April 18

Black Wood – SJI Holliday

black-wood-72Something happened to Claire and Jo in Black Wood: something that left Claire paralysed and Jo with deep mental scars. But with Claire suffering memory loss and no evidence to be found, nobody believes Jo’s story.

Twenty-three years later, a familiar face walks into the bookshop where Jo works, dredging up painful memories and rekindling her desire for vengeance. And at the same time, Sergeant Davie Gray is investigating a balaclava-clad man who is attacking women on a disused railway, shocking the sleepy village of Banktoun. But what is the connection between Jo’s visitor and the masked man? To catch the assailant, and to give Jo her long-awaited justice, Gray must unravel a tangled web of past secrets, broken friendship and tainted love. But can he crack the case before Jo finds herself with blood on her hands?

 

My thanks to Black & White Publishing for my review copy

 

Black Wood is set in Banktoun, a small village on the outskirts of Edinburgh. If you have ever lived in a small village you will understand that there is a community spirit, that everyone knows everyone else and there CAN be a feeling of claustrophobia (especially if you aspire to escape to pastures new). A small village is also a perfect setting for a tense thriller. A predator in our midst causing fear for the residents, a snake in the garden, one rotten apple in the barrel. Except that everyone has secrets and all is never as it seems.

Cut straight to the chase: I loved Black Wood. I loved the characters, the setting, the mystery and Susi Holliday teased out the secrets brilliantly over the course of the novel.

The story follows Jo. Some 20 years before the events in the story she and her friend Claire had a life changing incident on the edge of Banktoun. The impact of events still resonate for Jo and Claire and we learn that Jo has had a somewhat troubled time in the intervening years.

Elsewhere local policeman, Sergeant Davie Gray, is hunting for a balaclava wearing man who has been seen lurking around a disused railway line that runs beside the village. Unfortunately the lurking is escalating to more threatening behaviour and it is not long before an attack occurs.

Sergeant Gray is another star in the making for me and I want to read more about him. He knows Jo of old and promised Jo’s mother that he would help watch out for her daughter – this protective side creates an interesting dynamic between the two characters and the scenes with Jo and Davie Gray were high points.

One memorable moment for me was when Jo returned to her Grandmother’s house (the titular Black Wood). An unexpected incident appeared to be taking the story in a direction I had not expected. As I am avoiding any Spoilers I cannot elaborate but the sequence suddenly heightened the tension, added a new dimension to the story and made Jo appear significantly more vulnerable than I had initially envisaged. I love when an author can catch me unawares in this way.

Black Wood is one of my favourite books so far this year. A brilliant story in which the characters shine and the mysteries kept me hooked as I poured through the book desperate to find out how events would be resolved.   More from Banktoun please, I feel we need to know it better.

All that remains is to reconfirm my love for Black Wood by scoring it 5/5 and urging you to read it.

 

Black Wood is published by Black and White Publishing and is available in both paperback and in digital format.

You can follow Susi Holliday on Twitter: @SJIHolliday

Or visit her website at http://sjiholliday.com

 

 

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March 21

An American Caddie in St Andrews

American Caddie 3St Andrews, known around the world as ‘the home of golf’, is legendary, and its history and traditions are deeply embedded in the local community that has kept it going for centuries. The caddies on the Old Course are a font of knowledge and an institution in their own right.

Into this venerable institution steps Oliver Horovitz, a young American Harvard student – and keen golfer – on a gap year at the University of St Andrews. During this year, his most important discovery – by far – is that everyone at St Andrews plays golf – including very cute girls. When term ends, Ollie joins the St Andrews caddie trainee program and spends the summer awaking at 4.30am to line up at the caddie shack, looping two, sometimes three, rounds a day. After months of struggling to gain acceptance from the notoriously gruff, perpetually hungover veteran caddies, he finally earns his full caddie stripes.

Full of life and drama, this is a warm and insightful view of the vibrant characters who inhabit this world, along with all their idiosyncrasies; it is also a tale of growing up and finding one’s place in the world, against the brilliant green backdrop of the Old Course, and will appeal to golfers up and down the UK.

 

My thanks to Elliott & Thompson  for my review copy.

Check through my blog for non-fiction titles, you will not find many! This is not my genre of choice and it takes something pretty special to drag me away from my thrillers and crime books. An American Caddie in St Andrews is one of those special books – a story of a life and a young man living the dream.

Oliver Horovitz had a gap year prior to beginning his studies at Harvard. He travelled from America to the St Andrews, Scotland – the Home of Golf – with a view to joining the team of caddies that work on the many courses around the ancient Fife town.

Oliver HorovitzWe follow Oliver’s journey from his days learning the ropes as a rookie in the caddie pool; through to eventually becoming an accepted member of the team. He introduces us to the characters that he works alongside, his friends, the golfers and his family – in particular Oliver’s Uncle Ken who is a St Andrews resident and seemingly Oliver’s best friend.

I loved reading Oliver’s stories of the time he spent with Uncle Ken during his time living in St Andrews. Despite the highs and lows that Oliver endures through the telling of his story it is his Uncle Ken that is his constant reliable companion.

The important thing to understand about An American Caddie…you do not have to be a golf fan to enjoy this book. Obviously there is a fair bit of golfing chat going to crop up in a story set on golf courses but Oliver’s narration guides you through the detail you need to know. The beauty of this book is the rich diversity of characters we encounter – this is a book about people not a book about golf.

Reading An American Caddie in St Andrews was a delight. At the end of each season when Oliver returned to America you felt the heart wrench that Oliver did. You also share the elation on his return trips. We fear encounters with the fearsome St Andrews Caddie Master and we despair at the embarrassing antics of some of the OTT golfers that grace the famous Old Course.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough it is funny, heart-warming, compelling and (sadly) heart-breaking too. I doubt you will find a better narrator than Oliver Horovitz in any book you read this year.

If you have a golf fan in your family then An American Caddie in St Andrews should top your list of gift ideas – this is not a book to overlook and I would score it 5/5.

 

An American Caddie in St Andrews is published by Elliott & Thompson and is available in paperback and digital format.

http://eandtbooks.com/book/american-caddie-st-andrews

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February 26

Haterz – James Goss

HaterzA blackly comic crime novel about a one-man crusade to rid the internet of haters, flamers, trolls and vaguebookers… even if he has to kill to do it.

Is there someone online who really annoys you? Who is always bragging, posting too many pictures and just doesn’t get jokes? Look at your Twitter feed, don’t you get cross at the endless rage, bigotry and the pleading for celebrity retweets? Meet Dave. He decides that unfollowing someone just isn’t enough. He’s determined to make the internet a nicer place, and he won’t stop at murder in order to achieve it. When he kills his best friend’s girlfriend, he isn’t planning on changing the world. She was just really annoying on Facebook. But soon Dave realises he’s being manipulated. A conspiracy are using him to gain control of something dark forming at the heart of the world wide web…

My thanks to Solaris and Netgalley for my review copy

James Goss is a clever man. He has taken all the annoying things that we see each day on the internet and drawn them together into a single story that is not remotely annoying. How does a collection of irritations not annoy the reader? Mainly by following a likeable lead character who kills the annoying people who abuse Social Media. And (here is the clever bit) he makes it seem like it is a perfectly reasonable course of action to undertake. Genius!

In Haterz we follow Dave. He is in a pub one evening when he gets cornered by Danielle, she is his best friend’s girlfriend. We learn that Dave his not Danielle’s greatest fan and he finds her inane Facebook updates a source of constant irritation. In short, Dave finds Danielle so irritating (both in person and online) that he decides to kill her – and he does. In the very first Chapter!

Reaching home, safe in the knowledge that Danielle’s death will be considered a tragic accident, Dave is horrified to receive an email from an unknown sender which reads: “We know what you’ve done. Killer”.

From this point on Dave is no longer master of his own destiny. He will be contacted by email and made aware of individuals who are exhibiting unacceptable online behaviour. Dave then has to address these problematic individuals and make them change their way – or silence them permanently. How he tackles each of these problems is clever, entertaining (for readers) and should probably leave any friends of James Goss slightly concerned as to how he may perceive their online behaviour.

Through the story Dave takes on the likes of Twitter trolls, media columnists, banks and high interest loan companies. He believes his actions are for the greater good and sometimes it is hard to disagree. I doubt that any reader will make it through the book without recognising some form of online interaction that they have previously encountered and found to be highly objectionable or that they have themselves been guilty of (in which case…BE AFRAID).

I cannot give away too many details as to why I enjoyed Haterz so much as this would risk robbing you of the delight of finding the great plot twists for yourself – spoilers and all that. What I can share is that this is a sharply written novel with a clever premise. It captures perfectly the failings of Social Media and pokes fun at the worst offenders. Once I started reading I wanted to keep going – the pacing was perfect, the victims were plentiful and there were laughs to be had along the way.

There are characters in the book which you will mentally picture as real life people – either because you have a Facebook friend that exhibits similar traits to the poor Danielle or because you think that the columnist is basically <REDACTED> under a different name and you want to see if something nasty will happen.

Haterz is one of the rarer gems of crime fiction – a novel that delivers a good ‘murder’ story yet also keeps the humour front and foremost which helped to make it such good fun to read.  Consider The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – a science fiction story but so deeply interlaced with the humour of Douglas Adams that it is frequently considered a comedy book rather than sci-fi. Goss does the same in Haterz: there are some dark and graphic scenes yet the tone is softened with a joke or wry observation and the perception of the whole book changes. Anyone that uses the internet should read this book. If a review score helps you to decide then I hope that 5 out of 5 should be persuasive.

 

Haterz is published on March 12th by Solaris Books.

James Goss is on Twitter: @gossjam

I have previously reviewed Doctor Who: The Blood Cell which was also written by James Goss. This book was one of the first published to feature Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor. Search for The Blood Cell at www.grabthisbook.net

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February 13

Follow The Leader – Mel Sherratt

Follow The LeaderA man’s body is found on a canal towpath. In his pocket, a magnetic letter in the shape of an E.

Days later, a second victim is found, this time with the letter V tucked into her clothing.

As the body count rises, the eerie, childlike clues point to a pattern that sends DS Allie Shenton and her colleagues into full alert.

The race is on. Allie and the team must work quickly to determine where the killer will strike next. The rules are simple but deadly—to catch the killer, they must follow the leader.

From the acclaimed author of Taunting the Dead comes a flesh-creeping tale of a child’s game with a terrifying, grown-up twist. This is the second book in the DS Allie Shenton series but can be enjoyed as a stand-alone story.

 

My review copy was provided through Netgalley.

 

When I lurk around Twitter I look to see what other book bloggers are reading. Every now and then you find that one book will dominate the chat or one author will grab the spotlight. However, over a period of several months I noticed that Mel Sherratt’s name cropped up frequently and always positively. A little more investigation revealed that the bloggers I engage with most frequently have been reading and enjoying the Allie Shenton books – it was time for me to catch up.

Having been let down by the ‘buzz’ surrounding one or two high profile novels in 2014 I was delighted to find that Follow The Leader fully justified the positivity from the blogging community – I was hooked by a brilliant story.

As the intro explains, this is the second book in the DS Shenton series. Obviously, I have not read the first book and I generally try to avoid jumping into a series when I know there are earlier volumes to read. I was pleased to find that there were no continuity problems which could have impaired my enjoyment of Follow The Leader – everything I needed to know was deftly dropped into the plot without the feeling I was reading the “recap chapter.”

Follow The Leader was a great read – Shenton is a likeable central character, seemingly fighting a losing battle to maintain a work/life balance.  She finds herself embroiled in a murder investigation where it appears that a killer that is specifically targeting former pupils of her old high school. It is clear to Shenton and the investigating team that the murders are linked as the killer is leaving a magnetic plastic letter at the scene of each crime.

What I particularly liked about Follow The Leader (as I also noted when I recently reviewed Karen Long’s The Vault) was that the reader gets to see who the murderer is quite early in the story. This means that we can keep tabs on the investigation while also having the benefit of discovering who the next victim will be – usually before they become a victim! I refer to this as the Columbo effect (my reading preferences clearly shaped by Peter Falk).

Follow The Leader keeps a good pace throughout and there were plenty of action points and surprises that kept me reading well into the wee small hours. There is a clear sign of an ongoing story which began in book 1 (Taunting The Dead), flows through Follow and looks likely to spin on into book 3. A nice way to ensure I will definitely return to see how Allie Shenton copes with what seems to be coming her way.

In short: great fun, well written and held my attention throughout with the added bonus of a cliffhanger that will make me a guaranteed reader of the next book. Everything I want from my crime thrillers so a review score of five out of five seems to be in order. Highly recommended.

 

You can follow Mel Sherratt on Twitter @writermels    Follow The Leader and Taunting The Dead are available now…go get them!

One last update – just before I posted my review of Follow The Leader I discovered that the next Allie Shenton book, Only The Brave, is due for release on 26th May. Already excited for that!

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February 6

The Vault – Karen Long

The Vault coverVAULT: A large room or chamber used for storage of valuables, especially an underground one…

In the unrelenting heat of the Toronto summer, a fire at a land-fill site uncovers the remains of a local prostitute. But the post-mortem reveals disturbing details –the body has been preserved and is not who or what it seems.

DI Eleanor Raven is back on duty six months after barely surviving being kidnapped and tortured by a depraved serial killer. Work is her sanctuary but she’s carrying deep scars – mental as well as physical. Where do you go when the place you feel safest is also the place where you are most at risk?
As Eleanor battles her own demons, it looks as though a killer in the city is making a gruesome human collection. And Eleanor’s fight to save the last victim of the Collector becomes a battle to save herself.

 

My thanks to Karen and @crimebookclub for my review copy

 

If you seek out crime novels which are described as ‘dark and disturbing’ then you are in for a treat with Karen Long’s The Vault. Even for a seasoned crime reader, such as myself, there are some decidedly uncomfortable elements to this story which make it stand out as a memorable read.

The Vault features a second outing for DI Eleanor Raven following her debut in Long’s previous novel The Safe Word. Raven is returning to work after a prolonged leave of absence – she had been recuperating from an horrific attack (as depicted in The Safe Word). Her return to duties are seemingly arriving earlier than she may be ready for and there are signs that Raven is not yet fit to resume her role.

Having not read The Safe Word before starting The Vault I wondered if I may have missed key plot points which may explain Raven’s ‘awkward’ return to duties, however, everything I needed to know was addressed in full so I did not feel disadvantaged by skipping book 1. Karen Long does a great job of teasing out the underlying issues surrounding Raven’s fragile state and we are left in no doubt that Eleanor Raven is a wonderfully complex character.

The Vault opens in the less than glamorous setting of a Toronto landfill site. A fire has ravaged an area of the city dump and firefighters uncover skeletal human remains, however, the remains they found are positioned in a very unnatural pose and there can be no question that this is the body of someone who dead before the fire started. Raven is called to the scene to investigate.

Soon we are crossing paths with prostitutes, undertakers, morticians and an extremely disturbed killer that Raven dubs the Collector. The driving motivation behind the Collector is….not nice (and redacted due to spoilers). However, what I very much enjoyed was that the story follows the Collector as well as the investigating team. As a reader we get to see both sides of the story and get an insight into how the criminal conducts himself when he is trying to get on with everyday life and, more alarmingly, how he may identify a potential victim.

I am sure that The Vault will be one that sticks with me for some time. The crimes are morbidly memorable, the central character is damaged and has a dangerous penchant for deviant sexual encounters and I found the book kept me hooked – which is all I want from my crime novels.

My benchmark for shocking crime has always been the works of Michael Slade. Slade has described many nasty and unpleasant deaths yet within his stories the murders are usually sudden and shocking. Karen Long may just have laid down a new standard: a whole novel that made me uncomfortable as I read. (By odd coincidence both Michael Slade and Karen long base their stories in Canada – I may revise my list of potential holiday destinations).

I found The Vault compelling reading. The central characters are well defined and (as I discovered in my Q&A with the author) they will return and be developed further. I liked that Long will take characters and concepts into unfamiliar places picking up on areas which may be considered taboo for some.

Although I missed Eleanor Raven’s debut in The Safe Word I will be rectifying this oversight in the very near future. I want to read more from this author and, specifically, I want to read another Eleanor Raven book. The Vault was sufficiently entertaining, memorable and creepy that I have to award it a review score of 5/5 – I didn’t want it to end.

 

 

 

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February 3

Beyond The Rage – Michael J Malone

Beyond The RageEven though he’s a successful criminal, Glasgow villain Kenny O’Neill is angry. Not only has his high-class escort girlfriend just been attacked, but his father is reaching out to him from the past despite abandoning Kenny as a child after his mother’s suicide. Kenny is now on a dual mission to hunt down his girl’s attacker and find out the truth about his father… but instead he unravels disturbing family secrets and finds that revenge is not always sweet.

An intelligent, violent thriller shot through with dark humour, Beyond the Rage enthralls and disturbs in equal measure. With an intricate plot, all-too-believable characters and perfectly pitched dialogue, this is a masterclass in psychological crime fiction writing.

 

Thanks to Michael for giving me the chance to read his book (and for signing it too).

Some books are hard work to grind through: they are too self-indulgent or have lots of random characters that bog down the plot. Then there are the books which I put down and cannot even recall the lead character’s name – bland and unremarkable. However, there are also the diamonds – the books that are a joy to read. These are slick, they are entertaining and have a captivating story. I am happy to report that Beyond The Rage falls very much into the latter category, I was swallowed up in a great story while a web of lies, deception and danger was spun around me.

Despite being a successful criminal and dangerous bad guy our protagonist, Kenny O’Neill, generally comes across as a nice guy. He is an engaging character and his dubious occupation is easily overlooked as we empathise with the situations he finds himself in. As the story begins we dip back into the past to learn about Kenny’s parents, we hear that his mother died when he was just 12 and (almost immediately afterwards) his father walked out to leave Kenny in the care of his aunt and uncle.

Jump forward to present day and Kenny is a successful player in the Glasgow criminal sub-culture. So when someone attacks his girlfriend Kenny takes it very personally and sets out to uncover who may be responsible and vows to make them pay. His investigations bring him into contact with gangsters, politicians, thugs, the police and a fair few prostitutes yet Kenny takes it all in his stride.

Meanwhile Kenny’s aunt has some news regarding his long-lost father. She has been holding onto a letter that arrived on Kenny’s 18th birthday, could it be possible that his father was still around? Kenny is not sure yet, despite all the time that has passed, he decides he wants to find out more about his absent parent. Ignoring warnings about raking up the past, Kenny enlists the help of his best friend Detective Inspector Ray McBain to learn more about his father. (McBain is the star of two of Malone’s previous books and it is great to see him making a couple of cameo appearances).

Beyond The Rage puts Kenny through emotional and physical turmoil. He finds himself pitted against the adversarial Mason Budge. Budge is responsible for attacking Kenny’s girlfriend and clearly he enjoyed the experience as he is stalking her keen to get the chance to repeat the experience. Budge is a constant threat to Kenny (even if Kenny is not always aware of it) yet we know that Budge is acting under orders and Malone deftly keeps the real reasons that Kenny is being targeted just out of our reach.

The finale provided a few unexpected shocks and, with hand on heart, I can confess I was totally wrong in most of my assumptions as to where the story was heading. Beyond The Rage is a brilliant read…the characters are well realised, expertly utilised and the story is gripping. I have no qualms over scoring it 5/5, it’s an absolute gem.

 

Beyond The Rage is available now from Saraband books. Follow Michael J Malone on Twitter @michaelJmalone1

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January 21

Golden Son – Pierce Brown

Golden Son‘I’m still playing games. This is just the deadliest yet.

Darrow is a rebel forged by tragedy. For years he and his fellow Reds worked the mines, toiling to make the surface of Mars inhabitable. They were, they believed, mankind’s last hope. Until Darrow discovered that it was all a lie, and that the Red were nothing more than unwitting slaves to an elitist ruling class, the Golds, who had been living on Mars in luxury for generations.

In RED RISING, Darrow infiltrated Gold society, to fight in secret for a better future for his people. Now fully embedded amongst the Gold ruling class, Darrow continues his dangerous work to bring them down from within. It’s a journey that will take him further than he’s ever been before – but is Darrow truly willing to pay the price that rebellion demands?

Hic sunt leones.

 

Thanks to Hodder and Bookbridgr for my review copy

Last year I reviewed Red Rising – the first in Pierce Brown’s Red Rising Trilogy. It was a stand out book for me, one of the best I had read for quite a few years and it made me crave more fantasy novels (a genre I have kept away from in recent years). More specifically, however, Red Rising made me crave a novel called Golden Son –the sequel to Red Rising.

On the plus side, I was quite late to the party for Red Rising so the wait for Golden Son was not too long to bear, the wait for the third novel may seem eternal though. The reason for my impatience is that Golden Son is majestic and finishes with such a climax that there was almost a howl of frustration as I read the last page. Few authors have ever managed to evoke such a sense of anticipation from me.

As Golden Son is the second in a trilogy it is necessary to have read Red Rising. Darrow, Mustang and their allies are back. However, so too are Darrow’s enemies – and there are many of them. The alliances which were established in Red Rising are tested time and again in Golden Son. The stakes have been raised and Darrow cannot be sure who to trust as he battles for his position in the ranks of the Golds and battles for his life as others plot against him.

Having reached an elevated position at the end of Red Rising we rejoin Darrow just as his status is facing its greatest challenge. The privileges he has enjoyed are to be taken away from him when he falls victim to a very public failure. His secret mission (set by the anarchist group Sons of Ares) may become unachievable if he cannot find a way to restore his position, however, Darrow is to find that it is not easy rebuilding a reputation when you fall so far from grace.

If I tried to outline some of the highlights from Golden Son I would be here for days. If I tried to explain some of the plot I would run the risk of revealing spoilers. What I am comfortable revealing is that Golden Son is bigger, louder and more staggering than Red Rising and I absolutely loved it.

Pierce Brown has created a phenomenal story. It is action packed, political, shocking and engaging. A must read masterpiece!

It may only be January but I think I have already read one of my favourite books of the year.

So it was 5/5 for Red Rising and now 5/5 for Golden Son – Pierce Brown is now scoring a perfect 10. Bring on the finale!

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December 31

The Last Days of Disco – David F Ross

Disco coverEarly in the decade that taste forgot, Fat Franny Duncan is on top of the world. He is the undoubted King of the Ayrshire Mobile Disco scene, controlling and ruling the competition with an iron fist. From birthdays to barn dances, Franny is the man to call. He has even played ‘My Boy Lollipop’ at a funeral and got away with it. But the future is uncertain. A new partnership is coming and is threatening to destroy the big man’s Empire … Bobby Cassidy and Joey Miller have been best mates since primary school. Joey is an idealist; Bobby just wants to get laid and avoid following his brother Gary to the Falklands.

A partnership in their new mobile disco venture seems like the best way for Bobby to do both at the same time. With compensation from an accident at work, Bobby’s dad Harry invests in the fledgling business. His marriage to Ethel is coming apart at the seams and the disco has given him something to focus on. Tragic news from the other side of the world brings all three strands together in a way that no one could have predicted.

The Last Days of Disco is a eulogy to the beauty and power of the 45rpm vinyl record and the small but significant part it played in a small town Ayrshire community in 1982. Witty, energetic and entirely authentic, it’s also heartbreakingly honest, weaving tragedy together with comedy with uncanny and unsettling elegance. A simply stunning debut. ‘Full of comedy, pathos and great tunes’ Hardeep Singh Kohli ‘Warm, funny and evocative. If you grew up in the Eighties, you’re going to love this’ Chris Brookmyre.

 

The Last Days of Disco is the second book published by Orenda Books and it is another triumph – an absolute joy to read. It is worth noting that the two Orenda books that I have read have been very, very different. The Abrupt Physics of Dying was an action packed eco thriller set in far off Yemen (a country I would struggle to find on a map). The Last Days of Disco is a story about people, is totally driven by the characters and is set in Kilmarnock (where I started school).

The Last Days of Disco takes place in the early 1980’s. It is Thatcher’s Britain, unemployment is high, the Falklands War arrives mid-story and life is hard for the Cassidy family. Bobby Cassidy is struggling through his final year at school but with opportunities of future employment looking sparse he is keen to pursue a money-making opportunity and start his own mobile disco. Fortunately all does not go smoothly and there are laughs to be had as the best intentioned plans go disastrously wrong.

Humour is a key element to Last Days and there were dozens of scenes which had me in stiches. Ross uses the reader’s benefit of 30 years of hindsight to set up some fabulous gags. However, there are some very emotive moments to share too, Gary Cassidy is a serving solider and is deployed to the Falklands during the 1982 war with Argentina. These sections of the book and Gary’s letters home to his family, added an extra element of humanity to the characters. I need to avoid spoilers at this stage, however, Gary’s story is one that I suspect I will remember for some time to come.

All good stories have a nemesis for the central character and in Fat Franny Duncan we have a nasty and petty thug who wants to control the Kilmarnock disco scene. Bobby’s new enterprise is encroaching on his patch – for Franny this cannot be allowed to continue. Although Bobby is largely unaware that Franny Duncan is out to sabotage his new venture I loved the varying degrees of success (or lack of it) that Franny experiences in scuppering Bobby’s gigs. A particular highlight here was the Disco at the Conservative club.

One key element of the book is the language: it is realistic and accurate. This is to say that it is regional and it is crude. This may put some readers off, however, to tone down the language would rob the story of authenticity – this is how many people in the West of Scotland speak and you need to accept that to enjoy the book.

Language aside, the other joy to be had from The Last Days of Disco is the music. David Ross is clearly extremely knowledgeable about the soundtrack of his youth. The references to bands and the records of the time are gems. I grew up listening to the songs mentioned in this book yet there are countless tracks referenced which I had never heard of. A fact-finding trip to Spotify is going to happen in the near future for this reader. For any music fan this book is a glorious nostalgia trip.

The Last Days of Disco will be my final review of 2014 and it will ensure that I finish my reading year on a high. As I read I was reminded of Trainspotting…but with disco rather than drugs!

I loved everything about this book and have to award it a 5/5 review.

December 23

2014 – My Magnificent Seven

Although I have only been actively blogging for six months it is time for my end of year round up. A quick check of my blog finds that I have reviewed around 50 books in the last 6 months of the year. To select a top 10 from 50 seemed too many so I was going to do a top five. Until I started my list and I discovered that I wanted to include one or two more: Grab This Book’s Magnificent Seven was born.

So in no particular order I present the seven books that I enjoyed reading most (and the reasons why) during 2014.

 

Stalkers – Paul Finch

I was late to the party on Paul Finch’s brilliant Mark Heckenburg novels. The good thing about this was: by the time I read Stalkers there were two sequels and two more on the way.

Stalkers is a compelling thriller which pulls no punches and delivers shocks and twists in equal measure. I have probably recommended Paul Finch’s books to more of my friends than any other author this year – thus far I have had nothing but positive feedback from those that took my advice.

Stalkers Review

Doctor Who: Engines of War – George Mann

Cast your eye over my blog and you will find that Doctor Who books crop up fairly frequently. I make no apology for this, I have been a fan of the show for 35 years and I have been reading Doctor Who novels since the 1980’s. Not counting the books I read more than once, or the many audio plays, I think I have read around 350 different Who novels (although it is probably more).

For me, George Mann’s Engines of War stands out as one of the best that I have read. Ever. It features the Daleks, a new companion (Scarlet) and even better – The War Doctor. The Doctor has been fighting in the Time War, the Daleks fear him and the Timelords still cannot control him. His weariness of the War is telling and this is not a Doctor that can solve all the problems and just disappear in his TARDIS waiting for the next adventure. Mann catches the fatigue and frustration of the Doctor brilliantly.

If you enjoy Doctor Who and have seen John Hurt’s War Doctor in action then this is a must read. If you like an exciting good guy/bad guy story this is also for you, there is a great adventure to share. If you hate all things Doctor Who, this may not be the book for you. But I loved it!

Engines of War Review

 

Vendetta – Dreda Say Mitchell

Some books are in my list for personal reasons and some are here as they are stand out reads. Vendetta falls into the latter category. It was (without any doubt) one of the most entertaining books that I have read in recent years.

I cannot say enough good things about Vendetta and was thrilled to be able to participate in the Blog Tour when it was published. Dreda Say Mitchell penned a fantastic article Heroes to Die For  which featured on my site. The combination of hosting the tour, having an exclusive article to feature and the book being one of my favourite reads of the year made this a memorable title for me.

Vendetta Review

 

Digital Circumstances – Brian Stewart

Summer 2014 was an amazing time to be in Scotland. We had the Edinburgh Festival (as we always do), the Book Festival (as we always do) but we also had Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games and the small matter of the Indy Ref – the world was watching.

Three out of the four events were spectacular successes – the fourth is subject to ongoing debate but 55% of the people were happy at the time!

During the height of all things Scottish I started reading Digital Circumstances, written and self-published by Brian Stewart. The story is (mainly) set in Glasgow and had a great mix of cybercrime and gangsters. As Glasgow is a city I know well and was very much in the public eye as I was reading Digital Circumstances – it just seemed a perfect read at the time.

A fun read and worth seeking out.

Digital Circumstances Review

 

Someone Else’s Skin – Sarah Hilary

A debut novel and the introduction of a principle character (Marnie Rome) which the author is planning on developing into an ongoing series. I have included this book in my top picks of the year mainly because it was a brilliant story which I got totally drawn into as I read.

However, Someone Else’s Skin holds the honour of being the book in 2014 with the best plot twist. It totally floored me and had me re-evaluating everything I had read up to that point in the story.

I read well over 100 novels this year, it would be very remiss of me to exclude the year’s ‘Jaw Drop’ moment from the list of my top books.

Someone Else’s Skin Review

 

An Evil Mind – Chris Carter

A fellow blogger contacted me asking if I could help him by reading a Chris Carter book (a task I felt reasonably comfortable accepting). He had been set a mission by the publishers: to find readers who had not read Chris Carter’s work and see if he could turn them into fans. I agreed to help and duly received a copy of An Evil Mind.

Click through to check my review for a more comprehensive summary, however, the addition of four new Chris Carter novels to my bookcase in the last few weeks should give a fairly big clue as to how much I enjoyed An Evil Mind. When drawing up a shortlist of possible titles to include in my Magnificent Seven, nothing came close to dislodging An Evil Mind from the list.

My thanks to Shaun on this one – take some time to visit his blog at: www.bookaddictshaun.co.uk

An Evil Mind Review

 

Red Rising – Pierce Brown

The book that broke my rules. Don’t get drawn back into Fantasy novels. Don’t start a series of books if the last books are not published yet. Don’t lend out your copies of your favourite books to friends as you know they will love it. Three copies of Red Rising later I currently only have my digital copy left – I MAY get some of my paperbacks back (eventually)!

This book made me want to read Fantasy novels again – this is after an 8 year hiatus where I have only really read crime and thrillers. A must read novel and worthy for inclusion in ANY list of recommended reads.

Red Rising Review

 

So there we have it – my best reading memories from 2014 and a brief explanation as to why these books stood out for me.

Category: 5* Reviews, From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on 2014 – My Magnificent Seven
November 14

Dead Man Walking – Paul Finch

Dead Man Walking
Dead Man Walking

His worst nightmare is back…

As a brutal winter takes hold of the Lake District, a prolific serial killer stalks the fells. ‘The Stranger’ has returned and for DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg, the signs are all too familiar.

Last seen on Dartmoor ten years earlier, The Stranger murdered his victims in vicious, cold-blooded attacks – and when two young women go missing, Heck fears the worst.

As The Stranger lays siege to a remote community, Heck watches helplessly as the killer plays his cruel game, picking off his victims one by one. And with no way to get word out of the valley, Heck must play ball…

 

 

I think that my blog may be in danger of becoming a sub branch of the Paul Finch Fan Club. Just after I started blogging I read the first of Paul’s Mark Heckenburg novels, Stalkers. I loved it and reviewed it. I quickly read the second book in the series (loved it and reviewed it). Then I found Paul had written a Doctor Who short story within an anthology I was reading (which also got a review).

Enforced break time…there were only three Heck novels and I didn’t want to rush the last one (The Killing Club).

Some months later my resolve crumbled (mainly due to the imminent release of the 4th Heck novel). I read, and loved, The Killing Club and now sit with the brand new – as yet unpublished – Heckenburg book Dead Man Walking.

Skip forward 48 hours and I am done. Dead Man Walking has been and gone…and I loved it (I rather thought I would).

Dead Man Walking opens some 10 years in the past and we learn of a murderer, dubbed The Stranger, who is attacking then butchering his victims. The police are on the case and a trap is laid and sprung.

Jump to the present and Heck is working in Cumbria – he has fallen out with his boss (Gemma Piper) and been transferred to a small police station where he will be out of everyone’s way. Summer has gone and the Lakes are eerily quiet, particularly when the fog descends.

Two girls get lost in the hills and Heck leads the search. Battling against the fog and the bleak weather he finds one of the girls and, despite the trauma she has experienced, she tells of an attack which sounds remarkably like the work of The Stranger – has he returned?

Heck calls in Gemma. In this fourth outing Piper  takes a much more proactive role in the investigation than in previous stories. I love the Heck/Piper pairing. Given the history the pair share there is great friction between the two and this is heightened by their recent falling out and Heck’s subsequent relocation to the Lake District. For extra spice we have ‘The Other Woman’. Heck has been spending time with the local publican (Hazel), when Gemma and Hazel get together they do not exactly click! There are some great scenes between Gemma and Hazel adding a little light relief to the tale.

Light relief is very welcome as Dead Man Walking is a tense story. The dark foggy nights over a damp, isolated village makes a superb setting – a killer is picking off the villagers one by one and there is a real sense of claustrophobia as Heck, Gemma and Hazel struggle to keep one step ahead of the murderer.

Dead Man Walking was a terrific read, there was a constant feeling of peril hanging over the key characters. Finch introduced a sinister murderer with an almost supernatural ability to hunt down his victims and you couldn’t see how Heck would outfox him. Finally, the author’s use of the weather conditions and the remote locations heightened the tension and make the plight of the characters more vivid. An atmospheric thriller which kept me engrossed right to the last page – full 5/5 awarded to Paul Finch for Dead Man Walking.

 

Dead Man Walking is published by Avon and is available from 20 November.

Category: 5* Reviews, From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Dead Man Walking – Paul Finch