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.

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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…

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…

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…

Fatal Fortune by Miranda Rijks

4 Stars from me!

Fatal Fortune hooks you at the very beginning as Dr Pippa Durrant learns that her photo is being splashed across the media stating that she is brutally murdered lottery winner Leanne Smith. At this early stage we meet her brother who sounds like an absolute sweetheart and get a glimpse into her troubled personal life.

Pippa is well respected and busy psychologist who has a healthy business and a fractured family – with the exception of her much beloved dog Mungo. She has never met Leanne Smith and yet the murdered woman’s family have clearly confirmed to the police that the photo is of Leanne, but why?

The book also focuses heavily on the life of Donna – Leanne’s daughter – and her somewhat questionable husband Ricky. Donna seems quite a naive creature and it is easy to feel sympathy for her… although her life and her morals soon come into question.

Very soon there is a whole raft of potential suspects – including Leanne’s father – and DS Joe Swain is brought in to try and solve the case. Is this the first in a series featuring Pippa and Joe? A few sparks seem to fly between them as they do the age old ‘will they, won’t they’ dance… or is he just using her to gauge reactions of his other suspects?

Soon things seem to start going wrong for Pippa and then there is another murder, the tension builds nicely and there are a few moments of potential peril for Pippa who seems quite carefree with her own safety.

This books felt to me like a roller coaster that chugged and chugged its way up to the peak and then suddenly tipped over into free fall as the plot cleverly weaves around itself and killer is finally revealed!

I would also heartily recommend I Want You Gone by Miranda Rijks and would like to thank Emma from Damp Pebbles for the opportunity to take part in the Fatal Fortune blog tour.

Synopsis: Is someone trying to frame psychologist Pippa Durrant for the brutal murder of a woman she’s never even met?

It certainly seems that way when Pippa’s photo is found on the body of murdered lottery winner, Leanne Smith.

Pippa soon finds herself a suspect at the centre of a huge media storm. But she has an invaluable skill set – she is a human polygraph, expertly trained to spot lies and deceit. Skills she will need to help her to solve the mystery of who killed Leanne before it destroys her career – and her life.

But every cloud has a silver lining and this one arrives in the shape of DS Joe Swain. Initially suspicious of Pippa, he comes to trust her and to value her lie detection skills. Soon it’s clear there’s a definite spark between them….

Then, when another body turns up, Pippa realises her reputation isn’t the only thing in danger. Can she identify the killer before she becomes the next victim?

Fatal Fortune is the electrifying first book in the Dr. Pippa Durrant Thriller Series. If you like edge-of-your-seat action, clever sleuths, and shocking twists, then you’ll love Miranda Rijks’ gripping crime novel.

Critical Incidents by Lucie Whitehouse

4 stars from me

I really felt for Lennie throughout this book – what a great kid!

Robin is her own worst enemy, she never quite knows when enough is enough, when to rely on other people and when to keep her mouth shut! But she pays one hell of a price for her actions and so does poor Lennie.

I thought Critical Incidents was a really solid 4 – the blend of investigations, intrigue and characterisation was spot on and the humiliation of being back in her childhood bedroom was tangible.

The storyline appears simple to start with but gets more complex as you read on, it certainly keeps you guessing and needing to keep on turning pages!

The only character I really struggled with is Luke, especially so at the very end, not sure at all of his motivation?

 

Synopsis: A gripping literary thriller and the first of a new crime series, from the bestselling author of Before We Met

Detective Inspector Robin Lyons is going home.

Dismissed for misconduct from the Met’s Homicide Command after refusing to follow orders, unable to pay her bills (or hold down a relationship), she has no choice but to take her teenage daughter Lennie and move back in with her parents in the city she thought she’d escaped forever at 18.

In Birmingham, sharing a bunkbed with Lennie and navigating the stormy relationship with her mother, Robin works as a benefit-fraud investigator – to the delight of those wanting to see her cut down to size.

Only Corinna, her best friend of 20 years, seems happy to have Robin back. But when Corinna’s family is engulfed by violence and her missing husband becomes a murder suspect, Robin can’t bear to stand idly by as the police investigate. Can she trust them to find the truth of what happened? And why does it bother her so much that the officer in charge is her ex-boyfriend – the love of her teenage life?

As Robin launches her own unofficial investigation and realises there may be a link to the disappearance of a young woman, she starts to wonder how well we can really know the people we love – and how far any of us will go to protect our own. 

Eye for Eye by J K Franko

5 Stars from me

What is it they say about not judging a book by its cover… Well with a cover as striking as this one I couldn’t help but be intrigued and Book 1 of the Talion Series – Eye for Eye by JK Franko did not disappoint.

Eye for Eye has it all from murder, mystery, clever cover ups and hidden secrets to police questioning, allegations of rape and many questions of morality along the way. The characters are well defined and relatable and the scene imagery is stunning, you’ll see for yourself when you read it but there are so many descriptive passages that leap off the page and into your mind.

Although this is primarily a crime thriller, there is a subtle undercurrent of a wicked sense of humour throughout which particularly appealed to me.

This is a beautifully crafted example of an intelligent thriller. I can honestly say I was hooked from the first few pages of the book and I can’t wait for the next one in the series; this debut author has truly made his mark.

As ever, no spoilers from me!

If having a brilliant book isn’t enough, there is a brilliant book launch coming up soon too – details are here if you fancy coming along to Covent Garden https://jkfranko.com/2019/03/01/limited-vip-fan-tickets-giveaway-be-part-of-the-story-at-eye-for-eyes-london-book-launch/

 

Synopsis: When I first met Susie, she appeared to be a normal, happily-married woman dealing with tragedy.

Then, I uncovered her secrets.

While I could understand everything that she’d done, I could never approve.

But, knowing what she was capable of, it became clear that if I was going to survive her, I had to play by her rules.

And, the first and most important rule is… leave no singing bones.

Run Away by Harlan Coben

4 Stars from me

This is a solid standalone by literary legend Harlan Coben and is a good, well orchestrated read.

Simon’s love for his family is pure and admirable and he is a man on a mission throughout this book – his mission to find and save his daughter, Paige.

The descriptive elements are lovely, having been to New York at sat where Simon sat to watch Paige I could very easily picture the area and Harlan Coben captured the feeling of the place beautifully. In fact all of his descriptive passages are highly evocative.

The emotions throughout and are and tangible and they are what pull this book up. However, there were some parts of the book where I find myself thinking ‘sorry who are these guys?’ and flicking back to try and find out who/what/why which detracted a little from the main story.

Overall, any thriller fans out there are likely to enjoy this book.

 

Synopsis:

You’ve lost your daughter.

She’s addicted to drugs and to an abusive boyfriend. And she’s made it clear that she doesn’t want to be found.

Then, quite by chance, you see her busking in New York’s Central Park.

But she’s not the girl you remember. This woman is wasted, frightened and clearly in trouble.

You don’t stop to think. You approach her, beg her to come home.

She runs.

And you follow her into a dark and dangerous world you never knew existed. Where criminal gangs rule, where drugs are the main currency, and murder is commonplace.

Now it’s your life on the line. And nowhere and no one is safe.