Witness Caroline Mitchell

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Another original concept for a psychological thriller by this brilliant writer.

I sat down with this book early on New Year’s Eve afternoon, and put it down when the fireworks were going off outside.

What a way to end a year.

This story has, at its core, an abusive relationship where a man keeps control over his girlfriend by demeaning her as a person; physically, emotionally and mentally.

The relationship ended 10 years ago and is recalled in a journal kept by the main protagonist Rebecca. Her nightmare came to an end when her abusive partner Solomon was jailed for a serious crime.

Becky, as she is now known, has started a new life in the wilds of the Welsh Countryside. She is married to a vet and has a lovely daughter.

Everything is good in Becky’s life until she finds a strange phone and starts getting texts on it. Solomon is out of prison and wants revenge for his ten years behind bars.

Becky is to witness a crime for every year he has been in prison. She cannot tell anybody about the crimes, she cannot tell the Police she has witnessed the crimes, and worse of all, she must choose the victims of the crime.

At first the crimes are petty but each is more severe and people start to get hurt.

This book explores the abusive relationship in 2005. It describes how Solomon targets a weak Rebecca at a time when she is most vulnerable, and how he uses his personality and charisma to embed himself in her life.

The parts of the book set in 2015 explore some moral dilemmas that are frighteningly realistic. This book explores how a person can choose which of the people they love to suffer over another. Would it be easier to substitute strangers for loved ones……….Could you use the Witness tasks to extract revenge???

Who will be the victim of the ultimate crime.

The story is great, it’s original, and it had me hooked from start to finish.

The writing is excellent. There was no point in this book where I “skipped over” any passages.

Save the best till last, as the saying goes. Well this was the last book I read in 2016, and I can’t think of a better read all year.

The Gift Louise Jensen

 

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The Gift        Louise Jensen

I love a book that gets me surfing the internet to learn about something I’ve never heard of before, and when there’s a cracking story involved, it’s just a bonus.

In this case Google was employed to research Cellular Memory. The less than scientific theory that cells in the body can contain memories. So; when the main protagonist of this story, Jenna, starts to have strange dreams following a heart transplant, is she re-living memories of the donor?

In a very unorthodox move Jenna manages to identify her donor, Callie, and visits the late girl’s family. Are her Mom and dad telling the truth, where is the errant sister, Sophie, and why is Callie’s Dads brother, Joe, so threatening.

Jenna finds out that Callie died in a car crash and that nobody had an explanation for why she was driving alone on a country road late at night, miles from where she should have been.

Jenna’s dreams become more vivid, but are they Callie’s memories, or is she just getting over familiar with the other girl’s life.

Things get worse when Jenna meets Nathan, the too-good-to-be-true, fiancé of Callie.

The investigation into Callie’s life and death begin to overtake Jenna’s daily life.

The more Jenna considers the death of her donor the worse the dreams and flashbacks become.

Will Jenna solve what might not even be a puzzle, and how much danger will she put herself into trying to do so?

You’ll have to read the book to find out.

You won’t be disappointed.

This is a genuinely new story for me. In a world where many books are just rehashes of the same-old, same-old, with different character names, this book stands out as being original.

Did I like it?

Yes!!

Somebody must have used this in a blog already but. The Gift is the gift that just keeps giving, right up to the last page.

 

The Devils Prayer Luke Gracias

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The Devil’s Prayer        Luke Gracias

Stephen King meets Dan Brown, with a sprinkling of C.J. Sansom, in one of the best books I’ve read this year.

What genre is it?

Horror? Psychological thriller? Historical fiction?

Mix them up and you will end up with The Devils Prayer.

The book starts with a Nun running through secret passages, between an isolated convent and a hidden tomb, in an isolated area of Spain.

A short time later the Nun kills herself in front of 1000’s of people in a public square.

Meanwhile, Siobhan, a young journalist in Australia, has not seen her mother for 6 years. A knock on the door from the local police officer brings the news she has hoped never to hear. Her Mom is dead.

Siobhan makes a trip to Spain to see her mother’s grave, and find some closure into why she disappeared. She finds out her mother was the Nun who committed suicide so publicly and uncovers a journal her mother had left hidden for her.

The journal, called The Confession, describes a sequence of events starting in the mid 1990’s; including a horrific crime and the ramifications it has on the victim and its perpetrators, and explains what Denise has been doing since she went missing.

The Confession tells the story of Denise, a successful newsreader, a single mother living with her daughter, Siobhan, and her mother Edith. Following an accident in which Siobhan nearly drowns Denise’s life begins to change.

Some years later Denise gives birth to a second daughter Jess; but between the near drowning of Siobhan and the birth of Jess things have changed drastically for Denise.

Eventually Denise begins to realise that she is central to events which she now has no control over. When she is approached by a mysterious Monk, who offers her help to find a closure and put things right, she has no choice but to leave and start a journey through libraries full of ancient scripture in an attempt to save those nearest her.

Disguised as a Nun with a vow of Silence she is taken around Europe to read and translate ancient scriptures ultimately trying to find the lost pages of an ancient book. The pages are The Devils Prayer.

 This book is beautifully written and had me hooked from the start. I read it in 2 days and was left wanting more.

Luke Gracias eases between the two main protagonists as the main story is told with Siobhan, taking the lead character, reading her mother’s Confession, with Denise being the main character.

Gracias takes the reader through; family trauma, a horrific crime, and betrayal in Australia; to historical artefacts, ancient documents, Monasteries and Convents in Europe.

As the book raced towards the end I began to find myself thinking, “there’s not enough pages left to finish this story” I was right.

What a cliff-hanger.

Mr Gracias please don’t make us wait long till the next one please.

The Girl Who Had No Fear Marnie Riches

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The Girl Who Had No Fear       Marnie Riches

Welcome back George McKenzie.

The 4th in the series and things just keep going from better to better.

Long ago Marnie Riches’ character George McKenzie was called “the new Lisbeth Salander”, well that’s no longer fair. This series of books is every bit as good, if not better than Stig Larsson’s Millennium Series; and Doctor George McKenzie is very much out on her own as a character.

The start of this book see’s George back in the UK carrying out research into violent criminals in a maximum security prison. She’s also still worrying about her mother’s disappearance and wondering about the mystery that is her father.

Meanwhile, in Holland, her partner, Police Investigator Paul van den Bergen, is on the track of a murderer in Amsterdam.

Meanwhile, in Central America, a drugs lord-come arms smuggler, come people trafficker, is causing chaos which as far reaching effects.

All this might sound confusing but it’s not. If you haven’t read any of the previous books in the series you could still read this as a stand-alone, but why would you want to miss the first three.

The story progresses with George returning to Holland to help Paul investigate a series of sudden deaths which seem to be linked with drugs and the Gay Scene in and around Amsterdam.

The investigation takes the pair to Central America and back to Europe. On route there are encounters with drugs cartels and bands of violent, armed, female gangs.

All of which lead to a shocking end, no spoilers but you will not be disappointed.

As usual with Marnie Riches books the gangs and the locations have been well researched. The story-lines are believable as are the characters.

This story takes the reader from drug fuelled sex parties in Amsterdam, to the jungles of Central America, to the Caribbean, and back to Europe.

The only advice I’d give the reader is, keep your eyes on the dates at the beginning of every chapter, I didn’t and ended up having to go back and check.

At well over 300 pages you might think this book will take a while to read. It won’t. Once you start you will have difficulty putting it down.

 

Angela Marsons Blog Tour Blood Lines

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And Then There Were 5

Blood Lines is the 5th in the Detective Inspector Kim Stone novels set in and around the Black Country.

I reviewed the book a few weeks ago and used the phrase “The best psychological thriller since Silence of the Lambs”. Why did I think this?

Simply because Angela Marsons has built a set of characters I have come to know and care about, Kim Stone being the main one. In Dr Alex Throne she has conceived a homicidal sociopath with many of the same traits as Hannibal Lecter, and she hates Kim with a passion.

Kim has already had one scrape with Dr Alex, and only just survived. In this book Dr Alex is pulling strings whilst in prison, and once again Kim Stone is her target.

Not since Silence of the Lambs’ Clarice Starling and Hanibal Lecture have I felt such a connection between two characters as I have felt between Kim Stone and Alex Throne.

So how did Alex Throne come about. I got to ask Angela a few questions.

 

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I asked her; I compared Alex Thorne with Hannibal Lecture. Where did the character come from and who, or what inspired her?

Angela replied; I wanted to explore how someone who truly had no empathy would think and act. When writing from Alex’s point of view I literally do have to strip myself of emotional attachment and kind of turn off my heart to try to understand the mechanics of her mind.”

So I asked.

Have you studied any sociopaths to help build her personality. Real or fictional

Not any particular individuals but I did a lot of reading on the subject, especially from Robert Hare, who is credited with developing the only reliable checklist in measuring a sociopathic personality. Also, the book The Sociopath Next Door is a true eye-opener.

 This answer shows why Angela’s books are so good. I admire the fact that she has an idea but then sits down and looks into how to make the situation, or character, real.

The next question was about the relationship between Kim Stone and Alex Throne.

Once you decided on the character of Dr Alex what was the next step in forming the complex relationships with the people she controlled.

It was all about manipulation. Not all sociopaths are serial killers, they just want what they want, and see no barriers to getting what they want. Alex wanted a better understanding of guilt, and in effect the ability to control it. This prompted the foundation of characters for Alex to interact with.

 The other thing I like about Angela Marsons books is the setting. I’ve said before the stories are set close to where I live, I have been tempted to go out and photograph where some of the scenes are set and do a virtual tour on a future blog. So how does she identify where she’s going to set some of her scenes.

My next question was based on one particular house in Blood Lines

We’ve spoken before about where you set the crimes. What struck me this time was the house on Mucklow Hill. Without going and being very nosey I think I can almost identify the house, definitely the little road it’s on. Was setting the family home, of the first victim, in such a specific place deliberate.

Angela answered. I didn’t use the location for any particular reason, but I like to use places that I think local readers will recognise. Most locals know where Mucklow Hill is.

One character cannot carry a series of books and Kim Stone has a team of officers around her that appear in every book. The subtle sub-plots they bring into each story help the series move along. My next question was about these characters.

Kim is a great character but it’s the rest of the team and the way they knit together that makes your stories all the more realistic. What made you choose the difference character traits for them?

I wanted each member of the team to bring something unique to the overall picture but I also wanted each member to bring out a different aspect of Kim’s personality. Bryant is her friend, Dawson challenges and frustrates her and Stacey she wants to nurture and encourage.

 So what of the future for Kim and her team

Are there any plans to promote Kim, or any of the others on the team, or bring any new characters into the team? Likewise, do you see her staying in the MIT or moving to something else

No plans to promote Kim yet as she prefers to be on the ground with as little paperwork as possible. Other members of the team will feature more in future books and there will definitely be changes as we progress through the series.

 I’m glad Kim isn’t moving but are you ever tempted to put her in the inner city. I loved the settings and characters in your stand-alone novel The Forgotten Woman.

She may move around a bit as I do want to explore more locations.

 My last question to Angela was a personal one.

I see you talking, and encouraging lots of other authors, on social media. Who do you read when you’re relaxing, and is it hard not to be influenced by other people’s storylines.

I read Caroline Mitchell, Mel Sherratt, Val McDermid and for something completely different I love Renita D’Silva. When I’m reading I have to switch off the writer part of my brain as I just want to enjoy a story written by someone else.  I don’t get influenced by other stories as I normally have the next 3 or 4 Kim books whizzing around in my head.

 Well that’s good news for me because in that last answer Angela mentions having 3 or 4 more Kim Stone books in her head.

Personally I can’t wait for the next one.

Thank You Angela. For the Books and the chat.

 

My review of Blood Lines

 In Evil Games Angela Marsons introduced us to the brilliant character Dr Alexandra Throne.

In Blood Lines she brings her back.

In my opinion this character is the best nemesis to any character since Hannibal Lecter tormented Clarice Starling in the Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris.

Incarcerated for her part in previous murders Throne starts to manipulate the people around her. She is a vicious sociopath who has only one target. Kim Stone.

Pulling at strings like a master puppeteer she identifies people’s weaknesses and manipulates them to carry out her will. Each action falling into place like jigsaw puzzle bits until the final picture is revealed.

Angela Marsons writes the sections with Alex Throne very cleverly and although it is obvious from the start who her target is, she keeps the reader on the edge of their seat right up till the last page to see if she succeeds.

Meanwhile Kim Stone and her team are faced with several murders in the Black Country. Are the murders unrelated, or is there something which ties them all together.

The first body turns up in a posh car in a layby in a dodgy area, a lady who obviously has money. The second is a drug addict girl found on an urban nature reserve. Surely these people can’t be connected.

Kim is looking into these murders when Dr Alex Throne manipulates circumstances to make Kim visit her.

Kim knows she shouldn’t visit. The last time the two became involved with each other Alex nearly destroyed Kim. But can Kim resist. Even if she can, is Alex back inside her head.

With the investigations into the murders moving ahead Kim has to deal with issues in her team, and Alex in her head.

With two storylines this book moves along so fast that, even at nearly 350 pages, you will wonder where the time has gone when its finished.

I make no bones of the fact that Angela Marsons is my favourite author at the moment.

The Detective Inspector Kim Stones books are nothing short of brilliant. The reason they are so good is that the storylines, the characters, and the locations are so well research and written.

In Kim Stone Angela Marsons has found a main character that sits alongside all of the best Police Officers in modern fiction.

In Alexandra Throne she has found the best, and most fitting, criminal foil for any Detective since 1991.

In doing so she had written not just a good Police Crime Thriller, but in my opinion the best Psychological Thriller since Silence of the Lambs

If you know somebody who loves a good Police Thriller, and they haven’t discovered Angela Marsons yet, the Kim Stone collection would make a magical Christmas gift.

Angela’s books are available in shops, on-line via Amazon, and are published by Bookouture

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The Woman in Black Kerry Wilkinson

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The Woman in Black

Somebody is leaving severed hands on the streets of Manchester, strange, but there’s more to come. Each hand is missing a finger, stranger still, but there’s even more to come. Somebody is sending the missing fingers to the Police.

If this wasn’t enough when the Police start to check CCTV images they discover the person who is leaving the hands in the streets is dressed in a hooded robe. Not only do they disguise their look with the robe but they are evidently camera savvy, and know exactly how to hide their face from the cameras.

At any other time, this would be investigated with the full strength of the force, but a prominent local politician’s wife has gone missing and the majority of Manchester’s MIT is looking into that case.

Detective Sergeant Jessica Daniel is given the task of finding out, not just who’s leaving the hands on the street, but also identifying the owners of the hand.

Working with a small team she needs to find a link between the owners of the hands and find out what has happened to the rest of the body’s, if there is any. And of course who is the hooded person.

Daniel’s small team is pushed to the limits but whilst the MP’s wife is missing they have no hope of help.

As the story progresses there are times when it looks like the 2 enquiries are never going to be resolved.

Just to add a bit of spice the book carries a nice little sub-plot. There is a new person in the Major Investigation Team. Detective Sergeant Louise Cornish, a recent transferee from Coventry. Although she’s on the main team she shares a small office with Jessica Daniel. Something is not right from the start and the women tolerate each other, but where will it lead.

This is the latest in the DS Jessica Daniel series and it’s just as good as the rest. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and like the way Kerry Wilkinson has managed to find a crime which is original, yet believably credible. Not an easy feat with so many Police Procedural novels on the shelves.

While You Were Sleeping. Kathryn Croft

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While You Were Sleeping    Kathryn Croft.

Where do I start with a book like this? What a story.

Until recently I hadn’t read a psychological thriller that I enjoyed for some time; but recently the lady crime writers are coming up trumps, and this is right up there with the best.

Kathryn Croft has spun a spider’s web of a story which revolves around the family of the main protagonist Tara.

Tara is married to Noah and has 2 children, 17-year-old Rosie, and 11-year-old Spencer.

It would be fair to say that the family is not a happy one, but they are together, and living in the same house.

The story starts with Tara waking up naked in a neighbours bed, with his bloody body carved open at the side of her. With no recollection of what happened except that she received a text from the man’s wife asking her to go to the house, only to find the husband home alone, Tara panics and runs home to her empty house.

That weekend her son is away for the night, her daughter is staying with a friend, and her husband is on a business trip to New York.

In her panic and confusion, she decides not to tell the Police, her first mistake.

As the story unfolds the reader is introduced to Tara’s immediate family and her sister Lisa; as well as the wife of the dead man Serena, and one of Tara’s work colleague’s Mikey.

Tara’s family and friends are full of lies, deceit and half-truths.

Is anybody above suspicion? No.

Does everybody seem to have a reason to want the neighbour dead? Yes.

This compelling story has twists and turns a-plenty, but they all flow so well.

There are over 30 chapters and I think I must have built nearly as many hypotheses as to who had killed the man, his name is Lee by the way.

I swung from being convinced that Tara was actually guilty to her being totally innocent many times. Each of these was interjected by me thinking, for one reason or another, that one of the others had killed him. Only for my latest theory to be destroyed by the actions of somebody else.

I loved this book.

It is not often I get to the end and think, well I didn’t think they did it; but then look back and think all the indications were there and that I hadn’t missed a clue. There are no real late revelations that made me think, well if I’d have known that earlier.

It is just a masterpiece of masterpiece of writing that managed to keep me in suspense until right up to the end.

This book is not published till November the 16th.

If you are looking for a Christmas gift for somebody who enjoys a good read, look no further.