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Raven Crime Reads

Criminally good reads…

Month

December 2013

Raven’s Top 5 Crime Reads 2013

After having reviewed 100+ books here at Raven Crime Reads during 2013, it has been no mean feat to whittle the list down to the customary Top 5 reads of the year. I have been transported across the globe, through many different timelines, with a whole array of interesting and unique detectives and criminals alike, with some great discoveries along the way.

Thanks to my many, many Raven Crime Reads visitors- I hope you have discovered some great books on your trips here this year!

I wonder what criminal delights next year will bring?

 There have been some truly great new authors making their debuts this year, and certainly here in the UK I would highlight Luke Delaney’s brilliant new series featuring DI Sean Corrigan, Cold Killing is the first, William Shaw’s Sixties inspired A Song From Dead Lips, Anya Lipska’s gripping Where The Devil Can’t Go, Luca Veste’s Dead Gone, and P.D. Viner’s utterly haunting The Last Winter of Dani Lancing. Also the second instalment of Malcolm Mackay’s superb Glasgow trilogy How A Gunman Says Goodbye, an equally strong follow-up to the much lauded The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter, and David Mark’s Original Skin, the second book featuring the eminently loveable detective, Aector McAvoy.

In a year of fantastic American fiction I was delighted to discover Charles Salzberg’s extremely well-controlled multiple voiced Devil In The Hole, Carla Norton’s affecting tale of life after abduction, The Edge of Normal , Suzanne Rindell’s Fitzgerald-inspired The Other Typist, and John Mantooth’s lyrical The Year of the Storm,  which all, metaphorically at least, blew my socks off!

There were European delights aplenty in the shape of Alexander Soderburg’s The Andalucian Friend, Steffen Jacobsen’s Camorra-inspired When The Dead Awaken, Massimo Carlotto’s At The End of a Dull Day, Mark O’Sullivan’s Crocodile Tears, and the breath taking Game Trilogy- Game, Buzz and Bubble– from Anders de la Motte, but I could go on..and on…and on…such was the quality of this year’s reading…

 The Top 5:

 5.

Ivy Pochoda weaves a multi-layered narrative, perfectly constructing the lives of this run-down Brooklyn community and the minutiae of their personal troubles. Each character is filled with a vibrancy and clarity of depiction, that truly reflects the socio-economic pressures of life within their community, be they a humble store owner, a struggling music teacher or a youth attempting to rebuild his life in the shadow of past sins. A compelling and beautifully written mystery that kept me hooked.

4. Ostland To simply label Ostland as a crime thriller would not only do a great disservice to the sheer power and scope of this novel, but would in turn devalue a book that truly encompasses the very best elements of both the crime and historical fiction genres. With its skilful melding of both the hunt for a serial killer and the unflinching depiction of the atrocities of The Final Solution, this is a novel that unerringly stimulates the thoughts and emotions of the reader, compounded by the harsh realities of human history that form its foundation. A mesmerising if unsettling read.

 3.The Killing PoolThe mean streets of Liverpool loom large in this, the first, of a projected series featuring Kevin Sampson’s newest creation DCI Billy McCartney- a veritable conundrum of a character that you are guaranteed to love or loathe in equal measure. Opening with the discovery of a mutilated body exhibiting all the hallmarks of a gangland hit, the reader is instantly transported into a dark and gritty read that makes you feel positively grubby, but in such a good way…

 2.

Every so often a crime thriller comes along that leaves you breathless and takes you on a disturbing journey into the darkest recesses of human experience- Alex is one such book and you are guaranteed a tale of the unexpected from start to finish. With its mesmerising female protagonist, and unique detective this is an absolute gem of a crime novel that is wonderfully dark, scary, mad, bad and dangerous to know, but just far too good to miss…

 1.From the first few pages, I was totally immersed in the life of Sheldon Horowitz, our curmudgeonly hero of the piece: a man haunted by the ghosts of his former life and coping with the daily frustrations of growing old. From the synopsis, it is impossible to harness all the themes and subtlety of prose that this book conveys to the reader. On one level, not only does the book contain all the quintessential elements of a Scandinavian crime novel, it also encompasses the Korean, Vietnam and Balkan conflicts, and on a more emotional level, presents a poignant and meditative examination of aging and regret, that unusually for this cynical reader, really touched me, engaging me even more with the characters and the multi-faceted plot. A book that still strays into my thoughts, and my pick of the year…

A Very Merry Christmas!

To all my blog visitors and crime fiction lovers around the globe.

Hope Santa brought some amazing crime reads to you!
Wishing you all a Happy Christmas and good wishes for 2014…
(Raven image by Cyra R. Cancel-www.ebsqart.com/)

Matthew Reilly- The Tournament

England, 1546. A young Princess Elizabeth is surrounded by uncertainty. She is not currently in line for the throne, but remains a threat to her older sister and brother. In the midst of this fevered atmosphere comes an unprecedented invitation from the Sultan in Constantinople. He seeks to assemble  the finest chess players from the whole civilised world and pit them against each other. Roger Ascham, Elizabeth’s teacher and mentor in the art of power and politics, is determined to keep her out of harm’s way and resolves to take Elizabeth with him when he travels to the glittering Ottoman capital for the tournament.But once there, the two find more danger than they left behind. There’s a killer on the loose and a Catholic cardinal has already been found mutilated. Ascham is asked by the Sultan to investigate the crime. But as he and Elizabeth delve deeper, they find dark secrets, horrible crimes and unheard-of depravity. Things that mark the young princess for life and define the queen she will become…

Sometimes all you need is an entertaining easy read, that amuses and compels you by turn, and I think that is what The Tournament achieves in spades! This is a romp in the truest sense of the word, with its easy style, interesting manipulations of historical figures, and more than a touch of sauce about it. Reilly creates an imaginary world filled with richness, colour and vitality, centring on a chess tournament held in the realm of Constantinople, and believe me, I saw the word ‘chess’ in the blurb and thought instant snooze-fest: how wrong I was…

Centring on the young Elizabeth I, when she was a mere stripling of a teenager and way down the pecking order for the throne, she is taken on an adventure to foreign climes by her personal tutor, the enigmatic and charming Roger Ascham. The two enter into the distinctly alien world of Constantinople, accompanying a Mr Giles who is to take part in a champion of champions chess tournament hosted by the Sultan himself with the tournament peopled by a series of very recognisable figures from history, imaginatively gathered by Reilly in this one locale. Yes, there is a little manipulation of historical fact to achieve this- so any history purists look away now- but with the natural wit and brilliant set-ups that Reilly injects into these strange meetings it proves enormous fun. And soon there is a murder. And then more murders, and Elizabeth and Ascham, displaying his innate ability at psychological profiling and crime solving, find themselves in peril- it’s a hoot and at times a very sexy hoot at that. I would say that this book comes with a high ‘raunch-warning’ as Elizabeth’s travelling companion, the comely Elsie, embraces all aspects of this rich and sensual world with alarming regularity and in some detail- so be warned!

But joking aside, this is, beyond the very fun nature of it, a well-crafted book and kept those pages-a-turning. I loved the characterisation of Elizabeth in particular, and the way Reilly manipulates certain situations, so that with the knowledge we have of her, we can see how these experiences could have influenced her monarchy and personal character- in particular to her being unmarried, a skilful political and military tactician, and her general demeanour as queen. Likewise, I felt Reilly really captured the loyalty and intelligence of Roger Ascham, so pivotal throughout Elizabeth’s life, and loved the easy relationship between them. The characterisation generally was top-notch and really brought the more well-known participants in the story to life. As much as I thought the ‘chess’ element would bore me to tears, it was actually quite interesting, with Reilly inserting, at well paced junctures, little vignettes of chess history, that worked really rather well, in tandem with quotes from some of the protagonists themselves. The atmosphere and portrayal of location was colourful and rich, completely capturing for me, the grandeur and moneyed opulence of the Sultan’s palace, but not shying away from the less savoury goings-on, particularly in relation to the Roman Catholic embassy set within the palace grounds. Some things never change it would seem…

So to sum up, what fun The Tournament is! I fair raced through this enjoyable historical romp, with all its quirks, bloody murder and a bit of sauce. There’s enough recognisable historical detail to please most readers, and what Reilly manipulates plays well along the way, heightening the reader’s enjoyment of the book. An engaging and racy read to offset those dark winter nights…

(The Tournament will be available on Kindle 2nd January 2014 and in hardback on January 30th 2014- published by Orion.)

Matthew Reilly wrote his first book, Contest, in 1994 whilst attending the University of New South Wales. It was rejected by every major publishing company. This caused Reilly to self-publish 1,000 copies using money borrowed from his family.  Reilly went to a bookstore in Sydney and asked if he could place the copies on one of their book shelves. They accepted the offer. Very shortly after, the books had sold out and the owner of the bookstore called Reilly to order more books. One copy was read by Pan Macmillan, who immediately signed Reilly up to write Ice Station, which became an international bestseller. Since then, he has been published in over fifteen countries, including Norway, Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, The Netherlands, South Africa, Japan and China. Reilly’s main influences include Michael Crichton, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and possibly Art Bell. www.matthewreilly.com/

(With thanks to Orion for the ARC)

Hugh Fleetwood- The Order of Death

Lieutenant Fred O’Connor of the NYPD Narcotics Bureau has a secret: an apartment on Central Park West, jointly purchased with ill-gotten gains by Fred and a corrupt fellow officer. The place is a refuge for Fred from a society he finds repellently ill-ordered. But his own equilibrium is disturbed, first by a series of brutal murders of his colleagues, then by the appearance at the apartment’s door of wan Leo Smith, who claims to be the cop-killer…

This little rediscovered classic from Faber’s imprint Faber Finds proved a real hit with me. Originally published in the 1970’s, Fleetwood produces an intense, violent yet ultimately satisfying criminal morality tale, that had this reader questioning the motivations of not only the central ‘criminal’ protagonist but also the loose relationship with morality displayed by the main police character.

Written in a spare and uncompromising style, The Order of Death, sees the seemingly upstanding police lieutenant Fred O’Connor, enjoying the fruits of his secretive embezzlement and ill-gotten gains accrued in his police career. His private world begins to unravel after a series of cop killings and the entry of the unstable Leo Smith into his life purporting to be the killer, and who threatens O’Connor’s career. What follows is a series of claustrophobic mise en scenes between the two, that unsettle the reader as O’Connor descends into depravity and murder to protect his reputation at the expense of this vulnerable young man. The whole crux of the tale revolves around a quote by Smith’s grandmother when she says, ” I think it is always difficult to know whether our fears and desires shape our moral choices, or whether our moral choices shape our fears and desires”. This is illustrated so clearly by the thoughts and actions of both O’Connor and Smith, whose actions become defined by their moral choices and what leads to them, which provides the reader throughout with shifting reactions to both and to a naturally thought provoking conclusion to the book, that leaves you still pondering the motivations of both men.

This is an intelligent and clever read that completely immerses the reader into the tale with its spare and beautifully dispassionate prose, playing with our own perception of morality and causing the shifting of allegiances throughout. It has an innate sadness when viewed as a whole, with more than a nod to the traditional tragedy style which could easily translate to the stage, although ostensibly will just labelled as a crime book. A powerful and emotive read.

Hugh Fleetwood, a novelist and painter, has published some twenty two books to date, including seventeen novels, four collections of short stories and a travel book about Mexico. Fleetwood won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for his second novel, The Girl Who Passed for Normal; The Order of Death, was filmed with Harvey Keitel and John Lydon (The US title of the movie was Corrupt)Fleetwood lived for many years in Italy, then returned to the UK, and for the last thirty years have been based in London. He has had exhibitions of  paintings in both Rome and London, and a selection of his work and publications can be seen on his website www.hughfleetwood.com

(With thanks to Faber & Faber for the ARC)

Mari Hannah- Monument To Murder

When skeletal remains are found beneath the fortified walls of an ancient castle on Northumberland’s rugged coastline, DCI Kate Daniels calls on a forensic anthropologist to help identify the corpse. Meanwhile, newly widowed prison psychologist Emily McCann finds herself drawn into the fantasy of convicted sex offender, Walter Fearon. As his mind games become more and more intense, is it possible that Daniels’ case has something to do with his murderous past? With his release imminent, what exactly does he have in mind for Emily? As Daniels encounters dead end after dead end and the body count rises, it soon becomes apparent that someone is hiding more than one deadly secret…

A series that is going from strength to strength continues apace with Monument To Murder, the fourth book of Mari Hannah’s police procedurals featuring DCI Kate Daniels and for my money this is the best of the four so far…

Opening with the discovery of two bodies in a cave on a windswept beach on the Northumberland coast, Daniels and her team find themselves isolated geographically and meteorologically  from the comfortable confines of their Newcastle base. As the weather closes in and the initially baffling investigation causes personal and professional issues for Kate and her team, Hannah keeps the reader in suspense consistently throughout. Add into the mix a connecting story of a female psychologist, Emily McCann, recently widowed, and finding herself receiving the unwelcome attentions of a twisted sex offender at the prison where she works, the two plotlines connect and flow in perfect synergy, which again adds to the overall enjoyment of the book.

Hannah’s writing exhibits its strength in predominantly two areas for me as a reader. First and foremost her characterisation of her main protagonist Daniels strikes a chord with the reader as she balances the demands of her job, the leadership of the team of police officers she oversees, and her unerring professionalism and empathy to those who find themselves the victims of crime. Admittedly, her personal life is still a little complicated in the wake of the break-up of her relationship, and the vestiges of attraction that ensure that sparks that still fly between herself and Jo, which adds to the emotional and almost personal feel of the book. Likewise, I liked the characterisation of Emily McCann, and thought that Hannah captured perfectly the feelings of despair after a personal bereavement and her journey back to life. McCann’s sadness is further compounded due to her fractured relationship with her daughter, and the very real demands of her employment in an overly masculine workplace- oh- and the positively weird attentions of the brilliantly creepy Walter Fearon.

The second stand out aspect for me personally of Hannah’s work, is the pitch perfect depiction of location, whether it be Newcastle- where Daniels’ team is normally based- or in this book, the wild and desolate beauty of the Northumberland coast, where the bodies are discovered. This is a part of the UK I am very familiar with, and as Daniels and her team attend the crime scene I could remember the feel of the biting wind, and hear and smell the pounding sea along this barren shore, through Hannah’s painstakingly accurate description of one of the most beautiful coastlines in Britain. The discovery of the bodies on this barren stretch of beach in the shadow of Bamburgh Castle and in sight of Holy Island, is a gem of a location for a crime scene, fuelling the very sinister feel of the whole investigation, and adding to the overall enjoyment of this thoroughly enthralling book. A book not to be missed.

Mari Hannah was born in London and moved north as a child. Sponsored by the Home Office, she graduated from Teesside University before becoming a Probation Officer, a career cut short when she was injured while on duty. Thereafter, she spent several years working as a film/television scriptwriter. During that time she created and developed a number of projects, most notably a feature length film and the pilot episode of a crime series for television based on the characters in her book, the latter as part of a BBC drama development scheme. She lives in Northumberland with her partner, an ex-murder detective. In 2010, she won the Northern Writers’ Award. Monument to Murder is her fourth novel: www.marihannah.com/

(With thanks to Macmillan for the ARC)

LUCA VESTE BLOG TOUR- DEAD GONE- EXTRACT AND REVIEW

Dead GoneThe young girl you have found isn’t the first experiment I’ve carried out. She won’t be the last. A serial killer is stalking the streets of Liverpool, gruesomely murdering victims as part of a series of infamous unethical and deadly psychological experiments. When it becomes apparent that each victim has ties to the City of Liverpool University, DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi realise they’re chasing a killer unlike any they’ve hunted before – one who doesn’t just want his victims’ bodies, but wants their minds too.

So here we are on day three of the blog tour to celebrate the release of Luca Veste’s debut crime novel Dead Gone in e-book, and a cracking good debut it is too. With a solid recommendation from Mark Billingham resplendent on the jacket, I can only echo his words as Veste being a writer to watch, as this debut kept me hooked throughout and I loved the way Veste so neatly draws on his Liverpudlian and Italian roots, both in terms of the setting of the book and in the characterisation of his protagonists. With an assured touch, the reader is quickly immersed in a tautly plotted and psychologically dark tale of missing girls and a slippery killer that plumbs the depths of the psychotic mind, against the backdrop of academia. In much the same way as David Mark depicts Hull and Craig Robertson, Glasgow, Veste presents the reader with a vivid portrait of Liverpool- both good and bad- with the affections and frustrations of his home town presented in equal measure through the eyes and natural humour of his police characters, DI David Murphy and the feisty DS Laura Rossi. I think it’s worth saying at this point, that they make one hell of a team, and I found both characters extremely believable and loved the interplay between them- a partnership that has the propensity to run and run in future investigations I hope. So don’t just take my word for it and have a read of the extract below- I’m sure this will soon be winging its way to your e-reader now or check out for the paperback release in January. A great debut- more please!

LUCA VESTE- DEAD GONE

PART ONE

Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.

Isaac Asimov

We are taught from an early age to fear death, that unknowable force we are all moving towards, simply by existing. However, this aspect of human life is not one discussed easily amongst those in western society. Death is not an easy topic to discuss openly, without the fear of perhaps upsetting or insulting. This one aspect that binds us all together, touches us all, irrespective of race, gender, or orientation; the one thing we all have in common, yet so often it is considered a ‘dark’ subject. Talking about one’s own mortality is considered morbid and morose.

One truth remains however. We all die. Every single living organism experiences death. Indeed, according to Dr. Sigmund Freud, ‘It is the aim of all life.’ We live to die. Homo sapiens as a species have shown great technological advances over the past few centuries. Yet one thing we have not, and will arguably never achieve, is to create a way of dealing with death in a uniform manner as a population. We grieve differently, we die differently. Death touches us all. Should we fear death, try to actively repel it, through attempts to prolong our lives? If technology moved to such a point that death could be avoided, endless life became a possibility, would we ever be able to really live? Without being able to investigate death and the repercussions for the deceased, is it possible to study death in any meaningful way, without being able to experience it? Taken from ‘Life, Death, and Grief’, published in Psychological Society Review, 2008, issue 72.

Experiment Two

She hadn’t been afraid of the dark.

Not before. Not before it entered her life without her knowing, enveloping her like a second skin, becoming a part of her. She hadn’t been claustrophobic, petrified the walls were closing in around her. Crushed to death without knowing they’d even moved. Not scared of things that crawled around her toes. Wasn’t afraid to sit alone in a darkened room and wonder if something was touching her face, or if it was just her imagination. Nope. She wasn’t scared before. She was now. It took time to become afraid of those things, and time was all she had, stretching out in front of her without end. She blamed herself. Blamed her friends. Blamed him. She shouldn’t be there, and someone was to blame for that. Had to be. She’d become a responsible adult. The right thing, supposedly. Gone were the days she’d spent going into town, two, sometimes three times a week. Karaoke on a Friday, pulling on a Saturday ‒ if there were any decent lads out ‒ quiet one on a Sunday. Now she was always the first one to leave, early on in the night, when everyone else was just getting started. She didn’t like the feeling of being drunk. That loss of control, of sensibility. She’d been hungover so many times. She’d decided it wasn’t what responsible adults did. Her mum had drummed that into her one night, holding back her hair as two bottles of white wine and god knows how many vodka and lemonades decided they wanted out. She’d rather be at home now, watching TV after a day’s work, especially if it meant he was sitting close to her. She didn’t even mind that he always had the laptop on, playing that stupid football management game. Just being there with him was enough. She still enjoyed a drink at the end of a work day, a glass of wine with a meal and the occasional full bottle at the weekend. But the binging had stopped. That was for certain. When a Cheeky Vimto cocktail had been forced into her hand by one of the girls who told her she’d love it she didn’t say no.  Port and WKD. Who thought of these things? She didn’t care. It tasted bloody great. One more led to four more, and before she knew it, she was in an eighties-themed nightclub, dancing her heart out to Chesney Hawkes. Two a.m. hit, and she was saying her goodbyes. She loved them all. Her girls. Always left wondering why they didn’t see her more often. ‘Don’t go yet, we’ll all share a taxi later. Club doesn’t shut for another hour.’ ‘It’s alright, I’ll be fine. I’m knackered, want my bed. Need to get back … No, it’s okay I’ll walk up to the tunnel stretch by the museum if I can’t get one.’ Voice going hoarse from shouting over the music. Promises to do it all again soon. To give them a text when she’d arrived home. Finally she was out of the club, the bouncer helping her down the final step. Fresh air hit her, along with the realisation she was as drunk as she’d been in a long time. She began searching through her handbag for her phone, eventually finding it in the same pocket it was always in, wanting to call a taxi to pick her up. ‘For fuck’s sake.’ Too loud. Not in the club any longer, but her voice hadn’t caught onto that fact yet. A couple stared as they passed by, as she continued her argument with the stupid battery-sucking smart phone. The decision to wear comfortable shoes becoming the best idea she’d ever had. She set off for the taxi ranks at the end of Matthew Street, hoping it wouldn’t be too long a wait. She walked past the old Cavern Club, the sound of some shitty band murdering old hits wafting out of the doors, as a few tourists spilled out onto the street. She couldn’t find a taxi, queues of people down North John Street. She walked away from the lights of the clubs in the city centre, hoping to get one coming out of the tunnel. When she was younger it had been easier, as there was always enough of them to be safe getting the night bus home. Now she had money in her pocket she wouldn’t have to sit on a full bus, the stink of kebabs and vodka shots seeping into her clothes. The lads who were either squaring up to each other, or trying it on with any girl with a pulse. No thank you, she could pay the eight quid and get home without any of that. She stood on the corner near the museum, waiting for a hackney with its light on to pass her. She wrapped her arms around herself, cold air beginning to bite as she stopped walking and leant against the St John’s Gardens wall, the museum over to her right. The entrance and exit to Birkenhead tunnel directly opposite her. Swaying to silent music. She was cold, wishing she’d picked a warmer coat when she’d left the house earlier. She’d picked the right shoes, that was supposed to be enough. Ten minutes went by, then fifteen, before a hackney finally came towards her, slowing down before passing her. ‘Hey!’ It went up towards town, then did a U-turn and headed back her way, coming to a stop in front of her. She opened the door, barely registering the driver at all, just shouted her address at him, and settled back in the seat. She was glad to be in the warmth of the car. As they drove through the city centre, she began to feel just a little uncomfortable, the driver looking straight ahead, barely acknowledging her presence. He’d not said a word since she’d entered. Must be one of the new foreign drivers that were coming over from Eastern Europe or wherever. Her mum would know. She should ring her mum tomorrow, she thought. She hadn’t been in touch much lately, and she wanted to catch up. She yawned a few times in succession, the blurred buildings going past becoming hypnotic as the cab wound its way out of the city centre towards home. She battled her tiredness and lost, as her eyes closed and stayed that way. That was her mistake. She woke when the cab came to a stop and looked up to see the driver getting out of the cab. Through bleary eyes, confused by the sudden absence of movement, she sat fully upright. ‘I’m awake, it’s okay,’ she called out, but he was already walking around the cab, past her door and out of her sight. Panic didn’t set in straight away. Confusion was first. ‘Where are we?’ The windows inside had misted over, and she swiped her hand over the pane. To one side she saw trees lining a gravel driveway. She tried opening the door, but the handle wouldn’t budge. She moved across the seat, and tried that door handle. Same result. She swiped her hand over the window again, seeing a house to the other side. A strange house. Not her house. Oh shit, not her house. ‘What’s going on?’ She could hear the man’s shoes crunching through the gravel behind the car and then her window darkened. She jumped in her seat. He was crouched level with the window, his face obscured by a black balaclava. Panic started then. His voice came through the window. Slow, precise. ‘We’re in the middle of nowhere. So if you scream, no one will hear you. More importantly, if you do scream, I’m going to break the fingers on your right hand. Scream again, and I’ll cut them off. You understand me?’ There was no trace of an accent, yet there was something odd about his voice. She started to move across the back seat to the opposite door. Adrenaline kicked in. The need to get away, to get out of there, overtaking everything else. He was quicker though. The door opened behind her and a hand grabbed her by the shoulder. He was strong. Fight back, fight for her life, fight back. Without screaming. She used her fists against the opposite window, pulling on the door handle with all her weight, as the man attempted to drag her out. He got a firm grip of her dress, and placed his arm around her neck, turning her around. She kicked out at him, but felt herself being lifted from the car. He dragged her all the way inside the house, his grip around her throat choking the air out of her lungs. Her eyes drifted downwards and then around. Stone steps with marble pillars to the sides marked the entrance, but she had no time to look at them as she was pulled along a darkened corridor. She needed to breathe properly. Watched as one of her comfortable shoes slipped off and became lost in the darkness. She kicked at the ground, scratched at his arm, used her fingers to try and prise her way out of his hands, but nothing worked. She was being dragged along on her heels. He stopped, shifted his grip so she was now in a headlock. She could breathe a little. They went through an opening, before she bounced downwards. A staircase, she guessed. She couldn’t tell. It was too dark. They came to a stop. He took his arm from around her head, and before she had a chance to move, he pushed her with two hands. She fell backwards, landing hard. She heard, rather than saw a door close. She sprang up, the pain from the fall lost in the midst of heavy breathing and adrenaline. ‘Let me out of here you bastard! Open this door, open it now.’ She was in darkness and grasped at the door, trying to find a handle or anything that would open the door. She used her fists, banging on the door with all her strength. ‘Please, don’t leave me here.’ She continued to bang on the door until her hand started to ache. She switched hands. It came then. A voice through the walls, an audible static over it. She stopped, cocking her head to listen. ‘You will be fed. You will have water. There is a hatch opening on the door which can only be opened from the outside, through which this will be provided. On some days your food will have an extra ingredient, in order for me to clean up. You will not know when this is. If you’re good, I won’t have to kill you.’ The voice was silent then. She stood still, straining to hear any other noise, backing away from the door carefully. She put her hands out in front of her, her eyes trying to adjust. There was no sound, other than her own breathing, panting in and out. She spread her arms around, jumping a little as her hand brushed against a flat surface. She took a large breath in, struggling to keep the panic in. She couldn’t see the walls around her, yet she could already feel them. Closing in on her. She was alone, in the darkness.

Chapter One

Sunday 27th January 2013 – Day One

Frosty, brisk air swirled around Sefton Park and its surrounding area, the early morning mist only just beginning to lift above the tree line. Detached houses, set back from the main road, lined the street on one side, where flashing lights from multiple vehicles had drawn out bleary eyed gawkers. They stood on the pavements shifting on cold feet in the early morning light. Mostly, they wouldn’t say two words to each other, but the early morning excitement had driven them out, even caused conversation to break out. At one time the houses had contained whole families, now most were converted apartments, selling for six-figure sums. Detective Inspector David Murphy turned his attention back to the park over the road; not your small, family friendly, swings and slide type of park. Instead, acres of greenery, beautiful old trees, and enough space to see something new each time you walk through there. And the odd dead body turning up unannounced. It was usually suicides.Hanging from a tree or a bunch of pills in the middle of a field. Hoping no one finds them before they go. But at times it was something else. He saw the lights in the distance. Blue, red, shifting from left to right. The constant pattern having a seemingly hypnotic effect on those straining to see further into the park beyond. Murphy was sitting in his car, the engine settling as he summoned up the energy to get out and make his way over. The lights of the marked cars parked in front of his Citroen reflected off the dark interior inside, a strobe effect bouncing off the dashboard. Murphy shook his seatbelt off and leaned forward, attempting to see past the lights and people milling around the park. He slumped back in the seat when it became clear he wouldn’t see anything. He scratched his beard, the trim he’d performed the previous night giving it a coiffed edge, which he decided said ‘distinguished’ rather than ‘hiding a double chin’. He stifled a yawn and opened the car door, stretching his long legs out, the tight feeling in his calves telling him he’d maybe overdone it on the cross trainer the previous evening, trying to shift those last few pounds of weight. He’d been awake no more than fifteen minutes when his DCI had called. That made it less than an hour into the day for him, and he was walking towards the body of a dead girl. Not how Murphy usually liked to start off a day…especially a Sunday. A phone call from work before he’d even had chance to drink his coffee. Have a slice of toast. Put a fresh suit on. Death could be incredibly selfish. ‘Murphy,’ he’d answered once he’d finally located the phone hiding in his jeans pocket on the bedroom floor. Stabbed at the screen, trying to answer the stupid thing. ‘David?’ Murphy’s shoulders slumped. DCI Stephens. Which, outside of normal hours, usually signified nothing good. ‘What’s happened?’ ‘A body. Suspicious circumstances. Found in Sefton Park.’ ‘Shit. Bad?’ ‘Not sure of all the details at the moment.’ ‘I’m wanted?’ ‘Why else would I be calling you David? I’m not your bloody alarm clock.’ ‘It’s been a while, that’s all. Was starting to wonder if I’d be stuck on break-ins for another six months.’ ‘Well you’ve got something else now.’ ‘Who’s with me?’ ‘Rossi or Tony Brannon. Your decision.’ ‘Great. Not exactly Sophie’s fucking Choice.’ ‘Language. Weren’t you taught never to swear in front of a lady? And anyway, beggars can’t be choosers. How long until you can get down there?’ Murphy crooked his phone between his shoulder and ear. Grabbed his trousers from where they had been lying next to his jeans. ‘Which end?’ ‘Which end of what?’ ‘The park.’ Jesus wept. ‘Oh, Aigburth Drive. Just look for the lights. Sounds like half the bloody force is there.’ Murphy zipped up his trousers and gave the previous day’s shirt a sniff. ‘I’ll be there in twenty minutes.’ He left the house five minutes later reversing out the driveway, and onto the road. Decided twenty minutes was probably a little optimistic. It’d probably be double that this time of the morning, even without the usual weekday traffic through the tunnel. He shook his head, tugged on his bottom lip with his teeth, and turned right out of the small winding road which surrounded the small estate, lamenting the fact he was already going to be playing catch up when he got there. The commute may have been bad, but at least it gave him a chance to wake up. Within five minutes he was on the motorway heading for the Wallasey tunnel, which separated the Wirral and Liverpool. The Wirral is a small peninsula, only separated from Liverpool by the River Mersey, and connected by a mile-long tunnel underneath the seabed. The Wirral hadn’t always been home. In fact, he’d only been able to call it that for the previous few months. The differences between the two places was closing in recent years. The Wirral was historically known as simultaneously living in Liverpool’s shadow, whilst also enjoying much more wealth than most of Liverpool. These days, the link was closer. Whilst the wealth was still strong in the west of the Wirral, with the likes of West Kirby and Heswall, the destruction of the shipping trade at Cammell Laird’s on the east side meant that the Wirral now had its own pockets of deprivation. Even the kids spoke in a Scouse accent these days, albeit a bastardised version of it. Murphy was comfortable living there, even if the subtle differences became more apparent every day, needling at him. He loved the city of Liverpool. The people, the buildings, the history. He just needed to time away. Working there was enough for now. He used his fast tag when he arrived at the Wallasey tunnel booths, and broke the forty mile an hour limit going under the River Mersey, but it was still forty minutes after the phone call by the time he’d pulled the car to a stop. He walked out into the damp and cold January morning, zipping his coat up as he walked towards the railings which lined the path, hastily strung-up crime scene tape strewn across them. The wide main road was shadowed by high trees on both sides, which masked most of the view. A couple of uniforms stood guard at the park entrance ‒ a quick flash of his warrant card and he was able to pass through. He could see the hive of activity a couple of hundred yards or so up ahead, near a stone path which cut through the grass on either side, leading from the entrance into the distance. The main activity seemed to be concentrated on a grass verge which went up into the treeline. Murphy dropped his head as the wind picked up, and began walking towards it. ‘Sir!’ Detective Constable Laura Rossi, second generation Italian. Five and a half foot tall, dark long hair. Strong looking, from the broad shoulders which made her look stocky, to the roman nose which complimented her features. Most of the single, and quite a few of the married, lads at the station had tried and failed with her. Murphy wasn’t one of them. She came bounding towards Murphy and brushed her hair away from her face, tucking strands behind her ear. ‘You all right?’ ‘What have we got?’ Murphy said as she reached him. ‘Morning to you too sir.’ Murphy looked down at her, Rossi being at least eight inches smaller, and about half his weight. He smiled as she looked up to him, before realising where they were and adopting a stoic face once more. He was glad she was there. In a weird way, and completely without context given he had no kids of his own, he wanted to look after her; be a father figure of some sort. She was inexperienced, he supposed. Needed some guidance. Which, if this was a bona fide murder case, he could definitely do without. Especially considering his last effort. ‘Let’s get on with it. And stop calling me sir, how many times do I have to tell you.’ ‘Course. Sorry sir. Young female, found by a corpse sniffer around six a.m. Fully clothed. Nothing around the body, just laid out beneath a tree.’ Murphy looked around and spotted the man she was referring to, talking to some uniforms. An older guy, probably in his mid-sixties, his dog sitting next to him, silent on his lead. ‘He have anything to say?’ Murphy said. ‘Not much, dog ran off into the trees, he went looking for it and found the girl.’ ‘Is nobhead here?’ Rossi looked confused. ‘Who’s a nobhead?’ Murphy smiled, still finding it amusing that the Scouse accent didn’t match the Mediterranean looks. ‘Brannon. Is he around?’ Rossi attempted to hold back a laugh behind a hand. Murphy noticed her fingernails, bitten down rather than manicured. ‘Yeah, he’s off on the hunt for clues. His words, not mine.’ ‘Good.’ Murphy replied. ‘Fat bastard could do with some exercise. SOCOs here yet?’ ‘About twenty minutes before you.’ ‘Any other witnesses?’ ‘Not at the moment.’ ‘Okay. You looked at the body yet?’ Rossi shook her head. ‘Well then. Let’s not keep her waiting.’ Murphy snapped on his gloves, extra-large, and began walking towards the scene. He could see the Palm House, a large dome building which was the centrepiece of the park, in the distance, past the trees. The great glass windows which gave it the appearance of a huge greenhouse looked dull and lifeless in the muggy morning light. Murphy and Rossi entered the tent which was being erected around the body. The treeline was thicker there, the ground, still not completely unfrozen from the previous harsh winter, crunching underneath his feet. The click and whirr of photographs being taken was the only soundtrack to the scene. Murphy let his eyes be drawn to the girl. Early twenties he figured. Plain looking, dressed conservatively in black trousers and a red v-necked jumper. One earring, which meant either one was missing or was now a souvenir. His money, as always, was on the latter. Always to the morbid thought first. To be fair, he was usually right. Murphy side-stepped around the edge, carefully avoiding anything that looked important, and stood at the foot of the body, taking it in. She had the distinctive pallor of the dead; pale, the colour drained out of her as the blood stopped flowing. The clothes looked new, unworn, the creases on the jumper looking like they were from packaging, rather than wear. She was spread-eagled, her arms outstretched in a V, her legs doing the same. Carefully placed in the position. It looked unnatural, posed, which was probably the intention, Murphy thought. Her face was what drew his gaze. Half-lidded eyes, staring right through him. Blue, glazed, the last image they’d captured that of whoever had left her here. Her mouth was slightly parted, the top row of her teeth on show in a final grimace. Ugly, red marks over her bare neck. Dr Stuart Houghton, Stu to his friends, was crouched next to the girl. He’d been the lead pathologist in the city for as long as Murphy had been working. His grey hair was thinning, his posture looking soft as he stood up from his haunches. His short, squat stature only enhanced by the ever-growing paunch he was cultivating around his middle. He turned to look at Murphy. ‘Dr Houghton, what have we got?’ ‘Took your time Dave.’ Murphy shot his hands to his mouth. ‘Calling me Dave when you know I don’t like it? You never fail to shock. And it was only because I knew you’d be here already. What can you tell me?’ ‘Are you running this one?’ Houghton said. Murphy gazed at the pathologist and shrugged his shoulders. ‘I just do as I’m told.’ Houghton pursed his lips at him. ‘Well then, can’t tell you much at the moment,’ he said, gesturing towards the young woman. ‘This is how she was found, her arms and legs outstretched like she’s doing a star jump, only lying down. There’s no evidence around the body as far as we can tell so far, and she’s been dead around twelve hours. No ID, handbag, purse, nothing. Other than that you’ll have to wait for the post mortem for me to tell you more. We’re moving her out now.’ ‘Why suspicious then?’ Murphy asked, knowing the answer but wanting to piss off the doc a little more. Houghton muttered something under his breath before continuing. ‘ As you can no doubt already see, there’s bruises around her neck which indicate asphyxiation. First paramedic on the scene noticed them, and, in my opinion correctly, assumed it was better to call in the big boys.’ Murphy looked closer at the girl. Large bruises under her chin, turning darker as time moved on.  A large birthmark, or mole, the colour of strong coffee on the lower left side of her neck. ‘Did she die here?’ ‘Not certain yet, but I’m almost positive she wasn’t. No signs of struggle around the area. The grass is flattened only in the immediate vicinity of the body.’ ‘Any other distinguishing features aside from the mole, I need to know about straight away. And let us know when the post mortem is.’ Houghton nodded, and went back to work. Murphy left the tent, Rossi trailing behind him. ‘We’ll take a statement from the witness and then we should try and find out who she is.’ Rossi nodded and set off towards the witness. Murphy began the process of removing his gloves and looking around the area, seeing a few familiar faces from older crime scenes about the place. He nodded and exchanged greetings with some of them. No one stopped to talk to him. He wasn’t surprised. He gave one last look at the finished tent, the uniforms walking around the area, looking under the bushes and scouring the ground. Back to it.

Chapter Two

Sunday 27th January 2013 – Day One

‘This is Eddie Bishop,’ Rossi said as she led the dog walker towards Murphy. He was a grey-haired man with a stooped posture, a little Jack Russell padding alongside him. Yellow, stained teeth grimaced back at Murphy, the man’s wrinkled hands gripping the lead tighter, as he kept the dog close by. ‘Just a couple of questions, Mr Bishop.’ ‘Eddie is fine.’ ‘Okay Eddie.’ Murphy replied, noting the softness of the infamous Scouse accent. Softness which you only really heard from the older inhabitants of the city nowadays. ‘Do you walk this way often?’ he continued. ‘Twice a day, first thing in the morning, again in the evening.’ Murphy watched as Rossi wrote down the conversation in her notepad. ‘And the dog found the victim.’ Eddie’s face grew serious as he explained how he’d found the dog stood over the young woman. ‘Terrible shame. Will take me a long time to get over this, I’ll tell you that for nothing.’ ‘And you didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary this morning. Anything at all?’ Murphy asked. Eddie shook his head. ‘Same as always, just me and Floyd.’ he replied, gesturing at the dog. Murphy finished up with Eddie, explaining the need for a formal statement and promising to keep him informed, knowing that would be highly unlikely. ‘Anything else?’ Murphy asked Rossi, as she finished writing the conversation down in her notepad. ‘There’s someone who keeps telling uniforms at the gate that he heard something. Might be an idea to check that out.’ ‘Okay. We’ll do that now.’ Murphy stopped to take in the place. The park was big enough to get lost in, vast areas of green and small wooded areas surrounding it. ‘In the dark, you could become invisible in a place like this,’ Murphy said to Rossi as they neared the gates. ‘True. Perfect places for this type of thing. In and out, probably without being seen in the early hours,’ Rossi replied, stepping underneath the crime scene tape. ‘I’ll be coming to interview this witness with you, yeah? I mean, I guess I’m getting to partner up with you on this one?’ Murphy paused. ‘Let me see. We’ve worked together on and off for about two years, right?’ Rossi nodded her head up and down slowly. ‘Ever known me to choose to work with Brannon?’ She smiled and mocked a salute. ‘I’ll just go and get a new notepad from the car.’ Murphy watched as she walked towards her car parked over the road, her posture straight and assured. The trouser suit looked new. ‘Sir. Sir!’ Murphy stopped and turned. Sighed for effect. ‘What do you want Brannon?’ DS Brannon stopped jogging and bent down with his hands on his knees, panting. ‘I … sorry …’ He brought himself up again. ‘I just wondered if there was anything I can do?’ ‘Haven’t you already got something to do?’ ‘I just thought you might have something more interesting. I’m being wasted walking around looking through the mud.’ ‘Rossi is assisting me on this one Brannon. Maybe next time. For now, I want witness statements from everyone who lives in these houses which face the park entrance. Start organising it.’ ‘But …’ Murphy smiled inwardly and turned back towards the road outside the park. Brannon wasn’t all that bad really. He was annoying rather than incompetent. He wasn’t even all that fat, but first impressions stick. The uniforms were already being harassed by local residents eager to discover what was occurring near their homes. Murphy pushed through, ignoring the questions being directed towards him from a particular wild-haired older man, adorned only in a dressing gown and slippers. Murphy took the uniformed constable who’d been trying to placate the man to one side. ‘Which one says he heard something?’ ‘The loud-mouthed one.’ Typical, Murphy thought. ‘Okay, where does he live?’ The constable pointed to his house, which was exactly opposite the entrance. ‘Take him back in. We’ll be there in a minute.’ The first thought that struck Murphy as they approached the house, was that it seemed a little big for just one man. As he entered, the second thought was that it wasn’t big enough for one man and the amount of stuff he seemed to own. Newspapers were stacked up along the hallway in bundles, at least four feet in height, held together with what looked like old twine. A staircase with no carpet ran up the other side, which was similarly stacked with paper, but magazines instead of newspapers. As Murphy walked towards the first door which led off the hallway, he became aware of a sour milk smell which assailed his nostrils, making him thankful for the lack of breakfast that morning. Rossi was a few steps behind him. Murphy turned to see if it had reached her yet. From the look on her face, he knew it had. ‘In and out?’ ‘Definitely, or I’m going now.’ Rossi replied, covering her mouth with her hand. They turned into a large living room, Rossi almost bumping into the back of Murphy as he stopped in his tracks. ‘Jesus.’ The room was full. The only visible space to stand was that which Murphy was occupying. Small portable televisions teetered precariously on top of microwaves with missing doors. Stacks of crockery were piled onto an old mantelpiece a door missing its glass leaning against it. It was the world’s biggest game of Jenga, only using household goods instead of wooden bricks. ‘Who’s there?’ The voice seemed to come from within the mass of what Murphy could only think of as every item a person could acquire in their life, without ever throwing anything away. ‘Hello? I’m Detective Inspector Murphy, this is Detective Constable Rossi.’ Murphy turned to introduce Rossi, but there was an empty space behind him. Great. ‘I have a lot of work to do. Are you going to get on with it?’ Murphy ducked a little, trying to find the source of the voice. He saw a flash of brown through a small gap in the structure. ‘Can you tell me your name?’ A loud sigh. ‘Arthur Reeves.’ ‘Right. And you live here alone?’ ‘Do you see anyone else here?’ ‘I can’t even see you Mr Reeves.’ A small chuckle. ‘I guess that’s right. Let’s cut to the chase. I heard a car last night. It kept going up and down the road, disturbed my sleep. I got up out of bed and looked out the window. I couldn’t see very well, there’s not many streetlights up this way. It stopped at the entrance to the park. I assumed they’d been trying to find a parking space. Then it drove on again, right into the park.’ Murphy stood back up. ‘Did you see notice anything about the car? Colour, model, reg plate?’ ‘Not really. It was dark, as I said. Could have been dark blue, or dark red. Looked like a normal car. Or a van. A small van.’ ‘Okay. And what time was this?’ ‘About four a.m. I think. Maybe five or three, or in between. I thought it might be important, considering.’ Not exactly the early break Murphy had been looking for. ‘Anything else?’ ‘Sorry. I went back to bed. It wasn’t until I saw all the police cars turn up that I even gave it a second thought.’ ‘Well, thank you Mr Reeves,’ Murphy said, patting his thigh, ‘that’s a great help.’ ‘Is that it?’ ‘Yeah. An officer will come and take a formal statement soon. But for now, you can get back to work.’ Murphy turned out of the room, almost coming face to face with Rossi. ‘There you are.’ ‘Found the smell.’ Rossi whispered. ‘In the kitchen. There’s about two thousand empty milk bottles in there. Estimating of course. Think he got bored of rinsing them out.’ ‘Let’s get out of here.’ They left the house, Murphy filling Rossi in on his conversation. ‘What was his deal do you reckon?’ he said as he finished. ‘One of those hoarders I think. We should call environmental health. Can’t be safe living like that.’ Murphy murmured an agreement. ‘Nearest CCTV to here?’ ‘At the top junction which leads onto Ullet Road. Almost a mile up the road. Will get onto that.’ ‘What about from the other end?’ Rossi clicked her tongue. ‘A lot of roads up that way. If our guy came from there, it could be any number of places. All CCTV in the area then?’ Murphy nodded. ‘Best to check everything.’ ‘What now?’ They’d reached the entrance to the park again. The early morning mist had cleared, winter sun threatening to break through the remaining clouds. Murphy could still see faint traces of breath as he exhaled. ‘We need to find out who she is. Back to the station, check the system for any missing persons who match the description.’ ‘Okay, will meet you there’ Murphy reversed around a corner of a small cul de sac, and pointed the car back towards the station. Sefton Park is about four miles out of the centre of Liverpool, away from the hustle of town, into a leafier suburb. Once Murphy had turned into Ullet Road and then further onto the A roads which led towards the station, the contrast was complete. Half completed buildings appeared in the distance, scaffolding and cranes became the landscape. The River Mersey was off to his left, but was masked by warehouses and housing estates. Toxteth on the opposite side, still struggling to recover from the events of twenty years earlier. A city of contrast. Light and dark. Rich footballers and child poverty. Derelict housing and glass-fronted office buildings. Murphy lived it all. Took it all home with him, and attempted to make sense of it. How one city could have so many nuances to the lives of its inhabitants. Then he’d realise that every major city has the same issues. Feel slightly better about it all. It wasn’t just Liverpool, they weren’t a special case. Then he’d wake up and begin a murder investigation of a young woman, and the old feelings of resignation returned. A thread in the tapestry of his life coming loose. Frayed and torn. Threatening to be destroyed completely. A feeling in the pit of his stomach. Not a nervous feeling, something a little different. Something harder to ignore. Fear. Luca Veste is a writer of Italian and Scouse heritage, married with two young daughters, and one of nine children. He is currently studying psychology and criminology at University in Liverpool.  He is also the editor of the Spinetingler Award nominated charity anthology ‘Off The Record’, and co-editor of ‘True Brit Grit’, also an anthology of short stories for charity. A former civil servant, actor, singer and guitarist (although he still picks it up now and again), he now divides his time between home life, Uni work and writing. Visit his website http://lucaveste.com/ and follow on Twitter @lucaveste

November Round-Up and Raven’s Book of the Month

Seem to have taken my foot off the gas slightly in November with only half my average number of reviews *hangs head in shame*, but what I lacked in quantity this month is made up for by quality. Phew, think I got away with that- and I will endeavour to bring you as many reviews as possible in December which will be a busy month for me in my ‘proper job’!

Obviously November and December are extremely busy for those of us employed in bookshops, so on that note, I would send all my best wishes to all the dedicated bookstore employees around the world whose important job it is to put the perfect book, in the right hands, for the right person, which is so crucial to not only our customers, but to the long term survival of our beloved bookstores. Hope all you booksellers have an enjoyable and profitable run-up to the big day, and everyone else remember- there is no better present than a book…

Books reviewed on Raven Crime Reads

A globe-trotting selection this month from London, Liverpool and Manchester to Ireland via Washington, Los Angeles and Sicily. An incredibly different mix of styles and genres that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this month…

Roger A. Price- By Their Rules

George Pelecanos– The Double (Spero Lucas 2)

Brian McGilloway- Hurt ( DS Lucy Black 2)

Andrea Camilleri- The Treasure Hunt (Inspector Montalbano 16)

Ed Chatterton– Down Among The Dead Men (DI Frank Keane 2)

Anthony Quinn– Border Angels

I also read:

Cold CouragePekka Hiltunen- Cold Courage-A young woman has been gruesomely killed, her body abandoned in a car boot in the middle of London as a warning to others. The police have no leads and no clues as to the identity of the victim.
It seems that Lia is the only one who refuses to let the murderer go unpunished.A chance encounter with the mysterious Mari gives Lia fresh hope. But just who is she? Can Lia trust her? Can Lia afford not to trust her?

A very engaging thriller as a young Finnish woman Lia, finds herself involved with a secret investigative organisation known as The Studio, spearheaded by the marvellously intriguing fellow Finn Mari. Mari, and her small band of seeming misfits, who all bring their special skills to investigating murder and corruption below the radar of the established forces of law and order, put me very much in mind of the protagonists in Arne Dahl’s Intercrime series, who all struggle with the accepted behaviours of normal life, but who are all extremely skilled in their professional lives and the seeking of justice. With its strong characterisation and gripping storyline, this is another welcome addition to the Scandinavian crime stable, and a great recommendation for fans of this genre. A good read.

And, I will mention this one, although not a crime book, as it’s more than worth bringing to everyone’s attention….

Product DetailsNick Cole- The Waste Land SagaForty years after the destruction of civilization…Man is reduced to salvaging the ruins of a broken world. One man’s most prized possession is Hemingway’s classic ‘The Old Man and the Sea.’ With the words of the novel echoing across the wasteland, a survivor of the Nuclear Holocaust journeys into the unknown to break a curse. What follows is an incredible tale of survival and endurance. One man must survive the desert wilderness and mankind gone savage to discover the truth of Hemingway’s classic tale of man versus nature.

I originally read the first of this trilogy, The Old Man and The Waste Land, as a Kindle debut, and with my love of the spare style of Cormac McCarthy and the genre of post-apocalyptic fiction generally, found that it ticked so many boxes for me. Delighted to see that all three books have been snapped up by a major publisher and published in this edition, which is well worth seeking out with its incredibly powerful characterisation and assured plotting. A vision of a desperate future, imbued with the strength found in the human spirit in the struggle for survival, and a quality of prose that I have seldom seen bettered in this particular genre. A remarkable trilogy.

Raven’s Book of the Month:

Anthony Quinn- Border Angels

Product DetailsThe border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is a rugged place: cold, windswept, and dark. For the girls brought here from Eastern Europe, it may as well be a war zone. Put to work in a farmhouse brothel near Dunmore, the women are forced into a living hell. One night, a pimp takes one of them for a ride. She is just planning her escape when the car explodes. The next morning, there is nothing left but the pimp’s charred body and the woman’s footprints in the snow. As his forensics specialists turn their attention to the burned corpse, Police Inspector Celcius Daly obsesses over the footprints. Where exactly did the woman come from, and where did she go? It is the sort of question asked only in the borderlands—between North and South, between life and death.

Okay, I know you probably guessed that this would be the winner this month- my reputation as a lover of Irish crime fiction goes before me- but this was genuinely my favourite read of the month. A wonderfully understated detective as the main character, a plot that neatly encompassed all the pressing social and economic issues affecting Ireland today, and a perfectly paced storyline that kept my interest from first to last. What more does one need from a good crime read?

Anders De La Motte- The Game Trilogy- GAME, BUZZ and BUBBLE

When Henrik “HP” Pettersson picks up a mobile phone on a Stockholm train one morning, he has no idea that his life is about to change forever.The phone’s invitation to play “The Game” is too tempting to resist and he soon finds himself embarking on a series of dangerous missions. The more daring the task, the greater his thrill and reward. But fun soon turns to fear as his Police Detective sister is dragged into the action. As their lives spiral out of control, HP faces a challenge he never expected. Can he outwit The Game before it’s too late, or will The Game play him?
With the simultaneous release of all three books Game, Buzz and Bubble this month,  just wanted to give this trilogy a quick plug as great criminal gifts for the crime fiction lover in your life! I can confidently say that Anders de la Motte has really given the well trod Scandinavian crime fiction genre a wee bit of a shake-up having produced what can easily be dubbed as the illegitimate child of conspiracy techno-thriller and the crème de la crème of Scandi-crime. With its refreshing combination of both, Game takes us to the world of the frankly useless HP, a daydream believer and ex-con, who crawls through life with little sense of personal responsibility, but who has an undeniable charm about him and a finely tuned sense of humour. As he finds himself embroiled in the mysterious world of The Game and begins to embark on a string of financially profitable dares of increasing foolhardiness, he puts himself and those closest to him, in particular his slightly more level headed sister Rebecca, who has more than one or two surprises in her own story as a personal bodyguard, and his long-suffering best friend Farook- a recent convert of Islam and a true geek’s geek- in extreme danger. But does he care? No, not really and blunders on, with his pipedreams of fame and fortune, with quite surprising results at the end….
I will say no more, as obviously Buzz follows fluidly on from Game and then on to Bubble and HP’s craziness continues unabated- I love this character so much- but I can confidently say that all three books are totally brilliant! Being lucky enough to read the first two and getting a sneaky peeky of the third, I really enjoyed the wit, the exceptional plotting, and the total originality in evidence from the very beginning of the trilogy so hats off to Mr de la Motte from me! The translations by Neil Smith are perfect, with the attention to humour and colloquial air to the books making them all such an easy and entertaining read, but fuelled throughout by the atmosphere of tension and danger, so deftly achieved by the author. Inventive, entertaining, but never losing sight of the essential elements of a great crime thriller. Marvellous.
OUT NOW
How do you protect yourself from a threat whose existence you cannot prove?After fourteen months in exile, HP misses the thrill of The Game. When he discovers that a powerful IT corporation may be affiliated to it, he begins a dangerous investigation.Meanwhile, his sister Rebecca is threatened by a faceless enemy – are they connected to The Game too?
Until now the truth behind The Game has been carefully hidden in a bubble of disinformation and distraction. But all bubbles burst eventually, and as HP and Rebecca battle to uncover the connection between The Game and their father’s shocking past, it looks like it’ll soon be Game Over…
(With thanks to HarperCollins/ Blue Door for the ARCs)

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