Dan Forrester, ex-MI5 agent, is connected to them both.
And when he discovers that his godson and his father have been murdered, he teams up with his old friend, DC Lucy Davies, to find answers.
But as the pair investigate, they unravel a dark and violent mystery stretching decades into the past and uncover a terrible secret.
Third in the Dan Forrester series, we're into classic thriller mode now with this series. Heaps of action, a fast moving, multi threaded plot, this one creates a partnership quickly between Forrester and ongoing series character Lucy Davies that works well. Again we have a couple of main threads, a supposed suicide and a seemingly natural death that turn out to be murder, with a very personal connection to Forrester.
In a nutshell KNOW ME NOW is a better outing than the second, but not quite to the heights of the first novel in the series. To be fair, a lot of the unusual elements - amnesia / grieving / ex-MI5 agent and cop with a problem have been expanded on now, and we're less into background development, and more into classic thriller derring doing and plotlines. If that's what you're looking for, then KNOW ME NOW is the third outing in a series that will be right up your alley.
Tell Me A Lie, C.J. Carver
How do you protect your family when you can't remember who's hunting them? A gripping international thriller, perfect for fans of Lee Child and Mason Cross
A family in England is massacred, the father left holding the shotgun.
PC Lucy Davies is convinced he's innocent
A sleeper agent in Moscow requests an urgent meeting with Dan Forrester, referencing their shared past.
His amnesia means he has no idea who he can trust.
An aging oligarch in Siberia gathers his henchmen to discuss an English accountant.
It's Dan's wife
Dan Forrester and Lucy Davies return in the second novel in this series: TELL ME A LIE. It's hard to say that these novels must or must not be read in sequence, or if there's enough leeway for readers to start anywhere. There is a bit of back story in this second outing that should help fill in the gaps for new readers, but those returning to the series may notice the obviously similar structure deployed in both novels. Again we have seemingly disparate story-lines converging, pulling the two main characters into a collaborative relationship, although in TELL ME A LIE that happens much earlier on than it did in the opening novel SPARE ME THE TRUTH.
Character development does also seem to have stalled slightly, and it feels like we're slipping into a lot of predictable elements. The diverging plots, the struggle with amnesia which is more of the same, and a woman's private life that's another car crash, all places we've visited before.
On the upside there is still plenty of action, and a complex plot evolving here with heaps of red herrings and TELL ME A LIE is populated by more than enough sub-plots and intrigue to keep a reader on their toes.
Spare Me the Truth, C.J. Carver
Dan Forrester, piecing his life back together after the tragic death of his son, is approached in a supermarket by a woman who tells him everything he remembers about his life - and his son - is a lie.
Grace Reavey, stricken by grief, is accosted at her mother's funeral. The threat is simple: pay the staggering sum her mother allegedly owed, or lose everything.
Lucy Davies has been forced from the Met by her own maverick behaviour. Desperate to prove herself in her new rural post, she's on the hunt for a killer - but this is no small town criminal.
Australian readers will probably remember C.J. Carver as Caroline Carver - writer of a series of Australian set books <cough> years ago. Recently, she's returned to notice writing under the name C.J. Carver - with a series of thrillers built around Dan Forrester, recently bereaved father, spy, sufferer of amnesia.
There are now three novels out in the series - all of which have been recent entries in the Ngaio Marsh Awards. The opening novel, SPARE ME THE TRUTH, introduces Forrester, and the background to the death of his young son; Grace Reavey, accosted at her mother's funeral with a demand for money; and ex-cop Lucy Davies. How all these people's stories interact is the point of the novels, with a complicated storyline that pulls together everyone's loss, past and present in a conspiracy that will test them individually and as newly formed colleagues, friends, combatants. Your guess.
There is much fodder for Carver to work with here. Forrester as the "main" focus is a man who is struggling to rebuild his life after a family tragedy that scrambled his memory and blacked out huge parts of his past. An unusual encounter leads to a mystery, that leads to a multi-threaded conspiracy, each of the main characters in the novel being drawn together, entangled in their own part of the puzzle.
Strong pacing, and populated with good characters, SPARE ME THE TRUTH is perfect summer thriller fodder, and the good thing is for readers who really like Dan Forrester there's two more novels out now (TELL ME A LIE and KNOW ME NOW).
The Ottoman Conspiracy, Thomas Ryan
Former Special Forces soldier Jeff Bradley is meeting with the mafia in Bari, Italy, to discover the whereabouts of his nemesis—criminal overlord Avni Leka—when he receives a message from an old friend. Barry is on board a tourist bus that has been hijacked by terrorists near Istanbul. Strapped with explosives, it is racing across Turkey to the northern borders of Syria, Iraq and Iran.
The Turkish president will not negotiate. The Turkish military will not allow the bus to cross the border. The hijackers will kill themselves and their hostages if they cannot escape.
If you're a fan of fast paced, fun thrillers and haven't clued into the Jeff Bradley Thrillers from New Zealand based author Thomas Ryan yet then you are in for a treat.
Action packed, set in interesting places with excellent plots and a great central character in Former Special Forces soldier Jeff Bradley - this third book in the series sees the place become primarily Turkey, the plot about the hunt for nemesis and master criminal, sidelined when an old mate calls for help. He's trapped on an explosives stuffed tourist bus, hijacked by terrorists and it's heading fast across Turkey, towards Syria, Iraq and Iran. When Bradley realises rescue is down to him, he calls in some help from US Special Agent Reason Johanson and they head off in a race against time, with a threat that turns out to have bigger stakes than just a mate's life, and some dangerous implications all round.
Needless to say a bit of James Bond / Jason Bourne / Die Hard type action with a lot of daring doings, some seriously impressive heroics, a bit of pathos and some good old fashioned mateship (not the icky / political kind), the "will come close to dying if necessary but would prefer not to" kind.
These novels do stand alone if you need to jump in somewhere / anywhere - but if you're a fan of this sort of action adventure over the top, one man to save the world type stuff (as is this reader) then launch yourself into this series wherever you jolly well can.
No One Can Hear You, Nikki Crutchley
'He said that they’d let me go on purpose. That they could easily find me if they wanted to. He said that they didn’t want me. That I was too much trouble. He said if I went to the cops, he’d know. If I told Sonya, he’d know. If I talked to friends or teachers, he’d know. He told me to pretend it didn’t happen. He told me to consider it a compliment, that I was too strong. His last words to me were, ‘Just forget’.
Small towns and close knit communities are under scrutiny again in Nikki Crutchley's second novel NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU. Not part of a series with NOTHING BAD HAPPENS HERE, this second outing is built around another interesting and complicated female character Zoe Haywood. Haywood has returned to her hometown Crawton to bury her estranged mother Lillian, who recently committed suicide. Despite the difficult circumstances of returning home to the suicide of a mother she really didn't get on with, living in her mother's house, back in the community she grew up in, Haywood finds herself drawn back into high-school friendships, and stumbling over details that make the likelihood that her mother did, indeed, suicide, less clear.
Crutchley builds an interesting story in a deliberate, slowly paced manner in NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU. Haywood has gone on from a difficult childhood of neglect and disinterest from her mother to forge a teaching career - one that's had plenty of ups and downs. Meanwhile her mother Lillian is a popular, respected counsellor of kids back at home. It seems that Lillian may also have been increasingly suffering from dementia, but not so bad yet that she's failed to notice a worrying pattern in the disappearance of some marginalised young women from the town. Unfortunately the clues she has left behind clearly indicate her struggles with memory and reasoning and the chances of Haywood and her high-school friends understanding what Lillian was trying to remind herself are difficult enough, without a series of very complicated relationship problems along the way.
The sense of small town, small community, hidden secrets, and odd goings on in picturesque places plays out well in this novel - as it did in Crutchley's debut. Here again we have somebody struggling with inner demons - Lillian seems to have had more than her fair share, and visited a lot of them on her daughter as a result. Haywood is remarkably together given her childhood, not without her own flaws and problems, regrets and mistakes, as is just about everybody in this novel. There's a sense that small town growing up can be very safe in some ways, and fraught and risky in many others. The contrast between seemingly happy families next door, and the complicated goings on in the home of Lillian and Zoe is nicely done, as is the lives of high-school friends who stayed in town, and those that tried to cut ties.
Crutchley does a particularly good job with complicated female characters. Haywood may not be the alcoholic mess that her main character in the first novel was, but she's got more than enough problems, doubts, insecurities, positives and negatives to be going on with. She's instantly sympathetic and engaging, without being straight-forward and always easy. The same could be said of Lillian who obviously wasn't a good mother, obviously had her good and bad points, and seems to have been a friend to young girls when they needed one.
The plot here is complex and intricate, although many readers may increasingly feel some confidence in the who and even the how of the ultimate solution. The why is less straight-forward and in many ways the more important question. NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU has moments of great insight and clarity into the nature of small towns, small communities, and the people who can slip under the radar in those situations.
The Only Secret Left to Keep, Katherine Hayton
Detective Ngaire Blakes is back on the case when a skeletonized murder victim is discovered - a crime that took place during the Springbok Tours of 1981. A period that pitted father against son, town against city, and police against protestors.
The third book in the Ngaire Blakes series, THE ONLY SECRET LEFT TO KEEP finds Blakes back in the police force (see my review of the second book: THE SECOND STAGE OF GRIEF for more), confronted by a very unusual case. The skeleton of a murder victim, found on a fireground, is eventually identified as a young African American, Sam Andie, who went missing around the time of the 1981 Springbok Tour of New Zealand.
In the first two novels in this series a fair amount of time has gone into setting up the character of Ngaire Blakes. A cop who suffers from PTSD she's been assaulted, left the force, solved a case that she was being framed in, and is now back on the force, with a baffling historical crime to solve. In this outing the concentration has moved away from the character back story and more towards the investigation - a promising sign that this series is going to continue to evolve and improve from the potential heralded in the first two novels.
The plot here is nicely complicated by a series of factors - the Springbok Tours in New Zealand (and Australia) were fraught times, accompanied by many protests, strong opinions for and against, and the potential for a protest to have been a catalyst for murder is highly feasible. As is the possibility that a young African American man, transplated from the States to New Zealand by his family, could have met with racial prejudice and violence. Further complicated by the double homicide conviction handed down to Sam's girlfriend in the same week that he disappeared.
Because there has been so much concentration of Ngaire Blakes in the earlier books there is always the possibility that this is a series that would work better if you started at the very beginning, although you can step into it at THE ONLY SECRET LEFT TO KEEP, accept that Blakes has some hefty baggage, and enjoy the novel as a police procedural / investigation in its own right. There's plenty to this plot, to Sam Andie himself, and to events around the time that he was murdered to keep a reader involved and occupied. Knowing a lot more about Blakes certainly means that you can see exactly how this series is progressing, and get a feeling for the way it keeps moving forward, adjusting the focus, and heading into very interesting territory indeed.
The Second Stage of Grief, Katherine Hayton
A false accusation. A brutal murder. Can Ngaire find a killer before he finds her?
Ngaire Blakes is trying to put her life back together. The ex-cop resigned from the police after a vicious assault left her battling PTSD. Dragged into a murder investigation, she’s shocked to discover that all the evidence points to her.
This is an embarrassingly overdue mention of the second novel in a series which is going from strength to strength. Apologies to the author, the delay is all my fault.
If you're not aware of the Ngaire Blakes series from New Zealand author Katherine Hayton then this is one that needs to go on the to be read pile. Starting out with THE THREE DEATHS OF MAGDALENE LYNTON, then this novel, THE SECOND STAGE OF GRIEF onto the third, which was longlisted in this year's Ngaio Marsh Awards, THE ONLY SECRET LEFT TO KEEP, this is a police procedural which is improving in leaps and bounds with every outing.
Centred around Ngaire Blakes, a Police Detective who in this novel has resigned from the force after a brutal assault has left her suffering from PTSD, Blake is a terrific character. Flawed and complex without being tediously complicated, Blakes is strong enough to take on the world on her own in THE SECOND STAGE OF GRIEF, after isolating herself from friends and colleagues, and running to her estranged father's remote hometown to hide. Only hiding never works, and somehow Blakes finds herself in the position of having to find a killer before a frame up gets her.
The procedural elements of these books work pretty well, and the plots are nicely twisty and tricky, but at the heart of it all is a great character study. Blakes is one of those characters that you can't help but like, even though you'd probably want to shake sense into her if it was real life. She's troubled, she's flawed, she's suffering and she's extremely real and absolutely believable. Setting or sense of place is slightly less important, and in THE SECOND STAGE OF GRIEF if nothing else, Blakes fleeing to her father's place gives the author an opportunity to give the reader a sense of the remoteness and rural nature of the areas that she's moving through.
There was potential in the first book that's been continued in this second outing. There are obvious hints here that Blakes police career is far from over though, and the third book deservedly won a place on the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Awards longlist. More on that next up.
See You in September, Charity Norman
Cassy blew a collective kiss at them. 'See you in September,' she said. A throwaway line. Just words, uttered casually by a young woman in a hurry. And then she'd gone.
It was supposed to be a short trip - a break in New Zealand before her best friend's wedding. But when Cassy waved goodbye to her parents, they never dreamed that it would be years before they'd see her again.
It's a scenario that plenty of families deal with every day. Teenager's off to spend their gap year travelling in far flung locations - in this case British backpacker Cassy heading to New Zealand with her boyfriend for a short break before returning to her best friend's wedding, study and a normal life. When Cassy gets to New Zealand, however, normality becomes a split with her boyfriend, a chance encounter with some very welcoming people in a van, and years away from home, a life in the midst of a cult in the beautiful, and isolated wilds, of New Zealand.
Research about the ways in which people are beguiled into cult life must have been done for SEE YOU IN SEPTEMBER, as the slip into the life is seamless and cleverly done. There are points where the reader is almost as bewitched as Cassy - the lifestyle is gentle, friendly and stress-less. The people are inviting, non-judgemental and seemingly blissfully happy with their living arrangements. It doesn't, initially, even feel like a cult - this is a community that's welcoming, enveloping and then it's controlling and threatening and very discomforting. But by that stage Cassy is embedded and her parents impotent from such a distance, desperate.
Vulnerable and controllable, Cassy's exactly the sort of young woman that you'd expect to be pulled into this scenario which makes this slightly less punchy than it should be - that and a tension arc that gets a bit bogged down at points with a tendency to belabour points that are pretty self-evident. Whilst this detracts a little from the pace and ultimate tension of SEE YOU IN SEPTEMBER, overall the novel makes up for that with a fascinating depiction of a young, vulnerable woman all too suspectible to an ideology of acceptance, the promise of a perfect life, happy to give no thought to the ease with which she might have found it.
Murder on Broadway, John Rosanowski
It's Broadway in Reefton, the new, booming 1870s gold town.
Suspiciously, Gordon Trembath, a naive young police constable has been left in charge over Christmas and New Year. He is immediately faced with investigating a murder carried out by sly-groggers in the valley.
In the meantime, the town has been invaded by "a collection of scamps, card sharps, liars and chats who have come to town for the pickings available in the holiday season."
Quirkly written tale of 1870's gold rush New Zealand, with more than enough parallels with local history to make this believable and entertaining reading. Central character Gordon Trembath, is a young, inexperienced police constable, stuck with being the only one on duty over the Christmas / New Year summer break. Whilst he's dealing with a murder executed by sly-groggers in the nearby valley, the town has been overrun with holiday petty crooks - card sharps, liars, cheats and scammers come to fleece the incoming holiday makers of anything they can get their hands on.
A crowded time in a young policeman's life, made even more complicated as the murder rate rises and the frontier side of the gold rush town becomes more and more apparent. A good little tale, told in a light-hearted manner with styling quirks that will work for some readers, and instantly annoy others, MURDER ON BROADWAY has a great sense of the timeframe, and setting, and provides a glimpse into some shared history between New Zealand and, in particular, this reader's part of Australia. If you're in the market for something a little bit different with that historical perspective, then it's worth having a look at.