Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Family Drama, Literary Fiction, Literary Humour, Noir

The Big Chill Doug Johnstone 4*#Review doug_johnstone @Orendabooks #TheSkelfs #BlogTour #TheBigChill #CrimeFiction #PI #noir #humour #BookReview #literaryfiction @RandomTTours

Haunted by their past, the Skelf women are hoping for a quieter life. But running both a funeral directors’ and a private investigation business means trouble is never far away, and when a car crashes into the open grave at a funeral Dorothy is conducting, she can’t help looking into the dead driver ’s shadowy life.

While Dorothy uncovers a dark truth at the heart of Edinburgh society, her daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah have their own struggles. Jenny’s
ex-husband Craig is making plans that could shatter the Skelf women’s lives, and the increasingly obsessive Hannah has formed a friendship with an elderly professor that is fast turning deadly.

But something even more sinister emerges when a drumming student of Dorothy’s disappears, and suspicion falls on her parents. The Skelf women find themselves immersed in an unbearable darkness – but could the real threat be to themselves?

Fast-paced, darkly funny, yet touching and tender, the Skelf family series is a welcome reboot to the classic PI novel, whilst also asking deeper questions about family, society and grief.

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

My Thoughts…

Stories centred around funeral directors always seem to combine darkness and humour with the possibility of crime and this, in essence, is what’s going on here. This is an atmospheric novel. It has vivid imagery and vibrant characters. It’s easy to imagine the events as they unfold, and this makes it addictive reading.

The second book in the series it reads well as a standalone but if you like to know the minutiae of the characters perhaps read book one first? Told from the three main characters’viewpoints it gives the reader an omnipotent view of the story. The plot is complex and detailed but seen through the characters’ eyes riveting reading.

Character-driven you get to know each of the women well and their familial relationship. This story explores love and loss with a poignant intensity relieved by insightful touches of humour. It’s an engaging fusion of family drama, and crime detection, which works well. The Edinburgh setting is evocative and gives the story a unique edge.

Doug Johnstone

Doug Johnstone is the author of more ten novels, most recently Breakers (2019), which has been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year and A Dark Matter (2020), which launched the Skelfs series. Several of his books have been bestsellers and award winners, and his work has been praised by the likes of Val McDermid, Irvine Welsh and Ian Rankin. He’s taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions – including a funeral home, which he drew on to write A Dark Matter – and has been an arts journalist for twenty years. Doug is a
songwriter and musician with five albums and three EPs released, and he plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He’s alsoplayer-manager of the Scotland Writers Football Club. He lives in Edinburgh.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Travel

A Quiet Death In Italy Tom Benjamin 4*#Review @Tombenjaminsays @LittleBrownUK #Constable #CrimeFiction #Italy #PrivateDetective @rararesources #AQuietDeathInItaly #RachelsRandomResources #FridayThoughts #FridayFeeling

Bologna: city of secrets, suspicion . . . and murder

A dark and atmospheric crime thriller set in the beautiful Italian city of Bologna, perfect for fans of Donna Leon, Michael Dibdin and Philip Gwynne Jones.

When the body of a radical protestor is found floating in one of Bologna’s underground canals, it seems that most of the city is ready to blame the usual suspects: the police.

But when private investigator Daniel Leicester, son-in-law to a former chief of police, receives a call from the dead man’s lover, he follows a trail that begins in the 1970s and leads all the way to the rotten heart of the present-day political establishment.

Beneath the beauty of the city, Bologna has a dark underside, and English detective Daniel must unravel a web of secrets, deceit and corruption – before he is caught in it himself.

Tom Benjamin’s gripping debut transports you to the ancient and mysterious Italian city less travelled: Bologna.

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I received a copy of this book from Little Brown Books – Constable and the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Private Investigator Daniel’s intuition and experience make him an insightful and tenacious detective. He explores Bolgona’s radical past in this politicised murder mystery, searching for past connections with the present murder. The investigation is complex and intriguing as authentic characters come to life in a vibrant setting rife with inefficient bureaucracy, corruption and evil.

Tom Benjamin started off as a reporter before moving to the press office at Scotland Yard and running drugs awareness campaign FRANK. He moved to Bologna where his work as doorman at a homeless canteen inspired him to create English detective Daniel Leicester in a series that serves up equal helpings of the local cuisine and ubiquitous graffiti; the city’s splendour, decay, and danger.

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

The Telephone Call Michael Pakenham 4*#Review @BookGuild @rararesources #CrimeFiction #DCIDanielAppleman #BlogTour #BookReview #MichaelPakenham #Giveaway #Paperback #Noir #Detective #WeekendReads #SaturdayThoughts

When Rosemary Sherwood overhears a disturbing conversation between her husband, Harry Sherwood and an unknown caller, she has no idea that her life’s about to change forever. Fleeing to France for fear of her own safety, Harry threatens to kill their son if she ever dares to breathe a word of anything she overheard.

Torn between hiding out in France and re-connecting with her estranged son, Rosemary returns to England twelve years later believing that she and her son are now out of danger…

A web of deceit and lies has been woven over the years to cover up the antics of Harry and his friends, who are no strangers to violence and murder and who will stop at nothing to ensure they aren’t exposed.

Private Detective Daniel Appleman takes on the case, but can he track down these men before they wreak havoc on the Sherwood family?

#TheTelephoneCall

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I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

#DCIAppleman

My Thoughts…

This is a story for those who like noir crime. The ethos of the story is dark, fueled with tales of abuse, depravity and disregard for life.

Told from multi-points of view, the plot is complex, it requires concentration, especially in the early chapters, as you get to know the cast of characters and their motivations. There is an element of family drama in this story, Rosemary overhears her husband’s telephone conversation, what she hears is life-changing, and puts her and her son in imminent danger.

Told in different time scales, you begin to get the complete picture of what Harry and his consorts do, and it’s not good.

The investigation part of the story, brings Daniel Appleman into the plot, as he embarks on, at times, a desperate journey to uncover the web of dark secrets and lies and keep Rosemary and her son safe. The investigation is intense and interesting, as different lines of enquiry and various leads and suspects are pursued.

There are lighter scenes to counter the darkness, and the comparison of the detective’s family life and Rosemary’s is marked.

The suspense building and underlying menace increases as the story progresses, and leads to a realistic and satisfying conclusion.

Overall this a good crime story. It will appeal, to those that like their thrillers full of dark deeds and depraved antagonists.

#TheTelephoneCall

Michael Pakenham is part of a well-known Irish literary family. Generations of his family lived at Langford Lodge on Loch Neagh outside Belfast. His father was killed in the Second World War and the estate was sold. His mother then took Michael and his sister to Tucson Arizona until the end of the war. On returning to England, his mother bought a farm in Hampshire and Michael has lived in the county ever since. Having served in the Grenadier Guards – the fourth generation to do so – Michael returned to take over his mother’s farming enterprises until he sold his farming interests in 1990 and started his writing career. This will be his eighth book and the second in the Daniel Appleman series. He lives outside Winchester with his wife. He has three children and a string of grandchildren.

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#Giveaway
Giveaway to Win 5 x Paperback copies of The Telephone Call (UK Only)

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*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Giveaway link above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for the fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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?

Amazon UK

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.

Posted in Book Review

You Were Gone – 5* Review – Tim Weaver

 

Three days after Christmas, a woman walks into a police station. She has no phone and no ID, just a piece of paper with the name of investigator David Raker on it. She tells officers that Raker is her husband.

SHE SAYS SHE’S MY WIFE.

When he turns up at the station, Raker is stunned. The woman looks exactly like his wife. She knows all about their marriage, their history, even private conversations the two of them had. There’s just one problem: Raker’s wife has been dead for eight years.

MY WIFE DIED . . . DIDN’T SHE?

The woman tells the police that Raker had a breakdown. A respected doctor backs up her account. Items are missing that prove Raker’s side of the story – and, worst of all, he soon becomes the prime suspect in a disappearance.

SHE’S EITHER A LIAR – OR I AM.

Could Raker have imagined their whole marriage? Is he delusional? Is this really the woman he loved and grieved for? Hunted by the police, Raker will have to find out the truth before it costs him everything – his memories, his sanity, his life . . .

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

‘You Were Gone’ is chilling, sinister and all the more terrifying because it’s believable. Raker doubts his sanity, and he’s not alone. Is the woman claiming to be his beloved wife her and how can she be when she died?
Raker still grieves his wife, and it’s this vulnerability that makes this thriller work. Circumstances conspire to make him doubt everything he has built his life on since Derryn’s death.

The story is told from Raker’s point of view with additional scenes from the antagonist’s point of view but is this Raker or someone else? Each chapter builds the suspense and tension, and as the plot starts to reveal the truth, more twists throw up additional questions and possible suspects.

The ending is surprising but ties up most of the loose ends, however, a problem looms on the horizon for Raker as his and other’s past actions return to haunt him, perhaps in the next instalment of this thrilling series.

Even though this is the first Raker thriller I’ve read, I warmed to his deep and troubled character and found the story a compelling but easy read.

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

Posted in Book Review

Murder at the Grand Raj Palace – Vaseem Kahn – (Baby Ganesh Agency Investigation #4) – 5* Review

For a century the iconic Grand Raj Palace Hotel has welcomed the world’s elite. From film stars to foreign dignitaries, anyone who is anyone stays at the Grand Raj.

The last thing the venerable old hotel needs is a murder…

When American billionaire Hollis Burbank is found dead – the day after buying India’s most expensive painting – the authorities are keen to label it a suicide. But the man in charge of the investigation is not so sure. Chopra is called in – and discovers a hotel full of people with a reason to want Burbank dead.

Accompanied by his sidekick, baby elephant Ganesh, Chopra navigates his way through the palatial building, a journey that leads him steadily to a killer, and into the heart of darkness.

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

If you’re looking for a 21st-century take on the cosy mystery, this is a must-read. I love Miss Marple, Poirot and Midsomer Murders and this series encompasses the best of these with an enthralling taste of life in India.

Chopra, a retired policeman, is an inherent crime solver and even ill health can’t prevent him from doing what he loves. He is an honest, loyal man who values truth and justice. Sometimes his personal life gets sidelined by his investigations, like this one, which threatens to rock his marriage after twenty-five years. Chopra is a surrogate parent to an orphaned baby elephant called Ganesh, with a talent for crime solving and a young boy who is inseparable from the young elephant. These young characters provide the light relief to Chopra’s often grisly investigations.

The plot plays out like an Agatha Christie with numerous suspects, misinformation and sub-plots. The steady pacing makes these easy to follow, but the storyline keeps its secrets well. Poppy, Chopra’s wife, has her investigation adding to the story’s diversity. Indian culture and society are intrinsic to this series, and there are also pertinent comments about politics, colonialism, religion, and multi-national corporations, which give the story its authenticity. 

I haven’t read the previous books in this series, but this one reads well as a standalone. However, it’s addictive reading, and  I’m sure I will read the other books in the series soon. If you like whodunnit mysteries, charismatic characters and charming animals, this is a book you’re sure to enjoy.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Author Blog Challenge, Friday Read

My Top 5 Books and Why? Author Blog Challenge: #LifeBooksWriting

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So like many writers, I am an avid reader too. I would never have become a writer, if I hadn’t read books, I’d like to have written and these are a few of them.

 The Donovan Legacy – Nora Roberts

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I loved these romantic paranormal stories about  a supernatural  family. If you enjoyed the 1990’s witchy  TV series Charmed you’ll love these stories too. The romance is easy, the characters believable and the magic is the perfect escapism.

I wanted to write stories with the same mix of paranormal romance and fantasy . I decided to write  a paranormal romance after reading this series but it was over ten years later, when I wrote my first paranormal romance; The Dragon Legacy series.
 

Ashes to Ashes –   Tami Hoag

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 I also  love reading mysteries and thrillers, especially those that get inside the mind of the antagonist. Tami Hoag, does this perfectly, especially in my favourite story of hers.

The female lead in this story is perfectly flawed but so easy to empathise with. The  villain is pure evil  and the suspense to die for.  I read this in the late nineties but its still one of my favourite suspense thrillers.

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In my current release, The  Dangerous Gift, I tried to create the same suspenseful ethos with elements of romance and mystery intertwined. 

The Cat Who… Lilian Jackson Braun

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My mum loved, what is now termed cosy mysteries and she introduced me to Lilian Jackson Braun and ‘The Cat Who….’ mysteries. These feature a quirky private detective and his two Siamese cats, who are really the stars of the book; Koko  and Yum Yum. The stories are simple but full of interesting characters and they remind me of happy times with my mum.

Tangled Reins and Four in Hand – Stephanie Laurens

I have always loved reading Regency Romance  and  Stephanie Laurens’, ‘Four in Hand’ and ‘Tangled Reins’ are two of my all  time favourites Arrogant, sexy heroes. Feisty , intelligent yet vulnerable heroines and a glamorous settings make them great to read.

 Past Shadows Cover 2My love of Regency romance,mystery, suspense and the paranormal, inspired me to write my latest story ‘Past Shadows’ . which I  hope to release later this year. Excerpts are on Wattpad under my user name  JaneHunt5.

Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe  Debbie Johnson

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As a book reviewer, I am lucky enough to read stories from many different authors. One of my  favourites because her stories never fail to make me laugh out loud is Debbie Johnson. Her latest book ‘ Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe’ is her most memorable tale to date, full  of fun, poignancy and some many delightfully, real characters. Definitely a must read this summer.

 So that’s my top five books, what are yours and why? Comment  below or on Twitter using the hashtag #LifeBooksWriting.