I Know What I Saw by Imran Mahmood – Review

About The Book

I saw it. He smothered her, pressing his hands on her face. The police don’t believe me, they say it’s impossible – but I know what I saw.

Xander Shute – once a wealthy banker, now living on the streets – shelters for the night in an empty Mayfair flat. When he hears the occupants returning home, he scrambles to hide. Trapped in his hiding place, he hears the couple argue, and he soon finds himself witnessing a vicious murder.

But who was the dead woman, who the police later tell him can’t have been there? And why is the man Xander saw her with evading justice? 

As Xander searches for answers, his memory of the crime comes under scrutiny, forcing him to confront his long-buried past and the stories he’s told about himself.

How much he is willing to risk to understand the brutal truth?

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I always enjoy a book with an unreliable narrator and Xander, the lead character in this novel, was more unreliable than most. Every time I thought I found an explanation for what happened to the woman I was proved wrong.

Xander is living on the streets. Thirty years earlier he had an extremely comfortable life but turned his back on all of it.  Choosing a life of solitude and hardship over friends and comfort. It is only as you get into the second half of the novel that you even begin to understand the reasons why. Life on the streets is definitely one of the strongest and more thought provoking aspects of this novel. I had no idea what methods people who were unfortunate to live this way used to keep themselves warm. All of the novel made me think about the many reasons some people have to live on the streets. 

He was an extremely complex character. He somehow came across as independent but also needy. Probably due to his childhood, the death of his brother and his devotion to the ex girlfriend he still loved. Even as more about his life was revealed I felt that there was always something kept hidden from the reader but also from himself. Almost like he was unwilling to remember.

The details of what he saw were slowly revealed but there were plenty of twists. A few of these I will in no doubt be thinking about over the next few days, questioning whether my understanding was correct. 

Imran Mahmoud will be participating in First Monday Crime, – June alongside Jo Spain, Dorothy Koomson and Patricia Marques. As usual you can watch this on their Facebook page on Monday 7th June at 7.30pm

Call Me Mummy by Tina Baker – Review – First Monday Crime.

About The Book

CALL ME MUMMY. IT’LL BE BETTER IF YOU DO.

Glamorous, beautiful Mummy has everything a woman could want. Except for a daughter of her very own. So when she sees Kim – heavily pregnant, glued to her phone and ignoring her eldest child in a busy shop – she does what anyone would do. She takes her. But foul-mouthed little Tonya is not the daughter that Mummy was hoping for.

As Tonya fiercely resists Mummy’s attempts to make her into the perfect child, Kim is demonised by the media as a ‘scummy mummy’, who deserves to have her other children taken too. Haunted by memories of her own childhood and refusing to play by the media’s rules, Kim begins to spiral, turning on those who love her.

Though they are worlds apart, Mummy and Kim have more in common than they could possibly imagine. But it is five-year-old Tonya who is caught in the middle…

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like this book before. Call Me Mummy concerns the abduction of a young girl whilst her mother was distracted whilst shopping. The reader knows instantly who has taken her but only by the name mummy. Nothing about her real identity is ever revealed and I got more wrong than right trying to decide who she was and why she had done it.

Most of the novel is dual narrative from mummy and Kim, Tonya’s real mother, Kim is portrayed honestly and at first it was difficult to like her. Obviously troubled, lacking in social skills and at times her own worst enemy. But it was evident what pain and guilt she was experiencing and with only her husband Steve and best friend Ayesha to rely on. The level of hatred shown towards her by the press and social media was dreadful. There was no support for the family at all, their judges all liked to think that they were better than this devastated family. 

Whilst it was difficult to warm to Kim it was even harder to have any liking at all for mummy. Even though I had a lot of sympathy for her as the details of her childhood were revealed I still found it hard not to judge her.

There were brief paragraphs that were narrated by Tonya. Despite what she was going though these often made me smile. Her attitude and way of talking were proof that children hear everything and reading her thoughts on her captor were very honest and a little sweary. 

Even though I read a lot of crime fiction this is probably one of the most real in the way it describes a family going through the worst type of hell. Facing hatred and suspicion, being watched and hot knowing what has happened  to their child.

Tina Baker will be appearing at First Monday Crime on Monday 10th May at 7.30pm alongside Phoebe Morgan, Marion Todd and James Delargy. The moderator will be William Shaw. You can follow via their Facebook page. 

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.

The Killer In The Choir by Simon Brett – First Monday Crime.

About The Book

When Jude joins the Fethering community choir, she discovers that at least one of her fellow choristers is hiding a deadly secret.

Although she hadn’t known Leonard Mallett very well, nor liked him particularly, Carole Seddon feels duty bound to attend her fellow committee member’s funeral. As she suspected, the hymns, readings and sermon are all very predictable – not unlike Leonard himself. What she couldn’t have predicted was that the deceased’s daughter would use the occasion to publicly accuse her stepmother of murder. 

Did Heather Mallett really kill her husband, as many Fethering residents believe? Deciding to get to the heart of the matter, Carole’s neighbour Jude joins the new community choir – and discovers that amidst the clashing egos and petty resentments lurk some decidedly false notes. At least one chorister would appear to be hiding a deadly secret – and it’s up to Carole and Jude to unearth the truth.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. This was the first book I have read in this series but I had no problems getting to know the characters. Cosy crime and village life, its just like Midsomer Murders and Miss Marple. Where life is ruled by gossip and not always revealing the truth. If your neighbour didn’t know everything about you they were invent something and convince everybody that it was the truth.

Carole and Jude, the two amateur sleuths were like chalk and cheese. Carole was reclusive, tetchy and judgemental. Jude was more tolerant, likeable and approachable. How their friendship worked was slightly baffling but they did seem fairly close. Especially over a glass or two of Sauvignon Blanc.

Like many cosy crime novels you couldn’t take it seriously, but its part of the attraction. Total escapism. I had a lot of fun trying to work out who the murderer was. I will dip into this series again.

Simon Brett is one of the authors who will be appearing at First Monday Crome on Monday 2nd December. Details can be found at https://www.firstmondaycrime.com/