Aine Toner's selection of thriller and crime novels to keep you entertained during the chillier nights.
Safe and Sound by Philippa East, HQ, £7.99
A woman's body is found in her London bedsit, alone, despite a dining table set for three. A housing officer, Jenn, discovers the tenant, a lady named Sarah Jones, along with the bailiffs, ready to remove Sarah from the premises. What happened that meant she was found in such a state - and who is responsible? Sarah was believed to be a young, vibrant woman but how could her body have lain so undisturbed for 10 months? Jenn wants to work out who Sarah was, and the reasons that led to her untimely death. Through the story we learn of a young family having to cope with the addition of a new relative and the consequences of this arrival. There are many moments when you feel utter sadness and loss for the characters; it's clearly a multi-layered story and I found it moving. Jenn has her own issues to worry about and these intertwine with Sarah. A different sort of suspense novel but most intriguing.
The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse, Bantam Press, £12.99
I've read an unusually large amount of books set in snow, or in the Alps, of late, and this is just as unsettling. In fact, it's probably the most unsettling (in a good reading kind of way) of any I've read. Elin and her boyfriend arrive in an isolated hotel, site of a former sanatorium. Elin wants to escape real life - and her job - for a while, and try and relax. But the past keeps tapping her on her shoulder when she meets her brother Isaac and his fiancee Laure. When a hotel employee disappears, and access is cut to the hotel, right in the middle of a potential avalanche, Elin has to use all her professional knowledge and resources to track down who is responsible. Some of the scenes are particularly tense and I can see this making an excellent film or series. I didn't want to finish reading and was thoroughly invested.
Daughters of Night by Laura Shepherd-Robinson, Mantle, £14.99
Caroline Horsham, who readers would have met in Laura's Blood and Sugar, is trying to find the murderer of a woman killed in the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. It is 1782 and London is a hotbed of thieves, plotters and those willing to pay for carnal pleasures. Caroline has her own reasons for wanting to discover the culprit, and it looks like she'll have little help from the police who, when they discover that the victim was a highly-paid prostitute, abandon the case. Caroline enlists the help of thief taker Peregrine Child to seek out justice. But with family issues, some all too close to home, and a mysterious society that doesn't quite ring true, Caroline has plenty on her plate. This is a 500-plus page novel that I gobbled up. It pitched the period perfectly, you got a real sense of what London was like, the attention to detail is exceptional and the plot races along. Loved it.
Mother by Laura Jarratt, Trapeze, £8.99
It is the ultimate test: when pushed, which of your children do you save? That's what Lizzie is faced with when her car plunges into a river, trapping her and her two daughters. While Lizzie gets out, she knows she can save only one child - but who does she pick? While a choice is made, she has to live with it, and the knowledge of there being a police investigation surrounding the accident. But things take an even darker turn than you'd imagine as a family already drowning in grief are pushed to breaking point. Everyone needs to discover what happened on that road - even if they don't want to face up to the truth. This twists and turns in ways I wasn't expecting but I raced through it. I can imagine mothers reading this and wondering how they would fare if faced with the same dilemma.
The Dare by Lesley Kara, Transworld, £12.99
Lizzie and Alice are best friends, in that tight, intense way that you can be when you're a teenager. But when Alice dies, as Lizzie is there but cannot remember what happened, the remaining friend - and her family - find themselves ostracised from the community. Lizzie had thought, hoped, that she had worked through it, processed the hurt and grief… until 12 years later when she's unpacking boxes in the new home with her fiance and discovers something that makes her think twice. Surely someone isn't planning the perfect revenge all these years later? Lizzie's done a lot to make herself happy and try to forget, but that's definitely not enough. This is nicely paced, and the plot is such that you want to race through to the end, leaving you feeling on edge throughout.
My life in books:
What’s your favourite classic read?
When I was a child, I read A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. It was a child-friendly version of the book, and it sparked an intense interest in literature. My parents agreed to buy me the rest of his works and I was engrossed.
The book I wished I’d written…
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. It is a book that made me laugh and cry, and the story of Eleanor has stayed with me.
Preferred genre of reading?
I love reading thrillers. For me, these books are compelling page-turners, the type of book I must finish once I start. But anything with an element of threat or mystery will draw me in.
My favourite author is Ian Rankin. My introduction to his writing was his book Witch Hunt in 2010 and since then I have devoured everything he has written. His novels featuring Inspector Rebus are my favourite collection. Opening a new Rankin novel is my idea of a great night in.
Books or ebooks?
Any medium that brings new worlds and adventure into our lives is fine by me! Until lockdown began, I would have said, very emphatically, that I preferred books. But after a few weeks of re-reading what I had at home, my husband surprised me with a Kindle. I agreed to give it a go and now I am hooked. I love the ease of acquiring books, and how easy it is to follow an author and find their work. Having said that, I am looking forward to browsing in book shops again, and there is nothing quite like the smell of a new book or the feel of it in your hands.
Best place to read?
On the couch, beside a crackling fire, with a nice glass of wine.
Waterstones in Cork. Every time I go in for one book, I come out with a bag of books! Their bookshop is so beautifully laid out, with a lovely children’s section as well. A trip to the city must always include a visit to Waterstones.
Favourite book quote — and why?
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us,” Gandalf said to Frodo in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring. It is about understanding that we have no control over what happens to us but can decide how to respond to life’s events. I loved this when I read it, and its truth remains with me.
Blinding Lies, published by Poolbeg Press, is available now