Leaping with confidence straight out of the gates, DEAD LEMONS has a cracking opening chapter that will stay with you for quite some time. You just can’t go past a man hanging over a cliff, hanging upside down in his wheelchair, thinking such dire and witty thoughts.
Finn Bell presents as a surprisingly pragmatic creature for all the challenges he is required to face in his every day existence. Laconically hilarious plus unnervingly calm in a tight spot, is our Finn. This is the strength of DEAD LEMONS, as the humour is presented shockingly side by side with all the heartbreaking details of the town’s murders. The dark is balanced with the redemptive light that emanates from Finn finding his way back to what it is that makes the world turn – the complexities of human relationships.
DEAD LEMONS is an absorbing and disturbing window into a part of the world that time seems to have left well behind. Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t look, don’t dwell. Injecting a character like Finn into such an eerie and remote location is reading gold as there is a push/pull with his modern awareness and the slow pace practiced by its residents. There is so much in Finn’s character to like, admire and barrack for. Hoping very much to see this character again. The pace does slacken off during the middle of the novel a little as so much is discovered in such a short space of time right at the start. Kudos to the author for not dwelling on any physical limitations of Finn as he crawls and throws himself around where necessary. A very polished debut novel that any crime fiction enthusiast will enjoy.
Review - The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye, David Lagercrantz
In prison because of her actions taken to rescue a young and troubled child (detailed in the prior novel of the series), Lizbeth Salander is stoically serving her time. As with life outside, the prison environment operates with a delicate balance of power that can tip either way on any given day. These are all niceties that Salander prefers to ignore - unless it serves her own purposes to enter into the messy fray that is prison politics. The killer Benito rules the prison with an iron fist and her latest joy is to torture a young Arab inmate who does not have the defences and skills tha
Happily, we encounter here more of the same winning ingredients once again in THE GIRL WHO TAKES AN EYE FOR AN EYE. There is the resourceful and charming journalist Blomkvist, the enigmatic and bitingly intelligent hacker Lisbeth Salander, and another action based plot populated with frightening villains. The relationship between the two mains is again reading gold (though we see less of it in this outing) and the dynamic between the two remains the strongest aspect of this now legacy series.
Author David Lagercrantz confidently continues his commissioned task of continuing the Millennium series, two novels in after the death of fellow Swedish author Stieg Larsson. We were all relieved when the previous novel, Lagercrantz’s first Millennium outing, was such a cracker of a read. Larsson’s spectacularly successful trilogy covered a lot of ground and firmly established Salander as an iconic figure of Scandinavian fiction. It was no small feat to produce a book which seamlessly carries on the story of Salander and Blomkvist in such a convincing fashion.
THE GIRL WHO TAKES AN EYE FOR AN EYE is constructed on a smaller scale. The global concerns of the stock market are mentioned again, but not pursued as a major plot driver. Blomkvist is leading more of a regular life after all his hair raising previous escapades, and there is lot less of Millennium the magazine featured in this outing. It gets a bit wearying to seeing Salander put on her superhuman cape to solve the world’s problems once again and the novel is not as complex as what we are used to seeing in this series. The book struggles to keep momentum and is a mish mash of ideas that never quite gel to form a cohesive plot. The first half of the novel meanders about and Salander’s motivations never ring true as she concerns herself with the problems of others instead of focusing on what’s necessary.
This entry in the series is more of a catch up with what everyone is up to and there is another death of a regular to make sure that Salander considers to suffer, regardless of any improved circumstances. Not the strongest book but not a terrible one either; read this book for series continuity but the story will not glue you to the pages this time.
Review - A Dark So Deadly, Stuart MacBride
Welcome to the Misfit Mob…
It's where Police Scotland dumps the officers it can't get rid of, but wants to: the outcasts, the troublemakers, the compromised. Officers like DC Callum MacGregor, lumbered with all the boring go-nowhere cases. So when an ancient mummy turns up at the Oldcastle tip, it's his job to find out which museum it's been stolen from.
If the universe wants to be particularly nice to us, it will make sure that A DARK SO DEADLY is the start of a new series from Stuart MacBride. There are echoes here of his long running Logan McRae series, but it's delivered with a slightly straighter bat (you'd have to be dead set in front to pick it though), and lots and lots of potential for places for the Misfit Mob to go and crims for them to annoy.
A haphazard grouping of cops who have been in trouble in the force, one who is most definitely not going gently into any sort of night - good or otherwise, and a female boss who is slightly erratic but nowhere near as in your face as DI Steel from the McRae series and there's so much potential here it's hard to know where to start. There's heaps of gallows humour that had this reader somewhere between smirking and laughing loudly at points, and then there's some beautifully dodgy villains, some over the top scenarios (mummified bodies for goodness sake) and that uncomfortable awareness that a scenario quite this horrible really shouldn't be making the reader laugh this much. But then readers, like the cops they are reading about, have to get through the worst of the worst, and MacBride is a genius at making it all feel like the world's gotten seriously it's weird and sick but it's going to be okay.
The Misfit Mob might even work out a way to be okay. You'd have to hope so as there will be some serious sulking in these parts if the universe screws this up on us, and this isn't the start of a new series.
Book review - Best Day Ever, Kaira Rouda
Determined to make the day run to schedule, Paul sets off for the drive to his river home with Mia, his lovely young wife of ten years. Their kids are being taken care of by the dubious babysitter and this weekend will be all about the two of them. Paul has planned the next few days very very carefully. There are some work arounds that are necessary and Paul does get the feeling that Mia suspects something is up. But not to worry, the course of true love never does run smoothly. Paul is used to leading a complicated life and his increasing money troubles have brought him to this point.
BEST DAY EVER has a slow burn and is very much like a one room thriller, due to the small cast and its real-time play. We’re along for the ride with Paul, our urbane and narcissistic host, and included every step in the way in his Machiavellian plans to come out on top and be in complete control of his life and marriage. We’re not meant to like him, and of course we can’t admire him, but we can marvel at the inflated super ego that has resulted in his life unraveling at a greater speed now that he is finally spending some time alone with his witness, wife Mia.
Paul’s traits are horribly recognizable and therein lies the true horror; it is not inherent misogyny that drives Paul, it is more the extreme love he has for himself. Everyone has met one of these people, and Paul has taken it to an art form with quick thinking on his feet, lying on the spin of a dime and skillfully manipulating people and events to suit his own needs.
With domestic thrillers being so huge right now, many fiction writers have lifted the lid on the most dangerous experiences women can have; that being, those lived as a result of entering into relationships with controlling men. BEST DAY EVER is an excellent reminder that you don’t need to look too far from home to find real monsters. This novel doesn’t over dramatize and it doesn’t over explain, which makes BEST DAY EVER all the more chilling to read.
Book review - A Dark So Deadly, Stuart MacBride
Police Scotland has created a “dumping ground” for those officers who don’t quite fit; the ill, those who have faced disciplinary action, those who refuse to play by the rules. DC Callum McGregor is an expectant father with a girlfriend who desperately needs to keep her maternity benefits, so it is in covering for Elaine’s on-the-job mistake that Callum finds himself joining Mother’s team at Oldcastle. Mother takes care of her castaways but they don’t always get along - or with anyone else for that matter.
The beauty of a standalone is the tantalizing possibility of it being a series starter. A DARK SO DEADLY introduces an irresistible new cast of characters (that this reviewer absolutely wants to see again) with the ‘Misfit Mob’. This ragtag collection of police officers is pure reading gold and it is a testament to the authors skill that he is able to create (again) a fresh set of police officers who are all complex, rich with backstory, and let’s not forget, hilarious. You can’t help but feel for Callum who has the whole world either badgering him for something or actively dropping bombs on him from a great height.
This ridiculously enjoyable book hurls along at a great pace, throwing up new dodgy villains and antagonistic colleagues for Callum to deal with at every turn. MacBride injects a terrific amount of energy and fizzy enjoyment into his novels and A DARK SO DEADLY is no exception. It’s rare you find a crime novel that is truly horrifying, whilst making you laugh out loud during the reading. Another great book delivered from a modern crime master.
Book Review - Rather be the Devil, Ian Rankin
The death of Maria Turquand had all the ingredients that would have appealed to the salacious public forty years ago; a beautiful woman, gangsters, drugs and rock stars. Not everyone from those glory days has moved on from Edinburgh and it pleases retired detective John Rebus that this is a cold case with connections to the present. Old crimes can still wound. Secrets from the past can forever alter those that are forever tasked with keeping them hidden.
It's quite possible that there will be a few moments during the reading of this novel where you will want to punch the air in pride. Our man Rebus still has the sharpest wit around and eases his way around tricky situations with the practiced air of one who expects little of others but demands much of himself. The acceptance of DI Siobhan Clarke and DI Malcolm Fox that Rebus will always a part of their investigative lives is well and truly established in RATHER BE THE DEVIL; it is both sweet and savvy of them both. The Rebus novels remain fiendishly clever and there's that continuing comfort also in knowing that John Rebus will not twilight out fighting the good fight alone. Having the serving Scotland police force continue to accept the input of an ex detective like Rebus, who always unashamedly operated within his own unique moral code, is supremely satisfying to his long time fans.
RATHER BE THE DEVIL is not quite new light through old windows but by novel's end you are quite refreshed and confident that this series will continue to go from strength to strength, even with the changing of the guard. The world of Rebus is now very insular – need a cop, use Malcolm and Siobhan, need a criminal lord, there’s always big Ger Cafferty etc – but the novels continue to be loaded to the hilt with vicious crimes and complicated agendas. RATHER BE THE DEVIL is a tighter work than a few of its series predecessors in that the series strengths are being employed all at once to produce an absorbing crime novel that would hold its own to a new reader, plus reaffirm the devotion of an existing fan of author Ian Rankin.
Review - Home, Harlan Coben
To Myron Bolitar, his college roommate Win is family. It’s been a very long time since either he or the enigmatic Win Lockwood have had to share a room but their lives have been intertwined in love and danger ever since. So when the call for help comes from Win, Myron does not hesitate. There has been a sighting in the UK of Winn’s cousin Rhys who was snatched from a playdate along with his best friend Patrick. The two boys have possibly been used in the UK sex trade the entire time they have been missing. Winn at first tries on his own to snatch one of the boys but it does not go so w
What do we expect out of a Myron Bolitar novel? Wise cracking bromance laughs, the good guys winning, the unexpected twists and the odd punch up. We have all of those in HOME only here it’s a little on mute and the lines for who we are supposed to be barracking for are getting a little blurry. What is most welcome here is that we are privy to the thoughts that are coasting around in the more pragmatic head of Win Lockwood. As always, Win’s character is strong enough to sculpt a novel alone without the softer addition of his best friend in all things, Myron Bolitar. Here in HOME, we receive the points of view of both men.
The familiar cast are getting a bit of a clean up to become more politically correct and this does soften their edges, 11 books in. Regardless, HOME is a welcome visit with old friends. HOME may be a deliberately crafted deliberate step in a long running series which could end on a high or slowly coast out due to the realistic ageing and changes in circumstances for Myron. Not entirely sure whether I want to see Win humanized with family connections, but again perhaps that’s been written in to indicate a change in direction for the series.
HOME is another entry in a series that never fails to deliver the thrills and spills with enough levity to bring it out of the dark. There are twists you won’t see coming and these are still the guys that you wish could have your back in real life.
BOOK REVIEW - FINAL GIRLS, RILEY SAGER
Life for Quincy is divided into two parts. Before Pine Cottage, and after Pine Cottage. Quincy's memory is fuzzy on the precise events that led to the death of all her friends on their mini holiday, but she has never been allowed to forget what it is that she will became in her survival; a Final Girl. The only one to stagger out of the forest that day, blood soaked and being chased by a knife wielding killer, was Quincy. The media continues to be obsessed with Quincy and two other “Final Girls”; Samantha Boyd and Lisa Milner – even though it has been years since their separate horrors.
The concept of FINAL GIRLS is a very compelling one. Perhaps its completely new one, or perhaps it’s a variation on an old theme of wondering who will survive the carnage in a horror film – there is always one. Quincy and Samantha are two people who experienced trauma, but have developed very different ways in coping what has forever changed them. The ebb and flow of tension is dictated by Quincy's navigation around those parts of herself that have been masked in order to appear “normal” and it is a cleverly crafted balance.
FINAL GIRLS is a essentially a battle of the facades between the two survivors and the tension lies in seeing who it is that will be the stronger. A little sadness is woven in there too in that Quincy has endured so much and can’t quite get her mind around what it is to move on (much like the media can’t leave it alone, and that there are always going to be people out there who are obsessed with this sort of thing). It is a nail biting read to the end as we wait to see who will come through, and whether Quincy can marry up the parts of her memories that belong in nightmares with the horrific events that actually took place at Pine Cottage.
BOOK REVIEW - LOVE LIKE BLOOD, Mark Billingham
Whenever suspicion arises in a murder inquiry that it may be the result of an honour killing, the tasked investigators have a dual mission. One, to find out the identity of the murderers, and two, to determine who it was that arranged for the killings to be carried out. The practice of honour killings might still continue, but publicly the communities deny their occurrence.
It's always a joy to visit with Tom Thorne who makes firm decisions according to his own moral code and does not sweat the consequences of his actions. Thorne's personal life, now fourteen novels in, has settled into that of (mostly) peaceful cohabitation with his partner Helen and her son. There is less of Thorne's presence here as he shares the stage with colleague DI Tanner, and Tanner’s personal back story has greater relevance to the events of LOVE LIKE BLOOD. Thorne still shows us that he has firm personal convictions and plenty to say, but it's a more muted Thorne we encounter in this series entry.
LOVE LIKE BLOOD being the first crime novel that this reviewer has read on this type of murder, it has delivered quite an education. It beggars belief that this kind of reasoning behind the killing of family members is still considered acceptable by so many, and this is the frustration that the police convey in the novel. Billingham's author note at conclusion references a real life tragedy that is replicated in this novel, a fictional work. In different hands this novel could have been a much more bitter piece but the contemporary crime with a very old motive is delivered with Billingham's usual confidence and assurance. Whilst not being the most fast paced novel in the series, it is one of the more thoughtful and deliberate works.
BOOK REVIEW: RAGDOLL, DANIEL COLE
After attacking a child killer during his trial at court, Detective William Fawkes, known as Wolf, was publicly shamed and sent to spend time in a mental care facility. Now back on the job in Homicide, Wolf is painfully aware of a few things. First, that he was right all along. The killer he had attacked so savagely was eventually released, committing further atrocities before being recaptured. Second, that there’s a still a lot of people both in the force and out who think that Wolf has proven himself to be an unreliable loose cannon.
RAGDOLL is the debut novel of author Daniel Cole. With a second series entry due out in 2018, this is great news for readers of UK police procedurals. We're emotionally invested pretty soon into the read as RAGDOLL’s strongest inclusion is its large cast of diverse characters. Some decisions made by the police seem a bit questionable as they are marched through very quickly in order to keep momentum, but it's not that much of a pull away from the enjoyment of this read. You expect a bit of plot fluidity in a first novel and without great characters, you are unlikely to bother with book two.
Dark humour is sprinkled throughout RAGDOLL which is a welcome addition to temporarily lighten the mood away from the death and destruction. The characters don't seem to want to perform to our expectations of them and this does work to the advantage of injecting some realism into a novel that has a lot of bodies to deal with plus a fair whack of back story to roll out. Wolf is a complex character who moves through the novel by the seat of his pants, making this more of a personal journey to redemption than at first it might seem. It's fast, it's often funny, there's TV worthy gore, there is realistic emotional drama. RAGDOLL's cast is a welcome addition to the world of crime fiction and eventually we hope, to the small screen also.