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Skilfully constructed thriller leaps off the page and grabs you by the throat

When I Was Ten - Fiona Cummins

Released: 15th April, 2021

Psychological Thriller Fans rating - 94% ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Genre: Psychological thriller

Premise: Twenty-one years after Dr Richard Carter and his wife were murdered by their ten-year-old daughter with a pair of scissors in a frenzied attack, the girl’s sister gives a sensational TV interview about the crime, prompting a media frenzy to find the killer, now an adult and living under a new identity.

In summary: A brilliantly written and plotted book that’s already a contender for my book of the year.


Like many books I’ve picked up in the last 12 months, When I Was Ten was one of those that I had seen many people raving about as their book of the year.

And it’s really not hard to see why so many people enjoyed this one. It’s a brilliant story, the language is evocative without being prosaic and the chapters are short and pithy.

It is a genuine page turner, and although at first glance appears to be a mystery, it is in fact a cleverly constructed thriller with an embattled heroine at the mercy of a crazed villain.

It’s written by a former journalist and that shines through in the expert insight Cummins gives into how the much-maligned press pack works when they’re chasing a major story – the pressure reporters are under to secure exclusives and the fear they live by that another journalist from a rival paper is going to get the story ahead of them.

Having been a journalist for more than twenty years, I can testify it’s incredibly accurate – and had me sweating in panic several times.

Like many good thrillers in the genre, Cummins takes us through multiple timelines, skilfully yanking us back to the present just as she takes us to a cliffhanger edge in the flashback scenes.

But as well as witnessing the story from the perspective of the daughters of the murdered parents, we are also put into the shoes of Brinley Booth, the girls’ friend and neighbour from when they were children.

She’s now working for a national newspaper and has to wrestle with her conscience when sent to report on the case.

For most of the book, it’s hard to see where the story is going to go – beyond the mystery of whether the press are going to succeed in tracking down Shannon Carter, the girl who killed her parents.

However, there are clues if you look hard enough and the ending, often a let-down even in the most promising books, was breathtaking, satisfying and conclusive.

I sped through this book in a few days and could have easily consumed it in one sitting if I’d have had the time.

A highly recommended read and already a contender for my reads of the year.


Twenty-one years ago, Dr Richard Carter and his wife Pamela were killed in what has become the most infamous double murder of the modern age.

Their ten year-old daughter – nicknamed the Angel of Death – spent eight years in a children’s secure unit and is living quietly under an assumed name with a family of her own.

Now, on the anniversary of the trial, a documentary team has tracked down her older sister, compelling her to break two decades of silence.

Her explosive interview sparks national headlines and journalist Brinley Booth, a childhood friend of the Carter sisters, is tasked with covering the news story.

For the first time, the three women are forced to confront what really happened that night – with devastating consequences for them all.


*Please note - while I'm not affiliated with the author, I do make a small commission on purchases made through these links.


AJ Wills is the bestselling author of multiple psychological thrillers. He was a journalist for more than twenty years and has been writing full-time since March 2021. He's married to fellow thriller writer, AJ McDine.

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