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
5 Stars
A masterclass in storytelling
Ararat: A Novel - Christopher Golden

Do you remember a long time ago when the movie Alien was first released and the impact it had on you, as the horror unfolded, and how gradually Ripley and her crew were destroyed by a creeping evil. The tension and fear was created by the not knowing...not knowing who or what had entered the good ship Nostromo or where it would strike next...and when it did strike (which it surely would) there was nowhere to go...Ararat has had a similar impact on me, having absorbed the 300+ pages in two sittings resulting in a very restless night of sleep where I to encountered my own demon (I kid you not!)

 

Meryam Karga and Adam Holzer are two high risk documentary makers and with the support of the Turkish government, have agreed to investigate a strange large cave newly revealed following a  recent avalanche at Mount Ararat in Turkey. So setting off with a diverse crew of adventurers and guides "who knew the secrets of the mountain better than the curves of their wives' flesh" they make swift progress and soon enter the exposed cave where a discovery is made....a  strange inverted wooden ship. This ancient relic is believed by many to be the last hiding place for Noah and his motley bunch of travellers when God decided enough was enough and he destroyed the world by flood...."He'd only been in the ark for hours and already felt the tension of the place. It wasn't just the mountain or the creaking of the timber as the weather shifted." A bitumen covered casket is exposed containing a cadaver..."The fingers were inhumanly long, curved into hooks, by the millennia it had spent dead in the box. The skin stretched tight over its chest had a purplish-gray hue. It had withered and there were spots in which the flesh had caved in. Bone showed through in various places on its skull and one cheek had crumbled to dust. The eyes had sunken to dried berries in its head. The horns were pale, dusty white, like ivory elephant tusks...."

 

"The thing's got horns. It's not human"..In the story of Noah a demon or beast found residence in the hull of the ship and killed two of Noah's sons and a granddaughter. Is the same fate now destined to befall this expedition? If a demon has been released how will it manifest itself? So with bad weather closing trapping the explorers, and seemingly blocking any chance of escape the Karga/Holzer expedition has little choice but to withstand the unpleasantness that the beast will surely unleash....To say much more about the course of the action would spoil a rattling good story. There are shades of "The Exorcist" here and just like the adventurers the reader is frightened and alarmed as no one can tell what the demon will do next or how he plans to spread his evil once released. As the weather improves those "remaining" realize the only hope for survival is to escape the torture that is Mount Ararat and so a bid for freedom must be made. Will they survive? will they destroy the demon? The last part of this adventure is unsurpassed in its excitement and the final revelation is truly brilliant...possibly leaving the way open for a sequel? This story has greatly disturbed me and has truly made me understand and appreciate the value of the written word. I do not often have sleepless nights following my reading adventures but this book has been an inspiration and it is a joy to know that there are some damn good horror/supernatural thriller writers out there! Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for supplying me with this gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Review
1 Stars
Predictable unimaginative and dull
Never Somewhere Else (DCI Lorimer) - Alex Gray

On the front of the paperback edition to this book it boldly states that "Brings Glasgow to life in the same way Ian Rankin evokes Edinburgh"  This is a disgraceful statement to be pointed at the good name of Rankin and the god amongst crime detectives John Rebus. Reading "Never Someone Else" can only be compared to viewing a rather poor episode of Murder She Wrote starring the ever youthful Angela Lansbury. The crime market is awash with wannabe Rankinists and yet seemingly the author of this story is a well respected and revered past winner of Scottish Association of Writers' Constable and Pitlochry trophies for her crime writing....whatever that is....

 

DCI Lorimer has been tasked with the unenviable job of unmasking a vicious killer who has mutilated and scalped three women leaving their bodies to be discovered in St Mungo's park. To help him understand the mind of the perpetrator he requests the services of psychologist Sol Brightman. Lorimer is probably the most characterless detective I have ever encountered there is nothing enthusiastic or appealing about him...and surely a DCI should be bold and charismatic in order to instil enthusiasm in the officers under his command. Even his English teacher wife Maggie finds him unpredictable and boring, they rarely communicate and she never knows what time to expect his presence at home...if at all. We learn little about the inner Lorimer, his interests: does he like music? does he have a weakness for alcohol? does he prefer the company of other women? He is uninteresting and dull and it is surely only a short time before his long suffering Maggie departs in tears closely accompanied by a disillusioned reader! For crying out loud, dear author, this is the first in a supposedly exciting crime series and yet nothing is done to expose the mind of the lead player...leaving him as a dull soulless pathetic individual......you get the picture I didn't like him!

 

 Any reader of crime will know that the villain will always make an appearance in the story before he is unmasked and it is always fun to try to second-guess this individual. It was a relatively simple process to successfully select the killer in such a poorly written novel. Undoubtedly the later books in the series will gradually expose the inner thoughts of" Mr very very dull and boring DCI" but I will certainly not be reading and will be planning my escape with the lovely perplexed Maggie...........

 

Review
3 Stars
Enjoyable environmental adventure
The Ice - Laline Paull, HarperCollins Publishers Limited

An interesting story and possibly a warning to us all as to what could happen if we choose to ignore global warming and turn a blind eye to the continuous erosion of the polar ice caps. Two childhood friends Sean Cawson and Tom Harding have the opportunity and it would now seem the means to dictate future trends by the successful acquisition of a strategic land mass within the northern polar region: The Artic....."super-objective of Midgard: an inspiring venue in which to promote the reconciliation of business and environmental ethics." At the start of this story ( and 3 years since his disappearance), a body is discovered in the ice, soon identified as Tom Harding....What happened between the two Oxford graduate friends? How could a business venture so carefully construed turn into disaster under the auspices of two intelligent and far-sighted men; one who wanted to save the world and one who really wanted his name in lights and the benefits and comfort of untold wealth?

 

A large part to "The Ice" is given over to an inquest by The Coroner into the manner and cause of Paul's death. To establish the facts, and ensure that the death was an accident and not in any way contributed to by other members of the Midgard consortium. The outcome will have lasting repercussions and lead Sean to question the ethics of his venture and to finally realize the hidden agenda of those who supported him both financially and emotionally. A big thanks to the good people at netgalley for supplying me with a gratis copy of this enjoyable read, in exchange for an honest review, and that is what I have written.

Review
4 Stars
Dark and gritty
A Dark So Deadly - Stuart MacBride

I have come to expect from Stuart MacBride a certain use of language, a certain Celtic/Scottish razor-sharp banter and a brutal realism in the unfolding of the story...with that in mind A Dark So Deadly does not disappoint. The setting is the fictional town of Oldcastle (used previously by the author and in particular the Ash Anderson books, Birthdays for the Dead and A Song for the Dying) as seen through the eyes of DC Callum MacGregor...."Squat grey council houses scrolled past on either side of the street, lichen -flecked pantiles and harled walls. Front gardens awash with weeds. More abandoned sofas and washing machines than gnomes and bird tables...." Macgregor has been accused of accepting a bribe and tampering a crime scene in order to allow Big Johnny Simpson escape a murder charge and because of this has been assigned to the "Divisional Investigative Support Team" Officers assigned to DIST are asked to work on boring impossible to solve cases, one step away from dismissal. When what appears to be a ancient mummy is discovered Macgregor and his colleagues from the Misfit Mob are sent to investigate. A post mortem examination reveals recent dental work and Macgregor now finds himself part of a murder investigation. As the  body count mounts the race is on to reveal the identity to a killer who enjoys "smoking" his victims granting  them a type of God like status.

 

This is one big story, stretching to some 600 pages with the action and crisp dialogue full on from the opening. There are some wonderful characters, and that fine turn of wit and black humour that is the signature of MacBride's writing. We encounter DCI "Poncy Powell" and Macgregor's immediate superior DI Malcolmson affectionately  referred to as "mother" (not quite as gregarious and crude as DI Steele in the Logan McRae novels) And of course not forgetting that great witticism..."A sad excuse for a beard that looked as if he'd made it himself out of ginger pubic hair"... "Watt stiffened. Thank you, Constable, but I'm dealing with this.."Please forgive him. He's been in a bad mood ever since he got back from the doctor. They can't do anything about his frighteningly small penis, and it's upset him a bit."....."He wasn't a dick when I met him."Yeah  well you know the old saying: some men are born dicks, some have dickishness thrust upon them, and some achieve dickosity all on their own."

 

This is a story full of murderers and paedophiles, of people living at the edge of society in squalor and depravity, a story where even the police survive by adopting a type of gallows humour. Where else but in Stuart MacBrides writing would you encounter a character like police officer Andy McAdams, dying of bowel cancer, still on active service, and able to create humour out of his terminal condition.."There he was standing at the bar, knocking back a sneaky whisky while the barman pulled the pints. "They've got him on another round of chemotherapy, Being colourful is how he copes. Great. Callum puffed out a breath. "I'm sorry he's dying. But now and then, it might be nice if he was colourful at someone else for a while...."

 

My only small criticism is the page count and I personally felt it would have been better condensed into 450 pages. As I reached the surprising conclusion and the perpetrator was finally revealed I felt, similar to many of the police officers, mentally battered and bruised and somewhat glad that the action was at an end. This however is a small and personal observation which did not detract from the telling of an exciting story from an author I greatly admire. I do hope Police Officer Callum MacGregor will return in the near future for another breathtaking roller coaster outing. Many thanks to the good people at Harper Collins for supplying me with a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written...

 

Review
3 Stars
Life and love in small town America
The Rules of Half: A Novel - Jenna Patrick

Young Regan Whitmer has set off on a journey to find her birth father Will Fletcher now living in the quaint small town of Half Moon Hollow. Here she will encounter a close-knit and suspicious community having to tolerate a somewhat schizophrenic Will who appears to have lost his mind following the death of his first daughter Emma.

 

This is a book which looks at relationships within a small town and in particular their approach to mental health and how they adopt and change (if at all) to accommodate it. I did enjoy this story but found the telling of it, in particular the conclusion, somewhat akin to an episode of Little House on the Prairie or The Waltons. Those are only my observations, and I can appreciate those 5 star reviews, it was certainly easy to assimilate and read albeit at times a little too homespun and cosy.

Review
4 Stars
A welcome return for an old friend
Love Like Blood: A Novel (Tom Thorne) - Mark Billingham

It's a great big welcome back to that Merle Haggard, country lovin' detective, Tom Thorne. In one particular chapter there is a great and memorable moment when D I Tom Thorne is driving down the road singing at the top of his voice..."The late great Merle Haggard provided the accompaniment on the drive to a retail park in Wembley and Thorne sang along to Silver Wings with rather more gusto than he managed in the school hall the day before....." After the rather poor "Die of Shame" where we were first introduced to DI Nicola Tanner, and Thorne had a very minor cameo role in the final chapter, (the only good part of that book) it's a day of rejoicing to have TT back to his investigating best...we forgive him that he enjoys the company of country music and reluctantly accepts the approach of middle age...here he is back doing what he does best solving crime and crime does not come more topical that Mark Billingham's  Love like Blood.

 

DI Nicola Tanner has been investigating a series of what appear to be honour killings when her partner Susan is murdered. Turning to her good friend Tom Thorne she persuades him to help her uncover the truth behind the killings within the Muslim community, contracted out to hired assassins. Reading this book it is a pleasure to catch up on the old familiar faces especially the heavily tattooed  Phil Hendricks, police pathologist,  who is arguably Thorne's only real friend and together they enjoy good beer and watching football. He is in a relationship with social worker Helen and her young son Alfie but I can't help feeling that there is little future between them. The sex they share is passable...."Neither of them, had they been inclined to talk honestly about it, would have claimed it was the best sex they ever had.." and Helen still misses Paul, her previous partner, who was tragically killed and in one poignant moment she reveals her true feelings towards Thorne....."I'm happy really. You need to know that. But I want to be honest with you, and if I could go back and stop him being killed, I would. I'd do anything to have Paul alive again"....

 

So for fans of Mark Billingham, "Love Like Blood" will not disappoint, it's like putting on a well worn pair of comfy shoes! The subject matter is very well chosen and of the moment, the police investigation of the finest, the characterization and familiarity of the "cast" most welcome, and the perpetrators Muldoon and Riaz evil and well suited to the task of hired assassins. I only hope that when we next encounter DI Thorne that he has resolved his differences with the lovely Helen, but sadly I fear this relationship is doomed! Many thanks to the publishers Little Brown for supply me with a gratis copy in return for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Review
4 Stars
An engaging and warm family thriller
Blood Sisters - Jane Corry

Alison works as a lecturer teaching stained glass creation. To help her income Alison applies for a post at a local open prison where she hopes her skills can benefit those due for early release. Kitty, following a road accident, has suffered acute brain damage now requiring 24 hospital care. The connection between these young ladies soon becomes apparent and as the story unfolds we learn the secrets that bind them together both in the past and the present. On first introduction the reader has naturally great sympathy for Kitty, her almost vegetable state and inability to communicate, but Alison has also been affected by events from her childhood now manifesting in her need to self harm....."It doesn't hurt enough. Never does. For it's the cuts we hide inside that really do the damage."

 

This story for me is stepping out of my reading comfort zone and surprisingly enjoying a style of writing where the reader becomes a bystander as events unfold through the voices of Alison and Kitty. What is  particularly poignant is the fact that Kitty cannot communicate by speech and her thoughts can only remain as thoughts not shared with the other players in the book but only with the (privileged) reader. This is a very powerful story telling tool as the more you read the more you can  appreciate and understand how difficult life is for someone so incapacitated . The author effectively displays the structures and need that exists within the family unit and how, even in our darkest moments, that warm felling of love and tenderness can overcome the greatest adversity. Now please do not suffer under the illusion that this is a banal and trite story, I am a reader and reviewer more comfortable with crime and horror and yet I managed to read this 400 page thriller in a day.....it is good! Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for supplying me with a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review, and that is what I have written.

Review
5 Stars
Brilliant start to a new series
Fire Damage (A Jessie Flynn Investigation) - Kate Medina

What on the face of it looks like a standard crime novel, albeit set within the confines of the armed forces, proves to be much more a character driven study where all the main participants are in some way tainted by past events.

 

Psychologist Dr Jessie Flynn is trying to understand and break down the traumatic and delicate mind of 4 year old Sami. The child appears to be suffering a form of PTSD and Jessie becomes suspicious that perhaps his parents Scott (badly injured and disfigured during a tour of Afghanistan) and Nooria know more than they are prepared to divulge. At the same time Jessie's friend and former patient Captain Ben Callan is investigating the premature death of Sergeant Andy Jackson in the stifling desert heat of an Afghanistan autumn. Callan must also live each day with the consequences of war, he carries a bullet lodged in his brain too risky to surgically remove causing him to suffer frequent epileptic type fits. Meanwhile Inspector Bobby "Marilyn" Simmons (what a wonderful name to be associated with a rock legend!)  has encountered his own difficulties, a badly decomposed body on the shore killed by severe blunt trauma to the back of the head

 

Sound complicated? It's not....The story and momentum gather pace until in the last few chapters all is revealed. I read at blistering speed but found it difficult to keep abreast of events and I urged on Jessie Flynn in her quest to help restore a sad and damaged Sami. What makes this a great read is the depth to which the author shows the emotional fallout present in all. Flynn is haunted by an event in her childhood in which she blames herself and has never recovered. This manifests itself in recurrent OCD....."straightening the sleeves. Taking a step back she checked their alignment, straightened again, millimetre by millimetre, until they were exactly level...." Ben Callan has a bullet embedded in his brain and cannot be removed due to fear of death...."Frontal lobe seizure is the official diagnosis . He tapped the scar on his temple. Caused by the bullet that the army surgeons decided was too risky to remove." Major Nicholas Scott, Intelligence Corps, badly burnt in Afghanistan three months previously....."the left side of his face was so badly burnt that the skin had melted, slid away from the bones underneath, leaving threads of brown, tortured tissue. Batman's Joker dropped into a vat of acid..."

 

This is not a story that is inundated with army rank and slang but rather a crime thriller where the main participant happens to be an army psychologist. It is the first in the start of a new series featuring Jessie Flynn and I look forward to reading the second  when released later this year. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for sending me a gratis copy of this superb story in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Review
5 Stars
Welcome back Detective Robert Hunter!
The Caller - Chris Carter

I am sure I am not the only one who was disappointed when The Caller (8th outing for Robert Hunter) was not published last July and we the faithful had to wait a further 6+ months before the great Detective Hunter of the LA ultra violent crimes unit was confronted once again with a seemingly unstoppable and deranged serial killer. Hunter is not like any detective I have met before, he is highly intelligent possessing an over active mind that rarely allows him time to relax. He enjoys alcohol but not in the falling down "sozzled" way, rather his tipple of choice is single malt scotch whisky which he savours and sips....."Hunter reached for his glass and brought it to his nose. The smoky and complex aroma of the golden liquid made him smile again. He picked up a water jar and poured just a little more than a few drops into the tumbler, before finally sipping his whisky. Smooth sweet vanilla, with sooty smoke coming to the fore and a long honeyed ember finish..."

 

A sadistic killer is once again targeting victims in downtown LA, and his methods of execution are both bloody and ingenious. Rather than use immediate torture he makes a video call to someone very close to the victim and asks that person 2 questions. If the friend is successful in answering then the victim lives but a wrong response results in him or her having to watch a horrific and callous murder. What sets Chris Carter's books apart from his rivals is the methods that the perpetrator uses to silence his victims. We have a face destroyed by glass fragments, a head crushed in a vice, a skull penetrated with a chisel and hammer...He brought the chisel and hammer back to Cassandra's head. This time he positioned the chisel just a little left from center, and only about an inch up from her forehead........Up went the hammer. Down it came BANG...." The fact that the author studied psychology and criminal behaviour and as a criminal psychologist  worked with many serious offenders means that he can display his knowledge through the brilliant and determined Detective Hunter. My Favourite character in The Caller is Mr J (Jenkinson) married to the lovely Cassandra, who falls victim to the "demon" (I'm not spoiling the story by sharing that with you) We discover that Mr J has a hidden occupation, one that his wife was not aware of, he is a hit man for the mob, and when Cassandra meets an untimely demise Mr J is on the case.....So with Detective Hunter chasing the demon before he strikes again and Mr J demanding revenge the scene is set for a fantastic conclusion...a perfect ending that bought a smile to my face with a beautiful closing observation......

 

Yes Chris Carter's stories may not be deep, observational and character driven but by god they are great fun to read and once started impossible to stop. The front of the UK hardback edition states "as compelling as a box-set thriller" and that is a great description. I hope I do not have to wait 18 months before joining Detective Hunter and his colleague Carlos Garcia on another thrilling outing!

Review
4 Stars
Fast paced Scandinavian crime thriller
Watching You - Arne Dahl, Neil Smith

When I started this book it really confused me. I expect Scandinavian fiction to be a slow burner with deep descriptions and weighty character development. However from page 1 we are literally thrown into the unrelenting action as Detective Sam Berger together with his trusty assistant Deer (Desire) smash rotten wooden planks and charges through the door of a ruined building, battering ram in hand, in search of another teenaged girl who has disappeared without trace.

 

At first I found the unrelenting pace not to my liking but as the story evolved and the complexities developed and ticked away, like the mechanics of well oiled Patek Philippe 2508, I began to settle into an enjoyable and clever thriller. In total 7 girls have disappeared and on searching through photographic evidence Berger notices that in a number of pictures, from separate crime scenes, a lady on a bicycle is always present. Her name is Nathalie Freden and if the detectives can successfully trace and connect her to William Larsson, the supposed killer then surely the case can reach a swift and needy conclusion....not so dear readers for in the hands of a very accomplished author nothing is what is seems. Very soon life for Sam Berger is turned upside down and the search is on for a sophisticated killer that stretches back many years where the skills of a murderer are honed and perfected in the seemingly innocent world of a school playground. What is the significance of a small mechanical cog left at each crime scene? and how is this connected with the theft of an expensive Patek Philippe watch from Detective Berger's prized collection?

 

The story is full of surprises and moved in directions that I did not expect, but equally really enjoyed, as the author presented a complex thriller in a very reader friendly format. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley who supplied me with an early gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

 

Review
3 Stars
Clever little horror story
A Kiss of Thorns - Tim Waggoner

Julie and Ken a young couple trying to save their marriage copulate in the forest, under the watchful eye of Lonny. Lonny lives in a log cabin alone with some unusual and familiar  company in his cellar. His childhood was a sad picture of incest and abuse living with his sister Delia, who he loved, and a tyrannical and abusive father Nathaniel..."a big man tall, broad-shouldered, thick -limbed who looks like a brute at the best of times." With Delia dead Lonny believes in his own twisted and disturbed mind that by sacrificing lives he can bring Delia back to life.

 

This is quite a clever little story part 80's horror incorporated with the flavour of a well known nursery rhyme concerning a young girl along in the forest and a big bad wolf...."The cold fluttering that she'd felt in the woods started up again. After all, she was alone, in the middle of the forest-at night no less- in the cabin of a strange man who from the look of things lived like a monk." Indeed the author invokes the image of Icarus in the final pages who forgot his father's warnings and dared to fly too close to the sun on wings of feathers and wax."

 

So if you appreciate biblical legends, remember with fondness early European fairy tales, crave the company of Freddy Krueger, and enjoy singing along to Dueling Banjos then quite possibly you will love A Kiss of Thorns but beware...if you go down to the woods today!

Review
4 Stars
Superior nordic noir storytelling
The Legacy: Children's House, Book 1 -  Victoria Cribb (Translator), Yrsa Sigurdardóttir, Hodder & Stoughton UK

Scandanavian noir is a type of crime fiction that is written with a certain realistic style that is both dark and morally challenging. In some ways it is akin to the revered English author Agatha Christie where the players are introduced, analysed and in a complex series of incidents the murderer is exposed. Although The Legacy is strictly set in Iceland I have taken the liberty of categorizing it under Scandi/Nordic noir as it contains many of the latter's  storytelling characteristics.

 

Detective Huldar is investigating the murder of Elisa Freysteinsson and the only witness to this horrific crime is her 7 year old daughter Margret, so traumatised by the event that she is naturally unable to communicate just exactly what she witnessed. In desperation Huldar turns his attention to an organisation known as Children's House and in particular Freyja whose field of expertise is dealing with traumatised young people. This is a difficult situation for Huldar as he had recently been involved in a short, intense relationship with Freyja which must now be set aside in the interest of justice and the care and management of a very frightened young girl.

 

Yrsa Sigurdardottir's style of writing is unhurried, descriptive and yet so involving. It rewards a patient reader with a superb piece of storytelling that gradually and systematically analyses and disregards the irrelevant finally exposing the perpetrator. What is the significance of using an electric appliance as a murder weapon? What are the strange short wave number codes received by a socially inept shy Karl? As the murder count rises and progress falters Huldar must use all his cunning and experience to find answers and to encourage the young Margret to reveal just who she saw on the night her mother was killed.

 

I work within the legal system and was very impressed how the author managed the rather delicate conversations and interviews that Freyja was obligated to implement with a very frightened child. The success or otherwise of the investigation rested to a greater part on the outcome of these interviews, would a young Margret gradually reveal the one piece of information that Huldar so desperately needed?

 

Many thanks to the publisher Hodder & Stoughton for sending me a gratis copy of The Legacy in return for an honest review, and that is what I have written.

Review
2 Stars
Absurd plot and hollow characters
By M. J. Arlidge Eeny Meeny: Di Helen Grace 1 [Paperback] - M.J. Arlidge

DI Helen Grace is, in my opinion, not mentally fit to hold a senior rank in any police force. Due to a difficult childhood (which unfolds as the story progresses) she needs to punish herself, to feel hurt, to cleanse herself and wipe out painful memories. With this in mind she is a client to Jake the local S & M guru, but not only is this a regular past time (not passing judgement here) she wants, needs begs him to really hurt her...is this someone fit to carry the duties of a Detective Inspector?... has some incident in the past created this lonely woman?  This is one lady living on the edge and deserves instant suspension....."Helen cried out in pain and looked down to see her fingernails dug into her palm. She had drawn blood in her frustration and anger"...."she fought the urge, digging her nails into her wounded hand. The pain flowed through her calming her"....

 

The plot in this crime story is frankly absurd. A serial killer is kidnapping two helpless individuals and hiding/locking them in a safe and impossible to find location. A gun is the only other item present and the incarcerated are faced with an impossible conundrum...kill or be killed. The person who remains is permitted to go free, and one such example is the second kidnapping...... Ben and Peter are attending a meeting in Bournemouth and returning home the car apparently develops a mechanical fault somewhere in the New Forest. With no mobile phone reception, and therefore little hope of rescue, they are surprised and but relieved when a van approaches...is this rescue or something more sinister? So how did the killer know that the car would break down at this particular desolate junction? Apparently he had hammered a large nail into the petrol tank and calculated exactly where the vehicle would come to rest and he could then resume his dastardly deed. Ben had ensured that the car was full of fuel before departing Bournemouth and the author assures us that once the car is fueled the driver or indeed any driver would fail to look at the display directly in front of him and therefore not notice the plummeting fuel gauge. What a ridiculous assumption, indeed if we accept that this could quite easily happen surely the killer must have known that there was a great possibility that Ben would see the plummeting fuel gauge and therefore stop immediately.

 

There is a point in the story where DI Helen Grace is convinced there is someone within her group who is feeding and leaking information to the press. So without proper evidence she accuses Charlie and Mark, both experience detectives, (although Mark is on the verge of becoming an alcoholic.. another clichéd policeman) of being the source of that leak. This is an atrocious way for a senior officer to treat her staff...accusations based on assumptions. By carrying out such a callous act Grace is splitting the team apart and lowering morale....would a senior boss really do this? I think not....

 

So with a questionable plot and a dysfunctional cast of characters....are there any redeeming features? The last quarter of the book does contain a few surprises and rather than abandon the story it kept me reading until the end, with a conclusion that leads the reader quite naturally forward to the next story in the series....but I for one shall not partake and can only hope that DI Helen Grace receives the medical help she so obviously needs!

Review
2 Stars
A slow burn does not work for me.....
The Birdwatcher - William Shaw

William South is a policeman in the flatlands around Kent. He is a loner by nature and this is reflected in his past time of bird watching: a hobby that requires stealth, patience and a love of being by oneself. However, when his neighbour Bob Rayner is murdered the responsibility falls to him and his immediate superior DS Cupidi to bring the perpetrators of this vile crime to justice. South spent his childhood in the troubled streets of a 70's Belfast and is no stranger to death and suffering his father having been supposedly  murdered by paramilitaries present in the province at that time.

 

This story has a certain slow tempo and style, South is not a man to be hurried and he approaches his job in the same meticulous manner is his bird watching. He forms a connection with Cupidi whose daughter Zoe it would appear is keen to learn the principles of bird watching and South is almost forced to allow her to accompany him on "twitcher" expeditions. There is a presumption by the reader that South and Cupidi have a mutual romantic interest in each other but the author fails to explore this and their feelings never develop beyond their working environment. The author uses South's troubled childhood to introduce an element of intrigue as past and present collide in a bloody conclusion.

 

I found the whole story to be somewhat boring and lacking in any real warmth towards the characters. It is told in a present and past time line and indeed William's childhood was the most exciting and dangerous part, in contrast to his laborious and humdrum Kent existence.

 

Review
5 Stars
Murder in the scorched Australian landscape
The Dry - Jane Harper

In a parched, dry community, a few hours travelling distance from Melbourne, the bloody killing of Luke, Karen and Billy Hadler has occurred. Attending the funeral is childhood friend and serving policeman Aaron Falk, who becomes involved in the criminal investigation thus resurrecting some painful 20 year old memories. As the investigation proceeds and the list of suspects mounts some long forgotten events tear the heart and soul from the good inhabitants of Kiewarra as they struggle for answers in this rain starved oven.

 

From the moment I received a gratis copy of this book from the publisher I knew I was about to read something extra special. The very texture and feel of the dust jacket with its depiction of red burning heat and rawness immediately set the tone for the harshness of the landscape and the brutality of the content. The author expertly portrays a suspicious people attempting to come to terms with a hidden killer in their midst as they dig out a living on a landscape starved of rain for two years...."They gazed around and were always taken aback by the crushing vastness of the open land. The space was the thing that hit them first. There was so much of it. There was enough to drown in. To look out and see not another soul between you and the horizon could be a strange and disturbing sight." Falk is unwelcome as there are suspicions over the death of Ellie Deacon many years ago, and he is viewed as having a pivotal role with his then childhood friend Luke...so where does the truth lie?

 

This book succeeds with me on so many levels. It is a first class crime story full of deception and subterfuge making it almost impossible for the reader to identify the killer, who when exposed is totally unexpected. It is a story of heartache and greed and ultimately survival as to exist here means coming to terms with the effects of drought and the harsh day to day hand to mouth existence. It is a story of suspicion and mistrust all played out under the unrelenting heat of an endless sun sucking the last ounce of energy from anything that moves...."Soon, they'd discover that the vegies didn't grow as willingly as they had in the city window box. That every single green shoot had to be coaxed and prised from the reluctant soil, and the neighbours  were too busy doing the same on an industrial scale to muster much cheer in their greetings."...

 

Many thanks to Little Brown the publishers for sending me a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written. I cannot recommend highly enough!

 

Review
2 Stars
Fast and furious but lacking soul....
Sirens - Joseph B. Knox

Joseph Knox is one of a new breed of crime writers creating gritty stories based around the northern industrial gang ridden Manchester belt. What he does he does extremely well exposing vice and corruption in the underbelly of inner city life. Aidan Waits is a detective living on the edge quite happy to accept the odd little gift, enjoy a crafty snifter, or test the strength of his septum by sniffing copious amounts of cocaine. When his boss Superintendant Parrs confronts Waits, outlining his numerous misdemeanours, he suggests a solution that will benefit both parties. Aidan must agree to infiltrate and feedback intelligence on the activities of gang supremo Zain Carver and the only way to achieve this is to go deep undercover......

 

Although this is a well written story and there are many and varied characters on show in a city overflowing with illegal late night activity, it was not a novel I particularly enjoyed. I realize that this is probably the first in a new series, by a writer who some may well view as a new Lee Child or Simon Kernick, but for me as a standalone work it failed to inspire. I need my crime to be riddled with characters who appear to be strong on the surface but are consumed by doubt and indecision. I want to explore their weaknesses and to be shown how this impacts on their daily existence not only for them but for the immediate family and loved ones. I read this story in two sittings and found the content more akin to a script for a well made tv series, enough to keep me entertained but little to entice me to return. Many thanks to the publishers who in return for an honest review supplied me with a gratis copy, and that is what I have written.

currently reading

Progress: 83%
The Good Daughter - Karin Slaughter