Category Archives: book review

Tick Tock by Mel Sherratt – a review BLOG TOUR

Today I am pleased to be hosting my stop on the blog tour for Mel Sherratt’s latest novel Tick Tock.

Tick Tock begins with the discovery of a girl’s body. She went missing during a school cross country race and is then found having been strangled in broad daylight. A couple of days later a young mother is abducted, later discovered murdered in the local park. DS Grace Allendale is leading the investigation but it seems hopeless with no connection between the victims, until a third person is targeted and the clock is ticking.

I have read a number of Mel’s books before and always enjoy them and this was no exception.

In Tick Tock the story goes along at a good pace and there are plenty of red herrings thrown in to keep you hooked. I particularly thought that the portrayal of the teenage friends of the first victim, one of whom is the daughter of Grace’s boyfriend, was very natural and their changing emotions swept the story along. The tension builds up throughout the novel, until it reaches an ending that I didn’t see it coming at all.

Grace is an interesting character, she has a complicated family life and although she seems to have a perfect boyfriend on the surface, he is a local journalist. This causes tensions between them as he obviously wants to have the inside scoop on the killer, yet Grace is a professional who doesn’t want to jeopardise her case. As a character I very much like her and felt that she had a real empathy with those around her which is unusual for female detectives who are often portrayed as hard and uncaring.

Although the book can be read as a standalone I do think that you would benefit from reading the first in the series, Hush Hush, as it helps fill in the background. Tick Tock is a great read that will grab you from the opening scene and doesn’t let up until the end and I was very pleased to be part of this tour.

To find out what others thought of the book don’t forget to visit the other stops on the tour.

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Wilderness by B.E Jones – a review BLOG TOUR

I’m always a fan of a revenge story and so when I received an email inviting me to join the blog tour for the Wilderness by B.E Jones it sounded right up my street and I wasn’t wrong.

The Wilderness begins after Liv finds out that her husband was having an affair. Having moved from Wales to New York, Liv decides that the best way to try and fix their marriage is for them to spend two weeks on a road trip around America’s National Parks. However she isn’t quite ready to forgive him fully and so sets him three challenges that he will need to complete to prove that he is still worthy of being her husband. She doesn’t however tell him what those challenges are, and if he doesn’t complete them, well then there are plenty of ways a person might die out in the middle of nowhere.

This was an excellent story that made great use of the unreliable narrator vehicle. What could have been a relatively straightforward tale of a woman scorned who gets revenge, was not that simple. Wilderness is a slow burn of a story that had me hooked from the start. It was full of twists and turns with an ending that I found both satisfying and annoying in equal measure.

The fact that you only hear from the viewpoint of Liv means the novel has a real claustrophobic feel which is further heighted by the descriptions of their road trip through the vast American parks. This single viewpoint does of course mean that you are always slightly on edge as to what is going to happen next, as you are in the head of a rather disturbed woman. Although she isn’t a likeable character there was a part of me that felt sorry for her as she desperately tries to cling onto some form of sanity whilst feeling completely alone.

The novel’s settings switch between New York, Wales and the wildness of the American parks as we flit between current and past and gradually find out more about Liv and her relationships. I particularly liked the descriptions of America and the contrast between the hustle and bustle of New York, and the quiet emptiness of their holiday.

It is a well written story and has a great cast of characters on the periphery with Liv taking centre stage throughout. If you like the unreliable narrator style then I thoroughly recommend this as a perfect holiday read.

Thanks to DampPebbles Book Tours for my copy. You can buy your own copy of this here.

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Their Little Secret by Mark Billingham – a review

As regular readers probably know already, I am a huge fan of Mark Billingham (although not quite such a big fan as the sister who is a borderline

The stalking Sister

stalker at events!) so you can imagine the excitement in my house when through the letterbox came a copy of his latest novel ( ‘Not another bloody book’,  ‘Meow’)

Their Little Secret is the newest Tom Thorne novel. It begins when he is called to a body on the trainline that is an apparent suicide. However Thorne has a feeling that things are not that simple and starts to look into the woman’s past, and especially her relationships. Meanwhile Sarah seems to be just a normal mother picking up her son from school and chatting at the school gates with the other mothers, until she meets Conrad who soon whisks her off her feet. Yet not all couples are good together, and some become postively evil.

This was another cracking story that I really enjoyed. There was a bit of back story as you would expect, in what is the 16th in the series, but frankly it is needed for people like me with a shocking memory so it’s helpful to remind us. The character of Thorne is one of those characters that I actually feel I know as I’ve followed him for so many years. I really like the relationship he has with pathologist Phil Hendricks and they are back on form in ‘Their Little Secret’

The character of Sarah was an odd one and her actions a little far fetched. Admittedly I have only limited experience at picking up children from school but when I have the other parents are on any new blood like flies so it is surprising that Sarah gets away with what she does. However that is only a very minor issue and the story itself will keep you hooked throughout.

There was a twist at the end that was surprising, despite the clues being there with hindsight. I have to admit to a bit of frustration when I finished as it felt like there were loose ends that needed tidying up, however without giving away any spoilers there were some historic references in the book that made you realise why this might have been done, life doesn’t always tie up the loose ends!

I would definitely recommend Their Little Secret and despite the references to the previous novels it can be read as a stand alone. Yet I would say in the unlikely event that there are any crime fiction fans out there who haven’t yet read Mark Billingham then you are in for a treat and I’d start at the beginning so you get the fun of them all!

Thanks to the fantastic Little Brown and Laura Sherlock PR for my copy. You can get your hands on your own copy of Their Little Secret by Mark Billingham which is out today here

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Keep Her Close by MJ Ford – a review BLOG TOUR

Keep Her Close by MJ Ford is a police procedural set in Oxford. It opens with DS Josie Masters in therapy as she tries to come to turns with the horrific events of her past. When a young girl goes missing from Jesus College swiftly followed by two more, it soon becomes clear that this case is personal. As Josie hunts for the kidnapper she is also struggling to move on from her past with a new relationship she is in danger of ruining with her paranoia, unless of course her paranoia turns out to have a basis.

Clearly Keep Her Close is the follow up to MJ Ford’s debut novel Hold My Hand which sadly I hadn’t read, and although this does work as a standalone I wish I’d read that first as it sounds great. Saying that I did enjoy Keep Her Close. The character of Josie is the usual mess of clever detective and dysfunctional social skills which work together to make her a very interesting protagonist. The story itself I thought took a little bit to get going which I suspect was down to the amount of background needed to fill us in with her past, but once some connections had been made between the girls it really picked up.

I have to say I had my suspicions about who was to blame all along but I did keep changing my mind throughout which is the sign of a good storyteller that can throw in enough red herrings to make you doubt yourself. Once the final chapters revealed it I could have kicked myself for not sticking with my original assumptions.

Overall I enjoyed Keep her Close, it was a good story and I will definitely keep a look out for more about Detective Josie Masters.

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Clarissa’s Warning by Isobel Blackthorn – a review

As regular readers will know I’m not normally a fan of a supernatural novel, preferring a sensible conclusion to my mysteries. However I don’t mind a ghost story, if it’s clearly labelled as such therefore when I received an email from the lovely Rachel I was intrigued.

Clarissa’s Warning begins with lottery winner Claire travelling to Fuerteventura  where she has bought a run-down old house that she wants to restore to its former beauty. Despite the warnings from her psychic Aunt Clarissa that someone is going to harm her, she refuses to be persuaded against her dream. However when Clarissa arrives she soon realises that things are not all what they seem. She begins to doubt herself, especially when not only are local builders refusing to work on the project but weird and scary things start happening around the site. Claire befriends the local café owner and is determined to complete her project despite there clearly being someone or something wanting to stop her.

This was a fun and easy read. It’s not particularly a scary book, and there is nothing that will make you jump. However there is an underlying menace throughout the story that gradually builds up as the tale progresses and Claire becomes in more and more danger.  Whilst the characters themselves are not that memorable if I’m honest, I did enjoy reading about them and I liked Claire’s interaction with some of the local people and the builders. You got a sense of how isolating it would be to move to a strange country all on your own and try to complete a project like this.

Within the novel I especially liked the way the story mixed up descriptions of the island with some history and some supernatural events yet kept things grounded with the detailed paragraphs about the restoration work. By the end you felt as invested in wanting it all to work as Claire did.

All in all this was an easy and enjoyable story that almost needs a category of its own of ‘Cosy Ghost Stories to read by the fire on a cold winters night’ Even if the story doesn’t make you jump the descriptions of the Island will certainly warm you up!

Purchase Link – viewbook.at/ClarissaWarning

Author Bio –  Isobel Blackthorn is a prolific novelist of brilliant, original fiction across a range of genres, including dark psychological thrillers, gripping mystery novels, captivating travel fiction, and hilarious dark satire. Isobel holds a PhD in Western Esotericism and carries a lifelong passion for the Canary Islands, Spain. A Londoner originally, Isobel currently lives near Melbourne, Australia, with her little white cat.

Social Media Links – https://www.facebook.com/Lovesick.Isobel.Blackthorn/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5768657.Isobel_Blackthorn

@IBlackthorn

 

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The Long Shadow by Celia Fremlin – a review BLOG TOUR

I have to confess that I hadn’t actually heard of Celia Fremlin until I opened up a nice surprise package from the lovely people at Faber and Faber, however I always like to discover new (to me) authors and so I jumped at the chance to be part of this blog tour.

The Long Shadow is the ninth novel by Celia Fremlin and tells a Christmas story with a difference. Imogen’s celebrated husband has died recently and she is trying to come to terms with the grief. In the run up to Christmas her house becomes full of her late husband’s family. However things take a rather sinister turn when she receives a phone call from a young man she met at a party accusing her of murdering her husband. As we begin to find out more about Ivor her husband, we also realise that things are never what they seem.

Celia Fremlin is described as Britain’s answer to Patricia Highsmith and I can completely understand why, this is domestic thriller writing at its best. The novel was originally published in 1975 and yet when reading it you wouldn’t have known it was 40 years old (apart from the obvious lack of mobile phones and other technology of course) The writing is superb and it draws you into the centre of the family as secrets are unearthed. Most of the action takes place in Imogen’s home and it gives it a claustrophobic, closed door mystery feel which was gripping.

I thought The Long Shadow was a fantastic piece of observational writing, Imogen’s place at the centre of the family is fragile as she is surrounded by people from her husband’s past that she is not sure she really wants there. All the usual niggles of family life are within these pages but they are heightened by distrust and grief as well as the pressure of Christmas.

The Long Shadow was a great read that was superbly written with a story that sped along, yet remained calm and almost gentle in its execution. I thoroughly enjoyed this and will definitely be searching out more of Celia Fremlin’s work.

Find out what other bloggers on the tour thought:

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The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech – a review BLOG TOUR

thumbnail_Lion Tamer front cover finalWow, is the only word I can really think of to describe how this felt when I finished it. This is a story that grabbed me from the beginning and literally didn’t let me go until the end. I read The Lion Tamer Who Lost on a recent trip to Copenhagen and it certainly got me some rather concerned looks at times as it was hard not to be outwardly emotional whilst reading.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost is the second novel I have read by Louise Beech after Maria in the Moon and I have to say this I think this is even better than the first (which is good going as I loved the first one too, read my review here)

Ben is in Zimbabwee after the breakup of a relationship. He is fulfilling his childhood dream to go and work at a lion sanctuary. Andrew is a writer who is hoping for his big break. Their paths cross and events unfold that mean neither of them will ever be the same.

This was a truly fantastic read. Described as a love story, a phrase that would normally put me off a book, it is that but so much more. The story is told from both the characters viewpoints. It almost starts in the middle before going both backwards and forwards. Yet what could be a complicated structure is an absolutely flawless read which I suspect is testament to the quality of the writing.

The two main characters are both very intriguing. For the first half of the book I kept swinging between sympathy and irritation with them both, yet as the story weaved it’s way to the conclusion I was so deeply invested in the characters that I wanted nothing but a happy ending. Therefore as the twists kept getting more shocking the story just got more emotional.

There is a great sense of place within the novel. The descriptions of Zimbabwee and especially those of the sunrises that Ben enjoys are so vivid you almost feel like you are about to open the door onto a lion.

Louise Beech is a fabulous writer and her novels are definitely ones that will stay with you for long after you have finished them. Whilst this is certainly not a standard murder mystery and so not my usual fare I think this novel could quite possibly be my favourite book of the year.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost is available now.

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