Book Review: Kill the Next One, by Federico Axat

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_kill_the_next_oneThis is a fantastic psychological thriller, about what we might consider when our own lives were no longer important. Ted has a terminal brain tumour, and as he attempts suicide, the doorbell rings – a stranger asks him to kill two deserving people (The first target is a criminal, and the second is a man with terminal cancer who, like Ted, wants to die), in return for an agreement to have another end his own life.

When I began reading, I was hooked…especially at the double-back. As Ted battles with the enormity of what he has done, and what he may do, we become increasingly meshed with the multitude of dilemmas in which he finds himself.

My head spun with the merry-go-round of events as his life unravels after attempting suicide. What was going to happen next? The puzzle is so enigmatic, I had to keep reading as events unfolded.

The more Ted learned, the more intricate the tale. His fouled relationship with his wife and daughters, his enmeshment in so many complications, the discoveries we find all keep us engaged in the story. Definitely a one-sitting read!

An unusual tale, told in a series of twists…which I’m afraid seemed (to me) to wrap up too suddenly, leaving something indeterminate unsaid. The final chapter seemed a bit of a let-down, but the fact remains, I’ve read no crime novel like this before, and I want more from Axat.

Reviewed by Lynne McAnulty-Street

Kill The Next One
by Federico Axat
Published byThe Text Publishing, Australia 2016
Originally published as La ultima salida (The Last Way Out)2016
Translation © Hatchette Book Group Ltd with permission of Little, Brown and Company, ISBN: 9781925355871

Book Review: Lie with Me, by Sabine Durrant

cv_lie_with_meAvailable in bookshops nationwide.

Ambiguity and double entendre are rife in this novel, on almost every page, with every character seemingly guilty of some sort of lie, flexibility with the truth, cover up, or self-preservation tactic. This starts with the title, even before you open the cover. Who is lying, who isn’t, who is lying with who, who is sleeping with who, who is pretending, who isn’t? The intrigue is absolutely bursting out of the pages, and the reader simply does not know what is going on.

This novel is the latest in the amnesia/psychological thriller genre that Before I Go To Sleep by Susan Watson was a harbinger for way back in 2011, and which came into prominence with Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn a couple of years ago, followed by Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train. And I expect this one will also take off and be just as successful as these other novels. Because, just as we may be starting to have amnesia-overload, the protagonist in this novel is not a young woman victim, caught between a rock and a hard place, confused, cornered, either manipulating or being manipulated. No, in this novel, we have a man, Paul Morris, 42 years old, supposed master of his universe, who finds himself in a net that may or may not be of his making. From page one – ‘How much do we collude in our own destruction? How much of this nightmare is on me?’ And the reader does not know either.

Paul is not an appealing character – arrogant, lazy bludger, heavy drinker, broke, string of broken relationships, hedonistic. He calls himself a writer, and had some success with a novel some twenty years earlier – his best friend calls him The Great Literary Success. On the second page Paul, who is the first person narrator, tells us that ‘Plenty of friendships, I am sure, are based on lies’. Warning bells… that are not heeded by Paul or the reader. But since that novel, he has done very little with his life, continuing to dine out on this success, with no literary follow-up. He is now living with his mother, with no job prospects and his latest fling over.

By chance, Paul meets up with an old university ‘contemporary,’ as he calls him, Andrew, whose sister Paul has vague recollections of dating at one stage when they were all at Cambridge together. Paul finds himself invited to dinner to Andrew’s, where he meets Alice, a young widow in her forties, with two teenage children. Things go swimmingly well between Paul and Alice, and before long Paul is invited to accompany them all on a two-week holiday to Greece – Alice and her children, Andrew, his wife Tina and their three children. Alice has another mission on this holiday – it is ten years since Jasmine, the fourteen-year-old daughter, of another holidaying couple disappeared, and Alice has worked tirelessly over the years to keep the search for this girl alive. Alice and Andrew’s families were all holidaying in the town when the girl disappeared, and got to know her parents. Now, ten years later, the three families are meeting again to mark the anniversary.

Paul bumbles his way through this complicated web of relationships and history, lying through his teeth about what he does, how much money he has, his life, digging bigger and bigger holes for himself. But as he slowly discovers, he actually has much greater things to worry about.

This is a tightly held thriller, with the web tightening in very surprising ways around Paul. He is a walking time bomb, completely delusional about his place at the centre of his own universe, the reader figuring out fairly early on that his walk is taking him into a whole heap of trouble, largely of his own making. But his hazy memories of just about everything of course make it impossible to tell what the big reveal will be. There is not one single likeable character in this book, with the exception perhaps of Tina, Andrew’s wife. The manipulation, the cover ups, the denials, the lies, the tit-for-tats, the furtiveness, the perversions – it is a never ending feast of nastiness. But what a great read. Don’t take it on holiday, especially to Greece, you might find you never leave….

Reviewed by Felicity Murray

Lie With Me
by Sabine Durrant
Published by Mulholland Books
ISBN 9781473608344

Book Review: Thicker than Water, by Brigid Kemmerer

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_thicker_than_waterThicker Than Water is a gripping psychological thriller with a supernatural twist. The narrative is shared between the two teenage protagonists: Thomas Bellweather and Charlotte Rooker.

Thomas is bad boy personified; not only is he devilishly good-looking, but he’s also the prime suspect in his mother’s murder. Charlotte finds herself drawn to him, despite the somewhat extreme measures her three brothers (all policemen) will go to keep the two of them apart. Thomas, adamant in his innocence and fighting through his grief, finds himself bullied, taunted and maligned. He has no support from anyone, except for his mother’s new husband, Stan, and Charlotte. And, as events unfold and darker truths begin to surface, it seems that support too will crumble.

It is a powerful and somewhat intense book, with events seeing Thomas spiral further and further from redemption and making the reader strongly question his innocence. Charlotte, in typical teenage-girl protagonist fashion continues to put herself at risk, ignoring the well-meaning (if somewhat overbearing) advice from her brothers, and seeking out this potentially dangerous newcomer. Meanwhile, Thomas battles a maelstrom of emotions ranging from grief to anger and to despair. Then, the two make a discovery and the tale takes a (somewhat, slightly) supernatural twist.

Things, it turns out, are not all they seem, and Charlotte’s instant, and naïve, infatuation may not be entirely natural. I am still not sure I feel entirely comfortable with the romantic overtones and the conclusion but that is, is it not, the mark of a good psychological thriller?

Reviewed by Angela Oliver

Thicker than Water
by Brigid Kemmerer
Published by Allen & Unwin Children’s Books
ISBN 9781743318638

Book Review: If She Did It, by Jessica Treadway

Available in bookstores nationwide.
As parents, we know we are not supposed to have a favourite child. But come on, you know you do… Even if it changes on an hourly basis. Hannah and Joe have two daughters – one is confident, beautiful, and competent. The other, Dawn, has been the family underdog her whole life, not helped by her lazy eye.. Dawn is bullied (“Ding-Dong Dawn”), does less well at school and has few genuine friends. A mother’s heart can’t help but break a little every time life knocks Dawn back again. So when Dawn brings home a new very handsome, charismatic boyfriend, things are a bit unsettling. What could he possibly want with Ding- Dong Dawn? Things just seem “off”.

Then tragedy strikes. Dawn’s parents are the victims of a brutal home invasion. Joe is killed. Hannah survives but her head injuries are such that she has very little memory of that awful night. Dawn’s new boyfriend is charged with the attack and murder, and is ultimately convicted. Having initially taken her boyfriend’s side in the trial, Dawn returns home to her battered mother three years later, full of daughterly support when the boyfriend wins an appeal against his conviction. Dawn seems reluctant for Hannah to upset herself by trying to remember the events of that night so that she can testify at the appeal. But why? What is Dawn hiding? What does she not want Hannah to remember?

This story is somewhat of an emotional rollercoaster. Reading about Hannah’s pain in watching her awkward daughter grow into an even more awkward, lonely young woman is heart-breaking. Even more wrenching is Hannah’s desperate attempt to believe that Dawn could not possibly have had anything to do with the awful attack, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. I couldn’t put this book down – I found myself, like Hannah, urgently needing answers.

This book will appeal to anyone who enjoyed We Need to Talk About Kevin or Gone Girl. Although there are no shocking twists or surprises, as there were in those two bestsellers, this book will fill you with the same “what the heck has happened here?” sense of foreboding and dread. This is a riveting yet disturbing read.

Review by Tiffany Matsis

If She Did It
by Jessica Treadway
Published by Sphere
ISBN 9780751555240