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

The Killing House – Claire McGowan

Crime Fiction
5*s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Paula McGuire Series

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

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

Dark Waters – Mary-Jane Riley #BlogTour #BookReview

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…..

My Review

Crime Fiction
5*s

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

Alex Devlin Series

The Bad Things
After She Fell


Synopsis

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.

Find Mary-Jane Riley on social media

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/maryjanerileyauthor/
Twitter: @mrsmjriley
Instagram: maryjanerileyauthor

Bio

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!

Dark Waters
After She Fell 
The Bad Things 

 

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

Come and Find Me – Sarah Hilary

Crime Fiction
5*s

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.

Previous books in the DI Marnie Rome Series:

Someone Else’s Skin
No Other Darkness
Tastes Like Fear
Quieter than Killing

First Published UK: 22 March 2018
Publisher: Headline
No of Pages: 368
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

A Clubbable Woman – Reginald Hill

Crime Fiction
3*s

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
Publisher: HarperCollins
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)
Deadheads (1983)
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)

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Girl in the Woods – Camilla Läckberg

Crime Fiction
4*s

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
Publisher: HarperCollins
No of Pages: 592
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Books in Patrik Hedstrom and Erica Falck series

The Ice Princess (2002)
The Preacher (2004)
The Stonecutter (2005)
The Gallows Bird (2006)
The Hidden Child (2007)
The Drowning (2008)
The Lost Boy (2013)
Buried Angels (2014)
The Ice Child (2016)

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton

Crime Fiction
4*s

I finished this book having realised fairly early on that I had approached what I was about to read from totally the wrong angle. This is one fiendish puzzle with complexities that are beyond devilish.

The premise of the book is seemingly one of a Golden Age mystery where our chief protagonist has to solve the puzzle of who killed Evelyn Hardcastle. He has eight days to do so. So far so simple the clock is ticking and the clues are presented and you put them together and try to get there before he does. Oh, you are sadly mistaken if you think that is all there is to it!

The problem is far more complex in that our man inhabits different characters for each of these eight days and the same day keeps repeating. So he starts of as a doctor and he sees some stuff going on from that character’s perspective but when he wakes up again he is someone totally different and finds some new clues but also sees different aspects to the stuff he learnt the day before. All the while he is trying to keep hold of his true self whilst inhabiting what are mostly a disagreeable bunch of people.

Thrown into the mix is a nineteen year old mystery, linked to the return of Evelyn Hardcastle from her stay in Paris. There are also plenty of other dastardly goings on from blackmail to murder all to be kept on top of. Allies are formed but whether they are wise ones or not remain to be seen.

So it’s complex and ideally, to have any hope of keeping track of what’s going on, I would have needed an entire wall of notes to keep track of various characters and their actions because sometimes the chief protagonist jumps back in time. This means that character is for example unhappily at midday on day four or rather in his fourth host, anticipating where they need to go next to find a missing piece of the puzzle and then it’s back to the second host to pick up where he last left off. To be fair the author gives the reader pointers and reminders but it is a book to throw yourself into and hope that you can keep manage to hold enough information in your head to keep pace.

Now I’ve reached the end I’d ideally go back and savour just how clever the whole book is, but if I’m honest my brain hurts from the effort. Which has left me with a problem on how to rate the book. I really admired both the premise and the execution (of the book not Evelyn Hardcastle) and I did nearly work out one strand of the mystery proving that I wasn’t completely confused by it all, but I’m not used to a book being such hard work. Ideally this would have been better as a holiday read, it’s not a book to escape a hard day’s work with, it is a fiendish puzzle that won’t let you go! If all that isn’t enough this tale told in the first person present tense, which is entirely fitting, also poses philosophical questions which soon become apparent. Now I have the answer to the mystery I can ponder those at my leisure.

I take my hat off to Stuart Turton for the most original read I have read for a long time.

I’d like to thank Bloomsbury Publishing plc for the chance to read The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle prior to publication on 8 February 2018. This review is my unbiased thanks to them.

First Published UK: 8 February 2018
Publisher: Raven
No of Pages: 528
Genre: Crime Fiction 
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

The Dark Angel – Elly Griffiths

Crime Fiction
5*s

Well I just love this series with the balance between the look at old bones, and often new ones too, with the ongoing drama in Ruth Galloway’s own life along with that of DCI Harry Nelson and the rest of his team.

In The Dark Angel rather than Ruth’s boss Phil taking to the television we have an Italian archaeologist who is about to reveal some Roman bones to the audience when something interrupts filming. Desperate to provide some authenticity to his dig and tempt the TV crew back, Dr Angelo Morelli invites Ruth to Italy to lend a helping hand. Ruth is in a bit of a rut, her mother died recently and there has been some other unwelcome news in her personal life and anyway Kate could do with a holiday so she decides that Italy is the perfect answer. Inviting her friend Shona and her son Louis the party board the plane for Italy and Angelo’s apartment in a hilltop village.

Meanwhile in Norfolk Nelson is warned that a man jailed for a heinous crime ten years previously has been released. Mickey Webb made some wild threats at the time he was jailed aimed at Nelson but it seems that he has come out of prison a reformed character and one who has found religion, and a good woman to boot.

Italy has plenty of history and of course although Ruth is there to look at some Roman bones the party have hardly made themselves at home before they are informed that they are staying in the home of a former hero of the Second World War when Italy was occupied. And this is exactly why I love this series, no matter the crime, and there are I’m pleased to report, there is one, there is so much detail to enjoy on the periphery to the storyline all told in such a ‘chatty’ manner it is listening to a friend. That combined with catching up with the latest escapades which entertain me enormously while bones are tested, theories are expounded and suspects questioned.

With events happening in two different countries, both personal and criminal, the action moves quite swiftly despite the somewhat more relaxed holiday feeling to brighten the darker moments in Italy.

Elly Griffiths has compiled a great character in Ruth. She is intelligent without being condescending, worried about her appearance but also not overly envious of those with looks. She has turned into a pragmatic single mother to Kate and yet she is no angel – the asides when Louis breaks glass after glass in the apartment provides a wry smile from anyone who has ever had to spend an extended amount of time with a child that doesn’t behave like your own. She has moments of fierce introspection and yet she is obviously a capable and inspirational forensic archaeologist – someone I’m sure would fascinate me if she was a real live breathing person.

This is a series where you should start at the beginning as the story arc becomes more and more integral to the enjoyment of the books as the series goes on and to be honest the ‘non-crime’ sections are a bigger proportion in this episode than the previous books but if you are already a fan, you are in for a real treat.

Dr Ruth Galloway Books in order

The Crossing Places
The Janus Stone
The House at Sea’s End
A Room Full of Bones
Dying Fall
The Outcast Dead
The Ghost Fields
The Woman in Blue
The Chalk Pit

 

First Published UK: 8 February 2018
Publisher: Quercus
No of Pages: 368
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

A Patient Fury – Sarah Ward

Crime Fiction
5*s

I knew from Sarah Ward’s first book featuring Connie Childs that this was going to be a series that had me hooked and I can now safely declare that the third book, A Patient Fury, confirms my prediction. In this episode Connie Childs is more driven, contrary and tenacious than ever before and so for all her faults it is impossible not to admire her.

Connie has been off work for quite some time but she’s now re-joined the team having recovered from her injury during a recent case, so what if at her most introspective she wonders if it is too soon? Then while she’s just finding her feet she is called out by DI Francis Sadler to a fire in Bampton. A house has gone up in flames and the occupants are all feared to be dead. No officer likes a fire, and Connie is no different but when she can’t accept the sequence of events provided by the Chief Fire Officer it looks like sparks are also going to fly between her and her boss. DI Sadler really isn’t up for Connie’s side investigations and nor are the victim’s family.

On one level this series is a solid police procedural set in the fictional town of Bampton in the Peak District. I was lucky enough to read my copy whilst on a weekend break near the non-fictional town of Leek which confirmed that the author has provided the reader with a setting which is in keeping with the reality of the area. But above that Sarah Ward gives us a plot that is both credible and yet audacious. The lines of enquiry are followed but there is more beneath the surface than trying to find the answer to the three main questions: means, motive and opportunity, the lid is also lifted on family life, the parts that we often don’t want to acknowledge.

Connie Childs narrates a good proportion of A Patient Fury but as in the previous books, we also hear from someone on the edge of the investigation, Julia, who is connected to the family who lived in the burnt house. Julia is an interesting woman, a giver of tours underground for school children and the like by day and the tour guide for ghost walk’s around the area by night. She has also lost a parent in mysterious circumstances in the past so whilst most of the book is linear, we also have flashbacks to the early eighties. Regular readers of my reviews will know that I find the collision between past and present irresistible.

This is a book full of red herrings and that of course the puzzle is one of my favourite aspects of the crime fiction genre. There is no cheating and although I had my suspicions on whodunit I wasn’t entirely sure why and although I don’t usually mention the ending – this one has the justness that early proponents of the genre would have delighted in just as much as I did.

Despite there being lots going on in this book both in terms of diverse investigations (mainly the diversity is Connie going her own route) and the number of characters, the writing is both clear and compelling. The author has allowed one of her detectives to move to another Police Authority which works well and allows a new character to step into the team mixing up the dynamics most satisfactorily and will hopefully allow the series to continue to grow and delight for many more books yet. If you haven’t read this series and you love well-written crime fiction, I suggest you add them all to your bookshelf.

A Patient Fury is the fourth book I’ve read for my Mount TBR Challenge 2018 having been purchased in September 2017 so I gain another third of a book token!

Previous Books in the DC Childs Series

In Bitter Chill 
A Deadly Thaw

First Published UK: 5 September 2017
Publisher: Faber & Faber
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
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Posted in Books I have read, Books I want to Read, Five Star Reads, Mount TBR 2018

Dead Souls – Angela Marsons

Crime Fiction
5*s

I am a huge fan of the DI Kim Stone series set in the Black Country and so it is to my immense shame that it has taken me quite so long to getting around to reading the sixth book in the series. Fortunately this explosive episode will spur me on to reading the next one which is ready and waiting on my kindle for my future enjoyment.

When routine demonstration dig for forensic archaeologists turns into a something far more practical than expected. Bones are found in the examination site and Macedonian forensic archaeologist Dr A. summons our feisty and tenacious DI to the site. Unfortunately given that DI Kim Stone has had a difficult relationship with the neighbouring force’s Detective’s, Tom Travis, for nigh on five years so she is not overly impressed when he turns up claiming that the investigation should be led by his team. Certain that Woody will back her plea for her team to continue Kim Stone is less than impressed when she’s ordered to work alongside Travis as a new model in joint investigations, pooling resources to get results.

What happens next is a tests Kim’s patience and professionalism to the max.

The joy of reading a series is to meet up with old favourite characters as much as it is to ‘solve’ the particular crime being investigated and Angela Marsons doesn’t disappoint. Although Kim is busy working with Travis to unearth (no pun intended) the old bones, her team are forced to work on without her. A suspected suicide, the horrific attack on a Polish immigrant and road traffic accident force see DS Dawson and DS Bryant pair up together for the first time which leaves PC Stacey Banks on her own in the office. I think it was an exceptionally good idea to mix the team up, with Bryant not around to rein Kim in we see another side to both of them allowing a move away from Kim’s personal problems and see Bryant appreciating other skills apart from his boss’s and it was fabulous to have Stacey in the limelight for a change, again allowing us to see her outside her usual unflappable self.

There really wasn’t much of a chance to take a breath as essentially we’re following three strands of storylines – trying to work out why the bones were on an ancient tenant farmer’s land, meeting with a vile racist intent on moving immigrants out of his area and seeing Stacey investigate under her own initiative. What would Kim Stone think?

The plotting is superb with the answers to some of the questions seemingly obvious, but of course only once I had the answers! Angela Marsons isn’t afraid to tackle some difficult subjects in her books and nowhere more so than in this one, and yet although she doesn’t shy away from exposing hate crime she does so with what I felt was some level of understanding of the subject matter so that I didn’t feel that this was a writer using the storyline as some kind of bandwagon to leap upon but something that has been researched and digested before being offered up to her readers.

I started by saying that I have the next book, Broken Bones, ready to read and I can assure you that after this explosive and exciting read and having reminded myself why I have recommended this series to so many others, I won’t be leaving it too long before reading the next in the series.

Dead Souls was my third book of the year for my Mount TBR Challenge 2018, having been bought in April 2017 it is worth another third of a book token which means I now have one book in the bank!! 

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

First Published UK: 25 April 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
No of Pages: 414
Genre: Crime Fiction Series
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Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Hell Bay – Kate Rhodes

Crime Fiction
4*s

This is a new series by Kate Rhodes featuring DI Ben Kitt who is visiting his home, Bryher, one of the smallest of the Scilly Isles. The title of the book is taken from the name of an Atlantic facing cove on the island named Hell Bay. In the 18th and 19th centuries this was apparently a notorious spot for shipwrecks caught on the rocks at this point.

Living on an island myself it is no surprise that I have a fondness for books set on them and Bryher is the ultimate in island destinations, very small populated by a small community who like to think everyone knows everything about everyone, how could it be that a teenage girl ends up dead with no-one seeing anything untoward? Ah small town settings or islands so few suspects and no chance that anyone had left the island by boat by the time the murder was discovered.  How hard can finding the perpetrator be?

Meanwhile we are aware that DI Kitt is on extended leave from the Metropolitan police but the reasons why aren’t revealed for a while. All he has for company as he lives in his deceased mother’s house is a dog named Shadow that he doesn’t seem overly keen on. But the island is home and he has friends and family in the form of Ray, a boatyard owner so he uses the skills he learnt as a young boy to lend a hand to building a boat. But as soon as it becomes obvious that the local police force aren’t used to dealing with murder he offers his services, after all having worked on the Murder Squad for a decade he has the requisite skills.

Laura Trescothick’s death changes life on the island immediately with the locals scared by the knowledge that there is a killer in their midst. After all this is somewhere where doors are left unlocked, the local shop provides food for one of the residents in exchange for honey and herbs and the pub’s landlady takes it upon herself to serve the returned policeman, also her godson, Cranberry juice when she feels this will benefit his health more than the alcohol he requested. One of the advantages of being an island though is that the journalists can be kept at bay, essentially no-one can leave or come to the island until the perpetrator is found, handcuffed and carted off, by boat to the nearest island with some cells, St Mary.

The characters are complex, yes all of them. We have an American artist, a smallholder, a rich businessman intent on owning all available property on the island and a hotel proprietor who still longs to be a singer. There is also a young bereaved woman who has moved to the island for the peace and quiet but who holds her secrets close to her chest, so you see there are many fascinating people to get to know as we begin to understand their stories.

This is a brilliantly multi-layered story that gets better and better as the story unfolds. This is a brilliant read for those who enjoy their crime fiction to be measured rather than frantic and like putting the pieces of the puzzle together for themselves. The superb plotting combined with the often bleak island setting and the complicated DI Ben Kitto made for rewarding reading.

I’d like to thank the publishers Simon & Schuster for allowing me to read an advance copy of Hell Bay, this unbiased review is my thanks to them. The hardback and eBook versions of this book was published on 25 January 2018 however if you want to wait for the paperback is will be published on 3 May 2018. I’m also delighted to confirm that it appears that DI Ben Kitto will be back in another book in this series called Ruin Beach, hopefully fairly soon as there was an excerpt at the back of this ARC!

First Published UK: 25 January 2018
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
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