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
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.
Review
4 Stars
A clever piece of writing
I know my name - C.J. Cooke

This was actually a book I mistakenly downloaded but I must confess I really enjoyed. We are introduced to a woman suffering some form of acute amnesia who appears to be living on a Greek Island called Kommeno. How did this woman arrive there? Who are the mysterious residents of the island who seem to want to help....or do they? Back in the UK Lochlan Shelley is at a business meeting in Scotland when he receives an urgent call from a neighbour who informs him that his wife Eloise is missing. Is there a connection between these two events? To say much more about the happenings that unfold would destroy what is an excellent and clever piece of writing. The reader is slowly drawn in as CJ Cooke gradually reveals the secrets that are hidden in the minds of the two main protagonists. What is at the centre of this novel is only really disclosed in the final chapters and I certainly did not anticipate how the threads and clues would be bound together, and indeed how the author is very well placed to write such a powerful piece of prose. It makes me wonder if we really know the thoughts and secrets that are hidden in the minds of those we hold nearest and dearest. Many thanks to the good people of netgalley and the publisher Harper for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review
4 Stars
An exceptional writing talent
Vanished: David Raker Novel #3 by Weaver, Tim (2012) Paperback - Tim Weaver

"All of his novels were so fast-paced that the reader was compelled to turn the pages in a non-stop effort to reach the end of the book. The final page often produced a totally unexpected plot twist that would invariably leave even his most die-hard fans surprised. His early books contained some violence that matched the era in which they were written, though this was considerably toned down as plots centred more on circumstantial situations to create the high degree of tension that was the hallmark of his writing. Sex was never explicit and, though often hinted at, seldom happened"  This is a Wikipedia description  of James Hadley Chase, a prolific quaintly English crime writer of the 1950's, 60's 70's His novels were always tightly constructed, intricate without being overly complicated but at the same time fast and exciting reads. I do hope Tim Weaver will not mind when I compare his style of writing to that of Chase but with very modern twists and themes. From the opening paragraphs- of "Vanished" we the reader are immediately drawn in...."Healy looked down at the temperature readout as he pulled up outside the estate. Almost twenty degrees. It felt hotter than that. He'd had the air conditioning on all the way from the station but, on the journey over, nothing had cooled His sleeves were rolled up, his top button undone, but the car was still stifling. Even in the middle of the night, under cover of darkness, the heat continued to cling on....." And so we ask...who is Healy and why is he out in the middle of a hot and sultry English summer night?

 

There are no wasted words in Vanished every page is readable and exciting drawing you in and inviting you to stay. The central character in all Weaver's books is David Raker an ex journalist who now uses his inquisitive skills hiring himself out as a kind of private detective to search for those individuals who have disappeared, desperately sought by loved ones who really only want to know why? Julia Wren hires Raker to find her husband Sam who disappeared some months ago, took an early morning London tube ride and was never seen again. Layer by layer, like the peeling of an onion, the twists and turns of this excellent thriller proceed at a terrific pace. The London underground/railway is used to great effect for the action scenes; the police are searching for The Snatcher and as his name suggests he removes his victims with stealth and cunning, is there any connection between this killer and the disappearance of Sam Wren? In the final chapters  just when we the reader thought the killer had been successfully identified there is a Hadley Chase moment and a "totally unexpected plot twist." My favourite character and one who demands greatest sympathy is ex London met detective Colm Healy, he was one of the Met's  best detectives - until the unsolved murders of a mother and her twin daughters consumed his career, his family and his life. Healy's world finally collapses when his own daughter Leanne disappears, soon to be the subject of a murder enquiry. Raker and Healy have a tenuous relationship and one can never be sure if the broken and distraught detective will finally succumb to suicidal thoughts.

 

As an ardent reviewer and keen blogger I awarded this book with four stars simply because the early David Raker lacked a little of the oomph, vitality and sparkle of later adventures (What remains;David Raker 6 and Broken Heart;David Raker 7 are exceptional) Tim Weaver is an extraordinary talent whose love of writing and his wonderful storytelling ability is beyond reproach and I look forward with great anticipation the new Raker adventure due for release at the end of July 2017.

Review
5 Stars
Highly original polished cyber thriller
Playing with Death - Doug Headline, Simon Scarrow, Linda Francis Lee

This is an edgy, pacy, futuristic and oh so very polished cyber thriller. At its centre is the author's idea of what life could be like beyond "Second Life" (virtual world for the sad and lonely geeks!) The skin suit:  a totally immersive online experience from software giants Wadesoft....."where the person wearing the suit can be made to feel the physical sensations of whatever software simulation the program is running...." Once the user enhances his body by wearing the skin he can enter the Streamplex where all his needs and wants can be realized in a virtual environment.

 

FBI agent Rose Blake has failed in her mission to capture and incarcerate  Shane Koenig, a killer who performs the most heinous deaths on this victims before uploading the video to his KKillKam site which is viewed by those who troll the shadowy side of the internet...the darknet. She has no time to dwell on past mistakes and must now use all her energy to investigate a suspected arson. However when a body is discovered Rose will commence a journey that will see her become engrossed in a world of online fantasy and video games, a world without rules or regulation and a world where she will encounter unexpected help in the form of project DIVA (an intelligence that can think for itself and make decisions) amidst "an orgy of virtual massacre and destruction."

 

Having not read Simon Scarrow's historical novels ( a mistake I plan to rectify) I was intrigued by his latest offering an almost futuristic crime thriller which goes beyond the virtual world giving a glimpse of what might be possible and how those possibilities create a frightening but not unreasonable scenario. I felt a  certain warmth towards agent Blake her love for her son Robbie and her worry about husband Jeff who held lustful thoughts for the lovely Pandora and when not reciprocated purchases his own skin suit, enters Streamplex there hoping to realize his dark inner self. This novel is filled with intelligent, perceptive thought and analysis, a compassionate hero and a deadly foe who will stop at nothing to damage and destroy. Will Shane Koenig by finally stopped? Will Rose successfully navigate the virtual world of Streamplex? Will Jeff be saved from his overworked labido? All will become clear in an exciting and very fulfilling conclusion that leaves open the possibility of further novels in the series. Thanks to netgalley for this gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Review
5 Stars
Astounding
Dark Chapter - Winnie M. Li

This story is all the more astounding when you consider that it is based on the real life events that occurred to the author. I have never been more affected or more enthralled by the content of a novel or by its alternate voice method of presentation. Vivian Tan, independent and vivacious traveller, is in Belfast invited to contribute in the celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement. As a keen walker she plans to use the opportunity to explore the nearby Colin Glen Forest Park close to the city. She meets a young, seemingly innocent boy John Sweeney who continues to follow the hiker seeking a reaction from her as he attempts to strike up a friendly conversation. The situation develops in a frightening and unexpected manner when a pleasant exchange turns to a violent assault and uncontrollable lust ending in the rape of Mz Tan.

 

It is the telling of this story through the voices of the victim and the perpetrator that makes for compelling reading. A victim so traumatized by a violent act that her life from here on is changed irrevocably and a perpetrator totally unconcerned by the affect of his actions on the victim..."But they have no idea how far she is now from the person they knew a week ago. They just see her, hear her voice. But the real Vivian checked out days ago, and she doesn't know when she'll return.".... As we alternate quickly between the thoughts of Vivian and Sweeney we encounter the rape, the aftermath, the trial and the fallout. It is often so easy to read about a sexual assault and to dismiss very quickly, but the voice of Winnie Li, and her articulate literary presentation taking us from a solitary walk to her life today, (as the lines between Winnie and Vivian must surely be merged) is a meaningful, sombre and sad experience to me as a male reader.

 

An essential important read by a lady who I can only hold the greatest respect and admiration for. The scenes in the Northern Irish courtroom and the questioning that Vivian received at the hands of a well educated defence lawyer had me totally engrossed by its realism and authenticity ( I work within the legal system) This is a novel that should be read by everyone and can only add to the understanding of a victim in a violent sexual attack, a victim with the courage to tell her story knowing that...."One of these day, she tells herself, she'll be able to walk into a field on her own. An open field under the broad sky in the middle of the day. She'll be able to lie down on her back, feel the grass beneath her, the sun on her face, close her eyes and she will feel completely content. And she will feel no danger....." 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
2 Stars
Predictable average story
Savages - Greg F. Gifune

No matter what other reviewers say about a particular author or story it may not be to my liking...and unfortunately, although I do normally enjoy the writing of Greg F Gifune, this  was a rather poor offering. I usually associate his work with the darker side of relationships and family life( good examples being Saying Uncle and Gardens of Night) however I found Savages reminded me somewhat of" Predator" where a group of soldiers are sent on a rescue mission and a technologically advanced form of extraterrestrial life secretly strikes and hunts down the group. In Savages 7 friends are lost at sea when they encounter a small uninhabited island and hope that by resting here they can survive until the "cavalry" arrives. An entity decides that he does not welcome this intrusion and so this evil monstrous predator proceeds to remove those poor defenceless trespassers. A formulaic story, pleasant to read but totally unoriginal.