Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Shoeless Child – J.A. Schneider

Crime Fiction
4*s

Shoeless Child opens with the horrific murder of a woman and the escape of young Charlie Sparkes from the murderer following his mother’s order to run.

Meanwhile Homicide Detective Kerri Blas has returned to work after a stint on desk duty following a previous murder investigation that required her to see occupational health along with a period out of the field to recover. She is keen to be back on the team and working with her partner Sergeant Alex Brand although the partnership is under wraps from the boss, being strictly against the rules.

With Charlie eventually found and able to guide the detectives to the scene of the crime his mother is found wounded, but alive and both are taken to hospital. The resulting trauma has caused Charlie to shut down and he is unwilling and unable to talk to anyone at all and the police need him to identify the murderer.

This is an exceptionally fast-paced thriller that starts with a horrendous act made especially raw by the use of Charlie’s viewpoint for the escape scenes. It is no word of a lie that my heart was in my mouth during this part. Fortunately the whole of the book isn’t quite as traumatic and eases its way into a police procedural with Kerri at the helm. She might not be the boss but her ability to read a crime scene and people has obviously impressed the rest of the homicide team and more often than not she is given a chance to act on her intuition. When even her the Chief bowed to these skills I must admit I took a bit of deep breath as I am cautious about detectives that ‘just know’ something in my crime fiction but I’m pleased to say that although the police procedures seemed a little looser than certainly the standards their UK counterparts have to meet, there were clues that led to the final unveiling of the perpetrator.

With Charlie in a state of shock it is left to Kerri to make a bond with the previously bright and happy five-year-old which she does incrementally and with a great deal of affection. The book really should be called the Kerri and Charlie show because despite a wide array of characters, including a whole host of subjects that could have wanted Charlie’s pretty mother Rachel dead, these two really do steal the show.

Not only do we have a wide range of suspects, each creepier than the last, (personally I’d have been tempted to lock them all up for being despicable human beings) but there are red-herrings a plenty along with a few more dead bodies, just in case the break-neck speed that is maintained throughout the book allows the reader to breath once in a while, there is a surprise around every corner. This meant that I was on high alert for clues during the entire read and even the good guys, yes there are some, were treated to my contempt as was sure they were only being nice to hide some character flaw.

For those crime fiction lovers that love fast-moving plots which are underpinned with a solid plotline you can’t go far wrong in reading Shoeless Child, which is full of thrills from beginning to end.

Shoeless Child is actually the fourth in the Detective Kerri Blasco series and as I haven’t read any of the others, I can confirm that this works perfectly as a standalone thriller.

I’d like to say a big thank you to the author Joyce Schneider who provided me with an advance copy of Shoeless Child. This unbiased review is my thank you to her for such a thrilling read.

First Published UK: 24 January 2018
Publisher: CreateSpace
No of Pages: 278
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Not A Sound – Heather Gudenkauf

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

Heather Gudenkauf’s books fit into a mix of genres leading with a strong element of crime fiction, defiantly thrilling whilst ultimately being triumphantly character but let’s don’t forget they also include issues as well as the spark of romance, all of which provides something for everyone without becoming a jack of all trades and master of none.

Amelia Winn is profoundly deaf following a hit and run accident. Cut adrift from the nursing work she loved she hits the bottle much to the fury of her husband David who needs to be able to trust her with his young daughter Nora. We meet her two years after the accident when out on the river with her service dog, Stitch, she finds a body. What happens next is terrifying and mysterious in equal measures.

The atmosphere in this book is ramped up by Amelia’s isolation, not only through her hearing loss but the fact that she has decamped from the marital home to an isolated cabin where she is slowly trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. It is impossible not to feel some sympathy for the poor woman who has cut herself off from her former friends, with only policeman Jake, her brother’s best friend, as a constant in her life. Jake has encouraged her to stop drinking and now she is ready to try to start work again, sadly not as a nurse but she’s applied for an admin job for an oncologist. The two strands build up a real picture of Hannah’s life and I liked the fact that although she had lost the early battles for her true self, she is no victim, she accepts that she could have handled things differently and that the loss of David and Nora in her life is as a direct result of how she acted.

There’s quite a lot going on in this book and I spent the first half or so imagining that the book was going to veer off in a totally different direction than it did but that’s not to say the author cheated the reader, the case was that I thought I knew better! As well as the well-researched hearing loss storyline the author, inspired by her son’s cancer, the strand that takes us into the files that Hannah works on as she updates the surgeon’s records. And of course at the heart of the book is a solid mystery. Who is the murderer and what was their motive?

I raced through this book and enjoyed the variety as well as the strong characters and exceptionally visual descriptions that the author paints for the reader. Although I felt there were a few occasions when the author repeated Hannah’s thoughts to ensure her readers got the point this was nicely balanced by the brilliant action scenes where the author gently reminds us how Hannah’s hearing loss means she has extra obstacles to overcome. With an ending that deliberately doesn’t sew up all the loose ends this book had a real feel of realism to it, which is always a bonus.

I have enjoyed so many of Heather Gudenkauf’s books, each one telling a very different story but all having a solid plot, great pacing and best of all being utterly compelling.

I’d like to thank the publishers HQ for allowing me to read an advance copy of Not A Sound, this review is my unbiased thanks to them.

First Published UK: 30 May 2017
Publisher: HQ
No of Pages: 352
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Amazon UK
Amazon US

Books by Heather Gudenkauf
The Weight of Silence (2009)
These Things Hidden (2011)
One Breath Away (2012)
Little Mercies (2014)
Missing Pieces (2016)

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Boundary – Andrée A. Michaud

Crime Fiction
3*s

Set on the border between the US and Canada there is no doubt at all that this literary crime fiction is incredibly atmospheric. Not only is it evocative of the time it was set, 1967 Boundary combines this with a real sense of place, a holiday town populated mainly by women and children during the summer months with the men returning from work at the weekend.
So an idyllic setting with a lake and woods and sounds of the sixties running through two friend’s lives as Zaza and Sissy wield there charms on all around them. Andrée watches from the side-lines knowing that she is far too young for the ‘almost’ young women who laugh and swear and flirt their way through life.

But behind the summery scenes are the undying stories of a man, damaged by life as a solitary Canadian trapper. Pierre Landry had lived in a cabin in the woods. His tragic end and the crimes attributed to him, including the infatuation with a local woman, clinging to the town, unwanted and yet all-pervasive and the children tell stories about the ghost of Pierre Landry.

Barbeques are lit and children called in for food, dolls played with, dens made and the fairground welcomes its guests as every other summer’s day and then, Zaza goes missing. The nearby police are called, the older more experienced officer, Michaud, is haunted by a young girl’s murder, while the younger, Cusack gets worn down by the ensuing investigation into Zaza’s disappearance.

We are told the story from a number of the characters viewpoints including Andrée’s, the police and members of Boundary’s town. These different viewpoints paint a vivid picture of a town marred by events and the change of atmosphere is all-encompassing.

The story starts very slowly and although it isn’t a particularly long book, it took me a long time to finish. In part this was down to the small font which I’m sad to say I struggled to read after a full day working looking at a computer screen and I really needed daylight to see well. This in turn didn’t help the lack of forward momentum early on in the book as I was able to read so little. This may sound odd, and perhaps not entirely fair, particularly to those of you who have younger eyes than mine, but it did seriously hamper my enjoyment of what was clearly a book with lots to offer. I was reading a proof copy though so I’m not sure if the finished article will make for easier reading, but this was a book where I would have preferred an eBook. After the investigation starts the pace picks up and the various strands of the plot begin to draw together to create a convincing, if sad, story. I felt the characters acted in a consistent manner and I felt an affinity for Andrée, and not in the usual way that I feel for child narrators, she wasn’t like me as a child but her feelings felt particularly authentic.

This felt like a grown-up version of crime fiction with plenty of layers and issues to ponder which in many ways lends itself to a more contemplative reading experience than most crime fiction.

I’d like to thank the publishers No Exit Press who allowed me to read a copy of Boundary ahead of publication on 23 March 2017. This unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 23 March 2017
Publisher: No Exit Press
No of Pages:  320
Genre: Crime Fiction – Literary
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

No One Knows – J.T. Ellison

Psychological Thriller 4*s
Psychological Thriller
4*s

Regular readers may have noticed that I have cut right back on my consumption of those books that are touted as the next Gone Girl, Girl on the Train etc. despite the fact I was a fan of both, the problem being like death by chocolate, you can overdose on them! That said the memory of how good they can be is still alluring and so in 2016 I have limited my selection, but this is one that got past my well-known restraint! And I’m glad that it did, as here is one twisty domestic based psychological thriller that has all of the best ingredients, and even the title doesn’t have that overused word in it!

So what is it about? Well we first meet Aubrey Hamilton her husband, her childhood sweetheart, has been missing for five years and has just been declared dead. Aubrey however just can’t shake the feeling that he may still be alive, after all who goes missing at a stag do for their best friend the night before the groom’s wedding? It appears that Josh simply vanished from the hotel that the couple were staying at with no sight nor sound of him since. And now a new man has walked into her life and he reminds her so much of Josh. In short Aubrey examines her life before Josh disappeared looking for clues in their happy marriage to see if she can discover what really happened to her beloved husband that night.

The success of these books is to have one foot rooted far enough in reality to keep the reader hooked while allowing the other to roam freely so that coincidences and random occurrences can flow freely unimpeded by reason. J.T. Ellison has the balance absolutely right! I’ve also found it best if you read these types of novels in longish stretches which helps to keep you in the moment, following the twists and turns wherever they may take you.

The part where domestic noir often fails is with the characters; I think the success of the two currently touted books proves that the protagonist doesn’t have to be likeable and flaws are actually welcome but their characters do have to have an element of a real person. Aubrey is actually quite a nice character, her only flaw being that she wasn’t good enough for her future mother-in-law, having been in care following the death of her parents. In this book the award for the nastiest character goes to Josh’s mother, a woman who is going to sue Aubrey for Josh’s life insurance money which can now be paid out on his death.

Lastly a domestic noir books must have the unexpected which is now compulsory, the more outrageous the better – I think J.T. Ellison has earned her stripes here too with more than one bombshell to blow what you think you know to smithereens.

So did I enjoy it? Yes, I did, as pure entertainment and wonder at how an author can come up with such a plot, it had me gripped and intrigued as to how the author was going to resolve it all, the answer was satisfying. Better still I didn’t feel like I couldn’t face another in this genre for a few weeks!!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Gallery Books for allowing me to read a copy of No One Knows before publication on 22 March 2016. This review, my honest opinion, is my thanks to them.