Picture of Innocence

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 02 May 2019

Member Reviews

This very dark, chilling book quickly got under my skin. I could not bring myself to put it down. I needed to finish it and find out the definite truth behind this very disturbing mystery. And I say definite because I'd pretty much worked out the whodunnit from the start, but I was still utterly gripped even though I pretty much knew exactly what was going to happen at the end. 

it's hard to explain why I enjoyed it so much because I shouldn't have really. Not with what happens and what it's about, but I was completely pulled in. I loved the way it was written with a cliffhanger at the end of every chapter, the 'mystery' chapters which actually surprised me when they came to light - I wasn't expecting that twist. The characters and how they could all be involved was done really well and the ending, even though I guessed it and I think most people did, was actually really good. The whole plot was clever and twisty and I loved that. 

It's one book I won't forget for a while. 5 stars from me.
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Wow. This book is incredible.


Gut wrenchingly sad, fraught with tension, a whirlwind of emotion. It's a proper who-dunnit with the most horrific tragedy at its' heart.


The family is just your normal, everyday family on the surface, but what will you find if you dig a little deeper? Could Maddie really be capable of the things they say she did?


I devoured this book in hours, getting lost in the pages, needing to turn them faster, desperate to know, but not wanting to at the same time.


Honestly one of the most gripping books I've read so far this year.
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Loved this book ... a really dark thriller. The plot was exciting and the characters were relatable. Highly recommended 

Many thanks to Netgalley and T J Stimson for the advanced copy of this book. I agreed to give my unbiased opinion voluntarily.
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I cannot get over this one.  Talk about a book hangover!!! This one had me all over the place and I still can't believe how it unfolded!!! Do you really know who your guardians is,  your mother,  and even your own daughter ...
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I do love a good psychological thriller, especially when it involves families and children. Picture of Innocence by TJ Stimson isn’t always an easy read as the family the story focuses on suffer the loss of their little baby.

The question is, how did baby Noah die?

It really isn’t all that simple, Mother Maddie is distraught and sure she didn’t hurt her son, but is it possible that she did? The husband wasn’t home when it happened and it seems he is the only one in the family that escapes being questioned and blamed.

And then there is Lydia, a young girl who did something terrible, but how does she fit into the story? And who did Lydia grow up to be?

I didn’t really like Maddie as a character, although I felt sorry for her she just didn’t seem to be that nice. Although then sometimes she was. I don’t know, but perhaps that is the point, given that this book makes us questions everyone and everything as we try and work out what is really going on.

Lydia is an interesting character, the abuse she suffered is not easy to read, but was that why she did what she did? Is evil born or is it made?

Picture of Innocence was nearly a brilliant book, it just didn’t quite get there somehow, which is a real shame. But I enjoyed reading it and I wanted to know what happened and how things were going to work out. Did I guess the ending? Well, kinda. I got some of it right but not all, it was clever and gave me something to think about and I love a book that does that. What would I do in that situation?

This book is well written, has well formed characters who are surprising and unpredictable. And I love how it made me think, are we born evil or does something make us that way?
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I cant't say I enjoyed the story. The synopsis says too much. So is a DNF for me.

But thank you anyway NetGalley for this ARC.
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So Maddie has 3 children and is on medication for post natal depression, when her baby Noah is found dead in his cot she is the prime suspect due to all her blackouts caused by the medication and her depression.

This is NOT AN EASY READ!

It disturbed me greatly and I was left thinking about the book days later, saying that it was also a very good read. So if you’re not too bothered about pretty disturbing and cold, creepy reads then this is one for you.

I’d defo read more from this author!
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One of my new favorite books! This author has such a way with words the pages flew by in no time! I can’t wait to see the next work by this author! This was such a joy to read!
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A great thriller by the wonderful author, Tess Stimson.
Maddie is a mother of three children, the youngest, Noah is only ten weeks old. Having suffered postpartum depression after the birth of her second child, Maddie is very aware of her mental state. When Noah dies suddenly whilst he was sleeping, she wonders if she could have harmed him during one of her blackouts. But surely she would never hurt one of her children? Did Noah die of natural causes? If not, who else may have harmed him?
We also meet Lydia; a young girl who is being abused in her home. How do the two stories intertwine?
A well-written domestic thriller with many twists and sub plots that keeps you guessing until the end.
Thanks to NetGalley for a Kindle copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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I almost passed this one by because of the title and the cover, but I'm glad I gave it a shot. Maddie has had her fair share of tragedy. While pregnant with her daughter, her husband was killed in a car accident. She's now remarried with a two year old son and a newborn baby boy. She's got a history of postpartum depression, and lately, she's been having blackouts. When baby Noah is found dead in her crib, she's terrified that maybe she had something to do with it and just doesn't remember. When the autopsy shows bruising on Noah, the mystery deepens, and the cops begin questioning Maddie. Could she have done this to her own child, or are there darker forces at work than Maddie could ever realize?

I had no idea where this novel was going, and loved being kept on my toes the entire time. I do agree with other reviewers that there are some potential giveaways in the publisher's blurb, so if it's not too late, definitely go into this one knowing as little as possible.
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Truly good literature, and by that, I mean the best of the very best, utilises its characters and plot-points to deftly explore wider societal themes. Things like personal identity, the institution of marriage, the politics of race and gender, or even the nature of the human consciousness - aspects of the human experience that transcend boundaries; ones that mean and say more than just Polly meeting and falling in love with Paul. 
I mean, yeah, she is going to do that and have a great time doing it, but what is the author saying by having them fall in love in this particular way? We often step back from a book and ask what it was saying and usually, if we think upon the question long enough, our answer relates to themes far more universal than one would first assume. 
I, for one, have been obsessed with the theory of nature vs. nurture (AKA is a person born evil, or does something in society make them that way?) since being rather young myself. I am a child of the United Kingdom and, although it happened two years before I was even born, the story of James Bulger has appeared over and over again in the background of my life.
That is why, as soon as I heard about Picture of Innocence, I knew that I needed to read it: children killing children is a topic that becomes more fascinating, and more horrifying, the younger the child gets. Society has had less time to get their claws in, after-all, and that causes all of the sociology vs. psychology bombs to go off in my brain.
But, the issue with this novel is that T.J. Stimson failed to properly construct the characters and the plot-points around the central ideas of the novel. Instead, Picture of Innocence felt like a thinly-veiled dissertation on the topic of nature vs. nurture, as opposed to a deft, complex and nuanced exploration. The characters were not vehicles to allow for greater understanding, they were cardboard cut-outs who kept stepping aside and taking a backseat to allow for the author’s page-long musings on the nature of evil. 
And, honestly, I just wish T.J. Stimson would have written a non-fiction book on the topic first; in an attempt, at least, to get some of the more overt rumination out of their head before sitting down and writing this one.
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Wow! Let me say it again for those in the back, WOW!!

This story had me so confused and uncomfortable. I wasn’t even sure I would be able to finish it. There were several times I thought I was going to have to put it away. 

I figured out what was going on, but kept questioning myself until the very end. 

For my first TJ Stimson, I’m quite pleased. Grab it, read it, enjoy the confusion!!
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“Picture Of Innocence” was captivating, gripping and full of twist and turns and it ticked all the right boxes for me. With a cracking ending and a fantastic cast of characters, it will appeal to anyone whose favours psychological thrillers. 

This book was so good that I will be adding T J Stimson to my list of newly discovered authors, for sure!

Thanks to NetGalley, Avon Books and the author, T J Stimson for my complimentary copy of Picture of Innocence. My honest review is entirely voluntary.
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I have to say that after turning the last page that the title and synopsis for this book really does give too much away. I guessed the who very early on and I was correct. 

Maddie is the mother of three children, Emily, Jacob, and two month old Noah who suffers from Colic. No matter what Maddie does it seems she can never get Noah to settle. His screams and cries pierce the silence day and night leaving Maddie physically and emotionally exhausted. When she wakes one morning after having a full nights sleep she can't believe it. Noah has slept through the night for the very first time. When she goes to gather him from his crib she realizes to her horror that Noah didn't sleep through the night, he died. 

After the autopsy is performed it appears that this wasn't a case of crib death after all. It looks like shaken baby syndrome and now every one becomes a suspect and everyone has secrets to spill. 

Along side Maddie's story we have that of Lydia. Lydia is a young girl raised by her prostitute mother, Mae. Lydia has been raised to believe that she is worthless and evil. Mae subjects her to all sorts of abuse be it physical, sexual, or psychological. 

As you read you will see how these two stories become connected. 

This book was just meh for me. Maddie is someone that I should have felt sorry for but I just didn't. I found her chapters to be repetitive and boring and her as a character incredibly annoying. Maybe I'm just growing tired of the woman that suffers black outs making her appear as an unreliable narrator trope. Every chapter has her questioning herself but also hurling accusations at everyone around her. 

Lydia's chapters on the other hand are very, very disturbing and I had a hard time reading them even causing me to skim from time to time. The word c*nt is used a lot so if that is something that bothers you then steer clear. 

While I did figure out the who I'll admit that I didn't guess how the stories were connected until the reveal so that was a treat. 2 stars! 

Thank you to NetGalley and Avon Books UK for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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Maddie is struggling. She has a loving husband & a supportive other. She loves her three children but really hadn't planned on having her latest baby so soon after the last one- especially when she had suffered such crippling post natal depression in the past. Now nine weeks after Noah's birth she is terrified of the missing gaps in her memory. When Noah is found dead in his cot one morning the whole family is devastated. Maddie is sure she did nothing to hurt him, but that night she was alone with the children & for the first time since Noah was born she was sure she had slept through the night- but what if there was something she didn't remember?

Alongside Maddie's family tragedy is the story of Lydia. A young girl with a horrific past. She isn't bad but did a very bad thing. The reader is left wondering who she is in this cast of characters.

This book kept me guessing. It was a good read. Thanks to Netgalley & the publisher for letting me read & review this book.
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Wow! This book packs one heck of a punch.

There are two stories here that converge into the best mystery ever!

With a dark undertone, the story centres on Maddie and her three children, the youngest only a few weeks old. She's struggling, and after a severe bout of depression following the birth of her second child, she now feels the same black mood descend upon her. Frequent blackouts and memory lapses make her question if she is going mad. Has the depression come back? All she knows for sure that she doesn't want to go back on the meds again, but those around her (hubby Lucas and Mum Sarah) feel it's the only way to get her through the next few weeks and months.

But when her new baby is found dead in his cot, the calls for Maddie to seek treatment grow louder. And with it comes her own paranoia. When she discovers that others have been lying to her, that paranoia takes a firmer grip. How will she cope? The police investigation into her son's death only fuels the fire of her own uncertainty - was she to blame for his death?

As Maddie's storyline develops, a second plot featuring eleven-year-old Lydia, a child killer, is introduced. This one spans many years, but it is the combination of the two stories that makes this such an addictive read. Lydia serves time as just punishment for her crime and is ultimately released back into society. This immediately had me making all sorts of assumptions, but the truth is worth waiting for.

This is a tense, thrilling, addictive read with so many twists and turns. I was questioning everything; suspects came and went as the story progressed. It was a real whodunnit, but with complex themes running alongside. It begs the question if you can really ever trust anyone completely - and if you can, should you?A very cleverly-written story that will keep you turning the pages into the night.

Highly recommended to fans of compelling drama with a chilling psychological edge.
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4☆ Twisty, Domestic Thriller that will get under your skin!

Picture of Innocence is a dark twisty Domestic thriller that gets under your skin.
Just reading the blurb filled me with intrigue.

I'm not going to go into the plot as I don't want to risk giving anything away.

What I will say is Maddie has been suffering from depression and is struggling with life and motherhood. Appearances can be very deceptive!
But what follows next for Maddie is every mother's worst nightmare and I really mean that. What Maddie goes through is gut wrenching.

There are some pretty sensitive subjects such as child abuse and violence, depression, which some readers may find difficult to read, however Stimson has handled them with the right amount of sensitivity.

Picture of Innocence is a Taut, dark and Compelling read, it's full of complex twists I didn't see coming.
At times it's a difficult read, but It's Pacy and Enthralling, you can't help being drawn into the turmoil and heartbreak as you start to uncover the truth.

If you enjoy your Domestic Thrillers to have a chilling psychological twist, that will get under your skin and is somewhat thought provoking then you should definitely read Picture of Innocence by T.J Stimson .

Thank you to Avon books for this copy which I reviewed honestly and voluntarily.
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This is a really dark and compelling read.  The book has two main characters and their two stories.  There is Maddie, a mother with husband Lucas and three young children but she is struggling with post natal depression and blackouts.  When she finds her youngest child Noah dead in his cot she is the main suspect but who really was responsible?  Then we are introduced to Lydia, a young girl who has been subjected to abuse and neglect, how can their stories be connected?  The police investigation continues and Maddie is suspicious of Lucas and her sister in law Candace and even her mother Sarah.  They are all keeping secrets and any one of them could have harmed Noah.  This is quite a disturbing book to read with a distressing storyline, but a book that you will not be able to put down.  So many twists and turns with a fantastic ending.  Don’t miss reading this book!
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This is a hard book for me to review for two reasons. The first being that I read the publisher’s synopsis, and I feel that it says too much. I had this one figured out from the get-go. The second, being that it is a GUT WRENCHING domestic thriller, which is not where MY personal tastes lie, so I cannot say that I enjoyed this story. 

With that being said, however, I DO think the book is well written and that readers who do prefer their mystery/thrillers on the darker, more disturbing side WILL be satisfied. Also a plus, a plausible, satisfying conclusion which seems elusive in many of the thrillers that I have read to date. 

So, go in as blind as possible. 

Do not read if your triggers are psychological and sexual abuse of a child.  This is a big part of a second narrative of a child named Lydia, which will intersect with Maddie’s later on in the book. 

All you do need to know is that Maddie , a mother of three young children,  wakes up to find her youngest son, Noah, dead in his cot. Some of his  bruises have the police questioning if it was a simple case of cot death or not. Maddie becomes the prime suspect, due to the fact that the drugs she has been taking for her postpartum depression, seem to be causing her to have memory lapses, and blackouts. 

This is a realistic portrayal of a family suffering through the heart breaking loss of a baby.  One where each family member wonders who they can trust. 

Maddie even begins to question if it could be possible that she is the one who hurt her infant son. 

But, there are several other viable suspects. 

And, they are all hiding something. 

I would like to thank Netgalley, Avon books and T J Stimson for allowing me to read this digital copy shortly after it was published in exchange for a candid review! This title is available NOW!!
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Dark, twisted and chilling, T J Stimson’s terrifying debut thriller Picture of Innocence is a haunting read guaranteed to send shivers down your spine and have you sleeping with the lights on for weeks!

Maddie is a woman who seems to have the world at her feet. She has three beautiful children, a gorgeous husband, a great circle of friends and a career she loves. But scratch the surface and you will find that Maddie’s world is not as rosy nor is it as idyllic as it initially seems.  While Maddie adores her three children, her youngest two, Noah and baby Jacob, are driving her increasingly mad. Her husband, Lucas, seems to be getting more and more distant and although Maddie knows that she should not pay any heed to her mother’s misguided opinions, she simply cannot shake off this awful feeling that he is hiding something from her. Maddie has always had her business to keep her going through the toughest of times. Her animal sanctuary has been a refuge for her ever since she was a teenager, but the bills are piling up, the debts increasing at an alarming rate and money which she simply hasn’t got is desperately needed. If Maddie does not come up with a viable solution to make the sanctuary profitable, she might end up having to close it down. Maddie has got a lot on her plate at the moment, but there is something far more sinister troubling her mind and threatening to destroy her life…

In the last couple of months, Maddie has been having frightening episodes of memory loss where she could be doing something trivial and mundane, only for her to fall down a black hole and end up committing things which she has no recollection of even thinking, let alone actually attempting. Thus far, she has been lucky because during these moments she has only ended up committing acts that are harmless and inconsequential. But what about next time? What is going to happen to Maddie the next time she has another episode and ends up doing something that is far more terrifying and can have far reaching and dangerous consequences? Her therapist assures her that she has absolutely nothing to worry about and that this is only a side effect of her medication. But Maddie is not at all sure. The future has left Maddie completely and utterly petrified, but it is the present that holds the biggest danger for her…

When tragedy strikes and one of Maddie’s children is harmed, everyone is a suspect – including Maddie herself! Who had done something so heinous to one of her babies? Maddie has always trusted her friends and family, but has she been putting her trust in the wrong people? Looks can be deceiving and you never know what goes on beneath the surface. Everyone is capable of terrible things. Even the most innocent and trustworthy person you know. Even you.

Are Maddie’s children safe from her?  Or is she a danger to everyone…including herself?

I don’t think I’ve ever been more scared reading a book! Picture of Innocence is a thriller that grabs you by the throat from page one and keeps you turning those pages all through the night. A chilling domestic thriller that is brilliantly plotted, fabulously written and deliciously scary, Picture of Innocence is an addictive page-turner that is certainly not for the faint-hearted which will terrify and shock readers everywhere.

T J Stimson is a master storyteller who knows how to make the hairs at the back of your neck stand on end. Picture of Innocence is a first-rate novel that heralds the arrival of a chilling new voice in psychological crime thrillers and I cannot wait to read her next twisted tale!
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