The Life I Left Behind – Colette McBeth

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image“I’m the only one who knows the secrets her friends have hidden, the mistakes the police have made.  I’m the only one who can warn her she’s still in danger. I know exactly who attacked her.  He’s the same man who killed me.”

Six years ago Melody was attacked and left for dead. She survived by burying her memories, confident that her attacker was convicted and imprisoned.  The the body of another woman, Eve, is discovered.

The women were strangers.  But Eve knew all about Melody’s life,  She has left behind her story, the clues that will force Melody to confront her own lies.  The clues that will put her life in danger all over again.

Want to start the New Year with a big book bang?  Published on January 1st, The Life I Left Behind is the book to do it with. After her cracking debut novel Precious Thing, Colette McBeth returns with the legendary ‘difficult second novel’ and immediately proves that there is no such thing.

Written from the perspective of three main characters, Eve, Melody and DI Rutter, The Life I Left Behind is a compelling read, pulling you into its web of intrigue as the individual narratives intertwine brilliantly in order to allow the mystery to unravel and the killer to be revealed.

From the outset the murder of Eve Elliot appears to be an open and shut case. The man responsible for the attempted murder of Melody years before has just been released from prison, and the attacks are strikingly similar. DI Rutter isn’t so sure, not one for cutting corners she doesn’t believe that it is quite so straightforward. With her old boss, the man responsible for solving Melody’s attack keen for Rutter to follow his lead and close the case, she has her work cut out for her, making sure they have the right man.

In the meantime, Melody, now reclusive and withdrawn from the world, is about to discover the true price of her attack, how much of her life she really lost on that fateful day, and just how little has changed in the years since.

I absolutely loved The Life I Left behind, Eve and Melody are well drawn characters that have you keen to find out more about, to find out what happened and to see how everything turns out, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself still sitting reading two hours after you picked the book up to squeeze in a few quick chapters. With a plot you can easily lose yourself in, that has a devilish twist in the tale The Life I Left behind comes highly recommended.

 

Vendetta – Dreda Say Mitchell

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V CoverTwo murders. Two different crime scenes. One killer?

Mac wakes in an smashed-up hotel room with no recollection of what has happened. With his lover’s corpse in the bathroom and the evidence suggesting that he killed her, Mac is on a mission to uncover the truth and find the real killer.

But he’s in a race against time with less than a day to unravel the mystery. Still reeling from a personal tragedy Mac isn’t afraid of pain. Hot on his heels is tenacious Detective Inspector Rio Wray. Double-crossed and in the line of fire, Mac has to swim through a sea of lies to get to the truth.

But only Mac knows he’s been living a double life. Can he be sure he doesn’t have the blood of a dead woman on his hands?

In a big change in direction from her usual London gangland novels Vendetta is a race against time thriller and it’s a gripping one at that.  The hook is there immediately as Vendetta has one of the best openings I have read in some time, and you really get a feel for the pain, grogginess and sense of confusion that Mac is going through as he struggles to come to and work out where he is.

From there on in the action and the questions come thick and fast, as Mac has less than a day to discover the truth behind who killed his girlfriend and why.  As both sides of his double life are revealed, more and more conspirators are added to the mix, the plot thickens, the tension increases and your ability to put the book down will disappear.

It’s a cracking read with genuinely believable characters from troubled Mac, to feisty DI Rio Wray and to those he works for on both sides of his life. There’s plenty of legs in these guys too so I’m looking forward to hearing more…

Vendetta is out today.  Click on the image above to get your copy.

The Dying Place – Luca Veste

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Once inside…there’s no way out

A fate worse than death…

DI Murphy and DS Rossi discover the body of known troublemaker Dean Hughes, dumped on the steps of St Mary’s Church in West Derby, Liverpool. His body is covered with the unmistakable marks of torture.

As they hunt for the killer, they discover a worrying pattern. Other teenagers, all young delinquents, have been disappearing without a trace.

Who is clearing the streets of Liverpool?

Where are the other missing boys being held?

And can Murphy and Rossi find them before they meet the same fate as Dean?

We all know about them, have seen the stories, listened to the news and watched them gather. Some of us have been on the receiving end of their actions.  The ‘feral youths’, the lost and disenfranchised children society doesn’t have any time for.  We’ve all judged them, silently, passively, perhaps vocally.  But who are we to judge?

The Dying Place is the second outing for Detective Inspector David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi and maintains the dark undertones of Dead Gone with the pair searching for a vigilante cleansing Liverpool’s youth community.  Murphy, still scarred from his run in with a serial killer is walking a fine line trying to keep his marriage together when the first body is found. As the body count increases the tension ratchets up rapidly and when a policeman is shot in the line of duty, Murphy knows he must do all he can to catch this killer before more people die.

What follows is a trail of violence and a shocking final showdown that left me with quite a lump in my throat.  The Dying Place is superbly written and will have you asking moral questions not just of the characters, but of yourself.  It also succeeds in keeping you guessing as to the real identity of the villain before it is revealed and ensures you want to do nothing more than keep turning those pages until the story plays out.

It’s a fantastic follow up to an amazing debut and highly recommended for all crime fiction fans. The Dying Place is Out Now for Kindle, and available in Paperback from December 4th 2014

Race To Death – Leigh Russell

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imageWhen a man plummets to his death from a balcony at York races, his wife and brother become suspects in a murder enquiry. Meanwhile Richard is being stalked by a killer issuing death threats. Richard is reluctant to go to the police, for fear his own dark secret will be exposed. Newly promoted Detective Inspector Ian Peterson is investigating the death at the races when a woman’s body is discovered. Shortly after that, Richard is killed. With the body count increasing, the pressure mounts for his team to solve the crimes quickly. But the killer is following the investigation far more keenly than Ian realises and time is running out as the case suddenly gets a lot closer to home…

Race To Death is the second outing as a main lead for DI Ian Peterson, a character that appeared originally in the first three Geraldine Steel books by the same author.  In Race To Death he has recently accepted a promotion from DS to DI which involves moving hundreds of miles from his current home to the city of York.  This move is just one of the things I enjoyed about Race To Death, as a new location and new colleagues means the chance to get to know a whole host of new characters making this a new start for the reader as well as the protagonist.

With a wife already unhappy with the demands of ‘the job’ on his time and as yet unsettled in their new home, under pressure from a boss he is struggling to find common ground with and a murder case leading to nothing but dead ends, DI Peterson has his work cut out.  Out to impress he is determined to do what it takes to find the killer.  Russell has written these new relationships well so it is easy to identify with the characters as they settle into their new routines.

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The plot has more than enough false leads to keep you guessing to the very end. It throws you straight into the action, and the tempo continues at a steady beat throughout ensuring you won’t want to put it down until you know whodunit.

All in all it’s a riveting read and I’m really looking forward to finding out what’s next for DI Peterson.

 

For your chance to win a copy of Race To Death, tweet this post and follow @LOCrime, or leave a comment below.

Cut Out – Fergus McNeill

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Nigel never meant for it to happen. At first, he just wanted to be Matt’s friend. But when he discovers he can hear what is going on in the flat below him, his fascination with his new neighbour drifts into obsession.

Rearranging his furniture to recreate the layout of the rooms downstairs. Buying the same clothes, going through his post, his things. Becoming Matt without him ever knowing.

And it would have been all right, if Matt hadn’t brought the girl home.

When things spiral out of control, Detective Inspector Harland has to unravel the disturbing truth. But there’s far more to the case than meets the eye . . .

Creepy, disturbing and all too frighteningly plausible.

It’s been a while since I found myself completely unsettled by a novel but Cut Out certainly did that to me. This was probably not helped by the fact I stayed up until the wee small hours of the morning so I could finish the book in one sitting.

Cut Out leaves you in no doubt about the dark themes contained within from the very beginning, by opening with the highly gruesome and sadistic murder of a small time drug dealer, before moving on to the main story of Nigel, an isolated man, with little in the way of social skills who prefers to work from home than amongst his colleagues at the agency he photoshops pictures for.

When a new neighbour moves in downstairs, Nigel’s life is changed completely. Matt is everything Nigel wants to be, good looking, confident, a hit with the girls and after a friendly night in front of the TV as neighbours, Matt soon moves from Nigel’s role model, to the object of his obsession.

As his justification for his deeds becomes more irrational, and his actions more and more intrusive, it is soon clear not just how shocking his behaviour has become, but also how plausible it is for someone with access and a little technical knowledge to do the same to you.

Cut Out is the third of the DI Graham Harland books from Fergus McNeill and the first I’ve read. It works well as a stand alone not revealing much from the previous novels giving those like me a chance to not only enjoy this great read without feeling I was missing something and also giving me the chance to go back and explore an intriguing character. There are certainly questions I have from this book which have been answered already, making me keen to now seek them out.

In the meantime, I’m off to check just who has the keys to my flat……

Summer of Ghosts – P.D.Viner

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‘Beautiful skin.’


It begins with a father calling his daughter, but whoever answers is not Pia but his daughter’s killer. He must listen, horrified, to the sounds of his only child being murdered, powerless to intervene as the killer utters two chilling words.

Most men’s thoughts would turn to vengeance but Pia’s father is far more resourceful than most. And he is not the reserved businessman his daughter always believed him to be, but Franco, a notorious London drug lord who will call in all his debts to find his daughter’s killer. Including the one owed to him by DI Tom Bevans.

Only Tom is a man haunted by grief; every unsolved case weighs heavily against his soul. And Tom has heard the killer’s words before.

 

The ghost of a case left unsolved.
The ghost of a marriage lost to a search.
The ghost of a woman whose only goal is vengeance
The ghost of a man trying to save his daughter
And the man trying to help them all when the ghost from his past calls in a favour.

DI Tom Bevans is The Sad Man, a man weighed down by his own actions and inactions of the past. Now he has a chance to catch a killer he was forced to stop investigating years before, a killer who left who left three girls dead and one seriously injured, a killer he is determined to bring to justice.

Franco has nothing but violence in his past. Having escaped his life once before, he would like to do so again for the sake of his teenage daughter, but someone has other plans, and now his daughter is missing.

The Summer of Ghosts is the second novel in the Dani Lancing series (there are also two accompanying short stories available), and one of those rare occasions where I believe it is best to have read the previous novel, The Last Winter of Dani Lancing, before embarking on reading this.  It’s not a must, as what you need to know from the first novel in order to enjoy this one is covered in Summer of Ghosts, but if you want to read the first book later it does prove to be a bit of a spoiler, that said, I also believe that by reading them in order it is far more fulfilling series with greatly enriched characters.

Exploring the devastating effects of grief, the power of vengeance and the impact on the morality of those consumed by such feelings Summer of Ghosts is an interesting read.

Dani Lancing short stories The Ugly Man and The Sad Man, are also available and both are currently free on Kindle.

The Girl On The Train – Paula Hawkins

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“To everyone else in this carriage I must look normal; I’m doing exactly what they do: commuting to work, making appointments, ticking things off lists.

Just goes to show.”

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’ she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

Then she sees something shocking. It’s only for a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.

Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives show only watched from afar. Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train.

First things first, I’m simply going to say this….

Go Away and order this book now…

I guarantee when this book hits the shelves in January it is one that will be talked about just about everywhere. It’s simply that awesome. I can’t remember the last time I read a debut novel as original, gripping, and well written. I already know that I’m not going to shut up about this book for some time, and even with the wait for its release, it is one I am going to be recommending to anyone who asks me what I think they should be reading.

Published on the 15th January 2015, The Girl On The Train is epically timed for a cold, snow filled Saturday in front of the fire with some hot chocolate.  It’s dark, disturbing and totally addictive so put your feet up, get yourself comfortable and settle in for a good few hours because you will not be able to put this book down until you have finished.

I really don’t want to say too much about the plot of the book as much of its greatness is down to the magnificent way all the twists and turns unravel before your eyes as the pages pass by.

The Girl On The Train is written in one of my favourite ‘journal type’ styles, in the main from the perspectives of Rachel and Megan, although there is another point of view to be discovered, and covers the months leading up to Megan’s disappearance and those of Rachel’s search for the truth. As the narrative switches between the two timelines, what is revealed is a fabulous tale full of all of the mixed up emotions of many suburban household couples, those that often come with second marriages, divorces, affairs, unrequited loves, job loss, boredom, and motherhood.  It also has some of the most believable characters I’ve read in some time, and I felt it easy to identify with all the women involved at some point during the book.

 

Pop Goes The Weasel – M J Arlidge

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imageA man’s body is found in an empty house. His heart has been cut out and delivered to his wife and children.

He is the first victim, and Detective Inspector Helen Grace knows he will not be the last. But why would a happily married man be this far from home in the dead of night?

The media call it Jack the Ripper in reverse: a serial killer preying on family men who lead hidden double lives.

Helen can sense the fury behind the murders. But what she cannot possibly predict is how volatile this killer is – or what is waiting for her at the end of the chase…

Pop Goes the Weasel is the sequel to Richard & Judy book club pick Eeny Meeny, and I have to say there is no evidence of that ‘difficult second novel’ here. Arlidge maintains the same great pace from Eeny Meeny in this novel and ensures that the plot is not only as equally dark and twisted, but also that those who are eager to bring down DI Helen Grace are more despicable and determined than before.

Just as with Eeny Meeny previously, Pop Goes the Weasel is a real page turner of a book, that I would have sat and completed in one sitting had it not been for the pesky need of a few hours sleep. Helen Grace is a delightful character, that I really enjoy reading about, constantly unsure of what other people think of her and yet always confident in everything she does.

Overall this is a fabulous read, that as any good novel does leaves you with enough unanswered questions about who will be coming back, and how Helen’s relationships will change or grow that you’ll be keen to discover just when the next installment will be available, and hitting that pre-order button as soon as you can.

Mr Mercedes – Stephen King

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In the frigid pre-dawn hours of a distressed mid-western city, hundreds of folk are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver ploughs through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up and charging again. Eight people are killed, fifteen are wounded, the killer escapes.

Bill Hodges is a retired cop, depressed, lonely and still haunted by the unsolved crime. When out of the blue he receives a crazed letter from someone claiming to be the Mercedes killer, and threatening further acts of violence, Hodges becomes hell-bent on tracking him down and preventing another tragedy.

Brady Hartfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born and is preparing to kill again. Only Hodges together with a couple of misfit friends can apprehend the killer in this high stakes race against time, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim hundreds, even thousands.

OK. I admit it. Mr Mercedes is the first Stephen King novel I have ever read. Not that I haven’t tried before, but nothing has ever ‘grabbed’ me and made me want to follow it through to the end. That said, I’m not really a fan of the horror genre when it comes to my choice of reading material. Mr Mercedes isn’t a horror story, it’s a classic crime thriller and I loved it.

It took me while to get used to some of the characters as they certainly were a real rag-tag bunch of misfits, with Holly being the most difficult to frame in my mind, but the group dynamic was one that worked really well.  Bill Hodges is a truly depressed and broken man at the beginning of the tale, but once his ‘scooby gang’ is brought together the change is fast and you can see how he would have been a great detective in his police days.

In contrast the downward spiral of Brady Hartfield as the book progresses is slow, yet clearly visible and perfectly timed to the pace of the novel.  It was almost a delight seeing him lose his controls and clarity of purpose as Hodges closes in.

I’ve read many mixed or poor reviews of Mr Mercedes, and surprisingly most of these seem to have come from lifelong Stephen King fans. Personally I think this is probably down to the change in genre, because as a prolific crime fiction reader I think King has done a great job myself, so I’m really glad to note that this is the first in a trilogy as it means I have more to look forward too.

Safe As Houses – Simone Van Der Vlugt

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A single mother stands in the garden of her isolated house, hanging out the washing, when suddenly a man appears. When he grabs at her, Lisa runs, but she is not quick enough. Suddenly Lisa and her young daughter find themselves held hostage in their own home. In the following hours and days, Lisa will do the unimaginable to protect her child – all the time wondering why the only witness has not come back to help her…

Safe As Houses is a dark and gripping tale of life, love, lies and survival.

Two women, both fighting for their lives, the survival of one dependant upon the survival of the other.  Ordinary everyday women whose lives both take a deadly turn on the same fateful night.

Safe as Houses will have you enthralled as the story slowly unfolds around you, carefully and very deliberately ratcheting up the tension, before hitting you below the belt with a couple of cracking last minute twists.