Category Archives: Authors S to U

Reviews by author surname S to U

Blog Tour – The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor *Review*

I am delighted to be starting the New Year on The Chalk Man blog tour. This is the debut novel by C.J. Tudor and it’s a cracker! If this is a sign of things to come then 2018 is going to be a great year for books. So, here is what it’s about and what I thought of it.

The Blurb

None of us ever agreed on the exact beginning.
Was it when we started drawing the chalk figures, or when they started to appear on their own?
Was it the terrible accident?
Or when they found the first body?

My Thoughts

January 2018 has certainly started on a high with my first review of the year being for CJ Tudor’s debut novel The Chalk Man. It wasn’t what I was expecting and, if I’m honest, that’s a good thing as it meant I enjoyed Tudor’s debut novel even more. I have recently struggled with psychological thrillers which I put down to reading so many in a relatively short space of time, so I was a little concerned going into The Chalk Man that I would struggle with it. My worries quickly proved to be unfounded as I settled into this book immediately.

In The Chalk Man we meet Ed Adams who takes us on a journey back to 1986, a year in which his eyes were opened to the darker side of life and when he first encounters the Chalk Man. Tudor seamlessly switches between 2016 and 1986, ensuring that the reader is equally invested in both timelines. While there is a murder mystery at the heart of the book, The Chalk Man, for me, is a book about friendship and lost innocence.

In Ed and his four friends – Fat Gav, Metal Mickey, Hoppo and Nicky – Tudor has created incredibly likeable, relatable characters and she has really brought them to life. On the brink of becoming teenagers in 1986, their reactions to the events that unfold are realistic, funny and really made me smile. Tudor has nailed the teenage attitudes and responses, ensuring that you warm to Ed and his group of friends. It reminded me in some ways of the film of Stephen King’s Stand By Me in the sense that it is, in part, a coming of age tale. Tudor does not shy away from topics that are hard-hitting as Ed and his friends discover that life and people are not always what they seem.

The chalk man drawings give the story a spooky edge and ensures that you are gripped and have to keep turning the pages to discover what happens. Set in a small town in which the inhabitants harbour secrets, there is a lot to enjoy in this book as Tudor navigates you around the murky underside of small town life, spooky goings-on and the ending … well, I most certainly wasn’t expecting that! Tudor ensured that The Chalk Man stayed with me long after I had finished reading.

A fantastic debut novel which I’m sure will be a big hit this year and rightly so. The Chalk Man is great book and Tudor is an author to keep an eye on in the future. 

A huge thank you to C.J. Tudor and Jenny Platt at Michael Joseph for my advance copy for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Fancy reading The Chalk Man? Grab your copy HERE.

Follow the rest of the tour…

Review – To Catch A King: Charles II’s great escape by Charles Spencer

The Blurb

How did the most wanted man in the country outwit the greatest manhunt in British history?

In January 1649, King Charles I was beheaded in London outside his palace of Whitehall and Britain became a republic. When his eldest son, Charles, returned in 1651 to fight for his throne, he was crushed by the might of Cromwell’s armies at the battle of Worcester.
With 3,000 of his supporters lying dead and 10,000 taken prisoner, it seemed as if his dreams of power had been dashed. Surely it was a foregone conclusion that he would now be caught and follow his father to the block? At six foot two inches tall, the prince towered over his contemporaries and with dark skin inherited from his French-Italian mother, he stood out in a crowd. How would he fare on the run with Cromwell’s soldiers on his tail and a vast price on his head?
The next six weeks would form the most memorable and dramatic of Charles’ life. Pursued relentlessly, Charles ran using disguise, deception and relying on grit, fortitude and good luck. He suffered grievously through weeks when his cause seemed hopeless. He hid in an oak tree – an event so fabled that over 400 English pubs are named Royal Oak in commemoration. Less well-known events include his witnessing a village in wild celebrations at the erroneous news of his killing; the ordeal of a medical student wrongly imprisoned because of his similarity in looks; he disguised himself as a servant and as one half of an eloping couple. Once restored to the throne as Charles II, he told the tale of his escapades to Samuel Pepys, who transcribed it all.

In this gripping, action-packed, true adventure story, based on extensive archive material, Charles Spencer, bestselling author of Killers of the King, uses Pepys’s account and many others to retell this epic adventure.

My Thoughts

While I was eager to read To Catch a King as I have always liked history, I was a little apprehensive about whether or not I would be able to get into it as my interests tend to lie in modern British and European history. My knowledge of the monarchy and Britain in the 17th Century is sketchy at best. However, I needn’t have worried as Charles Spencer has written a pacey historical novel in which the momentum never lets up and which is easy to follow.

In January 1649 Charles I was beheaded and Britain became a republic. Next in line to the throne, Charles II was safely ensconced in France, however, he returned to England in 1651 to fight for his throne. Defeated in battle, the next six weeks Charles spent on the run from Cromwell and the New Model Army and it is this hair-raising tale that Spencer tells us in To Catch a King.

While in the back of mind I knew about the brutality often displayed in early Britain, I was quite taken aback about the extent of it and it was really put into context for me in in this true account. I was also surprised about the level of propaganda used during this period, for some reason I considered propaganda and the use of media to be a more recent phenomenon, but Spencer highlights how it was used during this period.

The seventeenth century was certainly a tumultuous time in British History with civil war and harsh punishments for those who showed allegiance to the monarchy and those who practised Roman Catholicism. I was bowled over by the unswerving loyalty displayed to Charles II by those that helped him especially in the face of the punishments that would be meted out to them if they were caught. To Catch a King is easily up there with the thrillers I have read this year yet it has the added edge of being true. That Charles II and his entourage pulled of this feat during times in which the means to communicate were substantially more difficult than they are now is truly amazing and I can’t believe that I did not know more about this escapade. I was also unaware as to why there are so many pubs in Britain called The Royal Oak and the story behind this is brilliant.

To Catch a King took me longer to read than a book normally would and this was in part due to me keeping track of the substantial cast of characters but also because I wanted to savour it. Spencer has clearly taken considerable care in his research and it is a book that begs to be taken in gradually. Incredibly well written, Spencer has captured the time period perfectly and yet made To Catch a King accessible and readable. I really appreciated the final chapters of the book in which we learn, briefly, about Charles II’s time during the Restoration and what happened to those who helped him.

A great read for history lovers and those who like pacey thrillers. While I did not doubt Spencer’s ability to write, I have to confess to enjoying To Catch a King a lot more than I thought I would. A great slice of British history told in a compelling way.

Published on 5 October 2017 by William Collins you can purchase a copy HERE.

A huge thank you to Charles Spencer and Harper Collins for my copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Review – Love Them and Leave Them by Sue Shepherd

The Blurb

Six years ago, Jessica’s dad made a split-second decision that changed her life forever …

Now, twenty-something Jessica has a successful career, loving boyfriend, Nick, and a keen eye on her dream home.

But in a parallel world, Jessica’s dad made another choice and everything turned out differently …

Now, twenty-something Jessie is stuck in a job with no prospects, with an unreliable boyfriend, Chris; her dreams never fulfilled.

Can Jessie gain the confidence to get her life back on track? And will Jessica lose everything she cares about because of one stupid mistake?

Whichever decision Jessica’s dad makes, the same people are destined to come into her life, sometimes in delightfully different ways. And before they can look forward to the future, they will all have to deal with the mistakes of the past.

Another page turner from the No.1 bestselling author of Doesn’t Everyone Have a Secret?

My Thoughts

Love Them and Leave Them is the second novel from Sue Shepherd and I confess it has been sitting waiting to be read for quite some time (apologies Sue!). I have to start by saying that, for me, the title of this book gives the impression that it is about something entirely different. Part of the delay in me getting around to reading this book may be down to the title. Being terrible at reading and remembering blurbs, I had the impression that this was a book about someone’s love life – a love life in which a person finds it difficult to commit. I was so wrong and there is so much more to Love Them and Leave Them than the title initially suggests.

Jessica/Jessie’s dad makes a split-second decision that changes his life and the life of his family members forever. The result of this decision is what provides the story for Love Them and Leave Them as we simultaneously follow Jessica/Jessie at the point that her father makes this decision. The two very different paths that Jessica/Jessie’s life takes shows how one seemingly innocuous decision can alter the life course of so many people and I adored this. It really had me thinking about the decisions I had made throughout the course of my life and wonder ‘what if?’ We all have those moments when we reflect on our lives and Shepherd has captured this wonderfully.

The two different storylines mean that Love Them and Leave Them could easily become confusing but Shepherd manages to pull it off without the use of separate chapter headings. There were moments when I picked the book up after a break and I would be confused however I was quickly able to establish which thread I was following and that for someone with a memory as appalling as mine is saying something! I have huge admiration for Shepherd for her ability to manage the two threads and ensure the story flowed and that both gelled together despite being different storylines. I imagine she must have had a copious amount of notes while writing this book.

Love Them and Leave Them is funny at times, sad at times but always heart-warming and the characters ensure that you want to keep on reading to discover what will happen to them. I became fully invested in the lives of Jessica/Jessie and her family and friends during the time it took me to read this book.

On finishing the book I now get that the title refers to Jessica/Jessie’s dad and the different outcomes of that initial split decision and it seems apt. I just hope it doesn’t put people off reading it due to assumptions that it refers to something entirely different as within the pages of Love Them and Leave Them is a wonderfully constructed tale about life, fate and consequences.

Love Them and Leave Them was published on 27 September 2016 by Corazon Books.

A huge thank you to Sue Shepherd for the copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Review – Best Seller: A Tale Of Three Writers by Terry Tyler

The Blurb

Three women, one dream: to become a successful author.

Eden Taylor has made it—big time. A twenty-three year old with model girl looks and a book deal with a major publisher, she’s outselling the established names in her field and is fast becoming the darling of the media.

Becky Hunter has money problems. Can she earn enough from her light-hearted romance novels to counteract boyfriend Alex’s extravagant spending habits, before their rocky world collapses?

Hard up factory worker Jan Chilver sees writing as an escape from her troubled, lonely life. She is offered a lifeline—but fails to read the small print…

In the competitive world of publishing, success can be merely a matter of who you know—and how ruthless you are prepared to be to get to the top.

BEST SELLER is a novella of 40k words (roughly half as long as an average length novel), a dark, edgy drama with a twist in the tale.

My Thoughts

After reading Terry Tyler’s Author Influences (you can check it out here) and discovering that her novella Best Seller was inspired by a true event in her life I just knew I had to read it. Best Seller centres around three women – of which two are friends and the other is known through writer groups on social media – and their dream to be a bestselling author. Sounds like a straight forward enough book, however, there is more to Best Seller than meets the eye.

Best Seller is only around 155 pages long and yet Tyler manages to fit so much into this small and perfectly formed book. It is a dark tale about the less attractive emotions we all have as human beings, the pursuit of ambition, the world of writing and the impact of media and social media.

The central characters in the book, Eden, Becky and Jan, are incredibly well crafted. Tyler is clearly an acute observer of people and their individual nuances as she captures everything – their characters, the impact of their social class and upbringing on their behaviour and speech, their age – about them through their dialogue and thoughts. All of the things that people say out loud in order to present an image of themselves that is in contrast to what they actually think especially when it comes to the success of others. I imagine any reader of Best Seller will recognise people they have come across within the book and, I have to say, it made me think about my own emotions in certain circumstances and how I come across, particularly on social media.

Best Seller is also a satirical look at the writing world. The misconceptions about independently published authors, the falsities of social media groups and the who you know rather than the what you know aspect of success all had me nodding my head in agreement. Tyler does not paint a pretty picture yet the honest way she portrays those everyday social interactions we all partake in and of life in general make delicious reading.

Once I started Best Seller I found it incredibly difficult to put down. Unlike anything I have read before, the plot is perfect in its pace and structure. It is incredibly current and astute and will have you questioning your own morals and the morals of those around you. Best Seller would make a great reading group book. A short read that packs a punch, I loved it!

A huge thank you to Terry Tyler for my copy of Best Seller in exchange for my honest review.

Blog Tour – The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen *Review*

I am delighted to be one of today’s hosts for The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen and I’m finally sharing my review of this fab book. But first the all important blurb…

The Blurb

A successful entrepreneur in the mushroom industry, Jaakko Kaunismaa is a man in his prime. At just 37 years of age, he is shocked when his doctor tells him that he’s dying. What is more, the cause is discovered to be prolonged exposure to toxins; in other words, someone has slowly but surely been poisoning him. Determined to find out who wants him dead, Jaakko embarks on a suspenseful rollercoaster journey full of unusual characters, bizarre situations and unexpected twists.
With a nod to Fargo and the best elements of the Scandinavian noir tradition, The Man Who Died is a page-turning thriller brimming with the blackest comedy surrounding life and death, and love and betrayal, marking a stunning new departure for the King of Helsinki Noir.

My Thoughts

I love a book with a cracking first line and Tuomainen’s The Man Who Died has one of THOSE first lines. It is both amusing and unexpected. It perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the book.

Jaakko is a successful mushroom farmer in Finland and is shocked when he finds out that he is dying. Not only is he dying but it is due to being poisoned. Jaakko embarks on a journey to discover who it is who wants him dead and discovers more secrets and lies than he expects.

I absolutely love Jaakko! Tuomainen has created an incredibly likeable, relatable character. You become completely at one with him and he is the sort of person I would love to have a pint with. Jaakko is incredibly human as we see his everyday concerns – such as having put on a bit of extra weight in his thirties – those things that we all, at times, worry about. His sardonic outlook and wry, dark wit appealed to me greatly. As somebody with a chronic illness who has had to adjust to certain limitations and symptoms, Jaakko’s outlook on his health and situation and how he deals with it really struck a chord with me. He manages to see the humour in his situation and The Man Who Died had me giggling out loud and nodding my head in agreement.

Tuomainen has also written a great mystery novel. As we join Jaakko on is journey to discover who is behind poisoning him we are treated to twists, turns and red herrings all set against a stunning backdrop. Tuomainen’s prose is, quite simply, gorgeous. It’s as though he has spent time carefully considering every word to ensure it fits and makes an impact and yet it flows effortlessly. As always with Orenda books, the translation by David Hackston is flawless.

The Man Who Died subverts being categorised into a genre. For me it is a book about the absurdity of living and dying and how we, as humans, deal with it. It’s almost philosophical in tone in that it makes you think about the ridiculousness of worrying about the minutiae of life – something we are probably all good at but which does us no favours.

Full of the darkest, wonderful humour and a gripping plot Tuomainen’s The Man Who Died is a fantastic read and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Tuomainen’s abilty to pull off this departure from his usual writing and to pull it off with such skill is a testament to his talent as writer.

Published on 10 October 2017 by Orenda Books.

About the Author

Finnish Antti Tuomainen (b. 1971) was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed My Brother’s Keeper was published two years later. In 2011 Tuomainen’s third novel, The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’ and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. The Finnish press labelled The Healer – the story of a writer desperately searching for his missing wife in a post-apocalyptic Helsinki – ‘unputdownable’. Two years later in 2013 they crowned Tuomainen ‘The King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published. The Mine, published in 2016, was an international bestseller. All of his books have been optioned for TV/film. With his piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen is one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and The Man Who Died sees him at his
literary best.

A huge thank you to Antti Tuomainen, Karen Sullivan and Anne Cater for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Follow the rest of the tour for more reviews and guest posts…

 

 

 

Blog Tour – Snare by Lilja Sigurdardóttir *Review*

Welcome to my turn on the Snare blog tour today in which I am sharing my thoughts on this, the first in Lilja Sigurdardóttir’s Reykjavik Noir Trilogy. But first, here is the all-important blurb…

The Blurb

After a messy divorce, attractive young mother Sonja is struggling to provide for herself and keep custody of her son. With her back to the wall, she resorts to smuggling cocaine into Iceland, and finds herself caught up in a ruthless criminal world. As she desperately looks for a way out of trouble, she must pit her wits against her nemesis, Bragi, a customs officer, whose years of experience frustrate her new and evermore daring strategies. Things become even more complicated when Sonja embarks on a relationship with a woman, Agla. Once a high-level bank executive, Agla is currently being prosecuted in the aftermath of the Icelandic financial crash. Set in a Reykjavík still covered in the dust of the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption, and with a dark, fast-paced and chilling plot and intriguing characters, Snare is an outstandingly original and sexy Nordic crime thriller, from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.

My Thoughts

Snare by Lilja Sigurdardóttir is a fast-paced, heart-pounding ride that takes you into the depths of Rekyjavík’s underbelly. Following the divorce from her husband, Sonja finds herself in a financially desperate situation. With her ex having full custody of their son, Tómas, Sonja has to find a way to dig herself out of the financial hole she finds herself in in order to regain custody of Tómas. Unfortunately, the spade she has been handed involves her becoming deeper and deeper involved in drug smuggling.

Sigurdardóttir has a way with words that ensures you are with Sonja with every step she takes. The tension when she is going through customs with kilos of cocaine in her suitcase is palpable, and I could literally feel my blood pressure rising! As you get to know Sonja and get drawn into her life you are dying to know how this bright, respectable woman found herself in this predicament. As Sonja has discovered, life’s twists and turns can sometimes result in you doing things and making choices you wouldn’t normally. Snare is the perfect title and accurately describes Sonja’s situation. The question is can she get out of it? I was desperate for Sonja to be able to escape the snare, but knew this was going to be virtually impossible.

The characters involved in the snare are unsavoury and unpleasant, as you would expect, and parts make for uncomfortable reading. Snare is set following the financial crash in Iceland and Sigurdardóttir has cleverly entwined the Snare storyline around the consequences of the crash. The impact the crash has had on relationships, families and behaviour is a theme that runs throughout the book, making it politically and socially current. We can see how each of the main characters have been damaged by financial insecurity.

Narrated in third person but told through different perspectives, Sigurdardóttir’s writing talent really shines through with her effortlessly capturing the unique perspectives and voice of the individuals – from Tómas’s very childlike perspective to the mature, verging on retirement, Bragi. This ensured that I was fully involved in the book. While Sonja and Bragi, the customs officer, are on opposite sides of the fence I found myself routing for both of them. Tómas was the character that touched me the most, however, with his confusion over his living arrangements and the loss of his mother following his parents’ divorce – Sigurdardóttir has portrayed him beautifully.

As always, Quentin Bates has ensured that the translation from Icelandic is perfect making Snare wonderfully readable.

With plenty of twists and turns, a fantastic cast of characters and a plucky female protagonist, Snare is a fantastic start to the Reykjavik Noir Trilogy and I look forward to seeing where Sigurdardóttir takes us next.

Published on eBook 12 September 2017 and paperback on 1 October 2017 by Orenda.

A huge thank you to Lilja Sigurdardóttir, Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books and Anne Cater for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Follow the rest of the tour…

Blog Tour – The Kindred Killers by Graham Smith *Review*

Hurrah, I’m really pleased to be one of the turns on The Kindred Killers by Graham Smith blog tour today alongside Have Book Will Read. I couldn’t wait to read the second Jake Boulder book after thoroughly enjoying the first (read my review of Watching the Bodies HERE). Before I share my thoughts here is the all-important blurb:

The Blurb

Jake Boulder’s help is requested by his best friend, Alfonse, when his cousin is crucified and burned alive along with his wife and children.
As Boulder tries to track the heinous killer, a young woman is abducted. Soon her body is discovered and Boulder realises both murders have something unusual in common.
With virtually no leads for Boulder to follow, he strives to find a way to get a clue as to the killer’s identity. But is he hunting for one killer or more?
After a young couple are snatched in the middle of the night the case takes a brutal turn. When the FBI is invited to help with the case, Boulder finds himself warned of the investigation.
When gruesome, and incendiary, footage from a mobile phone is sent to all the major US News outlets and the pressure to find those responsible for the crimes mounts.  But with the authorities against him can Boulder catch the killer before it’s too late?

My Thoughts

I was lucky enough to read and review the first in Graham Smith’s Jake Boulder series, Watching the Bodies, and knew that I would definitely be following the rest of the series. We haven’t had to wait too long for the next instalment and, I’m pleased to say, The Kindred Killers lived up to expectation, firmly placing Boulder on the ‘must-read series’ list. If you haven’t yet read Watching the Bodies I suggest you do, however, The Kindred Killers works equally well as a standalone.

Private investigator and doorman Jake Boulder is back … and back with a bang! The first chapter introduces/re-introduces the reader to the character of Jake brilliantly and it quickly progresses into, what may turn out to be, possibly the most personal case he and his partner Alfonse ever face. I can’t help but like Jake – he is a tough Glaswegian who finds it difficult to maintain relationships – and The Kindred Killers hints that there is more to find out about him in the next books. I look forward to learning more about him. The combination of his ability to handle himself in almost any situation and his detective skills alongside Alfonse’s tech skills make the duo a great team.

Following the gruesome murder of Alfonse’s cousin and his family, the pair set out to find who is responsible. While looking for the motivation for the killings Jake and Alfonse uncover something more sinister and threatening than they imagined. In The Kindred Killers Smith has written a gripping thriller that is incredibly topical and, quite frankly, a scary look at the extremes that certain factions of society will go to in the name of their beliefs. The gruesome way in which the murders are committed show that Smith has researched many aspects of the issues raised in the book. I don’t want to say anything more on this as I don’t want to spoil anything!

The pace doesn’t let up and I found myself racing through The Kindred Killers in no time at all. Smith ensures that each chapter is essential and has you having to read more. Again, Smith pulls off the setting of America perfectly making you forget that this is written by a British author.

A fantastic follow-up to what always promised to be a great series, The Kindred Killers is a cracking crime thriller and is a must for your bookshelf if you enjoy this genre.

Published on 12 September 2017 by Bloodhound Books.

A huge thank you to Graham Smith and Sarah Hardy at Bloodhound Books for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Follow the rest of the tour…

Blog Tour – Unforgivable by Mike Thomas *Guest Post and Review*

Today I am taking part in the blog tour for Unforgivable by Mike Thomas. I’m chuffed to bits to be a part of this and to be sharing my review AND I have a brilliant guest post from Mike on his three favourite supporting characters in his novels. I will hand you over to Mike and then check out the blurb and my review of Unforgivable…

The Three Favourite Supporting Characters in My Novels

It’s always enjoyable writing your protagonist’s story and pushing them around on the page – go here, you swine! – but what I often find more entertaining, certainly if my hero or heroine is having an off day, is writing supporting characters. They’re often great fun, because they’re not really as important (but they’re still very important), and therefore the pressure’s off and there’s more freedom to do things with them that you couldn’t do with your main character. They also act as a counterpoint to your protagonist, and a means to demonstrate your main character’s personality or behaviour without doing the old ‘telling’.

Just look at Saul Goodman in ‘Breaking Bad’, or Bunk in ‘The Wire’, or The Mad Hatter in Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’. And what about Ron and Hermione in the Potter books? All of them, fully-formed and interesting supporting characters that add further depth and shade to the protagonist and the story itself.

So who are the three favourite supporting characters in my novels? Which of them were the most interesting and gratifying to write? Let’s take a look…

1. DC Warren Harrison – rotund, perpetually eating and wrapped in a fug of smoke, ‘Wazza’ is the ‘senior man’ – in age, not rank – on the team of CID officers who feature in the MacReady novels, ‘Ash and Bones’ and ‘Unforgivable’. An old sweat who has seen it all, he’s world-weary but has a mischievous sense of humour, not least in his choice of footwear: he refuses to wear shoes and turns out for duty every day in socks and sandals. The inspiration for Warren was an ex-colleague who could regularly be found wandering the corridors of the police station looking like a lost German tourist who’d raided the nearest vending machine. Lots of older real cops end up like Wazza: nothing fazes them, they couldn’t care less about anything other than their approaching pension, and they think all new officers are utterly useless. Often they’re not wrong.

2. FLUB – real name David Murphy, FLUB is the elder PC on the elite public order team in my 2014 novel ‘Ugly Bus’. His nickname, gifted to him by his colleagues on the van, is an acronym for Fat Lazy Useless Bastard. Given that FLUB likes food and moving slowly – his favourite line is ‘I may not look like I’m busy most of the time but on a molecular level I’m a hundred fuckin’ miles an hour’ – he was happy enough to shrug and accept the moniker. Like Warren Harrison above, FLUB is the old sweat, but while Wazza is a spiky individual, David Murphy is an anything-to-keep-the-peace sort – which backfires spectacularly for all concerned at the climax of the novel. I love old FLUB, he’s a lot like I used to be towards the end of my career – especially his penchant for disgracefully unhealthy takeaway food on night shifts.

3. PC Frank MacReady – or ‘Frankie’ or ‘The Frankster’ as ‘Pocket Notebook’s protagonist (I hesitate to call him a hero) Jacob Smith calls his best buddy. Frank is a specialist firearms officer, working alongside Jake, and is Jake’s only true friend – he’s patient, wise, loyal, and long-suffering – but Jacob even manages to lose him, in the most despicable manner possible, during a house party where far, far too much alcohol is consumed. Without Frank anchoring him our protagonist is finally doomed, and we see it happen in real time during the latter part of the book. I always think of Frank and Jake as mirroring my wife and I during this period in our lives: she was the strong sensible, caring one who had to support me while I lost my marbles writing this crazed debut novel…

Brilliant post, thank you so much Mike. I love Wazza too!

The Blurb

Bombs detonate in a busy souk, causing massive devastation.
An explosion rips apart a mosque, killing and injuring those inside.
But this isn’t the Middle East – this is Cardiff . . .

In a city where tensions are already running high, DC Will MacReady and his colleagues begin the desperate hunt for the attacker. If they knew the ‘why’, then surely they can find the ‘who’? But that isn’t so easy, and time is fast running out . . .

MacReady is still trying to prove himself after the horrific events of the previous year, which left his sergeant injured and his job in jeopardy, so he feels sidelined when he’s asked to investigate a vicious knife attack on a young woman.

But all is not as it seems with his new case, and soon MacReady must put everything on the line in order to do what is right.

My Thoughts

The second DC Will MacReady novel is totally explosive … and that’s not just because of the bombs that go off in the book! Unforgivable totally lived up to all of my expectations with Thomas proving that this is one hell of a crime series!

If you haven’t read the first in the series, Ash and Bones, don’t worry as Unforgivable works as a standalone. Thomas perfectly gives enough information in order for you to be able to follow how MacReady and his colleagues got to where they currently are without deflecting from the new plot. However, trust me when I say you will want to read Ash and Bones!

I was expecting from the blurb a fairly straightforward story about the police investigating a terrorist attack. Unforgivable delivers more than this, however, with Thomas turning the theme of terrorism on its head. Thomas taps into the rise of Islamophobia and far-right groups across the country resulting in Unforgivable being incredibly current.

You are dragged into the story from the start. Unforgivable starts with a bang (literally!) and the pace is unrelenting from there on. The vivid descriptions within the first few chapters place you directly in the middle of the action, experiencing everything that is going on, and all its horrors. This is a book that you struggle to put down as its pace and plot beg for it to be read quickly and it becomes all absorbing.

I was pleased to spend time with MacReady et al again and Unforgivable takes up where we last left off a few months down the line. While MacReady is no longer the new boy within his team, he is still treated as such especially following events that occurred during Ash and Bones. He has a new partner in the completely unlikable Paul Echols who isn’t making his life any easier! MacReady’s personal life remains complicated which adds another layer to the book. I really like MacReady; he is intelligent, plucky and on the ball.

Thomas’s first-hand experience of police work shines through and his writing remains authentic. He doesn’t shy away from describing the less than glamorous side of police work and in Unforgivable the impact of austerity cuts enforced by the current government are starkly visible. While as a civvy you are aware that the cuts have an impact, Thomas brings the actual realities straight into your consciousness as resources to investigate the murder of a young woman are scant following the terrorist attacks. This true-to-life approach is one of the things that really appeals to me about Thomas’s books.

Unforgivable is a fantastic, high-adrenaline, close-to-the-bone read and the DC MacReady books are now firmly placed on my list of favourite and highly recommended detective series’.

Published on 27 July 2017 by Zaffre Publishing.

A huge thank you to Mike Thomas and Emily Burns at Bonnier Zaffre for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

You can read my review of Ash and Bones HERE and Mike’s Author Influences HERE!

Be sure to catch the rest of the tour for more reviews and brilliant guest posts by Mike … they really are worth reading!

Review – The Devil You Know by Terry Tyler

The Blurb

Every serial killer is someone’s friend, spouse, lover or child….

Young women are being murdered in the Lincolnshire town of Lyndford, where five people fear someone close to them might be the monster the police are searching for.
One of them is right.

Juliet sees an expert’s profile of the average serial killer and realises that her abusive husband, Paul, ticks all the boxes.

Maisie thinks her mum’s new boyfriend seems too good to be true. Is she the only person who can see through Gary’s friendly, sensitive façade?

Tamsin is besotted with her office crush, Jake. Then love turns to suspicion…

Steve is used to his childhood friend, Dan, being a loud mouthed Lothario with little respect for the truth. But is a new influence in his life leading him down a more sinister path?

Dorothy’s beloved son, Orlando, is keeping a secret from her—a chilling discovery forces her to confront her worst fears.

THE DEVIL YOU KNOW is a character-driven psychological drama that will keep you guessing until the very end.

My Thoughts

I read a lot of crime and psychological thrillers and at the time I got around to reading The Devil You Know I have to admit to being in the mood for something a little different. The Devil You Know had been sitting on my kindle for a while and I completely forgotten what the premise of the book was. I dived into it and was very pleasantly surprised. Tyler has written a compelling psychological thriller that is unique in its perspective. Despite being a thriller, it satisfied my need to read something different and I struggled to put it down.

A serial killer is murdering women in Lincolnshire and, of course, the police are desperate to find the killer to prevent the death toll from rising further. Sounds like your regular crime thriller right? Wrong! Tyler completely changes the perspective and follows the thoughts and lives of five unconnected individuals who each suspect, following the release of a photofit, that the killer may be someone they know.

How would you react if someone you were close to resembled a photofit of a suspected serial killer? Especially if their behaviour is unusual? Would you speak to them about it, look for evidence or go straight to the police? What effect would this have on your relationship? This is what each of the characters face in The Devil You Know and it makes for great reading. It takes you deep into the emotions, thoughts and feelings of each of the characters and their reactions. Tyler has given a wide range of experience within her characters – there is the abused wife, the lonely single mother of an adult child, the colleague with a crush on her work mate, the childhood friend who finds himself disagreeing with his friend’s views and behaviour and the teenage girl whose mother is in a new relationship – and gives each their own voice.

The Devil You Know has quite a complex plot with a lot of different characters and perspectives, however, Tyler pulls this off without ever causing confusion and ensuring that the story flows effortlessly. This is a real testament to her writing skills and shows meticulous plotting.

I adored the psychological aspect of Tyler’s book. I’m always intrigued about what goes on in the mind of a killer and Tyler provides us with an explanation for his actions. She has pretty much considered every aspect; from the family and friends point of view during suspicion, the reason why the killer commits his crimes and the fall-out from the suspicions and the impact on the family members of the killer after prosecution. You are taken on a journey of trying to figure out who the killer is with carefully placed snippets of information from the police. While I had drawn the correct conclusion in respect of one of the suspects, Tyler kept me guessing (incorrectly I might add) and finishes with one hell of a twist.

The Devil You Know is a great read. It is refreshingly different, utterly engrossing and compelling and really well written. It needs to be on your ‘to be read’ list!

A huge thank you to Terry Tyler for my copy of The Devil You Know in exchange for my review. The Devil You Know is out now.

Review – Ash and Bones by Mike Thomas

The Blurb

A cop killer on the loose in Cardiff – introducing a dark and gritty new voice in crime fiction, perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride and David Mark

At a squalid flat near the Cardiff docks, an early morning police raid goes catastrophically wrong when the police aren’t the only unexpected guests. A plain clothes officer is shot dead at point blank range, the original suspect is left in a coma. The killer, identity unknown, slips away.

Young and inexperienced, Will MacReady starts his first day on the CID. With the city in shock and the entire force reeling, he is desperate to help ­- but unearths truths that lead the team down an increasingly dark path…

My Thoughts

I have had Ash and Bones sitting waiting to be read for a while. The perfect opportunity came up to read it as part of the 144 books around the UK challenge and the fact that the second in the Detective MacReady series is due out over the summer. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can’t believe it took me so long to get around to reading it.

Set in Cardiff, Ash and Bones follows trainee detective Will MacReady as he sets out on his new career path. He is introduced to his new team with a bang when a raid goes wrong and one of Cardiff’s oldest and most respected Detectives is killed on the job. Determined to bring the killer to justice, especially as it is one of their own that has been killed, it soon becomes apparent that there is more to this killing than first meets the eye.

Ash and Bones is a no-holds barred, gritty and compelling read. Thomas’s experience of being a police officer comes through to give the novel a really authentic feel. There is no glitz and rose-tinted view about what it is like to be a detective, instead all of the difficulties and challenges that the police face are there, along with the mindset that comes following a number of years in the force and the sections of society you deal with on a day to day basis. I really got this and understood the frustrations after a number of years working within social services where you are governed and frustrated by red-tape and you spend the majority of your life dealing with the darker side of human nature. This worked brilliantly for me and really helped to draw me into the book as the experience felt real. There is quite a lot of police jargon, however this is easy to follow and adds to rather than detracts from the book.

I really liked MacReady as a character and I liked the fact that he is a novice detective. All of the frustrations of not being considered able to carry out certain duties until he is fully trained, yet wanting to get stuck in and show initiative is there and I could relate to him. He has had a difficult upbringing and has his share of family troubles but he does not come across as a cliched. I look forward to following his career in the rest of the series.

As I said the novel is set in Cardiff, however there is also an international edge with the book being punctuated by a story set between Nigeria and Portugal. This intrigued me from the outset and gave me another reason to keep on reading to find out how the storylines would connect. Thomas kept me on my toes throughout the book with an ending that I hadn’t figured out.

A great start to a new detective series, Ash and Bones will appeal to those readers who like their crime novels to have a realistic edge and are not shy to walk on the seamier side of life in their reading. Gritty, dark and totally compelling, Ash and Bones is a cracking read.

Published on 25 August 2016 by Bonnier Zaffre

Continue reading Review – Ash and Bones by Mike Thomas