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 have read a number of the Geraldine Steel series by Leigh Russell so was pleased to be invited onto the blog tour for her latest Evil Impulse.
Evil Impulse brings us up to date with the latest in the life of DI Geraldine Steel. Still living in York, now with long term love interest DI Ian Petersen, she seems to finally be happy. When a body is found in the river initially they think she fell in and drowned, but when it is revealed that she was actually killed days before she entered the water it becomes clear that there is a dangerous killer on the loose.
I enjoyed this story although I have to admit it didn’t keep me gripped as much as some of the previous ones. The murder story was good but I felt that a random kidnapping and disappearing sister storyline actually distracted from the main event and felt a bit shoehorned in. It may just be that I’m always more interested in a grizzly murder than a persons relationship!
I like the character of Geraldine. She has certainly had a complicated life and it was nice to see her happy, at least for a while. She does have a tendency to be a bit ‘hot headed’ and there were times when you want to bang her and Ian’s heads together, but I still always find myself rooting for her.
The setting in York is both a good and bad thing. I enjoy reading stories set in the place I’ve called home for over twenty years, but I also realise I spend a good bit of my time tracing the steps in my mind working out how accurate things are (yes I’ve become one of those people!) I’m pleased to say it was all very accurate.
Whilst this could be read as a standalone you will definitely enjoy it more if you know all the back story. This is book 15 of this great series and I’ll look forward to the next. Don’t forget to find out what the other stops on the blog tour thought:
When I was invited to join the blog tour for debut novel The Silent House by Nell Pattison, the premise sounded very interesting and I was not wrong.
Paige is a hearing person in a non-hearing world. She makes her living as an BSL interpreter and usually her work involves helping people understand doctors or going to fill in bank forms. Therefore when she is called on by the local police to help with a case, she isn’t ready for what she finds. A young girl has been murdered in her bed, a girl that Paige knew. She also knows the family, all of whom have become suspects. As Paige become more entwined with the case she begins to realise that her and her family could be in danger and that the killer could be closer than she thought.
The Silent House was a great read. I was fascinated by both the storyline and the setting. The deaf community portrayed in the book is a close knit group. Yet as with any group of people there are tensions and issues which all come to the fore as Paige finds out more about the crime and people’s involvement. I enjoyed finding out about a world that I didn’t know much about and how things we take for granted as hearing people such as someone ringing the doorbell can be difficult for a deaf person. (there is a flashing light used in case you are interested)
I thought the writing was very accomplished, it flitted easily between signing and non-signing conversations and it was clear at all times who was talking which for someone easily confused like me was great. I liked the character of Paige and her sister Anna, and I enjoyed the interaction between them. I did find Paige a bit emotional at times, however to be fair she isn’t someone who would be used to dealing with murder or dead bodies so it’s understandable that she might be a bit out of her depth.
This is obviously the start of a new series and I would definitely want to read the next instalment and find out more about what happens to Paige.
Don’t forget to visit the other stops on the tour to see what they thought of The Silent House:
At this year’s festival I was lucky enough to meet debut author Robin Morgan-Bentley who was promoting his novel The Wreckage which I have recently read.
The Wreckage begins with Ben, a teacher who is on his way to work as normal. However this day Adam, in a last despairing act, jumps in front of Ben’s car succeeding in killing himself. In the aftermath Ben struggles to come to terms with what has happened, and to try and assuage his guilt he starts to develop a friendship with Alice, Adam’s widow, and her young son Max. However is this what Alice wants, and how will either of them manage to move on?
This was a fabulous book that seemed very accomplished for a debut novelist. I wouldn’t personally class this as a thriller in the traditional sense of a ‘grab you by the seat of your pants and hang on’ type of story, however it was absolutely gripping. From the dramatic start to the story that absolutely hooks you in, things slow down a little as both Alice and Ben come to terms with what has happened. The tension then starts to build back up as the relationship begins to grow and we find out more about the characters.
The story is told from the veiwpoints of both Alice and Ben. This is a really clever trick that means you see the same moment but from a different interpretation which adds to the tension in the novel. I found both characters equally likeable and annoying at times. Whilst clearly you have sympathy for them both having been through a horrific experience. You also want them to take a look at their actions and think of the consequences.
It’s tricky to say too much about the plot without giving away the twists but the story takes a darker turn towards the end and there are things I did not see coming. When I met Robin Morgan-Bentley I got his autograph and he asked me who my favourite author. I definitely enjoyed this novel as much as a Patricia Cornwall one!