Never Saw it Coming – Linwood Barclay

Never Saw it Coming

Publisher: Orion

From Goodreads:

This originally came out as a novella and was titled Clouded Vision – published in December 2010 under that title.

A chilling story of double-dealing, violence and murder from number one bestseller Linwood Barclay.

Keisha Ceylon is a psychic. At least, that’s what she passes herself off as. The truth is, Keisha’s real powers have more to do with separating troubled families from their money than actually seeing into the netherworld. Keisha watches the news for stories of missing family members. She gives it a few days, then moves in, tells these families she’s had a vision, that she may have some clue to where these missing people are. And by the way, she charges for this service, and likes to see the money up front.

Keisha’s latest mark is a man whose wife disappeared a week ago. She’s seen him on TV, pleading for his wife to come home, or, if she’s been abducted, pleading with whoever took her to let her go. Keisha knows a payoff when she sees one. So she pays a visit to our troubled husband and tells him her vision.

The trouble is, her vision just happens to be close enough to the truth that it leaves this man rattled. And it may very well leave Keisha dead…

My thoughts:

Keisha Ceylon wants a better life for herself and her young son. As the daughter of a con-woman, she is well versed in the art and so starts a business “Psychic Finder of Lost Souls”. When she sees a desperate family anxious for news of their missing loved ones, she pays them a visit and manages to convince them that she has seen a vision and can give them information as to their whereabouts. There is of course a fee for her services and she charges handsomely for her visions.

Keisha lives with her 10 year old son and a loser boyfriend, the hapless Kirk. The rose tinted glasses that first disguised Kirk as a knight in shining armour have lost their shine and she now wants out, but Kirk has his feet firmly under the table and he’s not going anywhere.

When Keisha sees on the TV an appeal regarding missing wife and mother Ellie Garfield, she can see a chance to make some serious money out of her “vision”. However, unbeknown to her, her story is too near the truth for comfort and she finds herself in great danger.

I’ve enjoyed all the previous Linwood Barclay books I’ve read however I did feel rather disappointed in this one. I originally read the first part of this book in 2011 when it was called “Clouded Vision”, a novella and part of the 2011 Quick Reads series. Never Saw it Coming is just an extended version, so I can quite understand why some readers feel cheated. The hardback copy I read consisted of just 244 pages of large type, so this was a fairly ‘Quick Read’ too.

Maybe because this one started life as a short read, it still doesn’t feel like a proper full length novel. The chapters are quite short which normally I quite like but here they just feel disjointed. None of the characters are explored to any depth and we mainly see a one sided Keisha. I’m sure there is more to her than just parting people from their money.

There was a surprise link in the story to the 2007 book, ‘No Time for Goodbye’ as one of the characters makes a brief return appearance.

The plot is clever and there are some twists and turns in the story however this was not an edge of your seat, suspense filled thriller and if this was your first Linwood Barclay read you could be in a for a disappointment. I can highly recommend ‘Trust your Eyes’ or ‘Never Look Away’ as being far better books to start with.

My rating: 3/5

Author website:

Don’t Want to Miss a Thing – Jill Mansell

Don't Want to Miss a Thing

Publisher: Headline

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Dexter Yates loves his fun, care-free London life; he has money, looks and girlfriends galore. But everything changes overnight when his sister dies, leaving him in charge of her eight-month-old daughter Delphi. How is he ever going to cope?

Comic-strip artist Molly Hayes lives in the beautiful Cotswold village of Briarwood. When it comes to relationships, she has a history of choosing all the wrong men. Leaving the city behind, Dex moves to Briarwood – a much better place to work on his parenting skills – and he and Molly become neighbours. There’s an undeniable connection between them. But if Dexter’s going to adapt, he first has a lot to learn about Molly, about other people’s secrets…and about himself

My thoughts:

Jill Mansell has long been a favourite author of mine – ever since I read her first novel, Fast Friends, back in 1991. This is her 24th novel and I still love every book.

Dexter Yates is young, good looking, rich and has women scrambling at his feet. His only relative is his sister Laura and the two are very close. When Laura gives birth to Delphi, Dexter falls in love …..but soon after tragedy strikes and Dexter finds himself the guardian of baby Delphi. Can he give up his old life and be the parent that Dephi needs?

As always, Jill Mansell has created a wonderful cast of characters. As charismatic and good looking as he is, Dexter is probably the kind of bloke that any right thinking woman should avoid like the plague – he seems to be incapable of being faithful and believes in living life to the full in his London bachelor pad. However when baby Delphi comes into his life, we see another side to him emerging. It remains to be seen whether a leopard can change his spots though.

When Molly, his neighbour in the Cotswolds village of Briarwood first meets Dexter, there is an instant attraction between them – but Molly won’t stand for any nonsense and the story follows the ups and downs of their friendship. I loved the character of Molly. She’s a talented artist, with a kind and caring manner but who seems to attract the wrong men.

The story is not all about Molly and Dexter however and another main character is Molly’s friend, Frankie. She runs the local café and has her own relationship and family problems to deal with.

This was a fabulous warm, romantic and witty read with some great characters that you could relate to and engage with. Delphi was just adorable and one of the few fiction babies that could make me feel broody. I became completely engrossed in their lives and although you could probably predict how the story would end, I thoroughly enjoyed the journey.

My rating: 5/5

author website:

Necessary Lies – Diane Chamberlain

Necessary Lies

Publisher: Pan McMillan

Synopsis from Goodreads:

North Carolina, 1960. Newlywed Jane Forrester, fresh out of university, is seeking what most other women have shunned: a career. But life as a social worker is far from what she expected. Out amongst the rural Tobacco fields of Grace County, Jane encounters a world of extreme poverty that is far removed from the middle-class life she has grown up with. But worse is still to come. Working with the Hart family and their fifteen-year-old daughter Ivy, it’s not long before Jane uncovers a shocking secret, and is thrust into a moral dilemma that puts her career on the line, threatens to dissolve her marriage, and ultimately, determines the fate of Ivy and her family forever. Soon Jane is forced to take drastic action, and before long, there is no turning back.

My thoughts:

Necessary Lies tells the story of Jane Forrester and Ivy Hart. Jane is young and newly married to Robert, a pediatrician. She is desperate to have a career of her own before starting a family, very much against her husband’s wishes. She obtains a job as a social worker and from the start, she is thrown in at the deep end and has to trust her instincts when dealing with the poorer families in her care – which includes the Harts.

Ivy is 15 years old and lives with her ailing grandmother Nonnie, elder sister Mary Ella and baby William in a tiny house on the estate of her employer, Davison Gardiner. In return for the free lodgings Ivy and Mary Ella work for a pittance on the Davison’s tobacco farm. Mary Ella is 17 and classed as “feebleminded”. She has a young baby, 2 year old William and thus Ivy shoulders the responsibility of trying to look after the family in a situation of extreme poverty.

Ivy has dreams of her own and she and her boyfriend, Henry Allen, the only son of Davison Gardiner meet up secretly and plan their future, far away from Grace County.

Jane discovers a shocking secret about the Hart family and indeed, this is something that affects other families in similar circumstances in the County including friends and neighbours of the Harts. She is faced with a dilemma and her decision could have devastating consequences for the Hart family and also for her own life.

Such is the level of extreme poverty, racial segregation and harsh treatment of those on welfare payments, it was hard to believe that this story was set in 1960 America and not in much earlier times. Even though she comes from a middle class family, Jane is not immune from the prejudices of the time and she faces being ostracized by some of her peers because of her decision to work, especially in the career field that she has chosen. It appears that the state has decided that because these families are on welfare, they do not have the right to decide their own destiny and decisions must be made for them. There were still great divides between white and black with segregation being the norm.

The author has incorporated into the story the Eugenics programme, which was in place from 1929 until 1975. I had heard about this in relation to Nazi war times but didn’t realise that the US also had its own similar programme continuing in much later years. It is truly shocking to think that the most vulnerable people were subject to decisions made by others simply because they were regarded as “mentally defective” or had certain illnesses.

This was a compelling and powerful read and the sense of poverty and hopelessness that such families suffered is almost too difficult to comprehend. This is not only a fictional story but also an educational one.

I’ve always enjoyed reading Diane Chamberlain’s books however this one is particularly hard hitting and thought provoking and one which I would definitely recommend.

There is also an e-book available called “The First Lie” which is a prequel set two years before this story starts and is an introduction to Ivy Hart and her sister Mary Ella. I read this after I had read Necessary Lies and I don’t really think it makes a difference whether you read it before or after the main book. 

My rating 5/5

Author website:

Somebody to Love – Sheryl Browne

Somebody to Love

Publisher: Safkhet Soul

Synopsis from Amazon:

After that idiot of a husband ran off with that broomstick of a girl, single-mom Donna thinks there’s no sunshine in her future. What she needs now is a hunk of a guy who loves her and her three-legged dog with no complications.

Solution? Call the police.

Mark is a single dad with two big worries – protect and serve, and his autistic son Karl. Desperately he wants someone who’ll love him and his son without question and with no complications. He’s been hurt before and Karl needs stability – not short dates. So he’ll do anything for his kid – even lie to protect him.

Can these two get it together and get together? Is Mark the hunk Donna needs? Is Donna the rock Mark can lean on? If they look hard enough, they’ll find Somebody to Love

My thoughts:

Donna O’Connor has divorced her cheating, controlling husband and lives with her beloved teenage son Matt, her 3 legged dog Sadie and a lovable hungry rabbit, Findus – who seems to spend most of his life under the kitchen table looking for food.

Whilst out shopping one day, instead of getting a parking ticket she gets a date with a hunky policeman, Mark Evans. However the course of true love never does run smooth and both Donna and Mark face misunderstandings galore in their quest for true love.

Mark has an autistic 6 year old son, Karl. Mark is a single dad and is trying to juggle looking after Karl with the help of a carer when an assistance dog, Starbuck, comes into their lives and what follows is a genuine heartwarming story about how much of a difference the unconditional love of an animal can make to a boy like Karl.

This was a warm and funny, if sometimes frustrating story about two people trying to find genuine love, both having been hurt in the past. Can they both trust each other enough to overcome their fears?

This was the first book that I had read by Sheryl Browne but I’m pleased to say it was a very enjoyable read. From the cover picture, I was expecting a light-hearted and fluffy read but the story has more depth to it in the way it deals with issues that could affect any of us such as increasingly forgetful parents and children that require special attention and care. The characters were well written and believable and so very human with their fears and worries. I felt both sympathy and frustration with Donna, when her feelings of inadequacy and her stubbornness threatened to sabotage her chance of happiness. There were times when I thought the storyline seemed a little far fetched but that certainly didn’t matter to me. If you’re looking for a deeper romantic read with some laughs along the way, then I would recommend that you give this a try. I would certainly read further books by this author.

My rating 4/5

Author website:

A Serpentine Affair – Tina Seskis


Publisher: Kirk Parolles

Synopsis from Amazon:

Seven old friends. One annual reunion. Countless feuds.

How do friends stay friends for more than 25 years when there is so much to feel aggrieved about? Juliette and JoAnne have never got over one of them sleeping with the other’s boyfriend. Sissy secretly blames someone for the death of her husband. Natasha knows one of them is having an affair with her partner. Siobhan annoys everyone. Katie is annoyed by everyone. Camilla desperately tries to keep the peace.

So when their picnic in the park goes horribly wrong and one of them ends up in the Serpentine, who knows what really happened? And just what secrets from the past are about to unfold, changing everyone’s lives forever?

My thoughts:

I loved ‘One Step Too Far’ and was looking forward to reading this, the second novel from Tina Seskis. I’m pleased to say that it didn’t disappoint at all.

The story is about seven female friends whose friendships were formed in their university days over 25 years ago. They mostly now have families of their own however over the years resentments and tensions have built up between the women and although each secretly wonders whether there is enough friendship left between the group for an annual reunion, they are still drawn to attend. Their friendship is tested to the limit when at this particular reunion, an evening picnic by the Serpentine in Hyde Park, hostilities rise to the surface and the atmosphere becomes toxic.

We learn a brief history of each character; however the story focuses mainly on just three of them. From flashbacks told over the years, we learn of the reasons for the tensions and feuds and it seems it would take a miracle for them to ever recover the friendship they once had.

I really like the way this author tells the story. The narrative is very skillfully written with short chapters which end on a kind of cliffhanger and although I thought I knew which way the story was going, I was constantly surprised by the twists and turns that unfolded. The personalities are so realistic – these could well be people that you know. Some of the characters I didn’t like at all, whereas others I could feel empathy for.

I was slightly confused at first trying to get to grips with the histories and who was married to who but I was very soon drawn into the story completely and I couldn’t put it down. The story moves back and forth in time but it is done seamlessly and the timeline is easy to follow.

This was a hugely enjoyable read and I can highly recommend it. I’m now eagerly awaiting the next read from this author.

My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher Kirk Parolles for the digital copy to review.

My rating: 5/5

author website: