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Rabbit Hole by Mark Billingham

DC Alice Armitage is investigating the murder of a patient on a psychiatric ward. In a facility where security is paramount, she must try to discover how this was able to occur and also who could have possibly been able to carry this out. Could it have been one of his fellow patients? One of the members of staff? An outsider who has managed to gain access? Alice’s work is cut out, not least because the detective isn’t exactly on the case – she’s one of the patients in the ward.

I loved the premise of this book and found Alice a fascinating character. Despite traumatic events in her past placing her in the psychiatric unit, she is convinced that the police are not doing their job properly and so uses her skills to conduct an investigation of her own. Feeling that she has identified the killer, she uses her contacts in the outside world to assist, only to find her theory derailed several times.

Despite the setting, Rabbit Hole is packed with dark humour as we meet a plethora of characters, each given a nickname by Alice. Some of her fellow patients are an absolute joy, their well-described quirks making it easy to visualise what life was like in this unit.

For fans of the author’s Thorne series, you will be pleased to see that there are a few cameo appearances of characters you may recognise. I particularly liked the subtle Phil Hendricks reference quite early on in the book.

There are plenty of twists and turns along the way with numerous red herrings thrown in for good measure. The ending was not expected with part of it making me question everything I had read! This is a great standalone from Mark Billingham, an author who I don’t think has ever written anything less than a brilliant book.

With thanks to Little, Brown and Net Galley for my copy.

Shadow Sands by Robert Bryndza

When former detective Kate Marshall discovers the body of a young man in the Shadow Sands reservoir, the cause of death of determined as a tragic accident. His mum is not so sure. A strong swimmer, fully aware of the risks, why would he choose to swim in such a dangerous place late at night, fully clothed? Managing to convince her that foul play is involved, Kate and her research assistant Tristan Harper take a closer look and are soon convinced that the boy has been murdered and that this is not the killer’s first victim. When another woman is taken, can Kate discover the truth before she too suffers the same fate?

A year after being introduced to Kate Marshall in Nine Elms, she is back with a bang. After being completely hooked by the first few chapters in the previous book, I couldn’t wait to read the sequel, putting it on my most anticipated books of 2020 list. I am so pleased to report that Shadow Sands is another outstanding read and deserves to be a huge hit for Robert Bryndza.

Although this could be read as a standalone, I would recommend that you read the previous book as some serious spoilers are revealed in this one. In Shadow Sands we see the development of the characters we have previously met and , in particular, we discover more about Tristan and what makes him tick. It was a clever move to use the missing woman to introduce us to his personal life and I enjoyed reading the difference in reactions between his sister and Kate when he makes his revelation. I love the relationship between the two main characters and how they trust each other implicitly, their skills complementing each other perfectly.

The plot is an engaging one and moves on at a good pace. What starts off as the discovery of a body deemed the result of an accidental death soon becomes a much bigger investigation when Kate realises that there is more to the local urban legends – what if there are more undiscovered bodies in the reservoir? The danger Kate and Tristan find themselves in is nothing compared to the horrors faced by the missing woman. Her experiences at the hands of her captor were horrific and I think I found the thought of them standing watching her whilst wearing night vision goggles the most disturbing part. The resilience shown by the woman, however, was nothing short of amazing and I willed her to get through her ordeal alive.

This is shaping up to be a fantastic series and I can’t wait to see where Robert Bryndza takes Kate and Tristan next.

With thanks to Little, Brown Book Group UK, Sphere and Net Galley.

Nine Elms by Robert Bryndza

After catching the notorious serial killer, The Nine Elms Cannibal, Kate Marshall saw her police career take a nosedive due to the circumstances surrounding the case. Now, fifteen years later, still traumatized by her past and working as a lecturer in a coastal university, the case is brought to the fore once again. A copycat killer seems to be emulating the murderer’s work, and Kate, along with her research assistant Tristan Harper, is drawn into the investigation. Fifteen years ago, however, Kate was the intended next victim – will the copycat be able to finish what the Nine Elms Cannibal started?

Well, there’s nothing like throwing in a curveball at the start of a book, and there are a few huge ‘gasp’ moments within the first 10% of Nine Elms. This was an incredibly clever start to the book and made sure that I was hooked right from the off. I would be surprised if anybody saw this early twist coming, and it definitely made me want to read what happened next!

Due to her experiences, Kate is a complex character, battling her demons every day. I admired her tenacity, however, when she put aside what had happened in the past to help locate a missing girl, thought to be an early victim of the Nine Elms killer. This was not an easy thing for her to do as it was sure to stir up unpleasant memories from the past. I enjoyed her, almost motherly, relationship with Tristan, and look forward to seeing how their private investigation sideline develops in subsequent books.

Although the book is named after the original serial killer, the main focus throughout the book is on the copycat, and what a truly horrific person he is! This is someone with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, and his actions constantly made my skin crawl. His depravity was echoed in the original killer and several revelations about him made me feel quite ill!

I don’t want to say too much about Nine Elms, as I feel that this should be one of those books where it is best going in completely blind. Suffice to say, if you are a fan of Robert Bryndza’s Erika Foster series, then you are going to be completely blown away by this. Nine Elms is a superbly-written, chilling start to a new series and I can’t wait to see what comes next!

With thanks to Little, Brown Book Group UK and Net Galley for my copy.

When Darkness Calls by Mark Griffin

Holly Wakefield, a criminal psychologist specialising in serial killers, encounters a dramatic change in her life when she is called upon to assist after two bodies are discovered. Working alongside DI Bishop, she is horrified to find that it is not the first time that she has seen these injuries – there is a serial killer at work. More used to dealing with incarcerated murderers, she finds herself involved with an active investigation and a killer who shares a connection with her past. A past that, for the first time, she must face head-on…

Holly’s occupation gives her an ideal background to assist with the case, and her insights soon help to unravel details that may, possibly, have been missed. It is safe to say that she has a slight obsession with killers and one particular scene where she ‘introduces’ Bishop to her own version of Scotland Yard’s Crime Museum was a very entertaining interlude in an otherwise thrilling plot. I enjoyed how Holly referenced real-life murder cases to support her theories as this added an air of authenticity to the plot.

We can tell from quite early on that Holly has a past that she would rather keep hidden, but like most secrets, they don’t stay hidden for ever. I liked how the professional relationship between Holly and Bishop developed to the point where there was a lot of mutual trust and secrets started to be shared. There is a lot of potential in this pairing and I look forward to seeing how this relationship develops in future books.

There are some particularly gruesome killings in When Darkness Calls and some equally detailed postmortems. This all culminates in a fast-paced final few chapters with some genuine heart in the mouth moments. There are numerous twists and turns along the way, meaning that when the killer is revealed it is a genuine surprise.

When Darkness Calls is a fantastic debut and looks like being a superb new series. I look forward to reading the next one.

With thanks to Little, Brown Book Group UK and Net Galley.

 

Their Little Secret by Mark Billingham

To the outside world, Sarah is just a normal single mum, juggling her home and work life like the other mums in her circle. She craves more though, something that will excite her. Meanwhile, DI Tom Thorne is investigating the death of a woman who, although appearing to have committed suicide, seems to be have been driven to it by a man who preys on vulnerable women. A man who Sarah is about to become acquainted with…

I have been a huge fan of Mark Billingham for many years, ever since reading Sleepy Head, the first Tom Thorne novel. Now, eighteen years later, Their Little Secret is the sixteenth Thorne book in a series that is showing no signs of losing its touch!

What we have in Their Little Secret is an incredibly clever plot. Sarah, to all intents and purposes, is a normal mum, her life revolving around her son, Jamie. There are a few little hints that she is hiding something but I was not prepared for what exactly this was! I loved the way the author developed her character to the point where I found my opinion of her at the end of the book was completely different to what I felt about her at the start!

Thorne’s experience really comes through in this book when he gets a hunch that there is more to the suicide of a woman than meets the eye. Not being able to explain what it is, and with his colleagues including Nicola Tanner less than interested, he is vindicated when the suicide case leads him to a seasoned conman and murder. Thorne is a great detective and I always feel that he comes across as a very real character. His relationship with his best pal, Phil Hendricks, is always a highlight in these books and there are certainly some great moments here.

Their Little Secret is a masterclass in how destructive relationships can be and how we don’t always know someone as well as we think we do. With several twists along the way, this was one of those books that I did not want to put down, reading it in a day. I think this may have become one of my favourite Thorne books and if this is a series you haven’t yet read, I can recommend all sixteen!

With thanks to Little, Brown Book Group and Net Galley for my ARC.

 

Black Widow by Chris Brookmyre

51vg2nga1ql-_sx314_bo1204203200_Surgeon Diana Jager has had a troubled past and so when she meets and falls in love with I.T.expert, Peter Elphinstone, she can’t believe her luck. A wedding soon follows but it’s not long before cracks begin to appear in the marriage. When Peter is killed in a car accident, his sister, Lucy, is convinced there is more to it and engages journalist, Jack Parlabane, to investigate Diana’s involvement.

Why have I never discovered this author before?! When I realized that this was the seventh book in the series, I was quite apprehensive as I had not read any of the previous books. From quite early on, however, it became apparent that, although the series is about Jack Parlabane, he would only play a minor role in the book, with the main focus being on what actually happened to Peter Elphinstone. It is not until towards the end of the book that Jack really comes into his own and, although it is clear that he has had problems in his past, a previous knowledge of the character is not essential and, therefore, Black Widow can be read as a standalone.

The story is told, mainly, from the points of view of Jack and Diana and also of the police officers investigating the accident. This is a clever tactic as we get to see the story from all angles and helps to place doubt in your mind as to who is telling the truth. Throughout the book, I didn’t really know how I felt about Diana – was she the arrogant surgeon as perceived by her work colleagues or was she really a lonely, vulnerable woman desperate for a family of her own? By the end of the book, I knew the answer…

I love a book with a good twist and Black Widow certainly ticks all the boxes on that count. Although I had my suspicions about what happened, the truth came as a shock and was one that I did not see coming.

Black Widow is highly recommended and, on its strength, I shall be reading the rest of the series as soon as possible!

With thanks to Little, Brown Book Group UK and NetGalley for the ARC.

The Silence Between Breaths by Cath Staincliffe **BLOG TOUR**

I am honoured to have been chosen to be one of the stops on Cath Staincliffe’s blog tour for her latest book The Silence Between Breaths.

The 10.35 train is making its way from Manchester to London Euston, each passenger heading to the capital for a different reason. Jeff, a young unemployed man, dreams of a successful job interview while Holly, the woman next to him, already has the job of her dreams. Rhona, on her way to work with two fellow employees, is desperate to be back at home with her unwell child and Naz, a rail employee, has aspirations beyond collecting rubbish. Meg and her partner are off on a walking holiday while Nick and his young family are on their way to a wedding. Caroline is looking forward to some respite from home where she has to deal with problem children and a mother with dementia. Then there is Saheel, a student, who has a backpack he won’t let out of his sight…

Often, when a book contains so many characters, it is extremely easy to become confused but, thankfully, this is not the case in The Silence Between Breaths. Initially, we are introduced to each character separately and their back story and reason for them being on the train is slowly revealed. As we become more accustomed to each person, the characters start to interact with each other and it is then that the setting of the story really comes alive.

From quite early on, it is apparent that the journey is going to be a traumatic one and, after becoming quite attached to some of the characters, the anticipation is, at times, unbearable. Cath Staincliffe does an excellent job in building up the tension so that when one of the characters realises what is going to happen, you begin to fear for the safety of all those on the train. When the inevitable happens, thanks to the author’s description, it is easy to visualise the utter destruction and sense the panic felt by those who have unwittingly become involved in a major incident. These scenes are not for the faint-hearted but are vital to show the carnage caused and the repercussions for everyone on the train.

One of the biggest strengths of this book is that we also get to meet the family of Saheel and how this event affected their lives. Saheel’s sister was probably my favourite character – a young lady with a very wise head on her shoulders. As this story is one of a very sensitive nature, it was good to get the point of view of different sections of society.

In the present climate, it is probably the wrong choice of words to say that I enjoyed this book, but I feel that Cath Staincliffe has succeeded in creating a gripping, emotion-filled story that is extremely relevant today. This is, by far, the best book I have read so far this year.

The Silence Between Breaths is available to purchase now.

With thanks to Net Galley and Little Brown Book Group UK (Constable) for the copy.

Take a look at some of the other great blogs that have contributed to this blog tour:

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