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Blog Tour Review - The Only Way Out is Death by Varun Gwalani

 Blog Tour Review - The Only Way Out is Death by Varun Gwalani Twelve powerful people are kidnapped and imprisoned in an empty hotel. Each one of them has three choices: Live out the rest of their days peacefully in the hotel, Die by suicide so the rest of their companions can go free, Or murder one of their companions so they alone can go free. The Only Way Out is Death follows the story of these twelve people from the perspective of a young lawyer, Kiriaki, told as the events unfold. She has to forge messy alliances, navigate complex relationships and feuds, and, above all, try to stay alive. Meanwhile, the mastermind of this death game is lurking just out of view, watching them closely, making sure they are primed for murder. Will Kiriaki find the mastermind before it's too late for her? Will she outmanoeuvre the cutthroats before they cut her throat? There are twelve selfish lives in the hotel. Will it end in twelve selfish deaths? The Only Way Out is Death is a fascinating nov

Review - Tag, You're Dead by Kathryn Foxfield

 Review - Tag, You're Dead by Kathryn Foxfield

When teen reality star Anton Frazer unveils his latest stunt - a live-streamed, citywide game of Tag in which the prize is to be one of his live-in acolytes - his fans go wild. The whole world is watching.

The contestants are kitted out with body cams, GPS trackers and pressure sensors that, if activated by a competitor, will send them out of the running. They venture into night-time London to hunt each other down.

Four contestants in particular have alternative motives for being there, secret reasons to want to win despite the risk: money, revenge, obsession, and fame. And one of them will stop at nothing to be the victor at the end of this adrenaline-and-fear fuelled night...

Jamie Gregory's design work on the covers of these books is brilliant!
They look so beautiful together and individually.

I've been a big Kathryn Foxfield fan since Good Girls Die First, and Tag, You're Dead is another exceptionally good crime thriller with just a hint of the supernatural. 

This time we're watching a high-stakes game of tag across the streets of London. A young tech billionaire is setting a hundred young volunteers up to chase and run and tag each other with high tech glasses and bracelets tracking them and feeding back information. I remember when that level of tech was firmly in the sci-fi category (see William Gibson's Bridge trilogy for an excellent example) but now it's just "coming-out soon". It's all presented very believably though, and while we might not quite have that hardware there was nothing to make it feel actually unrealistic. 

Technology and social media run strongly throughout this book. Anton and his crew have made their money and reputations creating videos of pranks and the like. Among the contestants we have one of his biggest fans, Charlotte, an avid fan-fic and gossip app user and Erin, another social media influencer with her own well-established brand and reputation. And although the games take to the streets, they're never without technological links. It all feels very fresh, very current and grounded in what passes for reality in the social media of the day.

It's so much more than just a game of tag for a big cash prize though! There's a murder at the heart of the novel, and everyone in it has their own connections to the victim, some obvious, some disclosed willingly or unwillingly over the course of the book. It's a thrilling mystery and kept me guessing until just a page or two before the big reveal, the perfect timing as far as I'm concerned! With more deaths along the way, the peril feels real and immediate and I was gripped! There's a small supernatural element, mostly in the virtual ghosts who form part of the game, but there's not really anything to leave you thinking there are supernatural forces out there.

One of the real strengths of Tag, You're Dead is the way it takes characters I'd reasonably describe as totally unlikeable, and actually makes them sympathetic. They're all so well thought out, complex characters that I couldn't help but see beyond the surface impressions. Erin comes across as a spoilt, pampered princess. Charlottes is so far into the fantasy world of her imagination and fan-fic that she's pretty much delusional. Nathan initially just came across as kind of shallow and lacking personality. But as we learn more about them, and as they learn more about themselves, they all really grow and develop and I really found myself caring about what happens to some of them. 

Ultimately, I think Tag, You're Dead is a book about how people get used by the people around them. From the increasingly complex fantasties we weave about celebrities, that have nothing of their actual personality in, to the refusal to accept when a relationship is over, from parentally driven YouTube channels to collaborations with uneven power dynamics, from the lovers who to try to change everything about us to the parents who try to stop us from ever leaving, from shitty friends to absent parents, we repeatedly see the harm, the manipulation and the abuse that can be found in what can look like healthy, loving relationships. Tied up with a thrilling, fun high-tech chase and a gripping murder mystery, that is a powerful message indeed!


Tag, You're Dead by Kathryn Foxfield is out now, published by Scholastic.

I was sent a copy by the author, just because she's nice like that I guess.


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