Category Archives: crime fiction

Little Sister by Isabel Ashdown – a review

I went along to a few of the fringe events at this year’s festival, one of which was a writing masterclass which was fascinating. Whilst there I picked up a copy of a couple of Isabel’s novels and as Little Sister was on the top of the pile when I got home this was the first of my new books I read and I’m glad I did.

Little Sister is set on the Isle of Wight. Jess and Emily are sisters who were estranged when young, but recently reconciled. Emily is married to James and she brought up his daughter Chloe as her own. Chloe was delighted when she became an older half sister to Daisy. However now Daisy has gone missing, taken from the family home on New Year’s Eve whilst Jess was supposedly looking after her. The story follows the grief and fear within the family as they struggle to deal with their missing child. We also gradually find out more of the relationship between Emily and Jess and what happened all those years ago.

This was a great quick read that I thoroughly enjoyed. The cast of characters was quite small which gave the story a claustrophobic feel which is further compounded by the setting on the Island. The story itself is a little bit slow to start but I liked that as it felt the tension was being built up quite realistically. The novel is mainly told from the viewpoints of Emily and Daisy. This means that you are forever questioning who is right and who is wrong, every time you think you know what is happening another twist was thrown at you.

I would thoroughly recommend this novel. It is a great summer read, especially if like me you have ever spent a childhood holiday on the Isle of Wight.

 

 

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The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan – a review BLOG TOUR

I was delighted to receive a copy of The Unquiet Dead from No Exit Press and be part of the blog tour for this interesting novel by Ausma Zehanat Khan.

The Unquiet Dead is a novel that almost has two halves, although they are inextricably linked. It’s difficult to review without using clichés but there really is no other word to describe the story other than powerful. I didn’t skip through the book desperate to find out the end as I so often do with stories. This was a novel I had to read slowly both in order to keep the large number of characters and situations straight in my head, but also because of the incredibly emotional prose that was written.

In The Unquiet Dead Toronto Detective Rachel Getty is asked by her boss Esa Khattak to look into the seemingly accidental death of Christopher Drayton who was found dead at the bottom of Scarborough Cliffs. Usually the cases that the team handle are related to crimes against minorities so she is unsure why they are involved.  However Rachel is happy that she is being included after having faced issues within some of the other teams she has worked for. When the detectives discover that Christopher Drayton may have been living under an assumed name she soon realises that the case is a lot more complicated than first seen. The second story focuses on the atrocities in Srebrenica during the 1995 massacre and we are given insight into what happened from the eyes of young boys living through it.

Whilst I would definitely recommend this novel, for me the actual detectives were rather flat. For some reason personally I didn’t get a whole lot of feeling about them and felt it was a little ‘off’. Rachel is a young woman yet despite having a good job continues to live with parents she doesn’t really like which seemed a bit strange. It almost felt that too much had been shoehorned into the book. There was a lot of description of the atrocities, which were then tempered with detailed background of the characters (often the issue with debut novels when the author wants to tell us everything).

Yet despite this slight issue, I did enjoy the story. It was interesting to learn about a period of history that although it happened in my lifetime I have to confess to knowing little about. I enjoyed the writing style and felt despite the heavy topic it was not a hard read. 

I would thoroughly recommend this novel especially if you enjoy learning about history during your reading.

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My Sister by Michelle Adams – a review

I was given a free copy of this at the festival last year, and it has only just reached the top of my rather teetering ‘to be read’ pile.

My Sister is the debut novel by Michelle Adams. It tells the story of Irini who was given away by her parents at the age of three. They chose to keep her sister Elle rather than her,  a decision which she has never understood. Over the years Irini has had sporadic contact with her sister, but every time it has ended badly with her sister seemingly always getting her trouble. Now a grown up living with her boyfriend, Irini hasn’t had any contact with her family for years. However when she finds out that her mother has died she heads back to the family home for the funeral. It becomes clear that there are secrets around every corner and Irini becomes determined to find out the truth about why she was given away.

This was a good read, and I enjoyed it. The story was interesting and the intrigue behind why parent’s would chose one sister over the other kept the pages turning. Yet there was just something that didn’t really work for me. I have read quite a few books around Sisters over the past, being one of a pair of sisters myself this premise always intrigues me. Yet these two just left me a bit cold. Don’t get me wrong, the story itself was a good drama. The writing had a nice easy flow about it, and it was a fast read. Yet for me, I just felt that there were a few too many incidents that were a little implausible. I also thought personally that the ending was rather abrupt and slightly out of left field. Although on the other hand it may have been that I missed some of the hints as I did get a little bored in the middle and maybe didn’t concentrate as I should.

What I did like was the sense that this was a novel that could have been set in any era. Ignoring the obvious mobile phone references, it had quite an eerie feel to the story which was quite unusual. Most of the action takes place in a big Gothic style old house with dusty unused rooms. The house is in a village full of local people who love a gossip but won’t interact with strangers. Overall the story itself was good, and I wanted to find out the truth as much as Irini but it unfortunately just didn’t blow me away. However it is a debut novel and I would certainly look out for Michelle Adams’ next one.

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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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Rattle by Fiona Cummins – a review

I received a copy of Rattle by Fiona Cummins in the goody bag at the festival back in July. It wasn’t one that I heard of before although my sister had seen in advertised. Needless to say the cover picture of the rib cage and the line on the back stating ‘a psychopath more scary than Hannibal Lecter’ meant this seemed right up my street, and it most certainly was.

Rattle introduces us to Detective Etta Fitzroy. She is investigating the case of Clara who has gone missing.  This isn’t her first missing child case, and sadly for young Jakey it won’t be her last. Both missing children suffer from unusual bone conditions.  It is this that singles them out for the ‘Bone Collector’ who is looking to add to his families heirlooms.

I can honestly say I thought this was one of the best books I have read in ages and I couldn’t stop reading. The premise of a man who abducts children being followed by a troubled detective with family issues isn’t that original. Yet the twists and turns within this story really did make it feel ‘new’. The main character of Etta was ok, and despite her issues, to me she felt like a detective that actually put the job first. This can often be lacking in female leads and was refreshing. However what I really liked was the insights we got into the characters involved. Many of the chapters are told from the point of view of the familes, so you really feel like you know them and care about them, they are not just faceless victims.

Some of the scenes within Rattle are truly chilling. I really enjoyed the style of writing, and the descriptions within the novel. The visions they conjure up in part of the book will stay with you after it’s finished. I love a good serial killer story, especially one that has you double checking all the doors are locked before you carry on reading. The Rattle certainly did that. It was the perfect balance of scary thriller, and excellent character led story.

This was one of the best books I have read all year, and an incredibly accomplished debut. An excellent addition to this year’s goody bag and I hope there is lots more to come from Fiona Cummins.

 

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Nemesis

So with one week and two days left to go until the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival I thought I’d have a bit of a check where I am with the TOPCWFC 2016. I had high hopes this year. Looking through the list there were a lot of authors that I’ve seen before and therefore there was a high chance that I had read something of theirs already. However it does look like sadly I may have taken on more than I can chew yet again. This challenge is beginning to be my nemesis.

On the positive side, I’ve realised I’d counted wrong in my initial plan. I had counted two authors separately although they write as a team, and I’ve also excluded one author on the grounds he only writes true crime and this is a fiction challenge (my challenge my rules!) However with only nine days before the festival I still have 4 authors to go. Now admittedly as I write this I’m about to finish an audio book of one, and I’m halfway through another in hard copy, yet I still suspect it’s going to be a case of so near yet so far.

Out of interest though I’ve listed all those books I have read below. Obviously with some authors I’ve read most of their novels and so I’ve just listed the most recent one. It was actually quite an interesting exercise going through the authors and seeing what I’d read. Although it has made me realise how many new books there are out there that I really want to read. If only I could find a job that would pay me to read books all day, fingers crossed for next year.

The TOPCWFC 2016

  1. Linwood Barclay – Broken Promise
  2. Mark Billingham – Time of Death (audiobook)
  3. Peter James – A Twist of the Knife
  4. Sharon Bolton – Little Black Lies
  5. Mari Hannah – The Murder Wall
  6. Ysra Sigurdardottir – The Silence of the Sea
  7. Julia Crouch – The Long Fall
  8. Helen Fitzgerald – The Cry
  9. Paula Hawkins – Girl on a Train
  10. Clare Mackintosh – I let you go
  11. Alex Marwood – The Wicked Girls
  12. Simon Brett – The Hanging in the Hotel
  13. Frances Brody – A Death in the Dales
  14. Ann Granger – Dead In the Water (audio)
  15. Catriona McPherson – Quiet Neighbours
  16. Ruth Ware – In a Dark Dark Wood
  17. Elly Griffiths – The Crossing Places
  18. Brooke Magnanti – The Turning Tide
  19. Kate Medina – Fire Damage
  20. Val McDermid – Splinter the Silence
  21. Sophie Hannah – A Game for all the Family (audio)
  22. Simon Kernick – The Murder Exchange
  23. Laura Lippman – After I’m Gone
  24. Martyn Waites – The Dolls House (Yes technically its Tania Carver but its my rules!)
  25. Laura Wilson – The Wrong Girl
  26. Jeffrey Deaver – The Skin Collector
  27. Mark Lawson – The Deaths
  28. Gerald Seymour
  29. Martin Holmen – Clinch
  30. J S Law – Tenacity (audiobook)
  31. Beth Lewis
  32. Abir Mukherjee – A Rising Man
  33. NJ Cooper – Vengence in Mind
  34. Paul Mendleson – The serpentine road
  35. Deon Meyer – Devil’s Peak
  36. Margie Orford – Daddy’s Girl
  37. Michael Stanley –
  38. (Micheal Sears and Stanly Trollop one author above)
  39. Pierre Lemaitre – Blood Wedding
  40. Bernard Minier – The Frozen Dead
  41. SJ Parris – 
  42. Martina Cole – The Life
  43. Tess Gerritsen – Last to Die
  44. Charles Cumming – A Divided Spy
  45. Frank Gardner (True Crime so not in the challenge)
  46. Kate Rhodes – River of Souls
  47. Gillian Slovo – Ten Days
  48. Neil Cross – Captured

 

 

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The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza – a review

I was given a free copy of this via netgalley. The Girl in the Ice is the debut crime novel from Robert Bryndza. The story starts with a young man discovering a body in a frozen river. It turns out to be missing wealthy socialite Amanda. Erika is called upon to investigate the murder although she is still recovering from her last case that went terribly wrong. She is given a new team, but is hampered at every turn by family, as well as her own demons.

Whilst overall I did enjoy the novel, I have to confess to finding it a little disappointing. I thought the writing was ok. The descriptions gave a real sense of doom and gloom and you felt the despair and misery of a city in the grip of winter with a murderer at large. However although the story had potential I may have fallen foul of believing the hype too much. It was billed as a gripping serial killer thriller, so sounded right up my street. In reality I would say it was more of a police procedural. I do wonder perhaps if I had read the novel before reading any reviews would I have been expecting less and therefore wouldn’t have been so disappointed?

The idea of the girls trapped in ice sounded very chilling (excuse the intended pun!) yet for some reason it just didn’t seem to take off as it should have done. I personally thought the characters were all a little clichéd. The main character of Erika didn’t really garner the sympathy that she should have done, neither from me nor seemingly from her colleagues at the start of the story. My irritation at the silly mistakes she made combined with the well used character ploy of a rogue detective going on their gut instinct just annoyed me. I also felt that I’d missed something in terms of the building of relationships. One minute she was the outsider that no one liked, the next they were friends with her. I’m always keen to read a good female character but I felt this was a very one dimensional character that didn’t act in a very convincing way.

However saying all that, the story itself was quite interesting and had many twists and turns. The ending was not a surprise as most of the way along it was obvious it was one of two people, yet the final few chapters did perk the story up. Whilst I can’t say this was one of my most favourite reads,  I would read more of Robert’s novels but hopefully next time Erika can have moved on a bit and truly be a strong female lead.

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