Today I am absolutely delighted to join the blog tour for Violet, the latest thriller from SJI Holliday. Inspired by her own travels, this is one story you won’t forget in a hurry. My thanks go to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to be a part of the tour and to publisher, Orenda Books, for providing an advance review copy. Here’s what the book is all about:
About the Book
When two strangers end up sharing a cabin on the Trans-Siberian Express, an intense friendship develops, one that can only have one ending … a nerve-shattering psychological thriller from bestselling author SJI HollidayAvailable from: Amazon | Waterstones | Kobo | Googleplay | Apple Books
Carrie’s best friend has an accident and can no longer make the round-the-world trip they’d planned together, so Carrie decides to go it alone.
Violet is also travelling alone, after splitting up with her boyfriend in Thailand. She is also desperate for a ticket on the Trans-Siberian Express, but there is nothing available.
When the two women meet in a Beijing Hotel, Carrie makes the impulsive decision to invite Violet to take her best friend’s place.
Thrown together in a strange country, and the cramped cabin of the train, the women soon form a bond. But as the journey continues, through Mongolia and into Russia, things start to unravel – because one of these women is not who she claims to be…
A tense and twisted psychological thriller about obsession, manipulation and toxic friendships, Violet also reminds us that there’s a reason why mother told us not to talk to strangers…
I have been sitting, staring at my computer screen for nigh on five minutes now, wondering just how to begin this review. It’s not that I have nothing to say, far from it, it is more that I don’t know quite how to begin.
Inspired by the author’s own journey on the Trans-Siberian Express, if this was the kind of journey she had back then, I am very fearful for her husband’s safety … Thankfully this is a work of fiction from the mind of a woman who has mastered the craft of manipulating her readers, pulling them into the story, twisting them around, and spitting them out at the other end in awe.
This is the story of Violet, a young woman who, for reasons yet undisclosed, is trying to leave Thailand via the Trans-Siberian Express. Only problem is that she is unable to buy a ticket. Enter, stage left, Carrie, a woman whos travel plans have been disrupted and who has a ticket that she cannot return. It seems like the perfect storm (and we all know what happened in that movie.)
I loved the way in which the author brings the two characters together. At such an early stage in the book we have no idea about either character and, as the main narrator of the piece, we are already on Violet’s side when we meet Carrie. That said, there is something about her which put me on edge, some small indefinable action or comment which let me know she was probably too good to be true. She is quite straight, perhaps a little on edge, and very clingy, forming attachments very easily, a thing in itself which makes you feel a ‘Single White Female’ sense of dread.
Carrie, on the other hand, is the ultimate in relaxed abandonment, giving herself over to the thrill of the journey and bringing Violet out of herself in a variety of ways. The situations they find themselves in are startlingly realistic in portrayal, and will have every parent whose teenage child asks to go backpacking in their gap year filled with a real sense of panic.
One of the things which really captured me about this book was the beautifully authentic way in which the author paints a picture of the different landscapes and communities the two women find themselves in. The imagery was so vivid, the sounds, sights, smells and the menus, carefully recreated in a way which made you feel that you were there. I think I will pass on the Mongolian Ewe’s Milk Tea (sounds awful), but I am certainly intrigued by the country.
There are so many moments scattered throughout the novel that will literally take your breath away. Scenes where the action and the threat come to a head and you feel the tension hit a peak that will have you on the edge of your seat. The women meet all manner of characters on their travels, from guys with one thing on their mind, to like minded couples who are there for the thrill of the journey. Each adds their own texture to the story but, when it comes down to it, it really is only a story about two people. It makes for a real feeling of claustrophobia, that sense that the world around Violet is getting smaller and smaller and that the two women, at least in one of their minds, are living in a vacuum where outsiders are no longer welcome.
The story trundles along at a calculated pace, making the jolts of action all the more stark. It is a bit like being on a runaway train, that feeling of never quite being in control, of hurtling along a preordained track to an inevitably contorted but satisfying conclusion. It is dark, it is deadly and readers really should expect the unexpected. Just when you think you know where the story is going … trust me. You really don’t.
This is a story of obsession. Of manipulation and control. Of the danger of befriending strangers and the toxic way in which circumstances can twist your fate. It is being touted as the author’s best work yet and I have to say that in many ways, they are right. This may not be as dark as some stories I have read, but it is deeply compelling and a sleep stealer. Combining beautifully descriptive narrative, with a gripping storyline and truly noteworthy unreliable narrators, psychological thriller fans will love it.
About the Author
S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday is a scientist, writing coach and the bestselling author of five crime novels, including the Banktoun Trilogy (Black Wood, Willow Walk and The Damselfly), the festive chiller The Deaths of December and her creepy Gothic psychological thriller The Lingering. Her short story ‘Home From Home’ was published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and shortlisted for the CWA Margery Allingham Prize. Encapsulating her love of travel and claustrophobic settings, her latest novel, Violet, explores toxic friendships and the perils of talking to strangers, as well as drawing on her own journey on the Trans-Siberian Express over 10 years ago. All of her novels have been UK ebook number-one bestsellers. Susi was born and raised in Scotland and now divides her time between Edinburgh, London and as many other exciting places that she can fit in.
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