You Belong To Me – Samantha Hayes

Title – You Belong To Me

Author – Samantha Hayes

Published – 2015

Genre – Crime / Psychological thriller

If you’ve followed my blog for a while you’ll know that I can be extremely demanding when it comes to reading psychological thrillers. They have to be tense – ‘I don’t really want to know what happens next’ tense. They have to be credible – people (usually women) scared of things which are all in the mind are a let down. Finally they have to provide an explanation for what happens. And I have to say that You Belong To Me meets all my criteria!

I’m faced with a difficult task in reviewing this book because the less you know when you start it the better. And as I’m so behind on my reviews that’s perhaps no bad thing! The story features Isabel who has fled to India following something terrible that happened back home in Birmingham. No sooner has she begun to feel able to enjoy her time in India than a stranger arrives bearing news that throws her life into turmoil. She feels compelled to return to the UK but having lost everything when she left she is particularly vulnerable.

The book follows not one but two women spiralling out of control and the second is DI Lorraine Fisher. Haunted by the images of a woman she believes she let down she’s putting herself under enormous pressure, not sleeping, not eating and taking copious amounts of painkillers. Her obsession with the death of a young woman affects her judgement and she is forced off a possibly connected investigation. Behaving recklessly and jumping at shadows she can’t let the case go.

There’s a line when Lorraine says ‘I’ve lost sight of the real me’ and this could apply equally to both women. Whilst they do have similarities, Hayes manages to give them quite different voices and they both have likeable qualities alongside some dangerous flaws.

The use of first person, present tense for all the characters brings a real immediacy to the writing which certainly helps with the tension. I found the first quarter of the book to be really tense, proper heart in your mouth stuff. On the face of it the story is a mix of murder investigation and stalking but the plot is intricately woven, moving along at a fair pace but interspersed with the backstory that fills in some of the blanks. Here Hayes is masterful at teasing the reader!

If I have a yardstick by which I measure psychological thrillers it’s Into The Darkest Corner and this stacks up very well against it. A tense and disturbing read.

I read a NetGalley of this book.


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The Crime Museum Uncovered – an exhibition at the Museum of London

Whether a crime fiction aficionado or a someone with only a passing interest, you will still no doubt have heard of the Metropolitan Police’s “Black Museum”. This collection of macabre exhibits has been used to teach Police officers about crimes and criminals and has been in existence in one form or another since the mid-1870s. For the first time a selection of exhibits have been put on display giving members of the general public an opportunity to learn from them too. “The Crime Museum Uncovered” is at The Museum of London and ends in April 2016.


There has obviously been a lot of consideration given to what should and shouldn’t be put on display and efforts taken to avoid sensationalism and respect those who have been victims of crime. To that end the items have been curated to avoid more recent crimes where there may be victims or their families who might be distressed.

The exhibition is split into two main areas. In the first the focus is on crimes and criminals from the 1880s and the 1900s. Laid out in two rooms they are inspired by illustrations of the Crime Museum, or the Police Museum as it was then known. There are a vast array of exhibits, with death masks, courtroom illustrations and weapons. There is a free guide to these rooms, providing some background to the crimes, many of which were notorious at the time but are less well known now. There are also some strange items included, like the sampler cushion made by Annie Parker who embroidered it with her own hair. Possibly the most sobering in this section are the execution ropes, although one of the displays I found most interesting was the case (Execution box No.9 from Wandsworth Prison) used by the hangman and sent around the country to wherever an execution was to take place.

The second half of the exhibition features 20 displays dedicated to specific cases, some which demonstrated a leap forward in methods of detection, such as the 1905 “Mask Murders” the first occasion when fingerprint evidence was used to secure a conviction. The are also some more well known cases included, such as Dr Crippen, The Krays, Ruth Ellis and the Great Train Robbery. While it’s inevitable that there is a gruesome fascination with some of the items, it also serves to demonstrate some determined action on the part of the police in investigating these crimes.

There are also some specific displays relating to particular areas of policing such as counterfeiting, espionage (which I found fascinating) and terrorism.

If you went to the “Forensics: The anatomy of crime” exhibition at the Wellcome Collection this event is bound to interest you and despite the entry fee it’s a fascinating glimpse into crime, criminals, but most of all the dogged detectives who have gone to enormous lengths to get their man (or woman).

The Crime Museum Uncovered


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The Dark Inside – Rod Reynolds

Title – The Dark Inside

Author – Rod Reynolds

Published – Sept 2015

Genre – Crime fiction

From the first page of this dark thriller you’re transported to post-war America, specifically Texarkana (a town on the border of Texas and Arkansas) in 1946. The main protagonist is Charlie Yates, a big city journalist sent in disgrace to this small southern town. Ostensibly he’s been sent to investigate a spate of brutal attacks on young couples parked in ‘lovers lanes’ but in reality there’s not much interest for a New York paper in these deaths. Nevertheless Yates takes his job seriously – perhaps in the hope that he may do enough to warrant his return to the NY office and finds himself drawn into the story. His motivation is also partly due to Lizzie, the sister of the only person to survive the attacks. In Lizzie he sees a woman like his own wife (who has left him) and he figures that if he can help Lizzie then in some way he is atoning for his treatment of his wife.

As the story unfolds and Yates undertakes his own investigation he discovers that he has no one he can call on for support, not even his so-called colleagues at the newspaper office. The murders make for an oppressive atmosphere in the claustrophobic setting of this small town and as an outsider he has to take help wherever he can – even from mysterious anonymous sources. The police are positively obstructive and this is a time when they aren’t above a spot of brutality and corruption isn’t unheard of.

What’s unusual about Yates is that he’s a coward, albeit one with an unpredictable temper – which means that he gets himself into situations that he’s not prepared to handle. He could be one of those characters that readers don’t take to but the well realised characterisation means that Yates is very believable and while he’s not always easy to sympathise with he does generally have good intentions.

The plot seems quite straightforward in the early part of the book but as the story reaches its climax Reynolds weaves in all sorts of twists and turns. I thought I’d got the ‘whodunnit’ and I did but then I hadn’t (read it – it’ll become clear) and it certainly kept me turning the pages quickly!

I found the attention to historical detail was fascinating and Reynolds didn’t necessarily feel the need to explain every reference he made, as a reader it’s always nice to be credited with a bit of common sense. The choice of period is an interesting one – in the post-war setting the town is full of GIs who have only been back from the war a matter of months and Reynolds touches on the issues of how can these men just fit back into    a ‘normal’ life. What I have since found out is that the book was inspired by real-life events known as the Moonlight Murders that actually took place in Texarkana in the early part of 1946 which I think adds an extra layer to the book.

This is a very confident debut with a terrific period setting and a dark and brooding atmosphere. Coincidentally Reynolds studied on the same course (Creative Writing (Crime Thriller Novels) MA at City University London) as David Young whose crime fiction debut I also loved. Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. You can see another point of view at For Winter Nights.



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Looking forward to getting out and about in 2016

calendar-867753_1280It may seem a little premature but I’m already putting dates in my diary for crime fiction events in 2016 and there seem to be plenty to choose from. So I thought a I would put together a list of the main dedicated crime fiction events taking place in the UK. This is already quite a long list and I’m sure others will be able to add to it, and of course there will be many crime fiction author panels taking place as part of broader literary festivals.

I aim to maintain the list and update it as dates are confirmed so do let me know if there’s anything I should add to the list.


Nothing uncovered so far – perhaps we’re all busy reading!


5th March – CSI Portsmouth – Portsmouth, Hampshire
A one-day event mixing crime fiction authors with real-life police and forensic experts.


2nd April – Deal Noir – Deal, Kent
Now confirmed for early April this is the second year of this Kent-based event mixing local, national and (rumour has it) international authors.

30th April – 1st May – Newcastle Noir – Newcastle
A two day event dedicated to promoting top-class crime writing in the region and as a celebration of this intriguing and increasingly diverse genre.


19-22 May – Crimefest – Bristol
A four-day convention drawing top crime novelists, readers, editors, publishers and reviewers from around the world.


TBC (and I’m guessing at the month) – Nordicana, London

11th June – Bodies from the Library – British Library, London
A one-day conference focussing on ‘Golden Age Detective Fiction’.

TBC – Carlisle Crime Writing Festival, Carlisle

TBC – Slaughter in Southwold, Southwold, Suffolk


21 – 24th July – Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival – Harrogate, Yorkshire
Four days of Europe’s biggest come writing event, this year Peter James is the chair of the Programming Committee.


TBC – St Hilda’s Mystery and Crime Weekend, Oxford
An extremely long-standing event this is a formal conference with papers relevant to the theme and the choice of speakers matched to the topic.


9 -12th September – Bloody Scotland – Stirling, Scotland
Scotland’s festival celebrating crime writing – bringing together leading Scottish and international writers, showcasing debut voices and encouraging new writers.

TBC – International Agatha Christie Festival – Torquay, Devon
Traditionally taking pace in Torquay in the middle of September this festival features a range of events celebrating the life and work of Agatha Christie.

TBC – Noirwich Crime Writing Festival, Norwich, Norfolk


TBC – Death in Grantown,Grantown on Spey, Scotland


17 – 20th November – Iceland Noir, Reykjavik, Iceland
OK, not strictly a UK event – but how could I leave this off the list?! The Icelanders take their crime fiction seriously – so where better to discuss it over two-and-a-half days of interviews and panels.


All busy shopping for books …


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The Defenceless – Kati Hiekkapelto

810AJmUp3cL._SL1500_Title – The Defenceless

Author – Kati Hiekkapelto (translated by David Hackston)

Published – 2014 (2015 in translation)

Genre – Crime fiction

This is the second book in translation from Finnish author Kati Hiekkapelto in her crime fiction series featuring Senior Constable Anna Fekete.

If you take the definition that Nordic Noir “typically features dark storylines and bleak urban settings” and also “incorporate larger social issues into the narrative of police work” then The Defenceless is a perfect example. Through the investigation of a number of deaths which seemingly have no connection Hiekkapelto explores the issues of immigration and isolation, the treatment of the elderly, drugs, gangs, smuggling…

The police investigation initially concerns the death of an unidentified elderly man who has been run over on a deserted road by a Hungarian au pair. With no obvious evidence to suggest how he found his way to the site the investigation is making slow progress. Then elsewhere a bloody knife is discovered in the snow. At the same time there is concern that a new gang of criminals is trying to expand into the city and it’s Fekete’s colleague Esko who takes the lead on this, using an informant to try to track them down. But as all the investigations progress they become linked to a single apartment block.

The immigration issue is obviously a particularly topical one at the moment and it’s interesting that the book features both those who are obviously immigrants (a young man from Pakistan) as well as those who don’t outwardly appear to be different (Fekete herself is originally from Hungary, a survivor of the Serbo-Croatian war, she immigrated to Finland with her mother and brother when she was a child). This gives the author the opportunity to explore the issues around immigration from multiple points of view – from the young man who is battling against a drug addition and trying to claim asylum, to a young woman trying to blend in with her Finnish colleagues whilst struggling with the distance she is putting between herself and her family. The other side of the issue is explored through Fekete’s colleague Esko, close to retirement he is overtly racist (as well as being a drunk, a bully and sexist to boot) although he does have some moments where redemption seems possible.

I must also mention the translation, which is absolutely seamless, there wasn’t a moment when the writing reminded me that I was reading something which wasn’t originally written in English.

The Defenceless certainly has the melancholic feel that you would expect from Nordic crime fiction and while the plot seemed as if it was going to unfold simply, as Fekete and her colleagues brought the different threads together, it managed to hold more surprises.

Thank you to the publisher of the review copy. You can see another point of view on Vicky Newman’s blog.


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Stasi Child – David Young

Stasi ChildTitle – Stasi Child

Author – David Young

Published – Sept 2015

Genre – Crime fiction

Not only is this a debut book, but it comes from a new Adult Fiction imprint of Bonnier Publishing called ‘Twenty7’. The imprint was established in 2014 and is focusing on debuts which they will publish initially as e-books followed by mass market paperbacks within six months.

Stasi Child is told from three different points of view and it doesn’t seem unreasonable to assume that the three characters have a link, although it’s not until some way through the book that the details become clear. Set in East Berlin in 1975, the main protagonist, and our investigator, is Oberleutnant Karin Müller, the only female head of a murder squad in the Deutsche Demokratische Republic. She is called to investigate the body of a young girl who has been discovered at the foot of the infamous Wall. Not only is the location inauspicious but members of the Stasi are also interested in the death. In fact the Stasi want Müller to undertake the investigation to identify the girl, but are very firm that this has a strict boundary and the cause of death has already been given an official explanation. Needless to say things don’t necessarily go the way that the Stasi intended.

The second character is Müller’s husband Gottfried who is a mild-mannered teacher struggling with the possible infidelities of his wife and seemingly harbouring some unwise interest in the West.

The final thread of the story is told in the first person and starts around nine months before the discovery of the unidentified corpse. This part of the story is from the perspective of a young girl who is being held in a “Jugendwerkhof”, a sort of state youth workhouse designed to ‘re-educate’ young people. The children at this school are mis-treated and desperate to find a way out.

Young has made an interesting choice in the period he has chosen for the setting – his writing has an authentic feel to it but the period is one that is still recent enough that people could verify (or dispute) the details should he put a foot wrong. Young also makes good use of the weather, with a winter setting, and the bleakness of winter in East Germany adds to the dark and chilling nature of the story. The atmosphere he creates is reminiscent of the Russian novels by William Ryan, with same feel of fear. oppression and deprivation. As with Ryan’s books the investigator is put in a position where there could be dire consequences if they reach the ‘wrong’ answer. In Müller Young has created a strong female lead determined to act for the victim and while she doesn’t have some of the standard cliched flaws common in crime fiction she isn’t perfect.

I was impressed by the skills of Müller’s scientist colleague who had the ability to carry out some pretty nifty analysis within the constraints of what I imagine to be a very tightly managed budget. But the findings helped to move the plot along.

This is a debut that doesn’t try too hard – it doesn’t feel as if the author is trying to prove that they’ve got a wide vocabulary, done mountains of research or can write pages of snappy dialogue. Which means that all of those things have been done with a light touch making this is an enjoyable read in an unusual setting and I look forward to reading the next in the series.

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. You can see another point of view at Finding Time to Write.


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Motive – Jonathan Kellerman

MotiveTitle – Motive

Author – Jonathan Kellerman

Published – September 2015 (paperback)

Genre – Crime fiction

So this is number 30 in the Alex Delaware series – where did the time go?
It can’t be easy to maintain a series over such a long period (the first ‘Delaware’ title was published in 1985) and having read all the titles in the series I can say that there have been many peaks accompanied by a few ‘troughs’ along the way. But Motive seems like part of his return to form.

The story opens with Milo (LAPD Lieutenant Milo Sturgis) consulting psychologist Alex Delaware when he is frustrated by a seemingly simple murder that he has been unable to solve. Delaware can add nothing and the case remains stalled. Move forward a few weeks and Milo is back in touch – this time he’s looking for Delaware’s psych skills in the murder of a wealthy divorcee who has been shot in the car park of a law firm.

The pairing of Delaware and Sturgis works well, but then Kellerman has had a lot of time to develop the partnership. In fact thinking back to when the series was first published having a gay cop in Sturgis could well have been cutting edge. The pair bounce ideas off each other and discuss their theories, which helps to take the reader along with their train of thought.

There’s not a great deal of the psychological component to the story, especially compared to earlier books in the series, more it’s diligent police work and of course Delaware can’t resist undertaking some of the investigative work himself. These stories don’t rely on large amounts of detailed forensic work but are more about talking to the people involved (witnesses, suspects) and getting others to come back with the results of the more detailed investigative work. There are plenty of red herrings to keep the reader guessing but (fortunately) the plot isn’t as convoluted as some have of the book’s predecessors. I was also pleased that there was less of Delaware’s personal life than there has been in some of the later novels.

Kellerman’s writing has a very specific feel when it comes to descriptions and although I know it’s not a style that appeals to everyone it’s an aspect that I really like, and for me it helps to bring the characters and situations to life.

So there’s a twisty plot, some red herrings, and a spot of sleuthing – both amateur and professional. All in all an enjoyable read. Thank you to the publisher for the review copy.



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