April 29

Watching You – J.A. Schneider

Watching YouA serial killer texts his victims first. A detective vows revenge. He comes after her.

In the chill of an October night, Detective Kerri Blasco is called to a bizarre murder scene. Leda Winfield, a young volunteer for the homeless, has been shot. Her cell phone displays the frightening text, WATCHING YOU, and into her back, hideously pushed with a hat pin, is a note with the same awful message. Leda’s socialite family and friends insist that no one would have wanted to harm her, but Detective Kerri isn’t convinced.

Until another random young woman is killed in exactly the same way. Kerri and her team profile a monstrous killer who enjoys terrifying his victims before stalking and killing them. But how does he get their phone numbers?

Kerri soon finds that the killer is after her, too, and that the key to finding him may just be in the homeless shelter. When the body count rises, she vows to stop the madman – even if it means battling her own personal trauma, risking her job, her love relationship with her boss Alex Brand, and her life.

 

My thanks to Joyce for sending me a review copy of Watching You and for the chance to join the blog tour.

 

Last year I read Her Last Breath and was introduced to Detective Kerri Blasco. You can read my review here but to save you a click…I absolutely loved it.

Now Blasco returns in JA Schneider’s new thriller Watching You and this is another cracking read.

A young woman, working at a local homeless shelter has received a text message which she found very unsettling.  The message simply read WATCHING YOU.  As Leda walks through the city in the evening the readers get to see that she is being followed, as she walks through the narrow streets she is jumped and her assailant shoots her in the back of the head – a note is pinned to her body (driven into her flesh) which read WATCHING YOU.

The police are shocked by the clinical dispassionate manner in which Leda was killed and there does not appear to be any obvious motive for someone wanting to kill Leda, were it not for the messages it would likely have been considered a random incident.

Kerri Blasco is on the investigative team and we follow her progress as interviews of Leda’s family and friends begin. Watching You is a police procedural and the author does a great job of balancing Kerri’s investigations whilst also switching to the viewpoint of the killer. Yup we get a murderer’s POV as to how they plan to select the next victim – the text message warning: WATCHING YOU is an important part of the game that they are playing. The fear the prospective victim will experience is very important to the killer and sticking the same message to a victim’s body will taunt the police.

What Kerri does not realise but the killer has set their sights on her as a potential victim. Although a plan is in place it is now being adapted and Kerri is being brought into a game that she does not even know is being played. With Kerri’s life at risk it becomes imperative that she makes progress with her investigation, she just doesn’t know the implications of failure.

I loved the balance of police procedural and serial killer thriller.  Joyce Schneider knows how to grab a reader’s attention and Watching You is another slick, gripping read. The Kerri Blasco series is highly recommended – she is an engaging and likeable lead character and if you are a fan of fast pace crime thrillers then these books are highly recommended.

 

You can order a copy of Watching You via this link: http://getBook.at/watchingyou 

 

Website: http://jaschneiderauthor.net

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5832782.J_A_Schneider

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JoyceSchneider1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joyce.schneider.142?fref=ts

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April 27

Watching The Bodies – Graham Smith

Watching The BodiesWhen Jake Boulder is asked by his PI friend to help investigate the vicious murder of Kira Niemeyer, he soon finds himself tracking a serial killer who selects his next victim in a most unusual manner.

As the body count rises, Boulder has to work with the police to identify the heinous killer before more lives are taken. What ensues is a twisted game of cat and mouse, that only Boulder or the Watcher can survive.

 

My thanks to Sarah and the team at Bloodhound Books for the chance to join the blog tour.

 

Having enjoyed Graham Smith’s previous books, Cumbrian crime thrillers featuring DI Harry Evans of the Major Crime Teams, I was already keenly awaiting his next venture. I was not expecting Smith to make a jump to the US for Watching the Bodies. Nor was I expecting his new protagonist (Jake Boulder) to rocket into my list of favourite characters. But he did. And he did.

First up – Jake Boulder, living and working in Utah but a Scottish Brawler. Fast with his fists, peacemaker (in that he ends the fights other people start) and living a simple single life (much to the frustration of his mother!)

Watching the Bodies, dumps you straight into the action.  I say “dumps” as this is exactly where we begin…at a spot where a killer has dumped his victim. We (and the killer) witness the discovery of the body. Great intro and I had to know more but there was to be no let up as we switch straight to Jake Boulder. We meet him for the first time as he is about to get into a fight and we soon realise that our lead character is not one to be messed with.

Boulder’s friend is a PI. He wants Jake to help him track down the killer, the victim’s father is an influential figure in the town and has no faith in the local police to find out who killed his daughter. This will not be an easy assignment for Boulder as he and the victim, Kira, had been friends and as they begin the investigation into her death Jake will realise that he actually knew very little about the lifestyle Kira had chosen for herself.

Before Boulder’s investigations yield much progress another body is found and it becomes increasingly clear to him that there is a serial killer at work. But there appear to be too many inconsistencies between the crimes for it to be the work of a single killer and, even if it were to be a single killer, how were the victims selected? As Jake digs deeper he will uncover more than he could have ever anticipated.

I have always been a sucker for a serial killer story and in Watching the Bodies I have found one of the best serial killer tales that I have read for a long, long time. I loved this. The killer’s motivation and clues to their identity are gently teased out through the story so that by the time you are approaching the endgame you know exactly what is at stake and how much peril certain characters will be in. It works fabulously well and I was utterly hooked.

A thumpingly good first outing for Jake Boulder and I really, really hope that there will be more to come. If you like a dark and twisty serial killer story then Watching the Bodies is a book you simply must read.

 

Watching the Bodies is published by Bloodhound Books and is available now. The links you need are below:

Links:

Graham on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/grahamnsmithauthor/?fref=ts

Graham’s Website: https://www.grahamsmithauthor.com/

Here on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GrahamSmith1972?lang=en-gb

And the all important link to order the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Graham-Smith/e/B006FTIBBU/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1491159376&sr=8-1

 

 

Graham Smith is married with a young son. A time served joiner he has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. Since Christmas 2000 he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland. 

An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer and interviewer for the well-respected website Crimesquad.com since 2009.

He is the author of four books featuring DI Harry Evans and the Cumbrian Major Crimes Team and one book, WATCHING THE BODIES in a new series featuring Utah doorman, Jake Boulder.

 

 

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April 15

The Restless Dead – Simon Beckett

The Restless Dead‘Composed of over sixty per cent water itself, a human body isn’t naturally buoyant. It will float only for as long as there is air in its lungs, before gradually sinking to the bottom as the air seeps out. If the water is very cold or deep, it will remain there, undergoing a slow, dark dissolution that can take years. But if the water is warm enough for bacteria to feed and multiply, then it will continue to decompose. Gases will build up in the intestines, increasing the body’s buoyancy until it floats again.
And the dead will literally rise . . . ‘

Once one of the country’s most respected forensics experts, Dr David Hunter is facing an uncertain professional – and personal – future. So when he gets a call from Essex police, he’s eager for the chance to assist them.

A badly decomposed body has been found in a desolate area of tidal mudflats and saltmarsh called the Backwaters. Under pressure to close the case, the police want Hunter to help with the recovery and identification.

It’s thought the remains are those of Leo Villiers, the son of a prominent businessman who vanished weeks ago. To complicate matters, it was rumoured that Villiers was having an affair with a local woman. And she too is missing.

But Hunter has his doubts about the identity. He knows the condition of the unrecognizable body could hide a multitude of sins. Then more remains are discovered – and these remote wetlands begin to give up their secrets . . .

With its eerie, claustrophobic sense of place, viscerally authentic detail and explosive heart-in-mouth moments, The Restless Dead offers a masterclass in crime fiction and marks the stunning return of one of the genre’s best.

 

My thanks to Hannah at Penguin Random House for my review copy and the chance to join the tour.

 

No beating about the bush on this review – The Restless Dead was a brilliant read. It gets a 5* score and I want to go back and read the previous David Hunter novels right now…I seriously love these books.

It has been a few years since Dr Hunter last appeared but when we are first reunited with him it seems his past adventures may have gained him the tag of troublemaker. Opportunities for police consultation work have dried up and without the prestige of high profile police investigations his current residency is in jeopardy.
So when a call comes in to assist Essex Police with the recovery and identification of a body found in coastal mudflats, Hunter cannot refuse. Thus begins The Restless Dead – a book which shall take Hunter to the remote villages of costal Essex where everyone knows all their neighbours and secrets have to be preciously guarded as the normal “goldfish bowl” of village life means everyone knows your history.

When the body has been recovered Hunter finds himself unable to return to London and he is temporarily stranded at the rural Essex coastline.  He finds a temporary accommodation but in doing so unwittingly becomes drawn into the lives of one of the families who are anxiously waiting for news on a missing woman. They want to know if the body recovered from the marshes is that of the wife/sister they have been missing. Hunter, initially oblivious to their plight and not understanding who they are, just wants a warm bed and a change of clothes.

Although the body is quickly identified Hunter is not wholly convinced over the timeline of the story as it has been described to him.  If the missing person vanished six weeks prior to the recovery of the body then why does the body only seem to have been in the water for a month at most?  Returning to the scene Hunter finds another clue which casts further doubt on the identity of the corpse and this creates problems for the local police.

In The Restless Dead there are feuds, misunderstandings and hostile characters – Beckett has done a marvellous job of keeping Hunter in the midst of all the tension and hostility and making the reader uncomfortable and edgy as they read.  Having read the previous David Hunter books I know what a tough time he has had previously and you just want something to go right for him. Reading the previous books gives you the background you need to get the most from The Restless Dead but it reads well as a stand-alone novel too as the author provides any background info which you may need.

Simon Beckett is a wonderful storyteller. He gives the detail and explanations which make forensic thrillers engaging reads, his characters are always well defined and wholly believable. Did I mention that The Restless Dead is a 5* read?  It is.

 

The Restless Dead is published by Bantam Press and is currently available in Hardback and digital formats. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Restless-Dead-Simon-Beckett/dp/0593063473/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492242215&sr=1-1&keywords=the+restless+dead+simon+beckett

 

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April 14

The Contract – JM Gulvin

The ContractIn New Orleans, Texas Ranger John Q is out of his jurisdiction, and possibly out of his depth. It seems everyone in Louisiana wants to send him home, and every time he asks questions there’s trouble: from the pharmacist to the detective running scared to the pimp who turned to him as a last resort. Before John Q knows it, he looks the only link between a series of murders.

So who could be trying to set him up, and why, and who can he turn to in a city where Southern tradition and family ties rule?

Infused with the rhythms of its iconic setting, The Contract is a thriller to keep even the most seasoned crime readers gripped and guessing all the way to its endgame.

 

My thanks to Lauren at Faber for my review copy and the chance to join the tour

 

America in the latter half of the 1960’s is the setting for JM Gulvin’s second John Q thriller. Texas Ranger, John Quarrie, is a great lead character – cool under pressure, a sharp shooter and displays a logical and rational intelligence where we see him puzzling out the evidence he finds to unveil the bigger mysteries.

Evidence?  Well, The Contract opens with an armed robber.  John Q is not far from where the incident takes place and gives chase. Being a Texas Ranger, John Q knows the area well and he manages to pin down the robbers – a confrontation is inevitable and the reader gets to see early-on the unflappable nature of John Q as a gun fight ensues.

In the aftermath of the chase (and the subsequent arrest) John Q tries to uncover the motive behind the robbery and his investigations take him to New Orleans. I love reading about New Orleans, a seemingly sleepy town where old families run things behind the scenes and there is always the feeling that there is sinister undertone to every conversation.

Quarrie tracks down Gigi, a singer who is oblivious to the events back in Texas but is unwittingly linked to the death of a man. If Gigi is to be of any help to Quarrie in his investigations he needs to keep her safe but in a town where John Q is a stranger who does he trust?

The Contract is written with perfect pacing and tone for the deep South setting and the author has perfectly captured that feeling of 1960’s life. Reading The Contract it is so very easy to slip into the story and ignore everything else which is going on around you. JM Gulvin has penned a wonderful tale with conspiracy, murder and corruption and I heartily recommend it.

 

The Contract is published by Faber and is available in paperback and digital format. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/cka/Contract-John-Q-Mystery-JM-Gulvin/0571323812/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492158749&sr=1-1&keywords=the+contract+jm+gulvin

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April 10

Faithless – Kjell Ola Dahl

FaithlessOslo detectives Gunnarstranda and Frølich are back … and this time, it’s personal… When the body of a woman turns up in a dumpster, scalded and wrapped in plastic, Inspector Frank Frølich is shocked to discover that he knows her … and their recent meetings may hold the clue to her murder. As he ponders the tragic events surrounding her death, Frølich’s colleague Gunnarstranda investigates a disturbingly similar cold case involving the murder of a young girl in northern Norway and Frølich is forced to look into his own past to find the answers – and the killer – before he strikes again.

Dark, brooding and utterly chilling, Faithless is a breath-taking and atmospheric page-turner that marks the return of an internationally renowned and award-winning series, from one of the fathers of Nordic Noir.

 

My thanks to Karen at Orenda for my review copy and the opportunity to join the blog tour

I have been on a nice wee reading run of police procedural stories recently, Faithless keeps that run going whilst transporting me to Oslo at the same time. Good start!

The principle focus was on Inspector Frank Frølich and as the story opens he is parked up in his car, watching a suspect’s house. A woman passes and Frølich risks being spotted yet the woman continues into the suspects house only to leave a few hours later.  Frølich picks her up for questioning and she is discovered to be carrying a small amount of drugs.  Charges are pressed and Frølich is no further on in gaining evidence against his suspect.

Away from work Frølich has been invited to re-unite with an old friend who is celebrating his engagement. Frølich has lost contact with his friend over the years and realises it has been over 20 years since they last met.  Wary of the passage of time he decides to attend the engagement party. However, when he meets his friend’s fiancée he realises that this is not the first time that he has met this  woman – he charged her with drug possession some hours earlier.

From this awkward opening I was drawn in to Frølich’s difficult investigation. The woman (Veronika) remains a potential lead which will give Frølich an opportunity to gather intel on his chief suspect.  However, his unexpected personal association with Veronika will create a problem – and it is a problem which is destined to become more complicated.

Concurrent to the problems he will face with Veronika, Frølich and his colleagues are also investigating the disappearance of a student from Uganda who has been studying at the university. He will need to juggle time and resources and we get to see the benefit of having a great supporting cast who can assist Frølich.

Faithless marked my introduction to the works of Kjell Ola Dahl. Frølich has appeared in previous novels but I didn’t feel that I needed to have read the earlier books to keep up with events in Faithless – it stands well on its own. Given how much I enjoyed this book I am keen to try others in the series, especially if there is a book which follows Faithless because THAT ENDING totally shocked me. Clearly I am not going to say why, but I was left wanting more after a breath-taking finale to the story.

The original novel has been translated by Don Bartlett and I’d like to acknowledge what a splendid job has been done. Faithless flows really well, is very accessible (which is to say the language is not stilted or fussy) and I raced through the book keeping up with Frølich et all.

Cracking stuff. If I enjoyed all my books this much I’d be a very happy reader.

 

Faithless is published by Orenda Books and is available in paperback and digital format from 15 April 2017. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Faithless-Oslo-Detectives-Kjell-Dahl/dp/1910633275/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1491862043&sr=1-1&keywords=faithless+kjell+ola+dahl

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April 7

Night is Watching – Lucy Cameron

Night is WatchingCan You Feel Your Blood Drain…

Couples are being slaughtered in their homes; women drained of blood, men violently beaten.  There are no clues to track the killer, no explanation as to why an increasing amount of blood is being removed from the crime scenes.

Detective Sergeant Rhys Morgan is seconded to the ‘Couples Killer’ investigation. Tormented by vivid nightmares, he hasn’t slept soundly for weeks becoming convinced a creature from these nightmares poses a threat to him and his family. His behaviour becomes increasingly erratic causing his bosses to wonder if he’s the right man for the job.

As clues to the killer’s identity are uncovered, the line between what is real and what cannot be starts to blur and Rhys discovers the answer to catching the killer and exorcizing his own demons, may be as irrational as he fears.

 

My thanks to Lucy and Noelle (CrimeBookJunkie) who provided my review copy and the opportunity to join the blog tour.

 

A serial killer (dubbed the “Couples Killer”) and a police investigation which seems to be going nowhere – a very promising start to Night is Watching. Then it just got better as Lucy Cameron is not holding back.

The killer’s female victims are strung up and (eventually) their bodies drained of blood. The victim’s husband will also be found at the scene of the crime…battered, beaten and stuffed into a cupboard away from their spouse. This is not a story for the faint of heart and I need to highlight that the story will take a turn into horror territory – it is not by chance that the description (above) makes reference to Rhys Morgan’s demons.

Morgan is the detective brought into the murder squad to assist with the hunt for the Couples Killer.  His home life is not in a good place, he and his wife are walking on eggshells around each other and the memory of Morgan’s sister (who vanished from his life when he was a child) hangs heavy over the household.  Morgan is obsessive over the memory of his sister and despite the patience and tolerance of his wife it is clear that his inability to move on is creating real problems for his marriage.

Readers are treated to an early sense of creepy tension when a strange man moves into a house on Morgan’s street. Lucy Cameron unsettles us early with the feeling that something odd has arrived in our midst.  Morgan learns that the detective that was leading the investigation has had a breakdown, leads all need rechecked as the police find their colleague had become fixated on supernatural angles to the killings However, as Rhys starts to become involved within the case he also finds that there are some very unusual incidents occurring and he becomes fixated upon his new neighbour.

Night Is Watching TourLucy Cameron does a great job of balancing a story about a murder investigation while phasing in elements of dark horror. What I felt was done particularly well was how we see the impact of the horrific and unsettling events that Rhys Morgan has to face when it begins to impact upon his mental health.  When Morgan is adamant he is on the track of a killer his colleagues are questioning his ability to remain part of the investigative team.

Night is Watching is a brilliant read for those that like their crime stories with a horror or supernatural twist. If you have read and enjoyed James Oswald or Caroline Mitchell’s books (and you really should) then Night is Watching is one for you.

 

Night is Watching is published by Caffeine Nights and is available in digital format here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XCBKFS6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491509946&sr=8-1&keywords=night+is+watching

 

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April 3

Will to Live – Rachel Amphlett

Will to Live Cover MEDIUM WEB(1)Reputation is everything.

When a packed commuter train runs over a body on a stretch of track known to locals as ‘Suicide Mile’, it soon transpires that the man was a victim of a calculated murder.

As the investigation evolves and a pattern of murders is uncovered, Detective Sergeant Kay Hunter realises the railway’s recent reputation may be the work of a brutal serial killer.

With a backlog of cold cases to investigate and attempting to uncover who is behind a professional vendetta against her, Kay must keep one step ahead of both the killer and her own adversaries.

When a second murder takes place within a week of the first, she realises the killer’s timetable has changed, and she’s running out of time to stop him…

Will to Live is the second book in a new crime thriller series featuring Kay Hunter – a detective with a hidden past and an uncertain future…

 

My thanks to Rachel and Emma (Emma Mitchell, Publicity Manager) for a review copy and the chance to join the tour.

 

It has been a while since I read a serial killer story. There have been a few books with multiple victims; but a serial killer story where a murderer stalks his victims, has a “style” which the police can use to identify a single killer and a team of detectives chasing down the clues…well it has been far too long since the last one!

Thank goodness, therefore, for Will to Live. Rachel Amphlett’s 2nd book to feature DS Kay Hunter was a very welcome companion on my daily commute as this was a serial killer story that I could really get my teeth into. As I hadn’t read Hunter’s introduction in Scared to Death I was slightly apprehensive that I may miss some important back story. If I did then it didn’t impact in any way upon my enjoyment of Will to Live, I was wholly consumed by the story and never felt that I had missed something vital through not (yet) reading the first book.

Hunter was immediately likeable as a lead character and her ongoing feud with one of her bosses gave an edge to the scenes in the department. For me, a good police procedural story will feature the squadroom discussions so we get a real feel of the investigation which is ongoing. No solo copper solving all the problems on their own but a team effort to track down a killer. Will to Live delivers this in fine style!  I loved the dynamic which the author has established between Hunter and her team and the mutual respect that the characters show each other really helps ground the characters and gives them authenticity.

What particularly drew me to Will to Live was the way the killer was dispatching his victims. Death by train is particularly gruesome and some of the scenes which take place by railway lines made for chilling and harrowing reading (exactly what I want in a crime thriller).

Away from the murders there is a backdrop of characters who have suffered, or are suffering from, depression or who are dealing with post trauma shock. These aspects of the story were handled with a great deal of sensitivity by Rachel Amphlett, highlighting a very real and often overlooked problem which impacts not just the individual but their family and friends too.

Will to Live – loved it, snatched every possible reading opportunity to keep the pages turning and I got through it in a day. I would be happy if I got into all my books in the way I was absorbed by this one.

 

Will to Live is available in digital format and can be ordered through this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Will-Live-Detective-Hunter-thriller-ebook/dp/B06XZHB17C/ref=sr_1_13?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1491255620&sr=1-13&keywords=rachel+amphlett

 

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March 29

Six Stories – Matt Wesolowski

Six Stories1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who took that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure.

In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries’ mysterious death. And who’s to blame… As every interview unveils a new revelation, you’ll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth. A chilling, unpredictable and startling thriller, Six Stories is also a classic murder mystery with a modern twist, and a devastating ending.

 

My thanks to Karen at Orenda for my review copy and the chance to join the blog tour.

Very, very occasionally something different crops up in my reading queue, a book which is quite unlike anything else that is clamouring to be read – Six Stories is that book. A murder story, told (in the main) as a series of podcast interviews where journalist Scott King chats with a key player in an unsolved murder case from an incident which took place in 1997.

A teenager, part of a group of kids visiting a remote “outward bound centre” vanishes in the night. His body turns up one year later but despite extensive police involvement and significant media interest no arrest was ever made and the crime remains unsolved.

Journalist King interviews other teens from the small group that visited the centre that fateful weekend. They were frequent guests on familiar territory and the “responsible adults” supervising them were quite lax in allowing these young adults scope to drink and smoke. Each of the titular “Stories” is an interview with one of the people who make up that group. As the stories are told we are given more insight into the dynamic of the kids, there are bullies and there are sheep. Some were friends, others were outcasts but each will contribute more to the bigger picture of what may have happened to Tom Jeffries.

It is frequently made clear that King is not a detective and that he is not looking to “solve” the mystery. However, the reader cannot help but get drawn into events and you find yourself hoping that something will break – a clue will slip out which gives you an insight into how the book may resolve the issue. As such you read Six Stories with an increasing level of concentration and focus lest you miss the nugget which may let slip an inconsistency in the various recollections.

The interview/podcast format is superb. The individual episodes are broken up with very short sequences which are not part of the podcast but these add an additional dark and intriguing element to the tale. Six Stories is incredibly atmospheric and the interview sections give a real intimacy to the telling of the story. At times it did not feel like I was reading a book – more akin to listening to an old story teller spinning a yarn for the crowd in a smoky tavern.

If you want a richly rewarding reading experience then Six Stories is it.

 

Six Stories is published by Orenda Books and is available in paperback and digital format. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Six-Stories-Matt-Wesolowski/dp/1910633623/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1490822340&sr=8-1&keywords=Matt+Wesolowski

 

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March 21

Parallel Lines – Steven Savile

Parallel Lines_high resHow far would you go to provide for your child? Adam Shaw is dying, and knows he’ll leave his disabled son with nothing. His solution? Rob a bank. It’s no surprise that things go wrong. What is surprising is that when another customer is accidentally shot, no one in the bank is in a hurry to hand Adam over to the police. There’s the manager who’s desperate to avoid an audit, the security guard with a serious grudge, and the woman who knows exactly how bad the victim really was… Eight people, twelve hours, one chance to cover up a murder. But it’s not just the police they have to fool. When many lives intersect, the results can be explosive.

 

My thanks to Lydia at Titan Books for my review copy and the chance to join the Parallel Lines blog tour

 

Parallel Lines has 8 key characters. At the foot of my review I have a fantastic guest post from Steven Savile which focuses on Richard Rhodes (the Manager of the bank at the centre of events in Parallel Lines).

 

Although I read loads of crime fiction I cannot think of too many stories about a bank robbery. There are books where a bank gets robbed but it is usually only a chapter or two of action then the story moves on. Parallel Lines is all about a robbery, over 80% of the story has the reader in the bank as the crime is taking place and it is a brilliant, brilliant read.

The story opens with a focus on Adam, the robber, and his motivations for holding up a bank.  When things start to go wrong for him (no spoiler, it’s in the cover info) we get to see the other people that were in the bank at the point Adam pulls a gun on the cashier.  From here on Steven Savile will focus on different characters who are also in the bank, we get their backgrounds, their motivations to help or hinder Adam in his predicament and we see how their lives have overlapped prior to the fateful day in the bank.

I cannot get too detailed over how the robbery and subsequent events unfold but I can assure you that Parallel Lives really had me hooked. The author brilliantly set up the different characters – each will act to preserve their own self interest, however, their futures will be linked in a way which they could never have foreseen.

What makes Parallel Lines such a compelling read is that virtually all the characters are required to become a liar at some point in the tale.  For some this comes naturally, but for others they find they are required to play a role which is unfamiliar to them and their discomfort makes for fun and tense moments. But the problem with telling lies is that you cannot keep the lie going forever and, keeping me turning the pages, was the drive to find out which lies would come unstuck and the consequences which may befall the liars.

I am intentionally not giving away much about Parallel Lines – stories told this well deserve to be told in full and I would urge you to seek out this book and discover the fate of Adam and his hostages for yourself. Did I mention that this was a brilliant book?  It is – scroll down and order a copy today via the handy link at the foot of the page.

 

Now as promised, for the blog tour Mr Savile has a few words on one of the key characters in Parallel Lines:

Richard Rhodes

Secrets and lies make the world go around. I’d originally intended to do a short piece now on a few of my favourite liars in crime fiction, the idea of unreliable narrators and purposely misleading the audience as you go along, but as the first name (Frank Abernathy) came to me, I realised that actually this was an opportunity for a little truth. You see there’s a core of lies in Parallel Lines, and people pretending to be someone they aren’t. There’s the Dane, who also calls himself Kage Salisbury, who’s pretending to be a cop, there’s the security guard, Monk, who at one point is pretending to be a dead man, and there’s Richard Rhodes, the bank manager who fancies himself as a bit of a Robin Hood. There’s also a lot of truth in how I see the world wrapped up on their lies.

You see, I come from a line of great liars.

My father was a golden tongued salesman who could charm the birds out of the trees. He ended up featuring in a double page spread in The Sun back in the ‘90s, but that was the end of his story, not the beginning. Back in the day he was one of the leading guys in his field—which was focussed on male vanity, he provided wigs and weaves and hair transplants to the stars. He had all the celebrity clients, members of The Bee Gees and Slade, Crocodile Rockers and footballers. And I remember him telling me once he invented the costs of treatment on the spot, depending upon the wealth of the client across the table. He made a lot of money from sheiks and other men who couldn’t stand the idea of being bald. I used to joke that I was the best advert in the world walking into the clinic and the worst every time I walked out.

But dad was nothing compared with his dad, and you’ll get the Frank Abernathy reference now, if you’ve seen Catch Me if You Can. See, granddad (who I never met) was special.  For years I’ve toyed with writing the novel of his life, I’ve even got a title (The Last of the Great Liars), but the problem is I don’t think anyone would believe it. Here’s my understanding of how it went down. This may or may not be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but, but then, we’re talking about secrets and lies here.

Age 18 he signed up with the Canadian mounted police, and actually seemed to have it all there, beautiful fiancé who became wife, great job and eventually three kids, but wanderlust kicked in and he just picked up and walked off, joined the merchant navy and sailed into my grandmother’s life. He was sunk twice on the way, which always makes me think of him as a bit of an Uncle Albert. Anyway, he pitched up in Somerset, met my gran, married and had three kids, including my dad, and again everything was hunky and dory, you know apart from the one telling detail, the wife and three kids back in Canada… but this was pre-internet, hell, to a large extent it was pre-pretty much everything we think of as common place today.  Now, maybe it was a pathology, maybe he couldn’t stand being happy, but even as he’s got Nan and the kids on one side of the country he’s setting up another family on the other coast, another marriage, more kids. My dad told me recently how his father had taken him out to dinner, given him a five bob note and told him he was the man of the family now and how he had to look after his mum, and then just walked out to join the other family he’d set up. Not that they were enough to keep him. He’d reinvented himself several more times during his life, abandoning his family each time, at one point working on the Trans Siberian Railway, on oil pipelines in Eastern Europe and working his way down eventually to Australia where he ended up working as a cook for gold miners and getting himself adopted as a friendly grandfather for a new family. And, in keeping with his larger than life life, his death was the stuff of legend. He told them he had cancer, got in a car and drove into the outback, lay down at the side of the road and waited to die. Of course, there was no cancer. Pretty much nothing in his life was true. Remarkably, he ended up on children’s tv in Adelaide, where he made elaborate model ships, and something like 2,000 people turned up at his funeral. How do we know all this? He kept a travelling chest and in it was all of the documentation, the birth certificates, marriage certificates, pay slips, everything to track him across continents and through reinvention after reinvention all the way back to the beginning. But here’s the interesting thing, all of it was redacted. The names of the people blacked out to protect them. All of it except for my grandmother and their three children. Meaning that at Nan’s funeral, the priest delivered the eulogy, describing her as the loving mother of David, Wrey, Anthony and John… and everyone’s looking around thinking John? Who the hell is John? Only to discover it was one of the bastard children come following the path of breadcrumbs laid down by the travelling chest.

Now, and this bit kills me, he did all of this under his own name. He’d completely reinvent everything about himself apart from his name. It couldn’t happen today, not in the era of the big brother that is the internet where nothing ever gets forgotten. But it happened back then, and looking at my lineage it doesn’t surprise me that I ended up doing what I do, telling stories, inventing and reinventing things. Telling elaborate lies for a living.

Like I said, Parallel Lines has a core of liars at its heart. But the one I sympathise most with is Richard Rhodes. You see he’s a good man, or at least wants to be a good man. But he wants the glamour, too. He just can’t help himself. He may not be up there on the scale with my grandfather, but he’s certainly caught by the glamour of not being his average ordinary self for a few hours when he walks into Archer’s casino. He can’t help himself. He wants to feel the way those other guys do, the cool ones who have the perfect stubble and the gravelly voice and those melt-the-knickers eyes. So he reinvents himself, just like granddad did, and for just a couple of hours he might even get to be all that he pretends to be. The thing is, once the lie is spoken it is only ever going to end badly for him. Which is good for us, because secrets and lies make the world go around.  And stories would be really dull without them.

 

Parallel Lines is published by Titan Books and is available to order here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Parallel-Lines-Steven-Savile/dp/1783297913/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1490130680&sr=1-1&keywords=parallel+lines

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Category: 5* Reviews, Blog Tours, From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Parallel Lines – Steven Savile
March 20

Written in Bones – James Oswald

Written in BonesWhen a body is found in a tree in The Meadows, Edinburgh’s scenic parkland, the forensics suggest the corpse has fallen from a great height.

Detective Inspector Tony McLean wonders whether it was an accident, or a murder designed to send a chilling message?

The dead man had led quite a life: a disgraced ex-cop turned criminal kingpin who reinvented himself as a celebrated philanthropist.

As McLean traces the victim’s journey, it takes him back to Edinburgh’s past, and through its underworld – crossing paths with some of its most dangerous and most vulnerable people.

And waiting at the end of it all, is the truth behind a crime that cuts to the very heart of the city…

 

My thanks to Laura at Penguin for my review copy

A new Tony McLean novel from James Oswald is always met with great anticipation here at Grab This Book. I am a big fan of this series and love the balance that the author finds between cracking police procedural but with a dark, and sometimes supernatural, edge to the stories.

Written in Bones is the 7th title to feature Tony McLean, knowing the back story helps but is not essential – new readers can easily pick up the series without worry of too many spoilers and will not be overwhelmed with confusing links to past events. One of the things I enjoy most about James Oswald’s books is how accessible they are, the stories all flow really well and are nicely paced.

From the very first pages of Written in Bones I was hooked. A body is discovered in The Meadows, a pleasant park in Edinburgh city centre. However, the body is stuck high in a tree and it appears to have fallen out of the sky.  The only possible witness to the crime is a young boy who was walking his dog around The Meadows early in the morning. Unfortunately for McLean and his colleagues he does not appear to be the most reliable source for information as he maintains that he saw a dragon flying over the park at the time the body would have fallen into the tree.

Further investigation will reveal the young witness is the son of one of Edinburgh’s more notorious characters  – someone very well known to the police. Could this simply be a coincidence or does the child’s presence link to crimes committed by his father?  This element of an investigation could prove potentially tricky to some of McLean’s colleagues and Tony will be required to play politics around the station.

Although McLean can be a bit of a loose cannon at times, in Written in Bones there are new colleagues in the station and McLean will have to spend some of his time managing a team. The interaction between McLean and the younger, less experienced officers added a fun new angle to the story and I hope that we get to see a bit more of Tony in “mentor” mode.

Away from the mysterious body in a tree, Tony is also finding himself at a number of properties which have been subject to a break-in. He is pulled around the city and his investigations will leave someone unhappy – powerful people will not want the police sniffing around their operations. Back to that political pressure – Tony’s bosses will try to clip his wings and restrict his resources…can he find a way to make his already stretched team focus on more than one investigation?

I had great fun reading Written in Bones, it’s nice to be able to pick up a book which I know will entertain me and it did not fail to deliver the thrills and excitement that I look forward to in James Oswald’s writing. This has been a richly rewarding series thus far and Written in Bones only enhances the Tony McLean collection.

 

Written  in Bones is published by Michael Joseph and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Written-Bones-Inspector-McLean-7/dp/0718183673/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1489962099&sr=8-1&keywords=james+oswald

 

Category: From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Written in Bones – James Oswald