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Reviews Written by
Matt (London, UK)
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   

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Last Seen: Family secrets, little lies and big betrayals in this gripping page turner
Last Seen: Family secrets, little lies and big betrayals in this gripping page turner
by Lucy Clarke
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Distinctly lacking in thrills, 22 May 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is one of a deluge of novels published in recent years which purport to be psychological thrillers but which I would describe as chick-lit with a few elements of suspense thrown in. It tells the story of Sarah and Isla, friends since their youth, who own adjacent beach huts along an unspecified South Coast resort. Their sons grow up together until one day disaster strikes and Isla's boy Marley is drowned. Years later, on the seventh anniversary of the tragedy, Sarah's son Jacob suddenly disappears. The plot concerns the search for Jacob and the history of the women's friendship, including what happened to Marley.

It's a light, easy read but I'm sorry to say I didn't enjoy it much. The story was very predictable and I never felt either surprised or particularly gripped. The writing is melodramatic and full of clichés, and the characters are indistinguishable from those in dozens of other similar novels, neither appealing or very sympathetic. The pace is pretty slow: lots of unnecessary and mundane detail and a fair amount of repetition as Sarah constantly reiterates the meagre details she's learned about Jacob's disappearance. Even the final revelations were underwhelming and didn't have much impact.

It's not an awful book but if you're looking for something genuinely tense and gripping, this isn't it.


He Said/She Said: the gripping Sunday Times bestseller
He Said/She Said: the gripping Sunday Times bestseller
by Erin Kelly
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £4.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful, thought-provoking tale of rape and it's aftermath, 19 May 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I get through quite a lot of crime fiction but I think this has to be my favourite novel in the genre I've read for ages. It's the story of a young couple, Laura and Kit, attending a solar eclipse festival in the late 90s, where Laura witnesses what appears to be a rape. outraged at the way the victim Beth is treated in court and fearful the accused will escape justice, Laura lies on the stand - and from this moment events in all their lives begin to spiral dangerously out of control.

I've enjoyed Erin Kelly's previous four novels (not including her Broadchurch spin offs, which I haven't read as yet) but I think this one is her best yet. She always writes well but her prose seems more confident than ever here, and she tackles the difficult subject of a rape accusation frankly and thoughtfully. The characters are all convincingly drawn, and I admired her superb control of the reader's perceptions, teasing us with doubts so it's hard to be sure who - if anyone - is in the right.

It's a slowly, carefully paced read but there are also moments of breathless tension - the rape trial itself, for instance, and the final confrontation between all the protagonists. Gripping, smart and thought-provoking - highly recommended.


The Girlfriend
The Girlfriend
by Michelle Frances
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Melodramatic, snobbish and full of unpleasant characters, 15 May 2017
This review is from: The Girlfriend (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This story of the clash between a mother and her prospective daughter-in-law falls somewhere between chick-lit and psychological thriller, apparently a popular combination these days. Its an easy read, fairly briskly paced and entertaining in an undemanding way, but it's also rather melodramatic and not terribly believable.

The characters are all pretty awful... Laura is the smug, overbearing and possessive mother who I presume we are meant to feel some sympathy for, but I can't say I did. Daniel is her oh-so-perfect son, a real fantasy hero - clever, handsome, rich, caring, yet also exceedingly dense when it comes to spotting how he's being manipulated by both mother and girlfriend. Cherry is the conniving, vindictive girlfriend, although her behaviour waivers oddly between compassion and outrage at injustice one minute to psychopathic acts of cruelty the next. Cherry is from a working class background, so naturally she's up to no good; in fact I found the whole book riddled with snobbery - Cherry's mother Wendy is straight out of an Eastenders parody and there's a scene late in the novel where Laura visits a supermarket that is breathtakingly offensive.

I did keep reading till the end, and it passed the time in a switch-your-brain-off kind of way, but if you're looking for a decent psychological thriller there are far better choices around.


Clean & Clear Blackhead Clearing Oil-Free Cleanser, 200ml
Clean & Clear Blackhead Clearing Oil-Free Cleanser, 200ml
Offered by JMHWholesalers
Price: £5.89

4.0 out of 5 stars Effective at cleansing but don't expect miracles, 14 May 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This cleanser is effective at removing dirt from the skin. A wipe around with a cotton wool pad leaves your face feeling fresh and smooth, and it's not too astringent. I'm not convinced it's been any more effective against blackheads than a normal cleanser so far, so don't expect miracles - but it certainly cleanses the skin well, and is reasonably priced.


The Watcher
The Watcher
by Ross Armstrong
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Odd but entertaining Hitchcock homage, 14 May 2017
This review is from: The Watcher (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This contemporary version of Rear Window, full of nods to Hitchcock, tells the story of Lily; she lives in an apartment complex surrounded by similar buildings and spends much of her time spying on her neighbours through her binoculars. Her voyuerism takes on a dangerous edge when a woman's body is discovered on the estate and Lily begins trying to uncover what she believes may be murder.

I really struggled with this book in the beginning. It starts off in a breathless style with lots of short sentences that make for awkward reading, it jumps around in time and it's clear there's so much going on we aren't being told about that I felt rather lost. However, I'm so glad I persevered, because once the prose calmed down I really enjoyed it. Lily, telling the story in the form of a journal sent to an unknown correspondent, is the classic unreliable narrator who clearly has some serious issues but gradually the plot begins to make sense and take shape. Lily's behaviour is erratic - sometimes disturbingly so, at other times it's actually very funny - and we aren't sure exactly how much of what she's telling us is real or imagined. Nevertheless I found myself warming to her and wanting her to triumph in her haphazard investigation, which builds to a satisfyingly gripping climax.

Definitely recommended if you want a somewhat unorthodox psychological thriller.


Summary Justice: 'An all-action court drama' Sunday Times (Benson and De Vere)
Summary Justice: 'An all-action court drama' Sunday Times (Benson and De Vere)
by John Fairfax
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.88

3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining if not entirely convincing, 11 May 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is the first in a new series of legal thrillers by William Broderick (here writing as John Fairfax), author of the Father Anselm crime novels. It features William Benson, a convicted murderer still proclaiming his innocence, who has studied law during his incarceration and has now set himself up as a barrister - a somewhat unlikely scenario but presumably possible. The legal profession is firmly set against his practice, and he has taken on a seemingly impossible defence case which he is determined to win. He is aided in his endeavours by Tess de Vere who worked with his legal team when he was convicted, and who is secretly reinvestigating his own case.

It makes for quite a gripping story, although I found myself having to suspend my disbelief at times. Although the main story is resolved, various threads of William's background are left hanging to be explored in future books. I just found it a little hard to swallow in places; for a newcomer, William proves to be a preternaturally gifted advocate, and the solutions to the plot's mysteries did seem to come out of nowhere at times. There's also a fair bit of legal detail which baffled me, but perhaps that's just due to my ignorance. Overall, a decent read that shows some promise for the series to come.


The Whitby Witches (Egmont Modern Classics)
The Whitby Witches (Egmont Modern Classics)
by Robin Jarvis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A delightfully spooky tale for older children, 7 May 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Whitby Witches, originally published in 1991 and now reissued under the Egmont Modern Classics imprint, tells the story of two orphans Ben and Jennet who are sent to live with Aunt Alice in Whitby and who uncover a sinister evil threatening the town. It's a tale of mythical creatures, murder and dark magic which makes the most of its picturesque but creepy setting.

I remember reading Robin Jarvis's Deptford Mice trilogy when I was young, and this is in a similar vein - atmospherically spooky with plenty of supernatural goings-on to send thrilling shivers down young readers' spines. This was originally the first book in another trilogy; although the story is complete in itself, there are a couple of plot threads left hanging and it's a pity the second and third books are currently out of print. Hopefully Egmont will republish those in the near future to complete the cycle.


Star Wars: A New Hope Junior Novel (Star Wars Junior Novel 1)
Star Wars: A New Hope Junior Novel (Star Wars Junior Novel 1)
by Ryder Windham
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

4.0 out of 5 stars A New Hope retold for a new generation, 6 May 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a fast-paced adaptation of the original A New Hope, written for younger readers aged about 10 and up; it sticks very closely to the film and includes plenty of movie dialogue. Of course, 40 years have passed since the original novelisation was published and the Star Wars universe has expanded profoundly in that time, so Ryder Windham makes references to other events in the galaxy's timeline which were unknown to us in 1977, right up to and including Rogue One. The story is as thrilling as ever, and even older fans (such as myself) will enjoy this new version.


Star Wars The Force Awakens: Graphics
Star Wars The Force Awakens: Graphics
by Lucasfilm
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Good but a little short on content, 5 May 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This new release follows the style of the original Star Wars Graphics book from last year; it's a series of bright, colourful infographics relating facts and figures about the saga, this time centred on The Force Awakens. The design is appealing and there are some interesting titbits here...the only problem is that it's focused on a single film (the first book featured facts from all six of the previous movies) meaning it's rather light on content and a fair number of the infographics feel like page fillers. Perhaps it would have been better to wait for the new trilogy to be completed and include all three episodes in one volume? As it stands, fans will get some enjoyment out of this slim book but I wouldn't call it an essential purchase.


The Night Visitor
The Night Visitor
by Lucy Atkins
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric and gripping, 5 May 2017
This review is from: The Night Visitor (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Night Visitor is centred around the complicated, ominous relationship between two very different women. Olivia Sweetman is a professor and author with a high media profile, while Vivian Tester is the lonely, awkward housekeeper of a decrepit country mansion. They come together over a writing project: Vivian has possession of the diary of a Victorian lady who murdered her husband but went on to become one of the earliest female surgeons, an ideal subject for Olivia's latest book. However, we are aware from the start both women are keeping secrets which turn out to have deadly consequences.

This is the first book by Lucy Atkins I've read, and I enjoyed it very much. The writing is of a good standard, the pacing is excellent and the gradual unravelling of the plot's mysteries is handled expertly - there's an atmosphere of simmering menace which slowly builds tension throughout. I especially admired the characterisation and the way it eschews simple definitions of good and evil; Olivia's plight arouses sympathy but she certainly has her faults, and while Vivian's behaviour is often sinister and even fairly deranged, there are times when we feel sorry for her too.

Of course, thrillers of this kind usually require some degree of suspension of disbelief, but I found the story more plausible than many others in the genre I've read recently. Recommended.


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