Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Revenge Fiction, Horror Fiction, International Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

The Family -P.R.Black – 4* #Review @Aria_Fiction @PatBlack9 #Thriller #Horror #Guest Post #BlogTour

The best way to catch a killer? Offer yourself as bait.

Becky Morgan’s family were the victims of the ‘crimes of the decade’.

The lone survivor of a ritualistic killing, Becky’s been forever haunted by the memories of that night.

Twenty years later, with the killer never found, Becky is ready to hunt them down and exact revenge. But the path to find the murderer is a slippery slope and she finds herself opening up some old wounds that should have been left sealed.

Will Becky avenge her family or join them?

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I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This is a deep and dark novel, with noir themes, and graphically described violence. The written imagery is vivid, and the suspense, and level of menace, this story engenders is intense.

Becky is the sole survivor of a horrific, ritualistic murder that robbed her of her close family, and left her, unsurprisingly, traumatised and emotionally damaged. Twenty years on, she is still suffering, despite therapy, and the comfort, sought from the bottom of a bottle. She needs closure and revenge. Spurred on by a cold case investigation, she is determined to find the person who destroyed her family and her chance of a happy life.

So many contemporary themes are covered in this detailed thriller, the dark web, hacking, institutional conspiracy, abuse and murder. Becky is a well-constructed protagonist, flawed because of her emotional damage and reliance on alcohol. She is unreliable but if you accept her faults, you have to admire her determination and strength, to find the killer and expose those who have allowed the killer to remain at large.

The first chapter sets the scene and tone of the book exquisitely. What follows is a detailed investigation to find out the players in the murderous game, and then the pursuit, which is adrenaline-fueled, fast-paced and violent. There are parts of this story that seem unrealistic, but it is fiction, and as such the author is allowed to bend reality a little.

Merging the horror and thriller genres, with a suspenseful mystery, this story will make you think, keep you turning the pages, and lock your doors.

Author and journalist PR Black lives in Yorkshire, although he was born and brought up in Glasgow. When he’s not driving his wife and two children to distraction with all the typing, he enjoys hillwalking, fresh air and the natural world, and can often be found asking the way to the nearest pub in the Lake District. His short stories have been published in several books including the Daily Telegraph’s Ghost Stories and the Northern Crime One anthology. His Glasgow detective, Inspector Lomond, is appearing in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. He took the runner-up spot in the 2014 Bloody Scotland crime-writing competition with “Ghostie Men”. His work has also been performed on stage in London by Liars’ League. He has also been shortlisted for the Red Cross International Prize, the William Hazlitt essay prize and the Bridport Prize. Twitter Facebook

Avenging Angels – Pat Black

In The Family, we meet an avenger in the journalist Becky Morgan. She’s hell-bent on finding the maniac who killed her mother, father, sister and brother and left her for dead when she was just a girl.

Becky’s tenacious, she’s smarter than the average bear, and she can kick you in the face from a standing position.

She follows on from a proud literary tradition of avenging – and revenging – angels. Let’s take a look at a few ruthless ladies you don’t want to mess with…  

Lisbeth Salander

Stieg Larsson’s Salander is the ground zero for modern tough women. The star of the Millennium Trilogy will almost certainly help to define our times for future generations.

She’s slightly built and looks like an insecure teenager hiding behind piercings and outlandish haircuts. This assessment would be a mistake, and making it to her face might be a painful one for you.

Salander has been the victim of some terrible crimes, but she never lets this define her. She’s constantly moving forward, and whatever damage she’s suffered has not interfered with a strong sense of justice. In order to attain that, she will cut any corner necessary.

She’s no blunt instrument, though – Salander is a genius, a computer hacker who can break into anything, the equivalent of an ultra-creepy sleight of hand trickster who has your purse in his pocket before you can finish shuffling the pack.

The end justifies the means for Salander, whether that’s using her skills to expose the most intimate details of some sleazebag’s life and stripping them of all their money, or employing eye-watering levels of violence. You might not exactly warm to Salander or her methods, but you’re always rooting for the girl with the dragon tattoo.

Salander has a whole double album’s worth of greatest hits, but the punishment she metes out to her repellent legal guardian, Bjurman, is perhaps the most memorable.

“Now, you won’t be doing that again, will you?”

“…Squeak!

The stranger, “Charles Augustus Milverton”

Adultery and its consequences are the drivers of several plots in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes tales, and this is particularly true of “Charles Augustus Milverton”.

The guy in the title is a blackmailer, and he loves his job. He doesn’t make idle threats – if people can’t pay up, he will expose their sins, both great and small. Perhaps even more than Moriarty, Holmes despises this villain.

That’s why he doesn’t lift a finger to stop one woman who – spoilers – enters stage left and turns Charles Augustus Milverton into Swiss cheese with a revolver… then stamps on his face for good measure. The old goat had hustled her husband into an early grave after exposing her secrets.

“Take that!” this sister yells, unloading on the fool again and again. “And that!”  

I never forgot that savagery after first reading the story as a kid. The woman goes nameless, with Watson being a gentleman to the last following an injunction by Holmes, who places natural justice above written laws.

But what an impact she had. Several of them, in fact, at point blank range.

“Now, you won’t be doing that again, will you?”

No, he definitely will not.  

Carrie

Goodness me, everyone gets it in this novel. People who only half-deserve it get it. Even one or two who maybe only smirked a little bit get it. This isn’t payback. It’s a biblical disaster, visited upon an entire town through one odd girl’s unique psychic abilities.

Like the surgical scenes in The Exorcist movie, the most harrowing parts of Stephen King’s debut novel for me aren’t so much the supernatural elements or the gore, but the heartless abuse poor Carrie receives from her teenage peers. It strikes home for most readers, even before Carrie lashes out.

Telekinesis aside, the dark plot which ensnares Carrie is believably put together and executed. King, who taught in a high school, imbues his tragic heroine with believable qualities – so too for the bullies, both male and female. Hauntingly, King revealed in On Writing that there were true-life individuals who inspired Carrie White, with their own tragic fates. 

Worst of all, Carrie is almost redeemed. It’s so agonisingly close to a fairytale ending. There’s a sign of the woman she might have become, free of the small town shackles, paroled from her evil mother’s closet. The ugly duckling, become a gorgeous swan. There’s even a heartbreaking hint that against all odds, she might just have found her prince. But one jealous, bitter, angry person simply cannot allow that.

And then… Blood and fire.

“Now, you won’t be doing that again, will you?” No. No-one will.

But, you notice something here? These were all written by men. So…

The She-Devil

Fay Weldon wrote one of the most horrifying short stories I’ve ever read. “Weekend” looks at a hard-working wife and mother, keeping all the plates spinning for her unappreciative family. Her husband has invited a friend to stay for the weekend. This guy has dumped his own loyal, loving wife for a younger woman. The writing appears on the wall.

There’s no catharsis in this story. That might be the worst thing about it. No verbal explosions, not one slapped cheek, no soup tureens upended. The wife and mother in “Weekend” simply accept her deal, the tiredness, the sarcasm, the appalling imbalances and injustices of her marriage. She is a doormat. No-one respects her. It’s a hard read, but a necessary one.

There is plenty of catharsis in Weldon’s The Life And Loves Of A She-Devil. Ruth is cut from the same cloth as the main character in “Weekend”, but she strikes back, taking a full English breakfast of revenge on her cheating husband Bobbo and his mistress, Mary Fisher.

In Ruth’s journey from dumped and dumpy wife to glamourous usurper and emasculator, she must surrender her identity and take on new ones, physically as well as mentally, in order to destroy her rival and get even with Bobbo.

There is no bill left unpaid by the end of this book.

Weldon has stated that She-Devil is not about revenge, but envy. You could have fooled me.

“Now, you won’t be doing that again, will you?” (Terrified silence)

Susie Salmon

Is Susie Salmon an avenger? Not in the sense that she’s out for blood. She certainly hopes to expose the man who killed her – her creepy serial killer neighbour, Harvey. There’s just that slight inconvenience of being dead.

The main character in Alice Sebold’s troubling The Lovely Bones is a ghostly presence after Harvey kills her, more of an observer than an actor, but she does her best to guide her family towards where her remains are being kept.

Harvey does get his comeuppance – a strange, unspectacular, unmarked fate. But Susie’s heavenly mission is one of healing rather than destruction, as she tries to bring her family back together after the trauma of her disappearance. Maybe this act of repair, much more than one of violence, is the best revenge.

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Posted in Book Review, International Thriller, Political Thriller

To The Lions- Holly Watt – 3*#Review @BloomsburyRaven @Holly_Watt

A journalist must follow the clues, no matter how far that takes her.

Casey Benedict, star reporter at the Post, has infiltrated the lives and exposed the lies of countless politicians and power players. Using her network of contacts, Casey is always on the search for the next big story, no matter how much danger this might place her in, no matter what cost emotionally. 

Tipped off by an overheard conversation at an exclusive London nightclub, she begins to investigate the apparent suicide of a wealthy young British man, whose death has left his fiancée and family devastated. 

Casey’s hunt for the truth will take her from the glitz of St Tropez to the deserts of Libya and on to the very darkest corners of the human mind

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Bloomsbury Publishing -Raven Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

A young investigative journalist follows a lead that suggests some unscrupulous rich people are hunting the forgotten humans – refugees, for kicks. The trail leads Casey and her fellow journalist Miranda to North Africa, to discover the truth.

This is a high octane, political thriller full of action and violence. The investigative journalist aspect of the story is realistic. The events Casey uncovers are disturbing.

The writing style is factual. The first part of the book is hard to read, but the second half is more dynamic and faster paced.

This story authentically explores the human cost of this tragedy and poses the journalist with believable moral dilemmas.

Posted in Book Review, Crime, International Thriller, Mystery, Thriller

Gone By Midnight – Candice Fox- 5* #Review @arrowpublishing @candicefoxbooks

 

They left four children safe upstairs.
They came back to three.
__________________

On the fifth floor of the White Caps Hotel, four young boys are left alone while their parents dine downstairs.

But when one of the parents checks on the children at midnight, they discover one of them is missing.

The boys swear they stayed in their room. CCTV confirms that none of them left the building. No trace of the child is found.

Now the hunt is on to find him before it’s too late – and before the search for a boy becomes a search for a body…

Amazon UK


I received an electronic advanced reading copy from Random House UK Cornerstone- Century via #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

The third book in the Crimson Lake series, which reads well as a standalone book, features the hunt for a missing child.  

Ted, a former detective with a nightmare past, and his partner Amanda are the only ones likely to find the answers but everything is a constant battle, as they face conflict both internal and external before they can solve the mystery.

Ted and Amanda are clever and haunted, you empathise with them because of the past and continuing injustice the endured. It is their current mindset that makes them willing to take risks to get to the truth. Both their personal lives seem more optimistic at the end of this book, but you’re left wondering whether they can ever rebuild their emotional lives.

An atmospheric plot and setting are intrinsic to this intense crime, mystery thriller. It’s like working out a route in a maze. How did the boy disappear? Has he run away or been abducted? If so, who took him? Is he still alive? The plot unwinds with multiple possible outcomes and a multitude of probable suspects. The final twist is exciting and menacing with a surprising ending, worthy of this well- thought out story.

If you want to see what I thought of Redemption, the second book in the Crimson Lake series click here for my review.

 

Posted in Book Review, Crime, International Thriller, Mystery, Thriller

Gone By Midnight – Candice Fox- 5* #Review @arrowpublishing @candicefoxbooks

They left four children safe upstairs.
They came back to three.
__________________

On the fifth floor of the White Caps Hotel, four young boys are left alone while their parents dine downstairs.

But when one of the parents checks on the children at midnight, they discover one of them is missing.

The boys swear they stayed in their room. CCTV confirms that none of them left the building. No trace of the child is found.

Now the hunt is on to find him before it’s too late – and before the search for a boy becomes a search for a body…

Amazon UK

I received an electronic advanced reading copy from Random House UK Cornerstone- Century via #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

The third book in the Crimson Lake series, which reads well as a standalone book, features the hunt for a missing child.  

Ted, a former detective with a nightmare past, and his partner Amanda are the only ones likely to find the answers but everything is a constant battle, as they face conflict both internal and external before they can solve the mystery.

Ted and Amanda are clever and haunted, you empathise with them because of the past and continuing injustice the endured. It is their current mindset that makes them willing to take risks to get to the truth. Both their personal lives seem more optimistic at the end of this book, but you’re left wondering whether they can ever rebuild their emotional lives.

An atmospheric plot and setting are intrinsic to this intense crime, mystery thriller. It’s like working out a route in a maze. How did the boy disappear? Has he run away or been abducted? If so, who took him? Is he still alive? The plot unwinds with multiple possible outcomes and a multitude of probable suspects.
The plot unwinds with multiple possible outcomes and a multitude of probable suspects. The final twist is exciting and menacing with a surprising ending, worthy of this well- thought out story.

If you want to see what I thought of Redemption, the second book in the Crimson Lake series click here for my review.

 

Posted in Book Spotlight, Excerpt

Blog Tour – Book Spotlight – Blood in the Snow – Franco Marks – Extract


 

 

A perfect town set against the picturesque Alps. Four girls dead. One man willing to untangle a web of deceit and lies…

Marzio Santoni left behind the brutal crimes of the big city long ago. Valdiluce is a quiet ski resort, where all he needs is the peace, quiet and his trusty Vespa. At first glance, the town inhabitants are as perfect as their postcard scenery. But under the surface, nothing is as it seems… So when four women are discovered dead, seemingly by their own hand, Marzio can sense that something isn’t right. Fighting against his police chief, his own emotions and the evidence stacked against him, Marzio is caught up in a race against time to discover what truly happened. 

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Extract

‘The scooter roared along. Too slowly for the haste, he felt inside. Inspector Marzio Santoni, known to all as White Wolf, saw himself frozen, almost motionless, in the landscape. He could get to the Bucaneve quicker on foot by taking shortcuts, so he leaned the Vespa against a wall and ran ferociously. The soles of his shoes threw up earth and leaves. His blonde hair flew across a sky that was growing bluer. An animal. He calculated the fastest route, the distances, the slope, the slippery ground, the undergrowth, the low firs: obstacles that he avoided. The images glistened inside him as though a navigator was marking out his path. Arrows, angles, curves, straight stretches. The excited words of Agostino Uberti, the Bucaneve’s caretaker, echoed in his head.

“Hurry, hurry, it’s a tragedy!”

Elisabetta was in an apartment at the Bucaneve with her three friends. Considering that, what with the lack of snow, there were very few guests, it was all very predictable. There was no point him fooling himself. Did the excessive happiness of those days, the principle of love, have to be punished?

Under the sun, the scent of resin spread through the air wrapped in a light mist. A smell that could kill, the old people said: they had sometimes found foxes dead for no apparent reason.

Marzio Santoni was able to smell odours whatever condition he was in – to separate them, distinguish them. The rot of the leaves, the mossy ground. It was a gift. He came out of the beech forest. With its grey stone, green copper roof and turret, the Bucaneve looked like some cursed castle. Reflected in the blue pupils of White Wolf’s eyes, a gnat-sized fragment appeared, swooping through the sky. Far away, like a semicolon. Trogolo the falcon – the ‘ghost ship’, the curse of Valdiluce, a chain swinging from his leg.

It was an old story: Leopoldo the butcher had displayed a falcon in front of his shop. It had been a great success. The people of the town came to see the bird of prey, they enjoyed baiting him. Trogolo spent the day tearing at his leg to try and escape; in the silence of the night he recovered his strength, and then at dawn, his torments resumed. And even with the limited range, the chain allowed him, when he opened his wings he sent up a cloud of dust and blood. Until one day, the chain broke. Incredible. The falcon flew into the sky with that remnant of his prison attached to his leg. With each wing stroke, he sounded like a ramshackle cart. Trogolo the falcon. A bad omen.

Marzio increased his pace, uphill, leaning forward to counter the force of gravity; it almost looked as though it was he who was making planet Earth rotate. From his mouth came heavy breathing. With his nose, he sniffed out odours. One, in particular, grew stronger the closer he got. Treacherous and subtle. Methane gas. Enough of it to make you sick. His fear erupted.

Agostino, his eyes crazed, coughed out the words.

“Inspector, there’s been a gas leak, something terrible has happened!”

“Where?”

“Apartment twelve.”

“Who’s inside?”

“The four girls.”

Marzio put the red neckerchief he always wore over his mouth. Dazed, crying, sobbing and beating his fists against the wall, Agostino followed him.

“Hurry up, turn off the electricity.”

“I have done.”

Apartment twelve was locked. Agostino tried to open the door using his key, but his hands were shaking and he couldn’t get it into the lock. Marzio charged the door with his shoulder and knocked it down. Darkness. He moved through the gas mixed with a suffocating heat. He wanted to whisper Elisabetta’s name, hear her voice, discover her still alive, but he did not. With a hint of hope, he opened the window, and the light splashed into the room, illuminating a pitiless scene: on the beds lay, Stefania, Flaminia, Angela: composed, sleeping dolls. Elisabetta was trapped in a position that didn’t do her justice. A grimace, eyes appalled, hair betrayed by a messiness she wouldn’t have tolerated. Marzio stared at her in agony. Nothing remained of her beauty. It had flown away. All that was left was a motionless bundle.

Inspector Santoni tried to look at her with professional detachment, as though he must suddenly deny his emotions. It was impossible. Mortally wounded, trapped. Hunted by dogs. A poisoned arrow traversed his veins, pierced the petrified muscles and finally reached his groin. Rage violent enough to drive a man insane. Marzio clenched in his fist the memory of those days. Elisabetta’s sweet, smiling face. Their meetings. Their last harmonious kiss. On his lips, he gathered the magic of her body. Marzio crushed the story between his fingers. Madness. Perhaps it was because of the gas that continued to fill the room. He was losing consciousness. On his hands and knees, he went into the kitchen. He checked the knobs on the cooker – they were all open. He didn’t turn them off for fear of damaging fingerprints – the crime scene must be kept intact. He looked for the gas stopcock. It was open. From there came the poisonous hiss, the mouth of the dragon, the breath of death. He took the red scarf from his mouth and wrapped it around one hand so as to leave no traces. He turned the iron knob firmly, as though by that gesture he could return the four women to life. A bead of sweat, perhaps a tear, escaped him and flew into the light. He caught it and wiped it on his corduroy trousers.

“Inspector. Do you feel alright?”

Agostino stared at him with morbid eyes, as though trying to strip Marzio’s confusion naked. He returned to being an inspector. Abruptly, he bustled him out of the apartment.

“Get out of here immediately. Wait outside.”’

Franco Marks is a writer and television director who lives and works in Rome. He has written the novels La neve RossaIl visionario (shortlisted for the 2003 Strega Prize), Festa al blu di Prussia (winner of the Procida Isola di Arturo – Elsa Morante Prize 2005), Il profumo della neve (shortlisted for the 2007 Strega Prize), Lo show della farfalla(shortlisted for the 2010 Viareggio-Repaci Prize), Il suicidio perfettoLa mossa del cartomanteTre cadaveri sotto la neveLo strano caso dell’orso ucciso nel boscoDelitto con inganno and Giallo di mezzanotte. His books have been translated in several countries.

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review

4* Review – Nick Louth – The Body on the Shore

A killer is at work in the supposedly-safe commuter belt.  DCI Gillard needs answers, fast…

Promising architect Peter Young is shot dead at his desk. DCI Craig Gillard is quickly on the scene, looking at what appears to be a brutal and highly professional hit: two bullets, fired with ice-cold calm.

Gillard knows that the most crucial question in solving the crime is one word: Why? Two weeks later, on the Lincolnshire coast, another body is found on a windswept beach. In this case, there is no identity for the young man, just a curious brand burned into his neck….

As the mystery deepens Gillard is plunged into a case without answers, finding himself up against dark forces, people who believe in only two things: blood and a warped code of honour. This time lives are on the line, children’s lives – and his own.

Amazon UK

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My Thoughts…

An intricate, well-paced police procedural with an engaging detective and an absorbing plot.

Intrigue and mystery beckon from the start of this story and intensify as it progresses, with three seemingly unrelated serious crimes. DCI Craig Gillard has to try and solve them, keep his bosses happy and avoid an international incident with the help of his dedicated team of detectives, colleagues from the past and his keen intuition.

The crimes are shocking but not overly graphic in description, the conspiracy that surrounds them gives the story a menacing ethos and the final twist is thought-provoking and somewhat poignant. I liked the authenticity of the story and the all the characters are believable. The settings are vividly described and add to the story’s suspense.

A worthwhile read for anyone who likes police crime fiction.

I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

5* Review – Cristina Alger – The Banker’s Wife

The only thing worse than finding out that your husband is dead is discovering the secrets he left behind.

Annabel’s seemingly perfect ex-patriate life in Geneva is shattered when her banker husband Matthew’s plane crashes in the Alps. When Annabel finds clues that his death may not be all it seems, she puts herself in the crosshairs of powerful enemies and questions whether she really knew her husband at all.

Meanwhile, journalist Marina is investigating Swiss United, the bank where Matthew worked. But when she uncovers evidence of a shocking global financial scandal that implicates someone close to home, she is forced to make an impossible choice.

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

Authentic detail, fast-paced action, and spine-tingling suspense make this international thriller absorbing and unputdownable. Succinctly introduced the key players seem unconnected at the outset but as tragedy strikes, their roles align and give the reader a realistic, contemporary thriller to enjoy.

Told from two points of view; Annabel, ‘The Banker’s Wife’ and Marina the society journalist find themselves up against the establishment and might of the international financial sector. One is personally affected, the other an objective observer, but lines are blurred, and both women put themselves in danger to find and reveal the truth and stop international corruption and murder.

A detailed plot demands concentration but the clues to solve the mysteries posed are there. The menacing ethos simmers in the background before exploding in the final chapters, making you wonder if the truth will come out and if the protagonists will live to see it.

The perfect weekend read.

I received a copy of this book from Mulholland Books – Hodder and Stoughton via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

Blog Blitz :The Killing Time – M.J Lee 4*Review

As tensions simmer in Shanghai, children go missing…

Shanghai 1932: Inspector Danilov hasn’t recovered from the death of his child… but across a Shanghai riven with communal tensions, children are going missing.

Missing, and then murdered. Who is responsible? Why have the children’s bodies been exhibited for all to see?

Just as Danilov thinks the stakes couldn’t be higher there is a new dimension, Japan, a rising power flexing its muscles. In fractious Shanghai, an explosion is long overdue. With the clock ticking can Danilov and his assistant Strachan solve the case? The fate of Shanghai may be at stake. So is Danilov’s job… And his sanity.

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Extract

Back at Central Police Station, the detectives’ room was empty save for Strachan and Danilov. The rest of the squad, or what remained of them after the Shanghai Volunteers had decimated the ranks, were at lunch, on patrol or simply avoiding work with all the professionalism of the accomplished loafer.

Strachan was hunched over the missing persons file, while Danilov was busy sending smoke rings up to the kippered ceiling, where they hung floating in the air before gradually dissipating like a wastrel’s fortune.

‘Why was the ear removed, Strachan?’

The detective sergeant knew better than to speak now. Danilov was only turning the problem over in his mind; he didn’t require a response.

‘And why slash the face but leave the birthmark? If anything identifies him, it is the mark.’ Another stream of smoke rose to the ceiling. ‘We need to go back to where the body was found.’

It was Danilov’s belief that a crime scene yielded as much information about the killer as the body itself.

‘When, sir?’

‘There’s no time like the present.’ He stubbed the cigarette out in the empty ashtray and adjusted the lamp over his desk so it was at exactly forty-five degrees. Anything less or more would be a distraction. ‘Have you found him yet in missing persons?’

‘Nothing so far. He might not live in the International Settlement.’

‘From the French Concession?’

‘Or any of the Chinese areas along the border: Chapei, Siccawei, Nantao, Hung Tsung.’

‘Hmm, but why risk transporting him? With all the recent tensions, the Volunteers are manning roadblocks at all the major crossing points.’ Danilov shook his head. ‘No, he came from the International Settlement. Too risky to move him around. Keep looking; you might want to check the Criminal Intelligence files too.’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘I always thought Criminal Intelligence was the wrong name for the division. Criminals lack intelligence. That is precisely why we are able to catch them.’

‘An oxymoron, sir.’

‘A what, Strachan?’

‘A figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear next to each other, like “the young couple were alone together”.’

‘You’re spending too much time with my daughter, Strachan.’

The detective sergeant smiled at the thought. ‘I’m enjoying helping her with her English literature degree. We’re reading Jane Austen at the moment. I didn’t know a—’

He was interrupted by a knock on the glass that separated the detectives’ room from the rest of the station. A small, round woman entered.

‘Inspector Danilov, the chief will see you now.’ She lowered her voice. ‘He has five minutes, fitting you in between a committee on the uniforms of Sikh policemen and a meeting about the new filing system for criminal records. I’d hurry if I were you.’

‘Thank you, Miss Cavendish. I’ll come right away.’

The inspector stood up from his chair, feeling the ache in his knees. Winters were the devil to him, bringing back old pains he thought he’d left behind.

‘The chief inspector is in a jolly good mood today. They’ve approved his proposal on overtime pay for ancillary staff.’

‘Does that mean you will receive more money, Miss Cavendish?’ asked Strachan.

‘Less, actually. He’s removing all allowances. No more overtime pay, no more travel expenses, no more meal allowances. I don’t know when these budget cuts are going to stop.’

‘It’s what President Hoover calls the Great Depression, Miss Cavendish.’

‘Another oxymoron, Strachan?’

Miss Cavendish’s right eyebrow rose. ‘An oxy what?’

‘Don’t ask. My detective sergeant will have you reading Jane Austen next.’ Danilov put on his jacket. ‘While I’m gone, Strachan, ask around the station, see if anybody has heard anything about any kidnappings recently.’

‘Kidnappings, sir? Why?’

Danilov tapped the side of his beak-like nose. ‘A hunch. Back in 1912, when I was in London… ’

‘And I was in school.’

‘Thank you, Strachan, for reminding me of your youth and inexperience. As I was saying, back in 1912, there was a gang of kidnappers operating in Poplar who encouraged the families of their victims to pay up by sending them a severed ear. It invariably concentrated their minds as they haggled over the price.’

He turned to go.

‘Did you catch them, sir?’

‘Who?’

‘The kidnappers?’

‘Of course. Like all criminals, they became greedy. Demanding money once too often and removing far too many ears.’

Miss Cavendish tapped her watch. ‘The chief inspector is waiting.’

‘I’ll ask around, sir.’

‘And don’t forget to chase the report. I want it on my desk by the time I’ve finished with the chief inspector.’

‘Yes, sir.’

Danilov followed Miss Cavendish down the corridor to Chief Inspector Rock’s room.

‘I could ask around for you too, Inspector. People tell me things; I don’t know why,’ said the elderly woman over her shoulder.

‘People do it because you are an excellent listener, Miss Cavendish, with a capacity for gossip that puts Catherine the Great to shame.’

They both stopped in front of the chief inspector’s door.

Miss Cavendish played with the rope of pearls that surrounded a roll of fat on her neck. ‘You do say the nicest things, Inspector. But I’ll ask anyway.’

She knocked.

A loud ‘Come!’ from inside.

‘Into the dragon’s den. Good luck,’ she whispered, opening the door. ‘Inspector Danilov as you requested, Chief Inspector.’

‘Thank you, Miss Cavendish. Do come in, Danilov, and take a seat. I won’t be a moment.’

 

My Thoughts…

Shanghai in the 1930’s was a tinderbox, and this story captures this ethos perfectly. Japan’s annexation of Manchuria created additional tension between the Chinese and Japanese populations within Shanghai, and it’s against this setting the fourth Inspector Danilov tale takes place.

Dark and tragic crimes are the central theme of this story, and the child murders are difficult to read. Trying to solve them forces Inspector Danilov to confront his demons and personal tragedies. As this is the fourth book in the series, undoubtedly the reader has already learnt a great deal about Danilov and his colleagues and family in the previous books.

Authentic Danilov’s idiosyncrasies make him easy to like, he is the typical smart, driven detective, whose career is his life often to the detriment of his family and health. The plot has twists, and the pacing varies with the action. A little slow in the first few chapters, it gains motivation as the plot becomes convoluted.

As a standalone, read it is good, but it would be even better if you’d read the previous books in the series. This disturbing story has an evocative setting, enigmatic detective and exciting political theme, making it an absorbing read.

I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

M J Lee has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a university researcher in history, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, TV commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites.

He has spent 25 years of his life working outside the north of England, in London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai, winning advertising awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and the United Nations.

While working in Shanghai, he loved walking through the old quarters of that amazing city, developing the idea behind a series of crime novels featuring Inspector Pyotr Danilov, set in the 1920s.

When he’s not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, practising downhill ironing, single-handedly solving the problem of the French wine lake, and wishing he was George Clooney.

Twitter: @WriterMJLee

Posted in Book Review

Trial By Fire – Will Jordan 4* Review – A Ryan Drake Novella

In a tense and action-filled novella, Ryan Drake and his team must go to Ukraine to find a compromised CIA source – but is new unit member Keira Frost up to the job?
Tech specialist Keira Frost has just graduated to the big leagues. But despite numerous commendations for outstanding achievement and a tour of duty under her belt, it’s a reputation for insubordination that precedes her with Agency field ops. Tasked with proving she can take orders and fit in, she’s eager to get started, but new CO Ryan Drake is not going to make that easy.
As the team are sent to the wasteland of Pripyat, the town devastated by the disaster of Chernobyl, radiation is not the only danger waiting for them…
 

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

Excellent pacing, plenty of action and a believable, contemporary female protagonist, all make this novella worth reading. Despite its length, the plot is sufficiently complex to intrigue, and even though I have not read any of the previous novels, the main characters are detailed enough to make them relatable.

Keira is fiercely independent, and while she is not suited to the rigid rules of the military, her courage, ingenuity and a strong survival instinct make her a candidate for special ops in the CIA. I liked the dual timeline, which gives the reader insight into Keira’s tragic past and evidence of why she is the person she is.

Chernobyl provides a bleak and sinister setting for this story, and the danger of discovery underlines the high octane action. The final plot twist will surprise many and sets the stage for more missions with Keira and Ryan Drake’s team. If you enjoy ‘Strike Back’ on TV, then this story will provide all the adrenaline-fuelled action and snarky character interaction you need.

I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

 

Posted in Book Review

Hellbent Gregg Hurwitz 5* Review

 

To some he was Orphan X. Others knew him as theNowhere Man. But to veteran spymaster Jack Johns he was a boy named Evan Smoak.

Taken from an orphanage, Evan was raised inside a top-secret programme designed to turn him into a deadly weapon. Jack became his instructor, mentor, teacher and guardian. Because for all the dangerous skills he instilled in his young charge, he also cared for Evan like a son. And now Jack needs Evan’s help.

The Orphan programme hid dark secrets. Now those with blood on their hands want every trace of it gone. And they will stop at nothing to make sure that Jack and Evan go with it.

With little time remaining, Jack gives Evan his last assignment: to find and protect the programme’s last recruit. And to stay alive long enough to uncover the shocking truth …

Amazon UK

Amazon

 My Thoughts… 

So, I haven’t read the first two books in the Orphan series, but it didn’t take long to work out what was happening, the scene setting and backstory, supplied at the beginning and throughout the book is excellent and makes this easy to read as a standalone.

Orphan X trained as a killer from a young, impressionable age. His mentor contacts him as the final seconds of his life tick away. His message sets the scene for Orphan X to carry out Jack Johns last wishes. X undertakes a journey of revenge but finds it is also a voyage of self-discovery as he reacquaints with his humanity.

The pace of this story is breathtaking. Plot twists confound you, and there is plenty of adrenaline-fueled combat and violence. Painstakingly detailed descriptions let you visualise the action, not always a good thing. However, each violent act moves the story along and provides a vital piece in the puzzle that Orphan X and his young companion Joey must solve. The ending is explosive and satisfying and surprisingly poignant.

An addictive, action-packed, character-driven read that drags you into a dynamic, horrific world that is frighteningly realistic.

I received a copy of this book from Michael Joseph, Penguin UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.