Tag Archives: crime fiction review

The Shadow Friend by Alex North – a review

Back in March I attended the Hull Noir online event which not only had some great guests but also a link up with a bookshop to offer signed books, which of course I can never resist especially when it includes the latest by one of my favourite authors, Alex North.

The Shadow Friend is the second book by writer Alex North. The story starts when Paul returns to his home town for the first time 25 years after he left. Returning to visit his mother he is surrounded by memories he has tried hard to forget. However the day his friend Charlie committed a terrible crime isn’t easy to forget especially when it appears there is a copycat criminal now operating.

The Shadow Friend is a creepy read that had me hooked from the start. It is one of those books where when you look back actually the ‘action’ isn’t that much. It is the quality of the writing that gives it a really immersive quality where the tension crackles off the page.

There are two different timelines as we find out about Paul both past and present. In the present we follow Paul dealing with his ailing mother who has been moved into a hospice as well as the creaks and threats that seem to be all around him. A younger Paul is coping with moving to a new school and trying to fit in whilst not being certain he actually wants to. As things get more and more creepy he pulls away but is never really let go.

I felt for the character of Paul, he came across as lonely and lost. Clearly despite moving away he has never managed to put the past behind him and it has affect his whole life. His lonliness almost gives the story an extra dimension as it makes it feel quite a claustrophobic tale as we get further inside his head.

I really enjoyed the book and the short chapters ending on cliff hangers kept me up late every night as I just wanted to read more. Throughout the story there is an undercurrent of the supernatural which adds to the uneasy feeling you get as you head to the final reveal. I didn’t see the ending coming at all. However as soon as you look back you realise that the clues where there but easily missed.

I throughly enjoyed this story and without wanting to give anything anyway there were some twists that I was completely blindsided by. I would highly recommend this, and if you haven’t yet read his first The Whisper Man then that should also be added to your pile!

You can get your copy of The Shadow Friend here.

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Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner – a review BLOG TOUR

I am a huge fan of Lisa Gardner so I was delighted to be invited onto the blog tour for her latest book, Before She Disappeared.

In Before She Disappeared we are introduced to Frankie. She dedicates her life to searching for missing people when everyone else has given up. Her latest case brings her to Boston where a young Haitian immigrant Angelique vanished a year ago. Frankie takes a job behind a local bar that comes with accommodation (as well as a rather feral room mate). She starts to look into the case despite a luke warm reception from the missing girls family and hostility from the Boston PD, and soon realises there is more to this case than just a runaway teenager.

Before She Disappeared was a great read that I raced through. The story was interesting with lots of red herrings scattered throughout and I enjoyed the way it seemed to change pace, one minute it is quite slow and the investigation has almost stalled, the next we are in the middle of a gun chase. Whilst the background of the story is quite bleak, as with all of Lisa Gardner’s writings there are elements of humour throughout, and it’s a testament to the skill of the author that the two can sit side by side.

It is a standalone book that was very character focused. I really liked the main character of Frankie, of course she is flawed. An ex-alcoholic with a past that haunts her, she acts with little regard to her own life, yet there was something about her that I really warmed to. Her interaction with other characters shows different sides to her from the tough investigator, to the caring friend.

I very much enjoyed this book and although this is currently a standalone I do hope we haven’t seen the last of Frankie Elkin.

To find out what others thought of Before She Disappeared don’t forget to visit the other stops on the blog tour.

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The Mother’s by Sarah J Naughton – a review

I find Christmas an odd break. I had two weeks off work, so therefore you’d think I’d have loads of time, yet it always disappears in a flash of seeing people, drinking and the constant round of ‘how was Christmas, what are you doing for new year’. Therefore although I’ve managed to fit in a bit of reading my reviewing has really gone done the pan. Despite being someone who refuses to make New Year’s resolutions, if I was going to make one it would be to review more in 2020. So I am kicking off 2020 with a great novel, The Mother’s by Sarah J Naughton.

The MothersI have had this on my TBR pile for ages, however to be honest the idea of four mothers in a novel put me off picking it up. I assumed it would be a lot of women moaning on about children and motherhood and how tired they are etc. However I couldn’t have been more wrong. This was a story of four women who had met because they were pregnant at the same time, and became friends. Skip to four years later and the friendship is still growing strong, until one of the husbands goes missing. The police are stumped as to where he has gone, and talking to the friends throws up more questions than answers. Are they really such good friends? Would they keep each others secrets?

I read this quickly in a couple of sittings as I found it really drew me in. The characters were an odd bunch of people. You knew that on paper they didn’t work as friends, but then you also know in real life often the most unlikely people form strong bonds for a ariety of reasons. I enjoyed the style of writing that seamlessly switched between then and now as the secrets were gradually unfolded.

I enjoyed all the characters, although I wasn’t too keen on the detective Iona. She didn’t seem very well rounded to me, and spent more time worrying about her love life than actually focusing on the crime. However that is only a minor criticism and actually the police investigation is a very small part of this story. They mystery unravels through the viewpoints of the women, and I found myself frequently changing my mind as to what was happening.

This was a very accomplished debut novel that I would very much recommend. The Mother’s is available on amazon

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Dead Inside by Noelle Holten – a review

As a blogger I am lucky to have virtually (and in some cases physically) met lots of fantastic bookie people. One of these was Noelle Holten, aka Crime Book Junkie. Therefore last week I was looking to stock up my kindle ahead of week of train journeys and her debut novel ‘Dead Inside’ was the first thing I searched for.
Denoellead Inside introduces us to DC Maggie Jamieson and her friend Probation Officer Lucy Sherwood. To the outside world Lucy has a great life. She has a good job, a doting husband and 2 happy step-children. Yet behind closed doors Lucy lives in fear of her abusive husband.  Maggie has recently moved to a new team, the Domestic Abuse and Homicide Unit. She is keen to make her mark with her new colleagues and her first case starts with  the murder of a known domestic abuser. As more bodies appear it seems there are links to Lucy but are things as they seem?

Dead Inside caught my interest from the start and didn’t let up. The story was intriguing, and it was clear that the knowledge Noelle must have gained from her years in the probation service added a great sense of authenticity to the novel. The story itself is quite brutal and in parts quite hard to read, which to me is exactly how it should be given the subject matter. 

The two main characters were a great pairing. I personally found the character of Maggie a little annoying. During the briefing her eagerness to please and jump in with questions was frustrating to read, yet it gave a good insight into her character. Lucy on the other hand I had huge sympathy for, her character was clearly in turmoil. Having to deal with horrendous criminals during the day, and having to deal with her husband at home, the pressure that she was under just poured off the page. There were quite a lot of peripheral characters that were hard to keep track of at times, but that says more about my memory than anything about the writing. Towards the end of the novel, as all the strands start to come together you realise that all the characters have their own part to play in creating the story.

Dead Inside was an incredibly accomplished novel, and I can’t wait to read Noelle’s next one and to find out what is next for Maggie and Lucy.

You can find Dead Inside and the follow up Dead Wrong here. 

 

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