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

Cry for Help – Steve Mosby

Crime Fiction
4*s

A woman’s body is found. She hasn’t been stabbed or shot, instead she has been tied up and left to die of dehydration. Somehow seems far more brutal, and what on earth is the motive?

Dave Lewis is a man with plenty of baggage, his brother died as a child and his parents were consumed with grief. He works a magician and denounces those mediums who he feels preys on those like his parents, desperate to have some contact with their loved ones. Dave narrates his part of this story in the first person and we soon learn that tragically one of victims is known to him. He’s consumed with guilt that he didn’t try to find out how she was. How in this day and age where we are connected electronically to each other can people in your life fade so quickly into the background?

The detective is Sam Currie who has his own baggage to deal with. He has to put all of that to one side though and try and work out who the killer is and what they are trying to achieve. When a woman gets in contact pointing the finger at a suspect, he follows the lead, but is it the right one?

With the bulk of the book told from the third person covering the investigation and the other aspects to the case, it is fair to say this is a complex, and dark story. This multi-threaded story has a reoccurring theme of responsibility. Obviously our detective has responsibility for finding the killer, particularly one as twisted as this individual seems to be. But was Dave responsible for the death of his brother? Is it really up to him to stop the charlatans profiting from the grief-stricken, or should he allow those who want to believe so desperately to find solace where they can? On the much broader note, are we as a society less connected to each other than we were before the massive advancement of technology. Perhaps actually seeing your friends with your own eyes is more reliable than receiving a text message and assuming all is well. What happens though if that message isn’t sent by your friend and actually they are far from well? How do we know? This theme is meticulously carried through the book, and I do like books that make me reflect in this type of way.

That’s not to say Cry for Help isn’t a satisfying crime fiction novel in its own right, it is with plenty of action, twists and turns and red-herrings and expert plotting to hold this reader’s attention. I have to admit it did take me a while to settle into the style and work out what on earth is happening. I’m not particularly squeamish normally but I did find the descriptions of the girl’s deaths disturbing to say the least. I’m not always entirely sure where the line is between being inventive and going too far but I’d say this was on that very line!

This is the second book I’ve read by this author, the first being Black Flowers, another disturbing and memorable read and I bought Cry for Help after reading that one back in 2011. So you’ve guessed it, this is also a read for my Mount TBR Challenge 2018 being the 20th book I’ve read since 1 January 2018 from my own bookshelves purchased before 31 December 2017.

First Published UK: 2008
Publisher: Orion
No of Pages: 288
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

Sweet William – Iain Maitland

Crime Fiction
4*s

Sometimes when you have quite a few books on your TBR, many of which I have added because of the wonderful reviews my fellow bloggers have written, I don’t remember any of the details of quite why I bought them. In my defence I read many books and even more reviews of books so I can’t be expected to remember the finer details. So in short it isn’t that unusual for me to dive into a book with only a faint idea of what to expect. I can safely say, I didn’t expect what I got with this book, one that is anything other than forgettable.

Raymond Orrey has a plan. He is going to escape from the psychiatric unit, his current home to find his son William and take him away to the South of France to live a blissful life. Orrey is not mad, not like his fellow guests at the Nottinghamshire hospital, he doesn’t dribble or rock himself, he’s planned his escape, as well as he possibly can and he knows where he needs to get to. To the house in Aldeburgh where his son William is visiting with his ‘new’ parents, to attend the parade for Halloween and maybe to have a ride at the funfair. Raymond is going to take William away to a better life, with him, his father.

William is really quite small but he’s had a hell of a disrupted life in that short time and although the short break in the holiday home isn’t friction free – after all, families all have their tensions especially when more than one generation gathers at a time and his ‘grandparents’ are part of the treat. William is also diabetic and not a fan of having his blood tested for sugars.

What follows is mad. Not a politically correct word I’ll admit but the most suitable one. Reading Sweet William is a bizarre experience. Raymond Orrey gives us a blow by blow account of his escape and his thoughts. We are drawn into his world when he seems to ask advice when his plans go awry. Seeing as he didn’t really have any beyond escaping and travelling to his son, this happens frequently. Should this man run or try to blend in with the crowd? Would the police be looking for him or does he have time before they are alerted? We have the questions and then see what he chose in the next chapter – this goes on for 48 hours and is exhausting. Why? Because it pulled this reader entirely into a world where it is hard to keep reminding yourself that Raymond is mad, most likely very dangerous and it doesn’t matter how many times he tries to convince you otherwise. Of course we are never convinced by those who need to repeatedly tell us they aren’t mad but this author has written this so well that sometimes despite this, you get drawn into Raymond Orrey’s chaotic world so that when he weighs up his options you find yourself predicting which, if any, will be the most successful whilst keeping in mind the careful care needed to keep William safe and well, care I wasn’t sure his father would manage.

This is an unusual piece of crime fiction, I’m so glad I took Fiction Fan’s advice, the skill of the writer is abundantly apparent even if the title is entirely misleading, this is the darkest read I’ve unexpectedly fallen into in a long, long time! That said I can’t wait to see what this author produces next.

This is the 18th 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. Sweet William was purchased on 28 December 2017 thereby qualifying by the skin of its teeth!

First Published UK: 19 October 2017
Publisher: Saraband
No of Pages: 251
Genre: Crime 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

Snap – Belinda Bauer

Crime Fiction
5*s

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of this author’s work in which she invariably manages to lace her crime novels with a sense of humour. Belinda Bauer above all has an exceptional ability to capture her characters on the page and none more so than when the character is a child. This is in contrast to so many other writers who often appear to use their child characters as a device and somehow make them either bland or annoying, but somehow not quite real. Not so in this novel.

Three children, eleven-year old Jack, nine-year old Joy and two-year old Merry are left on the hard shoulder of the motorway while their pregnant mother walks to the phone box to get help when their car breaks down. The sun is shining on this August day in 1998:

It was so hot in the car that the seats smelled as though they were melting. Jack was in shorts, and every time he moved his legs they sounded like sellotape.

Yes, we’ve all had that experience in a hot car but unlike these poor children our mothers didn’t walk into the distance never to return.

The story then jumps forward three years to Catherine While’s house, her husband Adam is away, she’s heavily pregnant and thinks she can hear someone in the house.

When you lived alone, and you heard a noise in the night, you didn’t cower under the bedclothes and wait for your fate to saunter up the stairs and down the hallway. When you lived alone, you got up and grabbed the torch, the bat, the hairspray and you sneaked downstairs to confront… The dishwasher.

This time though, it wasn’t the dishwasher.

When she returns to bed, there is a knife and a note by the side of her bed, that wasn’t there before.

The reader follows Jack’s struggle following his mother’s disappearance as well as observing what Catherine does following the intruder to her house, and not all of her actions are wise ones!

And then we have a Detective Inspector John Marvel who has been sent to Somerset away from his beloved London following a transgression and he’s assigned to the Goldilocks case; a burglar who breaks into people’s houses and sleeps in their beds before making off with their belongings. His team consists of DC Parrott and DS Reynolds and three make a hilarious trio as they try to catch their man.

So lots going on and yet all so enticing. There wasn’t a page that didn’t delight me with vignettes of observation that really hit the mark:

Angry embers spat and popped inside him. The papers always called her ‘mum-to-be’. But she was a mum-who-already-was.
Everyone had forgotten him and Joy and Merry.

Friday night and Catherine’s risotto was a triumph. All she’d done was stand and stir it while The Archers was on, but Jan went on and on about it as I she’d spit-roasted a unicorn.

The star of this show though is Jack, his resilience alone is amazing, and it is precisely because we see the cracks in his armour that I couldn’t help but fall in love with him.

A read that I have to admit is a tad quirky for a crime novel, a book that will truly entertain you while the darkness of murder lurks. It is so refreshing to read something that is differs in style within this, my favourite genre.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers by way of this unbiased review for allowing me to read a copy of Snap, prior to the publication in eBook format today, 3 May 2018. For those of you who want the print version it is following on 17 May 2018.

First Published UK: 3 May 2018
Publisher:Bantam Press
No of Pages: 352
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Other Books by Belinda Bauer

Blacklands
Darkside
Finders Keepers
Rubbernecker
The Facts of Life and Death
The Shut Eye
The Beautiful Dead

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

The Craftsman – Sharon Bolton

Crime Fiction
5*s

Oh my! What a brilliant read! This has to be one of the scariest books I’ve read in a long while and yet there a few graphic scenes, what the author does is get into your mind and play with it.

Brilliantly the opening to this book is an author’s message to her readers – a lovely touch, which ends with these words:

The Craftsman is the story of women, and witches. Of the children we love and must protect. And of the men who fear us.

The Craftsman is mainly set right in 1969 when our protagonist WPC Florence Lovelady is visiting the mother of a missing girl of fifteen in the town of Sabden which lies in the shadow of Pendle Hill in the North-West of England. Florence is a strong, educated woman in what was back then, very much a man’s world. At the time we meet her as a young officer she is tagging along with the higher ranking Detective Constable Tom Devine as the superintendent thought a woman officer was a nice touch.

Now every good witch knows and consequently fears, Pendle in Lancashire which was where a number of witches were tried for witchcraft back in 1612. All admittedly a long time ago, but the history just adds to the superstitious small town community of Sabden which is coping with young people going missing gives legs to rumours and supposition. What this brilliant novel illustrates is how the charge of being a witch could all too easily be levelled against a woman, especially when a whole community feels as though nothing is going right, and what is going wrong is almost inconceivable.

I’m not revealing anything the synopsis doesn’t to say that teens were being buried alive in caskets, and nor I imagine do I have then have to explain quite how terrifying this book is. The setting of 1969, an age of comparative innocence, a fresh-faced, if far more intelligent than her superiors are prepared to admit, WPC it seems even more horrific that the murders are not only unusual, but particularly horrific.

Anyway good old Florence is determined to catch the perpetrator and thirty years later we meet her at the graveside of Larry Glassbrook a coffin maker. A man who has been imprisoned for the last thirty years. A man who Florence has visited over the years whilst she was climbing the slippery pole towards the glass ceiling. But, the case from the past is far from over and Florence is drawn back to the beginning of her career.

This novel is cleverly plotted with the parallels between the witches of the past and the present day happenings inevitably drawn, so subtlety and yet so powerful. I loved Florence and was rooting through her both in 1969 and 1999 her character clearly having developed in the intervening thirty years but her drive undiminished. Once again Sharon Bolton has created memorable and lifelike characters to populate one of the creepiest reads of the year. I strongly predict this book making it easily into the top ten reads of the year! Yes – I’m telling you all, you need to read this one, if you dare…

Sharon Bolton is so talented and as much as I loved her Lacey Flint series I have to confess I’ve loved her stand-alone novels even more, if that’s at all possible– you can take your pick from these as they are all shocking, gripping and oh so inventive.

I’d like to say a big thank you to the publishers Trapeze who allowed me to read an advance review copy of The Craftsman and to Sharon Bolton for keeping me up all night and caused my dreams in the nights since I read it to be filled with coffins and witches! This unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 3 May 2018
Publisher:Trapeze
No of Pages: 432
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Other Fantastic Fiction by Sharon Bolton

Standalone Novels

Sacrifice (2008)
Awakening (2009)
Blood Harvest (2010)
Little Black Lies (2015)
Daisy In Chains (2016)
Dead Woman Walking (2017)

Lacey Flint Series

Now You See Me (2011)
If Snow Hadn’t Fallen (2012) Novella
Dead Scared (2012)
Like This Forever (2013)
A Dark and Twisted Tide (2014)
Here Be Dragons (2016) Novella

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, 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
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