Latest Reads: Kings of the Wyld – Nicholas Eames

Publication Date: Available Now from Orbit.

Source: Review Copy

GLORY NEVER GETS OLD.

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

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

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

Rock and Roll.

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

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

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

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

Highly Recommended.

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March Book Watch: Follow Me Down Sherri Smith.

Publication Date: March 21st From Titan Books.

Source: Review Copy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Walk Away by Sam Hawken

Publication Date: Available Now from Mulholland

Source: Review Copy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enough said.

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Ones to Watch in 2017: Ragdoll – Daniel Cole.

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

Publication Date: 23rd Feb 2017 from Trapeze

Source: Review Copy

Six victims: one body

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

The final name on the list is Wolfe’s.

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

Loved it.

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

It was.

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

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

And WHAT an ending.

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

Look here he is on Twitter HERE

Order Ragdoll by clickety clicking right HERE

#Ragdollbook

2017

Happy Reading!

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April Book Watch: Here and Gone Haylen Beck.

Publication Date: 6th April 2017 from Harvill Secker

Source: Review Copy

Here and Gone begins with a woman fleeing through Arizona with her kids in tow, trying to escape an abusive marriage. When she’s pulled over by an unsettling local sheriff, things soon go awry and she is taken into custody. Only when she gets to the station, her kids are gone. And then the cops start saying they never saw any kids with her, that if they’re gone than she must have done something with them…

Meanwhile, halfway across the country a man hears the frenzied news reports about the missing kids, which are eerily similar to events in his own past. As the clock ticks down on the search for the lost children, he too is drawn into the desperate fight for their return.

Oh I LOVED this one. Well, you know, I use the word loved to mean it destroyed me and stole a few hours of my life then spat me out ragged the other side. One sitting, totally immersive, bang on the money thriller with heart. Just load up on the sugar and dive right in (the slight sugar rush might be running this review too)

So Here and Gone has a hugely emotional core, missing children, now in danger – of course its going to get you right by the throat. What helps that along and makes it so darned addictive is the near perfect pacing, the highly intriguing and resonant characters and that indefinable something that means you just CANNOT put it down.

I always think its clever when an author manages to make a book fairly rock along, but still keeps the heart and soul in it. Here and Gone is a book that you feel – from the opening pages when Audra is making her tentative but determined escape from an abusive marriage you just get enveloped right into it. Then the heart stopping moment when she loses sight of her kids stays with you from that moment and as events unfold you spend half the time wanting to clap your hands over your eyes, wondering what fresh hell Audra will face next. The plotting is tight, intense and utterly riveting, the final few chapters I barely drew breath for and in the end you let out a huge sigh of…well you’ll have to read it to find out but the whole thing was completely traumatic – reading trauma. Its what I live for.

Oh that Sheriff, I wanted to poke him with red hot pokers. Danny I adored. Audra was a particularly strong character because her flaws were on display for the world to see but she had that tough inner core that just resonates so you are with her all the way. And she wasn’t stupid. You know? Sometimes in thrillers like this the main protagonist is so stupid you want to throttle them, but Here and Gone has a healthy dose of reality that just feeds into the wider drama.

Things I wish would happen now.

Danny would get his own book series.

I could see what Audra does next.

Patrick’s mother falls down a well and Lassie never comes. (remember the whole sugar rush thing)

Seriously though, Here and Gone is a very clever, very emotive, highly charged read that will mess with your head and keep you up at night. The themes running underneath the thrill ride are hard hitting and distressing. None of it is impossible. All of it is compelling. Overall Here and Gone is a purely dazzling read.

I thought I would probably like it, this being the pseudonym of an author I’m already a fan of – but you can never be quite sure when these authors go rogue and write something different whether they really should be doing that or not. In this case the answer is a hugely resounding YES. So do it again please.

An edge of the seat full on emotional blast of a novel.

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

Publication Date: Available Now from Orion

Source: Netgalley then Purchased copy

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother’s web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.
As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.
When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

We are on book 3 of the Red Queen series and it is just getting stronger and stronger, with multiple layers and intrigue being woven into every separate novel, deepening the mythology and making all the character arcs ever more gripping. Therefore I add a cautionary note to readers to ensure they read Red Queen and Glass Sword first, before entering the utterly riveting story that is King’s Cage.

I love these. There are a very few absolute stand out series in this genre, although a lot of very good stuff, but with Red Queen and beyond Victoria Aveyard has created an immersive, beautifully described and intensely addictive other world with a cast of eclectic and troubled characters and a divisive and ever changing political landscape.

I won’t say too much about this instalment just in case you are reading this cold, but suffice to say our heroine  Mare, is in an untenable situation, brought about by the events of Glass Sword, she is now living the consequences. For a lot of this book you live that pain with her as she wonders if the life she has is worth continuing on with. Meanwhile more political maneuvering and a war that is widening its grip goes on both around Mare and in the background, leading to an explosive, thrilling and emotionally charged finale. Oh what will happen now? I can’t guess – another one of the reasons this is so good – but boy am I keen to find out.

I like that the author throws surprises at us regularly, not only with regard to the ebb and flow of wider loyalties but with how you view individual characters. One of the mainstays of the series showed us a whole new side in this, it was both fascinating and made you view previous actions in a different way, that is what Ms Aveyard does so well. There is good and evil in here – but good is not always honest and evil is not just born but made – those are the themes that come to the fore a lot in the Red Queen series, none so much as they do in King’s Cage. Murky motivations abound on all sides.

The magical fantasy elements are just ingrained into the stories now, its like that is just life, the abilities of different groups within the varying factions just pretty much the norm and having them there makes for some extensively thrilling, edge of the seat battle scenes. The intricacy of the world building is intensely good, more understanding of the history and the way different factions came into power, all beautifully imagined and flowing through the narrative, you never quite know where the next friendship will be thrown aside as the battles, both civil and extended, rumble on with often powerfully emotional consequences. Especially when you are invested. I’m invested. I love these characters. I’m probably slightly weird in that my main sympathy lies with Maven. But you know. I like the divisive ones, the ones who show so many sides you can’t grasp onto a single one of them..

Overall King’s Cage was a gorgeous, intense and beautifully written rollercoaster ride of a read, it took me but moments to be absorbed once again into Mare’s world and I seriously cannot wait to go back.

Highly Recommended.

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April Book Watch – A Game of Ghosts John Connolly

Publication Date 6th April from Hodder and Staughton

Source: Review Copy

It is deep winter. The darkness is unending.

The private detective named Jaycob Eklund has vanished, and Charlie Parker is dispatched to track him down. Parker’s employer, Edgar Ross, an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has his own reasons for wanting Eklund found.

Eklund is no ordinary investigator. He is obsessively tracking a series of homicides and disappearances, each linked to reports of hauntings. Now Parker will be drawn into Eklund’s world, a realm in which the monstrous Mother rules a crumbling criminal empire, in which men strike bargains with angels, and in which the innocent and guilty alike are pawns in a game of ghosts . . .

Oh look its that time of year where I’m reading the next novel in the Charlie Parker series from John Connolly, ending up emotionally traumatised (and boy was THAT true this time) then wondering what the heck else I can say that I haven’t already said that can get across the pure brilliance of this series.

It really is a difficult one because you end up going around in circles and coming back on yourself then thinking well surely if I haven’t sold it by now its just never going to happen. But we’ll give it a go and I’ll even try and stay relatively sensible about the whole thing. Relatively.

This instalment finds Charlie on the hook again to FBI Agent Ross (a man I still haven’t made up my mind about) who sends him off on the trail of a missing private detective. This man, Jaycob ,  has been messing with things he can’t possibly understand so things are going to get fraught. Well lets face it if Charlie found him in the next town then went home for tea it wouldn’t be NEARLY SO TRAUMATIC. And breathe..

I can’t tell you anything else without then having to kill you, but suffice to say the indomitable Mr Connolly takes us on another emotional  rollercoaster read, where the ongoing mythology deepens and just wraps you up in that enigmatic something that I have no words for, the current shenanigans are dark and so beautifully terrifying, the storytelling genius just gets me every single time. And THIS time particularly some things happen that had me needing to lie down. I’m still not over it.

I don’t know another writer around today that has such a gorgeous, descriptively haunting and brilliantly incisive prose, the scene setting is sublime, the entire time you are just enveloped into this whole other world that feels as real as any you leave behind whilst in it. Emotionally charged readers will understand what I mean when I say life is blurred around the edges slightly when coming out of it and it takes a while to settle down. It is just CLEVER. From the first book to this book and probably on into further books, the quality never falters, every one feels fresh, you genuinely never know where they might take you next. The best crime series out there currently? In this readers opinion definitely. Head and shoulders above the best of the rest.

Angel and Louis never cease to be funny yet inevitably flawed, Charlie himself is still facing down the problem of a daughter who may be scarier than he is, more revelations about the underneath of it all are drip fed out to us and overall this was a purely dazzling reading experience which once again left me desperate for more. But I’ll have to wait. I don’t like waiting. It makes me crazy. It’s worth it though. Every single time.

Fans of Charlie Parker do not fear. This is everything you were hoping for and more.

A note – A Game of Ghosts is book 15 and whilst I’m fairly sure that it might be more helpful to be able to say you could read it as a standalone, I’m afraid I’m often to be found screeching at people  NO PUT THAT DOWN YOU MUST READ IN ORDER. There is of course no must about it, each book is a brilliant read and you’ll pick up some of the layers, but genuinely, if you don’t follow the arc’s I feel you will lose a lot of the soul of it. And it has a HELL of a lot of soul. So if you’ve not read these yet, you make your bets and you take your chances but I can almost guarantee book one will hook you and we won’t see you for a year while you burn through the rest (Every Dead Thing is where to start by the way)

Highly HIGHLY recommended.

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A Time of Torment out now in Paperback.

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March Bookwatch: Blood Tide by Claire McGowan

Publication Date: 23rd March from Headline

Source: Netgalley

Called in to investigate the disappearance of a young couple during a violent storm, Paula Maguire, forensic psychologist, has mixed feelings about going back to Bone Island. Her last family holiday as a child was spent on its beautiful, remote beaches and returning brings back haunting memories of her long-lost mother.

It soon becomes clear that outsiders aren’t welcome on the island, and with no choice but to investigate the local community, Paula soon suspects foul play, realising that the islanders are hiding secrets from her, and each other.

With another storm fast approaching, Paula is faced with a choice. Leave alive or risk being trapped with a killer on an inescapable island, as the blood tide rushes in...

Its probably not a surprise to many people that I am a HUGE fan of this series from Claire McGowan, I’ve always thought it was one of the top UK crime series and with Blood Tide that has just pretty much been confirmed for me.

The beauty is in the mix of personal and professional – each separate mystery for Forensic Psychologist Paula Maguire is entirely compelling and complete but each novel takes Paula further on a very personal journey, searching for her missing mother and trying to sort out a tangled set of relationships. Now here she is with a young child, a partner in jail and about to be thrown into a bit of a horror story – yes folks, Claire McGowan is channelling Stephen King and doing it with a touch of genius.

A couple have gone missing on an island – the islanders are used to being cut off from civilisation – Paula not so much. When things take a turn for the macabre she is stuck, without back up, a storm brewing and a killer watching her every move…

Blood Tide was both thrilling, chilling and utterly immersive – interspersing scenes on the island with little gems of information on what is going on elsewhere in Paula’s life – you are thrown from one to the other, both strands totally gripping, leading to a spot on edge of the seat finale that had me pulling clumps of hair out. Then of course this author is STILL not done with you as she sets Paula up for the next stage of this journey..

Once again Claire McGowan speaks to the history, the troubles, in a way that genuinely educates readers like me who remember those times but in a vague I was young then sort of way – really bringing the aftermath and the effects of it to stunning brutal life – from the very first novel Paula has had this in her past, with a need to understand how it has affected her family. As ever this layer is incredibly emotive.

It is so beautifully done, you are in it all the way, Paula is still one of the most compelling female protagonists in Crime Fiction and is surrounded by a stellar supporting cast all of whom have you chasing the next part of their story. The Blood Tide is coming and the Island scenes are SCARY truly creepy insidious stuff, the parts of this novel I read when it was dark outside had me glancing around nervously – WHY DOES THE BOILER ALWAYS MAKE THAT NOISE WHEN I’M ALREADY JUMPY – one of life’s little mysteries. *Dives under duvet in case it is actually an axe murderer*

Genuinely clever, beautifully written and best of all not at all predictable when it comes to what might happen to our beloved crew, I will miss  Paula when her story is done. One can hope for happy endings but folks this ain’t no fairy tale…

Highly Recommended. The entire series.

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Latest Reads – A Darkness Absolute – Kelley Armstrong.

Publication Date: February 7th from Sphere

Source: Review Copy

Rockton town detective Casey Duncan makes a terrible—and dangerous—discovery in the woods outside of town.

When experienced homicide detective Casey Duncan first moved to the secret town of Rockton, she expected a safe haven for people like her, people running from their past misdeeds and past lives. She knew living in Rockton meant living off-the-grid completely: no cell phones, no Internet, no mail, very little electricity, and no way of getting in or out without the town council’s approval. What she didn’t expect is that Rockton comes with its own set of secrets and dangers.

Two things to be clear on, this is the first time I have read Kelley Armstrong and therefore I did miss book one in this series – which did not matter one iota and I will be going back and reading it for sure now!

A Darkness Absolute was utterly addictive, a central premise that was completely gripping and some really fantastic characters, all of whom I just want to know more about at this point -plus I LOVED this so much I read practically all of it yesterday and its now gone onto my must read series list.

Rockton, a town where you go to hide. Either as a criminal or as somebody running from danger, the community is secure, closed and hidden from the wider world. Slight issue – once you are in you cannot leave. At least not easily and not for some time. Casey is the town detective – whilst chasing down an erstwhile resident she finds a woman trapped in a hole – where she has been, abused and held hostage for years. There is a killer on the loose – and who knows where they might be hiding..

So that is the set up then, the story rocks along from there, beautifully paced, intriguing themes digging into human nature abound, it is also a thrill ride of the highest order with many moments where you want to clutch your head. Really the best kind of thriller because it offers so many nuances, both in mystery element and character substance that just makes it a perfect storm of a read. Plus there is an actual storm when things could get really really sticky for our “good” guys and there is a puppy. I mean REALLY what more could you ask for?

Personally I adored the immersive style of it and descriptively it made me shiver – you really felt like you were stuck in that snowy landscape right along with the protagonists, nowhere to run and everything to lose. The relationship dynamics were utterly compelling, I thought the world set up if you like was pure brilliance – especially in relation to the “hostiles” – even without the benefit of book one it all came into sharp wonderful focus, you did not feel at all lost along the way.

Overall a banging read – adored it. It is set so there could be many more stories from Rockton – my obsession now is Matthias – TELL ME MORE ABOUT HIM – I’m a little in love.

Highly Recommended for fans of intelligent, character driven thrillers with heart.

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February Book Watch : The Dark Room Jonathan Moore

Publication Date: 23rd February from Orion

Source: Review Copy

Gavin Cain, an SFPD homicide inspector, is in the middle of an exhumation when his phone rings. San Francisco’s mayor is being blackmailed and has ordered Cain back to the city; a helicopter is on its way. The casket, and Cain’s cold-case investigation, must wait.  At City Hall, the mayor shows Cain four photographs he’s received: the first, an unforgettable blonde; the second, pills and handcuffs on a nightstand; the third, the woman drinking from a flask; and last, the woman naked, unconscious, and shackled to a bed. The accompanying letter is straightforward: worse revelations are on the way unless the mayor takes his own life first.  An intricately plotted, deeply affecting thriller that keeps readers guessing until the final pages, The Dark Room tracks Cain as he hunts for the blackmailer, pitching him into the web of destruction and devotion the mayor casts in his shadow.

I was a fan of “The Poison Artist” the first in a loose trilogy from Jonathan Moore, it was different and compelling and entirely gripping. With The Dark Room he has changed things up and out and I do believe I love this one more – I read it in two hugely immersive sittings, this is a slice of dark noir that digs deep with some beautifully composed characters (something that The Poison Artist also could boast of) and a story that just grabs you by the heart and won’t let go.

Whilst the first book was a deep seated psychological thriller, The Dark Room, whilst maintaining that gorgeous prose unique to this author, has an entirely different feel about it. Both mystery and drama, with a main protagonist in Cain who holds you in the story and keeps you hooked, this is a dark often hard hitting tale with some haunting and emotive themes as its driving force. Starting with an exhumation and ending with what I can only describe as an indelible hit to the senses, the story twists and turns beautifully, keeping you off kilter and never sure what may happen next.

The characters are rich and full of depth, the mystery itself is eerie and fascinating, the writing is pacy yet considerably eloquent and the reading of it is often intense and ultimately very satisfying. I think you could say I’m now a huge fan – the fact that Jonathan Moore has now offered within a glass darkly two very different and yet similarly clever novels means that I will look forward hugely to The Night Market next year. In fact couldn’t I have it now please? Oh go on….

The style may not be for everyone but from me it comes Highly Recommended. HIGHLY.

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