Category Archives: crime fiction

Angels in the Moonlight by Caimh McDonnell – a review BLOG TOUR

I am delighted to today be taking part in the blog tour for the latest novel by Caimh McDonnell . This one is a prequel to the fantastic Dublin trilogy series.

Angels in Moonlight introduces us to Bunny McGarry. As we know from the previous novels Bunny has some rather unorthodox policing methods, and although he may be younger in this story he certainly hasn’t changed.  Whilst his methods might not strictly toe the policing line they do get results, and it is those results his bosses want to see when he is tasked with bringing down one of Dublin’s most notorious gangs. What is different in this prequel is that we get to see another side of Bunny, he has a softer side that isn’t always evident in his previous cases. We find out how he met Simone who he has mentioned in the other novels.  Although obviously the course of true love never runs smoothly, and this is no exception in Bunny’s case. On top of work and love life Bunny is worried about his straight laced partner Gringo. Gringo’s marriage is on the rocks but it is clear he is hiding something more worrying.

I am a big fan of humour in my crime fiction and this most definitely has that in spades. Caimh McDonnell manages to mix a police procedural with funny escapades incredibly skilfully. This novel felt like a bit of slower read than the previous ones, but that is rather deliberate I imagine as it gives you more of an insight into the detectives head. The writing is funny, but there is an element of sadness within this novel which for me really made this stand out.

The characters are all well written, and although there are a lot of them they are easy to keep track off. Obviously I don’t want to give away any spoilers but you should definitely look out for the nuns! I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and would recommend any of this series. I‘m very much looking forward to the final in the trilogy.

Angels in the Moonlight is out now

 

 

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To catch a rabbit – Big City Read 2017

I have always been very glad to live in York. It’s a beautiful city, full of stunning buildings like the Minster, and beautiful green spaces such as Hob Moor (my personal favourite although I’m on the Friends committee so am biased) We have great pubs and lots of them, we have wonderful coffee shops (so I’ve been told anyway, pubs I have more first hand experience) and of course we are nice and close to the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.

Well this year York has suddenly got even better. A little while ago I spotted that one of my favourite authors Val McDermid was speaking at my local library. Of course I snapped up a ticket as it is always a pleasure to hear Val talk. What I hadn’t realised was that this talk was just a little taster of what was to come with the launch of York’s Big City Read 2017. The novel chosen was To Catch A Rabbit, by York based author Helen Cadbury who I was lucky enough to meet earlier this year. Sadly Helen died back in June, but the programme she helped put together is a fantastic legacy, and it is great that so many people will discover her excellent novels.

The line up this year is great, especially for die hard crime fiction fans like me. Over the next few weeks there are talks by authors including Sophie Hannah, Ruth Ware, and Francis Brody (I’m on her blog tour in October) There are discussion events including book groups all round the city who are going to be talking about To Catch A Rabbit. There are workshops on things such as using Goodreads, and planning the perfect murder (always useful to know just in case) There are plays straight from the Edinburgh Fringe and murder mysteries to join in. To top it all off the event ends with an ‘in conversation’ with the fabulous Mark Billingham and Chris Brookmyre.

The event kicked off last Thursday with Val McDermid and it was of course a great start. Only at a crime readers event could conversations include crisp packets as incendiary devices, painted Christmas trees, and burying bodies without someone calling the police.

As if York didn’t have enough reasons already to visit, the Big City Read programme of events has just provided one more. If anyone needs me during the next few weeks l’ll be in the library (or maybe in the pub obviously, even crime readers have to have time out of the library sometimes!)

Find out more about the programme of events here York Big City Read

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Exquisite by Sarah Stovell – a review

I received a surprise copy of this from the publisher and have only just got around to reading it. Exquisite is the new novel by Sarah Stovell, and Exquisite it really is.
The story follows two women and is told purely from their points of view. Bo is a successful author who lives in the lake district with her husband and two daughters. Occasionally she teaches at a creative writing retreat. It is here that she meets our other protagonist, Alice. Alice is a young aspiring writer, who lives in Brighton with her ‘artist’ boyfriend. Alice and Bo soon become friends, but it is then that things start to spiral. As their relationship develops further, you are left not knowing who to trust. Is young Alice being preyed on by a manipulative older women, or is Bo the victim of an unhinged stalker?
Having previously just finished a hard going (but still good) novel, Exquisite was the perfect next read. I loved this and could not put it down, consequently I actually read it over a couple of days (my late marks at work just keep rising thanks to books!) Throughout the novel I couldn’t decide which of the two main characters I believed. As soon as I thought I had it figured out something else would get thrown in that would change my mind.
I felt both characters were well written, and you ended up liking and disliking them both in equal measure. My only slight criticism is that I struggled to place what year the novel was set in. At the start Alice had to go to the library to send emails which surely no one does nowadays? However putting aside that very minor gripe, this was a fantastic book.
The novel was set mainly in the Lake District and using this small, and to me relatively unknown, setting added to the mystery around the character of Bo. Was she really happy living in the quiet town she had chosen for her family, or was she craving some excitement instead? The writing seemed to flow gently, building up the atmosphere around the two women. Without wishing to give away any spoilers there was one scene that was quite shocking, jarring as it did with the rest of the story. This just added to the tension of what I felt was a superbly plotted book.
Exquisite was an excellent novel and I would thoroughly recommend it.

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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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