Aired on Sky Atlantic in October 2020, The Undoing is written by David E. Kelley and directed by Susanne Bier. Based on the 2014 novel You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz, the series follows a wealthy New York couple, therapist Grace (Nicole Kidman) and doctor Jonathan (Hugh Grant), whose lives turn upside down when their family gets involved in a murder case.
“People confused nostalgia with love and end up getting divorces or having affairs and all sorts. No, I think if you haven’t kept in touch for twenty years, there’s probably a good reason.”
The 2020 festive book by Jenny Bayliss, The Twelve Dates Of Christmas sees happily single Kate Turner take a chance on an organised event hosted by a brand new dating app service. But this event won’t see Kate on a single date. Over the month of December, she will be set up on twelve dates, each tailored to help her find perfect harmony. Between catching up with her oldest friend Laura, baking for her friend Matt’s cafe, holding down a flourishing career as a fabric designer, and taking care of her beloved dad, love hasn’t had a look in on Kate’s life recently. But Kate does love Christmas, so when Laura insists she signs up to the Twelve Dates of Christmas, she doesn’t need too much persuading. Twelve perfect festive dates with the area’s most eligible men – she’s bound to like one of them, right?
“After ten years living in a city, it was strange not to see any streetlights or passing cars, the only lights coming from the main beam of my headlights and the stars in the sky, visible to me for the first time in forever. These roads had once been as familiar to me as breathing, but I found myself frowning with concentration, making my way cautiously, searching for the house I had vowed never to return to.”
Coming Home to Glendale Hall by Victoria Walters was originally published in 2019 and is the first in a trilogy of books that follows Beth Williams and set at her family’s Scottish estate, Glendale Hall. Beth hasn’t been home for ten years, not since she ran away at sixteen after falling pregnant. Rather than risk her family’s disapproval, she’s worked hard to build a life for herself and daughter Izzy. But now, she’s finally returning home. As Beth tries to mend her broken family ties and fights to bring the community of Glendale back together, she realises that the story she has told herself for a decade might well be a very different one from the truth. Even though she ran from Glendale, it has never left her heart. Neither has Drew, Beth’s first love. But will Beth be able to forgive her family for what happened ten years ago? And what will Drew say when he discovers the secret she’s been keeping from him for so long? Let’s hope Christmas can work its magic on Glendale Hall, because Beth’s going to need some help.
A spin-off to 9-1-1, the Sky Witness series 9-1-1: Lone Star, created for Fox by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Tim Minear, aired in the UK in September 2020. Focusing on a set of fire, police, and ambulance departments located in Austin, Texas, the series follows a team – Owen (Rob Lowe), Michelle (Liv Tyler), TK (Ronen Rubinstein, Grace (Sierra McClain), Judd (Jim Parrack), Marjan (Natacha Karam), Paul (Brian Michael Smith), Carlos (Rafael L. Silva), and Mateo (Julian Works) – as they work to save people’s lives while trying to solve their own personal problems.
“Despite the fairy-tale snowstorm out there, this isn’t Narnia. This is London, real life, where hearts get kicked and bruised and broken, but somehow they still keep beating.”
Released in 2018, One Day in December by Josie Silver sees Laurie fall in love through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day when she sees a man who she instantly knows is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic… and then her bus drives away. Certain they’re fated to find each other again, Laurie spends a year scanning every bus stop and cafe in London for him. But she doesn’t find him, not until they “reunite” at a Christmas party when her best friend Sarah giddily introduces her new boyfriend.
“Early love is exciting and exhilarating. It’s light and bubbly. Anyone can love like that. But after three children, after a separation and a near-divorce, after you’ve hurt each other and forgiven each other, bored each other and surprised each other, after you’ve seen the worst and the best – well, that sort of love is ineffable. It deserves its own word.”
Published in 2017, What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty follows 29-year-old, newly engaged to the wonderful Nick and pregnant with her first baby. But that was ten years ago. When Alice slips in her step-aerobics class and hits her head, she wakes up to find that she has lost a decade’s worth of memories. Now she’s a grown-up, a bossy mother of three and in the middle of a nasty divorce. Just how many mistakes can you make in a decade? Can she ever get back to the woman she used to be?
Created by Chris Fedak and Sam Sklaver, Prodigal Son aired on Sky One in August 2020 and centers on FBI profiler Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne). Now a consultant for the New York Police Department, Malcolm is forced to confront his father, the infamous serial killer Martin Whitly (Michael Sheen), known as “The Surgeon”, after a copycat serial killer uses Whitly’s methods of killing. As a child, Malcolm was responsible for enabling the police to arrest his father, and has not seen his father in ten years. Now, he finds himself drawn back into constant contact with his father as he must both use Whitly’s insights to help the police solve particularly horrible crimes and battle his own inner demons.
“In this game, it’s kill or be killed.”
Set to be released on 13th May 2021, The Players by Darren O’Sullivan follows a stranger called The Host who forces innocent people to play their game. In it, one person can live and the other must die. This is a game where nobody wins… What would you do? Would you be killed, or be a killer?
“People can act badly when they don’t know how to react to something. That’s true for everyone, but men in particular can very quickly find themselves in places they don’t want to be.”
Set to be released on 21st January 2021, The Survivors by Jane Harper is set in Evelyn Bay, a small coastal community in Tasmania, and sees Kieran Elliott returns to his home town with his young family. Twelve years ago, his life changed forever when a reckless mistake led to devastating consequences, resulting in the death of his brother, Finn. Now, the guilt that still haunts him and his parents are struggling in a town where fortunes are forged by the sea. Then when a body is discovered on the beach, long-held secrets threaten to emerge. A sunken wreck, a missing girl, and questions that have never washed away…
“The truth, however ugly in itself, is always curious and beautiful to seekers after it.”
Originally published in 1926 and the fourth instalment in the Hercule Poirot series, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie is narrated by the local doctor, Dr James Sheppard, who finds his friend dead after an evening meal together. But Roger Ackroyd knew too much. He knew that the woman he loved had poisoned her brutal first husband. He suspected also that someone had been blackmailing her. Then, the evening post brought Roger one last fatal scrap of information. But before he could finish reading the letter, he was stabbed to death. Luckily, King’s Abbot has a new resident – none other than Monsieur Hercule Poirot himself – who enlists Sheppard’s help to find out who’s behind the murder of Roger Ackroyd.
“Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One perfect crime.”
Set to be released next month, The Last Resort by Susi Holliday follows seven strangers who are invited to an all-expenses-paid retreat on a private island, a mysterious offer that sounds too good to refuse. Once there, the strangers are told that they’re here to test a brand-new product for Timeo Technologies. But the guests’ excitement soon turns to terror when the real reason for their summons becomes clear. Each guest has a guilty secret. And when they’re all forced to wear a memory-tracking device that reveals their dark and shameful deeds to their fellow guests, there’s no hiding from the past. This is no luxury retreat–it’s a trap they can’t get out of.
“She said she’d never leave me but she did. She said she’d never love anyone as much as she loved me. She said I was her everything. She said a lot of things and none of them were true. She’s dead. And she’s a liar.”
Set to be released on 21st January 2021, The Island sees CL Taylor welcome you to The Island – a secluded paradise in Thailand, where your worst fears are about to come true. It was supposed to be the perfect holiday: a week-long trip for six teenage friends on a remote tropical island. But when their guide dies of a stroke leaving them stranded, the trip of a lifetime quickly turns into a nightmare. Someone on the island knows each of the group’s worst fears. And one by one, they’re coming true. Who will make it off the island alive?
“Don’t close your eyes. Don’t fall asleep. Don’t let them in.”
Set to be released on 10th December, Sleepless by Louise Mumford follows insomniac Thea. She hasn’t slept more than three hours a night for years, so when an ad for a sleep trial that promises to change her life pops up on her phone, Thea knows this is her last chance at finding any kind of normal life. Soon, Thea’s sleeping for longer than she has in a decade, so much so that she’s willing to overlook the oddities of the trial – the lack of any phone signal; the way she can’t leave her bedroom without permission; the fact that all her personal possessions are locked away, even her shoes. But it soon becomes clear that the trial doesn’t just want to help Thea sleep. It wants to control her sleep.
“Everyone’s welcome. But not everyone leaves…”
Due to be released on 10th December, The Open House by Sam Carrington follows Amber Miller who, after separating from her husband, Nick, is trying to sell their family home. But despite the desirable location, the house isn’t moving. Not a single viewing so far. When their estate agent suggests an open house event, Amber agrees, even though she’s worried about their gossiping neighbours attending and snooping around their home. But Amber has more to worry about than nosy neighbours, because thirteen people enter her house that afternoon, and only twelve leave.
“Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close?”
Published in 2019, The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley follows a group of thirty-something friends who take a trip to an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands to get away and celebrate entering into the New Year together. It’s been ten years since they went to Oxford together, but once the first bottle of champagne pops, it’s like nothing’s changed. That is until the reminiscences about the past in front of a crackling fire open up the weight of decade-old secrets and resentments. Just as a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world, the cord holding the group together snaps amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve. Now, one of them is dead, and another of them did it.
“Even from a distance, I can see the unmoving body on the bank of the stream. The shape is out of the water, though a red coat burns brightly against the green and brown backdrop of Daisy Field.”
Set to be published on 17th November, What My Husband Did by Kerry Wilkinson sees Maddy return home one chilly winter evening, expecting to find her handsome husband, Richard, waiting for her by the fire. Usually, he comes straight back from work. But tonight, there’s no sign of him. Then, there’s a knock at the door. A 12-year-old-girl from the village has been found unconscious in the field behind Maddy’s house. They say that she was last seen getting into Richard’s car. Revealing a dark secret about Richard’s first wife could prove his innocence, but telling the truth could tear their lives apart for good. Is everyone right? Is her husband on the run?
“If ever the hall was ready for the first move of a grand jeu, it’s now: midnight, silence, this geometry of light. Someone else would know hot to play, how to begin. But tonight, there is only the Rat.”
Set to be released on 12th November, The Betrayals by Bridget Collins is set at Montverre, an exclusive academy tucked away in the mountains where the best and brightest are trained for excellence in the grand jeu: an arcane and mysterious contest. Léo Martin was once a student there, but lost his passion for the grand jeu following a violent tragedy. Now he returns in disgrace, exiled to his old place of learning with his political career in tatters. Montverre has changed since he studied there, even allowing a woman, Claire Dryden, to serve in the grand jeu’s highest office of Magister Ludi. When Léo first sees Claire he senses an odd connection with her, though he’s sure they have never met before. Both Léo and Claire have built their lives on lies. And as the legendary Midsummer Game, the climax of the year, draws closer, secrets are whispering in the walls…
“Told well, a movie can serve as a warning of the dangers that serial killers and mass murderers pose to us all.”
Due to be published on 12th November, Serial Killers At The Movies: My Intimate Talks With Mass Murderers Who Became Stars Of The Big Screen is a non-fiction book by Christopher Berry-Dee that follows the depraved crimes of both real and imagined serial killers and mass murderers who have long transfixed us on the big screen. Films such as Silence of the Lambs, Psycho and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer have not only reached huge audiences, but also allowed us into the minds of society’s most disturbed individuals. Dee tells the stories of the mass murderers who provided the inspiration for some of cinema’s most shocking films, through far-ranging and disturbing interviews with the serial killers whose wicked stories have most thrilled and fascinated us at the movies.
“This is an invitiation. My sister’s killer wants to play a game, so… game on.”
Set to be released on 11th November and written by Roger Stelljes, Silenced Girls follows FBI Special Agent Tori Hunter who returns to her hometown of Manchester, Minnesota for the first time in twenty years after receiving an anonymous letter. Tori moved far away to try and forget her past–the disappearance of her twin sister. Packing away the evidence to the unsolved crime, Tori sealed away this time in her life that she desperately wanted to go back and change. That was until a mysterious letter arrived from someone proclaiming to be her sister’s killer and admitting to acting again. Now, Tori must confront her own painful past, determined to help find another missing woman from Manchester Bay in hopes of it leading to answers about her sister. As she must question the motives of friends she thought she knew and trusted, the new case will plunge her and the other detectives into the crosshairs of a dangerous killer while in search of the truth.
On my Letterboxd account this month I have partaken in the film challenge, 31 Days of Horror. This month, I watched a horror film every day in celebration of Halloween.
Here’s a list of what films I watched this year: