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March 2017

Last Breath by Robert Bryndza

34368544When the body of a young woman is found, severely tortured, in a residential area dumpster, Detective Erika Foster is one of the first officers on the scene. Horrified by what she has seen, her need to solve the case is hindered by one major fact – it’s not her case to solve. Desperate to get involved, Erika unearths a link to the unsolved murder of another woman some months before. When a tragedy occurs at the station, she gets her wish and is soon trying to trace a killer who targets his prey on dating apps. With another woman missing, Erika knows time is running out before a third body is found.

Last Breath is the fourth of Robert Bryndza’s ‘Erika Foster’ books and we are now seeing a different side to the detective. Known primarily for her doggedness and her refusal to back down, there is now a vulnerability about her as she embarks on her first relationship since the death of her husband. While this does not affect her work, it is clear that she is suffering from a lot of internal conflict – should she allow herself to be happy or will this besmirch the memory of her much-loved husband?

The killer is a particularly brutal one, keeping his victims captive for several days, torturing them until he finally administers the fatal blow. Like many books of this genre, in some chapters we get to see the events from the point of view of the perpetrator. He undoubtedly had a horrible start to his life, but I found it hard to empathise due to the barbaric nature of his crimes. It certainly makes you think about how social media sites such as Facebook can be used for improper means and is another stark reminder of how people should be wary about how much information they share online.

Robert Bryndza’s books just keep getting better and, even though I’ve thoroughly enjoyed them all, I might have to stick my neck out and say this is my favourite so far! I read this one in a couple of sittings as I was unable to put it down! Hopefully book 5 is in the pipeline!

With thanks to Bookouture and Net Galley for the ARC.

Hope to Die by David Jackson

51BcZVVrpeL__SX324_BO1,204,203,200_It’s winter in Liverpool and the city is shocked when a woman is brutally attacked and murdered in the grounds of the world-renowned Anglican Cathedral. The victim, a local school teacher, seems to have led a perfect life… too perfect? This is the question DS Nathan Cody asks himself as he tries to unravel the motive behind what seems to be a completely unprovoked attack. Cody is also battling his own demons as an event from his past, once again, rears its ugly head, threatening his sanity. When the killer strikes again, the detective must try to hold it all together before more victims are found.

I was very late to the ‘Nathan Cody’ party, having only discovered David Jackson’s previous book, A Tapping at My Door, as a result of seeing so many bloggers rave about it. I, therefore, count myself lucky that I have not had to wait too long to read the sequel! Set, once again, in Liverpool, the author has used a mixture of real and fictional locations to create an atmospheric backdrop to a story about cold-blooded murder, childhood abuse and voyeurism. One location in particular, the entrance to St. James Cemetery (in the grounds of the Anglican Cathedral) evoked strong feelings for me personally, as I have passed through the tunnel on several occasions and each time have felt a feeling of uneasiness. After reading Hope to Die, those feelings will definitely be heightened! The title of the book is also very clever, Hope Street being the thoroughfare linking the two Liverpool cathedrals.

Hope to Die follows on from the previous book but it is not essential to have read it. It does, however, provide relevant information about the reason DC Webley is returning to work after a prolonged absence and also details the circumstances behind the PTSD that Cody is apparently suffering from. In this book, we see Cody becoming more and more on edge as events from earlier in his career come back to haunt him. These scenes are extremely well-written and, annoyingly, the author has left this particular story line hanging – ready to be picked up in the third book hopefully?! Without giving too much away, anyone with a clown phobia will be checking that their doors and windows are locked after reading this!

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book was that although we are dealing with a depraved killer, the author really has you sympathising with his plight as we discover his horrific upbringing. These interspersed chapters, written from the perspective of the killer as a young child, were incredibly emotional and, more than anything, I was willing someone to rescue him from his living nightmare. This was completely at odds with the rest of the book, where I hoped Cody would end his killing spree as quickly as possible!

Hope to Die is a well-written, action-packed book that you will not want to put down. A must read!

With thanks to Bonnier Zaffre and Net Galley for the ARC.

(Why not take a look at the piece I wrote about the setting of A Tapping at My Door, hosted on cleopatralovesbooks.wordpress.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Missing Man by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

61gMJQkjzYL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_After discovering the truth about his parentage, the time has finally arrived for forensic genealogist Morton Farrier to locate his biological father. The Missing Man takes him to the east coast of America to discover what exactly happened to Harley ‘Jack’ Jacklin after disappearing from the family home following a fatal fire. Knowing that his time in the States is limited, Morton faces a race against time before his father is lost forever.

Although this is a novella, Nathan Dylan Goodwin has managed to pack in an awful lot of story! The plot moves between three time frames, detailing the beginnings of Morton’s grandparents’ relationship, the lead up to and the repercussions of the fire and Morton’s search for his father. With so much jumping around in time, it could have been quite easy to become confused but the author has ensured that this does not happen and keeps you engrossed throughout.

In typical Morton Farrier style, he might be celebrating his marriage with a honeymoon in the USA, but you just know that much of his break is going to be spent on genealogical business! Never usually one to shy away from a difficult case, it was disheartening to see Morton come up against brick walls so it was good to see his new wife encouraging him not to give up. To find out if he does find his missing man, you’ll have to read the book! I will say, though, that it was nice to see Mr Farrier not having to protect himself from people trying to stop his research!

One of the things I like the most about Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s writing is his accurate use of genealogy resources, both online and in record offices. As a genealogist, I find the research side fascinating and I found it interesting to see how Morton applied his UK research skills in the records of another country.

For any fans of other genealogical fiction authors, I highly recommend Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s Morton Farrier books. I look forward to the next full-length installment!

 

 

Blood Tide by Claire McGowan

51GRMUtXmDLWhen a young couple disappear on the ominously named Bone Island, forensic psychologist, Paula Maguire braves the treacherous weather to investigate. The case is bittersweet for Paula as it stirs up memories of the last family holiday she had with her long-lost mother. It is soon obvious that ‘outsiders’ are not welcome, with people reluctant to share information about the fate of the couple. With the storm not abating, Paula has a decision to make – should she return back to her daughter on the mainland and leave the case unsolved or risk being trapped on an island with a killer on the loose?

One of my favourite films is The Wicker Man where an ‘outsider’ is lured to a bizarre island in order to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. It was the similarity to this plot that first attracted me to Blood Tide and, after reading it, there are definitely parallels!

One of the things I enjoyed most about Blood Tide was the description of the island – indeed, the island became more of a character than a setting. The author has created an incredibly atmospheric backdrop to the story and it is easy to imagine the desolate landscape that is being terrorised by the unforgiving storm. At times, I felt like screaming at Paula to get off the island, such is the sense of foreboding. Of course, she doesn’t though, and what follows is the discovery of a conspiracy of silence that threatens the life of the forensic psychologist herself.

I would not describe Blood Tide as a fast-paced read, but more of a slow burner that really gets inside your head. Throughout the book, I developed many theories as to what had happened to the missing couple and I was pleased that some of them were correct. I liked the leading character and could really empathise with her plight as she tried to uncover the truth regardless of her own personal safety.

The only problem I had with this book was that I hadn’t realised that it was the fifth in a series. This meant that I had to try to figure out Paula’s backstory in addition to following the missing people story line. This is by no means a criticism – just a slight disappointment that I’ve missed  out on the other books and that I have inevitably come across quite a few spoilers!

With thanks to Headline and Net Galley for the ARC.

The Bat by Jo Nesbo

41bCxzTsx9LWhen a young Norwegian girl on a gap year is found brutally murdered in Sydney, Australia, Detective Harry Hole is sent from Norway to assist with the investigation. It soon transpires that this is not an isolated incident as the case is linked to a series of murders and disappearances across the country. It’s not long before Harry finds himself more involved in the case than he ever imagined.

Having dabbled with some of Jo Nesbo’s books in the past, I decided that it was time to start reading them from the start of the series after receiving ‘The Bat’ as a gift. It also seemed apt as this year marks the 20th anniversary of its publication. After reading it, I can understand why it’s had mixed reviews.

The premise of the story is a good one with an overseas detective being drafted in to assist in an investigation that seems to have stalled.  I did find, however, that, at times, the plot became lost amongst what I can only describe as ‘filler’. A fair chunk of the book is taken up with Aboriginal legends which did not really offer anything to the plot. I also found the numerous characters a bit confusing and found it hard trying to keep track with who was who.

That being said, I did like the lead character and ‘The Bat’ gave a good introduction to his back story. I found the second half of the book much more exciting than the first half, mainly because there was a little bit more investigative work taking place and there became more of an attempt to solve the murder.

I know the series gets better and I will be reading the next one.

 

Top 5 Wednesday – Favourite Science Fiction and Fantasy Books

I admit to not really being a big fan of the science fiction and fantasy genres, so gave had to go back to my childhood for my top 5 this week!

C. S. Lewis: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

An absolute classic – I’m sure I’m not the only person who, as a child, wished that you could access another world via the back of a wardrobe! This is one of those stories that just never grows old.

Enid Blyton: The Magic Faraway Tree series

As a child, I loved Enid Blyton’s mystery stories but The Magic Faraway Tree series was definitely among my favourite books. Who wouldn’t want to visit places like the land of goodies and the land of birthdays and have friends like Moonface and Silky?

C. S. Lewis: The Magician’s Nephew

Although The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is probably the more well-known of the Chronicles of Narnia, this one was always my favourite. Written as the sixth in the series, it has since been renumbered as the first as it is a prequel to the other books.

Roald Dahl: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

charlie_and_the_chocolate_factoryAlthough this is set in the ‘real world’, it is very much a fantasy story with children turning into giant blueberries and shrinking and getting stuck inside a television! The moral of this story is a simple one – be a good child!

Roald Dahl: George’s Marvellous Medicine

The story of George Kranky and the medicine he made for his not-so-nice grandma has always stuck with me ever since it was read to us at school. I wonder how many children, over the years, have tried to replicate the toxic mixture at home?!

Put a Book on the Map

51eodoodzlToday, I was incredibly pleased to take part in the ‘Put a Book on the Map’ feature on Cleo Bannister’s blog, Cleopatra Loves Books.

I have given a description of the setting of David Jackson’s ‘A Tapping at My Door’ and am thrilled to have my writing alongside that of the man himself!

Please do take a look, and while you’re there, take a look at the rest of Cleo’s fantastic blog!

See the post here.

Read my review of ‘A Tapping at My Door’ here.

Blood Mist by Mark Roberts

blood-mistWhen Eve Clay is summoned to the scene of a crime, she is not prepared for what she is about to encounter. A whole family has been slaughtered in their home, their mutilated bodies arranged in a bizarre pattern. With no witnesses and the CCTV in the home mysteriously switched off, the only potential clue is the owner of the phone that called the house after the murders took place. Something seems very familiar to Eve but she is unable to bring the memory to the front of her mind. All she knows is that the killers are not going to stop with one family and they must be stopped before more are dealt the same fate.

When I find a book written in my home city, especially a crime one, I feel compelled to read it and the Eve Clay books have been on my TBR list for a while. The first few chapters are like something out of a horror film – the description of the crime scene had more than a touch of the macabre about it! It soon became obvious that this was not going to be a run of the mill police procedural and was not a book for the faint-hearted!

Like in a lot of police procedurals, though, we are introduced to a damaged main character – Eve spent her early life in a children’s home after being abandoned by her parents as a baby. The story of her upbringing became vital in understanding both the character and the plot and helped to explain the way she handled certain situations. I found Eve a very strong leading character and warmed to her quickly.

Blood Mist is, at times, quite shocking – especially when you know the places the events are happening! The location of the final showdown is an inspired choice and definitely one where I can imagine skulduggery happening!  A great start to the series and the second one has already  been downloaded to my kindle.

Top 5 Wednesday: Fictional Jobs You’d Want to Have

As the majority of my reading comes from the crime genre, it was inevitable that most of my inspiration for this post would come from there!

Ruth Galloway – Forensic Archaeologist

img_0987Although her main job is that of a university lecturer, Dr. Ruth Galloway has become more well-known for her work in advising the police force in cases involving the discovery of skeletal remains and other buried items. At times, this has been quite a dangerous career move but it’s definitely never boring! I think I’d give the parts where she is pursued by crazed gunmen a miss though!

 

Jefferson Tayte – Genealogist

To some people, spending time in record offices and traipsing around old churchyards might sound like their idea of a nightmare, but for me it’s like a dream come true! As someone who researches their family history, this is a career that I could definitely see myself doing one day! Again, though, preferably without the people trying to kill me to keep secrets hidden!

 

Robert Langdon – Symbologist

infernoWho wouldn’t relish the chance of travelling round Europe, visiting significant museums, galleries and places of worship? Having access to places that the ordinary person would never get to see whilst solving codes in order to protect mankind sounds like my idea of fun!

 

 

Miss Honey – Teacher9780141365466

This would be a busman’s holiday for me but which teacher would not be happy with a class of happy, well-behaved, intelligent children? Of course, having a child like Matilda in your class would be good for the end of day tidying up too!

 

Willy Wonka – Chocolate Factory Owner

charlie_and_the_chocolate_factoryIt’s back to Roald Dahl for my final choice. Inventing new chocolates and sweets and owning the most fantastic chocolate factory in the world is every child’s dream! Pair that with the highly entertaining Oompa Loompas and work would be an enjoyable experience every day!

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