Heart Stopper by RJ SamuelHeart Stopper by RJ Samuel is a medical thriller set in Ireland and featuring a woman of colour.

Dr Priya Joseph is a medical researcher and coder working in Galway for a Pacemaker Clinic. Priya’s life has been out of control the last few years, and it only gets worse when she wakes up after a night out in her bosses apartment, where he lies dead on the floor. Daniel Fairer III appears to have died from a heart attack, but his mother Catherine and sister Reyna have other ideas.

Priya is quickly drawn in to a desperate search for the truth, and at every turn there is another secret, another lie, and another death. As Priya, Catherine, and Reyna seek the answers to what really happened to Daniel, Priya discovers that everything she believed about her recent life and the challenges she has faced may not be as it seemed. And that Reyna, the woman set to take Daniel’s place, may just be the way out of the darkness she has been living in.

Can Priya decode the mystery and uncover the sinister reasons behind Daniel’s death? And can she survive not only the person or people hunting her down, but also the growing feelings she has for Reyna?

The Characters

Priya is such a great lead character. An Indian-Irish woman, Priya is authentic and perfectly written by RJ Samuel. From the Indian parents who pushed her to succeed, to the continuous thread of her character that feels completely out of place in some way everywhere she goes, I suspect Samuel has written a deep part of herself in Priya. It is this authenticity that makes Priya so appealing. I felt tremendous empathy for Priya, whose whole life appears to have been shaped by others, and their desires for her. But her strength, and resilience is a feature that gets stronger as the book goes on, and by then end I felt serious pride in Priya. Her character journey will stick with me for a long time, I’m sure.

Reyna is a little harder to understand, but Samuel does an amazing job of bringing all of the loose threads of her character together at the end, and I was so grateful that we were left with a whole character. Reyna has been living in America for a long time, and is written with that as a core feature of her personality. Stick with her, throughout Heart Stopper Reyna seems cold and distant, but when you are finished reading, you will have no option but to feel warmth and respect for Reyna and the journey she takes.

Catherine is Daniel and Reyna’s mother, and a character on the cusp of playing a major role in the book, but I would still consider her a minor character. Catherine is more like a vessel for important moments in the book, but I really liked her, and thought that despite some of the suggested distance between her and Reyna, Catherine is totally someone I would want on my team.

The other minor characters all play important roles in their own right. Valerie is the woman who has driven Priya down, and brought her to her knees, and as we get further into her character, it feels like she is a highly vulnerable woman who manipulates others to hide her own insecurities. The other characters I won’t mention specifically, other than to say that they are all written with purpose, and masterfully so.

The Writing Style

This book is perfectly paced for a thriller. There is a slow build from a start that grips you immediately, and as Priya gets closer to the truth, the book gets faster and more intense. The language Samuel uses is easy to understand, despite the book being based around medical research and equipment, and there is a fantastic twist towards the end that just made the rest of the book so much better.

The Pros

The best thing about Heart Stopper is that it is different. This is a hallmark of Samuel’s work, and perhaps why she is so well loved amongst her fans. Heart Stopper is different because of the content, and because of the characters. And RJ Samuel has written what she knows in this book, which makes the whole experience of reading Heart Stopper more authentic and enjoyable. From her intimate knowledge of Galway as a setting, to her experiences as an Indian woman living there, to her medical background and knowledge of that content, Samuel has done a terrific job of bringing Heart Stopper to life.

The Cons

There is nothing. This book is simply too good to list any cons.

erins favourite booksThe Conclusion

A medical thriller, this story is the closest I have come in a very long time to reading mainstream thrillers, and honestly, Heart Stopper would not be out of place in a mainstream thriller section. A genuine thriller featuring women who love women, this is a book I will recommend to everyone who likes a gripping thriller, not just lesfic readers. A terrific read, everything about this book is different to what I normally see in lesbian fiction thrillers, and in the best possible ways. If you don’t read it, you have missed out on one of the best books you will read this year.

Excerpt from Heart Stopper by RJ Samuel

The silence in the apartment was tiptoeing into the folds of her clothes. She wanted to get out of here. But as she passed the open door to what she presumed was another bedroom she found herself drawn to it. And she was curious. The apartment seemed to give off a male energy. The vague scent of antiseptic cleaners mixed with the strands of aftershave and something else, something that reminded her of open drains on a wet day.

The bottom of the door stroked the carpet as she nudged it open and peered in. There was a skylight here too and the brightening dawn creeping in fought against the dark room, but she didn’t need to switch on the lights to see. The body was dead. It was male and pale. He was sitting on the floor facing her, his eyes open and still, his hairless torso propped up against the bed. Priya screamed. Or thought she did, no sound came out. His mouth was open and she tried to scream again, still no success. Priya knew him. Knew enough of him to feel the shock of difference between her energy-filled charismatic boss and this slack-jawed empty shell of skin.

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Bits and Bobs

  • ISBN number: 9781470139681

RJ Samuel Online

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Married mum of two from New Zealand with a love for reading that surpasses her need for sleep.  Love reading books that are exciting, puzzling, twisty and suspenseful.  Always willing to try new authors and take recommendations, and open to discussion about great books with great people.