Posted in Book Review, Crime, Domestic Thriller

Dead Inside @Noelle Holten 4* #Review @KillerReads @nholten40 #Crime #Thriller #DomesticAbuse #DCMaggieJamieson #deadinside

The killer is just getting started…

When three wife beaters are themselves found beaten to death, DC Maggie Jamieson knows she is facing her toughest case yet.

The police suspect that Probation Officer Lucy Sherwood – who is connected to all three victims – is hiding a dark secret. Then a fourth domestic abuser is brutally murdered.

And he is Lucy’s husband.

Now the police are running out of time, but can Maggie really believe her friend Lucy is a cold-blooded killer?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

This story is a slow burner, I struggled a little with the beginning, there are many characters to meet, and the reader is thrown straight into episodes of domestic abuse, which is always difficult to read. The style is gritty, and no holds barred and takes a little getting used to. The characters are well written and evoke strong emotion, either empathy or hate, and you quickly become invested in their lives and what happens to them matters.

The setting is notably authentic, well researched and believable. The plot raises contemporary issues and has clever twists, which explore the moral dilemmas, in addition to the crimes committed.

By the middle, I was hooked and kept turning the pages, One of the protagonists, both exasperates and amazes the reader. Her circumstances are horrific and you want her to dig deep and escape, but you have to imagine what years of systematic abuse can do, to understand her motivations and reactions.

I did guess the outcome, but that is part of the enjoyment for me. I like the gritty realism of the writing style and the focus it shines on a major contemporary problem. The questions raised, at the end of the story, concerning DC Maggie Jamieson, intrigue, and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

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Posted in Book Review, Psychological Thriller, Thriller

Forget Me Not – Claire Allan @AvonBooksUK @ClaireAllan #PsychologicalThriller #PublicationDay #ForgetMeNot 5*#Review

I disappeared on a Tuesday afternoon. I was there one minute and the next I was gone. They’ve never found my body…

It’s six in the morning during the hottest summer on record when Elizabeth O’Loughlin, out walking her dog, comes across Clare, a victim of a horrific knife attack, clinging onto life at the side of the road.

Clare dies minutes later, but not before whispering her haunting last words to Elizabeth.

When it becomes clear that Clare’s killer has more than one murder on his mind, Elizabeth has to take drastic action or face losing everything.

But what if she can’t stop a killer determined never to be forgotten?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

A strange, poignant beginning sets the scene for this psychological thriller set in Northern Ireland. The sense of loss draws you in and you want to know why this woman had to leave her baby.

Elizabeth, one of the main points of view in the story, is living a semi-reclusive life, she feels safe in her remote home but makes the effort to get out to walk her beloved dog. Her grisly discovery, leaves her shocked and fearful, wondering what the last words of the dying woman meant.

Rachel is the second main point of view, one of a group of three friends, who are all affected by Elizabeth’s discovery at the side of the road.

All of the protagonists, fall into the category of unreliable narrators, they are emotionally damaged, flawed and hiding secrets.

Each chapter reveals a little more of the truth, but also more questions and misinformation. Everyone appears guilty at some point in the story, but are they capable of killing?

The suspense is layered and relentless, increasing as the story progresses, this has an addictive quality that makes you read on, even though you may not like what is happening or how some of the protagonists behave and interact.

Well-written, this fast-paced story maintains its menacing quality, and keeps its most destructive secrets, until the final twist. as a good psychological thriller should.

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.

Posted in Book Review, Crime, Thriller

Cruel Acts – Jane Casey – 5* #Review -@HarperFiction @JaneCaseyAuthor @fictionpubteam #crime #thriller #detective-#policeprocedural #DSMaeveKerrigan-#PublicationDay

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?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

‘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.

Posted in Book Review, Crime, Domestic Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Thriller

My Lovely Wife- 4*#Review – Samantha Downing @MichaelJBooks @smariedowning @BerkleyPub #thriller #crime #suspense #domestic #couple #wife

HOW WELL DO YOU REALLY KNOW THE ONE YOU LOVE THE MOST?

This is a story about a married couple. They met, fell in love, had two beautiful children. So far, so ordinary.

But they have a very dark secret.

It’s a story with a twist. And then another. And another.

You might think you’ve read stories like this before.

You’d be wrong.

By the end of the first chapter, you’ll be hooked.

At page fifty you might not sleep until you finish.

And when you turn the last page, you’ll ask yourself one question:

How well do you really know the person you love most?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

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.

Kindle Book out now – Hardback out 2 May 2019

Posted in Book Review, Crime, Indie, Murder Mystery

Next Victim – 4*#Review – Helen H. Durrant – @JoffeBooks @hhdurrant

A young man’s body is found burnt and tortured by a Manchester canal. Detective Rachel King investigates. But she has a secret, the love of her life is a well-known villain. He has recently come back on the scene. But what does he really want?

A brutal serial killer with a taste for good-looking young blonde men.

A student who believes she has a lost brother. But even her own father doesn’t believe her. She was involved with the first victim.

As the murders continue, can Rachel keep her family together and stop the killer?

THE DETECTIVE DCI Rachel King. Thirty-nine-year-old mother of two teenage daughters. Divorced from Alan. She lives in the Cheshire village of Poynton – about ten miles from central Manchester. She is good at her job, gets results but does make mistakes. One of them was getting involved with a budding villain in her teens. No one, family, friends or colleagues know anything about this.

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

A killer with a grudge and a taste for punishment, a detective with a secret and a girl searching for a missing sibling all intertwine to make ‘Next Victim’, an absorbing murder mystery.

Detective Chief Inspector Rachel King is good at her job but is this at the expense of her family life? A particularly grisly murder takes all her concentration, but someone from her past could damage everything. Rachel is a complex, realistic character. She’s flawed and dedicated to her job. Her ex-husband seems to want to be more than the father to her kids, but she has a secret she cannot share.

This is a well-written murder mystery/police procedural. All the characters are authentic and vividly portrayed and the crimes though terrible are not too graphic. The fast- pacing keeps the reader’s interest and this promises to be the start of a good series as Rachel’s past collides with her present

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

Posted in Book Review

#BlogTour- M.J. Lee – Where The Truth Lies- Guest Post – 4* Review

A killer in total control. A detective on the edge. A mystery that HAS to be solved.

DI Thomas Ridpath was on the up in the Manchester CID: a promising young detective whose first case involved capturing a notorious serial killer. But ten years later he’s recovering from a serious illness and on the brink of being forced out of the police. Then people start dying: tortured, murdered, in an uncanny echo of Ridpath’s first case.

As the investigation intensifies, old bodies go missing, records can’t be found and the murder count grows. Caught in a turf war between the police and the coroner’s office, digging up skeletons some would rather forget, Ridpath is caught in a race against time: a race to save his career, his marriage… And lives.

When a detective goes missing everything is on the line. Can Ridpath close the case and save his colleague?

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Guest Post:  Seven novels that killed me. And inspired me.

I’ve always loved crime.

Murder. Larceny. Blackmail. Arson. Kidnapping. Burglary. Serial killings. Extortion. Gang violence. It doesn’t matter what sort of crime, I’m up for it.

Luckily, it hasn’t landed me in jail yet, but it has given me a love of one of the most popular genres of writing.

The Crime Novel.

Here are seven books that inspired me to write about crime.

And then there were none.

From the Queen of Crime herself. I remember reading this when I was eleven. It was called something terribly non-PC then. Having finished it, I went back to the beginning and started over again. All the clues were there, I just hadn’t seen them. Fiendishly well plotted, even for Agatha Christie

The Daughters of Time

Again, something I read when I was young. Beautifully constructed, it made me revisit the history of the period and re-evaluate all that I believed about Richard III. Great title too. I read it again this year. It stands the test of time which is always the sign of a great novel.

The Complete Sherlock Holmes

The series of works that gave rise to the modern crime novel. An eccentric detective, a fumbling sidekick and stories that blew readers away with their sheer brilliance. Every other crime novel is measured against the master.

The Name of the Rose

Every once in a while, a book comes along that shows the crime novel can be far more than a series of gory killings. This has wit, erudition, an understanding of philosophy and, at its heart, a plea for more laughter in the world. Who could ask for more?

The Remorseful Day

 A great central character with enough quirks to sink the Titanic. A sidekick with a love of the Full Monty. Great plots, intriguing stories, palpable intelligence, and the most wonderful sense of place: Oxford in the Eighties. Colin Dexter created a cult classic that went on to become some of the finest crime dramas on television.

LA Confidential

I could have chosen any of James Ellroy’s books. Once I start them, I can’t put them down. They have such a pace, style and sheer pizzazz, that is quintessentially American. Ellroy leaves out the bits other authors keep in. I’d love to have those bits.

The Talented Mr Ripley

Vastly underrated, Patricia Highsmith for me was the writer’s writer. Beautiful sentences, crisp characterisation and an understanding of human psychology go hand in hand for a wonderful series of crime novels. Even better, she created an anti-hero that we could all love. Brilliant.

So those are my choices.

I can hear you all shouting and screaming now. How could you leave out Mario Puzo, Val McDermid, Stieg Larssen, Peter James, Ellis Peters, Dashiell Hammett, P D James, Thomas Harris, C J Sansom and Stephen King? 

Nobody said choosing seven novels was easy, You have to murder some you love. But that’s the job of a crime writer after all.

What would be your seven most inspirational crime novels?

My Thoughts…

An interesting mix of cold and present-day crime cleverly intertwined with a compelling detective who faces realistic life choices. The serial killer is sinister, faceless and whilst there is some graphic description of the horrors inflicted on victims they are necessary to increase the killer’s menacing presence.

The crossover between a police detective and coroner officer is interesting and gives an original slant to this well-written police procedural. I enjoyed this and look forward to more crime investigation stories with this DI Ridpath.

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