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The Game by Luca Veste

It starts with some form of communication you can’t ignore: a phone call, a text, an email… The person you’re communicating with knows your secret and if you don’t play The Game, it will be revealed. Complete each level and you may be able to leave; fail and your fate is in the hands of some unknown puppet master.

After enjoying Luca Veste’s previous standalone books, The Bone Keeper and The Six, I couldn’t wait to read The Game – even if I do still live in hope for another in the Murphy & Rossi series! In The Game, we have probably one of the most twisted killers the author has written about and yet, for me, the scary part was that I could actually imagine something like this happening in real life!

When a young woman goes missing, DC Mark Flynn feels that there is more to this case than meets the eye. Going against what his colleagues believe has happened, he begins to investigate an online challenge known as ‘The Game’, linking the disappearance to the death of another young woman nearby. Although Mark found himself flying solo for the majority of the time, he is not the typical maverick detective you find in police procedurals, finding himself an outsider through circumstance not choice. I liked Mark, admiring his perseverance even though his beliefs pushed him further away from the rest of the squad.

The internet has become a feature of many crime books in recent years and here, Luca Veste has definitely demonstrated the negative side. As I said earlier, as the plot develops and we discover how people are ‘recruited’ to play The Game, you begin to realise how this could actually happen in the real world and how important it is to remember the consequences that online comments can have.

I really enjoyed The Game and hope that this isn’t the last we hear of Mark Flynn.

With thanks to Net Galley and Simon & Schuster UK for my copy.

Before He Kills Again by Margaret Murphy

54454703._SY475_There is a predator stalking the streets of Liverpool, abducting women and making them endure the most unimaginable horrors. The hunt for the man known as The Furman has become personal for Detective Cassie Rowan after an undercover operation fails, leaving him free to continue his reign of terror. Unfortunately for Cassie, he knows who she is and soon he has his sights set on her…

This is the first in a new series to feature DC Cassie Rowan and after reading this, she is definitely a detective I will be getting to know better. A strong character with a mind of her own, she feels let down, at times, by her colleagues who think that she is not always a team player. I did not see her like this, however, feeling that she had such empathy for the victims of these heinous crimes that she would do anything to bring this man to justice. I admired her ability to work such long hours whilst acting in loco parentis to her younger brother after the death of her parents.

The perpetrator is a particularly horrible one, but for those who do not like reading anything too gruesome there is no need to worry as the author does not go into graphic detail. The setting helps to create an atmospheric backdrop to the plot, the fog adding to the tension as The Furman stalks the streets of Liverpool, looking for his next prey. If, like me, you are very familiar with the locations mentioned in the book, this also adds another air of menace – moreso if you find yourself at the scene of one of the abductions early in the morning like I did a few days ago!

The thing I most enjoyed about Before He Kills Again was the sudden plot twist which, although unexpected, made complete sense, the clues having been there throughout the book. This was where we really saw Cassie coming into her own and I admired her tenacity in following her own instincts even if this did mean putting herself into danger!

Before He Kills Again  is a great start to a new series and I look forward to seeing where Margaret Murphy takes Cassie next.

With thanks to Joffe Books and Net Galley for my copy.

 

The Merchant’s Daughter by M J Lee

When a DNA test reveals that the famous actress Rachel Marlowe has African ancestry, she calls upon genealogist Jayne Sinclair to try to discover more about this mysterious antecedent. With a family line that dates back to William the Conqueror, Rachel’s family are reluctant to believe the science, convinced that there must be some error. With a short timescale in which to solve the mystery, Jayne’s research is made even more difficult with the realisation that someone will stop at nothing, even serious injury, to prevent her from discovering the truth.

The Merchant’s Daughter is the seventh of the Jayne Sinclair series and is probably one of my favourites to date. With more and more people having their DNA analysed on sites such as Ancestry, this is a very topical plot and one that all people (like me) who have done such a test will find fascinating.

Like in previous books in the series, the story is told in two time frames, in this case Jayne’s present-day investigations and the sugar plantations of the Caribbean. One of the things I like most about this series is the historical aspect, and the author’s willingness to write about what could be termed a controversial subject. As someone with a connection to the slave trade in their family, I found the plot a fascinating one and am glad that books like this are being written so that we never forget the barbaric treatment of these people.

The main historical protagonist is Emily Roylance, a character whom I immediately warmed to. I thought it was a clever idea to have Emily tell her story via her memoirs as this helped the plot to move on quickly and made me desperate to know the circumstances behind her being where she was. In a book full of unpleasant characters, Emily’s strength and courage shone through.

The most pleasant surprise for me was how much of the story was set in my home city of Liverpool. M J Lee has certainly created an accurate picture of the life of the wealthy and I could visualise Hope Street at the time when Liverpool was profiting from the slave trade. Similarly, I was pleased to see Jayne visiting the International Slavery Museum, somewhere I have been several times and a place which definitely opens a person’s eyes with regard to the treatment of such people.

I really did enjoy The Merchant’s Daughter as not only does it discuss an important aspect of British history, but it is a fast-paced read with a great mystery. I can’t wait to see what era the author decides to tackle next!

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

The Irish Inheritance

The Somme Legacy

The American Candidate

The Vanished Child

The Silent Christmas

The Sinclair Betrayal

The Six by Luca Veste

Six friends, marriage and babies on the horizon, decide to spend a few days revisiting their youth by attending a 90s music festival. The atmosphere of a great few days takes a macabre twist, however, when somebody dies. Knowing that their life will never be the same, the six make a pact never to speak about what happened the night that they buried the body. Now, though, a year later, somebody seems to know what happened and the killing has started again…

I’m a big fan of Luca Veste’s Murphy and Rossi series and really enjoyed his standalone The Bone Keeper, so The Six was a book I had been looking forward to for a while. As the majority of serial killer plots tend to be police procedurals, I was also interested to read one from a different angle. Told from the perspective of Matt, one of the six, we immediately get an inside view of what is going on, his fears and neuroses showing us how greatly the death and subsequent events have affected his life.

Told in the present day and also in flashbacks to their time at school and university, The Six transports you straight back to the 90s, Luca Veste nailing the musical references, providing me with a pleasing nostalgia trip! I did smile at the Britney Spears reference, knowing the author’s penchant for “…Baby One More Time” thanks to his work with The Fun Lovin’ Crimewriters! The flashbacks provide a perfect insight into the pasts of some of the characters, helping us to understand the present-day friendships and also giving hints as to what really happened at that music festival.

From the start, I had convinced myself that I knew where the plot was going to go, only to find my theory actually discussed by one of the characters! This definitely took the wind out of my sails and made me even more desperate to find out what was happening. I was happy with how the story culminated, if a little shocked!

I have purposely avoided talking too much about the plot as I feel that this is a book where you will get more enjoyment by going in completely blind. All I will say is that if you enjoy a creepy serial killer plot that will have you listening out for strange noises at night, then The Six is the book for you!

With thanks to Net Galley and Simon & Schuster for my ARC.

Take a look at my reviews for other books by Luca Veste:

Bloodstream

It Never Leaves You

Then She Was Gone

The Bone Keeper

 

**BLOG TOUR** Avaline Saddlebags by Netta Newbound and Marcus Brown

It would appear that someone is targeting male to female transsexuals after the bodies of two women, Jade Kelly and Gina Elliot are discovered. Newly-promoted DI Dylan Monroe and his team know that this is a killer who is destined to strike again so will do anything to apprehend him. Unfortunately for Dylan, this means him going undercover at Dorothy’s, a drag and cabaret bar in Liverpool, and the only place that the victims seem to have had in common. With a whole community living in fear, will Dylan find the killer before more blood is shed?

Over the years, I have read hundreds, if not thousands, of books in the crime fiction genre and it is very rare to find something that hasn’t been done before, but Avaline Saddlebags appears to have managed this. This book is like a breath of fresh air with its gritty, at times graphic, plot but with genuine lighthearted moments that had me laughing out loud.

Dylan is a great character, likable, hardworking and prepared to do anything to close a case, even if this means dressing up as a woman and lip-syncing in a local bar! This gave us many comic moments as Dylan tried to come to terms with applying make up and walking in high heels. Perhaps the funniest moment, though, came as his friend Bella’s waters broke, leaving him to accompany her to the hospital in full make up much to the bemusement of everyone he encountered!

Some of this book is not for the faint of heart as we discover how these poor women have been mutilated. One scene, in particular, may make male readers wince! I did find this essential to the plot, however, as it really brought home how depraved the killer was and how mentally unstable they had become. I did not work out who the killer was, although the clues were there all along. I did have my suspicions about one character but was pleased to be wrong!

This is one of my favourite books of the year so far, and I cannot recommend it enough.

With thanks to Junction Publishing, Netta Newbound and Marcus Brown for my copy and to Sarah Hardy from Book on the Bright Side for organising the blog tour.

A Date With Death by Mark Roberts

When the body of a woman is found on the banks of the River Mersey, scalped and her facial features removed, links are immediately made to a recent murder in nearby Warrington. When a third body is found, bearing the same injuries, DCI Eve Clay knows that there is a particularly sadistic serial killer operating on her patch. Each of the dead women had one major thing in common – they were all hoping to find love on the same dating website. Eve feels that there is only one way to stop ‘The Ghoul’ and that is to go undercover online, posing as his perfect victim…

I’m a huge fan of Mark Roberts and A Date With Death was one of the books I was most looking forward to reading this year. Ever since reading the first in the DCI Eve Clay books, Blood Mist, this series has become one of my firm favourites and Eve has become one of my favourite characters. This book, the fifth in the series, keeps up the high standard that I have come to expect.

One of the things I like most about this series is that we don’t have ordinary, run of the mill serial killers – if there is such a thing! In the past, we’ve had bodies arranged in patterns and a paedophile killer but now we have someone who slices off the faces of their victims. For those, of a squeamish nature, we don’t actually read about the act itself, but we do, towards the end of the book, find out the reason why the killer does this, making for a very gruesome scene!

Eve Clay is a great character with a gripping backstory, her traumatic past shaping how she is today. Although you do not need to have read the previous books in the series to enjoy this one, I have really enjoyed seeing how her character has developed. Even though she is dealing with a particularly horrific case, she appears to be becoming more able to separate her professional and personal life, not fretting as much about her young son as she has done in previous books.

Mark Roberts has definitely done it again with A Date With Death, writing a gripping book, impossible to put down. I’m already looking forward to the next one – maybe, in the meantime, I’ll bump into Clay’s husband and son at Goodison Park!

 

 

 

 

 

Your Deepest Fear by David Jackson

Estranged from her husband, but hoping for a reconciliation, Sara Prior is devastated to hear his voice in a very disturbing voicemail. Racing to his home, she is sickened to find him dead, murdered in a particularly gruesome way. With the police struggling to find any leads, and concerned that she knows more about the death than she is saying, Sara soon finds herself part of a shady, unknown world – just how are these people connected to her husband’s death? Meanwhile, DS Nathan Cody is finding that his past is well and truly catching up with him when the case takes a very personal twist…

David Jackson’s Nathan Cody series is one of my favourites and I always eagerly anticipate the next book. The previous book in the series, Don’t Make a Sound, was by far my favourite book of last year and I was desperate to see how this one would compare. I can safely say that it is, yet again, an outstanding read and has left me desperate to know what happens next!

Nathan Cody has one of the best back stories of any fictional detective and, ever since reading A Tapping at My Door, I have been waiting for the moment when David Jackson decided to reveal more about the clowns. (Other readers of this series will know what I’m talking about!) Well, it’s finally happened – and what a brilliant story it is! As usual, Nathan is full of bravado, but, at times, I genuinely feared for his safety as his past came back to haunt him. I loved how this story merged with the police investigation and was quite surprised by some of the twists along the way.

Sara is a fascinating character and I admired the strength she displayed when faced with some truly horrible people. She is a very complex woman and I liked how, for much of the book, we were left wondering if Cody was right to show empathy towards her or whether the other officers’ assumptions about her were correct.

One of the things I enjoy the most about David Jackson’s books is the setting. Being from Liverpool, I love the attention to detail and feel that, despite the dark subject matter, the best of the city is always shown. Coincidentally, I found myself in Central Library the day before reading Your Deepest Fear, and this location plays a pivotal role in one part of the book. As I was reading, I could visualise the book titles engraved on the floor leading up to the main entrance and then the route Sara took whilst inside this magnificent building. If you have never visited this library, then I can definitely recommend it – a magnificent piece of architecture where modernity merges seamlessly with history.

If you have not read any of this series, I can thoroughly recommend it. Take a look at my reviews for the other books:

A Tapping at My Door

Hope to Die

Don’t Make a Sound

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

Move To Murder by Antony M Brown

Keen to make some commission, insurance agent William Wallace makes the journey across Liverpool to meet the mysterious Mr. Qualtrough who has sent a message intimating that he would like to do some business. Meanwhile, back in Anfield, his wife, Julia, is being bludgeoned to death at her own home by an unknown assailant. With the police convinced that Wallace has engineered the ‘perfect’ alibi, he was soon arrested and tried for murder. Move to Murder examines the evidence, putting forward alternative theories as to what really happened that fateful evening in 1931.

The murder of Julia Wallace is a mystery that has always interested me and, over the years, I have read many books about the puzzling case. In brief, a telephone call was received at the Liverpool Central Chess Club asking for a message to be passed on to Wallace. The caller, R M Qualtrough, was keen to take out an endowment policy on his daughter, and wanted Wallace to visit him at his home, 25 Menlove Gardens East, the following evening to discuss it. Travelling across the city on several trams, Wallace discovered that the address did not exist and after trying several similar-sounding addresses, he returned home to find his wife beaten to death and a small amount of money stolen.

Wallace was soon arrested, tried and convicted of the murder of his wife, the death sentence being passed. An appeal saw the conviction overturned, however, and nobody else was ever found guilty of the crime. Move to Murder examines five possible theories as to what could have happened: Could Wallace have been the perpetrator after all, did he arrange the murder or was he completely innocent? Other names have been put forward with accompanying evidence to try to sway your opinion.

I have always been of the opinion that Wallace was the victim of an elaborate set-up but Move to Murder is the first book that has made me actually question my version of events. I liked how each theory was backed up by evidence, asking you to take on the role of the jury in deciding who you would find guilty. I also enjoyed reading extracts from Wallace’s personal journal, something which is not included in other books on the subject.

I really enjoyed the format of this Cold Case Jury book and would definitely read more in the same series.

With thanks to Mirror Books and Net Galley for my copy of Move to Murder.

**BLOG TOUR** Killing Time by Mark Roberts

614hsAHOY-LI am really pleased to be the latest stop on the blog tour for the new DCI Eve Clay book by Mark Roberts, Killing Time.

When a young Czech girl is found abandoned in a Liverpool park, there is a huge sense of relief as this is the same child who has been missing for the past eight days. DCI Eve Clay is on her way to interview the clearly traumatised victim when she receives a call detailing another incident – two Polish men have been found dead in their burnt out flat. With the two cases occurring so close to each other, Clay begins to think that there may be a connection. When the chilling message, ‘killing time is here, embrace it’, is discovered at the flat, the police fear that there is much more to come.

Killing Time is the fourth book in the Eve Clay series and is one I’ve been looking forward to ever since reading the previous three. Although this is another dark tale of Liverpool’s underbelly, Mark Roberts has added a clever twist that sees the plot take in events in the United States. As in the previous books, being familiar with the setting added authenticity to the plot as I found myself picturing the places as I was reading.

From the start, it is hard to know which of the characters are exactly what they seem. The murdered men, Karl and Vaclav Adamczak, appear to the outside world to be hard-working and law-abiding. What, then, would make someone take their lives in such a vicious way and is there a connection to the abduction of the young Czech girl?

The Dare brothers, Raymond and Jack, however seem much more of an open and shut case. Raymond, a young man with mental health issues who is refusing to take his medication is clearly involved in petty crime. What we don’t know, though, is how far his criminal involvement has gone. His brother, Jack, a reformed criminal, is now involved with the church and his attempts to help his brother are proving futile. Jack clearly has something to hide but is it what we think? As the cases begin to merge, what Eve Clay and her detectives discover, is a story much bigger than they ever could have imagined.

I love the character of Eve Clay, a detective determined to right the world’s wrongs. Her back story is an absolutely fascinating one and I enjoy reading about her time, as a young child, in the children’s home. Her feisty character was evident from an early age and her Everton references made this Evertonian laugh out loud! I felt that Eve seemed much more relaxed than in previous books with regards to her son, and it was nice to see this side of her.

Killing Time is a very dark thriller full of twists and turns that kept me engrossed right until the end. One of the things I love most about Mark Roberts’ books is the atmospheric settings he chooses for the chilling climax to the story. Without going into too much detail for fear of giving away spoilers, the venue chosen for the closing of Killing Time is an iconic Liverpool location that fits in well with the tone of the book.

I thoroughly enjoyed Killing Time and hope it won’t be too long before the next installment.

With thanks to Aria/Head of Zeus and Net Galley for my ARC.

Take a look at the rest of the blogs on the tour:

Previous books in the Eve Clay series:

Blood Mist

Dead Silent

Day of the Dead

 

 

 

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