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?

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The Pupil by Dawn Goodwin

3 stars from me

I found The Pupil to be an engaging book which drew me into the lives of the main characters and I loved the juxtaposition of main character Katherine’s current life and her visits to her mum. Actually, in a lot of ways the bits where she visits ‘home’ are some of the most compelling of the book.

The ‘twists’ in the book were, for me, a bit of a non event, they will heavily indicated throughout which made them a bit of a damp squib. I don’t think I really liked any of the characters either – the chip shop owner was probably my favourite!

I don’t like giving 3 star reviews, it feels rude and disrespectful to the author who has spent so much time crafting this tale for our enjoyment, however I do need to be true to myself and true to those books which I hold up high and say ‘this is worthy of 4 or even 5 stars’, so the 3 stars signifies that I enjoyed this book – in fact I read it an a day, it has some excellent parts and for me the overall story line – particularly the ‘twists’ and some of the characteristics of the key players could do with a few little tweaks.

That said, I am going to find myself a copy of ‘The Accident’ by the same author as it has excellent reviews and I am sure there will be many great works from this author in future.

Synopsis: One moment of carelessness. Four shattered lives. 

Psychological suspense that explores a labyrinth of lies, manipulation and revenge. Perfect for fans of Louise Jenson and Katerina Diamond.

Literary agent Viola Matthews is sure she’s met Katherine Baxter before. So when her husband and bestselling novelist Samuel Morton introduces Viola to the quiet, unassuming woman he has offered to mentor, she knows their paths have crossed before. The question is where?

As their worlds collide and the bond between Samuel and Katherine deepens, Viola realises she must take control. 

If Viola is right, then Katherine needs to pay for something that happened twelve years ago.

After He’s Gone by Jane Isaac

5 stars from me

Having read and loved Jane Isaac‘s previous novels, I was thrilled to be offered a chance to read After He’s Gone, featuring new main character Beth Chamberlain. Having read Jane’s previously novels and enjoyed getting to know Will Jackman I was surprise to see a new lead in this book but I have to say it worked brilliantly – I can’t wait to read more about Beth and hey who knows, maybe she and Will can work together in the future 🙂

It is a simple yet clever story which unfolds gradually at first but then fast gathers momentum as you get drawn into the lives of Beth, Monika, Sara and of course, Cameron.

What appears to be a straight forward – if dramatic – murder, soon turns into a deep and murky glimpse into the life of Cameron Swift. His death has all the markers of a ‘hit’, but is it? Beth is a brave and feisty character who puts others first which makes her a truly wonderful heroine for what I hope will be the first in a new series.

In addition to a brilliants constructed whodunnit, the effort put into building Beth’s back story is noteworthy on it’s own. She is alive within these pages and finish the book really feeling as though you know her.

I love the cover too – really fresh and tells you at one glance that this is going to be ballsy female lead in a murder case – pretty impressive!

Not only is Jane Isaac a fabulous author but is also utterly lovely on Twitter. I’m sure she’d like to hear from you if you loved reading any of her books.

Synopsis: You think you know him. Until he’s dead.

When Cameron Swift is gunned down outside his family home, DC Beth Chamberlain is appointed Family Liaison Officer: a dual role that requires her to support the family, and also investigate them.

As the case unfolds and the body count climbs, Beth discovers that nothing is quite as it appears and everyone, it seems, has secrets. 

Even the dead…

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…

 

Killing Kate by Alex Lake

5 stars from me!

Well, first things first, I am now clearly going to have to go and find myself a copy of After Anna by Alex Lake as Killing Kate was so darn good!

My boys bought me this for mother’s day as they know how much I enjoy a good serial killer thriller!

Killing Kate did not disappoint. I was gripped early on and towards the end I was desperately racing through the pages to see what happened next – this is a really well paced, tension building thriller.

I had a few suspects in mind and therefore wasn’t entirely surprise by who the killer was but he did show his hand much earlier than I was expecting. From that moment on the book is roller coaster!

One teeny tiny gripe and POTENTIAL SPOILER so don’t read on if you don’t want to…. There is no way he would have let her have a phone in her hand. Absolutely no way. But, still a whooping 5 stars from me as it really was an entertaining read and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of After Anna!

Oh, and, I totally thought it was written by a woman.

 

Synopsis: A serial killer is stalking your home town.

He has a type: all his victims look the same.

And they all look like you.

Kate returns from a post break-up holiday with her girlfriends to news of a serial killer in her home town – and his victims all look like her.

It could, of course, be a simple coincidence.

Or maybe not.

She becomes convinced she is being watched, followed even. Is she next? And could her mild-mannered ex-boyfriend really be a deranged murderer?

Or is the truth something far more sinister?

Tell Me No Lies by Lisa Hall

Tell Me No Lies5 Stars from me!

Arrrgggghhhh – this book is so good I literally just want to run around waving my arms above my head shouting ‘aaaaarrrrrgggghhhh’ at everyone!

I remember a similar feeling after reading Between You and Me, so hats off to Lisa Hall as she is clearly the master of messing with minds!

Throughout the story I felt I knew where it was heading, I thought I’d spotted all the herrings – red or otherwise – and that I was one step ahead of the tale. Ha.

Tell Me No Lies contains brilliant characters – most of whom I couldn’t stand – and takes you swiftly along a pschological thriller that will stay with you for a long time after you’ve finished it. And then, trust me, you’ll be wanting to run around with your arms in the air shouting ‘aaaaaaarrrrrrggggghhhhh’ in people’s faces.

If you like a good, intelligent, psychological thriller – you’ve simply got to read this book!

 

Synopsis: From the bestselling author of Between You and Me don’t miss Lisa Hall’s new gripping thriller.

Don’t. Trust. Anyone.

It was supposed to be a fresh start.

A chance to forget the past and embrace the future.

But can you ever really start again?

Or does the past follow you wherever you go…

Time of Death by Mark Billingham

Time of Death5 stars from me!

I picked up the latest Tom Thorne thriller with great delight as I’ve found his character to be an enjoyable one – all the way from Sleepyhead right up to date; this series is one not to be missed.

And now I can see there is a new Billingham book (non Thorne) that I haven’t read so I’m going to have to lay my hands on a copy of Die of Shame too!

Tom’s character is so flawed that he becomes believable. I like the fact that he can’t be arsed with most things and yet can’t ignore the nagging clues that most people wouldn’t spot in a million years. I can’t quite see why Helen is with him as he really isn’t the greatest catch in boyfriend terms but then I guess she probably isn’t winning any world’s best girlfriend awards either.

This story throws you in the middle of media shitstorm forcing you to view the case from the viewpoint of the girlfriend of the accused. It offers a horribly real feeling to the fact that the family of the person accused suffer and are persecuted just as much as the accused is. It’s not nice to face up to the fact that, as a Society, we do that.

I liked all the twists and turns and am happy to admit that I pegged the wrong guy.

Great book, I look forward to more and if you’ve never read this series then I urge you to go find a copy of Sleepyhead and I envy you your journey through the Thorne novels.

 

Synopsis: The astonishing thirteenth Tom Thorne novel is a story of kidnapping, the tabloid press, and a frightening case of mistaken identity. Tom Thorne is on holiday with his girlfriend DS Helen Weeks, when two girls are abducted in Helen’s home town. When a body is discovered and a man is arrested, Helen recognises the suspect’s wife as an old school-friend and returns home for the first time in twenty-five years to lend her support. As his partner faces up to a past she has tried desperately to forget and a media storm engulfs the town, Thorne becomes convinced that, despite overwhelming evidence of his guilt, the police have got the wrong man. There is still an extremely clever and killer on the loose and a missing girl who Thorne believes might still be alive.

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

Bone Clocks3 Stars from me

Yes, only three stars even though this is a much heralded epic novel, nominated for the Man Booker prize etc etc.

I would have happily given it a 5 star review had it not dragged on and on and on!

A more succinct book would have been truly excellent. The craftsmanship throughout the interwoven stories is quite beautiful; Holly Sykes is someone I feel I know very well and I enjoyed my journey through her life – Hugo’s character was intriguing too although he seemed to be dropped and brushed over after a while.

The first ‘chunk’ of this book is brilliant, absolutely enjoyable and engaging. Then there is a whole dross of chapters that just drag on – as for the ‘big battle’, well I found it dull and really quite irrelevant to the story.

Maybe this genre just isn’t for me, maybe I just didn’t properly ‘get it’, but The Bone Clocks in my view was let down by not having a heavy edit. The fault is certainly not a lack of writing prowess as it parts of the book are wonderful. I truly think a much shorter version would be sensational. Such a shame.

An Unfamiliar Murder by Jane Isaac

Unfamiliar Murder5 Stars from me!

What an absolute gem of an author Jane Isaac is, I am so glad to have found her books and honestly don’t feel I can fault a single thing (ok, except the cover).

Isaac is, in my view, an astonishingly accomplished writer. Her stories are virtually flawless in their pace, content and style.

I read her second book, The Truth Will Out, before I read this one and for me it didn’t spoil the books in any way but it would obviously make more sense to read them in the correct order if you can.

I read lots and lots of crime thrillers and genuinely think that Jane Isaac is up there with the big hitters, she had me led completely up the garden path with ‘who dunnit’ which is a feat in itself and I usually know by about a third of the way in! In An Unfamiliar Murder though I got it wrong right up until the end.

Fabulous book, absolutely loved it, can’t wait to read more.

Synopsis:

Arriving home from a routine day at work, Anna Cottrell has no idea that her life is about to change forever. But discovering the stabbed body of a stranger in her flat, then becoming prime suspect in a murder enquiry is only the beginning. Her persistent claims of innocence start to crumble when new evidence links her irrevocably with the victim… 

Leading her first murder enquiry, DCI Helen Lavery unravels a trail of deception, family secrets and betrayal. When people close to the Cottrell family start to disappear, Lavery is forced into a race against time. Can she catch the killer before he executes his ultimate victim?

 

First Christmas (HBTC) by Debbie McGowan

First Christmas4 out of 5

First Christmas (from the Hiding Behind The Couch series), is the second book I’ve read by Debbie McGowan and once again I found myself absolutely blown away by the simplistic charm of the whole tale.

The two main characters are as cute as can be, yet with very real characteristics and very real flaws and emotional defects. Debbie McGowan seems to have a real knack of weaving a sweet tale and then peppering it with hardcore facts and events before popping a ribbon on the top to soften the blow.

Tiny point, much like with Beginnings, I do have to confess that I feel the cover could be improved!

Synopsis: Remember the way you used to feel when you were little? So eager for Santa’s visit, that mixture of anticipation and impatience? Will I get what I asked for? Have I been good enough? This Christmas, join some of the characters from Hiding Behind The Couch for a short story full of festive magic and romance. Best read in December, in front of a roaring log fire, by the twinkling light of a Christmas tree.