Monthly Archives: January 2017
Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb
As debut crime novels go Deep Down Deed by Steph Broadribb is just one hell of a debut. Already receiving some very high praise by fellow crime writers and now from me. It quite simply rocks as a fast and racy thriller.
Some crime novels start off fast with Deep Down Dead it just makes you sit up for most of the night gripped by a storyline that is just pure thrilling and before you know it you have read half the book and you don’t want to leave it. With Broadribb’s fantastic writing she has managed to draw you into the novel and like a drug leaves you screaming.
The leading character is Lori Anderson and she is a no-nonsense woman that you really do not want to cross she has a line and I would not want to cross it. Attitude with a big bold capital ‘A’ simple. Lori has been through life and then some so I guess this has made her how she is one hell of a tough woman. This storyline is action packed from page one and is utterly relentless and unforgiving and is enough to leave the reader breathless.
The story is based in the States and sees Lori needing a lot of money to ease her accrued level of debt she has incurred and also to help pay for medical treatment for her young daughter Dakota. Lori is a bounty hunter so when she is offered a ‘job’ of going and bringing in a bad guy she then also has to take her daughter with her as her babysitter is not available. Then to make matters worse she then finds out that the fugitive is none other than JT her old mentor. From that moment you just know there is going to be more to this story than one feisty bounty hunter and one fugitive. Now all she has to do is go and find him. JT is never going to give himself up easily let alone be handed over to the law. What Lori has in her possession to get the man would scare anyone off but Lori is facing danger at every turn and she does not know it. But having her daughter with he makes this ‘job’ risky. The way that Broadribb has portrayed her characters both good and bad make this a story where you will take sides and want to see Lori come good as for Dakota to get the treatment and get well. But in this business that Lori is in there is no sentiment and she has to get the job done and bring JT in to get paid. There will be only one winner, right? Prepare for a crime novel that I dare you to put down, because you won’t it really is outstanding. This is a blockbuster of a motion picture in a book. Lock the door, switch your phone off and get the popcorn and coffee ready. Your gonna need it. This is one high caffeine induced thriller I recommend. You may need a cool shower at the end.
Thank you to Karen Sullivan for the advanced review copy.
Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb is published by Orenda Books and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
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Nine Love Letters by Gerald Jacobs
A debut novel based on true events that cover more than a century and encompass the horrors of the Holocaust all within 256 pages is quite an achievement but this is exactly what Gerald Jacobs has achieved in the deeply moving story of what is two families and letters of love spanning generations is put together and weaved so beautifully in Nine Love Letters.
The real beauty of Nine Love Letters is the writing of Gerald Jacobs and is quiet and something unique, he goes about telling the story of his characters and their quiet ordinary lives with one thing in common and that is just trying to escape the appalling way that some decided that because they are Jewish that they would be persecuted and murdered because of ideology. A lesson that we all need to take on board in these current troubled times we live in.
The stories that connect the people involved span time from the early 1940’s as two separate families the Weisz and Haroun from Budapest and Iraq and the horrors become real and the persecution of Jewish people begins by fascists. Following the war, with the survivors from Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz find themselves in a post war London now trying to pick up the pieces of lives and horrific memories. Two families now trying to adapt to lives shattered by war in London. As much as this is based around the horrors of the Holocaust this is a story of hope and forgiveness even after what some have gone through and witnessed. It is a shining light to what humanity is capable of. Love is after all capable of healing after so much pain and sadness and through the pages of Nine Love Letters this is the message that endures.
Thank you to Grace Pilkington for the advanced review copy.
Nine Love Letters by Gerald Jacobs is published by Quartet Books and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Rupture by Ragnar Jónasson
One of the most anticipated books of January is the fourth in the Dark Iceland series with Rupture by Ragnar Jónasson and it sold out on Amazon on publication day proving that the series based in Iceland has really caught the imagination of the crime novel reader. Having read the previous three the fourth in the series is just simply gripping and atmospheric and by far the best yet and a mention for Quentin Bates for another excellent translation.
It is a welcome return for the local policeman Ari Thór and now he is investigating the mysterious death of a young woman in the isolated fjord of Hedinsfjörður but this happened many years before in 1955 and the case was never solved and now some evidence has come to light via an old photograph which now sheds new light on the case. Just was did happen when two young couples arrived. Now Ari Thór has recruited the help of a local news reporter Ísrún as they try to piece together what really happened the death was put down to an accident but the new evidence suggests that the couples many not have been alone after all. The beauty of Ragnar Jónasson’s novels is that he packs a lot into the storyline and in Rupture this is no exception and it all adds up to a cracking story.
For Ari and Ísrún there is more going on with them both add to this investigation the town of Siglufjörður is in complete lockdown after a deadly infection breaks out and no-one ventures beyond their front door add into this a heady mix of political scandal that could rock the heart of the government and the abduction of a young boy and you have a recipe for one suspense packed novel that adds multiple layers of intrigue that will keep the reader guessing. After the previous three books in the series you have come to know the characters really well and the personalities written into the storyline are just as important the main thread at times as bone chilling as an Icelandic winter.
Ragnar Jónasson’s writing is a real joy to read, flowing as smoothly as an Icelandic fjord and the setting he has chosen carefully to add to the mystery he has well and truly put Iceland on the Crime and thriller location and put the country on the tourist destination map. A must read if you are a lover of crime and thriller genre.
Thank you to Karen at Orenda Books for the advanced review copy.
Rupture by Ragnar Jónasson is published by Orenda Books and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
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The Burning Ground by Adam O’Riordan
Adam O’riordan may not be a name you have come across before now but he is an award winning poet having won the prestigious Somerset Maugham Award in 2011 for his collection of poems called In the Flesh. A new collection of poetry is being published on 2nd February but earlier this month Adam released through Bloomsbury a wonderful collection of short stories called The Burning Ground so eloquently written that the you become beguiled by each of the eight stories.
To say that this is one of the very best collections of short stories I have read in a long time and it will be hard to beat. There is something about the way that O’Riordan manages to capture the reader’s attention all the way through as if you are holding your breath.
The collection starts ofF with A Thunderstorm in Santa Monica and this is the author capturing you the reader in the palm of his hand and keeping you there as the story of Harvey and his relationship with the delicious Teresa, Harvey sets off to Los Angeles to see Teresa and this is his story from leaving England to fly across the Atlantic and how he then sees a fellow passenger during the flight. It is later when Harvey is alone in the bar do we suddenly realise that he is alone and that his lover is now in England. This is when you realise that O’Riordan has had us in his spell from start to finish without realising.
For me the best of this collection is The El Segundo Blue Butterfly A story of a teenager who sets off to interview the businessman Michael Hogan Bernstein. This story is a masterstroke as it is a timeless piece of writing that anyone who loves short stories must read at some point. For the key character here is Christopher and how the story flows from a young Michael who goes to interview the businessman and then the story moves through the years and the two continue to cross paths. Each chapter in this piece is a unique time period and is just the most eloquent piece of writing I have read and the ending is something to just read and then read again. I have read this short story three times over the last week.
Through the remaining six short stories we move from Rambla Pacifico which I found deeply enjoyable is about a foreman that heads off down the Pacific Coast Highway and heads into trouble and then when his employer’s daughter goes missing the story really comes into its own and you are left not only wondering about the outcome but the people involved.
In Wave-Riding Giants we see the lonely McCauley who is reflecting on his life while in a senior housing complex a moment that he starts to recall his memory charting his life from childhood to adult and that and now at this moment in time he faces confrontation with his memory. Yet another superb told story that I will be revisiting over time.
Black Bear in the Snow start off with the words changed from the hit song from Boney M’s Brown Girl in the Ring and you know that this is being sung to a baby and the story is primarily about Randall and his wife Thelma and their new born baby called Joey. There are memories here from Randall as he recalls a hunting trip with Joseph his father. This is the story of the father trying to ‘find’ his son again after a divorce. Then later it is revealed that Randall and Thelma split and that Joey is with his mum and so the cycle begins again as Randall takes his son Joey on a trip so that they can ‘connect’ as father and son. I am sure there are many who like me will identify with this story. Deftly and beautifully written.
And so to the story that makes up the title to the book The Burning Ground We see an artist trying to find so peace after a relationship with a married woman. Is the artist on the run from his desire for Alannah? Or just seeking a fresh start but either way there is success for the artist as his work is suddenly find a new fame but the memory of Alannah is still there with every paintbrush she has previously brought for him. This story I found somewhat different in style and pace but still written in a class of its own and it burns into your heart as your reach the stories ending.
With the next story ’98 Mercury Sable it starts with a conversation about car’s and is a story of a couple Sebastian and Sofia and it is Sebastian is learning how to drive at times the story is quite humorous as you would imagine but there is something else about the story and that hit me as I did not see it coming. I think by this time I was hypnotised by O’Riordan’s writing. To say anymore here would be wrong. A must read story.
In the last of the short stories in Magda’s a Dancer when you look at the first page it looks somewhat different in how O’Riordan has approached it. Basically this is a conversation piece it is unique and a clever piece of writing and a unique way of ending the collection again I will not give too much away but to me it worked well and it is worth reading a few times. It does not read as the previous stories but a worthy addition.
The Burning Ground is just a delicious collection of stories that you become hooked on and like me you will want to re-read some of them a second or more times to purely enjoy Adam’s prose. I can only hope that this collection of short stories is a success as it purely deserves to be on merit. It is nothing short of a tremendous collection of unique and differing stories and the characters involved. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Thank you to Ros Ellis at Bloomsbury for the advanced review copy.
The Burning Ground by Adam O’Riordan is published by Bloomsbury and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Bella Mia by Donatella Di Pietrantonio
The Italian town of L’Aquila suffered a devastating earthquake in April 2009 in which 300 people lost their lives and nearly 2000 were injured let alone the tens of thousands that were forced to abandon their homes. Here is a story set a few years after the disastrous earthquake Bella Mia by Donatella Di Pietrantonio and beautifully translated by Franca Scurti Simpson.
Sitting here writing a review for Bella Mia I am at a loss as to what the people of L’Aquila must have gone through during and after the earthquake and then the aftermath knowing people including loved ones had perished. Sometimes words seem inadequate when lives mean so much more. Yet It is through those very same words that we learn of the pain and suffering and also the long road to recovery and rebuilding of shattered lives. It is also those very same words that we learn in the hope that one day many lives could be saved.
Before the major earthquake that dreadful night there were warnings in the nature of smaller tremors. Then came the big one like a thief in the night that took precious lives and homes and years later people are still coming to terms with the awful events of that April night. For those that lost their homes temporary accommodation was set up. This is a story of loss and what has to follow with the story being narrated by Caterina and event after a few years they are living in the temporary shelters set up Caterina is sharing the ‘home’ with her Mother, and her twin sister’s son Marco. Caterina sister Olivia perished in the Quake, for Caterina the loss is unbearable she was her life and now she is still trying to come to terms and wondering how she can put one foot in front of another and carry on. Olivia was more than just a twin sister she was the best part of me are Caterina’s words that echo through Bella Mia. All the remaining family are still grieving, yet there is one person who is missing and that is Olivia’s husband Marco he left her for another woman and is now taking the blame for Olivia’s death.
Through the story you start to understand the grief that comes with every page the sheer loss and then guilt sets in, why was I chosen to survive and not Olivia, guilt in situations like this is not uncommon it leaves many unanswered questions that hang in the still night air when the pain is at its worst. This is a mournful story as learn that her mother takes fresh flowers to her lost daughter’s grave every day. The pain never eases. Caterina had always looked up to her twin sister, she was more attractive and so much more she had a family when Caterina had chosen a life without a family of her own.
For what Caterina did enjoy was her ceramics she had her own workshop and enjoyed the peace it brought her. Now these past few years she has had to relocate to a new workshop after the earthquake destroyed almost everything. Imagine if you can the daily struggles of life for those that survived the dreadful night, still trying to pick up the piece’s memories are fresh of that night and the nightmares are too common. But life must prevail and go on.
The one moment of this story that brought hope amongst the fear and loss was Caterina hear the call of a Scops Owl it was for the first time since the earthquake she had heard one. It brings hope and optimism that like the Scops Owl life can go one and must go on.
Bella Mia is story that is about the pain and loss following a disaster yet there is more to this story, and that is hope and belief in the very word. It is so incredibly moving to read and very moving. With the translation being so careful and sensitively handled. At just under 200 pages it is a book I highly recommend.
Thank you to Calisi Press for the advanced review copy.
Balla Mia by Donatella Di Pietrantonio is published by Calisi Press and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
The River at Night by Erica Ferencik
How many of you recall the film Deliverance that starred Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds which was based on the popular novel by James Dickey. The film won a raft of Academy and Golden Globe Awards. It still ranks among one of my all-time favourite films. So now comes the heart-pounding The River at Night by Erica Ferencik a superbly written novel about a group of female friends out on a white-water rafting trip deep in the Maine wilderness were no-one can hear you if anything went wrong. But what could possibly go wrong?
The scene is set for a thrilling adventure for four women in their forties, for an adventure in the wilderness that to many would seem extreme especially as this adventure would be taking the four friends well and truly out of their comfort zone. A wild white water rafting experience deep in the wilderness. Seriously?
Our narrator is Win and is out of sorts with life since her divorce, not sure about her role in life and is still grieving for her brother Marcus. Basically Win is in a rut and she needs something to bring her out of it. The out of the blue Pia invites her on a daring trip into the Maine wilderness and what’s more it would involve wild water and a raft. On the trip also are Rachel and Sandra.
The beauty of this novel is how well Ferencik has created the characters each one has something about their personality whether she is a recovering alcoholic or one who is the centre piece an extrovert willing to try new and exciting adventures. From the hustle and bustle of the urban jungle that is the city life the women are so used to seeing in their busy everyday lives to the sheer majestic beauty of the Maine countryside, so beautifully described by Ferencik. It is not hard to see where she drew her inspiration for The River at Night.
The four women set off on an adventure of a lifetime though Win still has real misgivings about the adventure. Along with them is a guide Rory Ekhart still in his 20’s and it becomes apparent very quickly that one of the group has her eyes on the young guide. The trip does not start well for Win and this just adds to her forebodings. But what harm could this trip do, they all need some excitement. One seeks excitement before they hit the water and now the group really needs to focus on what lies ahead.
White water rafting is a bonding experience when everyone has to work to together, here in this thrilling novel the bonds that tie the friends together are tried and tested beyond anything that could have been envisaged from the outset. Sometimes in situations when it becomes a test of survival you see people react and it is not always the people you think who are the strongest. This is why I really enjoyed how Ferencik worked on the characters to create such a strong and powerful storyline. How Win comes through and in my belief ends up the strongest out the group as they try to survive when things go terribly wrong.
This is a gripping novel and the comparisons to the famous novel and film are clearly there and the chill of the river scenes are incredibly detailed and told.
Erica Ferencik has written a masterful novel and so well told you are almost in the raft with the women and feel the chill of the water as you are turned over still aboard and you are trying to escape, this is a book told as if it was in 3D as I have read in a long time the scenery and the water all stand out and come at you at speed. This is a white water experience and a bid to survive when all seems lost. Leadership is required when your lives and the lives of your friends are at risk.
This is exhilarating and packed full of suspense and as you reach the climax you are still not sure who will come out of this alive.
To coincide with the release of The River at Night there is a special price for anyone wanting to download the book for Kindle, at £1.49 via Amazon Kindle and you the thrilling book for January.
Thank you to Joseph Thomas at Bloomsbury for the advanced review copy.
The River at Night by Erica Ferencik is published by Raven Books (Bloomsbury) and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
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Rattle by Fiona Cummins
If you enjoy the sort of read that gets your heart racing, then this stunning psychological thriller debut novel Rattle by Fiona Cummins is one book that you will be wanting to read later this month when it is released. Be warned you may want to hide behind the sofa.
Rattle has come with the tag line of scarier than Silence of the Lambs, that is a big statement to make for any psychological thriller, but in Fiona Cummins debut novel this lives up to the billing. This reviewer has read his fair share and more of novels that scared the living daylights out of me. Rattle succeeded in every sense. This is one book that I could not put down and kept me awake long into the night. I wanted more and in each chapter this terrifying story just kept coming. This really will make you blood run ice cold.
The story is set in London’s Blackheath area and both Clara Foyle and Jakey Frith has gone missing and their parents are frantic, what connects them both is terrible bone condition and Detective Etta Fitzroy is now handling the case but there is something sinister going on as now it appears that a sick psychopathic ‘bone collector’ is out there looking for more specimens. A man who is clearly abducting children with bone conditions is shocking in any sense but what is his motivation? This is a very dark and twisting storyline that delves into the dark corners of people and clearly this character wants more but for what purpose? Ok I am deliberately not giving too much away here as this is one storyline you need to discover for yourselves. But there is more going on in the story than just a plain super scary thriller. Add in a Police Detective with issues of her own makes this a chiller of a thriller that has more twists and turns written into this debut novel. It is more than just another serial killer on the loose novel. This killer leads a double life. At this point I will leave it there. Prepared to be scared.
Thank you to Francesca Pearce for the advanced review copy.
Rattle by Fiona Cummins is published by Pan Macmillan and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops from 26th January.
A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys
There is something of a mix of old and new in A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys. If you have ever enjoyed reading the classic old mysteries, then I would make a note of this book’s release date and pre-order a copy because you will enjoy reading this old school mystery.
The story unfolds not on land as you may expect but at sea during a five week sailing from Tilbury Docks to the other side of the world. August 1939 and Britain is on the verge of World War II and for many the world would change forever. The story centres around Lillian Shepherd she is young and has left her job as job as a servant and is now seeking a new life for herself in Australia. Leaving behind a country teetering on the brink of an abyss. Once on board the Liner Orontes Lilian begins to see a life full of difference the wealthy and those fleeing from the Nazi regime that is about to engulf all of Europe. The real beauty in Rachel Rhys writing is that the pace of the story is somewhat leisurely it is not hurried now bearing in mind this is a story unfolding on a long voyage aboard ship.
All the passengers have stories to tell and there is a real mix of people and nationalities on the ship for Lily with whom you have a real sense of feeling the question I guess is Lilian leaving or running away, the answer lies within the pages of A Dangerous Crossing. Lilian soon settles into being a passenger as opposed to the role of being a servant. While on the voyage she has a chance to mingle with the passengers including those who would I guess look down on her. In the confines on a ship you are always going to find a rich mix of characters and taking into consideration the timing of the events there are some interesting people Lily meets including sitting at a table with George Price and his support for Hitler and racist tone. Lilian makes friends with Maria Katz a young Jewish woman fearing for life and who has left behind a Europe amid rumours of Jewish persecution ahead of Hitler’s rape of Europe cities.
Along the journey the Orontes docks at various ports to take on more passengers and provisions and Britain is soon left behind as well as Lilian’s past as the story progresses Lilian settles into her ‘new lifestyle’ and gets to know her close circle of passengers. Sometimes though just when you think you know someone you actually don’t know them at all. And this is the crux of the story as much later into the story something happens that will shake Lilian’s faith in that.
This is superb piece of writing telling of differing people, and faiths all in a mixing bowl aboard ship at a time when the world was about to embark on fighting tyranny. There was something that struck me as I read A Dangerous Crossing something of the current times we are living in. All a bit worrying really. But this is wonderfully crafted story told in a way of the old mystery novels of times gone by. The documents at the end of the book tell of a true story on the Liner Orontes while on a voyage to Australia.
Thank you to Alison Barrow for the advanced review copy.
A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys is published by Doubleday and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops from 23 March. Available now to pre-order.