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

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)2015 has certainly begun with a bang with no less than 9 reviews posted, four non-starters (which I am far too polite to name), two blog tours, and a huge amount of incredibly tempting books arriving by the day. You crime readers are in for a few treats in the next couple of months, I can tell you! The only downside has been my appalling performance in the TBR Double Dog Dare Challenge hosted by James Reads Books where I have managed the giddy total of…wait for it…one book from my TBR mountain This may take some time to reach the apex of I feel. But I am not deterred, and am aiming for a more solid performance in February. Maybe two- ha! Anyway, asides from this, lots of exciting stuff to come in the next month. Have a good February everyone.

BOOKS REVIEWED:

Tom Callaghan- A Killing Winter

Elena Forbes- The Jigsaw Man (www.crimefictionlover.com)

Patrick Hoffman- The White Van

Peter May- Runaway

David McCaffrey- Hellbound

Grant Nicol- The Mistake (www.crimefictionlover.com)

 R. S. Pateman- The Prophecy of Bees 

Marcus Sedgwick- A Love Like Blood 

Philip Taffs- The Evil Inside  

RAVEN’S BOOK(S) OF THE MONTH

tom white

Absolute dead heat this month between two books, both from debut authors, reflecting my preferred blog content for this year. First, the utterly marvellous A Killing Winter by Tom Callaghan, with its bleak and atmospheric Kyrgyzstan setting that totally suited a chilly January night’s reading. Perfect for fans of Child 44. Closely followed by Patrick Hoffman’s The White Van– a gritty and spare San Francisco set thriller that oozed violence throughout, yet delivered so much human vulnerability at the same time. Both different and both brilliant…

Fancy Some Heebie-Jeebies…

 

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)Having had a temporary break from the world of crime fiction, I’ve recently read three supernatural thrillers. Although peppered with recognisable elements of the crime genre, if, like me, the new year has whetted your desire to read something a little different, these may just hit the spot. Perfect reads to while away the long, winter nights, with a nice smattering of scary bejesus moments…

 

bees R. S. PATEMAN- THE PROPHECY OF BEES Moving to Stagcote Manor was meant to be a fresh start for Lindy and her teenage daughter Izzy. A chance at a new life in the country after things went so wrong in London. But for Izzy it is a prison sentence. There’s something about the house that she can’t quite put her finger on. Something strange and unnerving. As Izzy begins to explore the manor and the village beyond its walls, she discovers the locals have a lot of bizarre superstitions and beliefs. Many of them related to the manor . . . and those who live there. When Izzy begins to investigate the history of the estate, her unease deepens to fear as the house’s chilling past finally comes to light…

Yes, this was an all too familiar storyline- family decamp to spooky old country residence, bumps in the night, nightmare visions, creepy yokels who delight in dropping teasers to the bloody history of new residence etc etc -but for all that, I rather enjoyed this ‘Secret of Crickley Hall-esque’ thriller. To be honest, the familiarity made this an easy, although discomforting read, and although Izzy and her mother were intensely annoying in parts, there was much pleasure to be gained from the local rumour-mongers, who were totally spot on with their characterisation, and added a nice chilling frisson to the whole affair. I also loved the bees. The bees are integral to the plot (and to the future of the human race- take note everyone) and I loved the role of these magical flying soothsayers, within the mystery. Read for the bees if nothing else, and Pateman’s assured building of atmosphere and tension throughout.  The ending’s rather good too…

 

evilPHILIP TAFFS- THE EVIL INSIDE:  On 31 December 1999, Australian advertising creative Guy Russell arrives in New York along with his fragile wife and their young son. A painful tragedy has led them to swap Melbourne for Manhattan, and seek a fresh start. With a new job secured at a thriving midtown agency, and temporary residence obtained in the Upper West Side’s Olcott Hotel – a building with a morbid history of its own – Guy feels that now is the time to lay his troubles to rest. Yet something won’t let him. And as a sinister force from Guy’s past begins to scratch its way back into his present, the behaviour of his son, Callum, also starts to become increasingly disturbing and chilling. As Guy begins to believe that Callum is being possessed by this dark force, others fear he is gradually dispossessing himself of his own sanity. And as Guy grapples with whether the evil tormenting him is in his surroundings, his son, or his own mind, he pushes himself ever closer to the edge…

Again, a fairly familiar premise with a family seemingly haunted by the spirit of a dead child, through the vivid imaginings of the remaining child and so on. However, I rather enjoyed this simplistic tale with Taff’s nice depiction of New York life, a husband in crisis, and a sinister building as a backdrop to the whole affair (The Shining anyone?) As Guy’s mental and physical state deteriorates, to the chagrin of his nearest and dearest, Taffs provides a wholly believable portrait of Guy’s distress, leading us along inch by inch to the causes of his unravelling. The story trotted along at a good pace, and this was a relatively quick and fairly satisfying read.

 

marcusMARCUS SEDGWICK- A LOVE LIKE BLOOD: Paris: August 1944- Charles Jackson, a Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps is on leave with his commanding officer. A visit to the treasures stored at the Chateau de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, and a horrifying encounter in the dark of the underground bunker, and his life and future are set on a strange and desperate course. Forging his post-war career as a consultant haematologist at Addenbrooks in Cambridge, Jackson returns to Paris as a guest lecturer. A chance sighting of the man he saw in the bunker  awakens his nightmare experience and a twenty year search for justice begins…

I’m quite the fan of the more subtle and intelligent ‘vampire’ fiction that sometimes infiltrates this overburdened genre, much of which is utter tripe. Looking for something on a par with Jasper Kent’s brilliant series, this was a real treat, and I thoroughly enjoyed the historical touches that underscore a completely absorbing thriller. I loved the slightly tongue in cheek humour of Jackson’s later employment as a haematologist, and Sedgwick’s overall razor sharp observations of his protagonist’s individual obsessions with blood. However, what really carried the book for me was Sedgwick’s precise and empathetic portrayal of Jackson’s descent into obsession, capturing perfectly what lengths he will go to in search of justice, with more than a nod to some of the great tropes of Gothic literature that enthral and intrigue us still.

(With thanks to Orion, Quercus and Mulholland Books respectively for the reading copies)