Monday, 17 February 2020

Mystery Walk by Melissa Bowersock

Never mind that I've been congratulating myself on reading the sixteenth book in a series, Bowersock has written sixteen books in a series (well, 25 or 26 actually…I'm a smidge behind!), which is really what blows my mind. How she keeps them fresh and original is truly awesome. If someone had asked me which was my favourite, I'd have been very hard pressed to pick one…until now. I think this one has to be it. We see the fun side of our spirit-sleuthing investigators, Sam and Lacey, when they are invited to a murder-mystery weekend. Lacey rather smugly thinks it's going to be a piece of cake. She is, after all, an ex-LAPD detective, so she surely has a headstart. But it doesn't quite turn out like that at all…especially when pleasure unexpectedly gets mixed with business. 

Karma Walk by Melissa Bowersock

My regular fix of sleuths-with-a-difference, Lacey and Sam, in book number 15, in which they're met with two surprises: one, Sam's son wants to put his L-plates on and follow in his father's footsteps, and two, their investigation into the mystery why a dead policeman's ghost is appearing at a beach he used to patrol leads them to encounter not just his ghost, but that of a young girl who died there many years previously.

All I need to do is pull out my usual compliments for Bowersock's writing: neat, tidy, concise, easy to read, engaging, original, complete. The Lacey-and-Sam novellas are like a literal Tardis. Small on the outside but huge on the inside!


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Sunday, 9 February 2020

The Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware

I haven't read a Ruth Ware book before and was totally smitten by her writing skill. Her characters are well developed and she articulately sets a scene with powerful description. She injects suspense, atmosphere and a fascinating compulsion in her prose. I was glued to this from start to finish. There's a charming aura of old-fashionedness in her writing. It's not glaringly obvious, but every now and then, you find yourself thinking, oooh!, there it is again.

There's a little complexity about the plot, not simplified by two characters having very similar names, but keep your wits about you and it's all fine! 

Tarot reader, Hal, receives a letter informing her she been bequeathed an inheritance from her recently deceased grandmother. But she knows full well that the wrong Hal has received the letter. Her deceased mother's parents have long been dead…and they certainly didn't have any assets worth bequeathing. But…what if…what if she goes along with it? She has some serious financial woes, and this might just be the answer to her problems. However, no sooner has she arrived at her 'grandmother's' funeral, than she realises the house harbours some appalling secrets and perhaps her financial situation is better solved another way, however desperate and serious it is. 

There's almost a Hitchcock-like atmosphere about this book: think lots of magpies, bleak, dark architecture, fog, rain, cold, frost…and bolts on the outside of bedroom doors…and you'll get the picture. Oh, and a totally dysfunctional family. 

I'm definitely going to read more by this author.


Sunday, 19 January 2020

Her Name was Rose by Claire Allan

I dived into this a bit blind. I skimmed the blurb and thought, well, it's on my Kindle, it must have caught my attention for some reason, so here goes. No more than a couple of pages in, and I was hooked. This falls easily into the page-turner category. 

Emily witnesses a tragic hit and run. Emily is a fragile person with a troubled past and finds herself fascinated by Rose's, the victim's, life. It's there for the world to see on her Facebook page. It's the perfect, idyllic life, and she was the perfect, idyllic wife and mother, virtually beatified by her husband and all who knew her. Especially her husband. Emily's life was a bit of a train wreck, so…what if she stepped into Saint Rose's shoes? But no one really knows what goes on behind a stage of perfection.

This rolls along at a consistently good pace, it's tense, suspenseful and keeps you guessing. You find yourself pointing at one character, and then no, that 's a a red herring, it must the other one…or is it?!  Very skilfully written, with depth and feeling. 

Compelling, thrilling and emotionally charged. I was totally addicted, and I'm certainly going to read more by this author. 

The only reason I haven't given this five stars is because there were one too many grammatical blunders: and I'll never let off a 'was sat' lightly. Really does make my nose twitch.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Missing Pieces by Laura Pearson

This was dreary, dismal, depressing. The focus of the story is a terrible tragedy that befalls the Sadler family; fair enough, but the pace is slow, irritatingly so, and there's little to evoke any sympathy, empathy or affection for any of the characters. 

The death of a three-year-old has a devastating effect on the whole family…seemingly for twenty-five years. The circumstances of the tragedy aren't actually revealed until about 94% into the book, so a bit of commitment is required if you want to find out the tragedy behind the tragedy…and I very nearly gave up. The characters are dull, self-centred and barely carried me through the fog of colourlessness. 

However, it's very clear Pearson can write: articulately and intensely. But the loss that forms the heart of this novel is handled too heavily and monotonously. Even when I reached the great reveal…finally…finally!...I had a touch of the 'oh, is that it?'. Just a tad anticlimactic.

Promising debut for Pearson, without doubt, but I really don't like having to work so hard to connect with characters. this case.


On the Run by Scott Stevens

'Said to be one of the best releases of 2018.' Always risky to make such a bold statement: it's a lot for a book to live up to.  In this case, well...

What we have here is a successful author, Dwight Cobb, who unwittingly finds himself on the run from a dangerous drug cartel, courtesy of his unfaithful wife. The plot, actually, is not at all bad. But what I read was a book that is still a WIP.

The story is told. 'Told' being the key word here. Told but not shown. Not one bit of showing at all. The dialogue is heavy and laboured, and anything more than two sentences is like a sermon. And the repeated use of the name of the character being spoken to is incredibly annoying. Out of two characters in a scene, it's obvious who's speaking and who's being addressed.

Grammar and punctuation need a complete overhaul. I have a suspicion that this might have been self-edited.

It's very hard to feel anything for any of the characters. None are particularly well portrayed, and I found it hard to care if the cartel caught up with Dwight or not. As for Rosa, the cartel boss, despite the effort to portray her as ruthless, heartless and quite the bitch, she comes  over no more frightening than a strict teacher who gives you a few too many detentions.  

For all that, I maintain the plot really does have legs because, despite my apathy towards Dwight, I was, strangely, compelled to find out what happened to him, good or bad. So, well done, Mr S, for making me care about the outcome, even if I didn't care about poor old Dwight. Keeping the reader engaged is half the battle. But I really would urge the author to get some developmental and technical editors on board to make this a really good book. And I'll forgive the shamelessly not-so-subtle but almost endearlingly cheeky self-promotion within it!

Thursday, 12 December 2019

In the Dark by Cara Hunter

I enjoyed Hunter's first Adam Fawley novel, albeit with a few reservations, so I was quite keen to read another. I still have those same reservations, alas. Firstly, the present tense is completely incongruous here. I don't like it at the best of times (whatever poison the Evil Fairy gave Sleeping Beauty would be ideal for the present tense: let's just put it to sleep for the next hundred years). Just doesn't work here. The POVs are a mess: Adam is first-person POV, but there are third-person POVs too. Whilst I've read many books with the same mix, here it's all a bit unstructured and random and doesn't fit together well. 

It's an okay story: a bit convoluted, relying somewhat on coincidence and some rather unbelievable plot twists. Unnecessary when I actually had a pretty good idea who the culprit was halfway through. 

Like the first Fawley book, there are chunks of text (TV/Press reports) in a very pale grey which were almost illegible on my Kindle (what is the purpose of it?). 

I would also recommend Hunter/her editor(s) have a closer look at where Bristol is. I live there. And it's not 'on the coast', as one character declares. 

Will I read Adam Fawley #3? Yes: if the formatting is checked, if the present tense is ditched and if the author has gets herself better editors (coastal Bristol isn't the only blip). That may well be too many ifs.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Killing It by Asia MacKay

What a line to open a book with: 'I pull my pistol out of my striped Cath Kidston nappy bag.' I was intrigued, at the same time hoping this was not going to be a rather clichéd, cheesy attempt at portraying a kick-arse heroine. It only took another couple of paragraphs to realise that, on the contrary, it was going to turn out to be rather engaging. 

Going back to work after maternity leave isn't unusual. Thousands, millions even, of women do it. But, Alexis Tyler is mum to rosy-cheeked, squiggy-cheeked, all-round scrummy little Gigi…in one life. In her other, secret, unbeknownst-to-husband-Will life, she's a highly trained secret agent, risking her life for queen and country, killing whoever needs to be eliminated in the interests of national security. And day one back on job means being thrown right back in at the deep end with a dangerous assignment. That's absolutely fine as long as she can get home to say nighty night to her most treasured possession. 

Despite the element of domesticity this was a thriller and a half: fast-paced, gripping, compelling. At the heart of it, is Alexis: dedicated to her job, the best at what she does, fiercely protective of those she loves and vehemently dismissive of the words 'can't' and 'no'. 

I really should knock off a star for the rather slack editing, but I really enjoyed the book. It was very evident that the author is a mother and infused the necessary credibility to the work-family tug-of-war Alexis faced. The ending is cheekily tantalising, which means I'll certainly be reading the next Alexis Tyler book.

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Dakota Burn by DV Berkom

Here she is again: Leine Basso, taking you on a roller-coaster ride, making your heart stop, taking your breath away and giving you the odd tummy-wobble...without leaving the comfort of your best reading spot: sofa/bed/sun lounger! 

Number eight in the series, there's no letting up in thrills, spills, action, shoot-outs and despicable, evil criminals: child sex-traffickers this time and Leine pairs up with old colleague, Derek, to take down this dangerous ring of unscrupulous, amoral, disgusting men.

Unsavoury and unpalatable though the subject is, in the hands of this brilliant author, the atrocity of the crime and its perpetrators is moulded into a story that stages her writing skills at their very best. Leine may be our girl with bomb-proof armour, but we love her because of her heart and passion for obliterating scum. 

As always, gripping, fast-paced with edge-of-your-seat action. Berkom has only one standard: excellence.