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…

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A Beautiful Corpse by Christi Daugherty

4 stars from me

Harper McClain is a fab character who has turned my viewpoint of reporters on its head. Usually the ‘hacks’ are blood thirsty vultures portrayed as despicable figures feasting on the raw misery of others, whereas Harper brings a whole new take to the role.

She is a great character anyway, and highly likeable, but her reason for chasing the story comes across as helpful, caring and to the benefit of the victim, their family and the investigative team – it’s made me think again about journalists.

Great story, I loved how and where it was set and I will certainly look out for more by this author.

Synopsis: From Christi Daugherty, author of The Echo Killing, comes another pulse-pounding suspenseful thriller featuring crime reporter Harper McClain.

For a woman, being killed by someone who claims to love her is the most ordinary murder of all.

With its antebellum houses and ancient oak trees draped in a veil of Spanish moss, Savannah’s graceful downtown is famous around the world. When a woman is killed in the heart of that affluent district, the shock is felt throughout the city. But for crime reporter Harper McClain, this story is personal. The corpse has a familiar face.

Only twenty-four years old, Naomi Scott was just getting started. A law student, tending bar to make ends meet, she wanted to change the world. Instead, her life ended in the dead of night at the hands of an unseen gunman. There are no witnesses to the crime. The police have three suspects: Scott’s boyfriend, who has a criminal past he claims he’s put behind him, her boss, who stalked another young bartender two years ago, and the district attorney’s son, who Naomi dated until their relationship ended in acrimony. All three men claim to love her. Could one of them be her killer?

With the whole city demanding answers, Harper unravels a tangled story of obsession and jealousy. But the pressures on her go beyond the murder. The newspaper is facing more layoffs. Her boss fears both their jobs are on the line. And Harper begins to realize that someone is watching her every move. Someone familiar and very dangerous.

Someone who told her to run before it’s too late…

The Hangman’s Hold by Michael Wood DCI Darke 4 #booktour

5 Stars from me!

I am delighted and honoured to be part of the Blog Tour for The Hangman’s Hold – particularly as I am enjoying the Matilda Darke series so very much. I recently had the privilege of asking Michael Wood a few questions about himself and his writing style, see here for my Interview with the Author, Michael Wood.

A rich and diverse group of characters makes The Hangman’s Hold a thoroughly engaging read which will keep you on your toes. If you are a fan of crime thrillers and ‘enjoy a good murder’, you will also love this series from @MichaelhWood and I highly recommend that you go back to the beginning and read the books in order. This is the best way for you to understand the complexities of Matilda’s character and pick up the subtle nuances and peculiarities of the relationships within her team.

I’ve been with Matilda since the beginning and truly love these books, she sits firmly on my shelf among novels by Mark Billingham, Stuart MacBride, Simon Kernick, Alison Bruce, Lisa Hall, Jane Isaac, Ann Cleaves, Peter James, Helen Cadbury, Sarah Ward and Linwood Barclay – to name but a few.

In The Hangman’s Hold, DCI Matilda Darke and her team seem to be right in the middle of the focus from a smart but provocative killer who knows exactly how, when and where to locate victims; ready to lie in wait and deliver their own form of justice. The concept of this is dark and unsettling. The police team struggle to find forensic evidence and the killer continually taunts Matilda and local journalist, Danny Hansen. Will Danny’s naivety turn out to be his downfall, or is he somehow involved?

Like Matilda, I felt immediately drawn into the case as soon as her wonderful friend Adele became close to the first victim and potentially at risk herself. I felt so sorry for Adele, who very much deserved to meet a wonderful date, yet not only is her beau murdered but he then turns out to have a somewhat murky past – how can she reconcile herself to having enjoyed his company? How will she learn to trust again after this? Fortunately, Matilda is there for her (it’s nice to see Matilda supporting Adele for a change) and the friendship between these two ladies is enviable.

With a mounting body count, Matilda finds herself appointed with a profiler who muddles her thinking with his strong resemblance to her beloved deceased husband. This leads to her fighting her own demons amid a growing pressure to solve the case as she struggles with her conflicted feelings towards another man – albeit one her reminds her so much of James. This is such a well articulated thread throughout the books and forms part of what makes Matilda so real, vulnerable and relatable.

Tension builds once the profiler suggests that the killer may be someone Matilda knows which leads to mistrust and defensiveness with Matilda’s team and is a sublime demonstration of the destructiveness of paranoia as her team second guess themselves and each other. How can you work together as a team if you don’t trust your colleagues to have your back.

‘Taking the law into your own hands’ is another excellent thread through this book and it shines a light upon society and the way we are all so quick to label and to judge. The repercussions of which can be catastrophic. It made me stop and think about the loved ones and families of the accused/convicted as they are often the ones who are left picking up the pieces and the impact upon the lives of wives, mothers, fathers, children and even distant relations can be immense. Stop and think for a minute, if someone close to you was convicted of a hideous crime how fast do you think your own life would unravel?

Without giving away any spoilers… I am very much looking forward to the next book!

 

Synopsis:

Your life is in his hands.In the gripping new serial killer thriller from Michael Wood, Matilda Darke faces a vicious killer pursuing his own brand of lethal justice. Perfect for fans of Angela Marsons and Helen Fields.

There’s a killer in your house.
The Hangman waits in the darkness of your living room. As soon as you get home, he will kill you – hang you by the neck – and make you pay for all the crimes you have tried desperately to forget.

He knows your darkest secrets.
The police are running out of time. DCI Matilda Darke is facing her worst nightmare: a serial killer pursuing his own brand of lethal justice, whose campaign of violence is spreading fear throughout the city.

And he is closer than you think.
As the body count rises, Matilda is personally targeted and even her most trusted colleagues fall under suspicion. But can she keep those closest to her from harm? Or is it already too late?

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?

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…

 

The Trespasser by Tana French

5 stars from me!

Wow! What an incredible book.

During a recent trip to Dublin I perused the shelves of the delightful (and award winning) The Gutter Bookshop and The Trespasser was highly recommended. Having now finished it, I can see why!

Now, for a girl like me who is a fan of the fast paced Simon Kernick esque style of writing, I have to confess that the slower pace of Tana French was a bit of a shock to the system. Please don’t mistake ‘slower pace’ for ‘slow’ because it isn’t, it is just told in a more indulgent style – each scene is delivered to you in glorious technicolour, none of the words seem superfluous and at no point was I bored. If anything, this steadier than usual pace made the book feel luxurious as though the author had taken extra time and care to ensure the resulting story was just right.

The Trespasser has a real feel to it, the characters and their personal and working habits all ring true – within these pages are solid, well-defined individuals who live and breath in their own right. The awkwardness, trust, deceit and burgeoning friendships all feel right and segments throughout this book are exceptionally well observed.

The story itself is doled out in manageable pieces, making your brain work as you get swept along and I am delighted to say that it didn’t have a disappointing ending.

I haven’t read any of Tana French’s other books but I will be making a point of adding them to my, ever growing, ‘to be read’ pile.

Synopsis: In The Trespasser being on the Murder squad is nothing like Detective Antoinette Conway dreamed it would be. Her partner, Stephen Moran, is the only person who seems glad she’s there. The rest of her working life is a stream of thankless cases, vicious pranks, and harassment. Antoinette is savagely tough, but she’s getting close to the breaking point.

Their new case looks like yet another by-the-numbers lovers’ quarrel gone bad. Aislinn Murray is blond, pretty, groomed to a shine, and dead in her catalogue-perfect living room, next to a table set for a romantic dinner. There’s nothing unusual about her – except that Antoinette’s seen her somewhere before.

And that her death won’t stay in its neat by-numbers box. Other detectives are trying to push Antoinette and Steve into arresting Aislinn’s boyfriend, fast. There’s a shadowy figure at the end of Antoinette’s road. Aislinn’s friend is hinting that she knew Aislinn was in danger. And everything they find out about Aislinn takes her further from the glossy, passive doll she seemed to be.

Antoinette knows the harassment has turned her paranoid, but she can’t tell just how far gone she is. Is this case another step in the campaign to force her off the squad, or are there darker currents flowing beneath its polished surface?

Love You Dead by Peter James

screen-shot-2016-12-28-at-13-50-424 stars from me

Is it so bad that I was routing for the killer a lot of the time?

I loved this different take on a murderer. It wasn’t someone depraved who murders for the fun of it, or someone awful and grubby who murders to cover up a crime or a rape, in Love You Dead by Peter James we have a murder who murders as a means to an end.

It puts a whole new slant on the process. She isn’t aiming to hurt anyone or cause anyone undue pain, she isn’t seeking revenge, she is simply viewing people as a commodity, a disposable commodity, and using them accordingly.

Running through this story is the ongoing tale of Roy and Sandy, finally though in Love You Dead we reach an element of conclusion which has, for me, been a long time coming. There is obviously yet more to unfold from this sub-story but I am glad the main ‘dangling carrot’ has been removed. Without wishing to give spoilers – the bit with the fish lost this book it’s final star in the review!

Overall, exactly what you want from a Peter James novel. Roy Grace is a fabulous character and I feel I could read back to back novels as fast as the author could pen them!

 

Synopsis: An ugly duckling as a child, Jodie Bentley had two dreams in life – to be beautiful and rich. She’s achieved the first, with a little help from a plastic surgeon, and now she’s working hard on the second. Her philosophy on money is simple: you can either earn it or marry it. Marrying is easy, it’s getting rid of the husband afterwards that’s harder, that takes real skill. But hey, practice makes perfect . . .

Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is feeling the pressure from his superiors, his previous case is still giving him sleepless nights, there have been major developments with his missing wife Sandy, and an old adversary is back. But worse than all of this, he now believes a Black Widow is operating in his city. One with a venomous mind . . . and venomous skills. Soon Grace comes to the frightening realization that he may have underestimated just how dangerous this lady is.

Love You Dead is the gripping twelfth book in Peter James’ Roy Grace series.

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Pretty Girls5 Stars from me!

This book is brilliant, clear a weekend, get stocked up with coffee and biscuits and hunker down for a fabulous time, immersed in a skilfully written book.

I used to read Karin Slaughter books all the time (until she killed of a certain character and I feel out of love with the whole franchise), ahem, anyway fortunately for me I got over myself and picked up a copy of Pretty Girls.

The family relationship struggles had a real feel to them, Claire and her perfect life with Paul had a real feel to it. Lydia and her issues, her hard life, her new ‘is he too good to be true?’ beau, all felt real.

My only gripe was with the letters from their dad, they just didn’t bring anything to the party for me – but maybe I’m just not sentimental enough! They certainly didn’t have a negative impact on the story. Actually two gripes, I couldn’t see the point of including the bit about Claire’s explosion on the tennis court either. I get that it helped to show a peak into someone else’s psyche, but, for me, it didn’t fit with Claire.

They are, however, tiny, minuscule little points – the book and the storyline were really good and I found myself late for two appointments on two different days because I just kept on ‘reading to the end of this bit’.

If you are looking for a book that you won’t want to put down then this is it.

Synopsis: Sisters. Strangers. Survivors. 

More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that’s cruelly ripped open when Claire’s husband is killed.

The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.

Powerful, poignant, and utterly gripping, packed with indelible characters and unforgettable twists, Pretty Girls is a masterful thriller from one of the finest suspense writers working today.

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.

Live and Let Bee by D S Nelson

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 17.55.194 Stars from me

The prose in Live and Let Bee has an old fashioned feel to it, like the old Sherlock Holmes, Marple, Murder She Wrote, Midsomer style tales. It is very endearing and tension builds slowly but surely as the pages turn.

It took me a few chapters to get used to this slower pace (I am more used to the break neck speeds of Simon Kernick!), but I genuinely enjoyed the softer style of D S Nelson and a more whimsical take on what could otherwise have been a killing spree!

I can well imagine this being televised, much akin to the popular series’ that I’ve mentioned above. Ideal Sunday afternoon viewing with a nice cup of tea and pleasant company.

Don’t be mislead however, this story does build and I soon found myself racing through the pages to get to the end and discover who the murderer was.

There is strong reference to bees throughout the book which was integral to the story and which I quite liked, with a little snippet of bee related information at the beginning of each chapter.

Constructive criticism from me would be to change the cover image/style as it doesn’t do the book justice.

Synopsis: ‘Honey is sweet, but the bee stings’ and Blake Hetherington knows this only too well. Blake is a gentleman in modern times; a milliner with mystery solving thrust upon him. Delilah is an enthusiastic archaeologist with an unhealthy interest in murder; DS Rob Claringdon is her beau. This unlikely trio is at the heart of a quirky, amusing and quintessentially English, murder mystery.

‘Live and Let Bee’, finds our heroes on a remote feudal island to celebrate a wedding, but after two mysterious deaths, are they able to resist investigating a case that involves warring honey farms, Russian oligarchs and a dark family secret?