The Step-Mother – Claire Seeber

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Jeanie and Matthew are a happily married couple who both have teenage children from previous relationships.

No one said it would be easy to raise a blended family under one roof but Jeanie and Matthew are strong. They will make it work.

And whilst Jeanie’s step-daughter Scarlett rejects her, Jeanie will just have to try harder to win her over.

But Jeanie has a past. A terrible secret she thought she’d buried a long time ago. And now, it’s coming to the surface, threatening to destroy her new marriage.

Someone is playing a terrifying game on Jeanie and she must put a stop to it once and for all.
After all, a fairytale needs a happy ending… doesn’t it?

 

As an unofficial (but officially as of next year) step mother I’m always keen to read novels about blended families, as whilst my own situation has been an easy one to accept due to the age of my fiancé’s son when we met, it’s still a subject close to my heart. So when I was offered an advance copy of The Step-Mother, the latest novel by an author of whom I have long been an admirer, I accepted it with glee.

As I said I’ve been an admirer of Claire Seeber’s novels for a long time, but have to say that The Step-Mother is a fantastic step up in her skills, and deserving of all the advance praise I have been seeing on GoodReads, and from other reviewers.  I was hooked from the very beginning, and immediately all I wanted for Jeanie was the happy ending she was desperate for.

Told alternately between the narratives of Jeanie and her sister Marlena, it is an ingenious web of intrigue, so cleverly and intricately plotted that you’ll constantly change your mind as you who is up to no good, go through just about every possible culprit and still be left guessing by the end of it all.

What I enjoyed most about this novel was the profound emotional response I felt towards the characters as I was reading.  I wanted to scream at Matthew for being a useless dick, shout at her sister for being to wrapped up in her own problems, and felt every moment of shock, fear and helplessness of Jeanie as her happy ever after unraveled before her.

It’s a gem of a book that I read in just two sittings, and that was only because I had to go to bed.  It’s highly recommended by me.

 

Asked and Answered – Jason Starr

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41lhRv2HMRL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Jason Starr’s latest release Savage Lane is a dark thriller that highlights the pervasiveness of fantasy, the unconscious and risky desire of release by those guilty of deceit, the costs of unaddressed ‘friendly’ banter & rumour, the belief of children that adults don’t lie and the consequences of it all…

Savage lane, is a savage place and I would NOT want to live there.  Truth is a misnomer, whilst fantasy and ego, hidden behind a ‘High Paid Father” and “Soccer Mom” society is the norm. With neighbours like these? I’d run the other way..

Today, LifeOfCri.me recommends Savage Lane as a great read, and says Thank You to Jason Starr for taking time out of his launch schedule to answer a few questions…

LOC: Can you tell us a little about Savage Lane, and your inspiration for the story?

JS: It’s a dark domestic thriller about a group of dysfunctional people in an affluent submit of New York. A recently divorced woman is at the center of the story. Unknown to her she is the object of affection of an unhappily married man, and she also becomes the target of twisted psychopath. It’s a tense thriller, but there’s a lot of satire in it too.

LOC: We’ve all lost ourselves in the occasional fantasy, yet your characters seem to take this to another level, how challenging was this to write?

JS: I wanted to make the characters as real and identifiable as possible. Yes, their behavior is heightened, partly because I wrote the book from a close third person point of you. I wanted readers to be privy to the darkest, most intimate thoughts of each character, to amp up the psychological tension. The challenge was in keeping the momentum of the story moving forward and still tell a story that is very behavioral. When I’m writing I love to push myself, though; that’s a big part of the joy I get from writing.

LOC: So what is your writing space like, and do you have a regular writing routine?

JS: I don’t have any writing space! By design actually. I much prefer to leave my apartment to write, so my “office” is a combination of coffee bars in Manhattan.

LOC: What are you working on at the moment / What’s next for you?

JS: I’m at work on a new psychological thriller, a TV pilot that I’m co-writing, and a new comics project. I prefer to work on a few projects at once–keeps things fresh and I’m more creative under pressure. I love deadlines.

LOC: What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve every received?

JS: Good question! Ronald Ribman, a family friend who is a successful playwright, once advised me to always say “Yes” to opportunities. I didn’t take this to mean to take on projects that don’t excite me, but in general it’s a huge mistake for a writer to turn down work because they think they are too busy. Say yes and find the time.

LOC: Who inspires you?

JS: Everyone who ever rejected me or didn’t get behind my career.

LOC: In between projects how do you like to relax / enjoy your spare time?

JS: Spend time with my daughter, family and friends. Read, see movies and plays, a day at the racetrack.

LOC: What’s the strangest sentence you’ve written/read this week?

JS: Haven’t written much this week–been mainly traveling a promoting Savage Lane!

For the LifeOfCri.me quick fire round

Fact or Fiction? fiction

Film or TV? TV

Book or E-book? Book

Cats or Dogs? Dogs

Early Mornings or Late Nights? Both

Hot or Cold? Huh?

Relaxing or Adrenaline Fuelled? Relaxing

 

Savage Lane is out now in paperback, e-book and as an audible download…

Evil Games – Angela Marsons

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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

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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.

The Ice Twins – S.K. Tremayne

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imageOne of Sarah’s daughters died. But can she be sure which one? A terrifying psychological thriller that will chill you to the bone.

A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcraft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.

But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity – that she, in fact, is Lydia – their world comes crashing down once again.

As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, Sarah finds herself tortured by the past – what really happened on that fateful day one of her daughters died?

Not a book for an early night…

I picked The Ice Twins up to read one night, just as I was getting into bed, which wasn’t one of my best ideas because 3 hours after picking it up, my eyes, despite being somewhat more droopy, were still firmly glued to the screen of my Kindle. A quick glance at my reading statistics showed that I was already beyond halfway through the book, I was amazed, but not at all surprised. It is simply brilliant.

Following the death of one of their daughters, Angus and Sarah are a typically broken couple, creating more problems than they are solving by their lack of communication as they each grieve for a different child.  Their remaining daughter is grieving too, and every day in the mirror must look at the face of the sister she lost.  As the three of them stumble separately through the aftermath of the tragedy that haunts this family we discover that all was not as it seems.

Although they were identical twins, Kirstie and Lydia were remarkably different children, and both Angus and Sarah had their own favourite.  Is this why their remaining daughter claims to be the other? In turn, lies, omissions and the solitude of her new home have thrust Sarah into a world of confusion, could this affecting her daughter and be why Kirstie believes she is Lydia or is there a more sinister reason yet to be uncovered?

Haunting, spooky, melancholy and with tragedy at its heart, this is not a book you want to read if you’re planning an early night, because even if you manage to put it down, The Ice Twins is one book that just won’t let you go.

The Nightmare Place – Steve Mosby

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Sometimes, there’s a thin line between love and hate. Or at least that’s one theory for DI Zoe Dolan, tracking the Creeper – a stalker who’s been breaking into women’s homes and attacking them. But the Creeper’s violence is escalating and there’s no pattern, no clue as to how he’s getting in, and no clue as to who’s next.

Until Jane Webster gets a call to the help line where she volunteers. It’s meant to be a confidential service and Jane is torn – it could be a hoaxer, but the soft voice at the end of the line has the ring of truth about it. He says he loves these women – but it’s a love that ends in blood.

When Jane tells the police, it should be the lead that Zoe needs – but it only pulls her further into a case that is already taking her dangerously close to the past she’s never fully escaped. For Jane, Zoe and all the other young women of the city, suddenly nowhere is safe. Particularly their own bedroom at the dead of night…

 Whatever you do, don’t read it alone at night.

Your own home,  the one place you’re guaranteed to be safe, aren’t you? In the case of The Nightmare Place this is one thing that is just not so. ‘The Creeper’ is finding a way into women’s houses, through locked doors and closed windows.  No one knows how he is getting in, they just know the pain, devastation, and increasing level of violence that is going on once he is inside.

DI Zoe Dolan is trying to find out who he is and how he is getting in and Jane just might hold the key, but for her talking to the police means breaking the fundamental rule of the help line where she works, trust is paramount and confidentiality is guaranteed.  Can she reconcile passing on what she knows with breaking the rules of the organisation?

Despite its difficult and violent content, it’s got some well portrayed, down to earth characters and a with its fabulously woven plot it is an easy book to read and become enthralled by.  The Nightmare Place is a brilliant, and brutal book.  It will scare you, play to your paranoia and have you checking your locks. Whatever you do, don’t read it alone at night.

The Missing and The Dead – Stuart MacBride

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imageOne mistake can cost you everything.

When you catch a twisted killer there should be a reward, right? What Acting Detective Inspector Logan McRae gets instead is a ‘development opportunity’ out in the depths of rural Aberdeenshire. Welcome to divisional policing – catching drug dealers, shop lifters, vandals and the odd escaped animal.

Then a little girls body washes up just outside the sleepy town of Banff, kicking off a massive manhunt. The Major Investigation Team is up from Aberdeen, wanting answers, and they don’t care who they trample over to get them.

Logan’s got enough on his plate keeping B division together, but DCI Steel wants him back on her team. As his old colleagues stomp around the countryside burning bridges, Logan gets dragged deeper and deeper into the investigation.

One thing’s clear: there are dangerous predators lurking in the wilds of Aberdeenshire, and not everyone’s going to get out alive.

His best yet….

In keeping with the changes to Scottish policing over the last few years, MacBride has given protagonist McRae a ‘development opportunity’ in the back of beyond, and it’s one of his most brilliant moves yet. It has opened up the way for a great new cast of characters, good and bad alike, to meet and discover,  like Klingon and Gerbil,  Deano, Nicholson and my person favourite, Constable ‘Tufty’ Quirrell.  (particularly as I’m old enough to remember the ‘Tufty’ club… ahem… onwards)

At the same time we haven’t lost the books best character (aside from protagonist McRae obvs), the brilliant DCI Roberta Steel. In The Missing And The Dead, she is as grizzly, cantankerous and as non politically correct as ever, while she does what she does best, helping McRae every which way she can, even if it never seems so at the time.

The backdrop of the normality of everyday policing that features throughout the books is also a real breath of fresh air when it comes to police procedurals, against the starkness of the crimes being investigated, it almost comes as ‘light relief’ and yet never takes away its seriousness, or the important part it plays in the plot.

Speaking of the plotting, as always it is sublime, as intricately woven as ever, with not a wasted anecdote amongst those told.  Everything fits together perfectly.  This is one series that does nothing but improve, nine McRae novels in and MacBride has gone from strength to strength with The Missing and The Dead being quite simply his best yet.