The Last Resort by S.J.I. Holliday @SJIHolliday @AmazonPub

Source: Review copy
Publication: 1st December 2020 from Thomas and Mercer
PP: 299
ISBN-13: 978-1542020015

My thanks to the publisher for an early copy of this book for review purposes

Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One perfect crime.

When Amelia is invited to an all-expenses-paid retreat on a private island, the mysterious offer is too good to refuse. Along with six other strangers, she’s told they’re here to test a brand-new product for Timeo Technologies. But the guests’ excitement soon turns to terror when the real reason for their summons becomes clear.

Each guest has a guilty secret. And when they’re all forced to wear a memory-tracking device that reveals their dark and shameful deeds to their fellow guests, there’s no hiding from the past. This is no luxury retreat—it’s a trap they can’t get out of.

As the clock counts down to the lavish end-of-day party they’ve been promised, injuries and in-fighting split the group. But with no escape from the island—or the other guests’ most shocking secrets—Amelia begins to suspect that her only hope for survival is to be the last one standing. Can she confront her own dark past to uncover the truth—before it’s too late to get out?

Amelia is an international aid worker, tired and stressed after years of gruelling work in disaster zones. For years she has dedicated her life to making the world better for others, some seeing what she does as selfless, but Amelia knows she has a different reason for carrying out this work. She has a secret she has never divulged and it eats her up from the inside.

But when she received her invitation from Timeo Technologies to test out a new product as part of a luxury, all-expenses paid trip, she thinks that perhaps it is time that she allowed herself some personal relaxing time.

That’s her first mistake. Soon she finds herself on a secluded island with six strangers; the most self-obsessed, unlikeable bunch of characters that she has ever met. Social media influencers, a photographer, a hedge fund manager and a games developer are all given technology to wear that will have a significant impact on their actions throughout their stay.

Soon it becomes clear that these four women and three men all have something to hide. Each has a guilty secret they do not want to divulge; but what is it and who has brought them together and for what purpose?

As the seven navigate the secluded island, their dream of a luxury retreat becomes a nightmare that threatens their very existence.

Susi Holliday’s book starts with an ominous prologue that clearly sets the scene for what is to come, but it is for the reader to try and guess just how that relates to the seven guests on the mystery island.

A sort of The Hunting Party meets Lord of the Flies, The Last Resort uses the idea of advanced technology to create a tense and exciting scenario where that technology is used to drive people apart and reduce them to their basest fears.

One by one, the participants are set against each other and Amelia wonders when her turn will come.

Susi Holliday’s book is a quintessential locked room mystery expanded into an island setting and with the added fun of technology to offer bite and intrigue. This is a book where you let your imagination have free reign and just enjoy where it takes you, as you find yourself horrified and surprised by each turn of events.

Verdict: Susi Holliday has created a fun and interesting mystery overlaid with technological advances that are just plausible to create a fascinating story. I would personally have liked to know a great deal more about Amelia’s story and particularly the aspects of it that related to why she was on the island. Perhaps though, that’s another book to come?

Bookshop.org                                Amazon

S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday is a scientist, writing coach and the bestselling author of five crime novels, including the Banktoun Trilogy (Black Wood, Willow Walk and The Damselfly), the festive chiller The Deaths of December and her creepy Gothic psychological thriller The Lingering. Her short story ‘Home From Home’ was published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and shortlisted for the CWA Margery Allingham Prize. All of her novels have been UK ebook number-one bestsellers. Susi was born and raised in Scotland and now divides her time between Edinburgh, London and as many other exciting places that she can fit in.

Sins of the Father by Sharon Bairden @sbairden @RedDogTweets

Source: Review copy
Publication: 27 November from Red Dog Press
PP: 310
ISBN-13: 978-1913331504

My thanks to the publisher for an early copy for review purposes

Lucas Findlay thinks he has struck gold when he marries Rebecca, but she married him for one reason only – to destroy him.

Trauma runs deep

When her past comes back to haunt her, Rebecca begins to disconnect from herself and the world around her. As secrets are unearthed, she begins to fear for her sanity … and her life.

Truth will out

With her world unravelling around her, Rebecca clings to her determination to make Lucas pay, whatever the cost.

Forgive his sins

But someone must pay for the sins of the father…

Sharon Bairden’s Sins of the Father had me in tears by the third chapter. It is dark, so very dark. It is also heartbreaking, especially those early chapters which deal with Rebecca Findlay as a young child, brought up without love or hope or any kind of emotional nourishment; there only to do her mother’s bidding, like it or not.

Bairden paints a raw and unflinching portrait of how a child learns to live in that environment and shows us what coping mechanisms come into play – coping strategies that take deep root in her psyche and never leave her, even into adulthood.

Her portrait of a child moving from the squalor of a loveless home into the social care system is also devastating. It’s not something that we as a society don’t know about; it’s just that we prefer not to know, and Bairden brings that message out with striking clarity. How can we fail our children so comprehensively?

Then, just as you think there is no hope left, we find Rebecca again, now a woman. Poised and articulate, married to Lucas Findlay and holding a responsible job in the third sector. Rebecca lives in a beautifully designed house with her loving husband, Lucas. But behind closed doors, not everything is as rosy as the outward signs suggest. Neighbours are worried about Rebecca. One of her co-workers is suspicious about the heavy make up Rebecca often wears into work.

Rebecca has secrets, but so does Lucas and they’re about to explode into the open. Because Rebecca is not the only one seeking retribution for the sins in her past.

Rebecca is being watched and it’s clear that someone knows her secrets. Whether for good or ill, the story of Lucas and Rebecca is about to be exposed and the results will be explosive.

Verdict: If you’re searching for a heartwarming Christmas story, you’ll maybe want to try somewhere else. Dark as a coal cellar in winter, this is a book that will have you screaming for emergency kittens. Tense, heart-breaking and suspenseful, this is a powerful debut that packs an enormous, emotive gut punch. I was riveted and appalled; drawn to it and unable to look away. Just send me those kittens soon, please!

Waterstones Hive

Sharon Bairden is the Services Manager in a small, local independent advocacy service and has a passion for human rights; by night she has a passion for all things criminal. She blogs about books at Chapterinmylife and is delighted to be crossing over to the other side of the fence to become a writer. Sharon lives on the outskirts of Glasgow, has two grown up children, a grandson, a Golden Labrador and a cat. She spends most of her spare time doing all things bookish, from reading to attending as many book festivals and launches as she can. She has been known to step out of her comfort zone on the odd occasion and has walked over burning coals and broken glass – but not at the same time!

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Body Language by A.K. Turner @AnyaLipska @Tr4cyF3nt0n

Source: Review copy
Publication: 26 November 2020 from Zaffre
PP: 384
ISBN-13: 978-1838770044

My thanks to the publishers for an early review copy and apologies for the late posting, computer issues now thankfully resolved!

Cassie Raven believes the dead can talk. We just need to listen . . .

People think being a mortuary technician is a seriously weird job. They can’t understand why I choose to cut up dead bodies for a living. But they don’t know what I know:

The dead want to tell us what happened to them.

I’ve eviscerated thousands of bodies, but never someone I know before – someone who meant a lot to me; someone I loved.

The pathologist says that her death was an accident.

Her body is telling me differently.

Oh yes! This series has just jumped, body and soul, into my must read category. Cassie Raven is a brilliant character. Senior mortuary technician, goth, body whisperer, she is everything I look for in a compelling character driven narrative. As I read more and more crime fiction, I find I am increasingly drawn to those characters that have a unique voice. Cassie Raven is a brilliant example of that. Cassie is a young woman with her own individual style who does not easily fit into the standard societal image of a mortician. But she is intelligent, intuitive and most of all she cares about her job and the people who are under her care.

A.K. Turner’s character springs out from the pages as a lively and wholly formed character that I just took to straight away. Lovers of Turner’s previous Kiszka and Kershaw series will recognise that 25 year old Cassie’s Polish heritage is something that is close to Turner’s heart and it’s good to see it used here to great effect in cementing the bond between Cassie and her grandmother.

Strange happenings in the mortuary and the death of a much-loved mentor provide the basis for an excellent plot and lots of entertaining moments in a fantastic read that has a great deal to commend it. I found the forensic science aspects of the book really fascinating, providing an authentic look at the role of a mortuary technician as well as offering instruction and insight.

Great storytelling combined with relatively short chapters help to make this a read that I was eager to not put down, such was my interest in both the plot and the characters. Body Language is an easy, fast paced read, and also a gripping one.

Not only is Cassie a great character, but there’s enough interest in her co-workers and in the fantastic character of Flyte, to sustain my interest for quite some time in the future. Flyte is a police officer with a rod up her back and one who Cassie finds so straight-laced – yet ultimately her dedication to her job mirrors Cassie’s own so closely that the two find they have more in common than they initially imagined. I can see these two having an interesting future together!

Verdict: This is a compelling start to a new series and it’s not hyperbole to suggest that I am already addicted to Cassie Raven. This series has at one bound become unmissable.

Bookshop.org Waterstones

A K Turner likes to create memorable characters, throw them into unusual settings, and add a hefty dose of murder and a twisty-turny plot. Her latest book, Body Language, introduces a new kind of forensic heroine – a crime-solving Goth-girl mortuary technician who talks to the dead, a character first launched in two crime shorts aired on BBC Radio 4. A K’s previous series, written under the pen name Anya Lipska, starred a London-based Polish fixer who’s happy to crack heads to solve crimes – which saw her being selected for Val McDermid’s prestigious New Blood Panel at Harrogate Crime Festival in 2012.

A K (aka Ali) lives in East London where she is writing more mortuary-set mysteries. Her day job is producing TV documentaries on true crime and science topics. And just for light relief she is training to be a City of London guide…

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Out for Blood (DI Eve Hunter #2) by Deborah Masson @deborah_masson

Source: Review copy
Publication: Out now in e-book. Paperback 10 December 2020 from Corgi
PP: 368
ISBN-13: 978-0552176514

My thanks to the publisher for an early review copy

A young man, the son of an influential businessman, is discovered dead in his central Aberdeen apartment.

Hours later, a teenage girl with no identification is found hanged in a suspected suicide.

As DI Eve Hunter and her team investigate the two cases, they find themselves in a tug-of-war between privilege and poverty; between the elite and those on the fringes of society.

Then an unexpected breakthrough leads them to the shocking conclusion: that those in power have been at the top for too long – and now, someone is going to desperate lengths to bring them down…

Can they stop someone who is dead set on revenge, no matter the cost?

The body of a young woman is found hanged in the trees of the local Hazelhead Golf Course in Aberdeenshire, a suspected suicide. Dean Johnstone is also dead; his body in the more salubrious surroundings of his luxury town apartment. Dean was a young man working in IT who wanted for nothing; his flash lifestyle showing that he lived life to the max.

Straight away we are confronted with two deaths. Very different circumstances surround each, but soon it becomes clear to Eve Hunter that nothing is straightforward about either death.

After the events in Hold Your Tongue, Masson’s debut novel, Hunter is working hard to overcome the physical and mental injuries she sustained, and she is determined that she will get to the bottom of both these cases. Her leg is still giving her some trouble, and much to her chagrin, her boss DCI Hastings is resolute in insisting that she continue with her monthly psychiatrist visits, wanting to ensure that Eve’s temper, which has previously caused her to get into trouble, is now under control.

Eve insists that she and her team are up to handling both cases. What they find, however, is a wall of silence surrounding Dean’s death and Eve has to first find the identity of the dead woman before she can begin to find out what happened to her.

Investigations uncover that Dean had two very close friends, Andrew Shirriffs and Finn Mille,  from when he attended the expensive and exclusive Hermitage Boys School; a school also attended by the boys’ parents where they were known as known as ‘the Trinity’.

Eve discovers that Andrew Shirriffs died a year ago, and the remaining young man, Finn Miller, is the son of one of the richest and most well-connected men in Aberdeen. Yet Dean’s father, Robert is not co-operating with Eve and her team and the other boys’ parents are equally reticent.

When they discover that the young woman has a signifying mark that suggests she has been trafficked, suspicions focus on the lifestyles of the three young men and their families and what becomes clear is that the past has very long tentacles and what happened years ago has had far reaching consequences.

Masson creates a great picture of Eve Hunter and her team. D.S. Mark Cooper, caught between an increasing respect for Eve and a D.C.I. who wants him to act as his snitch, while his home life is also causing him some grief. D.C. Jo Mearns is also coming more into her own as a character and even D.S. Scott Ferguson seems to be mellowing. Overall this team is coming together as a more effective and cohesive team held together by Eve’s striking personality and commitment to the job.

Out for Blood is an impressive story, told well. Difficult subjects are handled well and sensitively and come through as bold and authentic. A well plotted path to the denouement provides both tension and excitement and leaves the reader surprised and impressed by the direction of plot travel and the secrets that are revealed.

Verdict: An impressive second novel that cements Masson’s standing as a writer to watch. Strong themes and intense, exciting. writing provide a powerful and shocking picture of the ways in which power corrupts and money buys silence. I’ll eagerly await the next book in this series.

Bookshop.org                  Waterstones

Deborah Masson was born and bred in Aberdeen, Scotland. Always restless and fighting against being a responsible adult, she worked in several jobs including secretarial, marketing, reporting for the city’s freebie newspaper and a stint as a postie -to name but a few. Through it all, she always read crime fiction and, when motherhood finally settled her into being an adult (maybe even a responsible one) she turned her hand to writing what she loved. Deborah started with short stories and flash fiction whilst her daughter napped and, when she later welcomed her son into the world, she decided to challenge her writing further through online courses with Professional Writing Academy and Faber Academy. Her debut novel, Hold Your Tongue,is the result of those courses. It won the Bloody Scotland Scottish Crime Debut of the Year 2020 and was longlisted for CWA New Blood Dagger 2020.

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Dark Highway (Jessica Shaw #3) by Lisa Gray @lisagraywriter @amazonpub

Source: Review copy
Publication: 19 November 2020 from Thomas and Mercer
PP:  318
ISBN-13: 978-1542021135

An isolated highway in the middle of the desert—the perfect place to hide a secret.

LA-based artist Laurie Simmonds disappeared two months ago, her campervan abandoned on the isolated Twentynine Palms Highway, miles from anything—or anyone. With the police investigation stalled, her parents put all their faith in private investigator Jessica Shaw to find out the truth of what happened.

Jessica and her partner Matt Connor discover that two other women are missing, their disappearances connected to the same highway. When a link emerges between these women and a group of former college friends, Jessica feels certain they’re closing in on their target.

But no sooner do they follow this up than Laurie’s parents get spooked and drop the case. Jessica is blindsided but determined not to give up: three women are missing, and many more may be at risk. She can’t turn her back on them. But the more she pulls at the threads of the truth, the closer she comes to danger. Can she find out who’s behind these crimes before they come for her?

I am fast becoming addicted to this series and Jessica Shaw grows as a character with every book. Jessica is a Private Eye who, until recently, had been itinerant, picking up jobs as she travelled. Now though, needing to up her hours to get her California PI licence, she has taken on a job working in L.A. with Matt Connor, a PI she goes back a way with and with whom she has some chemistry.

Jessica is in part driven by discovering that she herself was a missing child and that helps fuel her ability to dig deep into missing person cases. This time, Matt’s Agency has been tasked with tracing a missing 24 year old young woman, Laurie, the artist daughter of a wealthy couple.

Jessica is intrigued by this case because the mother has gone to some lengths to suggest that her daughter’s disappearance is linked to other missing women who have disappeared in the same vicinity. The woman’s father though is sceptical and unhelpful; he clearly feels his wife is clutching at damaged straws.

Dark Highway utilises different timelines and characters to give the reader a bird’s eye view of each of the women who went missing, and to introduce witnesses and potential suspects. We learn about the lives of these women and how they lived prior to their disappearance, but it is Jessica’s investigation techniques that will have to piece together what any connection might be and whether that can be helpful in leading to Laurie’s recovery.

The book is fast-paced and the narrative flows really well, despite the changing voices and timelines which serve to keep the readers interest high as we understand the events that led up to the disappearances and also offered some hints as to why they may have been taken.

Jessica, doggedly determined, unsure about what she’s doing back working with Matt Connor but liking it just the same, is an investigator you’d love to go for a drink with. An independent woman who seeks to keep her vulnerable side tucked away, she is a character you warm to, not least because you see and feel, as she investigates the missing women, how strongly she needs to find out what happened to them.

Lisa Gray’s book doesn’t hesitate to go dark and there is one completely relevant, disturbing scene which leads the reader into understanding exactly why these crimes have been committed. Her sense of place and atmosphere is excellent and if I never have to visit the Twentynine Palms Highway, (California State Route 62) I will not fear I have lost out!

VERDICT: Gray brings drama and thrills to these missing person investigations. A gripping narrative arc, some tight plotting and warm, relatable characters make this third book in the series unmissable.

Buy Dark Highway

Lisa Gray has been writing professionally for years, serving as the chief Scottish soccer writer at the Press Association and the books editor at the Daily Record Saturday Magazine. Lisa recently left her journalism job as a reporter for The Daily Record and Sunday Mail to concentrate on full time writing. Learn more at http://www.lisagraywriter.com

Daylight by David Baldacci (Atlee Pine #3) @davidbaldacci @panmacmillan

Source: Review copy
Publication: 12 November 2020 from MacMillan
PP: 416
ISBN-13: 978-1509874576

FBI Agent Atlee Pine’s search for her twin sister, Mercy, coincides with military investigator John Puller’s high-stakes case, leading them both into a global conspiracy from which neither of them will escape unscathed.

Ever since Mercy was abducted after a brutal incident when the girls were just six years old, Atlee has been relentless in her search for the truth. Now, just as time is running out on her investigation, she finally gets her most promising breakthrough yet – the identity of her sister’s kidnapper: Ito Vincenzo. Last known location: New Jersey.

As Atlee and her assistant, Carol Blum, race to track down Vincenzo, they run into Pine’s old friend John Puller, who is investigating Vincenzo’s family for another crime involving a military installation.

Working together, Pine and Puller pull back the layers of deceit, lies and cover-ups that strike at the very heart of global democracy. And the truth about what happened to Mercy is finally revealed.

And that truth will shock Atlee Pine to her very core.

This series just keeps getting better. Baldacci spins the most brilliant stories and FBI Agent, Atlee Pine and her administrative assistant, Carol Blum are terrific characters. In concept, there’s something of The Fugitive about this series only, rather than chasing the unknown one-armed man, Atlee Pine is trying to find the man who took her twin sister Mercy some thirty years ago and left six year old Atlee seriously injured.

Atlee is making progress, too. She has followed a trail and discovered a lot of useful information. For that reason, I would not read this as a stand-alone, but read from the beginning to enjoy the series from the start.

Following the leads from Book Two, A Minute to Midnight, Atlee is now pursuing the Vincenzo family, mobsters with connections in all sorts of unlikely places. She tracks Ito Vincenzo’s family to New Jersey but finds that he has been missing for some time and his son is in prison. Tracking down his grandson, she finds herself caught up in a high stakes investigation led by investigation led by Army CID investigator. John Puller. (I enjoy the crossover of characters from the Baldacci universe and this time both John Puller and his brother, Robert are involved).

Though Atlee had no way of knowing, there’s a web of deceit being woven around her and soon she and Puller, working together, find themselves he targets of killers who are prepared to stop at nothing in their quest to use blackmail, drugs, sex and extortion in order to maintain their hold on the levers of power.

Their investigation walks them straight into danger and with their lives at stake, they realise that this enemy has friends in the highest places. What follows is both surprising and explosive. Every time you think you know what’s coming, Baldacci throws another curve ball right at you. Daylight is powerful, shocking and riveting.

Verdict: Baldacci has a great line in powerfully paced, exciting thrillers and this one is no exception. What makes this series though is Atlee Pine’s dogged determination to find out what happened to her sister and the revelations that she uncovers are truly shocking and surprising. Daylight is another electrifying book in this unmissable series.

Buy Daylight

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.

The Searcher by Tana French @TanaFrench @GeorgiaKTaylor @VikingBooksUK

Source: Review copy
Publication: 5th November 2020 from Viking
PP:  400
ISBN-13: 978-0241459409

A DISAPPEARANCE. A SMALL TOWN. A QUESTION THAT NEEDS ANSWERING…

Cal Hooper thought a fixer-upper in a remote Irish village would be the perfect escape. After twenty-five years in the Chicago police force, and a bruising divorce, he just wants to build a new life in a pretty spot with a good pub where nothing much happens.

But then a local kid comes looking for his help. His brother has gone missing, and no one, least of all the police, seems to care. Cal wants nothing to do with any kind of investigation, but somehow he can’t make himself walk away.

Soon Cal will discover that even in the most idyllic small town, secrets lie hidden, people aren’t always what they seem, and trouble can come calling at his door.

You might be forgiven for thinking that Tana French’s The Searcher is vaguely familiar. Cast your mind back to John Ford’s classic movie.  An American Civil War veteran spends years looking for his abducted niece, taking his adoptive nephew on his journey. Tana French’s novel is an homage to Ford’s The Searchers.

Cal Hooper is no civil war veteran, but he is a veteran cop, retired after 25 bruising years in the Chicago Police Department where he saw first-hand everything that was wrong with contemporary policing. He’s had his fill of brutality from his colleagues and of seeing kids on the streets who don’t believe him when he says Black Lives Matter. Cal’s also just been through a hard divorce and though he loves his daughter wholeheartedly, has taken himself out of the country and bought a tumbledown cottage in Ardnakelty, a small rural community in the West of Ireland.

He wants nothing more than to spend time in peace, working with his hands to renovate his new home and to know that as he listens to his Johnny Cash albums at full volume, there’s no-one around to disturb.

Tana French’s novel is a character study of a man burnt out and disillusioned. Cal is a good cop in a bad world seeking a measure of peace and space to recover his equilibrium. He’s not completely isolated, of course. There’s a village not too far away that supplies his provisions. A neighbour, Mart, drops by every now and again to shoot the breeze and cadge a packet of biscuits, but by and large it is a solitary existence and that’s the way Cal likes it.

But when he becomes aware he is being watched, everything changes. His cop instincts kick in and soon he is face to face with Trey, a 13 year old urchin who has heard that Cal is a cop and wants him to look for his missing brother, Brendan.

Now, I really liked this book, but not really for the plot as much as the tackling of some pretty deep rooted issues. I liked the very slow burn, the wonderful descriptions of the Irish rural landscape and the seemingly laconic locals who are all affable on the face of it, but just as capable of nursing serious grudges for decades. French has a way of showing you what lies underneath the folksy land of the Irish and revealing a series of unpalatable truths which have their roots in the political and economic landscape of the harsh rural economy that is 21st Century Ireland.

She beautifully turns the screw on her characters so that we begin to understand that there’s a lot going on below the surface and that for every friendly gesture, sure there’s maybe the most delicate hint of something else as well.  That sense of things below the surface, of a small town atmosphere turning from quaint to something altogether more claustrophobic and unsettling is part of what makes this book so interesting.

Cal is a man who has cone to Ardnakelty in search of peace and slowly he finds that what he always thought he understood about justice; what he understood about himself and his own moral principles is in need of re-examination and re-evaluation.

Verdict: A very slow burn, full of delicious prose that provides a backdrop to understanding that the ethical code that Cal has lived by may not be relevant any more. The Searcher is a contemplative piece of wonderful writing wrapped round a mystery. Cal’s voice, which starts as so strong and resolute, is transformed by his investigative journey. I don’t think it’s slow pace will be for everyone, but I thought it a remarkable piece of completely compelling writing.

Buy The Searcher

Tana French is the author of The Searcher, In the Woods, The Likeness, Faithful Place, Broken Harbor, The Secret Place, The Trespasser and The Witch Elm. Her books have won awards including the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, and Barry awards, the Los Angeles Times Award for Best Mystery/Thriller, and the Irish Book Award for Crime Fiction. She lives in Dublin with her family.

The Game by Luca Veste @LucaVeste @simonschusterUK @jessbarratt88

Source: Review copy
Publication: 12 November 2020 from Simon & Schuster
PP: 432
ISBN-13: 978-1471168185

THEY KNOW WHAT YOU DID

You receive a call, an email, a text – someone knows your secret and they want to ruin you.

AND THEY’RE OUT FOR BLOOD

If you don’t do what they say, they’ll tell everyone what you’ve been hiding.

They will come after you, destroy you, and they aren’t afraid to kill.

IT’S TIME TO PLAY THE GAME

This book is shocking. Not because it has terrible murders, though it does indeed. Not because of the violence or the surprising reveals, though it has these, too, but because this is a book about the perfidious nature of online activity and the extent to which it can destroy lives. We hear a lot about the cruelty of live interaction these days and indeed, there’s a man right now showing us just how perceptions can be skewed if you perpetuate lies with enough authority.

As we begin The Game, a man is in police custody admitting to a series of 8 murders. He hasn’t asked for a lawyer, he won’t tell the police who he is; he’s just spilling out the names of his victims and how he killed them, waiting for the police to write it all down. The fact that he was found next to the dead body of a girl should surely be enough to convince them that he is serious.

DC Mark Flynn is a bit of a loner. He works in the Liverpool Major Crimes Unit but hasn’t really jelled with his colleagues and so, more often than not, he pursues a solitary path.

He is trying to work out what has happened to Emily Burns, a missing young woman. At the place where she was last seen, is a blood trail, but that hasn’t led him anywhere. Now the body of a young woman has been found murdered. While his colleagues try to find her killer, Mark is convinced that Emily’s disappearance and this murdered young woman are connected. But how and why?

As Mark investigates, it becomes clear that he is a pawn in someone else’s deadly game.

Luca Veste’s novel is a clever and deeply chilling examination of how social isolation and peer pressure can separate people from their sense of self-worth. Building on urban myths and the susceptibility of the lonely and socially isolated, The Game takes hold of people through their darkest secrets and manipulates them into committing desperate acts.

The reader learns most of what is going on through DC Flynn, but Veste cleverly draws us into The Game, too, as we learn things that Mark Flynn does not know. His propensity for self-doubt; his distrust of authority and his tendency to work alone are leading him deep into a mystery that could have deadly consequences.

Veste builds a compelling, creepy tale that has a solid core of truth and it doesn’t take too much of a leap to see how things can escalate into the scenes of murder and manipulation that the books portrays.

Verdict: Clever, creepy, compelling.

Buy The Game

Luca Veste is a writer of Italian and Liverpudlian heritage, married with two young daughters, and is one of nine children. He studied psychology and criminology at university in Liverpool. He is the author of the Murphy and Rossi series. He also wrote the stand-alone novels, The Bone Keeper and The Six.
His books have been translated and published in the USA, Germany, Czech Republic, and Poland. As well as writing, Luca is also a guitarist and regularly performs with the group The Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers. Luca is also one half of the very funny podcast duo, Two Crime Writers and a Microphone. If you haven’t heard Luca and his partner in crime, Steve Cavanagh, then you really should subscribe!

The Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly @Connellybooks @Orion_Crime @Tr4cyF3nt0n

Source: Review copy
Publication: 10th November 2020 from Orion
PP: 416
ISBN-13: 978-1409186106

My thanks to the publisher for an advance copy of this book for review purposes

THE MOST IMPORTANT CASE OF HIS LIFE

ONLY THIS TIME THE DEFENDANT IS HIMSELF

“The law of innocence is unwritten. It will not be found in a leather-bound code book. It will never be argued in a courtroom. In nature, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In the law of innocence, for every man not guilty of a crime there is a man out there who is. And to prove true innocence the guilty man must be found and exposed to the world.”

* * * * *

Like many people, I have really struggled to read a lot of the time during the various iterations of lockdown. Not so with this book which was rather like wearing a comfortable pair of running shoes. Slip them on and you are ready and raring to go.

Connelly makes everything seem effortless. A consummate storyteller who writes protagonists you get to know and love. Mickey Haller is no exception. He knows that only a fool has himself as a client, but just the same he’s going to defend himself against the most awful charge of murder. It looks like the prosecution has a slam dunk case and with Haller behind bars, his team, including Harry Bosch,  is working day and night to find the threads that will lead to his ability to prove his innocence.

But it’s not just the prosecution who are out to get him. Incarcerated in the Twin Towers Correctional Centre, unable and unwilling to find the $millions of bail money demanded, his life is under threat every moment he is locked up. He has to pay for protection and that doesn’t come cheap. Haller knows he didn’t do it, he just has to find out who did, because that’s the only way he gets to walk free without a stain on his character.

This is really the first book I have read that references the current situation. Not in a heavy handed way, though. As the book begins, stories of the virus are beginning to filter through. By the time it has ended, people are wearing masks and panic buying. This novel takes place in contemporary America and we know what is to come, even if Haller doesn’t.

I love these books because of the characters, certainly, but also because Connelly plots beautifully and sets up the situations so well. Tight corners, judges who won’t make the rulings Haller needs, and above all, the requirement to be one step ahead of the prosecution so that he can see the ambushes coming. Trial psychology is explained by the Lincoln Lawyer and we lap it up.

This is such a good legal thriller. Nail-bitingly tense, seriously twisted and with an up-to the-wire  timetable attached, the reader is poised on the edge of their seat, unable to put it down until you know how it ends.

I do love a courtroom drama and here Connelly’s grasp of the legal system, warts and all, is second to none. From procedural motions to cross examination, every word is gold and every action unmissable. It takes a lot of hard work to make a book as easy to enjoy as this one and a great deal of skill to make it entertaining and still deliver surprises right up to the end.

Verdict: If you like a great thriller and love a courtroom drama, they really don’t get much better than this. Bang up to the minute, a hugely enjoyable read, this book is a sure fire winner.

Forum Books Bookshop.org.

A former police reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Michael Connelly is the internationally bestselling author of the Harry Bosch series, and several other bestsellers including the highly acclaimed legal thriller, The Lincoln Lawyer. The TV series – Bosch – is one of the most watched original series on Amazon Prime and is now in its third season. He has been President of the Mystery Writers of America, and his books have been translated into thirty-nine languages and have won awards all over the world, including the Edgar and Anthony Awards. He spends his time in California and Florida.

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Shadow Sands by Robert Bryndza (Kate Marshall #2) @RobertBryndza @TheCrimeVault @LittleBrownUK

Source : Review copy
Publication: 3 November 2020 from Sphere
PP: 384
ISBN-13: 978-0751572742

When Kate Marshall finds the bloated body of a young man floating in the Shadow Sands reservoir, the authorities label it a tragic accident.

But the details don’t add up: why was he there, in the middle of the night? If he was such a strong swimmer, how did he drown? As Kate and her assistant Tristan Harper follow the evidence, they make a far darker discovery . . .

This is only the latest victim in a series of bloody murders dating back decades. A mythic serial killer is said to hide in the rolling fog, abducting his victims like a phantom. And when another woman is taken, Kate and Tristan have a matter of days to save her from meeting the same fate.

I really enjoyed Nine Elms, the first in the Kate Marshall series, so I was excited to see where Robert Bryndza would take Kate Marshall. Kate was a Detective Constable until she became entangled personally and professionally in a case that almost cost her her life. Now she lectures in Criminology in Ashdean, Devon. She is assisted in her work by a very capable teaching assistant, Tristan.

Bryndza gives you enough of Kate’s backstory for you to understand that she has a traumatic past. One that caused her to leave the police force for good and which has resulted in her son being brought up by her parents, so you know that her trauma runs deep.

When the book opens, Kate and her son Jake are spending time together. They have been taking diving proficiency classes and on an outing, they go diving in the Shadow Sands reservoir. There they discover the dead body of Simon Kendall and Kate wastes no time in calling the police.

The police are quickly inclined to rule the death a suicide, but Simon’s mother knows her son would not have taken his own life and begs Kate to look into it since the police seem to have made up their minds.

Using her knowledge and contacts, it doesn’t take Kate long to ascertain that something is amiss and that the circumstances of Simon’s death were nor straightforward. Tristan has been doing some research of his own and he finds a Professor in the University who also has an interest in the Shadow Sands area and who is able to tell him about other strange goings on in the surroundings of the reservoir.

Bryndza’s ability to make his central characters incredibly empathetic and likeable immediately make you warm to both Kate and Tristan and it is good to begin to find out more about the latter who becomes much more of a fleshed out character in this book. His facility to draw the reader quickly into a story and to invest them with a stake in the outcome is indicative of a writer who really understands his audience.

Bryndza weaves a complex and thrilling plot, giving us characters who we can care about and some who are all too easy to dislike and who provide excellent suspect fodder. In this multi-layered investigation, everyone is a suspect and you are left wondering what’s been going on at the reservoir and quite why so many people disappear from its environs.

Bryndza reels you in from the very beginning, his tense and exciting plot leading you to suspect everyone and trust no-one, not even the police. The narrative drive is forceful, turning this into a powerful and almost one sit read, as you need to know not only who is responsible, but just as importantly, why.

I love the suspense in this fast-paced story and hearing from both the victim and the killer in their own words produces a visceral reaction that makes the hairs on your neck stand up and a cold shiver run down your spine.

With characters you love to hate and the return of a nemesis for Kate, there’s plenty to keep the reader on the edge of the seat in this action packed suspenseful thriller.

Verdict: With very personal moments for both Kate and Tristan sweetening and deepening a skilled mix of suspense and tension, Bryndza has pulled together the perfect ingredients for the second Kate Marshall novel. Roll on Book Three!

Hive Books                       Waterstones                    Amazon

Robert Bryndza is the author of the international #1 bestselling Detective Erika Foster series and the Kate Marshall series. Robert’s books have sold over 4 million copies and have been translated into 29 languages. He is British and lives in Slovakia.

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