Reviews Published

Friday, December 03, 2021

A slow fire burning

"A slow fire burning" is the third novel by Paula Hawkins, and it's as different from its predecessors as "Into the Water" was from "The Girl on the Train". Which, of course, is a very good thing. After all, if I wanted to read "The Girl on the Train" or "Into the Water" again, I could just - wait for it - read them again.

So, it's a psychological thriller as well as a murder mystery. The characters are damaged and flawed, yet you like being in their company. The unusual friendship between a retired widow and a much younger woman was a lovely touch.

Warning: dark themes.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Better Off Dead by Lee Child and Andrew Child

This is book 26. Jack Reacher, the modern-day non-fantasy superhero, is back - and don't let other reviewers' opinions prevent you from spending a few days in his company. As usual, Reacher travels from state to state, taking in the countryside, sampling diner cuisine and minding his own business, until he sees somebody else's business he feels compelled to mind.

He's sharp, fast on his feet, and you really really want him on your side. Because he's on the side of the good, the exploited and the downtrodden. Exactly as a superhero should be.

Blurb: That morning he was heading west, walking under the merciless desert sun - until he comes upon a curious scene. A Jeep has crashed into the only tree for miles around. A woman is slumped over the wheel.

Dead? No, nothing is what it seems.

The woman is Michaela Fenton, an army veteran turned FBI agent trying to find her twin brother, who might be mixed up with some dangerous people. Most of them would rather die than betray their terrifying leader, who has burrowed his influence deep into the nearby border town, a backwater that has seen better days. The mysterious Dendoncker rules from the shadows, out of sight and under the radar, keeping his dealings in the dark.

He would know the fate of Fenton’s brother.

Reacher is good at finding people who don’t want to be found, so he offers to help, despite feeling that Fenton is keeping secrets of her own. But a life hangs in the balance. Maybe more than one. But to bring Dendoncker down will be the riskiest job of Reacher's life. Failure is not an option, because in this kind of game, the loser is always better off dead.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Covid 19: An Extraordinary Time (Creative Responses to the 2020 Pandemic Book 1)

What an extraordinary way to pay homage to a truly extraordinary time. The book (edited by Debz Hobbs-Wyatt and Gill James) is a collection of fictional stories, vignettes, true accounts and poetry - all of them bearing witness to the months of the 2020 Covid pandemic. 

Important. Entertaining. Historic legacy. Time capsule.

Sunday, October 03, 2021

Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger

This is a fantastic book. It has everything a psychological thriller needs to make it to the number one spot: an excellent premise, multi-dimensional characters, swift pace and issues to think about once the reader turns the last page. 

On the surface, the book is about a woman who finds her perfect match on a dating site, only to have him disappear in mysterious circumstances. However, the book is also about topical issues like loneliness caused by the lack of face-to-face interaction, family love, guilt, forgiveness, return to nature, healing.

Probably Lisa Unger's finest yet.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

First Cut by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell

"First Cut" is the couple's debut thriller, and yet it doesn't read as a debut. Everything is there: the page-turning plot, the character development, the originality. Highly recommended for thriller fans not bothered by detailed descriptions of autopsies.


For San Francisco’s newest medical examiner, Dr. Jessie Teska, it was supposed to be a fresh start. A new job in a new city. A way to escape her own dark past.

Instead she faces a chilling discovery when an opioid-overdose case contains hints of something more sinister. Jessie’s superiors urge her to close the case, but as more bodies land on her autopsy table, she uncovers a constellation of deaths that point to an elaborate plot involving drug dealers and Bitcoin brokers.

Autopsy means “see for yourself,” and Jessie Teska won’t stop until she has seen it all—even if it means that the next corpse on the table could be her own.

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

"Apples never fall" by Liane Moriarty

 "Apples never fall" by Liane Moriarty starts almost conventionally, but if you're familiar with this author's work, you will soon realise that nothing is quite as it seems. The bored retired couple used to be tennis stars, for starters, and their marriage is far from boring or retired. As the - unpredictable - plot unfolds, flicking between the past and the present, you'll get to know and love the characters. You won't be able to turn the pages fast enough, yet you won't want the book to end.

It's difficult to avoid spoilers. Some of the issues you'll think about include family bonds, the influence and power parents yield over their children, the meaning of success.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Choose Me by Tess Gerritsen and Gary Braver

"Choose Me" by Tess Gerritsen and Gary Braver is a bit different from the usual Rizzoli and Isles thriller. Tess Gerritsen fans will still find her traces in the detailed description of autopsy and the clever plot twists, but the book is not written in her voice. 

The characters are three-dimensional and likeable, and readers will feel invested in a happy ending.

Warning: the contents may not be suitable for people with triggers for suicide and teacher-student relationships.


Taryn Moore is young, beautiful, and brilliant…so why would she kill herself? When Detective Frankie Loomis arrives on the scene to investigate the girl’s fatal plunge from her apartment balcony, she knows in her gut there’s more to the story, especially after the autopsy reveals that the college senior was pregnant. It could be reason enough for suicide—or a motive for murder.

To English professor Jack Dorian, Taryn was the ultimate fantasy: intelligent, adoring, and completely off limits. But there was also a dark side to Taryn, a dangerous streak that threatened those she turned her affections to—including Jack. And now that she’s dead, his problems are just beginning.

The Liar Next Door

The Liar Next Door by Nicola Marsh is a page-turner. Told in two timelines and from three different points of view, it gives us a glimpse into the lives of three women living in one seemingly perfect neighbourhood.

It's a domestic suspense thriller, but so much more than that. Love and betrayal, friendships, relationships, parenthood - it's all there for the reader to soak in.

Saturday, August 07, 2021

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

This book is about second chances and making the most out of the cards you're dealt. It's about decisions and consequences. Most of all, it's about the importance of knowing what your dream is before you can follow it.


Between life and death there is a library. When Nora Seed finds herself in the Midnight Library, she has a chance to make things right. Up until now, her life has been full of misery and regret. She feels she has let everyone down, including herself. But things are about to change. The books in the Midnight Library enable Nora to live as if she had done things differently. With the help of an old friend, she can now undo every one of her regrets as she tries to work out her perfect life. But things aren't always what she imagined they'd be, and soon her choices place the library and herself in extreme danger. Before time runs out, she must answer the ultimate question: what is the best way to live?

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke is one of the few books ever that managed to fill my mind even when I wasn't reading. It started innocently enough, and - while intrigued from the very beginning - I could very much take it or leave it after chapter one. I mean, the writing was beautiful in its stark austerity, the concepts original, the protagonist likeable... but it was just a book. Somehow, though, somewhere towards the middle, the book's setting became a reality I very much wanted to visit. Its magical pull on me was not unlike the one that the House in the novel could exert. And when I finished the book - that's when my obsession started. I wanted to discuss the relevance of the title, the symbolism of the statues and the albatrosses, the relevance of the text to other texts, and the relevance of the text to real life. Literature teachers worldwide would be proud. 

Most reviews will tell you that it's impossible to review what the book is about without spoiling it, so I'll stop right here.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Rabbit Hole by Mark Billingham

This is not your usual Mark Billingham. Yes, there are a few murders. Yes, there is a mystery to solve. And yet the setting (a mental health institution) gives this book a totally different flavour and feel. Very realistic, very well done. 

Oh, and PS: I really like Tom Thorne makes an appearance in person, even if his name isn't mentioned. 

PS2: Alice down the rabbit hole, Mad Hatter's tea party yep, got it.

    Alice Armitage is a police officer. 
    Or she was.
    Following a debilitating bout of PTSD, self-medication with drink and drugs, and a psychotic breakdown, Alice is now a long-term patient in an acute psychiatric ward. Though convinced that she doesn’t really belong there, she finds companionship with the other patients in the ward despite their challenging and often intimidating issues.
    So when one of her fellow patients is murdered, Alice feels personally compelled to launch an investigation from within the ward. Soon, she becomes convinced that she has identified the killer and that she can catch them. Ignored by the police, she must gather proof on her own, relying on the few contacts she has on the outside that still take her calls. But Alice’s life begins to unravel as she realizes that she cannot trust anyone in the ward, least of all herself. Having lost her conviction and with her investigative confidence shattered, she comes dangerously close to a psychological point of no return.

Monday, July 05, 2021

Hostage by Clare Mackintosh

Clare Mackintosh just keeps getting better and better. I read "Hostage" in one go, simultaneously eager to find out what happens at the end and reluctant for the book to finish. "Hostage" has everything, from characters you care about to deep issues. 5/5 stars for sure.


Mina is trying to focus on her job as a flight attendant, not the problems of her five-year-old daughter back home, or the fissures in her marriage. But the plane has barely taken off when Mina receives a chilling note from an anonymous passenger, someone intent on ensuring the plane never reaches its destination. Someone who needs Mina's assistance and who knows exactly how to make her comply.

It's twenty hours to landing. A lot can happen in twenty hours.

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

You know what? Instead of my usual review, here are a few random thoughts and feelings about Anxious People by Fredrik Backman:

  • Oh, wow.
  • This is different.
  • Good different.
  • Like, extremely good.
  • The voice and writing style is like that of Jonas Jonasson (The Hundred Year Old Man Who...).
  • Easy to read, yet with chewy issues to sleep on.
  • I keep wanting to quote from it:
    • “Anyone can nurture a myth about their life if they have enough manure, so if the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, that’s probably because it’s full of shit.”
    • “Parents are defined by their mistakes.”
    • “Because the people we argue with hardest of all are not the ones who are completely different from us, but the ones who are almost no different at all.”
    • “Parenthood can lead to a sequence of years when the children's feelings suck all the oxygen out of a family, and that can be so emotionally intense that some adults go for years without having an opportunity to tell anyone about their own feelings, and if you don't get a chance for long enough, sometimes you simply forget how to do it.”
  • Oh, you want to know about the story line? It's about a bank robbery and a hostage situation, but it's a comedy, not a drama. It's fantastic. And then it gets better.

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Fifty-fifty by Steve Cavanagh

Fifty-fifty by Steve Cavanagh features the much-anticipated return of Eddie Flynn (Book 5 in the series). Eddie is an ex con artist who is now a lawyer, so not much change of a profession there (with apologies to my aunt, uncle, brother in law, sister in law, and potentially my children). Paired up with judge Harry Ford, they constitute one of my favorite crime fiction duos. 

The Eddie Flynn books just get better and better. This one is a perfect combination of plot, character development, topical issues and plain good old storytelling. 

Read it. Even if this is to be your first Steve Cavanagh, read it now. You can catch up in reverse order. 


Two sisters on trial for murder. Both accuse each other.
Whom do YOU believe?

Alexandra Avellino has just found her father's mutilated body, and needs the police right away. She believes her sister killed him, and that she is still in the house with a knife.

Sofia Avellino has just found her father's mutilated body and needs the police right away. She believes her sister, Alexandra did it, and that she is still in the house, locked in the bathroom.

Both women are to go on trial at the same time. A joint trial in front of one jury.



But one of these women is lying. One of them is a murderer. Sitting in a jail cell, about to go on trial with her sister for murder, you might think that this is the last place she expected to be.

You'd be wrong.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Mother May I

Another riveting read from my favourite author, Joshilyn Jackson. Although a stand-alone with brand-new characters, "Mother May I" continues the themes found in "Never Have I Ever". So, transgressions from the past. So, is the adult-you with children a different person from the teenage-you who committed said transgressions. And so, therefore, should you disclose everything about your history to your prospective spouse, and if you don't, is their love for you less genuine because they don't know the real you? And you - can you wrap up your wild university adventures in layers of adult life and can you store them in the past forever?

Yeah, sounds like a lot, but it's all background thinking. At the foreground we have a fast-paced domestic suspense thriller, with a missing child and a mother determined to do anything and everything to get her baby back safely.

Written in the uniquely Joshilyn voice, with her beautiful turns of phrase.

Can't wait to read it again.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Before She Disappeared - Lisa Gardner

"Before She Disappeared" by Lisa Gardner features a brand new main character, Frankie Elkin. Frankie spends her life working menial jobs and searching for missing people the police has given up on and the public forgotten. I love Frankie and I hope this is the beginning of a beautiful new series.

The book itself is an emotional roller coaster, with several important themes (families, immigration, BIPOC, LGBQT+), a fast moving plot and a homicidal feline. Tightly written, it's a read that's impossible to put down.

The blurb:

Frankie Elkin is an average middle-aged woman, a recovering alcoholic with more regrets than belongings. But she spends her life doing what no one else will--searching for missing people the world has stopped looking for. When the police have given up, when the public no longer remembers, when the media has never paid attention, Frankie starts looking.

A new case brings her to Mattapan, a Boston neighborhood with a rough reputation. She is searching for Angelique Badeau, a Haitian teenager who vanished from her high school months earlier. Resistance from the Boston PD and the victim's wary family tells Frankie she's on her own--and she soon learns she's asking questions someone doesn't want answered. But Frankie will stop at nothing to discover the truth, even if it means the next person to go missing could be her.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

This is a book of longings indeed: the longing of a young woman to write down her words, her longing for a man to love her, and an almost ironically opposite longing for a woman's lot in society to be more than her husband's vessel to have children. It's a book of her brother's longing for his country to be rid of the Roman oppression. And it's a book of her husband's longing for God.

At this point it's pertinent to mention that I'm a Catholic. When I first heard about this book, I wasn't sure I'd be able to read it, because the heroine of the story is Ana, the wife of Jesus (wait, what? bristled quite a large part of me); and her brother just happens to be Judas Iscariot. 

The author handles the topic with skill. The copious historical research that must have gone into the making of this novel is woven so skilfully into the fabric of the plot, I felt like I'd travelled back in time two thousand years and in space all the way to Nazareth. It was an emotional rife and well worth it. The Book of Longings is one of the best books I've read in years.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

I fell in love with Kristin Hannah's voice in The Great Alone, and in her latest novel - The Four Winds - the author employs the same beautiful prose to draw us into the world of farming, dust winds and the Great Depression.

It looks like a big book, but because it's so immensely readable, you'll plough through it all too quickly. Plot-wise, the beats resemble the story arc of The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck), but that doesn't detract from this book's appeal. You fall in love with the characters on page one, and on page 448 you can't wait for the sequel. Sadly, the author indicated in her post-release interview that a sequel wasn't on the cards.

Issues that you will think about while reading include the love of he land (think Gone with the Wind), the role of women in the early-20th century society, thirst for knowledge (Educated?), American patriotism and politics, man-induced ecological disasters, parental love as a shaping force... there is a lot to choose from, and it's all good.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

"Win" by Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben is the master of the pun, so I'm sure when he created the character of Windsor Horne Lockwood III, aka Win, he had a good chuckle. Seems like he's decided to continue the joke by making it the title of his latest novel.

He was right on both accounts: Win is a winning sidekick in the Myron Bolitar series, and a winning protagonist in the latest thriller. I will stop here, but you get the drift: Win-The-Book is a top read.

Apart from the obvious: the character, the plot, the twists, what I valued was the food for thought. The book made me re-evaluate ideas such as revenge and forgiveness. I love it when a book is both worthy and immensely enjoyable. 

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Where the Crowdads Sing

 As I was reading Where the Crowdads Sing by Delia Owens, I kept thinking:

  • not quite Crow Lake
  • not The Marsh King's Daughter
  • wait, is this To Kill a Mickingbird in disguise?
When I finished, I still wasn't sure what to make of it. Goodreads compares it to Educated, but apart from a very obvious parallel, it didn't give me that vibe.

A week later, I'm still thinking about the book, and that means it's very good. Sometimes you fly through a novel, enjoy it at the time, then three days later you can't even remember what it's about. Where the Crowdads Sing is the opposite: a slow read and an even slower burn, but it stays with you for sure.

The protagonist is super-likeable and relatable. You care from page one.

Give it a chance.

My favourite quote:

“(...) lot of times love doesn’t work out. Yet even when it fails, it connects you to others and, in the end, that is all you have, the connections.”
― Delia Owens, Where the Crawdads Sing

Thursday, January 07, 2021

The Dry - the movie

 As a fan of Jane Harper, I waited not even a day to see the movie of her debut thriller, The Dry. I wasn't disappointed. The script is good, the cinematography breathtaking, and the acting superb.

Read the book first, of course. But definitely see the movie.

Twisted by Steve Cavanagh

Twisted by Steve Cavanagh is different from his usual fast-paced Eddie Flynn books, both because it doesn't feature Eddie Flynn and because the narrating voice seems different: not as suspenseful, not as engaging.

Don't get me wrong, the premise is good, and the multiple twists twisty. It's just that the writing style didn't land with me.

I'm not going to include any details, because the less you know about the plot, the more enjoyable the experience.