The Dry by Jane Harper -a review

Whilst on my recent jaunts, I had a lot of time on planes to catch up with some of my recent netgalley acquisitions. The Dry by Jane Harper was one of those.

The Dry is set in a small town in Australia. The Hadler family are dead and it looks like a case of murder/suicide. Aaron Falk returns to his home town after an absence of 20 years in order to attend the funeral of his school friend Luke Hadler. Luke is thought to have killed his family before turning the gun on himself. Aaron is not convinced that the Luke he used to know would have killed his wife and child. Originally intending to just stay for the funeral he soon gets embroiled in the investigation into the deaths. Alongside this, Aaron is also having to deal with the fact that the town still hasn’t forgotten a terrible incident that they believe Aaron and his friend Luke were involved in. It was this incident that meant he had had to flee the town with his Dad 20 years earlier.

This is the debut novel by author Jane Harper, and according to the publisher this is meant to be ‘one of the most anticipated novels of 2017’ I can certainly see why.

The Dry was a novel that draws you in slowly, but soon hooks you in completely. It is not a fast paced novel, but it is incredibly atmospheric. The setting was the part that really made this novel stand out for me. You get the impression of a small town that gives it a really claustrophobic feeling . The slow build up of the story is mirrored by the ongoing threat of drought and fire. As the lack of rain causes tensions in the town to rise, the story builds towards the final reveal.

The characters were interesting, although I was a bit unsure whether I actually liked Aaron or not. Other than what we find out about his childhood there didn’t seem to be a lot to his character although this adds to the small town atmosphere. The story of what happened twenty years before is told in flashback. I felt that these were easy to keep track of even on a kindle when flicking back and forwards isn’t as easy as with a paper version. This was testament to how good the writing in this novel was.

This was a good, if very sad, story that kept me guessing throughout and the final reveal was a bit of a shock. I would recommend The Dry, and it is a story that will stay with you after its over.

(I also got home to realise I already had a hard copy of the novel acquired from the Festival which if I had known would have obviously been a sign of a good read to come!)

 

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The Watcher by Ross Armstrong – a review

I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of this from the publisher.

The Watcher is the debut novel by Ross Armstrong. The watcher within the novel is Lily. She has just moved into a recently built block of flats. The flats opposite her are going to be demolished to make way for more high priced ‘apartments’. Some of the people who have been evicted are still living in the flats as they are being demolished round their ears. Lily used to be a big birdwatcher with her Dad when younger. She now uses these skills to watch her neighbours and the people in the flats opposite. When one of the characters she has been watching is found murdered Lily becomes obsessed with what happened and attempts to track down the culprit.

This was an interesting novel although I have to confess that it did take a while to get into. The story is written from the viewpoint of Lily. Each chapter takes the form of a diary entry written to an unseen person. It starts with a description of what she can see as though she is bird watching. To start with this felt a bit disjointed and difficult to read, but you are soon immersed into Lily’s world and at that point the story really starts to pick up.

I found the main character of Lily to be quite frustrating, but as the twists are revealed you start to think that maybe you are supposed to find her annoying. It is a confusing story, but things do all fall in place eventually and you start to make sense of what is happening.

I felt that this was a unique take on obsession, that draws you into Lily’s world. There is a real feeling of claustrophobia and paranoia that’s add to the very creepy atmosphere. It is a great use of the popular unreliable narrator. Once you get caught up in this novel it really is hard to put down, and there are some excellent twists that I didn’t see coming.

I would definitely recommend this book if you like a psychological thriller with an unreliable narrator.

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The Missing

A lot of book bloggers create a list of their top ten or twenty (or more) books of the year. I’d love to do the same but I have two problems with that:

1) I can’t remember all the books I’ve read and have to admit that due to time constraints I probably only review about half of what I read.

2) I would really struggle to narrow down all the books I loved to only five or ten and would get myself very worked up about what I was missing.

Therefore I’m going to do a slightly cheating version and instead pick my top lists that other bloggers have created.
First on my list is the excellent blogger Cleopatra loves books. Her top ten included a couple of my favourite books of this year including Val McDermid’s Out of Bounds which I had as an audio book and as with all her books it completely drew me in. Cleo’s list also includes the Swimming Pool by Louise Candlish which I have heard nothing but good reviews of and is high on my list of books I want to read.
A blogger who always astounds me with how much reading and reviewing she manages to fit in is Linda’s book bag. Her top books of 2016 include the excellent Valentina by S.E Lynes which I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend. Valentina also makes an appearance on DampPebbles book blog  alongside Black Eyed Susans which was another cracking read this year
Of course it wouldn’t be a post of other people’s top books of 2016 without mention of one of my favourite and most prolific bloggers Raven Crime Reads. Whilst we disagree on Gone Girl, as I know she wasn’t keen and I really enjoyed it. We complete agree about Pierre Lemaitre’s Blood Wedding which was a fantastic novel. It was the first of his I read and I was lucky enough to meet him at last year’s festival.
Finally the blogger with the list that most closely resembles those I’ve read is Tracey’s book blog.  Her top ten includes 6 that I have read and really enjoyed.
Obviously this is by no means an exhaustive list of bloggers I follow, there are way too many to mention but these are some of my favourites. One of the great things about being part of a book blogging community is the sheer volume of blogs out their relating to crime fiction (and any other type of hobby you might have)  Of course the biggest problem I find with looking at all these blogs is that they mainly just end up adding to my own tbr pile. As always it is a case of too many books and never enough time. However it would be a very sad state of affairs if I ever ran out of books to read, luckily I’ve got lots of book bloggers top ten lists to keep me going for a while.

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Changes in Latitudes

Obviously as you know this is a blog about books, and tends to stick to book related things. However in a quick book break, it’s impossible not to mention my recent holiday. Apparently most girls spend their time dreaming of their wedding day (really? Surely we can have a little more imagination in this day and age) Well it was never high on my list, I dreamt of seeing Orangutans and Sea Turtles. One of my favourite books as a child, which still makes me cry now, is called Changes in Latitudes by Will Hobbs. It’s about a family who go on holiday and the youngest brother tries to save a load of turtles. Since first reading the book I’ve always had as fascination with turtles therefore a trip to Borneo was the perfect opportunity to see them up close.

We started out in Bangkok. For me this bit was work related, which meant we got to stay in the Shangri-La hotel. 5 restaurants, 2 pools, and an outdoor bar. It was lovely, although the ten pound for a glass of wine meant that evenings were spent in Jack’s bar next door. This came complete with cheap beer, locals, wandering dogs and an open air toilet. Of course a trip to Bangkok isn’t complete without a visit to the infamous Khao San Road which was certainly an experience. However I’m not sure that a tuk tuk race through Bangkok at 3 in the morning with my boss in tow was necessarily my most career enhancing moment.

After Bangkok we had a short stopover in Kuala Lumpur. Whilst the difference in accommodation was a bit of shock, from 5 star hotel to a no windowed tiny room in the middle of Chinatown, the view from the top of the Petronas Towers made up for it.

From Kuala Lumpur we went onto Sandakan in Borneo. The town itself was a little fishing port, with only 2 bars. This was certainly a change from Bangkok where you couldn’t turn round without tripping over someone trying to sell you towers of Singha, or scorpions on sticks. Yet it was a perfect base for our trips out. We pretty much followed the plot of Paul O’Grady’s animal orphans programme. dscn2502We went to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre where we watched the young orangutans learn to climb. We saw sun bears lolling in trees. We even saw a wild baby orangutan spitting it’s own wee at those trying to get a photograph (Which clearly Mr F thought was the funniest thing he had ever seendscn3299). We went on a river trip and saw Sea Eagles and Probiscus monkey’s. However the promised gibbons and pygmy elephants were clearly off on holiday themselves as they were nowhere to be seen. We also spent a night on Turtle Island, where we got to see a Green turtle lay eggs, and even got to help some hatchlings reach the sea. It was absolutely amazing.

Unfortunately as well as a large number of fridge magnets, I also managed to bring back a dodgy stomach bug, not a diet tip I’d recommend. Yet it was completely worth it. Plus the 6 different flights that we went on gave me time not only to catch up with the new version of Ghostbusters, which had me laughing out loud, but also gave me chance to catch up on some reading. Therefore normal book related service will be resumed on the blog shortly.

 

 

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Scared to death by Rachel Amphlett – a review

I was contacted by Rachel Amphlett to see if I would be interested in reviewing her novel, and as soon as I read the blurb I jumped at the chance.

Scared to Death begins with the body of a young girl being found by her parents in a drain. She had been kidnapped and they were responding to the ransom demand. At first it is thought it was just a kidnapping that went wrong. However when another body is unearthed with the ransom money still on it, Detective Kay Hunter believes that there is a killer at work.

This was the first in a new series featuring Kay Hunter and was the first novel I had read by Rachel Amphlett. It was certainly a promising start to a series. I enjoyed the writing style of the novel with short chapters that make it a fast paced read. The characters all felt well rounded and believable, especially that of likeable Detective Kay Hunter. As with all detectives Kay has secrets and is struggling to restart her career after being the subject of a standards investigation. However unlike most Detectives in crime fiction she has a stable marriage to her husband. He is a vet and plays a great role within the story of providing a bit of humour with his animal stories. One thing I did like was the fact that the back story of the characters doesn’t take over from the main focus of the novel as it sometimes can do. The main story here is definitely the hunt for a killer who is literally scaring his victims to death.

The story itself is creepy and keeps you guessing with lots of twists and turns. I especially enjoyed the chapters told from the killer’s point of view which added a different element to narrative. I enjoyed this novel and will definitely be looking out for the next in the series.

 

 

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Who killed the Mince Spy BLOG TOUR – Guest post

Some of you may remember that a while ago I read a book called Addicted to Death by author Matthew Redford (Addicted to death by Matthew Redford – a review) This introduced us to the hilarious world of the food-sapiens, and the food related crime led by Detective Carrot Wortell. The first novel had me laughing out loud. Therefore I jumped at the chance to read a short story featuring the food-sapiens ‘Who killed the mince spy’. I am delighted that author Matthew Redford has provided a guest post for this spot on the blog tour.

who-killed-the-mince-spyDear A crime reader’s blog

Ok, so I need some help. No, not that kind of help, although I can understand why you leapt to that conclusion given that I write about food sapiens. You know what I mean when I say food sapiens don’t you? The walking, talking food items which live and breathe alongside homo sapiens. I can almost guarantee that you know a food sapiens celebrity but that you have just never made the connection.

Let’s take music. We all know the song ‘unforgettable’, well that was sung by the famous food sapiens Nat King Coleslaw. And more recently, we had Ham Smith singing the lead song to the Bond movie ‘Spectre’. And don’t forget celebrity TV presenters. Of course, there is Ant and Duck but don’t forget morning TV host Quiche Lorraine Kelly.

So now that you are on board with food sapiens, you won’t be surprised to know that the police have their own specialised food related crime team, which is led by Detective Inspector Willie Wortel, who also happens to be a carrot. Well, I have become the leading (and by leading I mean only) food sapiens crime author in the UK who has access to the Food Related Crime team.

They have a hugely busy workload and trying to prioritise which case is documented next is really challenging. So this is where I need some help. I’ve briefly outlined some of the cases which the Food Related Crime team have been involved with (more case titles on my website www.matthewredford.com) and it would help me greatly if the lovely people viewing A Crime Readers Blog could provide some much needed feedback about which case they would like to read about next.

Hot and crossed buns: Easter is approaching and the preparations for a long weekend are disrupted when 30 pieces of silver cutlery are stolen. And amidst the robbery lies the body of a hot and crossed bun, who has been murdered. While investigating, the Food Related Crime team also have to work out who has stolen the golden Easter egg.

The Codfather: The Food Related Crime team investigate some mysterious goings-on as food sapiens find themselves swimming with the fishes. There is no point carping on or red snapping about it, but with no obvious leads to find the killer, the team are caught between a rock and a hard plaice.

A cereal killer: Breakfast oats beware. Look out crunchy nuts (no, not those kind). Keep a look out cornflake, there is a cereal killer on the loose. Can the Food Related Crime team catch the killer before another breakfast cereal says cheerio?

Why did the artichoke? When a strange plumb of smoke fills the air causing an innocent artichoke to suffocate, could the Food Related Crime team be facing chemical weapons? Fearing a mustard gas attack can the villain of the piece be unmasked in time?

So there we have it, lots of stories to write, so little time, which is why I need your help. What story should be written up first? Answers on a postcard please?

Matthew Redford.

Thanks so much Matthew, personally my vote is for ‘A cereal killer’.If you fancy reading more about the food related crime team, this short story by Matthew Redford follows his deliciously irreverent debut Addicted To Death (Clink Street Publishing, 2015).

Purchase from Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Who-Killed-Mince-Spy-Investigation/dp/1911525158/ref=sr_1_cc_2?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1478177564&sr=1-2-catcorr&keywords=matthew+redford

About Matthew Redford

Born in 1980, Matthew Redford grew up with his parents and elder brother on a council estate in Bermondsey, south-east London. He now lives in Longfield, Kent, takes masochistic pleasure in watching his favourite football team snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, is a keen chess player and is planning future food related crime novels. To counterbalance the quirkiness of his crime fiction Redford is an accountant. His unconventional debut crime thriller, Addicted to Death: A Food Related Crime Investigation was published by Clink Street Publishing last summer.

Website – http://www.matthewredford.com/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/matthew_redford

 

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Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land – a review

imagesI was given a copy of this via netgalley.

Good Me, Bad Me centres around a young girl called Milly. She has recently moved in with a foster family and has been given a new identity. This is because she is awaiting the trial of her Mother, a serial killer. Milly is looking forward to being able to put what has happened behind her, and start a new life. Only her foster parents and the head teacher at her school know who she really is. However her foster sister Phoebe isn’t quite so keen on having yet another foster child staying with them, and soon starts to cause trouble. Milly also begins to realise that it isn’t always that easy to stay hidden, especially if people don’t want you to.

The publishers blurb for this book states that Good Me, Bad Me is ‘set to be one of the most extraordinary, controversial and explosive debuts of 2017’. Normally I think you should take this kind of sellers advert with a pinch of salt. However this time I completely agree, this was a superb book that I read pretty much in one sitting on the train to Birmingham.

The story is completely gripping. Milly has had a truly horrific childhood, with a single mother who was clearly deranged. She then had the hardest decision to make that any child could, to give her mother up to the police, or let her continue her murderous ways. Her Mother may have been a serial killer but Milly still loved her.

This is a story that will keep you thinking about it for days afterwards. The writing in it is seamless and the pace keeps you turning the pages (or clicking the button in the case of a kindle) There are parts where you feel that you are actually inside Milly’s head which is not a particularly nice place to be. Despite the sympathy you feel for her and her life there is something about Milly that makes the reader a bit uneasy. As the story unfolds you get drawn deeper into the family and realise that secrets are clearly everywhere. One of the bits I enjoyed most was the way the novel Lord of the Flies was referenced. I remember reading this at school although unlike the children at Milly’s new school I didn’t take it as an instructional manual for how to behave. The mob mentality is clearly evident throughout the novel and you realise just how cruel children can be,

This was an excellent and very disturbing book that will stay with you long after you finish it. I would thoroughly recommend Good Me, Bad Me and think it is definitely going to be in the running for debut novel of the year before the year has even begun.

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