Thursday, 30 November 2017

Author catch up - Gillian McAllister

I decided it was time to catch up with Gillian McAllister's first book - Everything but the Truth - rather than just read her latest one, Anything you do Say. So here's a double review.

The books are two very different standalone psychological thrillers. Both are well written, intriguing and tense, with multilayered plots covering deep ethical and moral issues. In both cases, I found myself relating these back to me - 'What would I do?' and 'What would I say?'

Everything but the Truth is a tale of domestic noir set in our social media-driven society. Rachel is pregnant. Although she loves and trusts her boyfriend Jack, she hasn't known him that long. When she finds a seemingly suspicious email, Rachel wonders whether she knows him at all. What follows is a twisty journey into discovering more about Jack's past - and, as Rachel's obsession escalates, there are also big reveals about her own. The two of them appear to have been selective with the truth - not just with one another, but also perhaps with themselves.

In Anything you do Say, Joanne realises she's being followed after a night out at the pub. Convinced it's the man who was bothering her there, she lashes out in a panic - one of those split-second decisions that you come to regret. The man falls down some steps and lies motionless in front of her. And this is when the main story begins, as the narrative splits into two - the big 'what if'. What if Joanna runs (the 'conceal' scenario)? Or what if she stays and calls for help (the 'reveal' scenario)?

I enjoyed reading these books, with both of them making me think and question.

Everything but the Truth is a love story filled with secrets and lies - a look at honesty in a relationship and whether it's necessary to reveal everything or just hope your past doesn't catch up with you. Is it better to not know the truth about loved ones' pasts and just live in the 'here and now'? Funnily enough, I actually thought Rachel's own secret was 'worse' than Jack's.

Of the two books, Anything you do Say had the slight edge for me, probably because I often think about the 'sliding doors' scenario. The 'what ifs' of life. Whether choosing a different path would have led to a different 'now'. Both storylines in Anything you do Say worked well, with enough overlap to make them both believable but without repetition of two potentially similar narratives. I found myself racing through this novel to discover Joanne's fate/destiny.

I look forward to seeing what's next from Gillian McAllister.

About the books

Everything But The Truth
Published by Penguin (March 2017)

Publisher's description
It all started with the email.
Rachel didn't even mean to look. She loves Jack and she's pregnant with their child. She trusts him.
But now she's seen it, she can't undo that moment. Or the chain of events it has set in motion.
Why has Jack been lying about his past? Just what exactly is he hiding? And doesn't Rachel have a right to know the truth at any cost? 

Anything You Do Say
Published by Penguin (October 2017)

Publisher's description
It's the end of the night. You're walking home on your own.
Then you hear the sound every woman dreads. Footsteps. Behind you. Coming fast.
You're sure it's him - the man from the bar who wouldn't leave you alone.
You make a snap decision. You turn. You push. Your pursuer tumbles down the steps. He lies motionless, face-down on the floor.
Now What? 
Call 999
Wait for the police to arrive. For judgement, for justice, whatever that may be. You just hope you husband, family and friends, everyone you love, will stand by you.
Stay silent. You didn't mean to do it. You were scared, you panicked. And no one saw. No one will ever know. If you leave now. If you keep quiet. Forever.
Which is it to be?

Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear

Sweet Little Lies
By Caz Frear
Published by Zaffre (29 June 2017)
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher

Publisher's description
In 1998, Maryanne Doyle disappeared and Dad knew something about it?
Maryanne Doyle was never seen again.

In 1998, Dad lied about knowing Maryanne Doyle.
Alice Lapaine has been found strangled near Dad's pub. 
Dad was in the local area for both Maryanne Doyle's disappearance and Alice Lapaine's murder - FACT

Trust cuts both ways . . . what do you do when it's gone? 
My verdict
Sweet Little Lies was one of those books that made me think as I read. I had no idea who could be trusted or even if anyone could be trusted (whoever they were). I found myself questioning everything - trying to guess what was going on, with little success I should add.

Caz Frear not only writes with confidence, but has also managed to plot a very twisty tale. Sweet Little Lies is more than just a police procedural as it focuses heavily on the main protagonist, police officer Cat Kinsella. Cat's family background is carefully woven into the story when she realises her father has links with the murder victim. So the book is part-psychological thriller too.

Cat is very real with sharp cynical observations and believable flaws. I found myself getting right inside her head, listening to (and feeling) her daily struggle between loyalty to her family and loyalty to her job. Much of the story is set in places I know very well, which really brought the book to life for me - it's not often that I find Radlett, Hertfordshire, mentioned in a book.

With just the right mix of humour, darkness and well-written narrative, Sweet Little Lies is an impressive crime novel filled with unreliable characters and plenty of intrigue.

The Choice by Samantha King

The Choice
By Samantha King
Published by Piatkus (10 August 2017)

Publisher's description
Madeleine lived for her children. She'd always believed she'd die for them too. But on the morning of her twins' tenth birthday her love was put to the test when a killer knocked on their door and forced her to make a devastating choice: which child should live, and which should die - her son, or her daughter?
Madeleine stands silent on the periphery of her fractured family, trying desperately to unravel why her world was so suddenly blown apart. But as memories of everything leading up to that tragic day return in agonising flashes, she begins to realise her family's life still hangs terrifyingly in the balance...

My verdict
Imagine you have two children. You can save only one of them and have to make a split-second decision. You choose. That's the premise of The Choice. Madeleine was forced to make that terrifying choice and it's been haunting her ever since, as she recovers from a family tragedy.

Intrigued? I certainly was when I chose to pick up this book, especially as it had received such rave reviews, and I certainly wasn't disappointed by my choice in doing so by the end.

The Choice is chilling, brilliantly twisty and filled with suspense. It explores memories and the fragility of the mind and is an emotional well-constructed psychological thriller  - one that's difficult to review without giving anything away about the plot.

This rollercoaster read played with my mind as Madeleine tried to make sense of recent events through her own memories of the past. I was glued to the pages, unable to put this book down, reading most of it in one sitting.  So many layers being unravelled as I turned the pages.

I can't say much more than that, other than buy it, read it and discover the 'wow' moments for yourself.

MY PUBLISHING LIFE with Sophie Goodfellow

Welcome to my latest MY PUBLISHING LIFE feature, an interview with a literary agent, publisher, publicist or editor about their publishing career to date. Some serious questions, and some just for fun!

Today I'm delighted to welcome 


Communications Manager
FMcM Associates

What and when was your first job in publishing?
My first job was working at ED Public Relations. I worked there for over four years before moving to FMcM Associates. 

How long have you been working in your current job/role?
I’ve been a publicity manager at FMcM for just coming up to a year now – it’s flown by! 

Which books have you worked on recently/are you working on?

So many! Where do I begin? I’ve been working on the latest Ari Thor book by Ragnar Jonasson, which is reliably a treat. I’ve also been working on another amazing Icelandic crime novel called Snare by Lilja Sigurdardottir, an amazing thriller about a single mother forced into cocaine smuggling in the aftermath of the financial crisis. On the non-crime front, I’m also working on the most beautiful and heartbreaking Australian book called The Restorer by Michael Sala, a devastating and thoroughly convincing novel about the deep roots of domestic violence. There’s so much more…  

Which qualifications/life skills/experience have helped you get to where you are today?
Well an English degree never goes amiss – mainly cos you can say you have one! I’m also fairly chatty and like people on the whole, which is a good quality for a publicist – you have to talk to a lot of them! I also genuinely love books. I have to read a lot of them, so that’s lucky. 

How do you relax after a busy working day?
I’m lucky enough to usually come home and find dinner on the table, or at least in the works! We watch television, it’s Bake Off at the moment (#justiceforLiam #freethehackneyone), and I try to leave enough time to get some reading done. 

What was the last book you read for pleasure?
I actually genuinely had to check my GoodReads to remind myself, it’s been such a busy autumn. It appears that it was Whatever You Love by Louise Doughty. Excellent stuff – a tense and heartbreaking account of losing a child.

Describe your job in 15 words or less...

I talk about books and try and get other people to talk about them too! 

What have been the highlights of your publishing life so far
It has to be the Doctor Who Target Books art exhibition. One of the toughest things I’ve ever done – and I learnt that Whovians are the scariest bunch of people to piss off! But seeing it all come together on the day was just amazing. Peter Capaldi and Steven Moffatt came along! 

If you could try out any other job for one day (with no limits on money, travel etc.), what would you choose?
It’s a toss-up between astronaut or bookshop owner. I think everyone who works in publishing secretly wants to run a bookshop, and everyone wants to go to the moon secretly surely. Bookshop in space? 

If your publishing life was a book, what would the title be?

A Million Wine-Fuelled Conversations


Crashing Planes With Liz

I don’t think anyone who knows me needs any further explanation ;)

Thanks so much for taking part, Sophie!

Look out for more MY PUBLISHING LIFE features coming soon.

Click here to read more MY PUBLISHING LIFE features.

If any literary agents, publishers, publicists or editors would like to take part, please contact me through my blog or Twitter for the full list of questions.