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

Persons Unknown – Susie Steiner

Crime Fiction
5*s

With this, the follow-up to Missing Presumed, being marketed as a literary crime novel, I have to confess I’m not entirely sure what that is, but if it is a multi-layered story that touches on real-life issues as well as having a crime at its centre, with an involved and intricate plot, then this fits the brief.

DI Manon Bradshaw has moved from London back to Cambridge, in part for Fly, her adopted twelve-year-old son in an attempt to keep him away from being stopped and searched purely based on his colour. They live with Manon’s sister Ellie and her two-year old son Solly, oh and Manon is five-months pregnant and assigned to the cold cases. It’s fair to say the whole family are struggling to find their feet when a man named Jon-Oliver is murdered in a nearby park. This sets off a whole chain of events which couldn’t have been predicted.

While this doesn’t have the feel of a standard police procedural, at times feeling as much a commentary on the time we live in, I was hooked right from the start. The storyline is linear with the main part running over a few weeks starting in December with each section featuring the date and chapter headed up by the name of the narrator and where necessary the place because whilst for the most part the action is in Cambridge, some takes us back to Kilburn, London. Normally where we have multiple places and narrators I put a warning into my review about how this isn’t one to read when you are tired but I have to confess I started this one night expecting to read a dozen or so pages and struggled to put it down, even the fact that I was exhausted that particular night didn’t strain my brain. Instead my warning is the short chapters are deceptive and it is only too easy to say I’ll just do one more and then I’ll  turn out the light only to find yourself bleary eyed and still going!

Why did I enjoy this so much? Well the plot is tight, and yes it’s complex especially as the connections between the characters are not what you normally get in a police procedural. I loved the characters, I felt that Manon was a more sympathetic character in this book, not quite as abrasive as she is actually outside the investigation and her love for Fly, her adopted son really brings out a different side to her personality. In fact I had a lot of sympathy for a number of the characters whilst others I’m pleased to say got their just deserts. Persons Unknown was involved and had plenty of clues, including the obligatory red-herrings that had me suspecting everyone at one time or another. Having won me over with some of the key characters I was thoroughly engaged, needing to know whether x had visited y at z time to prove my theory or otherwise, which is always the mark of a good book.

When the characters are so well-defined it can be the case that the plotting is looser, but not in this book with both aspects having an equal weighting although perhaps there was a coincidence or two which felt a little too convenient they in no way spoilt my enjoyment.

There is no doubt in my mind that Susie Steiner’s next book will be on my ‘must read’ list she has really proved herself to be a writer of many talents indeed. If character led crime fiction is what floats your boat, this series is on my highly recommended list.

I received my copy of Persons Unknown through Amazon Vine.

First Published UK: 29 June 2017
Publisher: The Borough Press
No. of Pages: 368
Genre: Crime Fiction Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US 

 

 

Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2017, Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2017

Before the Poison – Peter Robinson #20booksofsummer

Crime Fiction
4*s

Famous trials: Grace Elizabeth Fox, April 1953, by Sir Charles Hamilton Morley

Grace Elizabeth Fox rose from her bed and dressed with the aid of her young Attending Officer Mary Swann at 6.30 AM on the morning of 23 April, 1953. She ate a light breakfast of toast, marmalade and tea, then she busied herself writing letters to her family and friends. After a small brandy to steady her nerves shortly before 8.00 AM, she spent the following hour alone with the Chaplain.

 

So starts Before the Poison the tale of a fictional murder trial in 1950s England as seen through the eyes of Chris Lowndes a composer for films, who has returned to his native Yorkshire after decades living in the US. Recently bereaved he buys the remote Kilnsgate House unseen as somewhere to compose music and to recover from the loss of his beloved wife Laura.

It doesn’t take Chris long to discover that Kilnsgate House was the scene of a murder some fifty plus years before. On 1 January 1953 Dr Ernest Fox and his younger wife Grace, aged forty, were entertaining two old friends, waited on by their maid Hetty Larkin. The fire was roaring and despite rationing the menu comprised of roast beef, mashed potatoes, roast parsnips and Brussel sprouts followed by that very English desert rhubarb pie and custard. Outside the snow began falling and it didn’t stop, the party was going nowhere and the guest bedroom was made up for Jeremy and Alice Lambert. That night Ernest died and the remaining four inhabitants waited with his body two days until the police and the mortuary van could get to the house. With what he gleans from Grace’s life and learning that his brother was at school, next door to the prison when Grace was hanged, her life and perhaps more importantly the question of her guilt, or innocence, becomes something of an obsession.

With my love of historical crime, this fictionalised account of a murder trial in the 1950s hit just the right note with the details about the key players really coming alive, it was hard to believe that all this was fictional perhaps because the author had clearly done his research so the details were spot on with key references such as Albert Pierrepoint, the most famous of hangmen, adding hooks to hang the case on. With our protagonist being a composer the numerous references to music are completely in sync with the story unfolding and provide a gentrified backdrop to a story that delves into the past to a time where perception was everything. Fictional this may be, but Peter Robinson makes good points about why a woman may be suspected of murder, particularly if it was thought that the woman didn’t hold the highest of morals.

The story is of Chris in 2010 researching the crime, the details of the murder and the trial are presented in excerpts from the book, Greatest Trials and later on some diary excerpts that give further context to the key player’s life. This made for tantalising reading with the details forming a natural part of the story-telling, a clever device that allowed Chris’s narrative to focus on his next step in his discovery.

I haven’t read any of the Inspector Banks books but if they are anywhere near as absorbing as I found Before the Poison to be, I need to check them out sooner rather than later.

Before the Poison fourteenth read in my 20 Books of Summer 2017 Challenge.

First Published UK: 2011
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
No of Pages: 488
Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2017, Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads, Mount TBR 2017

Murder is Easy – Agatha Christie #20booksofsummer

Crime Fiction
5*s

Murder is Easy was first published in 1939 with the opening scenes set on a train where a retired police officer, Luke Fitzwilliam hears a fantastical tale of a village where a murderer is reducing the population. To be honest Luke Fitzwilliam, in this day and age would probably have studiously avoided Lavinia Pinkerton’s eye and never heard the story of how she was going up to report her suspicions to the detectives at Scotland Yard. But these were different times and Luke Fitzwilliam is reminded of his own spinster aunts and sits and listens to the list of names which includes the next intended victim, Dr Humbleby, never letting the scoff in his head mar what I imagine to be his kindly features.

Imagine his surprise when reading the obituaries a few days later he sees that his travelling companion was knocked down by a car soon after they parted company – of course these days the spinster aunt would have to depend on kindly friends or relations to spread the news of her demise on social media. Not only that. Dr Humbleby reported as to having died of septicaemia. Our esteemed retired detective was a little bit bored now that he’s retired and a plan is made. He will stay at the home of a friend’s sister and pretend to be writing a book about witches and superstitions of the area. Hard to pull off successfully today as a quick google search would blow his cover to smithereens, but possible, after all who would look unless they were worried about their dastardly deeds being discovered?

Once in the town he is delighted by his pretend cousin Bridget Conway who is engaged to the frightfully rich Gordon Whitfield and as the house is large and not being the only servant, she shares his home in Wychwood under Ashe still acting as his secretary until they are married. It doesn’t take Luke long to find quite an impressive list of key suspects using the second spinster to have a leading role, Honoria Waynflete, who is both observant and knowledgeable and Luke suspects she already has a suspicion about the identity of this serial killer who uses a different method of murder for all his victims. Not for this killer the outright violence of a knife or a gun, no, young tear away Tommy Pierce fell from a library window whilst engaged to clean it and the servant Amy Gibbs swallowed hat paint instead of cough medicine in the night and was discovered in the morning when she wasn’t up and about laying fires and preparing breakfast.

Agatha Christie’s novels really do recreate an era that has long passed and although the mysteries are ingenious I can’t help but feel it is something of the nostalgia for something that has been lost forever that makes her books quite so appealing and it’s in the details that this is underlined. Who would honestly believe that a retired detective could pop up in a village, have his suspects, and there are quite a few, talk to him, often at length without his cover being blown. Meanwhile we have a young woman debating marriage to a man she doesn’t love to gain security seeing it as swapping one job for another – secretary or wife – as Bridget says it’s the same job description, but being the wife pays better.

I thoroughly enjoyed Murder is Easy although I confess I was a little worried because I do have a penchant for a certain Belgium and his little grey cells but without his pronunciations to make me giggle like a schoolgirl, I could really work hard at solving the puzzle and find the killer. It didn’t work, I failed miserably!

Murder is Easy /em> was my thirteenth read in my 20 Books of Summer 2017 Challenge.

First Published UK: 1939
Publisher:Harper Collins
No of Pages: 273
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US 

Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2017, Book Review, Books I have read

Broken Heart – Tim Weaver #20booksofsummer

Crime Fiction
3*s

A car-park in Somerset is the scene of the disappearance of Linda Korin who drove in one day, left her car and was never seen again. The police investigate but are unable to come up with a satisfactory query of what happened the most likely explanation is that she went into the sea, a theory that doesn’t really stack up as the tide was out at the time her car is captured on CCTV going into the car park. After months with no news Linda’s sister in America asks David Raker to take on the case.

Tim Weaver has produced something quite special with this series, Broken Heart being the seventh book. We have crime fiction but the focus is on missing people rather than dead bodies and in doing so often uncovers tales which are mulit-layered and unusual. Here we have a woman in her sixties, and although she is beautiful having been a former model and actress in second-rate horror movies, she is not the typical crime fiction victim.

The story had me engaged, from the start I was trying to work out how the facts presented could be, you see this is one author that doesn’t ‘cheat.’ There is no trying to gloss over incontrovertible facts by having random witnesses lying for no good reason all the many problems to solve, and there are lots within this novel, are unravelled fairly. After a skype meeting with Linda’s sister, Wendy Fisher he begins to look at her early life with her husband who had been a famous film director until he was exiled from Hollywood to Spain for being a communist.

Having read and been engaged in the lives of the subjects, as well as fully entertained by David Raker himself in the previous books I found this one veered perhaps down a too convoluted path for me although I am mindful that due to events in my personal life I wasn’t perhaps in the right frame of mind for any book at this time. So my observations are that there was more violence in this episode than the previous books in the series and the expose into film making was fascinating but perhaps a little bit too ‘nerdy’ for those of us who aren’t as thrilled by the subject as Tim Weaver as a result the endless playing of sections of a film, a director obsessed by his star and lost copies of films made years previously which included fairly lengthy explanations of how originals need to be stored to keep them from deteriorating slowed the pace down for me. If you have a love of old Hollywood movies, especially those naff horror ones, then you will love this aspect. What is not in doubt that there is a complicated mystery to be solved and my sleuthing didn’t even come close.

Ultimately although the storyline was inspired by the film world, underneath, as in all good books this is about people and you don’t have to have an interest in the parts to be interested in how others behave.

Broken Heart was my tenth read in my 20 Books of Summer 2017  Challenge.

First Published UK: 28 July 2016
Publisher: Penguin
No of Pages: 528
Genre: Crime Fiction Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US 

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Death Knocks Twice – Robert Thorogood #Blogtour #bookreview

Crime Fiction
4*s

I was delighted to be asked to take part in the blog tour for the third book in the Death in Paradise series which sees this somewhat buttoned up, yet brilliant detective solve murders on the island of Saint-Marie. This gorgeous Caribbean setting has an unsettling amount of murders all of which can only be solved using lateral thinking. Yes the influence of Agatha Christie’s style of mystery novels looms large and equally as devilish.

This murder investigation is kicked off when a distressed young woman presents herself at the small police station about a prowler at the historic Beaumont coffee plantation where she lives with her parents and two brothers. The team immediately go off to investigate – or some of them do as the imposing Commander whose interests lie far more in line with the PR aspect of policing, than in detection wants whoever is selling boot-leg rum on the island apprehended immediately.

Up at the plantation DI Richard Poole and his worthy side-kick Camille are speaking to the worried Lucy Beaumont about the stalker when they hear two gun-shots. Inside the locked shower room is a body of an unidentified man. There’s no fooling DI Poole who quickly realises this is a murder and not suicide but who would have the audacity to kill a man when the police are nearby? And how did he escape from that locked room?

What follows is an old-fashioned tale with a minimal number of suspects and a fiendishly difficult puzzle to solve with plenty of red-herrings thrown into the mix. And then Death knocks again and another body is discovered in equally baffling circumstances! With no-one being quite what they seem and it quickly becoming clear that the coffee plantation, built up with the use of slaves, is not as prosperous as the family’s standing in the community might suggest DI Poole along with Camille, Fidel and Dwayne use age-old techniques to get to the bottom of the mystery. One of the things that I find really appealing about this series is the need to rely on old-fashioned police work due to the remoteness of Saint-Marie so we have DI Poole reading old FBI books to work out how to read writing on burnt paper and dusting the safe to find fingerprints in order to discover who opened it. DI Poole’s refusal to relax his standards and remove his wool suit in exchange for more suitable clothes for the Caribbean weather, well apart from the time he dons a Hawaiian shirt and shorts, complete with lace up black shoes, to go undercover and the mention of Eton really adds to the feeling that the modern world hasn’t truly reached the little island.

As is traditional the ending sees the suspects gathered together for the big reveal and although I’d worked out some parts, there were still aspects that I simply hadn’t worked out beforehand.

Robert Thorogood provided the scripts for the first five episodes for the BBC TV series Death in Paradise which is firm winter favourite viewing for me, and this original story featuring the original cast was an absolute delight to read.

I’d like to thank Midas PR and the publishers HQ for providing me with an ARC prior to publication on 27 July 2017 and for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.

First Published UK: 27 July 2017
Publisher: HQ
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Previous Books by Robert Thorogood
A Meditation on Murder
The Killing of Polly Carter

Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2017, Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Bones and Silence – Reginald Hill #20booksofsummer

Crime Fiction
5*s

I simply adore this series, it takes a true writer to pen an entire collection where each book has a different feel and yet stays absolutely committed to the chief protagonists: Dalziel. Pascoe, Wield and Ellie whilst coming up with different types of scenarios as a stage for them to play on.

The stage in Bones and Silence is a literal one with the talented, determined and beautiful Eileen Cheung putting on a community medieval play The Mystery which is planned for the May Bank Holiday weekend. Her aim is to cast Dalziel to play God, riding atop a truck through the town – sheer brilliance!

Of course it isn’t all play-acting as the book opens with Dalziel witnessing something, but what did he really see through his window? The end result is a woman is dead and Dalziel is convinced that he saw two men, a woman and a revolver. In the time it takes for Dalziel to sprint to the house, the woman is dead and her lover and her husband both insist that she shot herself. Dalziel doesn’t believe a word of it!

Meanwhile Peter Pascoe who is still recovering from serious injuries inflicted during the previous book takes a more circumspect view and is somewhat less than convinced of Dalziel’s certainty.

Of course one potential murder and a play is not enough for Reginald Hill so we have some sub-plots to involve ourselves in, including some cryptic letters written anonymously to Dalziel which Pascoe investigates. All of this gives the reader many opportunities to witness the acerbic wit of Dalziel, the more introspective Pascoe and I’m glad to say Wield gets a decent part to play in this book. And of course inbetween the police action Eileen Cheung is cracking her whip with rehearsals and cutting through Dalziel’s expected reticence to knuckling down to put on a play that the entire community of Yorkshiremen and women can enjoy.

Ellie is a little less bolshie in this book following a serious lack of judgement that put others in danger in the previous episode but fortunately this being book eleven, I know she gets her spark back later on in the series. One of the great delights of this book is that although Reginald Hill has created some wonderful characters he allows different aspects of their nature to ebb and flow. We think of Dalziel as being charmless and dogmatic but at times he is capable of great empathy which turns him from a caricature into a fully rounded man, each of the other main protagonists are given the same treatment. This top-notch characterisation along with the, just the right side of genius in solving the crime in Bones and Silence, just served to underline what an absolute treat these books are.

If you haven’t read this book, and personally I think each book can be read as a standalone although to fully appreciate the depth they definitely work better once you’ve read more than one, have a hanky ready for the ending – I will say no more.

Bones and Silence was my fifth read of my 20 Books of Summer  Challenge 2017

First Published UK: 1990
Publisher: HarperCollin
No of Pages: 528
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Frost at Midnight – James Henry

Crime Fiction
4*s

For those who loved R.D. Wingfield’s original crime series featuring DI Frost, James Henry has recreated this dishevelled detective in earlier times; Frost at Midnight is the fourth prequel in the series.

It’s 1983 and Denton CID are confronted with a dead body on top of a tomb in the local graveyard, the case is instantly a PR nightmare as the body is Rachel Curtis, a domestic violence victim who acting under coercion was jailed for murder but had now been released early. Added to the now increased workload there are more immediate problems as Detective Sergeant Waters is getting married and he’s unable to attend the rehearsal with his best man Detective Inspector Jack Frost.

With the police station in a state of flux a the officers get to grips with the new-fangled computers and pagers everything is taking longer than it used to – Jack isn’t the only one who is sceptical of the use of these new additions to crime fighting. Superintendent Mullett, as ever, has his priorities at total odds with Frost and it is only thanks to the habitual nifty footwork in ignoring his orders that the team have any chance of solving the crime.

Meanwhile DC Sue Clarke has finally reached the end of her tether; looking after a baby and having Frost sleeping on her sofa following the death of his wife is not compatible with a good life. Sue wants to return to work but Mullett aka Hornrim Harry is reluctant. And then a prostitute goes missing leaving a young boy to fend for himself and CID need all the help that they can get.

I’ve enjoyed all the prequels that James Henry has written and found that the language and the characters have been kept faithful to the original books. The sense of time with all the accompanying misogyny and racism along with the emerging new technologies are present and correct and a huge amount of my enjoyment is on a nostalgic level. The plotting is well thought out with the sense of urgency mounting as the team try to wrap multiple strands of the investigation up before the wedding takes place. It isn’t just dead bodies and missing women, there is also the mystery of the missing money left by a newcomer to Denton in a cement mixer along with the ever-present worry of where Frost’s next meal is coming from! On that note the Frost in this book is more chaotic, even shabbier and perhaps a little less sharp although he has time to woo a couple of ladies (I’m really not sure of the appeal here) as he deals with his changed personal circumstances. In a modern crime book there would be trips to the force doctor and supportive colleagues discussing grief but this is 1983 and there is no doubt Frost is struggling without a single nod to mental health.

I’d like to say a huge thanks to Random House UK for allowing me to read a copy of Frost at Midnight which is another excellent prequel, one that kept me thoroughly entertained as Denton once more comes to life with all its myriad of characters and Frost’s caring and clever mind fighting to the fore.

First Published UK: 17 May 2017
Publisher: Bantam Press
No of Pages: 352
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

The Frost books Prequels and Originals

First Frost: (DI Jack Frost 1) (James Henry)
Fatal Frost: (DI Jack Frost 2) (James Henry)
Morning Frost: (DI Jack Frost 3) (James Henry)

Frost At Christmas: (DI Jack Frost Book 1) (R.D. Wingfield)
A Touch Of Frost: (DI Jack Frost Book 2)  (R.D. Wingfield)
Night Frost: (DI Jack Frost Book 3) (R.D. Wingfield)
Hard Frost: (DI Jack Frost Book 4)  (R.D. Wingfield)
Winter Frost: (DI Jack Frost Book 5) (R.D. Wingfield)
A Killing Frost: (DI Jack Frost Book 6)  (R.D. Wingfield)

Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2017, Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Saturday Requiem – Nicci French #20booksofsummer

Crime Fiction
5*s

In 2011 the talented duo Sean French and Nicci Gerrard published the first book in a new series about a psychotherapist called Frieda Klein under their pen name Nicci French with each of the titles featuring a day of the week. Originally I assumed that there would be a total of seven books but I’ve heard a rumour that there may in fact be eight in total. Saturday Requiem was the sixth in the series and published in 2016 but due to a NetGalley fail on my part, I missed reading a copy around publication time and later treated myself to the paperback copy in readiness for the seventh book which will be published later this month – Sunday Morning Coming Down.

Frieda Klein has vowed not to work with the police following some difficult moments which are covered in previous books, but… well of course there would be no book if she wasn’t in some way involved… she is drawn into the historic murder of Hannah Docherty’s family. Hannah had been tried and convicted of murder in her teens and has spent the last thirteen years in prison. Frieda agrees to meet her and is shocked to see that she is a shell of a person, almost mute and clearly injured. Because Frieda cares she is concerned that the treatment Hannah has received has caused her mental difficulties and decides to dig back to find out what sort of girl Hannah was before she apparently killed her mother, step-father and younger brother, Rory.

One of the reasons I get hooked on series is the relationships the key protagonists has with those around them and Nicci French has provided the readers with a real bunch of characters. Sadly DCI Malcolm Karlsson didn’t feature quite so much in this book having broken a fair few bones in his most recent crime fighting effort but the Polish builder Josef, Frieda’s biggest fan and protector, is there ready to lend a hand whenever the occasion demands it, and these occasions happen often! Jack and Chloe are also in the thick of things along with Karlsson’s loan of his deputy Valerie Long to investigate the historic murders, one that obviously needs more scrutiny following a recent discovery. Frieda is a complicated character but the validation of those around her ensures that I have warmed to her over the series. Dean Reeve, Frieda’s long-standing stalker is still elusively present and the set-up is still ongoing for what I hope will be an explosive showdown.

Apart from the characters of course what all readers need in crime fiction is a good puzzle with plenty of clues that don’t quite fit together until they are put into the right order. Nicci French gives us this in spades with each interview slowly moving the pieces around, and increasing the tension, until there is only one answer that makes sense. I don’t usually mention the endings to books, but this one blew me away!!

What more can I say, book six is up there with the best in the series, it sent me through the whole range of emotion with the plot, characterisation and pacing absolutely spot-on.

Saturday Requiem was my third read of my 20 Books of Summer  Challenge 2017

First Published UK: 30 June 2016
Publisher: Penguin
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Crime Fiction Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Previous Books by Nicci French featuring Frieda Klein

Blue Monday
Tuesday’s Gone
Waiting For Wednesday
Thursday’s Child
Friday On My Mind

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
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