Posts Tagged ‘series’

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.

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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.

This is the 4th book in a series which can be read as a standalone, although to make the most of Sarah Hilary’s excellent characterisation and follow the connections as they are revealed, reading the earlier books is recommended.

The novel starts with a reference to the horrific event of six years ago which has haunted Marnie throughout the series and ultimately influenced her work as a homicide detective. The streets of London are cold and forbidding. They establish an atmosphere of barriers to Marnie and Noah latest case, finding the vigilante responsible for a series of assaults culminating in a brutal murder. The attacks seem random, but when Marnie’s family home is ransacked, there are signs that the burglary was personal and organised by someone who knows all about her. But it will take a prison visit to her foster brother, Stephen before Marnie starts to see the connections and that someone out there is playing lethal games.

This book is far more complex than the usual police procedural. Although success for Marnie and Noah will be determined by their ability to catch the killer, the management of their personal lives is always a relevant. With themes of revenge, obsession and the impact of early years abuse on survival, ‘Quieter than Killing’ is a compelling read which like earlier books in the series doesn’t disappoint.

‘The Lies Within ‘opens dramatically with grieving mother Grace Daniels in the dock being tried for murder. The novel goes on to tell how she became a suspect and ends with what happens next. It is the third book in the series featuring Jane Isaac’s DI Will Jackman and it is good to be in his company again. The core of the book is about how Jackman and Grace’s stories interrelate. He is the SIO investigating the murder of her daughter, and it makes for a clever plot with some really good twists which I didn’t see coming.

The story is told alternatively from Will Jackman and Grace Daniels points of view and it is the emotional resonance of Grace’s sections that make this book so compelling. Jane Isaac’s writing captures all Grace’s roller coaster of emotions: her shock, despair, guilt, anger and isolation verging on mental breakdown in a realistic and empathetic way. Will Jackman is a sympathetic police detective with problems of his own and you want him to solve the case and not be let down. But it is Grace’s story and her characterisation in the heartbreaking situation of being the mother of a murdered daughter that make this crime novel different and cause the reader to reflect on what they would do in Grace’s situation.

Having said that, I did find the first part of the novel rather slow to get going, but once the plot moves in a different and unexpected direction and the pace speeds up the need to read on is compulsive and I read the book in one sitting.

‘The Lies Within’ is a satisfying read and I look forward to DI Will Jackman book four.
With thanks to Legend Press for providing an advance copy to review.

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.

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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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If you’re a fan of Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus you will enjoy meeting Detective Ray Logue in the first of this new police procedural series. There’s no doubting that Logue is his own man doing things his way, fighting the small town caution of his Garda bosses as much as the gangland villains he encounters on the way. He’s a character that you want to know better, sometimes annoying and flawed but always interesting. The edgy yet supportive interplay between Logue and his partner Detective McGarry provides light humour as the murders and body count increase. The sharp writing style propels the plot and pace forward as the sleepy town of Port Erd faces up to the social and economic changes that make it an ideal destination for local corruption and foreign gangsters.
With thanks to Endeavour Press for a review copy in exchange for an honest review of this quick and enjoyable read.

513n3hd4btlMonday’s Child by Linda Finlay (ref blog review – 23/11/16)
My first pick is a historical saga. The first of the ‘Ragged School’ series, ‘Monday’s Child is set in Torquay on the Torbay coast an area I often visit. Now, thanks to Linda Finlay’s descriptions and lively characters I can image what life would have been like for those children at the Red Cliffs Ragged School and their sassy teacher Sarah. Number two of the series is out in May 2017.

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Owl Song at Dawn by Emma Claire Sweeney – (ref blog review – 25/6/16)
From a story about children to one of old age. I was sent this book to review by publisher Legend Press and was so glad they had as otherwise I might not have come across it. Short-listed for Amazon’s Rising Star Award of 2016, this lyrical, poignant and funny story about guest house landlady Maeve coming to terms with getting older and opportunities lost takes you back the 1950’s through Maeve’s memories of when she was young. With beautiful descriptions of an era that failed to understand disability or being different, this lovely book makes you realise life in the twenty first century isn’t as bad as we sometimes think.

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Off the Rails by Karen Taylor – (ref blog review – 3/2/16)
I really enjoyed this edgy young adult thriller from my publisher Endeavour Press. With beautifully drawn characters surviving in a London where affluent ‘suits’ collide with and exploit disaffected homeless young people in the subterranean world of London’s disused underground passages.

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Before the Poison – Peter Robinson (ref blog review – 21/4/16)
I’m grateful to Sidmouth Crime Fiction Book Group for suggesting we devote one of our meetings last year to the crime novels of Peter Robinson. Before that I’d only watched DCI Banks on the television. I particularly liked this stand alone mystery novel about a retired musician who becomes obsessed with proving the previous owner of his house was innocent of the crime she was hanged for. The rambling old home on the North Yorkshire Moors becomes a character in its own right.

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The Outcast Dead by Ellie Griffiths – (ref blog review – 28/1/16)
This was the Sidmouth Crime Fiction Book Group’s first book of the year and a welcome return to Dr Ruth Galloway’s adventures. We love her every day struggle with single parenting, controlling her weight, trying not to be jealous of her glamorous friends and her passion for Radio 4’s Archers. Number eight in the series is out on Kindle on the 23rd of February and if you can’t wait there is a lovely free short story ‘Ruth’s First Christmas Tree’ to get you in the mood.