Crimson Lake by Candice Fox

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Synopsis: 12.46: Thirteen-year-old Claire Bingley stands alone at a bus stop
12.47: Ted Conkaffey parks his car beside her
12.52: The girl is missing . . .
Six minutes – that’s all it took to ruin Detective Ted Conkaffey’s life. Accused but not convicted of Claire’s abduction, he escapes north, to the steamy, croc-infested wetlands of Crimson Lake.
Amanda Pharrell knows what it’s like to be public enemy number one. Maybe it’s her murderous past that makes her so good as a private investigator, tracking lost souls in the wilderness. Her latest target, missing author Jake Scully, has a life more shrouded in secrets than her own – so she enlists help from the one person in town more hated than she is: Ted.
But the residents of Crimson Lake are watching the pair’s every move. And for Ted, a man already at breaking point, this town is offering no place to hide . . .

My review: I liked this. It has a different edge to many crime novels with the protagonist being almost convicted for the rape and attempted murder of a young girl. Rather than acquitted the case has been dropped so throughout the book you have the possibility that maybe he did do it. It’s not until the last few paragraphs that we get a more definitive answer and you are reliant on taking his word for it. 

Which adds the edge. He joins in partnership with an ex-inmate who has also committed murder as they attempt to track down a missing presumed dead young adult author. Cheerful this book isn’t.

It’s well described, the characters are richly observed, it’s very atmospheric but it’s really depressing. Conkaffey has moved to a small town to get away from the media and try and start a new life but as with all small towns there’s an undercurrent of prejudice, small mindedness and it’s not long before the hate mobs are out.

It’s a good book, I enjoyed it but you need a cheerful one to follow afterwards.

A Dark so Deadly by Stuart MacBride

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Synopsis: Welcome to the Misfit Mob…It’s where Police Scotland dumps the officers it can’t get rid of, but wants to: the outcasts, the troublemakers, the compromised. Officers like DC Callum MacGregor, lumbered with all the boring go-nowhere cases. So when an ancient mummy turns up at the Oldcastle tip, it’s his job to find out which museum it’s been stolen from.
But then Callum uncovers links between his ancient corpse and three missing young men, and life starts to get a lot more interesting. O Division’s Major Investigation Teams already have more cases than they can cope with, so, against everyone’s better judgement, the Misfit Mob are just going to have to manage this one on their own.
No one expects them to succeed, but right now they’re the only thing standing between the killer’s victims and a slow, lingering death. The question is, can they prove everyone wrong before he strikes again?

My review: Where to start with this one? It’s like the author took all his abandoned and half formed ideas and decided to shove them all together in one big book. Surprisingly it works. You have a team of misfit cops…one dying of cancer, some there because there’s nowhere else for them to go, one with half  a leg from a road traffic accident and so on. Callum is there pending an investigation into contamination of a crime scene, something he is taking the blame for as him and his pregnant girlfriend need the maternity allowance.

Callum is perhaps the most unluckiest man in the world: abandoned as a child and brought up in care, taking the blame for others mistakes, everyone hates him. In the course of this book he beaten up by several people, breaks his hand on a superior officers face when he makes a startling discovery, loses his bike to pay for a drinking session when he’s dumped by his girlfriend, nearly loses his job a second time when he’s accused of murder and that’s just the highlights!

The whole thing is bonkers but delightfully so. Even though it’s quite long it goes along at a fair pace and there’s not a dull moment. Actually there maybe is…I wasn’t keen on the quotes from the rappers and children’s authors as well as the constant radio commentary but they do sort of play a part in the unfolding events so make sense in a way.

All the many plot pints do eventually fall together and are tied up neatly as we get closer to the end. It would be easy to forget some of them but Macbride manages to keep everything together and offer reminders as we go along. There are so many characters but all have unique identities so there’s no chance of confusing them and it makes it impossible to figure out the bad guys (a good thing) and there are more than one. Its full of swerves and the biggest reveal of all was for once not expected. I loved this one, thumbs way aloft

Free ARC from netgalley

Meddling and Murder: An Aunty Lee Mystery by Ovidia Yu

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Synopsis:  Rosie ‘Aunty’ Lee, amateur sleuth and proprietor of Singapore’s best-loved home-cooking restaurant, finds herself in the middle of a missing person’s case after she offers the services of her helper Nina to ambitious businesswoman Beth Kwuan, whose own maid has disappeared. But as the weeks go by, Aunty Lee begins to fear for Nina’s safety – did Beth’s maid just run away, or has she met a darker fate? As Aunty tries to solve the puzzle, she finds herself the unwelcome target of Beth’s business partner, her late sister’s husband, Jonny Ho, who seems all too keen to develop Aunty Lee’s culinary business. But Aunty is not so sure she wants his help…

My review: I do like a quirky murder mystery…where the sleuth is some sort of shop owner, meddling neighbour or whatnot. They make a nice change from the depressive, divorced cop trying to solve one last case. I like them even more when set somewhere that isn’t UK or USA as it gives you the chance to see some of the customs, charms (and not so charming) elements of places you may never get to see.

Meddling…is set in Singapore somewhere I know absolutely nothing about so as well as a fun, quirky read I got to learn about tourist and work visas and the customs of who can marry who and the rights of migrant workers.

Aunty Lee runs a restaurant but loves to know the ins and outs of what is going on in her neighbourhood and the local police station. Her old school friend has died and the new, second husband has team up with his dead wife’s sister to convert a house into a super school for small children. He’s not a nice man, the sister is a stereotypical old maid jealous of everyone’s succcess. When the body of their missing maid is discovered we’ve already been programmed to believe they’re the bad guys. And this is where the book is let down slightly – it’s so telegraphed as to who dunnit, there’s no actual mystery. The enjoyment therefor has to be in the journey to discovery.

It’s a fun book, it won’t tax your brain, it’s more lively than No1 Ladies Detective Agency that I’ve seen it compared to. The characters seem to be having more fun. I’d say take it to the beach and read it in a day while catching some sun. It’s a decent enough book but you won’t come away from it with any big revelations. Thumbs in the middle

Received free ARC through netgalley

 

The Killer on the Wall by Emma Kavanagh

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Synopsis: When fifteen-year-old Isla Bell finds three bodies propped against Hadrian’s Wall, her whole world falls apart. In such a close-knit community, everyone knows the victims, and the man who did it.
Twenty years on and Isla has dedicated her life to forensic psychology; studying the brains of serial killers, and even coming face to face with the convicted murderer who turned her world upside down. She is safe after all, with him behind bars.
Then another body appears against the Wall.
And another.
As the nightmare returns and the body count rises, everyone in town is a suspect.

Who is the Killer on the Wall?

My review: This for me didn’t live up to the expectations of the initial description. I really wanted to enjoy it but it just seemed to obvious. I’d got it down to two people quite quickly and both became part of the big reveal. Just a bit too much foreshadowing and not enough suspense for me.

The premise was a good one – small village murders being recreated twenty years on. Is it a copy cat? Was the original killer working with someone else who’s gone undetected all this time? These ideas are great and I would have liked to have seen these explored more. I enjoyed the multiple POVs – funnily enough the main one of Isla the university psychological specialist who played the biggest part was the least interesting for me. I’m glad it wasn’t solely focused on her. I enjoyed the POV of Mina the detective. I found her an intelligent and well developed character and could actually enjoy something based purely on her and the two other male junior detectives.

In the end just not enough suspense to keep me page turning
Free ARC on netgalley


					

Sweetpea by C.J. Skuse

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Synopsis: The last person who called me ‘Sweetpea’ ended up dead…
Rhiannon is your average girl next door, settled with her boyfriend and little dog…but she’s got a killer secret.
Although her childhood was haunted by a famous crime, Rhinannon’s life is normal now that her celebrity has dwindled. By day her job as an editorial assistant is demeaning and unsatisfying. By evening she dutifully listens to her friend’s plans for marriage and babies whilst secretly making a list.
A kill list.
From the man on the Lidl checkout who always mishandles her apples, to the driver who cuts her off on her way to work, to the people who have got it coming, Rhiannon’s ready to get her revenge.
Because the girl everyone overlooks might be able to get away with murder…

My review: Originally I was going to say this book was American Psycho meets Bridget Jones but after reading a few more chapters I’m now thinking more of Fox TV’s Dexter. The avenging serial killer…but English…and with boobs.

Rhiannon is a editorial assistant at the local paper, a victim of a killer who left her childminder and all the other children dead when she was a young girl and it’s affects on her have her angry at the world. Every day in her diary she makes lists of all the people she wants to kill if she had the chance. And with some of them she does.

It’s full of deliciously dark humour, the diary style makes it easy and fun to read. For an angry murderer she has a great sense of humour and it was interesting to read about firstly a female killer and secondly just the mind of a killer in general. What do they do when they’re not out stalking their prey or keeping the old school bully in their dead parents house, tied up and tortured??? Watch Masterchef and walk the dog apparently.

And that’s another reason for loving the book. She’s utterly normal. Or rather she has pretend normal down to an art and who hasn’t faked happiness or being nice to people at some point (you know you have!). I love the fact that she researches whether she’s a psychopath with Buzzfeed quizzes. I love how no matter what acts she commits herself there’s no way she would ever hurt animals or children. And I love the fact that at some parts she recognises that she can be different and doesn’t go on murderous rampages.

I had a free ARC from netgalley. I’d happily buy it and I believe from 20th April you can too 🙂

Ashes to Ashes (DS Heckenburg #6) by Paul Finch

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Synopsis: John Sagan is a forgettable man. You could pass him in the street and not realise he’s there. But then, that’s why he’s so dangerous.
A torturer for hire, Sagan has terrorised – and mutilated – countless victims. And now he’s on the move.
DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg must chase the trail, even when it leads him to his hometown of Bradburn – a place he never thought he’d set foot in again. But Sagan isn’t the only problem. Bradburn is being terrorised by a lone killer who burns his victims to death. And with the victims chosen at random, no-one knows who will be next.
Least of all Heck…

My review: Thanks to netgalley’s free ARC I now have another author where I need to go track down their back catalogue.  I really liked this book. Despite the blurb above a lot of the action is centered around two rival Bradburn gangs. Normally I hate gang crime novels but when you throw in a torturer for hire on the run, a crazy Russian and a flamethrowing serial killer you tend to stop grumping about the underlying drugs war being carried out.

Seriously this book packs a lot of action in. There’s car chases, shoot outs, renegade cops. For me I felt it was  a novel of what would happen if New York was moved to Manchester. The same gritty feel and high drama but don’t forget to stop for tea and fish and chips! (I’m from Yorkshire – this is not a negative point…)

Even though this is Book 6, as a first timer it’s an ideal read as the return to Heck’s hometown reveals a whole backstory that plays into the rest of the novel. We find out why he’s a cop, why he has very little links to family and what drives him. There’s a lot of character development in this book. Also a good thing.

The pages fly by very fast. The story is set over a couple of weeks & it’s nearly 500 pages long but it takes no time to read the book. Every character had their own unique character and something I always like is to see/read the strong female ones and here we have two both senior to Heck and both very good at their jobs.

Excellent book and can’t wait to get the chance to go back and read the others.

7 by Van R. Mayhall Jr.

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Synopsis: It has been four years since ancient languages expert, Cloe Lejeune, her son, J.E., and the monsignor nearly lost their lives while defeating the Karik’s forces at Masada. Still, she has never lost her passion for translating old texts. One evening while attempting to decipher digitalized scraps culled from a jar left to her by the Sicarrii, Cloe quickly realizes that something terrible is about to happen. As she prepares to race to the Vatican to tell the pope of her discovery, a giant man delivers cryptic cards to seven unsuspecting strangers who suddenly find themselves heading toward New Orleans with no reason why.

As violence and disease rock the world, the Vatican is abruptly destroyed, the pope is forced into hiding, and the United States is driven to implement martial law across the land. While one man emerges from the shadows to subtly pit people against each other, Cloe and her cohorts must find and assemble the mysterious seven in order to stop his evil mission. As a pale horse of Revelation is loosed onto Earth, a fierce battle between good and evil ensues, leaving Cloe betrayed by someone close to her and the future of humanity resting in the hands of seven innocent souls.

My review: I quite enjoyed this. My idea of a beach read is generally an uncomplicated fast paced thriller or horror. This end of days mystery fits the bill quite nicely.  Although there are far too many characters that a few of them have to take a back seat to the story despite having a major part to play in events.

Having not read the previous two books I found plenty of flashback (but not overpowering the main story) to help me catch up. It rattles along a quite a speed as Chloe and friends race to save the word from evil using only an old journal possibly written by Jesus and their wits to help them. It’s all bonkers but it’s fun bonkers. I really enjoyed it.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley to review.

The Idea of You by Amanda Prowse

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Synopsis:

With her fortieth birthday approaching, Lucy Carpenter thinks she finally has it all: a wonderful new husband, Jonah, a successful career and the chance of a precious baby of her own. Life couldn’t be more perfect.But becoming parents proves much harder to achieve than Lucy and Jonah imagined, and when Jonah’s teenage daughter Camille comes to stay with them, she becomes a constant reminder of what Lucy doesn’t have. Jonah’s love and support are unquestioning, but Lucy’s struggles with work and her own failing dreams begin to take their toll. With Camille’s presence straining the bonds of Lucy’s marriage even further, Lucy suddenly feels herself close to losing everything…

Me: This was a freebie ARC from netgalley. I’m not a fan of chicklit and so otherwise I probably wouldn’t have read this any of way. Which would be a shame because it’s not bad. It’s essentially the story of Lucy Carpenter and her struggles to get pregnant all the while hosting her husbands teenage daughter from a previous marriage. It’s interspersed with what seems like a letter to a child…but whose?

I’ve unfortunately had miscarriages and Amanda Prowse covers the feelings of despair, grief and guilt so well. Lucy has everything except the one thing she really wants which is a baby. However she loses 3 babies in succession. Her husband is sweet and as understanding as he can be. The teenage daughter is the antagonist of the story, sent from France to spend the summer with her father she initially causes ructions for the previously idyllic household.

It’s a sweet book, it doesn’t tax the brain too much. It’s about na ordinary family and the things they go through. I probably wouldn’t take it to the beach (it’s a bit weepy towards the end) but if you like happy endings you’ll get plenty.

Thumbs in the middle

Fire Damage (Jessie Flynn #1) by Kate Medina

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Synopsis: When psychologist Dr Jessie Flynn starts counselling Sami, the four-year-old son of an injured Major, she begins to suspect that his trauma runs deeper than his family have led her to believe. Why does he refer to himself as “the girl”? And who is the “Shadowman” who instils such terror in her patient?

Meanwhile, Flynn’s former patient, Captain Ben Callan, is investigating the controversial death of an officer in Afghanistan. Shot only days before he was due to arrive home, there is only one suspect – a fellow soldier who is refusing to talk.

Flynn and Callan’s cases converge when a dead body is found washed up on a Sussex beach, revealing a connection between Sami and the dead soldier. And it soon becomes clear that what seemed to have its origins in Afghanistan began with a secret much closer to home.

My review: At first I thought this was going to be another mystery thriller where everybody is miserable and it does start that way. Jesse Flynn has OCD a remnant from her brothers death 15 years ago. Army detective Callan is dealing with a bullet lodged in his brain. Not the setting for a cheerful book!

However the story is a tightly woven tale of a psychologically disturbed young boy and how he’s linked to several murders. I loved the characters in the end especially Marilyn (Bobby to his mum) an aging rocker police DI that made me picture one of the Ramones. The idea of a detective wandering around in his too skinny jeans and hoodie was a nice change of pace from everything else.

It’s intriguing, it’s a real page turner once it gets going. The characters are interesting and I liked the twist of having them mainly be Army detectives and psychologists rather than general police. It added a nice twist. All the characters are well developed. An excellent read

The Escape by C.L. Taylor

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Synopsis:

“Look after your daughter’s things. And your daughter…”When a stranger asks Jo Blackmore for a lift she says yes, then swiftly wishes she hadn’t.The stranger knows Jo’s name, she knows her husband Max and she’s got a glove belonging to Jo’s two year old daughter Elise.What begins with a subtle threat swiftly turns into a nightmare as the police, social services and even Jo’s own husband turn against her.No one believes that Elise is in danger. But Jo knows there’s only one way to keep her child safe – RUN.

My review: I read a book a few months ago about a woman on the edge of a psychological breakdown where it seems that someone is messing with her head to make things worse and that book was awful. Thankfully this one is the opposite. Tense, taught and terrific.

She still does some bonkers things such as running away to a seaside town in Ireland where she was born despite her mum saying she should never ever go back there rather than take a visit to social services to check on her daughters well being. Then again how many of us have done something because we were told not to.

The book flips between Jo’s perspective and that of her husband Max as their marriage falls apart, things get nasty and Jo goes on the run as mentioned. For the first half of the book it’s hard to know who to root for and who is the bad guy (a good thing) as there’s an intermittent third party that pops up now and again to add another voice to the story.It’s only when we get to part 2 where we get to see the bigger picture.

There’s a subplot mystery that runs throughout the book as well as to why Jo’s dad was a bad man who must never be mentioned which gets resolved. It’s a bad thing he did and quite unforgivable but I’m not sure why her mum should herself do a runner to another country because of it. Shame? Blame? Small town gossip making life impossible? Who knows.

All in all the book is great. It moves quickly, the characters are brilliantly written and something I particularly liked, Elise the 2 year old sounds like a 2 year old. And she cries a lot. Like a normal child in an extraordinary position. Quite often you get books where the small ones have no voice or sound like a teenager.

I loved this book. It’s a great read and I can’t wait for the next one.