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Reviews

January 2018

Kaira Rouda - Best Day Ever

"...a great read that has made me want to get started right away on this author's other books."

Synopsis:
Paul Strom has the perfect life: a glittering career as an advertising executive, a beautiful wife, two healthy boys, and a big house in a wealthy suburb. And he's the perfect husband: breadwinner, protector, and provider. That's why he's planned a romantic weekend for his wife, Mia, at their lake house, just the two of them. It will be the best day ever.

But as Paul and Mia drive out of the city and into the countryside, a spike of tension begins to wedge itself between them. How perfect is any marriage, really? How much do they trust each other? Is Paul the person he seems to be? And what are his secret plans for the cottage weekend?

Review:
'Best Day Ever' was my first introduction to Rouda. The book is mostly based over 24 hours, starting with the car journey to their lake side cottage. The story is told wholly from the perspective of Paul and when starting to read Paul appears a solid family man. I was really interested to carry on reading to find out how or why this man was driven to plotting to kill his wife. Whilst set in the present, to give background and more details, the story will often go back to the past, revealing more layers about Paul.

As I continued to read their characters became more evident, as did their motives. The story is very cleverly written. It's very simple, not overly complicated. The story will end either with Paul killing Mia, or not… but its simplicity is what makes it such a good read.

There are really only the two main characters in the whole book, with brief appearances from other minor characters stopping by. But both Paul and Mia were big enough to fill the book and keep me interested. 'Best Day Ever' is a great read that has made me want to get started right away on this author's other books.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Ann Granger - Rooted in Evil

"...as engaging and entertaining as the rest of this marvellous series."

Synopsis:
Carl Finch is dead, found sitting in a country wood with a shotgun on his knees and his brains blown away. This apparent suicide doesn't ring true to the investigating team of Superintendent Ian Carter and Inspector Jess Campbell. As they look further into Carl's life they discover several people who are upset with him, including his step-sister and her husband who have been funding in part his extravagant lifestyle when they are themselves struggling for money. Carl owes serious money to some very unsympathetic people and he has enlisted support from some unusual quarters.

Country people stick together and it takes some time for Carter and Campbell to unravel the events that led to Carl's death.

Review:
In the tradition of the country crime stories, this book has the added piquancy of an understanding of human nature and what normal people can do when pushed to the extreme. The characters are real and deal with life in their own individual way. It is the more unsettling because it could happen close to home.

Ann Granger has a range of settings and characters in her books and this Campbell and Carter series is as engaging and entertaining as the rest of this marvellous series.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Matt Hilton - Worst Fear

"...a thoroughly entertaining thriller which will drag you kicking and screaming to a marvellous conclusion."

Synopsis:
Private investigator Tess Grey discovers that someone from her past is pursuing a deadly vendetta; and she could be the next to die.

'If I'm dead, contact Teresa Grey at Cumberland County Sheriff's Dept. Tell her.'

When the body of a young woman is found on a rocky Maine beach, having fallen from the cliffs above, the initial verdict is suicide. But hidden on the dead woman's social network page is a post requesting that Tess Grey be informed in the event of her death. And why would Chelsea Grace, who was terrified of heights, have chosen to end her life in a way that invoked her very worst fear?

Having not seen Chelsea for years, Tess has no idea why her old university roommate would leave such a message. But, determined to find out what really happened to her, Tess and her partner Po discover that Chelsea isn't the first of her old university friends to suffer; and she won't be the last. It would appear that someone is holding a deadly grudge: could Tess herself be a target?

Review:
When I first heard of Hilton's plan to resurrect the old, 'letter from the dead' idea and bring it slap up to date, I knew I was in for a treat and I'm happy to say (in a non-conceited fashion) that I was right to anticipate a great novel.

The investigation is hugely personal for Tess and even as she's trying to work out what happened to Chelsea, Po become embroiled with troubles of his own. This gives us readers two threads to follow as Hilton weaves a thrilling plot which entertains at every point.

As ever with Tess and Po, they're working on their relationship as well as their cases and Pinky provides a splash of humour due to the way Hilton uses him with clever restraint.

This is a thoroughly entertaining thriller which will drag you kicking and screaming to a marvellous conclusion.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Frances Brody - Death in the Stars

"...captures the 1920’s perfectly, and caused me to read well into the night on a couple of occasions."

Synopsis:
It is June 1927, and everyone is anticipating a total eclipse of the sun on the 29th. Its trajectory is across North Wales and the North of England, and the Astronomer Royal, Sir Frank Dyson, has set up his main viewing site at Giggleswick School, 46 miles northwest of Leeds. Selina Fellini. the variety theatre's 'Silver Songbird', has asked Leeds-based private detective Kate Shackleton to organise a private flight on a de Havilland 50 from Leeds to Giggleswick to view the eclipse. Accompanying her would be one of her company, Billy Moffat, a popular comedian.

Kate agrees, but wonders why she has been selected to do so. It soon turns out that Selina has an ulterior motive. Two of her company have been accidentally killed, and she wants Kate to investigate, as she is convinced they weren't accidents. Kate agrees, even though she is convinced that they were indeed accidents. But when Billy Moffat is found dead next to Giggleswick's famous chapel, Kate begins to wonder.

As Kate investigates, we delve into Leeds' variety theatres, and into the dark, mysterious tunnels that weave from theatre to theatre under the city streets. We meet the rest of Selina's company, from her husband Jarrod and her manager Trotter Brockett to Sandy Sechrest, the 'Memory Woman'.

Review:
There really was a total eclipse in 1927, and the Astronomer Royal, Sir Frank Dyson did indeed set up his HQ for observing the phenomenon at Giggleswick School. There are even many rumours and whispered stories about tunnels connecting Leeds theatres. Sir Frank Dyson features briefly in the novel, as does the real-life headmaster of the school at the time, Robert Noel Douglas. So the basic research for the novel is impeccable, though Frances Brody doesn't fall into the all-too-familiar trap (perpetrated by some other writers) of letting her research get in the way of the story.

There are red herrings and clues aplenty here, and the prose is clear, succinct and readable. This is an enjoyable and well-plotted whodunit. It captures the 1920's perfectly, and caused me to read well into the night on a couple of occasions.

Reviewed by: J.G.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Sara Paretsky - Fallout

"...another great read from Paretsky."

Synopsis:
V I Warshawski's life is going along on a relatively even keel when her volcano of a god-daughter bursts back into her life and demands that V I drops everything and searches for a young black filmmaker, called August. Reluctantly she does so and finds herself on the trail of August and his elderly companion, Emerald, into the depths of Kansas where Emerald grew up.

As always with Warshawski, she collects problems as she goes about her business and succeeds in upsetting many of the locals. There is a military base, an ex-nuclear site, some modern farming methods and some very dodgy dealing to confront. As she delves deeper into events she thinks she knows why many of the locals are so upset. Inevitably she draws danger to her like a magnet and it is her dogged determination not to be beaten together with some stalwart friends that result in her triumphant in the end.

Review:
Sara Paretsky is the ultimate defender of the modern woman, able to cope as well as any man in the direst of circumstances. V I feels indestructible and her long suffering friend, Lotte keeps putting her back together after yet another beating. V I is physically capable, very smart and sufficiently savvy and experienced to cope with the most heinous of villains. It is very satisfying, and that is part of the enjoyment of these books. There is also fast action, ingenious plots with a healthy dollop of liberal thought to move the stories along.

This one is set away from the wild side of Chicago but deepest Kansas proves to have more than its fair share of wickedness to compensate. 'Fallout' is another great read from Paretsky.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Stuart MacBride - Now We Are Dead

"...the best book I’ve read in 2017, you won’t be disappointed."

Synopsis:
Revenge is a dangerous thing…

Detective Chief Inspector Roberta Steel got caught fitting up Jack Wallace – that's why they demoted her and quashed his sentence. Now he's back on the streets and women are being attacked again. Wallace has to be responsible, but if Detective Sergeant Steel goes anywhere near him, his lawyers will get her thrown off the force for good.

The Powers That Be won't listen to her, not after what happened last time. According to them, she's got more than enough ongoing cases to keep her busy. Perhaps she could try solving a few instead of harassing an innocent man?

Steel knows Wallace is guilty. And the longer he gets away with it, the more women will suffer. The question is: how much is she willing to sacrifice to stop him?

Review:
This is the book I have been waiting for since I first met DI Roberta Steel in MacBride's debut, 'Cold Granite'; the irascible bra-howking detective's own story, and boy, does the author deliver a fantastic novel.

Everything about 'Now We Are Dead' is quite simply brilliant, from the characterisation to the plot, prose and the way moral quandaries are addressed the author never misses his target. For me the highlights were the wonderfully evocative descriptions which peppered the whole novel.

I could wax on and on about this novel, but rather than risk the running out of superlatives, I'm just going to say, grab yourself a copy of the best book I've read in 2017, you won't be disappointed.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating: