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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Girl in the Painting

By: Caleb Crowe ISBN: 9781837563166

Publisher: Inkubator Books

Publication Date: 01/31/2024

Format: e-book

My Rating: 5 Stars + (ARC)

Seline is excited to be starting a new chapter. She has moved away from home to begin her first job – as school art teacher in a quaint Yorkshire village.

Life gets even better when she meets the wild and untamed Robbie, with whom she starts a relationship. Robbie is unpredictable and impulsive and Seline loves the excitement he injects into her well-ordered days.

But Robbie soon reveals a dark side. He becomes more and more domineering and Seline finds herself trapped with a man who needs to control her every waking moment.

Her only escape is through her artwork. But even there, in the shadowy corners of her own paintings, lurks a disturbing truth she cannot decipher.

Desperate to escape from Robbie, Seline turns to an old family friend, Michael, for help. But Michael has secrets of his own, secrets that entwine with Seline's past in shocking and sinister ways…

The Girl in the Painting – the gripping psychological thriller perfect for fans of Freida McFadden, Daniel Hurst and Kiersten Modglin.

My Review

British writer Caleb Crowe hits the ground running with his knock-out highly impressive, electrifying psychological thriller debut, THE GIRL IN THE PAINTING! Fans of Clémence Michallon’s The Quiet Tenant (My top thriller of 2023) will devour!

I knew I would love this novel; I was on the edge of my seat, from the stunning, alluring front cover to every page turn. I could not put this one down. These evil, sinister characters will keep you guessing in this web of deceit and dangerous cat-and-mouse game until the explosive ending!

The author brilliantly captures the reader with the Prologue. A car. An accident. In freezing water. Not an accident. Deliberate. Someone wants her dead.

Seline is a lovely young woman from Manchester who wants to make it in the world on her own, leaving her safe and secure childhood home and parents. She has accepted a job as an art teacher and has rented a room in a home with a family.

She is nervous and excited about her new adventure. A new job, her first ever teaching art. A new place. A new beginning.

She landed the position due to Michael, an old friend of her father's. Back in school, they were best mates and kept in touch for a while, then drifted apart. He was a governor at the school and was looking for a new art teacher. This guy, she later learns, is powerful, rich, and can open doors for her in the art world.

She arrives in Holts Hill in the country. The room she is renting could be better. Maybe she has made a mistake.

She must make this work to prove to her parents that she can make it independently. However, her dream job at St. Oswald's is not as expected, as she has a troubled teen girl in her class who is disruptive and disrespectful. The girl's dad is also a teacher at the school.

She feels the staff needs to be more supportive when she tries to report the student. She feels unwelcome at school and second-guesses herself and her decision to come here.

Next, she meets Robbie. He is handsome, dangerous, and charming. He is a bad boy; however, she has no clue how evil he is. Seline gets caught up in a romantic affair with Robbie, who lives in a run-down flat over a restaurant. At first, it was all-consuming; she felt alive.

Soon thereafter, he turns into a different person. He is dark, rough, messy, moody, manipulative, controlling, evil, and abusive. Drives uncontrollably and madly. He is not as he appears. Soon, he moved all her things into his flat, and there was no escape. He even takes her to school and picks her up. The only solace is her art.

Plus, there is a locked door in his flat, and she is dying to find out what is inside. She tries to break free of him, but he threatens to kill her. She thinks he is selling drugs. But everyone in the village seems to know him, and looks can be deceiving on the outside. What is he hiding?

She is a nervous wreck; someone destroys her chalk drawings—sinister and scary. Robbie goes everywhere with her and even shows up at school. How will she ever escape him?

She finally meets Michael, the person responsible for helping her get the job. Can she turn to him for help? She tries to escape to her parents, and Robbie finds her and threatens to kill the parents if she tells anyone about him.

When she thinks she has found a way to escape, she learns Michael may not be who he appears to be either. What is going on? Then there is the car accident. Someone wants her dead, but why? Who can she trust?

Seline must learn more about Michael and devise a plan to save herself. But then there is another tragedy with her family, and she learns nothing or no one is as they appear.

How will she escape this madness?

WOW! If this is a debut, I cannot wait to read more by this new voice in fiction, Caleb Crowe! Inkubator Books sure knows how to crank out the winners!

THE GIRL IN THE PAINTING exceeded all my expectations and what I look for in a riveting and engrossing psychological thriller. I enjoyed the metaphors, symbolism, and paintings of the doors and shadows and how it ended.

Atmospheric, eerie, dark, sinister. THE GIRL IS THE PAINTING is like a nightmare, gas lighting, nerve-wracking, horrifying, and not for the fainthearted. However, it is suspenseful, lyrical, and twisty and will keep you on the edge of your seat. And that ending was killer!

From art, ambition, love, obsession, and revenge with some dark triggers, THE GIRL IN THE PAINTING is explosive and may be difficult for some to read. Psychologically rich, a locked-room thriller, it is intense, haunting, and heartbreaking but also focuses on resilience and survival.

I enjoyed the author's writing immensely, and I look forward to more from this new voice in fiction! Smartly written, addictive, it is unputdownable. It would make for a great movie or TV series. It also would have been fun to have a POV from Michael (an enigma). I would love to see Seline featured in a future book.

If you love dark, imaginative, twisty thrillers with menace and unreliable narrators, this one is for you. Highly recommend! I cannot wait to see what comes next. An author to watch. He is on my list, for sure!

For fans of authors Jennifer Hillier, Clémence Michallon, Lisa Jewell, Sally Hepworth, Daniel Hurst, Miranda Rijks, Eliot Stevens, Robin Mahle, Freida McFadden, and Emily Shiner.

Thanks to Inkubator Books and NetGalley for the opportunity to be introduced to this new author and an ARC for an honest opinion.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

My Rating: 5 Stars +

Pub Date: Jan 31, 2024

About the Author

Caleb Crowe is a British writer of psychological thrillers, and is fascinated by stories where extraordinary things happen to ordinary people, and the mundane is transformed into the menacing.

He’s afraid of the sea, fearful in the countryside, panicky in large open spaces and terrified of small, confined spaces. He finds eerily quiet villages and bustling impersonal cities equally unsettling. There’s nowhere, and no one, that doesn’t possess some kind of dark, brooding anxiety just waiting to have the lid prised open and turned into a twisty, suspenseful, nerve-shredding story.

He lives in Manchester with his partner, two children and two cats, who probably have their own mysterious agendas. Whether he's navigating the urban jungle or wrestling with the daily challenges of family life, Caleb draws inspiration from the unpredictability of everyday existence.







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