Category Archives: crime fiction

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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A time of torment

Now that the Viking invasion of half term has finally departed, this week I treated myself to a trip into town to partake in one of my favourite pastimes – browsing round Waterstones bookshop. I like to head straight to the back of the shop avoiding all the gift buyers and get stuck into the crime section. As usual I start with the tables in the middle of the shelves which are piled up with books displayed by theme. Then I head to the start of the crime section, which is where my plan fell to pieces. It seemed they’d moved the section. I looked around in a panic, what’s a book shop after all without a good stock of crime fiction? This would be a complete torment for me to live in a city without a crime section in the bookshop. Yet it soon became clear that whilst the initial panic was unfounded, there was still crime novels galore, there was a new problem. The crime novels were now all just mixed in amongst a general fiction section stretching round the store.

This was not good for me. I don’t like change. I also like to be able to go into a bookshop and head straight to the crime section knowing that whatever I’m picking up is crime. I like to know I’m not going to pick up a book and end up with a mills and boon (which I was a big fan of when younger, mainly because Jilly Cooper was a lot harder to sneak past the parents but the sex scenes were just as good) or much worse something dungeons and dragons based. My reading matter rarely deviates from anything that isn’t classified as crime. This new layout therefore really seems to be rather at odds with what I like, so it was time to express my annoyance.

Clearly nowadays the idea of writing letters to the local newspaper is practically akin to sending smoke signals. Outraged from York has long been in retirement. Therefore I did what all modern annoyed people do and I took to twitter to express my disgust. Rather surprisingly I swiftly received a reply to my tweet from one of the most high ranking authors in crime fiction. Once I’d come down off the roof thanks to the excitement of getting the tweet, I actually read it. Suddenly rather than seeing the concept of all fiction being in one big pile as a negative thing, I was open to the idea that this actually was a good way to ‘broaden your horizons’

I do love is discovering new authors. One of the best things about both writing this blog and of course attending the festival is the joy of discovering new writers and styles that you wouldn’t necessarily pick up yourself. I have also in the past read non crime fiction and really enjoyed it. So I completely agree that mixing the books altogether could potentially mean I discover new authors which is obviously a good thing.

However there is still a part of me that is a little bit sad about this change. I always loved the fortnightly trip to the library and this hasn’t disappeared as an adult. The difference is now I always look for the little blue sticker with the handcuffs on it so I know I’m a getting a crime novel. Which leads me to the biggest issue that this is going to cause me, and that’s one of time. Whilst I’m looking forward to discovering new authors the sheer time I’m going to need to browse through all those books is scary. I wonder if part time working is feasible? Or maybe rather than seeing it as a Saturday morning treat I should just get a job in a bookshop.

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In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward – a review

I received a copy of this from netgalley earlier in the year, but for some reason it fell off my reading radar until a recent trip to Birmingham where I was lucky enough to devour it in a couple of sessions.
In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward starts off with the kidnapping of two young girls in 1978. Rachel and Sophie are both taken in broad daylight but only Rachel returns. 30 odd years later and Rachel is working as a genealogist in Derbyshire. She can’t remember what happened on the day of her kidnapping and has tried to move on with her life. Unfortunately the suicide of Sophie’s mother leads to a reopening of the case and with it the reawakening of old memories. After the suicide Detective Connie and her boss Sadler are asked to relook at the case and soon realise another recent murder may have connections with the kidnapping.
I really enjoyed this book. The character of Rachel was interesting, yet also a little annoying in places which is just how characters should be. Clearly you felt for her and what she had been through as a child but equally you do feel that she is a bit stupid and naïve at times. She spends her time researching other people’s family trees but ignores the missing parts of her own. Her concentration on only the female members of her family seems a bit at odds with someone who makes a living from researching peoples history. Equally both Connie and Sadler have good and bad characteristics. They are obviously both highly competent police officers, but still have flaws and backgrounds that make them human.
I enjoyed the occasional glimpses back into the 70’s, yet these flashbacks were not as annoying as they can sometimes be in novels. They just added to the atmosphere of the novel. It did take a little while for me to get into the story but once I did I was hooked. The novel is a good mix of family drama, police procedural, and murder mystery. All three elements were there in equal measure and all complemented the other. I especially liked the fact that the stories were told almost in a real time way – Rachel would find something out and it would be a while later before the police found out the same thing, rather than it all just coming out at once.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this debut novel and look forward to seeing more from Sarah Ward in the future.

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