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A Heart Pounding Thriller - How Far Will a Desperate Woman Go to Have a Child?

Until You're Mind by Samantha Hayes

Until You're Mine: Mind - boggling twist and turns right up until the very end -- when this reader (and I'm betting others as well), was certain I had it all figured out ... until ... I didn't. I was wrong. I love when I've been outplayed by an author.

Until You’re Mine:
Author: Samantha Hayes
ISBN 978084136891
Release Date: 4/15/14
Publisher: Crown
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Verdict: 5 out of 5

******WARNING****** MAJOR SPOILER ALERT {I truly hate to spoil the ending in a book review and don’t worry, I don’t give it away. Not completely. I feel compelled to give you this warning. This is one of those rare books that is too hard for me to review without giving something away.

If you’ve read Until You’re Mine, please scroll down for my review. If you haven’t read the book, I don’t want to ruin it for you. Go read the book — now. You won’t regret it. Then come back and read my review and tell me what you though of it.


Claudia, an eight and a half month pregnant social worker appears to have the perfect life — everything she ever wanted. She’s a wonderful step-mother to her four-year-old twin sons that she’s raised since their mom died, when they were two months old. She’s happily married to James, a Naval officer who is away at sea for months at a time. They decide to hire a live in nanny to help Claudia with the twins and upcoming birth.
Enter Zoe. The nanny is perfect on paper and instantly bonds with the twin boys, but readers know right off the bat that something just ain’t quite right with nanny Zoe. But … is it what we think? 
She has an unhealthy obsession with pregnancy and a pregnancy test even falls from her bag on her first day. As the days press on, Claudia becomes more uneasy about Zoe and rightfully so. Zoe sneaks into James’ private office, but the kicker is the day Zoe comes home in blood soaked clothing.

My Opinion:

Until You’re Mine is told from the point of view of three women. The author brilliantly alternates between the first person point of view of Claudia and Zoe and third person point of view of D.I. Lorraine Fisher. Fisher and her husband, Adam Scott are investigating a string of viscous attacks on pregnant women. Two women about to give birth, are murdered and the babies cut from the womb. Don’t worry there are no gruesome murder scenes.

I liked the way the author told the story. I was clearly invested in Claudia and Zoe as I read from their respective POV’S. At times I was rooting for Zoe, despite knowing she was not who she claimed to be and was harboring a dark secret. Other times I was rooting for Claudia and desperate for her to get to the bottom of Zoe’s secret. At first, the troubled marriage plot told through D.I. Lorraine Fisher’s point of view stumped me and I wasn’t sure why the author included it. But it all ties in beautifully.

I found myself being pulled in by Claudia’s point of view more than Zoe’s and then WHAM — I switched my connection to Zoe. The author had me flip-flopping back and forth. The novel is written with just enough mystery  surrounding all of the characters and enough lies or omissions by both Claudia and Zoe, that it is up to the reader’s intuition to figure out who is hiding what. What is their motivation for the lies? The reader gets to determine who they believe because it is clear that no one in this story is telling the whole truth.

I don’t know why this is my first book by Elizabeth Hayes. It definitely won’t be my last. I fell hard for the author’s voice and writing style. Each of the three point of view characters have their own unique and distinctive voice. I could always tell which woman’s head I was inside of — or so I thought. The writing style and individual voice of each character is what propelled the book into an unforgettable and shocking finale. A tantalizing twist ending that wowed me.

I read a lot of novels and I mainly read mystery, suspense and thrillers — every sub genre of crime fiction, so I am seldom thrown completely off guard. Oh, but I love it when I am. I love when an author stays one step ahead of me and the writer has hit a home run when I can’t guess the ending or I guess it wrong. Hayes has a devoted new fan.

I’m not going to go into the subplots — which all tie into the main plot. I will just reference a couple of them. Claudia and her husband are filthy rich, but the money came from his dead wife’s family and he refuses to touch any of it. This is one of the reasons he continues to work and spend so much time away from his family and why Claudia insists on continuing her job as a social worker until she is ready to pop.

I read some of the reviews on Amazon, which for the most part are glowing recommendations for Until You’re Mine. However, I want to comment on an issue that came up more than once. I stumbled across a few reviews offered by readers who were not satisfied with the books ending.

 Some were outright pissed off with the final plot twist. Some felt cheated. They wrote that the ending was such a surprise because it came out of nowhere and was not supported by the novel they read. Their argument was that the twist is so out of nowhere that the logic of the book and motivations of the characters we’d grown to know, must be thrown out the window. I wholeheartedly and respectively disagree. 

It’s all there if you pay attention and as with many of the best twist endings, you may not recognize many of the subtle clues unless and until your second or even third read (same with movies with the best twist endings). I challenge any of you with this belief to reread, Until You’re Mine, from beginning to end, paying close attention to detail this time. Pay close attention to what is said and more importantly what isn’t said from each women’s POV. I bet, like me, you were so engrossed in this gripping tale during your first time reading it that you didn’t notice many of the clues. Perhaps the clues didn’t seem significant at the time. 

But, that my friends, is the signature of a great suspense/thriller author. Hayes didn’t cheat us. If you think she did, read the book again and see how quickly you are able to connect the dots. You will notice the ever so slight change in one of the POV character’s demeanor and voice in certain areas.

*********** CAVEAT: Here is That Spoiler I Warned Of *************

Just a few areas that caused me to suspect Claudia was not as honest and innocent as she portrayed herself to be:

  • Unwilling to have sex with her husband James and refuses to even sleep in the same room with him. Does she do this because she is honestly worried about the baby girl’s health? Or does she have a more treacherous reason?
  • She tells James that the doctor will not permit them to engage in any sexually activity. Okay, nothing too weird about that … until … in Claudia’s own point of view we learn that this is a lie and she was compelled to forge a letter from the doctor attesting to the “No Sex Rule.”
  • Why does she have a work file at home?  A file that had been assigned to another caseworker, not her? The file that contained all of the pertinent information concerning one of the recently murdered girls?
  • Why has she lied to her husband, James about her previous miscarriages?

Granted, none of these things, individually, mean anything malignant, but taken in totality of one another ( plenty more where those came from) they add up to a woman who is not being honest with her husband. A woman who had access to the murdered girls. A woman who has more secrets than she lets on.

So back to my spin on the ending:

Up until the very end I was mesmerized with this book. I’d guessed the somewhat predictable ending, but hey, nothing unusual about that. Not when reading a thriller. In this genre, we often know early in the book who the villain is. Thrillers differ from the typical mystery that way. It’s not a “who dun it?”  In thrillers, even when we know the killer’s identity, a good author never lets up on the suspense. We flip the page, filled with apprehension and dread, biting our nails as tendrils of terror dare us to turn another page and race to the end. We want to find out whether or not the protagonist can stop the bad guy. 

Clever but predictable, that’s where I was headed — until the author wrenched my world upside down. She’d been baiting me all along. None of the women were who they appeared to be. 
The author easily leads and wills the reader into believing that Zoe could be the monster who is killing pregnant women and trying to cut their babies right out of their wombs. 

Who is the stranger — the other woman that Zoe visits and shares some sort of loving relationship with? This other woman appears deranged and won’t be happy until Zoe delivers her a child for them to raise together. At times Zoe feels this other woman’s love slipping away and knows the only way to hold onto her is to give her what she wants — a baby. 

Of course, just like every other character in the book, this woman is not who we think she is and the author is a master at disguising the truth and hiding the truth in plain sight. A remarkable talent for a writer
This is one of the best books that I’ve read in quite a while. Everyone, and I do mean everyone has a secret. You have to read to the end to discover whose secret is bad, whose secret is reprehensible, but not beyond redemption and whose secret is brutal … evil.

Not until the second to last chapter when we ride along with the killer on the bicycle, in her point of view, inside her mind, as she rushes to a pregnant woman’s home — a friend of Claudia’s who is in distress and needs immediate help … seemingly to help, do we learn her true intent is to kill the woman and steal her unborn baby.

But wait. Whose head are we inside? Zoe’s or Claudia’s? Looking back I spotted a few clues foreshadowing this mind altering twist. So in my humble opinion, author Samantha Hayes played fair with the readers and did a splendid job with not just one, but two unreliable narrators. How hard is that to pull off? She pulled it off. Unreliable narrators, misdirection and we allowed ourselves to form certain disturbing thoughts about Zoe. Or did we?

Written with similarities to Gone Girl, Until You’re Mine is one of those books that will have you questioning yourself. I caught myself saying things like, “I knew it. Well, no I didn’t know it.”

 Toward the end I knew Zoe wasn’t a killer (or so I thought ). Admittedly, I toyed with the idea that I’d solved the master plot twist, but shot the idea right down as I considered it couldn’t be Claudia riding that bike. No way, not in her fragile condition at nine months pregnant. 

But …

Until You’re Mind, is a complex thriller with multiple plot twists and a final twist that will blow you away. I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys thrillers, especially dark, psychological thrillers.

The final line in the book still haunts me.

Have you read Samantha Hayes' Until You're Mine? What did you think of the book? Did you love the surprise twist ending as much as I did or did you feel cheated? Have you read her other book? Can you recommend any mind-blowing psychological thrillers.

BTW - I know you thought I disappeared off the planet and I admit I have been MIA for a really long time. My apologies and I can't tell you how much I have missed all of you. I wish I could go into the details of why I couldn't blog. Perhaps I will be able to tell you all about it very soon. Suffice it to say, someone took offense at my blogging on certain issues of public interest. I will fill you all in just as soon as I possibly can. It has been a nightmare.

But I am so damn happy to be back. I am doing the happy dance right now. On my way to jump in the pool and do the happy stroke.

Read more about Samantha Hayes here and her next psychological thriller Before You Die

Or Check her out on Goodreads


Melissa Sugar said...

Congratulations, Samantha.
And good to hear from you, Melissa!

Melissa Sugar said...

Thank you Alex. I see you are still as wonderful as ever. You always make me feel welcomed and I know you do the same for all bloggers. I really don't know how you do it, but I sure do appreciate it.

Melissa Sugar said...

Wow, it sounds like a fantastic book. I did read the spoilers but that didn't turn me off reading the book. I know those things would have made me suspicious as well. I just loved your book review.

Melissa Sugar said...

Thank you Clarissa. I tend to go overboard with my book reviews. I'm so long winded and tell too much of the story. Thanks for stopping by. I'm still easing back into blogging, but I will visit your blog again soon.

Melissa Sugar said...

nice to hear from you again Melissa! Like you, I am getting back into blogging - beginning to feel like I have never been away!

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