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

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)Well, if I do say so myself, July* has been a very productive month for reading and reviewing. I still have a couple of reviews outstanding from the plethora of great releases in the last month, but have managed to make a little dent in the teetering to-be read pile. Aided by a week’s holiday from work, there’s been a good mix of books read this month and a couple of blog tours too- one for fellow blogger Sarah Ward and her debut thriller In Bitter Chill and a blogathon par excellence for  Neil White organised by the brilliant Liz Loves Books whose site is definitely worth a visit. Looks like August will be another busy one, but I will endeavour to get to some of my to-be-read pile too, as there are some as yet undiscovered gems lurking there I’m sure. Have a good month everybody!

Books Read and Reviewed:

Kate Griffin- Kitty Peck and the Child of Ill Fortune (www.crimefictionlover.com)

Alexandra Sokoloff- Huntress Moon (FBI Thrillers Book 1)

Sarah Ward- In Bitter Chill

Michael Robotham- Life Or Death

Mark Edwards- Follow You Home

Ruth Ware- In A Dark Dark Wood

Ed McBain- So Nude, So Dead

Chris Carter- I Am Death (www.crimefictionlover.com)

I also managed to read Sarah Hilary’s Someone Else’s Skin (winner of the Theakston’s Crime Fiction Prize) and Kate London’s debut thriller- Post Mortem. If you like London-based police procedurals with strong female protagonists, both of these will probably hit the spot. Both had very assured plotting, and Hilary has already published a second book featuring her detective Marnie Rome, who has quickly established quite a following in the crime fiction reading community. With Kate London’s background in policing, her book had a brilliant authenticity in terms of procedure, and the psychological impact of the job on her police protagonists, which proved thought-provoking throughout. A highly promising debut. Both are recommended by the Raven…

Raven’s Book of the Month

25484031Despite the utter joy of getting my talons on a re-discovered Ed McBain classic with So Nude, So Dead, there is little hesitation in picking Michael Robotham’s Life Or Death as my favourite read this month. Showing his flexibility as a writer, as this book is so different in tone, character, and setting to his previous books (which I’ve also been rather partial to), this book was really something special. Sharing more in common with some of the best written contemporary American fiction, this book was by turns, emotive and violent, but never losing sight of the writer’s aim in providing a tension-fuelled thriller, that proved exceptionally hard to put down. Excellent.

*I know there was mention of an incredibly special book that I wanted to share with you this month. I will post a review soon, as it’s just been published in the UK, and I need to hit the thesaurus for some more superlatives…

 

Alexandra Sokoloff- Huntress Moon (FBI Thrillers Book 1)

alexsFBI Special Agent Matthew Roarke is closing in on a bust of a major criminal organization in San Francisco when he witnesses an undercover member of his team killed right in front of him on a busy street, an accident Roarke can’t believe is coincidental. His suspicions put him on the trail of a mysterious young woman who appears to have been present at each scene of a years-long string of “accidents” and murders, and who may well be that most rare of killers: a female serial…

Huntress Moon is the first of a trilogy by Alexandra Sokoloff, that in a wonderful moment of serendipity, and the power of Twitter, I came to review. I think the fact that I read in this in somewhat of a vacuum, having been completely unaware of the author and these books, contributed even more so to my enjoyment of the book. Hence, the reason why I have given you only a snippet of the synopsis of the book, so that you can gain as much pleasure from discovering this intelligent and beautifully plotted thriller as I did.

Having just effectively boxed myself into a corner as to how far I can share the plot with you, I will reveal that we encounter this story from two narrative viewpoints, that of seasoned FBI investigator and the mysterious and violent female perpetrator he pursues. A satisfying aspect of this as a narrative structure is that Sokoloff retains an assured sense of balance between her two central protagonists, and as a reader you are discovering the bigger picture about our female killer through Roarke’s deeper investigation into her life, background, and why she exhibits such a compulsion for killing. The only book I can compare it to in terms of this structure would be Pierre Lemaitre’s compelling thriller Alex, where there is a gradual sense of the curtain being lifted on the central female protagonist, after a period of uncertainty on behalf of the reader as to her motivations. With Special Agent Roarke being so adept at reading the criminal mind, it is truly enthralling to see him confronted with the fairly unique prospect of tracking a female serial who in another intriguing twist, fails to comply with his cut-out Quantico image of why particular women are driven to kill. This is turn gives Sokoloff the opportunity to demonstrate a welcome degree of research on the psychology of killers, to intersperse the plot with some extremely interesting background detail on the psychopathy of serial or spree killers. Although this is quite a common trait amongst writers of serial killer thrillers, and some of the material was familiar from other books, I did learn a fair few things that I didn’t know before, and I particularly enjoyed the wider and more cerebral musing on the place of women in society in general, at odds with the oftentimes violent, patriarchal status quo.

In terms of characterisation, there was a glorious lack of cliché in relation to the depiction of both the central protagonists. Although Roarke is quickly revealed as a man whose personal relationships have suffered due to the demands of his job, which is not uncommon in law enforcement generally, I found him a mercurial, intelligent and completely engaging character. I was intrigued by the moral dilemma he found himself in as an essentially moral man, as he became more involved in his hunt, and certain details and heinous events became apparent to him. It gave a wonderful sense of his moral axis having to shift slightly as events played out, but undergoing a mental battle with his responsibilities as a federal officer pitted against his natural sense of empathy. Likewise, our female protagonist is multi-layered, leading the reader to question her motives, particularly when we see her entering alien environments, and reaching out to form relationships, but always with the underlying question as to what degree are her motives pure, or is she just bad to the bone? Hence, the shades of uncertainty that Sokoloff attributes to her characters, just serve to perplex the reader more, and increase our curiosity further…

With the further enticement two more titles in this series, Blood Moon and Cold Moon, I am genuinely pleased to have been introduced to this writer’s work. If you like your serial killer thrillers to be of the more intelligent variety, with a considered, well-researched approach, a real depth of plotting and character development, look no further. You’ve found it. Very enjoyable indeed.

Alexandra Sokoloff is the Thriller Award-winning and Bram Stoker, Anthony, and Black Quill Award-nominated author of the supernatural thrillers The Harrowing, The Price, The Unseen, Book of Shadows, The Shifters, and The Space Between, and the Thriller Award-nominated, Amazon bestselling Huntress FBI thriller series (Huntress Moon, Blood Moon). As a screenwriter she has sold original horror and thriller scripts and adapted novels for numerous Hollywood studios. She has also written two non-fiction workbooks: Screenwriting Tricks for Authors and Writing Love,and has served on the Board of Directors of the WGA, west and the board of the Mystery Writers of America. Alex is a California native and a graduate of U.C. Berkeley, where she majored in theater and minored in everything Berkeley has a reputation for. In her spare time (!) she performs with Heather Graham’s all-author Slush Pile Players, and dances like a fiend. She is also very active on Facebook. But not an addict. Seriously, it’s under control. Visit her website here

(With thanks to the author for the ARC)