The Taking of Annie Thorne by C J Tudor | Blog Tour Review | #TheTakingofAnnieThorne

Published by Michael Joseph/Penguin
Ebook & Hardback (21 February 2019) | Paperback (25 July 2019)
352 pages
Source: Copy for review provided by publisher

My thanks to Jenny Platt of Penguin for the invitation to take part in what must be one of the biggest and most popular blog tours – I was unable to get a space the first time round because it filled up so quickly – and for providing the review copy.

About the Book

Then . . .

One night, Annie went missing. Disappeared from her own bed. There were searches, appeals. Everyone thought the worst. And then, miraculously, after forty-eight hours, she came back. But she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say what had happened to her.

Something happened to my sister. I can’t explain what. I just know that when she came back, she wasn’t the same. She wasn’t my Annie.

I didn’t want to admit, even to myself, that sometimes I was scared to death of my own little sister.

Now. . .

The email arrived in my inbox two months ago. I almost deleted it straight away, but then I clicked OPEN:

I know what happened to your sister. It’s happening again . . .

My Thoughts

From the very beginning and especially that horrific discovery in the cottage, this book had me hooked.

Joe Thorne never wanted to return to his childhood home of Arnhill. A former pit village, it was a grim desolate place that held no pleasant memories for him.  The only reason that he is back is because of his sister Annie.

Annie Thorne disappeared when she was 8 years old.  She returned two days later, a silent and moody little girl, refusing to say where she had been. Joe had lost his happy and adorable little sister.

Joe can’t forget what happened to Annie and can’t let it go. He forges his CV and lies his way to a teaching job at his old school and goes back to the source of so much unhappiness. What becomes clear is that life in the intervening years hasn’t been good to Joe.  Addicted to gambling and also a heavy drinker, he has incurred some big debts which need repaying and people want their money.   

Joe was a typically flawed protagonist that I couldn’t help liking, although I wasn’t always sure if I could trust him or how exactly he fitted in to the overall story.  As a young boy he was a loner and an outsider and to fit in, found himself involved with a gang of bullies and nasties – some of those same people still live in Arnhill and they haven’t forgotten Joe!   As an adult however, he was quick to identify bullies at the school and did what he could to help.   Unfortunately for reasons beyond his control, the extent of this help was rather limited.  He may not have been an ideal role model, but his dry humour and witty sarcasm put me firmly on his side, even when I wasn’t sure of what role he had played in past events.  He certainly earned respect from me by renting ‘that cottage’.  I wouldn’t have gone near it with a barge pole – and especially after what he found in the bathroom!

There is a bit of a crossover with genres with this one.  It’s a thriller, no doubt about that, but also with a supernatural and a horror element.  When you see other reviews, there are many references to Stephen King. I’ve never read any SK and whilst I can’t comment on those comparisons there were certain parts of this story that had me thinking ‘what the hell…..’.  If anyone is wondering just how much horror is involved, I’m not a horror reader at all but there was nothing here that really bothered me. A lot is left to your own imagination.

Set against the atmospheric backdrop of a grim and run-down former mining village is the old mine itself. It becomes a character in its right, hiding its secrets beneath underground tunnels which it won’t give up easily.

Tudor has drawn her characters superbly. Some you can feel empathy for and others just utter dislike and distrust.  Whilst it’s not an action packed thrills a minute story, I thought the pacing was spot on and my interest was held all the way through.

I was desperate to know exactly what happened all those years ago and why people were still determined to stop Joe finding out the truth. From the prologue,  I was expecting more of a crime thriller and what I received seemed to be something a little different; whilst I very much enjoyed it, I was left with questions that I had to answer myself and I’m still not quite sure whether I reached the right answer but that’s more than likely more down to me than the book.

The Taking of Annie Thorne was a deliciously gripping and addictive read. Bring on the next book by C J Tudor!   


About the Author

C. J. Tudor lives with her partner and young daughter. Her love of writing, especially the dark and macabre, started young. When her peers were reading Judy Blume, she was devouring Stephen King and James Herbert.

Over the years she has had a variety of jobs, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, dog walker, voiceover artist, television presenter, copywriter and, now, author.

Her first novel, The Chalk Man, was a Sunday Times bestseller and sold in thirty-nine territories.

Twitter| Facebook| Amazon UK| Goodreads

The Bridal Party by J G Murray | Blog Tour Guest Post | #TheBridalParty

Published by Corvus
Available in ebook (7 March 2019)
194 pages

My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part in the tour. I really wanted to read this but just couldn’t fit in a review in time so for my turn, I have a guest post from the author.

About the Book

Sometimes friendship can be murder…

It’s the weekend of Clarisse’s bridal party, a trip the girls have all been looking forward to. Then, on the day of their flight, Tamsyn, the maid of honour, suddenly backs out. Upset and confused, they try to make the most of the stunning, isolated seaside house they find themselves in.

But, there is a surprise in store – Tamsyn has organised a murder mystery, a sinister game in which they must discover a killer in their midst. As tensions quickly boil over, it becomes clear to them all that there are some secrets that won’t stay buried…


Guest Post

Blood and Thunder Tales: The Power of Psychological Thrillers

I have a confession: I don’t like Little Women.

I realise how sacrilegious this is. I also realise that so little classic literature explores the experience of girlhood, while there are many coming-of-age tales for boys. I am also aware that some chapters carry an emotional power that few books that can match.

But the fact of the matter is that I prefer Alcott when she’s not trying so hard.

For the past year, I’ve become more and more fascinated with what Alcott dismissively called her ‘blood and thunder tales’. For those of you who aren’t in the know, Louisa May Alcott spent a long time publishing horror stories and psychological thrillers under the pseudonym of A.M Bernard. Just like Jo publishing ‘sensation’ stories in Little Women, Alcott went to genre to compliment her literary output. She wrote tales of murder, deception…even mummies. And I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I would take many of them over Little Women.

My favourite is called Under the Mask: A Woman’s Power, and it explores some of the themes of Little Women without any of the didactic moralism or bizarre about-turns in tone and message. It explores the place of women in family units and class structures, but does so in a deliciously perverse narrative where a governess seduces and manipulates all the members of a family in order to climb the social ladder.

When I read this novella, I realised that I was not only enjoying the narrative more than Little Women— after all, it has the kind of propulsive, mysterious plot which is to my taste. I was also engaging with the themes in a more meaningful way. I found myself thinking about the main character weeks after I’d finished the book: I wondered long and hard about how gender affects social mobility, and how that served as her motivation in the novel. What was on the surface a pretty ludicrous story had succeeded in doing what the ‘literary’ genre was supposed to do— making me contemplate certain realities about the world we live in.

Some see this as just a sweetening-of-the-deal kind of scenario: that you’re more receptive to explore subtext when you’ve opened itself up to the delights of an engaging plots and characters. This is akin to what the film industry does with message-smuggling, whereby a blockbuster like Avatar is supposedly a vehicle to put forward a pro-eco message.

But while I feel that this idea holds true for many pieces, it can also be a misleading way to think about genre. Behind a Mask isn’t a thriller which disguises its thematic content about femininity. It is a thriller about femininity. It’s not subtext; it’s text. And Alcott writes powerfully about the subject because of the genre underpinnings rather than in spite of it.

What I love about psychological thrillers is that, at the core, they simple exaggerate hidden truths. They look at our world, our relationships, our emotions, and examine what’s broken. Books like Gone Girl and Rebecca start with the anxieties we have about our relationships and push them to the point where bodies start to hit the floor. In this way, these genre tales are not merely smuggling truths into genre thrills: the thrills are entirely reliant on the truths to actually function. It is their starting point, rather than an added extra.

When writing my own thriller, I started with a premise, a hook. But I also knew that I had to take something familiar to give the premise some meat, and decided to focus at friendships, and how toxic they can become. I didn’t regard it as a theme or subtext; very few writers are that pretentious, in my experience! I just saw it as a crucial part of the genre in which I was writing.

It’s what I love about the psychological thriller: that no matter how overblown or bloody it becomes…it’s still close to home. Alcott may have called them ‘blood and thunder tales’, but they can be as intimate as anything on the ‘Literary Fiction’ shelf.

About the Author

J G Murray is the winner of the 2018 Deviant Minds Prize and the author of the upcoming psychological thriller The Bridal Party.

He studied Creative Writing at Warwick University and has lived in Brussels, Bangkok and London. He has won numerous prizes for his short fiction and published stories in a number of publications. Most recently, Julian contributed to the 24 Stories Anthology, a book raising money for the victims of Grenfell featuring authors such as Irvine Welsh, Chris Brookmyre and AL Kennedy.

Twitter | Amazon UK| Goodreads

Your Guilty Secret by Rebecca Thornton | Blog Tour Guest Post |5 Writing Tips|#YourGuiltySecret

Published by Zaffre
Available in ebook and paperback (7 March 2019)
384 pages

About the Book

An intense thriller that explores the dark side of fame and family. Perfect for fans of Laura Marshall, Lisa Jewell and Louise Jensen.

You know Lara King.

The top billing of the showbiz pages, you’ve seen her every morning; over your breakfast, on your commute to work. You know everything about her; you’ve dissected her life.

Her perfect relationship with film-star Matthew Raine. Her beautiful six-year old daughter Ava.

And so when a terrible incident shatters the family’s carefully constructed facade, a media frenzy ensues.

What happens when the perfect woman begins to unravel? When her whole life is really just a lie? One she will do anything she can to stop you from finding out?

This story is . . .


5 Writing Tips
by Rebecca Thornton

1) When I first started writing Your Guilty Secret – a novel about Lara King – an A list celebrity whose life unravels in the public eye –  I had a vague plot but absolutely no idea of who my character was. It meant I had no clue about how I was getting from A to B, because I had no character to lead me there. As soon as I understood what my character’s motives were (it took me a long time), the story became easier to write. So whenever you are stuck, keep going back to this question: What is my character’s motive?

2) Write for yourself. Don’t write what you think other people want to read.

3) Ask yourself: Does this serve the purpose of my story? If it doesn’t, cut it.

4) Always trust your gut. It will tell you if something is wrong.

5) If you are stuck and need some input, get someone you trust to critique your work. Someone who is going to be totally honest with you, but also kind and encouraging. It can be scary to be on the receiving end of that – so top tip – be specific and ask the person for three to five things that can be improved.

About the Author

Rebecca Thornton is an alumna of the Faber Academy Writing A Novel course, where she was tutored by Esther Freud and Tim Lott. Her writing has been published in Prospect MagazineThe GuardianYou MagazineDaily Mail and The Sunday PeopleThe Jewish News, amongst others. She has reported from the Middle East, Kosovo and the UK. She now lives in West London with her husband and two sons.

Twitter | Amazon UK | Goodreads

Unlawful Things by Anna Sayburn Lane | Blog Tour Guest Post |#UnlawfulThings

Available in ebook & paperback (22 October 2018)
402 pages

About the Book

A hidden masterpiece. A secret buried for 500 years. And one woman determined to uncover the truth.When London tour guide Helen Oddfellow meets a historian on the trail of a lost manuscript, she’s intrigued by the mystery – and the man. But the pair are not the only ones desperate to find the missing final play by sixteenth century English playwright Christopher Marlowe. What starts as a literary puzzle quickly becomes a quest with deadly consequences.

When Helen realises the play hides an explosive religious secret, she begins to understand how much is at stake. Relying on her quick wits, she battles far-right thugs, eccentric aristocrats and an ancient religious foundation, each with their own motives for getting their hands on the manuscript. She discovers there is a price to pay for secret knowledge, but how high is too high?

Unlawful Things was shortlisted for the Virago/The Pool New Crime Writer Award. If you love a bit of historical sleuthing and a healthy dose of fast-paced action, you’ll enjoy this intriguing debut thriller from Anna Sayburn Lane. Discover Unlawful Things today!

Guest Post
What Inspired Unlawful Things?

The action in my novel, a contemporary thriller about the dangers of digging up historical secrets, unfolds along the road from London to Canterbury, once a well-trodden pilgrim path. And the inspiration for the novel came out of walking that route myself.

It wasn’t an organised walk, just something I wanted to try. I set off one Friday with my husband, planning to walk the 60 miles over three days. We started in Southwark at the site of the Tabard Inn, where Geoffrey Chaucer’s pilgrims gathered at the start of The Canterbury Tales. The first day took us through the streets of south London, where I’d lived and worked as a local newspaper reporter. Passing through Deptford, I noticed a pair of grisly-looking carved skulls on a gate into a churchyard. Intrigued, we went inside.

The churchyard was St Nicholas on Deptford Green, the burial place of Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe. Marlowe was a colourful character. He killed a man in a knife-fight in Shoreditch, was rumoured to be a spy and was supposedly killed in a brawl in Deptford. Some people suspect he faked his own death and was the true author of Shakespeare’s plays. 

Chaucer, Marlowe – who else would we come across on our walk? We stopped for the night at Dartford, then the following day started to see evidence of Charles Dickens, as we moved deeper into Kent. Dickens had a house at Gad’s Hill, between Gravesend and Rochester, both of which featured in his novels, as did the neighbouring village of Cobham. The ancient Cobham Hall, I later discovered, had its own intriguing history, including a treason plot against James I.

When arrived in Canterbury at the end of day three, I’d collected enough ideas for several novels. I’d also learned that 60 miles is too far to walk comfortably in three days! But as we arrived at the appropriately-named Pilgrims Hotel, I noticed one more thing. We were opposite the town’s Marlowe Theatre. Christopher Marlowe, I discovered, was born in Canterbury, before a scholarship from the King’s School took him to Cambridge and then to the theatres of London’s Southwark. 

What if, I thought sleepily as we turned in for the night, Marlowe had learned something in Canterbury as an inquisitive child? A secret, something important, perhaps from Canterbury Cathedral. Something he wrote about, that was dangerous… dangerous enough to get him killed?

That ‘what if?’ sparked the plot for Unlawful Things. It’s a game of literary hide-and-seek, which also draws on some of the hard-hitting crimes and disturbances I’d written about as a London journalist. The weaving together of fact and fiction, real locations with historical speculation, is my favourite sort of writing. I hope readers have as much fun reading it as I did writing it. 

My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Anna for the the guest post.

About the Author

Anna Sayburn Lane is a novelist, short story writer and journalist, inspired by the history and contemporary life of London. Unlawful Things is her first novel. She has published award-winning short stories in a number of magazines, including Mslexia, Scribble and One Eye Grey. Her award-winning story Conservation was described by judge and Booker-longlisted author Alison MacLeod as “a powerful and profound contemporary piece in which one man’s story stands for an entire nation’s… it’s a punch to the heart, a story that will haunt and touch its readers deeply”.

Website | Twitter | Facebook| Amazon UK| Goodreads

If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman | Blog Tour Review| #IfOnly

Published by Orion
Available in ebook & hardback (21 February 2019) | paperback (15 October 2019)
368 pages
Source: Paperback review copy received from Amazon Vine

My thanks to Tracy Fenton for the invitation to take part in the blog tour. I have been waiting for so long for a new book from Hannah Beckerman, I loved the Dead Wife’s Handbook which I reviewed here back in 2013 and have been excitedly waiting to read this, ever since it was announced.

About the Book

Hannah Beckerman pens a life-affirming novel that tells the story of a family divided and the secret that can possibly unite them–a must for fans of This Is Us.

Audrey knows that life is filled with ups and downs, but she can’t help feeling like she’s been dealt more than her fair share as she’s watched her family come undone over the years. Her dream as a mother had been for her daughters, Jess and Lily, to be as close as only sisters can be. But now as adults, they no longer speak to each other, and Audrey’s two teenage granddaughters have never met. Even more upsetting is the fact that Audrey has no idea how to fix her family as she wonders if they will ever be whole again.

If only Audrey had known three decades ago that a secret could have the power to split her family in two, but ironically, also keep them linked. And when hostilities threaten to spiral out of control, a devastating choice that was made so many years ago is about to be revealed, testing once and for all Audrey and those she loves.

Is it too late for one broken family to heal and find their way back to each other…?

A beautiful novel of mothers and daughters, the bonds of family, and the secrets that can sometimes divide us yet also bring us together, If Only I Could Tell You will remain on your mind long after the last page is turned.

My Thoughts

How can a family estrangement last for nearly 30 years. Audrey would like to know the answer.  Her two daughters have been estranged ever since 10 year old Jess stopped speaking to elder sister Lily; even their own children have never been allowed to get to know each other.  Now Audrey has her own battle to face and her dearest wish is for her family to come together again. The problem is that because she doesn’t know what caused the divide, she doesn’t know how to fix it.

Told from the perspectives of Audrey, Jess and Lily, the story switches back and forth from the present to significant years in each of their lives.  There is much in the way of secrets, sadness, resentments and unfulfilled dreams – all of which gradually come to light.

Reading If Only was a fully immersive experience. I adore Hannah Beckerman’s writing. She writes beautifully with each sentence being carefully constructed and so emotionally charged.  Each character was superbly drawn from single mother Jess trying to juggle a time-demanding  job with family responsibilities; with career focussed Lily who never seems to have time for anyone. Their typically strong-willed and outspoken teenage daughters, Mia and Phoebe who are far more perceptive than their families give them credit for and finally Audrey who has regrets and sadness of her own.

Many reviewers have said that this book made them cry.  I’m quite often a real softie when it comes to emotional books and in all honesty I had expected to need tissues here, but surprisingly this book didn’t make me cry. Having said that, it is a very emotional and moving read but I think I was so frustrated and at times angry with one particular character that I was beyond tears – if there had been tears from me, they would have been ones of frustration.

Being an only child, (something which I am sometimes thankful for!) the world of sibling relationships is rather alien to me. However I guess that like any family relationship, just because you’re related you don’t necessarily have to like each other and If Only shows how long festered thoughts and secrets can potentially destroy a family.

If Only I Could Tell You was a powerful and emotional read with a broken family at its heart but there was also a message of hope.  I loved it and I know that this will be one of my favourite books of the year.

About the Author

Hannah Beckerman is an author, journalist and broadcaster. She is a regular contributor to The Observer, The FT Weekend Magazine, and The Sunday Express, and was the book critic on Sara Cox’s Radio 2 Show. She chairs literary events around the UK and has been a judge on numerous book prizes including the Costa Book Awards.

Prior to becoming a full-time writer, Hannah was a TV Executive who spent fifteen years producing and commissioning documentaries about the Arts, History and Science for the BBC, Channel 4 and Discovery USA before turning her hand to writing.

Hannah lives in London with her husband and their daughter.

Website | Twitter | Facebook| Amazon UK | Goodreads