A Good Mother by A.L. Bird

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About the Book

The greatest bond. The darkest betrayal.

Susan wakes up alone in a room she doesn’t recognise, with no memory of how she got there. She only knows that she is trapped, and her daughter is missing.

The relief that engulfs her when she hears her daughter’s voice through the wall is quickly replaced by fear.

The person who has imprisoned her has her daughter, too.

Devising a plan to keep her daughter safe, Susan begins to get closer to her unknown captor. And suddenly, she realises that she has met him before.

My Review

At the beginning The Good Mother is very intense. Susan and her daughter Cara have both been abducted and held in separate but adjoining rooms. Their abductor appears to know Susan very well. When Susan realises her daughter is next door she starts to communicate with her via tapping on the wall and passing her notes after convincing her abductor to give her some paper and a pencil.
The narrative switches between Susan and the abductor and also occasionally a school friend of Cara who seems to be aware of a secret. The abductor seems to have a conscience and is fearful of another man who is making his presence known.
It’s an unusual novel, and I did enjoy it until the big twist. A lot of novels have a twist now and I do like them but unfortunately this one left me a little lost. At first I was ok with it, when I realised who certain people were but it just got more bizarre, more confusing and slightly unrealistic.

With Thanks to the publisher for the copy via NetGalley

Mr Mercedes by Stephen King

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About the Book

A cat-and-mouse suspense thriller featuring Bill Hodges, a retired cop who is tormented by ‘the Mercedes massacre’, a case he never solved.

Brady Hartsfield, perpetrator of that notorious crime, has sent Hodges a taunting letter. Now he’s preparing to kill again.

Each starts to close in on the other in a mega-stakes race against time.

My Review

It is years since I read any novel by Stephen King, from memory the last one was probably IT which was first published in the 1980s.
From the opening chapter I knew Mr Mercedes was going to be good. The prologue that described the mass killing was very convincing, a crowd of people spending the night in a queue for jobs who are mowed down by a madman. It then moves into present day, the lead detective has recently retired and not coping very well. All he has to focus on is an endless cycle of daytime trashy TV. And then he receives a letter that gives him something to think about, and a desire to get justice for the innocent who lost their life that night.

There was a lot to enjoy, fans of Stephen King will pick up on the references to the film adaptations of his novels, I thought this was a clever touch and it made me smile after the grim start.
I liked Hodges instantly but my favourite character was Jerome, I really hope that he appears in the other books in the trilogy. I liked his dedication to his family and friends and his determination to prevent further disaster. Brady’s character was very creepy, especially his relationship with his mother. Cold, calculating and capable of anything, but he isn’t as clever as he thinks. My favourite parts of the novel were when others upset his plans.
I really enjoyed this first book in the Detective Hodges series and I’m happy that I have the others to read soon.

Black Night Falling by Rod Reynolds.

 

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About the Book

Having left Texarkana for the safety of the West Coast, reporter Charlie Yates finds himself drawn back to the South, to Hot Springs, Arkansas, as an old acquaintance asks for his help. This time it’s less of a story Charlie’s chasing, more of a desperate attempt to do the right thing before it’s too late.

Rod Reynolds’ exceptional second novel picks up just a few months on from The Dark Inside, and once again displays the feel for place, period and atmosphere which marked out his acclaimed debut.

My Review

To enjoy this novel, I would recommend that you read The Dark Inside first. There are quite strong links between the two, both in the storyline and relationships between the characters.
When Charlie Yates receives a telephone call out of the blue from Jimmy Robinson he is surprised and skeptical. Mainly due to boredom he decides to do as asked and heads out to the town called Hot Springs. Unfortunately, he is too late but what he discovers is enough to encourage him to stay around. Hot Springs is not the nicest of places, most of its economy is made from the casinos and prostitution. The people who live there are being controlled by bribes and threats. Yates soon realises that the people who have the power don’t want him around but if he stays he can find answers to what was troubling Jimmy and to what happened in Texarkana.
It’s a dark and compelling read. Even though it is set in the 1940s and not modern day, politics still has an effect on how things are run and each side demonstrate that they are both capable of violence and lies to further their own cause. Its likened to Raymond Chandler but I found it much more intimidating. Neither of the novels have the humour that is present in the Philip Marlowe novels. America is still recovering after the war and Yates is still trying to come to terms with his own war. I think that one of the reasons he wouldn’t give up and leave was due his own war experience, that he wanted to make amends. One of the reasons I think the book works so well is because of its authenticity, everything about it felt like it was 1946. I am really interested and what Rod Reynolds will do next.
With thanks to Real Readers for the copy received.

In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings

 

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About the Book

A tragic family event reveals devastating news that rips apart Bella’s comfortable existence. Embarking on a personal journey to uncover the truth, she faces a series of traumatic discoveries that take her to the ruggedly beautiful Cornish coast, where hidden truths, past betrayals and a 25-year-old mystery threaten not just her identity, but her life. Chilling, complex and profoundly moving, In Her Wake is a gripping psychological thriller that questions the nature of family – and reminds us that sometimes the most shocking crimes are committed closest to home.

My Review

In Her Wake is a novel that I could just carry on reading indefinitely. It’s one of the few that I felt a little lost when I finished it, the only way to describe it was bereft.
In it we meet Bella, who whilst coping with bereavement learns that her whole life has been a lie. All she knows is that she has been controlled, first by her mother Elaine and then by her husband. When she decides to find out the truth she is determined to do so on her own terms.
It’s hard to review without giving any of the story away. What I learned from the various comments that I had seen that this would be a novel which I would enjoy more if I knew as little about the storyline as possible.
So, I will state that you will need tissues. Bella copes with bereavement, loneliness, bewilderment, betrayal and loss. But she also learns how to accept the reasons why her life was the way it was and how to rebuild her life. It’s hard to imagine how anybody could cope with the situation that everybody who features in the novel do. The easiest emotion would be anger, but there would also be relief, closure and acceptance.
This novel will be up among my top reads of 2016, I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to read it. If you decide to read it, get the tissues and pick a quiet corner where you can read undisturbed. An amazing, at times heart breaking bur very rewarding novel that I will think about for a long time.
With thanks to Karen Sullivan for the copy received. I also have a treasured limited edition signed copy.

The Eskimo Solution by Pascal Garnier

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About the Book

A crime writer uses the modest advance on his latest novel to rent a house on the Normandy coast. There should be little to distract him from his work besides walks on the windswept beach, but as he begins to tell the tale of forty-something Louis who, after dispatching his own mother, goes on to relieve others of their burdensome elderly relations events in his own life begin to overlap with the work of his imagination.

My Review

The Eskimo Solution is a clever, humorous novella that is about a novelist called Louis who has holed himself up in Normandy to write a book about a serial killer called Louis. He has ignored his editor’s comments that the book will be distasteful, determined to write what he wants to.
All the way through the reader is reading the author’s account and that of his creation. It is a little confusing at first but very original and at times shocking. The Louis in the novel is a much darker character, when the reader first meets him he is arguing with his wife over whether they should opt for burial or cremation. This was one of the more humorous parts of the novel and definitely encouraged me to read more. When he murders his mother to get his hands on his inheritance he sees it as an opportunity to do the same for friends who he thinks need his assistance. It doesn’t occur to him that he might be causing suffering instead.
Author Louis’s life isn’t as straight forward as he would like, his girlfriend wants him to go to England, her daughter is making life uncomfortable and his closest friend does something that brings the novel closer to home.
It’s a very unusual read, one that I enjoyed but will have to read again to really appreciate it. Like the really good shows on TV it is what happens in the background as well that makes a success. It probably wouldn’t have worked as a full length novel, for me part of its attraction was that it was only 144 pages. I have a few books on my kindle by Pascal Garnier which I am looking forward to reading soon.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received via NetGalley.

Play Dead by Angela Marsons

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About the Book

The girl’s smashed-in face stared unseeing up to the blue sky, soil spilling out of her mouth. A hundred flies hovered above the bloodied mess.

Westerley research facility is not for the faint-hearted. A ‘body farm’ investigating human decomposition, its inhabitants are corpses in various states of decay. But when Detective Kim Stone and her team discover the fresh body of a young woman, it seems a killer has discovered the perfect cover to bury their crime.

Then a second girl is attacked and left for dead, her body drugged and mouth filled with soil. It’s clear to Stone and the team that a serial killer is at work – but just how many bodies will they uncover? And who is next?

As local reporter, Tracy Frost, disappears, the stakes are raised. The past seems to hold the key to the killer’s secrets – but can Kim uncover the truth before a twisted, damaged mind claims another victim …?

My Review

Play Dead is a welcome return for one of my favourite detectives, Kim Stone. It’s gorier than the previous three books and I would recommend not reading the beginning whilst eating or cooking. I was caught out twice! Plenty of dead bodies feature, some are already present when Kim is sent to Westerley as a ‘reward’ but there is also one that is unexplained and Kim and her team have to investigate. Tracy Frost is still a thorn in Kim’s side but during one of their usual spats she mentions a cold case that Kim might be able to look at. Despite initial misgivings she has a closer look and soon ends up trying to solve both.
The tale is told by various points of view, Kim’s, Tracy’s and the unknown killer. The killer’s tale is told by flashbacks and it’s hard not to feel sympathetic. With quite a bit of the storyline focusing on Tracy I got to like and understand her a bit more. Still annoying, but she was a little more approachable.
One of the reasons I like this series so much is because all of the team are normal people. They all have lives away from the job, all have faults and all make mistakes. Kim more than anybody else. As the series has progressed she seems more willing to open up to people and not keep them at a distance. I would love her to allow somebody to get close to her emotionally
I did work out part of it but not everything. The full reasons why the killings were happening were quite sad and shows how the past can affect later life. I’m looking forward to the next in the series.

With thanks to the publisher for the copy via NetGalley.

I See You by Clare Mackintosh

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About the Book

When Zoe Walker sees her photo in the classifieds section of a London newspaper, she is determined to find out why it’s there. There’s no explanation, no website: just a grainy image and a phone number. She takes it home to her family, who are convinced it’s just someone who looks like Zoe. But the next day the advert shows a photo of a different woman, and another the day after that.

Is it a mistake? A coincidence? Or is someone keeping track of every move they make . . .

I See You is an edge-of-your-seat, page-turning psychological thriller from one of the most exciting and successful British debut talents of 2015.

My Review

I Let You Go was one of my favourite books from 2015 and I was thrilled that it won the Theakston’s Crime Novel of year at last week’s festival.
It is set in London and has two main characters, one is Kelly a police officer who is determined to prove her worth after events in her past affected her career. The other is Zoe, a mother who is separated from her children’s father and in a new relationship with Simon a journalist. When she sees a photograph of herself in a local papers classified section she is worried and upset. Even though those close to her don’t take it seriously she soon realises that a different woman’s photograph feature each day. She decides to contact the police when she suspects that it could be more sinister.
The narrative switches between both women and infuriatingly always does so at a crucial point. This made if a very quick read because I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. Even if I should have been asleep. I did figure out some of what was going on in the background but had no idea at all who was responsible for the photos.
It’s a brilliant read, a worrying storyline if you are a commuter. The levels of paranoia from Zoe and guilt from Kelly were very believable. There was probably not as many twists as there was in I Let You Go but they are there and they are shocking. By the end I was minus a few fingernails and convinced that I had just read one of the best novels in recent months.
Very highly recommended, you won’t want to put it down.

With thanks to the publisher for the copy via NetGalley.