A Tapping At My Door

A Tapping At My Door        David Jackson

Detective Sergeant Nathan Cody is a troubled man. Working in the Major Investigations Team in Liverpool he has recently finished a spell as an undercover officer that has left him emotionally wrecked.

Cody pours himself into work and, as it becomes obvious that a serial killer is working the streets of Merseyside, Cody finds himself drawn deeper into the investigation. What he doesn’t need is distractions. Distractions like a female Senior Officer taking way too much interest in her new DS; like and old flame turning up as a DC on his team on the same day they discover a serial killer is on the lose; like an over enthusiastic journalist second guessing his every move; and like a killer with a twist.  But that’s what he gets.

Unfortunately for me there are just too many clichés in this book.

The troubled protagonist, the unrequainted love interest from an older woman, the love he can never have with the ex from the past, and the haunting memories.

The story travels down a predictable path ticking all the boxes with an easily anticipated ending.

The only thing that I found original was the motive of the killer.

This book took me nearly 2 weeks to read, that in itself speaks volumes.

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The Girl Who…. What a Series of Books

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I don’t usually blog about a series of books but today is different.

18 months ago I had never heard of Marnie Riches. Now I wait for the publication of her books like a child looking forward to Christmas. But what has got me so engrossed.

For years I read books on spies and espionage, books by people like Robert Ludlum, Len Deighton, and Tom Clancy. Then I got into legal thrillers and Police Procedurals by the likes of John Grisham, Colin Dexter, Greg Isles and Patricia Cornwell.

Looking forward to each of these authors, and a few others meant that every weekend trip to a bookshop was filled with anticipation.

Pre the internet one of the highlights of any holiday abroad was going into a WH Smiths at the airport and picking up a paperback version of a book that was only available in hardback outside off duty free.

These days I’m lucky enough to get some books pre-publication so I can review them on this blog and one of the authors I look forward to reading the most is Marnie Riches.

What makes her books so special, and why do they standout in the crowded market of the crime thriller section of the bookshelves.

A few years ago the Millennium Trilogy by, Stieg Larsson took off and developed a huge following. Larsson Died in 2004 leaving a bit of a hole in popular fiction. Filled at times by other writers in the Scandinavian Noir genre, but nobody ever replaced his character Lisbeth Salander. Until George McKenzie came out of the computer of Marnie Riche.

The first book in the series, The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die came out in spring 2015 and introduced us to George McKenzie.

George is a rough character. From a broken family, and with a bit of a history on the streets of London, we first meet her in the streets of Amsterdam. She is now a Cambridge University student carrying out research in Amsterdam. Living in a flat above a marijuana café her neighbours and friends are either students or prostitutes, and suffering from OCD to a point where things need to be almost surgically clean

This alone allows Riches to put George into some great situations.

The story starts with an explosion at the University and a chance meeting between George and a middle aged Police Investigator, Paul van den Bergen. What can a small mixed race young woman from England and a Middle aged Dutch cop have in common. Not a lot at first but a relationship and trust starts to build as more incidents occur. Whilst van den Bergen carries out the official investigation George becomes more embroiled in her own helped by her closest friend and fellow student Ad.

The story includes more murders as the case expands, and I have to say Riches has found some new, and realistic, ways of murdering people. But are the incidents connected and if so how. Could they be related to the parts of the story that take place 5 years’ prior in London. Don’t try and second-guess the writer there are twists and turns all the way to the end.

In the second book. The Girl Who Broke The Rules George has returned home and is working to make ends meet as she researches for her PHD. Meanwhile Chief Inspector Paul van den Bergen is still working in the serious crime department in Amsterdam.

As George interviews a convicted violent sex offender in prison in the UK the dismembered bodies of sex workers start to be discovered in Amsterdam. Van der Bergen has not forgotten George since she left, in fact far from it, and the discoveries are an ideal opportunity to become involved with her again.

Van der Bergen is suffering his own demons and his ill health is not helped by his hypochondria. He needs to have George in his life not just to help him with the crimes that are taking place but also to get his life together.

George’s personal life is also a mess; her PhD mentor is over bearing in her control, her family is a dysfunctional group who skate along the edges of legality, and she is in a failing relationship with her boyfriend who still lives in Holland.

As the bodies pile up and George begins to work with Van der Bergen they find themselves conflicted with van der Bergen’s superior officer and a detective on his team. Who is making the right decisions George and Paul, or his boss and the detective?

The book rattles along a fast pace and every time I thought I had a handle on who was the culprit, and why they were doing it, I realized I hadn’t.

The third book is published today. The Girl Who Walked In The Shadows.

Georgina McKenzie is back, or should I say the now Dr Georgina McKenzie is back.  About two years on from the end of The Girl Who Broke the Rules Dr George, a professional Criminologist is back in the UK interviewing prisoners who have a history of abuse and being abused.

Her mismatched lover, Chief Inspector Paul van den Bergen is still working in Amsterdam but has been moved to a department hunting for missing persons.

The Dr and the Chief Inspector are hitting a rough patch and their will-they-wont -they relationship, which had become a they-did, is back to will-they-wont-they.

Meanwhile a bitter chill hits Europe with deep snow and ice covering the continent and the UK. But the chill isn’t just in the weather, somebody is killing people in England and Holland. The killer, “Jack Frost”, uses the the elements to their advantage, which makes the investigation even harder.

With George in the UK, carrying out research into abused people being trafficked around Europe, Van den Bergen stumbles into a murder investigation in Amsterdam.

George notices a similarity between the drug dealer’s death in Amsterdam and a death in the UK.

Before long the two are working together, but is it going to be a harmonious or destructive relationship???

George’s family have been in the background of the previous two books and make an appearance in this one. George is staying with them but somebody else is watching. Is it something to do with Dr Georges research or something more sinister?

As more children go missing it becomes apparent that Dr George has an academic rival who is also researching child abuse and its relationship to organised paedophile rings and trafficking. A hassle that she could do without.

As in the two previous book there are no wasted words. Every paragraph of every chapter has a meaning and a direction. And that direction hurtles the reader to the end of the book, and I really do mean the end of the book.

Marnie Riches writes with a style that never makes the reader think anything is unrealistic. It might be uncomfortable for some people to think that the crimes, and criminals, in this book are real, but they are and Riches has them nailed in the characters and scenes in her books.

With children going missing, murders to investigate, personal problems with her family and her mismatched lover could things get anymore hectic for Dr McKenzie.

You’ll have to read The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows to find out. I promise you, its well worth it.

For me this is the best “The Girl Who….” Yet.

So what makes these books so good.

Well they are perfectly written. The characters, the locations, the scenarios all work brilliantly.

The situations McKenzie finds herself in are all too realistic. Riches plays on the readers fears of modern crimes. Some people will not want to admit are happening, but they are and we all know it.

George McKenzie is a character we would all probably cross the streets to avoid if we saw her walking down the road; but she’s also the person most of us would want to be. Tough, intelligent, moralistic, streetwise and sexy.

The perfect foil to her character is the Dutch Detective, Chief Inspector Paul van den Bergen, middle aged, grumpy, unfit, unfashionable, and a bit by-the-book. There really should not any common ground between the two but the chemistry is great through the whole series.

So three great books in about a year. I know its way too much to hope for this speed of writing and publishing to continue but I can’t wait for the next instalment.

Learn more about Marnie Riches at her own website

http://marnieriches.com/

or on twitter @Marnie_Riches

 

 

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.

The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows Marnie Riches

The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows       Marnie Riches

Georgina McKenzie is back, or should I say the now Dr Georgina McKenzie is back.  About two years on from the end of The Girl Who Broke the Rules Dr George, a professional Criminologist is back in the UK interviewing prisoners who have a history of abuse and being abused.

Her mismatched lover, Chief Inspector Paul van den Bergen is still working in Amsterdam but has been moved to a department hunting for missing persons.

The Dr and the Chief Inspector are hitting a rough patch and their will-they-wont -they relationship, which had become a they-did, is back to will-they-wont-they.

Meanwhile a bitter chill hits Europe with deep snow and ice covering the continent and the UK. But the chill isn’t just in the weather, somebody is killing people in England and Holland. The killer, “Jack Frost”, uses the the elements to their advantage, which makes the investigation even harder.

With George in the UK, carrying out research into abused people being trafficked around Europe, Van den Bergen stumbles into a murder investigation in Amsterdam.

George notices a similarity between the drug dealer’s death in Amsterdam and a death in the UK.

Before long the two are working together, but is it going to be a harmonious or destructive relationship???

George’s family have been in the background of the previous two books and make an appearance in this one. George is staying with them but somebody else is watching. Is it something to do with Dr Georges research or something more sinister?

As more children go missing it becomes apparent that Dr George has an academic rival who is also researching child abuse and its relationship to organised paedophile rings and trafficking. A hassle that she could do without.

As in the two previous book there are no wasted words. Every paragraph of every chapter has a meaning and a direction. And that direction hurtles the reader to the end of the book, and I really do mean the end of the book.

Marnie Riches writes with a style that never makes the reader think anything is unrealistic. It might be uncomfortable for some people to think that the crimes, and criminals, in this book are real, but they are and Riches has them nailed in the characters and scenes in her books.

With children going missing, murders to investigate, personal problems with her family and her mismatched lover could things get anymore hectic for Dr McKenzie.

You’ll have to read The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows to find out. I promise you, its well worth it.

For me this is the best “The Girl Who….” Yet.

Well done Marnie Riches 3 brilliant books in a fantastic series

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Notes of a Russian Sniper and American Sniper

Notes of a Russian Sniper Vassilli Zaitsev

American Sniper    Chris Kyle

As well as police procedural novels one of my passions in reading is biography’s or biographical accounts of historic events.

I’m not into celebrity, its usually Military, Fire, Police or Adventurers that I read. Recently I have read two books autobiographical books about Snipers.

Notes of a Russian Sniper-Vassilli Zaitsev is the book, and the person, that the film Enemy at the Gates was based on and is an account of a Russian Soldier who is recruited to the army during the second World War.

Transferred from training straight to the battle of Stalingrad Zaitsev recounts the utter devastation of the city during the siege by the German Forces. Describing hand-to-hand fighting and bombing in a strangely matter-of –fact way that transports the reader to the heart of the battles.

Zaitsev soon found a notoriety amongst his fellow fighters (both civilian and military) as a brave man, although he would not say so himself, its was not until he had been on the front line for a while that people realised he was a good shot. He had been raised in a family where hunting was a way of life and lying still patiently waiting for a shot came as second nature.

As word spread amongst the Russians he quickly became a folk hero and had a big effect on the moral of his fellow fighters.

He also gained a reputation amongst he Germans who tried to identify and target him. Crack snipers from the German Army were dispatched to find and kill him, some even came close.

This book not only describes Zaitsev’s experiences but its also one of the most descriptive books I’ve read on the siege of Stalingrad.

The other book I read was American Sniper by Chris Kyle. From 1999-2009 Kyle was a sniper for the American Seals special forces teams. He holds the record number of kills for an American sniper. The book describes Kyle’s exploits but the realm of modern warfare. He describes taking shots from 1000’s of metres, working in teams where he is guarded by groups of other soldiers with air cover and evacuation helicopters as part of the operations.

The two books could not cover such different conflicts.

The two authors are very similar in character, although Zaitsev does not go into his personal life as deeply as Kyle.

The comparisons are easy to see in their ethics and how they thought with one big difference. Zaitsev was at war to survive, Kyle fought a war on a different continent to where his lived and chose to do what he did. Zaitsev did it out of necessity.

It strikes me as strange that although both of these films have been made into blockbuster Hollywood films most people will only know of Kyle.

Most people don’t even realise that The Enemy at the Gate was based on a real person.

For me Notes of a Russian Sniper is by far the better book, and I suspect it is also the more accurate reflection of events.

Both these books are worth reading, in fact I’d suggest they were both read, but if you only read one.

Read Notes of A Russian Sniper.

Ghosts of the Past Harry McCillion

Ghosts Of The Pasts       Harry McCallion.

I’m going to start this review with a quote from one of the characters in the book.

“A mysterious Russian Countess – a sinister killer – and two dead diplomats – It sounds like something out of a novel”

Well it is something out of a novel. It’s out of this one, and being as this is said within the first couple of chapters it’s not even a spoiler.

This book is great. McCallion has used the mid-nineties era to set a book in a very unstable world.

Different factions of the Irish terrorist organisation of the PIRA are at war, some in favour of peace with England others definitely not.

The Soviet empire has crumbled since the knocking down of the Berlin Wall and the coming of independence of some of the soviet states.

In England the mysterious Countess Natasha Romanov is in a bitter battle with Ukrainian Mafioso in an attempt to capture the lucrative drug trade in Europe.

In Ireland the IRA are fighting amongst themselves and all the time a lone assassin ties the factions together but whose side is he on.

London Met Police officers, aided by DI Nevin Brown of the Royal Ulster Constabulary are investigating murders across the capital. Are they all connected to the feuds being played out between the groups from the ex-soviet nations and the feuds between the warring factions of the Irish Terrorists.

Whose side should the Police take, is there any friendly faces amongst the different factions.

MI5 seem to be standing back and letting things play out, much to the detriment of the investigating officers and their safety.

This book starts of like a sprinter coming out of the blocks and doesn’t slow down all the way to the end.

One of my favourite authors of all time is Robert Ludlum. Well for me Harry McCallion is every bit as good.

I will be looking out for more of his books in the future.

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The Brief Simon Michael

The Brief   Simon Michael

To use a sporting term this is a book of two halves, and both of them are really good.

The first half of the book is set in 1960 introduces the reader to the main protagonist Charles Holborne, a Barrister in a London Chambers. As the only criminal barrister amongst chambers full of corporate law and civil court barristers he is not the most popular person.

In fact Charles is not the most popular person amongst most of the people in his life. His wife is from English gentry and his marriage is on the line as she increasingly turns to her parent’s circle of friends leaving Charles alone at home or working late.

Whilst he’s at work he is constantly fighting the closure of the criminal work and hence his removal from chambers. Simon Michael, paints a great picture of a law chambers in the early 1960’s and the people that work in it, with Holborne having few friends and many enemies.

Charles is from a strong Jewish family and has changed his name to help him get along in a largely anti-Semitic profession. However it was marrying his wife Henrietta that was the final straw and his family have disowned him since the wedding.

The first half of the book sees’ Holborne representing one of two armed robbers tried with job in London, and is a good story in itself, but is no more than a prelude for the action in the second half.

The second half of the book is set in 1962.

Two years later and Charles and his wife are drifting further apart and the other barristers in Chambers are increasing their attempts to drive him out.

With his life in general reaching a tipping point Holborne becomes the suspect in a vicious crime. One of the characters introduced in the first half of the book is Detective Inspector Ronal Henry Wheatly. Wheatly is not crooked but he does like to make the evidence fit the person he is after. He is known to get results, even if he has the wrong person.

When Holborne realises Wheatly considers him a suspect he knows he has to take matters into his own hands, go on the run, and try to solve the crime himself.

The story sits nicely in the sixties allowing Simon Michael to weave a tale that wouldn’t sit correctly in the modern day.

It seems right that the world in which he works is full of anti-Semitic upper class snobs; its right that his wife’s family look down on him; we except that policing was “different” in those days. It wouldn’t have been right to set in in this day and age.

Michael has written a tale that is easily believable and very enjoyable. I hope this is the first of many, hopefully in the same era.

A great book I would recommend to anybody who enjoys a good legal who-done-it.

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