Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2017

Take Two Shorts

Today I am sharing two mini-reviews of short stories. Of course just because a book is short doesn’t mean it has anything in common with another, but linking both of these are examples of how crime fiction can be used very effectively to make readers think about contemporary issues.

Short Story
4*s

Promises to Keep – Elizabeth Haynes

This short story is part of the author’s DCI Louisa Smith series sitting between her first book Under a Silent Moon and the second, Behind Closed Doors. As with many authors who decide to write a short story there is an issue at the heart, in this instance, child migrants.

Jo is on sick leave from her job as a custody sergeant troubled by the death of Mohammed, a young child migrant whilst in her care. Her partner DS Sam Holland is concerned and worried about her and the relationship is floundering. Jo runs daily through woods where child migrants meet and through her eyes the author presents us with a story that challenges and informs on our perceptions of this issue.

The writing is superb and although this story is very short, coming in at about 40 pages, the author manages to look at both the main issue and the pressures on their relationship which provides for an engaging read that makes you think.

Promises to Keep  was my twenty-ninth read for my Mount TBR challenge having been purchased in February 2014.

mount-tbr-2017

 

 

First Published UK: 24 February 2014
Publisher: Sphere
No. of Pages:  41
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Left For Dead – Jane Casey

 

Short Story
4*s

I have read the entire series of Maeve Kerrigan and this book sits before them all, featuring Maeve Kerrigan as a very young detective not long out of training school. Jane Casey has also decided to put an issue at the heart of her short story, this time the issue is domestic abuse starting with the shocking statement.

Two women died every week in the UK at the hands of a partner or ex-partner. On average, women endured thirty-five incidents of domestic abuse before contacting the police.

And then I showed up the thirty-sixth time and stumbled through my arguments for why the victim should trust us. As if we could save them.

This is a fast-paced story which takes us through a typical night with Maeve partnered by an older an experienced police officer. Whilst he is paternalistic he isn’t going to tell Maeve how to behave as she finds her feet with her colleagues battling sexism and what I would term as plain bad behaviour by some of her fellow officers.

The crime at the heart of this book is a shocking one, not for the faint-hearted, and one that gives Maeve an opportunity to demonstrate some of her fantastic observational skills that become apparent throughout this brilliant series.

As this book was more than double the length of Elizabeth Haynes it undoubtedly felt more in-depth and from my perspective makes for a great introduction into the series. As a seasoned and devotee to Maeve Kerrigan this was a chance to remind myself how much I enjoy the character whilst awaiting the next book in the series.

Left for Dead was my thirtieth read in my Mount TBR Challenge 2017, having been purchased in October 2013.

mount-tbr-2017

 

 

First Published UK: 25 July 2013
Publisher: Ebury Digital
No of Pages:  110
Genre: Crime Fiction 
Amazon UK

The Maeve Kerrigan Series in Order

The Burning
The Reckoning
The Last Girl
The Stranger You Know
The Kill
After The Fire
Let the Dead Speak

 

 

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

Sunday Morning Coming Down – Nicci French

Crime Fiction
5*s

Well I’ve been an avid follower of this series since Blue Monday which was published back in 2012 and thought that this might be the last in the series but I’m pleased to report that we have on more book to go – Day of the Dead will be published in July 2018.

Frieda Klein is in a pensive mood from the off in this novel, probably not helped by the fact that a body has been found under the floorboards in her cottage. Not some random body but an ex-policeman who Frieda had employed. Despite the extreme provocation Frieda, as usual, doesn’t behave the way she is expected to. She is calm under the provocation of yet another message being sent to her by the man she believes has stalked her over the years Dean Reeve. As the police crowd in her friend DCI Karlsson currently on leave due to a broken leg turns up at the behest of the woman in charge of the investigation, Petra Burge.

Out of all the novels in this series this has the fastest pace, unsurprisingly given the opening, and we see far less of Frieda carrying out her work as a psychotherapist as she is consumed by trying to keep her friends safe from an unseen source. There is various moving around of the cast of friends that Frieda has amassed over the series; for someone who is supposedly such a difficult woman, she commands a hell of a lot of loyalty. As people move from one house to another shoring up their defences as the unlucky ones get all manner of payback for being her friend or associate, we see this wonderful bunch (well minus Olivia who needs a reality check, and fast) in action. I know they are fictional but the characters are friends and even outside the mayhem that surrounds Frieda they have their own issues which are far from small.

The plotting is amazing with a number of strands to follow although the police have little choice but to follow Frieda’s guidance, they also lay down some conditions of their own so Frieda has to co-operate with the media. Not the outcome a lady who values her privacy so highly would want but it illustrates perfectly that the loyalty shown to her by her friends is justified. I really don’t know how this duo turn out such complicated, yet immensely readable books. In some of the earlier books I tried to guess whether Nicci or Sean had penned various scenes, this book gave me no time to wonder on such things as I was so wrapped up in the action, but however they do it, the finished item is superb. Not for these authors warping the characters, the only one who has significantly changed along the way is Chloe and that is completely expected since she has grown into a young woman and fortunately doesn’t have to deal with the unhinged Olivia on a daily basis any longer – did I mention, I don’t rate Olivia as a character although it’s good to have someone like this in the mix, after all we all have someone who has to be tolerated as they can’t possibly be loved!

To say I’m excited about the release of book eight, Day of the Dead, the finale is a complete understatement but I really don’t know how the authors are going to top this one in terms of excitement or even if I’m going to survive saying goodbye to my fictional friends.

I’d like to say thank you to Penguin UK who allowed me to read a review copy of Sunday Morning Coming Down and thank you to Nicci French for keeping me thoroughly entertained. This unbiased review is my thanks to them all.

First Published UK: 13 July 2017
Publisher: Penguin
No of Pages: 416
Genre: Crime Fiction Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Previous Books by Nicci French featuring Frieda Klein

Blue Monday
Tuesday’s Gone
Waiting For Wednesday
Thursday’s Child
Friday On My Mind
Saturday Requiem 

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

Anything You Do Say – Gillian McAllister

Psychological Thriller
5*s

Around this time of year I start to consider my Top Ten Books Published in 2017 along with many other bloggers, this year the list has been thrown into disarray with so many late entrants, including this novel. Anything You Do Say encompasses so many of the aspects that I enjoy: a moral dilemma, ‘sliding doors’ scenario, great characters who behave realistically and superb plotting all coming together to give a fresh feel despite the elements appearing in other novels.

Two friends meet for their regular Friday night out at a bar in London and meet a man who is slightly too pushy, deciding to leave they part ways and Joanna walks home taking the route by the canal when she hears someone following her. Now ladies, we’ve all been there – unable to tell whether the threat running through your head is real or imagined. What happens next will change Joanna’s life forever.

What do you do, I find myself thinking, when you think somebody is following you down a deserted strip of canal? When you could become a statistic, a news piece, a tragedy? Nothing. That’s the answer. You carry on. You hope.

Of course the title are known to all of us although I hope few of us have had them directed towards us:

The words are familiar, but it takes me a moment to place them. It’s not a hymn or a song lyric or a phrase. No. It’s a caution. The caution.

Joanna is a great character, you probably know someone like her. She works on the mobile library while she decides what she wants to do with her life. She avoids the nastier aspects of life by ignoring them; bills, decisions, babies are all put in a box to be dealt with later… or never. Her friend, Laura, has plans, big ones, she wants to be an artist and is far surer of herself by far than Joanna, not uncommon in a friendship pairing. In both scenarios that are presented following the late night encounter we see not only what the consequences of her decision has on Joanna but Laura and her partner Rueben and brother Wilf too but also Laura’s partner Jonty in a perfect example of the ripple effect.

With sparkling dialogue which is entertaining yet realistic I was drawn into the story before I’d finished the first page. I loved the friends, that pre-Christmas setting with Christmas trees sparkling inside the houses that Joanna passes as she walks home at the opening of the book is followed up with the changing seasons as we follow the two different outcomes of that night.

As much as I enjoy books with the ‘sliding doors’ aspect I won’t lie, it can sometimes be complicated keeping the two strands straight in your mind. Fear not, Gillian McAllister has a clear system for marking the two stories by using a heading and since the stories diverge from the start I didn’t have a moment’s confusion. What I did have, was compassion for Joanna, maybe that says something about my morals, but there was one particular moment when I had my heart in my mouth as things took a drastic turn for the worse and despite actually needing to be doing something else I wasn’t putting the book aside until my heart-rate settled.

I really enjoyed Gillian McAllister’s debut novel Everything But The Truth which I read earlier this year but this novel even surpasses that one. Usually when I read a book that I want my friends to read, I wait until I have posted my review – not this time – I have been urging many of my bookish friends to go get this book, now – especially as it is at an absolutely bargain price at the moment for the kindle. The paperback will be published on 25 January 2018. Whatever format you read, I urge you not to miss out but do beware, once started, you will not want to stop reading!

I am extremely grateful to the publishers Penguin UK who have provided me with a great selection of books this year, including Anything You Do Say, and Gillian McAllister who I sincerely hope is furiously writing another book for me to enjoy, this unbiased yet unashamedly gushing review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 19 October 2017
Publisher:  Penguin
No. of Pages:  400
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US (currently only Audible)

 

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

The Scandal – Fredrik Backman

Crime Fiction
5*s

Is a book more rewarding if you spent the first section wondering whether or not to put it aside for something that doesn’t revolve around a sport that you have no interest in, only to find yourself completely drawn into the both the story and writing style? Whatever the answer, this is definitely one of my favourite reads of the year despite the uncertain start.

At the beginning of the book we hear shots but soon the action switches to a game of ice hockey. Now I wasn’t a fan of the straightforward hockey on proper ground being much smaller than my peers, no good at running and it was freezing cold, doing the same on ice only has peril written all over it as far as I’m concerned. But through the game we get to meet all the inhabitants of Beartown a small town in Sweden whose whole identity seems to be wrapped up in the game. Man, woman or child, if you live in Beartown then the fortune of your dwelling place depends on the success of the various teams ordered by age, if a little muddied by aptitude.

Those shots I mentioned kept me wondering as the action switched from the ice to the town and back again as young boys were ready to make their mark against the opponents whilst others failed in their efforts. Beartown Ice Hockey team are about to play in the semi-finals, and they want to win.

This book is full of diverse characters albeit a set that are united by their love of the game, or what it can mean for Beartown, a town that has been a long time in the decline. We see the board members sponsors, the coach, the General Manager, the fathers, mothers and sisters of the players as well as the team themselves. We even know a great deal about the woman who cleans the ice rink, the changing rooms and the offices for the club. Everyone is involved in some way or another. But the focus of the book isn’t about the game, or not directly, it’s about something that happened after a game and the consequences on all involved.

As I mentioned at the start of this review, I really wasn’t sure that this was a book for me and yet the writing was at pared down yet eloquent, holding so many truths of life that I wished I had read it when I was younger and still had some of the important thoughts that were shared.

Hate is simple. So the first thing that happens in a conflict is that we choose a side, because that’s easier than trying to hold two thoughts in our heads at the same time. The second thing that happens is that we seek out facts that confirm what we want to believe – comforting facts, ones that permit life to go on as normal. The third is that we dehumanise our enemy…

The writing style alone had me convinced, with phrases and messages carried through from one scene to another – when the book got tough, and it does, the stylistic flair kept the momentum going forward while the reader comes to terms with what has been revealed. There are issues galore and normally when I write that in a review I’m not being complimentary because it can feel as if the author is leaping from bandwagon to bandwagon. That isn’t the case with The Scandal where the issues in the book are tightly linked to the players on a personal level. The author hasn’t offered up platitudes or worst case scenarios, instead the author has a nuanced take and provides what I felt was a balanced path, best of all leaving the reader to come to his or her own opinions.

This is a story of friendship between males and females, yes despite the kernel of the action being a boys ice hockey team, there are some females who are also central to the story. It is also the story of those other major relationships of being a parent, a sibling, or a partner, of being loved and loving others. Most of all this is a tale of how loyalties can be divided and sometimes sitting on the fence isn’t an option. It is in fact a remarkable book that had me in tears more than once.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Penguin UK who allowed me to read a copy of The Scandal or Beartown if you are a US reader. This review is my unbiased thanks to them and to Fredrik Backman for a remarkable story which I’d love to tell you more about, but it really does have to be read and admired with little or no idea what you will find within its pages. I suspect readers will take away different messages. I feel that this is a book that we should see on school book lists and book clubs across the world.

First Published UK: 10 August 2017
Publisher:  Penguin
No. of Pages:  432
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Foster Child – Jenny Blackhurst

Psychological Thriller
3*s

This is one very disturbing psychological thriller from a writer who has more than secured her place in my must-read authors with her first two books How I Lost You and Before I Let You In. It is a testament to the writer’s skill that despite the book more than gently touching on supernatural elements, which I normally avoid, that I was able to put this to one side and still enjoy the read, this review should therefore be read with my personal feelings on the subject matter taken into account.

Imogen Reid is moving from private practice as a child psychologist to one who works as part of a social work team who find the resources to support children. Her reasons for leaving aren’t voluntary and as a result the house move and new role do not instantly sit easily with her. One of her first cases is that of Ellie Atkinson, just twelve who lost both her parents and her brother in a fire and is now being fostered by a family with their own daughter and a son who is also fostered.

No sooner have we got some idea about Imogen as she travels to her new role than we meet Ellie in a somewhat bizarre incident full of furious adults. It doesn’t take much longer to realise that Ellie is distrusted by those around her. What I struggled with, as alluded to above is the nature of the distrust but as a story about the behaviour of groups, this is frighteningly accurate and all the more disturbing for that.

There is no let-up in the tension throughout this book, the scenes move at a fast pace with no break at all from incident to incident, scary child to really horrific scenes of bullying from irrational adults to the inadequacies of those who should be helping to actually being able to. As the story raced along my uneasiness about the true nature of the story becoming less entrenched as I began to at least begin to put the pieces of the puzzle the right way up if not managing to make a full picture before the reveal. As might be expected from this author though there were still a few surprises to pull the rug from under my feet.

The scenes in Imogen’s office, especially the lack of technology on the first day, will be familiar to practically anyone who has been in this position and for me it was these scenes that kept me rooted. There are simply so many real truths within the books that I could either relate to or fully believe that the supernatural element became less and less important as the book progressed. The bullying aspect was so well portrayed, some of it far more horrific to read but the endless bubbling of discord amongst Ellie’s peers was an all to accurate picture of how a child, who you would naturally assume is given some sympathy for all she’s been through, is singled out for being different.

I did enjoy the read despite my initial reservations and I’m sure that The Foster Child will be a huge hit with many lovers of psychological thrillers – it is creepy, it is full of tension and it is definitely thrilling.

I’d like to thank the publishers Headline for allowing me to read a copy of The Foster Child which was published for the kindle in September and will be out in paperback on 16 November 2017.

First Published UK: 21 September 2017
Publisher:  Headline 
No. of Pages:  400
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads, Mount TBR 2017

Flowers for the Dead – Barbara Copperthwaite

Crime Fiction
5*s

The beauty of flowers and their language are intertwined with the twisted thoughts of Adam Bourne, serial killer who believes he is the saviour of those he kills. Rarely have a read a book where I felt so torn between sympathy for both the victims and the perpetrator.

This book definitely falls into the grittier end of crime fiction writing, the read is not one for the faint-hearted, even the most hardened reader will be tempted to check their doors after meeting Adam. Adam longs for love but I just want to put it out there – watching women and helping them with their household chores when they don’t know you is not really going to do it for any of the women I know, and sure enough to date it is fair to say Adam has been unlucky in love.

Adam despite not understanding what makes women tick on the most basic of levels, is not a stupid man. He is sharp and using all and any tools available to him to follow the latest woman, always someone who looks like they need love, and then is disappointed when his plan does not quite pan out the way he expected.

There are few scenes I’ve read over the years than Adam’s reasoning for standing outside Covent Garden tube station in London scouting for unhappy women – a station I’ve waited at enough times in my life to bring the scene to life.
Alongside Adam’s adult persona we learn about his early life, the mitigation if you like for the way he has turned out with touching scenes of Adam’s beloved Grandmother reading him stories from the big book of fairy tales. Their mutual love shines through as when he gets older she introduces him to the language of flowers – the idea that each flower has a message to send, something which was very popular in Victorian England, slightly less so in this day and age although of course any woman who receives a dozen red roses understands what the message means and through careful commercial reinforcement, so do most men. But did you know that Daffodils mean unrequited love? No nor did I.

Yes, I know I’ve not told you about the plot, it’s a good one but you really do need to find out for yourself and there is little more that I can tell you without spoiling it! Yes, the characters are also all well drawn from victim to Policeman all have realistic elements to their personalities, I especially loved the interplay between Mike and his young daughter Daisy as we see a more harmless form of persuasion in the young girl as she wages war on his smoking habit. And the structure is brilliant, each chapter headed up with the name of a flower and its meaning with a sub-heading of where we are in Adam’s backstory if this is one of his chapters. This starts twenty-six years ago with Wood Sorrell (maternal tenderness) which once you meet Sara, Adam’s mother you’ll realise is an attribute that was totally absent in his life – what an inspired thinking to create a character that is more hateful and far scarier than the serial killer – Barbara Copperthwaite is a genius.

In short, you should really read this one, perfect for the winter nights when the wind is howling and the rain is lashing down, and you are safe inside – or are you?

Flowers for the Dead was my twenty-eighth read in the Mount TBR challenge, having been purchased in December 2016.

mount-tbr-2017
 

 

First Published UK: 21 September 2015
Publisher:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing 
No. of Pages:  472
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

Three Days and a Life – Pierre Lemaitre

Crime Fiction
5*s

I was thrilled to see Pierre Lemaitre had written another standalone novel having vowed to read all of his back catalogue after being wowed by Blood Wedding, needless to say, that hasn’t come to fruition… yet, although all his books are on the wishlist after being even more wowed by Three Days and a Life.

The feel of this book is very different to Blood Wedding, for starters the main protagonist is a child, just twelve years old, and we go back to 1999 to discover the events that led up to the day Antoine accidentally kills his six-year-old neighbour, Rémi. A shocking event, in itself, made no less so by the brutal description of Rémi ’s pet dog which precedes the cold days just before Christmas. The scene is set beautifully in the small town of Beauval in France where Antoine lives with his mother. His father decamped to Germany and consequently he has a distant relationship with him. The crux of the story is that Antoine hides Rémi’s body and returns home to his loving mother and hides as much as possible from reality. He has a child’s view of the world, realistically depicted, and alternately buries his head in the sand and suffers the awful anxiety about his crime being discovered.

Pierre Lemaitre absolutely nails the small town view of the wider world. The people of Beauval collectively hope that Rémi was taken by someone out-of-town, it being far too awful to think that the act was one of their own. Although the pace is slower than some crime thrillers, the tension felt is built very quickly to fever-pitch with this reader see-sawing in hoping that poor Rémi’s mother would find out the truth about what happened and equally hoping that Antoine’s mother would be spared the self-same truth, this emotional push and pull is very hard to pull off, particularly when we have a child who is not displaying much in the way of guilt, although his the fear of discovery is acute.

After following the inhabitants of Beauval through the days following the death of Rémi we next meet Antoine twelve years later and see how the man views that day in hindsight. An interesting concept and one that again the author nailed. Where some of Antoine’s emotions and actions mirrored those he had aged just twelve, the author hadn’t just given the same voice and adult body we see something more of Antoine, not all of it particularly nice. In fact, I felt less sympathetic to him in this part than I had the younger version.

Three Days and a Life ends with a twist that has played on a loop inside my mind since I finished the book. I’m not one to usually draw on this aspect of a book in my review but I have this time because the twist doesn’t change anything read before but adds a whole other layer that made me want to pick the book straight up and start at the beginning again.

If you fancy some French Noir I offer up a fulsome recommendation for Three Days and a Life. Even more so because this book has been exceptionally well translated by Frank Wynne, so much so that I forgot at times that this wasn’t originally written in English allowing the nuance of the tale coming across as expertly as I’m sure it was in its native language.

I’d like to thank the publishers Quercus who allowed me to read Three Days and a Life which was published on 7 November 2017. This review is my unbiased thanks to them, Pierre Lemaitre for the fantastic storytelling and Frank Wynne who brilliantly translated this book into English.

First Published UK: 13 July 2017
Publisher: MacLehose Press 
No of Pages: 256
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

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

Verdict of Twelve – Raymond Postgate

Crime Fiction
5*s

I can’t believe that I hadn’t heard of this book before it was included as one of the wonderful British Library Crime Classics. This unusual tale follows the deliberation of a crime as recounted in court to a jury of the traditional twelve.

The book is split into three parts – we have the introduction to the jury in the first part some of whom have led colourful lives, especially one who committed a serious crime, but on the whole they are what we can assume are a fairly typical mix of society at the time the book was published, in 1940. We have a travelling salesman, a domestic servant, a publican and the university professor who imagines his superior intellect will be needed to help the other members reach the right decision. The question is will he and will they? Raymond Postgate uses this first section to not only give us the jurors social standing but also to comment, albeit lightly, on the politics of the time so we get to understand the havoc caused by WWI and the rise of anti-Semitism in the UK at the time he wrote the book, which I would hazard a guess at being prior to the start of WWII as this doesn’t get a mention. This opener can also be seen as a way of asking the readers to predict how the jurors will decide whether or not to convict the defendant, although at this stage we have no idea what crime has been committed let alone who the defendant is. This is because we get some details of their lives, those who have lived the life they expected to those who have felt thwarted, those who have known great love to those who have felt deep loss, the religious and the abused sit side by side, again providing us with a range of experiences that could be common to any random group of strangers.

In part two we learn about the charges levied against the defendant told in a fairly straightforward narrative format with little of the dramatics that we may associate with a courtroom drama. The story is a sad one and the evidence far from conclusive, more than that I won’t say because I don’t want to take anything away from the sheer delight I felt at trying to determine what the truth of the matter might be.

The final section is where we sit amongst the jurors and see what they decide, and why. Some are decisive, and those that are were not necessarily the ones that I predicted would be in the first part. Raymond Postgate seems to have a good handle on seemingly lightly skimming the surface and thereby making this book intensely readable but punctuating his words from truths that are as pertinent now as they obviously were then, that is why people tend to act the way they do.

I can’t leave this review by stating that the postscript is phenomenal, sheer genius and one that ensures that this is one of those books that I will remember for a long time to come.

I’d like to say a big thank you to the publishers of Verdict of Twelve, British Library Publishing, for allowing me to read a copy of this book. This review is my unbiased thank you to them for such a memorable read.

First Published UK: 1940
Publisher: British Library Publishing
No of Pages: 256
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Vanishing Box – Elly Griffiths

Historical Crime Fiction
4*s

This series is so refreshing with the murders somehow far more of a puzzle than centre stage – that place belongs to the safe pair of hands which belong to DI Edgar Stephens.

The year is 1953 and the month is December and in those days snow was more or less a certain event and so the detectives have the weather to contend with as they tramp, often on foot, to the crime scene and the police station.

The book opens with the murder of a young woman at a boarding house in Brighton run by the formidable Edna Wright and her somewhat less formidable husband, Norris. Edgar had attended the scene after the latter had opened the door to find the young Lily Burtenshaw’s body arranged as if part of a tableau. Sergeant Bob Willis is also attending in charge of the new piece of equipment, the camera which will document everything rather than relying on memory.

Of course along with Edna and Norris the other occupants of the boarding house have to be interviewed and among them are two young women who are sharing the bill with Max Mephisto at the Brighton Hippodrome. Max is performing magic alongside his daughter Ruby with the finale using a life-size vanishing box. It won’t be long before their magic act moves to television at the behest of their manager Joe Passolini.

With Edgar and Max having served together as the band of Magic Men in World War II along with their collaboration on previous murders he shares some of the details, especially as it seems there may just be a link to the variety show. The show features near naked women (with strategically placed feathers) standing stock still in a tableau. Now I don’t know about you, but I didn’t know that this was a thing! Apparently naked women could appear on stage as long as they didn’t move so these tableaux were presumably popular with the male attendees of the variety shows hopeful of a mis-positioned feather! Anyway back to the story… Edgar along with Bob and his female sergeant Emma Holmes ponder and puzzle over the clues when someone else is found murdered.

These books really are delightful, I preferred the setting firmly back in the theatre rather than our brief foray into television in the last book, and the puzzle is an intriguing one. The tone is light although because of the somewhat tangled personal lives of all our favourites the humour isn’t quite of the level of the first two books. I particularly enjoy the period details which are sprinkled throughout the book without the reader ever feeling as if this is overdone, a tip that many other authors tackling the historic angle could take note of. I also like the length of the book, the pace is fairly swift with the personal lives of our favourites woven into the plot seamlessly so that the book doesn’t feel as if these scenes have been added to pad the book out.

If you want the perfect kind of winter read you could do an awful lot worse than to settle into your seat, albeit slightly frayed, at the Brighton Hippodrome, and prepare to be amazed.

I received an ARC of The Vanishing Box from the publishers Quercus Books. This unbiased review is my thanks to them.

Published UK: 2 November 2017
Publisher: Quercus Books
No of Pages: 368
Genre: Historical Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Max Mephisto & DI Edgar Stephens Series

The Zig-Zag Girl
Smoke and Mirrors
The Blood Card

 

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

When a Killer Strikes – R.C. Bridgestock

Crime Fiction
4*s

This is the eighth in the Jack Dylan series written by a duo who were both involved in the police service jointly for forty-seven years, Carol being a member of the Civilian support staff and Bob retiring as a Detective Superintendent of West Yorkshire Police, so you can be sure what you read within these pages is based on knowledge. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t treated to a mystery, we are, but there are no leaps of faith to get to the answers.

The story starts with, where every good crime drama starts, with a body. This is the body of 14-year-old Patti Heinz a budding gymnast. She was found strangled, at home by her stepfather Elliot Black. Of course he becomes an obvious suspect but the police are also aware that Patti’s mother needs support and so he isn’t hauled off with no evidence but the parents are asked to stay elsewhere and assigned a Family Liaison Officer while the necessary post-mortem and forensic tests are carried out.

The murder investigation couldn’t have come at a worse time for Dylan’s wife Jen as having decided to move house she has viewings booked but no husband to view them with her. It doesn’t take long before she finds the one, an old stationmaster’s house, long abandoned and in need of lots of work.

The plot is tightly woven with the number of suspects soon mounting but without the evidence to link the to the murder the team is stuck so they return to the tried and tested methods of detection, getting to know their victim and retracing her steps through her last days. Will this turn up the clue that will crack the case?

With plenty of likeable characters, apart from the numerous sleazy suspects, of course, the team on the investigation are obviously mutually supportive. Although there is banter, it never crosses the line into cruelty and pleasingly the novel doesn’t go overboard on the underpaid and overworked officers jumping through hoops for those higher up the chain, which although I believe there is far more than a modicum of truth in the reality of policing, less if most definitely more for this reader in the politics of policing.

Unlike many police procedurals the focus isn’t as obviously on the victim’s family, perhaps because the death occurred in their house and they have to be considered suspects we don’t get to see the trauma the aftermath of their daughter’s death with the FLO relaying any pertinent details to the rest of the team, at times their loss is quite remote.

I haven’t all the books in this series, no surprises there, so I can confirm that this works well as a standalone although I may have understood more about the mystery of Dylan’s siblings who are introduced from what I can tell for the first time in this book.

On the whole a solid police procedural without the flights of fancy which lends an air of gravitas as it is clear that some of the side plots are examples of what this dedicated pair of authors met during the time they served in the police force.

I was lucky enough to receive an ARC for When a Killer Strikes from the publishers Caffeine Nights Publishing and this unbiased review is my thanks to them and the authors.

Carol provided a post sharing her favourite childhood books which you can read here.

First Published UK: 29 October 2017
Publisher: Caffeine Nights Publishing
No. of Pages:  256
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US