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The Redemption Murders by J C Briggs

The year is 1851 and the police have been called to London’s Blackwall Reach where a death has been reported on the ship The Redemption. The captain, Louis Valentine, has been brutally stabbed to death, the only clue left behind being a  copy of The Old Curiosity Shop, one of Charles Dickens’ books. The book has been inscribed to someone called ‘Kit’ who Dickens immediately recognises as his friend Kit Penney. With his friend now a murder suspect, Dickens sets out to find him, only to discover that he is missing. Is he involved or is he in fear for his own life? As the death toll rises, Superintendent Jones and the famous writer find themselves uncovering a series of dark secrets…

This, the sixth in the series is possibly the most complex plot to date, with a great deal going on, all linking together to create a huge web of intrigue. If you haven’t read any of this series yet, you may wonder how Charles Dickens finds himself involved in this shady underworld and, although this is explained in previous books, you don’t need to have read them to enjoy The Redemption Murders. Each book in the series can be read as a standalone.

One of the things I enjoy most about this series is the descriptions of Victorian London. Although we do get to experience the richer part of society, I particularly like reading about the lower classes and the environment they are forced to live in. J C Briggs writes this extremely well and you can easily picture these downtrodden people, living in squalid conditions through no fault of their own. Dickens has great sympathy for these people and there several links made to the author’s own life which, as many people will know, was not a bed of roses.

Children feature quite strongly in this series and there was one moment with a particular child in this book that was truly heart-wrenching. Throughout the book, we see how these children have to grow up fast, often doing things that they should not be doing at their age.

If you are a fan of historical mystery or are someone who enjoys the books of Charles Dickens, then this is a great series. A superb atmospheric read.

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

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.

Before Her Eyes by Jack Jordan

41100476After discovering the body of a young woman, Naomi Hannah fears for her own life when she realises that the killer is still there, watching her. Knowing that she could provide valuable information to help them apprehend the assailant, the police quickly step in to interview her, only to be bitterly disappointed when they meet her; Naomi has been blind since birth. With her life already seemingly in tatters, Naomi’s life soon starts to spiral out of control when a connection is made to an unsolved case from twenty years ago – a case that is still fresh in the minds of the people of Balkerne Heights. Just who is responsible and why have they let Naomi live?

From the very start of the book, my heart went out to Naomi. Abandoned at birth by her drug addict mother, separated from her husband due to their differing opinions on starting a family and trapped in a sightless world, she feels as though suicide is her only way out. I couldn’t even imagine the terror she must have felt when finding the body and then being dismissed by the police due to her disability. After experiencing several other horrifying encounters, Naomi’s world begins to get smaller and soon, the option of suicide starts creeping back into her mind. By having his protagonist as a blind woman, Jack Jordan has created a claustrophobic, tense thriller where nowhere, even her own home, is safe.

With the exception of Detective Marcus Campbell, the police in Balkerne Heights are a particularly unsavoury bunch. Secrets dating back to the disappearance of a local girl twenty years ago are beginning to rear their ugly head and Marcus wonders just how much was covered up. I admired Marcus’s tenacity even in the face of some quite overt bullying in the workplace.

Although I could understand why Naomi wanted to retain her independence by staying at her own home, I was desperate for her to cut her losses and move back in with her adopted mum. Every time there was a knock on the door, I was yelling at her to not answer it – either that or have an intercom fitted so she at least knew who was calling! Despite my frustration with her, I had lots of respect for the amount of courage she displayed throughout each of her setbacks.

I had my own theories as to who the killer was, theories that continually changed as I was reading. This definitely kept me on my toes and made me desperate to find out how it would end. I did enjoy the sting in the tail – a well-written ending. This is my first Jack Jordan book but it won’t be the last.

With thanks to Atlantic Books and Readers First for my copy.

**BLOG TOUR** Tell No Lies by Lisa Hartley

It is my pleasure to be the latest stop on the blog tour for Tell No Lies, the latest book from Lisa Hartley and also to be able to share a fascinating guest post written by the author herself about the setting in crime novels.

Over to Lisa…

In crime fiction, the setting of a novel can be hugely visible, almost a character in its own right, or it can fade into the background. Many British cities have fictional detectives associated with them: Ian Rankin’s John Rebus in Edinburgh, Stuart MacBride’s Logan McRae in Aberdeen, Val McDermid’s Carol Jordan (and Dr Tony Hill) in Manchester. London is the home of several crime series, including Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne books, and it’s also the city I decided to set my Detective Caelan Small novels in.

I already knew I wanted to write about an undercover police officer. My previous books have been set in Lincolnshire, both in the city of Lincoln itself and also in a fictional nearby town. It’s an area I’m familiar with and feel comfortable and confident writing about. The problem is, a small town setting can be limiting. Is it feasible for a city the size of Lincoln to have undercover officers? I didn’t think so. I needed somewhere bigger, somewhere Caelan and her skills would really be needed. My reasoning was that London would be the perfect place for an undercover officer to be based because of its size and diversity. Also, I knew the Metropolitan Police have such units within their ranks.

London is made up of so many different areas, from the most affluent to the most deprived. It’s a city of contrasts, a place where you can make or lose a fortune. There are opportunities to make money, either legally or in the shadows. I wanted Caelan to be a part of both worlds. As she moves through the city, there are recognisable locations, and I hope they help ground the stories, making it easier to picture Caelan policing the streets. I don’t know London well, but I’m lucky in that my partner grew up around the city, and so I have someone I can go to and ask questions. Google maps and street view are also a huge help, and I have visited London a few times, so I’ve seen the “tourist” spots – heard Big Ben chiming the hours, rushed through some of the Underground stations Caelan uses. I wanted to try to capture the feel of moving around London without sounding too much like a guide book. Caelan lives in the city and it’s very familiar to her, so she wouldn’t be constantly noticing landmarks or marvelling at buildings she’d only previously seen in photographs as a visitor would. I have used some real locations, but some are fictional and appear only in the books.

Caelan’s world can be a dangerous place, and I didn’t think it would be fair to use a real location or premises in those situations. I want Caelan’s London to be believable, but not necessarily an exact copy of the real city. There’s a place in TELL NO LIES (it also appears in the previous book, ASK NO QUESTIONS) that I like to imagine exists, or at least that similar places do – a secret, subterranean office. Caelan has been summoned there on a couple of occasions, and I must admit, it’s a place I love writing about, because it encapsulates everything about Caelan’s job that appeals to me, and hopefully to the reader. Its location is secret, it’s well guarded, and it’s right under the nose of people passing by on a busy London street. The idea of the place was partly inspired by a visit I made to the Churchill War Rooms a few years ago. Formerly the underground bunker where Winston Churchill and his staff met and worked during the Second World War, it’s now a museum, and a fascinating, highly atmospheric place that made a huge impression on me. When I was imaging what such an office might be like, I thought back to walking through the warren of underground corridors and rooms and tried to capture some sense of it. To me, the sense of place in a novel doesn’t have to mean your characters walk around an exact replica of a real city. A blend of fact and fiction can be just as effective.

Tell No Lies was published by Canelo on 19th February.

A tortured body is found in a basement. Drug dealing and people smuggling is on the rise. Then police start going missing.

There seems to be no connection between the crimes, but Detective Caelan Small senses something isn’t right.

Plunged into a new investigation, lives are on the line. And in the web of gangs, brothels and nerve-shattering undercover work, Caelan must get to the truth – or be killed trying.

And then there’s Nicky…

With thanks to Lisa Hartley for the brilliant guest post and to Ellie Pilcher at Canelo for organising the blog tour.

 

 

 

***BLOG TOUR*** The Dark Isle by Clare Carson – Q&A

I am pleased to be the latest stop on the blog tour for The Dark Isle by Clare Carson, the third book in the Sam Coyle Trilogy. I am grateful to Clare for taking the time to answer my questions with such interesting responses.

  • The coastal settings for the Sam Coyle Trilogy are extremely atmospheric. What prompted you to write about these particular locations?

I’m drawn to coastal locations because they are on the edge of things, and I love saltmarshes and foreshores – stretches of land that only appear between the tides. The trilogy is about spies who exist on the borders of life and in the shadows. The stories are told from the perspective of Sam, a police spy’s daughter, an insider-outsider. Sometimes she thinks sees things clearly, and knows which side of the line different characters are on, but then the tide flows in and everything looks different.

  • How much has your father’s work as an undercover policeman inspired the subject matter of your writing?

The trilogy was very much inspired by my dad’s work as an undercover policeman – although it wasn’t the details of his job that interested me so much as the impact of that secret work and life on family relationships. Having somebody who is effectively a spy in the family is pretty weird – not least because you can’t talk about it! Eventually, years after his death, I started writing fiction as a way to deal with some of the puzzles – how far can you trust your father if he is paid to lie? Is it ever safe to dig up his past? How can you distinguish fact from fiction when it comes to the double life of spies?

  • The Sam Coyle Trilogy was set in the 1970s/80s. Which other era would you like to write about?

Times of change and uncertainty always interest me, so another decade I’d like to write about is the nineteen thirties when Europe was on the brink of war. My mother in law, who is Jewish, was born in Vienna in the 1930s. In the early part of the decade Vienna was one of the most liberal cities in Europe, but she remembers the Nazis arriving in 1938 while her neighbours lined the streets to welcome them. Six months later her family escaped to Britain. I find that history gripping, chilling and moving.

  • Now that ‘The Dark Isle’ has ended the trilogy, what can we expect next?

I’m done with undercover policemen and spies for now and I’m working on an historical murder mystery. But there will still definitely be plenty of coastline, wilderness and birds.

  • When you are not writing, which other authors do you enjoy reading?

I read anything by Cormac McCarthy –  I love his economy and precision of language and his portrayal of the American landscape. I’m always rereading Graham Greene’s novels, partly because he constructs them so well. Sarah Waters is brilliant – Fingersmith is a gripping historical psychological thriller. I enjoy reading Pierre Lemaître for his sheer darkness.

  • For anyone who has not read any of your work before, why should they pick up one of your books?

If you fancy a different take on spies and undercover cops, then my books are for you. If you like characters that aren’t easy to classify as goodies or baddies, you should pick up one of my stories. They don’t slot neatly into any one genre but to quote a recent review, they have great storytelling, pitch perfect plotting, and a wonderful sense of time and place.

Sam grew up in the shadow of the secret state. Her father was an undercover agent, full of tall stories about tradecraft and traitors. Then he died, killed in the line of duty.

Now Sam has travelled to Hoy, in Orkney, to piece together the puzzle of her father’s past. Haunted by echoes of childhood holidays, Sam is sure the truth lies buried here, somewhere.

What she finds is a tiny island of dramatic skies, swooping birds, rugged sea stacks and just four hundred people. An island remote enough to shelter someone who doesn’t want to be found. An island small enough to keep a secret…

41Y6-5D2tYLThe Dark Isle is available to buy now:

Kindle Edition

Hardcover Edition

 

 

 

 

Take a look at the rest of the blog tour:

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With thanks to Clare Carson for answering my questions, to Clare Gordon for organising the blog tour and to Head of Zeus for my copy of The Dark Isle.

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