The Breakdown by B.A. Paris

The Breakdown by B.A. Paris

If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

A dark, frenetic psychological thriller, The Breakdown is an emotional roller coaster. B.A. Paris won critical acclaim from her best selling book Behind Close Doors, and returns with this thriller set in the British countryside. Cass leads a normal life as a teacher, living with her husband Matthew. She cares deeply for her friends and her family. She has given much of her time to care for her late-mother who was struck down with early onset dementia. Before the murder that turns everything upside down, life was on the up. Cass returned to work after the loss of her mother, and married Matthew. But she always worried about the risk of early onset dementia striking her down before her time.
thebreakdown In the run up to the murder, Cass had been forgetting things. Nothing of consequence, nothing worse than the sort of things any of us might forget on a day to day basis. But as the darkness brought on by the murder threatens to envelope her, she begins to forget more and more, each forgotten item or act become slowly more ominous. She begins to worry that dementia is making its presence known. But as events progress, not everything is quite what it seems.

Nothing is obvious as the tension mounts throughout the book, and that’s what makes it such a fantastic read. The fear and confusion worsen as Cass spirals into an ever deepening sense of paranoia and terror at the prospect of dementia while still in her thirties. So sure that her forgetfulness is entirely down to the condition, she cannot begin to conceive of any other possible outcomes. Something is amiss, but the book is so well written that for the majority of the story neither Cass nor the reader can explain the goings on with any real certainty.

B.A. Paris keeps the tension bubbling just beneath the surface the whole way through the story. Twists and turns abound, without feeling silly or over board. All too often the outcome in a whodunnit style story can be seen very early on. I found that The Breakdown kept you guessing along with Cass until she solves the mystery surrounding her deteriorating memory and the murder of an innocent young woman.

My rating:
goodread

Undertow – Elizabeth Heathcote

Undertow – Elizabeth Heathcote

My husband’s lover. They said her death was a tragic accident. And I believed them… until now.

Carmen is happily married to Tom, a successful London lawyer and divorcé with three children. She is content to absorb the stresses of being a stepmother to teenagers and the stain of ‘second wife’. She knows she’ll always live in the shadow of another woman – not Tom’s first wife Laura, who is resolutely polite and determinedly respectable, but the lover that ended his first marriage: Zena. Zena who was shockingly beautiful. Zena who drowned swimming late one night.

But Carmen can overlook her husband’s dead mistress… until she starts to suspect that he might have been the person who killed her.

Released today, 1st September 2016, Undertow lays bare the story of how a husband’s past lover died in a suspicious manner. The book starts off with a seaside local finding a body washed up on the shore. She seems to have drowned. Flash forward and we meet the man who left his wife and children for Zena, and his current wife. Life seems good for Carmen and Tom. She may be out of work, but Tom is a high-flying lawyer, and her lack of employment allows her to freelance. On a trip to their coastal holiday home, in the town where Zena died, Carmen starts to notice things. People in the local shop making hushed conversation behind Tom’s back. Strange, but not too concerning. Not until someone makes a comment to her at the station regarding the woman that washed up dead, who was probably killed by her lover.
undertowElizabeth Heathcote follows a fairly tried and tested format from here. Rather than dismiss this as idle gossip, Carmen just cannot put the idea out of her mind. Rather than confront her husband, she embarks on a campaign to get to the bottom of the mystery. Undertow is a fun read, it moves along pretty well once the idea grows within Carmen, sneaking around behind Tom’s back, carrying out computer searches, covert interviews and even bluntly asking the police. And who could blame Carmen for her worries – after all, Tom has a violent past and an explosive temper.

I do have a few criticisms, small though they may be. One problem is that the first half of the book or so feels quite sluggish. It builds backstory, and gives a decent insight into the lives of Tom and Carmen, but just feels like it takes a little too long to get here.  The book feels a touch predictable. It certainly isn’t the first book I have ever read that follows the same premise. From the very outset, the author and the story are steering you in their desired direction. That’s not a bad thing, a good story teller will do this to good effect. But it was a little obvious; the narrative and all of the evidence that Carmen comes across is pointing one way – to the guilt of her husband.

But that’s okay. Predictable isn’t a bad thing, especially if the story is well written, and this one isn’t too bad at all. The thing that really knocked it back a peg for me is how it ends. It doesn’t end in the obvious direction that a story of this nature normally does. Again, not a bad thing, but the eventual ending as very much an anti-climax. The tension built with each piece of evidence uncovered leading us closer to uncovering the killer felt a little undone by the unexpected, but somewhat disappointing direction the final revelation of the book takes. Don’t get me wrong, these factors don’t make this a bad book on any level, but they do stop it from being a great book.

My rating:
okaybook

 

The Last Policeman – Ben H. Winters

The Last Policeman – Ben H. Winters

“It’s such a fine line with people, whether they’re playing dumb or being dumb.” Ben H. Winters, The Last Policeman


The Last Policeman is the first book I have had the privilege of being accepted to read and review through the NetGalley website – a place where authors can have their works read and reviewed by bloggers, critics and libraries ahead of release. It’s a fantastic concept as I have found a small list of books that I hope will grow, that I can look forward to trying. It means I get to discover new authors and try something I might not otherwise when perusing the shelves of my local bookshop, or Amazon. And for my first read from this website, I was presented with a story by Ben H. Winters, called The Last Policeman.
policeman_winner-cover_Layout 1
The blurb text really caught my eye. The concept intrigued me. This is a story that mixes two well-trodden genres into one book: apocalyptic events and crime mystery. The story follows a rookie detective, Henry “Hank” Palace, in a world staring down the barrel of a disaster on a cataclysmic and global scale. With an enormous asteroid heading towards Earth, and the chances of it actually hitting climbing inexorably towards the 100% mark, society is slowly collapsing. Some people have gone off to complete their bucket lists now that scientists have a date for the impact. Others have opted to end things on their own terms, with many preferring self-hanging.

When Detective Palace gets a call to attend a “hanger” at a local fast food joint, something doesn’t ring right about the scene. In his albeit limited experience, this doesn’t look like the other suicides. But when the world around you is set to give up and see out your days, as a police detective, what do you do? Forget about it and just chalk it up as another hanger? Or pursue those niggling concerns, pull the thread until you reach the end and find the answers? Being young and eager, Detective Palace cannot let this one lie, impending apocalypse or otherwise.

The story the Winters weaves throughout The Last Policeman is an interesting one. While many thrillers use and overuse action and suspense to keep the pace moving. In this case, it pays more attention to the process; moving from clue to clue, lead to lead. There are a few moments here and there of tension and action, but that isn’t the key here. The entire story is told in the first person by Detective Palace, which I really liked about this book. Far too often a story becomes overly complicated with the number of characters they try to follow, and the continual jumping around to try and tell all their stories.

With The Last Policeman I felt we got to know the other supporting cast and their backstories without flitting back and forth. The natural course of the investigation throughout led each character developing as things move on. All in all a fantastic read, well-written, and entertaining. My only criticism would have been that it stopped almost abruptly at the end of the case, not tying up the impending apocalypse that occurred. That was until I discovered that Ben Winters has written a follow up, which I look forward to reading.

My rating:
goodread