New Release Spotlight: An Act of Silence Colette McBeth

Publication Date: Available Now from Wildfire

Source: Review Copy

These are the facts I collect. 

My son Gabriel met a woman called Mariela in a bar. She went home with him. They next morning she was found in an allotment. 

Mariela is dead. 

Gabriel has been asked to report to Camden Police station in six hours for questioning

Linda Moscow loves her son; it’s her biological instinct to keep him safe. But if she’s not sure of his innocence, how can she stand by him? Should she go against everything she believes in to protect him?

She’s done it before, and the guilt nearly killed her.

Now, the past is catching up with them. As old secrets resurface, Linda is faced with another impossible choice. Only this time, it’s her life on the line…

Brilliantly compulsive, utterly heartbreaking, beautifully written. A psychological thriller of depth and beauty.

That was the soundbite review I put up on Goodreads after finishing this novel and the gap between then and now has only enforced that feeling –  I have not read a psychological thriller that has as many beautifully layered themes to it for a long time. An Act of Silence is a true page turner, incredibly compelling storytelling, sublime writing, delivering just the right amount of unpredictability with some truly intriguing characters.

It is a character drama that is extremely thought provoking, looking at the parental relationship, how far we would go to protect our children, all embedded into a good old fashioned mystery story. The author takes you on a twisted journey, emotionally hard hitting, always authentic and plotted to perfection both in style and substance. Linda as a character is oddly likable despite often doing some rather unlikable things it seems – but I have to say Gabriel was the one I engaged with, his character voice resonated – so I attached.

Its difficult to say too much without giving things away, but as things progress you’ll get deeper and deeper into this – Colette McBeth just entwines you into the world she’s created – it is clever, fascinating, explores some very dark events that will touch your soul – utterly alluring, the delicate touch this author has with language sucks you in then throws you out the other side with thoughts that will linger in your head long after reading.

Really excellent. Truly so. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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New Release Spotlight: The Summer of Impossible Things Rowan Coleman

Publication Date: Available Now from Ebury

Source: Review Copy

If you could change the past, would you?

Thirty years ago, something terrible happened to Luna’s mother. Something she’s only prepared to reveal after her death. 

Now Luna and her sister have a chance to go back to their mother’s birthplace and settle her affairs. But in Brooklyn they find more questions than answers, until something impossible – magical – happens to Luna, and she meets her mother as a young woman back in the summer of 1977. 

At first Luna’s thinks she’s going crazy, but if she can truly travel back in time, she can change things. But in doing anything – everything – to save her mother’s life, will she have to sacrifice her own?

This book is made entirely of magic.

Beautifully written and stunning in its impact, this is a story about love in all its forms and the things we sacrifice for it.

Also: Time travel and Disco.  So what else do you honestly need?

Rowan Coleman writes with such a gorgeous lyrical style that you get caught up in the narrative and come out the other side a little starry eyed. And a little tearful. Luna is such an engaging protagonist, thrown into a strange and unlikely situation, during a very sad time in her life and ultimately making it her own –  travelling a path of odd and emotional decision making events.

The 70’s come to life, as we travel back and forth, the author paints the years with different colours, dark and light, shading each decade with it’s own sense of place – I loved it loved it, I couldn’t put it down and it was melancholy yet life affirming – when I got to the end I went back and read portions again just for the sheer joy of it. The ending was  genuinely thought provoking and so so exquisite, the fact that the characters are so very alive on the page during the reading just making it more so.

It’s hard to know what to say to be honest because as I started with, The Summer of Impossible Things is just made entirely of magic. Some of it dark magic, some of it light magic but pure pure magic. I think that’s really all you need to know.

Highly HIGHLY recommended. Even for the most cynical readers. In fact even more so for the cynical ones.

Go get it.

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The Mayfly: In Defence of Horror. James Hazel.

Slightly later than advertised (Apologies I was stuck on the M6 again) today I’m pleased to welcome James Hazel to Liz Loves Books with a guest post about why we are obsessed with horror. The Mayfly is out NOW and links to my review and further details will follow (Tip: It’s brilliant you should read it!)

In defence of horror James Hazel.

There is a man who has created a physical concept designed to be experienced by another, an observer, and provoke within that other an emotive response. This man has created art.

There is another man who has created a physical concept designed to be experienced by another, a reader, and provoke within him particular feelings of fear, disgust and outrage. This man has created horror.

The observer of art discharges his emotional response subjectively; any stimulation he feels is his alone, unless he chooses to share it with others.

The reader of horror, however, experiences a dilemma. Might the entertainment he has derived from such negative feelings require an element of justification? In the absence of such a justification, is the reader as appalling and inhuman as the horror he has just witnessed?

The Mayfly opens with the interrogation of a German SS doctor, Kurt Schneider, in 1945 by a British military intelligence officer, Bertie Ruck, on the subject of experiments with poison carried out on inmates at the Buchenwald concentration camp during the Holocaust.

Trying to establish the doctor’s motivations, Ruck presses Schneider only to be told, cryptically, that the suffering of the victim opened up a conduit through which Schneider was able to connect with God. In other words, there was no scientific justification for Schneider’s experimentation; he did it because he enjoyed it, albeit that he expressed that enjoyment through a sense of spiritual enlightenment.

There is some grounding in truth here. There are no known scientific justifications for some of the experiments carried out by Joseph Mengele in Auschwitz, especially when it came to surgical operations carried out on twins.

For some, this might make difficult reading.

That is not to say, however, that there is something wrong with deriving an element of enjoyment from the more cringe-inducing, sinister moments in any media, whether film or novel. That is so, even in a case where one might lose empathy with the victim.

Take, for instance, the portrayal of retribution in the film Hostel. Here, three friends travelling across Europe are persuaded by a mysterious man on a train to visit a hostel in Slovakia. The protagonists are drugged and taken to a warehouse in the middle of nowhere where they are subjected to torture at the hands of individuals who have paid for the privilege.

One of the friends, Paxton, escapes. In the end, Paxton finds the man who tortured him in a public toilet and kills him.

The two primary acts of violence in the film – the torture of Paxton and his subsequent revenge – are vicious in the extreme but provoke entirely different responses, since there has been a role-reversal to the advantage of the hero: Paxton is able to exact revenge.

But we as the viewer aren’t cringing behind our eyes in the final scenes, despite the violence. We’re egging him on. That moment – the moment of letting go and empathising with the perpetrator of the crime – perhaps that is the true horror.

I am sympathetic to anyone who says that real life is cruel enough without having to read about such violence in fiction. I have already experienced some mild disapproval of the subject matter of The Mayfly, given its reliance on real life events. But it seems to me that this misses the point.

Real life is cruel, but we carry on regardless. We construct for ourselves an illusion that everything we do is predictable and our world feels secure. There is nothing wrong with that illusion; it is philosophically necessary, otherwise we would be constantly looking for monsters under the bed. The horror we are faced with in literature and film keeps this notion in proportion, and helps ensure that we do not forget the real-life suffering of those poor victims.

About the Book:

It’s happening again.

A mutilated body discovered in the woods.
A murderous plan conceived in the past.
A reckoning seventy years in the making . . .

Charlie Priest, ex-detective inspector turned London lawyer, is hired by influential entrepreneur Kenneth Ellinder to investigate the murder of his son. But Priest is no ordinary lawyer. Brilliant, yet flawed, this case will push him, and those closest to him, to the edge.

Priest traces the evidence back to the desperate last days of the Second World War. Buried in the ashes of the Holocaust is a secret so deadly its poison threatens to destroy the very heart of the establishment. 
With more victims going missing, Priest realises that not everyone should be trusted. As he races to uncover the truth, can he prevent history from repeating itself?

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Latest Reads: Unleashed Peter Laws

Publication Date: July 20th from Allison and Busby

Source: Review Copy

Fifteen years ago, 29 Barley Street in Menham, South London, became notorious as the scene of alleged poltergeist activity which led to the death of young Holly Wasson. The shadow cast by this episode is still felt in the town, and among the gang of friends who were caught up in the tragic events. That shadow looms larger than ever when one of the group dies in horrific and strange circumstances.
Matt Hunter, former minister and now professor of sociology, is called in to advise the police on the possible ritualistic elements of the death. And he is forced to ask himself, are forces beyond the grave at work or is a flesh-and-blood killer at large?

Anyone who remembers how (in the literary sense!) orgasmic I was about the first in this series, Purged, will know just how much I’ve been looking forward to getting my hands on Unleashed. Well yesterday I DID get my hands on it and I read it in one afternoon into evening – then couldn’t sleep because psychopathic labradors. And not so cute bunnies. When I DID finally nod off you wouldn’t have wanted to be in my rather surreal dreams. Because that’s how this type of storytelling gets you.

So Matt Hunter is back again then, this time caught up in a Ghostwatch type scenario with weird demonologist types, even stranger prayer spouting types and a few normal people hiding some dark secrets. Normal of course being both relative and subjective.

It is a heady blend of crime, horror and hints at the supernatural, with a firm eye towards driving you crazy (I’m extrapolating on this authors reasons for writing) and embedded inside of all that some dark authentic themes and some truly thought provoking questions about humanity. Both Purged and Unleashed achieve that difficult to get right genre mash up extraordinarily well, both speculative and realistic, they sit in a place not filled by any other writer that I know currently out there. Although I’m happy to be advised!  It could be called genre fiction, popular fiction or literary fiction and sit well enough in any of those boxes but I’m wary of boxes, things tend to jump out of them without warning. I’m probably not going to open any cupboards for a while either…

Honestly creepy too, even when I was reading in daylight I was half looking over my shoulder and by some twist of fate I ended up reading the finale (which is not only very edge of the seat but scary as all hell) after darkness had fallen. In more ways than one. The truly immersive prose and beautifully described claustrophobic setting just got right into my head, that is some clever writing for sure and not that usual in all honesty. I didn’t have the disconnect I usually maintain when reading fiction except when it comes to those odd few, so coming out of Matt Hunter’s world again was somewhat of a stretch and took me a while.

Influenced by this novel I’m never eating Lasagne again, but I will be re-watching a certain 80’s cult television show –  Unleashed is addictive, cleverly manipulative, beautifully unpredictable and never any less than utterly engaging. Be prepared to sleep with the lights on!

Highly Recommended.

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The Fourth Monkey – J D Barker. Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from HQ

Source: Review Copy

Brilliant. Complicated. Psychopath.

That’s the Four Monkey Killer or ‘4MK’. A murderer with a twisted vision and absolutely no mercy.

Detective Sam Porter has hunted him for five long years, the recipient of box after box of grisly trinkets carved from the bodies of 4MK’s victims.

But now Porter has learnt the killer’s twisted history and is racing to do the seemingly impossible – find 4MK’s latest victim before it’s too late…

I loved this. It is so beautifully twisted that I don’t even have a word for it. I banged through it, unable to look away, often freaking out slightly, J D Barker writes with such visceral reality that you just fall into it stuck between horrified and fascinated.

So it is a serial killer thriller, which is an actual thriller, whilst being clever and manipulative enough to keep you guessing and with some characters of great depth and perception. I loved Sam Porter and his back story drip fed to us during the course of the read is excellent and genuinely absorbing.

The psychology of the killer is also really really quite spellbinding – the diary entries formed a central core to the plot and made up some of my favourite parts of The Fourth Monkey – and BOOM what an ending too, as the two stories came together to create a perfect storm.

It is graphic and doesn’t pull punches so if you are of a nervous disposition be prepared – but for me the violent scenes just fed into the rest perfectly, not salacious just truthful (and to be honest extraordinarily alluring despite the odd urge to just clap my hands over my eyes) – the author creates quite the dilemma, I was both urging Sam on to catch him whilst also vaguely hoping that he might get away – which of these two things happens you’ll have to read to  find out.

Overall The Fourth Monkey is just brilliant – a page turning, crazily epic, beautifully unbalancing blast of a story. More. More of that sort of thing I say.

Highly Recommended.

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Cross Purpose Claire Macleary – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Contraband

Source: Review Copy

Two Women, One Quest, Grave Consequences

When Maggie Laird’s disgraced ex-cop husband suddenly dies, her humdrum suburban life is turned upside down. With the bills mounting, she takes on his struggling detective agency, enlisting the help of neighbour ‘Big Wilma’. And so an unlikely partnership is born. But the discovery of a crudely mutilated body soon raises the stakes… and Maggie and Wilma are drawn into an unknown world of Aberdeen’s sink estates, clandestine childminding and dodgy dealers.
Cross Purpose is surprising, gritty, sometimes darkly humorous – a tale combining police corruption, gangs and murder with a paean to friendship, loyalty and how ‘women of a certain age’ can beat the odds.

Cross Purpose is both wittily funny and quite dark, with a couple of characters I loved very much and a twisty tale of murky dealings in Aberdeen.

First of all the set up was brilliant – Maggie and Wilma are the ultimate odd couple who apart may be fairly usual but together are a total scream. Claire Macleary’s eye for involving dialogue really made this book for me, that plus the fact that all the characters are beautifully drawn and ever engaging.

The plotting is cleverly obtuse, the setting is completely authentic – and also this is an excellent concept taking as it does unlikely and less cliched main protagonists and throwing them into an unusual situation. There are some grim realities within the pages but always that sense of dark, ironic humour to offset the more horrific elements. It works really well and genuinely makes for a page turner.

One of the best things is that it seems likely we will meet Maggie and Wilma again and I for one can’t wait. The grounding for a long and (Mostly)  happy collaboration is to be found in Cross Purpose, lets hope they run and run. Although probably not literally.

Clever, involving and beautifully done. Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Love Like Blood – Mark Billingham.

Publication Date: Available Now (UK) from Little Brown (US) from Grove Atlantic

Source: Netgalley (Grove)

DI Nicola Tanner needs Tom Thorne’s help. Her partner, Susan, has been brutally murdered and Tanner is convinced that it was a case of mistaken identity—that she was the real target. The murderer’s motive might have something to do with Tanner’s recent work on a string of cold-case honor killings she believes to be related. Tanner is now on compassionate leave but insists on pursuing the case off the books and knows Thorne is just the man to jump into the fire with her. He agrees but quickly finds that working in such controversial territory is dangerous in more ways than one. And when a young couple goes missing, they have a chance to investigate a case that is anything but cold.

Always a joy to spend some time with Tom Thorne, definitively for me one of the best fictional detectives on the scene currently, with Love Like Blood Mark Billingham tackles a sensitive and I think very important subject with a healthy dose of reality and genuine consideration. That plus giving us a banging great read as always.

Much less a whodunnit and much more a twisted tale to the full truth of the matter, Tom is pulled into a contrary situation by Nicola Tanner (see  Die Of Shame ) who having suffered a horrific personal lost is determined to bring those responsible to justice. Convinced it is tied into a theory she was investigating she hopes Thorne will show his usual disregard for procedure and follow the leads unconsidered in the main investigation. So there we begin..

What I love generally speaking is the way this author brings a strong emotional core to the centre of all the stories he writes – the ongoing interpersonal relationships (I’m the biggest fan of Phil you will find) are always layered beautifully into each individual plot, whilst the supporting cast are given just as much depth. The writing is always immersive and completely addictive – as a reader you genuinely live with these people for a while. No different with Love Like Blood which I read fast, often angrily, the best reads are the ones that grip you by the heartstrings, not letting go and send you through a gamut of emotions as you head towards the finale. And this finale had me clutching my hair.

Honor Killings are very real, difficult to talk about, difficult to pin down, Love Like Blood is obviously researched and there is a huge authenticity to it that sends you on that emotional journey. I’d like to point out that when I read the Authors Note after finishing the book I had actual tears in my eyes, it made me look back on what I had just read with slightly different eyes.

Overall a really excellent, entertaining yet hugely thought provoking read that I would actually like to throw at everybody.  Read it. Even if you are new to the series I see no reason you couldn’t start here.

There is no life…

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Godblind Anna Stephens

Publication Date: Available Now (Kindle) 11th July (Hardback) from Harper Voyager

Source: Review Copy

The Mireces worship the bloodthirsty Red Gods. Exiled from Rilpor a thousand years ago, and left to suffer a harsh life in the cold mountains, a new Mireces king now plots an invasion of Rilpor’s thriving cities and fertile earth.

Dom Templeson is a Watcher, a civilian warrior guarding Rilpor’s border. He is also the most powerful seer in generations, plagued with visions and prophecies. His people are devoted followers of the god of light and life, but Dom harbors deep secrets, which threaten to be exposed when Rillirin, an escaped Mireces slave, stumbles broken and bleeding into his village.

Meanwhile, more and more of Rilpor’s most powerful figures are turning to the dark rituals and bloody sacrifices of the Red Gods, including the prince, who plots to wrest the throne from his dying father in the heart of the kingdom. Can Rillirin, with her inside knowledge of the Red Gods and her shocking ties to the Mireces King, help Rilpor win the coming war?

Warning: Do not read this book if you are of a nervous disposition (Cue: Everyone running off to read this book to find out why – excellent, as you are in for one hell of a ride)

Godblind is dark fantasy at its very best, bloody, visceral, excellent characters and a top notch fantasy plot with increasingly imaginative world building. Including at least one incredibly realistic scene that will have certainly have you reeling if you are of the male variety and a whole plethora of adrenalin building action sequences Anna Stephens still manages to create an almost perfect character drama. Shades of grey in an immoral world where the good guys and the bad guys blend into each other for much of the telling until finally shaking themselves out towards the end and leaving you desperate to find out what happens next.

The plot is twisted, multiple points of view keeping us in the overall picture, this is not a straightforward start middle and end but a beautifully layered, often horrific, always compelling journey that takes many paths and drops you in and out of the action, building to a rip roaring, rollercoaster ride of a finale. Very much a part one, the scene is set for what is bound to be the trip of a lifetime. Seriously if somebody doesn’t give me book 2 soon I may actually explode.

Incredibly immersive descriptive prose grips you throughout, the author pulls literally no punches in letting you know what life in this world is like, Godblind is full of magic and mayhem, within an utterly fascinating political landscape that edges around reality within the fantasy and feels totally authentic from first page to last.

Godblind is banging brilliant, accomplished writing, deliriously psychotic plotting, cleverly manipulative character building, a book that once you are in it you cannot escape it until you are done, nor would you want to.

Highly Highly Recommended.

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Sweet After Death Valentina Giambanco Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Quercus

Source: Review Copy

In the dead of winter Homicide Detective Alice Madison is sent to the remote town of Ludlow, Washington, to investigate an unspeakable crime.

Together with her partner Detective Sergeant Kevin Brown and crime scene investigator Amy Sorensen, Madison must first understand the killer’s motives…but the dark mountains that surround Ludlow know how to keep their secrets and that the human heart is wilder than any beast’s.

As the killer strikes again Madison and her team are under siege. And as they become targets Madison realises that in the freezing woods around the pretty town a cunning evil has been waiting for her.

The Alice Madison series is fast becoming one of my favourites – mostly it has to be said because of the character dynamics, I’m a fan of Madison/Brown/Sorensen and look forward to moving back in with them for a while.

Sweet After Death finds them heading to a small town that has lost its Doctor to an unspeakable act. Sent to help out the local police sort out the mess, they find themselves caught up in an act of violence that may not be as isolated as it appears.

I was especially taken with the setting for this one – Valentina Giambanco creates a claustrophobic and tense atmosphere around our crew as they get to work – moving them very much out of their comfort zone which keeps this intriguing and edgy. We learn a lot more about Alice whilst she is away from home and the mountainous wilderness closes in around her.

The path to the ultimate resolution is compelling and unpredictable, the supporting cast of characters all well drawn and fascinating especially Samuel. Sweet After Death is a novel you sink into. somewhat nervously making your way around Ludlow and waiting to see what will happen with a real sense of hanging onto the edge. Overall completely riveting.

Definitely a series to watch. Really very excellent indeed.

Recommended.

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Latest Reads: The Waking Land Callie Bates

Publication Date: 29th June from Hodder and Staughton

Source: Review Copy

It’s been fourteen years, since King Antoine took Elanna hostage. Fourteen years since her father’s rebellion failed. Fourteen years spent being raised by the man who condemned her people to misery. A man she’s come to love as a father.

Now 20, Elanna is about to be taken prisoner once again… but this time by her father’s mysterious righthand man.

Her father wants to reignite his rebellion, this time using Elanna as figurehead. He will tell his followers she is the legendary Wildegarde reborn, a sorceress who could make the very earth tremble.

But what no one knows is that magic really does flow through Elanna’s veins. Now she must decide which side she’s on, and whether she’ll use her powers for mercy… or revenge.

The Waking Land really does have THE most beautiful cover and some beautiful writing inside it too, telling a fantastical tale of a land steeped in a magic that has fallen out of use. Elanna, kidnapped at a very young age, grows up belonging to them – before being taken back by her Father and beginning to learn that not everything she believes is necessarily true.

That is where we begin then and Callie Bates weaves an intriguing and enchanting tale of lands at war, morally blurred politics and ever changing family loyalties. Underneath it all lies a magical land, whose power slowly comes to the fore as Elanna discovers her true potential. But being ever conflicted, her struggle to see a clear path forms one of the most absorbing elements of this novel.

It is also a love story – and thank heavens in this case not an annoying one. Callie Bates has a wonderful attention to detail when fleshing out her characters, I loved that even minor ones ended up being entirely important to the plot, sometimes seemingly unimportant events take on a different meaning as things progress. I also adored the descriptive sense of it, ushering the reader into a world so different yet so similar to our own and making us feel the sense of it. The Waking Land is a novel to sink into, lose yourself for a while, away from the mundane routines of life.

Elegantly written and completely captivating, The Waking Land is one to watch this year in the Fantasy genre.

Recommended.

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