Category Archives: book review

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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The Ice Swimmer by Kjell Ola Dhal – a review BLOG TOUR

I must confess to never having read any of the previous novels by Kjell Ola Dhal. However when he was introduced to me as the Godfather of Nordic Noir I jumped at the chance to be on the blog tour for his latest novel, and I’m glad I did.

In the Ice Swimmer it is a few days before Christmas and a woman is being pursued onto a tube station in Oslo. When she is then run over by a train it is at first assumed to be a suicide. Elsewhere a body has been pulled from a frozen lake. This time it is thought that he just fell whilst drunk and the cold got him. However as Detective Lena Stigersand and her colleagues Gunnarstranda and Frølich start to investigate, they begin to realise that there are more sinister forces at work, which reach far wider than they thought.

This is a superb novel that I genuinely couldn’t put down. Set in the cold streets of a Winter Oslo the atmosphere was chilly to say the least. It’s the kind of book where when you are reading the descriptions of the place you feel the need to put an extra jumper on as the cold seeps off the page.

I really enjoyed the character of Lena. Personally I felt she was a really welcome change to a lot of the current female leads out there. Often females are portrayed as either being whisky drinking, one night stand, no feeling types, or weak and pathetic needing to be ‘rescued’ Yet she wasn’t either. She was a tough police officer who could look after herself. However she had a natural vulnerable side to her that helped in her policing. Her health scare, and her blossoming relationship with a local reporter also helped to give her a multidimensional character that worked really well. Although her taste in music was little dodgy (Does anyone really like listening to Christmas music??)

The story itself is fast paced with a huge amount of twists and turns, yet it was easy to follow. The novel is the sixth in the Oslo detective series however it works as a standalone and although I would like to know more about the detectives, that’s because I enjoyed the characters so much rather than I felt I was missing anything. One thing that I also really liked was that to me this didn’t actually feel like it was a translation. Sometimes when reading translated books I find myself having to re-read bits to make sense of them, yet this didn’t which is testament to the translator Don Bartlett.

If you like novels where the story is gripping and the writing is so good that you actually feel like you are in the place it is set then I would highly recommend The Ice Swimmer. I will definitely be reading the rest of Kjell Ola Dahl’s novels.

Find out more about the Ice Swimmer and Kjell Ola Dahl by visiting the other stops on the blog tour or buy the book here:

 

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What falls between the cracks by Robert Scragg – a review

Last month was the York Literature Festival. I was absolutely thrilled when the festival offered to do a book collection for Bookcase for All and they were fantastic in publicising the project throughout the festival. Therefore I was very excited when I found out that the final event was going to be a Crime themed one at Waterstones.

The theme of the event was Northern Noir and it was a discussion by two authors Robert Scragg and AA Dhand. Obviously as always I cannot resist buying new books so I had a very enjoyable evening and left with two new signed books.

The first I read was What Falls Between the Cracks by Robert Scragg. It starts with a severed hand being found, which DNA  identify as having belonged to Natasha. She hasn’t been seen for 30 years but nobody has reported her missing. It is down to detectives Porter and Styles to find out what has happened, and why her family didn’t track her down. Their case soon becomes even more complicated when it links with another investigation and sparks begin to fly.

This was certainly an accomplished debut novel. It starts relatively slowly which draws you in. As the pace of the investigation ramps up so does the pace of the novel. The writing flows naturally, especially the conversation elements. However there were an awful lot of characters which it was sometimes hard to keep track of in the middle, but as the story progressed things slotted into place.

I liked the characters of Jake Porter and Nick Styles. They complemented each other very well and I enjoyed the banter between them.  The story itself is also good, you know early on who the ‘baddies’ are but as the story progresses as with all good crime fiction things are never quite what they seem.

Overall this was a good read and I look forward to reading more featuring Porter and Styles. It was also a fantastic closing event to a great festival.

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The Intrusions by Stav Sherez – a review

I’m sat here typing this in front of my laptop which has a little camera hole at the top. I have to say I am rather freaked out having just finished The Intrusions by Stav Sherez. I have read Stav Sherez’s previous novels and thoroughly enjoyed them so after hearing him talk in Hull I had to break my self-imposed ban on buying any more books (that day) and picked up a copy of the The Intrusions. I’m glad I did, despite it freaking me out a little.

The Intrusions starts when a clearly distressed young woman arrives at the station claiming her friend has been abducted and that the man is going to come back for her. At first it seems to Detectives Carrigan and Miller that it is a case of someone abducting woman from a back packers hostel. However it soon becomes much more sinister. It is tricky to say more about the story without giving anything away, but it involves online stalking and webcams.

I am a big fan of this pair of detectives. Geneva Miller is a strong woman who despite her occasionally annoying habits I really like. The pairing with the slightly gruff and reckless Jack Carrigan works really well.

The plot is fascinating. It is a story that you think is going to be one thing, yet twists and turns into something else entirely. One of the things I really like about these novels is the style of writing which seems to flow effortlessly. Whilst it is clearly fiction by the end you feel like you have learnt something and somehow your thoughts on society have changed slightly. I like novels that make you think differently, and this will certainly do that. However this in no way detracts from the story which kept me gripped throughout. It was a very modern thriller that is all the more scary because of the very real premise it is based on.

This is the third novel to feature Carrigan and Miller however I think it would still work well as a standalone. If you like police procedurals with a modern day moral tale included then I would thoroughly recommend those by Stav Sherez. However you might want to disable your laptop camera before you start reading!

 

 

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The Fourth Monkey by J.D Barker – a review

I picked up a copy of this from Netgalley ages ago and for some reason I kept overlooking it. Until a trip to Newcastle where there was no wifi in my room and I hadn’t updated my kindle recently and this was at the top of the list. Well once I started I couldn’t stop.

The Fourth Monkey is about a killer who sends body parts of his victims to the police to taunt them. First they get an ear, then the eyes following the ‘see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil’ monkeys. Detective Porter has spent 5 years chasing the 4MK (4th Monkey Killer) whilst also dealing with a tragedy in his personal life. Just when he thinks he will have to give up, the police seem to get a big break. So starts a race against time to find the next victim.

This was a really gripping novel, that I felt had that great combination of gruesome murder and humour. I like a serial killer story, and read a lot. Therefore to find one that to me felt a bit different is a real bonus. There were some great one liners in this book that made me chuckle, especially in the interaction of the detectives. The story also includes a diary of the young 4MK and details his relationship with his parents and how his childhood was. Personally I wasn’t as keen on the diary element as I was on the rest of the story, mainly because it makes some very uncomfortable reading. Yet it also gives you an insight into the killers childhood that almost make you feel a bit of sympathy for him.

This is definitely not a book for the feinthearted. There was a scene with a rat which made me squirm. However it is a great read that I would highly recommend if you like a gruesome story with a touch of humour.

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