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

The Chalk Pit – Elly Griffiths – Blog Tour (#BookReview)

Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction
5*s

I am a huge fan of this series which features the down to earth Dr Ruth Galloway and the surprisingly complex DCI Harry Nelson so I was thrilled to be asked to be part of the Blog Tour to celebrate the publication of The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths, the ninth book in the series which was published on 23 February 2017.

the-chalk-pit-blog-tour

To kick off the tour I give you my humble opinion of this great book!

Book Review

Another outing for Ruth Galloway and this time the action is firmly set in Norwich when bones are found in an underground tunnel under Guildhall, which is something of an inconvenience for Quentin Swain the architect who is looking to use the space to build a swanky restaurant. Ruth overcomes her dislike of enclosed spaces to take a trip below the city to take a look; she’s fairly sure that they are old bones so sends them off to be tested.

Meanwhile the police are investigating the disappearance of a homeless woman, Babs in Norwich who has disappeared without trace. Eddie who has made the police station his bedroom, has reported her missing and it is clear when the police starts talking to the other members of the community, that they are worried about her too, but many are cautious of the police. And then a housewife goes missing in very suspicious circumstances and the police are forced to consider whether there can be a link to Babs.

I have to say that this book treats the subject of homelessness with far more nuance than any other that I’ve read. Elly Griffiths has given each of the many men, and they usually are men, a realistic story of how they came to be on the street, and why they are unwilling to accept the help offered to them but she has resisted the urge to make them all out to be saints which means that her attempts to make them realistic characters is so much more effective.
One of the many aspects of this series which I love is the link between Ruth and DI Nelson through their daughter Kate and the peek behind their working lives into what can only fairly be described as muddled. These insights leak around the side of the main investigation, never overwhelming it but often cleverly linking or echoing the themes.

In this book Kate is offered the part in a play. Ruth isn’t too sure whether this is a good idea but a few words from her mother and outright disapproval from Nelson means that Kate winds up playing the child Alice in a quirky adaption of that famous story called Alice Underground. The adult Alice being played by Cassandra wife of DS Clough.

The other aspect I really enjoy is that upon opening up the latest in the series I feel like I’m meeting old friends with the characters, distinct and engaging as ever, we had plenty of news to catch up on while underground tunnels were being searched and pits opening up in the road are causing chaos in Norwich. Ruth Galloway also links back to past books with little asides so this really is one of those series which is best read in order although there is a helpful who’s who guide at the back of the book for those of you reckless readers who are happy to dive in straight at book nine!

The familiarity of the characters alongside the first person narrative really make me feel that I am part of the book. So I know what’s going on and I can often predict the individual character’s response, but the plotting is so devious that I am no match for the detectives, I am merely on the side lines waiting for them to crack the case in indomitable style.

Although to be honest there isn’t one of these books that I haven’t enjoyed, the plotting in this one seemed tauter and the links more robust than some of the previous books. When you combine the excellent mystery with some intriguing personal lives and a look at a community which rarely has an accurate spotlight trained on it whilst seamlessly providing the history of the underground tunnels in Norwich, The Chalk Pit was a sure fire winner.

ellygriffiths-c-sara-reeve-3
Elly Griffiths – Sara Reeve

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

First Published UK: 23 February 2017
Publisher: Quercus
No of Pages:  384
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Day That Never Comes – Caimh McDonnell

Crime Fiction 3*s
Crime Fiction
3*s

This is the second in the Dublin Trilogy written by stand-up comedian Caimh McDonnell and carries on his unique brand of crime fiction and humour from A Man With One of Those Faces onto the next part of Paul, Brigit and Bunny’s journey to see what happens after they form a private detective agency together.

The story doesn’t begin well though as Bunny is missing, Brigit and Paul have had a massive falling out and aren’t speaking and it looks as if their new venture is going to fail before it has even started. Due to the split with Brigit, Paul is holed up in their new office with Maggie, a German Shepherd dog for company. Despite appearances though there is plenty to laugh about from the start, in that ‘if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry’ kind of way. And then a woman in a red dress makes an appointment requesting information on one of the men who has made money in a building venture, to the detriment of taxpayers and investors alike. What she wants to know is who he is seeing behind her back and has chosen the MCM Agency to help her. Paul has to rely on his friend Phil to act as driver as he trails the man while Brigit is busy looking for Bunny who has gone completely to ground.

Once again we have multiple story-lines to follow and plenty of intrigue with absolutely brilliant characters this book has a far more political feel to it. Even those of us who don’t live in Ireland know about the Celtic Tiger and the rapid downturn during the crash in 2007 where the money that had been pumped into Ireland, most specifically Dublin, which left the country with debts and empty offices. In The Day That Never Comes, one such fancy building has become home to political campaigners and the homeless making a stand against those few who made millions through dodgy dealings leaving their investors with nothing, but it all turns particularly nasty when the fraud trial of Hartigan, Blake and Maloney, the three big names in this venture, collapses.

Despite the introduction of some new characters, especially those in the Gardaí I missed the rapport created when the three characters worked together. In this book although they all appear and so  we see their individual investigations moving at a pace, the humour has a slightly different feel to it, so while it’s still very much in evidence, it has a slightly more sardonic comedy – not so much slapstick and far more blackness.

As for the plot well that’s fast and furious and very well executed with the different strands of story winding closer together. If you haven’t read A Man With One of Those Faces you might equate the mentions of humour within this story with a cosy mystery; please don’t. There are some brutal killings in this book which have no place in that genre. This is not a book for those with delicate sensibilities at all.

In many ways this book could serve as a warning to politicians and police forces alike as to what happens when the community you serve gets really fed-up with the decisions made on their behalf.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers McFori Ink for allowing me to enjoy another outing with these brilliant, and funny characters. The Day That Never Comes was published on 23 January 2017

First Published UK: 23 January 2017
Publisher: McFori Ink
No of Pages:  344
Genre: Crime Fiction – Humour
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

The Sixth Window – Rachel Abbott

Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction
5*s

I have followed this series since first discovering it soon after becoming a kindle owner back in 2010 and have eagerly awaited each new book ever since. Rachel Abbott creates believable scenarios which touch on the important, and gritty subjects, that we might like to close our eyes to but never forgets that what the reader wants is a cracking good story. Better still her lead detective, the handsome and caring DCI Tom Douglas, creates an attractive backdrop, well, in my mind anyway.

In The Sixth Window Natalie Grey finds something disturbing on her partner’s laptop which throws her into a panic. So much so that she wants to scoop up her daughter Scarlett and take her to a place of safety. But part of her can’t believe that what she’s seen is true. After all she’s known Ed Cooper since she was a teenager, all through her marriage to his best friend Bernie and he was the person she turned to when he was killed in a hit and run accident.

As a temporary measure Natalie finds Scarlett and herself a furnished flat to rent in an old building in Manchester. Scarlett is bored, it is the summer holidays and she is far from her friends but hey she’s got plenty of school-work to be getting on with and the library is close by. Yes, that isn’t what happens at all. As I said Rachel Abbott writes believable stories, not fairy tales! Instead Scarlett mooches around her new home bored and angry with her mother until she hears voices… having discovered that the apartment is built on the site of an old workhouse, Scarlett wonders if she is hearing echoes from the past, needless to say she decides to investigate.

Meanwhile the disturbing suicide of a young girl is keeping our favourite DCI busy and there is a link to Natalie and Scarlett which he can’t ignore and as Bernie’s name keeps coming up in his investigations Tom Douglas has to face the fact that the former policeman may have been hiding a secret that his wife isn’t ready to confront. By this point in the plot I was well and truly hooked and found myself turning the pages ever faster as my brain whirred around trying to cling onto the facts while the suspicions swirled all around. This really is a fast-moving plot with plenty of the intrigue which I love. The characters are well-drawn and even if Natalie is prone to putting her head in the sand over some of the discoveries made, I liked the fact that she was determined to protect her teenage daughter no matter what. This combined with the recent loss of her husband meant that I was able to sympathise with her, which was in direct contrast to some of the other characters I met during The Sixth Window, who were downright creepy, none more so than the janitor of the building, the description Rachel provides of this dear soul is far from flattering, I do hope it wasn’t based on anyone she knows!

As with all my favourite crime fiction novels, The Sixth Window has a number of strands which are deftly pulled together to provide a scary picture which sadly isn’t quite as far from the truth as we may like to believe. I don’t normally mention the endings of books, for obvious reasons, but this one had me literally gasping with disbelief as my jaw dropped. In conclusion this book is the best in the series yet, brilliant plot, contemporary storyline, great characterisation which culminates in what on reflection seemed to be the only ending possible.

I’d like to thank the author Rachel Abbott who kindly gave me a copy of The Sixth Window, not for review purposes, although how could I not review this! For any of you who use NetGalley it is available for request and you will be able to pre-order the kindle copy from Amazon soon. The publication date for this being 21 February 2017.

First Published UK: 21 February 2017
Publisher: Black Dot Publishing
No of Pages: approx 350
Genre: Crime Fiction Series

Amazon UK

Discover Rachel Abbott here

Web : http://www.rachel-abbott.com

Blog: rachelabbottwriter.com

Twitter: @RachelAbbott

Facebook: RachelAbbott1Writer

The Rachel Abbott DCI Tom Douglas Books in order:

Only The Innocent
The Back Road
Sleep Tight
Stranger Child
Nowhere Child (Novella)
Kill Me Again

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Coffin Trail – Martin Edwards

Crime Fiction 4*s
Crime Fiction
4*s

I have finally started Martin Edwards’ famed Lake District Mystery series with The Coffin Trail, the first in the series. The title has been chosen for the name given to the tracks which were used to transport bodies from the remote village to one with a graveyard. The symbolism of bodies being strapped to the horses for their final journey is one that resonates throughout this book.

As the book opens we meet Daniel Heard and his girlfriend Miranda buying Tarn Cottage in the fictional village of Brackdale on a whim while visiting the area for a short break. Daniel has tired in his role at Oxford University but it is Miranda who is the driving force behind the move, after all as a freelance journalist she can submit her copy from anywhere. Daniel has visited the area before, the last holiday before his policeman father left home to be with another woman and while there he met, and became friends with, Barrie Gilpin who lived in Tarn Cottage. The cottage is being sold for a song because Barrie Gilpin was widely suspected by police and villagers alike to have murdered a young woman. He died of an accident before the murder was discovered and his poor mother was shunned by the locals.

Meanwhile DI Hannah Scarlett is wondering if she can get her career back on track after a disastrous collapse of a trial compounded by even more disastrous public relations. She finds herself leading a new team set up to examine whether advances in forensics can solve any of the old cases. With a retired detective to assist and her trusty partner they begin leafing through the old files.
As Daniel probes the villager’s memories about Barrie, treating this personal quest he begins to ruffle a few feathers to say the least and Miranda is none too pleased. With some loose ends to tie up about his father, who died without Daniel ever making peace, who was on the original investigation the claustrophobic nature of life in a remote village becomes ever more apparent.

I enjoyed The Coffin Trail which was first published in 2004 for being a ‘real’ police procedural series. There were no clever tricks but straightforward investigations by both Daniel and Hannah Scarlet into what happened to the young woman who was laid out on Sacrifice Stone, it can’t be accidental that this was the place for pagan rituals. There are lots of characters within this book and of course being the first in the series, more time is spent giving these a background to be built on later, this gave the first section of the book quite a slow feel, but with solid writing and the fabulous scenery that Martin Edwards captures, keeping me entertained, I certainly didn’t have a chance to become bored.

Once the investigation gets underway it appears that the crux of the matter is going to be examining those old alibis rather than the more straightforward DNA results that DI Hannah Scarlett’s bosses were hoping for. And we all know what that means, yes my favourite, old secrets and lies will be exposed! There is no doubt at all that plenty of skeletons, of the kind that hide in cupboards, are rattled. As secret after secret is revealed the inhabitants of Brackdale will most likely never be the same again.

After really enjoying the characters of historian Daniel Head and the fairly level-headed and yet not to be pushed around, DI Hannah Scarlett I am now looking forward to reading the second in this series, The Cipher Garden which fortunately already resides on my kindle! I have a feeling this is a series I can trust to give me a solid mystery in a straightforward style relying on the writing alone to be the entertainment.

First Published UK: 1 July 2004
Publisher: Allison & Busby
No of Pages: 228
Genre: Crime Fiction – Police Procedural
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

The Murder at the Vicarage – Agatha Christie

Classic Crime Fiction 5*s
Classic Crime Fiction
5*s

This post has been written as part of the wonderful The Agatha Christie Blogathon hosted by Little Bits of Classic and Christina Wehner The blogathon runs from September 16 – 18 to celebrate all things Agatha Christie marking her 126th birthday. A marvellous event thanks to these two wonderful bloggers.

I’m a huge fan of Agatha Christie’s books, particularly those who star my favourite Belgium sleuth, Hercule Poirot, but I never took to Miss Marple when I initially read these books back in my teens, too many moons ago to count. Since then I haven’t been interested in seeing any of the TV adaptions of the books either and I couldn’t honestly tell you which ones I read before making up my mind that Miss Marple was someone to avoid.

It seems I’m not alone, Griselda Clement, wife of the vicar who narrates the story, says about her when she hears their neighbour is coming for tea

‘She is the worst cat in the village,’

Jane Marple is one of three cats in the village, but she is the nosiest by far; nothing happens it would seem without Miss Marple taking note and making judgement.

The village referred to is St. Mary Mead, a quintessential English village where afternoon tea is taken and maids are still de rigour. Of course the Vicar and his wife are right at the heart of things and although there has been some upset over missing donations in church and the like most of the villagers are unanimous in their dislike of Colonel Lucius Protheroe who holds the post of churchwarden and is one of the magistrates. The Colonel lives in Old Hall with his younger wife Anne Protheroe. Even the Vicar can’t disguise his intolerance of the man in front of his wife and nephew Dennis

I had just finished carving some boiled beef (remarkably tough by the way) and on resuming my seat I remarked, in a spirit most unbecoming to my cloth, that anyone who murdered Colonel Protheroe would be doing the world at large a service.

But of course duty is duty and afternoon tea is had

“What are you doing this afternoon, Griselda?” “My duty,” said Griselda. “My duty as the Vicaress. Tea and scandal at four thirty.”

The conversation touches on the merest hint of wrongdoing of those in the village, in cryptic and not so cryptic remarks including those of Colonel Portheroe

“I daresay idle tittle-tattle is very wrong and unkind, but it is so often true, isn’t it.”

The guests depart, Miss Marple goes back to tending her garden in the house next door to the vicarage. And then… Colonel Protheroe ends up being shot in the back in the Vicar’s own study. Fortunately our narrator is in the clear, having gone on a wild goose chase to see a sick parishioner shortly before the deed was done – even taking into account some mix up over the time of death owing to a note and a clock which was kept 15 minutes fast to aid punctuality. The accuracy of time of death puts our contemporary fictional doctors to shame, where no police doctor worth his salt would allow himself such a narrow time frame, even with much sucking in of breath and humming and harring! Inspector Slack is the local police officer and it seems like an open and shut case when one of the villagers owns up to the murder within a few pages. Of course that wouldn’t be a mystery story, so it is no surprise that he is quickly released. What is more surprising is that the Vicar gets drawn into the investigation,  and our Miss Marple who is on the fringes, aids mainly by disproving the latest theory rather than coming up with a credible one of her own, until much later, of course.

I’m not going to say much more about the plot itself, apart from to agree that once again, Agatha Christie was fair, we were all given the clues and so if, your powers of deduction are more like Inspector Slack’s than Miss Marple’s, then the solution will have outwitted you.

What I do want to talk about is the other characters who are all presented as fairly formulaic types: there is the silly young wife, the maid who is kept despite being rubbish so that no-one else will poach her, the serious vicar, the pompous policeman as well as the elderly spinster who has no life of her own so she spies on others. Christie’s critics often hone in on her lack of character progression but in this tale much of what is originally presented is actually subverted through the course of the book. Yes we don’t get a lot of back-story to any of these characters but by the end we have some understanding of who they are, especially Jane Marple. Yes, here is where I concur, she isn’t just some nosy old spinster with no life of her own, but a woman who has studied other people’s behaviour over many years giving her a huge advantage over the other villagers in trying to solve the seemingly impossible whodunit.

But best of all, The Murder in the Vicarage is full of wit, something that both surprised me and delighted me. I’m going to leave this review with some of Miss Marple’s own words, maybe ones that I didn’t agree with when I first met her as a callow teen, but now I applaud!

“She used to say: “The young people think the old people are fools, but the old people KNOW the young people are fools!”

I am converted, Miss Marple in her very first outing has me convinced that a fussy, nosy old spinster is an equal to the finickity Belgium with a fine moustache.

First Published UK: 1930
Publisher: Harper
No of Pages: 224
Genre: Classic Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Kill Fee – Fiona Veitch Smith

Historical Crime Fiction 4*s
Historical Crime Fiction
4*s

Having fallen a little bit in love with Poppy Denby in her first outing, The Jazz Files I was thrilled to see that the author had come up with another mystery for this enterprising journalist to solve.

The story itself is set mainly at places in and around Fleet Street, London where Poppy now has the grand title Arts and Entertainment Editor at The Daily Globe. The time is 1920 and there is a fabulous exhibition at Crystal Palace displaying Russian Art. Poppy is there covering the journalism and her boyfriend Daniel is there to take the photographs. With Poppy’s artistic friends, including the actress Delilah Marconi, all in attendance suddenly a gunshot is heard and when order is restored a valuable piece of art has disappeared.

You see when I said the story was mainly set in London, parts of it are seen in flashback style to the time of the Russian revolution some three years previously. Not so much in the way of parties in evidence in this part of the book but what links the two, apart from the obvious Russian link, is the bravery and tenacity of the characters.

In many way these books are a bit of a romp, with plenty of danger for Poppy to extract herself from, the dead bodies in true Golden Age style not belonging to anyone who will be mourned too long or too hard, or to characters who we haven’t even got to know before they are deceased. But the author has gone to a great deal of trouble to realistically create the time period, and the research underpinning it all is factual (and where it is not, Fiona Veitch Smith confesses to some elastic timings at the end). Better still for those of us whose knowledge of the Russian Revolution there is a handy foreword to give some idea of who the White Russians were and how they differed to the Red Russians.

The plotting was good and far more complex than the very attractive cover belies and the pace was fairly fast so you do need to concentrate to keep up with all the potential killers, thieves and spies that litter the pages of The Kill Fee, the title taken from the amount of money that newspaper mogul Rollo is offered to kill a story – the question is not only should he but even if he does, how many people know the truth – the last thing Rollo wants if for his rivals to steal the story.

The skill the author has is getting in the period details without the research overshadowing the storyline and she’s good. Those little details such as the music that was played, the fashionable items of the day and the food that was eaten are all sparingly yet effectively used, but what is superbly done is the seemingly contemporary view when for instance Poppy notices that Ye Olde Cock Tavern was a favourite of both Charles Dickens and Samuel Pepys. All of this brings the scenes to life and offsets the more bizarre scenarios that beset our young heroine.

With the relationships and the background to how Poppy became a journalist held in the first book, I’m not sure how well this would work as a stand-alone read so I suggest if you are tempted to start at the beginning.

I’d like to say thank you to the publishers Lion Fiction for allowing me to read a copy of this book ahead of the publication day of tomorrow, 16 September 2016.

First Published UK: 16 September 2016
Publisher: Lion Fiction
No of Pages: 320
Genre: Historical Crime Fiction Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

The Trespasser – Tana French

Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction
5*s

Oh my!! I really don’t know how this author does it but once again Tana French has come up with yet another book with an authentic feel, that bears no resemblance to those that came before it. The Dublin Murder Squad, of which this is the sixth, is not a traditional series rather one or more characters from a previous book appears in a later one, and the crimes they tackle are as varied as the characters that populate the pages.

In The Trespasser Antoinette Conway, one of the detectives who appeared in the previous novel, The Secret Place, is the lead detective on a slam-dunk domestic killing of a young woman. Antoinette’s partner on the force is another detective we met in the previous book, Steve Moran, who has now found his way onto the Murder Squad. The partnership isn’t the easiest, Antoinette still being brusque and feisty and by now thoroughly fed-up with not being accepted by the rest of the team. Both are pleased to have a case of their own to run and will even put up with the arrogant Detective Bresslin overseeing their work to get away from the relentless night-shift and the unrelenting stupid crimes that occur on it.

Having never been in a Murder Squad any more than I’ve attended a girl’s boarding school, the author has created what feels like an authentic recreation of the world that Conway and Moran inhabit. The atmosphere, the décor and the smells are all served up along with the language, by which I refer to the dialogue and the jargon that surely really exist? The book is set fairly and squarely in Dublin and as in the previous novels modern Ireland is gently explored without overpowering the main plot.

The centre of the plot is all about the murder of Aislinn Murray a young woman, identikit to the numerous other women with straight blonde hair and a pout to match, who has had her head bashed in. There is no forced entry to the house and the table is set for two so all the junior detectives need to do is find the dinner date – it’s so easy that Antoinette is frustrated, she really wants a big case, one where she can do some real detective work. When they meet Aislinn’s friend Lucy the pair get a hint that there could be more to the tale, but with Bresslin looking for a quick win with such an obvious suspect, is Antoinette’s reputation for being feisty going to work irreparably against her?

This is a long book, one packed full of details which you really don’t want to miss. As good as the plot is, and it’s fantastic, the most spellbinding part is the unveiling of the characters. The victim is not quite the thick, look-obsessed and no taste girl that the detectives had her pegged at. Nor is the boyfriend quite as boring as he first seemed and with Antoinette herself the biggest mystery of the entire plot there is plenty to absorb and wonder at as the layers of their characters are peeled back to show the reality behind the façade. But be warned this isn’t a straightforward ride with Tana French not adverse to some manipulation of her reader’s feelings; I found my sympathy and concern for a number of characters waxed and waned as different interpretations to the facts seemed certain, and then slid away to the ‘I’m just not sure pile’ all of which meant that I suspected everyone and trusted no-one until pretty much the very last page.

I really can’t express quite how amazing this series is; I’ve loved all the books and each time a new one comes out it becomes my latest ‘favourite’ I’m not going there this time, but if you want a different kind of crime fiction, this series is a definite place to visit.

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this book for review purposes from the publishers Hodder & Stoughton ahead of UK publication on 22 September 2016. This is my unbiased opinion of the book.

The Dublin Murder Squad books:

In The Woods

The Likeness

Faithful Place

Broken Harbour

The Secret Place

First Published UK: 22 September 2016
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
No of Pages: 480
Genre: Crime Fiction Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

 

Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2016, Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Narrow Bed – Sophie Hannah #20booksofsummer

Book 13

Crime Thriller 5*s
Crime Thriller
5*s

The one thing that can’t be disputed about Sophie Hannah’s books is that they are all a unique reading experience; The Narrow Bed does not break this tradition. So much so that it is often hard to articulate exactly what the book is about but I’ll give it my best shot!

Two pairs of best friends have been killed and the Culver Valley are investigating alongside other police forces to identify the perpetrator. So far so simple, the police have helpfully provided the press with a catchy name to keep the crimes in the news and to gain intelligence from the public ‘Billy Dead Mates’ makes his way into everyone’s homes especially when ardent feminist Sondra Halliday choses this subject to rail against misogyny, despite one of the victims being male. Sophie Hannah is a genius at picking out the nonsense that seems to prevail and takes it one infinitesimal step further to allow us to laugh at ourselves and each other with the absurd truth of on-line news forums for one.

This book, like a few of the others in this series, has a strong literary leaning most obviously with the little white books delivered to each victim a few weeks before they are killed. These books all contain a single line of poetry but no-one can fit the puzzle together and work out what it means. Well of course readers of this series know that Simon Waterhouse, the genius detective will, at some point, but will he be quick enough to prevent any further murders? The biggest mystery of all as usual though, is whether Simon will let his detective wife, Charley Zailer in on any of his mental gymnastics.

The difference in this series is that the personal details are kept to a minimum so each of the books will work perfectly well as a stand-alone read although we do get a snapshot into the current state of affairs through her sister’s Charley’s eyes of Livvy’s ongoing complex life.

This really is a proper murder mystery albeit with extremely obscure clues and broken up by newspaper articles and letters, and of course the literary references including excerpts from the book, Origami, written by one of the main players, the stand-up comedian Kim Tribbeck. All of this adds to the sheer enjoyment in reading the book which at times diverts into blind-alley’s without ever losing the overall plotline. I never think for a second that I am going to work out who the killer is in Sophie Hannah’s books but in this instance I formed an opinion, that was right but I was way off with the motive which was an absolute delight.

If you haven’t already guessed, I’m a fan of Sophie Hannah’s for a number of reasons but none of those would count if she didn’t have the dexterity of language, the well thought out plots and her characterisation which despite bordering on the bizarre, are such a pleasure to learn about. The numerous sub-plots and backstories all lend texture and contrast to the story.

Culver Valley Series
1. Little Face
2. Hurting Distance
3. The Point of Rescue
4. The Other Half Lives
5. A Room Swept White
6. Lasting Damage
7. A Kind of Cruel
8. The Carrier
9. The Telling Error

Standalone Books

A Game for all the Family

First Published UK: 11 February 2016
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
No of Pages 416
Genre: Crime Thriller (series)
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Rat Run – Caro Ramsay

Crime Thriller 4*s
Crime Fiction
4*s

In an insular community just seven miles from Glasgow the shadow of the murder of Sue Melrose and her two young sons back in 1992, still casts darkness over a row of houses. Up on the hill above the street Jock Aird sits and surveys all that he owned, watching the current inhabitants of the street. The man convicted of the young mother’s murder and that of the two boys and the family dog sits in prison protesting his innocence.

Meanwhile DCI Colin Anderson is waiting to hear if he is to be allowed back to work after a year on sick leave since his last case which saw him lose his lover and nearly his life. DI Costello is anxious, not sure whether he is fit to come back to work or not, but also longing to get away from her desk bound job and back to action.

Fortunately a new discovery means that action is about to come DI Costello’s way, and against a brooding backdrop of relentless rain which only serves to increase the claustrophobic atmosphere we meet the characters who live in the street in August 2015. The old case is reviewed with an aim to shore up the conviction against the man sat in prison, Andrew Gyle, reviewing those horrific images from twenty-three years before, combing the files and carrying out the necessary traces on those who were connected to the case.

Caro Ramsay executes this dark tale with a deft pen. The plot is fairly complex with many characters from the past and the present all seemingly with something to hide or infected by dark minds makes this far from a cheery read, but one that digs deep into the souls of all those involved. This is an author that doesn’t depend on left-field revelations, the clues are there for the denouement and I’m proud to say that I used these to work out the whodunit although I wasn’t quite there with the why. Not an easy task when there are many suspicious events, lots of people with nefarious intent but also some shining examples of the better side of human nature to keep this story from becoming so bleak that it seemed impossible to finish.

This is the seventh in the Anderson and Costello series and none of the books I have read, and no I didn’t start from the beginning (just for a change) read like the more traditional police procedural. Aside from Anderson’s return to work interviews and the brief that as much information about the new discovery was to be kept from the media, this story doesn’t concern itself with police politics. The members of the team are all individuals borrowing little from the stereotypical police cardboard cut-outs that are commonly used in such tales. We do hear a little about the protagonists private lives, mainly about Anderson’s struggle to overcome the psychological damage inflicted on him, and his family, but refreshingly the core of the story is kept to the forefront at all times.

If you like your crime thrillers to be full of thrills, you can’t go far wrong with this one but be warned, there are fairly graphic descriptions and if rats freak you out, this is not a bedtime story for you!!

Published UK eBook: 1 August 2016
Publisher: Severn House
No of Pages: 256
Genre: Crime Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Laidlaw – William McIlvanney

Crime Fiction 4*s
Crime Fiction
4*s

I read this book on Fiction Fan’s recommendation since this book was gave this her FictionFan Crime Thriller Award Winner back in 2013, yes I know, I don’t like to rush to read promising books!!

Detective Inspector Jack Laidlaw is investigating the rape and murder of pretty young Jennifer Lawson who was recently reported missing by her father. Detective Constable Harkness is there to assist him, newly transferred he has been warned about Laidlaw’s unorthodox methods. But the police aren’t the only ones investigating this crime – Jennifer’s father is determined to find the killer first.

Set in 1970s Glasgow hardly a page is turned that doesn’t have a snarl or a raised fists which alongside the nervousness of the women all reinforce the menace that stalks through this book. Times are hard in Glasgow with the national industries closing down and so these hard men need to make their mark on the world in the way they know best, through violence.

Unsurprisingly since this book was originally published in the 1977 the sense of time is shockingly well done including the bigotry that ran rife in Glasgow at that time. I’m not sure that poor Jennifer would have put up with the way her father ruled her and her mother quite as meekly in this day and age. His uncompromising manner had meant that there were hints of a secret boyfriend after she chose someone unsuitable in his eyes a while earlier, but was her murder committed by someone she knew, or was it perhaps a chance killing. That’s what the maverick that is Laidlaw intends to find out. But, he is considered unusual for a policeman in those macho times, because he cared about the causes of crime as a fellow officer commented:

“You’ll have to wear wellies when you work with him. To wade through the tears. He thinks criminals are underprivileged.”

Whilst the mystery itself is fairly run of the mill when you discount that this is the first of the genre now known as ‘Tartan Noir’ the beauty of this book is in its language. It is a joy to turn the page and find something pretty much quotable on practicably every page.

Sunday in the park – it was a nice day. A Glasgow sun was out, dully luminous, an eye with cataract. Some people were in the park pretending it was warm, exercising that necessary Scottish thrift with weather which hoards every good day in the hope of some year amassing a summer.

Partly because of the lyrical language this reads quite unlike most crime fiction; it isn’t a book to be devoured to find out whodunit because we know who the perpetrator is fairly on, the question is who will get to them first, the police or local justice? This is book to savour to think about the views of all involved even those who are apparently viciously elbowed out like Jennifer’s mother by the men determined to find their man and make him pay.

The one element which worried me ahead of reading this novel was the inclusion of the dialect; I’m not a big fan of dialect in a book but I honestly didn’t struggle with the inclusion in this one either in terms of meaning or with the inevitable slow-down it usually causes adapting to unfamiliar letter patterns which tend to pull me outside of the story. This was one book where those short and infrequent bursts of dialect did add rather than detract from the story particularly when I worked out Laidlaw’s use of it himself gave a pointer to the type of person he was conversing with!

An all-round enjoyable read which I’m delighted to have finally read – the next two in this trilogy are now on the wishlist and I don’t intend leaving it quite so long to get around to reading them.

First Published UK: 1977
Publisher: Cannongate Books
No of Pages 304
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US