Skip to content

99 Red Balloons By Elisabeth Carpenter

99 Red Balloons’99 Red Balloons’ is the first book by Elisabeth Carpenter.

When eight-year-old Grace goes missing from a sweetshop on the way home from school, her mother Emma is plunged into a nightmare. Her family rallies around, but as the police hunt begins, cracks begin to emerge. What are the secret emails sent between Emma’s husband and her sister? Why does her mother take so long to join the search? And is Emma really as innocent as she seems? Meanwhile, ageing widow Maggie Taylor sees Grace’s picture in the newspaper. It’s a photograph that jolts her from the pain of her existence into a spiralling obsession with another girl – the first girl who disappeared.

’99 Red Balloons’ is Elisabeth’s debut novel and it was a book that consumed my attention one afternoon.

The story is about every parents nightmare, when their child is suddenly snatched from their lives, never to be returned and the parents are then to spend the rest of their days, wondering and hoping that their child will return to their lives, safe and sound.

Right from the start in this atmospheric book, we are drawn into the innocent world of a little girl, when a strange man approaches her. She is puzzled and scared of this man and has always been warned against strangers. But once he assures her that he’s acting on behalf of her mother, she trusts and warms to this stranger, who she naively thinks that her safety is his only concern.

The story flows between three main characters, the little girl who has been kidnapped. Stephanie, who’s little niece Grace is taken one day and follows her as the family deal with being the subject of the police’s investigation as well as they count every passing minute as they fear that Grace maybe in danger. The story also follows an older woman called Maggie, who’s granddaughter disappeared over twenty years ago, which resulted in her own daughter, Sarah taking her life. Maggie is convinced that the recent kidnapping has a lot of similarities with Zoe’s disappearance and we see this elderly woman become obsessed with the case and begin her own investigation.

The story is really cleverly and realistically written, that it feels like your own child has been taken, as the plot really explores the emotions of the nightmare and tensions that it can have on a family. The story flows quickly between the characters, each chapter flowing seamlessly into each one and leaves the reader gasping at each turn.

The inclusion of Maggie’s perspective was also really smart. The story is primarily seen through the eyes of younger characters, so Maggie’s narrative was interesting. She’s old, frail and has nearly given up on life but the recent disappearance has given her a new sense, driving her on to finally put her own ghosts to rest. There was also a deep sense of poignancy in the chapters with the child, as before your eyes, you see the child stripped of their innocence and having to face the harsh reality ahead.

Riddled with suspense, dodgy characters and situations that makes everyone a suspect, this book was impossible to put down.

If you’re looking for an atmospheric and intelligent thriller that pulls you centre stage into every parents nightmare when a child goes missing, then ’99 Red Balloons’ is a must read for you.

You can buy 99 Red Balloons from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Night Visitor By Lucy Atkins

The Night Visitor‘The Night Visitor’ is the latest book by Lucy Atkins.

Professor Olivia Sweetman has worked hard to achieve the life she loves, with a high-flying career as a TV presenter and historian, three children and a talented husband. But as she stands before a crowd at the launch of her new bestseller she can barely pretend to smile. Her life has spiralled into deceit and if the truth comes out, she will lose everything.

Only one person knows what Olivia has done. Vivian Tester is the socially awkward sixty-year-old housekeeper of a Sussex manor who found the Victorian diary on which Olivia’s book is based. She has now become Olivia’s unofficial research assistant. And Vivian has secrets of her own.

‘The Night Visitor’ is a gripping and sinister tale, that held me in its clutches over the last couple of nights as I delved into the twisted and complicated relationship of Olivia Sweethorn and Vivian Tester.

The story is written in a dual narrative seen from the perspective of both women in alternating chapters, travelling swiftly and neatly from past to present tense, bringing the reader up to speed about their status.

Olivia is a beloved historian who longs to share the compelling story of Annabel Burley, a renowned woman in British medicine and with the help of Vivian, a researcher the pair of them write a successful bestseller. But, just as the book hits the shelves, Olivia begins to realise that Vivian isn’t quite the person she was led to believe and regrets the woman’s involvement in the creation of the book.

The two women are polar opposites of each other, which makes their relationship and the drama surrounding them so intense and chilling. Olivia comes from a bustling family, mother of three children and married to fellow writer David, her life is a hive of activity whereas as Vivian has no one, other than her dog, Bertie for company. She leads a lonely life, an only child with no family and she sometimes finds it hard to deal with human relationships.

She’s a simple but guarded woman that I sometimes found myself sympathising with. Where, Olivia shines in all her glory, Vivian prefers to sit back and watch and what she observes certainly makes for haunting reading. As the story develops, secrets are revealed and tragic events occur that effect both women.

Suberbly researched, this book is cleverly and chillingly written. This intense story observes the somewhat twisted relationship between women, a story of obsession and jealously, ‘The Night Visitor’ is a menacing tale riddled with deceit and an intriguing plot line that made for creepily atmospheric reading.

You can buy The Night Visitor from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Couple Next Door By Shari Lapena

The Couple Next Door ‘The Couple Next Door’is the latest book by Shari Lapena and was awarded ‘WH Smith Book of the Year 2016’.

Your neighbour told you that she didn’t want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn’t stand her crying. Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door. You’ll have the baby monitor and you’ll take it in turns to go back every half hour. Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last. But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She’s gone. You’ve never had to call the police before. But now they’re in your home, and who knows what they’ll find there.

Last year there was an awful lot of talk about ‘The Couple Next Door’ on social media, people were singing its praises and I was really curious to see what all the hype was about, so when it came next on my TBR pile, I grabbed it with both hands.

The story is about Marcus and Anne, a married couple with a 6 month old baby called Cora. On a rare night out and unable to get a babysitter, they leave Cora in their house next door and bring the baby monitor with them checking on her every half hour. But, it’s on their return that they discover that Cora has been snatched.

The story then follows as the couple become the prime suspects in the case, as the press and police point the finger of blame at them, particularly at them leaving their baby alone. As the story progresses, we delve deeper into the couples lives, the stress of both emotional and financial as parents and adjust to their new lives.

The book is cleverly written in a third person narrative and reads like an observation of both Anne and Marcus. It flows quickly between both of them as they struggle with being in the spotlight and trying to piece together their last moments with Cora. Both are complex characters, both with secrets that they have hidden from each other but as the story flows and the police investigate more, secrets are revealed and more people are convinced that they are involved.

Marcus has always felt inadequate to Anne’s family, they never really approved of him and show their true colours with Cora’s disappearance by making him feel unwanted and unloved whilst Anne struggles with post natal depression, she’s terrified she did something and blocked it out. An interesting addition to the tale is inclusion of the story being seen from the perspective of the detective, giving an insight to the police procedure.

With a fast paced story that keeps the reader on their toes and thoroughly engaged. ‘The Couple Next Door’ is a cunningly written tale, filled with unlikable and occasionally sympathetic characters plus plenty of suspects. Packed with tension, twists and a hell of an ending, this book is must definitely worthy of all the hype!

You can buy The Couple Next Door from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Where I Lost Her By T. Greenwood

Where I Lost Her‘Where I Lost Her’ is the latest book by T. Greenwood.

Tess is visiting friends in rural Vermont when she is driving alone at night and sees a young, half-dressed toddler in the middle of the road, who then runs into the woods like a frightened deer. The entire town begins searching for the little girl. But there are no sightings, no other witnesses, no reports of missing children. As local police point out, Tess’s imagination has played her false before. And yet Tess is compelled to keep looking, in a desperate effort to save the little girl she can’t forget.

In this book, we meet Tess, a woman who is quite unhappy with life, she’s been married to Jake for years and what was once a happy marriage, has now become sour after they have failed to have a baby. A bitter divide has come between them and the life that they dreamed off, featuring tiny feet has consumed Tess’s very thought.

One night whilst returning to her childhood home to visit her best friend, Effie leaves the house after becoming embroiled in a row with Jake, Tess spots a little girl standing in the middle of the road, she stops the car but suddenly the child is gone and Tess is left fearing the worst. She notifies the authorities and a huge search is organised but people are beginning to doubt Tess’s claims as a child hasn’t been reported missing.

The story flows as Tess tries to convince the police that she did see a child, the small town turn against her believing her to be a liar and troublemaker all whilst she is aware that time is possibly running out for the little girl.

As everyone begins to doubt what Tess saw that night, Tess takes it upon herself to take matters into her own hands, investigating people as the memories of the hazy night begin to return.

The story is an atmospheric and chilling story that makes for engaging reading. Tess is a frantic and caring character, she’s desperate to prove to everyone that she spotted a child and is willing to go to all lengths to prove her innocence when she is accused of wasting police time. She has a strong maternal instinct and this shows, when she is interacting with Effie’s two daughters Zu Zu and Plum, they are like her surrogate daughters and moments between Plum and Tess make for warm and tender reading. As the story progresses, there are chapters that flash back to a particularly difficult time in Tess’s life and these moments have shaped Tess into the person that she has become.

Whilst Tess deals with the anguish for the little girl that is missing, her husband Jake is far from supportive creating an even bigger gulf between the pair when he returns to New York.

This psychological thriller makes for thrilling reading, with complex and relatable characters that make for gripping reading, a story about a women’s desire to discover the truth before it’s too late, ‘Where I Lost Her’ is an edge of the seat story that makes for scarily realistic reading.

You can pre-order Where I Lost Her from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 2nd March 2017.

The Lie By C.L. Taylor

The Lie‘The Lie’ is the latest book by C.L. Taylor.

Jane Hughes has a loving partner, a job in an animal sanctuary and a tiny cottage in rural Wales. She’s happier than she’s ever been but her life is a lie. Jane Hughes does not really exist. Five years earlier Jane and her then best friends went on holiday but what should have been the trip of a lifetime rapidly descended into a nightmare that claimed the lives of two of the women. Jane has tried to put the past behind her but someone knows the truth about what happened. Someone who won’t stop until they’ve destroyed Jane and everything she loves.

Cally Taylor is an author I heard about last year when her first book, ‘The Accident’ was released and she received a lot of praise. So when I was sent a copy of ‘The Lie’, I was eager to see what type of author she was.

‘The Lie’ is a cleverly written story that spans over many years and is completely seen through the narrative of Jane, who is infact really called Emma and begins right at the point when Jane receives her first letter from someone claiming to know that her real name isn’t Jane.

The story then flicks back between the past and present when Emma and her then three best friends travel to Nepal and end up on the top of mountain embroiled in a cult where they all become enemies and the trust between the friendship is gone. Emma’s oldest friend is Daisy, but she has a new friend now called Leanne and the pair of them prefer to bully and tease Emma, leaving her out of activities. I found the scenes with the three girls uncomfortable as they are grown women, straight out of university but they resort to play school bully tactics, whispering rumours and generally making Emma feel uncomfortable. Thankfully Emma has another friend called Al, who is the reason they are all on this holiday, after her recent breakup. She is caught in the middle and doesn’t like to take sides, but she believes Emma when she begins to doubt the ethics of the group. With being the outsider of the girls, Emma is seen as a challenge by the leader of the cult Issac and this annoys Daisy as she wants Isaac’s attention. The longer Emma spends being the outsider and discovering things along the way, the more she realises that they have to get out of this place for their own safety and this is how tragically only two of the four of girls return to England.

As the story is written in the past and present, it gives an great insight into the friendship and as to why Emma has changed her name. Both tenses are equally gripping and I found this book a compelling read. In the present tense, Emma now Jane, thought she was finally free from her past, having moved on with a good job and a new love but her past has caught up with her and it seems that old ghosts don’t want her to be happy. As the lead character, Emma comes across as quite weak, as she puts up with her alleged friends behaviour and ridicule, but as time passes over the year, we see her become stronger, even though she is still paranoid after how their trip turned out.

Cleverly written and where everyone is a suspect, ‘The Lie’ is a suspenseful and gruesome story that draws into the deep, dark world of cults, jealousy and shows no matter how hard you try to hide, your past always catches up with you.

You can buy The Lie from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.