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


Book Review: The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories By Women

I bought this collection, edited by Marie O’Regan, a short while ago and I’m glad I did. I liked that the book celebrated the talents of female authors. I’ve read some great horrors and thrillers in the past written by women, and this book introduced me to new writers I hadn’t come across before. However, I found The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories By Women (it’s a bit of a mouthful) a mixed bag; some of the stories were good, others were not so good.

Image result for the mammoth book of ghost stories by women

For this blog post, I am going to challenge myself to review 25 stories in 25 words each.

1. Field of the Dead by Kim Lakin-Smith

I don’t remember the plot – I think it was about a haunted medieval town? It wasn’t particularly scary and the characters had anachronistically modern names.

2. Collect Call by Sarah Pinborough

It’s about a boy abandoned in the desert. This story was eerier than the last, and more like what I’d expected. Verdict: A decent read

3. Dead Flowers by a Roadside by Kelley Armstrong

A short but sweet tale about grief, loss and melancholy that makes good use of flashbacks and characters even within a short amount of space,

4. The Shadow in the Corner by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

A classic Victorian ghost story about haunted houses and rumoured deaths. It was suspenseful, shocking, well-written and thoroughly enjoyable. It’s definitely one of my favourites.

5. The Madam of the Narrow Houses by Caitlin R. Kiernan

This was one of the weirder stories in the collection, about ghosts who visit the same woman for physical intimacy. I don’t remember much else.

6. The Lost Ghost by Mary E. Wilkins-Freeman

Two women recount a paranormal experience of a ghost searching desperately for her mother. This story was entertaining, slightly scary, but a little sad too.

7. The Ninth Witch by Sarah Langan

Not a typical ‘ghost story’, yet a good read. Stylistically similar to Angela Carter, this was a gruesome story about murder, incest, and dark magic.

8. Sister, Shhh… by Elizabeth Massie

A thrilling short story about a girl’s escape from an abusive religious cult. I liked the the paranormal elements and the horror of the cult.

9. The Fifth Bedroom by Alex Bell

A decent story about a haunted house and the lingering presence of its previous occupant. It was okay, but I didn’t find it especially remarkable.

10. Scairt by Alison Littlewood

A story similar to her novel, The Unquiet House, as children begin to mysteriously disappear from a village after possible ghost sightings. Verdict: Fairly interesting.

11. Seeing Nancy by Nina Allan

A short but entertaining thriller about a journalist investigating a ghostly presence, after learning about a murder which took place in her house years prior.

12. The Third Person by Lisa Tuttle

I didn’t understand the plot. It was a bit weird and included some ghost … erotica? I’m not sure what the point was. No thanks.

13. Freeze Out by Nancy Holder

A family start seeing the ghost of their dead mother. It was an okay, but not exceptional, story in which nothing stood out to me.

14. Return by Yvonne Navarro

I really liked this one. It was a well-written story which touched on some taboos and revealed the dark secrets of a creepily dysfunctional family.

15. Let Loose by Mary Cholmondeley

This was an enjoyable story written with true Victorian flair. A fantastic paranormal horror about an evil spirit rumoured to have escaped from a crypt.

16. Another One in from the Cold by Marion Arnott

I thought this one was average and not particularly scary, as the ghost of a war veteran pops up, but then doesn’t do very much.

17. My Moira by Lilith Saintcrow

A bit of a convoluted storyline; it was about protecting a magic Seal in order to help ghosts, but this wasn’t my cup of tea.

18. Forget Us Not by Nancy Kilpatrick

This was a first-person narrative, reminiscing about the loss of her dead husband and missing or dead cat. It was a bit sad, but uneventful.

19. Front Row Rider by Muriel Gray

A fairly entertaining story following the aftermath of a rollercoaster ride. I wasn’t sure who was a ghost and who was alive, which was fun.

20. God Grant That She Lye Still by Cynthia Asquith

This was another older story (you can tell by the writing style) about ghosts, possessions, and haunted houses. It was enjoyable and well-written – another favourite.

21. The Phantom Coach by Amelia B. Edwards

A vividly descriptive tale about a man rescued from a storm by a passing coach, said to have crashed and killed its occupants years beforehand…

22. The Old Nurse’s Story by Elizabeth Gaskell

A nurse recounts a scary experience which affected a girl in her care. However, it was difficult to follow, so I didn’t finish this story.

23. Among the Shoals Forever by Gail Z. Martin

It was a weird story about some magic hunters with bizarre names who target and destroy down supernatural beings – I think? I did not finish.

24. Afterward by Edith Wharton

A couple search their house for ghosts, not realising who are real and who are ghosts until a long time afterwards – a fun, eerie idea.

25. Silver Music by Gaie Sebold

An interesting modern story in the style of a Victorian murder mystery, about the fear of the murder victim’s ghost communicating supernaturally with the detective.

To sum up, there were some clear hits and misses within The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories By Women.

I’m not sure I’d describe all 25 stories as ‘chilling tales’ like the front cover would suggest. Still, I appreciated the way this collection has enabled me to read a variety of styles and a variety of female authors.

– Judith

Book Review: Doctor Perry by Kirsten McKenzie

This is a book review for Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Doctor Perry assures elderly patients at the Rose Haven Retirement Home he can offer warmth, sympathy, and understanding. Doctor Perry is lying.

My Image [Dr Perry]

I greatly enjoyed Kirsten McKenzie’s gothic horror novel, Painted, which you can read my review for here.

The narration and writing style of Doctor Perry is clipped and meticulously detailed, creating a nice parallel for Doctor Perry’s own personality.

At first, I thought this book was like a modern-day Sweeney Todd – a concept I was completely on board with. Doctor Perry doesn’t follow this narrative trajectory however, but it is still suitably unsettling.

Doctor Perry is the best character by far; he’s mysterious, psychopathic and darkly interested in in all kinds of science.

I also liked the twin boys fostered by Doctor Perry’s wife because they’re disturbingly violent and almost ghostlike – like something from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

Similarly to Painted, there were multiple moments where a character ‘failed to notice’ something. I mentioned this in my review of Painted too; repeatedly informing the reader what the protagonist hasn’t seen. Personally, I don’t think this a dynamic way to convey information and works better in horror films and television dramas then it does in a novel.

I thought the ending was quite abrupt – I would have loved Doctor Perry to be longer, to provide further chances to develop the characters and storyline.

I enjoyed reading Doctor Perry and it was a real shame when it ended! If you like thrillers, dark science-fiction, or McKenzie’s work in general, I’m sure you will enjoy Doctor Perry too.

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars

Doctor Perry is available to buy as a paperback or an e-book from Amazon UK or

– Judith