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.

 

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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.

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.

The Directive – Matthew Quirk

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After escaping the corrupt back rooms of Washington, DC, Mike Ford is again playing a dangerous game–this time the stakes are even higher.

Mike’s brother is in over his head in a powerful conspiracy to steal a secret worth billions of dollars from the little-known but unbelievably influential trading desk at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. In an effort to help, Mike soon finds himself trapped by the dangerous men in charge–and forced to call on all the skills of his criminal past in order to escape.

If I had to sum up The Directive by Matthew Quirk in one word it would be quite simple…

“Addictive”

Pacy, without being too fast, it’s one of those rare novels where there was no one thing I could put my finger on to say what I was really enjoying about it, just that the whole package was one that meant I was unable to put the book down.

The Directive is an enjoyable thriller, with a good plot at its heart, and even if you think you’ve figured out who is behind it all before it’s revealed in the final showdown, there is plenty in there to keep you second guessing yourself all the way to the end.

 

The Dead Ground – Claire McGowan

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A month before Christmas, and Ballyterrin on the Irish border lies under a thick pall of snow. When a newborn baby goes missing from hospital, it’s all too close to home for forensic psychologist Paula Maguire, who’s wrestling with the hardest decision of her life.

Then a woman is found in a stone circle with her stomach cut open and it’s clear a brutal killer is on the loose.

As another child is taken and a pregnant woman goes missing, Paula is caught up in the hunt for a killer no one can trace, who will stop at nothing to get what they want.

The Dead Ground is the second outing for McGowans forensic psychologist Paula Maguire, and opens just a few weeks after the events of previous novel The Lost. Maguire is having to come to terms with the consequences of her recent actions, an unplanned pregnancy with two potential fathers, both of which come with their own sets of problems.

Maguire is a woman used to being able to make decisions about her own future, and McGowan deals well with issues she faces as a woman seeking a solution to a life changing situation in a country where abortion is still illegal.  She also handles well the strained relationships and fine political lines being walked both between the Serious Crime division and MPRU, as well as between the Northern and Southern Ireland police forces.

With an intelligent plot, and a killer most won’t see coming, The Dead Ground is a great read, and for those of you who haven’t read the first book, don’t be put off picking this up and reading it first.  It works well on its own, with enough information from The Lost to help you understand Maguires situation, and not enough to spoil your enjoyment of the book should you choose to go back and read it later.

Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich

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Stephanie Plum is getting desperate. She’s running out of leads in the search for Jimmy Poletti, who was caught selling more than cars out of his New Jersey dealership. Even Joe Morelli, the city’s hottest cop, is struggling to find the criminal wheeler and dealer.

Stephanie’s No. 1 temptation, Ranger, is also struggling. There’s a killer in town with a personal vendetta against him. If Ranger wants to survive, he’ll need Stephanie’s help – and to reveal a piece of his mysterious past.

Death threats, highly trained assassins and highly untrained assassins are all in a day’s work for bounty hunter Stephanie Plum!

I always love getting hold of a the latest Stephanie Plum installment, and Top Secret Twenty One was no exception.  As usual I switched off my phone, shut down my computer, settled into my comfiest chair with a fresh cup of coffee, and there I stayed from page one until I finished.  Reading a new plum is like finding an old pair of jeans that you thought you’d lost, slipping them on and discovering a £5 note hidden in one of the pockets.  Full of characters and places you know and are comfortable with, and containing a delightful hidden surprise.

There are some great twists and turns, and the usual collection of interwoven storylines, with my favourite part being about Ranger. Usually Stephanie’s ‘go to guy’ when in danger, this time round, he’s having his own issues which bring to light his own areas of weakness.  This humbling and humanising of him was perfectly well crafted, it was just enough to display more of who he really is, without taking away the mysterious, almost godlike, level of his character.

In all, Top Secret Twenty-One sees Evanovich back with a bang (or four) and on top form for this latest Stephanie Plum adventure.  It’s full of the usual mayhem, madness and murder, and with more intrigue and danger than ever. It’s yet another amazing read that devotees will devour in hours, and will easily ignite the curiosity of the newbie to investigate and indulge in the previous twenty plus books and novellas.

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Look Behind You – Sibel Hodge

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20140508-174704.jpgChloe Benson wakes up kidnapped and bound in an underground tomb with no memory of how she got there.

She escapes through deserted woods with her life, but no one believes her story.

When she begins to suspect her husband is lying to her, Chloe is forced to retrace her past, following in her own footsteps to find the truth and stay alive.

But who is following Chloe?

Look Behind You. You never know who’s out there.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began to read Look Behind You, as a psychological thriller is about as far away from the normal chick-lit novels that Hodge usually writes as you can get. What I discovered was a cleverly plotted thriller that grips you from the very beginning and with every turn of a new page will have you second guessing all that you think of the story so far…..

When Chloe escapes from her underground prison, she finds that she has lost the last seven weeks of her life, the last memory she has being of the evening of her husbands birthday party.  Everyone around her believes that she is making up her story, saying that this has happened once before and was due to a breakdown following a miscarriage for which she has recently been hospitalised.

As Chloe tries to rebuild the missing weeks and resurrect her lost memories the story begins to twist and turn. Who kidnapped her? Is she really going mad? What really happened? and Who can she trust? Her search for answers will have you enthralled, and the first person point of view will put you firmly in her head, ensuring you experience her fear and frustration as she tries to prove the truth of what happened to those around her.

If you’re loading up your e-reader for your summer holidays, then this one is definitely worth adding.