Pop Goes The Weasel by M. J. Arlidge


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.


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.


Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

The story so far… 

Contains spoilers

After the death of his grandfather, sixteen year old Jacob visits a remote Welsh island where his grandfather lived as a boy. There, he discovers the orphanage is just as his grandfather had left it, right down to the peculiar children who lived there. 

Peculiar children are ones with skills, abilities or physical quirks that set them outside the normal world.  They can make fire with their hands, float in the air, have bees living inside them or, in Jacob’s case, can see Hollows – creatures whose only mission in life is to find and kill peculiars (of which he has discovered he’s one). 

To avoid detection, peculiar children live in loops, days frozen in time, which they relive again and again, never aging unless  they leave the loop – in which case they die within days. The orphanage was in a loop when Jacob finds it. I say was because not long after he arrives, Hollows attack and kidnap the head of the orphanage  – Miss Peregrine.  It is one of many attacks throughout peculiar dorm and, before long, Jacob and the other children are on the run and racing against time to find Miss Peregrine and a loop that can stop them dying. 

What happens next

From goodreads

They’ll travel from modern-day London to the labyrinthine alleys of Devil’s Acre, the most wretched slum in all of Victorian England. It’s a place where the fate of peculiar children everywhere will be decided once and for all. Like its predecessors, Library of Souls blends thrilling fantasy with never-before-published vintage photography to create a one-of-a-kind reading experience. An army of deadly monsters. An epic battle for the future of peculiardom.

What do I think…

So I’ve been a big fan of this series, as my other reviews show, and that hasn’t changed with this book. It’s well written, has great vintage photos that add to the story, an interesting plot and well drawn characters. Key are Jacob and Emma, who find themselves in the heart of the dark world of the Hollows and all that threatens the peculiar way of life, leading to their forming some very unlikely alliances in order to save their friends.

Perhaps inevitably it all goes wrong and they find themselves in greater peril and travelling further into the loops that should in theory keep them safe but instead lead them into danger. forced to find the library of souls, where the most powerful shoulds in peculiar dorm are kept, Jacob has to use his wits to keep everyone he loves safe. If I honest, said wits seemed in short supply in the book but then again he is only 16 and under a fair bit of pressure to avoid everyone being killed. Still, he makes some pretty bad decisions. 

However this does make for a pretty fast-paced readers there is always something happening. The last in the trilogy, it felt like I was hurtling towards the end, towards a grand finale. And, of course, I was. And, because this is a young adult book, everything was also being tied up, all the loose ends were resolved and I got a pretty happy ending. It as one that seemed fitting and left me feeling satisfied, with the book and the series, both of which I liked a lot and would recommend.


The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

23364977Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.

Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.

Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

Commuting is one of the worst things on the planet, I am convinced of it, and anyone who has had to live through a long commute – be it by train or car – will no doubt know the feeling of drifting off into your own world, imagining what it would be like to live in the houses you pass or live the lives of the people you see.

This seems even more reasonable for Rachel when you start to see just how miserable she is and how far her life has gone of the rails (no pun intended!).  She has no job, drinks too much and rents a room from a friend because – after she and her husband separated – he kept the house she loved.  Add to that said husband is now remarried with a perfect wife and a baby and it’s no wonder she daydreams about a life she could be living.  A life she is convinced “Jess” and “Jason” live.

These aren’t their real names but ones she has created for a couple she sees most days on her trip into London.  She has also created a vision of the perfect life they are living.  She wants to be Jess, be loved by Jason.  Then she sees in the local paper Jess is missing and decides she wants to try help find her. Unfortunately, her drinking makes her an unreliable witness and her erractic behaviour further dents her credibility and make people wonder if she is really trying to help or has some other motive.

It makes for a really good set-up to a really good story, made even better as it’s told not just by Rachel but also Jess and the new wife. With alternating chapters and the past and present slowly been revealed it seems all three women have more in common than they might think. It was like peeling layers of an onion as each secret was revealed and the story took another twist or turn. I have to say each secret made me like the women a little less though I did have some sympathy for how they needed up in their present situations. I just wouldn’t want to be their friends.

Normally not liking central characters would put me off a book but in this case because they were still compelling and there were some many twists and turns as secrets were revealed I couldn’t stop turning pages. It helps that it was well written and had a good pace. I understand now why so many people said they couldn’t put it down. I have to say that I have now joined these ranks and if – like me – you put off reading it because of the hype – I would recommend picking it up after all. I liked this a lot.

Emma x

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

imageThe story so far (for those who haven’t read book one in this series, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children)…

When 16 year old Jacob’s grandfather dies he takes a trip to Wales (from his home in Florida) to an orphanage his grandfather stayed at during the war. He arrives to find it exactly as it was when his grandfather left it, pretty much to the day. The orphanage, ran my Miss Peregrine, is stuck in time.

She and the children she looks after repeat the same day in 1940 again and again, living in what is called a loop.  Unlike the residents of the nearby village, they are completely aware of what is happening. They want it this way to keep them safe from the Hollows, invisible creatures whose one goal in life is to eat their souls.

The children are peculiar and their souls are special, as are they. They can create fire with their hands, float in the air, control bees, and carry out feats of superhuman strength. Jacob is amazed, even more so when he discovers he is peculiar too. His special trait, to see and fight Hollows. He is just what Miss Peregrine and her charges need because they are under attack.

Which is where Hollow City starts…

Continuing straight on from the first book, Jacob and the other children (including his potential love interest Emma) are on the run from Hollows and looking for help because in the attack on the orphanage Miss Peregrine has been turned into a bird and cannot turn back.  They are alone and scared. As well as help they need to find safety in another loop before the children, who have already lived for a 100 years in some cases, grow old in the “real” world.

Emma and Jacob almost instantly become their natural leaders, though they feel lost and unsure what to do. Thankfully, they have a map of sorts in the form of peculiar fairy tales, and come across enough other peculiars who can help them on their way. It is a way that leads them further into danger as opposed to away from it. It can’t be helped though as it becomes clear they aren’t the only ones the Hollows attacked and their whole world and way of life is at risk.

As with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, this book is well written and has great pace. There are interesting photographs throughout which add to the descriptions of the children and those they meet on the way and make you feel that you are truly in a peculiar world.

The characters have further developed and become much more complex, as have their behaviours. To protect each other they make some hard and harsh decisions. This makes it a darker book than the first and more complicated. As this book is aimed at young adults it raises some interesting questions I think about how far an honourable person can go before they are no longer honourable.

The story feels like a natural progression from the first book and has plenty of action and twists and turns. It is a real page turner and I liked it a lot, if not more than at least as much as the first book. Highly recommended but read the first book first.


The Children Act by Ian McEwan

23482832Fiona Maye is a leading High Court judge, presiding over cases in the family court. She is renowned for her fierce intelligence, exactitude and sensitivity. But her professional success belies private sorrow and domestic strife. There is the lingering regret of her childlessness, and now, her marriage of thirty years is in crisis.

At the same time, she is called on to try an urgent case: for religious reasons, a beautiful seventeen-year-old boy, Adam, is refusing the medical treatment that could save his life, and his devout parents share his wishes. Time is running out. Should the secular court overrule sincerely held faith? In the course of reaching a decision Fiona visits Adam in hospital – an encounter which stirs long-buried feelings in her and powerful new emotions in the boy. Her judgment has momentous consequences for them both.

Whilst I know Ian McEwan isn’t everyone cup of tea, I have to say he is mine.  I haven’t read as many of his novels as I would have liked but I’ve enjoyed each one and always found them to be not what I expected when I started reading.  The same is the case with The Children’s Act, which left me feeling bereft when I was done because I hadn’t realised how connected to Fiona and Adam I had become and how much I had bought into their stories and lives.

On the surface, Fiona is not that likeable.  She is completely focused on her career, to the detriment of her marriage and her life.  She isn’t unhappy but she is living in a bubble that no one can seem to burst.  Part of her knows this but she doesn’t seem willing or able to make a change till her husband forces one on her, and into making decisions she might not normally have made…which in turn leads her to becoming more involved with Adam, a teenager at the centre of a potentially controversial case.

You can see the dominos falling and the tragedy unfolding yet no one seems able to step far enough outside themselves to stop it – and it is this that meant I ended up having a lot of sympathy for Fiona.   Because the dominos were falling long before her husband drops his bombshell; they started when she put her job before becoming a mother – something she has come to regret and is underlying in all her behaviours.  McEwan introduces the theme subtly and weaves it through Fiona’s story really well – never beating you over the head with it.

Adam has his own regrets, even though he is young.  He has been sheltered and protected by his parents and his church and Fiona’s entry into his life opens his eyes to the wider world, but one he’s not prepared for.  He looks for answers in her that he no longer finds in his God – answers it seems impossible she will be able to provide, no matter how much she might want to.  They are both so lost and I felt for them because of this.

That McEwan can do this, completely draw me in, when I didn’t know if I liked the characters is a testament to his writing, which I always find seems simple on the surface but somehow leaves me feeling quite exhausted by the end, realising I have been putting all my energies into reading.  He manages to create completely believable worlds (at least for me) and put me in the middle of them – which is why I should read more of his books and means that I loved this one.  Highly recommended.





The Last Lullaby by Carin Gerhardsen

imageInspector Conny Sjöberg and his police colleagues are perplexed by the brutal killing of a family in their Stockholm apartment.

With no clues, the murder inquiry starts with working out how was it possible for the mother, who worked as a cleaner, to afford a multi-million dollar property?

Despite a heavily reduced team, with experienced officers ill, injured or mysteriously missing, Sjöberg struggles to keep the investigation on the rails. But Conny has problems of his own – from a woman he cannot get out of his head, to a shocking revelation about his own past – all of which threaten to compromise the hunt for this heartless killer…

I feel like I should start this post by standing up and saying “Hi, my name is Emma and I’m addicted to books by Carin Gerhardsen” because this is third I’ve read in as many months.  Unfortunately, it is likely to the be last in a while as I’ve now caught up with series – a shame as I am officially hooked on the characters and what will happen to them next.  With each book the cast of detectives have become more well rounded and complex as their back stories are revealed, influencing the way they behave and the actions they take, including occasionally distracting them from their investigations.

In the Last Lullaby they are searching for the killer of a mother and her two young children.  When the description above says brutal, it is, though not gory – just shocking.  It also seems to be totally random.  The team can’t seem to find any reason anyone would want to kill the family or any prime suspects, though there is a mystery man they are keen to find.  Adding to their frustration is the fact that a key member of their team has gone absent without giving notice, meaning they are resourced and Sonny is having to do a lot of the legwork himself, rather than leading.

As with the other books in the series, the story is told in days, with each day (or part of a day) being a chapter.  This can make them quite long but they are broken up by looking at what different characters are doing on that particular day/time.  I like how this makes it feel like the investigation is unfolding “real-time” – like I’m discovering things at the same time as the detectives.

The writing style is sparse, though there is probably a better word for it, with not a word wasted and the plot fairly simple, focusing on the one killing and the back story of one detective in particular.  It was, however, no les enjoyable as a result because it is well written and has a good pace – not really letting up till the end.   A real page turner – I liked this one a lot!




The Bones of You by Debbie Howells

26029974When Kate receives a phone call with news that Rosie Anderson is missing, she’s stunned and disturbed. Rosie is eighteen, the same age as Kate’s daughter, and a beautiful, quiet, and kind young woman. Though the locals are optimistic—girls like Rosie don’t get into real trouble—Kate’s sense of foreboding is confirmed when Rosie is found fatally beaten and stabbed.

Who would kill the perfect daughter, from the perfect family? Yet the more Kate entwines herself with the Andersons—graceful mother Jo, renowned journalist father Neal, watchful younger sister Delphine—the more she is convinced that not everything is as it seems. Anonymous notes arrive, urging Kate to unravel the tangled threads of Rosie’s life and death, though she has no idea where they will lead.

The Bones of You has left me perplexed.  I read it in only a couple of sittings and found it very compelling, I really couldn’t stop turning the pages.  Yet, I’m not sure how I feel about it having taken a few days between finishing it and writing the review.  I enjoyed it – I’m just not sure how much.

There is a lot to recommend it.  The plot is interesting and has plenty of twists and turns (leading to the page turning) and it is well written, with some great descriptive passages.  There is also a slightly supernatural element in that the story is not only told by Kate, the central character, but also by Rosie who hasn’t been able to move on after her death.  This isn’t something that would always appeal to me but I thought it was well done.

I found myself looking forward to the Rosie chapters, which I thought were really clever and felt haunting (which is basically what Rosie was doing).  Then I’d get back to Kate and feel a slight sinking.  And I think this is where my problem lies because although it’s a good story, I didn’t like Kate – at all.  I thought her reaction to Rosie’s disappearance was over the top and her response to Jo and Neal’s actions too slow.  It didn’t seem right and it didn’t seem believable.

I wanted more action from Kate and I think I expected that from the book blurb – her “unravelling tangled threads” – but it seemed she didn’t do much unravelling.  For me, she was more a bystander, albeit a close one – someone who happened to be at the right (or wrong) place at the right (or wrong) time.  I wanted more oomph and I wanted her to question more.  That she wasn’t / didn’t frustrated me and has left me with these mixed feelings about the book, which is a shame because it isn’t all bad.  It does mean though that whilst I liked this one but can’t go further than that – sorry!



Source: Library
Publisher: Pan
Publication Date: 31st December, 2015
Format: paperback
Pages: 380
Genre: mystery, crime
Find on: Amazon UK / Amazon US / Goodreads



You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

23705512After reading Felicia Day’s memoir, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost), I have the OVERWHELMING desire to type in capitals (which is something I NEVER do) because this is how Day writes and it’s slightly contagious, as is her positive attitude and outlook on life.

As a result, I was SLIGHTLY in love with her by the end of the book and DEFINITELY want to be her friend (not just one of her 20 million twitter followers, which I’ve been for  a while). I also want to quit my job, throw caution to the wind, and start doing something I love instead of just something that pays the bills – which is what Day did, sort of, because hers is very much also a caution to the wind type of life.

Home schooled, along with her brother, by an unconventional mother who tried to follow the curriculum before GIVING UP and letting her kids learn naturally, the result was Felicia became really good and Math and Violin (which seems a PERFECT match), getting into college early, but had no friends other than ONLINE.  This was the early days of the internet and chat rooms were new, as were the games Felicia and her brother played.

It was the start of a lifelong love affair with the internet, online gaming and Felicia’s need to connect online, all of which came in really useful when she decided that rather than play one more bit-part secretary, she would start her own web series, The Guild, making her a star in one small (or large as it’s the internet, which is basically HUGE) corner of the universe – someone people knew as more than the geeky redhead from Buffy and Supernatural (which, if I’m honest is how I knew her *shame-faced*).

The book is ROUGHLY in three parts – the home schooling / college years, The Guild years, and then the post-Guild years take up the last third.  After all the success they were rockier than Day maybe anticipated but also written with incredible HONESTY which as they touched on mental health issues and this is an area I work in, I really appreciated.

Woven throughout is Felicia’s love story with the intranet, which changed her life, a fair dose of feminism (because gaming is by all accounts a “man’s world”), and a lot of funny – this book made me LAUGH!. By the end I felt I had been on a bit of an emotional roller-coaster but I have to say I really enjoyed the ride.  I also felt inspired.  I may not be quite ready to quit my job and move to Hollywood but I do feel like life should be about taking more risks than I ever do so you never know…


p.s. If you hadn’t have guessed, I would definitely recommend the book – loved it!.

Find on: Amazon UK / Amazon US



Here We Lie by Sophie McKenzie

24956951When a family holiday turns tragic and a member of their party is found dead it seems an adverse reaction to over the counter medicines is the culprit, that or a faulty batch having being bought.

That’s what everyone thinks, including the police. Everyone that is but Emily. She thinks it’s murder and is convinced she knows who is responsible and why. Unfortunately, no one but her ex-boyfriend wants to believe her, not even her fiancé Jed.

If anything, it’s Jed’s reaction that pushes her to try and find out the truth. He is steadfast in his disbelief, though as the prime suspect is a member of his family it’s maybe no wonder. The more Emily digs, though, the more it looks like she is right and the more she finds herself in danger.

I’m being a little vague here because the death at the beginning was a nice twist and I don’t want to give it away. It’s one of the first of many, some more believable than others, that kept me on my toes and turning pages. It wasn’t what I expected and I liked that. I also liked the story itself, though there were a few places where I think it dragged a bit, getting bogged down in details of Emily’s life I didn’t need.

Emily is the main character and tells the story of what is happening in the present in her own voice. She’s likeable if a little woolly on her decision making at times – I can’t see why she would be with Jed in a month of Sundays for example, and well written. We get alternate glimpses of the past through chapters on her and her siblings’ childhood and also through a potentially unreliable narrator – thirteen year old Dee Dee’s video diary. They show not everything is as rosy in her life as Emily thought it was.

Dee Dee comes across as a “typical” confused teen, Jed a stereotypical older man with control issues. Unlike Emily, they weren’t as fleshed out and neither were the other main characters (Emily’s brother and sister who are actually pretty important to the story). I would have liked to care for them more but I didn’t get the chance and that did leave me a little frustrated as I got to the end.

Saying that, I still enjoyed the book. It wasn’t the best written I’ve ever read and, like I mentioned, it did get lost in details sometimes, but it was a good story and kept me interested. The ending wasn’t one I saw coming and was actually a little sad. Everything was tied up nicely but not everyone got the answers they wanted. Because of this, I would say I liked but didn’t love the book – there is something here though that I think readers of crime fiction will enjoy.