Jane’s daughter is a good girl. What is she hiding?
When thirteen-year-old Savannah Hopkins doesn’t come straight home from school, as she always does, her mother Jane immediately raises the alarm.
Leading the investigation is Detective Natalie Ward whose daughter Leigh is the same age as Savannah. Soon Natalie’s worst fears are confirmed when the teenager’s broken body is found in nearby shrubland.
Evidence points towards a local recluse, but just as the net is closing around him, one of Savannah’s friends, Harriet, is reported missing.
As Natalie delves into the lives of both girls, she soon discovers a sinister video on their phones, daring the girls to disappear from their families for 48 hours.
But Natalie isn’t quick enough for this killer, and she is devastated to find Harriet’s body on a fly tip a day later.
Caught up in the case, she takes her eye off her own daughter and when Leigh goes missing after school she knows she must be in terrible danger. The clock is ticking for Natalie. Can she catch this killer before her little girl becomes the next victim?
I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is my first time reading the DI Natalie Ward series, but the story reads perfectly as a standalone. You soon become familiar with the recurrent characters and their motivations and hangups.
The story is easy to read and realistic. There is a killer in the town preying on young girls. The girls have secrets, hidden from their mothers and this duplicity makes them vulnerable and susceptible to the evil that surrounds them.
There are multiple suspects and sketchy alibis and each delay bring the possibility of another innocent life taken closer. DI Natalie Ward is a dedicated officer, trying to balance her demanding career with troubled home life. There are notable parallels between her teenagers and the victims, which leads to a dangerous collision of personal and professional life that could end in tragedy for the detective.
The fast pacing complements the relentless menace of the abductions and killings. There is a good balance of action and detection and the suspense builds with every incident making this an addictive story. The characterisation makes the protagonist and the minor characters come to life. You feel their emotions and empathise with them
This is a contemporary story, the issues raised face each parent of teenagers and pre-teens, the power and anonymity of social media and the internet is explored in a believable and thought-provoking way. There are no stereotypes here.
The clever plot has the killer playing a game of ‘cat and mouse’ with the detective team, with dangerous stakes and a rising body count. Enhanced with an authentic setting and a cast of realistically flawed characters, this is a riveting noir crime thriller.
Brother and sister Peter and Adele Robinson never stood a chance. Dragged up by an alcoholic, violent father, and a weak, beaten mother, their childhood in Manchester only prepared them for a life of crime and struggle. But Adele is determined to break the mould. She studies hard at school and, inspired by her beloved grandmother Joyce, she finally makes a successful life for herself on her own.
Peter is not so lucky. Getting more and more immersed in the murky world of crime and gangs, his close bonds with Adele gradually loosen until they look set to break altogether.
But old habits die hard, and one devastating night, Adele is forced to confront her violent past. Dragged back into her worst nightmares, there’s only one person she can turn to when her life is on the line – her brother Peter. After all, blood is thicker than water…
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus – Aria in return for an honest review.
‘Born Bad’ is the first book in the ‘Manchester Trilogy’ series, a gritty gangland crime story set in Manchester. I have read this book after reading the other two later books, and so I knew what to expect. It was good to meet Adele and Peter in the early stages of their life, the abuse and lack of care they receive make the people they become in later life.
It’s interesting that different personalities react in diverse ways to their nurturing, or lack of it and the events in this book pave the way for the further books in the series with some surprising twists.
This is a harrowing story. Domestic abuse, neglect and violence are prominent, this is hard to read, but an essential component of this genre. The story is good and well-paced. The characters are complex, flawed and realistic.
If you are looking for a British based, organised crime series, focused on the family, this is a book and series worth reading.
Guest Post – Heather Burnside
One of the themes that feature in Born Bad is mental health. The topic of nature vs nurture interests me and I, therefore, decided to reflect this in the book. Currently, there is a lot of focus in the media on looking after our mental health so I thought it would be an opportune time to explore this issue in Born Bad.
My protagonist, Adele, is affected by mental health in many
ways. To start with we hear Adele’s grandmother, Joyce, talking about Adele’s
father, Tommy’s, side of the family and their mental health issues. She tells
Adele’s mother that Tommy comes from bad blood (hence the title Born Bad) and that he had a mad great-uncle
who was always fighting and who ended up in an asylum.
Joyce also worries that Adele’s brother, Peter, might take after Tommy’s side of the family. Joyce is quite insensitive when she refers to the issue of mental health but, when you bear in mind that this was the seventies, her view was typical at that time. Fortunately, the perception of mental health issues has changed a lot since then.
Adele and Peter have a very traumatic childhood and, as the
novel progresses, they both behave in a way that wouldn’t be considered normal
or rational. Peter’s odd behaviour is first displayed when he is lining up
caterpillars and thrashing them with a whip, taking great delight in seeing
their damaged bodies.
As he gets older Peter becomes involved in criminal
activities in which he doesn’t appear to have a conscience where his victims
are concerned. Is this because of his troubled upbringing, because of genetic mental
health issues or perhaps a combination of the two?
Adele, on the other hand, does have a conscience and she tries
to do the right thing but she is affected by forces that seem to be beyond her
control. Again, she could have been driven by an inherent condition or she
could be so severely affected by her troubled childhood that she reaches
breaking point. Research has shown that both genetics and upbringing can affect
a person’s mental health.
Adele’s mother, Shirley, also has her own problems and
relies on a diet of pills to get her through each day. However, rather than
being seen as a hereditary illness, her mental health issues stem from the
stress of being married to a drunken, violent and unfeeling man. Adele sees her
as weak but, like her grandmother, her point of view could be the result of
poor awareness in the 1970s regarding mental health issues.
Mental health covers a wide spectrum of illnesses with
varying levels of severity. The UK mental health charity, Mind, estimates that
one in four people in the UK each year experiences a mental health problem. Anxiety
and depression are amongst the most common mental health conditions, and while
some of these conditions are manageable, they also vary in severity. There are
some very serious and debilitating mental health conditions too which can greatly
affect a person’s quality of life.
I think we have come a long way in highlighting mental health issues and breaking down the taboos which have previously surrounded the subject. However, we still have some way to go both in educating people about mental health and in providing greater levels of care to those affected.
Extract From Born Bad – Heather Burnside
to Deborah’s agonised screams, Adele continued to kick as rage overtook her. It
was only the sight of the dinner lady running towards her that brought her to
as she thought about the incident, she felt remorseful. If only Debby hadn’t
decided to do something so daft. If only she could have persuaded her to stop
without losing her temper. But Debby hadn’t stopped. She shouted at her a few
times, and she still didn’t stop. That’s what she would say in her defence. She
had to pull her legs away; it was her only chance.
did she have to kick her?
was feeling desperate. Oh God, it’s no good, she thought, I’m gonna be in trouble no matter
thought about what her father’s reaction would be if he found out. She dreaded
that even more than she dreaded being summoned to see the head teacher.
sound of the bell interrupted her thoughts. It was the end of the lunch period
and Adele entered the school building in a state of trepidation, to the sound
gonna be in trouble, Adele Robinson, for what you did to Debby.’
‘Yeah,’ added another girl, ‘Miss Goody Two Shoes is gonna get done, haha.’
Mr Parry announced that she and Debby were to see the head teacher
straightaway, Adele felt her stomach sink.
Mr Parry led the two girls down the long corridor towards the head teacher’s office and told them to wait outside while he knocked on the door. After he had been inside for a few minutes, he came back out and asked Debby to go inside. He then lowered his eyes towards Adele and told her to wait there until she was called for. She noticed the look of disappointment on his face and felt ashamed. Then, with nothing further to say, he left her standing outside the head teacher’s office, trembling with fear.
After what seemed like an endless wait, Debby came out of the office and looked away from Adele as she walked past her.
shouted Miss Marchant.
was already in tears by the time she entered the office and presented herself
at the other side of the head teacher’s large desk.
then, what have you been up to?’ asked Miss Marchant.
I didn’t mean it,’ muttered Adele.
mean what? And for heaven’s sake, speak up, young lady.’
didn’t mean to hurt Debby,’ Adele sobbed.
from what I’ve been told, you’ve got a bit of a temper, haven’t you young
by now very tearful, nodded in response.
can’t hear you!’ thundered Miss Marchant.
was so worked up that she thought she would vomit at any minute. To her
surprise, just when she reached the point where she felt she might faint, the
head teacher seemed to relent.
Miss Robinson, although I don’t condone your behaviour in the playground, I
have received glowing reports from your class teacher. So, I’m going to let the
matter rest on this occasion. However, I would suggest that in future you keep
that temper of yours well under wraps.’
Miss,’ answered Adele.
quickly made for the door, feeling a mixture of relief and shame, but before
she could get to the other side, she was stopped by Miss Marchant’s stern
if I ever hear of any repeat of this behaviour, you will be punished severely!’
Miss,’ Adele replied as she dashed from the office.
to be away from the head teacher’s office as soon as possible, Adele rushed
down the corridor and into her classroom.
Parry raised his eyes from the papers on his desk and abruptly ordered Adele to
sit down in the vacant seat next to Tony Lord, who had a reputation for being
the best fighter in the school.
Adele felt everyone’s eyes on her, a tear escaped from her eye. She was greeted
by a barrage of questions from the other children sitting at the table. Adele’s
feelings of guilt and shame made her shy away from their questions, even though
she could tell they were impressed that she’d beaten Debby up.
are you crying if you won the fight?’ asked Tony, puzzled.
‘Don’t know,’ muttered Adele, dipping her head.
Read my reviews of Blood Ties and Vendetta, the other books in the series.
Heather Burnside spent her teenage years on one of the toughest estates in Manchester and she draws heavily on this background as the setting for many of her novels. After taking a career break to raise two children Heather enrolled on a creative writing course. Heather now works full-time on her novels from her home in Manchester, which she shares with her two grown-up children. Twitter Facebook
Stephen Berry is about to jump off a bridge until a suicide prevention counsellor stops him. A week later, Stephen is dead. Found at the bottom of a cliff, DI Luc Callanach and DCI Ava Turner are drafted in to investigate whether he jumped or whether he was pushed…
As they dig deeper, more would-be suicides roll in: a woman found dead in a bath; a man violently electrocuted. But these are carefully curated deaths – nothing like the impulsive suicide attempts they’ve been made out to be.
Little do Callanach and Turner know how close their perpetrator is as, across Edinburgh, a violent and psychopathic killer gains more confidence with every life he takes…
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Addictive, absorbing and absolutely page turning, the fifth book in the DI Callanach crime thriller series lives up to its name.
I haven’t read any of the previous books in this series, but that didn’t matter, it reads perfectly as a standalone. Even though some of the relationships have history, there is enough backstory to make you understand the character nuances and the dynamics within the Murder Investigation Team (MIT).
A series of horrific suicides shouldn’t draw the attention of Chief Inspector Ava Turner and her team, but they do. Ava’s loyalties are stretched when Detective Inspector Luc Callanach’s past makes him vulnerable to suspicion, both cases give this story its relentless momentum and the carefully layered suspense keeps you guessing.
My initial thoughts on who did it proved fruitful, but although the clues are there, the subterfuge is clever. I like the characters they are realistic, quirky and for the most part likeable. There is a pleasing balance of action and cerebral detection, which gives this series a wide appeal.
The series ends on an emotional cliffhanger for some of the MIT, which hopefully be resolved in the next thrilling instalment?
How can you spot a murderer? Leo Stone is a ruthless killer – or the victim of a miscarriage of justice. A year ago, he was convicted of the murder of two women and sentenced to life in prison. But now he’s free, and according to him, he’s innocent.
D.S. Maeve Kerrigan and DI Josh Derwent are determined to put Stone back behind bars where he belongs, but the more Maeve finds out, the less convinced she is of his guilt.
Then another woman disappears in similar circumstances. Is there a copycat killer, or have they been wrong about Stone from the start?
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
‘Cruel Acts’ is an excellent police procedural novel, absorbing, chilling and suspenseful, it is meticulously plotted. The characters are complex and realistic, they draw you into their lives and make you want to know what happens next.
The story focuses on a serial killer who is released pending retrial due to a jury irregularity. The police have to make their case again, but this is not as straightforward as it appears. Maeve Kerrigan and Josh Derwent find poorly investigated leads, new victims and then a new missing person, the plot is twisty and keeps you guessing, but like all good crime novels, the clues to solve the mysteries are there, but can you find them?
This isn’t a graphic serial killer novel, although this is the catalyst for the story, there is much more to it. It reads well as a standalone, this is the first Maeve Kerrigan novel I’ve read. but it is so well written I would like to read the rest of the series too.
There are many interesting character dynamics between members of the police team. Kerrigan and Newton’s friendship is the most notable, but all of them add depth to this complex story and increase its authenticity.
The beginning and end are particularly menacing, but this is a page-turning read, that’s hard to put down.
ruthless is to be powerful, at least it is on the Battersea streets…
Georgina Garrett was
born to be ruthless and she’s about to earn her reputation.
As World War One is
announced a baby girl is born. Little do people know that she’s going to grow
up to rule the streets of Battersea. From a family steeped in poverty the only
way to survive is with street smarts.
With a father who steals
for a living, a grandmother who’s a woman of the night and a mother long dead,
Georgina was never in for an easy life. But after a tragic event left her
father shaken he makes a decision that will change the course of all their
lives – to raise Georgina as George, ensuring her safety but marking the start
of her life of crime…
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Set in the early 20th-century ‘Trickster’ follows the fortunes of Georgina Garrett from her birth in 1914 when England declared war on Germany. Georgina knows tragedy from her first breath, she is no stranger to loss and falls foul of the depravity she is born into, despite the love and protection of her family.
This historical crime saga is characterised by well-researched historical detail, which brings the story to life. It’s easy to imagine the poverty, depravity and violence of the London slums. The writing is full of vivid imagery and dialogue which gives it an authentic feel.
The characters are believable and even though many of them are criminals, they are easy to empathise. Many are victims of circumstance, they commit crimes and act violently to survive. The strong family bond essential for gangland crime fiction is evident in this story, and it is this that makes it such an absorbing read.
The abuse, language and violence are graphic, but not gratuitous. They make this story an authentic reading experience, but there will be times when you will cringe or want to look away.
The plot is well- written and has many twists, that shape Georgina Garrett and her future self. The underlying theme of the story is based on a misnomer, which gives this story a refreshing uniqueness. This is an accomplished debut story and I look forward to reading book two.
Q&A with Sam Michaels – TricksterI
Sagas are popular in romantic fiction, but your story is a crime-based saga, what inspired you to write this? Are all the stories historically based?
I’ve always enjoyed sagas, been interested in early 20th- century history and fascinated with the criminal underworld. So, it made sense for me to combine the three, hence, Trickster was born. It’s been a good outlet for my ghastly imagination!
The stories in the Georgina Garrett series of books are historically based, though as they progress, the last one will end in the ’60s and ’70s.
When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?
My main character always comes first, along with a small scenario which sets the scene for the rest of the book. I think the character comes first as I believe this is the most important part of the story. Good, strong characters make good stories!
Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? How do you make your characters realistic?
My characters are mostly from my imagination although I do bring in aspects of real-life people I know. To make them realistic, I find myself acting out each character’s point of view – their voices, facial expressions and sometimes even their body movements. Obviously, I do all this in my head as I don’t want my husband to think I’m a lunatic!
What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?
I’m a fan of true stories, especially tales of triumph over hardship or really gory crime. I’ve recently discovered Bill Bryson books which are not my normal ilk but I’m finding them very amusing and interesting.
When did you start writing? What’s the best thing about being a writer and the worst?
I’ve been writing for the past few years since I moved from the UK to Spain. The best thing about being a writer is knowing that your work is bringing pleasure to someone, and that could be anywhere in the world. The worst thing is being sat indoors in front of my computer when the sun is shining outside.
What are you currently writing?
I’m nearing the end of writing the first draft of the next book in the Georgina Garrett series. It’s been wonderful to dip back into the first book and bring out some of the lesser characters and give them a more prominent role in this story.
Sam Michaels lives in Spain with her family and a plethora of animals. Having been writing for years Trickster is her debut novel.
Extract from Trickster – Book 1 – Georgina Garrett series – Sam Michaels
dunno what to do, Mum. She needs a feed…’
Dulcie chewed her lower lip as her mind turned but then struck by an idea she said, ‘Don’t worry, Jack, I know someone who might be able to help. There’s a jug of ale in the kitchen. Go and pour yourself a glass. I’ll be back as soon as I can.’
left her house and hurried along the narrow street with the wailing baby in her
arms. She could ill afford to feed Percy and herself, let alone this poor
little mite, and a wet nurse didn’t come cheap. However, if her idea panned
out, she wouldn’t have to part with a penny.
minutes later Dulcie was in the roughest part of town. This was an area where
no person of good virtue would dare to frequent. Women hung out of windows with
their bosoms on display, vying for business, while others were drunk, vomiting
openly in the filthy streets. In a dark corner behind a cart, Dulcie glimpsed a
woman bent over with her skirt up, a punter behind her, trousers round his
ankles as he pounded hard for his pleasure.
wasn’t the sort of place where Dulcie felt comfortable carrying a small baby.
She held her granddaughter protectively close to her and tried to muffle the
child’s screams in the hope of avoiding any unwanted attention.
sun was still high in the sky. Dulcie was grateful, as she would have been
worried if it had been dark. A short, skinny man with bare feet and a bent back
walked towards her. His leering eyes unnerved Dulcie and she could see he was
trying to peer at the child she held. He stood ominously in front of her,
blocking her path. If she hadn’t had been carrying Georgina, she wouldn’t have
given a second thought to kneeing him in the crotch.
an evil sneer, he licked his lips, nodded towards the baby and then asked, ‘How
‘This child is not for sale,’ Dulcie said firmly, then sidestepped the man and marched on. It was no secret that in these streets, any desire could be bought for the right price, but it turned Dulcie’s stomach. It wasn’t unusual for a prostitute to fall with an unwanted pregnancy, then sell the child on, no questions asked. Dulcie didn’t believe it was something any woman wanted to do, but the desperation of poverty forced them into it. Gawd knows where those helpless babies ended up, or what they went through, Dulcie thought and shuddered. She reckoned the women would be better off killing their babies – something she suspected her friend Ruby had recently resorted to.
had seen many young women turn to drugs or booze to numb the pain and block out
the memories of what they’d done. Some went out of their minds and ended up in
institutions, a fate worse than death, and it was something she didn’t want to
see happen to Ruby. The girl was only sixteen, with bright ginger hair and a
sprinkling of freckles across her nose. Her fair skin was the colour of
porcelain, so when she’d turned up on the streets one day her purple and yellow
bruises had really stood out.
had taken her under her wing and learned that Ruby was homeless after running
away from her abusive father. Her mother had died when Ruby was seven, and her
father had forced her into his bed to fulfil the role of his wife. When he’d
filled her belly with a child, he’d beaten her until she miscarried, then
thrown her out to fend for herself.
did her best to protect the girl and would steer her away from the customers
she knew had a liking for wanting to rough up the women, but it hadn’t been
long before she’d noticed that Ruby was trying to hide a growing bump in her
stomach. She’d had a quiet word with her and found that Ruby was distraught,
fearing her secret would be discovered and she’d be sent to the workhouse.
Dulcie felt sorry for the girl but, struggling herself to make enough money to
live on, she could only offer a shoulder to cry on.
than a week ago and well into her pregnancy, Ruby disappeared, but then she’d
turned up again two days ago, her stomach flat. She refused to discuss the fate
of the baby, but Dulcie noticed her demeanour had changed. Where once she’d
been a chatty young woman with a wicked sense of humour, she was now mostly
silent, her eyes veiled in a darkness that Dulcie couldn’t penetrate.
lived in the basement of a shared house at the end of the street. It was
decrepit, with the roof caved in and the stairs to the upper level broken.
Dulcie thought the whole house looked unsound and had never been inside, but
she had to speak to Ruby and hoped to find her in. She took a deep breath and
braced herself for what she may find, then slowly walked down the stairs that
led to the basement door. It was open, so with trepidation, she stepped inside.
An elderly resident of an inner-city tower block is brutally attacked and left for dead. Her neighbours, a pregnant alcoholic, a vulnerable youth, a failed actress and a cameraman with a dark secret, are thrown together in their search for answers. Misfits and loners, they are forced to confront uncomfortable realities about themselves and each other, as their investigation leads them towards the shocking finale.
I received a copy of this book from Blackbird Books in return for an honest review.
A chilling act of violence on a defenceless person is the starting point for ‘The Lonely Hearts Crime Club. The setting is a sixties style tower block, mainly used for social housing, The residents all have a story, revealed as the book progresses.
All the characters except one know the victim, they all feel threatened in some respect by what happened. Out of adversity comes a camaraderie that is realistic and poignant. Complex, recognisable, but not stereotypical characters are the driving force of this story. We learn their stories in a format reminiscent of ‘talking heads’ and the angst, heartbreak and ultimately self-realisation is enthralling.
The mystery of what happened at Shenstone tower is well-written, all the characters in the story could be guilty. There is a clever twist almost halfway through, which makes you believe that someone else may have the answers to the mystery.
Ella, Ethan, Birdie and Willian are the unlikely sleuths, but they want to find the attacker and driven by Ella, they try to piece together who the attacker is and the motives behind the crime.
The main characters’vulnerability draws them to each other, they find strength in shared mutual experience, and although heartbreakingly vulnerable alone, together they are strong and effective.
The clues are subtle but meaningful and gradually the mystery resolves in a believable, satisfying way.
A powerful, poignant story. The ending is so sad, but something hopeful emerges for the majority of ‘The Lonely Hearts Crime Club’ members.
Tanya Bullock is a college lecturer, writer and award-winning filmmaker. She lives in the UK with her husband and two young children. She has a passion for foreign culture and languages (inherited from her French mother) and, in her youth, travelled extensively throughout Australia, America, Asia and Europe. As a filmmaker, she has gained local recognition, including funding and regional television broadcast, through ITV’s First Cut scheme, two nominations for a Royal Television Society Midlands Award, and, in 2010, a Royal Television Society Award in the category of best promotional film. On maternity leave in 2011 and in need of a creative outlet, Tanya began to write That Special Someone, the story of a mother’s quest to help her learning-disabled daughter find love. It was a finalist for The People’s Book Prize and The Beryl Bainbridge First Time Author Award 2016. Her second novel, Homecoming, a love story with an unexpected twist, was published in 2016. The Lonely Hearts Crime Club is Tanya’s third novel. A psychological thriller with a shocking finale, it will be published in the spring of 2019. All of Tanya’s novels are published by Blackbird Digital Books.
I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK – Michael Joseph Publishing via NetGalley in return for an honest review
Compelling and sinister are the best adjectives to describe this story, about an ordinary couple who are anything but. If you are a regular reader of psychological and domestic thrillers, there is not a lot to shock you here, the sex and violence are implied rather than graphic, the reader is left to imagine what happens and that keeps you engrossed in the story.
The insightful story has cleverly layered suspense that draws you in. The surprise factor is that such unassuming,’normal’ individuals act in such an extraordinary way. What motivates their actions? Are they a product of nature or nurture?
The intelligently constructed plot twists keep coming. I did work out the later ones, but mainly because the characters are so well described, the reader can predict what they will do next. It’s an exhausting book mainly due to the level of character detail it contains, and the constant flashbacks to former experiences.
‘My Lovely Wife’ makes the reader participate. It’s an active experience more than a passive read. It gives an insight into the minutiae of the family’s life, and you daren’t turn away, in case you miss something important.
A great fusion of psychological and domestic thrillers, with complex, enthralling characters who are so dark, you have to search for their humanity.
A murder that shocks a city… Shots ring out on one of Savannah’s most famous streets. A beautiful law student lies dead.
A case full of secrets and lies… Three men close to the victim are questioned. All of them claim to love her. All of them say they are innocent of her murder.
An investigation that could prove deadly… As crime reporter Harper McClain unravels a tangled story of obsession and jealousy, the killer focuses on her. He’s already killed, one woman. Will he kill another?
Extract from A Beautiful Corpse – Christi Daugherty
‘Eight ball in the corner pocket.’
Leaning over the edge of the pool table, Harper McClain
stared across the long expanse of empty green felt. The cue in her hands was
smooth and cool. She’d had four of Bonnie’s super-strength margaritas tonight,
but her grip was steady.
There was a delicate, transient point somewhere between too
much alcohol and too little where her pool skills absolutely peaked. This was
Exhaling slowly, she took the shot. The cue ball flew
straight and true, slamming into the eight, sending it rolling to the pocket.
There was never any question – it hit the polished wood edge of the table only
lightly, and dropped like a stone.
‘Yes.’ Harper raised her fist. ‘Three in a row.’ But the cue
ball was still rolling.
Lowering her hand, Harper leaned against the table. ‘No, no,
no,’ she pleaded.
As she watched in dismay, the scuffed white cue ball headed
after the eight like a faithful hound.
‘Come on, cue ball,’ Bonnie cajoled from the other side of
the table. ‘Mama needs a new pair of shoes.’
Reaching the pocket lip, the ball trembled for an instant as
if making up its mind and then, with a decisive clunk, disappeared into the
table’s insides, taking the game with it.
‘At last.’ Bonnie raised her cue above her head. ‘Victory is
Harper glared. ‘Have you been waiting all night to say
that?’ ‘Oh my God, yes.’ Bonnie was unrepentant.
It was very late. Aside from the two of them, the Library
Bar was empty. Naomi, who had worked the late shift with Bonnie, had finished
wiping down the bar an hour ago and gone home.
All the lights were on in the rambling bar, illuminating the
battered books on the shelves that still covered the old walls from the days
when it had actually been a library. It could easily hold sixty people but,
with just the two of them, the place was comfortable – even cozy, in its way,
with Tom Waits growling from the jukebox about love gone wrong.
Despite the hour, Harper was in no hurry to leave. It wasn’t
far to walk. But all she had at home was a cat, a bottle of whiskey and a lot
of bad memories. And she’d spent enough time with them lately.
‘Rematch?’ She glanced at Bonnie, hopefully. ‘Winner takes
all?’ Propping her cue against a sign that read: ‘Books + Beer = LIFE’,
Bonnie walked around the table. The blue streaks in her long
blond hair caught the light when she held out her hand.
‘Loser pays,’ she said, adding, ‘Also, I’m all out of
change.’ ‘I thought bartenders always
had change,’ Harper complained, pulling the last coins from her pocket.
‘Bartenders are smart enough to put their money away before
they start playing pool with you,’ Bonnie replied.
There was a break in the music as the jukebox switched songs. In the sudden silence, the shrill ring of Harper’s phone made them both jump.
Grabbing the device off the table next to her, Harper
glanced at the screen.
‘Hang on,’ she said, hitting the answer button. ‘It’s
Miles.’ Miles Jackson was the crime photographer at the Savannah Daily News. He
wouldn’t call at this hour without a good reason.
‘What’s up?’ Harper said, by way of hello.
‘Get yourself downtown. We’ve got ourselves a murder on
River Street,’ he announced.
‘You’re kidding me.’ Harper dropped her cue on the pool
table. ‘Are you at the scene?’
‘I’m pulling up now. Looks like every cop in the city is here.’ Miles had her on speaker phone – in the background, she could hear the rumble of his engine and the insistent crackle of his police scanners. The sound sent a charge through Harper. ‘On my way.’ She hung up without saying goodbye. Bonnie looked at her enquiringly.
‘Got to go,’ Harper told her, grabbing her bag. ‘Someone
just got murdered on River Street.’
Bonnie’s jaw dropped. ‘River Street? Holy crap.’
‘I know.’ Harper pulled out her notebook and police scanner
and headed across the room, mentally calculating how long it would take her to
get there. ‘If it’s a tourist, the mayor will absolutely lose her shit.’
River Street was the epicenter of the city’s tourism
district – and the safest place in town. Until now.
Bonnie ran after her.
‘Give me a second to lock up,’ she said. ‘I’ll come with
you.’ Harper turned to look at her. ‘You’re coming to a crime scene?’
The music had started up again.
‘You’ve had four margaritas,’ Bonnie reminded her. ‘I made
them strong. You’ll be over the limit. I’ve only had two beers tonight.’
Behind the bar, she opened a concealed wall panel and
flipped some switches – in an instant, the music fell silent. A second later,
the lights went off one by one, until only the red glow of the exit sign
Grabbing her keys, Bonnie ran to join Harper, the heels of
her cowboy boots clicking against the concrete floor in the sudden quiet, short
skirt swirling around her thighs.
Harper still wasn’t convinced this was a great idea. ‘You
know there’ll be dead people there, right?’
Shrugging, Bonnie unlocked the front door and pulled it
open. Steamy southern night air poured in.
‘I’m a grown-up. I can take it.’
She glanced over her shoulder with a look Harper had known
better than to argue with since they were both six years old.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Authentic, fast-paced, with an absorbing plot and a likeable protagonist, A Beautiful Corpse’ is the second book in the Harper McClain series, the crime reporter investigates the murder of someone she knows and uncovers a web of fear, lies and privilege.
This story works as a standalone read and there is enough backstory on the main characters and previous events for this to be enjoyable. However, it’s so good, you’ll want to read the first book too.
The setting is atmospheric and bought to life by the details of the buildings, people and the social ethos. The characters are vividly portrayed and their motivations and interactions with each other believable. The life of a crime reporter is intrinsic to the story and is expertly written.
I like Harper she is driven and skilled at her job and hides her vulnerability well. Her relationship with the police officers, whose cooperation she needs to succeed, is explored and provides some important conflict in the story.
There is an overriding theme to this story, the search for Harper’s mother’s murderer, more clues are discovered in this book but it ends with new questions that may lead the crime reporter into personal danger if she pursues the truth.
The exciting ending is ultimately satisfying, tieing up the plot, but posing further questions for Harper, presumably to be resolved in the next book.
AUGUST 1975: Cassie Maltham’s life changes forever one scorching day. She and her twelve-year-old cousin Suzie take a shortcut through the Greenway, an ancient pathway steeped in Norfolk legend. Somewhere along this path Suzie simply vanishes . . .
TWENTY YEARS LATER: Cassie is still tormented by nightmares, parts of her memory completely erased. With her husband Fergus and friends Anna and Simon, she returns to Norfolk, determined to confront her fears and solve a mystery that won’t let her rest.
Then another young girl goes missing at the entrance to the Greenway, and Cassie is pushed once more into the darkest recesses of her mind.
John Tynan, the retired detective who’d been in charge of Suzie’s case, is still haunted by her disappearance. He offers his help to Detective Inspector Mike Croft who is leading the increasingly frantic search for the missing child. Has evil returned? And what really happened all those years ago and who can be believed?
I received a copy of this book from Joffe Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A well-written retro, psychological suspense mystery set in Norfolk.
Cassie is the link between two disappearances of young girls. Her cousin Suzie in 1975 and Sara in 1995, whilst Cassie is revisiting the area after twenty years, as part of her mental health rehabilitation.
There is a multi-layered plot, which encompasses many themes; myths and legends, supernatural occurrences, crime, mental health and police procedural. Some of these are explored in detail, like the day to day police activity surrounding the missing child, others like the supernatural elements, and Cassie’s mental state are hinted at but left to the reader’s imagination to decide what to believe.
Mike Croft the SIO in the case is an interesting character, he has a tragic past, which threatens to impinge on his decision-making capacity in the case. John Tynan, a retired detective who was SIO on the previous missing girl case in 1975, sees the similarities between the two cases, and he supports Mike and his team with the new case. His involvement ties up the historical, and present day elements of the story in a realistic way.
The plot twists are good and the final resolution solves the mystery. Some questions remain but, this is intentional, making this an authentic story, as in real life not every aspect of a crime or mystery can be solved in entirety.
I like the retro ethos of the story, it adds to the plot’s level of menace and the mystery. The complex characters, especially Cassie who is the unreliable protagonist in the story are believable.
Overall this fusion of genres works well and makes the story a compelling read.
A grand old house soaks up the golden summer sun… but inside the dining room, something dreadful has happened.
Melissa couldn’t be happier that summer has arrived. She’s delighted to have her mother back by her side, and she is extending her beloved Hawthorn Cottage so her new family can live together.
Meanwhile, Melissa’s mother Sylvia is back in good health and enjoying a brief stay at a stately retirement home. She loves getting to know the residents, until first a dog and then his owner are both found dead in the dining room. Like mother, like daughter, Sylvia decides to do a little investigating of her own.
Convinced that the deaths are suspicious, Sylvia starts probing her fellow residents, trying to find out who might have wanted the dog and its owner dead. Could it be the once-married couple, or the glamorous actors or the harassed manager of the home?
When one of Sylvia’s friends falls ill in suspicious circumstances, Melissa realises her mother has rattled someone, but who? And what happens if the killer realises they’ve been rumbled? Will Sylvia find herself meeting a villain in the dining room? And can Melissa find the culprit before another life is taken?
I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
It seems that Melissa’ Craig’s talent for becoming embroiled in murder mystery may have been inherited from her mother Sylvia. Whilst convalescing in a retirement home, Sylvia is certain that the death of a beloved pet and then its owner is not from natural causes.
This is quirky murder mystery is set in a retirement community, Melissa’s mother like many there is a temporary resident but she soon makes her presence felt. The plot is fast-paced with many possible suspects and shows older people in a refreshingly positive light.
It is Sylvia, Melissa’s mother who is the main sleuth in this story, which gives it an added dimension. Melissa worries about her mother’s emotional state, can her revelations be trusted or are they the result of her recent surgery?
This is an enjoyable read with cameos from favourite characters and a rekindling of the mother and daughter relationship for Melissa and Sylvia. A lovely escapist read, which lets you test out your detective skills.