Violet by SJI Holliday


Carrie’s best friend has an accident and can no longer make the round-the-world trip they’d planned together, so Carrie decides to go it alone.

Violet is also travelling alone, after splitting up with her boyfriend in Thailand. She is desperate for a ticket on the Trans-Siberian Express, but there is nothing available.

When the two women meet in a Beijing Hotel, Carrie makes the impulsive decision to invite Violet to take her best friend’s place.

Thrown together in a strange country, and the cramped cabin of the train, the women soon form a bond. But as the journey continues, through Mongolia and into Russia, things start to unravel – because one of these women is not who she claims to be…


I’m thrilled to be on the blog tour today for Violet – my thanks go to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part, and to Orenda Books for my review copy.

I once harboured a fantasy of sorts, in which I packed a bag and travelled solo to far flung places, meeting new people and generally having a jolly time. No more. I am utterly cured of this particular dream, and that is all thanks to Violet by SJI Holliday.

A new author for me, I was drawn in by the intriguing blurb, and, of course it’s an Orenda book, and so I automatically assumed it had the twinkle of excellence before I read a single word.

Much of the story is told in the first person by Violet, and it’s a deeply intense reading experience. Despite the international setting of the novel and the sprawling landscape this gives the author to play with – I felt trapped by this one woman, claustrophobic within the tangle of her mind and deepest emotions. I felt unsettled by her, but without really knowing why, but I was relieved every time Carrie’s emails were used as an interlude, as reading them felt like an opportunity to step out of a murky room for fresh air. I really enjoyed both of these contrasts; the global setting vs the claustrophobic narrative vs the guarded correspondence.

Throughout reading I was never sure of anything. I was constantly questioning and second-guessing, I felt like a mouse to the author’s cat – and it was such an overwhelming and mentally exhausting experience – but, in the most positive and impressive of ways! I did find though that this impacted on my reading experience, I wasn’t able to sit with it for long periods of time and found I could only read in short, sharp bursts. I found it to be that affecting.

Neither of the two main characters, Violet and Carrie, are particularly likeable. They’re both obviously damaged by their past, and the weight of their secrets impress deeply on their present. Although I didn’t like either of them, I was intrigued by both, and I loved the slow, understated reveal of their histories which gave ample room for me to run amok with my own theories.

Without doubt an author I will read again. With perfect pacing, strong complex characters and an incredibly exciting plot, Violet feels edgier than anything I’ve read within the genre before. And despite my initial reservations that a book labelled as train noir would be a tad on the side of boring – I am happy to dispel fears, for it is, in fact, the very opposite.

About the Author

S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday is a scientist, writing coach and the bestselling author of five crime novels, including the Banktoun Trilogy (Black Wood, Willow Walk and The Damselfly), the festive chiller The Deaths of December and her creepy Gothic psychological thriller The Lingering. Her short story ‘Home From Home’ was published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and shortlisted for the CWA Margery Allingham Prize. Encapsulating her love of travel and claustrophobic settings, her latest novel, Violet, explores toxic friendships and the perils of talking to strangers, as well as drawing on her own journey on the Trans-Siberian Express over 10 years ago. All of her novels have been UK ebook number-one bestsellers. Susi was born and raised in Scotland and now divides her time between Edinburgh, London and as many other exciting places that she can fit in.

*I received a copy of Violet from the publisher, however the decision to read and take part in this blog tour was my own and this review forms my honest opinion.

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