Gazelle In The Shadows Review: A Sizzling Portrayal of Spying in Syria

gazelle in the shadows

Former Foreign Office employee Michelle Peach offers a truly gripping thriller that draws on her own personal love of travel, in particular Arabia and Syria, where the novel is set. Thanks to an educational background focused on the region, and time spent at an embassy there, Peach is able to offer a fascinating story that expertly weaves an evocative setting into a breath-taking adventure.

The plot centres around a young woman named Elizabeth who, having excelled at Arabic studies at University in England visits and falls in love with the region and settles into an amazing life in Damascus. Kind and caring, she makes new friends and soon comes to love this beautiful country and the people who call it home.

However, it isn’t long before things take a dark turn and she is thrown into a world of lie, deceit and espionage, with no idea who to trust and danger lying in wait around every corner. Intense and fast-paced, the novel is packed with intrigue and brings readers into contact with a myriad of unique characters who capture the imagination and drive the plot forward.

From the very first sentence Peach creates an atmosphere of tension that permeates throughout the novel, and with many exhilarating plot twists readers will find it difficult to put this engaging thriller down.

Accurately capturing President Hafez al-Asad’s Syria, the novel takes readers on a journey through this beautiful land, and as such, as much as it is a coming-of-age novel and a thriller, it could also be seen as a postcolonial depiction of the region. Sensitively navigating the difficult issues of class, race and gender, Peach packs a lot into one beautifully crafted narrative.

With such strong plotting, tense narrative and cleverly constructed characters Gazelle In The Shadows is a great thriller to keep you entertained as the nights draw in and you find yourself in need of an exciting story to keep you entertained.

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Truth and Lies Review: A Nail-Biter From Start To Finish

truth and lies caroline mitchell

Another awesome Blog Tour post for you today! This time I checked out Caroline Mitchell’s latest novel Truth and Lies, in which the hunt for a kidnap victim turns sinister when it links to a decades old case and a manipulate psychopath who is trying to use her knowledge of the burial places of her victims as leverage.

Drawing on the author’s background in the police, the novel focuses on DI Amy Winter, who is still reeling from the loss of her beloved father when she learns a shocking revelation: she is in fact the daughter of renowned serial killer Lillian Grimes. Grimes leverages her position as Amy’s mother and the wife of a serial killer to manipulate her and those around her, and as Amy battles this and fights to uncover the truth behind a high profile kidnapping startling truths are revealed.

Much like Emelie Schepp’s brilliant debut novel Marked for Life, Truth and Lies revolves around Amy’s struggle to keep her past from destroying her present, and in so doing entering into a web of deceit that threatens to upend everything she has worked so hard for. Her relationships with her adoptive family and her friends are tested, and Mitchell’s exceptional characterisation shines through here, as we see many well-honed, multi-dimensional characters and relationships being put to the test by both this latest kidnapping and Lillian Grimes’ shocking revelations.

There are twists throughout the novel, and whilst at first I was annoyed that certain revelations were made too early, I gradually came to realise that the novel is so deviously plotted that it would have been difficult to confine all the twists to the final pages.

Being so hard to put down, this book is one to consume quickly, and as such I would thoroughly recommend Truth and Lies to anyone embarking on a late holiday, or anyone who simply fancies a gripping page-turner. There’s also a great cliff-hanger ending, so I’m definitely looking forward to the next instalment and can’t wait to find out what will befall DI Winter in the future!

Bodies From The Library Review: A Perfect Example Of An Anthology Done Right

bodies from the library

Fans of Golden Age fiction, or those studying this intriguing topic, need look no further for a compendium on the subject than Bodies From The Library, which offers not only a selection of heretofore unnoticed or, in some cases, unpublished, stories, but also an excellent introduction by Tony Medawar.

Anthologies are a great way to get into new authors, and with the recognisable names such as Agatha Christie and A. A. Milne tucked safely at the end, there’s much to discover for even avid crime fiction fans. Whilst it may be tempting to skip to the end and read in the wrong order just to see a familiar name, I’d advise against it- there are some real gems throughout this invigorating read, which takes its name and purpose from an annual crime fiction conference held at the British Library.

Among the real corkers is a brilliant short story by J. J. Connington, a name I’d previously never heard, but have since been enthralled by, so much so that I’ve used an Amazon voucher I was given recently for my birthday to investigate some more of his work. Big names jostle for attention against virtually unheard of names and pseudonyms, and with insight and knowledge the anthology provides a great way to get to dig out some new reads, as well as learn more about old favourites.

There’s something for everyone in this charming anthology, with really great script ‘Calling James Braithwaite’ by Nicholas Blake, and another by Ernest Bramah; a longer, cunningly plotted mystery called The Girdle of Dreams by Vincent Cornier; and a short and sweet tale of murder and misdirection, namely The Euthanasia of Hilary’s Aunt by Cyril Hare. As a post-script, each tale is accompanied by a short biography of its author, as well as the heritage of the story itself, making the book both engaging and educational.

And of course, there is the revered story from the Queen of Crime herself, Agatha Christie. Originally published in 1922 in the Australian publication Home Magazine, the story is one not often found in collections, and as such is a real treat for Christie fans. Whilst it might be tempting to skip straight to it and avoid the rest of the book, as explained earlier, I would sincerely urge you not to. There is so much in this unique collection that deserves to be read, and I promise you will not regret reading it from cover to cover.

To summarise, whilst there are some less interesting stories, the majority are utterly riveting, and as already mentioned there is something for every reader regardless of their preference. If you’re a fan of Golden Age crime fiction, you’ll love Bodies From The Library.

South by Southwest Wales Review: A Nice Try Let Down By Inconsistencies

south by southwest wales

There’s something about thriller writing that leaves authors partial to creating absurd titles for their work. I’ve noticed it a lot over the years since I started studying crime fiction and thrillers at University. It’s a great idea, as a catchy, truly different title draws the reader in. Unfortunately, this does also give the reader high expectations, which aren’t always met.

A great example of this is David Owain Hughes’ novel South By Southwest Wales, which offers the promise of a humorous thriller and gives only confusion and disinterest. I should start by saying that Hughes is a really lovely guy, and a great writer of horror stories, but in this novel he loses the reader in a big way.

What quickly becomes apparent quickly to the reader, is how inconsistent the novel is. Whilst Hughes tries hard to get across his message that Cardiff is not Chicago, and it doesn’t need a Private Eye like Valentine, we are quickly confronted in the first few pages with a jazz joint and a scene in which a man sleeps with a hooker in an alleyway next to an tramp who is injecting heroin into his arm. All of this would suggest not only that the Cardiff Hughes is portraying is remarkably similar to Chicago, but that it could really use a decant PI to have a whip round and clear it up.

Much like J.K. Rowling’s Cormoran Strike novels, in South By Southwest Wales readers swiftly notice the difference between what the author tells us and what they are actually portraying, and in this case the difference is stark. As a result, the novel offers an unnerving, unbelievable undertone that makes it hard to take seriously.

Now, I agree, with a title like South By Southwest Wales there is room for argument that Hughes never intended the novel to be taken seriously, but that is definitely up for debate. Neither fish nor fowl, neither entirely funny nor thrilling, the novel often comes up short.

Whilst the dialogue is sharp and the one-liners, many of which are not entirely original, are ever-present, there is definitely something lacking in protagonist Samson Valentine. He’s no Sam Spade, and he’s certainly no Philip Marlowe, and frankly he’s a bit of a let down. Underneath all that bravado and tough talk is a very boring character with delusions of grandeur. In hardboiled detective fiction, which I believe this is aiming to be, the central detective is everything, and as such the novel lacks an anchor and as such floats along blindly attempting to be both satirical and enticing, and failing at both.

Overall, being neither incredibly funny nor breath-takingly thrilling, South By South Westwales is a let down on all fronts, but with some witty one-liners and a not-bad plot there is something for you to get your teeth into if you are so inclined.

The Mystery of Three Quarters Review: Another Great Adventure for Sophie Hannah’s Poirot

the mystery of three quaters

Poirot’s latest outing is a true representation of the Queen of Crime’s work- with a convoluted plot and a range of odd characters, the novel has all the classic hallmarks of a true Poirot mystery.

Sophie Hannah’s incarnation of Agatha Christie’s pristine, pedantic Belgium sleuth is an intriguing portrayal of human drama and emotion, although the limited number of murders is almost disappointing for fans of Christie and her vast body counts.

The mystery begins with an irate woman waiting for the detective outside his home. She accuses him of writing her a letter in which he claims to know that she has murdered a man named Barnabas Pandy- a man she claims not to know. Shortly afterwards, a man arrives with a similar story.

So begins an intriguing tale of misdirection and mayhem, all set against the usual backdrop of British institutions: the private boy’s school, the stuffy lawyer’s office and the vast country pile.

With four letters sent in total, Poirot delves into the mystery and soon discovers lies, deceits and many generally strange goings on. Hannah skilfully embodies many of Christie’s renowned tropes, however the reduced body count plays on my mind throughout the novel. Despite this, it is a well-done impersonation of the Queen of Crime, and readers will be impressed by how quickly they are hooked by this engaging mystery.

Twee, quaint and at times just a little absurd, The Mystery of Three Quarters gives readers everything they look for in a traditional Christie. Poirot’s on going fixation throughout the novel with a café owners’ ‘church window cake’, (which is basically a Battenberg cake under a different name) and its supposed relevance to his case is one of the lighter moments of the novel, which, like many of Christie’s own creations, often dresses up incredibly dark moments and calculated deceptions as whimsical and merely something to be observed.

It is in her characterisation that Hannah truly excels, creating a range of characters that are in equal parts pitiable and utterly vile. The majority of her suspects have few attributes to recommend them as even remotely decent human beings, and yet Hannah manages to make them vaguely sympathetic, giving the reader something to ponder alongside the mystery itself.

When all’s said and done, readers will be hard pressed to find any reason not to believe that The Mystery of Three Quarters was actually written by Christie, thanks to Hannah’s skilful characterisation and attention to detail. That’s all anyone really wants when reading a reincarnation of a character who original author is long dead, and the book not only succeeds in this area, but triumphs thanks to its ingenious plotting and exceptional characterisation.

 

Skyjack Review: A Novel That Will Hold You Hostage

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My second book tour post today is a review of the thrilling new hostage negotiation novel that has the plot of a Hollywood movie. I didn’t mean to schedule them on the same day, but one date looks very much the same as the next when it’s warm and sunny outside! So have a look at my review of this latest edge-of-your-seat roller-coaster of a book which will soon be THE novel to take with you to the beach.

K.J Howe’s sequel to the renowned The Freedom Broker brings back hostage negotiator Thea Paris. This time, she’s on a flight to take two former child soldiers to a new life when her plane is hijacked. Separated from the boys she is minding, Thea and her team undertake a desperate search for the truth which leads them to some deep conspiracies that reach deep into the heart of many of the world’s key organisations.

Sinister and overwhelming in equal measure, the novel penetrates right to the heart of organised society and explores the greed, violence and injustice inherent in humankind, as well as the lengths people will go to in order to stop it. Thea Paris is a truly inspirational character; a woman who is both sympathetic and at the same time intelligent- her emotions do not blind her to reality, unlike many female characters in similar positions, making her even more engaging and exciting when you think of how many male protagonists there are in this genre.

Short, sharp sentences punctuate the narrative, keeping the novel tightly wound from the first chapter right through to the nail-biting conclusion. Keeping readers guessing throughout, Howe creates a truly un-put-downable book that is impossible to forget about or ignore. Her multidimensional characters are impressive considering there are many and some have very limited time spent on them.

At the end of the book I felt truly immersed in Thea’s gripping world, which, fundamentally, is what you’re looking for in a good thriller.

 

 

 

Now You See Her Review: Deeply Deceitful and Deliciously Dark

Now You See Her Hi-Res Cover Image

For my first book tour review of the day, I checked out Hedi Perk’s new novel Now You See Her. Upon reading the blurb initially, the novel put me in mind of Shari Lapena riveting thriller The Couple Next Door, a book that I thoroughly enjoyed.

After all, both feature the disappearance of children and the lies people tell when they’re in hot water. In the case of Now You See Me, the little girl in question is named Alice; she’s staying with her mother’s best friend and her children when she unexpectedly disappears.

Her devastated mother Harriet can’t bear to speak with or see her former friend, however, just weeks later the pair are both being questioned about the child. Lies and deceits are bought into the glaring light of day, leading both friends to question everything they thought they knew about the other.

High on suspense and quick to twist, the novel packs the narrative thrills, although at times I am not entirely convinced by the characters. Perhaps it is my own personal lack of experience with suburban mothers, but I find myself wondering if peoples’ friendships and behaviors towards each other are quite the way they are here.

Now You See Her Blog Tour Banner

That being said, the novel is definitely a page-turner, with some tense standoffs and gripping dialogue. Perk really captures the desperation through her portrayal of Alice’s mother and her unfortunate friend, and the reader is constantly on a knife-edge as they try to keep one step ahead of the narrative, which speeds away just as you feel you’ve got a grasp on what’s happening and who’s telling the truth.

Overall an gripping tale, I am impressed with Now You See Her, and am certain that, given a few weeks, the novel will be snapped up by some Hollywood studio, and Reese Witherspoon will have snagged herself a key role.