August 3

Perfect Prey – Helen Fields

Welcome to Edinburgh. Murder capital of Europe.

In the middle of a rock festival, a charity worker is sliced across the stomach. He dies minutes later. In a crowd of thousands, no one saw his attacker.

The following week, the body of a primary school teacher is found in a dumpster in an Edinburgh alley, strangled with her own woollen scarf.

D.I. Ava Turner and D.I. Luc Callanach have no leads and no motive – until around the city, graffitied on buildings, words appear describing each victim.

It’s only when they realise the words are being written before rather than after the murders, that they understand the killer is announcing his next victim…and the more innocent the better.

 

My thanks to Sabah at Avon for a review copy of Perfect Prey and the chance to join the tour.

 

One day.

A single day.

I started Perfect Prey at 8.30am this morning in a Starbucks coffee shop and at 11.58pm this evening (well now yesterday evening) I finished the last chapter. It was fantastic. I am enjoying a summer where I seem to be only choosing great books to read but Perfect Prey has been a wonderful high point.

Luc Callanach was first introduced in Perfect Remains – he arrived in Edinburgh from France where he had worked for Interpol. Luc now works for Police Scotland, his arrival and the problems which forced his move to Scotland are covered in Perfect Remains – reading the books in order is recommended but not essential.

If you are a fan of crime fiction then reading both books IS essential. Helen Fields is making Edinburgh a very nasty place to be and I am loving her work. Her tales are dark, the crimes that Callanach is called to investigate are both graphic and disturbing and I found both Perfect books utterly gripping.

In Perfect Prey Edinburgh is rocked by a series of high profile brutal killings. Over a very short space of time 3 vicious deaths have shocked the residents of the capital and the reputation of the city world-wide is suffering. Pressure is placed on Callanach and his colleague, Ava Turner, to come up with results (and fast). What is not helping is the presence of an old flame of Ava’s. He is also a cop – up from London to work on a high profile tech/internet operation, his presence unsettles Callanach as the two do not hit it off. It also disrupts the effective working relationship that Callanach and Turner had established.  With the two at loggerheads the investigations stutter – they are reliant upon their colleagues to keep communications flowing.

With little progress being made and more lives in danger, Callanach reaches out to two contacts from outwith the Police. By going off radar and involving civilians he risks his career but who can he really trust when vital information from the investigations is leaking to the press?

I want to tell you about evil murderers. I want to discuss Luc and Ava. I want to share all the great twists and that terrible thing that happened….but they would all be spoilers and you really need to find them out for yourself. What I really need is for it to be January 2018 so I can read the next book.

Perfect Prey is a must read. The Callanach books are already firmly established as a series I want to follow. Don’t let these books pass you by – brilliant, brilliant stories.

 

Perfect Prey is published by Avon and is available now in paperback and digital format.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Perfect-Prey-DI-Callanach-Thriller/dp/0008181586/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1501715565&sr=8-1&keywords=helen+fields

Follow the tour

 

 

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June 17

The Health of Strangers – Lesley Kelly

The Health of StrangersNobody likes the North Edinburgh Health Enforcement Team, least of all the people who work for it. An uneasy mix of seconded Police and health service staff, Mona, Bernard and their colleagues stem the spread of the Virus, a mutant strain of influenza, by tracking down people who have missed their monthly health check. Now two young female students are missing, raising question after question for the HET. Why were they drinking in a biker’s bar? Who are the mysterious Children of Camus cult? And why is the German government interfering in the investigation? Mona and Bernard need to fight their way through lies and intrigue, and find the missing girls – before anyone else does.

My thanks to Keara at Sandstone for my review copy

 

Meet the North Edinburgh HET.

The HET?

Well that would be the Health Enforcement Team, an agency set up in the aftermath of a viral outbreak which has caused the loss of millions of lives around the world. More on that in a second…

The Health Enforcement Team are our focus in The Health of Strangers and they are an endearing dysfunctional lot. Mona was a cop who was offered the opportunity to move to HET to make a name for herself but was she perhaps shunted off to keep her out the road?  Her colleagues Bernard and Maitland also have secrets in their background or their home life so collectively they may not come across as a well-oiled unit.  The conflicts and insecurities in the team does give Lesley Kelly plenty of opportunity to get some great dialogue going between her characters – love a bit of bickering between colleagues to lighten the mood!

So the virus – a flu strain which mutated. The first wave contaminated many of the population but lots of people recovered (albeit after much discomfort). But the virus mutated and the next wave claimed many lives – those that had contracted flu in the first viral wave developed an immunity but it also meant they saw friends and loved ones die when  the virus returned in its mutated form.

Society changed, some people turned to religion (new Chapters within the churches were formed), pregnancy increased the risk of dying from the virus, different countries adapted better to controlling and containing the spread of the disease. But everyone is now required to attend regular health screenings to ensure they are not unknowingly carrying the virus – miss a screening and you are reported to the HET who are expected to find you and take appropriate action to minimize any potential contamination risks.

I really enjoyed The Health of Strangers. The dystopian setting is nicely balanced not too bleak but Edinburgh is clearly a changed city. There has been an horrific event but life still continues – but it continues differently for the survivors.  People are adaptable and the human resilience shines through but they will be suffering and their grief will channel rage and distrust – characterization will make or break a story like this and Lesley Kelly has absolutely nailed it.

I realise that I haven’t even mentioned the missing girls – the ones that have missed their Health Check, the girls that the HET are tasked with finding. The missing girls will the team busy (and frustrated) and this is the crime story at the core of the book, the investigation is well constructed and there are all the distractions and unreliable witnesses to challenge the team.

So The Health of Strangers is a crime thriller in a dystopian and ravaged Edinburgh with a great cast and the pages which virtually turned themselves.  I bloody loved it.

 

The Health of Strangers is published by Sandstone Press and is available in paperback and digital format. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Health-Strangers-Plague-Lesley-Kelly/191098566X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497565274&sr=8-1&keywords=lesley+kelly

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March 20

Written in Bones – James Oswald

Written in BonesWhen a body is found in a tree in The Meadows, Edinburgh’s scenic parkland, the forensics suggest the corpse has fallen from a great height.

Detective Inspector Tony McLean wonders whether it was an accident, or a murder designed to send a chilling message?

The dead man had led quite a life: a disgraced ex-cop turned criminal kingpin who reinvented himself as a celebrated philanthropist.

As McLean traces the victim’s journey, it takes him back to Edinburgh’s past, and through its underworld – crossing paths with some of its most dangerous and most vulnerable people.

And waiting at the end of it all, is the truth behind a crime that cuts to the very heart of the city…

 

My thanks to Laura at Penguin for my review copy

A new Tony McLean novel from James Oswald is always met with great anticipation here at Grab This Book. I am a big fan of this series and love the balance that the author finds between cracking police procedural but with a dark, and sometimes supernatural, edge to the stories.

Written in Bones is the 7th title to feature Tony McLean, knowing the back story helps but is not essential – new readers can easily pick up the series without worry of too many spoilers and will not be overwhelmed with confusing links to past events. One of the things I enjoy most about James Oswald’s books is how accessible they are, the stories all flow really well and are nicely paced.

From the very first pages of Written in Bones I was hooked. A body is discovered in The Meadows, a pleasant park in Edinburgh city centre. However, the body is stuck high in a tree and it appears to have fallen out of the sky.  The only possible witness to the crime is a young boy who was walking his dog around The Meadows early in the morning. Unfortunately for McLean and his colleagues he does not appear to be the most reliable source for information as he maintains that he saw a dragon flying over the park at the time the body would have fallen into the tree.

Further investigation will reveal the young witness is the son of one of Edinburgh’s more notorious characters  – someone very well known to the police. Could this simply be a coincidence or does the child’s presence link to crimes committed by his father?  This element of an investigation could prove potentially tricky to some of McLean’s colleagues and Tony will be required to play politics around the station.

Although McLean can be a bit of a loose cannon at times, in Written in Bones there are new colleagues in the station and McLean will have to spend some of his time managing a team. The interaction between McLean and the younger, less experienced officers added a fun new angle to the story and I hope that we get to see a bit more of Tony in “mentor” mode.

Away from the mysterious body in a tree, Tony is also finding himself at a number of properties which have been subject to a break-in. He is pulled around the city and his investigations will leave someone unhappy – powerful people will not want the police sniffing around their operations. Back to that political pressure – Tony’s bosses will try to clip his wings and restrict his resources…can he find a way to make his already stretched team focus on more than one investigation?

I had great fun reading Written in Bones, it’s nice to be able to pick up a book which I know will entertain me and it did not fail to deliver the thrills and excitement that I look forward to in James Oswald’s writing. This has been a richly rewarding series thus far and Written in Bones only enhances the Tony McLean collection.

 

Written  in Bones is published by Michael Joseph and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Written-Bones-Inspector-McLean-7/dp/0718183673/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1489962099&sr=8-1&keywords=james+oswald

 

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February 24

Prayer For The Dead – James Oswald

prayer for the dead 2The fifth novel in the bestselling Inspector McLean series by Sunday Times bestselling author James Oswald.

‘Are you ready to be reborn?’

The search for a missing journalist is called off as a body is found at the scene of a carefully staged murder.

In a sealed chamber, deep in the heart of Gilmerton Cove, a mysterious network of caves and passages sprawling beneath Edinburgh, the victim has undergone a macabre ritual of purification.

Inspector Tony McLean knew the dead man, and can’t shake off the suspicion that there is far more to this case than meets the eye. The baffling lack of forensics at the crime scene seems impossible. But it is not the only thing about this case that McLean will find beyond belief.

Teamed with the most unlikely and unwelcome of allies, he must track down a killer driven by the darkest compulsions, who will answer only to a higher power…

‘Are you ready for the mysteries to be revealed?’

My thanks to Penguin/Michael Joseph and Netgalley for my review copy

 

Jump back 11 months to 24th March 2014 when, after a bit of hesitation, I bit the bullet and posted my first review on my blog. I had been toying with the idea of blogging for some time so decided to write a review of the book I had finished earlier that day – it had been a great story from an author I’d not read before. Natural Causes by James Oswald.

7 months later, it’s October 2014. I am officially a ‘fan’ of Mr Oswald’s Tony McLean series and I am sat in Coatbridge Library where, as part of the North Lanarkshire Encounters series, James Oswald is visiting to discuss his books. The evening opened with a reading from the opening chapter of Prayer For The Dead – a debut read as the final edit had only just been confirmed. It was a treat and a pleasure to hear an extract from an unpublished novel and just 4 months later I finally found out what followed! Added bonus from that night was that James Oswald was fabulous and had us hanging on his every word for well over an hour of uninterrupted anecdotes and readings.

But to the book…

Prayer for the Dead is the 5th outing for Tony McLean and this is another stellar read in a series that has maintained a high standard of entertainment and thrills throughout all the books.

I am always pleased to revisit recurring characters in the books I read and I very much enjoy the team that assemble alongside McLean. Grumpy Bob returns as does Jane Macintyre, Stuart MacBride and even Madam Rose is back. The relationships between the characters is a key element to my enjoyment and there is a genuine feel of a ‘team among the police characters. McLean is supportive of MacBride, tolerant of Grumpy Bob and collectively they grumble over the senior officers who frequently appear to be inept.

More unusual is the ongoing relationship between Madam Rose and Mclean, particularly given how events unfold during Prayer For The Dead. Their friendship is taken in a very unexpected direction and we get to see Rose in a very different light – another nice touch.

The most important element of a crime thriller is that there is an engaging crime to be solved. Very much so I am pleased to report. A few unnatural deaths have occurred around Edinburgh, there does not appear to be any obvious connection yet the cruel manner of the deaths and the short intervals between the murders leads McLean to believe they are the work of one individual.

With no clues to pursue the police are very much in the dark as to how they may track down the culprit (assuming they ARE just looking for one person). With no meaningful progress being made, McLean finds himself distracted by other cases: particularly when the property developers who are trying to get him to sell his home turn up dead and their connection to McLean is investigated by London’s Serious Crime team.

I very much enjoyed Prayer For The Dead, it is a cracking murder mystery with some nasty deaths to squirm over and a sinister murderer who keeps several steps ahead of McLean et al. Fans of James Oswald will not be disappointed with the latest novel…except when it ends and you realise that the next book is ages away!

 

Prayer For The Dead is available now from Penguin/Michael Joseph and is in all good bookshops, online and in many a supermarket too.

On a final note – I am constantly amused that there is a character called Stuart MacBride in James Oswald’s books. This amusement increased tenfold when I read the apology that Mr Oswald offered to the real Mr MacBride in the author notes at the end of the book. Perhaps I am just easily amused?

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