This is a tough read which can be likened to marmite. You will either love it and won’t be able to put it down but may find the uncomfortable fascination of reading to the end too much to stomach. As for me, after finishing it I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

I love Cath Staincliffe’s style of writing. Her characterisation and use of the first person draws you into her stories so you soon relate to the people she is writing about and the world they inhabit. ‘Letters to my Daughter’s Killer’ is no exception. You become immersed in the bleak, tortured world of grandmother Ruth Sutton as she struggles to cope with her grief after the murder of her daughter and being left to become the sole carer of her young granddaughter Florence. Be in no doubt that this book will get to your emotions as you share Ruth’s hatred and longing for vengeance. As you read, it’s impossible not to put yourself in Ruth’s shoes and consider how you’d react in her situation, which is probably why I found it such a tough read. But I’m very glad I finished it. It gave me a lot to think about.

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I love discovering new authors and Roz Watkins work is a pleasure to read. Lots of interesting themes are developed throughout ‘The Devil’s Dice’. It touches on superstition, ghosts, Derbyshire folk law, and euthanasia with the feel of a traditional ‘murder mystery puzzle.

Newly promoted DI Meg Dalton is a great character, full of doubt about her own abilities and sensitivity to critism arising from things that happened to her in her childhood and which have left her with a slight disability. Not a good thing to have when chasing suspects around the steep and slippery cliffs and caves of the High Peak. I really like Meg Dalton and the way she continually shares her thoughts about the people she encounters and the conundrums of the murder she is trying to solve. Her vulnerability makes her endearing and also makes for some heart stopping end of chapter cliff hangers. Fortunately she has some support in the shape of DS Jai Sanghera, a lapsed Sikh with family issues who is also at the receiving end of some police colleague insensitivity.

Then there is the bleak Derbyshire setting which almost becomes a character in its own right from the Devil’s Dice caves of the title to the tiny villages balanced on the edge of the Peak District’s inhospitable limestone cliffs. All helping to make this new thriller series a delightful discovery and left me wanting to read more. However, I will just have to wait until the April when ‘The Dead Man’s Daughter’, the second novel of the series is due for release.

The Bonbon Girl is another captivating romantic historical saga from West Country author Linda Finlay. An evocative romp through Cornish coast and countryside in the Victorian era that captures the world of mine workers, bustling county towns and travelling fair people. We follow the love story between Colenso and Kitto – two teenagers deeply in love and about to face the hardship of life in the outside world.

From the dramatic opening with Colenso tied to a rock with waves crashing around her, through her journey of survival to escape a life she doesn’t want, to a surprising resolution. From the first page The Bonbon Girl is a compelling page turner as you read on to find out if true love will conquer all or if Colenso’s perilous circumstances will prevail.
With its well drawn characters and finely tuned research The Bonbon Girl is a satisfying story of friendship, betrayal, tragedy and love which is highly recommended.

A great read if you are planning a Cornish holiday or just want to go back in time.

Phoebe Morgan is senior commissioning editor at Avon Books so it’s not surprising that her debut novel, ‘The Doll House’, is one of the most gripping suspense stories of 2018 and was the perfect Christmas read to take my mind off decorations, preparations and last minute shopping.

Corinne and Ashley are sisters trying to overcome their grief after their father’s death and get on with family life. But everyone in the family seems vulnerable in one way or another: Corinne and her partner Dominic are struggling to coping with the trials of IVF while Ashley feels she is failing as a parent and is losing control of her teenage daughter and suspects her husband of having an affair. So when parts of her childhood doll house start turning up in Corinne’s flat and Ashley’s getting anonymous phone calls, you start to share the sister’s growing anxiety. But it’s hard to disentangle what is sinister from the fallout from their everyday domestic tribulations.

The characters are so well drawn that they become your friends which just heightens the sense of tension as their family life starts to implode. This beautifully plotted story is complex with twists that you won’t see coming.

‘The Doll House’ is a very satisfying read and highly recommended. Now I’m looking forward to reading Phoebe Morgan’s second thriller ‘The Girl Next Door’ when it’s released in February.

Camilla Lackberg is a Swedish author of contemporary psychological thrillers. She has written ten books featuring crime writer Erica Falck and her police officer husband Patrick Hedstrom set in Camilla’s home town, the fishing community of Fjallbacka. The books can be read as stand-alone thrillers, but for extra enjoyment read them in order. That way you can follow the development of Erica and Patrick’s relationship from courting couple to parents as well as the members of Patrick’s police team as they experience love affairs, births and deaths.

The books make great Christmas reading as they are usually set in a snowy winter. In novel number one, ‘The Ice Princess’, Erica returns to her home town after the death of her parents and finds the body of her best friend frozen in a bath. Although contemporary, many of the Erica Falck series have plots which are rooted in the past, especially the Second World War. In my favourite story ‘The Hidden Child’ Erica finds an old Nazi medal amongst her dead mother’s possessions and uncovers some disturbing family history linked to present day murders.

I’ve just finished reading ‘Buried Angels’, No 8 in the series which also has its roots in WW2. A young woman returns to the island where her father ran a boarding school and where all her family except baby Ebba went missing and becomes the target of an arson attack. But like most of Camilla Lackberg’s novels the motive for present dangers are hidden in the past.
Erica Falck is both a joyous and frustrating character who struggles to balance her writing career with being a parent.

All the books in the series are well plotted and make a very satisfying read.

As a fan of the DCI Banks series, I was eager to try one of Peter Robinson’s stand alone novels. I found ‘Before the Poison’ a riveting read. Unlike the DCI Banks books it’s not a police procedural, more a mystery story with aspects of supernatural. It’s about a successful musician who buys a secluded and rambling manor house on the North Yorkshire moors. His wife has just died and he becomes obsessed with proving that the woman who owned the house before him should not have been hanged for murdering her husband. Metaphorical ghosts and real ones abound, the later in the form of the hanged woman’s diary.

I loved Peter Robinson’s style of writing. He uses a range of devices together with extracts from the diary of the hanged woman, to imply her story, including chapters from a contemporary true crime book and the protagonist’s dreams and conversations with his own dead wife. But he uses them with great skill and believability. For classical music and cinema lovers there are continuous references from the protagonist’s experience of writing film music which add to the enjoyment.
‘Before the Poison’ is an interesting and satisfying read. Well recommended.

Finishing my second book about criminologist Kate Trevelyan and starting a new role delivering books to housebound people mean I’ve fallen behind with my reviewing. As crime fiction is by far the most popular genre requested I’ve gone back through my own reading preferences and decided to complete an alphabetical guide to my favourite authors, starting with A for Rachel Abbott.

Rachel is one of the UK’s most successful independent crime writers. Her first seven psychological thrillers have combined to sell over three million copies, and have all been bestsellers. In 2015, she was named the 14th bestselling author over the last five years on Amazon’s Kindle in the UK. Her thrillers feature Detective Chief Inspector Tom Douglas and like Sophie Hannah’s ‘Culver Valley’ series we follow the story of a lone protagonist who may be the perpetrator, victim or witness of a crime alongside the police’s attempts to find the culprit and stop further crime. This creates a strong sense of jeopardy as the reader hopes the victim will survive but knows the police can’t benefit from what they know. DCI Tom Douglas continues to have his own relationship problems which get in the way but make him enduring, and the series provide the satisfaction of getting to know him better with each book.

Rachel Abbott novels always start with dramatic prologues which hint at the suspense to come. My favourite is still the prologue in the first of the series, ‘Only the Innocent’ which starts with an illicit liaison for sex play and soon develops into something more dangerous. The prologue in the last of the series, ‘Come a Little Closer’ is much briefer but is compensated by having more viewpoints to follow before the connections between them become apparent.

Callie, the protagonist of ‘Come a Little Closer’ is a young woman struggling to escape an abusive relationship who is vulnerable to exploitation by others. She’s worn out, depressed and not thinking straight and it takes her a long time to recognise what is happening to her or how she may be connected to other apparently random deaths. The short sharp chapters and varied viewpoints make multiple twists in this riveting suspense a gripping read.

‘Come a Little Closer’ is the seventh and last book of the series. Rachel’s latest novel ‘And so it begins’ was released last month and is the start of a new series about police woman Stephanie King. I’m sure I’ll enjoy that one too, but I hope I haven’t read the last of the Tom Douglas thrillers.