October 12

I Know Your Secret – Graham Smith

i-know-your-secret-book-cover“What would you do if your most intimate secrets got into the wrong hands?”

Set in modern day Cumbria, I Know Your Secret is a police thriller in which a priest is found crucified to the stone floor of his church. Fearing more attacks on the clergy, DI John Campbell and his team of misfits race to find the killer before he strikes again.

Meanwhile, DI Harry Evans, spends his days attending the trial of his wife’s rapist and his nights interfering in the investigation.

Can they catch the killer before he strikes again?

 

My thanks to Caffeine Nights for my review copy

DI Harry Evans has featured in two previous Major Crimes books and also in Graham Smith’s Snatched From Home. He is very much master of his home patch in Carlisle but is facing the prospect of imminent retirement and with that he may well lose the last thing that is important to him.

As the description above mentions Harry is also having to contend with the trial of his wife’s rapist. Previous books outlined events leading up to this confrontation but you do not need to have actually read them to keep up with the events in I Know Your Secret, it stands up well as a jumping on point for new readers.

I Know Your Secret opens with a very powerful murder. A priest is crucified on the floor of his chapel. Cumbria’s finest are called to investigate and Harry’s replacement (DI John Campbell) is leading the team.  I like Campbell, he is battling against the demands of being a supportive new father, battling the influence of the outgoing Harry Evans who does not want to give up his patch and battling against the constant pressure of understaffing and minimal resources.

Graham Smith balances the central characters well. We switch between Campbell’s investigation, Harry’s interventions, the court case and….did I mention a Killer and Blackmailer? As you may have guessed from the title I Know Your Secret is a tale about secrets. With secrets comes knowledge and with knowledge comes power – or sometimes blackmail.

There is loads going on in I Know Your Secret and Harry Evans is determined to be at the centre of everything. It will take its toll, physically and mentally Graham Smith is putting DI Evans through a personal Hell – it makes for intense reading.

Dark in all the right places, I Know Your Secret is a nicely constructed police procedural with some clever twists that caught me off guard.

 

I Know Your Secret is published by Caffeine Nights and releases on 17 October and can be ordered by clicking here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Know-Your-Secret-intimate-secrets-ebook/dp/B01LSVRL5G/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1476224783&sr=8-1&keywords=i+know+your+secret

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October 10

Cut-Throat Defence – Olly Jarvis

cut-throat-defence-2There is no man richer than a man without a price

Jack Kowalski is a young and newly qualified barrister, who finds himself working on the biggest drugs importation trial ever played out on English soil. With the assistance of his equally inexperienced instructing solicitor, Lara Panassai, Jack argues a savage ‘cut-throat’ defence – a risky tactic where the defendants blame each other – and quickly embroils some of the most eminent QCs in the land.

As the son of Polish immigrants, the sensitive Kowalski has always found it hard to fit in, with a sense of inferiority and constant nervousness in Court. Now he must face his demons and fight not only for his clients, but for his very future at the Bar.

But when the defendant then unexpectedly absconds, Jack and Lara must fight on regardless, following a tip that leads them out of the courtroom and into Manchester’s seedy underworld – crime bosses, strip clubs, corrupt lawyers and all manner of hidden sins.

As the case grows darker with each new discovery, who in this viper pit of deception can Jack and Lara trust?

 

My thanks to Heloise at EDPR for my review copy

 

There was a time (back when I was a student) when I only wanted to read legal thrillers and courtroom dramas, I could not get enough of them. But then I exhausted the titles published by the “big name” authors and my local village library didn’t have a vast selection to choose from.  It is only now that I have started Grab This Book that I realise I have not read very many courtroom dramas over the last couple of decades – shockingly few considering how much I used to enjoy them.

Cut-Throat Defence has made me want to read more courtroom thrillers, re-sparking my fascination with the clever interplay between the lawyers and the judges. I was particularly delighted to learn that Cut-Throat Defence is not just a sinister sounding name but an actual legal situation and one which Olly Jarvis has positioned brilliantly.

Central to my enjoyment of any book is the need to like the principle character and I more than liked Jack Kowalski. His Polish roots are mocked by his peers, he finds himself put down by the pompous establishment figures Couple this with his crippling lack of self confidence and it made him an immediately endearing character that I was willing to succeed (I do love rooting for the underdog).

Without giving away too much detail of the story, Jack finds himself at last chance saloon – a promising career is under threat as he cannot contain his nerves when he gets into court.  As it looks like his last chance to save his career is slipping by he accidentally lands a new client, one who is caught up in one of the biggest drugs busts in the NW. However, Jack’s client has a story so remarkable and unlikely that it is going to be virtually impossible to prove in a court of law.

Fighting against the clock, and impossible odds, Jack’s story in Cut-Throat Defence was a really fun read – I found I read longer and later than I should have done in the evenings as I didn’t want to stop reading. If you are a fan of legal thrillers then I strongly recommend adding Cut-Throat Defence to your library.

 

Cut-Throat Defence is published by Canelo and is available in digital download here.

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October 9

The Bird Tribunal – Agnes Ravatn

bird-tribunalTV presenter Allis Hagtorn leaves her partner and her job to take voluntary exile in a remote house on an isolated fjord. But her new job as housekeeper and gardener is not all that it seems, and her silent, surly employer, 44-year-old Sigurd Bagge, is not the old man she expected. As they await the return of his wife from her travels, their silent, uneasy encounters develop into a chilling, obsessive relationship, and it becomes clear that atonement for past sins may not be enough.

 

My thanks to Karen at Orenda for my review copy

The Bird Tribunal is a remarkable read and at no point in the story did I know where it was heading, I just knew that I wanted to keep reading to learn more.

There is mystery around Allis. She has left a successful career to take up a housekeeping and gardener role. She has no previous experience but is prepared to learn as she goes.  Her employer, Sigurd Bagge, is a strange man who hides himself away through the day and only initially comes out to speak with Allis at mealtimes. He will not let her eat with him and he is extremely secretive, choosing not to share any personal information with Allis. It seems he is married, however, his wife is absent and there is no sign she will return.

Allis is determined to make a success of her new role despite the peculiarity of her employer but she is facing her own personal demons. As The Bird Tribunal developed I became transfixed upon how Allis may overcome her personal angst. I also wanted to get to understand Bagge better, his character and behaviour were so odd that I had to know what had led him to that state.

The Bird Tribunal is beautifully written. Yet it is tense, chilling and at times disconcerting. Think Misery (different tension and no axes) but two people living in a remote location with a strained/artificial/complicated relationship.

A special mention has to be made for Rosie Hedger who has done a wonderful job of ensuring the translation of the author’s original text reflects the haunting atmosphere of the remote isolation that Allis has sought.

 

The Bird Tribunal is published by Orenda Books and is available in paperback and digital editions here.

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October 7

Deep Down Dead: Steph Broadribb – Countdown

30141176

If you want to write then you should read…oft quoted words of wisdom. So imagine what may happen if one of the most respected crime fiction bloggers turned her hand to writing a thriller.

Now imagine a publisher with a phenomenal drive, an uncanny eye for spotting amazing stories and the desire to ensure these wonderful stories find their way into the hands of readers.

Now imagine what may happen if these two ever got together!

 

 

DEEP DOWN DEAD by Steph Broadribb  (published by Orenda Books) will release on October 15th and I cannot wait!

 

Here is today’s teaser extract from Deep Down Dead…

Too close to punch, I hooked my right leg around his left, and pulled hard to bring him down. He was too quick. One solid punch to my ribs pushed the breath right out of me. I gasped, doubled over, gulping for air. I clawed at my pocket for the pepper spray. Got a hold of it and pulled it out. The can felt cold, slippery. I couldn’t grip it. Heard it hit the ground.

Failed.

Deep Down Dead is published by Orenda Books on 15 October 2016 and you can order a copy here.

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September 29

Bone By Bone – Sanjida Kay

bone-by-boneLaura loves her daughter more than anything in the world.

But nine-year-old Autumn is being bullied. Laura feels helpless.

When Autumn fails to return home from school one day, Laura goes looking for her. She finds a crowd of older children taunting her little girl.

In the heat of the moment, Laura makes a terrible choice. A choice that will have devastating consequences for her and her daughter…

My thanks to Corvus for my review copy

 

If I were to draw up a list of everything that I dislike then this would be the longest book review ever. Future generations of psychology students would have it included in their university set text lists and spend many frustrating hours in tutorials unpicking just how irrationally angry one person can be over very random things.  So we are not going there.

If I were to do a very short list of things that I dislike then I can guarantee that bullying would feature.

I hate bullying. Completely. Totally. An all consuming hatred of bullying.

Bone By Bone is a story about bullying.

So in a departure from my normal style of review I am not going to try to describe how the story unfolds. Nor shall I even give away much about the characters, what form the bullying takes or even who the bullies are.  All I will share is that Laura’s daughter is being bullied.  Laura finds out and does what many parents would do for their child – tries to help and tries to stop the bullying.  Needless to say that in such an emotive situation tempers will flare and there will be consequences. It made for intense reading.

I have to give Sanjida Kay a huge amount of credit for making Bone to Bone so screamingly realistic (my screams). I anguished over what I was reading. I wanted to reach into the book and make the bad things stop.  I hated the bullies.  I hated how they grew in number and I hated how the victim retreated to the safety of isolation. It was too real and I couldn’t stop it.  But I kept reading because I HAD to know what would happen. No spoilers – but I did not expect THAT.

A debut novel which I can honesty say put me through the emotional wringer. Highly recommended.

 

Bone By Bone is published by Corvus and is available in paperback and digital format now.

You can order Bone By Bone by clicking through on this link:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bone-Psychological-Thriller-Compelling-Wont/dp/1782396896/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1475183219&sr=8-1&keywords=bone+by+bone+sanjida+kay

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September 22

Paul Finch – If you had to meet a serial killer…

 

paul-finchIf you had to meet a serial killer, how would you go about it?

It’s a fascinating question. Where would you arrange to meet a serial killer, to interview him (or her) if you had the opportunity? Well, assuming you ever wanted to do that, the location is certainly something you’d have to give considerable thought to.

Even meeting such a person in the controlled environment of a prison would be no guarantee of safety. Far from it.

In the 1980s, Robert Ressler was a senior FBI agent who’d investigated a number of serial murder cases. Around this time, he began to devise what we know today as Vi-Cap (or the Violent Criminal Apprehension Programme), which required him to get into the minds of repeat violent offenders and attempt to understand their motivations. As part of his mission, he interviewed numerous multiple murderers in US jails. One particularly disturbing story he later told involved an encounter with a 6ft9in convict who’d killed and decapitated ten victims. The interview was going swimmingly, the convict seemingly cooperating. Ressler felt perfectly safe. They were in the heart of a maximum security facility, under full and constant surveillance by the prison staff – and yet they were alone. Ressler later said that he only realised how vulnerable this made him when his interviewee’s mood suddenly changed, and he said: “Do you realise … if I attacked you now, I could twist your head off before anyone even gets in here.”

Ressler later described it as a wake-up call with regard to the kinds of people he was dealing with.

This is the important thing, I suppose. Serial killers are not like the rest of us. In fact, they are not like ordinary criminals either.

By their nature, psychopaths lack empathy with others. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are violent – as long as they get their own way. However, add other factors. Such as narcissism, which involves a reckless pursuit of self-gratification (and wherein any opposition, whether real or imagined, is deemed intolerable), and maybe sexual sadism disorder (which speaks for itself), and you’ve got the devil’s own brew and a fairly typical blueprint for the average serial killer.

The other thing to say, of course, is that these people are very plausible.

A genius like Hannibal Lecter would be a rarity in real life, but most serial killers are smart enough to know that it will benefit them to conceal their true personality. You only need to look at the numbers of killers who’ve managed to talk their way into people’s houses or have persuaded strangers to climb into their cars, or have used endless other strategies to charm or lure the innocent and gullible.

So, this gift of the gab is something else we’d need to take heed of. Robert Ressler emerged alive from his interview with his 6ft9in nemesis, but for a couple of minutes – because he’d allowed a pleasant demeanour and a glib tongue to fool him – he’d almost become number eleven on the maniac’s butcher’s bill.

In light of that, how can we take them at their word? How can believe anything they tell us? Why would we even expect them to be truthful?

strangersHannibal Lecter is a good case in point here. Thomas Harris created in Hannibal such a deadly adversary that even the most experienced detectives had no option but to converse with him either through shock-proof glass or with him strapped to a gurney. That would certainly be an attractive idea for our interview, but I’d query if the killer would even talk to us under such circumstances.

I’d be surprised if any hardcore criminal, even one who hasn’t committed murder, would be prepared to talk to us about anything unless he or she was getting something in return. Consider that, and then bear in mind that the average incarcerated serial killer is almost certainly facing a full life tariff (and maybe even the death penalty) – and you can how tough it’s going to be.

At the very least we’d have to be nice to them. So … no straps, no gurney.

And where exactly does that leave us? A rubber room, where there is nothing nasty the killer can put his/her hands on? Maybe, but the killer can still put his/her hands on us …

Might they be prepared to talk to us on the phone over a long distance?

Well, in that case we’re back to the old chestnut: it depends how much info we want. I remember hearing about a US journalist who regularly spoke on the phone to a serial killer serving life, asking his assistance in other unsolved murder cases. At first, the journo got the impression the killer was being helpful. But then he realised that the guy was playing games, imparting some information but on the whole offering just enough to make his correspondent come back for more. In other words, these phone-chats made pleasant breaks for the killer from his otherwise mundane life inside, and he wanted as many of them as possible.

After this, there aren’t too many options open to us.

Ultimately, I suppose, this is a question I can’t answer.

hunted2In a novel I’ve got planned for the future, Serial Crimes Unit officer, DS Heckenburg interviews an imprisoned serial killer in a quest for information, but in that one I’m opting for the gentler approach (it all takes place in a ‘soft interview room’, with comfy furniture and pictures on the walls). This female felon is showing contrition, you see, and so she’s deemed by her jailers to be lower risk. But she still wants something in return … and she wants it so badly that Heck has made a judgement call that she won’t try anything stupid.

Will she or won’t she?

At this stage, who knows.

I’m suppose I’m just glad this terrible business is something I write about rather than something I actually do.

 

Paul Finch is the author of the bestselling DS Heckenburg series and the newly published Strangers which introduces PC Lucy Clayburn. His blog is at www.paulfinch-writer.blogspot.co.uk and he is also on Twitter: @paulfinchauthor

The Strangers Blog Tour continues:

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September 15

Holiday Reads – Part 4

Summer is always a busy time, the long Scottish summer evenings mean that my kids get to stay up a bit later, which then means less time for me to sit with the laptop and catch up on my reviews. To attack the review backlog (and ensure I still get to share my thoughts on the books I have been reading) I am doing a series of shorter posts which will cut back on my waffle and cut to the chase. Or perhaps that should read Cut to the Bone…

 

Cut to the Bone – Alex Caancut-to-the-bone

What I got wrong with Cut to the Bone was that I read it by the pool on my holiday.  It is a dark thriller and deserved a more appropriate atmosphere to really set the mood of the story.

A vlogger has gone missing her fans are distraught (and there are many thousands of them). Investigations led by DI Kate Riley uncover some dark truths of life away from the camera for the darlings of You Tube. We are treated to an engaging tale of internet survival of the fittest, tech talk and cyber trickery all help to make this a quite distinctive story.

Cut to the Bone is a strong police procedural, with a diverse and fascinating ensemble of investigating officers. Alex Caan does not shirk away from graphic and upsetting situations for his characters and this carries the story along leaving the reader constantly wondering where trouble will land next.

On a personal note I had a bit of trouble differentiating between the characters as I read (again I am blaming the holiday distractions) so I would recommend giving Cut to the Bone the full attention it deserves. Not having a memory like a goldfish will also give you the edge over me!

I have no qualms recommending Cut to the Bone to the crime readers and I hope that Alex will bring Kate Riley back for more.

 

Nomad – James Swallow

nomadThis is a story which opens with a bang and keeps the reader gripped throughout.

Marc Dane works for MI6 – although he normally operates from behind a keyboard providing tech support to the advanced tactical units of his team – he is also quite handy at looking after himself. This comes in very handy when the operation he is engaged in suddenly goes horribly wrong and his team are wiped out.

Marc has to escape the area before his position is discovered and then try to piece together what may have gone wrong.

Nomad is pure action adventure. If you like your stories fast paced and are a fan of the Bourne stories or Homeland then you are in for a treat with this book.

 

The Woman in Cabin 10 – Ruth Ware

woman-in-cabin-10The most Agatha Christie-esk book that I have picked up for many a year.

Lo Blacklock comes home and finds herself confronted by a masked intruder in her home.  Badly shaken and more than a little traumatised by the incident Lo (a journalist) finds herself on assignment on a luxury yacht.  Can she keep herself together and relax in the splendour of one of the most exclusive cruises money can buy? Can she successfully grasp the opportunity to enhance her career by interviewing the multi-millionaire that owns the boutique cruise ship and submit a suitably gushing article for her bosses?

Well possibly not. On the first night on board Lo thinks she sees the woman in the cabin next to her throw a body overboard.  However, next morning Lo discovers that the cabin next door is actually empty and that all the guests and crew are  fully accounted for. But Lo knows that there was definitely a woman in the “empty” cabin – Lo had spoken with her. Did she imagine seeing a body?  Did she imagine meeting a woman in the empty cabin?  Did someone wipe away the bloodstain that Lo thinks she saw?  And most alarmingly for traumatised Lo…has someone been in her cabin?

Ruth Ware totally hooked me with this story, a traditional whodunit that I could not read fast enough.

 

 

 

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September 10

Bloody Scotland – Day 1

20160909_191117The first evening of Bloody Scotland has drawn to a close and already attendees have been treated to some brilliant panels. Laughter rang around Stirling’s Albert Halls as first Stuart MacBride and Caro Ramsay then Mark Billingham and Christopher Brookmyre shared one star reviews, bad use of Doric in a foreign country and Caro and Stuart gave pointers on how to hide a dead body.
black-widowBut there were serious matters to take care of before the panels began. The weekend kicked off with the award of the McIlvanney Prize. Opening speeches from Jenny Brown welcoming everyone to the Golden Lion, the new home of Bloody Scotland for 2016. Then came the Provost of Stirling who pitched the delights of Stirling to the assembled and encouraged everyone to buy a home in Stirling (having previously owned a home in Stirling I can agree this is not the worst place in the world to live).  Then a real treat as Hugh McIlvanney came to the microphone to read from William McIlvanney’s Laidlaw.

Then came the announcement, the winner of the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of 2016: Christopher Brookmyre for Black Widow.

"filth and smut"
“filth and smut”
With the festival formally open it was a dash in the rain from the Golden Lion to the Albert Halls.  A full auditorium for the opening two events and attendees all received a free book courtesy of festival sponsors Bookdonors.  It is just possible that I selected my seat mainly because there was a Lee Child book available – the chance to sit with Douglas Skelton, Mark Leggatt and James Oswald was a delightful bonus.
Two full days of activities left and tickets are still available full details at www.bloodyscotland.com
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September 5

Matching The Evidence (Major Crimes Vol 2) – Graham Smith

Matching the EvidenceCarlisle United are playing Millwall and the Major Crimes Team are assigned to crowd control as punishment for their renegade ways. Typically, DI Harry Evans has other ideas and tries to thwart the local firm’s plans to teach Millwall’s notorious Bushwhackers an unforgettable lesson.
Meanwhile an undercover cop is travelling north with some of the Millwall contingent. His mission is to identify the ringleaders and gather evidence against them.
Three illegal immigrants have been transported to Carlisle and are about to meet their new employers.
Nothing is as it seems for Evans and his Major Crimes Team as they battle to avoid a bloodbath while also uncovering a far more heinous crime.

My thanks to Graham, Caffeine Nights and the indefatigable Noelle Holten for the chance to join the blog tour.

 

Last summer I reviewed the first volume of Graham Smith’s Major Crimes Team (Lines of Enquiry) and despite not being a fan of short stories I found that I liked that collection which were bound by a common thread.  Lead character Harry Evans had a tough time of it in that book and it seems that life is not getting easier from him.

Between Major Crimes volumes 1 and 2 there was Graham’s Snatched From Home events from Snatched and Lines of Enquiry are mentioned in Matching the Evidence and some spoilers will present themselves for those who plan to read all three books. However, Matching the Evidence can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone.

The bloody football and the clever title may have been a clue that there is a football theme to Matching the Evidence. A North vs South head to head with notorious Millwall fans heading to Carlisle intent on causing a ruckus. As punishment for events that took place prior to MtE Harry Evans and his team are roped into duty to thwart any trouble. With his soon-to-be replacement shadowing his investigations Harry has his work cut out to identify and locate the local football socials who feel they need to show their Southern counterparts that North is better than South.

Away from the football we read of three illegal immigrants who have arrived in England for new employment opportunities.  This was the element of the story I particularly enjoyed, their journey and employment prospects made for concerning reading and I loved how Graham Smith handled their predicament and reflected their excitement at a fresh start in a new country.

Two very different stories in one nicely worked book.

 

Matching the Evidence is published by Caffeine Nights and can be ordered here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Matching-Evidence-Major-Crimes-Team-ebook/dp/B01JJ5D1AC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473101031&sr=8-1&keywords=matching+the+evidence

MtE2

 

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August 24

Good Girl Bad Girl – Ann Girdharry

Good Girl Bad GirlA stalker. A pact. And a deadly secret.

How far must Kal go to face the truth and find her missing mother?

Kal is twenty-eight years old and she’s no fool, though sometimes she might pretend to be, because hiding her strengths is a great way to extract information.

An expert in psychology and skilled in reading other people and their behaviours, she first learnt her craft from her deceased father. He was a man with dark secrets.

When her journalist mother goes missing, Kal investigates. A shadow’s been stalking her family for three generations. Kal will uncover a child trafficking network and to find her mother, she must face her deepest suspicions and a dread she’s been avoiding all her life…

 

My thanks to Kate at Authoright for the chance to join the blog tour.

 

Kal Medi is a photo journalist. She has returned from assignment to find her mother has vanished.  Her mother’s home looks undisturbed, however, a threatening letter lies in plain sight. Kal is surprised by the letter (not that one exists but that her mother has left it where it could be found) it seems Kal, her mother and her grandmother before her, have been receiving threatening letters for years. This is the first of the curious plot threads that Ann Gridharry has left for us.

When she was young Kal was trained by her father to read people, their nervous ticks, their subtle “tells” and their involuntary gestures. It seems that Kal can almost see into the soul of people she is speaking with. Her father challenged her to “read” people to uncover their secrets – at a young age Kal could learn the worst of people’s vices and it steeled her for challenges to come.  Her father also ensured Kal was trained in martial arts, she can defend herself better than most and is a threat to those that may challenge her.  A real kick-ass heroine and a great lead character.

Good Girl Bad Girl sees Kal investigating her mother’s disappearance. Her only clue is a series of photographs that her mother hid on her computer – Kal needs to identify the people in the photo’s, track them down and then work out why her mother wanted her to look into these individuals. There is no guarantee that this will lead Kal to her mother, however it seems the only lead she has.

Her investigations will lead from London to India where a remote medical facility is aiding Indian street kids by providing badly injured children with replacement artificial limbs. The experiments that are being conducted in India are advancing medial technologies which will benefit thousands around the world. However, Kal has her suspicions over the facility and has to find a way to establish if the research is all legitimate.

I will confess that it took me a little time to get into Good Girl Bad Girl. Kal seemed a bit too good to be true initially, her ability to “read” people reminded me of Spider-man’s “spider sense” which would tingle when danger arose and it was a little overused through the book. I am being a tad churlish as Good Girl Bad Girl develops into a really strong thriller and I found that after my initial doubts over where the story may be heading I actually really enjoyed it.

There are some pretty dark topics addressed in Good Girl Bad Girl – naturally I cannot share what they are (SPOILERS) but I really liked the direction the story took.  Ann Girdharry does not shy away from the nasty side of the adventures and this was a definite bonus as I never like when the story is played too safe and all the characters are bulletproof. Kal and her allies will not have everything their own way and a few twisty shocks will ramp up the excitement and keep you reading.

So the acid test…did I enjoy it? Yes.

Would I recommend it?  Yes again.

And would I read more books from this author?  Absolutely.

 

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Good Girl Bad Girl is available in paperback and digital format and you can order a copy by clicking through the following link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Good-Girl-Bad-Psychological-Suspense-ebook/dp/B01IZD3PD2/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1471992853&sr=1-4&keywords=ann+girdharry 

 

 

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