The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse – Review – First Monday.

About The Book

EVERYONE’S IN DANGER. ANYONE COULD BE NEXT.

An imposing, isolated hotel, high up in the Swiss Alps, is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But she’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when she receives an invitation out of the blue to celebrate her estranged brother’s recent engagement, she has no choice but to accept.

Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge. Though it’s beautiful, something about the hotel, recently converted from an abandoned sanatorium, makes her nervous – as does her brother, Isaac.

And when they wake the following morning to discover his fiancée Laure has vanished without a trace, Elin’s unease grows. With the storm cutting off access to and from the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.

But no-one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she’s the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they’re all in . . .

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. The Sanatorium was a novel that made me feel extremely claustrophobic as I read it. I can only say it was due to the amount of snow that caused a different type of isolation to what most of world has become accustomed to and a brilliant storyline that was full of threat and red herrings . All held together by a slightly unreliable narrator.

The location was fascinating, I have visited Switzerland but never experienced the weather in the book, thankfully. I can’t imagine how terrifying it must feel stranded due to weather and also be at risk where you are forced to stay. I felt that the design of the hotel would have just added to the fear. It definitely wouldn’t be somewhere I would choose to stay, even though it did also sound stunning. 

Elin was a character that took me a while to like and understand. She had PTSD caused by a case that had possibly ended her career and was still suffering years after the death of her younger brother. I did feel initially that her backstory took precedence over her life in modern day but when she started to investigate I felt I got to like and know her more. She was much more complex than many other police officers I have read about though and I still feel there is a lot to learn. 

She wasn’t the only character who had issues, her brother and the people she met whilst during their enforced stay all seemed to have a past that they kept  hidden. Her partner appeared to be the only one who seemed balanced and his character was one I did have misgivings about and I don’t really understand why. There just seemed to be something that wasn’t quite right. 

The epilogue suggests that there will be a follow up to this excellent debut novel, I’m looking forward to reading it. 

Sarah Pearse will be appearing at Second Monday Crime alongside David Fennell, Matt Wesolowski and David Baldacci. You can follow it all on their Facebook page at 7.30pm on Monday 12th April.

The Art Of Death by David Fennell – Review – First Monday.

About The Book

Death is an art, and he is the master . . .

Three glass cabinets appear in London’s Trafalgar Square containing a gruesome art installation: the floating corpses of three homeless men. Shock turns to horror when it becomes clear that the bodies are real.

The cabinets are traced to @nonymous – an underground artist shrouded in mystery who makes a chilling promise: MORE WILL FOLLOW.

Eighteen years ago, Detective Inspector Grace Archer escaped a notorious serial killer. Now, she and her caustic DS, Harry Quinn, must hunt down another.

As more bodies appear at London landmarks and murders are livestreamed on social media, their search for @nonymous becomes a desperate race against time. But what Archer doesn’t know is that the killer is watching their every move – and he has his sights firmly set on her . . .

He is creating a masterpiece. And she will be the star of his show.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. The Art Of Death is an extremely sinister crime thriller where the victims are displayed as works of art around London. Grace Archer is heading the police team who are trying to find the perpetrator but she has more to deal with than just the crime. She is in a new position, in a station where she doesn’t expect to be made welcome after she had to arrest her predecessor. She also has to care for her ailing grandfather, her only family.

She does have her friends in the team though, Quinn who wasn’t one of her predecessor’s biggest fans and Klara, who is more than capable of ignoring snide comments and smirks. 

It was a novel where you got to meet some of the victims rather than their killer. You could see how they were coerced to their deaths and with some of them the horror they experienced when they realised they had been duped.  And with the others, I  felt sadness at knowing that they wouldn’t have their happy evening.

There were a few times early in the book that I felt I had missed an earlier novel, but it was just a different style of writing. Both Grace’s and Quinn’s past are revealed much later in the novel. Most of the novel does focus on Grace but there poignant scenes that featured another victim. I felt quite tense reading these, hoping for a happy ending.

Not as believable as many crime thrillers but very entertaining and I read it very quickly. I hope that this book will become a series, I see huge potential for Grace, Quinn and a hopefully united team.

Someone Who Isn’t Me by Danuta Kot – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

When everyone hides the truth, who do you turn to?

Becca’s had a hard time of it, but she has finally got her life together. She has a nice little flat, a steady job pulling pints, and she’s even seeing someone new: Andy, who keeps his private life to himself but is always good for a laugh. And then Andy vanishes. When his body turns up on isolated Sunk Island, Becca learns Andy wasn’t just another punter. He was a police officer, deep undercover, investigating a drugs ring that he believed operated out of Becca’s pub.

Staggered by the betrayal, Becca turns to the only person she thinks she can trust: her foster mum, Kay. But Kay has problems of her own. She’s just moved into a short-term let in the hopes of finding some peace and quiet. But peace and quiet are hard to come by on Sunk Island . . .

Before long, both women are drawn into a terrifying world of drugs, money and death.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I hadn’t realised when I started reading this book that it was a sequel to Life Ruins. Luckily it was easy to read as a stand-alone, I followed the characters and storyline very easily. And I struggled to put it down once I started to read, this is an extremely gripping storyline.

There are three female narrators, two of them Becca and Kay were connected from the previous novel. The third, Dinah, is a detective who was helping to investigate the murder of the one of their own. She was probably the only member of the police who featured that I had any liking for. Hammond and Curwen only seemed to be concerned with their own careers and had no compassion for victims or witnesses. The one thing all these women had in common is that none of them judged others and they were willing to listen to those who were in danger or less fortunate than themselves. I noticed it with Kay very early in the novel but as it progressed I saw it a lot more in Becca. Her willingness to help a young boy and a kitten that she finds near her home. In this novel there were plenty who would be ignored by those who had more comfort.

The setting was outstanding. Grim, often wet, remote and much of it on the poverty line, a true reflection of British Northern towns. But like Kay I could also see beauty and peace in certain areas. 

I would love to meet these characters again, I want to see what could happen to them in the future. Not just Becca and Kay, there are a few whose life I want to see change.

The Drowned City by K. J. Maitland – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

1606. A year to the day that men were executed for conspiring to blow up Parliament, a towering wave devastates the Bristol Channel. Some proclaim God’s vengeance. Others seek to take advantage.

In London, Daniel Pursglove lies in prison waiting to die. But Charles FitzAlan, close adviser to King James I, has a job in mind that will free a man of Daniel’s skill from the horrors of Newgate. If he succeeds.

For Bristol is a hotbed of Catholic spies, and where better for the lone conspirator who evaded arrest, one Spero Pettingar, to gather allies than in the chaos of a drowned city? Daniel journeys there to investigate FitzAlan’s lead, but soon finds himself at the heart of a dark Jesuit conspiracy – and in pursuit of a killer.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I  enjoy reading historical fiction and always feel I’m in for a treat when the book I’m reading sends me to look for further information on the internet. In this novel that occurred after reading the prologue. I’d had no idea that Bristol was flooded in the 17th century.

Apart from the witch trials I don’t know that much about the reign of James I but I was aware of Robert Cecil. The author has brilliantly described both and neither come across as very nice people. But they both only appear briefly and most of this novel concerns the people of Bristol. A city that is struggling to cope with the aftermath of the floods, the superstitions and the horrifying religious attitudes at the time. This was one of the more convincing accounts that I have read and I fully believe that events such as the ones described occurred.

There were so many characters I was fascinated by. Daniel, Rachael, Myles and Mistress Crugge were just a few of the them. All different, all passionate and all determined to survive. And at times it seemed that Bristol also had its own character. It isn’t somewhere I know, but time and time again I was looking for buildings, streets and local history on the internet.

It was also a book that made me slightly nauseous. The accounts of what the flood left behind, the food the survivors were forced to eat, the relish in which the many executions were described all made this novel very life like. 

I can’t wait to read more, this book had me glued to the sofa.

The Distant Dead by Heather Young – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

A body burns in the high desert hills. A boy walks into a fire station, pale with the shock of a grisly discovery. A middle school teacher worries when her colleague is late for work. When the body is identified as local math teacher Adam Merkel, a small Nevada town is rocked to its core by a brutal and calculated murder.

In the seven months he worked at Lovelock’s middle school, the quiet and seemingly unremarkable Adam Merkel had formed a bond with just one of his students: Sal Prentiss, a lonely sixth grader who lives with his uncles on a desolate ranch in the hills. It is Sal who finds Adam’s body, charred almost beyond recognition, half a mile from his uncles’ compound.

Nora Wheaton, the school’s social studies teacher, sensed a kindred spirit in Adam – another soul bound to Lovelock by guilt and duty. After his death, she delves into his past for clues to who killed him. Yet, the truth about Adam’s murder may lie closer to home. For Sal’s grief seems shaded with fear, and Nora suspects he knows more than he’s telling about his favourite teacher’s death.

This unforgettable thriller brings a small American town to vivid life, filled with complex, troubled characters wrestling with the weight of the past, the promise of the future and the bitter freedom that forgiveness can bring.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Even though I read a lot of crime fiction I’ve never read anything like The Distant Dead. Initially I didn’t see the connection between the tale of the young boy from thousands of years ago and modern day but it does appear later in the novel when you see the passion that Sal, Nora and her father had for local history.

The drama starts almost immediately when the burned body of the school’s Maths teacher Adam is found by Sal one of his pupils. Most of the narrative  fluctuates between Nora and Sal and shows how they felt about Adam’s death. I found it quite sad that both of them seemed to be his only friends. That sadness increased when it was revealed why he had settled there and what happened to him in the past.

But Adam wasn’t the only one who’d experienced tragedy, both Nora and Sal had suffered life changing events. I felt a lot of sympathy for all of them. All three of them coped in different ways and Nora and Sal’s life touched me in equal measures. The relationships that they both had with their surviving family felt real, Nora’s bitterness but loyalty and Sal’s neediness combined with fear. I didn’t connect to Adam the same way, the barrier he put in place also had an effect on me. 

Most of the investigation seemed to be done by Nora, despite her not being a member of the police. She was a teacher, a friend to Adam and was willing to be there for Sal. She seemed to be the only one who wanted to know what had led to Adam’s death.  I found myself fascinated by her character, her love for her father despite what he did and the way she gave up on her dreams and stayed in her home town. 

Sal was a character I adored. The loss of his Mum, the fear of his uncles and his attempts to understand the passion that Adam felt for maths. I also had a lot of appreciation for his desire to be accepted by the popular children in his class and for his stories that showed him the way to be in real life. 

The ending was completely unexpected but worked well, I really had no idea who was responsible for Adam’s death. I just felt a slight sense of relief which is impossible to explain. 

I found this to be a crime novel that was also about loss, acceptance and friendship.