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Reviews

October 2014

Martina Cole - The Good Life

"...this latest is explosive, shit hot and bloody amazing. "

Synopsis:
Cain Moran is a ‘Face’ who has always been a little partial to a bit of skirt. Although married to Caroline, the girls come and go. That is until he meets Jenny. Here is an attractive girl who Cain can’t get out of his head and soon he finds that Jenny is a whole new world from his over-bearing and demanding wife. And he knows if he leaves Caroline that she will give him Hell. When Jenny becomes pregnant Caroline is true to form and explodes when she realises her husband is leaving her, making her a loose cannon; and a very dangerous one at that.

Cain’s career choice was always going to be full of pitfalls and after enjoying ‘The Good Life’ for many a year with Jenny and their son, Cain Junior, things start to go in to meltdown and Cain is framed and sent to prison. But just because he is behind bars does not mean he is totally powerless – and ‘The Good Life’ is a life that is not one easily relinquished.

Review:
In ‘The Good Life’ we have Martina Cole firing on all cylinders. Straight away you can see you are in a familiar Cole landscape with the feel of the language painting vivid pictures. With the subtlety of an ice bucket challenge, I was plunged in to Cole’s tale of ‘the good life’ and the misery and pain it brings when people like Cain Moran have to keep looking over their shoulder just to make sure the latest whippersnapper isn’t standing at his back with a gun or a knife.

As always, Cole delivers a dynastic tale of gangster life in the UK. I don’t know who her sources are, but you can’t help but feel that Cole’s story is steeped in a harsh reality and ‘knows’ people and has her finger on the pulse with regards to the movers and shakers and the drugs industry.

With her short, sharp chapters I was totally transfixed and kept telling myself ‘one more chapter, one more chapter…’ until I closed the book at the end long after midnight with the sense of having lived the ‘Good Life’ along with Cain and Jenny let alone just read about it! Caroline is a sublime character and as always Cole litters her book with some laugh-out-loud humour. My favourite is her description of Caroline being able to ‘start an argument in an empty house’! That one I will remember.

‘The Good Life’ is Martina Cole on fire and this latest is explosive, shit hot and bloody amazing.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Lindsay Davis - Enemies at Home

"To sum up, all in all, I absolutely loved this book."

Synopsis:
Flavia Alba, adopted daughter of the much loved Falco, has adopted his calling as an investigator. As a young, widowed and attractive woman she can go where more manly characters cannot go but is also more vulnerable (not that she pays much attention to that). In this, her second case, she is called in to assist Manlius Faustus, a plebian aedile, in a case involving the death of two newly married Romans. The main question relates to the extent to which the household slaves are responsible either directly or by failing in their responsibility to defend their owners. Fearing the worst they have fled for sanctuary to the Temple of Ceres, where their presence is a considerable embarrassment.

As Flavia learns more about the household and the arrangements set in place by the merging of two households instituted by the wedding, she discovers undercurrents of lust, jealousy and fear that contribute to all that happens. As she gets closer to the answer she herself comes into danger. In the end Flavia’s cool understanding of human nature and attention to detail leads her to unravel the mystery.

Review:
The dry wit and humour, together with an astute understanding of humanity, is Flavia’s inheritance from her father. Those of us who loved Falco will also love Flavia. The humanity of ancient Rome and the flavour of the streets and Roman life are all there in the writing. It is always surprising to read about the similarities between the time of the Caesars and life today. Lindsey Davis’ in-depth knowledge of the time and the city make this a vivid and enjoyable tale of people faced with difficult choices against a steaming and in some cases stinking, Rome.

The story is intriguing and difficult to second guess, particularly as the politics of slave owning is not familiar to many. I particularly liked the characters in this story. Flavia very much enjoys working with Manlius Faustus and their relationship definitely moves up a notch when he takes on nursing her through a difficult time before she returns home to her parents to recuperate. The slaves are a disparate group of people living together in close proximity and Davis has an excellent way of describing the idiosyncrasies of the individuals in a way that makes you feel you know them. To sum up, all in all, I absolutely loved this book.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Tina Seskis - One Step Too Far

"...a great read from an exciting new author..."

Synopsis:
An apparently happy marriage. A beautiful son. A lovely home.

Yet one morning Emily Coleman wakes up and walks right out of her life. What makes her do it? How will she survive? And, no matter how hard she tries, can she ever really say goodbye to her past?

Emily has a secret. No-one has ever guessed it. Will you?

Review:
The book is written in the first person present day as Cat, and in the past from the perspective as Emily. But the plot follows not only the main character, but also Emily's husband, parents and twin sister, Caroline. Emily's family did not seem particularly functional, yet despite this she has a sense of normality.

The first part of the book deals with Emily, now Cat, starting her new life. And even though it includes seemingly trivial events such as buying furniture from Ikea, venturing into the filthy shared bathroom, or looking for a job, I felt I really wanted to know what was happening to her.

Before she left, Emily had always had a strained relationship with her sister, Caroline. Caroline seemed to get bad press and be blamed for all that was wrong in the family. Yet it was Caroline's upbringing and her treatment at home that caused her behaviour and despite her being a pretty nasty character, it was impossible not to have some sympathy for her and lay the blame at the door of the parents.

The book is very cleverly written, directing the reader in the direction the author wants them to go so that when all is revealed at the end, it all comes as a slight surprise. I felt that the story didn’t really go anywhere, but strangely that was part of the appeal. It was a book that dealt with people and emotions rather than major events.

Although not my usual book, I found this to be a great read from an exciting new author who I will look out for in the future. Very enjoyable, indeed.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Ariana Franklin and Samantha Norman - Winter Siege

"A superb and fitting last novel that will have you gripped on every page."

Synopsis:
Winter 1141: Steven and Matilda are fighting over the crown of England and the nobles are changing sides as circumstances change. Bands of mercenaries move around the countryside earning a living where they can. One of these mercenaries is hiding in the reeds when he sees a little girl with flaming red hair being brutally attacked by one of his colleagues.

Later he finds the traumatised girl almost dead and holding a tiny piece of parchment. He takes her under his wing, slowly nursing her back to health and bringing her back to life emotionally. He teaches her his skill with the bow and disguises her as a boy to travel around the dangerous country. He vows to track down her vicious assailant and in the dangerous life he leads he meets the lowest and the highest in society. The chase culminates in an exciting denouement.

Review:
It is bittersweet to read the last of Diana Norman’s brilliant historical novels under her pen name of Ariana Franklin. Her daughter, Samantha has done an amazing job at seamlessly completing the manuscript. I couldn't detect a different voice in the narrative. As always the taste and smell of the times is vividly brought to life, as is the quandary that the nobles seeking to maintain their lands and protect their people are faced with. Both Steven and Matilda have a claim to the throne. Both are flawed human beings who alienate their supporters. Does loyalty or pragmatism win the day? You will have to read and find out.

Along with the bigger picture, is the beautifully detailed and sympathetic drawing of people who live in different times but still show essential human traits, good and bad. I absolutely loved this book and am only sad that Ariana Franklin is no longer with us to write more of her wonderful books. A superb and fitting last novel that will have you gripped on every page.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Danielle Ramsay - Blind Alley

"Like any good novel it settles down after a big start before thundering towards a climactic ending..."

Synopsis:
DI Jack Brady is riding high after the successful outcome of his previous case but his world is about to come crashing down.

There's a serial rapist plaguing the streets of Whitley Bay. Three young women have been horribly abused and his boss and the press are screaming for answers. Everything seems to point to his old friend and foe gangster Martin Madley though Brady still struggles to believe he's capable of such acts.

With time running out before the villain strikes again Brady must follow every scrap of evidence. But there are forces at work he knows nothing about, and his persistence is leading both him and those close to him ever further into danger...

Review:
‘Blind Alley’ is bleakly noir from the start which is always something to grab my attention. Like any good novel it settles down after a big start before thundering towards a climactic ending which left this reader battered but triumphant.

I found Brady to be a tough guy battling against the usual array of problems. While I didn’t grow to like him, I did feel he was misunderstood. Claudia and Conrad add to the drama in different ways, but this is Brady’s novel and he carries it like a rain soaked overcoat.

What I would recommend to future readers of this novel to do is to make sure they’ve read the previous books (‘Broken Silence’ & ‘Vanishing Point’) as I felt that by not having done so myself I was missing information which could have furthered my enjoyment of ‘Blind Alley’.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Emlyn Rees - Wanted

"...keeps the pace going from strength to strength."

Synopsis:
Danny Shanklin is the world’s most wanted man.

Hunted by nine international intelligence agencies for a terrorist atrocity he did not commit, he’s now trapped in a deadly race against the clock to protect his life, his family, and the world from the people responsible - people intent on true destruction. Though they framed him, these terrorists are really after a much bigger target: six lethal smallpox formulations, any one of which could trigger a global pandemic, leaving only one in three people alive.

With the help of a Ukrainian mercenary and a ruthless female assassin, Danny soon finds himself forced into the roles of both predator and prey as he tries desperately to win the fight of his life.

Review:
Whilst generally not a fan of books that retain the same characters and plots as they tend to stretch the realms of probability, ‘Wanted’ has proven that sometimes this can work.

Danny Shanklin returns to try and clear his name as a murderer and terrorist. The only way he can do this is to track down those who are responsible. Living undercover and trying to keep his daughter safe, Shanklin relies on his survival instinct and training to keep one step ahead of those not only he is trying to find, but who are also trying to find him. Shankin is a great main character - he has a good side keeping him from being a cold-blooded killer, but a keen sense of survival means he is willing to break the law and kill those that threaten him.

The plot takes Shanklin across the world and introduces a number of other characters. Whilst sometimes a large number of characters and names can confuse and results with the plot becoming diluted, Rees manages to keep on track and gives each character a reason for their existence. Each page holds its own story and keeps the pace going from strength to strength. And just when you think it's all over, there is another twist.

My only criticism? The book is left on a cliff hanger meaning I will have to wait to see how Shanklin gets himself out of the next problem he finds himself in! Please hurry Mr. Rees as this particular reader needs another fix of Danny Shanklin!

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Linda Palund - The Little Black Dress

"More than a simple coming of age novel..."

Synopsis:
Carmen is the most beautiful and desirable girl Lucy has ever known, and when she is savagely murdered, Lucy's teenage life crumbles. Devastated by the loss of her first love, fearing that her killers might never be found Lucy vows to solve the murder herself.

Then Lucy befriends Seth, the new boy at school, who is not only a master computer hacker but also the son of LA's new Chief of Homicide, and together they gain access to the gruesome autopsy reports. Learning the true extent of the horror inflicted on Carmen, Lucy gets closer to understanding the secret behind Carmen's little black dress.

When another beautiful girl is murdered, Lucy and Seth uncover the brutality lurking within the corridors of their privileged Los Angeles high school and put their lives on the line to come face to face with the murderer himself.

Review:
Do you remember your first love? The worry and stress of trying to keep it? The pain of its loss? Lucy does.

‘The Little Black Dress’ is a great little LGBT novel, aimed at young adults, that captures all of those feelings well, along with the frustrations caused by a police department being unsuccessful in catching those responsible for Lucy's pain.

More than a simple coming of age novel where Lucy embraces her sexuality and does what's required to move on with her life, Palund has written a complete tale with all of the elements you expect from a good crime novel, insidious plot, sex, violence, and all perfectly pitched at its target audience.

‘The Little Black Dress’ is a title I would certainly recommend as a great transition novel from those crime novels clearly written for children and pre-teens, to those enjoyed by adults around the world every day.

Reviewed by: J.P.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Ace Atkins/Robert B. Parker - Wonderland

"This is a cracker of a book..."

Synopsis:
Spenser, the Boston PI, is asked by his long-time friend, Henry Cimoli to do him a favour. Henry lives in a condo next to Wonderland, a one-time amusement park and dog track in Revere, a city to the north of Boston. Someone is trying to buy the site, and heavies have been sent in to ease the sale. Spencer takes it on, and discovers that the prospective buyer is Rick Weinberg. Spenser meets up with Weinberg and a deal is struck that satisfies both the sellers and the buyers.

However, things take a sinister turn when Weinberg is murdered. Spenser is caught up in a web of bribery, greed and corruption involving dangerous hoods from Las Vegas and the Commonwealth government (Massachusetts is a commonwealth, not a state) as he tries to unravel the mystery of who killed Weinberg and why. Along the way he meets a beautiful Brit called Jemma Fraser, an ex-Harvard professor called Harvey Rose who is not all he seems, and various other Bostonians who are on the make.

Review:
This is a cracker of a book, to be savoured for its plot (which appears complicated but is in fact simple) and for the craft that has gone into the writing. Though the cover states that it is by Robert B. Parker, the writer who first gave us Spenser, it is in fact by Ace Atkins (his second Spenser novel, with a third on the way), as Parker died in 2010. All the things we associate with Spenser are here – Pearl his dog (named after Parker’s dog in real life), his wise cracks, the love-of-his-life Susan Silverman, his heart of gold and his commitment to decency and honesty. His sidekick Hawk does not make an appearance, though Zebulon Sixkill (‘Z’), a native American, fills his shoes admirably.

However, there is another important ‘character’ in the Spenser novels, and this is the city of Boston itself. Parker was a Bostonian, but Atkins comes from Mississippi, and though I have never been to the city, his descriptions have the ring of authenticity, and he seems to have captured its essence. Wonderland itself actually exists in real life, and in a satisfying way the book comes full circle, with the plot being set in motion by ‘Wonderland’, and the satisfying denouement taking place within the shell of the old dog track.

Reviewed by: J.G.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Cathy Ace - The Corpse with the Platinum Hair

"...I heartily recommend this teasing little puzzle."

Synopsis:
Twelve diners in the owner’s private dining room on the top floor of a luxury casino on Las Vegas’ famous Sunset Strip are suddenly isolated as the state of the art security system cuts in and the whole suite is in lock down. They are a motley assortment of guests, ranging from a Russian diva and her assistant, Shirley, the owner of the hotel and her legal assistant Julia, plus criminal psychologist, Cait Morgan, and her close friend, Bud.

When the back-up lighting kicks in, the body of Shirley is found, bizarrely stabbed with a sword. All those present are shocked and anxiously wait for the lock down to end so that the police can take over. But the security system won’t respond to Julia’s instructions and the group find themselves alone with the corpse and, presumably, the killer.

Review:
This is a very modern update on Christie’s country house scenario and is cleverly constructed where the intricate interweaving of the plot is slowly revealed. Cait Morgan uses her prodigious memory (a useful tool for an investigator) and the practical help of her close friend, Bud, to tease out the truth, not without some lively red herrings along the way.

This tale follows the ‘cozy’ tradition in providing the reader with a series of puzzles to solve. To while away the time each guest outlines how they knew Shirley and it turns out that many of them had a good reason to want her dead. Cleverly each chapter describes a musical development, culminating (after another body) in a crescendo in the finale.

I enjoyed this book but perhaps not quite as much as the last one. The single suite scenario was perhaps a little too claustrophobic. However, for a relaxing holiday read I heartily recommend this teasing little puzzle.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Arnaldur Indridason - Reykjavik Nights

"...a great read that people new to Indridason will enjoy, and one that his long-term fans will love."

Synopsis:
When a homeless man is killed and a young woman on her way home from a club vanishes, few people care. Both cases go cold; just two lost people from two different worlds.

The loner Erlendur has recently joined the police force as a young officer, not an investigator, but his instincts tell him their fate is worth pursuing. As the past begins to surrender its secrets Erlendur finds himself dragged inexorably into the strange and dark underworld of the city.

Review:
After Arnaldur Indridason concluded the story of Detective Erlendur in his previous novel, ‘Strange Shores’, I was keen to see the direction he would take with the series, as I knew there were some untranslated novels still to come. For me, it was a delight to find that we hadn't heard the last of this great character and would instead be discovering more of what made him become just one of my favourite 'damaged detectives'.

Young, single and working in traffic Erlendur gets his first real taste of detective work when he remains unconvinced that the death of a local tramp was the drunken accident that everyone believes. Pursuing his concerns and inspired by his own fascination for the lives of the lost, the dispossessed and the people they leave behind, Erlendur begins an unofficial investigation into what really happened.

The pace of the story was perfect for a novel about a young policeman finding his feet in the world, and once more Indridason makes Reykjavik a character in its own right. With its nights full of car crashes, robberies, drunks and fights the backdrop is vibrant and violent. This step into Erlendur's past firmly sets ‘Reykjavik Nights’ as a great read that people new to Indridason will enjoy, and one that his long-term fans will love.

Reviewed by: J.P.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Tony Black - Artefacts of the Dead

"...Black’s novels are modern masterpieces..."

Synopsis:
The discovery of a dead banker sends shock waves through the sleepy coastal town of Ayr. And it s up to DI Bob Valentine recently back on the force after his near-fatal stabbing to find the killer. But leads are hard to find and the pressure is on from an anxious Chief Superintendent who is being hounded by the media and still has serious concerns about her DI's mental health.

It becomes clear that there's a serial killer on the loose, Bob Valentine must battle the demons of his post-traumatic stress, an investigation team that's leaking like a sieve and frightening visions that might just be the key to unlocking the mystery. Valentine is close to breaking point, but can he crack the case before he cracks up?

Review:
Tony Black’s novels are modern masterpieces which bear comparison with the works of notable noir authors such as Hammett and Chandler. ‘Artefacts for the Dead’ is a fantastically dark novel which follows DI Bob Valentine as he struggles to make his way back from injury in the line of duty.

Each chapter, page and sentence is crafted with the care of a true artisan as Black tells his story. For me the best parts of the novel are the passages where he turns his analytical eye on the setting of Ayrshire. Rather than just giving the unvarnished truth, Black goes a step further and dips his observations in caustic soda as he cuts right to the heart of the matter.

DI Valentine is a wonderful creation who draws empathy, disdain and wonder from the reader. Dino is a worthy adversary and the bad guys are suitably odious yet it was Valentine’s father who will remain with me the longest.

If there is one tiny downside to the novel I would have to say it may lie in the plotting as I found the actual case less engaging than the characters. To put this observation into context, it’s like winning the lottery and complaining the jackpot was a fiver short of a million.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Alafair Burke - All Day and a Night

"...Alafair Burke does not disappoint with her latest. "

Synopsis:
Another case for NYPD detectives Ellie Hatcher and her partner, sharp dresser JJ Rogan, sees them assigned as the ‘Fresh Look’ team investigating the case against prisoner Anthony Amaro currently serving time for a series of brutal murders.

The reason for this new look is that another murder has occurred employing similar methods not released to the general public. Perhaps the real killer is still out there. Neither partner is thrilled with this assignment, particularly as it has been put their way by Ellie's boyfriend, Assistant District Attorney Max Donovan. Ellie is still adjusting to moving in with Max and is wary when their professional lives intertwine.

Not happy with questioning the actions of fellow officers, the pair reluctantly search the past to find the truth. Against them they have the defence lawyer for Amaro. This lady is one ambitious and ruthless woman, not shy of taking a few shady shortcuts. She has also employed the half-sister of one of the early victims, one Carrie Blank. Her connections in the past are at the root of the investigation and the solution comes when these are revealed.

Review:
Always delivering a rattling good yarn, Alafair Burke does not disappoint with her latest. Fast moving, setting a pace in keeping with New York where it is based, this story keeps you on tenterhooks until the end. The language is gritty, vivid and gripping. Alafair Burke's legal background ensures that not only the police details are correct but that little quirks of procedure not known to many are included.

The subtle and not so subtle interactions between the characters are beautifully handled. Written from a woman's point of view, the book portrays the female characters in a well-rounded form. They are real people struggling with the power play in getting on in their careers whilst developing their personal lives. Alafair Burke is also sympathetic to her male characters and both Ellie's partner JJ and her boyfriend, Max are both portrayed as genuine likeable individuals. I greatly enjoyed this book and will look out for upcoming cases in this series.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Bill Kitson - Buried in the Past

"...I was pleasantly surprised and pleased by the end of this book. "

Synopsis:
In the 1980’s a delivery of blood diamonds went missing and blame was cast far and wide amongst the criminal masses who were involved in the consignment. Many men were killed in revenge, one of whom was Max Perry who was always considered the man to have masterminded the diamonds’ disappearance. Soon after, his nephew, Ray Perry was caught red-handed by the police with a knife in his hand and the body of Max’s rival dead at his feet.

Now, over twenty years later Ray is release from prison having kept silent all those years. Soon after being released, he is found at the side of a secluded lane, a victim of a hit-and-run, leaving the man in a coma. Was it an accident or was it deliberate? Did Ray know something he has been keeping to himself all these years? Where was he travelling to in the north of England when he had no ties there? Those answers are down to DI Mike Nash and his team to consider. Especially as more bodies start turning up in rapid succession.

Review:
I picked up this book without any expectation and ended up really enjoying it. This is what I class as your classic police procedural. Although based in the present, there was a slight flavour of yesteryear so this could have easily been in the 80’s. You have DI Mike Nash who everyone appears to respect highly and thankfully doesn’t have a drink problem, or any other problem to be frank. His other detectives although in the background, appeared as individuals and had their own personalities.

The case itself starts off at a good pace and gathers momentum although by the end I did feel as though Kitson was throwing the kitchen sink in as well to allow his killers to continue on their determined path to find the blood diamonds. It felt a little like a northern version of ‘Midsomer Murders’ with a very high body count by the end of 220 pages! However, beside that point I really enjoyed this case and despite knowing who the killers are towards the end of the book, Kitson still manages to throw in a neat little twist at the end just for good measure. This one had totally passed me by, so I was pleasantly surprised and pleased by the end of this book. I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Buried in the Past’. It isn’t a trail blazer by any means, but is purely a very enjoyable piece of detective entertainment which I would recommend to any crime fan.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Imogen Robertson - Theft of Life

"Once again Imogen Robertson brings the eighteenth century to life..."

Synopsis:
Outside St Paul's Cathedral a body is found staked to the ground. On his way home after a night of revelry, Harriet Westerman's black servant, William recognises the man and the extraordinary contraption he is wearing on his head.

This is the start of a journey back to the time when Harriet's husband was alive and into the horrible world of the slave owners and the length to which some of them were prepared to go to keep their slaves under control. There are a few black men living in London, and one of these is Francis Glass, a printer and shop owner. He becomes involved with the family of the Earl of Sussex, with whom Harriet is staying. When the love of his life is found dead in mysterious circumstances he tries to track down the killers. Many of the supporters of the slave owners are living in London and are prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to maintain what they believe are their rights.

Review:
Once again Imogen Robertson brings the eighteenth century to life as she tackles head on the troubling issue of the slavers of the West Indies and their strongly held beliefs about the nature of their black slaves. To modern eyes this is hideous and perverted but Imogen Robertson conveys the genuine feelings of some people at the time that drives them to vile lengths in order to maintain their ill-gotten fortunes. At the same time Harriet Westerman has to struggle with the discovery that her late husband bought a slave, albeit to treat him well and to free him later.

As always, the delightful characters of Harriet Westerman and Gabriel Crowther continue to develop and entrance. They shock polite society, as does the upbringing of the earl of Sussex and his sister, but they are independent and moral thinkers that are in tune with today. Above all, this is a rattling good story that grabs your interest from the first and holds it to the last.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

R.J. Ellory - Carnival of Shadows

"I do love a book that engages my brain as well as my emotions and that is certainly what R.J. Ellory delivers..."

Synopsis:
It’s Kansas, 1959. A travelling carnival appears overnight in the small town of Seneca Falls, intriguing the townsfolk with acts of inexplicable magic and illusion. But when a man's body is discovered beneath the carousel, with no clue as to his identity, FBI Special Agent Michael Travis is sent to investigate.

Led by the elusive Edgar Doyle, the carnival folk range from the enigmatic to the bizarre, but none of them will give Travis a straight answer to his questions. With each new turn of the investigation, Doyle and his companions challenge Travis' once unshakeable faith in solid facts and hard evidence.

As the consequences of what has happened become ever more disturbing, Travis struggles to open his mind to a truth that defies comprehension. Will he be able to convince himself that things are not what they seem? Or will he finally reconcile himself to a new reality - one that threatens to undermine everything in which he has ever placed his trust?

Review:
I do love a book that engages my brain as well as my emotions and that is certainly what R.J. Ellory delivers in his latest outing.

In a book that’s chock full of fascinating characters, the author takes us on a ride that at first feels like an ordinary murder mystery, but which takes on much more deeper meaning the further you are driven into the story.

Through a clever plot, ‘Carnival of Shadows’ introduces fascinating themes of trust, belief and the common man versus his ruling authorities. We live in a much more savvy time, where only the naïve truly think that governments act solely with our interests at heart. And by setting the story in a time where such thoughts were all but treasonous, Ellory gives this element of the book a greater significance. It also allows him to deliver hints about the early days of the FBI and its enigmatic architect, J. Edgar Hoover.

Michael Travis is a character you will want to get to the bottom of and the mysterious Doyle is surely one of the most charismatic characters the author has ever committed to print. As usual with R.J. we have an all but flawless sense of time and place and he even manages to inject his prose and dialogue with a feel for the age. One could almost believe that this book was written during the 50’s.

So, you have a heady mix of mystery, the ordinary man against governmental forces and a book in which you are never quite able to work out what is going to happen next. What’s not to love?

Reviewed by: M.M.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Shuichi Yoshida - Parade

"I found the whole effect astonishing."

Synopsis:
This is a tale of four young people who occupy a flat in Tokyo. The narration is shared between each of them and as the story slowly unfolds we hear more about each of the flatmates from individual points of view. It provides a very modern view of Tokyo from the viewpoint of very modern characters. They have ended up living together through chance but manage to rub along quite well together. They are joined by a younger boy who earns his living in dubious circumstances in another part of Tokyo and even he is tolerated by the flatmates.

One girl stays at home waiting for her famous boyfriend to ring, one boy is a student who makes a little extra money. One girl is obsessed with her drawings and hangs out in gay bars at night, getting very drunk. The most sensible of them all has a high powered job as a television executive. Each is very isolated and lonely although going through the motions of communal living. Concern is raised locally about some vicious attacks in the area and one of the girls is convinced that it has something to do with one of their neighbours.

Review:
The description of the characters and of their lives is beautifully done. I totally enjoyed the clever way in which the series of crimes that have been committed were revealed. I found the whole effect astonishing. I felt I was reading a descriptive novel until gradually I realised that each of the flatmates was hiding something and the final denouement was a surprising and satisfying twist. So much so that I felt I wanted to go back and read it again just to see the pointers I had missed along the way.

‘Parade’ is miles away from your average run of the mill detective novel and relies heavily on the psychological interplay between the characters. I loved it. It repaid the slow start.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Henning Mankell - An Event in Autumn

"...for those completists out there who love this series."

Synopsis:
Wallander is looking for a home in the country. Martinson is arranging to sell a place that belongs to a family member and gives Wallander the keys to have a look round. After inspecting the house, Wallander discovers a hand coming up through the soil in the back garden. Soon the deserted house is a hive of activity as the police unearth the skeleton of a woman. But the house has not given up all its secrets just yet as Wallander begins a journey down in to the past.

Review:
For those gasping for one more shot of Wallander, here is a short novella featuring everyone’s favourite Swedish detective. Mankell has long been revered as the ‘Godfather’ of Scandinavian crime and having claimed that he has written his last Wallander, fans may be pleased with this final, albeit slim, outing. Written many years ago, this case isn’t labyrinthine in nature but there is still the same murmur of the old cantankerous man who is being led kicking and screaming in to old age. Wallander is your proverbial miserable old sod, but that makes him more human and in a strange way endearing. So, reading a Wallander novel is a bit like inviting your dad round for dinner and listening to him moan and grumble. You roll your eyes but still have a sliver of love for the curmudgeonly old so and so. The resolution of the case won’t blow your socks off but this is certainly for those completists out there who love this series. For newbies, I would suggest one of his novels as this may disappoint.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Susan Hill - The Soul of Discretion

"...the phrase 'page-turner' could have been invented for this novel. "

Synopsis:
The cathedral town of Lafferton seems idyllic, but in many ways it is just like any other place. As part of the same rapidly changing world, it shares the same hopes and fears, and the same kinds of crime, as any number of towns up and down the land.

DCS Simon Serrailler is called in by Lafferton's new Chief Constable, Kieron Bright and is met by four plain clothes officers. He is asked to take the lead role in a complex, potentially dangerous undercover operation and must leave town immediately, without telling anyone - not even his girlfriend Rachel, who has only just moved in with him.

Meanwhile, Simon's sister Cat is facing difficult choices at work that will test her dedication to the NHS. But an urgent call about her and Simon's father, Richard, soon presents her with a far greater challenge much closer to home.

To complete his special op, Simon must inhabit the mind of the worse kind of criminal. As the op unfolds, Lafferton is dragged into the sort of case every town dreads - and Simon faces the fight of his life.

Review:
The Simon Serrailler novels are in a league of their own; literate, detailed and full of drama - they stand head and shoulders above the majority of crime novels. This is the eighth novel in the series and is the darkest and most disturbing yet. It is also the best.

Susan Hill is a top class writer with a huge back catalogue of great literature before she turned her hand to crime fiction. I am sure this experience gives the Serrailler books their edge. The stories she tells in just over three hundred pages would take a lesser writer five hundred.

‘The Soul of Discretion’ is a meaty, chilling psychological novel. The subject is extremely dark and sensitive and could have been voyeuristic but Hill's deep characters, knowledge of the genre, and natural story-telling prowess make this a stunning tour de force.

The pace is break-neck and the phrase 'page-turner' could have been invented for this novel. The final pages will leave you with your heart in your mouth and the ending is sublime. This is a real series changer of a novel and book nine will be very different for the main players. More like this please and very, very soon.

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Chelsea Cain - One Kick

" I will be interested in reading further books as I am not totally sure how Kick and Bishop can develop..."

Synopsis:
Famously kidnapped at age six, Kick captured America’s hearts when she was rescued five years later. Now, twenty-one, she finds herself unexpectedly entangled in a missing child case that will put her talents to the test.

Trained as a marksman, lock picker, escape artist and bomb maker by her abductor, Kick could not return to the life of the average young girl after her release. So, in lieu of therapy, she mastered martial arts, boxing, and knife throwing; learned how to escape from the trunk of a car, jimmy a pair of handcuffs, and walk without making a sound - all before she was thirteen.

Kick has trained herself to be safe. But then two children go missing in three weeks, and an enigmatic and wealthy former weapons dealer approaches her with a proposition. John Bishop uses his fortune and contacts to track down missing children. Not only is he convinced Kick can help recover the two children—he won’t take no for an answer.

With lives hanging in the balance, Kick is set to be the crusader she has always imagined herself. Little does she know that the answers she and Bishop seek are hidden in one of the few places she doesn’t want to navigate - the dark corners of her mind.

Review:
Cain has created new characters for her new series of books featuring Kick. As the characters in her previous series, Archie and Gretchen, had run their course, I was relieved to see that they had finally been put to rest and the author was using new characters.

Whilst the story initially had me interested, somehow I felt as a whole it didn’t completely work. Kick (the name itself didn't appeal) had devoted herself to trying to locate children who had been abducted by paedophiles as Kick herself had been abducted when she was younger. I did struggle to understand Kick's affection for a man who had kidnapped and abused her for many years.

I felt that the plot had many good points but it seemed slightly rushed and not completely thought through as I have been left with many unanswered questions. I will be interested in reading further books as I am not totally sure how Kick and Bishop can develop further in future books without much of the story becoming repetitive. For me, ‘One Kick’ was a good book to read, but felt it missed a lot of its potential.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Linwood Barclay - No Safe House

"...Linwood Barclay can tell a cracking good story..."

Synopsis:
Seven years ago, Terry Archer and his family experienced a horrific ordeal which nearly cost them their lives. Today, the echoes of that fateful night are still audible. Terry's wife, Cynthia, is living separate from her husband and daughter after her own personal demons threatened to ruin her relationship with them permanently. Their daughter, Grace, is rebelling against her parents' seemingly needless overprotection. Terry is just trying to keep his family together. And the entire town is reeling from the senseless murder of two elderly locals.

But when Grace foolishly follows her delinquent boyfriend into a strange house, the Archers must do more than stay together. They must stay alive: because now they have all been unwillingly drawn into the shadowy depths of their seemingly idyllic hometown.

They will be reconnected with the man who saved their lives seven years ago, but who still remains a ruthless, unrepentant criminal. They will encounter killers for hire working all sides. And they will learn that there are some things people value much more than money, and will do anything to get it.

Caught in a labyrinth between family loyalty and ultimate betrayal, Terry must find a way to extricate his family from a lethal situation he still doesn't fully comprehend. All he knows is that to live, he may have to do the unthinkable.

Review:
Following on from ‘No Time For Goodbye’ published in 2008, characters Cynthia, Terry and their daughter Grace return. The first book was a real page turner and saw Barclay at his best. I felt Barclay was so determined to use these characters again that he was clutching at straws with the plot.

Cynthia's past seems to determine her current controlling behaviour of her daughter which after a while becomes somewhat tiring. She is a controlling, tiresome person who elicits very little sympathy. Cynthia and Terry somehow get drawn into a ring of criminal activity through the unwitting actions of their daughter.

There is a large cast of characters, so large that at times it is easy to get lost and I had to re-read parts to remind myself as to who fitted in where. There is a pivotal piece of information that is not revealed until the end, which is so circumstantial and also very unreliable, that to write a story around it felt very weak and ruined the book for me.

For all its faults, Linwood Barclay can tell a cracking good story, and can make you turn those pages at full pelt! Sadly, ‘No Safe House’ is not up there with his best.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating: