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

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

TAKE IT BACK KIA ABDULLAH

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I cannot remember who recommended this book, but whoever it was thank you.

The story is based around two main characters, Zara Kaleel, a gifted woman who finished top of Law School and landed a top job in good Chambers in London. Her life was mapped out for her, an arranged marriage, and a good job. Until she got rid of both the husband and the job, and took a job at a charity who looked after abused women.

The second character is Jodie Wolfe, a sixteen year old white girl with a severe facial deformity. The daughter of a single parent, an alcoholic mother, and living in a rundown house on a rough estate her life is not easy.

Jodie walks into Zara’s life when she accuses a group of four boys from her school of gangrape. The boys are all Muslim and from good families. They deny the accusation and give their own version of events.

Will anybody believe Jodie’s account over the four lads, and if they do, can they prove it beyond reasonable doubt.

This book is about so much more than just the rape of a young girl. It’s about attitudes, both preconceived, and actual, which are prevalent in today’s society.

The story itself is stunning. As a reader I was swayed in both directions. At different times I believed both Jodie and the four boys alternatively.

Some of the lads in this book lead a life of entitlement that their parents may have earned, but which they wrongly bask in.

The hatred that is extended to Jodie, by people who should be supporting her is unimaginable, but realistic in the way it is portrayed.

Worse still is the hostility extended to Zara by her own community.

Had the book been written by anybody else I don’t know how much emphasis I’d have put on the feelings that are running through the Muslim Community when it comes to the unwavering belief they have in the word of the young men, and the hold these young men have over their families.

I looked Kia Abdullah up on the internet, she is definitely qualified to right about this community in a way that most of us may never fully understand. But this book may go a long way to helping us.

This could have been a true story and it would not have had more of an impact on me. I felt like I was following a news story in fast forward.

It’s not often a book has me hooked as much as this one did. Thankfully I was in holiday so sitting reading all day was permissible, which was good, because once I’d started this, I was never going to put it down

Pages: 383

Publishers: HQ HarperCollins

Publishing date: 8thAugust 2019

Good Girls Lie. J.T Ellison

I don’t know if I’m the target audience for this book, but I have to say, I really enjoyed it.

Why would I not be the target audience, because it’s set in an all girls college, nearly all of the characters are female, because one of the two main characters is 16. So why did a middle aged man enjoy it so much.

Because it is one of the darkest psychological thrillers I’ve ever read.

Ash is 16, the daughter of a very successful finance manager in the UK, or she was, until she found both parents dead in their home.

Having already been accepted to the prestigious, all girls Goode College, in a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Ash is looking for a new start. With the agreement of the Dean she changes her name and keeps her family history a secret. But is there more to this secrecy than just hiding her tragic past?

Outwardly a grieving, thoughtful, English teenager, Ash has the mind of someone much older, and way more experienced. Her introvert style soon catches the attention of the school cliques and she becomes a target. Her secrecy making her even more intriguing, and an obvious target for some high class bitchiness.

Her chief Nemesis is Becca, Head Girl and Queen Bee, a girl so ensconced in the schools traditions that she even has the ear of the Dean. A Dean who has inherited the post since her mothers removal, a post she doesn’t really want. A Dean whose eye is off the ball.

Ash’s life is miserable but it gets much worse.

Two sudden deaths in the school have the gossips pointing in one direction, then things get worse, much worse, but to say how would only spoil the book.

This book is a dark and twisted Psychological Thriller.

There is murder a plenty but the real shocking stuff is the way that the girls in the school prey on each other, how they think their entitled life makes them immune, not just to the rules and regulations, but also to the moralistic rights and wrongs of society.

There were times when I thought I’d worked the plot out, and how it was going to end. I hadn’t.

At 380 pages this would usually take me three or four days to read, but once I’d picked it up I wasn’t putting it down and had it finished in half the time

J.T Ellison is an American author. I’d never heard of her before, but a quick look on Amazon showed me that she has quite a catalogue. So, without hesitation, I’ve just spent some of my well earned money on 2 more of her books

What greater recommendation can I give.

Pages: 384

Publishers(uk):Mira Books

Publishing Date: 30th December 2019

Whispers in the Night. D.K Hood

As a child what can be more scary than waking up in the middle of the night and seeing a stranger in your room

As a parent what can be more scary than your child coming into your room saying there’s a stranger in her room

What could be more scary than checking the room and finding nothing, only for the child to go missing

Or you could be the Detective that’s sent a video of the missing child and are told you only have a few hours to find her before she dies.

Detective Jenna Alton is the detective who receives the video, and assembles her team the start the search

Too soon another message arrives from the kidnapper, and it’s not what Jenna wants to hear

That is just the start to a book which had me engrossed from start to finish.

The stories in this series are set in Black Rock Falls, a large sleepy town that is growing in size by the month

The small Police Department runs well with the main Detectives Jenna Alton and her Deputy David Kane investigating some serious crimes involving serial killers

The series is like Midsummer Murders on steroids, and as well as the main characters there are some great bit-part-players, the best of which is the local Medical Examiner who doubles up as the Police Departments CSI, he’s even recruited his daughters to help him

I’ve read all of this series, and I’m always richly anticipating the next. Whispers in the Night didn’t disappoint. It’s is fast paced, without being frantic. It’s gritty, without being gory. It is far from a cosy Crime drama, but illicit a cosy read

I really can’t wait till the next one comes out

Pages: 355

Publisher: Bookouture

Available now