The Man With No Face Review: Getting 2019 Off To A Thrilling Start

the man with no face peter may

Last year Peter May published the intense and gripping I’ll Keep You Safe, so I was incredibly excited to check out his latest novel, The Man With No Face, due to be released on the 10th of January. I was expecting May’s typical strong characterisation, eventful plotlines and a spectacular finale to round it all off. I was not disappointed.

Less of a domestic drama than May’s previous book and far more of an international thriller, this latest novel travels the world, focusing on jaded Edinburgh journalist Neil Bannerman, who travels to Brussels in search of a scoop. During his stay two men are murdered, with a young girl being the only witness.

Desperate for answers and to protect the child, Bannerman begins a potentially fatal race against time to uncover the truth in a very tangled web of lies. Trying to both find out what happened and protect the girl, who is the sole witness to the tragedy that killed her father and changed her life. Autistic and vulnerable, her only method of communication is drawing, but she is unable to finish her portrait of the killers face due to her own fear and the dark, terrifying surroundings in which she saw it.

As Bannerman gets closer to the truth he has to combine protecting the girl with finding the culprits and bringing them to justice, but the work brings him nothing but trouble.

Set in the late 1970s, the novel evokes an era in turmoil, both politically and socially, and shows this through the tense narrative and tightly wound plot. May’s real skill is in characterisation and dialogue, and he shows this in The Man With No Face, with every character expertly crafted.

At the end of the day, May’s books are always dependable for their excellence of characterisation and deft plotting, and The Man With No Face is no exception. Any fans of May, or of gripping international thrillers in general, will enjoy this novel no end, and it makes a great read to get the New Year off to an excellent start.

 

 

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10-33 Assist PC Review: A Thrilling Realistic Police Procedural

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Written by a real police detective, Desmond P. Ryan, who I previously interviewed, 10-33 Assist PC offers a unique realism, allowing readers the chance to bond with a tough, determined detective and his team as they race against time to stop a human trafficking ring.

The first in the Mike O’Shea detective series, 10-33 Assist PC draws on Ryan’s experience as a detective to show Mike works to crack a prostitution ring. He is on the verge of getting them when an undercover from another unit burns him. With only days left before their pimps shuttle the girls out of the country, Mike pushes his team into overdrive.

Then disaster strikes, and Mike has a personal fight on his hands. He and his team work tirelessly as they race against time to catch the criminals before they leave the country and the team’s efforts are completely scuppered.

Readers will be able to clearly see that the book is written by someone with experience in the police; from the dialogue down to the description of the police station, there is attention to detail that cannot be fudged here. However, unlike some more realistic novels, Ryan has skillfully avoided overburdening the reader with too much detail and tedium. We are all aware of the bureaucracy and general bullshit that goes on in any office environment- we don’t need to read about it, and Ryan avoids this well, ensuring that readers remain gripped and the action is perfectly tempered with just the right amount of detail and realism.

Incorporating undercover officers, the grizzly realities of shift work and the drudgery that comes before the real chase, the novel gives an honest account of the day-to-day work of police officers. The second book in the series is out shortly, and if you haven’t already, I’d strongly urge you to check it and its predecessor out- they’re definitely worth a read!

 

Within The Silence Review: A Chilling Tale Of Family Secrets

Within the Silence

After a spate of them I’ve been a little short on blog tour posts for you, so here’s another- this week, it’s a review of Nicola Avery’s new novel Within the Silence.

Focusing on the secrets that creep into families and tear them apart, the novel focuses on the fractured Stone family. Father Jon’s wife, mother of his daughter Maddy, died in an accident late one night, and he remarried, and is now proud stepfather to the newly engaged Zara Hopper. Keen for another baby, Zara’s mother and stepfather adopted a young girl, Pippa, on whom the wealthy family now dotes.

Maddy has always been secretive, but now she has devastating revelations for Zara. As the novel unfolds, we see the disintegration of Zara’s seemingly perfect life as she works to discover the truth and find out more about what really happened all those years ago, and how it affects her family’s life today.

Avery has a deft hand with characterisation, and is able to easily give the reader a tantalising glimpse of her characters’ morals and minds, whilst at the same time always keeping them guessing.

The family’s secrets are carefully unveiled, and every time the reader thinks they’ve got a handle on the mystery another bombshell is dropped that changes everything yet again. As such, it’s easy to become enthralled by this gripping and tantalising novel, and I personally found myself devouring the novel. Intelligent and strikingly well crafted, the novel is nonetheless easy to read, and makes for a great escapist thriller.

There are some real moments of brilliance throughout the novel, and the plot is ingeniously engineered. Everything from the dialogue through to the settings and the bracing plot itself keeps the reader hurtling through to the nail-biting finale.

With so much going for it, there’s no reason not to check out Within The Silence- I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!

A Checkered Past Review: Less Twee Than You’d Expect

A CHECKERED PAST front cover

Styled to mirror the writing of classic Golden Age authors, I was intrigued to check out A Checkered Past. Book four of the Emmeline Kirby, which I recently discovered after encountering the author on Facebook, is a scintillating tale of theft, murder and general mayhem.

Protagonist Emmeline Kirby is back in London determined to make a success of her new job as editorial director of investigative features at The Clarion. Three months have passed since the events of the previous book, in which she took a trip to Torquay, which led to devastating revelations that surfaced about her fiancé Gregory Longdon. A dashing jewel thief, he is determined win back her affections with the help of Emmeline’s best friend and Grandmother.

Meanwhile, as Gregory battles to prove his worth, Emmeline stubbornly pursues a story about looted Nazi art and an IRA collaborator. When a stolen Constable painting belonging to her best friend Maggie’s family turns up in the collection of Max Sanborn, the chairman of the company that owns The Clarion, her personal crusade brings danger close to home.

Battling these conflicts, Emmeline colludes with Gregory to uncover the truth from a knotted tangle of lies, deceits and shadowy dealings. With strong characterization of all of the central characters, and a number of the minor ones, writer Daniella Bernett has enhanced a series which, although I’ve not encountered it myself before, has the potential to gain a strong following in the future.

There’s a particularly good balance in the novel between Emmeline’s personal life and her investigation of the case. The two are entwined from the beginning, and yet the author does not allow this to overwhelm or become too soap opera-y, which is always a good sign. I’m not a fan of crime fiction that ventures too far into the detective’s personal life without a reasonable motive, and whilst there was the potential here for Bernett to go too far and make this more of a romance, she manages to just keep it the right side of syrupy.

My only issue with the book is some of the writing style. For example, the opening does not draw the reader in the way it should, with  many of the sentences starting with the same words, and paragraphs, which are traditionally used to break up passages, used haphazardly- a phenomenon which continues throughout the book. As a result, the novel does not flow as well as it should, and it does take a while to really get engaged with the story, but despite this there’s a lot to like in this Golden Age style novel.

In all, I’d say this is a pretty good novel that has not been stunningly crafted, but has the potential to go far. Whilst I personally won’t be going out of my way to read the rest of the series, there is something intriguing about Bernett’s protagonist that keeps bringing me back to thinking of other strong, female detectives modeled on the Golden Age style. And that can only be a good thing.

Bare Minimum Parenting Review: James Breakwell Strikes Again!

Bare Mimimum Parenting

Despite not having (nor ever wanting) kids, I thoroughly enjoyed James Breakwell’s previous book Only Dead On The Inside: A Parent’s Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse, I was excited to find out what new nuggets of parenting expertise this dad of four, known online as Exploding Unicorn, had to offer in his latest book.

With its publication scheduled for tomorrow I thought I’d share my perspective on this latest offering from the American father of four girls, whose exploits I excitedly follow online. As a reviewer of his previous book I was pleased to receive the second and eager to find out the latest insight and knowledge that this Star Wars loving nerd turned dad had to impart.

Granted, I’m not really the audience he’s probably going for, being a woman with no desire or actual children who isn’t a mad fan of non-fiction books. Despite this, I found myself laughing out loud at points while reading Bare Minimum Parenting: The Ultimate Guide to Not Quite Ruining Your Child. 

Proudly declaring right from the start that his book contains no factual evidence, studies or anything remotely scientific, Breakwell has created a resource based on personal experience, which is both endearing and endlessly funny.

Going through the potential issues of different types of parenting, predominantly overachievers, Breakwell showcases how they are inherently wrong. Less anecdotal than I would have thought and liked it to be, the book nonetheless draws on the author’s experiences raising four young children to offer a completely new approach to parenting.

Defining and describing his pioneering strategy in detail, Breakwell makes an utterly hilarious case for simply letting children become who they are going to be, only shaping them when they steer too far towards the bad side of crazy. As Breakwell aptly states on page 28: ‘If you’re looking for a life goal, a good one is, “Don’t raise a serial killer.”’

Ultimately, Breakwell’s approach can be summed up by a popular saying: Don’t sweat the small stuff. He repeatedly reminds his readers that young kids forget pretty much everything, and as such they aren’t going to care if you weren’t there enough or gave them too many rules (within reason). This combined with his witty remarks and humorous asides about his own children make Bare Minimum Parenting a great read for anyone who has, wants or interacts with kids and is frightened that whatever they do will somehow influence them and change their lives for the worst. Spoiler alert: James Breakwell doesn’t think it will.

 

Stealth Review: Rina Walker Is As Deadly and Dastardly as Ever

stealth hugh fraser novel

Hit woman Rina Walker returns in another breath-taking novel from actor turned author Hugh Fraser.

After taking on a job, Rina discovers that there is much more to it than she previously thought. Failing to undertake the contract, she gains the unwanted attention of both Military Intelligence and the Broadmoor inmate who issued the order. While she deals with the difficult task of cleaning up her own mess, Fraser’s protagonist is also perused by a group of mercenary gangland heavies thanks to another kill she carried out from her conscience.

With her naturally dangerous working life in disarray, Rina has to work hard and fast to stop it colliding with her private one and keep those she cares about safe. Fraser has a real skill in creating a multi-dimensional character whose life is both complicated and, at the same time, not too syrupy. His protagonist is always perfectly balanced in every respect, and this is seen again in Stealth, which despite being the fourth book in the Rina Walker series, remains every bit as brilliant as the first three.

One of Fraser’s real triumphs, which I have remarked upon in previous reviews of his work, is his dialogue, and Stealth lives up to its forebear’s names in this regard too. The dialogue is crisp and sharp, and is used as both a characterisation tool and a plot driver, keeping the narrative flowing so that readers gain vital information quickly, without what I call ‘info dumping’, where writers dump huge chunks of information on their readers so they just end up trawling through endless paragraphs of exposition. By integrating this information into his dialogue Fraser keeps his reader hooked throughout, and draws them in as the novel speeds through to its nail-biting conclusion.

In all, Stealth is another great addition to the already spectacular Rina Walker series, and I’m looking forward to the next one even though I’ve only just finished this one!

She Chose Me Review: A Brilliant Psychological Thriller

she chose me

Another exciting blog tour article for you today! This time it is gripping thriller She Chose Me by Tracey Emerson, which was only published a few days ago. Hot off the press, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this thriller, but was pleasantly surprised to find myself hooked only pages in.

Having lived abroad for many years, protagonist Grace comes back to London to deal with her Mum, who is now dying. She then starts receiving disturbing Mother’s Day cards, despite not having any children herself.

She Chose Me Blog Tour Banner

That’s when things start to get really eerie. Emerson paints a chilling portrait of a woman driven to the brink of insanity by someone clearly out to torment her, with silent phone calls causing flashbacks to a past that Grace thought she had managed to outrun.

With the truth closing in on her, Grace becomes a disturbed mess and readers get to see Emerson’s exceptional characterisation in action. The author paints a remarkably astute and accurate picture of a woman on the brink, all the while keeping her readers guessing and giving them teasing clues that lead them piece by piece to the final, nail-biting finale that leaves readers on the edge of their seats.

I’ll be honest here: generally speaking, these psychological thrillers where human nature and personal conflicts are at the centre is not really my bag. Give me a good serial killer any day. But She Chose Me really is in a league of its own. This novel has style and class in abundance, and Emerson drives the narrative forward at a startling pace, giving the reader no time to dwell in what may or may not have happened. There’s no time for boredom in this fast-paced thriller.

Written in the first person, the novel shifts between past and present, giving the reader an intriguing insight into both Grace’s current situation and the events that led to it. This alternating narrative is done well, and is not clumsy as some attempts often are.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this tightly wound thriller, and I will be looking out for more of Emerson’s writing in the future- and I would suggest you do the same.