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.

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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.

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Waiting on Wednesday: Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  Every Wednesday we get to highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  My book this week is : Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough.  Another book with a bit of a wait but absolutely worth it.  Due out January 2017 this book is already gathering a lot of favourable attention (which really doesn’t surprise me – I love everything I’ve read by SP so I’m on pins now waiting for this one to come out!).  Here’s the description:

behindhereyesDestined to be the blockbuster book of 2017, Behind Her Eyes is a psychological thriller with a to-die-for twist for fans of Luckiest Girl Alive and Stephen King.

Love at first sight can be blinding…

It’s said that the only people who really know what goes on in a marriage are the couple themselves. But what if even they don’t know the truth?

David and Adele seem like the ideal pair. He’s a successful psychiatrist, she is his picture-perfect wife who adores him. But why is he so controlling? And why is she keeping things hidden?

Louise, David’s new secretary, is intrigued and drawn into their orbit. But as Louise gets closer to each of them, instead of finding answers she uncovers more puzzling questions. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong. But Louise can’t guess how wrong – and how far a person might go to protect a marriage’s secrets.

I can’t wait for this!