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The Boys Are Back In Town- David Young- Stasi Wolf/ Steve Cavanagh- The Liar/ David Jackson- Hope To Die

East Germany, 1975. Karin Müller, sidelined from the murder squad in Berlin, jumps at the chance to be sent south to Halle-Neustadt, where a pair of infant twins have gone missing.

But Müller soon finds her problems have followed her. Halle-Neustadt is a new town – the pride of the communist state – and she and her team are forbidden by the Stasi from publicising the disappearances, lest they tarnish the town’s flawless image.

Meanwhile, in the eerily nameless streets and tower blocks, a child snatcher lurks, and the clock is ticking to rescue the twins alive . . .

Having absolutely loved David Young’s debut, Stasi Child with it’s refreshingly different setting, and being steeped in the history of Germany’s former divisions, both geographically and socially, here’s the next in the series. Once again the indomitable Karin Müller finds herself enmeshed in a thorny and deeply personal investigation, under the watchful eye of the Stasi…

What I have loved about both books is Young’s attention to detail, that so firmly roots the reader in this timeframe, allowing us to bear witness to the unique and sinister workings of this totalitarian state. Unlike other authors who fail to balance their reams of research with good solid storytelling, Young consistently displays a knack for both, whether describing the functional architecture of Halle-Neustadt, where Müller is stationed, to further adroit observations on the social stratum that exists behind its concrete façade. He effortlessly melds the constraints of life in the east, with references to the forbidden fruits that lie within the west, and the frustrations that Müller and her cohorts face in the course of their investigation . I really liked the use of the dual narrative, that slowly binds the story together, the revelatory impact on Müller’s case. and the grim revelations about certain medical practices in this closed state.

In terms of characterisation, not only does Müller have to navigate the suffocating constraints of state control, which the book excels at,  but there is a slight shift in tone, as Young begins to fill out Müller’s own character more, affording some interesting insights into her family history. At times I felt, this development of Muller’s character was weighted too heavily against the main plot, giving the book a slight imbalance, and there was one twist in the plot that felt a little too contrived for this reader, leading to the feeling that this was a bridging book to greater revelations ahead, instead of a naturally fluid development of the series. However, I enjoyed the way that once again, Young carefully uses Müller’s colleagues to lighten the tone, and adds a much needed softening to the personalities that lie beneath their constricted professional lives.

To be honest though, this one small criticism of Müller’s character development within Stasi Wolf  did little to dent my enjoyment overall. Young’s astute and compelling use of his chosen location and period of history was as enlightening and educational as ever, within the arc of this dark and disturbing investigation. Recommended.

(With thanks to Bonnier Zaffre for the ARC)

WHO IS DEADLIER …

Leonard Howell’s worst nightmare has come true: his daughter Caroline has been kidnapped. Not content with relying on the cops, Howell calls the only man he trusts to get her back.

… THE MAN WHO KNOWS THE TRUTH …

Eddie Flynn knows what it’s like to lose a daughter and vows to bring Caroline home safe. Once a con artist, now a hotshot criminal attorney, Flynn is no stranger to the shady New York underworld.

… OR THE ONE WHO BELIEVES A LIE?

However, as he steps back into his old life, Flynn realizes that the rules of game have changed – and that he is being played. But who is pulling the strings? And is anyone in this twisted case telling the truth…?

Having reviewed Steve Cavanagh’s two excellent previous Eddie Flynn thrillers, The Defence and The Plea  it is with some pleasure that I can say that the big guy has come up trumps again. Having converted me to the enjoyable world of the legal thriller, Cavanagh plunges his stalwart Flynn back into a compelling tale of kidnap and twisted family secrets…

The sharp-talking, quick thinking and utterly engaging character of Eddie Flynn lies at the heart of the success of this America based series to date. He is an entirely likeable protagonist who easily gets the reader on board with his delightful mix of street smarts and, at times, emotional sensitivity. I love the little echoes of his grifter past that undercut his talents as a lawyer, and the interludes of wit that Cavanagh employs in this incredibly fast paced and engaging thriller. Cavanagh’s writing is extremely fluid and well-paced throughout, with an uncanny knack in his control of tension and action, from the high-stakes shenanigans of Flynn’s courtroom appearances, to his clear-sighted and unquestioning mission for justice for his client.

So as not to spoil your enjoyment of this thriller, I will dwell fleetingly on the plot, as there are more than a few twists and turns and surprising revelations in the course of Flynn’s thorny case. What I would say is that there is a proper ass-kicking female FBI agent in this one, who more than deserves a repeat appearance in future books (hint, hint) and a grim tale of dark jealousies that exist between siblings that could only end badly. It is never less than gripping throughout, and Flynn needs his wits about him to navigate this minefield of tricky legal negotiations, and intermittent flashpoints of danger…

All in all, The Liar proves itself an extremely enjoyable, well-plotted thriller with solid characterisation, and a nice sting in the tale. A great addition to an already mustn’t miss series. Loved it.

(With thanks to Orion for the ARC)

On a bitterly cold winter’s night, Liverpool is left stunned by a brutal murder in the grounds of the city’s Anglican Cathedral. A killer is on the loose, driven by a chilling rage. Put on the case, DS Nathan Cody is quickly stumped. Wherever he digs, the victim seems to be almost angelic – no-one has a bad word to say, let alone a motive for such a violent murder. And Cody has other things on his mind too. The ghosts of his past are coming ever closer, and – still bearing the physical and mental scars – it’s all he can do to hold onto his sanity.
And then the killer strikes again . . .

Hope To Die is the second outing for DS Nathan Cody, and the follow up to A Tapping At My Door the first of David Jackson’s new Liverpool based series. Still reeling from the events of the first book, our beleaguered detective has more demons to face in this dark and testing investigation…

Aside from the triple murder case, the book is punctuated by the experiences of a young boy suffering abuse, in this case at the hands of a religiously zealous and cruel mother, and the mental angst of DS Cody himself in the grip of the reverberations of a previous violent interlude in his police career. Jackson largely succeeds at juggling these three strands of narrative, but maybe too consciously is setting the scene for a further book in the series in the case of Cody’s torment. I felt early on that the demons haunting him would not be effectively dealt with this in this book, so resigned myself to a possible cliffhanger for this particular story arc, but no matter as the murder investigations he is involved in provided more than enough tension in the main storyline. I thought the plotting and eventual resolution of the murder cases was extremely well done, with a cunningly concealed, but utterly believable perpetrator, and I enjoyed both the build up to,  and the final unmasking of, the killer. Jackson makes liberal use of red herrings and blind alleys, and I always think this adds something to the reading of a thriller, testing out our little grey cells, and playing with our intuition. I also greatly enjoyed the sideswipes at religious fervour and hypocrisy that are central to the murderer’s motivations.

Something that is always consistent in Jackson’s writing, be it his former New York set crime series, or this one, is his solid characterisation, and the interaction between his characters. There is ready Scouse wit, emotional angst, spikiness, and total professionalism in equal measure, and he never shies away from homing in on this little mis-steps in communication that exist when people have to react with others outside of their professional zone. This is particularly evident in the torturous and frustrating relationship between Cody and DC Megan Webley, whose emotional back and forth, provides a nice little distraction from the grim murder investigation, but not to the detriment of the central plot. More a case of will they again, won’t they again, knock their heads together, throw hands up in despair etc…

Hope To Die proves itself another well-executed police procedural from David Jackson, and as another step in the confronting of Cody’s ghosts from the past, acts as a good bridge in readiness for the next in the series. I’m looking forward to it already…

(With thanks to Bonnier Zaffre for the ARC)

 

 

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April 2016 Round-Up and Raven’s Book of the Month

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)A much more productive month on the reading front and I have also stolen a march on May, pre-reading some cracking new releases. That’s good.

However, with such a frenetic pace of reading, trying to get ahead of myself, I kind of lost sight of reviewing the April titles too. That’s bad.

There were also a couple of titles that I’ve deliberately avoided reviewing as I just wanted to read them for pleasure, and not have to pick them apart too much for reviewing purposes. However, with this round-up affording me an opportunity to tidy up a few loose ends let’s crack on, and clear those decks shall we? May is going to be a busy month with blog tours aplenty, a plethora of brilliant crime releases, and the Raven’s attendance at a certain little crime shindig in Bristol….

Books read and reviewed:

David Jackson-  A Tapping At My Door

Annemarie Neary- Siren

Amanda Jennings- In Her Wake

M. P. Wright- All Through The Night

Melissa Ginsburg- Sunset City

Also read…

dodWhen East, a low-level lookout for a Los Angeles drug organisation, loses his watch house in a police raid, his boss recruits him for a very different job: a road trip straight down the middle of white, rural America to assassinate a judge in Wisconsin. Having no choice, East and a crew of untested boys including his trigger-happy younger brother, Ty, leave the only home they’ve ever known in a nondescript blue van, with a roll of cash, a map and a gun they shouldn’t have. Along the way, the country surprises East. The blood on his hands isn’t the blood he expects. And he reaches places where only he can decide which way to go or which person to become.

Widely billed as The Wire crossed with road trip movie, I think that this book actually defies the simplicity of this description. In the character of gang member East, who was the absolute stand out for me, Beverly has created something really quite special. This is a bildungsroman for the modern age, with East in particular embracing the possibilities of life outside of the tough LA neighbourhood he inhabits, and the lawless life he leads. As the book progresses and his cohorts fall by the wayside on their cross country mission to murder a trial witness, I found the exploration and growth of East’s character spellbinding throughout. Unlike other reviewers, who bemoan the slower pace of the second half of the book, I thought this worked perfectly, and gave Beverly total reign to explore and describe not only the changes within East, but also aligning these developments in juxtaposition with the new landscape and way of life he undertakes- the urban versus the rural. The writing is flawless throughout with Beverly being as comfortable with the rat-a-tat rhythm of the young teenagers’ dialogue, and conveying the brutality of their world, to describing elements of the landscape they travel through with the lyricism of some of the best naturalistic American writers. An absolute gem and highly recommended.

motherToday, Marcia is heading to the Old Bailey. She’s going there to do something no mother should ever have to do: to attend the trial of the boy accused of her son’s murder. She’s not meant to be that woman; Ryan, her son, wasn’t that kind of boy. But Tyson Manley is that kind of a boy and, as his trial unfolds, it becomes clear that it’s his girlfriend Sweetie who has the answers Marcia so badly needs and who can – perhaps – offer Marcia some kind of hope for the future. But Sweetie is as scared of Tyson as Ryan should have been and, as Marcia’s learned the hard way, nothing’s certain. Not any more.

Categorized as fiction, but following one family’s experience in the aftermath of a heartbreaking crime, The Mother is the second book from Edwards, author of the much lauded A Cupboard Full of Coats. What I loved about this book was the symbiotic balance of the raw, unflinching emotion of a family torn apart by the death of a loved one, set against the remorseless impassivity of both the legal process they must endure, and the perpetrator they face in the courtroom. Edwards takes the reader from one to another with consummate ease, making the heartrending grief of Ryan’s parents, Marcia and Lloydie, and the fissure it has caused in their relationship, all the more poignant against the sterile coldness of the court procedures that Marcia in particular witnesses as the case progresses. Equally, Edwards has a highly attuned ear for, and sharp recognition of, the world of Ryan’s peers, and the insidious grasp of gang culture in the inner city. This comes to the fore in her characterisation of Sweetie, a young girl who is caught between the studious and respectable world of Ryan, and the forced allegiance she has to the local gang. This is a hard-hitting and socially intuitive novel that is ultimately both an emotional and thought-provoking must read. Recommended.

 

poeeeeSummer, 1840. Edgar Allan Poe arrives in London to meet his friend C. Auguste Dupin, in the hope that the great detective will help him solve a family mystery. For Poe has inherited a mahogany box containing sheathes of letters that implicate his grandparents in some of London’s most heinous and scandalous crimes – those committed by the so-called London Monster who, for two years, terrorized the city’s streets, stalking attractive, well-to-do young women, slicing their clothing and their derrières. Unable, or perhaps unwilling, to accept that his grandparents – actors who struggled to make a living on the London stage – led a clandestine and nefarious double life, Poe and Dupin set out to prove the missives forgeries. But as they delve deeper into the city’s secrets, and past horrors emerge, they start to suspect that they too are being watched and preyed upon. And if they are, might their stalkers be connected to the London Monster?

With my nom de plume and love of Mr Poe how could I resist this one? Despite my usual hesitation in reading historical crime fiction, I though this was marvellous. Clever, knowing, witty,  and wonderfully researched with not only its reimaging of the salient details of Poe’s life, but also the repositioning of Poe’s relationship with his finest creation Dupin, banding together into a pretty damn effective detective team. Their are tricks, hints and allusions to Poe’s literary oeuvre, which add a layer of reader participation as the book progresses- no, I don’t think I spotted them all- and the use of the infamous real life case of the London Monster adds another layer of interest to the book. It’s beautifully constructed, alive with the feel of the period, and all the darkness, violence and treachery one would expect of any case involving Poe. An intelligent literary crime thriller that will keep you guessing throughout. Recommended.

Raven’s Book(s) of the Month

Taking into account the books from both March and April, the Raven has decided to award two books as the stand out reads over this period. I will give very, very, honourable mentions to Annemarie Neary- Siren, Yusuf Toropov-Jihadi, David Jackson- A Tapping At My Door and M. P. Wright- All Through The Night for providing unabated reading pleasure as they were all inherently different, and pushed my buttons in different ways.

However, the two books that have so firmly remained with me since reading, and which I’m still thinking about in the wake of reading them are….drumroll…. these two exceptional reads- Katie Medina- Fire Damage and Bill Beverly- Dodgers The Raven highly recommends both!

medina   dod

 

 

 

Blog Tour- Guest Post- David Jackson- My Liverpool- A Tapping At My Door + Review

Jackson, DaveAnd so to Raven Crime Reads for the next stop on the blog tour marking the release of David Jackson’s fifth book, A Tapping At My Door. With the previous books all being set in the jolly old U. S. of A, Jackson has stayed closer to home with this one, setting it in his native city of Liverpool. In a special guest post, the author reflects on some of the locations used in this compelling new thriller…

My Liverpool

dj“The title chosen for this blog post is ‘My Liverpool’, but it could equally be called ‘Cody’s Liverpool’, as there’s a curious overlap between the places I know well and the locations used in ‘A Tapping at My Door’!

Stoneycroft

The novel opens in a house in Stoneycroft, about 3 or 4 miles from the city centre. This was actually the first house I bought. It was nothing special, but it got me on the property ladder. At that time I had no thoughts of becoming a novelist!

Bold Street

When we first meet Cody, he’s working undercover as a busker at the bottom of Bold Street. At the time of writing, there was a massive Waterstones here. This was closed down a few months later, so I had to go back and rewrite the chapter. From this location, we follow Cody on a foot pursuit through Central Station and into Clayton Square.

Stanley Road, Kirkdale

Cody’s unit, the Major Incident Team, is housed in the police station here in this deprived area of Liverpool. It is actually situated next to a funeral parlour, hence the bit in the novel about the locals joking that it’s the only way the homicide detectives can find a dead body.

Kensington

libThe investigation takes Cody to this residential area just outside the city centre. In the book, he remembers visiting the library here as a kid, with the Francis Bacon quote above the library door: ‘Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.’ Funny that, because I remember exactly the same things from when I was a kid.

Rodney Street

As mentioned in the novel, Rodney Street is sometimes referred to as the Harley Street of the north, with its doctors, dentists, etc. Cody rents a flat above a dental practice here. Believe it or not, it’s based on a place in which I once lived on the same street. The buildings are huge, Georgian town houses, with lots of story potential, as will become apparent in the series.

Fairfield

Not far from Kensington is Fairfield, which is where Cody’s family lives. This is where I was born, and the Cody household is loosely based on what I can remember of our own place all those years ago. Running between Kensington and Fairfield is Sheil Road, close to another house I lived in, and the location for another murder in the novel.

Pubs: Ye Cracke, The Philharmonic, The Beehive

250px-YeCrackeLiverpoolOMI have had many pints of beer in many of the pubs in Liverpool, and a few of these are described in the book. Ye Cracke is a tiny watering hole, renowned as the place that John Lennon used to drink. Just around the corner from here is the building that used to be the grammar school attended by Paul McCartney, George Harrison and yours truly (although I was there much later!) By contrast, the Philharmonic pub just down the road is a huge establishment, famous for its ornate urinals! Another pub I spent some time in is The Beehive, where Cody has a meeting with Dobson the journalist.

Hope Street

I love Hope Street. Aptly named, it connects the city’s two cathedrals. It’s also home to the Everyman Theatre and a number of great restaurants. One of these – the London Carriage Works – is where Cody goes to confront the newspaper editor.

Brownlow Hill

This runs from town up through the university campus. At its bottom end is the famous Adelphi Hotel, and the car park behind this forms another location for the book.

And finally …

There is one other Liverpool landmark I’d like to talk about, but can’t, as it plays a key role in the novel’s finale. You’ll just have to read the book to find out more!”

David Jackson is the author of a series of crime thrillers featuring New York Detective Callum Doyle. His debut novel, Pariah, was Highly Commended in the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Awards. When not writing fiction, David spends his time as a lecturer in a university science department. He also gives occasional workshops on creative writing. Follow the author on Twitter @Author_Dave.

RAVEN REVIEWS:

dj

I think you can probably tell from my previous reviews for Pariah The Helper , Marked and Cry Baby that I am rather keen on the oeuvre of Mr Jackson, and this quartet of New York set thrillers were filled with twists, humour and a reckless, but all the more endearing, police protagonist, Detective Callum Doyle. After a small hiatus, Jackson returns to the world of the crime thriller, with a new setting, new characters, and the temptation of a deliciously dark and compelling investigation…

Beginning with an epigraph from The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe (one extra point allocated by this reviewer) reflecting the title of the book, we are immediately plunged into a nerve shredding opening, to which we must thank Mr Jackson for giving all us single ladies the right heebie jeebies. Disturbed by a tapping at her back door, and in a move as stupid as going to the basement in a horror film, Terri Latham goes to investigate finding a raven is responsible for the noise. Then a killer strikes, thus killing two birds with one stone (sorry couldn’t resist that one, and also the consequent loss of formerly allocated point for crimes against ravens). When Latham’s murder is investigated further, events from her recent past lead to the revisiting of a contentious case centred on police brutality. Tasked with uncovering a killer is DS Nathan Cody, a former undercover operative carrying the scars of an undercover mission gone wrong,  but can Cody keep his head as the pressure mounts, and the body count begins to rise…

You know those real read-in-one-sitting thrillers, where little short of impending starvation or natural disaster would move you from the sofa? Yep, this is one of those. Although at first glance, you could be mistaken for thinking that this was an all too familiar plot of weirdo on rampage with twisted agenda, versus damaged cop, Jackson adds a certain verve to the whole affair as he sucks us in deeper to the tormented worlds of his protagonists. Cody is a hugely empathetic character, and as his personal demons are slowly revealed his stock rises in the whole narrative arc. You have an unerring sense of the devil on his shoulder, but this is counterbalanced well by the curious mix of bravado, and at times deep self-questioning, that Jackson imbues into his character. Less successful for me initially (there was a slight look to the heavens) was the slightly awkward scenario of him being partnered up with a former lover, but my fears were assuaged as DC Megan Webley established herself quickly as acutely necessary to the unfolding of Cody’s story. I also loved his boss, DCI Stella Blunt who threatened to ride roughshod over everyone on her sporadic appearances in the plot, with an incomparable mix of steel underscored by a certain softness.

As the book races to a thrilling denouement with the killer’s motivations at last revealed, it is apt that Jackson draws on two distinctly recognisable facets of Liverpool and Liverpudlian history to bring the story to a close. I always enjoy it when British authors write so realistically and recognisably about their own stamping grounds, as in the books of Mari Hannah with the North East, David Mark with Hull, and fellow Liverpudlian Kevin Sampson for example. Throughout the book, Jackson takes us on an affectionate but not completely misty-eyed, trip through the familiar streets of his native city, and the city takes a role as a separate character in the book. The author is refreshingly disinclined to paint too rosy a picture of this city with its mixture of recognisable growth set against the curse of inner city deprivation, and he achieves this balance perfectly.

I rather enjoyed this one as you can tell, as a well-executed thriller, with plenty of scope and a firm foundation for a projected series. Quoth the Raven- it’s really rather good…

Catch up with or follow the rest of the blog tour here:

1 A Tapping at my Door Blog Banner FINAL- use this one

 

 

 

March 2016 Round-Up and Raven’s Book of the Month

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)March proved a fallow month as my reviewing mojo seemed to temporarily desert me- only four books reviewed- slapped wrists! I also seemed to spend too much time giving some books the benefit of the doubt, and read past my forty page rule with dire results. I persisted with one for 200+ pages (out of 700), but just couldn’t face any more of it, and a few others fell by the wayside too.  However, to even up my reviewing this round-up includes a couple more that I didn’t get around to reviewing in March, so keep reading…

April will definitely prove more fruitful where I am taking part in four blog tours for David Jackson- A Tapping At My Door, Manda Jennings- In Her Wake, C. J. Carver- Spare Me The Truth and Melissa Ginsburg- Sunset City. There are also a few releases from March to race through, and a plethora of great crime fiction publishing scheduled for April and May. Exciting times for crime fiction fans. Also I would implore you to catch up with the televisual treat that is Follow The Money– a terrific new Scandi-drama currently airing on BBC4- featuring mesmerising performances from Bo Larsen and Natalie Madueno- it’s brilliant! Am also slightly in mourning at the end of The Night Manager which was totally gripping and kept me hooked, but have high hopes for its replacement Undercover starring Sophie Okonedo and Adrian Lester in the 9pm Sunday night slot on the jolly old BBC. We shall see…

Books read and reviewed:

Quentin Bates- Thin Ice

Kate McQuaile- What She Never Told Me

 Yusuf Toropov- Jihadi: A Love Story

Katie Medina- Fire Damage

I also read…

9781910477250_190x290Pascal Garnier- Too Close To The Edge

Recently widowed grandmother Éliette is returning to her home in the mountains when her micro-car breaks down. A stranger comes to her aid on foot. Éliette offers him a lift, glad of the interruption to her humdrum routine. That night, her neighbours’ son is killed in a road accident. Could the tragedy be linked to the arrival of her good Samaritan?

Being a confirmed devotee of the late, great, Pascal Garnier, it was lovely to discover another of his bijou, but dark and disturbing treats. He has such a singular knack for taking the reader into a surprising and,  at times, darkly humorous direction in such a compressed length of fiction, and Too Close To The Edge is no exception. After a rustic and genteel opening charting the life of widow Eliette newly ensconced in her French rural retreat, Garnier disrupts the apparent new-found harmony of her life in an exceptionally violent manner, with sex, drugs and twisted emotions, coming to thwart her peaceful existence, but also allowing her room to discover elements of life that she has had no experience of, and the change her perception of the world undergoes through this. It’s deft, violent, funny and perfect, further demonstrating the void that the much-loved Garnier leaves in his wake.

(With thanks to Gallic for the ARC)

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Steffen Jacobsen- Retribution

On a warm Autumn afternoon, Tivoli Gardens – Denmark’s largest amusement park – is devastated by a terrorist attack. 1,241 people are killed. The unknown bomber is blown to bits; the security forces have no leads. One year later, the nation is still reeling, and those behind the attack are still at large. Amidst the increasingly frustrated police force, Superintendent Lene Jensen is suffering the effects of tragedy closer to home. Everyone is aware the terrorists may soon strike again. Then Lene receives a strange call. A young desperate Muslim woman needs her help, but by the time Lene reaches her she’s already dead – supposedly suicide. Already suspicious, Lene’s initial investigations suggest that the woman was unknowingly part of a secret services research project. Silenced by her superiors, Lene turns to her old ally Michael Sander to dig deeper. But with even her allies increasingly adamant her actions are a risk to national security, Lene begins to understand that finding the truth might be the most dangerous thing of all.

As part of my mission to get everyone in the world reading Danish crime author Steffen Jacobsen ( I’ve previously reviewed When The Dead Awaken and Trophy ) this is his latest. With recent events in Brussels a stark reminder of the danger posed by terrorist action, Jacobsen addresses this theme sensitively, but with brutal honesty throughout the book. Jacobsen constructs a twisting and pulsating examination of the difficulties faced by the security services and police in thwarting terrorism, and takes the reader from homeland Denmark to the Middle East in the course of the story. By presenting the reader with numerous viewpoints of the war on terror, and the innocents and not-so-innocent caught up in its wake, there is always a sense of brutal reality to his writing, without the gung-ho one dimensional view of events so often seen in thriller writing with this particular premise.

There is a real sensitivity in Jacobsen’s writing that makes the reader sit up and think about the events and people he portrays, not only with the prescient events of the book, but also in the additional exploration he makes into psychological territory, particularly evident in the character of Superintendent Lene Jensen, who for my money is one of the most roundly formed, well-written, and interesting police protagonists in the Scandinavian genre. Indeed, Jacobsen exhibits a masterly touch with all of his female protagonists from Lene herself to her boss Charlotte Falster, and mercurial psychologist Irene Adler. He imbues all of these characters with a welcome balance of strength, intelligence and wit, along with a necessary Achilles Heel that is never in detriment to our overall perception of them, but increases our respect and empathy, and more importantly makes them believable. With such an assured use of characterisation, and his natural ability of damn fine storytelling, Jacobsen seldom disappoints, and this tale will keep you on your toes, and totally gripped throughout. A clever, exciting and very readable thriller.

(With thanks to Quercus for the ARC)

Raven’s Book of The Month

….is delayed until next month as choosing just one book from only six reviewed seemed a bit like being asked to choose your favourite child. So these excellent six will be added to April’s tally and there may even be more than one book of the month. Who knows?

See you in April!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Jackson- Cry Baby

DJIt’s every mother’s nightmare – the abduction of her baby. That’s how it starts for Erin Vogel when she is attacked and left unconscious in her apartment. When she awakes, it is to find that Georgia, her six-month-old daughter, has been taken. But Erin is given a chance to get Georgia back. At an unthinkable price. Like most mothers, she has always said she would do anything for her child. Now the strength of that bond is about to be put to the ultimate test. And when her actions arouse the interest of a certain Detective Callum Doyle, one thing is inevitable: a confrontation that will be as explosive as it is unforgettable…

A real highpoint of the publishing year for me, is a new addition to David Jackson’s excellent Detective Callum Doyle series. But fear not, gentle (but criminally minded) reader, if you have not sampled the wares of Mr Jackson before, because Cry Baby proves an easy entry point into the pre-existing series, and then you can relish the experience of playing catch-up with the others. Everyone’s a winner…

The book grabs your interest from the get-go with a young mother, Erin Vogel, experiencing the nightmare scenario of the abduction of her baby, Georgia. To add to her general torment, she finds herself under the surveillance, both visual and audio, of the disembodied voice of her daughter’s abductor- a voice commanding her to kill six random strangers before midnight the following day. If she reneges on the deal her baby will die. Jackson ramps up the tension of this twisted mission in spades, as we bear witness to the utter mental and physical turmoil that this produces in Erin, and the fear and indecision she experiences in selecting her victims. Just how can she choose who deserves to die in order for her baby to live? This is not a premise for a story that I have encountered before and Jackson, to his credit, handles it beautifully, speeding up and slowing down Erin’s mission accordingly to keep the tension on a knife edge throughout, and I am revealing nothing more. You are in for a treat…

As I said, this is another book featuring Detective Callum Doyle, a smart-mouthed but commited New York cop, who displays all the quick-wittedness and moral integrity, that we relish in our cop protagonists. He’s not having a great day at the office, when news of these seemingly random killings break, juggling the needs of both this case and the appearance at the station of a man with Rainman abilities professing to have killed his mother. Doyle dubs him Albert, as in Einstein, and the additional narrative that develops from their interactions is both poignant and humorous, providing a sliver of light relief from the moral trials of Erin in the opposing storyline. Jackson, once again demonstrates the mordant and clever wit that his character Doyle is synonomous with, whether he be joshing on with his colleagues, or using his acerbic wit to frustrate his superiors. Its deftly handled and a real shining point of the book.

With the benefit of having read the three previous books, Pariah, The Helper and Marked, I am pleased to say that Cry Baby more than came up to scratch. I enjoyed the very singular and particular focus that this book had on one day in Doyle’s life, with less emphasis on his outside distractions. The plot was perfectly judged, both in content and pace, cut through with humour and a satisfying degree of violence! Oh- and there might be a twist or two along the way. Enjoy!

David Jackson is the acclaimed author of the crime thriller series featuring New York detective Callum Doyle. Pariah, his debut novel, was Highly Commended in the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Awards. It is published in the UK by Pan Macmillan, and various audio and foreign rights have been sold. Follow-up novels in the series are: The Helper, Marked, and Cry Baby. The Guardian newspaper said of David’s writing: ‘Recalls Harlan Coben – though for my money Jackson is the better writer.’ More information about David and his novels can be found on his website at www.davidjacksonbooks.com where he can also be contacted. He goes under the name @Author_Dave on Twitter

Read Raven’s reviews here:

David Jackson– Pariah

David Jackson– The Helper

David Jackson- Marked

David Jackson- Marked

In New York’s East Village a young girl is brutally raped, tortured and murdered. Detective Callum Doyle has seen the victim’s remains. He has visited the distraught family. Now he wants justice. Doyle is convinced he knows who the killer is. The problem is he can’t prove it. And the more he pushes his prime suspect, the more he learns that the man is capable of pushing back in ways more devious and twisted than Doyle could ever have imagined. Add to that the appearance of an old adversary who has a mission for Doyle and won’t take no for an answer, and soon Doyle finds himself at risk of losing everything he holds dear. Including his life…

As a seasoned and somewhat cynical crime reader I always have a strange feeling of mild peril when approaching an author’s third outing in a series that has pretty much knocked my metaphorical socks off with the first two books. So here is the third of Jackson’s Detective Callum Doyle’s adventures in downtown New York and how did it do? Yeeeeeeeeees! I can push aside those unfounded feelings of doubt, because I am more than happy to report that Jackson has delivered again. With a somewhat darker feel to the previous two books, what we have here is another full-throttle, and at times violent tale, with Doyle as a modern day caped crusader, albeit with a much better reportoire of pithy one-liners and a never ending propensity to facedown the bad guys and seek justice for the wronged. Doyle is up to his little bent nose in trouble, juggling the demands of hunting down a murdering rapist, running errands for gangsters, navigating the annoyance of a new young and earnest police partner and trying not to totally tee off his long suffering wife. Oh yeah, and it looks like his daughter might be a kleptomaniac.

But seriously, this is an absolute page turner throughout, suffused with the twists and turns so firmly recognisable in Jackson’s style. Doyle goes about his business with little thought to his own physical safety and finds himself one-on-one with one of the most scheming, duplicitous and odious characters ever to grace the pages of a crime book, in the shape of Stan Proust, the demon tatooist. Doyle is convinced that this snake in the grass is responsible for the abduction, rape and murder of two girls, the latest being Megan Hamlyn, and goes all out to prove Proust guilty, setting him against his new partner Tommy LeBlanc and doing nothing to quell the genuinely held suspicion in the squadroom that Doyle is a loose cannon. This is an incredibly dark but well executed thread to the book, as we see Proust turning the screws on Doyle bit by bit, threatening all corners of Doyle’s life. As we observe Doyle’s interaction with Megan’s bereaved parents, in particular, with her mother Nicole (who has a strong presence in the book and an intriguing part to play in the overall plot), we feel the urgency of Doyle to bring this man to justice. But fate has more in store for Stan Proust than just the attentions of Doyle, and with the reappearance of shadowy figures from Doyle’s murky past (in particular the cross-eyed gangster Bartok) this all adds up to Doyle being pulled in all directions in this twisted storyline tightly weaved…

Aside from the tightly controlled plotting in both this and the previous books, Jackson once again demonstrates his gift for characterisation and dialogue, very reminiscent in style to one of his proclaimed writing influences, the late great Ed McBain. Doyle is a wiseass, pure and simple, relying on his own propensity for wit on probably some less than suitable occasions. The violence Doyle encounters is always beautifully counterbalanced with his knack for the ready quip, with more than one of his colleagues being antagonised by his smart mouth, but throughout the book this use of humour enriches the cut and thrust of the precisely drawn dialogue. Doyle’s uneasy relationship with new partner LeBlanc reminded me strongly of the Harry Callaghan school of indoctrinating partners, with probably slightly better odds at surviving, and it was nice to see the revival of Doyle’s fraught former dealings with his Internal Affairs nemesis Paulson in the course of the tale. The characterisation throughout is perfectly pitched and credible, as we bear witness to Doyle’s less than adept social skills and his skill at covering his own back, whilst always admiring his unerring determination to bring the guilty to justice, despite the determination of others to thwart him. The surrounding characters simply work well,  as they are as roundly drawn as the central protagonist, and there is a good symbiosis of action and reaction played throughout them, that fleshes out Doyle’s character and his differing relationships with them.

 So to conclude, fear not if you have not had the pleasure of reading ‘Pariah’ or ‘The Helper (but quite honestly why haven’t you?) as the relevant back story is seamlessly woven in to the tale so you’re not aware of playing catch-up. As with other reviewers, I would issue a slight word of caution, for the more sensitive among you that there is a fair amount of violence, but nothing that will keep you awake at night, unless your other half has a less than healthy relationship with their power tools. Joking aside, apart from a v. minor wobble on the closing page, this is a great read; earthy, compelling and unmissable. Go now out into the world and discover Doyle for yourselves…

 David Jackson is the author of a series of crime thrillers featuring New York detective Callum Doyle. His debut novel, ‘Pariah’, was Highly Commended in the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Awards, and translation rights have been sold. Both it and its sequel, ‘The Helper’, have been greeted with rave reviews, including one from the Guardian that reads: ‘Recalls Harlan Coben – though for my money Jackson is the better writer.’ David’s fiction website can be found at: www.davidjacksonbooks.com

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 See my reviews of the first two Callum Doyle titles here: David Jackson- The Helper/Pariah.

Read Keith B Walters’ review of ‘Marked’ here: http://booksandwriters.wordpress.com/

See author Mel Sherratt’s interview with David Jackson here:  Murder They Wrote –  http://wp.me/p2eihP-ed

(With thanks to Macmillan for the ARC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Jackson- The Helper/Pariah

Had a chat with David Jackson at CrimeFest because after reading and reviewing a proof of his debut thriller ‘Pariah’ I have been recommending it for yonks in my daytime job as a bookseller. Bought a copy of his newest ‘The Helper’,  again featuring the charismatic Detective Callum Doyle and despite an innocent bookstore employee getting murdered in the first chapter (thanks Dave!) this was a terrific read….

With more twists and turns than snakes on a Waltzer, this is the compelling and equally well-crafted follow up to Jackson’s astonishing debut `Pariah’. Once again featuring Detective Callum Doyle what starts out with a seemingly unprovoked attack on a mousy bookshop employee escalates into a great serial killer thriller. As the killer’s murder rate escalates with varying methods of despatching his hapless victims, what appears to be a fairly random series of murders escalates into the very real threat of a serial killer stalking the streets of New York with a very specific reason for choosing the victims he does, leaving Doyle mystified by the link that he alone is sure exists and finding himself with his own personal hot-line to said killer. Punctuated by moments of great wry humour mostly at the expense of the cast of clowns that seem to be the stable of Doyle’s fellow police officers, Jackson once again balances the tautness of the central investigation with a good dose of New York mordant wit. There is an absolutely terrific reveal at the end which caught me off-guard priding myself as I do as one of those annoying readers that guess the ending and just the right injection of pace that you as the reader (like `Pariah’) are striving as much as Doyle to get to the bottom of this rooting-tooting mystery and seeking to unravel the clues in parallel with him. Along with a neatly conjoining plot woven around the aftermath of 9/11 and a mother’s search for her daughter, this is certainly a more than entertaining crime thriller that wrong foots you at every turn. My only point of dissent would be the seemingly harmonious atmosphere of Doyle’s home-life but maybe that’s just because I personally prefer my detectives to be a little more personally tortured to add another facet to their character but this is a minor quibble and should not detract from the overall satisfaction gained by Jackson’s excellent plotting and well-drawn cast of characters. Can’t wait for the next one…

Product DetailsIt’s a bad enough day for NYPD detective Callum Doyle when his cop partner is murdered. It’s about to get a hell of a lot worse . . . When the dead man’s replacement is also brutally killed, suspicion falls on Doyle himself. Then he receives an anonymous message. This is just the beginning, it says. Anyone he gets close to will die – and that includes Doyle’s own family. The only way to keep them alive is to stay away. For good. Doyle is desperate to find out who is responsible, but when his every move puts others in danger he is forced to back off. With the investigation getting nowhere and his isolation deepening, Doyle has to ask himself an uncomfortable question: just how low is he prepared to sink in order to get his life back?

The first thing to say about this crime debut that you rarely get so beneath the skin of a central character in crime fiction as you do with Callum Doyle- you really felt engaged with him as a person as well as with his professional life as a police officer. I think this added to the novel as you shared his confusion at the situation he found himself in and were almost getting to the bottom of everything at the same pace as him, rather than having your mind racing ahead and trying to solve the mystery ahead of him. Hence the real villain of the piece was difficult to identify and that was great because I hate guessing whodunnit! I loved the injection of humour-some cracking one-liners- and felt the mordant wit contributed much to Doyle’s character and really fleshed him out as character. I found the characterisation throughout was excellent- the sinister Bartoks, Spinner, Rocca and Paulsen particularly stood out and added to the depth of the novel in their interactions with Doyle. ‘Pariah’ definitely deserves to get a good push behind it as it ticks all the boxes of good crime fiction and has definitely got that ‘if you like you’ll love…’ opportunity about it as I think it would appeal to fans of Crais, Wambaugh, Child et al. All in all a great debut and a thriller that I will wholeheartedly recommend.

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