Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Extract, Family Drama, Noir, Suspense

The Missing Husband Alex Coombs 4*#Review @AlexHowardCrime @BoldwoodBooks #CrimeFiction #DIHanlon #TheMissingHusband #noircrime #BlogTour #BookReview @rararesources #Extract #boldwoodbloggers

A security officer is assassinated. 

A small child grieves for his father. 

A psychopath commits their first crime…
A frightened Russian woman seeks DCI Hanlon’s help in finding her missing husband. Hanlon’s not keen on the case. Until she hears a name she recognises only too well. Arkady Belanov, sadistic owner of an exclusive brothel in Oxford is involved.

And when DCI Enver Demirel, her former partner and friend, disappears, Hanlon is determined to solve the case.

Forced into an uneasy alliance with the London underworld, the race to him from the blood-stained hands of the Russian mafia is underway…

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

My Thoughts…

This is an edgy and exciting series. Hanlon sidelined from the vibrant Metropolitan police arena, still attracts danger and responds with gritty determination. Best read chronologically this is a memorable series.

Working in a missing persons’ unit Hanlon conflicts violently with the Russian mafia. Whilst not having the team dynamic of the first two books, it retains its contemporary focus, strong characters and suspense.

Hanlon edges closer to self destruct yet manages to be an effective investigator. I am looking forward to the final book in this series.

Extract from The Missing Husband – Alex Coombs

Claudia Liebig looked at the young boy’s picture. Serg was frowning hard in concentration as he drew. In five years of teaching Claudia had never met such an intense child. Everything Serg did was coloured with the same remorseless focus. 

Claudia had rebelled against the tenets of her art school, which was ultra-liberal, focused on the idea that theory was as important, or maybe more so, as technique. Claudia disagreed and here at the small, international private school near Alexanderplatz in central Berlin where she was the art teacher, figurative work featured highly. By all means, she said, be abstract, but before you do me a series of coloured rectangles or Cubist faces, or before you display an everyday object as art, show me you can paint like Mondrian, Picasso or Duchamp could. 

Today her pupils were drawing their parents at work. Desks and rudimentary offices were the main themes – most of the parents worked in offices and some of the children’s parents were in TV, so there was a smattering of cameras and monitors depicted in the paintings. 

Serg was drawing some tanks; they looked scarily real. She admired them. 

‘T-80s,’ said Serg. He spoke flawless German even though Russian was his mother tongue.

He had an amazing vocabulary too, thought Claudia. Teachers shouldn’t have favourites, but they do. Serg was hers. Despite being Russian. Not a popular thing to be in Nineties Berlin. 

‘That’s nice,’ said Claudia. Serg bowed his head over his painting, colouring in the tanks battleship-grey. ‘Are they good tanks?’ Serg lifted his head and looked steadily at her with his startlingly green eyes. He was a child of almost unearthly beauty, thought Claudia, like his mother. 

‘My father says that remains to be seen.’ 

‘Is that your father in the tank?’ Claudia pointed to the picture. 

Serg shook his head and indicated a figure in a jeep. It was astonishingly well drawn. Claudia had met Serg’s dad once, rumoured to be head of the FSB, the former KGB, at the Russian Berlin embassy, the Stalinist-style palace in the Unter den Linden, in the heart of the city. She could recognize his powerful bull-like neck and physique, the angry energy that the hunched figure seemed to radiate. 

‘That’s him,’ Serg said. 

Alex Coombs

Alex Coombs studied Arabic at Oxford and Edinburgh Universities and went on to work in adult education and then retrained to be a chef. He has written four well reviewed crime novels as Alex Howard.

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Posted in Blog Blitz, Book Review, Crime, Suspense, Thriller

Into the Void Christina O’Reilly 4*#Review @rararesources #CrimeFiction #PoliceProcedural #MissingPersons #NewZealand @BlogBlitz #BookReview #IntoTheVoid

How easy is it for a man to simply disappear?

When rural banker Richard Harper is reported missing, DSS John (Archie) Baldrick and DC Ben Travers are drawn into the tangled details of the man’s life. Would Harper really have chosen to leave his seriously ill wife, and abandon his pregnant girlfriend? Or is there a real threat behind the abusive emails he’d been receiving from desperate clients in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis?

On the home front, Archie’s marriage is rocky and his two teenage daughters are giving him all sorts of trouble. The frail but beautiful Helena Harper and her magnificent house offer an oasis of calm as Archie struggles to discover who is responsible for her husband’s disappearance. Has he really been abducted, tortured or killed? Or is Richard Harper himself behind everything that has happened?

Archie and Travers ultimately face a race against time as the case descends into a bewildering morass of obsession, violence and murder.

Longlisted for the 2019 Michael Gifkins Memorial Prize for an Unpublished Novel

Finalist in the 2020 Ngaio Marsh Awards for Best First Novel

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My Thoughts…

I enjoy reading stories set in different locations, and this is a crime novel set in New Zealand. It has a small-town ethos with the sense of community and intrusiveness that defines them. The plot hinges on a missing person, a businessman with secrets and possibly a reason to disappear. Whilst this is a tried and tested plot trope, this one has the added complication of threatening emails and the implication of fraud against the background of a world financial meltdown.

The detective team is relatable, especially Archie, the detective sergeant, with a complex personal life which brings his character to life and makes him authentic. The characterisation is detailed and the plot twisty making this enjoyable read.

Christina O’Reilly

Christina is an author and proofreader living in the Waikato region of New Zealand. Several of her short stories have been published in anthologies, most recently in Fresh Ink: A Collection of Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand 2019. Into the Void is her first crime novel and was longlisted for the Michael Gifkins Memorial Prize in 2019. It is also a finalist in the 2020 Ngaio Marsh Awards for Best First Novel.

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Posted in Book Review, Crime, Mystery, Psychological Thriller

Gone Leona Deakin 4*#Review @LeonaDeakin1 @TransworldBooks #PsychologicalThriller #MissingPersons #Game #Suspense

#Gone

Four strangers are missing. Left at their last-known locations are birthday cards that read:

YOUR GIFT IS THE GAME.
DARE TO PLAY?

The police aren’t worried – it’s just a game. But the families are frantic. As psychologist and private detective Dr Augusta Bloom delves into the lives of the missing people, she finds something that binds them all.

And that something makes them very dangerous indeed.

As more disappearances are reported and new birthday cards uncovered, Dr Bloom races to unravel the mystery and find the missing people.

But what if, this time, they are the ones she should fear?

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I received a copy of this book from Random House UK – Transworld Publishers – Black Swan via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

A thriller with a strong psychological element and complex, sinister characters. It is slow-paced and focuses on unravelling the psyche of a schoolgirl, and a group of missing people, who appear to have left their lives to join a mind game.

The main protagonists are a criminal psychologist and her partner, who specialises in finding missing persons. Augusta Bloom is the stronger of the characters, and she takes the lead into finding the missing people, who appear to be drawn to a strange, potentially dangerous game. Her professional meetings with a schoolgirl who has been involved in a violent incident run alongside her other investigation. Are they connected directly, or indirectly or not at all? Where are the missing people? Are the victims or the antagonists?

The build of suspense is good, the knowledge of the human mind apparent, and you learn interesting facts about profiling and psychopaths. These subjects need to intrigue you for this novel to appeal, the clues are there, but well-spaced, so unless you have a good memory, you may forget them when they are returned too,

Worth reading, if you are interested in what makes the human mind work, from a psychologist’s point of view. and enjoy case study thrillers.

Read my review of Lost book 2 in the Dr Bloom series.

Posted in Book Review, Crime, Family Drama, Psychological Thriller

Then She Vanishes – Claire Douglas 5* #Review @MichaelJBooks @PenguinUKBooks @Dougieclaire #PsychologicalThriller #Crime #FamilyDrama #MondayBlogs

THE ONLY THING MORE SHOCKING THAN THE FIRST CHAPTER . . . IS THE LAST.

Everything changed the night Flora disappeared.

Heather and Jess were best friends – until the night Heather’s sister vanished.

Jess has never forgiven herself for the lie she told that night. Nor has Heather.

But now Heather is accused of an awful crime.

And Jess is forced to return to the sleepy seaside town where they grew up, to ask the question she’s avoided for so long:

What really happened the night Flora disappeared?

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

My Thoughts…

It is this novel’s complexity and depth that makes it such a riveting read.

A shooting, a missing girl and a failed suicide, the clues are evident, but there are so many permutations when the past is interwoven with the present, is it really as simple as it seems? The beginning is shocking, and the guilty party obvious? Until you meet the cast of characters, both in the present day and eighteen years previously. Everyone seems guilty, and you begin to doubt your observation skills and understanding of what is happening.

Jess, a journalist is trying to make a new start in Bristol, but when there is a sudden, violent incident in the town where she grew up, the past and present collide, and she has to face secrets she kept for years, and confront why she always seems to be running away.

Margot’s life changed irrevocably eighteen years ago, but not for the first time. Now she faces heartbreak again, can she survive the loss of both her daughters?

The plot is fast-paced and easy to follow, as it moves between the past and present, and the different points of view. The characters are believable, as are the situations they find themselves in. Jess has a unique role in the story, both objective from her profession and subjective from her relationship with the family. This allows her, and the reader insights that an outsider wouldn’t have, but also raises moral questions of bias and loyalty.

The unravelling of what led to the murders and the disappearance of Flora is realistic. The twists are clever, and the final chapters, adrenaline led and thought-provoking.

A cerebral thriller, that is both poignant and twisted.

Posted in Book Review, Crime, Suspense, Thriller

The Never Game – Jeffery Deaver -5* #Review @HarperFiction @HarperCollinsUK @JefferyDeaver #ColterShaw #1 #Thriller #Suspense #Survivalist #Investigator

A student kidnapped from the park.
Nineteen-year-old Sophie disappears one summer afternoon. She wakes up to find herself locked inside a derelict warehouse, surrounded by five objects. If she uses them wisely, she will escape her prison. Otherwise, she will die.

An investigator running out of time.
Sophie’s distraught father calls in the one man who can help find his daughter: unique investigator Colter Shaw. Raised in the wilderness by survivalist parents, he is an expert tracker with a forensic mind trained to solve the most challenging cases. But this will be a test even for him.

A killer playing a dangerous game.
Soon a blogger called Henry is abducted – left to die in the dark heart of a remote forest – and the whole case gets turned on its head. Because this killer isn’t following the rules; he’s changing them. One murder at a time…

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I received a copy of this book from Harper Fiction – Harper Collins UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Gaming is a major theme of this detailed, fast-paced thriller. The book corresponds to levels in a video game, starting at level three, with a tense, action-filled, seemingly desperate rescue, and then moving back two days to level one, and the first disappearance. The story progresses through each level in the two days preceding the rescue, with pertinent flashbacks to level three, and historical interludes, to give the reader insight in Colter Shaw, his upbringing, and what motivates his constant restlessness.

Colter Shaw, a man of many talents, who sometimes searches for missing people, good or bad for the reward offered. He had a unique upbringing, off the grid, by loving parents. His parents choice of lifestyle to bring up their children is odd, given that they lived mainstream, and were respected academics, but as the story progresses you realise that they had their reasons.

Colter is searching for answers to his own personal dilemmas, and these are part of this first story, but although some clues are given, the mystery and questions remain, for the next books in the series. Colter is an intelligent investigator, who lives by a set of rules, drilled into him by his father. He is complex, compassionate, clever and easy to like.

The plot is pacy and has plenty of twists, there are political undertones to the story and a detailed understanding of the popularity of gaming and its impact on twenty-first-century society. Don’t be put off, if you are not a devotee of gaming, I’m not, but whilst it is integral to the story, it doesn’t take over, the mystery and the suspense are front and centre and these are addictive and engaging.

‘The Never Game’, is easy to read, with an enigmatic protagonist, and an exciting plot.

Posted in Book Review, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

No One Home -5*#Review-Tim Weaver #DavidRaker10 @MichaelJBooks @TimWeaverBooks #Mystery#Thriller#Suspense

At Halloween, the residents of Black Gale gather for a dinner party. As the only nine people living there, they’ve become close friends as well as neighbours.

They eat, drink and laugh. They play games and take photographs. But those photographs will be the last record of any of them.

Because by the next morning, the whole village has vanished.

With no bodies, no evidence and no clues, the mystery of what happened at Black Gale remains unsolved two and a half years on. But then the families of the missing turn to investigator David Raker – and their obsession becomes his.

What secrets were the neighbours keeping from their families – and from each other?

Were they really everything they seemed to be?

And is Raker looking for nine missing people – or nine dead bodies?

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

My Thoughts…

Investigator David Raker, who specialises in finding missing people is a driven, complex man, who seems to make both enemies and friends wherever he goes. Haunted by his past actions and losses, he is always looking over his shoulder. Empathetic, intelligent, and a risk taker, he is the person you want in your corner if you need to find the truth.

Nine people disappeared without a trace two and a half years ago, and now the son of one of the missing people wants Raker to investigate their disappearance. Over thirty years previously in Los Angeles, a female detective is hunting for a murderer, storylines seem unconnected, but as they both progress they converge and the historical illuminates the present.

Both stories are complex, full of details and vividly written characters. There are many similarities between Raker and Jo, both are dedicated, intelligent detectives, who work in hostile environments. The late 1980s setting portrays the lawless ethos and prejudices of the era perfectly, which makes the retro chapters both atmospheric and authentic.

The present-day, chapters are no less absorbing. The Black Gale hamlet is a contemporary ‘Mary Celeste’, nothing seems out of place, but everything is wrong. As the suspense level increases, even the ordinary events Raker witnesses are menacing.

The final chapters are so vivid, as Raker finally realises the truth, but this is not the end, just the beginning of the most intense, adrenaline-fueled action and despair. Even the ending leaves you wondering, it seems that everything is resolved, but then you go back and begin to wonder if the worst is yet to come.

Clever plot twists, complex characters and a pervading air of despair and menace make this thriller one of the best of 2019.

Posted in Book Review

Faith Martin- 5* Review – Hillary’s Final Case

Hillary Greene has returned to Thames Valley Police HQ, acting as a cold-case consultant for the Crime Review Team, looking into murders which the police have never been able to solve. This is a crime mystery full of well-observed characters, which will have you gripped from start to the absolutely thrilling conclusion.

THE DETECTIVE DI Hillary Greene An attractive, single woman nearing the landmark age of fifty, Hillary Greene was a police officer of many years’ experience (earning the rank of DI) and came up through the ranks. Consequently, she knew how the system worked and was always fiercely loyal to the force without being blinkered to its faults. Forced to retire early through no fault of her own, she has now returned to the force as a civilian consultant on cold cases.

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My Thoughts…

The final book in the Hillary Greene series answers all the questions both in her professional and personal life. The cases in this concluding book are a continuation from the storyline in the previous book ‘Murder in Mind’.

The crime solving is believable and engaging, not everything is solved, but this adds to the authenticity. All the main characters are featured in ‘Hillary’s Final Case’ and there is a satisfactory resolution of Hillary’s personal life.

I have only read two books in this series, but as they read well as standalone stories this isn’t a problem, Cold cases featuring missing girls are the theme of this book, and all the stories are absorbing and poignant. There are many twists, but it’s rewarding to follow the clues and solve the mysteries and crimes with Hillary Greene and her team.

If you enjoy crime novels and cosy mystery this is a series worth reading.

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

Posted in Book Review

The Disappeared – Ali Harper – 3*Review

A distraught mother…
When Susan Wilkins walks into No Stone Unturned, Leeds’s newest private detective agency, owners Lee and Jo are thrilled. Their first client is the kind of person they always hoped to help—a kind woman desperately worried about her son, Jack.

A missing son…
The case seems simple—kid starts college, takes up with the wrong crowd, forgets to ring his mother. But very quickly, Lee and Jo suspect they’re not being told the whole truth.

A case which could prove deadly…
Their office is ransacked, everyone who knows Jack refuses to talk to them and they feel like they’re being followed…it’s clear Lee and Jo have stumbled into something bigger, and far more dangerous than they ever expected. Will they find Jack, or will their first case silence them both for good?

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Amazon

My Thoughts…

The cover and title suggest a psychological thriller, but this is not that. The title refers to a missing person, Jack, who a newly formed detective agency is engaged to find. The private detectives are female and distinctive in personality, Lee and Jo are firm friends and always have each other’s back. The two women have an easy going, intuitive relationship, which recommends them, they are better together than alone. The setting in Leeds is refreshingly original and authentic; it’s a shame the characters aren’t equally so.

Told in the first person from Lee’s point of view, the plot has many twists, not all of which are credible. Details of the two main characters backgrounds are sketchy, so much so that I wondered if I joined the series in the middle, rather than at the beginning. It’s clear both women have secrets, but few are revealed in this story, making them less believable and realistic than they should be.

A common theme is drug taking, and other types of addiction and the plot concentrates heavily on this. The plot is dark, but there are humorous moments, which help. Action packed with a fast-paced plot this will probably work better in a visual media, where character depth is less important than actions and reactions.

Overall, if this the start of a series, it has promise, but if there is a second book, please give the reader more life story for the main characters to make them real.

I received a copy of this book from Killer Reads, Harper Collins via NetGalley in return for an honest review.