THE PRISONER by B.A. Paris (Hodder £16.99, 368 pp) 



by B.A. Paris (Hodder £16.99, 368 pp)

The explosive start of this book sets up a compelling plot in which Amelie and her uber-rich husband are kidnapped and held for ransom.

Just why and how Amelie has been kidnapped is eventually revealed via different timelines, written in well-executed super-edgy, short, sharp chapters and the description of her confinement is full of claustrophobic detail and menace.

We learn that Amelie was orphaned early, became homeless, was taken pity on by a privileged set of people and ends up in a weird marriage with a millionaire, the not-very-likeable Jed Hawthorne. The kidnap is an attempt to extort cash from Jed’s father.

But it takes a long and convoluted ending to find why the kidnap is carried out. The book’s shortcomings are mostly made up for by Paris’s easy style and sense of darkness.


by Claire McGowan (Thomas & Mercer £8.99, 351 pp)

There are brilliant descriptions of sleep deprivation here. The two main characters suffer from this for two very different reasons. Mary is an unhappily married mother of two small children who keep her awake for two years. Her neighbour, Tim, is a war correspondent with PTSD.

Both believe they have witnessed a violent crime in a neighbouring house — but the police don’t share their theories. Their chance meeting on a park bench in a heatwave leads them to team up and solve the crime and the mystery of a missing woman.

The plot raises some fascinating questions about the effects of sleep deprivation and the attitudes of the police, while McGowan’s easy conversational style builds the tension nicely and delivers a tale with promising talking points for book groups. 

THE PEOPLE BEFORE by Charlotte Northedge (HarperCollins £14.99, 336 pp)


by Charlotte Northedge (HarperCollins £14.99, 336 pp)

This story describes the dilemma of Jess and Pete, a young couple with two children, who decide to move from London’s trendy Walthamstow to pursue their dream of a big house in Suffolk.

Once there, the strange secrets of Maple House open a whole new chapter of disturbing episodes for the pair. From the start Jess is convinced she is being watched.

Lonely and isolated, she makes friends with Eve, a gallery owner who moves into their barn. Jess notices an attraction between Pete and Eve, then things get strange. But it’s to the author’s credit that she introduces some successful unconventional twists to a fairly conventional set-up.

She creates a tense, paranoid atmosphere and maintains a breezy pace that delivers a satisfying and unsettling conclusion.


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