Life Sentence by A. K. Turner – Review.

About The Book

Mortuary technician Cassie Raven believes the last thoughts of the dead linger like static in the air…

Cassie has always had a strange affinity with death, ever since her parents were killed in a car crash when she was four. At least that’s what she grew up believing…

But that was a lie. Cassie’s father is alive. He was convicted of murdering her mother and spent years behind bars. Now he’s out – and he’s looking for her.

He swears he didn’t do it. And Cassie wants to believe him.

To find the truth, she must turn detective. As she seeks answers, help is to be found in inexplicable places – for the dead are ready to talk.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I read the first book in this series a few weeks ago and knew from that book alone that this would be a series I would enjoy. Cassie was a character that I liked a lot, mainly for her originality, compassion and determination to get an answer. Even if it meant putting herself in danger or making life harder for herself at work with superiors who didn’t like having to take advice from the ones they considered beneath them. 

Whilst there is focus on Cassie’s attempts to find out why one of her guests died, much of the novel shows her trying to find out who was responsible for her mother’s death. She is remembering more, after picking up scents from clothing, seeing photos etc and struggled at times with hearing the stories that friends of her mother told her. All combined with tales her beloved grandmother had always told her, that seemed more likely to be inaccurate. 

Phyllida Flyte, the detective, who she has tentatively built a friendship with does feature slightly less but seemed to have more of an impact. I felt I got to know her more, see her frustration at Cassie when she asks her to look for information that could get her in trouble. I could also see her feeling happier and being part of the team in her new position.

There are two others ‘characters’ I liked. Macavity, Cassie’s cat, who showed his disdain extremely well and another slightly unusual one. That was Camden, an area I do not know,but I felt like I was there. Feeling the buzz, and often the threat. It’s not something I feel often, but I do appreciate it when a community feels real.

Body Language by A. K. Turner – Review.

About The Book

Mortuary technician Cassie Raven believes the dead can talk. We just need to listen . . .

Cassie Raven is used to people thinking her job is strange – why would anyone want to cut up dead bodies for a living? But they don’t know what she knows: that the dead want to tell us what happened to them.

She’s eviscerated thousands of bodies, but never someone she knew, someone who meant a lot to her – until now.

The pathologist says her death was an accident. Her body is telling Cassie differently.

My Review

Body Language is the first in a series that features Cassie Raven. Whilst being a crime novel it is a little different, instead of being in the police Cassie is a mortuary assistant and she often communicates with the people who have died, especially in suspicious circumstances. This could have been a little creepy but I thought it was more like compassion. She seemed to sense that they had something to say. One of the people who ‘spoke’ to her was a woman who had been a huge help to Cassie, helped her change her life and now she wants to return the favour and find out why she has died.

I adored Cassie as soon as I met her. I loved her honesty regarding her past mistakes, her relationship with her grandmother and her determination to get justice for the dead. She felt remorse for mistakes made in the past and relationships that she had damaged with her inability to share but she was also loyal to friends. 

The detective she has an initial tetchy relationship with, Phylidda, is one I did struggle with at first  but I did soften a bit when I realised what her issues were. I did however have a lot of respect for her stubbornness in not giving up on something she wasn’t happy with. 

The author showed how fascinating and rewarding working in a mortuary could be. She didn’t baffle the reader with the science, instead she showed the detail of the job but with compassion and respect. Something which has been lacking in crime novels I have read previously. 

The Winter Guest by W. C. Ryan – Review – First Monday Crime.

About The Book

The drive leads past the gate house and through the trees towards the big house, visible through the winter-bared branches. Its windows stare down at Harkin and the sea beyond . . .

January 1921. Though the Great War is over, in Ireland a new, civil war is raging. The once-grand Kilcolgan House, a crumbling bastion shrouded in sea-mist, lies half empty and filled with ghosts – both real and imagined – the Prendevilles, the noble family within, co-existing only as the balance of their secrets is kept.

Then, when an IRA ambush goes terribly wrong, Maud Prendeville, eldest daughter of Lord Kilcolgan, is killed, leaving the family reeling. Yet the IRA column insist they left her alive, that someone else must have been responsible for her terrible fate. Captain Tom Harkin, an IRA intelligence officer and Maud’s former fiancé, is sent to investigate, becoming an unwelcome guest in this strange, gloomy household.

Working undercover, Harkin must delve into the house’s secrets – and discover where, in this fractured, embattled town, each family member’s allegiances truly lie. But Harkin too is haunted by the ghosts of the past and by his terrible experiences on the battlefields. Can he find out the truth about Maud’s death before the past – and his strange, unnerving surroundings – overwhelm him?

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I read a book by William Ryan a few years ago called The Constant Soldier and recommended it to everybody I know. I’m sure that I will be just as eager to do the same with this new book. 

In some ways it is completely different, it takes place in Ireland a few years after the end of WW1 and more importantly for this novel after the Easter Rising. The troubles in Ireland form a huge part of this storyline, the effect on the local smaller communities, the British ex military who are drafted in to quash any uprising and the methods in which they do so. I felt that these men didn’t give any thought to why people either wanted independence or not. They were just doing the same as what they did during the war, killing. To  my shame, I know little about this period in time and did have to dig deeper at times. 

I thought the similarities with The Constant Soldier were the descriptions of war and the effect it had on the soldiers. It was evident throughout how Harkin struggled with his experience. Most of the ghosts he saw were soldiers who he had known. These were at times harrowing to read despite the brevity and they increased my liking of him, I felt they showed his honesty and in some ways increased his determination to get the answers about Maud’s death. She was another whose ghost he saw, proving to me that his ghosts were people who had an impact on him at some time in his life. 

It could have been a depressing novel, a fractured country struggling with poverty and politics but there were characters who made me smile. Mrs Driscoll, Moira and Bourke especially. 

I found this novel fascinating for so many reasons but mainly for opening my eyes to a troubled time.

William Ryan will be participating in February’s First Monday Crime alongside Sam Blake, Liz Nugent and Jane Casey. You can watch via the Facebook page at 7.30pm on Monday 7th Feb.

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.

Judas Horse by Lynda La Plante – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Do you know what a Judas Horse is? When the wild mustangs are running free, you corral one and train it. When he’s ready, you release him and he’ll bring his team back into the corral – like Judas betraying them…’

Violent burglars have been terrorising residents across the English countryside. But when a mutilated body is discovered in a Cotswolds house, it becomes clear that this is no ordinary group of opportunist thieves.

As Detective Jack Warr investigates, he discovers locals with dark secrets, unearths hidden crimes – and hits countless dead ends. With few leads and the violent attacks escalating, he will have to act as audaciously as the criminals if he hopes to stop them. 

When Warr meets Charlotte Miles, a terrified woman with links to the group, he must use her to lure the unsuspecting killers into one last job, and into his trap. But with the law already stretched to breaking point, any failure will be on Warr’s head – and any more blood spilled, on his hands

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Judas Horse is the second book in the Jack Warr series. This series is the only one that I have read by this author and I need to make a determined effort to catch up with a few others. Whilst I liked the previous book, Buried, I enjoyed this one a lot more. It proved that it could stand on its own without the connection to the Widows series. You could read this without reading the former but I would recommend reading them in order.

Jack has calmed down a lot since the events in Buried. He has just become a father and has come to terms with finding out his own father’s identity. He is settled into his new home with the wonderful Maggie, young Hannah and his mother. He enjoys his job more and appears to be less of a hothead and in this novel he is helping a team in the Cotswolds solve a series of house crimes that are getting increasingly violent. But he is no walkover and there is a power struggle within that team that causes more problems than it solves.

I think Jack is a great character. He is encouraging to the less experienced officers and handles the team from Oxford brilliantly. I would love to see that ‘partnership’ in further novels. I can see a lot of animosity ahead! The way he was with the witnesses and the victims showed compassion but a determination not to be ignored or patronised. 

Maggie is also a great character. Grounded and loving and she knows that her man isn’t a saint. But she is prepared to let him think that he believes everything she is told because she knows that what he does is done is with a good heart. 

It is quite brutal at times but I feel it is more intimidating because of the rural, usually peaceful setting and also because of who is on the receiving end. Nobody is safe from these criminals.

Judas Horse is a great addition to this new series and I’m looking forward to book three and keeping my fingers crossed that like the other books that it will be televised.