The Secret of Cold Hill by Peter James – a review

I am a big fan of Peter James and so when his latest popped up on netgalley I downloaded it onto my kindle ready for a trip to Birmingham.

The Secret of Cold Hill is the sequel to The House on Cold Hill. The house itself has been torn down and in its place a new estate has been created. When James and Emily move in they believe they have found their perfect home. James is an artist and there is a studio room with fabulous views. Kate is a chef running her own business and there is plenty of space for her to create her ideal professional kitchen. This is a house with all the mod cons you could ask for, and even the slightly odd neighbours or the unfriendly locals can’t dampen their enthusiasm. However when things start to go wrong they begin to question their move. Anyone who has ever read any fiction with a ‘state of the art’ house will know that things are always going to go wrong, and this is no exception.  

I thoroughly enjoyed this creepy story. It was an interesting take on the haunted house theme using a brand new building, but with old style creepy house storytelling. The noises and odd occurrences are soon escalating as the story takes hold through to an ending that I most definitely did not see coming.

I wasn’t too keen on the main couple to be honest, I found them both a little annoying and did feel that they jumped straight to the idea of ‘haunting’ a bit quickly. Personally I would have thought it was more likely an electrical fault. However the way the couple acted actually added to the tension. You weren’t sure whether they were overreacting or if it really was something more sinister. I particularly liked their interaction with the odd couple over the road. The Penze-Weedells were funny caricatures’ of your neighbourhood snobs, which added a great humour to the story yet didn’t give any kind of let up to the creepiness.

I have read most of Peter James’ books and although the Roy Grace series is still my favourite I hope I haven’t seen the last of Cold Hill House.

The Secret of Cold Hill is available here

 

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The Chain by Adrian McKinty – a review

I am unfortunately not the type of person who wins things. I rarely enter competitions as I know I won’t win, I don’t buy lottery tickets and when it comes to any kind of race, well suffice to say I have absolutely no competitive spirit whatsoever.

Therefore I was completely surprised to find out that I had actually recently won a giveaway by the lovelyEmma at Damppebbles to get a book of my choice from Book Depository. Now normally like a kid in a sweetshop it would take me hours to decide what book to pick, I’m not good with a lot of choice. However for once this decision was easy. Whilst at the TOPCWF I went to a session with both Adrian McKinty and Ian Rankin and thought that Adrian’s book sounded fascinating so that was my first choice. Well I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

The Chain starts with Rachel picking up the phone to hear a stranger tell her that her daughter has been kidnapped. In order for her daughter to be freed Rachel will have to kidnap another child. Any child ill do but if she goes to the police her daughter will die, if she doesn’t kidnap a child her daughter will die, if she deviates from her instructions in any way her daughter will die. Rachel is now part of the chain.

This was a novel that grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let me go. The story moves along with a terrific pace as Rachel suddenly turns from mild mannered mother to gun-toting kidnapper.

I liked the fact that despite the main focus of the book being The Chain and the kidnappings, the main characters were all well rounded and had back stories that meant the crimes they had to commit were even more out of context. Rachel is a divorcee who thinks that the cancer she thought she had beaten has returned. Her brother in law who becomes her partner in crime is Pete who is an ex-forces man suffering PTSD and a drug addict. The story shows us the fall out of the crimes and how the characters try to move on with their lives which is impossible when the chain still exists.

I did feel that the first half was a little better than the second. The second half gives us the insight into the perpetrators and what led to the creation of the chain which was interesting. Yet  I felt it slowed a little in the middle, until the pace suddenly kicked up again towards the end. Saying that you almost needed the slight breather in order to continue on until the end. The premise of this story is something that I find really interesting, how far will ‘normal’ humans go if they are backed into a corner? This is a novel that explores exactly that.

I think this is the first novel I have read by Adrian McKinty and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would like to thank Damppebbles for my copy.

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Dead Flowers by Nicola Monaghan – Blog Tour

I was delighted to be invited onto the blog tour for Dead Flowers by Nicola Monaghan and am pleased to be able to share this extract to whet your appetite.

Set in Nottingham, Dead Flowers follows Dr Sian Love as she moves into a new house. After ten years on the police force as a detective she is no stranger to murder victims. However when she find human remains in her new home, having left the force behind her things are different. This time it’s personal…

Dead Flowers was shortlisted for the 2019 Little Brown, UEA Crime Writing Award and Nicola Monaghan has previous won the Betty Trask Award, the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Prize and the Waverton Good Read. I for one can’t wait to read this!

EXTRACT FROM DEAD FLOWERS BY NICOLA MONAGHAN

Cellar

Narrow Marsh, Nottingham

Sian came down the steep steps past the Contemporary art gallery, her eyes tracing the Nottingham lace patterns in its concrete walls. She could feel the history around her; Narrow Marsh, as it used to be, full of crime and squalor. She felt separated from the slums and violence by the finest membrane, like if she pushed hard enough she could burst through and find herself years back in time.

The sign from the old Loggerheads pub was rattling in the wind, making a crashing sound against its frame. Sian checked up and down the street for any signs of trouble but could see nothing except leaves being blown and buffeted against the pavement. She could hear Elvis, barking and howling the other side of the door. He wasn’t usually that bothered when she went out for a couple of hours but the combination of the high winds and being somewhere new were probably to blame. She dug into her bag to get her keys and his barking got more urgent. ‘It’s just me, you silly sod,’ she said. She opened the door and he came bounding over, doing the dance of love he did whenever she came home, nuzzling her, then rocking from back to front paws. She leaned down to gives the German Shepperd a proper scratch behind the ears and let him lick her nose, then locked and bolted the front door, shutting out Narrow Marsh and the dark.

Elvis ran though the hallway to the back door. Sian grabbed the key from a hook on the wall; he was trying to force the door open before she could unlock it. Finally, he burst outside and jumped into the air, barking at the night sky. The house felt damp and chilly so Sian went into the kitchen and tuned the heating on. She wasn’t sleepy enough for bed. She rooted through the boxes searching for something to drink, and glasses. She could only find old bottle of amaretto and the plastic beakers from the bathroom. She poured herself a drink and slipped through to the living room, collapsing on the sofa and kicking off her shoes.

Sitting back, Sian tried to relax. She took a sip from her drink. It had a thickness and a rich, high taste. She couldn’t shake the idea that part of the slick flavour was old toothpaste. She heard Elvis, scratching at the cellar door again. She ignored him for as long as she could. Then he popped his head into the room and stared at her. ‘Fine,’ she said, putting down her drink and walking back through to the hall. She closed and locked the back door. ‘I can see I’m not going to get any peace here. Let’s go and find out what’s down there’

Sian moved her toolbox and opened the cellar door, flicking on the light switch. There was a bright flash below and then darkness as the bulb blew. ‘How’s that for a sign,’ she muttered, with a nervous laugh. She tilted the door back and reached into her toolbox, finding a torch. Then she picked up the box in case she needed tools when she got down there. Elvis scratched at the door again then looked up at her expectantly. ‘You know, boy, the rule is never go down into he cellar.’ She smiled at her own joke. And then she pushed open the door and he barged past her and rushed down the stairs, barking. Sian followed him, shinning the torch ahead of her. She tripped slightly as she misjudged the last step then righted herself. At the bottom of the stairs there was a high, sweet smell, reminiscent of old bins. She put the toolbox down on the floor. Elvis was scratching at the far wall and turned towards her, barking. He started to whimper and then pace the floor in a way she’d never seen him do before.

Sian felt the temperature of the room drop. She knew this was the effect of adrenaline on her body but the feeling stuck home, nonetheless. Because Elvis wasn’t any old retired police dog. He was a cadaver dog. Elvis had been trained to find the dead.

Dead Flowers was released on the 5th September and is available here

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Time for the Dead by Lin Anderson – a review

When I was asked to join the blog tour for the latest novel by Lin Anderson I was convinced that I had read previous by her, and the blurb for this one was so intriguing of course I said yes. However it actually turns out I don’t think I have read any of her’s before (this is why I need to start writing down everything I read) Well I have to say if Time for the Dead is anything to go by, I will definitely be reading the rest of her novels as this was terrific.

Time for the Dead is the 14th book in the Rhona MacLeod series and this one is set on the Isle of Skye. Forensic scientist Rhona is recovering from a hideous ordeal that has left her quite traumatised. Rather than go to the rehabilitation centre that is suggested she takes herself off to the remote island, agreeing to keep in touch with her colleague DS McNab via regular skype calls. When she finds what seems to be some kind of crime scene her curiosity kicks in. A body is then found at the base of the famous cliff known as Kilt Rock and Rhona begins to suspect that a group of army medics visiting the island after a tour of Afghanistan might not be just on the island for a holiday.

Time for the Dead was a cracking read that I thoroughly enjoyed. This is one of those novels where the setting is as much a character as any of the people being written about. I loved how the remoteness of the island added to the tension of the plot. As well as following the investigation on Skye, we also have chapters set in Afghanistan where we find out more about the medics and what they went through during their time in the country. These chapters were quite harrowing at times to read and the heat of Afghanistan contrasted darkly with the cold of Skye.

Rhona MacLeod was definitely one of the best characters I’ve read recently, especially once she teemed up with Blaze, the detective dog (well search and rescue but detective dog sounds better) I found her slightly frustrating, yet also incredibly strong and resilient. I liked her interaction with both McNab who has his own investigation to contend with, and with Detective Olsen who was visiting Skye on a walking holiday.

I do feel that I would have enjoyed this book even more had I read the previous novels in the series, yet there was enough background in this to ensure I knew what was happening. I very much enjoyed my first Rhona MacLeod story and will definitely be reading more.

To find out what others thought visit the other stops on the tour. Time for the Dead in available here.

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Truth or Die by Katerina Diamond – a review BLOG TOUR

I have read a couple of previous Katerina Diamond’s books and so was pleased to be invited to join the blog tour for her latest novel Truth or Die.

Truth Or Die starts with the death of a teenager after falling from a building. This is followed quickly by the body of a professor being found in his private office having been brutally murdered. DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles are sent to Exeter University to investigate as this body is only the first of many. Someone is playing a deadly game and Miles gets caught up in it in a very personal way. As the body count rises the past comes back to haunt the detectives.

I have to say that it wasn’t until I started reading this that I realised I had obviously read the novels out of order. This was actually the 5th in the series, yet it did work as a standalone. As with most series I think you get the most out of them if you read them in order but then this is definitely a series that you should want to read from the start.

The dynamic between Grey and Miles is interesting and this slow burn of a relationship is at the centre of the narrative. They are both characters who have had issues in the past and struggle to trust other people which is part of what draws them together. I enjoyed the interaction with the characters and felt that this was a couple I want to see work out.

The actual mystery part of the story was also good, and the reasons behind the murders was quite disturbing. However I did feel that it lacked a bit of motive at the end and seemed a bit of a rushed ending to what was a good story. I enjoy a bit of grisly murder and this didn’t disappoint with the crimes and descriptions. We also see the return of a previous character and for me that really ramped up the tension as they are one of those characters whose calm menace really jumps off the page.  This is definitely as it says on the cover ‘not for the faint hearted’ and I think it shows the quality of the writing that you flit between reading about gruesome murder and caring about characters without blinking.

I would recommend Katerina Diamond’s novels if you like a good crime thriller with a twist, but I would suggest starting at the beginning of the series in order to enjoy them at their best.

Truth or Die is out now, get your copy here. To find out what others thought of Truth or Die don’t forget to visit the other stops on the tour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman – a review BLOG TOUR

I have read and enjoyed many of Laura Lippman’s novels therefore it is always a thrill to receive an email inviting me onto a blog tour for her latest one and I’m delighted to be closing this tour with my thought’s on Lady in the Lake.

The Lady in the Lake is set in Baltimore in the 60’s and tells the story of Maddie. Having married young she has decided that she wants more for herself and so has left her husband and teenage son to try and build a new life. She gets a job at the local paper helping out with the problems page. However she is keen to move up the ladder, and therefore when she discovers the body of a missing girl she thinks that finding out what happened to Cleo could be the story she needs.

Like all Laura Lippman’s novels this was a good story. I enjoyed the historical element of it and thought that it painted a good picture of a country that was changing. The novel touches on race, equality, religion, all blended into a mystery that was intriguing.

The story is mainly told from the perspective of Maddie, however between each chapter from her there is also a chapter from someone else’s point of view. I must confess that some of these I found a bit unnecessary. I appreciate that it was a way of moving the story on and it was interesting in parts as it did show how things that Maddie did affected other people, yet some of them were just a little annoying as I wanted to get back to the story.

The Lady in the Lake is almost two different stories in one. There is the mystery element surrounding Cleo’s death and why she was left in a fountain (not a lake like the title, still not sure why that is) Then there is the story of Maddie and her trying to find herself. Whilst she wasn’t the most likeable character I did feel for her and I like to see a woman making courageous choices.

As is often the case with Laura Lippman’s writing this was a slow burner of a story but the atmosphere that is created keeps you hooked. I would recommend this especially if you enjoy reading novels set during this period of history.

Thanks to Faber and Faber for my copy. To find out what others thought of this visit the other stops on the blog tour.

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Life Ruins by Danuta Kot – a review Blog Tour

I waLife Ruins Cover (1)s a big fan of Broadchurch and the Missing, therefore when a blog tour invite came through with a book that was apparently for fans of both I could hardly say no.
Life Ruins by Danuta Kot introduces us to Becca, Jared and Kay, all of whom think that they have reached rock bottom. Becca has been thrown out of university and had to move away. She now works at a homeless kitchen. Jared is suffering both emotionally and physically after being involved in a caving incident. Kay has lost her husband and is struggling to move on. Jared is witness to a brutal attack that leaves a girl in a critical condition. Becca believes she knows who the victim is but no one will believe her, except Kay who used to foster the troubled teenager. As they meet they begin to realise that the danger could be heading for them all.
Life Ruins was a book that drew me in from the start. Told from the viewpoints of the three main characters the three plots start off as very separate apart from the odd phone call between Kay and her foster daughter. We find out slowly what happened to Jared and why he is addicted to painkillers, what happened to cause Becca to leave University and about Kay’s shattered life. These three stories individually I found fascinating. As they start to come together things I felt slowed down a little yet not to the detriment of the book. This to me wasn’t a story that was particularly shocking, instead it was the character led nature of it that drew me in.
Kay I especially felt for as she was clearly lost without her husband and stuck living a life that had been her husbands dream rather than her own. Jared was an interesting character, wracked with guilt he struggles to even get up in the morning after once being an accomplished potholer. I have to say as someone with a fear of getting stuck in a small place there was one description of a cave that I found incredibly difficult reading. A credit to the writing talent that drew such a vivid picture I had to put the book down and stick my head out of the window.
Life Ruins is set along the coast between Bridlington and Whitby so it’s a coast I’ve often travelled over the years and it was brilliantly painted in this novel. The descriptions with Kay out walking her husbands dog are moving and very atmospheric.
I thoroughly enjoyed Life Ruins by Dakota Kot and will definitely be looking up her previous novels.
Life Ruins by Dakota Kot is available on amazon 
Thanks to Anne Cater and Simon Schauster UK for my copy.

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