The Devil’s Work by Mark Edwards

4 Stars from me

This clever tale is a psychological thriller which had me feeling at times as though I was on a roller coaster climbing towards the top of a slope that I knew would soon be hurtling me down the other side!

There are some really great (for great read awful, despicable, deplorable) characters within these pages who you simply can’t help but loathe – are you right or wrong about them though, that is the question.

I half thought this book wouldn’t live up to the blurb, I worried it might be too fluffy and possibly even a hybrid crossing the chic lit borderline; trust me, it isn’t, it is a stone cold psychological thriller that will well and truly leave you guessing!

Synopsis: A gripping psychological thriller from the bestselling author of Follow You Home and The Magpies.

It was the job she had dreamed of since childhood. But on her very first day, when an unnerving encounter drags up memories Sophie Greenwood would rather forget, she wonders if she has made a mistake. A fatal mistake.

What is her ambitious young assistant really up to? And what exactly happened to Sophie’s predecessor? When her husband and daughter are pulled into the nightmare, Sophie is forced to confront the darkest secrets she has carried for years.

As her life begins to fall apart at work and at home, Sophie must race to uncover the truth about her new job…before it kills her.

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Lost Girls by Angela Marsons

5 Stars from me

So so good!

I am so excited because I don’t think I’ve read any other books by Angela Marsons which means I get to go back to DI Kim Stone book one and then read my way through them! Bliss.

The premises of the kidnapping is brilliant – and serves as a timely reminder, tell your children not to go with strangers – anyway, it is a kidnapping with a cruel twist as the kidnappers want the two sets of parents to go into a bidding war to save just one of the girls…

Kim herself is beautifully complex character, a true hard nut with a caring side and relentless drive to find the truth, solve the case and make things right for people. She and her team are a force to be reckoned with.

What I liked best about Lost Girls is that the story is covered from several angles, all of which are executed seamlessly. You immerse yourself with DI Kim Stone and her team, you feel like you are sat around the ‘war room’ table with them and can almost smell the coffee. Then you are there with the girls in the cold, in the dark, with the damp and fear creeping over you. Then you are with the couples, their despair, their secrets and their anguish becomes your own.

So very well constructed, written and played out – I absolutely loved it and will be fast heading to buy a copy of Silent Scream.

 

Synopsis: Two girls go missing. Only one will return.

The couple that offers the highest amount will see their daughter again. The losing couple will not. Make no mistake. One child will die. 

When nine-year-old best friends Charlie and Amy disappear, two families are plunged into a living nightmare. A text message confirms the unthinkable; that the girls are the victims of a terrifying kidnapping. 

And when a second text message pits the two families against each other for the life of their children, the clock starts ticking for D.I. Kim Stone and the squad. 

Seemingly outwitted at every turn, as they uncover a trail of bodies, Stone realises that these ruthless killers might be the most deadly she has ever faced. And that their chances of bringing the girls home alive, are getting smaller by the hour… 

Untangling a dark web of secrets from the families’ past might hold the key to solving this case. But can Kim stay alive long enough to do so? Or will someone’s child pay the ultimate price? 

Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

4 stars from me!

Cracking debut, I love the DS Manon Bradshaw character and as someone else has said on a review – I didn’t want it to end.

Missing, Presumed is set in Cambridgeshire which made it all the more appealing to me as I am familiar with a lot of the place names and can picture them very clearly as I read.

Manon is just fabulous, she reminded me of a mix of DCI Matilda Darke, Vera Stanhope and Olivia Coleman – yes I know that is a meld of the living and the fictional! The rest of her team are also good solid players – I completely love Davy.

This is a brilliantly creative storyline, essentially focusing on a missing person yet with a whole host of side stories and sub-plots ensuring that the narrative stays alive, busy and engaging. I really enjoyed it and look forward to reading more by Susie Steiner.

Synopsis: Mid-December, and Cambridgeshire is blanketed with snow. Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw tries to sleep after yet another soul-destroying Internet date – the low murmuring of her police radio her only solace.

Over the airwaves come reports of a missing woman – door ajar, keys and phone left behind, a spatter of blood on the kitchen floor. Manon knows the first 72 hours are critical: you find her, or you look for a body. And as soon as she sees a picture of Edith Hind, a Cambridge post-graduate from a well-connected family, she knows this case will be big.

Is Edith alive or dead? Was her ‘complex love life’ at the heart of her disappearance, as a senior officer tells the increasingly hungry press? And when a body is found, is it the end or only the beginning?

An Interview With An Author: Michael Wood

Having read and enjoyed Michael Wood’s books (For Reasons Unknown, Outside Looking In, A Room Full of Killers), and conversed with him on twitter – where he has a delightfully dry, self depreciating and gentle style – I couldn’t resist asking if I could interview him for my blog. Being the true gent that he is, he readily agreed and his answers are below. I hope you’ll enjoy this insight into the life of Michael Wood as much as I have and, if you haven’t already done so, please do take a look at his books.

 

Q1. When did you write For Reasons Unknown?

For Reasons Unknown was written many years before it was finally published. The finished product is very different to the original draft, though the main plot is the same, the characters, the settings, the protagonist, all of those changed throughout the many versions. I think I called it something different too, but I can’t remember what.

 

Q2. What are the best and worst things about being an author?

The best thing is having a book published, having people read it and, hopefully, enjoy it. It’s wonderful to meet fellow writers and readers. The worst part is the actual writing. It’s incredibly lonely. One aspect of writing I enjoy is the research when it comes to a new novel. I love finding out new and bizarre aspects of policing or forensics I can put into my books.

 

Q3. There is a theory that every writer has an uncompleted novel tucked away in a drawer – do you? If so, why did you abandon it and do you think it will ever see the light of day?

I certainly do. I showed it to my agent who liked it and gave it a good going over with a red pen. It’s been edited and updated. Fingers crossed it will be published one day. It’s different from my Matilda Darke novels and it’s not set in Sheffield.

 

Q4. Who would you say is your biggest literary influence?

There are three crime writers who I first read many many years ago whose books I loved and realised I wanted to be a writer: Minette Walters, Val McDermid and Reginald Hill. High class novelists. I’d devour every word they wrote.

 

Q5. I love Matilda Darke, did the character come to you all at once or did it change as you wrote?

Matilda Darke started out as a man. However, when I was writing him, I realised something didn’t quite work and I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. Then I saw a competition in a magazine for unpublished crime writers to send their work off. One of the judges was Ruth Rendell. One of the rules was that the protagonist had to be a woman. That’s when I realised my main character should have been female rather than male. I created Matilda and slotted her into the book and it worked. Unfortunately, I missed the deadline for the competition.

 

Q6. If you could liken yourself to one character from your books, which one would it be and why?

I’m very much like Matilda. She’s full of angst and self-doubt. She’s good at her job but she lacks confidence. That’s definitely me. She also has a house full of crime fiction novels, again, which is very me.

 

Q7. You are fantastic at crime fiction, do you see yourself sticking to this genre or is there a different style that you fancy taking on?

Thank you for the compliment. I do have an idea for a literary drama that I’d like to write at some point. Crime fiction is taking up a lot of my time at present, but maybe one day I’ll get time to write it. It’s a story of three unconnected people facing a personal battle on the same day in London. At the end of the story they are drawn together through one massive event. I’ve got it all mapped out I just need to write it.

 

Q8. Which do you prefer:

– Wine or beer?  Beer.

– Cats or dogs?  Dogs.

– Mac or pc?  PC.

– Tea or coffee?  Coffee.

– Morning or evening? Evening.

– Harry Potter or Northern Lights?  I haven’t read either.

 

Q9. Who is your favourite author?

This is tricky as I have so many favourite authors. The work of Charles Dickens helped me a great deal as a child. I’ll read anything Minette Walters and Val McDermid publish. Reginald Hill will always have a special place in my life. Peter James is a wonderful author and I’m a massive fan of Ruth Rendell, Elly Griffiths, Henning Mankell, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Peter Robinson, Mark Billingham, Alex Marwood, Sarah Hilary, James Oswald. The list is endless.

 

Q10. There are lots of aspiring authors out there and it’s well known that being ‘spotted’ by an agent or publisher is difficult; how did you get your big break?

I’m still waiting for my big break. I wasn’t spotted. I had to work bloody hard to get a publisher and an agent and I’m still working hard now. It’s not easy. You need a thick skin, determination, and the ability to put in the long, lonely hours required to write a book and get it accepted by an agent/publisher.

 

Q11. Where and how do you prefer to write?

I make detailed hand-written notes on my plot, subplot, recurring characters and new characters before I sit down at the computer to write. This initial step is done anywhere; on the sofa, in bed at night, in a coffee shop. Once that stage is finished, I sit at my desk and write non-stop until the first draft if complete.

 

Q12. How long did each book take you to write?

I have no idea. I try not to keep count of how long it takes as if one book only took six months and the next took nine months, I’d wonder why one took longer than the other.

 

Q 13. What is your best cure for writers’ block?

A dog. The best writing companions ever.

 

Q 14. What sort of child were you at school and did your English teacher have you pegged as a future author?

I was very quiet at school; head down, work in on time, never pushing myself forward. School days were horrible. I loved English, especially when we had to write short stories. I don’t think my teachers realised I was there as I was so quiet. I think I was just a name in the register.

 

Q15. When I finish reading a book that I’ve loved I almost feel a bit bereft as I miss the characters in my life. How do you feel when you’ve finished writing one?

The same. I miss Matilda and her team as they’re great characters. They all have something special about them. Matilda is struggling personally and trying her hardest to get through life. Rory is fun and cheeky and enjoying life. Sian is the strong, stable mother-figure. Adele is a wonderful friend to Matilda; she’s lively and bubbly. Scott is thoughtful and serious. I love them all. I have back stories for each of my main characters, some of which won’t even make it to the novels, but it’s for me to know who they are, what makes them tick and react to certain situations. I have plans for them all too. They all have an end story.

 

Q 16. Where do you get the ideas from for your crimes?

Everywhere. Other novels, the news, newspapers, magazines. My mum often cuts out real life stories she reads and magazines and gives them to me in case I was to use them. I have a folder full of inspiration. It’s strange how you’ll be having an innocent conversation with someone and an idea will pop into your head. I do a great deal of research and talk to detectives, doctors and pathologists. They sometimes say things that give me ideas too.

 

Q17. I’ve only been to Sheffield a few times, if I go there and look for the places mentioned in your books will I find them (are they real)? A kind of ‘Matilda Darke Murder Tour’ if you will!

Definitely. All the places mentioned in the books are real. Occasionally, I’ve altered the geography of Sheffield and in The Hangman’s Hold I created a whole new road as what I wanted for the finale wasn’t there, but about 98% of the locations exist.

 

Q18. What is the best/worst job you’ve had?

Best job is what I’m doing now. I love writing. Worst job was as a PA for a director within the NHS who never came off her phone. I only lasted three days. I hated it.

 

Q19. What is your favourite TV show?

This is difficult as I don’t watch much TV. Programmes I own on DVD which I watch regularly are: Blackadder, Wallander, Waking the Dead, Red Dwarf, The Sculptress, Warriors, Dalziel and Pascoe, Great Expectations.

The Second Sister by Claire Kendal

4 stars from me

This book really put me in mind of Sister by Rosamund Lupton (which I loved), but rest assured it is different enough to be well worth reading.

Ella Brooke is a great character and I really enjoyed the chemistry between her and Ted (spoiler alert) I was quite sad that he had betrayed her and it was left unresolved as to whether they would get back together – I so wanted them to get back together!

The story itself is a sad little tale beautifully brought to life by Claire Kendal. It was a book of two halves for me, it seemed to jog along quite nicely and then all of I sudden it was a roller coaster ride to the conclusion. I really found myself reading faster and faster towards the end as I had to find out what happened.

Very enjoyable read and if you read it and enjoy it I very much urge you to read Sister.

 

Synopsis: An obsessive quest to solve the mystery of her older sister’s disappearance puts a young woman in mortal jeopardy in this taut, sophisticated novel of psychological suspense from the author of the “truly riveting” (New York Times) The Book of You. An intoxicating cocktail of loyalty and secrets, lies and betrayal, reminiscent of Rosamund Lupton’s Sister and Kimberly McCreight’s Reconstructing Amelia.

A decade ago, Ella Brooke’s older sister, Miranda, vanished without a trace. With every passing year, Ella has come to resemble more closely the sister she lost—the same dark hair, the same piercing blue eyes—and now she’s the same age Miranda was when she disappeared.

Ella has never let go of her sister. She can still feel Miranda’s presence, still hear her voice. She still talks to her. What holds Ella together is her love for her sister’s ten-year-old son and her work as a self-defense expert helping victims.

Ella is certain that Miranda was taken, and that one man is key to her disappearance: Jason Thorne. The tabloids report that a new link has been found connecting Miranda to this sadistic serial killer locked away in a psychiatric hospital. Ignoring warnings from the police and the disapproval of her parents, she seeks Thorne out. Ella will do whatever it takes to uncover the truth—no matter how dangerous…

The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton

5 (million) stars from me

Oh. My. God.

One look at the cover of this book and I knew I HAD to read it.

Fruitloop Juliette (Elizabeth? Lily?) didn’t let me down! Wait till you have a day free and then read this beauty in one go – it is utterly compelling and trust me you won’t want to be interrupted – this intelligent, psychological thriller will have you glued to your seat.

Juliette’s obsession with Nate is like nothing on earth and she comes up with some pretty inventive ways to win him back. Frankly if I was Karen Hamilton‘s other half I’d be worried 😉

I think what made it so great is that a lot of Juliette is so nice, so normal, so ‘perfect’ and yet she is massively and entirely, all consumingly bonkers! The Perfect Girlfriend is told from Juliette’s perspective so I found myself immersed in her mixed up world, to the point that some of her actions almost seemed justified at points. This lady has no boundaries, no limits and has set her eyes on the prize with dogged determination.

Thank you Karen Hamilton for such a stonker of a debut, I cannot wait to read your next book.

 

Synopsis:Juliette loves Nate. She will follow him anywhere. She’s even become a flight attendant for his airline, so she can keep a closer eye on him.

They are meant to be.

The fact that Nate broke up with her six months ago means nothing. Because Juliette has a plan to win him back. She is the perfect girlfriend. And she’ll make sure no one stops her from getting exactly what she wants.

True love hurts, but Juliette knows it’s worth all the pain…

 

After He’s Gone by Jane Isaac

5 stars from me

Having read and loved Jane Isaac‘s previous novels, I was thrilled to be offered a chance to read After He’s Gone, featuring new main character Beth Chamberlain. Having read Jane’s previously novels and enjoyed getting to know Will Jackman I was surprise to see a new lead in this book but I have to say it worked brilliantly – I can’t wait to read more about Beth and hey who knows, maybe she and Will can work together in the future 🙂

It is a simple yet clever story which unfolds gradually at first but then fast gathers momentum as you get drawn into the lives of Beth, Monika, Sara and of course, Cameron.

What appears to be a straight forward – if dramatic – murder, soon turns into a deep and murky glimpse into the life of Cameron Swift. His death has all the markers of a ‘hit’, but is it? Beth is a brave and feisty character who puts others first which makes her a truly wonderful heroine for what I hope will be the first in a new series.

In addition to a brilliants constructed whodunnit, the effort put into building Beth’s back story is noteworthy on it’s own. She is alive within these pages and finish the book really feeling as though you know her.

I love the cover too – really fresh and tells you at one glance that this is going to be ballsy female lead in a murder case – pretty impressive!

Not only is Jane Isaac a fabulous author but is also utterly lovely on Twitter. I’m sure she’d like to hear from you if you loved reading any of her books.

Synopsis: You think you know him. Until he’s dead.

When Cameron Swift is gunned down outside his family home, DC Beth Chamberlain is appointed Family Liaison Officer: a dual role that requires her to support the family, and also investigate them.

As the case unfolds and the body count climbs, Beth discovers that nothing is quite as it appears and everyone, it seems, has secrets. 

Even the dead…

In The Dark by Cara Hunter

5 stars from me

Clever clever book.

I absolutely loved Close to Home so was almost concerned that I could only like In the Dark less, simply because the only way left was – in theory – down. How wrong I was. To start with you leap straight into a police procedural and I was wondering in my head whether I was enjoying the style – then had to laugh to myself as I realised that I’d had a cup of tea, two cups of coffee and some toast and I was 49% through the book.

Cara Hunter is the queen of ‘unputdownable’, you find yourself utterly sucked into the story and needing desperately to know what happens next.

I look forward to reading more DI Adam Fawley books and I hope that his current colleagues will still be in the team, particularly Gis, Somer, Quinn and Everett. Very intriguing sub plots run alongside the main story without detracting from it.

There were so many different strands to In the Dark, it is a very clever and well put together tale. It moves fast and you should do yourself a favour and cancel your weekend plans so that you can get comfy, get the kettle on and read!

My thanks to NetGalley for a review copy 🙂

 

Synopsis: DO YOU KNOW WHAT THEY’RE HIDING IN THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR?

From the author of CLOSE TO HOME, comes the second pulse-pounding DI Fawley crime thriller.

A woman and child are found locked in a basement room, barely alive…

No one knows who they are – the woman can’t speak, and there are no missing persons reports that match their profile. And the elderly man who owns the house claims he has never seen them before.

The inhabitants of the quiet Oxford street are in shock – how could this happen right under their noses? But DI Adam Fawley knows that nothing is impossible.

And that no one is as innocent as they seem . . .

Perfect Death by Helen Fields

4 stars from me

I really enjoy the Luc Callanach character, appearing almost too good to be true, he has a great back story which gets fully developed in Perfect Death and we understand a lot more about him and his relationship with his mother during this book.

The story itself is very clever, with little sub-stories that inevitably interweave and merge as the tale develops. In fact there are two main threads to this book and one of them contains micro-stories as you are introduced to each new victim. The killer is clever too and (without wishing to give anything away) their different ways of ensnaring their victims is really well constructed and orchestrated. Helen Fields has peppered throughout the book several emotional punches that are delivered with skill and aplomb.

DCI Ava Turner finds herself newly promoted and she is a great female lead – and a much more tangible character than Luc Callanach, for me anyway.

DI Luc Callanach and DCI Ava Turner’s relationship is an interesting one, will they won’t they? I think we all know they’d like to!

 

Synopsis: Unknown to DI Luc Callanach and the newly promoted DCI Ava Turner, a serial killer has Edinburgh firmly in his grip. The killer is taking his victims in the coldest, most calculating way possible – engineering slow and painful deaths by poison, with his victims entirely unaware of the drugs flooding their bloodstream until it’s too late.

But how do you catch a killer who hides in the shadows? A killer whose pleasure comes from watching pain from afar? Faced with their most difficult case yet, Callanach and Turner soon realise they face a seemingly impossible task…

A Room Full of Killers by Michael Wood

5 stars from me (can I give it 6?)

This book hits you hard from page 1 and simply does not stop.

A Room Full of Killers is sheer brilliance; Michael Wood has excelled himself with not only his characterisation of DCI Darke but also the base elements of humanity, the melancholy that resides within us all and a simply brilliant story.

I think if I were a detective I’d be like Matilda, single, relentless and living in a house filled with books – although you may have to swap the treadmill for a couple of cats. That’s what makes her so fabulous, so tangible, it’s her realness, her flaws and her fallibleness that all make her so believable. She truly is the perfect heroine, and if I were ever wrongly convicted I would like it to be her who looked into my case.

The characters in this book – from the main stayers to those in the sidelines – all come to life within the pages and all of them are real and solid. I can totally see this series being televised and I cannot wait to see who plays Matilda.

As ever, Michael Wood plays homage to some of the crime thriller greats and I love this ‘nod’ to his peers and contemporaries.

As well as being a cracking crime thriller, A Room Full of Killers takes on some pretty weighty issues. Is a killer born or created? Is it nature or nurture? Can you ever truly atone and repent? Should we – society – allow killers to obtain a first class education from within prison, allowing them a potentially brighter future than someone who went through the mill of a comprehensive education? Is it right for a killer to be given a new life and a fresh slate – how well do you ever know anyone?

Although I am sure this would make for a great standalone, I urge you to begin with the first in the series For Reasons Unknown so that you have some history that will add depth and resonance to A Room Full of Killers.

So, thank you Michael Wood for this series which I am enjoying immensely and for bringing DCI Matilda Darke and her team into my life. Sometimes, just sometimes, I could almost forgive you for not being that keen on cats.

 

Synopsis: ‘DCI Matilda Darke is the perfect heroine’ Elly Griffiths

The third book in Michael Wood’s darkly compelling crime series featuring DCI Matilda Darke. Perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride, Mark Billingham and Val McDermid.

Eight killers. One house. And the almost perfect murder…

Feared by the people of Sheffield, Starling House is home to some of Britain’s deadliest teenagers, still too young for prison. Now the building’s latest arrival, Ryan Asher, has been found brutally murdered – stabbed twelve times, left in a pool of blood.

When DCI Matilda Darke and her team investigate, they uncover the secrets of a house tainted by evil. Kate Moloney, the prison’s manager, is falling apart, the security system has been sabotaged, and neither the staff nor the inmates can be trusted.

There’s only one person Matilda believes is innocent, and he’s facing prison for the rest of his life. With time running out, she must solve the unsolvable to save a young man from his fate. And find a murderer in a house full of killers…