Cover Image: The Players

The Players

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Member Reviews

Disturbing, poignant, and utterly brilliant! “The Players” is a must read thriller this spring!

I adored the characters, so much so that I hoped this was the beginning of a new dark police procedural series and not a standalone thriller. O’Sullivan knows how to draw you into his world and capture the reader’s emotions as he takes you on a rollercoaster adventure with a serial killer.

There are a few truly heart-breaking moments along the way and a philosophical question that challenges the way you view humankind. “The Trolley Problem” is an ethical dilemma that challenges you to consider sacrificing the one to save the many. This is the focal point for “The Players” and is disturbingly both thought provoking and chilling.

Read this and ask yourself – What would you do if you had to play the game?

Cracking read by Darren O’Sullivan – 4.5 Stars

#KillOrBeKilled – #TheGame – #TheHost

Thank you to #NetGalley, #HQ, #HarperCollinsUK, and #DarrenOSullivan for an ARC of #ThePlayers in exchange for an honest review.
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After previously reading Dark Corners, I was looking forward to reading another of this authors books.

It didn't disappoint at all.

With short and snappy chapters, and action that keeps you on the edge of your seat, the author wasn't afraid to take this book in a direction where others may have been. The characters were easy to like and I felt fully consumed by the plot.

A really incredible book, I'm looking forward to reading more from the author.

Thank you to @hqstories and @netgalley for the copy of the book. Apologies that my review is a little late!
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I really did not like this book - just couldn't get into it. I was excited to read this book as the premise sounded right up my street - but maybe I had too higher hopes!

I found the plot to be incredibly slow to begin with, and with a thriller I want to be hooked from the start.  I also couldn't connect to the characters and found it difficult to follow at times. Maybe it's O'Sullivan's writing style that I just didn't like.

Not for me! But based on the reviews already on here I appreciate I'm in the minority with my views.
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Kill or be killed. Which would you choose? 

The Host traps you with one other person and gives you a weapon. You’re now a player in the game and only one of you can leave. Except in this game, no one really wins. 

Peterborough is being terrorised by a man that calls himself ‘The Host’. Players are blackmailed into participating when their families safety is put on the line. All fights are recorded then posted on social media stating the time the next ‘game’ will commence. As the  city goes into panic mode it’s up to DS Carlson to try and crack the case. DI Karen Holt is currently suspended but can’t resist getting herself sucked into the case. However, has she bitten off more than she can chew? 

This book is immersive and gripping! I couldn’t put it down and ended up reading into the early hours of the morning to get it finished. The situations the Host puts Players in are unthinkable and to think it’s inspired by Darren’s true life experiences makes it all the more thrilling. This sinister tale really makes you think what you would do in this situation and it’s sparked a lot of thought provoking conversations for me afterwards. I’d definitely recommend this book and will be looking up Darren O’Sullivans previous work!
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In this twisted offering from O’Sullivan, victims are placed in a horrific situation: either choose to kill, or be killed instead. Refuse? You are putting your loved ones at risk. How will you survive this game?

I loved this gripping read as I could not predict the next round of the Game. Just like the police, I felt one step behind the Host, unable to determine what the clues meant in where the next crime scene would occur. The narrative switches between Carlson, Karen and the Host; the former two are police detectives who are trying to work together on this case but without their superiors knowing. This is because Karen has been temporarily suspended from the force due to a recent incident. Through several chapters, readers learn that Karen is struggling to deal with what resulted in a victim’s death as the possible result of her own actions. However, Karen cannot stay away from this developing crime in which it is evident that the Host has evidently been planning this Game for a while. Through some covert discussions with Carlson, Karen is able to offer her assistance to trying to find the Host, although this is not before some serious Games have been played.

Although I really enjoyed this nail-biter, I did find that there were some elements that could have been more imaginative to the story. A suspended police officer, for example, that satellites around the case and offers their interpretations of potential clues does not feel very original and I’ve seen in several crime books previously. I would have liked to have seen more flashbacks to the police incident that causes Karen to be suspended, rather than readers just learn of this through Karen’s accounts with her therapist.

Furthermore, the catching of the Host did feel just a bit too convenient for my liking. The whole ‘distract them whilst the police were on the way’ lacked the flair and drama that came with the rest of the novel. I wanted O’Sullivan to conclude this race against time with scenes full of suspense and tension; in my opinion, the arrest came all to easily for what had been such a difficult perpetrator to find in the first place.

Yet, despite these misgivings, I appreciated the dilemma that O’Sullivan raises in this Game. If you were forced to play this Game, would you be able to live with the guilt of killing someone else in order to protect your family? Or would you be willing to sacrifice yourself for the sake of another person – who might be known to you? It’s such a difficult, life-changing decision and I thought the Facebook discussion threads that were included added an extra insight to this – particularly the one at the very end.

As the Games mount, the Host moves ever closer to the police. I could not anticipate where or who would be the next player and the scenes made my heart break in two, especially for the Game featuring a man and wife. The tenderness in this scene was truly emotional and I think this intensified the horror of the Host and his manipulations. Occurring about half-way through the book, I think this added fuel to the fire and caused Carlson, Karen and the Host to up their Game… quite literally.

An enjoyable, gripping read from O’Sullivan that had me on the edge of my seat throughout. I could not put this book down, desperate to know how these Games would finally conclude. A race against time where you feel so powerless and lacking intelligence about the Host’s next moves, I could not predict whether he would actually be found or not.

With thanks to HQ Digital and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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The players is a psychological thriller written by Darren O’Sullivan. Peterborough is the unassuming town for the setting of the games no-one wants to play and the horror that ensues.
The premise is simple, a man who’s self named ‘the host' has chosen two ‘players’ for his game. These players then have 4 minutes to complete their challenge, kill or be killed. Rather gruesome but the stakes are high so an attack takes place. One dead, the game is complete, but who is the guilty party?
The host is thirsty for more, he won’t stop until everyone will kill. Luckily for the town DI Karen Holt is here to save the day. Despite her recent suspension and anxiety attacks she gets involved in finding out who the host is and how to stop him. Putting her colleague DS Howard Carlson in increasingly precarious predicaments with talking to suspects and sharing police info, she seems to be the only one who has any idea how to police. 
The plot is good and well executed, a fresh idea is nice to read even though a little twisted. The characters are well written and believable but DI Karen Holt is very irritating. She is repeatedly told not to do something yet carries on anyway, she’s a liability and a rubbish wife. It reads from both the hosts viewpoint and Karen’s which I like, giving some of the reasoning behind his crimes does make you empathetic even if you don’t agree with what he’s doing. 
A fast paced, graphic, thriller with an interesting  plot and well written characters. A solid 4* from me as Karen was really irritating! Thanks to HQ HarperCollins and NetGalley for the ARC.
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Peterborough is under attack from a twisted individual calling themselves 'The Host'. Seemingly getting their kicks from putting innocent people into horrendous situations in his sick little game of kill or be killed.
DI Karen Holt, currently suspended after her last arrest went wrong, is struggling to sit on the sidelines while her colleagues struggle to bring this criminal in, so does some secret detective work with the help of her friend and partner DS Howard Carlson.
This a gripping thriller from the start, a great mix of police procedural, thriller and a dash of horror to spice it up even more!
Recommended if you fancy a rollercoaster of a read!
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An absolute cracker!  Not just a great read, a moral dilemma and a real conversation starter to discuss with all of your friends...
Kill or be killed?  This is what the host poses to The Players who MUST play the hosts game.  A choice must be made.  What would you do?
I thought this book was brilliant, so original, so well written; such an awful choice to make, but the book is just so compelling.  I highly recommend this book.
Thanks to NetGalley for a Kindle copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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You're forced to play a game with someone you love, you kill or be killed.
The Host runs the games and picks the players.

A very emotional thriller had me on the edge of my seat shouting out for the players to attack the Host instead of attacking each other. Kept me guessing till the end, but I think it left me wanting to know what happened to the players that survived.
Definitely need tissues.
Only thing that confused me was the Host gave the instruments to fight with then when one pair fought it was with different instruments?

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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This is a brilliant read.
Wonderful well written plot and story line that had me engaged from the start.
Love the well fleshed out characters and found them believable.
Great suspense and found myself second guessing every thought I had continuously.
Can't wait to read what the author brings out next.
Recommend reading.

I was provided an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher.  This is my own honest voluntary review.
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This book comes with many author endorsements and other reviewer and friends high accolades, along with comparisons to the films ‘Saw’ and others
It had big expectations to fill
I thought it was ok, I have read other books and seen films similar and so based my thoughts on it against those
The ‘host’ was scary, has to be said and was a surprise when his identity was revealed and the reasons for him starting the game ( on that will say no more in case gives any clues )
Karen ( the main Police investigator ) wasn’t bad but found the dialogue between her and her wife clunky and tiresome and skimmed over these parts as the book went on
The description of Karen’s panic attack was scarily spot on and very well written 
It is a violent book, thats the point of the game and the descriptions pertaining to that were grimace making in their authenticity 
Yep it was ok but respect so many have given it great reviews and maybe it just wasn’t a book for me 

3 Stars
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The Players is the fifth psychological thriller (crossed with a police procedural) from crime writer Darren O'Sullivan and is a chilling, sinister and riveting page-turner very much inspired by the Saw movie franchise. In Peterborough, a monster is roaming the city leaving a mass of havoc and devastation in his wake, but he doesn't care because he's having fun. The man calling himself 'The Host,' runs his sickening little sideshow and feels most happy and content in life when testing other people to their limits; the type of person who revels in the misery of ordinary folks placed into unthinkable situations in which every choice has a consequence and there are certainly no winners. That's how The Host devised his game where contestants end up being terrified, fearful, anxious, upset and often angry while he gets off on their sheer horror. It's about time this "killer", he only incites the murders but does not partake in them creating a blurring of the legal lines and moving into quite a grey area of the law, was off the streets but folks say the police simply cannot catch him and so the murders carry on to the pleasure of the deviant. We are then introduced to DI Karen Holt, a former DCI who has been demoted and is currently suspended from duty after killing a man she had been arresting. Now despite officially being away from work, she understands crime doesn't just stop or lessen when police numbers decrease, so admirably she continues, alongside her partner, Detective Howard Carlson, to investigate and try to bring down The Host, known for wearing a motorcycle helmet with a GoPro camera attached to carry out his tauntings in anonymity.

He chooses people to play at random and only two at a time to compete with one another. The rules of the game are few and the primary one is - kill or be killed. If they refuse to accept and play by the rules The Host threatens to begin targeting the players family; this obviously leads to a very tough moral dilemma. He sets a timer and then after the showdown is complete he uploads the video to social media creating fear and panic in the local area with people wondering if they could be next. Can Karen and co get to grips with the motive, warped psychology and pure evil of the perpetrator, who is essentially putting people under extreme duress to commit murder, before he commences another fatal game? This is a compulsive, sinister and sickeningly evil thriller right from the off with one of the most memorable villains I've read in the past few years. The twists come at you thick and fast as does the drama, action, mystery and intense atmosphere. A mix of horror, thriller and police procedural, this is the author’s most enthralling work to date, and I don't know if we'll ever see more of protagonist Karen Holt, but I would like to as she is a steely character who carried on even while suspended in order to try and save lives. It's well written, fast-moving and there were multiple times I could hear my heart thumping as the suspense and tension were ratcheted up. Deeply disturbing, immersive and thought-provoking, this is a story I found extremely difficult to put down. Overall, The Players is a violent, gruesome and graphic read that'll take you on a thoroughly wild ride and an entertaining one at that. Highly recommended.
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Well, what a book this was.  It's fast paced, gripping, with twists and turns throughout that keeps you reading way past your bedtime!  It's a book that makes you think "What would I do?" 

The Host wants to play a game, but the players have a tough decision to make... kill or be killed.  Imagine Saw wrote a book and this would be the outcome, except this maniac doesn't have a doll riding a tricycle to freak you out even more!  Anyone could be a Player, and there is no easy way out. 

I enjoyed this read, the characters are great, although I did get mildly frustrated at the lead characters sheer determination to constantly put herself in danger, but I guess it was to catch Peterborough's very own motorcycle helmet wearing Saw so I'll let it slide! 

There was one aspect of the book I personally felt conflicted over.  I will never give away a spoiler so I won't say what it is but if you have read it and want to chat about it, slide into my DM's (in a non sleazy way please!)  I felt that there was continual reference to it yet it still remained unclear for me at the end.  

Overall, it's a worthy 4 stars from me, and it's one I would recommend if you love a good thriller, with lots of action, twists and clues to keep you guessing. 

Thank you to HQ for allowing me to take part in this blog tour, to NetGalley and of course the author.  I will definitely be picking up more of his books.
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If you enjoy your crime fiction addictive and sinister, this book will keep your turning the pages.  It involves a series of deadly games where every move has a consequence. The concepts of good and evil are explored, as the players are faced with moral dilemmas with life-changing results. The games are violent and vividly described but only to build the suspense and ethos of terror.

The reader gains insight into The Host's mind and their pursuer DI Karen Holt, a suspended police officer who is still reeling emotionally from her latest case. Karen is a strong but unreliable protagonist and the best chance of catching The Host.

This is a disturbing, immersive and shocking read, but it's the question, what would you do in this situation? That resonates.

The intensity increases with each game, every outcome tinged with poignancy, until it reaches its climactic conclusion.

I received a copy of this book from HQ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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There’s not many books that completely stop me in my tracks and I know that my words will not do this book the justice it deserves. My bio on NetGalley states that I’m a lover of dark psychological thrillers and original concept books that make you think. This book is both!

It’s features a serial killer that doesn’t kill but instead gets ordinary people to do his dirty work and a suspended DI, downgraded from her previous title of DCI for killing a man she was arresting.

The killer puts people in positions where they have no choice but to kill or be killed in his deadly game where he calls himself The Host. The author has cleverly included social media discussions as the games hit the internet via videos The Host releases. Now this is where the makes you think part comes in. You can’t help but think, as the games begin and you read people’s responses, what would I do? I’m under no illusion what my response would be, if someone was threatening one of my loved ones I would kill without a shadow of a doubt. Does that make me a bad person? Or a good person who just does a bad thing?

This is quite a philosophical book in its judgement on the change that’s happening in society. Something that wasn’t lost on me was the irony that DI Karen Holt is a good person who did a bad thing and is the one person who is good enough to stop him.

Karen is whip smart, but no longer trusts her gut instincts since her suspension, and her flaws and anxiety made her relatable. The Host is brilliant but arrogant in his assumptions and they are well matched adversaries. The pace is fast enough and with lots of games to keep you interested but slow enough to give you time to think if that makes any sense. As with most murders there are clues left but you always feel like you are just a few steps behind and racing to catch up.

To me this book is perfect and a strong contender for my book of the year and it’s only May. Do yourself a favour and read it.
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Thank you very much to @hqstories and @darrensully for a #giftedkindlecopy of this book to read for a honest review. 

This book is out on 13th may and it's a really good game of cat and mouse between the host and the police. The host knows who will be playing the game of two people are chosen and they must decide who will kill the other person one must die and one will survive but the players decide.

I was really gripped by this and I wanted to know who it was.
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This is the first of Darren O’Sullivans novels I have read and it certainly won’t be the last. What a great introduction!

In this game there is only one outcome. Kill or be killed. The decision is yours. Are any of us truly good people? The Host certainly doesn’t think so.

The Players is the kind of book that will leave you at the edge of the seat with worry while asking yourself ‘What would I do?’. I was so immersed in the story and the mindset of The Host that I couldn’t put it down. To say I was disturbed was an understatement, even as the games became more brutal and intense I simply couldn’t leave it alone. I had to know the outcomes and prayed The Host would be caught. 

If you want a twisty thriller that will possibly give you a few nightmares then I highly recommend adding this to your TBR. 

From the plot to the characters. This is simply exquisite! A thriller at its best with serious Saw vibes.
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If you are looking for a chilling, utterly captivating thriller then look no further. The Players by Darren O’Sullivan is undoubtedly one of the best I have read to date.

‘The Host’ choses his players at random, then explains the rules of the game to them – either kill, or be killed. If the chosen players refuse to play by his rules, he will target those they love the most, leaving the selected players facing a moral dilemma like no other. As another game begins, we are left trying to unravel the mystery of who the Host is, and why exactly he is causing such chaos within this community.

This is when we first meet DI Karen Holt – an officer who is currently suspended from work pending and enquiry. Despite this, DI Holt is determined to help her friend and colleague Detective Howard Carlson solve the mystery of who is behind this crime before any more lives are lost to the twisted game the Host has created. Even though going against the rules of her suspension could end her career, DI Holt knows she cannot sit this case out.

The story is told from the varying perspectives of DI Karen Holt and the Host as a game of cat and mouse is played between them, both of them trying to predict the others next move. The way in which this story is told is compelling and gritty, and as the games are played I found myself on the edge of my seat waiting to see how it would all pan out. The morals of good, normal people are tested to the limits in this dark tale, as they are forced in to a situation that has them doing the unthinkable to try and protect those they love.

Darren O’Sullivan has once again provided us with an intense, unforgettable story that has you captivated to the very end. This is an absolute page turner, and one that I simply cannot recommend highly enough, you must read this book!.
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This was my first Darren O’Sullivan novel and boy did it pack a punch! I’m a huge crime/thriller fan but it’s quite a saturated market so it’s hard to pull of something unique and different, but that’s exactly what O’Sullivan did. This book is gritty, it’s creepy, it’s brutal but that’s what makes it so addictive and unputdownable!!

The whole premise of the book is dark and disturbing, and it makes you question what you would do if you were faced with the situations that The Host puts their victims under. The situations are terrifying, torturous and beyond belief, so this definitely borders on the horror side too. There was an aspect of the book that I felt slightly let down by (don’t want to say too much because of spoilers) but that being said, I absolutely loved it and will definitely be reading more by Darren in the future! 

Fast paced, bloody, brutal, this is edge of your seat reading at its very best and a book that will leave an imprint in your mind for a while!
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This is a very tense, disturbing thriller which kept me reading and also had me thinking about what I would do if I was made a Player in this game.
I found Karen's character rather annoying in that she frequently referred to 'Her Wife' rather than referring to her by name.
Apart from that I found it a compulsive read and will look to read more by this author.
Many thanks to Netgalley/Darren O'Sullivan/HQ for a digital copy of this title. All opinions expressed are my own.
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