Escape from the ER
Review
4.5 Stars
The Craftsman - Sharon Bolton

4.5 stars

 

When I’m asked to recommend great crime/mystery books, this author is always on the list. If she wrote a book on installing linoleum, I’d read it.  In this outing she branches off in a new direction, adding magic & supernatural elements to the usual mix of crime, mystery & memorable characters.

 

Florence Lovelady is an Assistant Commisssioner at the Met. Thirty years ago she began as a lowly WPC in Sabden, a northern town in the shadow of Pendle Hill. And it was an infamous murder case there that made her career. Now she’s back. The killer she helped put away in 1969 has finally died in prison & Florence wants to see him go in the ground. Bit ironic as that’s what he did to his victims. The difference is they were alive when he buried them.

 

As Florence attends the funeral in present day, we get a bare bones history of just what took place all those years ago. We learn she actually boarded with the killer & his family & she can’t resist returning to the now derelict house one more time before she leaves for good. Unfortunately, what she finds there will cause her to question everything she thought she knew & this time it’s her son who will pay.

 

Not going to blab about the plot too much. As with all Ms. Bolton’s books, it’s best to go in blind for maximum effect. She’s the queen of jaw-droppers & you’ll enjoy it more if you discover things with Florence as she revisits a traumatic past.

 

The book started a bit slow for me but after the prologue, it shifts to 1969 & we get the full story of Florence’s time in Sabden. From there on it’s a compulsive read as we gradually shift back to events in the present. So many elements contribute to the story. We get a taste of what it was like to be a female cop at that time. The isolation, ridicule & sexism Florence faced on a daily basis will spike your blood pressure. There’s a line in there that goes something like “this is how men act when facing something they fear”. In this case, it’s a smart, resourceful woman who might be a better cop & refuses to just shut up & make tea.

 

The setting & its history provide the creepy atmosphere that helps propel the story. Witchcraft, brutal murders & a town full of clannish, suspicious people…I couldn’t help but think this place would fit snugly into something written by Stephen King. It’s obvious not all is as it seems in Sabden. There are hints of things commonly known but never spoken of & deeply guarded secrets. The effect is a constant, low level feeling of menace that keeps you slightly off balance & a tad nervy about turning the next page.

 

Then there are the characters. My favourites included Dwane (not your average sexton) & Avril & Daphne, 2 witches with attitude who I enjoyed much like the nuns in “Dead Woman Walking”. But the star of the show is Florence. What a pleasure to read a female MC who is strong, intelligent & quick on her feet. No histrionics & not given to the dumb decisions that usually have me rolling my eyes in frustration.

 

It’s so much more than just a whodunit. Personal asides & sub plots flesh out the story & bring the characters to life. From her letter to readers at the beginning, it’s clear this is a book the author has wanted to write for a long time & I hope she’s pleased with the end result. If her goal was to keep me up waaaay too late so I could race through the final pages, mission accomplished. Bring on book #2.

 

 

              

 

Review
4 Stars
“If this isn’t hell, the devil is surely taking notes."
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle - Stuart  Turton


Couldn’t have said it better myself. If, after reading the first few chapters, you find yourself feeling a bit discombobulated don’t worry. You’re in good company. Even the MC doesn’t know what the hell is going on.

 

Imagine you’re playing a real life game of Clue. You wake up one day as Col. Mustard & find yourself sequestered in a decaying old manor full of strangers. All you’ve been told is tonight someone will murder Miss Scarlet & your job is to identify the killer. Oh, and you have 24 hours. Because if you fail, tomorrow the whole day will play out again in exactly the same sequence. Except this time you’ll be Prof. Plum. Fail again & you’ll relive the same day as Mr. Green.

 

Now take this scenario & transfer it to Blackheath, home of the Hardcastles who’ve invited a throng of bickering, scheming guests for a special occasion. The plot & structure of the story is too complex to be reduced to a few sentences here. In this mash-up of Agatha Christie & Groundhog Day, the story centres around daughter Evelyn. And yes, she does die…a lot.

 

Our narrator & MC is Aiden Bishop although it takes a while before he (and we) know his true identity. There is a deliberate lack of the kind of information that gives a story context such as date & location that leaves you feeling uneasy & slightly uncomfortable. This bonds the reader with Aiden as we both struggle to make sense of his predicament. But eventually the reality of his situation is revealed & it’s a doozy. HIs first task each day is to figure out who he is & then continue his investigation. Luckily, he retains his memories as he jumps from one character to the next. This enables him to slowly put together the pieces as he sees the same events through different eyes. But it’s complicated by a wealth of suspects. With few exceptions, these are despicable people who have cornered the market on lying, cheating, stealing & blackmail. They don’t even seem to like each other & it’s not ’til the end that we understand why they ended up here.

 

This is not a lazy beach read. It’s a book that requires patience & attention to detail if you want to nail the killer. Hang in there, the payoff comes at the end when all is revealed & the true scope of the story takes shape.

 

It’s a clever, ambitious mind bender of a story that will test your memory skills. Hats off to the author, I truly don’t know how he managed to keep it all straight & avoid errors in continuity (I can’t help but picture him writing this in a room wallpapered with spreadsheets connected by strings). Ingenious, tense, mystical & haunting…this is a book you’ll think about long after you’ve finished.

 

 

           

Review
4 Stars
The Marylebone Drop - Mick Herron

This is a short story from the author of the fabulous “Slow Horses” series. It’s in a similar vein but a little darker in tone & the only character from that series who features here is Diana Taverner, MI5’s own “Iron Lady”.

 

Instead we get reacquainted with John Bachelor, an old spook mentioned in a previous story by Herron. John’s in the process of being not so much nudged as pushed out to pasture. After years with British Intelligence, he has little to show except a part time job babysitting some third string spies left over from the good old (and “cold”) days.

 

John is preoccupied with finding somewhere to sleep tonight when he’s contacted by Solomon Dortmund, one of his ancient charges. Sol may be long retired but he knows a drop when he sees one & once he describes the people involved he’s got John’s attention. The woman sounds a little too like Hannah Weiss. She’s a German asset John turned into a double agent. Just what he needs….his one shining success turning into a train wreck.

 

And they’re off. As John quietly investigates Sol’s story he’s pulled back into the world of lies, favours & double crosses. It’s spy vs. spy as John’s actions set in motion a chain of events that have ramifications for all involved. But he still has a few tricks up his sleeve & you’ll be cheering for him to pull it off under the nose of Lady Di. A few nice twists will keep you guessing as you’re trying to figure out who’s on the same side.

 

Herron is one of my favourite authors & I expect his stuff to be smart & intricately plotted. It’s amazing how much he weaves together in such a small space (the last 30% is actually a preview for “London Rules”). It’s always a loooong wait between books so it was a pleasure to have a little snack to help tide me over between meals.

 

In other news, it's been a crap week so here's a pic of my new nephew "Timbit" chugging down a bottle (my brother is caring for an orphaned racoon). Apparently he goes into a coma right after. Might have a drinking problem....(Timbit, not my brother)

 

   

Review
5 Stars
In the Galway Silence - Ken Bruen

After finishing “The Emerald Lie”, I wasn’t sure if Jack Taylor would be with us much longer. Yet here he is…bleary eyed & bushy tailed. But there’s something odd about him. It’s like he’s…*gasp*…happy. He’s cut down on drink & cigs, quit the PI biz & has a new woman in his life. Initially the only fly in the ointment is her pompous 9 year old son.

 

But who are we kidding? This is Ken Bruen & he seems to revel in putting Jack through the ringer. In the prologue, we watch as teenage twin brothers meet a horrible end. Their wealthy father approaches Jack with a job. Find the killer.

 

Jack has just about recovered from a recent brush with mortality & isn’t eager to descend back into the world of thugs & violence where his investigations inevitably lead. Still, it seems pretty straight forward. Oh Jack…that should have been your first clue. Turns out the twins were spoiled, psychopathic gits & the only real surprise is no one killed them sooner. Then he runs up against the man responsible & life as he knows it is over. A master manipulator, the killer proceeds to dismantle Jack’s new life from the inside. What else can he do but welcome back his dark side?

 

This is a quick read full of twists, violence & a kind of psychological warfare that leaves Jack reeling. He’s used to dealing with “disagreements” the Irish way. You either ignore it or get right up in its face. This time someone is getting to him by infiltrating the lives of those he loves. Jack’s not used to feeling helpless & has no choice but to return to his former life.

 

I suspect there’s not a lot of ambivalence when it comes to whether or not you’re a fan. You either like his stuff or you don’t. I love it. No one writes like Bruen. Bleak, gritty & darkly funny…all written with the soul of a poet who composes each book as a love letter to Galway. We see everything through Jack’s eyes & become well acquainted with the ghosts that haunt him still. The narrative is lean & light on dialogue. Instead, we listen in on Jack’s thoughts as he ponders everything from how to kill a guy to the simple pleasure of a perfectly poured pint. Galway’s streets come alive through the characters he meets & his wry observations. Liberally sprinkled around the prose are quotes & comments from politicians, authors & musicians that pertain to the central theme of silence. He’s also a prolific reader & I always enjoy his terse book reviews.

 

I’ve got a big soft spot for Jack & this is one of my favourites in the series. If you haven’t read Bruen before, I’d recommend starting at the beginning (‘The Guards”). That way, if you fall under his spell you’ve got a whack of books to look forward to.

 

 

          

 

Review
4 Stars
Leave No Trace - Mindy Mejia

 After reading “Everything You Want Me to Be” last year, I knew this was an author I would follow. In this outing she gives us a very different book but with equally compelling characters.

 

The blurb gives a great snapshot of the story so I won’t get into the plot too much. The MC’s are 2 damaged people who have more in common than you initially think. Maya Stark is a speech therapist at Congdon Psychiatric Facility. Her youth, innovative style & maroon hair set her apart. She lives with her dad Brian who really wishes she worked somewhere else. Especially after her…em…spot of trouble a few years back.

 

Lucas Blackthorne is Congdon’s infamous new resident. After vanishing with his father 10 years ago, his sudden reappearance has caused quite a stir. The media & groupies are camped out at the gates waiting to hear his story but Lucas isn’t talking. Then he meets Maya. And one struggling outsider recognizes another.

 

Don’t go into this expecting a thrill-a-minute ride. There are moments of action but that’s not what this is about. Like the previous book, it’s about the characters & the effect of the ripples they cause as they pass through each other’s lives. On one hand, it’s a compelling mystery as we slowly learn the MC’s histories. On the other, it touches on deeper themes such as family, loss, memories & the grey area around right vs. wrong.

 

Strong secondary characters flesh out the story as we follow Maya & Lucas on their deeply personal search to understand the past. The last quarter has some reveals that may make you rethink what you thought you knew. And while a couple of them may stretch disbelief a teensy bit, it’s all part of the journey in this strong, well written tale.

 

             

 

Review
3.5 Stars
Pieces of Her - Karin Slaughter

When we first meet Laura Oliver & her daughter Andrea, they seem to have a close, dependent relationship. But make no mistake. These are 2 very different women. Laura is an elegant, self assured speech therapist in a small community outside Savannah. Andy is mousy & introverted, working night shift as a police dispatcher. She comes across as paralyzed, incapable of making any decision that would help her climb out of her rut & get a life.

 

It’s Andy’s 31st birthday & they are celebrating in a diner when a traumatic event changes everything. I won’t go into details but suffice to say Andy see a side of her mother she never knew existed. So does the rest of the world as cell phone video of the incident quickly goes viral. In short order, Andy finds herself on the run, armed only with a list of cryptic instructions given to her by Laura.

 

In alternate chapters set in 1986, we meet a woman named Laura who lost everything that ever mattered to her. She knows who is responsible & travels to Oslo to make him pay in spectacular fashion. She does a bang-up job. Among the victims is a wealthy American businessman & over the course of chapters set in this time period, we spend time with his uber-dysfunctional family as they come to grips with the fallout.

 

In the present Andy is on a dangerous road trip that will lead to jaw dropping discoveries about her own identity as well as her mother’s past. It’s only as we gradually understand the historical story line that it’s implications in the present begin to sink in. And the hits keep coming right up to the final page.

 

This is very different from previous books I’ve read by this author. What hasn’t changed is her ability to deliver an intricate plot, stunning twists & events that push you to the edge of your comfort zone. But for me it was very much a book of 2 parts & to be honest, I found the first half a tough slog. After the initial excitement dies down, the reader spends a lot of time alone with Andy & I found her a tiresome travelling companion.

 

Her chapters consist of very little dialogue as she interacts with few people. Instead we ride shotgun & listen to her every thought  as she flees. She covers the same ground over & over again in an endless loop of despair. I had to keep reminding myself she was 31 as her behaviour & emotional maturity was more in keeping with those of a teenager. And at the risk of sounding like a heartless bitch, I just couldn't take the endless sobbing. I get that she went through a traumatic experience but I didn't need approx. 100 pages describing how she cried to get the drift. 

 

The chapters detailing events from 1986 are much more intriguing. We know it has to somehow link with Laura Oliver’s past & part of the challenge is trying to figure out her real identity. In these passages, we begin to see the similarities between Andy & her mother’s younger self. As the book hit the second half, tension ramps up in both time lines & the past crashes into the present. And at the risk of entering *spoiler* territory, I’m happy to report both women eventually grew a spine. The second half saved the book for me as the scope of the plot became apparent & more, interesting characters took up the story.

 

Just a heads up: there are scenes that will make some readers uncomfortable. Emotional & physical abuse are central to the story line & while you may not like some of the characters, it’s clear they are products of their experiences.

 

So how to rate this. I settled on 3.5 stars (3 for the first half, 4 for the second). While this may not be my favourite book by Ms. Slaughter, she sets the bar pretty high & I’ll definitely read whatever twisted tale she comes up with next.

 

 

          Stranger Than Paradise (1984)

 

Review
4.5 Stars
Bleeding Darkness - Brenda Chapman

Whoo-hoo…book #5 has cemented this series as one of my faves. There’s always a well plotted police investigation to puzzle out while you catch up with the MC’s personal lives & that combination continues here.

 

The book synopsis sums up the investigative angle. One cold case, one fresh body. Both are connected to one of the most dysfunctional families you’ll come across. It’s clear early on that the recently deceased patriarch kept a big secret from the rest of them & as they gather at his bedside, all the old jealousies (and claws) come out.

 

We spend most of our time with Lauren, who grew up with her father’s love & her mother’s disdain. She just wants the funeral to be over so she can get the hell out of Dodge & back to her life in Toronto. Dealing with Mother is bad enough but the recent murder is bringing up memories of another death years ago that haunts her to this day. She’s under pressure from the family to tow the party line but when she meets cop Kala Stonechild, she’s tempted to tell her story.

 

When Kala & Paul Gunderdund are called to the crime scene, a snow covered body leads them directly to the McKenna’s, a family with another murder in their past. While colleague Woodhouse is assigned the new case, Kala begins to dig into the death of Lauren’s childhood friend.

 

The timing’s not great. Kala is taking care of her best friend’s teenage daughter & gets word the girl’s estranged father is looking for her after his release from prison. He’s a real piece of work & the last thing they need as Kala helps Dawn settle into her life. She also has a budding friendship with colleague Bennett…much to Gundersund’s dismay. But he’s hardly in a position to step in. He’s still married to Fiona, the she-devil from hell * (* all crabby comments property of reviewer).

 

Meanwhile, boss Jacques Rouleau has been forced to take on a more managerial role. The endless cycle of meetings & office politics is driving him crazy & Woodhouse continues to be a thorn in his side. The only bright light is a possible romance with reporter Marci Stokes. Could she be the one? (NOOO! For Pete’s sake, look right in front of you, Jacques!)

 

What a great read. Getting to know the McKenna’s is like spending time in a pit of vipers. Lauren is the exception. She’s a sympathetic young woman just beginning to find her spine and might just be ready to give up a few bad habits. But hey….who hasn’t slurped down a few cocktails after too much “family time”? Her need to finally break free of the past leads to a tentative relationship with Kala through which we slowly learn what happened all those years ago. Still, I wasn’t prepared for the final reveals. I had an inkling about one of the who-dunnits but the other left me gaping.

 

Several story lines are ongoing through the books & they continued to evolve in this one. I like these characters & I’ll be waiting on book #6 to see where the author steers them next.

 

         

Review
5 Stars
Creep: A B.C. Blues Crime Novel - Kate Greenaway

This book picks up where Undertow left off & there have been a few changes for our 2 MC’s due to the fallout from their last case. Cal Dion is back in uniform, pounding the beat with a shiny new partner who might be a good cop if he ever stopped talking. But oddly enough, Cal is almost content with his lot.

 

When we first met him (Cold Girl), Cal was returning to work after suffering a head injury in a car crash that killed his best friend. Cognitive blips & difficulty reading/writing were his constant companions. And while he became adept at hiding his limitations from coworkers, Cal was only too aware he was no longer a hotshot detective. Frustration & depression ensued & in book #2 we watched as he went off the rails & risked everything. Now he’s in a better place. Cal’s accepted his faulty wiring & is lucky to still have a job.

 

Dave Leith was Cal’s partner in homicide. He’s still working elite crimes & trying to get used to big city life. Now their paths cross again as a series of bizarre crimes begin to pop up around the North Vancouver detachment. First a body is found on a derelict property & it’s been there a while. Then a hiker dies mysteriously on a densely forested trail & walkers are spooked on wooded paths. Excluding nosy neighbours, tips are hard to come by. Well…unless you count reports of a wolf-like creature spotted around the cycling trails. Wait…was that a howl?

 

In alternate chapters we meet Stefano Boone, a young guy who works at a diner. He lives in his parents’ basement, has no friends & he’s…em…kind of going through something. Best to leave that alone until you meet him yourself.

 

There are other characters that flesh out the story lines & several will trigger your spidey senses. As the investigations progress, Cal also has his suspicions. Thing is, it’s hard to know if he’s on the right path. Is the person of interest really a little hinky or has Cal’s memory just sprung another leak?

 

This is book #3 in the series & it’s my favourite (so far…). It’s not just the multi-story lines, great twists & characters I’ve come to know. It’s also the writing. I can’t help but feel the author has really hit her stride. The flow & pacing make for an effortless read with little nuggets of info dropped in all the right places that make it hard to put down. The prose is self assured & economical with enough description to create an atmosphere that is dark, foreboding & tense.

 

The pace picks up near the end as the puzzle pieces begin to click together. It’s like a fog lifts to reveal startling truths. There are some satisfying conclusions (for 1 character in particular…what a git!)  but not everything is neatly folded up & put away. An event from Cal’s past has lingered in the background like a spectre since the first book & it’s starting to take shape. If details surrounding the crash that re-wired his brain come out….well, Cal’s going to have a very bad day. Or decade. That alone guarantees I’ll be in line for book #4.

 

Recommend reading in order due to ongoing story lines that reference the characters’ personal histories & evolving relationship.

 

          

Review
5 Stars
The Fire Pit - Chris Ould

Another gem that's been hiding in my TBR pile for yonks. A few years ago I was lucky enough to visit the Faroe Islands. They are unbelievably beautiful & a hiker's paradise. While there I picked up the first book in this trilogy set in the Faroes & started following the story of 2 police men, Hjalti & Jan.

 

This is a great end to the trilogy. The plot is intricate with several story lines that Ould skillfully pulls together for an exciting finish. Some of the regular characters have changes in store & their futures are left up in the air but we (and Jan) finally get answers concerning the death of his mother 40 years ago. 

 

Ould has been quoted as saying it was best to leave the series at 3 books. Probably wise....in a place with such a small population, killing off more people would mean running the risk of it becoming a Faroese version of Cabot Cove. A really satisfying read.

 

The assault on my TBR pile continues.....

 

 

   

 

Review
3.5 Stars
Hangman - Daniel Cole

Sooo….book #2. A daunting task, particularly when the first one was a huge hit. But this author really upped the ante by leaving out his popular MC William “Wolf” Fawkes & switching the focus to another character.

 

That would be DCI Emily Baxter. She worked the Ragdoll case with Fawkes & is still reeling from the fallout. To make matters worse, her professional life is a nightmare. Fawkes is AWOL, former colleague Edmunds transferred to Fraud & she got promoted. She just wants to forget it ever happened but it seems the universe has other plans.

 

FBI Agents Curtis & Rouche land on her doorstep with news of a copycat murder in the US. It’s a double homicide designed to attract maximum attention & they want her help. They don’t know it yet but it will be the first of many in New York & London as they join forces to find the mastermind behind the carnage.

 

So here’s the deal. I loved Ragdoll. From the first page, I was firmly in its grip & became seriously cranky if interrupted. Alas, I can’t say the same about this one. I think part of the reason was how much I enjoyed the black humour served up by Fawkes’ character. It gave the reader little moments of  humorous relief from the grisly tension & I keenly missed his presence here.

 

Baxter is a compelling character but she’s also a physical & emotional hot mess. I desperately wanted to take Thomas (her doormat…er…boyfriend) out for a chat over a pint. She & Rouche spend the majority of their time haring around New York & London as a legion of bodies pop up on both sides of the pond like some macabre game of Whack-a-Mole. Bruised & bloody from multiple attacks, it’s defies belief they’re even breathing let alone leading a multi-agency manhunt.

 

One thing that hasn’t changed is Cole’s ability to come up with new & inventive ways for people to die. Practice your “ewwww”…you’re gonna need it. I was happy to see Edmunds return & enjoyed his input as Baxter secretly keeps him in the loop. But i just didn’t find Baxter to be fleshed out or layered enough to be the star of the show. Without a strong MC to hang the story on, it became a succession of frenzied action sequences until the final chapters revealed all.

 

As always, it depends on what keeps you turning the pages. For me there was a certain spark or something that was missing. But if you’re a fan of full on action, grab this & settle in for a fast paced read.

 

 

            

 

 

 

Review
3.5 Stars
Macbeth (Hogarth Shakespeare) - Jo Nesbø

When I was in high school, I was that weird girl in your english lit class who actually liked Shakespeare. The Hogarth Shakespeare project gave 8 authors a chance to recreate one of the Bard’s classic plays & when I heard Jo Nesbo was taking on MacBeth, I had to read it. And he’s done a remarkable job.

 

It’s a daunting challenge. After all, we already know who did what & how it ends. But Nesbo has given it a modern facelift by turning it into a dark, violent tale of cops vs criminals set in an unnamed city drowning in drugs & corruption. Poor old Duncan is the shiny new Chief Commissioner of police while MacBeth heads up the SWAT team. Other familiar names have been assigned to characters on both sides of the law, their roles staying true to the originals.

 

I won’t dwell on the story except to say this is decidedly bloodier than “the Scottish play”. But there are several things that make it work. First, the setting. Nesbo vividly describes his city & it’s a pretty bleak place. Relentless rain, dark streets full of skeletal junkies & rusted out factories litter the landscape. Now add in cops & politicians who have been bought & paid for by the rival drug gangs that rule the city. The result is a grim & gripping read that practically oozes moral decay.

 

And that of course is the point. Shakespeare wanted to shine a light on the psychological & physical ramifications for those who seek power for power’s sake, how ambition without morality leads to carnage. He also distinguished between the sexes. Not that women can’t be just as reprehensible. It’s just their methods that differ. In this story, MacBeth’s wife may not care to actually get her hands dirty but she’s more than capable of inciting violence with well chosen words whispered in the right ears.

 

Nesbo has nailed the themes & even sneaks in symbolic moments such as blood that won’t wash off. What I found most startling is how relevant something written over 400 years ago still is. But then all you have to do is read the news to find modern examples of his characters. It’s not an easy read but Nesbo pulls it off with style. My only quibble is the wealth of long descriptive passages that at times  stall any building tension.

 

As always, the wonderful Don Bartlett has done an outstanding job of translation. Recommended for fans of Shakespeare and/or gritty crime drama. If you’re keeping track of this series, next up is Gillian Flynn of “Gone Girl” fame taking on “Hamlet”.

 

 

                                       

Review
4.5 Stars
Last Orders (The Dublin Trilogy Book 4) - Caimh McDonnell

And so it ends. If I could I’d insert a picture of me having a tantrum that would leave any self respecting 2 year old in awe. On second thought that might be too scary. But I digress…

 

This is the one fans of the Dublin Trilogy have been waiting for & it doesn’t disappoint. We’ve followed Paul, Brigit & Bunny through murders & mayhem that made us cringe & laugh in equal measure. As this one begins, their private investigation firm MCM is barely solvent. Brigit seems to be the only one showing up for work these days & is royally done with stalking cheating spouses.

 

Paul is engaged in prank warfare with a rival firm run by the Kelleher brothers who are responsible for his breakup with Brigit. And Bunny…well, Bunny is mostly AWOL. He’s spending a lot of time with 2 men who were with him at a particular incident about 20 years ago. Which would be fine if they were alive. Unfortunately they’re figments & Bunny is getting more than a few looks as he’s seen arguing with himself around town.  Could it be the feared & infamous ex-copper is finally losing the plot?

 

It seems to have started about the time DSI Susan Burns & sidekick Det. Donnacha Wilson were called to a remote area outside of Dublin. New construction unearthed human remains. The bodies are old with nothing to identify them. When the coroner deems them at least 20 years old, all Susan can do is turn to forensic testing. And boy, does she get results. Before she knows it FBI Agent Alana Dove is on her doorstep, demanding to be part of the investigation.

 

Meanwhile Brigit gets news the firm is being sued & there’s a better than average chance they’ll lose it all to the Kellehers. No more about that. The ensuing game of spy vs spy between the 2 groups adds tension mixed with insanity that may have led to some unladylike snorts on my part.

 

But the heart of the story belongs to Bunny. Dear, hurley-weilding (& arguably sociopathic) Bunny. After the first 2 books of the trilogy the author released “Angels in the Moonlight”, a companion book that gave us the details of Bunny’s past. It’s a fantastic read that made me look at the big guy in a completely different way as I began to understand how he became this solitary man with an oddly honourable code of ethics. That past has come back to haunt him. He’s done some dodgy things & you get the feeling he’s finally going to pay.

 

As usual, the characters are colourful & so well described you feel like you would recognize them on the street. One standout is Susan Burns. She’s a whip smart cop with a sharp mind & sharper tongue & I enjoyed her scenes immensely. Dialogue is sharp, witty & full of vernacular that gives you plenty of laughs to break the building tension as all the story lines begin to converge. There’s a big finale ahead & no doubt that things at MCM will never be the same.

 

This series has been such a pleasure to read. The books are smart, well paced & endlessly entertaining & I highly recommend reading them in order of publication. There are hints some of the characters may pop up in future projects so….tick tick, Mr. McDonnell. No time like the present. Now if you’ll excuse me I have a tantrum to finish.

 

             

Review
3.5 Stars
Hangman - Jack Heath

Whoa…what did I just read? Before I start my blab, first things first. This is a well written & gripping crime/suspense story with a compelling MC. But…it’s not for the squeably. Seriously. Ok, we’re going in.

 

Timothy Blake is not your typical FBI consultant. He has little education, lives with a paranoid drug dealer & has about $5 to his name. Years ago he had a run-in with a cop named Peter Luzhin that left a lasting impression on both of them. Luzhin is now director of the FBI office in Houston & when a case can’t be cracked, he calls Blake. A successful resolution means Blake gets paid with the only kind of currency he wants.

 

It all begins with a missing teenage boy. There are plenty of red herrings & inconsistencies but eventually Blake is sure he’s got it sussed. Besides, he really needs to collect his fee. Unfortunately it’s not that simple & Blake is soon caught in a complex web designed by a devious & intelligent killer. Being partnered with a new handler is not helping. Special Agent Reese Thistle is not thrilled about her new assignment, either. She doesn’t understand why Luzhin has brought in this odd outsider who looks likes a homeless guy. But then she sees him work.

 

Blake is a master at solving puzzles. His sharp, analytical mind notices the tiny details everyone else has missed. Anything out of place, something missing & all the little facial tics & vocal tells that make up a lie. Initially you wonder how this brilliant guy ended up in such dire straits. But through flashbacks interspersed with the story we get the 411 on Blake’s childhood & begin to piece together how the little boy became this man.

 

The investigative aspect of the story is fast paced & layered, But what really kept me reading was Blake. And believe me, given his proclivities, that’s no small feat. He’s smart, complicated & dryly funny. His history & present circumstances are heartbreaking at times. Then reality would come crashing in & I’d be utterly repelled by his behaviour. No matter what you end up thinking about him, you have to be impressed by the author’s ability to make you feel such polarized emotions so keenly.

 

So there you have it. It won’t be for everyone & no doubt there will be lots of chatter about this one. My best advice if you’re thinking of cracking the cover is choose a brightly lit room, take your heart medication & maybe keep a wee beverage nearby. You’ll probably need it.

 

 

           

 

Review
4.5 Stars
The Weight of Shadows (Shadow Series) (Volume 1) - Karl Holton

4.5 stars rounded up

 

“The weight of shadows can be devastating. I’ve been collecting them since I was a young man….”

 

Three years ago Danny Benedict was the resident genius with homicide at the Met. In a chilling prologue we learn why he carries physical & emotional scars from what turned out to be his last case. Now he’s an investigator with NCA Organized Crime Command & the team has its hands full trying to track down mobsters with foreign ties.

 

DI Wallace is a whip-smart detective with the Flying Squad. Her team is sent to the scene of a major jewelry heist & it’s not long before she realizes things just don’t add up. But even she couldn’t have guessed where the investigation will lead.

 

Ray Hanson is a billionaire with a decidedly shady past. He left London years ago but personal reasons have brought him home. Besides, he has some scores to settle. First he needs to assemble a team & he has specific people in mind to execute his plans.

 

These are the 3 MC’s & initially we follow them in alternating chapters as their story lines take shape. By circumstance & design, they eventually cross paths in this fast paced, intricate & intelligent thriller. They’re compelling but very different characters which makes for entertaining interactions & great dialogue.

 

But it’s Benedict that really shines. He’s usually the quietest character in the scene but you get the feeling he was born with a few more grey cells than the rest of us. When he does speak, his lack of social skills frequently (if unintentionally) has darkly funny results. This is a man who can piss off an entire room with a single sentence & I thought he was a hoot.

 

There is a large cast of peripheral characters including government agents, mobsters & cops. Of note are DCI Evans, an old nemesis of Benedict’s & asshat of the highest order. And then there’s the Doctor, a man with all the charm of a Komodo dragon. Let’s not go there.

 

All these elements combine to produce an entertaining read that keeps you turning the pages. And that ending. I don’t know who’s more gobsmacked…Benedict or the reader. There’s a big question mark left hanging after it’s all done & dusted that guarantees I’ll be moving book #2 up on my reading list.

 

        

 

Review
2.5 Stars
Three Weeks Dead: A DC Sally Poynter Novella (DI Hannah Robbins Prequel Novella) - Rebeca Bradley

This year I've been diligently tackling my TBR pile in an effort to clean up my kindle. The first two were great, leading to my picking up more books by these authors which....I know, I know....kind of defeats the purpose.

 

No worries here. Despite an interesting blurb this was a ho-hum shortie with a female MC who commits the ultimate crime. She's boring. The silver lining is it's the beginning of a series I've been eying for while & now I know it's just not for me. 

 

On to the next contestant....

 

 

                                        

Review
3 Stars
Holy Island: A DCI Ryan Mystery (The DCI Ryan Mysteries Book 1) - LJ Ross

The one New Year's resolution I made was to seriously tackle my TBR pile, especially my groaning kindle. The plan is to post mini reviews for older books that already have a ton of feedback on sites such as Goodreads, unless it really catches my fancy & I feel the need to gush. 

 

Sadly, no gushing will be occurring here. The good: beautiful, mystical & atmospheric setting of Holy Island. It's the kind of place you want to immediately add to your travel bucket list. I enjoyed some of the peripheral characters & the main plot is suitably creepy with an excellent little twist at the end.

 

The bad: I'm kind of a crime/police procedural kind of gal & I'd categorize this as more romantic suspense. Which is too bad because the insta-love between the 2 MC's is completely unnecessary to the plot. For me, their relationship would have been much more interesting as just colleagues bouncing ideas off each other on their way to nabbing the icky bad guy. I desperately wanted to know who was behind it all but felt like I needed a machete to cut through all the smouldering glances & lingering looks that kept getting in the way. 

 

Still, I'm glad I read it. It's the first of a series & I now know it's just not for me. And my kindle just got a little lighter.

 

 

        

 

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