The Lost Children by Helen Phifer #Review @helenphifer1 @bookouture

The Lost Children cover

Back in April, I put my auto-approval with Bookouture to good use, and downloaded this on Netgalley… and it sat for months waiting for me to read it while I read other books instead. I finally opened it up last week, and just like that, I’ve found a new series and author to love!

In my opinion, some of the best books (regardless of genre and sub-genre) use an old, abandoned asylum as a backdrop for the action. You can’t pick a creepier setting that than… your imagination sparks images of sorts of things that might have happened there before you even crack open the book. They give books an ambience that can’t be achieved in other settings, and is used to particularly chilling effect in crime thrillers.

Helen Phifer puts all of this to use in The Lost Children, creating a story about a place—the Moore Asylum—whose past is as horrifying as the murder that takes place there decades after its closure. It’s the first of several murders connected to the asylum, and it’s up to Detective Inspector Lucy Harwin to figure out who the killer is and put an end to the bloodshed.

Lucy Harwin is fabulously flawed. Her relationship with her daughter is rocky, and she’s a workaholic with a tendency to drink too much at times in order to forget the horrific things she sees on the job. She struggles with the guilt she feels over victims she was unable to save, holding herself responsible whether she is or not. The woman has issues, but she’s tough as nails when it comes to her job, and fiercely protective of the people she loves.

There are occasional flashbacks to the mid-1970s, which are told through one of three point of view: children who were patients in the asylum, a doctor at the asylum, and a nurse who worked on Ward 13—the children’s ward. It was fascinating to see the asylum through the eyes of people who worked, or were patients, there. The abandoned asylum of the present day is creepy, but what happened before the asylum closed is the stuff of nightmares.

I was able to figure out a couple of things before they were revealed in the story, but it didn’t affect the rating I’ve chosen to give this book because there were a couple of things I didn’t see coming that were fantastic and really added to the story.

I can’t wait to read more about Lucy Harwin!

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Bookouture via Netgalley.


Author: Helen Phifer

Title: The Lost Children

Series: Detective Lucy Harwin #1

Genre: Crime Thriller

Published March 24th, 2017 by Bookouture

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About the Book

Lizzy pulled the covers over her head. Then she realised what was being dragged behind the person with the torch. She rammed her fist into her mouth to stop herself from screaming…

For decades, The Moore Asylum was home to the forgotten children of Brooklyn Bay. But ever since a scandal forced its closure, the abandoned building has cast an imposing shadow. Until now – when an elderly man is found dead, his body strapped to an ancient gurney…

Detective Lucy Harwin, still reeling from a previous case that ended in the devastating murder of a mother and her child, finds herself on the trail of a killer ruthlessly fixated on avenging the asylum’s wrongs.

What disturbing secrets lie within the asylum’s walls? Together with her partner Detective Mattie Jackson, Lucy begins to unearth its terrible history, and the horrors endured by the vulnerable children.

As the attacks escalate and a woman is murdered on her own doorstep, Lucy is forced into a terrifying game of cat and mouse with a twisted individual. But can Lucy stop a murderer with nothing left to lose?

An absolutely terrifying and gripping thriller that will chill readers of MJ Arlidge, Angela Marsons and Rachel Abbott to the bone.

About the Author

Author Helen Phifer
Author Helen Phifer

Helen Phifer’s love of reading began with Enid Blyton, before progressing on to Laura Ingalls Wilder and scaring herself with Steven King. If she can’t write for any particular reason she finds herself getting itchy fingers and really irritable. She loves reading as much as writing and is also very fond of chocolate, Prosecco, The Lake District, New York, white Zinfandel wine, my children and grandchildren, my friends, porn star martini cocktails, Stephen King, watching scary films, Marilyn Monroe, Melissa McCarthy, Idris Elba, Simon Baker, Spandau Ballet, The Munsters and coffee. In no particular order.

Author photo and bio via Bookouture.

The Child by Fiona Barton #Review @figbarton @BerkleyPub

The Child cover

The Child is a multi-layered mystery with one burning question: Who is the Building Site Baby?

The story is told from the perspectives of four women:

  • Emma: A reclusive, secretive woman married to a (much older) man. The discovery of the baby’s remains leaves Emma obsessed with the need to know what the police know about the child.
  • Jude: Mother of Emma, with whom she has a strained relationship due to events that happened when Emma was a teenager.
  • Angela Irving: Her newborn baby was kidnapped from the hospital years ago, and never found. She believes the Building Site Baby might be the remains of her long-lost child… which is creating tension within her family.
  • Kate Waters: Newspaper journalist investigating the story of the Building Site Baby. Will the remains prove to be that of the lost Irving child… or someone else?

For me, the book seemed to start a bit slow, and I had a momentary thought of setting it aside. I persevered, however, because I HAD to find out the identity of the baby! And I’m so glad I did, because the slow start was not at all indicative of the way the story flowed throughout the rest of the book. (To be honest, maybe the “slow” start had more to do with me being distracted by others as I read, which could easily have skewed my perception of its beginning.)

I enjoyed this story a great deal. The layers of mystery made the book even more intriguing, and it was great fun for me to try to work out all the pieces of the multiple puzzles. I did manage to figure out one thing, but there was another reveal at the end that I never saw coming. It was a fantastic twist, and I loved it!

This is the first book I’ve read by Fiona Barton, but I’m sure I’ll be reading more from this author in the future! If you haven’t read it yet? You should!

Now that my review is finished, here’s an amusing story. I originally requested an ARC of this book through First to Read. I had it long enough—and read enough books in the interim—to forget that I had it. Then I noticed it on Netgalley—didn’t remember I already had it—and requested it again. You have no idea how foolish I felt when I realized I now had TWO copies of the same ARC. Ah, well. It served to teach me the importance of making sure I’m not requesting a book I already have!  #BookBloggerProblems, indeed. 😂

I received an advance review copy of this book from Berkley via First to Read and Netgalley.


Author: Fiona Barton

Title: The Child

Genre: Psychological Suspense, Mystery

Published: June 27th 2017 by Berkley

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Purchase Links

Penguin Random House | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About the Book

The author of the stunning New York Times bestseller The Widow returns with a brand-new novel of twisting psychological suspense.

As an old house is demolished in a gentrifying section of London, a workman discovers a tiny skeleton, buried for years. For journalist Kate Waters, it’s a story that deserves attention. She cobbles together a piece for her newspaper, but at a loss for answers, she can only pose a question: Who is the Building Site Baby?

As Kate investigates, she unearths connections to a crime that rocked the city decades earlier: A newborn baby was stolen from the maternity ward in a local hospital and was never found. Her heartbroken parents were left devastated by the loss.

But there is more to the story, and Kate is drawn—house by house—into the pasts of the people who once lived in this neighborhood that has given up its greatest mystery. And she soon finds herself the keeper of unexpected secrets that erupt in the lives of three women—and torn between what she can and cannot tell…

About the Author

Author Fiona Barton
Author Fiona Barton

My career has taken some surprising twists and turns over the years. I have been a journalist – senior writer at the Daily Mail, news editor at the Daily Telegraph, and chief reporter at The Mail on Sunday, where I won Reporter of the Year at the National Press Awards, gave up my job to volunteer in Sri Lanka and since 2008, have trained and worked with exiled and threatened journalists all over the world.

But through it all, a story was cooking in my head.

The worm of this book infected me long ago when, as a national newspaper journalist covering notorious crimes and trials, I found myself wondering what the wives of those accused really knew – or allowed themselves to know.

It took the liberation of my career change to turn that fascination into a tale of a missing child, narrated by the wife of the man suspected of the crime, the detective leading the hunt, the journalist covering the case and the mother of the victim.

Much to my astonishment and delight, The Widow is available now in the UK, and around the world in the coming months.

However, the sudden silence of my characters feels like a reproach and I am currently working on a second book.

My husband and I are living the good life in south-west France, where I am writing in bed, early in the morning when the only distraction is our cockerel, Sparky, crowing.

Author photo and bio via Goodreads.



Quick Review: The United States of Absurdity by Dave Anthony & Gareth Reynolds

The United States of Absurdity cover

If you enjoy reading about odd and ridiculous events in history, then this is the book for you. Let’s face it: the history we learn in school isn’t exactly a barrel of laughs. All those events that happened throughout the centuries—while important to know about—are decidedly lacking in the humor department. This book has many funny anecdotes, but it’s not exactly the sort of history that would find its way into a school textbook.

What you will find are stories about such notable moments as:

  • The 14-year-old boy who made nitroglycerin in an improvised “lab”, who eventually built a breeder reactor in his parent’s backyard.
  • Henry Heimlich’s campaign to make the Heimlich maneuver the preferred way to save someone from choking to death, followed by his attempts to prove malaria could cure cancer… and Lyme disease… and AIDS.
  • Harry Smolinski’s attempt to create a flying car… using a Ford Pinto.
  • A cheese wheel that was gifted to Andrew Jackson, which was four feet in diameter, two feet thick, and weighed a whipping 1400 pounds.
  • The Straw Hat Riots of 1922, which began because some men were absolute heathens and wore their straw hats past the acceptable dates of May 15th to September 15th.

Some of the stories were more interesting than others (as would be the case with any collection such as this), and I was aware of a few—such as the story of the “Radium Girls”. I was in need of a light read, and this fit the bill nicely.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Ten Speed Press via Netgalley.


Authors: Dave Anthony & Gareth Reynolds

Title: The United States of Absurdity: Untold Stories from American History

Genre: History, Humor, Nonfiction

Published: Published May 9th, 2017 by Ten Speed Press

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About the Book

Discover illustrated profiles of the weird, outrageous (and true!) tales from American history that don’t appear in school textbooks.

From the creators of the comedy/history podcast “The Dollop,” “The United States of Absurdity” presents short, informative, and hilarious stories of the most outlandish (but true) people, events, and more from United States history. Comedians Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds cover the weird stories you didn’t learn in history class, such as 10-Cent Beer Night, the Jackson Cheese, and the Kentucky Meat Shower, each accompanied by a full-page illustration that brings these historical “milestones” to life in full-color. Adding to the giftable history/comedy package, each story is accompanied by tongue-in-cheek trivia and timelines that help place the stories in context with the more well-known historical events that occurred around them.

The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond #Review @michellerichmon @randomhouse

The Marriage Pact cover

‘The Pact’, an exclusive group for married couples, has a purpose that seems harmless enough: ensuring a happy marriage that doesn’t end in divorce. This is to be achieved by following the manual, which contains a list of rules that must be followed. If the rules are broken, consequences—the severity of which depends upon the rule(s) broken—will be meted out. Jake and Alice think joining The Pact is a wonderful idea, until rules are broken and they find out how far the group is willing to go to keep its members in line.

I have a morbid fascination with books that involve cults or cult-like groups, so obviously I had to read this book. It was a given The Pact wasn’t going to be a nice group to be involved with, and trouble was bound to come in a hurry when Jake kept putting off reading the entire manual, as he was meant to do. (Dude… hello? You’re definitely going to break rules if you don’t bother to read about all of them!)

Jake and Alice both end up breaking the rules (at different times) and find out the hard way why that’s a bad thing to do… and the reader finds out just how twisted this little group can be. Some of the consequences they were subjected to were more upsetting than others, but there were a few that inspired me to shout at the book when I read about them. (Anything that gets a loud reaction out of me is well written, in my opinion; kudos to the author for making it happen!)

This was a gripping read, with an ending that I found to be very satisfying. I really enjoyed this book, and definitely recommend it!

I received an advance review copy of this book from Bantam via Netgalley.


Author: Michelle Richmond

Title: The Marriage Pact

Genre:  Psychological Thriller

Publication Date: July 25th, 2017 by Bantam

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Book Worth Reading Ribbon

Purchase Links

Random House | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About the Book

In this relentlessly paced novel of psychological suspense, New York Times bestselling author Michelle Richmond crafts an intense and shocking tale that asks: How far would you go to protect your marriage?

Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.

The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact. And most of its rules make sense. Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter. . . . Never mention The Pact to anyone.

Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples.

And then one of them breaks the rules.

The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life. And The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule.

For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.

About the Author

Author Michelle Richmond

Michelle Richmond is the author of four novels, including the New York Times bestseller THE YEAR OF FOG, and two award-winning story collections. Her fifth novel, THE MARRIAGE PACT, will be published in summer of 2017, with foreign editions forthcoming in 26 languages.

Michelle’s most recent novel is the political thriller GOLDEN STATE (February, 2014)–“a riveting read” (Booklist, starred review) that imagines present-day California on the brink of secession from the United States. Her previous books are THE YEAR OF FOG (2007), NO ONE YOU KNOW (2008), DREAM OF THE BLUE ROOM (2003), and the story collections HUM (2014) and THE GIRL IN THE FALL-AWAY DRESS (2001).

Michelle grew up in Mobile, Alabama, and has made her home for many years in Northern California. Visit for updates, reading group guides, and social media links.

Author photo and bio via Amazon.