Latest Reads: The Killing House Claire McGowan

Publication Date: 5th April 2018 from Headline

Source: Review Copy

Renovations at an abandoned farm have uncovered two bodies: a man known to be an IRA member missing since the nineties, and a young girl whose identity remains a mystery.

As Paula attempts to discover who the girl is and why no one is looking for her, an anonymous tip-off claims that her own long-lost mother is also buried on the farm.

When another girl is kidnapped, Paula must find the person responsible before more lives are destroyed. But there are explosive secrets still to surface. And even Paula can’t predict that the investigation will strike at the heart of all she holds dear.

A brilliant “conclusion” to Paula Maguire’s journey. A genuinely compelling and thought provoking series overall and this one had me on the edge of my seat to find out if Paula would get her happy ending. Y’all better read to find out..

From the first book to this book, the stories have been absolutely gripping – each separate mystery brilliantly plotted and compelling – throughout though has been the thread of loss- what did happen to Paula’s mother? Every book has had a moving forward of sorts, now here we are and the end is in sight…

Claire McGowan writes with a quiet intensity that just draws you in, her characters are beautifully flawed and authentic, the Irish setting comes to life not only in style but in substance. There is an underlying emotional sense to these books that is really impressive. Poor Paula, she has been through the wringer over the years, with her relationships and her difficult career – the author offers no guarantees that the rug won’t be pulled out from underneath her yet again in this final reckoning – so to call it a page turner doesn’t really do it justice. You honestly wont be able to put it down.

As a reader who has followed these from the start I was very emotional myself when I got to the end of The Killing House – whether in a good, cathartic way or a completely destroyed sobbing heap way I’ll leave you to find out for yourselves – but I HIGHLY recommend this and the books leading up to it. If you haven’t read them yet get the lot, go on a binge read, it’ll be more addictive than anything on Netflix I can promise you that. If you, like me, have been waiting for this “closure” then you won’t be disappointed. Absolutely and completely brilliantly done.

 

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Hydra Matt Wesolowski – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now (Kindle) January 15th (Paperback) from Orenda Books

Source: Review Copy

One cold November night in 2014, in a small town in the north west of England, 26-year-old Arla Macleod bludgeoned her mother, father and younger sister to death with a hammer, in an unprovoked attack known as the “Macleod Massacre.” Now incarcerated at a medium-security mental-health institution, Arla will speak to no one but Scott King, an investigative journalist, whose Six Stories podcasts have become an internet sensation. King finds himself immersed in an increasingly complex case, interviewing five witnesses and Arla herself, as he questions whether Arla’s responsibility for the massacre was a diminished as her legal team made out. As he unpicks the stories, he finds himself thrust into a world of deadly forbidden “games,” online trolls, and the mysterious Black-eyed Children, whose presence extends far beyond the delusions of a murderess.

The main thing I want to say is that this book is TOTAL genius. That.

I read Hydra in one sitting, going through the night gulping down various types of caffeine drinks, because once I started I just couldn’t stop. It is so beautifully written, so damn creepy that it will have you genuinely looking over your shoulder and jumping at shadows and on top of all that has an intricately woven, intelligent and thought provoking plot.

Those damned black eyed children. STILL occasionally haunting my nights.

Like with Six Stories (another work of genius although Hydra ups the ante quite considerably) we see a story unfolding through the eyes of various witnesses, each one adding to the whole until you have a dark, emotionally hard hitting finale – Arla’s story is incredibly intriguing, Matt Wesolowski builds the tension superbly, creating a deeply immersive mythology along the way. It does creep into your soul like a little burrowing book worm, by the end you are left a little ragged – in a brilliant way. Sign of a truly excellent read.

Comparisons to Stephen King are a dime a dozen these days and I tend to roll my eyes when I see them, but in the case of this author I honestly believe they are justified. Not because he writes like King, only King does that, but because it affects you in similar ways. The writing is so damned good that you feel every moment of it, the comparative value comes later. When you think you’ve left it behind then you see or hear something in real life and suddenly you are back there, in the story and you shiver and see the shadows.

I loved Six Stories and I loved Hydra even more. It was incredible, I lived in it and left part of me with it. Amazingly talented writing, decidedly excellent storytelling and a right proper literary page turner. BOOM.

Highly Recommended – with one piece of advice. DON’T LET THEM IN.

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Exile James Swallow – Blog Tour Review

Publication Date: Available Now from Bonnier Zaffre

Source: Review copy

A vicious Serbian gang whose profits come from fake nuclear weapons
A disgraced Russian general, with access to the real thing.
A vengeful Somali warlord, with a cause for which he’d let the world burn.
A jaded government agency, without the information to stop him.
Only one man sees what’s coming. And even he might not be able to prevent it . . .

Exile is fast paced, scarily realistic and a total thrill ride – an excellent follow up to the terrific “Nomad” featuring once again main protagonist Marc Dane.

Also once again I found it to be chillingly addictive and banged through it as Marc discovers a plot, gets ignored, so takes matters into his own hands. A chase  ensues as he attempts to stop an attack that would kill millions, an edge of the seat thriller done in style.

The writing is clever and immersive, the plotting is taut and definitely frightening – I love the “Lone Wolf” vibe that James Swallow brings to these stories, Marc Dane is an interesting and highly engaging character to follow along with. The action is brilliantly described and the events often unexpected, keeping it fresh and appealing throughout.

Really a whole load of fun, wildly entertaining and thought provokingly authentic. Definitely recommended for thriller fans.

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First Review of 2018: Senlin Ascends Josiah Bancroft

Publication Date: January 18th 2018 from Orbit

Source: Review Copy

Mild-mannered headmaster, Thomas Senlin prefers his adventures to be safely contained within the pages of a book. So when he loses his new bride shortly after embarking on the honeymoon of their dreams, he is ill-prepared for the trouble that follows.

To find her, Senlin must enter the Tower of Babel – a world of geniuses and tyrants, of menace and wonder, of unusual animals and mysterious machines. He must endure betrayal, assassination attempts and the long guns of a flying fortress. And if he hopes to ever see his wife again, he will have to do more than just survive . . . this quiet man of letters must become a man of action.

I LOVED this book. It is one of the most imaginative, beautifully done novels I have read in a long time. Incredibly hard to stop reading once you start, you just fall into this world the author has created, following along with Thomas as he searches desperately for his wife, ascending upwards through this vivid, insane and exceptionally described landscape.

It is a character journey done with a strong emotive sense, Thomas is the key, we learn about his marriage and this trip of a lifetime, but when his wife goes missing almost immediately Thomas is thrown into a world beyond his ken. I watched him change as wilder and wilder things were thrown into his path, as he made friends and enemies, found strength in himself that he didn’t know existed, the man you see at the end of the tale is both utterly different yet quietly similar to the one who starts out.

This book has everything you could want for an entertaining book ride – strange machines, odd people, weird traditions and so much more. It has mystery and adventure, heart stopping moments and quiet contemplation, it is engaging and to be honest completely nuts but in a life affirming way. Thomas Senlin and his peaceful personality that goes through so many changes to live with his ever evolving situation is an analogy for life itself if ever I saw one.

The world building is incredible, the descriptive sense of the Tower makes you see it in your minds eye, I adored this book from first page to last – talking of that last page, what a perfectly brilliant ending, I’m just desperate now to read the next part. One of my most anticipated books of 2018.

Also PIRATES.

Come on, what more could you POSSIBLY need?

Highly Recommended.

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The Missing Girl Jenny Quintana – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Mantle

Source: Review Copy

When Anna Flores’ adored older sister goes missing as a teenager, Anna copes by disappearing too, just as soon as she can: running as far away from her family as possible, and eventually building a life for herself abroad. 

Thirty years later, the death of her mother finally forces Anna to return home. Tasked with sorting through her mother’s possessions, she begins to confront not just her mother’s death, but also the huge hole Gabriella’s disappearance left in her life – and finds herself asking a question she’s not allowed herself to ask for years: what really happened to her sister?

An excellent and beautifully written debut from Jenny Quintana here – a missing sister, a woman looking for answers and an evocative past/present setting that resonated.

The Missing Girl is emotionally gripping as we see Anna sorting through the aftermath of her mother’s death and returning again to that terrible time in her youth when her sister disappeared. Through flashback we see the events leading up to that day and, more importantly, the relationship that existed between the sisters and their parents.

This is a story about loss and about closure, it is less psychological thriller and more family drama, the mystery elements managed within that in a really clever and emotive way. Jenny Quintana writes with a deeply touching prose that really gets to the heart of the feelings of her characters, it is genuinely absorbing from the very first page.

Highly enjoyable and memorable this is a wonderful debut and I can’t wait to see what this author brings us next.

Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Planetfall Emma Newman

Publication Date (New) 22nd Feb 2018 from Gollancz

Source: Netgalley

Renata Ghali believed in Lee Suh-Mi’s vision of a world far beyond Earth, calling to humanity. A planet promising to reveal the truth about our place in the cosmos, untainted by overpopulation, pollution, and war. Ren believed in that vision enough to give up everything to follow Suh-Mi into the unknown.

More than twenty-two years have passed since Ren and the rest of the faithful braved the starry abyss and established a colony at the base of an enigmatic alien structure where Suh-Mi has since resided, alone. All that time, Ren has worked hard as the colony’s 3-D printer engineer, creating the tools necessary for human survival in an alien environment, and harboring a devastating secret.

Ren continues to perpetuate the lie forming the foundation of the colony for the good of her fellow colonists, despite the personal cost. Then a stranger appears, far too young to have been part of the first planetfall, a man who bears a remarkable resemblance to Suh-Mi.

The truth Ren has concealed since planetfall can no longer be hidden. And its revelation might tear the colony apart…

Prior to reading “Planetfall” I’d heard it described as intelligent science fiction – having finished it I think that is probably the best way of putting it. Planetfall is at it’s very heart a character study examining the human condition – the fact that it is set on an alien planet just brings that home rather than setting it apart – in a beautifully emotional prose Emma Newman shows what happens when a community is both brought together and ripped apart.

Ren is a purely fascinating character – she pops from the page, the secret she is hiding slowly coming out into the light from her inner darkness – having lived a lie for a long long time, a stranger holds the key to unlocking her painfully hidden secrets. Around that we get the story of an epic quest to find “God” and an often dreamlike narrative that tells the tale of humans reaching out for answers into an unknown universe.

I loved it, immersed myself in it and cried like a  baby at the end – Planetfall has a dual sense of feeling to it – the very entertaining and clever imaginative side, plus the very very human side. Themes of religious fervour, mental illness, friendship and love all mixed up with ingenious world building and sense of place make Planetfall both a page turner and a thought provoking social study.

Beautifully written, masterfully plotted and with an ending to touch the soul, Planetfall comes highly recommended from me.

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Latest Reads: Exhibit Alexandra Natasha Bell

Publication Date: 8th March 2018 from Penguin (Michael Joseph)

Source: Netgalley

Alexandra Southwood: a devoted mother, a talented artist and now a missing wife.

Marc’s world is seemingly perfect, complete with two daughters and a loving wife. Until the day she vanishes.

Police, friends and family pull together to find Alex but their hopes quickly turn into a nightmare as the missing person case becomes a murder investigation.

But Marc refuses to accept his wife is dead and embarks on his own frantic search which leads him into the heart of the New York art world that so gripped his wife.

Meanwhile, in a locked room, news clips of the police investigation and the family’s grief are played out in front of a terrified woman. It is Alex. As the weeks pass all she can do is torment herself with images of her family’s life without her.

As Marc begins to piece together hidden parts of Alex’s life, he begins to question whether he really knew her at all . . .

But this is Alex’s story.

“Exhibit Alexandra” is a different take on a psychological thriller – very clever and somewhat insightful and highly likely to divide opinion. The central theme, if you like, is a little niche and will appeal wildly to some readers and leave others scratching their heads. Life imitating art imitating life – although I saw very early on where the author was going with this, the journey was all the more fascinating for that.

I’m not an art critic and literally know nothing about it. I see paintings I like sometimes that appeal to me but it can just as easily be kid’s random splash of colour as it can be a Rembrandt or whatever, however in this novel I learned a good deal about art as an idea both in the concept and in the storytelling.

The main thing though is if you like a good character study with a twist, a mystery within a mystery you’ll probably love this novel, it has a strange way of drawing you in to the seemingly cliched tale of a wife gone missing and a husband’s search. That search though is only as imagined by the one who is lost. It is a multi-layered twisted tale which in it’s final resolution asks of the reader a question. One that I shall ponder my answer to.

Very difficult to review without spoilers so I’ll leave it there. I loved this for it’s differences, for the intuitive writing that takes you on a journey through the mind of one wife, mother, artist and explores the depths of the human condition.

Recommended.

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Ones To Watch in 2018. Turn A Blind Eye Vicky Newham

Publication Date: April 5th 2018 from HQ

Source: Review Copy

A twisted killer has a deadly riddle for DI Maya Rahman to solve in this pulse-racing thriller, the first in an addictive new series set in East London.

A headmistress is found strangled in her East London school, her death the result of a brutal and ritualistic act of violence. Found at the scene is a single piece of card, written upon which is an ancient Buddhist precept:

I shall abstain from taking the ungiven.

At first, DI Maya Rahman can’t help but hope this is a tragic but isolated murder. Then, the second body is found.

Faced with a community steeped in secrets and prejudice, and with a serial killer on her hands, Maya must untangle the cryptic messages left at the crime scenes to solve the deadly riddle behind the murders – before the killer takes another victim.

I can see why the marketing labels this “Your new obsession” because Turn A Blind Eye is highly addictive, beautifully flowing words and that “just one more chapter” vibe that us bookworms love – and often lose sleep for turning up bleary eyed for work the next day.

I read a really early version of this and it was great then but now it is greater, a cleverly woven mystery, a culturally diverse setting and set of characters, a deeply layered and thought provoking plot all wrapped up in a vivid mix of police procedural and psychological thriller.

The characters here reflect the setting which reflects the story, a murder, a cryptic clue (don’t you just LOVE the cryptic clues?) and a race against time to stop a killer before he or she strikes again. DI Maya Rahman is perfectly drawn, enigmatically intriguing, battling prejudice on many levels whilst dealing with a personal loss, she never loses sight of what is important. The supporting characters are all given equal gravitas, they will draw you into their world which is also our world – a huge dose of authenticity gives Turn A Blind Eye an added edge and readability.

I won’t give anything away but there are enough twists and turns to keep the most avid crime fan happy, the back stories just beginning to take form are fascinating and intriguing, the themes explored within the narrative are socially relevant to the world we inhabit and give you plenty to think about – whilst still keeping things highly entertaining and unexpected.

Overall this is a truly excellent start to what I believe will be a truly excellent series and one I shall stick with. DI Maya Rahman is indeed one to watch in 2018….and beyond.

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: A Murder of Crows Ian Skewis

Publication Date: Available Now from Unbound

Source: Netgalley

The most violent thunderstorm in living memory occurs above a sleepy village on the West Coast of Scotland.   

A young couple take shelter in the woods, never to be seen again… 

DCI Jack Russell is brought in to investigate. Nearing retirement, he agrees to undertake one last case, which he believes can be solved as a matter of routine. 

But what Jack discovers in the forest leads him to the conclusion that he is following in the footsteps of a psychopath who is just getting started. Jack is flung headlong into a race against time to prevent the evolution of a serial killer…

A Murder Of Crows is a literary crime novel with a beautifully dark and sinister tone to it, within a small claustrophobic setting which is descriptively immersive – I fell into it and didn’t really look up until I was done.

A young couple take shelter in the woods during a harsh storm and then disappear – Jack Russell (brilliantly named!) takes on the case – but this is one that is in no way straightforward, with it’s roots in the past and a village full of secrets. The characters pop – I was especially taken with the way the author tackled Alice, who has dementia – and all of them have an intricately woven history that evolves during the telling.  The writing style is classically good with all the elements coming together in a truly unsettling finale.

The plotting was cleverly character and timeline driven to maximum effect, there are twists and turns in the narrative but they are more of character than mystery – the final moments resonate unexpectedly and leave you with a deeply discombobulated feeling of unease. I loved it.

I believe there is a follow up in the works for which I am truly grateful. Detailed, lyrical and imaginatively done, A Murder of Crows was a huge hit for me.

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Losing Leah Sue Welfare

Publication Date: 22nd March 2018 from Mirror Books

Source: Netgalley

On a cold, dark February morning, Chris and Leah Hills stop for coffee at an isolated service station a stone’s throw from the Welsh Borders. While Leah heads inside, Chris locks the car and goes in to order their drinks. 

Minutes pass. Chris waits and waits, but Leah doesn’t come back. When Sergeant Mel Daley and her boss, Detective Inspector Harry Baker, arrive to begin a search for the missing woman, their investigation calls everything into question. Is she alive? Did she leave the service station with someone else? Did Leah ever even leave Norfolk? While her husband becomes more frantic, the pair begin to unravel a tangle of dark secrets from the past.

I read Losing Leah today in two sittings – highly addictive and a clever crime drama in the way it played out, some well layered characters and a different vibe to the construction that made it difficult to put down once started.

I don’t think I ever had any doubt about what had happened to Leah – which was confirmed by the ultimate resolution – but that really wasn’t what intrigued  me. Hence I loved it. An intelligent take on a crime thriller, an enigmatic puzzle of character rather than of happenstance with some engaging police characters and a hugely compelling psychological element.

Another huge strength was in fact the more procedural elements – an investigation playing out in front of your eyes in a highly authentic feeling way, the setting is also well described (and I actually know the small market town in Norfolk mentioned, I stayed there one year so that made it all the more fun to read) – so the addictive quality is there, the storytelling is brilliant and you’ve really got everything you could want from a crime novel right here within this read.

I’ve not read Sue Welfare’s other novels as yet  – but if she writes more crime you can be certain I’ll be at the front of the queue.

Recommended.

 

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