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Not My Child by Jane E. James

Released: 12th September, 2023

Genre: Mystery, Crime

Score: 10/10

The front cover of this book

WARNING: This book may be a trigger to people who have suffered abuse.

Not My Child by Jane E. James is a superb, fast-paced and thrilling book to read. From the very first chapter, I was hooked and wanted to know what had happened and what was going to happen.

Not My Child centers around Tara, a mum and wife, and the extraordinary circumstances she finds herself in. It is mainly told from the points-of-view of married couple, Tara and Dino. During her childhood, Tara has suffered trauma from her mother and brothers that leads to a life-changing event. She retells the story from her past throughout the book.

Dino’s story is told in the recent past and present and involves the police and an investigation. Tara gave birth to a child when she was young and was forced to give him up for adoption. She dreams about him finding her and wanting to meet her when he turns 18, but things don’t go quite as she imagined.

This is a fast, edge-of-your-seat, compelling read set in Peterborough, England. I really felt strongly that I liked the main characters and felt their pain as events of the story unfolded. Jane E. Smith is a great writer with an ease of phrasing and writing dialogue that feels very real. I highly recommend this book and give it 10 points out of a maximum 10! Available through the always amazing www.joffebooks.com.

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Vanished by Theo Baxter

Publishing date: 20th August, 2023

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Score: 9/10

WARNING: This book may be a trigger for some people as it deals with themes of physical and mental abuse and mental health.

Vanished is a rather brilliant book. Maggie Connor lives in a small town in New York State. She lives with her elderly parents, Joseph and Helena, and with her 8-year-old daughter, Isabel. Joseph is abusive to his wife and daughter and Maggie struggles to hide this from her daughter. Someone is threatening Isabel and Maggie must stop this from happening.

This book is unusual in the way the lead character, Maggie, narrates the story. Some of the time things are not quite what they first appear to be and her confusion and sense of fear is tangible through the well-written text. The characters are very lifelike and realistic and we fully understand why they react the way they do throughout this story.

It really is the cliché of an edge-of-your-seat page-turner in the way that I hated when I had to stop reading and take a break. I wanted to know what was going to happen next. There is a great deal of action and reaction in Vanished and it holds the reader’s attention throughout, from the very first page.

I will be reading more from Theo Baxter as soon as I am able as his style is gripping, with a good pace and flowing narrative. It is set in America, but is not full of American slang, making it very accessible to British or other non-US English speaking readers. I highly recomment this book.

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A Killer App by Linda Lovely

Publishing date: 7th November, 2023

Genre: Cosy (Cozy) Mystery, Crime

Score: 8/10

A Killer App by Linda Lovely is a fast-paced, enjoyable book. Set in the USA, it follows ex-Coast Guard investigator, Kylee Kane, and her family and friends as she solves mysterious crimes.

The main premise of this book, and main plot, is all centered around Artificial Intelligence (AI) and deepfake technology. These areas of the technological world are right on-the-money with where technology is today and where it is heading. With the prolific use of chatGPT in the past 12 months, AI is a talking point online and in newspapers and magazines. A Killer App takes the potential for use that AI has and twists it into an evil, murderous tool.

It is this ultra-modern idea that sets this book apart from most other contemporary crime novels. It is on the border of science fiction, but based in technological fact. This aspect of the book really appealed to me and I found the brief, non-technical explanations of AI very interesting. The deepfake technology is manipulated to groom members of the public remotely, online into becoming crazed killers of specific targets that the master manipulator behind the crimes wants to be rid of.

The characters are vivid and lifelike and I really felt myself warming to Kylee, her mum, Myrtle, her partner, Ted, and his son, Grant along with a handful of other likeable characters. The book is written in the first person format and in present tense. That, coupled with a hefty amount of dialogue from the characters, made A Killer App flow very easily and made the book a very quick and fast-paced read. I honestly found myself turning page after page rather than putting the book down for a break.

The novel was definitely a Cosy (Cozy) Mystery story but a little more adult and serious than I had encountered before from this genre by other authors. Having said that, there was a lot of fun in the book too, especially with Kylee’s thoughts on conversations and situations.

I really enjoyed reading A Killer App and I will definitely look out for more books by Linda Lovely in the future. It’s an intriguing subject matter for a crime story with vivid, likeable characters. Great stuff!