BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Trick of the Mind by Penny Hancock: Review & Guest Post

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
Format Read: Ebook
Source: From the publisher for an honest review
Release Date: September 11, 2014
Buying Links: Amazon* | Book Depository* | ARe*/OmniLit | Apple iTunes | Smashwords*
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Blurb from goodreads:

Have you committed a crime ...or are you the victim of one?

Driving down to the cottage in Southwold she's newly inherited from her Aunty May, Ellie senses she is on the edge of something new. The life she's always dreamed of living as a successful artist seems as though it is about to begin. So excited is she that she barely notices when the car bumps against something on the road.

That evening Ellie hears a news flash on the radio. A man was seriously injured in a hit and run on the very road she was driving down that evening. Then Ellie remembers the thump she heard. Could she have been responsible for putting a man in hospital? Unable to hold the doubts at bay, she decides to visit the victim to lay her mind to rest, little knowing that the consequences of this decision will change her life forever.

Steph's Thoughts:

I love looking at my emails in the morning. My mailbox is usually full of emails from Bea for review requests. The blurb for this one looked interesting, so I gave it a go.

Ellie is a nutcase, in good ways and bad ways. She is an artist, so she is a bit eccentric. Her friends are “growing up” and moving on with life. I really could relate to her in that aspect. I did not meet my better half until I was in my late 30’s. All my friends were getting married in our 20’s and I was still trying to find myself. However, the accident was a bit over the top.

Her favorite aunt committed suicide and she decides to leave her boyfriend and head down to the house her aunt left her. Along the way, she has the music turned up and talking to the dog she is babysitting, and she hits something. All she does is look out the back window to see if she notices anything. All she sees is a branch, so she continues on her way. Personally, I would have gotten out of the car to check and make sure I had only hit a branch or to see what damage (if any) was done to my car or if I had even thought I might have hit somebody, I would have gone to the police. However, this would not have given us a story and what a crazy story it is.

I’ll admit after the first few pages, I really did not think I was going to like this book but then Patrick started calling Ellie. Patrick was the young man that was hit on the road and Ellie thinks she is the one that hit him. For the next few chapters, I found myself reading a very bizarre story. Quite disturbing in some aspects but at the same time, I could not put it down.

I cannot say I really liked either of the main characters as their morals are both quite shady but the story itself is riveting and impossible to put down. I can compare it to watching a horror movie with your hands over your eyes but peeking through your fingers at the screen, afraid to see what is happening but really wanting to know. Would I recommend this book? Oh Heck yes!

Building  tension in a novel 

Suspense- or tension- is an integral part of story-telling, and not just for crime and thrillers.

Hitchcock, the master of suspense, illustrates the difference between suspense and surprise by asking people to compare two scenarios. In one an audience watch a group of characters on a stage, and a bomb goes off. This gives the audience a surprise or shock.

In the other scenario an audience watch a group of characters, aware of a bomb under the table that is set to go off in two minutes. Now the audience is kept in suspense, desperate to warn the characters what it knows is going to happen.

It’s possible to show readers things that your characters aren’t aware of, by occupying a position of omniscient narrator.

‘He stood behind her bathroom door, the knife poised to plunge. She arrived home from work longing to get straight into a hot bath. She started up the stairs, pulling off her clothes.’

It’s harder to build tension when you’re telling your story in the first person. But there are solutions.

One way is to allow readers to be a few steps ahead by dropping hints that the character ignores.

‘Was that a creak I heard coming from the bathroom upstairs? No! Impossible! The door was locked, the alarm on, and it was months since he’d bothered me.

I started to climb the stairs.’

Another way is by making the narrator suffer from some sort of condition where they can’t see what we do.

In Before I Go to Sleep SJ Watson’s first person narrator suffers from amnesia. She can’t remember what we can, so we know she’s in danger and want to warn her, but have to watch helplessly as her memory is wiped out at the end of each day.

Time is an incredibly useful tool in creating suspense. Put the character in a situation which is apparently going to be impossible for them to get out of, and give them a ticking time bomb.

In Tideline, my first person narrator, Sonia, incarcerates a teenage boy. She soon sees how foolish this impulsive action was - but finds herself with a ticking time bomb- her husband is going to come back from his work trip overseas and her daughter from uni. What is she going to do with Jez before they get home?

We can also do a lot with point of view. Gillian Flynn uses this device to great effect in Gone Girl where both her narrators appear to be untrustworthy. Who is going to be caught out first? In The Darkening Hour two unreliable narrators give their version of events. Who is telling the truth?

But it is only when we evoke sympathy with the characters that it will work. Harder to do if it’s our characters doing the nasty things, but possible, by showing their motivation, and their human foibles.

Once you have your readers on side, the suspense they feel when the character is in danger, either from outside threat or from their own actions, will keep them turning the pages.


  1. I knew this story Hitchcock told, he's one of my all times film director :) This book is heading straight to my list, thanks for sharing :)

  2. This definitely sounds intriguing though the premise is definitely a little difficult to believe. I'll have to see if my library gets a copy of this one!

  3. This sounds like something I'd like. I'm going to add it to my list.

  4. Sounds really intriguing! The only thing that puts me off is the lack of likable characters!

  5. That's so not my typical sort of read but you've got me curious :)


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