Time To Catch-Up- Malcolm Mackay- In The Cage Where Your Saviours Hide, Mari Hannah-The Lost, David Jackson- Don’t Make A Sound, M L Rio- If We Were Villains, Renata Serelyte- The Music Teacher

I’ll keep it simple, and no over-sharing! One of my eyes is knacked,  and proving a wee bit troublesome, but now reading and using the computer pretty much one-eyed, which is frustrating but better than nothing! So at last- and huzzah- the time is ripe for some life changing magic of catching up on some albeit shorter reviews.  

The Raven is back.

 

The independent kingdom of Scotland flourished until the beginning of the last century. Its great trading port of Challaid, in the north west of the country, sent ships around the world and its merchants and bankers grew rich on their empire in Central America.

But Scotland is not what it was, and the docks of Challaid are almost silent. The huge infrastructure projects collapsed, like the dangerous railway tunnels under the city. And above ground the networks of power and corruption are all that survive of Challaid’s glorious past. Darian Ross is a young private investigator whose father, an ex cop, is in prison for murder. He takes on a case brought to him by a charismatic woman, Maeve Campbell. Her partner has been stabbed; the police are not very curious about the death of a man who laundered money for the city’s criminals. Ross is drawn by his innate sense of justice and his fascination with Campbell into a world in which no-one can be trusted.

It’s always interesting to see an established crime author suddenly take a wee flight of fancy. and toy with their reader’s expectations, sometimes successful, and sometimes not. Although an ardent admirer of Mackay’s work to date,  I must admit that this book perplexed and delighted me in equal measure, with its linear Chandler-esque crime mystery, replete with world weary private investigators, bent coppers, devious men of business, and a splendid femme fatale. This arc of the plot worked on every level, littered with Mackay’s trademark dark cynical humour and explosive interludes of down and dirty violence, and was a complete pleasure as always.

However, I did find myself slightly less engaged with the whole parallel history malarkey, and the punctuation throughout the text of assorted newspaper articles, historical referencing and so on illustrating the changing fortunes of Challaid throughout the years. It was disruptive to the flow, thus making the book feel like two distinctly different parts of the whole, whereas if both parts had been fleshed out into two books it would maybe not felt quite as jarring and disconnected. Despite this criticism, I feel that the Challaid story would be worth revisiting by Mackay, but maybe bound up in a more pure fantasy style, if such a thing is possible. Not without its charm, and an interesting experiment, but a little unbalanced overall, but glad to see Mackay still rocking the unfeasibly long book title, and his hardboiled edge. Worth a look though.

(With thanks to Head of Zeus for the ARC)

 

Alex arrives home from holiday to find that her ten-year-old son Daniel has disappeared.

It’s the first case together for Northumbria CID officers David Stone and Frankie Oliver.

Stone has returned to his roots with fifteen years’ experience in the Met, whereas Oliver is local, a third generation copper with a lot to prove, and a secret that’s holding her back.

But as the investigation unfolds, they realise the family’s betrayal goes deeper than anyone suspected. This isn’t just a missing persons case. Stone and Oliver are hunting a killer…

And now to the first instalment of another new series from the wonderfully prolific Mari Hannah, introducing the crime detecting duo of seasoned copper David Stone, and keen as mustard sidekick Frankie Oliver. Hannah’s trademark is the sheer believability of her characters, and how quickly she envelops her reader’s interest in the world they inhabit, and she does this with her usual flair and empathy. I loved both characters, and although there is the necessary concealment of certain darker aspects of their lives that needs to be gradually teased out, unlike other pure police procedurals this never felt hackneyed or trite in its deliverance. They are both genuinely likeable, dedicated, refreshingly human protagonists, and the way they interact with and challenge each other throughout this investigation, leads to some brilliantly realised moments of confrontation, and the growth of a greater understanding of, and empathy with each other. The plot itself is probably the closest I’ve come to reading my bete noir of domestic drama, with a family on the brink of destruction leading to some very uncomfortable revelations for all, not to mention murder. As always Hannah’s timing and pace in The Lost is assured and compelling, and there’s some nice dramatic reveals, and emotive scenes, adding to the overall feel of an authentic, and hugely engaging police procedural. I also appreciated the title of the book itself, and how closely it represents and reflects most of the characters within the story. Once again, highly recommended

(With thanks to Orion for the ARC)

Meet the Bensons. They’re an ordinary couple. They wash their car, mow their lawn and pass the time of day with their neighbours. And they have a beautiful little girl called Daisy.

There’s just one problem.

SHE’S NOT THEIRS.

D. S. Nathan Cody is about to face his darkest and most terrifying case yet . . .

Okay, prepare to be utterly creeped out again with another dark and twisted tale from the always entertaining and unsettling David Jackson. This new instalment of the D.S. Nathan Cody series, begins with a typically dark scenario, and to be honest, and thankfully, doesn’t really let up, as Jackson ramps up the weirdness, the violence, and positively torments Cody even more than he has done previously. I like Cody’s character very much, as neurotic and strange as he is, despite wondering intermittently quite how he keeps his job. However, with the back-up of two strong female characters in the shape of his police partner, the long suffering DC Megan Webley, and his boss, the perfectly named DCI Stella Blunt, Cody’s relationships with both provides some interesting juxtapositions in terms of how we perceive his character. There’s also a nice little group of other police personnel, who provide moments of humour, succour and annoyance to Cody and Webley, but with an overarching feeling that there is an underlying bonhomie and cohesion to the team, apart from Cody going a bit lone wolf from time to time. With his trademark gallows humour, a few little pulls on our credulity, and a goodly amount of spine tingling tension, Don’t Make A Sound proves an enjoyable crime caper. Recommended.

(With thanks to Bonnier Zaffre for the ARC)

A small town police investigator broods obsessively on her tragic love affair with her school music teacher in Soviet Lithuania. After the town is shaken by the murder of a teenage girl, the investigation seems to dry up. When her ex-lover, now local politician, tries to close down the case, she begins to suspect that he may have been involved…

My first entanglement with Lithuanian crime, swathed in hugely descriptive imagery, lyrical pontifications, and poetical flights of fancy, that to my mind completely overwhelmed the premise of this book as a crime novel. I like to consider myself a not unintelligent person, but must confess that after being taken off on some roaming poetical tangent for what seemed like an eon, I began to lose sight of what was actually happening. Although I am a regular reader of slightly pretentious literary fiction, and do achieve a perverse sense of enjoyment from it, this just irritated me, and I began to care less and less as we were endlessly enveloped in this loop of a exceedingly tedious love affair. With hindsight, I can’t tell you why the girl was murdered, or who did it, or if they were brought to justice, as all I remember for some reason is that electricians are full of negative energy,  and quite frankly I feel much the same. Disappointing.

(With thanks to Noir for the ARC)

Oliver Marks has just served ten years for the murder of one of his closest friends – a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the detective who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened ten years ago.As a young actor studying Shakespeare at an elite arts conservatory, Oliver noticed that his talented classmates seem to play the same roles onstage and off – villain, hero, tyrant, temptress – though Oliver felt doomed to always be a secondary character in someone else’s story. But when the teachers change up the casting, a good-natured rivalry turns ugly, and the plays spill dangerously over into life.When tragedy strikes, one of the seven friends is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless…

I have only ever submitted three one star reviews, and one of these was for a book called The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton, which I rather scathingly said would probably only be required reading for first year drama students, if they weren’t out getting drunk on cheap cider. This flashed into my mind quite soon after embarking on this book, despite the promise of it being perfect for fans of Donna Tartt. As we become inveigled more and more in this group of largely egotistical, privileged, and increasingly annoying drama students at a prestigious arts academy, the allure of this being anything like Tartt is quickly dispelled. Despite being vaguely intrigued at the outset as the incarcerated Oliver, on the brink of release, reveals himself to have been refreshingly different to his dramatic cohorts, I quickly ascertained how this story of jealousy, and conflict would pan out. And it did- although I confess to skipping to the end, after trudging through 200 odd pages. There’s also a large amount of lazy writing, with substantial passages of Shakespeare reproduced that began to feel like superfluous filling, as most readers familiar with the plays that the students re-enact would not need what felt like chunks of text. Also the little references to lines from Shakespeare that pepper the students’ speech becomes increasingly wearisome, and pretentious, and merely propels their name into my roll call of writers as up themselves as Martin Amis.

I didn’t like this. I will exit pursued by bear. Now I sound like a knob too. Sorry.

(I foolishly bought this copy)

 

 

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)

 

 

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

 

 

 

A Quick Sunday Five-A-Side…Alice Thompson/Luca Veste/Andrew Mayne/Hugo Wilcken/Jo Nesbo/

As promised here is a quick round-up of some of the October reads that I have been unable to post- some good, some indifferent and some disappointing. Have a look and make up your own minds…

bookcIn Edwardian England, Violet has a fairy tale existence: loving husband, beautiful baby son and luxurious home. She wants for nothing. But soon after the birth of her baby the idyll begins to disintegrate. Violet becomes obsessed by a book of fairy tales that her husband has locked away in a safe, and as paranoia sets in, she begins to question her own sanity, resulting in her internment in an asylum. Meanwhile, vulnerable young women are starting to disappear from the same asylum, and then found brutally murdered…

I must admit that the cover alone made me instantly put down the book I was reading and avidly leap on this one. Shallow I know. However, this was a little Gothic inspired piece of perfection, charting the mental degradation experienced by a naïve young woman in Edwardian England. Thompson balances the demands of depicting her chosen era with the tropes of the time, thus producing an incredibly authentic piece of writing that taps in perfectly to the psychological condition ‘the mad woman in the attic’ produced by a canon of writers. What was interesting, apart from the general darkness and murderous feel of the plot, was the way Thompson circumvented the genre towards the end of the book, through the use of language that her heroine Violet begins to display. The precise Edwardian vocabulary began to assume a more contemporary feel in the wake of Violet’s treatment at the asylum, and this proved an interesting divergence from the general feel of the book. With flayed corpses, books covered with human skin, and raging madness, this is definitely worth checking out…

(With thanks to Salt Publishing for the ARC)

lucaSocial media stars Chloe Morrison and Joe Hooper seem to have it all – until their bodies are found following an anonymous phone call to their high-profile agent. Tied and bound to chairs facing each other, their violent deaths cause a media scrum to descend on Liverpool, with DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi assigned to the case. Murphy is dismissive, but the media pressure intensifies when another couple is found in the same manner as the first. Only this time the killer has left a message. A link to a private video on the internet, and the words ‘Nothing stays secret’. It quickly becomes clear that more people will die; that the killer believes secrets and lies within relationships should have deadly consequences…

Bloodstream is the third Liverpool set police procedural by Luca Veste featuring detectives David Murphy and Laura Rossi. Tapping in perfectly to the insidious greed to base our lives on social media, and be obsessed with reality television, Veste has constructed an intriguing thriller using both of these trends as a backdrop. With a killer driven by an insidious desire to wreak his personal judgement on the secrets and lies that exist in personal relationships, Veste makes a good job of concealing his killer’s identity to near to the close of the book. It’s all pointing one way but no, you’d be wrong! With the established partnership of Murphy and firebrand Rossi gathering maturity, the reader is quickly enmeshed and comfortable with the dynamics of their working relationship. Murphy is still stoical and methodical, Rossi still a bit of a loose cannon, but rather sweetly now entering the realm of the grown-ups with a fledgling love affair. Although I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as the previous two, due to the more understated characterisation of Murphy and Rossi , it is in no way a bad read. A solid police procedural with some nice little knowing nods to the world of Twitter and Facebook, makes for an enjoyable catch-up with the series.

(With thanks to Simon & Schuster for the ARC)

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Meet Jessica Blackwood, FBI Agent and ex-illusionist. Called in because of her past to offer expertise on the mysterious ‘Warlock’ case, Jessica must put all her unique knowledge to the test as the FBI try to catch a ruthless killer. Needing to solve the unsolvable, and with the clock ticking, they’re banking on her being the only one able to see beyond the Warlock’s illusions…

Up until this very moment, I am still a little undecided as to whether I enjoyed Angel Killer or not. I think the safest thing to say is that I liked bits of it, but not convinced it totally worked as a whole. Written by a man with one foot in the world of magic and illusion, the actual baffling nature of the crimes were undoubtedly clever, and if ever a book was written to transfer to a big screen production, this would be it. The scope and scale of the criminal illusions perpetrated by The Warlock were unique, intriguing and a real highlight of the book. The characterisation of FBI agent, Jessica Blackwood with her mix of wide-eyed naivety, but quick witted intelligence was also well realised, and the background to her aptitude for magic influenced by her family’s involvement in this world of trickery was filled with Mayne’s undoubted knowledge of the craft. However, I wasn’t entirely convinced by the killer’s motivation, and I thought the ending was extremely damp squibbish. A mixed affair overall, but worth a look if you enjoy a pacey thriller and have an interest in magic and illusions on a grand scale.

(With thanks to Faber for the ARC)

41ncvXMjr-L__SX333_BO1,204,203,200_1950s New York: Disturbed by a troubling phone call, Dr Manne isn’t himself when he’s called out by the police to evaluate a man suspected of psychosis. But the man is perfectly calm, and insists he’s not who the police says he is. Manne isn’t sure what to believe, but something definitely isn’t right. Before he knows it, he’s helping his patient escape from an unfamiliar psychiatric hospital that reminds him of a story he heard during the war, about a secret government medical testing programme. With the stranger asleep in his bed, and the distinct feeling that he’s being followed, Manne is determined to make sense of the events unfolding around him; that is until a careless slip on the subway leads to a horrific accident. Waking up in a hospital bed, Manne realises his own identity is not as certain as he’d always believed. What kind of a hospital is he in, why can’t he leave, and who is the pretty young woman on the balcony, who he watches from his window? As Manne pieces together the story, he realises that pretending to be someone else might be his only chance for escape.

Billed as a cross between Camus and Hitchcock, with shades of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley, I must confess that for large parts of this book, I had not the faintest clue what was going on, but it mattered not a jot. This is not an easy read, and attention must be paid, as Wilcken unmercifully manipulates the character of Manne, and the reader’s sensibilities, in this twisted and cerebral tale of fluid identity and government conspiracy. It is without a doubt one of the most clever, perplexing and challenging books I’ve encountered this year, with its trail of red herrings, and it’s ability to make you flick back and forth thinking you have discovered a vital clue, only to be undone again by another shift of plot or characterisation. The backdrop of 50’s New York is perfectly realised throughout, and it’s a cracking slice of hardboiled noir to boot. Fancy a challenge? This one’s for you…

(With thanks to Melville House for the ARC)

51FIjE4xtVL__SX335_BO1,204,203,200_Jon is on the run. He has betrayed Oslo’s biggest crime lord: The Fisherman. Fleeing to an isolated corner of Norway, to a mountain town so far north that the sun never sets, Jon hopes to find sanctuary amongst a local religious sect. Hiding out in a shepherd’s cabin in the wilderness, all that stands between him and his fate are Lea, a bereaved mother and her young son, Knut. But while Lea provides him with a rifle and Knut brings essential supplies, the midnight sun is slowly driving Jon to insanity. And then he discovers that The Fisherman’s men are getting closer…

Following last year’s standalone novel Blood On Snow, Nesbo follows up with Midnight Sun another slightly compressed offering whilst we all eagerly await the next Harry Hole outing. This was okay, and I say that with reservations, as it did feel less well-formed, and slightly lackadaisical to his normal writing style. It was all a little ho-hum, let’s insert some info on the Sami lifestyle, bit of violence, touching moment of less than effective father raising money for sick child through nefarious means, interaction with cute kid he could then possibly adopt,  bit of violence (with a reindeer), love interest, bit more violence. And then a totally unsatisfactory ending – which was a real cop-out, and made me huff in despair. Overall quite disappointed, but liked the Sami bit. A bit.

(With thanks to Harvill Secker for the ARC)

 

 

 

Blog Tour- Luca Veste- #Bloodstream- Guest Post- Secrets and Lies

luca540Welcome to the last stop on the Blog Tour to mark the release of Luca Veste’s third thriller, Bloodstream, featuring DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi, which sets our intrepid detectives on a search for a serial killer who feeds off the lies that can exist in relationships. Here’s Luca’s own take on the world of secret and lies….

“Have you ever lied? Odds are, you have. According to many studies, we lie on average anything from twice a day, to fourteen times a day (dependent on which study has the most people telling the truth!). It has even been suggested by evolutionists that the ability to lie and be deceitful is a part of why we have evolved to the point of domination. Our capacity to deceive is only matched by our capacity to build things none of us really need.

So, we all lie in one way or another. Maybe some of you only tell those little, tiny, miniscule lies which hurt no one and instead make feel better. You know, the standard ones…

Of course you don’t look fat in those jeans.

You were very funny during the party. They all loved you.

I would have punched that giraffe as well… he was definitely about to headbutt one of us.

Then, there’s the bigger lies. The ones we tell as self-preservation. To our boss, to our family. Those lies we tell so as not to get into trouble, or in a bad situation. With those lies, it wasn’t the ones told to those who aren’t really central to our adult lives. For those in relationships, your partner is supposedly central to your life. Yet, it is to them that we will tell similar lies to. This person (or persons) we choose to spend our time with, our lives becoming interconnected with each other. We all have this capacity to lie to these people. A partner we have chosen specifically for the reason that to not do so would somehow make our lives lesser. We’re not forced together by circumstance like our families or bosses. We made a decision to share the most intimate part of ourselves with these people … and then we lie to them. Keep something hidden from them.

lucaThis is an aspect of life which I wanted to explore in the new Murphy & Rossi novel ‘Bloodstream‘. If we are judged on the lies we tell, would any of us survive that examination? If any of our relationships was scrutinised by an outsider, would any of us pass a test of absolute truthfulness and faithfulness?

You may think the small lies don’t really matter. That telling our partners something we know not to be true is only to protect them. Instead, isn’t it more likely that your partner is only looking for reassurance, whilst secretly knowing the truth? Aren’t we taking full part in a lie being perpetuated, allowing it to fester into your relationship, becoming somehow a factor in whether that relationship survives or not?

Is it possible to be in a relationship without lying in some way, or are we predisposed to lie our way through life?

I wanted to explore these ideas and more in the book, seeing how relationships stood up to the test. From those in the public eye, to the more mundane and normal relationships we all know and are a part of. The antagonist in the story has a glamourised version of love and relationships in his head, which he has never fully realised in reality. Anger has festered within him, to the point he now wants to destroy those he deems to fall short of his expectations. If someone in a relationship is holding a secret or lying to their partner, he believes they should suffer.

Thus, would anyone in a relationship survive this examination?

Most of us believe we’re truthful people, but is that really true?

It’s ideas and themes such as these which drive me to write the novels I do. Taking a simple thought and working it over in my mind to create a story. Place characters in situations and seeing what happens next. Using societal issues to drive a crime novel, which I really enjoy doing.

I lie less now. After reading Bloodstream, maybe you will too…”

 

Missed any posts?  Check out the blog tour at these excellent sites

Luca Veste Blog Tour

Luca Veste Blog Tour- The Inspiration for The Dying Place/Review

DP Blog Tour2 To celebrate the UK publication of Luca Veste’s second book The Dying Place it gives the Raven great pleasure to post a short piece by Luca on his initial inspiration  for the plot.  The Dying Place raises some very valid arguments at each extreme of the moral dilemma it presents, but is violence the most viable course of action to deal with the social deprivation that has permeated our everyday lives?  Read on…

“When I started writing THE DYING PLACE, my first thought was that it had to be different. Not different in a non-crime fiction sense, but different from DEAD GONE, in a way that would be at least noticeable to people. There was a temptation to go with what had seemingly worked in the first novel – a serial killer thriller, with an unknown force stalking the streets of Liverpool a year on from events in DEAD GONE – and I even mapped out a small plan for such a novel. I found that I wanted to test myself a little however, seeing if I could hold suspense with one body/death for over half the novel. Then, in a conversation with my dad talking about Book Two, the chat turned to what has been an ongoing battle between us about what to do with issues with young people. My dad is very liberal in almost all subjects, with one exception – how to deal with what some people call “scallies”. Young people who cause problems on the streets and within society. A disenfranchised section of society, who are the subject of much media interest, even though they make up a small minority of young people. My dad’s idea – one which is mirrored in so many of his generation – is to get a van full of “old boys” and go around giving these “scallies” a good kicking, which apparently would sort them out and solve all the problems caused by them.

lucaNaturally, I have misgivings about this idea. Violence stopping violence just doesn’t seem to work logically in my mind. However, I know there is – and has been since time began – a clash of generations, with the older generation always believing the younger generation is somehow a “problem”. That clash of generations was something I become more and more interested in, and eventually became the focus of THE DYING PLACE. I knew, however, that allowing my own thinking to intrude in the novel would make the book too much of a manifesto against one idea. Therefore, I had to present the two forces equally – the issues and crimes caused by some young people vs the rose-tinted view of the past some older people have. The book opens with those two view-points – a single mother of young teenagers and the issues created by a society which still treats them with disdain… and a pensioner, lamenting the way he sees his city changing around him, and the very real crimes he experiences. As we go through the book, the characters we meet are from both sides, their experiences skewing viewpoints and thoughts.

What I hope it creates is a moral dilemma in the readers mind. Whilst you may begin feeling sympathy for one character may change over time. I want to challenge a reader, whilst also providing a thrilling read, which will hopefully keep you gripped. There’s nothing better than hearing “I couldn’t stop turning the pages… ” for me.

Oh, and book three will be a serial killer again… but with a twist! ” 

Raven’s Review

luca

Once inside…there’s no way out. A fate worse than death…

DI Murphy and DS Rossi discover the body of known troublemaker Dean Hughes, dumped on the steps of St Mary’s Church in West Derby, Liverpool. His body is covered with the unmistakable marks of torture. As they hunt for the killer, they discover a worrying pattern. Other teenagers, all young delinquents, have been disappearing without a trace. Who is clearing the streets of Liverpool? Where are the other missing boys being held? And can Murphy and Rossi find them before they meet the same fate as Dean?

I think it was Karin Slaughter who said that to really tap into the sociological fears and concerns of any community that the perfect conduit for this is crime fiction. In The Dying Place– the follow up to his debut novel Dead Gone– Veste proves the point admirably. Focusing on a band of older vigilantes, swiping errant youths off the streets of Liverpool, and incarcerating them to undergo a form of behavioural re-programming, Veste uses the plot to provide a thoughtful and balanced examination of how these youths, that are such a thorn in the side of their local community, should be dealt with, and if meeting violence with violence is really the right way to address the problem. Do these youths all really fit a template because of the way they dress? Are some conditioned to be ‘bad’ by the very unstable nature of their upbringings, and detrimental familial influences? As the vigilante’s leader becomes more unhinged, scarred by the actions of youths such as these in his personal life, Veste ramps up the tension and the police themselves come into the firing line too.

Cleverly, our empathy is roundly manipulated, as we see how the actions of this vigilante band spirals out of control, and the implications for not only their detainees, but also bringing into play their family backgrounds, and the effects of the investigation on the police protagonists- most notably DI David Murphy, and his feisty DS Scouse/Italian sidekick Laura Rossi. I was most impressed with this detective duo in the debut, Dead Gone, and love the balance between the stoical and world weary Murphy, set against the hot temper and really quite enjoyable colourful swearing of his police partner Rossi. What I also enjoy about Veste’s characterisation is the way that he roundly avoids the typical stereotypes of many crime fiction novels, giving a realistic feel to the personal lives of both, and how the very nature of their jobs, and this investigation in particular, impinge on their personal relationships- or lack of. They form a solid partnership that is providing a real backbone to the continuation of the series, and with the shocking denouement affecting Murphy on an incredibly personal level, I will be interested to see the repercussions of this in the next book. Within the framework of this crime novel, Veste balances perfectly the larger sociological issues, with a pacey plot, and a solid cast of characters that proves itself an eminently enjoyable read. More please…

Luca Veste is a writer of Italian and Scouse heritage, married with two young daughters, and one of nine children. He is currently studying psychology and criminology at University in Liverpool.  He is also the editor of the Spinetingler Award nominated charity anthology ‘Off The Record’, and co-editor of ‘True Brit Grit’, also an anthology of short stories for charity. A former civil servant, actor, singer and guitarist (although he still picks it up now and again), he now divides his time between home life, Uni work and writing. Follow on Twitter @lucaveste

Find out more about Dead Gone here

(With thanks to Avon for the ARC)

Blog Tour-Kevin Sampson- Guest Post- The House On The Hill Review

 

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Marking the publication of The House On The Hill- the second in Kevin Sampson’s new crime series to feature DCI Billy McCartney- Raven Crime Reads is delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for the release. Having previously reviewed the first in the series, The Killing Pool , and having just read this new one (reviewed below), I’m sure that you will not only enjoy Kevin’s piece posted here about his multi-faceted character, the mercurial Billy McCartney, but will be more than keen to seek this series out for yourselves too! So with no further ado it’s over to Kevin..

On DCI Billy McCartney

“My concept for the McCartney series was that Billy should be as complex and as much of an enigma as any of the cases he works on. I had (and have) in mind an initial 5 novels, with each instalment revealing a little more about Mac. Only once we’ve digested and understood all 5 ‘episodes’ will the full picture emerge. Until that point, it’s a process of putting all the tiny clues together as we try to get a sense of who Billy McCartney really is.

Having said that, I had a very clear notion of McCartney, his history and what drives him on, right from the start. Mac’s persona is absolutely central to each case, and the way he goes about solving it. He is defined by his own experience, and by his own distinctive morality. Mac perceives himself more as an old-time Lawman than a sophisticated modern detective. He regularly refers to himself putting on ‘the cape’ or ‘the mask’, and these nuances shine a light on Mac’s idiosyncratic approach to the job. He’s the Lone Ranger, dressed in white, chasing the lawless baddies out of town; making it safe for ordinary decent folk. Above all, he wants to make the streets safe for women.

McCartney’s very specific worldview is both informed and challenged by his perception of women. Again, there is something of the old-fashioned hero in him, racing to aid the damsel in distress. In The Killing Pool Mac risks everything in his determination to find and rescue the young runaway, Misha. And in his latest case, The House On The Hill, his obsession with a murdered colleague, DS Millie Baker, drives him beyond the rational remit of the job. He’s in Morocco to infiltrate a major hashish production gang high in the Rif mountains, but it’s the recurring flashbacks about the circumstances of Millie’s death that haunt Mac and spur him on.

Yet McCartney himself is anything but a traditional square-jawed knight in shining armour. He never, ever gets the girl. There is a loneliness that eats away at Mac – a resignation that “for McCartney, it always ends this way.” This, in turn, informs his solitary approach to his work. All too often, Mac’s fairy tales morph into nightmares, and it’s his seeming inability to find love that recurs in his moments of reflection. His consolation is that, through his diligent and often brilliant detective work, he makes the city a safer place to live. As a child he witnessed his own father being shot by armed robbers. If he can prevent other kids going through similar trauma, it has been a Good Day for McCartney.

DCI Billy McCartney presented himself to me well-defined but not quite fully formed. Just as with real people in real life, he is a work in progress, growing and changing as he reacts to different challenges. I have a pretty good idea who he really is. By the end of the fifth book we’ll know for sure. For now though, enjoy more clues about Mac in The House On The Hill.”

 

kevKevin Sampson began his writing career reviewing bands for NME. Based in Liverpool, he wrote about gangs and subcultures for The Face, I-D, and Arena. A lifelong fascination with the criminal underworld, led to Sampson’s Liverpool-set crime novels, Outlaws and Clubland, and his debut film Surveillance. Outlaws was also made as a feature film titled The Crew. Sampson is the author of eight novels and one work of non-fiction. The Killing Pool was the first in the series of the Billy McCartney novels, with a TV adaptation just announced here  Follow him on Twitter @ksampsonwriter.

 

Raven’s Review

9780224097178-largeDCI Billy McCartney has gone to ground, disillusioned with his job. When a runaway turns up on his doorstep, her story plunges Mac back to the summer of 1990, and one of his most traumatic cases. McCartney and his partner DS Millie Baker are in Ibiza, on a joint venture with the Spanish serious crime agency. Their objective: to infiltrate the Liverpool-based drug gang responsible for a wave of ecstasy-related deaths. But their stakeout takes both Mac and Millie to the heart of a dark empire whose tentacles stretch from Ireland to Morocco, and whose activities include industrial-scale drug production – and terrorism. They’re close to their big bust when Millie is abducted by the gang, and killed. McCartney never quite recovers from it. The waif who knocks on Mac’s door twenty-four years later has escaped from those same captors; a dynasty of international dope dealers based high in the Moroccan Rif. What she tells McCartney blasts his apathy away, and sends him on a mission that goes far beyond law and order. This is his chance for redemption.

The House On The Hill is the second in the DCI Billy McCartney series following the excellent opener The Killing Pool (which I waxed lyrical about last year) and can easily be read as a standalone. This new book sees Mac gone to ground, disillusioned with his job, but fate has a surprise a store for him when a young runaway turns up on his doorstep. The tale she has to tell plunges Mac back in time to the summer of 1990, and one of his most traumatic cases, both professionally and personally. The trail she sets him on, takes him and the reader back to the investigation rooted in the 90’s club scene in Ibiza, to his present day pursuit of a drug dynasty in the hills of Marrakech, where extreme danger awaits…

I would say from the outset that what Sampson achieves with ease, both in this and his novels to date, is the ability to so quickly make us so comfortable with the characters he lays before us. Even if you have not read the first book which established the depths and quirks of DCI Billy McCartney’s character, I guarantee that you will take to him, and his rough charm from the earliest beginnings of the book. In this character, Sampson has conjured up a man of sublime contradictions. He has an easy manner, flecked with humour and a cynical eye, but equally is a man haunted by events in his own childhood, and in his professional career as a police officer. Although he is to all intents and purposes a bit of a rough diamond, the wrongs he has born witness to, particularly in the historical case in Ibiza which proceeds the contemporary investigation, has affected him greatly on an emotional level. Both cases call on him to be somewhat of a knight in shining armour, but on a more basic level, are driven by his pure ambition to right the wrongs of the past, and assuage his own sense of guilt. He has a strong moral core, despite his tough guy attitude, and even when up to his armpits in danger retains this outward strength, but is man enough to confess to his inward fear. He is gallant when the female of the species is involved, but our hearts go out to him, as in the true spirit of the moral defender, he is destined to carry a sense of loneliness and isolation about him.

Equally, Sampson roundly characterises the surrounding protagonists in the book, good guys and bad guys alike, in a realistic and vital way. There are some truly horrible antagonists involved in Mac’s investigations, like drug dealer JJ Hamilton, whose nefarious dealings with the equally hideous drug lord Hassan El Glaoui, a particularly cruel and violent individual, lies at the root of Mac’s troubles. These two men are greedy, ambitious and unrelenting in their manipulation and abuse of others (in particular women) to keep a stranglehold on the drug trail they control. Also, amongst Mac’s police counterparts at home and abroad, over the course of the two cases, there is a nice mix between the good, the bad and the ugly, and of course Al Glauoi’s and Hamilton’s henchmen are carved out in true pantomime baddie style. Boo. Hiss. On a slightly lighter note, I particularly enjoyed the characterisation of the young and in a lot of ways naïve, Yasmina, the runaway who comes to Mac with her personal tale of woe. To avoid plot spoilers, I won’t divulge how she is connected to him, but her resilience (when pursued by the bad guys), balanced with her heart-warming incidental journey to a grand love affair with the spiky, and thoroughly entertaining kick ass Jessica, is a joy.

The dual timelines are powerfully and realistically presented, from the atmosphere of the heyday of Ibiza, underscored with some real trip back in time references to the essential music of this period, and the very unique and sensual casting of Morocco, leading to the breathless denouement. Sampson’s attention to location is one of the real strengths of the book, so much so that the contrasting landscapes he portrays, seem to take on the role of a character in themselves. I found the descriptions of El Glaoui’s hillside hideaway, particularly cinematic, and the events that transpire in its locale, added to the foreboding atmosphere it imparted in the book. The plot is perfectly controlled, with neither half on the dual narrative, weakened by the other, fuelled by tension and danger in equal measure. In common with The Killing Pool, Sampson does not hold back on the more sordid details of the piece, to unsettle us throughout, but like the first book, I rather enjoyed the more grubby and violent aspects of the plot, which further involved me emotionally in this theatre of danger Mac finds himself embroiled in. All in all a terrific follow up to the first book, and if this is only book two of a planned five book series, I cannot wait to see what Mac gets up to next. Bring it on…

 

BLOG TOUR IN FULL:

August 7th  DEAD GOOD BOOKS

August 8th RAVEN CRIME READS

August 9th SHAZ’S BOOK BLOG 

August 10th CRIMETIME

August 11th READER DAD

August 12th THE CRIME WARP

(With thanks to Jonathan Cape for the ARC)