If this story sounds familiar, that’s because it is. For a start, our narrator is unreliable. An alcoholic, agoraphobic young woman watches neighbours from the window of her trendy Harlem house. She thinks she sees a woman being murdered. But nobody believes her.

This book is crammed with fifty shades of other thrillers, from The Girl On The Train to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window.

But the borrowed references are the active ingredients in this minor masterpiece.

It’s a giddy ride, with tense, original storytelling. Why is she a drunk? Why is she separated from her husband and daughter? Why can’t she leave the house? Do we care? Yes, we do — we can’t help ourselves. The answers to all our questions are brilliantly revealed in a plot controlled by a stunning series of cliff-hanger chapter endings.

This is thriller writing of a new order that makes Gone Girl look lame.


We know who did it from the start. But we don’t know why. Now, that’s obviously a risk with a thriller. But author Jo Spain still manages to keep us interested all the way to the end.

This is partly because of her fresh, witty writing style: a touch of Marian Keyes humour and an eye for detail make the characters instantly believable.

It’s set in the smart Dublin suburb of Dalkey, where teacher Julie witnesses an attack on her banker husband in their sitting room (and, for some reason, doesn’t go to his aid). The attacker, a loner called JP, confesses at the local police station, where detective Alice picks up the case. The tension comes from the gradual uncovering of the lies and secrets of JP’s unhappy childhood and Julie’s complicated marriage. And the detective is a delight.

3. IF I DIE BEFORE I WAKE by Emily Koch

A paralysed young man lies in a hospital bed in a coma and listens to the doctors and his family discussing whether to pull the plug on him, unaware he can hear every word they are saying.

He has worked out the real reason he is there: someone is trying to murder him.

And that same person is trying to harm someone else close to him, whom he must try to save, despite his situation.

Far-fetched, yes. But the writing is well pitched; tender, without being mawkish.

The author conveys a real sense of the true horror of being locked inside a body that won’t move with a brain that still works. And she persuades us to stay with the story to its strangely exhilarating conclusion.

– Daily Mail

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