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 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.

‘The Accomplice’ – Steve Cavanagh

The Accomplice now has me determined to go back through this series and read the ones I’ve missed. Gripping from the off, with some twists that you may or may not see coming, it was hard to put down once I got started.

The Sandman has struck terror into the hearts of those living in the area. With no evident link to his victims, his unique calling card scared people. However, he has a name…Daniel Miller. Currently on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, Miller has evaded capture. His wife, however, is about to go on trial as accomplice to his crimes.
Eddie Flynn is asked to take on her case.

What follows is nothing short of audacious. As the trial draws nearer, key witnesses for the prosecution are found dead. The Sandman is back, determined to ensure that Carrie – the woman he loves – is not imprisoned. Flynn and his team – convinced of her innocence – have a short window to try and work out how to get her off. This is made harder when she skips bail, and Flynn’s friend is snatched as hostage to try and ensure Flynn will do his best to get the required result.

I can’t say anything more about the story. There’s a lot of gruesome details of crimes committed, and there’s more than one or two close calls. Some wonderfully timed twists are dropped in at just the right moment to create the bombshell effect that keeps you reading…and the ending makes me think Lake’s story is far from over.

‘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.

‘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.

‘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.

‘The Last Passenger’ – Will Dean

4.5 stars…Will Dean must be some kind of twisted genius as this was a book that was genuinely hard to put down even though the content was truly psychologically tormenting.

Our main character Caz is headed out on a cruise with her boyfriend. She thinks he might propose while they’re travelling, but nothing prepares her for what happens.
On her first morning she wakes up to find her room empty and no sign of Pete. When she sets foot outside her cabin she notes an eerie silence and all the other cabin doors are propped open. As she wanders the ship the grim reality becomes apparent. She is the only passenger left on board.

Very quickly Caz – and we the reader – are let in on what’s happening. While I’d like to think there’s something fundamentally decent about humanity that would make this impossible, the way it is executed is horribly plausible. Forcing us to watch as the unmanned ship continues its journey meant a number of difficult decisions and some genuinely scary moments as it was hard to tell just how far things would be taken.

It was impossible not to feel for those we encountered along the way, and the revelations during the book built far more nuanced characters than I was expecting. It would be hard not to consider the psychological impact of such manipulation, and there were no real answers given to this. Upon immediately finishing the book I was left open-mouthed at the ending, convinced this was one step beyond, but it certainly offered a different take on those thorny topics raised by the book.

‘Death of a Bookseller’ – Alice Slater

Brogan Roach has been a bookseller since she was sixteen. She works in Spines, a rundown store in Walthamstow. Obsessed with true crime, Roach does not make friends easily. Awkward, prone to obsessive behaviours and not keen to change she is a hard character to like.

As part of a move to try and overhaul the fortune of an ailing store, a team of booksellers are drafted in. Amongst them is Laura Bunting, professional and full of positivity. She writes poetry and seems to have everyone wrapped around her little finger. But she does not like Roach.

The rejection sends Roach into a dangerously obsessive spiral. This is made worse when Roach learns that Laura’s mother was murdered by a serial killer. Determined to get closer to Laura, Roach takes increasingly dangerous steps to try and force a friendship.

Told in alternating viewpoints we see very different perspectives on the fascination with true crime. Neither character endears themselves to us, and there were a number of moments where I wondered quite where this would end up. It didn’t take quite the dark turn I feared it might, but there’s plenty to find unsettling. I liked the setting of the bookstore and some of the discussions around reading behaviours. The ending was interesting, and it certainly offered an unusual way for each to resolve their issues.

Thanks to NetGalley for giving me opportunity to read and review this in exchange for offering my honest thoughts.