Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2018

The Arsenic Labyrinth – Martin Edwards

Crime Fiction
4*s

This is the third of the Lake District Mysteries and for once I am working my way through in strict order, something I’m glad I chose to do as the back story of how historian Daniel Kind left his teaching post at Oxford and his television career to live in a cottage there, while not key to the individual mysteries themselves, does of course work better when you the story arc plays out in the correct order.

I have to mention how thrilled I was to open the book to two family trees one for the Clough family and one for the Ichmore family. I love touches like this in books and although the significance of these families isn’t apparent for a while, once it was you can be sure I turned back to the beginning to acquaint myself with the details. After that we have an excerpt from a journal – something neither the police or Daniel have seen. Don’t you just love that feeling that we know something the investigators don’t?

Chillingly the journal starts with the words:

You’d never know it to look at me now, but once upon a time I killed a man.

So on to the mystery which starts with DCI Hannah Scarlett opening an old case file because local journalist Tony di Venuto, chooses the tenth anniversary to campaign for an investigation into the disappearance of Emma Beswick. For publicity reasons it seems like a good time to re-evaluate what Cumbria’s Cold Case Review Team know, and where they should look to see if any new information comes to light. This is a case that DI Hannah Scarlett knows well, she was part of the original investigation team working for Daniel’s father.

Along the way she visits the Museum of Myth and Legend run by local man Alban Clough and managed by his daughter Alexandra because Emma used to work there, and she had a relationship with Alexandra. What she learns isn’t so much about Emma though, but about the local folklore and the arsenic labyrinth, set in a remote spot of the lakes.

Part of what I love about this series is the well-researched information that that the author carefully weaves into the storyline. Nothing as clumsy as an information drop for this accomplished author, rather key information in direct relation to the mystery which is fascinating.

With the professional detective and an amateur side-kick both involved in the investigation, although not in any formal way, the reader is offered an insight into the different ways key bits of information can be found, and used to unravel the different questions that need answers. For light relief we watch a con-artist weave his artful magic on an unsuspecting, desperate and gullible B&B Landlady to get a more comfortable bed for a few nights.

For a book that I would classify as at the more comfortable end of crime fiction it is jam-packed with literary references, historical information, an ancient feud and of course a solid mystery. Because there are so many strands to these books it can seem as though it takes longer to get to the heart of the puzzle than you expect but it really is well worth the wait.

This series really is a satisfying read, a beautiful location bought to life against the backdrop of the flip-side which investigates the darker side of human nature. It certainly won’t be long before I read the next in the series, The Serpent Pool.

This is the 16th book I’ve read and reviewed as part of my Mount TBR Challenge for 2018. I am aiming to read 36 books across the year from those purchased before 1 January 2018. The Arsenic Labyrinth was purchased on 6 November 2017 thereby qualifying.

First Published UK: 2007
Publisher: Allison & Busby
No of Pages: 305
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

The Lake District Mystery Series

The Coffin Trail (2004)
The Cipher Garden (2005)
The Arsenic Labyrinth (2007)
The Serpent Pool (2010)
The Hanging Wood (2011)
The Frozen Shroud (2013)
The Dungeon House (2015)

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

Wrong Way Home – Isabelle Grey #BlogTour

Crime Fiction
5″s

I was absolutely delighted to be asked to take part in the blog tour celebrating publication of Wrong Way Home, thank you Anne Cater. I’ve long been a fan of this author and I rate this series amongst my favourite of the contemporary crime series.

In this, the fourth book in the DI Grace Fisher series, our likeable protagonist has a breakthrough using familial DNA to hunt for the man who raped and killed a girl twenty-five years ago.

Heather Bower was just nineteen years old when she visited Southend for a night out with her friends and on a night that should have been full of fun, she became separated from the group and was found dead in a park the following morning.

Freddie Craig is an aspiring journalist who has always felt a link to the fire on Southend Pier the same night that Heather died. The fire was started by two teenagers who dropped a cigarette in a boarded up building. Fortunately for them taxi driver Larry Nixon was on the scene and pulled the boys to safety so becoming something of a local hero. As the fire raged Freddie’s mother gave birth to him. Freddie is inspired by the death of Heather to make a series of podcasts about the murder and his links to my favourite fictional journalist, Ivo Sweatman. Ivo and Grace have a history of being mutually supportive but she is fully aware that this must not become common knowledge. The excerpts from Freddie’s podcasts veer from factual to wacky and then downright disturbing and made for an interesting perspective and an unusual one keeping the story bang up to date.

As the DNA profile links to a woman, Deborah Shillingford, who was arrested for drink driving, Grace now has her family members to investigate to the DNA left all those years before and she sets to work with her partner Sergeant Blake Langley. Grace and Blake have history which has caused a bit of an undercurrent but they are both professional as they interview Deborah and learn that she has two brothers and a father still alive. At the same time they have to inform Heather’s mother advising that this lead may not lead to an arrest but hopeful that the knowledge that they are still seeking justice for Heather will be of some comfort.

This is a multi-layered crime fiction novel of the highest standard. Isabelle Grey has plotted superbly, and so even though all the characters are fully rounded the story is undoubtedly led by a series of events in the present that threaten to derail the investigation. That’s not to say there is just action there are moments to pause and wonder at the bonds within a family as various tit-bits are revealed. The plot is held up by spot on timing; this is a book that gives the reader time to consider the evidence and stick a stake in the ground before it is blown away by a new piece of information.

Reading Wrong Way Home I remembered quite why I enjoy this series so much. DI Grace Fisher is my idea of the perfect protagonist, a determined woman and yet, she behaves like a woman and it is so refreshing to see a woman who can cry at a wedding and then walk away to review evidence before leading her team to find a killer, and she does it with style.

I’d like to thank the publishers Quercus for allowing me to read a copy of Wrong Way Home and to Anne Cater for the invite to the blog tour and those thanks extend to the author for such a brilliant, plausible novel that had me enthralled by all its twists and turns. As always this review is unbiased and freely given.

First Published UK: 17 May 2018
Publisher: Quercus
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Isabelle Grey is a television screenwriter whose credits include Jimmy McGovern’s BAFTA award-winning Accused: Tina’s Story as well as over thirty-five episodes of Midsomer Murders, Casualty, Rosemary and Thyme, The Bill and Wycliffe. She has also written non-fiction and been a magazine editor and freelance journalist. Isabelle’s previous novels include two psychological thrillers, The Bad Mother and Out Of Sight as well as the first two books in the DI Grace Fisher series, Good Girls Don’t Die, Shot Through the Heart and The Special Girls. Isabelle grew up in Manchester and now lives in north London.

Twitter @IsabelleGrey
Website: http://www.isabellegrey.wordpress.com

Previous books by Isabelle Grey

Out of Sight
The Bad Mother
Good Girls Don’t Die – Grace Fisher #1
Shot Through The Heart – Grace Fisher #2
The Special Girls – Grace Fisher #3

 

There are still some stops left on the blog tour so make sure you check them out!

 

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

What Remains – Tim Weaver

Crime Fiction 4*s
Crime Fiction
4*s

Having joined this series with the fourth book in the series featuring David Raker, Vanished, and having awarded that one the full five stars I was equally impressed with the fifth, Fall From Grace but in this book the chief protagonist isn’t looking for a missing person, he is looking at a cold case. To be honest I wasn’t overly impressed with the change of direction, I liked the fact that we had books which didn’t feature a murder hunt but were still full of action.

In this book Raker meets an old friend Colm Healy who has been haunted by the murder of Gail Clark and her twin daughters Abigail and April back in 2010, the case hadn’t been solved and Colm’s life had gone into freefall. First his job went, then his marriage, his house and his friends all disappeared, all except Raker. While the Missing Persons Private Investigator takes a little convincing, he eventually agrees and starts to investigate, but this time he has little to go on as the murdered woman has few social contacts to give him a lead. Still he still has some friends in useful places to assist should he find any corner to peel back, and of course he does, this is investigator extraordinaire, David Raker.

This is a complicated, and long story at over 550 pages, and several times I thought that the end was in sight only for the plot to twist in a different direction often seemingly back on itself as Raker doesn’t only want to find out how the shadowy villains are connected but why they murdered two innocent eight year olds. The somewhat convoluted storyline is compensated for by the excellent writing, Tim Weaver captures a wide range of emotions better than any other crime writer I can think of, and although the pace was patchy in places I was engaged in the hunt for the perpetrator. As with the other two books in this series, there is a depth to the investigation with parts of London bought to life albeit with a dark shadow falling across the familiar and less known landmarks. With an almost ghostly feel to the investigation the setting on a disused pier in Wapping seemed perfectly suited as was the labyrinth of Camden market when a lead took the men to an antique shop.

This book contained far more violence than the previous two, partly I suspect because of the nature of the fact that the investigation was into a murder rather than a missing person, but overall it didn’t feel gratuitous and the skill of the author had me genuinely concerned about the suffering inflicted on some of the characters.
The real lynch-pin to the story is will Raker become as consumed by finding out what happened to Gail Clark and those two innocent girls as Healy was. Will he be able to live with himself, continue to build his life with his recently discovered daughter and maybe even a relationship if he doesn’t get a complete answer? What will remain indeed!

I’d like to thank Penguin UK for allowing me to read What Remains which was published on 16 July 2015 in return for my honest opinion.