Malcolm Mackay- The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter (Glasgow Trilogy 1)

Product DetailsA twenty-nine-year-old man lives alone in his Glasgow flat. The telephone rings; a casual conversation, but behind this a job offer. The clues are there if you know to look for them. He is an expert. A loner. Freelance. Another job is another job, but what if this organisation wants more? A meeting at a club. An offer. A brief. A target: Lewis Winter. It’s hard to kill a man well. People who do it well know this. People who do it badly find out the hard way. The hard way has consequences. An arresting, gripping novel of dark relationships and even darker moralities…

The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter is the first of a Glasgow based trilogy by debut author Malcolm Mackay- a debut that I was mightily impressed by. With seamless plotting, plausible characters and a sparsity of prose in the vein of American writers such as Denis Johnson or Tom Franklin, this book had me absolutely hooked.

 Populated by a host of ne’er-do-wells against a backdrop of the Glasgow underworld, Mackay documents a heightening struggle for control of the drugs turf between two rival gangsters- Peter Jamieson and Shug Francis- and those that find themselves, sometimes literally, in the crossfire. Lewis Winter is one of Shug’s crew- a sorry figure of a man, cuckolded by his scheming girlfriend and a small time dealer, who annoys Jamieson enough to commission a hit on him and this is where the utterly compulsive facet of this story kicks in. Colum MacLean is a hitman for hire but who, during the course of the book, starts to have a crisis of conscience and through his stream of consciousness and the sparsity of Mackay’s dialogue the real creative genius of this debut comes to the fore. The mesmeric characterisation of MacLean has a very different pull on the reader throughout as the dispassionate tone of the prose alienates but engages the reader at the same time, and as MacLean gets sucked down further into this maelstrom of uncertainty you go with him unflinchingly despite the immorality of his chosen profession.

 Likewise, where there could be a tendency to conform to stereotype with any novel set in the gangland underworld, Mackay neatly sidesteps this with all the main protagonists seeming credible and not cliched, from the crime bosses themselves, to the police investigators, to the brilliant femme fatale Zara, who has her own personal agenda to survive the departing from this mortal coil of the hapless Lewis. I particularly liked the character of Frank MacLeod, a gruff old bugger and Jamieson’s former go-to man for professional hits, currently laid up recovering from a hip replacement, imparting words of wisdom to ‘grasshopper’ Colum, exhibiting a good comedic touch in an otherwise dark and amoral tale.

 Needless to say the more literary style and addictive narrative of this first book can only bode well for those to follow and I would highly recommend this for those seeking a change from the bog standard police procedural, providing as it does a far more insightful portrayal of the criminal class in the seedy underbelly of underworld Glasgow. An exceptional debut.

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 (With thanks to Kate at Macmillan for the advance reading copy)

Michael Connelly- The Black Box

May 1992, and after four LAPD officers were acquitted after the savage beating of Rodney King, Los Angeles is ablaze. As looting and burning take over the city, law and order are swept away in a tidal wave of violence. But under threat of their lives, homicide detectives like Harry Bosch are still stubbornly trying to do their job. With no effective police presence on the streets, murder just got a whole lot easier – and investigating them got a whole lot harder. Escorted by national guard soldiers from murder scene to murder scene, Harry and his colleagues are only able to do the bare minimum in terms of collecting evidence. And for Harry that’s not enough. When he finds the body of a female journalist executed in an alley, he cannot accept that he will never be able to bring her killer to justice, and her tragedy starts to eat into his soul. But then, twenty years later, Harry finds himself working in the Open Unsolved Unit, and suddenly the past comes back to haunt him once again, in a way he could never have imagined…

It never ceases to amaze me how Michael Connelly achieves such a constant level of excellence with his writing in relation to the excellent  Hieronymous (aka Harry) Bosch series. Let’s bear in mind that this is the 18th outing for Harry and it’s exactly twenty years since this stalwart of American detective fiction made his debut in ‘The Black Echo’, and yet Connelly unceasingly produces the most readable and stylistically perfect thrillers time after time, in marked difference to other authors of long running crime series who can only dream of this consistency- and I’m extremely pleased to say that ‘The Black Box’continues Connelly’s rich tradition…

 The book opens with the LA Riots of 1992, sparked by the acquittal of four white police officers, cleared of the assault on Rodney King. As the violence escalates Bosch and his counterparts find themselves rushed from crime scene to crime scene under the protection of the National Guard, unable to devote time to each murder victim- the majority of whom end up as files in the Open Unsolved Unit where Bosch is now based. Bosch is haunted by one particular murder, that of a female Danish photo-journalist, Anneke Jesperson, shot at point blank range in an alley during one of those fateful nights, and re-opens the investigation into her death. Working on the assumption that every case has a ‘black box’- a key piece of evidence that will provide insight into a case- Bosch goes on the trail of the missing murder weapon and ends up embroiled in a far greater conspiracy and, of course, danger.

Once again Bosch is presented as a moral and focused police officer, evidenced by his interaction with Jesperson’s family and former colleagues and despite a totally bogus accusation on his professional behaviour by his immediate boss and the Professional Standards Bureau, Bosch displays his deep-seated tenacity that this case will be solved whatever the cost. Once again, Bosch is presented as a harbinger of morality, where the rights of the victim are at the forefront and the quest for justice paramount. On a personal level, there is a very nice examination of Bosch’s tentative relationship with his daughter Maddie and a real sense of them getting used to one another and this relationship strengthening over the course of the book. The plot is smooth and convincing and spirals outwards satisfactorily as Connelly introduces a conspiracy amongst military personnel linked to his original investigation and, despite the rather ‘Hollywood’ action thriller denouement, I enjoyed the way it played out thanks to the pacing and the compelling character of Bosch that outweighs the slight flaw in the ending.

Yet again Connelly has hit the ground running with another solid and engrossing addition to the Bosch canon, and this will be sure to please die-hard fans or those lucky enough to be picking up their first Bosch thriller. Definitely a page turner and an excellent read.

Visit Michael Connelly’s website here:

Read a review at Crimetime here:  Book Reviews

‘The Black Box’ published 22nd November- Orion

(With thanks to Orion for the advance reading copy)

M. J. McGrath- The Boy In The Snow

The Boy in the SnowWhen Arctic guide Edie Kiglatuk stumbles across a body abandoned in the Alaskan forest, she little imagines what her discovery will lead her to. With the local police convinced the death is linked to the Dark Believers, a sinister Russian sect, Edie’s friends insist she leave the investigation to the proper authorities. But remaining in the area as part of the support team for her ex-husband Sammy’s bid to win the famous Iditarod dog sled race, Edie cannot get the image of the frozen corpse out of her mind. While Sammy travels across some of world’s toughest and most deadly terrain, Edie sets off on an investigation which will take her into a dark world of politics, corruption and greed – as a painful secret in her past finally catches up with her . . .

Not to be deterred by my slight disappointment at McGrath’s debut ‘White Heat’ I approached this, the next in the series, with an open mind and found it a much more satisfying read overall. Familiar characters from the first book return in an altogether different setting with the action of the main plot being relocated to Alaska. Edie Kiglatuk (a native of the Inuit community on Ellesmere Island in the High Arctic) accompanies her ex-husband Sammy and police chief Derek Palliser to Alaska where Sammy is competing in the gruelling ‘Iditarod’- a world famous dog-sled race covering 1100 miles of the harshest terrain. However, Edie’s role in Sammy’s quest for glory is curtailed by her discovering the body of a baby in a snowy woodland and draws her into the path of not only an ostracised religious sect but a sinister sex trade involving young immigrant women. Running alongside this plot there is a well-constructed political story line revolving around the perfectly awful husband and wife team of Chuck and Marsha Hillingberg, as Chuck vies with an existing incumbent for the post of Governor of Alaska; a pair of the most power-hungry and scheming individuals it would ever be your misfortune to meet who inevitably cross paths with the indomitable Edie as she finds herself deeper in peril…

As with ‘White Heat’ McGrath’s research is to be applauded from the level of detail she applies to both the Iditarod race and the charting of the political processes in place for the electing of a State Governor. The depiction of the ‘Old Believers’, a religious group who broke away from the Russian Orthodox church having refused to accept the liturgical reforms imposed upon them by the main church, was also an interesting thread and this, along with the Iditarod, drove me to Google to find out more. It’s always pleasing to read a book that introduces you to a previously unknown world as long as it supports the main plot/mystery and McGrath largely achieves this.

One of my problems with the previous book was the flimsy characterisation- with the exception of the compelling Edie- and I’m glad to say that I felt infinitely more engaged with the characters in ‘The Boy In The Snow’ than I had previously. Police chief Derek Palliser seems to have shut up about his lemmings which is a bonus and I felt that by leaving his furry friends behind, McGrath’s characterisation of him improved greatly, and I was much more interested in him and his maturing relationship with Edie than before. There was a great deal more attention to detail generally in the characterisation throughout, from the main protagonists through to the ‘bit-part’ players, and I felt they had all been really fleshed-out however big their role in the plot and were altogether more believable. I’m glad that McGrath has achieved this balance as her factual detail is so compelling that the strength of this had really highlighted the weaker characterisation before.

All in all I found this an engaging read, bringing to my attention topics I had no previous knowledge of, but also providing a compelling and well- realised crime plot that held my attention throughout.

 Visit the author’s website here:

 (With thanks to Macmillan for the advance reading copy)

M. J. McGrath- White Heat

White HeatNothing on the tundra rotted . . . The whole history of human settlement lay exposed there, under that big northern sky. There was nowhere here for bones to hide. On Craig Island, a vast landscape of ice north of the Arctic Circle, three travellers are hunting duck. Among them is expert Inuit hunter and guide, Edie Kiglatuk; a woman born of this harsh, beautiful terrain. The two men are tourists, experiencing Arctic life in the raw, but when one of the men is shot dead in mysterious circumstances, the local Council of Elders in the tiny settlement of Autisaq is keen to dismiss it as an accident. Then two adventurers arrive in Autisaq hoping to search for the remains of the legendary Victorian explorer Sir James Fairfax. The men hire Edie – whose ancestor Welatok guided Fairfax – along with Edie’s stepson Joe, and two parties set off in different directions. Four days later, Joe returns to Autisaq frostbitten, hypothermic and disoriented, to report his man missing. And when things take an even darker turn, Edie finds herself heartbroken, and facing the greatest challenge of her life . . .

Set in the icy wastes of a small Inuit community in the High Arctic on Ellsemere Island and the fictional Craig Island this is a tale of the harsh realities of survival and murder. The story centres on a community facing the common woes of an indigenous people subjected to their dependence on a larger sovereign state, in this case, Canada,  and highlights the social problems of drink and drug dependency that these and similar indigenous communities across the globe suffer. This, for me, was probably the most interesting aspect of the book as McGrath documents the day-to-day lives of these inhabitants referring often to the minutiae of their daily routines, language and life within this unrelenting environment, drawing on her established reputation as a non-fiction writer. The depiction of the landscape and the sheer grind of existence living with these climatic conditions was captured perfectly throughout and it did amuse me somewhat that a character refers to one day with a temperature of -25 as ‘balmy’! So these aspects of the book should have created a perfect backdrop for a gripping tale of murder in the Arctic wastes…

However, the main plot line was a disjointed and slightly unbalanced affair focusing on the character of Edie Kiglatuk, a part-time teacher and guide, and opening with the murder of a tourist she is accompanying on a visit to the island. As the town council are keen to sweep this incident under the carpet and the body count continues to grow, including one of Edie’s nearest and dearest, Edie finds herself drawn into a dangerous conspiracy concerning the tapping of natural resources in the Arctic region by an unscrupulous business organisation. This leads Edie to a seemingly suicidal mission to mainland Greenland to uncover and expose this conspiracy putting herself and those within her community at great danger. To be honest I found the plot a bit turgid with the central conspiracy not really gripping me in the way that I think it should, and I felt that at times some fiercer editing was needed with some passages meandering on losing this reader’s interest.  In terms of characterisation, aside from Edie who was a well-drawn and empathetic character, the other protagonists were less effective particularly the male characters, and I think that maybe McGrath focused to much on the factual construct of the book leaving gaps elsewhere, which would hinder the engagement of the reader with the overall story line. I think this is something that McGrath overcomes in the follow up book  The Boy In The Snow, but for me, despite the strength of the historical, political and cultural aspects of ‘White Heat, I was a little disappointed with this debut.

Visit the author’s website:

Read Petrona’s review here: White Heat by M J McGrath.

Read a review at It’s A Crime here: White Heat – M J McGrath.

(With thanks to Macmillan for the advance reading copy)

Interview with Will Jordan- Redemption

RedemptionRyan Drake is a man who finds people who don’t want to be found. Once a soldier in the British Army, he now works for the CIA, leading an elite investigation team that tracks down missing agents. But his latest mission – to free a prisoner codenamed Maras and bring her back onto US soil within forty-eight hours – is more dangerous than anything his team has attempted before. Despite the risks, the team successfully completes their mission, but for Drake the real danger has only just begun. Faced with a terrible threat, he is forced to go on the run with Maras – a veteran agent scarred by years of brutal imprisonment.  Hunted by his former comrades and those willing to do anything to protect a deadly secret, Drake is left with no choice but to trust a dangerous woman he barely knows. For he has only one chance to save those he loves and time is running out…

Big thanks to author Will Jordan for taking the time from his busy schedule to answer some questions about his explosive debut thriller ‘Redemption’. While studying for a degree in IT, Will Jordan worked a number of part time jobs, one of which was as an extra in television and feature films. Cast as a World War Two soldier, he was put through military bootcamp and taught to handle and fire weapons in preparation for the role. The experience piqued his interest in military history, and encouraged him to learn more about conflicts past and present. Having always enjoyed writing, he used this research as the basis for his first thriller and is currently writing the second novel in the Ryan Drake series. Read what Will has to say  about the writing process, the power of visualisation  and the confessions of a geek. See my review – Redemption.

The action thriller genre is quite a burgeoning market with some very established tough guy names, Andy McNab, Chris Ryan et al. What do you think ‘Redemption’ brings to the genre to set you apart?

Obviously a lot of the appeal of guys like McNab and Ryan comes from the fact that they’ve actually done many of the things they write about, so their tradecraft and procedures are all spot on. That’s great for this genre but the thing that really fascinates me about any story is the characters. They can be endlessly subtle in their complexity, they can be brave, noble, cowardly, vindictive or brutal, and anything in between. Their changing relationships and the choices they make can drastically alter the flow of the story, and so characters are what I tried to focus on with Redemption. There’s an emotional complexity to the story that goes beyond simple shoot-outs, double crosses and chases. Those things are all important to thrillers, but I wanted more than that. I wanted to show the effect that such a life has on real people and how they deal with each other. The relationship between the two main characters (Drake and Anya) is the real heart of Redemption – the way they both start out damaged and hurting in their own ways, and somehow through their shared experiences find a measure of comfort in each other. That’s what I think sets this book apart from a lot of thrillers out there.

Ryan Drake is a tough guy with a softish centre which makes him more appealing. Did you deliberately make him a more empathetic character to attract a cross-gender readership? 

I think you have to go with your instincts and write characters that you personally find appealing rather than what you hope other people will like. The minute you start doing that, you compromise your own commitment to the story.

Drake is the way he is because that’s the kind of character I personally find interesting and engaging. He’s reasonably tough, intelligent and resourceful, but he’s also flawed and human just like the rest of us. He can make mistakes, he’s often caught off balance and forced to improvise, and he’s nursing the pain of a past he’d rather forget. That, I think, makes him easy to identify with.

A lot of authors in this genre seem to be caught in a kind of arms race to make stronger, cooler and more dominant protagonists who never get scared or angry or doubt themselves (in what I call the Jack Reacher Effect). But for me that’s counter-productive because it robs the story of drama and tension when you know the main character can handle anything that comes his way.

With Redemption I was very keen that Drake be much more down to earth and believable. And given that this is the first book in a series, I also wanted to give him plenty of room to grow and develop. He’s got a long journey ahead of him and Redemption is only the first step.

The character of ‘Maras’ aka Anya is a great example of a kick-derriere female character. Was it a conscious decision to have a feisty female protagonist at the heart of the book and how hard was it to characterise her so realistically?

 Absolutely! And I’m glad you liked her. It’s funny, but the question I get asked most often by readers is, “Will Anya be coming back in the next book?” She will, for those who want to know. She’s central to the series I’ve planned. In fact, the entire idea for the story actually began with Anya.

 I had this image in my mind of a seasoned veteran who’s been cut off from the rest of the world for a period of time, who is dismissed by their younger counterparts as a relic of another age but who soon proves more than a match for anything that comes their way. The usual cliché would be to make such a character a gruff, tough-talking middle aged man and pair them up with a younger, less experienced woman. That idea bored me to tears frankly, so I switched the genders of the two characters and suddenly it all just came together.

I now had a female character that was complex, experienced, dangerous, intelligent and, gasp, over forty! It seems ridiculous in this day and age but you still rarely see it in thrillers, so that immediately made her interesting. Anything that goes against convention is just fine with me.

 Once I had a good feel for where the character was coming from and the kind of life experiences that had shaped her, the rest of it simply fell into place. All her idiosyncrasies like insisting on sleeping on the floor or awkwardly trying to apologise to Drake after lashing out at a man who had been harassing her… it all just made sense right away, as if she were a real person I was getting to know as the book went on.

 Anya’s scenes were the most fun to write because there are so many facets to her character for me to explore. She starts out completely cold and withdrawn, having been reduced to the very basics of survival by her years of imprisonment. But as the story progresses she gradually comes to life again. She starts to recover the humanity she was forced to give up, and her journey with Drake causes a bond to develop between them. That gradual transformation, and the things we learn about her past, was one of the key elements of Redemption.

 In fact, when one of my friends first read the manuscript, they told me it was a good book but that it felt more like Anya’s story than Drake’s. My first response was pretty much, “You’re right.”

 You’ve said in your author biog that you have an interest in weaponry and have researched this subject thoroughly. Could you share a little more detail on how you went about this and what sparked your interest initially?

 Well, I’d always had a bit of an interest in military history so I’d absorbed a lot of useless knowledge over the years. Then, when I was studying for my degree I took a part time job as an extra for TV shows and films. A couple of them were war movies so naturally we had to be put through boot camp to at least teach us the basics of being soldiers. It didn’t exactly make me want to be one, but it did inspire respect for what they do.

As for the weapons in Redemption, I was keen to be able to talk about them from experience as it seemed like an area where a lot of writers fall down. I was lucky enough to visit a couple of rifle ranges out in America where they’re happy to offer shooting lessons, but the most useful visit was in the Czech Republic a few years ago when I booked myself on a day trip to a shooting range.

I got picked up in central Prague and bussed out to a disused military base in the back of beyond where they had virtually every gun under the sun ready to be fired. At first I was very aware of the fact that I was in the middle of nowhere surrounded by a bunch of armed men I didn’t know, but it turns out they were all really good guys – totally friendly, laid back and happy to answer questions. The fact they threw in free beer only added to my positive impression!

There is a truly global feel to the book with the various foreign locations you depict which feel authentic. How much of this was a balance between imagination and research?

Most of the scenes in America were based off my own experiences (motels, shopping malls and so on). Visits to places like Washington and Daytona also helped me get a feel for the setting, what it’s like just to walk down the street, what the characters would see and hear and smell etc.

Obviously there are certain parts of the world that are pretty hard for the average person to visit. Certainly the sections in Siberia and Iraq had to be based largely on imagination and whatever information I was able to dig up on them. I’m really big on visualising scenes as they play out, so knowing how places look is very important. For the prison scenes I’d spend hours trawling the net looking at pictures of Russian jails, getting an idea of the layout, the processes, even the colours they painted their walls. It all helps me visualise my characters in that setting.  

What’s next for Ryan Drake?

For his next adventure he’s off to Afghanistan to rescue a high-ranking CIA official held hostage by an old enemy of Drake’s. Of course, nothing is ever simple, and he’ll soon find that he’s part of something far bigger and more dangerous than he could have imagined. And a certain character from Redemption will be back to settle old scores of her own.

After that, there are three more books planned in the main series. I know exactly how it’s going to end, and I’m both looking forward to that last book and dreading it.

I’d also love to write a prequel trilogy centred on Anya, shedding more light on her murky back story. I think it’s fair to say I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me, and I’m loving every minute of it! For me there really is nothing better than taking a simple idea in your head and turning it into a fully developed story that people can follow and enjoy.

‘Redemption’ was the only debut novel to make the ‘Bloody Scotland’ crime fiction shortlist. How thrilling was that?

It was a real honour to be shortlisted, especially since it was the festival’s inaugural year. For me it was an acknowledgement that Redemption was more than just a guns-and-chases action movie script; there was substance and meaning to its story that seemed to resonate with people. The judges were all very complimentary of it; apparently Ryan is a sexier version of James Bond!

Obviously you always hope you’re going to win stuff like that, but just making the shortlist and getting that kind of recognition right off the bat was a great feeling.

And just for fun…. How would you describe your life in 8 words?

I only need three – Just. Getting.Started.

Who is your favourite fictional hero?

For me it has to be Tony Stark from the Iron Man movies. He’s a wonderful combination of genius intelligence, flexible morals and wise-cracking arrogance. The fact that he’s a billionaire playboy doesn’t hurt either!  

What is your greatest achievement?

Climbing Ben Nevis with a severe hangover. Probably the closest I’ve come to passing out from exhaustion. Lesson learned – heavy drinking and mountain climbing do not mix!

What is your favourite occupation when you’re not writing?

Video games. The perfect way to put my brain in neutral and unwind after writing. I’ve been a computer geek as long as I can remember, and will be until I get old and computers start to scare me.

Your Desert Island read would be……

The Lord of the Rings. It’s a rich and complex narrative in which I find something new every time I read it. Plus it’s so long that I figure I’d either be rescued or starve to death by the time I finished it, so I wouldn’t have to worry about boredom!

 Visit Will’s website here:


 SACRIFICERyan Drake (2)- to be published Summer 2013

Afghanistan, 2008
A Black Hawk helicopter carrying a senior CIA operative is shot down by a surface to air missile, its lone passenger taken hostage by a fanatical insurgent group bent on driving the Coalition from Afghanistan at any cost. Knowing this man holds information vital to the ongoing conflict, the CIA bring in Ryan Drake and his elite Shepherd team to find and rescue their lost operative.
But nothing is what it seems, and within hours of arriving in the war-torn country, Drake and his team find themselves caught in a deadly conflict between a brutal terrorist warlord and the ruthless leader of a private military company. And lurking in the shadows is a woman from Drake’s past determined to settle old scores.

 Dark secrets and shocking revelations await him in the burning heat of the Afghan summer as Drake is forced to confront the most terrible question of all – how much is he prepared to sacrifice to reach the truth?   

Sean Slater- Snakes and Ladders

Snakes & LaddersDetective Jacob Striker has had more than his fair share of brushes with death. But this one really shocks him. When he is called to attend a suicide at a decrepit apartment on the bad side of town, he expects to find one more life lost to mental illness and drug addiction. But this time the victim is not just another sad statistic, this time it’s someone Striker knows. And one thing is obvious to Striker: this wasn’t suicide. Striker’s investigation quickly leads him to the Riverglen Mental Health Facility. The victim was a patient from the support group overseen by psychiatrist Dr Erich Ostermann. And when Striker discovers Larisa Logan – a dear friend of his, and also a patient of Dr Ostermann – has gone missing, his investigation goes into overdrive. Racing against time and a chilling adversary, Striker searches desperately for Larisa. It is a dangerous game they play, where one throw of the dice can catapult you to a place of dominance – or send you sliding to your doom…

The follow up thriller from Sean Slater to the excellent debut ‘The Survivor’ and Jacob Striker, the renegade Vancouver Homicide Detective is back investigating a series of suspicious suicides linked to the Riverglen Mental Health Facility. Under the auspices of the well-respected psychiatrist Dr Ostermann, Striker delves deeper into the workings of this institution to discover why some of its most vulnerable patients have become murder victims and sets about saving another patient struggling to avoid the clutches of a determined killer. The book is punctuated with vignettes charting the working of the killer’s mind as Striker and his feisty female partner Felicia delve deeper into the family life of Dr Ostermann and discover the dark secrets that lie within…

Drawing on his own background as a Vancouver police officer in some of the toughest neighbourhoods, Slater has created a truly plausible and likeable character in Striker. I love the way that any renegade action Striker undertakes is loosely based on his credo of ‘extigent circumstances’ that backs up his often foolhardy but well-intentioned actions to trap the killer, dragging the more circumspect Felicia in his wake as the voice of reason. Striker makes no effort to pacify his superiors and remains single-minded and determined throughout the course of the book despite the physical risks to himself and Felicia whose personal relationship with her partner is sometimes tricky in the light of their on/off romantic entanglement. Luckily this gives another added frission to the plot instead of being irritating as happens too often in crime thrillers.

The plot is well-constructed although I did guess the killer well in advance of the close of the book and my only real criticism of the book generally is that it is maybe 50 or so pages too long as certain sections seemed a little drawn out and covering the same ground from a different angle. However, having said that I have recommended this book to others and have had positive feedback leading them to seek out ‘The Survivor’ as well. All in all a good read,  perfect for fans of Chris Carter and Richard Montanari and any reader who likes a more violent and darker crime read..

Find out more about author Sean Slater here:

(‘Snakes and Ladders’  published by Simon & Schuster)

Debbie Viguie-The 13th Sacrifice

Samantha Ryan is plagued by nightmares. Horrific memories lay in wait; of dark magic and crippling fear, of strange creatures and blood soaked walls. Because Samantha grew up in a witches’ coven, enslaved by power and greed. But now Samantha must go undercover to confront the horror of her terrible past, and protect her hometown against a newly awakened heart of evil.

Debbie Viguie’s new Witch Hunt series introduces readers to Samantha Ryan, a Boston police detective with a unique and quite dangerous past. Raised within the confines of an evil coven in Salem, Samantha is imbued with the dark powers of witchcraft passed down through generations of her family but having escaped the torment of her childhood physically,  the deep mental scars remain with her. So, when a number of bodies appear marked with the points of a pentagram Samantha is called upon to go undercover back in Salem to root out the perpetrators of these evil deeds and to rekindle her powers of witchcraft to foil a dastardly plot of raising a dead witch. There’s also a slightly ludricous plotline involving a virus which makes members of the public see witches everywhere causing them to randomly attack other people and an obligatory romantic subplot where Samantha is drawn to the debonair owner of a witchcraft museum whose mother was murdered by the coven that Samantha grew up in. Yes…I know…

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I found the whole book quite unbalanced with the witchcraft storyline holding the majority of my interest throughout and being quite well written but I felt the whole thing was a little out of kilter. It was if Viguie had to keep reminding herself to juggle the demands of the horror, police procedural,  and romance genres with the latter two elements feeling slightly crow-barred in at times to disrupt the fairly strong central plot. Samantha was a likeable enough character but seemed too participate in far too much naval gazing about her predicament instead of steeling herself to the task in hand and concentrate on thwarting the raising of the scaberous witch Abigail and at some points I just wanted to give her a bit of shake. However, I did enjoy the portrayal of the rites and rituals within the coven and how readily people could be manipulated into behaving in a certain way. A goodly amount of bloodshed too which is always a bonus…

So to sum up I would say that this was quite a nippy little read for me and good for getting in the mood for Halloween but the cross genre balance was a little off which marred my overall enjoyment of the book. Shame…

‘The 13th Sacrifice’ to be published October 25th Arrow Books

Visit the author’s website here: