Perfect Remains by Helen Fields

32580398On a remote Highland mountain, the body of Elaine Buxton is burning. All that will be left to identify the respected lawyer are her teeth and a fragment of clothing.

In the concealed back room of a house in Edinburgh, the real Elaine Buxton screams into the darkness.

Detective Inspector Luc Callanach has barely set foot in his new office when Elaine’s missing persons case is escalated to a murder investigation. Having left behind a promising career at Interpol, he’s eager to prove himself to his new team. But Edinburgh, he discovers, is a long way from Lyon, and Elaine’s killer has covered his tracks with meticulous care.

It’s not long before another successful woman is abducted from her doorstep, and Callanach finds himself in a race against the clock. Or so he believes … The real fate of the women will prove more twisted than he could have ever imagined.

In a remote part of the Cairngorm mountains, a man carefully buries the body of the young woman he has recently killed.  He takes his time, is almost ritualistic about it, leaving clues as he goes.  He doesn’t want to get caught but he does want the police to know who his victim is.  It’s all part of his plan.

In this pretty much perfect opening to Perfect Remains, we meet Dr. King – serial kidnapper and killer and man on a mission, though what that mission is isn’t yet clear.  As King is introduced in chapter five, I don’t feel I’m giving away too much naming him but am going to stop there to avoid spoilers – this book is such a good one I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who wants to read it.

What I will say is that, whilst I don’t normally like books that tell me who did it so early on (I like to do the guessing), here it worked and didn’t bother me at all.  King is such a big character and his actions so off that I still felt there was plenty to discover.  I really wanted to know what had led him to this point and what he would do next, especially as the police net closed around him and his best laid plans didn’t go quite the way he thought they would.  It makes the book a bit more of a “why-dunnit” versus “who-dunnit” then for the reader.  Not so much for the police though, who are at a loss as to who the killer is, who his next victim will be and why they are his victims.

Leading the case is DI Luc Callanach, a man with a past. Formerly of Interpol, he has left his native France under a cloud, hoping to settle in the chillier climates of Edinburgh (one of my favourite settings for books).  His new life is not without problems, not just because there is a killer on the loose – his new team are wary of him, bordering on resentful, he has anger issues and his past seems to be catching up with him.

Callanach is an interesting and powerful character, one I started off not liking but who grew on me – what is it they say about a bark being worse than a bite?  His attitude could easily have overpowered the story but thankfully it was tempered by another DI, Ava Turner who is equally as powerful but more grounded, able to pull Luc back when he goes too far.  Ava isn’t his partner – she has her own case which runs parallel to Luc’s – but they make a good team, bouncing off each other to solve problems.

As characters, they are well written and well developed, just what you want in a book and impressive not only because this is the first in a series but also because it is a debut (well, kind off, Fields has self-published two fantasy novels before this was picked up).  This is a great read – the book is well written and well plotted with good pace – it kept me turning pages well into the night and, like my first read this week (Evil Games by Angela Marsons) there really isn’t anything I could say I would change.  I loved this one and can’t wait for the next in the series.

Enjoy!

Emma

loved-it

Source: Library
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: 26th January, 2017
Pages: 369
Format: ebook
Genre: Crime, Mystery

Find it on Amazon UK

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Evil Games by Angela Marsons

25067570The greater the Evil, the more deadly the game…
When a rapist is found mutilated in a brutal attack, Detective Kim Stone and her team are called in to bring a swift resolution. But, as more vengeful killings come to light, it soon becomes clear that there is someone far more sinister at work.

With the investigation quickly gathering momentum, Kim finds herself exposed to great danger and in the sights of a lethal individual undertaking their own twisted experiment.

Up against a sociopath who seems to know her every weakness, for Detective Stone, each move she makes could be deadly. As the body count starts to mount, Kim will have to dig deeper than ever before to stop the killing. And this time – it’s personal.

Finally – over a year and a half after reading Silent Scream, the first D.I. Kim Stone novel – I have gotten round to doing what I always planned to do, reading Evil Games (the second in the series).  Why has it taken so long? I have no idea, and it wasn’t because I hadn’t enjoyed the first book.  More, it was a case of too many books and too little time.  Still, I made it eventually…and I’m very glad that I did because it was really, really, really good.

The book opens with Kim and her team raiding the house of a suspected child abuser, a nasty subject matter any time you have to read about it and Marsons gets that across from the first page. The people involved are not nice and Kim is determined to bring them down.  At the same time, a young woman, traumatised by a horrific rape sits with her psychiatrist trying to come to terms with what has happened to her and the fact her rapist has recently been released from prison.  Later, she takes a knife and attacks the man who attacked her.

Investigating the attack, Kim contacts the psychiatrist (Alex) to try and understand what would make the young woman do what she did.  Instead of a concerned doctor, she finds someone who seems more interested in how the young woman reacted after the fact; it’s something Kim can’t get her head around and makes her want to know more about Alex and just what she is up to.

All of a sudden, the story, which you thought was going to focus on the child abuse case, changes and becomes something much more complex and complicated – in a good way.  The initial case doesn’t go away but Kim can’t stop her mind going back to Alex, especially as she becomes involved in more cases that seem to involve the doctor as well.  Adding to her suspicions is the fact that, each time they meet, the doctor seems to know more about Kim and her past.

It’s a past Kim would rather not return to – she had a troubled childhood and has grown up to be a troubled woman as a result.  She’s also a good detective, one who will stop at nothing to find the truth and making sure that the guilty pay.   She doesn’t do much to make friends as a result of her past yet there is something likeable about her all the same – possibly because she has the loyalty of the team and possibly because you know she will always try and find the truth.

In Alex, she has found a perfect adversary in many ways, one who pushes her buttons and leads her into danger (which she can see but can’t avoid).  The way they played off each other was very clever and made Alex a very chilling character.  I was worried at first she might become a caricature but thankfully that wasn’t the case and I believed in her throughout the book, making it easy to become absorbed in the plot and keep turning the pages.

Adding to my enjoyment was the setting, the Black Country, where I lived for over ten years.  It was fun to read about my old stomping ground, even if it was the seedier side of it.  For those who don’t know it, Marsons does a great job of describing the places and the people who live there.  In fact, she does a great job all round here.  Evil Games is well written, with a clever story, interesting characters and plenty of tension.  I really can’t find anything that I would have liked done differently or that didn’t sit right with me, leaving me loving this book and determined not to wait so long till I read the next one!

Enjoy!

Emma

loved-it

Source: Library
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: 29th May, 2015
Pages: 384
Format: ebook
Genre: Crime, Mystery
Buy Now: Amazon UK

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Silent Scream by Angela Marsons

Liar Liar by M. J. Arlidge

imageDetective Helen Grace has never seen such destruction. Six fires in twenty-four hours. Two people dead. Several more injured. It’s as if someone wants to burn the city to the ground…

With the whole town on high alert, Helen and her team must sift through the rubble to find the arsonist, someone whose thirst for fire—and control—is reducing entire lives to ashes.

One misstep could mean Helen’s career—and more lives lost. And as the pressure mounts and more buildings burn, Helen’s own dark impulses threaten to consume her…

I don’t like fire, it’s one of those things that has always scared me a little and the thought of being caught in one terrifies me.  Liar Liar, then, is probably not a book I should have been reading.  However, it was next of my list of books staring DI Helen Grace and – as I’ve loved them all so far – I couldn’t say no, afraid I might be missing out on something good.

One of the reasons I don’t like the idea of being caught in a fire is that feeling that there isn’t much you can do about it once your trapped and M J Arlidge has pretty much convinced me I’m right thinking that.  He paints quite a scary picture of just what it feels like to get caught in a fire – the panic people feel when they wake up to find their houses on fire, their bodies in some cases, and the sheer battle they face against the smoke and the heat to escape.  Like I said, the idea terrifies me, and even reading about it made me more than a little uncomfortable.

Thankfully for the people of Southampton, the arsons are being investigated by DI Helen Grace who is like a dog with a bone and the force’s best detective.  Unfortunately for them, for most of the book the arsonist is one step a head and the fires continue to burn.  That’s because they are clever, leaving no clues as to who they are or what their motive is.  Helen and her team seem to be on the loosing side for once and, as they scrambled to make sense of what was happening, as a reader I could fee the tensions rise.

I also had no clue who the guilty party might be, which was great as quite often with these books it becomes pretty clear early on and then it’s just a case of understanding the why. When the big reveal came, it was a good one and – I thought – clever to.  Not your usual suspects and no one that had been on my radar.   Then there was a final twist in the tale which, if you read my reviews regularly, you’ll know I’m not always the biggest fan of but here made perfect sense and was a fitting ending to a great story.

Beyond that there isn’t much else to say other than the things I’ve said about every book in the series so far.  I love Helen, she’s a great character and her team are coming to life more and more with each story, making me care for them too.  The book is really well written, with short, punchy, chapters that keep you turning the pages and wanting to know what happens next.  The only difference with this book to the last three is that this is perhaps more of a slow burn (pun intended) with the arsonist not being revealed until close to the end and not having much of a voice bar a few blog posts throughout the story.  This is no bad thing though and didn’t leave me feeling like I was missing anything.  I liked this book a lot and would definitely recommend.

Emma

liked-it-a-lot

Source: Library
Publisher: Penguin Crime
Publication Date: 10th September, 2015
Pages: 442
Format: paperback
Genre: crime fiction

The Silence of the Sea by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

25079833‘Mummy dead.’ The child’s pure treble was uncomfortably clear. It was the last thing Brynjar – and doubtless the others – wanted to hear at that moment. ‘Daddy dead.’ It got worse. ‘Adda dead. Bygga dead.’ The child sighed and clutched her grandmother’s leg. ‘All dead.’

A luxury yacht arrives in Reykjavik harbour with nobody on board. What has happened to the crew, and to the family who were on board when it left Lisbon?

Thora Gudmundsdottir is hired by the young father’s parents to investigate, and is soon drawn deeper into the mystery. What should she make of the rumours saying that the vessel was cursed, especially given that when she boards the yacht she thinks she sees one of the missing twins? Where is Karitas, the glamorous young wife of the yacht’s former owner? And whose is the body that has washed up further along the shore?

The Silence of the Sea was my first read of 2017 (though obviously not my first review, I’m not that efficient) and I have to say I’m really glad that I chose it.  It was a good start to my reading year and has convinced me I need to read more books by an author who writes chilling tales but has a name I will never be able to pronounce.

Much like the first book I read by Sigurdardottir, Why Did You Lie? there is a slightly spooky element to The Silence of the Sea which sets it apart from other books of the genre and leaves you with plenty to figure out and make best guesses at.  And how much spookier could a ship with new crew and passengers running aground be, especially on a dark, cold and rainy night in Iceland.  Add to that the ships reputation as being cursed and bringing those who own it nothing but bad luck and you have a real page turner.

The bad luck in this case starts with a rich man and his beautiful wife who end up not so rich and unable to pay for their luxury yacht, leaving it stranded in Lisbon. It’s the job of Aegir to make sure it makes it back to it’s new owners (and also the bank he works for) safely.  Unfortunately, things don’t quite go to plan when a member of the crew breaks their leg.  To make sure they can set off on time, he volunteers to take the crew members place, setting off with his family on what will be a fatal voyage.

In Iceland, Thora is a lawyer hired by Aegir’s parents to help them keep their granddaughter and make claim on any insurance money.  Slowly, she begins to try to unpick just what happened to Aegir, his family and – as a result – the rest of the crew, convinced it isn’t possible for everyone to be lost at sea but also not sure she wants to think of the consequences – including that Aegir is on the run for reasons unknown.

I say slowly because that’s the pace of this book.  It doesn’t throw things at you but reveals them bit by bit, lulling you into a false sense of security at times before throwing a curve ball and making you sit up and take notice.  The pace might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I didn’t mind it.  It made me feel like I was getting to think through what was happening and come to my own (wrong) conclusions.

As Thora works in the present to find answers, revealing secrets and unearthing red herrings, the past is revealed in alternating chapters, telling just what happened to everyone on board.  Again, there are twists, turns and plenty of suspects.  Nothing is as it seems, which for a reader is great.  Every time I thought I’d figured it out, I found I hadn’t.  Plus the setting was good, lots to make it seem creepy and you feel that danger lurked around every corner and behind every wave.

Thora is a great character, tenacious and caring and I liked her and her slightly annoying but still interesting secretary Bella who helped her in her investigation.  It was hard to say with Aegir and his family, though the captain of the ship I did think was really well written. I could picture him, hardened by years at sea and experienced enough to take on most things. Aegir I was up and down with, liking him one minute, not the next and finding him quite weak and frustrating in others – but then he is at sea with a bunch of strangers, potentially murderous ones, and has a family to protect so maybe I’m being a bit picky here.

This uncertainty about Aegir certainly didn’t stop me enjoying the book, which I most certainly did.  I thought it was a clever idea, well executed and well written.  I found I couldn’t put it down and couldn’t stop turning pages and – as a result – have to say I liked it a lot.

Enjoy!

Emma

liked-it-a-lot

Source: Library
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication Date: 26th March, 2015 (first published 2011)
Pages: 388
Format: paperback

 

Wedlock by Wendy Moore

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When Mary Eleanor Bowes, the Countess of Strathmore, was abducted in Oxford Street in broad daylight in 1786, the whole country was riveted to news of the pursuit.

The only daughter of a wealthy coal magnate, Mary Eleanor had led a charmed youth. Precocious and intelligent, she enjoyed a level of education usually reserved for the sons of the aristocracy. Mary was only eleven when her beloved father died, making her the richest heiress in Britain, and she was soon beset by eager suitors. Her marriage, at eighteen, to the beautiful but aloof Earl of Strathmore, was one of the society weddings of the year. With the death of the earl some eight years later, Mary re-entered society with relish and her salons became magnets for leading Enlightenment thinkers – as well as a host of new suitors keen to court her fortune.

Mary soon fell under the spell of a handsome Irish soldier, Andrew Robinson Stoney, but scandalous rumours were quick to spread. Swearing to defend her honor, Mary’s gallant hero was mortally wounded in a duel – his dying wish that he might marry Mary. Within hours of the ceremony, he seemed to be in the grip of a miraculous recovery …

Wedlock tells the story of one eighteenth-century woman’s experience of a brutal marriage, and her fight to regain her liberty and justice. Subjected to appalling violence, deception, kidnap and betrayal, the life of Mary Eleanor Bowes is a remarkable tale of triumph in the face of overwhelming odds.

I read a lot of books where vulnerable young women fall in love with men that seem too good to be true, only to find themselves trapped in loveless marriages with husbands who have ulterior motives and mean them harm. It’s up to the woman to find an inner strength and fight her way back to freedom. Often after reading these books, I make comments that basically say I find it hard to believe that the men could appear so perfect and the women so gullible (and, yes, I know I keep reading them but I also still enjoy them)

“Convinced of her new husband’s imminent demise, the countess felt no need to reveal to him two quite devasting secrets. and for her part, Mary Eleanor was about to discover some surpring facts about “Captain” Stoney”.

Now I’ve read Wedlock I may never say that again because it’s exactly what happened with Mary Eleanor Bowes, the richest heiress in Georgian England. If anything, her story is more unbelievable, something she even admitted in the story she wrote of her own life, saying that what happened to her was “so uncommon as to stagger the belief of Posterity“.

This is a fascinating story of a woman who seems like she could of achieved great things, despite her sex,  because – unlike most Georgian woman – she had a good education, speaking several languages and being an excellent botanist. Unfortunately, the first man she married set out a stop to her ambition and the second nearly killed her. Her relationship with the second, Andrew Stoney, is the focus of this book and her efforts to escape him.

I am not sure how to describe Stoney. Sly, sneaky, manipulative, vicious and plain old evil all spring to mind but not seem to fully describe just how awful he was and how much he plotted and connived to marry Mary and get his hands on her fortune. It started before Mary had even met him, when her first husband died, and he set out to London determined to get her to fall in love with him.

Unfortunately, she had another suitor, one she had already agreed to marry – considered legally binding in Georgian England. Undeterred, Stoney plotted with a newspaper to publish letters that alternately besmirched and defended Mary’s reputation before fighting a fake duel in her honour. After his fake duel he lay on his fake deathbed and asked Mary to grant his dying wish and marry him. Thinking he had days to live, she agreed…only to find him miraculously recovered the next day.

Like I said, if it wasn’t true you wouldn’t believe it. But it is and, because of the court documents and newspaper accounts of the day which detailed every element of their relationship from first meeting (because Georgian papers loved celebrity gossip as much as our red tops do today) through to Mary’s brave attempts to leave and divorce Stoney. And she was brave. This was a period when men owned their wives for all intents and purposes, with all their wives money becoming theirs when they married and with their being allowed to “discipline” their wives as long as it was reasonable and confine them “for their own good”.

All this made for a fascinating book about a fascinating woman. It was well written and I learnt so much about the period and the rights of women (plus some random facts like the term Stoney broke comes from Andrew Stoney, who never had any money but his wives). I also have amazing respect for women like Mary Eleanor for standing up for themselves and to society. What Mary Eleanor did “represented another step in the slow march towards the outlying of domestic abuse, wrongful confinement…and rights to retain property”. Without them I wouldn’t have the freedoms I have today and for that I am grateful. I am also grateful to Wendy Moore for writing this book, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Loved it’s!

Enjoy!

Emma

loved-it

Source: Library
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Publication Date: 10th March, 2009
Pages: 502
Format: paperback

Library Love: let me count the ways

“The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.”
–Albert Einstein

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Yesterday I had to guiltily take back a library book for my daughter that was overdue by two months.  I had taken back all our other books but this one had slipped through the cracks.  Expecting a huge fine (which I rightly should have paid) I was really surprised – pleasantly so – that there was none because by daughter is, well, a child.  Children don’t get fined if they don’t take their books back because, as the librarian explained, they want them to grow up with a love of reading and not worried about potential fines.

It just reminded me, again, of why I love my local library – all libraries in fact, having been a huge lender all my life.  So I thought I would share my love and list all the reasons I think libraries are great…

They are free for anyone who wants to use them for however long you want to use them.  For someone like me, who tends to be quite cheap and watch my pennies, this is  god-send.  For people on limited incomes who can’t afford books but love to read or want to learn, they must be more so.

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They offer variety, loaning out “real” books, ebooks and audio books so there is something to suit everyone’s reading style / preference and, if there is a book you must have, with the range of formats you should be able to get hold of a copy pretty easily and quickly.  Then there is the range of subjects – fiction and non-fiction, history, arts, travel, culture, chick-lit, children’s books, young adult and on and on and on the list goes.

They are about more than books they are places where people can meet up, take part in hobbies (mine hosts knitting groups, history groups and a book club), where parents can take their children (mine has play and stay groups every day of the week), and where local community activities can be supported (again, mine hold open mike and comedy nights for local acts).  Libraries are at the heart of communities.

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They treat people equally because money is no object at a library (unless you are like me and forget to take them back so there are fines).  You don’t have to pay for membership or be rich to access books.  You just have to be able to get there and get through the door or, as is the case nowadays, get online to access their catalogue.

Going back to the point of their being free, it means anyone can access knowledge, and the fact that they are more than books, including social inclusion for the lonely and internet access for those who don’t have it (vital in today’s society).  They mean everyone can fully engage with the world without the barrier of money, age, gender or race.

They are accessible or at least most are, providing online access to those who can’t get to a physical building but still want to read books and using mobile libraries to get to hard to reach / rural communities.  I still remember living miles out of town and the mobile library turning up once a month.  I might be a book nerd but it really was a highlight and meant I could access books and open up whole new worlds I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.

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They don’t throw you out for just sitting and reading a book which you cannot do in a book store without risk of someone coming and asking if they can help you with anything or giving you knowing looks that say “you are planning on buying that and not just reading it aren’t you?”

Authors still get paid through something called public lending right, every time you lend a book, this is recorded and monies paid out (just something to think about when you are buying a second hand book you could otherwise have loaned and which doesn’t pay the author).

You can get cool library cards or at least you can at my library.  It’s pink and black and makes me happy when I take it out to loan books.

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They make searching for books more exciting because you never know what you are going to find.  It isn’t always going to be new books, or best sellers or books that bookshops prominently display so you’ll buy them.

It’s guilt free because it hasn’t cost you anything.  How many times have you ploughed through a book because you bought it and felt you had to or because it was a review copy and you were obliged?  With library books, if you don’t like them, don’t finish them.  There is nothing to lose (which means you can also take  risk on  books you might not otherwise pick up).

And that’s it, my reasons for using the library.  There are more but these are the ones that popped into my head.  What about you, do you use the library…and if you don’t, why not give it a go…you won’t be disappointed I’m sure.

Emma

note: images used were shown as copyright free through pixabay; if this is not the case, please contact me and I will remove.

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

imageA brutal triple murder in a remote Scottish farming community in 1869 leads to the arrest of seventeen-year-old Roderick Macrae. There is no question that Macrae committed this terrible act. What would lead such a shy and intelligent boy down this bloody path? Will he hang for his crime?

After reading some great things about His Bloody Project I couldn’t resist picking it up when I saw it at the library.  Then I started reading it and wondered if I had made a mistake.  I struggled with the first thirty or so pages and was close to deciding it wasn’t the book for me.  Thankfully, something clicked before I gave up because this is a really good book and I really enjoyed it.

It starts with the author saying that this is the story of a relative of his, a young man convicted of murder named Roderick Macrae. Discovered in an archive and long forgotten, the author has found a handwritten record of the events leading up to the murder and the murder itself.  It is written by Roderick himself and, for a young crofter with limited education, shows an articulate and intelligent young man very aware of what has happened.

For me, as a reader, it also showed a young man pushed to the limits by bullying neighbours and the strict social structures in which he was living.  Roderick is also a boy who is suffering grief from the loss of his mother, regularly beaten by his god-fearing father, and trying to figure out how to become a man, including falling in love.  I felt very sympathetic to him and his situation and Burnet does a wonderful and realistic job painting this picture through Roderick’s words.

Then things start to change.  Following Roderick’s written statement there are autopsy reports, which paint a grisly picture; a paper and evidence from an expert who specialises in the criminally insane and isn’t convinced Roderick is telling the truth about his motives; and then a description of the trial itself, with neighbours giving testimony of a young man who was never “quite right” but who seemed completely calm and in control on the day of the murders.  All start to present a different version of events than those told by Roderick.

And as a reader, I then started to wonder.  Was he the victim he had led me to believe – in which case he was much smarter than his neighbours or the experts believe – or was he mentally ill with no real control over his actions?  It’s a difficult question to answer and I’m not sure I know how I feel now the book is finished.

I do know that I am really impressed with the book, after my initial reservations, how it presented the story, how it gave an insight into how mental illness was perceived and dealt with at the time, and how it developed the characters.  Burnet is a really good writer who completely drew me in.     As a result, I have to say I loved this book and would very much recommend it.

Enjoy!

Emma

The Doll’s House by M. J. Arlidge

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A young woman wakes up in a cold, dark cellar, with no idea how she got there or who her kidnapper is. So begins her terrible nightmare.

Nearby, the body of another young woman is discovered buried on a remote beach. But the dead girl was never reported missing – her estranged family having received regular texts from her over the years. Someone has been keeping her alive from beyond the grave.

For Detective Inspector Helen Grace it’s chilling evidence that she’s searching for a monster who is not just twisted but also clever and resourceful – a predator who’s killed before.

And as Helen struggles to understand the killer’s motivation, she begins to realize that she’s in a desperate race against time . . .

So after waiting a year between reading M. J. Arlidge’s first two books featuring DI Helen Grace I decided I didn’t want to go that long again, picking up The Doll’s House from the library almost as soon as I’d started Pop Goes the Weasel.

Once again, this a cracking read, and each book seems to go from strength to strength – developing Helen as a character that you don’t necessarily understand but you feel a huge amount of sympathy for.  This time round, she seems even more human and a little bit more humble as well, realising that she needs people and not everyone is out to get her.

I say not everyone but there is one person – maybe two by way of a bit of workplace pressure – which adds a nice sub-plot to what is a possibly more simple story than the last two books.  It adds to an already tense narrative and helps quickly bring other, newer characters, into the picture (Helen lost members of her team at the end of the last book). Adding newer characters also helps keep the books fresh.

For the story, when I say simple, I don’t mean it’s not good.  It is.  Helen is once again confronted by a serial killer, one who takes young women and locks them away in a “doll house” where he tries to re-create a perfect relationship with another, long dead, woman.  It’s clever and creepy.  The killer just doesn’t have the complexity – for me – of the previous two books.

His motives were clear but – again, for me – less forgivable (bearing in mind that in the last two books I had sympathy for the killer as well as the victims, strange as that might sound).  I think I maybe wanted a bit of a final twist, that explained him more, and I didn’t get it.

Still, I found myself turning pages at a rate of knots.  M. J. Arlidge is a great writer, whose style I like.  It is clean and punchy with short chapters that make you think you can (have to) read one more before bed or heading off to work.  He has a way of bringing his story to life, and his characters, which I really like and means I also liked this book – a lot – and would recommend it to anyone who likes a good piece of crime writing.

Enjoy!

Emma

p.s. if you want to know more about his first two books check out my reviews here of:

Eeny Meeny

Pop Goes The Weasel

 

 

Pop Goes The Weasel by M. J. Arlidge

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The body of a middle-aged man is discovered in Southampton’s red-light district – horrifically mutilated, with his heart removed.

Hours later – and barely cold – the heart arrives with his wife and children by courier.

A pattern emerges when another male victim is found dead and eviscerated, his heart delivered soon afterwards.

The media call it Jack the Ripper in reverse; revenge against the men who lead sordid double lives visiting prostitutes. For Grace, only one thing is certain: there’s a vicious serial-killer at large who must be halted at all costs . . .

So a year and a day since reading my first M. J. Arlidge and DCI Helen Grace novel, I find myself reviewing the second in the series. The timing wasn’t planned but it does make me realise I need to get my reading skates on to catch up with what is looking like an excellent series of crime fiction.

Why is it so good? In a large part it’s because of Grace, a complicated and complex character whose heart might be in the right place but who never seems to get things right. She is well written and rounded, someone you want to find out more about. I always enjoy reading these type of female detective, well at least when they are done well, and that’s the case here. It makes a story much more interesting because you don’t quite know what they are going to do next to mess things up – or if they’ll make it back from the brink.

Of course, a good character would be nothing without a good plot. Like Grace, this one is complicated and complex, with lots of twists and turns.  There’s a fairly big twist which turned the story on it’s head for me and, suddenly, I found I had more than a little sympathy for the killer. Yes, they were still evil but I could see what had driven them to it. Even at the end when they get caught – because they have to get caught – I felt slightly ambiguous about it. I felt it was a slight shame that they hadn’t found peace and a way to escape. To be able to do that is, I think, the sign of a good writer and M. J. Arlidge is just that. The book is well written, tightly plotted, and kept me turning the pages.

I feel like I’ve used the word good a lot in this review but I can’t help myself because it was just that, more really. It was a very good book. I liked it a lot and will definitely be trying to catch up on the three more books I have left to go.

Emma

p.s. if you want to check out my review of the first book, Eeny Meeny, you can find it here.

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

imageOn a night flight from London to Boston, Ted Severson meets the mysterious Lily Kintner. Sharing one too many martinis, the strangers begin to play a game of truth, revealing intimate details about themselves.

Ted talks about his marriage and his wife Miranda, who he’s sure is cheating on him. But their game turns dark when Ted jokes that he could kill Miranda for what she’s done. Lily, without missing a beat, says calmly, “I’d like to help.”

From there, Ted and Lily’s twisted bond grows stronger as they plot Miranda’s demise, but soon these co-conspirators are embroiled in a game of cat-and-mouse–one they both cannot survive–with a shrewd and very determined detective on their tail.

I didn’t know much about The Kind Worth Killing before I started reading it other than people had said good things and it was based loosely on Strangers on a Train, one of my favourite films.  Knowing this, I wasn’t surprised by the beginning, when Ted and Lily meet and they agree to murder Miranda.  I was surprised by the many twists and turns that followed.  Not what I expected at all and so much better than anything I could have hoped for.

Lily is the first surprise.  She is not what she leads Ted to believe but a much darker person, one that is slowly revealed as she tells her own story through chapters that alternate with Ted’s and, later, Miranda’s too.  Each has their own agenda and it’s not always what it seems.  As a reader, I was completely drawn in from the first Lily chapter and couldn’t stop turning pages.

The stories time travel too, visiting Lily’s childhood, her and Miranda’s college days and Miranda and Ted’s early life, as well as the present. With each chapter a little more is revealed and another piece of the puzzle provided.  Still, I was still pretty sure for the first third that I could see where the story was going.  Then something happened (which I won’t reveal – spoilers) and I was completely thrown.  All my assumptions were wrong.  This happened again later in the book, and again.  It was brilliant…I really didn’t know where I was heading and who would end up winning.

With complex characters I also didn’t know who I wanted to end up winning.  Neither Ted or Lily could be that sympathetic, they were planning murder after all, but Miranda was a real piece of work and the more I found out about her the less I wondered if Ted didn’t have the right idea (but only in a fictional sense obviously!).  Peter Swanson does a great job fleshing out all three and making them feel real – people you love to hate is probably a good way to describe them.  He writes well, with good pace, and did I mention the plot twists (o.k., maybe once or twice).  As a result, I couldn’t put the book down and – if you hadn’t guessed – ending up loving this one.

Emma