Book Review: Our House by Louise Candlish

What’s it about?

On a bright morning in the London suburbs, a family moves into the house they’ve just bought on Trinity Avenue.

Nothing strange about that. Except it’s your house. And you didn’t sell it.







My thoughts

I really enjoy Louise Candlish’s writing and therefore, despite my already over-flowing TBR book shelf, couldn’t resist this charity shop bargain.

I liked the contrasting stories told by way of a journalist’s interview and a confession; it was certainly a different way of drip feeding the story.  I found the characters to be relatable, particularly Fiona, imagine everything you know to be true, however, you find it to be completely unproveable!

You’d think that by now, given all the books I’ve read like this, I would see the twists coming.  But oh wow, one particular twist in this book I didn’t see coming – where was my brain?!?  Nice work Louise! 🙂

However, I did have a somewhat small issue with a small part of the book.  As I work for a solicitor, in conveyancing, I know that a purchase transaction is not registered with HM Land Registry on the same day.  Paperwork is sent between each solicitor that is needed for the registration process and once this is received by HMLR it can take a couple of days for the registration to be effective.  And, in the case where there is a mortgage to repaid (as was the case here) it can take even longer as the bank needs to notifiy the Land Reg to remove the charge against the property however I appreciate that taking a certain ‘poetic licence’ is required to make the plot work.

I get the end, I understand what I’m supposed to assume has happened but it’s still open-ended – I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying, did he or didn’t he?  Given everything else that happened I’m going with I suspect not!!

Although this book offers plenty of tension and twists, my favourite of Louise’s books is still The Disappearance of Emily Marr.

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author Links: Website | Twitter

Small print for info
Source: Second-hand purchase
No of pages: 448
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Book Review: The Woman in the Window by A.J Finn

What’s it about?

What did she see?

It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside.

Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers.

But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

My thoughts

This was our book club choice for January and overall, for our group, a pretty good pick!

Anna is agoraphobic, living online and on a diet of red wine and various pills.  It’s fair to say she’s been through some serious shit.  She spends her days counselling others on a specialist site, watching old thrillers and drinking!

Kudos to the author, he’s managed to take the best plot devices of several hugely popular books and movies and create his own book.  Within the first few pages I’d already begun to pick out The Girl on the Train, within the next few chapters it drove me to watch Rear Window (a movie I love…no hardship), there were also elements of Gone Girl – so not highly original but thrilling just the same.

I’ve not read any books featuring an agoraphobic protagonist and in all honesty know little on the subject.  What I read in this book about Anna’s situation, I can’t honestly say whether I thought it realistic or not.  I don’t know if agoraphobics can or are able to go out under certain conditions and this character left her house 3 times that I recall, they weren’t pictured as easy, in fact highly stressful – but still, would that be possible?  I assume the author will have researched the condition and therefore have to presume it is.

I liked the short, sharp, punchy chapters that constantly left you wanting just one more, as all good thrillers do and all the references to the Hitchcock movies like Vertigo.  I totally get how watching these kind of movies could enhance your senses, especially if you’ve sunk a few bottles of red.  The one thing that really bugged me about this book though was Anna and the alcohol.  I appreciate that she needed to have a problem with alcohol in order to make the story work but jeez give a girl a break!

I thought there were 3 main threads to the plot which needed solving.  I rarely work out the twists but one of them I saw coming a mile off (thanks to a famous bald actor’s late 90s movie with an equally famous line…no spoilers here ;)).  Having said that, I didn’t see the rest coming at all!

If you’re a fan of the unreliable narrator thriller and Hitchcock movies then this is your next go to read!

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author links: Twitter | Instagram

Small print for info
Source: Purchased
No of pages: 464
Publisher: Harper Collins

Book Review: The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill

What’s it about?

A woman vanishes in the fog up on ‘the Hill’, an area locally known for its tranquillity and peace. The police are not alarmed; people usually disappear for their own reasons. But when a young girl, an old man and even a dog disappear no one can deny that something untoward is happening in this quiet cathedral town. Young policewoman Freya Graffham is assigned to the case, she’s new to the job, compassionate, inquisitive, dedicated and needs to know – perhaps too much. 

She and the enigmatic detective Chief Inspector Simon Serrailler have the task of unravelling the mystery behind this gruesome sequence of events. From the passages revealing the killer’s mind to the final heart-stopping twist.

My thoughts

I’m always drawn to a good murder mystery and having read, and enjoyed, The Woman in Black, I was expecting eerie atmosphere overload and wasn’t disappointed there.

I initially thought with it being a chunkster of a book at over 500 pages that I’d take me a while to read, but I read it in a week which is good-going for me.  I thought the book was well structured with a good balance of description and conversation, I didn’t feel anything was out of place or overdone.

We are introduced to many characters, some of which won’t make it into book 2, but they’re all given sufficient plot time that you get to know them and care about them, even the fleeting visitors.  Having said that, DCI Serrailler plays quite a small part in this opening book – considering it’s his series!  There’s also plenty of conversation and good old fashioned investigation which does make for a gripping read.

I liked the mix of chapters told from the killer’s point of view in “The Tape” so as a reader we find ourselves knowing more than the police and being that one step ahead.  With this extra detail, I did manage to put it together and figure out who the murderer was – highly unusual for me!

I’ve just discovered that there are now a further 8 books in this series with another due later this year.  Did I enjoy this book, yes very much, will I read anymore, mmm probably not.  Realistically, I think I’m too far behind and as I already try to follow and keep up with 2 other crime/murder mysteries series, this may just be one too many, nevertheless thoroughly recommended!

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author links: Twitter | Website

Small print for info
Source: Borrowed
No of pages: 549
Publisher: Vintage

Book Review: The Store by James Patterson

What’s it about?

Imagine a future of unparalleled convenience. A powerful retailer, The Store, can deliver anything to your door, anticipating the needs and desires you didn’t even know you had.

Most people are fine with that, but not Jacob and Megan Brandeis. New York writers whose livelihood is on the brink of extinction, Jacob and Megan are going undercover to dig up The Store’s secrets in a book that could change the entire American way of life. But after a series of unsettling discoveries, Jacob and Megan’s worst fears about The Store seem like just the beginning.

Harbouring a secret that could get him killed, Jacob has to find a way to escape The Store’s watchful eye and publish his expose – before the truth dies with him.


My thoughts

This book was recommended to me by a member of my Meetup book swap group.  I enjoyed it so much that I’ve taken it back to the swap, had a mini rave about it and passed it on to another member of the group.

The book starts off at a good pace, enticing you in and didn’t let go all the way through.

The Store seems like the most perfect place to work and the community that they’ve built, the most perfect place to live…on the outside.  There’s always a trade off though isn’t there?  This community and workplace seems to operate just like Stepford and not just the wives.  The homes have cameras installed everywhere, and if you take them down, more appear.  Drones are everywhere.  You can’t do anything without being watched.  But The Store have filled your larder with all the food you like, the neighbours are super friendly and helpful…are you prepared to trade your liberty and privacy for convenience?  Our protagonists, Jacob and Megan, are going to speak out but first they need inside info so do a deal with the devil and get jobs at The Store.

The thing I liked most about this was that it’s not so far-fetched.  Amazon practically rules the online marketplace, so in ten, twenty years, why couldn’t this become how people will actually live.  That’s the scary part!  You only have to search for something online and it then starts appearing in your Facebook timeline.  It reminded me of the movie Enemy of the State and 1984 – Big Brother is always watching you, ain’t that the truth!

I found this to be an edge of your seat thriller with a twisty, if somewhat hasty, ending that I didn’t see coming.  Definitely recommend.

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author links: Twitter | Website

Small print for info
Source: Book Swap Meet
No of pages: 304
Publisher: Little Brown

Blog Blast: Inhuman Resources by Pierre Lemaitre

I’m very much a fan of Pierre Lemaitre’s books, and in particular Alex and Blood Wedding, so was delighted to be approved to receive an advanced reader copy of his new book Inhuman Resources and to be asked to take part in this blog blast.  I’m sharing with you chapter 2 of Inhuman Resources but if you’d like to pop over to Always Trust In Books first, who is sharing chapter 1, you can then come back for chapter 2 to whet your appetite a little more!

Chapter 2

Initially, I took the morning job at Pharmaceutical Logistics as a way of keeping myself occupied. At least that’s what I told Nicole, but neither she nor the girls fell for it. At my age, you don’t wake up at 4.00 a.m. for 45% of the minimum wage just to get your endorphins going. It’s all a bit more complicated. Well, actually it’s not that complicated. At first, we didn’t need the money – now we do.

I have been unemployed for four years. Four years in May (May 24, to be exact).

This job doesn’t really make ends meet, so I do a few other bits and bobs too. For a couple of hours here and there, I lug crates, bubble-wrap things, hand out fliers. A spot of night-time industrial cleaning in offices. A few seasonal jobs, too. For the past two years, I’ve been Father Christmas at a discount store specialising in household appliances. I don’t always give Nicole the full picture of my activities, since it would only upset her. I use a range of excuses to justify my absences. As this is harder for the night jobs, I have magicked up a group of unemployed friends with whom I supposedly play poker. I tell Nicole that it relaxes me.

Before, I was H.R. manager at a company with almost two hundred employees. I was in charge of staff and training, overseeing salaries and representing the management at the works council. I worked at Bercaud, which sold costume jewellery. Seventeen years casting pearls before swine. That was everyone’s favourite gag. There was a whole load of extremely witty jokes that went around about pearls, family jewels, etc. Corporate banter, if you like. The laughter stopped in March, when it was announced that Bercaud had been bought out by the Belgians. I might have been in with a shout against the Belgian H.R. manager, but when I found out that he was thirty-eight, I mentally started to clear my desk. I say “mentally” because, deep down, I know I wasn’t at all ready to do it for real. But that was what I had to do – they didn’t hang about. The takeover was announced on March 4. The first round of redundancies took place six weeks later, and I was part of the second. In the space of four years, as my income evaporated, I passed from incredulity to doubt, then to guilt, and finally to a sense of injustice. Now, I feel anger. It’s not a very positive emotion, anger. When I arrive at Logistics, and I see Mehmet’s bushy eyebrows and Charles’ long, rickety silhouette, and I think about everything I’ve had to endure, a terrible rage thunders inside me. Most of all, I have to avoid thinking about the years I have left, about the pension payments I’ll never receive, about the allowances that are withering away, or about the despair that sometimes grips Nicole and me. I have to avoid those thoughts because – in spite of my sciatica – they put me in the mood for terrorism.

In the four years we have known each other, I have come to count my job centre adviser as one of my closest friends. Not long ago, he told me, with a degree of admiration in his voice, that I was an example. What he means is that I might have given up on the idea of finding a job, but I haven’t given up looking for one. He thinks that shows strength of character. I don’t want to tell him he’s wrong; he is thirty-seven and he needs to hang on to his illusions for as long as possible. The truth is I’ve actually surrendered to a sort of innate reflex. Looking for work is like working, and since that is all I have done my whole life, it is ingrained in my nervous system; something that drives me out of necessity, but without direction. I look for work like a dog sniffs a lamp post. No illusions, but I can’t help it.

And so it was that I responded to an advertisement a few days ago. A headhunting firm looking to recruit an H.R. assistant for a big company. The role involves hiring staff at executive level, formulating job descriptions, carrying out assessments, writing up appraisals, processing social audits, etc., which is all right up my street, exactly what I did for years at Bercaud. “Versatile, methodical and rigorous, the candidate will be equipped with excellent interpersonal skills.” My professional profile in a nutshell.

The moment I read it, I compiled my documents and attached my C.V. Needless to say, it all hangs on whether they are willing to take on a man of my age. The answer to which is perfectly obvious: it’ll be a “no”. So what? I sent off my application anyway. I wonder whether it was just a way of honouring my job centre adviser’s admiration.

When Mehmet kicked me in the arse, I let out a yelp. Everyone turned around. First Romain, then Charles, who did so with greater difficulty as he was already a couple of sheets to the wind. I straightened up like a young man. That’s when I realised that I was almost a head taller than Mehmet. Up to now, he had been the big boss. I’d never really noticed his size. Mehmet himself was struggling to come to terms with kicking me in the arse. His anger seemed to have abated entirely, I could see his lips trembling and he was blinking as he tried to find the words, I’m not sure in which language. That was when I did something for the first time in my life: I tilted my head back, very slowly, as though I were admiring the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and then whipped it forward with a sharp motion. Just like I’d seen on television. A head-butt, they call it. Charles, being homeless, gets beaten up a lot, and knows all about it. “Nice technique,” he told me. For a first-timer, it seemed a very decent effort.

My forehead broke Mehmet’s nose. Before feeling the impact on my skull, I heard a sinister crack. Mehmet howled (in Turkish this time, no doubt about it), but I couldn’t ram home my advantage because he immediately took his head in his hands and sank to his knees. If I had been in a film, I almost certainly would have taken a run-up and laid him out with an almighty kick in the face, but my skull was aching so much that I also took my head in my hands and fell to the ground. Both of us were on our knees, facing each other, heads in hands. Tragedy in the workplace. A dramatic scene worthy of an Old Master.

Romain started flapping around, no idea what to do with himself. Mehmet was bleeding everywhere. The ambulance arrived within a few minutes. We gave statements. Romain told me that he’d seen Mehmet kick me in the arse, that he would be a witness and that I had nothing to worry about. I kept silent, but my experience led me to believe that it definitely wouldn’t be as simple as all that. I wanted to be sick. I went to the toilets, but in vain.

Actually no, not in vain: in the mirror, I saw that I had a gash and a large bruise across my forehead. I was deathly pale and all over the place. Pitiful. For a moment, I thought I was starting to look like Charles.

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

I hope that sharing this chapter with you will encourage you to pick up a copy of Inhuman Resources!

Many thanks to Ella at Quercus Books for inviting me to take part in this blog blast today!