Hunting Time by Jefferey Deaver (Colter Shaw #4) @JeffereyDeaver @harpercollinsuk @fictionpubteam #TheReadersRoom

Source: Review copy
Publication: 24 November 2022 from Harper Collins
PP: 432
ISBN-13: 978-0008503819

THERE ARE TWO FUNDAMENTAL RULES OF SURVIVAL.

#1: NEVER BE WITHOUT A MEANS OF ESCAPE.

Allison Parker is on the run with her teenage daughter, Hannah, and Colter Shaw has been hired by her eccentric boss, entrepreneur Marty Harmon, to find and protect her. Though he’s an expert at tracking missing persons―even those who don’t wish to be found―Shaw has met his match in Allison, who brings all her skills as a brilliant engineer designing revolutionary technology to the game of evading detection.

#2: NEVER BE WITHOUT ACCESS TO A WEAPON.

The reason for Allison’s panicked flight is soon apparent. She’s being stalked by her ex-husband, Jon Merritt. Newly released from prison and fueled by blinding rage, Jon is a man whose former profession as a police detective makes him uniquely suited for the hunt. And he’s not alone. Two hitmen are also hot on her heels―an eerie pair of thugs who take delight not only in murder but in the sport of devising clever ways to make bodies disappear forever. Even if Shaw manages to catch up with Allison and her daughter, his troubles will just be beginning.

SHAW IS ABOUT TO DISCOVER RULE #3:

NEVER BELIEVE ANYTHING.

I am enjoying Deaver’s Colter Shaw series. It is straightforward thriller material with a fascinating protagonist in this son of a survivalist, brought up to regard everything and everyone with suspicion and to prepare for absolutely any eventuality.

Shaw works as a hunter for hire of missing people. Those desperate people who have lost a loved one and advertise a reward for information leading to recovery are his bread and butter, though Colter Shaw doesn’t just provide the information, he goes and gets them, irrespective of the danger.

He is peripatetic; living in a Winnebago to the back of which his motorbike is attached.

In this 4th episode, Shaw is in the mid-west, in a town called Ferrington. Ferrington is an old industrial town in decline and suffering from a toxic riverbed. Shaw has been hired by a progressive nuclear energy company whose CEO, Marty Harmon is helping the town by supplying clean water and bringing jobs. His company, Welbourne and Sons has developed a revolutionary new device that could be life saving for many third world countries, but the technology has been stolen and Shaw is hired to recover it.

Shaw is barely on the case before the company’s engineer and architect of the reactor, Alison Parker, goes missing.  Shaw is tasked by Harmon to find her and safely bring her and her daughter, Hannah, home. Alison is running from her husband, an abuser who has just been released from prison after serving time for wife beating. But Merrit is no ordinary abuser; he is an ex-cop with many friends still in the force and his tentacles reach far.

Colter Shaw works with Welbourne’s capable Head of Security, Sonja Nilsson to find Alison and Hannah. Their search takes them into prime Shaw territory; lost in the midst of a large forest where it is not only Jon Merrit who is on their trail but also two malevolent killers are working in concert to hunt down Alison and her daughter and kill them.

Hunting Time is a gripping and hugely enjoyable novel. There’s something really engaging about Shaw’s survivalist skills and his endless rules of survival that always come in handy whatever the situation. This is a protagonist who has heft and that lends the usual crime thriller an extra dimension and the many twists and misdirection add hugely to the enjoyment.

Verdict: Hunting Time is a thrilling twisty enjoyable addition to the Colter Shaw series. It is a fast moving, tense and action packed read with plenty to get your teeth into and some surprisingly tender moments.

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Jeffery Deaver is an international number-one bestselling author. His books are sold in 150 countries and have been translated into over twenty-five languages. He has sold 50 million books worldwide.

Smokeheads by Doug Johnstone @doug_johnstone @anguskingactor @UlverscroftLtd

Source:  Audiobook review copy
Publication: 1ST December 2022 from Isis Audio
Narrator: Angus King
Listening time: 7 hours and 25 minutes
ASIN: B0B9H4X8RV

Four friends. One weekend. Gallons of whisky. What could go wrong?

Driven by amateur whisky-nut Adam, four late-thirties ex-university mates are heading to Islay—the remote Scottish island world famous for its single malts—with a wallet full of cash, a stash of coke and a serious thirst.

Over a weekend soaked in the finest cask strength spirit, they meet young divorcee Molly, who Adam has a soft spot for, her little sister Ash who has all sorts of problems and Molly’s ex-husband Joe, a control freak who also happens to be the local police. As events spiral out of control, they are all thrown into a nightmare that gets worse at every turn.

I’m a fan of Doug Johnstone’s writing and so I jumped at the chance to listen to a book of his that I haven’t yet read and I must say, Smokeheads was right up my street. It’s Johnstone in sparkling black form but also a Doug Johnstone who knows his whiskies and has clearly put a lot of research into the Islay malts and even I, not the biggest whisky lover, ended up thirsting for a glass of the Bruichladdich.

Set in Islay, a beautiful island and home to many of Scotland’s best peaty malts, Johnstone does a fabulous job of creating the atmospherics of its rugged, fractal coast and the way in which many of the whiskies on the south of the island especially, have a distinctive taste infused with peat smoke, brine and iodine.

Four long standing friends come to Islay for a whisky tour. Adam is harbouring big plans of his own but as yet it is too early to unveil them; he is the whisky expert of the four and has planned their itinerary for the weekend. Roddy is a hedge fund manager. He lives life to the max and runs largely on booze and coke. He has an unattractive macho and somewhat aggressive attitude to women. Luke is a musician and something of a loner, while Ethan is the most settled of the four.

Adam is our guide and storyteller on this trip. In truth these friends don’t have a great deal in common anymore and it is Adam’s enthusiasm for this trip that has got them there.

From the start we know that this trip is going to land the friends in trouble. Roddy is a nightmare and it only takes one visit to the local pub for things to begin to cause grief. From there it is a hop, skip and a jump towards violence, intemperate behaviour and the realisation that there’s very little holding these friends together.

Islanders of course, protect their own and Islay is a place that harbours many secrets. When the boys realise that they have uncovered one such secret they also understand that this puts their lives in danger.

Johnstone uses the wild geography of Islay to enhance the danger and they lads become trapped by the winds and tide, by the rugged environment and by some pretty heinous adversaries. This is a violent tale and no-one will emerge unscathed. There’s something about being trapped on an island, even in the 21st Century, that lends itself well to this kind of writing.

Smokeheads is a dark tale of wrongdoing, spoiled love and fractured friendships, greed and venality. Liberally peppered with sweary words and laden with gore, it is both horrific in places and yet full of black humour.

Angus King proves himself yet again to be a worthy narrator. His own voice is as smooth as the long aged single malt and his tonality and inflection catching well those moments that turn black humour into scathing language and violent moments.

Verdict: a fast moving, violent story that has several ‘squick’ moments. You need to suspend disbelief somewhat but once you do, this is a story that quickly gathers momentum and barrels towards a climactic finish. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Doug Johnstone is the author of fourteen novels, most recently Black Hearts (2022). The Big Chill (2020), was longlisted for the Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year. Several of his books have been bestsellers and three, A Dark Matter (2020), Breakers (2019) and The Jump (2015), were shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. He’s taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions over the last two decades including festivals, libraries, universities, schools, prisons and a funeral directors. Doug is a Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow and works as a mentor and manuscript assessor for many organisations, including The Literary Consultancy, Scottish Book Trust and New Writing North. He’s been an arts journalist for over twenty years and has also written many short stories and screenplays. He is a songwriter and musician with six albums and three EPs released, and plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He’s also co-founder of the Scotland Writers Football Club.

Angus King is a Scottish actor based in London & Glasgow. He trained at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and works regularly on television, Motion Capture and the West End and his voice can be heard in audiobooks, political campaigns, radio drama, corporate videos, computer games, ADR and much more.

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My Life in France by Julia Child @Duckbooks @RandomTTours

Source: Review copy
Publication: 3 November 2022 from Duckworth Books
PP: 368
ISBN-13: 9780715654682

My thanks to Duckworth Books and Random Things Tours for an advance copy for review

When Julia Child arrived in Paris in 1948, ‘a six-foot-two-inch, thirty-six-year-old, rather loud and unserious Californian’, she barely spoke a word of French and didn’t know the first thing about cooking.

As she fell in love with French culture – buying food at local markets, sampling the local bistros, and taking classes at the Cordon Bleu – her life began to change forever. We follow her extraordinary transformation from kitchen ingénue to internationally renowned (and internationally loved) expert in French cuisine.

Bursting with Child’s adventurous and humorous spirit, My Life in France captures post-war Paris with wonderful vividness and charm.

Julia Child co-wrote the definitive book on French cookery with Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck and it was this book that propelled her into the hall of cookery fame.

What My Life in France delivers is an understanding of who Julia Child was and how she came to love French cooking. She is remarkably frank about her own skills as a cook when she and her husband initially moved to France. A mediocre cook at best she was used to brown food and had to labour for hours in the kitchen to make a passable meal.

But the love and support of her husband Paul and their move to France where he was to join the US post war propaganda effort.   They were a well-travelled couple and met while both were working in Asia. 

What you get from this book is a love story. Certainly the love that Julia and Paul had for each other, but also the love that Julia rapidly develops for all things French but especially for French cuisine. She recalls with delight and astonishment the early meals (remembered in their entirety) the couple ate in France and her determination to be able to cook like that.

She has a childlike enthusiasm for all things French and loves nothing more than to shop at French markets learning about the produce. Her enrolment at the École du Cordon Bleu starts out in typically maladroit fashion as the school cannot quite work out what to do with this tall,  gauche American who knows nothing but wants to know everything.

So Julia Child ends up in the basement working with trainee chefs and learning to cook from scratch with chef Max Bugnard though it would take her two attempts to pass her final exam and graduate.

The book follows her meeting with Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck Fischbacher, to whom she grew very close, and the launching of their own cooking school, “Les Trois Gourmandes. The latter two women had been working on a cookery book and invited Julia to help them make it fit for the US market.  Mastering the Art of French Cooking had a difficult journey to publication but when it was published in 1961 it became an instant success and Julia started to garner serious attention.

What makes this book is that the recollections are direct from Julia Child and her passion and enthusiasm for France and French cooking shine through every paragraph. Her story is engaging and heartfelt and she makes it come alive. It is also the story of a couple very much in love who supported each other and it is clear that Paul Child made it easy for Julia to pursue her dream.

I very much enjoyed the photographs from Julia Child’s album which illustrate this book. This is a book that stands the test of time and will undoubtedly be enjoyed by a range of readers. If you are looking for a Christmas gift with wide appeal, this could be the answer. I really loved it.  

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Julia Child (1912-2004) was born in California and worked for American intelligence during World War II. Afterwards she lived in Paris, studied at the Cordon Bleu and taught cooking with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, with whom she wrote the
first volume of the bestselling classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961) that has sold over 1.5 million copies worldwide.

Racing the Light by Robert Crais (Cole & Pike #19) @SimonSchusterUK @graciegirlracer





Source: Review copy
Publication: 10 November 2022 from Simon and Schuster
PP: 368
ISBN-13: 978-1471195013

THE CITY OF ANGELS
Adele Schumacher isn’t a typical worried mum. When she hires Elvis to find her missing son, a controversial podcaster named Josh Shoe, she brings a bag filled with cash, paranoid tales of government conspiracies, and a squad of mysterious bodyguards. Finding Josh should be simple, but Elvis quickly learns he isn’t alone in the hunt – a team of deadly strangers are determined to find Josh first.

THE CITY OF LIES
With dangerous secrets lurking behind every lead, Elvis needs his friend Joe Pike more than ever to uncover the truth about Josh, corrupt politicians, and the murderous business cartels rotting the heart of Los Angeles. And when his estranged ex-girlfriend Lucy Chenier and her son return to the city, Elvis realizes just how much he has to lose . . . if he survives.

I am delighted to welcome back guest reviewer, Grace Mitchell to Live and Deadly once again. Grace writes:

I’ve been a big fan of Robert Crais from his very early books and have loved all of his Elvis Cole/Joe Pike novels. I have to say they are very similar to Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar and Win books but I personally don’t think that’s a bad thing, if you like one series, you’ll like the other.

The series is now on its 19th outing but still feels like it’s a new angle every time. Cole’s personal life starts to look up, as old flame Lucy and her son Ben come to visit, meanwhile a rather eccentric elderly woman with an interesting past asks Cole to find her son, who has gone missing after striking up a friendship with a young porn star; well, this is LA!

It’s clear there’s more to the dysfunctional parents than meets the eye, not least because as retired academic professors, they appear to have a pretty substantial security detail. The son was a conspiracy theory podcaster who has started to go more mainstream but with an investigative gene that was bound to get him into trouble.

The baddies are not disguised in this story which is a city council corruption scandal, involving money and prostitution, corruption and intimidation. Of course it centres around the hallowed ground of real estate, with every square inch in LA fought over, literally  to the death.

A black ops specialist, rogue Chinese black ops agents and an intelligence background don’t obscure the basic of a straightforward money motivated murder spree.

Verdict: Crais maintains a high standard and remains a solidly good, enjoyable read. Cole is an attractive flawed hero and Pike is that chap you wish you had in your life to ensure you are safe from bad guys.

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Robert Crais is the author of the bestselling Cole & Pike novels. A native of Louisiana, Crais moved to Hollywood in the late 70s where he began a successful career in television, writing scripts for such major series as Cagney & Lacey, Miami Vice and Hill Street Blues. In the mid 80s, following his success with the TV buddy genre, Crais created a series of crime novels based around the characters Cole & Pike. In addition, Crais has also written several bestselling standalone thrillers. Robert Crais lives in LA with his wife and family.

The Will by Rebecca Reid @RebeccaCNReid @PenguinUKBooks @RandomTTours

Source: Review copy
Publication: 10 November 2022 from Penguin
PP: 352
ISBN-13: 978-0552177399

My thanks to Penguin and Random Things Tours for an advance copy for review

The Mordaunts aren’t like most families . . .

For one, their family home is Roxborough Hall – a magnificent, centuries-old mansion in the Norfolk countryside. For another, the house isn’t passed down from parent to child – but rather to the family member deemed most worthy.

Cecily Mordaunt is dead. On the evening of her funeral, her family will gather for dinner and each will be given a letter, revealing who is the next custodian of Roxborough Hall.

The house is a burden, a millstone, a full-time job . . . but they all want it. And some are willing do anything to get it.

One family. Eight letters. Who will get what they deserve?

I really enjoyed this book. It is light enough to lift me out of my usual dark and bloody reading material and yet strong plotting with lots of nice twists and turns to keep my interest engaged and my brain focussing on what comes next.

Both the setting and the premise are fascinating. Roxburgh Hall is an idyllic grand mansion in the beautiful and tranquil Norfolk countryside. For years it has been home to Cecily Mordaunt and her companion and former ladies maid, Violet.

Now Cecily is dead and unusually, this house, which needs a lot of care and attention in its upkeep, is to go to the person whom Cecily deems most worthy to get it. It’s the way this house has been handed down for years and at every owner’s death letters are handed out at an eve of funeral family dinner. Each person gets a personal letter explaining why or why they are not the new owner of Roxburgh Hall. That person, however, has to be at the house to receive their letter.

Rebecca Reid’s book combines love and romance with family secrets, devious personalities, bitter resentment and years of hurt to provide a brilliant backdrop to a compelling story.

Not everyone wants the house; one because it would be too much of a burden, another because they cannot get over the hurt they feel that goes back decades. Others need the house for their own reasons. As Reid gives us glimpses into each character, their history and personality, we understand that centuries of tradition means more to some of those present than others.

Some have grand ambitions; others see the house as an answer to all their problems.

But who will Cecily have found the most worthy and was she the best judge of character for this job?

Told from a range of perspectives, Reid uses multiple timelines to help us understand each character and their motivation and to guide the reader in making their own decisions about who should inherit the house.

Reid’s flawed characters are very well drawn and spring to life from the page. The hopes, aspirations and dreams of these characters are well expressed and you can sense the frustration among those who feel they most deserve this inheritance.

I very much enjoyed reading about Cecily’s life and history and understanding what brought her to the final decision on who should inherit. There are many long buried secrets here that unfold as the narrative develops and Rebecca Reid does a terrific job of keeping the reader engaged and involved as each is revealed.

Verdict: A thoroughly engrossing, fast paced and enjoyable family drama involving hidden secrets and flawed characters that retained my interest throughout.

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Rebecca Reid is the author of the novels Perfect Liars, Truth Hurts and Two Wrongs, and the nonfiction book The Power of Rude. She is a freelance journalist and columnist for the Telegraph’s women’s section and a regular contributor to Telegraph culture. She is the former digital editor of Grazia magazine and has previously written for Stylist, the Independent, the Guardian, The Times, Marie Claire, the New Statesman and Glamour Magazine. She regularly contributes to Good Morning Britain, Sky News and various BBC radio programmes. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway.

The People Before by Charlotte Northedge @FictionPubTeam @HarperCollinsUK @RandomTTours

Source: Review copy
Publication: 10 November 2022 from Harper Collins
PP: 336
ISBN-13: ‎ 978-0008402570

My thanks to Harper Collins and Random Things Tours for an advance copy for review

What if your dream house became your worst nightmare?

Jess and her husband need a new start. So when the chance to buy a rambling old house in the Suffolk countryside comes up, they leap at it.

But not everyone in Suffolk is welcoming. The locals know a secret about the Maple House, and soon, Jess realises they’ve made a huge mistake.

Something bad happened in that house. Something nobody wants to talk about.

Something to do with the people before…

The People Before starts strongly with Jess and her husband Pete and their two young children wondering quite what they have done. They’ve left bustling, multi-cultural Walthamstow for a new life and have bought a draughty run-down pile in the Suffolk countryside which is need of serious renovation.

Maple House was once grand but now this Arts and Crafts house lies neglected and in need of serious modernisation. It is what we might call “a project”.

It’s not made clear just why they have left their Walthamstow home but as time goes on it’s clear that all is not well in Jess and Pete’s relationship. That feeling only gets worse when Pete resumes commuting to London and Jess, who gave up her own job to move into their new home, is feeling lonely and neglected.

We know quite quickly that Jess has secrets of her own, and Charlotte Northedge does an excellent job of portraying an unhappy woman in a house that feels cold and unwelcoming. More than that, there’s an atmosphere that is both spooky and malevolent as Jess feels all the time as if she is being watched.

Northedge drops hints for the reader about what has gone wrong in the marriage but readers have to wait to get the whole story and enjoy guessing what may have prompted the move.

Neither Jess nor Pete is especially likeable. Pete is hardly there and when he is he pays scant attention to Jess’s concerns. Though Jess tries to make friends with other mothers at the school gates, none of her overtures go particularly well and she feels lonely and isolated.

So she is hugely relieved when she meets Eve, who works in a local gallery and Eve is warm and friendly towards her. The two women discover they have interests in common and Jess enjoys going for a coffee with her new friend.

Soon Eve is at Maple House where she has lots of ideas about what could be done to restore it to its former grandeur.

Northedge’s book is in two voices; Jess’ story and then Eve’s perspective. Though the sense of malevolence is strong, with a small cast of characters it is not difficult to see where this story is going and from the middle of the book not all of Jess’ actions ring true. It’s not hard to second guess what’s going on and the tension dissipates somewhat as a result.

Verdict: Well written with good tension and a complement of spookiness, this is a great winter read as long as you can get over the somewhat predictable plot.

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Charlotte Northedge is the joint Head of Books for the Guardian. Charlotte
has previously written for a range of newspapers and magazines, including the
Guardian, Psychologies and Cosmopolitan. A journalist, she has an MA in
Modern and Contemporary Literature from Birkbeck and is an alumni of the
Curtis Brown Creative writing course. The House Guest was Charlotte’s greatly
acclaimed debut novel, published in 2021 by Harper Collins.

Long Shadows by David Baldacci (Amos Decker #7)  @davidbaldacci @laurasherlock21 @panmacmillan

Source: Review copy
Publication: 10 November 2022 from Pan MacMillan
PP:  448
ISBN-13: ‎ 978-1529061895

My thanks to MacMillan and Laura Sherlock for an advance copy for review

Things are changing for Decker. He’s in crisis following the suicide of a close friend and receipt of a letter concerning a personal issue which could change his life forever. Together with the prospect of working with a new partner, Frederica White, Amos knows that this case will take all of his special skills to solve.

As darkness falls, evil comes to light…

Judge Julia Cummins seemingly had no enemies, and there was no forced entry to her property. Close friends and neighbours in the community apparently heard nothing, and Cummins’ distraught ex-husband, Barry, and teenage son, Tyler, both have strong alibis. Decker must first find the answer to why the judge felt the need for a bodyguard, and the meaning behind the strange calling card left by the killer.

Someone has decided it’s payback time.

FBI Consultant Amos Decker received a life-changing brain injury when playing football, as a result of which he now remembers everything, including those things that hurt so much he would love to be able to forget them.

In Long Shadows, Decker has a lot on his mind. His close friend is dead. His partner, Alex Jamison has moved on and he’s been saddled with a new partner – Special Agent Frederica “Freddie” White.  Decker has also received a letter that’s weighing heavily on his mind.

Frederica is a single mother and has fought hard for her place as an agent. It’s a battle she has to fight every day. Decker isn’t great with new situations and especially not at the moment, so the two don’t immediately hit it off.

Decker and Freddie White are called to South Florida where a Federal Judge, Julia Cummins and her bodyguard, Alan Draymont have been slain in the judge’s home in a gated community.

Killed within a short space of time, the judge stabbed numerous times in a frenzied attack and the guard double tapped with 9mm shots and with something stuffed down his throat. The indications are that this may be a revenge killing. As they methodically work the case, interviewing neighbours, colleagues and the judge’s son Tyler and her former husband, it becomes clear that this may be a more complex case than they first envisaged.

For Decker this is not the most auspicious of starts to a new investigation. He’s off kilter because of all the aforementioned events and when he and Freddie get to Florida it is to find out that no-one has told the local FBI that they are coming. It’s a mess and Decker is not happy.

To solve this case, Decker and White have to delve into the past. Baldacci lays out a panoply of suspects and motives and it is only by working closely together that Decker and White begin to work together as a team earning each other’s respect in the process.

Baldacci delivers another terrific thriller with lots of leads and political shenanigans to get in their way. The short chapters help build the tension and though the case is complex, this is still a fast paced investigation that uncovers secrets and scandals that have stayed buried for many years.

Decker is grumpier than usual in this book but that doesn’t stop him from recognising that life still has a lot to offer and as the story comes to a climax you can feel the appreciation he has for his new partner.

Verdict: A new direction for Amos Decker and an interesting new character in Freddie White about whom I’d love to hear more. The plot is beautifully layered and suspenseful. Lost Shadows is a great read and a brilliant addition to the Amos Decker series.

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David Baldacci is one of the world’s bestselling and favourite thriller writers. With over 130 million copies in print, his books are published in over eighty territories and forty-five languages, and have been adapted for both feature-film and television. David is also the co-founder, along with his wife, of the Wish You Well Foundation®, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting literacy efforts across the US.

Hidden Scars by Angela Marsons (D.I.Kim Stone #17) @WriteAngie @Bookouture @graciegirlracer #Guest Review

Source: Review copy (Netgalley)
Publication: 9 November 2020 from Bookouture
PP: 374
ISBN-13: 978-1803147727

Thanks to Bookouture for an advance copy for review

I am delighted to welcome guest reviewer Grace Mitchell to Live and Deadly. Grace is an avid reader and is a long-time fan of Angela Marson’s D.I. Kim Stone series.

When a nineteen-year-old boy, Jamie Mills, is found hanging from a tree in a local park, his death is ruled a suicide. Detective Kim Stone’s instincts tell her something isn’t right – but it’s not her investigation and her temporary replacement is too busy waiting for the next big case to be asking the right questions.

Why would a seemingly healthy boy choose to end his life?

Why does his mother show no sign of emotional distress at the loss of her son?

Still mending her broken mind and body from her last harrowing case, Kim is supposed to be easing back into work gently. But then she finds a crucial, overlooked detail: Jamie had a recent injury that would have made it impossible for him to climb the tree. He must have been murdered.

Quickly taking back charge of her team and the case, Kim visits Jamie’s parents and is shocked to hear that they had sent him to a clinic to ‘cure’ him of his sexuality. According to his mother, Jamie was introverted and prone to mood swings. Yet his friend speaks of a vibrant, outgoing boy.

The clues to smashing open this disturbing case lie behind the old Victorian walls of the clinic, run by the Gardner family. They claim that patients come of their own accord and are free to leave at any time. But why are those that attended the clinic so afraid to speak of what happens there? And where did the faded restraint marks identified on Jamie’s wrists come from?

Then the body of a young woman is found dead by suffocation and Kim makes two chilling discoveries. The victim spent time at the clinic too, and her death was also staged to look like a suicide.

Scarred from an ordeal that nearly took her life, is Kim strong enough to stop a terrifying killer from silencing the clinic’s previous patients one by one?

Grace writes:

I’m a big fan of Angela Marson’s Kim Stone series and Hidden Scars is no exception. Despite being the 17th outing, the series continues to be strong. We know all the main characters now and enjoy their strengths and weaknesses.

We enter with Kim returning from extended sick leave having almost lost her life in a  brutal attack documented in the last book. Her team have been placed with the over ambitious corner cutting copper who failed to take the threat against Kim seriously in the last book. She returns to find her team being badly managed and demoralised. Stacey in particular isn’t being given the chance to follow up leads and as always her instincts are on the money.

An initial look at a suicide that has already been brushed aside has Kim certain the boy was murdered and from there, more bodies appear and a link is established both with a gay aversion therapy clinic and a local relationship counsellor.

Kim however is back in the thick of it too quickly and it is taking its toll….

This is an interesting plot dealing with a subject we all assume has been dealt with, the homophobia in society and the lengths people will go to deny their own sexuality or that of their children. There’s a nice little sub plot runs too with the disappearance of a husband from a seemingly happy and secure marriage.

Verdict: If you’ve not read this series, it’s not too late! Set in the Black Country Midlands, it’s a satisfying read.

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Angela Marsons lives in the heart of the Black Country with her partner, bouncy puppy and potty mouthed parrot. It has taken many novels to find that one character who just refused to go away. And so D.I. Kim Stone was born. The D.I. Kim Stone series has now sold over 3 million copies.

Desert Star by Michael Connelly  @Connellybooks @orionbooks @orion_crime    (Ballard & Bosch; Renee Ballard #5)

Source: Review copy
Publication: 8 November 2022 from Orion
PP: 400
ISBN-13: ‎ 978-1409186229

My thanks to Orion for an advance copy for review

SOME CRIMES YOU CAN’T FORGET.

Detective Renée Ballard is given the chance of a lifetime: revive the LAPD’s cold case unit and find justice for the families of the forgotten. The only catch is they must first crack the unsolved murder of the sister of the city councilman who is sponsoring the department – or lose everything…

OTHERS YOU CAN’T FORGIVE.

Harry Bosch is top of the list of investigators Ballard wants to recruit. The former homicide detective is a living legend – but for how long? Because Bosch has his own agenda: a crime that has haunted him for years – the murder of a whole family, buried out in the desert – which he vowed to close.

WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU KNEW WHO DID IT?

With the killer still out there and evidence elusive – Bosch is on a collision course with a choice he hoped never to make…

If there’s one class of people Bosch would prefer criminals over, it would have to be politicians. But when Renee Ballard approaches him with an offer he can’t refuse, he puts that thought to the back of his mind.

For Jake Pearlman, a politician, has made it possible for Renee Ballard to restart the LAPD Open Unsolved Unit so that she can investigate the death of his sister. Sarah Pearlman was just sixteen when she murdered and her killer has never been caught. And there’s one person that Renee really wants working alongside her. Harry Bosch isn’t easy to persuade, but Renee knows that there’s one case that haunts him to this day; the slaying of the Gallagher family that he never managed to resolve. He’s pretty sure he knows who is responsible; proving it was a whole other matter.

Renee promises that he can re-open that case as well as working on the death of the Councilman’s sister is enough to lure Harry back to the cold case table. There are others in the cold case team too, though Ballard is the only current serving police officer – the others are retired and volunteers and include a genealogist and a former FBI officer. Some come with baggage that makes Bosch wary, so as ever, he is keeping himself to himself and not sharing much about his progress other than to Renee.

Michael Connelly is the master of making police procedurals authentic and in Desert Star that mix of professional detection and political interference is brilliantly achieved. Connelly draws a convincing set of characters and lets the different styles of interaction between Ballard and Bosch set up their own dynamic within the Cold Case Unit.

While Ballard juggles with bureaucracy trying to leverage money for the unit and keep the Councilman happy, Bosch is going his own sweet way, occasionally making sure he’s keeping Ballard happy – a task he doesn’t always achieve. Nonetheless they are clearly a team who work together on the same wavelength and their detection abilities complement each other very well. They are, quite simply, a team who know each other well enough to understand what the other is thinking and that’s a huge bonus, even when Bosch tests that relationship to breaking point.

The passage of time in cold cases is really helped by the advances in technology and so it proves with the case of Sarah Pearlman. But this is no academic exercise; very real danger threatens both Ballard and Bosch as they pursue the leads they have uncovered.

Desert Star is an emotional read and we find Harry pursuing the Gallagher case with an urgency that feels like the drive of a ferret pursing a rat. He will make sure he gets his perpetrator irrespective of the cost and eschewing the usual police proprieties.

Verdict: A strong, emotional and as ever brilliantly written police procedural that really hits the spot. Ballard and Bosch are a fantastic team and this is an unmissable contribution to the series.

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Michael Connelly is the author of thirty-four previous novels, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers Dark Sacred Night, Two Kinds of Truth, and The Late Show. His books, which include the Harry Bosch series and the Lincoln Lawyer series, have sold more than eighty million copies worldwide. Connelly is a former newspaper reporter who has won numerous awards for his journalism and his novels. He is the executive producer of Bosch, starring Titus Welliver, and the creator and host of the podcast Murder Book. He spends his time in California and Florida.

The Collector by Anne Mette Hancock trs #TaraChase (Kaldan and Schäfer #2) @hancock_mette @crookedlanebks

Source: Review copy
Publication: 8 November 2022 from Crooked Lane Books
PP: 352
ISBN: 9781639101177

My thanks to Crooked Lane Books for an advance copy for review

A boy has disappeared from his school. Heloise Kaldan heads over there to look into it. At the schoolyard she runs into her close friend Erik Schäfer, the outspoken investigator on this case. The boy, Lukas, doesn’t show up, but his phone does. It reveals that Lukas is obsessed with pareidolia: the psychological phenomenon that makes us see faces in random things. One particular photo of a barn door that looks like a face catches their attention. Is this where Lukas is?

Heloise is ordered to drop her current article, a controversial investigation into soldiers with PTSD, to cover the story of the missing boy. But when things that point to the traumatized soldiers appear in Lukas’ case, Schäfer will need Heloise’s help making heads or tails of this enormous jumble of clues…

This is my first book by this author and the second in this series, but that did not hamper my enjoyment at all; rather I now want to read the first book. Heloise Kaldan is an investigative journalist and her friend, Detective Erik Schäfer is a police investigator in the Violent Crimes Unit. The book is set in Copenhagen where a young boy named Lukas has gone missing. The boy has a unique interest in pareidolia, which means that he sees faces in inanimate objects.

A reported sighting of a body in a frozen moat leads to the recovery of Lukas’ bloodstained jacket, allowing forensics to come into play and the finger of suspicion is pointed at someone, only for that route to be abruptly cut off.

But one clue stands out. Among Lukas’ possessions, is a photo of a barn door. Heloise is sure she has seen that door before, but can’t quite remember where. Perhaps that’s because she has troubles of her own. As Schäfer and Kaldan work out different and parallel investigative angles, they need also to deal with their own personal issues whilst pursuing the case.

I enjoyed this book and especially liked the relationship between Kaldan and Schäfer who are friends but who have to tread a wary path between being supportive and sharing some information, but nevertheless maintaining their own investigative paths. Kaldan can be there for Schafer while she deals with her own personal issues but that doesn’t mean that he’ll deal her in on the police investigation. Kalden however is willing to use her friends to help her get to know and understand Lukas a bit better. Kaldan has a hard edge to her when she is pursuing a story and that means she takes risks and has a tendency to rush in where fools fear to tread.

Hancock also builds in some additional characters of interest, not least of whom is the local supermarket worker Finn, whose penchant for handing out fruit to local children makes him the focus of suspicion for quite some time.

Hancock builds an intriguing and suspenseful police procedural with strong characters and some interesting misdirection which keeps the reader guessing.

Verdict: The Collector is a chilling police procedural that is both tense and sometimes frightening. It is also an engaging, enjoyable read.

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Anne Mette Hancock lives in Copenhagen with her two children. In 2017 her debut The Corpse Flower introduced readers to journalist Heloise Kaldan and police officer Erik Schäfer. It won the Danish Crime Academy’s debutant prize, was a #1 bestseller in Denmark and a top ten bestseller in Europe. The sequel, The Collector, was published in Denmark in 2018 and will be published by Swift in 2023.

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