Category Archives: book review

Big Sister by Gunnar Staalesen – BLOG TOUR

Thanks to Anne Cater and Orenda Books for inviting me onto the blog tour for Big Sister.

Big Sister is set in Norway and features Private Detective Varg Veum. Varg is visited by someone who he thinks is just a new client, until she arrives and introduces herself as his half sister.  However she doesn’t just want to meet new family, she actually wants him to try and find her god-daughter Emma. Emma is a student nurse who has gone missing from her student accommodation in Bergen. Varg starts his search but the further he delves into Emma’s background and her troubled home life the more he realises that this is much more than a simple missing persons case as he gets drawn into a world of biker gangs and family secrets.

This is the first of the series that I have read although is the 20th novel to feature the main character. Varg is an interesting person that is the archetypal gruff single private detective on the one hand, but shows a slightly softer intriguing side as well. Seemingly very lonely but through choice rather than circumstance. His life seems to be focused purely on his work with the odd personal relationship an afterthought. Personally I felt it was nice to read about an older character (Varg being in his 60s) which I have to admit I didn’t realise he was to start with.

I enjoyed the story and although it seemed rather slow to start with this was necessary to set the scene and introduce the other characters. The second half does pick up the pace though and there are frequent twists and turns. This is quite a dark feeling novel, with almost a menacing tone to some of the writing.  Although I think that it would help understand the main character more if you had read the previous novels, the actual story works well as a stand-alone too. Towards the end this is one of those books where you think it is about to conclude, but then suddenly another twist is thrown in and your thoughts change again.

I enjoy reading Scandinavian noir and this could well be the start of a great new series to try. Once again I think my ‘to be read’ pile is going to get bigger.

Don’t forget to visit the other stops on the blog tour. Big Sister is available now on amazon.

Big Sister blog poster 2018

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The Disappeared by Ali Harper – a review

I was offered a copy of this via netgalley and the premise sounded interesting. So on a recent trip to Prague I decided to put all the waiting around that goes hand in hand with air travel to good use and catch up on some reading. The Disappeared was at the top of my list.

The Disappeared features a new pair of protagonists, Lee and Jo. They are best friends and business partners having just set up their own private investigation firm. They are excited to get their first case which seems like a simple missing person case. However when they realise that their client is not who she says she is, things start to get a lot more complicated. They are soon in danger and risking not only their business but also their lives.

I very much enjoyed this book. I have to admit that it was not what I was expecting. I thought it would be a much more serious crime fiction novel. Instead this was a really humorous story despite its focus on addiction and drugs.

I really liked the characters of Lee and Jo. They are fun and strong characters who play really well off each other. They were intriguing and whilst I have to admit to being a little frustrated as to how many secrets they were hiding this probably just added to the tension within the story. The Disappeared is set in Leeds, and the descriptions really bring the city to life (albeit as a rather dark and dangerous place!)

This is a story with lots of twists and turns. There were a lot of characters to keep track of but it all seemed to flow easily. I did feel that there wasn’t maybe much background to some of the characters. This meant I didn’t really care that much about them or what happened to them. However I liked the main ones that much it didn’t matter and this was a great vehicle to introduce two new fantastic female leads.  I look forward to reading more about Lee and Jo.

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Dead Lock by Damien Boyd – a review BLOG TOUR

I have to admit that I had actually never heard of Damien Boyd prior to receiving an email inviting me to the blog tour. However the premise of the book sounded too good to pass up so I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for the novel Dead Lock.

Ten year old Alesha Daniels is reported missing by her father. Her mother is a  known drug user with a boyfriend that the police want to interview. However as the hunt for Alesha starts to become more desperate another girl goes missing. DI Nick Dixon is on holiday in the Lake District with his partner Jane. Alesha was known to social services and Jane is part of the safeguarding coordination unit so has to come home early. When a second girl is reported missing Nick knows the family so heads straight home and soon starts clashing with his superiors when he links the two cases.

This was a really interesting story that continually had me changing my mind as to the outcomes. Dead Lock is the 8th novel  from Damien Boyd and I believe they all feature Detective Nick Dixon. However there is enough back story that you don’t feel you are missing out. For me personally all it means is that I now want to go back and read all the novels. 

Although Dead Lock doesn’t start as a classic murder mystery this was a novel that sucks you in. The story is a slow burner but that isn’t a negative as this was one of those books that you realise you are still reading at 2  o’clock in the morning desperate to find out what happens. I enjoyed the characters and even though I’m new to them I soon cared about what happened and became engaged in their lives. I have to admit to there being the odd element that didn’t really fit, such as the police consulting with a hippy who has visions. However that may be me missing something from previous books. 

Overall this was a good read that introduced me to a new pair of protagonists that I will definitely be following in future.

Dead Lock is available on amazon  

Don’t forget to visit some of the other stops on the blog tour.

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The Good Twin by Marti Green – a review

I was invited to review this via the publisher and the premise certainly sounded interesting.

Two twins were born and one was given up for adoption. Mallory stayed with her mother who struggled to make ends meet. Now her mother is dead and Mallory is working as a waitress (am I the only person who can’t say that line without wanting to burst into song – if you are under 40 don’t answer that question and go and google The Human League instead) When someone mistakes  Mallory for someone else she tries to track down her twin sister. Charley was adopted into a wealthy family and is now married to Ben who works at her father’s company. Ben however has other ideas and has a proposal for Mallory that could change all their lives.

This novel was a real dilemma for me. On the one hand the writing and the story kept me enthralled until the end. I was instantly drawn into the characters of the twins and was interested to know how it would pan out. Ben is a great villain hatching a truly despicable plot in order to keep the lifestyle that he has become accustomed to. As the story progresses he gets more dastardly and the twists and turns keep coming..

However that’s why I’m in a bit of a dilemma with this review. As I’m afraid that some of the plot does require a bit of suspension of belief. Firstly someone tells Mallory that she looks the spitting image of their friend. From that she jumps immediately to the conclusion that she has a twin sister. Really? A few people over the years have told me they have seen my doppelganger in York, including people who know me extremely well. Now whilst I suppose there is a chance I have a twin sister around I think it’s probably much more likely that there is just someone who looks me.

Plus Ben as a villain was just a bit too cartoonish for me. The whole plot seemed so far fetched that it was comical rather than thrilling. However that is not to say I didn’t enjoy it, I did very much so. You just need to read it as it is, a piece of fiction with a good story!

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Dead If You Don’t by Peter James – a review

It is always exciting for me when I get invited to review a novel, no matter who the author is. However I have to admit to being extra excited when that invite comes with a chance to read a novel from one of my favourite authors, in this case Peter James.

Dead If You Don’t is Peter James’ 14th novel featuring Detective Roy Grace. In this story Roy is faced with the kidnapping of a young boy. The boys father is Kipp Brown, a wealthy businessman who is struggling to repay gambling debts. During a visit to a local football match he loses his son, and soon receives a ransom demand. During the same football match, a bomb is suspected and Roy seems to channel his inner Jack Reacher in order to save those in the stadium. It soon becomes clear that there may be links with these two cases.

This was an interesting story set in the world of Albanian gangs, kidnap and bitcoins. The story was set out in hours which once you got into the flow meant that it zipped along really quickly. The pressure that all parties were under was immense. The chapters where you ‘saw’ Mungo and his plight you could actually feel his fear emanating from the page.

I always enjoy an outing with Roy Grace although this felt to me a slight departure from the usual. The city of Brighton was not as apparent within the story in terms of descriptions, unless you count the numerous references to their football club! Equally, to me there was less about Roy Grace’s family, and especially his slightly sinister son Bruno, than we have had in previous books. However that’s probably just that there wasn’t space in what was a very intense storyline set over a couple of days.

Definitely one for fans of Roy Grace yet could easily be read as a stand alone without the need for detailed background knowledge. I would as always highly recommend the Roy Grace series, and this was no exception.

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Keeper by Johana Gustawsson – a review BLOG TOUR

It was with a bit of trepidation that I agreed to be part of the blog tour for the second novel by Johana Gustawsson. I had read Block 46 and it was one of my stand out novels of the year, so there  is always the worry that the second one won’t be quite so good. However I needn’t have been concerned, Keeper is a stunning novel from an author being hailed as the ‘Queen of French Noir’.

In Keeper we again meet Profiler Emily Roy and true crime writer Alexis Castells. An actor has been abducted from her home in a case similar to the Tower Hamlets murders ten years previously. Over in Sweden a body has been found, again identical to those in Tower Hamlets. However the perpetrator of those crimes is in prison. Have they got the wrong man locked up or is there a copycat? Alongside this is the Whitechapel of 1888. Jack the Ripper is at large and women are running scared.

This was another superb read that was absolutely gripping. From the outset you are drawn into a dark and disturbing world both of modern day serial killings and Victorian fear. I have always been fascinated by the Jack the Ripper story, the phantom killer whose crimes were never solved. Therefore I was utterly fascinated by these chapters. The writing is such that the sights and sounds of Victorian England completely engulf you and you feel like you are living through the filth and stench. Yet it seamlessly switches into modern day terror without any interruption to the fast flow of story.

I really like the characters in this novel, and although I still find Alexis a little annoying as a pair they have a great dynamic. One of the things I also think works well within this is the fact that there are lots of peripheral characters including parents, partners, other officers, yet for me they all had a place and were easy to keep track of. I love the fact that despite the majority of the book being very dark and seedy there were moments of humour that really lift the story.

I cannot recommend this novel enough. It is both a fascinating story linking past and present, and a thought provoking read that will stay with you long after you have finished it.

Make sure you visit the other stops on the blog tour, and get your copy here:

Keeper blog poster 2018

 

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The Kindness Of Strangers by Julie Newman – a review BLOG TOUR

I have to say that when I received an email with the blog tour pack for The Kindness of Strangers I was a bit surprised as I had no recollection of signing up for it. It was clearly something I did on the spur of the moment when busy. Looking at the cover of this book I wasn’t convinced it was for me as I only review crime fiction and this looked more like a romance. However I wouldn’t want to let anyone down so I started reading, and it just goes to show you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
The Kindness of Strangers introduces us to three main characters. There is Helen who has recently been widowed and is struggling to adjust to her new life. This is made even harder when she discovers her husband has been hiding a big secret. Martin is an army veteran suffering from PTSD and trying to put things right with his family. Then we meet Charley a young pregnant artist who is determined to do the best for her baby. All of them are brought together in a way by Audrey who volunteers in the local charity shop.
This story starts off as a nice gentle story of three struggling characters, all being helped in their own way by other people. Told in the first person, you get drawn into their lives and begin to really hope they all get the predicted nice happy ending. Until part 2 hits. Here the story switches to third person, and the pace cranks up incredibly. I am not going to say any more as I wouldn’t want to ruin it for anyone. Yet it completely blindsided me, and made it impossible to stop reading.
It was a truly shocking turnaround between part 1 and part 2 which made it all the more compelling. The characters are all cleverly written and once you finish you can look back at part 1 and realise the clues to some of the actions are there. However they are well hidden so as to make part 2 such a shock.
To an extent it was a departure from my usual type of read which normally starts with a crime and finishes with it being solved. This was very much character lead, with the crimes being secondary to an exploration of perceived kindness and human nature. However that was exactly what made it so superb. I’m really glad I signed up for this tour. I would thoroughly recommend this novel and can’t wait to read Julie Newman’s first novel Beware the Cuckoo.

Buy The Kindness of Strangers here https://amzn.to/2HzNkeA

Don’t forget to visit some of the other stops on the blog tour.

 

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