Let The Dead Speak by Jane Casey

51F315SsdqL.jpgA murder without a body
Eighteen-year-old Chloe Emery returns to her West London home one day to find the house covered in blood and Kate, her mother, gone. There may not be a body, but everything else points to murder.

A girl too scared to talk
Maeve Kerrigan is young, ambitious and determined to prove she’s up to her new role as detective sergeant. She suspects Chloe is holding something back, but best friend Bethany Norris won’t let Maeve get close. What exactly is Bethany protecting Chloe from?

A detective with everything to prove
As the team dig deeper into the residents of Valerian Road, no one is above suspicion. All Maeve needs is one person to talk, but that’s not going to happen. Because even in a case of murder, some secrets are too terrible to share…

I am used to reading books with dead bodies, there is probably at least one in most books I read, but I have to say I’m not so used to reading books where there isn’t one, just an assumption of murder.  The idea of this is one of the things that makes Let The Dead Speak stand out.  As far as openings and plots go, it’s different – in a good way.

What it does is throw up lots of questions that DS Maeve Kerrigan has to find the answer too, not least of which is where the missing body is – and whether it’s murder at all.  Because, without a body, how can you be sure?  With that much blood, though, that’s the theory the police follow and, with no clear suspects, they start by looking close to home…because you never know what is going on behind closed doors and twitching curtains

Casey has created a brilliant cast of potential suspects including: Kate’s daughter Chloe, who may be brighter than she first appears; her boyfriend and neighbourhood thug, who seems to be honest but you never know; her best friend Bethany, who doesn’t want Maeve to get close to Chloe; Bethany’s father, who found the house full of blood and doesn’t like being asked questions; and her uncle, who is – quite simply – a nasty piece of work.

I was convinced each of them was guilty at one point – a good thing because it means nothing was obvious here and, as a reader, I had to work at figuring things out.  These are my favourite type of books, ones that leave me guessing till the last minute, staying up late and turning the pages because I have to know!

Maeve helped with the page turning because I really liked her, and her colleague Derwent, who she has a love / hate relationship with (more on the love side it seems, though not in a romantic way).  They are both dogged and determined and not afraid to push things to get to the truth – though, unfortunately, that doesn’t always work out well for them.  They played off well against each other and, though their conversations, I was able to get an insight into both their home lives and understand them more.  It’s important to me to like the central characters in the books I read and I definitely did here.

I thought I would as I have read other Jane Casey books and met Maeve before but it’s been a while (I think it was the fourth in the series and this is book seven so I’ve missed a few…this definitely can be a standalone though for people like me who haven’t read any/all of the series).  I am really glad I found her again because this was a great read – well written, well plotted, well paced and with interesting and complex characters – and I loved it.

Enjoy!

Emma loved-it

Source: Net Galley
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: 9th Mach, 2017
Pages: 352
Format: ebook
Genre: crime fiction
Buy now: Amazon UK

Note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.

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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

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

You might also like…

Silent Scream by Angela Marsons

Right Behind You by Lisa Gardner

Is he a hero?

Eight years ago, Sharlah May Nash’s older brother beat their drunken father to death with a baseball bat in order to save both of their lives. Now thirteen years old, Sharlah has finally moved on. About to be adopted by retired FBI profiler Pierce Quincy and his partner, Rainie Conner, Sharlah loves one thing best about her new family: They are all experts on monsters.

Is he a killer?

Then the call comes in. A double murder at a local gas station, followed by reports of an armed suspect shooting his way through the wilds of Oregon. As Quincy and Rainie race to assist, they are forced to confront mounting evidence: The shooter may very well be Sharlah’s older brother, Telly Ray Nash, and it appears his killing spree has only just begun.

All she knows for sure: He’s back.

As the clock winds down on a massive hunt for Telly, Quincy and Rainie must answer two critical questions: Why after eight years has this young man started killing again? And what does this mean for Sharlah? Once upon a time, Sharlah’s big brother saved her life. Now, she has two questions of her own: Is her brother a hero or a killer? And how much will it cost her new family before they learn the final, shattering truth? Because as Sharlah knows all too well, the biggest danger is the one standing right behind you.

It’s been a while since I have spend any time with Rainie and Quincy, the two Lisa Gardner characters I feel the most connected too as they were in the first of her books I read. Starting Right Behind You felt like meeting up with old friends. I had missed them and needed to know what they had been up to, which includes making a family with their soon to be adopted foster daughter, Sharlah.

Sharlah is a teenager and a difficult one at times. Not just because of her age but because of her past. Raised by parents who were alcoholics and drug addicts until she was four, she has been in the foster system ever since, moving from home to home. The same is true of her brother Telly, who she hasn’t seen since they were taken into care. For him, life was probably more difficult still. He was five years older. And he had killed his dad after his dad had stabbed his mom. Or at least that is his and Sharlah’s story and it’s one they have both stuck to.

Things seemed to have been turning round for seventeen year old Telly though. He was living with a caring foster family who were determined to give him the skills to enter adulthood. So it seemed to make no sense when his foster parents turned up dead, as well as two other seemingly innocent people, all shot by Telly before he went on the run. What also didn’t make sense was why he had photos of Sharlah and whether she was in danger.

It is left for Rainie, Quincy and the local sheriff to figure out because they may not know where Telly is or where he’ll be ongoing next but they do know things don’t seem to make sense. This becomes more obvious to the reader as Telly tells his story, staring with his early life and how he tried to keep his sister safe through to how he began to care for his foster parents. These chapters are interspersed with ones focusing on the search for him, including ones told by Sharlah.

Hearing from Telly and Sharlah is one of the things that sets this book apart. It humanises a potential killer and shines a light on just how hard life can be for kids that grow up in care, especially when their early life makes it hard for them to trust. It also show how love can make a real difference in the lives of such kids.  This might seem an odd thing to be saying in a review of a piece of crime fiction but it is an important part of the story and gives it a depth you don’t find in a lot of books in this genre. It means you care for the characters, and want things to work out for them.

The other thing that makes this book great is the story itself. It’s a complicated plot with lots of twists and turns. Yet it doesn’t feel far fetched or unbelievable. Each secret revealed or mystery uncovered seems right, makes perfect sense, and helps develop your understanding of the characters and their behaviours or provides you with a vital piece of the puzzle  to just what is going on. It also builds the tension right through to the final scenes, meaning I couldn’t stop turning the pages and I can’t say more about this book other than I loved it – a highly recommended read.

Enjoy!

Emma

loved-it

 

Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Headline
Publication Date: 31st January, 2017
Pages: 368
Format: ebook (Kindle)
Genre: crime fiction

Note: I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in return for a fair and honest review. All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.

The Trapped Girl by Robert Dugoni

30226698When a woman’s body is discovered submerged in a crab pot in the chilly waters of Puget Sound, Detective Tracy Crosswhite finds herself with a tough case to untangle. Before they can identify the killer, Tracy and her colleagues on the Seattle PD’s Violent Crimes Section must figure out who the victim is. Her autopsy, however, reveals she may have gone to great lengths to conceal her identity. So who was she running from?

After evidence surfaces that their Jane Doe may be a woman who suspiciously disappeared months earlier, Tracy is once again haunted by the memory of her sister’s unsolved murder. Dredging up details from the woman’s past leads to conflicting clues that only seem to muddy the investigation. As Tracy begins to uncover a twisted tale of brutal betrayal and desperate greed, she’ll find herself risking everything to confront a killer who won’t go down without a deadly fight.

In the early hours of a summer day in Seattle, a teenager out to make a little extra money by illegally crabbing manages to net more than he bargained for – much more. Instead of crabs in his cages, he pulls up the body of a young woman.  How she got there isn’t clear but what is is that it wasn’t an accident, she was murdered.  Enter Tracy Crosswhite , who is fast becoming one of my favourite female detectives.

Tracy is a great character.  She’s tough but not hard, loved by her team and by her boyfriend Dan (who unfortunately I didn’t get as much of as I would have liked in this outing).  She’s also got history that means she starts to feel connected for the woman she thinks has been found and the life she lived.  Like Tracy (who lost her sister 20 years previously) the dead woman’s life has been touched by tragedy, nothing it seems has gone right for her.

I said “thinks” and “seems” because, determined to find out what happened to the young woman, the more Tracy digs the more confused she (and you as a reader becomes).  Nothing is as it seems.  For Tracy, it’s frustrating, especially when her path is blocked by a neighbouring police force who believe they have jurisdiction and a boss who can’t be bothered to fight for her.  For me, as a reader, I loved the confusion.  I really didn’t know where the story would take me next as it took one twist after another.

And, unlike other books I have read, where the twists sometimes just seem to be there for the sake of it, here every one made me go “of course” and nod my head knowingly as if it had been obvious from the beginning (when, of course, it hadn’t been at all).  The whole story was really cleverly plotted, with nothing rushed, and right until the end I was convinced it would end one way, only to find out I had been completely wrong all along…brilliant!

Liking and rooting for Tracy is an obvious plus and selling point for me in this series but, in this book, it was also nice was getting to know her team more than I have in any other story – her partner, Kins, already felt pretty solid and well rounded to me but, here, I also got to properly meet the two other members of her team (or family as they call themselves), Del and Faz.  They are great characters, full of life and personality and good cops in their own right. I want more in the next book as they make a great team.

And I do hope there is a next book as, for me, this series is just getting better and better with each book.  It says something that, after only discovering it last year thanks to a review on bibliophile book club, I have read every book in the series.  Not only do they have the great characters I have mentioned but they are great stories, well written with twists and turns a plenty and a real sense of place – I want to visit Seattle now despite the death count.  I can’t recommend them highly enough (and for those who don’t want to go back to the beginning, don’t worry they can be read as standalone I think) – loved this book!

Emma

loved-it

Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Publication Date: 24th January, 2017
Pages: 378
Format: ebook (Kindle)
Genre: crime fiction

Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.

For my other reviews of Robert Dugoni books:

My Sister’s Grave (book 1)

Her Final Breath (book 2)

Have realised I never wrote a review for book three but, trust me, it’s good (I’ll now have to see if I can get one written up!)

 

Wedlock by Wendy Moore

6022200

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

Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent

cover102265-mediumThe last people who expect to be meeting with a drug-addicted prostitute are a respected judge and his reclusive wife. And they certainly don’t plan to kill her and bury her in their exquisite suburban garden.

Yet Andrew and Lydia Fitzsimons find themselves in this unfortunate situation.

While Lydia does all she can to protect their innocent son Laurence and their social standing, her husband begins to falls apart.

But Laurence is not as naïve as Lydia thinks. And his obsession with the dead girl’s family may be the undoing of his own.

When Lydia finds her husband in a car with an almost dead prostitute you might expect she would be frightened, scared, angry. You might think that she would do something, anything, to save the girl. You probably wouldn’t expect her to finish the job he started, killing the girl and then getting her husband to bury her in the back garden of their family home.  I am not one for spoilers and, as this happens in the first few pages of the book, I don’t think it’s one.  It does though set you up for a really cracking read, one that doesn’t let you go from the first page.

Told from three different perspectives and over three different periods of time, this is a really clever piece of writing.  It starts with Linda and that fateful night.  You pretty soon realise that she is stronger than her husband, who loves her too much to say no, but also not quite right.  She has to have things her way and doesn’t seem to have any real idea that that way might be the wrong one.  As a character, she is manipulative, deceitful and wicked – I can’t think of another way to describe her behaviour and her impact on those around her.

Next is Karen, the dead girl’s sister.  Karen is convinced something has happened to her sister and determined not to see the bad in her.  She can’t believe Annie would abandon her family and won’t believe she is the drug-addicted prostitute that the press make her out to be.  Missing her sister is her driving force and shapes her life and her decisions. As a character she is a strong woman but she doesn’t always make the best choices.  I liked her and found myself willing her to figure things out, for her and her families sake.

Then there is Laurence, Lydia’s teenage son, who figures out what he thinks is the truth but is unable to tell anyone.  This secret and his relationship with his overpowering mother shapes his life and, like Karen, his decisions (neither are very good at making them if I’m honest).  It also draws him closer than he should ever come to Karen and her family, putting his own at risk.  As a character, I struggled most with Laurence.  I don’t know how he could have ended up any other way given he had Lydia as a mother but I did find myself wanting him to be stronger, braver, more honest with Karen.

All three were so well drawn I was completely drawn into the story, which was also very well written, painting a picture of Ireland during the 1980s that feels a world away from my own (with every day sexism, no divorce and social status still meaning so much).  I felt I was there but was glad I wasn’t.  Not that I knew where I was all the time with the twists the book took and the way it slowly released the truth and revealed Lydia’s long hidden secrets.

Last week I commented about how I had seen the endings coming in books I’d read and how in one case this put me off the book.  There was nothing like that here.  I didn’t see the ending coming at all and it was a great one.  Much better than the one I had in my head and much more twisted.  Avoiding spoilers, I’ll say no more other than I loved this book – highly recommended.

Enjoy!

Emma

Note: I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.

Find Her by Lisa Gardner

25644437Seven years ago, carefree college student Flora was kidnapped while on spring break. For 472 days, Flora learned just how much one person can endure.

Flora Dane is a survivor.

Miraculously alive after her ordeal, Flora has spent the past five years reacquainting herself with the rhythms of normal life, working with her FBI victim advocate, Samuel Keynes. She has a mother who’s never stopped loving her, a brother who is scared of the person she’s become, and a bedroom wall covered with photos of other girls who’ve never made it home.

Flora Dane is reckless.

. . . or is she? When Boston detective D. D. Warren is called to the scene of a crime—a dead man and the bound, naked woman who killed him—she learns that Flora has tangled with three other suspects since her return to society. Is Flora a victim or a vigilante? And with her firsthand knowledge of criminal behavior, could she hold the key to rescuing a missing college student whose abduction has rocked Boston? When Flora herself disappears, D.D. realizes a far more sinister predator is out there. One who’s determined that this time, Flora Dane will never escape. And now it is all up to D. D. Warren to find her.

Every time I read a book by Lisa Gardner I wonder how it is I haven’t read more because I enjoy every one – a lot!  This is no exception, gripping me from the first page…

These are the things I didn’t know:

When you first wake up in a dark wooden box, you’ll tell yourself this isn’t happening. You’ll push against the lid, of course. No surprise there. You’ll beat at the sides with your fists, pummel your heels against the bottom. You’ll bang your head, again and again, even though it hurts. And you’ll scream. You’ll scream and scream and scream. Snot will run from your nose. Tears will stream from your eyes. Until your screams grow rough, hiccuppy. Then you’ll hear sounds that are strange and sad and pathetic, and you’ll understand the box, truly get, hey, I’m trapped in a dark wooden box, when you realize those sounds come from you.

The girl waking up in the box is Flora, who tells the story of her 472 days in captivity in flashbacks as the book progresses, slowly revealing a brutal tale and one that has left her traumatized.  It has also left her a survivor, a young woman determined to not be a victim…but also one who feels she needs to make amends for the things she did to stay alive.  Because of all of this, she is complicated and complex and whilst I can’t say I initially liked her, I did feel for her and understood where she was coming from.

I say initially because, as the book progresses, and we get to hear Flora’s voice in the present, I did start to like her.  Deep down, despite the scars that protect her heart, and the harsh persona she puts out to the world, she is a good person – one who wants to do right.  One who finds she has to do right when she is once again held captive and this time it isn’t just her own life she has to protect.

Also trying to understand Flora is D. D., currently on desk duty and chomping at the bit to return to the field.  She doesn’t initially like Flora either, doesn’t trust her, even thinks of arresting her.  Slowly though, as she gets to hear Flora’s story, she starts to understand too and is willing – as a result – to put her own life on the line to save this very damaged girl.

Billed as a D. D. Warren story, this strong female character is very much front and centre in this novel.  She is smart, resourceful and human and I liked her.  Flora holds equal billing though, not always the case with the “victim” in this type of book.  It was good to hear her voice just as strongly and a great way to keep the story moving forward and was a pretty intense pace

I thought this was a really well plotted novel, with twists, turns and tension that made it a real page-turner.  The characters were all well written, not just Flora and D. D., helping bring the story to life.  I honestly can’t find anything negative to say about it.  I loved every page of this book and couldn’t recommend it more for those who like crime fiction.

Enjoy!

Emma

Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts and feelings and opinions are my own.

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

Fractured by Catherine McKenzie

imageJulie Prentice and her family move across the country to the idyllic Mount Adams district of Cincinnati, hoping to evade the stalker who’s been terrorizing them ever since the publication of her bestselling novel, The Murder Game. Since Julie doesn’t know anyone in her new town, when she meets her neighbour John Dunbar, their instant connection brings measured hope for a new beginning. But she never imagines that a simple, benign conversation with him could set her life spinning so far off course.

After a series of misunderstandings, Julie and her family become the target of increasingly unsettling harassment. Has Julie’s stalker found her, or are her neighbours out to get her, too? As tension in the neighbourhood rises, new friends turn into enemies, and the results are deadly.

I am on a roll.  I have just read another book that is in the running for my book of the year and by someone who is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. Every book Catherine McKenzie writes is different from the last and keeps me turning the pages, desparate to know what happens next. This is the best yet I have to say.

Fractured is about a friendship that no one but the two people involved seem happy about.  That’s because they are a man (John) and a woman (Julie) and they are both married to other people.  No one seems to think their relationship can be innocent, including their spouses, nosey neighbours and children.  The pressure this suspicion creates leads to some unpleasant scenes and some unpleasant behaviour, cranking up the tensions in the street and amongst the neighbours and feeding on itself as every action becomes analysed and – in most cases – misunderstood.

Central amongst these misunderstandings is Julie herself and how she behaves.  She is a newly published and surprisingly successful debut author whose sudden fame led to her being stalked by a former college friend.  Her family’s move to Cincinnati was to escape and start again, something they very much needed but every step she takes, getting security cameras for example, is scrutinised and a negative connotation added – often by her nosey and judgemental neighbour Cindy.

As a reader, you have some of those suspicions yourself as you learn that Julie’s book may have been based on a true life murder – or suspected murder – of a friend and that she may know more about this than she is letting on.  This adds another dimension to the book as I started to question what I was reading and wondering if I was been led down a different path than I thought I was on.

Over the course of a year, with the story being told backwards from when Julie and her family first moved, you see things start to unravel.  Julie and John tell their versions in alternating chapters.  These are interspersed with chapters focusing on the present as John prepares to give evidence before a grand jury.  Things, it seems, have gone badly wrong.  You don’t know how badly or just what has happened and don’t until the final pages.

It’s a really great way of telling a story and one I like when it’s done well.  It lets things unfold slowly and means you don’t jump to as many conclusions as you might otherwise.  You get to know the characters and sympathise with them – which I did for each in this case (even Cindy).  They were well drawn and felt very real.  I could imagine Julie’s stress and anxiety but also how this must have come across to others.  Her past also made her selfish and self-centred in many ways – again, I understood why but I could also understand how this could rub others up the wrong way.  It also made me frustrated with her and sometimes I wish I could reach through the pages and grab her.

That I was so involved is a sign of a good book for me and this really was.  It was a clever story that was well written with great, complex, characters.  I don’t feel I can say enough about it or recommend it more highly.  A great read – loved it!

Emma

Note: I received this book in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts and feelings are my own.

Finally: You might also be interested in my other reviews of Catherine McKenzie’s books:

Smoke

Hidden