December 31

My Favourite Audiobooks – 2017

Earlier this year my day job changed and my daily commute suddenly involved 5 hours of driving. This ate into my reading time but a subscription to Audible meant I could listen to all the books I wasn’t getting a chance to read.

So after six months and many, many miles I thought I would share the books I enjoyed the most.

It should be noted that three audiobooks made it into the list of My Ten Favourite Books of 2017 it should come as no surprise that they are also included here (the first three).

 

 

Whiteout – Ragnar Jonasson

Whiteout sees the return of Jonasson’s popular Icelandic cop Ari Thor What made Whiteout special for me was the way the author took the smallest cast of possible suspects and made a brilliant “whodunnit” murder mystery. I have compared Ragnar Jonasson’s works to that of Agatha Christie in the past…Whiteout only reaffirms my assertion.

 

 

 

The Beauty of Murder – AK Benedict

The audiobook of The Beauty of Murder was recommended to me by JS Law (author of The Dark Beneath). Boy did he call that right! The Beauty of Murder is a serial killer story in which the killer has the ability to travel through time. Loved that twist and it gave The Beauty of Murder an edge which most books simply didn’t have. The time travel is not just a clever gimmick though, this is a wonderfully compassionate and clever story. With much of the action taking place in and around Cambridge University (with a Philosophy Lecturer as a lead character) it throws up some interesting discussion points too. Hugely enjoyable but with one of the saddest moments of my reading year too…

 

Block 46 – Johana Gustawsson

I was captivated by this tale which takes the reader from WW2 concentration camps to present day and shows how a serial killer was able to stay hidden for decades.

Two narrators on the audiobook really highlighted the “then” and “now” side to Block 46 and the story was outstanding.

 

 

 

 

This is Going to Hurt – Adam Kay

I generally don’t read non-fiction, however, both my parents worked for the NHS and I grew up hearing about life in and around hospitals. When I learned of Adam Kay’s “secret diaries of a junior Doctor” I knew I had to read this book.

It was magnificent. I laughed, winced and shed a tear over his tales. Dr Adam narrates his own book and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Funny, graphic, sweary and over all too soon – I loved this!

 

 

Dark Suits and Sad Songs – Denzil Meyrick

My first DCI Daley thriller and I have already bought more in the series.

An explosive opening throws Daily into a political thriller which will have him facing unknown foes both from home and from far overseas.

With his home life in a shambles, his oldest friend and colleague battling a drink problem and an international hitman loose in his home town Daley is going to have a busy few days.

All with added UFO sightings too!

 

 

From The Cradle – Louise Voss & Mark Edwards

A chilling kidnap tale which kept me hooked.

The heart of the story is the investigation into the missing children and it was great following the ebb and flow of their enquries.

Louise Voss and Mark Edwards kept the twists and surprises coming throughout the story and it had an ending I would never have seen coming.

 

 

Storm Front – John Sandford

I love John Sandford’s books and the Virgil Flowers series (of which Storm Front is one) are well worth seeking out.  They are consistently great crime thrillers yet Flowers brings the humour to his investigations which made Storm Front great listening.

 

 

Quieter Than Killing – Sarah Hilary

I am a huge fan of the Marnie Rome series but this was the first time I had “met” Marnie in audiobook.  The narration by Imogen Church was fantastic, bringing much loved characters to life.

Quieter Than Killing is a great read but then I have never been disappointed in a Sarah Hilary novel – she writes stories with an edge.

Marnie is investigating a series of vicious beatings across London but she cannot tell if she is hunting a single person or a vigilante group. It is not long before the stakes are raised and danger will lie ahead.

 

The Girl in the Ice – Robert Bryndza

The first Erika Foster thriller and a dark and murderous tale from a frozen London. This was one of the first books I listened to (two more in the series soon followed) and I became a firm fan of Robert Bryndza’s wonderful thrillers.

 

Chase – Shaun Hutson

My last pick was the chilling Chase. I love a horror tale and Mr Hutson writes some of the best. An English couple are on a driving holiday in remote USA but the trip will bring them face to face with forces they could not have ever envisaged. Their dream holiday, tinged with tragedy even before they set off, becomes a nightmare roadtrip.

After rescuing a young girl from two killers the couple flee to keep the girl safe – the killers are in pursuit and they know the area far better than the holidaymakers.

Chilling and as nasty as I had anticipated – great listening.

 

 

 

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December 2

Winter Prey – John Sandford

Winter PreyThe Iceman crept into the house on the edge of the lake. He killed the father first. Then the mother and child. And when his work was done, he set the house on fire.

Lucas Davenport has tracked killers in cities across America. But the woods of rural Wisconsin are as dark and primal as evil itself. The winters are harsher and colder. And in the heart of every mother and father, there is fear . . .

Because tonight, the Iceman cometh.

 

I am delighted to have the chance to join The Booktrail Advent tour – many thanks for the opportunity to take everyone to snowy Wisconsin and meet up with one of my favourite characters: Lucas Davenport.

You can follow the full advent tour by clicking through on this link:  https://thebooktrail.wordpress.com/booktrailadvent

 

advent-full

I know this is an Advent tour and that this should suggest Christmas themes but I read crime and thrillers and they tend not to lend themselves to the warm and happy glow that I feel Christmas should ideally bring. I did consider revisiting Agatha Christie’s The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding as I am a huge fan of the Hercule Poirot novels but I had another plan!

Let me do some mental mapping here – Christmas makes me think of White Christmas…snow…and cold dark nights…bleak winters (I grew up in the Scottish Highlands where they have bleak winters nailed down!)…whiteouts…a killer hiding in the snow…stalking his victims and escaping into the black night.  When I think killers in the snow the first book that comes to mind is Winter Prey by John Sandford.  I first read this back in the 1990’s and all these years later it remains one of my favourite books in the Davenport series (now totalling over 20 titles and boasting an established spin off series too).

Winter Prey is a cracking murder mystery.  Davenport is the focus, as you would expect, his investigation into the murder of a family in their remote rural Wisconsin cabin is hampered from the outset by the fact the murderer has set fire to the house in a bid to destroy the bodies. But we also get to view events unfolding through the eyes of the killer: The Iceman.  The identity of the killer remains shrouded in mystery throughout the book, but the reader can see that he/she is monitoring the investigation from afar. We see the paranoia and learn that there are risks threatening their exposure when a 3rd party makes an innocent comment leading the killer to realise that there is hidden incriminating evidence that must be found.  More deaths are bound to follow as the killer looks to cover their tracks.

Most at risk is the local doctor and surgeon – Weather Karkinnen. She will know the identity of the killer if she gets to see the hidden evidence and the killer knows this.  Unfortunately for Weather she is unaware that she can identify a killer and as such she has no idea that her life is at risk. When her job requires her to travel alone through many remote locations on a daily basis you cannot help but fear for her safety.  Weather does have one thing in her favour, a certain police officer is more than a little fascinated by this unusually named surgeon. Any killer trying to get to Weather will have to go through Lucas Davenport first.

A deadly game of cat and mouse will unfold – pursuits will be hampered by snowstorms, tracks will be covered and evidence destroyed. Can a City Cop overcome the wilderness and hunt down an increasingly desperate murderer? Sandford captures the feel of the location and the bitter chill of the winter. After more than 20 years I still remember that initial feeling of being completely absorbed in the story and believing I was also chilled to the bone as I trekked through the Wisconsin woods with my fictional hero as he hunted down The Iceman.

It is atmospheric, it is compelling reading and it sets a scene which few crime novels that I have read since have rivalled.

 

 

 

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September 23

Who is John Sandford?

I am constantly amazed that one of my favourite authors is relatively unknown in the UK. I am not talking about an up and coming star with a couple of titles behind them – I refer to the prolific crime writer John Sandford (pen name of Pulitzer Prize winner John Camp).

In the early 1990’s I got a weekend job in my local bookshop. The rep from Harper Collins visited one day and suggested that we take a few titles from John Sandford’s Prey series. At this stage there were 4 books in total – Rules of Prey, Shadow Prey, Eyes of Prey and Silent Prey. Using my much loved staff discount I took home Rules of Prey to try out. One week later I owned Shadow, Eyes and Silent too!

The Prey novels feature Minneapolis cop Lucas Davenport. Lucas is smart, charismatic and successful. He also has rugged good looks (scarred from playing ice hockey) that seems to ensure he attracts plenty of attention from the ladies in his life. He is a very likeable hero and the character has been well developed over the years.

Since 1989 Sandford has produced a Prey novel virtually every year. Field of Prey was released in May 2014 and is the 24th book in the series. For over 20 years John Sandford has provided me with hours of reading pleasure. Davenport has moved from investigative Detective to a more political role where he oversees his investigations and Sandford uses the supporting cast to do a lot of the more unpleasant leg-work.

Over the years the reader has seen Lucas become a father, get married and suffer the loss of close friends. Buying into the stories is an emotional rollercoaster at times. It is an added bonus when one or two of the more memorable adversaries crop up in more than one story – my particular favourite was the professional killer Clara Rinker (she debuts in Certain Prey).

Such was the success of the Davenport Prey novels that Sandford was able to take a minor supporting character and create an equally brilliant spin off series. Virgil Flowers (generally referred to by his colleagues as that F***ing Flowers) is also an unconventional investigator – many times married, a writer and thinker with an aversion to his own handgun. Virgil offers a different approach to crime fighting in Minneapolis and tends to be based in the more rural regions (Lucas works out of the Twin Cities in the heart of the State). Virgil will next appear in Deadline (October 2014) and this will be Sandford’s 8th Virgil Flowers book.

So with 24 Prey novels and 8 more books with Virgil we have a prolific writer with over 30 novels in the back catalogue why is there so little love for John Sandford in the UK? His dust jacket recommendation (front and centre) is a quote from a certain Mr Stephen King who believes that Sandford is a great summer holiday read.

Are shops and libraries too hung up on certain recognised names? I checked my local library and have scanned the shelves of Edinburgh bookshops. 12 books in total in my local library (including some duplicates) but not a single Sandford in Waterstones Edinburgh store today. Check for James Paterson and the shelves are jammed, same for John Grisham and Michael Connolly. I love Michael Connolly’s work and am pleased he is well represented but Sandford’s work is on a par (with less exposure).

A few years ago I visited a beautiful bookshop in Vermont, USA. I took the opportunity to check out the Sandford books. Pleasingly the shelves were full of Davenport novels – it is just a UK issue which is a real shame as these are books that everyone should have a chance to enjoy.

One final observation. HARPER COLLINS – The fifth book is called Winter Prey. In 1993 why the Hell did you feel you had to rename it The Iceman? It is now the only book in my Prey collection that does not have PREY in the title – do you know what this has done for my OCD over the last 20 years?

Read Sandford – you will thank me.

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