A witness with no victim. A crime with no crime scene…
When crusading journalist Lydia Wright is sent a video of an apparent murder on a London train, she thinks she’s found the story to revive her career. But she can’t find a victim, much less the killers, and the only witness has disappeared. Wary she’s fallen for fake news, she begins to doubt her instincts – until a sinister call suggests that she’s not the only one interested in the crime.
Michael Stringer deals in information – and doesn’t care which side of the law he finds himself on. But the murder on the train has left him exposed, and now he’ll stop at nothing to discover what Lydia knows.
When their paths collide, Lydia finds the story leads through a nightmare world, where money, power and politics intersect … and information is the only thing more dangerous than a bullet.
A nerve-shattering and brutally realistic thriller, Blood Red City bursts with energy and grit from the opening page, twisting and feinting to a superb, unexpected ending that will leave you breathless.
I received a copy of this book from Orenda Books in return for an honest review.
This is an edgy, urban thriller with an action-driven, pacy plot.
Lydia tired of being sidelined investigates a video detailing a crime. She realises if genuine it has the potential, to mainstream her career. There’s relentless suspense. A sense of menace pervades every page.
Michael Stringer is an enigma. An information mercenary, he wants to know what Lydia knows. The London setting adds authenticity to the story. The story uses sensual imagery well making the events and locations easy to imagine.
The author creates an ethos of mistrust. It’s difficult to establish the truth, and who to believe. The ending answers all these questions with the possibility of a future investigation.
Rod Reynolds is the author of four novels, including the Charlie Yates series. His 2015 debut, The Dark Inside, was longlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger, and was followed by Black Night Falling (2016) and Cold Desert Sky (2018); the Guardian have called the books ‘Pitch-perfect American noir.’ A lifelong Londoner, in 2020 Orenda Books will publish his first novel set in his hometown, Blood Red City. Rod previously worked in advertising as a media buyer, and holds an MA in novel writing from City University London. Rod lives with his wife and family and spends most of his time trying to keep up with his two young daughters.
A vicious killer and a traitor on the team – can DC Harris see the truth before it’s too late?
On the first day of her new job, rookie cop DI Eva Harris is called to a chilling crime scene – a body drained of blood, with the eyes removed. It’s only the first of several similar murders, reminiscent of a series of bloody killings several years ago. Is the same killer back, or is a new threat menacing the area? As the bodies mount up, Harris must uncover the truth. But, the threat doesn’t only come from outside. Within her own team, there is a traitor at work… A heart in the mouth crime-thriller that is perfect for fans of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
I received a copy of this audiobook from Audible UK via Midas PR in return for an honest review.
After an impactful opening, the threat level in this techno crime thriller intensifies with every chapter. DI Eva Harris, a fast-tracked officer is thrown in at the deep end, horrific murder, a new team and something in her personal life that haunts her.
Technology is an important theme and Eva is a gifted cybercrime officer. There is lots of detail in this complex thriller, which initially seems to slow the pace, but it’s necessary to understand Eva’s character and motivations. Subplots, including one from Eva’s past and one that illuminates the real reason Eva’s presence in Surrey, make this story authentic and multilayered. Eva’s humanity, sense of justice, and tenacity make her easy to empathise as the story progresses. The police team dynamic is realistic and gradually supportive of Eva.
The suspense, violent crime and Eva’s vulnerability make this thriller both addictive and immersive. As the different plot strands converge, there are some surprising outcomes and more than one antagonist.
An easy to listen to narrator so good you forget her presence, as you become immersed in the characters and plot.
Carl Goodman is a designer and media consultant who has worked with everything from hot-metal type to computer animation and virtual reality. His interactive projects have twice won BAFTA awards. He has worked with companies and universities across Europe and the US on government-funded R&D programmes, and with major international brands on new product development, but he absolutely draws the line at commuting. He loves writing, both crime and science fiction, and enjoys stories that have both a technological edge and a dark, visceral theme. He enjoys research, although sometimes the material he unearths worries the living daylights out of him. Carl lives in Surrey with his wife and has an adult son.
Five people at the height of their success die suddenly in different parts of the world. A villa in Portofino and a terrace in Capri, both in Italy. A flight to Singapore. A beach in Santorini, Greece. A luxury resort on the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean. All five are filed as “death by natural causes”. No doubts, no links. But an intelligence analyst and his television journalist girlfriend suspect there is a connection. And follow a trail of unusual coincidences. Meanwhile, a brilliant businessman chases a dream: prolonging human life to over 150 years. And in perfect health. An ambitious goal. That entices the billionaires club: the privileged few who own over half of the world’s wealth. The human mind possesses hidden talents. You just need to know how to make the most of them. But longevity can prove fatal.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
An intriguing plot and a complex cast of characters make this an addictive techno-thriller. Five seemingly unrelated deaths attract the attention of a secret organisation. Is there a connection? Is there a ghost killer?
An enticing mix of action, conspiracy and intuitive investigation keep you absorbed in this fast-paced story. It’s a compelling read.
A.D. Pascal is an Italian writer. He lives in Milan. After graduating, he started his career as an economic journalist. Then worked as a marketing manager for multinationals.
He wrote several books on management as a ghostwriter.
In his own words: “Writing has always been my passion and the base of my activities. My purpose was to present facts and figures in a stimulating way.
Later, I realized that I would also be able to create exciting works of fiction.
‘Fatal Longevity’ is the first of a series of books I am working on. They will all combine real events with just a pinch of imagination”.
At a global tech gala hosted at the British Museum, scientistTobias Hawke is due to unveil an astonishing breakthrough. His AI system appears to have reached consciousness, making Hawke the leading light in his field.
But when terrorists storm the building, they don’t just leave chaos in their wake. They seize Hawke’s masterwork, sparking a chain reaction of explosive events which could end the world as we know it.
Michael North, ex-assassin and spy-for-hire, must find the killers and recover the AI. But he can’t do it alone. Hawke’s wife, Esme, and teenage hacker, Fangfang, have their own reasons to help complete North’s mission – and together they unravel a dark and deadly conspiracy which stretches right to the top of the British elite.
Can North survive long enough to uncover the whole truth? Or is it already too late for humanity?
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Michael North attracts danger and violence. Living with a bullet in his head carries a death sentence, which makes him reckless about his future. With his quirky team, the only family he knows, he lives his life at a fast pace, with little regard for tomorrow.
This fast-paced political thriller has a conspiracy at its heart, with every twist deepening the deceit and increasing the menace. North and his team are diverse and easy to like. They have a great team dynamic, which provides a few lighter moments, to temper the tension.
Complex characters complement an addictive, contemporary, informed plot, which flows well and has an ending with impact.
I’M ALL EARS
Guest Post –Judith O’Reilly – Curse the Day
All sorts of people are ‘broadcasting’ at the minute, as if convinced by the prospect of their own imminent death that they have to say what they have to say, or face losing their chance forever.
I get that. There is nothing like the threat of your demise to focus attention on what you think and feel, what you’ve done and still have to do, on who you love and what you know, on what you can teach and what you can share with the wider world whether that’s keeping fit or making lunch or warning the world to stay at home.
At times like these, we ask ourselves did we make the mark we wanted to make? Is there still time to do more, to say more. Is there time to say everything that has to be said before it’s just too damn late?
In the writing business, we want to sell our books and through those books, we look to sell something of ourselves. We demand to be seen. We jump up and down to be heard. And social media has given us the way to star in our very own movies.
Yet even as I struggle to get to grips with some video conferencing app or other, even as I arrange Live panels in online festivals and tweet furiously about the thriller I’m launching, I question the on-line whirligig I’m caught up in – the Facebook videos and chatter, the podcasts and the Live launches.
And I wonder if everything that’s going on in the name of entertainment and distraction should shuffle to one side and make more room for Listening.
Because we can’t all talk at the same time. Some of us have to listen. And if we are all broadcasting, furiously determined to say what we have to say rather than take it to the grave with us, we cannot – any of us – be heard.
There is a quiet virtue to listening. There is a skill to it – an art. And I’d argue those who have been listening their entire lives, are probably more interesting that those who have been broadcasting.
Over the years, listeners have learnt to sift and analyse, spot half-truths and downright lies. They’ve learnt who makes noise and who has something worthwhile to say. Who can teach and who spreads light rather than casts shadows. Who to trust.
It’s soul destroying to have your words ignored. Not to be listened to. And, in work situations, plenty of women know exactly how that feels.
Equally, there’s something life enhancing in being listened to. Properly. Deeply. In being the focus of someone’s attention, and in feeling that, finally, you are truly seen, truly heard.
As a journalist as well as a writer, perhaps listening comes more naturally to me than to some. Perhaps I was born a listener. An only child, I certainly recognised early on that listening was both a duty and a privilege. If I sat quietly, I would learn who said what to whom and how they felt and what happened next. I would be amused. I would be privy to scandals of the past and to secrets of the heart.
So how exactly do you listen? How do you listen harder and more in a world which is so full of noise? How do you even make out what is worth listening to. What and who you want to hear more of? I would argue you have to make a conscious decision to make space for it in your life. That you remind yourself other things can wait a while, but not your child and not your partner and not your parents and not your friend. Because they need to be heard and to be heard someone has to be there to listen. Even more so at a time of crisis for all.
You put aside the chore or the phone. You meet their eye if you can. You don’t let your gaze roam if they are in the room with you, and if they aren’t (and they may not be today or over the months to come), you listen all the harder to what they are telling you. You focus. You concentrate. You allow them to move centre-stage and you focus the spotlight on them. They may need that. We all need that, especially when we’re fearful and with just cause. Moreover, sometimes what they’re saying is between the words, and that’s a whole other level of listening right there. And you don’t want to miss the unsaid. And I would say that the more you do it, the better you get at it.
We always know if someone is a good listener. And then the exchange becomes something meaningful because to talk to someone who listens involves trust. There is nothing more seductive and dangerous that someone who truly listens because we give up a part of ourselves when we are with them.
Above all know that being prepared to listen, giving someone else that gift – the gift of being heard, isn’t a way to silence ourselves. The listeners among us still have things to say. They just say it in a different way to most.
Judith O’Reilly is the author of Wife in the North, a top-three Sunday Times bestseller and BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week, and The Year of Doing Good. Judith is a former senior journalist with The Sunday Times and a former political producer with BBC 2’s Newsnight and ITN’s Channel 4 News. Her first Michael North thriller, Killing State was set in Westminster and was praised by thriller writers around the globe.
Review Competition for Curse The Day from April 2nd 2020.
To be in with a chance to win a Kindle Fire. Submit proof of your review of Curse The Day on Amazon/iBooks/Kobo to firstname.lastname@example.org,
Terms and Conditons for Review Competition forCurse The Day from April 2nd 2020.
The promoter is: Head of Zeus Ltd whose registered office is at 5-8 Hardwick Street, London, N16 5UA.
The competition is open to residents of the United Kingdom aged 18 years or over except employees of Head of Zeus and their close relatives and anyone otherwise connected with the organisation or judging of the competition.
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The rules of the competition and how to enter are as follows:
Review either the eBook or hardback of Curse The Day by Judith O’Reilly and send proof of review to email@example.com. Accepted retailers include Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play and Waterstones.
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From the author of the acclaimed novel The Borrowed, a very timely and propulsively plotted tale of cyberbullying and revenge, about a woman on the hunt for the truth about her sister’s death.
Chan Ho-Kei’s The Borrowed was one of the most acclaimed international crime novels of recent years, a vivid and compelling tale of power, corruption, and the law spanning five decades of the history of Hong Kong. Now he delivers Second Sister, an up-to-the-minute tale of a Darwinian digital city where everyone from tech entrepreneurs to teenagers is struggling for the top.
A schoolgirl – Siu-Man – has committed suicide, leaping from her twenty-second-floor window to the pavement below. Siu-Man is an orphan and the librarian older sister who’s been raising her refuses to believe there was no foul play – nothing seemed amiss. She contacts a man known only as N. – a hacker, and an expert in cybersecurity and manipulating human behaviour. But can Nga-Yee interest him sufficiently to take her case, and can she afford it if he says yes?
What follows is a cat and mouse game through the city of Hong Kong and its digital underground, especially an online gossip platform, where someone has been slandering Siu-Man. The novel is also populated by a man harassing girls on mass transit; high school kids, with their competing agendas and social dramas; a Hong Kong digital company courting an American venture capitalist; and the Triads, market women and noodle shop proprietors who frequent N.’s neighbourhood of Sai Wan. In the end, it all comes together to tell us who caused Siu-Man’s death and why, and to ask, in a world where online and offline dialogue has increasingly forgotten about the real people on the other end, what the proper punishment is.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus in return for an honest review.
A detailed, technical crime thriller set in HongKong. Nga-Yee doesn’t believe her sister committed suicide. Did someone provoke her untimely death? With no close family, Nga-Yee focuses all her grief on getting justice for her younger sister. Referred, to the enigmatic ‘N’ she’s unsure if she can trust him. Desperation forces her, to forge an unlikely alliance with the Hacker, who has many faces and even more secrets.
The plot uncovers cyberbullying, educates in the art of hacking and cybercrime and reveals some hard to like characters. The pacing is good, and although it plunges into technicality in parts, this is integral to the story and lets the reader learn things at the same pace as the main protagonist Nga-Yee. The plot has many twists and layers, and though you many guess part of the story, the ending may still surprise you.
Nga-Yee is a courageous woman, who is easy to empathise. N is eccentric, intelligent and streetwise. Although lacking in social graces, his actions recommend him, and his loyalty redeems his lack of social grace.
The atmospheric setting and cultural references are engaging and the story balances the factual and crime investigation with the emotional side of its characters well. The ending is satisfying and positive.
Chan was born and raised in Hong Kong. He has worked as a software engineer, game designer, manga editor, and lecturer. Chan wrote made his debut as a writer in 2008 at the age of thirty-three, with the short story The Case of Jack and the Beanstalk which was shortlisted for the Mystery Writers of Taiwan Award. Chan re-entered the following year and won the award for his short story The Locked Room of Bluebeard.
Chan reached the first milestone of his writing career in 2011 with his novel, The Man who Sold the World which won the biggest mystery award in the Chinese speaking world, the Soji Shimada Award. The book has been published in Taiwan, Japan, Italy, Thailand and Korea.
In 2014, Chan’s crime thriller The Borrowed was published in Taiwan. It has sold rights in thirteen countries, and the book will be adapted into a film by acclaimed Chinese art film director Wong Kar-Wai.
‘Second Sister‘ has acquired a six-figure film deal with Linmon Pictures in China. The book will be published in the US in 2020 and rights have been sold to China, Korea and Japan.
Jeremy Tiang’s writing has appeared in The Guardian, Esquire and Quarterly Literary Review Singapore. He has written four plays and translated more than ten books from the Chinese. Tiang lives in New York.
The first novel in an explosive new series inspired by Robert Ludlum’s Bourne universe, The Treadstone Resurrection introduces an unforgettable hero and the shadowy world that forged him…
Treadstone made Jason Bourne an unstoppable force, but he’s not the only one.
Operation Treadstone has nearly ruined Adam Hayes. The top-secret CIA Black Ops program trained him to be an all but invincible assassin, but it also cost him his family and any chance at a normal life. Which is why he was determined to get out. Working as a carpenter in rural Washington state, Adam thinks he has left Treadstone in the past, until he receives a mysterious email from a former colleague, and soon after is attacked by an unknown hit team at his job site.
Adam must regain the skills that Treadstone taught him–lightning reflexes and a cold conscience–in order to discover who the would-be killers are and why they have come after him now. Are his pursuers enemies from a long-ago mission? Rival intelligence agents? Or, perhaps, forces inside Treadstone? His search will unearth secrets in the highest levels of government and pull him back into the shadowy world he worked so hard to forget.
Coinciding with the much-anticipated return of the Treadstone series – released by Amazon in January 2020 in the UK – and with the 40th anniversary of the first Bourne book, The Treadstone Resurrection is the latest instalment of the franchise. Picking up the baton from Robert Ludlum, Joshua Hood is an author and former Airborne Division fighter, whose real-world experience and combat training makes him the perfect writer for The Treadstone Resurrection.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus in return for an honest review.
If adrenaline-pumping, dark political, techno-thrillers are your thing, and they are certainly mine, this one is for you. Set firmly within the ‘Treadstone’ ethos, created by Robert Ludlum, with his iconic Jason Bourne character. Joshua Hood’s story has new characters, twenty-first-century issues, but the same addictive, resonating characters and plot. From the fast-paced, poignant beginning, you know you’re hooked. The short, snappy chapters draw you in, wanting to know ‘what next?’, ‘who’s doing this?’ ‘Will the enigmatic Adam Hayes, a former Treadstone operative survive?’
I like the topicality of the storyline, the authentic characters and the vast array of technology and evil antagonists. It’s dark, gory and horrific. An epic battle of good versus evil. Although classic, in its themes and intensity, the characters, and scenarios are twenty-first-century creations. It gives them an edge. Makes you believe, in the main protagonist and empathise with him. The emotional side is there too. Adam has suffered. He has personal demons, which emphasise his humanity, a stark contrast against the relentless evil he faces.
Something for everyone, here, whether you’re an adrenaline junkie, someone who likes to see good and evil battle it out, or a lover of clever twisty plots, this book delivers it all.
Extract From The Treadstone Resurrection – Joshua Hood.
LA CONNER, WASHINGTON
Adam Hayes was lying in the center of the bed when the nightmare came. The tremor started at the edge of his lips, a ripple that twisted into a feral snarl. He started to sweat, hands tearing at the sheets, eyes pinballing behind closed lids, mind trapped in the horrors of the past.
He waited in the shadows, eyes closed, ears straining for the sound of his approaching prey. Kill them all— hat was the order. He was just the instrument— man conditioned to kill without hesitation. His hand closed around the hilt of the knife at the small of his back. The metal hilt felt cold through the latex gloves. The blade came free with the hiss of steel on leather and Hayes opened his eyes; the sentry’s face was green in the night vision.
Now, the voice told him, and he struck.
Hayes’s hand snaked under the pillow and his fingers closed around the reassuring steel of the Springfield 9‑millimeter EMP. He rolled off the bed and dropped into a crouch, the hardwood cold as a corpse on his bare knees. Muscle memory had taken over, and his hands worked independently of thought. The snap of the pistol onto the target and the flick of the thumb disengaging the safety came unbidden.
It was only when his index finger curled around the trigger, compressing the spring until all it would take was a whisper of pressure for the gun to fire, that Hayes became conscious of the moment.
Then the nightmare evaporated.
Hayes blinked the world back into focus, his eyes falling to the outstretched pistol, sights centered on the shirt hanging on the back of the door. Jesus Christ.
He let go of the trigger and snicked the safety into place. The realization that he’d come within a hairsbreadth of sending a 9‑millimeter hollow-point through the door made him sick to his stomach.
It was 5:05 in the morning and the nightmares were getting worse.
When he trusted his legs to hold him, Hayes grunted to his feet, placed the pistol on the bedside table, and padded across the hardwood to the bathroom. He palmed the wall switch and the overhead lights flashed to life, revealing the mass of scars that crisscrossed his bare torso like lines on a topographic map.
He stopped at the sink, plucked the orange pill bottle from the open medicine cabinet, and twisted the cap free. He shook a dose into his hand. The oblong pill in his callused palm reminded him of the last appointment with the shrink in Tacoma.
“What about the nightmares?” she asked, over the scratch of her pen across the paper.
“Haven’t had one in months.”
“Adam, you are making wonderful progress,” she said, tearing the sheet from the prescription pad, “but.”
There’s always a but.
“But there will be setbacks.”
He felt the anger stir in his gut, like a wolf waking in its den. Three nightmares in one week wasn’t a setback; it was a fucking meltdown. He was pissed. Mad that he’d listened to her— et himself believe that he’d made progress.
That he could be normal.
“No,” he said aloud. “That’s not who I am anymore.”
He took a breath, placed the pill in his mouth, and gently closed the door. He took a drink of water from the sink, and when Hayes looked up, his eyes alighted on the sheet of construction paper taped to the glass. The stick-figure family holding hands beneath a lemon-yellow sun.
Hayes brushed his finger over the “I love my Daddy” scrawled in crayon, a sad smile stretching across his face.
In the shower, he twisted the cold-water knob all the way to the left and ducked under the showerhead. The water came out of the pipe ice- old and hit his flesh with the sting of a bullwhip. His mind recoiled, muscles tensed like hawsers beneath his skin, forcing the air from his lungs, but Hayes stood fast and waited for the question that had greeted him every morning for the past eighteen months.
How did I get here?
The first time Hayes heard about Treadstone, he was in Afghanistan. Three months into a six-month tour and he’d already lost two men. That’s when things started to go sideways. Lines that had been black and white started looking gray. Hayes wasn’t sleeping, but he had it under control— or that’s what he told himself.
Robert Ludlum (1927 – 2001) was the author of twenty-seven novels, each one a New York Times bestseller. There are more than 225 million of his books in print, and they have been translated into 32 languages in 50 countries. Among his best-sellers were The Scarlatti Inheritance (1971), The Osterman Weekend (1972), The Matarese Circle (1979). He is most famous for the Jason Bourne series – The Bourne Identity (1980), The Bourne Supremacy (1986) and The Bourne Ultimatum (1990). The series was adapted for TV in 1988, for a film featuring Matt Damon in the lead role in 2002, and for a brand-new TV production from the writer behind Heroes and Chicago Hope in January 2020.
Joshua Hood is the author of Warning Order and Clear by Fire. He graduated from the University of Memphis before joining the military and spending five years in the 82nd Airborne Division. He was a team leader in the 3-504 Parachute Infantry Regiment in Iraq from 2005 to 2006, conducting combat operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. From 2007 to 2008, Hood served as a squad leader with the 1-508th Parachute Infantry Regiment in Afghanistan for which he was decorated for valour in Operation Furious Pursuit. On his return to civilian life, he became a sniper team leader on a full-time SWAT team in Memphis, where he was awarded the lifesaving medal. Currently, he works as the Director of Veteran Outreach for the American Warrior Initiative.
I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
From the blurb, the reader knows that this is not the idyllic holiday you’d expect, but nothing prepares you for the twists and turns that appear with increasing alacrity as the story progresses.
Cora and Jonathan are on a dream holiday, Cora seems unsure whether she wants to be there. Jonathan is full of surprises, and it seems that life is on track. Until, their exclusive holiday retreat becomes crowded, with another couple, and they can’t fail to see the resemblance to themselves.
The story has a strong technological theme, which adds depth and complexity to the plot.
Progressing, through Cora’s point of view, things start to spiral in an increasingly uncomfortable way. The characters are believable and complex. They are not what they appear to be on the surface.
Cora is an unreliable narrator, and as the story progresses, she presents a hidden side to her character. Flashbacks to incidents in her past illuminate and reinforce her present actions. The last part of the story is an adrenaline rush, and at times full of confusion.
Even at the end, I still wasn’t sure I’d understood everything, but that’s what you want from a psychological thriller.
An absorbing, addictive read.
Guest Post : Smiling assassins By Pat Black
The psychopathic, murderous villains in my new novel The Beach House drew inspiration from a lovely couple we met on holiday.
When I’m on holiday I tend to stick to my own pen. I wouldn’t say I was unfriendly, but I am guarded. I realise this doesn’t reflect well on me, but bitter experience has taught me to be wary.
I remember one couple I got to know on holiday years ago who passed out business cards and tried to flog their home renovation business at every opportunity. This was odd enough – before the boorish male in that pairing then made some utterly jaw-dropping comments about the looks of a woman as part of a third couple who joined the group. I was astounded at the cheek, and the fact the woman just smiled and laughed at these comments, instead of absolutely battering him. “People like that actually exist! In the real world!”
Another couple on an overnight boat trip didn’t realise I was joking when I was… making jokes. It’s not like any of the daft comments and dad-on-holiday patter were certificate X, either. It was a bit like explaining that, you know, it doesn’t really matter why the chicken wanted to cross the road, or what might have awaited it on the other side. Now imagine that sort of scrutiny after every utterance. “It’s your accent,” the woman explained later, as if that explained anything.
So, I’ve learned. I’m happy enough drinking cocktails in our own group of two, reading a stack of books on my tod, worrying about sharks while we go for a swim in a pair, and forming our own pub quiz team.
Then one night (a while ago now, mind you; pre-kids anyway), we were approached by this cracking couple from the South West. The shutters went up immediately, but then something strange happened: I lightened up, and we… Well. We made friends. They were loads of fun. They didn’t want anything from us. They got my jokes, and I got theirs. Importantly, they also knew not to crowd us – I looked forward to having a drink with them at night back at the hotel, and was genuinely sorry to see them go home, a couple of days before we did.
Hey – maybe for them, we were the weirdos?
It was a nice, human experience. So of course my imagination twisted this into something unpleasant for The Beach House.
I wondered what would happen if you had genuinely evil people try to befriend you on holiday – evil people with an evil purpose. And you couldn’t easily extricate yourself from the situation. When your own sense of manners and social skills over-ride your instincts, which might have to scream at you in order for you to protect yourself and your partner.
One of my favourite parts of any modern thriller is in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, when Mikael Blomkvist confronts the novel’s villain. He has a chance to get away, but he refuses, because of good manners. The villain reflects on this with some astonishment. “All I had to do was offer you a cup of coffee.”
All my baddies had to do was order my heroine a pina colada. And it could happen to you. Of course it could. They’re out there. They walk among us. They go on holiday. They sit beside you on a train. They seem nice. They know exactly what to say to people. They see a person or a situation, and their minds instantly move onto how they can strip it to the bone.
Have you seen my business card, incidentally? Maybe we could swap? Hey, networking is networking, after all. No sense in ignoring the business angle, hey? We’ve all got to eat. Fancy a cocktail? Maybe we could go to the pub quiz…
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.
The near future. Climate change and geopolitical tension have given rise to a new international threat – a world war for water. This most vital of resources has become a precious commodity and some will stop at nothing to control its flow. When a satellite disappears over Iceland, Sim Atkins thinks he knows why. He is given the chance to join the hallowed Overseas Division and hunt for the terrorists responsible. But his new partner Freda Brightwell is aggrieved to be stuck with a rookie on such a deadly mission. Freda’s misgivings are well-founded when their first assignment ends in disaster – a bomb destroys a valuable airship and those responsible evade capture. Seeking redemption, the British agents follow the trail to a billionaires’ tax haven in the middle of the Atlantic ocean and uncover a web of deceit that threatens global war. Whom can they trust? As the world edges ever closer to destruction Sim and Freda must put their lives on the line to prevent Armageddon – and protect the future of ‘blue gold’.
I received a copy of this book from Urbane Publications in return for an honest review.
Set in a possible near future, this story has enough topicality to be both riveting and worrying. Water, which has always been a precious commodity, in places where it is sparse, now arrives on the global terrorist agenda. Water is essential for life, and therefore controlling its dissemination, storage and use makes it a powerful weapon of mass destruction.
The story focuses on an initial incendiary terrorist activity, and the role of two agents of the Overseas Division OFWAT, which for those like me who don’t know is the Water regulatory authority. In reality, since 1989 this refers to the economic regulation of the privatised water and sewage companies. In this scenario, the overseas division is aligned with MI6 and fights against water terrorism. The existing organisation is defined in the author’s notes but a simple explanation within the story would be helpful, for ease of reading.
The story begins with the agents in desperate circumstances but then goes back in a real-time way to fill in the gaps and get the reader to where they are now. The main characters are realistic with interesting backstory and flaws and dedication to the cause. There is also a cast of additional characters who each play their part in this geopolitical thriller.
The story is adrenaline led and realistic. The narrative makes many astute political comments on climate change and the importance of key natural resources, not normally the subjects of wars in past decades.
Climate change and the political situation it evokes is on most people’s minds and this thriller portrays a worrying escalation of terror threats and global power struggles over something humanity needs to survive.
Fast-paced, with relatable characters and events and an ominous realistic edge.
David lives in Berkshire and is married to an author of children’s picture books, with a daughter who loves stories. His working life has been spent in the City, first for the Bank of England and now as Chief Economist for an international fund. So his job entails trying to predict the future all the time. David’s writing ambitions received a major boost after he attended the Faber Academy six-month course in 2014 and he still meets up with his inspirational fellow students. He loves reading, especially adventure stories, sci-fi and military history. Outside of family life, his other interests include tennis, golf and surfing.
PLAY Andrew, the manager of Shanamore Holiday Cottages, watches his only guest via a hidden camera in her room. One night the unthinkable happens: a shadowy figure emerges onscreen, kills her and destroys the camera. But who is the murderer? How did they know about the camera? And how will Andrew live with himself?
PAUSE Natalie wishes she’d stayed at home as soon as she arrives in the wintry isolation of Shanamore. There’s something creepy about the manager. She wants to leave, but she can’t – not until she’s found what she’s looking for…
REWIND Psycho meets Fatal Attraction in this explosive story about a murder caught on camera. You’ve already missed the start. To get the full picture you must rewind the tape and play it through to the end, no matter how shocking…
I received a copy of this book from Atlantic Books – Corvus Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
An interesting fusion of crime fiction genres.
The setting and some of the characters give this story a noir twist, the suspense and level of menace keep the reader turning the pages, and if you’re reading it alone, probably wishing you weren’t.
There is a murder, a cast of possible suspects, and an amateur sleuth working out whodunnit, more efficiently than the authorities. Part of the enjoyment is not just finding out who, but also why, and what the others part in the mystery is.
This is also part techno-thriller, the victim is a social media influencer, there are strange online groups and the dangers of the dark web. Living life in the full glare of social media may reap celebrity and monetary rewards for some, but there are setbacks, in terms of obsessive fans and haters.
The thriller also had an original layout, scenes are short and prefaced by media playback terms; play, pause, fast forward and rewind. This emphasises the media aspect of the story and enables the story to be told from different viewpoints and different periods, before, during, after and outcome.
Complex characters, a brave and largely successful mix of genres and something a little different, which is always exciting to find and read.
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.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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. TwitterFacebook
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…
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?”
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
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.
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
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.
But, you notice something here? These were all written
by men. So…
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?”
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.