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Dark Game by Rachel Lynch

51iT3GkUzaL._SY346_After leaving the Met, DI Kelly Porter has returned to the area of her youth – the Lake District. In a part of the world where crime tends to be minor, the detective takes on a cold case – the abduction and murder of ten-year-old Lottie Davies. Cumbria is not as quiet as it seems, however, and she soon finds herself embroiled in several cases including the death of a local businessman and human trafficking. Maybe life in the Lakes is going to prove to be just as, if not more, dangerous as London.

When I picture the Lake District, I think of beautiful landscapes, Beatrix Potter, walkers taking on the numerous mountains and a general air of peace and quiet. After reading Dark Game however, my image may just have been shattered! Who would have thought that Cumbria was such a hot bed of crime?! After returning from London, Kelly must have thought that she would have had an easier time of it, but this was definitely not to be!

Dark Game deals with some very dark subjects and, from the start, when local businessman Colin Day dies under rather bizarre circumstances, the scene is set. We soon realize that the hotel where he is staying is a front for something else and that it forms part of a much bigger criminal organisation. What follows is, at times, quite graphic but when you are dealing with prostitution, gangland crime and human trafficking, it is essential to the plot. Whilst I was reading, there were several occasions when I found myself totally despairing in how vile some humans can be, not least when illegal immigrants were being forced into fighting each other to the death.

One of the strengths of this book is the characterization. I found Kelly a likeable protagonist and felt that enough of her back story was shared to pique my interest. Like many lead detectives, she is a flawed character but I was pleased that her back story did not take precedence over the crime as this means that more can be revealed in a later book. Rachel Lynch has also done a fantastic job with how the criminals are portrayed. They were a particularly heinous lot and definitely made my skin crawl.

I really enjoyed Dark Game and think this could be the start of a fantastic new series.

With thanks to Canelo and Net Galley for my ARC.

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The Blood Card by Elly Griffiths

The year is 1953 and the coronation of the new queen is imminent. When the murder of Colonel Cartwright, the former wartime commander of DI Edgar Stephens and Max Mephisto, is discovered, they begin to wonder if this is another link to the shadowy Magic Men after a playbill containing the name of another deceased comrade is found amongst his possessions. With investigations into the death of fortune teller, Madame Zabini, and Max’s forthcoming TV appearance, Stephens has his work cut out when he fears an anarchist group is plotting to make the coronation go off with a bang…

The Blood Card is the third of the Stephens and Mephisto series and sees the pairing being forced to embrace the moving times. The invention and growth in popularity of the television has been worrying Max for a while, fearing that it will put an end to his career on the stage. He finally agrees to take part in a show and it is amusing to watch his distrust of the medium compared to the way Edgar’s mother has welcomed it into her home. Edgar, meanwhile, is experiencing something new himself by travelling to New York on an aeroplane. The huge chasm between England and America is revealed as the detective feels like a fish out of water in this strange, huge place.

The mystery is a complicated one as there are numerous characters who you know are going to be interlinked in some way or other. As in the style of a good magician, there is a lot of misdirection so that you are never quite sure which character is good and which is involved with one of the crimes. It was pleasing to read a book where I was still wondering who the criminals were towards the end.

I am still not taken with Edgar’s choice of fiancée, Ruby. Edgar seems to have a lot more invested in the relationship, whereas it feels as though Ruby sees him as a stopgap until fame and fortune comes beckoning. I think it would also suit Max if the  couple were to split up!

The Blood Card is another great read and I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Don’t Make a Sound by David Jackson

To the outside world, Malcolm and Harriet Benson seem like a normal couple. A visit to their house, however, might tell a different story as one of the bedroom doors has bolts secured to the outside of it. Not to keep people out, but to keep someone in – a girl called Daisy. Forced to call them ‘Mummy’ and ‘Daddy’, Daisy hasn’t seen her real parents since she was abducted three years ago. Now the Bensons have decided they would like a second daughter…

It may only be January but I’m sure that this is going to be one of the contenders for my book of the year! I had been eagerly anticipating the third book in the Nathan Cody series so was thrilled when I was sent a proof of Don’t Make a Sound ahead of it’s publication in May. My only regret now is that I read it so quickly, I feel slightly bereft that I no longer have it to look forward to!

From the very start of the book, I felt a tremendous amount of sympathy for Daisy, the girl who has spent the past three years isolated in a soundproofed room after being abducted. Terrified of upsetting her new ‘parents’ and fearful of the punishments that are doled out by Malcolm, she has adapted to her surroundings yet yearns to leave her prison. Old and wise beyond her years, she takes on the role of protector when another girl, Poppy, is brought to the room. It was heartbreaking to see how Daisy immediately took the blame when Poppy did something that would displease the Bensons to prevent her from feeling the full force of Malcolm’s anger.

Malcolm Benson is a truly loathsome character. He feels he is giving the girls a caring, loving home yet ‘achieves’ this by locking them in a room with no natural light and being a bit handy with a belt. Of course, everything is not black or white and, when we find out something about his past, it does make you think of him in a different way. His wife, Harriet, is a traditional downtrodden wife, desperate for a child of her own and someone who is fully reliant upon her husband. I did wonder what would have become of their captives had anything happened to Malcolm.

In the previous books in the series, we found out a lot about Nathan Cody’s past and how it is still affecting his life today. Although this is referenced in Don’t Make a Sound, his story takes a back seat for much of the book, the focus being placed firmly on the Bensons. As the story progresses, though, we get to see more of Cody albeit not in the way we would have hoped. It is up to DC Webley to use her instinct to solve the case and we really see her come into her own in this book.

I love a book where the author throws in a curve ball towards the end and there is definitely one here! In a book where you have one opinion throughout, David Jackson has succeeded in making you question everything you have read. It is impossible to say any more without spoiling the plot, but it is safe to say that I’m sure that many readers will experience the same shock as I did. I even had to go back and read several pages again to let it all sink in!

This series is fast becoming one of my favourites and I can’t wait to see what happens next to Nathan Cody and finding out whether the clowns return…

With thanks to Emily at Bonnier Zaffre for my ARC.

See my reviews for the first two Nathan Cody books here:

A Tapping at My Door

Hope to Die

 

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The Intruder by P. S. Hogan

William Heming is a trusted estate agent who has dealt with numerous house sales over the years. Each house he’s sold, however, he keeps a copy of the key and sometimes he visits them again. Waiting until the owners are out, he lets himself in and makes himself at home. He prides himself on the few times he’s nearly been caught but what will happen if he is ever found out? What will he do to stop his pastime from being uncovered?

If you live in a house that has once been owned by someone else, by the end of this book, you’ll be seriously considering having the locks changed! William Heming is your worst nightmare – an enemy you didn’t know you had! Hiding in plain sight, he visits your house, eats your food, sits on your sofa, looks through your most personal items… Definitely creepy!

The story is narrated by Heming and we first encounter him doing what could almost be described as a good turn for an elderly woman. This definitely lulled me into a false sense of security as I felt that he didn’t seem a bad character. How wrong I was! We first get an insight into his psychopathic tendencies when he discusses his early life. My opinion of him soon changed as he spoke about his misdemeanors, not showing an ounce of remorse for what he did. This attitude continued into his adult life as his crimes became more and more extreme, using his position as an estate agent as cover. As a result, I found myself disliking him more and more as the book progressed and willed him to get his comeuppance. You will have to read the book yourself, though, to see if this happens!

The Intruder is an intense, claustrophobic book with a detestable narrator but a compelling read nonetheless! Just keep looking over your shoulder…

With thanks to Rosie Margesson and Penguin Random House for my ARC.

Only Fools and Stories by David Jason

downloadIn his first book, David Jason told us about his life so far, from his time growing up at Lodge Lane, Finchley to the TV actor we all know and love today. In this, the follow-up, he tells us more about the characters he has portrayed from Granville in Open All Hours, Frost and not forgetting Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter from Only Fools and Horses.

I am a huge fan of David Jason and over the years I have loved his portrayal of some of the most iconic characters on British TV, my favourites being the aforementioned Del Boy and Detective Inspector Jack Frost. I’ve also always had a soft spot for Blanco from Porridge and was pleased to see him referenced in this book. Only Fools and Stories is a delightful behind-the-scenes look at all of these programmes featuring numerous tales that I had never heard before. It was satisfying to read about the genuine friendships that developed on Only Fools and Horses and I enjoyed the stories of practical jokes played on other members of the cast.

It was interesting to see how the different characters came about and his role in developing them. I was disappointed to read that there was potentially a Frost spin-off in the pipeline, featuring the retired detective as a private investigator, but that it never materialized. I would have loved to have watched Frost’s continuing development.

One of the things I enjoy about David Jason’s style of writing it that it is easy to imagine his voice as you read the words. This made it a very entertaining read and a perfect follow-on to this previous autobiography. I just hope that he continues to entertain us for years to come, providing him with enough material for a third autobiography.

Monthly Roundup: December 2017

I’ve managed to read a few more books than usual this month mainly due to it being the holidays and having time to do so! As well as several ARCs, I’m glad to have finally started on the Stephens and Mephisto series by Elly Griffiths – they’ve been on my TBR list for a while!

Books I’ve Read

The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths

I’m a big fan of The Ruth Galloway novels of Elly Griffiths and so it was high time that I started on her Stephens and Mephisto series. The first sees  a woman found murdered, her body dismembered in a way reminiscent of a magic trick known as ‘The Zig Zag Girl’. It soon becomes apparent that the murder, and others that follow, are linked to the detective’s exploits in World War Two. A great start to the series.

 

Everything is Lies by Helen Callaghan

When Sophia returns home to find her mother dead and her father seriously injured, a can of worms is opened that leads her to the conclusion that her parents were not the people she thought they were. With murder, a cult and paranoia, this is an intriguing book that definitely picks up pace as you read.

 

Last Cry by Anna-Lou Weatherley

The first in a new series sees Detective Dan Riley investigating the murder of a man in an exclusive London hotel. This is soon followed by another murder, Dan’s fears that there is a serial killer on the loose becoming reality. A great start to a new series.

 

Smoke and Mirrors by Elly Griffiths

The second in the Stephens and Mephisto series deals with the death of two young children found buried with a pile of sweets. The scene is reminiscent of the ‘Hansel and Gretel’ story and Detective Stephens wonders if their deaths are linked to the fairy tales that one of the victims so enjoyed writing about. A novel, entertaining read.

 

The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor

The year is 1986 and a group of young friends are forced to grow up quickly after a series of unsavoury events culminate in them finding a dismembered body in the woods. This dual time frame book looks like being one of the biggest hits of 2018 and is definitely one of the best books I have read recently.

 

In Her Footsteps by Ruth Harrow

When Harriet finally flees her abusive husband, Dan, and starts a new life in Coventry, all does not go according to plan when she starts to experience debilitating panic attacks. Just what is she hiding and why will she do anything to stop her secrets from being exposed? A great debut.

 

Blood Underground by Dan Waddell

It’s been some time since we read anything about the genealogist Nigel Barnes but he is finally back in this short story where he is assisting in an investigation into murders on the London Underground. It’s good to see Nigel back!

 

41odISkCAaLThe Intruder by P. S. Hogan

A deeply unnerving tale of an estate agent who keeps copies of the keys from all the houses he has sold and uses them to his advantage. This will definitely have you thinking about how many keys are in existence for your house…

 

Books I’ve Acquired

Newspaper reporter Alec Lonsdale discovers that a series of seemingly random murders may be connected in this absorbing historical mystery.

London, 1882. Alec Lonsdale, a young reporter on the Pall Mall Gazette, is working on a story about a fatal house fire. But the post-mortem on the victim produces shocking results: Patrick Donovan’s death was no accident. But why would someone murder a humble shop assistant and steal part of his brain?

When a second body is discovered, its throat cut, and then a third, Lonsdale and his spirited female colleague, Hulda Friederichs, begin to uncover evidence of a conspiracy that reaches to the highest echelons of Victorian society.

 

Kelly’s gut turned over as she realised the danger she was in. She heard no sirens. She knew that she was simply collateral. To these men who made a lot of money from the suffering of others, they’d have no problem snuffing her out.

After a scandal forces DI Kelly Porter out of the Met, she returns to her home turf in the Lake District. Crimes in the Cumbrian constabulary tend to be of the minor sort, but Kelly begins work on a cold case that shocked the local community – the abduction and brutal murder of ten-year-old Lottie Davies.

Meanwhile, Kelly is also investigating two seemingly straightforward crimes: a case involving an illegal immigrant, and a robbery following the death of local businessman Colin Day. But evidence comes to light that reveals a web of criminal activity beyond anything Kelly imagined. Behind the veneer of sleepy, touristy towns lies a dark and dangerous underworld. As Kelly threatens to expose those with much to lose, she risks paying the ultimate price to get to the truth…

 

You can’t choose your family. Or can you? 

Meet the Bensons. A pleasant enough couple. They keep themselves to themselves. They wash their car, mow their lawn and pass the time of day with their neighbours. And they have a beautiful little girl called Daisy.

There’s just one problem. Daisy doesn’t belong to the Bensons. They stole her.

And now they’ve decided that Daisy needs a little brother or sister.

D. S. Nathan Cody is about to face his darkest and most terrifying case yet . . .

 

downloadIn his first book David Jason told us about himself from his early years training as an electrician through to making it as one of Britain’s greatest actors.

This autumn, in a follow up autobiography, he tells us about the many other lives he has lived – his characters. From Del Boy to Granville, Pop Larkin to Frost, he takes us behind the scenes and under the skins of some of the best loved acts of his career.

And in the process he reflects on how those characters changed his life too. The result told with his characteristic charm and wit is both funny and poignant, honest and heart warming.

 

download (1)Frank Sinatra, The Beatles and The Who were all performing in the Queensway and Shepherds Bush areas of London in 1964-65, but in those same areas during the early hours a meticulous serial killer was stalking local prostitutes, dumping their naked bodies on the streets.

While London was famed for its trendy boutiques, groundbreaking movies and its Carnaby Street vibe, the reality included a huge street prostitution scene, a violent world that filled the magistrate s courts but rarely made headlines. Seven, possibly eight, women fell victim making this killer more prolific than Jack the Ripper, 77 years previously. His grim spree sparked the biggest police manhunt in history. But why did such a massive hunt fail? And why has such a traumatic case been largely forgotten today?

With shocking conclusions, one detective makes the astonishing new claim that all the original evidence from the crime scenes has been destroyed. Using secret police papers, crime reconstructions and interviews with contemporary police experts along with insights from the world s leading geographical profiler, Hunt for the 60s Ripper revisits this chilling case. What do modern experts say about the case today? And why did the leading detective, John du Rose, claim to know all along who the killer was? With links to figures from the vicious world of the Kray twins and the Profumo Affair, the case exposes the depraved underbelly of British society in the Swinging Sixties. An evocative and thought-provoking reinvestigation into perhaps the most shocking unsolved mass murder in modern British history.

51rTH32ECKL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_On the eve of the Queen’s coronation, DI Stephens and Max Mephisto uncover an anarchist plot and a ticking bomb at the same time as solving the murder of a man close to them – from the author of the bestselling Dr Ruth Galloway mysteries.

‘Mixes cosiness and sharpness in a way that recalls the best of Agatha Christie’ Sunday Express(on Smoke and Mirrors)

Elizabeth II’s coronation is looming, but the murder of their wartime commander, Colonel Cartwright, spoils the happy mood for DI Edgar Stephens and magician Max Mephisto. A playbill featuring another deceased comrade is found in Colonel Cartwright’s possession, and a playing card, the ace of hearts: the blood card. The wartime connection and the suggestion of magic are for Stephens and Mephisto to be summoned to the case.

Edgar’s ongoing investigation into the death of Brighton fortune-teller Madame Zabini is put on hold. Max is busy rehearsing for a spectacular Coronation Day variety show – and his television debut – so it’s Edgar who is sent to New York, a land of plenty worlds away from still-rationed England. He’s on the trail of a small-town mesmerist who may provide the key, but someone silences him first. It’s Edgar’s colleague, DS Emma Holmes, who finds the clue, buried in the files of the Zabini case, that leads them to an anarchist group intent on providing an explosive finale to Coronation Day.

Now it’s up to Edgar, Max and Emma to foil the plot, and find out who it is who’s been dealing the cards .

 

51DrGCRmNsL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Winter, 1953. A young flower seller is found dead in her room at a Brighton boarding-house, posed with chilling perfection into a recreation of the death of Lady Jane Grey. This is a killer unlike any DI Edgar Stephens has encountered before.

Across the city at the Hippodrome theatre, Max Mephisto is top of the bill in a double act with his daughter Ruby. Tarnishing the experience, though, is one of the other acts: a seedy ‘living tableaux’ show where barely-dressed women strike poses from famous historical scenes. Is the resemblance to the murder scene pure coincidence, or is life imitating art?

When another death occurs – this time within the troupe itself – Max once again finds himself involved in one of Edgar’s cases, and a threat that will come closer to home than anything before. What should be just a job is about to become personal.

 

Wishing you all a very happy new year  – here’s to some great new books due in 2018!

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2018 A to Z Reading Challenge

Although I’ve taken part in the Goodreads reading challenge for the past few years, I’ve never really embraced all of the other challenges that exist out there, so I’ve decided to rectify that! After much research into all the different challenges on a range of other blogs, the one that seemed to appeal the most was the A to Z Reading Challenge hosted by https://gingermomreads.com

So, over the next year, I aim to read a book beginning with each letter of the alphabet. I am already envisaging a bit of creativity that will be required for certain letters!

Wish me luck!

My Books of 2017

2017 has been another great year for books, both from returning authors and debut writers. In an attempt to try to choose my favourite ten, I looked back at my Goodreads ratings to look for all of my 5-star reviews. There were more than ten, so I’ve had to try to narrow it down even further! What follows are the books where the plot has stayed with me for one reason or another. In no particular order:

The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths

The Ruth Galloway series goes from strength to strength. This very topical book, dealing with the plight of the homeless, is extremely well-written and I can’t wait for the next book, The Dark Angel.

 

Hope to Die by David Jackson

A murder in the grounds of Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral sees the start of a brutal killing spree by a killer filled with hate. The second in the Nathan Cody series saw us finding out a bit more about the detective’s past and the ending set up the next book nicely.

 

Love Like Blood by Mark Billingham

I’ve loved all of the Thorne books but this is definitely one where the plot will remain with me for a long time. A very emotive book dealing with the taboo subject of honour killings, as usual Mark Billingham’s writing is perfect.

 

 

My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood

A very clever book where you don’t know what to believe. Is there something sinister going on or is it all the imaginings of a highly-medicated war reporter? This was a slow burner that became high-octane towards the end of the book with plenty of shocks along the way.

 

The Perfect Victim by Corrie Jackson

I absolutely loved this book despite it being the second in a series where I had not read the first. An incredibly twisty plot that completely messed with my head yet was never once confusing. I’d love to see this one made into a film.

 

 

Dying Games by Steve Robinson

The books about genealogist Jefferson Tayte just keep getting better and better and this one, I feel, was one of the best. A lot more fast-paced than some of the others, we find Jefferson  racing against the clock to stop a serial killer in his tracks. Very reminiscent of Robert Langdon!

 

The Stolen Girls by Patricia Gibney

The second in the Lottie Parker series is a harrowing, emotional read which firmly placed the detective amongst my favourite characters. Death, prostitution, people trafficking and organ harvesting – this book has it all!

 

 

Day of the Dead by Mark Roberts

Another series set in Liverpool, but this time with a brilliant female protagonist, DCI Eve Clay. Some years ago, a paedophile-killer escaped from prison and now it seems as though he is back as the killings have started again. This series has a touch of the macabre about them and are a thrilling read!

 

The Good Mother by Karen Osman

A very character-driven novel about how destructive a secret can be. Told from the perspectives of three women, there was a definite ‘eureka’ moment which totally blew me away. Thrilling and emotive in equal measures.

 

 

The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor

I toyed about putting this one in as it’s not actually published until January 2018 but it was so good that I had to! Set in the present day and in 1986, it is obvious that crimes have been committed in the past and a group of young friends are implicated in some way. This promises to be one of the books of 2018.

 

So there you have it! How many of these appear on your top ten?

In Her Footsteps by Ruth Harrow

Trapped in an abusive marriage to her husband Dan, Harriet longs for the day when she has enough money to be able to escape her living nightmare. After a particularly vicious attack, she finally summons up the courage to leave her old life for good, laden with just a suitcase and a box containing her secrets. Eighteen months later, and running her own art gallery in Coventry, to the outside world, life is good. Appearances can be deceiving, however, and plagued by anxiety and nightmares, even the prospect of a new relationship does not stop her from hiding in the shadows. Can she ever truly escape her past?

From the very start of the book, we are shown how we should not believe everything we see. To the outside world, Dan is a perfect husband but behind closed doors, he is abusive and controlling, his wife having to live her life exactly as he wants her to. Despite her being completely under his control and taking his beatings on a regular basis, Harriet is a strong woman and I admired her tenacity and forethought that would enable her to finally make a clean break from her life. The attack that finally pushes her to leave is a particularly brutal one and it was heartbreaking to think that, in real life, there are women who have to endure this.

Her life in Coventry seems perfect as she finally gets to put her art degree to good use. She even embarks on a relationship with a good-looking divorced man but this sets in motion a chain of events that seriously begin to threaten her sanity. Her new boyfriend seemed perfect, but at the same time, too perfect. I could not decide whether he was genuinely a nice guy or whether he was up to something. His ex-wife was not a particularly nice character and also helped to muddy the waters.

It soon becomes apparent that Harriet is hiding something from the past, something linked to her family. I really felt for her when she went to visit a therapist, desperate for help to stop the increasing amount of panic attacks she was experiencing but determined not to spill her secrets at the same time. When we do finally find out what her secret is, it was a genuine shocker and something I did not see coming. This completely changed the direction of the book and left me questioning everything I had already read.

This is a very clever book with a fascinating plot that became completely ‘unputdownable’ as it progressed. I was also very happy with the ending and felt that all questions had been answered. This is a great debut and I look forward to reading more of Ruth Harrow’s work.

With thanks to Ruth Harrow for the ARC.

About the Author

Ruth Harrow was born and raised in London and graduated from the University of Kent before embarking on an unfulfilling career as an accountant.

In 2016, she put pen to paper and drafted the first version of her debut psychological thriller, In Her Footsteps.

She lives in Colchester with her husband, two children and chocolate Labrador, Rolo.

 

 

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