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Raven Crime Reads

Criminally good reads…

Month

September 2014

Jennifer Hillier- The Butcher

butcher

As the end of September beckons, I just had to find the time to post a review of this one! Despite the resounding positive reviews of Hillier’s two previous books Creep and Freak, this is my first foray into her writing. Why have I waited so long?*

The book centres on Edward Shank, a retired Seattle police chief, now at the mercy of his health and struggling with his transition into residence at a seniors home. Widely acclaimed for halting the career of serial killer The Butcher 30 years previously, Shank is a highly respected figure, and a man who still affords a great deal of respect in Seattle society. Having passed the ownership of his home to his grandson Matt- an up and coming chef on the cusp of TV celebrity status- we see Shank adjusting to his change of life in his own inimitable and gruff fashion. Matt’s girlfriend, Sam, a journalist who has her own unfinished business with The Butcher, believing her mother was one of his victims, although at the time of her mother’s death, he had already been despatched to the afterlife by Shank. As her investigations continue, Matt unearths something nasty in his grandfather’s backyard, and so the shadow of The Butcher begins to loom large once again…

Edward Shank is an absolute gem of a character, with Hillier slowly revealing the multi-faceted complexity he harbours, tempering his outward appearance of a curmudgeonly old man with little time or patience with his fellow seniors at the retirement home, with the far, far, darker side of his personality. This superb characterisation drives the book completely, as Shank’s less than favourable opinions of everyone he encounters is an endless joy, and the manipulative nature of his personality is front and centre throughout. As we become more enmeshed in the secrets of Shank’s past, and his true nature is revealed, I for one, was not that perturbed by it, as Hillier’s light comic touch almost desensitises us to the horrors that are unveiled, unlike Matt and Sam whose worlds are shaken off their axis by dear old Edward throughout. I don’t know how much it says about my own slightly warped sense of humour, but I absolutely adored the blackly humorous fatalism of this book and found myself laughing out loud on numerous occasions, in much the same way as Six Feet Under or Dexter with their darkly humorous take on mortality.

There are grim surprises throughout, underscored by some quite visceral violence, but this for me was the central appeal of the book, played out with this wonderful tongue-in-cheek feel to the whole affair. Fuelled by Hillier’s pokes at modern celebrity, sex, death and the sheer inanity of aspects of our everyday lives shuffling on the mortal coil, this book is not only a credible serial killer thriller, but wholly entertaining to boot. Yes, there are some slightly awkward coincidences in the plot but no matter, as generally I found I just glided through the narrative, and this was genuinely a book that I found difficult to put aside (involving reading in the wee small hours). With a couple of reveals that encouraged reactions of ‘ ew…gross’ and a bit of shifting in my seat, I was hooked throughout, and am delighted to say that the appeal of the book crosses generations. Boring my mum- herself a fairly impatient and outspoken senior- about how much fun this book was, she read it too. In two days. Loved it. So if you just fancy a pacey thriller, with a few pull-you-up moments, a nice dollop of violence and a darkly playful edge, you’d be as well to read this. A devilishly dark read, but an absolute hoot.

(With thanks to Simon and Schuster for the ARC)

*I have now bought Creep and Freak on the strength of this one…

Tom Grieves- A Cry In The Night

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With its Lake District setting and spooky undercurrents of tales of witches from days of yore, I must confess that I did find this book a mixed bag. I was initially hooked with Grieves seemingly refreshing new take on the slightly overused plot-line of child disappearance, on the back of a truly chilling opening chapter charting a cull of witches in the 17th century. The story then reverts to the present day with the murder of a young boy, and the disappearance of his sister from a tight knit but claustrophobic community in the Lakes. A male/female police combo in the shape of DI Sam Taylor and DC Zoe Barnes, are despatched to investigate, and it quickly becomes clear that this case can be linked conclusively to others around the country, but what is the connecting factor, and are there darker, less explainable, forces at work?

Initially, I was quite engaged the plot, and the adept characterisation of the police protagonists, with my enjoyment of Zoe Barnes’ character in particular, carrying on throughout the book. I liked the way that her loyalties to both her boss, Taylor and to her fellow police officers following the maltreatment of a suspect during a heavy handed arrest, were tested throughout. She was a blend of idiosyncrasies, particularly in the latter part of the book, and her professional involvement with a very dodgy female lawyer, who attempts to thwart the investigation and undermine her trust of Taylor. Barnes displays a natural wit and feistiness that engages the reader, and without her involvement in the whole affair, I think I would have struggled more with the book. DI Sam Taylor, however, was a whole different kettle of fish, and irritated me throughout. Supposedly in a state of flux and mourning after the death of his wife, he did seem to spend the majority of the book ruminating about himself, and being altogether moody and bad tempered, bemoaning his failings at being a father to a couple of typically angst ridden and stroppy daughters. However, he effectively tempered this woe-is-me attitude with a series of seedy sexual trysts with a local teenage girl in the Lake District, which although allaying (excuse the pun) his voracious sexual appetite, added nothing to the overall plot apart from a bit of titillation, and the further complication of her being intimately involved with the investigation. I grew increasingly annoyed at his midlife crisis behaviour, and just wished he’d get back to the job instead of being on it! Maybe, he should have just permanently ensconced himself in a room with his teenage conquest and left Zoe to get on with the investigation…

Although I loved the location, and the way that Grieves intertwined the haunting and indefinable beauty of this area into the novel, I did carry in my head visions of The Slaughtered Lamb pub (from An American Werewolf In London) in his depiction of some of the local colour- I will concede this may be my over active imagination at play! There seemed to be a little too much reliance on stereotyping the inhabitants, set against the more savvy and worldly detectives. That being said, there was a certain amount of enjoyment to be had from the weird and shiftily guilty members of the community, and the exposure by Barnes and Taylor of the secrets and lies behind the idyllic setting. The drawing on the historic connections to witchcraft and sorcery in rural communities was neatly done throughout. The plot played out enjoyably enough, and the shadow of witchery that overhung the connecting cases added a certain frisson to the whole affair, lifting the book from a bog-standard police procedural to quite an engaging thriller. I will quantify my misgivings, by saying I thoroughly enjoyed Sleepwalkers, Grieves’ debut, and despite the faults that I personally found with the characterisation of this book,  A Cry In The Night is still worth a look.

(Published by Quercus, I received a review copy of this book through NetGalley)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sam Millar- Black’s Creek

samA young boy drowns in a tragic accident in a lake in upstate New York. Fourteen-year-old year old Tommy and his two friends are sure they know who drove him to take his own life: the boy’s father is also convinced and pressurises the local Sheriff, Tommy’s father, to make an arrest. But there is not enough evidence, and the boys decide to take things into their own hands.

When you begin to review a book with the phrase, “How the hell have I not read this author before?” you know you may be on to a bit of a winner. Such is my reaction to this recent discovery of Sam Millar, a comparatively old hand in the crime fiction genre having already released six novels and a memoir, is a regular contributor to anthologies, writes for stage/radio and also holds a number of literary awards. With a highly colourful background himself, accrued from his formative years in Northern Ireland, and his personal involvement with both the IRA and a $7.4million heist from the Brink’s Armored Car Depot in Rochester, New York, Millar has been a bit of a welcome find…

With its central storyline based in a small town community in upstate New York and focusing on a group of three teenage boys, comparisons to Stephen King’s Stand By Me (one of my favourites) are justified to a certain degree, as this coming of age tale had me hooked from the outset. This small town has been brought to the edge of fear, by violent sexual attacks on local teens, with Millar focusing on the atmosphere of fear and suspicion that these have wrought. The book is narrated in the first person by Tommy (the book being bracketed by himself as an adult) recounting the events in the small community in which he grew up, as the son of the local Sheriff. Following the suicide of a young boy, Joey, himself a victim, three teenage boys, Tommy, Brent and Charlie, make a blood-brother pact, to exert their own retribution on local man, Norman Armstrong, who has been tried, but not convicted of Joey’s attack. Tommy, also experiences the added complication of a fledgling relationship with local girl, Devlin, from the wrong side of the tracks, which leads to its own heartbreak for our young crusader. The characterisation of Tommy and his cohorts is absolutely spot-on with all the attendant naivety, rivalry and angst that accompanies their teenage selves. All three are from differing backgrounds, and Millar captures the intrinsic differences of their familial backgrounds superbly, including the underlying tensions of Tommy’s parents, the welcoming attentions of Brent’s flirtatious mother, the more well-to-do status of Charlie’s family and Devlin’s peculiar artistic upbringing. The interplay and dialogue between the boys in particular, is completely engaging in their mission (influenced by their love of superhero comics) to exact revenge on the altogether creepy Armstrong, despite the danger and family strife that arise from their actions. I also loved the understated effect of the lawful investigation on Tommy’s father, in the glare of publicity. His descent into despair, caused by the pressure of the case, is gradually revealed, as his son blunders on regardless, fuelled by the impetuosity of youth, seemingly unaware of the effects of this investigation as a whole, close to home.

This is a real read-in-one sitting book as the slowly escalating sense of peril and Millar’s descriptive prowess, both of characters and location, keep you immersed in the events of this small but multi-faceted community. There is a brilliant build-up of tension, offset by the powerful dynamics of friendship and family that Millar brings to bear on the story. Millar pulls no punches in his depiction of the violence that permeates the attacks, with the more violent interludes in the book being perfectly placed, so the details of these and their ramifications for the community at large, become more vital. I did feel the ending was a little rushed, in comparison to the pace of the rest of the book, but taking into account what had gone before that was of little consequence. Highly recommended and an author that I will unquestionably seek out again.

(With thanks to Brandon Books for the ARC)

Special Feature- Irish Crime Fiction Round-Up

In recognition of the saturation coverage of the vote for independence in Scotland, I thought now is the time for a special feature. On Irish crime. I like to be different. I have recently read the latest releases from three authors I have reviewed in the last year. Mark O’Sullivan, whose debut novel Crocodile Tears featured the utterly engaging DI Leo Woods; Matt McGuire with his striking Belfast set police procedural Dark Dawn , and Louise Phillips’ intriguing psychological thriller The Doll’s House So without further ado, feast your criminal eyes on these…

Mark O’Sullivan- Sleeping Dogs

slGangland boss Harry Larkin has taken three bullets and lies dying in a Dublin hospital. Amongst his delusional ravings to Senior Ward Nurse Eveleen Morgan, one name stands out: Detective Inspector Leo Woods. Harry’s message for his old ‘friend’ Leo: find my daughter Whitney. Leo is drawn into the murky world of the Larkin family, a hell he thought he had escaped from thirty years earlier. With the help of Detective Sergeant Helen Troy, his search for Whitney turns up more questions than answers, more darkness than light…

O’ Sullivan’s debut novel Crocodile Tears made a strong impression on me last year and snapped at the heels of my final selection of the Top 5 crime reads of 2013. Introducing the slightly curmudgeonly and many-layered police officer DI Woods, I was struck by how O’Sullivan circumvented the normal bog-standard police procedural with his attention to characterisation and the more literary quality to his prose throughout. Sleeping Dogs has done little to undermine my initial favourable impressions of his writing, once again giving rise to an extremely character-driven story, centred on the investigation of the shooting of local figure Harry Larkin. Ultimately, the whys and wherefores of this shooting is of little importance in the book, as the cast of characters on both sides of the investigation provide the real strength of the book. With the connection between DI Woods and Larkin established by their interactions some 30 years previously at the height of the Troubles, Woods is caught offguard by Larkin’s dying entreaties to find his missing daughter. What transpires is an extremely engaging tale of dark family secrets and lies, where the truth is hard to find, causing Woods and his team to embark on a tricky and at times heart wrenching investigation. Add into the mix an intriguing side plot involving a Libyan intern, and his connection to Larkin’s missing daughter Whitney, a mixed-up kid troubled by the dark goings-on close to home and O’Sullivan neatly enfolds us into a plot full of red herrings and partial truths. Woods is as appealing as in the first, embarking on a touching romantic interlude, but in the footsteps of the lovelorn Inspector Morse, doomed to disappointment. His predominant sidekick DS Helen Troy, provides not only a credible female detective, but is a good sounding board for the more intense Woods, and the interplay between them is also an added point of enjoyment throughout. A great follow up to a strong debut,  and definitely a series to be added to your must read lists.

Mark O’ Sullivan is the recipient of a number of prestigious awards including two Reading Association of Ireland Awards, the Eilís Dillon Award and three Bisto Merit Awards. He has also received the Prix des Loisirs as well as two White Raven Book Awards. In addition he has written radio drama for RTE and contributed to Lyric FM’s Quiet Corner.

Matt McGuire- When Sorrows Come

9781780338323Belfast, 2am, Tomb Street. A young man lies dead in an alley. Cracked ribs, broken jaw, fractured skull. With the Celtic Tiger purring and the Troubles in their death throes, Detective Sergeant John O’Neill is called to investigate. Meanwhile O’Neill’s partner, DI Jack Ward, a veteran troubles detective, is receiving death threats from an unknown source…

Having quickly established a well deserved place alongside the likes of Brian McGilloway and Declan Hughes, McGuire returns with the second in his police procedural series featuring DS John O’Neill. In common with his debut, Dark Dawn, McGuire pulls no punches in his depiction of the violence lurking just beneath the surface of Belfast, a city undergoing change and growing prosperity but still grappling with the imprint of its bloody history. To all intents and purposes, When Sorrows Comes does revisit some of the original tenets of the first book in terms of the social and well established facts of Ireland’s political history, as the investigation plays out. However, the further establishment of DS O’Neill’s character lifts the plot from the fairly pedestrian to greater interest, as he grapples with the demands on his personal and professional life. Still attracting the displeasure of his superiors by his more renegade actions and detection techniques and general unwillingness to tow the line, O’Neill combines a good mix of stubborness and empathy, whilst retaining a fixed resolution to follow the course of justice. His personal life is messy- in common with many of the best detectives- and our sympathies with him in this area of his life are pulled this way and that as the softer side of his character comes to the surface in the increasingly hostile interactions with his estranged wife, Catherine and his relationship with his daughter Sarah. An enjoyable follow up to the first in the series, if a little too similar, but well worth a look for police procedural fans.

Matt McGuire was born in Belfast and taught at the University of Glasgow before becoming an English lecturer at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. He has published widely on various aspects of contemporary literature and is currently writing a book on Scottish crime fiction.

Louise Philips- Last Kiss

10406581_676106955792842_8923423451031752354_nIn a quiet suburb, a woman desperately clings to her sanity as a shadowy presence moves objects around her home. In a hotel room across the city, an art dealer with a dubious sexual past is found butchered, his body arranged to mimic the Hangman card from the Tarot deck. But what connects them? When criminal psychologist Dr Kate Pearson is brought in to help investigate the murder, she finds herself plunged into a web of sexual power and evil which spreads from Dublin to Paris, and then to Rome.Will Kate discover the identity of the killer before it’s too late to protect the innocent? But what separates the innocent from the guilty when the sins of the past can never be forgotten?

I must confess with the absolute glut of female psychological thriller writers currently inhabiting the genre, my recent reading in this genre has been an up and down affair. However, building on the success of both Red Ribbons and The Doll’s House, Phillips has earned a steadfast place in my list of favoured writers. Once again placing the likeable and engaging  criminal psychologist Dr Kate Pearson in league with the grizzled and world weary DI O’Connor, there is again time for Phillips to play with the dynamics of their relationship, as they are pitted against a sadistic murderer and a far reaching investigation. What quickly transpires is that the killer they seek has killed before, and has no compunction in killing again…and again. This is a difficult review to write as I am not going to dwell on plot, purely because this is such a chilling and twisting investigation that I am desperate to avoid spoilers. Needless, to say I loved the little false alleys that Phillips leads us up in the course of the book and although I guessed the identity of the killer (more through fluke I believe) , which is beautifully concealed, there was no way I saw that ending coming. It’s dark, devious and totally gripping with interesting and engaging central characters, a good use of the contrasting locations, and more slippery than an eel covered in Vaseline. Thanks to Phillips for restoring my faith in the psychological thriller, and in some style.

Louise Phillips’ debut psychological crime novel, RED RIBBONS, went straight to the BEST SELLERS listing in the first week of its release in Sept 2012, and has received phenomenal reviews. In 2009, Louise won the Jonathan Swift Award, and in April 2011, was the winner of The Irish Writers’ Centre Lonely Voice Platform,as well as being short-listed for Bridport UK, the Molly Keane Memorial Award, and the Penguin/RTÉ Guide Short Story Competition. In 2012, Louise Phillips, was awarded an ART BURSARY for Literature from her home city of Dublin. Her debut novel RED RIBBONS, was shortlisted for Best Irish Crime Novel of the Year (2012). Visit her website – www.louise-phillips.com , www.facebook.co/LouisePhillips Follow on Twitter @LouiseMPhillips

 

(With thanks to Transworld Ireland, Constable and Robinson and Hachette Books Ireland respectively for the ARCs)

 

 

 

 

Malcolm Mackay- The Night The Rich Men Burned

mmTwo friends, Alex Glass and Oliver Peterkinney, look for work and for escape from their lives spent growing up on Glasgow’s most desperate fringes. Soon they will become involved in one of the city’s darkest and most dangerous trades. But while one rises quickly up the ranks, the other will fall prey to the industry’s addictive lifestyle and ever-spiralling debts. Meanwhile, the three most powerful rivals in the business – Marty Jones, ruthless pimp; Potty Cruickshank, member of the old guard; and Billy Patterson, brutal newcomer – vie for prominence. And now Peterkinney, young and darkly ambitious, is beginning to make himself known. Before long, violence will spill out onto the streets, as those at the top make deadly attempts to out-manoeuvre one another for a bigger share of the spoils. Peterkinney and Glass will find themselves at the very centre of this war; and as the pressure builds, each will find their actions – and inactions – coming back to haunt them. But it is those they love who will suffer most . . .

Regular readers of my blog cannot have failed to notice my huge admiration of Malcolm Mackay’s Glasgow Trilogy, comprising of  The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter How A Gunman Says Goodbye, and The Sudden Arrival of Violence . All three books centred on the travails of a young hit-man in the employ of the most powerful figures in gangland Glasgow, but experiencing a modicum of moral uncertainty at his chosen career path, and his plans to turn his back on this life. Defined by their spare, gritty and uncompromising style, all three books garnered critical acclaim or awards, and brought us a truly fresh, new voice in Scottish crime fiction. The Night The Rich Men Burned is Mackay’s first standalone project, although marked by the familiar character list, there are sporadic mentions/re-introductions of familiar figures the former trilogy. This novel put me in mind of a kind of twisted Bildungsroman, as it is heavily centred on the adverse fortunes of two young men, Oliver Peterkinney and Alex Glass. Both are paving their way in the seedy and violent world of Glasgow’s criminal fraternity- a hotbed of violence, criminal rivalries, and a bunch of inherently dislikeable men jostling for dominance in the lucrative world of debt-collection, drugs and strip clubs. Written in Mackay’s now trademark style, in clipped, pared down prose, all underscored with a compelling emotional distance to the characters and events he presents, The Night The Rich Men Burned will astound and delight you in equal measure…

In common with his previous books this is an incredibly character driven book, as all the inhabitants , and participants in the warring criminal factions, are separated by codes of allegiance to the nefarious crime lords within each faction. As they plot and scheme to assert their power in the lucrative world of criminal activities, there is a sense of a constantly changing power game. The main players in this, Marty Jones, an exceptionally nasty piece of work; established loan shark, Potty Cruikshank and scheming newcomer Billy Patterson, are all men with a casual attitude to violence and keen to exploit those they consider weak and needy. It is into this world, that Glass and Peterkinney take their first tentative steps, and which provides the thrust of the plot overall.What I find particularly interesting about the novel is how both Peterkinney and Glass, starting from the same point, find their lives take such different directions, from ostensibly having little, or no, difference between them in terms of their socio-economic beginnings. Glass senses an opportunity for them to gain financially in the employ of a local debt-collector, bedazzled by the prospect of a life of glamour, girls, drugs and violence, and drags Peterkinney into his seemingly foolproof plan. Initially Peterkinney seems less sure of the long term benefits of this course of action, but as the book progresses there is a marked change of fortune for them both. Despite his initial reluctance to Glass’ pipe-dreams, Peterkinney uses his smarts and grows in stature, moving further away from the narrow existence he formerly inhabits, (unemployed and sharing a small flat with his Grandad), whilst Glass spirals downwards into an abyss of debt and despair. With the subtle shifts in the timeline that Mackay employs, we as readers see this deviation of their respective fortunes and, subsequently, as the inherent weaknesses or underlying coldness of their individual characters are brought to bear on the ways their lives evolve, our sympathies are roundly manipulated with each new episode.

This is the real strength of Mackay’s writing, that he presents all his protagonists with such a studied and dispassionate air, that he requires of us to form our own allegiances to, and sympathies with the characters he presents. No one is particularly likeable, indeed with most of the characters exhibiting a strong prevalence to violence and financial gain at the expense of others, you would little expect to experience any real empathy with any of them. Cleverly, however, you do find your perception of certain characters shifting and changing, and that is a real and unexpected pleasure of this book, over and above the fairly linear style of plotting that the story reveals. With little or no focus on location per se, aside from the general feeling of a gritty inner city setting, with the inherent dangers and social decay that lies beneath, it is all the more admirable that such extreme focus on characterisation carries the weight of the book throughout with little distraction.

Completely unflinching in its depiction of violence and the immoral exploitation of the lower classes by these grasping loan sharks, The Night The Rich Men Burned, never shies away from the stark realities of life within the criminal fraternity. Oddly dispassionate, with a spare and staccato prose style, Mackay once again illustrates his original and refreshingly different take on the crime genre. Not a comfortable read, and one that will cleverly play with your perceptions of, and attitudes to, the characters within its pages which, I for one, find a much more rewarding reading experience. An excellent read.

Read more reviews of The Night The Rich Men Burned here:

Crime Fiction Lover

Shotsmag

 

(With thanks to Macmillan for the ARC)

D. A. Mishani- A Possibility of Violence

damHaunted by the past and his own limitations, Israeli Detective Avraham Avraham must stop a criminal ruthless enough to target children. An explosive device is found in a suitcase near a daycare center in a quiet suburb of Tel Aviv. A few hours later, a threat is received: the suitcase was only the beginning. Inspector Avraham Avraham, back in Israel after a much-needed vacation, is assigned to the investigation. Tormented by the trauma and failure of his past case, Avraham is determined not to make the same mistakes—especially with innocent lives at stake. He may have a break when one of the suspects, a father of two, appears to have gone on the run. Is he the terrorist behind the threat? Is he trying to escape Avraham’s intense investigation? Or perhaps he’s fleeing a far more terrible crime that no one knows has been committed? No matter how much Avraham wants to atone for the past, redemption may not be possible—not when he’s entangled in a case more deceptive and abominable than any he’s ever faced.

In this evocative and gripping tale of mystery and psychological suspense A Possibility of Violence is the follow-up to The Missing File, the acclaimed first novel in D. A. Mishani’s literary crime series that was shortlisted for the CWA International Dagger Award. Having read  and enjoyed The Missing File, I was looking forward to this, having a fond remembrance of the rather bleak and spare feel of the first book, and the peculiar appeal of Mishani’s unique style.

Unlike, the first book, I made the mistake of reading the first 100 pages or so of this one in rather small chunks, and consequently, due to the seemingly emotional neutrality of Mishani’s writing, I found it slightly difficult to return to it each time. Luckily, however, I rectified this by reading the last 200 pages in a single sitting, so becoming far more embroiled in what later reveals itself as a strangely impersonal and emotionally unsettling read. If I was to really analyse what I liked about the book, where normally emotional engagement with the characters is key, I think it is the sense of disassociation that Mishani brings to his prose and the characters contained within. Although he adopts the traditional tenet of a central detective in Avraham Avraham, I didn’t really feel that I got to know him in the way that others are so defined by the foibles and eccentricities of their characters. Indeed the book opens with Avraham on a visit to his lover Marianka in Belgium, as a precursor to her moving to Israel to be with him, but their relationship has a strange coldness about it, as Avraham is a man not adept at grand gestures. As the book progresses, communication breaks down in advance of her move, and it is not until the end of the book, that the chasm between them is fully explained. Likewise, he gives little of himself away, under the threat of a report regarding his handling of the investigation in the previous book (which is often referred to and explained if you have not read the first book), and the potential implications of this in what could be a contentious current investigation. He has a workman-like doggedness to his character, revealing little of his own emotions, but like all the finest detectives has a natural intuition to what may be being witheld from him, leading him on a different course of investigation which perturbs his superiors. I rather like the stoicism and solidity he exerts throughout the book, as one can sometimes have too much of the deeply troubled or overly extrovert detective characters.

Bearing in mind that the book encompasses the themes of child abuse, and possible marital violence, again, the calm neutrality with which Mishani imbues his central character, is equally reflected in the unfolding of the plot. What could be substantial and highly emotive themes are handled in an understated way, which in a way make the violent acts perpetrated more resonant and affecting. From the initial act of a suspected bomb being placed outside of a nursery school, a violent attack on one of the employees of the nursery, and a connection with a father of two whose wife is suddenly strangely absent, Mishani balances the plot perfectly, using the conduit of Avraham to to tie them together, with the denouement of the book stepping outside the previously more unemotional feel bringing a genuinely heart-rending conclusion. So, my admiration for Mishani remains intact, despite the uniquely unsettling and almost clinical style of his writing. A strange reading experience, but one that I can recommend away from the cliches that define so much of crime writing, and in stark contrast to the all too common schmaltz- paved paths that some police protagonists find themselves on. A good read, and more importantly, something a little different.

(With thanks to Quercus for the ARC)

 

August Round Up and Raven’s Book of the Month

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)August provided a real rollercoaster of crime reading, with highs and lows in equal measure. Some I loved, some not so much, but perhaps the most satisfying aspect of the month was finally getting to a couple of books that have been languishing on the bookshelves for far too long. Will try to keep the momentum of this as, over the months, a few reads have fallen by the wayside with the temptations of shiny, new books popping regularly through the letterbox. And as always there are other books read in August to catch up with reviews-wise…

Thanks again to K.T.Medina, for her piece on the inspiration for her superb debut White Crocodile, and to Kevin Sampson for giving us an insight into the world of DCI Billy McCartney, in his new book, The House On The Hill.

So, here for your entertainment is a summary of the month. Hope you discover something good to read!

Books reviewed in August:

Kevin Stevens- Reach The Shining River

K. T. Medina- White Crocodile  

Kevin Sampson- The House On The Hill  

Kanae Minato- Confessions

Andrea Maria Schenkel- The Dark Meadow

Jake Woodhouse- After The Silence

Rachel Howzell Hall- Land of Shadows

J. A. Kerley- The Death Box

Marco Malvaldi- The Art of Killing Well (www.crimefictionlover.com)

Erin Kelly- Broadchurch (www.crimefictionlover.com)

 

Raven’s Book of the Month

Yet another tough decision this month in terms of my top read- I really shouldn’t set myself up for this deliberation and cogitating every month should I?! So, a decision has been made…

reachx2700Despite my continuing affection for the escapades of Kevin Sampson’s troubled detective, Billy McCartney, and my admiration for two debuts this month, K T Medina’s emotive and haunting White Crocodile and Rachel Howzell Hall’s refreshing new thriller,  Land of Shadows, I have plumped for Kevin Stevens with the mesmerising Reach The Shining River. Crafted as beautifully as any contemporary American fiction novel, Stevens underscores his thought-provoking and engaging novel with a pure jazz and blues soundtrack, conjuring up the atmosphere of a troubled period of American history and its attendant issues. Great characters, a well-defined plot and a hugely satisfying read.

 

 

 

 

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