Born Bad Marnie Riches

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Manchester has its own Mario Puzo

This book is stunning.

Say hello to the gangland of Manchester.

The O’Brien family run one half of the City. The Boddlington Gang runs the other.

There has to be conflict and, bloody hell is there conflict, very bloody conflict

The head of the O’Brien family, Paddy, is a ruthless gangster that treats those close to him as badly as he treats his enemies; but his family love him.

His brother Frank runs one of Manchester’s top night clubs, at which his son is a celebrity DJ

His enforcer, or Loss Adjuster, ss he calls himself, is Conky McFadden.

Conky is a fascinating character. A man that thinks nothing of beating people to a pulp or carrying out revenge shootings, yet he is into the classics and thinks deeply. He reminds me of Colin Dexter’s Morse gone rogue.

Then there’s Paddy’s wife Sheila. His punch bag and sex toy, when he’s not using younger versions in Franks club. Sheila runs her own cleaning company, a semi legit business she’s quite proud of.

On the other side of the City Tariq Khan and Jonny Margulies run The Boddlington Gang, an operation every bit as nasty as the O’Briens. They traffic young girls and force them into prostitution, make and distribute drugs, run guns, and destroy everything that comes into their path.

Just like the O’Briens, the Boddlingtons are all about family, but unlike Paddy Tariq and Jonny treat their families like human beings, and keep them in the dark about how they actually earn their money. So somebody’s in for a shock.

Just like the O’Briens, the Boddlingtons have an enforcer, Smolensky, The Fish Man. Why is he called the fish man, because he runs a fish mongers, and also because he guts and displays his victims like a dressed salmon, what a character, he even leaves sliced cucumber along the side of bodies.

After a conflict in Franks club, with a young drug dealer from the Boddlingtons, that leaves Paddy in hospital following a heart attack, the last thing I expected was that Paddy would say enough is enough and decide to retire to Thailand, but he does.

And that’s when the problems start, Paddy decides to sell up and he wants to do business with Jonny and Tariq. It is never going to be easy and somebody really doesn’t want him to sell up.

What ensues is a gangland battle that affects both gangs. Both enforcers are chasing around the city trying to find out who carried out the latest attacks, and carrying out revenge attacks of their own.

Paddy’s family is torn apart, so are the families of Tariq and Jonny.

Meanwhile Sheila is suffering in silence, with an admirer who can’t do anything about his feelings for her. Conky, the misfit of an enforcer hates, the way Paddy treats Sheila but his loyalty is to his boss.

There are subplots in this book that will have the reader loving a character on one page, and hating them the next. There are moralistic twists and turns which will see the reader empathising, and having disdain, with a person all at the same time.

The interwoven lives of the gang members earning illicit money through drugs, prostitution, and violence, should make the reader hate them all. But they are human, they have problems and you just can’t help liking them at times.

The book starts of really well, and right up to the very last page, just keeps getting better and better.

Somebody has to make this book into a film. Guy Ritchie, or Danny Boyle this story should be your next blockbuster, just don’t change anything its perfect as it is.

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 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.

Dancers in the Wind Anne Coates

Dancers in the Wind    Anne Cates

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When I requested this book from Urbane Publications I did not realise what a treat I was in for.

I had never heard of Ann Coates before, but I don’t think I’ll forget her. In fact, I think we’re going to be hearing a lot from her. This book is great.

The main protagonist for this story is the single mom, and freelance journalist Hannah Weybridge.

Hannah is struggling to make a living since the birth of her daughter, but is given a job interviewing one of the street walking prostitutes of London, and one of the police officers tasked with sorting out the prostitution problems of the capital city.

The prostitute she interviews is “Princes” the second protagonist of the story. A young girl who has run away from home and ended up on the streets of London.

The Police Officer, and third protagonist, is Detective Inspector Tom Jordan. What Hannah doesn’t know about DCI Jordan is that he is leading an enquiry into the disappearance, and possible murder, of at least three young prostitutes, all from the same area that Princess works in.

Anne Coates has given this story an extra sense of threat and realism by setting it in the mid 1990’s. An era when old school policing was still in the minds of the public, and when there was still a few “old-school coppers” running things how they wanted to, and not necessarily within the bounds of the law.

When Princess turns up at Hannah’s house having suffered a severe assault, she begs Hannah not to get the police involved.

The story the takes a path that finds Hannah getting conflicted by her own moral compass. Does she allow Princess to stay with her and her infant daughter; does she involve DCI Jordan, and it doesn’t help that she is beginning to find him more interesting than she expected but is still unsure of whether he can be trusted.

From her own aspect Princess is not sure how much to trust Hannah. She has to stay off the streets but she also has to make money. What she doesn’t want is to bump into any of her old clients. What she does do is keep journals in notebooks.

The more the story goes on the more intriguing it becomes.

I don’t want to give anything away, so no more about the storyline, but I can say I enjoyed every page from beginning to end. The pace never stops.

Anne Coates has picked a great era to set this story in. It is given more credibility being set in the 90’s than if it was set in the modern day.

Not only that, but when you finish the book you will understand what I mean when I say the storyline is given even more credence by what we now know happened in those times, and who was involved.

An absolute treat of a book. The last few pages are a preview her next book. God it’s going to be a long wait.

Baby Doll Hollie Overton

 

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Fast paced from beginning to end, this story starts where most finish and rushes towards the end at a cracking pace.

The story starts with Lily escaping from a basement she has been held captive in for ten years. During that time, she has been physically and mentally abused by the man that took her.

Whilst in captivity Lily has had a child Sky, and when she escapes Sky is released into a world she’s never seen.

Once she has gained her freedom Lily is reunited with her twin sister Abby, and her mother Eve.

Neither of these relatives have survived the years since Lily went missing intact. Once reunited the process of identifying the kidnapper to the police, and ensuring his arrest, takes even greater tolls on the family.

The story is told in chapters which show the unfolding scenario from different protagonists. Obviously Lily is the main one but Hollie Overton manages to get into the heads of each character including not only Lily’s family but the kidnapper, and his wife.

Whilst Lilly and her family work with the investigating team the kidnapper is still trying to manipulate people with truths half-truths and pure malicious misguidance.

The psychology in this book is brilliant, and by using different characters in each chapter takes the reader on a crazy trip of emotions.

This book is like a box set on TV. I kept thinking to myself I’ll just read one more chapter but then read the next because I couldn’t leave the story where it was.

I look forward to reading more of Hollie Overton’s work in the future

Look Closer Rachel Amphlett

Look Closer Rachel Amphlett

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 Rachel Amphlett, not a name I was familiar with until a few months ago, now I’ve read two of her books and wonder why it’s took me so long to discover her work.

Look Closer is a great read. It’s one of those books you want to read in one sitting, and it’s just long enough to let you get away with it.

The book follows Will Fletcher, a worker at one of London’s Museums, as he tries to follow a string of clues left by Amy.

Amy lives with Will, she’s a reporter for one of the big UK newspapers and she’s on the trail of Ian Rossiter, a politician that has been catapulted to the head of his party and looks favourite to be the next Prime Minister.

Will and Amy argue just before she goes to interview Rossiter. Whilst he’s at work Will gets informed that Amy has been hurt when somebody tried kill Rossiter.

With Amy in a serious condition in hospital Will finds a message on a phone that leads him to start making his own inquiries. What was Amy really investigating for her latest article.

The story weaves around London and the home counties, is anybody who they seem to be?Can Will trust anybody? What will he discover?

I found this book when I searched political thrillers on Amazon.

It certainly is that, and more. It has been a long time since I read a book like this.

I can compare it to early Robert Ludlum and Nelson DeMille.

The story is strong and intriguing. There is no reliance on violence. Most importantly of all the plot engages the reader.

I challenge anybody to see the end of this book coming before it arrives. That is not because of a curve ball thrown by the author, it’s because the story is so well written.

I enjoyed this book so much I’ve just downloaded 3 more of Rachel Amphletts novels to my Kindle.

Not to read now, but to save for six weeks time when I’m sat around the pool on holiday, and that is about the best compliment I can give.

 

Maestra L.S. Hilton

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Maestra            L.S. Hilton.

The protagonist for this book is Judith Rashleigh.

Judith’s story starts with a glimpse further into the book with the first chapter ending with her asking the question, how did this all begin. The first half of the book is retro that point, but still narrated in the present first person tense. The rest of the book remains in the first person and advances the story.

The story is good. Judith a young woman with a passion for fine art, and qualifications to back it up, is working in one of the big auction houses in London. However, her lot there is not a good one. Working as an intern but treated like a dogs-body Judith watches on as a young pretty air-headed girl arrives at the house and is positioned into her place.

A chance meeting with a woman she used to go to school with leads Judith to a part time job as a Hostess in a London club. There’s a no touch rule but the underlying atmosphere is that of an establishment that sits just on the right side of legal. That’s OK with Judith because she has a secret.

Judith likes stranger-sex, in fact she likes rough stranger sex. L.S Hilton uses this as a tool to allow Judith to get into the situations that allows the story to advance.

Whilst still working at the Auction House she uncovers some elicit dealings but is sacked when she tries to expose the crime.

Judith’s moral is low and she allows herself to manipulate a client at the club into taking her on holiday. From then on her life changes.

As she tries to re-establish herself she manipulates, uses, men to make money. Drifting around the top upper-class resorts of the Mediterranean her moralistic code slips deeper and deeper allowing her to make choices and take actions that the Judith at the start of the story never would have.

Dealing in art, and the underworld leads her commit the most hideous of crimes, all the time seemingly justifying her own actions. Each crime gets worse but Judith’s morals seem to allow her to commit each one without conscience. As her crimes get worse so does the depravity of her actions in her sex life.

The book races through the story but the end is very open. Hilton uses the phrase “To be continued” at the end of the last chapter. I have to say it doesn’t feel so much of a cliff hanger as an anti-climax.

I have some issues with this book.

It is a great story, but, why do we need such graphic descriptions of the sex. I’m no prude and I enjoy a bit of sex in a book, but this is full on hard-core. I understand that the reader needs to understand that Judith’s behaviour is either escalating or spiralling downwards, depending on your point of view, but personally I would have been more comfortable with a little less eyes-on, and a little more insinuation.

For me the sex scenes distract from the story. It felt like they were deliberately there to shock, and that may be Hilton’s intention, but they were out of place with the rest of the writing.

The book is set in some of the nicest places in Europe, amongst people wearing fashionable and expensive clothing, all beautifully described. As is the art, Hilton obviously has a passion for the art world and has found a nice outlet for a good tale. It is almost as if two people wrote this book, or is it just a really good author showing the split personality of her main character. If it is, she has done a very good job of it.

Who would I recommend this book to. Anybody with an open mind, male or female, there’s something in this for everybody.

If you’re easily offended steer clear.