My Top Ten Books For 2017 and Two Recommendations for 2018.

The time has come again to pick my top books of the year. I have read 112 books this year and after much consideration I have managed to get it down to 10. And add an extra 2 that are not yet published. The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that a few of these books are from the same publisher. Apart from my top book of the year they are in no particular order.

 

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Sealskin by Su Bristow – Blog Tour Review.

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The Two O’Clock Boy by Mark Hill – Review.

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Shelter by Sarah Franklin – Review.

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Maria In The Moon by Louise Beech – Blog Tour Review.

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The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan – Review.

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The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen – Blog Tour Review.

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The Winter’s Child by Cassandra Parkin – Blog Tour Review.

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Whiteout by Ragnar Jónasson – Blog Tour Review.

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See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt – Blog Tour Review.

Before I reveal my top book of this year I would like to share with you two books that I have enjoyed that haven’t been published yet. These are:

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The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements – Review.

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This Is How It Ends by Eva Dolan – Review to follow when the book is published in January 2018.

My Favourite Book from 2017 was one that I couldn’t wait to read and I wasn’t disappointed. That book was:

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Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson – Blog Tour Review.

I read Block 46 early in the year and I knew instantly that it would be hard to beat. It’s a book that I will think about in years to come.

It was harder than ever to pick my top reads and I am having to publish this post a few weeks early. It’s always a post that I enjoy putting together and I also enjoy reading what everybody else picks as well. Happy Reading.

Same Face Different Place – Beginnings by Helen . J. Christmas – Extract.

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Today it is my pleasure to share an extract from  Same Face Different Place – Beginnings by Helen .J. Christmas.

About the Book

Beginnings is a romantic thriller set in the criminal underworld of 1970s London. Eleanor Chapman is 16. She has no idea her father is employed in a world of organised crime until the day he is forced to go on the run, leaving her at the mercy of dangerous people.
Her life is spiralling out of control yet on the night she plans to escape, she stumbles across a mysterious prisoner. His name is Jake, a rock musician from Holland and he has a contract on his life.
Their daring escape across London eventually draws them into a place of hiding before Jake’s chilling story begins to unfold. He was the one vital witness to a sinister scene leading up to the death of a British MP and now those responsible want him silenced. As two young people, thrown together by fate they develop intense feelings for each other. It does not take long for Eleanor to realise that she will do anything possible to keep Jake alive.
Their tender love bond keeps you turning the pages as they live on a knife edge, desperate to escape London. Will they outrun the deadly enemies who stalk them? Or are the people at the top more powerful than they think?
Purchase on Amazon – http://apn.to/prod/B0078L8858

About the Author

Helen J. Christmas lives on the south coast of Sussex with her husband. With a love of writing since childhood, she started her decade spanning thriller series ‘Same Face Different Place’ in 2011. Her first book ‘Beginnings,’ set in 1970s London, combines romantic suspense with a hard-hitting conspiracy thriller. Writing is something she juggles around family and social life. Helen is self employed and enjoys running the web design company, she and her husband set up from home. They have no children but enjoy the company of a faithful border collie and a fluffy white cat. Helen confesses to have got most of her ideas for writing, whilst walking Barney along the beach.
Social Media links:
Blog: https://samefacedifferentplace.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/author.helenchristmas/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SFDPBeginnings
Good Reads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5838032.Helen_J_Christmas
Pinterest Book 1: https://uk.pinterest.com/helenxmas/same-face-different-place-beginnings-book-1-by-hel/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/helenchristmas7/

Extract

ELEANOR IS FORCED INTO PROSTITUTION Extract from Chapter 2

Eleanor couldn’t move. In just over a week her life had been thrown into chaos but now it was about to change beyond recognition. A prostitute! How could anyone expect her to cope with this awful turn of events?
An attractive young black woman sauntered over and offered her a drink. She had a halo of afro hair and delicate features; high cheekbones, full lips enhanced by luscious dark lipstick.
She introduced herself as Della.
“I’ve worked here a couple of years now,” she smiled as if it was just some passing conversation. “Clark ain’t that bad. Just don’t try an’ double cross him.”
Eleanor sipped her drink. Guessing it to be some sort of cocktail, the taste of tropical fruit disguised an underlying flavour of alcohol.
“The other guys are bodyguards: Clive and Leroy. We get the occasional ‘rogue punter’ an’ if things get rough, the boys sort ‘em out…”
“I see,” Eleanor whispered. She gave Della a long and searching look. “Listen, I can’t work here, okay? What those bastards did is evil. How dare they dump me in a whorehouse. No one can force a girl to do this!”
Della gave a sigh. There was a glint of sympathy in her eyes.
“It ain’t a bad life,” she counselled. “All the girls here are quite happy… I guess this is happening a bit too fast but try not to worry. It’s just sex, sweetheart.”
“How can I not worry?” Eleanor protested. She drew her head closer. “Della, I’ve never ever done it before! They were right about that part. I was hoping, I’d lose my virginity with someone I loved, not some punter…” She fought back another sob. “How could my dad and for that matter, Sammie, trust such a pair of scum bags?”
“What, you think anyone in this world can be trusted?” Della chuckled. “Get real, love!”
“What?” Eleanor croaked, feeling the rise of tears again.
“Face facts, sweetie, we are all low life! Not just the Mallorys… This is the criminal underworld and there ain’t no nice people in it.”
Eleanor shook her head as Della relayed the stark reality.
“Have you absolutely no idea what kind of guy Sammie Maxwell is?”
“I-I know he’s no saint,” Eleanor faltered. “I’ve only just learned a bit about his business but he’s still my father’s boss… He’s always been good to me.”
“Yeah,” Della added, “‘cept his business includes casinos and whorehouses, hard drugs and hired muscle! Up until now, Sammie’s been everyone’s boss!”
“So what else do you know?” Eleanor pressed.
Della took her hand. “You’re asking about your dad, ain’t you? We all knew Ollie. One of Sammie’s top hard men. He ran that garage and car lot… Well for a start, the place was a money laundering front. Apart from that, he assisted Sammie with all sorts of stuff, mainly in the protection rackets. Sammie liked Ollie ‘cos he looked mean. Had them eyes that made you go cold all over!”
Eleanor gazed back blankly when in truth, she felt stunned.
“When Clark told us, Ollie’s girl was bein’ brought here, we were expecting some tough chick. Where’s he been hidin’ you all this time?”
Eleanor’s frown deepened. “He sent me to boarding school, away from all this criminal stuff.”
“Explains a lot,” Della relented and letting go of Eleanor’s hand, she lounged in her seat. “Look I don’t mean to upset you and you’re right, you probably don’t belong here. What Clark’s sister did ain’t right though don’t tell him I said that. Just try to understand that nobody in this game can be trusted. You might wanna remember that in future…”
She rose to her feet.
“C’mon, I’ll take you to your room. Clark agreed to let you have your first night off so make the most of it. He ain’t usually so considerate.”
Coaxed from the lounge, Eleanor allowed herself to be led dreamily upstairs. Two flights. She wished she could close her ears to the sounds of obvious sexual activity emanating from all corners of the house. Exhaustion was beginning to sink in now. It must have been very late and her head felt heavy. She wondered if her drink contained some sort of sedative, though under the circumstances, she really didn’t care…
Her room was small. At first glance, she clocked a single bed with a leopard skin effect cover, her coat and suitcase resting on top. The lighting like everywhere else in the house was very soft and similar to the glow of candlelight. Yet she felt too drowsy to take any more in.
“Get some sleep,” Della sighed. “I got work to do now, so I’ll leave you to settle in. Bathroom’s on the right… Oh and you may as well know, this is the attic floor and we lock it at night, so don’t go getting no fantasies about escapin.’ Sorry this has been a shock but you’ll get used to it…”

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Sleeping in the Ground by Peter Robinson – Review.

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About the Book

A shocking mass murder occurs at a wedding in a small Dales church and a huge manhunt follows. Eventually, the shooter is run to ground and things take their inevitable course.
But Banks is plagued with doubts as to exactly what happened outside the church that day, and why. Struggling with the death of his first serious girlfriend and the return of profiler Jenny Fuller into his life, Banks feels the need to dig deeper into the murders, and as he does so, he uncovers forensic and psychological puzzles that lead him to the past secrets that might just provide the answers he is looking for.
When the surprising truth becomes clear, it is almost too late.

My Review

Whilst I have not read all of the Inspector Banks series I have read enough of them to know the characters well as well as any back story. You could probably read this quite well as a standalone.
This new investigation is one that you only hear about in this country occasionally. That of a mass shooting. Understandably there is a huge media frenzy, the team are under pressure to act quickly, the weather isn’t helping the situation and one of their own team is one of the injured. They think they have got who is responsible quickly but when they start to look closer they question whether they were too quick to react.
I’ve always found this series to be quite contemplative. There is always a crime but it almost seems peaceful. Of course a mass shooting is far from peaceful but there is no big city approach to the investigation. Instead, when they start to dig deeper there doesn’t appear to be any urgency. It is all done quietly, without the media picking up on what is happening. It isn’t all about Banks, Annie and Gerry also feature strongly and show how different policing is with the younger officers.
Music features strongly as ever, regular readers will be aware that Banks loves his music and his choice of music reflects his mood. In this novel he is melancholic, an old flame had died and his own health is questionable.
I enjoy this series, if you have seen the TV series it doesn’t do the books any justice. They are so much better.

Where There’s Smoke – Charlie Walden’s First Case – Walden of Bermondsey by Peter Murphy – Review.

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About the Book

When Charlie Walden took on the job of Resident Judge of the Bermondsey Crown Court, he was hoping for a quiet life. But he soon finds himself struggling to keep the peace between three feisty fellow judges who have very different views about how to do their job, and about how Charlie should do his.
And as if that’s not enough, there’s the endless battle against the ‘Grey Smoothies’, the humourless grey-suited civil servants who seem determined to drown Charlie in paperwork and strip the court of its last vestiges of civilisation.
No hope of a quiet life then for Charlie, and there are times when his real job – trying the challenging criminal cases that come before him – actually seems like light relief.

My Review

I would like to thank the publisher for the copy received.
I read a lot of crime fiction, some of which is court based, but I have never read a book where the main character is a judge. Where There is Smoke is the first of six cases that features Charlie and I enjoyed every minute of it. Whilst there is the storyline featuring the case, which involves an arson attack on a church, I felt that the aim of this novella was to introduce the reader to all of the different characters which feature.
All of the judges have differing views on how their job should be done and what sentences should be given. Charlie is the one who decides which judge gets which case and also has to answer to the ‘grey smoothies’ who are intent on making the job harder than it need to be. As well as the court staff we also get to meet Charlie’s wife, the Reverend. I expect to see quite a lot of her in future books and it is easy to see who wears the trousers in their house.
You do see the entire case go through the court system and it is intriguing, but I enjoyed meeting everybody much more. I’m looking forward to reading the full novel soon.

Zenka by Alison Brodie – Review.

 

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About the Book

Devious, ruthless, and loyal.

Zenka is a capricious Hungarian with a dark past.

When cranky London mob boss, Jack Murray, saves her life she vows to become his guardian angel – whether he likes it or not. Happily, she now has easy access to pistols, knives and shotguns.

Jack discovers he has a son, Nicholas, a male nurse with a heart of gold. Problem is, Nicholas is a wimp.

Zenka takes charges. Using her feminine wiles and gangland contacts, she will make Nicholas into the sort of son any self-respecting crime boss would be proud of. And she succeeds!

Nicholas transforms from pussy cat to mad dog, falls in love with Zenka, and finds out where the bodies are buried – because he buries them. He’s learning fast that sometimes you have to kill, or be killed.

As his life becomes more terrifying, questions have to be asked:

How do you tell a mob boss you don’t want to be his son?

And is Zenka really who she says she is?

My Review

With thanks to the author for the copy received.

I first heard about Zenka when I read a couple of reviews and then the author made contact, asking me if I would like to read it. I am so pleased that I said I would because it was brilliant. I do read a lot of crime fiction but I don’t read much that contains gangland crime which is what I would have assumed this to be by the blurb. It does have gangsters in it but Zenka is so refreshing to read and most of the characters are so likeable I was just swept away.
Zenka is just one of the characters, sadly she doesn’t feature heavily. Most of the focus is on Nicholas, Jack and Trevor. Nicholas has a heart of gold and appears to be nothing at all like Jack who is adamant that he is his father. Trevor is angry over Jack’s refusal to consider that he may not be and with his decision to go straight. All of the characters showed both sides of their personalities, the hurt they had suffered in the past, the things they cared about and the lengths they would go to protect their interests. There were also a handful of other characters, all of who fit in well with the storyline.
I could have sat and read and enjoyed a book full of Zenka’s letters to Alina. I liked the way she wrote as she would speak with her broken English. I nearly choked when Nicholas was trying to impress her but had forgotten what was on his feet. The ending was a bit of surprise but it did work and it was nice to see everything tidied up with a happy ending.
Zenka was just what I needed to read and it was perfect timing. There is violence, but it has a comical slant to it and its mainly about a group of people whose life was about to change in a way they never thought possible.

I can’t wait to see what Alison Brodie writes next.