The Olympian Review: A Glitzy Jet-Setting Thriller

the olympian

Having recently interviewed author Mark Atley I was keen to read his debut novel, The Olympian.  

The titular Olympian is a guy called Samuel, who is being blackmailed by a bookie while on a family vacation. His holiday is intercepted by a bookkeeper who is determined to get back money that someone else skipped town with.

Set in an all-inclusive Mexican resort owned by a cartel, it features a strange cast of characters that are all equal parts evil, strange and dastardly. As more characters from both Samuel’s past and the cartel’s roster of criminal associates arrive the plot thickens and the reader is drawn into a complex plot involving love, money, drugs and much more.

There’s Johnny, an escaped criminal on the run from his bondsman and his bookie with a load of stolen cash, as well as a journalist and her cameraman, attending a bizarre intervention that is quickly derailed by everyone else’s criminal activities. The plot quickly spirals forward and the reader is propelled on a strangely compelling journey.

The only downside The Olympian is the slightly stilted dialogue. Ately’s characters are intriguing, two-dimensional individuals, yet they speak like robots that have, at one point read a Raymond Chandler novel.

For all of its dialogue flaws, the novel is still fast-paced and deeply thrilling. Readers are invested in following the plot as it rattles on towards a gripping finale. There are plenty of twists and turns along the way, and with so many characters the reader has to work hard to keep on top of who’s aligned with whom as each moves to outwit the others.

At the end of the day, I’m impressed by Atley’s debut and keen to find out what’s in store for his next book. The Olympian will be a tough act to follow, but with a few enhancements any future books have the potential to be bestsellers.

 

 

 

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A Killing Sin Review: A Gripping Thriller To Enjoy While You Laze Around In The Summer Sun

a killing sin

Whilst searching for a read to keep me company over the warm summer weekend, I found A Killing Sin lounging on a pile of books to be read, which is worryingly tall.

So I decided to give it a go. I had been a bit sceptical about this book since I received it. After all, a book about Islamic terrorism could be full of lazy stereotypes and boring one-dimensional characters.

Instead, K.H. Irvine has created a really great novel that perfectly blends thrills and human emotion to really make the reader think and keep their attention throughout.

In a world much like ours but in the slight future, three completely different women, joined by a fragile university friendship, lead separate lives, until one day draws them all together and changes their lives forever.

There’s Amala Hackeem, lapsed Muslim tech entrepreneur and controversial comedian, who dons a burqa and, completely out of character, heads to the women’s group at the Tower Hamlets sharia community.

Meanwhile, her friend Ella Russell, a struggling journalist, leaves home in pursuit of the story of her life. Desperate for the truth, she is about to learn the true cost of the war on terror and find out some facts that may be hard to swallow.

Finally, Millie Stephenson, a university professor and expert in radicalisation arrives at Downing Street to brief the Prime Minister and home secretary. Nervous and excited she finds herself at the centre of a nation taken hostage.

All of these three women’s lives are entwined in this one day as the leap between normal people and extremists blurs. Jumping between times, spaces and actions, the book is fast-paced and requires your attention: but don’t worry, it’s so gripping you won’t want to put it down!

So if you’re searching for your perfect summer thriller, look no further. A Killing Sin will keep you hooked from page one and won’t let you go.

Violence Against Women Doesn’t Have To Be A Staple In Crime Fiction Today

the staunch prize

Just to remind y’all, it’s 2019. We shouldn’t really be debating the legitimacy of offering a prize for crime fiction that praises books for avoiding the portrayal of the death, mutilation and general violence against women.

Recently the Guardian highlighted the growing upset amongst crime writers who are unhappy about comments that fictional portrayals of rape can hinder trials. Whilst this is a sad fact, it also should be noted that anything to stop the decriminalisation of rape in law courts should be embraced wholeheartedly.

I understand the other side of the argument: that men continue to commit these crimes, so writers should continue to write about them. And I actually agree. Write about them all you want.

However, the crime fiction and thriller genres have, for decades, been heavily focused on portraying women as victims, with many lazily plotted books centred exclusively on the gruesome depiction of the violence committed by a man against a woman or women.

By turning women in a commodity which authors can then use as plot devices, the crime fiction genre has highlighted the deep-seated misogyny that underpins not only the foundations of the genre, but also society itself. There’s nothing wrong with including violence against women, but make them at least two-dimensional characters, not just objects to be killed and hurt.

Also, writers should consider having even more women in more dynamic roles, not just as detectives but also as suspects, witnesses and people with their own agency.

For those who are true mavericks, the idea of creating a book with no violence against women at all should be considered. It’s a great idea and I applaud the prize that is aiming to showcase those books that do not portray women merely as objects and murder victims.

Consider, for one fucking second, the people who have very little say in this but who are the most important: the women who are real-life victims of male violence. They deserve to be able to find books that don’t trigger them but are thrilling, exciting and adventurous. They deserve to be more than just plot points.

Books can be triggering and cause readers trauma, and as such I think its great that a prize is trying to showcase the books that are reducing the amount of violence against women they portray. Whilst I understand that it is a real part of life (I’m a woman, I get catcalled about four times a month and groped at least once every six weeks, it’s a sad reality), there’s something to be said for calling out crime fiction and thrillers as the genres that showcase it the most and highlighting those writers who have written books that do not use women simply as plot points.

So in all, what I’m trying to say is that crime fiction writers who want to continue writing about violence against women should go the fuck ahead. But don’t dismiss so easily a prize that is aimed at those who, deliberately or not, have no women being raped, murdered, stalked or mutilated. It’s that easy.

Come Back For Me Review: Summer’s Contender For Most Enticing Plot

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Firstly, apologies for the lack of posts over the past week, I’ve been on a very exciting work trip to the beautiful city of Dubai!

Whilst I was out there I took one of the ever-growing stack of books that I still haven’t got round to reading to keep me occupied during my long waits at the airport. As I wanted something I knew I would enjoy I selected Heidi Perks’ latest novel, Come Back For Me. 

Having already read and reviewed her previous novel, Now You See Her, I was certain that I would enjoy her latest offering, and I wasn’t wrong.

Come Back For Me tells the story of therapist Stella who, as a young child, fled with her family in the middle of the night from their home on a remote island off the coast of Dorset (my home county and the best place in the world, fact). A fictional place named Evergreen, Stella’s childhood memories show an idyllic space where her family gambolled and played happily and freely.

Now living in Winchester, Stella is a family counsellor hoping to support other families that have been through trauma such as her own, without fully understanding or acknowledging the seismic events that led to the breakdown of her own family all those years ago.

That is until one day a news item appears announcing that a body has been found on Evergreen, at the site of Stella’s beloved former family home. She is shocked to discover that there might be more to her past than meets the eye, and as such she sets out on a quest to find out the truth about what drove her family to flee.

Perks is a skilful and brisk storyteller, and as a result Come Back For Me is a fast-paced thriller that readers will hardly be able to stop reading. Every time I felt I could put a bookmark in and go do something for a bit I found myself driven further into the narrative by the gripping plot and the incredible sense of foreboding that haunts every aspect of the narrative, from Stella’s prickly sister Bonnie and haunted brother Danny through to the enticement of her trip back to Evergreen, which seeps out of the pages and makes the reader almost urge her on to go and check it out.

So in all, if you’re looking for a tantalising and thrilling tale to keep you occupied this summer, I can recommend nothing better than Come Back For Me. Trust me when I say that you won’t be able to put it down or forget it in a hurry.

Killing Eve Season Two: Even Better Than The First!

Killing Eve Season 2

Just in case you’ve been living in a cave or something, there’s a new season of the brilliant Killing Eve out, with all eight episodes available to stream on the BBC iPlayer.

Although technically a spy show, the first series did not dwell on this aspect of the narrative, instead focusing on the relationship between Sandra Oh’s Eve, an MI6 Agent, and Jodie Comer’s serial killer Villanelle.

In this latest season, the spying really coming into the fore, with Fiona Shaw getting a much larger role (thankfully!) and delivering both laughs and shocks. I’ve always been a bit annoyed by spy novels or shows that try to bring in too much of a human element to their narratives, as if plot and spying aren’t as relevant or interesting.

Season two offers both a closer look at this, frankly unhinged relationship and the role MI6 plays in tracking down criminals and security threats. Villanelle is both brilliantly witty and expertly playing the system as she overcomes her dramatic stabbing from the end of season one and enters the real fray, working against the organisation that employed her previously.

Later episodes show the real power of MI6, and any Fiona Shaw fans will be impressed by her exquisite performance. She offers her lines with relish and there’s something uniquely powerful about her, even when she’s in vulnerable positions.

As well as being a great thriller, Killing Eve is also deeply feminist, and it’s a real pleasure to be able to see women in positions of real power, working alongside men and being respected. Eve and Carolyn are not in their roles because of diversity: they are there because they are bloody good at their jobs, and that’s refreshing, even in 2019.

Personally, I binge watched the entire second season in one day pretty much as soon as it came out, but if, unlike me, you have an actual life and don’t want to waste your precious free time on a show that sucks, please, take it from me, this one really doesn’t.

At the end of the day, Killing Eve has everything you could possibly want from a spy thriller: death, international terrorists, security services, guns, sex, violence, the lot and more. Throw in some truly fabulous fashion, great writing and beautiful locations and you something genuinely spectacular.

Proximity Review: A Tantalising Thriller About The Terrors of Technology

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Personally, I’ve long thought that Jem Tugwell was an awesome writer. I interviewed him previously and was so taken by his idea I requested an early view of his at-the-time unfinished novel, Proximity.

The novel’s plot was one of such a uniquely original and fascinating idea that I just knew it would be a hit. Jem is a skilled writer and I could see at once that this was a truly creative, original idea that was in capable hands.

The premise is a simple one: in the future, people are embedded with technology that tracks where they are and what they do. As such, crimes are pretty much gone, as anything that happens can be tracked and the culprits apprehended.

In Proximity, everyone is accountable for their actions, and every aspect of their lives, from the food they consume through to the transport they take, is logged and controlled in the interested of benefiting society as a whole. After all, with fewer substance abuse, weight and exercise based health issues and less crime, costs will be reduced for the taxpayer, which is at least how Jem’s fictional society justifies its innovative new approach to government.

As a result, civil liberty is sacrificed for the good of society, as everyone’s thoughts and feelings are downloaded onto software embedded in their minds. Jem worked for more than two decades in the software development market, but he manages to perfectly combine expert technical insight with great storytelling to create a book that is equally fascinating and accessible.

Soon into the novel this causes trouble, with a crime coming in under the radar and forcing the now pretty much superfluous police force to put their thinking caps on. When things get personal and more murders are committed, the team is left to uncover the truth behind who could’ve both committed the crimes and tampered with the technology to cover it up.

Throughout the novel, the author’s eye for detail and exceptional characterisation drive readers towards the nail-biting conclusion. Everything, from the tightly wound plot to the tense dialogue, is designed to keep the reader hooked, and it works. You won’t be able to put Proximity down, and you’ll be happy about it.

So, in conclusion, when Proximity becomes the bestseller it deserves to be and Jem Tugwell is the name everyone’s talking about, just remember, you heard it here first.

The Savage Shore Review: An Enchanting and Gripping Thriller

the savage shore

Having previously participated in David Hewson’s blog tour in which I interviewed him about his work, I felt it was only right that I also review his latest novel, The Savage Shore, and give you my honest thoughts on the book.

It’s one of the early publications of a new publishing imprint, Black Thorn Books, and is part of Hewson’s longstanding Nic Costa series about the search for the truth in the heart of Italy.

Throughout Hewson’s series, which spans nearly ten books and is back after a break of a decade, Costa and his team have explored the history, culture and politics of Italy in search of the criminals behind a string of diabolical crimes.

In this latest incarnation, The Savage Shore, Costa has to infiltrate a ruthless and deadly mafia organisation with the help of a turncoat witness who may very well have his own agenda. In an unfamiliar location with a fake identity, Costa is surrounded by enemies and in grave danger.

The novel has that perfect blend of pace; fast, but with enough time to describe the scenery and evoke a sense of setting for the reader. Hewson’s work has the advantage of being set in the beautiful and evocative Italy, rather than somewhere grim and dank, like Scunthorpe, but the author’s exquisite sense of timing and sumptuous descriptions shine through none the less.

With everything from intrigue and lies through to murder and threats on the table, this ingenious thriller grips the reader from the beginning and draws them in to the elite yet frightening world of organised crime in which Costa now finds himself operating as he works with the head of a notoriously brutal branch of the mafia to unravel the organisation from the inside.

In short, this is a really concise, ingenuous thriller that leaves no doubt in my mind that Black Thorn Books has bloody good taste.