Latest Reads: The Girl in the Fog Donato Carrisi

Publication Date: 2nd Nov 2017 from Abacus

Source: Review Copy

Sixty-two days after the disappearance . . .

A man is arrested after a road accident in the small town of Avechot. His shirt is covered in blood. Could this have anything to do with a missing girl called Anna Lou? Detective Vogel is on the case, but his unconventional means of investigation end up unsettling the locals.

Also looming over Vogel is a case from his past that nearly destroyed his career. Determined not to lose again, he will do anything to solve the mystery surrounding Anna Lou’s disappearance. Then, a media storm hits the quiet town and Vogel is sure that the suspect will be flushed out. Yet the clues are confusing, perhaps false, and following them may be a far cry from discovering the truth at the heart of a dark town. 

The Girl in the Fog was a twisted tale indeed, with a main protagonist who divided my opinion throughout the read and the resolution of which kept me guessing for the majority of the narrative.

It is very atmospheric, the small town setting is well described and claustrophobic, a girl who disappears, an investigator working to his own agenda and a supporting cast of characters all of whom are, well, slightly weird.

I loved the way the book was plotted, going around the date of the disappearance, sometimes a little after, sometimes much later then finally just before when the truth was revealed – but there is more than one thing here to discover and all in all it was a bit of a page turner. A lot of the read was actually very disturbing, the writing cleverly immersive and very consuming – top notch character building and setting made this a very good read indeed.


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Latest Reads: Keep You Safe. Melissa Hill

Publication Date: Available Now from HQ

Source: Review Copy

Single mom Kate O’Donnell is living her worst nightmare. Her young daughter, Clara, who has a medical condition that doesn’t allow her to be vaccinated, becomes critically ill when one of her classmates, Lauren-whose family chose not to vaccinate-contracts and spreads the virus. While Lauren has no trouble recovering from the disease, Clara’s condition worsens. With time spent by her daughter’s bedside, Kate loses her job and slides deeper into medical debt. But when another school parent points the blame at Lauren’s mother, Lucy, and the media begins an attack, we see two very different views on parenting and how badly things can spin out of control when all either of these two women wanted was to keep their daughters safe.

In “Keep You Safe” Melissa Hill takes on the vaccination debate in a fictional setting and the whole thing was utterly gripping, thought provoking and ultimately made it difficult to absolutely come down on one side or the other.

Two children, opted out of the vaccination programme. One for very very understandable medical reasons – there is a very real chance a jab could kill her. The other for very different reasons, a stance taken by parents afraid of possible side effects. Both girls become ill – one mildly, one severely. The Herd Immunity that should have protected Clara, with her lack of any real choice, failed but is it a failure of science or parenting?

It’s an intelligently told take on a  provocative subject that Melissa Hill makes very human –  by exploring the fallout for both mothers, adding in takes from other parents watching on and throwing in the hive mind that is social media, she creates a very strong emotional core to both character and consequence that will have you completely enthralled.

I read it in one sitting – so immersed was I in this community, small and supportive, an issue like this that goes viral, everyone has an opinion, sides are taken, lines drawn in the sand – through this two very different mothers, living with very different circumstances, have to cope and manage an untenable situation. The writing is beautiful, the characters vivid and real, the subject matter extremely important and the author never loses sight of the most important aspect here – that of the children and keeping them safe.

This is a novel that will affect each reader differently – I’m a strong advocate of vaccinations – but by the end of this book I at least understood the motivation and the reasoning behind the decision to opt out that wasn’t driven by a medical allergy – I still did not agree with it but I could see it. I was impressed with how the author made the argument for both sides with such emotional clarity, taking the reader through a myriad of feelings and regrets, whilst also making the scientific aspects easily understandable.

Overall Keep You Safe is a novel that will stay with me. In the end as parents we can only do the best that we can – this story will keep you thinking and the ultimate resolution is cleverly placed to make you do just that.

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Strange Weather Joe Hill

Publication Date: 7th November from Gollancz

Source: Netgalley

Four short novels from the author of THE FIREMAN and HORNS, ranging from creepy horror to powerful explorations of our modern society.

A quite simply brilliant collection of stories here from the pen of Joe Hill – peripherally linked by the “Strange Weather” of the title, we get four very different, utterly compelling, some downright scary tales, all beautifully written and all filled with a slow burn tension that really puts you right on edge.

In “Snapshot” we meet a terrifying construct and the young lad who faces down his demons during one heck of a storm – one I think fans of “Stranger Things” will most definitely adore, this was the closest in style to his famous father but with Joe Hill’s indomitably unique character growth. All delivered in a shorter, more concise short that I would also say was the story that perhaps stood apart from the rest in that loose connectivity. If you’ve ever had a relative with a certain illness that I won’t disclose so no spoilers you’ll get an emotional tug on the heartstrings along with a great big scare. I read this then slept with the lights on and that’s not even an exaggeration.

Then we get “Loaded” – a more apt title I have never seen, here there be guns, an allegorical and truly thought provoking story where you can see what is coming but are helpless to stop it – for some reason this one made me cry actual tears and the ending is one that will linger in your mind for hours, nay days afterwards. Cleverly insightful writing, understanding exactly how to push the readers buttons and make them consider things outside of themselves Loaded is probably the stand out in this collection.

Possibly to give us a slight break from the huge book trauma, next up is “Aloft” heading into the arena of fantasy in lots of ways wherein one man’s skydiving experience turns into something very different. I loved this one for its quirky styling and for it’s main protagonist who was engaging and fun to live with for a while, especially given his rather unusual circumstances for the majority of the telling.

Last but by no means least is “Rain” – although this rain is no type of rain you would like to be caught out in – the final story (I’m reading the UK edition I don’t know if these will be in the same order everywhere but for me this order worked so brilliantly) takes us down an apocalyptic path but with certain differences, for me a perfect finale because it’s like you’ve come full circle back to the type of thing you now expect and need from Joe Hill – characters thrown into an untenable situation and how they react and respond – with a hint of horror and a lot of human nature.

All in all a simply fabulous set of stories. I took different things from all of them, every one a perfect little gem – all are long enough to be fully fleshed out but short enough to read in an afternoon, I definitely won’t be the only reader coming out of this one hoping that we see, in the future, lots more short collections from this author over the years – as well, of course, as a whole lot more of his epics. A perfect introduction to the writing if you haven’t read him before and an utter delight for those who are already constant readers.

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Shadow Man Margaret Kirk.

Publication Date: 2nd November from Orion

Source: Review Copy

Two brutal killings rock Inverness, and bring ex-Met Detective Inspector Lukas Mahler the biggest challenge of his career…

The body of the queen of daytime TV, Morven Murray is discovered by her sister, Anna, on the morning of her wedding day. But does Anna know more about the murder than she’s letting on?

Police informant Kevin Ramsay’s murder looks like a gangland-style execution. But what could he have stumbled into that was dangerous enough to get him violently killed?

Mahler has only a couple of weeks to solve both cases while dealing with his mother’s fragile mental health. But caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse, is ex-Met DI Lukas Mahler hunting one killer, or two?

Well written and intriguing debut here from Margaret Kirk  – set in Inverness, one of the main strengths of this novel is that setting and putting it firmly into the minds of the reader, using the character driven narrative to keep things engaging.

Mahler is a police detective I got right on board with. Challenged in some but not all of the usual ways, he is a little like a fish out of water, dealing with two murders and a mother who is mentally unstable. The mystery elements are strongly atmospheric, with a few little twists and turns along the way – the supporting cast all come with their own little foibles and overall this was an extremely steady and confident start to a new police procedural series.

The ending works well both as a conclusion and a continuation, there are some characters other than Mahler that I’m hoping to meet again in book two – I have no problem recommending this and I will absolutely look forward to the next story and revisiting Inverness once more.

Smart and compelling, top notch crime fiction.

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Latest Reads: Anything You Do Say Gillian McAllister

Publication Date: Available Now from Penguin

Source: Review Copy

Joanna is an avoider. So far she has spent her adult life hiding bank statements and changing career aspirations weekly.

But then one night Joanna hears footsteps on the way home. Is she being followed? She is sure it’s him; the man from the bar who wouldn’t leave her alone. Hearing the steps speed up Joanna turns and pushes with all of her might, sending her pursuer tumbling down the steps and lying motionless on the floor.

Now Joanna has to do the thing she hates most – make a decision. Fight or flight? Truth or lie? Right or wrong.

What would you do?

A momentary, impulsive, split second decision and suddenly you have your life and that of another teetering on the edge of the next move you make…

“Anything You Do Say” is a dual narrative, incredibly thought provoking character drama, peppered with realistically flawed people and a moral dilemma at the heart of it that may keep you up at night. Gillian Mcallister pulls no punches with either of the possible outcomes, laying it out for the reader, paring back her characters personalities, decisions, defining moments and taking you down the rabbit hole with Jo into separating possible futures, neither of which necessarily grants absolution.

I do love a book that keeps you feeling edgy and unsure – as both possible realities play out and Jo in either one faces emotional and practical issues that would pressure the most sensible personality – you are waiting for that one defining moment that decides her fate but as in real life a lot of consequences are unpredictable. Jo’s husband was a character that I got randomly snarly about which again is something I love, I had a distinct urge to kick him in the shins in both scenario’s and Jo herself is not entirely likable but she is entirely real.

This novel is clever – just that – in the way it plays with your emotions and your moral judgments – the fact that nobody you meet here could be labelled “bad” but they are all very human with all the many layers that brings, the ending in both possibilities leaves you melancholy but thoughtful. Conceal. Reveal. What WOULD you do?

The world is not black and white.

Doing the wrong thing is not necessarily easy.

Doing the right thing doesn’t necessarily solve anything.

Fight or Flight. Right or Wrong. Make that choice…you only have moments…

An easy “Highly Recommended” tag from me. Entertaining, beautifully plotted, resonating – A moral question with no simple solution…

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Latest Reads: The Tethered Mage Melissa Caruso

Publication Date: 24th Oct from Orbit

Source: Review Copy

In the Raverran Empire, magic is scarce and those born with power are strictly controlled — taken as children and conscripted into the Falcon Army. 
Zaira has lived her life on the streets to avoid this fate, hiding her mage-mark and thieving to survive. But hers is a rare and dangerous magic, one that threatens the entire empire.

Lady Amalia Cornaro was never meant to be a Falconer. Heiress and scholar, she was born into a treacherous world of political machinations.

But fate has bound the heir and the mage. And as war looms on the horizon, a single spark could turn their city into a pyre.

Ooh good this one was. That was my attempt at Yoda again. I’m never any good at it but it’s always worth a try.

So The Tethered Mage is a political thriller. Kind of. I’m glad Theresa May doesn’t have access to falcons.

This book has magical mayhem and behind the scenes shenanigans, a brilliantly imagined world  and two girls bound to each other by fate and fury. Mostly on Zaira’s part the fury. Which is unfortunate as she possesses the ability to burn the world to the ground so a bit like the hulk you really don’t want to make her angry.

What I loved about this one was, well, all of it. Amalia is a beautifully drawn character, born into duty and expected to eventually do great things. Then she ends up becoming a Falconer  through sheer chance and is bound to Zaira, a fire warlock whose power is huge yet lacking in control. To say nobody is that happy about this would be an understatement but with Amalia’s calm intelligence and Zaira’s fast wit and street smarts (also hilarious bouts of sarcasm which keep you smiling) somehow they start building a relationship and trust. Very slowly. Considering there’s the strong possibility a war is about to start they might want to move that along a little…

Gosh I really don’t want to give anything away. The story is strongly character driven, but Melissa Caruso manages to make you see their world in vivid, colourful snapshots. The different empires (or wishful empires) the hierarchy and political landscape all built to perfection through the characters adventures. I loved all of them especially the wickedly dark Lord Ruthven, but what gave the book such huge heart were the relationships between the various people, some trying to start that war some trying to stop it – and especially the growing friendship between our two main protagonists.

The writing is sharp and often ironically funny, sometimes very powerful especially when all hell* (*translation: Zaira) is breaking loose and overall The Tethered Mage is a fantastically readable, incredibly addictive and intelligently plotted fantasy novel, the start of a series that I cannot WAIT to read more of – I loved it, complete and utter escapism of the very best kind. Roll on The Defiant Heir. Can I have it now please?

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Last Will – William McIntyre

Publication Date: November 16th from Sandstone Press

Source: Review Copy

Blood is thicker than water – but it’s not as hard as cash. The trial of Robbie Munro’s life: one month to prove he’s fit to be a father. No problem. Apart, that is, from the small matter of a double-murder in which Robbie’s landlord, Jake Turpie, is implicated. Psycho-Jake demands Robbie’s undivided attention and is prepared to throw money at the defence – along with some decidedly dodgy evidence. 

Robbie has a choice: look after his daughter or look after his client. Can the two be combined to give the best of both worlds? Robbie aims to find out, and his attempts lead him into the alien worlds of high fashion, drug-dealing and civil-litigation. It’s what being a father/lawyer is all about. Isn’t it?

I’m a HUGE fan of this series based on the last couple I’ve read so I was excited enough when I received this prequel through the door to pick it up straight away. Then I read it fast because seriously, these characters are SO engaging you just want to go and live with them…

In Last Will we are finding out how Robbie’s daughter came to live with him – it is funny, intelligent and realistic on the parenting front – at the same time he is embroiled with Jake, a murder and dealing with people’s “help” creating some hilarious situational moments as well as some edge of the seat ones…

What I love about the Best Defence series is the dynamic, edgy and immersive writing, the vividly drawn and full of life characters and the deft plotting that incorporates family drama, legal drama and thriller to an absolutely addictive degree. I love Robbie’s family (especially his ex-footballer brother), his staff (it was great to see Joanne in retrospect knowing what was coming later) and the authors ability to write a totally non annoying and brilliantly authentic child character really puts the icing on the cake.

The mystery element is also excellent – Robbie’s path to the truth is hilariously twisted and keeps the reader guessing. The dialogue sparks, the personal relationships built between our main protagonist and the supporting cast is hugely compelling and overall I really can’t recommend this highly enough.

Loved it. Loved loved. When can I have more?

That is all.


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Sleep No More P D James – Blog Tour Review

Publication Date: Available now from Faber

Source: review copy

As  six murderous tales unfold, the dark motive of revenge is revealed at the heart of each. Bullying schoolmasters receive their comeuppance, unhappy marriages and childhoods are avenged, a murder in the small hours of Christmas Day puts an end to the vicious new lord of the manor, and, from the safety of his nursing home, an octogenarian exerts exquisite retribution.

The punishments inflicted on the guilty are fittingly severe, but here they are meted out by the unseen forces of natural justice rather than the institutions of the law. Once again, P. D. James shows her expert control of the short-story form, conjuring motives and scenarios with complete conviction, and each with a satisfying twist in the tail

Oh I do love a good twisty tale me, of course P D James is the absolute queen of crime and all things dark and dastardly, so  I was MORE than keen to dig into these six short tales of the unexpected. I had a lovely (almost) week of one per evening with a cup of tea and possibly more than one chocolate biscuit..

Spicing things up with multi layered characters, cleverly imagined death scenario’s  and even more cleverly imagined  justice, each tale within this collection is immersive, beautifully written and often more than a little creepy. A natural storyteller, P D James messes with your perception of things and gives good book – my favourite of these was “The Girl who Loved Graveyards” with its gothic undertones and descriptive brilliance – but every story you find here is entirely excellent.

It’s always difficult to review short stories because it would be oh so easy to give things away – so I’m staying quiet and letting you discover these delights for yourselves. It is a dark delight to be sure but ever compelling and incredibly engaging.

Loved them all. For many different reasons.

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Bluebird Bluebird Attica Locke

Publication Date: Available now from Serpents Tail

Source: Netgalley

Southern fables usually go the other way around. A white woman is killed or harmed in some way, real or imagined, and then, like the moon follows the sun, a black man ends up dead.


But when it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules – a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger working the backwoods towns of Highway 59, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about his home state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home.


So when allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he is drawn to a case in the small town of Lark, where two dead bodies washed up in the bayou. First a black lawyer from Chicago and then, three days later, a local white woman, and it’s stirred up a hornet’s nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes – and save himself in the process – before Lark’s long-simmering racial fault lines erupt.

Bluebird Bluebird is a novel of true excellence,  in concept, execution, character and incredibly talented writing. It pulls you in from the very first page, tells truth however uncomfortable, leaves you thinking about it for a good few hours afterwards and is one of those books that defies definition.

The plot is complex, intelligent and disturbingly realistic – and described much better than I could do justice to in other reviews (this being my favourite) so I’ll stick to talking about the impact Bluebird Bluebird (taken from the John Lee Hooker song) had on me  –  that was one of quiet contemplation about the realities of life outside my little bubble of work, school runs, reading and an easy, fairly privileged upbringing.

I’m not sure I can get over how vastly emotional the descriptive, beautiful tone of this novel, telling a sad and unfortunately all too authentic story, makes you feel. Darren Matthews, black Texas ranger, facing a range of problems even aside from the causal racism, is a uniquely qualified character to drive the narrative – his experiences, determination, flaws, all form the heart of the story, which is both thriller and thought provoking drama within one vivid and genuine setting.

Attica Locke is an engaging, perceptive writer who immerses you into the world she is talking about with beautifully captivating prose, an unsettling sense of feeling and sparking dialogue – it is yes an entertaining read but also an educational one – oh how far we think we have come as humans but oh so far do we still have to go….

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Now We Are Dead Stuart MacBride

Publication Date: 2nd November from Harper Collins

Source; Review Copy

From the No. 1 bestselling author of the Logan McRae series, comes a standalone spinoff featuring DS Roberta Steel
Sergeant Roberta Steel has recently been demoted after being caught fitting up a suspect. The trouble is, the man she got sent down has had his sentence quashed now he’s back on the streets. And women are being attacked again. But if DS Steel goes anywhere near him his lawyers will get her thrown off the force for good.

The Powers That Be won’t listen to her not after what happened last time. Besides, she’s got more than enough ongoing cases to keep her busy perhaps she should focus on solving them instead of harassing an innocent man?

But Steel knows he’s guilty and the longer he gets away with it, the more women will suffer. The question is: how much is she willing to sacrifice to stop him?

Is there a single detective anywhere created in fiction who could outdo  Roberta Steel? No is what I say – she is (subjectively) the single most entertaining and cleverly written police protagonist on the block. All the blocks. In my humble opinion anyway – therefore a book from the uber talented Mr MacBride focusing on her was probably the biggest book treat I’ve had this year.

I rocketed through this like a grasshopper on acid, immediately compelling, laugh out loud funny, the dialogue crackles, the plot is both exciting and incredibly immersive, there is actually not a single downside to reading this book. Unless you count eating too much chocolate and being incapable of coherent thought on any other subject until you have finished it. I don’t count that because for me that is what books are supposed to do. Even the lack (apart from a cameo) of one of my other favourite fictional detectives Logan McCrae didn’t put a dent in my enjoyment of this one.

Poor Roberta, she’s been demoted for planting evidence – something that anyone who read the novel where that happened can sympathise with. Still now she’s sorting out stolen goods, dealing with violent loan sharks and still determined to bring down her nemesis  – unfortunately she’s under the spotlight, in danger of losing her job entirely – yeah right, like that is going to stop her. Throw into the mix the incredibly lovable DC Stuart Quirrel, whose attempts to keep up with Roberta and keep her under control create some of the best moments in Now We Are Dead and boy you have a read and a half on your hands. I just loved it. Loved loved loved. And my gosh that last little bit had me quite literally on the edge of my seat – brilliant brilliant finale that I’ll never forget. Just the icing on the top of the most delicious bookish cake.

I have to give a nod to the beautiful little hardback too  – the author’s introduction is fantastic and the end papers provide some hilarious and beautiful drawings which I considered taking pictures of to show y’all but in the end decided that it was best unwrapped like the best looking Christmas gift ever – and I can’t believe I just said the C word considering my hatred of all things festive season – but honestly perfect present material.

All the positive, none of the negative, a banging good read that will engulf you in madness but it is the best madness ever. Bring it on.

Highly Recommended.

Stuart MacBride will be appearing at First Monday Crime November – unmissable. Book your free place HERE.

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