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

In the Dark – Cara Hunter

Crime Fiction
5*s

This is the second in the series by Cara Hunter featuring DI Adam Fawley. It might be set in Oxford but we have quite a different type of detective, crimes and characters than those who featured in Inspector Morse.

DI Adam Fawley falls into the breed of likeable detective. As you’d expect, he has some baggage, but in his case his past is one that is only likely to illicit sympathy. We learn a little more about him following on from his first outing Close to Home but his story is very much in the background, the foreground is most definitely the crimes committed in the quiet Oxford street where a woman and a young child are found locked in a basement.

The woman Vicky and child are starved and thirsty and severely traumatised, Vicky not speaking at all at first and with the owner of the house, Dr William Harper, is denying all knowledge of them the police are up against it trying to work out who the prisoners are, and more importantly how long and why they’ve been locked up. In their search for clues they realise that the house backs onto the garden of the home of a missing woman called Hannah Gardiner.

There are lots of characters who all add rich detail to what becomes an investigation into the two women, and of course the child who is too young to be able to tell them anything. The police team of course consists of more than DI Fawley and the relationship between the officers is good with Detectives Quinn and Gislingham (Gis) providing a realistic view of how to survive working on such a harrowing investigation.

“Gis, who has always been exceptionally good at knowing when to stop digging, and Quinn who carries his own set of shovels“

The author has worked hard though to provide a reasonable complement of police, all with distinct personalities which is far more realistic that the older style police procedurals with just a couple of detectives involved in solving a case. Another example that gives this book an up-to-date feel is the full use of the female detectives and supporting police personnel throughout the story. As in real life they are no longer used just to pass hankies these women are involved from beginning to end.

With the use of news reports from BBC Midlands and the like, inserted into the story the author also moves away from the more traditional tale that is told just from one viewpoint, this element is built upon with transcribed interviews, including from those living in Frampton Road. These are brilliant, the author telling us so much about the area from both the content and the words used.

This, as was the first book, is a fast-paced police procedural with the author liberally sprinkling her story with red-herrings to keep her reader’s guessing and I for one lapped it all up and I’m eager for the next book by this author to see what dark mystery Oxford will serve up for us next.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Penguin Books UK who allowed me to read an advance copy of In the Dark. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and of course Cara Hunter for keeping so thoroughly entertained if a little traumatised by what was waiting for me on this visit to Oxford!

First Published UK: 12 July 2018
Publisher: Penguin Books UK
No of Pages: 448
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Lisa Jewell Novels

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

Off With His Head – Ngaio Marsh

Classic
2*s

Well before I picked this book as one of my Classics Club Reads, I noted that I did so because although she’s widely acclaimed, she is not an author I’ve actually read which is shocking considering that I consider myself quite widely read in this genre having been a fan since discovering Maigret and Agatha Christie in my childhood. I have to confess on the whole I found this a difficult read which I will attempt to explain.

The setting of the early scene was really well done when we met Mrs Bunz a German woman with an academic interest in folklore visiting the village of South Mardian in order to witness the “Dance of the Five Sons,” a mixture between a mummers play and a sword dance which has been performed in the village for generations at the time of the winter solstice. Fortunately for the time when we met the performers there were five sons all alive to accompany their father, even older, to give the villagers a show. Sadly the snow has kept the audience to a minimum, but no matter, Mrs Bunz is determined to document a rare example of an ancient tradition.

After lots, and lots, and lots, of build-up, through rehearsals and arguments, the dance is performed only for the father to be found with his head cut off at the finale. Shocking stuff indeed!

The villagers on the whole are a strange bunch, characterised by low education and an odd dialect. In short the five sons are portrayed as buffoons, particularly the youngest who has epilepsy causing the other four to endlessly chorus soothing noises whenever he gets agitated. Their father is the blacksmith, William Anderson, known to all as the “Guiser,” an unpleasant fellow who is prone to shouting and who cut off his daughter when she chose to marry someone from a different class to them. I know that this was written in a different time when attitudes were very different, but I found it distasteful because the family were at the heart of the action and even by the end we knew little more about them.

So I already had a problem with the ordinary folk but when you combine that with the way the wealthy of the village both acted and were deferred to by everyone, including our esteemed detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn who was bought in when the local bobbies were unable to decide who, out of the entire village (as they all had a motive for murder) had committed the act. With everyone loudly telling each other to keep quiet or disappearing because they don’t like visitors my main source of tension was created by the very real sense that Inspector Alleyn would don his wellington boots and leave without solving the crime because he seemed a little reluctant to ask the questions that seemed blindingly obvious. Consequently by the time we had the reveal, and the solution to a few more of the little mysteries that had occurred, I’d either worked it out for myself, or I was pretty much past caring.

For all that, I did like the parallels with King Lear, the murder itself was well plotted and the isolation of such a village in winter is one I could easily imagine. Sadly I wasn’t anywhere near as fond of the class obsession the writer enforced on her readers.

Off With His Head is number 30 on The Classics Club challenge list and the sixth of my fifty choices that I’ve read and reviewed.

 

First Published UK: 1957
Publisher: HarperCollins
No of Pages: 288
Genre: Classic Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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 Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Dead If You Don’t – Peter James

Crime Fiction
5*s

Well Roy Grace is back for the fourteenth time in Dead If You Don’t which in short is an action packed police procedural that shouldn’t be missed.

I am a huge fan of this series and always look forward to the next book more or less from the time I close the last page and so it may surprise you to hear I had a moment of disquiet when I realised the opening scenes featured a Kip Brown and his teenaged son, Mungo, going to a big game at the Amex Stadium. OK I got that it was an important match with the locals Brighton and Hove Albion against Manchester City no less but I’m no fan of football and out of all crime fiction storylines, bombs rank bottom of the pile. The Head of Security had been warned that a bomb was going to be left in the Amex stadium unless a payment in bitcoin was made before kick-off. Oh dear, was this going to be the one novel in this series I didn’t enjoy because of my dislike of the combination of football and bombs? No, of course it wasn’t because Dead If You Don’t isn’t just about bombs and football, that was just setting the scene for something far more complex.

We have big businessmen, near bankruptcy a bunch of criminals to keep everything spicy and Roy Grace at the match with his son Bruno. Glenn Branson is with security at the stadium keeping an eye out for the promised bomb and then it all kicks off aside from the football!

As always Peter James keeps things real with his thorough research with the police giving this series a real air of authenticity whilst still ensuring that the storytelling isn’t overwhelmed with procedures and policies. I love the team, Norman Potting is still his un-PC self although more subdued than he was at his most annoying. Glenn has also overcome many of his personal problems and is reaching for the next rung on the career ladder but there is little time for the personalities to go wild in this book because Roy Grace is busy co-ordinating a missing boy, a bomb scare, a dead drugs mule and a dismembered body. Quite a lot to take on in a weekend! Dead If You Don’t is almost wall-to-wall action so although we get snippets about Roy’s wife Cleo and his sons Bruno and Noah they are very much in the background, unlike some of the previous books.

This is a scary ride of a book indeed, nearly as scary as Norman Potting’s erratic driving as they race to a potential scene of a crime. It’s a measure of the skill of the writing that I felt I was alongside poor Roy Grace as he urged Norman to go faster than a snail’s pace only to nearly be swung into the path of a van when he complied.

I’m not going to say any more – this was just as good as all the previous books in the series, if anything it felt more action packed with the switch of focus from the police and their families to the criminals and their nastiness and seeming complete lack of morality. And the ending is fantastic – a little bit of a moral to round the whole shebang off!

I’d like to say thank you to Pan Macmillan for allowing me to read a copy of Dead If You Don’t before publication today. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and the talented author Peter James. Roll on episode 15!

First Published UK: 17 May 2018
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Crime Fiction – Crime Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Roy Grace Series in order
Dead Simple
Looking Good Dead
Not Dead Enough
Dead Man’s Footsteps
Dead Tomorrow
Dead Like You
Dead Man’s Grip
Not Dead Yet
Dead Man’s Time
Want You Dead
You Are Dead
Love You Dead
Need You Dead

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

Don’t Make a Sound – David Jackson

Crime Fiction
5*s

David Jackson’s series featuring DS Nathan Cody is on my ‘must-read’ list and I was suitably thrilled to hear that he was making his third appearance on 3 May 2018.

This is one creepy book, no need for gruesome scenes for this author, instead he lets you imagine the worst from his well-chosen words.

A young girl, a mere six years of age, has disappeared from her bed and Nathan Cody is investigating. This investigation is high profile, no one wants to think that there is a child snatcher in the neighbourhood and yet it seems like whoever took Poppy was invisible as there is no trace. Yes no clues to follow and that means that Cody has to painstakingly follow a number of different theories simultaneously to see which one holds water.

We meet Poppy’s parents, Craig and Maria in the wake of her disappearance and we have Cody, DC Meghan Webley, FLO, Jason Oxburgh and data expert Grace Meade amongst others who under the tough leadership of DCI Stella Blunt of Liverpool’s police. We also have ten year old Daisy living with her parents Malcolm and Harriet, home-schooled she is a little lonely and has that peculiar manner of children who spend all their time in the company of adults. All these characters are acutely drawn with everyday events underscored by a level of tension that you simply won’t believe until you read this book for yourself. Never in my life have I had to hold my breath while reading about a game of darts!

Although this is one of my favourite genres, a good solid police procedural there is a strong element of the psychological woven through the storyline. As we observe the different relationships I found I was in on the action trying to work out why some were behaving the way they were, for instance, in the all too familiar media interview I felt I was on the other side of the camera, alongside the police watching and waiting for a sentence that would provide a key to unlocking at least something vaguely useful to explaining what had happened. Because the reader knows more than the police, a dicey device in any but the most assured writer’s keyboard, you’d expect the tension levels to be lower. Not so, I could feel my heart racing at far too many parts of this book to mention. I needed it all resolved, and as the levels increase unrelentingly until the truly outstanding ending. This book should come with a free ECG to make sure your heart is up to reading it!

I’m sure this would read very well as a standalone but I don’t recommend it. A Tapping at my Door, the first in the series, is one of my favourite crime books of all time, and the second, Hope to Die gives us more insight into Nathan Cody as well as being another full-on read so you’ll be missing out if you can’t wait and chose to start with this book but I’m almost certain you’ll need to pick up the previous two if you can’t wait.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Bonnier Zaffre for allowing me to read a copy of Don’t Make a Sound ahead of publication on 3 May 2018. Thank you also to David Jackson for giving my heart a workout, I can’t wait to see what will happen next. This is an unbiased review written by Cleopatra Loves Books.

First Published UK: 3 May 2018
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
o of Pages: 3528
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Murder in Slow Motion – Rebecca Muddiman

Crime Fiction
4*s

Andrew returns home to find his partner Katy missing. The last text he had received was to let him know that she was visiting their neighbour. When he goes to find her there is nobody there but blood has been spilt. When DI Michael Gardner and DS Nicola Freeman talk to him they are inclined to think he is panicking unnecessarily despite the fact that the once confident Katy has recently been made redundant and seemingly doesn’t go anywhere. To find Katy they have to find her friends but that’s easier said than done when a person’s life has contracted to be contained within four walls.

The pair soon realise that one half of the neighbouring couple is also a police officer Dawn Lawson and she called in sick and no-one, including her boyfriend knows where she is either.

This is an incredibly claustrophobic novel and one where DI Gardner is so fired up by Dawn’s disappearance he often almost forgets that Katy is also missing. With the subject matter focussing on domestic abuse it is also a book that makes the reader think. Yes, we are in 2018 and domestic abuse is no longer the hidden subject it once was but this book shows us the different forms that it can take and of course, the effects it can have on the victim. It is also a sad reflection of the way that even though violent rows are overheard by others living nearby few take any action at all.

So the book has a big ‘issue’ but it is also a police procedural, albeit one where DI Gardner stretches the bounds of the law to the nth degree to ensure that he gets to the bottom of the women’s disappearance. As the investigation intensifies we see that both women had secrets and their lives from the outside were not at all like the reality.

There is plenty of action but overall this is a thoughtful book. The key drivers are the personalities, of Gardner and Freeman whose relationship is easily familiar although with a hint of irritation about their differences. But it is the supporting cast, the ones off page whose personalities intrigue us just as much. What did the shy Katy share with Dawn, or was it the other way around? Surely it can’t be a coincidence that they both have vanished at the same time? Their partners are also in the spotlight although neither can be placed at anything like the scene of the (almost) non-existent crime. Our pair of detectives have to work hard to sort this puzzle out.

I have enjoyed the two previous books I read in this series and have vowed to get around to the missing third episode. Fortunately they do work as standalones because like a lot of my favourite these contemporary writers, Rebecca Muddiman manages to give a different ‘feel’ to all her books despite keeping the key characters in place. This is definitely a police procedural that is as much about the why as the who.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the author who provided me with a copy of Murder in Slow Motion – sorry it took me so long to get around to reading the book and writing this unbiased review.

First Published UK: 25 February 2018
Publisher: Independently Published
No of Pages: 388
Genre: Crime Fiction Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Books in the Gardner & Freeman Series

Stolen
Gone
Tell Me Lies

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

Broken Bones – Angela Marsons

Crime Fiction
5*s

Detective Kim Stone is on her seventh outing in this up to the minute series by author Angela Marsons.
Broken Bones opens at Christmas time with an abandoned baby outside the police station. The infant is well dressed three month old and has clearly been cared for, so why has it been left on a cold winter’s night? Kim Stone is at a complete loss what to do with the small infant but fortunately others within the station have a few more nurturing instincts than Kim and the baby is looked after while they wait for social services to take ownership. The same night the body of a murdered prostitute is found and an investigation launched to find the perpetrator.

Angela Marsons has a knack of simplifying what is actually two simultaneous complex investigations making this book immensely readable and providing that ‘I must just read one more chapter feeling’ with ease. As expected there are a fair few red herrings with a large cast of characters to keep the reader entertained as we follow Kim down some blind alleys.

In many book reviews a large cast could be interpreted as you’ll never know who is who unless you take careful notes but not here. All of the characters are memorable starting of course with the sharp lead, Kim Stone and her side-kick Bryant – the banter between these two lightening the mood to avoid the book falling into a miserable read. As there are two different investigations the team are split up with Stacey getting to emerge from behind her desk to partner with Dawson as she takes her investigative skills out into the wild. The reader follows both sets of pairs along the way which really underlines the importance of the entire team with the focus not solely on our lead character. That said Kim is still as feisty and as driven as she has been in the previous books in this series which makes her one of my favourite detectives on the contemporary scene.

When I mentioned that this is crime fiction with its finger on the pulse I mean not only that it accurately takes those stories that make the headlines and puts flesh on the bones to digest, the author also emphasises through Kim as her mouthpiece that the victims are people too. The prostitute isn’t shorthand for a victim that no-one cares about and by association, doesn’t deserve the reader’s sympathy but a woman who perhaps has had to make choices that none of us would want to. In short the books are full of the details behind the headlines, yes of course they are entertainment but they also make you think without the ‘issue’ ever overpowering the storyline.

So we have an interesting premise (or two) a superb cast of characters from all walks of life but it seems to me that with each book Angela Marsons’ handling of the plot becomes ever more assured. There is no down-time in this book at all, I constantly needed to know what was going to happen next with the timing absolutely spot-on. In short, this is not a book to be missed by fans of the series and if you haven’t started this one yet, I’d get your skates on – book eight is due out in May 2018.

Broken Bones was my eleventh book of the year for my Mount TBR Challenge 2018, having been bought in November 2017 and as it is my own copy, it is worth another third of a book token so once again I have one book in the bank!!

Previous Books featuring Kim Stone
Silent Scream
Evil Games
Lost Girls
Play Dead
Blood Lines
Dead Souls

First Published UK: 3 November 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
No of Pages: 366
Genre: Crime Fiction Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

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

The Moving Toyshop – Edmund Crispin

Classic
5*s

Written in 1946 this is actually the third in the author’s series featuring the Oxford Professor of English Language and Literature Gervase Fen, but the first one that I have read and this one is featured in Martin Edwards’ brilliant book The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books.

In this book we meet famous poet Richard Cadogan who is seeking inspiration and so taps up his publisher for some money. That gets him just enough for a short holiday to Oxford. Clearly not very good on the organisational front after some hitch-hiking he finds himself on the deserted high street late at night and enters a toy shop, as you do, and finds a body of an elderly woman, clearly murdered. Poor old Richard is knocked out and locked in a cupboard by an unknown assailant. So it isn’t until the morning that he can alert anyone, by which time when he leads the finest of Oxfordshire’s constabulary to the high street, the toyshop has vanished.

Ultimately this is a locked room puzzle that needs a mind of a particular type to unlock the mystery and of course the local police aren’t terribly interested there being no body, no toyshop and therefore one has to assume no crime. Richard Cadogan isn’t to be thwarted though, he knows what he saw and so he calls on his old friend Gervase Fen to help. Gervase hops into his temperamental and somewhat erratically driven car, Lily Christine to investigate.

The unravelling of the mystery involves a legacy, one of the most often used device of the time but no less compelling for that, a sprinkling of limericks and a suitably complicated execution of a crime – fictional criminals of this era seemingly wanting to make things as difficult for themselves as those who may wind up investigating it.
Of course our duo don’t hand their suspicions over to the police, after all a poet and a university professor are quite entitled to work things out for themselves, even roping others into helping out

“I don’t think this is going to work,” Mr. Beavis remarked with some apprehension.
“It will work,” Fen responded confidently, “because no one expects this sort of trick outside a book”

The wonder of this novel is not so much the mystery, although that was well-executed, but the brilliant double-act that are Fen and Cadogan. While they are racing around in cars or sitting in bars stalking out various characters, they play silly games to pass the time such as unintentionally loathsome characters in literature, horrible classics and the most unreadable books of all time. All great fun although I have to admit that the use of unfamiliar phrases and words meant I am fully aware I didn’t quite get every humorous message, but I got enough to keep me fully entertained. Being set in Oxford even the local policeman is interested in literature..

Gervase, has it ever occurred to you that Measure for Measure is about the problem of Power?”
Don’t bother me with trivialities now” said Fen, annoyed, and rang off.

And even the lorry driver that gave Richard a lift at the start of the book reads from the circulating library citing “lady’s somebody’s lover” as an example of a recent read.

Most of all this book is fun with a capital F. I’ll be honest I wasn’t sure quite what to expect but I fell in love with the characters, the bizarreness and the rattling pace which was enhanced by the humour.

The Moving Toyshop is number 39 on The Classics Club list and the third of my fifty choices that I’ve read and reviewed. A great introduction into my Classic Crime Fiction.

 

First Published UK: 1946
Publisher: Penguin 
No of Pages: 245
Genre: Classic Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Turn a Blind Eye – Vicky Newham

Crime Fiction
4*s

Vicky Newham has already had great success with Turn a Blind Eye with the TV rights to Playground Entertainment who produced The Missing. This is the first in a two book deal with HQ featuring a new detective, DI Maya Rahman. Having read this debut novel, I’m not at all surprised.

DI Maya Rahman has returned from Bangladesh following the death of her brother and so it is testament to her work ethic and her love of the community that she serves, Tower Hamlets in East London, that when she gets a call about the murder of the headmistress at her former school, Mile End High School, she is straight onto the case. The first thing you need to know is this is a detective who is smart as well as hard-working and loyal.

One of the most appealing things about this book is the setting, the cultural diversity of the area allows the author to give these characters the type of back stories which aren’t often on offer in contemporary crime fiction. Best of all though whilst never minimising the difference in culture the author steers clear of stereotypes and instead each character, whatever their background, is a real person, as complex as humans tend to be. As Vicky Newham lived and taught in a school in the area for many years, this isn’t surprising, but it is refreshing.

Back to the story – the murder happened in the school and there is something always appealing about this setting although the focus is more on the teaching and support staff than the pupils the murder happening on a training day. Once the scenes of crime investigators arrive a cryptic note is found alongside the body of the headmistress, Linda Gibson. It contains a Buddhist precept, “I shall abstain from taking the ungiven”

From this Maya works with her team to discover as much as they can about the dead woman, the school and the Buddhist precept. Maya works closest with DS Maguire who despite the Irish name is an Australian who is missing his aborigine wife and two children who are still in Australia, waiting for the right time to join him in Tower Hamlets, and the two are getting to know each other in this book. There is a nice lack of police politics within the book with the political angle squarely on the local area, chiefly the education department, which to my mind is as it should be and makes for a far more interesting read. The tension is raised by threats from the local education department that if the killer isn’t found, and quickly, that the school will be shut down and that could spell disaster for the unsupervised children, and by default the local community and the police.

It will be no surprise that there is another death and matters from the past that need resolving before DI Rhaman and DS Maguire are able to get their man or woman!

This was an engaging crime fiction read, a great start to a new series which it has a real contemporary feel. I might have needed a bit of persuading that the motive was sound but overall this was a solid police procedural which demonstrated that the writer understands both plotting and timing which makes such a difference to the readability. I definitely want to revisit both the characters and the area again and will be watching eagerly for the next in the series.

I’d like to say a big thank you to Vicky Newham for sending me a copy of Turn a Blind Eye. This review is my unbiased thanks to her for introducing me to the strong and interesting protagonist of this new series.

First Published UK: 5 April 2018
Publisher: HQ
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

The Killing House – Claire McGowan

Crime Fiction
5*s

For the sixth episode in this series set on the border between North and South Ireland Paula Maguire returns to Ballyterrin from her new London home for a wedding. Home to where her determination to discover more about her mother’s disappearance when she was just a teenager are strongest.

This is the best series about ‘The Troubles’ that I have read. Paula Maguire’s personal story along with those of her friends, including Aiden whose father was shot dead when he hid under a table as a young boy, really underline what it was like for those who lived there at this time. But the series isn’t just about the past, in this book two bodies have been found at a remote farmhouse and Paula Maguire is asked, as a former member of the missing persons team, and forensic psychologist, to find out who they were.

As in the previous books in the series, Paula’s work in the present is told alongside her determination to understand the past. This is easier said than done when what she discovers could be devastating for her former Police Officer father and the life he now has as husband, father and grandfather. Paula Maguire is just the type of protagonist I like most, she is brave and yet conflicted, she makes mistakes and she tries to put them right and she loves and loses along the way – in other words under Claire McGowan’s pen she has truly come to life.

I love the style of storytelling, and in The Killing House, we are transported back in time to hear the voice of one person held by the punishment team who have them held captive to find out the information for their cause. There are some horrific characters in this book but all held together by the basic goodness of many others, even those who may have done wrong in the past. The author has a way of differentiating between those who got caught up in the times, and those who enjoyed being part of it, exceptionally well so that the reader is able to look at this point in history at a personal level.

The current investigation, and the resultant politics which take into account the peace process are fascinating to learn about. The legal challenges in respect of crimes committed many years ago are put into the context of how the victims and their families, and of course the police officers, are trying to bring comfort in the form of knowledge, without the firm expectation that those who killed will face a trial. This book is full of the action which also underpins the series with danger around many a corner for all involved. There were many fast page-turning moments where I was on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen next.

There is never any doubt at all about the setting, the turns of phrase, without going to ridiculous lengths to recreating the accent, remind you on every page, the remoteness of some of the places describe and of course the interactions between the characters which are both heart-warming at times and so very practical at others.

I suspect that this is the last in this series, and I will miss Paula and what a ride it has been! This book has been meticulously plotted to ensure that the story arc which precedes it is wrapped up properly and although I think the time was right, I will miss the characters which I have invested in over the entire series. It was lovely to be given a proper conclusion to Paula’s personal story which I’m sure mirrors, at least in part, the stories of many others who lived through this time.

As this is what I suspect is the final episode in the series, I wouldn’t recommend starting with this one, you really should read the books in order.

I’d like to thank the publishers Headline for providing me with a copy of The Killing House, which will be published on 5 April 2018. This unbiased review is my thanks to them, and of course the author for a brilliant and satisfying read.

First Published UK: 5 April 2018
Publisher: Headline
No of Pages: 336
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

The Paula McGuire Series

The Lost
The Dead Ground
The Silent Dead
Savage Hunger
Blood Tide