ARC REVIEW: Strangers – by C.L. Taylor @AvonBooksUK

Title: Strangers
Author: C.L. Taylor
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: April 2nd 2020
Publisher: Avon Books UK
Finished reading: March 6th 2020
Pages: 400

“She’d learned through bitter experience that when you sit back and wait for what life throws at you, you mostly get covered in shit.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Avon Books UK in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’ve been eagerly anticipating C.L. Taylor‘s newest title Strangers ever since I first heard about it, as I’m most definitely a fan of her writing style. Although I still have to read Sleep (yes, I’m still miffed my pre-ordered paperback copy never arrived last year), I think it’s safe to say that I now have a new favorite C.L. Taylor title. What a read! I’m glad I cleared my schedule before diving into this story, because there was just no way on earth I was going to stop reading before I knew how it would all end. What an absolutely masterful and simply brilliantly constructed psychological thriller!

I’m going to keep this review on the short side to avoid spoilers, but I absolutely loved the sheer complexity of this story. In Strangers, you get not one, not two, but THREE storylines for the price of one. Yes, you read that right, three completely different storylines with three different POVs and characters to follow… And you will only understand how the three will fit together in the story until after the final plot twist bombs. Each different storyline is developed thoroughly and realistically, giving us insight in the lives of Alice, Ursula and Gareth as well as truly making them come alive. Each character has their own set of issues, secrets and background, turning Strangers into a thoroughly complex, rich and utterly satisfying psychological thriller.

There are a lot of elements in play in Strangers, including infidelity, stalking, kleptomania, Alzheimer, abuse, violence and bullying. That seems like a lot to juggle, but each element is incorporated into the plot in such way that helps enrich the plot without feeling chaotic. They give the different characters extra dept and without doubt take the character development as well as the plot to the next level… The characters themselves might not be 100% likeable if you look critically, but you will find it quite easy to fully immerse yourself in their stories and root for them along the way. And as each character has their own issues, you will find your mind in overdrive as you try and juggle all those storylines and suspicions about motive and who could be behind it.

The writing is 200% engaging and combined with a fast pace and a fantastically constructed plot you will find yourself reaching that final page in no time at all. Especially as the suspense is starting to build up and things are getting more intense… Plot twists, secrets and POV switches are used to both keep you on your toes and send you off the wrong track, and I don’t think it will be easy to guess the full truth about how the three storylines come together before you actually read about it happening. What a way to end a story! If you are a psychological thriller fan, you definitely need to add Strangers to your must-read list.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #147 – When We Left Cuba & Lock Every Door

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two 2019 titles I’ve been looking forward to… When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton turned out to be just as good as I hoped, but sadly Lock Every Door by Riley Sager took the wrong direction for me and the ending highly disappointed me.


Title: When We Left Cuba
Author: Chanel Cleeton

Genre: Contemporary, Historical Fiction
First published: April 9th 2019
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: January 29th 2020
Pages: 366

“The only way to stop being afraid of something is to confront it. To take away its power over you.”


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My first experience with Chanel Cleeton‘s books, Next Year In Havana, completely blew me away last year and it ended up being one of my absolute favorites of 2019. I made a promise to myself to make time for When We Left Cuba in January, and it is easy to say that I had superhigh expectations for this story about Beatriz. And while I admit I did love Elisa and Marisol’s story a tiny bit more, there is also no doubt that I had a brilliant time with When We Left Cuba as well. First of all a little warning: while this is no official sequel, you will be able to appreciate the little references and the Perez family background so much better if you read Next Year In Havana first. It will make you able to get a proper feel for the story from the very first page, as you already know things about Beatriz and her secrets that have been hinted at. And with this background, I found myself completely addicted from the very first chapter. I have always found Beatriz an intriguing character and she is without doubt perfect to describe and show us what happens to Cuba and the Cubans in the years after Fidel Castro took over. The focus in When We Left Cuba is on 1960-1962, which includes the Cuban Missile Crisis as well as the Kennedy Assassination… And I love how this story incorporates historical facts into Beatriz’ fictional story. There are a lot of different elements in play, including high society, forbidden love, politics, revenge, espionage, crime, Cuba and the Cold War. More heavy topics are contrasted with lighter elements such as forbidden love; I’m surprised myself when I say I wasn’t bothered at all by the whole forbidden love trope. I think this has a lot to do with my feelings about Beatriz, as I really like her character despite her recklessness and stubbornness. It was easy to connect to and feel for most characters in general, including of course Nick and Eduardo. The writing is simply wonderful and the plot well constructed; while there are a few chapters set in 2016, the focus is mostly on the past this time and follows Beatriz in a linear way. As you might have guessed, I absolutely loved my time with When We Left Cuba and I can recommend it to anyone who enjoys the genre.


Title: Lock Every Door
Author: Riley Sager

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 2nd 2019
Publisher: Dutton
Finished reading: February 1st 2020
Pages: 381

“This place isn’t kind to gentle souls. It chews them up and swallows them whole.


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Oh yes, hello unpopular opinion, we meet again! I know a lot of people love Riley Sager‘s books and I did enjoy The Last Time I Lied considerably when I read it last year, but mostly the hype around his work ends up bringing me down… Sadly, this was once again the case with Lock Every Door and I ended up being considerably underwhelmed by what I found. Don’t get me wrong, the story started out strong and I loved that ominous feeling, the hint at the supernatural and the dark secrets and history of the Bartholomew. The plot almost feels like a locked room mystery, something I always have a weak spot for and I really thought this was going to be my new favorite of his books. Unfortunately, the story lost me somewhere along the way… First of all, Jules was quite a frustrating character. Sure, she is in a hard place in life and basically desperate, but the offer to be an apartment sitter with such a generous pay just sounded too good to be true… Initial lack of suspicion I can understand, but after so many alarmbells ringing and having a friend to help out so she won’t end up on the street Jules still being stubborn and not wanting to see any danger? A bit too convenient for the plot and not credible to me. This is only minor compared to my reacting to the final reveals and the ending. Not only did I guess more than one mayor plot twists as well as villian VERY early on, the ending was completely unsatisfying and just too plain simple for me. It really let that ominous feeling of the beginning of the story as well as the Bartholomew itself completely down… Thankfully the writing was engaging enough to turn this into a fast read, but I really wished this story would have taken a different and more interesting direction here.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #146 – The Last House Guest & My Sister, The Serial Killer

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two thrillers I’ve been really excited to read… The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda sadly turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, especially since I have some of her other titles on my all time favorites list. My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite turned out to be very darkly entertaining though.


Title: The Last House Guest
Author: Megan Miranda

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 18th 2019
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Finished reading: January 23rd 2020
Pages: 352

“But that was the trick of the place – it lured you in under false pretenses, and then it took everything from you.”


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Both All The Missing Girls and The Perfect Stranger are on my list of all time favorites, so to say that The Last House Guest was on my list of most anticipated 2019 releases is an understatement. I’m not sure why it took me this long to pick it up; it might have been the hype, it might have been the mixed reviews, but I’m actually kind of glad I waited until the hype died down a bit now. Why? Well, let’s just say that somehow I was quite underwhelmed by what I found in The Last House Guest. It’s not necessarily a bad read, but I don’t think it lives up to the quality of especially All The Missing Girls either… I found the plot to be rather dull, slow-paced and predictable most of the time, and the tension took a loooooong time building up. So long, that I found myself losing interest along the way, and this definitely wasn’t the unputdownable pageturner I thought it would be. Likewise, the final reveals were a bit abrupt to me and I felt the ending was almost rushed… After so long of nothing going on, I don’t think the suspense and plot twist reveals were well distributed in the story. I wasn’t a fan of the characters either… In fact, I don’t think I liked any of them and that is kind of a problem when a story is mostly focused on the characters. That aside, I did think the Littleport setting and the contrast between the locals and the visitors were interesting enough. Avery is used to give us an insight in both worlds, although I did feel that something was lacking in the development of both characters and plot even though I can’t put my finger exactly on what was missing. I think as a whole The Last House Guest sadly failed to hit the mark for me, and I’m hoping her next psychological thriller will help me fall in love with her stories again… Fingers crossed!


Title: My Sister, The Serial Killer
Author: Oyinkan Braithwaite

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: July 17th 2017
Publisher: Doubleday
Finished reading: January 27th 2020
Pages: 228

“I lean on the door frame and watch her, trying and failing to understand how her mind works. She remains as impenetrable to me as the elaborate ‘artwork’ daubed across the walls.”


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I confess My Sister, The Serial Killer had me at the title. I have a weird obsession with serial killer thrillers and the promise of having a serial killer right there and center and a sister to the main character at that was all I needed to add this title to my must-read pile. I’m not sure why it took me this long to actually pick it up, but I’m definitely happy with what I found! This is a dark dark but also weirdly funny read. Sounds contradicting right? But My Sister, The Serial Killer almost reads like a satire and murder definitely isn’t taken too seriously in the story… Nor are the characters in general for that matter. It’s a superfast read and extremely entertaining, although I did struggle considerably with the characters. Ayoola is basically a sociopath and I just can’t believe she can act so reckless and basically stupid and nobody has never even suspected her… Korede on the other hand I just wanted to slap for being so stupid and also for her to keep covering for her sister even though she knows her dark side VERY well. I mean, who would not only cover for someone you know is a serial killer and will kill again, but also actively help cover up their crimes? I’m sorry, but my love for someone would never actually be that strong to do that. It was interesting to see the family dynamics though, and even though I hated the whole love triangle vibe, I can’t denied I was still very much entertained by this darkly funny read. This story might not be for everyone, but if you don’t mind dark humor and dark elements in your thrillers, you will most likely find yourself entertained as well.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Home – by Sarah Stovell #RandomThingsTours #blogtour @Orendabooks @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Home Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I was blown away by Sarah Stovell‘s first book Exquisite last year and I have been looking forward to a new story ever since… And there is no doubt that The Home has only reconfirmed my love for her writing. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!

Title: The Home
Author: Sarah Stovell
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: November 28th 2019
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: January 14th 2020
Pages: 276

“We were fragile, too. But we weren’t fragile like flowers. We were fragile like bombs.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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Exquisite was simply exquisite last year, so I’ve been looking forward to her newest story ever since. It’s easy to say that my expectations were extremely high, and I was honestly a bit afraid it wouldn’t actually live up to expectations… But I shouldn’t have worried. My mind was left reeling and my heart was smashed into a million pieces and left in a broken heap of mess on the floor… Heartrending, raw, emotional and dark: this is a story that will get under your skin and will make your soul ache for those two poor girls! Oh yes, make sure to prepare yourself for a few hours of very intense reading. So, why did the story work so well for me?

As you might have gathered from my first thoughts, this story did excellent job provoking some very strong emotions; key in this were both the characters, plot development and the writing of course. Let’s take a further look at the plot and its structure first… The story is divided into five parts and uses multiple POVs to tell us the tragic story of two troubled young girls: Hope and Annie. We learn about their terrible and shocking past, the residence where they first met and lived together as well as the events that happened after that dreadful night that ended the life of one of the girls… Not in chronological order, but rather a mix of past and present which slowly gives us more insight in the lives of girls. The full picture is being slowly build up brick by brick, until the full horrifying dimension and consequences of their difficult lives are ultimately revealed.

There are a lot of dark and shocking elements included in The Home, and this story is definitely not for the weak hearted. Oh no, this is not a happy story and reading about the details of the lives of both girls has been horrific to say the least. I don’t want to reveal too much to avoid spoilers, but heavy topics such as (child) abuse, child prostitution, teen pregnancy, addiction, rape, murder and mental illness play an all important role in the plot… Once again, it is simply dreadful to think just how tough of a start on life these girls had, and it truly shows their resilience that they even got this far. The darker elements also mean trigger warnings are in place, but each element is developed expertly and respectfully and helps shine light on just how hard and essentially hopeless it can be for kids to fight the terrible hand in life they have been given.

Let’s talk about the characters… The main focus in The Home is on Annie and Hope of course, and to say both girls who have had a very rough life so far is an understatement. It’s hard to discuss the characters in detail without giving away spoilers, but let’s just say that their past and secrets will have some very shocking surprises in store and even though they might not be exactly likeable, your heart will ache for them anyway as you see just how much they suffered and still suffer. Other characters, including Lara, Helen and Ace are less present, but each plays its own role and it has been interesting to discover where each character fits in the story. Especially Ace and both mothers made my blood boil, but a story like this needs its villians for it to be realistic… And that was most definitely achieved here.

The writing is once again simply exquisite. The different POVs, the layout of the plot, the thoughts of what is basically a ‘ghost’, a separate ‘story’ about Annie’s past… Different techniques are used to put together a complex and uniquely crafted story that will mostly definitely blow your socks off. Along with an emotional rollercoaster, and with lighter moments (including the relationship between the two girls) balancing all the dark and disturbing elements of this story, you will also find yourself on a journey looking for the truth behind the death of a young girl. Twists and turns will set you on the wrong track, and feelings of doubt, rage and deep deep sympathy for the girls will make it feel as if there were an emotional tornado inside your heart. Only in the best possible way of course!

There is so much to love in The Home and it is a story that will stay with me for a long time. It’s not an easy read, but it’s beautifully rendered and simply absolutely spot on when it comes to execution. If you are looking for an unique thriller that isn’t afraid to go dark and ugly, you have just found yourself a new read!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home
Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth
hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart. She now lives in
Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in
Creative Writing at Lincoln University. Her debut psychological thriller,
Exquisite, was called ‘the book of the summer’ by Sunday Times.


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ARC REVIEW: The Liar’s Daughter – by Claire Allan

Title: The Liar’s Daughter
Author: Claire Allan
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: January 23rd 2020
Publisher: Avon
Finished reading: January 6th 2020 
Pages: 400

“There’s a time in a person’s life, if they are truly, truly wicked, when they move beyond the point of redemption.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Avon in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I loved my first experience with Claire Allan‘s psychological thrillers last year and I’ve been looking forward to read more of her work ever since… I was going to read her thriller debut Her Name Was Rose next, but of course I couldn’t say no to reading her newest story The Liar’s Daughter first when the opportunity arose. I admit I was sold as soon as I read the blurb and guessed there would probably be something dark and ominous about this psychological thriller.

The Liar’s Daughter is by no means an easy read and incorporates difficult topics including child abuse, manipulation, cancer and mental health. Especially the first is trigger warning worthy, as it plays a big role in the story and can be hard to stomach in points… That said, I think that Claire Allan did an excellent job both describing and shining a light on the effects and consequences on the victims even years later. Shame, fear and manipulation often force victims to stay silent about their suffering and this story shows just how much it can destroy a life as well as affect those close to the persons involved. I do have to say that I wasn’t a fan of any of the characters though and that includes Ciara and Heidi, who should be easy to feel sympathy for. Joe McKee is of course the true villian despite him being on his deathbed, and he definitely will not win your sympathy (quite the contrary!). Ciara’s partner Stella is probably the most easy to like, although she doesn’t really play a big role in the story as a whole.

Unlikeable characters aside, there is no doubt that The Liar’s Daughter is a super engaging, quick and intriguing read. I literally started and finished it in less than a day! The prose is easy to read and you will find yourself flying through the pages as you want to discover if your guesses turn out to be right. I have to admit that I found the plot to be quite predictable and I guessed a lot of the plot twists really early on. It might just be that I’ve read too many thrillers in recent years, but it did put a minor damper on things… As a whole it was still a very entertaining read though.

The Liar’s Daughter is one of those psychological thrillers you will find yourself reading in record speed despite a somewhat predictable plot. Some parts are quite uncomfortable, especially those related to child abuse and Joe’s character in general, but the situation is well described and used to help shine a light on the problem instead of just looking for a way to ‘spice up’ the plot. If you are looking for a quick and engaging psychological thriller and don’t mind some troubling moments and heavy elements, The Liar’s Daughter is an excellent choice.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Six Wicked Reasons – by Jo Spain #blogtour #SixWickedReasons @QuercusBooks @SpainJoanne

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Six Wicked Reasons blog tour! A huge thanks to Milly Reid and Quercus for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. After enjoying Jo Spain’s work in the past I just couldn’t say no to the chance to read her newest early… And it was without doubt another winner! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts.

Title: Six Wicked Reasons
Author: Jo Spain
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: January 16th 2020
Publisher: Quercus
Finished reading: December 31st 2019
Pages: 432

“If the detective scratched hard enough, he’d surely find a motive for each of them to have killed Frazer.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Quercus in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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** Happy publication day!! **

One family. One night. Ten years of lies. And six wicked reasons to kill someone. Talk about an enticing blurb! I admit that I was sold as soon as I read the blurb of Six Wicked Reasons and I have been looking forward to dive into Jo Spain‘s newest ever since I first heard about it. I had that feeling of premonition that it was going to be a scorcher and one heck of a ride, and guess what?! My intuition turned out to be absolutely right!

The blurb talks about a clever and gripping thriller, and I can definitely agree with that. The power of Six Wicked Reasons is in its slow building up of tension and suspense, only to blow you completely away once you reach the mayor plot twists near the ending. Trust me, you might guess part of it, but you will never guess the full truth of this brilliantly executed and clever plot twist bomb! What a way to mess with the minds of us readers… It doesn’t happen all that often anymore, but I always love it when thrillers manage to surprise me the way Six Wicked Reasons managed to do.

Six Wicked Reasons is told with the help of multiple POVs, giving us insight in both the perspective of the different members of the Lattimer family and those investigating the death of Frazer. I do confess it was a bit of a struggle having to juggle so many different characters and perspectives in the beginning, slowing down the pace considerably and making it harder to keep track of everyone. Especially since each character seemed to be hiding something and is most definitely treated as a suspect, making you want to remember all the details while you search for clues, and this can become a little daunting. BUT. Once you get used to the big cast of characters and start differentiating both their personality traits, little quirks and hints at secrets, things are getting a whole lot more entertaining.

The main focus in Six Wicked Reasons is on two important events: the disappearance (and reappearance after ten years) of one of Frazer Lattimer’s sons, Adam, and the death of Frazer himself. Switching back and forth between past and present, we slowly learn more about the different members of the Lattimer family and what secrets they are hiding. Especially relating to Frazer’s death: everyone seems to be having a plausible motive and reason to want the old man dead, but which of them is guilty? Or was it all an accident? And what happened to Adam all those years ago? There are a lot of questions involved and while some get answered along the way, you will mostly find yourself with more questions than answers during most of the ride. This slow building of suspense definitely makes the bang of the plot twist bomb ending feel all the bigger!

As for the characters… I have to be honest here and say I wasn’t really a fan of most of them. That feeling aside, it definitely shows it wasn’t easy for the Lattimer siblings to grow up with Frazer as a father, and it was truly intriguing to see their flawed characters being developed in a realistic way. They weren’t exactly likeable, but they made for a very interesting cast of characters and I had fun trying to figure them out. The whole question of who was behind Frazer’s death was a great start for some serious sleuthing and you will come to suspect every single one of the persons on that boat. The perfect locked-room mystery and with an outcome I definitely didn’t see coming!

I think I mentioned more than one wicked reason why you should read this thriller in my rambles above… But in short: if you are looking for a well constructed, slow building and cleverly executed thriller with an ending that will blow your mind, make sure to get your copy of Six Wicked Reasons ASAP!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jo Spain is the author of the Inspector Tom Reynolds series. Her first book, top ten bestseller With Our Blessing, was a finalist in the 2015 Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller. The Confession her first standalone thriller, was a number one bestseller and translated all over the world.

Jo is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin, a former political advisor in the Irish parliament and former vice-chair of InterTrade Ireland business body.
She now writes novels and screenplays full-time. Her first co-written TV show TAKEN DOWN was broadcast in Ireland in 2018 and bought by international distributors Fremantle.

Jo lives in Dublin with her husband and four young children. In her spare time (she has four children, there is no spare time really) she likes to read. Her favourite authors include Pierre Lemaitre, Jo Nesbo, Liane Moriarty, Fred Vargas and Louise Penny. She also watches TV detective series and was slightly obsessed with The Bridge, Trapped and The Missing.

Jo thinks up her plots on long runs in the woods. Her husband sleeps with one eye open and all her friends have looked at her strangely since she won her publishing deal.


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ARC REVIEW: The Perfect Mother – by Caroline Mitchell @amazonpub @caroline_writes

Title: The Perfect Mother
Author: Caroline Mitchell
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: January 14th 2020
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: December 26th 2019
Pages: 368

“People thought they knew her. They hadn’t got a clue.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Thomas & Mercer in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’m a big fan of Caroline Mitchell‘s books and I always look forward to a new one… I was sold soon as I first read the blurb for The Perfect Mother and I have been looking forward to read it ever since. And now I’ve had the chance to read it, I think I might just have found a new favorite title! From start to finish, this story is everything I look for and more in a psychological thriller. I was hooked from the very first page, unable to put down my kindle until I reached that final page, and I literally finished it in less than a day. This might sound like one of those review cliches or oneliners, but it is 200% true when it comes to The Perfect Mother!

There is a lot to love in The Perfect Mother, and I’m struggling a bit to decide where to start. The beginning maybe? The premise of the story is without doubt fascinating. We start with a young and broke Irish woman with an impossible dilemma as to how to solve her current situation. Some of her options might not be orthodox, but there are underlying secrets in play as well that will influence her decision. Conflicting opinions about her decision aside, it without doubt makes for one heck of a story. I’m not sure if I would have trusted the offer as it simply sounded too good to be true, but I guess being desperate makes you overlook the details… Once the story starts taking place in New York, things are getting truly interesting and I just couldn’t believe my eyes when I started discovering what was really going on at the celebrity couple’s house and what secrets they were hiding.

The story is told with the help of multiple POVs and two different settings (Ireland and New York). Focusing mainly on Roz and Sheridan, we slowly learn more about both their past and how the current situation came to be… Multiple plot twists and secrets are hidden along the way to keep you on your toes, and the plot will definitely have some surprises for you in store. The different POVs and settings also give this story a multidimentional feel and definitely enhanced both the plot and the suspense. The Irish setting was well described and really came alive for me; both through the characters and descriptions themselves. The New York setting mostly focuses on the celebrity couple’s house, but those chapters are by no means dull and will definitely satisfy your need for suspense and shocking plot twists.

As for the characters… Even if you don’t agree with what Roz decided to do, she is still quite easy to like and connect to. Her best friend is likewise easy to like and it was interesting to discover what role she played in the story as a whole. I wasn’t a big fan of the celebrity couple, but I guess they are ment to be that way for the story to work and they are intriguing characters to try and decipher. Other New York characters were easier to like, including George, but the most important thing is that each character added a little something extra to the plot and played the role he/she had to play to turn The Perfect Mother into the little masterpiece it is. This book is definitely right at the top of favorite 2020 releases so far, and it is a story that will stay with me for quite some time… If you enjoy a well written, suspenseful and twisty psychological thriller, you should definitely add The Perfect Mother to your wishlist!


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