Sometimes you just need a good crime novel to inject some excitement into your day. I’ve been on a bit of a crime fiction drive over the past few weeks – not unusual for me – so I thought I’d share a few I’ve read recently.
The Fear by C.L. Taylor
As a teenager, Lou fell in love with her teacher… or she thought she did. When she ran away to France with him, she quickly realised he was an abusive, controlling monster. Lou’s story had a happy ending: she got back home to her parents and everything turned out OK.
Now, though, she’s discovered that her ex-teacher is involved with local teenager Chloe. Lou is determined to ensure Chloe’s safety however she can… even if it means taking a course of action that shocks even herself.
The only note I made about this one while I was reading it said “It was alright.” And it was: a reasonably interesting thriller that got quite gory in places, which only added to the story. It wasn’t exactly a groundbreaking read, but I did enjoy it. If you’re looking for something unchallenging with a bit of a kick, The Fear is for you.
The Lost by Mari Hannah
Alex and her sister have always had a fractious relationship, but they’re working on it. So much so that they’ve gone on holiday together, and actually it’s been OK. When they touch down at the airport, though, Alex is taken aside by a police officer, and he says the words to make a mother’s heart plummet: “Your child is missing.”
As Alex and her husband push the police to pull out all the stops in the search for their son Daniel, officers David Stone and Frankie Oliver start to wonder if all is quite as it seems.
Again, this one didn’t blow my mind. I also found the writing style quite clunky: it’s the kind of book that’d normally take me a couple of hours to finish, but instead it stretched over three days because I found it easy to get distracted. While future books featuring the same officers may be better, The Lost isn’t one I’d recommend.
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
Jenna’s world falls apart within seconds on a rainy, unwelcoming day. With nothing left to live for, Jenna takes herself away to a cottage in the middle of nowhere. If life’s not worth living, she might as well start it over.
Although she’s determined to steep in her own misery, after a while Jenna begins to settle in to her new home. She’s renting a tiny, chilly cottage with a temperamental stove and a door that doesn’t lock; she’s stuck in wildest Wales with no form of transport, having left her car behind; and she knows no one for the first few weeks. Soon however she meets Patrick, the local vet, and starts to see how her life could change.
But Jenna should know better: the past doesn’t stay in the past, especially not in thriller novels. A knock at the door and it’s all caught up with her; will she be strong enough to face it?
To me the twist was obvious long before it came, but I Let You Go is still a good read. A solidly gripping story, well thought out characters, and a wild and unforgiving landscape all combine to make it a great way to spend a weekend.
Blacklands by Belinda Bauer
Twelve-year-old Steven Lamb has a penpal. Or rather, he’s been writing to someone who so far hasn’t replied. Steven hopes he does reply though, because it might solve the mystery of his uncle’s death.
You see, Steven’s been writing to a serial killer.
Everyone assumes Steven’s uncle was a victim of Arnold Avery’s, since he went missing around the time the murders were happening. His body’s never been found, though, so Steven’s taken it upon himself to solve the mystery and work out what happened, if only to bring some peace to his Nan, who has never been the same since.
But a young boy writing to a serial killer probably won’t end well, will it…?
A classic modern gothic novel in the style of The Loney or The Lovely Bones, Blacklands built up characters and landscapes in such a way as to make me want to keep reading. The serial killer was an unsympathetic character, unsurprisingly, and the good/bad divide was very clear-cut, which isn’t something I normally like. But Bauer kept things interesting even without introducing any kind of moral grey areas around her antagonist.
My favourite quote from the book:
He felt the pain of failure and, more deeply, the pain of the loss of the future that he’d glimpsed so briefly, yet so gloriously.
If you like a good thriller, this is for you.
Did You See Melody? by Sophie Hannah
Cara Burrows isn’t having a great time. Her life is just too stressful, so she’s checked out of it for a couple of weeks and flown across the pond to America, where she’s booked herself into a luxury spa. Fully intending to think about nothing but cocktails and massages for the next fortnight, Cara is initially irritated when two of her fellow guests try to draw her into a mystery.
Melody Chapa, who went missing years ago when she was only seven years old, has allegedly been seen around the spa. At first no one takes any notice of the batty old lady who reports it, but then Cara starts to wonder… could it actually be Melody? Surely not. Everyone’s sure she’s dead.
As the truth unfolds, questions of ethics versus legality spring up. If Melody is being held at the hotel, could it be for her own safety? And if so, what did her parents do that made it necessary?
From the good to the excellent. Did You See Melody? is so brilliant that I actually made a little squealing noise when I closed it. The final twist! Oh my god. SO GOOD.
Sophie Hannah is swiftly becoming one of my favourite crime fiction authors.
Tell me about some of your favourite thrillers.