Gilly Macmillan – To Tell You the Truth

Gilly Macmillan – To Tell You the Truth

Lucy Harper has achieved what many writers dream of: her detective novels about Eliza Grey have become highly successful and she built up a huge fan base. Her husband Dan supports her and takes care of their finances and everyday life. When he, without asking her first, decides to buy a house, she gets angry, even more so when she learns where exactly the house is located: close to where she grew up, next to the woods where her younger brother once disappeared and which she connects with her most dreadful nightmares. How could he do something like this, knowing about her childhood? Quite obviously, he is gaslighting her – that’s what Eliza tells her. Eliza, not only the protagonist of her novels but also the voice that has been in her head as long as she can remember. What has been useful for her writing now becomes complicated when Lucy struggles to distinguish between what is real, what is fiction and what is only in her head and when her husband is found murdered, the writer finds herself the main suspect of a story just like her novels.

I have several of Gilly Macmillan’s novels, always liking how she plays with the reader’s sympathies for the characters and the unexpected twists which keep suspense high. “To Tell You the Truth” is also masterfully crafted in terms of being vague and keeping you in the dark about what is real within fiction and what is only imagined by Lucy. Just like the protagonist, it takes a long time to figure out where the actual threat comes from, many different leads offer options for speculation which makes reading totally enjoyable.

Having a crime writer who finds herself suddenly suspect in a crime in which the police use her own writing against her, is a setting which has been used before. Yet, Gilly Macmillan added a lot of aspects to make the case much more complicated. On the one hand, the voice in Lucy’s head is quite strong and surely a negative character whom you shouldn’t trust. Again and again, Lucy also seems to suffer from blackouts thus opening the possibility of actions she simply cannot recollect and which therefore remain blank spaces also for the reader. The backstory of her vanished brother and the big question looming over all if she herself might be responsible for his likely death – maybe even willingly – also add to the unpleasant feeling that she might not be a victim in this story at all.

Her husband, too, raises many questions. He is, quite obviously, envious of his wife’s success since he also dreams of a career in writing but lacks talent. The bits and pieces of information one gets directly lead to the assumption of him gaslighting her. However, the possibility of Lucy getting it all wrong due to her hallucinations and the Eliza-voice is also in the air.

A creepy thriller which keeps you alert at all times. Even though I found the end a bit too simply for the plot, a fantastic read I totally enjoyed.

Jackie Kabler – The Perfect Couple

jackie kabler the perfect couple
Jackie Kabler – The Perfect Couple

Life has been perfect for Gemma and her husband Danny. The successful journalist and IT specialist have decided to flee busy London and settle in Bristol in a nice home where the quality of living is higher. When Gemma returns one Friday evening only three weeks after their move, she expects Danny to be at home waiting for her with dinner. However, their house is deserted, no sign that her partner has been at home after work. First, she is only slightly concerned, working overtime is not unusual in his job, but not getting hold of him makes her wonder. After changing his job, he hasn’t gotten a new mobile phone and thus, they only communicate via e-mail which he doesn’t answer. Gemma bravely waits two days, becoming increasingly frightened before she contacts the police for filing a missing persons’ report. What she learns then is that two men looking like Danny’s twins have been murdered in the area and soon she finds herself prime suspect in a serial killer case as strangely, there is not the least sign in her home of Danny ever having lived there with her. What is she actually hiding?

Jackie Kabler’s mystery novel starts quite typical for a thriller, you are immediately thrown into the plot and discover the vanishing of her husband together with Gemma. Thus, you get her growing concern first hand and can easily follow her thoughts. When the police’s side of the story is told, the author switches the point of view and leaves you quite quickly in the positing where you wonder if either you were fooled by Gemma who seemingly has set up some very good murder plot or if the woman suffers from some kind of serious mental troubles and even only imagined to have a husband whom strangely hardly anybody seems to have known. On the other hand, there is some creepy feeling that Danny might have taken advantage of Gemma for some scheme of his own, they haven’t been married that long and he proposed only weeks after they had gotten to know each other.

I totally adored the constant insecurity about whom to trust and what to believe; the more you learn about the characters and the further the events develop, you have to adapt your opinion and change sides more than once. Some unexpected twists and turns keep you hooked to the novel and make it hard to put it down. “The Perfect Couple” is a psychological thriller with an interestingly drawn protagonist and a surprising storyline which make a thrilling and gripping read.

Patricia Highsmith – A Suspension of Mercy

Patricia Highsmith – A Suspension of Mercy

Natürlich hat er schon darüber nachgedacht seine Frau zu ermorden, mehrfach sogar, auf vielfältige Weise, aber letztlich ist das ja sein Job. Sydney Bartleby ist Drehbuchautor für Mystery Serien und muss sich daher schon von Beruf wegen mit dem Ableben der Menschen beschäftigen. Als Alicia sich entschließt, kurzfristig auf eine längere Reise zu gehen, nutzt er die Chance, den perfekten Mord zu inszenieren und seine Schreibblockade zu lösen. Am Tag nach dem Verschwinden Alicias beseitigt er frühmorgens unter genauer Beobachtung seiner Nachbarin einen Teppich und auch ansonsten bemüht er sich möglichst auffällig unauffällig zu sein, was die Polizei, Freunde und seine Schwiegereltern auf den Plan ruft und ihn zum Verdächtigen Nummer 1 macht.

Patricia Highsmith ist ohne Frage eine der begnadetsten Krimiautorinnen des 20. Jahrhunderts – und das funktioniert sogar gänzlich ohne Mord. Leider ist sie über ihren Ripley Roman hinaus dem breiten Publikum nur wenig bekannt, dabei schafft sie es immer wieder hochinteressante Figuren zu konstruieren, die über das Spannungsmoment hinaus ihre Romane bereichern, wie sie eindrucksvoll in „Carol oder Salz und sein Preis“ oder auch in „Der Schrei der Eule“ beweist. Auch Sydney Bartleby ist faszinierend in seinem Spiel mit den Mitmenschen zu beobachten.

Die gescheiterte Ehe der beiden Künstler ist der Ausgangspunkt des fatalen Treibens. Bartlebys Manipulationen zeigen wahrlich, dass er das Zeug zum Krimiautor hat, nicht nur ist er kreativ im Erfinden möglicher Tode, nein, jeder Schritt ist geplant, das vergessene Manuskript, das leichtfertig als Tagebuch gedeutet werden könnte, ebenso wie die Besuche bei der neugierigen Nachbarin oder die falschen und widersprüchlichen Aussagen zu Alicias Verbleib. Das Katz-und-Maus-Spiel steigert sich immer weiter, bis es zu dem unweigerlichen Unglück kommen muss – das jedoch völlig anders ausgeht als erwartet. Hier zeigt sich die Patricia Highsmith’s wahres Talent, wenn sie auch mit ihrem Leser spielt.

Heute vermutlich eher als cosy crime klassifiziert, hat der inzwischen über 40 Jahre alte Text jedoch nichts an Unterhaltungswert verloren.

Claire Douglas – Then She Vanishes

Claire Douglas – Then She Vanishes

A double murder shakes the small seaside town of Tilby. Heather, a 32-year-old mother of a small boy has killed Clive Wilson, 58, and his mother Deirdre, 76, in the early hours before attempting suicide. But why did she do it? Did she even know them? Her mother is devastated and so is Heather’s childhood friend Jess, now a journalist with a newspaper in Bristol. For almost twenty years, they had not been in contact, but now she is reaching out to the family Jess once regarded as her own. How can one single family be stricken by fate that often? Heather’s father was killed in an accident when a gun was fired, her older sister Flora went missing at the age of sixteen, and now this. There’s something rotten, obviously, but can Jess figure it out?

Another page-turning mystery by Claire Douglas that hooked me immediately. I had high expectations that were totally fulfilled: many mysteries to solve, twists and turns, unexpected links and whole lot of characters that are not to be trusted. Just what you would expect from a great thriller.

What I liked most about the story were the secrets that everybody keeps, those small things that seem to be without any importance but suddenly become crucial but then it’s already too late to tell them. And then, people have to live with the knowledge that they are keeping some major facts that when being told could have saved somebody or prevented a lot of things. The plot is quite complex, at the beginning it all seems quite obvious, yet, the more it advances the more characters are added and the more multi-layered it becomes. Whenever you think you have seen through it all, your theory simply crumbles and falls – and this works out until the very last page.

Simply a great read that I could hardly put down.

Lisa Jewell – Watching You

Lisa Jewell – Watching You

After years abroad, Joey returns to England with her husband Alfie. In lack of alternatives, they move in with her brother Jack and his pregnant wife. The neighbourhood is full of strange people, first of all this woman who seems to have mental issues and is convinced that people are following and watching her. Then Tom Fitzwilliam’s family, he a charming teacher who immediately starts to flirt with Joey, his wife, a somehow excessive runner who only seems to live for her husband and their teenage son who closely observes everything that is going on in their street. It is all but a peaceful suburb of Bristol, it is soon to become a crime scene – but who killed whom and for which reason?

Lisa Jewell opens her sixteenth novel actually with the crime scene. You know from the start that somebody has been murdered, but the victim’s identity isn’t given, only one clue to lead you in a certain direction and to keep your attention fixed on one character throughout the novel. I really liked that because the author so cleverly puts you on a track that – even if you are careful and know how crime novels sometimes play with you – you eagerly follow into the trap.

It is not easy to talk about the novel without revealing too much and spoiling the fun for other readers. I especially appreciated the wrong leads, the assumptions you have about what might have happened, who the murderer could be and the reasons for his deed, that all turn out to be completely wrong. The style of writing and the artfully dropped hints keep you read on excited to come to the end and see the full picture. Carefully orchestrated, a brilliant psychological crime novel that could hardly be surpassed.

T.A. Cotterell – Was Alice wusste [Kurzrezension]

Was Alice wusste von TA Cotterell
T.A. Cotterell – Was Alice wusste

Als Alice eines abends spät auf dem Weg nach Hause einen Anruf ihrer Tochter erhält mit der Frage, wo der Vater bleibt, ist sie besorgt, aber sicher, dass es eine Erklärung dafür geben wird. Ed ist ein fürsorglicher Mann und Vater, auf den sie sich stets verlassen kann. Doch dann kommt alles anders als erwartet: Ed war auf einer Party, betrunken, bei einer jungen Künstlerin – und die ist nun tot. Ed kann sich an nichts mehr erinnern, außer, dass er wohl mit ihr geschlafen hat. Die Zweifel beginnen zu nagen und auch die Polizei steht schon kurz darauf vor ihrer Tür.

T.A. Cotterells Roman wird als Psychothriller klassifiziert. An Psychothrill konnte ich nicht viel erkennen. Kurz gefasst: vorhersehbar, langwierige Schleifen und schwache Ablenkungsmanöver, die keine Spannung erzeugten, sondern nur langweilten und die Handlung verzögerten. Insgesamt zu banal in tausendfach gelaufenen Bahnen, um ansatzweise zu überzeugen.

Emily Koch – If I Die Before I Wake

Emily Koch – If I Die Before I Wake

When Alex wakes up in hospital, he finds himself locked-in in his body. His mind is absolutely clear, but he cannot communicate with his surroundings; neither can he move his body the least bit, nor can he show the doctors or his family that he is not in a coma. It takes some time for him to figure out what actually happened. Since he cannot ask, he has to rely on what his visitors share with him. First of all, his girlfriend Bea, but also his father and his sister. He obviously was climbing when he fell from the rock. Since is never wore a helmet, the impact left a serious damage to his brain. But slowly he comes to the conclusion that the different pieces of information he gathers while listening do not really fit together. There must be more about it.

Emily Koch surely has chosen a very special point of view for her novel. Giving a voice to a locked-in character is something you do not read that often. Yet, it made the story especially appealing since you as the reader were completely with Alex and had no chance of getting more information than the protagonist. Not all you learnt made sense, at times, you even suspected the girlfriend of having tried to murder him – just like Alex did. Thus, the choice the author has made is simply great and adds a special bit to the story.

It was an attempted murder, this becomes clear quite early in the novel, yet, it takes some time to really understand what was behind it all. The limited access to information really supports the suspense here. At some points I got a bit annoyed, wishing it all to advance a bit more quickly. However, imagining this as a real life event, there is nothing one could do to accelerate it, so even though I was curious to get to the solution, it was a good decision to delay it.

A risky point of view which I find quite innovative. The plot was solved convincingly and the author found a way out of the story that I absolutely liked.