December 1

Gilding the Lily – Justine John

A gripping mystery of jealousy, murder and lies.

An invitation to her estranged, wealthy father’s surprise 75th birthday party in New York sees Amelia and her husband, Jack, set off across the pond to meet a whole new world of family politics.

Amelia, now a successful businesswoman, feels guilty about never liking her father’s women, so does her upmost to give his new socialite partner, Evelyn, the benefit of the doubt. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could just all get along? But there’s something very dark, determined and dangerous about her…

When Amelia’s father, Roger, becomes ill, Jack grows suspicious that there is more to it. Amelia understands why, but no one else will believe them. They travel back to America to piece together the puzzle, but when Roger goes missing, the couple are driven to their wits’ end. It takes a DEA officer and a secret assassin to bring them answers, but the ruthless truth is something no one expected…

 

My thanks to Justine for the invitation to join the blog tour and for allowing me the opportunity to provide a free and fair review of her novel.

 

I came to Gilding the Lily blind. I like to do this from time to time, start a book with out knowing what the story is about or even who the lead character is. I get to enjoy the story “cold” without waiting for an event (be it murder, marriage or mistake) which has been revealed in the book’s description.

Because I came to Gilding the Lily without any forewarning of what to expect I was horrified at the extent of the evil behaviour of one of the characters.  It built up slowly so by the time I came to realise what was going on I was fully caught up in the drama.

The clues had been there…

Evelyn has made a success throughout her life of captivating a partner who will look after her and give her opportunities and wealth. With more than one husband dead and gone she seeks out a new mate and further comforts her nest. She is now with Roger, he is older than Evelyn and has a grown daughter (Amelia) who he does not see very frequently.

Evelyn and Amelia do not get along. Mainly down to Evelyn’s unusual behaviour when Amelia is around. However, as Roger’s health starts to fail Evelyn becomes more and more unpredictable. She soon makes it clear to Amelia that Amelia’s attempts to see (or even speak with) her father is becoming too tiring for Roger and Evelyn and she asks that Amelia gives them peace.

Amelia is horrified by Evelyn’s behaviour. She will not accept that her father does not want to see her and she starts to worry how much input her father has had into the decision she must stay away. Is Evelyn deliberately turning Roger against his daughter? How ill can her father really be that he would turn away his own child?  Then Amelia’s husband Jack makes an alarming observation which leads Amelia to believe that something very sinister is going on.

It is tricky to give too much information on the relationship of the characters in Gilding the Lily, much of the enjoyment in this dark and duplicitous tale comes from not knowing what you can trust. Evelyn is clearly a gold digger and Roger does seem rather distant from Amelia. But is Amelia simply paranoid?  Does she object to her father taking a new partner after the death of his wife (Amelia’s mother)?

Justine John teases out shocks and twists right to the last page. I read Gilding the Lily in a single sitting…I HAD to know what was happening!  Really entertaining but with a healthy dose of anxiety for the characters. Look out for this one it is great storytelling.

 

Gilding the Lily is available in paperback and digital format.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gilding-Lily-Justine-John-ebook/dp/B01N535MZY/ref=la_B01MYYADH3_1_1_twi_kin_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1512084367&sr=1-1

 

 

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October 14

The Angel -Katerina Diamond

THE TRUTH WON’T STAY LOCKED UP FOREVER

When a burned body is found in a disused signal box, suspicion falls on lonely teenager Gabriel Webb. There’s no doubt he was at the scene of the crime, but does he really deserve what awaits him in prison?

DS Imogen Grey is certain there’s more to the case than meets the eye. But while she struggles to convince those around her of the truth, her partner DS Adrian Miles is distracted by his own demons.

When a brutal double murder is reported, their investigation is stopped in its tracks. Is the body in the box even who they thought it was? The duo realise Gabriel might have been locked up for a crime he didn’t commit. But with enemies watching Gabriel’s every move, they may be too late.

 

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

Imogen Grey and Adrian Miles are back – they are called out to investigate a fire in an abandoned signal box but on arrival at the scene they find that their arson case has had a tragic outcome – the body of a homeless man (who must have been sheltering from the elements) is found under the main signal room where the fire started.

Grey and Miles manage to track down Gabriel Webb, he had been in the signal box with his girlfriend and a couple of other local kids.  Gabriel had started a small fire to keep them warm but had not wanted to be in the signal box and wanted nothing to do with the drugs which he was offered.

When confronted by Grey he confirms he started the fire (for warmth) but he had no idea that it had spread to ignite the whole signal box and he is devastated to learn that someone died.  His world shattered Gabriel finds himself in prison – pending trial.

The Angel keeps us updated on Gabriel’s story while in prison and I loved those scenes. We see how he moved from lonely and uncertain then started to accept his situation and adjust to his new life. What he had not anticipated was Asher – a fellow inmate who has his sights on Gabriel and more than a little power in their confined world.

Elsewhere a brutal murder of an elderly couple commands all the attention of the police. The seemingly unmotivated killings shock Grey and Miles but when they start their investigations they uncover some strange connections which suggest that this random incident may actually be part of something much more sinister.

Although they may not initially be aware – the double murder is going to have a huge impact upon both Miles and Grey. Katerina Diamond expertly spins a story and I was completely hooked on The Angel – Gabriel’s situation was compelling but the personal dramas which her cops encountered lifted this from a “great” book to a “fantastic” book.  I utterly loved it – reading late into the night as I did not want to stop.

The housekeeping bit – The Angel is the 3rd book and there are references to past events. But the good news for new readers or for those (like me) that have “goldfish” memories then The Angel can be enjoyed as a stand alone – really enjoyed, really, really enjoyed.

Katerina Diamond is now firmly established as a must read author, her books are all brilliantly written, paced to perfection and have that dark unpredictability which I always welcome.

The Angel is out in paperback and digital format now – treat yourself, I am going to be recommending this to everyone.

 

The Angel is published by Avon Books and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Angel-shocking-thriller-Imogen-Adrian-ebook/dp/B06XB3R3PV/ref=la_B01C0H1GOE_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1507970935&sr=1-1

Follow the Blog Tour

 

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October 5

Quieter Than Killing – Sarah Hilary

It’s winter, the nights are dark and freezing, and a series of seemingly random assaults is pulling DI Marnie Rome and DS Noah Jake out onto streets of London. When Marnie’s family home is ransacked, there are signs that the burglary can have only been committed by someone who knows her. Then a child goes missing, yet no-one has reported it. Suddenly, events seem connected, and it’s personal.

Someone out there is playing games. It is time for both Marnie and Noah to face the truth about the creeping, chilling reaches of a troubled upbringing. Keeping quiet can be a means of survival, but the effects can be as terrible as killing.

 

My thanks to Katie at Headline for my review copy and the chance to join the blog tour

 

Quieter Than Killing is the 4th book by Sarah Hilary to feature DI Marnie Rome. Each book can be read as a stand-alone novel but what you need to do is make sure you DO read all four books – they are all fantastic.

We readers are blessed with choice when it comes to police procedurals and crime thrillers, yet – for me – the Marnie Rome books stand head and shoulders above the others. Rome is a determined and focused detective who lives in the constant shadow of personal tragedy and it makes her own story utterly compelling.

In Quieter Than Killing, London is in the grip of a bitter winter and Marnie and DS Noah Jake are on the hunt for a violent offender. Someone has targeted three people for a vicious beating – disfiguring injuries have been inflicted and the only obvious link between the victims is that they have each (in the past) served time in prison for violent attacks of their own.  Are Marnie and Noah looking for a vigilante?  If so then how are they selecting their victims and what possible motive could they have?

Elsewhere the reader gets to see Finn.  He is 10 years old and has been plucked from the street and locked into a house from which there seems no escape.  His captor, dubbed Brady by Finn, has “rules” which Finn must obey…cooking and cleaning is expected and noise or disobedience are not tolerated. Finn is convinced Brady is a pervert who is planning to murder him, but Brady is keeping his distance and has been keeping Finn alive for several weeks. What does he need with the young boy and how much longer must Finn endure his captivity?

I got to enjoy Quieter Than Killing in audio and I need to give a massive thumbs-up to the narrator Imogen Church who voiced Marnie almost exactly how I had imagined her.

As with all of Sarah Hilary’s books the story is gripping, the clues well hidden and the entertainment is to the max. If you are not already reading these books you damn well should be.

 

Quieter Than Killing is published by Headline and is available in paperback and digital format. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Quieter-Than-Killing-D-I-Marnie-ebook/dp/B01INGSU68/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1507232613&sr=1-1&keywords=sarah+hilary

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September 28

Death Parts Us – Alex Walters

Twenty years ago, Jackie Galloway was a senior cop with a bad reputation. Then he ended up on the wrong side of the wrong people, and his career was ruined. Sacked and with no pension, he ends up eking out his last days on Scotland’s Black Isle, his mind lost to dementia, supported only by his long-suffering wife, Bridie.

Then Galloway is found dead. The police assume the death to be accidental, until Bridie Galloway reveals that her husband has been receiving apparently threatening letters containing only the phrase: ‘NOT FORGOTTEN. NOT FORGIVEN.’

DI Alec McKay is struggling to come to terms with life without his estranged wife Chrissie, and is living in isolation on the Black Isle. As a junior officer, McKay had been allocated to Galloway’s team and has bad memories of the man and his methods. Now he finds himself investigating Galloway’s death.

But when suspicion falls on him and more police officers are murdered, the pressure is on for McKay to solve the case.

Why would the killer seek revenge twenty years after Galloway left the force?

As McKay fights to link the events of past and present, he realizes that time is rapidly running out…

 

My thanks to Sarah and the team at Bloodhound Books for my review copy and the chance to join the Blog Blitz

If you live in London, Manchester or New York you will not bat an eye if you pick up a book set in the city you live. Happens all the time.  You may smile a little if you recognise a street name or if your old school is mentioned; it is a familiarity you would enjoy spotting.

I grew up in the Highlands of Scotland. I went to school in a town called Fortrose, I drove through the neighbouring town of Avoch* and walked to Rosemarkie. Ever heard of them?  Unlikely. They are not often selected as the setting for serial killer thrillers so we don’t get to experience that wee smile of familiarity.

But Death Parts Us by Alex Walters is set on The Black Isle and features all these towns (well…villages) and I read this book with a huge smile on my face.  I walked these streets, I went to that beach, I have crossed that bridge more times than I can count and I have tromped through the Fairy Glen. This is a book set in my wee part of the world and I bloody loved it.

But you are now thinking – I have never heard of these places, is this book one I will enjoy too?  YES. If we move beyond my love of the locations in the book there is also my love of great crime novels and Death Parts Us is a slick and highly entertaining thriller.

Retired police officers are dying. Initially their deaths are considered tragic accidents, old men in poor health who reach the end of their days. However, the frequency of sudden and unexpected deaths of old colleagues soon points to some sinister faction at work. Then it becomes clear that each of the dead men had been receiving letters “Not Forgotten. Not Forgiven”  DI Alec McKay wants to investigate, however, some unfortunate timing means he will be sidelined as Alec finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Can Alec have any influence on an investigation if he just asks a few questions around the villages?

The responsibility to investigate will fall to his younger colleague Ginny Horton. But Ginny has problems of her own. An unwelcome visitor from her past has tracked her down and Ginny is not prepared to face those old and unwelcome memories.  Not that she can turn to McKay, he is trying to adjust to life alone after a recent split from his wife and has his own problems to contend with.

Death Parts Us is the second novel to feature DI Alec McKay (Candles and Roses was the first book). I had not read the first book in the series so I can state with assurance that you can read Death Parts Us without needing to read Candles – the book is very enjoyable as a stand-alone novel.

I really enjoyed Death Parts Us and I cannot wait to go back and read the first book in the series. I urge you to seek this one out, a police procedural in a whole new setting and a cracking murder mystery to enjoy.

Death Parts Us is published by Bloodhound Books and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=dp_byline_sr_ebooks_1?ie=UTF8&text=Alex+Walters&search-alias=digital-text&field-author=Alex+Walters&sort=relevancerank

 

*Avoch rhymes with “Loch” and is pronounced “awch” – it has a harbour where you can take out a boat to go dolphin spotting in the Cromarty Firth.

 

 

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September 23

Secrets in Death – JD Robb (Audiobook)

Lt. Eve Dallas must separate rumors from reality when a woman who traffics in other people’s secrets is silenced.

The chic Manhattan nightspot Du Vin is not the kind of place Eve Dallas would usually patronize, and it’s not the kind of bar where a lot of blood gets spilled. But that’s exactly what happens one cold February evening.

The mortally wounded woman is Larinda Mars, a self-described “social information reporter,” or as most people would call it, a professional gossip. As it turns out, she was keeping the most shocking stories quiet, for profitable use in her side business as a blackmailer. Setting her sights on rich, prominent marks, she’d find out what they most wanted to keep hidden and then bleed them dry. Now someone’s done the same to her, literally – with a knife to the brachial artery.

Eve didn’t like Larinda Mars. But she likes murder even less. To find justice for this victim, she’ll have to plunge into the dirty little secrets of all the people Larinda Mars victimized herself. But along the way, she may be exposed to some information she really didn’t want to know…

 

Another audiobook review – this time I thought I would use September’s Audible Subscription Credit to pick up the newest title in JD Robb’s fantastic “in Death” series.

Full disclosure from the start – I LOVE THESE BOOKS. I have ploughed hours of my life into reading and re-reading stories about Eve Dallas – the tough cop who is perpetually (and hilariously) uncomfortable when not chasing down murderers.  Secrets in Death is book 45 in the series – I have read all previous books (often more than once) and I am heavily invested in the lives of the characters.

So did I enjoy Secrets in Death?  Yes!  I thought it was the best new release in this series for a while. Did I like the Audio?  On the whole I did – but Susan Ericksen’s Irish accent was a bit of a shock initially and took a little getting used to. When Dallas is married to an Irishman that’s a bit of an issue, particularly since Roarke features heavily in Secrets.

The story its-self was really strong.  Eve is enduring an awkward meeting in a plush New York bar when tv’s gossip girl (who Eve had previously noticed sitting at a nearby table) stumbles across the floor of the bar and falls to the floor.  She is bleeding heaving and despite the best efforts of Dallas and two medical practitioners also in the bar – Larinda Mars dies at Eve’s feet.

It is a strong start and the pace keeps going.  Larinda has made her fame through sharing the secrets and gossip of the nations celebs. As she climbed the ladder to her success she has upset more than her fair share of people with her exclusive reveals.  But there may be more to Larinda’s investigative powers than a simple nose for the “truth” and it is not long before Eve becomes embroiled in an investigation where potential suspects are very good at keeping secrets.

Book 45 in the series – you do need to have an awareness of the background of the characters to get the most from Secrets. However it can be read as a stand alone as there is a strong murder story at the heart of the book.

A strong entry into the series though a minor quibble was that I did find that identifying the murderer was slightly easier this time around than in some of the other books. However, the story was as sharp as ever and I never fail to enjoy a JD Robb novel.

 

Secrets in Death is published by Piatkus and is available in Hardback, Digital and audiobook format: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Secrets-Death-J-D-Robb-ebook/dp/B01MSAHS7G/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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September 19

Wychwood – George Mann

 

After losing her job and her partner in one fell swoop, journalist Elspeth Reeves is back in her mother s house in the sleepy village of Wilsby-under-Wychwood, wondering where it all went wrong. Then a body is found in the neighbouring Wychwoods: a woman ritually slaughtered, with cryptic symbols scattered around her corpse. Elspeth recognizes these from a local myth of the Carrion King, a Saxon magician who once held a malevolent court deep in the forest. As more murders follow, Elspeth joins her childhood friend DS Peter Shaw to investigate, and the two discover sinister village secrets harking back decades.

 

My thanks to Phillipa at Titan Books for my review copy and the chance to join the blog tour

 

Yesterday evening I made myself a cup of coffee and sat down to start reading Wychwood. Two hours later I finally looked up from my book, it was well past midnight, my coffee was stone cold and I was contemplating “just a few more chapters” before bed. This is a good’un.

Journalist Elspeth Reeves leaves London to return home to her mother in the small village of Wilsby-under-Wychwood. Elspeth needs some familiar comfort as she has lost her job and her marriage has ended but as she nears her mother’s home she has to endure the ordeal of a huge traffic jam – roads into the village are locked down while the police investigate “an incident”.

Elspeth’s family home backs onto the local woods – the police have sealed off access but Elspeth jumps the wall and goes for a snoop. She is shocked to spot the body of a woman – the corpse is carefully laid out on the forest floor and adorned in a cape of swan feathers, head surrounded by dead birds. More shocking for Elspeth is that she recognises the image, this body has been displayed to depict an image from a local myth…that of the Carrion King.

Before she can get away from the body she is discovered by a policeman. DS Peter Shaw was a school-friend of Elspeth and he keeps her presence at the murder scene a secret from his boss.  However when Elspeth turns up at the police station the next day with a book on local myths and shows Shaw an image which appears to mirror the staging of his murder victim he agrees to pool information with Elspeth to track down a killer.

The first body we see is not the only death in the village and there is a sinister killer at work. The small village setting gives the book a suitably sinister/creepy feel which would have been lost in a larger setting. The historic overtures and the suggestion of witchcraft or dark forces at work made this particularly engaging reading.  Elspeth and Shaw are engaging lead characters and I enjoyed their relaxed and companionable relationship.

I am a big fan of George Mann’s writing style, incredibly readable and perfectly paced to keep me flicking the pages.  Wychwood is creepy and very entertaining – I liked it a lot.

 

Wychwood is available in paperback and digital format and can be ordered here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wychwood-1-George-Mann/dp/1783294094/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1505771716&sr=1-2

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September 13

The Kindred Killers – Graham Smith

Jake Boulder’s help is requested by his best friend, Alfonse, when his cousin is crucified and burned alive along with his wife and children.

As Boulder tries to track the heinous killer, a young woman is abducted. Soon her body is discovered and Boulder realises both murders have something unusual in common.

With virtually no leads for Boulder to follow, he strives to find a way to get a clue as to the killer’s identity. But is he hunting for one killer or more?

After a young couple are snatched in the middle of the night the case takes a brutal turn. When the FBI is invited to help with the case, Boulder finds himself warned off the investigation.

When gruesome, and incendiary, footage from a mobile phone is sent to all the major US News outlets and the pressure to find those responsible for the crimes mounts.  But with the authorities against him can Boulder catch the killer before it’s too late?

 

My thanks to Sarah at Bloodhound Books for my review copy and the chance to join the tour

We were first introduced to Scot in exile, Jake Boulder, in Watching the Bodies and from the off I loved the new character introduced by Graham Smith.  So when I discovered Boulder was returning in The Kindred Killers I was more than a little excited – I always favour recurring characters and I love to watch their story build across multiple titles.

The Kindred Killers takes a much darker tone than Watching the Bodies – for a start we have murder victims with a very close link to Boulder. Boulder’s best friend, Alphonse, tracks Jake down after Jake has had a heavy night. Too drunk to recall what has happened Jake wakes to find a strange girl in his bed, his knuckles bruised from fighting and his best friend banging on the door of his room (angry with Jake for failing to come to his assistance the previous night). Jake would do anything for Alphonse so his sense of remorse at letting his friend down will drive him into action.

Alphonse explains that his cousin is missing (along with his cousin’s family) but when Jake and Alphonse reach the family home it is clear that there has been a struggle and that the family have not left willingly.  It is not long before 4 bodies are found…all four family members have been tied to a cross and set on fire.  The killings appear racially motivated and their murders have all the hallmarks of a Klan killing, but Jake is not convinced as something about where the bodies are found does not seem typical of the KKK.

Knowing the local police are not capable of conducting a murder investigation on this scale (and not wishing to be kept on the sidelines) Alphonse and Jake are on the trail of the killers. But we readers get to see that the murder of a single family is just the start of things and there are more potential victims unknowingly facing a grizzly fate.

As previously stated, The Kindred Killers is much darker in tone this time around. I found the murders (and their methods) to be quite unsettling. I deeply dislike bullies in stories and I also dislike people being singled out because someone may feel that they do not “fit in” – as such there were elements of this story which greatly rankled with me. This should reflect well on the author, creating the characters which will anger me as a reader, drawing me into the story and making me will the bad guys to fail. I wanted them to change their ways or to be brought to their knees.  I shouldn’t get angry at made up people but I did! Boulder is on the case but how many will have to suffer before he can track down the guilty and see that justice is brought down upon them.

If you enjoy a vigilante story, enjoy tales of the investigator who is not restricted by the rules of the police and a hero that will swing a punch to end a disagreement with the bad guys – Jake Boulder is the guy you need to discover.

 

The Kindred Killers is published by Bloodhound Books and is available in Digital and Paperback format. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kindred-Killers-Jake-Boulder-Book-ebook/dp/B0759FD5ZH/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

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September 3

House of Spines – Michael J Malone

Ran McGhie’s world has been turned upside down. A young, lonely and frustrated writer, and suffering from mental-health problems, he discovers that his long-dead mother was related to one of Glasgow’s oldest merchant families. Not only that, but Ran has inherited Newton Hall, a vast mansion that belonged to his great-uncle, who appears to have been watching from afar as his estranged great-nephew has grown up. Entering his new-found home, he finds that Great-Uncle Fitzpatrick has turned it into a temple to the written word – the perfect place for poet Ran.

But everything is not as it seems. As he explores the Hall’s endless corridors, Ran’s grasp on reality appears to be loosening. And then he comes across an ancient lift; and in that lift a mirror. And in the mirror … the reflection of a woman …

A terrifying psychological thriller with more than a hint of the Gothic, House of Spines is a love letter to the power of books, and an exploration of how lust and betrayal can be deadly…

 

My thanks to Karen and Anne who allowed me the opportunity to join the House of Spines blog tour

 

This is the type of review I hate writing – the one where I enjoyed a book so much that I don’t think I can put the rights words together to convey how much I lost myself to this story.

Ran McGhie seems to be the luckiest fellow in the West. He has been left a sizeable property on the outskirts of Glasgow (one of the posh bits of town) and charged with looking after the immense book collection that his great uncle amassed during a long and prosperous life.

It transpires that Ran’s mother had fled the family home many years before and turned  her back on her kin. Ran grew up oblivious to his mother’s background but we learn that his (secret) family have not entirely ignored Ran. His great uncle kept an eye on Ran down the years and has come to the conclusion that in a family of odious and self-serving Fitzpatrick’s that Ran McGhie can keep his legacy going. The family solicitor reaches out to Ran and tells him that his crushed wee flat will soon be replaced by the sumptious Newton Hall. He will have a house with a huge number of rooms, a housekeeper and gardener, a private lift, a pool, a gym and most significantly an enormous library but there are conditions attached to the inheritance.

Ran accepts his good fortune and tries to settle in his new home. But something odd seems to happen in Newton Hall and Ran finds his sleep becomes disturbed, he is drawn more than once to a mirror and in the reflections he sees a woman.

What had been a creepy story suddenly ramps it up several notches and I was hooked. A giant mansion house with the promise of a ghost soon gives us a disturbing insight into the dark history of a family where money has been no object and the family members are all too used to getting their own way.

Ran was not the only potential heir to the Fitzgerald estate and it does not take long before “new” family members will make themselves known to Ran – they have their own plans for Newton Hall and are keen to keep Ran onside to help them fulfill their goals. Following Ran through the story I could not help but cheer him on as he learns to stand up for himself in the face of the arrogant elite class. But there was worry too as Ran is out of his depth and fighting more than one battle (no spoilers) things look bleak.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I enjoyed House of Spines. I love a ghost story, I love a mystery and I love how Michael J Malone delivers such engaging characters. He sure knows how to plot a twisty, pacy tale and he caught me off guard more than once. House of Spines is a belter – you need this in your life.

 

House of Spines is published by Orenda and available from 15 September 2017 in both paperback and digital format – you can get a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/House-Spines-Michael-J-Malone-ebook/dp/B06Y6LSMBS/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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August 24

Short Stories and Novellas

I don’t often read short stories (though that will be changing soon…more on that later). Recently, however, I have had the opportunity to snatch some quick reading time and have targeted some short stories and novellas which had caught my eye.

 

First up is The Travelling Bag by Susan Hill

From the foggy streets of Victorian London to the eerie perfection of 1950s suburbia, the everyday is invaded by the evil otherworldly in this unforgettable collection of new ghost stories from the author of The Woman in Black.

In the title story, on a murky evening in a warmly lit club off St James, a bishop listens closely as a paranormal detective recounts his most memorable case, one whose horrifying denouement took place in that very building.

In ‘The Front Room’, a devoutly Christian mother tries to protect her children from the evil influence of their grandmother, both when she is alive and when she is dead.

A lonely boy finds a friend in ‘Boy Number 21’, but years later he is forced to question the nature of that friendship, and to ask whether ghosts can perish in fires.

This is Susan Hill at her best, telling characteristically flesh-creeping and startling tales of thwarted ambition, terrifying revenge and supernatural stirrings that will leave readers wide-awake long into the night.

 

My thanks to the team at Serpents Tail for the review copy I received through Netgalley

 

A collection of 4 ghostly tales from Susan Hill. Three stories are outlined in the description above – each took me around half an hour to read and the whole book is around 180 pages in length.  I have my favourites, Boy Number 21 and the unmentioned 4thstory (Alice Baker – a chiller set in an office) were the two which gripped me most.

The Front Room is particularly grim reading but I found it didn’t draw me in quite in the way the other stories had done.  I find that Ghost Stories are harder to pitch as a collection – while all the stories can be creepy, different people respond to different types of chills so in any collection there will be elements which impact people in different ways.

I do enjoy a creepy tale and The Travelling Bag was the welcome break from reading crime thrillers that I had hoped it would be.  The physical book looks rather nice too but its relatively short length made me think it may be more likely to be given as a gift than one a reader may seek out on their own.

Fans of Susan Hill and readers who soak up ghost stories this is one to seek out.

 

 

The Paper Cell – Louise Hutcheson

The first in a new series of distinctive, standalone crime stories, each with a literary bent. In 1950s London, a literary agent finds fame when he secretly steals a young woman’s brilliant novel manuscript and publishes it under his own name, Lewis Carson. Two days after their meeting, the woman is found strangled on Peckham Rye Common: did Lewis purloin the manuscript as an act of callous opportunism, or as the spoils of a calculated murder?

 

My thanks to Sara at Contraband for my review copy

The Paper Cell is a novella from the new Pocket Crime Selection from Contraband Books. It is a beautifully crafted tale of life in the literary circles of 1950’s London.  We begin in the modern day, an author meeting with a journalist after the author grants a rare interview. It becomes clear that there are reasons the author has been reluctant to speak with the press – once we are transported back to recollections of the author’s life as a young man in London the shocking truths start to spill out.

Of the three books covered in this post The Paper Cell was by far the one I enjoyed the most. Louise Hutcheson keeps the story slick, her characters leap off the page and you can easily imagine the smoke filled reading rooms and fussy publishers office meetings.

There is a darkness running through The Paper Cell and the reader gets a fly on the wall view of some terrible behaviours and sinister actions. Yet those dark scenes are in the background as much of the story follows young writers pursing their dreams or and young lovers enjoying their blossoming relationship.

Louise Hutcheson can tell knows how to tell a good story and this had me captivated.

 

 

A Rare Book of Cunning Device – Ben Aaronovich

Exclusive to Audio! Somewhere amongst the shadowy stacks and the many basements of the British library, something is very much amiss – and we’re not talking late returns here. Is it a ghost, or something much worse? PC Peter Grant really isn’t looking forward to finding out….

Still working my way through audiobooks and this was my introduction to PC Peter Grant – popular protagonist of the Ben Aaronovich Rivers of London series.  At 30 minutes running length this free audiobook is a must listen for fans of the series.  I can say this only from the position of a new reader as I have not read Rivers (or any of the other Grant books) but I loved A Rare Book of Cunning Device.

The narrator Kobna Holdbrook-Smith has a very listenable voice and the feedback on his performance from other readers is extremely positive as fans of the series have expressed their approval at how he handles their beloved characters.

Deep within the British Library, Peter Grant, comes up against the most formidable of opponents – a Librarian.  Oh there may also be a poltergeist but Grant knows better…doesn’t he?

 

 

 

Category: 5* Reviews, Audiobook, From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Short Stories and Novellas