January 21

The Confession – Jo Spain

Late one night a man walks into the luxurious home of disgraced banker Harry McNamara and his wife Julie. The man launches an unspeakably brutal attack on Harry as a horror-struck Julie watches, frozen by fear. It looks like Harry’s many sins – corruption, greed, betrayal – have finally caught up with him.

An hour later the intruder, JP Carney, hands himself in, confessing to the assault. The police have a victim, a suspect in custody and an eye-witness account, but Julie remains troubled.

Has Carney’s surrender really been driven by a guilty conscience or is this confession the first calculated move in a deadly game?

 

My thanks to Quercus Books for my review copy and to Anne Cater for the chance to join the blog tour.

Not many books will get down to the action as quickly as The Confession.  A brutal attack on one of Ireland’s most successful bankers is vividly described in the opening chapter of Jo Spain’s superb new novel.

JP Carney walks into the home of Harry and Julie McNamara and beats Harry with a golf club as Julie sits watching, frozen in fear and unable to help her husband. It is graphic, it is shocking and it makes you want to read on – what could possibly have led to this?

Knowing Harry will suffer at the hands of Carney the author takes us into the lives of Julie, JP Carney and investigating police office – Alice Moody. We are taken back in time to when Julie first met Harry and we are given a good look at Carney and the tough upbringing he had to endure and the strong bond he formed with his younger sister. As the story unfolds we get to understand more about Carney but it remains unclear why he may have walked into a strangers home and attacked the homeowner.  But is Harry McNamara a stranger to JP Carney?

We also follow Julie’s history. Her chance meeting with Harry and the fairy-tale romance as she is courted by one of the most successful (and rich) bankers in Ireland. Once again, as the story unfolds, we see Julie open up more about her relationship with Harry and the pressures and self doubts as she tries to remain Julie rather than Mrs McNamara.

The real-time investigations are being conducted by Alice Moody, my favourite character in The Confession. She cannot accept Carney’s assertion that he has no knowledge of Harry McNamara and that his house was picked at random. Moody will drive the story as she pushes to get to the bottom of Carney’s seemingly random attack and she believes that the McNamara’s may have somehow brought Carney into their lives – even if they don’t know why.

The reason The Confession worked so well for me was the characters driving the story. It is all about the people and how they faced up to several key moments in their lives – all bringing them to a critical point when a seemingly random act of violence will change everything forever.

Wonderfully written and deeply compelling.

 

The Confession is published by Quercus on 25 January 2018 and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Confession-most-addictive-psychological-thriller-ebook/dp/B06XRL3N98/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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January 19

City Without Stars – Tim Baker

The only thing more dangerous than the cartels is the truth…

In Ciudad Real, Mexico, a deadly war between rival cartels is erupting, and hundreds of female sweat-shop workers are being murdered. As his police superiors start shutting down his investigation, Fuentes suspects most of his colleagues are on the payroll of narco kingpin, El Santo.

Meanwhile, despairing union activist, Pilar, decides to take social justice into her own hands. But if she wants to stop the killings, she’s going to have to ignore all her instincts and accept the help of Fuentes. When the name of Mexico’s saintly orphan rescuer, Padre Márcio, keeps resurfacing, Pilar and Fuentes begin to realise how deep the cover-up goes.

 

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

I am not sure I have the language to do City Without Stars justice. If I were to say: Powerful, Magnificent, Majestic, Breathtaking then it would sound like I was describing a racehorse rather than Tim Baker’s novel. Yet City Without Stars is all those things, it is an incredible piece of story telling written with a brutal beauty and an incredible intensity.

The first word I used was “powerful” and City Without Stars is all about power. In Mexico there seem to be many battles to be fought and through the story we shall follow some of the fighters.  The drug Kingpin – El Santo – casts the longest shadow, he has the money, the men and the merchandise and he will do whatever he wants (and he does).  It is not often that I will flinch at something I read but one scene in particular brought out a full body wince/jolt, the unexpected sudden brutality was shocking.

Faith has a strong grip over Mexican life too and it was no surprise to see that Padre Márcio was influential throughout the book. The link between church and corruption has been made in the past but Tim Baker shines the Mexican sun fully onto the worst behaviours of the church and its representatives. Padre Márcio gets the most detailed backstory, his position in the community explained by his path to adulthood and the trials he endured.

Where there are drugs there will also be police. Fuentes is the cop who wants to bring some justice to proceedings. Yet he knows the challenge he faces is enormous and he can have no faith in the integrity of his colleagues, many are in the pockets of the cartel and few will stand up and be seen to challenge the corruption.

The character who faced the biggest challenge is a young union actvist (Pilar).  In the opening pages we see she has been targeted as a potential threat to someone in power and action is being taken to quash that threat. Pilar is seeking a fairer deal and better treatment for the women working in the manufacturing plants, the women who work for a pittance, have no respect from the men that run the plants and who meekly accept their lot in life. She is an extraordinary force but knows that changing the accepted way will not be simple. Her struggle to be heard and to make an impact which cannot be ignored was an important balance to the violence and intensity of the rival drug dealers.

There is so much depth and detail in City Without Stars that I cannot even begin to scratch the surface in a short review. It is a dark, dark read. The violence is brutal, the corruption is rife and the people are generally untrustworthy and unlikeable. But it all makes for utterly compelling reading.

Gobsmackingly Good.

 

City Without Stars is published by Faber & Faber and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/City-Without-Stars-Tim-Baker-ebook/dp/B075RSLG2B/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1516314849&sr=1-1&keywords=city+without+stars

 

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January 17

Night Zookeeper – Joshua Davidson

My youngest Bookworm has just celebrated a birthday. He frequently points out that there are no fun things to do outdoors for a January birthday treat so this year we took him to the zoo (he loves penguins).

Before I get to the bookish bit of this post I must give a huge shout-out to Edinburgh Zoo who offer Zookeeper Experiences.  The Birthday Boy became a Junior Zookeeper! He fed primates and penguins, trained a cuscus and walked an armadillo. Great day out and an experience he shall never forget.

Back to the book.  At the end of the day we made our way into the gift shop and stumbled upon a book launch. Hurrah. We met Zookeeper Josh (author Joshua Davidson) and while my eldest Bookworm chatted to Josh and got a book signed I got to speak with Buzz Burman (the illustrator).

Buzz explained that Night Zookeeper: The Giraffes of Whispering Wood is the first in a series of books and was only launched on 4 January….book two due in August 2017. The story features young Will Rivers – he paints a mural in the zoo and makes the elephant brightly coloured. This does not go down well and he is told elephants are grey – he has to change and “correct” the colour.  Will agrees but is disheartened.  However, when Will gets home and tells his gran that he had to colour the elephant grey she encourages him to return to the zoo and paint his elephant in the bright tones he originally used.

Will sneaks back to the zoo at night, paints over the grey elephant in the mural and restores his original vibrant colours. As he finishes the last brushstrokes a magical portal opens which will allow Will to cross into the world of the Night Zoo. Magical adventures await.

Buzz explained how they were touring zoos around the world to promote the stories and that each book will include short works by children (submitted online). Each book is beautifully illustrated and I am assured by the Elder Bookworm that the story is fabulous – he raced through it in record time and is badgering his brother to read it.

Published by Oxford University Press (and the cover and blurb follow) I would suggest this book would be a big hit with animal-loving kids.  My eldest is 11, possibly slightly older than the target audience, as a confident reader of age 7 to 8 would have no trouble with the Night Zookeeper. But you are never too old to enjoy a good story!

 

Night Zookeeper: The Giraffes of Whispering Wood

It’s late at night when Will Rivers slips into the zoo to add the finishing touches to his mural. As he adds the last lick of paint a portal opens and he’s transported to the world of the Night Zoo, where an incredible adventure awaits. From the creators of NightZookeeper.com, a website that makes learning fun and inspires creativity.

Order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Night-Zookeeper-Giraffes-Whispering-Wood-ebook/dp/B078JZ1XQS/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1516230440&sr=1-1&keywords=night+zookeeper

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January 13

The Cover Up – Marnie Riches

Watch your back. Everyone else will be.

How far would you go to protect your empire?

Manchester’s criminal underworld is reeling from the loss of its leader, Paddy O’Brien. In the wake of her husband’s death, Sheila O’Brien takes charge of the city, and for once, she’s doing things her way.

But she hasn’t reckoned with the fearsome Nigel Bancroft, a threat from Birmingham who is determined to conquer Manchester next.

As a power tussle begins, Sheila is determined to keep control of the empire she has won – even if it means she has to die trying…

 

My thanks to Sabah at Avon for my review copy and the chance to join the blog tour

 

Marnie Riches takes us back to Manchester as we revisit Sheila O’Brien. Following events in Born Bad Sheila now heads up the criminal empire built up by her late husband. However, keeping control of the drug supply, the prostitutes and the protection money is going to prove challenging – particularly when Birmingham crime lord Nigel Bancroft is looking to expand his territory into Manchester.

The housekeeping…The Cover Up is the second book in the Manchester series – reading the first book (Born Bad) would certainly help introduce the characters and explain their background but it is not essential. I have a total goldfish-memory and I struggle to remember character names and relationships across all the books I read; but Marnie Riches deftly interweaves the backstory you need into the narrative of The Cover Up to ensure new readers will enjoy the latest events.

And what a treat lies ahead!  Sheila faces constant challenges to her authority and she will need to show that she has the mettle to take her late-husband’s place. She relies heavily upon his former right-hand-man, Conky, who has also replaced his former boss in Sheila’s bed. While juggling attempts to establish a legitimate business empire and keep her criminal activities ticking over we see Sheila trying to bring friends closer to ensure she can trust those in her closest circle. What I had not been expecting was where some of her new alliances may be formed.

The Cover Up has many strong personalities all pushing for dominance and all seeking to eliminate their competition. There are are traps and dangers, subterfuge is rife and nobody can be trusted. It makes for enthralling reading and the story zips along at a cracking pace.

If you enjoy a dark thriller and like strong characters who will do whatever it takes to survive and protect those closest to them then The Cover Up is perfect reading. I loved this book and flew through it in quick time, once I started reading I did not want to stop.  More of these please Marnie!

 

The Cover Up is published by Avon and is available in paperback, audiobook (narrated by the author) and digital format.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cover-Up-Marnie-Riches/dp/0008203962/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1515835942&sr=1-1

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January 5

Dead Is Best – Jo Perry

 

Charlie and Rose are back in their much anticipated new adventure. Charlie’s step daughter lies dying on a beach. She needs help. Some serious help. But how did she get there and what can on earth can a dead guy and his dead dog do? Plenty as it turns out. As Charlie & Rose ride to the rescue in their own unique way it soon becomes clear that the body on the beach was only the beginning…

 

 

 

One of the most unusual (but enjoyable) partnerships I have encountered while blogging. Charlie is dead. Rose, a dog, is also dead. Together they can drift in and out of the real world and spectate but their capacity to interact is virtually nil.

Dead is Best opens with Charlie’s step-daughter Cali suffering a near-death experience. She sees Charlie and Rose and begs for their help before she is returned to her unhappy existence. Charlie and Rose return to the world to keep a watch over Cali and the full extent of her problems soon become clear.

I love how Jo Perry tackles events in Dead Is Best. While Charlie and Rose cannot intercede during events Charlie is a highly effective narrator.  He can travel to where Cali is but when necessary he can move to a different location, for example to see how Cali’s mother (Charie’s ex-wife and her new husband) are handling their “difficult” child.  Not Well it would appear.

Charlie begins to understand how tough life is for Cali – a troubled teen who appears to have fallen in with a bad crowd. As the story progresses and Cali finds herself in trouble with the law we see the true strength of her character come to the fore.

As non-corporeal entities Charlie and Rose can be anywhere they need to be and often witness the worst of people.  They see acts of violence and bullying which the protagonists would never let a “human” observe and Charlie’s frustration at his inability to intercede seeps through – brilliantly written by Jo Perry.

The Charlie and Rose stories are quite unlike anything else I read and I cannot recommend them highly enough.  Hunt them down…or use this handy link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jo-Perry/e/B00PEG4T9I/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

 

Dead is Best is published by Fahrenheit Press in digital and paperback format.

 

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January 5

Games With The Dead – James Nally

Irish runaway. Insomniac. Functioning alcoholic.
Life is about to get complicated for DC Donal Lynch.

When a young woman is kidnapped, Donal is brought in to deliver the ransom money. But the tightly-planned drop off goes wrong, Julie Draper is discovered dead, and Donal finds his job on the line – a scapegoat for the officers in charge.

But when Donal is delivered a cryptic message in the night, he learns that Julie was killed long before the botched rescue mission. As he digs further into the murder in a bid to clear his own name, dark revelations make one thing certain: the police are chasing the wrong man, and the killer has far more blood on his hands than they could even imagine.

 

My thanks to Sabah at Avon for my review copy and the chance to join the blog tour

 

The third novel in the Donal Lynch series but Games With The Dead can easily be read as a stand alone novel without the need to have read the earlier books.  I can confirm this with a degree of certainty as I had not read the first two books and still thoroughly enjoyed Games.

The description of the novel (as above) led me to believe this may be a kidnap/murder tale and it is…but it is so much more as well.  The story opens with the police attempt to recover a kidnapped woman: Julie Draper. DC Donal Lynch is the man tasked with delivering the ransom payment and “rescuing” Julie from the kidnappers. Regrettably all does not go to plan and Donal will be held liable by his bosses.

With his work life in a crisis there is no respite for Donal at home either.  His girlfriend has been distant and remote since the birth of her son and Donal is hitting the drink too hard.  Not helping matters is the fact Ireland are in the soccer World Cup Finals (it is Summer 1994) and all Irish footy fans are swelling the takings at pubs up and down the land as they cheer on their heroes in the USA.  With Donal being urged on by his brother to shake off his other half we see our hero’s emotions pulled every which way.

I am reluctant to share too much of what happens to Donal during Games With The Dead, but he is given the opportunity to work for a different team within the police and it will place him in more danger than he is accustomed to facing – it makes for gripping reading.

While reading Games With The Dead I got wholly drawn into the story and Donal’s perils kept me turning the pages well into the night. After the initial kidnap drama had reached its unexpected endgame I was not sure what may lie ahead for Donal – what James Nally had in store for DC Lynch was an absolute treat for this crime fiction fan.

Highly recommended, some 90’s nostalgia and a thumping great read.

 

Games With The Dead is published by Avon and is available in paperback and digital format.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Games-Dead-Donal-Lynch-Thriller-ebook/dp/B072S4QY15/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1515088897&sr=8-1

 

 

 

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January 4

Dark Pines – Will Dean

An isolated Swedish town.

A deaf reporter terrified of nature.

A dense spruce forest overdue for harvest.

A pair of eyeless hunters found murdered in the woods.

It’s week one of the Swedish elk hunt and the sound of gunfire is everywhere. When Tuva Moodyson investigates the story that could make her career she stumbles on a web of secrets that knit Gavrik town together. Are the latest murders connected to the Medusa killings twenty years ago? Is someone following her? Why take the eyes? Tuva must face her demons and venture deep into the woods to stop the killer and write the story. And then get the hell out of Gavrik.

 

My thanks to Margot at One World Publications for my review copy and the chance to join the blog tour.

 

I have been looking forward to sharing my review of Dark Pines, when I read I book which I absolutely adored I want to share my review immediately!

Dark Pines is an atmospheric murder tale which takes the readers to a remote Swedish town and sees much of the action taking place in the dark, claustrophobic woods. The lead character, Tuva Moodyson, is a reporter working at the small local paper but the murder deep in the woods (during hunting season) may give her the opportunity to report on one of the biggest stories the region has ever seen.

Tuva is a terrific character and I loved reading her story. Her deafness is depicted really well by Will Dean, it is an issue she deals with and ensures other characters adapt to her requirements. She has a strong personality and tenacious attitude and this serves her well as her reporting of the deaths in the woods will become problematic for the residents of her home town.

The murder story is chilling too.  Twenty years prior to events in Dark Pines a killer stalked the woods, removing the eyes of their victims. The killer became known as “Medusa” but was never caught and, without explanation, the murders ceased. Spinning forward to present day the latest murder is causing the townsfolk significant concern – when it become apparent that the victim has had his eyes removed their concern intensifies.

Dark Pines is a storming read. One of those books which can wholly consume your attention and pull you entirely into the story.  A five star review for a book which I will be recommending to everyone.

 

Dark Pines is published by Point Blank and can be ordered here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dark-Pines-Tuva-Moodyson-Mystery/dp/1786073854/ref=la_B0759QS537_1_1_twi_pap_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1515062614&sr=1-1

 

 

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January 2

The Night Stalker & Dark Water

In January my day job changes and my mega commute of the last 5 months will cease. Between July and December I would spent around 5 hours each day driving the same road, home to office and home again. To pass the time I would listen to talking books, but as I was seldom awake while I was home I fell behind on reviewing those listens…catch-up time.

 

Today I have reviews for two Robert Bryndza books. Huge thanks to Noelle and Kim at Bookouture for the Audible review copies.

 

The Night Stalker

If the Night Stalker is watching, you’re already dead…

In the dead of a swelteringly hot summer’s night, Detective Erika Foster is called to a murder scene. The victim, a doctor, is found suffocated in bed. His wrists are bound and his eyes bulging through a clear plastic bag tied tight over his head.

A few days later, another victim is found dead, in exactly the same circumstances. As Erika and her team start digging deeper, they discover a calculated serial killer – stalking their victims before choosing the right moment to strike.

The victims are all single men, with very private lives. Why are their pasts shrouded in secrecy? And what links them to the killer?

As a heat wave descends upon London, Erika will do everything to stop the Night Stalker before the body count rises, even if it means risking her job. But the victims might not be the only ones being watched… Erika’s own life could be on the line.

 

The second Erika Foster novel. A series which my fellow bloggers all seemed to love (and I thought had sounded fantastic) but I was late to the party.  The good thing about playing catch-up is that there are several books waiting for me and I don’t need to wait months for the next installment!

The Night Stalker is a serial killer tale – one I really, really enjoyed. The victims are found in their homes, bound and suffocated; murdered in the place where they should have been safe from harm. As Foster considers the first victim, tied to his bed with a bag over his head, she cannot discount the possibility that the man died as a result of a sexual encounter gone wrong. The investigation will be complicated as she tries to uncover the man’s private life and unearth any secrets he may have tried to keep.

When a second victim is discovered the stakes are raised as is the pressure on Erika and her team.  A prominent media personality is dead, the press are clamouring for information and her bosses are demanding significant progress in made on the investigations.  Erika needs to find a possible connection between the two men but she cannot know if there is one – perhaps the victims were selected at random.

For the reader there is the chilling bonus of being able to follow part of the story from the viewpoint of the The Night Stalker.  We see the killer watching the next target and follow them as they break into the victim’s home. When the Night Stalker becomes aware of Erika’s investigation the Stalker then focuses on her – unknown to Erika she is a target.

Robert Bryndza is great at pacing the action and there were some fabulous twists through the story. The Night Stalker is gripping reading (or listening in this instance) and it significantly builds on the character of Erika Foster and her colleagues – setting up the rest of the series nicely.

 

Dark Water

Beneath the water the body sank rapidly.  She would lie still and undisturbed for many years but above her on dry land, the nightmare was just beginning.

When Detective Erika Foster receives a tip off that key evidence for a major narcotics case was stashed in a disused quarry on the outskirts of London, she orders for it to be searched. From the thick sludge the drugs are recovered, but so is the skeleton of a young child.

The remains are quickly identified as eleven-year-old Jessica Collins.  The missing girl who made headline news when she vanished twenty-six years ago.

As Erika tries to piece together new evidence with the old, she discovers a family harbouring secrets, a detective plagued by her failure to find Jessica, and the mysterious death of a man living by the quarry.

Is the suspect someone close to home? Someone doesn’t want this case solved. And they’ll do anything to stop Erika from finding the truth.

 

Book 3 and a rather distressing cold case for Erika and her team to take on. Except her team are not her team any longer – she has been transferred to a new station and it seems we will be robbed of the company of Moss and Peterson. Fortunately resurrecting an old investigation (a missing girl who vanished from her street some 26 years earlier) merits extra staff numbers and the trio will soon be reunited.

Dark Water has a very different feel from the first two novels but not to the detriment of excellent storytelling.

Erika will need to wade through boxes of old investigative notes but she could always seek out the assistance of the original investigating officer. This may lead to problems as the officer she needs to consult left the force in disgrace and has drunk herself to oblivion in the intervening years.

When a girl has been missing for 26 years there will inevitably be someone who knows where she has been all this time, someone who may not wish the police to look too closely into the case again. Who can Erika trust to reveal the truth after all those years? Certainly not the alleged pedophile who was once the prime suspect but now holds the police over a barrel after someone (convinced of his guilt) took matters into their own hands.

Of the three Erika Foster books I listened to over the last 5 months I think Dark Water just edges it as my favourite, though that *may* be down to the ongoing development of the characters and my appreciation of the books growing!

Both the above books are narrated by Jan Cramer and she is absolutely marvellous. Having listened to the first three Erika Foster novels, and not actually reading any of the books first, my perception of all the characters has been defined by Jan Cramer’s depiction of them.

I have a dilemma now over whether to get book 4 on audio or pick up a Kindle copy – whatever I choose I already know I am looking forward to my next encounter with Erika Foster.

 

The Night Stalker and Dark Water are published by Bookouture and can be ordered here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Robert-Bryndza/e/B0089KJBVM/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

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