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Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Shadowcast by V. P. Morris

 

This is an enjoyable psychological thriller. We, the readers, know from page one that Freddy did the deed. Dakota Kilroy, an out-of-work journalist investigating the unsolved disappearance of her best friend some twelve years earlier, doesn't know what we know. The story is told through two POVs: Dakota's and Freddy's. How Dakota unfolds the events leading up to Maddy's fate and how Freddy does his best to thwart her investigation is what keeps this story compelling and intriguing to the end.

Morris has compiled a full and varied list of characters from Dakota, the driven and persistent investigative journalist who couldn't be any more different to her mother and sisters, to the warped and twisted Freddy and his long-suffering mother, now having to relent to some of the less-pleasant gifts of aging.

I'll be honest: there are a couple of 'hmm, really?' moments, where the plot hits a few conveniences and improbabilities, but, hey, it's fiction, and my enjoyment of a story that never loses momentum makes them pale into insignificance.

This is a debut novel and one that has assured a place for Morris in my 'read more of' list. I'm pretty sure Dakota and her compulsion to dig deep has many more gripping adventures for us to savour.






Tuesday, 12 October 2021

The Hunted by Jo McCready

This is a well-written and well-thought-out thriller, and although it's fairly easy, at an early stage, to work out how the victim died, it's compelling right to the end.

It's an intriguing story about the mysterious death of a wealthy businessman on a hunting trip in the Scottish highlands. A tragic accident is the verdict that is completely unacceptable to his widow, whose brother employs a virtually untraceable agency specialising in just this sort of investigation. Agent RJ Rox is assigned the case. And it's a tricky one, not least because Scotland holds some bad memories for her, and she and her co-investigator have some rather awkward history.

Scotland is a beautiful backdrop to any story, but I didn't feel it: there isn't enough scenic description to transport you to the really magical countryside that Scotland has, and perhaps the Scottish locals' dialogue could have had some Scottish spelling and words to get a feel of the lilt. But that really is my only niggle. The pace is fast, the main characters are strong and interesting and oh, what was that on the last page…a teensy little lead-in for an RJ thriller #2?

I do hope so: McCready has created a character in RJ you want to get to know better and find out what makes her tick. I'm ready and waiting for #2.







Monday, 11 October 2021

Poison in the Pills by August Raine

This is a fast-paced thriller about scientist Jack Bright's race to prevent the release of a cure to treat a fast-growing illness amongst users of a street drug. Fuelled by his suspicion that the cure is flawed after a clinical trial ends tragically, he has to act fast and furiously. Framed, arrested, pursued, threatened, he has more than a few obstacles to surmount.

This is a well-written debut page turner with some strong characters and a good mix of goodies and baddies. And gosh, a couple of baddies, are bad, bad, bad. It keeps you guessing…not quite to the end, as I had a fairly early inkling who Jack's nemesis was. However, the unfurling is exciting and nail-biting. I was slightly irritated by the thirty instances of dialogue being 'snarled'. Apart from the over-repetition, how does one snarl a sentence? You can say it and then snarl, but doing them both together is impossible…I tried.

Some reviewers have likened this story to our current Covid situation. But I couldn't disagree more. The illness ("the Itch") only affects users of a certain drug. All that said to me was that this was a story endorsing what we well know: taking recreational drugs usually ends badly. 

There are a couple of little loose threads at the end. This isn't a criticism, however: it leaves the door very, very slightly ajar for us to enjoy Jack Bright in a new adventure. And there is a couple of characters who haven't quite finished with him. Satisfyingly tantalising!

This is an impressive debut, and I'm certainly keen to read more by this author.

AMAZON UK
AMAZON US






Monday, 27 September 2021

Lost Time by Winona Kent

Jason Davey Mystery #3…I gather, not having read #1 and #2, he's a keen missing-persons investigator. In this, his third case, he's asked to find out the truth about a young teenager who went missing some 45 years earlier whilst on holiday in Spain. He has to jump through quite a number of hoops to get to the truth, and people are not quite what they seem to be—all this while performing with his parents' band on their farewell tour.

It's a compelling story and you do have to stay alert: there are a number of characters to be introduced to, and there's quite a sway towards the band's music: its hits, the arrangements of those hits, the members past and present, etc. It's an interesting backdrop to Jason's investigative adventure.

It's a well-written and constructed story and motors along at a good pace and is very enjoyable. There are a few naughty grammatical errors, but when you get priceless lines like: “Where in the withering tits of Nell Gwyn’s strumpet arse are you?”, well, you can forgive them, can't you? There I was, nearing the conclusion of a really good book with a satisfying ending, and then I stumbled on that line. Thank heavens I wasn't drinking coffee at the time: I would have been all a-splutter!

I might have to catch up with Jason in books #1 and #2.  And hopefully #4!




 

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Handsome by Theresa Jacobs

 

This was an enjoyable crime thriller. It's a smidge shorter than your average book, but there's no skimping anywhere…and the only thing that alerted me to the number of pages was that I finished the book sooner than I finish most, and I wondered how I'd managed that.

It's very neatly constructed and plotted. A serial killer, a particularly handsome one, is killing couples with a certain penchant, and Detective Marcy Gagon is the lead in the case. Her instincts are good, but her personal life and an uncooperative chief of police threaten to throw her off kilter.

There's a good balance of focus between personal and professional. It's an easy, smooth, effortless read without an overly complicated plot. The characters are credible and well portrayed. It's a book with a satisfying pace and ending.

I love seeing that '#1' after the subheading…'Detective Gagon Novel #1' because it means, hopefully, there will be a '#2'. I'll be all over that!

AMAZON UK



Criss Cross by James Patterson

I've surprised myself: I'm an avid thriller/crime/suspense reader and yet, have managed somehow to not read a James Patterson. I've seen him rated, compared to and recommended, but my radar failed to pick him up. I don't know how that happened.

Net Galley kindly provided me with a copy of this book. However, I'm not going to thank them for the appalling copy. The pdfs were sprawled over about ten pages, words ran into each other: in short, a complete mess. If you're going to hand out books to get honest reviews then give them properly formatted and well-edited versions. My copy was unreadable.

I wobbled a bit when I saw that this was #27 of the Alex Cross books…an FBI consultant. But it stands alone perfectly. My first JP book has got me rather smitten, and I can see I'm going to be lining up a lot of his books to read. I like his writing: it's uncomplicated, direct, and easy to read. Here, Cross is being taunted by the elusive 'M', a gruesome, soulless, evil serial killer. It's fast-paced and compelling.

As I haven't read any other Patterson books, I can't compare it to any of his others. All I can say is, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it has certainly given me a taste for more of his books.








Thursday, 2 September 2021

The Perfect Betrayal by Lauren North

 

Although this was really quite good, it was let down by poor editing. A message for North's editor: read your grammar book and you won't miss 'was sat, was stood', you'll learn the difference between lay and lie (argh!), and learn about object pronouns: 'Dylan gave Tim and I'. ('And me', for heaven's sake!...another argh!)  But as an editor, you should know all this already.

Unfortunately, this was in present-tense narrative. Bad choice at any time, but especially with first person POV.

But, but, but, this is a compelling story about tragically widowed Tess Clarke, so desperately immersed in her grief and loss that she struggles to look after herself, let alone her son, Jamie. The effects are devastating and serious for her.

The circumstances of Tess's husband echo the real-life crash in the French Alps six years ago, and the ending has some similarities to a certain film starring Bruce Willis (I'll leave it there!). Nonetheless, it's a gripping book, and poor editing aside, it's a healthy start to a writing career.

Will I read any more of North's books? I'm not sure. I don't suffer bad editing gladly.




Wednesday, 1 September 2021

A Plague of Traitors by D Berkom

Leine Basso thrillers (well, any Berkom novel!) come with a guarantee: a guarantee that you're going to absolutely love it. And #11 of Basso's hairy assignments is just as compelling, fast-paced and packed with sheer enjoyment.

Number 11! Blimey, the lass must be getting on a bit now! (Basso, that is.) However, she's still at the top of her game, and this time, she and her team are racing against the clock to prevent a ruthless terrorist doing the unthinkable with a Russian-made bioweapon. A very very lethal bioweapon.

There's no let-up with the pace of this thriller. It's an exhilarating ride from the outset and completely faultless. Strong characters are part of a strong, solid and scary plot: scary because it's not a million miles away from the realms of possibility. 

The trouble is, the thrills, spills and nail-biting action is over all too soon because you just have to race through this book. And all that does is leave you hoping that Leine's next adventure is just around the corner.



See Also:

Berkom, DV - A Killing Truth
Berkom, DV - A One Way Ticket to Dead
Berkom, DV - Absolution
Berkom, DV - Bad Spirits
Berkom, DV - Bad Traffick
Berkom, DV - Cargo
Berkom, DV - Claire Whitcombe Westerns, Books 1-3
Berkom, DV - Cruising for Death
Berkom, DV - Dakota Burn
Berkom, DV - Dark Return
Berkom, DV - Kate Jones Thriller Series Vol. 1
Berkom, DV - Serial Date
Berkom, DV - Shadow of the Jaguar
Berkom, DV - The Body Market
Berkom, DV - The Last Deception
Berkom, DV - Vigilante Dead
Berkom, DV - Yucatán Dead

 

 

Monday, 16 August 2021

The Last Widow by Karin Slaughter


This was my third rendezvous with Ms Slaughter. I'm a bit late to the Will Trent party and jumped in at #10 then read this, #9. Wrong way round but no less enjoyable.

I enjoyed this as much Pieces of Her and The Silent Wife. Slaughter knows how to nudge you to the edge of your seat and keep you there from the first word to the last. This certainly has suspense and intensity: Investigator Will Trent and medical-examiner-girlfriend Sara have to battle with unscrupulous extremists who are prepared to cause massive loss of life to get their message across. Things get even more serious when Sara is abducted by the same fanatics and Will has to put his own life in danger to save her.

Slaughter's attention to detail and meticulous research results in longish books, but the fast pace and drama mean you barely notice and just enjoy the ride.

I'm afraid I'm very fastidious about the editorial quality of books and did notice grammatical errors in the other two books of hers I've read. But there are many in this. The editor failed to net obvious ones, e.g.: lay/lie blunders (common in a lot of American books), a chord/cord misspell, a less/fewer mistake, a 'between you and I' (ugh! 'me' not I!), no understanding of adjective/adverb usage and many more. I got the feeling the editor only gave the manuscript one pass: any editor worth his/her salt would have caught those very basic errors on a second or third pass.

What does this mean for me and Ms S going forward? Hm. Not sure. Her books are certainly enjoyable and recommendable, errors notwithstanding. Having read three on the trot, perhaps I'll have a little break and come back to her in a while.
 


See Also:


Wednesday, 21 July 2021

The Silent Wife by Karin Slaughter

 

My second Slaughter book…but my first Will Trent one. It seems there are nine preceding this one. However, it's perfectly stand-alone.

Though enjoyable, my first Slaughter read (Pieces of Her), has a few grammatical errors. They made my nose twitch a bit but didn't annoy. However, the same and other errors kept appearing in this book and got rather irritating. Other niggles: the back and forth between two time frames would be much clearer if the chapters were dated. 'Atlanta' and 'Atlanta–Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday/etc.' is confusing. The former is the present, the latter eight years earlier. But the reader has to work it out! Secondly, there are at least three loose ends that aren't tidied up. Lastly…the book is long, really quite long. Whilst the length of a book isn't an issue, repetitiveness that makes it so, is. Some elements are overchurned.

That all said, this thriller was good (yes, really!):  captivating, shocking, chilling and intriguing. It did keep me glued to the very end…the identity of the serial perpetrator of the heinous rapes and murder of a larger number of women really did elude me…and I'm not half bad at guessing whodunnit well ahead of time!

Slaughter really is an excellent, articulate and meticulous writer. And actually, I'm just about to start my third book by her, so I guess that's testament to my fandom…niggles notwithstanding.




Wednesday, 7 July 2021

The Castle by Anne Montgomery

 

Montgomery is no stranger to me: Wild Horses on the Salt was my very enjoyable introduction to her writing. This book had me equally enthralled. It deals with the very distressing subject of rape and, importantly, the impact it has on the victims, in this case, Maggie. 
 
A gang rape has left her depressed, and later, the death of her young son tips her over the edge. Eventually, she goes back to her job as park ranger at The Castle, a famous ancient Native American site. The scars of her ordeal and tragedy are still there, however, and she does her best to ease herself back into normality. But there is a man in her circle who wants Maggie for his 'prize'.

One of the four men in her entourage is a serial rapist. And this is where Montgomery keeps you turning the pages: I went from, "Oh, I know who it is!" to "Ah, no, it's him…or perhaps not, it's him!" Quite a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between the 'suspects' went on! And you're kept guessing till the very end. At the same time, the author digs deep into Maggie the victim and her distress and grief and gives you a compelling and pretty amazing character.

The story is peppered with some interesting facts, too…who knew scuba-diving for scientific research could be so fascinating, along with the Montezuma Castle's history.

Rape is a hideous crime with some alarming victim statistics, but in this well-rounded novel, Montgomery handles it brilliantly.



Thursday, 24 June 2021

Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter

 

This is my first Karin Slaughter book, and I discovered, after reading this, she's a really busy lass! I chose one of three I had on my Kindle…it's a bit of a lucky dip, I reckon, when an author has written so many books. Did I choose the best one as an introduction? Will it encourage me to read more of this prolific writer? It seems I did choose well.

This is a fast-paced, psychological, crime thriller and gripping from the start with the tragically violent shooting in a café in which mother and daughter, Laura and Andrea, are caught. The event leads to an unfurling Andrea could never have imagined, leaving her to question just about every part of her mother's life. Laura's past explodes into the present like a grenade.

The characterisation is strong: characters to love, characters to hate, characters to pity, characters to admire. I have to admit Andrea is a tad irritating at the start: she's a bit…bland. Aimless, ambitionless, living in her mother's, Laura's, garage. At 31, she really makes you want to shake some life into her. But the attack in the café forces a turn of events that alters Andrea big time. Talk about character development!

Slaughter writes an exhilarating, addictive, suspenseful and unputdownable thriller. I'm already on my next one by this author!






Monday, 7 June 2021

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

I've read two Lisa Jewell books on the trot: this one followed The Night She Disappeared, which was my introduction to this author. And obviously, I was impressed enough to dive straight into another of her books.

This book has a couple of similarities: present-tense narrative (a stultifying bad choice), and a story told over two time frames. Okay, only two similarities and I may have coincidentally plucked two books from Jewell's works with the same ones, but it has wobbled my fandom just a smidge, if that's her m.o.

Adoptee, Libby, receives a life-changing letter on her twenty-fifth birthday in which she discovers her birth parents' identity and, more dramatically, that she has inherited a multi-million Chelsea mansion. A mansion that holds dark, life-changing secrets, secrets of events that took place twenty-five years earlier. What happened to the three dead bodies found in the kitchen? Why is there a healthy baby, alone, in a cot? Where are the other children neighbours said lived there? And what does it all mean for Libby?

It's a very compelling story with some extraordinarily compelling characters, and it's well told…for the most part: there were gaps and some 'what, really???' moments. Nevertheless, I did find myself eager to pick it up and read on. I'm not quite sure how I thought it would end, but it was all a bit too 'tidy'. Just a bit too happily ever after.

But…I did enjoy it. Jewell is quite the writer and, though you might not actually like some of her characters, she certainly gives them depth and dimension. When you can conjure up image a character in your head, that's certainly testament to a well-crafted portrayal.











Friday, 21 May 2021

The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell

 

Jewell was an unread-by-me author till now. It was certainly an explosive, but pleasant, introduction, although I do have some niggles.

The niggles: well, the civilian-turns-amateur-detective thing is a bit overdone, and when said civilian is also a writer of detective novels, it's all a bit clichéd. Secondly, the story is told over two time frames, only 18-24 months apart; the extremely unwelcome present-tense narrative not only makes that confusing, but the latter is also messy: there is no congruity within the earlier time frame…some of it is present tense, some of it isn't. I'm not a fan of PTN in any case, even less of a fan when it's inconsistent.

That aside, Jewell is a fantastic writer, and this is certainly a very compelling read with a cheeky little twist at the end.

As the title suggests, there is a disappearance. Teenage mum, Tallulah and her boyfriend, Zach, go to the party of a rich, privileged, self-entitled student, leaving their son with his grandmother, Kim (Tallulah's mum). It's the last time Kim sees either of them. Two years later, novelist Sophie and her head-teacher husband move into the same village. Whilst exploring the nearby woods, she finds a note tied to a tree inviting the reader of the note to 'dig here'. She can't for the life of her fathom why that note is so familiar. What she finds buried in the signposted spot reopens the cold case of Tallulah and her boyfriend's unsolved disappearance.

Plenty of suspense and mystery, plenty of red herrings, in fact a plentiful amount of reasons to keep you firmly glued right to the end. I really enjoyed it.

As a result, I am definitely going to read more of this author, but I do so hope she doesn't have a fetish for present-tense narrative which I find so constrictive and unappealing.


Monday, 17 May 2021

The Stars That Beckon by Kevin Simington

I'm not sci-fi's biggest fan, I'll be honest. I can't quite seem to gel with aliens or robots or whatever fantastical being the genre coughs up. But two things persuaded me to read this: I've already read a crime/mystery novel by the author, which I thoroughly enjoyed and which cemented him into my top-author list. The second thing was that this is 'hard science fiction': based on real science we understand currently. So none of those daft two-headed or six-legged or robotic aliens.

We've gone way, way, way into the future here. Quite a few thousand years, in fact. Planet Earth has been finally and monumentally ruined (by us), so what humanity has managed to survive and escape are off, in a starship, to find somewhere else in the universe that's habitable. If you thought Alexa was pretty nifty adding items to your supermarket trolley, tell you jokes, switching your lights on and off and telling you what the weather is going to be today, then Angie and Genni will blow your minds. (But are quite possibly as annoying as Alexa.)

I confess, an awful lot went over my head (geosynchronous, melataxane, echyons, anyone?) But that didn't stop me finding it very clever and very intelligent. And it didn't stop me thoroughly enjoying it. Simington knows how to construct a cracking plot. He also knows how to cast a story: the characters are diverse, engaging and fun (and funny). The dry wit and humour I so loved in Someone Else's Life is very much present in this, so despite my ignorance in all things scientific, there's much to enjoy and delight in.

Well, gosh. I might even read another one!









Sunday, 9 May 2021

Bad by Chloé Esposito

 

Oh good lord. What was this? Bad, that's what. Really, really bad. Puerile writing, bad characters, bad plot. Described on Amazon as 'a gripping, dark and outrageously funny thriller'. Don't be ridiculous. It isn't in the least bit funny…the sides of my mouth didn't even twitch. Dark…perhaps. Gripping? Not in the least…other than wanting to see if the whole thing could get any more pathetic and stupid.

The main protagonist, Alvie, is awful. When I say 'awful', I mean completely and utterly ghastly. Selfish, greedy, irresponsible, impolite, discourteous, disrespectful…oh, I could go on…I'll just add that she's a sociopathic slut, too.

She kills her twin sister, Beth. And Beth's husband. And Beth's lover. And her lover's 'business' partner. And a stalker. And a nun. And a police officer. And his colleagues. So much fun! Oh, and I mustn't forget, 'outrageously funny'.

Badly written, inane plot, dreadful and undeveloped characters. And for heaven's sake, if you're going to pepper the dialogue with a foreign language (in this case, Italian), get someone to check it. That's it, I'm leaving it there. I wasted time reading the book, it deserves no more.

Monday, 12 April 2021

Searching for Truth by Barry Finlay

 

Having enjoyed my first encounter with this author (The Burden of Darkness), it was with great enthusiasm that I dived into this book, and what a joy. I was promised a new protagonist (Jake Scott), and he couldn't be more different than The Burden of Darkness's Marcia Kane.

Jake Scott is feeling his way around recent widowerhood and retirement. The highlight of his week: Saturday morning coffee with a motley crew:  three men and Constable Danielle Perez. As a former investigative journalist, Jake is just the chap to help Danielle look into a double murder from three years previously. The pandemic has delayed so many things, not least the legal process, and it's taken a long time for the main suspect to be convicted. But Danielle isn't convinced the right man is in prison. With just a grumpy cat for company and little motivation in his newfound, reluctant singledom, Jake takes up the offer to help. 

I really enjoyed this. Jake makes a refreshingly different hero. He's not young and handsomely six-packed. He's a bit of a Luddite, a technophobe, but there's a steadfastness and sincerity about him. And quietly smart. It's rather lovely witnessing his emergence from his cocoon of grief and loneliness after the tragic loss of his beloved wife. The attractive Dani and her stereotypically monosyllabic, grumpy teenager are quite the tonic. But little do the three of them know what serious danger will befall them by wanting to put right a wrong. 

Don't let Jake's pipe-and-slippers persona fool you into thinking this is just a cozy mystery. It's not. It's merely a disguise for a sharp and compelling whodunnit. I consider myself quite a good guesser of whodunnits, but Mr F had me well stumped.

Jake (and Dani) have a sequel in them, I know it. I certainly hope it.


See also:

The Burden of Darkness


Monday, 5 April 2021

Someone Else's Life by Kevin Simington

 

I've often started watching a TV series (British/American/Canadian/Australian, any English-speaking!) and known instinctively from the first half hour I'll have an insatiable appetite for that series and want it to go on forever.  Some just grab you, instantly.

This book is that TV series. I hadn't got very far, not even into the story that much, but knew I wanted a sequel or ten. I was instantly captivated by the main character, John Targett, the slick, snappy, witty dialogue and his own narrative. It's written in first-person POV (his) and in the present tense (alas (my pet hate), but we'll let that go).

John Targett is a widower, ex-military combat instructor, a PI and self-defence expert, who lives with his teenage daughter. The rather mundane nature of his too-few cases suddenly spikes when he's asked to look into an unusual identity case, at the same time becoming the target of an unscrupulous gang whom he appears to have upset. He soon realises they plan reprisals, serious ones, and that he has to take drastic action to protect the one thing he loves more than life itself: his daughter.

This book doesn't stand still for one minute. It's pacey, engaging…as are all the characters, especially all those in Targett's immediate circle. They are all very easy to like, not least Targett himself: he's smart, loyal, protective, fit, handsome (by all accounts) and at times, very funny.

The last line of the book is a scorcher and rather niftily leaves the door ajar for a sequel and hopefully more because…there was only one thing very, very wrong with this book: it ended.




Thursday, 1 April 2021

Spree by Nellie Neeman

 

I'm sure all readers agree that their favourite books are those that grab you at page one then keep you superglued to the edge of your seat until the end. This is one of those books.

I dived in without reminding myself what it was about, and within a few taps (Kindle), I was smitten and knew it was going to be a good 'un. It starts with a bang, literally, when a bomb explodes during a function at the Boston Technological Institute causing death and injury. Jon Steadman was there and suffered a personal tragic loss. When further similar bombings start taking place at different institutes, Jon and his girlfriend take it upon themselves to find who is behind the bombings and why. He needs closure for his loss, and it's a quest that, if they fail...they discover...would be disastrous for the US.

The fast pace for this thriller is set right at the beginning and doesn't let up till the end. Neuman does a very good job of portraying Jon, who has, understandably, some demons to deal with, but she doesn't overplay it, and he's very likeable. In fact, all the characters are well portrayed, whether they're good, bad or ugly. The plot is well metered out: no glossing over, no drawn-out scenes, no rushed conclusions and the right amount of focus where it's needed.  This is Neeman's debut thriller, but she writes like a seasoned thriller author.

All in all, a very satisfying and enjoyable read. I'm rather pleased to see that this is a 'Jon Steadman Thriller Number One': that means without doubt there is, or will be, another (or more?). I certainly hope so!






Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Your Closest Friend by Karen Perry

My heart sinks when I open a book and the first line reveals present-tense narrative. I hate it. It's just, oh I don't know, so….narrow.

But, but, but, it soon…very soon…became apparent I jolly well had to get over myself because I was clawed in and gripped like a vice from the get-go.

Perry really knows how to tighten those tension screws after an explosive start, almost quite literally, when the story opens with a terrorist attack in London, and Cara finds herself saved from almost certain death by a stranger (Amy). It's not the near-death experience that then changes Cara's life forever. It's the secrets she shared with her saviour in the hours shielding themselves from the carnage outside. And what happens afterwards when she's home, safe and well...or so she thinks.

The story is narrated in the first person by Cara and Amy, alternately. It's a story of obsession, misunderstanding, deceit and lies, regrets, infidelity. Perry does an excellent job of keep you on the edge of your seat and then just when you think you can relax, pow!

Has this got all the right psychological thriller ingredients? Oh yes, with bells on. It has suspense, a fast pace, darkness, a good plot and, if, like me, you haven't read this author before, a motivation to read more by her. And….only a handful of errors, which, these days, is the best you can hope for.















Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Day of the Accident by Nuala Ellwood

There were many instances of characters 'nodding their heads' in this book. Nearly thirty, in fact. To nod: "Lower and raise one's head slightly and briefly." By the 30th instance of this tautology, it was getting really rather tiresome.  Had the characters just nodded, I might not have noticed.

Irritation aside, this was a fairly decent psychological thriller up to about eighty per cent. Not long after that point, I was starting to fret. There was quite a number of unanswered questions, and I had to ask myself, how were going to be resolved in only 15-20%? They were, yes, but in a rush and not frightfully believably.

A shame after such a good start, middle and three-quarters, all of which race along compellingly. It's a story about a woman who wakes up from a coma after a car accident involving her and her daughter only to discover her daughter died, her husband has disappeared and her head is full of questions and fragmented memories.

It's not badly written, characters nodding away like Churchill dogs aside (oh, and the wretched present-tense which really does the book no favours), and it's a plot that certainly has legs…there's intrigue and mystery. But there's an imbalance: some parts are a tad too drawn out at the expense of the ending, which just doesn't gel.






Saturday, 6 March 2021

No Time To Cry by James Oswald

 

I haven't read any books by this author, and therefore was intrigued when I glanced at the reviews of this that a number of readers didn't rate this new DC Constance Fairchild series as highly as his previous Inspector McClean series. Not having those as a benchmark, I went in to DC Fairchild's first book with virgin eyes. And I thoroughly enjoyed it.

In fact, there wasn't just 'no time to cry', there was hardly time to draw breath! Constance…or Con…as she likes to be known, is a hard-nosed, feisty, independent, kick-arse protagonist. And she has to use every one of those resources, and more, to prove her innocence when she is accused of wrecking a whole undercover operation that was tragically blown when her boss in charge of it is brutally murdered.

I had a few misgivings about a man writing as a woman, but Oswald does it well. It's hard to dislike Con, not just because she's determined and smart…it's easy to understand why she's a DC…but because she's dedicated to her profession: putting away the bad and badder guys. It's written in first-person POV, which is fine, and in the present tense (sorry, not fine, but a good book makes that just about forgivable).

The book marches along at a cracking pace. The scene is set from the get-go, and then it grips you unashamedly.

One teensy niggle is Oswald's inability to get there's and there are right. 'There's better ways....'  There are better ways, please, and too many other instances of this.

Notwithstanding, I'm not only motivated to read subsequent DC Fairchild books, but I'm definitely going to catch up with Inspector McClean too.




Sunday, 28 February 2021

And So It Begins by Rachel Abbott

 

Gosh…twisty, turny, tortuous, tense!

This is a psychological thriller, and talk about the 'tangled web we weave'! Sergeant Stephanie King is called out to a domestic at a famous photographer's house, where she finds two bodies covered in blood on a bed and tangled…with each other and the sheets. And so begins a peeling of layers, not just the strata that led to this particular moment, but the slow unravelling of what's to come.

This really is a compelling tale with matchsticks-in-the-eyes addiction guaranteed. It's a constant juggle of characters as you try to fathom who's lying, who's telling the truth, who's the victim, who's the criminal. Just when you think you've got the rhythm, a ball drops and you have to rethink. Totally brilliant, cleverly plotted and tinged with just a smidge of menace. The chop and change of the tenses didn't enamour me that much, but the skilful writing and excellent characterisation meant it wasn't long before the present-tense narrative, which I hate with a vengeance, and I jogged along as friends.

My first Rachel Abbott book and the first Sergeant Stephanie King mystery. I'm smitten by both. Not knowing much about the author, I was thrilled to bits to find she's got a number of books tucked up her sleeve, and I have every confidence I'll be as enthralled and captivated as I was by this one.







Saturday, 20 February 2021

Falling Short by Lex Coulton

 

This was one of those books in which I wanted more pages to turn at the end. Not in a 'I love this so much, I don't want it to end' way, but in a 'wait, that's it? What about….' way.

Not that I didn't enjoy it…I did. It's witty, engaging, funny, poignant, sad…but the most crucial question of the whole plot just wasn't answered.

Both main characters' stories dart from past to present throughout, trying to explain why Frances is 39 and still, reluctantly, single. Jackson is nearer 60 and newly single. Both are teachers in the same school, both with baggage. They have a fairly special relationship: a bit love/hate/will they/won't they.

The staff-room interactions are great fun…the dialogue is humorous, catchy and snappy. Actually, all the dialogue is good. It's a well-written novel, well observed, with some robust and relatable characters. It takes a moment to settle into the flashbacks…with the book being written in the present tense (which is my number one aversion!), the only thing singling out the flashback is the use of the past tense, and it takes a moment to decipher whose flashback it is and when it took place. Perhaps the chapter titles could have given an indication.

Nevertheless, and despite the answers to questions, one in particular, being wanting, this is a book you find yourself wanting to pick up at any opportunity.





Tuesday, 16 February 2021

The Burden of Darkness by Barry Finlay

I'm a bit late to the Marcie-Kane-thrillers party. This is number 5; I don't usually dive in without reading forerunners, as I'm too worried I've missed too much. However, this was completely (and skilfully) stand-alone.

I reckon this isn't a thriller to be read if you have a heart condition. My heartbeat was raised a level or two throughout, not to mention the palpitations! Gripping, compelling, edge-of-your-seat stuff right from the start. My kind of thriller.

It's one that also embraces the very distressing condition of PTSD. Here, the victim is Nathan, Marcie's husband. As an FBI consultant, he's seen and experienced danger and horror, and it finally catches up with him. Nipping it in the bud is the route to recovery. Terminally ill Owen Strand is a drone hobbyist and, having nothing to lose, uses his custom-made drones to kill people he considers responsible for all that's gone wrong in his life. An FBI colleague reckons Nathan is well enough to handle the case. But someone very close to Nathan is in Owen's flight path. Nathan has to fight his demons to get to Owen before another tragedy occurs. The balance between the PTSD story line and the crime are perfectly balanced.

I really couldn't put this down. I read so many crime thrillers and weapons of choice are usually knives, guns, poison, hands, but this was my first drone thriller! What a modern, contemporary and original choice of attack. It was all the more fun, as I'm married to a drone hobbyist, who knows just about everything there is to know about drones and (UK) flying regulations. 

I'll certainly be adding more of this author's books to my TBR.





Thursday, 4 February 2021

Wild Horses on the Salt by Anne Montgomery

 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It tackles a very emotional and distressing social issue: domestic violence. At the same time, Montgomery does a mini David Attenborough-esque exposé of man's effect on the environment.

Becca fleas her violent controlling husband and finds refuge with a family friend in Arizona. She needs to find strength to recover, mentally, from his abuse and to admit to her hosts...and herself...the damage it's done to her. At the same time, a wild horse, native to the region, is injured. Although rescued and treated, it escapes its rehabilitation corral and sets off to rejoin his herd, picking up a companion in the very odd form of a stray sheep on the way. The paradox is clever here: injured creatures finding their way to strength, safety and security: one, a wild injured horse, the other, a dominated, mentally and physically abused and harmed human. The journeys are different, dramatic, but ultimately they both find what they are looking for.

This was really well written, and I found it really compelling and fascinating: Montgomery evokes your sympathy for both the horse (especially if you are an animal lover like I am) and Becca, rooting for them to find happiness and healing. The author also has excellent knowledge of…or has done some very meticulous research into…nature, wildlife and environmental issues.

I'm not sure what I was expecting with this book, but it turned out to be quite a gem, and actually, I've already found myself missing the (good) characters and a few lessons about birds, bees (no, not THOSE birds and bees (!)), horses, and man's devastating effect on the environment.