Book Review: The Escape

The Escape is a psychological thriller by C.L. Taylor.

The Escape begins with a stranger confronting Jo Blackmore, making threats against her husband and daughter.  Jo is terrified and thinks she is being stalked, yet nobody believes her family is danger. Taking matters into her own hands, Jo takes her two year old child and runs.

 My mum recommended The Escape to me, saying it was tense and gripping.

I agree; the novel begins immediately with a gripping hook, and I liked the stalker storyline. Taylor’s writing style also brilliantly captured Jo’s fearful and intense paranoia of everything and everyone around her.

However, I was frustrated by how unwilling Jo and, seemingly, everyone around her were to call the police. I know Jo was deeply frightened and therefore hesitant to call – that’s understandable. I don’t understand why every other character also seemed to put off calling the police for the most trivial reasons – meaning the stalking could conveniently continue to advance the plot.

I liked the second half of The Escape more, once Jo is on the run. Pieces of the puzzle began to make sense, and it felt like there was more going on. It was also interesting to see the lengths Jo would go to protect the identity of herself and her daughter.

Jo is definitely the most interesting character in the book. She’s clearly a dedicated mother, yet she struggles to move on from upsetting events in her past, which leaves her vulnerable and fearful for her new family, making the perfect target.

Personally though, I wish the antagonistic characters in The Escape were better developed. The book includes infrequent first-person narration from the mysterious stalker, interrupting the main narrative.

Yet, I don’t think these parts gelled as nicely with the rest of the book because they read like overly angst-filled diary entries, rather than anything scary.  I think these sections could have worked better if they were written as intimating letters, perhaps, and sent to Jo’s house instead. This would increase the tension both for Jo and readers, surely.

In short, I wanted the antagonists to be more villainous, which is an odd criticism to make. I just didn’t think they were threatening enough, and could be seen as some fairly disgruntled people simply pretending to be ‘baddies’.

I still liked The Escape, but it didn’t quite tick all the boxes for me.

– Judith

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Book Review: Black Eyed Susans

A small while ago, I was meant to attend a Waterstones event, where Julia Heaberlin would be speaking about her new book, Paper Ghosts, but it was unfortunately cancelled. However, I was given a free copy of one of her other books, Black Eyed Susans.

Black Eyed Susans is a harrowing story.

Aged 16, Tessie Cartwright was found buried in a grave, marked by a patch of black-eyed susans. She was surrounded by bones – the bodies of previous victims. A man was captured and convicted, and sits awaiting his punishment on Death Row. She remembers nothing about what happened to her. 18 years later, Tessa suspects the real killer is still out there, and wonders if the right man was caught.

Firstly, I know they say don’t judge a book by its cover, but I really like these covers; a beautiful floral pattern is a nice change from more conventional thriller and crime cover designs.

My Photo [Black Eyed Susans 1]My Photo [Black Eyed Susans 2]Black Eyed Susans switches frequently between two main perspectives: the teenage Tessie, in therapy recovering from her ordeal, and the adult Tessa, haunted by her past.

I thought Tessie’s childhood perspective was the most fascinating. She discusses with her doctor what she actually remembers and what she thinks she remembers. The narration clearly conveyed Tessie’s inner-thoughts and attitudes; I felt I really understood her character. Because of this, the therapy scenes were my favourite sections of the book.

I also liked the interview segments which were taken from the trial, as Tessie is asked by lawyers to recount what happened. These sections were deviations from the traditional form of prose, but I enjoyed them as they were only small scenes and helped progress the narrative.

However, whilst I mostly enjoyed Heaberlin’s writing, she also uses lot of short sentences.

This creates a blunt tone. Initially I liked this style. It conveyed Tessa’s adult cynicism and sarcasm. Effectively. It could also create tension. Yet it felt overused. By the end of the novel.

Black Eyed Susans is incredibly sinister and dark. I liked all the twists; I tried to guess throughout what had happened, who was responsible, and why it happened. Unsurprisingly, I guessed incorrectly each time.

I strongly recommend this book, and I’d love to read more from Julia Heaberlin.

– Judith

Book Review: Tubing by K.A. McKeagney

This is part of a blog tour with Red Door Publishing.

Tubing is a mystery and thriller novel by K.A. McKeagney.

After a chance encounter with a mysterious man on a tube train, Polly’s mundane London life is turned upside down. The man leaves before she finds out his name, and so Polly becomes desperate to see him again. As she does so, she discovers the underground phenomenon ‘Tubing’, where complete strangers organise illicit sexual encounters on commuter tube trains, but doesn’t realise she’s placing herself in danger.

My Photo [Tubing]

Tubing is marketed as a thriller. I thought it was a thriller.

There’s also a lot of sex. A lot.

I’d never heard of ‘tubing’ before this book – it’s a rather weird phenomenon (sorry) and I sincerely hope it isn’t real – so for me, the sex scenes didn’t add anything.

Excluding the gratuitous sex scenes, Tubing was easy to read, and I thought the pacing was well-balanced.

Polly’s characterisation was also well-layered; we learn different things about her background such as her struggles with an eating disorder and the way her cruel, hypochondriac mother treats her – I loved this, it reminded me of Camille’s mother from Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn.

I really liked how Polly became more paranoid and suspicious of those around her as the novel progressed. It makes you wonder how much is happening in real life, and how much is simply happening inside her head.

However, I didn’t like Charlotte’s character. She was meant to be a bit snobbish and a bit devious, but I wasn’t convinced by her motivations – she felt like a weaker or unclear character.

Suddenly, Tubing moves from sex to thriller; there is an increasing number of mysterious deaths and possible suicides along the tube lines Polly normally travels. The theme of suicide here was eye-opening and shocking. Suicide on the tubes is a traumatic – and very real – issue and some of McKeagney’s descriptions were more graphic than I anticipated.

When the connections between the events on the London Underground and Polly’s own life were finally revealed, they were a good shock.

The ending was also justified, enjoyable, and satisfying.

I did enjoy the thriller moments of Tubing but I didn’t like that the premise was built around sex with strangers. I probably should have researched the book better beforehand!

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars

Tubing is available to buy as a paperback on Amazon UK from May 2018.

– Judith