The Green Bicycle Mystery Antony M Brown Blog Tour Extract.

Today I am very happy to bring you extracts from The Green Bicycle Mystery kicking off a series from Antony M Brown.

About the book

Don’t just read about a murder… solve it. The first of a unique set of true crime dramas. Each one tells the story of an unsolved crime in an evocative and compelling way, it presents fresh evidence, exposes the strengths and weaknesses of past theories and then asks the reader to decide on what happened. 

The series begins with the tragic case of Bella Wright. In a lonely lane running through rural Leicestershire in 1919, a solitary bicycle lies on its side, its metal frame catching the glow of the fading evening light. The back wheel slowly turns about its axle, producing a soft clicking; a rhythmic sound, soothing like the ticking of a study clock. Next to the bicycle, lying at an angle across the road, is a young woman. She is partly on her back, partly on her left side, with her right hand almost touching the mudguard of the rear wheel. Her legs rest on the roadside verge, where fronds of white cow parsley and pink rosebay rise above luxuriant summer foliage. On her head sits a wide-brimmed hat, daintily finished with a ribbon and bow. She is dressed in a pastel blouse and long skirt underneath a light raincoat, the pockets of which contain an empty purse and a box of matches. The blood-flecked coat tells a story… 

Although each book is perfectly self-contained and offers the author’s conclusion, there is a website (coldcasejury.com) for those who wish to share their own verdicts and opinions, making these the first truly interactive crime tales. Beautifully presented with uniquely illustrated covers they also contain evidence images, diagrams and maps. For lovers of crime stories, this new collection of Cold Case Jury books will not just bring a murder story to life, it will make you a part of it.

Read on for some Extracts: 

11pm. The disused chapel at Stretton Parva was a small, rectangular red-brick building with a pitched roof. Looking more like a mundane outhouse than a place of worship, the only clue to its former role was a stone plaque engraved with the words “Free Chapel” embedded in a gable wall. It was a suitable place to keep the young woman’s body overnight. As Dr Williams approached, he saw the gentle glow of candlelight issuing from its two sash windows. PC Hall was wheeling in the girl’s bicycle through the entrance to the right. He followed, closing the door behind him. In the centre of the room the men assembled around a table illuminated by four flickering candles. On it was sprawled the fully clothed body of the young woman. Cowell repeated to the doctor how he discovered the body. Hall informed him that he had inspected briefly both the body and the bicycle and had found nothing suspicious. Williams moved the woman’s head from side to side, feeling her skull and face, as if he was giving a macabre massage. “Extensive blood on the hair and the left side of her face,” Dr Williams announced, stating the obvious. “There’s also bruising on the left cheek just below the eye.” He motioned for a candle to be brought nearer to take a closer look. “Yes, it’s quite a vivid bruise, too.” “It seems to have an indentation in the skin,” Hall commented. “I can see that, Constable. She would sustain that by falling.” The cursory examination soon concluded. “I don’t think we can do any more for the poor girl,” Williams said. “What’s the cause of death, Doctor?” “Oh, I would say sudden haemorrhage and collapse, Constable.” “Can I report that to my superintendent?” “You certainly can. I really must be getting back,” he said, placing his hat on his head. “Goodnight, all.” Alfred Hall nodded as the doctor walked to the door. One by one, he bid the others goodnight until he was left alone. He straightened the body on the table and placed her arms on her chest. He wanted the young woman to have dignity in death. Hall looked at the still body on the table. The skin of the right check had a waxy, yellow appearance with a tint of a bluish-grey, the same cold hue as her lips. The left cheek was covered in dried blood. He dampened the cloth and began to gently wash the dried blood from Bella’s face. Even in death, he thought, cleansing the face was an intimate and tender act, like a mother washing a child. Slowly moving the cloth down her cheek, he lifted the veil of blood that had partially covered Bella’s face since her death. And there, below her left eye, was a bullet wound…

 

On Friday 12 March, a rear wheel was recovered and matched to the green bicycle. It was not proof in itself but demonstrated that Light had dismantled the bicycle and dumped various parts over a wide section of the canal. Expectations were raised. They were met a week later when a brown leather army revolver holster was fished out. It contained treasure: wrapped inside were nearly two dozen .455 cartridges – the same calibre as the bullet found by PC Hall. When Light heard about the recovery he was reported to have cursed in his cell: “Damn and blast that canal!” If this is true, it was the only time he ever lost his composure. “So what happened? I swear whatever you say will not leave this room.” “Come on, Superintendent, you know better than that.” “I know you didn’t murder her, so what happened? If you don’t tell the truth, everyone who ever hears about this case will think you’re guilty. You know that don’t you?” “But I was acquitted by a jury of my peers.” “They will still think you did it, all the same. They will say, ‘That Ronald Light, he got away with murder!’ Friends of mine said that very thing at the weekend.” Bowley waited for his words to sink in before playing his psychological ace. “Why not get this off your chest? Then you can forget all about it, knowing you’ve done the right thing by telling someone the truth. And you’ll feel better for doing it. After what you’ve been through, surely you owe yourself that?” Light leaned forward and tapped his cigarette over the ashtray. “If I tell you, can I depend on you to keep it to yourself ?” Bowley tried hard not to show his delight at reeling in his catch. “I’ve already told you that.” “Whatever I say is strictly confidential. No one else must know. And I’m not signing anything. If you divulge what I tell you, I will just deny it.” “Of course, I understand. It’s just between the two of us.” Light leaned back in his chair and took a long draw from his cigarette as he played pensively with the box of matches. Bowley said nothing, hoping his ploy would work. When Light finally spoke there was no preamble, he simply dropped his bombshell…

 

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Creating Atmosphere with Sophie Jonas-Hill. Nemesister Blog Tour.

Today I am very happy to welcome Sophie, talking about creating atmosphere as part of the blog tour for her novel Nemesister. Loved reading this article! Details on the book follow.

Creating Atmosphere – Sophie Jonas-Hill

Atmosphere – chills, thrills, things that go bump in the night – how to create atmosphere when writing? A picture’s worth a thousand words, but a few well chosen words can create a thousand pictures in the mind of the reader.

The weird thing about atmosphere, is that it’s usually something we only notice when it’s not there. What I mean is the general background noise of our lives is like lift music, so ubiquitous we don’t register it any more. We live with the hum of our own bodies, our houses, our TVs and the passing traffic, so it’s often only when we’re unsettled that we notice it, actually hear it.

Imagine you’re in your sitting room, or wherever you like to sit and read. You’re happy, so you’re reading, you’re relaxed. If you bothered to think about it, you might be able to hear the mundane sounds of your life ticking away, but you’ve no cause to listen, so you don’t.

Then you hear the sound of breaking glass and everything changes. You’re alert, trying to work out where the sound came from – was it your house, or the neighbours’? Now you can hear all the sounds you usually ignore because you’re mentally checking them off – bird song, cars going past, clock ticking, radio in the next room – but these sounds are exaggerated, loud as if someone has turned up the volume on the world.

This is what you need to think about when using atmosphere in your novels – when our senses are sharpened, we become aware of what is already there, because we’re trying desperately to search for clues as to what’s coming. The world we’re in might be innocent, no bad men yet, calm before the storm, but we’re looking, trying to second guess what’s coming.

There’s an evolutionary precedent for this pattern recognition – we’ve evolved to look for patterns in the world around us as a way of looking out for danger. Imagine you’re back in pre-history on the plains of Africa, standing in shoulder high grass, wondering whether we’re about to be eaten by a sabre tooth tiger. Looking around, we can see shadows, the fall of light, movement in the grass, but are any of these a tiger, or are they just the wind? If we’re mistaken and the shadows on the ground aren’t a tiger, then that’s fine, there’s no tiger and we’re safe. But if we’re wrong and we ignore the shadows on the ground and they turn out to be a tiger, then that’s not fine, we’re lunch. So trying to interpret the world around us, being alert for danger, trying always to join the dots and second guess what’s coming is in our blood, our DNA. It’s how we’ve survived for so long as a species.

So, we’re alone in our room after the sound of breaking glass; what we’re doing is picking up on a thousand unconscious clues which might give us a chance at survival, or might just mean that the cat has knocked your grandmother’s glass vase off the shelf in the kitchen.

Of course, your setting will really help the atmosphere of your writing. Often, you can create the most memorable ones by playing with tradition; think about the added dimension of horror that comes with choosing a usually safe place for your gun fight, or comedy by having your prat-falls take somewhere somber as a crematorium. I love it when the setting becomes a character in its own right, something I’ve tried hard to do in my novel ‘Nemesister,’ where the opening location, a house in the swamp, develops a personality almost as if it’s working to it’s own agenda, sometimes helping, sometimes hindering the action.

Wherever you set your writing, just as you must know your characters better than themselves, you must know your locations as completely as possible. Often the very best writing comes from containing your characters and action, putting them in a box or a maze or a lone house, where you have complete control over their physical limits. Think of the house in ‘The woman in black,’ or the Ice bound hotel in ‘The Shining,’ – these places are rooted in our minds because they are so clearly drawn that their background hum so quickly becomes familiar, we can start to sense when that falters, when danger approaches – we start listening too.

Use google earth to visit places you can’t get to physically, read travel writing – good travel writing – eat the food, collect the images and construct pintrest boards. If you can, draw floor plans of your locations, work out on which side the sun rises and sets, and go back and re-visit them so you can make them work for your story. This is your world and if you need there to be a river outside, then go back and draw one on your map – remember you’re in charge!

A final tip if you want to get a feel for creating an atmosphere, try this exercise. Close your eyes and listen to your world; describe every sound, feeling, smell, texture you can sense. Then listen again and try and go further away from yourself, or back inside yourself – keep going as far as you can. Try doing this at different times of day, during different weather conditions, see how these word pictures evolve and change. Once you’re used to it, you can take yourself off to different locations and try it again, seeing how sensitive you can become. This will be a lot of

information, far more than you need for your writing, but once you get used to doing this, you can imagine what you need in your novel and pick out the dots you want your readers to join for you, to create the right picture in their minds.

About the Book:

Publication Date: Available Now from Urbane

A psychological mystery where the female protagonist stumbles into a deserted shack with no memory but a gun in her hand. There she meets an apparent stranger, Red, and the two find themselves isolated and under attack from unseen assailants. 

Barricaded inside for a sweltering night, cabin fever sets in and brings her flashes of insight which might be memory or vision as the swamp sighs and moans around her. 

Exploring in the dark she finds hidden keys that seem to reveal her identity and that of her mysterious host, but which are the more dangerous – the lies he’s told her, or the ones she’s told herself?

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To Kill The President Sam Bourne – Blog tour Interview and Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Harper Collins.

Source: Review Copy

Today I am very happy to have an interview with Jonathan Freedland (AKA Sam Bourne) all about his controversial and timely thriller To Kill The President. It is a banging good read and my review follows.

Do you find it more difficult to write political thrillers when some aspects of today’s political landscape are seen as even more outlandish than fiction?

It’s definitely a challenge when the nightly news can seem to twist and turn as dizzyingly as a thriller. Think of, say, the makers of the new House of Cards series: how could they compete with reality?

To give one very concrete example, most thrillers rely on an assumption that certain behaviours are out of bounds. If a character is revealed to be involved in corruption or sexual violence, that – the reader assumes – will prove terminal for their career. You can build a whole plot on that assumption: a politician who will stop at nothing to prevent the truth coming out.

But Donald Trump has upended all our beliefs about what revelations a politician can or cannot survive. The notorious “pussy” tape, in which he was heard bragging about having apparently committed sexual assault, was meant to have destroyed Trump. All the old rules of politics said it would be a fatal blow. But he survived it and won the presidency. That means novelists like me have to rethink what kind of revelation or scandal can lie at the heart of a story: what used to be terminal might be terminal no longer.

How close to reality do you think To Kill the President might end up being, particularly considering the current tensions between the US and North Korea?

The book opens with my fictional president, who is never named, ordering a nuclear strike against North Korea and China. When I wrote that, conflict with North Korea seemed wholly hypothetical. It does, I admit, seem a lot less hypothetical now.

What are your three top tips for budding novelist?

1. Read a lot.

2. With the books you like, read them once, then read them again – to see how the author did it.

3. Be nosy. Ask people questions; get them to tell you their stories. Eventually one of them will spark an idea.

Have you read anything recently that you would like to recommend?

It’s not a novel, but it reads like a thriller: All Out War, Tim Shipman’s brilliant account of the Brexit referendum.

The unthinkable has happened. The United States has elected a volatile demagogue as president, backed by his ruthless chief strategist, Crawford Mac’ McNamara.

When a war of words with the North Korean regime spirals out of control and the President comes perilously close to launching a nuclear attack, it’s clear someone has to act, or the world will be reduced to ashes.

Soon Maggie Costello, a seasoned Washington operator and avowed liberal, discovers an inside plot to kill the president and faces the ultimate moral dilemma. Should she save the president and leave the free world at the mercy of an increasingly crazed would-be tyrant or commit treason against her Commander in Chief and risk plunging the country into a civil war?

My Review:

Brilliantly current and really quite scary To Kill The President asks some very important questions and is a real genuine thrill of a thriller.

Utterly absorbing from the very first page, where the world is almost tipped over into all out war, you are completely gripped by the narrative here, not least because it is all so scarily possible given the current political climate and the absolute madness that seems to be overtaking the world lately.  You kind of want to clap your hands over your eyes and not look but you just can’t help it. In life as with reading this novel…

I’ve met Maggie Costello before in previous thrillers from Mr Freedland’s alter ego – in this story she truly is on the edge of reason – can she possibly let a plot against the President go ahead, could she even tacitly help it along?  It would go against everything she has ever believed – with that moral dilemma lies the soul of the story, whilst the rest of it is often heart stopping edge of the seat moments, all entirely character driven, digging deep into an all too likely and very dangerous scenario.

I’m not going to give anything away at all – you just have to read this one and absorb it – it is a madly addictive page turner and a hugely thought provoking drama, written with perfectly poised prose and telling a fascinating, frightening, yet completely entertaining tale, startlingly authentic and completely mind blowing.

Highly Recommended.

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Little Boy Found L K Fox – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now (E-Book only release) from Quercus

Source: Review Copy

One rainy morning, just after Nick drops off his young son Gabriel outside the crowded school gates, he has a minor collision with another car. The driver won’t surrender his insurance details, so Nick photographs the licence plate. When he gets home, he enlarges the shot on his phone and spots something odd about the picture-Gabriel in the back seat, being driven away by a stranger. Nick needs to know what happened to his boy, but losing Gabriel turns out to be far less terrible than the shock of finding him. Now, to discover the truth, he must relive the nightmare all over again…Be warned, this is not another missing child story: what happened to Nick and his son is far more shocking. 

A slightly different take on the “child missing” concept much seen recently – a page turner that was actually rather predictable but great reading none the less.

We have two different anchors here, Nick, whose son goes missing (difficult to say too much about his portion of the tale without spoilers) and Ella (same applies!) The author does a great job of telling two very separate stories and then bringing them together to show how they intersect with each other – the writing has a strong, emotive edge especially within the relationship Nick has with his partner and with Gabriel and within the layers of Ella’s personality. Psychologically speaking this was clever and engaging – despite having worked out the basic resolution there were still things that surprised me and it was a fast paced, intriguing read.

I loved it for its different focus but if I had one bugbear I thought the final final part of it was overkill. For me the story ended in a much more subtle and satisfying way before, I guess, someone decided it needed more of a shock. We don’t always need a shock you know, sometimes less is more. However that is a subjective comment and doesn’t detract from the overall reading experience which was really good.

Recommended for fans of psychological drama. I hope the author tries his hand at it again away from his usual genre because this worked on a lot of levels and I’d be interested in what else he could come up with.

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Walk In Silence J G Sinclair – Blog Tour Review

Publication Date: 6th July from Faber

Source: Review Copy

Keira Lynch may be a lawyer, but that doesn’t mean she plays by the rules.

She has been summoned to give evidence against an Albanian hit man. She was there the night he murdered the mother of a five-year-old boy. She remembers it well – it was the same night he put three bullets in her chest and left her for dead.

But there are powerful people who want the hit man back on the streets. When they kidnap the boy, she is given a choice: commit perjury, blow the trial and allow the killer to walk or give evidence, convict him and watch the child die. Keira must make a decision. This time, does she have to cross a line to win?

Walk In Silence is an excellent, pacy and considered thriller featuring main protagonist Keira Lynch – it should be pointed out that I have not read the first novel, Blood Silence, but this did not prevent me enjoying this one muchly. J G Sinclair writes with a brilliantly immersive style and I immediately engaged with Keira who is not entirely as she seems.

The plot follows her search for a young boy, hidden from the Albanian mafia, whilst at the same time attempting to give evidence against said Mafia’s Glasgow leader – not an easy task and one that finds her often in danger. The fact that she is no ordinary lawyer may stand her in good stead.

Walk in Silence is dark and clever with a masterfully imagined twisty plot and characters who have a great amount of depth. The author manages to put you right into the action, Keira is a very full on and highly intriguing character to follow along with and this was a novel I devoured in one gulp of a sitting. Beautifully done to keep you turning the pages, I immediately went out and got myself a copy of Blood Silence to see where it all began.

Really very good indeed. Yes I’m a fan.

Highly Recommended.

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The Last Place You Look – Kristen Lepionka Blog Tour Review

Publication Date: 6th July from Faber

Source: Review Copy

Sarah Cook, a beautiful blonde teenager disappeared fifteen years ago, the same night her parents were brutally murdered in their suburban Ohio home. Her boyfriend Brad Stockton – black and from the wrong side of the tracks – was convicted of the murders and sits on death row, though he always maintained his innocence. With his execution only weeks away, his devoted sister, insisting she has spotted Sarah at a local gas station, hires PI Roxane Weary to look again at the case.

Reeling from the recent death of her cop father, Roxane finds herself drawn to the story of Sarah’s vanishing act, especially when she thinks she’s linked Sarah’s disappearance to one of her father’s unsolved murder cases involving another teen girl. Despite her self-destructive tendencies, Roxane starts to hope that maybe she can save Brad’s life and her own.

Top notch Crime fiction right here, really excellent debut, totally engaging main protagonist and a story that is twistier than a pretzel but still entirely authentic and utterly believable. Absolutely bang on writing style that just perfectly tells a beautifully plotted story.

I read “The Last Place You Look” in a single afternoon, mostly it has to be said BECAUSE of main protagonist Roxane Weary (what a great name and totally suited to the character portrayed) who just had a wonderful world weariness about her, a strong and intriguing character voice and whilst the mystery element of the story was also brilliant it is Roxane that keeps you turning those pages.

I was impressed by how Kristen Lepionka managed to take that well worn plot device – a character who hits the bottle too hard – and turn it around from something that makes you sigh in annoyance to a really genuinely authentic character trait, encompassing that part of Roxane into the wider narrative in an immersive and clever way. I think that needs mentioning considering my propensity for having a moan about cliche plot devices – in The Last Place You Look it actually works. Huge points for that one.

On the mystery side the case of Brad Stockton is relevant and fascinating – what I really found excellent here was the fact or not of his guilt was not at all clear – therefore things remained unpredictable right up to that very last moment. Some of the best parts of the book came where Roxane was facing off against those who are determined that Brad IS guilty either because they truly believe it or because they are hiding something  – the dialogue sparks, the interactions are solidly realistic and the author creates a real sense of tension and unease throughout the telling. The sense of place is also well realised  – the whole thing is totally immersive, a real noir feel with a modern twist.

Overall just brilliant. Highly Recommended.

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The Mayfly: In Defence of Horror. James Hazel.

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

In defence of horror James Hazel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For some, this might make difficult reading.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Book:

It’s happening again.

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

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

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

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

Publication Date: Available Now from HQ

Source: Review Copy

Brilliant. Complicated. Psychopath.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highly Recommended.

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Cross Purpose Claire Macleary – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Contraband

Source: Review Copy

Two Women, One Quest, Grave Consequences

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

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

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

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

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

Clever, involving and beautifully done. Highly Recommended.

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Sweet After Death Valentina Giambanco Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Quercus

Source: Review Copy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Definitely a series to watch. Really very excellent indeed.

Recommended.

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