I found it so difficult to narrow down my list of favourite books this year. And even more difficult put them in order of preference. I loved them all. So, this is my top twelve, and in alphabetical order. I highly recommend all of these books and will certainly be re-reading them again in 2020.
‘Breathe’ by Cari Hunter is the story of asthmatic paramedic, Jemima Pardon (Jem), the unluckiest woman in England. Or so she thinks. Meeting cherry, fun police officer Rosie Jones might be the start of something different in her life. They keep bumping into each other on call-outs and it’s full-on excitement from the beginning.
Cari Hunter’s sense of humour is a mixture of leg-pulling, sarcasm and the gallows humour that anyone working in the emergency services has to adopt to survive. The banter between the main characters is brilliant. It is so real and natural . The language and local lingo and dialect pulls the reader into the world of her characters in a way I’ve never seen with other authors. It’s hilarious. Also Cari Hunter- you make me starving every time I read one of your books! From dunking biscuits to roast dinners and hot buttered toast, I need to eat after every chapter.
The story itself is tightly plotted and full of action and excitement. The two women find themselves in danger more than once and Ms Hunter had me on the edge of my seat. I’m totally in awe of Cari Hunter. Her skill as a storyteller is unparalleled. I loved this book and highly recommend it.
The girl with the treasure chest by V.A. Fearon starts with such intensity that I couldn’t stop reading. I barely took a breath for the first chapter. Dani is a complex character and the layers are revealed slowly. She’s part of a gangland world, where she looks out for her ‘soldiers’ and tries to help them get on, with education and apprenticeships. There’s such a weird dichotomy when it comes to Dani. She didn’t seem to see the contradiction between the two agendas. The same is true in her personal life. While she’s in a relationship with one woman, she continues to be obsessed with Susanna. And that could be disastrous for her. Can she keep control of her emotions and ultimately her way of life, while she’s so affected by her feelings for this woman? The story is unlike anything I’ve read and is so tightly written and exciting. It got better and better as it reached the climax. A great read.
I have just returned home after a wonderful two-week holiday in Ireland. I took full advantage of the quiet countryside to catch up on some reading. In this photo I was engrossed in ‘Steel City Confidential’ , a new thriller by Anne Hagan. The Carlingford Mountains are behind me and The Irish Sea in front. I could have heard a pin drop in the garden of the cottage, so it was the ideal location to read.
Whilst there I also read ‘A Shot at Love’ by T.B. Markinson and ‘After Mrs Hamilton’ by Clare Ashton. I can certainly recommend a trip to the emerald isle for those seeking a space to relax. I was also able to get some writing done and squirrel away some ideas for future stories. Of course there are plenty of things to do for those days when you want to get out and about. I visited The Giant’s Causeway, Portrush, Dublin, Dundalk and had many lovely meals out at some truly fantastic restaurants. All in all a truly memorable trip.
‘Steel City Confidential’ by Anne Hagan is a triumph. It’s a fascinating story, well-told and with characters readers will warm to immediately. Ro Rabinowitz, a Pittsburgh lawyer takes on the case of Pamela Wilson, a woman in her sixties charged with the murder of a college professor who got her daughter pregnant. She’s confident that the case can be won, but there are complications – and a story from the past that Pam’s not telling. It’s not going to be that simple. I was drawn in from the start with a revelation of something I’ve known and loved for many years. Characters from the past . It was a brilliant set up. There are plenty of surprises that will have readers jumping for joy – but that’s all I’ll say. I won’t divulge any spoilers. But they are stunning. Now, I know that Anne Hagan writes great mysteries, but she has really found her forte with this legal thriller. I am so glad that this is book one in a new series for her. I was intrigued from the start and it just kept getting better and better. She skilfully weaves a complex tale of secrets and revelations and her characters are likeable and I want to find out more about them. Ro is a great mentor, a principled and caring lawyer. I liked her associate Dominique too. I can see her developing well in the future. Oh, and for aficionados of Ms Hagan’s Morelville Mysteries Series, a certain name pops up that will have you smiling. The book is brilliantly done and if Hollywood has any sense then this would be made into a movie – because I can guarantee there will be a huge audience for this particular story. Highly recommended.
‘Meant To Be Me’ is a heart-thumping, nerve-jangling, suspense story that had me glued to the page. Inverness-based engineer Darcy has a stalker and finds it hard to let her guard down, even for a second. Her loyal best friend Anja is always on hand with support and work keeps her sane. When she literally bumps into an early morning jogger, Eilidh, she dares to hope that things may be looking up for her. Will the two women ever be able to find a way to get together? Circumstances and interference conspire to put stumbling blocks in their way. But there is much more to it than that.
I have read Wendy Hudson’s first two novels and found them seriously impressive. But I believe this is her best so far. She knows just how to ramp up the tension and this story had a psychological suspense element that had me on the edge of my seat. Just when I thought I knew where it was going I was surprised again and again. It was scary, perfectly pitched and did not let up. The baddie in the mix was so plausible and I wanted to scream out to Darcy. ‘Meant To Be Me’ is beautifully written and one that I can see me re-reading. Highly recommended.
‘The Scandal’ is a gripping story from the start, as a terrified woman flees for her life, frantically trying to evade her pursuer. I could feel her fear. But it is the investigation into another death that impacts DS Frankie Oliver and she finds herself in conflict with her boss, DI David Stone. The realism, be it of story, character or setting, really struck me.
Mari Hannah captures the emotions of her characters with such insight and precision. I appreciated that the police never lost sight of the victims and their families. I also can’t get enough of the North East as described in Ms Hannah’s novels. She moves from the beauty of the Northumberland countryside to the modern, vibrant city of Newcastle. This is the first of the Stone and Oliver series that I’ve read but I was so impressed that I’ll have to go and read the other two. An excellent read and highly recommended.
I was given this ARC for review by Netgalley and Orion.
‘Alice’ is one of those books that surprises, engages and takes the reader off in unexpected directions. It is the story of a young woman trapped in an awful marriage. When she decides she can take no more and leaves, her life becomes one of secrets, new friends and a fight to keep her new found freedom. Sam Skyborne made me feel an affinity with Alice. I felt as if I was along for the ride and worried about her as she became more involved in her new life in Cape Town. A PI, Toni Mendez, is sent to track her down and her part in the story opened up a whole lot of other issues. This book had so many layers and was intelligently plotted. I could never have guessed the twists and turns and I take my hat off to the author. Bravo!
‘The Doll Maker’ is a seriously impressive thriller. It is gripping, well-written and an excellent example of the genre. It deserves to get recognition and should definitely appeal to a wider audience. I can see it transferring perfectly to TV – and if Ms Highton-Stevenson continues the story into a series, it should get snapped up.
DI Sophie Whitton is on the trail of a serial killer – one who leaves macabre-looking dolls by the bodies of the victims. Her home life is a mess as she finds her relationship with her lover Yvonne becoming more and more strained. The story is disturbing and deals with unpalatable subjects. The realism is stark and the writing captures every nuance. The author has quite a turn of phrase and her descriptions of characters are so well done that I had no problem visualising exactly what she was getting at. As the story progresses the suspense is ratcheted up perfectly. I was on the edge of my seat. I really enjoyed ‘The Doll Maker’ and highly recommend it. I can’t wait for the next one!
Barbara Winkes has surpassed herself. ‘Killer Instinct’ is an excellent story, full of suspense, mystery and characters that seem so real. I couldn’t stop worrying about them. Joanna, an ex-cop, finds herself unable to keep out of an investigation into a serial killer. She should know better – it didn’t end well for her before. Her friends warn her off but the danger is at her door and she wants to make sure no more women have to die. A new woman in her life, Rue, makes her feel good again, but does she really want to expose anyone to the darker side of life, a life that she can’t seem to escape?
I was gripped by the story and found myself shocked and surprised at some of the twists and turns. Ms Winkes certainly knows how to keep the reader on the edge of their seat. Joanna really got under my skin too. She was a complex character, with a background that made her strong, resourceful and someone to rely on. Seeing her realise that was empowering. This is a definite must-read for lovers of high quality suspense and thrillers.