Saturday, 8 August 2020

Review: 'Hush Little Baby' (DC Beth Chamberlain #3) by Jane Isaac

The first thing that frew me to Hush Little Baby was the cover. It evokes the lullaby-quality of the title, but with the dark colours there is also that sense fo threat. Hush Little Baby gives the reader some of the best staples of the suspense genre, family strife and tragic pasts, but occasionally fails the landing. Thanks to Aria and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Pub. Date: 23/7/2020
Publisher: Aria

Someone stole a baby...

One sunny day in July, someone took three-month-old Alicia Owen from her pram outside a supermarket. Her mother, Marie, was inside. No one saw who took Alicia. And no one could find her.

They silenced her cry...

Fifteen years later, a teenager on a construction site sees a tiny hand in the ground. When the police investigate, they find a baby buried and preserved in concrete. Could it be Alicia?

But the truth will always out.

When Alicia disappeared, the papers accused Marie of detachment and neglect. The Owens never got over the grief of their child's disappearance and divorced not long after. By reopening the case, DC Beth Chamberlain must reopen old wounds. But the killer may be closer than anyone ever suspected...

The latest crime thriller featuring Family Liaison Officer DC Beth Chamberlain, Hush Little Baby is tightly plotted, fraught with tension and impossible to put down. Perfect for fans of Cara Hunter and K.L. Slater.

Many detective and suspense novels are part of a series, which can be half of the fun. As the reader, you become fond of the set cast of detectives and follow their arcs across the series. I imagine that the continuation also gives the author a baseline by which to start and organize every installment. However, the requirement for successful detective series, in my opinion, is that every story can be a standalone, that the series narrative doesn't stand in the way of developing each individual plot. In Hush Little Baby this is largely successful until the end where the events of previous books take over to such an extent that I, having not read them, did feel a bit lost.

In Hush Little Baby a young teenager is shocked to find a tiny hand emerging from a cement block. This leads to the discovery of the body of little Alicia, who was kidnapped fifteen years earlier. Her disappearance tore her family apart and was a bit of a national scandal. At the time, the culprit got away with it, but now DC Beth Chamberlain is on the case. As the Family Liaison Officer, she is right there with the family, having to open up old wounds and pry into their affairs. The perspective of an FLO is very interesting as it gives us all the delicious twists and turns of families hiding things from each other and the police. I do have to say I wasn't entirely pleased with the resolution to the disappearance of Alicia, but that could be due to the fact that the novel then continued on into, seemingly, resolving a story line from the previous books. It was an odd shift and kind of took away the emotional gravitas of the main plot.

This was my first book by Jane Isaac and I did very much enjoy her characterization of Beth Chamberlain. She is a very empathetic main character who is balancing a relationship with family troubles and a challenging case. A lot of time is spent building up what the consequences of the crime were for the family. As time has passed, certain wounds have healed, while others are still very much open. Quite a few family secrets are revealed, yet not all of them hit equally for me. A few twists are quite shocking but happen later on in the story when there isn't a lot of time left to wrap up the main plot. Overall, Hush Little Baby did have me gripped and I was eager to get to the resolution. However, I would give the advice to read the other two books in the DC Beth Chamverlain series before going into Hush Little Baby to get the full experience, as I did feel like I missed out on some of the enjoyment. 

I give this novel...

3 Universes.

I enjoyed Hush Little Baby but found myself occasionally disappointed by the twists as well as by the ending. I would recommend reading the overall series, however, as this would make for a better reading experience. 

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Review: 'What Lies Between Us' by John Marrs

I have been using psychological thrillers to sidestep some of the stress of the everyday. Although we're back to working (almost) like normal here in Shanghai, there is still a bit of tension that makes everything harder. Thanks to Amazon Publishing UK and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Pub. Date: 5/15/2020
Publisher: Amazon Publishing UK

Nina can never forgive Maggie for what she did. And she can never let her leave.

They say every house has its secrets, and the house that Maggie and Nina have shared for so long is no different. Except that these secrets are not buried in the past.

Every other night, Maggie and Nina have dinner together. When they are finished, Nina helps Maggie back to her room in the attic, and into the heavy chain that keeps her there. Because Maggie has done things to Nina that can’t ever be forgiven, and now she is paying the price.

But there are many things about the past that Nina doesn’t know, and Maggie is going to keep it that way—even if it kills her.

Because in this house, the truth is more dangerous than lies.

Psychological thrillers are a great escape for me and many others as it releases some of the tensions and stress of everyday life. It's almost as if facing your worst fears on the page, whether it is being kidnapped, a high-speed car chase, a knife-wielding maniac or treacherous spouses, makes real life just a little bit less tense. How hard can it be to call the dentist if your main character is trying to solve a murder? Occasionally the high does wear off and you have to go more and more extreme in your thrillers to get some of the relief. What Lies Between Us was one of those books for me, which turned the dial up all the way. And although the shock aspect of it did the job, I realized, my need for a stronger dose of realism in my thrillers.

Twisted, that is the word most applicable to What Lies Between Us. Nina has her mother, Maggie, chained up in the attic but it is not quite clear from the beginning how the two women got to this point. As the book unfolds, history unravels and their relationship is laid bare. Marrs stacks horror and betrayal upon horror and betrayal. Much of What Lies Between Us is fascinating and gripping, but that is mostly due to its shock factor. Occasionally I found myself becoming slightly numb to all the twists and turns, the hurt the two women were causing and had caused each other. Above I mentioned my need for realism in thrillers, by which I mean a sense of consequences, the awareness that the outside world is there and is watching, that people do notice things. Novels like What Lies Between Us seem to take place in their own little universe where unspeakable acts can be committed without anyone being the wiser. 

John Marrs' writing keeps you on the edge of your seat. You just know that behind every corner something horrible is waiting. What Lies Between Us is a dark novel in which there truly isn't a moment of light. Hardly anyone has any good in them and Nina and Maggie are twisted beyond belief in their relationship. They're co-dependent, they hate each other, they think they love each other and the whole thing is quite discouraging. I'm also not the biggest fan of the portrayal of mental illness in this book as it deals with quite a few damaging tropes. Most likely I will pick up other books by John Marrs, but I will also be more likely to give up on them if they prove to be in a similar vein. 

I give this book... 
3 Universes!

I'm giving What Lies Between Us 3 Universes because it did keep me engaged. But this isn't a book  would easily recommend. For me, it wasn't as smart or as thrilling as I'd have liked it to be. What Lies Between Us will horrify and shock, but that is all.