Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech

11th January 2020.    4 stars.

I find many psychological suspense stories formulaic, relying on dark family secrets being slowly peeled away. Star Girl was quite different, being focused on the death of a pregnant woman, Vicky Valbon.

The story is told by Stella and her mother, Elizabeth, who abandoned her daughter at a young age. It jumps back and forth in time, which helps to build tension and suspense as more details are revealed. At times it felt like there were too many background details, slowing the pace and drawing out the story to delay revelations and key developments.

The characters are intense and driven by passion, often selfishly, often darkly, but the author portrays them sympathetically and deeply so you understand them and the way they think and behave. The intensity of the characters drives events and the consequences that lead towards a shocking climax. Several further twists then follow. Though they are clever and reveal what really happened to Vicky Valbon, I thought the twists drew out the ending, just taking the edge off the emotional impact.

Dark, occasionally disturbing, but always intriguing, Call Me Star Girl is a complex, consuming story that will take you on an emotional roller coaster. It will leave you drained but glad you took the ride.

Description

Stirring up secrets can be deadly … especially if they’re yours…

Pregnant Victoria Valbon was brutally murdered in an alley three weeks ago – and her killer hasn’t been caught.

Tonight is Stella McKeever’s final radio show. The theme is secrets. You tell her yours, and she’ll share some of hers.

Stella might tell you about Tom, a boyfriend who likes to play games, about the mother who abandoned her, now back after fourteen years. She might tell you about the perfume bottle with the star-shaped stopper, or about her father …

What Stella really wants to know is more about the mysterious man calling the station … who says he knows who killed Victoria, and has proof.

Tonight is the night for secrets, and Stella wants to know everything…

Call Me Star Girl

The Family by Louise Jensen

6th November 2019.  2 stars.

After reading some of the reviews for this psychological thriller, I started the book with high expectations. The first impressions were good. The story was told through the eyes of the three main characters, Laura, her daughter, Tilly, and Alex, who ran the community. They took it in turns to present their version of the events that unfolded.

The emotional states of the characters were particularly well portrayed, and the unresolved problems each one had helped to create the suspense needed for this type of story.

But despite the good writing, I never fully engaged or connected with these characters. I’m not sure why because they were realistic enough. Maybe their many secrets and past tragedies, which were hinted at regularly, got in the way, slowing the pace of the story. When the pace finally picked up towards the end, many of the twists and surprises felt more like convenient coincidences.

I wanted to like the story, but finished it feeling disappointed. The slow pace meant it never really got going for me. I never felt uneasy or threatened because I didn’t connect with the three viewpoint characters. And the revelations that explained the characters’ problems felt contrived, taking the edge off any surprises.

Description

ONCE YOU’RE IN, THEY’LL NEVER LET YOU LEAVE.

At Oak Leaf Farm you will find a haven.
Welcome to The Family.

Laura is grieving after the sudden death of her husband. Struggling to cope emotionally and financially, Laura is grateful when a local community, Oak Leaf Organics, offer her and her 17-year-old daughter Tilly a home.

But as Laura and Tilly settle into life with their new ‘family’, sinister things begin to happen. When one of the community dies in suspicious circumstances Laura wants to leave but Tilly, enthralled by the charismatic leader, Alex, refuses to go.

Desperately searching for a way to save her daughter, Laura uncovers a horrifying secret but Alex and his family aren’t the only ones with something to hide. Just as Laura has been digging into their past, they’ve been digging into hers and she discovers the terrifying reason they invited her and Tilly in, and why they’ll never let them leave…

The Family by Louise Jensen

Girl Watching You by J A Schneider

5th September 2019.   5 stars.

I loved this psychological thriller from the first page. The writing was smooth, intriguing and sharp. Ava Beck’s intensity and compulsion was as addictive as it was reckless, drawing me into her troubled life and her belief that a womanising customer had killed his girlfriend.

But what to do about it – leave it to the police? Or get yourself into even deeper trouble?

The emotional level never dropped throughout the twisting story, which swerved and detoured before delivering a twist I didn’t see coming, leading to a heart-in-the-mouth climax. It just goes to show how easy it is to make wrong judgements.

All the characters were sharply drawn and convincing, pulling me into their often convoluted worlds. No one was quite who they seemed to be, leading to the edgy atmosphere that’s essential in a psychological thriller. As the pace and action picked up, I was never quite sure who to trust and who to dispel.

I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys intense and edgy psychological thrillers. I certainly look forward to reading more by JA Schneider.

Description

Out of work actress Ava Beck, reduced to working in a West Village flower shop, starts to watch handsome, womanizing hedge funder Peter Greer, who lives near. He likes to romance his girlfriends with flowers.

Ava notices bruises on his troubled-looking date named Chloe. Concerned, she follows them after work to Chloe’s studio, second floor in the rear of a brownstone. She hears them arguing, climbs up the fire escape just as Greer angrily sees her….and plunges into a world of stunning twists, murder and madness worse than any she could have imagined…

Girl Watching You

The Lie by CL Taylor

8th January 2019 – 5 stars.

I haven’t enjoyed a psychological thriller this much since I read Joy Fielding’s, See Jane Run, over 20 years ago.

The breakdown of friendship and the revenge that followed are at the heart of this thrilling story. From the intriguing opening to the gripping climax, I was hooked by Jane Hughes’ journey to hell and back.

Alternating between the past and the present, The Lie tells the story of four friends who embark on a holiday at a retreat in Nepal. Jane has put the horrors of that holiday behind her to rebuild her life with a new name, a job she loves and a caring boyfriend. But the spectre of that holiday threatens to destroy her happiness by revealing what really happened and Jane’s part in it.

The author builds the suspense and tension slowly and gently as little by little the events of the holiday turn into a nightmare. The changes in the characters and their relationships are vividly portrayed as their friendship crumbles and new allegiances are formed.

Back in the present, Jane’s new world slowly disintegrates until she trusts no one.

The pace, characterisation and unveiling of the past were accomplished and brilliantly handled, keeping me hooked and entertained throughout.

If you love good, character-driven psychological thrillers, then I’d recommend The Lie without hesitation.

Description

I know your name’s not really Jane Hughes . . .

Jane Hughes has a loving partner, a job in an animal sanctuary and a tiny cottage in rural Wales. She’s happier than she’s ever been but her life is a lie. Jane Hughes does not really exist.

Five years earlier Jane and her then best friends went on holiday but what should have been the trip of a lifetime rapidly descended into a nightmare that claimed the lives of two of the women.

Jane has tried to put the past behind her but someone knows the truth about what happened. Someone who won’t stop until they’ve destroyed Jane and everything she loves . . .

The Lie by CL Taylor