February 11

Gallery of the Dead – Chris Carter

Thirty-seven years in the force, and if I was allowed to choose just one thing to erase from my mind, what’s inside that room would be it.

That’s what a LAPD Lieutenant tells Detectives Hunter and Garcia of the Ultra Violent Crimes Unit as they arrive at one of the most shocking crime scenes they have ever attended.

In a completely unexpected turn of events, the detectives find themselves joining forces with the FBI to track down a serial killer whose hunting ground sees no borders; a psychopath who loves what he does because to him murder is much more than just killing – it’s an art form.

Welcome to The Gallery of the Dead.

 

My thanks to Rhiannon at Simon & Schuster for my review copy and the chance to join the blog tour.

 

I can only say good things about Gallery of the Dead as I absolutely loved it. It’s a dark but totally gripping read in which Robert Hunter finds himself attending a murder scene and believing that the killer has been too efficient for this to have been his first kill.

From the opening chapter I was hooked – a woman arrives home, she potters through the rooms whilst chatting to her cat. It seemed all too normal, too domesticated and so I expected something nasty was about to happen.  Reading on my mind was whirring with possibilities over what Chris Carter could have in store…would she find something horrible? Is there someone in her house?  Will she receive a terrifying phone call?  From the very first paragraphs you are drawn in and you want to keep reading as you are sure something bad (really bad) is about to happen.

And it does.

Boom – he got me. And for the next few hundred pages Chris Carter was not letting me go – Gallery of the Dead is one of those rare gems where you don’t want to stop reading and the action and twists and shocks just keep coming. “One more chapter?” Hell no…I can give it another hour – at least.

Hunter is back in top form too (this is book 9 in the series).  Gallery of the Dead can be read entirely on its own, wholly self contained and easy to enjoy without knowing the back story.  His analytical mind and sharp eye quickly identifies “marks” left on the body of the victim (no spoilers here) and using the police database to search for similar occurrences he alerts the FBI to the murder he is investigating.

The FBI have already been aware of the killer (this is not his first murder) and they propose a liaison with the police.  The agent heading up the FBI taskforce is aware of Hunter’s skills and is keen to have him on board – but if you get Hunter you get his partner too and with that comes a wisecracking cop who will rub up the FBI agents in the wrong way. I loved the friction and rivalry between police and FBI and it was only made better by Hunter’s reaction to the sniping around him!

If you like a serial killer story, one which will not hold back on the grim detail and the sadistic nature of a murderous mind then you need to seek out Chris Carter’s books.  Gallery of the Dead is a brilliant read – entertainment to the max.

 

Gallery of the Dead is published by Simon & Schuster and is available now in hardback, audiobook and digital format. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gallery-Dead-Robert-Hunter-9/dp/1471156346/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1518307286&sr=8-1

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June 2

Bitter Moon – Alexandra Sokoloff

Bitter MoonThe Huntress/FBI Thrillers: Book 4

FBI agent Matthew Roarke has been on leave, and in seclusion, since the capture of mass killer Cara Lindstrom—the victim turned avenger who preys on predators. Torn between devotion to the law and a powerful attraction to Cara and her lethal brand of justice, Roarke has retreated from both to search his soul. But Cara’s escape from custody and a police detective’s cryptic challenge soon draw him out of exile—into the California desert and deep into Cara’s past—to probe an unsolved murder that could be the key to her long and deadly career.

Following young Cara’s trail, Roarke uncovers a horrifying attack on a schoolgirl, the shocking suicide of another, and a human monster stalking Cara’s old high school. Separated by sixteen years, crossing paths in the present and past, Roarke and fourteen-year-old Cara must race to find and stop the sadistic sexual predator before more young women are brutalized.

 

I received a review copy through Netgalley

Cara Lindstrom is a killer. Matthew Roarke is an FBI agent (though in Bitter Moon he is on leave). Their paths have crossed and it has had a profound impact upon Roarke’s life and his career.  Bitter Moon is the 4th book in Alexandra Sokoloff’s Huntress/FBI Thrillers series and reading the first three books in the series (Huntress Moon, Blood Moon and Cold Moon) will ensure you get the best reading experience for Bitter Moon.

So the book…it’s a corker.

Roarke is on leave of absence from the FBI but a call from an angry law enforcement officer wanting to know why Roarke doesn’t want to catch Cara Lindstrom, sees him hitting the road and heading to Riverside County, California. On meeting the angry cop face-to-face, Roarke is puzzled why the officer is so irate over Cara being on the run. Roarke knows that Lindstrom spent time in Riverside County shortly after the “incident” (spoilers) which determined the path her life would take.  He elects to stick around and do a big of digging into the background of the town.

What I loved about the direction Bitter Moon takes is that we follow Roarke trying to piece together what Cara may have been doing in Riverside County, the places she visited and the people she crossed paths with.  But between the sections of the narrative which follow Roarke we get a Cara narrative.  A Cara narrative from when she was a schoolgirl, trying to fit into her new school, her new social care house and trying to contend with the monsters she has faced and must continue to battle. The shifting timeframe of the book is wonderfully worked and makes Bitter Moon stand out in the series as the tone feels so different.

What really makes these stories resonate with me is the fact Roarke is still torn over the crimes Cara commits. She kills sexual predators, killers, men who prey upon young vulnerable girls. Cara is looking to protect those innocent victims by killing the host of the EVIL within the predators. Roarke as a law enforcement officer knows she is a killer yet also knows that her victims are committing crimes which bring Cara’s judgement upon themselves. In Bitter Moon he almost seems bewildered that Cara could be killing at such a young age (and with such ruthless efficiency).  The reader gets to see Cara identifying the threat and we watch how she deals with it. Alexandra Sokoloff paints an unflinching picture of all the crimes and the series is all the more powerful for the anger and energy which drive the stories.

Bitter Moon can be read and enjoyed as a stand alone novel but this series is so damn good I really would recommend picking up Huntress Moon and working your way through the 4 books in order. Bitter Moon is a 5 star read for me. I loved it and I cannot wait to see where the Cara/Roarke story goes next.

 

Bitter Moon is published by Thomas & Mercer and is available in paperback, digital and audiobook formats.  You can order a copy through this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bitter-Moon-Huntress-Thrillers-Book-ebook/dp/B01F8PWUY0/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

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March 3

False Prophet/Never Forget (Saul Marshall) – Richard Davis

So what do you do when you read the *wrong* title for a blog tour?  Well you spend half an hour coming up with imaginative names to call yourself. Then 5 minutes checking you definitely have mixed up which book was the focus of the tour (I had). And then you stay up reading until 3am to post a blog tour “double-header” of the Saul Marshall books by Richard Davis.

There was quite a lot of coffee involved in bringing you these reviews, but good books and lots of coffee is how I like it!

FALSE PROPHET

FalseProphet_CropA psychotic terrorist has his son. He will do anything to save him

When a rogue cult turns deadly, the FBI call on former conman Agent Saul Marshall. FALSE PROPHET introduces a gripping new series from thriller writer Richard Davis

Marshall is soon drawn into a cat and mouse chase with the leader of the cult, Ivan Drexler. As the scale of Drexler’s terrorist ambition becomes ever clearer, news arrives that he has taken Marshall’s son hostage. Removed from the line of duty, he must work alone, off-grid.

As the attacks intensify, Saul will stop at nothing to defeat Drexler.

But the FBI are questioning Saul’s own part in the carnage. He must work fast to save both his country and his life. Can Saul stop the carnage before it’s too late? And can he save his son?

As wave after wave of attacks break, the clock is ticking for Saul.

 

First up in this double-header is False Prophet. We are introduced to Saul Marshall – he is a guy with a fascinating past, an FBI agent who was once one of the best conmen in the game. He is resourceful, connected and a bit of a loose cannon (basically he is a hugely entertaining lead character).

Marshall is on a visit to England. A prisoner with a history of mental health issues has a warning for Saul – he knows of a former prisoner by name of Ivan Drexler who has crossed paths with Saul in the past and he blames Saul for his incarceration. The warning is that Drexler (who is without conscience or compassion) may be planning to unleash a string of attacks on American citizens.

Saul cannot ignore the warning but there seems to be no real substance to the suspicions. However, events are soon flipped on their head.  Draxler is heading up a cult and has kidnapped Saul’s son to ensure Saul places himself into the path of Draxler and his minions. Can Saul keep up with Draxler and stop him unleashing his terror attacks?

False Prophet is a fast paced action thriller. Draxler as the “big bad” is a particularly evil character who inflicts some quite gruesome (and imaginative) harm onto several characters throughout the story. It makes for quite compelling reading and the speed at which the story unfolds is the perfect way to reflect the urgency/race against time which faces Marshall.

As a fan of action thrillers I have to say that False Prophet ticked all the right boxes for this reader.  The chapters are short and punchy which kept the feeling of a high tempo going. Draxler’s cult were suitably disturbing and the author did a good job of positioning their foundation and their threat risk. Marshall, as I have indicated, is a fun character to follow and I loved having Never Forget to dive straight into on finishing False Prophet – I was happy to keep Marshall’s story going a bit longer.

 

False Prophet is published by Canelo and you can order a copy here.

 

NEVER FORGET

Canelo_NeverForget_Ebook4Saul Marshall is on the run.

As a wave of seemingly random assassinations engulfs California, Marshall finds himself drawn into a situation spiralling out of control.

He soon discovers some of the webs’ most secure protocols have been compromised by a rogue team of former Chinese agents. When Marshall realises what they plan, the stakes are raised…

And that’s before the Secretary of State gets involved. Can Marshall unravel the deceit and tricks before it’s too late? Can he stop the carnage, or will he become part of it? One thing is for certain: either way his enemies will never forget.

 

Never Forget – Saul Marshall returns (though thanks to my scheduling faux pas he has been my constant companion for a few days).  Happy days though as I have been enjoying the frenetic adventures.

The Saul Marshall books are most definitely recommended for fans of the action thriller. If you have read your way through the Scott Mariani (Ben Hope) books or enjoyed Matthew Reilly then I urge you to seek out Never Forget and False Prophet, these are guaranteed thrill-fests.

In Never Forget I felt there was much greater emphasis placed upon Saul’s “unconventional” background. Before becoming an FBI agent he had been a successful conman and these skills are exploited here to great effect. The break from a more traditional FBI approach and mixing up the investigative element with the alternative skills that Saul brings to the party make him an unpredictable and engaging lead.

As was the case with False Prophet the central themes are extremely well positioned. Never Forget is tech focussed – reading about cybercrime/hacking and technology manipulation gave me a distinctly uneasy feeling as I start to question how much of the fiction in the novel could actually be possible (or even happening in some form). There is political intrigue too and it all meshes well to keep the reader hooked.

Never Forget will stand well without the need to have read the first book. Everything you need to know is nicely explained but once the story gets started you just get drawn in and go along with what’s unfolding on the pages in front of you.

A very welcome change in pace for this reader, there is always a place in my book collection for an exhilarating thriller and Never Forget fits the bill very nicely.

 

Never Forget is published by Canelo and can be ordered here.

 

My thanks to Faye Rogers for my review copies and the opportunity to join the tour.

Never Forget blog tour 4

 

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December 15

Lone Wolf – Sara Driscoll

lone-wolf-2Meg and Hawk are part of the FBI s elite K-9 unit. Hawk can sniff out bodies anywhere living or dead whether it s tracking a criminal or finding a missing person. When a bomb rips apart a government building on the National Mall in Washington D.C., it takes all of the team s extensive search-and-rescue training to locate and save the workers and visitors buried beneath the rubble.
But even as the duo are hailed as heroes, a mad bomber remains at large, striking terror across the Eastern seaboard in a ruthless pursuit of retribution. As more bombs are detonated and the body count escalates, Meg and Hawk are brought in to a task force dedicated to stopping the unseen killer. But when the attacks spiral wide and any number of locations could be the next target, it will come down to a battle of wits and survival skills between Meg, Hawk, and the bomber they re tracking to rescue a nation from the brink of chaos.

 

My thanks Kensington Books for my review copy which I received through Netgalley.

 

A serial bomber is a terrifying notion and Sara Driscoll paints a terrifying picture of how simple it could be to place a bomb in our midst. In Lone Wolf Government buildings are being targeted by a killer who is holding a long standing grudge.

When a bomb explodes in a busy Government building the FBI K-9 team are called into action – they are to enter the ruins of the building and search for survivors.  It is a harrowing scene and it really highlighted the importance of the work that a K-9 unit undertakes. Sara Driscoll does a fantastic job of describing the chaos and the carnage of the working conditions that the dog and its handler have to operate, the relationship between the two and the ability of the dogs to obey every command.  I was totally engrossed.

Away from the bomb sites we see how Meg and her dog, Hawk, are an inseparable unit. We learn a little of Meg’s background in law enforcement, how quit her job when an arrest went wrong and what finally brought her to the FBI. The relationship and the bond between Hawk and Meg is something rather special and their partnership one of the strongest I have read for a long time. I loved discovering their story and really hope that Lone Wolf will be the first of many FBI K-9 stories.

Sara Driscoll has brought us a chilling thriller with wonderful lead characters and a bad guy that we will all want to see brought to justice.  The story flows at a fast and exciting pace and has that important “just one more chapter” feel about it as you read.

Dog lovers will adore it. Thriller fans should grab it. Lone Wolf is highly recommended.

 

Lone Wolf was published on 29 November by Kensington Books.  You can order a copy here:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lone-Wolf-F-B-I-K-9-Novel/dp/149670441X/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480371068&sr=1-1-fkmr0&keywords=loan+wolf+sara+driscoll

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October 29

Depraved Heart – Patricia Cornwell

Depraved HeartDr. Kay Scarpetta is working a suspicious death scene in Cambridge, Massachusetts when an emergency alert sounds on her phone with a surveillance film of her genius niece Lucy taken almost twenty years ago. The film clip and then others sent soon after raise dangerous legal implications that increasingly isolate Scarpetta and leave her not knowing where to turn – not to her FBI husband Benton Wesley or her investigative partner Pete Marino. Not even Lucy.

Scarpetta is now launched into intensely psychological odyssey that includes the mysterious death of a Hollywood mogul’s daughter, aircraft wreckage on the bottom of the sea in the Bermuda Triangle, a grisly gift left in the back of a crime scene truck, and videos from the past that threaten to destroy Scarpetta’s entire world and everyone she loves.

 

My thanks to Hayley and the Harper Fiction team for my review copy and the chance to join the tour.

 

Depraved Heart is the 23rd Kay Scarpetta novel. I was there back in 1990 when the first book (Postmortem) was released and the first ever publishers ARC I received was for book 6 (From Potter’s Field). Doctor Scarpetta was one of my annual essential reads and I always made a point of picking up the latest release as soon as the hardback hit the shop shelves. But time moved on and for a period of time it became more important that I bought baby food and nappies rather than the books I wanted. My favourite reads suffered and as a result I fell behind on the lives of Dr Scarpetta, Lucas Davenport (from the wonderful John Sandford Prey series) and whichever oddity Mr Stephen King would serve up for our entertainment.

The bodies that consumed the baby food and then filled the nappies have grown somewhat and I am now able to pick up the books I have missed over the last few years and I am catching up on my favourite characters. It seems that while I have been distracted Doctor Scarpetta has been busy!

Author photograph - Patrick Ecclesine 2015
Author photograph – Patrick Ecclesine 2015

To Depraved Heart: it is to be expected that by book 23 in a series there will be a requirement to know something of the backstory. Depraved Heart is very much a story which draws upon previous events. The author does bring through sufficient information to allow readers to understand something of what has passed before but this is not a book I would consider an easy jumping on point.  There is a vast backstory for Kay Scarpetta and the joy for the reader is in reading through these events in the earlier books, not to try to piece together what has gone before through some of the salient facts in the latest title.

The good news for returning readers is that some significant elements from Kay’s past are returning to haunt her and a fascinating game of cat and mouse is about to unfold. The book opens with Scarpetta at a murder scene but she becomes distracted by call she receives from her niece’s emergency phone. However, it is not her niece, Lucy, that has contacted Kay – instead Kay watches a video clip of Lucy which was recorded some 20 years earlier. Lucy was clearly unaware the video was being recorded but Kay is sufficiently worried about her niece that she leaves the crime scene and drives directly to Lucy’s home to check on her safety.

On arriving at Lucy’s home Kay is shocked to learn that the FBI are searching the property and it seems that Lucy may be a person of interest to them. Kay has her suspicions regarding the person responsible for sending the video and believes that they may also be engineering a ploy to implicate Lucy in a criminal activity. But with no evidence to support her theory and facing an apparent attempt to discredit her own recollections of recent events (which that endangered her own life) Kay finds she is fighting a battle on more than one front.

Depraved Heart is a rewarding read for fans of the series. Scarpetta, Benton and Moreno are in fine form, their interchanges and point-scoring discussions are a joy to read – particularly as this is a conversation heavy story which much supposition and discussion between the characters.

The mystery and unpredictability of the unseen opponent in Depraved Heart made for interesting twists along the way. As I was reading I felt the story dropped pace a little in the middle but then rushed into an explosive ending which seemed to be over all too quickly, the final set piece was quite nasty though so perhaps drawing it out would have been unpleasant for some?

In summary – if you have read the 22 books leading into Depraved Heart you will love this.  For those on catch up (as I was) pay attention and stick with it as all becomes clear but there are spoilers for earlier books.

 

Track the Depraved Heart blog tour at the sites listed below:

Depraved Heart Blog Banner

 

 

Fans of Patricia Cornwell may be keen to know that there will be two opportunities to meet her during November – links below will provide more details on the events which are being held in London and Manchester.

http://www.goodhousekeeping.co.uk/lifestyle/gh-events-and-whats-on/patricia-cornwell – event in LONDON

https://www.waterstones.com/events/an-evening-with-patricia-cornwell/manchester-deansgate -event in MANCHESTER

Depraved Heart is available now in Hardback and Digital format.

Patricia Cornwell is on Twitter: @1pcornwell

 

 

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April 21

Huntress Moon – Alexandra Sokoloff

The Huntress/FBI Thrillers Book 1

FBI Special Agent Matthew Roarke is closing in on a bust of a major criminal Huntress_Moon_TM_CVR-FTorganization in San Francisco when he witnesses an undercover member of his team killed right in front of him on a busy street, an accident Roarke can’t believe is coincidental. His suspicions put him on the trail of a mysterious young woman who appears to have been present at each scene of a years-long string of “accidents” and murders, and who may well be that most rare of killers: a female serial.

Roarke’s hunt for her takes him across three states…while in a small coastal town, a young father and his five-year old son, both wounded from a recent divorce, encounter a lost and compelling young woman on the beach and strike up an unlikely friendship without realizing how deadly she may be.

As Roarke uncovers the shocking truth of her background, he realizes she is on a mission of her own, and must race to capture her before more blood is shed.

 

My thanks to Alexandra Sokoloff for giving me the chance to read Huntress Moon.

 

I think I will need a thesaurus for this review. I would open it to the word ‘Brilliant’ and then apply a number of superlatives to Huntress Moon. It was that good!

FBI Special Agent Roarke is witness to a colleague’s sudden and unexpected death. The deceased agent had been working undercover and was due to rendezvous with Roarke but was killed by a speeding vehicle. Just before the incident Roarke spotted a woman standing beside his colleague she vanished when Roarke’s line of sight was broken but her presence unsettled him.

The reader then gets to join the woman. She is on the run, not that she fears capture – she is escaping a crime scene and has a code to follow. She has clearly done this many times in the past. At a truck stop the woman is confronted by a trucker, it ends badly for him but the woman leaves an unavoidable mess.

We now have a fabulous set up. We follow Roarke and his investigations into the mystery woman. We follow the killer as she tries to blend in and establish a cover story. As the story develops we learn more about our mysterious killer and see how she constantly lives on the fine edge between fight and flight. The FBI investigations also progress and it becomes clear that the mystery woman will not be able to remain a mystery for long.

I found Huntress Moon to be a compelling read. I enjoy reading FBI ‘manhunt’ novels and the added bonus of seeing how the hunt unfolded from the point of view of the killer was a nice twist. By the time the story was entering the Endgame I was genuinely torn as to how I wanted events to unfold.

LACMA.best.DSC_6246-2There are moral implications to consider in Huntress Moon. If a killer is targeting victims who they perceive as immoral, or if the victim was engaging in criminal activities, can their death be justified? One for the reader to consider and one of the reasons I was torn over how I wanted the book to end. I don’t have an answer to that question.

Huntress Moon is a stand out book for me. I liked Roarke and his FBI colleagues (who were all well developed and made to feel real). I found the killer to be fascinating, her motives are clear to her but what triggered her obsession was disturbing.

Huntress Moon is the best crime thriller I have read for many months and it easily scoops a review score of 5/5. I am now lining up the next book: Blood Moon

 

Huntress Moon is just £1 on Kindle through April 2015.

Alexandra Sokoloff recently visited the blog to discuss Serial Killers. The interview can be found here: http://grabthisbook.net/?p=696

 

Visit the author’s website at AlexandraSokoloff.com

Follow Alexandra on Twitter at @alexsokoloff

Huntress Moon:  http://amzn.to/1wEwxZo

 

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March 5

Dark Country – Darren E Laws

Dark CountryThree related famous country and western singers are kidnapped over a period of 50 years. Only one body has ever been found.

Battling a debilitating illness, FBI agent Georgina O’Neil joins forces with newly licensed private investigator, Leroy La Portiere to find Susan Dark, the latest in the Dark family to go missing as she is on the verge of national stardom. But Georgina’s search for the truth is hampered by an illness which is affecting her judgement. Is there one perpetrator or is this a series of elaborate copycat crimes?

The hunt to find Susan leads them deep into a densely forested area as they follow a bloody trail and a deadly cat and mouse pursuit that will have fatal consequences for all.

 

Thanks to Caffeine Nights for my review copy

This is the second book from Darren E. Laws to feature Georgina O’Neil (the first was Turtle Island). In these circumstances I always like to give consideration within my review over whether the reader is disadvantaged if they have not read the previous story, in this case I would suggest you are not. There are clearly events from Turtle Island which are picked up again within Dark Country, however, they are introduced and explained at appropriate points in the story and you are given sufficient background to allow continuity and progression.

Dark Country has a great hook – three generations of one family are kidnapped over a 50 year period. Each of the abductees had established a successful career as a Country & Western singer and the latest kidnap victim (Susan Dark) was actually working on an album which would have featured her voice alongside that of her mother and grandmother.

The lead character is FBI Agent Georgina O’Neil. She has a debilitating medical condition which has impacted upon her ability to return to full active service with the FBI. Events in Dark Country find Georgina working with her friend Leroy La Portiere (a newly appointed Private Investigator) who has been enlisted by Susan Dark’s record producer to track down the missing singer.

One slight irk I had with Georgina’s illness is that she seemed to be in possession of recuperative powers only previously exhibited by Marvel Comics hero Wolverine – bouncing back from some major surgery to undertake a grueling cross country chase. Laws DOES acknowledge that Georgina is not in full health and IS suffering but this element of the story was a little too far a stretch at times.

All good crime stories need a bad guy and we certainly have that in Dark Country. Risk of Spoilers prevent too much detail at this stage, however, there are some nasty types to be found here. Descriptions of murders creep towards a horror feel at times (which is right up my street but may offend the more sensitive reader).

Events in Dark Country build to a really explosive conclusion with a mass standoff between the key players in a remote location. This played out really well and had me hooked as the end of the book approached. Just when I thought I had seen the story play out there was a nice wee twist to confound me further.

Dark Country is good fun but I wonder if killing off Country & Western singers may upset some potential readers? This is a good one for the horror loving crime fan. Review score of 3.5/5 – see it through to the excellent endgame!

 

 

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