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Reviews

July 2015

Stuart Neville - Those We Left Behind

"...a multi-stranded haunting read..."

Synopsis:
When 12-year-old Ciaran Devine confessed to murdering his foster father it sent shock waves through the nation.

DCI Serena Flanagan, then an ambitious Detective Sergeant, took Ciaran's confession after days spent earning his trust. He hasn't forgotten the kindness she showed him - in fact, she hasn't left his thoughts in the seven years he has been locked away.

Probation officer Paula Cunningham, now tasked with helping Ciaran re-enter society, suspects there was more to this case than the police uncovered. Ciaran's confession saved his brother Thomas from a far lengthier sentence, and Cunningham can see the unnatural hold Thomas still had over his vulnerable younger brother.

When she brings her fears to DCI Flanagan, the years of lies begin to unravel, setting a deadly chain of events in motion.

Review:
When reading a book about child killers it's very difficult not to think about real life cases that have made the news. I was particularly reminded of the two boys who killed Jamie Bulger while reading 'Those We Left Behind'. Child murderers are a very sensitive subject and needs to be handled carefully in order to create a sense of realism and not be voyeuristic. Stuart Neville has written a chilling and disturbing novel yet has kept sensitivity as his by-word throughout.

Meet crime fiction's latest protagonist, DCI Serena Flanagan. She is returning to work after a successful battle with breast cancer and is presented with the release of a child killer she sent to prison seven years ago. Serena is a hard working detective who puts work before anything else. She's flawed and likeable and will try any trick she knows to solve a case - no matter how unorthodox. I like her. 'Those We Left Behind' is the first in a planned new series and I shall definitely be reading the next one.

Along with Serena Flanagan, Neville has also created a well-rounded character in probation officer Paula Cunningham. I sincerely hope she returns in further novels. There are plenty of stories she can tell. What makes Neville a standout author is his genuine storytelling. He writes from the heart which is why he can tackle such difficult subjects. Every chapter, every page is beautifully handled, expertly researched and brilliantly written.

'Those We Left Behind' is a multi-stranded haunting read; a true page turner from beginning to end that I found very difficult to put down.

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

M.J. Carter - The Infidel Stain

"I have no hesitation in recommending this book."

Synopsis:
London 1841: Erstwhile colleagues in arms, Jeremiah Blake and William Avery are reunited in London at the request of Viscount Allington, a noted philanthropist and activist in the cause of the poor of London and devout evangelical Christian. William Avery has escaped from family problems in Devon and comes to the London of the mid-nineteenth century and is in awe of the changes he sees since his last visit. He meets up again with Jeremiah Blake who consorts with the poor and downtrodden and in doing so acquires a great deal of knowledge of the goings on in the underworld and also polite society.

Lord Allington is concerned that vicious murders that have taken place in the poorest part of London and have not been properly investigated by the new police, successors to the Bow Street Runners. He employs Blake and Avery as strong minded and impartial investigators to find out what is happening. Underlying his concern is the worry that the growing support for the Chartist movement will threaten the stability of the state.

Blake and Avery take on the case and soon become involved with the lives of the poor printer families whose lives have been affected by the vicious murders of their breadwinners. As they investigate further, the two learn about the trade in sexually explicit literature and the money that can be made from it. The members of high society who are involved, but need to hide the fact become an important factor in solving the case.

Review:
I loved the wonderful portrayal of the grime and sleaze of the London at this particular time, together with the exciting innovations and energy of the big city. Avery's reaction to this is a brilliant way of highlighting what it must have been like. The involvement of the great and the good in the underworld and the sexually explicit behaviour is reminiscent of the present time. At least nowadays the facts are being believed even if they weren't twenty years ago.

The partnership of Blake and Avery echoes that of Holmes and Watson. Blake is the omniscient one with all the answers: Avery is the innocent abroad, but with a bit of muscle thrown in. Together they are an intriguing pair. This is an excellent book, combining the intriguing and atmospheric historical detail with a gripping story line. I have no hesitation in recommending this book.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Margery Allingham - The Crime at Black Dudley

"...Allingham was extremely good at keeping suspense going to keep her reader enthralled. "

Synopsis:
Dr. George Abbershaw and a group of London's brightest things are invited to an ancient pile called Black Dudley. It is during this weekend that a murder takes place amongst the great stone staircases and unlit recesses. This is the start of a case that will have the good doctor uncover a dark plot that finds the guests prisoners against their will. But there is a light amongst the dark – and his name is Albert Campion.

Review:
This is Allingham's first novel which, although featuring Albert Campion does not hand him the starring role – that falls to Dr. George Abbershaw. It is well documented that Allingham did not mean for Campion to have a recurring role, much less become such a mainstay in all her detective novels. Here, Campion is far more childish than in subsequent novels. Allingham was still to give Campion a 'devil-may-care' attitude, but it was toned down compared to this original incarnation.

The 'villainous plot' is typical Allingham and the cast are literally scrabbling around in the dark as to what is going on and although it may feel dated to some, Allingham was extremely good at keeping suspense going to keep her reader enthralled. This title, for some reason, has been out of print for a while, but now fans can now again enjoy Campion's 'birth' as it were. For those who have not read Allingham before, this is a great way of being introduced to the detective who was to accompany Allingham for the rest of her life.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

David Mark - Taking Pity

"If it wasn't for work, eating and sleeping I would have devoured this novel in one sitting."

Synopsis:
DS Aector McAvoy has lost the war against the powerful criminal enterprise tightening its grip on Hull. His house lies in rubble, he has been labelled a Jonah, and his wife and daughter are in protective custody. He does not want people's pity. He wants his life back.

DCI Colin Ray has lost the one thing he could be proud of: his rank. Suspended due to his errors in the investigation into the ruthless network, he grows consumed by his rage towards its elusive figurehead. He does not want people's pity. He wants his revenge.

DS Trisha Pharaoh is losing battles on every front - her marriage; her lifestyle; her unit. But above all, she is struggling to cope with the knowledge she has failed the one officer she holds in the highest esteem. She does not want people's pity. She wants to put things right.

When McAvoy is assigned to due diligence groundwork on a 1960s murder case, Pharaoh hopes it will at least provide a welcome distraction from his woes. Yet this fifty-year-old trail, rather than taking McAvoy into the distant past, will propel him into a dark, deadly present; and eventually bring him, Pharaoh, and Ray face to face with a nemesis that takes no chances, no prisoners, and no pity.

Review:
The last David Mark novel, 'Sorrow Bound', ended on a cliff-hanger. Fans of DS Aector McAvoy, of which I am one, have had to wait an entire year to find out what happens next; who lives and who dies. Was it worth the wait? Too bloody right it was.

I thought 'Sorrow Bound' was a fast-paced page-turner; but 'Taking Pity' has smoke coming from it! If it wasn't for work, eating and sleeping I would have devoured this novel in one sitting. For the next book in Mark's series I think I'll lock myself in the cupboard under the stairs with a pot of strong coffee until I'm finished.

David Mark has created, not just a brilliant protagonist in DS Aector McAvoy, but a whole cast of well-rounded individuals; Colin Ray and Trisha Pharoah are wonderful characters. Together they make a great team. It's important to like your main character; it's a bonus to like them all but that's what Mark has achieved and that's what makes his novels so richly entertaining.

'Taking Pity' features some of the dangerous and most violent villains in crime fiction. The finale is frighteningly dark and full of action. It sets up book five nicely but doesn't leave you tearing your hair out like 'Sorrow Bound' did.

Set in Hull, David Mark has used the city as a character in its own right, and does for East Yorkshire what Ian Rankin has done for Edinburgh. You don't need to have read book three to read this fourth novel in the series as Mark manages to fill you in nicely. If this is your first David Mark novel treat yourself to his previous three and spend a few days in the cupboard under the stairs. You won't regret it.

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Ben Cheetham - Justice for the Damned

"...Cheetham pulls no punches..."

Synopsis:
Thirty years of fear. Thirty years of closed minds. It is all about to change.

A Sheffield prostitute has disappeared. With no family to fight for her, she's just the latest in a long line of missing girls stretching back three decades. Nobody cares about their names. Nobody remembers their faces. They are the unloved, the damaged, the forgotten, the damned...

Amongst the women working South Yorkshire's streets, rumours of a serial killer have long circulated. But the police's top brass don't want to know about it. Talk of serial killers panics the public and embarrasses the department. But two very different detectives, each driven by their own dangerous obsessions, are being drawn into a murky world of perversion, murder, and corruption that stretches from the streets to the corridors of power.

Review:
Ben Cheetham's third novel in the Steel City series is a raw, disturbing and utterly compelling story. It begins with a tense home invasion and the pace doesn't let up until the final pages.

Cheetham has created a dark world of prostitution, corrupt politicians, and crooked detectives to give this story the challenging and shocking edge it needs. There are some very disturbing scenes in this book and Cheetham could easily have slipped into voyeurism and 'torture-porn', but he has skilfully managed to keep a reign on the violence to keep the book from being unreadable - although you may want to sleep with the lights on after reading the chapter with the pigs.

There are very few characters to like in this novel. Everyone seems to have ulterior motives, double crossing others, and satisfying their own greed, but Jim Monahan is a lone wolf to root for.

The finale is set up incredibly well, and with so many deviant and corrupted characters to get their come-uppance the ending and payoff is well written and perfectly justifiable.

Ben Cheetham pulls no punches and is carving himself a fine niche in gritty Northern crime fiction. I look forward to book four with anticipation and a slight fear for what nightmare he'll come up with next.

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Matt Hilton - The Devil's Anvil

"...a fantastic novel which is a welcome addition to an excellent series."

Synopsis:
Accepting the task of protecting Billie Womack is a no-brainer for ex-counterterrorist soldier Joe Hunter, but it comes with its own set of complications.

Billie's husband, Richard, stole thirty million dollars from some violent people. He apparently died in a car crash with Billie's daughter, Nicola, during a desperate attempt to elude his pursuers. But his enemies don't believe him dead. They think he escaped the plunge into the icy river that killed Nicola and has now decided to come back for the money. If he's alive, they believe he'll contact Billie.

It doesn't take long for the bad guys to arrive at her remote farmhouse. Soon she and Joe are fugitives. Dead or alive, Richard's fate means nothing to Hunter, but he promises to do everything in his power to protect the grieving mother. If it means taking a bullet for her, it's a price he'll pay.

It's a pledge he will come to regret, as he learns that killers are forged on the Devil's anvil.

Review:
Sometimes when an author reaches the tenth book in a series, a certain amount of 'punching the clock' can creep into their work as they try to maintain a previously successful formula with a series character. Thankfully Hilton is not one of these authors. Instead he breathes fresh life into his characters and their narratives with his tight plotting and top-notch characterisation.

Some of the twists caught me cold while the story progressed at an ever-increasing pace. The way the author manages to weave action and intrigue so tightly together is nothing short of sublime.

While there is nothing new for me to say about Joe Hunter, I loved Hilton's portrayal of Billie Womack and the Jaeger brothers. To sum up, I'd have to say 'The Devil's Anvil' is a fantastic novel which is a welcome addition to an excellent series.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Sharon Bolton - Little Black Lies

"...definitely a contender for my best novel of 2015"

Synopsis:
In such a small community as the Falkland Islands, a missing child is unheard of. In such a dangerous landscape it can only be a terrible tragedy, surely...

When another child goes missing, and then a third, it's no longer possible to believe that their deaths were accidental, and even the villagers must admit there is a murderer among them. Even Catrin Quinn, a damaged woman living a reclusive life after the accidental deaths of her two sons, gets involved in the searches and the speculation. In this wild and beautiful place that generations have called home, no one feels safe and the hysteria begins to rise.

But three islanders - Catrin, her childhood best friend, Rachel, and her ex-lover Callum - are hiding terrible secrets - and they have two things in common: all three of them are grieving, and none of them trust anyone, not even themselves.

Review:
I am a big fan of Sharon Bolton's Lacey Flint series but I have to confess that I've read none of her standalone psychological thrillers. 'Little Black Lies' is my first; it won't be my last. In fact I'm about to place an order for her previous three standalone books. If they are half as good as this one I'm in for a treat.

'Little Black Lies' is an original concept. In three parts it tells the story of missing children from the perspective of three main characters; Catrin, Callum, and Rachel. We experience the raw emotions of their past and how it has an effect on their involvement with the missing children, and each part reaches a shocking crescendo. Bolton has researched the Falkland Islands and uses the barren landscape and its war torn history perfectly to mirror the stark storyline of child abduction and grief.

As with her Lacey Flint series Sharon Bolton has created well-rounded characters, who could be your next door neighbours, and throws them into a nightmare situation. It's watching ordinary people dealing with the horrors of grief, abduction, murder, and revenge that Bolton excels at, making her a unique voice in British crime fiction.

I loved the individual voices of the three main characters and how their lives crashed together. As the story unfolded and we reached the shocking scenes in the police station towards the end, I found myself holding my breath as confessions were revealed. The final page is definitely a shocker and will stay in the memory for a long time to come.

I hope we get more Lacey Flint stories in the future but based on 'Little Black Lies' I want more standalone thrillers, too. This is a must read and definitely a contender for my best novel of 2015.

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Duane Swierczynski - Canary

"...lean, whip-smart funny, hugely engaging and has a narrative drive that demands you turn the next page..."

Synopsis:
Sarie Holland is a good kid - an Honors student who doesn't even drink. So when a narcotics cop busts her while she's doing a favour for a friend, she has a lot to lose.

Desperate to avoid destroying her future, Sarie agrees to become a CI - a confidential informant. Armed only with a notebook, she turns out to be as good at catching criminals as she is at passing tests. But it's going to take more than one nineteen-year-old to clean up Philadelphia. Soon Sarie is caught in the middle of a power struggle between corrupt cops and warring gangs, with nothing on her side but stubbornness and smarts.

This is bad news for both the police and the underworld because when it comes to payback, CI #137 turns out to be a very fast learner.

Review:
Are you a fan of modern thrillers? Read this guy? If you haven't – have a word with yourself, cos this guy is as good as they come. The writing is lean, whip-smart funny, hugely engaging and has a narrative drive that demands you turn the next page, and the next page and the … need I go on?

The main character is a gem. We know that she's smart from the off. She's an Honors student, right? But what we learn very quickly is that she's also street smart. Put her in a difficult situation and she'll quickly work out a way to come out of it on top and intact. But Swiercynski, being the talented writer that he is, tests this resilience to the maximum, pulling you, the reader along breathlessly as you pray that Sarie continues to triumph in some pretty impossible situations.

I don't know why this author isn't better known this side of the pond. He's as good as any big-name thriller writer out there – indeed, better than most. If there's any justice, 'Canary' will be his break out book in the UK market. Go buy it already!

Reviewed by: M.M.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Caro Ramsay - The Tears of Angels

"...a taut thriller which has a series of twists Chubby Checker would be proud of."

Synopsis:
A few days before the summer solstice a 92-year-old woman is found burned to death in her home. On the same day, a man's mutilated corpse is discovered in a field, his arms ripped from their sockets, a Tarot card depicting The Fool inserted in his mouth.

When the victim is identified as someone for whom the police have been looking for almost a year, detectives Anderson and Costello find themselves caught up in a case where nothing is as it seems. Was the dead man really responsible for three child murders? And what is the connection with the death of the elderly woman?

The investigation leads to the tranquil shores of Loch Lomond where Anderson and Costello will finally uncover the shocking truth.

Review:
With 'The Tears of Angels', Caro Ramsay has penned a taut thriller which has a series of twists Chubby Checker would be proud of. From first page to last, I was kept guessing as to the identity of the killer. For the record, I guessed one twist, suspected another and was blindsided by a third which dispelled any feelings of smugness. Throughout the book, the plotting was sublime with lots of development and more than enough pace to keep the pages turning.

Ramsay's writing is thoroughly dark, yet there are lighter moments where she shows a keen sense of humour to alleviate the bleaker, more horrific moments. Costello is her favourite mouthpiece for these asides and comments and as such I was drawn more to her than to Anderson. There's nothing fundamentally wrong with him as a character, it's just that for my taste, Costello's star shines brightest. The other characters were all ably drawn, but from the supporting cast it was Daisy who most appealed.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Tod Goldberg - Gangsterland

"...well-written, lucid and a real page-turner..."

Synopsis:
Sal Cupertine is the man The Family hires in Chicago if they want someone disposed of. He is a professional - he kills quickly and without pain, and leaves no clues. But eventually he makes one mistake, when he takes out three FBI agents in a Chicago hotel. The FBI won't stand for this, of course, but The Family takes care of its own, and Sal finds himself in Las Vegas with a new face and a new identity - Rabbi David Cohen.

Sal, however, has a wife and child back in Chicago. And he has discovered a racket in human body parts in which his synagogue is involved. Not only that, a rogue FBI agent called Jeff Hopper is closing in on him. Will he get to him? And if so, who will kill whom?

Review:
Sal Cupertine is an amoral, cold bloodied killer, yet for most of this book, we are rooting for him. It is a dark romp more than a cold-hearted take on violence and death, though people are routinely bumped off throughout the story. Goldberg, at the end of the book, acknowledges the help he has received in his researches, but there is so much more than research involved in the telling of this tale. Are his descriptions of the workings of the Mafia and the FBI accurate? Or has he delved deep into his imagination at certain points?

And the thing is - it doesn't matter. It seems realistic, and you are driven along by the sheer plausibility of the plot. There is humour here as well - though not of the laugh out loud variety. 'Gangsterland' is well-written, lucid and a real page-turner, which I greatly enjoyed.

Reviewed by: J.G.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Gunnar Staalesen - We Shall Inherit the Wind

"This Norwegian private investigator is a welcome addition to crime fiction."

Synopsis:
1998. Private investigator Varg Veum sits by the hospital bedside of his long-term girlfriend Karin, whose life-threatening injuries provide a deeply painful reminder of the mistakes he has made.

Investigating the seemingly innocent disappearance of a wind-farm inspector, Varg Veum is thrust into one of the most challenging cases of his career, riddled with conflicts, environmental terrorism, religious fanaticism, unsolved mysteries, and dubious business ethics. Then, in one of the most heart-stopping scenes in crime fiction, the first body appears.

Review:
If there is one thing missing from the world of crime fiction it's a well written private detective. For some reason they don't seem to be written any more. Thanks to Gunnar Staalesen we now have a very human and very likeable detective in Varg Veum. Staalesen seems to have channelled his inner Raymond Chandler to deliver a tightly wound plot with plenty of misdirection and a prose that reads with elegance and crackles with dramatic tension.

The opening is subtle yet memorable. The rest of the book is the events leading up to the opening. This gives an underlying dark edge to the already tense story. Staalesen knows how to ensnare the reader, and the first murder will linger in the memory long after the final page.

The finale is unexpected, shocking, and incredibly sad. I hope the rest of the books in the Varg Veum series are soon translated into English. This Norwegian private investigator is a welcome addition to crime fiction.

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Neil White - The Death Collector

"...a fantastically paced thriller which had me engrossed from the first line."

Synopsis:
Joe Parker is Manchester's top criminal defence lawyer and Sam Parker - his brother - is a brilliant detective with the Greater Manchester Police force. Together they must solve a puzzling case that is chilling Manchester to the bone.

Danger sometimes comes in the most unexpected guises. The Death Collector is charming, sophisticated and intelligent, but he likes to dominate women, to make them give themselves to him completely; to surrender their dignity and their lives. He's a collector of beautiful things, so once he traps them he'll never let them go.

Joe is drawn into the Death Collector's world when he becomes involved in a supposed miscarriage of justice. When the case begins to get dangerous, Sam is the first person he turns to.

Review:
Sometimes we all need to stop the world and climb off for a while. Whenever I get like that, I scour Mount To-Be-Read in search of a book to soothe my tired brain while holding enough of my attention to keep me entertained while I retreat into myself until I feel human again. Having read Neil White's previous books, I knew I'd be in good hands.

Boy, did he deliver just what I needed. 'The Death Collector' is a fantastically paced thriller which had me engrossed from the first line. The plot weaves its way through a minefield of legal jiggery-pokery and was so wonderfully crafted that not only did I fail to guess the killer, but my guess was a long, long way away from being correct in any fashion.

Joe & Sam Parker are a fine pair of leads although for some reason I prefer Joe to Sam. This implies no fault on the part of author or character, it's merely a reflection of my own tastes. The supporting cast is beautifully assembled, with Carl Jex being the best of a very good bunch.

As you'd expect from a lawyer who writes, every word is chosen with care to progress the story while leaving a memory of characters or the scent of a well depicted scene.

If you are a fan of fast paced police thrillers you'd be a fool not to add this to your reading pile. It certainly brightened my day.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Mari Jungstedt - The Dangerous Game

"Her books are amazing reads."

Synopsis:
Jenny Levin is a beautiful young girl who has just set out on a whirlwind career as the latest new face in the modelling world. She is working on an important and luxurious shoot in a remote part of Gotland when the fashion photographer with whom she is romantically involved is the victim of a brutal assault.

Another native of the island caught up in the modelling world is Agnes, now suffering from Anorexia and in hospital. There are connections between the two, and others involved in the high profile modelling industry also come under attack.

Detective Inspector Anders Knutas has to tease out the relationships and find the motive for the attacks and ultimately the person responsible.

Review:
When I pick up one of Mari Jungstedt's books I know I am in for a treat. She is a writer who creates an exciting, beautifully plotted story with a cast of characters that develop from book to book. Jungstedt always creates a chilling and tense atmosphere that keeps you on the edge of your seat. The description of the Swedish landscape emphasises the threatening gloom.

I have loved and reviewed many of Jungstedt's books, so I feel I have said it all, really. All I can advise any reader of the crime fiction genre is to seek out this book and buy it. There are a host of good Scandinavian writers out there, but Mari Jungstedt is one of the best and I thoroughly recommend her. Her books are amazing reads.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Louise Welsh - Death is a Welcome Guest

"...a thrilling read on an epic scale."

Synopsis:
Magnus McFall was a comic on the brink of his big break when the world came to an end. Now, he is a man on the run and there is nothing to laugh about.

Thrown into an unwilling partnership with an escaped convict, Magnus flees the desolation of London to make the long journey north, clinging to his hope that the sickness has not reached his family on their remote Scottish island.

He finds himself in a landscape fraught with danger. This is a world with its own justice, and new rules - where people, guns and food are currency. Where survival is everything.

Review:
'Death is a Welcome Guest' is the second volume in Louise Welsh's Plague Times Trilogy. Her first, 'A Lovely Way to Burn', was an original tour de force as an illness known as 'the sweats' took hold and claimed lives in a chilling dystopian thriller. This second part shows the virus in full effect and the feral behaviour some people are reduced to in such difficult times.

While reading this I was reminded of the 1984 BBC drama 'Threads' about a nuclear attack on Sheffield. Watching that was shocking and frightening as you knew it could easily happen. Louise Welsh has tapped into the same sense of fear and written a gripping page turner. As the threat of nuclear attack was prevalent in the 1980s, with recent news stories about Ebola, SARS and Bird Flu, a mutated virus is our current fear. The story may be fictional but the threat, the fear, the horror is very real.

With a setting of such magnitude the crime almost plays second fiddle but it's an engrossing and exciting story with a conclusion you'll not see coming. In a lesser writer's hands a book about a deadly virus could have been over the top and ridiculous but Welsh has a natural ability for characterisation and story-telling. Welsh is a genre-defining writer to take an interest in; she smashes through the boundaries and creates her own rules.

Louise Welsh's trilogy is, so far, a thrilling read on an epic scale. The raw emotion as society crumbles and restlessness takes over is palpable on every page. It's very easy to lose yourself in this book and it almost makes you believe you're reading a true account. You'll definitely be keeping a close eye on the person sitting next to you on the bus when they sneeze.

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Mason Cross - The Samaritan

"...fast-paced and easy to read with lots happening on each page. "

Synopsis:
When the mutilated body of a young woman is discovered in the Santa Monica Mountains, LAPD Detective Jessica Allen knows she's seen this MO before - two and a half years ago on the other side of the country.

A sadistic serial killer has been operating undetected for a decade, preying on lone female drivers who have broken down. The press dub the killer 'the Samaritan', but with no leads and a killer who leaves no traces, the police investigation quickly grinds to a halt.

That's when Carter Blake shows up to volunteer his services. He's a skilled manhunter with an uncanny ability to predict the Samaritan's next moves. At first, Allen and her colleagues are suspicious. After all, their new ally shares some uncomfortable similarities to the man they're tracking. But as the Samaritan takes his slaughter to the next level, Blake must find a way to stop him even if it means bringing his own past crashing down on top of him.

Review:
Carter remains as elusive as he did in 'The Killing Season', Cross' debut novel. We still know little about Carter apart from him being ex-military, and that Carter Blake is not his real name.

Blake believes the killer is someone he knows from his past. However, Cross gives so little away about Blake's 'previous life' that I would have preferred to either been given more information Blake or for the killer to be a complete stranger and therefore not have anything to do with Blake's past. For me, it just didn't work as it wasn't one way or the other.

That said I still like the way Blake manages to get out of every corner he is backed into, can think on his feet, stays one step ahead of everyone and can disappear into thin air. Blake is both the hunter and the hunted in 'The Samaritan' which for a thriller is heavy going at over 500 pages, but it's fast-paced and easy to read with lots happening on each page. Not quite on par with his debut, but certainly no disappointment.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating: