Latest Reads: Method 15/33 by Shannon Kirk

Publication Date: Available Now from OceanView Publishing

(UK release from Sphere titled “The Method”)

Source: Netgalley

Imagine a helpless, pregnant 16-year-old who’s just been yanked from the serenity of her home and shoved into a dirty van. Kidnapped Alone Terrified.

Now forget her

Picture instead a pregnant, 16-year-old, manipulative prodigy. She is shoved into a dirty van and, from the first moment of her kidnapping, feels a calm desire for two things: to save her unborn son and to exact merciless revenge.

She is methodical calculating scientific in her plotting. A clinical sociopath? Leaving nothing to chance, secure in her timing and practice, she waits for the perfect moment to strike. Method 15/33 is what happens when the victim is just as cold as the captors.

Thoroughly enjoyed this! Fast and furious read with a truly engaging main protagonist and a healthy dose of ironic brilliance.

She has been kidnapped – pregnant and held against her will, 16 years old, two FBI agents on the case, you’d expect your normal type of “hang on in there possibly show some guts wait to be rescued” type psychological thriller. Nope. this is not your normal teenager, she has a sharp, focused scientific mind and an ability to turn her various emotions on and off at will. Plus an extraordinarily intense maternal instinct and a tendency towards being vengeful.

Poor kidnappers.

Still, the tension is palpable even though, as she is writing this many years later, a story for her now grown child, you know she’s probably going to be ultimately fine. Or her rather different definition of fine anyway. This is no secret from very early on. The beauty of this one is in watching her plan unfold, see her brain working, whilst her hapless yet still somewhat scary captors continue with their plans to steal her child…

It rocks along this book, hearing from our captive and then from the agent who spends his life looking for the missing – both of them have highly intriguing personalities of differing sorts, there was not a single moment of this that I was not practically hugging the narrative. It gets the blood up, a real rollicking page turner, with a fair few surprises along the way, characters to die for, a whole load of fun despite the premise, although there are some sobering moments that give pause for thought too. Plenty of layers here, I loved all of them.

The final parts of this book make for really cool reading as you see exactly what all the little preparations have been for, making you want to fist pump the air (although my advice is don’t do that you drop the book and then have to scrabble around to retrieve your spot) and I don’t think I’m going to get the image of that heavily pregnant, sixteen year old, angel of vengeance out of my head anytime soon. Can we hope that we meet her again in her adult life? Certainly the author allows for this possibility, with a wonderfully poignant and intelligent ending.

Loved it. Sometimes you just boogie right along with the book tune, this one was rock and roll.

Recommended.

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Latest Reads: A Thousand Cuts by Thomas Mogford.

Publication Date: Available Now from Bloomsbury

Source: Review Copy

A thousand cuts … We may be few, but together we can change the world

When a routine court case takes a sinister turn, defence lawyer Spike Sanguinetti starts asking dangerous questions that nobody seems to want answered. Soon, it’s not just the truth that’s at stake: it is everything and everyone that Spike holds precious. As the Gibraltarian sun beats relentlessly down, crimes of the past and present collide, relationships are tested and long-buried secrets exposed. Who can Spike trust? And where do his own loyalties lie?

Loved A Thousand Cuts. You know when you find a book that has characters you fall for, a setting that lives around you and a story that is addictive, clever and unpredictable – that.

This is the first book I’ve read in this series (now dammit I have to go back and read the others, you know sometimes you just wish you could hate a book and prevent your tbr pile getting bigger but not in this case. Sigh) but it doesn’t really matter, I don’t feel I missed anything, the story flows beautifully with enough information about the characters to have an idea where we are – always a good thing for those of us who are always behind with stuff.

Score 10/10 for Spike Sanguinetti as a main protagonist, an honourable man trying to keep things equal in the murky world of law, standing up for his client despite said client being a bit of an ass – then finding himself embroiled in a historical mystery that holds dangerous possibilities for those he holds dear. Loyalties are tested, moral and legal decisions challenging him every day and blimey there is a baby on the way too. Nothing like putting your characters through the wringer is there, to make us readers love them.

Gibraltar as a setting is spot on, beautifully described, I now want to go there, I can see it in my minds eye – another strength of this particular story, putting the people firmly in the places makes for a much more immersive read. I enjoyed the historical aspects, could feel Spike’s frustration jumping off the page on occasion it was all really quite terrific. That and the group dynamic, I feel Jessica may become long suffering, I was engaged by Rufus and the father/son relationship and the ending left some personal issues unresolved that means I will inevitably be picking up the next book when it comes out.

Yep. Good. Good crime. We like it. Highly Recommended.

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Ones to Watch in 2017: The Fact of a Body – Alexandria Marzano-Lesenevich

Publication Date: 18th May 2017 from Macmillan

Source: Review Copy

Before Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich begins a summer job at a law firm in Louisiana, working to help defend men accused of murder, she thinks her position is clear. The child of two lawyers, she is staunchly anti-death penalty. But the moment convicted murderer Ricky Langley’s face flashes on the screen as she reviews old tapes―the moment she hears him speak of his crimes―she is overcome with the feeling of wanting him to die. Shocked by her reaction, she digs deeper and deeper into the case. Despite their vastly different circumstances, something in his story is unsettlingly, uncannily familiar.

Crime, even the darkest and most unsayable acts, can happen to any one of us. As Alexandria pores over the facts of the murder, she finds herself thrust into the complicated narrative of Ricky’s childhood. And by examining the details of Ricky’s case, she is forced to face her own story, to unearth long-buried family secrets, and reckon with a past that colors her view of Ricky’s crime.

The Fact of a Body was less a non fiction narrative and more a work of art – I don’t think I have been sucked into a book in the way this one sucked me in for a good long while. Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich writes with such a beautiful, haunting quality that gets over so many layers of emotional depth whilst still keeping it factual and real, that you can one moment be feeling like you are watching events unfold in real time and the next sobbing like a baby at one small sentence that says everything.

At the heart of it all is not only this killer, Ricky Langley, but also the author herself as she delves into her own mind and her own history in an attempt to understand that which cannot be understood. She takes you along on a journey of discovery, one of unpalatable realities, poignant self realisation and historical influence, it is at turns heart breaking, utterly riveting and melancholy, get ready to be hooked, unable to look away.

The Fact of a Body often reads like a literary thriller, I found myself remembering with a jolt that these were real people living real lives – the author shows the mundane routine of living, alongside the telling events that informed eventual acts, alongside the things that cannot be explained no matter how much we may wish for a reason. Throughout the whole of the telling there are moments of quiet, occasional times you step away from the read and absorb what you have just learned – the historical detail, the absolute compassion with which the author allows the “characters” in this drama to live and breathe on the page is just stunning in its intensity. And we must not forget she is one of them – and does not hide from her own horrors simply lays them bare before us.

This is a tangled, beautiful, intelligently told true story that will surprise you, an unravelling of human nature, a truly incredible look at the power of memory, the influences of life experience and that which we hide from ourselves – as well as that it is a truly compelling and absolutely gripping crime story and family memoir.

I really cannot recommend this highly enough.

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Latest Reads: Where She Went – B E Jones. Coming Soon.

Publication Date: July 2017 from Little Brown (Constable)

Source: Netgalley

TV journalist Melanie Black wakes up one morning next to a man she doesn’t recognise. It’s not the first time – but he ignores her even though she’s in his bed. Yet when his wife walks in with a cup of tea he greets her with a smile and to her horror, Melanie comes to realise that no one can see or her hear her – because she is dead.

But has she woken up next to her murderer? And where is her body? Why is she an invisible and uninvited guest in a house she can’t leave; is she tied to this man forever? Is Melanie being punished in some way, or being given a chance to make amends?

As she begins to piece together the last days of her life and circumstances leading up to her own death it becomes clear she has to make a choice: bring her killer to justice, or wreak her own punishment out to the man who murdered her.

Read this pretty much in one sitting this afternoon – clever, addictive tale, a crime thriller with a ghostly element – well actually a literal ghost trying to muddle her way through the afterlife and eek out some kind of revenge at the same time.

Where She Went is told entirely by Melanie, who has woken up dead, stuck by the side of the man who probably killed her and his long suffering wife. Everybody pretty much is horrible in this novel – even poor Eve, said wife, who puts up with a controlling and abusive environment. Melanie herself is not particularly sympathetic either, dead as she is, but still you kind of root for her as she discovers what she can and can’t achieve.

The writing flows beautifully, I liked the way the back story revealed itself, and it is relatively creepy – Melanie whispering her thoughts into the heads of others – it actually gives you pause for thought on those random things you sometimes see out of the corner of your eye. The mystery elements are well thought out and clever but the excellent thing about this book is the character voice. Melanie is sharp and ironic, keeping you on side even as she shows her less than kind nature, I was especially fond of the little twist ending and the ability the author leaves you with to imagine what might happen next.

Overall this was beautifully different, something less usual within the crime genre, it worked on many levels and as such I have no problem recommending it.

One to watch this year.

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Publication Day Review: From the Shadows Neil White.

Publication Date: Available Now from Bonnier

Source: Review Copy.

The Lawyer

When defence lawyer Dan Grant inherits a murder case just weeks away from trial, he’s just expected to babysit it and take his fee. But Dan’s not that kind of lawyer. If he takes on a case then he investigates it his way – wherever the evidence takes him.

The Investigator

Jayne Brett is Dan’s investigator and a woman with a terrible secret in her past – one that still haunts her today. Needing the money, she takes on the task of investigating the case that Dan’s inherited. But has she taken on more than she can handle?

The Case

Mary Kendricks was a pretty, smart, twenty-four-year-old teacher. Now Mary Kendricks is dead and Robert Carter is in the dock, accused of her brutal murder.

But as Dan and Jayne investigate, they discover that perhaps there is more to this case than meets the eye – but in order to do their jobs they need to push the limits of the system, even if it means putting themselves in danger . .

Well it feels like its been a long time coming, a new Neil White book, which makes me grumpy but you know, you can’t have everything, like a book a week from the authors you love reading, From the Shadows was worth hanging around for because it is, as usual, damn good crime fiction.

The start of a new series here, a kind of mish mash of courtroom drama and crime thriller that is often edge of the seat clinging by the fingernails good all that interspersed with tense and authentic courtroom scenes. Plus great characters. Easily a one sitting read, the plot is dynamic and multi-layered, the relationship between Dan and Jayne is edgy and fascinating and the mystery elements are cleverly woven and definitely twisted. I do love the unpredictable stuff.

Bit creepy too. I mean genuinely look over your shoulder wonder who’s behind you creepy. Possibly don’t read this last thing at night if you are in the house all alone. Reminder to self for the next book.

I’ve long been a fan of Mr White which will come as no surprise to anybody, From The Shadows just confirms everything I’ve always said and then some. With the start of the Dan Grant series he truly is playing to his strengths, the fact that he is a Criminal Prosecutor in his other life shows here with the realistic legal layer.  If you thought UK law was rather dry and dull in comparison to the more shout out US stuff then think again. As Dan takes on the system it is ever compelling and truly absorbing, never unbelievable and just added so much to storytelling, highly readable drama.

With an ending that will have you holding your breath and a twisted, often surprising path to get you there From The Shadows is utterly gripping and highly inventive – top notch crime fiction at its appealing, page turning, captivating best. Loved it. More please. Dan and Jayne are characters to watch.

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Summary Justice by John Fairfax

Publication Date: Available Now from Little Brown.

Source: Netgalley

The last time Tess de Vere saw William Benson she was a law student on work experience. He was a twenty-one year old, led from the dock of the Old Bailey to begin a life sentence for murder. He’d said he was innocent. She’d believed him.

Sixteen years later Tess overhears a couple of hacks mocking a newcomer to the London Bar, a no-hoper with a murder conviction, running his own show from an old fishmonger’s in Spitalfields. That night she walks back into Benson’s life. The price of his rehabilitation – and access to the Bar – is an admission of guilt to the killing of Paul Harbeton, whose family have vowed revenge. He’s an outcast. The government wants to shut him down and no solicitor will instruct him. But he’s subsidised by a mystery benefactor and a desperate woman has turned to him for help: Sarah Collingstone, mother of a child with special needs, accused of slaying her wealthy lover. It’s a hopeless case and the murder trial, Benson’s first, starts in four days. The evidence is overwhelming but like Benson long ago, she swears she’s innocent.

Thoroughly enjoyed this legal thriller from John Fairfax (AKA William Broderick) it was full of bang on addictive quality, clever plotting and intriguing fascinating characters.

Our main two, Will and Tess have an emotional start to their interaction when Will is convicted of murder. Years later, having served his time and taken on the law as a career (not that easy with a murder conviction) Tess comes across him again – and again decides to help him. The levels of both characters are explored slowly but surely within the plot for this and that was one of my favourite things about it. I was drawn to these two for very different reasons.

Then there was the trial elements which were highly engaging and very twisty – as was the whole story surrounding Sarah Collingstone, in the dock accused of murdering her employer. John Fairfax throws a lot of curve balls at his protagonists, keeping the plot unpredictable and fast flowing, whilst also managing to keep a firm eye on developing the background plot of whether or not William Benson is in fact a murderer himself.

Key to this being so much fun to read were the little legal explanations of why things can or can’t happen (I can’t speak to the authenticity in reality of course but the authors background would suggest he knows what he is doing and it certainly FELT authentic) that kept your understanding of the legal maneuvers easy but without taking you out of the story or feeling lectured (believe me that is a huge plus) you felt like you were there on the ground so to speak, excellent stuff.

As a start to the series it was spot on – you learn so much about Will, about Tess, about those around them but there is a lot still to know – I’m genuinely looking forward to another instalment and hopefully finding out more. Both the main characters are brilliantly drawn, both have fascinating paths to where we find them here, both have a lot more to say.

As a legal mystery Summary Justice works very well indeed. As a character drama it is perhaps even better, put the two together and you have a genuinely absorbing and captivating read that I will happily recommend.

Lets have more!

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Latest Reads: Kings of the Wyld – Nicholas Eames

Publication Date: Available Now from Orbit.

Source: Review Copy

GLORY NEVER GETS OLD.

Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best — the meanest, dirtiest, most feared crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld.

Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk – or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay’s door with a plea for help. His daughter Rose is trapped in a city besieged by an enemy one hundred thousand strong and hungry for blood. Rescuing Rose is the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for.

It’s time to get the band back together for one last tour across the Wyld.

Rock and Roll.

This book is brilliantly entertaining, rip roaring fun and adventure, set in a fantasy world that is extraordinarily creative, beautifully engaging characters plus Moog. MOOG. I say no more – read it live it love it.

ANYWAY fans of fantasy need to look out for this novel – it is old school in its thinking but bang up to date modern in its writing, as such it will appeal across many levels. The pop culture humour is spot on (not the easiest to pull off and actually be hilarious) all mixed in with dark  fantasy elements that personally I love, some deep set themes running through the narrative and a banging good ending.

Really excellent construction here, tight plot, clever expansion of the characters, hugely addictive and just like a little book dance of joy. I was up all night with this – laughing out loud at times, enjoying the adrenalin rush of the fight scenes but mostly just caught up with this merry band and their ongoing quest.

Kings of the Wyld is a character driven, high octane, full of beans fantasy epic. Loved it.

Highly Recommended.

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March Book Watch: Follow Me Down Sherri Smith.

Publication Date: March 21st From Titan Books.

Source: Review Copy

Mia Haas has built a life for herself far from the North Dakota town where she grew up, but when she receives word that her twin brother is missing, she’s forced to return home. Once hailed as the golden boy of their small town, Lucas Haas disappeared the same day the body of one of his high school students is pulled from the river. Trying to wrap her head around the rumors of Lucas’s affair with the teen, and unable to reconcile the media’s portrayal of Lucas as a murderer with her own memories of him, Mia is desperate to find another suspect.

All the while, she wonders, if he’s innocent, why did he run?

Big fan of this one. I seem to be on a run of really excellent books at the moment.

Follow Me Down is a taut and atmospheric psychological thriller/small town drama which is enhanced by its main protagonist, Mia, who is divisive and multi faceted – as she hunts for the truth surrounding her brother’s disappearance she will challenge your ability to sympathise with her whilst absolutely making sure that you do.

Set in its majority over 16 days, each day brings Mia new challenges, both personally and in her search for Lucas, that will keep you utterly gripped as events unfold. The author writes so beautifully, both in her portrayal of a sibling relationship haunted by the secrets of an unstable mother and in the deep seated mystery elements surrounding the death of a teenager – all levels of Follow Me Down bring something new to the table.

The character dynamics are all hugely fascinating – from the tiger mother to the pot head student who nobody pays attention to, all of those you will meet within these pages whether peripherally or more deeply have emotional resonance – in a town full of secrets Mia faces down a wall of assumptions. Her own actions are informed by her own demons, her familial relationships and the small town vibe she thought she had left behind her – as the puzzle begins to unravel  Sherri Smith takes you on a twisted and eloquent road to the truth.

Nuanced and riveting, Follow Me Down intrigues and enthralls from first page to last.

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Walk Away by Sam Hawken

Publication Date: Available Now from Mulholland

Source: Review Copy

Former combat medic Camaro Espinoza is trying to put her past behind her. She knows she’s done bad things – but they were always for good reasons.

Then her calm, anonymous life is interrupted by a distress call from her sister Annabel. She’s become trapped in an abusive relationship with petty criminal Jake Collier, and she needs Camaro’s help.

Camaro has always protected Annabel, and she won’t stop now. But the situation is more dangerous than she realises. Jake has a sibling of his own, an ex-Marine named Lukas who is as unhinged as Camaro is uncompromising. And he and Jake are planning a much bigger crime.

As the federal marshals pick up Lukas’s trail, and a bounty hunter with a debt to settle closes in, Camaro’s smart enough to know that standing her ground is the last thing she should do. But even with a freight train like Lukas barrelling towards her, if there’s one thing she can’t do, it’s walk away.

Loved this – it was fast, thrilling, addictive and totally cool beans.

It has to be said that I have not read the first in this series but that genuinely made no difference, in fact it felt like it could easily be the lead in, also Camaro is a bang on main protagonist – loved her. I’ve seen the comparisons to Reacher everywhere, but I would ignore that if I were you – seriously, Camaro, she’s got her own game going on thank you very much.

ANYWAY moving past that, the main story involves a sister in trouble, a pair of brothers that ARE trouble, a hot headed out of control Marshall, various other players and Camaro. Who will take the lot of them on and not even need a sit down.

I love thrillers like this because they are truly involving, you rock along with the characters, immersed in every moment, then Sam Hawken throws the odd unexpected spanner into the works making you crazy, then you head into a rapidly escalating conclusion that is proper edge of the seat stuff.

Its not rocket science – it is an adrenalin rush of entertainment with some well drawn and compelling characters, a proper dose of storytelling and a beautifully deft touch when it comes to dynamics and dialogue.

Definitely recommended for fans of ye good olde thrilling thriller with huge doses of that x factor thing that no reviewer ever had actual words for.

Enough said.

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Ones to Watch in 2017: Ragdoll – Daniel Cole.

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Happily a victim of Daniel Cole and Ragdoll today reposting my original review. Out tomorrow! Go get it if you just like to rock along with a book….This book is rocking.

Publication Date: 23rd Feb 2017 from Trapeze

Source: Review Copy

Six victims: one body

Controversial detective, Nathan Wolfe, has just been reinstated to the force after months of psychological assessment following accusations of assault. A veteran to the job, Wolfe thinks he’s seen it all, until his friend and former partner, Detective Emily Baxter, calls him to a crime scene and gleefully leads him to a career-defining cadaver: the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together like a puppet – a corpse that will become known in the press as the ‘ragdoll’. With six victims to identify, the stakes are raised when Wolfe’s ex-wife, reporter Andrea Hall, is anonymously sent photographs from the crime scene along with a list of six names… and the dates on which the ‘Ragdoll Killer’ intends to murder them.

The final name on the list is Wolfe’s.

Ha! Ragdoll is Fast, funny, brilliantly unpredictable and scarily horrific.

Loved it.

One of those books that a lot of people are talking about and you go hmm. Can it really be that good? Well if you like your crime novels to be indecently clever, terribly addictive, with a twist of horror and a huge dose of dark humour then yep it really can be that good.

It was.

ANYWAY characters? Yep got some of those in here, some utterly fantastic ones, none of whom seem to follow your usual tropes or if they do they do so in irregular and unlikely fashion. With style. Wolfe well, you never really know what he is going to do. It makes it beautifully engaging. Taking a cue from a note from the author , I thought Wolfe was a bit Jack Bauer on acid with better occasional wisecracks. I fell a little in love. Emily Baxter his one time sidekick is  well, she just is. Then the whole police team around those two have their own little weather patterns and externally you have news people(including wife Andrea – oops I mean EX of course) and possible victims and what have you, all entirely fascinating. Even if some of them did make me want to hide under the bed never to emerge again.

The dialogue crackles, the plot is beautifully woven to keep you guessing, although I gave up guessing around the middle of the book and just went along for the ride. It was a topsy turvy joy of a read that never once let up  in quality or stimulation  and it was a rocking rollercoaster from start to finish.  With body parts. And blood. And death. And giggles. And Wolfe.

And WHAT an ending.

Ragdoll? Yep yep and yep. Is what I have to say. This time the hype for me was justified. Its just good fun people! Even if the subject matter is the stuff of nightmares. Oh and by the way, great take on human nature here. If you are thinking this is all popcorn no depth think again. Works on many levels. Many many levels. Can’t wait for more from Daniel Cole.

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#Ragdollbook

2017

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