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July 2019

One Year Later by Sanjida Kay

A year ago, Amy lost her daughter Ruby-May in a terrible accident. With the anniversary of her death looming, the family decide to go on holiday, away from the scene of the incident, to a place where, they hope, they can begin to heal the rifts that have happened since their loss. It soon becomes apparent, however, that all is not quite what it seems and there is at least one person hiding something that could change their perception of what exactly happened one year ago. Just exactly who caused Ruby-May’s death and what other secrets have been concealed over the years?

The tone is set from the very start when what seems to be the body of a woman is discovered. For the majority of the book, this is not mentioned, leaving me wondering who is was and how it fit in with the tragic death of Ruby-May one year earlier. By the time this is, again, referenced, we are aware that there is, indeed, a lot more to Ruby-May’s death than we realised and there has been a huge cover up to stop the real guilty party from coming to light.

We read the story from the perspectives of Amy, Ruby-May’s mum, and Nick, the dead girl’s uncle. Their grief is portrayed in different ways and was definitely one of the strengths of the book. In Amy, we see real visceral grief, struggling to come to terms with the death of her youngest child while trying to keep going for the sake of her two other children. The scene where she realises how much she neglected them in the weeks following the death was truly heartbreaking, more so because of the way the children dealt with the terrible situation.

Nick displayed his grief in a different way as he has been carrying around the guilt of not being there when Ruby-May died. His head full of ‘what ifs’, it is understandable why he is intent on trying to heal his family’s rifts, even if his good intentions often result in more unrest.

While it is obvious that the official version of the accident is not correct, and that there has definitely been a conspiracy of silence, I did not predict the ending. This is one of those books where you realise that you have been drip fed information throughout the plot, and the ending is completely in-keeping with what you have read. The several references to Dante’s The Divine Comedy are also very apt, with salvation and repentance being running themes in both texts.

I really enjoyed One Year Later and I thank Readers First and Corvus Books for my copy.

Take a look at my review of My Mother’s Secret, one of Sanjida Kay’s earlier books.

 

In a House of Lies by Ian Rankin

When the body of a missing private investigator is discovered in the boot of a car, alarm bells begin ringing – the area had already been searched years before, when the man first went missing. Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke is now part of the team investigating the murder whilst also trying to discover what went wrong with the original case. Was there a cover up and just how involved was her mentor, retired detective John Rebus?

John Rebus is one of my favourite fictional characters and so news of a new Ian Rankin book always makes me happy. In a House of Lies has been sat on my Kindle for a while so I thought it was time to give it a read! I am glad that, although Rebus is now retired, he is still finding ways of worming his way into an investigation although, this time, he is slightly more involved than he probably wishes!

The plot is a good one with dodgy characters a plenty, each one having a motive for wanting the deceased out of the way. Like in any good Rebus book, we get an insight into the dark underbelly of Edinburgh, with the legendary ‘Big Ger’ Cafferty featuring prominently. Any scene with Rebus and Cafferty is always my favourite. Their relationship is still a complicated one – they share a grudging respect for each other but at the same time would stop at nothing to sell the other one down the river.

The other plot running throughout the book was probably my favourite. After receiving silent phonecalls, Siobhan Clarke makes the connection to a recent case where she put away Ellis Meikle, convicted of the unlawful killing of his girlfriend. Convinced of his nephew’s innocence, his uncle, Dallas, tries to intimidate Clarke, only to need her help in trying to find new evidence to help his case. This is where Rebus comes in and where we see that there is still life in the old dog yet. Speaking of dogs, I am glad to see that Brillo is still on the scene!

Another great Rebus book and I hope that it’s not too long before we get the next one!

Child’s Play by Angela Marsons

When Detective Kim Stone arrives at the crime scene, she is not prepared for what she finds: a woman, tied to a child’s swing with barbed wire, the letter X carved into the back of her neck. It soon becomes apparent that the victim, Belinda Evans, a retired Professor of Child Psychology, had something to hide. Belinda’s home revealing a side of her that few seem to know about and a sister hardly forthcoming with information, Kim begins to wonder what the secret was that lead to her untimely death. When more bodies are found bearing the same markings, Kim and her team make the breakthrough that is needed – all were about to attend the same annual tournament for gifted children. With a list of potential suspects as long as her arm, Kim and her team must work quickly to prevent another death.

With Child’s Play being the eleventh book in the Kim Stones series, I am genuinely running out of superlatives to describe how fantastic these books are! With each new installment, I am left wondering how Angela Marsons keeps up such a high quality, but she does it with aplomb.

For me, the best thing about these books are the characters. I love the relationship between them and, over the years, I feel that I have come to know them very well. In Child’s Play, due to a directive from her superiors telling her not to overwork her team, we see a different side of Kim and her fellow officers, and this provided some laugh-out-loud moments as they struggled with their home lives due to them working more sociable hours! You could almost sense their relief when they had to stay at the tournament! New character ‘Tink’ is a breath of fresh air and I hope that we see more of her in forthcoming books – I can see some great scenes with Kim ahead!

I feel that this is the book where, despite not being part of the investigation, Penn cemented his place as part of the team. The sub-plot involving a potential wrongful arrest and imprisonment gave us the chance to get to know Penn better and I feel I have more of an understanding of this character now. In a book where there are particularly gruesome murders, the relationship he shares with his brother is a beautiful contrast. This part of the story also gave me my favourite moment – all I will say is, What would Billy do??!!

With thanks to Bookouture and Net Galley for providing me with yet another superb book from Angela Marsons.

The Leaden Heart by Chris Nickson

51UbsxvrAiL._SY346_It’s July 1899 and the crime rate in Leeds has been unusually low. This all changes when Superintendent Tom Harper receives word of a particularly daring burglary at one of the city’s more expensive residences. Meanwhile, his ex-colleague, Billy Reed, is seeking some assistance after the suicide of his brother who was facing an extortionate rent increase. Investigation uncovers a web of corruption involving some of the area’s influential residents. Who are the ringleaders and will Harper be able to apprehend them before the death toll rises?

I’ve always enjoyed reading historical crime fiction, particularly those books set during the Victorian era. In the Tom Harper series, we are now reaching the end of the nineteenth century, a time which has seen great changes for the Leeds detectives. As in all of his books, Chris Nickson has created a very vivid picture of the time, creating characters that feel real and who you can certainly feel empathy for. Again, we see Tom’s wife, Annabelle, taking a central role in the plot, her new position as poor law guardian giving her a platform to help those unable to help themselves. Annabelle has always been my favourite character, her ongoing fight for women’s equality being a great theme running throughout the books. With her daughter, Mary, seemingly being a chip off the old block, I think we are in for some entertaining times ahead!

It was pleasing to see Tom and his old friend Billy attempting to build bridges as they investigated the reason behind the suicide of Billy’s brother. Although this was set over a hundred years ago, the story is all too familiar to many people nowadays with those in power preying upon the poor and less fortunate. It was easy to imagine Harper’s frustration as he faced brick walls when trying to uncover the identities of those involved, especially seeing as he was desperate to close the case for the sake of Billy. The crooks doing the dirty work, the Smith brothers, are a particularly nasty pair, leaving a trail of death and destruction wherever they go. I spent the whole book willing for their capture!

If you are new to the Tom Harper books, please don’t be put off by the fact that this is the seventh book in the series as it can definitely be read as a standalone. This is, without a shadow of a doubt, my favourite so far, and I eagerly anticipate what the next installment brings for Tom, Annabelle and the rest of the characters we have grown to love.

With thanks to Severn House Publishers and Net Galley for my copy.

 

Then She Vanishes by Claire Douglas

Many years ago, in the quiet town of Tilby, teenager Flora Powell went out, never to be seen again. Now, her sister, Heather, has committed an unthinkable crime, her own life hanging in the balance. Journalist Jess, tasked with writing about the event, has more reasons than most to uncover the truth – she used to be Heather’s best friend and was there the day Flora disappeared. Jess knows she must face her past and return to where it all began. Just what exactly happened to Flora and how is it linked to current events?

This is one of those books that gets you hooked from the first chapter as we witness the fatal shooting of a man and his elderly mother by a calm, cold-blooded killer. From the outset, we are introduced to the main mysteries in the book: Who is the killer? Who are the victims? What links them? As the book progresses, it soon becomes apparent that there are more secrets in the Powell family and that the disappearance of Flora seems to be, somehow, linked to the killings. The story alternates between the present day investigation and the run-up to Flora’s disappearance, twenty years ago, providing us with a fast-paced, gripping plot that just makes you not want to put the book down!

I liked the character of Jess who we see battling with her emotions, feeling the pressure from her boss to exploit her relationship with the family to secure exclusive interviews with the family. This was particularly difficult for her as we discover the reason for her leaving her previous post was due to the much-publicised phone hacking scandal, so she could really do with keeping her work above board. For much of the book, I did not know how I felt about Heather, but I think that this is the author’s intention: she is a multi-faceted character who, to understand her fully, you will need to read the whole book.

Although there are some parts of the mystery that do not come as a surprise, there are quite a few red herrings along the way which make you change your theory as you are reading. There are enough shifty characters to make you question which of them were involved in Flora’s disappearance, each with their own motive. The revelation of what exactly happened to Flora is a particularly shocking one, and one that filled me with hatred for those responsible.

I have really enjoyed reading Claire Douglas’s books before – take a look at my reviews of Last Seen Alive and Local Girl Missing – and this one is another fantastic read. If you’re looking for a thriller that will grab and hold your attention, one of those ‘just one more chapter’ books, then Then She Vanishes is the book for you! Highly recommended!

With thanks to Penguin UK – Michael Joseph and Netgalley for my copy.

Monthly Round Up – June 2019

We are now into the second half of the year and I am on schedule to meet my Goodreads target although my Net Galley books just don’t seem to be going down – a problem I’m sure many of you share!

Books I’ve Read

The Ghost of Hollow House by Linda Stratmann

The latest in the Mina Scarletti series sees the Victorian author / ghost debunker investigating the ghostly goings-on at the ancient Hollow House. With secrets lurking around every corner, just what will Mina manage to uncover?

Forget My Name by J S Monroe

When a woman turns up unannounced at a house, claiming to live there, the occupants have no idea who she is. With no memory of who she is, it soon becomes clear that there is something strange going on but who is she and what is her connection to the house? A great psychological thriller.

The Sinclair Betrayal by M J Lee

When genealogist Jayne Sinclair decides to bite the bullet and investigate her own family history, little does she know what she is about to uncover. Murder, espionage and Wartime Europe all help to create a thrilling book which is my favourite of the series so far.

The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy by Alexandra Walsh

The second in the Marquess House dual timeline series takes us back to the reign of Elizabeth I. With more revelations which could threaten British History as we know it, Perdita and Piper Rivers must tread carefully if they are to protect their own lives.

Then She Vanishes by Claire Douglas

Twenty years ago, teenager Flora Powell disappeared. Now, her sister, Heather, stands accused of the bloody murder of a man and his elderly mother. Are the events somehow linked and what actually happened to Flora? This is full of twists and turns – a superb read!

Books I’ve Acquired

Nothing has felt right since she told the lie… 

Claire Carmichael leads a charmed life. She has two beautiful sons, Jamie and Joshua, and a handsome and successful husband who loves her. She has been taught well by her mother – the most important thing Claire has is her good reputation. 

He said, she said… 

Even when she was in school, Claire had it all. She was clever, likable, and after passing the initiation tests, she was welcomed into the society of popular girls – The Queen Bees. So when a scandal threatened to ruin Claire’s reputation, the Queen Bees closed rank to protect her, no matter who else got hurt. 

Never forgotten, never forgiven… 

Claire may have moved on from her school days, but for one person who she hurt irreparably, those memories are as fresh as blood. And all it takes to reap their revenge, is ONE PERFECT LIE.

If only someone had listened… 

When the supposed suicide of famous Scottish football coach Harry Nugent hits the headlines, the tabloids are filled with tributes to a charitable pillar of the community that gave so much back to sport and to those less fortunate. 

But something isn’t right. Normally celebrities are queuing up to claim to have had a very special relationship with the deceased, but investigative journalist Oonagh O’Neil is getting the distinct impression that people are trying to distance themselves from Harry. 

Oonagh’s investigation leads her to uncover a heartbreakingly haunting cover-up that chills her to the core… and places her in mortal danger from those willing to protect their sadistic and dark secrets at any cost…

Finally we’re playing a game. A game that I have chosen. I give one last push of the roundabout and stand back. ‘You really should have played with me,’ I tell her again although I know she can no longer hear.

Late one summer evening, Detective Kim Stone arrives at Haden Hill Park to the scene of a horrific crime: a woman in her sixties tied to a swing with barbed wire and an X carved into the back of her neck. 

The victim, Belinda Evans, was a retired college Professor of Child Psychology. As Kim and her team search her home, they find an overnight bag packed and begin to unravel a complex relationship between Belinda and her sister Veronica.

Then two more bodies are found bearing the same distinctive markings, and Kim knows she is on the hunt for a ritualistic serial killer. Linking the victims, Kim discovers they were involved in annual tournaments for gifted children and were on their way to the next event. 

With DS Penn immersed in the murder case of a young man, Kim and her team are already stretched and up against one of the most ruthless killers they’ve ever encountered. The clues lie in investigating every child who attended the tournaments, dating back decades.

Faced with hundreds of potential leads and a bereaved sister who is refusing to talk, can Kim get inside the mind of a killer and stop another murder before it’s too late?

April 1980 and Jane is the first female detective to be posted to the Met’s renowned Flying Squad, commonly known as the ‘Sweeney’. Based at Rigg Approach in East London, they investigate armed robberies on banks, cash in transit and other business premises. 

Jane thinks her transfer is on merit and is surprised to discover she is actually part of a short term internal experiment, intended to have a calming influence on a team that likes to dub themselves as the ‘Dirty Dozen’. 

The men on the squad don’t think a woman is up to the dangers they face when dealing with some of London’s most ruthless armed criminals, who think the only ‘good cop’ is a dead cop. Determined to prove she’s as good as the men, Jane discovers from a reliable witness that a gang is going to carry out a massive robbery involving millions of pounds. 

But she doesn’t know who they are, or where and when they will strike . . .

I can’t wait to read the next in the Jane Tennison and Kim Stone series! Happy reading!

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