Violet by S J I Holliday

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Violet by S J I Holliday

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Karen Grace
Reviewed by Karen Grace
Summary: A psychological thriller about obsession, manipulation and toxic friendships as two strangers travel together from Asia to Russia, experiencing the highs and lows of drink, drugs and sex along the way. But, are either of these women who they appear to be?
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 276 Date: November 2019
Publisher: Orenda Books
ISBN: 978-1912374854

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I've never been but understand that travelling is all about meeting new people and forming instantaneous bonds with people often in chance situations. Well, that's exactly what happens when the two main (only) characters meet in a travel agency in Beijing - Carrie is unsuccessfully trying to get a refund on a spare ticket for the Trans-Siberian train whilst Violet is trying to unsuccessfully buy a ticket for the same sold-out journey. As the two team up, travelling through Mongolia, Serbia and into Russia, it could've been the start of a beautiful friendship but this is a thriller after all so it quickly becomes a tale of obsession, manipulation and toxic friendships.

Similarly, with the travelling theme, this could've been a story set amongst a backdrop of cultural references and spiritual experiences but it's actually a hedonistic, sexual and drink/drug-fuelled journey of exploration. There's nothing too graphic, shocking or hard-core but all the same it's not necessarily everybody's thing (myself included).

The two characters are completely different - Carrie is outwardly fun-loving, personable and easy-going whereas Violet is intense and unnervingly focused with changeable mood swings. But, are either girl what they appear to be? It is cleverly written in the first person from the perspective of Violet but with regular email extracts written by Carrie, which worked really well to give both characters' stories. However, unfortunately, I didn't particularly relate to or champion either character, finding them both a bit creepy, and this hindered my enjoyment of this book particularly when there was a lack of other characters to immerse myself in. You know how sometimes you can dislike a dark character but still understand and even sympathise with them, well it didn't happen for me in this case. Some of the problem was perhaps that this story was very much focused on the present; the author didn't really delve too much into the past and the events that had shaped and made these characters who they were.

Despite starting intriguingly with a dead body in the prologue and ending with an unexpected twist, the pace was quite slow. It really was a tale of sinister relationships rather than crime writing, with the book following the girls' friendship from passing strangers to the gradual development of an intense, unhealthy, obsessive relationship - the dead body wasn't revisited until the latter stages of the book. In life and fiction, I like to see people get the fate that they deserve but that's not what happened here and disappointingly the fate of one of the characters was also left slightly unresolved.

Author SJI Holliday is hailed as one of the most gifted psychological thriller writers, with a number of books under her belt. But, unfortunately, overall this book wasn't for me, most probably because it just wasn't what I was expecting. As a psychological thriller, it was twisted rather than twisting, it developed rather than gripped you, and was altogether darker and more disturbing than is my usual taste. However, for fans of SJI Holliday and those who like a sinister story then I have no doubt that you'll love it.

Another similarly dark book you might like is Into The Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes but my personal favourite psychological thriller at the moment has to be Tell Me Your Secret by Dorothy Koomson. We also enjoyed Theory of Mind by Sanjida O'Connell.

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Buy Violet by S J I Holliday at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Violet by S J I Holliday at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Violet by S J I Holliday at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Violet by S J I Holliday at


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