Kevin Flint is a young man on the cusp of adulthood and something of a misfit. He has no friends and a reputation of being odd. At home he lives in fear of his cruel, controlling father. Kevin starts spending time at an abandoned church with an ancient graveyard, and learns couples also go there to have sex. He becomes obsessed with watching them. Soon, one of the women who he has followed is reported missing.
DI Kelly Porter investigates the disappearance and knows that the adolescent boy is hiding something. Kevin is culpable, but to what degree? The evidence against him begins to stack up and Kelly is torn between instinct and facts. Distracted by a looming crisis in her personal life, can she preserve what she loves and still uphold the laws she lives by?
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is another addictive book in the DI Kelly Porter series set in Cumbria. It’s an intriguing medley of noir crime, police investigation, and the personal lives of the detective team.
Kelly is a likeable detective who is motivated by the need to seek justice for crime victims. Although career-driven, she does have an increasingly important personal life which shows another side to her and sometimes makes her professionally vulnerable.
Although the violent crimes featured are disturbing to read about, the detailed descriptions are necessary to the story. There’s an authentic team dynamic with a good mix of personal and professional interactions.
What starts with the gruesome discovery of a severed head on the Tube soon becomes personal for former DI Cal Drake.
After one betrayal too many, Drake has abandoned the police force to become a private detective.
He’s teamed up with enigmatic forensic pathologist Dr Rayhana Crane and it’s not long before the case leads them to the darkest corners of the nation’s capital and in dangerously close contact with an international crime circuit, a brutal local rivalry and a very personal quest for retribution.
With the murder victim tied to Drake’s past, his new future is about to come under threat.
I received a copy of this book from Severn House Publishing in return for an honest review.
The second book of the Crane and Drake series set in London. This is an urban thriller with an enigmatic team of investigators who work in the private sector as they both have issues with the establishment. Cal Drake is an ex-detective inspector, who after a stint in undercover left the police force disillusioned. Ray Crane is a forensic pathologist estranged from her family.
The menacing atmosphere is established from the first page, as is the vibrant urban setting. The observations and characters in the early chapters give the novel a good sense of place. The plot pulls together elements from the first book in the series, and a current, seemingly unrelated case for the new investigative team. Ray’s background is exposed in this second story and the team dynamic becomes stronger.
The characters are authentic and diverse, and it’s easy to empathise with the two protagonists. The plot is intricate and cleverly layered to produce a relevant gritty thriller that exposes the crime in the city and beyond.
Parker Bilal is the pseudonym of Jamal Mahjoub, the critically acclaimed literary novelist. He is the author of the Makana Investigations series, the third of which, The Ghost Runner, was longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award.
The Divinities, the first in his Crane and Drake London crime series, was published in 2019. Born in London, he has lived in a number of places, including the UK, Denmark, Spain and, currently, the Netherlands.
When Ella Watson, a woman of wealth and status, is brutally stabbed to death in broad daylight it sends a shockwave through the Lake District community. Later that day, Keira Bradley meets the same fate. But whereas Ella’s murder is a tragedy, Keira’s death on the notorious Beacon Estate is just another statistic in a dangerous place.
DI Kelly Porter has the unenviable job of running simultaneous investigations. Her efforts aren’t helped by a boss driven by protecting his reputation and a housing estate where fear rules and no one dare speak out. Kelly knows the answers can only be found by winning the trust of the residents at Beacon Estate. A task so hard it may be impossible.
Kelly puts everything she has into finding justice for both victims. The only thing she hadn’t anticipated was a traitor in the ranks. When the evidence points to someone in her team, Kelly has to put feelings aside and work the case – no matter where it leads. By the time it is over, nothing in her world will ever be the same…
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
DI Kelly Porter is in urban Cumbria for this story, a stark contrast to The Lake District’s beauty and wealth. Two motiveless murder require Kelly’s urban detection skills, from her time at the Met. Knife crime, urban deprivation and the culture of fear, are explored in a knowledgable and sensitive way. The strong team dynamics are threatened, ramping up the investigation’s complexity and the story’s suspense.
The relatable characters and plots twists make this immersive and intriguing crime fiction.
If she could speak to them, she would say they have exploded her heart, released firecrackers through her senses. She wishes she could call the police, the ambulance, the fire brigade, to arrest and anaesthetise and waterboard the bastards.
So what happens when your husband runs off with your best friend? When you discover the dead body of an old man halfway through your delivery round? When your house is burgled and you get beaten up? Doris, Andy and Colleen are about to find out. They’re also about to discover that you can find friendship and support in the oddest of places…
Heart-rending, humorous and above all authentic,Distorted Days is an exquisitely written account of the ways in which life can knock you off our feet – and how you can pick yourself up again. If you’ve experienced the fickleness of fortune, this is a book that you’ll never forget.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
The book cover depicts the darkness, and tragic events in the story, perfectly. Original and poignant, the story reflects on the darker side of human life. How bad things happen to good people, without any apparent reason. Individual characters’ eccentricities, give them an authentic relatable voice. Depressing events fail to dominate, the book’s positive ethos. Friends are found in unlikely places. Courage emerges to move forward, even though every forward step is accompanied by several backward ones, in the beginning.
Good, evil, and everything in between is explored through the characters’ misfortunes. Human resilience and tenacity are celebrated. Multilayered, realistic characters draw you into their lives. You want them to find happiness. Claustrophobic feelings are balanced with often satirical humour.
An observant, poignant and witty story, full of complex characters, realistic events and believable responses.
Louise is the author of ‘Distorted Days’ and ‘Rachel’s Garden of Rooms.’ ‘The Entrepreneur’ will be available later in 2020. ‘The Thief’, a short story published by Park Publications, is available to download Louise Worthington’s website.
Before writing full time, Louise worked mainly as an English teacher after getting a degree in Literature and later, studying business and psychology at Masters level.
Louise grew up in Cheshire and now resides in Shropshire.
“Louise’s characters, without exception, are skillfully wrought which make the reader genuinely care for them.”
Ruby has always been strong. Growing up with a feeble mother and an absent father, she is forced to fight the battles of her younger siblings. And when a childhood experience leaves her traumatised, her distrust of men turns to hatred.
On the streets.
With no safe place to call home, Ruby is desperate to fit in with the tough crowd. She spends her teenage years sleeping around and drinking in the park, and by the time she is sixteen, prostitution has become a way of life. But Ruby has ambitions, and she soon moves up the ladder to become the madam of her own brothel.
But being in charge of a brothel has its downsides, Ruby faces her worst nightmare when an enemy from the past comes back into her life, and gang intimidation threatens to ruin everything. Can she find a way to beat her tormentors? And will she be strong enough to see it through?
I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Another chapter in the gritty urban thriller set in Manchester and focused on working girls.
Ruby’s story is told in two timelines, the past, reflecting how her childhood and a teenage, drew her into the life of prostitution. The present, where she has everything thing she’s worked for but is in danger of losing.
She is not a victim. She had a plan and was prepared to use prostitution, as the means to give her the lifestyle she wants. Formerly, working for the pimp Gilly, a heinous character we met in book 1 The Mark, now she runs her own business. She hates men, because of her past experiences in her childhood and teenage, and revels in her role as a brothel owner. When her livelihood is threatened by men from her past. She demonstrates how courageous she is in defending those she cares about and her hard-fought-for business.
Like most people she has different facets, the gentle, loyal side which she shows to her lover Tiffany and her friends, The other side is driven and ruthless. Determined to keep what she owns and prepared to endanger herself to protect it. Ruby is a believable character, who commands your respect. She does want is needed, and that is admirable.
I have read the first book in the series, but this is a complete story, with enough backstory on the cast of characters and their situation for it to read well as a standalone. However, it is an addictive, action-filled series that is worth reading in its entirety.
The story reflects the lifestyle it portrays, so it features, bad language, sex and violence. It explores the darker aspects of society, but only to move Ruby’s story forward. Written engagingly, with realistic characters and situations. The adrenaline-fueled drama is addictive, as is the characterisation.
A must-read for those who enjoy relentless, ganglit in a contemporary urban setting.
Guest – Post – Heather Burnside -How One Book Became a Series
I am so excited to be releasing Ruby, book two in The Working Girls series. It’s funny to think that initially, the idea for this book didn’t exist at all. It was actually through writing book one, The Mark, that I developed the concept for a series of books.
My vision for The Mark came from a popular TV detective series that I watched back in the nineties. In a particular scene, the female detective is sitting in a seedy pub with a group of prostitutes trying to obtain information from them. Because she looks so out of place in that environment it made me think about how susceptible she was to all kinds of criminal acts from some of the dodgy characters that frequent the pub, and the book took root from there.
Because I have scant knowledge of the world of prostitution I carried out my research by reading a number of books by former prostitutes and watching online videos. A series on prostitution by the BBC was particularly poignant and a real eye-opener.
In this series, working girls were interviewed and they gave a candid and raw depiction of their lives. The girls had many things in common such as abusive childhoods, time spent in care, and drug addiction, which had led to their lives of prostitution.
A lot of the girls had entered into prostitution for similar reasons; a need to earn lots of money quickly either to make a living or to feed a drink and drugs habit. Drink and drugs were viewed by them as both a driving force into prostitution and a result of it, and some of the girls described how it helped to dull the senses to what they were experiencing.
There was one particularly sad character. She was an ageing prostitute who looked much older than her actual age because her appearance had been ravaged by drug abuse. She had developed a really bad chest infection, bordering on pneumonia, because her body was so depleted. Yet, despite her poor state of health, she still felt the need to service clients so that she could earn money to feed her drug habit. I have based the character of Angie on her. She appears in book one and also features later in the series.
While watching the programmes it occurred to me that each of these girls has their own story to tell. Then ideas for each of the characters started to form in my mind. Once I had thought of the characters their stories seemed to follow, probably because their personalities had been shaped by their life experiences. I also decided to give most of them a jewel name because their pimp wanted them to sound more exotic.
Book two is about Ruby who goes into prostitution purely to escape a life of poverty. Although she isn’t hooked on drugs, she does dabble a bit in the early days as a working girl. She isn’t as vulnerable as many of the other girls and has tremendous strength of character. I decided to feature Ruby in the second book as she is so formidable and interesting, and many readers commented that they would like to see more of her.
Currently, the series stands at three novels; The Mark, Ruby and Crystal (to be released in June 2020) but I have outline ideas for two more novels so it could possibly turn into a series of five in the future with each of books two to five based on a different girl. For the moment though, the focus is on Ruby who is one of my favourite characters out of all those I have created. I hope readers will take to her as much as I have.
Heather Burnside spent her teenage years on one of the toughest estates in Manchester and she draws heavily on this background as the setting for many of her novels. After taking a career break to raise two children Heather enrolled on a creative writing course. Heather now works full-time on her novels from her home in Manchester, which she shares with her two grown-up children.
Meet Tom. Or Dr O’Grady, as he used to be called. When you pass him on the street, most people don’t even give him a second glance. You see, Tom isn’t living his best life. Burdened by grief, he’s only got his loyal dog, Bette Davis, for company and a rucksack containing his whole world.
Then there’s Ruth and her son, DJ, who no longer have a place to call home. But Ruth believes that you can change the world by helping one person at a time – and Tom needs her help.
There are a thousand ways to find your home – you just need to be brave enough to look for them. Amazon UK
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I didn’t read what this story is about before reading it because it is written by a favourite, trusted author. I knew I would be taken on an emotional journey, by relatable characters, with sometimes tragic stories, Despite the tears and poignancy, ultimately they would find hope and peace. I wasn’t disappointed,
Ruth is autistic. People find her different from them, and as often happens in such circumstances, they ridicule her. Even her parents constantly find fault, and when her mother feels she behaves unacceptably she is abusive to her.
A serendipitous meeting changes the course of Ruth’s life and brings her into contact with Tom. He helps her, when she needs it most but then they lose touch. Ten years on Ruth and Tom are not where they want to be, but a chance meeting once again changes everything.
The characters are believable, not stereotypical, and you want them to find the happiness they deserve. This story explores autism and what it means for the individual and those closest to them. How it is so easy to be isolated when you appear different. Homelessness is also a prevalent theme. It could happen to anyone, and this is what makes this story disturbingly real.
The story has a powerful, uplifting ending, one you would like everyone in Ruth and Tom’s situation to benefit from. Reality sometimes is less kind, so if this story does nothing else, let it help you to look a little deeper into people who seem different or have fallen on hard times. They deserve compassion and respect, isn’t that what you would want if it were you?
Ophelia Street, 1970. A street like any other, a community that lives and breathes together as people struggle with their commitments and pursue their dreams. It is a world we recognise, a world where class and gender divide, where set roles are acknowledged. But what happens when individuals step outside those roles, when they secretly covet, express desire, pursue ambitions even harm and destroy? An observer in the midst of Ophelia Street watches writes, imagines, remembers, charting the lives and loves of his neighbours over the course of four seasons. And we see the flimsily disguised underbelly of urban life revealed in all its challenging glory. As the leaves turn from vibrant green to vivid gold, so lives turn and change too, laying bare the truth of the community. Perhaps, ultimately, we all exist on Ophelia Street.
I received a copy of this book from Urbane Books in return for an honest review.
Set mainly in 1970, in London, on a typical cul-de-sac, of the time. The story’s narrator is a young reporter, who is new to Ophelia Street, and the story, divided into the four seasons of 1970 are his impressions of the people and households he shares the street with.The narrator is a shadowy character, you don’t think about him, as the story draws you into its urban tale.
The book is beautifully written, lyrical, but what it depicts and explores is often poignant, and sometimes horrifically violent. The tragedy and violence creep up. You are not prepared for something so terrible, in amongst live’s relentless ordinariness. The impact of these events resonates.
Many of the characters are not easy to like, but you do empathise with their situation. Some of the relationships are strange, and sometimes sinister, and gut-wrenchingly sad.
The time period is faithfully represented. The sexual discrimination, misogyny and social class divide are evident. The depth of despair this period represents, with its collapse of Britain’s industrialisation, strikes and mass unemployment, add to the sense of hopelessness and inevitability this London street represents.
The literary fiction lovers will appreciate the purity of this book, the characters are complex and real, the exploration of community and humanity under pressure is engaging. If you enjoy reading, to experience how others feel and live, this book will meet your needs.
John Simmons is an independent writer and consultant. He runs Writing for design workshops for D&AD and the School of Life as well as Dark Angels workshops. He has written a number of books on the relationship between language and identity, including The Writer’s Trilogy We, me, them & it, The invisible grail and Dark angels. He’s a founder director of 26, the not-for-profit group that champions the cause of better language in business, and has been writer-in-residence for Unilever and Kings Cross tube station. In 2011 he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by the University of Falmouth in recognition of outstanding contribution to the creative sector. He initiated and participated in the writing of a Dark Angels collective novel Keeping Mum with fifteen writers. It was published by Unbound in 2014. He is on the Campaign Council for Writers Centre Norwich as Norwich becomes the first English City of Literature. John also wrote the compelling novel Leaves, which was published by Urbane in 2015
Spanish Crossings was published in March 2018 and The Good Messenger in September 2018.
I received a copy of this book from HQ in return for an honest review.
Right from the first page, there is an air of menace, the occurrences seem ordinary, but something seems off, and by the end of the chapter you realise that you are right.
Set in New York, there are a series of freak incidents, a murder, political corruption allegations, and a building sense of panic, as the citizens of New York realise that maybe the freak incidents have some sinister connection.
An urban thriller, the city’s reliance on elevators, (lifts in the UK), makes the attacks, a threat to the city’s economy and infrastructure, in addition to the loss of life. The brewing political scandal amidst the confusion and terror building in the city, make this complex, fast-paced thriller, addictive reading.
This is a cerebral thriller, lots of characters, seemingly unconnected apart from the location. Their connection and the motivation for the mindless attacks becomes clearer as the story progresses, but there is so much happening, you may miss the clues, or not believe what you read.
The final chapters bring the story to a shocking conclusion.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction – Borough Press via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I’m always a little wary of critically acclaimed, and over-hyped books, often they are not as good as they are reputed to be. So I started this one with trepidation. Initial impressions are that is honest, raw, and full of experiences of urban life in Brisbane that do not make easy reading.
Eli and August, are brothers, their carers’ lives are driven by drugs, and the boys have to constantly battle adversity to keep the family together. Despite the family’s dysfunctionality, the love the boys feel for their mother and each other dominates this story and puts into perspective many of the bizarre and often frightening experiences they endure.
At the end of this lengthy book, there is a note from the author, about how the story came into being, what it means to him and the story’s themes. It is, on reading this that you appreciate, it is more of a memoir than fiction, although seen through a young child’s and then young boys eyes. I wish I’d read this note first because it grounds this complex story, and makes it more relatable.
There is a great deal of imagination in this story, magic if you like, which I attributed to a young boy’s need to escape from the harshness of his life, and give himself the power to overcome some its more sordid aspects.
I’m still not sure if I liked it, but the writing is engaging and authentic, the story moves forward in an understandable way, and it gives an insider view of Australian life, particularly life in Brisbane and Queensland, through a young person’s viewpoint.
The characters are the lifeblood of this story, and the author indicates that they are based on people he knows or a medley of them, in his personal and journalistic life. Many are not likeable, and the danger the children are exposed to is disturbing, but they are real, and the reality of this story is what stays with you.
An unusual tale of growing up and surviving life in a gritty urban setting. With a cast of characters, covering the spectrum of humanity, and the humour, love and magic required to reach adulthood.