automatically erased when she sleeps.  So, how can we know her story if she can’t remember anything?  Well, she starts to keep a journal, meticulously recording the events of each day and any newly acquired information in the hope of building a picture of her lost years.  But who can she really trust?  Are her husband and the mysterious Dr Nash really acting in her best interests?

This is an extremely impressive debut novel, I can’t help admiring how cleverly the author has structured the narrative, feeding us crumbs of information to keep us tantalised, drawing us into the capricious world of Christine.  Some readers might find the excessive detail of Christine’s journal, including tremendous  amounts of dialogue, a step beyond the boundaries of credibility but, for me, this is a minor niggle far outweighed by the compelling, meticulously plotted narrative.   A really satisfying, enjoyable read guaranteed to keep you up till the wee small hours.

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