Latest Reads: Force of Nature Jane Harper

Publication Date: February 2018 from Little Brown

Source: Netgalley

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side.

The hike through the rugged Giralang Ranges is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case – in just a matter of days she was to provide the documents that will bring down the company she works for.

Falk discovers that far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. But does it include murder?

Weirdly, just as I was finishing this one, an email publicity shot for team building courses popped up. Erm no thank you. Not after reading Jane Harper’s incredibly atmospheric, absorbing and often disturbing tale of a hike gone horribly wrong. But was it Mother Nature or human nature that caused one to be left behind…

I was extraordinarily pleased to see the return of Aaron Falk, the brilliantly drawn character from this author’s masterpiece “The Dry” – whilst “Force of Nature” is a very different beast, the beautiful sense of place Jane Harper brings to her narrative remains, as does the insightful and compelling characterization and the totally gripping plot construction.

Pacy and cleverly done, we watch the search unfold, follow Falk as he attempts to discover whether his witness disappearing is anything to do with his case, whilst in flashback we see the women start their journey and watch them slowly disintegrate in a very Lord of the Flies type manner – although perhaps more realistically. It is utterly gripping, gorgeously unpredictable and a proper literary page turner.

If you loved The Dry you’ll love this. If you haven’t read it then do, THEN read this. This is perfectly placed crime fiction, tackling socially relevant themes against a beautifully immersive backdrop, entertaining, haunting and authentic. You can’t ask for more really.

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Killer Intent Tony Kent.

Publication Date: 25th January from Elliot and Thompson

Source: Review Copy

Britain’s elite security forces seem powerless when an audacious attempt is made to assassinate a former US president in London. This becomes the spark which ignites a chain reaction of explosive events that will see old political sympathies rekindled and personal loyalties betrayed.

Joe Dempsey, a deadly military intelligence officer who witnesses this botched assassination, soon realises that this is just one small part of a complex and dark conspiracy, and only he can stop it. The fallout draws both Dempsey and CNN reporter Sarah Truman into parallel investigations, each compelled to discover the sinister truth behind these violent events. All too quickly they are running out of time as the future of the British government is crumbling. Thrown into these events is Michael Devlin, a Belfast-born criminal barrister with a secret past.

It’s a life or death race against the clock. Dempsey, Devlin and Truman are forced to work in the shadows and call on forgotten loyalties before a lethal showdown presents a devastating finale.

Killer Intent is a proper thriller. By that I mean it’s actually thrilling, whilst showing a huge amount of depth in both plot and character. I’m a fan. It was GREAT.

So our political landscape is pretty FUBAR at the moment, we know this, but I’m kind of hoping that behind the scenes things are somewhat less House of Cards than is happening in this story – bullets are flying, people are dying, there’s a devilish plot going on somewhere and Joe Dempsey is determined to dig down to the very roots of it. Starting with a bang, almost literally, then taking the reader on an often breathtaking race to the finish, Killer Intent is not only considered but cleverly layered, unpredictable and best of all really great fun to read.

It is brilliantly written to have maximum effect and you’ll get hook line and sinkered into this twisty tale of mayhem, you’ll probably fall in love with at least 2 of the characters (if not more) and I’m really quite happy that this is going to be a series because as soon as I’d finished it I wanted more. Thought provoking as well as entertaining, Killer Intent for me was a huge reading hit – so much to appreciate, definitely worth giving a nod to Sarah Truman who was the kind of female protagonist we need more of, no hint from anywhere that she couldn’t and wouldn’t keep up with all our alpha males. Plus there is a strong emotional edge to all of the characters that makes you stick with them through it all.

Taking place over a very short period of time, building an interesting background to be explored presumably in later novels and with a taut, tense and exciting story unfolding, I’m more than happy to highly recommend Killer Intent to any thriller fan. And a few non thriller fans. Ok all of you too…

Incredibly immersive with bang on prose and an intriguingly complex web of deceit that doesn’t feel at all unlikely. Killer Intent in a nutshell.

My advice: Put it on your “must have” list for January.

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Latest Reads: Grist Mill Road Christopher J Yates.

Publication Date: January 2018 (US – UK Date as yet unconfirmed) from Picador US

Source: Netgalley

Grist Mill Road is a dark, twisted, and expertly plotted Rashomon-style tale. The year is 1982; the setting, an Edenic hamlet some ninety miles north of New York City. There, among the craggy rock cliffs and glacial ponds of timeworn mountains, three friends―Patrick, Matthew, and Hannah―are bound together by a terrible and seemingly senseless crime. Twenty-six years later, in New York City, living lives their younger selves never could have predicted, the three meet again―with even more devastating results.

Now I was a HUGE fan of  Black Chalk, the first novel from this author that I read moons ago now – it was a work of literary genius, a puzzle piece of sheer reading joy, so to say that I was both excited and somewhat apprehensive to read Grist Mill Road is perhaps an understatement.

Turns out Black Chalk was not a one off in the quality sense – Grist Mill Road is a twisted and intelligent tale of three friends and the actions that tie them together – once more the author plays with your perceptions throughout the narrative, showing you one thing that later looks like quite another, all the while digging into the psychology of our main protagonists in a way that is genuinely compelling. Starting off with an emotional punch to the senses within a disturbing scene setter we then start to find out the why’s and wherefore’s and how it came to be, the emphasis being very much on on character and motivation. It is slippery, every assumption you make has to be taken back a little with the next thing you find out and whatever you think at the beginning I can almost guarantee you’ll be thinking something else by the end.

I loved it – it forced me to think outside the box, to consider the difference between what we see and what is true – my sympathies wavered throughout, one of the biggest strengths of this novel is in the authenticity of the characters you are reading about. It is not about good and evil, but all the shades of grey in between those two things – honest human nature. Hannah, Matthew and Patrick all have those very human hidden depths that are in us all, it is not until you reach the end of Grist Mill Road that they are  laid bare for your judgment – on who they are, on what they did, on all of it. Brilliant. Honestly it is just brilliant.

The writing is intense, almost voyeuristic and beautifully beautifully done – it has just reiterated for me that I prefer the more literary side of crime in a lot of ways, the ones that keep me up at night after finishing them pondering life and all it’s foibles and pondering people and all their secrets. Grist Mill Road is absolutely mesmerizing, descriptively passionate and unbelievably addictive, with an ending that resonates and digs deep into your soul. These are the ones we read for!

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: The Immortalists Chloe Benjamin.

Publication Date: March 2018 from Tinder Press

Source: Review Copy

It’s 1969, and holed up in a grimy tenement building in New York’s Lower East Side is a travelling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the date they will die. The four Gold children, too young for what they’re about to hear, sneak out to learn their fortunes.

Over the years that follow, the siblings must choose how to live with the prophecies the fortune-teller gave them that day. Will they accept, ignore, cheat or defy them? Golden-boy Simon escapes to San Francisco, searching for love; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician; eldest son Daniel tries to control fate as an army doctor after 9/11; and bookish Varya looks to science for the answers she craves.

A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists is a story about how we live, how we die, and what we do with the time we have.

The Immortalists is a heartbreaking, beautiful story of four siblings and how they live their lives after they believe, to varying degrees, that they know when they might die.

I loved this. Loved loved – this family comes alive on the page, you literally live with them during the reading, the writing is gorgeous, descriptively rich, painting a picture of these children growing up, how that one day from their childhood affects them moving forward – it is melancholy yet life affirming in so many ways and I will never forget Varya, Daniel, Klara and Simon – ESPECIALLY not Simon whose story resonated and made me cry huge great buckets of tears.

The Immortalists is not about death  – it is about life and what we do with it, choices, family, relationships, Chloe Benjamin has achieved a sweeping epic that is full of depth and perception – I was also drawn to Gertie, Mother to these four, whose peripheral yet solid presence throughout their lives sits just beneath the surface of everything they do.

It is thought provoking – how much of what happens is fate, how much can we change, as people especially are we set on one path or can we step outside ourselves and check and balance our existence. As each of our main protagonists edges towards the foretold end, you weep for them sometimes, pray for them at other times and hold on, like they do, to anything solid you can find. It is amazingly authentic and not at all mystical – just utterly real, genuinely emotive and hugely hugely affecting.

An absolutely incredible novel that will stay with me always.

Highly Recommended.

 

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Latest Reads: Know Me Now C J Carver

Publication Date: 14th December from Bonnier Zaffre

Source : Netgalley

A SUICIDE. A MURDER. A CONSPIRACY. 
DIGGING UP THE PAST CAN BE DEADLY . . .

A thirteen-year-old boy commits suicide.

A sixty-five-year old man dies of a heart attack.

Dan Forrester, ex-MI5 agent, is connected to them both. 

And when he discovers that his godson and his father have been murdered, he teams up with his old friend, DC Lucy Davies, to find answers.

But as the pair investigate, they unravel a dark and violent mystery stretching decades into the past and uncover a terrible secret.

A secret someone will do anything to keep buried . . . 

This is the 3rd novel to feature Dan Forrester and I have to say it’s fast becoming one of my favourite series – a little out of the box, not so usual, with great plots and wonderfully engaging characters, like Lucy who I love with a fiery passion.

This time around Dan faces extreme personal loss and a puzzle that in it’s unravelling will put everyone he loves in danger – and the basis for the events as they unfold, the central theme, is pretty damn terrifying if I’m honest and as usual for C J Carver not at all beyond the realms of possibility. Indeed by the end I was convinced I may well see a headline about it any day now. Although probably not in the Daily Mail, as it  involves neither Brexit nor Boobs…

ANYWAY moving swiftly on, the writing is brilliantly immersive and the characters shine as ever – as well as the new mystery, our usual suspects move on in their personal lives, the two things intertwining in intelligent and defining ways, it is a proper page turner with danger and dastardly goings on, some genuine surprises and a wonderful flow that sends you rocketing through it to the final resolution.

I’m not sure what else to say to be honest – I’m not going to spoil it at all (well apart from confirming what it ISN’T about a little bit ago) but if you loved the last two you’ll ADORE this one and if you haven’t read them yet then go go! You could start here if you want to, nothing in this is difficult to grasp if you are a bit behind – but do yourself a favour and line them all up then knock them down. Excellent reads every one.

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Into the Drowning Deep Mira Grant.

Publication Date: November 14th from Orbit

Source: Review Copy

Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.

Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.

Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves.

But the secrets of the deep come with a price.

You know a book has gotten to you when you want to sleep with the lights on even though you are miles away from the setting of said book (in this case the ocean) and couldn’t POSSIBLY be in any kind of danger from the events that you’ve just read about. I mean they are fictional anyway. Right?

I’m going to sleep with the lights on.

ANYWAY I loved this as I loved Mira Grant’s “Feed” series – with the passion of a true believer I lived it alongside this motley crew  of scientists, bodyguards and the ship that was supposed to keep them safe. Following on from an expedition that ended in disaster, with found footage either convincing you that here be monsters or making you marvel at the brilliant special effects, Imagine entertainment looks to find the truth of that earlier reality tv show nightmare, but really, did they not pay attention at the whole monster part?

What this author does so well is create a group of characters and makes you care about them – their hopes and dreams, their reasons for what they do, all of that, then she throws them against a wall over and over again and makes them bleed all the while telling an intelligent and not entirely ridiculous story about monsters from the deep. Or monsters from anywhere. Cleverly drawn monsters that will visit you in your dreams. Descriptively speaking this is brilliant brilliant stuff.

I need to go back and read the prequel novella now. Because this is a book one and going by the addictive quality of this first one I’m going to be stood in line at the bookstore a good few weeks in advance of the next..

Quality story within the genre and would stand up against anything out of the genre too.

Highly Recommended.

 

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Latest Reads: The Girl in the Fog Donato Carrisi

Publication Date: 2nd Nov 2017 from Abacus

Source: Review Copy

Sixty-two days after the disappearance . . .

A man is arrested after a road accident in the small town of Avechot. His shirt is covered in blood. Could this have anything to do with a missing girl called Anna Lou? Detective Vogel is on the case, but his unconventional means of investigation end up unsettling the locals.

Also looming over Vogel is a case from his past that nearly destroyed his career. Determined not to lose again, he will do anything to solve the mystery surrounding Anna Lou’s disappearance. Then, a media storm hits the quiet town and Vogel is sure that the suspect will be flushed out. Yet the clues are confusing, perhaps false, and following them may be a far cry from discovering the truth at the heart of a dark town. 

The Girl in the Fog was a twisted tale indeed, with a main protagonist who divided my opinion throughout the read and the resolution of which kept me guessing for the majority of the narrative.

It is very atmospheric, the small town setting is well described and claustrophobic, a girl who disappears, an investigator working to his own agenda and a supporting cast of characters all of whom are, well, slightly weird.

I loved the way the book was plotted, going around the date of the disappearance, sometimes a little after, sometimes much later then finally just before when the truth was revealed – but there is more than one thing here to discover and all in all it was a bit of a page turner. A lot of the read was actually very disturbing, the writing cleverly immersive and very consuming – top notch character building and setting made this a very good read indeed.

Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Keep You Safe. Melissa Hill

Publication Date: Available Now from HQ

Source: Review Copy

Single mom Kate O’Donnell is living her worst nightmare. Her young daughter, Clara, who has a medical condition that doesn’t allow her to be vaccinated, becomes critically ill when one of her classmates, Lauren-whose family chose not to vaccinate-contracts and spreads the virus. While Lauren has no trouble recovering from the disease, Clara’s condition worsens. With time spent by her daughter’s bedside, Kate loses her job and slides deeper into medical debt. But when another school parent points the blame at Lauren’s mother, Lucy, and the media begins an attack, we see two very different views on parenting and how badly things can spin out of control when all either of these two women wanted was to keep their daughters safe.

In “Keep You Safe” Melissa Hill takes on the vaccination debate in a fictional setting and the whole thing was utterly gripping, thought provoking and ultimately made it difficult to absolutely come down on one side or the other.

Two children, opted out of the vaccination programme. One for very very understandable medical reasons – there is a very real chance a jab could kill her. The other for very different reasons, a stance taken by parents afraid of possible side effects. Both girls become ill – one mildly, one severely. The Herd Immunity that should have protected Clara, with her lack of any real choice, failed but is it a failure of science or parenting?

It’s an intelligently told take on a  provocative subject that Melissa Hill makes very human –  by exploring the fallout for both mothers, adding in takes from other parents watching on and throwing in the hive mind that is social media, she creates a very strong emotional core to both character and consequence that will have you completely enthralled.

I read it in one sitting – so immersed was I in this community, small and supportive, an issue like this that goes viral, everyone has an opinion, sides are taken, lines drawn in the sand – through this two very different mothers, living with very different circumstances, have to cope and manage an untenable situation. The writing is beautiful, the characters vivid and real, the subject matter extremely important and the author never loses sight of the most important aspect here – that of the children and keeping them safe.

This is a novel that will affect each reader differently – I’m a strong advocate of vaccinations – but by the end of this book I at least understood the motivation and the reasoning behind the decision to opt out that wasn’t driven by a medical allergy – I still did not agree with it but I could see it. I was impressed with how the author made the argument for both sides with such emotional clarity, taking the reader through a myriad of feelings and regrets, whilst also making the scientific aspects easily understandable.

Overall Keep You Safe is a novel that will stay with me. In the end as parents we can only do the best that we can – this story will keep you thinking and the ultimate resolution is cleverly placed to make you do just that.

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Strange Weather Joe Hill

Publication Date: 7th November from Gollancz

Source: Netgalley

Four short novels from the author of THE FIREMAN and HORNS, ranging from creepy horror to powerful explorations of our modern society.

A quite simply brilliant collection of stories here from the pen of Joe Hill – peripherally linked by the “Strange Weather” of the title, we get four very different, utterly compelling, some downright scary tales, all beautifully written and all filled with a slow burn tension that really puts you right on edge.

In “Snapshot” we meet a terrifying construct and the young lad who faces down his demons during one heck of a storm – one I think fans of “Stranger Things” will most definitely adore, this was the closest in style to his famous father but with Joe Hill’s indomitably unique character growth. All delivered in a shorter, more concise short that I would also say was the story that perhaps stood apart from the rest in that loose connectivity. If you’ve ever had a relative with a certain illness that I won’t disclose so no spoilers you’ll get an emotional tug on the heartstrings along with a great big scare. I read this then slept with the lights on and that’s not even an exaggeration.

Then we get “Loaded” – a more apt title I have never seen, here there be guns, an allegorical and truly thought provoking story where you can see what is coming but are helpless to stop it – for some reason this one made me cry actual tears and the ending is one that will linger in your mind for hours, nay days afterwards. Cleverly insightful writing, understanding exactly how to push the readers buttons and make them consider things outside of themselves Loaded is probably the stand out in this collection.

Possibly to give us a slight break from the huge book trauma, next up is “Aloft” heading into the arena of fantasy in lots of ways wherein one man’s skydiving experience turns into something very different. I loved this one for its quirky styling and for it’s main protagonist who was engaging and fun to live with for a while, especially given his rather unusual circumstances for the majority of the telling.

Last but by no means least is “Rain” – although this rain is no type of rain you would like to be caught out in – the final story (I’m reading the UK edition I don’t know if these will be in the same order everywhere but for me this order worked so brilliantly) takes us down an apocalyptic path but with certain differences, for me a perfect finale because it’s like you’ve come full circle back to the type of thing you now expect and need from Joe Hill – characters thrown into an untenable situation and how they react and respond – with a hint of horror and a lot of human nature.

All in all a simply fabulous set of stories. I took different things from all of them, every one a perfect little gem – all are long enough to be fully fleshed out but short enough to read in an afternoon, I definitely won’t be the only reader coming out of this one hoping that we see, in the future, lots more short collections from this author over the years – as well, of course, as a whole lot more of his epics. A perfect introduction to the writing if you haven’t read him before and an utter delight for those who are already constant readers.

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Shadow Man Margaret Kirk.

Publication Date: 2nd November from Orion

Source: Review Copy

Two brutal killings rock Inverness, and bring ex-Met Detective Inspector Lukas Mahler the biggest challenge of his career…

The body of the queen of daytime TV, Morven Murray is discovered by her sister, Anna, on the morning of her wedding day. But does Anna know more about the murder than she’s letting on?

Police informant Kevin Ramsay’s murder looks like a gangland-style execution. But what could he have stumbled into that was dangerous enough to get him violently killed?

Mahler has only a couple of weeks to solve both cases while dealing with his mother’s fragile mental health. But caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse, is ex-Met DI Lukas Mahler hunting one killer, or two?

Well written and intriguing debut here from Margaret Kirk  – set in Inverness, one of the main strengths of this novel is that setting and putting it firmly into the minds of the reader, using the character driven narrative to keep things engaging.

Mahler is a police detective I got right on board with. Challenged in some but not all of the usual ways, he is a little like a fish out of water, dealing with two murders and a mother who is mentally unstable. The mystery elements are strongly atmospheric, with a few little twists and turns along the way – the supporting cast all come with their own little foibles and overall this was an extremely steady and confident start to a new police procedural series.

The ending works well both as a conclusion and a continuation, there are some characters other than Mahler that I’m hoping to meet again in book two – I have no problem recommending this and I will absolutely look forward to the next story and revisiting Inverness once more.

Smart and compelling, top notch crime fiction.

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