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Darkness Falls by Robert Bryndza

After setting up their own private investigation firm, Kate Marshall and Tristan Harper have their first big case. Journalist Joanna Duncan disappeared without trace twelve years ago and after exhausting any leads they had, the police have consigned her disappearance to the cold case files. Joanna’s mother has never given up hope, however, and employs Kate and Tristan to find out exactly what happened to her daughter. When Kate uncovers evidence of other missing people, she begins to worry that maybe there is a killer hiding in plain sight, one that hasn’t finished yet…

Darkness Falls is the third in the Kate Marshall series and, in my opinion, is the best so far. While this could be read as a standalone, I feel that it is important to understand Kate’s backstory to fully appreciate the character and there is more than one spoiler to events in previous books in this one.

The story grabbed me straight away and its twisty plot kept me hooked right until the end. I enjoy a book where the killer is not obvious and even as I neared the end, I still couldn’t decide who the guilty party was due to the several plausible candidates that Robert Bryndza gave us!

Kate and Tristan are both great characters who bring their own skills to the investigation, Kate in particular using her police contacts to help when needed. Despite the macabre nature of the crimes, I did enjoy the occasional snippets of humour, particularly one of Tristan’s friends who has a good line in nicknames!

This is a great series, one that I highly recommend. I’m hoping it won’t be too long before we get to read book 4!

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

Take a look at my reviews for the rest of the series:

Nine Elms

Shadow Sands

Cry Baby by Mark Billingham

The year is 1996 and seven-year-old Kieron Coyne has vanished while playing with his friend in the woods. With an eyewitness stating that he saw the child being led away by a man, Detective Sergeant Tom Thorne knows that time is against him if he is going to find him alive. With a mole in the ranks, however, feeding information to the vulture-like journalists, how many more people are going to find themselves collateral damage?

For long-time Mark Billingham fans like myself, this is the book we didn’t know we wanted until we read it! Twenty years since the first Thorne book, we have now been taken back to where it all started, giving us an insight into the early life and career of the detective.

Mark Billingham transported me back to the summer of 1996, with references to the sport and popular culture of the day. Memories of Euro 96 came flooding back, the belief that the ‘thirty years of hurt’ could finally be over swiftly followed by the inevitability of a loss on penalties against the Germans! It’s strange to think that a book set in 1996 could now be seen as historical, but this is exactly what it is, the methods of policing showing how quickly time has moved on.

Knowing what happens in previous (or should that be future?) books, it was good to see Thorne with his parents and also witness the relationship he currently has with his soon-to-be ex-wife. My favourite parts, though, had to be the first meeting with Phil Hendricks, and how quickly this developed into the strong friendship that they still have today. It was fascinating to see Hendricks, who we know as a confident, straight-talking man, struggling to tell Tom about his sexuality.

Cry Baby has a well-written, readable plot, with enough dodgy characters thrown in to make you really think about who the guilty party could be. With nods to police corruption and the role the press have in cases such as this, Mark Billingham definitely has another hit on his hands. Long may Thorne reign!

With thanks to Little Brown and to Net Galley for my copy of Cry Baby.

 

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.

 

The Killing Habit by Mark Billingham

Asked to investigate the spate of cat killings around the London area, Tom Thorne is, initially, nonplussed. With further thought, however, he begins to wonder if there could be more to this case than meets the eye. Could this be a killer’s first step towards the taking of a human life or have they already begun their reign of terror? Working, once again, alongside Nicola Tanner, she has another case of her own to investigate – the murder of a young man and the links to the drug Spice. With few clues to help them, Thorne and Tanner will soon find themselves in danger as they try to prevent an escalation in both cases.

Tom Thorne is, by far, one of my favourite fictional detectives and I always look forward to the next book in the series. In The Killing Habit, we see Thorne tasked with trying to stop a serial killer before they begin, working on the theory that many serial killers start their ‘career’ by killing animals. He soon has another theory, wondering if the cats could be getting killed in the ‘down time’ between the human kills. This was a fascinating story line and even though I did work out who the killer was, I did enjoy the thrilling culmination.

The other main plot is very topical in several ways. We see the problem of drugs in prison, in particular the rise of ‘Spice’, which has become much more prevalent in recent years. It is easy to see how difficult it is for these men who, desperate to become clean on their release, find that they are indebted to the dealers from their time inside and so find themselves involved in further criminal activities.

The Killing Habit is another great read although it didn’t have the same impact as the previous book in the series,  Love Like Blood. Also, I wasn’t quite sure about the ending: I do enjoy a good twist, but I think I would have preferred the story to have been tied up neatly.

Friend Request by Laura Marshall

51mCV12k+uL__SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Receiving a Facebook friend request from a girl she knew at school should have made Louise Williams happy, but there was one major problem: Maria Weston has been dead for over twenty years. Knowing that she was partly to blame for the girl’s disappearance at a school leavers’ party, Louise is forced to make contact with people from her past as she tries to discover just who is behind the Facebook account. When a school reunion is organised, and another school friend’s body is discovered in the woods by her old school, Louise knows that she cannot trust anyone in her quest to find out exactly what happened to Maria.

I opted to read Friend Request after seeing so many positive reviews from fellow bloggers and I am so pleased that I did. Switching between the years 2016 and 1989, we first meet Louise as the divorced mother of a young boy before learning about her formative years at Sharne Bay High School. It is obvious that Louise has changed a lot in the intervening years, largely down to the incident involving Maria Weston. Bullying plays a pivotal role in the plot and although Maria was the target, I did have a lot of sympathy for Louise as she struggled to be accepted by the ‘cool kids’ whilst maintaining friendships outside of that clique. It is interesting to think that these events happened before the advent of social media and dread to think what would have happened to Maria if it had existed in 1989.

Throughout the book, Louise becomes more and more isolated as she doesn’t know who she can trust, suspicion being cast everywhere. This made for a tense read, especially when ‘Maria’ ups her game and makes it obvious that Louise is firmly in her sights. I liked the fact that there were several examples of misdirection so that you didn’t know which incidents were down to ‘Maria’ and which had a perfectly logical explanation.

The author’s characterisation is very authentic, especially when writing about the trials and tribulations of being a teenage girl at secondary school. I’m sure everyone reading could relate some of the characters to people they knew during their own education.

For a debut novel, this is an excellent story which is well-written, pacy and gripping. I look forward to reading more of Laura Marshall’s work.

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

 

The Domino Killer by Neil White

imageThe murder of a man, found beaten to death at a Manchester park, looks like it will be solved quickly by Detective Constable Sam Parker and the rest of the investigating team. Of course, nothing is what it seems, and when the victim’s fingerprints are found on a knife from another crime scene, it looks as though there is something even more sinister afoot. Across the city, Sam’s brother, Joe, a criminal defence lawyer has come face to face with a man he has waited years to see again. A man who threatens to tear apart everything he has worked for…

It was only when I began reading that I realised that this was the third book in a series featuring the brothers. This always fills me with slight trepidation – what if I don’t understand what is happening due to not having read the previous two novels? Thankfully, I am happy to say that being a newcomer to the series was not a hindrance as, even though previous events are referred to, it did not spoil my understanding of the story. I particularly liked the fact that there is not too much given away in the blurb as this made much of the plot an unexpected surprise.

I found that I really liked the two lead characters as they seemed very real as they battled with their consciences about doing the right thing. As a stark contrast, the man they are trying to convict, Mark Proctor, is a thoroughly nasty piece of work who you desperately hope justice finally catches up with.

The plot is, at times, quite intricate, and it was because of this that I started to question the killings – I think all of the crime books I have read over the years have given me the skills I need to be a detective! I did, therefore, suspect something quite early on in the book and was happy to be right! I won’t divulge what it was, as it would spoil the ending!

This is an excellent, exciting, fast-paced book and one that really makes you think about the plot as it is unfolding. I am now looking forward to reading the first two books in the series!

With thanks to Net Galley and Little Brown Book Group UK 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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