Category Archives: Crime

Out of the Ashes by Vicky Newham

HQ | 2019 (30 May) | 400p | Review copy | Buy the book

Out of the Ashes by Vicky NewhamOne Friday afternoon, elderly widow Rosa Feldman leaves her newsagents shop in Brick Lane to watch a flash mob form. It turns into a party with music and Rosa, like everyone else, starts to dance. One can almost forget that each of the gang members with the music players are wearing a dark mask. And then the soup shop across the road from Rosa’s shop bursts into flames and explodes. Rosa had seen the woman who lives there leave early that morning but her husband may still be indoors. It’s an inferno and people run for their lives. DI Maya Rahman and her sergeant Dan Maguire arrive on the scene to discover the shop contains the remains of two bodies, Lithuanian shop owner Simas and a woman whose identity is unknown. It seems that this is a shop of secrets. And what does the masked gang want?

Out of the Ashes follows on from Vicky Newham’s strong debut, Turn a Blind Eye and, if anything, Out of the Ashes is even better. Bangladeshi detective Maya is an intriguing figure and in this second book her character has settled. There are still occasional flashbacks to her childhood but there is a strong sense that Maya is now more comfortable in her skin and ready to get on with her life. Dan, by contrast, continues to have problems and there’s no sign of them easing. An Australian, his family is far away and he’s not finding the separation easy to handle. But the focus here is on the case at hand.

Vicky Newham brings this multicultural Brick Lane community to life. Many nationalities are represented and this makes it a sensitive crime to investigate. There are so many potential lines of inquiry to follow. Suspicions are thrown far and wide, especially as Maya discovers that so many of the people she interviews are connected. Maya can’t help becoming personally involved as she discovers the most vulnerable of Brick Lane who live such precarious lives. While there are several personal dramas being played out, it is all set within the context of this most infamous of London Streets which is under threat in so many ways.

Out of the Ashes is a novel packed with characters you feel for, especially Rosa Feldman and young Ali. And, although at times I feel that the narrative is a little earnest, this is because it’s full of heart and full of care for its characters. Brick Lane is such a fantastic setting for the book. I’ve read a fair few historical novels set down Brick Lane and it’s good to read a contemporary novel that brings it and its richly varied community into the present day. Vicky Newham is such a good writer. I’m looking forward to more.

Other review
Turn a Blind Eye

I’m delighted to post my review on the opening day of the Blog Tour! For other stops on the tour, please do take a look at the poster below.

Out of the Ashes blog tour

Advertisements

All That’s Dead by Stuart MacBride

HarperCollins | 2019 (30 May) | 448p | Review copy | Buy the book

All That's Dead by Stuart MacBrideIt’s Inspector Logan McRae’s first day back at work after a year off on the sick. Somebody’s taken his desk. Not a good start but at least he should be able to take things easy for a bit, get back into it slowly. And then high-profile anti-Scottish independence campaigner Professor Wilson goes missing and someone else with similar opinions vanishes. DI King is in charge of the investigation and it’s not going well. His past has raised its ugly head and he’s fighting to hang onto his job. Logan, who’s still working for Professional Standards, is given the job of keeping an eye on him. As the case grabs more and more media attention, as the police become more and more divided, as the political rows heat up, and the hunt becomes increasingly urgent and macabre, Logan finds himself working with the old crew again, and that means Roberta Steel and Tufty. Poor old Tufty. As for Steel…

Stuart MacBride can do no wrong in my eyes. His novels always feature in my top five books of the year, if not in the top one, and I was desperate to read All That’s Dead (understatement). And it is fantastic! It’s the twelfth Logan McRae novel. It stands alone very well as a mystery but I think to gain optimum enjoyment you’d need to have read at least a few more of the series. That way you’ll know how these detectives function, or usually don’t function, as a team. Because these people are an absolute joy to read about.

Logan is our man in charge (and how I love him) but he has his hands full with this lot. Tufty deserves books of his own and he’s at his most irritable and yet endearing best here. He really needs to be kept in a cupboard and only let out on rare occasions when he can be closely monitored. Steel has had her own book (the brilliant Now We Are Dead) and she just gets better and better at being utterly awful, with her itching and scratching, scoffing and leering. She is my favourite detective and, as is usual, she steals every page she’s on, although Tufty gives her a good run for her money.

Stuart MacBride is the wittiest of writers and All That’s Dead sparkles. This is such clever writing. It makes the reader laugh but this contrasts so effectively with other sections of the book which are utterly shocking. The case at the heart of the novel is horrifying. It builds slowly towards something unforgettable. It is astonishing.

There are politics bubbling away in the background, giving the book a timeliness. But, unusually, this is Scotland in a heatwave! We’re used to rain in these books but now the sun has come out and it’s making everybody very tetchy. These people were not designed for heat or sunshine.

I could rave about All That’s Dead all week. This is with no doubt at all my favourite crime series and Stuart MacBride is my favourite crime writer. I urge you to read them. Everybody needs to meet Roberta Steel! And Tufty. Poor Tufty…

Other reviews
Logan McRae series
In the Cold Dark Ground
A Dark So Deadly
Now We Are Dead
The Blood Road

Stolen by Paul Finch

Avon | 2019 (16 May) | 456p | Review copy | Buy the book

Stolen by Paul FinchHomeless people have begun to disappear from the streets of Manchester, the kinds of people that society doesn’t seem to miss, despite repeated reports from Sister Cassie, an ex-nun who now wanders the streets. And then other people start to vanish – an elderly man out walking his dog after dark, a fit young woman out for a jog. Now the police have to take notice. Meanwhile sinister rumours are circulating around Manchester of a black van that patrols the streets. People are afraid. DC Lucy Clayburn is soon part of the investigation. She’s been looking at the theft of dogs in the area and the activities of a dog fighting ring. She suspects that everything might be connected and her bosses are inclined to give her a chance to prove it.

Unfortunately, there is a complication. Lucy’s father Franck McCracken, one of Manchester’s top gangsters, is interfering. Lucy’s been keeping him a secret. The time for secrets might be over.

Stolen is the third Lucy Clayburn novel by Paul Finch and it is an absolute corker! In fact, I think it’s my favourite of the three. It’s nigh on impossible to put down as the plot rattles along and it all begins with the creepiest of opening chapters. This sent shivers down my spine and may well keep me indoors as the moon rises. This fantastic chapter sets the tone for the rest of the novel and it’s maintained throughout.

Paul Finch is such a fine crime thriller writer. Like many people, I adore his Heck series but it may well be that the Clayburn books have now exceeded them, which is quite a feat. Lucy is a wonderful character. She has so much against her. It’s difficult to see how she could ever rise above the rank of DC, although she goes far and beyond what you would expect from that rank normally, in crime fiction at least. Lucy is a very likeable person and she lives in the shadow of a father, only recently discovered, she must deny. I’m no fan of gangster books at all but I do enjoy the relationship between Lucy and her father Frank. It’s tense and uneasy. It’s also dangerous and this adds such a frisson to the novels – and it reaches new heights here.

Aside from the business of Frank McCracken and his villains we have the story of the stolen people and this is a thoroughly engrossing mystery. The baddies are completely evil and rank high in my list of fictional baddies. There’s something a little pantomime about them but that doesn’t detract from their evil at all. This is frightening. It’s also very entertaining. The highlight, though, has to be Sister Cassie.

Stolen races along from start to finish. I read it late into the night, not wanting to put it down unfinished. I love Paul Finch’s books, you always know they’re going to be excellent, but Stolen is, I believe, the very best. I loved everything about it! Story, characters, creepiness, menace, scares, heart, baddies, setting, writing, the lot. The Lucy Clayburn series is now well established as one of the finest out there in the crowded world of crime fiction. It is not to be missed!

Other reviews
Hunted (Heck)
Strangers (Lucy)
Ashes to Ashes (Heck)
Shadows (Lucy)
Kiss of Death (Heck)
‘What seven things you should know if you want to write crime fiction’ – Guest post

I’m so pleased to post my review as part of the Blog Tour to celebrate the publication of Stolen on 16 May. For other stops on the tour, please do take a look at the poster below.

Stolen Blog Tour Poster

Dead at First Sight by Peter James

Macmillan | 2019 (16 May) | 448p | Review copy | Buy the book

Dead at First Sight by Peter JamesA retired army major waits at Gatwick Airport to meet the love of his life off a flight from Munich. John Fordwater met Ingrid Ostermann using an online dating agency. They’ve communicated for months, grown so close, John has even helped Ingrid out with some sizeable loans. And now they’re to meet at last. But, no matter how long he waits, Ingrid doesn’t show up. There’s a very good reason, as police are about to reveal to John. Ingrid doesn’t exist. He is just one of many men and women, usually retirees, to fall victim to organised scammers. It’s a scam that reaps in millions of pounds.

But something is upsetting this fraudulent world. People are starting to die. A woman is found hanged in Brighton but Detective Superintendent Roy Grace does not believe it’s suicide, particularly when he discovers that the woman’s sister has just been thrown to her death from her apartment building in Germany. As Roy and his team investigate a stream of scams and ruined lives, they find themselves caught up in a tangle of murder, treachery and broken hearts. And Roy is about to become reacquainted with a killer from his past.

Dead at First Sight is the fifteenth novel in Peter James’ hugely popular series featuring Brighton senior detective Roy Grace. Each of these novels stands alone well. Roy’s private life, particularly his relationship with his recently discovered young son, is a recurring theme but it’s easy to catch up. A notorious figure from Roy’s life also stirs the muddy water here but, again, it doesn’t matter if you’ve not met him before. This is a self-contained story and what a timely and topical story it is. The novel takes us into the horrible world of identity theft and online fraud. These are not victimless crimes, as the ruined, broken lives we encounter here make very clear indeed. It’s so hard not to feel for these people, to crave justice for them. Roy is determined to provide it but he’s not going to have it all his own way.

I’ve read a fair few of these books over the years and I’ve grown very fond of Roy Grace. He’s a kind, earnest and clever man and detective who gets results, partly because he knows how to treat people – unlike his superior officer. Dead at First Sight is a particularly detailed police procedural. Everything is laid out meticulously before us. While I did enjoy it, I don’t think that this is one of the stronger books in the series. I think that there is a little too much detail. It does hold things up. And a lot of time is spent with Roy as he reasons things through, sometimes repeatedly. The pace does stall on occasion. I also found a thread or two a bit implausible, and a couple of the baddies surprisingly ineffectual. Some of the jokes are really cheesy!

Nevertheless, Dead at First Sight is a good police procedural with an entertaining and very topical theme. There is such a sadness to some of the stories described here and I liked the way in which the victims are placed at the heart of everything. This is just the sort of crime that Roy Grace is driven to fight and the reader cheers him on, just as we also cheer on some of the victims to take their own vengeance. Things are also coming to a head for Roy Grace as his dislike of his superior increases. And then there’s the matter of how to deal with his son. We suspect there may be trouble in store for Roy Grace, one of my favourite fictional detectives.

Other reviews
You Are Dead (Roy Grace 11)
Love You Dead (Roy Grace 12)
Dead If You Don’t (Roy Grace 14)
The House on Cold Hill
Absolute Proof

I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney

HQ | 2019 (16 May) | 344p | Review copy | Buy the book

I Know Who You Are by Alice FeeneyAimee Sinclair is a TV and film actress on the brink of stardom. She is just finishing a movie in the UK and has an audition coming up with one of Hollywood’s top directors. For the moment, Aimee is one of those people who gets a double take in the street. But soon everyone will know her name. Everything is going so well. And then the day comes when Aimee gets home from work and discovers her husband Ben missing. He’s left his wallet, phone, keys, even his shoes behind, but Ben is gone. When she calls the police, she’s horrified to discover that they expect foul play, that she is a suspect. For it seems the police have had their eye on Aimee. They’re not the only ones. Aimee had been the victim of a stalker some time ago and Aimee now fears that the stalker is back. What do they want? And do they know something about Aimee’s past? It’s that which terrifies Aimee the most.

I was such a huge fan of Alice Feeney’s previous novel Sometimes I Lie, one of the best and twistiest psychological thrillers I’ve read, and I couldn’t wait to read I Know Who You Are. Alice Feeney is the master of the Unreliable Narrator and in Aimee Sinclair she has created another original and complex main character, who is both entertaining and largely unknowable. I loved the fact that Aimee is an actress. The perfect career for the Unreliable Narrator if ever there was one. And while this sets off all sorts of warning alarms, the novel doesn’t entirely develop in the way you think it might.

This is such a fun and entertaining novel. I really enjoyed the glimpses into Aimee’s acting world. Her position is fragile. Her reputation is paramount. Everything could end in a moment. And we meet the people who might make it end. This means lots of red herrings and false threads as this is a competitive world where nobody should be trusted. It’s hard not to feel empathy for Aimee, especially now that the ground has been pulled out from under her feet.

But there is more than one story in I Know Who You Are and the parallel tale set in the past is riveting. This is fantastic storytelling – it’s poignant, sad and horrific all at the same time and really demonstrates the skill of the author’s writing and plotting.

There is something rather bonkers about the way in which the story unwinds but nevertheless I Know Who You Are is a fun, light and fast psychological thriller that is hard to put down and very enjoyable to read. Alice Feeney really does come up with such brilliant main characters. I can’t wait to see who she comes up with next!

Other review
Sometimes I Lie

I’m delighted to post my review for the Blog Tour celebrating the publication of I Know Who You Are on 16 May. For other stops on the tour, do take a look at the poster below.

I Know Who You Are blog tour banner

No One Home by Tim Weaver

Michael Joseph | 2019 (16 May) | 528p | Review copy | Buy the book

No One Home by Tim WeaverOne Halloween night, over two years ago, the four households of the tiny Yorkshire village of Black Gale come together for a party. They’re the best of friends, a tight community of neighbours. But that night all nine of them vanish into thin air, not to be seen again. The trail has gone cold and the police abandoned their search long ago. But the families of the vanished want answers and they take their case to private missing persons investigator David Raker. Raker has his own problems to deal with, and they’re getting very pressing indeed, with the wrong people on his trail. But this could be the diversion he needs, not least because it will allow him to go missing himself for a short while. Nothing, though, could have prepared Raker for what he will discover.

No One Home is the tenth novel in the David Raker series but it’s also, I’m ashamed to say, the first I’ve read. This is one of those series that I’ve had my eye on but haven’t had the time to go back and start from the beginning. I’m one of those readers that waits for a book to come along that will throw me into the series and from that point on, having been hooked, I can go back to the beginning. No One Home is just such a book. I loved the premise – the entire small village disappearing one night, never to be seen again, and at Halloween, too. Irresistible. And so I thoroughly enjoyed the book as a stand alone. It is true, though, that there’s a lot going on in Raker’s life that I couldn’t possibly fully follow. But there was more than enough information for this not to matter too much, although I think that if you’ve read the series in full, you’ll get more from it. Nevertheless, No One Home is a very enjoyable, gripping and twisty thriller in its own right.

The narrative is divided between Raker’s own point of view and that of Jolene Kader, one of the first homicide detectives in LA who was faced with a dead body dissolving in acid back in the 1980s. This is a brilliant storyline that carries on throughout the novel and certainly does a good job of competing with the Raker storyline for our attention. I enjoyed this thread at least as much and particularly liked the way in which Tim Weaver handles the sexism and inequality that Jolene faced every single day. I cared very much for her and looked forward to her sections of the book.

As for the missing neighbours, this is a fantastic story and for much of the novel I could not see how on Earth this could possibly be solved. I felt completely in the dark and could hardly put the book down as I waited to see what would happen next. This is engrossing stuff. It’s a dark book and there’s evil in some of the characters we meet. At times the tension and the oppression of this evil was a little too much. This is one of those books that grips you but you have to put your head up for air every so often. I love that kind of book that immerses the reader so deeply in its world.

The final published edition has corrected some of the structural problems of the proof, I’m pleased to say, although this might not solve my main issue, which is the way in which one character is treated. As a result, No Way Home isn’t a perfect book, although I think its first half does a very good job of approaching that, but it grabbed my attention and I look forward to reading more.

The Never Game by Jeffery Deaver

HarperCollins | 2019 (16 May) | 422p | Review copy | Buy the book

The Never Game by Jeffery DeaverColter Shaw is not your usual private investigator. Neither would he call himself a bounty hunter but he is a reward seeker, just one who doesn’t necessarily do it for the money. His friends, each powerfully placed, seeks out new rewards for him to chase, more innocent people to hunt and rescue, to bring resolution to families. And while he waits for the next case, Shaw continues his own private investigation, travelling the US in his Winnebago, sometimes attracting the wrong kind of attention, sometimes feeling eyes on him. But for now, camped up in California, he is distracted by a new case.

A young girl has vanished and her father is distraught. He’s also poor and can barely afford the $10,000 reward he’s offering. The local police has no interest in what they view as a runaway. But, as Shaw follows the clues, he quickly identifies the scene of a crime. The girl has been taken. And she will not be the last. It all seems very similar to a famous and immersive video game, now distorted and taken to new heights of cruelty. But what does the Gamer want? The case will immerse Colter Shaw and Detective Standish in the obsessive, dangerous and competitive gaming world of Silicon Valley.

The Never Game begins a new series by thriller writer Jeffery Deaver and it is a cracking start! This is a very clever novel. It’s substantial and gives the author time to explore several levels of what is not only a complicated case but also a complex hero. It’s one of those crime thrillers with so much to fascinate and perplex the reader. For me, its main triumph is Colter Shaw. The more that is revealed about the extraordinary background and history of this remarkable and enigmatic man, the more hooked I became. The mysterious background is actually as mesmerising as the kidnapping case, if not more so. I loved the way in which Colter Shaw’s character grows before us. But it’s not fully explained. There is plenty more for future novels to explore.

The novel takes place in Silicon Valley and the countryside and coast of California. It’s an interesting place – rich and aspirational but also full of people struggling to find their way, as well as others who are lost in the alternate reality that the games provide. Jeffery Weaver explores this community and industry in intriguing detail – the people who design the games as well as the people who play them. Colter Shaw could have been a fish out of water. But he isn’t. The case is gripping and it’s also grounded in the lives of those affected by it. Family, friends, acquaintances, local communities suffer. Shaw speaks to them all.

Another element that I enjoyed is Shaw’s relationship with the local police, especially Detective Standish, who is such a fascinating character in her own right. I like the way in which the author spends time creating additional characters that we want to get to know.

I fell for Colter Shaw very early on in the novel and by its end I couldn’t wait to see him again. What a fascinating man he is! I want to know more about him and can only wonder what sort of ingenious and lethal challenge he’ll be faced with next.

I’m delighted to post my review as part of the Blog Tour celebrating the novel’s publication on 16 May and I’m even more honoured to be kicking the tour off! For other stops on the tour, please do take a look at the poster below.

Never Game blog tour