Author: Michael J Malone
Publisher: Orenda Books
First, da blurb:
Andy Boyd thinks he is the luckiest man alive. Widowed with a young child, after his wife dies in childbirth, he is certain that he will never again experience true love. Then he meets Anna. Feisty, fun and beautiful, she’s his perfect match … and she loves his son like he is her own. When Andy ends up in the hospital on his wedding night, he receives his first clue that Anna is not all that she seems. Desperate for that happy-ever-after, he ignores it. A dangerous mistake that could cost him everything.
A brave, deeply moving, page-turning psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie marks a stunning departure for one of Scotland’s finest crime writers, exploring the lengths people will go to hide their deepest secrets, even if it kills them…” (taken from the Orenda Books website)
This review contains mild spoilers so if you want to know my final thoughts, in the immortal words of Simon Pegg in Spaced, skip to the end!
A Suitable Lie is the second book by Michael that I have read, after the fantastic House Of Spines (my review to follow soon), and I am happy to report that it is another cracker. This book frazzled my nerves pretty much from the start; once the ‘action’ starts, it rarely lets up. I guess this book falls under the psychological thriller category, and as such as soon as Andy meets Anna you know that she isn’t going to be all that she seems; and boy is she not all that she seems!! This book deals with male domestic violence/abuse, and it packs one hell of an emotional punch – no pun intended. There were many times when I was genuinely scared for Andy, willing him not to go home; almost screaming at the book for him to tell someone, to leave Anna, to seek help. The quality of the writing throughout is superb: you feel every punch, jab and insult hurled at Andy. Michael creates characters that you really get to know, to love, and to hate and/or pity. When the turning point finally comes you cannot help but let out a huge sigh of relief (I think I held my breath for pretty much the whole damn book), and I almost let out a cheer when Andy finally opens up (ok, I totally let out a little cheer). But just when you think you can breathe again, relax, open a bottle of wine in celebration – maybe not that last bit – Michael throws in a curve ball and jangles your nerves all over again. What a git 😉
Final thoughts: I loved this book so much; from the very first page to the very last. A supremely written story that will have your nerves on edge, at times too afraid to turn the page, but at the same time compelling you to do so. The subject matter makes this a tough read at times; it is, what I can only imagine, a frighteningly realistic portrayal of what is unfortunately still a taboo subject to many people.
Bloody brilliant. HIGHLY recommended. 20/5
Author: Steph Broadribb
Publisher: Orenda Books
Deep Down Dead is the debut novel from Steph Broadribb (aka super blogger Crime Thriller Girl – check her out!), and it is a corker. In case you haven’t guessed from the end of that last sentence, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Lori Anderson is a bounty hunter working in Florida. She’s a tough take-no-shit kinda gal, as you’d need to be in her line of work, and she’s also a single mum to Dakota. Dakota suffers from leukaemia, and Lori is forced to take on jobs that she would rather not have to in order to keep up with the mounting medical bills on top of day to day living costs. This motivates her to take a job collecting her former mentor JT; the man who taught her the bounty hunting ropes, and who also knows the secret of her past. The problem with this job is that Lori has to take Dakota along with her. Well, that goes well!!! *face palm*
Deep Down Dead moves along at a cracking pace, keeping the momentum going and rarely letting up. The story of Lori’s early days as a trainee bounty hunter; her fractious and tempestuous relationship with JT; the dark secret in her past that she harbours, all develop beautifully along the way. For the most part DDD is a very strong and very competent road movie/novel: Lori meets the bad guys, pisses off the bad guys, bad guys piss off Lori, Lori chases after them; all great stuff, but then the story takes a truly disturbing turn as the Big Bad Guy’s motives become apparent and it’s proper shudder inducing stuff.
Deep Down Dead is a great debut novel and I shall definitely be picking up its sequel Deep Blue Trouble and anything else Steph writes in the future (FYI she also writes as Stephanie Marland and her ‘debut’, My Little Eye out now on ebook via Trapeze Books) 😊👌🏼
Author: Will Dean
Publisher: Point Blank
Dark Pines is the first Tuva Moodyson book and I’m very happy to know that it won’t be the last. In Dark Pines, Will Dean has crafted an excellent dark and compelling thriller. The books oozes with atmosphere; I swear that at times I could actually smell the woods and feel those pesky mosquito bites *scratches*. Tuva herself is an extremely likeable character; a big city journalist who is forced from her dream job to return to the small town of Gavrik in the arse-end of Sweden to be nearer to her sick mother. There is something that marks Tuva out from your average, run-of-the-mill journalistic characters though; she’s deaf. Tuva can read lips extremely well, but for her day-to-day living she wears hearing aids. This is a great vehicle for some pretty suspenseful moments as her batteries run out or she has to remove them due to interference from something or other. This isn’t just some gimmick though; Tuva’s hearing loss is an integral and important part of her overall character; the book sensitively highlighting the difficulties that such a condition can incur and how capably she can overcome them.
The town of Gavrik, where Tuva lives, is situated within some very dense and expansive forest. Within this live an assortment of people (some of which we get to know over the course of the novel and I’m sure we’ll meet again in future books); some strange, some not so strange, and some downright odd (the two sisters and their trolls spring to mind). Of course living in such close proximity to the forest means one also gets to meet the accompanying wildlife, often up close and pretty personal (see my above comment about the mosquitos!). Tuva is not only struggling to re-adapt to life in a small town, but she also hates pretty much all forms of wildlife; something that’s bloody hard to avoid in and around Gavrik. Tuva unfortunately lost her father to a collision with an elk/moose when she young and the trauma of this has left its mark on her feelings towards the forest wildlife.
I’m really looking forward to reading more of Tuva’s adventures, and to revisit the other residents of Gavrik, in the future. Will is currently slaving away on the next in the series, Red Snow (working title?), due in 2019 (sodding ages away ;D)
Highly recommended. 5/5
Author: C J Skuse
Publisher: HQ Stories (Harper Collins UK imprint)
This book is bloody superb. I loved every single page and word within. It is dark book, very dark, but oh so funny too. Rhiannon, our young protagonist, makes for a highly likeable serial killer; a psychologically damaged woman who suffered a terrible and life changing trauma at a very early age, who hates the world and nearly everyone in it. But the world and nearly everyone in it are blissfully unaware of her murderous intentions because of The Act; a facade she presents in order to appear ‘normal’. To everyone else she appears to be a regular gal: she has a steady boyfriend; stable job; small group of friends; and there’s Tink, her beloved Chihuahua. What could be wrong with any of that? What they don’t know is that Rhiannon is also a killer (and occasional torturer/kidnapper). Someone who lives to kill and gets quite a kick out of it. She’s not an indiscriminate killer; she chooses her prey. To start with at least…
To say more will spoil the delights within. This book is vulgar, coarse, hilarious and shocking in equal measure. It is not for the faint of heart, or the prudish! A sheer delight from start to finish. There is a sequel on the way (In Bloom – out in August according to Amazon), and I cannot wait.
Highly recommended. 5/5
Author: Jacqueline Chadwick
Publisher: Fahrenheit Press
After a slow start this book grabbed me and refused to let me go. I struggled at first with Jacqueline’s style of writing; she uses a lot of big and long words, sometimes unnecessarily, coming across as a new author trying too hard to impress, but after a while you become used to it. This style becomes the thing that makes her writing stand out from the norm; maybe just have a thesaurus and/or dictionary to hand. Ali Dalglish, our heroine and main protagonist, is a coarse, likeable, and extremely interesting character who grows on you as the story progresses. She’s a flawed, highly intelligent woman struggling with mental health issues that I’ve no doubt will feature more as this series progresses.
Story wise, this is a very, very messed up book indeed. There whole passages that made me feel physically sick and disgusted with some of the characters involved. Jacqueline’s descriptions of the heinous acts of Patterson and the main villain (name witheld because, spoilers!), are utterly disturbing and are a credit to her skills as an author that she is able to instil such feelings in her me. Rarely has an author repulsed me in such ways; only Stephen King usually manages that. There were times where I had to put the book down and take several deep breaths. If this is what she is capable of in her debut novel I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us in the follow up “Briefly Maiden” (which I have now read and is indeed another triumph), and into the future.
In brief: a highly recommended debut from an author to watch out for. Clever, disturbing, pitch black and, once you get past the big words, compulsive reading. Just don’t eat anything before reading. 5/5
Author: Stuart Turton.
Publisher: Raven (Bloomsbury imprint)
The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle is the debut novel from Stuart Turton and he doesn’t make it easy for himself! He couldn’t write a straight forward murder mystery, oh no, he had to write one with multiple protagonists whilst at the same time being the same protagonist, time travel and body hopping, oh, and set it in the 1930s, too. Yeah, he’s clearly a literary masochist. But, boy does he pull it off. I loved this book from first to last page, devouring all 505 pages of it in two days.
Briefly, there’s a grand ball up at the crumbling Blackheath House to celebrate the return of Lord and Lady Hardcastle’s daughter Evelyn, from Paris. Only problem is that she will be murdered at 11pm during the ball. One of the guests, Aiden, is charged to investigate and solve her murder, and until he does he will not be allowed to leave Blackheath. Ever. He is destined to relive the same day over and over and over again until he does. The added complication is that with each day he wakes up in the body of a different guest. Bummer. To say more would be to spoil the surprises, plot twists and fantastic imagination the Stu weaves throughout this book. Each character that Aiden inhabits has their own personality; they’re not just Aiden in a different skin, and Stuart juggles all of these deftly and with great skill. Never once did I feel lost as to who I was reading. In fact, quite how he kept all of his balls in the air (quiet at the back there!), is a feat in itself. I believe many, many Post-It notes were employed. The very first few chapters are a tad confusing, but that just mirrors the feelings of the characters themselves, and things soon become clearer (ish) as the plot starts to unfold, the book settling down into its stride nicely. Stuart conjures up the atmosphere of the decaying Blackheath wonderfully, not just in the bricks and mortar of the house itself and the surrounding estate, but also in its inhabitants, not least the Hardcastles themselves.
This is the type of book that will have you constantly trying to second guess the outcome; what is Blackheath? Where is Blackheath? Tbh, I did kinda figure it out early on, but not through anything the story gave away, I just had a “what if it’s….?” moment, and even then I wasn’t 100% spot on. It most certainly didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this superior novel, nor my satisfaction of its ending.
TSDoEH is a truly wonderful novel: plotted tighter than a duck’s bum that’s eaten a tube of super glue, populated with an extremely varied and fascinating set of characters, all set in within an original and quite terrifying concept. I believe that Stu is working on a follow-up of sorts set in the 15th Century, and I can’t chuffing wait!
Highly recommended. 5/5
Cursed is the 4th book in Thomas Enger‘s superior Henning Juul series. The series begins with Burned, followed by Pierced, Scarred, Cursed and finally ending with just published Killed. These are books that I personally feel need to be read in order. Throughout the series the main protagonist, internet news reporter Henning Juul, searches for the people he feels are responsible for the fire in his flat that left him deeply scarred, both emotionally and physically, and that claimed the life of his 6 year old son, Jonas. Although each book stands alone in terms of the main story, this arc is always running in the background, with breadcrumbs (and even the odd loaf of bread), laid though each book. It is this element that makes this series so compelling to read. Henning is a highly likeable and sympathetic character, a man driven to extremes to discover the truth and taking the reader along with him.
In Cursed, Henning continues his search for answers, delving further into the shadowy Oslo underground crime scene – a course of action that brings further physical pain and attempts on his life. Meanwhile his ex-wife, Nora, is investigating the disappearance of an old friend, Hedda Hellberg, which appears to be linked to the murder of a Swedish man at the time of her disappearance. Over the course of the book their two separate investigations appear to have more and more in common, bringing them closer together once again.
Thomas Enger is a master of the drip feed suspense. He tells you, the reader, just enough to ensure that you continue reading. Nothing is superfluous; everything matters. Along the course of the four books so far Henning has grown as a character, as have the characters around him. Some come and go more than others; I missed Henning’s booming, Tourette suffering boss Kåre Hjeltland this time around, and Detective Bjane Brogeland barely gets a look in either, but other characters, such as Nora and Geir Grønningen, are given their time to shine.
As with every book so far Enger leaves you on a cliff edge; the very last sentence dragging you kicking and screaming into the next book. I’ll tell you what, I’m very glad that I’ve come into this series late, because if I had to wait for months between books I would have strung someone up!
Cursed is a fantastic book; dark, thrilling and suspenseful. It takes its time, it doesn’t rush, but the last 100 pages or so are a real thrill ride as Nora, Henning and Iver….well, I’m not going to spoil it here, am I? 😉
5/5 Highly recommended.