Profile K – Helen Fields

From start to finish this book was gripping. I couldn’t wait to find out exactly what was happening, and though the subject was pretty terrifying I was fascinated. If this is typical of Helen Fields’ writing, then I think it’s about time to do some catch-up reading.

Our main character is Midnight Jones, a data analyst for Necto. The company is highly regarded, and has high expectations of their employees. When Midnight comes across some data anomalies, she looks further to find out what might be behind the problem. What she discovers is that the psychometric testing used by the company appears to have been pushed beyond its boundaries by a recent test case, known only as Profile K.

Nobody seems to take her concerns seriously. Yet not long after she comes up against some rather heavy stone-walking there’s a major company reshuffle and Midnight is promoted. She becomes increasingly fearful of the implications of her private questions…even more so when the body of a young woman is discovered, with similarities remarkably like that if the footage shown to her anonymous test case.

Without revealing any more of the plot, this is a story that operates on so many levels. The thriller element was absorbing, and the flashes we get into the head of the killer are truly sinister. Watching Midnight piece things together and coming to see the implications of her discoveries was compelling. And Doris…what a character!

Huge thanks to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read and review this before publication. Now, off to try and source some other books by Helen Fields…

‘The Summer She Vanished’ – Jessica Irena Smith

Our main character is Maggie, a student, who has returned to Boweridge (a small town in America) to see her mother for the first time in years. They’ve had a tempestuous relationship since Maggie chose to go to the UK to live with her father…and things take a downward turn when Maggie learns that she had an aunt, Minna, that nobody has talked about. Maggie takes it upon herself to learn more.

What Maggie discovers is that forty years ago a young nun, Sister Fran, was found murdered outside a diner on the outskirts of Boweridge. A week after this seventeen year old Minna disappeared. Everyone at the time assumed she ran away, but Maggie finds hints that the two cases might be connected as Minna told people she knew who had murdered Sister Fran.

We follow Maggie as she sets about trying to uncover the truth.

The town of Boweridge is full of characters with something to hide…a lot of which links to the convent where the name of one charismatic priest, Father Tom Brennan (the brother of the Chief of Police), keeps cropping up. Rumours have circulated for years, and Maggie finds plenty of evidence of a large-scale cover-up.

This was an absorbing read. The intricacy of the deception involved angered me, and the fact that so many innocent people got caught up in this web of lies was hard to comprehend. Not all our questions are answered – the slimy Simon definitely had something to answer to – but Maggie’s investigation makes for a compelling read.

Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read and review this before publication.

‘The Night Before Christmas’ – Alex Pine

For DCI Walker and his team, Christmas has come to be a much disliked time. Having solved a number of cases around this time over the past few years, they shouldn’t be surprised when yet another Christmas Eve is marred by a very odd case.

A call is received saying that four men went for a walk and haven’t returned. They can’t be contacted and it’s hours after they were expected home. The police treat this – logically – as a risk to life due to the increasingly bad weather and mountain rescue are called out to help search for the men and their dogs.

As the time passes, DCI Walker comes to realise that there is nothing ordinary about this case.

The four men who’ve gone missing were actually on a hunt. The home of one of the men is discovered vandalised and the word ‘murderers’ is found daubed on the walls. With the man’s neighbour a keen anti-hunt saboteur, this quickly becomes a more dangerous situation.

It was hard not to feel frustrated by the pace at which things happened here. This is not a criticism. We follow each moment of the case and see in detail just how difficult the job can be. The dedication the police show to their cause shines through from start to finish, and the pressure they are under by the increasingly social-media focused world it’s hard.

The topic was darker than previous books in the series.

When a picture of a body is sent to news outlets with the phrase ‘let the hunt begin’ we know there’s more to this story. It’s not long before the police recognise they’re no longer looking for survivors, but their hunt for the murderer/s is not an easy one.

Once again, Pine manages to create a scenario that draws us in. The beautiful backdrop of the series is used to great effect to emphasise the danger that is also present. A topic that generates much debate is at the heart of the story, and the thorny issue of who was behind it was a puzzle that I could not wait for them to solve.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for giving me the opportunity to read and review this prior to publication.

‘Confessions of a Dangerous Girl’ – Dan Birk

Emma Garthright is a fascinating character. Diagnosed as a psychopath after trying to kill her younger brother when she was six, Emma lives at the Early Institute where she – along with other teens like her – is trained to be an assassin.

When we meet Emma she is struggling to complete the missions she has been given, and her attempt to atone is to go undercover. She is to be enrolled as a student at the school local to her family and is tasked with getting onto the school Model UN group.
Watching Emma try to work out the situation she was in was absorbing. She doesn’t react like you might expect people to, but is highly skilled in ways that go beyond what you’d expect from a sixteen year old.

Naturally, those Emma is working for are not quite what they claim to be. We follow Emma through her mission and see her developing sense of conscience.

Quirky, far more entertaining than you might expect given the subject matter and it ended with a suggestion that things might just work out okay.

Thanks to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read and review this in advance of publication.

‘Their Vicious Games’ – Joelle Wellington

Their Vicious Games is a strange tale, cautionary yet taking a grim delight in the awfulness of the characters/their situation.

Our main character is Adina Walker, daughter of two teachers, who has been allowed to attend a prestigious Academy. Due to an incident in her recent past which involved her ‘forgetting her place’ her offers to attend Yale and any other university have been rescinded, and Adina is struggling to work out what her future holds. She feels that she is owed something, desperately wanting to get back her opportunities…but for that to happen she will need the help of the very people who seek to ostracise her because of the colour of her skin/her lack of wealth.

The majority of the action takes place during what is called The Finish – an event held annually by the Reamington family, giving selected young girls the opportunity to win a prize. What Adina doesn’t realise is that The Finish is actually a competition where there can only be one winner.

As soon as Adina, and we, realise what’s going on it’s hard not to be struck by the brutality of the games.

Nobody is safe. Everyone is playing a part. It becomes a question of how far people are willing to go, and the extent to which people are prepared to challenge the status quo.

Thanks to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read and review this before publication.

‘Just Another Missing Person’ – Gillian McAllister

Talk about being put through the wringer! In her latest thriller, McAllister offers an explosive read…and one which keeps the twists coming until the bitter end. If you’re new to this author, you’re in for a treat, and if she’s already a favourite then you’re in safe hands.

In this time where CCTV footage is everywhere and people meticulously document their lives via social media, it shouldn’t be hard to find traces of a person. When 22 year old Olivia Johnson is reported missing by her flatmates nobody really thinks she won’t be found. However, though she is seen walking into an alleyway there is no other trace of her.

DCI Julia Kane is called to investigate and she quickly finds herself perplexed by the case. Unfortunately, and for reasons you will find out during the book, this case is closely linked to DCI Kane and she is under pressure to try and ensure nobody finds out what really happened.

With growing concern about the case Kane finds herself turning to increasingly unorthodox measures. At every stage we can understand her course of action and the ethical dilemmas presented during the course of the narrative force us to examine just how far we’d go to protect those we love.

Huge thanks to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read and review this before publication.

‘How to Die Famous’ – Benjamin Dean

How to Die Famous is a book that examines the dark underbelly of Hollywood, showing just how seriously people in power take the desire to come out on top.

A gripping page-turner that I can see being made into a movie before long. It ticks every box, and I’m grateful to NetGalley for giving me the chance to read and review it before publication.

Abel Miller is the new face in an upcoming blockbuster. As a Brit joining a celebrated American teen show he could be forgiven for being nervous, but Abel has more reason than most to fear discovery. As an undercover journalist, Abel is trying to track down exactly what happened to his brother years earlier. Of course we’re desperate to find out what happened, and whether Abel will evade discovery.

From the moment we’re introduced to the cast of characters at the heart of the show, it’s clear that there’s a lot riding on this. We have the history of the show’s cursed predecessor and there’s clearly a story to be learnt. What we quickly see is that there’s more than one story to be uncovered, and there are no depths to which those who have most to lose will stoop to in order to stay on top.

A great cast of characters, a wonderfully exaggerated villain and sidekick, a number of secondary characters who offered something more than you might expect…and an absolutely audacious ending that hints we might see more of this cast.

Fantastic read, and I can’t wait to get this in the hands of some readers at school.

‘One of Us is Back’ – Karen McManus

Rather unexpectedly perhaps – but if you’re onto a good thing then let it run – we return for our third visit to Bayview. Our murder crew has grown a little, but the repercussions of Simon’s game are still being felt. Nobody quite feels comfortable…and we soon see things are going to get a whole lot worse.

If you’ve followed the others in the series then this is a sure-fire hit. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s more appealing than its predecessors and fans of Karen McManus are going to be so excited when this releases in July 2023. Thanks to NetGalley for giving me the chance to read and review it before publication, and I think – having just finished – I’ll have to get my hands on a physical copy (even though the paperback isn’t due until March 2024).

In One of Us is Back our story is mainly narrated by Phoebe, though we get views from all the characters and even get to see what was happening six years earlier with Simon and Jake. Bayview has always had its fair share of secrets but in this instalment we see just who is hiding what.

Things begin rather innocuously with a hacked billboard promising a new game. This puts people on edge but doesn’t seem too serious. However, as people start to go missing and the injuries become more serious, we soon realise that someone has returned to Bayview with their heart set on revenge. The book follows our crew as they try to work out who’s behind this, and why.

I genuinely did not see some of these revelations coming, and the story offering light on earlier events helped make sense of so many things. Perhaps it’s a little unlikely, bi it makes for a cracking read and there are definite signs that our trips to Bayview may not yet be over.

‘How to Find a Missing Girl’ – Victoria Wlosok

When cheerleader Stella Blackthorn went missing everyone assumed she had run away. Her younger sister, Iris, was adamant she wouldn’t have run…and gets herself into trouble trying to investigate what happened. Now, a year later, Iris is still searching for answers and another young girl goes missing. This time, it’s Iris’s ex.

From start to finish this is a hard book to put down. For fans of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder the focus on the two incidents kept me hooked. Iris and her group of detectives are a rather eclectic bunch, but definitely a group of teens you want to listen to.

Mixing the narrative with a podcast, the focus on two crimes really makes for an intriguing read. Iris is prone to reckless decision-making, but it’s difficult not to get swept upon the events described.

Thanks to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read and review this before publication.

‘The Only One Left’ – Riley Sager

A Riley Sager novel appearing on NetGalley always puts me in a flap…just in case I don’t get access to it and have to wait publication. Thankfully, that didn’t happen and this is definitely a thriller you will not want to put down.

Kit is in a difficult position. Since being accused of killing her most recent patient she’s been suspended from work and her father can’t look her in the eye. The people around her think she’s a killer. So when she’s given the chance to work again, she’s desperate to take the job…even after she learns who she’ll be looking after.

Kit’s new patient lives at Hope’s End, a rambling mansion perched on the cliff tops. Her name is Lenora Hope, and when she was seventeen she was accused of murdering the three other members of her family.

The story follows Kit as she spends her days caring for someone she isn’t entirely sure she trusts. Strange noises can regularly be heard from her room, but Lenora can’t walk or talk. When Lenora lets on that she can type, Kit starts to learn more of what happened that night.

Sometimes the truth is stranger than anything you can come up with.
Sager does a good job of drawing us in to this very mixed-up family. The atmosphere of the house is suitably oppressive and the development of the story is well paced. I can’t say more as I’d hate to ruin the surprises for someone.