My Book Reviews for June 2023

My Book Reviews for June 2023

My book reviews for June 2023 include an unpredictable thriller, a Welsh post-apocalypse story, a twisty crime thriller, a modern classic and several great advance copies.

The People Watcher by Sam Lloyd

I thought The Memory Wood was an interesting premise, but Sam Lloyd’s latest title is even more unusual. The only book that’s given me a similar vibe, because of the relationship between its two lead characters, is Nina Todd Has Gone by Lesley Glaister.

The plot is highly original and unpredictable. Mercy is a unique protagonist with a criminal record, a brain injury and a fear of daylight. She spends her nights watching the townsfolk where she lives and carries out small, anonymous acts of kindness on their behalf. The slow emergence of her backstory is a good source of suspense and eventually explains why she’s like she is and why she has chosen to watch that particular town.

Despite her unconventional lifestyle, Mercy manages just fine until she meets Louis. He watches people, too, and wants to help, but his interventions compromise Mercy’s hard-won stability. There are elements of folie à deux in the story when Mercy’s Good Samaritan meets Louis’s avenging angel.

And watching them both is Konstantin, a dangerous thug hired by one of the people Mercy has been watching. He agrees to help a woman who has sensed Mercy is close by, but his motives are self-serving and deadly.

The book builds from a slow, almost benevolent burn to explosions of brutal violence and an unexpected ending.

With thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read an early copy in exchange for an independent review.

The Blue Book of Nebo by Manon Steffan Ros

Dylan lives with his mother, Rowena, in a remote cottage near Nebo, North Wales. They haven’t seen another soul since a nuclear apocalypse brought about The End. As Dylan grows from six to fourteen, he becomes adept at cultivating fruit and vegetables, killing rabbits and building shelter. He also turns to reading, in particular the Bible and old Welsh tales. Rowena, brought up an English speaker, also finds solace in the language of her motherland and teaches herself more Welsh than she had in her school days.

Mother and son make separate entries in a diary – the Blue Book of the title – in which they reveal the practicalities of survival, their musings on life, their backstories and the last days before The End.

It’s a story of growing into oneself. For Rowena this means shedding the mantle of timid girl she wore in the old days to become tough and resilient. Dylan evolves from the ‘normal’ child he barely remembers to a strong, practical young man. Despite his unusual circumstances, he faces the usual preoccupations of adolescence, including how to keep secrets from his mother.

This is a short, enriching read.

The Night Shift by Alex Finlay

This was a fast-paced crime thriller with a good premise, a solid plot and great characters.

At the end of their shift at an ice-cream parlour, two young employees are stabbed to death and another is injured. It has frightening similarities to an outrage committed in the area twenty years earlier, when four video store staff were stabbed and another was left injured at the end of their shift.

The story is told from three points of view: pregnant FBI agent Keller who is assigned to look at the cold case, but is drawn into the active one too; trauma therapist Ella, the survivor of the first crime, who is asked to support the traumatised survivor of the second; and lawyer Chris, the little brother of the prime suspect for the video store massacre whose disappearance soon afterwards confirmed his guilt in the eyes of all but Chris.

The two survivors have secrets linked both to their assaults and to their difficult childhoods. Chris, the lawyer, is also hiding things. There are plenty of revelations throughout and I didn’t see any of them coming, least of all the big one.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Canterbury Tales meets Slaughterhouse Five with a dash of Shakespeare and a large helping of global pandemic.

Originally published in 2014 but enjoying a revival in recent years for obvious reasons, the novel interweaves stories of survivors of a world-ending flu virus. We meet members of a travelling theatre company who traverse small communities that were once the thriving cities of Canada and the USA. We follow their stories in the first twenty years after year zero and also flashback with them and others to the final days of civilisation. One of the characters, Kirsten, keeps the hand-drawn pages of Station Eleven, a science fiction comic she was given as a child at the end of the world. Every day these post-apocalyptical characters face danger and philosophy in equal measure.

Like many before me, I enjoyed this one.


I was lucky enough to read several new titles this month. With thanks to the authors, publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read early copies of these books in exchange for independent reviews. I am pleased to include the following in my book reviews for June 2023:

The Last Goodbye by Tim Weaver

Another solid David Raker story that typically moves from intriguing to audacious. This time David is looking for one missing person, but he ends up finding answers about at least four. The writing is smooth and easy to read, the lead characters are engaging and there are nice tie-ins with previous stories.

A good addition to the series.

Night Will Find You by Julia Heaberlin

A fast-paced missing person mystery with a mean and moody police detective and a reluctant amateur sleuth who sees dead people and flashes of the future.  (But don’t call her psychic; she hates the term.) Ideal for thriller readers who like lots of real-life references and nods to conspiracy theories.

The Villa by Ruth Kelly

The Villa is the title of a new reality sensation that blends Love Island with Big Brother and takes them to the extreme. This thriller depicts a sinister, sordid and highly manipulative version of the popular TV genre. A must for thriller readers who are fans of Love Island etc.

The Beach Party by Nikki Smith

Ideal for fans of a slow-burning comeuppance story. Former friends are summoned to a Mallorcan villa to face the secret of what they did there in 1989. All are unlikeable but one more so than the others. It will do well.

The Quiet Tenant by Clemence Michallon

An unusual take on the captivity novel. Not only do we have the viewpoint of the woman held captive for 5 years, but we also hear from the captor’s oblivious daughter and new girlfriend. The captor is a likeable, good-looking pillar of the community. No one suspects a thing. The writing is very literary with intense ‘thisness’ of detail. The captive addresses herself as ‘you’, suggesting some level of dissociation to cope with her ordeal.

The Red House by Roz Watkins

It was nice to read a standalone by the author of the well-established DI Meg Dalton series. There’s plenty here for fans of suspense with surprises. I didn’t see the twists coming.

You’re Not Supposed to Die Tonight by Kalynn Bayron

A breezy, wise-cracking teen horror about a group of scare actors who get more than they bargained for at their horror attraction. Ideal for fans of ‘light’ slasher fiction.

So those are my book reviews for June 2023. I’ve already read several new titles that will be out in July and I look forward to sharing my reviews at the end of the month.

By Rachel Sargeant

Rachel Sargeant is a British author. She writes the Gloucestershire Crime Series, published by Hobeck Books. The first title is Her Deadly Friend, and the second is Her Charming Man. Her titles with HarperCollins are: The Roommates, a psychological thriller set in a university during freshers' week; The Good Teacher, a detective mystery, featuring DC Pippa “Agatha” Adams, and The Perfect Neighbours, a psychological thriller set in Germany. Rachel studied at Aberystwyth University, spent several years living in Germany and now lives in Gloucestershire with her family. She holds a PhD from the University of Birmingham.

Comments (0)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *