Tuesday, September 22, 2020


Title: The Bigamist: The True Story of a Husband's Ultimate Betrayal
Author: Mary Turner Thomson
Publisher: Amazon Publishing UK
Pages: 240
My GoodReads Rating: 


This is the third edition of this true story. In the earlier editions, all the names were changed except for those of the author and Will Jordan. In this edition, the real names of the children have been used on their insistence.


The book begins in April 2006, when an unknown caller tells Mary that she has been married to Mary’s husband, and the father of her two younger children, for the last 12 years and that they have 5 children together. This shocking revelation is only the first. Recovering from her shock, Mary embarks on her own investigation to find out the truth behind Will’s deception.

With this introduction, Mary takes us back in time, to their courtship and their wedding and their life together. We start in November 2000 and slowly come to April 2006, where I, for one, felt relieved at the thought that the truth would set her free. But the truth is far more complicated than Mary could have imagined.


It was November 2000 when Will Jordan first reached out to Mary Turner Thomson through a dating site. Mary was then a divorced single mother, with a good job, and her own home. She had the support of her mother, and was doing a great job of raising her little baby girl.

Will and Mary met in December 2000. Slowly they fell in love, and Will informed Mary about his work. He told her that he was a CIA operative, as an explanation for his sudden disappearances and long absences during which time he left her with no clues about what he was about. He even failed to show up to his own wedding.

During those initial years, he told her that he was infertile, as a result of a side effect of mumps which he suffered as a child. He was madly thrilled when Mary conceived their first child, a girl they named Eilidh.

In May 2002, she was forced to incur debt, first to pay for Will’s mother’s hospitalisation bills in the US, and then to buy a car for him to drive members of the CIA around. This was because he had given up active service in the CIA at her behest, but the CIA would not let him go without a fight. So he had to do these mean jobs or else they would not release his salary. He never gets paid his dues, and Mary’s finances get strained further, as Will makes frequent calls pleading for money to pay the CIA.

In all, he dupes her of over £200,000 pounds and leaves her feeling desperate and broken.


As readers, we feel an impotent sense of annoyance at Mary for allowing herself to be taken in. We feel that way because we have no idea what it must be like to be victimised by a sociopath. I don’t think Mary was more gullible than we would have been in her place.

She deserves to be commended for her courage in admitting her foolishness and making it her mission to expose his lies and save other women rather than choosing to keep quiet in the interest of salvaging her pride.

Mary comes across as sensible and good-hearted, if a little too trusting and willing to give a loved one the benefit of the doubt. Even though his secretiveness and his behaviour upset her, she didn’t give up on him. And it was this kind nature that Will took advantage of.

Mary stuck with him, incurring more debt, because the truth was hard to stomach, and reality nothing but outright misery. When she was completely broke, and no longer had any money to give him, she felt a strange sense of relief.

The fact that Will seemed to have so much information about things that didn’t even show up in the news until days later helped him gain Mary’s trust.

The author gives us a lot of detailed information to bolster her story. Through her narrative, we get a sense of an intelligent woman who got conned by a man completely lacking in scruples.

There were many times when I was furious with Will for the way he treated Mary. He not only didn’t show up for his own wedding the first time the ceremony was planned, he didn’t turn up for the birth of his two children either. If only her intuition had guided her to take his no-show at the wedding as a sign and call it off, she would have been spared all the misery.

Through it all, I was pleased to see that Mary’s commitment to her three children never wavered. Nor did her family, especially her mother, ever stop offering her support and strength.

Not only was he not infertile, Mary learns that Will has had more than ten children by different women. And even this number might be under-reported.

Learning of the deception that she has suffered, Mary is determined to get to the bottom of it. And she does. 

The book takes us through Mary’s investigation as she diligently follows up clues, and talks to people to piece together the story of the man she thought loved her. A man who had been conning women and spinning tangled webs of lies for over 27 years. A man whose deception began in the US and continued in the UK.

I can only hope and pray that Mary gets the justice she deserves and that Will pays for the lives he has destroyed.

(I read this book through NetGalley. Thank you, NetGalley, the author and the publisher.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2020


Title: Dead Air
Author: Michael Bradley
Narrator: Rachel Fulginiti 
Publisher: CamCat Books
Audio length: 9 hours, 22 minutes
Pages: 300
My GoodReads Rating: 

Kaitlyn Ashe, a DJ on the prime night slot in Philadelphia, has been getting the same letter every day. A threatening letter, comprising letters cut out from newspapers and magazines, that reminds her of something she did in the Shallows, where she lived when she was 16 years old and her name was Laura Hobson. The letters also ask her to play REO Speedwagon, a band whose music holds memories for her, a band she will never play again.

Having put that event behind her, and having reinvented herself after years of therapy, Kaitlyn is anxious not to have her secret outed. She keeps her past hidden from her boyfriend, Brad Ludlow, a hotshot lawyer, who has no idea that Kaitlyn is not who she claims to be. Meanwhile, her stalker is watching and planning their next move.

Kaitlyn won’t tell her boyfriend a thing. She won’t even tell the police, not even when the stalker murders Brad.

Detective Rodney Shapiro and his partner, Julie Lewis, are assigned the case. Right from the start, Rodney finds himself overtly sympathetic towards Kaitlyn because she is the spitting image of what his own daughter, Carol, might look like when she is older. Julie, on the other hand, suspects Kaitlyn from the start.

Rodney doesn’t question Kaitlyn the way a police office should. His questions, few in number, are posed as though he is a Victorian gentlewoman, utterly genteel. He just takes it for granted that she is innocent, and at one point, even gives her his own gun so she can defend herself.

The events in Kaitlyn’s life play to the backdrop of a larger crime: the killing of gay, bisexual and transmen by a serial killer, known as the GBT strangler, in Philadelphia. Even though this case is not under the jurisdiction of Rodney, it gets more than a little screen time from him.

The book is set in Philadelphia. We know that because the author tells us that. The setting does not come alive for us at all. It might as well be Anytown. Even the fact that Kaitlyn’s house overlooks a cemetery fails to register. Kaitlyn tells us it is eerie, but the mood fails to touch us.

The story is told by a female narrator, mostly in the third-person past tense PoVs of Kaitlyn and Rodney and occasionally from the first-person PoV of the stalker.


The writing was prosaic. The character voice didn’t stand out for any character.

I didn’t like Kaitlyn and couldn’t care less about her romance with the utterly bland Brad. We got details of her life, her work and her dates with Brad, but none of it helped. Kaitlyn remained flat and insipid as a character. The Harley she rides didn’t make her any more appealing. The single tears that flowed down her cheek were annoying. When we finally come to know the secret that she has been holding on to, we find it just as unimpressive. Also, the fear that REO Speedwagon induces is never properly explained.

In fact, not one of the characters in this novel stood out.

Rodney is well read and can quote from the classics. He does too, without the slightest improvement in his overall personality.

When we are first introduced to Rodney, there’s no reason why he should give his colleague, Julie, a “quick once-over” just to give us her physical description and then his own contrasting one. It was extremely clumsy.

I’m no expert on police procedure but there just didn’t seem to be much activity on the part of the police. Rodney asked gentle questions; there was no real probing, no looking for clues. We don’t get an impression of a tight case.

The proceedings were so banal that I didn’t feel involved at all, didn’t even feel compelled to suspect anyone. The stalker was that obvious. But not to Rodney and Kaitlyn.

Even when the stalker escalated their actions, I didn’t get the feeling of a real danger facing Kaitlyn. Then when the stalker started whining about a lost wig, and the DNA that could be gleaned from it, without once worrying about the cigarette stubs left all over the place, I wanted to cry.

The author tells us a lot about Rodney’s daughter, Carol, with whom he is estranged. The most unbelievable thing is that after droning on and on about the resemblance between Kaitlyn and his daughter, and almost minutes after Kaitlyn tells us that Brad made her feel safe and how she now feels miserable with him gone, both Rodney and Kaitlyn break into a passionate kiss.

The case of the GBT Strangler is also resolved, but in the most unconvincing manner imaginable. This killer turns out to be a character known to Kaitlyn, but this subplot peters out. Why was this person killing GBT people? Move on, people, no answers here.

The characters at Kaitlyn’s radio station were often spoken of with their full names, on several occasions. The author seems to forget that we have already been introduced.

This tendency sounded faintly amusing in the case of a character called Justin Case. The repeated mentions sounded like Just In Case.

The narrator’s voice was flat and emotionless. The only time she seemed alive was when she was doing Kaitlyn’s radio voice. When speaking for Kaitlyn, it was boring, turning stilted and monotonous when voicing a male character.

There was plenty of swearing in this novel. That’s always a no-no for me.

Good thing: the chapters are short, and the whole audiobook a quick listen. 

(I read this book through NetGalley.)

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Book Review: THE SHADOWS

Title: The Shadows
Author: Alex North
Narrators: John Heffernan and Hannah Arterton
Audio length: 9 hours, 5 minutes
Pages: 336
My GoodReads Rating: 
Publisher: Macmillan Audio

The Shadows was my second experience with an audiobook. The premise of the book sounded intriguing. I also found the book cover impressive. It showed a bony hand with the spaces between the fingers appearing to be shadows.

The book starts with the Prologue, when the first-person narrator, Paul Adams, was just a 15-year-old schoolboy. It was the time when an unspeakable tragedy took place, a crime that a classmate, Charlie Crabtree, was responsible for. Back then, Paul’s mother, Daphne, stood firmly on his side. Soon after the crime, Paul left their village to pursue higher studies.

Back in the past, the closure of their local school had forced Paul and his best friend, James Dawson, to join a school in the next town. There they were befriended by Charlie and his sidekick, Billy Roberts. But while Paul refused to be enamoured with Charlie’s mysterious behaviour and his suggestions regarding lucid dreaming and the power to make one’s dreams real, James was completely taken in.

Charlie’s idea of lucid dreaming suggested that he had the ability to take control of his dreams to commit any crime for the sake of pleasing a shadowy master.

This is how the authorial voice describes dreams: Our subconscious takes everyday experiences and shatters them on the floor like a vase, then picks up a handful of pieces to form something random and new to show us while we sleep. We might recognise a few fragments by they’re joined together oddly and separated by strange cracks. Dreams are a patchwork stitched together from the things that happen to us in our waking lives…Our lives can be changed by the dreams we have had.

Paul sought to dissociate himself from Charlie and from James’ hero-worship of Charlie, choosing to spend time with Jenny, a classmate who becomes his first love, but Charlie wasn’t about to let him off easily.

In the present, Detective Amanda Beck is in charge of an investigation where two teenagers have killed a classmate, stabbing him brutally. The scene of the crime is horrific, with hundreds of red palmprints covering the rocks there. The two teenage killers, soaked in blood, surrender to the police. Each is found with a knife and a diary in which they have detailed near identical accounts of how they set about killing the boy.

The awareness that this is a copycat crime leads Amanda to search the recesses of the dark net to find more information on the crime that had inspired this one. The crime where Charlie and his accomplice stabbed an innocent classmate and left tell-tale red palmprints at the scene of the crime. One of the killers, Billy, was found with a knife and his dream diary. But Charlie himself disappeared.

Subsequent searches failed to yield any clue as to his whereabouts. Billy went on to serve jailtime.

And yet there is someone on the dark net who claims to have been present at the scene of that first crime. Is it Charlie, come back to plague Paul? Or Billy who has been released? Or someone else altogether? Amanda finds someone with username @cc666 who claims to have been present at the scene of that crime, someone who claims to have Charlie’s dream diary.

For Paul, who has returned to the village after 25 years to see his mother, who is dying of dementia, it seems as if the horror is back. What’s worse, it seems his mother knows more about the crime than he thought. Will Paul know the truth before it is too late?


The chapters are written in the first person PoV of Paul, then and now, and in the third-person PoV of Amanda. The chapters flip back and forth between the two perspectives and the two timelines.  

This book is the second of Amanda’s series, so we get to hear quite a bit about her background, the fact that she is the daughter of a cop and how she tries and fails to forget the horrors she has seen.


The author does a great job of creating an aura around Charlie. Though still a teenager, Charlie is like nothing that Paul and James had ever encountered before. There is a sense of danger and tension around him. The author gives us a foretaste of his malevolence the very first time we, and Paul, come across him. We become aware of the evil that he is capable of.

I’d picked up the book because the plot had intrigued me, but I wasn’t satisfied with the story or with the ending. Also, the writing was peppered with a lot of swearing, which I find annoying.


Both the voice artistes, John Heffernan and Hannah Arterton, were good. John has the added advantage of having a first-person perspective to narrate, which enabled him to put in the right inflections to suggest emotion. His voice, diction and pronunciation all helped us hear Paul’s expressions. This was an advantage that Hannah lost out on as she was narrating a third-person account. Also, her voice seemed to go a little too fast. An adjustment of the speed didn’t help.

 (I read this book through NetGalley.)

Friday, September 04, 2020

Book Review: HIS AND HERS

Title: His and Hers
Author: Alice Feeney
Narrators: Stephanie Racine and Richard Armitage
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Pages: 288
My GoodReads Rating: 

A BBC TV news presenter, Anna Andrews has come up in life. Hailing from a deprived background, her father deserted the family, leaving her mother to clean homes in the village to earn a living. Her job and the success that is hers means a lot to her.

Having spent long years as a correspondent, Anna gets the opportunity to present the afternoon news after Cat Jones, the actual presenter, goes off suddenly on maternity leave. Two years later, when Anna expects her contract to be renewed, she finds herself suddenly relegated to the position of news correspondent when Cat returns.

A day later, she is called back to work because Cat is unreachable. When she shows up to work at the request of the Thin Controller, she finds Cat already there.

It is Cat who suggests that Anna head to the village of Blackdown, her hometown, where there has been a murder. 

Detective Chief Inspector Jack Harper and his assistant Priya Patel are called to the scene of a brutal murder. A local woman, Rachel Hopkins, has been killed in the woods. The principal of the local girl’s school, Helen Wang, is found brutally murdered the following day, and Zoe Harper, another local woman, who also happened to be Jack’s sister, is found brutally murdered the day after. Will Jack be able to solve the case or will the body count rise again?


Both Anna and Jack have had a close association with the characters in the case and everything seems to point towards them. Jack stands in danger of becoming a suspect in his own murder investigation, having been the last to see Rachel for a sexual fling.

The story comes to us in three voices, hers (the PoV of Anna Andrews) and his (that of Jack Harper) in alternate chapters and both accounts hold secrets. That they were once married becomes known to us soon enough. They have been estranged since the death of their baby girl, Charlotte, at just three months of age. They have been divorced since then.

Both accounts go heavy on the foreshadowing and so my expectations were quite high. Both characters face thwarted ambitions. Both the leading characters have a lot in common. Both have had casual sex. Both their jobs carry enormous stress, and expose them to ugly things that cannot be unseen. Both had guilty secrets they had to hide, secrets dating back to their pasts.


The PoVs of Anna and Jack are broken occasionally by the voice of the unidentified murderer, which was extremely creepy. The artiste has probably used some software to disguise the voice, but the effect was quite horrible. The voice actually grated on my ears.


The quotes, generalisations of truth that apply to all of us, are numerous and I enjoyed them. Anna’s back story comes out well.

The murderer tells us, There is a version of me I can only ever be with myself. It’s a point that hits us only after the identity of this person is revealed.

Both Anna and Jack get to mouth some good lines. Sample these:

Anna: We rarely deserve the lives we lead. We pay for them, however we can, be it with money, guilt or regret.

I’m pretty good at being the version of myself people want me to be.

It’s easier to blame the miles for the distance that exists between some parents and their children. When you bend the truth too far, it tends to break.

Like ghosts who don’t know they are dead, we carried on haunting ourselves and each other.

We are a species capable of horrific acts and incapable of learning from the lessons our own history tries to teach.

Memories are shape-shifters, some bend, some twist, some shrivel and die.

Time is something my mother has forgotten how to tell. It moves differently for her now. Often backwards, instead of forwards. Dementia stole time from my mother, and my mother from me. I found this line very poignant. The issue of dementia always makes painful reading for me. In the book, Anna learns that her mother suffers from severe dementia.

We all have secrets. Some we won’t even tell ourselves

Sometimes I think I am the unreliable narrator of my own life.

The author does a great job of distinguishing the writing for Anna and Jack. Right in his first chapter, Jack makes his presence felt by telling us that: Since I left London, my job has been duller than a nun’s underwear drawer.

Youth fools us into thinking there are infinite paths to choose from in life; maturity tricks us into thinking there is only one.


The characters were all drawn out well. Although I didn’t like Anna, she came across as too insensitive at the beginning, she did draw me into getting to know her story. Perhaps that was because of her drinking and resultant forgetfulness. In her first chapter, Anna can’t remember having baked the cupcakes that she is taking to work. I’m a little fed up of characters that have a drinking problem and can’t remember crucial events of their day.

The only characters I liked were Jack and, to an extent, Anna’s mother, who did everything she could for her daughter. I found Priya, Jack’s assistant, very interesting, not only because she is a character of Indian origin (Bonus points for showcasing diversity) but also because she is doggedly determined to pursue the case, even though she gives the impression of being small and helpless.


This thriller kept me engaged throughout. Each chapter ends on a cliffhanger, keeping us hooked. The author has successfully played out the themes of broken relationships, guilt and love, against the backdrop of murder.

The author does a great job of ratcheting up the pace and tension and creating a real sense of danger.

The description of the sex, while not graphic, is nevertheless disturbing. As are the descriptions of the murders which are brutal.

The only thing I couldn’t quite get a handle on was the murderer. Of course, why the person killed and killed again is explained very well, but how they could kill with so much brutality remains unanswered. I’m not talking just about the rationale, but how they went about it, which seems unbelievable.


This was my first experience with an audiobook. In this case, there were serious issues with the audio. I found that if I let one section (chapters were called sections, for some reason) end and the next one begin automatically, it would invariably skip one section in between. The best thing to do was to go through the navigation bar and manually click on each new section at the end of the previous one. This marred the experience slightly, during the first few chapters. It was only when I understood what was happening and figured out the trick, that the listening experience went on smoothly.

I liked Stephanie’s voice from the beginning. The pace, the enunciation, the pauses, they were all done right. Her voice was perfect for Anna’s narration.

Stephanie sounded so different for the parts spoken by the Thin Controller. It’s a subtle change that lets on that a different character is speaking but it makes such a great difference to the listening experience. I was particularly thrilled to hear the voice of recognition that she came up with when Anna’s mother, asleep in her home, wakes up and recognises her daughter.

Richard does a great job of distinguishing between Jack’s voice and Priya’s. Loud, he was Jack; a little muted, he was Priya, for the asides, the intonation changed once again. It was amazing how he switched voices at a moment’s notice.

I would definitely like to recommend this one.

(I read this book through NetGalley.) 


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