The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

The Last House on Needless Street, Catriona Ward, Hardback, 400 pages, Profile Books Ltd, Waterstones, £7.49

The Last House on Needless Street takes place in an ordinary house on an ordinary street. However what happens in this street is anything but ordinary.

The plot focuses on the disappearance of Lulu, also known as Little Girl with Popsicle, eleven years ago at a lake near Ted Bannerman’s house. Ted Bannerman was always a prime suspect in the case but was never arrested. Eleven years later and Ted is still perceived to be the prime suspect in the case.

The narrative follows four POV, Ted, Lauren, Olivia and Dee, through the form of chapters. Each POV is pivotal to the mystery of the missing girl by the lake. Not only do these narratives help us uncover what has happened to Little Girl with Popsicle, but their distinct voices and attitudes highlight Catriona Ward’s talent for characterisation.

Before reading The Last House on Needless Street, you must banish all predictions and assumptions of the novel you’re expecting to read and focus on the book in the present. This novel has many twists with many secrets unfolding like a spring flower ready to bloom.

Throughout the novel we learn of Ted’s loneliness and the depths he’s willing to go for companionship. In some areas Ward’s novel echoes the loneliness of the creature in Shelley’s Frankenstein, who seeks affection but is afraid of the outcome.

The Last House on Needless Street may leave you with challenging views and conflicting opinions. Regardless of a like or dislike for this book, it cannot be ignored that Catriona Ward’s writing is gripping and well-considered on a topic so delicate. Due to some complexities, the novel has been considered to fit the horror genre, however if you like psychological thrillers, I would urge you to consider a jump into this book, as it provides areas accomodating both genres.

If you would like to read the book, you can find it here.

For more reviews head over to my instagram page @cbarkerwriting for daily updates.

Survive the Night by Riley Sager

Survive the Night by Riley Sager, paperback, 336 pages, Hodder & Stoughton, £8.99, Waterstones.

This is the first book I’ve read from Riley Sager and this definitely won’t be the last.

Survive the Night follows a student called Charlie Jordan, making her way home from university. But what seems like a smooth ride, isn’t as smooth sailing as you may think. Charlie leaves behind her boyfriend in exchange for a ride home from another student. However with the campus killer still on the loose, Charlie can’t seem to grasp that she could be driving home with him. She can’t be the next victim after all… can she?

Sager begins his novel by introducing a handful of characters into Charlie’s life. We discover early in the novel about Charlie’s loss of her best friend Maddy and her boyfriend Robbie. However from the first chapter, the main focus in Survive the Night is around Charlie and Josh’s journey to her hometown. Not only does this keep the scenes intense but it also allows the readers to grow an attachment to the characters on a deeper level. Car journeys are brilliant for getting to know more about someone and as we follow their journey, the readers are well and truly along for the ride. Throughout the journey, Charlie begins to question who the driver is to reassure herself and to find out what his intentions of leaving so soon are.

Throughout Survive the Night, the tension is kept incredibly tight. So tight that suspicions are constantly among the characters and you can’t help but question character’s motives. Some characters you might like at the beginning but by the end, you might have a whole different take on them. If your views on the characters wasn’t change enough, then fasten your seatbelts because this ride is going to be bumpier than you think! If this novel could be summed up in three words they would be:

Don’t trust anyone.

I feel that Sager has built the tension up perfectly and has included more action in his scenes that I strongly favour over previous thriller authors. 

When I first read the blurb of this book, I was so intrigued. I knew it would seem very minimal with most of it taking place in a car but if anything, it showed a rawness to characters that I hadn’t seen before.

For anyone who is a fan of Ruth Ware, Lucy Foley and Allie Reynolds, I would strongly recommend Riley Sager. I was previously torn between reading Ware or Sager for my holidays and thought I’d picked well with Ware. Little did I know both choices would be so amazing.

Riley Sager’s Survive the Night is officially out in paperback in the UK and I strongly recommend anyone with a love of psychological thrillers and plot twists, to give this book a go. Oh, and brace yourselves!

Enjoy the ride!

The Heights by Louise Candlish

The Heights by Louise Candlish, Hardback, 448 Pages, £12.99, Waterstones

The very first book I’ve read by Louise Candlish but definitely not the last.

The blurb itself made me wanting answers before I’d even received the ARC. Imagine bumping into someone you thought to be dead? Especially when you are the one who tried to make it happen. This concept alone sent shivers down my spine – such an intriguing predicament.

Because of this gripping blurb, I began reading, not knowing who I should be sympathising with and as the novel progressed, it appeared that everyone had that little bit of dirt under their nails.

Throughout this novel there were so many twists, gradually increasing the intensity until the very last page. Admittedly, I’d have liked one less twist, although I guess that could depend on the reader’s morals.

The underlying issues of grieving for you child’s accidental death, was written in a way that felt sensitive, yet understanding, as the reader watches Lucas’ death affect many relatives differently.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes psychological thrillers.

This was the first novel I’ve read by Louise Candlish but definitely not my last.

Shiver by Allie Reynolds

Shiver by Allie Reynolds, Headline Publishing, Hardback, 421 pages, Waterstones, £12.99

They don’t know what I did. And I intend to keep it that way.

Allie Reynolds’ debut novel Shiver has kicked up a storm that readers didn’t even knew they wanted – until now. Failed ex-athlete Milla Anderson attends a ten year reunion, in the hopes that she can rekindle some of her friendships she longed for, off the slopes. However with Saskia still missing, presumed dead, and an ice breaker to set the tone, Milla soon realises that this isn’t the type of reunion that she’d hoped for.

Characterisation

Shiver is the type of novel that runs away with its characters. Each character, whether likeable or not, has a distinct way of acting and speaking. The reader can also relate to each character, which can be tricky to do. At the beginning of the novel Reynolds pulls her readers straight into Milla’s thoughts and allows the reader to become emotionally attached to the circle of friends, up on the mountain. This connection only gets stronger, the more you find out about them. The characters in this novel have been so well thought out, that it hurts that they’re not real in the first place. Wanting the characters to be real, just goes to show how developed these characters actually are. I cannot imagine the time and effort that has gone into the characterisation, in order to get them to this standard.

Setting

Although the characters could be anywhere, the thought of isolating a circle of friends in such stark conditions reminds me of the sublime. Whilst the mountains are mesmerising and the snowfall magical, there’s also the risk of an avalanche, hidden cliff drops and sharp ice that could do some damage. Now, stop the cable cars, remove their phones and disconnect the electricity. What are you left with? Survival instincts.

Experience

Before reading Shiver, the most I knew about snowboarding was from the game SSX Tricky. Thankfully I didn’t need to know much about snowboarding as Allie Reynolds guided me through the snowboarding jargon. Reynolds was previously ranked in the top ten for UK Snowboarding. Not only did her knowledge help me understand the tricks of snowboarding, it also highlighted the difficulty in the tricks – yes, I’m looking at you, Crippler. This is the first novel that I’ve been able to read, knowing that the author has experience in subject that would normally just be research. This really made a difference as it allows the reader to be immersed in Milla’s experience.

I thoroughly enjoyed Shiver. It was the characterisation and the setting that kept me turning the pages. It could be argued that this novel may peak the interest of Ruth Ware readers, however this novel itself has more grit within. I was initially apprehensive about reading this as I’d just finished reading a novel in a similar setting. How wrong I was. They were completely different in plot and perspective. In all honesty, I preferred Shiver out of the two and the other was written by an author I read constantly. It looks like I may have found a new author to watch out for.

After all, what’s life without a little competition?

The Turn of The Key by Ruth Ware

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware, Vintage, paperback, 340 pages, £6.99, Waterstones

Their dream house will become her worst nightmare…

Their Dream will become her worst nightmare-2

The Turn of the Key is Ruth Ware’s latest novel set in the Scottish Highlands. Ruth Ware’s most recent novel is instantly familiar to her other novels as its presence and ending continues to pack a punch.

The Turn of the Key begins it’s journey similar to Ware’s previous novel, In a Dark, Dark Wood, as it begins with the main character explaining how she ended up in her current predicament. The novel begins with a job advert about a current nannying role and the main character jumps at the chance. However has the nanny potentially bit off more than she can chew?

Structure

The structure of this novel is very important to point out as it’s not the standard structure you would expect a novel to take. The Turn of the Key begins with the main character writing a letter to a barrister about her recent experiences at Heatherbrae House. The reader can instantly acknowledge that something has happened that they are not aware of, however it is clearly evident that the main character will explain everything in the letters to come. This already gives the reader a sense of intrigue as the reader begins to question whether they can be convinced of the main character’s situation. As the novel progresses the main character makes several points referring back to the prison and demonstrates an interesting narrative style. This in turn reminds the reader to be on edge and to trust no one.

Pace

The pace of this novel is very interesting as there are many subtle elements to be aware of.  Since the narrative keeps referring back to the main characters’s situation, the subtle elements become even more questioning and as a result keep the reader engaged and intrigued. I must warn the readers however to brace yourself in the last hundred pages as it can feel as if you are in a tornado. As the pace and tension begins to build, so does the plot twists. So much so that it feels as if poison ivy is twisting around each scene, making the reader feel glued to the page.

Characters

Each character in this novel seems carefully considered. This novel has three children and one teenager in the heart of the story and how each child reacts and adapts to the new nanny and scenarios they are put in is really realistic. All of the characters are relatable to some extent and the Scottish characters, Jean and Jack, have been written brilliantly. Ruth has not only created characters that are relatable but has also managed to get their dialects right too. I have relatives that currently reside in Edinburgh and when I listen to Jean and Jack talk, even when in Carn bridge, they all sound authentically Scottish. Nothing is thrown in to make the characters seem obviously Scottish but the subtle differences within their language and word choice, highlights exactly where they are in the UK.

Influences

I cannot ignore that there appears to be a potential influence from Alnwick Garden, which again can be seen through the potential location and some of the ‘facilities’ that Alnwick Garden has to offer. Once you begin to read this novel you will begin to see the connection emerge.

Their Dream will become her worst nightmare

Similar novels

Interestingly The Turn of the Key, reminds me of two of Ware’s previous novels, In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Death of Mrs.Westaway. The narrative structure in Ware’s current novel is similar to In a Dark, Dark Wood whereas the ghostly and haunting aspect of a manor house in The Death of Mrs. Westaway, mirrors the more contemporary isolated house of The Turn of the Key. Interestingly when considering the technology that is seen within this novel, I cannot help to compare the house setting of a similar feel to The Girl Before by JP Delaney. Both of these novels make the reader have to get to grips with technology fast, whilst self-policing in the process. Another book that identifies technology as a great driving force is George Orwell’s 1984, as the quote ‘Who controls the past controls the future,’ fits perfectly with Ruth Ware’s most recent novel.

If you find psychological thrillers gripping and enticing then this book is for you. I personally find self-policing an interesting topic and was unaware that this was considered in the book before reading. I personally love how Ruth Ware’s endings always seem satisfying and as soon as I picked the book up, I knew I would enjoy it. I throughly hope that The Turn of the Key has the same effect on you.

You can buy Ruth Ware’s latest novel The Turn of the Key here.

Rebecca By Daphne Du Maurier

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, 448 pages, paperback, £6.99, Waterstones.

‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.’

Daphne Du Maurier’s most iconic novel begins in one of the most famous houses of all. Manderley. A sudden flashback to the house brings a sense of intrigue as the reader begins to follow the future Mrs. De Winter in Monte Carlo. However it is only when  Mrs. De Winter gets to Manderley that she realises that all is not what it seems at this enchanting place.Screen Shot 2018-09-02 at 11.58.04

Daphne Du Maurier demonstrates descriptive language at its finest whilst balancing the drama perfectly amongst the dialogue. After reading this novel I can see elements of modern literature that has taken certain aspects of this novel into their own. The concept of the pensive in Harry Potter is similar to Du Maurier’s interpretations of memory. Furthermore with certain characters within the novel, it is a little more of a coincidence that Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl takes a similar approach in characterisation.

Reflecting back on Rebecca, Daphne Du Maurier appears to have been one of the first influential female writer’s to have written a psychological thriller. Yes, Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein is a close second, however I would suggest that this takes a more horrific approach as opposed to a psychological view. The closest I have seen writing as similar as this would be Charlotte Perkins-Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper. Sadly this is just a novella, however if you have enjoyed this read previously then Rebecca is the book for you.

Du Maurier’s novel has a strong focus on identification of the self. Her writing shows elements of the beauty myth to emphasise self identity, through becoming the new wife of Mr. De Winter and the new owner of Manderley. It appears as if the main character is in a world where she is being told how to be, that she must break all of these barriers in order to find herself and her courage along the way.

I would suggest this novel to everyone purely because I do not feel that this novel is solely for men, women or children. Rebecca could be casted as a coming of age novel as the main character is trying to find themselves within the world. However if you like thrillers, in particular a psychological one, then again this is a must.

If anyone has already read this please let me know your thoughts. After all, everyone’s views of Manderley are different.

You can buy Rebecca here. Best of Reading.

A Cold Day in Hell by Lissa Marie Redmond

A Cold Day in Hell by Lissa Marie Redmond is her first novel in a thrilling cold case series. The reader follows the life of Lauren Riley at both work and home. A Cold Day in Hell is anything but cold as it is fast-paced and will keep you at the edge of your seat. Redmond has created a refreshing new series within the thriller/crime genre.

The novel begins with Lauren Riley taking on a case by Frank Violanti – a rival defence attorney. As the reader soon realises, there is more to the case than meets the eye. The readers then delve into Lauren’s personal life when it becomes clear that both work and her personal life, begin to overlap. Redmond has created a well thought-out plot as the reader is never left bored or distracted. Sub plots are easy to acknowledge and some could be seen as a recurring sub plot throughout the series.

Twists and turns are unexpected throughout, making this novel an unpredictable read. Readers may feel that the novel has a slight similarity to the 80s film Jagged Edge as the case that Lauren takes on is big within the media and has the psychological feel of the 80s film. The innocent until proven guilty belief is glued into each page, constantly keeping the reader on their toes.

Screen Shot 2017-10-07 at 15.45.54

If anyone is unsure about reading a crime or thriller novel then Redmond’s novel is a good place to start. Redmond explains throughout A Cold Day in Hell the police procedures and court hearings in enough detail for them to not be patronising. This ensures that everyone understands what is going on in each chapter of the book.

For anyone who would like to try a crime or thriller novel then you can pre-order A Cold Day in Hell here on Midnight Ink Books, or on Amazon.

The Death of Her

The Death of Her by Debbie Howells, Macmillan.

The Death of Her brings along its readers to a crime scene where a woman is brutally attacked and left for dead. Only, the woman never died and she’s making a recovery. With the woman’s lack of memory and disjointed timelines in her thoughts, it soon becomes clear for the reader that this case isn’t as straightforward as it should be. The case is left in the hands of DI Abbie Rose and Jack Bentley to figure out who committed the attack and whether it could be linked to additional cases.

Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 12.23.35

 

Debbie Howells’ The Death of Her is structured through four perspectives: Charlotte, Evie, Jack and Casey. With reading about both the past and present, the readers gain insight not only to the flaws of each character, but also gains further insight to both the victim and the police force through Evie and Jack. Characterisation is at the heart of this novel, along with its uncomfortable twists and turns. The Death of Her provides so much unpredictability it can sometimes feel like walking through fog. Only towards the end of the novel can you see it getting lighter and the answer becoming clearer. The unpredictability can latch onto the reader and can even make them question what they believe to be true.

Debbie Howells, author of The Bones of You, seems to have used her now country lifestyle as inspiration for the setting of The Death of Her. Her latest psychological thriller is set in Cornwall but is described as a peaceful and safe county, surrounded by Maize fields and crashing tides. The juxtaposition of safety and danger in a quiet, peaceful setting makes the perfect place for mystery, murder and menace.

Available to purchase from Thursday 24th August or pre-order The Death of Her here.

In a Dark Dark Wood

In a Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware, Paperback, Vintage, 338 pages, £7.99

Ruth Ware’s In a Dark Dark Wood could be described as a gripping thriller that feels just light enough to pop in your hand luggage as a holiday read. Ware’s thriller is set in a rural Northumberland in the middle of a forest.  Picturesque it may seem but as night approaches, darkness is clearly lurking between both forest and friends. Nora receives an invitation for her friend, Clare’s, Hen party – only she hasn’t seen her in ten years. Although spending a weekend with an old friend could sound like bliss, with something going very wrong, Nora soon learns that she has to confront why she left so long ago.

IMG_4297

Ruth Ware is also known for The Woman in Cabin 10 and her latest novel The Lying game. Ruth used to be a teacher of English and a press officer. Having lived in Paris and London, this novel takes us away from the city life and into rural Northumberland. As her debut thriller it is to no wonder as to why her other novels just keep giving. After reading In a Dark Dark Wood I can only imagine that her other novels will be just as gripping and just as clever as her debut – if not better.

Whilst reading In a Dark Dark Wood, her style seemed to resemble Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. The novel follows Nora’s story all the way up to a pivotal point in the novel, whilst showing the aftermath through every other chapter. This reminded me of the way Flynn would bounce between charaters within her novel. Although Ware’s novel jumps to the past and present it is done in a way that feels necessary to the exposure of the plot.

For anyone wanting to have a look at the first few pages, you can through either amazon.co.uk or Waterstones.

Happy reading!