Fear No Evil (Alex Cross #29) by James Patterson    @JP_Books @centurybooksuk @SarahHarwood_

Source: Review copy
Publication: 25 November 2021 from Century
PP: 416
ISBN-13: 978-1529125252

My thanks to Sarah Harwood and Century for an advance copy for review

Alex Cross ventures into the rugged Montana wilderness – where he will be the prey.

He’s not on the job, but on a personal mission. Until he’s attacked by two rival teams of assassins, controlled by the same mastermind who has stalked Alex and his family for years.

Darkness falls. The river churns into rapids. Shots ring out through the forest.

No backup. No way out. Fear no evil.

When a series reaches Book 29, you know the author is doing something right! I’ve always loved a dose of Alex Cross, the tall detective whose family sustains him, from his current wife, Bree Stone– now in an elite private practice as an investigator, to his children, Damon, Jannie, and Ali and the mainstay of his home hub, Regina, known as Nana Mama, getting so much older, but still cooking delicious meals for the family that make your mouth water as you read about them.

In Fear No Evil Cross is once again working with his long term friend and partner at Metro PD, John Sampson, and FBI agent Ned Mahoney.  They have had their fair share of fiendish antagonists over the years but the most puzzling surely has to be M or Maestro whose interventions have sometimes been helpful and sometimes deadly.

Alex and John Sampson find themselves caught smack in the middle of two rival groups – the Alejandro drugs cartel and the mysterious ‘M’.

The main part of the plot is set in the beautiful wilderness of Montana with a sub plot involving Bree taking place in Paris.  Alex and a still grieving Sampson are about to leave on a much needed trip into the wilderness when they’re called to a murder scene in the middle of Washington, DC. It soon becomes clear that someone is targeting Federal Agents.

In a fast paced-book with all of the tension and suspense that Patterson brings to these books, the reader is treated to a number of scenarios where the body count rises and the danger increases, building the tension until we realise that Cross and Sampson are in the maelstrom of several brutally violent outbursts from which escape is hardly likely.

All the while Patterson teases with the elusive identity of his main antagonist and why they would be targetting Cross. There will be some answers, and some surprises, though one answer was, I felt fairly predictable, but not enough to spoil what is a tense and adrenaline-fuelled thrill ride through the beautiful and wild Montana rapids.

Verdict: Action packed, thrilling and violent, this is another enthralling episode in the mighty Alex Cross saga.

Bookshop.org                                  Waterstones                                     Hive Stores

James Patterson is one of the best-known and biggest-selling writers of all time. His books have sold in excess of 400 million copies worldwide. He is the author of some of the most popular series of the past two decades – the Alex Cross, Women’s Murder Club, Detective Michael Bennett and Private novels – and he has written many other number one bestsellers including stand-alone thrillers and non-fiction. James is passionate about encouraging children to read. Inspired by his own son who was a reluctant reader, he also writes a range of books for young readers including the Middle School, Dog Diaries, Treasure Hunters and Max Einstein series. James has donated millions in grants to independent bookshops and has been the most borrowed author in UK libraries for the past thirteen years in a row. He lives in Florida with his family.

🌠GIVEAWAY 🌠Nowhere to Run by James Oswald @SirBenfro @WildfireBks

Last week I reviewed James Oswald’s fantastic novel ‘Nowhere to Run’, the third in the Constance Fairchild series. You can read my review below.

Today, I am delighted to offer a copy of this cracking book to one lucky reader. All you have to do is to follow me (@bethsy) on Twitter and tag two friends. Ends 6pm 19th November U.K. only.

Read about Nowhere to Run below.

On compassionate leave following the death of her mother, Detective Constable Constance Fairchild thought renting a cottage near Aberystwyth, Wales would get her far enough from London to finally relax. But trouble always seems to find Con, and it’s not long before she is cooling off in a police station cell after defending herself from two would-be rapists.

In custody she meets a young Ukrainian woman, Lila, who confides in Con that she’s been forced by her manipulative boyfriend into prostitution and running drugs. Fearing for her life, she has run away from him, only to end up in the cells.

Con offers to help, but when her cottage is ransacked, and Lila subsequently disappears, she realises she’s stumbled into very dangerous company. International drug smugglers and ruthless people traffickers – those who will stop at nothing to protect their secrets. Out here at the end of the line, will Con find that there’s nowhere left to run?

Is there such a thing as magnetic energy? If there is, I’m pretty sure Con Fairchild has it. Everywhere she goes, she attracts those whose energy has different vibrations. Sometimes these are good; as often pretty bad, but she is incapable of going through life unaffected by the energy that pulls on the warp and weft of the world.

As we meet her again at the beginning of Nowhere to Run, she is sorely in need of positive energy. Battered and bruised from everything she has experienced, she is suffering from PTSD and has taken compassionate leave combined with a sabbatical. She’s now camping out in a cottage on the rugged coat of Ceredigion, hoping that nature’s positive energy will work its own brand of magic on her troubled soul.

In the midst of all this it’s also pandemic time and so self- isolation is the norm and going back to work is not something anyone is thinking about, which is just as well.

If you are a fan of James Oswald, then you’ll be delighted to hear that Nowhere to Run is a full cream version of his love for the unknown and inexplicable. While we are treated to a full on contemporary police procedural with drama with danger, thrills and all the action you’d expect, we also are not allowed to forget that we are in a land of myths and magic; in the heart of Arthurian legends where the Mabinogion was born.

Because it is Con telling her own story, you feel immediately connected to her and can sense the trouble that runs through her soul. But although she is weakened and depleted by everything she has gone through (do read the first two books, you at the back) that does not stop her from wanting to help those who are so clearly in need.

So when she unwittingly falls foul of two local men and ends up in a jail cell with Lila, a young Ukranian woman, it is not long before Con finds herself at the dark heart of a criminal enterprise which involves, drugs, modern slavery and prostitution.

One of the great strengths of James Oswald’s books is his characters. Con has such a great background and that not only makes her stand out from the crowd, but it also gives her the potential for a lot of rather different relatives and we meet two of them in this book together with their splendidly name Gelert whose story is a legend in its own right.

Utilising all the dramatic terrain of the Welsh coastline with its caves and tunnels Oswald takes Con on a journey into the depths from which it is by no means clear that she can return unscathed. Moving from Wales to London and back again, Con is caught up in the action almost so much that she doesn’t have to think about anything else, but in the background, where not all of her colleagues are delighted to see he back in action, there’s a constant hum in the back of her mind about whether she wants to be doing what she does at all and that does haunt this book somewhat.

With touches of humour and lots of chills, this is a fantastic and fantastical read that leaps off the page and engages the imagination. I love Oswald’s style and don’t in the least mind that he makes my cerebral cortex light up in the strangest places.

Verdict: I stayed up into the wee small hours to finish this one because I could not wait to see how it ended. That, for me, is the hallmark of a cracking book and I have no higher praise than that.

Bookshop.org                                    Waterstones                                      Hive Stores

James Oswald is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling Inspector McLean series of detective mysteries, as well as the DC Constance Fairchild series. James’s first two books, Natural Causes and The Book of Souls, were both short-listed for the prestigious CWA Debut Dagger Award. James farms Highland cows by day and writes disturbing fiction by night.

The Dark Hours by Michael Connelly @ConnellyBooks @Orion_Crime @MauraWilding @OrionBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n

Source: Review copy
Publication:
PP: 400
ISBN-13: 978-1409186168

My thanks to Orion for an early copy for review

AS NIGHT FALLS, A KILLER COMES TO LIGHT…

On New Year’s Eve at the end of one of the hardest years in history, hundreds of revellers shoot their guns into the air in time-honoured LA tradition. But as the rain of lead comes down, a man is shot dead in the middle of a crowded street party.

Detective Renée Ballard soon connects the bullet to an unsolved cold case last worked by legendary ex-LAPD detective Harry Bosch. As they investigate where the old and new cases connect, a new crime shatters the night shift.

The Midnight Men are a pair of violent predators who stalk the city during the dark hours, and will kill to keep their identities secret.

In a police department shaken to the core by pandemic and protests, both cases have the power to save Ballard’s belief in the job – or take everything from her…

I’ve said it before, but it’s true. There is no classier an act than Michael Connelly. His books are sublime. Like any artist, the pictures he draws have depth and range; his characters are three dimensional and everything is contextualised in the brush strokes; none of it heavy handed, but in a few strokes conveying the light and shade that gives meaning to what you are reading over and above a skilled and layered plot.

In The Dark Hours, Renee Ballard is finding it tough going. The protests against police brutality and racism following the death of George Floyd and the impact of the close-following pandemic has led to a bigger breakdown of public trust in the police than she has known before. The events surrounding the Capitol in January have been so disturbing that it is hard to understand what is happening to American civil society, other than it is substantially less civil than it felt before.

The police are finding difficult to do their jobs and many are simply not bothering to do more than go through the motions. The malaise is impacting on Ballard’s assigned partner and so for much of this case, she is on her own.

It’s New Year’s Eve and Detective Renée Ballard is quietly cursing the insanity of those who celebrate by firing their weapons in the air.  A man has died after this ‘celebration’ but it is soon clear that this – the first murder of the year -was no accident. By rights she should pass this case over. She’s not on the murder squad; instead she and her partner are working a serial rape case, sitting waiting for the next victim in the hope that they can find similarities that will allow them to track the perpetrators. But Ballard wants this murder case and she has found a connection between it and one that Harry Bosch worked more than a decade ago.

If Ballard’s partner is lazy and all too often missing in action, Bosch, whom Ballard has worked with before, is the opposite. He may be retired, but he hates to let a cold case go unsolved and Ballard knows he’s as dogged and determined as any policeman.

In The Dark Hours Ballard is working both the serial rapist case whose perpetrators have been tagged ‘The Midnight Men’ and the homicide with Harry Bosch lending a hand and his expertise. She also has to contend with departmental politics and some on the LAPD team who still resent her for speaking out about unacceptable harassment.

Connelly laces his utterly gripping police procedural with some well-placed observations about the current state of America. Not just what’s happening to the Police, but the growing homelessness epidemic, and the growing problem of an unregulated, unchecked dark web where the worst of all aspects of manhood goes to fester and suppurate until it boils over into unchecked rage and criminal action.

Ballard is a smart and determined cop and she is prepared to work all the angles to find the answers to both these crimes.  Doing so will endanger her job and her life and cause her to question everything that is important to her. Bosch, despite his brush with serious illness is still mentally agile and a great silent partner to Ballard, using his extensive memory and cold case files to assist and ensuring she has back up when required. They are a terrific team who understand each other and work well together.

Verdict: I got more of a sense of Renee Ballard in this book than ever before and as a consequence she has become more likeable and more admirable. This partnership has fast become unmissable and I really hope that there will be many more to follow. Michael Connelly is such a fantastic writer and these books encapsulate the essence of the best of police procedurals, married with fantastic characterisation, well–layered plotting and a sense of the state of America today that is both riveting and worrying. It is to be hoped that these dark hours are coming just before the dawn…A top class, five star outing not to be missed.

Bookshop.org.                                  Waterstones                                      Hive Stores

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

The Shadows of Men by Abir Mukherjee  (Wyndham & Banerjee #5) @radiomukhers @VintageBooks @DeadGoodBooks @HarvillSecker #TheShadowsOfMen @vintagebooks @AnnaLRedman

Source: Review copy
Publication: 11 November 2021 from Vintage Books
PP: 352
ISBN-13: 978-1787300590

My thanks to Abir Mukherjee and Vintage Books for an advance copy for review

Calcutta, 1923. When a Hindu theologian is found murdered in his home, the city is on the brink of all-out religious war. Can officers of the Imperial Police Force, Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee track down those responsible in time to stop a bloodbath?

Set at a time of heightened political tension, beginning in atmospheric Calcutta and taking the detectives all the way to bustling Bombay, the latest instalment in this ‘unmissable’ (The Times) series presents Wyndham and Banerjee with an unprecedented challenge. Will this be the case that finally drives them apart?

I have loved each and every one of the Wyndham/Banerjee books, and The Shadows of Men is no exception to that. What I especially love about them is that they are both illuminating and entertaining. Abir Mukherjee writes well; his books have an excellent flow with tension, drama and atmosphere, but most of all shine with such vivid characterisation.

But..let’s come back to the atmosphere for a second. Mukherjee draws you in to this India. A place of strife, conflict and so many contradictions.  A place where 5,00O rupees is not enough but 5 rupees is too many. A place where the British domination of the Raj is a colonial disgrace, robbing the country of its riches all the while claiming to be the bringers of ‘civilisation’ all while their knowledge of Indian culture – such as that typified by the Bengali poet and philosopher Tagore – the first non-European winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913 – was non-existent.

The Shadows of Men is set in 1923 and the edges of colonial rule are crumbling. Ghandi is in prison. Protest is growing, insurrection is fermenting and the streets are alive with protest. It is for the Imperial Police Force to try and keep order, even as the streets erupt in a fury of dissent and riots are never far away. In Mukherjee’s Calcutta, you can feel the tension rising and you know that the position of Sam Wyndham’s colleague and right hand man, Surendranath Banerjee is going to be tested more than ever before.

One of the delights of this series is that you can see Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee growing in confidence, alongside the growing confidence of Mukherjee’s writing which is now very skilled indeed. Embedded in his fascinating storytelling, his pitch perfect descriptions of the times and various factions in Indian politics, there is also a delightful, wicked humour.

In a departure from previous books, The Shadows of Men is told from the perspectives of both Wyndham and Banerjee and what a fascinating insight that delivers! Sam has come to appreciate and trust Surendranath like a brother, but it has been a slow won progress and the rest of the British have no more time for Surendranath and his Indian colleagues than to use them for their own ends.

So when Surendranath is given a secret commission to follow Gulmohamed by Lord Charles Taggart, Police Commissioner – a commission that is both dangerous and ignores the difficulties Banerjee must face in carrying out this task – it’s not surprising that it does not end well.

Banerjee is arrested for murder and arson and knowing that his days are numbered unless he can clear his name, he absconds and reaches out to Sam for help.

Together Surendranath and Sam set out to discover who is behind the murder of a Hindu theologian and religious leader, Prashant Mukherjee and what has become of the man Surendranath Banerjee was tasked with following.

Sam relies on his good friend Annie Grant to offer help and the trail leads them into rural territory and finally to Bombay where it becomes all too clear that someone is hell bent on stirring up religious factionalism. But to what ends?

The contrast between the bubbling cauldron of poverty and the opulent wealth on display is beautifully explored in the differences between the various areas and peoples they visit. In Bombay, staying at the behest of Annie Grant’s friend, the beautiful and wealthy Parsee Ooravis Colah, they attend the races where they meet the businessman Cyrus Irani, who is not the only one who is not who he appears to be. Abir Mukherjee does a fantastic job of reminding us that India is a country of more than one religion and that there are upper and lower castes and all of this plays into a multi-layered and fascinating plot that is truly both edge- of -the- seat gripping and fantastically brought to life.

But the star of this book is Surendranath Banerjee. Not only do you get to hear his perspective directly, you are also treated to his inner monologues and become privy to his thoughts about everything he is facing. Surendranath Banerjee, in the top three in his class, well-educated but always under-estimated has had an affectionate and mutually appreciative relationship with Sam Wyndham. They have become comrades in arms, but the struggles that Surendranath has seen Sam through have given heft to their relationship and perhaps for the first time you see very clearly that Surendranath is the stronger one in this partnership.

Verdict: Abir Mukherjee has reached a critical point in India’s history seen through the eyes of this pair and I am on tenterhooks to see where he will take us next. This is top class historical fiction with beautifully detailed oil painting- rich characterisation and atmosphere so thick you could drown in it. I learn a lot from these books too which is a genuine delight for me.  Buy it. READ THE SERIES. Highly, highly recommended.

Bookshop.org                                    Waterstones                      Hive Stores

Abir Mukherjee is the Times bestselling author of the Wyndham & Banerjee series of crime novels set in Raj-era India which have sold over 250,000 copies and been translated into 15 languages. His books have won numerous awards including the CWA Dagger for best Historical Novel, the Prix du Polar Européen, the Wilbur Smith Award for Adventure Writing and the Amazon Publishing Readers Award for E-book for the Year. Alongside fellow author, Vaseem Khan, he also hosts the popular Red Hot Chilli Writers podcast, where every fortnight, joined by special guests from the media and literature, he takes a wry look at the world of books, writing, and the creative arts, tackling everything from bestsellers to pop culture.

Nowhere to Run by James Oswald @SirBenfro @WildfireBks

Source: Review copy
Publication: 11 November 2021 from Wildfire
PP: 304
ISBN-13: 978-1472290465

My thanks to James Oswald and Wildfire for an advance copy for review

On compassionate leave following the death of her mother, Detective Constable Constance Fairchild thought renting a cottage near Aberystwyth, Wales would get her far enough from London to finally relax. But trouble always seems to find Con, and it’s not long before she is cooling off in a police station cell after defending herself from two would-be rapists.

In custody she meets a young Ukrainian woman, Lila, who confides in Con that she’s been forced by her manipulative boyfriend into prostitution and running drugs. Fearing for her life, she has run away from him, only to end up in the cells.

Con offers to help, but when her cottage is ransacked, and Lila subsequently disappears, she realises she’s stumbled into very dangerous company. International drug smugglers and ruthless people traffickers – those who will stop at nothing to protect their secrets. Out here at the end of the line, will Con find that there’s nowhere left to run?

Is there such a thing as magnetic energy? If there is, I’m pretty sure Con Fairchild has it. Everywhere she goes, she attracts those whose energy has different vibrations. Sometimes these are good; as often pretty bad, but she is incapable of going through life unaffected by the energy that pulls on the warp and weft of the world.

As we meet her again at the beginning of Nowhere to Run, she is sorely in need of positive energy. Battered and bruised from everything she has experienced, she is suffering from PTSD and has taken compassionate leave combined with a sabbatical. She’s now camping out in a cottage on the rugged coat of Ceredigion, hoping that nature’s positive energy will work its own brand of magic on her troubled soul.

In the midst of all this it’s also pandemic time and so self- isolation is the norm and going back to work is not something anyone is thinking about, which is just as well.

If you are a fan of James Oswald, then you’ll be delighted to hear that Nowhere to Run is a full cream version of his love for the unknown and inexplicable. While we are treated to a full on contemporary police procedural with drama with danger, thrills and all the action you’d expect, we also are not allowed to forget that we are in a land of myths and magic; in the heart of Arthurian legends where the Mabinogion was born.

Because it is Con telling her own story, you feel immediately connected to her and can sense the trouble that runs through her soul. But although she is weakened and depleted by everything she has gone through (do read the first two books, you at the back) that does not stop her from wanting to help those who are so clearly in need.

So when she unwittingly falls foul of two local men and ends up in a jail cell with Lila, a young Ukranian woman, it is not long before Con finds herself at the dark heart of a criminal enterprise which involves, drugs, modern slavery and prostitution.

One of the great strengths of James Oswald’s books is his characters. Con has such a great background and that not only makes her stand out from the crowd, but it also gives her the potential for a lot of rather different relatives and we meet two of them in this book together with their splendidly name Gelert whose story is a legend in its own right.

Utilising all the dramatic terrain of the Welsh coastline with its caves and tunnels Oswald takes Con on a journey into the depths from which it is by no means clear that she can return unscathed. Moving from Wales to London and back again, Con is caught up in the action almost so much that she doesn’t have to think about anything else, but in the background, where not all of her colleagues are delighted to see he back in action, there’s a constant hum in the back of her mind about whether she wants to be doing what she does at all and that does haunt this book somewhat.

With touches of humour and lots of chills, this is a fantastic and fantastical read that leaps off the page and engages the imagination. I love Oswald’s style and don’t in the least mind that he makes my cerebral cortex light up in the strangest places.

Verdict: I stayed up into the wee small hours to finish this one because I could not wait to see how it ended. That, for me, is the hallmark of a cracking book and I have no higher praise than that.

Bookshop.org                                    Waterstones                                      Hive Stores

James Oswald is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling Inspector McLean series of detective mysteries, as well as the DC Constance Fairchild series. James’s first two books, Natural Causes and The Book of Souls, were both short-listed for the prestigious CWA Debut Dagger Award. James farms Highland cows by day and writes disturbing fiction by night.

Lonely Hearts by Lisa Gray  (Jessica Shaw #4) @LisaGrayWriter @AmazonPub

Source: Review copy
Publication: 9 November 2021 from Thomas & Mercer
PP: 303
ISBN-13: ‎ 978-1542021166

My thanks to Lisa Gray and Thomas and Mercer for an advance copy for review

She found love on Death Row with her prison pen pal. She’s been missing ever since. Can Jessica Shaw track her down?

A missing persons case should be pretty straightforward for private investigator Jessica Shaw. After all, it’s what she does best. But this latest case proves to be anything but straightforward.

Christine Ryan is desperate to find her childhood friend Veronica Lowe. Veronica disappeared more than fifteen years ago, not long after having a child with a Death Row inmate, notorious serial killer Travis Dean Ford. When Ford’s widow, Jordana, is murdered in the same way as his victims, Christine fears Veronica and her daughter will be next. If they’re even still alive…

Discovering that both Veronica and Jordana were members of the Lonely Hearts Club, a pen pal service for women who want to write to men in prison, Jessica realizes she needs to find Veronica before the killer does. But as Jessica follows the leads it begins to feel like someone is following her. Travis has been dead for years, so who is hunting the Lonely Hearts?

I really enjoy Lisa Gray’s Jessica Shaw series. Jessica is a P.I. now working in California with an agency whose principal, Matt Connor, causes Jessica to keep her distance, because though she’s tough and no-one’s pushover, her heart is a bit bruised and she really does not want to get hurt again. But she needs the hours with the agency to enable her to get her full P.I. licence so she grits her teeth and gets on with it.

Lonely Hearts is a dual timeline story, which follows two cases – one a missing woman whom Jessica is asked to trace and the other, a case that LAPD Detective Jason Pryce and his partner Medina are assigned, of the murder of a woman named Jordana Ford.

Though they don’t yet know it, both Pryce’s case and Jessica’s are linked – through the infamous serial killer Travis Dean Ford, known as The Valley Strangler, to whom Jordana was married. Lisa Gray’s novel looks at that most American of things – a dating agency for prisoners. Well, it’s not quite a dating agency, though that’s often how it turns out. The Lonely Hearts Club is a pen-pal club for women who want to write to and meet prisoners; some of them, like Travis Dean Ford on Death Row.

Jordana has done very well for herself out of her marriage to an infamous serial killer. She’s now a successful author on the back of her books about their relationship, though the relatives of Ford’s sixteen victims do not look upon her with kindness. Before she was murdered she had brought out one last book and was planning to retire on the proceeds.

Jessica’s case is tracking down Veronica Lowe, a close friend of Christine Ryan, Jessica’s client. Veronica and her daughter Mia went missing 15 years ago and now Christine is deeply concerned for her friend. That’s because Mia is the daughter of Travis Dean Ford born after she contacted him through the Lonely Hearts Club and before his marriage to Jordana. The manner of Jordana’s death has given Christine Ryan cause to believe that someone is targeting women Ford has had a relationship with.

Lisa Gray writes a fast paced and tight novel with plenty of action and cracking, whip-smart dialogue that moves effortlessly between past and present. We are taken back to an early victim of Ford’s and see how he targets the women who become his victims, all of whom have similar characteristics.

Jessica works Veronica’s life, looking into her past and her introduction to The Lonely Hearts Club and its owner Bibi, while Pryce is investigating Jordana’s murder. It seems Christine Ryan may be right in fearing for the safety of her old friend.

Gray’s book offers perspectives from Jessica, Pryce and Jordana, switching points of view and keeping the story tight and buzzing with new information.

As Jessica methodically pieces together the cold case, working all the angles of Veronica’s life, her investigations lead her into dangerous territory. A road trip to Arizona offers answers, but first she has to survive everything that life is throwing her way and that’s perilous in the extreme!

Verdict: A fascinating, taut and enthralling thriller with a terrific protagonist that makes you hungry for more from Jessica Shaw.

Bookshop.org                                    Waterstones                                      Amazon              

Lisa Gray is an Amazon #1, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. Her debut novel, Thin Air, was a Washington Post and Wall Street Journal bestseller and was Amazon.com’s third-bestselling Kindle eBook of 2019. Bad Memory was a Wall Street Journal bestseller and longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize. Dark Highway was published in November 2020. Lisa now writes full-time.

The Lost by Simon Beckett (DS Jonah Colley #1) @BeckettSimon @Tr4cyF3nt0n @TrapezeBooks

Source: Review copy
Publication: 25 November 2021 from Trapeze
PP: 368
ISBN-13: 978-1398706903

My thanks to Trapeze for an early copy for review

It’s not the missing who are in danger, but those left behind.

A MISSING CHILD
Ten years ago, the disappearance of firearms police officer Jonah Colley’s young son almost destroyed him.

A GRUESOME DISCOVERY
A plea for help from an old friend leads Jonah to Slaughter Quay, and the discovery of four bodies. Brutally attacked and left for dead, he is the only survivor.

A SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH
Under suspicion himself, he uncovers a network of secrets and lies about the people he thought he knew – forcing him to question what really happened all those years ago…

The Lost is the first book in a new series from Simon Beckett. Beckett is a new author to me so I was intrigued to find out more about this new series and protagonist. DS Jonah Colley is a firearms officer with The Met’s SCO19 division. He is a man burdened with overwhelming grief and regret. Ten years previously his 4 year old son Theo was lost, presumed drowned, after he wandered away in the park while Jonah, in charge of his son, nodded off.

Blaming himself and letting his wife Chrissie blame him, his marriage broke down and later he fell out irretrievably with his best friend, DS Gavin McKinney.

The start of Simon Beckett’s novel is both harrowing and emotional, but it also paves the way for an intertwined mystery and one that I can already see is going to lead the way for future books. Easy to get into, it captured my interest straight away and made for an easy, gripping and fast-paced read.

Colley is now a bit of a sad loner, living in a bed sit with no real life of his own. He’s having a few drinks with his unit one night when he gets a call from his erstwhile friend, McKinney who tells him he urgently needs his help. Colley is in two minds about responding. He hasn’t spoken to McKinney in years; their parting was, to say the least, acrimonious. But they had been good friends and something about McKinney’s urgent plea makes him feel that he has to go.

So he hops into his car and heads for Slaughterhouse Quay where a scene of carnage awaits him. What follows is a tense and dark story that turns Colley from cop into both a victim and a suspect and it is only by pursuing the case on his own that he can get to the truth.

Beckett dangles juicy plums in front of the reader as he raises levels of suspicion and cleverly plays on Colley’s – and by extension the reader’s – interest in both the fate of his long gone son and the other bodies that are found at the aptly named Slaughterhouse Quay.

There’s plenty of atmosphere and the plot, while sometimes convoluted, is well–layered. The middle could have used a tighter edit, but that doesn’t really detract from a good story and a terrific protagonist. I’m curious about one shadowy character and I wonder if we’ll see more of that person in future books in this series? I do hope so – because I will keep reading.

Verdict: The Lost is a twisted story with many deceptions and misdirection, though a plot device is so good it is used twice; but it nonetheless captured my interest and grasped it tight. Lots of misdirection, plenty of action and a bucketful of tension keep the adrenalin levels high and the emotional quotient goes through the roof at points.  Simon Beckett is a natural storyteller. A series and a protagonist to watch out for!

Bookshop.org                                    Waterstones                                      Hive Stores

Simon taught English as a foreign language in Spain, installed cavity wall installation and played in various unsuccessful bands before becoming a freelance journalist and author.In 2002, a commission to write a feature on highly realistic crime scene training for US police officers led him to the Body Farm in Tennessee. This provided an eye-opening glimpse into the work of forensic anthropologists and formed the inspiration behind his internationally bestselling David Hunter crime thrillers. The series has been translated into 29 languages. Simon’s novels have appeared in The Sunday Times Top 10 bestseller list and become No.1 international bestsellers, selling 12 million copies worldwide. As well as the David Hunter series, he is the author of five standalone thrillers: Fine Lines, Animals, Where There’s Smoke, Owning Jacob and most recently The Lost. The first in the  Jonah Colley series, The Lost spent 5 weeks at No. 1 in Germany’s Der Spiegel hardback fiction charts before its UK publication.

State of Terror by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny @HillaryClinton @PanMacMillan @RandomTTours

Source: Review copy
Publication: 12 October 2021 from MacMillan
PP: 512
ISBN-13: ‎ 978-1529079692

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

After a tumultuous period in American politics, a new administration has just been sworn in. Secretary of State, Ellen Adams, is determined to do her duty for her country. But she is about to face a horrifying international threat . . .

A young foreign service officer has received a baffling text from an anonymous source. Too late, she realizes it was a hastily coded warning. Then a series of bus bombs devastate Europe, heralding the rise of a new rogue terrorist organization who will stop at nothing in their efforts to develop their own nuclear arsenal.

As Ellen unravels the damaging effects of the former presidency on international politics, she must also contemplate the unthinkable: that the last president of the United States was more than just an ineffectual leader. Was he also a traitor to his country?

I have to admit that I was intrigued by this collaboration. I really like Louise Penny’s books and that Hillary Clinton was going to be working with her was a tantalising prospect. So what was the book going to be like? The answer is that it is not full of the kindness and peace that Penny’s Inspector Gamache books bring. Rather this is a geo-political thriller much more akin to a marriage between a Sam Bourne thriller and the TV series Madam Secretary, starring Téa Leoni. That’s a plus point for me, as I love both.

State of Terror is a well written thriller that begins with terrible events in London that will be all too familiar to readers and uses that as its starting point for a thriller that takes us around the world to the key pressure points of international diplomacy in Korea, Pakistan and Russia, to name a few.

At the centre of this pacey and at 500 pages, not inconsiderable, novel is the newly appointed Secretary of State, Ellen Adams. Adams is a surprise appointment for this President. She is a media mogul whose TV channels did not support Douglas Williams in his bid for the Presidency and there’s a lot of surprise in Washington at his choice of Adams for Secretary of State.

But she hardly has her feet under the table when bombs start to go off in Europe and a junior Foreign Service Officon the Pakistan desk, Anahita Dahir, belatedly finds a coded warning message. This is the cue for Ellen Adams to begin saving the world with the help of her long term friend and trusted adviser, Betsy Jameson. I’m not going to lie; I loved the whole ‘women save the world’ part of this novel because they do so by outwitting the men through a blend of guile, charm and sometimes just by looking clueless. They’re a pair of younger, more dynamic Miss Marples, really.

The best bits though are not the insight that Hillary Clinton brings to the book – though; we are given an insider’s view of what life is like in the White House and especially in the situation room in a time of international crisis, and although this is not really new, the level of detail is fascinating. It is possible to imagine what it must feel like to spend days on end in the air, not quite knowing what time or even day it is as you cross time zones; then having to be statesperson-like as you are wheeled out to meet  world leaders and expected to be on top of your game. You also, from this book, get a keen sense of what it must be like to be patronised by a succession of men, both in the White House and abroad who assume you are not up to the job. How often Hillary Clinton must have had to bite her tongue in the interests of diplomacy.

What I loved best though were the sharp, barely hidden jibes at world leaders which must surely reflect the views of Clinton herself. You really don’t have to look far to find the last President, the Republican Eric Dunn who is characterised as ‘delusional’, ‘President Dumb’ and whose actions in withdrawing from a nuclear accord with Iran and in making an agreement with the Taliban, without protecting the advances made in human rights there, have left the United States vulnerable to terrorism.

His successor, Democrat Doug Williams is barely better and Ellen Adams thinks him a fool even though he has appointed her. Britain’s Prime Minister Bellington, is an entitled buffoon given to spouting random Latin phrases.

So we see Ellen Adams and her counsellor, Betsy Jameson, tackling two of the biggest fears of our age; the dramatic undermining of democracy from within our own country (as an aside here, can I commend you to read David Puttnam’s retiral speech on this subject) and in the US combined with the extremely scary idea that nuclear weapons could be obtained by terrorists.

Fronting the terrorism is Dr. Shah, an arms dealer who is happy to trade nuclear weapons to the highest bidder. A long term nemesis of Elizabeth Adams, Shah had been under house arrest in Pakistan but Eric Dunn in the last days of his Presidency asked the Pakistan Government to release him.  Now he’s taunting Adams and is planning to detonate these bombs in the US and it’s only Ellen Adams who is standing in his way.

As if that were not enough, there is a conspiracy at the heart of the White House threatening treason, insurrection and an armed coup which means that knowing who to trust is a very real problem. In the insider’s bar, Off the Record, where gossip is traded and rumours begin, the former President’s press secretary is making a fool of himself by drinking too much. What he is up to will help expose the fault lines in the White House.

A whirlwind diplomatic mission gets underway as Ellen and Betsy together with Ellen’s adult children Katherine, who now runs the media empire and Gil, a journalist, set about saving the world and ensuring the rights of people across the world are respected and the trust of people in the democratic process United States is restored.

Verdict: I really enjoyed this high-stakes thriller. It’s clearly a fantastical work of fiction, but rooted in real world geo-political problems. There are lots of thrilling moments, some great sarcastic one-liners, lots of intrigue and insight into the Washington village. What’s not to love? There’s even a nod to Louise Penny’s own series. The book ends with the potential for another thrilling tale… and I’d read it in a heartbeat!

Bookshop.org                                Waterstones                                  Hive Stores    

Hillary Rodham Clinton is the first woman in US history to become the presidential nominee of a major political party. She served as the 67th Secretary of State after nearly four decades in public service advocating on behalf of children and families as an attorney, First Lady, and US Senator. She is a wife, mother, grandmother, and No 1 Sunday Times bestselling author of seven previous books, all published by Simon & Schuster.

Louise Penny is an international award winning and bestselling author whose books have hit #1 on the New York Times, USA Today, and Globe and Mail lists.  Her Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels, published by Minotaur Books, an imprint of the St. Martin’s Publishing Group, have been translated into 31 languages.  In 2017, she received the Order of Canada for her contributions to Canadian culture. Louise Penny lives in a village south of Montréal.

Photo: c Dominique Lafond and Deborah Feingold

   

Punishment of a Hunter by Yulia Yakovleva trs Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp @YuliaYakovleva @PushkinPress @PoppyBookPR @RuthAhmedzai

Source: Review copy
Publication: 28 October 2021 from Pushkin Press
PP: 224
ISBN-13: 978-1782276777

MURDER
1930s Leningrad. Stalin is tightening his grip on the Soviet Union, and a mood of fear cloaks the city. Detective Vasily Zaitsev is tasked with investigating a series of bizarre and seemingly motiveless homicides.

MAYHEM
As the curious deaths continue, precious Old Master paintings start to disappear from the Hermitage collection. Could the crimes be connected?

MISTRUST
When Zaitsev sets about his investigations, he meets with obstruction at every turn. Soon even he comes under suspicion from the Soviet secret police.
The resolute detective must battle an increasingly dangerous political situation in his dogged quest to find the murderer―and stay alive
.

The title of Yulia Yakovleva’s book takes its name from a Dutch paining by Paulus Potter and at the beginning of each chapter the reader will find a drawing that pertains to that painting. It takes most of the book to realise why these drawings and that painting are relevant to the story of a series of bizarrely laid out murders which have the police mystified.

Our protagonist is Investigator Vasily Zaitsev and it is ostensibly his job to get to the bottom of these murders. I say ostensibly because this is Stalin’s Russia. Punishment of a Hunter is set in 1930’s Leningrad in the midst of Stalin’s oppression of the people and in particular of the class of richer rural peasants, the Kulaks, whom Stalin saw as resisters of change.

The murders in this book take place against a backdrop of political repression, arrests, deportations, and the executions of millions of kulaks who were deemed class enemies and in opposition to the Soviet 5 year plan.

Reading Punishment of a Hunter, which is riddled with informers, and in which no-one can trust anyone else, I was tempted to think of it as a biting satire of the times. But the truth is that those times were. I believe, pretty much as Yakovleva presents them; full of corruption, false confessions, hunger and extreme poverty.

It’s a bleak picture and Yakovleva paints it well. Investigator Zaitsev is that rare creature, a man in search of the truth. When he finds it, it comes as a very bitter pill which is hard to swallow and its relationship to justice is hard to configure, because there is none.

Yakovleva has taken the true story of a Government cover up involving the Hermitage and old masters and crafted around it a chilling political story of murder, conspiracy, corruption and political manoeuvring to hide the truth from the Soviet people. It is a fascinating tale that involves the naissance of the American National Gallery of Art and one of the world’s great art collectors, the founder of the Iraq Petroleum Company, philanthropist Calouste Gulbenkian.

Punishment of a Hunter is a dark and divisive story in which no-one can be trusted and gifts should be considered at best bribes and at worst betrayals. Yakovleva casts a well-honed eye over the corrupt and morally bankrupt state and shows us just how easy it is to become one of the ‘disappeared’. This is a time when you need to constantly check you are not being followed – and if you’re not, there’s every chance that’s because they’re waiting at your room to arrest you.

Vasily Zaitsev’s problem is that he won’t settle for whatever rubbish the Secret Police are peddling; he actually wants the truth. Sadly, however he is pretty much the only one who does – apart that is, from the murderer.

Together with his team, not all of whom he can trust and most of whom certainly do not trust him, he has to doggedly piece the evidence together before coming to the startling and unpleasant truth.

Verdict: A dark and bitter murder mystery in which the biting cold and dark repressive practices of 1930’s Russia shine through with a vengeance. It’s not always the easiest of reads, but Yakovleva and this translation by Ruth Ahmedzai has produced a startlingly clear portrait of the era laced with bite and a grim, satirical humour.

Bookshop.org                                    Waterstones                                      Hive Stores

Yulia Yakovleva is a writer, theatre and ballet critic, and playwright. She was inspired to write Punishment of a Hunter by her love of St Petersburg, where she grew up, and by the extraordinary true story of how the Soviet government sold most of the greatest, most famous old paintings from the former Tsar’s collection. The novel subsequently became a bestseller in Russia.

Fall by West Camel @west_camel @OrendaBooks

Source: Review copy
Publication: 9 October e-book; 9 December p/back
PP: 276
ISBN-13: ‎ 978-1913193928

My thanks to Orenda Books for an advance copy for review

Estranged brothers are reunited over plans to develop the tower block where they grew up, but the desolate estate becomes a stage for reliving the events of one life-changing summer, forty years earlier.

Twins Aaron and Clive have been estranged for forty years. Aaron still lives in the empty, crumbling tower block on the riverside in Deptford where they grew up. Clive is a successful property developer, determined to turn the tower into luxury flats.

But Aaron is blocking the plan and their petty squabble becomes something much greater when two ghosts from the past – twins Annette and Christine – appear in the tower. At once, the desolate estate becomes a stage on which the events of one scorching summer are relived – a summer that shattered their lives, and changed everything forever…

Grim, evocative and exquisitely rendered, Fall is a story of friendship and family – of perception, fear and prejudice, the events that punctuate our journeys into adulthood, and the indelible scars they leave – a triumph of a novel that will affect you long after the final page has been turned.

West Camel’s Fall is a beautifully written story of family, divided loyalties and what happens when ghosts come back to haunt you. Reading it is like watching a tight flower bud unfurl one petal at a time. Fascinating, rather beautiful in its natural process; leaving you wanting to see the whole flower but not wanting to rush it because the process is itself a thing of beauty and so immersive.

Fall centres on an estate in Deptford. Designed by architect Zoë Goldsworthy to be the ultimate in communal living, she believed in it so much she moved her family there after it was built. David Ross’ architectural drawings give a sense of what Zoe wanted to achieve – planned building of different heights where everyone could live, shop and socialise along the banks of the Thames. It was a democratic vision from an architect of single minded resolve; Zoe was the first woman to design such an ambitious estate and it cost her dearly.

Fall has a dual timeline narrative. It takes place in 1976 just after the estate was built and in the present day, when the estate lies derelict and developers are eyeing it up with a view to creating luxury flats on a demolished site.

Central to the tale are Clive and Aaron. They are twins but have not spoken to each other for 40 years; the events of one summer’s night stand between them. Now Aaron and Clive are on opposite sides of this argument. Clive has become a developer; Aaron is the last resident, holding out against demolition.

At least he was the last resident. Now two others have moved back in. Not seen for years, Christine and Annette have returned to the estate which eschewed them all those years ago. In Fall, West Camel tackles big themes with a story of tragedy, betrayal and a lifetime of regrets.

There’s stillness and poetry to his writing that has a resonating impact. Picturing the boys looking down at their mother from their tower block, they see ‘her white linen trousers a sail crossing a grey concrete sea’.

Zoë is a woman in a man’s world. The choices she has made to achieve her success is something we discover as the book progresses. What is clear almost from the beginning though, is how the residents of this estate view their first black neighbours, and it isn’t pretty.  Camel provides beautifully observed portraits of Aaron and Clive – showing their affinity; the way they finish each other’s sentences and how their thought processes seem interlinked, with one twin dominant, but the other never far behind.

Annette and Christine are also twins. We know them less well because they are outsiders and destined to remain so for as long as they live on the estate. They are joyful though. It is they who bring life and song to Deptford Strand and that makes the betrayal they face so much harder to bear.

Fall is a story of families; of being a woman in a man’s world and of the choices we make and the regrets that we have to live with as a result. There is sacrifice, and prejudice; bad decisions and subsequent regrets in this beautiful, immersive story set against the grey concrete blocks of Deptford Strand. Idealism vies with reality as we see how Zoe’s brutalist architectural vision becomes a trap for those who live there; watching as it slowly crumbles into decay.

Immersive, beautiful, and haunting, Fall is a novel that will bear re-reading over the years. Each phrase is so well-judged; each character has their own place in a story that transcends its plot and the clarity and distinction of the writing is a joy to savour. I adored it.

Orenda Books                                Waterstones                                  Bookshop.org

Born and bred in south London – and not the Somerset village with which he shares a name – West Camel worked as an editor in higher education and business before turning his attention to the arts and publishing. He has worked as a book and arts journalist, and was editor at Dalkey Archive Press, where he edited the Best European Fiction 2015 anthology, before moving to new press Orenda Books just after its launch. He currently combines his work as editor at Orenda with writing and editing a wide range of material for various arts organisations, including ghost-writing a New-Adult novel and editing The Riveter magazine for the European Literature Network. He has also written several short scripts, which have been produced in London’s fringe theatres, and was longlisted for the Old Vic’s 12 playwrights project. Attend, his first novel was shortlisted for the Polari prize.

Bookliterati Book Reviews

'I declare there is no enjoyment like reading!" Jane Austen

EmmabBooks.com

Book Reviews by Emma b Books

The Curious Ginger Cat

Books, travel etc.

The Reading Closet

Books, adventure and cups of tea!

STAGE LEFT

Love, theatre and ideas

findingtimetowrite

Thinking, writing, thinking about writing...

O. D. Book Reviews

Over dose on books with O and D!

Dream Come Review

~ a home for bookish musings

mybookishblogspot

Just books, more books and some other stuff too

Mrs. Peabody Investigates

International crime fiction, TV and film

Book Bound

For the love of words…

CookingTheBooks

Feeding the soul one story at a time.

Years of Reading Selfishly

Life is too short to read books you don't love

Love the Smell of a Book

Reading, reviewing and sharing the love for our favourite books for adults, teens and children