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

Love Like Blood – Mark Billingham

Crime Fiction
5*s

There is something doubly appealing about crime fiction with a strong contemporary feel and Mark Billingham has chosen this, his fourteenth book in the Tom Thorne series to highlight honour killings. The fact that he does this within a brilliantly constructed mystery certainly makes for compelling reading.

DI Nicola Tanner is on compassionate leave after the death of her partner who was murdered inside their shared home. Having worked with Thorne when he makes a brief appearance  in Die of Shame, she seeks him out convinced that those in charge of the investigation into Susan’s death are not interested in her belief that her murder was a case of mistaken identity, and it is actually her own life they meant to take.

The relationship between Tanner and Thorne is brilliantly handled as they work off the grid to find out the truth. When a couple of teenagers go missing Thorne and Tanner fear their own families know more than they are letting on but are they reading too much into the case?

I was delighted that Hendricks, the gay pierced and hugely sarcastic doctor who carries out the post mortems on any of the stray bodies that are sent in his direction, was back to lighten the plotline when it all becomes a bit too dark. Black humour is infinitely better than no humour at all and in all honesty, whilst she might have had ample reason to be so, Tanner is the most entertaining of detectives.

Thorne is in the form of the fictional detective is more than happy to bend the rules to suit himself although with the normally rule-abiding Tanner pushing him to do more, he has the occasional doubt about whether this is the right thing to do in this instance.

You might fear from the earlier paragraphs that this is a worthy piece of crime fiction that is tackling a sensitive subject with little knowledge of the issues. Not so. Mark Billingham has clearly researched his subject matter speaking to those who have been part of those families where the younger generation are resistant to following the rules their parents are keen to uphold for fear of becoming outcasts in their own community. The idea that murdering your own child to protect the family’s reputation is rightly abhorrent to many even within these communities, but sadly not to all. Whilst Mark Billingham more than nods his head at the former, this is not a book that preaches, he lets his characters display the emotions that echoed in my own mind but managing to steer clear of a commentary that didn’t fit the natural direction of the investigation being undertaken.

As has been the case with each of the Mark Billingham books I have read the pace is fairly furious, if you are anything like me, you will not want to put this book aside even though you are in much need of a breather from the latest piece of action. The plot is complex and involved with enough facts to underpin the occasional surprise the author springs on his reader. Just the way I like my crime fiction.

I’d like to thank the publisher Grove Atlantic for allowing me to read an advance copy of Love Like Blood ahead of publication on 20 June 2017. This honest review is my thanks to them and to Mark Billingham for an in-depth look at an issue brilliantly threaded through a captivating crime novel.

First Published UK: 20 June 2017
Publisher: Grove Atlantic
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Mark Billingham Books

Sleepyhead [Aug 2001] Tom Thorne #1
Scaredy Cat [Jul 2002] Tom Thorne #2
Lazybones [Jul 2003] Tom Thorne #3
The Burning Girl [Jul 2004] Tom Thorne #4
Lifeless [May 2005] Tom Thorne #5
Buried [May 2006] Tom Thorne #6
Death Message [Aug 2007] Tom Thorne #7
In the Dark [Aug 2008] Standalone Novel
Bloodline [Aug 2009] Tom Thorne #8
From the Dead [Aug 2010] Tom Thorne #9
Good as Dead [Aug 2011] Tom Thorne #10
Rush of Blood [Aug 2012] Standalone Novel
The Dying Hours [May 2013] Tom Thorne #11
The Bones Beneath [May 2014] Tom Thorne #12
Time of Death [April 2015] Tom Thorne #13
Die of Shame [May 2016] Standalone Novel
Love Like Blood [June 2017] Tom Thorne #14

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

In Deep Water – Sam Blake

Crime Fiction
4*s

I do like it when despite being part of a series, the author takes an entirely different scenario for their subsequent book. Yes we have Cat Connolly, a boxer, feisty and willing to do what she thinks is right in her role in Garda Síochána, but rather than a crime that spanned generations which we had in Little Bones, In Deep Water focus is on a crime which is very much of the present when journalist, Cat’s best friend and training partner Sarah Jane Hansen goes missing.

The first inkling that all is not well is when Sarah Jane fails to make a training session with Cat and her coach and doesn’t answer her phone. When Cat takes a call from Sarah Jane’s mother saying that she’s worried and her husband Ted Hansen, a reporter for CNN currently on location had warned her off a story, it isn’t long before Cat formally reports her friend as a missing person.

One of the pleasures of reading series is that the successful ones develop the key characters by adding layers to what has already been gleaned; Sam Blake has fully achieved this brief as by the very nature of having Cat investigate the disappearance of her friend, we get to see more of her vulnerabilities. After the investigation in the first book we have more of an insight into her relationship with her boss, DI Dawson O’ Rourke, a man who has become more protective of her following the mental and physical scars that resulted from their previous investigation. This interplay is entirely convincing, a bonus as I do like to feel that what I read in crime fiction is realistic. Fortunately despite the horrifying end to the last book, it soon becomes clear that Cat, despite her struggle to regain her previous fitness levels, was her desire to be a profiler within Garda Síochána and so she is studying as well as training and working. I have to be honest Cat’s schedule exhausted me just reading about it.

Sam Blake doesn’t neglect the secondary characters either, each one was well-drawn and yet distinct and pleasingly quite diverse while avoiding the easy short-hand clichés. We meet the highly successful business men and women, the coach with his own battle scars, a young boy with autism and some young women who are living a life I simply didn’t want to imagine.

There is no doubt that this was a superbly well-researched novel, a proper police procedural with the aspects of the investigation qualified with plenty of explanations which only rarely impinged on the flow of the storyline.
In Deep Water steps into the darker areas of crime, giving the book a real edgy feel helped along by plenty of action. This is one scary ride as the team retrace Sarah Jane’s last known movements, a journey that takes in the seedier aspects of life, one that if dwelt upon could be very depressing. Fortunately with many strands of storyline to juggle there is no time to dwell as this accomplished author pulls the strands skilfully together.

I’d like to thank the publishers Bonnier Zaffre for allowing me to read a review copy of In Deep Water and for Sam Blake for writing such an enjoyable read. This review is my unbiased thanks to them.

First Published UK: 6 April 2017
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
No of Pages: 416
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Blood Tide – Claire McGowan

Crime Fiction
4*s

I have followed this series set in Ballyterrin with Paula McGuire our brave yet personally conflicted protagonist and enjoyed each and every new outing but the change in setting to Bone Island complete with lighthouse definitely added something quite special to the already enjoyable mix.

Paula McGuire is living with her daughter Maggie in her parent’s old house in Ballyterrin while the man who so nearly became her husband in A Savage Hunger is in jail accused of murder, refusing to see her. Paula is still searching for the truth about what happened to her mother many years ago during ‘The Troubles.’ What makes this series quite so believable is this backdrop of times both past and present to the forensic psychologist’s life.

A call comes through to Paula as her role as a missing person specialist; a couple have gone missing from Bone Island. The lighthouse where they live is locked from the inside but there is no sign of Matt Andrew, a keen ecologist or his partner, the local doctor Fiona Watts. With a violent storm raging and some seriously closed lipped locals the sense of danger is never far away in this atmospheric and creepy novel. The weather almost acts as a character in its own right, hindering the search for the missing, adding danger to the trip to the island and of course preventing anyone who might want or need to, from leaving for safety.

Paula is conflicted, she wants to see the island to remind herself of the last holiday she spent with her mother Margaret and father P.J. now retired but formerly a Roman Catholic RUC Officer. On the other hand she has left her daughter in the capable hands of her best friend with her father and his second wife Kathleen.

Paula is a professional and she does her best to get beyond the silence and the half-truths that she is being fed. What she needs to discover is whether this treatment is the same for all outsiders or is it reserved for their visit?

There are a number of strands to the storyline in this the most tense and action packed of the entire series. As well as the obvious link of missing people, both past and present, we have a strand to do with the environment as well as the hostility of the small community to outsiders, but throughout it all Paula’s complicated personal life is given equal dominance. A troubled sleuth is hardly a rarity in crime fiction but Paula has no obvious vices although perhaps the complications could have been kept at arm’s length if she hadn’t decided to return to Ballyterrin and even the most generous reader has to admit that she could do with being a little bit sensible over her choice of relationships.

We might be spending our time on a windswept island full of strangeness, secrets and suspicion but back home the private investigator is continue his enquiries into Margaret’s disappearance along with looking for evidence to free Aiden. Will there be success on either front? Well… you’ll need to read Blood Tide for yourself to find out!

I’d like to thank the publishers Headline for providing me with a copy of Blood Tide, this unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 23 March 2017
Publisher: Headline
No of Pages:  352
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

The Paula McGuire Series

The Lost
The Dead Ground
The Silent Dead
Savage Hunger

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

The Monster in the Box – Ruth Rendell

Crime Fiction
4*s

The Monster in the Box is the twenty-second of Ruth Rendell’s books to feature Chief Inspector Reg Wexford and here he is, in the present, although nowhere near as old as he’d have to be if he’d aged in line with his first appearance back in 1964 in From Doon With Death!

Pleasingly in what turned out to be Wexford’s last outing as a paid policeman, although he does appear retired in both The Vault and No Man’s Nightingale, he gives the reader an insight into his early years right back to before he got married and his belief that a man who has stalked him on and off over the years from that time has reappeared. I was happily carried away with this nostalgia for times gone by which is wickedly edged with something far more sinister by way of this maybe stalker Eric Targo. Wexford’s first challenge is to be certain that it is the same man, as previously Targo sported a livid birthmark on his neck which he kept covered with a scarf and the man he’s recently encountered doesn’t have one, but then medical advances have been made in the intervening period. Wexford is concerned enough that he opens up to his close friend DI Burden over wine and a minimal amount of cashew nuts, for the first time that he believes that not only has Targo followed him through the decades, but that he is a serial killer. Wexford only reason for keeping this information secret is that he has not one scrap of evidence, but he’s determined to find some now!

The tone of the book is entirely in keeping with the look back over the years and never more so than when describing the investigation into Elsie Carroll’s death which makes you realise just how unsophisticated the field was back then. Elsie’s husband John is tried for the murder but released on a technicality but Wexford suspects the killer was Targo despite his seemingly cast-iron alibi. Although the tone is reminiscent of older generations throughout time with the ‘well of course we didn’t have….’ And the ‘…. Hadn’t been invented then’ types of phrases the most evocative parts of the past are in the descriptions of the evenings spent by those in the neighbourhood at the time of Elsie Carroll’s death.

Intertwined with this storyline is one concerning Burden’s second wife, Jenny, and the new DS Hannah Goldsmith who are concerned that something untoward is happening with one of Jenny’s former pupils Tamima. This is a complex storyline includes a DS who has done all the awareness training and the way a Muslim family bring up their daughter makes for uncomfortable reading not because of the cultural sensitivities but the ham-fisted way the women go about trying to prove that there aren’t any, the result is that this aspect can either be viewed as an inspired way of trying to enlighten her readers to the obvious conflicts or as being borderline offensive. I took the former viewpoint but I’m not sure everyone would.

As always Ruth Rendell provides her most solid of policemen with a solid mystery, and a satisfying read. Granted, this isn’t up to the standard of some of her greatest books, but there is a proper mystery, the book moves forward at a steady investigative pace and the backwards look over Reg’s personal life was a really lovely and welcome touch.

The Monster in the Box was my fourteenth read in my Mount TBR Challenge 2017, so I’m still on target to hit 36 books purchased before 1 January 2017. I don’t know when I purchased this book but it was on a shelf of books that I planned to read before the end of 2014 – that target got missed!

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First Published UK: 2009
Publisher: Hutchinson
No of Pages:  288
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series 
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

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

Need You Dead – Peter James #blogtour

Crime Fiction
5*s

I am particularly delighted to be part of the blog tour for Need You Dead which is the thirteenth in the award-winning DS Roy Grace series by Peter James because this is a series I’ve followed from the very beginning, reading each book in order eager to find out what has happened to my favourite characters whilst knowing that there will be a cracking crime story to keep me entertained.

Today Peter James is sharing some of his research with us:

DS Roy Grace Blog Tour – Day 7
Research behind Dead Man’s Grip

While researching Dead Man’s Grip I was taken around the famous local landmark that is Shoreham Power station. Along with being claustrophobic I have always had an absolute terror of heights, so the research for a key scene in the book, involving a secret tunnel under Shoreham Harbour, where I would be making a 180 feet vertical descent down a ladder in a shaft, was horrifying! A major “oh shit” moment! Fortunately I had two very delightful and caring helpers from Rescue & Emergency Medical Services Ltd who gave me the confidence and help to do it.

Then at the launch of Dead Man’s Grip I was submerged in a van in Shoreham Harbour for a stunt enacting a key scene in the book. I was nervous as hell before this event and I had the whole police dive team prepped to rescue me in case it went wrong!

Peter James has kindly provided original pieces for each day of his blog tour so make sure you catch the rest of the stops!

 

Book Review
Lorna Belling has been found dead in a bath tub in a rented flat in Brighton. Already known to the police because she’s reported her husband for domestic abuse Roy Grace sees the investigation as a good one for Guy Batchelor to be Deputy Senior Investigating Officer for a couple of reasons: one to allow him to learn the ropes and secondly because Roy has to fly to Germany to pick up his son Bruno to bring him back for the funeral of his mother.

Lorna is a hairdresser who works from home, her phone is monitored by her husband and there has been more than one nasty incident with her husband Corin who works for an IT company, but the last attack was particularly nasty. The Domestic Violence caseworker is concerned for Lorna’s safety but so far Lorna has decided to stay put with Corin and the puppies she has bred. But the flat where Lorna was found dead wasn’t her home, so why is she in a cheap rental flat with dodgy electrics?

Of course the investigation isn’t quite as straightforward as first appearances indicated and the reader is in on the action seeing the red-herrings being liberally scattered across Brighton to ensure that the Police are following entirely the wrong scent. In a bold move by the author we even know why the only link missing is who it could be. It goes to show how in experienced hands a small amount of mystery is all that is needed with this book not lacking at all in tension as the team set out to find the killer – or perhaps Lorna committed suicide after all?

There are a number of strands to be pursued by the team and all of them have a good collection of well-drawn characters to keep us fully entertained as they do so!

It is almost refreshing these days to have modern crime fiction told in a straightforward time-line and here we have the chapters headed up by the days of the week starting from the beginning and working to the end – how clever is that? Because there is so much going on there are several chapters for each day, with each looking from a different point of view and in the case of Roy Grace, some are from a different country.

As with the entire series I get as much enjoyment in meeting up with the large and varied cast of characters, particularly with the established team of police, with the author reflecting their most immediate concerns using his extensive contacts with the real crime fighters in Brighton’s Police Force to ensure all the details are bang up to date. A small word of caution, Mr James, please don’t turn Roy Grace into a political figurehead for the Police however much your sources urge you to, less is more as they say!

As always this latest Roy Grace story had me thoroughly entertained. I can also spy some interesting threads which I’m sure we will follow for a few books yet in Roy’s personal life as Bruno settles into life as a big brother to baby Noah and so as always, no sooner did I put the book down, I was eager to have the next instalment from Brighton and Hove.

I am extremely grateful to Macmillan and Midas PR for providing me with a review copy of this book, and for allowing me to be part of this blog tour – the pinnacle of my blogging ambitions! My review of course is unbiased.

First Published UK: 18 May 2017
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
No of Pages:  432
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

Need You Dead, the thirteenth in the award-winning DS Roy Grace series by Peter James, is out 18th May (Macmillan, £20.00)

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

The Scent of Murder – Felicity Young

Historical Fiction
4*s

The more I read of this historical crime fiction series featuring autopsy surgeon Dodi McCleland, the more I enjoy the sheer brilliance of the author carefully weaving historical details and behaviours into a well-plotted crime novel.

In this episode, Dodi is chaperoning her younger sister Florence to a weekend stay at Fitzgibbon Hall a country house near the hamlet of Piltdown. Also at the house is Florence’s love interest Tristram and his ghastly uncle Desmond. When a set of bones is found on a dried out waterbed in the grounds, Tristram hopes that this find will rival those of the Piltdown Man. With hunting with hounds not really Dodi’s idea of a good time she offers to take a look and it soon becomes clear the bones are of a young female, possibly a resident of the nearby workhouse.

The mystery is who is the girl and why was she shot in the back of the head and of course, who shot her? There really is only one way to proceed and that is to call on a detective to complement her medical knowledge. Yes, followers of the series will be delighted to hear that Inspector Matthew Pike makes an appearance even though Dodi is not at home. The pair’s relationship has matured although the sensibilities of the times means that it is still one of a clandestine nature. This lends a somewhat farcical scene when they come to meet in public yet are unable to act with anything beyond the professional façade.

The Scent of Murder is jam-packed with characters of all descriptions which means that some of them are pretty awful, some of them do awful things and some of them are outright baddies, oh and there are a few wise and kind souls but you have to look harder for them! In all seriousness I really do admire the way Felicity Young balances the fairly unlikeable characters with small gestures of kindness whilst never stooping to sentimentalise the realities of life at this time, particularly if you were a girl from the workhouse hoping for a permanent job as an under maid.

This series of books feel a lot more measured than contemporary crime fiction, but that doesn’t mean that they are without action, in each of the three books I’ve read there is plenty to keep you biting your nails as danger stalks the victims of this tale from all directions as the multiple strands pull together to expose all the dastardly goings on.

As in the other books in the series the victims are those that you would naturally choose from this era of history, women, children and the poor but the author is careful not to overdo the issues she is addressing. The focus in this book is the poor, particularly those who inhabit the nearby workhouse run by the Master and Mistress, who are as vile as any you might meet in a Dickens novel. This in contrast the opulent Fitzgibbon Hall with its hunting and well-stocked kitchen says all that needs to be said about the divide between rich and poor at this time.

The Scent of Murder is another book rich with detail for any lover of historical crime fiction.

The Scent of Murder was my twelfth read in my Mount TBR Challenge 2017, so I’m still on target to hit 36 books purchased before 1 January 2017. I purchased this book in September 2015.

mount-tbr-2017

 

 

First Published UK: 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
No of Pages: 243
Genre: Historical Fiction – Crime 
Amazon UK

Dodi McCleland Series

The Anatomy of Death
Antidote to Murder
The Scent of Murder
An Insanity of Murder

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

Dying Games – Steve Robinson

Crime Fiction
5*s

The genealogical expert Jefferson Tayte is back! I love this series which has taken me back to historical eras I know little about while telling a cracking story in the bargain. In this latest episode the majority of the action happens in the present day but the seeds of this action belong firmly in the past. In Washington, DC the FBI are interested in Jefferson Tayte, aka JT, so he breaks off his Scottish trip with his fiancée to return to answer their questions.

It seems that there is a serial killer on the loose, a serial killer who isn’t content with straightforward killing. Oh no, this killer comes up with inventive, and tortuous ways to dispatch his victims. JT examines the latest scene where twin brothers have been drowned in a Perspex box filled with water, an elaborate murder which indicates that this killing is as much about capturing attention as anything else. For JT finding out his former research is somehow linked to the killings is more than a little disquieting. And then comes a clue, genealogical in nature, which the FBI can’t solve without his help.

The race against time as JT uses all his skills, and his files provide the reader with facts as well as almost non-stop action with the pace relentless throughout this episode. The killer wants JT involved in the chase, but why? As the authorities have to release warnings to everyone who has employed JT’s family history services in the past, his reputation is in tatters. Living in a safe house with only a FBI agent for company it is easy to sympathise, JT is forced to try to save the chosen victims while his professional and personal life is shredded by his association to the horrendous crimes being committed.

This was absolutely brilliant, Steve Robinson has produced a real puzzle within this thriller! Or perhaps I should say lots of mini puzzles which require different aspects of genealogical research to solve. This will ensure that those readers who have hit a brick wall in their own family history research can put things into perspective; unless you are in the unlikely position of having to find a particular person’s details otherwise someone else may die!

Steve Robinson hasn’t forgotten the overall story arc which began with JT searching for his own origins following his adoption and so not only does Jean, his fiancée, play a role in Deadly Games, but another superb character that JT made contact with in Kindred also makes a substantial appearance at just the right time!

JT himself has grown and developed depth as a character throughout the series with his emotional development handled with a light but sure touch keeping the reader’s attention without being overwhelmed by navel-gazing.
I really can’t recommend this book highly enough, whilst you will be missing out if you haven’t read the previous books in the series, this will also work as a standalone novel for lovers of puzzles, mysteries and a rollercoaster of a ride.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Steve Robinson who provided me with an ARC for this, the sixth book in the JT series, this unbiased review is my thanks to him and Thomas Mercer. Dying Games has decisively knocked To The Grave as my favourite read in this series from the top spot!

First Published UK: 4 May 2017
Publisher: Thomas Mercer
No of Pages: 320
Genre: Crime Fiction – Genealogical
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Previous Books in the JT series

In The Blood
Two hundred years ago a loyalist family fled to England to escape the American War of Independence and seemingly vanished into thin air. American genealogist Jefferson Tayte is hired to find out what happened, but it soon becomes apparent that a calculated killer is out to stop him.
In the Blood combines a centuries-old mystery with a present-day thriller that brings two people from opposite sides of the Atlantic together to uncover a series of carefully hidden crimes. Tayte’s research centres around the tragic life of a young Cornish girl, a writing box, and the discovery of a dark secret that he believes will lead him to the family he is looking for. Trouble is, someone else is looking for the same answers and will stop at nothing to find them.

To The Grave
A curiously dated child’s suitcase arrives, unannounced and unexplained, in a modern-day Washington suburb. A week later, American genealogist Jefferson Tayte is sitting in an English hotel room, staring at the wrong end of a loaded gun.
In his latest journey into the past, Tayte lands in wartime Leicestershire, England. The genealogist had hoped simply to reunite his client with the birth mother she had never met, having no idea she had been adopted. Instead, he uncovers the tale of a young girl and an American serviceman from the US 82nd Airborne, and a stolen wartime love affair that went tragically wrong.

The Last Queen of England
While on a visit to London, American genealogist Jefferson Tayte’s old friend and colleague dies in his arms. Before long, Tayte and a truth-seeking historian, Professor Jean Summer, find themselves following a corpse-ridden trail that takes them to the Royal Society of London, circa 1708.
What to make of the story of five men of science, colleagues of Isaac Newton and Christopher Wren, who were mysteriously hanged for high treason?
As they edge closer to the truth, Tayte and the professor find that death is once again in season. A new killer, bent on restoring what he sees as the true, royal bloodline, is on the loose…as is a Machiavellian heir-hunter who senses that the latest round of murder, kidnapping, and scandal represents an unmissable business opportunity.

The Lost Empress

On a foggy night in 1914, the ocean liner Empress of Ireland sank en route between Canada and England. The disaster saw a loss of life comparable to the Titanic and the Lusitania, and yet her tragedy has been forgotten.
When genealogist Jefferson Tayte is shown a locket belonging to one of the Empress’s victims, a British admiral’s daughter named Alice Stilwell, he must travel to England to understand the course of events that led to her death.
Tayte is expert in tracking killers across centuries. In The Lost Empress, his unique talents draw him to one of the greatest tragedies in maritime history as he unravels the truth behind Alice’s death amidst a backdrop of pre-WWI espionage.

Kindred

Jefferson Tayte is good at finding people who don’t want to be found. For years he has followed faint genealogical trails to reunite families—and uncover long-hidden secrets. But Tayte is a loner, a man with no ties of his own; his true identity is the most elusive case of his career.

But that could all be about to change. Now Tayte has in his possession the beginnings of a new trail—clues his late mentor had started to gather—that might at last lead to his own family. With Professor Jean Summer, his partner in genealogical sleuthing, he travels to Munich to pick up the scent. But the hunt takes them deep into dangerous territory: the sinister secrets of World War II Germany, and those who must keep them buried at any cost.

 

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

See What I Have Done – Sarah Schmidt

Historical Fiction
4*s

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.

On 4 August 1892 Andrew and Abby Borden were brutally murdered in their own home where they lived with Andrew’s daughters Lizzie and Emma and their housemaid Bridget. Lizzie was put on trial for their murder but was exonerated of the crime at her trial three months later.

Sarah Schmidt has recreated the scene on the morning of the murder, and in the months leading up to it using four different narrators: Lizzie, Bridget, Emma and the mystery character Benjamin. These four give us different views of a household which was undoubtedly full of tension with Lizzie and Emma only deigning to call Abby, Mrs Borden.
The thing that struck me most was how young Lizzie’s character seemed to be. The voice is actually a woman in her thirties, unmarried in an age where that was unusual, but she sounds far more like a petulant child. This just adds to the weird atmosphere recreated by Sarah Schmidt with many references to smells and tastes, particularly of the mutton stew which was endlessly reheated. Was this the cause of the sickness that all the members of the household, bar Lizzie were afflicted with? Or was the cause something more sinister? The stickiness of the day, the juiciness of the endless pears that were consumed from the arbour and the meticulous locking of the doors even during the daytime all add to the feeling of claustrophobia that set this household in Fall River, Massachusetts from the rest of the world.

All the best known details of the investigation into the brutal slaying of Mr and Mrs Borden are included, some in the present day narrative which runs throughout the book, some in the flashbacks that give the background to past conflicts that are still running, no doubt because the two daughters should have left long ago. We are given some insight as to why Emma stayed, which was due to the unnaturally symbiotic relationship with Lizzie, but no clue was offered as to why none of the local men had asked for Lizzie’s hand in marriage.

The style of writing took a little while to acclimatise to, but once I got into the stride of the book I was eager to see what theories as to what happened on that fateful day the author would propose and I’m glad to say that no single theory held sway over another, with Sarah Schmidt giving the reader the chance to come to their own conclusions based on the evidence produced.

I have to admit I only really sympathised with one of the characters who narrates this story and that was Bridget, the Irish housemaid who crossed the ocean for a better life and has been saving money to return home to her family but maybe that was because she had the most ‘normal’ of voices. Andrew is presented through the eyes of all of the characters as a harsh father and Abby as a spiteful and bitter step-mother. The undercurrents of distrust and outright hostility are then thrown into focus by the appearance of John Morse, the brother of the Sarah, Andrew Borden’s first wife and mother to Emma and Lizzie. In some ways by the time I completed the book, whoever the murderer was, the deaths seem almost inevitable.

In conclusion See What I Have Done is an unusual and fascinating read, but far from a comfortably one; the writing so vivid I feared sensory overload and as a result I foretell a pearless future for this reader!

First Published UK: 2 May 2017
Publisher: Tinder Press
No of Pages: 336
Genre: Historical Fiction– True Crime
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Books I have read

Want You Gone – Chris Brookmyre #Blogtour #bookreview

Crime Fiction
4*s

Computer hacking isn’t a subject I’d normally be drawn to as anything IT related is a turn-off as far as I’m concerned, but as I’d heard such good things about this author and having no hope of catching up on the previous seven books in the series, Want You Gone was where I started, and I was totally drawn into the world of internet chat rooms with anonymous men ‘there are no women on the internet’ conspiring to all sorts of three-letter acronyms.

Sam Morpeth is struggling, she’s at college but in charge of her disabled younger sister, Lily, as her mother is in prison. Sam is a loner, she doesn’t fit in at school, and she’s struggling to pay the bills. Sam decides she has no option but to take a part-time job in a sandwich shop, but then she attracts the wrong kind of attention. Added to all of that she’s sure that her mother is keeping secrets from her.

Jack Parlabane is kicking off the traces to whatever trouble he’d been in which something to do with the hacking scandal, and he’s found employment as a journalist on a new paper, Broadwave. He’s determined not to mess up again especially as he’s enjoying the opportunity to do more in-depth reporting and his links to a hacker give him an in on a recent security breach by the hackers at a major bank. With the police looking for the perpetrators and the bank severely embarrassed will Jack be able to uncover the truth?

If I’m reading contemporary crime fiction, I like the themes to be current and thought-provoking and Chris Brookmyre carries off this brief off with alacrity. Obviously the internet has been part of our lives for long enough for it to be hard to remember what life was like before it, but the telephone hacking scandal is recent enough for the repercussions still making their mark and I suspect most journalists work in a more circumspect way then they did before the Leveson inquiry. All of this is well-reflected in the storyline without the reader feeling hammered over the head, there simply isn’t time as the plot moves along at a fair old pace, with twists and turns, all aided and abetted by the shadowy nature of the characters. In another novel all the cloak and dagger might seem all too convenient whereas it fits perfectly with the themes that underpin this compelling read.

There is masses of action in Want You Gone and despite the technical aspects of this book, it never felt burdensome and everything was clearly explained in words that this technophobe could understand. I liked the interaction between Sam and Jack, there comes a point where despite neither trusting, nor liking, the other, they had to work together for a common aim. A tough piece of character conflict to pull off at the best of times, but in the midst of a fast and furious storyline where believability becomes crucial, on reflection I realised the importance of this outstanding piece of writing.

I started this review by stating that I’d become aware of this author through other bloggers and decided that I couldn’t possibly catch up on the series which is why I took the plunge at book eight. I now revise that opinion, I will be seeking out the previous books and whilst it is unrealistic to imagine that I will read them all before the publication of book nine, I need to know more about Jack’s life before it became entangled with Sam’s.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Little Brown Books who allowed me to read an ARC of Want You Gone. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and the talented author, Chris Brookmyre.

First Published UK: 20 April 2017
Publisher: Little Brown Books
No of Pages: 432
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
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Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Restless Dead – Simon Beckett

Crime Fiction
4*s

From the very first page where we are treated to a graphic description of what happens to a body when it is immersed in water, to the last page, there is no doubting the research that has gone into making the descriptions of our narrator, David Hunter, forensic anthropologist, feel absolutely realistic.

Composed of over sixty per cent water itself, a human body isn’t naturally buoyant. It will float only for as long as there is air in its lungs, before gradually sinking to the bottom as the air seeps out. If the water is very cold or deep, it will remain there, undergoing a slow, dark dissolution that can take years. But if the water is warm enough for bacteria to feed and multiply, then it will continue to decompose. Gases will build up in the intestines, increasing the body’s buoyancy until it floats again.
And the dead will literally rise . . .

David Hunter’s role at the university is under threat, he now suspects that he has been blacklisted as an advisor in murder investigations and without the kudos this role brings, his new contract for work at the university is in question. Added to this he has been invited to a house party in the Cotswolds for the weekend by his dear friends, only to find that they are trying to set him up with a woman. He dutifully packs his bags with more than a whiff of reluctance and then as he is about to leave he gets a call from the police about a badly decomposed body they’ve found in the Backwater’s Estuary in Essex.

Although this looks to be a fairly open and shut case of the suicide of a local missing man, the police and David Hunter still try to definitively identify the body despite obstacles being put in their way by the father of the suspected victim. Alongside this investigation there is another into a missing woman who had links to the named man and then by a series of unfortunate events David Hunter finds himself personally involved with some of the interested parties in the case.

The first section of the book moves slowly from an action perspective but fully lays the ground for a whodunit of massive proportions. If you’re reading preference tends more towards the action side of crime fiction then you will not be disappointed by the way the pace picks up in the second half of the book where the danger comes up close and personal.

Rarely does a crime fiction book so intrinsically entwine the setting so totally into the story. The Restless Dead would simply not have been the same book without the danger of the wetlands, the creeks that criss-cross the landscape with water rushing in on those unaware of the dangers of this particular location. Added to that we have the atmosphere and eloquent descriptions of the houses, and their inhabitants set alongside the dangerous tides.

I will now admit that I have only read the first book in this series, The Chemistry of Death, and it was clear that I’d missed some excitement in the intervening three books, but in no way did this spoil the enjoyment I got out of reading The Restless Dead which had me gripped by the series of mysteries to solve which kept my theories in a total sense of flux.

I’d like to thank the publishers Penguin Random House for providing me with a copy of The Restless Dead ahead of the publication date of 6 April 2017. This review is my unbiased thanks to them, and the talented author Simon Beckett for keeping me entranced in the world of decomposed bodies, mysteries aplenty, a few broken characters and a smattering of love interest all in a region set apart by virtue of its unpredictable landscape.

First Published UK: 6 April 2017
Publisher: Penguin Random House
No of Pages: 416
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
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