Posts Tagged ‘Psychological suspense’

As a fan of the DCI Banks TV series, I thought it was about time I read one of his creator Peter Robinson’s novels. However, the one I grabbed from the bookshelf in a hurry turned out not to be about DCI Banks.

Nevertheless, I have 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 Grace’s diary.

I don’t know how this compares to the DCI Banks books but I loved Peter Robinson’s style of writing. He uses a range of devices along with the journal to imply Grace’s story, including dreams and talking to 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. And now I shall look forward to reading something from the DCI Banks series.



‘Scared to Tell’ is set in Connecticut, USA. The novel opens with the discovery of a young intellectually disabled woman found frozen to death in the grounds of her care home. It’s not long before Detective Annie Macpherson, recently returned to her secondment to an American police force from her home in Scotland, is on the case. This time Annie is working a duel role with the Regional team as well as her old force, so ‘Scared to Tell’ introduces new police colleagues as well as old favourites, but her romance with Detective Dave Ellison is still very much on.

The story is about the not often tackled theme of abuse of people with intellectual disabilities and the author’s empathetic handling of the experience of her intellectually challenged characters makes for a very realistic read of a topic often neglected in crime fiction but very current with the increasing exposure of abuse in British care homes.

I enjoyed being reunited with Annie. She is a dogged and determined police woman with a soft side and in ‘Scared to Tell’ her own family experience of having a brother with severe learning difficulties helps with her undercover task of finding evidence of abuse. Barbara Fagan Speake makes excellent use of her own background in her novels; both in her own Connecticut upbringing and her professional experience as a UK clinical psychologist. ‘Scared to Tell’ is another satisfying and enjoyable read. Highly recommended.

Barbara Fagan Speake

Barbara Fagan Speake

Primed by the PastPrimed by the past is a gripping psychological thriller. Its author, Barbara Fagan Speake is a prize winning crime writer. It shows in the quality of the writing. The novel draws you in from the first page with an intriguing prologue that captures your imagination and sets the scene for an exciting action packed read. Scottish police detective, Annie Macpherson makes a likable lead character. I’ve enjoyed following her progress through the personal and professional challenges that her secondment to the Connecticut police provide during the story. 

Primed by the Past is a great start to a promising series featuring Annie as she extends her stay with the Connecticut police department. As an American now settled in the UK, Barbara writes with authority about the US legal set up and uses her professional background as a clinical psychologist to inform the actions and motivation of her characters, resulting in some fast moving and fascinating plot turns.  I’ve read all three of the Annie Macpherson crime novels, and while it is always good to meet a character at the start of their novel journey, they can all be read as satisfying standalones. The fourth book in the Annie Macpherson series is due out later this year.

 Barbara is always ready to help novice writers and I can recommend her guest post ‘Lessons I have learnt from writing crime fiction and Indie publishing’ on this Crime Book Club website link.

I let you go image 1This epic psychological thriller starts dramatically and heart wrenchingly with the death of a five-year-old boy. Clare Mackintosh, was a serving police inspector until the success of this debut novel and it shows in the assured writing. Initially chosen as a Richard and Judy Book Club read and described by them as ‘the most thrilling twist we have read’, it went on to be shortlisted for the ‘Dead Good Reader Award in the categories of ‘most epic ending’ and ‘most recommended’ book.

The police procedural aspect of the story is told through the viewpoint of a detective inspector who struggles to balance his need to find the child’s killer with his battle to be a good husband and father. Alternating with this is the first person account of Jenna who is so affected by the loss of the child that she flees to a remote village on the coast of the Gower Peninsular trying to come to terms with her loss. At first I was eager to follow the police investigation and found the switch of viewpoint got in the way but once Jenna arrives in Wales I was caught up in her story and the secret she was escaping from and hiding from us readers.

Clare Mackintosh was inspired to write ‘I let you go’ by a real hit-and-run incident when a child was killed by a car thief. The intense emotions that incident produced and the loss of her own child informed her writing and has resulted in a powerful and gripping novel. Early in the writing process, Clare intended that halfway through the story the reader would realise that all was not as it seemed, resulting in an astonishing twist that compels you to read on. I completed the book in record time. It is truly an edgy, captivating and ultimately satisfying read.I let you go - book cover