Written by Tania Carver — How would you react if your child was snatched away and held hostage? You’d probably do whatever the kidnapper asked, right? That’s the dilemma facing Marina Esposito when her daughter is taken captive.

A good enough starting point for a thriller, you may say. But little Josephina’s kidnap is just a tiny part of this complicated plotline. That’s because Marina is no ordinary mother. She’s a criminal psychologist, and a member of Essex Police’s Major Incident Squad. Her new husband Phil Brennan is a Detective Inspector in the same team, and the snatch happens in the aftermath of a mystery explosion at their holiday cottage in Suffolk – an explosion which kills one of the occupants and maims two others.

I’ve not read a Tania Carver novel before, but soon came to realise that her plotlines come thick and fast. Why pursue one strand when there are another six coming up on the inside? Marina takes centre stage here after Phil is badly injured in the blast, and it’s clear that she is a woman who is quite happy to work alone. Her daughter is out there held by a mystery psychopath and she will do all in her power to get Josephina back, whether it’s within the law or completely outside of it.

Meanwhile, a convicted killer is let out of prison, and collected from the gates by a man he knows only as Jiminy Cricket – see what I mean about never using one storyline when two would work much better? Jiminy is a real nasty piece of work, who loves to use quotations from old films to get his twisted message across. Freed prisoner Stuart soon realises that his saviour is not as friendly as he first appeared, and that not all prisons have bars and locked doors.

Throw into the mix a brother and sister whose incestuous love borders on the psychotic, plus a monstrous hired killer, and you’ve got a thriller with frills on! Choked is one of a series featuring Marina Esposito and Phil Brennan, but it is to the authors’ credit that I didn’t realise it until I read up about the writing team online. There are none of those clunky ‘Remember when we did this?’ or ‘I’m still affected by that’ conversations which always annoy me and tend to destroy the flow of the narrative.

So this is a book that can stand alone, and which demonstrates such visual panache that I’d be amazed if some production company doesn’t snap it up and turn it into a telly series. It is also seriously scary, and so pacy that I’d be surprised if you don’t read it all in one sitting.

Tania Carver is the pen name of award-winning author Martyn Waites and his wife Linda, and Choked is the third in their series of Marina Esposito/Phil Brennan novels which have proved a huge success worldwide. I’m sure it will do as well as the previous two – and I’m planning to catch up on those over the next few months, because Tania Carver has just been added to my top authors list. Choked is released 13 September.


CFL Rating: 5 Stars

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