Louise Voss and Mark Edwards- All Fall Down

Product DetailsTwo years on from uncovering a terrifying conspiracy of rogue scientists, all Kate Maddox wants is to lead a normal life with her partner Paul and son Jack. But then a face from the past turns up, bringing chilling news. A devastating new strain of the virus that killed Kate’s parents is loose in L.A. – and when a bomb rips through a hotel killing many top scientists, it becomes clear someone will do anything to stop a cure being found. While Paul goes on the hunt for answers, Kate finds herself in a secret laboratory in the heart of California, desperately seeking a way to stop the contagion. But time is running out and soon it will be too late to save their loved ones, themselves, and the world…

(Beware this review contains one spoiler)

Following on from ‘Catch Your Death’ from crime writing duo Mark Edwards and Louise Voss, ‘All Fall Down’ marks the return of largely unflappable Dr Kate Maddox whose services are called upon to conquer a viral outbreak threatening the whole of America, and to stop it’s global spread. Gadzooks!

With the convenient deaths of the world’s leading minds in the field of virology it falls upon Kate, virologist, mother, sensual woman and all round good egg, to concoct a cure and thwart this deadly enemy. As the virus is unleashed on the unsuspecting public by a group of emotionally screwed and brainwashed women, led by a be-leathered femme fatale, time is running out for Dr Kate as she enters their radar and finds herself and her nearest and dearest in deadly peril. With a suitably ludicrous use of plotting that means Kate, her partner and her young son, all find themselves transported from rural England to a disease ravaged America, the scene is set for much gung-ho action, schmaltzy interludes and a sense of cripes who will survive this rampant disease, let alone fend off the mad band of women who unleashed it in the first place. A series of frankly unbelievable but at times quite strangely entertaining escapades ensue- oh- and there’s a bit of rumpy pumpy as well.

With more than a nod to one of Dustin Hoffman’s less notable screen performances in ‘Outbreak’ and the scientific meanderings of the late Michael Crichton, I think you can probably ascertain that this wasn’t really my cup of tea- a suspension of disbelief too far. It is observed of one character that “He was silent, his eyes squeezed shut, like this was one incident too far. Too much for him to take” and I must confess that I experienced similar feelings in the course of reading this but fear not, as this has already garnered a significant amount of 5* reviews elsewhere so maybe it’s just me! Don’t get me wrong, this is not a badly written book and I did like a couple of the characters, but after my ups and downs with the plot, the ending completely blew all hopes I had for a realistic outcome to the whole scenario. SPOILER ALERT: Too many people escaped unscathed for my liking, and it was all a bit stereotypical Hollywood action thriller ending with the obligatory cut to wholesome family unit having overcome perilous adversity. However, this probably says more about the dark recesses of my psyche than the quality of the ending on offer for the less cynically-minded reader. In the interests of fairness and to quell my flippancy somewhat,  I include  links to some cracking reviews for the book for your delictation and delight- just not my bag I’m afraid…

 Reviews on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/d5qnyq5

Lainy’s review at GoodReads: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/472939882

Visit the authors’ website here: http://vossandedwards.com/

Product DetailsProduct Details

‘All Fall Down’ is available in Kindle format now and in paperback from 14th February 2013…

(Thanks to Harpercollins for the advance reading copy)

Marco Vichi- Death And The Olive Grove- Inspector Bordelli (2)

Product DetailsApril 1964, but spring hasn’t quite sprung. The bad weather seems suited to nothing but bad news. And bad news is coming to the police station. First, Bordelli’s friend Casimiro, who insists he’s discovered the body of a man in a field above Fiesole. Bordelli races to the scene, but doesn’t find any sign of a corpse. Only a couple of days later, a little girl is found at Villa Ventaglio. She has been strangled, and there is a horrible bite mark on her belly. Then another little girl is found murdered, with the same macabre signature. And meanwhile Casimiro has disappeared without a trace. The investigation marks the start of one of the darkest periods of Bordelli’s life: a nightmare without end, as black as the sky above Florence.

Yes I know I have a gazillion books to read and review, but couldn’t resist reading this, having thoroughly enjoyed Vichi’s debut ‘Death In August’ featuring the wonderfully curmudgeonly Inspector Bordelli and  I’m pleased to say that this is the equal of, or indeed even better, than the first book. Set in 1960‘s Florence, Vichi once again renders the location and atmosphere of Italy in this period perfectly, with an astute eye on the socio-political backdrop and the lasting shadows cast by Italy’s involvement in World War II, whilst neatly balancing a multi-layered plot of murder and retribution.

 The pervasive nature of war is most cleverly portrayed by the flashbacks of Bordelli’s own experiences as a member of the San Marco resistance, and throughout the story there are perfectly placed vignettes of his, by turns, harrowing and life affirming, experiences during his service which have shaped to a large degree his sense of morality, tempered by a cynical attitude to the failings of his fellow man. Bordelli is not only seen as a dedicated police officer, but as a man determined to right what he sees as perceived wrongs, equally at home in the presence of his colleagues and members of the criminal classes and always prepared to defend the honour of both. In this multi-layered story, this becomes most evident in his investigation of the murder of Casimiro, a shady informant, but nevertheless a friend of Bordelli, which cleverly incorporates the activities of the White Dove, a post-war organisation investigating the whereabouts of Nazis who have escaped the punishments handed down by the Nuremburg trials. Bordelli finds himself at odds with the White Dove, despite his sympathies, to gain justice for the murder of his friend. Running alongside this arc of the story is Bordelli’s hunt for a child killer with a unique and macabre signature, which again reflects the theme of the inescapable shadows of war and proves to be an extremely testing case for our erstwhile hero.

 Not only is the plotting razor sharp, but Vichi’s grasp of characterisation is excellent, evident throughout the book as he brings into sharp focus, Bordelli’s complicated relationships and his interaction with his colleagues. As in common in most crime books, Bordelli has little respect for his superiors and forges his own path throughout, aided and abetted by his relationship with the prickly pathologist, Dr Diotivede, and his police partner, Piras.  His relationship with his surly Sardinian sidekick, Piras, is a joy, tempered by humour and pathos, and reveals itself as a touching,  almost father/son relationship, during the course of the investigation. Bordelli, also has an interesting relationship with Rosa, the epitome of the ‘tart with a heart’ who acts as a sounding board and source of emotional comfort to the beleagured Inspector in his darkest hours, whilst he also embarks on an ill-fated affair with a beauty less than half his age, which brings another facet to his character, and his all too human weakness for the attentions of a pretty girl.

 In the course of his books, Vichi has established himself as a joy to me personally, as both a reader and a bookseller, as I love the supremely controlled grasp he has on both the narrative form and his adept characterisation, and how easy it is to recommend his books to those who love Italian crime fiction.  Vichi has created a central character the equal of the compelling Inspector Montalbano, and I’m sure there is much to be gained by fans of Camilleri, and other established Italian crime fiction writers in seeking out the excellent Vichi,  if you haven’t already had the pleasure…

Marco Vichi was born in Florence in 1957. The author of eleven novels and two collections of short stories, he has also written screenplays, music lyrics and for radio, and collaborated on projects for humanitarian causes. His novel Death in Florence won the Scerbanenco, Rieti and Camaiore prizes. His other Inspector Bordelli titles published by Hodder are:

Product DetailsProduct DetailsProduct Details

(I bought this copy of ‘Death and the Olive Grove’)

Jeff Strand- Stalking You Now/ Michael McBride- Snowblind

Happy Christmas!

 Before I break off for the holidays, I just wanted to share a couple of Christmas crackers with you from quirky little imprint Dark Fuse (http://www.darkfuse.com/ )

Two great little novellas, one crime, one horror, that pack a punch, with more than one or two dark twists in the tale. A couple of thoroughly enjoyable bijou reads…

The reprehensible man sits in the restaurant. Laughing with his friends. Entertaining them with a story about his wretched behavior.

He doesn’t know that somebody at another table is watching him. Somebody filled with hatred. Somebody waiting for him to be alone. Somebody with duct tape and a gun.

It’s a night for vengeance. And a hell of a lot more.

They come at night.
A stranger staggers out of the wilderness under the cover of a blizzard and stumbles into a diner full of people. He collapses in the entryway, unzips his jacket, and allows the object hidden inside to fall out. Screaming commences.
Four old college buddies embark upon their annual elk hunting trip into the Rocky Mountains. This promises to be their last, for the passage of time is as merciless and unpredictable as the Colorado weather. And they’re not alone.
There are other hunters in the mountains, stalking game of a different breed. They know exactly what they’re doing, because they’ve been hunting in these woods for a long, long time. And no one ever survives to betray their existence.

Happy Christmas everyone and hope Santa Claus brings you some great crime fiction!

Raven’s Top 5 Reads- 2012

Well, after much cogitating, ruminating and periods of enormous indecision, I have finally arrived at my Top 5 reads of 2012. Bearing in mind the amount of time it has taken to produce this list, I think this is a fair reflection of the sheer quality of the crime fiction it has been my pleasure to read over the last year. There was a substantial list of also-rans including some of the biggest names in crime writing, but having been mightily impressed with some new and, up until this year, unfamiliar names I think my list pays homage to the healthy state of crime fiction and some great emerging talent. So here goes…

Any debut author whose dialogue and wit draws comparisons from me to McBain and Chandler has got to be something unique and this is exactly what Damien Seaman’s ‘The Killing of Emma Gross’ accomplished. Based on the ghoulish crimes of the infamous serial killer Peter Kurten, Seaman has created an exceptionally realistic portrayal of a community living in fear in 1920‘s Germany. The historical detail is first class and the cast of characters reflect the full spectrum of human behaviours and emotions in this chilling tale. Read the full review:Damien Seaman- The Killing of Emma Gross.


I’m quite often approached by authors via social media to read their wares and following a very nice tweet from Andrew Cotto asking if I would give ‘Outerborough Blues’ a whirl I’m thrilled that he made the offer and equally delighted that he made the Top 5! A book of such lyrical intensity and power that I quite happily drew comparisons with Pelecanos and Lehane identifying this book as the perfect blend of contemporary American fiction and crime writing. A real find. Reviewed here: Andrew Cotto- Outerborough Blues.


Probably better known as a satirical fiction writer, John J Niven produced one of my favourite albeit at times, ludicrously violent, crime reads of the year with ‘Cold Hands’. Punctuated by Niven’s trademark dark humour and cinematographic eye, this book is a completely gripping, criminal smorgasbord of brilliant and blood-soaked delights for the stout of stomach. Read on here:John J. Niven- Cold Hands.

I’ve developed a bit of a penchant for Australian crime fiction this year, fuelled by my love of Peter Temple and there is a veritable array of new Aussie writers on my teetering to-be-read pile. Fully earning his Top 5 status is debut author Luke Preston with his explosive and high-octane thriller ‘Dark City Blue’. With it’s rapid pace and entertaining characters, this was a rollercoaster of a read that kept me hooked from the beginning. A bonzer read! See the review here:Luke Preston- Dark City Blue.

And so to my absolute favourite of the year…drum roll…

Antonin Varenne’s ‘Bed of Nails’ was an exceptionally original and remarkable take on the crime thriller, with it’s twisting, sophisticated plotting and a cast of beguiling and emotionally flawed characters.  Capturing perfectly the seedy underbelly of Parisian society, I have rarely felt so completely engaged with a crime novel and drawing on the cliche ‘if you only read one crime book…’ I would implore you to read this. Breathtaking. Read the full review here:Antonin Varenne- Bed of Nails.

So as the year draws to the end I can only reiterate what a vintage year it’s been in terms of crime writing, and having already had the privilege of reading some forthcoming books for 2013, I think next year will be equally as good and even more taxing for us bloggers to come up with our Top 5! It’ll be fun…

Tim Weaver- Vanished

No life is perfect. Everyone has secrets. For millions of Londoners, the morning of 17 December is just like any other. But not for Sam Wren. An hour after leaving home, he gets onto a tube train – and never gets off again. No eyewitnesses. No trace of him on security cameras. Six months later, he’s still missing. Out of options and desperate for answers, Sam’s wife Julia hires David Raker to track him down. Raker has made a career out of finding the lost. He knows how they think. And, in missing person cases, the only certainty is that everyone has something to hide. But in this case the secrets go deeper than anyone imagined.For, as Raker starts to suspect that even the police are lying to him, someone is watching. Someone who knows what happened on the tube that day. And, with Raker in his sights, he’ll do anything to keep Sam’s secrets to himself . . .

Despite having already published two highly successful crime novels ‘Chasing The Dead’ and ‘The Dead Tracks’ featuring missing persons investigator, David Raker, this was my first foray into Weaver’s world and found this a well-crafted and dark psychological thriller. Although I was playing catch-up character-wise, Weaver’s exemplery and unintrusive insertion of back story made sure I was more than up to speed with Raker’s background and the causes of his uneasy relationship with the emotionally haunted detective Colm Healy. As Raker embarks on an intriguing missing persons case, layers of mystery unfold regarding the missing man, leading Raker back into the path of Healy who is himself on the trail of an elusive abductor ‘The Snatcher’- a man targeting homosexual men who is not all he appears to be. Healy is probably the most complex and interesting character of the whole affair, mentally tortured by the disintergration of his marriage and the murder of his daughter, and what we see is a man in need of revenge and redemption. Healy, we discover, is playing the long game by insinuating himself back into the police force after these events, but also trying to gain access to someone who has a played a part in the cause  of his emotional turmoil- I’ll say no more. Although Raker is an altogether different character to Healy, he is no less determined and focused when tasked with finding the elusive Sam Wren, as Healy is in his search for ‘The Snatcher, putting himself in physical danger and uncovering a world of sordid and violent goings on that may be a little graphic for some readers. Weaver interlinks the two plot lines skilfully so the conflicting investigations of both men seem to naturally diverge, setting up the interesting interplay of their characters. We see a grudging but mutual respect develop between the two, which makes the bombshell events at the conclusion of the book all the more affecting.

 I know in previous reviews I have criticised authors for not adhering to the 400 page rule but in this case the drift to over 500 did not irk me half as much as I thought it would! Due to the solid plotting and the overlapping stories, I think Weaver pretty much gets away with it and there are plenty of red herrings and surprises along the way that held my attention. This may also be due in part to my weird fascination with the London Underground, as Weaver incorporates a good amount of detail about the history of the Tube which is enough to be interesting but not enough to be show-offy, with the scenes in the disused tube stations being particularly effective and really quite sinister. All I would say is that if you use the Tube regularly, be on your guard!

 I would certainly recommend this to lovers of the darker strand of crime fiction in the mould of writers such as Mo Hayder or Brian Freeman, and overall I found this an entertaining and satisfying read if a little disturbing…

Tim Weaver is the Sunday Times bestselling author of Chasing the Dead, its critically acclaimed follow-up The Dead Tracks, and Vanished, the latest novel to feature missing persons investigator David Raker. A journalist by day, Tim has written for some of the country’s biggest newspapers and most iconic magazine brands. Find out more about Tim and his writing here: http://www.timweaverbooks.com/

(I bought this paperback copy of ‘Vanished’)


Sara Blaedel- Blue Blood

In an idyllic neighbourhood of Copenhagen, a young woman, Susanne Hansson, is discovered in her apartment bound and gagged, the victim of an extraordinarily brutal rape attack. Detective Inspector Louise Rick soon learns that Susanne met the rapist on a popular online dating site, something Susanne shamefully tries to hide. Events quickly spiral out of control as a horrified Louise realises that the rapist is using the website to target specific women for future attacks. It’s not long before the next assault leads to its victim’s death and Louise finds herself in the middle of a full-blown murder investigation. Undercover and in danger in a world of faceless dating, Louise must try and stop a murderer who has shocked Copenhagen to its core. But how much is she willing to risk in order to catch a killer?

Already a firmly established author in her native Denmark with a million plus sales, ‘Blue Blood’ is Sara Blaedel’s debut crime thriller in the UK market. I have to say that I wasn’t completely blown away by it, but would quickly add that there is nothing inherently wrong with it either. Revolving around the investigation of a series of internet dating related rapes ‘Blue Blood’ introduces us to DI Louise Rick, a professional and focused police officer who is portrayed as exactly what she is, a good solid detective. With only a small dose of emotional baggage, that to me didn’t really add anything to the plot, Louise embarks on her search for a particularly sadistic rapist in a clear-sighted and methodical way, and as is usual in most crime thrillers ends up with her facing down the perpetrator with little thought to her own personal safety. I think as a character she probably lacks a certain personal intensity bordering on dull, and even in her relationship with her colleagues there does not seem to be much spark or interesting interaction between them. The only character that really illuminates Louise is her friend Camilla Lind, who for me lit up the book and added a bit of feistiness to the whole proceedings. With her role as a journalist and single mother, Camilla seemed a more vital and interesting character within the story and I enjoyed the interplay between her and the starchy Louise.

 The central premise of the plot, centred on the inherent dangers of internet dating, was a trifle pedestrian, but I would counterblance that by saying that due to my reading of an inordinate amount of crime, I have encountered very similar storylines before so it held no great surprises for me personally. However, the plot was solid enough in terms of the police procedural with enough twists to satisfy most. I would probably liken the book to Camilla Lackberg in terms of overall style and characterisation, but would hesitate to draw comparisons with the darker psychological writers of the Scandinavian crime genre which generally appeal to me more.

 Despite my reservations I would certainly read Blaedel again, having already acquired a copy of ‘Farewell To Freedom’, again featuring DI Louise Rick and Camilla Lind and focusing on the exploitative world of human trafficking, so will be interested to see how the character of Louise develops in this next book.

 Visit the author’s website here: http://sarablaedel.com/

 Sara Blaedel interviewed by Mark Billingham: http://www.littlebrown.co.uk/Sphere/mark-billingham-interviews-sara-blaedel.page
(Thanks to Sphere for the advance reading copy)

Andrew Cotto- Outerborough Blues

Outerborough Blues: A Brooklyn Mystery (Paperback) ~ Andrew Cotto Cover ArtA beautiful young French girl walks into a bar, nervously lights a cigarette, and begs the bartender for help in finding her missing artist brother. In a moment of weakness, the bartender–a drifter named Caesar Stiles with a damaged past and a Sicilian family curse hanging over him–agrees. What follows is a stylish literary mystery set in Brooklyn on the dawn of gentrification. While  Caesar is initially trying to earn an honest living at the neighborhood watering hole, his world quickly unravels. In addition to being haunted by his past, including a brother who is intent on settling an old family score, Caesar is being hunted down by a mysterious nemesis known as The Orange Man. Adding to this combustible mix, Caesar is a white man living in a deep-rooted African American community with decidedly mixed feelings about his presence. In the course of his search for the French girl’s missing brother, Caesar tumbles headlong into the shadowy depths of his newly adopted neighborhood, where he ultimately uncovers some of its most sinister secrets…

When you read and review regularly, you can sometimes get a little jaded as books can oftentimes meld into one, or display all those bad writing habits of one-dimensional characters, ludicrous plotting and so on. However, every so often an unexpected treasure lands in your lap which restores your faith, and Andrew Cotto’s Outerborough Blues is one such book. Combining the style of some of the best contemporary American fiction (I would draw comparisons with David Prete and Elliot Perlman) and the street savvy social analysis of a writer like George Pelecanos, Cotto has delivered a book that rises above the simple tag of crime novel into a truly powerful and affecting read.

 I won’t dwell on the intricacies of the plot in the interests of keeping it fresh and surprising for you all, but needless to say it is beautifully weighted, with the alternating time frames of past and present, seamlessly melded into the overall story. As elements of our main protagonist Caesar’s former life are revealed, Cotto gradually unveils how the events of the past are so instrumental on Caesar’s actions and for his single-mindedness at righting past wrongs in the present, so the split timelines work well within the narrative.  All of Caesar’s central relationships in the book are dictated to by his highly attuned sense of morality, garnered by his formerly tumbleweed existence and the relationships encountered along the way, before his settling in a community wracked by racial tension and socio-economic problems. Cotto portrays this community and its underlying problems astutely, bringing Caesar into conflict or comradeship with his fellow inhabitants, as he takes on the problems of those around him and seeks to expose the corruption of others. In any of the passages relating to the neighbourhood itself there is a living and breathing vitality to Cotto’s description and the depiction of place and atmosphere is palpable throughout.

 Again, in terms of characterisation, Cotto hits the mark, displaying a natural ease in his portrayal of not only Caesar’s family, but the eclectic mix of people inhabiting Caesar’s neighbourhood and its multi-cultural make-up. All the frailties or false bravado of human nature are exposed throughout these characters and their interactions with Caesar, which again gives a vibrant sense of reality to these protagonists and the parts they play within the novel. This is predominantly where I think the novel rises above the crime novel tag, as this proficiency at characterisation seldom resonates so strongly in a run-of-the-mill thriller and in conjunction with Cotto’s use of powerful imagery in his depiction of place, sets this book apart. The sparseness of the prose and tight dialogue, where more often the power lies within what is unsaid than said, adds to the overall tension of the book as the plot unfolds.

 It probably goes without saying that I was highly impressed by ‘Outerborough Blues’ as it ticked many of the boxes that I look for in American crime writing and fiction. Being a fan of Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos and Walter Mosley, I would certainly label Andrew Cotto as a comparable read to these luminaries in terms of style, characterisation and its depiction of life in a tough neighbourhood, so what are you waiting for, go find…

 Visit the author’s website here: http://www.andrewcotto.com/

 Check out Andrew Cotto’s playlist for Outerborough Blues here: http://tinyurl.com/ckcrylw

Andrew Cotto is a writer and teacher who lives in Brooklyn, NY. He is the author of two novels: The Domino Effect is a coming-of-age story about a kid from Queens with a damaged past and a complicated present at a boarding school in rural New Jersey; Outerborough Blues: A Brooklyn Mystery is an unconventional noir about a drifter seeking a missing person and a remedy to his family’s curse in the dawn of urban gentrification. His novels are represented by Dunow, Carlson and Lerner Literary Agency. Andrew’s articles have appeared in many national journals, including the New York Times, Men’s Journal, Salon, the Good Men Project and Teachers & Writers Magazine. For the past six years, Andrew has taught composition courses and creative writing workshops in New York City. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School and a BA in Literature from Lynchburg College.

Outerborough Blues is available in paperback in the UK (Ig Publishing) and US and in Kindle format from Amazon.com.