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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May 1

The Bursar’s Wife – E. G. Rodford

The Bursar's WifeMeet George Kocharyan, Cambridge Confidential Services one and only private investigator.

Amidst the usual jobs following unfaithful spouses, he is approached by the glamorous Sylvia Booker. The wife of the bursar of Morley College, Booker is worried that her daughter Lucy has fallen in with the wrong crowd. Aided by his assistant Sandra and her teenage son, George soon realises that Lucy is sneaking off to the apartment of an older man, but perhaps not for the reasons one might suspect.

Then an unfaithful wife he had been following is found dead. As his investigation continues, enlivened by a mild stabbing and the unwanted intervention and attention of Detective Inspector Vicky Stubbing, George begins to wonder if all the threads are connected…

 

Thanks to Lydia at Titan Books for my review copy

Meet George Kocharyan, a Cambridge private investigator who is about to take on a case which may just change his life (assuming he manages to avoid being bumped off by a stooge with a pocket knife).

George’s wife has left him for another woman. He is ‘dealing with things’ and making Bambi eyes at the nutritionist that works in his building, but business is slow.  As the story opens we find George breaking the news to his client that the client’s wife is spending time with strange men in parked cars – George has the photo’s to prove it (even if you cannot always see  her face). As one unhappy client leaves his office a new one enters in the form of the lovely Sylvia Booker.  Mrs Booker is the wife of one of the Bursar’s at a Cambridge college. Her husband’s position means she moves in powerful social circles so cannot afford a whiff of a scandal. She wants to engage George’s services to keep an eye on her daughter who seems to be falling in with the wrong crowd. George can hardly say ‘no’ to the bewitching Mrs Booker, especially when there is a bulky cash-filled envelope pushed across his desk to cover his costs.

What seems to be a relatively simple task soon starts to snowball in complexity.  Mrs Booker has not been entirely forthright with George and has kept back a lot of information that could have made his task much easier. Her daughter (Lucy) is also keeping secrets but for the life of him George cannot quite work out what she is doing hanging around the home of a man that is old enough to be her father.

As if these secretive Booker women were not proving George with enough of a headache the local police are very keen to have him ‘help them with their enquiries’. The lady from the parked cars has been spotted in another car, however this time she is on her own and very, very dead.  DI Stubbing does not seem to like George and seems to believe that a man who spends his time taking pictures of people coupling in cars should certainly have no problem spending time assisting the police with their investigations.

The Bursar’s Wife was great fun to read. There is a really good crime story to enjoy but the tone is light and the lead character really engaging – if you have read Lawrence Block’s fantastic ‘Burglar’ series then you may have an idea as to how well this balance can work.

I am going to be singing the praises of The Bursar’s Wife for quite some time, it ticked all the right boxes for me and I was delighted to find that George Kocharyan will be returning next year. Although my bookshelves are filled with dark, intense and gritty reads The Bursar’s Wife was a very welcome addition…I love when an author feels that they can have fun with a story and E.G. Rodford nails this perfectly. You have to read this one – it would be a crime to miss it!

 

The Bursar’s Wife is published by Titan Books and is available in paperback and digital formats. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bursars-Wife-George-Kocharyan-Mystery/dp/1785650033/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1462054044&sr=8-1&keywords=the+bursar%27s+wife

 

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April 25

Open Wounds – Douglas Skelton

Open WoundsDavie McCall is tired. Tired of violence, tired of the Life. He’s always managed to stay detached from the brutal nature of his line of work, but recently he has caught himself enjoying it.

In the final instalment in the Davie McCall series old friends clash and long buried secrets are unearthed as McCall investigates a brutal five-year-old crime. Davie wants out, but the underbelly of Glasgow is all he has ever known. Will what he learns about his old ally Big Rab McClymont be enough to get him out of the Life? And could the mysterious woman who just moved in upstairs be just what he needs?

 

My thanks to Luath Press for my review copy

Davie McCall is not a nice guy, he does bad things to bad people but I loved reading about him. In Open Wounds Davie is tiring of the Life (working as right hand man to one of Glasgow’s gangsters) and is thinking of getting out. But the Life is all Davie knows and walking away will not be easy.

McCall has had a tough life, people close to him have been hurt and have tried to hurt him.  He is weary and events in Open Wounds seem to be driving him towards ‘retirement’ from the vicious life he has led.  But what McCall cannot shake off is history and it seems events from the past are beginning to catch up with him. His nemesis, a corrupt policeman, is concerned about Davie sniffing around an old case and will take any steps necessary to prevent the truth from being uncovered.

House keeping – Open Wounds is the 4th Davie McCall book, it can definitely be read as a stand alone novel as everything you need to know is nicely explained in the narrative by Douglas Skelton. Returning fans will be rewarded through knowing the back story but if you are new to the series this is a brilliant story to get your teeth into.

Douglas Skelton has written a dark and gripping story. There are disturbing scenes which will put the characters through the emotional wringer and define the fate of others. McCall himself is a complex character, he knows he embraced the darkness yet continues to work with the criminals. He has a moral code which seems contradictory for the work he undertakes but to McCall there seem to be degrees of right and wrong and some thresholds have been crossed. As you see McCall settling on a course of action you know that someone will suffer for transgressions – how could you not keep reading?

Glasgow makes a great backdrop for a gangster story. The language and mood is perfect for a city which is frequently associated with a ‘hard’ reputation. Douglas Skelton gives life to these characters, they are completely believable (and this not necessarily a good thing) and you want to read about them. Yet despite the grim nature of their lifestyle, there are great comedy moments in the conversations between these hard men – Glaswegians also rather well known for their humour! Reading Open Wounds was a joy on so many levels and the moments of levity gave a nice balance against some of the more gritty scenes.

When Open Wounds was finished I was left somewhat traumatised with certain events. I had been hooked while I read it and even before I had reached the end I was already recommending it to friends. I seldom offer up a review score within my reviews unless I want to make it clear that a book merits a 5/5 score – Open Wounds is one such book.  Highly recommended, get a copy ordered today.

 

 

Open Wounds is published by Luath Press and is available in paperback and digital formats here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wounds-Davie-McCall-Douglas-Skelton/dp/1910745332/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461531340&sr=1-1

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July 28

Blue Wicked – Alan Jones

Blue wicked 2Blue Wicked is Alan Jones’ second gritty Glasgow crime novel. The tortured corpses of young alcoholics and drug addicts are turning up in Glasgow and only unlikely investigator Eddie Henderson seems to know why. When he tries to tell the police, his information is ridiculed and he’s told to stop wasting their time. One officer, junior detective Catherine Douglas, believes him, and together they set out to discover why the dregs of Glasgow’s underbelly are being found, dead and mutilated.

 

My thanks to Alan for providing a review copy of Blue Wicked.

 

Blue Wicked is dark. It is graphic and it is a brilliant read.

The lead character, Eddie Henderson, is a vet – he is a bit awkward, very career focussed and on hand at the opening of the book as the corpse is discovered. The initial description of violence was graphic and it sets out the expectation for what is to follow.

Eddie is convinced he has found a link between a series of animal attacks and wants to raise his concerns with the police. Sadly for Eddie attacks on animals are not high on the list of priorities for his local police force. He is assigned to work alongside Catherine Douglas (a young detective) who notes his concerns and warms to Eddie’s passion to protect animals but with no solid leads to follow it does not appear that the police can be of much assistance. Frustrated with their lack of support Eddie’s frustration seems to be getting the better of him.

In Glasgow’s quieter areas someone is isolating drug users and feeding them Blue Wicked – a lethal concoction which will render them unconscious and vulnerable to attack. In their weakened state the debilitated users are tortured and put to a prolonged and painful death.

Eddie hears of the deaths and believes he sees a link between the animal attacks and the murders but can he make the police take him seriously.

Blue Wicked can be quite nasty reading in places – there are some not very nice people in this book and it made for compulsive reading. Alan Jones built up the mystery and kept me guessing as to how matters may resolve themselves. The dual narrative of the killer and the police investigation was well executed and the endgame played out brilliantly, an exhilarating race against time with a couple of unexpected twists.

At the back of the book was a glossary of Glaswegian slang – lovely touch as there is a lot of Glasgow’s colourful language in Blue Wicked.

I would urge all readers that enjoy gritty crime fiction to treat themselves to Blue Wicked – one of the best I have read for quite some time.

 

Blue Wicked is available in paperback from Ailsa Publishing and is also available in digital format.

 

 

 

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