Travels With The TBR #3- Neil Broadfoot-Falling Fast, Paddy Magrane-Denial, Stefan Ahnhem- Victim Without A Face

In the thick of the Christmas rush, as a retail drone currently battling with the lurgy too, time for reviewing has been a bit limited this month. Here’s the last little flurry of books that have made it to the top of the TBR mountain, before my end of year round-up,  and hopefully this little feature will continue next year *eyeing the Eiger sized pile of books yet to be read*….

1Story-hungry journalist Doug McGregor is out to track down a convicted rapist, on the run after being hounded out of his home by a lynch mob. But a grisly suicide in the heart of tourist Edinburgh piques Doug’s curiosity and diverts his attention – especially once his police contact and occasional drinking partner, DS Susie Drummond, reveals that the victim is connected to a high-profile and controversial politician. Together, they find themselves unravelling a story of secrets, drug abuse, violence, murder…and the ultimate taboo.

Having been meaning to catch up with this author, having seen him at CrimeFest this year and instantly purchasing the first two of this series. It was a wise decision, as I have now discovered a great author to add to my Scottish favourites! I was instantly drawn to the two main protagonists, Doug McGregor- dogged reporter, and his police contact DS Susie Drummond, and the relationship that exists between them. I loved the underlying feeling of them both being slightly square pegs in round holes, with McGregor’s incredible self reliance which tends to alienate others, and Drummond’s former misguided fling with a senior officer which has marked her out as an outsider to her police colleagues. However, although their professional relationship alternates beautifully between frustration and spikiness, there is a mutual respect underpinning everything, leading to some intense scenes that alternate between danger, humour and high emotion, thanks to their razor sharp characterisation.

I thought the plot was superb, and am always gratified by the exposure of political corruption, and this book takes some incredibly dark turns as the truth behind a young woman’s death at the outset of the book comes to light. Broadfoot captures perfectly the nature of family bonds with their sometimes misguided loyalty, and explores the issue of parental responsibility in both its good and worst forms. Equally, the author uses both the location of Edinburgh, and his own background as a journalist, to add further layers of realism to what is altogether a completely absorbing thriller. Highly recommended.

2A riot breaks out at Creech Hill Immigration Detention Centre. Zahra Idris, a terrified Eritrean detainee suffering with amnesia, escapes. That evening, Zahra’s psychotherapist, Sam Keddie, finds his girlfriend lying unconscious in their home – the victim of a brutal attack. When Zahra’s solicitor is found dead, drowned in the waters of the Regent’s Canal, Sam becomes convinced that his connection with Zahra is significant – and that someone wants them both dead. He tracks down a frightened, confused Zahra in Amsterdam. But their pursuers are close behind, and Sam and Zahra are soon on the run. As they’re hunted through Europe, Sam races against time to piece together Zahra’s fragile memories and discover why she and those close to her are being picked off – one by one.

Having really enjoyed Disorder , the first of Paddy Magrane’s series featuring psychotherapist Sam Keddie, I’m glad the hiatus has ended and another has appeared! This is real breakneck, edge of your seat thrilling stuff, chockfull of danger, excitement and some very bad men indeed, but tempered by an innate sensitivity to the very contemporary issue of immigration. The character of Zahra, in particular, who has experienced the very worst of human behaviour during her passage to supposed safety in Europe, is mesmeric from the very start, and she holds the reader in the palm of her hand with her mix of,  at times, extreme vulnerability underscored by a steely resolve and bravery to overcome the evil that pursues her. I adored her character, and the way that Magrane uses her so effectively to explore important issues, and bring to the fore elements of corruption, greed and expose those that trade in human exploitation. I also liked the little areas of grey that Magrane employs in relation to one of the men pursuing Zahra, which leads us to reassess our feeling towards him as the tale unfolds.

Despite the more serious issues that the book encompasses, Magrane balances this perfectly with the ‘thriller’ aspect, as Keddie and Zahra are caught up in a  desperate game of cat and mouse across a series of European locations, with all the pace and energy one would expect of the genre. There are some real heart in the mouth moments along the way, and Magrane moves us effortlessly from one impending moment of peril to the next, with a flowing and unbroken narrative. Yes, there are a couple of plot turns which may raise a mildly quizzical eyebrow, but fear not, you are so quickly moved on to more dangerous ground, that these will not deter you. Thrilling, thought-provoking and highly entertaining. What more could you possibly want? Highly recommended.

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Two men are dead. Both had been bullies at school. A single clue has been found at the scene: a class photo from 1982, with two faces neatly crossed out.

Fabian Risk is the lead detective on the case. He’s also one of the children in the photograph. He thought he’d left his schooldays behind. Now his classmates are dying for the sins of their childhood…

You and I both know that you can’t whack a good old slice of Scandinavian noir, so here’s another author to add to your Scandi wish list. Ahnhem has produced a meaty, compelling and impeccably plotted thriller, with a sizeable body count, and increasingly imaginative ways of having despatching the victims, straying into Chris Carter territory with the sheer ghoulishness of some of their deaths. Which was nice.

Fabian Risk proves himself a feisty, and lone wolfish investigator, having recently relocated to his childhood town, after an ‘incident’, putting him perfectly in place to try and outwit a demented killer targeting his school chums. With numerous twists and turns along the way, too convoluted to try and explore here, inevitably Risk finds himself at well, risk, and experiencing an isolation from his police cohorts as the plot thickens.The plot culminates in a slightly clunky and predictable endgame involving a kidnap, but can be slightly forgiven as the story up until that point, and other reveals at the tail end of the book, did diffuse my sense of annoyance somewhat. Certainly enough here to make me seek out the next in the series, and a good recommendation for you Scandi fans out there…

 

November 2014 Round-Up and Raven’s Book of the Month

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)Another busy month of reading and reviewing by the Raven, not only here, but also in conjunction with the brilliant New Talent November feature that has run for a month over on Crime Fiction Lover . NTN November has revealed some great new talents and I’m sure you will all discover some debut crime novels to tickle your fancy!

Elsewhere, there was much talk of Iceland Noir 2014 and check out these sites for some fascinating and informative posts around the events that took place:

Mrs Peabody Investigates

Crimepieces

Euro But Not Trash

In sad news for crime fiction fans everywhere I was called upon to post a tribute to the wonderful P. D. James on her passing. She will be greatly missed amongst readers and fellow authors alike. P.D.James 1920-2014 A Retrospective

On a happier note I was pleased as punch to take part in David Baldacci’s UK Blog Tour with a specially written post on the roles of heroes and villains in his writing and reading- David Baldacci:Giveaway-The-Escape

I also need to pass on thanks again to Andrew James for his nomination for Raven as a Very Inspiring Blogger- much appreciated! Andrew James Writer

December beckons, and with it I will post a series of articles revealing my best reads of the year and new discoveries, as well as the usual reviews and crime news. Working in book retailing, December is a busy, busy month for me, but wearing this hat I would urge you to remember that there is no greater gift than a book! Unless you can afford that natty sports car, or a condo in Florida…

Have a good month 🙂

Books reviewed this month:

Matthew Pritchard- Werewolf

Elly Griffiths- The Zig Zag Girl

Chris Ewan- Dark Tides

Tammy Cohen- Dying For Christmas

J. G. Jurado- The Tipping Point

Nadia Dalbuono- The Few (www.crimefictionlover.com)

Sheila Bugler- The Waiting Game (www.crimefictionlover.com)

Paddy Magrane- Disorder (www.crimefictionlover.com)

Alexander Hartnung- Until The Debt Is Paid(www.crimefictionlover.com)

Raven’s Book of The Month

fewRead as part of the New Talent November feature at Crime Fiction Lover this debut novel really struck a chord with me, and I have now hand-sold all my copies at the bookstore where I work. Yes- it’s that good. Focusing on the less salubrious activities of a group of Italian politicians, and the disappearance of a young American girl on holiday in Italy with her parents, Dalbuono has constructed a compelling plot, that will keep you guessing until the end. Add to that her police protagonist, the charming and determined  Detective Leone Scamarcio, who has seemingly turned his back on his Mafia connections, and what Dalbuono has achieved is a thoroughly accomplished debut crime novel that will leave you itching for another in the series. A truly 5 star read and perfect for fans of top notch Euro crime thrillers.