Recent Reads: The Thrillers You NEED This Summer

Is it just me or is Netflix a bit dreary of late? I keep refreshing in the hope that something good will turn up but more often than not I’ve been reaching for a book instead. Here are some of my top picks from the last couple of months.

The Retreat – Mark Edwards

Mark Edwards is a huge favourite of mine. I always storm through his books and The Retreat was no exception. I’m a bit of a sucker for books about people writing books so I knew I’d love this one.

Two years ago, Julia lost her family in a tragic accident. Her husband drowned trying to save their daughter, Lily, in the river near their rural home. But the little girl’s body was never found—and Julia believes Lily is somehow still alive.

Alone and broke, Julia opens her house as a writers’ retreat. One of the first guests is Lucas, a horror novelist, who becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to Lily. But within days of his arrival, the peace of the retreat is shattered by a series of eerie events.

When Lucas’s investigation leads him and Julia into the woods, they discover a dark secret—a secret that someone will do anything to protect…

What really happened that day by the river? Why was Lily never found? And who, or what, is haunting the retreat?

I finished this so quickly and loved every second. If you like folklore or ghost stories or just want something that’s going to make you feel a little unsettled then I highly recommend The Retreat. I always try to guess the ending when I’m reading a thriller but I couldn’t have been further from the truth with this one.


An Unwanted Guest – Shari Lapena

A cup of coffee and a whodunnit are truly all I need for a good day. It turns out last Monday was a really good day because I spent the entirety of it cosied up in an armchair reading Shari Lapena’s newest novel cover to cover.

As the guests arrive at beautiful, remote Mitchell’s Inn, they’re all looking forward to a relaxing weekend deep in the forest, miles from anywhere. They watch their fellow guests with interest, from a polite distance.

With a violent storm raging, the group finds itself completely cut off from the outside world. Nobody can get in – or out. And then the first body is found . . . and the horrifying truth comes to light. There’s a killer among them – and nowhere to run.

I’m a huge lover of Miss Marple and An Unwanted Guest paid homage to Agatha Christie in the best way. (I promise at some point I’ll review some books that aren’t crime/thrillers but today is not that day!).

After finishing An Unwanted Guest, I immediately rang my Dad to tell him he HAD to read this book. We both love thriller novels but I only recommend the best to him. Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None is one of my favourite books so to read this more modern version with a few differences was a real treat.


Guess Who – Chris McGeorge

WHO

A waitress. A cleaner. An actress. A lawyer. A student. Everyone is a suspect.

WHERE

In a locked room – with no escape, and no idea how they got there.

WHAT

In the bathtub, the body of a man they all knew. Someone murdered him. Someone in this room.

WHY

They have three hours to find out. Or they all die.

I’ll be honest here and say I couldn’t really get on with this book. I think it was more a “It’s not you, it’s me” situation though because I was so busy when I was reading this that I could only manage a few pages a time before having to pack up boxes and do other boring moving related tasks.

However, in saying that, I did really enjoy the premise of the book and I was pretty hooked a guy in a horse head mask. I would have liked a little more depth to the characters and I found the ending a bit disappointing, but all in all I did enjoy the book and regret not giving it more of my time.

What’s your favourite thriller novel? Let me know in the comments!

Rachel x-x-x

 

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The Roanoke Girls | Amy Engel

For every three or four books I read, I usually write a Recent Reads post (check out my latest, here) but sometimes a book just captivates me so much that it deserves a whole post to itself.

‘Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.’

The girls of the Roanoke family – beautiful, rich, mysterious – seem to have it all. But there’s a dark truth about them that’s never spoken.

Lane is one of the lucky ones. When she was fifteen, over one long, hot summer at her grandparents’ estate in rural Kansas, she found out what it really means to be a Roanoke girl. Lane ran, far and fast. Until eleven years later, when her cousin Allegra goes missing – and Lane has no choice but to go back.

She is a Roanoke girl.
Is she strong enough to escape a second time?

The Roanoke Girls sat on my bookshelf for ages. I’m embarrassed to say that I kept prioritising others books because I was pretty sure I’d enjoy The Roanoke Girls so I knew it was a good back up when I didn’t have anything else to read. As it turns out, as soon as I picked up the book I couldn’t put it down. I started it one morning before university and I’d finished it by that evening. It was just that good.

The story itself is so captivating but, without a doubt the best part of the book is Amy Engel’s writing. It’s raw, powerful and intelligent and definitely a contender for one of the best books I’ve read this year, if not for the last few years. The best way I can describe the book is that it’s dark. It covers a lot of difficult topics that I’m not going to go into much here because *spoilers* but the novel opens with a death and the macabre nature just keeps coming. In a similar way to The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde which I reviewed a few months ago, the novel sizzled with a dusky Summer feel which I loved and helped me picture the Roanoke estate so much better. The small town vibe mixed with the creepy undertones which ran through the book really created an unsettling atmosphere that worked so well with the plot progression.

The Roanoke Girls is so heart-wrenchingly sombre and yet it dazzles with a youthful feel, especially in the present day chapters where Lane meets with her old friends. The book questions the meaning of family, of hometown ties and sisterhood and will leave you with so many questions that you’ll want to go right back to the start and read again for any clues.

If you only read one book this year, The Roanoke Girls should be it.

Rachel x-x-x

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Book Review: Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

She was fifteen, her mother’s golden girl.
She had her whole life ahead of her.
And then, in the blink of an eye, Ellie was gone.

Ten years on, Laurel has never given up hope of finding Ellie. And then she meets a charming and charismatic stranger who sweeps her off her feet.

But what really takes her breath away is when she meets his nine-year-old daughter.

Because his daughter is the image of Ellie.

Now all those unanswered questions that have haunted Laurel come flooding back.

Are thrillers getting better or I am just reading the best ones right now? Yet again another thriller that I stormed through in one evenings because I just couldn’t put it down.

I’ve been meaning to read Lisa Jewell’s bestseller ‘I Found You’ for a few months now but just hadn’t got around to it, however when I received a free review copy from Netgalley of ‘Then She Was Gone,’ I was totally ready to converted by Jewell’s thrilling writing.

The story begins like so many other thrillers: a missing girl, a lost mother, and some odd coincidences, yet it ramped up so quickly that I couldn’t imagine where the story was going to take me.

Then She Was Gone is an incredible new novel. Some of the plot twists felt slightly less credible than others but upon further reflection a lot of them are things that crop up in the news from time to time, regardless of how unbelievable they are.

It’s not often that I read a thriller and I feel a little bit of heartbreak with it but Then She Was Gone really made me feel so sad at multiple points and completely creeped out at others. It’s a great novel for any for thriller fans.

What are your favourite recent thriller reads? Let me know in the comments!

Rachel x-x-x

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Book Review: Stalker by Lars Kepler

A film arrives at the National Criminal Investigation Department in Stockholm. It shows a woman, alive, being filmed through the window of her house. She does not know she is being watched. The police don’t take it seriously. Until she is found dead.

When the next video arrives, Detective Margot Silverman frantically searches for any way of identifying the victim. But it is already too late. Because at the time the video was sent, the subject was already facing the terrifying final moments of their life. And without anything to link the victims, the police are powerless to help them.

There isn’t much that I love more than a gritty thriller. But there is one thing, and that’s a gritty Scandinavian thriller. It must run in the family because my Mum is a die-hard Wallander fan. I hadn’t heard of Lars Kepler before I read Stalker, but I’ll definitely be reading some of the earlier books in the Joona Linna series (Stalker is #5.)

Lars Kepler is actually the pseudonym of two Swedish writers, husband and wife, Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril and Alexander Ahndoril, so I’m also excited to check out more of their individual novels.

Stalker already peaked my interest due to the subject matter. I love a crime novel regardless of the topic but books about stalking particularly interest me, solely because I find the concept of stalking absolutely terrifying.

The book is long and whilst I’m always open to reading a longer novel, I did feel like the plot dragged a little around the earlier chapters. However the second half of the book was incredibly thrilling and I whizzed through the final parts.

An aspect I particularly loved were the strong female characters. Unlike many crime novels, the book featured not just one but a whole host of strong females with their own plots.

I truly loved this novel. I read so many thrillers that I often find they’re all very similar and not actually very scary but with Stalker this wasn’t the case at all. The storyline was very different from anything I’ve read for a long time and I actually had to start another book alongside it to read at bedtime, because I was too scared to read this at night.

Stalker is absolutely terrifying in all the right ways and a perfect accompaniment to any Scandi noir lover’s bookshelf.

Rachel x-x-x

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Last Seen by Lucy Clarke

 

Books about water have always drawn me in. Having grown up by the beach in Cleethorpes, I’ve always been obsessed with the mysteries of the sea so when I read the blurb of Lucy Clarke’s Last Seen, I knew I had to read it.

“Seven years ago, two boys went missing at sea – and only one was brought to shore. The Sandbank, a remote stretch of coast dotted with beach huts, was scarred forever.

Sarah’s son survived, but on the anniversary of the accident, he disappears without trace. As new secrets begin to surface, The Sandbank hums with tension and unanswered questions. Sarah’s search grows more desperate and she starts to mistrust everyone she knows – and she’s right to.

Someone saw everything on that fateful day seven years ago. And they’ll do anything to keep the truth buried.”

I rarely say this it but I loved everything about this book. I was gripped from the first page, desperate to soak up every part of the mystery. I particularly liked the way my feelings for the two main ladies, Sarah and Isla, changed with each chapter. In the end I felt that they were both flawed in their own ways but throughout the novel I really felt like I was being swayed by one character or the other at different times.

I loved the family dynamics. The characters felt so realistic and I was so thrilled with the way Lucy portrayed the teenagers in the book. A huge pet peeve of mine is talented writers who completely fail at realistic depictions of differing age groups but Lucy has it down to a tee.

This is such a great Summer read, especially for those who like a lighter thriller. It also really reminded me of Broadchurch so if you’re still after your South coast fill then it’s a fabulous book to pick up!

Rachel x-x-x

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