ARC REVIEW: The Spiral by Iain Ryan

Thank you to Bonnier Zaffre for the e-ARC of The Spiral by Iain Ryan!

The Spiral tells the story of a young woman named Erma as she tries to cope with the aftermath of being shot by a former colleague. Her life takes a bizarre and disturbing turn, and the closer she gets to figuring out her colleague’s motivations and retracing her steps, the more endangered she becomes.

It was fascinating to read a book where the protagonist is so loosely tethered to reality and the consequences of her actions. Erma has faced a lot of trauma and the way she speaks reflects that completely. The writing style, the storyline, Erma’s behaviour and the choose-your-own-adventure elements blend together to create something unsettling, disturbing and desperately addictive.

I’m fairly sure it would be impossible to go into this book knowing what to expect. I knew that it wouldn’t be a standard thriller, but there was no way of knowing just how many strange twists and turns would be taking place throughout. The unique mix of fantasy, thriller and mystery elements is something I haven’t come across before and, if that sounds like something you’re interested in, I would entirely recommend it.

The integration of the fantasy elements definitely threw me off a little at first, and I struggled to grasp the relevance of these random snippets mixed in with Erma’s story, but it all seemed to tie together and begin to make sense towards the end. The short, no-nonsense way that Erma’s parts were written also made it a little difficult to get used to initially, but this turned out to be a very good way of keeping up the break-neck pace and wasting no time. It’s an incredibly fast-paced story as a result, and it’s absolutely the kind of book you can get through in a day.

This book is very far out of my comfort zone, but it was fast-paced, unique, gripping and I would imagine soon-to-become an essential read for lovers of choose-your-own-adventure and fantasy/thriller blends. If you’re looking for something bizarre that you absolutely have never read anything similar to before, this might be the perfect choice.

Rating: 4/5

ARC REVIEW: The Whole Truth by Cara Hunter

I’ve found myself, quite unintentionally, reading a fair few crime thrillers lately, and this is definitely one of the best ones of that bunch. It’s not my normal genre and I’m finding it a little more difficult than usual to review, so please bear with me on this…

The Whole Truth is a crime thriller about DI Adam Fawley’s latest case: a sexual assault claim, where a promising, male postgraduate student is filing charges against the university’s most successful female professor. This case is anything but straightforward and, as it goes on, more and more complications throw themselves into the case until it’s impossible to figure out what truly happened that night.

Meanwhile, Fawley’s caught up in a personal case of his own. His heavily pregnant wife believes she’s being stalked and, when someone close to her is found dead, everything gets just a little more complicated.

If you’re reading this review before you have picked up this book, I would strongly recommend reading Cara Hunter’s other books first, as this one is apparently the fifth book in her DI Fawley series (a fact that I didn’t discover until possibly too late). I haven’t read the other books and I think that would account for some of the confusion I felt regarding Fawley’s personal life and the sheer amount of police officers that you need to keep track of in this book. I’m also being intentionally vague about the latter case, as I presume this is a huge spoiler for one of the earlier books.

All of that being said, I enjoyed this book hugely as a stand-alone. The sexual assault case was for this book alone and the rest is easy enough to figure out that accidentally starting the series at book five didn’t detract from the plot at all.

This book was completely enthralling. Everything seemed so clear-cut at first with the student’s claim against the professor, but there seemed to be a new- not entirely unbelievable- twist with every new page. Similarly with Fawley’s personal case, some parts were guessable, but this is the kind of story where, if you do guess it, you convince yourself you’re wrong and change your mind before it gets revealed. At least, that’s what I did.

This story is told in an interesting way, with the majority of characters having short chapters told in third person, one chapter being told in second, and Fawley’s chapters being told in first. There were also interviews, text messages and emails thrown in to keep things interesting. This was difficult to keep track of at first but, I’m assuming, if you’ve read the other books in the series, this format would be much more familiar to you. It did an excellent job of keeping up the pace, making sure we knew exactly who we were dealing with at all times, and adding dimension to characters that I originally disregarded a little.

Anyway, the takeaway is that I really enjoyed this book. It was fairly short, very pacey and full of twists and turns. It hooked me within the first few pages and I found that every new side-story that was added as we went through only added to the characters and the tension. I would of course recommend this to lovers of crime and twisty thrillers, though perhaps you may want to check out the others first.

A trigger warning: this book discusses, in detail, various cases of sexual assault.


RATING: 4/5