An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena | Book Review

Published by Bantam Press

Available in ebook and hardback (26 July 2018)  | Paperback (7 February 2019)

320 pages


I’m delighted to be joining the blog tour to celebrate the publication of An Unwanted Guest – my thanks to the publisher for the book to review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invite.  Not only was the blogger #bookpost for this something special but just take a look at this GIF – how cool is that!

 

 

 

|   About the Book   |

 

We can’t choose the strangers we meet.

As the guests arrive at beautiful, remote Mitchell’s Inn, they’re all looking forward to a relaxing weekend deep in the forest, miles from anywhere. They watch their fellow guests with interest, from a polite distance.

Usually we can avoid the people who make us nervous, make us afraid.

With a violent storm raging, the group finds itself completely cut off from the outside world. Nobody can get in – or out. And then the first body is found . . . and the horrifying truth comes to light. There’s a killer among them – and nowhere to run.

Until we find ourselves in a situation we can’t escape. Trapped.

 

|   My Thoughts   |

 

I do love a ‘locked room’ or in this case, a locked hotel mystery and, reminiscent of an Agatha Christie, An Unwanted Guest was a wonderfully gripping and such an addictive read.

10 guests arrive at Mitchell’s Inn, a small isolated hotel during a snowstorm. At first the snow looks very pretty and adds to the old fashioned charm of the hotel but when the snow turns to deadly ice and fallen tree branches bring down power lines plunging the hotel into darkness, excitement turns to fear especially when one of the guests is found dead.

With no working telephone line or mobile signal the occupants are stranded. They can’t get out and because the roads are blocked no-one can get to them.

Fear quickly turns to panic when the body count increases. With the remaining guests wondering which of them is a murderer they begin to turn on each other, voicing their accusations and suspicions and at times a mob mentality is in evidence. It would seem that some of the guests have secrets which they are desperate to keep hidden.  Is this reason enough to kill?

An Unwanted Guest contains a myriad of characters – one or two that I loathed.  I have to admit when all the guests were initially introduced in quick succession, I did have a worry that I would lose track and get confused.  This didn’t happen – each character is superbly drawn and distinct. The Inn is a decidedly creepy character in its own right; the dark corridors and secret staircases adding to the claustrophobic and mysterious feel.

This was an excellent atmospheric thriller, full of intrigue and suspense.  All the way through I kept changing my mind as to the murderer’s identity (whilst hoping it wasn’t my favourite character!) – I still hadn’t guessed correctly by the end, although perhaps the clues are there if you know what to look for.

I’ve read and enjoyed Shari Lapena’s debut, The Couple Next Door but to my shame I still have her previous A Stranger in the House to read. I very much enjoyed An Unwanted Guest. Highly recommended.

 

 

 

|   Author Bio   |

Shari worked as a lawyer and as an English teacher before writing fiction. Her debut thriller, The Couple Next Door, was a global bestseller. Her second thriller, A Stranger in the House, has been a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller.

 

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Her Name Was Rose by Claire Allan | Book Review

Published by Avon

Available in ebook and paperback : 28 June 2018

352 pages

Source: ARC from publisher for review



Having seen this book mentioned on social media some time ago, it went straight on the wishlist. You can imagine therefore how delighted I was to receive an invite to take part in the blog tour and also to receive a review copy from Avon  – how pretty is this #bookpost received from the publisher.

 

|   About the Book   |

 

Her name was Rose. You watched her die. And her death has created a vacancy.

When Emily lets a stranger step out in front of her, she never imagines that split second will change her life. But after Emily watches a car plough into the young mother – killing her instantly – she finds herself unable to move on.

And then she makes a decision she can never take back.

Because Rose had everything Emily had ever dreamed of. A beautiful, loving family, a great job and a stunning home. And now Rose’s husband misses his wife, and their son needs a mother. Why couldn’t Emily fill that space?

But as Emily is about to discover, no one’s life is perfect … and not everything is as it seems.

 

|   My Thoughts   |

 

“It should have been me. I should have been the one who was tossed in the air by the impact of a car that didn’t stop. ‘Like a ragdoll’, the papers said”.

This is the opening paragraph of Her Name Was Rose.  Claire Allan is an established writer of women’s fiction but this is her debut thriller and what a corker it is.

When Emily D’Arcy witnesses a fatal accident in front of her, she is convinced that that she was the intended victim, for reasons which later become clear.  Emily is not in a good place emotionally. Bruised and damaged by a previous relationship and working in a call centre for a not so nice boss, pills and alcohol are her only friends.

Following the accident, Emily feels compelled to find out more about Rose and begins stalking Rose’s Facebook page. Of course there are the inevitable tributes from friends and family, and the most moving in particular are from her devoted husband Cian.  Emily looks through the happy family photos and posts from Rose before her death and sees a perfect family life.  Something she would like to have.

Interspersed throughout the book are diary chapters from Rose herself starting from when she first met Cian.  Rose’s Facebook posts were upbeat and were obviously made by someone with a joy for life and love for her famous author husband and young son. Or were they.

I found Rose’s interactions one of the most revealing and interesting aspects.  Rather than just being a memory and a name on a page, these narratives bring Rose to life.  They serve as a reminder that we can make our lives appear anyway we want to on social media.

Emily’s infatuation with Rose and her life went beyond Facebook and at times she frustrated me by making what I considered to be unwise decisions.   Emily came across as a rather lonely and naive character, taking advantage of situations as they arose, rather than calculated manipulation. She was unhappy and lonely and thought that Rose’s perfect life could also be hers.

Even though at one point it became clear which way the story was heading, I was still thoroughly engrossed and wanted to know how it would end and whether Emily would get her perfect life.  From being a slow burner whilst backstories and characters were introduced the story suddenly picked up a pace and one or two of the unexpected surprises and twists in the latter part of the book truly were ‘I never saw that coming’ moments.

I really enjoyed this one.  An excellent debut psychological thriller from an accomplished and very talented writer.  Hope there’s another thriller from Claire Allan to come.

 

My thanks to Sabah of Avon for the review copy and the for the invitation to take part in the tour.

 

At the time of this post, Her Name Was Rose can be downloaded from Amazon UK for just 99p. An absolute steal!

 

 

 

 

|   Author Bio   |

Claire Allan is an Irish author who has previously written women’s fiction. A former journalist, this is her first psychological thriller.

 

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The Girl in the Pink Raincoat by Alrene Hughes | Blog Tour Extract #WW2

Publisher – Head of Zeus

Ebook and Hardback (12 July 2018) | Paperback (1 March 2019)

368 pages



A wartime saga set in Manchester, following the lives and loves of workers in Rosenberg’s raincoat factory

 

|   About the Book   |

 

When a factory girl and a Jewish businessman fall in love it seems that the whole world is against them.

Manchester, 1939. On the eve of war Gracie Earnshaw is working in Rosenberg’s Raincoat factory – a job she hates – but her life is about to be turned upside down when she falls in love with Jacob, the boss’s charismatic nephew.

Through Jacob, with his ambitions to be a writer, Gracie glimpses another world: theatre, music and prejudice. But their forbidden romance is cut short when Jacob is arrested and tragedy unfolds.

Gracie struggles with heartbreak, danger and old family secrets, but the love of her first sweetheart comes back to her in an unexpected way giving her the chance of a new life and happiness.

 

It’s a pleasure to be starting off the blog tour for The Girl in the Pink Raincoat.  I do enjoy books set during WW2 and this certainly does appeal.  My thanks to Florence of Head of Zeus for providing the extract and for the invite to the tour.

 

EXTRACT

 

Everyone hated the heat and the deafening noise, but for Gracie the worst thing was the smell of chemicals that turned her stomach every morning when she arrived at the Rosenberg Raincoats factory. She put on her green wrap-round overall and covered her dark hair with a headscarf tied in a turban and stood looking out at the blackened perimeter wall and high tower of Strangeways prison not a hundred yards away.

‘Late again, Miss Earnshaw, and in no hurry to get to your workbench, I see. I’ll dock you half an hour for that.’

‘But, Mr Rosenberg, it wasn’t my fault, honestly. There was this woman – very well dressed, lovely hat with a peacock feather – stepped off a bus, missed her footing, practically fell at my feet—’

‘I’m in no mood for your stories this morning.’ He put his thumbs under his braces and stretched them. ‘Now, get to work. We’ve had a big order from Kendal Milne for the new-season raincoats and it’s all hands to the pump to deliver them before the Manchester rain beats us to it.’

Gracie went straight to her sewing machine, and Maria at the bench next to hers shouted over the noise, ‘Did he catch you?’

Gracie rolled her eyes and snapped her imaginary braces, making Maria laugh. Then she started on her first raincoat of the day and was soon singing along with all the other girls. At mid-morning, when the blazing sun was streaming through the skylights, Jacob Rosenberg, the boss’s nephew, arrived in the machine room to check production. He was always immaculately dressed in a hand-tailored suit, but this morning he had removed the jacket, and in his pristine white shirt, open at the neck, he drew admiring glances, causing a sudden drop in the work rate.

Every now and again Gracie, towards the back of the room, slowed her machine so she could watch him. He had a ready smile, knew everyone by name and had a quick chat with them as he recorded the number of garments completed. By the time he reached her row she had her head down, stitching at a furious pace.

‘Ah, Gracie, making up for lost time, I see.’ There was always a smile in his voice, and the hint of a foreign accent set him apart.

She stopped sewing and gave him her innocent look. ‘Wouldn’t want to let Rosenberg Raincoats down, would I, Mr Jacob?’

He checked her total and winked. ‘Knew I could rely on you,’ he said.

At midday the workers sat out in the yard, eating: the men who welded the waterproof seams sat in the shade, while the women enjoyed the warmth of the late-August sun. Gracie unwrapped the newspaper from her dinner and passed a bloater-paste butty to Maria who, in return, gave her a roll filled with Italian sausage.

‘What are you doing this weekend?’ asked Gracie.

‘Same as I do every weekend – selling ice cream and sarsaparilla.’

‘I thought I might go up to Heaton Park. There’s a brass-band concert. Do you want to come?’

‘I don’t think I can. If this good weather holds, we’ll be really busy in the shop.’

‘I were up at park last week,’ Charlie Nuttall shouted across to them. ‘There’s a bloody big anti-aircraft-gun placement and a searchlight right in the middle of it. Talk about wasting brass. And have you seen all them shelters they’ve built round the town? Don’t they read the papers at the council?’

‘Happen they know summat we don’t,’ said his mate Ernie.

‘Nah, peace in our time, Mr Chamberlain said, and that’s good enough for me.’

‘Charlie, give over with all the war talk,’ said Hilda, who folded and packed the raincoats. ‘Hey, Gracie, you haven’t told us about the book you’re reading this week. Is it a love story?’

‘I’ve only just started it, but I don’t think it is. It’s about a lad called Pip and so far he’s met a prisoner on the run—’

‘What, out a Strangeways?’ asked Hilda.

‘No, this prison’s not round here, it’s near the sea. Any road, after he meets the prisoner the lad gets taken to a big house and he’s there in a strange room…’ Gracie paused, all eyes on her. ‘It’s lit by candles and his eyes pick out a lady at a dressing table in front of a mirror. The strangest woman he’d ever seen. She was dressed all in white, like a bride – satins and silks and a long veil – jewels too.’ Gracie mimed the necklace and earrings. ‘But Pip looked closer, something wasn’t right. The clothes might have been white once, but now they were yellow as parchment. The bride was a withered old woman, just skin and bone.’

‘Oh my goodness, what’s gone on there?’ said Hilda.

‘I could guess.’ said Maria. ‘It reminds me of one of my aunts. She were jilted at the altar, but she kept the wedding dress for her shroud.’
Gracie looked up and caught sight of Mr Jacob standing just inside the door watching her and she turned to the workers.

‘Anyway, that’s as far as I’ve got. I’ll have to tell you the rest next week.

On cue, Jacob Rosenberg stepped into the yard. ‘She’s right, time to get back to work.’

Charlie fell into step beside her as they went inside. She could guess why – he was always asking her to go out with him. ‘I could meet you at the park on Sunday if you want some company,’ he said.

‘Nah, you’re all right, Charlie.’ She laughed. ‘I’d sooner spend day at council tip.’

Of all the bedrooms in the Midland Hotel, this one was Sarah’s favourite. She went straight to the windows and opened them wide to gaze down at the vast, circular Central Library and across to the buses and cars in St Peter’s Square. Then she got to work stripping the bed, leaving the eiderdown, bedspread and blankets to one side and putting the used sheets and pillowcases in the cart. Fresh white sheets, lightly starched, were definitely one of her favourite things. She stood at the end of the bed, tossed the sheet into the air and inhaled the smell of clean linen as it billowed and descended.

Bed made, she moved on to the bathroom. She had never seen one before she came to work at the Midland. In Belfast, where she had grown up, they had had a privy in the yard and a tin bath hanging on the wall, which they brought inside on a Saturday night and filled with hot water. When she’d come to Manchester, it was no different.

The bathroom gleaming, she set out the fluffy towels – so soft, she held them to her face – then placed a tiny Yardley soap in each dish. She ran the Ewbank over the carpet and polished the furniture, checking the writing desk had a good supply of Midland Hotel-headed notepaper and wondering what the guests might write about. Finally, she looked in every drawer and wardrobe and under the bed. The guests left things behind sometimes: a button, a handkerchief, a business card, the faint scent of French perfume… Once, she had found a beautiful silk scarf behind a dressing-table.

At the door she paused. She would never sleep in a room like this, but she made it new again every morning and allowed herself to think that one day her Gracie might rise in the world and enjoy such luxury.

When Sarah had finished her shift, she hurried home. She had left some sheets steeping in bleach that morning and she hoped that the few hours of sunshine left in the day would be enough to dry them. She turned into Pearson Street and the little girls gathered round the rope swing hanging from the lamppost called, ‘Mrs Earnshaw, do you want a go?’

She waved at them, ‘Not today, girls,’ and hurried on.

As usual, the boys were playing football on the croft at the far end of the street, but she was surprised to see a group of women standing close to her house, having a serious chinwag.

‘What’s up?’ she said, then noticed that Doris, her next-door neighbour, was sniffing and wiping her eyes with her sleeve. A few of the others looked close to tears.

‘The kids are being evacuated.’ Doris waved a letter in her hand. ‘They came home today with this and they’re going in a week’s time. They’re taking our kids.’

Another mother shouted, ‘We’re not even at war!’

‘Now, hold on a wee minute.’ Sarah’s voice was calm. ‘Nobody will take your children if you don’t want them to go. But just think about it. The people who know what’s really going on are making plans to keep them safe. Did you read the article in the Evening News last week?’ It was clear from their faces that they hadn’t. Sarah went on, ‘It’s very well organised. They’ll be evacuated out in the country with decent people who’ll look after them. Even their teachers are going. Think of it as a holiday for them. They’ll have a great time and if there’s no war, well, there’ll be no harm done and they’ll be back home before you know it.’

Sarah could see them weighing up her words. ‘Did they tell you where they’re being sent?’

‘Ramsbottom – wherever that is,’ said Lily, who had four children under ten.

‘Well, there you are – there’s a train from Manchester to Bury and I think Ramsbottom is near there. You could go and see them easy enough. You know, some children are being sent to Wales – a different country. At least yours’ll be in the same county.’

The women looked thoughtful and she hoped they would mull it over and, while they were all together, she decided it would be a good time to mention something else. ‘I’ve been thinking about shelters,’ she said. ‘Not many of us have the room for an Anderson in the yard and the nearest public shelter’s on Oldham Road. I thought I’d ask the landlord at the Foresters Arms if we could use his cellar. It’ll need a good clean, of course. What do you think?’

There were nods of approval, and Lily joked, ‘That’ll suit my Wilf down to the ground. He spends his days down the pub, might as well sleep there too!’

But Doris was crying again. ‘It’s really going to happen, in’t it? We’ll get bombed.’

Sarah put her arm round Doris’s shoulders. ‘Don’t worry, sure it’ll be fine. Look on the bright side – without the kids you’ll have half the washing, cooking and cleaning to do and a nice cosy cellar to shelter in if the bombs start falling.’

 

 

 

|  Author Bio   |

 


Alrene Hughes grew up in Belfast and has lived in Manchester for most of her adult life. She worked for British Telecom and the BBC before training as an English teacher. After teaching for twenty years, she retired and now writes full-time.

 

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The Dead Ex by Jane Corry | Book Review

 

Published by Penguin

Available in ebook and paperback (28 June 2018)

432 pages

Source: ARC from publisher for review



|   About the Book   |

 

Vicki’s husband David once promised to love her in sickness and in health. But after a brutal attack left her suffering with epilepsy, he ran away with his mistress.

So when Vicki gets a call one day to say that he’s missing, her first thought is ‘good riddance’. But then the police find evidence suggesting that David is dead. And they think Vicki had something to do with it.

What really happened on the night of David’s disappearance?
And how can Vicki prove her innocence, when she’s not even sure of it herself?

 

|   My Thoughts  |

 

Having enjoyed both of Jane’s previous books, My Husband’s Wife and Blood Sisters (reviewed here), I was delighted to receive a review copy of the latest, The Dead Ex.

The Dead Ex is an intriguing and absorbing read; told from the first and third person perspectives of 3 characters over 2 timelines, the different narrators have their own story to tell (some of which makes for difficult reading) and although I wondered at the beginning how they were connected, all did become clear. Each chapter is clearly headed with the character name and date so there is no confusion.

Vicki Goudman is one of those characters who hasn’t had an easy life and when things go wrong, they go wrong spectacularly. Bruised by previous experiences, she has rather a nomadic life, lives quietly and simply, working from home as an aromatheraperist. Her ex-husband David, is missing, presumed dead and Vicki appears to be the number one suspect. Her problem is that no-one, especially the police, seem to believe her innocence. Indeed, Vicki herself is unsure, the medication she takes for her epilepsy causes some memory issues. Could she have killed him and if so, why can’t she remember anything at all about it.

David Goudman is one of those characters that it is REALLY difficult to feel any sympathy for. He can turn on the charm and give the appearance of being solicitous and thoughtful but under the surface is actually rather unpleasant, a little part of me, (perhaps rather cruelly), hoped that he had met an untimely end!

I felt much sympathy for Vicki, but I also felt frustrated with her. I wanted to believe her innocence but when you feel that a character is deliberately holding something back and not disclosing information, there is that feeling of uncertainty and I didn’t entirely trust her.

The story starts slowly, whilst it builds the characters and backstory but then moves on at a pace. There are some diverse characters – some are very unpleasant indeed but skilled plotting across timelines, together with perhaps a touch of misdirection (it certainly seemed that way to me at times) bring everything together to form a suspenseful story which keeps the reader guessing.  What I particularly enjoy about Jane’s books are her complex characters. As with real life, none are perfect, and its their vulnerabilities which make them feel realistic. Quite a bit of a story here takes place in a prison with the dramas and traumas faced by both staff and inmates.   The author has experience in this field which adds a level of authenticity. As you would expect, there are twists in the tale and surprises and although I had correctly worked out part of the conclusion, there was one aspect that I was completely unprepared for.

Another very enjoyable read from Jane Corry. Three books in, she has cemented her place in my list of ‘must read’ authors.  My thanks to Hannah of Penguin for the review copy and for the tour invite.

 

The Dead Ex can currently be downloaded from Amazon UK for 99p

 

 

|   Author Bio   |

Jane Corry is a writer and journalist who has spent time working as the writer in residence of a high security prison for men – an experience that helped inspire her Sunday Times bestsellers ‘My Husband’s Wife’ and ‘Blood Sisters’. Jane runs regular writing workshops and speaks at literary festivals all over the world. Many of her ideas strike during morning dog-jogs along the beach followed by a dip in the sea – no matter how cold it is!

 

 

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When I Find You by Emma Curtis | Book Review | @emmacurtisbooks @TransworldBooks #WhenIFindYou #PsychologicalThriller #Faceblind

 

Published by Black Swan/Transworld

Available in ebook (1 July 2018) | paperback : (9 August 2018)

400 pages



I very much enjoyed One Little Mistake, the debut novel from Emma Curtis and when invited to take part in the tour for When I Find You, didn’t hesitate to say yes. I’m thrilled to be starting off the blog tour today.  I have my review below but firstly my thanks to Hannah at Transworld for the Netgalley widget and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the tour invitation.

 

|   About the Book   |

 

What do you do when someone takes advantage of your greatest weakness?

When Laura wakes up after her office Christmas party and sees a man’s shirt on the floor, she is horrified. But this is no ordinary one-night-stand regret.

Laura suffers from severe face-blindness, a condition that means she is completely unable to identify and remember faces. So the man she spent all night dancing with and kissing – the man she thought she’d brought home – was ‘Pink Shirt’.

But the shirt on her floor is blue.

And now Laura must go to work every day, and face the man who took advantage of her condition. The man she has no way of recognising.

She doesn’t know who he is . . . but she’ll make him pay.

 

|   My Thoughts   |

 

When I Find You is one of a few new releases I have on my Kindle dealing with face-blindness, or to give it its proper name, Prosopagnosia. Although I had vaguely heard of it, until I started reading this book, I really had no concept of how difficult life is for sufferers. Imagine not being able to recognise a loved one, a friend, or even your own face.

In When I Find You, Emma Curtis has created a character in Laura that I could feel so much empathy for. Laura is face blind and works for an advertising agency as a creative director, a job which does require a lot of socialising – and which for obvious reasons she dreads. There is only one person at the agency who knows of her condition and that is her boss, Rebecca. I did initially wonder why you wouldn’t let colleagues know about your condition rather than let them think you were aloof or rude, when you appeared to ignore them but then I realised that Laura’s reasons for keeping it a secret from people in general were quite justified; for your own safety, the fewer people that know of your inability to recognise them, the better.

Laura has some coping mechanisms she finds useful – she relies on unusual facial features where possible or mannerisms, hair colour, or even clothing. For example when she attends the office Christmas party she knows that the colleague she was dancing with and kissing had a pink shirt. So why did she wake up in the morning in her flat with a man wearing a blue shirt.

It’s fair to say that Laura was quite drunk at the time however when she realised she had been tricked she felt angry, abused and humiliated. Determined to find out who had taken advantage of her, she decides by a process of elimination to try and flush out the person, however unknown to her, her methods of detection have unexpected and dangerous consequences.

Without going into spoiler territory and giving away any major plot details, Emma Curtis has created an engrossing story, highlighting a condition which is possibly relatively unknown but nonetheless is extremely debilitating and traumatic to sufferers. Laura knows that because of her condition, she is regarded as an unreliable witness and any official complaint most probably wouldn’t be taken seriously.

The story is narrated in alternating chapters by Laura, in the first person and Rebecca in the third. At first I couldn’t understand why Rebecca was given her own chapters when to be honest she wasn’t a particularly interesting character but all did become clearer later in the book when various strands are bought together.

I enjoyed reading When I Find You and using the concept of face blindness as a plot device adds that extra dimension to the suspense as in this story, the reader is as much in the dark as the protagonist. We only see events from her perspective and there were times when I wasn’t sure if she was being entirely honest in her narration. I had the impression that the author had done her research into face blindness and hadn’t just gratuitously plotted a story around it as the difficulties faced by sufferers felt authentic and sympathetic.   As the main character, Laura was the one person we got to know the most and there were a few times when I was frustrated by some of her decisions and thinking ‘why did you do that’ when you just know that something is not going to end well!

When I Find You is an intriguing and suspenseful read with plenty of twists and surprises leading to a dramatic conclusion – definitely recommended.

 

Follow the tour

 

|   Author Bio   |

 

EMMA CURTIS was born in Brighton and brought up in London. She is a member of ‘The Prime Writers’, a collective of writers who have all had their first books published after the age of 40.  Emma has two children and lives in Richmond with her husband.

 

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