Latest Reads: Insidious Intent Val McDermid

Publication Date: Available Now from Little Brown

Source: Bought in a bookshop

IInsidious Intent, Tony and Carol are on the hunt for a serial killer who victimizes women at weddings without a date–and forces the duo to confront their most haunting moral dilemma so far.

In the north of England, single women are beginning to disappear from weddings. A pattern soon becomes clear: Someone is crashing the festivities and luring the women away–only to leave the victims’ bodies in their own burned-out cars in remote locations. Tony and Carol are called upon to investigate–but this may be the toughest case they’ve ever had to face. Meanwhile, Detective Sergeant Paula McIntyre and her partner Elinor must deal with a cruel cyber-blackmailer targeting their teenage ward, Torin.

It’s that time of year again when there’s a new Val McDermid book out in the world and last Thursday saw me actually rousing myself from my book cave and heading down to my local independent bookshop, where I waited impatiently for them to open so I could lay my hands on a copy. Which I did. Then I read it almost immediately because well, its Val McDermid.  Even more than that it features Carol Jordan and Tony Hill – two characters that are so real to me now that  I wouldn’t be at all surprised to turn on BBC News one day and actually see Carol Jordan giving an interview about her latest collar.

Before I talk Insidious Intent, I’m fairly sure there can’t be THAT many lovers of crime fiction out there that have not at least dipped into this series – but just in case I catch one of you reading this may I highly recommend that you read in order and take a few weeks off work. For me, absolutely one of the best series out there, even though we are now on book 10 each one offers something new, be it in the horrifying realities of the dark depths of human nature, a particular personal crisis for one of our beloved characters, a freshly observed moral dilemma or twist on a mystery that is inordinately difficult to predict.

So Insidious Intent then finds Carol, Tony and the rest with their first  case for the newly formed Remit – a major incident team headed by Carol and featuring her hand picked people. New characters and old friends form the unit, but they soon realise that having the spotlight on them, especially when faced with a difficult case and an intelligent killer, can bring its own pitfalls. Not everyone wants them to succeed – indeed in the aftermath of events from previous novels a fair few would like to see them fall flat on their asses – with Carol still facing down her demons and Tony struggling to continue to prop her up, the scene is set for a right page turner. And a right page turner it was.

Mixing things up with her indomitably twisted (in a creative way obviously) spirit, Val McDermid gives us less of a “whodunnit” and more of a “How the hell are they going to catch him” – we get snippets of the killer’s planning and motivation and from there see how our team are doing.We also have Paula and a parenting problem, my very favourite character outside of Carol and Tony (that would be Stacy Chen) doing lots of fascinating technical stuff and a sharp learning curve for the relationship between our main pair.

One thing I love about this series is the truly authentic sense that is brought to the procedural elements. It is never one thing that solves the case but more a myriad of things and often pure chance – in Insidious Intent it is going to take the talent of every single investigator to get them even within miles. So the story plays out, whilst at the heart of it a moral dilemma for our dynamic duo, in conjunction with a killer of a character (literally and figuratively), builds and builds to a crescendo of a resolution, one that had me genuinely with several paper cuts as I flung page after page over to find out if they would get him. Will they? Well you know what you have to do….

It is the personal touch that makes these books work so well – you feel like you are reading about real people, over the years Val McDermid has created a family. They are the readers family as much as they are hers and each others – therefore now, and for a few books before it at least, you feel every jolt, you devour every heart stopping moment, you live and die with what is happening now in the chapter you are reading. It is clever, involving, brilliantly emotional writing that also encompasses a lot of thought provoking real life issues  – in Insidious Intent yes, but also in every novel written, even those not featuring Carol and Tony – so you are entertained, challenged in your thinking and ultimately hugely satisfied if not a little wrung out. Definitely a little wrung out.

Insidious Intent well, it is just all the brilliant. All the brilliant. I don’t think there’s anything else I can say.

Well, except I’m never eating a sourdough loaf again without taking huge precautionary measures…

What? Well you know what you need to do…

Pure Class.

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Gnomon Nick Harkaway.

Publication Date: 2nd November from William Heinemann

Source: Netgalley

Gnomon, which took Harkaway more than three years to complete, is set in a world of ubiquitous surveillance. Pitched as “a mind-bending Borgesian puzzle box of identity, meaning and reality in which the solution steps sideways as you approach it”, it features: a detective who finds herself investigating the very society she believes in, urged on by a suspect who may be an assassin or an ally, hunting through the dreams of a torture victim in search of the key to something she does not yet understand; a banker who is pursued by a shark that swallows Fortune 500 companies; Saint Augustine’s jilted mistress who reshapes the world with miracles; a refugee grandfather turned games designer who must remember how to walk through walls or be burned alive by fascists; and a sociopath who falls backwards through time in order to commit a murder.

Gnomon is actually a novel that defies description for all the right reasons, it is an epic, an ultimately rewarding read with so many layers inside the layers under the levels that hide the realities that your head will spin and you’ll come out of it feeling dazed and probably weirdly wired. Or maybe that is just me. We’ll see I guess…

The use of language is purely beautiful, a smorgasbord of differing voices all linked to the main bulk of the narrative through the eyes of the Inspector. Probably. But anyway – the point is, this is literary if you take it in the popularly defined way, as such it might not be for everybody and indeed may challenge you in ways I also can’t describe – but in the end you know not one word was wasted.

I feel I should try and explain a little about the plot but the blurb does that in some ways (but not at all in others) and I’m not sure that if I focus on any one element that I wouldn’t pick the wrong one to focus on. Peripherally it is about the investigation of an interrogation that has gone awry, in a UK run by “the System” that sees all and therefore by the people rather than a government, this is seen by most within that system as a genuine  Utopia. I guess the main theme explored is whether such a thing is even possible, human nature being what it is. That is the simplest way of saying what I saw there but the next reader may well turn around and say “what the heck are you on, its not about that at all”

Now I’ve read back the above it probably isn’t about that….

ANYWAY there you go. Nick Harkaway has created a story that can be wildly interpretive or I suppose if you must, dissected bit by bit until you come to some thoughts about what the author intended – but I don’t think it matters what the author intended (sorry Mr Harkaway) but more matters whether or not you love it and get something from it under the guise of your own personality. I loved it but you can’t ask me why because I don’t really know and probably never will know. I do know that I will read it again in the future, first page to last, with the knowledge of the ending and it will be a completely different novel to the one that I have just read.

Basically I feel like I have just been swallowed by a shark.

Gnomon spoke to me in it’s final denouement but what it said I will never tell -because it’s going to tell you something different and I wouldn’t want to be called a liar – also because that is its reward for sticking with it, through the craziness and the sense of it as you absorb all those beautiful words and turn them into a whole.

Intelligent, driven, for me summed up in that blurb sentence that reads “a solution that steps sideways as  you approach it” Gnomon is challenging, wonderful, descriptively fascinating, unrelentingly clever and in the end worth every moment of your time. A grand sprawling epic of indescribable proportions.

What can I say? Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: The Innocents Ace Atkins.

Publication Date: Available Now from Corsair

Source: Review Copy

She was just 17, a high school dropout named Milly Jones, found walking down the middle of the highway, engulfed in flames. Even in a tough Mississippi county like Tibbehah, it shatters the community, and it is up to Sheriff Quinn Colson, back on the job after a year away, and his deputy Lillie Virgil, to investigate what happened, and why. Before long, however, accusations start to fly; national media and federal authorities descend; and what seemed like a senseless act of violence begins to appear like something even more disturbing – with more victims waiting in the shadows.

The Innocents, apparently, is Quinn Colson 6 – it is the first one I have read and has immediately sent me rushing towards the back catalogue -Quinn as a character immediately engaged me, this one set in Tibbehah, Mississippi it also had that small town southern noir feel that I have loved muchly in other novels.

Actually Quinn is not  Sheriff in this novel – that falls to Lillie Virgil, a strong female role offset with another strong female roll in “Miss Hathcock” playing the good v bad roles and everything in between – the ongoing verbal battles between these two being one of the highlights of the read for me. Quinn is a returning character, back from overseas, not looking to reinstate himself into the police until a tragedy occurs that sets the whole town reeling and plenty of accusations flying, so he finds himself lured back into the mire.

The setting is so beautifully described that you could almost feel like you lived there yourself. I didn’t feel discombobulated by the fact that I had not read previous novels – I just got pulled right into it and everything that needed explaining was explained through subtle nuances of conversation and remembrance.

The characters are diverse, eclectic, often very quirky and the community dynamic is divisive and entirely fascinating. The crime itself doesn’t happen until well into the story – by then you have a real feel for this place and these people, enough that you feel you can make some genuinely good guesses as to the final resolution. Cleverly plotted and ultimately somewhat unexpected, Ace Atkins digs deep into the prejudices, realities and often criminal existence of this populace with a wonderfully vivid and distinctive prose.

Yep I think I’m a fan. And hey look I have 5 other books to add to my never ending and ever growing to be read pile. I’d say that’s a good day.

Highly Recommended.

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Getting to Know You with Amanda McKinney

Today I am very  happy to welcome Amanda McKinney, author of The Woods, to talk a bit about herself and her latest book.

Tell us a little about your current novel, what readers can expect from it.

Readers can expect a suspenseful, page-turner! The Woods is a fast-paced read about murder, mystery, sex and seduction and offers the entanglement of Crime Fiction, Romance and Mystery. It’s a story about two strangers—Archaeologist Katie Somers and FBI trainee Jake Thomas—who find themselves thrown into a serial killers path, which unleashes a series of unexpected events, including a sizzling attraction to each other.

Where did you grow up and what was family life like?

I was born and raised in the small, southern town of Berryville, Arkansas. I grew up playing in the woods, shooting BB Guns and reading, of course. My family life was the best a gal could ask for—a wonderful dad, a brother who I still look up to, and an unbreakable bond with my mom, who is also my best friend.

Academic or creative at school?

Definitely creative. Math, Chemistry? Forget about it.

First job you *really* wanted to do?

A marine biologist or a veterinarian. I love dogs more than people. Seriously.

Do you remember the moment you first wanted to write?

My life had recently taken a pivot; I’d quit work to become a stay-at-home mom and didn’t realize what a personal and mental transition it was going to be. I knew pretty quickly that I needed to find something for myself, that I considered a job at least, or I was going to go nuts. I’d just finished a Nora Roberts book (during kids naptime), set it down, and said out loud, “I’m going to write a book.” And, thank God I did because I truly found my passion. I absolutely love crafting stories and creating characters. I go to sleep thinking about the current story that I’m working on, and wake up thinking about it. It’s the only thing where I can truly escape from everything around me . . . which every mommy needs! Hell, every woman needs!

Who are your real life heroes?

My mom. Hands down. Strongest human I’ll ever know.

DIY expert or phone a friend?

Phone my husband. He can fix anything.

Sun worshipper or night owl?

No night owl here, I love getting up before the sun. I’ve always been an early riser.

One piece of life advice you give everyone

Believe in yourself. Always.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Laura Griffin, Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, Lisa Gardner, Lisa Jackson, just to name a few.

About the Book:

A year after her sister’s death, Archeologist and part-time neurotic, Dr. Katie Somers returns to the sleepy, southern town of Berry Springs to sell her childhood home. She’d planned to be in and out in less than a week, but a chance meeting with a handsome stranger turns her perfectly crafted world upside down. 

Army Ranger Jake Thomas only has one shot at a position with the FBI, even if that means concealing his true identity from those closest to him. As he tries to focus on the mission at hand, Berry Springs is rocked by two gruesome murders and it isn’t long before he and Katie become entangled in the killer’s web, while becoming suspects themselves by the prickly Chief of Police, David McCord. 

As their attraction begins to sizzle, so does the danger when Katie stumbles onto new details about her sister’s death, leading her down a dangerous path. 

A path she should’ve never stepped onto… 

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If You Knew Her Emily Elgar – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Sphere

Source: Review Copy

The perfect life?
Or the perfect lie . . .

When Cassie Jensen arrives on the intensive care ward in St Catherine’s hospital, Alice Marlowe the chief nurse, is fascinated by this young, beautiful woman who strikes her as familiar and yet she doesn’t know why. But then Alice is astonished to discover something about Cassie that she has been keeping secret from everyone, including her devoted husband and family; a secret that changes everything.

Frank is a patient on the same ward who has locked-in-syndrome, so can hear and see everything around him but cannot communicate. Soon he comes to understand that Cassie’s life is still in danger and as the police continue to investigate what really happened to Cassie, only Frank holds the truth, which no one can know and he cannot tell . . .

If You Knew Her is a tense and addictive psychological thriller with 3 separate, unique and absorbing voices.

We see Cassie, in a coma, her life in retrospect as we lead to the moment of disaster, Frank, a patient who is more aware than the medical team believe and Alice, chief nurse who has an emotional connection to Cassie and is concerned for her occasionally to the point of obsession.

Emily Elgar cleverly weaves and interlocks the three separate strands of this story often in an emotionally resonant way – especially in regards to Alice – the mystery elements are intriguing and several unexpected things happened during the course of the read which is a big plus for me. What I really liked about it was the lack of police points of view – the police are seen rarely and “off camera” so to speak – this is all about these three lives that have intersected at a difficult time for all of them.

Frank was probably the character I related to the most. I’ve read a couple of books this year that involve “coma” patients and I find that incredibly fascinating – Frank’s voice is, to my mind, the strongest of the three and he in a lot of ways is our external narrator.

I would say this is more character drama than psychological thriller – whilst there is that element, was Cassie’s accident actually a deliberate act, is she still in danger – there are not that many resolutions available to that question therefore the focus is very much on the thoughts and feelings of those caught up in the wake. The ending is beautifully done and leaves a strong sense of melancholy with the reader ensuring that this one will stay with you.

Overall a really compelling read.

Recommended.

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Latest Reads: The Fate of the Tearling Erika Johansen

Publication Date: Available Now from Bantam

Source: Review Copy

In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has transformed from a gawky teenager into a powerful monarch.

As she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, the headstrong, visionary leader has also transformed her realm. In her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies – including the evil Red Queen, her fiercest rival, who has set her armies against the Tear.

To protect her people from a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable – she surrendered herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy, and named the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign from her prison in Mortmesne.

Now the endgame begins and the fate of Queen Kelsea – and the Tearling itself – will finally be revealed . . 

Well my word, this finale to the trilogy will cause some screaming waves of angst I’m sure – born out by the love hate relationship I see in the reviews for that final resolution.

I didn’t like it either. In fact I wasn’t fond of the ending from the point that Kelsea makes that decision at that time – obfuscated enough that people who have read it will know what I mean and I don’t have to spoil it for others – right up to the final lines.

But you have given it 5 stars I hear you cry. Yes. For two reasons – firstly, most of the novel was bang on brilliant for me, I hung off every word, I cried out at every action, I sobbed relatively often at stuff I didn’t know why I was sobbing about – and despite then feeling ambiguous towards how the author finished things off I allow that –  if you think back over all you have read – she set us up for exactly that finale from the moment we met Lily in book 2.

The fate of our beloved characters was never set in stone. The complex and eternally drifting story has had many beautiful layers. The history was imaginatively spread out before us within an ever changing landscape. Kelsea, the reluctant Queen, the girl who became a woman before our eyes – throughout the trilogy had one, seemingly inescapable fate. She will be the saviour of the Tearling no matter the personal cost.

Well is she? That is the question. And for those of us who have read that finale it’s a question that will probably keep us up on the odd night or two as we consider in full The Fate of the Tearling. To me that is worth those 5* and then a few more.

The writing is superb. It is really superb. The multiple character arc’s, the historical yin and the modern yang, the allegorical realities set into the moral choices of a Queen facing disaster on all sides. Good v Evil, no prisoner’s taken prose, incredibly emotionally resonant battles both of wit and sword – all the way through Erika Johansen has entertained, educated, consumed and engaged us. Sure, some will feel she fell at the final hurdle, but I don’t believe she did. Personal preferences aside on who ended up where and the ultimate cost to Kelsea, Mace, Row, The Fetch, oh all of them all of those lively, vivid and hugely divisive characters, in the end the story comes full circle. Kelsea fought. Whether she won or not well…

I loved it. All of it. Yes ok I suppose even that horror fueled intricately fought for final resolution. The Tearling Trilogy has been dazzling, mixing up the genre’s with an almost gleeful disregard for those booksellers (I’m sure it will end up in YA Fantasy but I’m not convinced it belongs there) and with a truly edgy and captivating writing style that sucks you in then spits you out a slightly different person.

I feel a bit giddy.

Highly Recommended.

Purchase The Fate of the Tearling

Purchase The Invasion of the Tearling

Purchase The Queen of the Tearling

Happy Reading!

 

Spoonbenders – An Interview with Daryl Gregory

Today I am very happy to have a chat to Daryl Gregory, author of the amazing Spoonbenders – one of the best books I’ve read this year. When asking the questions I was only partway through but I was already immersed into the world of the Telemachus family. You should go meet them too. Short sharp review after the short sharp interview…

Incidentally I also recommend you try “We Are All Completely Fine” which was one of my stand out reads of 2014…

So at the point I’m writing these questions I’m about half way through the book and I’m loving every single minute of it – definitely going to be one of my books of the year – so perhaps you could tell me just a little about the family you created here and where the inspiration for them came from. I always love to hear about the inspirations!

Thanks for the kind words! I hope you dig the rest.

As you know from the opening chapters, the book is about the “Amazing Telemachus Family”—at least, that was their showbiz name when they travelled the country in the 1970s performing psychic feats. Teddy Telemachus, the patriarch of the family, is just a conman and a cardsharp, but his wife Maureen is a genuine clairvoyant. The kids have their own powers. The eldest, Irene, is the human lie detector; Frankie can move objects with his mind (except when he’s nervous); and Buddy can see the future.

But in 1995, twenty years after Maureen’s death, the family is in disarray. Frankie’s in debt to the mob, old CIA agents are sniffing around, and all of them are struggling to find love. The book opens when fourteen-year-old Matty, Irene’s son, accidentally has an out-of-body experience, which raises the possibility that the Telemachus family might be amazing again.

My inspiration came from, as always, books and life. I love the sprawling family stories of John Irving, such as The Hotel New Hampshire, and John Crowley’s magical family in Little, Big. But I was also thinking of my friends’ families in Chicago. My family was quiet and boring, but I’d have sleepovers at my friends’ houses, and there would be yelling and loud laughter and slamming of doors—so much drama! I was jealous. This book was my way of getting into one of those families.

I am currently especially taken with Matty – who is undergoing something of a revelatory experience about his relatives whilst dealing with his own sudden awakening – despite the more fantastical elements of Spoonbenders, it is also a realistically portrayed family drama. How hard was it to walk that line?

I love psychological realism in the face of surrealism. When far-fetched things are happening—Matty moving outside his body, say, or his Uncle Buddy glimpsing a doom-filled future—it’s doubly important for the characters to behave as real people would. The heart of the story has to be true, and there can be no genre shortcuts—characters acting a certain way because they somehow know what kind of story they’re in. If readers don’t believe in your characters, they won’t follow them when the going gets weird.

Who is YOUR favourite Telemachus and which character caused you grief during the writing (I know there is always one!)

You’re not supposed to love one of your children more than the others! My job was to fall in love with each member of the family, and to write each of them as if they were the hero of the story (because of course they are the heroes of their own stories). I love Teddy’s charm and nostalgia for the past, Irene’s yearning for love, Matty’s anxiety, and Buddy’s fortitude despite his broken heart. Each family member gets to tell their story—the point of view rotates through them—and I had to find each of their voices.

Buddy’s voice was the most difficult to find, until I realized that because he’s a bit lost in time—he remembers the future as well as the past, and every day it’s a struggle to locate the “now” in the timestream—then of course he would speak always in present tense. It’s always now. Once I realized that, I could hear him clearly.

I do have to admit that Frankie was my favorite to write, because he’s the most desperate member of the family, yearning for the big score, and wildly compensating with a grandiose presentation. In short, he’s the funniest. His rambling, self-justifying monologues (with Matty as his captive audience) were some of my favorite passages to write. He loves his family, and is desperate to win their approval, but he keeps getting in his own way.

Finally, a question I ask everyone – do you have a book you have read this year that you’d like to recommend to everyone?

The most enjoyable book I read this year was Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff. It’s another multigenerational family story (I’m a sucker for those, obviously), about a Black family in 1950s America. They’re smart, talented, and magically gifted, but the supernatural horrors they fight are not as scary as the racist cops and oppressive culture of Jim Crow America. It’s thrilling, fun, and moving.

Thanks so much! 

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory is out now and published by Riverrun

About the Book: 

The Telemachus family is known for performing inexplicable feats on talk shows and late-night television. Teddy, a master conman, heads up a clan who possess gifts he only fakes: there’s Maureen, who can astral project; Irene, the human lie detector; Frankie, gifted with telekinesis; and Buddy, the clairvoyant. But when, one night, the magic fails to materialize, the family withdraws to Chicago where they live in shame for years. Until: As they find themselves facing a troika of threats (CIA, mafia, unrelenting skeptic), Matty, grandson of the family patriarch, discovers a bit of the old Telemachus magic in himself. Now, they must put past obstacles behind them and unite like never before. But will it be enough to bring The Amazing Telemachus Family back to its amazing life?

Spoonbenders is a miraculously readable speculative family drama featuring the Amazing Telemachus family – who are all actually amazing but not for the obvious reasons – this is a novel you sink into. It is strongly character lead with some beautiful plotting and a huge addictive quality as we go from one family member to the next, discovering their story and that of those around them.

Entirely entertaining and eccentrically intricate, this is a quirky, non conformist, rush of a literary read that as a reader you engage with entirely – using flashbacks to flesh out the history and their current status to show you where that history took them, putting a beautifully placed little twist on the end, this is storytelling at its best. Covering generations, a sprawling joy of a read first page to last, I am in love with this book and with this family.

Highly Recommended.

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Killer Women Killer Weekend – October 2017

Today I have all the information you could possibly need if you want to join the Killer Women Killer Weekend 10am-6pm, 28 & 29 October 2017 and gain huge insight into the craft of crime fiction.

The event will be held at Browns Courtrooms, Covent Garden, London WC2

Will you write the next crime bestseller?

***

Learn the art & craft of crime fiction from bestselling authors incl: Rachel Abbott, Mark Billingham, Erin Kelly, Mick Herron, Stuart MacBride, Sarah Pinborough, Cally Taylor

Pitch your idea to senior commissioning editors and agents incl: HarperCollins, Orion, Penguin Random House, Headline

· Masterclasses on thrillers, procedurals, author as brand, self publishing and more

· Insider tips from top writers, editors and agents

· Craft workshops on suspense, character, plotting and more

· One-to-one research sessions with experts

Information on the full programme can be found HERE

Get in early! Book your weekend ticket at the special early bird price of £260* by joining the Killer Women Club (for free) here. (You will receive  an exclusive secret link to the early bird ticketing page.)

*Tickets go on general release 1 September. Weekend tickets will be £275

Don’t miss it!

Latest Reads: Western Fringes – Amer Anwar

A SIKH GIRL ON THE RUN. A MUSLIM EX-CON WHO HAS TO FIND HER. A WHOLE HEAP OF TROUBLE. 
Southall, West London. 
Recently released from prison, Zaq Khan is lucky to land a dead-end job at a builders’ yard. All he wants to do is keep his head down and put his past behind him. 
But when he has to search for his boss’s runaway daughter it quickly becomes apparent he’s not simply dealing with family arguments and arranged marriages as he finds himself caught up in a deadly web of deception, murder and revenge. 
With time running out and pressure mounting, can he find the missing girl before it’s too late? And if he does, can he keep her – and himself – alive long enough to deal with the people who want them both dead? 

I bloody loved this!

What I have to say more? Well ok then but you asked for it.

Western Fringes is the most fun (??!!??) I’ve had with a book in ages, a dark, violently (ironically)  funny novel with a hugely distinct British Asian flavour, some immediately lovable (and the opposite!) characters, a story that just sends you reeling all over Southall and wider London, set within a vibrant community that just comes alive on the page.

Zaq Khan has served his time and just wants to keep his head down – sadly for him his boss has other idea’s, threatening all sorts unless  Zaq tracks down his daughter. Assuming she has simply run away to avoid an arranged marriage he soon finds that there is a lot more going on than that – and blimey is he going to have to think fast and often to extricate himself and probably everyone else from a situation that gets more dangerous by the second.

The pace is excellent with witty, sparking dialogue and a cleverly authentic descriptive sense that just immerses you into Zaq’s world and that of those around him. Often hilarious, but also occasionally grit your teeth violent, Western Fringes fairly rocks along, fascinating, frenetic, highly intriguing from the opening pages until the very last line – there is not one even vaguely negative thing I can say about it.

I lived those relationships – the friendship between Zaq and his housemates, even more so the one with his mate Jags just lit up in my mind, I defy you not to fall in love with all of them. I was also delighted with the “damsel in distress” vibe where the damsel was less distressed and more intelligently sneaky – she may be in a world of trouble but that doesn’t mean she needs a knight in shining armour. The bad guys are so realistically bad, the good guys are not angels, it is all so very brilliantly readable.

I was highly impressed with how Amer Anwar walks the cultural line – showing us a diverse and dynamic community where no matter what your background or your influences,  in the end people are just people, some nice, some nasty, but just human beings – inventively educational the hugely character driven plot tells it like it is, no punches pulled and so extraordinarily gripping that I found myself quite literally gripping the book at times – then finding it  hard to put down.

The storytelling is truly exceptional  and I have to give a nod to the final few chapters which read a little like a heist movie as all the threads come together, our motley crew face the music and we all hold our breath to see who wins out in the end. Genuinely I think the person I had the most sympathy for at that point was poor old Dad…

So yeah, what can I say….

I bloody loved this! Hmm.

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Latest Reads: A Twist of the Knife Becky Masterman

Publication Date: Available Now from W&N

Source: Review Copy

It takes a strong woman to be able to watch someone die.

Brigid Quinn is tough, determined, steely and sharper than sharp. As an ex-agent of the FBI she has seen it all, and survived. But nothing can cut her closer to the bone than family…

When Brigid gets a call from her mother saying her father is in hospital with pneumonia, she decides to check on her former colleague Laura Coleman who is living nearby. Having saved Brigid’s life, Laura is now working on an ‘innocence project’, investigating cold cases. And one in particular seems to have caught her attention. Fifteen years before, Marcus Creighton was accused of killing his wife and three children. Now the state governor has signed the warrant for his execution.

Worried that her friend is getting in too deep, Brigid promises to help. But what if her instincts are betraying her? If she can’t even trust her memories of her own childhood, how can she make a call on some stranger’s story that took place over fifteen years before?

A Twist of the Knife is the third novel featuring Brigid Quinn and honestly for me this series just gets better and better – Brigid is probably the most diverse female lead in crime fiction right now – older, wiser in some things yet none the wiser in others, driven and often haunted but determined and following her own moral guidelines. She is entirely engaging, her thoughts and actions leap off the page pulling you along with her through some difficult and often thought provoking cases.

In this story she is  worried about an ex colleague and friend of hers – they had faced previously a dangerous and life threatening situation together – now Laura is caught up in the case of a man on death row and may be way too involved for her own good. Brigid wades in and what follows is a highly addictive and intriguing read that asks a lot of questions of the reader and of Brigid. Often edge of the seat, with many emotional layers, you get sucked into this battle to save a possibly innocent man.

I love how Becky Masterman changes things up with each of her stories featuring Brigid – drip feeding us pieces of her personality and previous history – showing you all her sides and edges – at the same time always providing taut plotting and invariably twisted mystery elements. There are brilliantly placed psychological insights within each story and at the end of each one I always want more. Brigid’s relationships with family, friends, close loved ones are cleverly described and endlessly fascinating, the cases she investigates are dark and twisted, overall this series provides everything you might want from a crime novel and therefore they come highly recommended by me.

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