Ones to Watch in 2018: This Is How It Ends. Eva Dolan.

Publication Date: 25th January 2018 from Raven

Source: Review Copy

This is how it begins.

With a near-empty building, the inhabitants forced out of their homes by property developers.

With two women: idealistic, impassioned blogger Ella and seasoned campaigner, Molly.

With a body hidden in a lift shaft.

But how will it end?

Well to be honest I’m not sure where to begin. I’m certainly sure that the end has left me with that melancholy, low key buzz of a feeling that all real readers will know when they’ve just finished a novel that will  linger in the senses and be the benchmark for future reads for a long long time to come.

Eva Dolan’s Zigic and Ferreira series is one of the best, most authentic police series out there but This Is How It Ends enters a whole new league of subtle brilliance that defies explanation in any kind of review – things to note though are the beautifully immersive writing, the insightful and deeply layered characters and the ability to recreate the world we are living in without need for filter or fuss. Socially relevant, entertaining yes but also utterly genuine and just getting you right in the heart.

This Is How It Ends is masterfully plotted – A party, a body and two friends who live in a world of protest and activism, suddenly faced with a moral dilemma – This is how it began…

I’m not telling you anymore about the detailed plot than that and I hope HOPE that not many reviewers coming after me do either. This is a masterclass of suspense and character study, peeling back layers of both the fact and the fiction of these two women, until you are left with how it ends. If you know almost anything else it won’t have the same impact – and it does have impact, trust me on that one. I was blown away by the ultimate resolution both emotionally and practically, all I could do was sit there and shake my head at the pure resonance of it (and give a small nod of approval to the clever way Eva Dolan had manipulated my head)

Look this is classically good writing right? There are a plethora of brilliant crime and thriller writers around, using language in many different ways to entertain us, but there a few, those very few that just have that depth of emotion, that literary twist to the way they do things, that thing in their storytelling that tells you they were born to do this – and this author is one of those. She’s been showing us for a while now, but with this novel, undoubtedly for this reader her best so far, she’s hit that sweet spot that starts defining a writing career.

Exquisitely understated prose that digs deep, two characters that you will live with, an utterly utterly riveting story with a final denouement that will leave you stunned, This Is How It Ends heads straight onto my favourites of all time list. No messing. Sometimes that’s just the way it is.

Read this. This is what it’s all about. Eva Dolan is the real deal.

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: This Mortal Coil Emily Suvada

Publication Date: 2nd November from Penguin UK (Children’s)

Source: Review Copy

When a lone soldier, Cole, arrives with news of Lachlan Agatta’s death, all hope seems lost for Catarina. Her father was the world’s leading geneticist, and humanity’s best hope of beating a devastating virus. Then, hidden beneath Cole’s genehacked enhancements she finds a message of hope: Lachlan created a vaccine.

Only she can find and decrypt it, if she can unravel the clues he left for her. The closer she gets, the more she finds herself at risk from Cartaxus, a shadowy organization with a stranglehold on the world’s genetic tech. But it’s too late to turn back.

There are three billion lives at stake, two people who can save them, and one final secret that Cat must unlock. A secret that will change everything

There’s no gene for Run Like Hell…

Or is there?

Stop the presses I’ve found my new YA trilogy obsession with Emily Suvada’s “This Mortal Coil” a fast paced, intricately woven, brilliantly fascinating and best of all intelligent and addictive thriller.

Actually I’m assuming trilogy I guess it may end up being more but this is definitely book one and what a book one it is. For a start we have genuinely likable characters, none of whom are in any way generic, who you almost immediately care about and by the end of the novel you are entirely attached to.

Secondly Ms Suvada manages to avoid almost everything passe and overdone in your classic YA post apocalyptic story and makes the genre seem fresh as the morning sun – her romance threads are realistic, her relationship building is highly natural and the world building is subtle, immersive and well achieved. It’s also bloody clever. Rather than stick with your everyday virus she has created a truly fascinating, scientific geek heaven, honestly believable outbreak and rather than zombies she has….well I’ll let you find out that one for yourself.

The sciency (yes I know that’s not really a word) parts are really really riveting, the tech speak is easy to absorb within the narrative, it defines and drives the characters and sets us up for a lot of high thrills and spills action along the way. This is one of those truly immersive novels where you live in it for the moment, a proper page turner that will appeal to all ages, it is an adventure of the classic kind brought into modern times with  socially relevant themes running throughout.

Seriously also it’s like a YA psychological thriller spun into a fantasy – it has often literally breathtaking twists and turns as our anchor to it all Cat starts to discover some horrific truths behind her honest belief system and starts to methodically yet emotionally untangle a web of deceit that shatters the very centre of her being. The ending will have you up out of your chair, a kind of fist pumping but dammit now I have to wait reaction that encompasses all that has gone before it into one big bubble of reading trauma. Don’t you love it when that happens?

Beautifully written, skillfully plotted with that touch of subtle intuitive storytelling  that makes a book a word of mouth success, I am rather hopeful that movies and the suchlike will follow. We’ll see. But I get the feeling I just signed on for one HELL of a ride.

Highly Recommended.

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Genuine Fraud E Lockhart – Author Interview and Review.

Today I am VERY happy to welcome E Lockhart to Liz Loves Books, telling me a little about the brilliant Genuine Fraud – available now from Hot Key Books. A little review from me follows, but if you are a fan of engaging and clever psychological thrillers this one will definitely be for you.

I’ve just finished reading “Genuine Fraud” which I devoured in two sittings, it definitely engaged me on more than one level – I know you took inspiration from the Ripley tales – but what attracted you first to writing a non linear narrative?

 

Thank you.  I was inspired by Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley more than by her other Ripley novels.  I was interested in the making of an antihero.  I also referenced superhero origin stories and Victorian orphan novels like Vanity Fair and Great Expectations  — all stories of class mobility and compromises both moral and emotional.  I wanted to tell an antihero story that ended with the reader feeling very connected to the central character.  After you know all that Jule has done — you see her at her youngest and most innocent.  That was a big reason to tell the story  backwards.

 

The enigmatic “Jule” never really shows us her true self, or does she? What do you think?

 

The novel is in third person, and the narration is tricky, but not unreliable.  There are no untrue sentences anywhere in the book.   And to answer your question about Jule — I’m not sure anyone has a true self.  It’s a very slippery thing, the self.

 

 When plotting “Genuine Fraud” did the story come to you in reverse or did you work beginning to end and then write it in the way that you did – I suppose this ties back to the first question in some ways, maybe the attraction to the non linear came after the story was fully formed for you.

 

I love to play with narrative structures.  In my earlier books, which were comedies, I did this a lot.  A book structured like a list, or with footnotes.  My last novel, We Were Liars, has a structure of two intersecting timelines intercut with fairy tales that are outside the main narrative but which still move it along.  Challenging myself with a structure is like setting myself to solve a puzzle.

 

It is a very different tale to “Liars” which was hugely popular for good reason, is it your aim to try and write different things every time, try and stay out of any particular comfort zone?

 

To me, We Were Liars and Genuine Fraud are both psychological thrillers about  class differences and intense friendships.  Both books  also have central female characters who are labelled “difficult” and both have  playful narrative structures and twisty plots.   But Liars is quite romantic, whereas Genuine Fraud is quite violent.  I like to shake things up and still satisfy my readers.

 

What do you hope readers are feeling at the end, how do you think you would respond to it if you were reading it as a pure reader?

 

I hope people will feel exhilerated and that they’ll want to read it a second time  and talk it over with their friends.  It’s a good book to argue about, I think.

 

Finally a question I ask everyone – is there a novel you have read this year that you would like to recommend to everyone?

 

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby is a cross-genre thriller that’s gorgeously written and very gripping. It won the Printz Award here in the US.  I think you’ll love it.

 

Thank you so much! And for the book which I loved very much.

 

Thank you for the fun questions and for featuring me on your blog.  xoE

 

About the Book: 

The story of a young woman whose diabolical smarts are her ticket into a charmed life. But how many times can someone reinvent themselves? You be the judge.

Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete. 
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two. 
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains. 
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.

My Review: 

I read this in just over 2.5 hours because I couldn’t put it down. Told in reverse, taking masses of inspiration from The Talented Mr Ripley but with a female main protagonist, Genuine Fraud was a huge page turner.

It did, in substance, feel like a homage to Ripley and to Highsmith, the author captures you with her beautiful descriptive prose, rich and layered settings and hugely divisive characters. By the end of it you know everything, yet you know nothing. This is a book that demands a second reading.

It won’t be for everyone and it is nothing like Liars, but for me it worked extraordinarily well and I have been caught up in it all day. I like the backwards story telling, like Megan Miranda’s “All The Missing Girls” a book I would also recommend if you enjoy this, it captured my senses, beginning at the ending and ending at the beginning – each little gem of a timeline giving you that bit more but also taking away, messing with your perception leaving you to work out what you believe.

Yes I’m a fan of books like these. I hope more authors try their hand at this non linear storytelling and hone the craft until I’m genuinely upside down. Genuine Fraud is both Ripley and not Ripley, a beautifully formed novel that yeah, definitely won’t be for everyone.

But it was for me.

Highly Recommended.

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Recommended Read This Week: Did You See Melody? Sophie Hannah.

Publication Date: Available Now from Hodder and Staughton

Source: Review Copy

Pushed to the breaking point, Cara Burrows abandons her home and family and escapes to a five-star spa resort she can’t afford. Late at night, exhausted and desperate, she lets herself into her hotel room and is shocked to find it already occupied – by a man and a teenage girl.

A simple mistake on the part of the hotel receptionist – but Cara’s fear intensifies when she works out that the girl she saw alive and well in the hotel room is someone she can’t possibly have seen: the most famous murder victim in the country, Melody Chapa, whose parents are serving life sentences for her murder.

Cara doesn’t know what to trust: everything she’s read and heard about the case, or the evidence of her own eyes. Did she really see Melody? And is she prepared to ask herself that question and answer it honestly if it means risking her own life?

So I’m going to be taking one book out of my well loved previous or recent/early advanced reads that I have loved and recommending it each week – these novels will always be available now and may be old, new or somewhere in between the two.

This week I’m going with “Did You See Melody?” the latest twisted thriller from Sophie Hannah – I read this a  few months ago but it is now out there in the world and if you are a fan of the hard to see resolutions and the twisted path to the truth of the matter then you could pick up almost any Sophie Hannah novel to be fair, but Did You See Melody was definitely, for me, one of the most addictive.

This story follows Cara, who has (rather childishly I felt but that somehow made it all the more compelling that she ended up stuck in an enigma wrapped up in a mystery) run away from home. Wanting peace and quiet and time to think, she ends up at a relaxing resort. A mix up on the first night finds her in the wrong hotel room and seeing people who don’t want to be seen – but was the girl she saw REALLY the supposedly murdered Melody Capa or just someone who has a remarkable resemblance to said girl. Should Cara say what she has seen? Oh what to do…

As usual Sophie Hannah peppers her cast with a diverse range of characters, often hard to like ones, then mixes them all up, making everyone seem suspicious at one point or another, draws out the background to tell you everything you need to know but then blindsides you with something you didn’t think about. It is clever writing, I mostly love how I spend the entire time trying to second guess the author, who never ever makes things easy for me.

Added to that of course is the sheer vitality of it – once started pretty much not put down – I devoured this one in two quickfire, immersive sittings, predicting some things and absolutely not predicting others.  As usual Ms Hannah explores some dark themes but makes it just as entertaining as it is thought provoking and makes it almost impossible to second guess. Obviously occasionally you need a slight suspension of disbelief during but then when it all comes together in her  Christie-esque way, you go AH THAT is what that was all about – and give a nod to the genius thinking.

With the poetic prose and intrepid plot construction that is her trademark, Sophie Hannah gives us yet another twist fueled, character driven, intensely intriguing psychological thriller and I will continue reading them as long as she continues writing them. Bring on the next challenge, I anticipate it eagerly.

#ISawMelody

Recommended for: Fans of psychological thrillers with twists you are actually unlikely to see coming.

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20 Questions For….Matt Bendoris

Wicked Leaks comes out in the US today and to celebrate that fact I threw my 20 questions at the wonderfully creative Matt Bendoris. Wicked Leaks is a positively brilliant book – one which I shall be reviewing very soon but at the moment illness prevents my words making too much sense – so instead you could check out this spot on review from the indomitable Gordon at Grab This Book. 

 

SO Wicked Leaks – what’s that all about then…

A night nurse who sits with terminal patients. One claims he was involved in the assassination of Princess Diana. And he’s got the proof – the white Fiat Uno is in his garage. Or at least it was…

You are a journalist (am I supposed to shout BOOOOO at this stage?) – what do you mainly report on/write about and is it worth buying your paper for?

I’ve been a features writer for 25 years and I love it. I do a lot of light showbiz nonsense but also quite a lot of politics as it’s almost the new showbiz these days. I spent the whole day and night with Alex Salmond during the Scottish referendum, so it leads to some incredible experiences, most of which end up in my books

Favourite kind of cheese.

Roquefort.

DM for Murder was a book I loved VERY much but I don’t know why. Do you know why?

Because I murder “Piers Morgan”?

That is possibly it…

If you are stuck on a desert island with 4 really random famous people which random famous people would you choose and why?

Ben Elton – possibly my favourite author as I love his satire and social commentary. Alex Salmond – regardless of politics he’s a highly entertaining person and I enjoy his company immensely. The Krankies – my first book was ghost writing their 2004 autobiography Fan-Dabi-Dozi. They have both become good friends and are about the funniest people I know. Diana Gabaldon – the Outlander author is not only one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met, but she’s great company. She’s also been very kind and generous to me as an author.

Do you do your best work during the day or in the dark depths of the night?

Morning. The 9.05 Croy to Queen Street train. Just a 15 minute journey but without it – and the many ScotRail delays and cancellations – I wouldn’t be onto my 4th novel.

One piece of technology you couldn’t live without

Originally my BlackBerry. I typed my first crime novel Killing With Confidence on it. I could tap the hell out of its tiny keyboard. The iPhone replacement has been a pain in the ass.

How many other authors make you jealous – in fact whose work would you steal and pass off as your own if you could get away with it.

The aforementioned Ben Elton and Chart Throb or Dead Famous I’d happily claim as my own. But I think anyone doing it professionally, really. I’m not really jealous, I’d just like to doth my cap to them all. You’re doing it. Living the dream. Just remember to be kind to those further down the food chain!

What are you writing now and why haven’t I read it already?

Rollover And Die – the murder of a Euromillions winner on a tough Glasgow housing estate. Coming your way soon, Liz

Most embarrassing moment of your life so far.

Wow good question. There’s so many to choose from. But I’ll go for one of the earliest memories…I was part of a childrens’ circus – true story. We were on the 80s ITV kids’ show Get Fresh with Gaz Top and some lassie I can’t remember. Backstage during rehearsals at George Square in Glasgow I’m doing bunny hops on my unicycle – showing off – when my pedal broke and I ended up in an undignified heap in front of the other guests Mick Hucknall and Muriel Grey. Thankfully we never met again.

Is there anything that makes you sob like a baby?

? My daughter’s end of year show.

Tell me why readers should read Wicked Leaks in 10 words or less..

Princess Diana. Explosions. Betrayal. Bit of how’s your father.

Now do that again for the US audience.

Booms. Betrayal. Banging.

Who would you call to help you bury the body and why?

Diana Gabaldon. If anyone could get away with it, she could!

One piece of music that you turn to in times of stress

Rumours – the whole album

One thing that irrationally irritates you when reading

Filler chapters. Can spot them a mile away.

One thing that irrationally irritates you in life

. Jamie Oliver.

What was for breakfast this morning?

Porridge, of course

One person in your life who inspires you

Sir Andy Murray. Has never settled for this typical British glorious loser shit. Great guy to interview as well, when you can get near him.

How much do you hate me right now?

Not at all. Great questions. You’re the best!

Thanks Matt! 

About the Book:

Assigned to care for a terminally-ill patient who claims to have killed Princess Diana, nurse Kelly Carter dismisses him as nothing more than a delusional fantasist. But Monahan has proof, and directs Kelly to an abandoned garage, where she discovers a beaten-up white Fiat Uno with French license plates matching the description of the vehicle that has eluded the British and French authorities for decades. When the garage goes up in flames minutes after her visit, Kelly realizes that she’s involved in something more dangerous than just caring for a patient.

Meanwhile, mismatched journalists April Lavender and Connor Presley are involved in the investigation of a shadowy website leaking nasty government secrets on a daily basis. When beastshamer.com threatens to reveal the truth about Diana’s death, April and Connor begin to investigate in hopes of finding their next front-page story. After two deadly explosions lead them right to Kelly, all three set out to uncover the truth surrounding the death of the beloved princess–before Kelly becomes the next victim in a deadly cover-up that goes all the way up to England’s MI5.

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Latest Reads: The Eternity War: Pariah Jamie Sawyer.

Publication Date: September 26th From Orbit

Source: Review Copy

The first novel in a brand-new series from rising SF star Jamie Sawyer, The Eternity War: Pariah is an action-packed adventure set in the same universe as his acclaimed Lazarus War novels. 

The soldiers of the Simulant Operations Programme are mankind’s elite warriors. Veterans of a thousand battles across a hundred worlds, they undertake suicidal missions to protect humanity from the insidious Krell Empire and the mysterious machine race known as the Shard. 

Lieutenant Keira Jenkins is an experienced simulant operative and leader of the Jackals, a team of raw recruits keen to taste battle. They soon get their chance when the Black Spiral terrorist network seizes control of a space station.

Yet no amount of training could have prepared the Jackals for the deadly conspiracy they soon find themselves drawn into – a conspiracy that is set to spark a furious new war across the galaxy. 

This was my first foray into the writing of Jamie Sawyer – I have not (yet) read The Lazarus War trilogy (but now have them ordered and on the way) – and seriously it was banging brilliant all the way through, a beautifully epic feeling action adventure with a wonderful touch of geeky speculative technology and characters to die for. Over and over again….

The story is absolutely stunningly gripping, with spaceships and aliens and simulants and death and more death then some epic battles followed by some contemplation and just a *touch* of romance that isn’t at all romantic. I loved the Jackals – one of the huge strengths of Pariah (apart from the actual Pariah of the title which I won’t talk about in case of spoilers) was the slow burn team building, this diverse and eclectic group who should be working together but have not yet developed that trust – from the convict to the politicians daughter they are all completely fascinating. Keira is a long suffering leader, a woman who knows her own mind (and doesn’t need validation from anyone) – perhaps a little impulsive but seriously I think you need to be when you are shooting around the galaxy often not even in your own body. You’d think there wouldn’t be edge of seat trauma worry for the characters you fall in love with when even in death they get another go round but think again.

The underlying plot is complex and beautifully layered – secrets and possible conspiracies abound and the world building is elegantly achieved. This trilogy is set in the same world as the last one but you needn’t fear you will miss the subtleties, it is accessible for both previous readers and new ones like me. In fact I can’t wait to read the Lazarus War so I can meet some more of Jamie Sawyer’s brilliantly imagined characters and, well presumably, see the last big thing this universe was caught up in.

Ooh which brings me nicely onto the ending of Pariah which made me grit my teeth in anticipation of book 2 – in fact if only I could do some kind of space jump that kills some time and lands me right when it’s ready to go that would be cool. What only in books and films? Dammit somebody really should get onto that one..

Consider me converted to the cause. massive amounts of fun, warp speed ahead (or whatever, hey I grew up with Star Trek) a brilliant, entertaining, full of  soul piece of science fiction  with a spoonful of shiver and a huge helping of heart.

Highly Recommended fellow Jackals.

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Latest Reads: Freefall Adam Hamdy.

Publication Date: 2nd November from Headline

Source: Review Copy

Eight months after confronting Pendulum, John Wallace is losing himself in a dangerous warzone in a misguided attempt at penance for what he has done. But an assassination attempt makes Wallace realise that he has once again been targeted for death. This time, Wallace is prepared and, tracking down his would-be assassin, he discovers a link to his nemesis, Pendulum.

The link is the missing piece of a puzzle that has tormented FBI Agent Christine Ash ever since they confronted Pendulum, but with no Bureau support she has been unable to progress her case. Wallace’s proof breaks it, but also exposes them both to terrible danger.

Confronted by a powerful, hidden enemy, Ash and Wallace must overcome impossible odds if they are to avert a dangerous challenge to the networked world that threatens to destroy our way of life.

Anyone that remembers how excitable and shrieky my good friend Kate of Bibliophile Book Club and I got over the first in this series, the gloriously entertaining Pendulum, will know that anticipation for the sequel, Freefall was high. As were expectations. No pressure then Mr Hamdy.

Freefall turned out to be a banging good read, like Pendulum but better, picking up from where that left off we find Wallace in a war zone in an attempt to make some random amends, Ash fighting the force of an employer that doesn’t believe her conspiracy claims and Bailey wondering where the heck his equilibrium went in the aftermath of being badly injured. Sadly for them, happily for the reader, supporters of Pendulum’s nefarious doings have more mayhem in store for our intrepid trio, the challenges that face them here are as likely to  pull them apart as they are to bring them closer together.

This trilogy, in its first two instances, are what I call intelligent thrillers. The action is all consuming and relentless but the story running through the thrill ride is thought provoking and multi-layered. Conspiracies abound and it is true that you can trust no-one, unexpected allies and sudden betrayals lurk around every corner. The writing is taut, exciting and incredibly hypnotic – the kind of beautifully written descriptive scenes and absolutely riveting character drama that meld together to produce a right old page turner. Any random worries I may have had that this book 2 would suffer “mid trilogy terrible syndrome” went out the window with the first chapter. (I didn’t actually throw the chapter out of the window, just the worries)

I’m a bit difficult to please  when it comes to my thriller reading to be honest. If all you have is all talk and no action I get irritated. If all you have is no talk and all action I get equally irritated. Yes I know but for me the best thriller writers seamlessly sew together heart stopping action sequences with deeply intriguing characters and a proper, well rounded plot that doesn’t expect insane suspension of disbelief levels – Adam Hamdy walks that line pitch perfectly, making both Pendulum and Freefall an accessible delightful read for crime and thriller fans of all levels.

I’m a fan. I know Kate loved this too as well. I suspect more Kermit the Frog gifs will be peppering out Twitter feeds nearer to the release of Freefall – and if you haven’t yet read Pendulum well you’ve got a bit of time. Because I’m nice like that. Due notice given thriller fans! Read in order is my advice.

Highly Recommended. And then some.

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Latest Reads: Insidious Intent Val McDermid

Publication Date: Available Now from Little Brown

Source: Bought in a bookshop

IInsidious Intent, Tony and Carol are on the hunt for a serial killer who victimizes women at weddings without a date–and forces the duo to confront their most haunting moral dilemma so far.

In the north of England, single women are beginning to disappear from weddings. A pattern soon becomes clear: Someone is crashing the festivities and luring the women away–only to leave the victims’ bodies in their own burned-out cars in remote locations. Tony and Carol are called upon to investigate–but this may be the toughest case they’ve ever had to face. Meanwhile, Detective Sergeant Paula McIntyre and her partner Elinor must deal with a cruel cyber-blackmailer targeting their teenage ward, Torin.

It’s that time of year again when there’s a new Val McDermid book out in the world and last Thursday saw me actually rousing myself from my book cave and heading down to my local independent bookshop, where I waited impatiently for them to open so I could lay my hands on a copy. Which I did. Then I read it almost immediately because well, its Val McDermid.  Even more than that it features Carol Jordan and Tony Hill – two characters that are so real to me now that  I wouldn’t be at all surprised to turn on BBC News one day and actually see Carol Jordan giving an interview about her latest collar.

Before I talk Insidious Intent, I’m fairly sure there can’t be THAT many lovers of crime fiction out there that have not at least dipped into this series – but just in case I catch one of you reading this may I highly recommend that you read in order and take a few weeks off work. For me, absolutely one of the best series out there, even though we are now on book 10 each one offers something new, be it in the horrifying realities of the dark depths of human nature, a particular personal crisis for one of our beloved characters, a freshly observed moral dilemma or twist on a mystery that is inordinately difficult to predict.

So Insidious Intent then finds Carol, Tony and the rest with their first  case for the newly formed Remit – a major incident team headed by Carol and featuring her hand picked people. New characters and old friends form the unit, but they soon realise that having the spotlight on them, especially when faced with a difficult case and an intelligent killer, can bring its own pitfalls. Not everyone wants them to succeed – indeed in the aftermath of events from previous novels a fair few would like to see them fall flat on their asses – with Carol still facing down her demons and Tony struggling to continue to prop her up, the scene is set for a right page turner. And a right page turner it was.

Mixing things up with her indomitably twisted (in a creative way obviously) spirit, Val McDermid gives us less of a “whodunnit” and more of a “How the hell are they going to catch him” – we get snippets of the killer’s planning and motivation and from there see how our team are doing.We also have Paula and a parenting problem, my very favourite character outside of Carol and Tony (that would be Stacy Chen) doing lots of fascinating technical stuff and a sharp learning curve for the relationship between our main pair.

One thing I love about this series is the truly authentic sense that is brought to the procedural elements. It is never one thing that solves the case but more a myriad of things and often pure chance – in Insidious Intent it is going to take the talent of every single investigator to get them even within miles. So the story plays out, whilst at the heart of it a moral dilemma for our dynamic duo, in conjunction with a killer of a character (literally and figuratively), builds and builds to a crescendo of a resolution, one that had me genuinely with several paper cuts as I flung page after page over to find out if they would get him. Will they? Well you know what you have to do….

It is the personal touch that makes these books work so well – you feel like you are reading about real people, over the years Val McDermid has created a family. They are the readers family as much as they are hers and each others – therefore now, and for a few books before it at least, you feel every jolt, you devour every heart stopping moment, you live and die with what is happening now in the chapter you are reading. It is clever, involving, brilliantly emotional writing that also encompasses a lot of thought provoking real life issues  – in Insidious Intent yes, but also in every novel written, even those not featuring Carol and Tony – so you are entertained, challenged in your thinking and ultimately hugely satisfied if not a little wrung out. Definitely a little wrung out.

Insidious Intent well, it is just all the brilliant. All the brilliant. I don’t think there’s anything else I can say.

Well, except I’m never eating a sourdough loaf again without taking huge precautionary measures…

What? Well you know what you need to do…

Pure Class.

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Gnomon Nick Harkaway.

Publication Date: 2nd November from William Heinemann

Source: Netgalley

Gnomon, which took Harkaway more than three years to complete, is set in a world of ubiquitous surveillance. Pitched as “a mind-bending Borgesian puzzle box of identity, meaning and reality in which the solution steps sideways as you approach it”, it features: a detective who finds herself investigating the very society she believes in, urged on by a suspect who may be an assassin or an ally, hunting through the dreams of a torture victim in search of the key to something she does not yet understand; a banker who is pursued by a shark that swallows Fortune 500 companies; Saint Augustine’s jilted mistress who reshapes the world with miracles; a refugee grandfather turned games designer who must remember how to walk through walls or be burned alive by fascists; and a sociopath who falls backwards through time in order to commit a murder.

Gnomon is actually a novel that defies description for all the right reasons, it is an epic, an ultimately rewarding read with so many layers inside the layers under the levels that hide the realities that your head will spin and you’ll come out of it feeling dazed and probably weirdly wired. Or maybe that is just me. We’ll see I guess…

The use of language is purely beautiful, a smorgasbord of differing voices all linked to the main bulk of the narrative through the eyes of the Inspector. Probably. But anyway – the point is, this is literary if you take it in the popularly defined way, as such it might not be for everybody and indeed may challenge you in ways I also can’t describe – but in the end you know not one word was wasted.

I feel I should try and explain a little about the plot but the blurb does that in some ways (but not at all in others) and I’m not sure that if I focus on any one element that I wouldn’t pick the wrong one to focus on. Peripherally it is about the investigation of an interrogation that has gone awry, in a UK run by “the System” that sees all and therefore by the people rather than a government, this is seen by most within that system as a genuine  Utopia. I guess the main theme explored is whether such a thing is even possible, human nature being what it is. That is the simplest way of saying what I saw there but the next reader may well turn around and say “what the heck are you on, its not about that at all”

Now I’ve read back the above it probably isn’t about that….

ANYWAY there you go. Nick Harkaway has created a story that can be wildly interpretive or I suppose if you must, dissected bit by bit until you come to some thoughts about what the author intended – but I don’t think it matters what the author intended (sorry Mr Harkaway) but more matters whether or not you love it and get something from it under the guise of your own personality. I loved it but you can’t ask me why because I don’t really know and probably never will know. I do know that I will read it again in the future, first page to last, with the knowledge of the ending and it will be a completely different novel to the one that I have just read.

Basically I feel like I have just been swallowed by a shark.

Gnomon spoke to me in it’s final denouement but what it said I will never tell -because it’s going to tell you something different and I wouldn’t want to be called a liar – also because that is its reward for sticking with it, through the craziness and the sense of it as you absorb all those beautiful words and turn them into a whole.

Intelligent, driven, for me summed up in that blurb sentence that reads “a solution that steps sideways as  you approach it” Gnomon is challenging, wonderful, descriptively fascinating, unrelentingly clever and in the end worth every moment of your time. A grand sprawling epic of indescribable proportions.

What can I say? Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: The Innocents Ace Atkins.

Publication Date: Available Now from Corsair

Source: Review Copy

She was just 17, a high school dropout named Milly Jones, found walking down the middle of the highway, engulfed in flames. Even in a tough Mississippi county like Tibbehah, it shatters the community, and it is up to Sheriff Quinn Colson, back on the job after a year away, and his deputy Lillie Virgil, to investigate what happened, and why. Before long, however, accusations start to fly; national media and federal authorities descend; and what seemed like a senseless act of violence begins to appear like something even more disturbing – with more victims waiting in the shadows.

The Innocents, apparently, is Quinn Colson 6 – it is the first one I have read and has immediately sent me rushing towards the back catalogue -Quinn as a character immediately engaged me, this one set in Tibbehah, Mississippi it also had that small town southern noir feel that I have loved muchly in other novels.

Actually Quinn is not  Sheriff in this novel – that falls to Lillie Virgil, a strong female role offset with another strong female roll in “Miss Hathcock” playing the good v bad roles and everything in between – the ongoing verbal battles between these two being one of the highlights of the read for me. Quinn is a returning character, back from overseas, not looking to reinstate himself into the police until a tragedy occurs that sets the whole town reeling and plenty of accusations flying, so he finds himself lured back into the mire.

The setting is so beautifully described that you could almost feel like you lived there yourself. I didn’t feel discombobulated by the fact that I had not read previous novels – I just got pulled right into it and everything that needed explaining was explained through subtle nuances of conversation and remembrance.

The characters are diverse, eclectic, often very quirky and the community dynamic is divisive and entirely fascinating. The crime itself doesn’t happen until well into the story – by then you have a real feel for this place and these people, enough that you feel you can make some genuinely good guesses as to the final resolution. Cleverly plotted and ultimately somewhat unexpected, Ace Atkins digs deep into the prejudices, realities and often criminal existence of this populace with a wonderfully vivid and distinctive prose.

Yep I think I’m a fan. And hey look I have 5 other books to add to my never ending and ever growing to be read pile. I’d say that’s a good day.

Highly Recommended.

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