Thursday 28 July 2016

Book Review: Valentina by S.E. Lynes

Last Updated: 02 May 2024

Valentina by S.E. Lynes book cover
AD* | When Glasgow journalist Shona McGilvery moves with her partner Mikey and their baby to an idyllic cottage in rural Scotland, they believe that all that lies ahead of them is happiness.

But with Mikey working offshore, the frightening isolation of the Aberdeenshire countryside begins to drive her insane...

That is until she is rescued by a new friendship with the enchanting Valentina.

She has the perfect home, the perfect man, and a charismatic new best friend – or does she?

As her fairytale life begins to unravel, the deep dark wood becomes the least of her fears...

A hauntingly intelligent, addictive psychological thriller from debut author S. E. Lynes.

Valentina is one of those books that cry out to be read in one sitting. It's full of fast-paced and tense writing that grips you from the very beginning.


The setting fits the story perfectly, with the remote wilderness and bleak beauty of Aberdeen and the north of Scotland adding an extra layer of intrigue to a plot already brimming with suspicion. I always think that thrillers which are so anchored to their sense of place are vastly more effective than their less location-heavy counterparts, and wild rural settings are a particular favourite of mine. I definitely feel that Valentina was influenced in part by the Nordic Noir crime sub-genre of fiction - in fact, the bare bones of the story wouldn't feel out of place in a dark Scandi thriller.


That leads us to the plot. It's hard to really talk about the story without giving away unintentional spoilers which would (as the name suggests) completely spoil the reading experience. All I will say is that it's extremely well done. The twist is sudden and completely unexpected; the consequences and aftermath are shocking to such a degree that you almost enter a dreamlike state as you read on to the end of the book. It's perfectly paced, with just enough tension to keep you on the edge of your seat without turning into a breakneck ride.


Our two main characters are Shona and Valentina. On the surface, the two couldn't be more different, but as the story progresses we start to unravel their characters and learn more and more about the intricacies of their personalities. It's hard not to feel sorry for Shona. Arriving in a completely isolated place away from family and friends, without a job, and with only her baby daughter for company, the way Shona latches on to her friendship with Valentina like a lifeline is in equal parts sad, endearing, and understandable. I found myself rooting for Shona; wanting her to succeed in her new life and overcome her hardships.

Valentina is a stunning debut novel that more than lives up to the hype surrounding it. A definite must-read!

Rating: 4 stars

Valentina is available to buy now (paid link; commission earned).

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* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review 

Have you read Valentina? Let me know in the comments below!

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