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I live in Bristol UK horror dark fiction and crime are my books of choice and when not reading I like to run

Colourful bawdy and bold!

Tomorrow - Damian Dibben

The word "Tomorrow" actually refers to the name of the dog in this story, who throughout the book is searching for his master "Vallentyne" a physician by occupation. As the story covers  many many years and many great events it must be accepted that the dog lives a very long time. The purpose of this novel and where it really succeeds is to describe events in Europe over a span of approx 150 years. It's a bold and bawdy journey and gives full reign for the author to explore the great happenings in a continent under constant change with many battles being fought.  From the Freezing of the river Thames in the 19th century to famous battles at that time (Waterloo) being present at the dramatic execution of Charles 2nd, and finishing at the dawn of the Industrial age with the first sighting of steam trains. And as we absorb the colourful and constant change of time and location we meet the players who will forever be associated with certain events namely; Napoleon, Franz Schubert, Duke of Wellington, James 1st and his successor Charles 2nd.

 

What drew me to the story was reliving events through a dog's point of view. As we move backwards and forwards in time from the palace of James 1st to the artful ambience of Vienna and Venice and the blood soaked plains of Waterloo the story telling is furious and very enjoyable with a constantly flowing descriptive prose...."The king lay down, positioned his neck on the block, trying to get comfortable. The executioner apologized as he tucked a few more stray hairs into the cap, then raised the axe and struck. Blood pumped from the boned neck and a groan went up"....."the trickery of it, the pointlessness, humans and animals born simply to suffer, for the pain to invariably worsen with age, for anguish to thicken and veins clog, until they were skidding down to death"......."Perhaps because decay is the most virulent form of life, or perhaps because nothing speaks more of the phenomenon of being, than the absence of it".........

 

The only downside of the back and forth time capture narrative is the confusion that can sometimes arise when trying to pinpoint a particular city and time. The is a very slight criticism in a story that I enjoyed told in a very colourful and bold manner. Many thanks to the good people of netgalley and publisher Penguin UK-Michael Joseph for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

An important book of its time

The Seventh Cross - Anna Seghers, James A. Galston, Kurt Vonnegut

Without doubt one of the main issues that often causes concerns when talking about the 2WW is just how much information the everyday German populace received or knew about what the Nazi party were involved in on a day to day basis. Here of course we are referring to genocide and the manipulation and control of not only the German people but those in neighbouring countries which soon fell under the control of jack booted terrorists and in particular the annihilation of groups who did not conform to the Nazi Aryan ideology. So digging deep within the storyline of The Seventh Cross we are almost exclusively given a glimpse into the thinking of the everyday German at that time and in particular their knowledge or lack of just what was happening on a daily basis. Did they know of the existence of concentration camps in the years immediately before war broke out? And if they did know were they supportive? Did they condone what was going on? Were they prepared to help individuals who were incarcerated and brutally beaten for merely condoning a particular belief?

 

Anna Seghers book is of particular significance as it a product of its time. It paints a picture of a country in change/turmoil but most importantly it is written from someone who actually lived through the rise of Nazism, the emergence of an elitist SS, the indoctrination of the very young into the Hitler Youth, the brown uniforms and fascist beliefs held by the SA whose official role was to protect party meetings, march in Nazi rallies and physically assault and intimidate political opponents. 7 men imprisoned in the fictitious Westhofen camp have escaped. George Heisler, a communist, is the main character and the story follows him negotiating the outlying countryside and taking shelter with those who were prepared to risk the wrath and torture of the Gestapo. As the story unfolds six of the escapees are gradually captured. The title of The Seventh Cross refers to the work of the camp commandant "Fahrenberg" where he has ordered the creation of seven crosses from nearby trees to be used when prisoners are returned not as a means of crucifixion but a subtler torture: the escapees are made to stand all day in front of their crosses, and will be punished if they falter. As in historical document this is an important work primarily because it portrays the mindset of the German people; would they adhere to the barbarous actions of a ruthless government in waiting or were they prepared to stretch out the hand of friendship and help the escapees.

 

I must confess that as a story I did not find the book as well written as I had hoped (that honour must certainly go to the wonderful Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada. and the dangerous actions that Otto Quangel takes when he discovers that his son has been killed on the Russian front) yet it is still an excellent account of its time, written by a lady who herself was a committed communist. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley and the publisher Little Brown Book Group UK, Virago for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

A solid offering from Mr Weaver

You Were Gone - Tim Weaver

Tim Weaver is an author whose work I really enjoy. His writing is precise reminiscent of storytelling from a bygone era, at times displaying shades of Agatha Christie but with a modern feel. The central character in his novels is David Raker, an investigator who markets himself as a locator of lost persons, those individuals who for their own personal reasons wish to disappear....or do they? Weaver uses real and imagined locations throughout London often creating a haunted or sinister backdrop adding to the mystical quality of his prose. Think of old wooden piers and the thrills and sounds of Victorian amusement arcades (What Remains, David Raker book 6)  and underground abandoned tube/rail stations (Vanished, David Raker book 3)

 

Nine years ago Raker sadly lost his wife Derryn  to cancer. He is naturally astounded when he receives a call from a local police station informing him that a woman purporting to be his wife has just presented herself at reception. Who is this woman? Is Raker's mind unravelling? Did the last 9 years never happen? What appears to be a simple case of I.D becomes something altogether more disturbing when the lady in question mysteriously disappears after visiting a flat in Chalks Farm. From this point in the novel the events that unravel become increasingly dark and threatening. As our investigator himself is drugged a race against time follows to locate the whereabouts of the missing woman. Raker is horrified to learn that both himself and his wife have been the subject of "stalking" for many years and unfortunately it appears the perpetrator is still active posing a very real and present threat. When the identity of the stalker is revealed the resulting shock and fallout will amaze not only those involved in the hunt but an unsuspecting reader!

 

I must admit that "You were gone" is not my favourite novel in the David Raker series. The plot is overly complex and at a page count of just under 500 it might have benefited from some close editing as I found myself really struggling to complete the last 20%. Having said that I am a great admirer of the writing of Tim Weaver and this is still a solid contender in the series. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley and the publisher Penguin UK - Michael Joseph for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

In a word....Brilliant!

Die Last - Tony Parsons

For some reason I appear to be reading the DC Max Wolfe series in reverse order, not that this really makes any difference to my enjoyment of this first class creation by our very own home bred author Tony Parsons. What sets this crime series equal to and often above the everyday police procedural is the warmth and humanity that the author instils in Max Wolfe retaining so much of the charm from Parsons earlier books (Man and Boy, Man and Wife) Make no mistake Wolfe is a no nonsense operator with an unbreakable exterior yet at the same time shielding a gentle man possessing a deep understanding of the human psyche. Just observe this paragraph when Max is deep in concentration about his dead parents...."But I saw them both after they died, and the spark that had made them the man and woman they were had gone to some other place or dissolved from the Universe. I had no idea but their souls had flown".....

 

One early cold February morning in Chinatown central London a refrigerated lorry is discovered abandoned it's owner having taken flight. Discovered inside are the frozen remains of 12 women together with 13 passports. So the race is on to locate the identity of the only live witness to this senseless massacre. This story will take Max Wolfe into the core and past of London's criminal fraternity, and in so doing he will discover the senseless barbaric migration of a poor unsuspecting people making the journey to England for the start of what they hope is a new rich fulfilling life. They will ultimately discover that they are merely merchandise or goods to be traded effectively sold into the slavery of prostitution by evil men whose true intent is exploitation and greed...."Human Trafficking, Smuggling and Slavery, the CPS will call it. Enough to put someone away for fourteen years."....

 

The author is an expert at retaining the reader's attention with his tight descriptive prose using the colourful vibrant beating heart of London as his stage..."It was very cold and I was tired. I wanted to be under the same roof as my daughter and my dog. I wanted to be away from the liars and the desperate"...."a woman who had successfully carved a career from the desires of men".... Whatever the outcome there was never going to be a happy fix or a solution to the question of illegal immigration. DC Max Wolfe as a dogged investigator hunting out the evil but ultimately what he accomplishes is merely a sticking plaster over an open wound..."Of the twelve women we discovered on that freezing morning, only Hana Novak was ever identified and claimed. I felt we had failed them all and everyone who loved them"........

 

Many thanks to the good people at netgalley and the publisher Random House UK, Cornerstone Arrow for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written......in a word Brilliant!

 

Coping with a mental disorder

The Long Road - Daniel Oliver

"The last thing I needed was an accident, since I hadn't bothered to change out of my pyjama bottoms and slippers"...Within the first few pages of The Long Road it soon becomes clear that something is not quite right with Hank Galloway, and when he meets with his friend Tom he tries to convince Tom that his neighbour is out to kill him. Luckily Hank is persuaded that he needs to visit a doctor in order to address this unexplained "paranoia" resulting in illusions and panic attacks. This is certainly not a book that I would normally read but I was intrigued about the subject matter and how the author would present a seemingly ordinary person suffering a mental breakdown.

 

This novel is about one man's aspirations, his hopes and dreams for the future and how such desires and ambitions are that much harder to attain when schizophrenia and depression are diagnosed...."There was that word again. Illness! How I hated it! It was up there with "disease" and "condition" two other words I'd heard that described mental disorders."....  Daniel Oliver, quite rightly, explains observes and shows how society and family react to someone with a mental illness, and how even in the toughest situations our dreams and needs for the future can still be achieved.....all it takes is a belief in one self. Many thanks to the good people of netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Harsh yet beautiful, a pleasure to read

Desperation Road - Michael Farris Smith

The wonderful thing about social media and in particular book discussion forums such as goodreads is the opportunity it offers to the avid reader to discuss and in particular to discover new books, and new authors. Michael Farris Smith was a name that was completely alien to me until a throw away mention made me inquisitive as to the content of his books and the literate style of his prose. By pure chance his novel Desperation Road had been heavily discounted (for a very limited period) on kindle and so with a brave heart and a restless reading soul I reached inside the mind of what I hoped would be a great new discovery and reading experience.

 

Desperation Road is set in southern USA in the state of Mississippi and as the title would tend to suggest this journey is going to be a long and difficult ride. I had previously read and enjoyed the works of Michael McDowell (southern gothic and a good example the classic Cold Moon over Babylon) and the much revered  Cormac McCarthy with his deeply dark and troubling stories of Southern Outcasts (Child of God) In fact there is one similarity between Child of God and Desperation Road; the central character in both books has just been released from prison. Russell Gaines, after 12 year sentence is returning home to the small town of McComb in the Mississippi Delta. His crime was one of manslaughter and now, having served his time, is hoping that he can be accepted back into the community. There to greet him on his arrival are Walt and Larry who are not best pleased to see the return of the man who killed their brother Jason. At the same time a homeless drug addict, and part time prostitute, Maben is making her way on foot to McComb accompanied by her daughter Annalee. But old habits die hard and Maben is forced to "turn a few tricks" whilst leaving her daughter asleep in a cheap motel. When a local deputy intercepts her, and demands payment in kind, in a fit of rage and anger she shoots him dead. What happens when the world of Russell and Maben collide in a small Southern Town where violence and the threat of death is an everyday occurrence.

 

This was a tremendous and exciting read and I could really feel the tension and hate that was destined to explode at anytime and usually did. The claustrophobic setting and some great prose made this a novel to be appreciated and devoured in ultra quick time...."Reptiles slither and blackbirds cry as the early light slashes and relieves the quiet night."........"Ripped wide open but alive. Ripped wide open but recovered. Ripped wide open but not wide enough. Lucky, they'd said. A miracle they'd said. Bullshit, he'd said"....."There had been years and years of this. Years of not knowing where she was going or what she was doing or the names of the people she was doing it with."....

 

Wonderful atmospheric edgy writing not knowing where the violence was going to strike but knowing that it would happen soon. Michael Farris Smith is an author that I shall be reading more off..very soon...Highly highly recommended

Good addition to the series

Presumed Dead - Mason Cross

Mason Cross writes fast exciting thrillers somewhere between Tim Weaver (David Raker missing persons investigator) and Lee Child with the Jack Reacher series (dur loner investigating suspicious and frequently dangerous situations). Carter Blake describes himself as a "Locating Consultant" finding people who don't want to be found. In Presumed Dead he is approached by David Connor who believes that his sister Adeline was not the Devil Mountain killer's final victim but rather she is alive and well and he knows this to be true because he has seen her. He has managed to convince Carter Blake that there may be some truth in his wild assertion so Blake makes the trip south to Lake Bethany in hope of an early resolve.

 

What follows is a fast exciting ride as Blake attempts to be accepted, into this rural community, by a suspicious population and police force who do not welcome the interference of outsiders. It soon becomes clear that a killer is still active and as the body count mounts the lines between the past and present become increasingly blurred. Mason Cross performs the very skilful task of shielding the real killer until the final pages and that disclosure is nothing short of ingenious. Many thanks to netgalley and the publisher Orion for a gratis copy in return for an honest review and that is what I have written.

The complicated world of DCI Erika Foster

Deadly Secrets - Robert Bryndza

What starts off as something quite ordinary actually explodes into life in the final chapters and produces an ending impossible to predict but beautiful in its execution. On a cold winters morning the body of a young attractive burlesque dancer is discover frozen outside her home. As the investigation develops the perpetrator is identified as a tall man dressed in black wearing a gas mask. When a number of further attacks are recorded the race is on for Detective Chief Inspector Erika Foster to bring a corrupt and twisted individual to justice as soon as possible.

 

The character of Erika Foster is what really attracts me to the books of Robert Bryndza. She is a relatively young woman in her early 40's traumatized  by the death of her husband Mark when an earlier investigation ended in tragedy. In Deadly Secrets Erika reveals her loneliness and inability to retain a personal relationship, her sadness as the possibility of motherhood begins to fade, the changing of her body and mood swings as she struggles to accept the approach of menopause. To mask this unhappiness and despair she turns inwards accepting the dangers, toils and demands of her job as a senior member of the police force in charge again of a major investigation...."So much in her life was out of control, but she had the power to track down whoever had done this. And she would".....When Erika is unexpectedly called to Manchester to aid in the recovery and rehabilitation of her father in law Edward the command of the murder investigation is passed to DI Moss and no one could foresee the chain of events that quickly followed. An attempted arrest almost ends in disaster and Erika, having returned to the capital, once again takes control where a startling discovery turns the investigation on its head leading to the apprehension  and detention of the most unlikely culprit.

 

I was a little disillusioned with the first part to this novel and found the idea of a suspect using a gas mask as part of a disguise a little unbelievable. However DCI Erika is such a wonderful "ballsy" character and I love the way the author is developing her psychic, exposing her weaknesses but equally championing her strengths. There is such a sadness and need under that tough veneer and I look forward to the next instalment of an excellent detective series. Many thanks to the good people of netgalley and the publisher Bookouture for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Wonderful wonderful storytelling

Girl On Fire: (DC Max Wolfe) - Tony Parsons

Many moons ago I read Man and Boy by Tony Parsons and was pleasantly surprised by this warm and delightful story of family relationships and a father faced with the responsibility of being the sole parent for his small son. I was aware that he had written a detective series, for some years I avoided but often wondered how it could be possible to produce such emotive writing in a totally different genre. Girl on Fire has been an amazing read combining all Parson's warmth from his earlier books with a gritty fast paced detective story engaging and shocking in equal measures.

 

"I woke up and found the world was gone" These are the opening "explosive" thoughts of DC Max Wolfe as he recovers and surveys the aftermath of a terrorist attack at a local shopping centre. Wolfe is a member of a specialist firearms unit of the Metropolitan police. Following the explosion he and his team are tasked with finding the individuals responsible, made all the more urgent when it becomes clear that an unknown number of Croatian hand grenades have..."found their way across from the Balkans to our streets"....They have been traced to two brothers Asad and Adnan Khan who also appear to be linked in some way to the shopping centre explosion. The race is on to expose the terrorist cell before more death and destruction "bloodies" the streets of London.

 

This is an astounding, intelligent, up to the minute, thriller that not only addresses terrorism on the capital's streets but also the affects such acts of hatred has on both the individuals and families involved. What happens when different cultures and beliefs collide? When social media can be used to brainwash the bad and the vulnerable? And when angry young men and women are prepared to kill for what they feel is a righteous and just cause....But this story is much more than that. The warmth, the love and values that graced the earlier books of Tony Parsons is still present and adds an extra layer of brilliance to some of the best emotive prose I have read in a very long time. There is Scout, Max Wolfe' cherished daughter, living with him but now the subject of a court battle between Wolfe and his ex "model" wife Anne. There is the harsh reality that life in a dangerous frontline policing job means friends and colleagues may be present one day and sadly gone tomorrow. There is the unquestionable love that exists between man and (his) dog (Stan)..."I lie belly-up in the sunshine, happier than you will ever be. Today I sniffed many dot butts-I celebrate by kissing your face"....There is the complex often hypocritical belief in religious teachings and the affects and fallouts that all in society must bear witness to.

 

There is an explosive start to Girl on Fire and an equally harrowing "I never expected that" conclusion. Tony Parsons has accomplished what I never thought possible by creating something new and deeply heartfelt in crime fiction. In DI Max Wolfe we have a vulnerable antihero and a story that brilliantly moulds all the jagged edges of this sorry tale together. We as readers understand and appreciate Wolfe's weaknesses. The story is real, the action is real, the people the emotions, the daily turmoil, the highs and lows of modern living are all so real and on these pages..wonderful stuff...wonderful writing.

Many thanks to the publishers Random House UK, Cornerstone Century and netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written. Highly highly Recommended.

Outstanding!

The Drop - Michael Connelly

What a truly fantastic read by what has to be my favourite crime writer; Michael Connelly. What is it about his style, what is it about his writing that makes a character so real, so unbelievably complex yet so dedicated who truly believes "Everybody counts or nobody counts." Bosch working with the unsolved crimes unit is looking into historic cases that were never resolved, in this particular instance the murder of Lily Price some 20 years previous. Added to this he has been requested, by his long-time rival Councilman Irvin Irving, to help apprehend the murderer of his son George.  There is so much that is "human" about Harry Bosch constantly working as a lone maverick and ignoring advice or guidance from his immediate superior or his present partner David Chu. Harry is so arrogant so impossible to work with, a maverick who always seems to read and understand the facts before anyone else and thus identify the culprit.

 

Irvin Irving has especially requested Bosch to find the truth behind his son's death, no matter how painful that truth may be. Irving has no love for Harry but he knows that this wily experienced detective will surely uncover the story behind his son's suggested suicide. Meanwhile the historic search for the killer of Lily Price will lead Bosch on a journey into the mind of an evil predator where depravity knows no bounds. Add to this the emergence of Harry's daughter Maddie into adulthood, and a timely long overdue love interest then we have all the ingredients for a wonderful read. Michael Connelly brings to life the daily pressure and decisions that are a constant occurrence for the officers within the LAPD....."Every Cop knew that quietly carrying the horrors of the job inside could be like carrying untreated cancer".... It has been a joy to read  "The Drop" over the last 24 hours I could not put the novel aside which is a tribute to the brilliant storytelling. A fantastic 10 star read! one of the best in series and highly highly recommended

Average bloodthirsty thriller

The Key to Death's Door - Mark Tilbury

Lee Hunter 14 years old lives at home with his mum, his dad having departed. Mum works long hours as a nurse to compensate for the drop in income. This offers Lee the opportunity to go adventuring with his best friend Charlie Finch. One afternoon they decide to go exploring crossing a nearby river in a flimsy rubber dingy. The following morning the boat has vanished and the boys have no choice but to swim for home. A disaster occurs and Lee sinks to the bottom of the river where an out of body experience see him transported back in time some 30 years.

 

In this bygone era Lee has been transformed into a teenager known as Paul Collins and has his first painful experience of meeting a young very evil Daryl Finch, Charlie Finch's father. The elder Finch sets about tormenting, and finally destroying the Paul's family because they refused to give him money to set up his own business which in his twisted mind they should have done as he is married to Susan, Paul Collins sister. (I hope you are following this dear readers as it is a little confusing!) The purpose of this transition in time is to instil in Lee how important it is to understand the evil that is Daryl Finch and to eradicate that evil when he once again travels forward to the present. Daryl Finch is truly depraved, anyone or anything who obstructs him he will wipe out. His wife Susan is being systematically  destroyed, and tortured by him and events soon reach a bloody conclusion when Lee and Charlie are apprehended  by Finch. Can Lee fulfill his destiny and stop the destructive Finch thereby restoring some normality to his young 14 year old life.

 

What an odd story that seems to spend most of its narrative describing in great detail the gory, plundering murdering rampage that is Daryl Finch. Although this is a novel set in the UK it has a strange American feel both in its language (always referring to policemen as Cops) and location which resembles a rural southern USA. The time travel aspect helped in the overall atmosphere but even that at times was confusing. Quite an enjoyable read showing a world where evil is always present but balanced against this is the importance of friendships and family, with always the hope that goodness will prevail. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley, and the publisher Bloodhound books, for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Hang on for the ride!

The Cyclist - Anthony Neil Smith

The great thing about being a member of netgalley is the opportunity it offers to the avid reader to explore genres and authors that would have otherwise have passed him by. Equally it gives new authors the chance to reach out to a much greater audience when hopefully their books will receive a warm welcome. I thought The Cyclist was an excellent example of an exciting story that kept me captivated from first page to last and all in one sitting! Not bad for an author whose writing I had only just met...so what's it about?

 

Judd almost became a navy seal, his friend and mentor Burt "cleaver" worries about him following an incident with live ammo during a field training exercise..."Whatever made him think he was a SEAL material, God only knew".... Judd in his own mind is a washed out failure spending his time cycling and surfing the net in the hope?..........Cat is the answer to his dreams an online companion who finds him funny outgoing and personable, the fact that she lives in Glasgow and he in Minnesota is but a small problem. Judd makes the decision to take out his meagre life savings and make the long journey to Scotland hopeful and confident that Catrina is the love of his life. What follows is an exciting thrill a minute tour de force as Judd tries to comprehend the complex Cat as they journey and cycle north of Inverness in the harsh yet beautiful Scottish countryside. To disclose more would spoil the delights and gruesome pleasures that await you dear reader of my review! I will only add that "Cleaver" shows the meaning of true friendship, and Cat will need to explain to an infatuated Judd just what her relationship with Alistair is?

 

Many thanks to the good people of netgalley for sending me a gratis copy of The Cyclist in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written. Highly Recommended.

A world of heartache and pain

Blanky - Kealan Patrick Burke

A sad deeply moving short story from one of my fav authors Kealan Patrick Burke. Stephen Brannigan and his wife Lexi are mourning the tragic loss of their daughter Robin. Unable to comprehend this life changing event both parents have resolved to live apart and deal with the grief in their own particular way. Stephen is tormented by dreams and visions and finds comfort with an old blanket that used to adorn Robins cot. Lexi living with her parents reaches out again to Stephen and the two once again find comfort in each other's arms.

 

An unforeseen event occurs that throws the healing process into confusion and Stephen in his utter despair seeks out the market trader who sold Lexi the baby blanket as he is convinced this is the route of all evil and the cause of his despair. But is Stephen suffering a mental breakdown? Can we believe his narrative? Stephen purports to love and worship his wife and daughter but can we trust his mental state?..."I may have lost my mind for a time, but grief makes everyone crazy. Losing someone makes you lose yourself, makes you yearn for the impossible"....

 

A beautiful, uneasy and difficult to read short novel by Kealan Patrick Burke. As with so much of his writing the emotion and sadness is laid bare for all to see.... " you must try to get on with things or the grief will destroy you. You must put away the reminders of loss to have any hope of surviving."......"I feared that when Robin died, Lexi buried me right alongside her."...."The seasons were changing and the house was old attuned like arthritic bones to alterations in temperature."..... The ending expertly complimented the themes of loss and heartache and it would appear that nothing could save the Brannigan family as they..."went to lay with the Goddess of Grief. Recommended.

Harry has an off day

The Overlook - Michael Connelly

Harry Bosch is called to the scene of a murder on the "Overlook" a high location in LA which offers stunning views of the city of angels. It soon becomes apparent that renowned physicist Dr. Stanley Kent was shot twice in the back of the head, all the marks of a professional killing. Very quickly the FBI are involved  in the form of Bosch's on/off lover Rachel Walling. It would appear that not only is this a murder scene but a hazardous  radioactive element "cesium" remains unaccounted for presumably stolen when the physicist  was executed. What at first was thought to be a simple homicide has evolved into a serious security issue and both the FBI and the LAPD must rush to contain an emerging national emergency. If there is one thing that angers Bosch it is having to share an investigation with other government agencies. As a maverick investigator he views with suspicion the actions of others and questions why not only the FBI but Homeland Security should "muscle" in on his turf!

 

As a long time admirer of the writings of Michael Connelly I must admit to be disappointed in this the 13th outing of our irascible hero Harry Bosch. He is much more comfortable (and so is the reader) when he is examining incidents peculiar to LA. Once the FBI and Homeland Security takes charge of this possible major chemical contamination, Harry is always playing catch up. Nevertheless, and almost unbelievably, it is Harry who from a single piece of evidence is able to resolve the matter by simply acting on his own intuition. What is the significance of Dr. Kent's wife? Why has a small yet potentially dangerous amount of the chemical been stolen? Is there an ulterior motive behind the theft?

 

This is a relatively short novel and even though I never felt comfortable with the storyline Connelly's writing, descriptions and his knowledge of this diverse colourful city always makes for enjoyable reading. There are some great secondary characters; Harry's new partner Ignacio (Iggy) Ferras who Harry refuses to call by his preferred name..."See you there, Ignacio Bosch said. Harry, Ferras said, I told you. Call me Iggy. Everybody does" Then there is the comical figure of Captain Don Hadley, affectionately know to his fellow cops as Captain Done Badly, who sees himself as a type of John Wayne figurehead.."The rest of you warriors mount up! We're going in." And lets not forget those wonderful descriptions...."Past the dam the city spread out in a blanket of a million lights, which shimmered in the cool evening air like floating dreams."........"The gray had not yet chased all of the brown out of his hair but it was getting close to victory."....."We are all circling the drain, he thought. Some are closer to the black hole than others; some will see it coming and some will have no clue when the undertow grabs them and pulls them down into the darkness forever."....

Outstanding Nordic noir

The Darkness - Ragnar Jónasson

 Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdottir is very close to retirement and she is not sure if this idea makes her feel good. When she is called to the office of her immediate superior Magnus because "We need to have a little chat about your situation" she is not sure what to expect. It seems her noble boss is eager for her to leave so that her replacement "a real high achiever" can take over her job and a deadline is set for two weeks. In fact the arrogant Magnus is eager for her to depart immediately but .."On full pay, of course" Refusing to be intimidated and not wishing to retire early she eagerly grasps at a throwaway comment made by Magnus..."But you, well, you could always look into a cold case, I suppose. Anything that takes your fancy. How does that grab you?."....The pompous Magnus will live to regret his decision and as Hulda revisits again the unsolved case of refugee Elena "She had come to a foreign country in search of refuge and only found a watery grave. And nobody cared."....she will unravel a murder that was never properly managed, and in the process question the original investigation.

 

The primary officer in the case Alexander did not suspect murder and closed his findings on a suicide verdict. But DI Hulda questions why a young refugee would take her own life when she had just discovered that very morning her asylum application had been approved. Clearly something had been missed, Magnus had hoped that this old case had been put to rest and he is most unhappy that Hulda is "making waves" and causing problems when she should be retired. We learn of Hulda's traumatic childhood, the tragic events surrounding her daughter Dimma, and the truth concerning her much loved husband, Jon, who died suddenly from heart failure some years ago. Against all this trauma and the approach of a lonely retirement looming ever closer "Retirement was something Hulda had never mentally prepared for.".....she meet Petur a retired doctor and the hope for future friendship, even love, now seems a possibility. Very soon DI Hulda puts herself in mortal danger as the net on the murderer closes and the events that unfold will stay in the memory of the Icelandic police force for many years to come.

 

This was an astounding tale beautifully told and  has made me appreciate the great contribution that Nordic crime has made over the last few years. Ragnar Jonasson is a very proficient story teller making a simple tale sparkle against the cold Icelandic landscape..."full of hidden volcanic craters and clouds of steam, scarred by the violent forces at work beneath the earth's crust here where Iceland straddled the divide between two continental plates".... I so hoped that Hulda could now find the contentment she so deserved especially as Petur held forth the hand of warmth and friendship. The conclusion of this story was totally unexpected yet brilliantly executed, to reveal more would spoil the enjoyment that awaits you dear reader of my review! Many thanks to the publisher penguin and netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written. A fantastic piece of storytelling brilliantly told and highly highly recommended.

Intimate and soul searching

Midwinter Break - Bernard MacLaverty

The mood of the book Midwinter Break and the content actually had the effect of making me question the longevity and even the purpose of marriage. Is it for companionship? Is it for love? What happens when that love loses through time its spontaneity, its freshness, and those little traits you once adored in your partner now appear as an irritation, an annoyance rather than a pleasure.

 

Gerry and Stella have embarked on a short break to the city of Amsterdam. This is a place that on the one hand is steeped in architectural magnificence and yet is more renowned even recognized for it's tolerance of escorts and prostitutes who brazenly advertise their trade in "rosse buurt" but better known to tourists as the red light district.

 

Gerry and Stella approaching the twilight of their years present to the readers as a loving couple comfortable in each other's company enjoying the good and bad of this colourful capital. As a retired architect Gerry has an immediate connection with Amsterdam and both can certainly appreciate the history and horror, the open wound that is The House of Anne Frank. Gerry possesses an alcoholic's desires and need to be constantly refueling with Ireland's most famous export; Jamesons blended whiskey. Stella has begrudgingly accepted this weakness viewing this as part of her husband's failings, but is this trip to Amsterdam Stella's opportunity to break free and discover within herself some inner peace and contentment before her body and mind succumbs to the ravages of time. A type of religious community, an order of women living "useful and happy independent lives"... appears to offer the redemption and release she craves, but would they accept her?

 

At the airport waiting for the flight home Stella tells Gerry that she does not wish to remain in their marriage any longer and on returning home to Scotland the flat will be sold. We learn of a traumatic incident that happened to Stella many years ago and her staunch support of the catholic church which Gerry views as..."Inflexible, narrow, capable of doing terrible damage by her adherence to rules and systems."..... Yet Stella views her relationship with the  church as a support helping her cope in those dark times..."Mass is the most precious thing in my life. It's the storyboard of how to get through."..

 

This is a very powerful, soulful, intimate tale showing the effects and damage that a long term relationship can have on the parties involved. In some ways this book presents itself as a depressing read, yet cannot it also offer hope? Relationships, and love within a marriage change, people need to be aware that as we grow older the way that we interact with our surroundings and the people we love the most never remains or indeed cannot remain the same...."What was love but a lifetime of conversations. And silences. Knowing when to be silent. Above all, knowing when to laugh".... Midwinter Break is informative, enjoyable and highly recommended