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Degrees of Guilt by HS Chandler @Helen_Fields @TrapezeBooks@AlainnaGeorgiou

Source: Review copy: Netgalley
Publication: 16 May 2019 from Trapeze
PP: 368
ISBN-13: 978-1409178217

When you read this book, you will think you know every twist in the tale.

Maria is on trial for attempted murder.
She has confessed to the crime and wanted her husband dead.

Lottie is on the jury, trying to decide her fate.She embarks on an illicit affair with a stranger, and her husband can never find out.
You will think you know who is guilty and who is innocent.

You will be wrong.

A gripping, sexy and twisty novel for readers who devoured ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL, APPLE TREE YARD and HE SAID/SHE SAID.

Readers of my blog will know that I am a massive fan of Helen Fields’ police procedurals, set in Edinburgh.  So when I heard that she had written a psychological thriller under a nom de plume, I could not wait to get my hands on it.

A bonus for me is that this is a legal thriller, predominantly set in Bristol’s High Court. I do love a good legal thriller, and this one is a cracker. Maria Bloxham is on trial for attempted murder. She was hoping that it would have been murder, but sadly her husband for the last 18 years, Edward Bloxham, survived, albeit he is now in a vegetative state.

Maria confessed to bludgeoning her husband after calling the police following her husband’s collapse at their home. It should be an open and shut case for the jury, though Maria is pleading not guilty.

Degrees of Guilt follows the jury process, though not so literally as to spoil the story, to show the reader the trial process and jury deliberations in a trial where it soon becomes clear, we do not know anything like the whole story.

This is a novel that pares back the layers of seemingly successful and conventional marriages to expose the egos, fragility and darkness that lies below.

There are those that relish being part of the action on a big jury trial, and others who wish themselves thousands of miles away, and Chandler neatly brings us a microcosm of juries across the country who bring their own experiences and prejudices to the British jury system.

Lottie Hiraj is a wife and mother. Called to serve on the jury, she is feeling just a little bit liberated as she gets to leave her humdrum life as a stay at  home mother. Lottie is married to Zain, a handsome, middle class Pakistani with ambition. She loves him, but is finding that since the birth of their son, Daniyal, her world has become small and lacking in stimulation. She needs her little grey cells stimulated and once selected, relishes the vitality of being in a room with other adults discussing a challenging scenario.

The evidence itself is harrowing, but of course only tells one part of the story; here interpretation is everything. From the barristers to the psychologist, to the police inspector and to Maria herself, this is a story that everyone has a view about, but how the jury interprets it will be crucial.

Lottie is delighted to find that in the summer heat of Bristol, one of the jurors, a local craftsman, seems very attracted to her and after some light flirtations, it is clear that she is as attracted to him as he is to her. This feeling of being desired and of having her opinions valued feels new and exciting to Lottie and soon she is embroiled in a previously unthinkable situation.

While the courtroom battle proceeds and Maria’s case of self-defence seems hopeless, Lottie is finding that there is more than one unreliable narrator in this domestic noir drama.

Maria is fighting for her freedom, but can she convince the jury of the validity of her word. What is justice in the context of a story where the only evidence is the word of one woman?

Juror Lottie now finds herself in a supremely difficult position, but this will give her the edge that she needs to come to the right conclusion?

Chandler has written a riveting, pacey and very black story for our times which illustrates only too well the need for a law on coercive control.  Her narrative is compelling and the stories of Lottie and Maria keep us on the hook while we wriggle and turn at every twist, trying to comprehend who is telling the truth and where justice really lies.

Verdict:  A brilliant, exciting and addictive novel from a terrific storyteller

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HS Chandler is the pen name of Helen Fields. As HS Chandler she writes psychological thrillers and legal thrillers. With a background as a criminal and family law barrister, Helen now runs a media company and writes the Callanach crime series.

The Keto for One Cookbook by Dana Carpender

Source: Review copy #Netgalley
Publication: Fair Winds Press on 9 May 2019
PP: 176
ISBN-13: 978-1592338689

With Keto For One, get 100 delicious dishes for every meal of the day—perfectly proportioned and macro-balanced.

Single-serve cooking is one of the biggest challenges when trying to adhere to an eating plan. Most recipes are portioned for 4–6 servings, which means you’ll be eating the same thing for a week or trying to adjust recipes and struggling to figure out proper cooking times and fractions of measurements. With keto, you also have the additional challenge of balancing your macronutrients—a few too many carbs or not enough fat and your recipe is no longer in the ketogenic zone.

No more fussing with recipes. No more eating leftovers. No more wasted food (or money!). No more cobbling together snacks and calling it a meal. No more temptation to give into carb-laden, nutrient-void, single-serving convenience foods. Just delicious recipes from “low-carb queen” and best-selling author Dana Carpender. Enjoy delicious keto burgers and smoothies, as well as quick skillet stir-fries and plenty of tasty meals that can be pulled together quickly or ahead of time. 

I chose to read this book because I need to radically improve my nutrition and have now started on a low carb diet. So a recipe book for one person made a lot of sense to me, as variety of tastes is one of the things that really make a difference when you are pursuing a long term weight loss strategy.

The author has written a number of books on this topic and very clearly knows her onions (higher in carbs than you might think).

I enjoyed the common sense explanation at the front of the book which lays out exactly what and why a ketogenic diet is and also contains some useful suggestions for cooking oils and other cooking substances which advance the low carb diet.

The recipes are simple and straightforward and gave me some good ideas to vary the tastes for my palate. Lots of eggs, unsurprisingly, but also making sure to have lots of different flavours and a mix of textures. I found out about mayonnaise with MCT (coconut) oil and how to make chocolate-peanut butter no bakes. Sounds fab, I know, but Dana Carpender is no novice to this style of eating and cooking. Her sweet treats section comes with a stern warning: “the simplest sweet keto treat is a couple of squares of 85 percent dark chocolate—1 ounce (28 g) has 11 grams of carb, 4 of them from fiber, for a net carb count of 7 grams. But you have to be able to quit at 1 ounce. Know thyself.”

Overall, though due to its origins, it is very American in approach, I think this is a really useful recipe book to use in conjunction with your own calorie counting and carb watching regime. I’ll certainly be trying out more of these recipes as I go along.

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Dana Carpender (born October 18, 1958) is an American food writer, best known for writing about low carbohydrate dieting. Carpender lives with her husband in Bloomington, Indiana

Conviction by Denise Mina @DameDeniseMina @HarvillSecker @LucieTwiggs

Source: Review copy, Netgalley
Publication: 16th May 2019 from Harvill Secker
PP: 384
ISBN13: 978-1911215257

It’s just a normal morning for Anna McDonald. Gym kits, packed lunches, getting everyone up and ready. Until she opens the front door to her best friend, Estelle. Anna turns to see her own husband at the top of the stairs, suitcase in hand. They’re leaving together and they’re taking Anna’s two daughters with them.

Left alone in the big, dark house, Anna can’t think, she can’t take it in. With her safe, predictable world shattered, she distracts herself with a story: a true-crime podcast. There’s a sunken yacht in the Mediterranean, multiple murders and a hint of power and corruption. Then Anna realises she knew one of the victims in another life. She is convinced she knows what happened. Her past, so carefully hidden until now, will no longer stay silent.

This is a murder she can’t ignore, and she throws herself into investigating the case. But little does she know, her past and present lives are about to collide, sending everything she has worked so hard to achieve into freefall.

The overwhelming feeling I got from Conviction – one of my must read books of 2019, was of deliciously enjoyable light and shade. This is a writer having fun and there’s a delicate touch to the writing that allows Mina to deploy her dark humour while wrapping us in an engrossing story that carries us on journeys across Europe (thank goodness there’s no Brexit here yet) in search of a stunning denouement.

Anna McDonald is our protagonist. She lives well in Glasgow’s comfortably corniced West End with her husband, Hamish and her two daughters, Jess and Lizzie. A light and uneasy sleeper, Anna loves having the early mornings to herself when she uses her solitary time to listen to true crime podcasts.

Death and the Dana is her current listen. A six-episode series about the sinking of the Dana, a yacht moored on an island off the west coast of France, near La Rochelle. One night, the ship slipped out of the harbour with its navigation lights off and using no and radio communication. It crossed the shipping channel, suffered an explosion below decks, and sank in the Bay of Biscay.  Aboard were a father and his two grown children, Mark and Violetta. The crew had been paid and sent ashore, and the chef had boarded a plane to Lyon. Yet she was charged with and convicted of the murder of al three. Podcast producer Trina Keany is having trouble making sense of this judgement. The sinking of the Dana and the deaths of these three are surrounded by intrigue and have all the hallmarks of a great story;  a tragic event, money, a reclusive heiress, ghosts and too many secrets to uncover in one episode.

As the novel begins, Anna’s life is about to be turned upside down. Her best friend, Estelle arrives at the door and as she does so, husband Hamish leaves with her, taking her daughters and leaving her without so much as a backward glance. Hamish and Estelle are off to Portugal with the girls, generously allowing Anna a week to get used to her new situation, and then they’ll be back to live in the house. Hamish generously leaves Anna a wad of cash – ‘re-settlement money’ – so that she can find somewhere else to go. He’s a peach, isn’t he?

Overwhelmed by shock and struggling to understand what has been going on under her nose, Anna’s hold on reality is obtained by her focus on the true crime podcast, mostly because she recognises a name from her past in connection with the crime. Anna met Leon Parker years ago, when she was working as a maid at the chic and exclusive Skibo Castle, where Parker was a guest. They used to chat over a clandestine cigarette by the bins and Anna liked the way that Leon neither patronised nor pawed at her but simply enjoyed sharing stories and the odd joke.

When Fin Cohen, Estelle’s husband, turns up on her doorstep, it’s clear he is in a worse state than Anna. Fin is a rock star, one who had a meteoric rise to fame and then couldn’t handle the pressure; now he is an anorexic and quite fragile. Estelle’s decision to leave him has hit him hard.

Anna and Fin launch decide to take a trip to get away from the wreckage of their lives. As they travel, Anna plays the Dana podcast and Fin, too gets caught up in the mystery. The two set off to work together to solve the mystery behind the sunken Dana – as much a diversion therapy as anything else, but why not? After all, Anna has this wad of cash burning a hole in her pocket.

It isn’t long before we realise that there is more to Anna than we were at first led to believe. Mina spins a compelling first person story narrative – a web within a spider’s web, where the threads are intertwined and to solve one set of murders we will first have to understand what lies behind Anna’s own story and to conquer the dragon that has been breathing fire on Anna’s heels for years.

Anna is stronger than she knows and her resilience will inspire Fin to create their own podcast, a narrative on solving the Dana crimes. Fin’s celebrity status means their podcast jumps high in the ratings from the outset, attracting not only fascinated listeners but also agents of destruction bent on stopping Fin and Anna.

Denise Mina has written a brilliant, character driven, edgy and relatable crime thriller that combines the best characterisation with compelling story telling. There’s so much too this exceptional, layered crime thriller that the reader will be captivated and enthralled by the deft plotting, stunning secrets and rich characters that populate the pages.

Inside this true crime podcast is an even truer story. An everyday story of rape, trauma, persecution and privilege prevailing.  A shocking, unhinging tale of how money talks loudest of all.

In Anna, Mina has given us an astonishingly rich character. Anna is a resilient sharp and focussed protagonist whose clear sight and determination can move mountains, when you thought you were getting a story about castles and ghosts. She ought not to be likable. From the beginning of this novel she has been clear that she’s no big fan of the truth. ‘Lie and lie again’ is her motto. Yet despite her penchant for lying and her deceitful behaviour, there’s something about Anna you can’t help but like even before you know her story.

Mina takes her readers on a fascinating journey across Europe in search of the truth. In doing so she articulates the power in speaking the truth and in being heard. Amidst this undeniably gripping crime story there is another story that stands true and proud and calls out its name unashamedly.

This is the power of Conviction, a novel with two stories and two meanings. Amidst the luxury yachts of France’s coastline and glamorous European locations taking us into the world of international finance, Mina spins her pacey tale with dark humour, sordid deeds and fabulously described characters.

Verdict: There’s enough here for every reader with twists and turns to delight and confound.  What lingers, though, is the impact of Anna’s ability to finally stop sheltering behind the lies. To feel the impact on her relationships of being able to come out and speak the truth. To finally hear her own story in her own words, told with conviction. That’s a story to be proud of, too.

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After a peripatetic childhood in Glasgow, Paris, London, Invergordon, Bergen and Perth, Denise Mina left school early. Working in a number of dead end jobs, all of them badly, before studying at night school to get into Glasgow University Law School. 

Denise went on to study for a PhD at Strathclyde, misusing her student grant to write her first novel. This was Garnethill, published in 1998, which won the Crime Writers Association John Creasy Dagger for Best First Crime Novel.

She has now published 12 novels and also writes short stories, plays and graphic novels. In 2014 she was inducted into the Crime Writers’ Association Hall of Fame. Her novel The Long Drop won the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year in 2017.

Denise presents TV and radio programmes as well as regularly appearing in the media, and has made a film about her own family. She regularly appears at literary festivals in the UK and abroad, leads masterclasses on writing and was a judge for the Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction 2014.



Sleep by C.L.Taylor @callytaylor @avonbooks @sabah_K #blogtour #daretosleep

Source: Review copy
Publication: 4th April 2019 from Avon Books
PP: 368
ISBN-13: 978-0008301316

All Anna wants is to be able to sleep. But crushing insomnia, terrifying night terrors and memories of that terrible night are making it impossible. If only she didn’t feel so guilty…

To escape her past, Anna takes a job at a hotel on the remote Scottish island of Rum, but when seven guests join her, what started as a retreat from the world turns into a deadly nightmare.

Each of the guests have a secret, but one of them is lying – about who they are and why they’re on the island. There’s a murderer staying in the Bay View hotel. And they’ve set their sights on Anna.

Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One deadly lie.

Someone’s going to sleep and never wake up…

The million-copy bestseller is back in her darkest, twistiest book to date. Read it if you dare!

Sleep is the ultimate locked room mystery. From the moment the prologue begins you know you are in for a thrilling time. Our protagonist, Anna, is carrying a ton of guilt following a deadly car accident in which she was one of the drivers. The combination of her own guilt and the end of her already rocky relationship has caused her to feel vulnerable and alone. Constantly looking over her shoulder, she is jumpy and keeps thinking she is being followed.

In a desperate attempt to put everything behind her, she accepts a job on one of Scotland’s more remote islands. Anna’s new job is at the island’s only hotel, working with the owner. It’s hard work and there’s a constant toll on her time, but that’s how she likes it, as she is still having problems relaxing and sleep is intermittent, at best.

Things are going reasonably well until a new batch of 7 guests arrive, filling the small hotel. They are bound for hill walking and exploring until a dark and forbidding storm rolls in, creating a dark, intensely claustrophobic atmosphere and Anna begins to think that one of the guests may be more sinister than she had thought.

As the storm swirls around them, Anna will become more and more fearful as the mainland remains inaccessible and slowly their rations diminish and the power fluctuates. We learn more about the individual guests and as we do so our own fears for Anna increase exponentially.

Anna begins to receive messages that she knows are threatening, but with no idea who is sending them, she can trust no-one. Then as death inevitable raises its cruel and unflinching head on this storm ridden island, Anna knows she is trapped with a killer who wants revenge,

With some pacy and unsettling writing, C.L. Taylor brilliantly deflects and misleads until we are looking at every guest and, just like Anna, wondering where the next blow will come from.

Verdict: A brilliant and twisty thriller, Sleep stands out as a tense, dark and claustrophobic chilling psychological thriller.

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C.L. Taylor lives in Bristol with her partner and young son. She is a four times Sunday Times bestseller and her books have hit the number one spots on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks and Google Play. Cally has a degree in Psychology, with particular interest in abnormal and criminal Psychology. She also loves knitting, Dr Who, Sherlock, Great British Bake Off and Margaret Atwood and blames Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected for her love of a dark tale.

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What Red Was by Rosie Price @VintageBooks @LucieTwiggs #RosiePrice #bookreview

Source: Review copy
Publication: 9TH May 2019 from Harvill Secker
PP: 304
ISBN-13: 978-1787301382

‘Kate Quaile,’ he said. ‘I like your name.’

Kate frowned. ‘How do you know my name?’

Throughout their four years at university, Kate and Max are inseparable. For him, she breaks her solitude; for her, he leaves his busy circles behind. But loving Max means knowing his family, the wealthy Rippons, all generosity, social ease and quiet repression. Theirs is not Kate’s world. At their London home, just after graduation, her life is shattered apart in a bedroom while a party goes on downstairs.

What Red Was explores the effects of trauma on mind and body, the tyrannies of memory, the sacrifices involved in staying silent, the courage of a young woman in speaking out. And when Kate does, this question: whose story is it now?

What Red Was is one of those books I picked up with no knowledge and no expectations.  Immediately I was drawn to the clear, cool, quality of Rosie Price’s writing which carries an assured feel that belies her young age.

This is the story of an unequal relationship between first year University student, Kate and fellow student Max who bond over their love of films. Kate comes from a modest single parent family; Max has a privileged, somewhat flamboyant background. Max’s mother, Zara, is a well-known film director and the extended family, though somewhat dysfunctional is still living a life of entitlement.

Kate and Max are close; their bond is strong and though they are not lovers, they are as close as they can be. Kate is welcomed into Max’s family with open arms and she is entranced by Zara, from whom she hopes may learn skills that will help her in her aim to enter film production.

Somewhat distant from her own mother, Kate sees Zara as a figure to admire and look up to.

Then one day, whilst visiting Max at his family home for  party, Kate is subjected to a violent sexual assault. She is raped and by someone from the family.

The rape is not gratuitously told, but it is clear and harsh and completely calculating. The rest of the story is Kate’s reaction to the rape and how she, at first, tells no-one but tries to carry on with her life.

This makes Kate’s story all the more heart-breaking, because you can feel Kate’s desperation to have her secret discovered, without actually having to verbalise the words. It’s as if she wants so badly to tell someone but she feels powerless to do so.

What follows is the disintegration of a young intelligent woman whose life unravels as she tries and fails to make sense of her own experience. While she will find the courage to verbalise what has happened to her, those she initially tells will try to help her, though none will explicitly suggest that she seeks to prosecute the offender, for reasons of their own.

So Kate struggles and withdraws and suffers the kind of internal grief that can come to no good. Kate is diminished, uncertain and works hard to restore her own sense of self and worth. Her relationship with Max becomes more distant and though Max instinctively knows that all is not right with Kate, the fact that he does not act or ask her outright is suggestive of his being fearful that he will learn the truth.

Max has his own demons, his friendship with Elias is leading him into substance abuse and his family’s bohemian attitudes do nothing to inhibit his excesses.

So why did I like this book so much? The subject matter is not what I would normally choose to read, but the clarity of the writing; the depth of characterisation and the exquisite observation of how powerlessness and rage can play themselves out with quiet dignity is both startling and profound. There is also an interesting dynamic at work between Max, Zara and Kate that revolves around power and its abuse and how Kate reacts to that.

The impact of Kate’s experience and how she finds her way back from it with an increased sense of self and more empowerment is a powerful story that is clearly not one to be emulated, but still leaves a lasting impression.

Verdict: Beautifully written, raw and visceral, this is an elegantly expressed book that will keep me thinking long after I close the final pages.

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Rosie Price is 26 years old and grew up in Gloucestershire where What Red Was is partly set. After reading English at Cambridge she worked as an assistant at a literary agency before leaving to focus on her own writing. She now lives in London. WHAT RED WAS is her debut novel.

Never Be Broken by Sarah Hilary (D.I.Marnie Rome#6) @sarah_hilary @Headlinepg @JenniferLeech1

Source: Review copy
Publication: 16th May 2019 from Headline
PP: 368
ISBN-13: 978-1472249005

Children are dying on London’s streets. Frankie Reece, stabbed through the heart, outside a corner shop. Others recruited from care homes, picked up and exploited; passed like gifts between gangs. They are London’s lost.

Then Raphaela Belsham is killed. She’s thirteen years old, her father is a man of influence, from a smart part of town. And she’s white. Suddenly, the establishment is taking notice.

DS Noah Jake is determined to handle Raphaela’s case and Frankie’s too. But he’s facing his own turmoil, and it’s becoming an obsession. DI Marnie Rome is worried, and she needs Noah on side. Because more children are disappearing, more are being killed by the day and the swelling tide of violence needs to be stemmed before it’s too late.

NEVER BE BROKEN is a stunning, intelligent and gripping novel which explores how the act of witness alters us, and reveals what lies beneath the veneer of a glittering city.

Happy publication day to Sarah Hilary for Never Be Broken, her 6th book in the hugely successful Marnie Rome series. I genuinely think Sarah Hilary is one of the best contemporary crime writers around. Intelligent, and compassionate. she is a thoughtful and always fascinating author.

So to Never Be Broken, which feels like the culmination of a six year story involving Marnie and her step brother, Stephen. More of that later, because first I want to focus on the main plotline.

It’s really not possible to read one of Sarah Hilary’s books without being inextricably drawn into the political and socio-economic aspects of policing in London.

Hilary never flinches from taking social and political themes that have immediate relevance in our contemporary lives. In Never Be Broken Noah Jake has centre stage. Shocked, guilt stricken and grieving after the death of his brother, Sol, he has thrown himself into work, but his mind is still partially elsewhere as he confronts the teenage victims of crime that are the focus of this novel.

It is an all too deadly occurrence these days; children dying from the results of knife crime on the streets of our capital city. Used as drug mules, lookouts and even for sex trafficking, have we really reached the stage as a society that we can listen to reports of children dying from the results of crime on our streets and still think we live in a civilised society? If so,is it because these children are predominantly poor and of multi-ethnic heritage?

In Never Be Broken 13 year old ‘Raffa’ Belsham from Muswell Hill is shot dead in a drive-by killing. It is one of a number of killings that Marnie’s team are investigating, alongside that of Frankie Reece, stabbed outside a corner shop.

Raffa’s killing is different only insofar as she is white and from a ‘good’ area of the city.  Her family are well spoken and well-connected and they are adamant that there is no way that Raffa’s death could have anything to do with the notorious Erskine Tower block where other supposed gang related child killings have occurred.

Noah finds it difficult to come to terms with the death of these children and feeling it ever more keenly because of Sol, he wants to ensure that he can bring the killers to justice.

This is all strong stuff as Hilary explores gang life, intimidation, societal breakdown and fragmented communities. Doing so in the context of Noah’s loss makes a deeply personal story resonate with a larger beat across these killings.

Hilary takes an everyday – and just listen to these words – *an every day* story about knife crime and child gang killings and shows us what it is to undergo mental anguish and to suffer the loss of a child. Still, the compassion shown by Frankie Reece’s mother is the true spirit of Erskine Tower block and she offers another way.

As for Marnie and Stephen, Hilary finds a way to close the vicious circle in which Marnie and her step brother have been doing an unsettling dance for the last 6 books. She does so in a way that gives Marnie closure and offers hope to the reader.

And it is hope that we take away from this book. Hope that both Marnie and Noah are on a healing path. Hope that society will recognise that our children are being needlessly sacrificed. Hope that we can begin to look at ways we can bring our fragmented selves together to fight for a better future. Hope that there will be more like Mrs Reece who can show us the way.

I don’t know whether there will be more Marnie Rome books. I certainly hope so, but with Never Be Broken, it feels like we have come to a suitable place to pause and reflect, before taking that tentative step forward again.

Verdict: Heartbreaking, tense, intelligent storytelling from a writer at the top of her game. You won’t get better writing than this.

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Sarah’s debut, Someone Else’s Skin, won Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year and was a World Book Night selection. The Observer’s Book of the Month (“superbly disturbing”) and a Richard & Judy Book Club bestseller, it was a Silver Falchion and Macavity Award finalist in the US. No Other Darkness, the second in the series was shortlisted for a Barry Award. Her DI Marnie Rome series continued with Tastes Like Fear (longlisted for Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year 2017) and Quieter Than Killing (Observer’s Thriller of the Month). Come and Find Me was published in 2018, with Never Be Broken in May 2019.

Perfect Crime by Helen Fields (D.I.Callanach #5) @Helen_Fields @AvonBooksUK @sabah_K #blogtour

Source: Review copy
Publication: 18 April 2019 from Avon
PP: 400
ISBN-13: 978-0008275204

Your darkest moment is your most vulnerable…

Stephen Berry is about to jump off a bridge until a suicide prevention counsellor stops him. A week later, Stephen is dead. Found at the bottom of a cliff, DI Luc Callanach and DCI Ava Turner are drafted in to investigate whether he jumped or whether he was pushed…

As they dig deeper, more would-be suicides roll in: a woman found dead in a bath; a man violently electrocuted. But these are carefully curated deaths – nothing like the impulsive suicide attempts they’ve been made out to be.

Little do Callanach and Turner know how close their perpetrator is as, across Edinburgh, a violent and psychopathic killer gains more confidence with every life he takes…

If you have read any of these books before, you will know that there is nothing Helen Fields likes more than finding ever more gruesome ways to kill off her victims. This is an author with a deliciously dark mind who does clearly enjoys seeing what kind of psychopathic killer she will release onto the streets of Edinburgh.

Ms Fields also likes to give her more regular characters a rough ride. So just when you think the fortunes are pointing the way ahead to D.I. Luc Callanach and D.C.I. Ava Turner, Fields will snatch away any chance of that in favour of yet another deeply frustrating set of encounters. This will they/won’t they game is played with aplomb, but this time Helen Fields has really set the cat amongst the pigeons.

A string of suicides in Edinburgh now appear to be murders, though it takes the police a while to come to that conclusion. In this fifth book in the series, Fields has strengthened he cast with some new promotions including DI Pax Graham and the team as a whole now looks more solid and lode bearing which should allow for greater flexibility in the forthcoming story arcs.

The murder/suicides form the first part of the story arc, whilst a long running story involving Luc and his past forms the second thread. I’m pleased to see that D.S. Overbeck plays a larger role in this book and we begin to understand a bit more about her as a character.

As to the serial killer, it’s fair to say that finding the culprit isn’t a hard spot, but that matters little as this well-written police procedural keeps you glued to your seat as you navigate the tension-fuelled pages.

Verdict: Dark, entertaining, witty. A fast-paced, thrilling story that keeps you on the edge of your seat and puts your heart in your mouth as you wait for the outcome of a battle to the death.

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Helen Fields’ first love was drama and music. From a very young age she spent all her free time acting and singing until law captured her attention as a career path. She studied law at the University of East Anglia, then went on to the Inns of Court School of Law in London.

After completing her pupillage, she joined chambers in Middle Temple where she practised criminal and family law for thirteen years. Undertaking cases that ranged from Children Act proceedings and domestic violence injunctions, to large scale drug importation and murder, Helen spent years working with the police, CPS, Social Services, expert witnesses and in Courts Martials.

After her second child was born, Helen left the Bar. Together with her husband David, she went on to run Wailing Banshee Ltd, a film production company, acting as script writer and producer.

Helen self-published two fantasy books as a way of testing herself and her writing abilities. She enjoyed the creative process so much that she began writing in a much more disciplined way, and decided to move into the traditional publishing arena through an agent.

The Perfect series is set in Scotland, where Helen feels most at one with the world. Edinburgh and San Francisco are her two favourite cities, and she travels whenever she can.

Beyond writing, she has a passion for theatre and cinema, often boring friends and family with lengthy reviews and critiques. Taking her cue from her children, she has recently taken up karate and indoor sky diving. Helen and her husband now live in Hampshire with their three children and two dogs.

You can follow Helen on Twitter @Helen_Fields

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Book reviews for the masses!