March 2015 Round Up and Raven’s Book of The Month

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)As usual, a busy month of new releases- I love this time of year! In fact, so many new releases to read, that I have not kept up the pace with the reviews. However, this round-up gives me an opportunity to include a quick round-up on a theme. Inspired by the brilliant reports at Crime Fiction Lover from Marina Sofia at the Quais du Polar French crime fiction festival, I have also been reading a few French crime fiction novels this past month.

camilleHaving already waxed lyrical about Pierre Lemaitre in reviews for Alex and Irene, I can safely report that the third in the series, Camille, featuring diminutive detective Camille Verhoeven is a more than satisfying addition to the series. After the violent events of the previous two books, Camille is on more of an even keel with a new love interest, Anne, but following a brutal heist in which Anne is seriously injured, Camille’s world is rocked to its core. Is Anne all that she appears to be, and will Camille attain the happiness and satisfaction in his life and career he is seriously overdue? I found this a much more meditative read than the previous two books, and with the extreme focus on the emotional struggle Camille experiences, the book was packed with poignancy and uncertainty as to how his relationship with Anne and the implications for his long term career would play out. I felt this book did slightly lack the wow factor of the previous two, due to the change of tone, but even so Lemaitre still provides an emotionally rich and engaging crime thriller. Highly recommended.

bussiI suspect that I may be a lone voice in the wilderness but the hugely hyped After The Crash by Michel Bussi, left me distinctly non-plussed. I don’t know if this was due to my lack of emotional engagement with what I perceived as a cast of distinctly disagreeable characters, or my innate irritation at the composition of the book, using the trope of a diary as the central narrative strand. I felt unfulfilled by the plot generally, and to be honest it was a real struggle to finish this one.

I also re-read The Prone Gunman by Jean- Patrick Manchette, and discovered the delights of a previously unknown to me novella by him, Fatale. Outside of my crime reading, I am a huge fan of foreign fiction in translation, particularly  those little jewels of novellas running at less than 200 pages, so Manchette is a delight. Taut, concise, and bluntly observed, his writing is so precise and powerful that it never fails to amaze me how he so easily runs through a gamut of emotions in such a condensed form. Both books are violent, and tinged with a bleakness that is sometimes hard to stomach, but I think his writing provides a hell of a punch. Buy these and read them. You won’t regret it.

And so forwards to April, where there are a couple of blog tours coming up, and a whole host of great new releases. It’s going to be a good month! And I will be posting a review for a possible contender for my book of the year…you’re intrigued now…

Books read in March:

Mari Jungstedt- A Dangerous Game

Steve Cavanagh- The Defence

Glen Erik Hamilton- Past Crimes

SJI Holliday- Black Wood

Ben McPherson- A Line of Blood (www.crimefictionlover.com)

Luke Delaney- The Jackdaw (www.crimefictionlover.com)

Raven’s Book of the Month:

glenIt’s got to be Glen Erik Hamilton’s debut Past Crimes. As I said in my review, the split timeline, the pared down style, and the assured plot structure, was an absolute delight throughout. It’s also great to encounter a debut author, that so compliments your existing favourite authors. With shades of Lehane and Pelecanos, I think there will be more to come from Hamilton… and I can’t wait. Excellent.

Luke Delaney- The Toy Taker

Your child has been taken. Snatched in the dead of night from the safety of the family home. There’s no sign of forced entry, no one heard or saw a thing. DI Sean Corrigan investigates. He needs to find four-year-old George Bridgeman before abduction becomes murder. But his ability to see into dark minds, to think like those he hunts, has deserted him – just when he needs it most. Another child vanishes. What kind of monster is Corrigan hunting? And will he work it out in time to save the children?

Having established himself on the British crime scene with Cold Killing and The Keeper , Luke Delaney once again delights and chills with the new outing for the wonderfully tortured Sean Corrigan in The Toy Taker

Although on the surface, both in The Keeper and The Toy Taker, Delaney takes quite well-trodden themes of female and child abduction, he lifts his books out of the ordinary with the power and mesmerising interest created by his central character DI Sean Corrigan. In The Toy Taker, small children are being abducted from their homes, and with his team woefully under-employed, Corrigan and his team are redeployed at Scotland Yard as a Special Investigation Unit as the abductions increase. This is a great move by Delaney in the development of the characters in Corrigan’s team, as nothing winds up your average copper more than being in the full glare of the top brass, and the demands they place upon the team’s success. Delaney captures this tension beautifully throughout as we see Corrigan returning to mental and physical fitness after the events of The Keeper, and the tensions that arise through his recovery and the impact on the psychology of his team. Once again, we are immersed in the darkest imaginings of the incomparable Corrigan as he seeks to channel the thoughts and motivations of the abductor, and the personal mental anguish this produces in him. Thus the plot is punctured throughout with these glorious streams of consciousness by Corrigan, trying to think like and outwit this cruel and unusual abductor. On the road to discovery, there is a brilliant game of cat and mouse with a particularly insidious pervert, giving Delaney the chance to portray the frustrations so prevalent for the police in investigations of this kind. Again thanks to Delaney’s personal experience within the police, the feeling of authenticity and realism in this book is always resonant, making the whole premise of the investigation that much more vital and chilling, to the genuinely tense conclusion.

There is always the fear that as a writer becomes more established, that sometimes the quality of their writing, particularly within the demands of producing serial novels, can become diminished with the deadlines placed upon them. I am more than happy to report that Delaney is genuinely going from strength to strength, both in the compulsive attraction of his central protagonist, but also by the fleshing out of others within Corrigan’s team. As I said in the opening, child abduction is an all too common motif of crime thriller writing, but Delaney really does ascend the other pedestrian portrayals of this type of crime, with the day to day angst of, and the demands placed upon police officers, as the clock ticks against them. Through the ruminations and analytical mind of Sean Corrigan, who shows no compunction at fully entering the mind of the perpetrator, there is always an increased level of interest for the reader, that I’ve seldom seen bettered in the police procedural/serial killer genre. Delaney has produced another winner, begging the question- just what will he come up with next? A great read.

Raven reviews the Sean Corrigan series:

Cold Killing

 The Keeper

Redemption of the Dead

(With thanks to HarperCollins for the ARC)

Luke Delaney- The Keeper/Redemption of the Dead

 

Thomas Keller knows exactly who he’s looking for. They tried to keep them apart, but when he finds her, he’s going to keep her. Just like he knows she wants him to. DI Sean Corrigan is not like other detectives. His dark past has given him the ability to step into a crime scene and see it through the offender’s eyes. He understands what drives a person to commit terrible acts – but sometimes his gift feels more like a curse. When women start disappearing from their homes in broad daylight, Corrigan’s Murder Investigation Team is reluctant to take on a missing persons case. But then the first body turns up, and Corrigan knows he must quickly get into the mind of the murderer. Because this killer knows exactly who he wants. And he won’t stop until he finds her.

Having been metaphorically blown away by Delaney’s debut Cold-Killing , I was as keen as mustard to get stuck into the next in the DI Luke Corrigan series, The Keeper, which promised much and delivered even more. Building on the exceptional characterisation in the first, we are further enveloped in the world of this smarter than average police officer with his unique perception of the criminal mind…

Once again drawing on the experience gained in his former life as a police officer, Delaney has constructed a central plot that is both thrilling and chilling in equal measure. Focusing on a random nutter, imprisoning women in the vain and misguided hope of recapturing the magic of a childhood experience, Delaney captures all the nuances of a delusional mind and the inherent fear of his captives, and captures perfectly the claustrophobia and tension of their experience. There is perhaps a little too much repetition of the nefarious goings-on in the psychopath’s tracksuit bottoms, but essentially the strange imaginings and brutality of this particular individual will keep you thoroughly unsettled. Needless to say, I was worried enough by the actions of said nutter to warrant me keeping a much closer eye on my own postman- our killer’s day job- but what really sold this book to me was Delaney’s building on the strong characterisation of the first book in both his regular and new characters.

DI Sean Corrigan is a marvellous creation, and I like the multi-faceted aspects of his character. To all intents and purposes he is a normal copper in terms of his fairly settled home life and utter professionalism in his duty to the job. However, he has a remarkable insight in to the twisted mind, gleaned from the less than harmonious events of his childhood, and his ability to enter the killer’s mind and to effortlessly tap into their motivation. Although his actions arouse the suspicions of his colleagues no-one can deny his powers of perception, and Delaney in introducing the character of criminal psychologist Anna provides an interesting dimension to Corrigan’s unique ability, and the resistance he puts up to others who seek to challenge or get inside his mind. Likewise, the character of DS Sally Jones is explored further after her horrific experiences in the previous book, and her tentative journey back from recovery and the effects these events have had on her are, to me, the most moving aspect of the book, effortlessly gaining the empathy of the reader. So few male writers can really characterise female characters in a believable way, but Delaney has the knack, not only in the personal trials of Jones and the fiercely independent mind of Anna, but also as regards the captive women who find themselves at the mercy of the killer. A rare feat indeed.

So all in all what we have is a great second book, building on and extending the characters of the first, but all wrapped in a gripping plot that will keep any crime fiction fan on the edge of their seat. If you haven’t discovered Delaney yet, go now and seek him out- you won’t regret it!

 And a little Luke Delaney bonus for you e-reading folk….

1993. The Parkside Rapist has been terrorising the women of South London, and Detective Chief Superintendent Charlie Bannan is in need of a secret weapon if he’s going to catch this particular monster. When fresh-faced PC Sean Corrigan is transferred to join the team, Bannan immediately spots his potential. Soon Sean will find himself exploring the scars his own dark past has left him in the race to help his new mentor catch their quarry before he goes on to commit more, and worse crimes…

A small but perfectly formed short story  which effectively introduces us to the fledgling career of the now DI Sean Corrigan, and marking the start of his extraordinary ability to truly enter the mind of a killer, despite the ridicule and suspicions of his colleagues. If you’re not quite ready to commit to Cold Killing or The Keeper, or likewise you are a fan of both, this is a nice little side dish to the full length novels…

Luke Delaney joined the Metropolitan Police Service in the late 1980s and his first posting was to an inner city area of South East London notorious for high levels of crime and extreme violence. He was later asked to join the CID where he investigated murders ranging from those committed by fledgling serial killers to gangland assassinations. Follow on Twitter @LukeDelaneyUK

Read my review of Cold Killing (Sean Corrigan 1) here: Luke Delaney- Cold Killing.

(With thanks to HarperCollins and Kate @KillerReads for the ARC)

Luke Delaney- Cold Killing

Product DetailsDI Sean Corrigan is not like other detectives. The terrible abuse he suffered in childhood hasn’t stopped him enjoying family life with his wife and two daughters, or pursuing an impressive career with South London’s Murder Investigation Unit. But it has left him with an uncanny ability to identify the darkness in others – a darkness he recognises still exists deep within his own psyche and battles to keep buried there. Now Sean’s on the trail of the most dangerous killer he’s ever encountered. The perpetrator has no recognisable MO, leaves no forensic evidence and his victims have nothing in common. But Sean knows they were all murdered by the same man. Now all he has to do is find the evidence, convince his bosses and stop the killing before his adversary gets too close to home…

 As an enthusiastic crime fiction reader I always relish the opportunity of reading a crime novel written by someone who has actually walked the walk and talked the talk in law enforcement , drawing on their personal experience to construct an authentic story- as long as they have the propensity to spin a good yarn as well! As an ex-London Met detective with many years service under his belt, Luke Delaney not only exhibits this complete authenticity in terms of the police procedural, but more than demonstrates his finesse as an author in this gripping and well-constructed novel. Delaney has personal experience of policing in tough inner city areas, and as a CID detective he encountered everything from fledgling serial killers to violent gang crime and gangland assasinations, and all this is brought to bear in this impressive debut thriller.

Sean Corrigan is an exemplary creation in terms of a detective with just the right balance of good cop/disturbed cop having overcome the traumas of his childhood experiences, the experience of which give him a unique perspective on the motivations and psyche of a killer. In Corrigan we observe a man who could easily teeter over the precipice emotionally due to the horrendous events in his own life, but who fights every day to use these experiences to become a perceptive and astute detective, with an inate ability to tap into the mind of the killer at large in this investigation. He is a terrier of a man, unrelenting in his pursuance of the man he believes is guilty of these brutal killings, and like all good detectives more than willing to challenge the dictates of his largely inept paper-pushing superiors to catch a killer. I found him an entirely empathetic character and  wholly believable in his characterisation, which is absolutely essential if this is to be the first of a projected series. Likewise, his nemesis in the shape of slimy financier James Hellier, the object of Corrigan’s investigation, is a perfectly realised character combining charm with an undercurrent of wolfishness in his interactions with Corrigan, but has Corrigan got the right man in his sights?

The plot is perfectly paced as the police team grapple with a forensically aware, and ultimately psychopathic killer, capturing the tenseness and frustrations of a multiple murder investigation. This is where Delaney’s experience as a police officer kicks in, with a true depiction of the nitty gritty procedures that the police are bound by, and a continual feeling of them racing against the clock. There are a couple of nicely placed barbs directed towards crime fiction writers and film-makers at the liberties they take in their own depiction of police work, which again added to the sense of realism in Delaney’s own presentation of a police investigation. There is a nice balance in the plot between Corrigan’s professional and personal life, and I thought this added an extra dimension to our perception of Corrigan as a husband, father and cop, with an effective drawing back from the violence of the main plot.

I have no qualms at all in comparing this with some of the best exponents of the psychological police procedual- I’m thinking Mark Billingham, Stuart MacBride, Adam Creed et al- so would definitely rate Delaney as an author to discover for yourselves. You will not be disappointed.

Discover more about Cold Killing at http://www.coldkilling.com

(With thanks to Hannah and Kate {@killerreads] HarperCollins for the ARC)