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December 2017

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!

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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.

 

 

My Eagerly Anticipated Books of 2018

Continue reading “My Eagerly Anticipated Books of 2018”

Blood Underground by Dan Waddell

When a body is found entombed in a disused tube station in London, shortly followed by a second one, DCI Grant Foster fears that there is a serial killer is on the loose. With little to go on, he calls in the help of genealogist Nigel Barnes to see if he can come up with a connection between the victims. Nigel’s life is soon put in danger, however, as the killer closes in on their next victim…

Over the last few years, there has been a boom in the genealogical fiction genre with the likes of Steve Robinson and Nathan Dylan Goodwin coming to the fore. The first time I read anything in this genre, though, was a number of years ago when I read the first of Dan Waddell’s Nigel Barnes series. Having not seen anything new recently, I thought that this series was finished so was delighted to hear that Nigel was making a comeback! Blood Underground may only be a short story but it has certainly whetted the appetite for a new full-length addition to the series!

I first found out about ‘ghost’ stations on the Underground during an episode of BBC’s Sherlock and was immediately fascinated by these ‘frozen in time’ parts of London. Dan Waddell’s use of these disused stations provides a very atmospheric, claustrophobic crime scene which will certainly have people thinking next time they are on the tube!

If you have not read any of the previous books in the series, then Blood Underground would be an ideal way to introduce you to the work and investigations of Nigel Barnes. A great short read.

The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor

91TOUwUDzNLIt’s 1986 and Eddie and his group of friends (Hoppo, Fat Gav, Metal Mickey and Nicky) are doing the sort of things that all 12-year-olds do: riding their bikes, hanging around in playgrounds, writing secret messages using chalks… Things change forever when, after following a trail of drawings depicting chalk men, they find a dismembered body in the woods.

Fast forward thirty years and the murder is still fresh in the minds of all those involved. Still living at the house he shared with his parents, Eddie is drawn back in when a face from the past reappears and he starts noticing the chalk men once again. Not quite sure whether to believe what he is seeing, another death spurs him into trying to discover exactly what happened all those years ago.

There has been so much online buzz about this book and it even got a mention in a recent talk by the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers so I thought it was about time I saw for myself what all the fuss was about. Am I so glad I did! The book grabbed me from the very first page and I found it very difficult to put down. I particularly liked the chapters set in 1986 as it evoked numerous childhood memories. I am thankful that my childhood was much less eventful than the children in this story however!

The Chalk Man is told from the perspective of Eddie and we get to see how events in 1986 have shaped both his future and that of all those involved. That year is certainly a memorable one for the children as, in addition to them finding the body, there is a fairground accident, a pro-life campaign and a serious assault to deal with. Perhaps, though, one of the most shocking parts of the book for me was the incident between Eddie and Sean, Metal Mickey’s brother. It is hard to say too much without revealing any spoilers but my heart really went out to Eddie for what he went through both during the event and also afterwards.

One of the things I enjoyed most about the book is how so many seemingly separate events all link together. This made for a very tight, well-written plot with no loose ends. I did fear that one thing had been overlooked but the closing scenes certainly put paid to that idea! Last year, social media was awash with the hashtag #WTFThatEnding with regards to the book Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough. The same hashtag could certainly apply here as I actually gasped when I realised how it was going to end! Even though it was a shock, however, it was completely true to what we’d come to know about Eddie and made perfect sense.

Even at this early stage, The Chalk Man promises to be one of the big hits of 2018 and I would not be surprised if a television or film company picks it up. As I was reading, I was reminded on several occasions of The Five, a Sky TV Drama created by Harlan Coben, and thought it amusing that he was actually name checked in the book!

It is hard to believe that this is the author’s debut novel and I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

With thanks to Penguin UK – Michael Joseph and Net Galley for my ARC.

 

 

Smoke and Mirrors by Elly Griffiths

When two children disappear only to be found dead in the snow, surrounded by sweets, DI Edgar Stephens has the unenviable task of investigating their murder. One of the victims, Annie, was a keen writer with a particular interest in penning plays based on fairy tales – could their deaths have something to do with these macabre versions of children’s classics or is there a link to a murder that happened several decades earlier?

Smoke and Mirrors is the second in the Stephens and Mephisto series and this time we see the infamous magician, Max Mephisto, doing something he’d hoped he’d never do – playing the villain in a pantomime. His role in the theatre, though, provides his friend, Edgar, with potential leads and introduces him to several potential suspects. In this book, we begin to see Max toying with the idea of settling down – something else he never thought he would do!

Despite their best efforts, the police are struggling to break the case and when another body is found, they fear they could have a serial killer on their hands. It is fascinating reading how the police operated in the post-war era, having to rely on leg work rather than the modern technology that is in use today. Aiding Edgar in his investigation is a young female officer, Emma Holmes. Tenacious and hard-working, I grew to like her character as the book progressed and hope that she is someone who will appear in the next books in the series.

Smoke and Mirrors is a very entertaining read with an original mystery and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing until the very end.

Last Cry by Anna-Lou Weatherley

An apparent suicide in an exclusive London hotel soon has alarm bells ringing for Detective Dan Riley, his fears being realized when pathology reveals that the victim, a wealthy banker, was poisoned. Finding a link between the murdered man and a woman calling herself ‘Goldilocks’ on an online dating site, Dan is soon on the hunt for a serial killer as another victim is found – this time a woman. Daddy Bear… Mummy Bear… Can Dan put an end to the killings before the next victim, Baby Bear is found?

I was drawn in right from the very start of the book where we are thrown straight into what is to become the first crime scene. The killer, ‘Goldilocks’ is a strange character, though, as although she took great care to make it look like suicide, she made enough mistakes for anyone with a trained eye to realize that it was definitely a case of murder. This made me wonder what her motives were and whether she actually wanted to be caught. This seemed to be confirmed with her choice of second victim – a woman who, with some detective work, could be traced back to her. The killer was a very complex character and, although her crimes were truly heinous, her back story was incredibly harrowing and there was definitely sympathy shown towards her childhood plight.

The first book in a series is always a difficult one for a detective as we are not only introduced to their investigation and professional life, but we also need to get a handle on their personal life and what makes them tick. Like many other fictional detectives, Dan is a flawed character after losing his girlfriend in a crash a few years previously. Never fully getting over his loss, it has taken him all this time to entertain the thought of dating again and it is through this that he meets the aforementioned ‘Goldilocks’, albeit in a different guise. This was a good way of introducing us to the main protagonist, providing an insight into his state of mind. Hopefully, in future books, he will stay away from online dating though!

The crimes are quite descriptive and show how messed up ‘Goldilocks’ is. As the book description mentions ‘Baby Bear’ it is not a spoiler to say that, as you are reading, you know that it is building up to her wanting to kill a child. This provided me with a sense of unease as I willed Dan to work out exactly what was going on before it actually occurred. I found that I raced through the second half of the book, desperate to know how it would end.

In recent years, I have been introduced to some great police procedural/detective books by Bookouture, with authors such as Angela Marsons, Robert Bryndza and Patricia Gibney becoming firm favourites. In Anna-Lou Weatherley and her detective, Dan Riley, I think they have another hit on their hands and I look forward to reading book 2!

With thanks to Net Galley and Bookouture for the ARC.

Everything is Lies by Helen Callaghan

51VFfTURZKL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_When Sophia returns to her family home, she is not prepared for the sight that greets her. In the garden, she finds her mother hanging from a tree and her father, close to death in a pool of blood. As far as the police are concerned, it is an open and shut case of attempted murder-suicide but Sophia is not convinced. When a few strange things start to happen, she begins to feel that there is someone watching her, leaving her to wonder just exactly what the circumstances are behind this terrible tragedy.

I loved Helen Callaghan’s previous book, Dear Amy, so was thrilled to have the opportunity to read Everything is Lies pre-publication. I was expecting something in a similar vein for the follow-up but Everything is Lies is completely different to what I was expecting although equally gripping. From the blurb, I envisaged a whodunnit with intrigue but from the moment we are introduced to the notebooks left by Sophia’s mum, detailing her younger life spent in an infamous cult, I knew that this story was going to go in a completely different direction.

At first, I was not totally enamoured with the notebook sections as I was desperate to know more about the investigation into the death of Sophia’s mum. I was soon drawn in, however, after realising that these notebooks would give the background knowledge to understand exactly what had occurred. I could imagine how difficult it was for Sophia, trying to visualise her quiet, neurotic mum as this free-willed young woman as portrayed in the notebooks. I think that deep down, Nina (Sophia’s mum) knew that there was more to this cult than met the eye, but the draw and excitement was too much for her to walk away from, even when the alarm bells began to ring for her.

The cult scenes were well-written, Helen Callaghan showing how easy it is for an impressionable young woman to be swept along with the whole situation. From the outside, looking in, it was apparent how self-centred and obnoxious the cult leader was, and I was willing Nina to come to her senses before tragedy struck. The other members of the cult were equally unlikeable but, in spite of this, the author manages to keep you reading, wanting to know more.

In the present day, as well as trying to find out the true cause of her mother’s death, Sophia is struggling with her own personal and work life after several incidents at the firm where she works. When her work appeared to be sabotaged, this added to the general unease she was already feeling. Was it related to her aborted assignation with a colleague or is it linked to the notebooks that her mother was seeking to publish? I got to the point where the only person I felt I could trust was Sophia herself as I tried to figure out exactly who was to blame for the numerous mysterious occurrences.

As the book progressed, I did have an inkling as to what the outcome would be with regards to one part of the plot and I was pleased to find I’d worked it out! My theory helped to add to the general unease I felt throughout the book as Helen Callaghan delivered more and more intriguing problems. Everything is Lies is definitely one to be watching out for in 2018!

With thanks to Penguin UK -Michael Joseph and Net Galley for my ARC.

 

 

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