Before It’s Too Late by Sara Driscoll – Review.

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About the Book

In this powerful K-9 crime thriller, FBI Special Agent Meg Jennings and her trusted search-and-rescue Labrador, Hawk, must race against the clock before a diabolical killer strikes again . . .
Somewhere in the Washington, D.C., area, a woman lies helpless in a box. Beneath the earth. Barely breathing. Buried alive. In Quantico, the FBI receives a coded message from the woman’s abductor. He wants to play a game with them: decipher the clues, find the grave, save the girl. The FBI’s top cryptanalysts crack the code and Special Agent Meg Jennings and her K-9 partner, Hawk, scramble to the scene of the crime. Cryptic clues lead them astray and by the time they solve the puzzle, it’s too late. But the killer’s game is far from over . . .
Soon another message arrives. Another victim is taken, and the deadly pattern is repeated–again and again. Each kidnapping triggers another desperate race against time, each with the possibility of another senseless death. That’s when Meg decides to try something drastic. Break the Bureau’s protocol. Bring in her brilliant sister, Cara, a genius at word games, to decipher the kidnapper’s twisted clues. Meg knows she’s risking her career to do it, but she’s determined not to let one more person die under her and Hawk’s watch. If the plan fails, it could bite them in the end. And if it leads to the killer, it could bury them forever . . .

My Review

WIth thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

Before It’s Too Late is the second book in the series that features Meg and her canine partner Hawk. I have enjoyed both books, both involve serious crime but are from a completely different viewpoint. That of dog handler and dog.
In this book the crime is personal to Meg. Women are being abducted and left in dangerous situations. Meg and the rest of the team receive coded messages that will determine the location of the women who if they are not found in time will die. All of the women look like Meg and all the codes have a connection to her.

I have to say that the deciphering of the codes went way over my head and my knowledge of the American Civil War starts and ends with the novel and TV series North and South. But neither of these failings on my part stopped me loving this novel. All off the characters’ personalities were real including them of the numerous dogs. The Rescue dog, Blink, I just wanted to hug. I felt that all of the animals that featured were based on actual animals that the authors had. The human characters were just as good. Seeing the relationship between Meg, Cara, the firefighter and the journalist was nice to read. It isn’t often where the journalist in a novel is likeable and a hero.

Hopefully this will be a long running series. Murder, abduction and violence yes but there is also the contact with human and canine which makes it special. Fantastic and humbling.

Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

Joanna is an avoider. So far she has spent her adult life hiding bank statements and changing career aspirations weekly.
But then one night Joanna hears footsteps on the way home. Is she being followed? She is sure it’s him; the man from the bar who wouldn’t leave her alone. Hearing the steps speed up Joanna turns and pushes with all of her might, sending her pursuer tumbling down the steps and lying motionless on the floor.
Now Joanna has to do the thing she hates most – make a decision. Fight or flight? Truth or lie? Right or wrong?

My Review

I would like to thank the publisher for the copy received for review.

After an evening out goes disastrously wrong, Joanna has to make a decision quickly. Being honest with the police and her family or running away from scene. Whichever path she chooses there will be consequences.
‘Conceal’ is the version where Joanna decides to stay quiet. Because she didn’t act the situation is worse for her and the man she leaves on the footpath. She feels guilty, loses a lot of weight and pushes away everybody she is close to.
‘Reveal’ is where she does act and gets help for the young man but places herself in a situation where she could go to prison.

Which ever decision she took would have consequences on the rest of her life. Which would you do?

Both scenarios were fascinating but I found it easier to like and have sympathy for Joanna in ‘reveal’ . The reader is introduced to a character who has always felt that she has had to prove herself. Especially to her family, who seemed to take satisfaction in ridiculing her at family get togethers. She never stuck to anything, hung up on being a failed Oxford graduate. In ‘conceal’ you also saw a different side to her, the guilt and desperation taking over and her punishing the ones who loved her.

There were a few characters I liked in both versions. These were her husband Reuben, a strong character who loved her for who she was, her brother Wilf and her colleague Ed. All three were close to her and all could have helped if she let them.

It did take me a while to get used to the narrative. I have never read anything like it before. It is dual narrative with a difference, often the same scene played with the same characters, same time but a different outcome. You could easily enjoy both as two different novels. One of the more unusual novels that I have read this year.

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The Language of Secrets by Ausma Zehanat Khan.

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About the Book

Detective Esa Khattak heads up Canada’s Community Policing Section, which handles minority-sensitive cases across all levels of law enforcement. Khattak is still under scrutiny for his last case, so he’s surprised when INSET, Canada’s national security team, calls him in on another politically sensitive issue. For months, INSET has been investigating a local terrorist cell which is planning an attack on New Year’s Day but their undercover informant, Mohsin Dar, has been murdered. Khattak used to know Mohsin, and he can’t let this murder slide, so he sends his partner, Detective Rachel Getty, undercover into the unsuspecting mosque which houses the terrorist cell. As Rachel tentatively reaches out into the unfamiliar world of Islam, and begins developing relationships with the people of the mosque and the terrorist cell within it, the potential reasons for Mohsin’s murder only seem to multiply, from the political and ideological to the intensely personal.

My Review

The Language of Secrets is the second book in the series to feature Esa and Rachel. While the storylines are completely different to get the full back story I strongly recommend reading The Unquiet Dead first.

Esa is asked to investigate a group that is possibly Jihadist when an old friend who was undercover is murdered. Because he is well-known in the community, after the events in previous cases, Rachel is chosen to go undercover to the group meetings. She tries to give the impression that she is lost and can get salvation from the close-knit group atmosphere and the learnings that they undertake.  She isn’t the only non-Muslim woman there. There is also Paula, an older woman who is prone to bullying but had feelings for the murdered man and Grace, a seriously messed up teenage girl.

Rachel wants to get answers, find out more about the possible attack and keep the younger members of the group out of danger. Esa is under a lot of pressure. His sister is too close to one of the leaders in the group, the father of the victim is making threats publicly against the police, mainly Esa, and he has to answer to a man who quite frankly needs a smack in the mouth  a strong talking to. There was more focus on Esa’s personal life in this book. The reader was introduced to his younger sisters, the love he felt for his dead wife and the way he lived his life and practised his religion.

I did find it an unsettling book to read. Jihadists and extremism are never far from the news and the attitudes of some in the group were hard to read, you could see the control over the younger members and how easily they could be led. Also unsettling was the approach by the officials. There were some in the investigation team who didn’t understand why Esa’s unit was there. Some of the characters who needed compassion didn’t receive it. But the good in the society were also represented, Esa being a prime example but also others on the periphery who just wanted to live their lives in peace and to be accepted. This was probably one of the hardest things to read in the novel. That the majority in Islam are peace-loving but are presumed not to be.

Even though this is a fictional novel it is based on true events. I hadn’t heard of Toronto 18 on which this novel was based.

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

Snare by Lilja Sigurdardottir – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book.

After a messy divorce, attractive young mother Sonia is struggling to provide for herself and keep custody of her son. With her back to the wall, she resorts to smuggling cocaine into Iceland, and finds herself caught up in a ruthless criminal world. As she desperately looks for a way out of trouble, she must pit her wits against her nemesis, Bragi, a customs officer, whose years of experience frustrate her new and evermore daring strategies. Things become even more complicated when Sonia embarks on a relationship with a woman, Agla. Once a high-level bank executive, Agla is currently being prosecuted in the aftermath the Icelandic financial crash. Set in a Reykjavik still covered in the dust of the Eyjafjallajokull volcanic eruption, and with a dark, fast-paced and chilling plot and intriguing characters, Snare is an outstandingly original and sexy Nordic crime thriller, from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.

My Review.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I first started to read Snare. I am only vaguely aware of the Icelandic banking crisis. I can remember that many people faced ruin but that was all. But the banking scandal is only one part of this novel.

Agla, is a high-ranking bank employee who has been made scapegoat by her colleagues. She is in a relationship with the ex-wife, Sonia, of another colleague whose hands are just as dirty as hers are. Agla is not a character I cared for. I found her brittle, snobbish and at times cruel. Mainly to Sonia who seemed to have strong feelings for her.

Sonia, struggling financially since the collapse of her marriage is smuggling cocaine. initially the amounts are only small and she is confident of getting through customs without raising suspicion. But the amounts she has to bring in are increased, threats are made against her son and she is starting to be noticed by customs. But she is determined to provide a decent life for her and Tomas.

Finally there is Brago, a customs officer who is close to forced retirement. It was his character who I liked most. I loved his devotion to his wife who was in ill-health in a nursing home that could have been better. And his approach towards Sonia’s predicament.

The novel showed the worst side of people. Agla seemed to have no feeling for the people who had lost everything. Sonia, who had suffered for years living with an abusive husband chose the worst possible way to get a better life. Some of the people she had to deal with were very intimidating. There were quite a few scenes where I cringed at the hazards of smuggling drugs.

I’ve not read anything like this before. Most crime novels are told from the police point of view not the criminal’s. Nor have I read a novel where a person is getting covered in volcanic ash as they go about their daily activities.

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

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Fatal Masquerade by Vivian Conroy – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

Lady Alkmene Callender has always loved grand parties, but when she receives an invitation to a masked ball thrown by Franklin Hargrove – oil magnate, aviation enthusiast and father of her best friend, Denise – she’s never seen such luxury. The estate is lit up with Chinese lanterns in the gardens, boats operated by footmen float across the pond and the guest list features the distinguished, rich and powerful!
But below the glamour, evil is lurking. When a dead body is discovered, it forces Lady Alkmene to throw off her mask and attempt to find the true killer before Denise’s family are accused. If only her partner, Jake Dubois, weren’t hiding something from her…
This case might just be more dangerous than either of them could have imagined.

My Review

Fatal Masquerade is the fourth book in the series that features Lady Alkmene and Jake Dubois. I read the first book recently and even though this book could be read as a standalone novel I am glad that I had already ‘met’ them. I was aware of how they met and the relationship between them. This novel was a lot more sinister to read. The death of a servant, another servant accused of their murder and only two people willing to help. These being Alkmene and Jake.
Jake is witholding information from Alkmene which doesn’t please her and whilst more of his character is revealed, mainly that he won’t betray a trust, you still don’t find out why he was a convict. I would like to read more from his point of view but that may come in time.
Whilst I liked the two main characters, I struggled to warm to anybody else. The wealthy were portayed as dismissive and uncaring towards the wrongly accused servant. Better that she would be found guilty and hanged rather than have their lives turned upside down by a lacklustre police force. Two of the group were intimidating, and not people I would like to spend any time with.
Very much ‘cosy crime’, the murder isn’t the main focus in the storyline, it’s more an analysis of character and how people are perceived and controlled by others.
I would have liked to read the earlier two books I hadnt read. Some of the storyline does seem to carry on through the series. It was easy enough to follow though, I’m just curious. It is a series that I will eventually catch  up on, and follow in the future.

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.