Evil Games – Angela Marsons

Standard

imageThe greater the Evil, the more deadly the game…

When a rapist is found mutilated in a brutal attack, Detective Kim Stone and her team are called in to bring a swift resolution. But, as more vengeful killings come to light, it soon becomes clear that there is someone far more sinister at work.

With the investigation quickly gathering momentum, Kim finds herself exposed to great danger and in the sights of a lethal individual undertaking their own twisted experiment.

Up against a sociopath who seems to know her every weakness, for Detective Stone, each move she makes could be deadly. As the body count starts to mount, Kim will have to dig deeper than ever before to stop the killing. And this time – it’s personal.

…a genuine one sitting read….

Back in the Black Country, back with DI Kim Stone, who in this cracking sequel finds herself locked in an evil mind game, with a deadly opponent.  If you enjoyed Silent Scream, you will love Evil Games. Faster, and more adrenaline fuelled, and with a truly evil antagonist who is destined to get under the skin of the troubled yet feisty DI, it’s a genuine one sitting read, as its villains heinous plan is slowly revealed.

It’s another gripping plot that will enthrall you, and make you question just how easily one person can manipulate another.  Beginning in court with the trial of a mother accused of trying to kill her child, a series of unrelated crimes are slowly revealed to be linked but only Stone knows who is behind it all. The difficult part is finding, someone, anyone who believes what she knows and can help her prove it.

I’m still amazed that this is just the second outing for Angela Marsons, serial character DI Kim Stone, as the writing is solid, the characters even more intriguing and the cracks in Kim Stone are cleverly picked at, giving us greater glimpses of both her weakness, and her inner strength.  A character with such a mixed and difficult background that I’m already looking forward to the next installment.

 

Silent Scream – Angela Marsons

Standard

imageFive figures gather round a shallow grave. They had all taken turns to dig. An adult sized hole would have taken longer. An innocent life had been taken but the pact had been made. Their secrets would be buried, bound in blood …

Years later, a headmistress is found brutally strangled, the first in a spate of gruesome murders which shock the Black Country.

But when human remains are discovered at a former children’s home, disturbing secrets are also unearthed. D.I. Kim Stone fast realises she’s on the hunt for a twisted individual whose killing spree spans decades.

As the body count rises, Kim needs to stop the murderer before they strike again. But to catch the killer, can Kim confront the demons of her own past before it’s too late?

I picked up Silent Scream not just as a fan of crime fiction, but also because finally there is a book that has been set where I grew up.  My Great Great Grandfather’s portrait hangs in the pub in The Black Country Museum, and if you mention the names of either of my Grandmothers to many of the staff working there, they’ll know exactly who I am. I’m a proud direct descendent Black Country girl, who’s moved away from home, and the memories that have been brought to mind of the places I lived, played and went to school have been a delightful aside.  I also believe it’s one of the things that helps with the mystery and intrigue of Silent Scream. With so many modern-day novels set in big cities or rural backwaters, it’s fantastic to see something in a setting more accessible to many, with its own quirks and issues of just who polices whom.

I absolutely loved the character of Kim Stone, and not only because of a shared loved of Kawasaki motorbikes.  I enjoyed the way that rather than being given a motorbike as transport in an effort to ‘butch up’ her personality, our feisty DI is but a true petrol head with a passion for bikes old and new.   She’s a sarcastic, rule breaker who, despite her childhood, cares more for her team than she’d like to let on.  Gritty, and determined, this DI is one fantastic character you’ll immediately want to get behind with a great line in sarcasm that will genuinely make you smile.

With a great cast of supporting characters around her, all of whom are well-developed and will have you keen to learn more about them, what’s most surprising about Silent Scream is that it is a debut novel. It’s cleverly put together with an intriguing plot that pull you in and have you whizzing through pages.  I’m definitely adding Angela Marsons to my ‘authors to watch’ list.

Lives Lost – Britta Bolt

Standard

imageA minute can make all the difference…

Pieter Posthumus is enjoying a quiet drink in his favourite bar when the screaming starts. A minute later, the owner of the guesthouse next door rushes in: one of her tenants has been murdered.

Marloes, the guesthouse owner, is an odd but kind soul. Posthumus cannot believe it when she is arrested – for both her tenant Zig’s murder and another death years before. He knows there are questions unanswered: what is the link between the two cases? Why are people so keen to think Marloes is guilty? And why did Zig paint just one picture every year – a copy of a Dutch master, but with one peculiar twist?

As his investigation progresses, he comes to see that a few minutes can mean all the difference in the world: between saving a life and taking one; between innocence and guilt. And that sometimes asking questions leads to a truth that’s hard to bear.

Absolutely loved it….

Lives Lost is the second part of a trilogy featuring protagonist Pieter Posthumus, but if you haven’t read Book One, Lonely Graves yet, don’t worry.  Lives Lost stands well on its own, there is enough detail in there to make you determined to go back and pick up the first book, without spoiling it for any reader, and  trust me, if this is your first Posthumus novel, not only will you go back, but you’ll be pre-ordering the next book too.

Set on the outskirts of Amsterdam’s red light district, the sense of camaraderie amongst the main characters is fantastic, making the best of their community, and of those who come and go amongst them.  The humanity of the whole setting is one of my favourite things about this series, from Pieter, who loves to cook, Cornelious, the poet and art lover, to Anna the bar owner of generations past and Marloes the mother hen, every character has been depicted brilliantly, to just the right degree that no one feels like they’ve been exaggerated in any way.

Clearly torn between following his instincts and supporting his friends, when Posthumus does begin to investigate the mystery at the heart of Lives Lost he shows himself to have a keen eye for detail, a remarkable mind for making connections and an enlightened view of memory which works well to ensure that you can follow him through his deductions to the, by then, inevitable conclusion.  The whole ‘investigation’ feels natural, perfectly paced, with real doubts and deductive leaps, it never once leaves you feeling like it’s ‘just a story’, and any crime writer worth his salt will tell you that, that’s what makes it worth it….

Woman of the Dead – Bernhard Aichner

Standard

image

How far would you go to avenge the one you love?

Blum has a secret buried deep in her past. She thought she’d left the past behind. But then Mark, the man she loves, dies. His death looks like a hit-and-run. It isn’t a hit-and-run. Mark has been killed by the men he was investigating. And then, suddenly, Blum rediscovers what she’s capable of…

 

 ” A highly entertaining read…”

Some people really know how to do their job when it comes to attracting your attention to a book, and so when I saw some of the ‘blurb’ for Woman of the Dead I just had to pick it up….

Kill Bill meets Dexter via The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

It turned out to be an apt description for what I found to be a highly entertaining read.

Blum is an intriguing character, beginning as a warm, kind-hearted and loving wife and mother, despite the harshness of her childhood, and her actions of the past. She is an accomplished business woman running her own funeral home, happy and settled with her policeman husband Mark and their two daughters.

When Mark is killed in front of her eyes she is devastated. It is only when she discovers the ‘off the books’ investigation he was undertaking, amongst the papers in his study that she begins to believe that the accident was in fact murder. Then after beginning to investigate the crime Mark was looking into, she uses her skills, knowledge and the tools of her trade as an undertaker to exact brutal, bloody and violent revenge on those who were responsible.

I loved the pace of the story, and the way that not all things go to plan for Blum, forcing her to not only re-evaluate her actions and decisions, but also the repercussions to herself and her family. There are some vile and horrible characters to discover with some extreme language to accompany them, and many of whom you would rather see brought to justice, and yet at the same time you are always backing Blum.

If you want a break away from the usual gritty crime reads, or just fancy trying something different, Woman Of The Dead is ideal for that. It’s also the first in a trilogy, and I’m sure, like me, many of you will be keen to see what happens to Blum next.

Sweet Nothing – Richard Lange

Standard

imageEvery life is uncertain. Every choice is a danger.

Set on the dark side of Los Angeles, this is a masterful collection of edge-of-your-seat tales: a prison guard must protect an inmate being tried for heinous crimes. A father and son set out to rescue a young couple trapped during a wildfire after they cross the border. An ex-con trying to make good as a security guard stumbles onto a burglary plot. A young father must submit to blackmail to protect the fragile life he’s built. Sweet Nothing is an intense and gripping journey through real lives with big problems, from one of America’s great short story writers.

There’s nothing  sweet about it……

I’ve read nothing of Richard Lange before, and suffering from a bad case of book hangover, I picked up Sweet Nothing, with a view to easing myself back into the saddle, taking the short stories as ‘bite sized chunks’ I could easily pick up and put down.

After reading the first story, I wasn’t quite sure what to think, so I have to admit to putting the book aside to try again at a better time. When I finally picked it back up again, I was surprised how quickly each story passed before me.  It’s an interesting mix of tales that took me through a range of emotions as I read, which is something I’d more often associate with a full length novel, rather than from a collection of short stories.

With an eclectic mix of heroes and anti-heroes along with the dilemmas, decisions and tragedies of everyday life both, modern and in the past, forming the heart of each read, it’s a dark read, where the book title truly fits because there’s definitely nothing sweet about it.

Second Life – S. J. Watson

Standard

imageShe loves her husband. She’s obsessed by a stranger.

She’s a devoted mother. She’s prepared to lose everything.

She knows what she’s doing. She’s out of control.

She’s innocent. She’s guilty as sin.

She’s living two lives. She might lose both . . .

 

“A perfect pick for your book club”

There’s a lot that can be said about Second Life, although not without giving away too much of the plot, and like any story, it has both its positive and negative sides. On the negative side it’s a difficult book to get into, protagonist Julia comes across as the typical bored housewife, stuck in a rut of duty and care brought about by a combination of love and guilt, who, despite the unusual circumstances of connection, embarks on an affair.  After a while you begin just begin to think, yeah, so what?

On the positive side, once you push past that inital bout of indifference to Julia, get to the repercussions, and the see the way Watson cleverly spins events on their head, you can really begin to understand just how smartly layered Second Life really is. To me it was like lighting a firework, just as you are beginning to wonder if the fuse has gone out, it suddenly sparks into life, delivering a dazzling display with bang, after boom, after bang until the darkness around you is nothing but a smokey haze.

With a clear understanding of the difficulties associated with an addictive personality, trading one addiction for another, and with an ending so distinctive you will either love it or hate it, this is one book that is a perfect pick for your book club. Prepare for a book hangover, this one will sit with you a while as you reconcile your thoughts, and will certainly create plenty of discussion amongst hardened book fans, particularly those who loved Before I Go To Sleep.

Close To Home – Lisa Jackson

Standard

imageVowing to make a fresh start, Sarah McAdams has come home to renovate the old Victorian mansion where she grew up. Her daughters, Jade and Gracie, aren’t impressed by the rundown property on the shores of Oregon’s wild Columbia River. As soon as they pull up the isolated drive, Sarah too is beset by uneasy memories–of her cold, distant mother, of the half-sister who vanished without a trace, and of a long-ago night when Sarah was found on the widow’s walk, feverish and delirious. 

Ever since the original mistress of the house plunged to her death almost a century ago, there have been rumors that the place is haunted. As a girl, Sarah sensed a presence there, and soon Gracie claims to see a lady in white running up the stairs. Still, Sarah has little time to dwell on ghost stories, between overseeing construction and dealing with the return of a man from her past.

But there’s a new, more urgent menace in the small town. One by one, teenage girls are disappearing. Frantic for her daughters’ safety, Sarah feels her veneer cracking and the house’s walls closing in on her again. Somewhere deep in her memory is the key to a very real and terrifying danger. And only by confronting her worst fears can she stop the nightmare roaring back to life once more. . .

A ghost story, a mystery, suspense and romance – all in one book. Wow – but it works.

Sarah McAdams moves back to her childhood home with her two daughters; a house that she has bad and missing memories about and ran from many years before. The past continues to haunt her and now starts to include her family as she struggles to find all the reasons for her fear.

At the same time, someone is kidnapping girls and Sarah’s eldest daughter is the next target – the daughter who has issues of her own as the past and present intersect. Add Sarah’s first love to the mix and each thread winds together to culminate in the need to confront secrets and lies.

Despite the fact that there are a lot of plot threads and at times it seems a struggle to keep up each part of the differing aspects and give them sufficient attention, as ever, Lisa Jackson offers a suspenseful novel that keeps you interested as the pages pass you by. The addition of the supernatural element gives extra life to the back story and cleverly amalgamates into the present that leads into the shocking climax.

I always enjoy books by Lisa Jackson; she writes suspense beautifully and does not have heroines that scream, cry, fall apart in tough situations or are used purely for corpses and her characterisation includes the frailties and fractures of life without being atypical of this type of book.

Close to Home is a good read and yet again Lisa Jackson delivers a page turner.

 

Review by KL

The Lie – C.L. Taylor

Standard

imageI know your name’s not really Jane Hughes….

Jane Hughes has a loving partner, a job in an animal sanctuary, and a tiny cottage in rural Wales. She’s happier than she’s ever been, but her life is a lie. Jane Hughes does not really exist.

Five years earlier, Jane and her then best friends went on holiday, but what should have been the trip of a lifetime rapidly descended into a nightmare that claimed the lives of two of the women.

Jane has tried to put the past behind her but someone knows the truth about what happened. Someone who won’t stop until they’ve destroyed Jane and everything she loves.

Frightening, tragic, uncomfortable & addictive…

Opening with Jane in her quiet new life, settled and trying to put the past behind her, the narrative splits in two once we discover, along with Jane, that somebody knows her secret. The first remains with Jane, as she tries to uncover who sent her the message that has threatened her fragile new existence. The second set five years before detailing the frightening and tragic tale of their trip together, the adventure of a lifetime that became the holiday from hell.

One of the things I like to see with authors I have read before is progression, and after already enjoying Taylor’s previous novel The Accident (Published as Before I Wake in the US) it was a delight to me to uncover a distinct step up in storytelling and style with The Lie. It has a far more addictive story line, and although I found it quite uncomfortable reading at times, I raced through it in just a single sitting.

I say uncomfortable, because of the excellence with which the friendships of the girlfriends are portrayed. I found that the fractures, faults, and issues in their relationships were so well written that I couldn’t help but reflect on my own friendships as I read. Particularly those that, whether missed or not, I have lost over the years, and to me that reaction alone marks The Lie as an outstanding read and one that will linger with me for some time.

How I Lost You – Jenny Blackhurst

Standard

imageThey told her she killed her son. She served her time. But what if they lied?

I have no memory of what happened but I was told I killed my son. And you believe what your loved ones, your doctor, and the police tell you, don’t you?

My name is Emma Cartwright. Three years ago it was Susan Webster, and I murdered my twelve week old son Dylan. I was sent to Oakdale Psychiatric institute for my crime and four weeks ago I was released early on parole with a new identity, address and a chance to rebuild my shattered life.

This morning I received and envelope addressed to Susan Webster. Inside it was a photograph of a toddler called Dylan. Now I am questioning everything I believe because if I have no memory of the event, how can I believe he’s truly dead?

If there was the smallest chance your son was alive, what would you do to get him back?

Last week feeling under the weather, more than a little sorry for myself, and wrapped up in bed having a duvet day, I picked up Jenny Blackhurst’s debut novel How I Lost You and finished it in one sitting.  It was ideal, a perfect lazing by the pool / rainy day read, it is intriguing, engrossing and will have you flipping the pages quickly.

There are two main threads in How I Lost You, the first is the story of Susan, what happened to her when her son was murdered, her suspicions and beliefs surrounding the mystery of what really happened, and her re-evaluation of her previous life and the relationships within it.  The second is set twenty years earlier, and tells the story of the lives and misdemeanours of a group of privileged boys as they grow up and go to university together.

It takes a little while to reconcile these two strands, trying to work out where the characters from one fit within the other, but once the pieces slot into place the story moves on apace.  Susan teams up with journalist Nick, as they attempt to discover the reality of what happened to baby Dylan, and what, if anything, it has to do with the past life of her ex-husband Mark.

My only niggle with the book is that for a convicted killer released on parole, Susan appears to be incredibly naive and far too trusting of others, but if you can suspend that little bit of disbelief for a while then How I Lost you is a thoroughly enjoyable read, with a culprit that few will see coming.

The Ties That Bind – Erin Kelly

Standard

imageCould a soul once sold, truly be redeemed?

Luke is a true crime writer in search of a story, when he flees to Brighton after an explosive break-up, the perfect subject lands in his lap: reformed gangster Joss Grand. Now in his eighties, Grand once ruled the underworld with his sadistic sidekick Jacky Nye – Until Jacky washed up by the West Pier in 1968, strangled and thrown into the sea.

Though Grand’s alibi seems cast-iron, Luke is sure there’s more to the story than meets the eye, and he convinces the criminal turned philanthropist to be interviewed for a book about his life.

Luke is drawn deeper into the mystery of Jacky Nyes murder. Was Grand there that night? Is he really as reformed a character as he claims? And who was the girl in the red coat seen fleeing the murder scene?

Soon Luke realises that in stirring up secrets from the past, he may have placed himself in terrible danger.

Absolutely brilliant.

For me a new Erin Kelly book is a much-anticipated event where as soon as I get hold of my copy I find quiet and comfortable space and lock myself away from the world so I can read in pure, uninterrupted pleasure, knowing when I’m finished, I will be able to close the book with a satisfying thud.

Delightfully, The Ties That Bind, has done nothing to change that feeling either. As a reader, I love to see growth in a writer, and in her fourth book, for me, Kelly has clearly bloomed. It’s also a pleasure to say that the book hangover I suffered when I finished was purely because I enjoyed the story so much, rather than because the author had left strands of story thread dangling in the wind.

There are some great characters in there too, I loved both gangster gone good, Joss Grand, and ex-journalist now cuttings library keeper Sandy. My particular favourite however, Was Jem, Luke’s controlling ex-boyfriend, who was so well written he really gave me the creeps at times.

The plot was as tightly done as ever with plenty twists and turns I didn’t see coming and a couple I did. Enough to make me enjoy getting those parts right, while also managing to ensure I was completely wrong about where things were going at the same time.

It’s a cracker of a read that I’d happily recommend to anyone looking for something refreshing in their crime fiction thrillers.