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Her Last Holiday By CL Taylor

Her Last Holiday Today marks the release of the latest book by CL Taylor called ‘Her Last Holiday’ and it’s a book that’s disturbed my slumber for the last couple of nights.

Two years ago, Fran’s sister Jenna disappeared on a wellness retreat in Gozo that went terribly wrong. Tom Wade, the now infamous man behind Soul Shrink Retreats, has just been released from prison after serving his sentence for the deaths of two people. But he has never let on what happened to the third victim: Jenna. Determined to find out the truth, Fran books herself onto his upcoming retreat – the first since his release – and finds herself face to face with the man who might hold the key to her sister’s disappearance. The only question is, will she escape the retreat alive? Or does someone out there want Jenna’s secrets to stay hidden?

The story is written through the narrative of 3 strong and determined women, sisters Fran and Jenna and another woman called Kate. It flows in a past and present tense, with the present narrative seen through Fran and Kate’s eyes and the past through Jenna’s having disappeared after her holiday, hence the name, ‘Her Last Holiday’.

Fran is determined to find out what happened to her younger sister after disappearing from a spiritual retreat and is convinced that Tom Wade, the leader of SoulShrink, is behind it. Tom has just been released from prison after the 2 of other people who accidentally died on the same retreat but Tom has always maintained his innocence regarding Jenna. Now back in the open, his wife Kate is adamant that normal services resume and goes about creating a new retreat in the same resort. Fran is guilt ridden by elderly mother into joining the retreat and finally finding the truth.

The story flows back and forth between the narratives and different time periods really set the scene for the story. Fran and Jenna never had a close relationship due to their age gap and that really affected Jenna and her confidence which becomes very apparent whilst confiding in Tom, who she unexpectedly falls for. Fran is a brash character who’s quick to speak up and easily falls into character as she pretends to be someone else on the retreat but she finds it hard to hold her tongue, when revelations come to light and her questioning raises suspicions. Kate is a complex character who’s fuelled by money and control and won’t let anything stand in the way of her success, including her husband Tom, she’s ruthless but also occasionally admirable in her ballsiness.

This book is gripping for many reasons, the strong female leads all with complexities making for fascinating reading, their riddled with secrets and lies and within each chapter, a drama is revealed hooking the reader even further in. Their narratives are unreliable, leaving the reader unsure of who to believe and being set in a spiritual retreat where people come to cleanse themselves against the exotic backdrop of Gozo adds an element of mystery and luxury to the story.

Once again, Cally has outdid herself with her latest book, riddled with suspense, dominant characters and twists at every turn, ‘Her Last Holiday’ is a compulsive thriller that pulls the reader in to discover the truth.

You can buy ‘Her Last Holiday’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Ask No Questions By Claire Allan

Ask No Questions ‘Ask No Questions’ is the fifth book by Northern Ireland author Claire Allan and like her previous books, it’s set in the busy city of Derry where tragedy has broken the hearts of its residents.

Twenty-five years ago, on Halloween night, eight-year-old Kelly Doherty went missing while out trick or treating with friends. Her body was found three days later, floating face down, on the banks of the Creggan Reservoir by two of her young classmates. It was a crime that rocked Derry to the core. Journalist Ingrid Devlin is investigating – but someone doesn’t want her to know the truth. As she digs further, Ingrid starts to realise that the Doherty family are not as they seem. But will she expose what really happened that night before it’s too late?

The story is primarily seen through the narrative of investigative journalist Ingrid Devlin, who’s investigating the murder of 8 year old Kelly Doherty who died 25 years ago. On her anniversary, there’s still many unanswered questions about the little girl’s death but Ingrid is determined to find the answers even if it puts her own life at risk and meeting people that were suspected to be the main suspects.

Claire has developed a great skill of really setting the tone in her Northern Ireland thrillers, she’s takes the readers away from the Troubles and delves into something more darker and sinister and that is the death of an innocent child. Interestingly, the main suspect, was another innocent creature, a man who was a bit quiet, strange and who lived with his mammy, so this instantly made him culpable.

Her writing of this character is sympathetic and poignant, as his life was ruined by society believing that he killed a little girl. Whilst, I found Ingrid to be a hard character, although she was on mission for justice and to finally solve the mystery, I found that she wouldn’t stop at anything to get her byline even if that meant upsetting people along the way. But, as she delves deeper and deeper into the past, her determination only grows even though a fear is growing.

The story is also seen from the narrative from of another character called Declan Heaney, a school friend of Ingrid’s who’s never recovered from discovering Kelly’s body. His life has been blighted by bad decisions and hopes with Ingrid’s help to finally put the past to rest.

Claire writes a great thriller and they are also so easy to get caught up in. For me part of the reason, is the local angle with the locations, culture and dialogue that makes her books so easily absorbed.

A tense story that pulls the reader in, ‘Ask No Questions’ is a well paced thriller filled with twists and secrets that will hook the reader until the final page.

You can buy ‘Ask No Questions’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Helen Fields Reveals New Book – The Shadow Man

The Shadow ManIf you’re a fan of Helen Fields, then exciting news as she has revealed her new book for 2021 called ‘The Shadow Man’, which is a standalone novel and not part of the ‘DI Callanach’ series.

What the back cover says –

He collects his victims. But he doesn’t keep them safe.

Elspeth, Meggy and Xavier are locked in a flat. They don’t know where they are, and they don’t know why they’re there. They only know that the shadow man has taken them, and he won’t let them go.

Desperate to escape, the three of them must find a way out of their living hell, even if it means uncovering a very dark truth.

Because the shadow man isn’t a nightmare. He’s all too real.

And he’s watching.

I’m a huge fan of Helen Fields’ books and I look forward to curling up with this thriller.

You can pre-order ‘The Shadow Man’ from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 4th February 2021.

Very Nearly Normal By Hannah Sunderland

Very Nearly Normal‘Very Nearly Normal’ is the debut novel by Hannah Sunderland.

Matilda ‘Effie’ Heaton has always felt like she’s swimming against the tide. Everyone around her has life sorted, but Effie’s living with her parents and crying into a wine bottle at night. The only thing she loves is her job at a bookshop, where she can lose herself in other people’s stories. But then she meets Theo, who knows only too well that life isn’t something to take for granted. Because Theo has a life-changing secret, and as Effie starts to realise that she’s falling in love instead of falling apart, fate steps in and deals her a new hand. And this time, the stakes are high.

If you’re looking for a warm and funny story then I would wholeheartedly recommend this story.

Seen from the perspective of Effie, a sarcastic and moody woman, who’s upset that she’s not the successful writer she aspired to be. Instead she lives with her parents, working in a bookshop and she begrudges everyone else’s happiness. When a Tinder date ends in disaster with a handsome stranger coming to her rescue called Theo and helps her end life through a different lens only to disappear.

I loved this story, the characters are great. Effie is outspoken, fun and completely relatable. She’s tried of the falseness of social media and the filters that people put on their lives and wishes she didn’t envy everyone else’s happiness. She works in a bookshop with with a manager called Arthur and I loved the scenes and banter between the two of them. When Theo comes into Effie, we see a softer side to her, she becomes gentler, more open minded and it’s lovely to see her progress as well as the relationship and Theo makes her value and understand the important things in life.

I also loved Theo, handsome and funny, he helps Effie realise her worth and when he disappeared I did find myself longing for his return.

A quirky and uplifting love story that is filled with funny and relatable characters, with a plot that travels at a lovely pace. ‘Very Nearly Normal’ is by a new voice in female fiction, a voice that made me giggle at witty dialogue, fun situations and makes you appreciate the smaller things in life.

You can buy ‘Very Nearly Normal’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshop.

Strangers By CL Taylor

Strangers‘Strangers’ is the latest book by CL Taylor.

Ursula, Gareth and Alice have never met before. Ursula thinks she killed the love of her life. Gareth’s been receiving strange postcards. And Alice is being stalked. None of them are used to relying on others – but when the three strangers’ lives unexpectedly collide, there’s only one thing for it: they have to stick together. Otherwise, one of them will die. Three strangers, two secrets, one terrifying evening.

I spent two evenings curled up with ‘Strangers’ , a gripping story of three people who have never met before but end up having their lives interweaved in a way that they never imagined.

Alice is a single mother and manager of a clothes shop who reluctantly decides to look for love, when a date goes disastrously wrong, she ends up being rescued by the charismatic Simon, a man that could certainly change her life for the better. But just as Alice imagines a relationship with Simon, threatening things start to happen and Simon disappears from her life. After the death of her partner, Ursula’s life fell apart and after being caught stealing, she ends up living in a house with a strange man with locked doors and strange smells and finally, Gareth’s father disappear 20 years ago but now someone is sending postcards to his mother, pretending to be him and then his Dementia ridden mother disappears.

Cally has done it again with this impressive thriller, combining suspense, drama page after page that hooks the reader right in. It’s obvious that the story was meticulously planned and structured with an ending that made me gasp in shock. All the characters are interesting with their issues and complexities, but I found myself particularly warming to Ursula, a damaged soul that never recovered from a bereavement. She’s a large woman in stature and personality and she seems to leap off the pages with the scenes that she’s in, I felt an empathy for Gareth, who’s a security guard who never really got a proper chance at life after his father disappeared and he became his mother’s carer. Cally has a great knack for creating characters that the reader has a connection and empathy for.

The story is seen from the perspective of the characters and each time new person was introduced into their lives, I found myself convinced that they were the villain, but in Cally’s style it was never obvious! As the story progresses, we see that they are strangers they may have passed each other in the streets but we see them being brought together in the most extreme and unexpected way in a cleverly written way.

A gripping story of lies and drama, ‘Strangers’ is another superb book from C.L Taylor, with a great premise, suspicious and relatable characters that grip the reader’s attention from the first page, this shocking and witty story is definitely one of my favourite books of 2020.

You can buy ‘Strangers’ from Amazon