December 17

Ghost Camera – Darcy Coates

Ghost CameraA small number of cameras have the ability to capture ghosts on film. This gift comes at a steep price; the ghosts are resentful and hungry, and the cameras offer them a rare chance to reach their favourite prey… humans.

Jenine doesn’t know any of this when she finds an abandoned Polaroid camera in a lighthouse. At first she assumes the ghostly shapes in the photos are a glitch or a prank – but then the spirits begin to hunt her down, and she’s forced into a deadly race to free herself from the camera’s curse.

 

Thanks to Patchwork Press and Netgalley for my review copy

At 118 pages long Ghost Camera by Darcy Coates is a short but engaging read. The story focuses on Jenine, she finds an old Polaroid camera in an abandoned lighthouse and is delighted to find that it still works. After snapping a few pictures Jenine is unsettled to find that there are ghostly figures appearing in the pictures she has taken.

Turning to her friend Bree for advice, together the pair try to make some sense out of what they may be seeing in the pictures. The more photographs they take, the more obvious (and hostile) the ghostly figures are in the resultant images.

With Jenine facing a constant threat the race is on to find someone who can help free her from the attentions of the ghosts, however, the only person who seems to understand the problem does not want to talk with her!

I really enjoyed how Darcy Coates managed to build up the sense of growing menace during Ghost Camera. Initially Jenine is unnerved by the images she sees, however, her anxiety soon grows and she starts to realise that she is constantly surrounded by ghostly figures and that they are beginning to be able to make their presence felt. The author conveyed Janine’s growing fear really well and as I read I got caught up in the building tension.

The logistics of how the titular Ghost Camera worked and how it exposed Janine to danger was excellent. I am a big fan of a simple idea being worked well and Darcy Coates nails it here. The explanation of the camera was introduced at exactly the right point in the story and incorporated in such a way that it did not feel that explanations were being forced upon us.

It has been a while since I read a ‘proper’ ghost story but I thoroughly enjoyed Ghost Camera and it whet my appetite for more supernatural thrills.

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December 16

The Abrupt Physics of Dying – Paul Hardisty

Claymore Straker is trying to forget a violent past. Working as an oil company engineer in the wilds of Yemen, he is

The Abrupt Physics of Dying
The Abrupt Physics of Dying

hijacked at gunpoint by Islamic terrorists. Clay has a choice: help uncover the cause of a mysterious sickness afflicting the village of Al Urush, close to the company’s oil-processing facility, or watch Abdulkader, his driver and close friend, die.

As the country descends into civil war and village children start dying, Clay finds himself caught up in a ruthless struggle between opposing armies, controllers of the country’s oil wealth, Yemen’s shadowy secret service, and rival terrorist factions. As Clay scrambles to keep his friend alive, he meets Rania, a troubled journalist. Together, they try to uncover the truth about Al Urush. But nothing in this ancient, unforgiving place is as it seems. Accused of a murder he did not commit, put on the CIA’s most-wanted list, Clay must come to terms with his past and confront the powerful forces that want him dead.

A stunning debut eco-thriller, The Abrupt Physics of Dying is largely based on true events – the horrific destruction of fresh water and lives by oil giants. Gritty, gripping and shocking, this book will not only open your eyes but keep them glued to the page until the final, stunning denouement is reached.

 

Many thanks to Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books for my review copy.

 

The Abrupt Physics of Dying is a phenomenal debut from Paul Hardisty, an action packed thriller which highlights the corruption that comes with corporate greed. The characters are brilliantly realised too as we see some very human flaws come to the fore.

The Abrupt Physics of Dying is primarily set in Yemen and follows ‘Clay’ Straker, he is an Environmental Contractor working for Petro-Tex who have established an extremely profitable oil plant in a remote part of the country. It is Clay’s job to monitor potential contamination around the plant, keep the local authorities amenable and ensure Petro-Tex can continue to drill while they seek corporate support to expand their enterprise.

However, Yemen is a troubled country and in the opening chapters we see Clay kidnapped by a terrorist group who hold Clay and his driver, Abdulkader, hostage. The leader of the terrorist group wants Clay to prove that the Petro-Tex plant is poisoning the area around their plant and endangering the villages nearby. Clay is released from his captivity to expose Petro-Tex and highlight the danger their operations are causing, Abdulkader is kept as a prisoner. Clay has 8 days to prove the contamination and alert the relevant authorities to the danger. If he succeeds he will save his friend.

From this point on we are taken on a frantic race against time as Clay struggles to establish if his employers are complicit in endangering hundreds of lives. Clay can trust no-one in his quest for the truth as Petro-Tex will do all they can to block his investigations. The press are sympathetic but will need evidence before they go public with any allegations against Petro-Tex. Rania is the journalist on scene (and she provides a love interest too) but it is not clear if Rania is being honest with Clay or if she is working to her own agenda. Added to the mix is a psychotic Security Agent looking to silence Clay – permanently.

We quickly learn that Clay is no desk-jockey, he has military training and is more than adept at fighting his way out of a tight corner. A very useful trait as Clay finds himself in more than one tight spot as he battles to unravel a web of corruption. It can be a tricky balance between exposing your hero to a constant threat and making him an invincible fighting machine. Clay faces many tough scrapes and does not necessarily come through each incident unscathed. However, I wonder if the level of peril that he encounters may be slightly too much for some readers to accept given the serious tone of the rest of the book. Personally I love an action packed read so I had no concerns – this one kept me gripped.

It is not a full on action ride every step of the way. As the story develops we see Clay start to consider how his actions in the past may have aided corruption to go unchallenged. Following the paycheck he has smoothed diplomatic channels, paid officials and had favourable reports returned and generally turned a blind eye to areas out with his remit. Now, as he faces the potential catastrophe of Petro-Tex creating an environmental disaster, Clay considers his own involvement in the process and realises that he may personally have failed the people he is now trying to save. This self-realisation added an extra dimension to Clay, giving depth to the character and seemingly steeling his motivation to put an end to the damage that is occurring.

Environmental crime is not a theme I have encountered often. The technical knowledge to make it convincing may be a limiting factor for some or perhaps the scale of the impact too great to take on? However, no such concerns here as Paul Hardisty has constructed a relevant and very believable thriller. Sadly it is too easy to accept that a corporation may put business interests ahead of lives if they believed they could cover it up. The message I took from this was that the love of power and money will overrule any feelings of morality and that, for some, human life becomes meaningless in the face of profit.

The Abrupt Physics of Dying is not only the debut novel from Paul Hardisty, it is also the first novel published by Orenda Books. It is pleasing to see both author and publisher getting off to such a strong start. The Abrupt Physics of Dying is compelling reading and tackles subject matter not often encountered: I urge you to grab this book, it is both dynamic and different and I enjoyed it immensely.

The Abrupt Physics of Dying was published by Orenda Books and is available now from the Kindle Store. A physical copy of the book will be in shops from March 2015.

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December 13

The Zig Zag Girl – Elly Griffiths

The Zig Zag Girl
The Zig Zag Girl

Brighton, 1950.

When the body of a girl is found, cut into three, Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is reminded of a magic trick, the Zig Zag Girl.

The inventor of the trick, Max Mephisto, is an old friend of Edgar’s. They served together in the war as part of a shadowy unit called the Magic Men.

Max is still on the circuit, touring seaside towns in the company of ventriloquists, sword-swallowers and dancing girls. Changing times mean that variety is not what it once was, yet Max is reluctant to leave this world to help Edgar investigate. But when the dead girl turns out to be known to him, Max changes his mind.

Another death, another magic trick: Edgar and Max become convinced that the answer to the murders lies in their army days. When Edgar receives a letter warning of another ‘trick’, the Wolf Trap, he knows that they are all in danger…

 

 

This review was originally prepared for @BookAddictShaun Many thanks to Shaun for providing me with the book – Quercus Books kindly provided the book for review.

 

Elly Griffiths is best known for her Ruth Galloway stories, however, The Zig Zag girl is a stand-alone novel which features a new lead character: Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens.

Stephens is an immediately likeable figure and I found his friendship with a collection of magicians to be entertainingly quirky. The unusual collaboration of policeman and entertainers stems from the time Stephens served as part of a specialist intelligence unit during the Second World War. He (and the magicians) were posted to Inverness and tasked with creating the illusion of increased British military strength which would distract and divert German attention.

The events of The Zig Zag Girl are set a few years after the end of WW2 Stephens has lost contact with the other members of his unit (dubbed The Magic Men). However, the murder of a young girl, who had performed as a magician’s assistant, brings Stephens back into contact with his friend Max Mephisto. Mephisto has been touring theatres headlining the bill everywhere he goes with his famed magic act – yet we share his frustration as he sees that the days of Cabaret are drawing to a close.

The partnership of Stephens and Mephisto works well. The conventional policeman and the unconventional magician play off each other to great effect. As they renew their friendship Griffiths gets to show how their lives beyond their jobs are sadly empty.

At the front of The Zig Zag Girl is a murder mystery. Someone has targeted the Magic Men and is bumping-off the former members of the old unit one by one. A dismembered body is delivered to the police station in a parcel addressed to Stephens. Other taunts and threats follow and Stephens and Max Mephisto find they are in a race against time to save their old colleagues – but they cannot be sure that they are not next to be targeted.

The killer uses a variety of magical tricks and illusions when committing murders which made the ‘magic’ element of the book more fun. Also, re-uniting a collection of magicians let the author set several scenes in clubs and theatres. The reader gets to see what life was like behind the curtains for the performers and added an extra dimension to the story which I really enjoyed.

I found The Zig Zag Girl to be a fun read, I loved the 1950’s setting and Elly Griffiths did a great job of catching the feel of the slower paced lifestyle of days gone by. My only concern was that I spotted the twist half-way through the story which meant that as the book drew to a close I didn’t get the level of excitement I had hoped to enjoy.

The Zig Zag Girl has a lot to offer and I am definitely going to pick up more books by Elly Griffiths as I enjoyed her writing style and the characters she created. I would award The Zig Zag Girl 3.5 out of 5.

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December 4

Doctor Who: The Anti-Hero – Stella Duffy

The Anti-Hero
The Anti-Hero

The latest in the Doctor Who Time Trips series sees Stella Duffy taking the Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe to the Museum of Alexandria.

Many moons ago I read an article where one of the Doctor Who authors explained that he found the Second Doctor the hardest to write for. This stuck with me and is always at the back of my mind when I read a Second Doctor story – particularly as the comedy double act of the Second Doctor  Jamie are probably one of the highlights from the show’s rich history. I don’t know if Stella Duffy found it hard to write this Second Doctor story but I can confirm the finished article is top quality.

Despite my love of the comedy dynamic duo, The Doctor and Jamie never travelled alone* and (during a Twitter chat) Stella Duffy emphatically drew my attention to the fact Zoe also features in The Anti-Hero. Now that I have finished the story I find that not only did Zoe feature but she plays a key role. No spoilers though!

What I immediately enjoyed about The Anti-Hero is that we spend time with the TARDIS crew before the adventure kicks off in full. Classic Who, with its weekly 4 or 6 part stories, had time to linger in the TARDIS setting up a story before the action began – this is somewhat lost in today’s tightly scripted single-part productions. What a delight to have The Anti-Hero open in traditional style and give the reader the chance to see The Doctor, Zoe and Jamie passing time while the TARDIS is in flight.

Some wonderful writing from Stella Duffy reveals Zoe’s observations of The Doctor. Zoe nailing the core of his character as she watches him bustle around the Console Room. A nod to a subsequent regeneration also provided me with a laugh out loud moment.

The Anti-Hero brings all the fun I would want from a Second Doctor story and the secrets within the Museum of Alexandria provided enjoyable and unexpected plot twists. Stella Duffy has delivered a very accessible addition to the Time Trips range, perfect for younger fans that may not have much experience of Troughton’s Doctor.

This range goes from strength to strength and The Anti-Hero is definitely one of the better books in the series.

 

*It is not CERTAIN that Jamie and the Doctor did not travel alone. Give some thought to the 6th Doctor Story The Two Doctors where Jamie and the Doctor appear and pair up with Peri and the 6th Doctor. Next run ‘Doctor Who Season 6B’ through your favourite search engine!

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December 2

The Liar’s Chair – Rebecca Whitney

‘What if the thing you were most afraid of was your husband?’

The Liar's Chair
The Liar’s Chair

Rachel Teller and her husband David appear happy, prosperous and fulfilled. The big house, the successful business . . . They have everything.

However, control, not love, fuels their relationship and David has no idea his wife indulges in drunken indiscretions. When Rachel kills a man in a hit and run, the meticulously maintained veneer over their life begins to crack.

Destroying all evidence of the accident, David insists they continue as normal. Rachel though is racked with guilt and as her behaviour becomes increasingly self-destructive she not only inflames David’s darker side, but also uncovers her own long-suppressed memories of shame. Can Rachel confront her past and atone for her terrible crime? Not if her husband has anything to do with it . . .

A startling, dark and audacious novel set in and around the Brighton streets, The Liar’s Chair will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the final page has been turned. A stunning psychological portrait of a woman in a toxic marriage, Rebecca Whitney’s debut will show that sometimes the darkest shadow holds the truth you have been hiding from . . .

 

Thanks to Sam Eades for my review copy.

When you read The Liar’s Chair you have to be prepared for a harrowing experience. This is no gentle fireside read, this is a tale of two unlikable people tearing each other apart. The Liar’s Chair pulls back the curtain on a loveless marriage and exposes the lengths that Rachel and David Teller are prepared to go to in their attempts to control and humiliate each other.

Rachel is having an affair. David is controlling, suspicious and dominating and Rachel is afraid of him. As the story begins we meet Rachel coming home from meeting her lover, she is half drunk and distracted by how she will cover her liaison from David. She is driving too fast and kills a homeless man in a hit and run accident. Only before she runs she hides his body.

From this point Rachel’s fragile defences start to crumble. She struggles to maintain the polished image of her perfect life and becomes an increasing liability to David as their business starts to become impacted.

Through several flashback chapters, Rebecca Whitney also takes us back into Rachel’s childhood where we see her troubled childhood and learn how she played second fiddle to her mother’s constant pursuit of sexual gratification.

As the story progresses the animosity between David and Rachel increases, violence and retribution escalate and you cannot help but think that at least one of them will not make it to the end of the story. Yet because they are both such unlikeable characters you are not sure that this is necessarily a bad thing.

As I reader I found my sympathies lay more with Rachel than David. Rachel is the lead character and it is easier to understand and follow her motivations and reasoning. However, her actions are far from saintly and I cannot honestly say that I was happy when she came out on top during one of the many spats that took place.

A puzzling one – is it possible to fully enjoy a story where you don’t like any of the cast and the book seems intent on showing everyone in their worst light? In the case of The Liar’s Chair I would suggest that Rebecca Whitney shows it can be done. While I am not sure I ‘enjoyed’ the book, I found it compelling reading and am recommending it to my book loving friends (with a warning of dark times ahead). If a book is compelling and recommended then it must be doing something right!

I give The Liar’s Chair 4 out of 5 and suggest that it suits readers that like a dark edge to their plots.

 

The Liar’s Chair is published on 15th January 2015.  You can follow Rebecca Whitney on Twitter : @RebeccaJWhitney

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November 26

The Blood Dimmed Tide – Anthony Quinn

The Blood Dimmed Tide
The Blood Dimmed Tide

London at the dawn of 1918 and Ireland’s most famous literary figure, WB Yeats, is immersed in supernatural investigations at his Bloomsbury rooms.

Haunted by the restless spirit of an Irish girl whose body is mysteriously washed ashore in a coffin, Yeats undertakes a perilous journey back to Ireland with his apprentice ghost-catcher Charles Adams to piece together the killer’s identity.

Surrounded by spies, occultists and Irish rebels, the two are led on a gripping journey along Ireland’s wild Atlantic coast, through the ruins of its abandoned estates, and into its darkest, most haunted corners.

Falling under the spell of dark forces, Yeats and his ghost-catcher come dangerously close to crossing the invisible line that divides the living from the dead.

 

Thanks to Clare at No Exit Press for my review copy.

 

I may be showing my age (and cultural reference points) but when I considered The Blood Dimmed Tide and its supernatural forces, an investigative detective, some political conspiracy and a cast that all seem to have a secret to keep I could not help but think: X-Files. I was a big fan so despite The Blood Dimmed Tide being nothing like the X-Files there were all the right elements to keep me entertained.

At the heart of the story we have Charles Adams, an apprentice ghost-catcher who travels from London to Ireland to investigate the death of an Irish girl whose body washed ashore inside a coffin. Before her death the girl had written to a Society of paranormal investigators (to which Adams and poet WB Yeats belong) advising she feared for her life.

We follow Adams on his journey from London and from the outset of his trip he learns of the political turbulence in Ireland and it becomes clear that his loyalty to the King may cause him problems. Indeed once Adams arrives in Ireland the political factions become a key part of the story and we see how Adams, somewhat innocently, takes everyone at face value when there are clearly power games at play.

Anthony Quinn writes beautifully and he really captures the essence of the lonely Irish landscapes which feature heavily throughout the book. The remote setting is what makes much of the book unsettling and mysterious. I had a real empathy with the characters who believed spi

rits were among them and trying to send messages from the other side.

Anthony Quinn
Anthony Quinn

As the story develops the murder becomes just one of a series of plot threads which Quinn interweaves rather neatly. Not one time do we dwell too long on a single area, the story moves along at a nice pace keeping various elements ticking over and ever-drawing the characters towards the final revelation.

I found plenty of intrigue in The Blood Dimmed Tide and hope that Charles Adams features in another story at some future point. As this was the first book in a trilogy I can but hope.

The Blood Dimmed Tide is available now and is published by No Exit Press.

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November 25

An Evil Mind – Chris Carter

An Evil MInd
An Evil MInd

A freak accident in rural Wyoming leads the Sheriff’s Department to arrest a man for a possible double homicide, but further investigations suggest a much more horrifying discovery – a serial killer who has been kidnapping, torturing and mutilating victims all over the United States for at least twenty-five years. The suspect claims he is a pawn in a huge labyrinth of lies and deception – can he be believed? The case is immediately handed over to the FBI, but this time they’re forced to ask for outside help. Ex-criminal behaviour psychologist and lead Detective with the Ultra Violent Crime Unit of the LAPD, Robert Hunter, is asked to run a series of interviews with the apprehended man. These interviews begin to reveal terrifying secrets that no one could’ve foreseen, including the real identity of a killer so elusive that no one, not even the FBI, had any idea he existed …until now.

 

I must thank @bookaddictshaun for giving me the chance to read An Evil Mind. Shaun contacted me and asked if I had ever read any Chris Carter books. I had to confess that I had not but I was aware that Shaun was a big fan: as you can see by visiting bookaddictshaun.co.uk

Shaun then asked if I wanted to assist with a project he was working on, mysteriously entitled “Task Force Carter”. His mission was to find someone who had yet to read a Chris Carter novel and introduce that person to Carter’s work. To this end Shaun sent me An Evil Mind to read and report back on.

Having ‘inhaled’ An Evil Mind in record time I can honestly say that I am now a fan of Chris Carter and will be looking to catch-up on more of his books. (I have added two to my TBR pile already).

An Evil Mind is the 6th book that features Carter’s recurring central character Robert Hunter. Having not read the preceding 5 books (obviously) I cannot compare how this title sits against the earlier books but I imagine from the way the story unfolded that this book may be a little different to the first five. I say this as the situation Hunter finds himself in during An Evil Mind could only be done in one book, however, I hope that when I read the earlier books that I will find references to events explored in An Evil Mind. If this is the case then I believe the real reward for a reader is to do the titles sequentially.

However, this is to take nothing away from An Evil Mind which reads extremely well as a stand-alone thriller. The intensity of the story is breath-taking at times and the horrors described made this compelling reading, there was almost a morbid fascination that kicked in making me want to keep reading to see just how evil the book’s central criminal could be. (Very is the answer).

This is a must read for crime fans and will appeal to readers that like a fast paced tempo to their stories. Carter writes in short chapters which give rise to many cliff-hangers throughout the book and keeps the tension levels up as the plot unfolds. His pacing is masterly and the way that Hunter had to gradually draw out confessions from his prisoner over a period of hours almost gave me the feeling of living the story in real time.

When I had finished reading the indicators of a great story were all present: I wanted more when the book ended, I want to read more books by this author and I will have no hesitation in recommending An Evil Mind to others. Added Bonus Points for making me angry at characters (shows that I bought in to the story) and a merit for one particularly nasty twist which cannot be disclosed due to SPOILERS.

My only regret is that I hadn’t read the first five books before I picked up An Evil Mind – no fault of the author, that is purely down to me. A great story with twists a-plenty.

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November 24

Doctor Who: Lights Out – Holly Black

Lights Out
Lights Out

Published by Puffin as part of the 50th Anniversary series of Doctor Who short stories this is the 12th Doctor (Peter Capaldi) getting caught up in an adventure while on a trip to get Clara a cup of coffee. Author Holly Black is probably best known as a co-creator of the Spiderwick Chronicles series but she turns in a cracking tale featuring our favourite Time Lord.

 

Thanks to Puffin and Netgalley for my review copy.

 

If you were to ask me for a list of my favourite things you would find Doctor Who, Coffee and Murder/Mysteries would feature in the top 10. As Lights Out is a Doctor Who story about a murder in an intergalactic spaceport famed for its coffee you can probably guess that this fan is a happy boy.

Holly Black has done a fantastic job capturing the feel of Capaldi’s Doctor. He quickly drafts in a companion (Clara is absent but name-checked) he explains they just need to make him look brilliant and then he sets about solving the murder which occurred while he was queuing for coffee.

Lights Out ticks along at a good pace, plenty of detail and background of the characters and an emotive ending which caught me off guard when the plot twisted in a way that I had not expected.

While not a fan of short stories (usually) I really enjoyed Lights Out and would love to see Holly Black take on a longer Doctor Who novel at some stage in the future. Short stories get short reviews but this is a great pick up.

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November 18

The Monogram Murders – Sophie Hannah

The beautiful Monogram Murders
The beautiful Monogram Murders

The new Hercule Poirot novel – another brilliant murder mystery that can only be solved by the eponymous Belgian detective and his ‘little grey cells’.

Since the publication of her first book in 1920, Agatha Christie wrote 33 novels, two plays and more than 50 short stories featuring Hercule Poirot. Now, for the first time ever, the guardians of her legacy have approved a brand new novel featuring Dame Agatha’s most beloved creation.

Hercule Poirot’s quiet supper in a London coffee house is interrupted when a young woman confides to him that she is about to be murdered. She is terrified, but begs Poirot not to find and punish her killer. Once she is dead, she insists, justice will have been done.

Later that night, Poirot learns that three guests at the fashionable Bloxham Hotel have been murdered, a cufflink placed in each one’s mouth. Could there be a connection with the frightened woman? While Poirot struggles to put together the bizarre pieces of the puzzle, the murderer prepares another hotel bedroom for a fourth victim…

In the hands of internationally bestselling author Sophie Hannah, Poirot plunges into a mystery set in 1920s London – a diabolically clever puzzle that can only be solved by the talented Belgian detective and his ‘little grey cells’. 

 

I first read an Agatha Christie novel when I was 13. Before my 18th birthday I had read them all – every novel and short story (even the one set in ancient Egypt). That was over 20 years ago and in the intervening years I have re-read all my favourites many times over and re-visited a few I couldn’t remember very clearly. Never once during those years did I ever believe that I would hold a brand-new Hercule Poirot novel in my hands. Thank you Sophie Hannah for making my impossible wish become a reality.

The Monogram Murders is Poirot on top form (sadly sans Hastings) but working with the police to uncover three mysterious deaths in the luxurious Bloxham Hotel. Naturally everything is not as it seems and there are layers of lies and subterfuge for Poirot to unpick. His confidence in his own ability is undiminished despite his time out of the spotlight and I loved how he bemuses his Scotland Yard colleague (Catchpool) while feeding him just enough information to believe he was helping.

I found Sophie Hannah’s characters larger than life and easy to keep track of throughout what must be one of the longest Poirot tales. I confess to reading many books too quickly to always be able to keep track of bland characters – no problems here as the key players are all very well outlined and display sufficient individuality to allow me to comfortably keep abreast of developments without the need to leaf back a few pages.

I did mention that this was a longer Poirot book than most and if I have one small criticism it would be that I felt the pacing dropped a little around the middle of the book. At this stage in the story a possible explanation to the deaths was mooted which I found a tad too unbelievable. It was subsequently dismissed as a viable answer but, for me, too long was spent on this particularly unbelievable sub-plot. Once the story moved on I felt that normal service had resumed and everything built up very nicely to a climax placing Poirot on top of his game.

At the end of the book I had mixed emotions. I loved reading a brand new Poirot novel and I think Sophie Hannah did a fantastic job of taking on such a well-known character and making it work so well. However (and I cannot quite believe I am saying this) I would have liked The Monogram Murders to be a little shorter as the mid book sub plot would have lost me were it not for the pull of Poirot.

I would give the Monogram Murders 3.5 out of 5. Essential reading for fans of Poirot and a good whodunit. Naturally I had no idea who was guilty!

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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.

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