October 5

Quieter Than Killing – Sarah Hilary

It’s winter, the nights are dark and freezing, and a series of seemingly random assaults is pulling DI Marnie Rome and DS Noah Jake out onto streets of London. When Marnie’s family home is ransacked, there are signs that the burglary can have only been committed by someone who knows her. Then a child goes missing, yet no-one has reported it. Suddenly, events seem connected, and it’s personal.

Someone out there is playing games. It is time for both Marnie and Noah to face the truth about the creeping, chilling reaches of a troubled upbringing. Keeping quiet can be a means of survival, but the effects can be as terrible as killing.

 

My thanks to Katie at Headline for my review copy and the chance to join the blog tour

 

Quieter Than Killing is the 4th book by Sarah Hilary to feature DI Marnie Rome. Each book can be read as a stand-alone novel but what you need to do is make sure you DO read all four books – they are all fantastic.

We readers are blessed with choice when it comes to police procedurals and crime thrillers, yet – for me – the Marnie Rome books stand head and shoulders above the others. Rome is a determined and focused detective who lives in the constant shadow of personal tragedy and it makes her own story utterly compelling.

In Quieter Than Killing, London is in the grip of a bitter winter and Marnie and DS Noah Jake are on the hunt for a violent offender. Someone has targeted three people for a vicious beating – disfiguring injuries have been inflicted and the only obvious link between the victims is that they have each (in the past) served time in prison for violent attacks of their own.  Are Marnie and Noah looking for a vigilante?  If so then how are they selecting their victims and what possible motive could they have?

Elsewhere the reader gets to see Finn.  He is 10 years old and has been plucked from the street and locked into a house from which there seems no escape.  His captor, dubbed Brady by Finn, has “rules” which Finn must obey…cooking and cleaning is expected and noise or disobedience are not tolerated. Finn is convinced Brady is a pervert who is planning to murder him, but Brady is keeping his distance and has been keeping Finn alive for several weeks. What does he need with the young boy and how much longer must Finn endure his captivity?

I got to enjoy Quieter Than Killing in audio and I need to give a massive thumbs-up to the narrator Imogen Church who voiced Marnie almost exactly how I had imagined her.

As with all of Sarah Hilary’s books the story is gripping, the clues well hidden and the entertainment is to the max. If you are not already reading these books you damn well should be.

 

Quieter Than Killing is published by Headline and is available in paperback and digital format. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Quieter-Than-Killing-D-I-Marnie-ebook/dp/B01INGSU68/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1507232613&sr=1-1&keywords=sarah+hilary

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September 25

Friend Request – Laura Marshall (Audiobook)

Maria wants to be friends.
But Maria is dead . . . isn’t she?

When Louise Williams receives a message from someone left long in the past, her heart nearly stops.

Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook.

Maria Weston has been missing for over twenty-five years. She was last seen the night of a school leavers’ party, and the world believes her to be dead. Particularly Louise, who has lived her adult life with a terrible secret.

As Maria’s messages start to escalate, Louise forces herself to reconnect with the old friends she once tried so hard to impress. Trying to piece together exactly what happened that night, she soon discovers there’s much she didn’t know. The only certainty is that Maria Weston disappeared that night, never to be heard from again – until now. . .

 

Another audiobook review and this one made for uncomfortable listening.  Returning visitors will perhaps know that I find stories about bullies hard to read. Well Friend Request looks at the impact of school-girl bullying as it occurs and the consequences of one prank going too far.

The blurb for this story sold it to me.  A Facebook friend request from a long dead friend sends Louise Williams into a turmoil.  Maria wants to be her friend.  But Maria wanted to be friends with Louise in 1989 and Louise let her down and chose to hang around with the popular girl rather than the girls she could relax and enjoy spending time with. Then something really bad happened and Maria died – so how can she now want to be friends?

Readers know that Louise has done something terrible in her past and that it still haunts her.  Over the course of the story we (through a number of flashback chapters) see how Louise conducted herself at school.  It makes for awkward reading at times as Louise was no angel and some of the things that she agreed to do in order to retain her status among her friends made her cringe as she recalls them. Made me cringe hearing about them and I got really annoyed with her.

In the present day Louise is a single mum and her 4yo son is her world.  Her best friend is determined that Louise should start dating again but she is equally determined that Louise keeps away from her ex.  When you read a thriller and there is a young child so integral to the plot you cannot help but worry if something bad may happen – tension I could have done without while I tried to cope with my stress over the bullying!!!

I loved the balance of past and future and there are subtle clues over what may lie ahead but you want to keep reading to find out what went wrong in the past. You also want to know how Maria can suddenly have arrived back in Louise’s life and who else may have heard from her.   With a School Reunion looming is it really a good idea for everyone to revisit memories of days best forgotten.

I did mention that this was an audiobook read for me so some thoughts from a listener…narration duties were well handled by Elaine Claxton. She was very listenable and brought the story to life, particularly when covering the chapters from 1989 and she makes her voice younger and softer which was particularly effective.  At over 11 hours in length this was one of the longer stories I heard last month but it didn’t feel it – it zipped along at a good pace and I didn’t experience a feeling of padding or mid-story drop off as I have with some of my other recent audiobooks.

For this story of school days which may be best forgotten the report card is very positive.  I thoroughly enjoyed having Friend Request for company and would not hesitate to recommend it.

 

Friend Request is published by Sphere and is available in paperback, digital and audiobook formats.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Friend-Request-addictive-psychological-thriller-ebook/dp/B01LWTZ751/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1506190627&sr=1-1

 

 

 

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September 23

Secrets in Death – JD Robb (Audiobook)

Lt. Eve Dallas must separate rumors from reality when a woman who traffics in other people’s secrets is silenced.

The chic Manhattan nightspot Du Vin is not the kind of place Eve Dallas would usually patronize, and it’s not the kind of bar where a lot of blood gets spilled. But that’s exactly what happens one cold February evening.

The mortally wounded woman is Larinda Mars, a self-described “social information reporter,” or as most people would call it, a professional gossip. As it turns out, she was keeping the most shocking stories quiet, for profitable use in her side business as a blackmailer. Setting her sights on rich, prominent marks, she’d find out what they most wanted to keep hidden and then bleed them dry. Now someone’s done the same to her, literally – with a knife to the brachial artery.

Eve didn’t like Larinda Mars. But she likes murder even less. To find justice for this victim, she’ll have to plunge into the dirty little secrets of all the people Larinda Mars victimized herself. But along the way, she may be exposed to some information she really didn’t want to know…

 

Another audiobook review – this time I thought I would use September’s Audible Subscription Credit to pick up the newest title in JD Robb’s fantastic “in Death” series.

Full disclosure from the start – I LOVE THESE BOOKS. I have ploughed hours of my life into reading and re-reading stories about Eve Dallas – the tough cop who is perpetually (and hilariously) uncomfortable when not chasing down murderers.  Secrets in Death is book 45 in the series – I have read all previous books (often more than once) and I am heavily invested in the lives of the characters.

So did I enjoy Secrets in Death?  Yes!  I thought it was the best new release in this series for a while. Did I like the Audio?  On the whole I did – but Susan Ericksen’s Irish accent was a bit of a shock initially and took a little getting used to. When Dallas is married to an Irishman that’s a bit of an issue, particularly since Roarke features heavily in Secrets.

The story its-self was really strong.  Eve is enduring an awkward meeting in a plush New York bar when tv’s gossip girl (who Eve had previously noticed sitting at a nearby table) stumbles across the floor of the bar and falls to the floor.  She is bleeding heaving and despite the best efforts of Dallas and two medical practitioners also in the bar – Larinda Mars dies at Eve’s feet.

It is a strong start and the pace keeps going.  Larinda has made her fame through sharing the secrets and gossip of the nations celebs. As she climbed the ladder to her success she has upset more than her fair share of people with her exclusive reveals.  But there may be more to Larinda’s investigative powers than a simple nose for the “truth” and it is not long before Eve becomes embroiled in an investigation where potential suspects are very good at keeping secrets.

Book 45 in the series – you do need to have an awareness of the background of the characters to get the most from Secrets. However it can be read as a stand alone as there is a strong murder story at the heart of the book.

A strong entry into the series though a minor quibble was that I did find that identifying the murderer was slightly easier this time around than in some of the other books. However, the story was as sharp as ever and I never fail to enjoy a JD Robb novel.

 

Secrets in Death is published by Piatkus and is available in Hardback, Digital and audiobook format: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Secrets-Death-J-D-Robb-ebook/dp/B01MSAHS7G/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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September 8

Raising Steam – Terry Pratchett (Audiobook)

To the consternation of the patrician, Lord Vetinari, a new invention has arrived in Ankh-Morpork – a great clanging monster of a machine that harnesses the power of all of the elements: earth, air, fire and water. This being Ankh-Morpork, it’s soon drawing astonished crowds, some of whom caught the zeitgeist early and arrive armed with notepads and very sensible rainwear.

Moist von Lipwig is not a man who enjoys hard work – as master of the Post Office, the Mint and the Royal Bank his input is, of course, vital…but largely dependent on words, which are fortunately not very heavy and don’t always need greasing. However, he does enjoy being alive, which makes a new job offer from Vetinari hard to refuse….

Steam is rising over Discworld, driven by Mister Simnel, the man wi’ t’flat cap and sliding rule who has an interesting arrangement with the sine and cosine. Moist will have to grapple with gallons of grease, goblins, a fat controller with a history of throwing employees down the stairs and some very angry dwarfs if he’s going to stop it all going off the rails….

 

Still doing the very long daily commute so it was time to bring some Terry Pratchett into my journey. I have been a fan of the Discworld books since the late 1980’s, I have read and re-read each title multiple times – mostly.

Even my favourite authors (and Sir Terry has been my favourite for many a long year) do not always hit the mark with their books.  Although Mort, Wyrd Sisters and Nightwatch are virtually imprinted onto my brain – I am less fond of Pyramids, Eric and Monstrous Regiment.  Raising Steam had fallen into the latter category, I bought the book on first release but never really got into it and it remained unfinished (a state previously unheard of for a Discworld novel). So when I wanted a Discworld book for my car journey – Raising Steam was getting a second chance.

Happy I am to report that I got much more involved with the story this time around and I enjoyed it a lot more as an audio experience than I had when I tried to read it.

Raising Steam sees the return of Moist von Lipwig, saviour of the Post Office and Vice-Chairman of the bank (with a small snuffly dog as the actual Chairman). I have loved both the previous Moist novels and this time around we see him coming to the fore as an industrial revolution blooms and the railways spring up.

Once again Pratchett has perfectly captured the best bits of our history and lampooned it perfectly.  We have the luddites (represented by Deep Down Dwarves) and the innovators – an engineer who gets a cracking Yorkshire accent from the narrator, the Patrician oversees the development using Moist as his conduit.  But Raising Steam is much more than an industrial revolution as there is a Political Revolution going on too. Dwarf’s are revolting (as in rising against their King) but stability and progress is the more desirable outcome for The Patrician, the King, The City Watch and also the Trolls (long time enemy of all Dwarf people). Tensions will rise and it will take a cast of many of our favourite characters to sort this mess out.

Raising Steam highlights again that there are few that can hold a torch to Terry Pratchett – his work is the stuff of legend and I sorely miss having the opportunity to enjoy new adventures with characters I have loved for all my adult life.

As for the audio – well Stephen Briggs does an admirable job and brings life to the whole cast. He gives accents to all the races (and characters) and Yorkshire, Wales, South-West and Cockney all shine through.  My only quibble is that the bad dwarf was Scottish and so was one of my most loved characters – “Spike”.  My mental image of Ms Dearheart were slightly tarnished by Mr Briggs making her sound like Supergran.

All in it was a great few hours of listening – with minor quibbles over Scottish accents – but only a Scot would pick up on that I feel!

 

Raising Steam is available in paperback, digital and audiobook. Terry Pratchett remains a legend.

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August 24

Short Stories and Novellas

I don’t often read short stories (though that will be changing soon…more on that later). Recently, however, I have had the opportunity to snatch some quick reading time and have targeted some short stories and novellas which had caught my eye.

 

First up is The Travelling Bag by Susan Hill

From the foggy streets of Victorian London to the eerie perfection of 1950s suburbia, the everyday is invaded by the evil otherworldly in this unforgettable collection of new ghost stories from the author of The Woman in Black.

In the title story, on a murky evening in a warmly lit club off St James, a bishop listens closely as a paranormal detective recounts his most memorable case, one whose horrifying denouement took place in that very building.

In ‘The Front Room’, a devoutly Christian mother tries to protect her children from the evil influence of their grandmother, both when she is alive and when she is dead.

A lonely boy finds a friend in ‘Boy Number 21’, but years later he is forced to question the nature of that friendship, and to ask whether ghosts can perish in fires.

This is Susan Hill at her best, telling characteristically flesh-creeping and startling tales of thwarted ambition, terrifying revenge and supernatural stirrings that will leave readers wide-awake long into the night.

 

My thanks to the team at Serpents Tail for the review copy I received through Netgalley

 

A collection of 4 ghostly tales from Susan Hill. Three stories are outlined in the description above – each took me around half an hour to read and the whole book is around 180 pages in length.  I have my favourites, Boy Number 21 and the unmentioned 4thstory (Alice Baker – a chiller set in an office) were the two which gripped me most.

The Front Room is particularly grim reading but I found it didn’t draw me in quite in the way the other stories had done.  I find that Ghost Stories are harder to pitch as a collection – while all the stories can be creepy, different people respond to different types of chills so in any collection there will be elements which impact people in different ways.

I do enjoy a creepy tale and The Travelling Bag was the welcome break from reading crime thrillers that I had hoped it would be.  The physical book looks rather nice too but its relatively short length made me think it may be more likely to be given as a gift than one a reader may seek out on their own.

Fans of Susan Hill and readers who soak up ghost stories this is one to seek out.

 

 

The Paper Cell – Louise Hutcheson

The first in a new series of distinctive, standalone crime stories, each with a literary bent. In 1950s London, a literary agent finds fame when he secretly steals a young woman’s brilliant novel manuscript and publishes it under his own name, Lewis Carson. Two days after their meeting, the woman is found strangled on Peckham Rye Common: did Lewis purloin the manuscript as an act of callous opportunism, or as the spoils of a calculated murder?

 

My thanks to Sara at Contraband for my review copy

The Paper Cell is a novella from the new Pocket Crime Selection from Contraband Books. It is a beautifully crafted tale of life in the literary circles of 1950’s London.  We begin in the modern day, an author meeting with a journalist after the author grants a rare interview. It becomes clear that there are reasons the author has been reluctant to speak with the press – once we are transported back to recollections of the author’s life as a young man in London the shocking truths start to spill out.

Of the three books covered in this post The Paper Cell was by far the one I enjoyed the most. Louise Hutcheson keeps the story slick, her characters leap off the page and you can easily imagine the smoke filled reading rooms and fussy publishers office meetings.

There is a darkness running through The Paper Cell and the reader gets a fly on the wall view of some terrible behaviours and sinister actions. Yet those dark scenes are in the background as much of the story follows young writers pursing their dreams or and young lovers enjoying their blossoming relationship.

Louise Hutcheson can tell knows how to tell a good story and this had me captivated.

 

 

A Rare Book of Cunning Device – Ben Aaronovich

Exclusive to Audio! Somewhere amongst the shadowy stacks and the many basements of the British library, something is very much amiss – and we’re not talking late returns here. Is it a ghost, or something much worse? PC Peter Grant really isn’t looking forward to finding out….

Still working my way through audiobooks and this was my introduction to PC Peter Grant – popular protagonist of the Ben Aaronovich Rivers of London series.  At 30 minutes running length this free audiobook is a must listen for fans of the series.  I can say this only from the position of a new reader as I have not read Rivers (or any of the other Grant books) but I loved A Rare Book of Cunning Device.

The narrator Kobna Holdbrook-Smith has a very listenable voice and the feedback on his performance from other readers is extremely positive as fans of the series have expressed their approval at how he handles their beloved characters.

Deep within the British Library, Peter Grant, comes up against the most formidable of opponents – a Librarian.  Oh there may also be a poltergeist but Grant knows better…doesn’t he?

 

 

 

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August 17

Block 46 – Johana Gustawsson – Audio

Evil remembers…

Falkenberg, Sweden. The mutilated body of talented young jewellery designer, Linnea Blix, is found in a snow-swept marina.
Hampstead Heath, London. The body of a young boy is discovered with similar wounds to Linnea’s.
Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1944. In the midst of the hell of the Holocaust, Erich Hebner will do anything to see himself as a human again.

Are the two murders the work of a serial killer, and how are they connected to shocking events at Buchenwald?

Emily Roy, a profiler on loan to Scotland Yard from the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, joins up with Linnea’s friend, French truecrime writer Alexis Castells, to investigate the puzzling case. They travel between Sweden and London, and then deep into the past, as a startling and terrifying connection comes to light.

 

Another from my unexpected (but very enjoyable) Audiobook Season – today I get to rave about Block 46.

First the audiobook experience.  Very positive!  The narration duties are split for Block 46 – the majority of the book is delivered by Patricia Rodriguez with the “historical” elements (which I shall come to shortly) picked up by Mark Meadows. The two voices work wonderfully – both actors are to be commended for bringing the story to life around me.

Block 46 is a modern day murder mystery but it holds a link to 1944 and a concentration camp in Germany (the aforementioned Historical element of the tale). In London Alexis Castells attends the launch of a new jewellery collection designed by her friend Linnea Blix – despite the importance of the night Linnea does not appear. Alexis travels to Sweden where Linnea would often stay “on retreat” but as she arrives in snowy Falkenberg Linnea’s body is found.

While Alexis gets swept up in the investigation into Linnea’s murder – kept in the loop through a friendship with criminal profiler Emily Roy – the reader gets to slip back in time where we encounter Erich Hebner.  A German national in a German concentration camp.  Erich is doing what he can to survive but when Johana Gustawsson begins to outline some of the terrors which Erich, and the other prisoners, endure each day it becomes impossible to see how he will escape from this Hell.

Narrative swings to present day, the murder investigation reveals some unexpected connections to London. Then we are back in wartime Germany and Erich’s story moves on…he has been granted a rare opportunity to contribute to the German “war effort” but how will he feel about helping when he learns he is going to Block 46. Nobody every comes out of Block 46 alive.

I cannot praise this book enough – at times harrowing but always compelling. It threw up the classic reading dilemma – so good I want to reach the end to find out what happened. But I don’t want to reach the end as I was enjoying it so much.

 

Block 46 is published by Orenda Books and is available in paperback, digital and audiobook.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Block-Roy-Castells-Johana-Gustawsson/dp/1910633704/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1502917618&sr=1-1

 

 

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August 9

The Girl in the Ice – Robert Bryndza – Audio

Her eyes are wide open. Her lips parted as if to speak. Her dead body frozen in the ice…She is not the only one.

When a young boy discovers the body of a woman beneath a thick sheet of ice in a South London park, Detective Erika Foster is called in to lead the murder investigation.

The victim, a beautiful young socialite, appeared to have the perfect life. Yet when Erika begins to dig deeper, she starts to connect the dots between the murder and the killings of three prostitutes, all found strangled, hands bound, and dumped in water around London.

What dark secrets is the girl in the ice hiding?

As Erika inches closer to uncovering the truth, the killer is closing in on Erika.

The last investigation Erika led went badly wrong…resulting in the death of her husband. With her career hanging by a thread, Erika must now battle her own personal demons as well as a killer more deadly than any she’s faced before. But will she get to him before he strikes again?

 

My thanks to Kim at Bookouture for the opportunity to listen to this book.

 

The variable nature of my day job sprang a recent surprise…gone is my daily train journey and my hour of peaceful reading on the train. Say hello to 3 or 4 hours in the car each day. Say hello to a series of audiobook reviews here at Grab This Book.

Audiobooks live and die on one crucial element – the narrator. It really does not matter how good the underlying story is, if the narration is jarring then listening to that voice for 10+ hours is not going to be a fun or relaxing experience.

Fortunately for Robert Bryndza’s The Girl in the Ice the listener is in very good hands. Jan Cramer narrates throughout and she does a fantastic job. Erika Foster’s voice is now firmly fixed into my mind and Cramer’s narration has brought a character to life for me more vividly than would have been the case had I read a paper copy of the book.

As for the story – I loved it. A society rich girl (and seemingly an extremely shallow young woman) is found dead in the waters of London. She has been bound and brutally attacked prior to death and Erika Foster is put in charge of the investigation. Foster is taking on a new role in London, relocating from Manchester following the death of her husband (a fellow police officer) when a police operation went badly wrong.

Thrown in at the deep end – Foster must establish her authority over a new team, overcome racial prejudices when dealing with the dead girl’s parents and contend with factions within the police who are determined to undermine her investigation to keep a politically sensitive murder investigation “acceptable” in the media.

The juggle and pressure which Foster faces will take its toll and I felt myself getting frustrated that she was being thwarted at pursing the leads she felt needed tackled. Robert Bryndza presents us with a string of red herrings and a suspect pool which is sufficiently broad and unlikeable (for various reasons) that it will keep you guessing to the identity of the killer – right until the shocking endgame.

Fans of police procedurals and gripping serial killer thrillers – this is a book for you. I cannot listen as fast as I can read – but I grudged every second that I had to remove my earbuds whilst listening to The Girl in the Ice.

 

The Girl in the Ice is available as a paperback, digital book and (obviously) as an audiobook. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Girl-Ice-gripping-thriller-Detective-ebook/dp/B019G6DSDE/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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