Latest Reads: Mad Chloe J Esposito

Publication Date: 15th June from Michael Joseph

Source: Netgalley

‘There’s something you should know before we go any further: my heart is in the wrong place. Now don’t say I didn’t warn you…’

Perhaps that’s why nothing in Alvie’s life has ever gone right? Until now.

She can finally abandon her credit card debt – and her fruitless three-way relationship with Tinder and Twitter – when fate gives her the chance to steal her identical twin’s perfect life.

It’s just a shame Beth had to die to make Alvie’s dreams come true.

She may be an accidental murderess, but who can blame her for taking lemons and making lemonade? Well… Beth’s husband might, and the police, but only if they can catch her.

So begin seven days of sex, violence and unapologetic selfies – one wild week that sees Alvie break every rule in the book. She never did have much respect for boundaries.

It might be madness, but rules are meant to be broken. Right?

This book was insane for all the right reasons – I banged through it, once you meet Alvie Knightly you won’t want to turn your back on her, no way!

Mad is a whole pile of fun, sexy, sassy, murderous and intensely funny at times, I sat there reading it giggling away to myself I’m fairly sure people around me thought I might be mad. What? Sssh…

Anyway, Alvie has a twin. She hates her twin. Alvie is also a bit crap at life but kind of takes it all in her stride. Off she goes to visit her sister in Italy, her sister with the gorgeous husband, tons of cash and beautiful home, a baby and the life Alvie feels she should be living. When circumstances turn slightly, well, mad, Alvie seizes her chance to step into those high high heels.

This novel cracks along with frenetic, addictive style, beautifully descriptive in hot and heavy fashion, the author sets the scene, pops Alvie into it and off we go on a purely brilliant ride. Alvie has no filtered thoughts, finds she has a violent streak, observes life with a wittily intelligent outlook and manages to get into a whole load of trouble, using only her intuitive impulses to keep herself out of the danger zone. It is highly entertaining, first page to last, also quite bloody, gorgeously racy and beautifully provocative. I loved it.

So glad this is a trilogy. Mad, Bad and Dangerous to know. I’m in it all the way. Bring on book 2.

Alvina Knightly: Uncensored. Unhinged. Unforgettable.

Yep – you got that right.

Highly Recommended.

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Block 46 Johana Gustawsson – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Orenda

In Falkenberg, Sweden, the mutilated body of talented young jewelry designer Linnea Blix is found in a snow-swept marina. In Hampstead Heath, London, the body of a young boy is discovered with similar wounds to Linnea’s. Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1944. In the midst of the hell of the Holocaust, Erich Hebner will do anything to see himself as a human again. Are the two murders the work of a serial killer, and how are they connected to shocking events at Buchenwald? Emily Roy, a profiler on loan to Scotland Yard from the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, joins up with Linnea’s friend, French true-crime writer Alexis Castells, to investigate the puzzling case. They travel between Sweden and London, and then deep into the past, as a startling and terrifying connection comes to light.

Block 46 is the type of brilliantly insightful crime thriller that doesn’t come along that often – dark and brutal yet with some beautiful writing, Johana Gustawsson takes you inside the heads, hearts and every other part of her characters telling an emotional and hard hitting story that will stay with you long after finishing it.

The historical aspects are horribly authentic – there are no punches pulled here and Block 46 is a page turner of the highest order, a book that is utterly gripping and totally character driven. The descriptive sense here is second to none and I was fascinated, alarmed, immersed into the investigation and its roots from the moment I started reading.

The author manages the layers of the storytelling in a clever and thought provoking manner, drawing the reader along with her characters, there is not one moment of Block 46 that fails to engage. Definitely in the running to be on my Top Ten of the year, don’t expect an easy ride emotionally but DO expect a highly addictive, gorgeously constructed incredibly intelligent crime novel.

Definitively Highly Recommended.

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The Night Visitor Lucy Atkins. Blog Tour. Review.

Publication Date: 4th May.

Professor Olivia Sweetman has worked hard to achieve the life she loves, with a high-flying career as a TV presenter and historian, three children and a talented husband. But as she stands before a crowd at the launch of her new bestseller she can barely pretend to smile. Her life has spiralled into deceit and if the truth comes out, she will lose everything.

Only one person knows what Olivia has done. Vivian Tester is the socially awkward sixty-year-old housekeeper of a Sussex manor who found the Victorian diary on which Olivia’s book is based. She has now become Olivia’s unofficial research assistant. And Vivian has secrets of her own.

As events move between London, Sussex and the idyllic South of France, the relationship between these two women grows more entangled and complex. Then a bizarre act of violence changes everything.

Oh The Night Visitor has some beautiful beautiful writing, it took me all of 5 seconds to be totally immersed into this one, it has two of the most impressive characters I’ve read in a long long time, with a story that is often haunting and genuinely sends you deeper down the rabbit hole with every chapter.

Told alternatively between Olivia, highly successful, hiding a secret and Vivian, her “research assistant” who knows many things and is hiding her own, the relationship between these two, how you see it and them develop is intensely fascinating and holds a dark sense of menace, things you can feel coming but cannot quite grasp.

The plotting is intelligent and intricately woven, neither woman is easily readable and Lucy Atkins twists the characters around wonderfully to keep you feeling off kilter, yet unable to stop reading. I really don’t want to give anything away, the scene setting is also impressive and overall this was just one heck of a read.

The ending is killer and the rest of it is just as addictive, terrific terrific stuff here. And Beetles. Is all I’m saying.

Highly Recommended.

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Child Taken Darren Young. Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: 18th May from Red Door Books

Source: Review Copy

One hot summer’s day, two-year-old Jessica Preston disappears from the beach. The police are convinced she drowned, but Sandra Preston won’t give up hope that her daughter is still alive. How can she?

Twenty years later, another child goes missing, and Sandra is approached by a young journalist who raises questions about what really happened to Jessica Preston all those years ago. But when the journalist discovers someone with an explosive secret, it threatens not only to reveal what’s been covered up for so long, but puts both their lives in danger.

Child Taken is a tense and beautifully addictive thriller that had an excellent premise – one of those books you just get sucked into and don’t want to stop reading.

There have been a few books about child abduction that I have read, I liked Child Taken for its differences – we have two missing girls, years apart, a journalist who becomes fascinated and obsessed with a story and a girl who is starting to question everything she has ever known. Darren Young layers the secrets beautifully, twisting and turning the story to the ultimate conclusion, strong and compelling character voices and enough unpredictability to make it a proper page turner.

I was very moved by Sandra, convinced her daughter is still alive, her life spirals downward, I spent the book mainly hoping for her to finally have peace. The author has a way of showing the emotion of things in a subtle and haunting way that just brings you into the world of the characters, another big plus for this one.

Overall a really excellent read – recommended.

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The Quiet Man James Carol – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: 4th May from Faber

Source: Review Copy

In Vancouver, the wife of a millionaire is dead following an explosion in her own home.

Everyone thinks her husband is responsible, but former FBI profiler Jefferson Winter isn’t so sure. The method is too perfect; the lack of mistakes, uncanny. He’s seen a series of carefully orchestrated murders – once a year, on exactly the same day, a woman dies in a situation just like this one.

That date is fast approaching and Winter knows another victim has been selected. Can he identify the quiet man before he strikes again?

 

I’m a fan of the Jefferson Winter series  – The Quiet Man is basically just another brilliantly addictive fast paced thriller that is just  gripping right from the very first moments.

Jefferson Winter as a character is completely fascinating, son of a serial killer, former FBI agent who now freelances around and about catching the worst of the worst. The case he finds himself embroiled in this time is unique – the victims are twofold, one dead one left living with that death having caused it – this allows for some emotive moments that just add to the whole.

I love the simple intricacy of James Carol’s plotting in this series – Winter as a kind of twisted Holmes character has terrific insight but is not always that warm, his interactions with other characters always make for great reading, often bringing on a smile. The cases are always cleverly twisted, mostly unpredictable and the pace is pitch perfect, what I like to call readability factor high.

The Quiet Man has all of that and then some – another one sitting read for me, no messing, you simply do not want to put them down once you have picked them up. For that reason I highly recommend all of the Jefferson Winter novels including this one. Easily read as an ongoing series or standalones just pick one up and dive right in. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

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Latest Reads: The White Road Sarah Lotz.

Publication Date: 4th May from Hodder and Staughton

Source: Review Copy

Adrenaline junkie Simon Newman sneaks onto private land to explore a dangerous cave in Wales with a strange man he’s met online. But Simon gets more than he bargained for when the expedition goes horribly wrong. Simon emerges, the only survivor, after a rainstorm trap the two in the cave. Simon thinks he’s had a lucky escape.

But his video of his near-death experience has just gone viral.

Suddenly Simon finds himself more famous than he could ever have imagined. Now he’s faced with an impossible task: he’s got to defy death once again, and film the entire thing. The whole world will be watching. There’s only on place on earth for him to pit himself against the elements: Mt Everest, the tallest mountain in the world.

But Everest is also one of the deadliest spots on the planet. Two hundred and eighty people have died trying to reach its peak.

And Simon’s luck is about to run out.

I loved this whilst being inordinately disturbed by it – you know those times where you read something or watch something and it plays on your mind for days even weeks afterwards, leaving you feeling slightly perturbed for no reason you can put your finger on. I’m a fan of books that do that – means they really have gotten under your skin.

‘Who is the third who walks always beside you?’

Yes. That.

So with “The White Road” then, Sarah Lotz gives us a kind of a ghost story, with an edge of horror and a side of creepy “look behind you” vibe. Simon is not particularly likeable and falls into things – after a caving expedition goes awry he finds himself somewhat of a You Tube superstar. Trying to cash in on that his friend sends him off to climb Everest – the narrative jumps between Simon and Juliet, a previous climber, its not until much later that their two stories come together.

Sarah Lotz as she always does writes with an atmospheric, darkly twisted tone that just gets right to the heart of things. I shivered my way through this, I was living on that mountain with Simon and with Juliet – I couldn’t look away and the night in between the two days I read this over was full of those weirdly incoherent dreams that you only half remember when you awake. For me, that’s clever, beautiful writing right there.

I don’t want to talk about the actual plot much – there are many levels I could dissect for you but let’s not do that – Just know that if you are a fan of creepy, intense and  authentic feeling stories then The White Road will tick every box for you. The author walks the line between the real and the imagined so beautifully, the mythology that she builds The White Road from – the third man factor – is enough to make you nervous to begin with. The tension and the sense of unease build inexorably over the course of the storytelling, the setting is wild and uncontrollable and that comes across brilliantly. By the end, an end that haunts, I was so involved that it was hard to leave behind.

The White Road is chilling, in more ways than one, it is also intelligent, wonderfully written and has an enigmatic, mysterious other sense about it that will dig deep into your consciousness. From the opening claustrophobic and downright scary set up to the strangely even more claustrophobic mountain, you will get hook line and sinkered into this one – when a novel literally heightens all your senses as you read it you know you’ve got a good one.

Highly Recommended.

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The Age of Olympus – Gavin Scott. Blog tour Extract.

Today I am very pleased to offer an extract from The Age of Olympus written by Gavin Scott and published by Titan Books on 28th April. Details follow the extract.

The Age of Olympus – Extract.

“So the Iron Curtain could fall over Greece too?” said Sophie.

“It could indeed,” said Lancaster, and fixed his pop-eyed gaze on Forrester. “And that’s where your old friend General Alexandros comes into it. We’re a bit worried about him.”

“He’s not a communist,” said Forrester. “I know that for a fact.”

After the Germans invaded Greece in 1941, Forrester and Aristotle Alexandros had spent weeks together, planning guerrilla operations while hiding out in a cave near Mount Olympus, and they had talked about every subject under the sun, including the Soviet Union. “He’s the most rational man I’ve ever met. One of the best read, too. He saw through Marx as a teenager.”

“But after you parted he spent the rest of the war fighting the Nazis alongside the communists,” said Lancaster, “and that makes him a suspect now as far as the Greek Army is concerned. They’re all royalists, you know.”

“But he’s the best strategist in Greece,” said Forrester. “Best tactician too. Don’t tell me the regular army’s put him on ice.”

“That’s exactly what they’ve done,” said Lancaster. “And he’s getting bored and impatient. The communists want to put him in charge of ELAS.”

“ELAS?”

“Their strike force. The so-called Greek People’s Liberation Army.”

“But surely he wouldn’t—”

“The present regime’s pretty rotten. Too many people who cosied up to the Germans. He might think he could use ELAS to take over, clean house and start again with a fresh slate.”

Forrester was silent for a moment. It was all too plausible. And if Aristotle Alexandros joined the communist army, they would win. Stalin’s campaign to control Europe would be one step closer to fulfilment.

“What do you want me to do?” he asked.

“Just talk to Alexandros, find out what you can about his thinking. Then let us know.”

“I’m very fond of him,” said Forrester. “I’m not going to sell him down the river.”

“Wouldn’t dream of asking you to, old boy,” said the attaché. “Just sound him out about whether he’s going to join ELAS, that’s all.”

“If we come across each other.”

“Oh, you’ll come across each other,” said Lancaster. “This is Greece. Besides, there’s a party tonight at the Regent- Archbishop’s, and I’ve wangled you both an invitation.”

“I had hoped to have a quiet dinner with Sophie,” said Forrester.

“I know,” said Lancaster, with patently insincere sympathy, “but I also know we can rely on you to be a good scout, old man. They speak very highly of you at the War Office, and the same can’t be said for most academics, I can tell you.”

About the Book: 

Duncan Forrester has travelled to Greece, intent on recovering the ancient Cretan stone he discovered during the war, while part of an SOE mission to kidnap a German commander. But during a visit to Athens he witnesses the poisoning of a Greek poet, who it appears may have not been the intended target. The man Forrester believes to have been marked for death is a general, who has been approached to lead ELAS, the military arm of the Greek communists. With Greece on the brink of civil war, and more attempts made on the general’s life – not to mention an enemy from his own past on his heels – Forrester knows that the country’s future depends on the fate of one man…The man Forrester believes to have been marked for death is a general, who has been approached to lead ELAS, the military arm of the Greek communists. With Greece on the brink of civil war, and more attempts made on the general’s life – not to mention an enemy from his own past on his heels – Forrester knows that the country’s future depends on the fate of one man…

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Tag You’re Dead – Douglas Skelton. Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Contraband

Source: Review Copy

Sam the butcher is missing, and maverick investigator Dominic Queste is on the case. But it’s not because he misses Sam’s prize-winning steak pies… A dangerous man has arrived in Glasgow. He’s no small-town crook, and he’s leaving a trail of disturbing clues across the city, starting with the missing cousin of Queste’s new lover. Amidst a twisted game of cat and mouse, suspicious coppers and a seemingly random burglary at the judge’s house, Queste has to keep his wits about him. Or he might just find himself on the butcher’s block.

So Dominic Queste is back and nobody is more pleased to see him than me. And anyone else that read The Dead Don’t Boogie probably.

Queste is a PI extraordinaire (sort of) and here we see him in a fast paced, ironically humerous, page turning case as he hunts down Sam the butcher, missing in action – also there’s a bad bad guy in town looking for trouble. I do love a good bit of trouble in my crime fiction.

What I really enjoy with Mr Skelton’s writing is the way he just sucks you into his settings and makes you believe you know the characters – I’m especially fond of Ginty and that relationship dynamic is brilliant. There are political shenanigans galore, plenty of gritty action and some clever little plot developments, would have been a one sitting read if not for that pesky having to go to work thing.

I did however make short order of it – I won’t give much away except to say that I can’t imagine anyone not liking this, if not for one reason then for another. Top notch writing, top notch storytelling, some brilliantly observed life realities and really believable, well drawn characters. What’s not to love?

Recommended.

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Latest Reads: The Body in the Ice – A J Mackenzie

Publication Date: Available Now from Bonnier

Source: Review Copy.

Christmas Day, Kent, 1796

On the frozen fields of Romney Marsh stands New Hall; silent, lifeless, deserted. In its grounds lies an unexpected Christmas offering: a corpse, frozen into the ice of a horse pond.

It falls to the Reverend Hardcastle, justice of the peace in St Mary in the Marsh, to investigate. But with the victim’s identity unknown, no murder weapon and no known motive, it seems like an impossible task. Working along with his trusted friend, Amelia Chaytor, and new arrival Captain Edward Austen, Hardcastle soon discovers there is more to the mystery than there first appeared.

With the arrival of an American family torn apart by war and desperate to reclaim their ancestral home, a French spy returning to the scene of his crimes, ancient loyalties and new vengeance combine to make Hardcastle and Mrs Chaytor’s attempts to discover the secret of New Hall all the more dangerous.

Really enjoyed this – you know I love my modern detective stories but sometimes its nice to read a mystery set in a time when there were no mobile phones or DNA matches or anything really except legwork, good old fashioned common sense and the use of the little grey cells (Yes this is a little bit Christie)

This is my first novel in this series although I have the other one sat in the never ending pile somewhere so will definitely have to dig this out – I was particularly struck by the setting and the atmosphere in The Body in the Ice and I loved how A J Mackenzie (another spot on writing team) wove plenty of humour into the narrative. It made for a fun and compelling read, the mystery elements are spot on and the writing style is easy and immersive. Great for a Sunday afternoon (which was when I read this one pretty much in a single sitting)

The historical elements were great – letters and actual conversations and the team of Hardcastle and Chaytor worked really well, I’ll look forward to going back in time (again) and read their first adventure. This is old school storytelling at its best and whilst I’m not generally a huge fan of Historical fiction there are exceptions to the rule and this is one of them.

Villages and community (loved Amelia) family dynamic and the social strata of the day bring  this novel to life – that with the occasionally Holmes like detection elements and a gorgeously drawn cast of eclectic characters make The Body in the Ice a wonderful read.

Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Friends and Liars Kaela Coble

Publication Date: 1st June from Corvus

Source: Netgalley

It has been ten years since Ruby left her hometown behind. Since then she’s built a life away from her recovering alcoholic mother and her first love, Murphy. But when Danny, one of her estranged friends from childhood, commits suicide, guilt draws Ruby back into the tumultuous world she escaped all those years ago.

She’s dreading the funeral – and with good reason. Danny has left a series of envelopes addressed to his former friends. Inside each envelope is a secret about every person in the group. Ruby’s secret is so explosive, she will fight tooth-and-nail to keep it hidden from those she once loved so deeply, even if that means risking everything…

Friends and Liars is a  totally immersive and addictive read about a group of friends and the things that both bring them together and divide them. In the aftermath of the suicide of one of their own, all of them must face up to the truths about themselves and each other.

As we meet them both in the past and in the present, their story is authentically compelling. As a tight knit group of children, “the crew”, none the less they all have wavering loyalties and secrets that they keep – Friends and Liars is a brilliantly insightful look at the group dynamics of friendships formed, those that endure. Danny, in death, forces a kind of reckoning, it is utterly gripping and often very emotional.

The characters, all of them, are layered well, Kaela Coble unravels their lives in an intelligently woven plot that allows you to feel everything right along with them. Much of the focus is on Ruby and her one time best friend Murphy, the rest of the group rippling around them with Danny, the damaged and troubled soul right at the heart of things. The author plays on the readers sympathies, keeping you engaged, in some ways this is like a mini thriller as each secret comes to light slowly over the course of the story. Ultimately there is a kind of redemptive feel to things, sometimes the truth really does set you free…

Really I loved it, I read it in two sittings, the small town vibe, the ebb and flow of family and community, this group of friends who are genuinely tied together by those invisible threads no matter where they are in the world, it all made for quite wonderful and often unpredictable reading.

I’ll miss them all. I feel like I’ve lived it with them.

Recommended.

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