May 26

Only The Brave – Mel Sherratt

Only The BraveWhen one of the notorious Johnson brothers is murdered and a bag of money goes missing, a deadly game of cat and mouse is set in motion.

DS Allie Shenton and her team are called in to catch the killer, but the suspects are double-crossing each other and Allie has little time to untangle the web of lies.

As she delves deeper into the case, things take a personal turn when Allie realises she is being stalked by the very same person who attacked her sister seventeen years ago and left her for dead.

Set over forty-eight tension-filled hours, Only the Brave is the latest gut-churning police procedural from acclaimed author Mel Sherratt.

 

Thanks to Mel Sherratt and her publishers, Thomas & Mercer, for the chance to read Only the Brave through Netgalley.

 

Only the Brave is the third novel in the Allie Shenton series. It picks up events after Follow The Leader and concludes the story arc first established in Taunting the Dead. I believe that Only the Brave could be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone novel (Ms Sherratt covers all the background required) however, reading all three books in order would be beneficial to get the full impact of the story. It would also be a good way to enjoy three cracking books.

Minor spoiler there – Only The Brave is indeed cracking. The story plays out over a two day period, the cast of suspects is relatively small and they all interlink in some way. Everyone has a secret, everyone is working to protect themselves and (it seems) everyone is prepared to lie to the police.

Seeking to unpick the lies is Allie Shenton, however, Allie has her own share of personal problems – not least the unwelcome attentions of a stalker who has previously attacked her sister and now has his sights set on Allie. Juggling the pressure of murder investigation and the challenge of being there for her family is taking its toll on Allie and the cracks are starting to show.

The suspect pool in this novel are a particularly nasty lot and Mel Sherratt has done a masterly job of highlighting their worst traits, their neurosis, anxiety and deceitful natures. There is no love lost between the characters and they will gladly sacrifice friendship or loyalty to save their own skins. All this makes for fun reading and you cannot help but feel more than a little smug as each get a dose of their own medicine.

I raced through Only The Brave and enjoyed every second. I like Mel Sherratt’s writing style which is nicely grounded: gritty and believable stories that are fun to read. I hope that Allie Shenton will return in the future, she is a character I want to read more of.

 

Mel Sherratt is on Twitter: @writermels

And is online at : http://melsherratt.co.uk/

 

 

 

 

 

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May 20

Tenacity – J.S. Law

Tenacity 2Suicide must be investigated.

Especially when a Royal Navy sailor kills himself on a nuclear submarine, only days after his wife’s brutal murder.

Now Lieutenant Danielle Lewis, the Navy’s finest Special Branch investigator, must interrogate the tight-knit, male crew of HMS Tenacity to determine if there’s a link.

Isolated, and standing alone in the face of extreme hostility, Dan soon realises that she may have to choose between the truth and her own survival.

Justice must be served, but with a possible killer on board the pressure is rising and her time is running out…

 

My thanks to Headline for my review copy.

 

From its shocking opening scenes to the tense finale Tenacity was a gripping read. Scenes play out in the claustrophobic confines of a submarine and James Law captures the tension on every page.

Lieutenant Danielle (Dan) Lewis is one of the Navy’s best investigators, however, as Tenacity opens we find Dan has placed herself into extreme peril by acting on her own initiative and has not waited for back-up from her colleagues to pursue her lead. The fallout of her actions have repercussions, Dan loses the trust of her peers and her judgement is questioned.

The story jumps forward a few months and Dan is called in to investigate a suicide on board submarine nuclear submarine Tenacity. Dan is concerned to learn that the wife of the dead submariner was brutally murdered just days before he chose to take his own life. Her orders, however, are that she is only to investigate the suicide and this is not sitting well with Dan.

Investigations are just beginning when Tenacity receive orders to return to sea – Dan’s impulsive nature takes over again and she finds herself joining the crew of Tenacity so that she may continue her quest to uncover the truth. She finds herself in a hostile environment which is ill-equipped to contend with a female investigator on board and facing a crew who are not happy with her presence or the nature of her investigation.

The scenes on Tenacity literally had me tightly gripping the book as I read. I felt that Dan was in constant danger while she was on board the submarine and my ire was stoked as she was bullied by crew members who were hindering her investigation and even restricting her access to meals. Brilliant writing from JS Law – institutional bullying of a vulnerable female lead character, you cannot help but root for Dan to overcome all the obstacles ‘they’ try to place in her way.

I don’t remember being this captivated by a debut novel since Lee Child published Killing Floor. I read Killing Floor about a month after publication and the wait for Die Trying was eternal. Reading Tenacity before publication is already making me anxious as to how long I may need to wait to see what happens next for Danielle Lewis. I cannot think of a better recommendation for a novel than the urge to immediately pick up the next book and keep the story going.

Tenacity has been a stand out read. A review score of 5/5 is a given, if I scored in stars they would need to be gold ones.

 

Tenacity is published on 30 July by Headline

JS Law is on Twitter: @JSLawBooks

 

 

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May 17

The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die – Marnie Riches

the girl who wouldnt die 2HE’S WATCHING HER. SHE DOESN’T KNOW IT…YET

When a bomb explodes at the University of Amsterdam, aspiring criminologist Georgina McKenzie is asked by the police to help flush out the killer.

But the bomb is part of a much bigger, more sinister plot that will have the entire city quaking in fear.

And the killer has a very special part for George to play…

A thrilling race against time with a heroine you’ll be rooting for, this book will keep you up all night!

 

Marnie Riches suggested I would enjoy her book – she was absolutely right. This ticked all the right boxes and the twists were too clever for me. Many thanks Marnie!

 

Right from its explosive opening to the dramatic endgame, The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die kept me hooked. Marnie Riches has created a fascinating character in Georgina (George) McKenzie and her debut story is a strong start for what I hope will become a long and successful series.

The majority of the story is set out in Holland, a country I confess to knowing little about. I enjoyed the depiction of the seemingly relaxed Dutch society, the Amsterdam Red Light District (and marijuana consumption) that I expected to read about are included but the further inclusion of university life added a new dimension and made the feel of the city come to life.

George is a student at the university in Amsterdam. She is balancing her studies with her personal investigation into the deaths that are occurring around the city. The police have enlisted her help as they recognise her online blog could be used to flush out a bomber who targeted the University buildings. Having been given a small insight into the investigation George feels compelled to follow her personal investigation as she second-guesses the official investigation: she feels the police are following the wrong path to track down the bomber. What George does not realise is that the person she is tracking has already found her…

Running alongside George’s investigations is the story of Ella. Ella lives with her mother in London, they are being targeted by a local gang of kids who seem intent on terrorising Ella while she is at home, their attentions are unwelcome and the peril is increasing. The activities of a gang of badly behaved kids in London seemed a long way from the hunt for a bomber in Amsterdam so I was keen to see how Ella and George’s stories would overlap (I assumed they would). The ‘No Spoilers’ rule is very much in force here but I did love what Marnie Riches did to Ella and her mum over the course of the story.

The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die is one of the tales I cannot discuss too much as the enjoyment comes from discovering the twists for yourself. There are some nasty folk hanging around Amsterdam and you implore George to keep away from them. Marnie Riches places some red herrings in our path to keep the identity of the killer well hidden and she does it extremely well – safe to say I was miles off solving this one!

I reached the end of The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die and was delighted to learn that Georgina McKenzie is due to return later this year in The Girl Who Broke The Rules. You can sign me up for that one right now, this is a series I will be happy to spend time with.

 

The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die is currently available online in digital format. It is published through Maze and Avon (Harper Collins).

Marnie Riches is on Twitter: @Marnie_Riches

At online at http://marnieriches.com

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May 14

Don’t Turn Around – Caroline Mitchell

Don't turn Around 2You don’t know him. But he knows you.

Soon he would be able to touch her, to feel the warmth of her blood. And when the time came, nothing would stop him.

As D.C. Jennifer Knight investigates a routine stabbing in the quiet town of Haven, she is shocked at what seems like a personal message from beyond the grave.

When more bodies are found, Jennifer is convinced the killings are somehow linked.

What she discovers is more chilling than she could possibly imagine. The murders mirror those of the notorious Grim Reaper – from over twenty years ago. A killer her mother helped convict.

Jennifer can no longer ignore the personal connection. Is there a copycat killer at work? Was the wrong man convicted? Or is there something more sinister at play …

With her mother’s terrifying legacy spiralling out of control, Jennifer must look into her own dark past in a fight not only to stop a killer – but to save herself and those she loves.

 

My thanks to Bookouture for my review copy which I received through Netgalley.

 

In the dim and distant past I went through a phase of reading many ghost stories/supernatural thrillers. My recollections of those books were that there were some outstanding stand-alone novels, they frequently took place in rural locations and the emphasis was on chills. I don’t remember any of them being police procedurals where the focus was on the police rather than the unseen menace. To this end Don’t Turn Around was a welcome surprise.

The focus is on DC Jennifer Knight – she becomes embroiled in an investigation which seems to be mirroring the crimes committed some 20 years earlier by a vicious murderer that called himself Grim Reaper.

Very quickly it becomes clear that clear that all may not be as it seems as Jennifer as suspects begin to act in the most unnatural manner – almost as if they were taking on a new personality during their interviews.

Mysterious occurrences start to come thick and fast and it soon becomes apparent that DC Knight is facing an unearthly opponent. I really enjoyed the change to the more conventional crime thriller as when paranormal foes are introduced it does feel that ‘anything goes’ and I was intrigued to see where the story may head.

Suffice to say that Caroline Mitchell delivered an entertaining thriller which certainly played out in the most unexpected way. Don’t Turn Around is positioned as the start of an ongoing series featuring DS Knight and promises more supernatural chills – I am certainly in favour of that and will be keen to see what else may come forward for Jennifer Knight to face.

One slight niggle (very slight) was that initially I felt Jennifer’s relationship with her colleague Will was too jokey and that it distracted from the development of the characters. Stick with it as this settles down but as the characters were being introduced I found them slightly irritating – by the end of the book I was more comfortable with their partnership, ride it out as it is worth sticking with this one.

There is a suggestion that this will appeal to fans of James Oswald – have to agree with that and it is nice to see new voices making something different work so well.

Am looking forward to seeing what comes next for DS Knight but well worth picking up Don’t Turn Around to see how the journey begins.

 

Caroline Mitchell is on Twitter: @Caroline_writes

And can be found at www.caroline-writes.com

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May 10

Untouchable – Ava Marsh

UntouchableIf you start feeling anything for a client – and it does happen – count the money. That always brings you back down to earth.’

Stella is an escort, immersed in a world of desire, betrayal and secrets. It’s exactly where she wants to be. Stella used to be someone else: respectable, loved, safe. But one mistake changed all that.

When a fellow call girl is murdered, Stella has a choice: forget what she’s seen, or risk everything to get justice for her friend. In her line of work, she’s never far from the edge, but pursuing the truth could take her past the point of no return.

Nothing is off limits. Not for her – and not for them.

But no one is truly untouchable.

 

My thanks to Random House/Transworld for my Netgalley Review copy

 

I am trying to think of a novel I have read which I can compare to Ava Marsh’s Untouchable. Nothing is springing to mind and this may be one of the reasons that I found Untouchable such a brilliant read.

The lead character is Stella – she is an escort who seems to have been working for several years as one of London’s high class call girls. No street corners or violent pimp’s in play here as Stella works from home, liaises with her clients through discrete internet communications and can command several hundred pounds for a few hours of her time.

It needs to made clear very early on in this review that Ava Marsh is not drawing a discrete veil over Stella’s work. Untouchable is frequently graphic and quite explicit, nothing too extreme but it may not be ideal for the more prudish. That said, it is fascinating and frank without being crude or seedy for the sake of shock value. I was also amused to see SJI Holliday (author of the brilliant Black Wood) asking the same question I had – how did the author do her research?

Stella is shocked to learn that one of her friends, a fellow call girl, has been murdered. The police are assuming that she was killed by a client but Stella has her suspicions and starts to question the official story. She takes her suspicions to the police and discusses her concerns with friends but it is not long before her curiosity starts to place her life in danger.

Throughout the book we are made aware that there are demons in Stella’s past which have helped shape her life bringing her to her current situation. Over the course of the story there are reveals and snippets of Stella’s back story which I found made the character even more remarkable than I had first expected.

Untouchable comes highly recommended – a memorable lead character who is embroiled in an affair that has far reaching consequences. I can only score Untouchable a full 5/5 as it was so well written and quite unlike anything I have encountered: a must read!

 

Ava Marsh is on Twitter: @MsAvaMarsh

And online at:  http://www.avamarsh.co.uk/

 

 

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May 8

Deborah Install – A Robot in the Garden Q&A

Today I am delighted to welcome Deborah Install to the blog to discuss the wonderful A Robot In The Garden.  We chatted a few days before publication but the good news is that you can pick up the Tang’s adventure now as A Robot In The Garden was published on 23rd April.

 

Robot in the Garden 3I suppose the first question has to be: why a robot?

That’s a good question – and the honest answer that I don’t know! He just came to me like that. The whole premise came out of the name, ‘Acrid Tang’ (off the back of a conversation about nappies!) and that just always sounded like a robot to me. The conversation happened one night, and by the next morning the outline of Ben, Tang and Bollinger were there, as was the journey. I grew up in the heyday of Star Wars and The Terminator, though, so perhaps I was always going to write a robot book, I just never knew it!

 

In the book robots are commonplace and form part of most households, is the story set at some point in the near future or in an alternate ‘now’?

I was very keen that Ben and Tang’s world should be a recognisable world, where the only real difference was that AI is household, so I guess when I started writing I probably had in mind an alternate reality. Since writing the book though robot technology seems to have leapt ahead and now there is a real possibility that robot carers and the like will be available soon, so as it happens the book could be set in the near future.

 

Tang is depicted as having a somewhat comical appearance – the robot that other robots look down upon and laugh at (cyber bullying as it were). Why did Tang have to be so different?

I think because I started with Tang and knew exactly what he looked like I sort of retrofitted the androids, making them up to date and shiny and therefore providing a point of antagonism between Ben and Amy, with the latter wanting one of the shiny ones. Tang also parallels Ben, both being broken but in different ways, so there was an opportunity to cement their friendship as they faced a critical world together. When I describe the difference between Tang and the rest of the AI around him I liken them to phones – smartphones are so prevalent now that those without often get gently teased about it. I put in the conversation between Lizzie and Ben about phones to help the allusion. That said, Tang is only like a retro phone on the outside, of course, but other AI don’t seem to see this.

 

I described Tang in my review as childlike and noted that he could behave like a toddler: many of his conversations certainly exhibit perfect toddler logic. Is Tang a young robot or are his frustrating/endearing traits down to an innocence?

It’s a bit of both, I think. That Tang is like a toddler was a large part to do with injecting humour – a quick look at friends’ facebook posts about their children tells me that toddlers are inherently funny, and it’s a feature of life as a parent that can be identified by many. Weirdly, though, when I wrote the book my own son was a small baby and not talking, but he’s actually got more and more like Tang as time has gone on – he evens hops from foot to foot in excitement. Tang’s personality is also down to his experience – he has a darker edge when it comes to Bollinger. For example Ben has to tell him that it is unkind to leave Bollinger possibly at risk, but I guess that’s a toddler thing too, learning empathy.

 

Could we see Tang return, perhaps next time mirroring a stroppy teenager?

Absolutely. Though obviously he isn’t subject to the hormones of a teenager, he is subject to some of the experience of one – the wish to exercise independence and the possibility of falling in love. I have plans but whether they are realised depends entirely on whether readers want to see them! 🙂

 

I loved the book cover – my eyes were drawn to it and I found I wanted to know what the story behind the title was.  How much input did you have regarding the cover, in particular how the robot was drawn?

None at all. I am a big believer in people being allowed to do the job they’re hired to do, so I was happy to leave it to the professionals at Transworld and the wonderful Neil Gower to create the cover. I’m not saying I’ll never want input into a cover, but at this stage of my career I’m happy to accept that I don’t know anything!

 

How long did it take to get Tang from an idea to full publication?

I have been very, very lucky. I started writing Tang in autumn 2012, got my agent in September 2013 and the book was picked up by Transworld in early summer in 2014. I have been told this is pretty fast.

 

Deborah InstallAs we are now just days from the official publication date how does it feel?

It’s amazing. It’s only when it got to about six weeks before publication that I started to allow myself to be really excited, though, otherwise I think I’d have burned out. It’s been my ambition since childhood, and 30 years is a long time to incubate a dream so sometimes it almost feels a bit like it’s happening to somebody else. I can’t really describe it, except to say I can’t wait to hold the book in my arms just like you would a newborn baby!

 

Could you outline A Robot In The Garden in one sentence?
(My initial effort of The Man and Robot Bro-mance Roadtrip is not going to cut it).

Oh, I don’t know, I think that’s a pretty good assessment! My early elevator pitch whilst I was still writing was something like ‘Short Circuit meets Round Ireland with a Fridge’, but the book moved on so far since then that I don’t think that really covers it. So let’s see…how about: broken man finds broken robot and through a series of comedy capers both are fixed? I kinda like that.

 

In the author notes at the end of A Robot In The Garden you take time to thank the writing groups you have worked with. Had you started working on a novel prior to joining a writing group or did the book stem from the groups?

I had, yes. I’ve been writing fiction since I could pick up a pencil, and attempting novels since my late teens, with a break in my twenties while I gained some life experience! I joined Solihull Writers’ Workshop with a novel that had been shelved for a while with the intention of picking it back up again, and I did, but after a break from the group for a few months while I had my baby I went back with a new little project about a man and a robot…I just felt I wanted to write something lighter and funnier than my previous, which was a serious YA science fantasy.

 

I grew up in the 80’s and have fond memories of Metal Mickey, K9, Johnny 5 and R2-D2. I now have two kids and cannot immediately think of any robots in their TV or films (though R2 is still kicking around I suppose).  Is it time Robots were cool again?

I think so! This year seems very much to be the Year of the Robot, with films like Ex Machina and Chappie both out this quarter, and ARITG, of course. We are so close to integrating the kind of robots we all imagine into society that it makes sense for us to explore our relationship with them at this time. Also, robots aren’t just for boys and sci-fi fans – you’d be amazed at the bias when you mention the word ‘robot’.

 

I always like to know what other people are reading, what would I see on your bookshelves?

Unsurprisingly I love funny novels, especially where the humour is well-observed. I am a big fan of Alexander McCall-Smith and Nick Hornby. I’m also a bit of a sucker for historical crime, such as C.J. Sansom. Aside that, I’ll give any sort of novel a go, really, you never know when something different will capture your imagination.

 

Which authors have you found inspiring?

The Handmaid’s Tale made a big impression on me as a teen, and Margaret Atwood has been a great inspiration to me as a woman writing future-set novels. I also can’t let the question go by without mentioning the wonderful late Terry Pratchett, whose legacy is such an incredible inspiration. Lessons in world-building and character creation. J.K. Rowling, similarly. I think she is the Queen of Characters, and I admire her ethos on social politics and what she has chosen to do with her success.

 

Finally, do you have any new projects underway that you can share?

Indeed! I have already mentioned the possibility of more Tang, but also I’m writing a separate project involving time travel (also comedy), where I hope to do the same with that as I did with robots in this one, i.e. time travel is just a thing that happens, rather than a big deal, as such. Where I focused on friendships and relationships in ARITG this one will look at work and career frustrations.

 

Many thanks to Deborah.

Deborah Install is on Twitter: @DeborahInstall

A Robot In The Garden is published by Doubleday and can be purchased in physical and digital format : http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0857523023/ref=s9_simh_gw_p14_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&pf_rd_

My Review is here:  http://grabthisbook.net/?p=478

 

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May 3

The Jackdaw – Luke Delaney

The JackdawGuilty or not guilty?

A lone vigilante is abducting wealthy Londoners and putting their fate in the hands of the public. Within hours of disappearing, the victims appear on the internet, bound to a chair in a white room.

Revenge or mercy?

Their crimes of greed and incompetence are broadcast to the watching thousands who make up the jury. Once the verdict is cast, the man who calls himself ‘The Jackdaw’ will be judge and executioner.

Live or die?

DI Sean Corrigan and his Special Investigations Unit are under pressure to solve this case fast. But as The Jackdaw’s popularity grows, Corrigan realizes he’s hunting a dangerously clever and elusive adversary – one who won’t stop until his mission is complete.

 

Thanks to Harper Collins for my Netgalley review copy

 

It is nice to have an easy review to write. I have nothing but good things to say about The Jackdaw, it is a clever and well-structured thriller and I was gutted when it ended.

This is the fourth book which features central character DI Sean Corrigan. I have not read the first three novels (I shall) but the story picks up and references past events so there are potential spoilers. I do need to make it clear that not having read the earlier stories in no way ruined my enjoyment of The Jackdaw, everything I needed to know was covered simply and seamlessly blended into the plot.

I loved the plot of The Jackdaw, a masked man is abducting workers from The City. He is placing them on public trial over the internet and inviting people to vote on their fate – their crimes centre around making personal gain during the financial crisis. An emotive topic and the author does set up the ‘crimes’ in such a way that the reader will find that they too will form their own judgement as to whether the masked man is making a valid case for judging his targets.

Corrigan is forced to form an uneasy alliance with a journalist which provided an entertaining side story – I really enjoyed that we get to see how both parties to the agreement are playing off each other to achieve their own goals. As the narrative switches between the police, the masked man and the journalist we get to see how the investigation is progressing and but also learn that there is a plan being followed and that more ‘judgements’ are to follow.

My first introduction to Luke Delaney’s books and I am regretting waiting so long to start reading them. Corrigan is a complex character and the supporting cast are well utilised in showing how his approach and methods are unorthodox. The Jackdaw has been a stand out read for me this year – easily scooping a review score of 5/5.

 

The Jackdaw is published by Harper Collins and is available in Hardback and Digital Editions.

Luke Delaney is on Twitter: @lukedelaneyuk

Also online at http://www.luke-delaney.com/

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