Where is she? Who is she?

My Name is Anna Book Cover My Name is Anna
Lizzy Barber
mystery, thriller, literary fiction
Century
(10 Jan. 2019)

When your whole life is a lie, can you trust anyone? Even yourself?

ANNA has always been taught by her mother that cleanliness and purity are the path to God; that her heart's desire to visit Astroland, Florida’s biggest theme park, is ungodly.

But it’s her eighteenth birthday, and Anna’s feeling rebellious. But on arrival at Astroland, everything feels familiar. Almost like she’s been there before…

ROSIE has grown up in the shadow of a missing sister she barely remembers. Her parents’ relationship has been fractured by fifteen years of searching for their daughter – abducted at Astroland as an infant.

Now Rosie is determined to uncover the truth, no matter how painful it is, before it tears what’s left of her family apart…

Beautifully told from the different teenage girls’ perspectives.

The narrative to this story is told in two voices – Anna and Rosie.
Anna lives with her mother in small town Florida. Her mother is a cleanliness fanatic – cleanliness of the heart, mind and body, also very frugal and constantly praying.
Rosie lives in the UK and lost her elder sister in a Florida amusement park when she was a baby. Her sister was stolen in some manner and may have been killed but no-one knows the real circumstances behind her abduction.
The 15th anniversary of the abduction rolls around and Rosie finds herself increasingly frustrated at not knowing the truth, whilst Anna wants to find her father and to discover who is sending her messages.
Slowly the story explores the lives of these two girls, holding the reader in suspense. The power of cults is also explored through the story.

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When the truth is not what you knew

Everything is Lies Book Cover Everything is Lies
Helen Callaghan
psychological, mystery, thriller, literary fiction
Michael Joseph
2018-09
400

Sophia's parents have lead quiet, unremarkable lives. At least that is what she's always believed. Until the day she arrives at her childhood home to find her mother hanging from a tree in the garden. Her father lying in a pool of his own blood, near to death. The police are convinced it is an attempted murder-suicide. But Sophia is sure that the woman who brought her up isn't a killer. To clear her mother's name Sophia needs to delve deep into her family's past - a past full of dark secrets she never suspected were there . . .

An architect, Sophia,  goes home only to find that everything that she thought she knew about her parents was untrue. It all comes out when she discovers her parents dead at their small nursery garden – only her father survives the stabbing. the police believe that it had been an attempt at a joint suicide, or that her mother had attempted to kill her father and then hung herself in remorse. neither scenario makes sense.

This follows a series of break-ins at the nursery – which seems odd as it was small and not doing well and thus would have little to offer a would-be burglar. perhaps there was another reason for he crime?

Sophia then meets her estranged grandmother and things begin to change, and the mystery deepens as a lost manuscript that her mother was apparently writing, comes into play.

A good suspense story with Sophia gradually discovering the truth about her parents’ lives and her own family. nicely written with the plot becoming more tense as Sophia finds out more.

 

 

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When parents can’t agree

More Than Us Book Cover More Than Us
Dawn Barker
families, parents, autism
Canelo
21st May 2018
Kindle

When parents disagree on how to care for their child, is it justifiable to take extreme measures?

Emily and Paul have a glorious home, money in the bank and two beautiful children. Since leaving Scotland for Paul to play football for an Australian team they have been blessed. But sadness lies behind the picture-perfect family - sixteen-year-old Cameron has battled with health troubles his entire life. There's no name for what he has, but his disruptive behaviour, OCD and difficulty in social situations is a constant source of worry.

When Paul's career comes to a shuddering halt, he descends into a spiral of addiction, gambling away the family's future. By the time he seeks help, it's his new boss Damien who recommends and pays for a rehab facility.

While Paul is away, Emily has to make a tough decision about their son. She keeps it from Paul knowing he'll disapprove. And when a terrible accident reveals the truth, Paul takes his son and goes on the run, leaving Emily to care for fourteen-year-old Tilly, who unbeknown to her parents is fighting battles of her own.

Can the family join together for the sake of their loved ones, or will their troubles tear them apart?

When you first start reading this book, you are convinced that Cameron is autistic and has OCD. But as you read on, you realise that this is too simplistic – and anyway, the experts have said he isn’t on the spectrum.

Now the spectrum is very wide indeed as I know from my own family and so it is difficult to be so definitive. It is clear Cameron has some social difficulties and has some of the repetitive behaviours one might expect, but on the other hand, the meds don’t work and his behaviour remains challenging. His father is convinced that what he really needs is time away from his, in his view, overfussy mother, and no medicines.

So the parents disagree as to what is the best way to help their son, which is not unusual, and in this novel leads to extreme behaviour.

I thought the story rang true until we got to the last section about the cult. It  just seemed to be too easy to join, especially as most of the members were rich. This seems to have been a twist added in for the sake of not having a straightforward storyline.

If you want to know how realistic the behaviour of Cameron is, then look back at the blog published on this site, on 23rd June by the book’s author, who is a practicing child psychiatrist.

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That which lasts..

Durable Goods Book Cover Durable Goods
Cole and Callahan Thriller
Patricia Hale
Fiction, suspense, thriller, psychological
Intrigue Publishing, LLC
April 15, 2018
215

Detective John Stark approaches the PI team of Griff Cole and Britt Callahan with a postcard he's sure is from his estranged daughter, Kira. She's been listed as a runaway for three years by Portland, Maine police but John isn't convinced that her continued absence is by choice. As Stark's long-time friends, Cole and Callahan agree to look into the postcard marked only with the letters OK. The postmark leads them to Oracles of the Kingdom, a farm where women sell fresh produce in return for a fresh start with God. But nothing seems right about the town or the farm and Britt goes undercover to look for Kira. Once inside, she realizes that Oracles of the Kingdom is not the refuge it appears.

And can be re-used…

This was a read that really tests your belief in pastors and religion and demonstrates how easily they can twisted to one person’s beliefs and self.

Here we see a so-called pastor preying on girls who had lost their self-esteem and thus believed that they were worthless and when they found a ‘saviour’ behaved according to his rules. Even when those rules were harmful to them. This is how cults work. They take those who are needy and work on their self-esteem until only the cult can fulfil those needs. They become grateful for what is supplied – food, shelter, and if it is abuse, then they believe that it is justified.

And often fathers are just as much to blame in a patriarchal society as they can idolise the sons and use and re-use the daughters with both mental and physical abuse until the girls are lost.

But isn’t courage doing what is right and good even when you are afraid? And we see this courage in action in this story.

I found the story disturbing and hard to read at times but somehow the writing didn’t quite flow as well as a 5 star book, so 4 it is.

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The Unwelcome Gift

Marriage Pact Book Cover Marriage Pact
Michelle Richmond
psychological, mystery, suspense, contemporary
Michael Joseph
July 27, 2017
432

Alice and Jake are the perfect couple - sort of. On the day of their wedding, a stranger offers them the chance to join a mysterious group, known as The Pact. With its promise of a lifelong marriage of happiness, Jake and Alice are persuaded to accept. The goals of the society seem sound - and the couple are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, sense of community and like-minded couples. But then one of them breaks the rules. Alice and Jake are about to discover that, like marriage, The Pact is for life. The members will go to any lengths to ensure nobody leaves - until the marriage of their dreams becomes their worst nightmare. Under The Pact, 'Til death do us part' has a whole new meaning. . .

A story that gets darker as it develops.

So here is the fairly typical West Coast USA couple. Well educated, good careers with some previous experimentation, living together in a bijou house in a nice neighbourhood. Marriage seems the next and logical step.

And a friend introduces them to this ‘organisation’ that started in Ireland, which aims to help people have better marriages and fewer divorces.

Strangely, to join the organisation you have sign a contract, and then are given a very large book of rules of behaviour. The rules are very precise and specify minutiae – as an example, if your spouse rings you, you must answer within 2 rings. Now you may ask, what happens if you answer in 3 rings? And how would the organisation know? Which is where the story starts getting creepy. Apparently they do know. And you will be ‘reported’ and ‘dealt’ with.

The story is told by Jake, who is a counsellor and therapist, and it is his marriage to Alice that is examined in the book.

If you are married, or about to be married, there are definitely some elements of this story that you might want to think about. How often do you talk to your partner properly? Not just about day to day chores and work. How often do you surprise them with a gift? For no reason other than that you want to?

The statistics about divorce are horrendous and also those about how often marriage counselling fails. So the idea of (self) help and how to make a successful marriage appeals. But, I suspect, that what works for some couples, works for them alone, just because they are who they are, and not someone else. So don’t copy their behaviour!

Which is why I don’t think that the concept of the Pact was useful as an idea from the cult leaders. Who clearly had the wrong sort of psychological training…..

I really like the story and got more and more horrified as the story went on. And the final chapter was completely unexpected.

 

 

 

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