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I live in Bristol UK horror dark fiction and crime are my books of choice and when not reading I like to run

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Love is Blind
William Boyd
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The Black Echo
Michael Connelly
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Professional Reader 50 Book Reviews 80% Reviews Published

A story of our times

Home Fire - Kamila Shamsie

A story that explores the controversial subject of the indoctrination of the ISIS philosophy into a sympathetic yet ultimately misguided populace.

 

Isma Pasha followed her dream to America leaving behind her elegant sister Aneeka and her vulnerable yet impressionable brother Parvaiz. Eamonn, the son of outspoken Home Secretary Karamat Lone, becomes captivated by the beauty that is Aneeka. Does Aneeka reciprocate this love or is she merely using Eamonn to help rescue her twin brother Parvaiz who has since travelled to Syria but very quickly lives to regret this decision.

 

There is a nice balance in this novel between the Pasha family whose father Adil, had been a jihadi and had gone to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban  and died for his beliefs, and Home Secretary Karamat Lone a traditionalist and yet a reformer. He loathed those citizens irrespective of  beliefs or culture..."who treated the privilege of British citizenship as something that could be betrayed without consequences"...and further..."I hate the Muslims who make people hate Muslims"......

 

I can understand why Home Fire was the winner of the Women's Prize for fiction 2018 and whilst the first part of this novel was a little reticent and slow to impress the second half presented neatly formulated ideas and beliefs all leading to a very sudden unexpected conclusion. Home Fire is a story of the modern world and shows what happens when the corrupt and misguided prey on the weak and receptive.

Neatly observed hard boiled noir

A Lesson in Violence - Jordan Harper

Nate McClusky is just out of prison. He knows his life and that of his family is in danger as crazy Craig Hillington president of Aryan Steel,  has put out a death threat on Nate, his ex wife Avis and his daughter Polly. Crazy Craig  has already murdered  Avis..."knifed dead in the dark on the bedroom floor"..... but can Nate save Polly from the threats of the assassins bullet. He collects her from school and there then starts a cat and mouse game with Nate trying to save his daughter from those who might do her harm. He was trained in the art of bank robbery by his dead brother Nick and uses these skills now to wreak revenge on those hell bent on his destruction. He has a need to gain the trust and possibly the love of Polly especially as he has neglected her for so long. Police officer Park assigned the task of looking into the death of Avis soon finds himself embroiled in a much more complicated and dangerous situation when he discovers that she  was murdered some 12 hours after McClusky's prison release....is there a connection here?

 

This is hard boiled noir tale that successfully blends the badness and anger of Nate McClusky with the innocence and youth of Polly whose one real friend "Bear" is nothing more than a child's teddy yet always a confidant and protector. A Lesson in Violence is also a coming of age story showing that the bond existing between a daughter and father is resilient to the harsh realities of life. As the story progresses Nate comes to the realization that he needs the warmth and respect of his daughter more than she needs him.

 

This novel grabbed me from the opening page..."She wore a loser's slumped shoulders and hid her face with her hair, but the girl had gunfighter eyes"......and continued with some beautifully observed prose...."That was the way Polly felt, that outside she was quiet and calm but inside her acid winds roared"......"Rod was the king shit of the Nazi Dope Boys"......"That soon as you found something to live for, you found something to die for too. But he guessed in the end it was a good trade"......

 

A neatly observed crime story that successfully pays homage to the writings of such notorieties as Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Jim Thompson and at the centre is one cool hero Polly and her close companion "Bear" Recommended.

The writing of James Lee Burke is delightful to read

Robicheaux - James Lee Burke

The action takes place in the Louisiana delta region of the United States. Dave Robicheaux is still haunted by the death of his wife Molly in an automobile accident and has always suspected that JT Bartez was to blame. One morning he awakens up in a police station to be told that he is the chief suspect in the murder of Bartez and given that Robicheaus has marks and bruises on his hands can only lead to one conclusion....So as our knowledgeable detective sets out to reclaim his good name a serial killer with the gentle name of Smiley is at work in the delta region killing whose who deserve to have their life terminated.

 

James Lee Burke writes lyrically about a time and place he obviously knows very well. It is not so much the story that attracts me to his writing but his wonderful descriptions full of warmth and humour..."Those truths have less to do with the dead than the awareness that we are no different from them, that they are still with us and we are still with them, and there is no afterlife but only one life"......"I admired him and perhaps sometimes even envied his combination of composure and ardor, as well as his ability to float above the pettiness that characterizes the greater part of our lives"....."With each day that passed, I felt as though the world I had known was being airbrushed out of a painting"....."She was one of those women who seemed to choose solitude and plainness over beauty, and anger over happiness"...."people are what they do, not what they think, not what they say"....."He's one step away from the worm food and knows it"...."Louisiana is not a state; it's an outdoor mental asylum in which millions of people stay bombed most of their lives"...."Solitude and peace with oneself are probably the only preparation one has for death"....."If you have attended the dying, you know what their last moments are like. They anticipate the separation of themselves from the world of the living before you do, and they accept it with dignity and without complaint"...

Great expectation but does not deliver!

The Kind Worth Killing - Peter Swanson

A chance meeting at an airport between Ted  and Lily allows Ted's darkest secrets to be revealed and a murder pact is set up the recipient of the violence being Ted's wife Miranda. Sounds good? Well it was for one chapter and naturally many will find similarities between the book Strangers on a train by Patricia Highsmith and the equally brilliant movie noir adoption by Alfred Hitchcock. But be warned this is no classic in the making rather it is a story of nonsense that is best suited as a " trashy" read on a far flung beach where little can be expected and  nothing received in return............zzzzzzzzzz

 

The four main characters; Ted, Miranda, Lily, and Brad spend the entire book trying to outflank and kill each other..and that is the essence and intelligence of this very quick soon to be forgotten piece of fiction. Even the inclusion of an unexpected ending did little to raise The Kind Worth Killing above a one star! So the golden rule is never believe all the hype that accompanies a book before, during and after its release as in this case the result is nothing short of dire......

When truth is stranger than fiction

A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment - John M. Preston

The story of a government MP who uses and abuses his position of power to not only funnel funds but also amazingly to arrange the murder of his on/off lover Norman Scott, makes for surreal reading. Jeremy Thorpe was a respected eloquent Liberal MP and under the guise of a suave persona he was frightened to reveal to his friends, and in particular his constituents, that he was homosexual. In the politically correct world we live today such a revelation  would have had little impact in comparison to the frightened and conservative attitude of 60/70's Britain.

 

Norman Scott had received and retained a number of sensitive and very private letters from his lover. Thorpe was terrified that Scott would use this correspondence to blackmail him and reveal to the world at large secrets of his personal life. When all attempts to retrieve the letters failed Jeremy Thorpe unbelievably decided his only real option was to arrange the execution of Scott. What follows is somewhat farcical; when the hired gunman shoots Norman Scott's dog and turns the weapon to his intended target the said gun jams leaving the hired executioner no option but to flee leaving in his wake a frightened and perplexed Scott.

 

The world of politics is often a murky arena where the privileged few appear to operate without any thought for the feelings of others and more importantly refusing to accept any accountability. Yet equally the morals we purport to hold today seem no better than the misguided assumptions of 60/70's London. We need look no further than the recent "Windrush" scandal where the home secretary Amber Rudd clearly lied when questioned by a select committee. The fact that the government then replaced the disgraced MP with an ethnically acceptable minister cannot escape the sour taste of duplicity.

 

"A very English Scandal" was certainly a very informative, witty and entertaining read. The trial that followed the bungled assassination attempt resulted in Jeremy Thorpe being acquitted but it marked the end of his political career. His government seat disappeared under the march of conservatism and the emergence of a new firebrand, the dictatorial  residency of one Margaret Thatcher. The novel also makes mention of Cyril Smith, one time heavyweight Liberal MP for Rochdale, and Jimmy Savile a well known TV personality. It is equally disheartening to realise that these repulsive individuals were able to carry out such vile acts of sexual abuse of the innocent never to be unmasked until after their deaths, even though there was overwhelming evidence. In the case of Cyril Smith the Greater Manchester Police, for their own reasons, choose not to bring Smith to justice in his lifetime and for that they should hang their heads in shame.

Emotive and soul-searching

Ordinary Grace: A Novel (Paperback) - Common - by William Kent Krueger

What a truly wonderful story, a novel which I started yesterday and finished today, unable to put down so engrossed was I with not only the lyrical story telling but the happy, sad and often painful content.

 

Frank Drum is a 13 year old boy growing up in the small town of New Bremen in the mid western US state of Minnesota. He lives with his mum Ruth an accomplished artist and pianist, his dad Nathan a Methodist minister, his brother Jake and his oh so talented sister Ariel who will surely set the world on fire with her virtuoso piano playing. But in this carefree summer of 1961 Frank will begin his transformation into adulthood and his future will be shaped by soon to be acquired knowledge that death can come in many forms and this visitation will shape and mould the basis of his adult life. At the centre of the story a tragic event occurs, an event that will have lasting repercussions not only on the Drum family but many of the residents of this tight knit community, where so many lives are entwined and affected by the decisions of others.

 

The author expertly captures life in a small rural enclave and is told through the voice of Frank Drum as he looks back some 40 years with sadness and warmth. The writing is sublime combining the magical elements of a "Walton's" story with reality, harshness and struggle of everyday living. Yet it is the elegance of the prose that draws the reader in, making a lasting impression and asking us to question our moral values in an attempt to understand what is really important in this life we live...."I set on the steps of my father's church thinking how much I loved the dark. The taste of what if offered sweet on the tongue of my imagination. The delicious burn of trespass on my conscience. I was a sinner. I knew that without a doubt. But I was not alone"......."And what is happiness, Nathan? In my experience, it's only a moment's pause here and there on what is otherwise a long and difficult road".........."Whatever cracks were there the war forced apart, and what we might otherwise have kept inside came spilling out"......."because I was little more than a child wrapped in a soothing blanket of illusion"......"We entered a period in which every moment was weighted with both the absolute necessity of hope and a terrible and almost unbearable anticipation of the worst"......

 

I found out about the writing skills of William Kent Krueger through my active involvement with the book social forum "Goodreads" and what a delight and pleasure this has been. I look forward to reading so much more by this great author and will close this review with yet another astute observation of the human condition...."Being dead was a thing and not a horrible thing because it was finished and if you believed in God, and I did, then you were probably in a better place. But dying was a terribly human process and could, I knew, be full of pain and suffering and great fear"......Highly, highly recommended.

 

Depressingly implausible

The Wolf - Alex Grecian

Travis Roan is a Nazi hunter and his travels have led him to Kansas in the American Midwest and in particular to the community know as Purity First, a religious order. The founder of this sect is an elderly gentleman called Rudy Goodman a notorious Nazi better known as Rudolf Bormann, who is still adhering to evil practices on mainland USA.

 

It is now over 70 years since the conclusion of wartime hostilities in Europe. It therefore follows that any supporters of that regime would in all probability be very elderly and most likely infirm. This does not detract or excuse their past misdemeanours but it makes it highly unlikely that a 90 year old man would actively pursue evil practices by carrying out depraved deeds and murder. Over many years a number of children have gone missing, and it would appear that the good population of Kansas never once suspected or indeed questioned a motley group of individuals who wore "Brownshirts" acting in the manner of Adolf Hitler's SA..."all of them wearing identical brown shirts. There were perhaps twenty of them, their pink skin scrubbed clean, their fair hair neatly parted"..... In additions Rudolf Bormann owns a ranch know as the Third R which unbelievably never attracted attention from anyone in the rural community.

 

The hero of the moment is Trooper Skottie who certainly adds a little charm and colour to a sorry tale. Travis Roan's faithful dog Bear is at the centre of all the action, he is both deadly and loveable in equal measures and only responds to commands made in a language known as "Esperanto" (which has an estimated 2 million speakers worldwide, I am led to believe). Skottie struggles in her role as a single parent to her daughter and is drawn to the quiet reserved manner that is Roan. I quite liked the first third of this story and was prepared to overlook the fact that a very old man could be at the centre of a community funnelling drugs and people and guns and equally be the main suspect in the disappearance of young children. It was laughable to even consider that no one noticed these rather odd Brownshirts or even questioned a homestead called the third R....I suspect that if a  man in brown  shorts, neatly parted hair,  short stubby moustache and a swastika on his arm jack booted his way down main street he would probably just been seen as an oddity and ignored! If an author chooses to use Nazi ideology as the main theme in his book the story should at least have some plausibility and not be portrayed in this nonsensical way culminating in a shootout when the main culprits were finally uncovered. As a reader and reviewer on netgalley it has to be right that I view and voice my opinions whether they be good or bad. Unfortunately in "The Wolf" I cannot find anything of merit, it was a story that had a ridiculous unfolding plot and it seems to me that the only reason for using Nazism as its central plot was a cheap ploy to draw in unsuspecting readers. Best avoided and certainly not recommended...however as always thanks to the good people at netgalley and the publisher Penguin for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Colourful bawdy and bold!

Tomorrow - Damian Dibben

The word "Tomorrow" actually refers to the name of the dog in this story, who throughout the book is searching for his master "Vallentyne" a physician by occupation. As the story covers  many many years and many great events it must be accepted that the dog lives a very long time. The purpose of this novel and where it really succeeds is to describe events in Europe over a span of approx 150 years. It's a bold and bawdy journey and gives full reign for the author to explore the great happenings in a continent under constant change with many battles being fought.  From the Freezing of the river Thames in the 19th century to famous battles at that time (Waterloo) being present at the dramatic execution of Charles 2nd, and finishing at the dawn of the Industrial age with the first sighting of steam trains. And as we absorb the colourful and constant change of time and location we meet the players who will forever be associated with certain events namely; Napoleon, Franz Schubert, Duke of Wellington, James 1st and his successor Charles 2nd.

 

What drew me to the story was reliving events through a dog's point of view. As we move backwards and forwards in time from the palace of James 1st to the artful ambience of Vienna and Venice and the blood soaked plains of Waterloo the story telling is furious and very enjoyable with a constantly flowing descriptive prose...."The king lay down, positioned his neck on the block, trying to get comfortable. The executioner apologized as he tucked a few more stray hairs into the cap, then raised the axe and struck. Blood pumped from the boned neck and a groan went up"....."the trickery of it, the pointlessness, humans and animals born simply to suffer, for the pain to invariably worsen with age, for anguish to thicken and veins clog, until they were skidding down to death"......."Perhaps because decay is the most virulent form of life, or perhaps because nothing speaks more of the phenomenon of being, than the absence of it".........

 

The only downside of the back and forth time capture narrative is the confusion that can sometimes arise when trying to pinpoint a particular city and time. The is a very slight criticism in a story that I enjoyed told in a very colourful and bold manner. Many thanks to the good people of netgalley and publisher Penguin UK-Michael Joseph for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

An important book of its time

The Seventh Cross - Anna Seghers, James A. Galston, Kurt Vonnegut

Without doubt one of the main issues that often causes concerns when talking about the 2WW is just how much information the everyday German populace received or knew about what the Nazi party were involved in on a day to day basis. Here of course we are referring to genocide and the manipulation and control of not only the German people but those in neighbouring countries which soon fell under the control of jack booted terrorists and in particular the annihilation of groups who did not conform to the Nazi Aryan ideology. So digging deep within the storyline of The Seventh Cross we are almost exclusively given a glimpse into the thinking of the everyday German at that time and in particular their knowledge or lack of just what was happening on a daily basis. Did they know of the existence of concentration camps in the years immediately before war broke out? And if they did know were they supportive? Did they condone what was going on? Were they prepared to help individuals who were incarcerated and brutally beaten for merely condoning a particular belief?

 

Anna Seghers book is of particular significance as it a product of its time. It paints a picture of a country in change/turmoil but most importantly it is written from someone who actually lived through the rise of Nazism, the emergence of an elitist SS, the indoctrination of the very young into the Hitler Youth, the brown uniforms and fascist beliefs held by the SA whose official role was to protect party meetings, march in Nazi rallies and physically assault and intimidate political opponents. 7 men imprisoned in the fictitious Westhofen camp have escaped. George Heisler, a communist, is the main character and the story follows him negotiating the outlying countryside and taking shelter with those who were prepared to risk the wrath and torture of the Gestapo. As the story unfolds six of the escapees are gradually captured. The title of The Seventh Cross refers to the work of the camp commandant "Fahrenberg" where he has ordered the creation of seven crosses from nearby trees to be used when prisoners are returned not as a means of crucifixion but a subtler torture: the escapees are made to stand all day in front of their crosses, and will be punished if they falter. As in historical document this is an important work primarily because it portrays the mindset of the German people; would they adhere to the barbarous actions of a ruthless government in waiting or were they prepared to stretch out the hand of friendship and help the escapees.

 

I must confess that as a story I did not find the book as well written as I had hoped (that honour must certainly go to the wonderful Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada. and the dangerous actions that Otto Quangel takes when he discovers that his son has been killed on the Russian front) yet it is still an excellent account of its time, written by a lady who herself was a committed communist. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley and the publisher Little Brown Book Group UK, Virago for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

A solid offering from Mr Weaver

You Were Gone - Tim Weaver

Tim Weaver is an author whose work I really enjoy. His writing is precise reminiscent of storytelling from a bygone era, at times displaying shades of Agatha Christie but with a modern feel. The central character in his novels is David Raker, an investigator who markets himself as a locator of lost persons, those individuals who for their own personal reasons wish to disappear....or do they? Weaver uses real and imagined locations throughout London often creating a haunted or sinister backdrop adding to the mystical quality of his prose. Think of old wooden piers and the thrills and sounds of Victorian amusement arcades (What Remains, David Raker book 6)  and underground abandoned tube/rail stations (Vanished, David Raker book 3)

 

Nine years ago Raker sadly lost his wife Derryn  to cancer. He is naturally astounded when he receives a call from a local police station informing him that a woman purporting to be his wife has just presented herself at reception. Who is this woman? Is Raker's mind unravelling? Did the last 9 years never happen? What appears to be a simple case of I.D becomes something altogether more disturbing when the lady in question mysteriously disappears after visiting a flat in Chalks Farm. From this point in the novel the events that unravel become increasingly dark and threatening. As our investigator himself is drugged a race against time follows to locate the whereabouts of the missing woman. Raker is horrified to learn that both himself and his wife have been the subject of "stalking" for many years and unfortunately it appears the perpetrator is still active posing a very real and present threat. When the identity of the stalker is revealed the resulting shock and fallout will amaze not only those involved in the hunt but an unsuspecting reader!

 

I must admit that "You were gone" is not my favourite novel in the David Raker series. The plot is overly complex and at a page count of just under 500 it might have benefited from some close editing as I found myself really struggling to complete the last 20%. Having said that I am a great admirer of the writing of Tim Weaver and this is still a solid contender in the series. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley and the publisher Penguin UK - Michael Joseph for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

In a word....Brilliant!

Die Last - Tony Parsons

For some reason I appear to be reading the DC Max Wolfe series in reverse order, not that this really makes any difference to my enjoyment of this first class creation by our very own home bred author Tony Parsons. What sets this crime series equal to and often above the everyday police procedural is the warmth and humanity that the author instils in Max Wolfe retaining so much of the charm from Parsons earlier books (Man and Boy, Man and Wife) Make no mistake Wolfe is a no nonsense operator with an unbreakable exterior yet at the same time shielding a gentle man possessing a deep understanding of the human psyche. Just observe this paragraph when Max is deep in concentration about his dead parents...."But I saw them both after they died, and the spark that had made them the man and woman they were had gone to some other place or dissolved from the Universe. I had no idea but their souls had flown".....

 

One early cold February morning in Chinatown central London a refrigerated lorry is discovered abandoned it's owner having taken flight. Discovered inside are the frozen remains of 12 women together with 13 passports. So the race is on to locate the identity of the only live witness to this senseless massacre. This story will take Max Wolfe into the core and past of London's criminal fraternity, and in so doing he will discover the senseless barbaric migration of a poor unsuspecting people making the journey to England for the start of what they hope is a new rich fulfilling life. They will ultimately discover that they are merely merchandise or goods to be traded effectively sold into the slavery of prostitution by evil men whose true intent is exploitation and greed...."Human Trafficking, Smuggling and Slavery, the CPS will call it. Enough to put someone away for fourteen years."....

 

The author is an expert at retaining the reader's attention with his tight descriptive prose using the colourful vibrant beating heart of London as his stage..."It was very cold and I was tired. I wanted to be under the same roof as my daughter and my dog. I wanted to be away from the liars and the desperate"...."a woman who had successfully carved a career from the desires of men".... Whatever the outcome there was never going to be a happy fix or a solution to the question of illegal immigration. DC Max Wolfe as a dogged investigator hunting out the evil but ultimately what he accomplishes is merely a sticking plaster over an open wound..."Of the twelve women we discovered on that freezing morning, only Hana Novak was ever identified and claimed. I felt we had failed them all and everyone who loved them"........

 

Many thanks to the good people at netgalley and the publisher Random House UK, Cornerstone Arrow for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written......in a word Brilliant!

 

Coping with a mental disorder

The Long Road - Daniel Oliver

"The last thing I needed was an accident, since I hadn't bothered to change out of my pyjama bottoms and slippers"...Within the first few pages of The Long Road it soon becomes clear that something is not quite right with Hank Galloway, and when he meets with his friend Tom he tries to convince Tom that his neighbour is out to kill him. Luckily Hank is persuaded that he needs to visit a doctor in order to address this unexplained "paranoia" resulting in illusions and panic attacks. This is certainly not a book that I would normally read but I was intrigued about the subject matter and how the author would present a seemingly ordinary person suffering a mental breakdown.

 

This novel is about one man's aspirations, his hopes and dreams for the future and how such desires and ambitions are that much harder to attain when schizophrenia and depression are diagnosed...."There was that word again. Illness! How I hated it! It was up there with "disease" and "condition" two other words I'd heard that described mental disorders."....  Daniel Oliver, quite rightly, explains observes and shows how society and family react to someone with a mental illness, and how even in the toughest situations our dreams and needs for the future can still be achieved.....all it takes is a belief in one self. Many thanks to the good people of netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Harsh yet beautiful, a pleasure to read

Desperation Road - Michael Farris Smith

The wonderful thing about social media and in particular book discussion forums such as goodreads is the opportunity it offers to the avid reader to discuss and in particular to discover new books, and new authors. Michael Farris Smith was a name that was completely alien to me until a throw away mention made me inquisitive as to the content of his books and the literate style of his prose. By pure chance his novel Desperation Road had been heavily discounted (for a very limited period) on kindle and so with a brave heart and a restless reading soul I reached inside the mind of what I hoped would be a great new discovery and reading experience.

 

Desperation Road is set in southern USA in the state of Mississippi and as the title would tend to suggest this journey is going to be a long and difficult ride. I had previously read and enjoyed the works of Michael McDowell (southern gothic and a good example the classic Cold Moon over Babylon) and the much revered  Cormac McCarthy with his deeply dark and troubling stories of Southern Outcasts (Child of God) In fact there is one similarity between Child of God and Desperation Road; the central character in both books has just been released from prison. Russell Gaines, after 12 year sentence is returning home to the small town of McComb in the Mississippi Delta. His crime was one of manslaughter and now, having served his time, is hoping that he can be accepted back into the community. There to greet him on his arrival are Walt and Larry who are not best pleased to see the return of the man who killed their brother Jason. At the same time a homeless drug addict, and part time prostitute, Maben is making her way on foot to McComb accompanied by her daughter Annalee. But old habits die hard and Maben is forced to "turn a few tricks" whilst leaving her daughter asleep in a cheap motel. When a local deputy intercepts her, and demands payment in kind, in a fit of rage and anger she shoots him dead. What happens when the world of Russell and Maben collide in a small Southern Town where violence and the threat of death is an everyday occurrence.

 

This was a tremendous and exciting read and I could really feel the tension and hate that was destined to explode at anytime and usually did. The claustrophobic setting and some great prose made this a novel to be appreciated and devoured in ultra quick time...."Reptiles slither and blackbirds cry as the early light slashes and relieves the quiet night."........"Ripped wide open but alive. Ripped wide open but recovered. Ripped wide open but not wide enough. Lucky, they'd said. A miracle they'd said. Bullshit, he'd said"....."There had been years and years of this. Years of not knowing where she was going or what she was doing or the names of the people she was doing it with."....

 

Wonderful atmospheric edgy writing not knowing where the violence was going to strike but knowing that it would happen soon. Michael Farris Smith is an author that I shall be reading more off..very soon...Highly highly recommended

Good addition to the series

Presumed Dead - Mason Cross

Mason Cross writes fast exciting thrillers somewhere between Tim Weaver (David Raker missing persons investigator) and Lee Child with the Jack Reacher series (dur loner investigating suspicious and frequently dangerous situations). Carter Blake describes himself as a "Locating Consultant" finding people who don't want to be found. In Presumed Dead he is approached by David Connor who believes that his sister Adeline was not the Devil Mountain killer's final victim but rather she is alive and well and he knows this to be true because he has seen her. He has managed to convince Carter Blake that there may be some truth in his wild assertion so Blake makes the trip south to Lake Bethany in hope of an early resolve.

 

What follows is a fast exciting ride as Blake attempts to be accepted, into this rural community, by a suspicious population and police force who do not welcome the interference of outsiders. It soon becomes clear that a killer is still active and as the body count mounts the lines between the past and present become increasingly blurred. Mason Cross performs the very skilful task of shielding the real killer until the final pages and that disclosure is nothing short of ingenious. Many thanks to netgalley and the publisher Orion for a gratis copy in return for an honest review and that is what I have written.

The complicated world of DCI Erika Foster

Deadly Secrets - Robert Bryndza

What starts off as something quite ordinary actually explodes into life in the final chapters and produces an ending impossible to predict but beautiful in its execution. On a cold winters morning the body of a young attractive burlesque dancer is discover frozen outside her home. As the investigation develops the perpetrator is identified as a tall man dressed in black wearing a gas mask. When a number of further attacks are recorded the race is on for Detective Chief Inspector Erika Foster to bring a corrupt and twisted individual to justice as soon as possible.

 

The character of Erika Foster is what really attracts me to the books of Robert Bryndza. She is a relatively young woman in her early 40's traumatized  by the death of her husband Mark when an earlier investigation ended in tragedy. In Deadly Secrets Erika reveals her loneliness and inability to retain a personal relationship, her sadness as the possibility of motherhood begins to fade, the changing of her body and mood swings as she struggles to accept the approach of menopause. To mask this unhappiness and despair she turns inwards accepting the dangers, toils and demands of her job as a senior member of the police force in charge again of a major investigation...."So much in her life was out of control, but she had the power to track down whoever had done this. And she would".....When Erika is unexpectedly called to Manchester to aid in the recovery and rehabilitation of her father in law Edward the command of the murder investigation is passed to DI Moss and no one could foresee the chain of events that quickly followed. An attempted arrest almost ends in disaster and Erika, having returned to the capital, once again takes control where a startling discovery turns the investigation on its head leading to the apprehension  and detention of the most unlikely culprit.

 

I was a little disillusioned with the first part to this novel and found the idea of a suspect using a gas mask as part of a disguise a little unbelievable. However DCI Erika is such a wonderful "ballsy" character and I love the way the author is developing her psychic, exposing her weaknesses but equally championing her strengths. There is such a sadness and need under that tough veneer and I look forward to the next instalment of an excellent detective series. Many thanks to the good people of netgalley and the publisher Bookouture for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Wonderful wonderful storytelling

Girl On Fire: (DC Max Wolfe) - Tony Parsons

Many moons ago I read Man and Boy by Tony Parsons and was pleasantly surprised by this warm and delightful story of family relationships and a father faced with the responsibility of being the sole parent for his small son. I was aware that he had written a detective series, for some years I avoided but often wondered how it could be possible to produce such emotive writing in a totally different genre. Girl on Fire has been an amazing read combining all Parson's warmth from his earlier books with a gritty fast paced detective story engaging and shocking in equal measures.

 

"I woke up and found the world was gone" These are the opening "explosive" thoughts of DC Max Wolfe as he recovers and surveys the aftermath of a terrorist attack at a local shopping centre. Wolfe is a member of a specialist firearms unit of the Metropolitan police. Following the explosion he and his team are tasked with finding the individuals responsible, made all the more urgent when it becomes clear that an unknown number of Croatian hand grenades have..."found their way across from the Balkans to our streets"....They have been traced to two brothers Asad and Adnan Khan who also appear to be linked in some way to the shopping centre explosion. The race is on to expose the terrorist cell before more death and destruction "bloodies" the streets of London.

 

This is an astounding, intelligent, up to the minute, thriller that not only addresses terrorism on the capital's streets but also the affects such acts of hatred has on both the individuals and families involved. What happens when different cultures and beliefs collide? When social media can be used to brainwash the bad and the vulnerable? And when angry young men and women are prepared to kill for what they feel is a righteous and just cause....But this story is much more than that. The warmth, the love and values that graced the earlier books of Tony Parsons is still present and adds an extra layer of brilliance to some of the best emotive prose I have read in a very long time. There is Scout, Max Wolfe' cherished daughter, living with him but now the subject of a court battle between Wolfe and his ex "model" wife Anne. There is the harsh reality that life in a dangerous frontline policing job means friends and colleagues may be present one day and sadly gone tomorrow. There is the unquestionable love that exists between man and (his) dog (Stan)..."I lie belly-up in the sunshine, happier than you will ever be. Today I sniffed many dot butts-I celebrate by kissing your face"....There is the complex often hypocritical belief in religious teachings and the affects and fallouts that all in society must bear witness to.

 

There is an explosive start to Girl on Fire and an equally harrowing "I never expected that" conclusion. Tony Parsons has accomplished what I never thought possible by creating something new and deeply heartfelt in crime fiction. In DI Max Wolfe we have a vulnerable antihero and a story that brilliantly moulds all the jagged edges of this sorry tale together. We as readers understand and appreciate Wolfe's weaknesses. The story is real, the action is real, the people the emotions, the daily turmoil, the highs and lows of modern living are all so real and on these pages..wonderful stuff...wonderful writing.

Many thanks to the publishers Random House UK, Cornerstone Century and netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written. Highly highly Recommended.