The Quaker by Liam McIlvanney

4 Stars from me

This is a great, gritty, atmospheric thriller with an air of ‘Life on Mars’ about it owing to the timeframe of 1969. The sexism and outdated viewpoints are captured beautifully, as is the impact of and resentment towards DI McCormack when he is drafted in to find fault in the original investigative team.

The story of ‘The Quaker’ is really quite dark and frightening, it’s a wonder any women ever left home during this time, let alone went to the dance halls where he was known to prey.

I loved DI Duncan McCormack, he was a well rounded character to get to know – as was Goldie – and he holds a strong line throughout the book. There are also some great little sub plots and the time and detail taken on them is admirable and really added to the quality and craftsmanship that shines out from the pages.

The reason I have given 4 stars rather than the 5 that the quality of this story deserves is because for all the brilliance, there are regularly patches where the story lags and becomes slow. Possibly it is a writing pattern/style that I am just not familiar enough with but for me it let the book down.

Having said that, I enjoyed meeting DI Duncan McCormack and would certainly go out of my way to pick up book 2 as I look forward to reading more about him and how his future unfolds.

 

Synopsis: Glasgow, 1969. In the grip of the worst winter for years, the city is brought to its knees by a killer whose name fills the streets with fear: The Quaker. He’s taken his next victim — the third woman from the same nightclub — and dumped her in the street like rubbish. The police are left chasing a ghost, with no new leads and no hope of catching their prey. After six months, DI Duncan McCormack, a talented young detective from the Highlands, is ordered to join the investigation — with a view to shutting it down for good.

His arrival is met with anger from a group of officers on the brink of despair. Soon he learns just how difficult life can be for an outsider, for McCormack is an outcast in more ways than one. When another woman is found murdered in a tenement flat, it’s clear the case is by no means over. From ruined backstreets to the dark heart of Glasgow, McCormack follows a trail of secrets that will change the city — and his life — forever . . .

Brilliantly crafted with great depth and nuance, The Quaker is an electrifying thriller that expertly captures the gritty atmosphere of paranoia and hopelessness in a city on the verge of a great upheaval. 

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The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

4 stars from me

The Hunting Party is a fabulous debut and I had the pleasure of reading it from within a remote cottage in the Welsh countryside (not quite the Scottish highlands in the snow but close enough!).

I enjoyed the playful elements of the story which I agree could easily be likened to an olden days whodunnit but for me the star of the show was the relationships between the friends and the uncomfortable tensions contained within them. Incredibly well observed and well told.

Great debut and I look forward to more by this author.

 

Synopsis: The Hunting Party is the author’s first crime novel and is described as combining elements of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None (HarperCollins) and The Secret History (Penguin) by Donna Tartt.

The novel follows a a tight-knit group of Oxford university alumni as they celebrate New Year’s Eve in the wilderness of the Loch Corrin Estate in Scotland. A HarperFiction spokesperson said: “In these wild, white climes the group reminisce, go deer stalking, and hide friendship-destroying secrets, secrets that set a razor-sharp sequence of events in motion, culminating with a broken body in the snow.”

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?

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…

 

Close to Home by Cara Hunter

5 stars from me!

This is a fabulous debut novel from Cara Hunter, I enjoyed it immensely and could easily have devoured it in one sitting if time had permitted!

As well as having a great storyline, I thought Close to Home was such a clever book, covering a wide variety of really quite topical issues.

Great characters throughout, more twists and turns than an oiled up eel and a fast pace – I loved it!

Can’t wait to read more by Cara Hunter.

 

Synopsis: Someone took Daisy Mason. Someone YOU KNOW.

Last night, 8-year-old Daisy Mason disappeared from her parents’ summer party. No one in the quiet suburban street saw anything – or at least that’s what they’re saying. DI Adam Fawley is trying to keep an open mind. But he knows that nine times out of ten, it’s someone the victim knew. That means someone is lying. And that Daisy’s time is running out…

Introducing DI Fawley and his team of Oxford detectives, CLOSE TO HOME is a pulse-pounding race against time and a penetrating examination of what happens to a community when a shocking crime is committed by one of its own.

 

 

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

4 stars from me!

What a solid debut from Shari Lapena – I am so looking forward to A Stranger in the House now!

I loved the start of this book, the unease of the situation and the ever so typical politeness of a dinner party that no one seems to want to be at.

The Couple Next Door is a smash and grab thriller that you will race through as you move from one scenario to another changing your mind constantly about who/what/why and where.

Mainly unpredictable and a definite page turner.

This is another book of mainly unlikeable characters, all of whom it seems are working to their own hidden agenda.

Hold on to your hat, there are plot twists agogo packed into these pages!

 

Synopsis: It all started at a dinner party. . .

A domestic suspense debut about a young couple and their apparently friendly neighbors – a twisty, rollercoaster ride of lies, betrayal, and the secrets between husbands and wives. . .

Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all – a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story.

Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they’ve kept for years.

What follows is the nerve-racking unraveling of a family – a chilling tale of deception, duplicity, and unfaithfulness that will keep you breathless until the final shocking twist.

Dead Man’s Prayer by Jackie Baldwin

Dead Man's Prayer4 Stars from me!

I really enjoyed Dead Man’s Prayer by Jackie Baldwin, it is a fab debut. I found DI Frank Farrell to be an intriguing character who really grew on me as the book progressed and by the time it was over I found myself hoping that book 2 will be out soon!

I thought it was an inventive plot, with original ideas and some unexpected twists and turns. It had the obligatory love mix, of course, and a strong lead character with a very troubled past.

After about chapter 8 I found this book hard to put down and look forward to reading more by Jackie Baldwin.

Synopsis: Ex-priest DI Frank Farrell has returned to his roots in Dumfries, only to be landed with a disturbing murder case. Even worse, Farrell knows the victim: Father Boyd, the man who forced him out of the priesthood eighteen years earlier.

With no leads, Farrell must delve into the old priest’s past, one that is inexorably linked with his own. But his attention is diverted when a pair of twin boys go missing. The Dumfries police force recover one in an abandoned church, unharmed. But where is his brother?

As Farrell investigates the two cases, he can’t help but feel targeted. Is someone playing a sinister game, or is he seeing patterns that don’t exist? Either way, it’s a game Farrell needs to win before he loses his grip on his sanity, or someone else turns up dead.

In the Shadow of the Tower by David Menon

DCI Layla Khan3.5 stars from me

DCI Layla Khan is a woman who deserves to be in her post. She has climbed there, earned respect, suffered hardships and lost relationships; all of these things have shaped who she is today.

In the Shadow of the Tower is a great introduction to the character of Layla. She is clearly defined, has a strong sense of who she is and what she stands for and this resonates through the book.

David Menon doesn’t pull any punches (literally) with the main thread of this book, it was gritty and didn’t shy away from uncomfortable topics.

I enjoyed the storyline, it was imaginative and complex (possibly too layered?). DCI Khan is an interesting new addition to the crime thriller genre and I look forward to reading more about her in the future. Her sense of justice appealed to me. I felt the ‘battling of sexism and racism’ was slightly over egged, but I would imagine that to be more of a character defining, scene setting, introductory thing – all of which helped to shape the readers opinion of Layla. Would I want her on my side, yes. Would I want her as a boss, probably not!

All in all, I found the book engaging and I look forward to reading the next one!

Synopsis: ‘Lethal. Deadly. Dangerous. Fear and Loathing. Murder. This is what the streets of Britain’s premier holiday resort mean to Layla Khan. On the other side of where cheap booze, cheap clothes, slot machines and fast food reign supreme, Layla, who’s recently been promoted to DCI, has to try and sort out the Blackpool that all the tourists don’t see.

A teenage prostitute is found murdered. A sample of her blood was taken by the killer. Then a second one is discovered with the same MO. Why is the killer taking their blood? Both girls turn out to have been HIV positive. Did the killer know this? Were they deliberately targeted?

Taking on the investigation, DCI Layla Khan has to contend with a DI who displays thinly veiled racism towards her, and a superior officer who needs her to get a result quickly because he championed her promotion. A prominent local family at war with itself, corruption on the local council, plus a threatening hand from Layla’s past all make it difficult for her to get to a result.

But what will happen if she doesn’t?

 

Valentina by S E Lynes

Screen Shot 2016-06-19 at 09.53.265 Stars

The best way to start this review would be by telling you to clear a whole day so that you are free to just read this book because once you get into it you will not want to put it down.

Valentina is a dark, insidious, intelligent tale that will hook you and reel you in – it is a brilliant debut.

This is a classic tale in a way of loneliness pushing us towards incorrect choices. There are several points in the book where the main narrator, Shona, knows deep down that things are wrong but she chooses to ignore them.

There are so many clever observations through this book which resonate as you read them. So many occasions where you think ‘would I have done that?’, as psychological thrillers go, this is up there with the big hitters: move over Gone Girl you’ve got company on the top shelf.

I don’t want to spoil the book for you in this review so I won’t say too much about the actual storyline, save to say that I could see early on where the story was headed and rather than that ruining the book for me, it actually enhanced everything. It was a bit like watching a car crash in slow motion, you know what’s coming and you can’t stop it, you can’t do anything but keep reading… faster and faster!

Huge praise to S E Lynes – this is a slam dunk of a debut!

Thank you to Rosalie at Blackbird Books for offering this to me as an ARC in return for an honest review.

(My only criticism… and this is as picky as you like but honest is honest, there were two words early in the book which jarred with me. I suspect the book is still being reviewed and edited at this stage as it is due for release on 1 July so maybe they won’t make the cut. The first is ‘squished’ which is in the first paragraph and the second is ‘wee’. Now I know that wee means small and that’s fine when it is speach but it seemed a bit odd in the narrative style. To me anyway. Did I mention I was being picky?)

Synopsis: When  Glasgow journalist  Shona McGilvery moves with her partner  Mikey  and their baby to an idyllic cottage in rural Scotland, they believe that all that lies ahead of them is happiness. 

But with Mikey working offshore, the  frightening  isolation of the Aberdeenshire  countryside begins to drive her insane…

That is, until she is rescued by a new friendship with the enchanting Valentina. 

She has the perfect home, the perfect man, and a charismatic new best friend – or does she?

As her fairytale life begins to unravel, the deep dark wood becomes the least of her fears…

A hauntingly intelligent, addictive psychological thriller from debut author S. E. Lynes. 

Tall Oaks by Chris Whittaker

Tall Oaks5 stars from me

This debut novel is brilliant!

The ‘blurb’ likens the book to Twin Peaks but I’d put it more towards Fargo. Actually, if I’d read the book without knowing the author I would have guessed at Linwood Barclay.

This is a great book with twists and turns a plenty and more red herrings than you could reasonably expect – I loved it!

It has a wicked combination of mystery, heartache, love, control and murder, all wrapped up in a sleepy town with eccentric characters aplenty. With charm balanced equally against secrets.

There are plenty of routes the ending could have taken and I have to confess I didn’t predict conclusion, which makes me especially happy, I love to be surprised by a clever tale.

Great from first to last page with a brilliant story in between. I look forward to seeing Tall Oaks televised and brought to life by some quirky actors and a good looking yet unstoppable cop pulling the whole thing forward.

 

Synopsis: When three-year-old Harry goes missing, the whole of America turns its attention to one small town.

Everyone is eager to help. Everyone is a suspect.

Desperate mother Jess, whose grief is driving her to extreme measures.

Newcomer Jared, with an easy charm and a string of broken hearts in his wake.

Photographer Jerry, who’s determined to break away from his controlling mother once and for all.

And, investigating them all, a police chief with a hidden obsession of his own . . .

In Chris Whitaker’s brilliant and original debut novel, missing persons, secret identities and dangerous lies abound in a town as idiosyncratic as its inhabitants.

For fans of Twin Peaks and The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair, this brilliant debut is dark yet hilarious, suspenseful but full of joy.

“I always know when a book has completely blown me away – as a reader, I want to weep because I’ve finished it and I will never again get to experience it for the first time, and as a writer, it makes me want to weep because I wish I had written it myself. THIS IS ONE OF THOSE BOOKS.”
Lisa Hall, author of the No.1 Bestseller Between You and Me