The Cliff House by Chris Brookmyre was a cover request for me, and I knew that anything with a cover and title like this would have to be good. Thankfully I was right, and it was both very suspenseful and atmospheric. I seem to be in the minority, but I do think this was a pretty slow burn. It's not so slow that it doesn't hold your attention but slower paced, nonetheless. We have a group of friends in this story along with a couple of people who haven't been friends for a long time, and once it starts to go down, you will be questioning everyone. Through multiple viewpoints, the secrets start to spill out, and we get to know more and more about each person as the book goes on.
It would have been great had the audiobook had a full cast, but I thought that Sarah Barron being the lone narrator was just fine too. I really enjoyed her narration and she helped to bring the characters and all of the various emotions alive. I did not know how this story would end, and I was actually a big fan of the way everything came together. There are a couple of trigger warnings here and although they were not given in heavy detail, I would still recommend looking them up before starting. There is soooo much drama and betrayal in the pages of The Cliff House, so buckle up and enjoy the ride.
This book was just “meh” for me. I felt like I was reading it because I had to finish it instead of reading it because I wanted to finish it. I can’t quite put my finger on what it was.
One of my favorite thriller tropes is when a group of friends gather in an isolated setting. Then a murder occurs that slowly reveals secrets that each friend is keeping and why each could be the murderer. This book had that as well as a friend that went missing. As the remaining group comes together to figure out what is happening and where their missing friend is, the secrets begin to reveal themselves.
This was a good thriller, but lacked wow factor for me. The story moved a bit slow and the secrets weren't very dark and mysterious.
In fairness, my preference is a fast paced thriller with dark and messed up people doing dark and messed up things. If you prefer a thriller that is not super dark, this is a great read.
Published in the UK in 2022; published by Penzler Publishing/Scarlet on November 7, 2023
Jen Dunne’s first husband (a bent cop named Jason) has been gone for ten years, presumed dead for the last three. Jen isn’t sure she trusts her soon-to-be-second husband, Zaki Hussain, but after the first one she’s not sure she trusts any man.
Jen has a pre-wedding hen weekend on a private island in Scotland with a group of friends and Zaki’s sister Samira, who is happy to get away from her newborn twins. Of the other hens, Michelle Cassidy is a famous singer who fronted the band Cassidy before she went off on her own. Now she’s dealing with the unwanted posting of her sex tape to the internet. Helena was Michelle’s guitarist before the band broke up, creating bad blood between Helena and Michelle. Now Helena is a music teacher.
Kennedy is Jen’s tennis (and de facto life) coach. She was a professional tennis player when she was young, but pictures of her at that age seem to be nonexistent. Nicolette (who thinks her husband is having an affair) plays tennis with Jen and spreads antivax conspiracy theories. Beattie is Jen’s former sister-in-law. Beattie has never been able to accept Jen’s claim that Jason was a criminal and believes that Jen is responsible for his disappearance. Lauren isn’t a guest but she owns the island home that Jen rented and wants to make sure the women don’t trash it.
The only male at the party is a hot Spanish chef. Someone cuts his throat in the kitchen while the women are busy getting drunk and sniping at each other. The island has no cell service and the landline isn’t working. The house has wifi but all messaging and email apps have been blocked. The boat that is their only way off the island has disappeared.
My initial thought was: one of these women is the killer. Followed by: the killer is going to pick off the rest of the women one by one. After having those thoughts, I hoped Chris Brookyre wouldn’t follow such an obvious formula. While I was pleased that Brookmyre went in a different direction, the story needed more murder victims. Nearly every character is too annoying to live.
One of the women disappears. The remaining women are provided with a new messaging app that transmits instructions from someone using the name The Reaper. The Reaper has is holding the missing woman as a hostage. The Reaper wants one of the women to confess her sin and threatens to kill the hostage f the confession is withheld. That’s at least a modest twist on the usual slasher plot.
The women have a collective abundance of sins, but they aren’t sure which one the Reaper has in mind. They don't have time to screw around because the hostage has been planted on a block of ice with a noose around her neck. Maybe she’ll slip off the ice and die immediately. On the other hand, it takes ice some time to melt in Scotland. The uncertain timeline for the hostage’s demise seems a bit silly, but it gives the women time to scamper around the island while engaging in endless conversations.
The women decide to search for the hostage in teams of two. Jen and Beattie don’t get along so naturally they team up. Michelle and Helena don’t get along so naturally they team up. The teams make so sense, but they work as contrivances to set up dramatic disclosures about the characters’ respective sins that advance the plot only because the plot consists largely of dramatic disclosures. The anguish the characters feel about their past misadventures and their hand-wringing confessions takes up entirely too much of the novel’s word count.
Domestic drama permeates the novel. A husband threatens to kill the kids if a wife leaves him. A husband’s “coercive control” of his wife amounts to serial rape. A character confesses to having an affair with another character’s husband. A character’s alcoholic mother was unable to care for her. A character gives up a baby for adoption. More than one character is jealous of the success that other characters have achieved. The excess of drama eventually gives way to melodramatic confrontations that end with melodramatic expressions of forgiveness and regret. The ease of proclamations like “I forgive you” and “I missed you” are unconvincing after a character has spent a lifetime saying “I hate you” and “I will never forgive you.”
The story creates interest more than suspense. The reveal — who is the Reaper? — depends on another contrivance. It isn't surprising because contrived surprises are the norm in this novel. The plot wrap up is too tidy. By the end, the reader is meant to love characters who seemed hateful in the early pages, but I wasn’t ready to join them in a group hug.
RECOMMENDED WITH RESERVATIONS
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
This book was just OK to me. It was pretty long and felt like it repeated itself a lot. I’m not sure if it was the plot or the characters but k had trouble getting into it.
When six friends go away to a secluded island for an incredible weekend away hen party, none of them were expecting the outcome. Everyone has secrets, some big some small. When one of the group is kidnapped and the ransom is for another to tell the truth…most of them think that the note is directed at them. Can hurts and betrayals be put aside in order to save Samira? Whose secret has caused the kidnapping? Are any of them safe? Different island, different characters, but the same story with some different twists. An OK read, but a plot that’s been done too many times to make this a great one. Thank you to Abacus and NetGalley for an ARC of this book.
This was an interesting read, though I found it a bit long and repetitious in parts. Jen has invited several girlfriends to a 'hen party' on a remote Scottish island, she's getting married for the second time and wants a memorable occasion with her friends. I mentioned remote right? Like they have to take a helicopter to get there and their cell phones don't have access. No worries though, they're there for a good time not to keep in touch with others. Things start off well, they all gather at the mansion, a very large restored to it's historically correct state masterpiece. Meeting them is Lauren, she owns the island and holds various events, like this group, as a revenue stream. They are assigned a room, and gather to have a drink before dinner. This is where things become interesting, the chef has prepared their drinks and disappears to make dinner, when he's gone for a very long time, one of them goes to investigate and finds him dead. Then they all get a text message from The Reaper, telling that one of them is not who they think she is and until that person reveals who she is, none of them are leaving the island, he also shows them a video of one of their group who he had kidnapped. They decide to search the island for a possible cell signal and/or a boat they had seen on their way in. The divide into groups of two and each search a different area, during this time you learn about their secret as the person thinks about what The Reaper may know, and they disclose it to their search partner. The all eventually reconvene back at the mansion where they all disclose to the group their secret. I found the ending dragged a bit, but overall I did enjoy and would recommend especially if you enjoy female friendships and overcoming adversity. Thanks to #Netgalley and #Scarlet for the ARC.
My thanks to Penzler publishing, Chris Brookmyre and Netgalley.
So...I have mixed feelings about this book. I suppose that the story was good, but it was not at all what I was expecting from the blurb.
I wanted a gosh-damned mystery/thriller. What I got was some domestic drama. Actually, that would be drama's. "Heavy sigh."
I absolutely hated every stinking moment!
Still, it's not a badly written book. It's just not my jam.
I'll confess that I will not be seeking anymore stories from Brookmyre. Honestly, he's not a bad writer. He's just not the writer for me.
I really wanted to get to this one, as it seemed interesting. The downfall was that I requested so many ARCs that I could not get to all of them before the book was archived. I actually just received this in the mail from winning a Goodreads giveaway, so I will be able to read this one soon!
What starts as a story that’s been told many times, turns into a thrilling story. I wanted to read faster just to see what was going to happen. I really enjoyed the many different characters and their way of speaking together.
Seven women set out for a bachelorette weekend? What possibly could go wrong...
I know, you've heard that plot a time or two before, but, I promise you, The Cliff House, is quite different and worth picking up.
Chris Brookmyre, paid homage to Agatha Christie, in this mind-bending, soul tugging, psychological thriller with a spin only he could pull off.
I was instantly sucked in and became addicted to each flip of the page. My only regret was not having picked this one up sooner. I was completely consumed and hung on Brookmyre's every word.
The Cliff House is TWISTED!!
Every secret exposed will have your jaw on the floor and head spinning. This book packs one hell of a punch.
Check out this teaser :
Seven women. Seven sins. One night of judgment.
Jen Dunne is forty-two and getting married for the second time, but that doesn’t mean she can’t go all out for her bachelorette weekend. She’s booked three days of super-exclusive luxury accommodation on a remote Scottish island for herself and six other women. There’s Jen’s tennis coach and a fellow tennis-playing fashionista; a famous pop star and that pop star’s estranged ex-bandmate; plus Jen’s future sister-in-law and the sister of her first husband.
The helicopter won’t be back for seventy-hours and they have the island all to themselves—or so they think. As the cocktails flow, old grudges begin to emerge and tempers to fray. Then one of the women goes missing. The others receive a threatening message urging one of them to confess a terrible secret. But whose secret is it? Each woman has a darkness in her past she’s reluctant to admit. But they’ll all have to come clean if they want to make it off the island alive.
When seven women find themselves stranded alone at an island mansion with no way to communicate with the outside world and a dead body, they quickly realize they need to figure out who they can trust. Because each is hiding a really big secret, and someone on the island is looking for revenge. As the night goes on, each woman confesses her sin in the hope it will help free them from the situation. But whose past has come back to haunt them? And can they figure it out in time to save them all?
I like these kind of locked room mysteries, and this one started out really interesting, with a tense group of women, drawn together from various parts of the main character, Jen’s, life, for Jen’s bachelorette weekend. But it started to drag toward the middle and wrapped up really quickly in the end. I wish there had been a little more character development and interaction between the women, because for most of the book, they’re separated and exploring the island.
Not that I wasn’t interested in the developing plot and the women’s stories, however. They were very interesting and intense. And there some nice twists thrown in there, ones that I didn’t see coming AT ALL. That definitely kept me reading right to the end.
I just wish there were more thrills and suspense between the women thrown in there to match the spooky book cover. It was more action/drama mystery, rather than mystery/thriller, I guess I would say. Not that that is bad.
So I recommend the book, just know what you’re getting when reading it.
This book was a decently written and plotted novel about several women trapped on an island during a weekend getaway. It turns out that they all have secrets. Things quickly turn dark, when their chef is murdered but an unknown perpetrator who wants them to disclose all their deep dirty secrets to the group.
The writing was decent. However, my main problem with this book is that I feel that it is not unique, it reminds me of other stories I have read before. Also, the slow pacing at the start didn’t really grab me.
I would consider trying other books by this author, but this one just wasn’t for me.
Thank you Penzer Publishers and Netgalley for providing me with an ARC of this book to read and review.
Seven women embark on a bachelorette weekend to a remote Scottish island. They all have secrets they don’t want made public but someone is set on revenge and is taking this opportunity to exact it on one of the women. But which one? And how far would you go to keep your secrets?
This book had an incredible setting and the author described it beautifully. I was drawn in right away as I love locked room mysteries. Each character is well developed and has a unique voice. You won’t want to miss this book!
I was not expecting what happened in this book. I loved it! It continuously kept you guessing and was completely centered around all of the characters.
Thank you to NetGalley, Chris Brookmyre and Penzler Publishing for the free ebook in exchange for an honest review.
I loved how this starts off with a bang and I love with the trapped anywhere mysteries! Good twists and fairly well spaced so you didn’t get bored. I sometimes struggle with novels that have slang from other countries because I’m like uhhh. But this one did a fairly good job of making it clear what it meant.
Engaging and entertaining. A recommended purchase for collections where crime and thrillers are popular.
WOW! Everyone has secrets and these women have more/darker secrets than most people! This was a gripping read that I couldn't put down until we figured out who was behind it! I do love a redemption story and this book has quite a bit of it! This was my 1st book by Chris Bookmyre but will not be my last!
The Cliff House is the perfect beach read or travel book. Not only does it grab your attention early and hold it, but it doesn't introduce a lot of new characters to keep track of. There are well-placed twists that kept me interested until the final page. This is my first Chris Brookmyre, but now I'm on a search for backlist books. Thanks for the opportunity to read early and review!
This was an okay thriller for me. I felt like it read a bit slow over to halfway through. They were unlikeable characters, but that was how they were supposed to be portrayed. It was a bit hard to keep track of all the characters. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for a copy of this e-arc in exchange for my review. 3 stars