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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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

 

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March 9

Born Bad – Marnie Riches

Born BadThe battle is on…

When gang leader Paddy O’Brien is stabbed in his brother’s famous nightclub, Manchester’s criminal underworld is shaken to the core. Tensions are running high, and as the body count begins to grow, the O’Brien family must face a tough decision – sell their side of the city to the infamous Boddlington gang or stick it out and risk losing their king.

But war comes easy to the bad boys, and they won’t go down without a fight. So begins a fierce battle for the South Side, with the leading Manchester gangsters taking the law into their own hands – but only the strongest will survive…

 

My thanks to Helena at Avon for my review copy and the chance to join the Born Bad blog tour.

 

One of the reviews where I will cut to the chase…reading Born Bad was a joyous experience, I bloody loved it.

Manchester’s criminal underworld are a volatile crowd and Marnie Riches is going to light the blue touch-paper under these powerful gangs and pit them against each other in a battle for supremacy. It is going to be bloody, the players will be treacherous and, in a world where reputation is everything, nobody can afford to show any weakness.

The story will track multiple characters and their lives will intertwine. At the heart of Born Bad is Paddy O’Brien – he is head of the family and controls one of the gangs.  Paddy gets what he wants and expects obedience, particularly from his wife Sheila. Although a powerful woman in her own right, Sheila cannot stand up to the volatile and aggressive behaviour of her husband and their relationship is somewhat strained. But when the opportunity comes for Paddy to get out and leave his enterprise behind both he and Sheila are eyeing up a new start, a clean break.

Needless to say walking away from the lifestyle which has defined him will not be easy and events will appear to conspire against him. A matter of family honour will lead to bloodshed – a hired killer engaged to avenge a perceived wrongdoing. But a death will demand a retaliation and a peaceful exit for Paddy and Sheila looks a bleak prospect.

The multiple focal points in Born Bad keeps the story flowing at a cracking pace. These are not nice people that we are reading about so you can be sure that something unpleasant will soon befall someone (I had such fun trying to predict who may not make it to the end of the chapter).

In a book of bad guys there are clear distinctions between those we are to root for and the really “evil” people we want to see fail. The character interaction is brilliantly handled, humour and empathy meets anger and irrationality and the reactions and responses are exactly how you would expect. The characters drive the story and they are wonderfully realised, without the depth and development that Marnie Riches bestows upon them the emotional engagement would not have been there for me. I believed in the characters and that gave Born Bad the life and vibrancy that a good book needs.

Yeah – I loved it.

 

Born Bad is published by Avon and is available now in paperback and digital format and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Born-Bad-Marnie-Riches-ebook/dp/B01KTKEX2Q/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1489098471&sr=1-1

 

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March 8

The Witchfinder’s Sister – Beth Underdown

The Witchfinder's Sister jacket‘The number of women my brother Matthew killed, so far as I can reckon it, is one hundred and six…’

1645. When Alice Hopkins’ husband dies in a tragic accident, she returns to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.

But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witchcraft, and of a great book, in which he is gathering women’s names.

To what lengths will Matthew’s obsession drive him?
And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?

 

My thanks to Josie at Penguin Randomhouse for my review copy

 

Matthew Hopkins – the Witchfinder. One of the most notorious figures from a dark period in the history of the UK. He was responsible for many deaths, all in the name of purging witchcraft from England. In The Witchfinder’s Sister Beth Underdown is taking a very different approach to telling his story and it is wonderfully done.

As the title suggests the story is about Hopkins’ sister (Alice). We first meet Alice as she is travelling to her family home, she is pregnant but has recently lost her husband. On returning home she will reside with her brother, Matthew. Their mother has also passed away since Alice was last home so she is returning to an unfamiliar domesticity.

Alice gets settled into her new quarters before we are first introduced to Matthew. He has been travelling so the author can firmly establish the household before she introduces the reader to The Witchfinder.  I adored how Beth Underdown allowed us to learn about Matthew, the man, before we start to learn about Matthew, The Witchfinder.  We learn of his disfigurement, how he and his sister looked out for each other as children and we see how he runs his house.

Yet as the story evolves – and it is a wonderfully written work of historical fiction – the tension between Alice and Matthew will grow. We see Matthew fade and The Witchfinder come to the fore.  He has plans and he has a mission and it will keep everyone enthralled.

Beth Underdown has delivered a magnificent tale, creepy, accessible and enthralling. Highly recommended.

 

The Witchfinder’s Sister is published by Penguin and is available here

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February 22

Cross Purpose – Claire MacLeary

Cross PurposeWhen Maggie Laird’s disgraced ex-cop husband suddenly dies, her humdrum suburban life is turned upside down. With the bills mounting, she takes on his struggling detective agency, enlisting the help of neighbour Big Wilma. And so an unlikely partnership is born.

But the discovery of a crudely mutilated body soon raises the stakes… and Maggie and Wilma are drawn into an unknown world of Aberdeen’s sink estates, clandestine childminding and dodgy dealers. Cross Purpose is surprising, gritty, sometimes darkly humorous a tale combining police corruption, gangs and murder with a paean to friendship, loyalty and how women of a certain age can beat the odds.

 

My thanks to Sara of Saraband Books for a review copy of Cross Purpose

 

We first meet Maggie Laird when she is at her lowest possible ebb. Family life has been challenging of late as her husband had been forced to leave his job with the police after allegations of corruption. After scrabbling to make a success of a private investigator business we learn that he has died and left Maggie and their children with a pile of debt and no means to support themselves.

When you are not even left with a good name Maggie is determined to seek justice for her late husband – she knows the corruption charges are not to be believed. However, we realise that Maggie suffers from a lack of self confidence and it is going to take a monumental effort to convince herself that she is capable of gathering the evidence she needs to clear her husband’s name. Step forward Wilma…Maggie’s neighbour and she has more than enough confidence for both of them. The two women are like chalk and cheese but can they combine their talents to overcome the challenges which will face them?

In Cross Purpose Maggie and Wilma will visit some of Aberdeen’s least desirable areas and cross paths with a variety of unpleasant characters. There were some unexpectedly dark topics cropping up in Cross Purpose and it made for uncomfortable reading at times (but those are the stories I enjoy…the edgy and thought provoking ones).

It was refreshing to read a novel where the two principle characters are such contrasting personalities and seemingly finding it difficult to adjust to working together.  Their unlikely partnership made this a rewarding read and seeing Wilma’s confidence grow and her self-assurance return was pleasing. But success comes at a price and over-confidence can be dangerous so those plot twists caused me some angst.

With lashings of authentic Aberdeen and a fast paced plot keeping the pages turning, Cross Purpose was a blast to read and is highly recommended.

 

 

Cross Purpose is published by Saraband Books and will be released on 23 February. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cross-Purpose-Claire-MacLeary/dp/1910192643/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1487715826&sr=8-1&keywords=cross+purpose

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February 15

City of Drowned Souls – Chris Lloyd

City of Drowned SoulsWhen a child disappears, the clock starts ticking

Detective Elisenda Domènech has had a tough few years. The loss of her daughter and a team member; the constant battles against colleagues and judges; the harrowing murder investigations… But it’s about to get much worse.

When the son of a controversial local politician goes missing at election time, Elisenda is put on the case. They simply must solve it. Only the team also have to deal with a spate of horrifically violent break-ins. People are being brutalised in their own homes and the public demands answers.

Could there be a connection? Why is nobody giving a straight answer? And where is Elisenda’s key informant, apparently vanished off the face of the earth? With the body count threatening to increase and her place in the force on the line, the waters are rising…

Be careful not to drown.

 

My thanks to Faye Rogers for my review copy and the opportunity to join the blog tour

My first introduction to the Elisenda Domènech books by Chris Lloyd and I am in a pretty happy place. I have a new series of books I can look forward to reading and (very importantly) beginning the series with this, the 3rd book, has not been a confusing or spoiler-filled affair.

There was loads going on in City of Drowned Souls so it was a richly rewarding read. Elisenda is investigating a series of violent burglaries when a tip-off which could have broken the case falls through. Tempers flare and to keep her position Elisenda has to attend therapist sessions – her colleagues fearing she is not contending well with the death of her daughter some years earlier.

Elsewhere the child of a local politician disappears. The family reaction is not typical but with an election just days away and the child’s mother in the depths of a fiercely fought campaign it is difficult for the police to get a meaningful take on what may have led to the young boy’s disappearance.

City of Drowned Souls is full of marvellous detail about Catalan politics, the locations are expertly described giving a real sense of location. Food habits, recipe ideas and dozens of subtle observations made it so very obvious that Chris Lloyd knows this part of the world very well – the detail makes the story so much more vivid and real.

Nicely paced, full of puzzles (with plenty of red herrings) and a few sinister elements which were great fun to see uncovered. City of Drowned Souls comes highly recommended and I look forward to catching up with the other novels in the series.

 

City of Drowned Souls is  published by Canelo and is available now.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01N7Y2NDN

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