The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die Marnie Riches

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I read this book in 2 days on a recent holiday. It’s good, really good.

Much of the story is based in present day Amsterdam and its eclectic residents.

From the very beginning the setting is perfect allowing Marine Riches to introduce us to an amazing bunch of characters which may have been a little unbelievable anywhere else.

The main character, a Cambridge exchange student, George McKenzie lives above a weed selling coffee shop and counts window sitting whores amongst her friends and neighbours. Her college friends are a strange mix of races and creeds. All of this brings richness to the plot which keeps the pages turning from beginning to end.

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.

I loved this book.

It has been compared to Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy in some reviews and I have to agree.

I know there is a second book that will be released in August “The Girl That Broke The Rules” I can only hope that this is the second of many.

The Lie C.L. Taylor

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The Lie       C.L. Taylor

A few days ago I saw a picture of a newspaper article about The Lie. The person who posted the picture on Twitter is an author I read and admire so I looked the book up, not my usual read but it got my interest. WOW am I glad I read it.

The story is set in rural Wales in the present day, with flashbacks to a period five years ago.

The lead character Jane Hughes is working in an animal rescue centre when her past begins to catch up with her.

Five years ago she had been on a holiday with three friends to a Himalayan retreat where things had gone terribly wrong. The ramifications of the incident start to play out in the present.

The book looks at the demographics of a group of women who met at University. It openly looks at the friendship, bitchiness, swings in friendship and the destructive effects it has on the group. Its honest, it will make you think about same sex groups of friends and how the relationships alter over time.

Everybody knows such a group. The usual traits are there: “I’m your friend because she, is not because I like you”. “I will make her like me more than she likes you”. Twist this in with one, or more, of the friends being psychotic and you have a volatile mixture.

The friends take a holiday to what they think is a Retreat but turns out to be a fledgling cult.

What happens at the retreat will have to be read because I’m not going to spoil it.

To say this book is a physiological thriller is an understatement.

During the flashbacks to the time the women spend in the retreat the author handles the physical and mental abuse, along with the attempts to indoctrinate the girls into the cult, with a skill that will keep you turning the pages but also make you scared to see what comes next.

Who would I recommend this book to? Everybody.

It’s one of those books that will be enjoyed by men and women.

I’m going on holiday in a few weeks time and I wish I’d saved it till the flight. This would have made ten hours in the air pass in the blink of an eye.

Looks like I’ll just have to put The Accident on my Kindle and hope it’s as good.

The Inspector Pekkala novels by Sam Eastland

The Inspector Pekkala novels by Sam Eastland

Three of my favourite genres of books are, War, Police, and Espionage novels. When I found the first Inspector Pekkala novel, Eye of the Red Tsar, I knew that I had found a gem amongst stories.

Eastland takes real events and weaves an excellent yarn around them. Inspector Pekkala was once the favourite detective of the final Tsar of Russia. Equally feared and respected across the country he built a solid reputation and gained the trust of the royal family. Following their murders he his hunted down by the communists and sent to a gulag deep in the heart of Siberia where he is given a job no man is expected to survive. Living in the vast forests he is left to fend for himself and develops a mythological status amongst the other prisoners.

Stalin himself sends an officer to release Pekkala from the prison with a guarantee of freedom if he can identify the real killers of the Tsar and his family. The book brings to life the terrible conditions within Russia at the time of Stalin’s reign. Pekkala is a wonderful character with a unique set of personality traits. He is thrown together with the man who was sent to release him, Kirov, a man who becomes his side-kick and forms an unusual friendship with the inspector, which develops during the series.

The second book The Red Coffin is set immediately prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. Pekkala, now established as Stalin’s main investigator, is sent to investigate the death of the designer of the T34 tank. The designer was killed before the tank was completed; several prototypes had been made and were in the process of being tested at the time of his death. One of the prototypes is stolen and is used by a group of anti-communist Russians in an attempt to provoke German forces to invade Russia with the hope of rousting the communist party. Pekkala and Kirov are sent to the T34 test grounds to investigate the death of the designer and locate the missing tank. This is not only a great story but also describes the tensions between Russia and Germany at the end of the 1930’s. The two main characters develop in this book making them one of modern fictions great crime teams.

In real life the T34s designer was killed by pneumonia as he attempted to drive a prototype over a 1000 miles in a demonstration of its capabilities. This story cleverly uses some of the known facts whilst staying completely within fiction.

Book 3, Siberian Red, is set at the outbreak of the war. Stalin learns of a man who is offering information on the whereabouts of the lost treasures of the Tsars. The man with the information is a convict in the same Siberian gulag that Pekkala was a prisoner in. Before he can be questioned he is murdered and Pekkala is sent to investigate the crime and try to find the location of the treasures. In what is like a living nightmare Pekkala is forced to leave Kirov behind and return to the gulag, undercover, as a prisoner. This book builds on Stalin’s greed and insecurity. He wants the treasure but he is also afraid of the White Russians, soldiers who were loyal to the Tsar, and have since formed a group in prison, and amongst the battalions of Stalin’s army. Back in the gulag Pekkala fights for his life whilst trying to gain information of the killer of the informant, and find a location for the Tsars treasure.

In the fourth book, The Red Moth, Pekkala is summonsed by Stalin following the finding of a picture. The picture was found in the bag of a single passenger of a German Scout plane. Stalin believes there must be more importance to the picture than anybody understands and Pekkala quickly confirms his thoughts. The picture contains information on some of the lost treasures of the Tsars. It also alludes to the fact that the Germans have located and were going to ransack the Amber Room, a room that was panelled in ornate Amber in one of the Tsar palaces, and take it to Germany. Pekkala is dispatched to locate the room and bring the panels back to Moscow before the advancing German troops can carry out their orders. The book has a great story and includes a moral dilemma for Pekkala, if he cannot recover the Amber should he destroy one of the great works of art to stop it falling into German hands. At the end of this book the outcome is revealed but at what cost.

Again this story revolves around real events. The actual Amber Room was located in Catherine Palace, near St Petersburg. It was overrun by German military units during the war and the contents were looted. The panels of the Amber Room have never been found, and to this day remain one of the great mysteries of the war, and one of the world’s great lost treasures.

Book 5, The Beast In The Red Forest, starts about 18 months after the end of book 4. Pekkala has been missing, presumed dead, since his attempt to locate the Amber Room panels. Stalin receives word that he may be alive and dispatches Kirov to the front line to locate him. Set against the ever changing back drop of the war between the Russian Army, the German Army, and the Partisan Army this story is more about espionage than the previous books.

Is Pekkala alive, will Kirov find him, and if he is alive why has he been anonymous for so long. All these questions are answered against a backdrop of close war, where front lines move backwards and forwards less than 100 yards a day, and in the background is a hidden plot that is only revealed in the last 50 or so pages.

Throughout this series Eastland examines life in Russia under Stalin’s reign. He uses Stalin’s flawed, psychotic personality, to bring a depth of threat not only to the main characters but shows what a threat he was to the world.

Pekkala is a wonderfully deep character. Life as the Inspector for the Tsar gaves him the investigative skills. Life in the gulag gave him survival skills. Life as Stalin’s Inspector gives him dilemmas which we may, or may not, agree with how he deals with, but one thing is for sure. I cannot wait for the next book.

I have used the UK titles for the books in this blog. If you want to find the alternative titles or read more there is a great website dedicated to these books www.inspectorpekkala.com

Believe No One A.D. Garrett

A short blog this time but about another brilliant book by the writing partnership A D Garrett.

Believe No One is a great story with DCI Kate Simms and Professor Nick Fennimore at the centre of  a crime which strikes a startling resemblance to the disappearance of Fennimore’s wife and daughter some years earlier.

The story starts some months after the end of Everybody Lies, and although this book could be read as a stand-alone novel, I would suggest reading the prequel first.

Simms is seconded to a multi-agency task force in America looking at the different methods of investigation used in the USA and the UK. The team are looking at cold cases when they come across a link between several Murders, a link which has been missed because of the territorial issues faced by American law enforcement agencies.  The more the cases are examined the more similarities are found with the disappearance of Fennimore’s family; but is it all coincidence?

Meanwhile another Police Deputy in the States recognises the similarities between a case she is currently investigating and one she had dealt with in a neighbouring County. She contacts Fennimore for help and he heads for America. It is not long before the different investigation teams get together and start to piece together the activities of a serial killer.

The narration of the book follows the main 2 characters but the introduction of a third main character, a young boy who becomes a victim of the killer, gives the story an extra dimension.

This book is a good read. Again the writing partnership of an established author with a Forensic practitioner has produced a realistic and believable story.

At first I was concerned about the ongoing background story of Fennimore’s investigations into the disappearance of his family, in a story which has yet to be told, but now it has me as hooked as one of those cliff hanger season finales on TV dramas.

I hope the next book in the series is out soon. I can’t wait to read it.

Killing for Keeps Mari Hannah

Killing for Keeps    Mari Hannah

Earlier this year I wrote a blog about the first four books in The DCI Kate Daniels series written by Mari Hannah. I said then that she was the best British Crime Writer I had read; this latest book confirms her place at the top of my reading list.

Killing for Keeps starts with a violent assault quickly followed by a gruesome murder. I wrote about Deadly Deceit that there was an original story line with one of the murders. In the first murder of this book Mari Hannah takes it up another notch. The description of DCI Daniels and her Crusty Trusty Sergeants arrival at the incident, and the scene they encounter, was so realistic I could imagine it being told by some of my old colleagues around a pub table. Again this murder was original to me in a book of fiction, but so well detailed I cannot believe that it hasn’t happened somewhere and that maybe Hannah has researched it, if not what an imagination.

The story brings back all of the characters in Daniels Team, although in this book they take more of a back seat with Daniels and Gormley taking the majority of the story-line. Along with the established members of Kate’s team and Jo Soulsby, her will-she-won’t-she love interest, we are introduced to a list of criminal characters from some old style “Family” gangs.

The book takes the reader from Newcastle to Scotland and on to Spain. Each destination is described perfectly and is there for a reason, you don’t get unnecessary padding in any of Hannah’s books.

The story is excellent. I was hooked from page one and finished it within 2 days. I will not put any spoilers in this blog which would give the game away but with families involved the plot obviously revolves around revenge, but for what, and by whom exactly. At one point towards the end of the book I actually caught myself not breathing. The suspense gets built up in several places and you fear the worst but when it comes, it comes out of nowhere.

I like to think that I can usually predict the ending of most books but I must have had about half a dozen different guesses at this one before getting to the end and finding out for sure.

What I Like most about Mari Hannah’s writing is that I never have to suspend reality. The subjects she covers are real; the procedures, or sometimes lack of them, are real; the main characters are realistic, as are their strengths and weaknesses; the criminal characters are as realistic as I’ve ever read.

I could happily recommend this book to friends who are in the Police and know that they will enjoy it for its realism as much as me.

I recently found out that Pan MacMillan have Mari Hannah contracted for another two books following this one. Please let it be more, and soon.

It has also been announced that a company has acquired the TV rights. If they stick to the storylines in the books, those programs will be brilliant

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Crooked Heart Lissa Evans

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The Crooked Heart     Lissa Evans

I received this book Friday and I had finished by Sunday. Usually I would sit down and write a blog as soon as I finish, but I have taken 24 hours before I start this one. Why? Because I want to do it justice.

From the very first page I was smiling. Was I supposed to smile at the musings of a woman with some kind of dementia, and the efforts of her ten year old Godson to look after her? Yes I think I was. I don’t think that Lissa Evans intended me to be sad at all reading this book, even if there are quite a few moral dilemmas throughout.

The story starts at the beginning of World War 2 and is based around Noel, a young boy living with, and looking after, his Godmother, the dementia sufferer. I won’t put any spoilers in here but I will say that Noel soon becomes evacuated to St Albans and ends up living with a woman called Vee, her grown up son, and her mother. As is right for the book none of this little family are without a story and Evans manages to weave a plot which involves all of them.

Vee is obviously on hard times and has tried numerous petty crimes to help her and her family struggle along, none of them serious and most of them failures. The trouble is Vee is not very bright. When she volunteers to take on Noel, on a whim, she inadvertently finds the ten year old has the brains that she is missing. Another dilemma, should I really be enjoying a book where an adult takes advantage of the intelligence of a young boy to make her life of crime more successful. Sorry I could not help myself I was willing the pair to get away with their little schemes.

Their adventures take them to London and eventually into trouble. The problems they get in are exasperated by the trouble Vee’s son Donald gets into. With the bombs falling and Londoners hiding in the shelters the story rattles along.

Noel is always the central character he is very clever, well read, and when he wants to be very articulate. Evans has put this brain into a scrawny strange looking boy, not for comedy value, but to make him standout. I hope that in future books we find how he has developed.

I have read Lissa Evans’s Bio online. She has written adult and children’s fiction. In this book she has used a ten year old as her main character and has written it in such a way that, as an adult, I empathised with Noel but never once thought I was reading a children’s, or young adults book. She mentions things that remind me of a young me growing up in the early 60’s. The book transported me back to when a story could be told without violence, sex and swearing. It actually made me think when the last time I had read an adult book like this. I can’t remember one but I am going to try and find more.

I am not sure Lissa Evans will welcome this but I can make one comparison. The first J.K Rowling book saw Harry Potter as a young naïve boy growing up in a strange world. For me Evans’s Noel is at least as well written as Rowling’s Potter, if not better. Harry may have grown up in a fantasy world but Noel is growing up in the very real world of WWII. Lissa Evans has managed to catch that innocent naivety and blend it with the not so innocent naivety of a desperate woman.

I know people can look at dust covers of hardbacks, and back covers of paperbacks, read a quick synopsis of a story and think that it’s not for them. If you do that with this book you’re wrong. As a 52 year old man I loved it. I know my 23 year old daughter will love it.

Please read it and enjoy it as much as I have.

No Sranger to Death Janet O’Kane

Well this book had me strangely gripped. It’s one of those where I found myself getting to the end of a chapter and having to carry on to the next, but why. There was no great cliff-hangers, no real oh-god –what-happens-next moments, it was almost nosiness.

The book is based in a Borders Town in Scotland, with the main character being the newly relocated, English, Doctor GP, Zoe Morland. The reader gradually gets to know of Zoe, and eventually her often hinted at past, all the way through the book, but her description is left to the readers imagination, I don’t think I even know her age.

The story begins when Doctor Zoe finds a body amongst the debris of a Bonfire close to the local pub. She is not treated as a suspect and at times helps the Police with issues surrounding the death. However Zoe has a good friend in the village, Kate a deaf single parent who seems to be the font of all knowledge, and general gossip, for the surrounding area. Kate convinces Zoe to look into the murder with her.

During this investigation the reader is introduced to various characters, and their problems. Janet O’Kane does a wonderful job of exploring village gossip and showing how small bits of information can lead to big misconceptions. All this adds to the plot and the mystery of the crime.

When a second person dies, and Zoe is involved in an accident, which appears anything but an accident the list of suspects grows. The more we hear about the villagers, and their intertwined relationships, the more people the reader will begin to suspect.

The ending to this book comes along quickly, not that it’s a short book at 350 pages on Kindle, more that it’s wound up quickly.

Unlike Agatha Christie who introduced characters in the last few pages so the reader found it hard to guest the murderer before the end ,Janet O’Kane gives us something we don’t know about a character until the end, and why should we.Nobody knows everything about everybody when they first meet

I want to say more about this book because it is written beautifully, but I don’t want to give away the plot. It doesn’t plod along, or sprint from scene to scene. It happily skips along at a nice pace occasionally throwing in a dead body and the odd moralistic conundrum. I challenge any reader to not make assumptions based on some of the dilemmas used in this story.

I have read a bit about Janet O’Kane, if you can believe the “About the Author” section on Amazon. It says she went straight from reading Enid Blyton to reading Crime novels. I think what she has produced here is a nice mixture of both. The grit and story of the crime novel, mixed with the innocence of two women trying to solve crimes by listening to village gossip.

And do you know what. IT WORKS!!

I will look forward to Janets next book, and may even read some of the suggested titles given by other readers of this very good book.