Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

I Let You Go – Clare Mackintosh

Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction
5*s

Wow, April is turning out to be a great month for reading! I Let You Go has such a fresh feel it could have been hung on a line to dry in the spring sunshine. This is a book that defies my (very) simple genre split, feeling part psychological thriller and part police procedural which apart from making me pause to check I was still reading the same book on my kindle the first time the switch happened, works exceptionally well.

The book opens with a police investigation into the death of five-year-old Jacob who was killed by a hit-and-run driver capably led by the principled Detective Inspector Ray Stevens, his Detective Sergeant Jake Owen, better known as Stumpy and the new addition to the team, the eager Kate. The team are soon given some extra resources as the media and the top brass heap pressure on the team to find the culprit.

We then meet Jenna who following the accident has retreated from life and she’s taken herself just about as far off the beaten track as she can to a small cottage in Wales where she takes time to heal away from the memories taking one small box of precious items that she simply couldn’t part with.

The pacing of this book is fantastic as the switching between viewpoints as the police become more dispirited while Jenna slowly begins to heal, keeps the momentum going and had me longing to know how the story was going to play out. All I can say is although I identified some aspects I couldn’t predict more than a couple of pages ahead of me at any point, especially when the book moves to the second half, by which time it was impossible to put the book aside for anything or anyone.

The characters are extremely well-drawn and realistic and for those readers who need to identify with their protagonists Jenna whilst damaged, is extremely likable, the police for the most-part agreeable a crew that you would happily sit down and have a chat with. In the newer traditions of police procedurals we get to know Ray through his home-life as well as the investigation and see him balancing the job with the demands of family life with his wife Mags left to run things while he works long hours. It was no surprise when I read up on the author to find that she had worked in CID for twelve years, as the small touches can only ever have come from someone who has lived the life.

In Wales we also meet some brilliant characters with the locals cautiously welcoming Jenna from Iestyn whose cottage she rents to the woman who runs the local grocery store and Beth Morgan owner of the caravan park, empty due to it being out of season, who takes the newcomer under her wing and is one of life’s nice people, are all well-rounded and life-like characters. There is even a bit of romance thrown in. This leads me to one of the reasons this book works so well, there is plenty of detail which is written into the story-line naturally so that I was kept constantly interested in what was going on. Refreshingly, this is a book that is far from formulaic but doesn’t rely on style to get it noticed, it doesn’t need to the talent is obvious from the tragic opening until the very last page.

I’d like to say an enormous thank you to Little Brown Book Group UK for not only publishing this excellent debut novel but allowing me to read a copy ahead of publication on 23 April 2015.

Posted in Weekly Posts

Stacking The Shelves (April 18)

Stacking the shelves

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you’re adding to your shelves, be it buying or borrowing. From ‘real’ books you’ve purchased, a book you’ve borrowed, a book you’ve been given or an e-book they can all be shared!

This week I have a copy of The Sudden Departure of the Frasers by Louise Candlish from Lovereading for review purposes.

The Sudden Departrure of the Frasers

Blurb

Welcome to Lime Park Road. A picture-perfect street with a secret at its heart.
When Joe and Christy Davenport step behind the Oxford Blue painted door of their ‘for ever’ home, they believe their dreams have come true.
Yet the boxes aren’t even unpacked before a series of events leads Christy to become obsessed with the previous occupant, the glamorous, enigmatic Amber Fraser, whose departure from Lime Park Road is shrouded in mystery.
What happened to her? And why are Joe and Christy’s attempts at friendship with neighbours met with an unnerving silence?
As Christy unravels the shocking truth about the Frasers and the place she now calls home, she discovers that behind the closed doors of even the most desirable postcodes, terrible secrets lurk. Goodreads

The Sudden Departure of the Frasers is due to be published on 21 May 2015

I treated myself to a copy of a book I’ve had my eye of for some time, Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime by Val McDermid

Forensics

Blurb

The dead talk. To the right listener, they tell us all about themselves: where they came from, how they lived, how they died – and who killed them. Forensic scientists can unlock the mysteries of the past and help justice to be done using the messages left by a corpse, a crime scene or the faintest of human traces.
Forensics draws on interviews with top-level professionals, ground-breaking research and Val McDermid’s own experience to lay bare the secrets of this fascinating science. And, along the way, she wonders at how maggots collected from a corpse can help determine time of death, how a DNA trace a millionth the size of a grain of salt can be used to convict a killer and how a team of young Argentine scientists led by a maverick American anthropologist uncovered the victims of a genocide.
In her novels, McDermid has been solving complex crimes and confronting unimaginable evil for years. Now, she’s looking at the people who do it for real. It’s a journey that will take her to war zones, fire scenes and autopsy suites, and bring her into contact with extraordinary bravery and wickedness, as she traces the history of forensics from its earliest beginnings to the cutting-edge science of the modern day. Goodreads

And lastly NetGalley or rather the publishers, Random House UK, came good and approved me for a copy of Little Black Lies by one of my favourite authors, Sharon Bolton.

Little Black Lies

Blurb

What’s the worst thing your best friend could do to you?
Admittedly, it wasn’t murder. A moment’s carelessness, a tragic accident – and two children are dead. Yours.
Living in a small island community, you can’t escape the woman who destroyed your life. Each chance encounter is an agonizing reminder of what you’ve lost – your family, your future, your sanity.
How long before revenge becomes irresistible?
With no reason to go on living, why shouldn’t you turn your darkest thoughts into deeds? NetGalley

Little Black Lies is due to be published on 2 July 2015

Any of these take your fancy? What have you found to read this week? Please do share in the comments below

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Lie – C.L. Taylor

Psychological Thriller 4*'s
Psychological Thriller
4*’s

C.L. Taylor has chosen one of the most the under-represented relationships to feature in psychological thrillers for The Lie which features friendship. When Al breaks up with Simone she is distraught and takes to stalking her and her new partner on facebook and in real life. Her three closest friends from their days at Newcastle university; Emma, Daisy and Leanne decide that action is needed and hit on a holiday to a retreat in Nepal where there is no internet, to help Al break the cycle and learn to let her failed relationship go.

In the present day we meet Emma Woolfe who has moved to Wales and works in an animal sanctuary, has a fledgling relationship with a teacher and is happier than she has ever been, but for some reason she is no longer Emma, she now goes by the name of Jane Hughes. Worse still an anonymous letter alerts her that someone has tracked her down. And so the questions begin; What happened on the holiday? What is she trying to conceal? And who is trying to expose Jane?

Told in alternating scenes from five years previously on the trip and in the present day the author maintains the tension exceptionally well. This book works so well as an expose of the unsavoury side of female friendships without the accompanying mystery that it makes for quite uncomfortable reading at times. I certainly recognised some of the individuals although the author stops well short of creating stereotypical characters. With the cracks in their friendship already present before the trip, the author perfectly captures how allegiances are formed to serve ulterior motives and in this tale each member of the group did their best not to be excluded from the pack, probably a wise move in a setting where the rules of normal life had been swept away and substituted for those of a new age cult.

There is also a good sense of place with the descriptions of Nepal beautiful and evocative so that I could imagine the scenery although I wouldn’t have been too keen on the trek to the Ektanta yatra retreat. During that scene I could almost feel my muscles burning as the group followed their guide up the rough path and equally could visualise their relief when they were welcomed with a cup of chai.

I am a huge fan of psychological thrillers and in this crowded genre it is great to find something that stands apart from the crowd, The Lie does exactly that from the unusual setting to the relationships being put under the microscope. That accompanied with the excellent pace which has tension ratcheting up in both the past and the present, this is a great addition to the genre.

I’d like to thank the publishers Harper Collins UK for allowing me to read this great book which will be published on 23 April 2015. If you can’t wait that long you could always get yourself a copy of the author’s debut The Accident which I also highly recommend.

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

How I Lost You – Jenny Blackhurst

Psychological Thriller 4*'s
Psychological Thriller
4*’s

I love a good psychological thrillers and the ones I enjoy the most have characters in a situation which if I’ve not been in, I can easily imagine – How I Lost You is not one of those. The main protagonist is Susan Webster who has spent time in a psychiatric hospital accused of the murder of her son whilst in the grip of post puerperal psychosis. Now by sheer coincidence this is the second book I’ve read this month featuring this condition but I’m glad to say that didn’t really help me to put myself in Susan’s shoes.

Susan leaves hospital knowing no-one except her former roommate, the feisty Cassie, and moves to a small town as Emma Cartwright. She sets up home still not able to remember what happened on the night Dylan, her son died, and volunteers at a local shelter alongside Cassie. Unable to disclose her secret she struggles to really connect with anyone she meets. One morning she receives a photo of a young boy that had writing on the back suggesting that Dylan may still be alive and she struggles between fearing she’s losing her mind or that Dylan is really alive. Secondly she has to worry about who knows who she really is? The only people who know the truth is her probation officer and Cassie.

This is a psychological thriller that in order to enjoy it, you have to go with the flow, and after being slightly irritated at the start with the stilted monologues (never a good idea) where she does the endless struggling as mentioned above, as further clues begin to appear I was able to put these aside and enjoy the book for what it was. Whether that was because the experience Susan is so far outside what I know that I was able to accept her decisions without scoffing at the somewhat obvious stupidity at times, or because of the pace of the book, I’m not sure. What I do know was that I had to know what happened, especially as the excerpts written about a group of schoolboys in the early 1990s which didn’t appear to be connected to the story in any way whatsoever but slowly the strands come together.

Once the background has been laid the pace of the book really picks up and following the entrance of the journalist Nick who seems eager to help Susan to find out what really happened to Dylan, and unusually not for the purposes of a great story on a child-killer, there is plenty of action as they visit those characters who attended her trial. What they find is a mystery more complex than they or certainly I, ever imagined.

There is a mixture of characters from the crazy to the downright bad and few who are genuinely nice people but it is precisely this unconventional spread that is necessary for the tale being told and the maintenance of the tension because you simply don’t know what dramatic event will be around the corner.

A must-read for lovers of psychological thrillers who are in the mood to enjoy a well-told tale and take it at face value.

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this book from the publishers Headline who gave me a copy of this book for review purposes. How I Lost You will be published on 23 April 2015.

 

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week In Books (April 15)

This Week In Books

Hosted by Lypsyy Lost & Found my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I am reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words

I am currently reading The Lie by C.L. Taylor as I enjoyed her first psychological Thriller,The Accident, last year.

The Lie

You can read the blurb and opening paragraph in yesterday’s post.

I have just finished How I Lost You by Jenny Blackhurst

How I Lost You

Blurb

They told her she killed her son. She served her time. But what if they lied?
I have no memory of what happened but I was told I killed my son. And you believe what your loved ones, your doctor and the police tell you, don’t you?
My name is Emma Cartwright. Three years ago I was Susan Webster, and I murdered my twelve-week-old son Dylan. I was sent to Oakdale Psychiatric Institute for my crime, and four weeks ago I was released early on parole with a new identity, address and a chance to rebuild my shattered life.
This morning, I received an envelope addressed to Susan Webster. Inside it was a photograph of a toddler called Dylan. Now I am questioning everything I believe because if I have no memory of the event, how can I truly believe he’s dead?
If there was the smallest chance your son was alive, what would you do to get him back? NetGalley

My review will follow soon

Next I plan to read I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

I Let You Go

Blurb

A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn’t have prevented it. Could she?
In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world is shattered. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape her past, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of the cruel November night that changed her life for ever.
DI Ray Stevens is tasked with seeking justice for a mother who is living every parent’s worst nightmare. Determined to get to the bottom of the case, it begins to consume him as he puts both his professional and personal life on the line.
As Ray and his team seek to uncover the truth, Jenna, slowly, begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating . . . Goodreads

What are you reading this week? Please share in the comments box below.

See what I’ve been reading in 2015 here

Posted in Weekly Posts

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (April 14)

First Chapter

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

My intro this week is from The Lie by C.L. Taylor

The Lie

Blurb

I know your name’s not really Jane Hughes . . .
Jane Hughes has a loving partner, a job in an animal sanctuary and a tiny cottage in rural Wales. She’s happier than she’s ever been but her life is a lie. Jane Hughes does not really exist.
Five years earlier Jane and her then best friends went on holiday but what should have been the trip of a lifetime rapidly descended into a nightmare that claimed the lives of two of the women.
Jane has tried to put the past behind her but someone knows the truth about what happened. Someone who won’t stop until they’ve destroyed Jane and everything she loves. NetGalley

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro

Present Day

I know he’s trouble before he even sets foot in the building. I can tell by the way he slams the door of his 4×4
and storms across the car park without waiting to see if his short, bespectacled wife is following him. When he reaches the glass double doors to reception, I avert my gaze back to my computer screen. It’s best to avoid direct contact with an aggressor. When you spend twelve hours a day with dangerous animals, you learn a lot about confrontation, fear and hostility – and not just in relation to dogs.

Do you want to know more? Would you keep reading?

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

No Other Darkness – Sarah Hilary

Crime Fiction  5*'s
Crime Fiction
5*’s

One of the things, and there were many, that I loved about Sarah Hilary’s debut novel was it took a fairly common issue and went far beyond the obvious whilst simultaneously giving the reader a complex and well-written crime mystery to explore. No Other Darkness is no different although the issue chosen is not as common-place as domestic violence it isn’t so rare to be unheard of.

The mystery starts with the bodies of two young boys found buried in a bunker in a garden by the owner of the house, a father of two young boys and it isn’t long before DI Marnie Rome and DS Noah Jakes are called to take a look. This is a harrowing story line made more so because we are given a view of the boys last days from the viewpoint of the eldest boy. The detective’s first job is to find out who the boys were and then how they came to be placed in the bunker and by whom The investigation is led by Marnie with her team including DS Ron Carling who is more office based as he looks for leads starting with Missing Persons and the expert help from Fran the pathologist who looks at soil samples and the like.

As in Someone Else’s Skin the author skilfully gives the reader all the clues but allows enough gaps for the wrong conclusion to be reached, time and again as no sooner was one of my theories disproved there was another incorrect assumption to be made. In addition to her other skills this author sets the pace just right, with some contemplative investigation which ends up with an edge-of-your seat action packed finale.

I am a lover of series as I do like the mix of a story arc and current investigation and Sarah Hilary keeps the balance just right with the character’s lives adding to the story with the reader given more information about Marnie Rome’s traumatic background. Noah’s character is also developed and we learn more about his background too and his brother Sol but these strands of the characters’ lives are used to add shades to the story rather than overshadowing it or giving information that has no connection to the case in hand. For once we have a couple of detectives (and a team) which are admirable, there are few of the politics that tend to dominate this genre and despite her background Marnie Rome’s past only serves to underline how ‘normal’ she is for this genre, yes bad things have happened but she is still a compassionate detective who doesn’t allow the past to overshadow her current investigation although she is aware of any comparisons.

If you too are looking for something more in-depth than a simple police procedural then this series is well-worth following and whilst I think this book could easily be read as a stand-alone, you would be seriously missing out if you don’t start at the beginning. I’d like to say a huge thank you to Sarah Hilary who sent me a copy of this book which I had to hide out of sight in a cupboard so that I could read and review it close to the publication date of 23 April 2015.

Sarah Hilary lives in Bath with her daughter, where she writes quirky copy for a well-loved travel publisher. She’s also worked as a bookseller, and with the Royal Navy. An award-winning short story writer, Sarah won the Cheshire Prize for Literature in 2012. Her debut novel SOMEONE ELSE’S SKIN has been selected as a Richard & Judy Autumn 2014 Book Club pick.

Posted in Weekly Posts

Stacking The Shelves (April 11)

Stacking the shelves

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you’re adding to your shelves, be it buying or borrowing. From ‘real’ books you’ve purchased, a book you’ve borrowed, a book you’ve been given or an e-book they can all be shared!

From good old NetGalley I have Redemption Road by Lisa Ballantyne whose first novel The Guilty One was definitely a five star read for me.

Redemption Road

Blurb

The crash is the unravelling of Margaret Holloway. Trapped inside a car about to explode, she is rescued by a scarred stranger who then disappears. Margaret remembers little, but she’s spent her life remembering little – her childhood is full of holes and forgotten memories. Now she has a burning desire to discover who she is and why her life has been shrouded in secrets. What really happened to her when she was a child? Could it have anything to do with the mysterious man who saved her life?
Flitting effortlessly between past and present, this is a suspenseful, gritty and emotionally charged journey of an estranged father and daughter, exploring the strength of family ties and our huge capacity for forgiveness. NetGalley

Redemption Road is due for publication on 1 July 2015

From Bookbridgr I have a copy of The Lost Art Of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice

Lost Art of Keeping Secrets

Blurb

Set in the 1950s, in an England still recovering from the Second World War, this is the enchanting story of Penelope Wallace and her eccentric family at the start of the rock’n’roll era.
Penelope longs to be grown-up and to fall in love, but various rather inconvenient things keep getting in her way. Like her mother, a stunning but petulant beauty widowed at a tragically early age, her younger brother Inigo, currently incapable of concentrating on anything that isn’t Elvis Presley, a vast but crumbling ancestral home, a severe shortage of cash, and her best friend Charlotte’s sardonic cousin Harry… Bookbridgr

The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets is also due for publication on 1 July 2015

From Amazon Vine I have a copy of What She Left by T.R. Richmond

What She Left

Blurb

Who is Alice Salmon? Student. Journalist. Daughter. Lover of late nights, hater of deadlines.
That girl who drowned last year.
Gone doesn’t mean forgotten.
Everyone’s life leaves a trace behind.
But it’s never the whole story.
“I will stand up and ask myself who I am. I do that a lot. I’ll look in the mirror. Reassure myself, scare myself, like myself, hate myself. My name is Alice Salmon.”
When Alice Salmon died last year, the ripples from her tragic drowning could be felt in the news, on the internet, and in the hearts of those closest to her. However, the man who knows her best isn’t family or a friend. His name is Professor Jeremy Cooke, an academic fixated on piecing together Alice’s existence. Cooke knows that faithfully recreating Alice, through her diaries, text messages, and online presence, has become all-consuming. But he does not know how deep his search will take him into this shocking story of love, loss and obsession where everyone – including himself – has something to hide . . . Amazon

And finally I have courtesy of Daniel Pembrey whose book Harbour Master I recently reviewed has sent me a copy of The Candidate.

The Candidate

Blurb

WHEN HEADHUNTER BECOMES THE HUNTED: Nick Thorneycroft is a British headhunter working in Luxembourg. His company asks him to recruit a high-flying executive for the company’s Russian business. The best candidate turns out to be smart, beautiful… and mysterious. Soon the effects of Russia’s political upheaval, and the arrival of an ex-girlfriend who won’t leave him alone, make Nick’s Luxembourg life increasingly perilous; worlds collide in this gripping, atmospheric tale. Goodreads

Any of these take your fancy? What have you found to read this week? Please do share in the comments below

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Death in the Rainy Season – Anna Jaquiery

Crime Fiction 4*'s
Crime Fiction
4*’s

This is the second book to feature Commandant Serge Morel, the first being The Lying-Down Room, which I haven’t read, fortunately that didn’t seem to matter with this book working perfectly well as a stand-alone read.

At the start of the story Serge Morel is on holiday in Cambodia from his native Paris when Hugo Quercy, a French national is murdered in a hotel room in Phnom Penh. Morel’s asked to stop his holiday and help the local police in Phnom Penh with their investigation but not only that he needs to ensure that everything is kept quiet to ensure that the murder won’t embarrass Hugo Quercy’s very important uncle. Morel does as he is bid and slowly the possible motives for murder are exposed. Hugo Quercy was admired by many in his role at Kids at Risk but he also had ruffled a few feathers and as Morel digs deeper he finds out that not everyone admired this charismatic man.

The beauty of this book, apart from the evocative sense of place which Anna Jaquieury brings to life for those of us sat in far colder climes, is the number of layers to the story. As well as the beauty of Cambodia we are introduced to policing that is entirely different to what we are familiar with, an experience shared by Morel, worse still the local police are working to their own agenda and certainly don’t want to be involved if the murder will implicate a local which will displease their government. Yes this book isn’t afraid to tackle the political elements in both Cambodia and France then there is the emotional fall-out and ripples that are the inevitable consequence of a brutal murder. The author doesn’t rush the information but slowly takes the reader through the uncovering of the motives as the secrets and lies come slithering rather than tumbling out. As unusual as this style felt for this genre, I appreciated a book that let me take the time to consider the implications of the murder on so many different levels.

Even better the various elements all came to a satisfactory conclusion that seemed entirely plausible given the information gathered earlier in the book. I will definitely be seeking out the first book in this series and looking out for the next.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Mantle for sending me a copy of this book for review purposes, I’m glad to have met Morel and have the opportunity to visualise life in Cambodia.

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Normal – Graeme Cameron

Crime Fiction 4*s
Crime Fiction
4*s

Written in the poorest possible taste Normal follows the life of an unnamed serial killer as he hunts and brings down his prey. Don’t read this book unless you have a black sense of humour, which I fully admit to possessing but even despite this there were parts of this book that had me wincing.

I must confess I’ve read lots of books about serial killers, watched the entire eight seasons of Dexter so consider myself saturated in the horror and in some ways this book read like a pastiche of all these elements. Enter the super-intelligent, forensically aware killer outwitting the local police with his finely honed skills. We are given the barest whiff of an unhappy childhood that has accentuated his lack of compassion for his fellow human-beings although this reader suspects the seeds were already sown and then the killer finds someone who makes him feel things he has never felt before.

The enjoyment of this book is down to the humour which when directed towards the less-gruesome parts of the plot had me chuckling out loud:

It was with trepidation, then, that after a long afternoon on the road I found myself in something called “New Look”, uncomfortably unsure of what I was looking for and, indeed, at…

…The Staff was no help – two girls of around school-leaving age, preoccupied with inspecting their nails. They were big on teamwork where the customers were concerned; it took one of them to ring up each sale, and the other to fold and bag the merchandise. A single trained chimpanzee would perhaps have been more cost-effective. Needless to say, neither saw fit to offer me assistance, and I was left alone in my bewilderment.

“Like I said,” somewhat less convincingly,” I’m not going to do anything you wouldn’t approve of.” It was probably a lie, but on the other hand, I knew Annie only marginally better than she knew me, so there was always a chance that she was perfectly open-minded. One can always hope.

However I was far more disconcerted by the humour that appeared when our narrator was stalking women or deciding what to do about his latest catch, for me it felt like a step (or two) too far. To be fair there isn’t too much gruesome violence although this is far from a tame book, the author’s intention appears to be to push the reader far outside their comfort zone whilst simultaneously providing entertainment, for me this worked for the most part but did leave me feeling a little uncomfortable. To keep the story moving the author allows us to see our killer at his most vulnerable as he starts to develop feelings for a woman, this in turn causes him to see the futility of his lifestyle and he, almost, wants to change but will life conspire against him?

With an open-ended finale I wonder whether this may spawn a sequel which to be honest I will just have to read or perhaps it will be made into a TV drama?

I’d like to say a big thank the publishers Mira who sent me a copy of this unique book for review purposes. Having finished this book I find that Graeme Cameron’s sense of humour extends to his amazon profile which states that he has never worked as a police detective, ER doctor, crime reporter or forensic anthropologist, so now you know!