Cry Baby – Mark Billingham

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It’s 1996. Detective Sergeant Tom Thorne is a haunted man. Haunted by the moment he ignored his instinct about a suspect, by the horrific crime that followed and by the memories that come day and night, in sunshine and shadow.

So when seven-year-old Kieron Coyne goes missing while playing in the woods with his best friend, Thorne vows he will not make the same mistake again. Cannot.

The solitary witness. The strange neighbour. The friendly teacher. All are in Thorne’s sights.

This case will be the making of him . . . or the breaking.

17 books into the series and I’m still loving the ‘grumpy old sod’ Tom Thorne as a character, alongside his well established colleagues and annoying ‘brass’.  Once again Billingham has put a new spin on him though.  This time taking him back to 1996, to before the time of Thorne’s first appliance in Sleepyhead, where he was already a traumatised copper, but who now had to face all the emotional demons that helped send him on his path.

Being a prequel, it’s easy to pick up and read if you’ve never read Mark Billingham’s Thorne novels before, but that said knowing what I know about the characters later on in the series many of their actions and thoughts about each other did send a chuckle through my bones.

Give it a try, I certainly don’t think you’ll regret it.

 

Covid-19, Traditions and of course books…..

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I’ve had for as far back as I can remember, a reading related habit. Every time I was in an airport, I had to buy a book. In my early years it was whenever I went with my Mum to say goodbye to my Uncle, who lives in Canada, and had been over for a visit. When I began travelling myself I kept up the tradition. Every time I went on holiday I would buy a book. When I went to Florida I bought a Jack Higgins novel which my Dad said he we like to borrow once I had finished reading it. I passed it over to him at the end of the flight. Another time I bought the latest Lee Child, and again ended up leaving it behind at the hotel for someone else to read, as I had finished it. The time that sticks in my mind the most though, resonates more than ever at the moment.

I was going on holiday with my family, and true to form I bought myself a book to read on the plane and while I was away. The book I bought was Airframe by Michael Crichton, an author I had long enjoyed, and was about a mid air incident on a flight. My Mom, couldn’t understand why I would want to buy such a book when I was hours away from getting on a plane. I never thought about it at the time, it was just a book I fancied reading by an author that I liked.

I’ve recently revisited this line of thought however, with my current choice of reading. The first book, was Seventeen by Hideo Yokoyama, a story around a massive plane crash and the impact it had on those who had to regularly climb a mountain to the crash site, and of those who had the report the news every day. It was a book I picked at random because again I like the author.

Then, I decided I needed to re-read Day Four by Sarah Lotz. On Day four of a luxury cruise, the ship becomes stranded in the middle of nowhere, with everything on board from the lights to the toilets systematically shutting down. After all the stories of stranded cruise ships due to Covid-19 it felt, well…

That was when I remembered how much I love the dark writing of Sarah Lotz, so next up was her book The White Road, where an adrenaline junkie has a close call whilst caving, and when his video of the tragedy goes viral, ends up trying to beat the ratings by climbing Mt Everest, where, well let’s face it, it all goes a bit pear shaped. It’s quite the unnerving tale, and as fascinating it is to read it has also peaked my interest in the real life adventures and mysteries that surround the mountain and those risking it all to get to the top, which has given me something else to investigate during the lockdown.

Finally, staying with the mountain climbing theme, I re-read Michelle Paver’s Thin Air. Another ghostly tale of how things can go badly wrong when climbing. This one I have on audio book rather than physical, and I can only say one thing. Don’t listen to it on your own, late at night. You will not be able to sleep afterward.

Now I’m off to read Sarah Lotz The Three, about four simultaneous plane crashes and their four survivors, because, you know, I’m sensing a bit of a theme here…

Book 50

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Trying to get my head around the blogging thing again, as I have been off my game for too long, despite still reading a large number of books. That said I’ve just finished book 50 for 2020….

The Last Act by Brad Parks #ExclusiveExtract

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Former Broadway star Tommy Jump isn’t getting the roles he once did. As his final run as Sancho Ponza draws to a close, Tommy is getting ready to give up the stage, find a steady paycheck, and settle down with his fiancée.

Cue Special Agent Danny Ruiz. An old school friend of Tommy’s, now with the FBI, Ruiz makes Tommy an offer that sounds too good to refuse. All Tommy has to do is spend six months in prison, acting as failed bank robber ’Pete Goodrich’.

Inside, he must find and befriend Mitchell Dupree, who has hidden a secret cache of documents incriminating enough to take down New Colima, one of Mexico’s largest drug cartels. If Tommy can get Dupree and reveal where the documents are hidden, the FBI will give him $300,000, more than enough to jumpstart a new life. But does he have what it takes to pull off this one final role?

 

For at least the tenth time in the last twenty minutes, Amanda Porter looked at the clock that hung on the wall of the kitchen—which was also the living room, her studio, and the only room in this shabby, stifling, non- air- conditioned second- floor apartment that wasn’t a bedroom or a bathroom.

Five fifty- two. Were this an ordinary matinee, Tommy would have been back by now. He was obviously still saying his good- byes. The ceiling fan took another spin through the same hot air it had been futilely recycling all afternoon. She sighed, appraising the painting
she had been halfheartedly jabbing at, knowing she was too distracted to give it the kind of attention it demanded.

Was this one headed for the trash? She tossed way more than she kept. For months now she had been sending photos of her completed work to Hudson van Buren, the proprietor of the Van Buren Gallery and one of the most influential voices in the business. He didn’t need
to see the bottom ninety- eight percent of her work. Only the top two, thank you very much.

When people met Amanda Porter, they immediately underestimated her, because she had this cute southern twang; because she was five foot two, blue- eyed, and adorable, with her wavy strawberry- blond hair, her button nose, her freckles; because she was twenty-seven but could get carded buying a lottery ticket.

Those looks belied the fierceness with which she attacked her work. No one looked at her and thought scrappy, but that’s how she thought of herself. She was the scrappy girl who had made it from this little nowhere town in Mississippi to a scholarship at Cooper Union and now to the brink of artistic stardom by outworking everyone and refusing to compromise. She poured her drive for perfection into her art. It was excellence or nothing.

#blogblitz Out of the Silence by Owen Mullen

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Star investigative reporter Ralph Buchanan’s glory days are behind him. His newspaper has banished him to Pakistan, not knowing the greatest moment of his long career is waiting for him there.

When Simone Jasnin asks him to help expose a grave injustice, he finds himself embroiled in a harrowing tale that began in a dusty settlement in rural Punjab, setting in motion a chain of events that will change the lives of everyone involved.

Seven years later in the city of Lahore, members of a prominent family are being brutally murdered one by one. The only clue is a hand-carved wooden bangle left at the scene of each crime.

As the list of suspects grows and the tension mounts, Ralph realises the answers might be closer to home than he ever thought possible.

Solving the mystery will put him back on top but at what cost?

Only when the smoke clears will the killing stop and honour be satisfied…

When you are found asleep on the sofa after being up all night reading you know it’s a goodie.

A stark story, written excellently. Highlighting how women are treated, even in our modern age.

#ChristmasCrackers The Adulterer’s Wife by Leigh Russell #bloodhoundbooks

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Julie is devastated to learn that her husband, Paul, is having an affair. It seems her life can’t get any worse – until she comes home to find his dead body in their bed.

When the police establish he was murdered, Julie is the obvious suspect.

To protect her son from the terrible situation, Julie sends the teenage boy to his grandparents in Edinburgh while she fights to prove her innocence.

With all the evidence pointing to her, the only way she can escape conviction is by discovering the true identity of her husband’s killer.

But who really did murder Paul?

The truth is never straightforward…

The Adulterer’s Wife, is Leigh Russell’s first foray into psychological thrillers amid an extremely successful career of writing police procedurals.  This is just one of the reasons why I was excited to read this book, I’ve read many authors over long periods of time and I find it thrilling when any choose to move away from their ‘norm’ and embrace a new challenge.

This book is such a thing and it was fabulous, I slipped into the story easily, comfortable in the knowledge of Leigh’s style and pace, but eager to discover this whole new ‘side’ to one of my favourite authors, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Julie’s flawed character might make you question yourself, would you make the decisions she made? Would you have behaved differently? You may think her actions questionable, but how would you react in a similar situation?  When a book makes me not only wonder the motivations of the character, but to also ask myself these sorts of questions as I’m reading, I consider that to be a winner.

It’s a definite one sitting read, and perfect for one of those lazy days by the pool, or sunbathing in the garden.  You won’t put it down until you are done.

My only lingering thought is that no matter how focused I was on the matters of the day, would I not truly realise my husband was dead?

 

 

 

#blogtour – Too Far by Jason Starr

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One night. One date. What have you got to lose?

Jack Harper isn’t a bad man, but he’s stuck in a loveless marriage with a mediocre job just trying to keep sober. The only good thing in his life is his son. When an old college friend introduces him to a new extramarital dating website, he tentatively reaches out to find a distraction from his misery. But when he goes to meet up with his steamy online date, he quickly realises it was a dire choice.

Soon, Jack finds himself desperately trying to prove his innocence for crimes he did not commit, and the life he once had – unhappy as it was – is nothing but a dream. Now, he’s living his worst nightmare. . .

 

Why? Why? Why? Just Why?

OMG It’s been a long time since I’ve been so frustrated with a character that I’ve wanted to slam the book down,  and then immediately pick it back up again just to find out what they were going to do next. Between Jack Harper and Detective Barasco I don’t know which one I want to shout at more….

In this fabulous one sitting read (albeit for the slamming downs and picking ups) all I kept asking myself was Why?, not just the usual why is this happening? but also Why is he behaving like this? and reacting this way?  I couldn’t get my head round it…

To me that’s the sign of a great book,  I couldn’t figure anything out, no matter how much I tried, which is what every crime fiction reader I know wants.  Not to figure out the plot but to be surprised, intrigued and pulled along by the story.  Too Far does precisely that.

You’ll love it, and if you’ve read any of Starr’s previous books you’ll find a sneaky nod or two in them in this one.

JASON STARR

Jason Starr is the international bestselling author of many crime novels and thrillers and his books have been published in over a dozen languages. Many of his books are in development for film and TV. Starr’s bestselling crime novels include Cold Caller, Nothing Personal, Fake ID, Hard Feelings, Tough Luck and Twisted City, followed by Lights Out, The Follower, Panic Attack, Savage Lane and his latest novel, Too Far. He is one of only a handful of authors who have won the Anthony Award for mystery fiction multiple times. He was born in Brooklyn and lives in Manhattan.

#blogtour – The Doll Collector by Joanna Stephen-Ward

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A couple and their young son burn to death in a house fire.

A girl dies from a nut allergy.

A woman falls under a train during the rush hour.

An accountant falls down the steps to his basement.

Their deaths appear to be accidents but Gloria knows they were murdered because she murdered them. And every time Gloria kills she buys a doll.

But how many dolls will she need to keep her satisfied?

When Gloria takes a room as a lodger her behaviour starts to spin out of control. Gloria wants love and happiness and friendship and she will do anything she can to get what she wants…

Wow, Gloria is quite possibly one of the most repugnant characters I’ve read for quite some time and it was fabulous.  I tore through The Doll Collector in just a couple of sittings as I really found that I wanted to discover all about the murders and of course the accident.

As we learn about Gloria’s horrible past, both inflicted on her and by her, we also uncover the history of Maurice, the unfortunate man who has offered Gloria a home.  There are plenty of vile characters in his life too.  Men who want nothing but money and power at don’t care for anyone who stops them doing it.

I will admit that for a short while around the middle I was unsure where the story would go next but as I eagerly read on I was brilliantly surprised and thrilled, and I thought the ending was suitably fabulous.

I highly recommend The Doll Collector as well worth every penny of your hard earned pounds…

#blogtour From The Dark by K A Richardson #GuestPost Writing Days

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Today on LifeOfCri.me, K A Richardson, author of the recently released From The Dark talks about her writing days.

Full days of writing for me are a rarity. I tend to write as and when – not necessarily every day though admittedly I will think about writing in some way every day. I always have a notebook in my handbag (and a multitude of pens – I may have a little pen obsession). 

I work for the police part-time as a call taker in the communications department – which is dull way of saying I take non-emergency calls as well as 999 calls, but prior to this I worked as a Crime Scene Investigator. I loved the role – being out and about on my own, processing scenes and gathering evidence. Thinking analytically about scenes and the methods I would use to gather the evidence. This experience features heavily in all my novels – forensics is what I know and something that I’m very passionate about. I would still be doing it today but for the major cuts in the police force that ended up with my job being made non-existent. That said, working in the control room of a busy police force is also challenging and can be hard-work. I’m the first person someone in distress will speak to – it’s my job to gather all of the information needed and grade the job so that officers are dispatched in a timely manner. There are calls where I offer advice, calls I listen to someone sob down the phone hysterically after they’ve been beaten,  calls where I offer sympathy and empathy, calls when I take hoax calls from people who think it’s clever to abuse the emergency service system and occasionally, calls I take where people are thanking the police for helping them. No two days are the same, which makes it very non-monotonous and occasionally very stressful. 

I’ve always found solace in writing though. As well as getting down these stories that burst into my mind and refuse to leave me alone until they’re written, it can be therapeutic and a release for pent up emotions. I find it a tool that assists me in dealing with depression (something I’ve suffered with for many years). When I was younger, I found writing poetry comforting – I still do occasionally, but much more effective to me is setting characters challenges to overcome and deal with. I love researching too – something I do for pretty much every novel. I love my facts to be accurate and up-to-date and enjoy bringing forensics to life in my novels as it’s not something many people know a great deal about. I think having it in, and focussing on some of the lesser understood parts of policing, helps give my novels that sense of reality. 

If I do have a rare full day to write, I start the day off with a cup of coffee. Pretty standard for a writer judging by all the facebook posts I see featuring a steaming cup beside someone’s open laptop! So I’m pretty stereo-typical in that respect I guess. I write chronologically so on opening the laptop, I’ll have a quick peruse of the previous couple of scenes to get my head back in the zone. I usually have my trusty bible by side – not a bible in the traditional sense – my bible is a moleskine notebook that I’ve used since day one. It holds my character profiles, spider-grams for each novel, basic plots for the novel, hints and tips I’ve come across along the way and general ideas of things I might want to write about. I use this notebook alongside a brand new one for each project. The new one is for handwriting scenes, noting down quirks and names etc, and scribbling on if I notice plot holes etc. 

Once I’ve read up on the two-three scenes already written, I’ll take a few deep breaths and crack on. This is the time that I hate being disturbed by anyone or anything. Even my husband knows now that if he’s bringing me a fresh cuppa, to just place it down on my table silently and back away. A knock at the front door will boil my blood. It’s not that I mean to be anti-social or act like a bitch, but when I’m in the zone of writing, my head is firmly entrenched in a world that isn’t this one. I’m somewhere else entirely and an interruption will bring me back here with a bump. 

On a good day, I can write 6000-7000 words before I stop. On a bad day it might only be a few hundred – which is very frustrating but part of the process. I rarely get writer’s block – if I’m not writing it’s usually because of factors outside of my control, like illness or events that take me out of the house. I do love to sit and write in coffee shops – probably because I don’t get disturbed. I am accustomed to tuning out the machine noises but I can focus easily in on conversations going on around me – be careful what you say over coffee! I have been known to use what I overhear on occasion. 

When I am finished writing for the day, I save my progress (do this every half hour religiously but have to ensure it’s saved at end of day as well) – I save to an external hard-drive, the internal hard-drive on my laptop and quite often will email a copy to myself also. Just to ensure I have it and it is safe. There have been odd instances where I’ve lost work so do this pretty religiously nowadays. Then I’ll close my laptop, make another cuppa and take a few deep breaths. 

I love these writing days – not just because it’s getting the word count up, but also because as I write, the plot and characters present me with new challenges. Challenges that I then feel obligated to see through the next day, and the one after, and the one after etc. Actual writing is the best part of the whole process for me. I love the surprises my characters leave me with, often have tissues on standby for the heartache they cause me, and always leave my novel in a place where I know I can’t wait to restart from. 

Who will save you when the monsters creep…

Antonia Baillie is a true Romani gypsy – she has the gift of foresight and uses this to help people.

When the ghosts of the past come calling, can she put her own fears aside and work with the police to help find out who is torturing and killing young men?

Detective Sergeant Mark McKay has never had a need to solve a case using a psychic. He doesn’t believe in it – pure and simple. But when Antonia tells him the name of a young man and gives him details specific to the case, he can’t help but change his view. Especially when a body matching what she described is found in the vaults deep under the city.

Mark and Antonia race against a spree of monstrous crimes, long-standing grudges and the perils of the darkness in the vaults beneath Edinburgh to try and find a sadistic killer before time runs out.

Can they stop him before he strikes again?

Will they discover who is responsible?

And can they do it without becoming victims themselves?

 

 

#blogtour – Trap By Lilja Sigurdardottir

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Happily settled in Florida, Sonja believes she’s finally escaped the trap set by unscrupulous drug lords. But when her son Tomas is taken, she’s back to square one … and Iceland.

Her lover, Agla, is awaiting sentencing for financial misconduct after the banking crash, and Sonja refuses to see her. And that’s not all … Agla owes money to some extremely powerful men, and they’ll stop at nothing to get it back.

With her former nemesis, customs officer Bragi on her side, Sonja puts her own plan into motion, to bring down the drug barons and her scheming ex-husband, and get Tomas back safely. But things aren’t as straightforward as they seem, and Sonja finds herself caught in the centre of a trap that will put all of their lives at risk…

I’m a big lover of Icelandic fiction, and yet this is my first read by Lilja Sigurdardóttir.  It’s a sequel to her previous book Snare which I’ll certainly be looking to read now.  I didn’t feel like I needed to have read it previously whilst I was reading Trap, but I’m thinking it might have been a good idea to have read that one first.

Caught in the “trap” of a drug smuggling ring Sonja is a mother desperately trying to get back her son, and save their future.  You get thrown into the story right from page one and feel pulled along all the way, as the tale wraps you up in its complexity leaving you eager to discover how it will unravel in the end.

With strong themes of drug smuggling, and abusive, controlling partners, all set against the backdrop of the financial crash and its fallout, (along with the remains of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption and the volcano’s fallout) it’s an intense read but well worth it.

 

 

Icelandic crime-writer Lilja Sigurdardóttir was born in the town of Akranes in 1972 and raised in Mexico, Sweden, Spain and Iceland. An award-winning playwright, Lilja has written four crime novels, with Snare, the first in a new series, hitting bestseller lists worldwide. The film rights have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. She lives in Reykjavík with her partner.