Archive for the ‘Authors’ Category

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.

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.

‘Old friends, sat on their park bench like book ends.’
Simon & Garfunkel – ‘Bookends’ Album 1968.

 

The Woman in Blue:
An old friend, now a woman priest, contacts Ruth regarding some threatening letters she has received. She is coming to Walsingham to attend a conference and take part in some of the religious events. Meanwhile, Cathbod is in Walsingham too, house-sitting for a friend when he sees a vision of a woman wearing blue in the graveyard who is soon found dead. This is just the start to a string of murders, as Ruth tries to balance her work lecturing in archaeology, helping the police and taking her daughter to endless play rehearsals while Nelson tries to get over his wife’s affair and the new ‘super-boss’ bent on reform. The crowds are gathering for the local Mystery Play, religious fanaticism rears its head and the scene is set for a fascinating romp through personal relationships and murders.

The Chalk Pit:
Ruth’s archaeological skills are needed again as boiled bones are found in an underground tunnel below Norwich. DCI Nelson and his team are kept busy tracking down a serial killer preying on the homeless. Then a middle class mother of two disappears and Nelson’s boss wants results fast.

In this 9th Ruth Galloway story, where old bones meet modern murder, Ruth and Nelson’s not quite a relationship features as much as the crime. Both have family difficulties to focus on, and however much the reader wants them to get together things always get in the way.

This is Norfolk Noir at its best – misty, gloomy, dangerous, mystical, pagan, set within bleak salt marshes and ancient buildings. The stories turn at a comfortable pace with great twists to reveal hard to guess satisfying endings.

I read this book in a day, it’s a real page turner.

Peter May is the author of three crime series including The Lewis Trilogy set on the Western Isles of Scotland. Coffin Road is a stand-alone eco-thriller featuring three lead characters each with their own problems with a quest to pursue as a result.

The interesting opening draws you in as a man finds he has been washed up on a beach. With no idea of who he is or what he’s doing there he is searching for an identity. Then there is the detective searching for the killer of a man bludgeoned to death on a remote island, and finally a rebellious teenage girl desperately trying to find why her father took his own life and if she was responsible.

The suspense develops as the lives of these three individuals start to interweave and races towards the reveals of what connects them. I liked the eco-theme of the survival of bees and learnt more about this important topic as I read on. Then there are the descriptions of the remote Scottish Islands which enhance the mystery of the plot and have some of the nuances of one of my favourite crime TV programmes Shetland recently broadcast. I shall have to wait another year for more of Shetland, but I can now fill that gap by reading the rest of Peter May’s novels.

Another satisfying read by my author friend Linda Finlay with a local setting in Torquay.
Linda Finlay’s extensive research of life in the periods of history she writes about ensure a compelling novel that takes you back in time, this time to 1901 the time of Ragged Schools and the rise of the suffragette movement. ‘Orphans and Angels’ is the author’s second book about the Red Cliffs Ragged School. In it we meet the owner Sarah Sullivan who is still struggling to keep the children safe and the school open, helped in her endeavours by dishy school master Harry Higgins. The inimitable Mrs Daws is still in the kitchen making sure that whatever else befalls them the children have a good meal inside them, and the school has a new teacher in the form of the lyrical Sheena O’Reilly whose delightful presence and skills at story telling sets the scene for conflict and catastrophe.

As in all of Linda Finlay’s writing the characters come to life on the page. I especially enjoyed reading how the children are developing, from new arrival the grieving and surly Soloman to independent Edith, as well as sharing in Sarah’s struggles to stick to her feminist beliefs and retain her friends and overcome her lack of money.

‘Orphans and Angels’ is a wonderfully satisfying read that will keep you engaged until the last page.

Today is my stop on the ‘Dangerous to Know’ Blog Tour.

Dangerous to Know Blog Tour Banner

First a bit about the novel:
‘Dangerous to Know’ by Australian author Anne Buist features troubled forensic psychiatrist Natalie King, who is back from a stay on the psych ward. Seeking a quieter life, she retreats to the countryside on a secondment, but Natalie and trouble have a strange mutual fascination, and she finds herself drawn deep into a mystery that puts her in danger.

My Review:
Like some other reviewers I hadn’t realised this was the second book in a series about forensic psychiatrist Natalie King. And while not having read the first book did not spoil my enjoyment of the second, I did find ‘Dangerous to Know’ a bit hard to follow. Something which I might have avoided if I had read the first novel in the series. There are a lot of characters in this book, some of which I now know were in the first book ‘Medusa’s Curse’ and also a lot of action to take in.

Anne Buist[3448]

Anne Buist


The story benefits enormously from Anne Buist’s own experience of working in the field of psychiatry. It meant that the leading characters that had mental health problems, of which there were a number, were convincing and their characterisation was deepened as a result. Although sometimes I found Natalie’s analysis of their condition distracted from the narrative. But for those seeking to know more about being bipolar, postpartum depression and personality disorder this is an additional fascinating context.
I liked Natalie King a lot. She’s a rebel with bipolar who recently had treatment herself for severe depression and I think there is more about the circumstance that brought this about in book one. She is sassy, intelligent and independent. Anne Buist does an excellent job of placing the reader in Natalie’s head. I could connect to her emotionally in a way I didn’t with most of the other characters. I didn’t warm to Frank the main antagonist and found his alternate first person narration irritating, but perhaps I was supposed to. At first I was convinced he was the one who was dangerous to know but as I read on I kept changing my mind about who it really was, and the reveal at the end came as a surprise.
I did find the first half of the book hard to follow but it was worth the effort as the pace picked up and the plot moved in diverse directions ‘Dangerous to Know’ is an intellectually satisfying book and well worth reading if only to see if you can work out who has done what and why.
Many thanks to Lucy at Legend Press for giving me the opportunity to review this novel.

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‘Dare to Remember’ is not shocking in the way that ‘The Girl on the Train’ or ‘The Book of You’ is shocking. It offers shivers of anticipation rather than moments of full blown terror. In fact the details of the attack that protagonist Lisa is trying so hard to remember doesn’t really emerge until well into the book. So, this book may not be shocking and it’s not a thriller in the usual sense but it is certainly an intriguing page turner.

Lisa is a likeable character who is easy for the reader to empathise with as we share her regular visits to her psychologist on her journey towards recovery. The overwhelming fear of living, which descends after her violent trauma, comes vividly alive on the page and graphically illustrates how such an experience can ruin your life. Living in the confines of a self-imposed isolation, Lisa doesn’t share her life with many other people, even her loving mother is kept at arm’s length. But her relationship with her neighbour John and fellow dog walker Jessica are beautifully described as Lisa finds that overcoming her own fears to support other people massively helps her conquer her own demons.

The descriptions of Lisa’s therapy and search for self help solutions feel authentic. If you want to know more about survivor guilt and post traumatic stress disorder, then as well as being a satisfying read this book will take you through the experience and compel you to read on to find out how successful Lisa is in her journey .
Legend Press sent me an advance copy of ‘Dare to Remember’ in return for an honest review.