A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys – Review.

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About the Book

1939, Europe on the brink of war. Lily Shepherd leaves England on an ocean liner for Australia, escaping her life of drudgery for new horizons. She is instantly seduced by the world onboard: cocktails, black-tie balls and beautiful sunsets. Suddenly, Lily finds herself mingling with people who would otherwise never give her the time of day.

But soon she realizes her glamorous new friends are not what they seem. The rich and hedonistic Max and Eliza Campbell, mysterious and flirtatious Edward, and fascist George are all running away from tragedy and scandal even greater than her own.

By the time the ship docks, two passengers are dead, war has been declared, and life will never be the same again.

My Review

Lily has the chance of a lifetime travelling to Australia via an assisted package scheme. She is devastated at leaving her family, her father was badly injured in WW1 AND WW2 is a growing threat. But she knows that the best way of moving forward after a recent tragedy is to try and rebuild her life in new surroundings.
She soon makes friends onboard, some of them are on the same deck as her even though they are from a different background to her. She also makes friends with Eliza and Max, who are from a completely different world and Maria a young Austrian Jew who, because of the political situation has more reason than most to run away. But everybody is running from something and as the Orantes makes its long journey to Australia the secrets are slowly revealed.
I would never have thought I would read a crime novel that would take place in such a magical setting but Rachel Rhys has proved me wrong. The life on the upper deck with its balls and banquets and affluence of the first-class existence compared with the claustrophobic setting on lower levels. The tourist class deck where Lily shares a cramped cabin with two other women and the people she must dine with. And then the lower levels where the Jews and the Italians are practically hidden away.
I felt as thrilled as Lily and her friends at visiting new countries, all of which seems a normal activity now but in 1939 for a young woman it would have felt like a dream. I could sense the wonder at the beauty and the also the intimidation that she felt at times.
I was desperate to know the identity of the woman who was escorted from the Orantes in the prologue and shocked by the reveal. This was one secret that I didn’t work out.
Rachel Rhys is a pseudonym for a highly-respected author who I have never read. I plan to change that soon.
With thanks to Alison Barrow for the copy received.

Arrowood by Mick Finlay – Review.

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About the Book

1895: London’s scared. A killer haunts the city’s streets. The poor are hungry; crime bosses are taking control; the police force stretched to breaking point.
While the rich turn to Sherlock Holmes, the celebrated private detective rarely visits the densely populated streets of South London, where the crimes are sleazier and the people are poorer.
In a dark corner of Southwark, victims turn to a man who despises Holmes, his wealthy clientele and his showy forensic approach to crime: Arrowood – self-taught psychologist, occasional drunkard and private investigator.
When a man mysteriously disappears and Arrowood’s best lead is viciously stabbed before his eyes, he and his sidekick Barnett face their toughest quest yet: to capture the head of the most notorious gang in London…

My Review

Arrowood, ‘the guvnor’ is a private investigator. He solves the cases that Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t be interested in. He is overweight, drinks heavily has no social skills and detests Sherlock Holmes. But despite his many faults he is loyal to those who work with him and his clients.
The narrative is told by his assistant Barnett. Barnett has suffered a personal loss that he hasn’t discussed with the guvnor and he regularly suffers physical abuse. Some of it from the guvnor but also from the police and the people they encounter in their investigations.
What appeared an easy case for the team proves increasingly baffling and dangerous. I just wanted to protect Neddy, as well as give him a bath. It was hard to work out who they could trust, everybody including the police seemed to have their own agenda.
The description of a life in poverty in the London slums was the best that I have read in a long time. Not only could I visualise it, I could also smell and even taste it. Very convincing and I would love to read more about Barnett’s experience of a slum existence.
I have said it before, about numerous books but this would make great television. 19th century crime fiction, in the same city as Sherlock Holmes but could be a completely different world.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received via Netgalley.

Deadly Game by Matt Johnson – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

Reeling from the attempts on his life and that of his family, Police Inspector Robert Finlay returns to work to discover that any hope of a peaceful existence has been dashed. Assigned to investigate the Eastern European sex-slave industry just as a key witness is murdered. Finlay, along with his new partner Nina Brasov, finds himself facing a ruthless criminal gang, determined to keep control of the traffic of people into the UK.

My Review

Deadly Game is the second book in the series that features Robert Finlay. I would strongly advise that the series is read in order.
The prologue featuring Relia was quite distressing and just made me think about how many young women have been convinced by the promise of a bright future. Only to find too late that it would never be the one that they dreamt of. The part of the novel that covers the sex trafficking shows the way the young women are controlled and how impossible their situation is.
Not all the book is about sex trafficking though. There is another storyline running throughout most of the novel. One which the reader finds out more but Robert Finlay is oblivious to. It is this story that makes it essential to read Wicked Game. This storyline is quite chilling. I won’t reveal what it is about but the book is set in 2001 and events that have happened since then, the events that are never far from our news makes you think about what might have happened but never made public.
It is very topical and I hope that there is a follow up. It’s a series that I have enjoyed even though a military crime thriller isn’t one that I would usually read.
The book can be purchased here
With thanks, as always to Karen Sullivan for the copy received.

Where I Lost Her by T Greenwood – Review.

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About the book

Tess is visiting friends in rural Vermont when she is driving alone at night and sees a young, half-dressed toddler in the middle of the road, who then runs into the woods like a frightened deer.
The entire town begins searching for the little girl. But there are no sightings, no other witnesses, no reports of missing children. As local police point out, Tess’s imagination has played her false before. And yet Tess is compelled to keep looking, in a desperate effort to save the little girl she can’t forget.

My Review

I hadn’t realised when I started reading this novel that it wasn’t the first book set in rural Vermont and some of the characters had appeared in the earlier books. But I didn’t feel like I had missed any backstory and that they could all be read as standalone novels very easily.
When Tess goes for wine late at night, she shouldn’t really be driving. On her journey home through a remote area she sees a very young girl in the road and when she can’t find her notifies the police. After a search by everybody in the area fails to turn up any evidence the town loses faith in her account. But she refuses to give up, breaking the law and placing herself in danger trying to find her.
The narrative occasionally switches back to a time in Guatemala. You know that she has had had a hard time in the past and it is these flashbacks that reveal what happened. Some of these are only brief but show an increasing amount of sadness and tragedy.
I couldn’t escape a feeling that I had read something similar last year but I did enjoy the novel. The characters were all likeable and believable. The lead investigating officer wasn’t the most approachable or understanding member of the police but I tried to understand his reasoning behind his actions. However, his role was quite small, this is more of a family drama even though it includes an investigation into a missing child.
I loved the description of the area, the remoteness that could be both beautiful and threatening. I will look for the other books that feature the same characters.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

Tattletale by Sarah J Naughton – Review.

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About the Book

One day changes Jody’s life forever.
She has shut herself down, haunted by her memories and unable to trust anyone. But then she meets Abe, the perfect stranger next door and suddenly life seems full of possibility and hope.
One day changes Mags’s life forever.
After years of estrangement from her family, Mags receives a shocking phone call. Her brother Abe is in hospital and no-one knows what happened to him. She meets his fiancé Jody, and gradually pieces together the ruins of the life she left behind. But the pieces don’t quite seem to fit…

My Review

It seems common now, to have a novel that features an unreliable narrator. Tattletale is unusual in that it has three of them. After Abe is seriously injured in a fall, his sister Mags tries to get answers. She doesn’t believe what she is being told by his fiancé Jody and his neighbour Mira also seems to be keeping something back. There are flashbacks, and it isn’t clear who they concern. It also isn’t clear who to believe.
It’s a slow burning novel. At first I wasn’t sure which way it was going to go and my attention slipped a few times. But then, suddenly I was gripped and read the remainder of the book in one sitting. All three women had their problems and all had their own interpretation of the accident. Some of the flashbacks were quite upsetting, even more so because it was unclear whose they were and if they could be believed. At times it was intimidating. The threat from the thugs on the estate and some of the residents in the flats and the childhood  memories of both Mags and Jody.

The ending was superb. So often now I read a novel where there is a loose thread or the ending doesn’t make sense. But everything was wrapped up nicely and all to my satisfaction.

To preorder the book click here

With thanks to the publisher for the copy via NetGalley.

Paul Harrison – Guest Post.

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Today, it is my pleasure to welcome to my blog Paul Harrison author of Revenge of the Malakim.

“Tell us the main ups and downs on the road to seeing your book published”

Writing, was something I excelled at in my schooldays, my teachers used to comment that I was able to tell a good story. As good as that was, I never seriously picked up on it, until my police career. I was giving evidence in a Crown Court trial, and was commended by the Judge, for speaking so eloquently, and painting an accurate picture of events, with words.

That was it. It wasn’t long before my love of writing returned, and I wrote a thesis on the Jack the Ripper murders, for a conference. This was so well received, that a publisher approached me, and asked me to write a non-fiction book on the subject. I honestly didn’t believe I had it in me, but once I started, I couldn’t stop. It felt like quite an achievement, just finishing the 90,000 word manuscript. That was the easy part. When it was published, I found out how ruthless true crime writing can be. I was a mere novice, and my book received some glowing reviews, but was slammed, unfairly, in some quarters. The so called ‘experts’ who knocked it, were more vicious than the ripper himself. For a time, they literally destroyed my writing confidence.

Now, having written and had published over 30 non-fiction books, I have turned to writing crime fiction. Revenge of the Malakim, being my first novel. There’s a huge difference between the two genres, and the transition wasn’t easy. I’ve interviewed many serial killers during my time writing true crime. I know this going to sound silly, but after a while, it became boring, repetitive even.

My aim, had been to gain a psychological understanding of them, why, and what, made them kill. The reality is, they aren’t really that different to one another; they all crave the attention and soak up the power it generates. They aren’t super intelligent, nor do they look different, they simply don’t have boundaries when it comes to killing.

With that in mind, I decided to write my first crime fiction book, Revenge of the Malakim, and create my own serial killer. This is loosely based around the different personality traits of the killers I had met. Having also worked in the field of child abuse, I wanted to blend the two. Creating realistic characters, plots and twists that will keep the reader gripped throughout the book, right until the last word. I’ve loved writing the book. There is one murder scene that is totally unique in the realms of crime writing. I’ll leave that as a surprise for the reader. The publisher, the fantastic Mike Linane of Williams and Whiting, doesn’t yet know the final twist in the tale. For now, it’s being kept secret.

I was initially concerned, that the bridge from true crime to crime fiction, might be too difficult to cross, and I might falter. However, when I sent a draft to Mike at Williams and Whiting, he called me, and we spoke at length about my writing and the content. It was Mike who instilled confidence in me, and gave me the opportunity to write crime fiction. He’s probably the nicest, most knowledgeable person I’ve met in publishing. He’s a genuine inspiration.

One final thing. Revenge of the Malakim, doesn’t delve into child abuse itself, so readers need not be concerned about the content, it merely gets mentioned. It is, however, from a police procedural perspective, realistic, atmospheric, and dare I say, just a little bit scary.

I’m currently hard at work on book two in The Grooming Parlour trilogy – The Dark Web, which will be published by Williams and Whiting in the summer of 2017.

Paul Harrison

Thanks Paul. you can buy a copy of the book here

Quieter Than Killing by Sarah Hilary – Review.

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About the Book

It’s winter, the nights are dark and freezing, and a series of seemingly random assaults is pulling DI Marnie Rome and DS Noah Jake out onto streets of London. When Marnie’s family home is ransacked, there are signs that the burglary can have only been committed by someone who knows her. Then a child goes missing, yet no-one has reported it. Suddenly, events seem connected, and it’s personal.
Someone out there is playing games. It is time for both Marnie and Noah to face the truth about the creeping, chilling reaches of a troubled upbringing. Keeping quiet can be a means of survival, but the effects can be as terrible as killing.

My Review

The series featuring Marnie Rome and Noah Jake is now one of my favourite. One of those where you soak up every word and look for hints for what might happen in the future.
This latest offering focuses on a missing child, revenge attacks on perpetrators of crime, gang culture and more insight into the personal lives of Marnie and Noah. Whilst we have got to know them both quite well in the past this time it is slightly different. There seems to be a connection between their personal and professional lives.
As always it is very believable. Low income, poor housing and limited opportunity areas that recruit their gang members early. Some of the gang members here are devastatingly young, showing vulnerability and fear but also a hard side where if these emotions are not controlled there would only be one way out.
Steven, who is now serving his sentence in an adult prison has a hold over Marnie, his grip gets tighter with every novel. The scenes where he features make me cringe with the distress that she can’t escape from. But this time it is Noah who I feel more sympathy for. The situation he is in becomes increasingly difficult and he has only one option. I can see both storylines continuing into the next novel.
It’s a brilliant series that I have followed from the first novel. I have enjoyed getting to know all the characters that Sarah Hilary has created.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. You can buy the novel at amazon or Waterstones

Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who embarked on that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby. 2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure. In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries’ mysterious death. And who’s to blame … As every interview unveils a new revelation, you’ll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth. A chilling, unpredictable and startling thriller, Six Stories is also a classic murder mystery with a modern twist, and a devastating.

My Review

I decided to read Six Stories in the way that it was written, one podcast daily. It gave me a chance to digest what I learned and to recover from the increasing eeriness.
I have never been to Northumberland, but have seen various fells in Cumbria. I have also stayed in centres just like the one described in the book when I was at school. The way that everything is described is all very similar. Isolated but beautiful with a sense of menace when it is nighttime and  the level of darkness that you would only ever experience on a fell.
Each of the six podcasts describe the events surrounding Tom from people who he connected with at the time. His ‘friends’, their guide and a local man who was treated maliciously and mercilessly by Tom and a few of the others. Tom was not a nice person, there was nobody who escaped his mind games and viciousness. Scott King coaxes them all into reliving the way that he was with them and this wasn’t welcomed.
Nana Wrack and the other apparitions seen were very convincing. I have always been wary of opening curtains and seeing somebody stood on the other side of the window. And the descriptions here brought back memories that I can laugh about now but had me fearful when I was a teenager.
It is a difficult book to read without giving away too much but if you enjoy podcasts, serialised books with a high level of spookiness you won’t be disappointed. It’s also fantastic storytelling in a unique style.

You can buy the book at  amazon or  Waterstones

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received for review.

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Dark Embers by Matt Brolly – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

An explosive fire. A double murder. And that’s just the start
When DCI Michael Lambert is called out to an apparent house fire, he knows it can’t be routine. Instead he finds the remains of a burnt house, a traumatised child and two corpses – one of whom is a senior police officer.
Lambert’s got other problems. Anti-corruption are onto his boss. His relationships is on the rocks. He can’t get over his ex-wife and he keeps blacking out.
But when a detective has been murdered the stakes are too high to get distracted. All is not as it seems. As the investigation continues Lambert realises he is getting drawn into something altogether bigger and more terrifying than he could ever have imagined…
Trust no one.

My Review

Dark Embers is the third book in the series to feature DCI Michael Lambert and is the second one that I have read. My plan was to read book two prior to this but I ran out of time. Fortunately, it could be read as a standalone novel.
I read an early copy without seeing a synopsis so had no idea what it was about. If anything, this added to the intrigue of which there was already plenty. There was no slow build up. There is something quite harrowing about seeing a home on fire through the eyes of a young girl who doesn’t understand what she is seeing.
Lambert is called in to head the investigation because the home belongs to a serving police officer. Everybody wants a quick solve but this isn’t a straight forward case. Lambert is struggling. An investigation by professional standards, the loss of his daughter, feelings for his ex-wife and uncertainty over his current relationship add to the guilt he feels over injuries that his colleague Matilda suffered during a previous case.
I enjoyed meeting Lambert again. Even though I hadn’t read all the books I could still follow the story very well. There were no spoilers if anybody does decide to read this book without reading any of the earlier stories. There is rivalry between the teams, frustration about professional standards being in the way and a very understandable feeling of how far Lambert’s superior could be trusted.
I like a novel where I can’t work out ‘whodunit’ so this worked very well for me. I never had a clue! The reasons why could have been quite upsetting but this was a lot more restrained than some that I have read. That is until the very chilling ending that had wondering what I had missed in book two and what I could look forward to in book 4.

You can buy the book here
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

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Her Husband’s Lover by Julia Crouch – Review.

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About the Book

She stole her husband. Now she wants to take her life.
After the horrors of the past, Louisa Williams is desperate to make a clean start.
Her husband Sam is dead. Her children, too, are gone, victims of the car accident in which he died.
Sam said that she would never get away from him. That he would hound her to death if she tried to leave. Louisa never thought that he would want to harm their children though.
But then she never thought that he would betray her with a woman like Sophie.
And now Sophie is determined to take all that Louisa has left. She wants to destroy her reputation and to take what she thinks is owed her – the life she would have had if Sam had lived.
Her husband’s lover wants to take her life. The only question is will Louisa let her?

My Review

Her Husband’s Lover messed with my head. Two women, Louisa and Soph are linked by tragedy when Sam, Louisa’s husband and Soph’s lover dies after a high-speed car crash. Everything points to the accident being caused by Sam trying to kill Louisa so he can start a new life with Soph. Louisa attempts to rebuild her life under an assumed identity but Soph is after revenge and financial security for her daughter.
But this is not a book where you can even begin to assume anything. The only character who I could take as face value was Adam. When there had been a few chapters concerning the past I thought I knew the real story but I was increasingly horrified as I got nearer the end. One of the more eerie things about the book were the parts that were merely hinted at. The parts where I was left thinking about what might have happened.
I found it fascinating, very unsettling and impossible to put down. I don’t think that I have read anything like it before.
Julia Crouch is one of the authors who will be participating in tonight’s First Monday Crime. For anybody who can attend I’m sure it will be a great night. The details can be found here

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received via NetGalley.