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

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

Books Read and Reviewed:

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

Alexandra Sokoloff- Huntress Moon (FBI Thrillers Book 1)

Sarah Ward- In Bitter Chill

Michael Robotham- Life Or Death

Mark Edwards- Follow You Home

Ruth Ware- In A Dark Dark Wood

Ed McBain- So Nude, So Dead

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

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

Raven’s Book of the Month

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

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

 

Mark Edwards- Follow You Home

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I would be the first person to put my hands up and say that I have had rather a patchy reading relationship with Mark Edwards’ previous crime thrillers, but very pleased to report that, although not without fault, I really quite enjoyed Follow You Home, a dark, psychologically suspenseful read….

Based on the interesting premise, and as it turns out in common with the author, a young couple, Daniel and Laura, find themselves set adrift on their European tour, with a young Eastern European woman, Alina, in the arse-end of Romania, having had their passports and tickets stolen on a train. Unlike, Edwards own experience, and against all common sense advice of every horror film going, they take a misguided trip into the woods, but what they encounter there stays concealed for a good while, as the story flips back to their return to what should be the normality of their lives in London. It quickly becomes evident that this foray into the backwoods of Eastern Europe has wreaked havoc on their relationship, their mental and emotional balance, and that they are both in extreme danger from what they have witnessed, as certain dangerous chickens come home to roost. Well. Not literally, but you get my drift.

I found this to be a very well-plotted, if slightly too long, psychological thriller. I enjoyed the little teasing vignettes of their sinister Romanian escapade that Edwards inserts intermittently throughout the book, and despite an assortment of misguided guesses on my part, the truth of what they had witnessed is a whole heap darker and disturbing that even the most twisted mind could conjure. It’s dark. Very dark indeed. I thought the characterisation and rendition of the European location was well realised, and that even the most talented of travel guide writers, could not have made this locale feel any less sinister. I did feel a little that so much creative energy had been used on this clever and well weighted plot that the characterisation suffered a little as a result. I found it hard to really relate to Daniel or Laura, as I didn’t find them all that likeable to begin with, but I liked Alina very much, and through her horrific experiences could not help but feel a huge sense of sympathy for her character. She was incredibly well-drawn with a terrific balance of gritty determination, yet emotional fragility, and was a real beacon of interest throughout this torrid tale. Likewise, the comely Camelia who is tasked by the baddies to break down Daniel’s defences, is a welcome addition to the plot, and if you ever want to confess to some minor infraction like nicking a pencil from Argos, she would probably welcome this revelation. You’ll understand when you read the book..

Having already accrued a plethora of glowing reviews on the internet, Follow You Home, ticks all the boxes for an engaging and quite chilling summer read. The plot is well executed, and Edwards controls the dramatic tension fairly evenly throughout, although it could have been trimmed slightly which would have tightened up some of the more meandering London interludes. With a couple of stand-out characters, and a highly original and interesting premise for a thriller, this was overall a satisfying read. Good.

(With thanks to Amazon Publishing for the ARC)

Louise Voss and Mark Edwards- All Fall Down

Product DetailsTwo years on from uncovering a terrifying conspiracy of rogue scientists, all Kate Maddox wants is to lead a normal life with her partner Paul and son Jack. But then a face from the past turns up, bringing chilling news. A devastating new strain of the virus that killed Kate’s parents is loose in L.A. – and when a bomb rips through a hotel killing many top scientists, it becomes clear someone will do anything to stop a cure being found. While Paul goes on the hunt for answers, Kate finds herself in a secret laboratory in the heart of California, desperately seeking a way to stop the contagion. But time is running out and soon it will be too late to save their loved ones, themselves, and the world…

(Beware this review contains one spoiler)

Following on from ‘Catch Your Death’ from crime writing duo Mark Edwards and Louise Voss, ‘All Fall Down’ marks the return of largely unflappable Dr Kate Maddox whose services are called upon to conquer a viral outbreak threatening the whole of America, and to stop it’s global spread. Gadzooks!

With the convenient deaths of the world’s leading minds in the field of virology it falls upon Kate, virologist, mother, sensual woman and all round good egg, to concoct a cure and thwart this deadly enemy. As the virus is unleashed on the unsuspecting public by a group of emotionally screwed and brainwashed women, led by a be-leathered femme fatale, time is running out for Dr Kate as she enters their radar and finds herself and her nearest and dearest in deadly peril. With a suitably ludicrous use of plotting that means Kate, her partner and her young son, all find themselves transported from rural England to a disease ravaged America, the scene is set for much gung-ho action, schmaltzy interludes and a sense of cripes who will survive this rampant disease, let alone fend off the mad band of women who unleashed it in the first place. A series of frankly unbelievable but at times quite strangely entertaining escapades ensue- oh- and there’s a bit of rumpy pumpy as well.

With more than a nod to one of Dustin Hoffman’s less notable screen performances in ‘Outbreak’ and the scientific meanderings of the late Michael Crichton, I think you can probably ascertain that this wasn’t really my cup of tea- a suspension of disbelief too far. It is observed of one character that “He was silent, his eyes squeezed shut, like this was one incident too far. Too much for him to take” and I must confess that I experienced similar feelings in the course of reading this but fear not, as this has already garnered a significant amount of 5* reviews elsewhere so maybe it’s just me! Don’t get me wrong, this is not a badly written book and I did like a couple of the characters, but after my ups and downs with the plot, the ending completely blew all hopes I had for a realistic outcome to the whole scenario. SPOILER ALERT: Too many people escaped unscathed for my liking, and it was all a bit stereotypical Hollywood action thriller ending with the obligatory cut to wholesome family unit having overcome perilous adversity. However, this probably says more about the dark recesses of my psyche than the quality of the ending on offer for the less cynically-minded reader. In the interests of fairness and to quell my flippancy somewhat,  I include  links to some cracking reviews for the book for your delictation and delight- just not my bag I’m afraid…

 Reviews on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/d5qnyq5

Lainy’s review at GoodReads: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/472939882

Visit the authors’ website here: http://vossandedwards.com/

Product DetailsProduct Details

‘All Fall Down’ is available in Kindle format now and in paperback from 14th February 2013…

(Thanks to Harpercollins for the advance reading copy)