Thursday 30 November 2017

Michael J Malone

Another new author to me. I love finding books as good as this.

House of Spines link

My review -

Ranald McGhie learns he has inherited a huge home, complete with library, from a great uncle he never knew, on his mother’s side of the family. Ranald has mental health issues and when he moves into his new home he stops taking his medication. The atmosphere he meets here, the presence he feels, could be as a result of his missing meds – or they could be real.

This is a brilliantly creepy book, covering mental health, greedy cousins, a strange housekeeper and gardener and the power of books and reading. It really creates an atmosphere in the house, forbidding and unwelcoming even to its new owner. There’s definitely a gothic-ghost-story feel to this book, though it’s set in the present day, which makes it more a credible and a more uncomfortable read. Highly recommended and I enjoyed it a lot.

Conrad Jones

My first Conrad Jones book won't be my last!

Nearly Dead link

My review - 

Charlie McGee, a drug gang boss, is throwing his weight about at the beginning of this gripping and gruesome novel. He has got where he is by sheer ruthlessness and by threatening a dreadful death to those who defy him – and to their loved ones. He’s not the only kingpin in the city, as he is shortly to discover. DI Alec Ramsey is on the trail after a body is found. His team soon uncover more than a drug ring.

This is my first taste of Conrad Jones’s work and, as this is a prequel, it is leading me on to the first in the Alec Ramsey series. I don’t think I shall be long following the trail! The story is horrific enough for any blood-and-guts reader, with intricate plotting and some horrific detail! It’s an excellent idea to have a prequel like this as it has set up the first in the series very well. Seriously readable stuff.

Wednesday 22 November 2017

S E Lynes

A second book from a gifted author. Totally gripping.

Mother link

My review -

‘How much of what we believe is in fact lies we tell ourselves, and how much is truth?’

Christopher is a slightly socially awkward young man, eager to do well, who discovers at the age of eighteen that he’s adopted. He wants to find his real mother, to find a person who truly loves him, as he has never felt completely connected to the people who brought him up. He builds his birth mother up in his mind into an almost saintly figure, drifting away from his adoptive family. Once he attends Leeds university he finds excuses not to go back to visit them in the holidays.

This book is unusual in that it’s told from Christopher’s point of view through the words of another person. This person attempts to make it true, recreating his life story from what he has said himself. I found it utterly gripping. It went back to the late 1970s and early 1980s, covering the time when the Yorkshire Ripper was at large, and showing clearly the fear of female students at the time. The setting, the social history of the time and, of course, the developing character of Christopher, made this a thoroughly good and rather unusual read which I enjoyed hugely.

I received an advance review copy from Netgalley.

Monday 20 November 2017

David Haynes

This is a gruesome thriller from a great storyteller, and it's such a page-turner.

Survive link

My review -

Mark Jones (Jonesy) and his wife Lisa are wintering in a cabin in Alaska. They’ve spent the summer hunting, making a cache of food and a big store of wood and shouldn’t have any trouble surviving till the spring. They had an awful time last winter, we gather, and Jonesy promises it will never happen again. He’s prepared. Then they find a young woman collapsed in their cabin as they return from an expedition. They can’t help but take her in or she’ll die, but that’s a strain on their resources. Then – it gets worse.

This is a very atmospheric and suspenseful tale. Things begin purposefully and as one setback after another strains the couple’s resources and relationship, the tension ratchets up, tighter and tighter. It’s claustrophobic; it happens in the great outdoors of Alaska with nobody else for miles, yet much of the action is cramped up in little sheds and cabins, where people can’t get away from one another. What people will do to survive is astonishing when they are in their full senses. As the mind deteriorates, man can become monster. I have a tendency to say, ‘David Haynes’ latest book is his best’ and I’m going to have to say it again. A stunning story, brilliantly told.

Saturday 18 November 2017

Sean and Daniel Campbell

The sixth in a series but I think any of them could be read alone. I jumped in with a free book part way through - the classic loss-leader!

The Evolution of a Serial Killer link

My review -

DCI Morton’s been side-lined to a teaching role by a new boss he clashed with years ago. He and his group of trainee detectives are discussing the perfect murder. Then similar murders start to crop up, each at 10:00 p.m. on consecutive Saturday nights. It appears that one of the students is challenging Morton, the detective with, to date, the best clear-up rate in the Met. The last murder could be a deadly incident affecting many people. Time is ticking.

The story builds in tension as time passes and the possibility of a major terrorist-style attack comes closer. Morton’s team’s analysis of the possible suspects is fascinating in its pros and cons. Someone has a grudge and we watch it played out to an exciting conclusion. A very good read.

Jim Webster

Another selection of Jim's blog posts about life as seen from his Cumbrian farm.

And sometimes I just sits? link

My review -

This is another collection of blog posts from Jim Webster, farmer and philosopher. The first collection, Sometimes I Sits and Thinks, featured a great deal about the animals, particularly the border collies, that Jim has worked with over the years. This seems to me to be a more eclectic selection, a little more wide-ranging and political even, but nevertheless it shows a fascinating slice of rural life.

Wednesday 15 November 2017

Sean and Daniel Campbell

Another in the DCI Morton Series. How refreshing to have a happily married DCI without a drink problem!

Missing Persons link

My review -

DCI Morton and his team are looking into the death of a man who lived on a narrowboat. His girlfriend, Faye, has just come out of prison, and when he goes missing after an evening with friends, and is later found dead, she and the guests are suspects as they were the last to see him alive. Rafferty, new to the team, knows the girl from years ago, which adds to the intrigue.

The arguments for guilt or innocence in each case are compelling and contradictory and it’s a really tangled web. It’s an exciting read, especially the culmination. This is one of a series but I’ve found they each read well as a stand-alone.

Tuesday 14 November 2017

Andy Weir

Andy Weir has his new book out today. I loved it. I know many people will feel that with The Martian  as your first book, you can't follow that - but I think he did. 

Artemis link

My review -

Artemis is the first city on the moon. The inhabitants have left behind much of the legal red-tape associated with earth and its many countries and boundaries, but even in a group of two thousand, there’ll be a few below the level of the law. Jazz Bashara is one such. She’s a smuggler and determined to get rich. Someone presents her with a way but it doesn’t go to plan.

As with Andy Weir’s much acclaimed first novel, The Martian, a great deal of this story involves ingenious problem-solving, which I found enjoyable. I also liked the up-front feistiness of the lead character, though she did keep emphasising her female characteristics, no doubt because she was written by a man who doesn’t have those. We take them for granted! The character interplay interested me and was quite thought-provoking so even though this is largely a science fiction adventure romp, it’s not shallow by any means. I’m sure there will be people who will beat the author about the head with the success of his first novel and say this isn’t as good. It’s different. Artemis was worth the wait!

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy.

Friday 3 November 2017

Angela Marsons

Seventh - and Angie Marsons could go on much longer with all the possibilities these characters offer.

Broken Bones link

My review

This is the seventh in the DCI Kim Stone series and another cracking read. A baby is left at the police station, a young girl is killed and the team are investigating prostitution, possible illegal immigration and human trafficking. Nothing is ever simple, the answers never cut and dried and Kim and her team struggle to keep their professional distance. Things come close to home sometimes and they have to listen to their gut instincts. ‘What would the boss do?’ they sometimes ask themselves – out of Kim’s hearing!

This team, though from very different backgrounds, work like a family. The sort of family where the members respect one another, share joys and fears, and yet still have that little secret. We learn a few more in this book. Angela Marsons has created some fantastic characters and she puts them in perilous situations. This series goes from strength to strength.

I received a review copy of this book from Netgalley.

Thursday 2 November 2017

Minette Walters

It's been a while since I read a Minette Walters and this is a new direction for her. I love this period of history (the Black Death) so it's right up my street.

The Last Hours link

My review -

The story takes place over a few months, after the great plague, the Black Death, comes to Britain. Sir Richard of Develish sets out with his retinue and much of his gold, to visit a neighbour with the intention of sealing a marriage for his daughter, Eleanor. The men fall sick and very few return to Develish, where Richard’s wife, lady Anne, refuses them entry for two weeks, to ensure the sickness doesn’t enter the moated settlement. Richard and all his followers but one, a serf, die of the plague. The hero of the tale is the bastard son of a serf, never acknowledged by his mother’s husband, and visibly different from all around him, being very tall, dark haired and olive skinned.

The richness of this story is in the detail. The corruption of the church, the total hold the lord has over those serfs in his demesne, the arrogance of the Norman French in their dealings with the local people, are very well presented. The surviving serfs, solely responsible for growing and harvesting the vital crops, are in many places starving themselves to death because their lords have gone north to try to escape the sickness, leaving their slaves to await their return in terror of being held to account for missing sheep and crops. The book is very compelling, filled with rich characters and a believable storyline. There’s more to come and I’ll be delighted when it’s ready. I want to pick it up and follow these people and their lives.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher from whom I received an advance copy for review.

Chris Chalmers

He's new to me, but with his very easy, funny style, I'll read Chris Chalmers again.

Dinner at the Happy Skeleton link

My review -

Dan is pushing forty when he’s made redundant from the advertising company where he works as a copywriter. He uses his redundancy money to do a little travelling, some drinking and a lot of hanging about on a certain internet forum. He is increasingly jaded and would like a deeper relationship than the casual encounters he’s having at the moment. Then, on a weekend trip, he believes he’s caught a glimpse of an old flame – the man he blames for his inability to trust and form deeper relationships.

This is quite a laddish story of a gay man grabbing at relationships for the physical side but really wanting a long-term partner. It’s cleverly written, witty, sometimes slapstick funny, and very perceptive in its observations. I found it an extremely enjoyable read indeed.

I received a review copy of this book.

Wednesday 1 November 2017

Lexie Conyngham

This is a novella length sequel to a story which has some supernatural elements. It's jolly good!

A Dark Night at Midsummer link

My review - 

This is a novella length sequel to The Murray of Letho story, Out of a Dark Reflection. The supernatural happenings in that book continue and Mrs Dean, the housekeeper calls upon the skills of Lizzie Fenwick to try to capture the spirit of Grissel Gardiner, a witch of old. Lizzie’s not taken in by some of Mrs Dean’s logic, but agrees to help rather than have the happy household of Letho continuing under the present dark cloud.

Well conjured! You would need to have read Dark Reflection first, but if you have, you’ll enjoy this, its murky supernatural goings-on and the small community it encapsulates. Fittingly, I finished it at Halloween.