Do No Harm by Jack Jordan @JackJordanBooks @RandomTTours @simonschusterUK #Audiobookreview

Source: Review copy
Publication: 26 May from Simon and Schuster
Narrators: Lucy Paterson, Sarah Feathers, Jane Collingwood
Listening Time: 10hrs 26 minutes
ASIN: B09LK977SV

My thanks to Simon and Schuster for an advance audiobook for review

My child has been taken. And I’ve been given a choice….

Kill a patient on the operating table. Or never see him again.

The man lies on the table in front of me.

As a surgeon, it’s my job to save him.

As a mother, I know I must kill him.

You might think that I’m a monster.

But there really is only one choice.

I must get away with murder.

Or I will never see my son again.

I’ve saved many lives.

Would you trust me with yours?

Do No Harm is a thrill ride from start to finish. Jack Jordan’s characters stand out from the page and their narrative drives the book forward at a relentless pace. Told in three first person voices, this is perfect fare for audiobook listening and our three narrators more than did it justice.

Our key protagonist is a cardiothoracic surgeon who, when we meet her, is due to perform a coronary bypass on prominent politician, Ahmed Shabir.  Anna Jones is at the top of her game in Redwood Hospital and although she is in the midst of a difficult divorce, she is more than able to do her job with skill and precision and her outcomes are always good.

Ann is mother to 7 year old Zack, the light of her life. So when Zack is kidnapped and Anna is told by his kidnappers to do the unthinkable and break her Hippocratic oath, the dilemma she faces is one that causes her major anguish.

Our second narrator is scrub nurse Margot Barnes. Margot is at the bottom end of the hospital food chain. She has some serious issues of her own to deal with, including serious debt and not least of problems is her seriously deranged brother and she survives by scrimping and stealing. When she sees something that no-one else has noticed, she reckons she has an opportunity to put all her money worries aside for good.

Finally, we hear from Detective Inspector Rachel Conaty. She has a trauma in her past that she can’t get over and she carries a massive chip on her shoulder that impacts  on her professional life as she tries to fathom what’s going on with Anna.

Do No Harm is gripping, propulsive and full of intense emotion. You really feel for Anna when she is faced with an impossible dilemma. To rescue her son she must kill her patient. Jack Jordan lays out Anna’s soul-searching anguish so clearly that as a reader you really feel for her. All they along you hope and pray for a different choice, but as you read, the position only becomes more stark and your heart is in your mouth as you wait tor Anna to make her impossible decision.

Interspersing Anna’s chapters we learn more about the personal lives of both Morag and Rachel as we hear directly from them. Neither has had an easy life either and who they are and the decisions they make in this scenario are very much also shaped by their experiences.

Jordan manages to make both Anna and Morag feel like real people and they go through the gamut of emotions which ultimately drives them to do some pretty extreme things but for the most believable reasons.  Even though they may not always be likeable, you do want them to succeed.

Verdict: Jack Jordan’s writing is nail-bitingly tense; his plotting clever, twisty and his pace relentless. Do No Harm is a tale of the power of motherhood and the extreme lengths that people will go to to protect their children. It works really well as an audiobook and I’m sure just as well on the printed page. It’s an all-consuming rollercoaster ride and I really enjoyed it.

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Jack Jordan is the global bestselling author of Anything for Her, My Girl, A Woman
Scorned, Before Her Eyes, and Night by Night and an Amazon No.1 bestseller in the
UK, Canada, and Australia. After selling at auction in the UK and numerous foreign
territories, Do No Harm is set to be the thriller of the summer in 2022. The idea for
Do No Harm came to Jack after undergoing a minor medical procedure where he
had to be sedated and trust strangers with his welfare. After the anaesthesia wore
off, Jack began scribbling his notes, wondering to himself just how iron-clad a
surgeon’s oath is, and what it would take to break it..

Cat and Mouse by M.J.Arlidge  D.I. Helen Grace #11 @orion_crime @Tr4cyF3nt0n

Source: Review copy
Publication: 9th June from Orion
PP: 512
ISBN-13: 978-1409188506

My thanks to Orion Crime and Compulsive Readers for an early copy for review on this blog tour

When you think you’re safe,
When you think you’re all alone,
That’s when he’ll come for you…

A silent killer stalks the city, targeting those home alone at night, playing a deadly game of cat and mouse with the victims.

As panic spreads, Detective Inspector Helen Grace leads the investigation, but is herself a hunted woman, her every step shadowed by a ruthless psychopath bent on revenge.

As she tracks the murderer, Grace begins to suspect there is a truly shocking home truth that connects these brutal crimes. But what she will find is something more twisted than she could ever suspect…

I’m a huge fan of the Helen Grace series and was very keen to read this one. Head of Southampton’s Major Incident Team, poor Helen is the most put upon, stalked police woman in the force anywhere in the UK and it’s fair to say that Southampton has more than its fair share of serial killers. It helps of course that she is tenacious, single minded and has no time at all for bureaucracy or bosses who get in the way of getting the job done.

Helen’s had her share of superior officers who thought they could better her, and this time it seems she may have met her match in Chief Superintendent Alan Peters, a man who expects his subordinates not to have minds of their own. But backing Helen into a corner just makes her all the more determined to come out fighting.

Arlidge writes in short sharp chapters and that helps to set a fast and furious pace for this action packed police procedural. Helen Grace is an extraordinary character and for the reader that is part of the attraction. She demands and gets 100% from her team, but no-one is harder on Helen than Grace herself. Let down by too many people, she has no life of her own and seems destined now, to be the leather clad, motor-biking avenger of Southampton’s streets.

In the 11th in the series, a vicious axe killer is stalking Southampton’s streets. What has the team stumped is an absence of discernible motive or any link between the victims. As Helen struggles to find a causal link between the crimes, she comes under heavy pressure from her boss and even her dependable sidekick, Charlie, does not seem to be entirely on the ball.

As if that were not enough, Helen is still being targeted by a killer from her last case and – as if that were not enough – the poisonous ex DS Joseph Hudson is hell-bent on bringing her down. Local newspaper reporter, Emily Garanita is never too far away either, waiting for Helen to make the mistake that will enable her to put Helen’s fall from grace on the front pages.

Verdict: I enjoyed this latest episode in the Helen Grace series, and I really enjoy Arlidge’s writing, but it is beginning to feel as if Helen has nowhere left to go. There’s no discernible character development (other than in Emily Garanita) and the plot while offering some points of difference seems too familiar to previous cases. It may be time to rest this series or to give it a major shake-up. I love Helen Grace and always enjoy the internal politics that M.J.Arlidge’s characters have to endure alongside their danger fuelled tracking down of vicious killers but this one is treading territory that feels just a bit too familiar.

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M.J. Arlidge has worked in television for the last twenty years, specialising in high-end drama production, including prime-time crime serials Silent Witness, Torn, The Little House and, most recently, the hit ITV show Innocent. In 2015 his audiobook exclusive Six Degrees of Assassination was a number-one bestseller. His debut thriller, Eeny Meeny, was the UK’s bestselling crime debut of 2014 and has been followed by nine more DI Helen Grace thrillers – all Sunday Times bestsellers.

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill @SulariGentill @ultimopress

Source: Review copy
Publication: 1st June 2022 ebook from Ultimo Press; H/b 15 Sept 2022
PP: 266
ASIN: B09R41JFYN

My thanks to Ultimo Press for an advance copy for review

Hannah Tigone, bestselling Australian crime author, is crafting a new novel that begins in the Boston Public Library: four strangers; Winifred, Cain, Marigold and Whit are sitting at the same table when a bloodcurdling scream breaks the silence. A woman has been murdered. They are all suspects, and, as it turns out, each character has their own secrets and motivations – and one of them is a murderer.

While crafting this new thriller, Hannah shares each chapter with her biggest fan and aspirational novelist, Leo. But Leo seems to know a lot about violence, motive, and how exactly to kill someone. Perhaps he is not all that he seems…

The Woman in the Library is an unexpectedly twisty literary adventure that examines the complicated nature of friendship – and shows that words can be the most treacherous weapons of all.

I first became aware of Sulari Gentill when I read her stand-alone novel, Crossing The Lines, which I loved. In The Woman in the Library, another stand-alone, Gentill has again turned to metafiction, utilising the device of writers corresponding and thus telling stories within stories.

Hannah Tigone, is an Australian crime author. Her opus is about a murder in the Boston Public Library – a typical locked room mystery. Leo, her correspondent, is an aspiring author, as yet without an agent and with no manuscript accepted. He is Boston based and happy not just to beta read for Hannah, but to offer authoritative information on local customs and landmarks.

This book is a lot of fun. The heroine of Hannah’s book, Freddie Kinkaid, is an Australian in Boston on a writing fellowship. She is pondering her latest novel in the Reading Room of the Boston Library when she hears a curdling scream and soon after she, together with the three people sitting nearest to her, are all ushered out of the library.

It turns out that the body of journalist Caroline Palfrey has been discovered and she was murdered in the Library. Over coffee, the four library visitors – Cain, Marigold, Freddie and Whit discuss the murder and bond over their shared interest in finding out what happened.

So Hannah’s novel becomes Freddie’s story of solving the mystery of The Woman in the Library. And to further complicate matters, Hannah writes Leo into the story as a neighbour and helpful friend.

This pleases our correspondent and his namesake. As Hannah finishes a chapter, Leo reads it and offers feedback. Eager to be helpful in the beginning, he soon begins to offer more assertive suggestions and to query the direction of her novel.  It seems our beta reader hasstrongly held views about what Hannah should be writing…

The Woman in the Library is a murder mystery but the danger is both within the novel that Hannah is writing and from external sources. Both narratives come together and it seems that everyone in this fictional story has something to hide and our author may herself be under threat.

Verdict: I found The Woman in the Library hugely fun to read. The murder mystery stands up as a good read in its own right and the added layers of a chilling correspondent make for an extra frisson of interest. I especially love the exchanges between Leo and Hannah on what is important when writing her book. Gentill touches on the dilemmas every writer faces – do you include the pandemic in your story?  Should you be explicit about the race and colour of your characters, or leave it to the reader to form their own opinions? This is a brilliantly constructed novel. It is great fun, clever, thought-provoking and a joy to read.

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Sulari Gentill is the author of the multi- award-winning Rowland Sinclair Mysteries, a series of historical crime novels set in 1930s Australia.  Under the name S. D. Gentill, Sulari wrote the The Hero Trilogy – a fantasy adventure series based on the myths and legends of the ancient world. Her widely praised standalone novel, Crossing the Lines, won the Ned Kelly Award for Best Crime Novel, and was short-listed for the Davitt Award. Most recently, Sulari was awarded a Copyright Agency Cultural Fund Fellowship for The Woman in the Library. Sulari lives in a small country town in the Australian Snowy Mountains where she grows French Black Truffles and writes. She remains in love with the art of storytelling

The Death of Remembrance by Denzil Meyrick  #D.C.I. Daley #10 @Lochlomonden @PolygonBooks

Source: Review copy
Publication: June 2nd 2022 from Polygon
PP: 400
ISBN-13: ‎ 978-1846975851

My thanks to Denzil Meyrick and Polygon Books for an advance copy for review

The ghosts of the past will not be silenced.

Glasgow, 1983, and a beat constable walks away from a bar where he knows a crime is about to be committed. It is a decision that will haunt him for the rest of his life.

In the present, an old fisherman is found dead by Kinloch’s shoreline and a stranger with a deadly mission moves into town.

As past and present collide, D.C.I. Jim Daley must confront old friends, new foes and ghosts who will not be silenced.

June is National Crime Reading Month and tomorrow we also celebrate the publication of the 10th book in the million copy selling D.C.I. Daley series from the titan of Scottish crime fiction, Denzil Meyrick.  This is a series I have really taken to my heart – so much so that I have bought it in audiobook as well as reading it from the page. I’m delighted that it is to be televised and can’t wait to see it on the screen, too.

This is a series that really does offer everything. A wonderful sense of place in the beautifully atmospheric Kinloch where there are terrific characters who leap off the page and plant themselves firmly in your heart and mind. These are people you get to know and love so that when something happens to one of them you feel the pain as if it were part of you. Tension and darkness, death and evil walk among us – mixed together with humour, light and a sense that there’s an order to this world that will not let evil prevail.

So what has Meyrick given us to celebrate his decade of Daley and Scott? It’s quite straightforward really – a brilliant blockbuster that delivers all of the above while revealing more of what lies in the past of both Brian Scott and Jim Daley and showing us how that past has come back to haunt them.

The Death of Remembrance places its emphasis on DS Brian Scott who we find still struggling with the demon drink. Indeed, there’s a kind of pall hanging over the whole of Kinloch at the moment. Since the events of the previous book, the County Hotel is a shadow of its former self. None of the locals want to drink there anymore and the new proprietor, Ian McMillan, is finding that there are not even enough passers-by to sample his new menu.

Meyrick takes us back to Brian Scott’s early days in the force and gives us glimpses into his life as a bobby on the streets and his entry into CID, showing us the pressures he was under and some of the reasons his penchant for the drink has always had such a strong hold on him.

This is harsh stuff and as ever, Meyrick mingles it with laughter as Brian’s mangling of language, seemingly not enhanced by his fine choice of reading material, creates brilliant moments of laughter amid some dark and deadly moments.

As a reader you do get a real sense of the myriad difficulties that the young Scott struggled with and of the bravery that he showed when faced with difficult choices. But now, as the narrative shifts between past and present, we have a better understanding of how much the past has influenced him and just why he and Daley have stuck together through thick and thin.

Now though, the past is coming back to haunt both men and there’s a reckoning coming. Who will be standing in the aftermath is the question we are desperate to know the answer to as we frantically turn the pages of this tense and exciting book.

As ever, the setting is rich in atmosphere and Meyrick’s portrayal of Kinloch and its people is warm and inviting as he shows us just how stupid incomers can be when they underestimate the best of Kinloch’s inhabitants.

The seeds of previous novels come to full growth in this 10th novel and for some characters it is very much a case of ‘reap what you sow’. Meyrick gives us exactly what we want – the deeply personal mixed with the professional and even as we feel for Jim Daley in his increasingly difficult marriage, we laugh at some of the more hilarious antics of Ella and Liz as a dinner party takes an unexpected turn.

The Death of Remembrance is a story that brings a number of previous threads in the series to fruition and fills in some of the blanks that we’ve all been wondering about. It’s a dark story filled with everything that makes this series so special and it gives due deference to those outstanding characters we have come to know and love. In particular, the very special Hamish shows us once again that there’s more to heaven and earth than is dreamt of in our philosophy.  

Proust said that ‘Remembrance of things past is not necessarily remembrance of things as they were’, and it seems that there’s one vital piece of knowledge that has lain long forgotten and which is now back to bite our protagonists.

Verdict: The Death of Remembrance is a taut tale full of death, intensity and some startling revelations. It is a novel that fixes your attention from the beginning and keeps you fastened to the page right until the gripping, breathtaking end. I can only hope there is another decade of Daley and Scott to follow.

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After studying politics, Denzil Meyrick worked as a police officer, distillery manager, freelance journalist, and company director. He is originally from Campbeltown in Argyll, but now lives with his wife Fiona on Loch Lomondside.

The Homes by J.B.Mylet @JamesMylet @ViperBooks

Source: Review copy
Publication: 26 May 2022 from Viper
PP: 320
ISBN-13: ‎ 978-1788167048

There were good people in The Homes. But there were also some very, very bad ones…

A thousand unwanted children live in The Homes, a village of orphans in the Scottish Lowlands on the outskirts of Glasgow. Lesley was six before she learned that most children live with their parents. Now Lesley is twelve, and she and her best friend Jonesy live in Cottage 5, Jonesy the irrepressible spirit to Lesley’s quiet thoughtfulness.

Life is often cruel at The Homes, and suddenly it becomes much crueller. A child is found murdered. Then another. With the police unable to catch the killer, Lesley and Jonesy decide to take the matter into their own hands. But unwanted children are easy victims, and they are both in terrible danger…

The Homes is told in the voice of Lesley, a 12 year old child who lives in a children’s home where the living accommodation is based on a series of cottages each with its own house parents.  In fact such a home did exist in Scotland – the Quarriers Village orphanage near Bridge of Weir, in Renfrewshire a place designed to enhance Christian values of kindness and compassion, but in the end it was a place where terrible things happened to children.

But this is a fictional story and Lesley’s voice is distinctive and compelling. She’s a bright 12 year old and this marks her out from her counterparts. So much so that she goes to a different school where her academic achievement is encouraged. At the Home, she is best pals with Jonesy, born Morag Jones, a lively, mouthy girl with irrepressible energy. The pair are inseparable.

Set in the 60’s, corporal punishment is a way of life for these girls, but nothing prepares them for the murder of one of their own. The police investigate but find neither evidence nor motive, though the girls speculate among themselves, coming up with theories, many of which are far- fetched.

The Homes is written in very simple, straightforward fashion and that really does make Lesley’s voice stand out. As she struggles with her own situation – longing for a mother who she feels has never wanted her; with a million questions to ask her granny who comes to visit, she is also determined to find out who killed the girl and disrupted what was, at least, a stable existence.

There’s an authenticity to Lesley’s voice that rings true and I think this would work well as a Y/A book, though some of the harsher realities of life and death are clearly laid out.

At its heart though this is a story of friendship and loss. When another child dies, Lesley thinks the police are useless and she and Jonesy investigate for themselves, with disastrous consequences.

JB Mylet paints a very clear picture of life in The Homes, of the lives of these girls and the absence of love that is their daily existence – although there are instances of kindness that stand out.

He captures perfectly that sense of being unwanted and the myriad emotions that pulse through 12 year old Lesley, including the sheer excitement that comes with thinking that she is on the trail of a killer.

Verdict: The Homes is a murder mystery that is told through a compelling and distinctive voice that resonates loudly. It is simply and clearly told and it examines the thoughts that go through the mind of a 12 year old girl as she contemplates what it might feel like to be loved and wanted and why, if there is a God, he would allow bad things to happen to girls who have done nothing to warrant it? It’s a sometimes raw and certainly emotional read though the sadness is often tempered with laugh out loud moments. Hugely captivating, authentic and enjoyable.

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James Mylet is the author of Lex and The Homes. He loves in South West London with his wife and son.

Photo:c. Lucy Brown

Vladimir by Julia May Jonas  @Julia_May_Jonas @picadorbooks

Source: Review copy
Publication: 26 May 2022 from Picador
PP: 256
ISBN-13: 978-1529080445

My thanks to Picador for an advance copy for review

A provocative, razor-sharp, and timely debut novel about a beloved English professor facing a slew of accusations against her professor husband by former students – a situation that becomes more complicated when she herself develops an obsession of her own . . .

When I was a child, I loved old men, and I could tell that they also loved me.

And so we meet our deliciously incisive narrator: a popular English professor whose husband, a charismatic professor at the same small liberal arts college, is under investigation for his inappropriate relationships with his former students. The couple have long had a mutual understanding when it comes to their extramarital pursuits, but with these new allegations, life has become far less comfortable for them both. And when our narrator becomes increasingly infatuated with Vladimir, a celebrated, married young novelist who’s just arrived on campus, their tinder-box world comes dangerously close to exploding.

With her bold, edgy, and uncommonly assured literary debut, Julia May Jonas takes us into charged territory, where the strictures of morality bump up against the impulses of the human heart. Propulsive, darkly funny, and surreptitiously moving, Vladimir maps the personal and political minefield of our current moment, exposing the messy contradictions of power and desire.

Our unnamed protagonist is a 58 year old College Professor in the US, teaching English Literature. Her husband, John, stands accused of inappropriate sexual relationships with several students, albeit in the times before the College explicitly banned such relationships.

The couple have always had an open marriage and we know this because this story is told by John’s wife throughout.  It’s a fascinating and debate raising novel. The timing gleefully encompasses both the immense sexual revolution of the 60’s and 70’s and today’s #MeToo movement. Two occurrences which are in direct contradiction of each other.

Our narrator has a good conceit of herself. She prides herself on her ability to connect with her students and at the same time she feels scorn for those who have brought their accusations against her husband for his abuse of power, because, after all, was it not that very power that attracted them in the first place? Yet she finds that both her status and her own feminism are now challenged by the very students who used to hang on her every word.

Her relationship with her own daughter, Sid, a lawyer and a lesbian is less successful. Indeed, her family life is all but dead, as she and her husband barely converse and Sid and she clash over pretty much everything. Now she is not enjoying the knowledge that her students are looking on her and pitying her; feeling the need to offer their advice that she should not be standing by her cheating partner.

She is also increasingly drawn to a newly arrived married colleague, Vladimir Vladinski, whose debut novel is remarkable. She is a writer of small success and she sees in Vladimir a younger version of herself. Now she is getting older and her body less beautiful, she finds herself drawn in a provocative, sexual way to this man with a beautiful body and a beautiful mind. The fact that Vladimir is both a husband and a father and that his wife is fragile as a result of depression is dismissed in her mind, or at least serves only to make him more attractive.

Her sexual fantasies in relation to Vladimir grow and with her newly re-engaged longing, she finds again the desire to write, alongside the emergence of a plan for deliberate seduction.

Vladimir beautifully portrays the sexual politics of today in the rarified world of academia. Touching on cancel culture, confronting ageing and challenging the idea of the non-sexual post-menopausal woman, Julia Jonas creates a thoughtful contribution to the current debate on ideas and freedom of expression in literature.

The comparisons with Nabokov are interesting and there’s a lot to think about in this detailed and multi-layered character study. I greatly enjoyed the journey and my thoughts keep returning to some of the book’s themes – and that in itself makes it a winner for me.

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Julia May Jonas is a playwright and teaches theatre at Skidmore College. She holds an MFA in playwriting from Columbia University and lives in Brooklyn with her family. Vladimir is her debut novel.

Dead in the Water by Mark Ellis @MarkEllis15 @AccentPress @midaspr

Source: Review copy
Publication: 19 May 2022 from Headline Accent
PP: 384
ISBN-13: 978-1786159885

Summer, 1942.
The Second World War rages on but Britain now faces the Nazi threat with America at its side.

In a bombed-out London swarming with gangsters and spies, DCI Frank Merlin continues his battle against rampant wartime crime. A mangled body is found in the Thames just as some items of priceless art go mysteriously missing. What sinister connection links the two?

Merlin and his team follow a twisting trail of secrets and lies as they investigate a baffling and deadly puzzle .

Dead In The Water by Mark Ellis is the fifth book in the acclaimed DCI Frank Merlin historical detective fiction series. Each book can be read on it’s own, but you’ll enjoy the whole series, I’m sure. Today I’m delighted to bring you the Prologue to Dead in the Water which I hope you’ll find as intriguing as it is chilling.


Prologue

November 1938

Vienna

The apartment was in a fashionable residential building just off the Ringstrasse, the grand boulevard that encircled the centre of Aus-tria’s capital. Daniel was the fourth head of the Katz family to live there. Samuel Katz, his ​great-grandfather​ and founder of the eponymous family bank, had been the first. Daniel’s wife Esther and the younger of their four children, Sarah and Rachel, shared the apartment with him. His son and older daughter were away studying at the Sorbonne in Paris.

Daniel had taken over the running of the bank in 1920, after the sudden death of his father. Under his assured management, it had weathered the economic storms of the twenties and early thir-ties and had emerged as one of the soundest finance houses in Vienna. All should have been good in the Katz world. It was not. For the Katzes were Jews, and since March, Adolf Hitler had ruled their country. Daniel’s younger brother, Benjamin, had been quick to sniff the wind years before, when Hitler had first come to power in Germany. He had moved to London, where he had rapidly built up his own successful financial business. He had pestered Daniel for years to follow him, but Daniel had stubbornly resisted. An eternal optimist, he continued to believe, against all the evidence, that Hitler would make allowances for Jews who had brains and skills to offer society. The German annexation of Austria had at last put paid to this optimism. It was now crystal clear that all Jews, clever or not, were to be pariahs. The authorities had begun to strip him of his business interests. There was no prospect of escape, and it had become only a matter of time before everything was lost.

Now, on this fine autumn morning, that time had come. The family was breakfasting together in the dining room. The servants had long gone, and mother and daughters had prepared the meal. A letter had just arrived from their son, Nathan, and Esther was reading it aloud. As she turned to the final page, there was a sudden fierce pounding at the door, and a voice screamed, ‘Open up, Jewish scum!’

Daniel hurried to the hallway to see the front door already splintering under the pounding of rifle butts. Snarling soldiers pushed through. One of them dragged him down the corridor to where his petrified wife and daughters were cowering.

‘I am Sergeant Vogel. You will all do as you are told. Where is your sitting room?’

Daniel inclined his head to the left. ‘Second on the right. But . . . what is this about? This is a private dwelling. On what grounds . . .’

The sergeant struck him hard on his right cheek. ‘Shut up and move along.’

‘But gentlemen, please. You have no right. I must ask you to leave.’

The sergeant smiled and looked at his men. ‘Gentlemen, eh? Very polite, ain’t he, lads?’ He waved his gun. ‘Move.’

The party entered the larger of the apartment’s two parlours. Vogel, a fat man with the purple nose of a serious drinker, had a quick look round, then instructed the other soldiers to search the rest of the flat. He turned his attention back to the family. ‘Every-one get over there by the window.’

They did as they were told. Looking down into the street, Daniel saw a fleet of military vehicles. ‘May I ask what is happening?’

The sergeant grinned. ‘What is happening is that we are taking some of you rich Viennese Jews on a nice little vacation. We’ve got a holiday camp waiting for you, a place called Mauthausen. You’ll love it.’ He moved to the window and looked down himself at the action on the street. He emitted a satisfied grunt, then turned his attention to the girls. ‘You have two fine​-looking​ daughters, Katz. I think I might steal a kiss before we go. Maybe a little more. What do you think, eh, my lovelies?’ Sarah cringed as he reached out to touch her. Then a peremptory voice sounded.

‘Vogel! What the hell are you doing?’

Another soldier was at the door. A younger man than Vogel but apparently of higher rank. His collar sported the insignia of the SS.

The sergeant stepped back. ‘I was just . . . just about to start searching everyone, sir.’

‘Starting with the prettiest, I see.’ The officer considered for a moment. ‘You may check to see if Herr Katz is armed, but I think it unnecessary to search the ladies.’

A clearly disappointed Vogel nodded and frisked Daniel roughly. ‘He’s clean, sir.’

The SS officer flashed a shark​-like​ smile. ‘I’m forgetting my manners, Herr Katz. My name is Spitzen. Colonel Ferdinand Spitzen. Heil Hitler.’ His hand rose in more of a wave than a salute. ‘What a ​fine-​looking family you have, Herr Katz.’ He stared at the women for a moment, then looked down at his highly polished boots. ‘Such a pity.’

‘I beg your pardon, Colonel?’

Spitzen’s face darkened. ‘You may beg my pardon indeed, Herr Katz. However, it will sadly not be forthcoming. The time has come for Jews to pay the price for the crimes of their race.’ He turned back to Vogel. ‘Go and see how the others are getting on. Make sure no one damages anything, or there’ll be hell to pay. Understand?’

‘Yes, sir.’ The sergeant disappeared into the corridor and the colonel began to walk around the room, voicing his admiration for the paintings, the opulent furniture and the numerous fine objets d’art dotted all around. Eventually he settled himself in alarge leather armchair by the fireplace. ‘So, Herr Katz. You will not be surprised to know, I’m sure, that the Reich has a full file on your long career as a crooked Jewish banker.’ He flicked a speck of dirt from his trousers. ‘Have you anything to say?’

‘I have been a straight and honest businessman all my life. I do not recognise your description.’

After considering this reply for a moment, Spitzen eased him-self to his feet, strolled over to Daniel and punched him hard in the face. Daniel collapsed to the floor, blood spurting from his nose. Esther and his daughters burst out crying, and rushed to help him to his feet.

‘You lie, Katz!’ shouted the colonel. ‘You and your race have connived for years to defraud the great German people. The Führer has now, thankfully, decided to put a halt to this abuse once and for all. Justice will be served.’ He returned to his chair. ‘As it happens, the name of Daniel Katz is surprisingly well known among the ruling circles of the Reich. Not because of your criminality, but for another reason. You are something of an art collector, are you not?’

Daniel realised for the first time that his tie had come loose. He attempted to retie it, but found that his hands were shaking too much. He shrugged.

‘We were under the impression that the greatest pieces in the collection were kept in your headquarter offices in Schottengasse. However, when we searched them, we did not find what we were looking for.’ Spitzen glanced around the room. ‘I see some attractive paintings here, but, unless I’m very much mistaken, these are again lesser works. Am I mistaken?’

Vogel appeared at the door before Daniel could answer.

‘Yes, Sergeant?’ Spitzen said irritably.

‘We’ve found a lot of stuff. Paintings, drawings, sculptures, ornaments. Some jewellery in the bedrooms. Oh, and a safe that needs opening.’

‘What about those particular items I listed for you?’ ‘Haven’t found them yet.’

Spitzen frowned, then turned back to Daniel. ‘You will open the safe for Sergeant Vogel. And you will show him any other hidden safes or receptacles for items of value in the flat. Don’t bother trying to conceal anything. There is no point. Once you are out of here, everything will be pulled apart.’

Daniel closed his eyes, then nodded.

‘I have what I believe to be a comprehensive list of the finest works in your collection. If they are not here, you must tell me where they are.’

‘I . . . I sent some works abroad.’

‘There is no record of transfer in official export records.’ ‘I did not . . . did not use official channels.’

‘I see. Yet another crime to be added to your long list. It may interest you to know that we’ve already had valuable assistance from some of your employees. According to them, you have stored a good portion of your collection in this country. They remember items being packed and dispatched to Austrian destinations. Unfortunately, there is no written record of these destinations. No doubt if I put a team on the matter they will track the works down, but things might go a little better for you and your family if you provide the addresses now.’

Daniel glanced nervously at his wife but said nothing.

Spitzen indicated the two girls. ‘You know, I made a point of protecting your daughters earlier.’ The ​shark-​like smile reappeared. ‘Such protection could easily be removed.’

With a look of despair, Daniel conceded. ‘All right, all right. I’ll tell you.’

‘How sensible of you. Vogel, find Herr Katz a pen and paper.’

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I hope that this short extract has left you wanting to read more. See below for details of the author and where to buy Dead in the Water.

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Mark Ellis is a thriller writer from Swansea and a former barrister and entrepreneur. He grew up under the shadow of his parents’ experience of the Second World War. His father served in the wartime navy and died a young man. His mother told him stories of watching the heavy bombardment of Swansea from the safe vantage point of a hill in Llanelli, and of attending tea dances in wartime London under the bombs and doodlebugs. In consequence Mark has always been fascinated by WW2 and in particular the Home Front and the fact that while the nation was engaged in a heroic endeavour, crime flourished. Murder, robbery, theft, rape and corruption were rife. This was an intriguing, harsh and cruel world – the world of DCI Frank Merlin. Mark Ellis is a member of several writers organisations including the Crime Writers’ Association and Crime Cymru. The third novel in his historical detective series, Merlin at War, was on the CWA Historical Dagger Longlist in 2018.

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The Island by Adrian McKinty @orionbooks

Source: Review copy
Publication: 26 May 2022 from Orion
PP: 384
ISBN-13: 978-1409189633

My thanks to Orion for an advance copy for review

IT WAS JUST SUPPOSED TO BE A FAMILY VACATION.

A TERRIBLE ACCIDENT CHANGED EVERYTHING.

YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE CAPABLE OF UNTIL THEY COME FOR YOUR FAMILY.

After moving from a small country town to Seattle, Heather Baxter marries Tom, a widowed doctor with a young son and teenage daughter. A working vacation overseas seems like the perfect way to bring the new family together, but once they’re deep in the Australian outback, the jet-lagged and exhausted kids are so over their new mom.

When they discover a remote Dutch Island, off-limits to outside visitors, the family talks their way onto the ferry, taking a chance on an adventure far from the reach of iPhones and Instagram.

But as soon as they set foot on the island, which is run by a tightly knit clan of locals, everything feels wrong. Then a shocking accident propels the Baxters from an unsettling situation into an absolute nightmare.

When Heather and the kids are separated from Tom, they are forced to escape alone, seconds ahead of their pursuers.

Now it’s up to Heather to save herself and the kids, even though they don’t trust her, the harsh bushland is filled with danger, and the locals want her dead.

Heather has been underestimated her entire life, but she knows that only she can bring her family home again and become the mother the children desperately need, even if it means doing the unthinkable to keep them all alive.

Adrian McKinty can write and write stunningly well. His Sean Duffy series provides more than sufficient evidence of that. He is capable of nuance, character depth and so much more, but this is a straightforward action thriller. The blurb, reproduced above, tells you all you need to know about the plot. It is one woman’s battle to save herself and her family from a rabid situation in which the odds are firmly stacked against them and there is seemingly no way out.

The Island is written in a cinematic style so it’s no surprise that it has gone straight to Hulu.

Tom is an orthopaedic doctor in the United States, and Heather, a former massage therapist, is his second wife.  Now married for a year, Heather is tasked with looking after Tom’s two children. The family are in Melbourne for a conference that Tom is speaking at when, in an attempt to keep the children happy, they blag their way with cash on to a private island in the expectation of seeing many kangaroos and koalas.

You don’t readily take to Tom. A man who hires a Porsche to go into the outback is always going to be a bit of a tool, isn’t he? And the way he waves his cash around to get what he wants is not a good omen for things to come.

So it proves when things go badly wrong on the island and suddenly the entire family is fighting for their lives. Central to the action is Heather, a woman whose upbringing on Goose Island proves to be surprisingly helpful and it is enjoyable to watch this mild mannered masseuse change into a thundering warrior as the book progresses.

As an adventure movie I’m certain it will work well in a Die Hard kind of a way. Certainly there’s enough violence and grisly, scary, gory bits to make you squirm and squeal. I enjoyed the way that Heather was forced to it her wits against an entire family of tough and dangerous desperadoes headed up by a matriarch who brooks no dissent.

Verdict: It’s a kind of Die Hard meets Hunger Games You’ll need to suspend all your disbelief, but if you let it entertain you, you’ll find you can while away some happy hours reading this tense and action packed thriller. A great one for a summer holiday, I reckon, but really, McKinty is capable of so much more.

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Adrian McKinty was born and grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland during the Troubles of the 1970s and 1980s. His father was a boilermaker and ship’s engineer and his mother a secretary. Adrian went to Oxford University on a full scholarship to study philosophy before emigrating to the United States to become a high school English teacher. His books have won the Edgar Award, the Ned Kelly Award, the Anthony Award, the Barry Award and have been translated into over 20 languages. Adrian is a reviewer and critic for The Sydney Morning Herald, The Irish Times and The Guardian. He lives in New York City with his wife and two children.

The Dark by Sharon Bolton (Lacey Flint #5)  @AuthorSJBolton  @orion_crime @orionbooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n

Source: Review copy
Publication: 26 May 2022 from Orion
PP: 464
ISBN-13: 978-1409198345

My thanks to Orion and Compulsive Readers for the opportunity to read and review.

When a baby is snatched from its pram and cast into the river Thames, off-duty police officer Lacey Flint is there to prevent disaster. But who would want to hurt a child?

DCI Mark Joesbury has been expecting this. Monitoring a complex network of dark web sites, Joesbury and his team have spotted a new terrorist threat from the extremist, women-hating, group known as ‘incels’ or ‘involuntary celibates.’ Joesbury’s team are trying to infiltrate the ring of power at its core, but the dark web is built for anonymity, and the incel army is vast.

Pressure builds when the team learn the snatched child was just the first in a series of violent attacks designed to terrorise women. Worse, the leaders of the movement seem to have singled out Lacey as the embodiment of everything they hate, placing her in terrible danger…

You can read The Dark without having read the others in the Lacey Flint series, but I can tell you that if you do, you’ll be heading straight for the back catalogue to read the others, because this is an addictive series with a must read character in Lacey Flint.

This is a series I adore and Sharon Bolton has kept us waiting eight years for the next instalment. Has the wait been worth it? You bet it has!

Sharon Bolton’s timely and exciting novel focuses on a rising threat to women – the incel or involuntary celibate movement which is rearing its head in a number of places. In a tense, exciting and very pacy novel, Bolton  cleverly  mixes together current right wing political strands and tendencies with this movement to produce an ugly and compelling picture of what could happen without it once feeling at all far-fetched.

Lacey Flint’s background and the secrets she keeps are to the fore here as she faces up to a formidable adversary. This is someone she has met before; someone who can bring down everything she has worked for. Her relationship with DCI Mark Joesbury has been on the back burner for a while; getting too close was threatening both Lacey’s freedom and making her fear that she could bring Joesbury down with her.

But the upsurge in violent misogyny brings the two together as they combine to fight an enemy that has tentacles everywhere.

Sharon Bolton’s writing is piercing, brilliant, dark and seriously unnerving as she so cleverly cpatures the heart of the incel movement and how it could be used and manipulated to subjugate and terrify women. It is a very scary and horribly plausible scenario.

The Dark is a brilliant book with coruscating, intense writing, brilliantly unpredictable plotting and some characters who will strike a resonant chord with readers. Sharon Bolton isn’t slow to draw her own parallels with events that are happening elsewhere in the world either, lest any woman reading this book start to feel that this is after all, only fiction. I wish that were so, but as she scarily points out, the world is changing for women and in far too many cases, not for the better.

I think that’s one reason this book really got to me. Yes, it is a fantastic thriller with great characters, lots of action, danger, thrills and spills, but it is also highlighting a serious trend that women everywhere need to be alive to.

Verdict: Tense, scary, plausible with terrific characters, serious engagement with a clever and insidious plot and wonderful writing. This is Bolton on top class form and she is unbeatable. Just wonderful.

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Sharon (formerly SJ) Bolton grew up in a cotton-mill town in Lancashire and had an eclectic early career which she is now rather embarrassed about. She gave it all up to become a mother and a writer. Her first novel, Sacrifice, was voted Best New Read by Amazon.uk, whilst her second, Awakening, won the 2010 Mary Higgins Clark award. In 2014, Lost, (UK title, Like This, For Ever) was named RT Magazine’s Best Contemporary Thriller in the US, and in France, Now You See Me won the Plume de Bronze. That same year, Sharon was awarded the CWA Dagger in the Library, for her entire body of work.

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The Murder Rule by Dervla McTiernan @fictionpubteam @RandomTTours

Source: Review copy
Publication: 12 May 2022 from Harper Collins
PP: 304
ISBN-13: ‎ 978-0008407971

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

No one is innocent in this story.

First Rule: Make them like you.

Second Rule: Make them need you.

Third Rule: Make them pay.

They think I’m a young, idealistic law student, that I’m passionate about reforming a corrupt and brutal system.

They think I’m working hard to impress them.

They think I’m here to save an innocent man on death row.

They’re wrong. I’m going to bury him.

Dervla McTiernan’s The Murder Rule is a quick and easy read. It’s full of the things I love in a crime novel – a strong character with motives you long to find out about; a legal setting and moral dilemmas to be overcome.

Though the premise is interesting- a young woman out to revenge a grievous wrong, no matter the cost to herself or others, sets out to thwart the efforts of a group of people working to prove the innocence of a convicted felon – the execution requires a bit of suspension of disbelief.

Hannah Rokeby is a young law student and this story is told partly from her perspective and partly through a series of diary entries written by her mother, Laura in which we learn just why Laura is now an alcoholic, reliant on her daughter to keep her safe and looked after.

Hannah has read these diaries; she stumbled on them at an early age and ever since her shock and rage have been building to a point where she wants revenge. And nothing will stop her from getting what she wants.

What she needs is to insinuate herself into The Innocence Project’s Virginia group. Virginia is where Michael Dandridge, the man she knows is responsible for her mother’s broken condition is incarcerated – 11 years into a sentence for rape and murder. The University of Virginia’s Innocence Project, headed by Professor Rob Parekh, is handling his appeal for release. The Project takes on cases where the claimant protests their innocence and is under a whole life or a death sentence. They take on cases where they believe there may be grounds for a wrongful conviction. That’s not Hannah’s aim, though. She wants something quite different.

With ruthless efficiency and utilising underhand methods, Hannah sets about removing all the obstacles in her path to becoming not just a member of the Project, but also a key team member on Dandridge’s case.

McTiernan takes us through Hannah’s duplicity in getting on to the team and then in having to juggle her own intentions to thwart this appeal with making sure she is still seen as a valuable team member, working to achieve what they feel is justice.

The case then takes quite a different turn and becomes much more of a full on thriller as danger seeps into the team’s investigations at around the same time as Hannah realises that deceiving people who have put their trust in her and who are, to all intents and purposes becoming her friends, is not as easy as she thought it would be.

Verdict: All these conflicting emotions come to a devastating climax and there’s a thrilling courtroom finale when all is revealed.  I did have to suspend my disbelief somewhat, but overall I enjoyed this easy and straightforward read which comes with some very notable surprises.

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Internationally bestselling and critically acclaimed writer Dervla McTiernan burst onto the writing scene with The Ruin, her crime debut set in Ireland. The Ruin is the first in the detective Cormac Reilly series and has been published in the United States, the UK and Ireland and in New Zealand and Australia, where it was a top ten bestseller. Dervla spent twelve years working as a lawyer. Following the global financial crisis, she moved to Australia and turned her hand to writing. An avid fan of crime and detective novels from childhood, Dervla wrote a short story, The Roommate, which was shortlisted for the Sisters in Crime Scarlet Stiletto Competition. She went on to write The Ruin, and a string of other bestsellers. Dervla is a member of the Sisters in Crime and Crime Writers Association, and lives in Perth, Australia, with her husband and two children.

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