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
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
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!!
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
No of Pages: 245
Genre: Classic Fiction Amazon UK Amazon US
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
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series Amazon UK Amazon US
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
No of Pages: 336
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series Amazon UK Amazon US
I was absolutely delighted when Mary-Jane Riley asked me to kick-off the Blog Tour to promote her latest book, Dark Waters having been a huge fan of the previous two books in this series which features journalist Alex Devlin.
I have interrogated Mary-Jane Riley about Dark Waters in the following Q&A Session.
Well Mary-Jane Dark Waters is the third in the journalist Alex Devlin series; is it getting easier to write the books now the character is developed or does it sometimes curtail how you’d like her to behave?
Hmm, interesting question, Cleo. I’ve always found Alex pretty easy to write. It’s like I’ve always known her, perhaps because there’s a bit (a lot?) of me in her. I do usually know how she will react to events, and that’s what makes writing the novels with her centre-stage so satisfying. It’s not what I want to happen but what Alex wants to happen, how she reacts, the decisions she makes. I hope she always behaves true to character, and there’s no point in making her do something she wouldn’t. Does that make sense?
Tell us a little about Dark Waters, was there a Eureka moment which inspired the novel?
Dark Waters begins with the discovery of two bodies on a boat on the Norfolk Broads. The idea of using the Broads wasn’t so much of a eureka moment of inspiration as a slow realisation…. The Bad Things is set on the Suffolk coast, After She Fell on the crumbling cliffs of North Norfolk, so for my third I felt I wanted to go inland. And then I thought about the atmospheric Broads and how a boat could stay moored for several days before anyone would wonder what was going on….. That was the basic premise and I built the novel up from there! Sometimes that’s all you need, and I asked myself the usual questions: who were the people who had died? How had they met their end? Why were they on the boat? Did they know each other? And so on. I think I have probably done a disservice to the Broads, though, it really is a gorgeous place to visit! Do you have an idea what situations you are going to place poor Alex in next? Yes, that’s me checking that there is another book in the pipeline!
Yes. Oh, you want me to say more? Well… no, you’ll have to wait….
How long does it take to produce your first draft of each book? Yes, this is me trying to work out how long I have to wait for the next book!
It varies, and though I would love to be one of those people who writes the whole story as a first draft, I’m not. First of all I think about the story. A lit. Then I write bits, some of which will be scrapped. After that, when I think I know what I’m doing, I tend to write a third, then go back over that and edit. After the second third I’ve just about got the story I want to tell in my head or in my notebook as bullet points and can write the last third pretty quickly…or at least that’s what I’m telling myself as I’m just past that stage now! Then I read it through again and edit, and for my final edit I print it out and go through it. It probably takes about nine months in all.
You chose to set the series mainly in Norfolk with the memorable opening of two bodies being found on a barge in the county, however we also travel across the county boarder to Cambridge University. How much research do you do on the settings to make them feel so authentic?
I’m glad they feel authentic, thank you! I’ve lived in East Anglia for many years, and when I was a BBC reporter I travelled quite widely across Norfolk and Suffolk, so I know the area pretty well. My husband and I do take day trips out to the main places where the books are set – so Southwold for the The Bad Things, a village called Happisburgh for After She Fell and Wroxham and Ludham for Dark Waters. We do an awful lot of walking around and I take photos, and we usually ending up eating fish and chips. For the Cambridge section of Dark Waters I went to Cambridge, and I also spoke to a good friend who was at the university, so she could give me some insights!
In this episode, without giving too much away, Alex is having family problems. She really hasn’t had an easy ride so far in this area so I’m wondering do you secretly hate her or is it more that you enjoy showing her tenacious nature?
I love Alex! In Dark Waters she really suffers from being in the sandwich generation, don’t you think? Still trying to look after her son, Gus, and also her parents, particularly her father whose health is failing. I think it’s true of the lives of many women between, say, forty and fifty, don’t you? I do love how she battles through and survives both mentally and physically.
This book delves way back into the past in one strand of the storyline. I find this kind of storyline very appealing but wonder how hard is it to choose how much to reveal of the past when the main action is taking place in the present?
That’s another great question! I write the different strands separately and I’m not sure I actually ‘choose’ how much to reveal, it sort of happens naturally…. I suppose, thinking about it, that I look to that storyline as an echo of the past – I don’t want to overwhelm the present action. I usually end up cutting a lot of the past story, making it, hopefully, tighter.
Do you have a writing routine?
A very loose one…. I like to get some writing done in the morning after I have walked the dogs, even if only a little because at least I’ve got started. Hopefully I’ll do a couple of hours (with frequent breaks!) then maybe an hour after lunch and another hour early evening….that is in an ideal world….one I don’t really inhabit!
Do you read books in the same genre that you write in?
I do, I love the genre….reading and writing it. I enjoy a good thriller too and a long, rich saga! What was your last read?
I have a couple of books on the go…. Wendy Cope’s new poetry collection Anecdotal Evidence, and an interesting spy thriller The Language of Secrets by Asuma Zehanat Khan, but that’s not what you’re asking is it! I have just finished Skitter by Ezekiel Boone, which is about man-eating spiders and the end of the world. I love a good sci fi /dystopian thriller…..
Wow, having fallen a little bit in love with tenacious journalist Alex Devlin at the start of this series; Where the Bad Things Are, there is always a tiny worry that your heroine can let you down. Oh no, this book opens with a frankly gruesome description of bodies decay and didn’t stop twisting my emotions hither and thither until I sadly turned the last page.
Two bodies are found dead in a barge on the Norfolk Broads and Alex just happens to be in the area at the time. Seeing a chance to make a scoop she chats to the boat owner and the police ringing her old boss Bud Evans to see if he’s willing to run a piece. Within a day or so the verdict of suicide being the one the police are going with unsurprisingly as the deceased connected over the internet on a suicide website. Now I love it when crime fiction takes in (the often depressing) contemporary twists and although I’d vaguely heard of such sites, I was interested to see the character’s take on them too.
As always Mary-Jane Riley spoils her readers with a number of different strands all being played out simultaneously giving the reader no chance to catch their breath. We have the most recent past covered to give us some idea of what has happened in the gap between the end of After She Fell and the start of Dark Waters. We see the family continue to come to terms with the actions of her sister which dominated the first book and we also visit Cambridge University in the early 1970s, in haunting extracts from a first year’s foray into this great place of learning.
I love the fact that Alex is a journalist rather than a Police Officer as that way she isn’t so bound by procedures, or the need to act as a team. Some of the lighter scenes see her negotiating a way to stay on the story when Bud dispatches Heath from the crime desk to file the story. The battle between doing a more worthwhile story rather than extreme coupon is so compelling that Alex, much to the disgust of her friend Lin, is prepared to use her free time to dig into the lives of those who died on the barge but only if Heath lets her in on what he’s found out so far. I wonder how often this kind of dynamic plays out in the world of the freelance journalist.
As in the previous two books, you can’t doubt that any of these characters are anything other than real people.
With so much action going on it must be easy for the author to lose the oomph that makes the characters who they are, but not Mary-Jane, each one from primary to secondary characters are absolutely alive and kicking (well apart from the dead ones!) The plotting is ingenious with the steps along the way being revealed at just the right point to keep the storyline moving forward without ever feeling that the author is holding out on us.
I raced through Dark Waters, thrilled to catch up with Alex, delighted with the twists and turns that this tale took us on and so I turned the last page, sad to say goodbye, until next time!
First Published UK: 16 March 2018
Publisher: Killer Reads
No of Pages: 332
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series Amazon UK
DARK WATERS is the third crime thriller in the series featuring journalist Alex Devlin. It begins with a macabre discovery on board a pleasure cruiser on the beautiful Norfolk Broads – the decomposing bodies of two elderly men. It appears the dead men did not know each other and police suspect an internet suicide pact.
Alex’s search for the truth reveals a darker story. She finds a connection between the two men and possible links to other unexplained deaths.
As she investigates further, the stakes rise and her own family becomes embroiled in the mystery. Her inquiries lead her to the University of Cambridge. Could the roots of the puzzle lie there with a tragedy that unfolded amongst a group of carefree students many years before?
Long-buried secrets come to the surface and Alex’s life and the lives of her family are on the line. As the past and the present collide, Alex questions everything she thinks she knows about those she loves.
Mary-Jane wrote her first story on her newly acquired blue Petite typewriter. She was eight. It was about a gang of children who had adventures on mysterious islands, but she soon realised Enid Blyton had cornered that particular market. So she wrote about the Wild West instead. When she grew up she had to earn a living, and became a BBC radio talk show presenter and journalist. She has covered many life-affirming stories, but also some of the darkest events of the past two decades. Mary-Jane has three grown-up children and lives in Suffolk with her husband and two golden retrievers.
DARK WATERS is her third crime thriller featuring investigative journalist, Alex Devlin.
If you like what you’ve read the links to buy the books are here!
By book five in this series featuring DI Marnie Rome you’d have thought I could come up with something a little more eloquent than ‘even better than the last one,’ but I can’t – and it is. I do love books that can be read on more than one level, and Sarah Hilary has produced just such a book in Come and Find Me.
For those that haven’t followed the series DI Marnie Rome is a single-minded police officer, scarred and yet spurred on to deliver justice by the murder of her parents by her younger foster brother Stephen. We have seen her battle Stephen for the truth of why he did it to no real avail and now, there has been a riot at the prison where Stephen is being held.
Michael Vokey the man at the centre of the riot has disappeared leaving in his wake a trail of destruction with several prisoners in hospital and the rest seemingly mute on the subject. As Michel Vokey was imprisoned for an assault on a young woman with her child present, DI Marnie Rome and DS Noah Jake are on the team to find him and put him back behind bars but they are struggling to find leads.
In between the police investigation we hear the thoughts from one of the prisoners, in a coma in hospital. His appreciation for the nurse who cleans him and cares for him despite the fact that he is in fact chained to the bed, in a room by himself. These excerpts slowly build into a picture of not only what happened the day of the riot, but the events that led up to it.
The most obvious theme in this book is that of obsession. We have DI Marni Rome’s obsession with her brother, the women who wrote to Michael Vokey display another type of obsession as does the prison officer who was unwisely interviewed about the riot. But the other theme is the relationship between mothers and their sons, and vice versa. This is an interesting one as the mothers and sons who fall into this category are all varied and yet they have something in common. In addition to that the book once again turns to the reality of a psychopath, a man (or woman) with some part of their personality missing, someone who has to learn how to behave by copying others. All fascinating stuff, well-developed enough on the page to make the reader think, but in no way presented as a lecture, my favourite type of reading matter.
All of the themes are only possible because of the depth of characterisation that Sarah Hilary provides. These are real people, we may not like many of them, but it’s hard to ignore the prospect that they could exist. The author goes out of her way with the descriptions of prison to lump all prisoners into one easy bucket, there are nuances to their behaviour, and offending, that raises this author’s work head and shoulders above much of the competition. This is crime fiction with a level of complexity that makes for really satisfying reading.
I’d like to thank the publishers Headline for allowing me to read a copy of Come and Find Me prior to publication on 22 March 2018. This review is my unbiased thanks to them and to Sarah Hilary for another riveting tale.
I debated with myself whether or not, this the first in the superb Dalziel and Pascoe series could or should be included as one of my Classic Club’s crime reads, at the end of the (very) long battle with myself I decided against, but having now read it I think it would have provided an excellent example of what was expected from crime fiction at the start of the 1970s but more of that later in the review.
This police procedural revolves around the local Rugby Club and in a brutal match poor old Sam Connon, ‘Connie’ to his team-mates, gets a boot to the head and retires off the pitch early. After not feeling too well, despite the medicinal alcohol, he gets into his home and drives home. His wife, Mary Connon apparently less than impressed with his late arrival for dinner doesn’t speak to him and Connie duly passes out on his bed. Later the police are called, Mary Connon has had her head bashed in.
Even in this early book the plotting is seamless if the set-up is somewhat less than inspired than in the author’s later books but for all that, he clearly knows the rules and has lined up a selection of suitable and distinct suspects for the pot. Unsurprisingly Dalziel is a member of said rugby club, which is what the plot revolves around. We have a variety of men who almost made it big, those who keep order, their time having passed, and of course those whose attendance is possibly fuelled as much by the attractive young women who provide the decoration as the game. Peter Pascoe is there by dint of his job, i.e. being Dalziel’s whipping boy, the object of his derision as he hasn’t yet been promoted to any sort of sounding board at all and so most of his action is via monologues which always veer back to the attractive ladies. Common with what makes his later books so individually memorable is that the book uses the English language so well, the author using the rugby theme to sprinkle its terms through the book and somehow giving the feeling of something more than any old crime fiction novel. Of course I appreciated the more literary leanings in Pictures of Perfection but fortunately, I live with a man who supports Wales in the rugby, and so many of the terms were at least familiar to me.
And here’s the thing, the book isn’t wonderful but it is better than a great many, but the focus of all the male attention seemingly various beddable women was a bit of a shock to the system! It is hard to read in this day and age and imagine that fiction was created out of fact. Did my parent’s generation really spend their entire lives only interested in certain parts of anatomy? Was it really necessary to have some character or another lusting in various crude ways over one woman or another quite so frequently? Apparently the answer is yes. Welcome to the seventies!
That said, because I am a huge fan of this series it is possible to see that where Dalziel is in this book merely brash and uncouth, he did grow into a man with far more facets to his character and fortunately Peter met Ellie who put a stop to all that desperate lusting over girls far too young for him. And best of all I now know the exact point where the two men first fight crime. The carefully negotiating of the alliances that are so important in the small town Yorkshire setting is where these polar opposites will learn to use their very distinct skills to solve a few more crimes in the future. It isn’t just Dalziel and Pascoe that held my interest though, for all the sexism, even at this stage Reginald Hill has a range of characters that are far from stereotypical for the age with some particularly delightful lines from the bit player Anthony who is Connie’s daughter’s boyfriend. He’s introduced via a particularly squirm inducing scene where despite the death of her mother Connie has a brief consideration is given to whether it is appropriate for the two to share a room, of course it isn’t!
I wouldn’t recommend that anyone starts with this book. My entry to the series was probably over two decades later and read in random order depending on what the library had to offer, and over the last few years I have had enormous pleasure in re-reading a few and really appreciating the depth that this author bought to the genre. A Clubbable Woman might not be up with the best but it most definitely wasn’t without its merits.
A Clubbable Woman is the eighth book I’ve read for my Mount TBR Challenge 2018 having been purchased in November 2017 so I gain another third of a book token!
First Published UK: 1970
No of Pages: 256
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series Amazon UK Amazon US
Dalziel & Pascoe Series
A Clubbable Woman (1970)
An Advancement of Learning (1971)
Ruling Passion (1973)
An April Shroud (1975)
A Pinch of Snuff (1978)
A Killing Kindness (1980)
Exit Lines (1984)
Child’s Play (1987) Under World (1988) Bones and Silence (1990)
One Small Step (1990, novella)
Recalled to Life (1992) Pictures of Perfection (1994)
The Wood Beyond (1995)
On Beulah Height (1998)
Arms and the Women (1999)
Dialogues of the Dead (2002)
Death’s Jest-Book (2003)
Good Morning, Midnight (2004)
The Death of Dalziel (2007)
A Cure for All Diseases (2008)
Midnight Fugue (2009)
Camilla Läckberg has provided this reader with another meaty read in this the tenth in the Patrik Hedström and Erica Falck. This story is lengthy and involved. Readers won’t be able to stop themselves remembering some real-life crimes, especially those involving child-killers with the most obvious inspiration being drawn from Anne Perry and her friend Pauline Rieper, not a comfortable subject at all.
The main story is that set in the present day of the disappearance of four-year old Nea Berg from the same farm that another four-year old child went missing from thirty years before. Then Marie and her best friend Helen were accused of murder at the tender age of just thirteen. This is therefore in true Camilla Läckberg style a crime in the past with parallels in the present.
What makes the disappearance of Nea Berg all the more chilling is that Marie Wall had returned to Fjällbacka in her role as Ingrid Bergman in a new film. Marie had used the crime she was accused of thirty years ago to help propel her into Hollywood stardom, and it had worked but she had not set foot back in the small Swedish town since she left all those years before. Helen meanwhile had married a local man aged eighteen and lived a quiet life now mother to a teenage son she is fearful that Marie’s return will encourage the story to come to life again.
The chapters each cover many viewpoints each including scenes at the police station as our old favourites interview witnesses, pour over forensic reports and the ever dependable station chief Bertil Mellberg gives television interviews and interferes in Patrik Hedström’s handling of the case. As always it was great to catch up with everyone in Fjällbacka’s Police force and it does provide some much needed light relief in this dark and disturbing tale.
Erica already had a book in the pipeline about Stella Strand and her two accused killers and so when parallels are drawn between the crimes she is on hand with her notes so far, and the interviews she continues to hold with key people from the time.
Interspersed with the current investigations and happenings are chapters on The Stella Case giving the reader insights that haven’t necessarily been discovered, including those thoughts of the lead investigator. Intriguingly there is also a far older tale to be told that of Elin Jonsdotter in Bohuslän in 1671, what relevance this strand has remains a mystery for much of the book. If all that wasn’t enough the author includes another strand about Syrian refugees.
I enjoyed this greatly although I was reminded why I normally save these novels as holiday reads; The Girl in the Woods is a whopping 592 pages long and packed full of information which doesn’t necessarily lend itself to short bursts of reading. For the first time in this series I did have moments where I wondered if the author had been slightly over-ambitious in the amount of different strands that run through the book, not that it was confusing, far from it, but the read felt far darker overall than the previous books in the series, and they were hardly laugh a minute reads. However, if you are a fan, as I am, there is much to feast on not only while you are reading this book but there are bigger themes and philosophical questions to ponder long after you finish the last page.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to HarperCollins UK who allowed me to read advance copy of The Girl in the Woods before publication on 22 February 2018. This unbiased review is my thanks to them.
First Published UK: 22 February 2018
No of Pages: 592
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series Amazon UK Amazon US