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One Good Deed by David Baldacci @panmacmillan @davidbaldacci @laurasherlock21

Source: Review copy
Publication: 25th July 2019 from MacMillan
PP: 432
ISBN-13: 978-1529027488

In 1949, Aloysius Archer arrives in the dusty Southern town of Poca City. He has nothing but a handful of dollars, the clothes he’s wearing and an appointment with his new parole officer. After his wartime experiences in Italy and a prison sentence for a crime he didn’t commit, Archer is looking for a fresh start and a peaceful life.

On his first night of freedom, Archer meets local business tycoon Hank Pittleman, who promises Archer handsome compensation to work as his debt collector. Yet Archer takes on more than he bargains for, as he becomes embroiled in a long-running feud between the drought-struck town’s most dangerous residents. When one of them dies, the authorities label Archer as their number one suspect.

A bloody game is being played above and below the law. Everybody playing has a deeply buried secret, and Archer must uncover them all – if he’s to avoid going back behind bars.

I enjoyed the change of timeline from contemporary to historical in David Baldacci’s latest novel, One Good Deed. We are in the late 1940’s and our protagonist, former WW11 soldier Aloysius Archer, has just been released from Carderock prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

Archer’s parole arrangement lands him in Poca City, a small, pleasant Midwestern town that is hiding dark secrets. His parole restrictions don’t allow alcohol, but Archer has built up a thirst in prison and so on his first night in Poca, he visits a bar. There he gets into conversation with Hank Pittleman and his companion, Jackie Tuttle. Hank is a businessman and he offers Archer a job, collecting a debt from Jackie’s father, Lucas Tuttle. Archer is about to get himself back into trouble – unless he is very careful. 

He gets a much needed advance from Pittleman which he spends on decent clothes and a good meal before heading off to see Tuttle. Of course Tuttle doesn’t want to pay his debt and things get ever more complicated and deceitful when Archer is implicated in at least two murders.

There’s something dangerously seductive about Baldacci’s writing and though this is a big book, the pages slip easily by in this immersive, enticing read.

Archer is a great character, imbued with gently manners and with a huge naive blind spot when it comes to a pretty woman. His moral compass is sometimes quite shaky, but he knows where true north is, just not always the straightest way to get there.

Baldacci’s descriptive prose enables us to picture all the period details of this small Southern town with all the values of the time like the sexism; the casual acceptance of violence against women because its O.K. to slap a woman around if she’s your wife or chattel.

As events unfold Archer makes an unlikely ally in the local Police Detective and begins to learn the detecting business from scratch. He’s quick on the uptake and that’s going to be helpful as he sinks deeper into the town’s feuds and murky secrets.

Archer is a warm and engaging character and it’s hard not to root for him, even when it seems he can be a bit blind to what’s going on.  If this is the start of a new series, (and I really hope it is) then it’s a great introduction to a fabulous new character.

Verdict: Mystery and suspense surround a fabulous new character in an enticing, engaging thriller that does not disappoint.

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

A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson trsl by Rachel Willson-Broyles @PanMacmillan

Source: Review copy #Netgalley
Publication: 11 July 2019 from Pan MacMillan
PP: 480
ISBN-13: 978-1529008128

Every murder case starts with a suspect.
What if the suspect is your daughter?
Would you believe her, or the evidence against her?

The Father
Believes his daughter has been framed.

The Mother
Believes she is hiding something.

The Daughter
Believes they have no idea what she’s truly capable of . . .

There are three sides to the story. And the truth will shatter this family to pieces.

This is without doubt one of the most fascinating psychological thrillers I have read in a long time.  I’m always a bit wary of the psychological thriller label, because these days it used as a catch all for crime novels that are not straightforward police procedurals.

But this book is all that it promises to be and more. Told in three voices, in almost equal parts, this is the story of eighteen year old Stella Sandell, accused of murdering a man almost twice her age. She is the daughter of Adam, a local pastor and his wife, Ulrika, a criminal lawyer.

The reader is presented with three perspectives on the story that unfolds as we begin to understand who Stella is and why she is suspected of this crime.

The Sandells are a respectable family, comfortably off and to all intents and purposes everything in their garden is rosy.  

Then Stella is arrested for the murder by stabbing of 32-year-old Christopher Olsen.

We hear first from Adam, Stella’s father. That he loves his daughter is not something we can be in doubt about, but Stella concerns him. He has always found her wilful, even as a child and sought without success to curb her excesses. He sees her as sometimes out of control and on at least one occasion he failed in his duty to be the kind of father that she really needed. Their relationship hasn’t been the same since.

Adam will have to decide how far he is willing to test his faith and his reputation in order to keep his daughter from going to prison.

Stella’s sexuality has been on overdrive most of her teenage years. A large part of that has been pure rebellion; some of her behaviour has been, consciously or not, to spite her parents. Her dalliance with the older businessman comes with an ex-girlfriend who has many warning flags to raise about her ex.

Stella’s mother, Ulrika is a walking tower of guilt. She knows she doesn’t have the relationship with Stella that she wanted to have – in fact she has a better relationship with Stella’s best friend, Amina. She has never been able to be the moderator between Adam and Stella and she has a secret of her own that Stella has managed to find out.

Amid this family drama, Ulrike and Adam will have to consider how well they know Stella and what they believe she might be capable of. Then they will face the decision of what they are going to do about it.

Each of these voices is tightly written and completely convincing. Taken together they present an often contradictory picture as we see each character through the eyes of the other two.  Behaviours seem very different when viewed through the eyes of others and the reader is left to watch this family, who always thought of themselves as a typical, normal family, are faced with some huge moral dilemmas.

It is precisely the normal-ness of this family that makes this book quite so compelling. You can’t help but wonder what you would do in similar circumstances and I can see this one being hotly debated.

This is not a fast-paced book, but it is immensely thought-provoking and genuinely fascinating.  Edvardsson takes his time building a solid picture of a family in crisis within a courtroom wrapper that both thrills and fascinates. The translation is excellent; inasmuch as I really didn’t notice I was reading a translation.

Verdict: Enthralling, original and compelling. This is a stand-out psychological thriller.

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M T. Edvarsson is an author and teacher from the south of Sweden. He has written three previous novels, two books for young adult readers and two books for small children in Swedish. He lives with his family in Löddeköpinge, Sweden.

4 x 4 with Sylvia Hehir, Author of Sea Change. #guestpost #SeaChange @shehir853

I am delighted that Sylvia Hehir joins me on the blog today to discuss her Y/A novel, Sea Change and participate in the 4×4 challenge.

First, let’s hear about Sea Change.

Struggling to look after his grieving mother, sixteen-year-old Alex wants nothing more than to leave school. All right, he made some poor decisions during the summer holiday, not least of which was getting involved with Chuck, a stranger hiding out in this remote part of the Scottish Highlands. Chuck was exciting, challenging Alex to take ever-increasing risks. But Chuck wasn’t supposed to turn up dead next to Alex’s fishing boat. With the bills mounting, Alex has to accept that he is struggling to cope. But things get even worse when his best friend goes missing.

‘A community cracked by crime and a friendship strained by secrets are at the heart of this compelling and atmospheric thriller.’ Keith Gray, author of Ostrich Boys

Having worked as a secondary school teacher, Sylvia is aware of how young peoples’ futures can be frustrated by obstacles not of their own making.
She says: “In Sea Change, I wanted to create a young adult crime novel that doesn’t sidestep tricky issues. My aim was to capture those identity-defining moments when we are pushed right to the very edge.”

Sea Change was winner of the Pitlochry Quaich in 2018 and was shortlisted for the prestigious Caledonia Novel Award in 2017.
It is also in the running for the 2019 McIlvanney Debut Crime Fiction prize at this year’s Bloody Scotland festival in Stirling.

Sylvia’s Young Adult fiction novel is set in a Scottish West coast fishing community and brings a new twist to the Tartan Noir genre .
In this page turning thriller, a small Highland community becomes the setting for a serious crime. But unlike much of the popular crime fiction genre which graces many Scottish bookshelves, the cast of characters in Sea Change centres around the struggles of teenager Alex, who is trying to keep his family afloat and negotiate the challenges of teenage relationships including coming to terms with his own sexuality.

Aimed at a young adult readership, all of the main characters in the novel are teenagers, including the perpetrator of the crime, the victim and the investigators. On another level, the story explores how a friendship can survive when secrets lead to disastrous consequences. As is often the case in young adult fiction, the characters are also growing up a bit, taking those necessary steps towards an independent adult life.

So let’s find out more about the book and its writer by taking the 4 x 4 quiz.

4 key characters in your book, Sea Change, and why they are important

Alex has been described by book blogger Bookwitch as an ‘interesting – if somewhat idiotic and naïve – main character’ and that seems a fair assessment to me. He is torn between his filial duties and his need to become the person he really is. His responses to events that overtake him and his best friend when a stranger comes to the area can be considered questionable but given his situation they are perhaps understandable.

Daniel has been Alex’s best friend since they were at primary school together. And although they have very different family situations and aspirations for the future, they are alike in that they are both considered misfits by their peers. But Alex, as a good friend should be, is there for Daniel when he most needs him.

Caitlin, whose ambition is to study psychology, is clever and self-assured. She has romantic designs on Daniel, and Daniel is certainly pleased about that. Caitlin is also the chief investigator in this crime fiction in which all the traditional roles of the genre are filled by teenage characters.

Of the adult characters in Sea Change, Aunty Joan is Alex’s nemesis. She is ever-ready to show her distrust and disapproval of Alex’s actions and motives, and, as she is his grieving mum’s sister, Alex has to capitulate to her decisions.

4 pieces of music that you listened to/make you think of Sea Change

There is some fine music in Scotland that has its roots in the traditional yet is not afraid to bring a 21st century take. Martyn Bennett (1971-2005) was a frontrunner with Grit and I felt the haunting atmosphere underpinning the phenomenal track, Blackbird, resonated particularly with the feelings of the main character, Alex.

The track Nigerian Princess by J.R. Green was The Janice Forsyth Culture Show’s Single Of The Week on Radio Scotland while I was writing a first draft and, for me, it epitomises the youth voice from our rural and remote area.

Daniel is an AC/DC fan and I couldn’t get away without listening to at least a few tracks for me to understand his devotion. My favourite, headbanging track, (and therefore Daniel’s) is Thunderstruck.

Dances are a significant part of west highland social life and there is plenty of traditional dancing going on at them. Popular bands usually mix in a few covers, however, and a perennial favourite locally is The First Cut is the Deepest, which is very appropriate for the teenage characters in Sea Change.

4 places that remind you of Sea Change

The west highlands is full of beautiful places and the seascape off Ardtoe and the fishing communities around Arisaig are typical of the settings in Sea Change. I also visited a local Manse and its overgrown garden, and a lochan covered in waterlilies to help with description in the novel.

4 films that convey the atmosphere you are writing about in Sea Change

My favourite film is My Beautiful Laundrette and I would be wrong to gainsay the influence it has had on my storytelling. Films in keeping with the atmosphere and genre of Sea Change would include Stand By Me and River’s Edge. If I can be allowed a TV series, One Summer by Willy Russell beautifully captures the world for teenagers who really don’t have much going for them.

What’s next for you ?

I hope to bring some of the characters in Sea Change back for a companion novel, where Caitlin might have to face a knock to her confidence. In the meantime, I’ll be on bookshop tours and school visits with Sea Change.

Sea Change was published by Stone Cold Fox Press on 3 July 2019

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The Sleepwalker by Joseph Knox @josephknox_ @alisonbarrow @transworld@DoubledayUK @annecater #TheSleepwalker #blogtour

Source: Review copy
Publication: 11 July 2019 from Doubleday
PP: 400
ISBN-13: 978-0857524386

He said he didn’t remember killing them…’

As a series of rolling blackouts plunge the city into darkness, Detective Aidan Waits sits on an abandoned hospital ward, watching a mass murderer slowly die. Transferred from his usual night shift duties and onto protective custody, he has just one job…

To extract the location of Martin Wick’s final victim before the notorious mass murderer passes away.

Wick has spent over a decade in prison, in near-total silence, having confessed to an unspeakable crime that shocked the nation and earned him the nickname of The Sleepwalker.

But when a daring premeditated attack leaves one police officer dead and another one fighting for his life, Wick’s whispered last words will send Waits on a journey into the heart of darkness…

Manipulated by a reticent psychopath from his past, and under investigation from his new partner, Detective Constable Naomi Black, Waits realises too late that a remorseless contract killer is at work.

Can Aidan Waits solve his last case before fleeing justice?

Or will his name be next on the hit list?

It’s a huge privilege to be part of this blogtour and even more so because my stop falls on publication day for The Sleepwalker. So congratulations, Joseph Knox, I’m sure this book is going to be a massive success.

Why am I sure? Partly because this man can write. And plot. And do character. The Sleepwalker is exciting. It is thrilling and boy, is it dark. It’s the kind of dark that has you scraping off the grime and spreading it thickly on a piece of paper towelling. It’s grittier than a road full of small stone chips and it thrills, exhausts and eviscerates you in equal measure.

Aidan Waits is the protagonist. This is book 3 in the Aidan Waits series, following on from Sirens and The Smiling Man and though it can easily be read as a stand-alone, I think you get more out of it of you know his backstory.

You know the Peanuts cartoon character, Pigpen? The one who walks round with a constant little ring of flies around his body? Well Aidan Waits is no Pigpen, but you can almost see that great, heavy cloud that hangs over him, shrouds him, everywhere he goes.

Waits is not just a man with demons; he is part of the darkness that inhabits the streets of Manchester where this brutal, northern noir is set. A police detective with a troubled background, living just half a notch away from total despair, Waits  is a man on the edge. No-one trusts him and he in turn trusts nobody, not even his partner, ‘Sutty’, DI PeterSutcliffe, who takes an early bath and isn’t around for most of this novel, leaving Waits paired with a new partner, Detective Constable Naomi  Black.

Waits and Sutty are permanently on nightshift, part of Waits punishment for being a thorn n everyone’s side. They’re on hospital duty watching over terminally ill Martin Wick, a serial killer dubbed The Sleepwalker by the tabloids. Their job is to get a deathbed declaration of where to find the body of one of his victims, in order to give the family closure.

Despite armed guards being stationed outside his room, a photograph of Wick in hospital has made the newspapers. Waits is concerned that Wicks is no longer safe and steps away from his station to make sure everything is locked down, only for chaos to break out, leaving Wick and the police guard dead and Sutty seriously injured.

Superintendent Parr, no fan of Waits, assigns him to run a shadow investigation, effectively setting him against the official one run by Chief Inspector James. Parr is angling for a top job and he wants to make sure that James won’t look too shiny, and that James’ boss will not benefit from a slick and speedy job. So Waits is already on a hiding to nothing. He can’t win and being partnered with DC Black seems to him like being assigned a watcher.

Waits has history with the biggest gangster in the area who wants him dead and there’s little love lost between him and Parr. It’s sometimes difficult to tell who is the most corrupt such are the games played by some of Waits colleagues.

Delving back into Wick’s crimes will prove to be a deadly business and Knox’s vivid description of Manchester’s seamy criminal netherworld is full of frightening, malevolent, malfeasance.

Amid the political manoeuvring of his superiors, the corrupt actions of some of his fellow officers, and the price placed on his head by an old enemy, Waits has to tread a very shoogly line just to stay alive.

This is intelligent, smart storytelling; full of layers complex characters and difficult relationships. It has a dark, visceral edge that makes you hold your breath as you reading.

Verdict: Unmissable, exciting, exhausting propulsive crime. At the darkest edge of noir, this is a book and a series for all crime fiction fans. Knox is way better than good and The Sleepwalker is superb.

Hive                       Waterstones                        Amazon

Joseph Knox was born and raised in and around Stoke and Manchester,where he worked in bars and bookshops before moving to London.There he worked at head office Waterstones selecting the crime thrillers and classics for focus attention across the company. Now writing full time, he runs, writes and reads compulsively. His debut novel Sirens was a bestseller. The Sleepwalker is the third book in the DC Aidan Waits series.

#BookLaunch. Denzil Meyrick with Douglas Skelton at Waterstones Newton Mearns @lochlomonden @PolygonBooks @BirlinnBooks @DouglasSkelton1 @WatNewtonMearns @JoxVox

I like Waterstones in Newton Mearns because they often have authors no-one else has managed to get. I’ve listened to Jeffrey Deaver there and will be going to listen to Linwood Barclay later in the year. They are also, of course, excellent supporters of Scottish crime. Lin Anderson is coming in August and last night they hosted Denzil Meyrick talking to Douglas Skelton about his new novel, A Breath on Dying Embers.

Hosted in the Primavera Coffee shop in the heart of the Avenue Shopping Centre’s atrium, a sold out audience gathered to listen to this pair discussing Meyrick’s most recent novel.

Now, if you’ve never seen Denzil in action, you are missing something special. Denzil Meyrick is close to notching up almost 2 million copies sold of his Kinloch D.C.I. Jim Daley police series and his latest book is brilliant, with as Denzil himself says ‘a jaw-dropping, skull-exploding ending’.

Denzil has had quite a career, variously being a police officer, Distillery Manager, Pub owner, freelance journalist and even a short spell as an actor (he had a brief appearance in Heartbeat in 1992, apparently). As Douglas Skelton said, there’s a common thread running through his career choices.

Meyrick described his newest book as being bang up to date. His last two books, The Relentless Tide and Well of The Winds had historic elements to them, but Denzil describes this one as a book about the way we live today. This is Meyrick’s Brexit book; the one where he brings the world to Kinloch in the form of a cruise ship commandeered by the UK Government to bring an international trade delegation to Kinloch. It deals with themes of terrorism and utilises drone technology amid a host of much loved and well-kent returning characters.

A Breath on Dying Embers puts Brian Scott front and centre, even going undercover after he receives a promotion he’s waited 22 years for. Meyrick wanted to do something different with this book, using the same local Kinloch community to say something about the state of our country today and offer a different perspective.

The strong thread of humour that runs through Meyrick’s books is of course still there. Though Jim Daley is a somewhat morose character, Meyrick doesn’t like relentless sadness because it doesn’t reflect reality. So where in the last book readers found an 8ft blue chicken, this one has a giant octopus within its pages.

Kinloch, is of course, a thinly disguised Campbeltown. Meyrick has said ‘I write about Campbeltown, though I call it Kinloch. It’s one of the most unique places in Scotland—far away from the main centres of population, but it’s still on the mainland. It has this feeling of being in the 50s or 60s… There’s a sort of otherness there’.  So what, asked Skelton, do the locals think about his books?

Meyrick says they’re happy because they are on the map. People visit Campbeltown now because of the books. Anchoring them in Kintyre gives a very strong sense of place. Of course, says Meyrick, people think they recognise characters from the books; think they are in them, though they’re not. Although he did once uncannily reflect a certain harbourmaster…

Skelton asked Meyrick about his impetus to turn to writing. A period of serious illness laid Meyrick up and so he thought he might as well try his hand at writing. He wrote on and off for two years as and when he felt like it and after he submitted his book, he got a contract in 5 weeks. Now it takes him around 4 to 5 months to write a book.

After the explosive ending of the current book, what’s next, asked Skelton? Meyrick has a new series in mind. A Paisley based series written from the point of view of a gangster. He intends to keep the Daley books going in ‘one form or another’, too. (Take from that what you will).

Meyrick’s writing routine starts early, He writes for 3 or 4 hours early in the morning and then stops to read or otherwise take a writing break. He starts with the thread of an idea and goes from there.

Douglas Skelton and Meyrick have been longlisted for the Bloody Scotland McIlvanney Prize for Crime Novel of the Year, alongside Stuart McBride and other notable Scottish authors. Skelton for his remarkable exciting and atmospheric Thunder Bay and Meyrick for A Breath On Dying Embers. Cue much friendly rivalry and joke telling, though it’s clear that Meyrick has a great deal of respect for Skelton’s writing, so much so that he is starting a company to make audio books and the first of these will be an audio version of Skelton’s brilliant The Dead Don’t Boogie, read by the wonderful David Monteath. I cannot wait for that!

Will Jim Daley ever get married again, asked an audience member?  Do you want to see him happy (if he survives) asked Denzil? “Never going to happen”!

Is there anything he wouldn’t write about? He doesn’t like books with animal cruelty or cruelty against children, but enjoys books that are reflective of society. The Scandinavian crime books do this very well, he says.

What would he like to write if not crime?  He wouldn’t mind trying his hand at fantasy or science fiction or perhaps a non-fiction book about Kintyre.

I asked him about his views on the Staunch Prize that rewards books that don’t contain violence against women. Here, he agrees with Val McDermid that while society still perpetrates terrible crimes of violence against women, it is right that these are reflected in fiction.

Meyrick’s not a fan of the new Police Scotland set up. While it gives a much larger scope for crime writers, in that they can now send their investigators anywhere on Scotland, Meyrick thinks that its a politically driven move that takes officers away from knowing and understanding their patches well, leading to a less effective force overall.

It was clear from the high level of audience engagement that readers are really invested in Meyrick’s books. In response to a question about potential television interest, Meyrick revealed that there was interest from streaming companies, so it’s not out of the question. He even has his own ideas for casting.

Could these actors be the Jim Daley and Brian Scott characters we have come to love so well?

Rory McCann and Brian McCardie

This was a brilliant night, full of fun and laughter. The only slightly wrong note was that there weren’t nearly enough copies of Thunder Bay available for the audience members who wanted one, despite Newton Mearns Waterstone’s best efforts. I sincerely hope that’s remedied before Skelton returns to interview Lin Anderson in August. Are you listening Waterstones central and Polygon?

A Breath on Dying Embers:      Waterstones     Hive     Amazon                                                       

Thunder Bay:    Waterstones     Hive     Amazon                                                      

The Last Stage by Louise Voss @LouiseVoss1 @orendabooks @annecater #TheLastStage #bookreview #blogtour #beachreads

Source: Review copy
Publication: 11 July 2019 from Orenda Books
PP: 300
ISBN-13: 978-1912374878

At the peak of her career as lead singer of a legendary 1980s indie band, Meredith Vincent was driven off the international stage by a horrific incident. Now living a quiet existence in a cottage on the grounds of an old stately home, she has put her past behind her and come to terms with her new life.

When a body is found in the manicured gardens of her home, and a series of inexplicable and unsettling events begins to occur, it becomes clear that someone is watching, someone who knows who she is … Someone who wants vengeance.

And this is only the beginning…

A dark, riveting and chilling psychological thriller, The Last Stage is also a study of secrets and obsessions, where innocent acts can have the most terrifying consequences.

With all the confidence of a brash 17 year old who knows nothing about the world, Meredith Vincent left her Wiltshire home and went to Greenham Common because she already had the right costume and thought it would be fun to breach the perimeter fence with the other women heading there to protest. That was a turning point in Meredith’s life because there she met Samantha; older, more worldly and they ended up living together in a London squat with a bunch of other drop outs.

Turning her back on her twin brother Pete, and their mother, Meredith went on to become the lead singer in a post-punk/new wave band that the housemates put together and after a couple of years solid touring they signed a recording contract that made them, if not rich, certainly pretty comfortable.

Then something happened and Meredith dropped out of sight; leaving the band and everyone she knew behind. We are not told what that something was until much later in the book, but whatever it was has left her fragile, untrusting and always vigilant of her surroundings. When we first meet Meredith she is tucked away in an English stately home where she manages the Gift Shop and lives by herself in a cottage in the grounds of the Surrey home’s estate.

Years have passed and Meredith is living a quiet and unremarkable life. She has reconciled with her brother Pete who is now working as a craftsman cabinet maker nearby and living on a houseboat. 

Louise Voss’s psychological thriller takes us to the idyllic English countryside, full of green wellingtons, beautifully manicured grounds and houseboats where everyone knows each other but no-one intrudes. In the midst of peace and tranquillity, Voss inserts danger, drama and things that go creak in the night.

Through flashbacks and various other characters’ points of view contrasting with Meredith’s first person narrative, Voss leaves us wondering how reliable our protagonist is when deeply unpleasant and quite mysterious things start to happen around her.

It doesn’t help when she lies to the police and those lies remind us of how callously she left her mother and brother in the breach to satisfy her own needs. The reader is therefore on an uneven keel as we consider Meredith’s justifiable sense of guilt and watch her taking some pretty dodgy decisions.

Voss paces her thriller well. The tension builds slowly, meaning that characterisation comes to the fore. In particular, the police team would make the basis of a great new police procedural series; I really liked DC Gemma McMeekin and the rookie PC Emad Khan, who make for a romantic side story.  Voss builds a solid plotline for an authentic and chilling series of events which culminate in a dark and disturbing denouement.  

Verdict: A dark and suspense filled story of obsession and revenge wreaked on an unreliable protagonist makes for a creepy and tension-fuelled psychological thriller.

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Louise Voss has had eleven novels published – five solo and six co-written with Mark Edwards over an eighteen year career: a combination of psychological thrillers, police procedurals and contemporary fiction – and has sold over 350,000 books. Her most recent book, The Old You, was a number one bestseller in eBook. Louise has an MA (Dist) in Creative Writing and also works as a literary consultant and mentor for writers at http://www.thewritingcoach.co.uk. She lives in South-West London and is a proud member of two female crime-writing collectives, The Slice Girls and Killer Women.

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Fixed Odds by William McIntyre (Robbie Munro #5) @sandstonepress @Best_Defence @cerisanne #bookreview #blogtour

Source: Review copy
Publication: 4th July 2019 from Sandstone Press
PP: 320
ISBN-13: 978-1912240722

George ‘Genghis’ McCann has stolen – and lost – a priceless masterpiece. Snooker champion Oscar ‘The Showman’ Bowman is charged with betting fraud. With a second baby on the way, and promises of great rewards if he wins Bowman’s case and recovers the painting, defence lawyer Robbie Munro has never been so tempted to fix the odds in his favour.

William McIntyre is a Scottish criminal lawyer and so is his protagonist, Robbie Munro. Robbie is a solicitor whose Linlithgow practice survives by the grace of the Legal Aid Board; he is a jobbing solicitor doing his best to prove the innocence of his clients and more often than not he flies by the seat of his pants to do so.

Fixed Odds is the 5th Robbie Munro novel and can easily be read as a stand-alone. Since I last read one of William McIntyre’s Munro books, Robbie has settled into a long term relationship with his one time employee, Joanna and they have a baby well on the way, bringing a sibling to his daughter, Tina. It’s a good relationship. As Robbie says: ” “I kept no secrets from my wife – other than, obviously, the things I didn’t want her to know”. He is close to his father, a retired member of the Lothian and Borders police service. Robbie’s brother, Malcolm, used to be a professional footballer until an injury forced him out of the game. Now he is a sports broadcaster, enjoying his slight claim to fame.

For all that they jibe at each other, the Munros are a pretty close knit family.

McIntyre has a light, humorous, touch and his characters are hugely enjoyable to read.  George ‘Genghis’ McCann is a serial housebreaker, junkie and partner of Shona. Genghis is in the nick awaiting trial for breaking into an old woman’s home. Shona wants Munro to get him out, because, basically, he broke into the wrong house and ‘only stole a few things’ while he was there.

Oscar ‘The Showman’ Bowman, is an arrogant cold snooker player, charged with betting fraud. Munro takes his case for the fee, but hasn’t bargained on Bowman’s reluctance to provide any kind of defence.

When Genghis is murdered, Robbie gets more deeply involved in the case. It seems that Genghis stole something that was worth a great deal more than he realised. Robbie’s eye for the main chance leads him to take some risky and questionable decisions and it is only the intervention of his sensible, Ovaltine eating, life partner that brings him back to heel.

There’s a great deal of warmth and dry humour and some lovely quick witted repartee flowing through this lightly humorous yet often quite tense legal thriller. McIntyre writes his characters so well and the interplay of light and shade is very well executed. I love the portrayal of the the Scottish criminal justice system (with a named hat tip to the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates) and the interaction between the lawyers, the police and others involved in the legal process is authentic and priceless.

Verdict: A legal thriller that is full of wit and larger-than-life characters to delight the reader. An entertaining legal mystery with a darker core, this is another winner in the Munro series.

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William McIntyre is a partner in Scotland’s oldest law firm Russel & Aitken, specialising in criminal defence. He has been instructed in many interesting and high-profile cases over the years and now turns fact into fiction with his Robbie Munro legal thrillers. He is married with four sons.

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