‘The Nothing Man’ – Catherine Ryan Howard

Thank you Catherine Ryan Howard for giving me such a read for my final book of 2022. A book about a serial killer might seem an unusual choice to rate so highly, but this was clever…and once I’d started I really didn’t want to put it down.

The story focuses on a decades-old series of crimes committed by the killer dubbed the Nothing Man. Though he seems to have got away with his crimes, Eve Black survived the attack on her family. She was twelve when The Nothing Man broke into her home, killed her younger sister, raped her mother and left her father dead at the bottom of the stairs. Eve has taken years to feel comfortable talking about her experience, and has now written a book that examines what happened.

Eve’s book has become something of a runaway hit, and it has everyone in Cork talking about this killer. No traces of him were ever found at the scenes of his crimes, and nobody linked to the attacks is seemingly able to offer any details that could help to catch him. But Eve maintains that her book will help in the ongoing pursuit of this killer.

Alongside the fictional book that has generated such interest, we are given the character of Jim. Never has a title felt more fitting as Jim was – is – The Nothing Man. Now in his early sixties, and a security guard in a local shopping centre, Jim’s viewpoint focuses on him learning about the book and his desperate attempts to find out exactly what Eve recalls of that night…and how he can stop her before she reveals what she knows.

From start to finish this was a compelling read. While the details given about the crimes were sparse, enough was given to help us understand the horror of such scenes. I was strangely absorbed by the character of Jim and the insight into his mind, though the real hit was the decision to let the story unfold through the pages of this fictional book.

A clever read, which was paced perfectly, and which I’m surprised not to have heard more about. It’s certainly one that I’d recommend.


‘The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels’ – Janice Hallett

It’s fitting that at around the same time last year I was reading The Twyford Code, since ending the year’s reading with the latest offering from Janice Hallett could quite easily become a part of my Christmas routine. Another great example of a story where nothing is quite as it seems, where the characters know a lot more than they realise and where we are privy to the secrets before we quite understand their significance.

With the mention of a key to a safety deposit box holding the only copies of research by author Amanda Bailey at the start, I was immediately intrigued. The research was focused on the case of the Alperton Angels and Amanda’s quest to find the right angle to hinge her upcoming book on.

While the premise of the book drew me in, it took a while for me to fully engage with the intricacies of the story. The relationship between Amanda and her former associate Oliver was a puzzling one, and the vast array of characters and material being discussed made it quite tricky to keep track of the key events. Certain anomalies in the story stuck out, but were not drawn attention to…at least, that is how it seemed.

Everything centres on the case of the Alperton Angels, a group of people who believed they were angels on earth. Three of the group were found in a deserted basement, their throats cut and evidence of satanic rituals. The purported leader of the group is in prison for the murder of a young restaurant worker, and many believe him to be responsible for the other deaths. A young girl and boy were rescued at the scene, and the baby at the centre of the case was adopted afterwards and their current identity is unknown. Almost eighteen years after the event interest is high, and Amanda is keen to learn the identity of the baby and hopes to discover exactly what happened.

Unfortunately, anyone who has investigated this case has a nasty habit of meeting an untimely death. Supernatural forces at play, or a more mundane attempt by those involved to cover up the truth of what happened? As Amanda and Oliver race to find their truth, each gets drawn into the story in ways they could not have foreseen. Shadowy figures and things that are not recalled clearly by witnesses make this a frustrating case to examine…but once we know the truth (or what seems to be the truth) it’s hard not to be impressed by what Hallett offers.

Again, thanks to NetGalley for giving me the chance to read and review this before publication, and thanks to Viper books for spotting another great story.

‘All the Dangerous Things’ – Stacy Willingham

I’m pleased to report to have been wildly off the mark with my guesses about what happened here, and that really is testimony to the plotting and execution of the story.

Isabelle Drake is a woman struggling. One year ago her toddler son disappeared from his bedroom. There has been no trace of him, and Isabelle is convinced that in some corners she is blamed for what happened. Her marriage has broken up and she is having difficulty sleeping. After talking at a true crime convention Isabelle meets with someone involved in a podcast. She wants to tell her story, though she fears telling it might incriminate her in some way.

As we become more immersed in Isabelle’s story we learn details of her past that lead us to believe she might have been involved. She has memories of events in her past that strongly implicate her.

From the moment we start to learn more about Isabelle and her history, it was hard to gauge where this was going. There were snippets that would hint at the story going one way, and then we’d shift into an alternate place. It was genuinely hard to pinpoint quite which details were pertinent and how we were being manipulated.

I’m grateful to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read and review this prior to publication (scheduled for January 2023). A truly satisfying thriller.



‘The Kind Worth Killing’ – Peter Swanson

I only wish I’d found this sooner…such a good read!

When Ted meets Lily as he’s waiting for his plane he is struck by her beauty. Over a couple of drinks they get talking, and during the flight play a bizarre game of truth. Ted admits that he thinks his wife is having an affair and he discusses killing her.

A seemingly crazy scheme is hatched and we get caught up in a series of events that appear to have been set in motion many years previously. Neither Lily nor Ted is quite what they claim to be, so then to factor in Ted’s wife and her scheming I really did half think they deserved each other!

This was a book that had to be read carefully to ensure links were not missed. The machinations unfolding in front of us made me very worried for the human race but thankful that some of the best villains can be painted in words.
By the time we got to the end a small part of me really wanted them to get their come-uppance, while also applauding the ingenuity that allowed them to get away with what they did.

I understand there is a second in the series and wonder what will happen. Definitely one to try and get my hands on!


‘All Systems Red’ – Martha Wells

All Systems Red is one of my final 2022 Popsugar prompts, and this Hugo Award winner is an intriguing start to a series.
Our main character (for want of a better word) is a security android that has – because it fears for the safety of the humans it is tasked with protecting – amended its system so that it does not have to follow commands. It protects its crew because it chooses to, but this means it does not behave as it’s expected to. Murderbot, as it likes to be called, is something of an anomaly.
When it is sent with its crew to try and find out what happened to a neighbouring team, we soon realise that somebody is interfering with this planetary exploration. We don’t know why, or for what reason, but it certainly indicates that something big is in the offing.
I enjoyed the fact that we see events through the eyes of someone who doesn’t quite understand the world they’re in. The internal monologue of Murderbot offers a unique perspective on events, and although I didn’t feel like many (in fact, most) of my questions were answered it was the kind of book that hinted at something very interesting taking place.


‘Take My Hand’ – Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Inspired by events in Montgomery in 1973, Take my Hand focuses on the story of Civil Townsend, a young nurse, who is determined to do her best to help those patients she is hired to help. Told in two time frames, we follow Civil as she brings about a landmark case.

In the past period, Civil is shocked when one of her first outreach cases involves giving contraceptive injections to two children. Children who have not even been kissed. Worried about the risks associated with an unlicensed injection, Civil takes it upon herself to make a difference and – sadly – her meddling comes to have monumental consequences for the girls and their family.

Following Civil through her work was troubling. It was clear that something awful was brewing, but I really wasn’t prepared for the revelation that Civil’s clinic was carrying out enforced sterilisations. Even more upsetting was learning that this had really happened!

This was a book that packed a powerful punch. While Civil may not have always acted in the way you might expect, her heart was in the right place and the impact her actions had cannot be underestimated.