CHILDS PLAY Kia Abdullah

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A month ago I reviewed the new book by Kia Abdullah, Take it Back, a dark story based around a rape accusation. When I read that book, I noticed that Kia had written another, Childs Play, and decided to give it a go, and I’m glad I did.

Here’s the “but” that usually follows a statement like that, it’s a tough read on a tough subject, and Kia holds no punches, its explicit where it needs to be and that makes the story really good, but it’s not going to be to everybody’s taste.

Allegra seems to have it all, her dream job in a small graphic design company, a nice home, and a successful boyfriend that thinks she’s amazing.

Then one day her boss announces he’s sold the company and that the small workforce has no place in the new multi-national business that has taken it over.

Days before this Allegra had been approached by Michael who wanted to recruit her to a specialist agency working for the government, but it’s not her graphic design skills he thinks will make her a good agent. It’s her childish looks.

The agency specialises in catching paedophiles by baiting them with legal age women, and men, that look underage.

Allegra can pass as a sixteen year old at the best of times and is always getting ID’d at pubs, this team can make her look 13, and they have a very specific target that they want her to go after.

There are subplots running throughout this story, all of which revolve around Allegra, and the most compulsive for me, was the way she changes during her training, going from being horrified at what she sees, to becoming totally desensitised.

The cover of this book says “If James Paterson wrote 50 Shades of Grey”. I couldn’t disagree more, Kia Abdullah is a much better writer than Paterson, and the book is more like a domestic version of Red Sparrow.

If you like gritty, thought provoking crime drama, this book is right up your street, but if you are put off by graphic scenes, maybe it’s not for you, but you’re missing out on a great book.

Pages: 250

Publishers: Amazon media and Revenge Ink

Available now

THE ESSENCE OF EVIL Rob Sinclair

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I loved this book, not because its set in my home city of Birmingham, not even because the main character is wonderfully flawed, or because the story is brilliant, even though all of those are true. I loved this book because it is at least three stories in one, all wonderfully woven together to make a story that will stay with me for quite a while.

DI Dani Stephens, what a character, is returning to work in the Homicide Team of the West Midlands Police after two years off following an injury.

Dani is returning after being attacked by a killer, who nearly took her life, and worse still it was her twin brother.

As she returns she is immediately involved in a murder investigation, one of the strands of the story, but she is teamed up with a friend as joint SIO. Is this part of her rehabilitation into the team, or is she just not trusted?

Talking about rehabilitation, that’s the second thread of the story. In flash-back chapters we find out how she was injured, and are taken through her two years of rehab, the first six months of which were in hospital as she recovered from a Traumatic Brain Injury.

The third strand of the story is how she received the injury, the relationship  she now has with her twin brother who is serving a life sentence for murders he committed.

Dani is a great character, fiercely independent to the point of pushing everybody away. Paranoid to the point of hysteria, and mucked up in the head by the medication she is still taking, even though she should be cutting back.

So when she develops a theory about the murder she’s investigating it’s not surprising that nobody takes her seriously.

As Dani carries on her investigation she starts to doubt herself, has the brain injury robbed her of the one thing she loves in life, the ability to do her job; or has she got it all right, and should everybody else actually be listening to her instead of doubting her.

This is a belter of a book.

I love complex, dark stories, that could all so easily be real, and this book sits firmly in that category.

 

Pages: 394

Publishers: Canelo Hera

Release date:  12thSeptember 2019

THE STING Kimberley Chambers

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This is my first, but certainly not my last, Kimberley Chambers book.

The Sting is a glorious read for everybody, but especially for people who had their teenage years in the 1970’s.

The story follows the life of a young lad Tommy Boyle and picks him up as a 12 year old. To say he has a hard upbringing is an understatement. His father is a bullying wife beater who works on the oil rigs and makes family life a misery when he’s at home.

As the story progresses Tom ends up in a children’s home for reasons beyond his control.

The friendships he forms there should last for life, but again life takes a cruel twist.

The story follows him through his family life, through to his life in care, and sees him change from an innocent lad to the fearsome teenager, and ultimately into a violent man.

When his time in care comes to an end on his 16thbirthday Tom has already been spotted by a criminal family and they soon take him into their inner circle.

Tom has had a hard time, but the new family mean everything to him, and so begins a life in organised crime.

Lurking in the shadows throughout the story are secrets. Secrets that will inevitably come to the surface and lead the book to a fantastic end.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. My usual read is crime fiction, which this falls well and truly into, but it’s from a completely different perspective to what I’m used to.

This is all about a boy gone bad, a boy whose transition to manhood is guided by the actions of the people who should have loved and protected him.

Having grown up on a council estate in Birmingham in the 70’s I can recognise so many of the characters in this book. The nostalgia for that era is reflected in the music that is mentioned throughout the book and which had me calling out to “Alexa” on numerous occasions.

A cracking read.

Pages: 448

Publishers: Harper Collins

Available now

RAIN WILL COME Thomas Holgate

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Sometimes a character is so well written, and is that “off-the-wall”, I can associate them with a real person or a character I’ve seen on TV. This is one of those books

Detective Paul Czarick reminded me of Rigs from the Lethal Weapon TV series. He is a man who breaks rules, does what he likes, and is fuelled by nicotine, caffeine, and Columbian marching powder, turning to bourbon when he wants to relax.

Czarick works for the unpopular Illinois Bureau of Justice, and thanks to the fact that he solved a very high profile case, he is benefitting from a certain amount of immunity within the Bureau, and in this case he uses it to its full advantage.

Daniel is a killer, he’s a revenge killer, and he has a plan. Czarick picks up one of his murders and starts to connect the dots and links his case to another murder.

As Czarick becomes aware of the killer, Daniel becomes aware of the cop, and so the game begins.

A game of cat-and-mouse that stretches the length of the states. Every time Czarick gets close Daniel surprises him.

For some, there are lucky escapes, for others there is a terrible death that is somehow linked to something they have done in the past.

This is a simple plot, but a cracking story. It is as much a psychological thriller as it is a police story.

A great read

Publishing date: March 2020

Publishers: Thomas & Mercer

Available to pre-order

HER SILENT CRY Lisa Regan

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For once Detective Josie Quinn is having some time off and has taken a friends young son to the park for a day out. The piece is soon shattered when a 7 year old girl goes missing, right from under her parents noses, in the same park.

Off duty or not Josie is soon directing operations to try to find the girl. Joined by her team, and a good proportion of the local community the search proves fruitless.

Against her boss’s best wishes Quinn calls in a specialist FBI team that specialise in investigating the abduction of children.

The FBI and Quinn’s team are at a loss to identify the abductor, until a phone call to the parents strikes fear to everybody’s hearts. Their demand, or lack of it, is chilling, and would be every parent’s nightmare.

Quinn has formed a good relationship with the family and the FBI begin to rely on this, but is she getting all the information she needs from them.

This is a cracking story.

One simple crime, an abduction, strikes fear into the community, but things start to get worse.

Lisa Regan has built a strong community of characters in this series. She uses their emotions and feelings to permutate through the story and build up the suspense.

Unlike most series any of these books can be read as a stand-alone. The reader will learn bits of the back stories of the main characters, without being left wondering what is going on.

The setting is perfect. A small City with plenty of isolated rural areas, which allows Regan to set parts of the book in a built up area, whilst having all the suspense of settings in remote country areas.

This book, and this series, ideal for fans of crime series written by the likes of Angela Marsons, Patricia Gibney, Carol Wyer and Graham Smith.

Publishing Date: 14thAugust

Publishers: Bookouture

GONE Leona Deakin

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People are going missing, nothing unusual in that, people go missing every day, but some of these people are being given a card with a message on it just before they disappear.

On the card is the message “Happy First Birthday. Dare To Play The Game” For some reason the Police aren’t linking the cases, and where they do, they deem the missing person to be old enough, and in good enough health, for them not to be seen as vulnerable.

Dr Augusta Bloom is a Psychologist who has teamed up with Ex MI6 officer Marcus Jameson to carry out independent investigations.

One of the woman that goes missing is related, in a tenuous way to Marcus, and he is asked to look into the case.

Between him and Dr Augusta they start to identify a worrying trend in the type of person that has gone missing after being invited to play the game.

But why are people being asked to play, and what is the end game.

As the two investigate secrets are uncovered which surprise everybody, and scare more than a few.

Can Dr Augusta, the shy almost introvert Psychologist, get into the mind of whoever is collecting these people. While she tries Marcus uses his investigative skills, and a few contacts from his Secret Service past to try to link all of victims.

The main part of this story is the hunt for the missing people, but what I found really intriguing was who was being invited to play the game, and the purpose they were asked to join in. It would not be a big leap of faith to see this happen in real life, and with frightening consequences.

A good read.

 

Pages: 384

Publisher: Black Swan

Publishing Date: 3rdOctober 2019

FEAR IN THE LAKES Graham Smith

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The beautiful DC Beth Young is back, and back with a sickening crime to investigate.

A man has been attacked in his home, nearly every bone in his body has been broken in a systematic attack. What is even more disturbing is the reveal of how the attack took place.

As the man fights for his life in hospital Beth tries to find his attacker, but the motive for such a specific attack is evading her and her small team, and it doesn’t help that the man’s wife knows nothing about his early life.

With such an unusual crime it is a surprise when another victim is found with similar wounds.

The team continue to struggle to find any leads until they get a break……but that would spoil the book, so I’ll leave it there.

Graham Smith has created a great character in Beth Young. I if you have read any of the previous books you will know that her beauty is mired by a wicked scar on one side of her face. It happened before she joined the police and the police never caught the person who bottled her in a pub, but she got a look at a distinctive tattoo on the neck of one of the men who was fighting when she got in the way and received the injury.

She’s been looking for that tattoo  since she joined the police. This has formed a great back story through the series, and the cliff hanger in the last book was she found her man. But what is she going to do about it?

This forms a brilliant backdrop to the main story in this book. How does a cop get revenge for a crime that happened to her years ago…….again no spoilers

This series is set in the Lake District, and area which most people consider a nice quiet area of countryside to holiday in. Graham Smith looks at it from another angle. Transient communities, big isolated houses, remote areas where nobody can witness crimes. It is an ideal place to set a crime series, and Graham uses it to its full extent.

Don’t be fooled by the setting. This is not some cosy-crime story. This is a full-on story of a terrible series of crimes that would rock any community. It is a terrific read.

Pages: 356

Publishers: Bookouture

Publishing Date: 12thJuly 2019