The Dark Room by Sam Blake

Hare’s Landing, West Cork. A house full of mystery…

Rachel Lambert leaves London afraid for her personal safety and determined to uncover the truth behind the sudden death of a homeless man with links to a country house hotel called Hare’s Landing.

New York-based crime reporter Caroline Kelly’s career is threatened by a lawsuit and she needs some thinking space away from her job. But almost as soon as she arrives, Hare’s Landing begins to reveal its own stories – a 30-year-old missing person’s case and the mysterious death of the hotel’s former owner.

As Rachel and Caroline join forces, it becomes clear that their investigations are intertwined – and that there is nothing more dangerous than the truth…

Best known for her Cat Connolly series, Sam Blake has returned with a wonderfully written standalone. Rachel Lambert works in the film industry in London and the death of a homeless man prompts her to investigate his life. She suspects he was involved in something suspicious as someone seems to be targeting her and her partner because of their links to him. This investigation brings her to Hare’s Landing, a country house hotel in West Cork.

Meanwhile, Caroline Kelly, a crime reporter in New York is drawn home to Ireland to escape her stressful job. Both woman soon hit it off and their inquisitive natures draw them into a mystery that has haunted the hotel and its vicinity for decades. The hotel’s former owner died under suspicious circumstances and the disappearance of a local girl all seem to be linked with the homeless man. Rachel’s German Shepherd Jasper is also instrumental in the investigation.

West Cork is dark and atmospheric with its wild January weather and rural isolation. Hare’s Landing is lavish and rich, reminiscent of Manderlay, the setting for Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. The hotel is undergoing renovations whilst it’s closed for the Winter season and there’s a supernatural element as the girls try to piece together its history. Crime writers regularly discuss ways they can remove WiFi and CCTV from their contemporary stories to make the investigations more challenging and interesting. Blake has done this in a thoroughly believable way as the WiFi in West Cork is patchy even in calm weather, never mind in the depths of winter.

The book cleverly combines several historical cases with a contemporary story in a layered and well-paced thriller that demonstrates that the past can haunt the present and that choices made in the past can have very real consequences for a large number of people.

Corvus, 7th January 2021

About the author

Sam Blake has been writing fiction since her husband set sail across the Atlantic for eight weeks and she had an idea for a book. Her debut novel ‘Little Bones’ (Bonnier 2016) was No 1 in Ireland for four weeks, remained in the top 10 for another four, and was nominated for Irish Crime Novel of the Year. It launched the bestselling Cat Connolly trilogy.

Moving away from police procedurals Sam is keeping a focus on strong female characters, writing psychological thrillers for Corvus Books. ‘Keep Your Eyes On Me’ went straight to No 1 in January 2020 and ‘The Dark Room’ was an Eason Ireland No 1 for three weeks in January 2021.

The Game by Luca Veste

I’ve always enjoyed Luca Veste’s books (see my review of Veste’s The Six). In The Game, Veste continues his commentary on contemporary urban myth as the eponymous game refers to the increasingly bizarre challenges that a group of people play that lead to their deaths. Since the book was published, we’ve all watched Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel on Netflix which similarly features a woman acting strangely in a lift before she disappears. Similarly in The Game, the police have footage of some of the victims acting strangely in public and in lifts. The most shocking aspect of the book is that it is all too real in the last few years and it plays on our familiarity with the increasingly ridiculous social media crazes, pranks, and dares that we are so familiar with. The Game goes one step closer to show us how peer pressure could potentially manifest on the Dark Web.

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Cry Baby by Mark Billingham

It’s 1996. Detective Sergeant Tom Thorne is a haunted man. Haunted by the moment he ignored his instinct about a suspect, by the horrific crime that followed and by the memories that come day and night, in sunshine and shadow.

So when seven-year-old Kieron Coyne goes missing while playing in the woods with his best friend, Thorne vows he will not make the same mistake again. Cannot.

The solitary witness. The strange neighbour. The friendly teacher. All are in Thorne’s sights. 

This case will be the making of him . . . or the breaking.

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On Maternity Leave!

IMG_1995Life is strange. This time last year, myself and my husband had just lost our little boy. 2019 was an incredibly hard year for us. I was on maternity leave from work so I concentrated on recovery, reading, blogging, writing my first book (which still isn’t finished), and attending writing events around Ireland. I met some wonderful people and some of my favourite writers at some fantastic events including Noireland, the Listowel Writers’ Week, and several events in Dublin and Cork organised by the formidable Vanessa Fox O’ Loughlin. I also learned so much about the writing process and got lots of ideas. Thanks to all of the fantastic writers and publicists that sent me ARCs for the last few years. I love reading and reviewing and hope it’s always something I can do.

This year is a bit different because we’ve just welcomed our little girl. Our rainbow baby. So for the next few weeks/months, I probably won’t be posting reviews for newly published books. Instead, I’m taking a break and I’m going to try to get through some of my TBR pile which includes a lot of books published in the last two to three years that I didn’t get a chance to read. I also have a lot of Stephen King books that I’ve wanted to read for a while. I might post reviews of these older books if I have time and I might also blog about my own writing if I get any time to write!

I don’t know how long I’ll be gone for but I’ll see you on the other side 🙂

Six Wicked Reasons by Jo Spain

44154597._SY475_From the international number one bestseller comes the most clever and gripping thriller of 2019.

It’s June 2008 and twenty-one-year-old Adam Lattimer vanishes, presumed dead. The strain of his disappearance breaks his already fragile family.

Ten years later, with his mother deceased and siblings scattered across the globe, Adam turns up unannounced at the family home. His siblings return reluctantly to Spanish Cove, but Adam’s reappearance poses more questions than answers. The past is a tangled web of deceit.

And, as tension builds, it’s apparent somebody has planned murderous revenge for the events of ten years ago. Continue reading

Magpie by Sophie Draper

A1qo4jlEeNL._SY600_She’s married to him. But does she know him at all?

Claire lives with her family in a beautiful glass house overlooking the water. But she feels as if she’s married to a stranger – one who is leading a double life. As soon as she can get their son Joe away from him, she’s determined to leave Duncan.

But finding out the truth about Duncan’s secret life leads to consequences Claire never planned for. Now Joe is missing, and she’s struggling to piece together the events of the night that tore them all apart.

Alone in an isolated cottage, hiding from Duncan, Claire tries to unravel the lies they’ve told each other, and themselves. Something happened to her family … But can she face the truth? Continue reading