Latest Reads: Resurrection Bay Emma Viskic

Publication Date: 24th August from Pushkin Vertigo

Source: Review Copy

CALEB ZELIC IS ON THE HUNT FOR HIS FRIEND’S KILLER
Caleb Zelic’s childhood friend has been brutally murdered – fingers broken, throat slit – at his home in Melbourne. Tortured by guilt, Caleb vows to track down the killer. But he’s profoundly deaf; missed words and misread lips can lead to confusion, and trouble.

HE NEVER FORGETS A FACE
Fortunately, Caleb knows how to read people; a sideways glance, an unconvincing smile, speak volumes. When his friend Frankie, a former cop, offers to help, they soon discover the killer is on their tail. 

IT MIGHT JUST SAVE HIS LIFE
Sensing that his ex-wife may also be in danger, Caleb insists they return to their hometown of Resurrection Bay. But here he learns that everyone – including his murdered friend – is hiding something. And the deeper he digs, the darker the secrets. 

Resurrection Bay was a banging read from the first chapter to the last chapter – featuring a main protagonist in Caleb that I fell immediately in love with, full of plenty of edge of the seat moments and a realistically edged mystery plot that was thoroughly engaging.

Caleb has a hearing problem that makes him view the world differently, as an anchor to the occasionally heart stopping plot he was brilliant – as were his relationships with those around him, especially his long suffering ex wife Kat, his alcoholic business partner Frankie and his addicted, often in trouble brother Anton. When a close friend of his is killed and it appears to be linked to a case they had both been involved in, things soon kick off big time and a hugely riveting, often brutal, always fascinating adventure begins.

Resurrection Bay is one of those novels that just drags you along in it’s wake – every time you think you could put it down something happens so you don’t – that way lies the madness of reading into the early hours in your utter need to know what happens. Emma Viskic has a truly rock and roll writing style with a keenly descriptive eye that just keeps you on your toes and drives the narrative in a truly addictive fashion. Beautifully placed unexpected diversions, memorably drawn characters who are multi layered (and we still have lots to learn about so bring on the next novel quick smart I say) together with what was for me a genuinely unexpected resolution and you have a perfect storm of a read.

Caleb may not be able to hear you but he knows you are coming – and I hope he is too, in a lot more future novels from this author.

Banging brilliant. As I said. Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: If I Die Tonight by A L Gaylin

Publication Date: 24th August from Century

Source: Netgalley

There was a time when Jackie Reed knew her sons better than anyone. She used to be able to tell what they were thinking, feeling, if they were lying…

But it’s as though every day, every minute even, she knows them a little less. Her boys aren’t boys anymore, they’re becoming men – men she’s not sure she recognises, men she’s not sure she can trust.

So when one of her son’s classmates is killed in suspicious circumstances, people start asking questions.

Was it really a hit and run? A car-jacking gone wrong? Or something much more sinister?

Now Jackie must separate the truth from the lies.

How did that boy end up on the road?

And where was her son that night?

Having loved What Remains of Me I was really looking forward to this and it was one of those books I devoured – although it has a mystery at the heart of it and it’ll get tagged as a psychological thriller, this was much more family drama with a small town vibe, digging deep into themes of parental responsibility, sibling relationships, school and community hierarchy and the dark depths of humanity.

A boy dies – run over during a carjacking, a town mourns and focuses in on Wade – a loner of sorts, who is struggling with things he can’t describe. His mother no longer knows who he is, his brother doubts him and the beauty of this one came in the depth of the characters, the layered relationships and the obfuscated and twisted motivations of a community seeking answers and closure.

My heart ached for them all in a way – A L Gaylin brings a strong emotive edge to her descriptive tone and dialogue – shining a spotlight on those we meet, peeling away their realities in a tense and atmospheric read that promises no salvation but might give you some anyway. The opening salvo drops you straight into the emotion of it and doesn’t let up from there on in.

The ultimate resolution when it comes is beautifully embedded into the previous narrative, it is both heart wrenching, traumatic and in some ways unexpected – there are scenes throughout that will have you gritting your teeth and others that will make you catch your breath.

Really beautifully done. In all the white noise of this genre at the moment, its a true thing to say that clever, talented and beautiful writing tells – If I Die Tonight has all three, making you feel every moment and live it right along with this fractured town.

Definitely recommended.

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Latest Reads: Strange Practice Vivian Shaw

Publication Date: Available Now from Orbit

Source: Review Copy

Meet Greta Helsing, fast-talking doctor to the undead. Keeping the supernatural community not-alive and well in London has been her family’s specialty for generations.

Greta Helsing inherited the family’s highly specialized, and highly peculiar, medical practice. In her consulting rooms, Dr. Helsing treats the undead for a host of ills – vocal strain in banshees, arthritis in barrow-wights, and entropy in mummies. Although barely making ends meet, this is just the quiet, supernatural-adjacent life Greta’s been groomed for since childhood.

Until a sect of murderous monks emerges, killing human and undead Londoners alike. As terror takes hold of the city, Greta must use her unusual skills to stop the cult if she hopes to save her practice, and her life. 

I’ve been hoping for some decent urban fantasy to come along, there are a few series out there that I love and follow but not nearly enough – so here we have Greta Helsing and her unconventional medical practice and yay, its all the good stuff.

Strange Practice is a fun and often very dark read, peppered with ghouls and vampires and anything else you could hope for all hanging out in our world, living under the radar, when they are unwell it is Greta they turn to. So that’s the basis, then of course in the spirit of Buffy a big bad comes along and messes with the status quo. Cue an adventurous and highly engaging romp of a tale, layering strange and wonderful characters into a tightly woven supernatural plot setting good against evil when neither side is either one thing or the other. Really great.

Taking some inspiration from Dracula in it’s world building, throwing in a diverse and ever absorbing community of beings, Vivian Shaw delves into the vagaries of human nature using more than mere mortals to do so. It is a beautifully woven page turner, a character driven mish mash of weirdness and wonder and overall I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Definitely recommended – if only so you can meet Fass, perhaps one of my favourite characters of the year so far.

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Need to Know by Karen Cleveland. Sssh I’ll tell you a secret….

Publication Date: January 2018 from Bantam Press.

What do you do when everything you trust might be a lie?

Things you Need to Know about Need to Know

  • It is inadvisable to start reading this case report late at night. You won’t get any sleep. Then you may inadvertently give away classified information to the wrong party. This would be bad for your health.
  • It IS advisable to channel Fox Mulder as you read – Trust No-One
  • You may be in the hands of a master manipulator.
  • The truth is within the pages if you grasp the subtle nuances
  • Challenge everything
  • Believe nothing
  • Keep a soft pillow handy. You may need to rest your head when you realise you can’t HANDLE the truth
  • Chances of becoming addicted HIGH  – take steps to protect yourself
  • Domestic Noir just went to the next level
  • When the ending comes and all is revealed – remember to take that next breath. Lack of breathing kills.

Things I can tell you about Need to Know

Vivian Miller is a dedicated CIA counterintelligence analyst assigned to uncover the leaders of Russian sleeper cells in the United States.

She discovers (——————————————————————Redacted———————————-) and nothing will be the same again.

Is he your Husband?

There are twists in every chapter, sometimes nuanced, sometimes right out loud, but my heart genuinely stopped when (———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————Redacted—————————————————————————————————————————————————–)I thought I might not recover enough to continue to the end.

The storytelling is taut and audacious with a touch of class, but when you get to somewhere near (———————————–Redacted——————————————————–) you’ll realise just how much you’ve been caught in (———————Redacted——————) and may need to reassess everything you’ve read so far.

 

Is he a spy? 

Then that ending. Where all is finally clear. The truth is

Wait, hang on. There’s someone at the door. I’ll tell you in a minute………

 

#NeedToKnowBook 

Latest Reads: The Innocent Wife Amy Lloyd.

Publication Date: 28th December from Century

Source: Netgalley

Twenty years ago Dennis Danson was arrested for the brutal murder of Holly Michaels in Florida’s Red River County. Now he’s the subject of a Making a Murderer-style true crime documentary that’s taking the world by storm – the filmmakers are whipping up a frenzy of coverage to uncover the truth and free the victim of a gross miscarriage of justice.

Samantha may be thousands of miles away in Britain, but she is as invested in Dennis’s case as any of his lawyers. Perhaps even more so, as her letters to the convicted killer grow ever more intimate. Soon she is leaving her life behind to marry Danson and campaign, as his wife, for his release.

But when the campaign is successful, and Dennis is freed, events begin to suggest that he may not be so innocent after all. How many girls went missing in Red River, and what does Dennis really know?

The Innocent Wife was a brilliantly immersive read – if you watched Making A Murderer you’ll probably like this – taking that type of premise as a starting point then taking the reader on a kind of “behind the scenes” journey – focusing on Sam, obsessed with the subject to the point that she drops everything, moves to the States and ultimately marries him. Then, however, the campaign is successful and she’s faced with living with a man she barely knows and who may not be as innocent as he seems.

Through her we meet the television crew, the people from the hometown of the dead girl, various other involved parties and start to slowly uncover the genuine truth of the matter. What I loved about it was the way the author obfuscates her characters, making it hard to see realities but done in a very realistic manner. Dennis is a mass of contradictions, one moment you are full of sympathy for his plight, others you think “ooh this guy is dangerous” but until you reach the final pages you are never quite sure.

Sam as a character I did find a little insipid – she’s easily lead and suffers from extreme jealousy, she is often blinded to the truths around her simply by the sheer force of her obsessive nature – but this makes her very real, it didn’t feel strange that she left her life and married a possible murderer.

Overall a really great, gripping, page turner of a read. You just want to know – I also thought the ending was cleverly thought provoking.

Recommended.

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Latest Reads: The Late Show: Michael Connelly

Publication Date: Available Now from Orion

Source: Review Copy

Renée Ballard works the night shift in Hollywood, beginning many investigations but finishing none as each morning she turns her cases over to day shift detectives. A once up-and-coming detective, she’s been given this beat as punishment after filing a sexual harassment complaint against a supervisor.

But one night she catches two cases she doesn’t want to part with: the brutal beating of a prostitute left for dead in a parking lot and the killing of a young woman in a nightclub shooting. Ballard is determined not to give up at dawn. Against orders and her own partner’s wishes, she works both cases by day while maintaining her shift by night. As the cases entwine they pull her closer to her own demons and the reason she won’t give up her job no matter what the department throws at her.

I can’t  speak for everyone but I love it when an author I’ve been following for years and years suddenly turns around and gives us something new – and what a something new it is, with The Late Show featuring Detective Renee Ballard. Working the night shift (referred to as The Late Show) in a kind of punishment come harassment type way having annoyed a colleague by daring to bring a complaint, Renee is tough as they come and takes no prisoners – I loved her bull at a wall attitude and her determination to get things done despite being constantly sidelined.

Michael Connelly has created a very different atmosphere with The Late Show – there’s a dark and disturbing ambience to it, with a lot of the action taking place in the pre dawn hours, this is a different type of policing altogether – coming into a case but never seeing it through to fruition. Until the night we meet Renee however who finds a strange kinship with a victim of a beating and determines there and then not to let her down..

Renee herself is the heart and soul of this novel – you learn a lot about her just through her attitude, her actions and her relationships with those around her. She is tough, yes but also flawed, not all her decision making is sensible and her life away from the unit is somewhat quirky. Mr Connelly builds a whole other world around her, paced to perfection with a hugely authentic edge and a practical addictive prose that keeps you up through the night – I didn’t want to leave this book shift until Renee did – although this takes place over several days and nights the feeling is of one long, intense and beautifully intriguing set piece. I could almost imagine it being filmed, West Wing style with one camera following Renee through the murky twists and turns of her cases, never panning away.

The mystery elements are clearly Connelly – twists and turns and tiny little nuances that turn into hugely important clues and reasons – he has an incredibly realistic eye towards character building and there is not one thing that rings false or unlikely – which makes it all the more hard hitting when the big moments come.

Overall I thought this was pure pure excellence on the page. I honestly and sincerely hope that we see Renee many times over, doing what she does best, I want to know more about her and all the others I met within the pages (I loved the lawyer incidentally watch out for him) and I definitely want to see her bring her unique way of working to more night time incidents – it is, after all, always darkest just before dawn.

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Two Nights Kathy Reichs

Publication Date: Available Now from Bantam

Source: Netgalley

Meet Sunday Night, a woman with physical and psychological scars, and a killer instinct… 

Sunnie has spent years running from her past, burying secrets and building a life in which she needs no one and feels nothing. But a girl has gone missing, lost in the chaos of a bomb explosion, and the family needs Sunnie’s help. 

Is the girl dead? Did someone take her? If she is out there, why doesn’t she want to be found? It’s time for Sunnie to face her own demons because they just might lead her to the truth about what really happened all those years ago.

Two Nights is a fast, furious and engaging read with some dark and currently relevant themes running through the narrative – I blasted my way through it in a few hours, totally gripping.

Very different from the norm for Ms Reichs, whose authentic forensic detail in her Temperance Brennan novels has held me in thrall for years – but the trademark quality writing is here, alongside her sharp and intelligent eye for building characters and making you care about them. Sunnie Night is divisive, intelligent and driven – as a reader you get on board with her incredibly fast, her background is highly intriguing and one can only hope that we’ll meet her again in future novels.

In this one however she’s on the trail of a missing girl, lost during the chaos of a bomb attack, the plot is taut and clever, with some crackling dialogue and a strong sense of reality. As a lover of thrillers this one hit the mark for me, its also true that I’m a fan of authors changing direction every now and again and giving us a peek into another area of their creativity, that has certainly been achieved here, with some beautifully unexpected forks in the road from A – B keeping things entertaining.

Whilst the plot was excellent it was the character that kept me reading and randomly growling at people who tried to get my attention – Sunday “Sunnie” Night is one to watch. Put expectations aside and dive right in. You’ll have a very good reading time.

Recommended.

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Latest Reads: The Dying Game Asa Avdic

Publication Date: 2nd November from Randomhouse UK (Windmill books)

(Available Now on Kindle) 

Source: Netgalley

Oh, it’s really quite simple. I want you to play dead.’ 

On the remote island of Isola, seven people have been selected to compete in a 48-hour test for a top-secret intelligence position. One of them is Anna Francis, a workaholic with a nine-year-old daughter she rarely sees, and a secret that haunts her. Her assignment is to stage her own death and then observe, from her hiding place inside the walls of the house, how the other candidates react to the news that a murderer is among them. Who will take control? Who will crack under pressure? 

But as soon as Anna steps on to the island she realises something isn’t quite right. And then a storm rolls in, the power goes out, and the real game begins… 

I really loved The Dying Game but I think it might be a little divisive considering the blurb which leads you to expect a kind of ode to Christie’s “And Then there were None” –  which I suppose given the isolated setting and the actions there it kind of is – but this is also a dystopian novel, set in an imagined future where wars have changed the landscape and Sweden is under the implied rule of a mysterious intelligence service. So go into it with no judgement and you’ll find a terrifically atmospheric hybrid of mystery and political thriller.

We hear mostly from Anna and Henry – two people who know each other and have a kind of “will they won’t they” relationship that is teased throughout. Anna is suffering PTSD, the reasons for this are only half told but it’s obvious that she is an intelligent yet tortured human being. Henry meanwhile is all cold lines and cleverness, I enjoyed reading their differing points of view as the plot developed.

The island portions are somewhat creepy – there are obviously political machinations at play and perhaps nobody there is quite as they seem. The author plays on various fears very well here, layering possibilities and putting the characters into difficult circumstances, especially Anna who comes to realise that her role there is not what she had prepared for.

The background is well imagined if a little loose on detail – I was especially engaged by Anna’s relationship with her Mother and daughter – and I genuinely didn’t know where it was going until it ended up there which is always a plus for me.

Its a bit like a horror movie on the page with people disappearing and the reader never seeing the full picture, even really with the resolution – but I found it to be a proper page turner and therefore I would definitely recommend it especially if you are looking for something different and unusual.

I’ll look forward to this authors next book with some anticipation see if she can keep that edge of creativity that made this book work for me. Thoroughly enjoyable especially if you just go with the flow.

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Latest Reads: The Forever Ship Francesca Haig

Publication Date: Available Now from Harper Voyager

Source: Netgalley

Elsewhere exists. Cass, Piper and Zoe must race to prevent the Alpha’s from destroying what might be the only salvation for the Omegas and an end to the discrimination that comes, for them, with existing. But while they struggle to change the world, Cass must also overcome her grief and loyalty to her twin if she is ever to be free.

The Forever Ship completes this trilogy which began with The Fire Sermon and continued with A Map of Bones – I’ll be sorry to see the back of Cass, Piper et al I’ve lived this journey with them and a brilliantly engaging and thought provoking one it was too and the lovely Ms Haig puts a pitch perfect finish on it.

In this finale, the battle to save Elsewhere is the main focus along with ever changing loyalties and Cass still trying to come to terms with her relationship with Zach – twin and Alpha – who has been an extraordinarily difficult challenge.

I’ve come to know the world built here really well – the Alpha and Omega twins, one perfectly formed the other with flaws and the author has delved deep into human nature here, throughout the narrative, in a beautifully plotted battle where its not so much one of good v evil but of this compromise v that compromise and how far we would go to preserve ourselves.

The characters are formed and authentic, Cass is divisive and tortured by her visions, her journey from that first page of The Fire Sermon to this last page of The Forever Ship has been one full of twists and challenges, utterly riveting and beautifully described.

I don’t really want to give anything away – but Francesca Haig has created a dystopian reality that is very believable, as our world teeters on the brink of who knows what, one can perfectly well imagine a future such as she describes – even the more fantastical elements of it.

Overall The Fire Sermon trilogy has been a most terrific reading experience – and that melancholy, cleverly thought out finale just put the icing on a very delicious cake.

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Age of Assassins R J Barker

Publication Date: Available now from Orbit

Source: Review Copy

TO CATCH AN ASSASSIN, USE AN ASSASSIN . . .

Girton Club-foot, apprentice to the land’s best assassin, still has much to learn about the art of taking lives. But their latest mission tasks him and his master with a far more difficult challenge: to save a life. Someone, or many someones, is trying to kill the heir to the throne, and it is up to Girton and his master to uncover the traitor and prevent the prince’s murder.

In a kingdom on the brink of civil war and a castle thick with lies Girton finds friends he never expected, responsibilities he never wanted, and a conspiracy that could destroy an entire land.

Age of Assassins is pure energy on the page – a banging brilliant fantasy novel in a year where there are a fair few banging fantasy novels coming out, this one stands out.

I couldn’t put this damn book down once I picked it up – Girton Club-Foot, apprentice assassin, does not allow for such a thing as he and his mentor hunt for an, erm assassin. In a cleverly developed and endlessly intriguing plot the pair of them sneak around in plain sight, trying to save the heir to the throne in a land that is on the edge of all sorts of disasters, meeting new friends and enemies along the way and basically dragging you, the reader, on an adventure of epic proportions.

I’m a lover of fantasy when it is so very brilliantly character driven, Girton is one of my favourite characters ever in this respect – he’s so beautifully grumpy, wonderfully witty and whilst I’ve seen others refer to him as disabled I never ever saw him that way because he didn’t. His boss and kindly (occasionally) mentor Merela is also hugely engaging and as a pair they were a delight to read about.

The world building is also beautifully done, understanding coming to you via plot developments and character dialogue for the most part rather than endlessly complicated description – another thing I love because you just absorb it along the way. The political landscape is clearly divisive, setting our main protagonists up for all sorts of ups and downs that you just live right along with them. The writing style is a bit rock and roll, Age of Assassins is a heady mix of mystery, thrills and pure classic fantasy, forget your Game of Thrones for a bit, pick up this instead.

There is so much to love in Age of Assassins, I’m not even going to spoil one second of it for you. Just go get it and throw yourself in there, its a rich, rollicking, rush of a read that will make your head spin. Bring on book 2. I stand ready.

Highly Recommended.

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