Claire Douglas – Then She Vanishes

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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.

Felicity McLean – The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone

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Felicity McLean – The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone

It’s been twenty years that Tikka Molloy fled her Australian home. Now that her sister is seriously ill, she returns not only to her family but also to a secret that the girls have kept for two decades. They have always been friends with the three van Apfel girls who just lived across the street, Cordelia, Hannah and Ruth were their closest friends that they confided in. And so did the Molloy girls. This is why they shared their plan of running away. But something went totally wrong. Tikka’s older sister Lauren was to go with them, but somehow they miss each other at their agreed meeting point and a few days after they ran away, only 8-year-old Ruth turned up again. Dead. Returning home brings back all the memories of the weeks before the van Apfel girls’ disappearance.

Felicity McLean’s novel mixes different topics and genres. On the one hand, it is a coming-of-age novel, the girls all have to face the fact that adults can be evil and that sometimes are not to be trusted. On the other hand, it is also a mystery novel, you don’t know what really happened, if the girls might still be alive. And it is a study in how to live with the knowledge that behaving in a different way in a certain situation might have made a big difference.

As other reviewers have pointed out before, yes, while reading you have the impression of having read it before. There are certain parallels to other novels such as “The Suicide Sisters” and much of the plot has been treated in similar ways before. Yet, I liked to read it anyway especially because McLean manages to convincingly get the tone of eleven-year-old Tikka who is at times naive but always good-hearted and well-meaning. A perfect beach read that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Cathrine McKenzie – The Good Liar

catherine-mckenzie-the-good-liar
Catherine McKenzie – The Good Liar

Later, the incident would be called “Triple Ten” – on 10th October at 10 o’clock a Chicago office building is ripped apart by an explosion killing more than 500 people. Cecily becomes the picture of the tragedy because a photograph of her staring at the building in disbelieve was taken as the most striking image to visualize the people’s feeling. She lost her husband in the tragedy, and now she and her two kids are alone. But why was she there, at all, at her husband’s work place, at that time of the day? Another woman’s life is also altered by the event, but Kate has seen it as a chance – and seized it to escape her old life and to leave the country. Now, she is in Canada, observing from across the border what happens at her former home, the place where her husband and her children mourn her death. But a couple of months after the events, things take a different turn and this brings both of them back to the day of the tragedy – and back to the lies they told.

“The Good Liar” is a cleverly constructed mystery novel centred around three women. At the first glance, they seem to be the average wife with an ordinary life. But as soon as you get to look under the surface, you stare into an abyss of lies, of fraud and betrayal. None of them is the pitiable victim, they all contributed to their fate – but who of them is really evil and who just acted out of desperation?

The many twists and turns make you assess the situation anew over and over again. It takes some time to understand the links between the three and then you eagerly start to develop your theories about what had happened before. For some of the characters, this is a bit foreseeable, for others it isn’t and that’s what I liked best.

Catherine McKenzie is a brilliant writer who knows exactly how to pace her story which keeps you read on and on and on to find out what happened actually. And at the same time, you are always asking yourself: what would I have done in her place? A perfect psychological thriller which does not offer any easy black-and-white explanations but points out the different shades of grey.