Rewind Review: Two O Clock Boy – Mark Hill. Blog Tour.

Publication Date: Available Now from Sphere.

Source: Review copy

TWO CHILDHOOD FRIENDS…ONE BECAME A DETECTIVE…ONE BECAME A KILLER...

One night changed their lives Thirty years ago, the Longacre Children’s Home stood on a London street where once-grand Victorian homes lay derelict. There its children lived in terror of Gordon Tallis, the home’s manager. Cries in the fire and smoke Then Connor Laird arrived: a frighteningly intense boy who quickly became Tallis’ favourite criminal helper. Soon after, destruction befell the Longacre, and the facts of that night have lain buried …until today. A truth both must hide Now, a mysterious figure, the Two O’Clock Boy, is killing all who grew up there, one by one. DI Ray Drake will do whatever it take to stop the murders – but he will go even further to cover up the truth. Discover the gripping, twist-filled start to a fantastic new London-set crime thriller series starring morally corrupt DI Ray Drake.

There was a certain amount of angst involved in my reading of  Two O’Clock Boy – due to the fact that Mark is indeed a good friend of mine (well I say that anyway he may beg to differ and  hide under a table when he sees me coming) and also a lovely chap so the thought that I might not like it kept me up at night. I can’t lie about the books. Doesnt matter how much I love you…

Then I started reading  Two O’Clock Boy and instead THAT kept me up at night. Because I couldnt put the blinking thing down and it was entirely brilliant. I can say in all honesty that it was banging good – insanely addictive – as dark as you like (and I like it dark) with a main protagonist you might literally die for if you reside within the pages. Add in a twisted, compelling storyline with some relevant and thought provoking themes and you have a magnificent read that will stay with you for ages. And ages. Then keep you up at night some more…

ANYWAY on the due diligence front, if you love tv shows like Luther and you like the good guys to be not quite as good as all that then you’ll love Ray Drake even though he’ll possibly terrify you too. But hey I always liked the bad boys. And to be fair he’s going after a killer who is pretty terrifying too. If you like a thriller that has great depth of character, enough twists in the tail to satisfy a rattlesnake, a fantastic supporting cast and the ability to make you keep turning the pages as if they were a drug habit you just can’t quite quit then this book is for you.

Basically this book is probably for you. More if you are a crime fan. Even MORE if you just like bloody good writing which tells a bloody good story and then leaves you just wanting more. More more more. With a hugely rebel yell…

Go on. You know you want to. Just don’t blame ME for the lack of sleep and the need for much caffeine to get you through the next working day.

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Good News Bad News WHS McIntyre Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Sandstone Press

Source: Review Copy

Life’s full of good news and bad news for defence lawyer Robbie Munro. The good news is he’s in work, representing Antionia Brechin on a drugs charge. The bad news is that she’s the granddaughter of notorious Sheriff Brechin.

Meanwhile, another of Robbie’s clients, Ellen Fletcher, has won the lottery and asked Robbie to find her husband Freddy, who disappeared having swindled the evil Jake Turpie. Unfortunately, Jake’s not willing to bury the hatchet – not unless it’s in Freddy’s head.

Robbie juggles cases and private life with his usual dexterity, but the more he tries to fix things the more trouble everyone’s in.

This is my second foray into the Best Defence series and I loved every minute of it again. I’m a huge fan of Robbie, he’s just so beautifully normal in so many ways but funny and determined even if that determination sometimes lands him in hot water.

He is juggling several things in “Good News Bad News” not least his accidental engagement from the last novel which means he can no longer do exactly as he pleases. In his professional world he is defending the granddaughter of his bete noir Sheriff Brechin, dealing with a demanding lottery winner and trying to keep the peace between many factions none of whom are all rainbows and light.

This series is so involving – WHS McIntyre writes with an ironic, witty prose that just makes you smile again and again – he throws his protagonists into all sorts of weirdly hilarious situations whilst maintaining an authentic and gritty backdrop – so beautifully readable and insanely addictive.

This series is all about the characters – their interactions, changing relationships and all the rest make it entirely fascinatingly brilliant, the scene setting is spot on and the plotting is cleverly obtuse, the author throwing in the little twists and turns almost casually, you never know quite where everything might end up.

Overall I’m a huge fan of this series. Bring on the next one I say! I want to see what Robbie ends up accidentally doing next!

Highly Recommended.

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Fatal Music – Peter Morfoot. Blog Tour Extract.

Today I am very happy to offer you an extract of Fatal Music by Peter Morfoot  as part of the blog tour – the novel is available now from Titan books  and details follow.

6

The doorbell rang. And rang again. Léo had a key and no john knew the address. Stubbing out her cigarette, she went to the door and peered through the spy hole. It was a policeman. Uniformed, the safer kind. And in a hurry by the look of it. She took a moment to compose herself and then opened the door sharply to the limit of its chain.

‘Yes?’

‘Mademoiselle Daviot?’

‘Who wants to know?’

‘Mademoiselle Cristelle Marie Daviot?’

Granot arrived at the morgue just in time to oversee the ID process. He and Darac had decided to tell Cristelle only that her grandmother had drowned in her hot tub. On seeing the look in the young woman’s eyes, it was the correct decision.

‘You don’t have to do this, mademoiselle.’ Sod Dr Carl Sodding Barrau. ‘We could get dental records.’

‘It’s alright.’

‘You sure?’

She set her jaw. ‘Yes.’

‘This way, please.’

He led her into a small room containing only a TV monitor. The screen was blank.

‘May I smoke?’

‘Sorry.’ Granot reached up and removed the battery from the smoke alarm. ‘It’s not permitted.’

Cristelle lit up, offered him one – he declined – and sucked in a lungful of familiarity.

‘Are you ready?’

A nod.

Granot turned on the TV. He had to admit that in such a short time, Barrau had done a remarkable job on the right-hand half of the drowned woman’s face. And with the mutilated and missing parts of her skull hidden by cloths arranged to mimic bedclothes, the effect was as natural as could be imagined.

‘Mademoiselle, do you recognise your grandmother, Jeanne Honorine Mesnel?’

Shaking, Cristelle blew smoke, whispered that she did and then lost her cordon-bleu evening all over the floor.

‘Léo.’ She groped around in her handbag. ‘I need Léo. I have to call.’

‘What’s his number? I’ll ring him.’ Granot steadied her as she found a tissue. ‘There’s a bathroom across the hall if you want to use it.’

‘No, no.’ She closed her bag. ‘I’ll ring later, it’s alright. Across the hall?’

‘Hang on to my arm, I’ll take you.’

‘You’re very kind, Lieutenant.’

Cristelle’s stomach had settled by the time the police driver returned her to her apartment. She went to bed wondering how long she would have to wait. How long before she could enjoy stretching out in the sun? How long before gazing at the sea through a curtain of fumes would be a thing of the past? Not long, presumably. A smile giving way to a smirk, she lit a cigarette. ‘Thank you, Grand-mère,’ she said aloud. ‘Thank you, at last.’

About the Book:

Captain Paul Darac of the Brigade Criminelle is called to a potential crime scene – an elderly woman found dead in her hot tub. At first it is thought that she died of natural causes, but a surprising link with Darac’s own life leads him to dig deeper. In doing so he uncovers disturbing proof that there may have been a motive to kill the woman, and there is no shortage of suspects…

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Faithless – Kjell Ola Dahl – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date:Available Now from Orenda

Source: Review Copy

Oslo detectives Gunnarstranda and Frølich are back and this time, it’s personal… When the body of a woman turns up in a dumpster, scalded and wrapped in plastic, Inspector Frank Frølich is shocked to discover that he knows her and their recent meetings may hold the clue to her murder. As he ponders the tragic events surrounding her death, Frølich’s colleague Gunnarstranda investigates a disturbingly similar cold case involving the murder of a young girl in northern Norway and Frølich is forced to look into his own past to find the answers – and the killer – before he strikes again.

Faithless is the first of this series I have read, which was not a problem, the characters round out nicely you don’t feel you have missed anything.

Faithless is more of a slow burner of Nordic Noir, the author bringing many layers to a beautifully atmospheric mystery – Giving one of his main protagonists, Frank, a bit of a headache and drawing the reader into his life and past in a highly intriguing fashion. Brilliantly translated by Don Bartlett, there is a wonderful flow to Faithless that sits well in the Nordic Noir genre, something I read a fair bit because it offers a genuinely different feel to things – Faithless is an excellent example and I’d even say would be a good book to give you a killer start if you’ve not read within these books before.

I was especially impressed and fascinated with the group dynamic Kjell Ola Dahl brings to this novel – with a cold case and a hot case raging on, the various strands and various characters are perfectly placed, it was easy to pick up on some of the history and understand the relationships. The mystery itself has enough twists and turns to keep your brain busy, it was a really really engaging read.

Oh, also, Killer ending. KILLER. Something I’ve been seeing a few times this year in my reading and am loving the sudden crop of authors writing clever and unpredictable finale’s – here is another one. Kudos.

Overall a tense, intelligent and character driven crime mystery that I have no trouble at all recommending. I’m looking forward to reading more in this series as they are translated.

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Dead Woman Walking – Sharon Bolton. Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: 20th April from Transworld.

Source: Review Copy

Just before dawn in the hills near the Scottish border, a man murders a young woman. At the same time, a hot-air balloon crashes out of the sky. There’s just one survivor.

She’s seen the killer’s face – but he’s also seen hers. And he won’t rest until he’s eliminated the only witness to his crime.

Alone, scared, trusting no one, she’s running to where she feels safe – but it could be the most dangerous place of all.

Another bang on target crime novel from Sharon Bolton  – cleverly twisted plot with some great characters, emotional themes and once more is a genuine page turner. Also Nuns. Loved the Nuns.

This authors plot weaving, game changing, impressively engaging prose is second to none in the crime field really, doesn’t really matter what you expect to get, you’ll end up sent all round the houses and back again. I loved this – clever and totally riveting. Two sisters, a balloon crash, a bad  guy and a gun – edge of the seat stuff but still considered, intelligent plotting and multi-layered characters with an atmospheric sense second to none, that is what you will get here.

The sibling relationship, one both divided and yet solidly together, is one of the stand out layers in “Dead Woman Walking” – Ms Bolton really lays on the emotional trauma, building the tension with short snappy chapters and a slowly drawn out history, but one thing I love more than anything is that she doesn’t need plot devices or cliche’s to keep you guessing or keep you engaged  – the story just pings along with its own sense of self and you are utterly utterly gripped from first page to last.

I won’t give anything away obviously but Dead Woman Walking is truly brilliant, like a movie in book form, pulling you along with the ebb and flow of it, I have to give a nod also to the scene setting which is truly immersive. Loved it.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. I went all capital letters and everything…

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The Magicians Lie – Greer Macallister – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Legend Press

Source: review copy

The Amazing Arden is the most famous female illusionist of her day, renowned for her notorious trick of sawing a man in half on stage. But one night she swaps her trademark saw for an axe.

When Arden’s husband is found dead later that night, the answer seems clear, most of all to young policeman Virgil Holt.

Captured and taken into custody, all seems set for Arden’s swift confession. But she has a different story to tell. Even handcuffed and alone, Arden is far from powerless, and what she reveals is as unbelievable as it is spellbinding.

I have mixed feelings about The Magician’s Lie (even though I enjoyed it thoroughly) I thought the writing was GREAT, got all caught up in the story then it fell somewhat, away from the description of it. Not necessarily a bad thing but this one does not do what it says on the tin, at least in my opinion. The title suggested some sort of something that never really materialised. The Magician’s life story as told to the policeman that arrested her was highly compelling but somewhat unexpected based on the blurb which seems to imply either a kind of “now you see me” type magic twisty story or at least a strange or unusual outcome.

That was not the case – this was more drama than thriller, more character study than mystery and as THAT it works extremely well. Arden is an intriguing character whose life is fascinating – Virgil is the one chosen to hear her tale and as it unfolds you will find it positively gripping. There is an atmospheric tone to the writing which sets the scene beautifully, there is a wait and see kind of feeling to it, the occasional insight into the world of magic is intriguing and overall this was a wonderful read.

Enjoyable, clever characters and an emotive story make The Magician’s Lie a great story but I would recommend going into it with no expectations and just going with the flow.

 

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Desert Island Discs with David Ross – The Man Who Loved Islands Blog Tour.

David F. Ross: Desert Island Discs

Rather than pick my favourite 10 songs (because that, as any real music obsessive knows, would change every day) I decided to go with ten that I wouldn’t ever get tired of; that I continually return to. So here goes, in playlist order:

01: The Jackson 5, ‘I Want You Back’

For most of his adult life, my dad worked in the vast network of tunnels that ran under the Glasgow Central railway station. My mum worked in a secretarial office at the back of the hotel overlooking the concourse. They met at a Railwayman’s Dance in the Hotel’s function room on Hogmanay 1960. He was 25; she was 20. They got engaged a year later. Before she died in 1972, I visited her at work on a few occasions and I still recall the labyrinthine nature of the corridors and routes in the building that led to her office and that expansive view of all those Lowry-like people moving purposefully around the station. One of my last memories I have of her is of watching her dancing at her desk as ‘I Want You Back’ played on a tiny transistor radio. For those associative reasons – and the fact that it’s simply a phenomenal record – my first choice is ‘I Want You Back’ by The Jackson 5.

02: The Jam ‘That’s Entertainment’

Paul Weller captured much of that humdrum, everyday boredom of teenage life in Thatcher’s Britain in The Jam songs of the late 70s and early 80s. The pinnacle of this is ‘That’s Entertainment’: a song he claims was written in ten minutes after coming home pissed from the pub. It’s a brilliant evocation of those times, and I can identify absolutely with every line. I only hope I can write something which means half as much to other people as this song means to me. I’ll retire happy if I do.

03: Michael Head & The Strands ‘Something Like You’

The second book in the Trilogy – The Rise & Fall of the Miraculous Vespas – is about a Scottish indie band and is set in the early 80s. The Pale Fountains – Michael Head’s first group – would’ve been their contemporaries. When I asked my friend Bobby Bluebell if he might write a new song for my fictional band, to feature in the book itself, the only brief I could give him was for it to feel like ‘Thank You’; a song by Michael that captured my imagination over thirty years ago and has never quite let go since. This is from one of my favourite LPs, ‘The Magical World of the Strands’.

04: Arctic Monkeys, ‘Suck It And See’

Music has changed so much since the days of the Ramones, The Clash, The Pistols etc and not necessarily for the better. It’s virtually inconceivable that a young, enterprising band from a less than privileged background would succeed on their own terms at a national level yet back in the 80s, they were everywhere. One exception to this is the Arctic Monkeys. They are one of my favourite bands in music today. Alex Turner’s lyrics are just brilliant.

My fourth song choice is ‘Suck It And See’ almost solely for the line ‘You’re rarer than a can of Dandelion & Burdock, but those other girls are just Postmix lemonade.’

05: Bettye Swann, ‘Don’t Look Back’

My fifth song choice is a brilliant recording of ‘Don’t Look Back’ by the great Bettye Swann. This effortless version is the rehearsal demo with Betty and just a guitar accompanying her. It’s absolutely spine-tingling. One of the greatest female singers of all-time.

06: Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers, ‘She Cracked’

Jonathan Richman is a pioneer. If you listen to The Modern Lovers LP, the band sound fresher than The Strokes, yet it was recorded before they were born. He is to New Wave what Iggy Pop is to punk.

07: The Smiths, ‘Please Please Please, Let Me Get What I Want’

Maybe more than any other, this beautifully brief song sums up the songwriting genius of Morrissey and Marr. There’s a famous story of it being played to Rough Trade company executives and them repeatedly asking ‘Where’s the rest of it?’ But there’s really nothing you could add – or take away – from this song to make it any more perfect. It’s like the Mona Lisa. Beguiling, intriguing and absolutely timeless.

08: Super Furry Animals, ‘Ice Hockey Hair’

My seventh song is ‘Ice Hockey Hair’ by the Super Furry Animals (but it must be the long version). The Super Furry Animals are one of my favourite bands of all time. Gruff Rhys is criminally underrated as a songwriter, and if I was to describe him to anyone I’d said he was Lennon AND McCartney. I was trying to think of what might connect these ten songs, even if it was subliminal, and I think their connection lies in a sort of yearning optimism. I suppose I’m just an optimistic dreamer, which – for an architect/writer – isn’t a bad place to find myself.

09: The Velvet Underground, ‘Heroin’

If you’ve never taken drugs and wanted to know what it might be like, this is as close as you’d get without injecting, ingesting or imbibing. An experimental masterpiece.

10: David Bowie, ‘Life On Mars’

On the 9th January 2016, I was approached to write a live review of the new Blackstar LP. It was a strange vibe that I got from that first listen. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, and then two days later he was dead. The messages were right there in the lyrics and I – and many others – hadn’t appreciated exactly what he was saying. He’s the most imaginative and influential artist in music history and there most certainly won’t be anyone like him again. I absolutely love what he said about ‘Life On Mars’:

“The song was so easy. Being young was easy. A really beautiful day in the park, sitting on the steps of the bandstand. ‘Sailors bap-bap-bap-bap-baaa-bap.’ An anomic heroine. Middle-class ecstasy. I took a walk to Beckenham High Street to catch a bus to Lewisham to buy some shoes and shirts but couldn’t get the riff out of my head. Jumped off two stops into the ride and more or less loped back to the house up on Southend Road.

I started working it out on the piano and had the whole lyric and melody finished by late afternoon. Nice.’

One of the greatest – if not THE greatest – songs in the English language, knocked off in an afternoon between trips to the shops. Genius.

Link to the songs: https://open.spotify.com/user/dross-gb/playlist/6z6bVkjyJ5Ve2xCwnfOZuz

About the book:

In the early 80s, Bobby Cassidy and Joey Miller were inseparable; childhood friends and fledgling business associates. Now, both are depressed and lonely, and they haven’t spoken to each other in more than 10 years. A bizarre opportunity to honor the memory of someone close to both of them presents itself, if only they can forgive and forget. With the help of the deluded Max Mojo and the faithful Hamish May, can they pull off the impossible, and reunite the legendary Ayrshire band, The Miraculous Vespas, for a one-off Music Festival—The Big Bang—on a remote, uninhabited Scottish island?

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The Restless Dead – Simon Beckett. Blog tour Interview and Review.

I was VERY happy to see Dr David Hunter back in the latest novel from Simon Beckett – and even more happy to be able to ask him a couple of questions about it for the blog tour. My review and details on the book follow that.

Thanks so much for agreeing to answer some questions – firstly I was so happy to see Dr Hunter reappear, for readers coming into the series here could you tell us a little something about the background to the character?

David Hunter is a forensic anthropologist, which means he specialises in analysing human remains that are either decomposed or badly damaged. After losing his wife and young daughter in a car accident, he found his work too painful and walked away from everything to do with his old life. At the start of the first book in the series, The Chemistry of Death, he’s working as a GP, which he’d originally trained to be.

But after being reluctantly drawn into a murder investigation again, he realised his true calling was working with the dead rather than the living and returned to forensic anthropology. Now he’s a police consultant, based in London but travelling to wherever in the UK the police find a body requiring his unique set of skills.

Hunter isn’t a traditional crime or thriller ‘hero’. He doesn’t act tough, kick down doors or rebel against authority. And he doesn’t always get things right: he makes mistakes and suffers self-doubt just like the rest of us. It was important to me that – except for his work and tragic past – that he was seen as a normal person: a fallible, damaged individual who readers could sympathise and associate with. One of the nicest comments I’ve had was from a reader who said she worried he wasn’t eating properly. That showed she saw him as a real character.

In The Restless Dead he is back in the game through certain twists of fate – how do you go about building an intriguing mystery whilst keeping the wonderfully fascinating forensic detail so authentic?

I suppose it’s a question of finding the right balance. As interesting as the forensic details are, they still need to fit within a compelling story in order to work. And to my mind the Hunter books are as much psychological thrillers as forensic mysteries. They’re very character led, so I try to approach both plot and forensics from that perspective.

Obviously, the books need a lot of background research. Since I’m not a forensic expert myself – I worked as a freelance journalist before I wrote the Hunter series – I constantly quiz various police and forensic experts who are generous enough to help out. That makes the books more authentic, I think, since these are people who have actual training and experience in the field.

But fitting this sort of research into a fictional story can be tricky. More than once I’ve been forced to abandon a plot idea when one of the experts I’ve approached says, ‘No, that wouldn’t happen’. And I don’t want the forensic details to appear gratuitous, which can be a fine line when Hunter’s work involves detailed descriptions of decomposing remains. If you’re talking about blow-flies and maggots on a dead body you really don’t need to go into excessive detail to make the point.

Could you talk a little about the setting –not far from Mersea Island– is this somewhere you know well and what made you utilise this location for the book? It certainly created a beautifully atmospheric backdrop and allowed for some thrilling edge of the seat moments in the whole man v nature stakes.

The setting is very important for all the Hunter novels. Each one takes place somewhere different – Norfolk, the Outer Hebrides and so on – and the landscape plays a big part in establishing atmosphere and setting the scene. For The Restless Dead I knew it had to be somewhere with water, but I considered several possibilities before I finally settled on the Essex marshes. I liked the sense of loneliness and isolation they brought to the story, this flat vista of mudflats, reeds and open sky, as well as the fact that the landscape is constantly changing with the tides. And, of course, there’s an undercurrent of danger as well, because as peaceful these places appear they can also be treacherous. As soon as I read that the tides come in faster than a man can run, I was hooked.

Although the Essex marshes and that stretch of coastline are obviously real, as with the other Hunter books the actual locations where most of the story takes place are fictitious. That gives me freedom to write what I want without worrying if readers getting in touch to say I’ve put the post box on the wrong street corner. That doesn’t mean I don’t want these places to feel authentic, because I do. I’ll spend a lot of time researching the area where a book is set, and try to spend time there whenever possible.

But the main thing for me is finding a setting to fit the story, and that I can clearly see in my own mind. In that respect, I treat them in the same way I do the characters: they aren’t real, but I want people to be able to visualise them and feel that they could be.

Can you tell us anything about what is next? Will Dr Hunter return?

I’m a great believer in not talking things away, so I don’t like saying too much about what I’m working on. But I can say that Hunter will be back.

Finally, is there anything you have read recently that you would like to recommend to readers?

The book that’s stood out for me recently is Golden Hill by Francis Spufford. It’s set in eighteenth century Manhattan, and while I don’t read much historical fiction this was the best thing I’ve read in a long time.

Thanks so much!

You’re welcome!

About the Book:

Available Now.

It was on a Friday evening that forensics consultant Dr David Hunter took the call: a Detective Inspector Lundy from the Essex force. Just up the coast from Mersea Island, near a place called Backwaters, a badly decomposed body has been found and the local police would welcome Hunter’s help with the recovery and identification . . .
Because they would like it to be that of Leo Villiers, the 31 year-old son of a prominent local family who went missing weeks ago, and they are under pressure to close the case. Villiers was supposed to have been having an affair with a married woman, Emma Derby. She too is missing, and the belief is that the young man disposed of his lover, and then killed himself. If only it was so straightforward.
But Hunter has his doubts about the identity of the remains. The hands and feet are missing, the face no longer recognisable. Then further remains are found – and suddenly these remote wetlands are giving up yet more grisly secrets. As Hunter is slowly but surely drawn into a toxic mire of family secrets and resentments, local lies and deception, he finds himself unable, or perhaps unwilling, to escape even though he knows that the real threat comes from the living, not the dead.

I’m a huge fan of this series – if you haven’t read them yet I would HIGHLY recommend that you read them all, not that The Restless Dead is not perfectly readable and brilliant as a standalone but Dr Hunter is a character you want to be with from the beginning. Also for you readers who simply MUST read in order The Chemistry of Death is where to start.

This story finds our Dr Hunter called in unexpectedly to help with the recovery and identification of remains, but he is drawn into a mystery that offers danger at every turn. As with the previous novels, Simon Beckett brings a hugely atmospheric sense of tension in his writing and the forensic detail is both fascinating and incredibly accessible which really digs you deep into the tale and keeps you wrapped up in it. Beautifully descriptive in both setting and character this, like the others, is an addictive and all consuming read that you may well do in one sitting if you are prone to that sort of thing.

The subtle twists and turns are cleverly intricate, Dr Hunter’s personal story arc takes a compelling turn, there is nothing about this book that I didn’t love entirely – oh well apart from finishing it because I immediately and rather rabidly wanted more. Never have I been so pleased to return to a series I (and the author) have been away from for a while, this is intuitive, clever writing, I’d put it very near the top of the crime fiction I read.

Overall perfectly brilliant. Or brilliantly perfect. Either would work as well and this, as with the rest, comes highly recommended from me.

 

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Black Water – Louise Doughty. Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Faber.

Source: Purchased copy

John Harper lies awake at night in an isolated hut on an Indonesian island, listening to the rain on the roof and believing his life may be in danger. But he is less afraid of what is going to happen than of something he’s already done.

In a local town, he meets Rita, a woman with her own troubled history. They begin an affair – but can he allow himself to get involved when he knows this might put her at risk?

Moving between Europe during the cold war, California and the Civil Rights struggle, and Indonesia during the massacres of 1965 and the decades of military dictatorship that follow, Black Water is an epic novel that explores some of the darkest events of recent world history through the story of one troubled man.

I went into Black Water having only read Apple Tree Yard from Louise Doughty – I thought Black Water was all kinds of amazing but I think it is worth noting, that if you like me have only read that one book that has been so popular (for good reason) that Black Water is a very different kettle of fish – therefore might be somewhat unexpected.

What I loved about this one was the setting and the drawing of the background, a slow burn of literary suspense where the beauty was in the characters and their journeys. I don’t know a lot about Indonesia, the culture or the history but Black Water felt honestly authentic and Louise Doughty digs deep into the heart of things.

Black Water is both tragic and beautiful, John Harper is compelling, not always likeable but endlessly fascinating. The history is cleverly interwoven into a tale of one man’s life battles, both internal and external and towards the end of the novel I was almost literally holding my breath. The author breathes a strange inevitability into her plotting, this is a political drama in some ways but mostly an intensive and insightful character study.

I loved the writing, I loved that it didn’t rush you towards judgement, I wouldn’t call it a thriller although it was at times thrilling. Dramatic suspense at it’s very best. It makes me want to follow this author onwards because both of the books I have read of hers now have been completely different from each other but equally clever and emotionally gripping.

Recommended.

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The Special Girls Isabelle Grey – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: April 6th from Quercus

Source: Review Copy

A young psychiatric registrar is found dead in the woods outside a summer camp for young eating disorder patients, run by the charismatic, world-renowned Professor Ned Chesham. DI Grace Fisher investigates, but it is not long before she is pulled from the case – to head up a Metropolitan Police review into a cold case involving Chesham himself.

Nearly twenty years ago, one of Chesham’s patients made allegations that he sexually assaulted her. The investigation at the time found no conclusive proof, but Grace soon discovers another victim, and a witness whose account never reached the police. Does this mean the original investigation was bungled? Scotland Yard would certainly like her to conclude otherwise.

As Grace uncovers the lies that led to the young doctor’s murder, she discovers the full extent of the damage done to Chesham’s ‘special girls’ – and the danger they are still in.

I loved The Special Girls – it is an emotive and very current theme that Isabelle Grey uses as her main plot here, that of historical child abuse and the difficulties of prosecuting, or even proving, criminal acts committed by those in power. As such it is at times a quite harrowing read, the author digging into the fallout and affect on those who suffer at the hands of those they should be able to trust.

When a psychiatric registrar is found dead, Grace gets the case but it soon becomes apparent that there are political issues that may stymie her investigation. Soon moved on to a cold case review that is connected, she is thrown into a years long history of possible abuse against young girls suffering eating disorders. The plot flows along from there, Grace finding obstacles at every turn, having to think outside the box in order to get to the truth and putting her own career in danger along the way.

The Special Girls is highly readable, well flowing and immersive – I’ve enjoyed the previous books in this series but I do think that this one has taken things up a notch, not only in regards to character arcs but in depth and quality of storytelling. Isabelle Grey writes about a truly horrific subject with sympathy and realism – you feel every moment of it, get frustrated right along with Grace when political maneuvering gets in the way of protecting the vulnerable – it is often very heart wrenching stuff but always genuine and as we know from many recent news headlines, not at all unbelievable.

This was addictive reading with a tough emotional edge and realistic twists of fate that I have no problem at all recommending.

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