Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Foster Child – Jenny Blackhurst

Psychological Thriller
3*s

This is one very disturbing psychological thriller from a writer who has more than secured her place in my must-read authors with her first two books How I Lost You and Before I Let You In. It is a testament to the writer’s skill that despite the book more than gently touching on supernatural elements, which I normally avoid, that I was able to put this to one side and still enjoy the read, this review should therefore be read with my personal feelings on the subject matter taken into account.

Imogen Reid is moving from private practice as a child psychologist to one who works as part of a social work team who find the resources to support children. Her reasons for leaving aren’t voluntary and as a result the house move and new role do not instantly sit easily with her. One of her first cases is that of Ellie Atkinson, just twelve who lost both her parents and her brother in a fire and is now being fostered by a family with their own daughter and a son who is also fostered.

No sooner have we got some idea about Imogen as she travels to her new role than we meet Ellie in a somewhat bizarre incident full of furious adults. It doesn’t take much longer to realise that Ellie is distrusted by those around her. What I struggled with, as alluded to above is the nature of the distrust but as a story about the behaviour of groups, this is frighteningly accurate and all the more disturbing for that.

There is no let-up in the tension throughout this book, the scenes move at a fast pace with no break at all from incident to incident, scary child to really horrific scenes of bullying from irrational adults to the inadequacies of those who should be helping to actually being able to. As the story raced along my uneasiness about the true nature of the story becoming less entrenched as I began to at least begin to put the pieces of the puzzle the right way up if not managing to make a full picture before the reveal. As might be expected from this author though there were still a few surprises to pull the rug from under my feet.

The scenes in Imogen’s office, especially the lack of technology on the first day, will be familiar to practically anyone who has been in this position and for me it was these scenes that kept me rooted. There are simply so many real truths within the books that I could either relate to or fully believe that the supernatural element became less and less important as the book progressed. The bullying aspect was so well portrayed, some of it far more horrific to read but the endless bubbling of discord amongst Ellie’s peers was an all to accurate picture of how a child, who you would naturally assume is given some sympathy for all she’s been through, is singled out for being different.

I did enjoy the read despite my initial reservations and I’m sure that The Foster Child will be a huge hit with many lovers of psychological thrillers – it is creepy, it is full of tension and it is definitely thrilling.

I’d like to thank the publishers Headline for allowing me to read a copy of The Foster Child which was published for the kindle in September and will be out in paperback on 16 November 2017.

First Published UK: 21 September 2017
Publisher:  Headline 
No. of Pages:  400
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

An Act of Silence – Colette McBeth

Psychological Thriller
4*s

Colette McBeth provides us with a nuanced and multi-layered tale in this story which could be plucked from the tabloids.

Linda Moscow is a former Home Secretary who resigned under a black cloud and of course had her disgrace splashed all over the red-tops. Imagine her horror when her son, Gabriel, a stand-up comedian, turns up in her kitchen informing her he is supposed to be presenting himself to the police in a few hours in connection with the death of a woman. Yes, Linda loves her son, can she trust in her son’s innocence? This strand of the novel is one that begs the reader to ask ‘What would I do?’ After all from what she is told Mariela who Gabriel shared the night with has been found dead on the allotment behind his house, for him it appears she was simply another notch on his crowded bedpost, tales of which have kept his face in the public eye ever since he became a famous comic. And then there is the secret that Linda has been nursing over the years.

I loved the way we learn more about each of the characters through their own narration and through other people’s eyes. When wisely used, this is one of my favourite ways for a story to unfold as I firmly believe it is how we learn about each other in ‘real’ life. The time jumps backwards and forwards as different details are revealed stretching way back into the past.

In the background there is the all too familiar story of sexual abuse by those in authority. Relieved of her ministerial duties Linda has joined with a journalist to investigate such abuse of young girls by those in positions of authority and is busy tracking the women down through social media to expose the truth.

Colette McBeth uses the various characters to examine relationships, most prominently in this case one between mother and son and what should be seemingly rock solid bonds can be stretched to the limits. How past experiences of guilt and betrayal colour apparently unrelated conflicts in the future and how interference from others can cast an insidious shadow on the way we view those that we are closest to.

Because of the nature of Linda’s quest to reveal the truth about historic sexual abuse, this is quite a sad book which made it a harder read than many in the psychological thriller genre however the plentiful twists and turns and action scenes meant that the book falls short of being a depressing tale about abuse. In fact by choosing two diametrically opposite characters, the child victim and the politician the author was able to make much wider statements about neither label coming close to summing up an entire person, each having far more layers and depth to them.

An Act of Silence lives up to its title, sometimes it is the unsaid that can cause far more strife than any words spoken aloud.

I’d like to thank Colette McBeth for giving me a copy of An Act of Silence when we met at a Headline blogger event earlier this year, this review is my unbiased thanks for a stunning, involved and intelligent novel that despite somewhat unlikeable characters really got under my skin.

First Published UK: 29 June 2017
Publisher: Wildfire
No of Pages: 352
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Previous Books by Colette McBeth

Precious Thing
The Life I Left Behind

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Blood Tide – Claire McGowan

Crime Fiction
4*s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Paula McGuire Series

The Lost
The Dead Ground
The Silent Dead
Savage Hunger

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

Quieter than Killing – Sarah Hilary

Crime Fiction
5*s

Quieter than Killing starts with a chilling prologue; a young boy listens to the sound of a car being washed, carrots being chopped and a boy in a red bedroom surrounded by a girl’s possessions. This outwardly domestic scene has an unfathomable undercurrent that let me know from the first short sentence that the latest book in the DI Marnie Rome series, her fourth outing, was going to be a real treat.

So starts another brilliant outing for DI Marnie Rome and her partner DS Jake Noah in a race against time to work out what links what appears to be violent attacks on people who have previously been convicted of crimes as disparate as kidnapping and assault. Then the new perpetrator goes too far and one of their victims dies. Who is picking these latest victims and why won’t they reveal who is hurting them? With crimes that seem to take no account of age, sex or years since the original crime, finding the killer is going to need the sharpest of detectives. Meanwhile Marnie is left shaken when her parent’s former home is burgled and her tenants badly hurt at the same time and are in the hospital.

During earlier books in this series we’re aware of the crimes committed by Marnie’s foster brother Stephen and his mischief-making is still ongoing, as are Jake’s problems with his younger brother who has been embroiled in the local gangs. This mixture of police investigation with their personal problems is one of the aspects I really enjoy and the two worlds are becoming too close for comfort for both officers. The pair find themselves investigating the gangs and their increasingly young recruits. And then things seem to get personal and with Marnie’s boss, and chief protector and supporter, off work with a serious illness, Marnie has to learn to confront attacks both personal and professional without him at the same time she has to prove herself to the woman drafted in to lead the Murder Investigation Team.

The plotting as ever is exquisite with perfect pacing which takes us down more than one blind alley, each time the tension rises to a new height. This is the twistiest of the series yet, but the author keeps a handle on the strands so that at no time did I consider any revelation, one too many. It is refreshing to be able to relish a story without feeling as if everything is positioned just to confuse, but that these events are not only possible, but likely to happen.

Of course the most engaging of plots wouldn’t get far without great characters and whilst the two detectives are already well-defined, they show parts of their characters that haven’t been quite so obvious before and they are joined by a great supporting cast. To Sarah Hilary, it doesn’t matter if you are a goodie or a baddie, she will add layers to both surprise and delight.

So we have plot and characters and even better Sarah Hilary adds a brilliant turn of phrase to the trinity. For anyone who is under the misapprehension that crime writers can produce a great book without knowing their crime as it is all about the whodunit and less about the well-crafted phrase, all I can say is read this book and experience how great a read can be when all three come together.

I am very grateful to the publishers Headline who allowed me to read an advance copy of Quieter than Killing ahead of publication of 9 March 2017.
Previous books in the DI Marnie Rome Series:

Someone Else’s Skin
No Other Darkness
Tastes Like Fear

First Published UK: 9 March 2017
Publisher: Headline
No of Pages: 416
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

Her Husband’s Lover – Julia Crouch

Psychological Thriller 5*s
Psychological Thriller
5*s

This book sits firmly in the psychological thriller genre, not only is this completely mind-blowing it is a fast-paced read too. Not that I expect anything less from this excellent author who I think is one of the best writers in this genre.

The book opens with a woman, later we discover, Louisa Williams, being chased in her car by her husband Sam. Worse still she isn’t alone in her white Fiat, her two young children are in the back. Louisa wakes up from the resulting coma in hospital, alone and to add insult to injury is told that she is ‘lucky.’ That’s not quite how Louisa sees it! Sam may have lost his life in the crash but Louisa has to live her life without her precious children.

It doesn’t take long, not long enough for the reader to have absorbed the shocking facts of the car crash, that we discover that Louisa’s battle is far from over. Not anywhere near recovered Louisa is visited in hospital:

“If you survive,” the voice says, “if you survive, I’m not going to let you get away with it. If you survive, you’d better watch out, Louisa.”

As Louisa gets stronger and faces the inquest into Sam’s death her name is prefixed with ‘Tragic’ in the media but Louisa is strong, and with the help of her lawyer, Fiona, she moves away from the home she shared with Sam and starts a new life in a new home in a new city with a new job with a new name, no longer Tragic Louisa!

Sam had a lover, Sophie and she doesn’t believe the inquest verdict. As far as she’s concerned the Sam she knew wouldn’t have driven Louisa off the road on purpose but Sophie has lied before, she has form and no-one wants to hear from the devoted mistress.

For a while we hear the outline of the run up to the crash and slowly it becomes clear that this isn’t the straightforward domestic violence storyline you are expecting. Oh no, imagine the darkest books you’ve read in this genre, and then go blacker still. Some of the clues are given by Louisa herself while other parts of the story are revealed by Sophie and somewhere in the middle, perhaps is where the truth lies? You will need to find out for yourselves though…

And that is all I’m going to say about the plot because like all these types of books, the least you know before opening the first page, the more enjoyment you’ll get from the resulting ride which isn’t unlike the opening scenes. One moment you’re travelling along a fairly well-known road, with a bullish husband, a meek wife and a dodgy affair, the next everything is turned on its head before you roll down the slope not knowing which way is up… or down.
What Julia Crouch does to keep the story anchored in reality it to insert scenes that are so familiar that we all have reference points, this is reality. After all many of us may not have been to an inquest, but most of us have started a new job. Some of us may even have started a new job and realised that we have chosen the wrong clothes, as Louisa did. Those of us who are parents may well have attended a mother and toddler group and faced the embarrassment of having the child that is at the ‘grabby stage’ and had to face down the poor subject’s hostile mother. These scenes are so spot on, written in a style that makes them more than just a footnote to the storyline, a means of bonding the reader with the character, the common ground that says ‘I know you’

The plotting is sublime, the use of the information to flesh out the story while at the same time keeping that tension maintained through what is a fairly long book is no less than an art form. All of this contributed to the feeling that although on one level unlikely, this really did happen and Louisa and Sophie exist along with the other incredibly life-like people that inhabit Her Husband’s Lover. This is a stupendous read one that deserves the real world to fade away and let you enjoy the scary journey.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Julia Crouch who sent me a copy of this book complete with a written card some time ago. It has taken a huge amount of willpower to leave it until closer to the publication date of 26 January 2017 to read and review, but the wait and anticipation was worth every minute.

First Published UK: 26 January 2017
Publisher: Headline
No of Pages:  480
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Other Books by Julia Crouch

Cuckoo
Every Vow You Break
Tarnished
The Long Fall

 

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

The House of Birds – Morgan McCarthy

Historical Fiction 5*s
Historical Fiction
5*s

I’m a fan of dual time-line stories but suspect that these are far trickier to pull off than the big hits in the genre suggest, I have read my fill of poor imitations where the connections between past and present are weak or worse still, contrived. Books where all too often, one of the stories shores up the other to such an extent that you feel it was only invented to appeal to those of us who enjoy this form of storytelling. The House of Birds is not one of these poor imitations, better still the story in the present is about a man, Oliver who has walked out of his highly paid job and is ‘considering his options!’

Oliver met Kate when he was a twelve-year-old boy and together, one sunny day, finding themselves outside Kate’s Great-Aunt’s house decided as a bit of a dare to investigate. They made their way through the overgrown garden and Oliver climbed up to peer through one of the upstairs windows. What he saw in the room made a memory that he never quite shook off, coming as these vivid memories often do, just before his life changed, and he moved away from Oxford. Years later Oliver and Kate meet again and start to build a life together. Kate’s family has been split into two sides for years over an ongoing dispute of inheritance of the house in Oxford but now it has been passed to Kate. With the house in a poor state of repair and Oliver at a loose end, he decides to use his time organising the repairs and renovations. Once there he finds a story, written by a woman called Sophie.

Sophie’s story is set in the 1920s where she is trying to gain access to the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, but not having anyone to write a letter to allow her entry she is turned away. So starts the beginning of my enormous sympathy for this young woman, one whose husband returned from the war a different man to the one who left. This is a woman who has a love of books, of language and of learning and yet she is tied to the house where her staff have not enough to keep them busy but go some way into bringing life into a house where husband and wife have little conversation and who sleep in separate rooms.

The link between past and present is far from clear, even to Oliver as Kate had never mentioned a Sophia, so the first mystery is how the document ended up in the house at all. But like me, he could not fail to be captivated by Sophia’s story and when the pages come to an end, he wants to know more and without Kate’s knowledge tries to find out more which means talking to the side of the family who believe the house belongs to them.

Already enthralled by the story I was especially thrilled later on when mentions of Crete, in particular, Knossos, and the renovation of the site by Arthur Evans in the early twentieth century because I visited the site on my holiday this year. We had a very knowledgeable guide Maria, and so I know that Morgan McCarthy has done her research well from the titbits that correlate perfectly to all that I learnt about the site. With many pieces of information that are lightly sprinkled throughout the book, from myths and legends to the difference between a labyrinth and a maze, battles and kings and queens, meant that this was a book that taught me some new things too without it ever feeling anything apart from the fabric of the book itself.

This book has some outstanding characters who run the gamut of emotions of humans around the world, and some of these are mirrored between past and present. Sophia has a sister, and there is sibling rivalry, there is love, there is duty and there is guilt and greed… I could go on. This isn’t a fast moving book but the language is beautiful and the writing evocative. I had one of those sad moments when I reached the very satisfying ending, where I genuinely missed the characters I’d come to know and love.

I was delighted to receive a copy of The House of Birds from the publishers Headline. This unbiased review is my thank you to them

First Published UK: 3 November 2016
Publisher: Headline
No of Pages: 448
Genre: Historical Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Jeweller’s Wife – Judith Lennox

Historical Fiction 4*s
Historical Fiction
4*s

In the best tradition of saga novels The Jeweller’s Wife has at its centre a complex couple, a fabulous house, sumptuous jewellery and enough of those seven vices to keep the momentum turning.

Having opened in Cairo just as the Second World War was going to start young Juliet is in dire need of money and takes her fifteenth birthday present from her father to a jeweller to sell it. Henry Winterton was in the shop looking for rare gems, but he didn’t just walk away with the pearls, he had married nineteen year old Juliet within two weeks and bought her to his home in Essex. Grand Marsh Hall on the edge of the Blackwater salt marshes in Essex, a large home for Juliet to learn new skills as a wife, and before too long a mother, but it doesn’t take long for that old adage ‘marry in haste repent at leisure’ to become increasingly insistent. It’s fair to say Henry Winterton is not an easy man to live with. Fortunately the family jewellery business on London’s best street keeps him busy.
Judith was in a way a woman born before her time, or perhaps a woman who was born before time allowed her to fulfil her personality. With Henry so difficult from the beginning she made friends with her sister-in-law, Helen and as her children grew used her artistic talents for the good of the local school and putting on concerts at the house.

Nearby to the women with their comfortable lifestyle is a young woman who lives in a cottage on one of the islands. Frances has twins and feels like she’s been imprisoned away from her family and friends, she knows why she’s a secret but that doesn’t mean she is happy about it. Frances’s story reminds us of the perils of biology at a time when options were few and reliance on the father of the child to do the right thing was the only way to survive.
Of course in any saga that spans more than thirty years there are gaps in the story as the story is moved forward to take in the younger generations as they also find their own way in life. It is here, as the choices, both good, and bad, of their parents begin to have a real impact and Juliet realises that some of hers are at the heart of the somewhat fracture family.

The setting is superb, the unpredictable water rushing in and out of the salt marshes makes for a treacherous and somewhat bleak landscape, the perfect backdrop for a story which has its fair share of low-points for most of the characters although with some artists in the family the ever-changing tides could provide inspiration.

After a slowish start where the scene was set I was really drawn into this read, following the two generations as they suffered all manner of calamities, especially in the latter chapters which brings the story up to the 1960s and a changing world illustrated by the need of one young mother to work as well as have a child. A world where unlike poor Juliet, it was possible to walk away from a marriage that looked sure to bring nothing but unhappiness.

The writing style seemed a little bit remote at first, describing scenes rather than from the point of view of any particular character, but I realise this is probably because of the numerous books that I now read in the first person present tense and in time got to appreciate the wider viewpoint that this afforded the reader.

This is an enjoyable saga for those readers who want to be absorbed in another world; in fact perfect autumnal reading.

I’d like to thank the publishers Headline for allowing me to read a copy of this book. This honest opinion is my thank you to them.

First Published UK: 8 September 2016
Publisher: Headline
No of Pages: 512
Genre: Historical Fiction (family saga)
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

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

Tastes Like Fear – Sarah Hilary

Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction
5*s

I was thrilled to receive a copy of this, the latest in the DI Marnie Rome series, from the publishers Headline as Sarah Hilary really has bought something quite special to a genre which already has plenty of sub-genres. This series is not quite a police procedural, there is far too much detail about the perpetrators and victims thoughts, hopes and fears in her books for that, but nor is a full on psychological thriller, as there is the ever-present police work with its procedures and methodology, although refreshingly, not so much about police politics to fit into that category, but hey wherever these books fit, I love them.

Tastes Like Fear didn’t disappoint in any way at all although I was a little wary when I read the synopsis as the words teenagers and harm jumped out at me, but I needn’t have worried because of course Sarah Hilary has tackled the subject of teenage runaways without resorting to endless descriptions of excessive violence, not that this book is all nicey-nicey, but I really got the feeling that this is a book that will take you behind the headlines, to the reality of life as a teen in the UK (and probably many other places in the world too.)

As in the previous two books there are multiple strands of plot as Marnie Rome and her partner DS Noah Jakes are off trying to find out who the girl was that caused a fatal traffic accident by running out into the road half-dressed. With two sets of casualties from the car accident, a missing runaway girl what the pair don’t need is a body found in a show-room apartment at Battersea Power Station. Just working out how whoever killed the girl could get into the building is a big enough puzzle. And that’s without the personal issues that both are facing with their brothers. These storylines subtly intersect with the other strands of the novel enhancing the story without taking over the investigation into a number of missing girls in the Bristol area.

One of the best things about this series is that it is firmly set in the present time; the author covers subjects as wide as gangs terrorising a council estate along with the misplaced teenagers who are disenfranchised for a whole variety of reasons, and not those that we instantly think of. The way some of our young people need to hide in a world where privacy isn’t always possible. With all the secondary characters as finely drawn as the chief protagonists, this is one book where I didn’t doubt for one moment that the story which was unfolding before my eyes could happen, the mark of a truly skilled writing by Sarah Hilary.

Although the reader has an insight into where the girls are and what is happening in their lives through short excerpts that doesn’t mean that this is a book without a mystery and nor is it one without action, I found myself gripping the book tightly as the ending got nearer and everything began to become clear.

This is an outstanding read, one I would recommend to anyone who likes intelligent crime fiction, this is a book that made me think about those who evade our eyes in the busy modern world. Although I’m sure this would work well-enough as a stand-alone read, you will be missing out if you don’t experience this series from the beginning.

I’d like to thank the publishers Headline who sent me a proof copy of Tastes Like Fear prior to publication on 7 April 2016. This review is my thank you to them.

Previous books in the series:

Someone Else’s Skin
No Other Darkness

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

A Savage Hunger – Claire McGowan

Crime Fiction 4*s
Crime Fiction
4*s

I really enjoy this series which initially followed the cases Dr Paula McGuire investigated as part of the Missing Persons Unit on the border between Northern and Southern Ireland. The idea of the unit was to overcome the problems of cross-border information exchange but sadly that has fallen away and now Paula is working as a consultant with the police in Northern Ireland.

Claire McGowan cleverly links the missing person in this book, Alice Morgan, an anorexia sufferer with the hunger strikes carried out in 1981 by political prisoners. Alice went missing on the doorstep of a church in Ballyterrin along with a holy relic – the bones of a saint also connected to hunger. Paula is called in to help out in the investigation swiftly, after all her father is a government minister and so despite the student at a private university having a history of disappearing, a search is launched. It doesn’t take too long before the team realise that another young girl went missing from the same church, on the same day, back in 1981.

Having set the scene for investigation we hear more from Alice herself, from her time in a hospital where she was receiving treatment for her anorexia, this makes for disturbing reading. We also have some excerpts from WhatsApp from her circle of close friends, friends who the police are sure know more than they are letting on. I do like it when books set in the present use technology that is popular, it certainly lends some authenticity to the plot.

This is probably has the most interwoven plot of the whole series and that is before we get to Paula’s private life which is going through some turbulence with a wedding to prepare for, a missing mother and a child with an unknown father, her life is anything but simple. I do like getting to know the chief protagonist of crime series and Claire McGowan gets the mix between the investigation and this aspect absolutely right, never forgetting that as much as we want to know more about these issues, it is a crime novel so overall that must be the focus. That said it is great to meet up with some old favourites and to see how life is treating them.

Overall this book was quite sad, the issues covered were executed extremely so well that they made me feel for the characters involved. With life switching between several different institutions; prison, hospital, university and the police it was hard not to compare how easy it is to manipulate those that are weaker, for whatever reason, by those who feel superior. With more than a handful of damaged souls I’m sure I won’t be the only reader that was misdirected very successfully by the author, more than once.

A satisfying and compelling read, if you haven’t read this series, I really do suggest that you start at the beginning and enjoy. If you have read the other books, I’m sure you don’t need me to urge you to get yourself a copy when it is published on 10 March 2016.

I’d like to thank the publisher Headline for allowing me to read a copy of this book prior to publication. This review is my unbiased thanks to them.

The Paula McGuire Series

The Lost
The Dead Ground
The Silent Dead

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Silent Dead – Claire McGowan

Crime Fiction 4*s
Crime Fiction
4*s

I can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like to grow up in Ireland during the Troubles and so it is just as difficult to understand how life is different, and the same, since the Good Friday Agreement which led to the demilitarisation of Northern Ireland. Claire McGowan describes both in what appears to this outsider, in an incredibly thoughtful and realistic way.

As the book opens the Missing Persons Unit set-up to find people on both sides of the border between Northern and Southern Ireland are asked to assist with the discovery of a body, this is unusual, normally their subjects are presumed to be alive. Mickey Doyle has been found hanged, presumed murder and was one member of the Mayday Five, a terrorist group who are strongly suspected of planting a bomb that killed sixteen people, including babies and children. The group have been called in because the remaining four members are also missing but tensions in the town are running high, not least because the Mayday Five have recently been found not guilty and until their disappearance were free to live their lives.

This is a tough book to read because of the raw grief of the survivors of the bomb illustrated in the meetings they hold to discuss those who went about their business on the day the bomb exploded changing the lives of those around them forever. Paula McGowan does a fantastic job of creating the tension between the survivors and the police who are committed to tracking down the Mayday Five, and finding whoever was responsible for Mickey Doyle’s murder. This is definitely a story that captures the conflict caused by doing the right thing for those who carried out a horrendous atrocity.

Part of the tale, that of what really happened on the day of the bombing is relayed in the form of a book by an investigative journalist that Paula uses as a guide to what is known locally to have happened, a source that is useful to her having been in England at the time. This also helps the reader to understand why each question posed to those in the town has to be so mindful of past grudges and the subtleties of the importance of religion seventeen years on from the Good Friday Agreement.

This is the third in the series that features Paula McGuire, a forensic psychologist who works for a missing persons unit based on the border between Paula is a likeable and realistic character. She returned to her childhood home to look after her father but has remained despite his recent marriage to her childhood sweetheart’s mother. There is still a feeling that Paula hasn’t made this her home, and the house has its own ghosts as her mother disappeared one day when Paula was a teenager and to this day no-one, despite Paula using all her investigative skills, knows what happened to her. This book continues that search and brings Paula into contact with more people who might be able to tell her the truth. However with her pregnancy nearing the end, Paula has more pressing matters to resolve, such as who is the father of her child, and building the right kind of relationship with both potential fathers. Oh yes, this book is full of tension, both professional and personal aided by seemingly impossible problems to solve and one where doing the right thing could cause harm to those who arguably hold the moral high ground.

I’ve read and enjoyed both the The Lost and The Dead Ground but really felt that the writing had moved up a notch which was incredibly readable despite the complicated storyline coupled with what is a highly complex background. I’m sure this would work well as a standalone novel but I do think there is lots to be gained from the previous two books in terms of the relationships that have formed and developed along the way.

I’d like to extend a huge thank you to the publishers Headline for letting me read this book in return for my honest opinion. The Silent Dead will be published on 19 November 2015.