Crime-Mystery

 

 

The Distance5 star

Available now from Orion Publishing Ltd.

Source: Author review copy

They don’t call her Karla anymore. She’s Charlotte Alton: she doesn’t trade in secrets, she doesn’t erase dark pasts, and she doesn’t break hit-men into prison.

Except that is exactly what she’s been asked to do.

The job is impossible: get the assassin into an experimental new prison so that he can take out a target who isn’t officially there.

It’s a suicide mission, and quite probably a set-up.

So why can’t she say no?

Starting with a narrative from Karla, aka Charlotte, aka Laura, that felt all veryNoir , I was immediately drawn into this one. Karla works as a sort of privately contracted intelligence operative. Although she has been trying to leave that life behind and live as the glamorous but demure Charlotte……. (in fact her true identity ironically) she has been pulled into one last job – not least on the request of the man she cant quite admit to herself how much she loves (but don’t worry, it isn’t slushy or romantic in the least!)

Enter Johannsen, the actually very likeable contract killer with a traumatic past and an ever-present need to redeem and prove himself. He needs Karla’s help to get into ‘The Programme’, a social experimental prison posing as a town where all residents are convicts. Within this community is his next target, and the mission is practically impossible and extremely dangerous… so how on earth can he resist?

‘The Distance’ is absolutely drenched in mystery and intrigue, and I was completely hooked. In a sort of ‘Prison Break’ meets ‘Spooks’ sort of storyline, the action just keeps on coming and as one secret is uncovered, several more take its place. Karla initially comes across as too professional; intelligent, cool, calculated, but you soon warm to her when the author humanizes her by sharing her faults and fears. And Johannsen is very authentically portrayed as the cold killer with the warm heart. And with a range of fantastic supporting characters that are given just as much personality, nobody in this story can be accused of just making up numbers.

The build up to the climax had me whizzing through the pages, positively starving for the outcome; and at no point was I disappointed or left wanting at all. Giltrow very cleverly reveals the mastermind behind the whole conspiracy, and I cant believe I didn’t see it coming! It was all there, with 20/20 hindsight of course, but I was just far too busy relishing in all of the action to even give it any thought. I think this is what pleased me the most. I’m always so busy trying to analyse and foresee these things, that it can dampen my enjoyment of a book, and yet here I was far too busy enjoying the book to even consider analysis!

Overall, an extremely clever plot and a proper edge-of-your-seat read.


 

look closer5 star

 

Published by Rachel Amphlett

Source: Author ARC

Available in paperback and ebook from 24th March 2015

How far would you go to protect a secret?

How far would you go to expose a lie?

Will Fletcher seems to have it all – perfect job, perfect life. Then in one act of extreme violence, his world is turned upside down.

A bungled assassination attempt on a London street uncovers a disturbing conspiracy fuelled by organised crime and political ambition. Now, Will finds himself on the run, pursued by a dangerous enemy who will stop at nothing to protect his employer’s past.

The only way to stop the chain of events is to follow a trail of clues that lead to the heart of British politics.

With the date for the UK General Election only days away and the killers closing in, Will is running out of time to deliver his own version of vigilante justice and expose the corruption. As the web of lies and deceit unravels, Will knows the answer’s out there.

All he has to do is look closer.

Everyone has secrets. Everyone lies.

Well it has happened, I am astonished! This is by far the best book I have read in a long time. I cannot fault it!

Look Closer begins with some extremely emotive drama when Will Fletcher discovers that his girlfriend Amy lies in hospital. She is in critical condition, having been shot during an assassination attempt on the man who is likely to be elected British Prime Minister.

However it soon becomes apparent that the would-be leader may not have been the intended target at all, and that it may well have been Amy in the shooter’s sights all along – especially when Will receives messages left by Amy in which she warns him that she fears for her life, and that the fact that he has even received these messages means that she was right to be afraid, and furthermore, Will must now fear for his own life.

We are then taken along with Will on a thrilling ride that is not only fast paced, but non-stop! Facing an unknown enemy encompassing conspiracy, corruption, and power hungry monsters with dark and dangerous secrets; Will finds himself desperately trying to piece together the mystery whilst also trying not to get killed – a difficult feat indeed with nowhere to turn and nobody to trust.

Amphlett skilfully creates a brilliant cast of characters, especially Will; tough yet sensitive, determined yet lost; and his terror and desperation practically bounces off the page at you. The villains of the piece are also fantastic creations; terrifying, relentless, and immensely dangerous – any reader will very much share Will’s fear and will still blindly root for him no matter how hopeless a cause it seems.

Whilst you are still reeling from all of the action and excitement, Amphlett decides to throw a twist in there that will really make your head spin, and there is not a word more I can say about it – except to maybe tell you that I’m now off to read it again with fresh ‘knowing’ eyes – so that I can have lots of little ‘A-ha!’ moments.

Look Closer is an energetic, intriguing, terrifying ride, with a twist that will smack you from here to next Friday. Put it on your ‘to read” list. Now.

Many thanks to the author for providing this book for review.

Find out more, visit www.rachelamphlett.com


winter foundlings

Published by Mulholland Books

Source: Bookbridgr

The girl’s body lay on the steps of the Foundling Museum. She was dressed all in white, and tagged with the number 12.

Britain’s most prolific child killer, Louis Kinsella, murdered nine children before he was caught and locked away for life in Northwood high-security hospital. Now someone is carrying on his work. Four girls have disappeared in North London. Three are already dead…

Psychologist Alice Quentin is working at Northwood, hoping for space and time away from her hectic London life. But she’ll do anything to save a child’s life – even if it means sitting down with a charismatic, ruthless killer and putting herself in greater danger than ever before.

The reviews I always find most difficult to write are the ones on books that make me go ‘Meh’. Unfortunately this is one such book.

In ‘The Winter Foundlings’ we find ourselves in a sort of ‘Silence of the Lambs’ set up. Following a spate of kidnap-murders on very young girls around North London, psychologist Alice Quentin is brought in by the police to interview Louis Kinsella, an inmate at a high security hospital for violent criminals. Someone is ‘copycatting’ Kinsella’s work, and with more bodies turning up and one young girl still missing. Quentin is really up against it to get the details she needs from a reluctant Kinsella in order to catch this child murderer and save the 10 year old Ella.

Sounds pretty good, huh? I do enjoy crime fiction and as a psychology graduate myself I revel in plots centred around the female psychologist protagonist. Yet I just could not get excited during this one at all.

It seemed bizarrely like too much and nothing at all was going on all at once. Little mysteries were peppered throughout that I didn’t find at all intriguing, frankly I just found them annoying.

I couldn’t warm to Quentin at all; in fact there were no likeable characters in there for me, and this was possibly due to a severe lack of any real character development – even the ‘disturbingly evil’ Kinsella seemed like his heart wasn’t really in it. There was also an extremely awkward would-be romance, and recurring references to Quentin’s ‘haunted cottage’ that I presume were there to try, and fail, to unsettle the reader and amounted to nothing.

The investigation and the life of Alice Quentin breaks for brief intervals to give us current kidnap victim Ella’s perspective, but even these are no saving grace. Ella is repeatedly referred to as bright beyond her years, and yet this still didn’t explain why her biggest concern seemed to be how cold she was, rather than the violence she was subjected to or the fear in knowing she will soon be dead. And her manipulation to keep her captor sweet was not at all believable from a 10 year old girl, no matter how bright.

With all the beating about the bush, diversion, and focus on things that turned out to have no relevance to the story; there seemed to be an awful lot of irrelevant build up to a climatic event that took all of two pages to occur and abruptly end.

I stuck with it only to see if I was right about who was behind the murders. And no, I wasn’t – but even that didn’t impress me. I felt that if my guy had done it it might have been a better story!

I must point out that this is the third instalment in a series I am not familiar with, and although it works as a standalone in theory, it may be that you’d need to read the first two Alice Quentin novels in order to appreciate her as a character.

Overall, I’m afraid this one didn’t do it for me at all. In these instances I always try to suggest the kind of reader I think it may appeal to – and I suppose if you want an introduction to the crime thriller genre that isn’t too taxing then you may want to give this a go. I have certainly seen some really glowing reviews for it. But it’s not one I would particularly recommend.

My thanks to the publisher for providing this book for review.


gone

Published by Mulholland Books

Source: Bookbridgr

250,000 people go missing in the UK every year. 91% of those reported to police are found within 48 hours. 99% of cases are solved within a year. And 1% stay gone. 11 years ago, troubled teenager Emma Thorley went missing. The police assumed she was a runaway. But now a body has been found in woods near Blyth. DI Michael Gardner knows he didn’t take Emma’s disappearance seriously enough back then, and is determined to make up for it now. But when he and DS Nicola Freeman start to reinvestigate, they discover that nothing is as simple as it seems.

This one gets straight in there with the discovery of a young girl’s body, believed to be that of Emma Thorley, a local girl who disappeared 11 years ago aged 16.

Initially, police suspect she was murdered by her violent thug of an ex-boyfriend, Lucas, the local drug dealer and generally all round nasty piece of work. However, more suspects do start to work their way out of the woodwork; such as Ben, a local drug therapist who was straddling the line of appropriate behaviour whilst working with Emma to get her clean; and Jenny, the local drug-addled bike who had a thing for Lucas as well as really disliking Emma.

Coincidentally, both Ben and Jenny left town about 11 years ago. Ben left to look after his sick mother, but when questioned 11 years on he denies ever knowing Emma – even though he was questioned and happy to help the police 11 years ago. And Jenny has not only left town, but taken on a whole new identity. So what are they hiding? And why is Lucas now so desperate to find these two before the police do?

This one was a great read that got straight into it without any faffing about. It switches between the present day investigation and flashbacks of when Emma first went missing. You are only drip-fed the flashbacks though, in order to keep you guessing.

An equal amount of focus is given to the investigating officers, Freeman and Gardner’s side of things – including substantial character development – as is given to Emma and all those that knew her.

Throughout you feel like there is much more to all of this than is being alluded to, and you will feel as frustrated as DS Freeman when you feel like things just don’t quite add up. But then… BAM!! I was treated to the first twist that has full on slapped me in the face in a very long time! This was one that I did not see coming one little bit! Usually, with even the best of twists, I will probably suss it at the latest by a few paragraphs before the actual reveal. But this one had a one-word reveal, and I genuinely had no clue until I read that one word!

What also made a refreshing change was the male and female officers on the case not ending up in bed together – I find this often cheapens a story, so I was pleased that they remained professional, though not cold.

Speaking of cold, the reader is often reminded of this  – specifically regarding the weather but also reflecting some of the characters and the bleakness of their stories. Set in the more deprived areas of North-East England, it was also a gritty and stark reminder of how rough life can be.

Essentially I really enjoyed this one. It seemed that I had finished it extremely quickly, but it wasn’t lacking, so I must have just been completely enthralled. And my God that twist!

My thanks to the publisher for providing this book for review.


afraid

Published by Hodder & Stoughton

Source: Bookbridgr

Mandasue Heller’s thrilling novel is set on the gritty streets of Manchester.
When fifteen-year-old Skye’s mother finally does something so shocking that it can’t be hushed up, the police turn her over to the social workers – and that’s when the nightmare begins.
She doesn’t know if her father is alive or dead; the woman who is supposed to be helping her dumps her in a terrifying ‘home’ that’s more like a jail. But she still has one friend to turn to: the sympathetic girl she’s met in an internet chat room, the one who seems to have a home life as unhappy as Skye’s. And Jade offers her a safe place to stay . . .
Alone in Manchester, nearly penniless, Skye is willing to trust Jade. Even when it isn’t Jade who turns up at the rendezvous, but a grown-up man who says he’s Jade’s brother . . .

This one was certainly an uncomfortable read – in the sense that it deals with a harrowing subject that one wishes wasn’t a subject at all.

From the synopsis, it is pretty obvious what we are going to be dealing with here. The poor, downtrodden 15-year-old Skye is living a nightmare. Her mother is mentally unstable and finally flips during yet another argument with Skye’s father and stabs him. Owing to this, and the fact that she has been on Social services’ radar for some time anyway, Skye is taken into ‘care’ – care being a loosely used term… and yet her real troubles have far from begun.

Having run from her hellish care home – and with no idea where her mum has been taken or how to get in touch with her recovering father – Skye has nowhere else to turn other than to QTPye, her online friend who understands exactly what Skye is going through.

Cue QTPye, aka Jade’s, brother Tom, who turns up to save Skye from her nightmare in place of Jade who ‘got held up’. Tom takes Skye to his run down and secluded house where she will be safe from the authorities who are trying to ruin her life. It is at this point that an already hopeless and tragic story really becomes extremely harrowing…

Heller deals with the disturbing subject of online grooming and paedophilia very aptly. Without being too graphic during some of the more disturbing moments in the story, she is able to address the frightening reality of how easy it is for vulnerable children to be manipulated into the most harmful situations. The subject of grooming is not just here for its own sake either. Of course it is what the story is essentially about, but it is woven into a very well written plot. And all main characters are well developed, with impressive internal dialogue and authentic discourse.

Skye’s ordeal is mercifully interspersed with a look at how her father is coping with things his end – finding himself homeless, jobless, and vilified by the community following false accusations of violence towards his wife and sexually abusing his daughter, he is then imprisoned for allegedly murdering Skye. Ok so I said mercifully, he does have a very tough time of it himself, but it’s still nothing compared to what his daughter is going through whilst everyone else believes she is dead.

I wouldn’t advise reading this one if you’re into ‘happily-ever-afters’, whether you think things end well or not in this story is all relative. You might come away feeling thankful that everything turned out ok, but actually it didn’t, not really.

Overall, a stark yet sensitive take on a very dark and gritty subject. As difficult to put down as it was to read!

My thanks to the publisher for providing this book for review


last kiss 5 star

Published by Hachette Books Ireland

Source: Bookbridgr

In a quiet suburb, a woman desperately clings to her sanity as a shadowy presence moves objects around her home.

In a hotel room across the city, an art dealer with a dubious sexual past is found butchered, his body arranged to mimic the Hangman card from the Tarot deck.

But what connects them?

When criminal psychologist Dr Kate Pearson is brought in to help investigate the murder, she finds herself plunged into a web of sexual power and evil which spreads from Dublin to Paris, and then to Rome.

Will Kate discover the identity of the killer before it’s too late to protect the innocent? But what separates the innocent from the guilty when the sins of the past can never be forgotten?

Well I can certainly see why Louise Phillips is an award-winning crime writer! This is the third Dr Kate Pearson novel, however only the first that I have read. Three pages in and I knew I was going to love this book. I was hauled instantly into the intriguing world of a narrator who demanded my attention.

We are initially introduced to a very disturbing crime scene, a gruesome murder with a Tarot twist, which later transpires to not be the first of its kind. Dr Kate Pearson, criminal psychologist, is called in by Dublin police to help give a psychological profile of the murderer.

I liked Kate straight away. She is not your usual whining divorcee-mum, but carries a suitable amount of sadness and vulnerability. She is ever-professional and certainly knows her stuff with regards to the criminal psyche. She juggles her professional relationships with dignity and class – namely an emerging romance with DI Adam O’Connor (there is some history there that I think I will have to read the other novels to fully grasp), and a clear dislike for the ladder-climbing arrogance of DI Mark Lynch. Kate is also the character that gives us an enjoyable and accurate account of psychological theory, and some insightful details of Tarot reading and all its rules and meanings.

Elsewhere, we are introduced to Sandra and her friends. An unlikely group; the kind of old friends that are bound merely by a shared history rather than actually having anything in common anymore. Sandra suspects her husband is having an affair, and her friends are cagey when she airs her suspicions. You know that there is more to all of this than your bog-standard affair, but you cant put your finger on it.

Sandra is very unsettled about something else too – things are being moved around in her home, and she constantly feels like someone is watching her. Of course you know that these events are connected to the murders somehow, but when the first link is actually revealed, I couldn’t help but still feel excited about it.

The murder investigations and Kate’s role in the story are told in the third person, and Sandra gives us her first person account of what is going on with her,. This keeps things fresh and interesting.

But the absolute best part of the entire novel are the chapters dedicated to our murderer. These are told not only in the first person, but the murderer often directly addresses the reader. With lines such as

Would you warn her if you could? Or would you wait around to see what other games I have in store?”

These sections are what makes the story all the more chilling. I really felt this psycho in the room with me – I don’t think I’ve ever read anything that had such an intense effect.

The prose within the murderer’s sections was almost hypnotic. I could see how they lull and manipulate their victims, I could feel them doing the same to me! The way you are drawn in is actually quite terrifying. The murderer is not only slowly letting you in on the secrets that the rest of the players have yet to fathom, but is also giving you a direct view to their terribly dark and damaged psyche. They are also very articulate in describing their own childhood trauma, although not to invoke sympathy as they know they are way past that, but almost as a way of further torturing the reader, by letting you know just how dark and ugly this world can be – and their references to the ‘Grimm’ type characters in their life, like the witch and the huntsman, just goes further to give you the heebie-jeebies! And yes, albeit worryingly so, the murderer was in fact my favourite in a brilliantly diverse and complex group of cracking characters.

I think one of my favourite lines came from the murderer:-

You might think you know me too. I doubt it. I haven’t told you everything, not yet.”

Ooh that one was a corker! Because they were right! You are led on a right merry dance in working out who they are. And I must confess I was slightly disappointed that I was right about their identity early on – although I don’t believe this to be a flaw in the story, and more likely due to me recently reading a very similar plot reveal in another story. Even though I had worked it out very early on, the writing was just so that I couldn’t put money on it, and it didn’t ruin it one bit for me, because the climax was still exciting enough.

Overall, this book was disturbingly and brilliantly intense, and I implore all crime and psychological thriller fans to put this on their reading list immediately! Fantastic!

My thanks to the publishers for providing this book for review.


untitled

Published by Quercus

Source: Publisher review copy

A seeker after truth will be hunted as prey.

When controversial Professor Kristian Storm is found hanged in his office, his assistant Marie Skov refuses to believe that he has committed suicide. Having just returned from West Africa on a research trip, the late scientist had uncovered a shocking truth about immunology programmes in the developing world.
Former police detective Søren Marhauge is determined to prove what really happened to the professor. While Marie grapples with Storm’s disputed legacy, Søren leads them both beyond legal boundaries and behind the scenes of the cut-throat pharmaceutical industry.
Sissel-Jo Gazan’s bestselling and influential The Dinosaur Feather introduced Danish Crime lovers to the competitive and perfidious world of biological science. In this outstanding sequel, her ingenious research, complex characterisation and suspenseful plotting supercedes the promise of her internationally acclaimed breakthrough.

I really cannot stomach people referring to things as being “a roller-coaster ride” when not talking about a theme park – and yet it’s the first thing that pops into my head when thinking about this book!

‘The Arc of the Swallow’ has just about everything! Cram packed full of mystery, intrigue, and conspiracy – you will be left reeling from it all. You will also be deeply drawn into a world of murder, deep family secrets, love, hate, passion, fear, regret, betrayal, jealousy, tragedy, heartache, mental illness, terminal illness… PHEW! And that’s still only scratching the surface!

We are taken through the story from the perspective of the two lead characters – Soren Marhauge, the ‘kind of’ police detective investigating the ‘perhaps’ suicide of a renowned scientist sat on the brink of a discovery that will rock the entire world, whilst also dealing with a slightly neurotic and definitely self-centred girlfriend, as well as a serious arse of a ‘friend’ and colleague whose own life is spiralling into disaster; and Marie Skov, the meek and devastated prodigy of the deceased scientist, suffering with her own personal hardships, including her own health seriously deteriorating, and the war zone in which she finds herself with her completely dysfunctional and dishonest family.

I don’t know if I have ever read anything that is just so full to bursting with so much diverse content, with such extensive character development, that hasn’t left the actual story suffering. But here, I was completely gripped throughout the entirety. The more I read, the more mysteries I half-uncovered, and the more I had a deep-rooted NEED to find out – just how far did the science conspiracy reach? Just what did happen to the Skov family that had left them with such misery and anger? And just how did Soren and Marie’s own histories interconnect?

Now for balance – and because giving a completely flawless review does come difficult to me! – I have to admit that in hindsight, I was a little deflated with some of the discoveries. The Skov family history was, although tragic, not quite as sinister as I was led to believe; and the Soren/Marie connection was barely worth the mention let alone the build up. Having said that, these points were not enough to leave me at all disappointed – I was given a good sense of closure for each and every richly conveyed character, and the showdown on the criminal investigation side of things was really quite entertaining. Besides, after being pulled into these lives and experiencing just about every human emotion whilst I was at it, I’m not sure my heart could have coped with anything more dramatic than what I was given in the end – so yes, I’m probably just being greedy! And yes, this was a ruddy good read!

*Thanks go to Quercus for providing this book for review


 

falling

Published by Random House

Source: NetGalley

A plane falls out of the sky. A woman is murdered. Four people all have something to hide.
Jim is a retired police officer, and worried father. His beloved daughter has disappeared and he knows something is wrong.
Tom has woken up to the news that his wife was on the plane and must break the news to their only son.
Cecilia had packed up and left her family. Now she has survived a tragedy, and sees no way out.
Freya is struggling to cope with the loss of her father. But as she delves into his past, she may not like what she finds.
‘Before the plane crash, after the plane crash, such a short amount of time for the world to turn on its head. ‘

A plane crash. A young woman’s murder. Two totally unrelated incidents….perhaps…

Falling is the kind of book that leaves me at odds as to whether I enjoyed the read – and these are always, to me, the most difficult to review. It is full of arcing sub-plots, and I feel it may be a very ‘reader-dependant’ story; in that I think it very much depends on who you are as a person as to which characters will resonate and what you will take from it.

For me, this story was very much about Cecilia and her son. From the very start I just could not connect with Cecilia – a survivor of the plane crash who was walking out on her husband and 3 year old son. As the mother of a 3 year old myself, I am under no illusion that her lack of maternal compassion is what likely led to my instant dislike of the woman. Of course a back story was given to try to explain her behaviour – and yet I could still feel no empathy for her.

What I did feel was immense sorrow for Cecilia’s husband, Tom, a police officer investigating the young woman’s murder – there’s your first connector – who has missed out on the happiness that a good man deserves due to his desire to do the right thing. He loves his son, undoubtedly, but the woman that he loves, who he should be enjoying a beautiful life with, is not his wife Cecilia – she is merely the mother of the son he so desperately wants to do right by.. This is both honourable and tragic.

Because I was so drawn to this part of the story – I felt no closure. We pretty much know how/why the plane crashed, and the murder is solved – and yet where Cecilia and her son are concerned, I’m just left extremely frustrated and weakly hoping that things turned out ok for them – yes, yes not very ‘real-life’ I know – but then why on Earth do you think I read?!

Kavanagh is a clever writer – that much is for sure. The way you almost physically feel the cold that is described, and how this reflects in the emotion of the characters, is to be applauded.
I also enjoyed the very apt imagery of falling/flying that runs throughout, it kept the tone consistent and adds immensely to the whole experience.

However, there were a couple of things that didn’t sit right with me and I couldn’t let it go. There were a couple of twists in there to further connect the sub-plots, that I felt were unnecessary and a little self-indulgent. And a couple of “revelations” with practically audible drum rolls that I felt were really very obvious a long time beforehand. And finally, the ‘glove’ red herring – if you are going to put a red herring in there, you must then explain it away later when it becomes clear that it was indeed as much. Picky? Yes, but it really stuck with me!

Overall… well actually I don’t know. It was a pretty good story. It was reasonably well-written. And yet my negative relationship with one of the lead characters may have tarred the whole experience for me. But hey, it certainly had an impact so perhaps it is in fact really, very good!

* My thanks to the author and Random House for providing this book for review.


illgotten gains

Published by Momentum Books

Source: Netgalley

There are secrets in the sleepy town of Majic, where the past trips over the present … and then looks the other way.
The country town of Majic is about to celebrate a milestone. It’s been 150 years since the founding father, Petar Majic, rode into the bush after a liquid lunch, vowing to build a house at whatever spot he reached by sunset. However, what happened next isn’t quite what town legend would have you believe.
A minor act of cemetery vandalism lands local columnist and amateur detective Nell Forrest right in the path of historical inevitability. An apparent murder-suicide leads to the unveiling of a century-old scandal and a trail left by a trio of long-dead women.
Nell’s investigations are hampered both by the arrival of the handsome district detective and by her family – whose dramas almost eclipse that of the town itself. With directionless daughters, unplanned pregnancies, a spot or two of adultery and an ex-husband who wants her house, Nell barely has time for the case, let alone the energy to keep her wits about her at the same time.
And Nell will need her wits about her as the mystery of Majic begins casting its shadow into the present day, putting Nell and her family in grave danger. In the end, Nell must decide whether it is a tale of epic fortitude, or treachery and ill-gotten gains, before the past catches up with her.

Meet Nell Forest. A middle-aged woman contending with an ex-husband who is happily moving on with the ‘other woman’; an insufferably disapproving and unaffectionate mother; an infuriatingly interfering sister; and a plethora of daughters all bringing their own dramas to the table…life for Nell Forest is far from serene.

But all of this is nothing compared to the drama that arises when her sleepy little home-town becomes embroiled in a scandal of deep dark secrets, betrayal, deceit, and murder….and Nell finds her own life is in very real danger.

Ill-Gotten Gains is the second in a series of books – the first of which I hadn’t read, and luckily I hadn’t needed to – apart from a couple of ‘What have you gotten yourself involved in this time?’ type comments, that don’t really affect the current story, the author ensures you know enough about Nell and her life for this to uphold as a stand-alone.

Anyway, the ‘mystery’ itself was sadly really not all that mysterious, and you didn’t really have to make much of a leap to figure out what was going on. The ‘whodunnit’ reveal was delivered a bit too quickly and lacked any real suspense…luckily a twist was hinted at and so I held hope that it may redeem itself later on….unfortunately the final reveal, although not the one I’d suspected, was a bit lackluster and quite frankly a bit naff in my opinion.

Having said that, a huge redeeming merit is the dry humour and sarcasm of the down-trodden Nell Forest – Ok it seems almost ridiculously flippant sometimes considering what is going on around her – but it manages to make the character very likeable and adds a much needed dose of entertainment.

All in all not a complete write off – no its not a nail-biting, brilliantly clever, suspense-riddled mystery; but it is an entertaining read that would probably satisfy a great deal of ‘light mystery’ fans.

My thanks to Ilsa Evans and Momentum Books for providing this book for review.


Lostgirlsrome

Published by Mulholland Books

Source: NetGalley

A grieving young widow, seeking answers to her husband’s death, becomes entangled in an investigation steeped in the darkest mysteries of Rome.
Sandra Vega, a forensic analyst with the Roman police department, mourns deeply for a marriage that ended too soon. A few months ago, in the dead of night, her husband, an up-and-coming journalist, plunged to his death at the top of a high-rise construction site. The police ruled it an accident. Sanda is convinced it was anything but.
Launching her own inquiries, Sanda finds herself on a dangerous trail, working the same case that she is convinced led to her husband’s murder. An investigation which is deeply entwined with a series of disappearances that has swept the city, and brings Sandra ever closer to a centuries-old secret society that will do anything to stay in the shadows.

What do you get if you cross the works of Dan Brown, with the TV shows Criminal Minds & CSI and add a dash of Fringe/X-Files….?? Well aside from me thinking all my birthdays have come at once – you get something a little like ‘The Lost Girls of Rome’.

Sandra Vega is a forensics expert mourning the death of her husband…a death presumed to be a tragic accident until a phone call in the middle of the night leads her onto a path which suggests otherwise…

Marcus and Clemente are 2 Vatican priests; members of a sect that are secretly investigating a spate of abductions and murders of young girls across Rome. The latest victim disappeared only last night…trouble is, their prime suspect is in a coma… and Marcus is somewhat distracted with the small matter of suffering with amnesia…

Then there is the ‘hunter’, set on the seemingly impossible task of tracking down an unimaginably evasive prey…will he ever succeed or will the hunter become the hunted…?

Several sub-plots interweave in this little gem in a way that early on I thought I had pretty much sussed…and then I hadn’t…and then I had…and then – well you get the idea! A good few twists and turns in this one…and with so many possibilities its pure pot luck if you figure it out before the big reveals!

This one has had mixed reviews – ok so you might not warm to some of the leads completely, and for something that is so tantalizingly drawn out through the majority, you do feel a little deflated when everything is just a little too quickly tied up, done and dusted. But on the whole, if you enjoy entertaining crime thrillers, you’ll enjoy this.

I’d like to thank Mulholland Books for sending me this book to review.


HelltoPay

Published by Sassy Books

Source: Author request

Nancy Kerr refuses to be a victim – even when she walks in on her parents killers and is raped and left for dead. Fourteen months later, she wakes up in a psychiatric hospital with no knowledge of how she got there. Slowly her memory starts to return. Released from the institution, she has just one thing on her mind two men brought hell to her family home. Now they re in for some hell of their own.

Nancy is a young graphic designer living in the trendy ends of Glasgow with boyfriend Michael. After a ‘right bitch of a day’ and in order to escape from the right moody Michael, Nancy decides a visit to her parents is in order. As she arrives at her childhood home, her haven, her sanctuary, she walks right into a hellish nightmare, and her life is completely changed forever….

I’m really rather torn with this one. The story itself is pretty good, but the way it is written sometimes made a quite uncomfortable read. And I’m not referring to the scenes of disturbing violence…

What made me more uncomfortable, was the overpowering sense of ‘man-hate’ peppered throughout the book.
From gentler lines like – “The presence of those powerful women empowers me.” And “…whenever she needed a babysitter or someone to moan to about her husband’s numerous shortcomings.”
To the completely in your face – “That’s how Neanderthals view women – as mothers or slappers…” and “But then, he wouldn’t be the first man to stop thinking the second he dropped his trousers”. And the very saddening – “…because ultimately most men let you down.”

I’m all for women’s lib, and I was quite intrigued when the preface promised some really empowering material, but the lead character didn’t seem empowered and liberated to me at all, she actually seemed rather psychotic – now that may be understandable considering what she experiences, but let’s call a spade a spade and not dress it up as anything else. The fact that a completely unbelievable and inappropriate sex scene appears to be there for its own sake, seems to completely contradict the message the author is trying to get across anyway!

Now having said that, like I said the story itself is pretty good, albeit it moves along at a ridiculously fast pace – so much so that you feel you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole at some points. This novella had the ingredients to be a very good full length novel – a bit of better writing could have beefed it out and given a much more plausible flow to the timeline of events. But it does show promise for what could potentially be a really good series. And Thomson also very cleverly left a beautiful little nugget of mystery and suspense in the very last line of the book…certainly ensuring that this reviewer reads the next in the series!


braindead

Published by ePublishing Works

Source: Kindle Free Edition

When forensic nurse Timmie Leary-Parker moves from LA to Puckett, Missouri to care for her ailing father, she’s prepared for the slow pace, the small-town politics and the feeling that everyone knows her business.
Then, patients in the hospital’s Alzheimer’s Unit start dying in unprecedented numbers.
Everyone refuses to investigate the town’s most lucrative business, and no one will come against the hospital’s Golden Boy director.
No one, except Timmie.
Convinced a serial killer walks the Alzheimer’s Unit where her father lies ill, Timmie digs up a burned-out Pulitzer-winning reporter and dives into a quagmire of corruption and greed.

This one took a little while to get going, and I couldn’t decide whether I really liked the heroine of the piece, Timmie – subtle changes to the character on occasion had a bigger impact with me than I suspect was intended, but then she reverted again (almost as if her character reflected the authors mood at the time). Sometimes the pace of the story didn’t quite fit for me – one minute there is this mysterious conspiracy going on and Timmie doesn’t know who she can trust….and the next, her friends are randomly chatting away about the whole thing….with no real event to link these occurrences.
Overall, this wasn’t a terrible read at all, but then I didn’t find it all that great either. However, as Kindle freebies go, I suppose it wasn’t all bad.

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