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if i should die – matthew frank

If I Should Die

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

Joseph Stark isn’t your average Trainee Detective. As the Met investigation team’s newest and youngest member, he expects the going to be tough – but he’s used to that. An Afghan veteran, he has been left severely injured by an attack that killed his comrades.

Of course, his new colleagues don’t know the full story, and Stark isn’t about to start confiding in them – he wants them to accept him on his own merit.

His first investigation concerns a gang that seem to have been viciously attacking homeless people, apparently without motive. But when one victim fights back, and the attack results in murder, Stark’s team are called in.

On the gritty streets of South London, Stark realises that the truth may strike a little closer to home than he would have wished.

This is Matthew Frank’s debut novel, and billed as ‘Joesph Stark #1’ on Goodreads, I am assuming that this is planned to be the first in a series featuring the broken young detective.

It’s a good introduction. If a little repetitive at times. That was one of my very few criticisms – Stark’s thoughts went over and over the same things quite a lot. But in reality, they definitely would have done. On the plus side, it made him feel extremely real, and I completely ‘got’ his motivations, but on the flip side of that, it doesn’t really make great reading.

It took a little while for me to get into a book. That might be because I felt wrong-footed. I was expecting a ‘stabby thriller catchy killer’ book, and the opening scene is of a soldier (Stark) being ambushed. there was nothing wrong with it, I just hadn’t been expecting it, and I’m a bit of a girl when it comes to ‘war stuff’ – I’m not that moved by it. (NB: I’m not saying that girls don’t like war books full stop).

There were some great little twists and turns that hadn’t been entirely obvious throughout the book, and I really enjoyed the ‘unexpected’ ending.

The characters were extremely well written. I loved the banter between Stark and his new boss Fran, and I absolutely love her boss, Groombridge. He’s just SO cool 🙂

Great debut! It will be interesting to see if the series manages to develop seeing as so much seems to have been resolved in Stark’s psyche within this first book – what other surprises can he possibly be holding out?

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the murder pit – jeff shelby

May 30, 2014 2 comments

The Murder Pit

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

Daisy Savage is living the real life Brady Bunch dream. She’s back with her high school sweetheart, very much in love and their respective families (her two girls and a boy, him one girl) get along great. They’ve also bought a beautiful old house in her hometown that she has been completely charmed by, even though it is more than a century old, with all the problems that come with that.

The problem that she didn’t expect to come with it though is a dead body hidden beneath it.  What’s more, the body turns out to be of someone that she knows. Even worse, it becomes clear that her fellow citizens of Moose River seem to believe that SHE is the prime suspect.

Can Daisy find out what happened and clear her name?

This is an extremely light read – there’s not a lot of brain power that needs to be invested into it, which is obviously quite a relief sometimes after harder reads (I was also reading a book about a murdering paedophile, so the lightness and humour was rather inviting!)

Daisy has a strong voice, and is a very likeable realistic character, as is her husband Jake and a couple of the lesser cast members that we meet along the way. However, other than the son (for obvious reasons), the children kind of merge into one.

I liked the coziness of Daisy’s relationship, which fit in will with the ‘coziness’ (read ‘unbearable closeness’) of living in a small town – where everyone knows everyone, and everything that have got up to with everyone else. Where people jump to conclusions, and cast their own judgement without any evidence.

To be honest, the actions of her fellow townsfolk didn’t really ring true to me. There was far more accusation and blaming than I personally would have expected. I’d have thought a murder would have brought everyone out and gossiping, and trying to get closer to the limelight.

Of course, Daisy wanting to clear her name was her motivation for ‘solving the case’ – but I think the absolute ostracism felt far less believable than finding a corpse while trying to deal with your frozen pipes.

However, it was quick, light and easily enjoyable.

smart – kim slater

May 20, 2014 1 comment

Smart

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

Kieran lives with his mum, her boyfriend Tony and Tony’s son Ryan. Kieran doesn’t like Tony and Ryan because they hit him and call him names. He wishes that he could get his mum away from them, so it would be just the two of them again – and maybe his nan, who fell out with his mum over Tony.

Kieran is probably around 11/12 and autistic. He finds it really hard to fit in and deal with everyday life, but he can draw like an artist – and his favourite artist is Lowry. He also like detective stories, so when he spots a body in the canal (a homeless man called Colin), he gets to detecting, to try to find out who murdered him. Colin’s friend ‘mad’ Jean is positive he’s been murdered, but the police wont listen. So Kieran uses his attention for detail and superb drawing skills to try to solve the case himself.

You can’t read this book without comparing it to The Curious Incident…but I tried hard to. It’s a completely different approach to the subject – for starters, Colin is an actual person, not a dog. And Kieran is that much younger than Christopher, which gives the whole story another level of naivety about it.

Kieran’s view on the world is simplistic, which means that he makes a great detective as he takes things on face value. His exemplary drawing skills can also convey so much more than the words that it would take him to explain the picture.  There’s some great Lowry factoids thrown in, just to tempt you to re-visit his paintings (so if this was written as a marketing ploy on behalf of Lowry’s estate, it’s worked!) 😉

He’s a great character, and his voice turns everyone around him into a great, obvious character. I know that the book is aimed at children / young adults, but sometimes it’s refreshing to read such an ‘easy’ book. Not that there weren’t thought-provoking elements. As a reader, you are still required to think behind some of the character’s actions, as Kieran doesn’t register some of the ‘social behaviour’ that would be obvious to most.

My 14 year old daughter has only just started it, but she’s loving it already, and she has no prior knowledge of The Curious Incident, so it will be interesting to hear her take on it.

And finally – just look at that cover, isn’t it wonderful? I know you should never judge a book blah blah blah, but I have to say that it was definitely a fact that swayed my desire to read it!

Smart by Kim Slater will be published on 5th June 2014.

dead gone – luca veste

January 30, 2014 Leave a comment

Dead Gone

I received this book as a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

The body of a City of Liverpool University student has been found in a local park.  Another murder for DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi? Well, not quite. This is the first murder that Murphy has had to face since he went through a horrific personal experience around a year before, leaving his nerves and confidence knocked.

On top of that, there is a note left with the body that seems to suggest that this may not be a ‘straightforward’ murder. Not wanting to read too much into it, Murphy believes it to be a crank – but when another body turns up with another letter, the victim also linked to the University, Murphy realises that he may well be dealing with the sick, twisted mind of a serial killer.

As hunty-thriller-catchy-killer books go, this was a good one. There’s an intro that after a while you realise isn’t quite what you originally thought. DI Murphy is a great character, rather broken, as you expect with fictional detectives, but he doesn’t always get it right – he feels more real. He’s not a super-detective. His flaws are many, but his humanity is all. I’m pleased to see that this book is described as (DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi #1) on Goodreads, which hints at it being the first of a series featuring them.

A lot of it seemed to play out very cinematically in my head – and I’m not sure whether that was because the author drew on ‘known’ detective-style scenes, or because the descriptions cast a very strong visual in my mind. Either way, it meant that I could see this transferring to the small screen very easily.

I also liked the way that you strongly know quite a way into the book, exactly who the killer is, but then other events occur and you’re left guessing whether you’d misread it.  It all ties up well in the end.

I’ll look forward to the next one!

beyond belief – helen smith

January 25, 2014 Leave a comment

Beyond Belief

Celebrated magician Edmund Zenon is causing a stir at the annual ‘Belief and Beyond’ conference in Torquay, where the great and the good (and not so good) of the country’s psychic community come together. having spent his life denouncing the existence of ‘messages from beyond the grave’, he has decided to back up his beliefs with hard cash – offering a £50,000 reward to any who can prove to him that they can communicate with the dead.

However, famed psychic Perspicacious Peg predicts that a murder will occur at the conference, so together with the organiser hires the services of self-styled sleuth Emily Castles to try to change the course of fate.

With philosophy professor Dr Muriel once again at her side, Emily travels to the sleepy English Riviera expecting the whole weekend to be a farcical joke – but could Peg be right?

I make no secret of the fact that I love Helen Smith’s writing.  This is the second full-length outing for Emily Castles, and like Invitation to Die, it is quintessentially English.  You can almost taste the cream tea while you’re reading it!

I love the traditional gathering together of the suspects again – and conferences allow this to happen in a contemporary setting, making Emily Castles a young Miss Marple in training for the tenties (I have no idea what we’re calling this decade!).

An easy, quite short read with some wonderful larger than life characters. Emily herself as a character is a little neutral and understated – again, I think much like Miss Marple – allowing the rest of the cast to have their time  to shine – some of them for less time than others!

I’m definitely looking forward to Emily’s next outing. We’ve had a Romance Writer’s convention, a psychic conference – I wonder what will be next. A Morris Dancing competition? A Women’s Institiute gathering? A country fayre? Sheepdog trials? I can’t wait!

Beyond Belief will be published on 28th January.

chip off the ice block murder – jessie chandler

January 7, 2014 Leave a comment

Chip Off The Ice Block Murder

I received this book as an Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

It’s New Year’s Eve and Shay O’Hanlon is looking forward to a rare break away with her girfriend, Minneapolis cop JT, but after a panicked phone call, she instead finds herself at The Leprechaun, her father’s bar.

The call having been made because her father has disappeared, Shay has to step up to the challenge and get behind the bar on what’s probably its busiest night.

Once the rush is over, Shay comes to understand that her father isn’t necessarily just on one of his epic, drunken binges, but that there may be a more sinister reason for his absence.  A gun registered to him has been found encased in a block of ice. Along with the body of a man that it has shot.

When Shay finds out that her father has been getting pressured to sell his beloved bar, she wonders if she can discover what has been going on, hopefully proving his innocence – and finally tracking him down!  But is she going to be happy with what she uncovers?

First of all, I have to say that I did not realise that this was the fourth ‘Shay O’Hanlon’ book in a series, so I didn’t know at first that there had obviously been some development of the characters previously.

I’m not sure if that was the main thing that put me off of it – although the story theoretically SHOULD have stood alone as there were no strands from a previous book, but I didn’t feel at all connected with any of the characters, especially Shay herself.

There seemed to be too many characters, who didn’t seem to have a specific reason for being part of the plot, and didn’t feel very well described – but as I said, this could be because they had been fully developed over the previous books.

The ‘twist’ at the end had been obvious from the beginning, and it was extremely grating that Shay herself, as some kind of self-taught detective wouldn’t have put two and two together earlier. It made me extremely annoyed with her and dismissive of her story and thoughts – not good for the main character.

There also seemed to be a lot of nothing going on. A lot of filler and repetition, making the pace a little tired.

That said, it wasn’t AWFUL – it was an OK romp of a book that may have been a lot more enjoyable if I’d been committed to the characters by reading the three books that had come before.  It wouldn’t put me off reading another book by Jessie Chandler, but not one in this series as I am not moved to go back and read the previous books.

Chip Off The Ice Block Murder will be published on 8th May 2014.

clean burn – karen sandler

September 4, 2013 2 comments

Clean Burn

I got this as an Advance Review Copy – but actually only just after its publication date of 17th August.

Janelle Watkins is an injured ex-cop turned Private Investigator with a history of finding missing children.  She has been trying to keep away from this gruelling area of work, preferring to focus on the less emotionally wrenching work of missing spouses etc.

However, a personal plea soon sends her searching for not one but two seemingly unrelated cases that both appear to lead back to her hometown of Greenville.

Returning ‘home’ forces Janelle to face her past and her own demons – her father’s abuse, her unhealthy obsession with fire and her affair with her ex-partner Ken Heinz who is now Sheriff.

Enlisting his help to search for clues to the whereabouts of the missing boys, he in turn asks for her help with a series of arson attacks.  But is working so closely with him again just Janelle playing with fire?

This book is billed as ‘introducing’ Janelle  Watkins, so I am assuming that a series is planned.  She’s a great character – strong but physically and mentally damaged with a real hunger to protect the innocent and catch the bad guys.

Ken Heinz is also a great character and the two of them work very well together.

Any story that dares to put children in danger immediately gives a sense of urgency and the fact that there are multiple children featured just added to this.

However, I did find that the cast of characters introduced felt a little large.  I began to lose who was who at one stage, so I think the impact was lost a llittle when one of the perpetrators was caught.

The pyromania added a very unusual slant to proceedings, making it rather different to most standard detective novels.

I’ll be interested to know what happens with Janelle in the next story – she is a fascinating character, and there’s obviously a lot more to come out about her past.

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