A unique thriller: Review of Here to Stay by Mark Edwards

A big thanks to NetGalley for an ARC of Here To Stay by Mark Edwards. I discovered Mark Edwards on NetGalley with The Lucky Ones, and have really enjoyed his work since. The Retreat, I thought, was even better than the former. So when I saw Here to Stay up for grabs, I absolutely had to give it a read.

Did it meet expectations? Read on to find out.

Mark Edwards Here to Stay
Source: Goodreads

Genre:

Thriller, Psychological thriller

Length: 

370 pages

Blurb:

Elliot lives a simple life. He never felt like anything was really missing, until he met Gemma Robinson. Suddenly, she seemed to fill a void he hadn’t realized he even felt. They were married within a matter of months. When Gemma mentions that her parents were visiting for a couple of weeks, Elliot did the only thing he found right – invited them to stay over. Days later, Gemma’s parents and extremely quiet sister, Chloe, come over. And never leave. They encroach on every aspect of Elliot’s life, while Chloe remains silent and mostly to herself, and Elliot begins to suspect that they are trying to escape from something they’ve done. As Gemma’s parents show no signs of leaving, Elliot decides to dig into their lives to find answers and save his marriage. The truth, however, is much worse than he could have ever imagined.

Overall Rating:

7 out of 10

Plot:

8 out of 10

Characterization:

7 out of 10

Primary Element:

6 out of 10 for its thrill

Writing Style:

7 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

Like with all other books by Mark Edwards, the highlighted takeaway is the end. There are very few writers who can conclude a thriller with a real surprise, but Edwards manages to do so consistently.

What I Liked:

The story doesn’t slow down for a single moment, in spite of being based on such a simple premise.

What I Didn’t Like:

Oddly enough, Elliot. Although his character was developed well and a lot of his behavior made sense because of that arc, he seems too submissive to be real. It made it a little hard to associate with him because I genuinely could not imagine any person being the way he was.

Who Should Read It:

Anyone who enjoys thrillers. This is a different style of thriller, but definitely keeps the pages turning.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who does not enjoy psychological thrillers, or stories based on characters who are just plain sociopathic.

Read It For:

An interesting and not-too-commonly-done take on the thriller genre. With so many thrillers out there, this one is a fresh (albeit slightly disturbing) read.

Here to Stay was published on 1st September 2019. If you haven’t tried Mark Edwards yet, this is as good a place to start as any.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my review!

– Rishika

Review: The Sleeping Beauty Killer (By Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 302 pages

My rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

Casey Carter was on the verge of her happily-ever-after when she got engaged to Hunter Raleigh III, a renowned businessman, beloved philanthropist, and potential political candidate whose family was nothing less than political royalty. But then Hunter was found murdered, two gunshots ending his life, and Casey left with blood and gunpowder residue on her hands. In spite of her claims that she’d been drugged and unconscious during the murder, Casey is convicted for manslaughter.

Fifteen years later, Casey returns to society, but feels like a pariah. Although everywhere she goes, people look at her like she’s guilty, she is determined to prove that she hadn’t murdered the man she loved. She approaches Laurie Moran, host of Under Suspicion, a show that opens cold cases, in the hope that Laurie could help her tell her side of the story, and find Hunter’s real killer. As Laurie and her team begin investigating the events that took place on the night of the murder and the people who had made up Casey’s past, Laurie finds herself close to believing that Casey is truly innocent. In her search for the truth, Laurie finds herself facing a new, egotistical co-host, a skeptical boss, protective family members, and a host of questions whose answers are not even remotely as simple as they should be. But the largest question that continues to plague her at every step is whether Casey is really innocent or did the woman that society named The Sleeping Beauty Killer actually murder Hunter?

The Bottom Line:

An extremely basic mystery that does not do justice to its apparent genre of thriller or suspense.

My take:

Let Me Call You Sweetheart was the first Mary Higgins Clark book I’d read, and I’d absolutely fallen in love with the author. I read most of her books over the years. While not all of them have been great, I think it’s safe to say that The Sleeping Beauty Killer was downright disappointing.

Essentially, the book is a simple mystery. The version I read had a quote on the cover from the Guardian saying, “Scared the hell out of me.” The claim is consistent with the reaction that people have when reading Clark’s work; her books are eerie, suspenseful, and unpredictable. So I obviously went in expecting that. But there was absolutely nothing of that sort in the book.

It’s got an interesting enough story with the kind of characters you’d expect from Clark. There are some twists and turns that, although not unpredictable, are interesting enough to keep you turning the pages. That is actually the only reason the book is good enough for a 1.5-star rating. Other than a mildly interesting presentation of a mildly interesting story, the book doesn’t have much to offer, especially for fans of Clark’s older works.

A few things that were really disappointing was the absolute lack of a thrill factor. I don’t need people jumping out from dark corners at me, but I do expect some element of thrill or even suspense, which I didn’t see in The Sleeping Beauty Killer. What was even worse was that the book was so unbelievably predictable – I’m not talking about the who, but also the why and how. There’s little point in reading a book when you already know the end (that too so early on in the book), other than to just find out if you were right.

My biggest problem with the book, though, was the characterization. This is the first book I’ve read in the Under Suspicion series, but the first few pages are enough to get the idea that Laurie Moran is an accomplished woman who’s seen hard times and come through them gracefully. Which is why I couldn’t understand why she chose to randomly titter like a sixteen-year-old. I’m not saying older women are expected to be serious or boring all the time, but there were these parts that were downright cringy, mainly because they seemed so out of character for the personality that Laurie is shown to be. The times where she was a normal adult but still having fun didn’t come across like that, which is what made the contradiction even worse.

And that inconsistency was in almost every character. Even Casey herself. It almost seemed like the author(s) couldn’t determine whether to make Casey strong, weak, mean, kind, gentle, or harsh; so instead of including a little bit of all these traits in a symbiotic manner, they just gave her random extremes of them whenever they pleased.

All in all, the book seemed very… amateur (the bookish dialog didn’t help). There is no dearth of crime fiction and crime thriller in the world today. Jeffery Deaver, David Baldacci, Simon Beckett, Tim Weaver, and Mark Edwards are just some of the names that come to mind when I think of detailed, layered, thrilling, suspenseful, and eerie reads in the genre (check out the reviews to some of their books I’ve absolutely loved, linked to their names above). Authors, seasoned and new, are getting better with each book that they pen. But with each book, Mary Higgins Clark seems to be continuing her descend from the pedestal on which her work had, justifiably, placed her. I still remember books like On The Street Where You Live (which I’d found brilliant) and A Cry In The Night (check out the review for that one here) which was quite good. Then, more recently, I read As Time Goes By, and that was a good book but was still incredibly predictable and just not as enjoyable as her previous works (more detailed review available here). But I have to admit that The Sleeping Beauty Killer finds a place at the bottom in my pile of Clark’s books. I’m definitely not reading more of the Under Suspicion series unless I decide to just read something light, fast, and not overly complicated.

So, should you read The Sleeping Beauty Killer? Yes, if:

  • you’ve read the Laurie Moran Under Suspicion books before and enjoy the character and series
  • you enjoy Clark’s more recent works
  • you enjoy uncomplicated, linear mysteries

But definitely not, if:

  • you want mystery that comes with thrill and suspense
  • you love unpredictability
  • you loved Clark’s older works (that makes this book disappointing on numerous levels)

Don’t go yet! Share your thoughts on how Clark’s work has progressed over the years according to you, drop a recommendation, or simply say Hi! in the comment section below!

Thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

Review: The Retreat (By Mark Edwards)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 335 pages

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Horror novelist, Lucas, decides to travel back to the town he grew up in, taking up residence in a writer’s retreat as he works on his latest novel. He hopes that the peaceful town and surrounding forests will help him get over his writer’s block and finish the book that his agent and editor are waiting for. But within days of arriving, he discovers the tragic past of the woman who runs the retreat.

Two years ago, Julia’s husband, Michael, died while trying to save their daughter, Lily, from the river that ran near their home. Lily’s soft toy floating in the river had been the only indication that she’d even fallen in. But the police never found her body. Julia believes that her daughter is still alive. Caught in limbo, she’s not able to even mourn the death of her husband. After the tragedy, she turned their home into a writer’s retreat as the only way to save herself from going broke and to keep her mind away from the loss that tore at her every day.

Lucas’ interest in Julia’s story grows every day. Until he finds himself doing everything he can to find out what really happened to Lily that day. But as Lucas continues to search for answers, eerie events begin to unfold at the retreat. Someone, or something, is watching from the shadows. Lucas soon discovers that something is amiss in the events of the day when Michael died. And that a dark secret plagues the town, the retreat, and the forests surrounding the house – a secret that will always remain protected, no matter the cost.

The Bottom Line:

The Retreat has an intriguing storyline and hits all the right notes on suspense, thrill, eerieness, setting, and pace, making for a fast, engaging read.

My take:

What I liked the least about The Retreat was Julia. Although you do feel for her after everything she’s been through, she comes across as a little too annoying, too often. Of course, the woman lost her husband and her daughter and is living in a state of limbo. So you can understand the irritating attitude. But what I couldn’t understand about it was how Lucas seems to be oblivious to her flaws. The dynamic between them, for that reason, didn’t make all that much sense to me. Still, it wasn’t the worst, could be written off as the result of the experiences they’d had in life, and was the only slightly irritating part about the book. And the rest of it more than makes up for this.

The story is quite intricate, with a lot of things happening across decades, leading up to the events of the present. The characters are all well defined and have a good real-ness to them. They are all incredibly human in their arrogance, humility, successes, and failures, and in their good and bad. That is what makes the story so relatable – you can actually imagine everything that happens really taking place in a similar setting. It’s also got great suspense and a great setting. It pulls you in right from Page 1 and keeps you hooked throughout.

The best part about the book, though, was its thrill. The Retreat isn’t one of those books where scary faces look out at you from the dark. The thrill it evokes is more subtle and, consequently, incredibly effective. It’s one of those books where the creepiness is brought on by that feeling that you’re being watched, when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, but when you turn around there’s no one there. Yet, you know that someone, or something, was there. It’s the kind of thrill that gets under your skin and stays there, making you a little jumpy at sudden sounds and dark areas. That’s why it stays with you longer and really makes you experience everything that’s happening in the book.

I received The Retreat from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It’s the second Mark Edwards book I’ve gotten from them and although the first one I’d read – The Lucky Ones – was quite good (you can read the review for that here), this one was definitely better. Edwards, who I’d started following after The Lucky Ones, is definitely one of the better (newer) thriller writers and I would love to read more from him. What really makes his work interesting is the variety he brings. It’s not just serial killer thrillers. Edwards writes different stories that just come to him, and while all are of the thriller genre, each of them has a different take on the category. The Retreat, especially, does more than enough justice to the psychological thriller genre under which it’s pitched, which is quite refreshing because (lately) too many books are sold as psychological thrillers when just ‘thriller’ would be more suitable a tag.

I’d strongly recommend The Retreat to:

  • fans of thrillers and crime fiction novels
  • anyone who wants to try out a new thriller author (I’m sure you’ll enjoy Edwards’ style)
  • those who want a thriller with a twist

A big thanks to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for an ARC of The Retreat! The book released on May 10, so grab your copy right away!

Share your thoughts on The Retreat or any other books you’d like to recommend in the comment section below!

– Rishika

Review: The Lucky Ones (By Mark Edwards)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 380 pages

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Fiona had never been happier. In fact, today was the happiest day of her life. The only thing she didn’t know was that it was also the last day of her life.

Ben Hofland moves from London back to his small hometown of Shropshire after the discovery of his wife’s infidelity. Along with him is his eleven-year-old son who is struggling to come to terms with the separation and fit into this new life. Ben believes that the quietness of the town that had driven him away years ago is the very thing he needs to heal and build a new life for his son and himself.

Detective Inspector Imogen Evans had similar expectations when she left London, the city she’d grown up in, and its painful memories behind to move to Shropshire. The last thing she’d expected from the sleepy town was murder. But when another body turns up, Evans realizes that she’s dealing not only with murder but with a serial killer. And one who has already left three victims in picturesque locations with their eyes open and lips turned into frozen smiles of deadly bliss.

When Ben finds work and learns that his son’s bullies have decided to leave him alone, he finally feels like his bad luck has ended. That it’s finally time for him to have the happiness he deserves. But Ben has no idea that someone is watching him – someone who wants him to have much more than happiness. Someone who wants him to have eternal bliss. Will DI Evans be able to understand what drives the killer before he claims another life? Or will Ben pay the ultimate price for his happiness?

My take:

First off, I’d like to give a big ‘Thank You’ to NetGalley for a copy of this book and the opportunity to read (and review) it.

Now, to the book itself.

The Lucky Ones has all the right elements for a serial killer themed psychological thriller, and they’re all executed really well. It’s got great suspense with the end being quite unexpected. Even if you have figured out a part of it, there’s a whole lot more to the conclusion that you will not see coming. It’s got the right amount of gore, disturbing descriptions, and suspicious characters. And it’s got a relentless pace with something interesting happening on almost every page.

What I liked most about the book was the depth with which it went into the antagonist’s point of view. Many novels tend to have more implied explanations of why people do the things they do. But Edwards leaves nothing to your guessing capabilities. He lays it all out clearly, and that gives the story this rounded feel that I have always enjoyed. At the same time, it gives you insight into some seriously twisted ideologies that act as motivation for the antagonist’s actions. In fact, Edwards even goes on to say that the inspiration for this book was a conversation he’d overheard at a café. And this leaves you wondering just what people of our the world may be capable of thinking and doing.

All the characters are well-defined and you get a very real view of their struggles. Although protagonists, Ben and Evans have their own demons. Their decisions and emotions aren’t clearly segregated into black and white. Much like with most people in real life, they fall in a gray area. This realistic take on his characters adds good value to the book and allows you to relate with it on a much stronger level.

There were two aspects, though, that I thought could have been done better. There should have been more detail about how Ben and Imogen felt about their own emotional lives individually before that aspect abruptly appears in the latter part of the book (I would’ve called this a spoiler but c’mon… like you hadn’t already expected this angle to be present!). The second is that there were some parts, although not exclusively evident, that seemed to be missing depth. This was more of a feeling than a line or paragraph that I could point out – but the result was that it made certain parts of the story, and hence the book, stay just below the ‘this is brilliant’ line.

In spite of those problems, I would highly recommend The Lucky Ones to:

  • fans of thrillers, serial killer stories, crime fiction, and psychological thrillers
  • people interested in trying out a new author – Mark Edwards does not disappoint
  • people wanting to add a new author to their ‘I need to read all his books’ list

I’m definitely going to be reading more of Mark Edwards’ work. In fact, I’d had another of his books on my TBR pile for a while. Which is why I was even more excited when I got this book from NetGalley.

The Lucky Ones is expected to come out on June 15. Don’t miss this psychological thriller and let us know what you thought of the book and/or this review in the comments below!

– Rishika