F.O.X.E.S

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments in this series. You can read my reviews of these novels by clicking the links below:

S.T.A.G.S | D.O.G.S

F.O.X.E.S was written by M.A. Bennett and first published in 2020. It is a young adult thriller which follows the continuing adventures Greer MacDonald as she tries to save her fried Ty from the machinations of the Dark Order of the Grand Stag. The novel follows on directly from where S.T.A.G.S (2017) and D.O.G.S (2019) left off, so I would strongly recommend reading these novels in sequence in order to fully appreciate them.

Following her trial and near-execution at the hands of the Grand Stag, Greer is more certain than ever that she needs to do something to put an end to the Order. When she receives a message from Ty suggesting that she should investigate Cumberland Place in London, she heads off with Shafeen and Nel to find out why.

Cumberland Place is another residence belonging to the de Warlencourts, but nothing can prepare them for what they find there. Henry’s father – Rollo de Warlencourt – embodies everything that Greer hates about STAGS and his mother, Caro, seems convinced that her son is still alive. Yet the most surprising thing is the way that the de Warlencourts welcome Greer into their home. More than that, they seem to be pleased to see her.

As Greer and her friends investigate further, they find some unsettling connections that further link STAGS to the work of Ben Jonson and, more surprising still, the Gunpower Plot. They also learn that Rollo is planning a hunt at Longcross for Boxing Day. Yet, with fox hunting illegal, Greer worries exactly what the STAGS are planning to hunt. She knows that she only has a few days to learn the truth, or Ty’s life could very well be in danger…

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Harrow Lake

Harrow Lake was written by Kat Ellis and first published in 2020. It is a dark mystery novel for older teens containing some horror elements, focusing on a girl who is forced to stay in her mother’s sinister home town. The novel stands alone, so you do not need to read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

Lola Nox is the daughter of the famous Nolan Nox – a filmmaker who shot to success with his critically acclaimed horror film, Nightjar. Although Lola loves her father deeply, she is also aware that something has been missing. Her mother abandoned them when she was only small and her father has never shown any interest in letting her visit Harrow Lake – her mother’s hometown and Nightjar’s filming location. That is, until the attack.

When Nolan is stabbed during an break in at his home, Lola is sent to stay in Harrow Lake with her grandmother. Although she is initially excited, she soon learns that the town is not quite what she expected. The locals have a love/hate relationship with Nightjar and a tendency to ignore the many strange disappearances of people connected to the film.

It’s not long before Lola starts to realise that Harrow Lake hides some terrifying secrets in the old mines that run beneath the town, particularly ones that relate to a legendary monster known as Mr Jitters. As she explores the famous locations featured in Nightjar she comes to realise certain uncomfortable truths. Mr Jitters may well be real and have a connection with her mother…

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Day 7

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Cell 7. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Day 7 was written by Kerry Drewery and first published in 2017. It forms the second part of the Cell 7 trilogy, following Cell 7 (2016) and preceding Final 7 (2018). As the novel picks up exactly where the previous instalment left off, I would really recommend reading them in sequence to have any idea of what is going on.

Martha has been found innocent and freed from Death Row but it has come at a terrible cost. To save her, Isaac admitted that he was the one who shot Jackson Paige. Now, he has taken her place in the Cells and will certainly be executed in seven days. After all, how could the public possibly declare him not guilty when he has openly admitted to the crime?

As Martha returns home with Eve and Max, she quickly learns that all of her efforts have been for nothing. All copies of her evidence against Jackson have been destroyed and the public now believe that she is simply a liar. She may have escaped execution but her trial-by-public continues, helped by reports that she is dangerously unstable. It seems that someone at the top wants Martha to go away and will gladly hurt her allies to achieve this.

On the run and wanted by the authorities, it seems that there is little that Martha can do to save Isaac. However, she is then approached by an unexpected person who claims that they can help. Patty – Isaac’s adopted mother – claims that she has her own reasons for wanting Isaac to go free and can provide Martha with the means to save him. However, can Martha trust her or is this just another trap?

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Who In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?

Who In The World is Carmen Sandiego was first published in 2019. It is an adaption of the first couple of episodes of the new Carmen Sandiego Netflix series, written by Rebecca Tinker and based on the screenplay by Duane Capizzi. The story finally gives the origins of the famous art thief, detailing her early training and how she first came to learn about the criminal organisation known as VILE. It does not really require you to know anything about the character to fully appreciate it.

Carmen Sandiego is one of the most wanted criminals in the world and Interpol Agent Chase Devineaux is determined to be the one to catch her. Unlike most art thieves, she seems to delight in taunting the authorities. She makes no effort to remain hidden as she wears a scarlet fedora and trench coat, yet always escapes with her prize. However, this time Carmen could have bitten off more than she can chew. While trying to steal the priceless Eye of Vishnu, she sees an object that she thought was lost forever and stumbles across an old foe.

This discovery causes Carmen to recall her past – a time when she was an orphan known as Black Sheep. Raised by faculty of a mysterious school, she soon learns that her “parents” are really a cabal of master thieves. Going under the name of VILE – Valuable Imports, Lavish Exports – they take in only the most promising students each year and mould them into the criminal elite. Carmen is determined to join their ranks and, despite only being a child, is finally granted a chance to become their youngest ever member.

Earning a place within in VILE will not be easy as one of her teachers – the ninja Shadowsan – seems to be determined that she will fail. However, Carmen slowly learns that she is walking the wrong path. VILE hides many terrible secrets, even from its students. With the help of a young hacker called Player, she soon discovers that there are far better uses for her talents.

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Cell 7

Cell 7 was written by Kerry Drewery and first published in 2016. It is a dystopian thriller set in the not too distant future, where the court system has been abolished at all crimes are judged by the general public in the form of a reality TV show. The novel forms the first part of the Cell 7 Trilogy and is followed by Day 7 (2017) and Final 7 (2018).

Almost everyone agreed that the court system didn’t work. How else could you explain why so many high-profile killers seemed to get off scot-free? Everyone could see that the new system was an improvement. Each convict was placed into the Cells, moving each day until they were placed in Cell 7 – the execution chamber. Over this time, their story was broadcasted to the public on Death is Justice – a reality TV show that allowed them to vote on whether they thought that the accused was innocent or guilty. It’s clear that the new system works much better than the old. In over two thousand cases, only fifty have ever been found innocent.

When Jackson Paige is murdered, the whole country is shocked. Jackson is one of the most beloved celebrities, known for his charity work and the fact that he even adopted his son from the High Rises, England’s poorest area. His killer – Martha Honeydew – was born in the Rises and was found holding the gun, declaring her guilt. There is no need to review any evidence. As Martha is placed in Cell 1 the polls start out at 97% guilty and there’s no reason why they would ever shift.

However, Eve Stanton has her doubts. As Martha’s councillor, she is the only person who is allowed to speak with the accused and she has reason to believe that Martha is lying to protect someone. As Eve investigates Martha’s past, she learns that there is more to the case than meets the eye. Jackson Paige is not who he seemed and has some surprising ties to Martha. The only trouble is proving it. How can Eve save Martha from the wrath of the public, when Martha insists that she is guilty?

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After the Fire

After the Fire was written by Will Hill and first published in 2017. It is a psychological thriller which focuses on a teenager coming to terms with the horrors that she experienced while growing up in the isolated compound of a fanatically religious sect. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Moonbeam was seventeen years old on the day of the fire. She lived to witness the compound being overrun by the Governments and saw her brothers and sisters gunned down before her eyes. It was just like Father John had always taught them. The world outside the fence was filled with the Servants of the Serpent and the Governments existed to wipe out anyone who held the true faith.

Stripped from everything that she has ever known, Moonbeam is taken with the rest of the survivors to a psychiatric hospital and put under the care of Doctor Hernandez. Moonbeam knows that she is not to talk to anyone outside the commune in case their sins infect her but gradually finds herself opening up to the doctor. The truth is, her faith has been shaken ever since the Purge separated her from her mother and, for the first time ever, someone seems to be taking her side.

However, Moonbeam is not sure how much she can divulge. When an FBI agent also begins to attend her sessions, she realises that she needs to be careful. It’s clear that the Governments are trying to piece together exactly what happened on the day of the fire and, if they do, Moonbeam knows that they will uncover the depth of her sins. What will they do to her if they find out that she is responsible for every single death?

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S.T.A.G.S

S.T.A.G.S was written by M.A. Bennett and first published in 2017. It is a thriller novel with horror elements, focusing on a group of teenagers on a weekend hunting trip. The story does end on a note that implies that this could be the start of a series. However, at the time of writing, no future instalments have been announced.

Greer MacDonald is lucky to have been accepted into the prestigious St Aidan the Great boarding school (known to students as S.T.A.G.S) on a scholarship, however she is painfully aware that she does not fit in. Her roommate barely speaks to her and she is often singled out by the Medievals – the school’s unofficial prefects – who make mean jokes about her northern accent and lack of class.

Greer is more surprised than anyone when she receives an invitation to spend half-term weekend on the sprawling Longcross Estate as a guest of Henry de Warlencourt – leader of the Medievals. Along with the rest of the Medievals and her fellow outcasts, Nel and Shafeer, she has been invited for a weekend of blood sports. On three consecutive afternoons, the group will be hunting, shooting and fishing. Although Greer isn’t certain that she’ll be able to stomach this, she is so flattered by the invitation that she immediately accepts.

However, it’s not long before she starts to notice that something is wrong. The Medievals are all acting strangely, friendly one minute and cruel the next. It’s not long before odd accidents begin to occur and it becomes clear that someone could get seriously hurt. Greer gradually begins to suspect that the rich kids are not only planning to hunt game that weekend. However, how can she hope to prove it when the whole village seem to be in on their plan?

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13 Minutes

13 Minutes was written by Sarah Pinborough and first published in 2016. It is a mystery novel that focuses on two teenagers investigating the events that lead up to a tragic accident. The novel is a stand-alone story, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Natasha was dead for thirteen minutes when a passing dogwalker pulled her out of the river. Although she was quickly revived, her memories of the previous day were muddled and she could not recall why she had left her home and wandered into the woods at night. The only clue was a text message telling her to meet someone, yet Tasha has no idea who sent this message or where they expected her to meet them.

Becca was once Tasha’s best friend but over the last few years, the two of them grew apart. While Tasha was the most popular girl in school, Becca had embraced her individuality and moved away from the spotlight. However, as Tasha notices that her closest friends are acting strangely, she rekindles her old friendship to be able to talk to someone that she trusts.

The two girls slowly begin to grow suspicious that Tasha’s inner circle had something to do with her accident. As they investigate, it becomes clear that all of the girls have secrets that they do not want to come to light – ones that they may take extreme measures to protect. However, as Becca starts to put the pieces together, she soon comes to discover that the truth of what happened on that night is more disturbing than she could ever have imagined…

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Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis

Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis was written by Yoshikazu Takeuchi and first published in Japanese in 1991 as Pāfekuto Burū: Kanzen Hentai. It is a horror story that focuses on a young pop idol being stalked by a psychotic fan. The book was finally translated into English in 2018 and served as the inspiration for Satoshi Kon’s classic animated movie, Perfect Blue. The novel is followed by a spin-off anthology titled Perfect Blue: Awaken from a Dream which is due to be released in English later this year.

Mima Kirigoe has never been the most popular of pop idols in Japan, but she has still gained a small following of loyal fans. While she has never had much trouble with these, one has recently been causing her distress. Though largely harmless, he has been repeatedly calling her home and promising to “protect” her, and has recently been seen trying to gain access to her studio.

His persistence worries Mima a little, but she has bigger problems. Eri Ochiai – a new pop idol with a risqué image – has decided that Mima is her rival and has dedicated her life to ruining Mima’s career. Mima’s manager has decided that it’s time that she had a change of image to combat this and has suggested that she produce a photo book that presents her as being older and sexier. Mima really isn’t sure about this as she has built her career as being a traditional teen idol, yet as Eri ups her game she sees no choice but to take part.

However, this new sexy image for Mima drives her stalker over the edge. In a bid to save Mima by preserving her innocence, he sets out on a mission to kidnap his beloved idol. Is there any way that Mima can hope to survive when she does not even know what her stalker looks like?

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The Hanging Girl

The Hanging Girl was written by Eileen Cook and first published in 2017. It is a mystery novel which follows a teenage girl who becomes entangled in the disappearance of one of her schoolmates. The story stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Skye Thorn is in trouble. Her friend Drew has been busy planning a future which involves the two girls moving to New York to study together. Skye knows that she could never hope to afford the rent, but has been too embarrassed to bring this to Drew’s attention. Trouble is, now graduation day is looming closer and Skye knows that she has left it far too long to tell the truth.

Her desperation pushes her to take drastic measures to raise the money. Skye has always had a talent for reading people, playing this to great advantage while doing tarot readings for her schoolmates. However, she takes this a step further when she becomes involved in shady Pluto and his kidnapping scheme. The plan is simple. Pluto kidnaps Skye’s classmate, Paige, and sends the ransom demand to her wealthy father. Skye uses her insider information to fake psychic visions that lead the police to where Paige is being kept. Unfortunately, things go horribly wrong.

Skye’s mother is quick to cash in on the tragedy, claiming that she has also had psychic visions that cause the police to start to doubt the validity Skye’s. As Skye struggles to retain control of the situation, things take a sudden dark turn and she realises that all of the blame for the kidnapping could be easily pinned on her. Skye needs to gain the upper hand and quickly. The true perpetrators are dangerous, and Skye must use all of her cunning if she is to keep her neck out of the noose…

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