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.

 

The Killer Next Door – Alex Marwood

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No. 23 has a secret. In this bedsit-riddled south London wreck, lorded over by a lecherous landlord, something waits to be discovered.

Yet all six residents have something to hide.

Collette and Cher are on the run; Thomas is a reluctant loner; while a gorgeous Iranian asylum seeker and a ‘quiet man’ nobody sees try to stay hidden. And watching over them all is Vesta – or so she thinks.

In the dead of night, a terrible accident pushes the neighbours into an uneasy alliance. But one of them is a killer, expertly hiding their pastime, all the while closing in on their next victim…

As a cloying heatwave suffocates the city, events build to an electrifying climax in this dark, original and irresistibly compelling thriller.

“Not to be read while you’re eating lunch…”

I’ve had this book on my To Be Read pile ever since it first came out back in June last year and am now kicking myself that I didn’t read it sooner, because it is absolutely brilliant. If it’s sitting in your to be read pile I recommend you go and move it now to your next read, and if it’s not there, why not?

Dark, chilling and impeccably plotted, The Killer Next Door is an intriguing look into the secrets that lurk behind closed doors, how little notice we often take of the world around us and asks the question just how well do we ever really know our friends and neighbours?

We begin with Collette, discover the reason she is on the run and about her arrival at Beulah Grove, where she takes over the room of the mysteriously vanished Nikki.  From there we meet each of her ‘neighbours’ in the house that they all share, learning about their lives, their secrets and the circumstances that have brought them all to renting a single room with shared bathroom, cash in hand and no questions asked from #23’s slum landlord.

Their intertwining stories are at times scary, tragic, and filled with melancholy showing how easy it can be to find yourself in such dire situations as much through the actions of others, as well as your own.  My favourite part was how the characters all appeared drawn towards Vesta, finding it easy to tell their stories and offer up their secrets to her for safe, or perhaps not so safe, keeping. 

It’s a brilliant read that you won’t want to put down, although in my case it was easier for me to read and read, as I actually downloaded my copy of The Killer Next Door as an unabridged audiobook, via audible.co.uk.

The narrator is perfectly selected, and the editing slick, which meant listening to the story added an extra creepy dimension to the haunting passages of the killer and his thoughts.  It also highlighted just how vividly descriptive Marwood’s writing is, making sure you experience all of the sights, sounds and smells of the situation, which is a fabulous thing to read but certainly in my case means there is at least one bathroom section you may not want to be reading (or listening too) while you’re eating lunch…

The Final Minute – Simon Kernick

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image‘It’s night, and I’m in a strange house.

The lights are on and I’m standing outside a half-open door.

Feeling a terrible sense of forboding, I walk slowly inside.

And then I see her.

A woman lying sprawled across a huge double bed.

She’s dead. There’s blood everywhere.

And the most terrifying thing of all is that I think her killer might be me …’

A traumatic car-crash. A man with no memory, haunted by nightmares.

When the past comes calling in the most terrifying way imaginable, Matt Barron is forced to turn to the one person who can help.

Ex Met cop, turned private detective, Tina Boyd.

Soon they are both on the run .….

Master of the race against time thriller, Kernick will have you racing against time to reach the end of The Final Minute. 

Once again he has delivered a thrilling read, one that despite featuring several recurring characters, can be easily read on its own by anyone who is new to his fiction, and is satisfying for his legions of loyal fans who will be eagerly downloading the kindle version, or snapping up bargain publication day copies when it is published today.

The Final Minute will get its claws into you from the very beginning as you try, along with Matt Barron, to uncover his lost memories, and discover just who is out to get him and why.  He’s also so well written that you will alternatively love and hate him, because fundamentally he’s really not a nice guy, but you can’t help feeling for his situation, no matter how he ended up where he is.

It’s packed with action that never feels like it’s been put there for the sake of it, it all feels natural and genuine, and ensures there are none of those annoying ‘flukey getaways’ to spoil your enjoyment.  With twists and turns a plenty to keep you on your toes as you search for clues to who is behind the plot, The Final Minute is another sure-fire winner.

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.

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.

Dear Daughter – Elizabeth Little

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Janie owes everything to her mother.
Her looks. Her money.
Her murder conviction.

At 17 celebrity wild child Janie Jenkins was jailed for the murder of her mother. It was no secret she didn’t like her, but did she kill her?

Ten years later and Janie is out, her case overturned due to mishandling of evidence by the crime lab. Hiding from the media who believe she has escaped justice, Janie has travelled to a small town in the Black Hills, looking for the truth behind what happened that fateful night.

Following the tale of rich, pretty and overeducated celebrity Janie Jenkins in the days after her release from prison for the murder of her own mother, Dear Daughter grabs you firmly by the hand and doesn’t let go until you get to the end of this completely engrossing read. It’s a book chock full of contrasts, the socialite in the small town, the celebrity seeking anonymity, the sassy back chat against the quiet unassuming thought through response. It’s best displayed through protagonist Janie, a true wild child, constantly searching for the boundaries in the unlimited lifestyle of the privileged, who in order to find the truth, is forced to become the exact opposite of everything she has ever been.

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Dear Daughter also portrays brilliantly the dynamics of both large families and small communities. In the Black Hills town there are the age old feuds and fall outs amongst the families, the parental misunderstandings of the children, the sibling rivalries, together with the matriarchs that are seen to ‘hold these things together’, even if they don’t. There is some part of familial relationships in there that anyone reading this book will be able to relate to immediately. It shows a delightful amount of insight and only adds to the pleasure of reading this novel.

It’s an excellent debut you won’t want to put down once you have started and with Dear Daughter, Elizabeth Little has well and truly earned her place on my one to watch list.