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

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About the Book

TWO CHILDHOOD FRIENDS… ONE BECAME A DETECTIVE… ONE BECAME A KILLER…
Thirty years ago, the Longacre Children’s Home stood on a London street where once-grand Victorian homes lay derelict. There its children lived in terror of Gordon Tallis, the home’s manager.
Then Connor Laird arrived: a frighteningly intense boy who quickly became Tallis’ favourite criminal helper. Soon after, destruction befell the Longacre, and the facts of that night have lain buried . . . until today.
Now, a mysterious figure, the Two O’clock Boy, is killing all who grew up there, one by one. DI Ray Drake will do whatever it takes to stop the murders – but he will go even further to cover up the truth.

My Review

The Two O’ Clock Boy is one of the brilliantly twisty novels that I have read for a long time. Flick Cowley is investigating the murder of a family and whilst investigating realises that there is a link with other murders. The victims all had a link with an old children’s home. Her superior officer Ray Drake is helping and guiding her through her first major case. But he is also manipulating evidence and discouraging her from looking into the past. Understandably she is annoyed and confused by his actions. In some ways they are similar, both have personal problems. Ray has recently lost his wife and his daughter in struggling with her grief has turned against him.
Some of the people who have been murdered spent time at Longacre, a children’s home that had serious issues. Part of the novel reveals what happened there in 1984 and was unfortunately believable. But the main storyline deals with the current investigation and trying to keep the remaining members of the home safe.
I have read many crime novels but I can honestly say that I have never read any like this. I often see twists coming and sometimes I am disappointed by them. Sometimes they have no seeable connection to the rest of the story. But in this novel, I had no idea what was going to happen, what had happened and who the murderer was. The twists were all very well hidden and they all worked. Not once was I left shaking my head in disbelief.
I don’t know if this is a standalone or the first in a series. Each would work perfectly well but I would love to see a follow up. This is a book that will definitely be one of my top ten books for 2017.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.
You can buy the book at amazon or Waterstones
Mark Hill will be taking part in First Monday Crime on May 8th. This looks like it will be a fantastic evening. Details can be found here

Time to Win by Harry Brett – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

When local crime boss Richard Goodwin is pulled from the river by his office it looks like suicide. But as his widow Tatiana feared, Rich collected enemies like poker chips, and half of Great Yarmouth’s criminal fraternity would have had reason to kill him.
Realising how little she knows about the man she married, Tatty seeks to uncover the truth about Rich’s death and take over the reins of the family business, overseeing a waterfront casino deal Rich hoped would put Yarmouth on the map.
Out of the shadows at last, it is Tatty’s time now, and she isn’t going to let Rich’s brother, or anyone else, stand in her way. But an American has been in town asking the right people the wrong questions, more bodies turn up, along with a brutal new gang. The stakes have never been higher.
With her family to protect, and a business to run, Tatty soon learns that power comes with a price . .

My Review

One of the first things that occurred to me when reading Time to Win was how the tourist board connected to Great Yarmouth would feel seeing how the area was portrayed in the novel. However, after visiting numerous UK seaside resorts out of season I feel that it is probably accurate.
I often wonder which type of character an author finds harder to create. The ones that the reader will love or the ones they will hate. Most of the characters who feature are unpleasant, although Tatty and Frank did grow on me as I read more.
Rich only appears in the prologue so you don’t really get to know him. The only member of his family who seemed to mourn him was Sam even though she too ridiculed him along with her siblings. They are a family who are capable of anything. They are feared but not everybody they try and control give in to their demands. Ben and Sam are more distant from the criminal activities that occur but they have been groomed for the future. They do feel the financial benefits though. Zach is probably just like his father and one of the more unlikeable characters in the novel.
It’s definitely part of a series, not many issues have been resolved by the end of the book. This reader wants to know more about Frank and Tatty, especially her past. I feel there is a lot more to learn about nearly everybody who featured.

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

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Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

Just before dawn in the hills near the Scottish border, a man murders a young woman. At the same time, a hot-air balloon crashes out of the sky. There’s just one survivor.

She’s seen the killer’s face – but he’s also seen hers. And he won’t rest until he’s eliminated the only witness to his crime.

Alone, scared, trusting no one, she’s running to where she feels safe – but it could be the most dangerous place of all . . .

My Review

I had been looking forward to reading Dead Woman Walking since reading the opening chapter via a link from the author. I had an anxious few weeks to think about what would happen before I was lucky enough to receive a proof copy and the opportunity to participate in the blog tour.
The first few chapters detailing the events surrounding the hot-air balloon crash have put me off for life. They were very convincing, and I don’t like to think about which of the passengers I would have had a similar reaction to.
Once I had started reading it was hard to stop. The just one more chapter rule didn’t apply, some of them were very short so I dropped everything and just read constantly. Dropping all the other books that I was reading at the same time.
The narrative was mainly in the present day but it did jump back occasionally to reveal events from Jessica and Isobel’s childhood. These parts gave hints to why Isobel ended up in the convent and why Jessica became a police officer. There are also a few flashbacks concerning Ajax, the police officer involved in the investigation into the hot-air balloon.
I loved the storyline concerning the convent, the cleverly named peafowl and the existence that all the Nuns had. I had never considered that a Nun might have had a family of her own and a connection to the outside world and I had never thought that Nuns might watch TV or have an interest in solving crime. They were all the most likeable characters in the novel.
It’s difficult to say anything about the plot without spoilers so I would just say if you like a novel that tackles a subject that is mentioned often in the news and has plenty of twists then you will love this book. A great follow up to Daisy in Chains.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

To buy the book at amazon or Waterstones

Other stops on the blog tour

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Larchfield by Polly Clark – Review.

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About the Book

It’s early summer when a young poet, Dora Fielding, moves to Helensburgh on the west coast of Scotland and her hopes are first challenged. Newly married, pregnant, she’s excited by the prospect of a life that combines family and creativity. She thinks she knows what being a person, a wife, a mother, means. She is soon shown that she is wrong. As the battle begins for her very sense of self, Dora comes to find the realities of small town life suffocating, and, eventually, terrifying; until she finds a way to escape reality altogether.
Another poet, she discovers, lived in Helensburgh once. Wystan H. Auden, brilliant and awkward at 24, with his first book of poetry published, should be embarking on success and society in London. Instead, in 1930, fleeing a broken engagement, he takes a teaching post at Larchfield School for boys where he is mocked for his Englishness and suspected – rightly – of homosexuality. Yet in this repressed limbo Wystan will fall in love for the first time, even as he fights his deepest fears.
The need for human connection compels these two vulnerable outsiders to find each other and make a reality of their own that will save them both. Echoing the depths of Possession, the elegance of The Stranger’s Child and the ingenuity of Longbourn, Larchfield is a beautiful and haunting novel about heroism – the unusual bravery that allows unusual people to go on living; to transcend banality and suffering with the power of their imagination

My Review

I’m not a huge fan of poetry but when this surprise book post arrived I liked the sound of it. It wasn’t my usual choice of fiction but I do like to read something a little different. It did take me a while to get into but once I did, I found it a fascinating read.
Wystan’s story was the one that I enjoyed more. A poet who I had heard of but knew nothing about. So, as I was reading I was also looking for more information about him via the internet, especially his friendship with Christopher Isherwood in a 1930s Berlin. His character seemed to be very loyal to his few friends, and very supportive of his pupils. The chapters that concerned him were much easier to read.
Dora, herself a poet, was missing her life in Oxford. Life in Scotland was different to the academic lifestyle which she used to have. She was also struggling to cope with a premature baby and had a pair of very vindictive neighbours.
The account of a life in the 1930s where homosexuality was illegal and shameful and the account of a life in modern day where postnatal depression could easily be misunderstood gave plenty to think about. Both were fully aware of what people thought of them and Dora especially felt isolated and struggled to cope with the attitudes of people around her.
Beautifully written, it is at times unsettling with some of the attitudes shown towards both the characters  and the situation in Berlin. A captivating novel, by an author I would read again.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

The Killer by Susan Wilkins – Review.

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About the Book

A glossy and gripping crime thriller about survival and vengeance, it puts the pedal to the metal as it hurtles through contemporary London, from the glass towers of the super-rich to the down and dirty backstreets of organized crime and blackmail.
She was a woman, so they thought she’d be easy to kill . . .
Kaz Phelps is on the run – from the past, from the legacy of her criminal family, from the haunting memories of her murdered lover. The police want her back in jail and her enemies want her dead. While standing by the grave of her gangster brother, Kaz realizes she only has one option. To fight back.
Nicci Armstrong was one of the Met’s best detectives until personal tragedy forced her to quit. Now she’s responsible for the security of the super-rich who use her city as a playground. She is one of the few people Kaz might trust. But Nicci’s biggest mistake yet is falling in love with a man she knows is only using her.
Meanwhile, as envious rivals back home plot against him, a Russian billionaire searches for a special gift to keep the Kremlin onside, a disgraced politician dreams of revenge and a Turkish drug baron plots to purge his dishonour with blood.

My Review

This is a series that needs to be read in order, it would be difficult to follow the storyline otherwise.
The Killer is the third and final part of the trilogy that features Kaz, Nicci and all the other members of the police, gangland communities and politicians that have appeared in at least one of the other books.
With it only being a couple of weeks since I read the second book, The Mourner I managed to get into this book straightaway. There are a lot of people who feature, many are from different countries and from all walks of life. It is easy to follow though.
The period of time covered by the trilogy is very short, the time between books two and three appears to be a matter of days. The opening chapter left me a little sad, the character we had to say goodbye to was one that I liked. The pace never lets up, there is danger, betrayal and suspicion all the way through for Kaz and Nicci. Even though most threads in the novels now seem to have been resolved I do hope that there will be future appearances for at least one of them in the future.
I don’t tend to read gangster crime, this is probably the only series that I have read. I have enjoyed it though. I liked both Kaz and Nicci, Kaz especially was a great character who had a nightmare childhood that she was determined to escape.
I will be looking forward to seeing what Susan Wilkins writes next, with many thanks to the publisher for all the books received.

You can purchase the book here

The Stolen Child by Sanjida Kay – Review.

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About the Book

Zoe and Ollie Morley tried for years to have a baby and couldn’t. They turned to adoption and their dreams came true when they were approved to adopt a little girl from birth. They named her Evie.
Seven years later, the family has moved to Yorkshire and grown in number: a wonderful surprise in the form of baby Ben. As a working mum, it’s not easy for Zoe, but life is good.
But then Evie begins to receive letters and gifts.
The sender claims to be her birth father.
He has been looking for his daughter.
And now he is coming to take her back…

My Review

The Stolen Child starts with an excerpt from one of my favourite poems and had me hooked from the opening chapter.
Zoe and Ollie Morley adopted a baby girl and then a few years later had a son of their own. They moved back to Zoe’s home town of Ilkley where Ollie has a successful career as an accountant and Zoe is trying to build a career as an artist.
Evie has a few problems, some of which appear to be caused by her natural mother taking drugs whilst she was pregnant with her. So, life isn’t always easy for Zoe, Ollie is absent a lot with his work and she must deal with Evie’s issues on her own. But these are nothing compared to how hard life gets when Evie’s natural father contacts her.
I don’t recall ever feeling so tense when reading a novel before. Not only from the anxiety experienced by Zoe and Ollie but also the threat to other members of the family. I think I suspected everybody who featured, and as my options run out and I guessed who it was, it was all for the wrong reasons.
It wasn’t just the storyline that had me so gripped. There was also the description of Ilkley Moor which also has a major role in the novel. The power and remoteness that in the wrong weather could be dangerous. It is an area that I am now looking at going to later in the year. I would love to see what Zoe painted.
An excellent follow up to Bone by Bone, readers of that will not be disappointed.
You can buy the book here
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

Even my little pal enjoyed it…

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The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

The Amazing Arden is the most famous female illusionist of her day, renowned for her notorious trick of sawing a man in half on stage. But one night she swaps her trademark saw for an axe.
When Arden’s husband is found dead later that night, the answer seems clear, most of all to young policeman Virgil Holt.
Captured and taken into custody, all seems set for Arden’s swift confession. But she has a different story to tell. Even handcuffed and alone, Arden is far from powerless, and what she reveals is as unbelievable as it is spellbinding.

My Review

Before I started reading The Magician’s Lie I fully expected it be be a crime novel, following the usual procedure of a crime committed and then the investigation so I was a bit surprised when this wasn’t really what I got.
Yes, there is a crime but then the focus moves to the life story of Arden, how she ran away from an abusive relationship and finally got the chance to achieve her dream. She doesn’t come across as a bad person. In fact, she is a victim of more than one act of cruelty.
It is a while since I read historical crime fiction and I liked this a lot. The image of turn of the century America was captivating. A New York where Grand Central Station has yet to be built and Fifth Avenue was still a residential Street. All this combined with the account of a theatrical career and a few magician secrets revealed. I like to learn something new when I read a book and the account of the Iroquois Fire was a horrifying section of the novel. More so when I realized that it was an actual event.
I like to think it was a happy ending for at least one of the main characters and I am interested in whether we will see further novels featuring any of them. It would work well as a series as well as a standalone novel.
A completely unexpected read that I enjoyed immensely.
You can buy the book here
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

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Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

When the body of a woman turns up in a dumpster, scalded and wrapped in plastic, Inspector Frank Frølich is shocked to discover that he knows her… and their recent meetings may hold the clue to her murder. As he begins to look deeper into the tragic events surrounding her death, Frølich’s colleague Gunnarstranda finds another body, and things take a more sinister turn. With a cold case involving the murder of a young girl in northern Norway casting a shadow, and an unsettling number of coincidences clouding the plot, Frølich is forced to look into his own past to find the answers – and the killer – before he strikes again.

Dark, brooding and utterly chilling, Faithless is a breath-taking and atmospheric page-turner that marks the return of an internationally renowned and award-winning series, from one of the fathers of Nordic Noir.

My Review

Faithless is one of a series of books that features Frølich, Gunnarstranda, Lena and their superior officer Rindal. I haven’t read any of the previous novels and whilst there was backstory missing with regards to their personal lives it didn’t impact on my enjoyment of this novel.
When a young woman is found dead after being charged with possession of cocaine Frølich feels he is in a dilemma. He was the officer who charged her and at a party the same night he discovered that she was in a relationship with an old school friend. He pleads conflict of interest but is ignored. This isn’t the only case being investigated. A young African woman has disappeared whilst on placement at the university. They have suspects but their hands are tied without any evidence.
A few years ago, I had read no Norwegian fiction. Now I wonder why there hasn’t been more translated into English. The ones I have read lately all seem to be part of a hugely successful series that has been published for several years and it is all very enjoyable.
Apart from Rindal, all the detectives feature strongly and despite not knowing anything about them I got to know them all quite well. The investigations are quite intense, the detectives are all intent on getting a result. I felt their every mood, their self-doubt, and their relationships with each other (Rindel seemed to be somebody to ridicule) and their feelings regarding the various suspects.
Lena’s investigations were the most worrying and she was the character who I liked the most. She had faults but she was in no denial about what they were. The ending was intriguing. I know the book was originally published a few years before translation and I’m eager to find out how it continues. I hope I don’t have long to wait.
With thanks to Karen Sullivan for the copy received and the chance to take part in the blog tour.

 

Close to Me by Amanda Reynolds – Review.

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About the Book

When Jo Harding falls down the stairs at home, she wakes up in hospital with partial amnesia – she’s lost a whole year of memories.
A lot can happen in a year. Was Jo having an affair? Lying to her family? Starting a new life?
She can’t remember what she did – or what happened the night she fell.
But she’s beginning to realise she might not be as good a wife and mother as she thought.

My Review

Close to Me is a new novel that follows the fairly common theme of having an unreliable narrator. But this book is slightly different with the narrator not being in her twenties. Here, Jo is in her mid-fifties, and struggling with having nothing to focus on now that her two adult children have left home. Neither of them have lived up to the high expectations that their parents had of them and their disappointment is evident. Rob, her husband is quite critical especially when Jo decides to help out a walk in centre where they help people to find work and with other issues they may have.
After her accident, she has no memory of the previous year, either within her family or the work she does at the centre. The book goes back and forth between the year leading up to the accident and a daily diary of Jo’s attempt to try and remember.
At first I struggled to warm to any of them. But as I read more I had more empathy for Jo and the difficult relationship with both of her children. I felt her frustration at not being able to remember the people she had known quite well before the accident. And not knowing what happened to damage the family she thought was close knit. I would have liked to get to know more about Fin, he was probably the character I liked most.
Its strange reading a novel where the reader knows what happened in the previous year but the character doesn’t and I liked it very much when everything was revealed and how exactly she had been deceived.
Well written and easy to read. I will read more by this author in the future.

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received

Close To Me by Amanda Reynolds – Blog Tour – Extract.

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Today, I am delighted to publish an extract from Close to Me by Amanda Reynolds that will be published as an e-book on 31st March. You can preorder the book here

About the Book

She can’t remember the last year. Her husband wants to keep it that way.
Dramatic psychological suspense for fans of Liane Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret, Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go, and Linda Green’s While My Eyes Were Closed.
When Jo Harding falls down the stairs at home, she wakes up in hospital with partial amnesia – she’s lost a whole year of memories.
A lot can happen in a year. Was Jo having an affair? Lying to her family? Starting a new life?
She can’t remember what she did – or what happened the night she fell.
But she’s beginning to realise she might not be as good a wife and mother as she thought.

Twenty-One Days After The Fall

I turn away from my husband, shifting my weight on to my side, as far from him as the bed will allow. The movement is instinctive, dulled by the fact I’m only half awake, in the place between reality and unreality. I shiver, close my eyes tighter. Outside, the blanket of deepest night is unrelenting, the wind charging its way between the tall trees which edge the drive. I listen to the rain hitting the tiles as it pummels the roof and stone walls of our converted barn; a lone parapet at the top of the hill. I imagine the water tracking its way down the huge windows, swamping our garden and then soaking into the ground beneath.
My husband’s slow steady breaths and the familiar night-time noises within the house find my ear. I pull the duvet around me and allow my subconscious to take over, unlatching from the present, an almost physical letting-go. As I succumb to sleep the memories come, but I know they are unreliable; broken and unpredictable. The harder I search the further they retreat, but then something breaks through, at once unbidden and yet desperately wanted. As much as I crave the past, I fear it too.
He lunges, his right arm raised, slamming me hard against the wall; the force of his body holding me there. In his eyes I recognise passion, but of what nature and from what emotion it’s derived I cannot tell. I reach out again to the memory, my hand touching his face, turning him towards me to read something in his expression, to look into his eyes, begging him to stop. He pushes me away, grasping my wrist to dig his fingers hard into the pale skin and then the veins beneath, his rapid breaths hot against my neck. Insistent and urgent he holds me there, pinned to the wall. I’d fought him, of that I’m certain; my nails deep in his skin until he’d cried out.

I open my eyes; traces of early morning sunlight warming the room, creating patterns on the ceiling. I watch the rise and fall of my husband’s chest; the gentle sound of his breathing. Then he wakes too, turns to me and smiles, an easy smile, no trace of deceit; as though the last year had never happened.

With thanks to Headline.