Category Archives: Reviews

Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski – review

Published by Orenda Books

Publication date 15 March 2017

Source – own copy

“1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who took that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby. 2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure. In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries’ mysterious death. And who’s to blame… As every interview unveils a new revelation, you’ll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth. A chilling, unpredictable and startling thriller, Six Stories is also a classic murder mystery with a modern twist, and a devastating ending.

WHSmith Fresh Talent Pick for Summer 2017″

1996 and a group of teenagers are at an outward bound centre. Tragedy strikes when one of them, Tom Jeffries, disappears, his body not found until a year later. His death is ruled as misadventure but what really happened the night he disappeared? 2017 and journalist Scott King decides to cover the story as part of his Six Stories podcast, which examines cases from the past. The story follows the six podcasts, interviewing the teenagers who were present when Tom disappeared. Will the truth surrounding the death of Tom Jeffries finally be revealed?

I initially heard the author read the opening to his novel at a book event and was immediately drawn to the story. When I started to read the tale for myself I was soon drawn into a narrative that promised to reveal a dark and compelling tale.

The chilling aspect of this novel was added to by the fact that it was reminiscent of my childhood. Not the murder aspect obviously, but I did attend a residential in a similar setting, that had it’s own tales of hauntings by Peg Leg and the Blue Nun rather than Nanna Wrack. Rather than wandering the abandoned mines we visited Mam Tor. I live close to moors and peaks and could easily imagine the scenery of the novel. And those fond, though very vague and aged memories and familiar images juxtaposed the tale that was unfolding in Six Stories, and made it all the more atmospheric and effective for it.

It has a closed room feel, despite the fact that most of the story revolves around the open fells of the Northumberland countryside, aided by the small cast of characters and the personal way the story presented itself, the reminiscent narrative of the now grown teenagers blurring the lines between fact and imagined memories. The setting itself is a character, demanding attention. The landscape is portrayed as both beautiful and bleak, welcoming and dangerous. It is seen by the teenagers as a chance to escape yet they can never truly be free of the Fell, or of the issues that surround them.

Matt Wesolowski’s narrative is a fresh yet highly effective take on first person characterisation. The use of having chapters as podcasts bring the story bang up to date, tapping into the appeal of Serial and other such series. Each character was unique and well drawn. You could imagine the voices as they narrated. Their story, told through one of the podcasts, gradually layered the narrative, rounding out the events that led to the death of Tom Jeffries. What is interesting is that there are descriptions of the characters as teenagers but little of them as adults. This makes them perpetually young, together with the fact that even in the present day, they are only ever really talking about events from twenty years earlier. There is of course the suspicion that one of them is not telling the truth, all the more convincing in that each one has a slightly different take on what happened. The inevitable differences that come from seeing and experiencing a situation from a different perspective means that the story develops both in a linear and a more rounded way, but is never quite filled out. The reader sees more of the picture than the characters, for we see all sides, yet there are still gaps to be filled, contradictions to be dissected and conclusions to be drawn.

The story tackles a number of different themes. There is the usual difficulties of being a teenager, adapting to new boundaries, peer pressure and just working out how you fit into life. The novel also deals with bullying in its various guises, how people seek out the perceived weaknesses in others and exploit it for their own gain or entertainment. And how those actions can have a lasting impact on the lives of both the bullied and bully.

I had worked out what had happened before the reveal but Matt Wesolowski draws the strands of the story together so well I was just happy to follow the story to it’s conclusion.

Atmospheric, chilling and compellingly written I thoroughly enjoyed reading this debut novel. I look forward to reading more from Matt Wesolowski soon.

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Cursed by Thomas Enger – review

Published by – Orenda Books

Publication date – 15 February 2017

Source – review copy

“When Hedda Hellberg fails to return from a retreat in Italy, where she has been grieving for her recently dead father, her husband discovers that his wife’s life is tangled in mystery. Hedda never left Oslo, the retreat has no record of her and, what’s more, she appears to be connected to the death of an old man, gunned down on the first day of the hunting season in the depths of the Swedish forests. Henning Juul becomes involved in the case when his ex-­‐wife joins in the search for the missing woman, and the estranged pair find themselves enmeshed both in the murky secrets of one of Norway’s wealthiest families, and in the painful truths surrounding the death of their own son. With the loss of his son to deal with, as well as threats to his own life and to that of his ex-­‐wife, Juul is prepared to risk everything to uncover a sinister maze of secrets that ultimately leads to the dark heart of European history. Taut, chilling and unputdownable, Cursed is the fourth in the internationally renowned series featuring conflicted, disillusioned but always dogged crime reporter Henning Juul, and marks the return of one of Norway’s finest crime writers.”

Cursed opens with a bang when Daniel Schyman is shot dead in his own forest in Sweden. In Norway Hedda Hellberg has failed to return from a retreat and her husband enlists her old friend Nora, a journalist, to help track her down. Nora’s husband Henning Juul is soon embroiled in the search. As the pair investigate, they discover a murky past to the Hellberg family and Juul finds clues as to the instigator of the fire that killed his son two years earlier.

 

Whist this is the fourth book in the series it is the first to be published by Orenda and can certainly be read out of sequence as all the novels can be read as standalone books.

I loved the setting of the novel. It gave a glimpse into life in Norway, a fascinating country that made me want to read more. The location itself is a character in the story. I felt it gave the book a darker edge, as if the narration was preparing for a lengthy Norwegian winter.

There is an edge, an undercurrent of darkness and tragedy to the novel, lent by the storyline following the murder of Juul’s young son. Juul was the intended target and this alone torment him. As he digs deeper into the circumstances he becomes more involved with the criminal underbelly of Oslo. This storyline is central to the novel and will follow through into the next in the series.

Juul and Nora are complex characters. The reader gets the impression that the Nora and Henning we see are just shadows of their real selves. Irrevocably changed by the death of their child, the trauma of such a loss has impacted them as people. There is a sadness that pervades them, yet it also allows Juul’s steely determination to spur him on to discover the truth, with a lack of self preservation at the heart of it.

The mystery surrounding the Hellbergs is compelling, and flows well with the other storyline. By having the story focus around one family and a handful of people the story gains an almost closed room feel to it. I also liked the fact that both protagonists were not law enforcement, allowing them to work outside the usual legal confines to delve deeper into the truth.

Short chapters lend itself to the ‘just one more chapter’ mentality and this meant I flew through the novel. It wasn’t until half way through that I thought to myself that I was really enjoying it. That’s not to say the first half isn’t good, far from it. It was just that this realisation that I was wrapped up in the story, so much so that I couldn’t wait to find out what had happened, snuck up on me as the story weaved itself into my subconscious. Put simply, the more I read, the more I wanted to read.

A note on the translation. Without obviously reading the original Norwegian I did feel that the story I read was close to that originally written and that Kari Dickson had retained the voice of Thomas Enger. If you forget that you are reading translated fiction then the translator has done their job well and that’s the case with this book.

This is the first book by Thomas Enger I have read but it certainly won’t be my last.  I look forward to catching up with Henning Juul soon.

 

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Purged by Peter Laws – review

Published by – Allison and Busby

Publication date – 16 February 2017

Source – review copy

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“Matt Hunter lost his faith a long time ago. Formerly a minister, now a professor of sociology, he’s writing a book that debunks the Christian faith while assisting the police with religiously motivated crimes. On holiday with his family in Oxfordshire, Matt is on edge in a seemingly idyllic village where wooden crosses hang at every turn. The stay becomes more sinister still when a local girl goes missing, followed by further disappearances. Caught up in an investigation that brings memories to the surface that he would prefer to keep buried deep, Matt is on the trail of killer determined to save us all.”

Professor Matt Hunter long ago lost his faith and gave up his role as minister. Now commissioned to write a book debunking faith he also assists the police with religiously motivated crimes. Matt travels to the village of Hobbes Hill with his family, perturbed by the flurry of crosses that fill the buildings. He also comes face to face with his past when the pastor of the local church turns out to be a former theological college student. The beautiful setting seems to be hiding some darker deeds as local women go missing. Matt is soon drawn into the case, hunting a killer determined to send those worthy to heaven.

This is the debut novel by Peter Laws, himself a minister, and is a cracking start to a new crime series.

The book focuses on the fervent and the lapsed, the role that belief or lack of can have on a person. During the course of the investigation Matt is forced to look further into his own loss of faith and how that may have affected his life and the lives of his family.

I had guessed the killer’s identity before the reveal but this did not detract from my enjoyment. I was completely wrapped up in the story until the very end. Peter Laws has a compelling writing style, mixing the comedic with the macabre and the more I read, the more I grew attached to the characters and the story.

Matt Hunter is a great character, funny, acerbic and devoted to his family. He is settled into his role as professor and is enjoys working with the police, investigating religiously motivated crimes. He has a tragic past, one that led him away from his calling as a minister, and the loss of faith resulting from that. During the novel, Matt is forced to face these issues, whilst trying to find a very real and dangerous killer. His wife, Wren is also a good character, perfectly balancing Matt and I look forward to reading more about Matt’s police colleagues in further novels.

Don’t let the religious theme put you off. I’m not remotely religious but I found this book to be a fascinating and gripping novel with a personable and unique protagonist.

A welcome new addition to the crime writing scene, peppered with humour but also thought provoking, dark and traumatic. A compelling, absorbing read and I for one can’t wait for the next book in the series.

 

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The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough – review

Published by Jo Fletcher Books

Publication date – 1 December 2016

Source – review copy

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“Tonight is a special terrible night.

A woman sits at her father’s bedside, watching the clock tick away the last hours of his life. Her brothers and sisters – all broken, their bonds fragile – have been there for the past week, but now she is alone.

And that’s when it always comes.

The clock ticks, the darkness beckons.

If it comes at all.

This is a short yet powerful novella that follows a woman as she sits by her dying father. As she narratives his final days we find out more about the man and his family, how each of his children have deal with their grief and how death can both unite and divide them.

There is a skill to writing a good novella. The prose has to be fluid yet tightly held together, providing a myriad of information in a succinct but entertaining way. This is such a novella. The unnamed narrator guides us through parts of her life, filling the pages with details of her dysfunctional and broken family history, introducing us to siblings and giving a glimpse into the life of the man that lays close to death upstairs.

It is hard to provide a lengthy review for such a short novella for fear of revealing too much and spoiling the story. That said, every reader will take away something different from the book. It may be for some that the book resonates too close to experiences they have been through, though that may provide comfort to others. There is no right or wrong way to grieve and that is what this book discusses.

This book is an essay on grief, on how we can grieve for something that has not yet gone, that we can mourn the loss of an idea, a feeling, a certainty just as much as the loss of a person. Although written from one person’s view this book can resonate with anyone, for grief is a universal emotion, though it may manifest itself in a myriad of ways, the underlying feelings are expertly expressed in The Language of Dying.

Whilst not an easy read this is a moving, thought-provoking look into loss.

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Rupture by Ragnar Jónasson – review

Published by Orenda Books

Publication date – 15 January 2017

Source – review copy

Translated by Quentin Bates

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“1955. Two young couples move to the uninhabited, isolated fjord of Hedinsfjörður. Their stay ends abruptly when one of the women meets her death in mysterious circumstances. The case is never solved. Fifty years later an old photograph comes to light, and it becomes clear that the couples may not have been alone on the fjord after all…

In nearby Siglufjörður, young policeman Ari Thór tries to piece together what really happened that fateful night, in a town where no one wants to know, where secrets are a way of life. He’s assisted by Ísrún, a news reporter in Reykjavik, who is investigating an increasingly chilling case of her own. Things take a sinister turn when a child goes missing in broad daylight. With a stalker on the loose, and the town of Siglufjörður in quarantine, the past might just come back to haunt them.

Haunting, frightening and complex, Rupture is a dark and atmospheric thriller from one of Iceland’s foremost crime writers.”

Siglufjörður is closed off due to a virulent virus. Ari Thór, to pass the time, agrees to look into a mysterious death from half a century ago. In the uninhabited fjord of Hedinsfjörður a woman had died of accidental causes. There were supposed to be only 4 people and a baby living there at the time, but a photo emerges showing a fifth person. Ari Thór begins to investigate, aided by Ísrún, a news reporter in Reykjavik, who becomes wrapped up in a death and a child’s disappearance.

Whilst this book is part of a series it can be read as a standalone novel, as can any of the series. Indeed, the English Language versions are published out of sequential order.

The storyline lent an almost nostalgic bent to the story, given part of it was set in the distant past, with all but one of those affected long dead. Knowing the outcome for the woman who died makes it all the more tragic, as does the case of the suspicious death in the capital, and the circumstances that surround it.

One thing that stands out in the Dark Iceland series is that Iceland itself is a major character in the book. The sites, the geography, the weather, all effect the story, all bring another layer to the tale. Iceland is a beautiful country, with it’s own unique atmosphere and vibe and this comes across in the novels. The mountains that surround the town, together this time with the virus, make its inhabitants seemingly cut off from the rest of the world. The sense of isolation is added to by the fact that so few characters appear in the story, only a handful complete the tale, making the town seem almost deserted.

As with the rest of the books in the series it is easy to fly through Rupture. Short paragraphs lend themselves to the obvious ‘just one more chapter’ promise to oneself and often end on a cliff-hanger that obviously means another must be read.

The characterisation is solid. There were times when I didn’t particularly like Ari Thór, his grumpiness sometime verging on unnecessary rudeness and Ísrún could often be found to verge on this herself. Kirsten, Ari Thór’s on/off girlfriend appears briefly in this novel and whilst she had annoyed me in past outings, she was more agreeable in Rupture.

This outing is slightly different in that a major part of it focusses on the incidents and investigations Ísrún carries out in Reykjavik, who is looking into a suspicious death and the kidnap of a boy that has shocked the country, all the while, battling her own health and personal issues. The storyline is solid and engaging and given there are three threads, not complicated or easy to loose track off.

Ragnar Jónasson’s literary past includes translating Agatha Christie into Icelandic. That influence shows in that he has created strong characters, with their own idiosyncrasies and foibles, possessing of course a keen eye for detection and giving all of his novels the closed room feel of a classic crime novel.

A sign of a great translation is the fact that the reader forgets they are reading a translated work. That is the case with Rupture. Quentin Bates has done a fantastic job of allowing English language readers the chance to experience this book. Whilst I obviously don’t know the original Icelandic version, it feels as if Quentin Bates has been true to the original and retained the voice of Ragnar Jónasson.

Another great installment in the Dark Iceland series. I’m looking forward to reading the rest.

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Echoes in Death by J.D. Robb – review

Published by Piatkus

Publication date – 7 February 2017

Source – review copy

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“New York at night. A young woman stumbles out on to a busy street – right in front of Lieutenant Eve Dallas and husband Roarke. Her name is Daphne Strazza, and she has been brutally assaulted. Confused and traumatised, she manages to tell them one thing. Her attacker wore a devil’s mask.

As Eve investigates this shocking case, she soon discovers a disturbing pattern. Someone is preying on wealthy couples, subjecting them to a cruel and terrifying ordeal. Worse still, the attacks are escalating in violence and depraved theatricality. Eve and her team are now in a race against time to find the man behind the mask – before he strikes again. But for Eve, this case in particular has unsettling echoes of her own troubled past…”

Eve Dallas and her husband Roarke are returning from an evening out when a woman falls in front of them. Naked, bloodied and battered, Daphne Strazza has suffered a terrible ordeal, one which has left her husband dead. Her attack fits in with a series of other, similar, brutal assaults. Now Eve and her team must find the culprit before he strikes again.

J.D. Robb also known as Nora Roberts, has an impressive turnout of books, having written over 200 romance novels and this, Echoes in Death, is the 44th Eve Dallas novel.

For fans of the series this will be a welcome return to Dallas, Roarke, Peabody and co. To those new to the books, they are crime novels that are set in New York, some 50 or so years in the future. This setting, the fact that it is the future, gives a unique slant to the books. Things are the same but different, with references to droids, off planet holiday destinations, holograms and hover boards. But greed, and lust and jealousy and rage are still the same, and murder goes on as normal.

The dialogue sometimes seems to hit a flat note, there is something frenetic about it that it almost appears that the author was in a rush to type it. Because the novels are set in the future the slang and some terms used are a little different and so I sometime found myself translating what was said, figuring out what was meant.

This book is the 44th in the Eve Dallas series. I haven’t read all of these and I did find myself at a disadvantage when references to other characters and past stories was mentioned, especially as these weren’t given any further background information, it is assumed that the reader will have read the others in the series.

The crimes involve a fair bit of violence which may sound obvious but is quite overt in this instance and sometimes unrelentingly so, but it is part of the storyline so doesn’t verge into gratuitous territory.

But despite these quibbles I did enjoy the book.  Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb is a best selling author for a reason, she can write entertaining novels, books that people can find a bit of escapism in. The story is fast paced and drags the reader along, ensuring they are caught up in the action. I had figured out the culprit before the reveal, but part of the fun was seeing how Eve brought him down.

An entertaining installment in the Eve Dallas series.

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A Deadly Thaw by Sarah Ward – review

Published by Faber and Faber

Publication date – 2 February 2017

Source – review copy

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“Autumn 2004
In Bampton, Derbyshire, Lena Fisher is arrested for suffocating her husband, Andrew.

Spring 2016
A year after Lena’s release from prison, Andrew is found dead in a disused mortuary.

Who was the man Lena killed twelve years ago, and who committed the second murder? When Lena disappears, her sister, Kat, sets out to follow a trail of clues delivered by a mysterious teenage boy. Kat must uncover the truth – before there’s another death . . .”

2004 and Lena Fisher is convicted of killing her husband Andrew. 2016 and a body is found in an old morgue. The trouble is the body is Andrew Fisher. So who did Lena Fisher kill 12 years ago? Where has Andrew been for all those years – and why was he murdered now?

Having read and enjoyed In Bitter Chill, Sarah Ward’s debut novel, I was keen to read the latest book to feature detectives Sadler and Childs. The story opens with an intriguing premise, a man supposedly murdered twelve years ago, turns up dead in a mortuary. The story grabs from the outset and pulls the reader along with it until the very end.

Lena Fisher isn’t particularly likeable, and this is even after events surrounding the 2004 murder arise. But her actions become clearer and more understandable as the story progresses. There is a good balance between the police involvement and the involvement of Kat, Lena’s sister, who is also trying to untangle the mess her sister appears tied up in, whilst dealing with professional and personal issues of her own. We get to learn more about Sadler, Connie and Palmer, as well as other characters. This helps round out the story,  their characters and what drives them are just as essential to the storyline as the motive for the murders is. As we read more about the detectives, the more the reader, or this reader at any rate, becomes invested in the story, and in what will hopefully become a long running series. The setting too adds a layer to the story, there is the small town feel to Bampton, one which is used to keeping secrets, and not too keen on sharing them, which adds to the tension.

This novel feels much more assured than In Bitter Chill, and I mean no offence when I say that. There is a confidence to the writing, and the characters and location feel more established on this, their second outing. The topics covered in the novel are emotive and thought-provoking and dealt with a skilled and sensitive way. In my opinion A Deadly Thaw firmly establishes Sarah Ward on the crime writing scene.

A thoroughly enjoyable novel, I’m looking forward to the next Sadler and Childs novel.

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Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb – review

Published by Orenda Books

Publication date 5 January 2017

Source – review copy

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“Lori Anderson is as tough as they come, managing to keep her career as a fearless Florida bounty hunter separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukaemia. But when the hospital bills start to rack up, she has no choice but to take her daughter along on a job that will make her a fast buck. And that’s when things start to go wrong.

The fugitive she’s assigned to haul back to court is none other than JT, Lori’s former mentor – the man who taught her everything she knows … the man who also knows the secrets of her murky past. Not only is JT fighting a child exploitation racket operating out of one of Florida’s biggest theme parks, Winter Wonderland, a place where ‘bad things never happen’, but he’s also mixed up with the powerful Miami Mob. With two fearsome foes on their tails, just three days to get JT back to Florida, and her daughter to protect, Lori has her work cut out for her. When they’re ambushed at a gas station, the stakes go from high to stratospheric, and things become personal.

Breathtakingly fast-paced, both hard-boiled and heart-breaking, Deep Down Dead is a simply stunning debut from one of the most exciting new voices in crime fiction.”

Lori Anderson is desperate for a big money job. A bounty hunter in Florida, she finds herself facing large medical bills after her daughter suffers leukaemia. Worried about meeting those bills and paying the rent she agrees to fetch a bail skip from West Virginia and to deliver him back in three days time. It seems a simple job, too simple for the high bail bond set. Then she finds out the skip is her former mentor. What could JT have got mixed up in that means members of a child exploitation racket and members of a different mob are after his head. And can they make it home in time?

The is a fast, frenetic pace to this story, the action never seems to let up, and neither does the tension. It drags you along, making the reader speed through the chapters to keep up with Lori and JT and their hunt.

There have been stories about female bounty hunters before, Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum is a shining example. But don’t expect madcap family members and pockets of comedy with Deep Down Dead. This is a much grittier, darker tale. Lori Anderson is tougher, more hardened and tempestuous. She is a impetuous yet tries to be considered, has a tough exterior that hides deeper emotions. This amalgam of traits makes Lori emerge as a more concrete, rounded character. She is easy to envisage and in turn she enables the reader to easily imagine the other characters in the story.

The main characters are Lori and JT. This isn’t to say that the other characters who appear aren’t depicted well enough or are superfluous, far from it. It just means that the story is driven by these two main characters, most of the narrative is concentrated on them. The reader spends much of the story with them and as a result becomes more invested in their story. The other characters facilitate this, broadening out the story, bring danger and threat to Lori and JT, just as the reader becomes attached to them.

I’m not going to go too much into the story for fear of spoiling it. let me just say that it is an emotive one, it can only ever be emotive when the issue involves child exploitation. It’s very nature means that the reader is invested in Lori and JT, willing them to succeed in their bid for justice, the urgency of doing so all the more pressing.

Steph Broadribb trained as a bounty hunter in the USA and has spent some of her working life out there. This experience shows in Deep Down Dead. The language used feels authentic and doesn’t jar, clipped sentences and phrases used means the reader can hear Lori’s accent when they read and whilst I don’t imagine that Steph found herself in the same predicament as Lori, the fact that she has experience in bounty hunting comes across in the novel.

Deep Down Dead takes the reader on a tumultuous, frenetic ride one where the pace never lets up and the reader is soon caught up in Lori’s race to save the people she loves.

Deep Down Dead is the first in the Lori Anderson series. I am impatiently awaiting the next book from Steph Broadribb.

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Watch Her Disappear by Eva Dolan – review

Published by Harvill Secker

Publication date – 26 January 2017

Source – review copy

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“YOU CAN RUN FROM YOUR PAST. BUT YOU CAN’T RUN FROM MURDER.

The body is found by the river, near a spot popular with runners.

With a serial rapist at work in the area, DI Zigic and DS Ferreira are initially confused when the Hate Crimes Unit is summoned to the scene. Until they discover that the victim, Corinne Sawyer, was born Colin Sawyer.

Police records reveal there have been violent attacks on trans women in the local area. Was Corinne a victim of mistaken identity? Or has the person who has been targeting trans women stepped up their campaign of violence? With tensions running high, and the force coming under national scrutiny, this is a complex case and any mistake made could be fatal…”
Read more on the Penguin website.

Corinne Sawyer sets off for a run one morning and never returns. She is found murdered, strangled and viciously beaten. What would have been a case for CID is passed to the Hate Crimes team when it emerges that Corinne was born Colin Sawyer. Is Corinne’s death related to a series of violent attacks on members of the trans community? Or could the rapist who has been attacking young joggers finally progressed to murder? Zigic and Ferreira must find out before anyone else dies.

The novel is a commentary on how society accepts transgender people and depicts the fallout and differing responses that occur after a dramatic change occurs in a family . When a husband and a father suddenly becomes a wife and mother. The gambit of emotions are shown in the Sawyer family, from heartbreak and anger, acceptance and love, to violence and shame.

The mystery itself is one with enough suspects, twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. There are three different threads to the story that run along side each other, merging to create a wonderfully rounded and engaging story. I had guessed the culprit before the reveal but this did not spoil my enjoyment of this entertaining novel.

There is a brilliant dynamic between the team depicted in the story, not just between Zigic and Ferreira but also with other colleagues within Hate Crimes and in the larger force. There are touches of reality that help shape the novel, making it feel more authentic for the reader.

Zigic is coming to terms with the reality of having three children, the baby taking a toll on his life, aware he needs to exercise more. This could be mundane under the wrong hands but Eva Dolan uses these aspects of life to round out her character, making him more accessible and relatable, and all the more enjoyable to read about. Ferreira is more introspective in this novel, looking back at a past relationship which has shaped her to this day. The reader finds out why Mel is distant, less inclined for relationships and a new side to the detective is revealed.

Eva Dolan deals with emotive, and often complex, issues with gripping prose that is the perfect balance. By that I mean it is informative, entertaining, rightly judgmental in places yet far from self righteous. It allows the reader to create their own impression of the characters and motive for murder, of the ridicule and trauma the transgender and transvestite community face and therefore the level of anger and sadness that this creates will be different and particular to each reader.

Moving, thought-provoking and emotive, this is a gripping novel focusing on a sadly neglected area of crime, those motivated by hate. If you love crime novels then this book is for you. If you love crime novels but are looking for a book that deals with societal issues and victims who are often viewed, quite wrongly, as the outcasts of society then this book is for you.

Eva Dolan is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. I was late coming to her Hate Crimes series. Luckily I have her first two books to read whilst I await her next novel, which can’t come soon enough.

 

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Death in Profile by Guy Fraser-Sampson – review

Published by Urbane Publications

Publication date – 18 March 2016

Source – review copy

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“The genteel façade of London’s Hampstead is shattered by a series of terrifying murders, and the ensuing police hunt is threatened by internal politics, and a burgeoning love triangle within the investigative team. Pressurised by senior officers desperate for a result a new initiative is clearly needed, but what?
Intellectual analysis and police procedure vie with the gut instinct of ‘copper’s nose’, and help appears to offer itself from a very unlikely source – a famous fictional detective. A psychological profile of the murderer allows the police to narrow down their search, but will Scotland Yard lose patience with the team before they can crack the case?
Praised by fellow authors and readers alike, this is a truly original crime story, speaking to a contemporary audience yet harking back to the Golden Age of detective fiction. Intelligent, quirky and mannered, it has been described as ‘a love letter to the detective novel’. Above it all hovers Hampstead, a magical village evoking the elegance of an earlier time, and the spirit of mystery-solving detectives.”

A series of vicious rapes and murders have been occurring in Hampstead and police fear a serial killer is on the loose. The old lead detective has been replaced by a younger fast track officer. Can the case be kick-started before another victim emerges?

This is a gentle read, by which I mean there are murders, though they are not described in a gruesome way, there isn’t any swearing, though the dialogue doesn’t seem any less real for the lack of it and there are no great chases or violent scenes. The narrative focuses on the police, which is not unexpected for a police procedural, but what is perhaps more apparent is that they seem to be the sole focus, the victims and the suspects are a much lesser presence on the page. It is set in the modern age but conversely has the feel that it is from a bygone time.

The plot is strong enough to drive the story, there is apparent solving of the case obviously not as watertight as expected as it comes part way through the novel. I did get the twist and work out the killer before the reveal but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story.

There were a couple of things that didn’t work as well for me one of these being the story involving the appearance of Peter Wimsey. I’ll admit I’ve never read any Dorothy L. Sayers so I’ve no idea if the references and Wimsey character were true to the original. For me, this part of the storyline seemed to set the story slightly off course as it emerged quite suddenly. Another aspect that jarred for me was the references to Karen’s looks. The police officer was frequently mentioned in references to her appearance and her legs and it lent an overtly sexist bent to the story. Had it only been mentioned once I think it probably would have washed over me but as it was the repetition made the matter stand out.

A gentle paced, interesting modern age novel with echoes of the golden age.

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