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.

behind

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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Can’t Wait Wednesday : Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is: Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough:
Crossherheart‘Cross my heart and hope to die…’

Promises only last if you trust each other, but what if one of you is hiding something?

A secret no one could ever guess.

Someone is living a lie.

Is it Lisa?

Maybe it’s her daughter, Ava.

Or could it be her best friend, Marilyn?

Due to be published May 2018

A Matter of Blood (The Dog-Faced Gods #1) by Sarah Pinborough

matterofI’ve read quite a few of Sarah Pinborough’s books and what they all share, regardless of what type of story or genre they might seem to sit in, is a dark edge – and of course damned good writing – and A Matter of Blood is no exception.

Set in a potential near future A Matter of Blood brings to us a different and yet at the same time familiar, London.  The world has been hit by recession, crime is a major problem and most people, organisations and governments are in debt to the Bank, an incredibly wealthy organisation that has ‘big brother’ vibes.  The story starts with an introduction to Cass Jones, a detective inspector.  Cass is a complex character.  He has a past that haunts hims, a marriage on the rocks (due to his own philandering I might add), an on and off drug problem and a huge number of cases to solve including a serial killer and a drive-by shooting that killed two young school boys in the crossfire.  Now, added to this things get very complicated for Cass when his own brother shoots his family before turning the gun on himself and leaving Cass, given his shady past, as a potential suspect.

There is plenty going on here.  On the face of it this is a police procedure, murder mystery with a creepy serial killer planning his next murder but upon further reading this killer is more than at first appears and the mystery aspect of the story is much more complicated.  Everything in fact is inextricably linked and as Cass starts to dig into his own family history he begins to uncover secrets.

Cass is a great character.  I mean, he’s not really a nice guy in a lot of ways.  He ignores his brother’s repeated attempts to get in touch, he’s jaded, he’s corrupt, he cheats on his wife but in spite of that you end up getting sucked into his life and wanting him to pull through when things start to spiral out of control.  One thing about Cass is he is a good detective, he wants to get to the bottom of things and once he starts digging he doesn’t stop – and of course when the ghost of his dead brother starts visiting him it gives him a new incentive to work things out.  Pinborough manages to deliver a seriously flawed character and yet at the same time manages to keep you on his side.

In terms of criticisms.  Not much to mention.  The story wraps up well although it leaves plenty to explore in the next instalment.  This is a mix of police procedure and fantasy with a dash of horror, but, the fantasy elements are fairly subdued.  This isn’t a story that really delves into urban fantasy and it probably won’t shock hardcore horror fans but personally I liked the fantasy element of the story and thought it played really well into the whole murder mystery/serial killer theme.

This is a bleak setting and a chilling story with a couple of creepy characters sat at the very centre of the plot.  I never know quite what to expect from Sarah Pinborough, she seems to be an author who likes to push the boundaries and keep readers guessing and I look forward to picking up the second in the series to see where this story goes next.

 

 

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!

 

13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough

Posted On 16 June 2016

Filed under Book Reviews
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1313 minutes s a psychological thriller that looks at life through the eyes of a bunch of 16 year olds.  It’s one of those books that, reading as an adult, makes me simultaneously almost giddy with relief that I’m no longer at high school followed by this horrible prickly sensation about maybe never truly knowing another person.

As you can gather from the book jacket the story starts with 16 year old Natasha Howland  (Tasha) being pulled from a freezing cold river.  For a few minutes, in fact 13 to be precise, Tasha actually died before she was revived and taken to hospital.  When she eventually awakens she has no memory of the events that led to her near drowning experience but given that she was in the local woods in the early hours of the morning, with a text from an unknown number luring her to the spot the police are a little suspicious of events.

What really worked for me with this book is the deceptively simple writing and the easy way that the characters and their histories are so easily brought to life on the page.  This is truly a mean girls story where the popularity stakes have reached an all time high.

So, to the characters.  The majority of the story is narrated through Becca, who was once firm friends with Tasha until she was unceremoniously dumped because she no longer fit the image required to become ‘popular’.  Quickly replaced by a newer, prettier version Becca never totally got over the rejection and in fact suffers from rather low self esteem.  Tasha and her two followers (known as the Barbies) are the toast of the school, everyone wants to be their friend – or just be noticed by them.  They’re beautiful.  They set trends and go to all the cool parties.  However, it does seem that after Tasha’s near death experience something isn’t quite right.  The friendship doesn’t seem to click any more and there is something strange unfolding.

The setting is pretty much a modern day high school setting and obviously most of the characters are 16 years of age, so it seems on the face of it that this is aimed at a YA audience – however, don’t be fooled by that.  This is a clever story, well written with plenty of mystery and tension.  I would also mention that the f-bomb, sex and drugs play a role here but only in a way that gives the story added realism and not in a gratuitous fashion.

I’m not really going to go into the plot.  There is plenty going on and no let up in the drama.  I admit that some of it will have a familiar feel in terms of being set in a school, the back biting, the bitchiness and the struggles of the students who seem to have the constant threat of committing social suicide hanging over their heads.  The story is much more than a school drama though.  Narrated partly through Becca, diary entries by Tasha, police reports and notes of therapy sessions along with the odd texts and other articles.  That probably sounds as though it would give the story a choppy feel but that really isn’t the case and in fact it all adds to the tension.  It’s also worth paying special attention to all of these different methods of narration because on reflection the author gives a lot of subtle hints to the reader – at the same time of course as throwing in plenty of red herrings, giving everyone secrets and making half the cast appear to be implicated!

I thoroughly enjoyed this.  It’s an absolute page turner and very entertaining.  A murder mystery that isn’t afraid to really take a look at relationships, look at people’s fears and motivations and examine the mixed messages and double standards that so often lead to mischief, difficulty or, in this case, much worse.

I’ve enjoyed all the books I’ve read by Sarah Pinborough and this is no exception.  A talented author who seems to be able to turn her hand to anything and give it a certain special something I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next.

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

 

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