Dead If You Don’t Review: A Realistic Police Procedural For Thrill Seekers

dead if you don't

Having previously reviewed- and loved- Peter James’ novel Need You Dead, I had high hopes for Dead If You Don’t, the latest in the world renowned DCI Roy Grace series.

Enjoying a football game with his recently discovered son in an attempt at father-son bonding, Grace is drawn into a horrific crime as the son of an established businessman and compulsive gambler is abducted. Racing against time, Grace and his team work to uncover both the kidnappers and their motives, exposing many of the father’s secrets in the process.

Exploring the issue of child abduction, James handles the crime sensitively, and the novel is both realistic and tense, dragging the reader along as Grace works tirelessly to uncover the truth and rescue the child before it’s too late.

As in the previous novels in the series, James’ expert research shines through, and the author’s strong understanding and knowledge of police procedure and the UK’s legal system ensures that readers get a realistic glimpse into the life of a top London detective.

One thing I don’t quite get is the names; James’ characterisation is excellent as ever, but I couldn’t stop laughing at key character named ‘Kip’, and, perhaps even better, ‘Mungo’, Kip’s son and the kidnap victim. Somehow these ridiculous names make it hard for me to take the narrative entirely seriously, particularly when Mungo is snatched.

Despite this minor drawback, I find the novel as engaging as any of James’ books. Both his standalone novels and his DCI Grace books have a sort of compelling charm and fast paced narrative that propels the reader through and has them hooked to the very end.

As I turned the final page I was utterly spellbound by James’ exquisite storytelling and exceptional characterisation. This is a great modern police procedural that keeps you hooked until the nail-biting finale.

 

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Rose Gold Review: Another Chilling Dystopian Novel

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Hot on the footsteps of Blue Gold is the follow up,  Rose Gold, and as part of author David Barker’s blog tour I reviewed this latest dystopian climate change novel, which is perfectly topical given the current political landscape.

Following on from the events of Blue Gold, Barker’s latest novel depicts the later years as earth battles its biological issues, and man seeks a new solution on the moon, of all places. Focusing the action of Sim Atkins, whose life is turned upside down by revelations that threaten his family and his future, the novel explores his determination to right wrongs and stop deadly terrorism before it is too late.

With Sim’s former partner Freda called back into service in order to assist, the pair is driven into a web of secrets, lies and deceit. Skilful navigation and nerves of steel are required to ensure success, which could be vital for the future not just of them, but of the human race as a whole.

My previous criticism of Blue Gold revolved around the slightly clunky dialogue and Barker’s tendency to launch information on his readers, which is often hard for them to digest easily (also known as info-dumping). I am very pleased to say that Rose Gold alleviates both these issues, to a certain extent, although the dialogue remains a little old fashioned.

However, this appears to be Barker’s style, and whilst it isn’t to everyone’s taste he certainly has the great skill of crafting dynamic, multi-dimensional characters that will never go out of style. Combined with the author’s superb plotting, which sees Sim’s fraught backstory expertly weaved into the larger story, and you get a really intense thriller that keeps you hooked from the get-go until the final line.

As I finished Rose Gold and contemplated the novel, I was impressed by Barker’s expert creation of an unique dystopia; his books are an unflinching representation of human nature at its most base and greedy, and in today’s political and social climate, with Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement and many pondering the future of our planet, the timing could not be better.

 

 

The Retreat Review: A Real Nail Biter With a Gripping Finale

The Retreat by Mark Edwards Blog Tour banner final

As part of author Mark Edwards’ book tour I review The Retreat, a haunting thriller that really stays with you.

I’ll level with you here: this isn’t the sort of book I’d usually read. From the cover, it looks like the kind of book I wouldn’t even think twice about if I saw it in Tesco’s or Waterstone’s while I was browsing the latest best sellers in search of a new favourite.

After all, heartbroken mothers and missing children have been done to death. I always hate the overly sentimental thrillers, and from my first impression of it The Retreat was exactly that. However, once you move past the age-old premise you find a riveting thriller that packs a punch and leaves you with more questions than answers.

The novel centres around Julia Marsh, a heartbroken woman who has spent the last two years grieving the tragic accident that lead to her husband drowning in front of her in a local river. Her eight-year-old daughter Lily is still missing, following the incident, and is presumed dead.

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Now living alone, Julia finds herself unable to move on, convinced that Lily is still alive. Despite this her pleas for help go unanswered by the authorities, who are convinced that Lily could not possibly be alive, and with dwindling resources Julia finds herself in a perilous position. Forced to find unconventional means of staying afloat, she gets more than she bargained for when she creates a writer’s retreat and invites complete strangers into her home and, by extension, her life.

Alternating between first and third person, past and present tense, the novel is a shock to the system, and each chapter is designed to leave you questioning everything you had previously thought.

This show-stopping novel is a tour de force that reaches its shocking climax and leaves the reader in both amazement and wonder. I found this incredibly hard to put down even once I’d finished, and had the ridiculous urge to start again just to keep the experience going. As such I would thoroughly recommend giving The Retreat a go, even if you’re not mad keen on psychological thrillers.

The Last Straw Review: Another Strong Spy Thriller

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The second in the Pigeon Blood Red series, the first of which I recently reviewed, The Last Straw is another unique novel starring the first novel’s protagonist, Rico Sanders.

The book begins with a run-of-the-mill carjacking. An inner-city kid with no priors and no experience with a gun fumbled the ball, and the driver ended up dead.

A teenage girl witnessed the whole thing, and now a target has been placed on her back. The carjacker’s father, a notorious crime boss, is willing to move heaven and earth to prevent her from testifying, even if that means hiring a hit man to kill her.

Richard Sanders, better known as Rico, as the best in the business, was his first choice for the job; however, his scruples prevent him from carrying out the hit. As a result, the crime boss reluctantly turns to someone who has no such qualms, John D’Angelo. There was bad blood between him and Rico, so knowing that Rico had passed on the job, he eagerly accepted it.

Rico and the girl’s lawyer, Paul Elliott, form an uneasy alliance to try and protect her from the hit man. As the long-simmering feud between Rico and John D’Angelo reaches boiling point, bodies start to pile up in rapid succession, and old scores will be settled as the novel races through to its climactic conclusion.

Author Ed Duncan is a former lawyer, and as such his knowledge of the legal system is impeccable, and although at times the descriptions, particularly those of characters, are a little clunky, this is a fast paced novel that lends itself to easy reading. It is not a taxing novel, and as such it is perfect for summer, when you are reclining on the beach or bored waiting in an airport lounge.

Overall a great addition to the Pigeon Blood Red series, this is an exciting thriller that takes the reader on a round the world journey through to a climactic finale.

Money in the Morgue Review: A Creative Continuation Of Marsh’s Classic Series

Money in the Morgue

Exciting news for Golden Age fans as Ngaio Marsh’s unfinished Inspector Alleyn novel has been completed and published by Stella Duffy. Marsh was one of the founders of the Golden Age of Crime Fiction, and I enjoyed a lot of her novels, so I was intrigued to see how Duffy had interpreted her work.

The novel opens with a list of characters and a map of the principal setting, followed closely by the line ‘So closely did these events follow the arbitrary design of a play that the temptation to represent Mr Glossop as an overture cannot be withstood’ in the opening chapter. Despite the indications, do not be fooled into thinking this is anything like a play- the novel is far too evocative and emotionally charged to be a play script.

Instead, this is an emotional rollercoaster depicting the horrors of the Second World War from a rural New Zealand hospital. Inspector Roderick Alleyn is holed up at the remote Mount Seager Hospital, where the reader finds him pretending to be ill as part of a covert mission. Listening in on the small worries and petty grievances of the staff and patients, Alleyn is on the trail of the sender of mysterious coded messages, which are believed to be the trigger that brings a Japanese submarine into New Zealand’s territory.

His work is interrupted by the arrival of the aforementioned Mr Glossop, a payroll clerk on his rounds whose car mysteriously breaks down. Stranded at the hospital with the payroll, he is forced to take refuge at Mount Seager, leaving the money in the care of the formidable matron. When the money disappears from the safe where she placed it on the night a storm hits and an ill patient dies, Alleyn is called upon to investigate the sinister goings on. The death count quickly rises, leaving Alleyn with more than just espionage to worry about.

Bundled together in an isolated hospital, cut off from the outside world, Mount Seager’s inhabitants, include a group of quarantined soldiers, the hospital’s long-suffering staff, and a number of civilian patients. The group’s personal problems, compounded by the knowledge that there is a criminal in their midst, creates tension and causes havoc with the intrepid Inspector’s investigation.

Much like Jill Paton Walsh’s continuation of the Lord Peter Wimsey novels, in Money in the Morgue it is hard to tell where Marsh’s writing ends and Duffy’s begins, which is the sign of a truly great collaboration. Tension is established from the very first paragraph, and the exceptional characterization, coupled with the ever-present shadow of the war that trails through the novel like a specter at the feast, create a truly thrilling novel that is almost impossible to put down.

Personally I believe that Marsh would be proud of what Duffy has created in Money in the Morgue. An undeniable Golden Age crime story, this is one of those novels you will finish and immediately want to restart. There are so many nuances and literary flourishes, as well as nods back to Marsh’s earlier work, that will make you want to keep reading so as not to miss anything.

Red Agenda Review: Not As Engaging As It Could Be But Worth A Go

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With all the political turmoil going on in the world, now is the ideal time to read political thrillers, and as such I was looking forward to Red Agenda, Cameron Poe’s creative new novel. 

The plot centers around an international disaster that could have epic consequences. When Kuwaiti government officials seek to end their Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) alliance with neighboring Middle Eastern nations, they swiftly enlist the help of Russian engineers to successfully launch a nuclear missile and ignite war. Unbeknownst to all, a veteran American spy is hot on their trail, striving to remain one step ahead of the conspirators and unravel their plans before conflict erupts in the form of widespread global chaos.

Exploring a range of political conflicts spanning practically every major event in history, the novel has a tendency for info-dumping; dropping almost entire chapters worth of information in one fell swoop, which often ahs the negative affect of disinteresting the reader and breaking up the narrative.

However, despite this Red Agenda manages to just about recover, and the often sparkling dialogue, efficient use of swearing (of which I heartily approve) and vaguely enticing plot. The plot itself, as you’ve probably gathered, isn’t entirely fascinating and often with novels like this there is a tendency for too many twists, which creates serious confusion in the reader. Here the same can be said, but despite this the complex characters and inventive storyline keeps you going just long enough to get to the end.

A solid effort overall, there is nothing exceptional about this novel, but equally it is worth a read if you enjoy a good political thriller. If you like being a know- all and picking apart novels which incorporate numerous real-life scenarios, events and places, then this would also be the perfect book for you, which was my overriding thought as I reached the end. I know a few myself and will definitely be recommending this to them.

Silent Victim Review: A Gripping Tale of Deceit and Deception That Will Keep You Hooked

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As part of her blog tour I review Silent Victim by Caroline Mitchell, who has previously written a number of riveting thrillers. As such, I had high expectations for her latest novel, and I was not disappointed.

The novel centres on Emma, a loving wife with a young son, and the secret she has been keeping for years. She has been hiding the dead body of the teacher who seduced her as a teen, which is buried in a shallow grave in the garden she now shares with her family.

Things get shaken up early on in the novel when Emma’s husband Alex decides to accept a promotion and relocate the family. Moving from a house that he never felt at home in to help further his career seems ideal for him, but for Emma it is nerve racking, and when she returns to find her secret has been uncovered she panics.

In her fright she shares her burden with Alex. Her new husband is initially incredibly supportive, however as the narrative reveals new truths about Emma and the secrets she has kept hidden over the years his resolve is tested as the couple’s idyllic life starts to fall apart.

Dancing between perspectives the first person narrative provides an intriguing insight into the characters; the world weary and tightly wound Emma, the conniving Luke and the stalwart Alex. Traipsing from past to present we see how their lives intersect and the driving forces behind the abominable crime which binds them together and changes their lives, or ends them.

Secrets and how far people will go to protect them are the heart of this gripping thriller, and Mitchell, a former police officer, shows a vast understanding of the human condition as she chaperones her readers through this tangled web of deception and betrayal to a nail-biting ending.

At the end of the day this is a strong thriller with an inventive premise and a cast of engaging characters whose innovative narrative drives the novel to its climatic conclusion.