Kill Me Twice Simon Booker – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Bonnier

Source: Review Copy

Karl Savage is dead.

He must be. His ex, Anjelica, is in prison for murdering him in an arson attack. Multiple forensic experts testified to finding his charred remains.

So when Anjelica begs investigative journalist Morgan Vine to prove her innocence, it seems an impossible task. It doesn’t matter that Karl was abusive. That Anjelica has a baby to care for. That she’s petrified of fire. The whole world knows Karl is dead.

Then he walks past Morgan’s window . . .

We are back with Morgan Vine again having met her once in “Without a Trace” – this time she is looking into the case of possibly wrongly convicted arsonist Anjelica in a story so twisted you may have to sit down for a while after finishing it.

I love when a crime thriller is fast paced and yet utterly character driven – Simon Booker writes with a kind of frenetic pacy style that keeps you turning the pages whilst still managing to convey a real sense of the characters he has created and revealing their many human layers. In “Kill Me Twice” he throws in a real corker of a mystery too, with dead men walking and several external distractions for Morgan to sort through, at the same time trying to save her daughter from herself and find her way forward in her personal life.

There is a genuinely clever and somewhat unexpected resolution, the plot is intelligently woven, you have to pay attention – whilst if I had one small bugbear it was that I wanted to kill Lissa with my bare hands and I’m not a violent person – Kill Me Twice is a riveting and brilliantly plotted bit of storytelling that may keep you up at night.

Recommended.

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Unforgivable Mike Thomas – Blog tour Interview and Review.

Today I’m very happy to welcome Mike Thomas, who rather rashly agreed to answer a few questions for me on Unforgivable and other things. A review follows as well (you should get this book it really is pretty darn good and available now!)

So let’s talk about Will MacReady. This is his second outing and you are no nicer to him this time than you were last time. Mean you crime writers are (that is my attempt at a bit of Yoda) So readers coming in have a bit of background – what was the inspiration behind Will and tell us a little bit about his journey before the beginning of Unforgivable.

Impressive Yoda, there. * channels Darth Vader* Most impressive. Where were we? Oh yes. Well first, the name – one of my fave horror films is John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’, with Kurt Russell’s protagonist MacReady. I always wanted to use the name as a nod to the movie. And I’ve had the MacReady character in my head since the 90s, when TFI Friday used to be on the gogglebox and Chris Evans’ producer sidekick was called Will – remember when they all used to point at him and say ‘Wiiiiiiiiiiillllllll’? That’s how Will MacReady was named. How daft is that? Anyway, MacReady is basically me when I joined the job: a tad naïve, wants to make the world better, is slightly gung-ho but his heart is in the right place. Give him a few years he’ll be cynical, overweight, have a completely shaved noggin and an addiction to XL kebabs (with coleslaw) while working night shifts – again, just like me. In the first novel, ‘Ash and Bones’, we see him get caught up in the murder of a colleague, while on the other side of the world some dodgy geezers are transporting orphan kids to the UK for reasons people will discover if they read the book. Oh, and Will – despite the macho job full of swagger and bullshit – is unable to father children, so his wife strikes up a rather awkward deal with MacReady’s violent, ex-convict brother. It all gets a bit messy. Again, like my life at one point, but we won’t go there…

You’ve managed to write a police procedural thriller – clever. Your background obviously gives you a great insight – I didn’t realise how many different departments cover so many different things – tell us a bit about you and then how you manage to make practicalities so interesting.

Thank you. I like being called clever. Much better than ‘big nose’. Anyroad, simple really, I was a police officer for over two decades and I worked in a lot of the departments that we read about in the novel. I used to spend a lot of time just observing, really. Soaking it all up. Paying attention to even the tiniest detail, even if it wasn’t my job to do so: the chemicals used to dust for latent prints, the layout of a drug lab and so on. I knew I wanted to write about the police, so it was a case of absorbing it all for later. There are so many departments in the job. Shifts, teams and squads everywhere. Some squads even have squads within the squad, plus a squad on the side, just in case, like. It used to make my head hurt. That’s one thing I notice about some UK-set crime novels – it’s often just the CID, or even a lone CID officer, dealing with an investigation, kind of mooching about, taking his or her time and even taking a couple of days off for Christmas. Agh, that never, ever happens. Anything like a serious assault or worse will have all manner of departments dealing, from CID to major crime to CSI and beyond. It’s a huge team effort. And time is everything. There’s always, always a sense that things are getting away from you, that it’s all going too fast. That’s one thing I try to convey in the books. That crazy breathlessness of the real job.

In “Unforgivable” you are taking on a very socially relevant theme, that of terrorism and how it affects us and how the police respond to such things – what made you want to write about that and how difficult do you think it is for the Police to do their job given the utter unpredictability of these things.

I’d love to say I predicted how mad the world would be at the moment, that the novel is wonderfully prescient and all that, but it was just a huge coincidence. I started writing it in 2015, before horrors like Paris and the Bataclan, and even gave up on it twice as I thought it was too far-fetched. How wrong I was. See, not so clever now, am I? But the subject matter: with all the novels I want to steer clear of the ‘weird dude stalks attractive woman then locks her in a basement and tortures her’ trope, it’s been done to death and bores me, frankly. The first featured child trafficking and worse, ‘Unforgivable’ focuses on disenfranchisement, and how some people do terrible things to those they feel have wronged or marginalised them. As for the police dealing with terrorism – it’s incredibly difficult, as you can imagine. In terms of numbers, the police and security services simply don’t have the staff to cover all the bases. There’s a saying: ‘the police have to be right all of the time. The terrorist only has to be right once.’ And there’s the issue of privacy too – it’s a balance between protecting the public and letting people have the freedom to do as they please. Tricky stuff.

The last question was relatively deep so to offset that apparently I’m supposed to ask you something really technical about a police thingamabob – thanks Christine – so answer me this. If I come home and find thieves have been in and stolen all my books, but there is no sign of a break in who should I call?

Another thingamabob! Phew. Okay, first: what bastards steal someone’s books? Second: touch nothing, don’t go anywhere near the bookcase, call the police – local number, not the emergency line, unless my books were in your collection so then you’d obviously have to dial 999 – and try to stay out of the room you think they’ve been in. And wait. Think about forensics – Google ‘Locard’s exchange principle’ – and try not to disturb the scene at all. The police can get so much from the locus nowadays – DNA, prints, all that jazz. The fuzz will do the rest when they turn up. Probably two days later, thanks to the government cuts. Ooo, politics moment!

Penultimately –and this may be the most important question of all – what is your favourite smutty film and what is your favourite foodstuff. (I told you to be careful what you wish for)

This definitely is the most important question, possibly that I’ve ever been asked. I love all the food. I will, literally, eat anything. I have a terrible weakness for lardy snacks such as pork scratchings, as well as the odd kilo of Stilton. Fortunately for my waistline and heart I live in Portugal, so can’t get hold of either anymore. I’ll do Thai, Mexican, Portuguese, anything – but to be rather boring I will say curry is the favourite. They don’t ‘do’ curry over here, and there is one – just one! – Indian restaurant I have managed to find, and it involves a three hour round trip just for a madras. Suffice to say, I eat my own bodyweight in naan bread whenever we get the chance to go there. And smutty movies? Well as a connoisseur of, cough, art films during my teenage years I have quite a few favourites. Not titles, specifically, but certain specialised genres. Anything involving dwarves or female feet is fine by me. For something mildly smutty but also genuinely artistic – you can watch it with your mum, even – you can’t really go wrong with ‘Betty Blue’.

Finally my standard question – is there one book you’ve read this year so far that you would like to recommend to everyone?

‘All the Wicked Girls’ by Chris Whitaker. It’s published end of August. Everyone in the world should read it, it’s a fantastic, beautiful, heartache-inducing book that made me weep openly in front of my children, which turned out quite well really as they made ‘Sad Daddy’ cups of tea for the rest of the day.

Thank you!

No, thank you, Elizabeth. I’ve droned on quite a bit here, so you’ve been ruddy marvellous. I’m off to watch an art film.

Art. Ok then….

About the Book:

Bombs detonate in a busy souk, causing massive devastation. 
An explosion rips apart a mosque, killing and injuring those inside. 
But this isn’t the Middle East – this is Cardiff . . . 

In a city where tensions are already running high, DC Will MacReady and his colleagues begin the desperate hunt for the attacker. If they knew the ‘why’, then surely they can find the ‘who’? But that isn’t so easy, and time is fast running out . . . 

MacReady is still trying to prove himself after the horrific events of the previous year, which left his sergeant injured and his job in jeopardy, so he feels sidelined when he’s asked to investigate a vicious knife attack on a young woman. 

But all is not as it seems with his new case, and soon MacReady must put everything on the line in order to do what is right.

Unforgivable was awarded an easy 5* from me I read it cover to cover in record time. Brilliant mix of procedural and proper thriller with a truly authentic edge. Which I guess is what you get when writers do that “write what you know” stuff.

Starting with a truly horrifying and hypnotically described event, Unforgivable begins with a literal bang and basically doesn’t really let up from there – Mike Thomas pulls the reader into the real and difficult world of policing on the ground in all its many forms – whilst our hero, Will, is set onto another case and the local community is exploding due to a controversial trial ongoing – we are taken on a dark and twisted journey to the final resolution.

The storytelling is gritty and realistic, the themes are socially relevant and entirely possible – what the author does so very well is mix up the procedural aspects with the thriller aspects and throws in a driven, haunting and large as life main protagonist in Will Macready for good measure. Will is endlessly fascinating both in action and circumstance.

Tis a proper edgy page turner this one. With some genuinely talented writing skill, and brilliantly insightful storytelling Mike Thomas has taken what he started in Ash and Bone and shot it up the ratings by quite a few points. More of that I say.

Highly Recommended.

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The Unquiet Dead Ausma Zehanat Khan – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from No Exit Press

Source: Review Copy

Detective Esa Khattak is in the midst of his evening prayers when he receives a phone call asking that he and his partner, Detective Rachel Getty, look into the death of a local man who has fallen off a cliff. At first Christopher Drayton’s death—which looks like an accident—doesn’t seem to warrant a police investigation, especially not from Khattak and Rachel’s team, which handles minority-sensitive cases. But it soon comes to light that Drayton might have been living under an assumed name, and he may not have been the upstanding Canadian citizen he appeared to be. In fact, he may have been a Bosnian war criminal with ties to the Srebrenica massacre of 1995. And if that’s true, any number of people could have had reason to help him to his death.

As Rachel and Khattak dig deeper into the life and death of Christopher Drayton, every question seems to lead only to more questions, and there are no easy answers. Did the specters of Srebrenica return to haunt Drayton at last, or had he been keeping secrets of an entirely different nature? Or, after all, did a man just fall to his death in a tragic accident?

An incredibly powerful novel, setting a mystery within the context of the war in the former Yugoslavia – really hitting home about what happened there and creating a group of unforgettable characters. This had me in tears an awful lot of the time.

I, of course, am old enough to remember that time but being removed from it, watching images on the television that  never really got to the heart of the matter, you don’t really get how godawful that war was, how many lives were lost, what went on there. Reading “The Unquiet Dead” was an education in that respect, a masterclass in how fiction can hit home in ways that reality often cannot.

At the same time The Unquiet Dead is an entertaining and well plotted mystery although I never really felt like I was reading a “whodunnit, more a “who are they” which applied to all the characters including our main protagonists Getty and Khattak.  Khattak is really the most intriguing creation, in this first of the series we have only just scratched the surface which bodes well for the rest. Getty is equally intriguing but on different levels – as a duo they were endlessly fascinating.

Using a clever multi layered style of storytelling, wherein we find out some hard truths about life on the ground in the former Yugoslavia whilst the war was raging and present time as Khattak and Getty dig into the life and death of the man known as Drayton, you are drawn deeper and deeper into some dark, dangerous and horrifying realities. Every character is finely drawn, the author teasing out the detail, slowly revealing the heart of them and through that the answers finally emerge. Often the narrative takes your breath away, the ultimate resolution leaving you melancholy and contemplative – to call this novel thought provoking isn’t really good enough but its all I’ve got.

Incredibly emotional, ever riveting, completely immersive, The Unquiet Dead is one of those books I want to make everyone read, absorb and appreciate.

Highly Recommended.

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Behind Her Back Jane Lythell Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Head of Zeus

Source: Review Copy

The second StoryWorld novel set in the glamorous, pressurized world of a live London TV station.

StoryWorld is the nation’s favourite morning show, and producer Liz Lyon wants to keep it that way. Her job is to turn real-life stories into thrilling TV – and keep a lid on the cauldron of conflicts and resentments that constantly simmers off-stage.

In this gripping novel of power, rivalry and betrayal, Jane Lythell draws on her experiences of working in the heated world of live TV. Liz Lyon must balance the monster egos at work with the demands of her teenage daughter – and the man she’s just started dating – at home. It’s all in a day’s work

The first novel in this series, Woman of the Hour was absolutely gripping, taking us behind the scenes of live television and introducing us to Liz Lyon, a character whose day to day issues resonate with us all.

In Behind Her Back Liz is back from holiday to face yet more shenanigans in the workplace all the while juggling real life and family – and once again it is gripping and has a really authentic edge to it that keeps you involved throughout.

I love the way the characters are developed here, making you love and hate them, rooting for Liz all the way as she chooses her battles and faces down new people in it for the money. Lori is a great addition to the cast, adding to the balance Liz has to try and find – keep the ratings up, keep the staff happy (and I was pleased to see my fave Fizzy back feisty as ever) all the while keeping that balance in her own life. Behind Her Back is like the best tv drama but unfolding on the page.The writing and plotting is superb a hugely satisfying reading experience.

I loved it – and the last one – definitely recommended by me, something a little different and endlessly fascinating.

I have one copy to give away – if you tweet me @Lizzy11268 and tell me why you fancy it I’ll put your name into the actual hat I use to draw these things!

Happy Reading!

 

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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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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.

Don’t miss it!

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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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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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