The Murder House by Michael Wood

An easy 5 stars from me!

First things first, this is book 5 in the DCI Matilda Darke series so do yourself a favour and start with book one! Then book two… Then book three… Then book four

The opening scenes are brutal and set the stage perfectly for the rest of the story. I was utterly gripped from the very first page of The Murder House and I fell straight back in with DCI Darke and her team as they raced to find the killer who has seeming butchered a ‘perfect’ family in cold blood.

Michael’s writing style is sublime and the way he captures the differing personalities of characters within the book is an absolute masterclass in the craft. All of the characters, from a prostitute who fills a few paragraphs, to the individual members of the team are well defined, individual and believable.

There appears to be a plethora of potential suspects, virtually everyone is lying about something and Matilda should know better by now than to take risks! There are some proper spooky scenes in The Murder House, plenty of peril and a nice number of red herrings to boot!

In among the horrors of the murder and the inevitable ‘whodunnit’ there are some wonderfully woven relationships, personal problems, office politics all running alongside the backdrop of Matilda and her life.

I long for this series to be televised; it is just perfect for it.

I absolutely adore the character Matilda and hugely look forward to new books in the series when they come out. I simply cannot recommend this series enough. If you have a book lover in your life this series would truly make the perfect Christmas gift!

Synopsis: It’s the most disturbing crime scene DCI Matilda Darke has ever seen…

The morning after a wedding reception at a beautiful suburban home in Sheffield, the bride’s entire family are stabbed to death – in a frenzied attack more violent than anything DCI Matilda Darke could have imagined.

Forensics point to a burglar on the run across the country. But cracks are starting to appear in Matilda’s team, someone is playing games with the evidence – and the killer might be closer to home than they thought…

SHE by H C Warner

4 Stars from me

I blame Charlotte!

I loved the characters in SHE, even the horrid ones and there were a few, the family dynamics and relationships between friends felt really well constructed.

It was a difficult read in places as Warner pushes the reader to the edges of acceptability in terms of what constitutes ‘story’ and what constitutes ‘shock value’ and for me SHE is very firmly the right side of the line. An important subject matter seemed to me to be deal with in a very pragmatic manner.

I really thought I’d be giving SHE a 5 star rating but a couple of things just made that impossible for me – the part where the book flips to a different viewpoint, I have to be honest and say my heart sank, I really didn’t want to have to read everything all over again. Plus there just seemed too many occasions where in reality people would have spoken up or stepped in.

Otherwise – and I am hesitant because I can see from other reviews that a lot of people are wild for the bit where the POV flips so please don’t let my silly old opinion put you off – SHE is a great psychological thriller, I totally kept on turning the pages wanting to read more and see what would happen next.

Synopsis: She’s everything he dreamed of. Isn’t she? Ben can’t believe his luck when the beautiful Bella walks into his life, just when he needs her most.

Still bruised and vulnerable since breaking-up with long-term girlfriend, Charlotte, he falls head over heels in love.

But Bella isn’t quite the ideal partner that Ben believes her to be. She quickly decides that everything is better when it is just the two of them – making it harder for friend and family to stay in touch. And then a sudden death triggers a chain of events that throws Ben headlong into a nightmare…

Secrets, lies, vengeance, and betrayal are at the heart of this story about a family that is destroyed when their son brings home the perfect girl…

All The Rage by Cara Hunter

5 Stars from me

Well it is fair to say that Cara Hunter does not lack for imagination. All The Rage is chock-full of suspects and has at least eleventybillion potential different outcomes – all of which you try and compute as you race through the pages.

Beautiful Oxford comes to life within this story and in a way the Cambridge does during the Cambridge Blue series.

DI Adam Fawley is a complex little bunny isn’t he, even so I find him very likeable and he has that dogged determination that all the very best literary detectives possess – if you were a victim he’d be the guy you’d want investigating and if you were guilty of something you’d be hoping he wasn’t! That said, he has a strong team too and it was nice to read a book where it wasn’t just the lead detective who was worthy of glory.

As ever with Cara Hunter’s books there is a moral and social thread within this story and this made it all the more interesting for me. There are some disturbing elements and there is a lot to think about within this beautifully crafted story.

As great as this book was to read, I am utterly sure it would be fantastic televised – I can picture a lot of the scenes and really think the whole thing would make for a magic tv series.

Synopsis: A teenage girl is found wandering the outskirts of Oxford, dazed and distressed. The story she tells is terrifying. Grabbed off the street, a plastic bag pulled over her face, then driven to an isolated location where she was subjected to what sounds like an assault. Yet she refuses to press charges.

DI Fawley investigates, but there’s little he can do without the girl’s co-operation. Is she hiding something, and if so, what? And why does Fawley keep getting the feeling he’s seen a case like this before?

And then another girl disappears, and Adam no longer has a choice: he has to face up to his past. Because unless he does, this victim may not be coming back . . .

WHAT EVERYONE IS SAYING ABOUT CARA HUNTER
‘Your next riveting, twisty read’ Shari Lapena
‘A real gripper of a read’ Peter James
‘Fast paced and a fantastic cast of characters. Kept me guessing to the end – and I loved the final reveal’ Fiona Barton
‘Cancel everything. You’re not going anywhere until you finish reading this’ Emily Koch

The Silent House by Nell Pattison

4 Stars from me

Such a clever story! I found myself truly quite fascinated by the introduction to the deaf community within this book – the deaf club, the signing during arguments (selfishly something I’ve never thought about before, but when we argue we shout over each other while walking away, stomping around, from different rooms etc but deaf people would have to have self restraint in order to keep watching and signing while arguing).

Paige and her sister were great characters, there was something quite sweet and naive about them and the way they set about trying to find the killer.

The elements of peril when Paige felt under threat were great and really unnerving. There were so many scenes were I was willing her not to do what she was doing! I devoured this book and just had to keep reading to see what happened next and ultimately which of these characters could murder a sweet child in cold blood.

The scenes with her love interests were fab too, again really quite sweet and I was routing for the policeman!

Overall, Nell Pattison, has created a clever little whodunnit style police procedural with the added dimension of a huge number of the characters and potential suspects/victims being deaf. I really enjoyed it.

Synopsis: If someone was in your house, you’d know. Wouldn’t you? But the Hunter family are deaf, and don’t hear a thing when a shocking crime takes place in the middle of the night. Instead, they wake up to their worst nightmare.

The police call Paige Northwood to the scene to interpret for the witnesses. They’re in shock, but Paige senses the Hunters are hiding something.

One by one, people Paige knows from the Deaf community start to fall under suspicion. But who would kill a little girl?

Was it an intruder?

Or was the murderer closer to home?

This mystery will keep you up all night – perfect for fans of The Silent Patient and Cara Hunter

A Deathly Affair by Leigh Russell

5 Stars from me

Although there is clearly a hell of a back story here that I am missing (I only say that as it is book 13 in a series), I truly feel that A Deathly Affair worked well as a standalone book. Actually, I’m pretty stunned that it is book 13 as it really is gripping and doesn’t smack at all of ‘just the next one in the series as I’ve got deadlines to meet’.

I greatly enjoyed the relationships within this book. The husband/wife, the affair that isn’t quite what it seemed and also the dynamics within the police force were all very engaging.

I liked the police procedural elements and the methodology behind the investigative routes.

I also really like how the story highlights the plight of the homeless – something which I feel is all too easily ignored, yet most of us are only a few steps away from it at any time. A wrong decision, a loss of income, a relationship breakdown, an addiction, a twist of fate or circumstance can all very quickly lead to homelessness.

Synopsis: Four dead bodies. But who is guilty in this deadly web of secrecy and lies?

When two homeless men are strangled to death, Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel is caught off guard by the cold-blooded nature of the crimes. However, her suspicions are raised as two more bodies are found, forcing her to question the motivation behind the murders.

Plagued by countless red-herrings, the investigation drags Geraldine into the lives of three people caught in a toxic triangle of love and dishonesty. Is this a crime of passion, or is there more to this case than meets the eye? 

The Long Call by Ann Cleeves

4 Stars from me

Being a long term lover of shows like Vera and Midsummer Murders, I was delighted to have the opportunity to read The Long Call by Ann Cleeves as it is the first in a new series; featuring Detective Matthew Venn and set in North Devon.

Matthew Venn is a very likeable character who lives in an idyllic cottage by the sea with his (too perfect?) partner. The Long Call features a search for a missing girl and a murder enquiry both of which seem destined to draw Matthew back into a community – and a myriad of painful memories – that he sought to leave behind.

There is a nice mix of complexity and simplicity throughout the book and Ann Cleeves doesn’t shy away from a fair few contentious subjects as the story unfolds.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Long Call and can’t wait to see it on the TV when it is inevitably made into a tv series.

Synopsis:

The Long Call is the captivating first novel in a brand new series from Sunday Times bestseller and creator of Vera and Shetland, Ann Cleeves.

In North Devon, where the rivers Taw and Torridge converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his father’s funeral takes place. The day Matthew turned his back on the strict evangelical community in which he grew up, he lost his family too. Now he’s back, not just to mourn his father at a distance, but to take charge of his first major case in the Two Rivers region; a complex place not quite as idyllic as tourists suppose. A body has been found on the beach near to Matthew’s new home: a man with the tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death.

Finding the killer is Venn’s only focus, and his team’s investigation will take him straight back into the community he left behind, and the deadly secrets that lurk there.

The Lying Room by Nicci French

5 Stars from me!

I found The Lying Room to be a highly engaging, fast paced read that I absolutely raced through as I just kept on wanting to know what happened next!

Central character, Neve, is one of those perfect people who everyone adores yet is utterly unassuming and apparently unaware of her magnetism. Friends, colleagues, even strangers are seemingly drawn to this calm, warm, efficient woman who busily spends her life making things right for others.

She treads carefully around the feelings of her husband and her daughter, she keeps a watchful eye on her sons and is the only person who ever notices that the guinea pig hasn’t been fed. She buoys up her colleagues at work and his the central pin of a decades long friendship group. She also does all the shopping, endless loads of laundry and cycles everywhere. She and her husband share most other domestic chores and their days and nights revolve around keeping all these plates spinning. So much so that she is susceptible to the attentions of a man who notices her – in a way that she hasn’t felt noticed by anyone for a very long time and they begin an affair.

As mentioned in the synopsis (full synopsis at the bottom of this page) one day she discovers that her lover has been murdered and rather than calling 999 she makes the snap decision to try and cover up any evidence that she was ever in his life.

I really liked the police character, DI Hutchings and felt thoroughly immersed in Neve’s world as I read this book. If you ignore the affairs, murders and deceit… it is a pretty enviable life.

Great book, great characters, fast paced and compelling – highly recommended.

Also, about the authors… I had no idea that Nicci French was actually two authors! Here are the details: Nicci Gerrard was born in June 1958 in Worcestershire. After graduating with a first class honours degree in English Literature from Oxford University, she began her first job, working with emotionally disturbed children in Sheffield. In that same year she married journalist Colin Hughes.

In the early eighties she taught English Literature in Sheffield, London and Los Angeles, but moved into publishing in 1985 with the launch of Women’s Review, a magazine for women on art, literature and female issues.

In 1987 Nicci had a son, Edgar, followed by a daughter, Anna, in 1988, but a year later her marriage to Colin Hughes broke down.

In 1989 she became acting literary editor at the New Statesman, before moving to the Observer, where she was deputy literary editor for five years, and then a feature writer and executive editor.

It was while she was at the New Statesman that she met Sean French.

Sean French was born in May 1959 in Bristol, to a British father and Swedish mother. He too studied English Literature at Oxford University at the same time as Nicci, also graduating with a first class degree, but their paths didn’t cross until 1990. In 1981 he won Vogue magazine’s Writing Talent Contest, and from 1981 to 1986 he was their theatre critic. During that time he also worked at the Sunday Times as deputy literary editor and television critic, and was the film critic for Marie Claire and deputy editor of New Society.

Sean and Nicci were married in Hackney in October 1990. Their daughters, Hadley and Molly, were born in 1991 and 1993.

By the mid-nineties Sean had had two novels published, The Imaginary Monkey and The Dreamer of Dreams, as well as numerous non-fiction books, including biographies of Jane Fonda and Brigitte Bardot.

In 1995 Nicci and Sean began work on their first joint novel and adopted the pseudonym of Nicci French. The Memory Game was published to great acclaim in 1997 followed by The Safe House (1998), Killing Me Softly (1999), Beneath the Skin (2000), The Red Room (2001), Land of the Living (2002), Secret Smile (2003), Catch Me When I Fall (2005), Losing You (2006) and Until It’s Over (2008). Their latest novel together is What To Do When Someone Dies (2009).

Nicci and Sean also continue to write separately. Nicci still works as a journalist for the Observer, covering high-profile trials including those of Fred and Rose West, and Ian Huntley and Maxine Carr. Novels include Things We Knew Were True (2003), Solace (2005) and The Moment You Were Gone (2007). Sean’s last novel is Start From Here (2004).

Synopsis: In this thrilling standalone from the internationally bestselling author of the Frieda Klein series, a married woman’s affair with her boss spirals into a dangerous game of chess with the police when she discovers he’s been murdered and she clears the crime scene of all evidence.

One little secret between a married woman, her lover, and a killer.

It should have been just a mid-life fling. A guilty indiscretion that Neve Connolly could have weathered. An escape from twenty years of routine marriage to her overworked husband, and from her increasingly distant children. But when Neve pays a morning-after visit to her lover, Saul, and finds him brutally murdered, their pied-à-terre still heady with her perfume, all the lies she has so painstakingly stitched together threaten to unravel.

After scrubbing clean every trace of her existence from Saul’s life—and death—Neve believes she can return to normal, shaken but intact. But she can’t get out of her head the one tormenting question: what was she forgetting?

An investigation into the slaying could provide the answer. It’s brought Detective Chief Inspector Alastair Hitching, and Neve’s worst fears, to her door. But with every new lie, every new misdirection to save herself, Neve descends further into the darkness of her betrayal—and into more danger than she ever imagined. Because Hitching isn’t the only one watching Neve. So is a determined killer who’s about to make the next terrifying move in a deadly affair….