Title – Hangman
Author – Daniel Cole
Published – 22 March 2018
Genre – Crime fiction
Set eighteen months after the end of Ragdoll, police in the US are investigating a body found hanging from Brooklyn Bridge, the word ‘BAIT’ carved into the chest. The potential connection to the Ragdoll murders brings an FBI and a CIA agent to DCI Emily Baxter’s desk, they want to interview Lethaniel Masse. And there starts a fast-paced, action-packed rollercoaster of an investigation. The action moves backwards and forwards across the Atlantic as more and more related crimes occur. The body count ramps up at a rate of knots and the scenarios become ever more shocking.
If Ragdoll was Wolf’s book then this is Baxter’s. I loved Wolf in Ragdoll and I think Emily Baxter may be my new favourite police woman. I picture her as Suranne Jones playing Bailey in ‘Scott and Bailey’. She’s smart as can be (underneath it all) and has (some) principles but she’s a bit of a drinker, bit of a control freak, secretive and trusts no-one. And did I say she drinks?
As with Ragdoll this is a pretty gruesome, no holds barred, book and the author certainly has a warped imagination. There are some dark issues at the heart of the story and an interesting contrast in how different characters have dealt with them. The counterbalance to this is the humour, which is dry and sarcastic and lifts the mood in the right places.
No worries about ‘second novel syndrome’ with this – it’s a cracking read with great characters – very few clear heroes and villains, lots of shades in between. If you’re tempted to pick this book up then do try to read Ragdoll – there are lots of references and it will make more sense to have read it first.
Thank you to the publisher for the Netgalley.
Title – The Silent Companions
Author – Laura Purcell
Published – October 2017
Genre – Historical fiction
This was a book that I’d heard a lot of people raving about and when I saw the hardback on the shelves it was so beautiful that I added it to my Christmas list (and received it!). And now I’m in two minds whether or not to publish a review. It didn’t come from a publisher so I feel no pressure to be positive but I don’t mean to be negative for the sake of it. I still feel it’s worth saying what I thought because there are comparisons to be drawn with other similar books that I’ve read.
The book is set (mainly) in 1865. A little while in the future Mrs Bainbridge is in an asylum and a doctor persuades her to write down her account of the events in an effort to understand what led to her incarceration. In 1865 Elsie is newly married and newly widowed. The death of her husband has taken place at his family home, The Bridge, an old and crumbling mansion where her story starts, with shades of Rebecca. This part of the book is very much a chilling, gothic story but quite slow to develop and it didn’t have the atmosphere of something like The Unseeing. One of the issues I had was when a third timeline was introduced after diaries dating back to 1635, written by a previous owner of the house, are found in a mysterious garret. I then found the shifts through the three periods a struggle and I couldn’t take to the character who had written the diaries.
The silent companions of the title are a set of mysterious wooden figures that, sometimes, resemble some of the characters in the household and then appear where they aren’t expected. I had a quick ‘google’ to see a real example – http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object. Part of my problem was that these didn’t seem as sinister to me as they should have done. By coincidence it’s not long since I read The Coffin Path and that was where I first came across these unusual figures – and these I did find creepy, perhaps if the order in which I read the books had been reversed I might have felt differently.
When the threads of the different timelines are resolved and there is a final climax to the story I was impressed by the turn of events. It’s a shame that I didn’t find the book as atmospheric and chilling as others did.
Title – Quieter than Killing
Author – Sarah Hilary
Published – 2017
Genre – Crime fiction
This is the fourth in the ‘Marnie Rome’ series and it’s a series that’s getting better and better.
Coinciding with ‘The Beast From The East’ (well, for me anyway) this is set in a grim and icy London. Marnie and Noah have been investigating what they believe to be vigilante attacks – several people who served prison sentences some years ago have been the subject of violent assaults. When the latest attack results in the death of the victim their efforts are redoubled but there is initially little evidence to go on. Investigating the victims and the original crimes opens up a whole host of further complications.
At the same time an incident at Marnie’s former childhood home blurs the boundaries between her work and personal life, and she is someone who likes to compartmentalise. DS Kennedy from ‘Trident’ is investigating the attack and believes that it’s linked to a local gang of kids. This also introduces a potential connection to her foster brother – someone who manages to insinuate himself into many of her investigations.
As the book progresses we meet another character – Finn, a young boy being held captive by ‘Brady’, with echoes of some of the aspects of the previous book in the series. It takes a while but eventually the connection to the investigations becomes clear and the role that Finn is playing is one that tugs at Marnie’s heart strings.
Noah has his own problems when he can’t find his younger brother, Sol, and he starts to receive threats – something that he should speak to DS Kennedy about but will he risk Sol being brought to the attention of colleagues? It makes it sound like there’s a lot going on but the book and the different threads don’t feel in any way disjointed.
The early parts of the book are a masterclass in how to give a reader new to your series enough information about the background and avoid an obvious device like a quick explanatory chat between two characters. Much of the book’s subject matter is centred around gangs and people bringing pressure to bear on others to act against their will; this type of social observation is typical of this series. What feels different about this book is the progress in the storyline between Marnie and her foster brother (although we’re left on a huge cliff hanger) and I wonder if the reason I didn’t love the earlier books as much as other people is connected to this thread. I’m a great one for having resolution in books! Although resolution appears to be some way off, the exchanges brought their relationship and the family dynamic into better focus. Marnie is also a great thinker – I’ve felt in the past that the character has spent too much time dwelling on issues and mulling them over – this book felt different, as if there was less angst.
Clever plotting, effortless writing and convincing characters – this is a great crime read with a social conscience.
Thank you to the library for lending me the copy. You can see another point of view on Cleo’s blog .
Title – Deep Blue Trouble
Author – Steph Broadribb
Published – November 2017
Genre – Thriller
This is the follow-up to Steph’s debut ‘Deep Down Dead‘ and takes place pretty much where Deep Down Dead ends – Lori is desperate to get JT out of prison and in the absence of a witness (the only one who can vouch for JT is in a coma) Lori agrees to take on a job for FBI agent Alex Monroe.
Monroe seems to hold all the cards which isn’t a situation that Lori is exactly comfortable with and flies in the face of everything she learned from JT – but she has no choice. Leaving her daughter, Dakota, at summer camp she sets off to recapture Gibson ‘The Fish’ Fletcher, a man she has captured in the past but who is now on the loose following a jail break. It’s obvious that Monroe has a personal reason for wanting Lori to be the one to take Fletcher but he operates on a strictly ‘need to know’ basis. What unfolds in a rollercoaster of a chase across America and even venturing into Mexico on the trail of the missing man.
Lori remains driven by her feelings for JT and her worries for her daughter. She’s as ‘kick-ass’ as she was in the first book but the situation demands that this time she’s acting more on her own than as part of a team. She has one person she can call on for help and is given the support of a team through Monroe but she’s not used to trusting people she doesn’t know but her lack of allies leads to more internal monologue.
The first book featured a lot of Lori’s backstory (so you may be better reading the series in order) so it was going to be interesting to see how the second book would develop without this. Some of this is dealt with by having some of the story from JT’s point of view and for the reader understanding his situation in jail adds to the tension – there are some repercussions from the previous book. There’s also more of an investigative aspect – so part PI/part bounty hunter.
What I particularly admire is how different the voice in the book is to the author. You can often go to events or meet authors and when you speak to them you can see something of them in their books – the voice they write with is similar to their own. If you’ve ever come across Steph at an event you will know how different she is to Lori. Perhaps if you’re American and read the books something might jar but for me it feels completely authentic and there’s nothing that would make me think this wasn’t written by someone as American as Lori.
If you like a strong female character with a unique voice and rollercoaster thriller then this is the book for you. Many thanks to Lounge Books for the free download.
Title – Perfect Remains
Author – Helen Field
Published – Jan 2017
Genre – Crime fiction
This is a series that I’ve seen a lot of buzz about on Twitter and has glowing reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, so I took advantage when there was an offer to download the book for free when a new book in the series was published. And now I discover it’s one of those books that the rest of the world seems to like and I have a dissenting voice, in fact I’m torn between giving it two or three stars, but I’m feeling generous.
The main character is D I Luc Callanach – half French and half Scottish he has recently transferred to Edinburgh after working for Interpol in France. He has the looks of an underwear model and a dark and mysterious past. His first case with his new team is the disappearance and subsequent murder of a young professional woman.
When I said that Callanach is the main character that’s only partly true – the perpetrator of the crimes gets his own fair share of the limelight. This is a book where you know from the outset who committed the crimes, how he is carrying them out and the deceptions he is using to trick the police. An unlikeable character I couldn’t wait for him to get his comeuppance. Obviously a disturbed individual but so disturbed that I was never sure that the motive behind his crimes even made sense to him.
There is a lesser strand to the main plot about babies being found in a park which is investigated by one of Callanach’s colleagues and I wondered if this was a means to an end for a later point in the plot; it didn’t seem properly developed but seemed more to serve a purpose.
The setting is Edinburgh but the writing didn’t get the feel or the atmosphere that told me anything about the place – it could easily have been set in the suburbs of any other large city. The dual point of view aspect was one of things that didn’t endear the book to me, while I like police procedurals I much prefer that the mystery unfolds for me as it does for the investigators, I don’t particularly like to be in on the secrets. There is a considerable amount of violence in the book. I’ve read worse, or perhaps more graphic, but it was all against women and there were certainly aspects that seemed gratuitous. There was an inevitable romance which didn’t particularly add anything to the story. To me it felt like a book someone would write who has read a lot of crime fiction and thinks ‘I could do that’. I think it needed a bit more refinement, a bit more editing, a more critical eye.
But how can I argue with all those hugely positive reviews?
Title – Cruel Mercy
Author – David Mark
Published – Jan 2017
Genre – Crime fiction
I’ve been missing DS McAvoy so it was a relief to finally catch up on book 6 in the series. This book sees McAvoy even further out of his comfort zone than normal as the action takes place in New York City. Three Irishmen who have arrived in New York, one is dead, one is in a coma and one is missing. As the missing one is Roisin’s little brother strings have been pulled and McAvoy has been allowed to cross the Atlantic to see if he can find out what’s happened – because if he can’t a huge family feud will engulf those he loves. If there’s one thing that drives McAvoy it’s his love for his wife!
If McAvoy normally seems like a fish out of water then the change of environment does nothing to improve the situation but he remains true to his character in his dogged determination to get to the bottom of whatever mystery he’s presented with. He’s given a contact in the NYPD and the Detective seems like a decent guy but it doesn’t take McAvoy long to realise that he is being played in all sorts of ways. Detective Alto has his own agenda and he’s happy to try to manipulate McAvoy to get what he wants.
The author makes the most of the location – with Irish priests, bare knuckle fighting, Feds, Mafia mobsters and Chechen gangs. The book picks up some of the atmosphere of New York but with a wintery setting it shares a lot in common with Hull. The story (as is usual in this series) is complex with lots of seemingly disconnected threads. This is perhaps the reason that the opening of the book feels a little disjointed; there are a number of different points of view and it’s not clear at the start (in some cases it isn’t actually resolved until the end of the book) who the characters are.
Like a jigsaw all the pieces come together to make a satisfying final result but for some of the way it felt like there were a few annoying bits of sky lying about that were never going to fit in! This is a challenging read. The topics the books tackles and some of the violence are at the opposite end of the crime fiction scale to ‘cosy’. There is some brutal violence and some depraved behaviour, it’s complex and you need to keep your wits about you.
It’s great getting reacquainted with McAvoy again but the change of location did mean that, for me, there were some downsides. I missed the team spirit that closer proximity to his colleagues would normally give and a disembodied Trish Pharaoh via Skype is a pale imitation of the real thing. There have been some storylines in earlier books in the series concerning McAvoy’s colleagues that I really wanted to see develop or be resolved but these were neglected. And of course there’s Roisin and Aector together – a force to be reckoned with but not quite the same when they are on different continents.
An enjoyable if challenging read but not quite Aector McAvoy at this best. Thank you to the library for letting me borrow the book. You can see another point of view on Puzzle Doctor’s blog.
Title – The Wicked Cometh
Author – Laura Carlin
Published – Feb 2018
Genre – Historical fiction
It’s 1831 and men, women and children have been disappearing from the streets of London. Hester is a young woman who lost her somewhat privileged life when she was orphaned and was taken in by her father’s ex-gardener and his wife, which has led to her living in ever more wretched conditions. She is pinning her hopes on being able to meet her long lost cousin in London but a chance incident and injury sees her become something of a ‘project’ for the Brock family – Calder Brock, his sister Rebekah and their uncle. Hester is sent to their country house where they plan to educate her (as she has managed to keep to herself the fact that she is actually relatively well educated), she makes friends with some of the housemaids and is mentored by Rebekah.
This is a book or two halves. There is the ‘salvation’ of Hester and her burgeoning relationship with Rebekah. Then there are the ‘investigations’ as they play amateur detective in trying to find what’s become of the missing people, uncovering some unpleasant secrets in both their families along the way.
I have to say this book that wasn’t really for me. The stories and the multiple threads became quite convoluted and the author packed a lot in. I wasn’t a huge fan of Hester, for some reason I didn’t find that her character rang quite true – although nothing I can really put my finger on. The author does paint an interesting and atmospheric picture of London, demonstrating some of the contrasts between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ and there is a period leaning to the writing. But the very end of the book felt like it had pushed the credibility of the story too far.
Many thanks to the publisher for the netgalley. You can see another point of view on Kate’s blog.