The Shadow Friend by Alex North @writer_north @MichaelJBooks @Ells85

Source: Review copy
Publication: 9th July 2020 from Michael Joseph
PP: 368
ISBN-13: 978-1405939287

The victim was his friend. So was the murderer.

Twenty-five years ago, troubled teenager Charlie Crabtree committed a shocking and unprovoked murder.

For Paul Adams, it’s a day he’ll never forget. He’s never forgiven himself for his part in what happened to his friend and classmate. He’s never gone back home.

But when his elderly mother has a fall, it’s finally time to stop running.

It’s not long before things start to go wrong. A copycat killer has struck, bringing back painful memories. Paul’s mother insists there’s something in the house.

And someone is following him.

Which reminds him of the most unsettling thing about that awful day twenty-five years ago.

It wasn’t just the murder.

It was the fact that afterwards, Charlie Crabtree was never seen again . . .

“You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’”

– George Bernard Shaw

I loved The Whisper Man with a passion so was at once very keen and seriously filled with trepidation to read The Shadow Friend. It only took a few pages for me to be gripped by what is another fantastic read. There’s something about the unique combination of chilling writing and a strong emotional heart that gets to me every time and that’s what makes The Shadow Friend quite so successful.

With echoes of Stephen King and Dean Koontz, yet very much a distinctive and bold book, The Shadow Friend is a fabulous blend of very scary and emotionally resonant that really touches the core.

Paul Adams has come home after a long absence to look after his elderly mother whose mind jumps in and out of reality. And reality is something that looms large in this book; because what is real and what imagined is fertile territory for Alex North and here he exploits the fine line to full advantage.

Paul’s childhood was traumatic. He lived in Gritten, a dying post-industrial town on the edge of woods that everyone called The Shadows, not too far away from Featherbank, which first appears in The Whisper Man. His closest school friend, James was murdered and two of his classmates were suspected of his murder.

One disappeared, the other was prosecuted but Paul has never been able to forgive himself for not protecting his friend; for not seeing what was coming. Now it is only his mother who can draw him reluctantly back to a place he cannot be comfortable in.

The story flits from past to present and is seen through Paul’s prism and from the perspective of Detective Amanda Beck (who investigated The Whisper Man). Beck is investigating the death of a teenager; a death that is strikingly reminiscent of the murder Paul lived through 25 years ago.

North examines the dynamic of teenage friendships, manipulation, peer pressure and bullying through the lens of this murder and shows us the immense impact that the past has on our character; how much it shapes our present.

Paul and to a greater extent, James had wanted to belong, to be insiders rather than loners and there were those who, even as young as they were, would seek to exploit and manipulate that. Using the idea of dream culture the teenagers had sought to make their sleeping hours active rather than passive experiences and that triggered a series of events that resulted in the death of one of them.

Now another teenager has been murdered and Paul is getting very concerned that his mother, herself caught somewhere between a dream world and reality, is in possession of knowledge that could help solve this crime.

Throughout the book, North builds in elements of a low level ‘something’s not quite right’ atmosphere that gets stronger as the book progresses. There’s that edgy feeling that won’t go away as you sense that there’s something that Paul isn’t quite grasping; something that is creating danger for him. We get signals for that all the way along as the story chills us with signs and portents; as the atmosphere deepens and darkens and grief, lucid dreams and a murderer on the loose all combine to make for a doom laden read that requires company to make you feel safe reading  in your home.

As the tension rises, so the pace of the book quickens and when the full story is revealed it comes as a shock. What you thought you knew is not at all what you suspected. I love that unpredictability in a book and this one carries it off beautifully.

Verdict: A beautifully structured, character driven, tense and chilling read. Well layered, it creeps up on the reader to provide a read that is intense, chilling and shocking, and which focuses on relationships and is underscored by a remarkable sense of dark place.

Hive Books                       Waterstones                    Amazon

Alex North was born in Leeds, where he now lives with his wife and son.  He studied Philosophy at Leeds University, and prior to becoming a writer he worked there in their sociology department, The Whisper Man was an instant Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller, and is an international sensation, with rights sold in 28 languages. The Whisper Man has a significant Hollywood film deal with the Russo Brothers, directors of the Avengers series.

Dark Waters by G.R. Halliday (D.I. Monica Kennedy #2) @gr_halliday @HarvillSecker @mia_qs

Source: Review copy
Publication: 16th July 2020 from Harvill and Secker
PP: 432
ISBN-13: 978-1787301436

THREE MISTAKES. TWO MURDERS. ONE MORE VICTIM TO GO . . .

Annabelle has come to the Scottish Highlands to escape. But as she speeds along a deserted mountain road, she is suddenly forced to swerve. The next thing she remembers is waking up in a dark, damp room. A voice from the corner of the room says ‘The Doctor will be here soon’.

Scott is camping alone in the Scottish woodlands when he hears a scream. He starts to run in fear of his life. Scott is never seen again.

Meanwhile DI Monica Kennedy has been called to her first Serious Crimes case in six months – a dismembered body has been discovered, abandoned in a dam. Days later, when another victim surfaces, Monica knows she is on the hunt for a ruthless killer.

But as she begins to close in on the murderer, her own dark past isn’t far behind …

When I reviewed From the Shadows, the first book in this intriguing series, a couple of weeks ago, I said that it had elements of Scandi Noir about it. Now that I have read Dark Waters, that feeling is, if anything, stronger with this storyline being akin to something as dark as Lars Kepler might have come up with.

Halliday really does have a black as pitch mind and I must say I am really rather liking that. Again, his sense of place in using the Highlands to set his novels is really effective and important. The wildness and the bleakness of the landscape; the quiet and moody forests are full of significance and lend a dark feeling to this book from the outset.

Neatly straddling the crime/horror genre, Halliday also introduces, with the lightest of touches, a slight mystical element into his plotting.

D.I. Monica Kennedy has been trying to recalibrate her family life. She’s taken time away from Serious Crimes and has been spending quality time with her daughter, Lucy. All that is rudely interrupted when a dismembered body turns up in the River Beauly.

Annabelle has driven from London to the Highlands when, taking a detour so that she can let off steam by being a bit of a girl racer, she sees a figure in front of her and crashes her car to avoid it. When she wakes up, she finds that she is being held captive and that’s only the start of an increasingly creepy and chilling nightmare.

Kennedy returns to MIT and puts her team back together, but they’re all still impacted by the events of the last case and this one is really going to test their nerve. DC Crawford has thankfully recovered from his physical injuries, but the trauma that he and DC Fisher experienced alongside Monica goes deeper than just physical manifestations. They are joined by a new addition to the team, DC Khan, who is adept at media handling, a skill that is much required in this case.

The team are in the process of narrowing down identification of the body when they are faced with another macabre body find that is so chilling they fear for anyone who comes into this killer’s orbit. Told from Annabelle’s perspective and from that of D.I. Kennedy, the reader both follows the killer’s modus operandi through Annabelle’s increasingly frightened and frantic eyes, and the case developments through Monica Kennedy’s dedicated, relentless drive.

We learn a little more about Monica in this book and understand better what drives her and why her backstory is so important to her role as a police detective. Her daughter Lucy is showing signs of being sensitive, and her mother Angie has lost none of her fervent interest in true crime stories.

As the team uncover the grisliest of crimes in the most unhelpful of places, Halliday gives us a dark and tense horror drenched tale to chill the spine of any reader, however dark you like you crime novels. The intense nature of the book is well served by the oppressive, claustrophobic nature of the setting and it is both tense and nerve-wracking and as we follow the dual journeys of Monica and Annabelle in a race against time to capture a twisted and depraved killer.

Verdict: Creepy as anything, this is one for lovers of dark, visceral writing. I’m enjoying getting to know Monica and the team a little more and finding that I’m eager to read another of their adventures and to understand them all a bit better. There’s no higher praise than that from me.

Hive Books                       Waterstones                    Amazon

G.R. Halliday was born in Edinburgh and grew up near Stirling in Scotland. He spent his childhood obsessing over the unexplained mysteries his father investigated, which has proved excellent inspiration for From the Shadows. The book was shortlisted for the McIlvanney Debut Prize 2019. G.R. Halliday now lives in the rural Highlands outside of Inverness, where he is able to pursue his favourite pastimes of mountain climbing and swimming in the sea, before returning home to his band of semi-feral cats. Dark Waters is his second novel.

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Thirty-One Bones by Morgan Cry @MorganCryAuthor @GoJaBrown@polygonbooks @RandomTTours

Source: Review copy
Publication: 2nd July 2020 from Polygon
PP: 304
ISBN-13: 978-1846975394

When Daniella Coulstoun’s estranged mother Effie dies in Spain under suspicious circumstances, she feels it’s her duty to fly out for the funeral.

On arrival, Daniella is confronted by a dangerous group of expat misfits who claim that Effie stole huge sums of cash from them in a multi-million property scam. They want the money back and Daniella is on the hook for it.

When a suspicious Spanish detective begins to probe Effie’s death and a London gangster hears about the missing money, Daniella faces threats on every front. With no idea where the cash is and facing a seemingly impossible deadline, she quickly finds herself out of her depth and fighting for survival in a strange and terrifying world.

If I were jetting off abroad for a beach holiday, Thirty-One Bones is just the book I’d want to take with me. Set on the Costa del Crime, it is full of those characterful Brits who make up some of the British expat community up and down the Spanish coastline.

You know the ones: not a lot of cash, into just enough dodgy dealings to get them through, everything always has an angle and is substantially improved by an afternoon’s drinking session.

In Morgan Cry’s splendid caper, this motley crew were presided over by bar owner and matriarch, Effie Coulstoun. She was in the midst of calming the nerves of a foolish investor when she dropped down dead right there in the bar she owned. A bar somewhat ironically named Se Busca (Wanted).

The only trouble is her fellow scammers thought they knew where the money was. They were wrong. Now Effie is dead and her sole heir, daughter Daniella has flown out to take care of her mother and settle her estate.

Daniella hadn’t been that close to her mother for some time. So with no idea that she is about to walk into a hornet’s nest, she finds herself in an impossible sandwich, stuck between disgruntled investors and a bunch of small time con artists both sets being hell-bent on getting their money back.

Daniella doesn’t know where the money is either, but as she quickly finds out, a couple of her mother’s erstwhile ‘pals’ are not as harmless as some of the others. Soon she’s faced with an impossible dilemma; she has to try and placate all parties and do so without losing a limb or getting caught up in an investigation into her mother’s illegal activities.

Morgan Cry’s book is a delightful dash of sunshine crime and is full of splendid characters who were almost but not quite someone once, and whose last chance to strike it rich was going to be in Effie’s bar.

It’s full of humour and offers lots of great, grinning moments as well as being a super thrilling read. The sense of place is just perfect, reminding me of a number of places where I have mis-spent holiday times. The sun adds a glint of veneer to what is an old time property scam of excellent invention but what really makes the book zing are the wonderful character portraits.

I loved the whole idea of straight laced Daniella finding out about her mum’s wrong doings and having to find a way through to make sure she both stays alive and comes out unscathed. Her transition from prim and proper daughter to inventive and surprisingly gutsy woman was highly enjoyable.

Verdict: A fun, thrilling and sparkling holiday read everyone should pack in their virtual suitcase.

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Morgan Cry is the ex-pat alias of Gordon Brown, a Scottish crime writer with 7 novels to his name. Leaving the dark alleyways of tartan noir and heading for the Spanish sunshine, Morgan Cry debuts with a cracking tale of murder, intrigue, and a daughter flung right in at the deep end with her mother’s secrets. It’s dangerous out in the sun.

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Finders, Keepers by Sabine Durrant @SabineDurrant @JennyPlatt90 @HodderPublicity

Source: Review copy
Publication: 9th July 2020 from Hodder & Stoughton
PP: 320
ISBN-13: 978-1473681644

Ailsa Tilson moves with her husband and children to Trinity Fields in search of the new.

New project – a house to renovate. New people – no links to the past. New friends – especially her next-door neighbour, the lonely Verity, who needs her help.

Verity has lived in Trinity Fields all her life. She’s always resisted change. Her home and belongings are a shield, a defence to keep the outside world at bay. But something about the Tilsons piques her interest.

Just as her ivy creeps through the shared garden fence, so Verity will work her way into the Tilson family.

And once they realise how formidable she can be, it might well be too late.

I adore Sabine Durrant’s sharp and precise prose. She is so good at burrowing into a character’s head and giving you glimpses of their innermost thoughts, without necessarily revealing everything, that the reader ends up tantalised and wanting to know more.  Durrant’s characters drive her books and reward you every step of the way. You know that in Finders Keepers, both Verity Ann Baxter and her new neighbour, Ailsa Tilson are not telling you everything – indeed you suspect that one if not both are the epitome of unreliable, but the plotting is so good that these characters engage, then chill and bring you into their world when you realise that the slow burn that you have been experiencing was a call to wake up and smell the coffee…and now it’s too late.

Verity Ann Baxter is an OED lexicographer, working from home. She has lived all her life in her now rather run- down house in Trinity Fields, South London. She and her sister lived there until her sister Faith moved out and left Verity to care for their mother until the end. Now it’s just Verity and her dog, Maudie.

Tom and Ailsa Tilson move in next door and Verity immediately takes a dislike to the rather overbearing Tom and his demands that she clean up her hedges. Ailsa, his wife, though is more intriguing to Verity. A bit on the scatty side, forever apologising, finding her three kids a bit off a handful and she seems to Verity to be ground down by life and the demands of her husband.

Ailsa is everything that Verity is not. The contrast between the two women could not be greater, yet they bond over Max, one of Ailsa’s twins whom Verity is able to tutor and whom she grows fond of, seeing the uncertain young man as the antithesis of his father.

Verity and Ailsa strike up an unlikely friendship that benefits them both, but neither is willing to let the other in too far. Then one day something terrible occurs and the suppressed secrets start to spill out with devastating results.

I loved all the contrasts that Durrant has built into this book. The sleek modernism of the Tilson’s new house compared to the smelly, run down house that Verity lives in. The second hand clothes compared to Ailsa’s floaty designer numbers and the Tilsons’ immaculate garden next to Verity’s junk strewn lawns.

There’s a poison in the air that hangs over this relationship and you know that inside there are suppurating wounds that are festering and that the pus is rising slowly to the surface. What you’re not quite sure of is what wounds lie behind it and it is the creation of that dark story that makes Sabine Durrant the superb storyteller that she is.

Utilising a dual time line, she builds a picture that flits from their first meeting back to the present day, revealing how the relationship developed as contemporary events are unfolding.

Verdict: Dark, delicious and really rather chilling, Sabine Durrant has created a modern gothic novel. Suspenseful and surprising, this is a psychological thriller not to be missed.

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Sabine Durrant is the author of four psychological thrillers, Under Your Skin, Remember Me This Way, Lie With Me, a Richard & Judy Bookclub selection and Sunday Times paperback bestseller, and Take Me In. Her previous novels are
Having It and Eating It and The Great Indoors, and two books for teenage girls, Cross Your Heart, Connie Pickles and Ooh La La! Connie Pickles. She is a former features editor of the Guardian and a former literary editor at the Sunday Times,
and her writing has appeared in many national newspapers and magazines. She lives in south London with her partner and their three children.

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From the Shadows by G.R. Halliday @gr_halliday @HarvillSecker

Source: Purchased copy
Publication: 8th April 2019 from Harvill Secker
PP: 432
ISBN-13: 978-1787301412

Seven days. Four deaths. One chance to catch a killer.

Sixteen-year-old Robert arrives home late. Without a word to his dad, he goes up to his bedroom. Robert is never seen alive again.

A body is soon found on the coast of the Scottish Highlands. Detective Inspector Monica Kennedy stands by the victim in this starkly beautiful and remote landscape. Instinct tells her the case won’t begin and end with this one death.

Meanwhile, Inverness-based social worker Michael Bach is worried about one of his clients whose last correspondence was a single ambiguous text message; Nichol Morgan has been missing for seven days.

As Monica is faced with catching a murderer who has been meticulously watching and waiting, Michael keeps searching for Nichol, desperate to find him before the killer claims another victim.

I bought my copy of From The Shadows at an Aye Write event (how I miss you!) last year and never got round to reading it, so when I heard that Gareth Halliday’s second book was coming out, I thought I had better get a move on!

From the Shadows introduces D.I. Monica Kennedy, a woman whose height is her most striking feature and who is conscious enough of that enough to wear the wrong shoe size because asking for Size 10’s would be just one step too far. A single mother to Lucy, she relies on her own mother, a bit of a true crime fanatic, much to Monica’s dismay, to take care of her granddaughter while Monica works.  And work she does, long hours where she forgets everything for the job. She’s prepared to go off piste when it suits her and this risk –taking aspect is something that is going to get her into trouble…as a reader you can feel it.

Halliday drops hints about Monica’s past which has led to gossip about her among her colleagues, and the father of her daughter is a mystery which I imagine will be returned to in future books.

A teenage boy goes disappears from his home after being on a night out. Later his body is found, horribly staged in an isolated setting in the Gairloch. G.R. Halliday’s locations here are spot on and his Wester Ross setting with all its darkness and dampness, peat bogs and wild streams is a perfect locus for set a series of macabre serial killings. I cannot fault his sense of place.

Monica and her team investigate and before they have a chance to develop solid leads, another young teenage boy goes missing from home and later turns up in another remote location, similarly butchered. Both lads have very clearly been killed by the same killer. At the same time, Nichol,  a third young man has gone missing and his social worker, Michael Bach is worried that will meet the same fate and is looking for him. Michael’s somewhat burnt out from years of dealing with clients who won’t be helped or who the system won’t let him help and this time he really wants to see if he can make a difference to this young boy’s life.

The novel shows us three different perspectives: Monica’s, Michael Bach’s and that of the unnamed ‘Watcher’ whom we take as our antagonist. Monica enlists the help of Michael Bach and in doing so cuts a few procedural corners that would, were she to be found out, lead her into hot water.

Monica Kennedy’s new team member is the straight laced Sergeant Crawford and he makes for an interesting foil. I am looking forward to seeing how these two, quite different, people relate to each other as the series progresses.

From the Shadows is quite a gory book – not something I mind at all, just be aware that this is an author who likes his serial killers to be on the inventive side. Though the pacing overall is good, the book does have a bit of a middle ‘dip’ then hots up again towards the denouement.

Speaking of the denouement, I was a little irked that the author left a couple of pretty big questions unanswered. One I can understand, as it may well play into succeeding books, but the second leaves me wondering if there is to be a return to this crime somewhere ahead?

Verdict: A fantastic sense of place with the choice of setting ideal for a series of ritualistic killings (sorry Scottish Tourist Board). Interesting protagonists and a better than decent start to an almost Scandi style police procedural series.

Hive Books                       Waterstones                   Ullapool Bookshop         Amazon

G.R. Halliday was born in Edinburgh and grew up near Stirling in Scotland. He spent his childhood obsessing over the unexplained mysteries his father investigated, which has proved excellent inspiration for From the Shadows. The book was shortlisted for the McIlvanney Debut Prize 2019. G.R. Halliday now lives in the rural Highlands outside of Inverness, where he is able to pursue his favourite pastimes of mountain climbing and swimming in the sea, before returning home to his band of semi-feral cats.

SHORTLIST FOR THE BLOODY SCOTLAND DEBUT and SCOTTISH CRIME BOOK OF THE YEAR 2020 LONGLIST ANNOUNCED FOR THE McILVANNEY PRIZE 2020 @BloodyScotland @Brownlee_Donald

Winners to be presented on Friday 18 September 2020
 

Four years ago the Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award was renamed the McIlvanney Prize in memory of William McIlvanney who is often described as the Godfather of Tartan Noir. Last year Bloody Scotland also introduced a prize for The Bloody Scotland Debut Scottish Crime Book of the Year. This year both are sponsored by the Glencairn Glass. At a time when debut writers have suffered more than anyone else due to bookshop closures the debut prize is more important than ever:

Debut Prize Shortlisted authors are:
Deborah Masson, Hold Your Tongue (Transworld)
Stephen O’Rourke, The Crown Agent (Sandstone)
Marion Todd, See Them Run (Canelo)
Francine Toon, Pine (Doubleday)

Masson, O’Rourke, Toon and Todd


One, Francine Toon, is also longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize which includes:
Lin Anderson, Time for the Dead (Macmillan)
Lisa Gray, Bad Memory (Thomas & Mercer)
Andrew James Greig, Whirligig (Fledgling)
Doug Johnstone, A Dark Matter (Orenda)
Val McDermid, How the Dead Speak (Little, Brown)
Ben McPherson, The Island (HarperCollins)
James Oswald, Bury Them Deep (Headline)
Ambrose Parry, The Art of Dying (Canongate) aka Chris Broomyre and Marisa Haetzman
Mary Paulson-Ellis, The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing (Mantle)
Caro Ramsay, The Red, Red Snow (Severn House)
Craig Robertson, Watch Him Die (Simon & Schuster)
Francine Toon, Pine (Doubleday)

Finalists for the McIlvanney Prize will be revealed at the beginning of September and the winner of both prizes will be revealed on Friday 18 September. The Bloody Scotland Debut Prize will be judged by a panel including crime writer and founding director of Bloody Scotland Lin Anderson and representatives from Waterstones and the Glencairn Glass. The McIlvanney Prize will be judged by Stuart Cosgrove, writer and broadcaster, James Crawford, chair of Publishing Scotland and presenter of BBC series Scotland from the Sky and Karen Robinson, Editor of The Times Crime Club.

The McIlvanney award recognises excellence in Scottish crime writing, includes a prize of £1000 and nationwide promotion in Waterstones. The 2020 longlist features established crime writers and debuts, corporates and indies. Previous winners are Manda Scott with A Treachery of Spies in 2019 (who chose to share her prize with all the finalists), Liam McIlvanney with The Quaker in 2018, Denise Mina with The Long Drop in 2017, Chris Brookmyre with Black Widow in 2016, Craig Russell with The Ghosts of Altona in 2015, Peter May with Entry Island in 2014, Malcolm Mackay with How A Gunman Says Goodbye in 2013 and Charles Cumming with A Foreign Country in 2012. The inaugural Bloody Scotland Debut Prize 2019 was won by Claire Askew with All The Hidden Truths.

_________

The Glencairn Glass, the World’s Favourite Whisky Glass and the Official Glass for Whisky is sponsoring both The McIlvanney Prize and The Bloody Scotland Debut Crime Novel of the Year. Culture & Business Fund Scotland have generously given matched funding.

The authors shortlisted for the Debut Prize will collaborate on a short story in the run up to the Festival to be co-ordinated by author and board member, Gordon Brown aka Morgan Cry, in association with The Glencairn Glass.

The Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival was scheduled to take place in the historic town of Stirling from 18-20 September but will now take place entirely on-line.

The Silent Wife (Will Trent #10) by Karin Slaughter @SlaughterKarin @FictionPubTeam @RandomTTours

Source: Review copy
Publication: 23 June 2020 from Harper Collins
PP: 400
ISBN-13: 978-0008303440

Atlanta, Georgia. Present day. A young woman is brutally attacked and left for dead. The police investigate but the trail goes cold. Until a chance assignment takes GBI investigator Will Trent to the state penitentiary, and to a prisoner who says he recognises the MO. The attack looks identical to the one he was accused of eight years earlier. The prisoner’s always insisted that he was innocent, and now he’s sure he has proof. The killer is still out there.

As Will digs into both crimes it becomes clear that he must solve the original case in order to reach the truth. Yet nearly a decade has passed—time for memories to fade, witnesses to vanish, evidence to disappear. And now he needs medical examiner Sara Linton to help him hunt down a ruthless murderer. But when the past and present collide, everything Will values is at stake.

It is such a privilege to be starting off this epic blog tour for a book that I have wanted to read since I first heard it was to be published. My sincere thanks to Harper Collins for the opportunity.

Honestly, I do not know how she does it. After 20 books in 20 years, a massive achievement in itself, Karin Slaughter has outdone herself with her 10th Will Trent book and a return to Grant County.

I have read every single one of these books and they never, ever disappoint. This one, though…well this one is a real cracker. The Silent Wife kicks it way out of the park and then some.

Will Trent from the Georgia Bureau of Investigations is investigating in the aftermath of a prison riot where a prisoner was murdered when one of the inmates, Daryl Nesbitt offers information on why the prisoner was killed and by whom. His offer comes at a price though: he claims to be innocent of the crimes he was convicted for and says he can provide the proof that shows that innocence. If the GBI will at least re-open his case and see that he was fitted up, he’ll share his information.

The problem is that Nesbitt is inside for a series of really savage murders and attacks perpetrated against women and the man who allegedly fitted him up was no other than Sara Linton’s ex-husband, the now deceased Jeffrey Tolliver.

Will and Sarah are going through a patch of sticky communication problems and this claim is just the icing on the cake for Will. Sarah’s love for Jeffrey was immense – she married him twice after all, and Will not only doesn’t want to tell Sarah about the claims that he was a dirty cop, he’s also not that sure that he wants to see Jeffrey exonerated.

But this is Will Trent, straight as a die – a man incapable of not doing the right thing when it comes to his job.

Cooper has claimed that the murders have carried on after his incarceration and he supplies the GBI with the details of more women murdered with the same MO. And so Will and Sara begin their investigation into the deaths of the women highlighted by Nesbitt and start to consider the past cases for which he was sentenced.

This means paying a visit to the most divisive character in Slaughter’s books – Lena Adamson. Lena is the classic outsider; never the most truthful of cops, with a difficult personal history and as the survivor herself of a fearsome attack, Lena is prickly and difficult. Jeffrey always defended Lena and there’s no way she’s offering any help to those seeking to find out if his judgement was contaminated.

As Sara looks back at the autopsies and other medical evidence, it is soon abundantly clear that, far from stopping these killings by locking Nesbitt up, the killer has been able to refine and improve his murderous skills by covering up his vicious and truly savage murders sufficiently well to make them seem accidental.

By laying the groundwork so well and giving us a dual timeline to work with, Slaughter is able to not only give the reader the information about the investigation of the current day cases, but also to take us back to Grant County and Jeffrey and Lena’s investigations – as well as reprising the point in Jeffrey and Sara’s relationship where she has discovered his infidelity and he’s hoping he can re-instate himself in her affections.

It is the Jeffrey-Sara-Will triangle to die for as Will tries to compete with the ghost of a memory and he and Sara are painfully unable to communicate through the wall that has grown between them.

Slaughter never flinches from showing the brutal side of crimes against women – and be warned that these are especially violent and degrading, but then so are most crimes of this nature. What she also achieves though, through the series, is a portrait of how these women can recover; fight back against the violence that has been unleashed on them and show in a host of different ways how these women have reacted to their circumstances and how they have (when they have) come to terms with them. Her ability to show empathy, grief and sadness in her characters as they find a path through these violations to take steps towards recovery is remarkable.

Of course this classic Slaughter narrative is as sharp and focussed as you would expect. Her story-telling abilities just keep getting stronger and her plot is so beautifully structured that the reader is drawn in deep to a book that sucks you down and refuses to let go.

Mostly though, for me, it’s the characterisation that gets me every time. That sense of the different kinds of love that pervades the book and the characters. The tension between them that makes the sparks that you can feel so palpably between them. Even the disdain and sometimes hatred that one character feels for another, charges the book with meaning. This is an ensemble cast and each is beautifully drawn, finely honed and very real in the reader’s mind so that we fear for them and agonise when they make wrong choices or miss some pretty obvious cues.

As they come closer to pinning down the perpetrator, lives will be put at risk and the intrigue will have you spellbound, but there will be moments when the emotional tension and vulnerability is almost unbearable and that really hits where it hurts the most. It is raw, emotional and utterly propulsive.

Verdict: Outstanding storytelling, brilliant plotting and terrific characterisation combine with a brutal and savage series of killings to propel The Silent Wife straight into the MUST HAVE – MUST READ category.

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Photo of Karin Slaughter by Alison Rosa

Karin Slaughter is one of the world’s most popular and acclaimed storytellers. Published in 120 countries with more than 35 million copies sold across the globe, her 19 novels include the Grant County and Will Trent books, as well as the Edgar-nominated Cop Town and the instant Sunday Times bestselling novels Pretty Girls,The Good Daughter and Pieces of Her. The Good Daughter and Cop Town are in development for film and television and Pieces of Her is soon to be an eight-part Netflix adaptation, directed by Lesli Linka Glatter (Mad Men) and produced by Charlotte Stoudt (Homeland) and Bruna Papandrea (Big Little Lies).Karin is the founder of the Save the Libraries project- a non-profit organisation established to support libraries and library programming. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Big Chill by Doug Johnstone (Skelfs #2) @doug_johnstone @OrendaBooks

Source: Review copy
Publication: 20 June 2020 from Orenda Books
PP: 300
ISBN-13: ISBN-13: 978-1913193348

Haunted by their past, the Skelf women are hoping for a quieter life. But running both a funeral directors’ and a private investigation business means trouble is never far away, and when a car crashes into the open grave at a funeral that matriarch Dorothy is conducting, she can’t help looking into the dead driver’s shadowy life.

While Dorothy uncovers a dark truth at the heart of Edinburgh society, her daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah have their own struggles. Jenny’s ex-husband Craig is making plans that could shatter the Skelf women’s lives, and the increasingly obsessive Hannah has formed a friendship with an elderly professor that is fast turning deadly.

But something even more sinister emerges when a drumming student of Dorothy’s disappears and suspicion falls on her parents. The Skelf women find themselves sucked into an unbearable darkness – but could the real threat be to themselves?

Following three women as they deal with the dead, help the living and find out who they are in the process, The Big Chill follows A Dark Matter, book one in the Skelfs series, which reboots the classic PI novel while asking the big existential questions, all with a big dose of pitch-black humour.

I loved A Dark Matter, the first in the Skelfs series and am thrilled that The Big Chill is, if anything, better than that cracker of a book. I love the Chandleresque title to begin with.

Then there are the big themes that run through this book, but brought in with the lightest of all touches. Life and death; being and nothingness are all part of Johnstone’s wickedly funny and very dark crime thriller.  In other hands, this could be heavy stuff, but with Johnstone’s deft touch we are treated to quantum mechanics and cosmic evolution alongside murder, disappearing students and a deadly driver.

This is a writer who is in his stride; time and time again now he is hitting and elevating his stride, really finding his voice as he brings us characters we care about and are learning to love rather a lot. Women you can laugh with and cry for; women whose are more than cyphers on a page but who in our world you’d want to get to know better and spend a lot of time with.

My personal favourite is Dorothy, a 70 year old grandmother from California, but long since moved to Edinburgh and who was married to Jim Skelf, the undertaker whose passing started A Dark Matter. Dorothy is a drummer and she’s developing rather a close relationship with a local detective, which certainly does not hurt the Skelf’s burgeoning P.I. business, though it sometimes doesn’t help it, either.

The Big Chill can be read as a stand-alone, but you’ll enjoy it more if you have first read A Dark Matter. Johnstone has carried through the strong sense of grief that came from A Dark Matter and we now find the women in a pretty raw and emotionally vulnerable state. The death of Jim, the patriarch, never allowed them fully to grieve because of the trauma that was inflicted on them shortly thereafter – affecting them all in different ways. This portrait of grieving is so truthful, so authentic that it hurts and the reader finds Jenny struggling to move on with her life and in a new relationship, while clearly still distraught and Hannah, the physics student, is lost in a world she’s finding it hard to come to terms with, never mind get on with her studies.

They need each other, but they are individually so fractured that it’s hard for them to comfort each other and Hannah’s relationship with her partner Indy is really difficult as Hannah withdraws into herself, shutting Indy and the world, out.

Archie, their chief mortician is struggling with his own grief. Never was there so much death in the midst of life as right now and even life isn’t offering much pleasure, save perhaps for Einstein, their newly adopted dog.

But the work is still coming in and each woman has a project of their own to investigate as Johnstone shows us the resilience of this family as they find ways to come to terms with events by ensuring that they are not victims but active participants in their own lives who will seize their moments and find a path through their grief and upset to solve a mystery and at the same time restore their own confidence.

I’m conscious that I have made this sound very bleak, but it’s actually not that at all. It is in fact, quite dark but it is also dramatic, sometimes tense, often chilling and downright riveting. It’s only because you get wrapped up in these women’s lives that you tend, as a reader, to empathise with what they must be feeling.

Johnstone has a fantastic narrative arc that layers the women’s stories one upon another as they strive to stay above the grind and do some powerful good against the odds. I think it is that effort to keep going; to make a difference that marks them out as family unit determined not to be ground down.

Along the way, there is a lot of dark humour that again elevates the narrative, making something very special indeed

Verdict: Shocking, chilling, raw, dark and funny, this is Johnstone riding high on the crest of a wave. His writing is superb, his plotting impeccable and his characterisation to die for. I really don’t want this to be just a trilogy….

Hive Books                       The Portobello Bookshop                          Waterstones                    Amazon

Doug Johnstone is an author, journalist and musician based in Edinburgh. He’s had eight novels published, most recently Fault Lines. His previous novels, Breakers and The Jump, were finalists for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. Several of his other novels have been award winners and bestsellers, and he’s had short stories published in numerous anthologies and literary magazines. His work has been praised by the likes of Ian Rankin, Chris Brookmyre, Val McDermid and Irvine Welsh. Several of his novels have been optioned for film and television. Doug is also a Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow. He’s worked as an RLF Fellow at Queen Margaret University, taught creative writing at Strathclyde University and William Purves Funeral Directors. He mentors and assesses manuscripts for The Literary Consultancy and regularly tutors at Moniack Mhor writing retreat. Doug has released seven albums in various bands, and is the drummer for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He also reviews books for The Big Issue magazine, is player-manager for Scotland Writers Football Club and has a PhD in nuclear physics.

SINS OF THE FATHER by Sharon Bairden #COVERREVEAL @sbairden @RedDogTweets

I can’t tell you how excited I am to be part of the cover reveal for the ASTOUNDING debut novel from one of the VERY BEST women I know, Sharon Bairden, blogger extraordinaire, whose Chapter In My Life blog has championed Scottish crime writers for many years now.

Now it is our turn to repay that work and I am so excited that Sharon has now penned a fantastic, dark, thriller that will chill you to your bones.

So let’s start by finding out about SINS OF THE FATHER.

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…

Now, does that not sound just fabulous? I know it is so awesome and it is available for pre-order TODAY! WHOOHOO!

I’m almost ready to show you the cover for Sins of the Father, but first a word or two about our author, Sharon Bairden.

By day 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 over 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!

NEARLY TIME….

HERE WE GO………

Is that not just the most amazing, noirish cover you have ever seen? WOW!!

You can pre-order Sins of the Father here:
Red Dog Press
Amazon

All Fall Down by M.J.Arlidge (Helen Grace #9) @mjarlidge @orionbooks @orion_crime

Source: Review copy
Publication: 11 June 2020 from Orion
PP:  496
ISBN-13: 978-1409188407

“You have one hour to live.”

Those are the only words on the phone call. Then they hang up. Surely, a prank? A mistake? A wrong number? Anything but the chilling truth… That someone is watching, waiting, working to take your life in one hour.

But why?

The job of finding out falls to DI Helen Grace: a woman with a track record in hunting killers. However, this is a case where the killer seems to always be one step ahead of the police and the victims.

With no motive, no leads, no clues – nothing but pure fear – an hour can last a lifetime…

I’m a big fan of the Helen Grace books, but goodness Mathew Arlidge doesn’t half put her through some tough stuff both personally and professionally. This book is no exception. Just when you begin to think that D.I. Grace might be in danger of getting a life, Arlidge puts a halt to that in no uncertain terms.

The case this time dates back some years ago to when a group of five teenage schoolchildren were outward bounding for their Duke of Edinburgh Award. Out on the moors, the mists fell and unaccompanied and trying to find their way back over rough terrain, they were forced to take shelter in a run-down farmhouse where their worst nightmares were enacted.

Not all of them would make it out alive.

Years later, that night still haunts them and now one of that group has written a book about the events of that night, while the others prefer to stay out of the limelight.

Then one receives a call telling them that they have one hour to live and sure enough, our killer is true to their word. Some, it seems, is picking off the members of that group. With precious little to go on and finding that Emily Garanita, Helen’s least favourite journalist, always seems to be in the know if not one step ahead, Helen and her team are faced with a race against time to save the last members of the group.

As ever, Arlidge creates a fast moving, gruesome story with a terrific villain and a lot of grief for Helen. Helen has swapped other forms of stress relief for speed and now she de-stresses by taking her leather clad body out on her motor bike and going hell for leather until she can’t go any further.

Charlie, her colleague, friend and confidante is heavily pregnant and a new bloke seems to be shaping up well, but there is something about him that makes Helen wonder. Helen’s boss Simmons still has her back, but she, too, is coming under pressure from above to make sure this case is solved as Garanita contrives to make the investigation look pretty bad.

With so much pressure, the tension really is taut all the way through and the adrenaline ride is intense as we go with Helen on her racing trip to find the killer before it is too late. The narrative is all-consuming and I was lost in this book from the first five minutes right through to the end.

Verdict: All Fall Down is everything we have come to expect from M.J. Arlidge and this series. It is a fabulous, exciting and riveting read.

Hive Books                       Waterstones                   Amazon

M. J. Arlidge has worked in television for the last fifteen years, specializing in high-end drama production, including the prime-time crime serials Torn, The Little House and Silent Witness. Arlidge also pilots original crime series for both UK and US networks. In 2015 his audio exclusive Six Degrees of Assassination was a Number One bestseller. His first thriller, Eeny Meeny, was the UK’s bestselling crime debut of 2014. It was followed by the bestselling Pop Goes the Weasel, The Doll’s House, Liar Liar, Little Boy Blue, Hide and Seek, Love Me Not and Down to the Woods.

Follow Matthew Arlidge on Twitter @mjarlidge

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