The Sinner by Martyn Waites

5 Stars from me

Oh wow, I completely loved The Sinner by Martyn Waites! I haven’t read anything of his before so had no idea really what to expect but after the first couple of chapters I was completely hooked and frankly a bit gutted when it ended.

Tom Killgannon’s character in The Sinner was thoroughly engaging and the subplot with Noel Cunningham was just as interesting as the main ‘undercover’ op vs gangster Dean Foley thread. In fact I found the relationship between Tom and Dean to be fascinating, it made for really compelling reading.

On the whole, a great and compelling read with some touches of magic – I don’t want to give any spoilers but things like the impact of Dean and his suit were very nicely done.

I would love to read more like this and think it would make for a brilliant TV series.

Synopsis: In prison not everyone is guilty . . .

Tom Killgannon, ex-undercover police officer and now in witness protection, is recalled to active service by his handler, DS Sheridan. His mission is to befriend notorious child killer Noel Cunningham and find out where he buried the bodies of his victims. The only problem is that Tom has to obtain that information from within Blackmoor prison itself. Undercover and with only DS Sheridan knowing he is there, Tom soon runs into danger.

In the prison is convicted gangster Dean Foley. He used to run Manchester’s biggest gang, until Tom’s testimony put him away for life. He recognises Tom, and so begins a cat-and-mouse game as Tom fights for survival before Foley can get his revenge.

But why can’t Tom reach DS Sheridan and what is the real reason that he has been sent to Blackmoor prison?

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Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear

5 Stars from me

DC Cat Kinsella is a really engaging and likeable character and although I’ve accidentally read Stone Cold Heart before book 1 of the series (Sweet Little Lies), the story read absolutely fine.

There are some hugely likeable characters within the book and Frear manages to blend the main storyline – of who killed Naomi – with a subplot about Cat’s own life – while keeping a perfect balance. Neither detracts from the other and yet both are strong and compelling.

The relationships within the suspect families are beautifully crafted and I was lead a right merry dance trying to work out who the culprit was. Very, very readable.

Stone Cold Heart has it all and I look forward to reading more by Caz Frear.

 

Synopsis:

A fractured marriage.

A silent family.

A secret that connects them all.

When DC Cat Kinsella is approached by Joseph Madden for help with his wife, Rachel, there’s not much she can do. Joseph claims that Rachel has been threatening him, but can’t – or won’t – give Cat details as to why. Dismissing it as a marriage on the rocks, Cat forgets about it.

That is until Naomi Lockhart, a young PA, is found dead after a party attended by both Joseph and Rachel, and Joseph is arrested for the murder. Joseph says his wife is setting him up. His wife says he didn’t do it. The trail of evidence leads to even more questions . . .

Adulterer. Murderer. Victim.

Who would you believe?

After a brief stint in the Mayor’s Office, Detective Constable Cat Kinsella is back at the London Metropolitan Police, wisecracking with her partner Luigi Parnell and trying to avoid the wrath of the boss, DI Kate Steele.

But for Cat and Parnell, it’s serious business when a young Australian woman turns up dead after a party thrown by her new boss. The initial investigation of Naomi Lockhart’s murder points to Joseph Madden, the owner of a coffee shop around the corner from police headquarters. Madden insists he’s innocent, that he was home with his wife Rachel at the time of the murder. When police question her, Rachel contradicts his alibi, swearing that she was home alone.

While the team builds its case against Joseph, Cat is tasked with getting to the heart of the Maddens’ marriage. Cat knows that one of them is lying—but the question of which one, and why, is far more complicated than she could have expected. As she tries to balance the demands of the investigation with a budding romance and unresolved family drama, Cat has to decide how far she’ll go to keep her own past mistakes buried.

With her trademark wit and brilliant plotting, Caz Frear ratchets up the tension and keeps you guessing as she explores the secrets we keep from our loved ones—and the ones we’d kill to keep safe in the dark.

The Last Widow by Karin Slaughter

5 Stars from me

Such an epic read – I really can see this one as a standalone film, it has everything: love, lust, fear, threat, cults, family, loss, abuse, a shootout, WMD, kidnapping and more heros than you can shake a stick at.

The Last Widow is exciting, fast paced, a bit cheesy and I loved it!

I still remember reading the book from Karin Slaughter where Jeffery was killed and thinking ‘what has she done!’, at that point Sara was a bit of a nothing character for me and Jeffery was the star of the show, I just couldn’t see where she could take the books from there. But suffice it to say, Will Trent more than fills Jeffery’s shoes and he makes for a fascinating male lead.

I would say this would make a fabulous holiday read as you need to suspend belief a little bit and immerse yourself in the pages – go on, you won’t regret it!

Synopsis: From the No.1 bestselling author comes a gripping new crime thriller featuring Will Trent and Sara Linton.

It begins with an abduction. The routine of a family shopping trip is shattered when Michelle Spivey is snatched as she leaves the mall with her young daughter. The police search for her, her partner pleads for her release, but in the end…they find nothing. It’s as if she disappeared into thin air.

A month later, on a sleepy Sunday afternoon, medical examiner Sara Linton is at lunch with her boyfriend Will Trent, an agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. But the serenity of the summer’s day is broken by the wail of sirens.

Sara and Will are trained to help in an emergency. Their jobs – their vocations – mean that they run towards a crisis, not away from it. But on this one terrible day that instinct betrays them both. Within hours the situation has spiralled out of control; Sara is taken prisoner; Will is forced undercover. And the fallout will lead them into the Appalachian mountains, to the terrible truth about what really happened to Michelle, and to a remote compound where a radical group has murder in mind…

Dead Inside by Noelle Holten

5 Stars from me

This is a stonking debut from Noelle Holten!

Focusing on a difficult subject – domestic abuse – without trivialising or sensationalising is a hard line and Holten walks it well. I really enjoyed Lucy’s character and found her a very engaging lead to follow. For me, DC Maggie Jamieson didn’t come across as clearly as Lucy which I hope will be put right in book 2.

Lucy’s imperfect relationship with Patrick was artfully described, a professional woman who ‘should have known better’ is portrayed here with complete honesty and shines a light on the complexity of domestic abuse / domestic violence situations.

I found the probation officer role to be a fascinating one and I hope Noelle will bring us more from her experience in future books.

Great debut – can’t wait to read more from this author.

Synopsis: When three domestic abuse offenders are found beaten to death, DC Maggie Jamieson knows she is facing her toughest case yet.

The police suspect that Probation Officer Lucy Sherwood – who is connected to all three victims – is hiding a dark secret. Then a fourth domestic abuser is brutally murdered. And he is Lucy’s husband.

Now the finger of suspicion points at Lucy and the police are running out of time. Can Maggie and her team solve the murders before another person dies? And is Lucy really a cold-blooded killer?

I Looked Away by Jane Corry

5 Stars from me

Jane Corry has deftly captured the devastation that a childhood trauma can have upon a whole life in I Looked Away. Some people in this world just don’t have much luck and poor old Ellie is certainly one of them! The book follows Ellie from a young girl in a ‘normal’ family all the way through to her becoming and grandmother and along the way she endures some pretty awful events. Most people would be unlikely to go through one of the things Ellie has to cope with and yet this poor lady attracts trouble like a magnet. Unfortunately, so very close to the truth as early childhood trauma often has a lifelong impact.

There are several converging threads throughout the book and I read the ‘young Ellie’ thread pretty much wanting to put the book down and walk away as it was somewhat evident where it was heading and I just wanted to avoid it!

The homelessness elements of the book I thought were also brilliantly portrayed – whether people realise it or not most of us are only ever a few steps away from homelessness, it can happen in such a variety of ways and yet as a society we simply do not do enough to help those in need.

Overall a sad but fabulous ‘wicked stepmother’ tale with a twist – I loved it!

Synopsis: Every Monday, 49-year-old Ellie looks after her grandson Josh. She loves him more than anything else in the world. The only thing that can mar her happiness is her husband’s affair. But he swore it was over, and Ellie has decided to be thankful for what she’s got.

Then one day, while she’s looking after Josh, her husband gets a call from that woman. And for just a moment, Ellie takes her eyes off her grandson. The accident that happens will change her life forever.

Because Ellie is hiding something in her past.

And what looks like an accident could start to look like murder…

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

5 Stars from me

What a fabulous book! The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell is a really refreshing and original read – it is literally brimming with layered storylines which pull you along as you turn the pages ever more equally enthralled and appalled.

At one point it literally felt as though the story contained no redeeming characters at all (except Miller, he was ace) as greater wickedness, selfishness, abuse and depravity unfolded. Wow what appalling people the Thomsens were and how utterly weak the Lambs.

The Family Upstairs has it all, the reader is taken on a veritable roller coaster ride as Libby finds herself a millionaire (isn’t that child’s dream scenario?) but also uncovers a million questions about her family and exactly what went on in Cheyne Walk. The cult style takeover of the Thomsens was horrible and yet must be some true to what actually happens in those type of situations that we know are all too real. The children who live in the house – whether Lambs or Thomsens are dark souls and I guess a sad product of their awful environment. Across the pond, Lucy’s tale is equally unpleasant and we follow her along the way as all roads seem to lead the Cheyne Walk and the 25th birthday of ‘the baby’.

Brilliant characterisation throughout and an utterly gripping – if a little disturbing – read.

Synopsis:You thought they were just staying for the weekend. They looked harmless enough – with only two suitcases and a cat in a wicker box.

But soon things turn very, very dark. It happens slowly, yet so extraordinarily quickly.

Now you and your sister must find a way to survive…

Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

5 Stars from me

Is it wrong that I felt so sorry for Mike?

Frankly these two, Mike and Verity, are both as bad as each other and although Verity does appear to end up being ‘the victim’ she was most certainly the instigator for a massive amount of time and pretty much created the man that Mike became.

Their ‘Crave’ game was dangerous and depraved and yet it turned them both on… with Verity getting as much out of it as Mike which says so much about her and what makes her tick. Would she ever have been truly happy with a man like Angus?

I don’t want to give out any spoilers but let’s say the necklace surprised me and made me question the truth. Maybe (definitely I guess) Mike needs some psychological help but then again maybe Verity wants to have her cake and eat it by still pressing his buttons?

Although dark and disturbing this was a fabulous and compelling read, which left me with lots of unanswered questions, which I can well see being turned into a film – I will look out for more by Araminta Hall.

Synopsis: VERITY
Things were difficult with Mike by the end. He was too much, too controlling – sometimes, I was afraid of him. But I’ve moved on now. I’m getting married to the man of my dreams – he looks after me, but he doesn’t stifle me. Mike and the games we used to play – that’s all in the past now.

It’s time to move on.
Mike and I are finished.

MIKE
It was just a matter of time until she came back to me. After what I did, maybe she’s right to make me wait. But Verity knows how sorry I am. And the messages she sends me, the way she calls me, the way she acted last time I saw her – no-one acts like that if they’ve stopped caring.

She’ll be mine again.
No matter who stands in my way.

The Puppet Show by M W Craven

5 Stars from me

I had read and seen so many sparkling reviews for this book that I simply had to read it. All too often this is a path which leads to disappointment but The Puppet Show by M W Craven was a welcome exception.

The storyline, albeit gruesome and unpleasant, is strong which makes a solid base for some superb imagery and scene scene setting as we track a serial killer through the beautiful Lake District. I wasn’t sure what to make of Poe to start with but I really warmed to him (no pun intended) as the book progressed and Tilly was a delightful addition to this somewhat dark tale.

A thoroughly engaging and enjoyable read with a gentle humour running alongside the depravity of the story, I look forward to reading more by M W Craven and after I heard a whisper that Black Summer was appearing on netgalley and went straight there but seem to have missed it – another testimony to the excellence of The Puppet Show as it must have been snapped up within minutes!

Synopsis: A serial killer is burning people alive in the Lake District’s prehistoric stone circles. He leaves no clues and the police are helpless.

When his name is found carved into the charred remains of the third victim, disgraced detective Washington Poe is brought back from suspension and into an investigation he wants no part of.

Reluctantly partnered with the brilliant but socially awkward civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw, the mismatched pair uncover a trail that only he is meant to see. The elusive killer has a plan and for some reason Poe is part of it.

As the body count rises, Poe discovers he has far more invested in the case than he could have possibly imagined. And in a shocking finale that will shatter everything he’s ever believed about himself, Poe will learn that there are things far worse than being burned alive…

I Spy by Claire Kendal

4 Stars from me

I have a bit of an unusual situation with this book… I opened it on Kindle, flicked through the first few title pages and began reading. I was struck by how a notion of arriving right in the story, but it alternated between ‘now’, ‘then’ ‘one year later’ etc etc so it didn’t seem abnormal. However, when I went to put the book down I realised it was showing as 73% on the Kindle. Initially I thought this was a glitch but the next day when I went back to the book I realised that I had somehow started the book at about 60% through, no idea how, it’s never happened before. At this stage there seemed little point going back to the beginning so I carried on and finished the book.

Therefore, my review is a little odd as it is essentially based purely on the last 40% of the book! I’m assuming the slight confusion I felt with placing people and names is entirely down to missing a huge chunk of the story and as such I would say I really enjoyed the bits I read.

Holly/Helen is a sad soul but very determined and I liked her. I liked George too although Zac was hard to fathom, I get the impression he may have been a bit of an arse in the bits I missed and yet the Zac at the end seemed a genuinely nice guy.

Very difficult to form any true opinion from the portion I’ve read but the writing style is nice and the cliff scene was well described. I would certainly read more (ha ha maybe even the whole book) by Claire Kendal.

Synopsis: Someone is watching your every move…

Holly Lawrence always wanted to be a spy, but the experience proved more dangerous than anything she imagined. Now, Holly lives in hiding under an assumed name. She avoids relationships and trusts no one.

But Holly’s new life begins to unravel when she encounters a young mother and her two-year-old child… a child who reminds her of a past she has tried hard to forget. This time, someone is spying on her, and Holly will need to decide how far she is willing to go to survive.

A psychological thriller unlike anything you’ve read before…

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

5 Stars from me

This is just one of those books that everyone should read. It is both humbling and beautiful, the prose is elegant and flows perfectly as you follow the story of Lale… a story that in other hands could be harrowing to the point of unreadable but Heather Morris achieves a wonderful balance of telling the story without glorying in the horror.

Lale – what a character, what a guy, the world needs more Lale’s. That this is a true account of a real man makes this all the more powerful and haunting. Lale, a Slovakian Jew, is by all accounts an incredible man who speaks many languages, has high intellect, lacks arrogance and can charm the birds from the trees. His brilliance and braveness shine throughout this book as his does pure compassion for all of his fellow (wo)men.

His love for Gita was really quite humbling, another man in his shoes may well have had his pick of the ladies throughout this tale and yet from one brief meeting his heart was set – this is was drives his passion to survive. His love for his mother and other older ladies throughout the tale was also quite charming and heartwarming.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz isn’t the type of book I would normally choose, I read it as part of a book group and I am so glad that I did – I know that it will stay with me for a very long time.

Highly recommended.

 

Synopsis: In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for more than two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.