This year started with a bang, proving that psychological chillers and domestic noir are still going strong, but crime thrillers are becoming more cleverly plotted, the plots more intricate, and the complexity of the story-lines multi-layered though not at the expense of characterisation.
Here, I include reviews of my favourite reads this year so far, which I know you'll love too. Dead Wrong and The Liar's Girl were my overall top reads, both getting huge FIVE STARS from me!
DEAD WRONG, *****:
A sharply plotted, tense, well-structured serial killer thriller, depicting what makes a murderer. Are they born or bred to kill?
Eric and Joe are brothers: one is harbouring a secret, one is behind bars, and both are lying.
Detective Faulkner doesn't appear until halfway through, when the killings begin.
There are several themes running concurrently throughout this title: what circumstances might lead an average Joe to commit heinous crimes, the pros and cons of the death penalty, and what justice looks like.
I couldn't put this book down, from the first page to the last. There are a few twists - one in the middle of the book - that threw me off kilter, and the ending took my breath away.
I highly recommend this book to crime fiction lovers, and am looking forward to reading more from the series.
TELL ME I'M WRONG, ****:
I had an inkling as to how the ending might pan out, but I thoroughly enjoyed the journey. This is a character-driven psychological thriller, well researched, brilliantly written, and pacy. There were moments of "what is she doing?" and "oh, my god, what now?" that left me turning the pages until 1:00 am. That to me is what makes a great book fantastic. It's the first title I've read of Adam's, and I'm now ordering more. I've heard great things about Croft, and I've read articles in magazines about his successes, my only regret is that it's taken me this long to read any of his books. I'm looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next.
THE LIAR'S GIRL, *****:
Distress Signals, Howard's debut was my favourite read of 2016. I knew from the cliffhanger endings on each chapter, the red herrings, twists, and unexpected ending we crime lovers had a bestseller in our midst. The Liar's Girl is just as compelling, twisty, and a page turner for lovers of psychological thrills. I did guess from the hints midway through who the killer was, but I couldn't have foreseen the ending, and I sure enjoyed the journey. This is by far the best start to 2018 fiction I've come across, and it's going to take something just as fabulous to hit the same spot and for the book to end up on my top shelf reads for the year. Howard has set a very high precedent to reach indeed.
THE CONFESSION, ****:
I really enjoyed this title. The characters were very realistic and their narrative intriguing. I didn't expect the twists, but I had a feeling halfway through who the culprit was. I love Irish crime, and Jo Spain is definitely another Irish author to watch out for. I'm looking forward to reading her next title.
THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW, ****:
An eloquently written old-skool style psychological thriller. A contemporary pulp classic. Hitchcockian crime for modern times. Original, creepy, addictive. Covering the themes of trauma, agoraphobia, and medicinal addiction very well. Think Rear Window, Gaslight, and Secret Window film-wise. If you love Stephen King style domestic suspense, you'll thoroughly enjoy this. Unreliable narrators, alcoholism, deceit, delusion, and lots of dramatic build up through carefully dropped red herrings that all make perfect sense in the final reveal.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that A.J. is a man. To be able to get inside a female protagonists mind so flawlessly is a work of incredible genius.
THE CHALK MAN, ****:
When in school, I had a teacher we nicknamed 'Chalky'. As I kid, I used to draw stick figures in chalk in the cul-de-sac outside our home. Though none of the students were killed in my school, a few died, and tragedy and trauma often permeate a seniors life. This things cannot be forgotten. Now we've grown up we often revisit moments we shared, laugh, cry, and remember. Anyone growing up in the eighties/nineties will identify with the characters in this novel. And, though I guessed correctly who done it, the journey was plotted extremely well, and the ending was brilliant.
I can't wait to read more from CJ Tudor.