Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“She takes shallow breaths. The knife is chilling, but his face is worse.”
Oh my GOD. This book is already a strong contender for my book of the year, and we’re only just ending February! I am in complete shock and absolute awe, and I really don’t think my review even scratches the surface of how brilliant this book is. Dark, chilling and certainly not for the faint of heart. I am absolutely thrilled to be ending this incredible blog tour today for Nasty Little Cuts. If you like the sound of this book, please support the author by buying yourself a copy or by sharing this review!
About the book
A nightmare jolts Debs awake. She leaves the kids tucked up in their beds and goes downstairs. There’s a man in her kitchen, holding a knife. But it’s not an intruder. This is her husband Marc, the father of her children. A man she no longer recognises.
Once their differences were what drew them together, what turned them on. Him, the ex-army officer from a good family. Her, the fitness instructor who grew up over a pub. But now these differences grate to the point of drawing blood. Marc screams in his sleep. And Debs hardly knows the person she’s become, or why she lets him hurt her.
Neither of them is completely innocent. Neither is totally guilty. Marc is taller, stronger, and more vicious, haunted by a war he can’t forget. But he has no idea what Debs is capable of when her children’s lives are at stake…
If, like me, you thought Call Me Mummy was dark and twisted, then wait until you read the opening chapter to this book! Even though we soon realise that the terrifying Christmas scene is just a nightmare (thank goodness) it still sent shivers down my spine, something I’ve probably not experienced since I read Call Me Mummy last year! I had a feeling that it was only going to get more intense from here on out though… There was something very chilling about Debs and Marc’s relationship that I just had to explore – it’s unhealthy and toxic, and there was a really worrying darkness that lingered whenever I turned a new page. Tina has once again set the tone for the book instantly, introducing us to phenomenal new characters and making us feel a little cautious as we venture into a new story. It’s all I could have hoped for and more! As Debs finds her husband in the kitchen with a knife during the night, I had a ton of questions. What were his intentions? What was there to learn about the couple’s relationship and just what were they both capable of?
We begin to flick backwards and forwards through time, exploring Debs and Marc’s relationship from years into the past and unravelling all those secrets, all those incidents that have led them to the present moment; Marc holding a knife in front of his wife. The cliff hangers continued to be insanely gripping after every section, so gripping that it was impossible to take a break. Tina’s writing style is a favourite of mine. It’s so mysterious at times and she had me hanging onto every word. I loved revisiting the good and bad parts of Debs and Marc’s relationship over time; the passion, the lust, but also exactly when that subtle fear began to stir within Debs. It felt good how we begin to piece together different parts of the puzzle, the things that help us to understand how Debs and Marc have reached the point they’re at. I loved the pacing and the book already had that unique Tina B thrill I know and love! My mind was racing with potential theories and directions this book could go in, but nothing could prepare me for what was to come later…
“Marc likes nice things and he takes care of them. The knife is kept clean and honed. Ready for action. Yeah, she definitely missed some of the signs.”
Tina has such a clever way of making us resent Marc one moment and sympathise with him the next as we learn of everything he’s been through in his army career, all the thoughts inside his head that take him to a dark place, things no human should ever have to go through. The detail when covering those early years was insane; in many ways, I could see the similarity to the author’s first book, but at the same time, it felt like she’d grown bigger and better in her second. These characters were forming more and more quickly in my mind the more we learn about their lives, their personalities drawing me in, some of their actions very questionable and worrying. Even their actions in the present day in that kitchen scene gave me so much to decipher. I felt we were still so far away from the real truth behind their relationship, and the excitement as we learn more and more was almost too much to bear. Tina has possibly created two of the most in-depth characters I’ve come across, and I just needed to learn more about them. The good, and the bad.
There were some parts of the book so far that some readers may find hard to read, such as mentions of domestic violence, hurting an animal and some small comments about suicide. These weren’t graphic in any way but I think some people would appreciate the heads up! However, in complete contrast, I must also mention how clever the author has been in her use of humour. The balance between the light and dark elements of this book is perfect, and when things seem stable, you know for a fact things are going to be turned upside down again. We hear how Marc slowly seems to lose interest in the family over the years; working late, shutting himself away from the kids, pushing them away whenever they demanded attention. All the signs were there, so why didn’t Debs see them? The scenes back in the kitchen get more intense, and I became even more curious to see if both of these characters would make it through the night. The darkness was getting more intense, more intriguing, and I was excited to really get stuck into whatever came next!
It becomes clearer and clearer just how different Debs and Marc are, and the fact that they should have never gotten together in the first place is very apparent. However, this just made their toxic journey through life even more intriguing to me! (I mean, let’s be honest, we wouldn’t have a story without it 😎) I loved learning more about Dolly and Pat-Pat, Debs and Marc’s kids, but also felt sorry for them that they were unaware of the darkness surrounding their parents. Definitely too young to pick up on anything wrong or suspicious. I feel like I’ve read a few books lately about broken families and each one has nailed what it set out to do. However, I felt this book in particular had something very unique that became more and more addictive with each and every page. We’re taken back to the moment Debs shares with Marc that she’s pregnant for the first time, and this kind of happiness seemed a lifetime away compared to where they are right now. Again, the tiny details we’re given about their lives over time bring everything to life, making things seem so real.
Their arguments and the dangerous, tense atmosphere in the kitchen escalates further, and with Debs starting to lose her rag a bit with her drunken, coked up husband, I became concerned that she’d do something she’d regret. But how dare he act the way he’d been acting! How dare he hurt her without any sign of remorse… why did she keep letting him? How many chances would she give him? The tension I felt as things get heated and that knife takes that first lazy swing was off the scale. Just how much further would things go?! Marc begins to say things that had me worried, that he’d done something terrible. Had he hurt someone? Killed them? Was he planning to do the same to his wife? His family? Had those army days really taken their toll, more than we realise? The questions kept coming, the stress building constantly. Already, this story was so satisfying, and I was turning the pages faster and faster as I was so desperate for answers. There was also mentions of a boy, a boy who wasn’t a part of the family, but more a ‘vision‘ seen by Debs. Who was he?! Spooky…
“Her eyes are drawn back to Dolly and Pat-Pat’s mugs on the side. And one horrible fear detaches itself to float clear of all the other messy fragments. What have her kids got to do with this?”
There are a few scenes that get a little more graphic as time goes on, but these don’t last very long – more like short, sharp bursts. I think what the author does well here is the way she explores what’s going on in Debs’ mind, what she’s thinking, what she’s feeling, and the raw description really stuck with me. I feared more for Debs’ safety each minute, and I even felt my heart beat faster at times! What’s just as enjoyable as reading the tense paragraphs is just reading about Debs’ life. Each story about the past helps us to build a bigger picture, whether it’s about her sister and her mother, outings with the kids or meals out with Marc. I loved the build up of Debs’ character, and I became so very invested in her life. She felt like someone I needed to protect at all costs. I liked the back and forth in time frames more and more and I loved how almost random it felt at times. It all worked perfectly and no matter how insignificant each detail may seem on the surface at first, you know there’s a reason this snippet of her story is shared with us.
Debs does all she can to keep Marc away from her, if only for a few seconds. Should she use this time to run, call for help? Grab a knife? What about the kids, sound asleep upstairs? Were they safe? I felt so on edge as these thoughts whirr around her brain, but she spends so long deciding on her next move that the footsteps return. Was that her one and only chance of safety? Had she blown it? The fact that the kitchen scenes don’t last for very long before we’re plunged back into the past made me so desperate to revisit them, and I think this is one of the many reasons I was so addicted to the story. It’s plotted so well but also has that sense of urgency that had me coming back for more. Debs eventually snaps when she gets the chance, lashes out at the man she once loved, the dog cowering in the corner. Could she be just as dangerous as Marc if she wanted to be? What was she capable of? The fight, on both Debs and Marc’s parts, was meant to harm the other. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the pages! Exceptional writing, writing only Tina can pull off.
What I found really interesting towards the ending of the book was how we learn of the change in Debs behaviour as we visit her past. In one scene, she damages a shitty driver’s car, behaviour we’d not really seen from her until now. Could this be the first incident? How much has this escalated over time and how much worse could it get? Or was I totally overthinking things?! Her thoughts do become darker which really changed up the story and made me even more curious for the ending of the book. Hearing from Marc’s perspective as this escalates in the kitchen was also brilliant. The hatred and the anger so well penned. However, as he walks into his child’s bedroom and we learn of his intensions, I was left in shock and terror. Would he be able to live with himself if he went through with his plans? Did he even want to? Marc tells his daughter a story here after she begs for one. However, even this somewhat heartwarming part of the book turns on its head. My emotions were all over the bloody place! What a nutter, but also, it was the first bit of genuine kindness we’d seen from the man since we found him with a knife.
We learn of more violence in Debs’ family when her mother gets a new boyfriend 27 years ago, a boyfriend her and her sister despised. I thought these snippets of information were very interesting, especially as we were leading up to a potentially violent finale. What lay dormant within Debs up until that point in the kitchen? Did her behaviour and experiences through life lead up to this moment? Was she the dangerous one? There’s a struggle back in the present causing more injury to Debs, leaving a knife that could be used as a weapon imminently. I was scared for Debs, even scared for Marc in a way and what the consequences could be for his actions. The story felt more chilling, more terrifying than ever here, and I couldn’t wait for what came next! The author’s words were absolutely phenomenal, so dark, so thought-provoking and quite frankly, absolutely unforgettable. The story gets more twisted and unbearably tense. I couldn’t predict an ending to a story like this!
“She screams. And she’s down, smashing her hip, her elbow, her head. Down and down. The knife flies away from her fingers. At the top of the stairs, he smiles.”
After a tense few moments when Debs finds herself at the bottom of the stairs in a heap, the doorbell rings. Could this be her way out? Has help finally arrived? Marc tells her to get rid of her neighbour who is checking all is well. How do you give a subtle message that you need help when you have a knife pressed to your side? I don’t think I’ve ever felt this amount of horror and dread in a book as I have throughout this book, something so darkly satisfying and memorable. I was so concerned for the safety of their children; Marc quite obviously has twisted plans for them, something that was so tense to read. He’s an animal, he has a warped mind, and he needed something, anything to snap him out of whatever he was experiencing in that present moment, of whatever crime he was about to commit. Would they all get out of this mess alive? Christmas would be very different for this family this year… The ending was shaping up to be an explosive experience, and as dark as the story was, I didn’t want it to end!
Those final scenes were really tough to stomach, but even so, they were so perfectly put together. I didn’t expect where this would go, and it surprisingly left a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. I could not have predicted that in the slightest! However, Marc’s actions here would change everything, forever. I finished the book feeling stunned and overwhelmed, and it’s been a while since I’ve felt this way after ending a book. I don’t want to spoil any of this ending, because it really is spectacular, but I will warn you about just how graphic the scenes get. This book is not for the faint hearted, or anyone who is triggered by scenes of sexual or domestic violence. I feel like no other author could tell this story as well as Tina has, and she’s an author I can certainly turn to when looking for an absolutely unforgettable dark thriller. I feel like I need to sleep for a week after the emotional exhaustion I’ve felt after finishing this story! Incredible. Absolutely incrediable.
This book has left me with the biggest book hangover I’ve ever had. Tina’s stunning words and keen eye for detail combined with that dark, gripping hold she somehow has over her readers has created an absolute masterpiece of a book. It’s horrifying, twisted to it’s core, but it’s also an addictive and unforgettable ride. Her characters are brought to life by killer description and solid dialogue, and that ending? I don’t even think it will ever leave my brain! I loved loved loved this book! Standing ovation for Tina, everyone!
HUGE thank you to the author, Tina Baker, and Viper Books for my copy of this book and place on the blog tour! You can purchase your own copy of Nasty Little Cuts over on Amazon, available on Kindle and in hardback. Make sure you’re following the author over on Twitter and Instagram for more updates!
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