runner

runner

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

Review
2 Stars
Keystone cops meets Twin Peaks!
Broken Promise: A Thriller - Linwood Barclay

This is an enjoyable, light, frivolous summer read, somewhere between the Keystone Cops and Twin Peaks. David Harwood is back in Promise Falls, a quirky little small town on the east coast of America somewhere south of Boston. There are some very odd inhabitants in PF as David encounters when he visits his cousin Marla. She is overjoyed to see him and takes great pleasure in introducing him to her new baby, little Mathew. Is Mathew really the child of a somewhat disturbed Marla? Is there a connection between her baby and the murder of Rosemary Gaynor together with the disappearance of Rosemary's  newborn child? This is all the reader really needs to know as the absurd story develops he will be introduced to a bizarre and motley crew of local residents each with their own hidden agenda.

 

Linwood Barclay writes books of great enjoyment and he is loved and read worldwide. Most of his output is idle entertainment and instantly forgettable and having said that I expected no more or less from "Broken Promise" and I was certainly not disappointed. The chapters in the book are short (thankfully!) very easy to read the 484 page count easily consumed in two sittings. There is the odd quirky throw away phrase...."Sturgess looked at the high-tech chair in its elevated position. On the small table next to it, a remote, a book of crossword puzzles, an open box of chocolates, a Denielle Steel novel. That was her whole world there, a command center, sitting in front of the television."... There are two further books in the Promise Falls trilogy and followers of this internationally renowned author will devour with elation, I shall not be amongst them as one visit to this odd little township is possibly one visit too many.

Review
2 Stars
Disappointing
The Forgotten Dead - Tove Alsterdal

Ally Cornwall sits at home in New York wondering why her husband Patrick has failed to keep in contact with her. He is an investigative journalist and his passion for his work, in particular those who are exploited, sees him travelling to distant and far places. A worried Ally decides to board a transatlantic flight, heading for Paris where she hopes to find answers as to the plight of her beloved Patrick.

 

Tove Alsterdal, is a Swedish author, who in The Forgotten Dead has written a novel preferring to rely on American lead characters. This does not work for me and I found the whole experience somewhat disappointing with a plot more akin to a B movie or a made for television series. I find it difficult to comprehend that within a very short time of arriving in Paris, she was able to establish the work that her husband was involved in before he disappeared. Equally preposterous was the speed at which she easily identified and interviewed those bad men involved in the notorious imprisonment and exploitation of illegal immigrants. It's not a badly written story and to its credit it tackles and confronts some very unsettling social issues that affect us all. Of course you the reader really want to know what befell Patrick and I certainly will not disclose that to you, suffice to say this was neatly accomplished making me feel that the reading of this novel had not been a waste of my valuable reading time. I received a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written

Review
4 Stars
Beautiful and brutal in equal measures
My Absolute Darling: A Novel - Gabriel Tallent

A profoundly disturbing story of young Turtle (Julia) who dwells in Mendocino an America's west coast an area of outstanding natural beauty with dense forests and a rugged coastline. In deep contrast to this utopian scene Turtle lives alone with her father Martin who, although he expresses his undying love for her, feels the need to rape her in a never ending cycle of loathsome self pity. This is her guardian, the one entrusted to care for her, and because of these despicable acts Turtle cannot comprehend her feelings towards him, she both loves and loathes him in equal measures. The controlling influence of the father creates some frightening and upsetting scenes to read: The child is forced to complete a number of pull-ups from a rafter and when she lowers her body Martin holds a knife beneath her..."Then he raised the knife and lays the blade up between her legs."....."The knife bites into the blue denim of her jeans and Turtle feels the cold steel through her panties."

 

Turtle meets and befriends a boy called Jacob and she begins to understand that kindness and friendship can exist even in a world where despicable acts are performed on a daily basis. As she returns home one evening she notices that her home has a new lodger a young child Cayenne and realizes now as she is almost a teenager, Martin has acquired a new defenceless child, to fulfil his sickening sexual desires. Can Turtle escape the claws of this evil monster? Can she rescue Cayenne before it is too late? This is at times a very difficult story to read as the author paints a picture of an unsettling family life against a picturesque and idyllic backdrop. I was captivated by both the innocence and evil and found myself reading this story in a very short time. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Review
4 Stars
Vibrant exciting psychological thriller
The Girl Who Came Back: A totally gripping psychological thriller with a twist you won’t see coming - Kerry Wilkinson

If you accept the fact that "The girl who came Back" has no real literary content and if you acknowledge that the plot and conclusion is not quite believable and indeed a little bizarre, then you will really enjoy this read! This is the second book I have read by Kerry Wilkinson (the first being Nothing but Trouble, Jessica Daniel 11) and I am beginning to warm to his young, vibrant and exciting style. I do not always read to be educated or to marvel at an authors descriptive prose or deep character analysis, sometimes I read for the shear hell of enjoyment, for the love of the printed word and the way I can be transported to another dimension. If what I have just said makes you the reader think that I am a confused reviewer/blogger then understand this I read indeed I consumed The girl who came Back in one day and was thoroughly entertained.

 

Some 13 years ago a young Olivia Adams vanished, presumed taken, from her back garden, in the picturesque village of Stoneridge. The trauma of this event was soon followed by the collapse of the marriage of Sarah and Dan, the parents of Olivia. Now all these years later a child, who most people feared was dead, reappears and confronts her mum in the local village cafe. Sarah has a new husband Max, a childhood sweetheart, and upon meeting the newly reinstated Olivia, Max together with his brother Ashley display resentment and hatred towards the young girl. There are questions to be asked and answers  to be sought. Is Olivia Adams the person she purports to be? Why is Max so full of hatred? Where is Olivia's real father? Who is the mysterious Lily and what is her connection to the events as they unfold?

 

I often wonder how bad reviews affect the mindset of an author. There will always be readers who love and readers who hate a particular writing style. Kerry Wilkinson has voiced his opinion on negative reviews on a well know video sharing site and I found his attitude and acceptance so refreshing and entertaining. He acknowledges everyone has a right to voice an opinion whether that be positive or negative. This young man certainly has a future in writing and I look forward to discovering his back catalogue as well as reading future publications and observe him developing as an author. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for sending me a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Review
4 Stars
Assured post-apocalyptic debut novel
Defender: The Voices Book 1 - G X Todd

The authors comments at the end of Defender add some interesting footnotes to what was a very enjoyable post-apocalyptic story. She explains that "bicameral" man is essentially a human who has two chambers. To you and me that simply means an inner voice within your head and in the context of this novel it is this inner voice that has caused the societal disruption by imploring you to kill. Although to add to the intrigue an "inner voice" can also work for the good as Pilgrim aka scout boy, Lacey, and Alex discover as the story progresses. This inner voice is not as strange a concept as might first appear and most of us would surely admit to having conversations with our conscience. (or maybe it's just me going mad!) "The voices are whispers, murmurings, whatever you want to call them. They were inside us. They're what talked so many people into hurting themselves and others."

 

The best post-apocalyptic  stories (The Road by Cormac McCarthy being a great example) follow certain set patterns. As society has been destroyed then the human race, or what remains, take on the mantle of nomadic travellers and restlessly move from place to place in the hope of finding sustenance and companionship. Within this world devoid of all leadership and direction the evil that man is capable of is soon unveiled...."Fairness and justice had lost their place in the world. If they'd ever had a place in it to begin with."..... Pilgrim has agreed to transport his new companion Lacey to her family home in Vicksburg in search of her niece Addison. They are soon to be joined in their quest by a young lady called Alex. "Defender" is the story of this journey the hardships of the trip and their encounter with Charles Dumont the personification of everything evil. This is a novel that is filled with wonderful colourful characters that come alive under the penmanship of the author GX Todd. The pace is relentless with some excellent descriptive prose.."This time it held no beauty, there was not buttery sun to soften its rough, crumbling edges, no warm, orange brush-strokes to paint it in a kinder light...."He had seen his fair share of half-eaten corpses and was familiar with most of the organs of the human body, in all their states of putridity." A great debut novel and I look forward to reading "Hunted" the second in the series due for release in early 2018.

Review
2 Stars
Superficial gothic ghost story
The Binding Song - Elodie Harper

Dr Janet Palmer has commenced a new career as a psychologist based at HMP Halvergate in the sparsely populated and bleak Norfolk countryside. This is an institution where inmates are incarcerated due to criminal or sexual crimes and it is hoped that their period of internment will allow the authorities, and in particular the staff, time to address, and hopefully in some way cure this deviant behaviour.

 

Apart from the prison chaplain Steven Finch the staff at Halvergate are not very welcoming towards Dr Palmer and she begins to feels somewhat isolated not helped by the news that her boyfriend Arun is soon to depart on a work placement in America. As the good doctor begins to acquaint herself with the residents she soon shares their concerns of an apparition stalking the walls and corridors; a sinister white presence, a lady with dark eyes. One patient in particular, Michael Donovan,  greatly disturbs Janet, she will soon discover a connection between this evil man and her sister Izzy who died tragically many years ago.......

 

There is no doubt that using a Gothic institution such as HMP Halvergate adds a sinister tone to the story telling. The reader can certainly sense and feel the great uneasiness that permeates each chapter of this short ghostly tale. However, the telling of the story and the shallow characters involved, from a self centred boyfriend to a confused gay vicar, did little to endear me to the outcome, no matter how shocking the author intended that to be. Many thanks to the publisher Mulholland for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Review
5 Stars
True crime that reads like a thriller
Catching a Serial Killer: My hunt for murderer Christopher Halliwell - Stephen Fulcher

This story reads like a thriller as it recounts the investigation into and ultimate incarceration of Chris Halliwell, taxi driver from Swindon, who was found responsible for the murder of Sian O'Callaghan and Becky Godden-Edwards. As an employee of Her Majesty's Courts Service I was fascinated to follow the chase to find the killer in the hands of SIO Stephen Fulcher. The narrative and events that occur lead to the prosecution of Fulcher as a senior police officer who in his search for justice disregarded procedures under Pace (Police and Criminal Evidence act) and by not issuing Halliwell with the customary warning (before Halliwell confessed to the murder of Becky) was found to be in neglect of his duties. The story therefore raises and debates some fascinating legal issues and in the final outcome justice is seen to be served but at what price to a dedicated and serving police officer. For anyone interested in crime whether true or fiction this is a work of some brilliance and needs to be read.

Review
2 Stars
Not for me
For Those Who Dream Monsters - Anna Taborska, Steve Upham, Charles Black, Reggie Oliver, Reggie Oliver

I am not the greatest fan of short horror stories and even though the writing and imagery is very good the content and stories themselves were not to my liking. There were a few enjoyable moments and descriptions the best of which was the following....."like a moth that believes itself soaring towards the moon, only to find itself trapped in a house full of dusty light bulbs."....

Review
5 Stars
Harry Bosch, one great detective series
The Last Coyote - Michael Connelly

In the many years that I have been reading crime the two stand out characters are Rebus and his creator Ian Rankin and Harry Bosch written by Los Angeles ex crime reporter Michael Connelly. The Last Coyote is no 4 in the series and to me one of the best, in it Detective Bosch tries to finally solve the case of who murdered his mother Marjorie Lowe. The Last Coyote is a lovely thoughtful title and one that Bosch thinks he has an affinity to. One evening he sees a mangled bedraggled coyote and he uses this imagery in his conversations with his psychiatrist Carmen Hinojos, she adds her timely interpretation...."For what it's worth I think it's clear you identify with the coyote, there are not so many policemen like you left and you feel some threat to your existence or your mission."....

 

Connelly's portrayal of Bosch as a lonely maverick of a man using his nonconformist methods to fight crime is nothing short of brilliant..."Loneliness had been the trash can fire he huddled around for most of his life."..."It was always in the silences that Bosch felt most comfortable with the women who had moved through his life."....."He felt the numbness of disappointment that comes from broken hopes and wondered if he would ever talk to her again."..  Bosch is able to devote his time to this case as he has been temporarily suspended following an incident with Lieutenant Pounds and the story naturally plays out in a political arena where the perpetrator has been able to stay undetected for many years. The ending when it occurs will surprise you in a beautifully constructed  study of a detective loathed by many, loved by a few, a man not always at peace with himself on an endless search for atonement...."The sex created a world without intrusion. One so vital that it could have lasted an hour or maybe only a few minutes and he wouldn't have known the difference."

Review
4 Stars
This girl can write!
If I die before I wake - Emily Koch

If I die before I wake is one of a number of books that I have read which introduces the reader to a condition referred to as permanent vegetative state: Westlake Soul by Rio Youers and Blood Sisters by Jane Corry are both excellent in their interpretation and use of PVS as the basis for a novel. Emily Koch expertly creates a crime thriller around the tragic accident that happens to Alex Jackson one Saturday morning when he falls 20 metres from a cliff face along the Portway in Bristol. This story is all the more remarkable when you realize this is the first published thriller by Miss Koch and if this is an example of her ability then she most certainly has a bright writing future.

 

What this book has in common with the two novels previously mentioned is that the story unfolds through the mind of the patient. Alex is aware of his surroundings, he can understand and grasp what is being said about him and he can appreciate the interaction between various friends and relatives on a daily basis; in particular his wife Bea, father Graham and sister Phillipa. What emerges is simply no one is sure whether Alex has been hospitalized due to an accident or something more sinister. It is only you the reader who occupies the mind of the patient and when Alex desperately tries to move and communicate you feel that struggle and will him to be successful. The story of was he pushed or did he fall is revealed in a very slow and clever way, the key to the puzzle hidden in Alex's past.

 

The central dilemma in If I die before I wake is the moral issue of what is an appropriate time to remove life support from a patient when, after various tests, it becomes clear that recovery is impossible. This leads to the assumption that anyone with PVS has no future, you will need to read the novel to find out if this is true all I will reveal is that the closing paragraphs create a magical and appropriate conclusion. 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.

 

Review
3 Stars
Good, but........
I Am Missing: David Raker, Book 8 - Joe Coen, Tim Weaver, Louise Brealey, Penguin Books

I have a great admiration for the writing ability of Tim Weaver and in particular his two previous outings for missing persons investigator David Raker namely Broken Heart and What Remains. In Broken Heart the authors love of cinema and in particular "noir"  adds an authentic old Hollywood feel to the story in contrast What Remains is equally outstanding with its imagery of old wooden piers and the thrill and sound of Victorian Amusement Arcades. Weavers attention to detail combined with his journalistic instinct creates well researched and highly entertaining novels. So what about his latest? I am missing really suffers from a strong storyline. When Richard Kite is discovered alone, lost and wondering on a beach this would seem the perfect case for Raker, a client who is himself missing or rather his mind and memory totally erased. So starts the slow process of building a case and when the body of a young lady is discovered the race is on to see if there is a connection to Kite. An attachment is revealed between England and the fictional Empress Islands (think Falkland islands with its cold barren wintry seasons) and our Private Investigator soon realizes that he must travel to the islands to resolve the mystery of the memory man.

 

There are no Victorian arcades or Hollywood actors here instead we the reader must persevere with Raker as he brings together the clues and treks the monotonous and barren shores of the depressing Empress Islands. The story lacks the vital spark that was ubiquitous in earlier novels, it is only natural that in a series such as this certain books will be more valued than others and I am confident that the next instalment (due for release in summer 2018) will see our hero returned to a more exciting adventure backed by a lively narrative. I end this review where I started, Tim Weaver is a writer of exceptional ability and if you value well researched and articulate writing then become acquainted with missing persons investigator David Raker. I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

 

Review
2 Stars
Entertaining use of language in a drab crime procedural
The Reaper - Steven Dunne

Starts of as a tour de force crime story centred around DI Damen Brook newly moved to Derby from the Met. It would appear that Brook is not the only person to have settled in Derby for when a family is murdered the case bears all the hallmarks of The Reaper a killer that Brook previously failed to apprehend in London and is now terrorizing him anew in the beautiful Derbyshire peak district.

 

The first half of the story is very readable a cat and mouse game with Brook relying for advice from his old colleague, and former boss, retired policeman, now sadly alcoholic, Charlie Rowlands...."His back was no longer straight as a ramrod but curved and compressed. He'd lost weight as well as the last of his hair, and he was painfully thin. His face was bright and robust, however, as the faces of drunks often are. The red tinge around the high cheekbones and nose mimicked a rosy sheen of health. But the eyes had it, as always. That look of sunken pain, which repelled slumber....." There are the usual trade marks for a copper unable to divide his home and work time resulting in marriage breakup with Amy and a fragmented association with his daughter Terri. There is also some wonderful dialogue, exchanges and observations, a richness in the descriptive language that somewhat complements the ongoing and procedural side of the story......."Unattainable pleasures were to be avoided at all cost. The emotional epidermis of this male was pocked with enough wounds.".........."She was what the politer elements in the division referred to as a handsome woman. To the less polite elements, this meant that while her looks wouldn't make you vomit neither were they likely to induce an erection."...."The sewer he'd been trying to flee for nearly twenty years had taken root inside him."......."An old man in a hovel, clinging to the illusion of life and companionship, only a cat to care whether he lived or died. Mac was The Ghost of Christmas Future. Book had dropped in on his own barren existence, twenty years on."........"Death with dignity sat in their corner, waiting listening and appreciating."......

 

But the use and flow of language, no matter how good and entertaining, cannot conceal for me the cracks that appear in this long protracted and frankly boring crime procedural. I do not agree with reviews that declare The Reaper was "dreadful" and "extremely poor" but in the final analysis it had little to offer that was new in this crowded genre. Too much dialogue in the second part of the book made me feel that a good editing would greatly have added to the reading experience. I do however close this review with a certain amount of jealousy as a burned out DI still retains the ability to attract the attention of the voluptuous WPC Wendy Jones or perhaps it was the action of a dirty old man taking advantage of a junior and much younger police officer in his place of work, for in Brooks own words......"Wendy Jones was still an innocent abroad, a provincial girl with an endearing ignorance of the world as a dung heap."....

Review
3 Stars
Disturbing and unsettling search for a lost child
The Child Finder - Rene Denfeld

A sixth sense and a highly tuned instinct are the qualities that Naomi Cottle is blessed with that allow her to find the missing children. Madison Culver has disappeared in the snowy forests of Northern Oregon when accompanying her parents in the search for the perfect Christmas tree. Naomi is determined to find Madison and in the process will encounter some painful memories from her distant pass. The snow girl is protected by Mr B and as this relationship unfolds the intention of the guardian gives the reader real cause for concern....."The day after the girl had slept in his bed for the first time, B had come back from trapping and sat on the edge of the bed...."

 

There is a strange, almost dreamlike quality to the storytelling. The author in this detached form of communication with the reader creates a very uneasy and unsettling image of neglected and disturbed children..."it is better for a child to attach to an abuser than to experience the blind hole of neglect."... Naomi travels to the endearingly named Stubbed Toe Creek and with the help of Ranger Dave hopes to unravel the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the young Madison Culver. Is there a connection with the snow girl? Will recently realized childhood memories help Naomi in her painful search for the missing child?...."What were you running from, then? she had asked. Monsters, was all that Naomi could remember. And to this day, outside the hints in her dreams, it was all she could remember still." Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for sending me a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Review
4 Stars
Superior 2nd WW story
Hearts of Stone - Simon Scarrow

A superior second world war book based around the Greek resistance on the idyllic  Ionian island of Lefkas. It is a story about love, friendship, war, and treachery and brilliantly portrays how the Nazi regime attempted to subjugate all those who opposed it's so called Reich doctrine. I enjoyed the authors style of storytelling by introducing us to an aged Eleni Thesskoudis and through her eyes revealing the courage and sacrifice of the Greek resistance as first the Italians and then the Germans attempted to crush all opposition to its vision of a new world order..."Perhaps war was the real face of humanity, and peace was little more than a pretence of what human nature could be."...."They were lying in wait to slaughter their enemy, or be killed in turn. Against that reality what did their feelings matter? Feelings had no place in this setting, this moment." This is the second Simon Scarrow book I have recently read and it certainly does not disappoint.

An informal evening with 2 great crime writers

A very enjoyable evening at Toppings Book Sellers in Bath in the company of Mark Billingham and Chris Brookmyre. I quite like the idea of having two esteemed authors chatting to each other, and allowing the audience ample time to ask questions. My favourite character in the Tom Thorne series is pathologist Phil Kendricks with his shaved head, earrings, and metal studs and a secret love of Guinness. I think Mark Billingham uses Kendricks as a type of safety net for his overworked detective, someone he can not only work with but talk to and who is not there to judge him. Both authors did short readings from their latest books and this can only help bring the characters to life for both the authors, and for us the adoring readers. A very informal occasion followed by autograph signings and the obligatory photo.

Review
3 Stars
Very average
Stolen Souls - Stuart Neville
This is an average solid offering from Stuart Neville but not as good as the brilliant DCI Serena Flanagan...."Those we left behind" and "So say the fallen". DI Lennon is a typical over worked detective, the sole parent to his 6 year old daughter Ellen, mum having tragically passed away in a fire. He is helped in this endeavour by his one and only admirer Susan. It's almost Christmas on the streets of Belfast and a body has been discovered. Soon Lennon will be embroiled in the hunt for a killer and an investigation into the illegal importation of young girls from Europe for the purposes of prostitution. If we add to this a demented lonely killer then it is highly unlikely the dutiful detective will be sitting down to his turkey roast anytime soon....A book to pass away the time but instantly forgotten.

currently reading

Progress: 83%
The Good Daughter - Karin Slaughter