After being cheated on by her ex, Leanne Riley is trying her hardest to get her life back on track, which isn't easy without a job and living in a bedsit surrounded by a junkie and a mad woman.
On a night out with her best friend she meets Jake, a face from her past who has changed beyond all recognition. Jake is charming, handsome and loaded, a far cry from the gawky teenager he used to be. Weary of men, Leanne isn't easy to please, but Jake tries his best to break through the wall she's built around herself.
But good looks and money can hide a multitude of sins. Is that good-looking face just a mask? And what's more, what will it take to make it slip, and who will die in the process . . . ?
I've always read great reviews on Mandasue Heller's books and I have some in my library, but I'm ashamed to say that I have never found the time to read any of them. So when the publishers very gently offered me an advanced review copy of her new thriller, Run, I immediately jumped at the opportunity.
Imagine a beautiful sunny day, with blue skies and white fluffy clouds, flowers and green grass swaying in the gentle breeze ... just a perfect day! All of a sudden, thunders crack and lightning strike. The wind picks up and dark grey clouds appear out of nowhere, ruining the day and blotting the sun. Well, in my head I compared Leanne's story in this book to this scenario. Just as quickly a beautiful day turns ugly, so can someone's happy, perfect life.
"When the darkness comes, run and don't look back."
On a night out, Leanne meets the most handsome man she'd ever seen in her life. She's surprised to find out that they had actually been classmates many years before. But Leanne's recollection of Jake couldn't have been more different. The drop-dead gorgeous man in front of her is certainly a far cry from the bullied, skinny boy with wild hair she remembers.
Jake had always been secretly in love with Leanne and he had never forgotten about her, but Leanne has just been cheated by her ex boyfriend and so is not too keen to jump into a new relationship. However, after a few initial hiccups, Leanne is swept up in a whirlwind romance with the wealthy, successful and gorgeous Jake. Leanne has never been so happy, but deep down she feels it's too good to be true. Could this happiness last forever? Could Jake really be the perfect man he seems to be? Why is he so secretive about his past? And why doesn't he ever say where he's going when he leaves the house alone?
Set in Manchester, and packed with lies, secrets, violence, sex and murder, 'Run' kicks off with a suspenseful chapter, that immediately draws the reader in, urging them to keep on reading to find out what's happening. Whose body is found in the derelict building?
More focused on character development and descriptions, the first half of the book contains little tension and drama. At times it almost feels like reading a romance, but here I don't want to sound as though I didn't enjoy this part. I knew that the author was preparing the ground for something terrible that's about to happen. I knew that a volcano brimming with magma was brewing just beneath the surface, waiting to erupt and cause mayhem. I just wished that the suspense was more widespread throughout the book, as the real drama picks up only late in the story, but when it does, it takes the reader by surprise and does not stop till the blood-curdling ending.
I think the author's forte is characterisation. Leanne, Chrissie, Ben and Jake (and the other characters) all felt so real. I could clearly visualise them and it was as though I've known them for ages. With his big heart, Ben was by far my favourite. I admired him for his continuous support for Jake and the girls. He was actually too loyal for his own good. And I just wished I'd experienced friendships as solid and strong as that between Leanne and Chrissie.
With excellent characterisation, a clever, well thought-out plot, very realistic dialogues, great vivid descriptions and breath taking suspense, I really enjoyed reading this book and found myself completely immersed in the story. My only problem was that I had to work extra hours all week and found myself thinking about these characters, wondering what will happen next and longing to go home and grab my kindle, instead of concentrating on my work.
Now I have already checked out Mandasue Heller's bibliography. I want to read more books by this fab author.
This was my unbiased honest opinion. With thanks to Pan Macmillan for an ARC of this book which I voluntarily and gratefully accepted.
As I write this, my 15th book, Run, is about to hit the shelves. I write one per year, which tells you how long I’ve been at this writing lark It seems longer in some respects, but much shorter in others, as it feels like a brand new experience when I get stuck into a new story. I rarely know where it’s going when I start, but wherever I think it’s going, it invariably changes as my characters develop a life of their own. I see their faces and hear their voices as if they are real people, and I even see the rooms the scenes are set in. That’s the ultimate thrill for a nosy so-and-so like me, because it’s like being the fly on the wall in a stranger’s house; watching as their secret life unfolds before me.
Before I became an author, I was a singer for many years, starting with country before moving into rock and then soul. I earned my Equity card during that time and was a regular extra on many of my favourite soaps, dramas, and even the film, Yentl, starring the sublime Barbra Streisand. Illness forced me to take a break from showbiz, and I decided to write about a traumatic experience I’d gone through some years earlier when, asleep with my 10 week old son in my arms, I was attacked by a man who had broken into my house. He hit me with a claw hammer, but I was so concerned about my baby I didn’t feel it at the time. I was left with a fractured skull, and an absolute terror of it happening again. It coloured every aspect of my life for years afterwards, and made me extremely over-protective of my kids, and I hoped that writing about it would release me from its stranglehold. To a degree, it did, but I didn’t want anyone to read it as it was too personal, so I tried my hand at fiction instead, using the Hulme Crescents, where I had been living at the time, as the location.
I’ve branched out into other areas since those early books, but I still choose Manchester as an overall setting, as this is where my heart is rooted. That attack, along with a few others in my earlier years, is the reason why I write in this genre: because I have a deeply personal understanding of fear, both from the perspective of a child, and that of a woman/mother. I also have an insight into the minds of adults who manipulate children and commit violent crimes.
Run is my first book with my new publishers, Pan Macmillan, and I am absolutely delighted to have been reunited with my first ever editor, Wayne Brookes. I am also singing again, but only in a recording capacity as I don’t have time to perform in public. My brilliant musician partner, Wingrove, composes an album’s worth of music while I’m working, and when I’ve finished I write and record the songs before starting the next book. With that, my children and grandchildren, I have a pretty hectic life - and I love it!
RUN by Mandasue Heller is published 12 January 2017 by Macmillan, £12.99 hardback, £11.99 ebook.
From the back streets of Manchester to the nightclubs and penthouses of the beautiful people, Mandasue Heller, author of the top ten bestseller Afraid, knows the world she writes. Born in Warrington, she moved to Manchester in the 1980s, where she found the inspiration for her novels. She spent ten years living in the infamous Hulme Crescents and was a professional singer for many years before turning her hand to writing.
She has three children, three grandchildren, and still writes and records songs with her musician partner, Wingrove, between books.