The Next To Die by Elliot Sweeney – Review.

About The Book

Dylan Kasper is stuck. Living in self-imposed reclusion from his former life in the police, he’s been in a downward spiral since his daughter’s death five years ago.

All that changes when the son of an esteemed professor jumps under an inner-city train. His former colleagues call it suicide, but Kasper knows different. This has all happened before – to him, and his dead daughter.

Taking on the investigation himself, Kasper soon realises the terrible trouble young Tommy had found himself in. With nowhere to run, he thought suicide was the only way to keep his family safe.

But before long, Kasper’s investigation makes him target number one. Can he keep his demons in check and stay alive long enough to bring those responsible to justice?

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I read a lot of crime fiction and after a point a lot of it feels formulaic. This book felt like a breath of fresh air, with a brilliant lead character, a fascinating storyline and a lot more empathy than many books I read.

Kasper has lost everything, his family, career and self respect. When he is approached by Tommy in the gym,  he initially doesn’t want to engage but after an altercation he gives in and ends up trying to help him. But when this goes disastrously wrong he wants to help Tommy’s family and try and understand why Tommy did what he did. Unfortunately he is unprepared for the impact on his own personal life, both from danger it brings to himself and his friends and the memories that Tommy’s situation brings to the surface.

It is far too easy to judge, initially I didn’t care for Harriet, Tommy’s sister, but as both of their stories were slowly revealed I had a lot more understanding of them both. She was visibly a lot stronger mentally than Tommy but it became easier to see the cracks and to see that she just handled the situation differently. 

Whilst there are some bad people in this novel there were a lot I liked a lot. Obviously Kasper, but also Diane, his ex partner romantically and professionally, his landlady and definitely Jazz. Hopefully these characters will appear in future novels in this series. 

Many themes are covered, in particular mental health and how it can affect an individual and their loved ones, showing how if people were given the option to talk, even for a few minutes how much help they could get.

One Of Our Ministers Is Missing by Alan Johnson – Review.

About The Book

A government minister in the Foreign Office has vanished into thin air.

On holiday in Crete, Lord Bellingham had been solo trekking in the White Mountains when he mysteriously disappeared. After a vast search and rescue operation, the local police have no leads, save for a mobile phone discarded on a cliff edge.

Assistant Commissioner Louise Mangan of the Met Police is sent to assist in the investigation but soon discovers that there are more layers to this case than the local police realise.

Lady Bellingham is less than forthcoming, the family nanny is hiding something, and a scandal is brewing back in London that could destroy the minister’s reputation for good.

Under pressure from the powers that be, can Louise find the missing minister, or will she discover something much more sinister at play? 

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. This is the first book that I have read by this author and on finishing I immediately looked at his earlier books. This was a book that I enjoyed for its originality and its characters.

The disappearance of a British national in Crete would always be a concern for the British police, especially when they are a government minister. Louise, a higher ranking police officer than what would usually be sent to assist is more than happy to go. An opportunity to investigate rather than lead from behind a desk and on an island she knows well. After a rocky start, when she inadvertently offends her colleague in Greece, they work well together. Determined to get answers despite the obstacles placed in their way from unexpected quarters.

Louise was a character I liked a lot. I appreciated the small glimpse of her personal life where you see her missing her daughters, her marriage break up and her singing along to Joni Mitchell whilst home alone. I also liked seeing her fear of retirement from the job she loved. She seemed honest, in her feelings for the friends she made in Crete and her frustration at working from behind a desk instead of detective work.

But there is another equally as important character in this novel, Brady. Seemingly a happily married man with a decent job who lives under the radar. But his real character is nothing like this. He is a killer preparing for his last job. I won’t reveal much more about his storyline because in some ways his character is the most fascinating in the book. He should have been a character I detested but there were aspects of him I appreciated and had sympathy for.

There are a few twists and a handful of characters to dislike but this is a crime novel that despite its subject matter is very lighthearted. 

What Will Burn by James Oswald – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

The eleventh book in the Sunday Times-bestselling Inspector McLean series, from one of Scotland’s most celebrated crime writers.

The charred remains of an elderly woman are discovered in a burned-out game-keepers cottage, hidden away in woodland to the west of Edinburgh. Clearly no accidental fire, Detective Inspector Tony McLean suspects that neither is this simply a grim arson attack. There is far more to the victim than her humble surroundings might suggest, and something ritualistic to her horrific murder.

Nor will it be the only case of death by fire that Tony and his team will be faced with. This is only the beginning, and with such evil clouding the air, Tony begins to wonder what else will burn . . . 

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. What Will Burn is the latest book in the Inspector McLean series set in Edinburgh and one I was looking forward to reading. It is a series where I have an interest in all of the characters, not just the lead and the crimes are always a little sinister. In this book the crime appears to be connected to witchcraft.

I have been fascinated by witchcraft and the trials for years, since hearing about the local Pendle Hill legends when I was at school. The interludes that form part of the backstory in this book made me think of those straightaway. The cruelty and superstition in those interludes were just enough for the reader to see and understand the manipulation of some of the characters in the modern day murders.

Most of the novel concerns McLean but Janie Harrison also has a prominent role. Recently promoted by the new Chief Superintendent, Gail Elmwood, she is a great sidekick to the newly demoted McLean. While he is lucky to keep his job and has Gail to thank for it she is very demanding of his time and attention. To the extent that she is just as intimidating as Tommy Fleming, the obnoxious lawyer who features heavily in this book. I struggled to decide who I disliked most. 

There are some graphic and unusual deaths and unsurprisingly the team are baffled even though they do have outside help. But this also added to the intrigue with hints of what could come in the future. And not just from people but also one of the animals which had quite a prominent presence.

This series is very different to others that I read. Not only are the police team recurring characters but there are a few others too, Madame Rose, Dalgleish and also a character that featured in the author’s other series. This was Izzy, a character I loved and would like to see developed more. With the ending of this novel I can definitely see that happening.

Scrublands by Chris Hammer – Review.

About The Book

In an isolated country town ravaged by drought, a charismatic young priest opens fire on his congregation, killing five men before being shot dead himself. 

A year later, journalist Martin Scarsden arrives in Riversend to write a feature on the anniversary of the tragedy. But the stories he hears from the locals don’t fit with the accepted version of events. 

Just as Martin believes he is making headway, a shocking discovery rocks the town. The bodies of two backpackers – missing since the time of the massacre – are found in the scrublands. The media descends on Riversend and Martin is the one in the spotlight. 

Wrestling with his own demons, Martin finds himself risking everything to uncover a truth that becomes more complex with every twist. But there are powerful forces determined to stop him, and he has no idea how far they will go to make sure the town’s secrets stay buried.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I have wanted to read Scrublands for months but never seemed to have the time. After seeing the author appear at a crime festival last year and listening to a few online interviews during the lockdown I decided that now was the time. It was well worth the wait and nothing like I expected. I was totally unprepared for how many different threads there were and it is down to the author’s expertise that they all worked, were all believable and were all connected by the end.

Riversend is the type of town that is down on its luck. Little business is open, the hot weather is relentless and it’s inhabitants are struggling to move on from the tragic events of the previous year. Martin is there to see how they are coping but he soon realises that they are not. And their torment is far from over. 

I have to admit that I do struggle with journalism in fiction, it is too easy to see only the worst side of the profession. The ones who would do anything for their story. They do feature in this novel, but Martin isn’t one of them. He does want his story but also has a conscience and knows that he what he wants to write can hurt many people. 

Whilst the investigation is fascinating I also liked reading about the attempts to hold back a bush fire. Nothing you see on the news can prepare you for what this must be like to live through. The ferocity, the heat and the claustrophobic atmosphere that is created very quickly. 

I am aware that this book has been adapted for TV, it’s one that I would definitely watch. Meanwhile bring on Silver, book two in the trilogy. 

Bury Them Deep by James Oswald – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

When a member of the Police Scotland team fails to clock-in for work, concern for her whereabouts is immediate… and the discovery of her burnt-out car in remote woodland to the south of Edinburgh sets off a desperate search for the missing woman.

Meanwhile, DCI Tony McLean and the team are preparing for a major anti-corruption operation – one which may raise the ire of more than a few powerful people in the city. Is Anya Renfrew’s disappearance a co-incidence or related to the case?

McLean’s investigations suggest that perhaps that Anya isn’t the first woman to have mysteriously vanished in these ancient hills. Once again, McLean can’t shake the feeling that there is a far greater evil at work here… 

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. The DCI McLean series is one of my favourites so I was looking forward to reading this new one, book ten. I was lucky enough to read the first chapter some months ago that left me wondering what the young woman was doing. I was totally wrong with my theory. What she was doing was something I had never even thought of.

McLean has little interest in the anti corruption operation but he does want to find his missing colleague. Not just because of his fears for her safety, he wants to clear her name. And it as a way of avoiding the teetering pile of paperwork in his office even though it frustrates his senior officers. I read many crime novels and I have yet to find one where a senior officer prefers dealing with paperwork rather than getting involved in an investigation.

There are many reasons I enjoy this series. All the investigations you would expect are there, but there is always a slightly sinister slant to them. In this novel it is Scottish folklore. The legend concerned is one I was unfamiliar with and I was reading more about it as I read this novel. I would be one who would believe every word!

Another reason is all of the characters. Who would not look forward to the returning ones like Grumpy Bob and the reporter Dalgleish? I always enjoy reading about them. But there are many others, especially the female characters and in particular Grace Ramsey. Still a tyrant years after retirement.

I am now looking forward to what happens next, meanwhile I can try and improve my Scottish pronunciation by reading the books I have missed.