The Dark by Emma Haughton – Review – First Monday Crime

Dead dying dafodil flower in moonlit graveyard.

About The Book

In the most inhospitable environment – cut off from the rest of the world – there’s a killer on the loose. 

A&E doctor Kate North has been knocked out of her orbit by a personal tragedy. So when she’s offered the opportunity to be an emergency replacement at the UN research station in Antarctica, she jumps at the chance. The previous doctor, Jean-Luc, died in a tragic accident while out on the ice.

The move seems an ideal solution for Kate: no one knows about her past; no one is checking up on her. But as total darkness descends for the winter, she begins to suspect that Jean-Luc’s death wasn’t accidental at all. 

And the more questions she asks, the more dangerous it becomes . . .

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I see a lot of fiction now that suggests a ‘locked room’ murder or a novel that is similar to those written by Agatha Christie. By this, I mean the murder could only have been committed by a member of a small group of people. In this novel that group consists of 12 people and it would have been impossible for that murder to have been committed by somebody else because of where it takes place. Antarctica.

I have to admit, Antarctica is a place I have never given much thought to. I wasn’t aware that it was dark most of the time and I had no idea there was a Southern Lights ( Aurora Australis). Whilst reading I quickly decided that it wasn’t  somewhere I would like to go and I was happy enough looking at the lights on google images. 

The novel is very much a slow burner. The first half of the book shows the mood and friendship in the group disintegrate as the darkness hours lengthen  and the realisation that they have no chance of leaving until the weather improves. Kate’s dependancy on drugs increased and she alienated many in the group  with her questions about her predecessor.

After the murder occurred I felt that the group dynamic improved slightly initially but it didn’t take long to deteriorate again when other events were revealed. I had some inkling who the murderer was before the end but what was more unique about this novel was trying to guess who the victim would be.

The Dark was an intense and claustrophobic read which I enjoyed immensely. 

Emma Haughton will be appearing at First Monday Crime alongside Sarah Hilary, Alexandra Benedict and Martin Walker. The moderator will be Jake Kerridge and you can see the event on Monday 6th December on First Monday’s Facebook page.

The Dare by Lesley Kara – Review – First Monday Crime.

About The Book

As a child, it was just a game. As an adult, it was a living nightmare.

‘This time it’s different. She’s gone too far now. 
She really has.’

When teenage friends Lizzie and Alice decide to head off for a walk in the countryside, they are blissfully unaware that this will be their final day together – and that only Lizzie will come back alive.

Lizzie has no memory of what happened in the moments before Alice died, she only knows that it must have been a tragic accident. But as she tries to cope with her grief, she is shocked to find herself alienated from Alice’s friends and relatives. They are convinced she somehow had a part to play in her friend’s death. 

Twelve years later, unpacking boxes in the new home she shares with her fiancé, Lizzie is horrified to find long-buried memories suddenly surfacing. Is the trauma of the accident finally catching up with her, or could someone be trying to threaten her new-found happiness?

Twelve years is a long time to wait, when you’re planning the perfect revenge . . .

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. The Dare is a dual time frame novel that is full of intrigue and twists. I have read a few reviews where the reader guessed at what was occurring but I can honestly say I never had a clue!

In her teens Lizzie suffered the trauma of her friend being killed whilst on their walk. As well with coping with her loss she has to deal with accusations from her Alice’s sister and school ‘friends’ that she hadn’t had a seizure as she claimed and was really responsible for Alice’s death.

Years later and in a steady relationship she has come to terms with Alice’s death and is making plans for the future. But she is dismayed when an unwelcome face from her past brings a lot of doubts and concern and she understandably feels ill at ease. Is this unwelcome friend genuine or are they a threat?

Most of this novel takes place in the present time and it was this part of the novel that I preferred. Older Lizzie has learned to live with her illness and is making plans for her future, younger Lizzie was very unhappy and struggling. Even before Alice’s death she never seemed to have the confidence to relax and make friends. 

I enjoyed this novel for its intrigue but also for its insights into how it feels to have epilepsy. Alice’s daily struggle felt like a real one, adapting to the changes in her life and feeling strong enough to make career and family plans. And of course how she felt stable enough to cope with the past coming back to haunt her. 

The Dare is a great novel that I read very quickly. 

Lesley Kara will be one of the panelists on First Monday Crime, she will be appearing alongside Inga Vesper, Mara Timon and Tariq Ashkanani. The moderator will be Jonathan Whitelaw. You can watch it via the FM Facebook page at 7.30pm on Monday 4th October.

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.