In a Cottage in the Woods by Cass Green | Review

I really liked how In a Cottage in the Woods opened. Cass Green sets up the story in just a couple of pages.

She introduces a troubled heroine, Neve Carey and a suicidal woman called Isabelle.  Neve meets Isabelle on a bridge and they have a brief conversation just before Isabelle jumps. Although brief, we learn a lot about Neve from this conversation. For one thing, she’s kind enough to stop and help a stranger. She’s also very hard on herself. She questions her own motivations, and thinks that she falls short.  She’s someone who does the right thing when it matters, but she’s also troubled and unhappy. Within just a couple of pages, you get a really strong sense of who she is and why she does what she does.

Believable character

Neve’s a very believable character. There’s a lot going wrong in her life — her relationship has broken up and she’s temporarily staying in sister’s house because she can’t afford to stay anywhere else. Her work is boring and she’s underpaid. Her financial insecurity and emotional unhappiness impact her relationships, stirring up conflict that isolates her from family and friends. This isolation is what makes her the perfect heroine for Cass Green.

Cottage in the Woods

Neve inherits Isabelle’s cottage in the woods when she has hit rock bottom — no home, no relationship, no money, no job. So she has no choice but to move in. The cottage is isolated and creepy, making it an excellent setting for Neve to face her demons. And not all of them are internal. Someone doesn’t want Neve in the cottage.  The question is who? And why?

In a Cottage in the Woods is an entertaining page turner and a fast read. I enjoyed it. If you like the sound of it, you might also like The Woman Next Door.

Disclosure: HarperCollins provided a review copy.

The Break by Marian Keyes 

Marian Keyes takes a wry look at midlife crises in The Break.

The Break by Marian Keyes is the story of how a husband’s midlife crises sparks personal growth in his wife.

Following the death of his father, Hugh decides he wants to find himself. He plans a 6 month break away from home and packs a backpack destined for South East Asia.

News of the proposed ‘break’ comes as shock to his wife, Amy. A PR executive, she has the skills to ‘manage’ perceptions of the break so she steals a march and announces it on social media.  But it undermines her confidence even though she decides not stand in Hugh’s way.

Hugh says he’ll come home once the six months are up but Amy fears that he might not. And, even if he does return, who’s to say that things won’t change in the meantime, So, Amy’s anxious. And having to put on a brave face isn’t as easy as she makes it look.

Marian Keyes meanders a bit too much for my liking and it takes many pages before Hugh, the husband eventually leaves.  Once he’s gone, the pace picks up as Amy learns to cope with her new situation.

This is a chatty novel with lots of online shopping and gossip — not unlike a night out with the girls!

Disclosure: I read an advance review copy via Netgalley.

From the Shadows by Neil White

Although Neil White is a bestselling author, I hadn’t come across him until I saw From the Shadows on Netgalley. What drew me to the title was the description — “a gripping thriller”. In fact, it’s part murder mystery, part crime fiction, part thriller, part courtroom drama. All of which amounts to a good read once the story gets going.

So, what’s it about?

When criminal defence lawyer Dan Grant is asked to take over a case from another firm, he suspects there’s something unusual about the case.

Robert Carter is accused of murder. The court case is just two weeks away and Dan is supposed to just turn up, defend the client, and get paid. But that’s not Dan’s style. He wants to do his best for Carter, and that means investigating the case. Carter’s best chance of getting off is if Dan can show that someone else had the opportunity to commit the crime.

Time is very short so Dan needs help to build a case. He hires a former client, investigator Jayne Brett, to do some of the legwork.

Dangerous game

Once they begin to look into the case, they find that Carter is not the murderer. But everyone, including Carter, is reluctant to tell what they know and, before long, Dan and Jayne find that uncovering the truth is a dangerous game. Once they’ve started, however, they can’t let go until the job is done.

After a strong opening, From the Shadows takes a while to pick up pace. A couple of chapters in, it seems to settle down and from there on it’s a fairly engrossing read.

Dan and Jayne are a well-matched team and far and away the best characters in the novel. I’d happily follow them through further novels if White turns this into a series. That said, Neil White could have made From the Shadows a stronger story with a bit more insight into the background and motivations of the other main characters.

I’d like to have known more about Shelley, the solicitor who worked on Carter’s case before Dan took it over. What did she find out and who did she upset in the process? How come her firm’s conflict of interest only became an issue so late in the case? There was also scope to provide more detail on some of the other key players in this story — particularly the baddies. Nevertheless, From the Shadows is a decent read. If you like crime fiction, murder mysteries or courtroom dramas, keep an eye out for it.

From the Shadows by Neil White is published by Bonnier Zaffre. I read a Netgalley ARC.