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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Latest Reads: The Fate of the Tearling Erika Johansen

Publication Date: Available Now from Bantam

Source: Review Copy

In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has transformed from a gawky teenager into a powerful monarch.

As she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, the headstrong, visionary leader has also transformed her realm. In her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies – including the evil Red Queen, her fiercest rival, who has set her armies against the Tear.

To protect her people from a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable – she surrendered herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy, and named the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign from her prison in Mortmesne.

Now the endgame begins and the fate of Queen Kelsea – and the Tearling itself – will finally be revealed . . 

Well my word, this finale to the trilogy will cause some screaming waves of angst I’m sure – born out by the love hate relationship I see in the reviews for that final resolution.

I didn’t like it either. In fact I wasn’t fond of the ending from the point that Kelsea makes that decision at that time – obfuscated enough that people who have read it will know what I mean and I don’t have to spoil it for others – right up to the final lines.

But you have given it 5 stars I hear you cry. Yes. For two reasons – firstly, most of the novel was bang on brilliant for me, I hung off every word, I cried out at every action, I sobbed relatively often at stuff I didn’t know why I was sobbing about – and despite then feeling ambiguous towards how the author finished things off I allow that –  if you think back over all you have read – she set us up for exactly that finale from the moment we met Lily in book 2.

The fate of our beloved characters was never set in stone. The complex and eternally drifting story has had many beautiful layers. The history was imaginatively spread out before us within an ever changing landscape. Kelsea, the reluctant Queen, the girl who became a woman before our eyes – throughout the trilogy had one, seemingly inescapable fate. She will be the saviour of the Tearling no matter the personal cost.

Well is she? That is the question. And for those of us who have read that finale it’s a question that will probably keep us up on the odd night or two as we consider in full The Fate of the Tearling. To me that is worth those 5* and then a few more.

The writing is superb. It is really superb. The multiple character arc’s, the historical yin and the modern yang, the allegorical realities set into the moral choices of a Queen facing disaster on all sides. Good v Evil, no prisoner’s taken prose, incredibly emotionally resonant battles both of wit and sword – all the way through Erika Johansen has entertained, educated, consumed and engaged us. Sure, some will feel she fell at the final hurdle, but I don’t believe she did. Personal preferences aside on who ended up where and the ultimate cost to Kelsea, Mace, Row, The Fetch, oh all of them all of those lively, vivid and hugely divisive characters, in the end the story comes full circle. Kelsea fought. Whether she won or not well…

I loved it. All of it. Yes ok I suppose even that horror fueled intricately fought for final resolution. The Tearling Trilogy has been dazzling, mixing up the genre’s with an almost gleeful disregard for those booksellers (I’m sure it will end up in YA Fantasy but I’m not convinced it belongs there) and with a truly edgy and captivating writing style that sucks you in then spits you out a slightly different person.

I feel a bit giddy.

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Western Fringes – Amer Anwar

A SIKH GIRL ON THE RUN. A MUSLIM EX-CON WHO HAS TO FIND HER. A WHOLE HEAP OF TROUBLE. 
Southall, West London. 
Recently released from prison, Zaq Khan is lucky to land a dead-end job at a builders’ yard. All he wants to do is keep his head down and put his past behind him. 
But when he has to search for his boss’s runaway daughter it quickly becomes apparent he’s not simply dealing with family arguments and arranged marriages as he finds himself caught up in a deadly web of deception, murder and revenge. 
With time running out and pressure mounting, can he find the missing girl before it’s too late? And if he does, can he keep her – and himself – alive long enough to deal with the people who want them both dead? 

I bloody loved this!

What I have to say more? Well ok then but you asked for it.

Western Fringes is the most fun (??!!??) I’ve had with a book in ages, a dark, violently (ironically)  funny novel with a hugely distinct British Asian flavour, some immediately lovable (and the opposite!) characters, a story that just sends you reeling all over Southall and wider London, set within a vibrant community that just comes alive on the page.

Zaq Khan has served his time and just wants to keep his head down – sadly for him his boss has other idea’s, threatening all sorts unless  Zaq tracks down his daughter. Assuming she has simply run away to avoid an arranged marriage he soon finds that there is a lot more going on than that – and blimey is he going to have to think fast and often to extricate himself and probably everyone else from a situation that gets more dangerous by the second.

The pace is excellent with witty, sparking dialogue and a cleverly authentic descriptive sense that just immerses you into Zaq’s world and that of those around him. Often hilarious, but also occasionally grit your teeth violent, Western Fringes fairly rocks along, fascinating, frenetic, highly intriguing from the opening pages until the very last line – there is not one even vaguely negative thing I can say about it.

I lived those relationships – the friendship between Zaq and his housemates, even more so the one with his mate Jags just lit up in my mind, I defy you not to fall in love with all of them. I was also delighted with the “damsel in distress” vibe where the damsel was less distressed and more intelligently sneaky – she may be in a world of trouble but that doesn’t mean she needs a knight in shining armour. The bad guys are so realistically bad, the good guys are not angels, it is all so very brilliantly readable.

I was highly impressed with how Amer Anwar walks the cultural line – showing us a diverse and dynamic community where no matter what your background or your influences,  in the end people are just people, some nice, some nasty, but just human beings – inventively educational the hugely character driven plot tells it like it is, no punches pulled and so extraordinarily gripping that I found myself quite literally gripping the book at times – then finding it  hard to put down.

The storytelling is truly exceptional  and I have to give a nod to the final few chapters which read a little like a heist movie as all the threads come together, our motley crew face the music and we all hold our breath to see who wins out in the end. Genuinely I think the person I had the most sympathy for at that point was poor old Dad…

So yeah, what can I say….

I bloody loved this! Hmm.

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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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