Latest Reads: My Little Eye Stephanie Marland

Publication Date: November 2nd from Trapeze

Source: Proof copy

KISS THE GIRLS
A young woman is found dead in her bedroom surrounded by rose petals – the latest victim of ‘The Lover’. Struggling under the weight of an internal investigation, DI Dominic Bell is no closer to discovering the identity of the killer and time is running out.

AND MAKE THEM DIE…
As the murders escalate, Clementine Starke joins an online true crime group determined to take justice in their own hands – to catch the killer before the police. Hiding a dark secret, she takes greater risks to find new evidence and infiltrate the group.

As Starke and Bell get closer to cracking the case neither of them realise they’re being watched. The killer is closer to them than they think, and he has his next victim – Clementine – firmly in his sights. 

So it is no secret at all that Stephanie Marland (better known currently as Crime Thriller Girl Steph Broadbribb) is a good friend of mine who I love dearly – and you might think that would mean I’d give her an easy ride but trust me you would be mistaken. If anything I’m a much tougher critic of the people I have come to know well, they have to go some for me to be impressed even slightly.

So when I say that “My Little Eye” is a bang on psychological thriller of the most addictive kind, throwing us some brilliantly divisive and fascinating characters with a twisted plot full of gorgeous unpredictability you can be reassured that I genuinely mean it. And then some. I raced through this read in my grasshopper on acid type manner, every time I thought I could put it down something else happened that made me do that proverbial “one more chapter” thing.

Clementine is just brilliant. She’s unusual, compelling, creates unpredictability all by herself you hardly need a mystery element so right away you are sucked into this, as she rockets around London (brilliantly described) trying to catch a murderer. The central theme – could a group of online crime enthusiasts solve a murder in real time – is a cleverly socially current one – we’ve all been on Twitter and Facebook doing our armchair detective thing on the headlines of the moment, in My Little Eye that takes on a whole new vibe.

Dom the detective (I couldn’t help that it’s how I’ve been thinking of him all the way through) is also an intelligently divisive character and one of the strengths of this read for me was in the way he and Clementine came together. We also have a mystery element that is beautifully imagined, has a truly thrilling serial killer vibe and doesn’t necessarily do what it says on the tin all the way through. That alongside the layered characterisation and the really very good writing (she says grudgingly once again I can’t complain even though it’s one of my favourite things to do) makes “My Little Eye” a pure joy to read. Get the caffeine, get the chocolate, find a corner to hide in and go into Clementine’s world. You won’t regret it.

Highly Recommended. Well done Steph – all the wine for you.

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Lucky Ghost Matthew Blakstad Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Hodder

Source: Review Copy

Early one Monday morning, much like today, journalist Alex Kubelick walks up to a total stranger and slaps him across the face. Hard.

He thanks her.

They’ve both just earned Emoticoins in a new, all-consuming game that trades real-life emotions for digital currency. Emoticoins are changing the face of the global economy – but someone or something seems to be controlling the game for their own, nefarious purposes.

As Alex begins to pick apart the tangled threads that are holding the virtual game together she finds herself on the run from very real enemies. With the world economy teetering on the brink of collapse, it seems there’s only one person who might have the answers she seeks.Someone who hides behind the mysterious name ‘Lucky Ghost.’

But who is Lucky Ghost… and can they really be trusted?

And what do they want?

Lucky Ghost (the follow up to the amazingly brilliant Sockpuppet ) is a banging speculative novel with yet more geeky gorgeous and some top notch often controversial but always fascinating characters.

Lucky Ghost certainly should not be trusted, nor should you necessarily trust anything in this game, the plotting is brilliantly done, a woven web of tech and trauma, human foibles and group shenanigans all mixed up into a beautiful hotpot of a story where nothing is ever quite as it seems. Alex as a character is both fun to follow along with and very intriguing, we meet some old friends along the way and if you loved Sockpuppet you’ll adore this – which, it must be said, could easily be read as a standalone if necessary however I recommend one after the other.

The writing is sharp and absolutely immersive and the world created here is all too likely – after all we are all practically glued to our phones daily, imagine if the tech was slightly more advanced. Then add in some manipulative forces, nefarious schemes and the often horrible realities of human nature and you are good to go on a rollercoaster ride of a book trip. A literal head trip if you get as involved in it as I did.

Like Sockpuppet, Lucky Ghost has a very thought provoking central theme and a firm eye on social issues all layered into the more action and speculative elements. Always character driven, never dull and with a totally edge of the seat banging finale which made me crazy. Oh ssh ok more crazy. In a good way.

Even geekier shenanigans with an even darker heart – that’s Lucky Ghost. Top top notch.

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Perfect Prey Helen Fields

Publication Date: Available Now from Avon

Source: Netgalley

In the midst of a rock festival, a charity worker is sliced across the stomach. He dies minutes later. In a crowd of thousands, no one saw his attacker. The following week, the body of a primary school teacher is found in a dumpster in an Edinburgh alley, strangled with her own woollen scarf.

DI Ava Turner and DI Luc Callanach have no motive and no leads – until around the city, graffitied on buildings, words appear describing each victim.

It’s only when they realise the words are appearing before rather than after the murders, that they understand the killer is announcing his next victim…and the more innocent the better.

So we come to the second in Helen Fields rather fist pumping DI Callanach series – the first being Perfect Remains which you should certainly check out and its a right old page turner. Dark though, very dark. I don’t think there is any writer out there doing death scenes like Helen Fields is doing them and they are horrifically hard hitting (which I love it has to be said. Not sure what that says about me)

Anyone who has read the first book will know what to expect – and here you get more of it and better, the characters are top notch fascinating and further developed in a brilliantly immersive way  – at the same time there is a new case and what a case it is. Fast paced action, some new people I hope we meet again with a beautifully twisty plot that will keep you on your toes. Descriptively speaking this is absolute genius – you get so involved all the way through you go through a gamut of emotions from subtle smile to outrage to terror and back again. One character will CERTAINLY get your goat, you know you are loving a book when you end up shouting at the people in it like they can hear you and will modify their behaviour accordingly..

Overall Perfect Prey is a perfect second novel to follow up the intensity of the first, upping the ante, keeping you in the characters lives and certainly at the end of this I was hoping desperately that the next one would not take too long to come along.

If you like your crime dark and dastardly with a hint of horror and a strong degree of unpredictability then Perfect Prey is for you.

Recommended.

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Ones to Watch in 2018: The Collector Fiona Cummins

Publication Date: February 2018 from Pan Macmillan

Source: Proof copy

Jakey escaped with his life and moved to a new town.
His rescue was a miracle but his parents know that the Collector is still out there, watching, waiting…
Clara, the girl he left behind, is clinging to the hope that someone will come and save her.
Life has fallen apart for Clara’s mother as she starts to lose hope.
The Bone Collector has a new apprentice to take over his family’s legacy. But he can’t forget the boy who got away and the detective who had destroyed his dreams, Detective Etta Fitzroy.

I think a lot of people when asked would say that “The Silence of the Lambs” is the definitive serial killer thriller – its all about the atmosphere and the low key haunting scares and the quality writing – but boy I’m telling you that book has some competition now.

Last year at proof stage I was genuinely rattled by “Rattle”, this authors debut, and now she brings us the follow up and boy its a doozy and a half. And then another half. Ok it’s a double doozy. At the very least. Picking up where “Rattle” left off we go further down into the darkness with the Collector and his victims, with his nemesis Etta Fitzroy and this is a twisted darkness indeed, portrayed and embedded into your consciousness in a brilliantly written and utterly riveting piece of character driven  plotting.

I’ve talked about a few writers who are pitch perfect and that is certainly the case here – not only does Fiona Cummins make you care about her characters, fear them and for them but she does it in such an immersive way that you just rattle (sorry) through it, caught up in the horror and the emotional trauma (and boy is this emotionally traumatic on so many levels) – you can’t look away and wouldn’t even if you could. It is gripping, totally gripping, does literally make you hold your breath at times and bloody hell that ending, that slow, scary, uncertain finale almost had me falling off my chair.

The beautifully woven relationships simmer throughout, we see the aftermath of Rattle in all its reality, the devastation and the hope, you can’t help but feel every moment of it whilst metaphorically glancing over your shoulder and waiting for the axe to fall. It is cleverly done to make no promises – happy endings are not always a thing, so you really cannot be sure of anything, in the fight between darkness and light the light often loses and until you turn that last page you can’t and won’t know. Maybe not even then….

Edgy, unpredictable, scary as all heck and so brilliantly spellbinding that you may come away with actual bruises from the tension, The Collector is one for thriller readers everywhere who are looking for those differences, those books that stand out not only for quality but for pure reading pleasure. Painful pleasure sure. But absolute reading joy.

Highly HIGHLY recommended (but read it in the daytime or you will be sleeping with the lights on)

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The Other Twin Lucy Hay – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Orenda

Source: Review Copy

When India falls to her death from a bridge over a railway, her sister Poppy returns home to Brighton for the first time in years. Unconvinced by official explanations, Poppy begins her own investigation into India’s death. But the deeper she digs, the closer she comes to uncovering deeply buried secrets. Could Matthew Temple, the boyfriend she abandoned, be involved? And what of his powerful and wealthy parents, and his twin sister, Ana? Enter the mysterious and ethereal Jenny: the girl Poppy discovers after hacking into India’s laptop. What is exactly is she hiding, and what did India find out about her? 

I’ve read a few novels that focus on familial relationships and also have a strong mystery element this year but perhaps none that have engaged me as much as Lucy Hay’s “The Other Twin” a beautifully written psychological drama with a vivid setting and some incredibly fascinating characters.

It is a twisty tale in the sense that you really don’t know what is coming but it is also an emotionally resonant read that digs deep into the psyche of the characters (not all of them likable but all of them compelling) and takes you on a journey through their lives ending with a beautifully placed and unexpectedly poignant ending.

Lucy Hay writes with a gorgeous intensity, bringing Brighton to life, bringing the people that live there to life and adding some insightful and often thought provoking layers to the whole thing that just make it a wonderful and, it has to be said, highly addictive read.

When you read and review as many books as I do it is sometimes hard to come up with new things to say -but you know, sometimes if it ain’t broke don’t fix it so I’ll just say The Other Twin. Highly Recommended.

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The Pinocchio Brief Abi Silver – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Lightning Books

Source: Review Copy

A schoolboy accused of a brutal murder. A retired lawyer with secrets to hide…

A 15-year-old schoolboy is accused of the murder of one of his teachers. His lawyers, the guarded veteran, Judith, and the energetic young solicitor, Constance, begin a desperate pursuit of the truth, revealing uncomfortable secrets about the teacher and the school. But Judith has her own secrets which she risks exposing when it is announced that a new lie-detecting device, nicknamed Pinocchio, will be used during the trial. And is the accused, a troubled boy who loves challenges, trying to help them or not?

I’ve been looking for great legal thrillers and The Pinocchio Brief really hit the sweet spot – addictive, intelligent and with some truly memorable characters it was a real page turner whilst being a brilliantly observant look at human nature and the  vagaries of the legal system.

Somewhat speculative (the Pinocchio device giving a different feel to things) there are plenty of twists and turns, the plotting is tight and immersive, we see things from different points of view, the most involving of these for me being the boy who stands accused of this crime – he is a highly intriguing character and somewhat of an unreliable narrator which brings many levels to the mystery elements.

Judith too is a fascinating character, her developing relationship with Constance is one of the strengths of this book, the secrets Judith hides make for a few edgy moments and overall it was just simply a cracking read.

Yes I think I’ll leave it there – The Pinocchio Brief – Simply a cracking read.

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Fateful Mornings Tom Bouman – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Faber and Faber

Source: Review Copy

In Wild Thyme, Pennsylvania, Officer Henry Farrell’s life is getting complicated. Widowed and more traumatised than he cares to admit, he is caught up in an affair with a local woman, and with helping out his friend’s barn construction job – on which the clock is ticking. When a troubled old acquaintance of theirs becomes the prime suspect in the disappearance of his girlfriend, it becomes increasingly clear that something seriously dark is at large in the woods that surround them.

Against this old and strange landscape – where silence rules – a fascinating and troubling case ensues, as Henry struggles for his very survival.

Fateful Mornings, like Dry Bones in the Valley before it is a fully character driven novel, paced to haunting perfection and featuring once again main protagonist Henry Farrell.

What I love about Tom Bouman’s writing is the sense of place and the true authenticity he brings to every aspect of his storytelling. In this case the mystery elements of the plot are very much secondary to the relationships and rural realities faced by those living within the community – the author takes Henry out of his comfort zone and into some dark dark places. Political machinations play their part and it is a slow and considered journey towards the final resolution.

Beautiful prose and intelligent plotting that includes some deeply layered characters and occasionally hard hitting moments makes Fateful Mornings a literary joy to read and really just means that Tom Bouman is now firmly on my must read list.

Highly Recommended.

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Ones To Watch in 2018 – Dark Pines Will Dean

Publication Date: January 2018 from OneWorld

Source: Netgalley

An isolated Swedish town. A deaf reporter terrified of nature. A dense spruce forest overdue for harvest. A pair of eyeless hunters found murdered in the woods.

It’s week one of the Swedish elk hunt and the sound of gunfire is everywhere. When Tuva Moodyson investigates the story that could make her career she stumbles on a web of secrets that knit Gavrik town together. Are the latest murders connected to the Medusa killings twenty years ago? Is someone following her? Why take the eyes? Tuva must face her demons and venture deep into the woods to stop the killer and write the story. And then get the hell out of Gavrik.

Dark Pines is one of those books where I look up from the pages after finishing it, slightly dazed, going Yep THAT is what I am looking for.

Beautiful beautiful writing, totally immersive from the very first page with a main protagonist that you just fall in love with and an atmospheric, haunting sense of things that will linger for a long time. Will Dean’s intuitive prose just sends you to Gavrik, a small town, a tight knit community, people just looking for a quiet life, but there is a dangerous underbelly to it all that you just feel throughout the reading. Tuva is truly intriguing, living and working in Gavrik to be close to her unwell Mother, just waiting to escape but somehow so very much a part of it all anyway. Her so called “disability” is just part of her, she works around it with no sense of being different to anyone else and I loved that about her.

The scene setting is a huge part of what makes this so very very excellent though. The “Dark Pines” of the title, that brooding, beautifully threatening forest is a character in its own right – making you want to visit and want to hide from it – always in the background, a definable, vivid environment that ingrains itself into the wider story with a truly imaginative intensity.

Then you have the quirky, odd and realistic characters that live in and around Gavrik – from the sisters (my favourites!) with their extremely strange creative profession and their lilting way of talking to Tuva herself, everyone you meet in Dark Pines will give you a different emotional response. The mystery element is so so SO well done, I don’t even want to say anything about it, you should just read it and live in it and wait for that downright eerie ending that is elegantly achieved.

I loved every moment of this one. Every word. It was just blinking brilliant. This is DEFINITELY one to watch in 2018 and has pretty much guaranteed itself a place in my top ten reads for this year – Dark Pines is a novel to watch and Will Dean is an author to watch. I sense great things ahead.

Highly HIGHLY recommended.

You can Follow Will on Twitter and  Pre-order Dark Pines

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Ice Lake John Lenahan – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Harper Collins (Killer Reads)

Source: Netgalley

AN ABANDONDED BODY
Deep in the woods of Northeastern Pennsylvania, the body of a man is found – shot three times, dumped under the trees where the local kids will find him.

A HAUNTED PSYCHOLOGIST
Psychologist Harry Cull, tormented by his past, arrives in the picturesque town of Ice Lake to help with the murder investigation. There he unravels a web of lies and deceit that leads to the dark heart of a community torn apart by fracking, drugs and murder.

A DESPERATE KILLER
It’s not long before the second corpse turns up, this time a lawyer left for dead in the forest, and Harry finds himself on the trail of a twisted killer – who will do anything to keep the town’s darkest secrets buried.

Ice Lake is a fast paced and relevant thriller with an interesting and engaging main protagonist in Harry Cull, whose friendship with another main character, Edward Cirba, was the making of this one for me.

The mystery itself is set around two deaths in a small community with ties to the fracking industry – Harry has a knack for weeding out liars and has an emotionally traumatic background which is cleverly done and sucks the reader in – The author puts a lot of information into this tale but in a very entertaining way, that. alongside the unfolding drama makes this a real page turner.

I was mostly involved with the characters in “Ice Lake” more perhaps than with the mystery element which whilst very well done is fairly standard – the author has a good eye for plotting a novel that keeps you involved in the specific story but sets you up to get emotionally involved in a wider way, I’ll definitely be reading more in this series as it has that hint of quirky that I love.

Overall a highly pleasing and very compelling introduction to Harry Cull – I look forward to more.

Recommended.

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My Name Is Nobody Matthew Richardson. Blog Tour Review

Publication Date: Available Now from Michael Joseph

Source: Review Copy

‘I know a secret. A secret that changes everything…’

Solomon Vine was the best of his generation, a spy on a fast track to the top. But when a prisoner is shot in unexplained circumstances on his watch, only suspension and exile beckon.

Three months later, MI6’s Head of Station in Istanbul is abducted from his home. There are signs of a violent struggle. With the Service in lockdown, uncertain of who can be trusted, thoughts turn to the missing man’s oldest friend: Solomon Vine.

Officially suspended, Vine can operate outside the chain of command to uncover the truth. But his investigation soon reveals that the disappearance heralds something much darker. And that there’s much more at stake than the life of a single spy…

My Name is Nobody is a excellent twisty spy thriller, highly addictive with some genuinely terrific characters and an ending that is unexpected – which obviously made me love it as the unexpected is rare for me.

Solomon Vine is out of the loop and on suspension after something goes horribly wrong in Istanbul – the start of the book is fast paced and brilliantly drawn out to hook you in – but when a colleague is abducted and it becomes obvious that something nefarious is afoot, he is the one best placed to find out what’s what. Matthew Richardson then proceeds to take us on a thrill ride of a journey to the eventual outcome, setting the scene all the way with some beautifully done descriptive prose, multi layered character arcs and a keen observational eye for taut plotting.

The further I got into the novel the more involved and fascinated I was – I loved the old school feel that the author brought to what is a very modern tale of the problems faced by the intelligence services and the political landscape Solomon Vine is working within (and outside of) is cleverly insightful. It was refreshing that the main character didn’t rely on high end tech to get to the truth but was more of a Holmes type character solving an enigmatic riddle, at the same time modern reality bites – astute writing, inventive storytelling.

Basically just really really good. If you love a good spy thriller then My Name is Nobody is for you.

Recommended.

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