Monday, 9 April 2018

Book Reviews: The Liar's Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard & The Broken Girls by Simone St. James.

When Alison Smith met Will Hurley during her first year as a student as Dublin’s prestigious St. John’s College, it was love at first sight. Too bad Alison’s perfect boyfriend turned out to be a serial killer…

Ten years on, Alison lives a quiet – and somewhat isolated – life in the Netherlands, where she works. She has a small circle of friends, none of whom know about her past as the girlfriend of the man the tabloids call the ‘Canal Killer.’ Since Will was convicted of the murder of five women, including Alison’s best friend, Liz, Alison has kept everyone in her life –including her family- at a safe distance. She doesn’t have a boyfriend; in fact she doesn’t date at all.  At twenty-nine, this isn’t the life Alison imagined she would be living, but after everything that happened, Alison’s low-key, drama-free life, suits her just fine.  At least that’s what she keeps telling herself.

One morning, while nursing the hangover from hell, Alison answers her door to find two Garda detectives on her doorstep. The news from Ireland isn’t good: It’s been ten years since Will’s killing spree, and it looks as though the anniversary has spurred a copycat killer into action. Furthermore, Will says he has information on this copycat killer, but he’ll only talk if Alison returns to Ireland to hear him out. Though she is hesitant to re-visit her past, Alison eventually agrees to speak to Will, but what she learns threatens to turn her whole world upside-down all over again…

More of a slow-burn than Catherine Ryan Howard’s super-twisty debut Distress Signals, The Liar’s Girl is as much a coming-of-age story of first love and toxic friendships as it is a murder mystery. While The Liar’s Girl is, for the most part, a compelling read, I found the resolution to the central mystery a little unsatisfying - and definitely lacking in those shocking twists I so love!

Other takeaways: Let me talk about Malone – one of the guards assigned to the ‘Canal Killer’ case. Right from the start, it’s clear that Malone is attracted to Alison, but his touchy-feely behaviour towards Alison – not to mention inviting her back to his apartment – struck me as a little odd – not to mention wholly inappropriate!

In short: A solid read. One for fans of slow-burn thrillers with a hint of romance.

3.5 Stars -- Good read. I enjoyed it pretty much. Worth checking out.
Published March 1st 2018 by Corvus.
Received for review.


Every small town has at least one creepy old building, a place that inspires ghost stories and inflicts nightmares upon all those who dare venture beyond its rusty gates. Idelwild Hall is one such place. This former boarding school for ‘problem girls,’ may lie abandoned and in ruins, but for one local woman, journalist Fiona Sheridan, Idlewild Hall is a living nightmare with ghosts that are all too real.

It’s been twenty years, but ever since her sister was murdered in the grounds of Idlewild Hall, Fiona Sheridan’s life has been stuck on pause.  Fiona knows this has to change, if not for her own sanity, then for the sake of her relationship with her boyfriend, Jamie, a local cop who Fiona keeps at a distance, even though the two have been dating for a year. Fiona knows she has to make peace with the fact that her sister is gone, but she can’t – not until she knows the whole truth of the night her sister died.  When she hears that Idlewild Hall is being restored, Fiona decides to use her journalistic credentials to dig deep into the past, so that she can finally bury it.
Cut to 1950 and Idlewild Hall where a group of school girls bond over their troubled pasts and their shared fear of Idlewild’s resident ghost, Mary Hand, who terrorises the girls night after night as she roams the dark halls of the school. Spoiler alert: Mary Hand is no friendly ghost! It’s all fun, games and ghosts stories, until one of the girls goes missing, never to be seen again. Until, that is, journalist Fiona Sheridan, witnesses a shocking discovery at Idlewild Hall, one that will uncover the past – and change Fiona’s present – forever.

An ambitious book that spans decades and genres, The Broken Girls by Simone St. James was a bit of a mixed-bag for me due, at least in part, to its dual-timeline structure. While dual-timelines can be great, I feel that each part of a story should hold my attention equally, and that just didn’t happen here. With each journey into the past, I felt myself disconnected from - and longing to get back to - the present. Meanwhile, the supernatural element of the book, while well done, felt out of place in relation to the rest of the storyline, and really didn’t work for me.

In short: A multi-layered supernatural thriller that strives to be different from the rest. The Broken Girls didn’t totally work for me, but it is genuinely creepy and atmospheric at times – one for readers who like a mystery that goes bump in the night!

3 Stars -- 3 out of 5 -   Not for me. Just OK. Maybe it's an acquired taste.
Published March 27th 2018 by Wildfire.
Received for review.


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