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Raven Crime Reads

Criminally good reads…

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September 2015

September 2015 Round Up and Raven’s Book of the Month

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)Hurrah! September was relatively free of I.T. gremlins so have managed to catch up a bit with myself. An excellent month with three blog tours- including the now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t Simon Toyne article on Solomon Creed, a review of debut author Rod Reynolds’ The Dark Inside, and a review of The Defenceless the second book from the excellent Kati Hiekkapelto. I’ve travelled far and wide in my crime reading this month, and I’ve also managed to squeeze in a couple of fiction titles too. If my trusty Dodo Pad (which organises my life) is correct, there are three more blog tours scheduled for October, including a debut that is quite simply brilliant, and will knock your collective socks off. Intriguing huh? A good month’s reading and some further treats, as always, lie in store…

Books reviewed this month:

Piero Chiara- The Disappearance of Signora Giulia 

 Alberto Barrera Tyszka- Crimes

Rod Reynolds- The Dark Inside

Hester Young- The Gates of Evangeline

Anthony Horowitz- Trigger Mortis

Kati Hiekkapelto- The Defenceless

Fergus McNeill- Eye Contact

RAVEN’S BOOK OF THE MONTH:

25807823In a break from tradition, I’m awarding my book of the month to a book that I haven’t actually posted a full -length review of. Hey, that’s the way I roll sometimes…

Top honours this month go to Steve Mosby’s I Know Who Did It, which brilliantly reprises elements of his earlier thriller The 50/50 Killer which is still for my money one of the best crime books ever written.

With the suspenseful premise of a woman who appears to have returned from the dead, a detective haunted by the murder of his young son, and the nefarious reach of an old crime on a current investigation, Mosby’s control of the structure of contrasting narratives and plot points is faultless throughout.

Once again Mosby circumvents the shallowness of some in the genre, by really digging down into the turmoil of the human psyche, with two of his police protagonists having experienced tremendous loss, and provides a thoughtful and empathetic study of life in the grip of grief, and the healing process that follows. However, despite this deeper theme to the book, he never loses sight of the need to construct a clever and intriguing thriller, that will bewitch the reader, providing more than one surprise, an utterly unexpected denouement in the creepiest of settings, and interweaving some interesting perspectives on life, death, grief, psychological disturbance, religion, and the much debated theory of nature vs nurture. Meaty issues, violence, and a well realised blend of police procedural and psychological thriller. Highly recommended, and quite deservedly my book of the month.

 

Fergus McNeill- Eye Contact

fergusFrom the outside, Robert Naysmith is a successful businessman, handsome and charming. But for years he’s been playing a deadly game. He doesn’t choose his victims. Each is selected at random – the first person to make eye contact after he begins ‘the game’ will not have long to live. Their fate is sealed. When the body of a young woman is found on Severn Beach, Detective Inspector Harland is assigned the case. It’s only when he links it to an unsolved murder in Oxford that the police begin to guess at the awful scale of the crimes. But how do you find a killer who strikes without motive?

As promised in last month’s round-up, this is another of the authors I have discovered thanks to CrimeFest- the crime fiction convention- in Bristol. Eye Contact is the first of Fergus McNeill’s books featuring Detective Inspector Graham Harland, which pits him against one of the most sinister, yet charming, serial killers, to grace the pages of a crime thriller…

From the outset, McNeill eschews the whole run-of-the-mill serial killer thriller tropes, and their turgid familiarity, by bringing to us a serial killer that you wouldn’t really mind going to the pub with for an evening of convivial company. Just don’t let him walk you home afterwards. Naysmith is brilliantly portrayed as both a confident, charming businessman, who has a way with the ladies, but also happy to bathe in the respect of his male peers. However, beneath this persona lurks a wolfish, calculating and devious killer, with his personal credo of selecting a fixed time of day, which when it passes, spells doom for the person to make eye contact with him after this allotted time. Hence, he exhibits none of the well-worn traits of your average serial killer with his seemingly random victim selection, and his propensity for stalking his prey to ascertain the absolute prime time for their demise. He hunts outside of his social group, across both genders, and employs different killing methods, whilst upholding a demeanour of respectability underscored by the tiniest flashes of what his outer skin conceals. McNeill balances both sides of Naysmith’s personality absolutely perfectly throughout, and writes him with such an air of authenticity and knowledge that I guarantee you will be held in a spell throughout.

Pitted against the Machiavellian Naysmith, is McNeill’s police protagonist, DI Graham Harland, who in an interesting synchronicity with the man he hunts, carries an equally intriguing and complex blend of character. There is no doubt that Harland is an extremely dedicated and accomplished police officer, but not far from the surface is the underlying grief and anger he carries one year on from his wife’s untimely death. We witness his utter frustration and deep seated hurt as he struggles with therapy sessions, and the flashes of rage and bleak moods, that life in the advent of a loved one’s death so often produces. McNeill draws his character with a sympathetic air, but equally makes us frustrated on Harland’s behalf as he falls foul of his inner torment, sometimes impeding his ability to be the effective police officer we sense he is. As Harland’s investigation intensifies, it is a delight to see these two contrasting male characters get drawn together, whilst cleverly exhibiting similar traits to one another which we recognise, and share a knowing nod about.

Set around the south west, and being an area of the country I’m very familiar with, McNeill’s use of location is staunchly realistic and recognisable throughout the book. With Naysmith roving around in the course of his business and killing activities, McNeill gets the chance to balance the book with rural, suburban and inner city settings, that really underpin the story very well indeed, and each location gives a steadfast point for the reader to visualise either Naysmith’s or Harland’s place within it, being very well-realised.

As is so often the case with the sprawling output of the crime fiction genre, there are authors that slip the net, so to speak. Thank goodness I have discovered Fergus McNeill, as I’m sure that his back catalogue will be swiftly caught up with, and become one of my favourites to recommend. Excellent.

 

Blog Tour- Kati Hiekkapelto- The Defenceless

katiWhen an old man is found dead on the road – seemingly run over by a Hungarian au pair – police investigator Anna Fekete is certain that there is more to the incident than meets the eye. As she begins to unravel an increasingly complicated case, she’s led on a deady trail where illegal immigration, drugs and ultimately murder threaten not only her beliefs, but her life. Anna’s partner Esko is entrenched in a similarly dangerous investigation. As the two cases come together, it becomes clear that having the law on their side may not be enough…

The first thing to say is that if The Defenceless is your maiden voyage into the world of detective Anna Fekete, Kati Hiekkapelto references just enough details from the The Hummingbird– the first in the series- to get you up to speed, and not too much that it would deter you from picking it up. Indeed, I was only a few pages into this one when the thought suddenly occurred as to why I had not read Hiekkapelto before- note to self to buy and read The Hummingbird as well. From the outset this book ticks so many of the boxes that Scandinavian crime fiction lovers look for in their favourite crime sub-genre and here’s why…

The real stand-out feature of this book is the strength and balance of Hiekkapelto’s plotting, as the narrative pivots between the seemingly disparate plots of two missing elderly people, a dead drug dealer, the insidious rise of motorcycle gang culture, and the truly heart-rending tale of a young man trying to survive the inhospitable climate, both social and meteorological, as an illegal immigrant in Finland. It is a testament to the assured and wholly convincing writing style of Hiekkapelto that all of these contrasting sub-plots are so beautifully balanced, as in the hands of a lesser writer the links between them may not have been so authentically achieved. Consequently, Hiekkapelto also perfectly times some unexpected reveals, with at least two of these criminal cases being solved very late on in the book, having already put her readers through the emotional ringer of the initial investigations. In true Scandinavian style, and very reminiscent of the brilliant Swedish duo Roslund-Hellstrom, Hiekkapelto also unflinchingly turns her gaze on the socio-economic climate of Finland, particularly in relation to the story of Sammy, the young illegal immigrant, and the traumatic events that have brought him to Europe. This arc of the story powerfully evolves over the course of the book, and as Sammy becomes more deeply mired in the criminal investigation, Hiekkapelto subtly shapes our perception of him, and the uncertain future he faces. Likewise, Hiekkapelto presents for our dubious pleasure a damning indictment on the gang and drug culture that seeks to ensnare and overpower not only impressionable youths, but their insidious effect on respectable members of the community who come into contact with them. It’s a fairly bleak vision of modern society but unerringly truthful.

And so to Hiekkapelto’s central character, Anna Fekete, who combines the elements of silk and steel in equal measure. A focused, highly professional police officer, and meticulous in her approach to the cases she faces, with a sharp and naturally inquisitive mind. Being an outsider herself, due to her Hungarian background, she has a natural affinity to those on the outer reaches of Finnish society, and thus a fairer view of the immigration issues. She’s fairly well-respected, and for the most part enjoys a comfortable relationship with her colleagues, but in true crime fiction style she has two Achilles heels. One is her irresponsible, alcoholic brother Akos, and the other, her exceptionally misguided choices of romantic entanglements, which leads to much self-recrimination and sleepless nights. For the most part, I didn’t particularly feel the need for the latter, as her life experience as a non-native Finn, her relationship with her brother, and the very nature of her profession, provided more than enough points of interest. But I concede it is always nice to poke at useless men with a sharp stick. Talking of useless men, I must mention my favourite character, detective Esko Niemi, who on paper is one of the most objectionable, casually racist and misogynistic characters ever to grace crime fiction- I loved him. With each foolhardy pronouncement, cutting comment or insensitive reaction, he endeared himself to me even more, exposing his charmless self, and blinkered idiocy at every turn. Except, more importantly, when it really matters- when he has to think on his feet to protect himself or his colleagues, or when certain chickens come home to roost and we see the man behind the mask of stupidity. Brilliantly done, and another stand-out feature of this gripping slice of Scandi-noir. Can thoroughly recommend this one.

(With thanks to Karen at Orenda Books for the ARC)

Catch up with The Defenceless blog tour here:

Defenceless Blog Tour

Anthony Horowitz- Trigger Mortis

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Following in the footsteps of Sebastian Faulks, Jeffrey Deaver and William Boyd, Trigger Mortis by Anthony Horowitz proves itself one of the best retro-James Bond novels to date. Having been left a little bruised and confused by Horowitz’s excursions into the world of Sherlock Holmes, I was more than a little wary of his contribution to the Bond ouvre. But as my recent quote to customers of this one being a ‘really Bond-y Bond novel’ attests, it’s been a total delight to have my apprehension over this one so delightfully undone…

The absolute stand-out feature of this book, is with how much care, attention, and respect, Horowitz affords his depiction of James Bond himself. The little references and attention to the smallest details of Fleming’s legendary secret agent is first class, and more than once a wry smile of recognition passed my lips, as some character detail was inserted effortlessly into the narrative. It was also gratifying to see a small section of Fleming’s own writing woven into one of the chapters, accrued from Horowitz’s obviously studious reading of Fleming’s work authorised by his estate. Hence, Horowitz’s depiction of Bond carries with it a wonderful sense of familiarity and authenticity, which has been sometimes noticeably absent from a couple of the proceeding Bond pastiches. Equally, when one mentions Bond it cannot go without comment that there will be women involved! There is a welcome reappearance of the kick-ass Pussy Galore at the start of the book, but somehow this felt a little unresolved, and didn’t quite gel within the book as a whole. However, with the inclusion of the brilliant Jeopardy Lane, who steps in when Pussy Galore departs , Horowitz has created a female character who encapsulates all that you want from a female character being both feisty and brave, but posing the all important question… is she immune to Bond’s charm? You’ll have to read it to find out!

The plot is terrific carrying all the quintessential moments of extreme peril for our hero, as he becomes immersed in a plot to perpetrate a terrorist attack on New York, under the cover of a U.S. Rocket launch in the fifties space race. There is a good balance between all the attendent details of the U.S. vs Russia space race, and as a bit of a space nerd, I particularly enjoyed this aspect of the story. Earlier in the book there is a heart in mouth episode as Bond also takes part in a death defying motor race at Nurburgring, which is wrought with tension, but again underscored by Horowitz’s obvious research into the motor-sport of this particular period. The book consistently contains an air of peril, with all the action and violence one naturally expects from a Bond adventure. Bond’s nemesis in the book is the sinister millionaire Korean- Sin Jai-Seong aka Jason Sin- who in true Fleming style arouses a strange kind of sympathy in the reader with the tale of his damaging formative years, but is still a total megalomaniac ne’er do well- an archetypal great Bond villain. His twisted verbosity and deranged demeanour is brilliantly rendered, and he is a villain worthy of the attention of the debonair and dangerous Bond.

So altogether quite keen on this one, with some superb characterisation, a good high quotient of derring-do and all the little details that fit this book so nicely into Fleming’s legacy. Maybe for this reader just not enough Pussy- Galore that is…

(With thanks to Orion for the ARC)

Hester Young- The Gates of Evangeline

9781473517974-largeWhen grieving mother and New York journalist Charlie Cates begins to experience vivid dreams about children after her only son passes away, she’s sure that she’s lost her mind. Yet she soon realizes these are not the hallucinations of a bereaved mother. They are messages and warnings that will help Charlie and the children she sees―if she can make sense of them.
The disturbing images lead her from her home in suburban New York City to small-town Louisiana, where she takes a commission to write a true-crime book based on the case of Gabriel Deveau, the young heir to a wealthy and infamous Southern family, whose kidnapping thirty years ago has never been solved. There she meets the Deveau family, none of whom are telling the full truth about the night Gabriel disappeared. And as she uncovers long-buried secrets of love, money, betrayal, and murder, the facts begin to implicate those she most wants to trust―and her visions reveal an evil closer than she could have imagined…

Suffused with the hot, steamy atmosphere of Louisiana The Gates of Evangeline immediately immerses the reader into the leisurely pace of life in the deep South, and the chasm between the have and have-nots. Inveigling her protagonist, Charlie Cates in the lives of the singularly dislikeable Deveau family, with all their deep and dirty secrets, Young spins a tale flavoured with a good dose of Southern Gothic, and a family saga tinged by an otherworldly supernatural twist. Young also captures perfectly the feel of this atmosphere of privilege and superiority that oozes through every pore of this family, and their innate sense of entitlement. With her vivid use of the Louisiana setting, and the depiction of the Deveau mansion and grounds, this aspect of the book is particularly potent. Equally, I loved the use of the steamy, festering, alligator-infested swamps, backing onto the Deveau property which added a real air of threat and menace to the whole affair. The description of these was absolutely enthralling, and sent a proper chill down this reader’s spine.

Labouring intermittently under the grief of having lost her own child, and some strange deviations into mystical dreams and visions, on the whole, Charlie Cates embodies a good mix of dogged journalist and vulnerable woman. She is an engaging protagonist, if a little too ruled by other parts of her anatomy rather than her head, as she embarks on a rather dodgy romantic liaison in the course of her investigation into this really rather unpleasant family. I did find the whole ‘vision’ thing a little wearing as the book progressed, as I was much more impressed with her when she was in journalistic mode, trying to tease out confessions and soliciting information from each family member as to the events thirty years previously. With her natural amiability and persistence, she does indeed uncover some grim truths, some obvious, some not, and these more than anything give a credibility and solidity to her character, outside of her more mystic Meg moments, and the slightly cheesy romance with the admittedly buff landscape gardener, Noah, who has more than one secret of his own.

What I particularly enjoyed about this book was the way that Young had obviously strived so hard to make this a comfortable, fairly linear and entertaining read for the reader. There were no real surprises, and a few hackneyed plot devices, but it was really refreshing to read a book that just smoothly carried me along, without making any real demands along the way. It was almost as if Young had sat down and thought what sort of book would entertain her as a reader, and then endeavoured to write that book, and so the book carries a certain kind of charm to it, that lifts it above the slight clunkiness of some of the narrative. I also liked the knowing reference that Young incorporates into her story where one character remarks that, “Not a lot of writers can pull off the whole Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil thing” as The Gates of Evangeline does navigate similar waters, if less successfully. Yes, the denouement and reveals were not particularly well -disguised, and some of the character’s actions did feel a little out of step at times, but I quickly started ignoring the more obvious missteps, and instead found myself avidly reading to the end, thoroughly enjoying Young’s uncomplicated and engaging style.

(With thanks to Random House for the ARC)

Blog Tour- Exclusive Guest Post- Simon Toyne- ‘Solomon Creed Meet Leo’

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A big Hollywood extravaganza welcome to you all for day two of the Simon Toyne Blog Tour, celebrating the release of his gripping new thriller Solomon Creed. The Raven is particularly delighted to host an exclusive guest post by an author with stars in his eyes. Possibly. As long as Leonardo hasn’t heard about Cleethorpes…

“So this is how it happened.

Agent: ‘Leonardo DiCaprio wants to option Solomon Creed.’

Me: You’re kidding.’

Agent: ‘I am so not kidding.’

Me: ‘Leonardo DiCaprio?’

Agent: ‘Yes.’

Me: (long pause)

Agent: ‘He’s an actor.’

Me: ‘I know who he is.’

This is, more or less, what happened to me a couple of months ago.

41OgxOimpgL__SX323_BO1,204,203,200_I was standing in my living room, staring out of the window at the garden and trying to reconcile the utter domestic ordinariness of my situation with the words I was hearing. I felt sure my agent was about to crack up and say ‘only kidding!’, only my agent doesn’t do stuff like that, she’s very professional and not generally prone to Jackass style japery- so it had to be real. Except it couldn’t be. I was born in Cleethorpes. Leonardo DiCaprio doesn’t option books written by people from Cleethorpes. It just doesn’t happen.

After that initial, surreal phone-call it all went quiet for several loooong months while a contract was drawn up, argued over, re-drawn, argued over again and eventually signed. In all that time I carried the news around like a hot coal, desperate to show it to people, blow on it and say ‘look how it glows’ but instead I had to hold it tight in my hand, feeling the keen burn of it while pretending I wasn’t holding anything at all.

This became particularly frustrating in the run-up to publication, exactly the time you want to shine the brightest light you can at your book and say ‘look at this one, look at mine, someone really famous thinks it’s good, you need to buy this book and read it before Hollywood ruins it,’ but I couldn’t. I tried to tell myself that it wouldn’t happen, that something would go wrong, and that Hollywood does indeed ruin most books anyway so I was better off out of it. I even started working on an anecdote of how Leonardo Di Caprio ‘nearly’ optioned Solomon Creed, wondering if I could actually get a bit of mileage out of that instead, trying to phrase it in such a way that it didn’t end up sounding like my book had been considered and then ultimately rejected. But I never did quite the wording right in my head.

 

Green-Hollywood-Sign-Green-CelebritiesBut now the deal is done, or as done as it ever can be in Hollywood terms, and I can finally show you the red hot thing I’ve been carrying around all this time. The pragmatic side of me still knows that an option is just an option, and that Leonardo DiCaprio may change his mind, and that the option will elapse in a year’s time anyway (and that Hollywood tends to ruin books anyway). But that same voice is also whispering to me another truth now, and that is that books written by people from Cleethorpes don’t get optioned by A-list Hollywood superstars. So who knows. Stranger things have already happened.”

 

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Don’t forget to follow the rest of tour and find out more about the mysterious

Solomon Creed…

Solomon-Creed-Tour-Banner

 

Blog Tour- Rod Reynolds- The Dark Inside- Review

51zZxD6mTsL__SX324_BO1,204,203,200_It’s always an interesting reading experience seeing an author run with the facts of a true unsolved crime, and carefully construct their own interpretation of who may have been responsible, and their psychological motivation for seemingly senseless attacks. The Dark Inside from debut author Rod Reynolds, is based loosely on the events surrounding The Texarkana Moonlight Murders of 1946, where young couples were singled out at a local courting spot and brutally attacked. The Texarkana Phantom, as the killer was dubbed, killed five people and assaulted three more, but evaded apprehension, with the killings stopping as quickly as they had begun. With this as the central premise for the story,  Reynolds takes us on an atmospheric, clever, and entirely plausible trip into a small community racked by fear and suspicion.

The real stand out character of the piece is Charlie Yates, the beleaguered and harried journalist who finds himself sent on a fool’s mission by his eminently dislikeable boss, and feeling forced to demonstrate his instinctive journalist’s curiosity and nous in order to save his job in New York. Yates finds himself at odds with pretty much everyone he encounters as an interloper and suspicious of not only his motives but by what he uncovers below the surface of the more ‘respectable’ folk of Texarkana. Reynolds bestows Yates with a real core of morality, unusual in itself for a press journalist, and I like the way his character pivots between outspoken arrogance to moments of extreme self doubt and emotional vulnerability, shaped by events in his personal life. As he navigates his way around the local press, law enforcement officers, and the mayor in search of the killer, and evading the less than honourable members of these factions, Yates needs his wits about him to get to the truth. I was slightly less convinced by the relationship he forms with Lizzie, as it seemed a little forced in the overall narrative, but his essential moral fibre, doggedness, and sometimes foolhardy actions with which his character is balanced, made up for this slight concern.

Screen-Shot-2013-04-17-at-7_38_06-PMReynolds is to be admired for taking a leap of faith, especially as a debut novelist, to write something so outside of his normal experience, and equally as a Brit setting his book across the water in a community where the ghosts of this crime still loom in the shared consciousness. As an outsider looking in, and this being one of my ‘favourite’ unsolved crime mysteries, the setting and atmosphere of Texarkana felt incredibly authentic, and as I listened to a selection of Texas blues artists whilst reading this, the cadence and rhythm of the book worked perfectly. With this book comparisons have been made to Daniel Woodrell and Tom Franklin, and I would say that in terms of the meticulousness of the setting and period atmosphere this is justified. Add in the easy style of dialogue, reminiscent of an author such as Ace Atkins, and this book will tick many boxes for the American crime fiction fan. Reynold’s careful construction of a viable and believable conclusion to this famous case also holds water. Obviously it would be remiss of me to go to deeply into the culprit(s) but, suffice to say, Reynolds has not made the mistake of going for a too outlandish conclusion at odds with how the story has built up, which was gratifying to see, and which outweighed the slightly (in my opinion) ‘chocolate box’ ending.

All in all an intelligent and atmospheric recreation of some very dark and brutal events indeed, and more than happy to see that a sequel is in the offing. A highly recommended debut.

Keep an eye on the dates below for more on The Dark Inside

RR USE THIS (With thanks to Faber for the reading copy of The Dark Inside)

Piero Chiara- The Disappearance of Signora Giulia/ Alberto Barrera Tyszka- Crimes

51To0t8M8jL__SX324_BO1,204,203,200_Regular visitors to this blog will know that along with my other preferred sub genres of crime writing, I have a particular affection for those small, but perfectly formed, foreign crime in translation novels. It is with some delight that I’ve discovered this new line-up from Pushkin Press under their banner of Pushkin Vertigo, a series of releases bringing us some little classics from France, Austria, Spain, Japan and Italy with more to follow. My first stop is The Disappearance of Signora Giulia by Piero Chiara, one of the most celebrated writers of the post-war period. The winner of more than a dozen literary prizes, he is widely read and studied in Italy and this is his first book to be translated into English. A deceptively simple tale of a woman who has seemingly deserted the family home to disappear into thin air, leaving her husband, Esengrini- a prominent criminal lawyer- and daughter at a loss to understand or explain her disappearance. Enter steadfast Detective Sciancalepre who, over the passage of some time, cannot let this case go, being absolutely convinced that Giulia’s husband knows far more about his wife’s disappearance that he will admit to, with the added confusion of red herrings and blind alleys along the way. The interplay between Sciancalepre  and the cocksure, arrogant Esengrini is a real highlight of this taut tale, and despite its brevity, the reader is challenged as much as the detective to work out where Giulia has gone and who is the guilty party in her disappearance. Likewise, the character development, particularly of Giulia’s daughter, Emilia, as she grows into womanhood is neatly developed, moving on with her life despite the pall of sadness at the inexplicable loss of her mother. There is a slight anomaly in the narrative, which you may identify for yourselves, that proved a minor irritation, but that aside, any devotee of  noir crime will enjoy this little sojourn into domestic noir in pure Italian style.

51HBtXCx-bL__SX345_BO1,204,203,200_From the author of the brilliant The Sickness (shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize), comes a new collection of 12 short stories, under the simple title of Crimes. What is most engaging about this collection is how Tyszka disseminates the theme of ‘crime’, to fit the moral, political and emotional themes that the stories encapsulate. He experiments with the idea of crime, and how it manifests itself in normal people’s lives and experiences, taking us from the raw human emotion of political dissent and demonstration, to the loss of a child, to the discovery of a disembodied hand, to a strange little tale of a man who bites dogs. Yes. You did read that correctly. Tyszka’s writing is full of subtle nuances, and quite often the raw strength of these tales lays in what he leaves unsaid, leaving significant reader participation at the close of several of the stories. He invites us to compile our own endings and resolutions, having given us the base of the narrative, which makes for an interactive and challenging reading experience. The stories are multi-faceted and surprising, whilst carefully incorporating some razor-sharp commentary on Latin America and its travails. His writing is crisp, uncomplicated, and inherently more powerful because of it, and the translation by Margaret Jull Costa is perfectly in step with his unique writing style. Something different, something challenging, but ultimately entirely rewarding.

 

 

 

August 2015 Round-Up and Raven’s Book of the Month

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)Started off the month at quite a pace, and more than happy that despite some recurrent issues with my technology, managed to post ten reviews. However, thanks to the blip with the I.T. (yes, I did try turning it off- and back on again) there are another couple of reviews in reserve for September posting. With three blog tours on the horizon for September for Simon Toyne- Solomon Creed, Rod Reynolds- The Dark Inside and Kati Hiekkapelto- The Defenceless, and a stack of new releases,  I’m also going to try and get to a lovely little pile of books from authors I discovered in May at CrimeFest. Fingers crossed. It’s going to be a busy month that’s for sure!

Books read and reviewed:

Neely Tucker- Murder D.C. (www.crimefictionlover.com)

Jason Hewitt- The Dynamite Room

Simon Sylvester- The Visitors

 S. Williams- Tuesday Falling

M. O. Walsh- My Sunshine Away

Catherine Hunt- Someone Out There

Jax Miller- Freedom’s Child

Doug Johnstone- The Jump

Olen Steinhauer- All The Old Knives (www.crimefictionlover.com)

Ava Marsh- Untouchable (www.crimefictionlover.com)

RAVEN’S BOOK OF THE MONTH

tuesInterestingly this has been a month of real highs and lows but there are three books worthy of another mention before the grand unveiling. I absolutely loved the fresh, vibrant and unique debut Tuesday Falling by S. Williams, and have already been recommending it to colleagues and customers alike. Mixing the hidden history of life below London, with cutting edge technology, this was a real winner.  Pacey plot, great characters and some real “well, I never knew that” moments.

I was bewitched by Olen Steinhauer’s All The Old Knives with it’s seemingly familiar settingall-the-old-knives-978144729574701 of an intimate dinner for two, but by the clever use of shifting timelines in a fairly compact form, revealed much more beneath it’s surface, in a twisting tale of CIA chicanery and double-dealing. An intelligent and compelling thriller.

The-Jump-Doug-JohnstoneAlso, Doug Johnstone’s The Jump, which could certainly feature in my end of year round-up, due to the emotional intensity and sensitivity with which he draws his main character, and the mesmeric quality of the prose. Powerful writing, which would put many contemporary fiction writers in the shade.

 

CJZBS7gVAAAmIfbHowever, top honour this month goes to Jax Miller- Freedom’s Child– with its edgy subject matter, a brilliant main protagonist in the form of the eponymous Freedom, and for demonstrating all that the Raven likes best about gritty American fiction. Lean and lyrical prose, social comment, a sublime use of location, and a book that resonates long after the reading of it. Loved it. Loved it. Loved it.

 

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