Debut

Ragdoll – Daniel Cole

Title – Ragdoll

Author – Daniel Cole

Published – Feb 2017

Genre – Crime fiction

Another short review – this time a debut from Daniel Cole which was published at the beginning of the year.

I have to confess that it was a while before I started reading this book because the ‘blurb’ put me off. The premise is described as “A body is discovered with the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together, nicknamed by the press as the ‘Ragdoll’.” It reminded me of the The Whisperer by Donato Carrisi or perhaps something worse but I’m glad that it eventually made its way to the top of the TBR.

Along similar lines as Pendulum this is a (loose) police procedural which has the ‘race against time’ aspects of a thriller. The pace moves the story forward but it’s probably not for people who like their crime fiction or police investigations to be realistic. If you can suspend disbelief it is definitely worth a read.

The book will probably be most memorable to me for the lead character of Detective William Oliver Layton-Fawkes ‘Wolf” Fawkes – a true maverick policeman in the best traditions of crime fiction. Also drawn into the investigation is Wolf’s ex-wife, a journalist and this provides the reader with some thought-provoking moments about what getting a story may be worth.

The gruesome and graphic nature of the ‘body’ at the centre of the investigation might make it appear as if the author was using this to make up for a deficit in the plot or writing but this isn’t the case and fortunately the author was also smart enough to mix in humour to lighten the mood occasionally.

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy.

1star1star1star1star

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Pendulum – Adam Hamdy

Title – Pendulum

Author – Adam Hamdy

Published – Nov 2016

Genre – Thriller

This had been sitting on my shelves since before we moved last year (one of the lucky ones to get unpacked), I was looking for an alternative to historical fiction and this was certainly the polar opposite!

The premise is unusual – always a good start. John Wallace, a photographer, is taken by surprise in his flat and attacked by a man who attempts to hang him. I don’t think I’m giving too much away by saying that he is unsuccessful. Wallace manages to make his escape after a dramatic fight but finds that his attacker is set on completing what he started and Wallace is short on places to turn for help. It transpires that there are others who appear to have committed suicide in the same way (hence ‘Pendulum’) but if Wallace wants to prove that he isn’t losing his mind he needs to dodge the killer and take up the hunt in America.

The thriller part of the plot centres around the ‘can they stop the killer before Wallace or others die’ and there is more of a crime fiction element around determining the identity of the masked man and the motivation behind his attacks. This is a ‘no holds barred’ thriller and I lost track of the body count; not a book to read if you prefer to avoid gore/violence. Hamdy really puts Wallace through the ringer and it’s amazing the guy manages to keep going with the physical and emotional toll exerted on him. The action is easy to visualise (no doubt the author bringing to bear skills from his screenwriting experience) with some great set pieces and nifty writing that gets Wallace out of danger and while the pace keeps up throughout, the action is balanced by tension.

There are, however, two specific issues I had with the book. The first one was my disappointment when I was halfway through and adding it to Goodreads and finding that this is the first in a trilogy – I was looking forward to a resolution that I knew would be delayed. This would have made a great standalone so it will be interesting to see how the story develops over three books. The other problem I had was that when the motivation for the attacks and the reason behind the targeting of the victims became clear I was less enamoured with Wallace than I had been. Nevertheless, this is a gripping trans-atlantic thriller and an accomplished debut.

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy.

1star1star1star1star

Deep Down Dead – Steph Broadribb

51dphgk8vslTitle – Deep Down Dead

Author – Steph Broadribb

Published – Jan 2017

Genre – Thriller

Before I start my review it’s only fair to say that I have known Steph (aka ‘Crime Thriller Girl‘) for a  few years and may have had a social drink or two with her at crime fiction events. I hope that readers of my blog can trust, however, that I wouldn’t give a positive review to a book because of this. In fact that does lead to some interesting thoughts about the world of bloggers, authors and crime fiction conventions / events – but for another day!

Florida bounty-hunter and single mother Lori Anderson seizes the opportunity to take on a job to help her make ends meet after her young daughter’s medical treatment. But with a higher than normal bounty comes a higher than normal risk and Lori finds that the job has a personal aspect to it that will bring back memories that she would prefer to stay buried.

The story is fast paced, with lots of action and plenty of emotional twists and turns. Some of the action sequences have a very visual quality to them and it would be easy to see them transferred to (small or large) screen. It touches on some dark themes and has a smattering of sex, violence and secrets. There are aspects that manage to lighten the mood a little and Lori is a feisty leading lady. I don’t want to give too much away but there’s also a ‘will they, won’t they’ aspect to the story.

I have to confess that if there was one aspect I didn’t like it was Lori’s daughter. I can see how important she was to the plot and to Lori’s motivation but there was something about the too good to be true, pigtails and eye-rolling, that made me hope something dreadful would happen early on in the book!

I mentioned when I reviewed The Distance by Helen Giltrow that while there are plenty of women writing crime fiction it feels unusual to read a thriller written by a woman. It’s therefore great to read another credible, pacy thriller from a female author. Another unusual aspect of Dead Down Dead, and one that is shared with the series by Rod Reynolds and Mason Cross, is the use of an American setting by someone who is British.

This is an accomplished debut and in Lori, Steph has created a character with a very clear and convincing voice. It’s obvious that she’s also familiar with the locations she uses and I know that she took research further than most authors by training as a bounty hunter in California.

I was pleased that the ending didn’t pan out as I thought it might and  it didn’t go for an ‘easy’ option. This is the first in a series and I’m curious to know where the next instalment will take Lori.

Many thanks to the author for the review copy.

1star1star1star1star

Crime fiction debuts to look out for in November 2016

This is a look forward to the crime fiction/thriller debuts being published in November 2016.

3 November 2016

81ql23-uw5lCut to the Bone by Alex Caan (from 
Twenty7 Books)

Ruby is a vlogger, a rising star of YouTube and a heroine to millions of teenage girls. And she’s missing. She’s an adult – nothing to worry about, surely? Until the video’s uploaded. Ruby, in the dirt and pleading for her life.

Who better to head up the investigation than the Met’s rising star, Detective Inspector Kate Riley? She’s leading a shiny new team, high-powered, mostly female and with the best resources money can buy. It’s time for them to prove what they can do. Alongside her, Detective Sergeant Zain Harris – poster boy for multiracial policing and the team’s newest member – has his own unique contribution to make. But can Kate wholly trust him and when he’s around, can she trust herself?

Alex Caan has spent over a decade working in Information Systems Security for a number of government organisations, and is currently specialising in Terrorism Studies. A lifetime passion for writing was sparked by the encouraging words of an English Teacher in school, and eventually led to Alex successfully completing an MA in Creative Writing.

91-pajh7yLL.jpgGone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen (from Headline)

Hannah Monroe’s boyfriend, Matt, is gone. His belongings have disappeared from their house. Every call she ever made to him, every text she ever sent, every photo of him and any sign of him on social media have vanished. It’s as though their last four years together never happened.

As Hannah struggles to get through the next few days, with humiliation and recriminations whirring through her head, she knows that she’ll do whatever it takes to find him again and get answers. But as soon as her search starts, she realizes she is being led into a maze of madness and obsession. Step by suspenseful step, Hannah discovers her only way out is to come face to face with the shocking truth…

Mary Torjussen has an MA in Creative Writing from Liverpool John Moores University. She worked for several years as a teacher and lives outside of Liverpool, where Gone Without a Trace is set.

10 November 2016

81xfgs9camlThe Harbour Master by Daniel Pembrey (from No Exit Press)

I’m not quite sure if this counts as a ‘ringer’ in my debuts posts, because if you look on Amazon you will find that this book has already garnered over 60 5 star reviews. I think this is because of a change of publisher and /or that the book was originally published in three parts. Not bad ratings for a debut whichever way you look at it!

Henk van der Pol is a 30-year-term policeman, a few months off retirement. When he finds a woman’s body in Amsterdam Harbour, his detective instincts take over, even though it’s not his jurisdiction. Warned off investigating the case, Henk soon realises he can trust nobody, as his search for the killer leads him to discover the involvement of senior police officers, government corruption in the highest places, Hungarian people traffickers, and a deadly threat to his own family…

Daniel Pembrey grew up in Nottinghamshire, England — beside Sherwood Forest. He studied history at Edinburgh University and spent over a decade working in America and more recently Luxembourg, coming to rest in Amsterdam and London — dividing his time now between these two great maritime cities. He is the author of the Henk van der Pol detective series and several short thriller stories, and he contributes articles to publications including The Financial Times and The (London) Times.

25 November 2016

Losing Juliet by June Taylor (from Killer Reads)

A twisty psychological drama about a friendship gone bad.

Juliet and Chrissy were best friends until one fateful summer forced them apart. Now, nearly twenty years later, Juliet wants to be back in Chrissy’s life.

But Chrissy doesn’t want Juliet anywhere near her, or her teenage daughter Eloise. After all, Juliet is the only person who knows what happened that night – and her return threatens to destroy the life that Chrissy has so carefully built.

Because when the past is reawakened, it can prove difficult to bury. And soon all three of them will realize how dangerous it can get once the truth is out there…

Out as an ebook in November this will be followed by paperback publication in Jan 2017.

June Taylor is a UK writer who was runner-up in the 2011 Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction competition with her Young Adult book Lovely me, Lovely You. But she mainly writes Adult psychological thrillers, and Losing Juliet is her debut novel. She was a TV promos writer/producer for many years before becoming a full-time writer. June also writes plays as well as fiction. She is very active in the Yorkshire writing scene, on the Board of Script Yorkshire and part of Leeds Big Bookend.

For previous ‘debuts’ posts see JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJune, JulyAugust, September and October.

Crime fiction debuts to look out for in October 2016

This is a look forward to the crime fiction/thriller debuts being published in October 2016.

6 October 2016

81gc5fx3c3lHolding by Graham Norton (from Hodder and Stoughton)

The author of this debut needs no introduction (yes – THAT Graham Norton)

The remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama; and yet its inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn’t always been this overweight; mother of­ two Brid Riordan hasn’t always been an alcoholic; and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn’t always felt that her life was a total waste.

So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, suspected to be that of Tommy Burke – a former­ love of both Brid and Evelyn – the village’s dark past begins to unravel. As the frustrated PJ struggles to solve a genuine case for the first time in his life, he unearths a community’s worth of anger and resentments, secrets and regret.

You can see Phil’s review on reviewsrevues.

11 October 2016

fidelity-9781476733869_hrFidelity by Jan Fedarcyk (from Simon and Schuster)

Kay Malloy always knew hers would be a life of service. Following the tragic death of her humanitarian parents, Kay and her brother, Christopher, were raised in a world of wealth and culture by their godparents. With ambition and selflessness, Kay joins the FBI to honor her parent’s legacy, even while Christopher’s life grows increasingly aimless.

Paramilitary and male-dominated, the FBI could be an intimidating employer to anyone less confident, devoted, and insightful than Kay. But after early success in the Violent Crime Program in Baltimore she struggles working counterintelligence in New York. When Kay is assigned to investigate the loss of Russian government double agents, she sees this as her chance to prove herself. As pressure mounts and conflicting leads cloud the investigation, Kay discovers she must make the impossible choice between those she loves and the country she’s sworn to protect.

Upon her retirement in 2012 Jan Fedarcyk was the only woman to lead the FBI s prestigious New York Office as Assistant Director in Charge. Fidelity is Jan s first novel, drawing upon her twenty-five years of experience as an FBI Special Agent. A Maryland native, she resides in the Annapolis area with her husband, Mike.

15 October 2016

Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb (from Orenda Books)

Lori Anderson is as tough as they come, managing to keep her career as a fearless Florida bounty hunter separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukaemia. But when the hospital bills start to rack up, she has no choice but to take her daughter along on a job that will make her a fast buck. And that’s when things start to go wrong. The fugitive she’s assigned to haul back to court is none other than JT, Lori’s former mentor – the man who taught her everything she knows … the man who also knows the secrets of her murky past.

Not only is JT fighting a child exploitation racket operating out of one of Florida’s biggest theme parks, Winter Wonderland, a place where ‘bad things never happen’, but he’s also mixed up with the powerful Miami Mob. With two fearsome foes on their tails, just three days to get JT back to Florida, and her daughter to protect, Lori has her work cut out for her. When they’re ambushed at a gas station, the stakes go from high to stratospheric, and things become personal.

Steph Broadribb was born in Birmingham and grew up in Buckinghamshire. Most of her working life has been spent between the UK and USA. As her alter ego – Crime Thriller Girl – she indulges her love of all things crime fiction by blogging at www.crimethrillergirl.com, where she interviews authors and reviews the latest releases. Steph is an alumni of the MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) at City University London, and she trained as a bounty hunter in California. She lives in Buckinghamshire surrounded by horses, cows and chickens.

2o October 2016

51l5qdg7xtlGone Astray by Michelle Davies (from Pan Macmillan)

This is the paperback publication date of Michelle’s debut and the first book in her DC Maggie Neville series.

Lesley and her husband Mack are the sudden winners of a £15 million EuroMillions jackpot. They move with their 15-year-old daughter Rosie to an exclusive gated estate in Buckinghamshire, leaving behind their ordinary lives – and friends – as they are catapulted into wealth beyond their wildest dreams. But it soon turns into their darkest nightmare when, one beautiful spring afternoon, Lesley returns to their house to find it empty: their daughter Rosie is gone.

DC Maggie Neville is assigned to be Family Liaison Officer to Lesley and Mack, supporting them while quietly trying to investigate the family. And she has a crisis threatening her own life – a secret from the past that could shatter everything she’s worked so hard to build. As Lesley and Maggie desperately try to find Rosie, their fates hurtle together on a collision course that threatens to end in tragedy.

Michelle Davies has been writing for magazines for twenty years, including on the production desk at Elle, and as Features Editor of Heat. Her last staff position before going freelance was Editor-at-Large at Grazia magazine and she currently writes for a number of women’s magazines and newspaper supplements. Michelle has previously reviewed crime fiction for the Sunday Express‘s Books section.

Michelle lives in London with her partner and daughter and juggles writing crime fiction with her freelance journalism and motherhood. Gone Astray is her first novel, and the sequel is Wrong Place. You can find out more on Michelle’s own website  – michelledavieswriter.com.


For previous ‘debuts’ posts see JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJune, JulyAugust and September.

The Hermit – Thomas Rydahl

51mdiqrtcqlTitle – The Hermit

Author – Thomas Rydahl (translated by K E Semmel)

Published – 2014 (Oct 2016 in translation)

Genre – Crime fiction

This is another book that I’ve found a little puzzling. I think it’s been the mix of Canary Isles setting and Nordic Noir sentiment that made this quite a challenging read.

‘The Hermit’ is Erhard, a sixty-something Danish ex-pat who lives a reclusive life on Fuerteventura, earning a living as a taxi driver and sometime piano tuner. He is asked by a friend in the local police force to look at some pieces of a Danish newspaper that were found with the dead body of a baby boy. Although he can shed no light on the source or relevance of the newspaper he is galvanised into finding out more about the abandoned child. When the police are involved in a cover up Erhard takes drastic action to foil them and ends up in a bizarre situation as a result.

As well as being a story of detection and investigation it’s also Erhard’s story – a sort of reawakening for him. His is the only character that is really fleshed out – all the others seem to be less well defined. As the story unfolds he looks back on his life and some of his regrets and grasps some of the opportunities that are presented to him. This aspect of the book – the introspection and detail of his daily activities slows the pace down but there are some thrilling action pieces to balance this. His amateur investigation leads him down some paths he could never have anticipated and Rydahl delivers a complex and twisting plot. Although I picture the island to be quite a large place it seems to have a village mentality and it seems as if everyone knows everyone else’s business – including what Erhard is up to.

There are a few things hinted at in the book which never seemed to be fully explained and these are typical of Nordic fiction – a mysterious break up with his wife and the suggestion of an uncanny ability to find customers for his taxi. The author doesn’t shy away from more gory and graphic aspects of the story and shows a side of the location that holidaymakers might not be familiar with.

The book has won Rydahl many plaudits in Denmark including:

  • Winner of the Danish literary Debutant Prize 2014
  • Winner of the National Danish Crime and Thriller Prize 2015
  • Winner of the Nordic Crime and Thriller Prize “The Glass key” 2015

It will be interesting to see how the English translation is received.

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy.

1star1star1star1star

 

Crime fiction debuts to look out for in September 2016

A little late – this is a look forward to the crime fiction/thriller debuts being published in September 2016.

8 September 2016

51O7kpP4GYL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker (from Twenty7 Books)

When three-year-old Harry goes missing, the whole of America turns its attention to one small town. Everyone is eager to help. Everyone is a suspect. Desperate mother Jess, whose grief is driving her to extreme measures. Newcomer Jared, with an easy charm and a string of broken hearts in his wake. Photographer Jerry, who’s determined to break away from his controlling mother once and for all.

And, investigating them all, a police chief with a hidden obsession of his own . . .

Chris Whitaker was born in London and spent ten years working as a financial trader in the city. When not writing he enjoys football, boxing, and anything else that distracts him from his wife and two young sons.

Follow Chris on Twitter @WhittyAuthor. The book was published as an ebook in April and is out now in paperback. You can see a review of this debut on Liz Loves Books.

Breaking Dead by Corrie Jackson (from Twenty7 Books)

71zh3wipx6lThis is the first book in a compelling crime series starring investigative journalist, Sophie Kent. Sophie’s tenacity and talent have seen her rise through the ranks of a tough newspaper industry, but her brother’s suicide has thrown her career and personal life into chaos. Whilst interviewing witnesses of a brutal child murder, Sophie befriends a traumatised Russian model. When the girl’s mutilated body turns up in an upmarket hotel on the eve of London Fashion Week, Sophie knows she could have saved her. Eaten away by guilt, she throws herself headfirst into the edgy, fast-paced world of fashion with one goal in mind: to catch the killer. Only then can she piece her grief-stricken self back together.

As Sophie chips away at the industry’s glittery surface, she uncovers a toxic underworld rife with drugs, secrets, prostitution and blackmail. The investigation propels Sophie from the glamour of the catwalk to London’s darkest corners, towards a sinister past and a twenty-year-old murder case that could hold the key. Battling her demons and her wealthy, dysfunctional family along the way, Sophie pushes her personal problems to one side as she goes head to head with a crazed killer. A killer who is only just getting started.

Corrie Jackson has been a journalist for fourteen years and has worked at Harpers Bazaar, The Daily Mail, Grazia and Glamour. After a sunny two-year stint freelancing in Los Angeles, she is now coming to terms with the weather in Surrey, England where she lives with her husband and two children.

22 September 2016

The Two O’Clock Boy by Mark Hill (from Sphere)

51jxlnsreqlThirty years ago, the Longacre Children’s Home stood on a London street where once-grand Victorian homes lay derelict. There its children lived in terror of Gordon Tallis, the home’s manager. Then Connor Laird arrived: a frighteningly intense boy who quickly became Tallis’ favourite criminal helper. Soon after, destruction befell the Longacre, and the facts of that night have lain buried . . . until today.

Now, a mysterious figure, the Two O’Clock Boy, is killing all who grew up there, one by one. DI Ray Drake will do whatever it take to stop the murders – but he will go even further to cover up the truth.

This debut is out as an ebook in September followed by paperback version in November.

Mark Hill is a London-based full-time writer of novels and scripts. Formerly he was a journalist and a producer at BBC Radio 2 across a range of major daytime shows and projects. He has won two Sony Gold Awards. And by night he blogs as Crime Thriller Fella.


For previous ‘debuts’ posts see JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJune, July and August.