Blindsided by the murder of her boss, Detective Constable Constance Fairchild soon realizes that the Met fully intends to lay the blame entirely on her shoulders rather than come clean about their botched undercover operation. Everything about the shooting of Detective Inspector Pete Copperthwaite shrieks of a cover up, and the Met obviously do not expect their junior officer to offer much resistance to the closing of their ranks against her. How wrong they are.
Constance appears as a fully formed resourceful character with an interesting background and the holder of some firm convictions. No flies on this officer, Con relies on no one but herself and is pleasantly surprised if any of her colleagues in the Met are actually non-biased and useful. Very keen to see how Constance progresses in her career after this book as there will be quite a dramatic change in store for her after the incidents in NO TIME TO CRY.
NO TIME TO CRY is one of those crime novels where you feel you are in very safe hands only a few pages in. Scottish author James Oswald has written here the first entry of a new series, also authors the successful Inspector Maclean series (still ongoing). This experience shows. NO TIME TO CRY is a polished police procedural that nails the ebb and flow of action and introspection, introducing us to the capable DC Constance Fairchild, a police officer in a bind who will dig in deep and not let anyone squash the truth about the murder of her colleague and friend.
The recommendation here is to get on board with what promises to be a cracking new British police procedural series. Shades of ‘woo-woo’, if that’s your thing, can add a fair bit of appeal to a genre that can even in the best hands, can sometimes be a little mechanical. (Let’s face it, it hasn’t hurt John Connolly). There’s a hint of the woo-woo here and as googling tells me, the same goes for the Maclean series (now eight books in, if you feel like going on a binge after enjoying NTTC).
NO TIME TO CRY is a confident series starter that delivers solid entertainment and promises some great series reading to come.
Believe Me, J.P. Delaney
Claire Wright is a British actor living and hoping to improve her craft in the town that never sleeps, New York. Despite Claire’s best efforts to impress her agent and acting school teacher, the job offers aren’t exactly rolling in. Claire well knows that it would only take a few minutes effort from any casting director checking up on her to discover that there’s some dubious history from the set of a previous production filmed back in the U.K.
Yikes. Be prepared for the push and pull as your suspicions settle on one person and then are shunted briskly away to lay uneasily on the head of another. Rinse and repeat.
There’s a lot to like in this novel and there’s also a lot that simply doesn’t work. It’s clever or very clumsy in parts and there’s no continuity with either intent. Claire’s character is suitably complex and we’re all for seeing female characters showing their dark sides, just as male characters have been able to display for the last billion years in fiction. As you progress through BELIEVE ME you are never quite sure if you are dealing with an unreliable narrator – and this can brand a thriller as a one trick pony with there being so many novels about now of this type – or whether this is someone who makes a practice of making monumentally unwise decisions.
Does the reader become invested in the outcome of BELIEVE ME? Not really. We know where we are headed. Second novels following blockbuster debuts can have a terrific weight of expectation placed on them well before release and BELIEVE ME was no exception. The sub culture of sexual fetishes is in interesting inclusion, as is the plot device of selecting certain works of French poet Charles Baudelaire to illustrate the motivations of a killer. BELIEVE ME fires well straight out of the gates but credibility is stretched to breaking point as soon as Claire is asked to contribute her acting talents to the investigation.
BELIEVE ME waxes and wanes between holding your interest and pushing you off to do other things when it gets a bit tedious. You do need to fully invest in Claire and her nebulous reasonings in order to finish this book. Modern relationships are hideously complicated and hats off to BELIEVE ME, as this thriller takes that certainty to a whole new level of dangerous complexity.
A Double Life by Flynn Berry
Claire is someone who appreciates fully the value of her privacy. There are many good reasons for that; the least of it being that Claire is not the name the London doctor was born with. Once the pampered children of two society parents, Claire and her brother Robbie were exposed to horrific violence at a young age after the murder of their nanny at the hands of their father and the attempted murder of their mother. Colin Spenser was never seen again after the attacks and his circle of dilettante friends soon after closed their ranks to exclude Claire and her family.
Flynn Berry burst on the crime thriller scene with her page-turning debut Under the Harrow, a book with a female narrator who may have been a little unhinged but was not unreliable. And so to A Double Life which boasts a similar, reliable, if not particularly stable main character. Only Claire has reason to be as she is – a trauma early in her life which she and her brother are still trying, in their own ways and unsuccessfully, to outrun.
A Double Life is loosely based on the very famous Lord Lucan affair, although transposed to a more modern frame. In 1974, Lord Lucan, killed his childrens’ nanny, Sandra Rivett, and then attacked his wife. His wife identified him as the assailant but he was never found. All that was found was his car, abandoned, covered in blood stains. On the way to that point he had stopped at a friend’s house. But he was defended by his friends and no one admitted to helping him. While an inquest and later the coroner brought down a finding that Lucan had killed Rivett, he was never found and has since been declared dead.
In A Double Life, Berry uses these facts as the basis of a reimagining of the continuation of the story. A Double Life is told from the perspective of GP Claire, many years after the events that left her nanny dead and her mother injured. When the book opens the police have come, telling her of another potential sighting of her potentially fugitive father, Lord Spenser, in Africa. Claire has spent some time spying on her father’s friends, trying to get some clue as to his whereabouts. She is sure that they helped him escape and are still in touch with him. When the daughter of two of these friends returns from England Claire strikes up a friendship with her in order to try and seek out more information. At the same time she is dealing with her brother who has become addicted to painkillers.
Claire’s voice is extremely matter of fact – short, simple language, a methodical approach – hiding a depth of pain. And while some of her breakthroughs are a little far fetched, as a reader invested in her and her seemingly quixotic quest, it is easy to just go with the flow.
As much as this is a mystery story, it is more of an exploration of the long term consequences of a violent through Berry’s flawed narrator. But Berry still manages to inject a fair amount of tension in Claire’s actions as she manipulates and lies her way to the information that she thinks she needs. And while the final act may be a little hard for some to accept it builds logically from what has come before.
In A Double Life, Berry has crafted another compelling thriller that throws a light on a still unsolved Twentieth Century mystery. After a promising debut, this is another assured book from a British crime author to watch for.
The Tall Man, Phoebe Locke
Always present, always watching. The Tall Man comes for your daughters. What to do when you have given yourself over to the Tall Man, and then you have a daughter of your own? You disappear.
The interlaying narratives of this book relate the viewpoints of Sadie as a teen, Sadie as a new mother, daughter Amber as an adult, and also that of the film producer gradually losing faith in the value of her documentary subject. You may find it hard to find anyone to relate to in this novel as there’s a lot of creepy characters here with healthy cases of arrested development.
Not intending to compare this novel to the obvious (fairly recent) urban legend so judging (of course) THE TALL MAN entirely on what it has to offer as a modern work of crime fiction. As other reviewers have acutely observed, it is an unsettling read rather than a thrilling work of fiction. There is a lot of build up to discovery, which many readers may appreciate, or others may simply lose interest as time ticks on and not much is happening. Hang on there till the end as there’s a bit surprise waiting for you (confession, did not see it coming).
A tale for our narcissistic times for sure, and opportunities to nudge this home are employed here in THE TALL MAN. It is interesting to have a murder read where you don’t feel particular sympathy for anyone affected. The use of texts between the two film female documentary makers is very effective in seeding in a little more tension and ambiguity as the film maker on the ground increasingly begins to question her subject, and the other wishes to power on with the pushing of their vulnerable subject for dramatic revelations.
Not sure of the intended market but thinking THE TALL MAN is perhaps for older edge of young adult readers. If you like to read multi generational novels where the actions of the parents impact the future of their children, THE TALL MAN could be the one for you. Look out for the shadows in the corner of your room…
Killing is My Business, Adam Christopher
A blend of science fiction and stylish mystery noir featuring a robot detective: the stand alone sequel to Made to Kill.
Another golden morning in a seedy town, and a new memory tape for intrepid PI-turned-hitman--and last robot left in working order-- Raymond Electromatic. When his comrade-in-electronic-arms, Ada, assigns a new morning roster of clientele, Ray heads out into the LA sun, only to find that his skills might be a bit rustier than he expected....
Fans of MADE TO KILL will already know all about Ray Electromatic, Ada and his line of work. Set in the 1950s, KILLING IS MY BUSINESS is the second in the trilogy based around Ray Electromatic. Part crime fiction, part science fiction, Ray is a robot, Ada is his controlling computer, and together their business, is killing. The first novel MADE TO KILL readers were introduced to Ray, the last robot in America, who covers his hired assassin persona with a day job as a private detective.
The trick here is that Ada wipes Ray's memory (? banks) every night so and must therefore be reminded every day by Ada of ... well everything. In the first novel that was an interesting idea, a way of perhaps turning a robotic assassin into something more robotic, with no chance whatsoever to question his allocated profession. By the second novel, not only does it wear a bit thin as an idea, it's not nearly as well executed and there are more than a few "well how would he know that" moments - enough to make you think that the wiping appears to be opportunistically selective at least.
KILLING IS MY BUSINESS also has a convoluted idea at the centre of the plot - after a couple of hits go wrong, Ray takes on a job getting close to a mafia boss to learn his secrets before then killing him. Leaving aside the whole idea of Ray not knowing what he'd already gleaned if his memory was constantly being wiped, there's the question of why a mafia boss would get that close to a random private detective robot in the first place. Needless to say for a lot of this novel to work you're going to have to pack up those niggles and file them under "silly fun".
Having said that, for this reader the first novel was great fun, this one considerably less so. There's nothing wrong with the writing, nor the mismash of genre's. The fifties feel is spot on, the voices of the character perfect. It's just that the central pillars seem to be tilting.
Review - My Husband's Lies, Caroline England
Jen, the much-loved hub of the group, can hardly believe that she now is the mother of three daughters, working a meh career, married to Ian who turns into a total grump when his team doesn’t win. Handsome Dan is on the uncertain precipice of new fatherhood whilst his girlfriend Geri waits patiently for him to get on board the pregnancy train. Newly married Nick is not sure that he has made all the right decisions up to this point and is more than a little suspicious that his family are keeping some secrets from him. Will is in love with someone else but is powerless to anything about it
There is much to like about MY HUSBANDS LIES. We have an intimate view over the shoulders of four people who thought that they would be together forever, but in reality, time has been gradually easing them apart. It’s a long time for a group of school friends to stay at this level of closeness, and you do get the feeling that this closeness has caused the differing levels of arrested development in all four. It’s a little claustrophobic, and no one’s bad behaviour goes unnoticed.
The majority of this book will have you sharply curious as to what will happen to the fab four with growing concern for their welfare as they hurtle to the conclusion. The ending is little short of bizarre but perhaps that was the intention. It’s also unclear, as the character winding it all up has not been under the focus for most of the novel. The title doesn’t quite fit with the book either – whose husband does it refer to?
The characters are written so well in MY HUSBAND’S LIES, including the supporting characters, that there is a burning desire to find out what happens next after the final few explosive pages. This novel will keep you deeply immersed in the various tangled webs woven and leave you with plenty of questions.
Our House, Louise Candlish
Bram and Fiona have two terrific kids, and the most gorgeous of London homes. So pretty from the outside that people stop to take the occasional photo. So warm and welcoming on the inside that the couple dream of their children bringing up their own families within the same walls. Comfortingly, the house is also a huge asset for the family’s financial future.
OUR HOUSE takes a new slant on modern crime and it is that twitchingly horrifying to know that this sort of thing can actually happen. Your homeowner’s hackles will be well and truly up and ready to attack. OUR HOUSE melds a modern relationship drama with a suspense thriller plot that plays out simultaneously with the discoveries of Fi as she tries to figure out what the hell has taken hold of her (cheating) husband. What happened to Bram that he would sell his own children’s home out from underneath them? Where has he gone?
The absolute unfairness of what is happening to Fi rankles throughout, and it is concern for her that will have the reader galloping through to find out if she ends up okay. It is fair cop to say that there is some middle novel lag, but this is the time needed in which to delve a little more into the backstory of how Fi comes to be in the middle of such a tangled mess. There is never any doubt about who is to blame and we realize that the bad guys aren’t only the ones doing dodgy deals with your title deeds.
Compelling reading, OUR HOUSE is a novel about suspicion, fraud and family. It could easily have been a one trick pony but author Louise Candlish has made sure there is plenty going on in this novel and alternates the viewpoints enough so that we are required to think again about what we have just read. The London suburbs prove to be dense enough to hide the most fractured of families and the deepest of secrets.
Now We Are Dead, Logan McRae #10.5
From the No. 1 bestselling author of the Logan McRae series, comes a standalone spinoff featuring DS Roberta Steel
Sergeant Roberta Steel has recently been demoted after being caught fitting up a suspect. The trouble is, the man she got sent down has had his sentence quashed now he’s back on the streets. And women are being attacked again. But if DS Steel goes anywhere near him his lawyers will get her thrown off the force for good.
When I read this back in January I posted a review. Or at least I thought I did. Imagine my surprise when I found it here in the draft queue. Whoops.
NOW WE ARE DEAD is a spinoff from the Logan McRae series featuring the glorious DS Roberta Steel. I say glorious in a "slightly ironic / well of course she's a bit gross but she's unapologetically over the top about everything / has a heart of gold / seriously / if you can't handle your women strong, forceful, and a bit sweary what are you doing reading Stuart MacBride books - especially one about Roberta Steel" way.
I love Roberta Steel. I love everything about the woman from her constant mining in her not insubstantial bosom, to her terrorising of the "deserves to be put upon half the time" Logan McRae, right down to her determination that no scroat will go unpunished on her watch.
Honestly, if you've not read any of Stuart MacBride's books then you really do need to be getting on with them. This is a series that's unashamedly right versus wrong, with a twist. They are police procedurals with the procedures manual propping open the door, and a hefty dose of dry, dark, slightly grotty humour. DS (yep she's been demoted from DI) Roberta Steel deserved her own book yonks ago and I, for one am extremely pleased she's got it.
I'm particularly pleased that NOW WE ARE DEAD is it as well. Of course Steel's not going to be happy when somebody she firmly believed did something, gets his sentence quashed. She's obviously going to take demotion personally as well, and there are times when everybody could be forgiven for thinking she's more than a bit obsessed about all of this for the wrong reasons. But Steel is, aside from everything else, a copper and she's got a copper's nose for a villain, and quite possibly, a big appetite for sacrifice in the line of duty.
If you're a fan of any of Stuart MacBride's books - the Logan McRae series, the Ash Henderson series, his Christmas series (I kid you not), or his standalones then you will have hot footed it to the bookshop for this one already. If for some reason you missed it, then off you go.
THE LAST MRS PARRISH, LIV CONSTANTINE
Amber’s new mission will involve some very daring and complex moves. It will take all of her acting and planning skills to insinuate herself into the exciting life of dynamic millionaire Jackson Parrish. Jackson is a delicious prize worth having. No less than achieving the end goal of becoming the next Mrs Parrish will do for the envious Amber. The fact that there is a current Mrs Parrish is just one obstacle to be overcome. The skeletons rattling in Amber’s closet will need to be quietened but there is no need to be concerned. Amber has it all under control.
Make no mistake, this novel is all about what the two women have in common, rather than what sets them apart. Having a man of course in the middle of the conflict is of course not that surprising, and nor is the fact that whilst the two women are in two very different situations, they both intend to succeed with their plans by whatever means are necessary. Its difficult to wag the finger at the bad guy here in a review without giving away major plot spoilers but you will figure that out fairly early in.
THE LAST MRS PARRISH has the reader hold in a suspenseful breath for an impressive length of time, then changes tack so that we then can then be horribly concerned about the person(s) at the receiving end of Amber’s schemes. The two women are completely believable and whilst this book is about as far from depicting a supportive sisterhood as a story could, it will shine a light on the lengths at which a person may need to go to in order to escape a life they don’t want. Envy and violence are at the heart of THE LAST MRS PARRISH so if you’re a bit squeamish with the details of abuse, you may find yourself somewhat triggered during the read of this book.
THE LAST MRS PARRISH would make a terrific revenge film with its glamorous landscape of the rich and privileged and the determined sociopath that is the reinvented Amber. Cross her to your peril. Bunker down and barrack for your favourite – who that is in the novel might surprise you.
THE CHILD NEXT DOOR, SHALINI BOLAND
Home alone, keeping an ear out for her baby daughter who is sleeping on the floor above, Kirstie Rawlings is jolted out of her doze at the sound of a cry. The baby monitor also relays the sound of someone speaking upstairs which results in Kirstie launching into action. Racing upstairs, Kirstie discovers her baby safely asleep and after a tense search, does not find anyone else in the house. The police don’t seem to believe what Kirstie has to tell them, and Kirstie’s own husband isn’t sold on her story either. The words that Kirstie clearly heard were “Let’s take the child – and go”.
The fear factor of the baby monitor interference is deliciously creepy and so from the very first chapter of THE CHILD NEXT DOOR we know that we are in for a fun ride. Author Shalini Boland has the gift for the quick hook and jerk and it is employed here successfully once again in her latest domestic thriller. It is nerve wracking to read of a new mother who is dealing with the enormity of her child possibly being snatched and the necessity of doing such things as turning her house into a fortress to protect her child. Kirstie is surrounded by people but very much alone.
Crisply written with no spare prose, THE CHILD NEXT DOOR wastes no time on extraneous details and gallops through with a mother’s righteousness and sense of purpose to solve a mystery and avert an incident that everyone else in the street seems to have the blinkers on about. Like a new mother doesn’t have enough on her plate to contend with, our anxiety for Kirstie rachets up with each chapter and we are standing at an anxious precipice by novel’s end.
Oh and yikes! That ending! Don’t entirely trust your instincts on this one as there is a final kick to be enjoyed on the very last page.