Tag Archives: crime fiction

Mr Jones by Alex Woolf – a review

When this book dropped through my door courtesy of Indie Novella it was definitely intriguing. The cover being a suited and booted man with a panda head.

Mr Jones begins with Ben and his daughter on their way to school. It’s ten months since the sudden disappearance of Ben’s wife and he’s still struggling to come to terms with it whilst parenting his eight year old daughter Imogen. When he finds a strange young girl who appears to be living on her own in a derelict house it is the start of a descent into a weird and scary place. Ben starts to hear odd noises in the house, and Imogen begins to receive messages from her mother.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. Originally I’d just left it on the shelf but the cover kept calling me so I gave it a go, which I’m very glad I did. As all my regular readers of the blog will know (Hi Mr T and the Sister – don’t think I’ve missed anyone!) I’m not a fan of the supernatural and don’t usually like a supernatural ending. However this book was absolutely superb and without giving too much away personally the ending can be interpreted in different ways. Supernatural or human breakdown? I confess that for the first couple of pages I wasn’t immediately gripped but a chapter in and I was hooked.

The story focuses on Ben who is struggling to cope after his wife goes missing. He is a really interesting character that I felt huge sympathy for, yet at the same time I was frustrated by some of his actions. His interactions with the other parents sometimes took turns that made me want to shout no at the page, but his relationship with his daughter was one of love yet desperation.

As I’ve said it’s difficult to review without giving too much away. One of the elements I really liked was the ambiguity around both the story and the characters. There was a real sense of menace coming off the page at points and the ending was equally thrilling and frustrating in equal measure.
I would definitely recommend Mr Jones if you want a gripping yet unsettling story.

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The House Uptown by Melissa Ginsburg – a review

I was sent a copy of this from Faber and Faber Ltd and despite not being my usual style of crime I thought it sounded intriguing.

Teenage Ava is sent to live with her grandmother after the death of her mother. Not only does Ava have to leave her home and everything she knows, she is going to live with a woman she has barely met. Grandmother Lane is an artist who is ill equipped to look after herself let alone a teenage girl. Lane already relies heavily on her assistant Oliver who seems to be the perfect help for them both but tensions soon start to simmer to the surface and Ava become suspicios that maybe Oliver isn’t the person he pretends to be.

This was an utterly compelling story that I really enjoyed. It was part character study and part crime story that weaved its way between past and present as we gradually uncover the story that was behind the estrangement between Lane and her daughter as well as learn more about Lane’s relationship with her partner.

I found all of the characters fascinating in their own way. Ava was a quiet unassuming child who had been put in a situation where she had to grow up quickly. Lane elicted both sympathy and frustration from me. Clearly she was struggling with her own health but won’t admit she’s suffering. Instead she chooses to self medicate and practically ignore her granddaughter and her grief. Oliver is a hard character to pin down, on the one hand it seems that he really cares for Lane, but equally there is a side of him that seems difficult to trust.

The novel is set in New Orleans and I loved the way the setting rumbled in the background giving a sense of history and providing a bit of colour in the otherwise sightly grey world of the book. The writing was impeccable and I felt it flowed seamlessly. The book flitted between present day and the late 90’s where we gradually uncovered more about Lane’s background and what led to the falling out with her daughter.

I very much enjoyed this story and the end was something I didnt see coming. I would highly recommend this intriguing and emotional novel.

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Faceless by Vanda Symon – a review BLOG TOUR

I have been a fan of Vanda Symon since I saw her a few years ago at the Harrogate Crime Festival and have very much enjoyed her Sam Shepherd series so was looking forward to reading her latest.

Faceless is a stand alone novel set in New Zealand, that was an absolute cracker. It tells the story of three very different characters who’s lives collide with devastating consequences. Billy is a homeless artist who has to make money to survive anyway she can. Bradley is an office worker with a dark side that even he didn’t realise existed until a fateful night. Max has become Billy’s friend and despite living an unseen life now he’s having to come out of the shadows and face his demons to save a life.

Faceless was a story that I’ll be honest I was not expecting. I agreed to the tour because of the author and started reading without checking the blurb so it was certainly something unexpected, and all the better for it. What starts as a story of three separate people all in their own way completely ‘faceless’ to society, soon becomes a terrifying tale of kidnap, violence, mental health crisis and more.

The story is told mainly from the perspective of the three main characters with the chapters flitting backwards and forwards. Gradually the back story of the characters is revealed and the reasons they are in the situations they are becomes apparent. This was very much a character led story yet the plot was impeccable. The story was interesting and the writing was flawless. The face that it was told from the different viewpoints meant that you almost felt that you were learning about the characters at the same time as they were learning about themselves and what they were capable of.

This is a really difficult story to review because it was harrowing but it was absolutely compelling and a fantastic change from her usual police procedural. I would highly recommend this as one of the best books I’ve read for a while.

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Death of a Valentine

So today is Valentine’s Day (just in case you weren’t aware with the plethora of fake pink hearts and sickly coloured balloons hung everywhere) I’m not really a fan of the day myself. Whether single or not I find any kind of enforced ‘fun’ very offputting and valentines is no exception. As soon as February rolls around the price of flowers doubles, you can’t find a birthday card for love nor money as Valentines day tat takes over Clinton’s and all restaurants up their prices and start advertising their menus with ridiculous names, a burger is a burger even if it’s served in a pink bun and called a lurve burger.

Even if you can afford to go out you have to book 6 months in advance as couples who spend the rest of the year ignoring each other feel the need to go out on the 14th. Then if you do go out, the pressure to be ‘insta’ ready and look like you are having the best time is just too much, lets be honest after a couple of years together most of us would rather just sit in front of the tv scrolling through twitter than listening to piped musak paying double the price for a meal.

Personally I’d rather spend the night reading a good book (lucky old Mr F) so if that’s you, here’s my top 5 anti-Valentine books in no particular order.

My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite A fabulous story. Admittedly there are probably easier ways to break up with someone but this is how to do it with style.

He’s just not that into you by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo Ok so this isn’t a crime fiction book, however it is one that I would recommend every single woman should read, it will change your life. (or just watch the film!) Simple but effective

Sweetpea by C J Skuse More of my normal style, this is the perfect read for anyone who has ever sat around seething about some minor gripe and hoping to do something about it. I love this series that’s been described as Bridget Jones meets Killing Eve.

Psychopaths Anonymous Just a fabulous confident woman who kills people who gets in her way. A great story with a great character. What’s not to like.

Heartsick by Chelsea Cain One of my favourite series of all time, Who doesn’t love a kick ass serial killer, and Gretchen Lowell is certainly that.

Of course that’s just my selection of non-valentine I’m sure there are lots more, but remember a love of female serial killers is for life not just February 14th!

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