I enjoyed The Fiction Writer by Jillian Cantor though the end let it down a little for me. I mean, I liked where it finished… but then Cantor went a bit further, and for me, it was one twist too far. That said, this is an intriguing book – several tales within a tale. Within a tale. Or in some ways… fan fiction run amok!
Zero Days by Ruth Ware is a fast paced action-packed read. I’ve read a few of Ware’s books now and know she has a big fan base. She’ll also be attending the crime writing festival I’m going to next month in England so this is a timely read. Although I kinda felt it was pretty obvious whodunnit here, the why was certainly unexpected and Ware also complicates the who with some murky shadow-lurking types.
The Drowning Woman by Robyn Harding took me by surprise. I read the blurb and made some assumptions. As I started reading and met Lee and Hazel I pictured it… the way it was going to play out. I could see it clearly and felt disappointed. Knowing that what was to come was going to be an anticlimax. Predictable. I’d read many versions of this book before.
So… you can imagine my surprise when the first major twist comes and the book goes in a completely different direction. And it happens not once, not even twice, but three times. Or maybe it was more. I lost count.
Drowning by TJ Newman was a rare read as I was rivetted from the opening paragraphs. She put me onto that plane as it was going down and, though only briefly exposed to some characters, I already cared about their fate and had a very visceral reaction to what was happening. (Full disclosure, I was – ahem – quite teary before the end of the first chapter*!)
I tend to skim read more than I should – usually over descriptive prose, or sometimes [what I believe to be] irrelevant detail – to get to the action. But by action I mean conversations or things progressing the plot. I’m not really a lover of heart-pumping ACTION action. When watching movies I fast forward fight scenes and car chases.
Getting me truly panicked about a narrative means I need to be really engaged. I need to be there and I need to care. Which was the case here. I wanted to skim as much as possible because I REALLY NEEDED TO KNOW WHAT WOULD HAPPEN!**
The Rush by Michelle Prak was a bit of a sleeper. I enjoyed it and it’s paced well so I remained intrigued, wondering how the disparate parts of the story we hear (all told over a day or two and out of sequence) intersect. But then Prak throws in a twist when least expected and one I certainly hadn’t seen coming. Thankfully it wasn’t left-field enough to not be feasible. Just shocking. Which is a good thing.
I enjoyed Louise Candlish’s The Other Passenger, published in 2020. It proved popular, as did Our House, published in 2018 and since made into a four-part miniseries. I missed her 2021/22 book The Heights but happily dove into her latest release, The Only Suspect. Like The Other Passenger, here Candlish offers up a twisty tale with a narrator (well, two in fact) we’re not sure we can trust.
Nicci Gerrard and Sean French (writing together as Nicci French) are back with another standalone thriller, The Favour. And I enjoyed this even though the protagonist – Jude, a young geriatrician – annoyed the crap out of me, making one bad decision after another. I still liked her but groaned each time she entrenched herself more deeply into the world her former high school boyfriend and his very unorthodox group of friends lived.
We’re not yet in 2023 and I already wonder if In the Blink of an Eye by Jo Callaghan will be one of my favourite books released in that year. It’s a debut novel that feels as if it’s written by a seasoned author. One who’s confident with their craft and characters they’ve created. In fact, I did check a couple of times to see if our lead, Detective Chief Superintendent Kat Frank had featured in previous outings.
She hasn’t but I loved that Callaghan gives us a senior, experienced and confident protagonist and one who’s a significant way through her career and life. Kat’s likeable but has baggage. She’s talented but also fallible.
The Next Girl by Pip Drysdale is a fascinating read, featuring a narrator who – initially anyway – has her secrets, sharing them with us slowly but surely. At times it’s written in second person, as if Billie is talking directly to us. Filling us on on her past and confiding in us now.
Ultimately, she’s honest – with us anyway – so it’s hard not to like her as we learn what motivates her and feeds her obsession/s.