One of the best things about attending the Harrogate Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival is the amount of free books that you come away with and this year was not exception. The tricky part is working out what to read first but one of the books that found it’s way to the top of the pile was Alias Emma by Ava Glass.
I have to confess that spy thrillers are not my usual thing, I’ve never seen a James Bond and although I have read the odd spy thriller they wouldn’t be my first choice. However, this may just have changed my mind.
The Emma in Alias Emma is Emma Makepeace an undercover agent who has been infiltrating a group of activists until she is pulled off by her boss for a special assignment. That assignment is to bring in Michael who is being targeted by the Russians. The pair of them have to cross London at night avoiding cameras and assassins in any way they can. Not helped by the fact that Emma’s boss has gone underground and she no longer knows who she can trust at the agency.
I really enjoyed the slightly bonkers, slightly surreal atmosphere of this novel. The two main characters are obviously Emma and Michael, and the story follows them as they run through buildings, hijack boats and generally spend a lot of time very nearly getting caught.
Throughout the story we find out more details of Emma and her background, and gradually her reasons for being where she is come to light. Other than a slight ‘frisson’ between the two main characters there is very little in terms of other stories which was actually quite refreshing as the focus was completely on could they outrun the ‘baddies’. I really enjoyed the details of the city within this book, the underground rivers and the alleys and roads of the capital all play a big part. It felt well written, and clearly the author knows her stuff.
As I say this is not my usual type of thing but I thoroughly enjoyed suspending belief for a while and following Emma through a dark and scary London.
I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Family Retreat by Bev Thomas which is out on the 25th August.
Screenwriter Rob and his wife Jess are going away for the summer after a year that has pushed Jess to the edge as she’s struggled with her job as a GP. Rob is convinced that this will be the perfect holiday they all need and their children are excited to be able to spend the summer at the beach. The family are staying in a rented cottage in a small village in Dorset and soon start to meet the neighbours in the close-knit community. Jess is particularly drawn to the slightly standoffish Helen, with her perfect husband and two well behaved children. However as the summer plods on it soon become clear that Helen isn’t quite what she seems!
The Family Retreat was a really good story that I read over a couple of evenings as it was absolutely gripping.
Bev Thomas’ debut novel was A Good Enough Mother which I also loved. When I reviewed that, at the time I said that it was part mystery and part emotional drama and the same goes for The Family Retreat. This is a book that makes you think and question people’s attitudes to others. It deals with some big issues including abuse and mental health, in fact my only slight criticism was that there seemed to be almost too many issues towards the end, however that was just a very small point as the story is excellent.
The Family Retreat was a really well written book, and I felt that the way that really sensitive topics were dealt with was very sympathetic and well researched. The characters were all interesting and well rounded, and without giving too much away the reveal when it comes is shocking and although all the clues are there I didn’t put them together. I particularly felt for Jess as we find out what happened in her life to lead to her sabbatical, and her tendancy to get too emotionally involved with others.
This was a engaging novel with the tension building slowly throughout with a sense of foreboding from the start. I would most definitely recommend this and it was a perfect hot weather read.
To find out what others thought of The Family Retreat visit the other stops on the blog tour.
I’ve been lucky enough to be invited onto some fantastic blog tours recently and the latest for the new novel by Karen Rose is no exception.
Quarter to Midnight by Karen Rose is the start of a brand new series featuring a band of private investigators led by Burke Broussard. Rocky Herbert has seemingly killed himself, however his son Gabe is certain that his dad wouldn’t do that and has a private autopsy done before hiring the Broussard agency. PI Molly Sutton soon realises that ex policeman Rocky was working on his own investigation. An investigation that threatens to expose corruption within the police force and bring down some high ranking individuals. A phonecall leads them to Xavier, a young lad who is the key witness to the case. Unfortunately they are not the only people who know that Xavier is the key and soon they are all running for their lives.
This is a great start to a cracking new series that was full of action and twists from the start. The series is set in New Orleans which is a fascinating city that Karen Rose managed to portray all sides of, from the terrible devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina to the diverse musical heritage the place is known for to the amazing sounding food and drink.
I enjoyed this story although it was not a quick read at over 600 pages and for me it did seem to drag on a bit in the middle but that’s probably because I was impatient to find out what was going to happen.
There were a lot of characters to keep track of but I found the story was so engrossing that it’s simple to keep everyone straight. I really enjoyed the characters of Xavier’s Mum and her friend Willa Mae. Their light hearted banter in the midst of some dark scenes was a real highlight.
As with a lot of the author’s stories this has a romance element and the budding relationship between PI Molly and her charge Gabe is interesting, although as I was keen to get back to the thriller element. The mix of thriller, romance and old fashioned adventure story was a mix that worked really well and creates a riveting read.
I have always been a big fan of Karen Rose, and despite it’s length this is a great start to a new series and I would definitely be looking out for the next in the series.
I am a big fan of Ian Rankin and was once lucky enough to join him for a whisky (ok so I was with all the other people who had bought tickets but I was in the same room as him!) so when I was asked to join the blog tour for his latest The Dark Remains of course I said yes.
The Dark Remains is actually a joint venture between Rankin and the late William McIlvanney. Rankin took the notes McIlvanney had written and turned them into a fully fledged story. This novel is a prequel to the original trilogy and introduces us to a young DC Laidlaw, who has a great policing sense but isn’t always very good at following orders. When Bobby Carter, a lawyer who works for some dubious but powerful families, is found dead, Laidlaw has to find out what happened before the gang rivalry becomes all out war.
I enjoyed this story alot. I’ve read the McIlvanney books and I’ve read Rankin so was interested to see how this mix would work. For me it takes the best of both and mixes it into an immensely enjoyable read. There is the humour of an Ian Rankin Rebus story overlaid with the grit of the Laidlaw background. The story is set in a Glasgow of the 70’s and I felt that this was portrayed well. The quality of the writing shows in that you are instantly transported to the city at that time and don’t need to be constantly reminded in words. It was enjoyable to read a detective story set in a time before mobile phones, and modern day forensics.
The story itself is what you would expect of a Rebus book, lots of gangsters and Glasgow slang but with characters that are also full of warmth and personality. It was interesting to find out about Laidlaw’s family and I enjoyed this glimpse into how the man became who he was.
The one thing I would say is read this with an open mind. It isn’t an Ian Rankin, and it isn’t a William McIlvanney, what it is, is a very good story!
Find out what others thought by visiting the other stops on the tour: