Paper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin

paper ghostsAt this point I am beginning to think Heaberlin may have the potential to be a really successful serial killer. Just kidding ( or maybe not, lol).

In both Paper Ghosts and Black-Eyed Susans she shows a frighteningly precise insight into the minds of killers capable of the most heinous of crimes.

I can identify with the main character and her reckless plan, as bizarre as that may sound. Not knowing the fate of your sister, child or loved one is sometimes worse than knowing all the possibly gruesome details of their death.

It all comes down to the desperation and the need for closure. Society teaches us to sit back and let the authorities do their job, however the reality is that they don’t have magic wands and can only follow the leads and evidence they are aware of, and it all has to be within the confines of the law. When the dots can’t be connected a high number of criminal cases go unsolved or remain without enough evidence to charge a particular suspect.

Grace has connected her own dots and the pattern that emerges is a scenario in which Carl is a serial killer, and the man who took her sister from her. She decides to revisit the scenes of old crimes to jog memories in the foggy confused mind of this man she believes to be a cruel killer.

She is playing a dangerous game with a man, who appears to be suffering from dementia, and yet at the same time he seems to be plotting the demise of his next victim. One moment he is clear enough to be a threat to her life and that of other unsuspecting victims, and the next he is saving dogs, cats and also Grace.

I loved this read. For one it definitely speaks to the random coincidences we sometimes convince ourselves are real connections, thereby creating false scenarios and accusations. Unfortunately for Grace these possible scenarios are based on circumstantial evidence, as opposed to direct evidence.

Heaberlin knows exactly how to create a feeling of suspense and fear. The kind of fear that creeps up on you from behind. You never know whether Carl is going to kill, maim or disfigure his prey, or be a friendly animal loving old man saving Grace from herself and her inner demons.

Even if it sounds like a cliché, if done correctly this would make a great film. It is a compelling and sinister character-driven read. The whole plot is based solely on the interactions between the two of them and the places they visit together. Haeberlin is a master of the mind-screw, building tension and twisted plots. Paper Ghosts is definitely taking a spot on my favourite books of 2018 list.

Buy Paper Ghosts at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @juliathrillers @MichaelJBooks @PenguinUkBooks


Read Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

#BlogTour Her Last Lie by Amanda Brittany

Today I am pleased to take part in the BlogTour for Her Last Lie by Amanda Brittany. It is a psychological thriller filled with trauma, suspicion and an erratic main character, who is just waiting for her ‘killer’ to strike again.

About the Author

Amanda Brittany lives in Hertfordshire with her husband and two dogs. She loves travelling, and visiting Abisko in Sweden inspired her to write ‘Her Last Lie’.

She began writing fiction nine years ago, and has since gained a BA in Literature, a Diploma in Creative Writing, and has had 200 stories and articles published in magazines globally.

When her younger sister became terminally ill, Amanda’s hope was to write a novel where her royalties went to Cancer Research. ‘Her Last Lie’ is that book, and all of Amanda’s royalties for downloads will go to that charity. ‘Her Last Lie’ is her debut novel.

Follow @amandajbrittany @HQDigitalUK

Visit or follow amandabrittany2 on Facebook

Buy Her Last Lie

About the book

She thought she was free of the past. She was wrong.

Six years ago Isla was the only victim to walk free from Carl Jeffery’s vicious murder spree. Now, Isla vows to live her life to the fullest and from the outside it appears perfect.

Determined to finish her book Isla plans her final trip to Sweden, but after returning from Canada and meeting a man she never thought she would, her life begins to derail.

Suddenly Isla is plagued by memories of the man who tried to murder her, and the threat that he could be back causes her to question everything, and everyone around her.

This debut psychological thriller will have you closing down social media accounts, looking over your shoulder, and hooked until the very last line. Perfect for fans of Sweet Little Lies, Friend Request and Louise Jensen.


Isla has never really dealt with the trauma of nearly being killed. To her family and friends she appears to be fine, but they are unaware of the turmoil beneath her cool exterior. When her would-be killer gets the chance to be released her anxiety and fear resurfaces, which is when she starts to question her relationships and her life in general.

Suddenly the love of her life doesn’t seem to be the perfect partner, and her eyes start to wander. She feels as if it is impossible to confide in anyone around her, because keeping up the pretence is much more important than relieving herself of her worries.

There seems to be a certain level of victim-blaming going on, aside from the obvious people who believe in the innocence of the perpetrator of course, it’s subtle but it’s there. Questioning her need to conquer her fears by travelling the world again, thereby in their minds putting herself in the direct path of danger again.

I can understand Isla wanting to take back control of her life again, however I didn’t really understand her reluctance to discover the result of the appeal. Correction, I comprehend the denial and the fact that it isn’t happening if she doesn’t acknowledge it, but it is in direct contradiction to her taking back control of her life.

Towards the end of the book the author presents an interesting conundrum. Has Isla escaped a killer to return to a killer? Her blog appears to tell a completely different story about her personality. Who is the real Isla? The woman who fears the return of a killer and is supposedly content with her life and relationships or is it the risk-taker, the passion-seeker and the liar?

Brittany delivers a master class in red herrings and subterfuge to deliver a gripping story of recovery and survival. She highlights the dangers of social media and how laissez-faire our attitude is towards it. Adding names without faces and often complete strangers. Do we really know what or who is lurking behind every profile?

Her Last Lie is a lesson in secrets, lies and people who live double lives, especially the people who aren’t the person they appear to be. It’s an attempt to peer behind the masks we hide behind to keep ourselves safe.

Buy Her Last Lie at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Limehouse Golem by Peter Ackroyd

the limehouseThis a quite a complex story, so I am interested to see how it translates to the big screen.

It starts with the impending death of Elizabeth Cree aka Lizzie. Charged with the murder of her husband John Cree, the reader is taken back to her childhood, her first days of freedom and her life on the boards performing as everyone but herself.

Other than the Victorian setting, the other aspect of this murder mystery with a gothic vibe, is the deliberate confusion about who the guilty party is. We are given a tour of the mind of the Golem, often during the brutal killings. Then there are the incidents Lizzie is involved in, and let’s not forget what happens after Lizzie meets her unfortunate end. (Sorry, you will have to read all about it)

My point is, Ackroyd leaves the reader with a certain question of doubt. Is the ‘Golem’ really responsible or is Lizzie more than a determined young woman with a troubled past? Is everything as it seems, and what are the chances of different killers coming into contact with each other?

The story gives the reader a great taste of life in the music-halls, the streets of London, and the bawdy entertainment that brightened up the bleary and tough era. Ackroyd brings a macabre and twisted flavour to the bleakness of the setting. It’s all about the killing, and yet at the same time it has nothing to do with it at all.

Buy The Limehouse Golem at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Insidious Intent by Val McDermid

Insidious intentI don’t think I have ever read such an unusual request by an author in an actual book. I have read impassioned pleas on social media and in blog posts, but never as an add-on author’s note after the read. I guess it says a lot about how much McDermid wants her readers to enjoy the story completely without any spoilers.

I have to say I can understand why she wants this particular twist and spectacular ending to be experienced during a subjective reading experience.

Carol has ended up on the wrong side of the law. The powers that be made sure that she can still do her job, but that has dire consequences. She is finding it hard to cope with some of her past decisions, which makes her doubt her current actions.

The team are confronted with a meticulous killer. The type, who plans every last detail and pre-empts every possible scenario the police may investigate. Have they finally met their match?

There is a sub-plot in the midst of the serial killer storyline about an issue that happens far too often in this age of social media, so first of all kudos to McDermid for presenting both sides of this particular issue.  I have actually come across a similar scenario at our local high school, just without the blackmail element. Both parents, young adults and teens have difficulty comprehending that sending, receiving, sharing and owning of certain material is also considered a crime when you are a teen. McDermid has created a realistic scenario, which should give some readers some food for thought.

The ending is way out of left field, and it happened so quickly it left me slightly bewildered, and I’m sure I am not the only one who wants to know where the heck do they go from there?

Once again McDermid proves why she is such a revered crime writer.

Buy Insidious Intent at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailers.

Follow @valmcdermid

Watching You by Arne Dahl

watching youSam is desperately trying to find a young girl, the victim of a kidnapping. The upper echelon of the police think it is an isolated event, but Sam thinks it is the work of a serial-killer. He believes her disappearance is linked to other cases of missing girls. Of course the upper echelon is also unaware of his personal interest in the case, and his private investigations into the crimes.

Sam happens upon a coincidence, well at least he thinks he does, which leads him to the killer. Enter Molly, the face with many names, and the other person who thinks she has found the killer.

I have to admit to being of two minds about this book. At times I thought it was incredibly clever and then at other times it seemed overly complicated. Perhaps because it swayed between moments where you have to strain the grey cells to keep up and then others that were a wee bit unbelievable.

Readers will get to the point of ‘who the heck is the killer?’ Then change their minds and ultimately start doubting everyone. After the whole Sam interviews Molly and vice versa debacle I felt like having a stiff drink, and I don’t even drink.

Dahl thinks outside of the box. He isn’t afraid to challenge the reader or himself for that matter. It has a noir feel to it, and Dahl certainly believes in the darker the better.

Buy Watching You at Amazon uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Visit  Follow @arne_dahl

The Second Sister by Claire Kendal

the second sisterIn a way a missing person is often a sentence worse than death. It has no finality and it promises a lifetime of uncertainty. It’s one thing knowing the fate of a loved one, even if the details are inhumane and almost impossible to bear. It’s quite another to spend minutes, days or years imagining the worst, whilst simultaneously hoping for the best.

This is the situation the reader finds Ella in. She is quite simply obsessed with the disappearance of her older sister Miranda. Vanished without a trace and leaving behind a young child. Was she overwhelmed with life or did someone take her?

Ella is absolutely obsessed with finding out what happened to her sister. She knows in her gut that Miranda would never just abandon her son. It has an impact on her health, her life, her relationships and everyone around her.

The scenes between Ella and Thorne are especially tense and nightmarish. The serial killer is only too happy to help Ella with her investigation. Of course, there is always a price to pay when a manipulative psycho is involved.

Kendal writes a gripping story, although it does occasionally wander into some unbelievable sub-plots and perhaps superfluous red herrings. It was still a good read, because the disappearance and the truth were delivered in a captivating way.

Buy The Second Sister by Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

A Dark so Deadly by Stuart MacBride

a dark so deadlyThis read is messy, but in a good way. It is at the very least dysfunctional and unpredictable. Fair warning, an extremely high amount of babies, of the jelly variety, lose their little lives during this murderous tale.

MacBride has his characters throwing around banter like an unruly crowd throwing food during an ancient Greek theatre performance. A lot of tit for tat and sometimes they are as vicious to each other, as a honey badger on a rampage.

Poor Callum, he really isn’t having a very good time of it. His career is nearly over, his life is crumbling like a dunked biscuit and his new friend on speed dial is a 7 year old girl, who thinks she is more gangsta than Al Capone.

It takes the gang a while to figure out that they are dealing with a particularly vicious and unbalanced serial killer. A ruthless and very intelligent one.

I have to admit, the author managed to get one over on me. There was the occasional niggle, which I won’t delve into because it would give away the game. Overall I was ‘colour me surprised’ at the end.

I think the author actually excels at having no normal or semi-normal characters, they are all misfits in their own right, and it works. In their own way the whole bunch of them bounce off each other and they care what happens, despite loud protestations to the contrary.

MacBride is definitely an author I will be revisiting. I enjoyed his dark humour and droll wit. I’m fairly certain the whole banter and witty repertoire was a way to distract me from the fact the author was hiding the killer right in front of me. Yeh, that’s my theory and I’m sticking with it. (*grin*)

Buy A Dark so Deadly at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson

Today it is my turn on the Blog-Tour for Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson. Believe you me, you won’t want to miss this one.

About the Author

Born in 1978 in Marseille, France, and a graduate of Political Sciences, Johana Gustawsson was a journalist for television and French press. She now lives in London, England.

Visit  Follow @JoGustawsson or @Orendabooks on Twitter or on

Buy Block 46

About the book

In Falkenberg, Sweden, the mutilated body of talented young jewelry designer Linnea Blix is found in a snow-swept marina. In Hampstead Heath, London, the body of a young boy is discovered with similar wounds to Linnea’s. Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1944. In the midst of the hell of the Holocaust, Erich Hebner will do anything to see himself as a human again. Are the two murders the work of a serial killer, and how are they connected to shocking events at Buchenwald? Emily Roy, a profiler on loan to Scotland Yard from the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, joins up with Linnea’s friend, French true-crime writer Alexis Castells, to investigate the puzzling case. They travel between Sweden and London, and then deep into the past, as a startling and terrifying connection comes to light.


It is a well thought out psychological thriller. One that will drag the readers to places they probably don’t want to go to. From one of the darkest periods in 20th century history to the cries of scared little boys.

The reader is taken from the past to the present and back again as the story progresses. This in itself isn’t unusual, but the where and the why is. Regardless of whether the story is taking place in the past, in the middle of the human quagmire of despair of the Buchenwald concentration camp or in the present searching for a vicious killer, both story-lines are equally captivating. In fact it was so intriguing that I was telling myself to read faster to get to each new chapter.

Gustawsson knows how to make your skin crawl, make you want to cry and make you livid with anger, sometimes all at the same time. She does exactly what one would expect a good storyteller to do, reel her audience in and keep them wanting for more.

Block 46 is abhorrent and it is also quite callous at times. I wouldn’t expect anything less from a psychological thriller weaving threads from a notorious concentration camp all the way to the tortured and abused body of a little innocent child.

The author spins a wicked tale of terror, pain and deception. It is an absorbing combination of history and crime, with a flair of Nordic noir and a nefarious mind behind it all.

Buy Block 46 at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker

Fourth MonkeyHalf the fun when you’re reading crime is figuring out who the killer is, so it’s unfortunate when said killer gets squished by a bus in the first few minutes of a book. In this case it’s all about finding his last victim. A one-eared teen hidden in a cement jungle in a dark room full of nasty surprises.

The killer picks his victims in an odd way. He chooses to inflict secondary pain by killing someone close to the person he wants to punish. Of course that pain is nothing compared to the butcher-like torture he expresses upon his physical victims. Bit by bit and parcel by parcel.

A cat and mouse game ensues with Detective Porter, who is dealing with plenty of personal issues at the time FMK returns to make a last stand.

There are plenty of twist and turns combined with strong characters and a compelling plot. Barker likes to take his readers to very dark places, literally dark places.

I will not tell a lie, the author manages to create the type of images that make your spine tingle and the hairs rise up on the back of your neck. It’s creepy and vicious, in a very IT clown staring up at you from a drain, kind of way.

Barker writes a wicked plot, a wee bit gruesome and barbaric at times, but definitely a fast-paced and blood fuelled exhilarating read. Definitely an author I will be revisiting.

Buy The Fourth Monkey at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Long Drop by Denise Mina

The-Long-Drop-Final-no-quotes.jpgThe Long Drop is based on the true crime story about an American born Scottish serial killer called Peter Manuel and the man accused of three of his crimes.

In 1956 William Watt was accused of killing his wife, daughter and his sister-in-law. He would have been tried and executed for the crimes, if the police hadn’t cottoned on to the fact they had a serial killer in their midst.

Mina turns a meeting of the two men into a cat and mouse game between killer and accused. A literary thriller with the dark city of Glasgow as a backdrop. A city on the brink of change, just about to take a step into literally a lighter brighter time, well at least optically. The black stones of buildings were cleaned, trees planted, whole neighbourhoods ripped down and rebuilt. A massive health and x-ray initiative was launched to combat and eradicate tuberculosis.

It will be interesting to see whether Mina draws parallels between the meeting of Watts and Manuel, and the essence, core and subsequent change in Glasgow.

Mina’s writing is expressive, sharp and memorable. Her knowledge of Glasgow and the people is filtered into her stories in an almost subconscious layering. Mina writes noir with a twist, the psychological tear-downs between her characters is what sets her stories apart from the rest.

I think the reader starts out with the same assumption as Mina when she wrote the play Driving Manuel, that Watt was a victim in this scenario. After listening to people who were alive and there at the time Mina took another look at the crimes, the result being the novel The Long Drop. This time she presents a slightly different slant on the story.

Perhaps Watt wasn’t the innocent bystander everyone thought he was. Why would a man in his position, a man who had spent time in jail for the murders of his family, why would he even consider spending time with the real killer? Pretending to prove his innocence by getting the guilty party to admit their guilt or conveniently conjure up the murder weapon.

Drinking and laughing with the man who shot his wife and then hurt and killed his daughter. Having a jolly good chat like old chums. Is it just desperation or does Watt have something to hide?

Mina gives a really good insight into the possible conversation between Watt and Manuel. No matter whomever you think may be guilty or whatever the possible scenario, one thing is absolutely clear, Peter Manuel was a sadistic killer. A killer with no remorse, who liked to stalk and torture his victims, and a man who killed viciously and enjoyed the violence.

Mina explores certain personality traits of Manuel and describes them rather well. He had a need, almost a compulsion to show-off, to brag and hog the limelight without being caught. His braggart nature and overconfidence is what led to his demise.

It’s an interesting read, which has the distinctive mark of Denise Mina.

Buy The Long Drop at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.