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Mr Jones by Alex Woolf – a review

When this book dropped through my door courtesy of Indie Novella it was definitely intriguing. The cover being a suited and booted man with a panda head.

Mr Jones begins with Ben and his daughter on their way to school. It’s ten months since the sudden disappearance of Ben’s wife and he’s still struggling to come to terms with it whilst parenting his eight year old daughter Imogen. When he finds a strange young girl who appears to be living on her own in a derelict house it is the start of a descent into a weird and scary place. Ben starts to hear odd noises in the house, and Imogen begins to receive messages from her mother.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. Originally I’d just left it on the shelf but the cover kept calling me so I gave it a go, which I’m very glad I did. As all my regular readers of the blog will know (Hi Mr T and the Sister – don’t think I’ve missed anyone!) I’m not a fan of the supernatural and don’t usually like a supernatural ending. However this book was absolutely superb and without giving too much away personally the ending can be interpreted in different ways. Supernatural or human breakdown? I confess that for the first couple of pages I wasn’t immediately gripped but a chapter in and I was hooked.

The story focuses on Ben who is struggling to cope after his wife goes missing. He is a really interesting character that I felt huge sympathy for, yet at the same time I was frustrated by some of his actions. His interactions with the other parents sometimes took turns that made me want to shout no at the page, but his relationship with his daughter was one of love yet desperation.

As I’ve said it’s difficult to review without giving too much away. One of the elements I really liked was the ambiguity around both the story and the characters. There was a real sense of menace coming off the page at points and the ending was equally thrilling and frustrating in equal measure.
I would definitely recommend Mr Jones if you want a gripping yet unsettling story.

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City of the Dead by Jonathan Kellerman – a review

Sometimes I find that with the fabulous amount of new books on offer the longer running series can fall off my radar even if I have loved the previous ones. This is what had happened with Jonathan Kellerman and the Alex Delaware series. Therefore I was really pleased to be sent his latest one City of the Dead.

City of the Dead begins with a dead man who whilst originally thought to have been run over actually seems to have been thrown into the side of a van. However things take a more sinister turn when a trail of blood leads the detectives to the body of a young women. The woman turns out to have a troubled background and the case gets even more complicated as the investigations leads us into the sordid side of LA.

I really enjoyed this story. Despite the murder and crime it felt like the type of story that could be described as a caper (the frolicsom crime type, not the pickled berry), lots of red herrings and dead ends but not so many that it became confusing.

I liked the characters within it, Alex is a psychologist who helps the police out on cases when needed and is an all round nice bloke. The friendship between Alex and detective Milo Sturgis is an interesting one, and I like the fact they work together with mutual respect rather than it just being who can use who the most. I really enjoy the mix of police procedural and psychological thriller that is created by having the two characters together.

The descriptions of the city are incredibly vivid and it conjoured up a pretty murky desperate place where criminals are around every corner.

Although this is the 37 book in the series I think it could be read as a standalone as the focus is on the crimes not necessarily the detectives. However if you are in the market for investing some time and starting a new long running series then start dig out When The Bow Breaks and get stuck in.

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The List

We all know I love a list. List writing bizarrely always cheers me up and makes me feel on top of things. Even writing a list of cleaning that needs doing makes me feel like I’ve been productive. Admittedly I normally spend more time writing the list than actually doing anything on it but it still makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something. I rarely complete a list, there is no fun in that. Once a couple of things are ticked off then it just makes the list look messy so I like to rewrite it, I’m not strange honestly.

Of course my favourite type of list is a book related one and so I was very excited to see that the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2022 Longlist has been announce. I was even more excited to see that it includes some of the best books I’ve read this year.

Unfortunately voting for the longlist closes on the 26th May so I’m not going to get chance to read the whole list in advance, but I certainly think I’ll be able to have a good go at the shortlist when it’s announced.

Vote for your favourite here https://harrogatetheakstoncrimeaward.com/vote/


Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2022 Longlist
           
Girl A by Abigail Dean
Tall Bones by Anna Bailey
The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves
Blood Ties by Brian McGilloway
The Cut by Chris Brookmyre
The Less Dead by Denise Mina
The Night Hawks by Elly Griffiths
Watch Her Fall by Erin Kelly
I Know What I Saw by Imran Mahmood
True Crime Story by Joseph Knox
Daughters of Night by Laura Shepherd Robinson
Rabbit Hole by Mark Billingham
Slough House by Mick Herron
Dead Ground by M. W. Craven
The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton
Midnight at Malabar House by Vaseem Khan
The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean
The Trawlerman by William Shaw  

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The House Uptown by Melissa Ginsburg – a review

I was sent a copy of this from Faber and Faber Ltd and despite not being my usual style of crime I thought it sounded intriguing.

Teenage Ava is sent to live with her grandmother after the death of her mother. Not only does Ava have to leave her home and everything she knows, she is going to live with a woman she has barely met. Grandmother Lane is an artist who is ill equipped to look after herself let alone a teenage girl. Lane already relies heavily on her assistant Oliver who seems to be the perfect help for them both but tensions soon start to simmer to the surface and Ava become suspicios that maybe Oliver isn’t the person he pretends to be.

This was an utterly compelling story that I really enjoyed. It was part character study and part crime story that weaved its way between past and present as we gradually uncover the story that was behind the estrangement between Lane and her daughter as well as learn more about Lane’s relationship with her partner.

I found all of the characters fascinating in their own way. Ava was a quiet unassuming child who had been put in a situation where she had to grow up quickly. Lane elicted both sympathy and frustration from me. Clearly she was struggling with her own health but won’t admit she’s suffering. Instead she chooses to self medicate and practically ignore her granddaughter and her grief. Oliver is a hard character to pin down, on the one hand it seems that he really cares for Lane, but equally there is a side of him that seems difficult to trust.

The novel is set in New Orleans and I loved the way the setting rumbled in the background giving a sense of history and providing a bit of colour in the otherwise sightly grey world of the book. The writing was impeccable and I felt it flowed seamlessly. The book flitted between present day and the late 90’s where we gradually uncovered more about Lane’s background and what led to the falling out with her daughter.

I very much enjoyed this story and the end was something I didnt see coming. I would highly recommend this intriguing and emotional novel.

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