The Perfect Betrayal by Lauren North

perfect betrayal

My enormous thanks to Hayley Barnes at Penguin Random House for sending me a surprise copy of Lauren North’s The Perfect Betrayal in return for an honest review.

Published by Penguin imprint Corgi, The Perfect Betrayal is already available in e-book and for pre-order in paperback through the publisher links.

The Perfect Betrayal

perfect betrayal

After the sudden death of her husband, Tess is drowning in grief. All she has left is her son, Jamie, and she’ll do anything to protect him – but she’s struggling to cope.

When grief counsellor Shelley knocks on their door, everything changes. Shelley is beautiful, confident and takes control when Tess can’t bear to face the outside world.

But when questions arise over her husband’s death and strange things start to happen, Tess begins to suspect that Shelley may have an ulterior motive. Tess knows she must do everything she can to keep Jamie safe – but who can she trust?

My Review of The Perfect Betrayal

Tess’s grief is all consuming following the death of her husband.

It’s always an anxious moment when you begin reading a new book by an author you know personally, like enormously and count as a friend. I’ve so enjoyed Lauren North’s women’s fiction as writer Laurie Ellingham that I wondered whether a new name and genre would work. Let me tell you, it most certainly does.

I thought The Perfect Betrayal was excellent. I had all the plot completely worked out, knew exactly what was happening to Tess and who was to blame – except, of course, I didn’t! I was brilliantly wrong footed by the deft plotting and clever writing, so that I was genuinely surprised and moved by Lauren North’s writing. I loved the time frame building from Mark’s death to Jamie’s birthday, juxtaposed against other elements that I won’t say too much about for fear of spoiling the story. I found The Perfect Betrayal both intelligently written and fascinating to read.

Aside from the fast paced and captivating plot, so many aspects of The Perfect Betrayal give depth to the story and enormous satisfaction to the reader. Tess’s grief, her relationships with those around her, and her terror as events escalate, weave an enthralling narrative. I think it is the attention to detail, frequently through Lauren North’s skilful appeal to the senses, that really brings the story alive. Coupled with a claustrophobic and condensed cast of characters, there’s a palpable tension here that gets the pulse racing and heart beat elevated.

I thought Tess was a brilliant creation. The balance between her grief and frailty and her strength and determination made her only too real a person, so that I experienced her emotions with her in quite a profound manner. I found both Ian and Shelley very disturbing individuals and trusted neither but you’ll have to read the book to find out whether I was right about them.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Perfect Betrayal. I genuinely believe Lauren North has shown that she can turn her hand to any genre with cracking success. This is a super book because the reader is manipulated by the story telling until they are as unsure what to believe as is Tess. The Perfect Betrayal is intriguing, entertaining and oh so satisfying to read. I really recommend it!

About Lauren North

lauren north

Lauren North writes psychological suspense novels that delve into the darker side of relationships and families. She has a lifelong passion for writing, reading, and all things books. Lauren’s love of psychological suspense has grown since childhood and from her dark imagination of always wondering what’s the worst thing that could happen in every situation. Lauren studied psychology before moving to London where she lived and worked for many years. She now lives with her family in the Suffolk countryside.

You can follow Lauren on Twitter @Lauren_C_North and find her on Facebook.

Spring at Taigh Fallon by Kirsty Ferry

spring at taigh fallon

My enormous thanks to the Choc Lit and Ruby Fiction team for sending me a copy of Spring at Taigh Fallon by Kirsty Ferry in return for an honest review. I’ve previously had the pleasure of ‘staying in’ with Kirsty Ferry here on Linda’s Book Bag when we chatted all about The Girl in the Photograph in a post you can read here. Today I’m delighted to be reviewing one of Kirsty’s books.

Spring at Taigh Fallon was published by Choc Lit on 19th February and is available for purchase through the links here.

Spring at Taigh Fallon

spring at taigh fallon

When Angel Tempest finds out that her best friend Zac has inherited a Scottish mansion, Taigh Fallon, from his great aunt, she immediately offers to go and visit it with him. It will mean closing up her jet jewellery shop in Whitby for a few days but the prospect of a spring trip to the Scottish Highlands is too tempting.

Then Kyle, Zac’s estranged and slightly grumpy Canadian cousin, unexpectedly turns up at Taigh Fallon, and events take a strange turn as the long-kept secrets of the old house begin to reveal themselves …

My Review of Spring at Taigh Fallon

Angel and Zac have been friends for years.

Now, I’ve heard such good things about Kirsty Ferry from other bloggers so I was looking forward to reading Spring at Taigh Fallon and it certainly lived up to my expectations.

I thought Kirsty Ferry had done a magnificent job in blending the two time frames for her story with the house, Taigh Fallon, at the centre. The two eras melded together so well with echoes of the past reverberating in the present. There’s just enough supernatural ghostliness to be credible and provide a frisson of excitement without straying into the realms of the ridiculous so that, although this isn’t my usual choice of genre, Kirsty Ferry held my attention completely and entertained me royally.

Similarly, the romantic relationships in the narrative felt totally real and believable. I was captivated by both Zac and Kyle and would rather have liked a romantic interlude with either of them. Angel Tempest, however, steals the show. She’s stubborn, flawed and impetuous – just as any romantic heroine should be. I loved the fact that she’s a strong Whitby Goth rather than a simpering blond haired fragile female in need of a man to take care of her. I’m not usually overly fond of children but Grace worked well for me here and afforded Kyle the right opportunity to reveal his true nature so that the characters in Spring at Taigh Fallon felt human and warm to me.

I also thoroughly appreciated the iterative image of The Lady of Shalott that runs through the story with the tower, mirror and superstitions of the setting. It added a smashing layer of satisfaction to the read.

I thought Spring at Taigh Fallon was a perfect grown up romantic fairy tale for adults and can’t wait to read about the other Tempest sisters. I found it romantic without being slushy, well plotted and enormously entertaining. I’m only sorry it has taken me so long to discover Kirsty Ferry’s lovely writing first hand.

About Kirsty Ferry

Kirsty Ferry HR

Kirsty Ferry is from the North East of England and lives there with her husband and son. She won the English Heritage/Belsay Hall National Creative Writing competition in 2009 and has had articles and short stories published in Peoples FriendThe Weekly NewsIt’s FateVintage ScriptGhost Voices and First Edition. Her work also appears in several anthologies, incorporating such diverse themes as vampires, crime, angels and more.

Kirsty loves writing ghostly mysteries and interweaving fact and fiction. The research is almost as much fun as writing the book itself, and if she can add a wonderful setting and a dollop of history, that’s even better.

Her day job involves sharing a building with an eclectic collection of ghosts, which can often prove rather interesting.

You can follow Kirsty on Twitter @Kirsty_Ferry You’ll also find Kirsty on Facebook. Kirsty has a super site here too.

The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings

the cliff house

It seems ages since I last saw wonderful writer Amanda Jennings at the #HQCrimeStories evening. I wrote about that event here.  Today I’m thrilled to be sharing my review of Amanda’s The Cliff House which I read recently on holiday. My enormous thanks to the team at HQ for sending me a surprise copy in return for an honest review.

Published by Harper Collins’ HQ imprint, The Cliff House is available for purchase through these links.

The Cliff House

the cliff house

Some friendships are made to be broken

Cornwall, summer of 1986.

The Davenports, with their fast cars and glamorous clothes, living the dream in a breathtaking house overlooking the sea.

If only… thinks sixteen-year-old Tamsyn, her binoculars trained on the perfect family in their perfect home.

If only her life was as perfect as theirs.

If only Edie Davenport would be her friend.

If only she lived at The Cliff House…

My Review of The Cliff House

Tamsyn is obsessed with the cliff house, but all may not be as perfect there as it first appears.

Oh my goodness, I loved this book. There’s a languid beauty to the writing in The Cliff House. It is atmospheric, claustrophobic and with an underlying tension and menace. There’s such a perfect Gatsbyesque feel that I’m sure F.Scott Fitzgerald would be jealous that he didn’t also write The Cliff House. Amanda Jennings has created a vivid and haunting portrait of passion in all its forms and the devastating outcomes when passion consumes or fades.

The plot is poised, balanced and measured alongside the silky quality of the writing so that it hypnotises and mesmerises the reader. There are exciting events that occur, which I don’t want to say too much about because I don’t want to spoil the story for others, but for me the success of The Cliff House is the exploration of love, menace, deception and perception. Amanda Jennings understands human nature perfectly and illustrates that none of us is as we might superficially or initially appear, so that there’s a complexity to what people do in The Cliff House and why they do it, that I found utterly irresistible.

I adored the restricted palette of characters because Amanda Jennings creates a depth to every one, including the cliff house itself, that is astounding. The capacity for self-deception she exemplifies in them all is sublime. Whilst Tamsyn is the conduit for the narrative, she is complemented by all the others too. Each is guilty, each loves with a manic and destructive intensity and each of the characters is vivid, vibrant and terrifyingly real. Even now I can decide if I loathe or pity Eleanor, if I blame Rob for being the catalyst for the action or if I feel Tamsyn is a bruised innocent or an obsessed lunatic. I loved all the characters, but especially Cornwall with her capricious nature, her fickle seas and her superstitions that permeate the story.

Indeed, in The Cliff House, the setting is fantastic. Amanda Jennings creates a feeling of Cornwall’s isolation and the glass cage that is the cliff house to perfection. I was completely transported to Cornwall’s coastline when reading this book.

This is a book of dark secrets, desperate longings, beautiful settings and wonderful storytelling. I cannot recommend The Cliff House highly enough. I loved it.

About Amanda Jennings

Amanda Jennings

Amanda Jennings writes psychological suspense and is the author of Sworn Secret, The Judas Scar, In Her Wake, and, most recently, The Cliff House. Her books have been published in translation. Like In Her Wake, The Cliff House is set in Cornwall, where her mother’s side of the family is from, and where she spent many long and very happy childhood summers.

Amanda is a regular guest on BBC Berkshire’s weekly Book Club and enjoys meeting readers at libraries, book clubs and literary festivals. Amanda lives just outside Henley-on-Thames with her husband, three daughters and an unruly menagerie of pets, and is currently writing her fifth book which will be published in 2019.

You can find Amanda on Twitter @MandaJJennings, Facebook and Instagram. there’s more information on her website too.

Scream Blue Murder by Tony J Forder

Scream Blue Murder

With the Deepings Literary Festival from May 23rd to 26th 2019 fast approaching and Tony J. Forder as one of our Read Dating authors on Saturday 25th at the library from 2-3.30 PM in a free event, I thought it was about time I got round to reading one of Tony’s books.

Tony has been a regular feature here on Linda’s Book Bag and he has become someone I now consider a friend as we have met several times. I was lucky enough to ‘stay in’ with Tony J Forder to discuss Scream Blue Murder in a post you can read here and am delighted finally to be reviewing that book today.

Other posts include a guest piece from Tony about The Cold Winter Sun imperative you will find here, an inspirational post about becoming a writer here when Bad to the Bone was published, and Tony also told us about writing outside his comfort zone here and he allowed his characters Bliss and Chandler from The Scent of Guilt to introduce each other here.

Published by Bloodhound Scream Blue Murder is available for purchase here.

Scream Blue Murder

Scream Blue Murder

Mike Lynch is going through hard times. But things get much worse when he witnesses a murder in a lay-by. Snatching the victim’s car in order to get away, Mike soon makes a shocking discovery – the victim’s young daughter and her nanny are hiding in the rear footwell. This is when the real trouble begins.

Mike wants to go to the police, but the nanny, Melissa, wants to delay until the daughter, Charlie, is somewhere safe. Mike agrees to this request before finding out the seriousness of the situation, and just how much danger they are really in.

Who exactly was the man he saw murdered? And who is the man he saw pulling the trigger?

In a situation where nothing is what it seems, Mike will have to fight for his life to protect a woman and a child he doesn’t know. And when the death count rises, he will discover what kind of man he really is.

When you can’t identify the victim, how can you find the killer?

My Review of Scream Blue Murder

Mike is having a bad day and it’s about to get worse.

I am kicking myself that it has taken me so long to read Tony J Forder. I thoroughly enjoyed Scream Blue Murder because of the fast pace and the super exploration of the murky worlds of criminals and those in high office. There’s a scary presentation of just how far corruption can reach and I think reading Scream Blue Murder has opened my eyes to the potential for underhand behaviour in many levels.

I was fascinated by the way Scream Blue Murder considers that we never really know ourselves or how we might react until we are put under pressure. It was this gradual uncovering of Mike’s character and the background to his personality that really interested me, even though there is a cracking, fast paced plot to retain a reader’s attention without this added extra intensity. I felt Mike was a man with depth and breadth whom I thoroughly appreciated getting to know. I’m now desperate to read the next book to find out more. In amongst the violence and corruption that rattles through this story is the balance of Charlie’s innocence and her positive impact on the jaded Mike. I felt this element added humanity and depth to an already enticing read.

That said, it would be unfair not to praise the fabulous plot too. It is so exciting and thrilling that I found myself holding my breath as my pulse raced. I genuinely had no idea what would happen next or how Mike’s problems might resolve themselves – or if indeed they would at all. Tony J Forder knows exactly how to keep the reader guessing and their heart rate elevated. I couldn’t tear myself away as I simply had to know what happened next.

I’m concerned that Scream Blue Murder might prove to be one of those quiet books that never gets the recognition it truly deserves. I’ve read so many books that have huge success, such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and in my opinion, Scream Blue Murder is far better, more believable, and more exciting. I really recommend it and would love to see it snapped up for television. If this is the quality of Tony J Forder’s writing then I need to read all his books as soon as I can. Cracking stuff!

About Tony J Forder

Tony Forder photo

Tony J Forder is the author of the critically acclaimed, best-selling crime thriller series featuring detectives Jimmy Bliss and Penny Chandler. The first three books, Bad to the BoneThe Scent of Guilt, and If Fear Wins will be joined by a fourth in the series in 2019.

Tony’s dark, psychological crime thriller, Degrees of Darkness, featuring ex-detective Frank Rogers, was also published by Bloodhound Books. This is a stand-alone novel. Another book that was written as a stand-alone was Scream Blue Murder. This was published in November 2017, and received praise from many, including fellow authors Mason Cross, Matt Hilton and Anita Waller. Before it had even been published, Tony had decided to write a sequel, and Cold Winter Sun will be published in November 2018.

Tony lives with his wife in Peterborough, UK, and is now a full-time author.

You can follow Tony on Twitter @TonyJForder, visit his website and find him on Facebook. You an also come and meet him in person at the Deepings library on 25th May!

Into the River by Mark Brandi


I’m a definite fan of books published by Legend Press and so when Lucy asked me if I’d like a copy of Into the River by Mark Brandi in return for an honest review, I simply couldn’t resist, despite promising myself I wouldn’t take on anything new!

Into the River was published by Legend Press on 1st March 2019 and is available for purchase here.

Into the River


Growing up in a small country town, Ben and Fab spend their days playing cricket, wanting a pair of Nike Air Maxes and not talking about how Fab’s dad hits him, or how the sudden death of Ben’s next-door neighbour unsettled him. Almost teenagers, they already know some things are better left unsaid.

Then a newcomer arrived. Fab reckoned he was a secret agent and he and Ben staked him out. He looked strong. Maybe even stronger than Fab’s dad. Neither realised the shadow this man would cast over both their lives.

My Review of Into the River

Fab and Ben’s lives in a small Australian town are about to change.

Into The River is a cracking read. I found it disturbing, mesmerising and unsettling. I am sure that some readers may find some of the more sexual descriptions too explicit or even offensive, but I thought they were absolutely essential for the authenticity of the book. And my heavens, Into The River is authentic. Mark Brandi conveys small town claustrophobia and an almost primeval masculine bravado, menace, threat and manipulation with terrifying clarity so that reading this story is a very affecting experience.

I found the insight into the world of young boys, their burgeoning sexuality, their underlying innocence and the gap between their desires and the realities of their lives actually very moving. The brutality of Fab’s life, whether at home or school, and his and Ben’s desperate need for one another is beautifully and heart-wrenchingly portrayed. Knowing the boys as intimately as they do, the reader realises just how Fab’s older persona is perfectly pitched – because the quality of the writing is so good.

I can’t say too much about themes as this would spoil the read for others, but I will say how sensitively they are conveyed through perfect prose. The direct speech in particular works so realistically. Mark Brandi has the knack of knowing exactly when less is more so that the real emotion comes through what Fab and Ben don’t say as much as through the words they utter. Sadly, Into the River is a book poignantly fitting for modern times, but you’ll have to read it to find out why!

I hated the ending of Into the River, not because it wasn’t perfect for the plot because it was, being especially fitting with the prologue and traditional three act structure and relating to the events of the younger Ben and Fab’s lives aptly. However, I could hardly bear what happened and Mark Brandi has made me want to storm into the pages of the book and rail against society, its evils and its injustices. I found this literary and profound book very moving and affecting. It touched me completely.

Into the River is a superb read. I devoured it in one sitting and cannot recommend it highly enough.

About Mark Brandi

mark brandi

Mark has worked extensively in the justice system, before deciding to write. Originally from Italy, Mark grew up in a rural Australian town. He now lives in Melbourne and is working on his next book.

You can follow Mark on Twitter @mb_randi and visit his website for more information. You’ll also find him on Facebook.

The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble

the dog runner

As many of you know, I began blogging partly because I used to review children’s books for a large publishing house and write teacher resources to go with them, so I am very fond of reading what are frequently brilliant stories for younger readers. As a result, I’d like to say an enormous thanks to publicist Ruth Killick for sending me a copy of the middle grade children’s book The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble in return for an honest review.

Out in paperback from Old Barn Books on 2nd May 2019, The Dog Runner is available for purchase here.

The Dog Runner

the dog runner

A wild and thrilling middle-grade adventure with an important environmental message, set in an all-too-possible dystopian future Australia.

After a fungus has wiped out the all-important grasses on which most of our foodstuff are based, Ella and her brother Emery are alone in a city that’s starving to death. If they are going to survive, they must get away, upcountry, to find Emery’s mum. But how can two kids travel such big distances across a dry, barren and dangerous landscape? Their dogs take them sledding back to the origins of humanity on the continent and a way to preserve its future.

My Review of The Dog Runner

With anarchy growing and society in meltdown, Ella’s family is being torn apart.

What an absolutely fabulous children’s story. I was gripped by Bren Mac Dibble’s The Dog Runner from start to finish. I thought it was a brilliant touch to begin the narrative with Ella borrowing Golding’s Lord of the Flies from her neighbour because themes of societal breakdown represented here echo Golding’s in an all too real possibility in today’s world. I loved the way Ella is desperate for reading material too because it gives status to an activity many youngster avoid.

In The Dog Runner, not only does the reader encounter a stark possibility for the future as we unbalance the world and its resources, but themes of loyalty, what constitutes family, the almost primeval bond between humans and dogs, love and identity (including ethnic and social) are all there to be contemplated. There is such depth to The Dog Runner that it would make a sensational class reader for children aged 9-13, but I’d like to see as many adults as possible read it too because there is a warning here for us all as well as a superbly compelling narrative.

Themes aside, The Dog Runner has a brilliant plot told at a cracking pace. It’s disconcerting, exciting and actually quite scary so that I found it impossible to put down. I had to know what happened next. I loved the concept that, although she’s young and female, Bella learns to use her wits as young readers will come to realise self belief and determination goes a long way in success. Bella is a super role model for all children.

The overall quality of the writing is so impressive too because the author never patronises her readers. There is just the right level of implied and explicit threat and violence to engage and entertain. She uses vivid and eloquent descriptions of both the environment and the characters, including the dogs, so that there is quite a cinematic feel to the read, making it exciting and vivid. I could imagine the settings so clearly as a result of the atmospheric writing.

I feel that today’s youngsters have such wonderful stories written especially for them and that Bren Mac Dibble’s The Dog Runner ranks among the very best. I recommend it most highly as a brilliant, cautionary and ultimately uplifting story.

About Bren MacDibble


Bren MacDibble was raised on farms all over New Zealand, but had been living in Melbourne, Australia, for twenty years until a wildfire destroyed her home and all her possessions. After rebuilding the house, Bren realised she was no longer attached to material things and now lives and works in a bus travelling around Australia. Her two novels to date have made her a rapidly rising star of Australian children’s literature, with the wellbeing of the earth and its future generations at the heart of her compelling writing.

You can follow Bren on Twitter @MacDibble, visit her website and find her on Facebook for more information.

Sleep by C. L. Taylor


Having just returned from a holiday, it’s time to catch up with reviews of books I read whilst I was in Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. Today’s book, Sleep, is a fitting start with the jet lag I’m feeling as I could certainly do with some rest!

My grateful thanks to Nelima Begum and Sabah Khan at Avon Books for sending me a copy of Sleep by C.L. Taylor in return for an honest review. I was delighted to host C. L. Taylor on the blog when The Missing was published in a post about Cally’s childhood fears you can see here. I love Cally Taylor’s writing and have my review of The Fear here and of The Treatment here.

Published by Harper Collins imprint Avon on 4th April 2019, Sleep by C.L. Taylor is available for purchase through these links.



All Anna wants is to be able to sleep.

But crushing insomnia, terrifying night terrors and memories of that terrible night are making it impossible. If only she didn’t feel so guilty…

To escape her past, Anna takes a job at a hotel on the remote Scottish island of Rum, but when seven guests join her, what started as a retreat from the world turns into a deadly nightmare.

Each of the guests have a secret, but one of them is lying – about who they are and why they’re on the island. There’s a murderer staying in the Bay View hotel. And they’ve set their sights on Anna.

Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One deadly lie.

Someone’s going to sleep and never wake up…

My Review of Sleep

A new job on the Isle of Rum is about as far as Anna can get from her past – she hopes…

I always enjoy reading C.L. Taylor’s books because they are twisty, fast paced and exciting but in Sleep I think the author has surpassed herself. Admittedly the reader needs to buy in to all the dramatic events but I had no problem in doing so. I was so sucked into the action that I had no idea what would happen next and at times I found my pulse racing and my heart thumping as I read. The pace is fast and furious, surging along like the storm waters in the river near the hotel. I was almost afraid to put down Sleep in case I missed something!

I loved the claustrophobic setting with a remote hotel, just seven guests and the pathetic fallacy of the storm so that reading Sleep felt a very atmospheric and almost visceral experience. There’s a very visual aspect to the writing too and I think Sleep would make a brilliant TV series or film. The physical isolation is an effective metaphor for the personal isolation all the characters feel.

What works so well is the fact that all the characters have secrets, fears and various levels of guilt or trauma so that I suspected every single one of them as the person wanting Anna dead and had to keep changing my mind as I read. This made for an incredibly exciting and engaging read. In fact, although Sleep is perfectly readable simply as a fast paced thriller, C.L. Taylor’s exploration of motive, guilt and the way in which we make judgments about those around us is an equally compelling element to the narrative. I loved the Shakespearean references to sleep too as they add another layer of complexity and threat.

I raced through Sleep because it held my attention so completely.  C.L. Taylor has created a gripping and irresistible story that I found riveting.

About C.L.Taylor


C.L. Taylor lives in Bristol with her partner and son. She started writing fiction in 2005 and her short stories have won several awards and have been published by a variety of literary and women’s magazines.

C.L. Taylor was voted as one of the Bestselling Adult Fiction Debut Authors of 2014 in The Bookseller.

You can follow C.L. Taylor on Twitter @callytaylor and find out more about her on her web site. You’ll also find her on Facebook.