Blog Tour- Julia Dahl- Conviction

Journalist Rebekah Roberts works at New York City’s sleaziest tabloid, but dreams of bigger things. When she receives a letter from a convicted murderer claiming his innocence, she sees both a story she can’t ignore and, possibly, a chance.
Twenty-two years earlier, just after the Crown Heights riots exploded between the black and Jewish neighbourhoods in Brooklyn, DeShawn Perkins was convicted of the brutal murder of his adoptive family. Rebekah’s search for the truth is obscured by the decades that have elapsed: almost no one wants to talk about that grim, violent time in New York City, not even Saul Katz, a former NYPD cop and once her inside source….

A new-to-me author, despite Conviction being the third of Julia Dahl’s books to feature spirited and tenacious reporter Rebekah Roberts. Grappling with the weighty issues of race, religion, and justice this proved to be a markedly different, and thought provoking read…

In Rebekah we have a confident, young woman eager to prove herself and progress in her career, and what Dahl captures so well is her flexible, but not always completely unquestioning pursuit of information as a reporter. Instead of Rebekah just being depicted as a cold hearted, unfeeling reporter who will stop at nothing for a story, Dahl introduces in her moments of conflicted interest, and the sometimes very personal conflict that will arise from her investigation. Although we do see Rebekah adopt some little underhanded tricks of the trade to wheedle out the necessary information from people, there is a charm to her as a person that deflects us from condemning her methods on these occasions. Admittedly, she sees her current investigation as a chance to improve her career prospects, but as she delves deeper into what becomes a personal crusade for her to save a man from execution, she endears herself to us even more by making some difficult decisions on the information she must expose. Despite the ramifications for those closest to her, and with the potential to destabilize a recently rekindled relationship with her estranged mother, Rebekah’s navigation of this case kept me enthralled throughout, and I appreciated those small moments of vulnerability balanced with the clear sighted determination that Dahl weaves into her character.

As a depiction of the inherent racial conflicts that have plagued American society, I found this quite an even handed portrayal. Obviously, by exploring the differences between the Jewish and African American communities in New York in 1992 and 2014, Dahl provides a balanced assessment of both changes to, and the continuation of, the underlying resentments between the community of people she focuses on. As a black man convicted of multiple murder with little evidence and a coerced confession, sadly his story is all too familiar in the biased justice system and racial profiling so beloved in the American legal system. Equally, Dahl does not shy away from apportioning blame to the original investigating officers, and the whiff of corruption that pervaded this case from the beginning. I also found the focus on Jewish culture throughout the book extremely enlightening, and liked the no punches pulled attitude of the author to expose the best and worst of people’s behaviour no matter their ethnicity or creed throughout the story. The balance of morality and tenacity in Rebekah’s character to both reveal the tensions, yet applaud the instances of co-operation, between the two communities is firmly echoed by Dahl’s even handed and largely balanced authorial voice.

I enjoyed Conviction very much, and despite the necessary signposts in the book relating to the back story of Rebekah’s previous investigations, and the troubled relationship with her mother, I will definitely catch up with the first two books in the series at some point, having enjoyed the playing out of the story, and Dahl’s interesting dissemination of the issues of race, religion and justice. Recommended.

(With thanks to Faber Books for the ARC)

Catch up with the blog tour at these excellent sites:

 

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)

51dCwfOe3xL

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)

 

 

 

Anthony Horowitz- Trigger Mortis

9781409159131

Following in the footsteps of Sebastian Faulks, Jeffrey Deaver and William Boyd, Trigger Mortis by Anthony Horowitz proves itself one of the best retro-James Bond novels to date. Having been left a little bruised and confused by Horowitz’s excursions into the world of Sherlock Holmes, I was more than a little wary of his contribution to the Bond ouvre. But as my recent quote to customers of this one being a ‘really Bond-y Bond novel’ attests, it’s been a total delight to have my apprehension over this one so delightfully undone…

The absolute stand-out feature of this book, is with how much care, attention, and respect, Horowitz affords his depiction of James Bond himself. The little references and attention to the smallest details of Fleming’s legendary secret agent is first class, and more than once a wry smile of recognition passed my lips, as some character detail was inserted effortlessly into the narrative. It was also gratifying to see a small section of Fleming’s own writing woven into one of the chapters, accrued from Horowitz’s obviously studious reading of Fleming’s work authorised by his estate. Hence, Horowitz’s depiction of Bond carries with it a wonderful sense of familiarity and authenticity, which has been sometimes noticeably absent from a couple of the proceeding Bond pastiches. Equally, when one mentions Bond it cannot go without comment that there will be women involved! There is a welcome reappearance of the kick-ass Pussy Galore at the start of the book, but somehow this felt a little unresolved, and didn’t quite gel within the book as a whole. However, with the inclusion of the brilliant Jeopardy Lane, who steps in when Pussy Galore departs , Horowitz has created a female character who encapsulates all that you want from a female character being both feisty and brave, but posing the all important question… is she immune to Bond’s charm? You’ll have to read it to find out!

The plot is terrific carrying all the quintessential moments of extreme peril for our hero, as he becomes immersed in a plot to perpetrate a terrorist attack on New York, under the cover of a U.S. Rocket launch in the fifties space race. There is a good balance between all the attendent details of the U.S. vs Russia space race, and as a bit of a space nerd, I particularly enjoyed this aspect of the story. Earlier in the book there is a heart in mouth episode as Bond also takes part in a death defying motor race at Nurburgring, which is wrought with tension, but again underscored by Horowitz’s obvious research into the motor-sport of this particular period. The book consistently contains an air of peril, with all the action and violence one naturally expects from a Bond adventure. Bond’s nemesis in the book is the sinister millionaire Korean- Sin Jai-Seong aka Jason Sin- who in true Fleming style arouses a strange kind of sympathy in the reader with the tale of his damaging formative years, but is still a total megalomaniac ne’er do well- an archetypal great Bond villain. His twisted verbosity and deranged demeanour is brilliantly rendered, and he is a villain worthy of the attention of the debonair and dangerous Bond.

So altogether quite keen on this one, with some superb characterisation, a good high quotient of derring-do and all the little details that fit this book so nicely into Fleming’s legacy. Maybe for this reader just not enough Pussy- Galore that is…

(With thanks to Orion for the ARC)

Ed McBain- So Nude, So Dead

sonudesodead

He’d been a promising piano prodigy, once. Now he was just an addict, scraping to get by, letting his hunger for drugs consume him. But a man’s life can always get worse – as Ray Stone discovers when he wakes up beside a beautiful nightclub singer, Eileen Chalmers, only to find her dead… and 16 ounces of pure heroin missing. On the run from the law, desperate to prove his innocence and find a killer, Ray also faces another foe, merciless and unforgiving: his growing craving for a fix…

So Nude, So Dead was the first crime novel by the writer most famously known as Ed McBain, and was originally published in 1952 as The Evil Sleep! (under the name of Evan Hunter), and again in 1956 as So Nude, So Dead under the pen name of Richard Marsten. Thanks to those wonderful people at Hard Case Crime, the book* has been re-published over 50 years later, to mark the tenth anniversary of McBain’s passing.

As a lifelong fan of McBain, the re-emergence of a ‘lost’ book by him has been an absolute treat, and if, like me, you love your American crime with an enhanced sense of ‘pulp’ this will be as much of a treat for you. With his central protagonist, the mercurial dope fiend Ray Stone, on the hunt for those that would frame him for murder and larceny, supported by a cast of increasingly unlikeable and grasping characters, this is vintage McBain. As Stone traverses the seedy underbelly of New York nightclubs avoiding the police and the bad guys, McBain steadily sets up each possible culprit, male and female, for Stone to interrogate using a number of guises, but all underpinned by Stone’s increasing tension caused by his need for one more fix to see him through his quest. His desperation for dope is succinctly and colourfully portrayed, and we get a real sense of how such a promising individual has found his life gone to the dogs by his addiction, and the effects of his addiction on those closest to him. We feel every moment of confusion, every wrenching stomach pain, and cold sweat, as he tries to balance his body’s cry for a fix with his search for a killer. McBain also trains a cool eye on the depths of deviousness Stone has employed to fund this addiction, which makes for some harsh reading, and carefully manipulates our feelings towards Stone even as his reliance on his habit waxes and wanes as the book progresses. McBain’s supporting cast is terrific too, as he builds up a picture of Eileen Chalmers’ life as a nightclub singer, and the host of unsavoury connections she has made behind the surface glitz and glamour of her chosen profession. As Stone encounters each exploitative impressario, slimy musician or jealous female acquaintance of Chalmers’ you could put your money on any of them stitching him up….

Shooting straight from the hip the dialogue is razor sharp and as Chalmers’ teasingly refers to her and Stone’s repartee on their first encounter, “Sparkling dialogue. Refuges from a Grade-B stinkeroo”. The dialogue is spare, frank and uncompromising, and delivered in a style that by which what is unsaid lingers in the air like plumes of exhaled tobacco smoke. See he’s got me at it now. As I’ve said before, it was this style of book that got me hooked on crime fiction, with the deceit and failings of some of the most despicable members of society unflinchingly portrayed through the pared down rhythmic simplicity of manner and speech. It’s mesmerising, darkly witty and brutally truthful, and that is why I have always adored Ed McBain. So Nude, So Dead only compounds my adoration, and it was a joy to discover anew a fledgling work by this most missed of crime authors.

(With thanks to Cara at Titan Books for the ARC)

*This edition also contains a rare McBain short story Die Hard featuring private eye Matt Cordell from The Gutter and the Grave).

BLOG TOUR- Luca Di Fulvio- The Boy Who Granted Dreams- Extract

blog-tour-800px

Welcome to the second stop on this week’s blog tour coinciding with the release of Luca Di Fulvio’s UK debut, The Boy Who Granted Dreams. If, like me, you have a fondness for films such as The Godfather, Once Upon A Time In America or Gangs of New York, I can pretty much guarantee that you will enjoy this novel greatly. Tracking the immigration of fifteen year old Cetta, and her young son, Natale from rural Italy to New York in search of a better life, Di Fulvio has constructed a vivid and powerful portrait of life in America at the turn of the twentieth century. In their new home, they find the merciless laws of gangs rule the miserable, poverty-stricken, and crime-filled Lower East Side. Only those with enough strength and conviction survive. As young Natale grows up in the Roaring Twenties, he takes a page from his crippled mother’s book and finds he possesses a certain charisma that enables him to charm the dangerous people around him. Weaving Natale’s unusual life and quest for his one true love against the gritty backdrop of New York’s underbelly, Di Fulvio proves himself a master storyteller, as he constructs enticing characters ravaged by circumstance, driven by dreams, and awakened by destiny. Although I confess to only being some way into the book at the time of writing this, I am already hypnotised by the journey to adulthood Natale is experiencing, and intrigued by his incredibly natural feel for manipulation and charm to protect himself, and yet stealthily achieve his long term ambitions. I love the real sense of time and place that Di Fulvio is weaving as a backdrop to the story, and the colourful and vital characterisation that leaps from the pages. But don’t just take my word for it, and feast your eyes on the first part of an extract (to be continued on Friday by Cara at The Tattooed Book ) to enter the world of The Boy Who Granted Dreams…

At first there were two of them watching her grow up — the mother and the padrone. One of them watched with dread, the other with a lazy lustfulness. But before she could become a woman, the mother made sure that the padrone wouldn’t look at her any more.

When the child was twelve years old, her mother mashed a thick juice out of poppy seeds, as the oldest women had taught her. She made the girl drink it, and, when she saw her start to stagger and grow drowsy, she picked her up and carried her on her back across the dusty path in front of their hut — on the padrone’s land — down to the dry stream bed and the dead oak tree. She broke a big branch off the old tree, then ripped the little girl’s dress and struck her forehead with a sharp stone, there where she knew much blood would flow. She pulled her daughter into an awkward pose on the stony riverbed — as if she’d rolled down the bank, falling from the dead tree — and left her there, with the broken branch on top of her. Then she came back to the hut and waited for the men to return from the fields, while she kept on stirring a pot of soup with onions, and lard. Only then did she tell one of her sons to go and look for Concetta, the little girl.

She went on grumbling, saying that girl was always running off to play, maybe down by the old oak. She complained to her husband that that child was a curse, moving like quicksilver but with her head always someplace else; she couldn’t give her a task because she’d start out and then forget it halfway through, and she was no help in the house, either. Her husband called her names and told her to shut up, and then he went outside to smoke. She — while her son went across the path that led down to the riverbed and the dead oak — went back to stirring the pot of soup with its lard, and onions; her heart hammering in her breast.

While she was waiting she heard, as she did every evening, the padrone’s automobile pass in front of their house. He always sounded his horn twice, because, he said, the little girls liked it so much. It was true that Concetta was drawn by that sound every evening, even though for the last year her mother had forbidden her to run out of the house to greet the padrone. She would go to the window and peep out. And the mother would hear the padrone laughing from inside the cloud of dust raised by his automobile.

Because Concetta — everyone said this, but the padrone said it too often — was a really beautiful child and was going to be a beautiful big girl….”

to be continued….

LUCA_D~1Luca Di Fulvio was born in 1957 in Rome where he now works as an independent author. His versatile talent allows him to write riveting adult thrillers and cheerful children’s stories (published under a pseudonym) with equal ease. One of his previous thrillers, “L’Impagliatore,” was filmed in Italian under the title “Occhi di cristallo.” Di Fulvio studied dramaturgy in Rome where he was mentored by Andrea Camilleri. The Boy Who Granted Dreams is published 23rd March by Bastei Entertainment and is available as an e-book from online retailers.

The blog tour for The Boy Who Granted Dreams continues tomorrow at Liz Loves Books

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