Behind Her Eyes and Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough

Today I’m posting a double whammy review.  The reason for this has nothing to do with the fact that I’m behind – although combining both reviews is helpful in that respect.  The actual reasoning behind this is that given the mystery element to both books I don’t really want to elaborate on the plot as that will involve giving aways spoilers and ruining the surprises for others. And, they fit together rather neatly I think.

Firstly I would mention that both these books fall more into the realm of psychological thrillers so not my normal fantasy reads.  That being said, Behind Her Eyes does have a slight fantasy element that is rather fundamental to the plot – but, don’t worry, if fantasy isn’t your thing I’m not talking deep core dungeons and dragons here – more a hint of magical realism.

Secondly, these two books are not part of a series, they are both self contained novels and you don’t have to have read Behind Her Eyes before picking up Cross Her Heart – I would recommend reading both and the #WTFthatending marketing for Behind Her Eyes was certainly very apt indeed.

Behind Her Eyes

So, Behind Her Eyes.  A crazy twisted affair of a novel that has you jumping backwards and forwards trying to second guess the ending.  Basically, a young woman who becomes involved with a married man, who then turns out to be her new boss and in an even stranger twist she then becomes friends with ‘the wife’.  It promised a mind bending conclusion and for me it delivered on that promise.  Funnily enough, as I was reading this I can admit that I started to have this ‘know it all’ feeling of smugness descend over me.  I thought I knew what the ending was – it just seemed so obvious, and maybe that’s what makes this story so good and so surprising.  Pinborough leaves plenty of little clues along the way (and in fact I think I would like to read this one again just to see what I missed) but, like any good illusionist, she uses this sleight of hand, distraction style technique to lure you into a false sense of security.  One minute you’re all gloaty-self-assured-know-it-all-ness and the next you are quite literally ‘WHAT JUST HAPPENED!’ What? No??  No way!! OMFG.  Yes, those are the emotions.  One moment, top of the heap, thinking I’m a big smarty pants guessing the ending and the next minute realising, yeah, I really didn’t have the first clue and feeling kind of sheepish.

In a nutshell, this is a book about manipulation but exactly who is manipulating who is difficult to figure out.  The characters are expertly written and you find yourself deeply caring especially when the grande finale gets underway – I had moments of wanting to shout at one of the characters in a ridiculous ‘he’s behind you’ theatre style fashion and for me there’s no clearer sign that a book has worked it’s magic than when I want to wring my hands or wring the character’s neck for being so idiotic.

Anyway, I’m going to leave it there.  I will leave you with one final thought which occurred to me.  It’s something that somebody said to me a few years ago and its funny but it simply stuck in my mind for no particular reason other than it felt a bit chilling somehow.  Bascially – no matter how long you’ve been with a person, how deeply connected you feel, how you finish each other’s sentences – the only person who truly knows what’s going on behind your eyes – is you.  It seems obvious but at the same time a little scary.  If you fancy a twisted psychological thriller where the stakes are higher than expected then pick this one up – I think the ending will surprise you.

Where I got a copy: bought.


Cross Her Heart

Cross Her Heart is a completely different kettle of fish but again a novel with a delicious build up, tension that you can cut a slice out of and another great ending.

The story revolves around a single mom and her daughter.  They have a good relationship and their lives seem happy enough in terms of friends, work and school.  And, yet, scratch the surface and it feels like everyone is keeping secrets.  The fear of revealed pasts, mysterious friendships and things that happen behind closed doors is palpable.

The real focus of the story is Lisa.  She has a dark past which is slowly revealed through the use of intriguing flashbacks.  The overriding feeling revolving around Lisa is the underlying fear that her secrets will eventually spill out.  She loves her daughter Ava and in fact the majority of her actions are taken with Ava’s well being in mind.  Unfortunately, as we all know, secrets are like little seeds.  They grow in the dark before bursting forth and revealing their true colours.

What I really enjoyed about Cross Her Heart was the characters.  It feels like Ms Pinborough has the knack of writing characters who you feel like you shouldn’t like because of their actions and yet you find yourself really warming to.  Lisa is one such character.  She has a terrible past.  Raised on neglect she became a ‘wrong un’.  Hardened to protect herself from the continual hurts her backstory is a painful and difficult one to read.  Her world was dark and brutal and her own actions eventually led to devastation.  She’s managed to escape her past but it feels like she’s skating on very thin ice.

Lisa, Ava’s teenage daughter, is a lovely young girl – she’s growing up though and straining against the restraints of Lisa’s parenting and over bearing protectiveness.  She has secrets – the sort of secrets you dread your children keeping.

Then there’s Lisa’s friend Marilyn.  The two have worked together for a few years now and Marilyn does her best to encourage Lisa to take more risks, become involved with others and seek promotion.  Marilyn has her own skeletons in closets and her life isn’t quite as rosy as first appears.

On the face of it I’ve probably made this sound pedestrian but what begins to seep out is a much darker story and a past that refuses to remain buried all blended in with a sense of impending doom.  And, more than that there’s the red herrings.  Again, similar to Behind Her Eyes I thought I’d put my finger on what was going on, and in one respect I had guessed something about one of the characters – but I was again completely caught out in terms of the overall plot.

This book is fraught with tension and unexpected twists.  It has a dark backstory and it takes a path that I really didn’t expect.   As I’ve come to expect from this author the writing is really good, persuasive, easy to read and flows almost effortlessly.  I read this in two quick sittings and thought it was very good.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.



18 Responses to “Behind Her Eyes and Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough”

  1. Kay

    I’m afraid I’m too deep into Summer mode to be able to appreciate a good suspenseful read. Right now the sunshine has infected me with zen!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Haha – I don’t read many thrillers or suspense type novels but I do fit a few in each year.
      Lynn 😀

      • Kay

        I do a handful in Fall or Winter, I guess I’ve let the seasons dictate what my favorite genres are.

  2. lucindablogs

    I loved both of these! Great review – I loved your insights!

  3. Tammy

    I didn’t know she had a new book coming out, ill need to keep on eye on Cross Her Heart. I loved Behind Her Eyes!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Behind Her Eyes had such an ending didn’t it – I really didn’t see it coming.
      Lynn 😀

  4. DJ (@MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape)

    Not sure why, but more and more lately, these thriller type novels have really been speaking to me. Still mainly reading SF/F and not even getting close to bored of it – just really craving thrillers that past year or so.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Well, you can’t go wrong with these – or Andrew Mayne’s novels – I’m loving them.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Yeah, Behind Her Eyes was full of surprises. I can understand why you wouldn’t want to risk giving too much away! Glad to hear Cross Her Heart was similar in that way, I can’t wait to read it 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      I perhaps should have put a disclaimer in my reviews that I’m a bit of a sucker for Sarah Pinborough’s writing – that being said her books are good and I certainly never saw the ending coming to Behind Her Eyes – even though I was convinced I had it all figured out. Cross Her Heart hasn’t got quite the same dramatic ending but even so Ms P led me down the garden path yet again. I could see some of what was coming but was off target with other thoughts.
      Lynn 😀

  6. Greg

    Wow Behind Her Eyes sounds great! And I love books like that, where you think you have it figured out and then the author throws you for a loop. I want to read this one now! And the part about hoe well do you truly know someone? That’s one of the things I like about psychological thrillers, is that sense of what is someone truly capable of?

    Cross Her Heart sounds amazing too! I really need to try her books.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I really like Pinborough. She’s so talented and writes such good stories. These are different from what I’ve read from her in the past but still really good and I love that she manages to get you all twisted round.
      Lynn 😀

  7. pagesandtea

    Behind Her Eyes is STILL on my TBR pile, and reading your review makes me want to go and pick that book up right now. I’ve heard so much about the ending, but have miraculously avoided any spoilers as to what the ending is, so I really do need to get on and read it (and i’ve probably said that before :D).

    • @lynnsbooks

      The ending was so left field. Didn’t expect it – and I thought I had it sussed out too
      Lynn 😀

  8. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Pinborough seems to be writing books much faster than I can add them to my TBR, let alone actually READ them. But I’m certainly going to add these two to my list!
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      Well, if you’re in the mood to be psychologically teased these could be just the ticket.
      Lynn 😀

  9. TTT : ‘Go to’ Authors | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] yet by SP that I didn’t love.  She writes in so many different genres.  Thrillers – Behind Her Eyes and Cross Her Heart; gothic style supernatural murder mystery – Mayhem and Murder, 13 Minutes; fairytale […]

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