What Lies Between Us – John Marrs

Some women who terrify me:

  • Annie Wilkes
  • Rosemary West
  • Pretty much any woman who claws her way from John Marrs’ imagination onto a page.

Seriously, if I ever get a message to you that I’m in the same room as a woman I met in a John Marrs’ book, please call emergency services for me. Immediately!

Once upon a time we were the best of friends. But that was before he destroyed everything. Now the two of us are little more than the debris he left behind.

In this edition of Which Woman Needs the Most Therapy?, we meet Maggie and Nina. Former best friends, they’ve lived together for a long time. They have dinner together every second evening. When they’ve finished their meal, Nina escorts Maggie back upstairs to her converted attic bedroom. There she removes the chain around Maggie’s ankle and replaces it with the shorter one.

I have many stories inside me and just as many secrets.

When I say these women have a complicated history, that is understating the facts. Facts, which must be separated from lies, which need to be carefully teased from perceptions. Maggie and Nina are both given the opportunity to explain their current circumstances, along with pivotal decisions and behaviours that have contributed to them.

I went into this novel questioning which woman would emerge as the victim and which the perpetrator. I should have known better. The characters in John Marrs’ novels are too complex to pigeonhole that easily. With a narrative that stretches across decades, black and white quickly smudge to form various shades of grey.

I can never explain why I’ve done what I‘ve done.

I would love to spend my time here analysing the intricacies of the reasons Maggie and Nina’s relationship has devolved. I also want to brag about the reveals that I suspected from early on and ask you if you also missed the ones that failed to show up on my radar. However, everything specific I want to say about these women is shaped like a spoiler so I’m borrowing the chain that’s not currently being used to restrain myself.

When I read The Good Samaritan I was compelled to read past my bedtime. Laura continues to haunt me over two years since I finished reading her story. I expect Maggie and Nina will do the same. Once again, I’m writing this review bleary eyed. I need to read every book this author ever writes!

I have a couple of outstanding questions and would usually provide content warnings but, because they’d contain spoilers that could ruin the book for you, I will not be providing them here.

Sharing a house with a twisted spirit is better than being alone.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Amazon Publishing UK for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Nina can never forgive Maggie for what she did. And she can never let her leave.

They say every house has its secrets, and the house that Maggie and Nina have shared for so long is no different. Except that these secrets are not buried in the past.

Every other night, Maggie and Nina have dinner together. When they are finished, Nina helps Maggie back to her room in the attic, and into the heavy chain that keeps her there. Because Maggie has done things to Nina that can’t ever be forgiven, and now she is paying the price.

But there are many things about the past that Nina doesn’t know, and Maggie is going to keep it that way – even if it kills her.

Because in this house, the truth is more dangerous than lies.

The Good Samaritan – John Marrs

There’s a visceral quality to John Marrs’ writing that I love! I read the blurb and immediately judged Laura. I mean, there you are, at your wits end and you call End of the Line. A woman named Laura picks up the phone and her voice is soft and soothing. She listens carefully and without judgement to all of your problems. You feel like finally someone understands what you’re going through so you call a second time, hoping to speak to Laura again. Over time she earns your trust and she goes above and beyond to help you … right over a cliff.

How can you feel anything but disdain for someone who actively encourages people to die by suicide? Read The Good Samaritan and you’ll discover that there are many contradictory and confusing emotions you can attach to her character. I found I developed an empathy I wasn’t expecting to feel for this villain/victim. What shocked me was that I found I could understand where she was coming from and why her actions made perfect sense to her.

I really appreciate when an author can take something I see as a moral no-brainer and adds enough grey that I can no longer accurately distinguish whether something is more black or white. The complexities of Laura’s character had me rooting for her, against my better judgement. I wanted everything to turn out okay for her, despite feeling from the get go she was destined to crash and burn. (Or was she?!) Even after I learned more about her from the perspective of other characters I still liked her.

Accompanying Laura on this journey are her husband, two daughters and son. Running parallel to Laura’s story is that of Ryan, who is grieving the loss of his pregnant wife and desperately searching for answers. We also meet a number of helpline angels who are doing their best to support callers through their most vulnerable times. I would love to tell you all about the story but telling you just one more thing would cause an avalanche of explanations of why that is important, who it relates to and why, and how that’s then going to spiral into something unexpected and extraordinary.

While the themes in this novel are dark, the storytelling is brilliant! I got caught up in the intricacies of the major players’ characters, motivations and actions. With so many pieces of half-truths and hints of information to come being dangled in front of me throughout the book I wondered how the author could possibly wrap it all up in time. Not only were my questions answered, they were satisfying and mostly unexpected. When you have so many people involved in morally questionable actions at best and reprehensible ones at worst, how do you determine what outcome is fitting for them?

The exploration of the events that help mould us into the people we become and our responsibility in determining whether we use the potentially devastating events in our lives to propel us forward or to get stuck in the mire was fascinating. The interplay between nature and nurture is an area of interest for me. The half a psychologist in me (the half that doesn’t pay) got sucked in by the character studies of Laura and Ryan, and gave me so much to chew on I expect I’ll be thinking about them for a while to come.

Content warnings include suicide and depression. I’d encourage you to go to http://www.befrienders.org and find the details of an organisation in your area that can help if you are considering suicide. Helpline volunteers are truly remarkable people who deserve way more credit than they receive!

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for the opportunity to read this book. I have to read everything that John Marrs ever writes!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

She’s a friendly voice on the phone. But can you trust her?

The people who call End of the Line need hope. They need reassurance that life is worth living. But some are unlucky enough to get through to Laura. Laura doesn’t want them to hope. She wants them to die.

Laura hasn’t had it easy: she’s survived sickness and a difficult marriage only to find herself heading for forty, unsettled and angry. She doesn’t love talking to people worse off than she is. She craves it.

But now someone’s on to her – Ryan, whose world falls apart when his pregnant wife ends her life, hand in hand with a stranger. Who was this man, and why did they choose to die together?

The sinister truth is within Ryan’s grasp, but he has no idea of the desperate lengths Laura will go to …

Because the best thing about being a Good Samaritan is that you can get away with murder.

I Am Watching You – Teresa Driscoll

🥀 Harrowing Halloween Book! 🥀

OK, this book doesn’t fit in the horror genre nor is it set on or around Halloween. So why does it belong in this month’s theme? It’s about a teenage girl who goes missing and hasn’t been found a year later. If that isn’t one of the scariest, most horrific concepts ever then I don’t know what is.

The Witness became suspicious of the motives of the men on the train and thought about calling the Police but something stopped her. The next day one of the girls was reported missing. A year later she has yet to be found. The witness is wracked with guilt over their failure to act.

The Father is haunted by his missing daughter’s last words to him. He lied to the Police about where he was the night she disappeared.

The Friend has never told anyone what really happened that night.

The Private Investigator was in the Police force until something happened that haunts him to this day.

The First Postcard: “WHY DIDN’T YOU HELP HER?

I Am Watching You takes you inside the search for a missing teenage girl. It draws you in and doesn’t allow you to sit comfortably on the fence. You are faced with the decisions each character made and forced to wonder what you would have done in their place. You may find yourself silently judging someone’s choice and later provided with further information that turns your preconceptions upside down.

Are we too quick to judge people based on what we see on the surface?

What is the media’s role in helping or harming an investigation?

Who’s to blame when someone goes missing?

What would you have done if you were the girl’s mother, father, sister, friend?

What would you do if you saw something that made you uncomfortable? Would you stand up for what you believe is right? Or would you look away and pretend you didn’t notice?

How do you live with the choice you made when that choice comes with ripple effects?

Told in third person, with the exception of the witness whose story is in first person, each of the alternating chapters leaves you on a knife’s edge. You’re craving resolution of the cliffhanger in that person’s story yet you’re so quickly immersed in the next person’s narrative that you find you can’t decide which answer you want first. Usually this sort of suspense would have me ready to throw my Kindle at the wall but that wasn’t the case with this book. I Am Watching You had me diving straight into the next chapter so I could uncover the answers sooner.

I found this an easy read in that the narrative flowed well and I didn’t have to work hard to immerse myself in the story. I got sucked straight into the story and each time I returned to it the vortex reopened and it felt like I never left. I also found it a challenging read as it required me to ask myself what I would have done over and over, and sometimes I was uncomfortable and didn’t like my answers.

I remained dry eyed but my heart ached for the anguish experienced by so many people I met through Teresa Driscoll’s words, and not solely because of the missing person case. While everyone’s story touches the missing girl’s life in some way, they each had their own lives with joy, torment and a depth that you rarely see with multiple character perspective novels. I look forward to reading future books by this author.

Content warnings include sexual assault, self harm and eating disorders.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for the opportunity to read this book. I’m going to be watching this author, just not in a creepy way. 😜

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

What would it take to make you intervene?

When Ella Longfield overhears two attractive young men flirting with teenage girls on a train, she thinks nothing of it – until she realises they are fresh out of prison and her maternal instinct is put on high alert. But just as she’s decided to call for help, something stops her. The next day, she wakes up to the news that one of the girls – beautiful, green-eyed Anna Ballard – has disappeared.

A year later, Anna is still missing. Ella is wracked with guilt over what she failed to do, and she’s not the only one who can’t forget. Someone is sending her threatening letters – letters that make her fear for her life.

Then an anniversary appeal reveals that Anna’s friends and family might have something to hide. Anna’s best friend, Sarah, hasn’t been telling the whole truth about what really happened that night – and her parents have been keeping secrets of their own.

Someone knows where Anna is – and they’re not telling. But they are watching Ella.