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The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond – a review

This is a book that had been sat on my kindle for a while and for some reason it had never made it to the top of my list until a recent trip to Manchester. When I realised I was sat in a bar with no new books to read and no internet connection I opened this without really knowing what it was about.

The Marriage Pact follows newlyweds Jake and Alice who are given a mysterious wedding gift, a membership of a very exclusive club that guarantees they will never get divorced. They just have to sign an agreement that states they will live by the rules of the Pact. Of course that seems to be an easy enough statement when they are still in that honeymoon phase, rules include always answering the phone when your spouse calls, buying them a present every month, arrange a trip away every three months. However these rules all seem fine and a bit of fun, until one of them gets broken and the full force of the pact takes effect. The crimes they committee against the marriage pact start off small, lawyer Alice is late at work a few days on the trot, she puts on a bit of weight so is made to see a personal trainer at 5am every morning. All of these things seem relatively small yet as the punishments keep coming the fear of the consequences of the pact become much bigger.

The Marriage Pact is a cracking little read, although you do have to suspend belief a bit. The concept that perfectly sane educated people would join what is essentially a cult that dictates how they have to act in their own lives is clearly not something that would happen in real life. However when you put that to one side this was a story that kept me hooked through to the end. The characters whilst a little annoying are quite likeable, and you feel for Alice as she tries to keep the full force of the punishments away from Jake. Yet on the other side you do wonder why both her and Jake don’t just say no!

I enjoyed the plot of this novel and the writing is good. The story is told from the point of view of Jake, and I think that was made me prefer Alice to him. He works as a marriage guidance counsellor and yet seems to completely miss the signs that there might be problems in his own relationship.

The Marriage Pact is an intriguing little tale, and whilst it is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea due to the unrealistic plot, personally I really enjoyed it. Thanks to netgalley for my copy. 

 

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After He Died by Michael J. Malone – a review BLOG TOUR

I am on a role recently with excellent books and my next one was no exception. After He Died by Michael J. Malone.

After He Died starts as you might expect from the title with a death. Thomas Gadd the husband of Paula has died of a heart attack. Paula had seemingly been leading a rather charmed life until the death of her son in a car accident a few years previously and now the death of her husband who she adored. Whilst at the funeral a young woman called Cara comes up to Paula and slips a note in her pocket telling her that her husband is not the man she thought he was. Paula eventually agrees to meet up with the woman to find out what she means. This meeting leads to Paula soon realising she may not have known her husband of thirty years as well as she thought she did and that both her and Cara might be in more danger than she had ever known.

After He Died was an intriguing story that kept me guessing to the end. At first it is easy to assume that Thomas Gadd has another family which is often how this kind of story pans out, but not in this case. The plot is a twisty and clever weaving of hidden facts and characters that drag you along until the end. I liked the two main female characters of Paula and Cara although at some times their actions were a little frustrating. The male characters namely Thomas’ two brothers were very much chalk and cheese and balanced each other out nicely, as well as giving an added dimension to the story outside the marriage of Paula and Thomas.

The writing style is quite poetic (not surprisingly given that Michael J Malone is a poet as well as a novelist) and it has a flow that is propelled along by the short snappy chapters.  There is quite a lot of complicated financial mystery within this story, which gives it an added element taking it to a different place than just your normal domestic noir. One really stand out element of this book is the setting. The story takes place in Glasgow and the surrounding area, with some fantastic descriptions of places that make you want to visit. Occasionally there were Scottish phrases and words among the paragraphs yet this didn’t distract from the story even for a non-Scottish speaker like me, it just added to the charm and intrigue.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and would recommend if you like your fiction with strong characters and great writing.

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The Infinite Blacktop by Sara Gran – a review BLOG TOUR

Whilst normally I wouldn’t post twice in one day, sometimes there are just books that it is impossible to say no to, and this was one of them. The Infinite Blacktop is the first I have read by Sara Gran, although it is actually the third novel featuring Private Investigator Claire De Witt.

The book starts with a bang, literally, as Claire comes round after a car accident and realises that someone is trying to kill her. This starts off a novel that is actually three stories in one. There is the mystery in the present day of who is trying to kill Claire. We then shoot back to 1986 where Claire and her friends are teenage detectives until one of them goes missing. Then in the middle we visit 1999 where Claire is trying to get enough hours under her belt to qualify for her PI license investigating a murder in the art world.

I must confess that this took a little while for me to get into. It read at first as a bit Agatha Raisin with each title being The Case of something. (Yes I know lots of other classic detective stories also use this idea that’s just the one that sprang to my mind!) However Agatha Raisin this certainly wasn’t. Claire is moody, violent, has a penchant for drug taking and is happy to use whatever methods necessary to protect herself and solve her cases. I think I would probably have warmed to her more if I had read the previous books whereas in this I didn’t really take to her much. However the stories themselves were interesting. I especially liked the younger version of Claire and it was clever how all the parts interwove throughout.

This was an good read, despite the three timelines it was easy to keep track of and the story went along at speed. Once you get into the swing of the writing I really enjoyed it. Despite my odd reservation about some of Claire’s actions it shows what people are capable of when they are pushed. It is also fascinating to find out about Claire’s previous life and these other time lines give a great insight into why Claire is like she is.

If you like strong female lead characters who take no prisoners then you can’t go far wrong with this gritty tale of a female PI. I will definitely be starting this series from the beginning.

Sara Gran is the author of five critically acclaimed novels, including Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, Come Closer and Dope. She also writes for film and TV, including ’Southland’ and ’Chance’, and has published in The New York Times, The New Orleans Times Picayune and USA Today.

Her latest novel is available here

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The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech – a review BLOG TOUR

thumbnail_Lion Tamer front cover finalWow, is the only word I can really think of to describe how this felt when I finished it. This is a story that grabbed me from the beginning and literally didn’t let me go until the end. I read The Lion Tamer Who Lost on a recent trip to Copenhagen and it certainly got me some rather concerned looks at times as it was hard not to be outwardly emotional whilst reading.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost is the second novel I have read by Louise Beech after Maria in the Moon and I have to say this I think this is even better than the first (which is good going as I loved the first one too, read my review here)

Ben is in Zimbabwee after the breakup of a relationship. He is fulfilling his childhood dream to go and work at a lion sanctuary. Andrew is a writer who is hoping for his big break. Their paths cross and events unfold that mean neither of them will ever be the same.

This was a truly fantastic read. Described as a love story, a phrase that would normally put me off a book, it is that but so much more. The story is told from both the characters viewpoints. It almost starts in the middle before going both backwards and forwards. Yet what could be a complicated structure is an absolutely flawless read which I suspect is testament to the quality of the writing.

The two main characters are both very intriguing. For the first half of the book I kept swinging between sympathy and irritation with them both, yet as the story weaved it’s way to the conclusion I was so deeply invested in the characters that I wanted nothing but a happy ending. Therefore as the twists kept getting more shocking the story just got more emotional.

There is a great sense of place within the novel. The descriptions of Zimbabwee and especially those of the sunrises that Ben enjoys are so vivid you almost feel like you are about to open the door onto a lion.

Louise Beech is a fabulous writer and her novels are definitely ones that will stay with you for long after you have finished them. Whilst this is certainly not a standard murder mystery and so not my usual fare I think this novel could quite possibly be my favourite book of the year.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost is available now.

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Death Rope by Leigh Russell – a review BLOG TOUR

I love a good crime story and I love living in York. Therefore any book that combines these two things is going to be winner for me. So I was very pleased to be invited onto the blog tour for Leigh Russell’s latest novel ‘Death Rope’

Death Rope is the latest in the series starring Geraldine Steele. She has moved to York after being demoted and is struggling with the fact that she no longer has the authority to go her own way in investigations. When Mark Abbot is found hanging at his home it is at first assumed to be a suicide. However his sister Amanda is adamant that he wouldn’t take his own life and suspicion points to his wife. Geraldine wants to investigate but it is not until Amanda goes missing that she can persuade the rest of the team to take an interest.

I very much enjoyed this story. Although it is obvious that the suicide is going to turn out to be more complicated than it seems (it would be a pretty short crime novel otherwise) the rest of the story doesn’t take any obvious routes. The novel starts relatively slowly but manages to hook you in from the beginning as the pace begins to quicken and the twists start coming.

The character of Geraldine is interesting. Death Rope is the eleventh in the series and although I have a read a few of the previous ones I haven’t yet read them all. However there is enough detail in Death Rope about Geraldine and her previous life that you can happily read this as a standalone. She is quite a sad character I felt. Clearly very lonely living in a new city, and trying to balance the demands of two tricky sisters, both with their own albeit different baggage. You get the impression that she isn’t particularly happy especially as she has been demoted and she is quite reserved which obviously doesn’t help with making new friends. Yet she is also smart with a good eye for a case.

This is a nice easy to read police procedural that is well written. The story keeps you guessing until the end. I would highly recommend this series. Find out Leigh’s top ten crime drama’s here: https://acrimereadersblog.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=2125&action=edit

Death Rope is available on Amazon.

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Dead Lock by Damien Boyd – a review BLOG TOUR

I have to admit that I had actually never heard of Damien Boyd prior to receiving an email inviting me to the blog tour. However the premise of the book sounded too good to pass up so I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for the novel Dead Lock.

Ten year old Alesha Daniels is reported missing by her father. Her mother is a  known drug user with a boyfriend that the police want to interview. However as the hunt for Alesha starts to become more desperate another girl goes missing. DI Nick Dixon is on holiday in the Lake District with his partner Jane. Alesha was known to social services and Jane is part of the safeguarding coordination unit so has to come home early. When a second girl is reported missing Nick knows the family so heads straight home and soon starts clashing with his superiors when he links the two cases.

This was a really interesting story that continually had me changing my mind as to the outcomes. Dead Lock is the 8th novel  from Damien Boyd and I believe they all feature Detective Nick Dixon. However there is enough back story that you don’t feel you are missing out. For me personally all it means is that I now want to go back and read all the novels. 

Although Dead Lock doesn’t start as a classic murder mystery this was a novel that sucks you in. The story is a slow burner but that isn’t a negative as this was one of those books that you realise you are still reading at 2  o’clock in the morning desperate to find out what happens. I enjoyed the characters and even though I’m new to them I soon cared about what happened and became engaged in their lives. I have to admit to there being the odd element that didn’t really fit, such as the police consulting with a hippy who has visions. However that may be me missing something from previous books. 

Overall this was a good read that introduced me to a new pair of protagonists that I will definitely be following in future.

Dead Lock is available on amazon  

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The Good Twin by Marti Green – a review

I was invited to review this via the publisher and the premise certainly sounded interesting.

Two twins were born and one was given up for adoption. Mallory stayed with her mother who struggled to make ends meet. Now her mother is dead and Mallory is working as a waitress (am I the only person who can’t say that line without wanting to burst into song – if you are under 40 don’t answer that question and go and google The Human League instead) When someone mistakes  Mallory for someone else she tries to track down her twin sister. Charley was adopted into a wealthy family and is now married to Ben who works at her father’s company. Ben however has other ideas and has a proposal for Mallory that could change all their lives.

This novel was a real dilemma for me. On the one hand the writing and the story kept me enthralled until the end. I was instantly drawn into the characters of the twins and was interested to know how it would pan out. Ben is a great villain hatching a truly despicable plot in order to keep the lifestyle that he has become accustomed to. As the story progresses he gets more dastardly and the twists and turns keep coming..

However that’s why I’m in a bit of a dilemma with this review. As I’m afraid that some of the plot does require a bit of suspension of belief. Firstly someone tells Mallory that she looks the spitting image of their friend. From that she jumps immediately to the conclusion that she has a twin sister. Really? A few people over the years have told me they have seen my doppelganger in York, including people who know me extremely well. Now whilst I suppose there is a chance I have a twin sister around I think it’s probably much more likely that there is just someone who looks me.

Plus Ben as a villain was just a bit too cartoonish for me. The whole plot seemed so far fetched that it was comical rather than thrilling. However that is not to say I didn’t enjoy it, I did very much so. You just need to read it as it is, a piece of fiction with a good story!

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