September was a fantastic month in books for me! Between traveling to Scotland for Bloody Scotland, interviewing David Lagercrantz (the author of the new Lisbeth Salander book!), meeting and interviewing M.J. Arlidge (author of the Helen Grace series), and getting Halloween reading recommendations for CBTB from horror writer Ania Ahlborn, I basically couldn't have asked for a better bookish month! October is shaping up to be an equally fantastic one - but more on that soon!
Before I dive into my monthly wrap-up, a few fun bookish stats from the month:
Books Read: 6
Pages Read: 2077
Favorite Read of the Month: THE CHALK MAN by C.J. Tudor
Least Favorite Read of the Month: THE LAST MRS. PARRISH by Liv Constantine
And now, on to my monthly wrap-up!
HOUSE OF SPINES by Michael J. Malone
Orenda Books; 9/15/17 (UK) & 4/1/18 (US)
CBTB Rating: 5/5
The Verdict: spine-tingling, gothic-inspired suspense
When was the last time you read a book that you genuinely could not put down? Michael J. Malone's forthcoming HOUSE OF SPINES was exactly that kind of read for me. From the first page to the last, this bone-chilling blend of psychological suspense and gothic ghost story seemed to possess me; I read it in less than 24 hours, unable to leave Malone's world of love, lust, and betrayal for too long. Following a down-on-his luck writer who inherits a mansion in rural Scotland from a long-lost relative, HOUSE OF SPINES is a genre all its own—it's a seamless blend of psychological suspense, ghost story, ode to the power of the written word, and immersion in the mind of a man who's losing himself to his family history. In short, it's a must-read.
PERFECT REMAINS by Helen Fields
CBTB Rating: 3.5/5
The Verdict: shock-value serial killer thriller
On my first-ever trip to Scotland this fall, I picked up a copy of PERFECT REMAINS by Helen Fields - a Scottish crime novel which came highly recommended to me by friends and a Waterstones bookseller alike! PERFECT REMAINS has all the gore and shock value that readers expect from a serial killer thriller, coupled with its uniquely-Scottish backdrop and roots. Readers follow a detective who is tasked with solving a series of brutal murders - and meet a killer who is nothing short of horrifying. If you’re in the market for a visceral and relatively gory crime novel with a side of police procedural, PERFECT REMAINS will be right up your alley. While this book didn’t upend some of my recent favorite serial killer thrillers (THE FOURTH MONKEY by J.D. Barker and HIDE AND SEEK by M.J. Arlidge, to name a couple), I thoroughly enjoyed this chilling story.
THE LAST MRS. PARRISH by Liv Constantine
CBTB Rating: 3/5
The Verdict: entertaining, but perhaps not suited for crime readers
Try as I might not to judge a book by its cover, some are just too pretty to resist—THE LAST MRS. PARRISH by Liv Constantine is a prime example. Unfortunately, my experience reading this book didn’t quite live up to how enamored I was with its cover. While undeniably entertaining and fast-paced, THE LAST MRS. PARRISH won’t work for crime readers looking for dark, twisty psychological suspense; on the other hand, this book does still tackle themes that might be too dark for readers looking to enjoy a work of women’s fiction. Readers meet a young woman who will stop at nothing to insert herself into the marriage of a wealthy couple. Is this book dark romance? Psychological suspense? Contemporary fiction? This genre-bending wouldn't be an issue, aside from the fact that I've seen this book largely promoted as a "twisty psychological thriller". I would not recommend THE LAST MRS. PARRISH for crime readers, but I also would never deny that there is something very entertaining about this book—it’s just not quite the shocking thriller it’s billed to be.
MARIA IN THE MOON by Louise Beech
Orenda Books; 9/30/17 (UK)
CBTB Rating: 4/5
The Verdict: poignant, heartbreaking storytelling
Some books seem to defy categorization and expectation entirely—Louise Beech’s MARIA IN THE MOON was that kind of read for me. Set in the fallout of a flood, MARIA IN THE MOON delves into the life and mindset of a young woman struggling to find direction and bring her life back to some sense of normalcy as the flood water recedes - but during that process, secrets from her past are dredged up, and must be dealt with. Whatever your expectation for this story might be, MARIA IN THE MOON is likely to surprise you; this book is neither crime fiction nor women's fiction, it’s neither terribly dark nor is it wholly uplifting. What it is is honest: Beech’s writing feels raw, as though the reader is privy to the author’s innermost self, laid bare on the page. MARIA IN THE MOON is a beautifully-constructed and wholly transporting novel, one that draws readers into a young woman’s search for her own memories—a search which reveals truths she has long since hidden from herself.
THE CHALK MAN by C.J. Tudor
*Buzzworthy 2018 Books*
There’s no better way to kick off this year’s “Buzzworthy 2018 Books” series than with a superb crime fiction debut: THE CHALK MAN by C.J. Tudor. Part dark coming of age story, part psychological thriller, this outstanding debut will be a must-read for fans of Stephen King, Ruth Ware, and Liz Nugent—a bit of an eclectic blend, perhaps, but an appropriate illustration of the many facets that will make this debut so widely-appealing. THE CHALK MAN follows a group of young kids who use chalk figures as innocent means of leaving secret messages for one another in their hometown - innocent, that is, until some of the chalk figures lead the friends into the woods, where they discover a dismembered corpse. Tudor's exceptional debut is a gripping blend of traumas big and small, imagined and real—a layered suspense story that leads readers down the rabbit hole of horrors that follow a young boy into adulthood. Tense, immersive, and masterfully plotted, THE CHALK MAN delivers a read that's both on-trend and wickedly original.
THE HOURS BEFORE DAWN by Celia Fremlin
Faber & Faber; Reprint edition - 6/7/17
CBTB Rating: 5/5
The Verdict: masterful classic suspense
*Review to Come*
Fans of Agatha Christie will love Fremlin’s “lost classic” story of domestic suspense. Despite first having been published in the 1950’s, THE HOURS BEFORE DAWN feels incredibly modern in subject matter. Exploring the pressures of motherhood and delving into the secrets hidden with a picture-perfect family, this book can more than compete with the topics and twists of modern domestic thrillers; at the same time, readers who love classic crime fiction will feel right at home in the tone and tempo of Fremlin’s work. It's important to remember that this book is paced more like classic crime than modern suspense, but its content is absolutely riveting and masterfully plotted - despite the slower pacing, I flew through this read. THE HOURS BEFORE DAWN is an outstanding example of timeless crime fiction that feels just as current and relevant today as I can only imagine it must have in the 1950’s.
FAVORITE SEPTEMBER RELEASES - Read the Post
To read more about my favorite September releases, check out my “September Recommended New Releases” blog post! This post will give you a glimpse into what I loved about these September releases. Books discussed in this post:
- LIE TO ME by J.T. Ellison (9/5/17)
- THE GIRL WHO TAKES AN EYE FOR AN EYE by David Lagercrantz (9/12/17)
- LIES SHE TOLD by Cate Holahan (9/12/17)
- HOUSE OF SPINES by Michael J. Malone (9/15/17)
- WHITE BODIES by Jane Robins (9/19/17)
- THE DEVIL’S WEDDING RING by Vidar Sundstøl (9/26/17)
Additional September Blog Posts:
- David Lagercrantz, author of THE GIRL WHO TAKES AN EYE FOR AN EYE, A Lisbeth Salander Novel (genre: Nordic Noir)
- Jane Robins, author of WHITE BODIES (genre: psychological thriller)
- Bloody Scotland Interview - Christopher Brookmyre, author of BLACK WIDOW (genre: Scottish crime fiction/psychological thriller)
- M.J. Arlidge, author of the DI Helen Grace Series (genre: thriller)
- “Meet the Author” Interview with Gilly Macmillan (genre: psychological thriller)
- Dirk Kurbjuweit, author of FEAR (genre: psychological suspense/German crime)
- Cover Reveal: KILLED by Thomas Enger
- September 2017 Recommended New Releases
- Halloween Reading List - Guest Post from Ania Ahlborn