Last Stop Tokyo – James Buckler

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Last Stop Tokyo was published by Transworld Digital on 24 August 2017 and is available to buy here

The funny thing with suffering is just when you think you’ve suffered enough, you realize it’s only the beginning.

Alex thought running away would make everything better. Six thousand miles from the mistakes he’s made and the people he’s hurt, Tokyo seems like the perfect escape. A new life, a new Alex.

The bright lights and dark corners of this alien and fascinating city intoxicate him, and he finds himself transfixed by this country, which feels like a puzzle that no one can quite explain. And when Alex meets the enigmatic and alluring Naoko, the peace he sought slips ever further from his grasp.

After all, trust is just betrayal waiting to happen and Alex is about to find out that there’s no such thing as rock bottom. There’s always the chance it’ll get worse . . .

My thoughts

Today I will be walking around bearing the scars of being up half of the night reading. Last Stop Tokyo is to blame. How dare a book be that engrossing, that I ignore the need to sleep. Last Stop Toyko is the fabulous debut thriller from James Buckley.

If you have ever wanted to teach English abroad, in a foreign culture or to escape from the UK, Last Stop Tokyo is for you. It should act as a warning. That life may not entirely go as planned. That you could be leaping from the frying pan into the fire.

Alex is in his twenties. A young ex-pat English teacher living in Tokyo. He has things in his life, that he wants to move on from. Nightmares from England. So we get to know Alex, as he teaches his classes and tries to blend in. We see Tokyo and the Japanese culture, through his eyes. It is bewitching. It is alien. It is full of bizarre rules. Alex is fortunate to have an old friend in Japan, a Japanese man that he got to know in the UK. They meet up and socialise. Alex finds himself attracted to a gorgeous Japanese woman. Everything goes wrong for Alex, after he associates with Naoko. If ever I have wished impotency and the loss of sexual attraction on a character, it is Alex. Things get very crazy for Alex. His situation gets desperate.

I must admit to have never travelled to Japan in my life. Whilst I was reading, I had photos of Tokyo open on my laptop. It looks amazing. A beautiful vibrant urban city. I found the cultural aspects formed a fascinating part of the novel. Tokyo was a character in itself. The way the Japanese behave towards foreigners without giving much away is blatantly discriminatory. They will always trust a Japanese person, above a foreigner. We would never allow that kind of behaviour in the UK. As for women, I don’t know where to start. My eyes have been opened. My jaw dropped a fraction. Casual prostitution. Women as second class citizens. Slightly shocking.

This was a stunning debut, with an ending that left me in agony. I am assuming there will be a follow up. No author could be that cruel, to leave readers hanging. I definitely want more, James Buckley. I am putting in my order right now. Last Stop Tokyo is a strong and totally absorbing thriller, that I hope will become massive. It deserves a legion of fans!

Totally recommended to fans of the best crime.

 

 

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The Year of the Gun by Chris Nickson -Blog Tour Special Guest Post – Women in the Police

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It is a pleasure to welcome historical crime superstar Chris Nickson to the blog, with a special guest post. Chris gives us a bit of background on women in the police force.

I have loved Lottie, since we met her in Modern Crimes … Lottie was one of the first pioneer police women in Leeds. Now Lottie is back in a rather delicious new adventure, The Year of the Gun. It’s definitely going to be one of my favourite reads for 2017. If I had a TARDIS, I would go back to Leeds 1944 and say hello to Lottie.

What’s it all about?

1944: Twenty years after WPC Lottie Armstrong was dismissed from the Leeds police force, she’s back, now a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps.

Detective Chief Superintendent McMillan is now head of CID, trying to keep order with a depleted force as many of the male officers have enlisted. This hasn’t stopped the criminals, however, and as the Second World War rages around them, can they stop a blackout killer with a taste for murder?

 

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Women in the Police

Being a copper has never been an easy job, but for women the road to full acceptance has been especially hard, often sidelined and badly treated for decades by their male colleagues (Life on Mars was a fairly accurate portrayal of the 1970s). Things were even worse when WPCs first moved on to the beat.

During World War I, there was a Voluntary Women’s Patrol in Leeds. Begun in December 1914, it first covered the areas around Headingley football ground, Chapeltown Road, and Woodhouse Moor, and soon extended to Briggate and the market. The idea, according to a 1916 report by the Chief Constable, was “to define and assist in promoting a higher moral code among girls, and so to guide and encourage them that they will have every hope of becoming self-respecting citizens.”

Did it work? He seemed to believe so, as only six per cent of criminals appearing in court the year before had been young females.

As the war progressed, patrols began in other cities. In September 1918, Mrs. Florence Parrish, already the chief patrol officer in Leeds, was named as Women’s Patrol Leader. She was called a policewoman, but was sadly lacking in any real power. Why? Because she couldn’t be sworn in, as women weren’t ‘proper persons’ under the legal definition – the same reason they couldn’t vote or serve on juries.

She remained on the force after peace arrived and another policewoman, Miss Annie Carnegie Brown, joined her in April 1921.

Later that year, though, Mrs. Parrish resigned. Miss Brown did the same thing the following April. Why? The Leeds Police 1836-1974 doesn’t give a reason. But it might not be too hard to guess.

At that point, Leeds decided to end its experiment with policewomen. It was only for a short time, however. Early in 1923, Mrs. Florence G. Strickland became a WPC in Leeds. Her duties were still very limited: she was allowed to take statements about offences against women and girls, and she could deal with missing or destitute women, girls, and children. That was it. No powers of arrest.

She wasn’t a proper copper. That would have to wait – at least in Leeds. In Grantham, a member of the Women’s Police Service, Mrs. Edie Smith, became the first policewoman in Britain to have powers of arrest in 1915. Again, it was a voluntary position, and she only stayed for two years (she also worked seven days a week as matron of a nursing home).

Things did improve, albeit slowly and not so much in Leeds. In 1930, though, Dorothy Peto became a Superintendent in the Metropolitan Police in London. She was Staff Officer in charge of the Women’s Section, and two years later took charge of the Women’s Section until she retired in 1946. It’s worth noting that by the time she left, she had command of about 200 women, which was half the total number of policewomen in Britain.

The young Lottie Armstrong of Modern Crimes who walked a beat during 1924 in Leeds was a pioneer. So was the older Lottie of The Year of the Gun who became one of many to joined the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps during the Second World War. But well after she’d finally hung up her uniform, women still had a long, long way to go in the police force.

And now, finally, there’s a woman holding the most senior police rank in the UK – Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. About time, too.


My glowing review of the book

https://northerncrime.wordpress.com/2017/08/08/the-year-of-the-gun-chris-nickson/

Author’s website – https://chrisnickson.co.uk/

Chris Nickson on Twitter https://twitter.com/ChrisNickson2

To buy The Year of the Gun click here

lottie2ad

 

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Reviewing and Impartiality

What do I mean by impartiality?

not partial or biased, fair, just

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/impartiality

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Book reviewing is not impartial

I have been reflecting a great deal recently on the world of books and blogging. My conclusion is this, that book reviewing is not impartial. It is incredibly biased. I suppose it is all about sales and promotion. I can see all of that. My recent experiences seem to back, that this impacts on the reviewer. I have recently left social media completely. I have switched off Facebook and Twitter. I have come to the conclusion that by gaining close contact with authors and publishers, there is an assumption that I will read books favourably. I do not want to play that game. No one is entitled to get a good review from me, unless they deserve it.

Of course, we are always going to have some level of partiality in our criticism and enjoyment of books. I love noir and have a passion for a really dark read. I know that my sister, for example, does not share this love of dark crime. Her tastes are different to mine.

I judge every book on its merits. I am fair. If someone presents a book to me, as a psychological thriller, that is how I assess a book on reading. I know what a good book looks like. I see it all of the time. The majority of the books I have read this year have been given four or five stars. I think this proves that I am able to pick books that suit my tastes. I know when a publisher is pulling the wool over my eyes. Please do not bother to try and fool me and say a book is one thing, when clearly it is not. I will call you up on it.

I do not want to be that close to a publisher, publicist or author, that I am attacked when I do not provide a positive review. I do want to shower anyone with praise because of a close friendship. Nobody owns me. I recently have been abused and this has to stop. I got the old ‘you must realise that some books do not fall into neat categories treatment’. Right! My assessment of that book stands. I want to state categorially that I do not care what you or anyone else thinks. Once a book is published, the reader has the right to decide the labelling of a book and what they think of the contents. No one should be made to feel bad over a book review. No one should be abused openly because of a review. I refuse to be party to indirect insults either. I can see why some people leave the world of blogging. I am not leaving. I am sticking around.

I am going to continue posting my reviews on Goodreads, Amazon and on my blog.

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Three Days and A Life – Pierre Lemaitre

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Three Days and A Life was published on 13 July 2017 by MacLehose Press and is available to buy here

Antoine is twelve years old. His parents are divorced and he lives with his mother in Beauval, a small, backwater town surrounded by forests, where everyone knows everyone’s business, and nothing much ever happens. But in the last days of 1999, a series of events unfolds, culminating in the shocking vanishing without trace of a young child. The adults of the town are at a loss to explain the disappearance, but for Antoine, it all begins with the violent death of his neighbour’s dog. From that one brutal act, his fate and the fate of his neighbour’s six year old son are bound forever.

In the years following Rémi’s disappearance, Antoine wrestles with the role his actions played. As a seemingly inescapable net begins to tighten, breaking free from the suffocating environs of Beauval becomes a gnawing obsession. But how far does he have to run, and how long will it take before his past catches up with him again?

Translated from the French by Frank Wynne

My thoughts

Three Days and a Life is my introduction to Pierre Lemaitre. I couldn’t be more impressed. This is French noir. A true psychological study, into what happens when the wrong path is taken. Lemaitre gives us the most chilling account of a few days in the life of a child killer. It is incredible.

Three Days and a Life follows a twelve year old boy, in a rural town in France. Antoine seems to be an average lad, on the brink of being a teenager. He comes from a single parent family. He is lives in the very uninspiring Beauvil. The time is 1999, so it is set within recent memory. Antoine is devastated, when a neighbour’s dog is killed. He loved that dog. This seems to set off a chain of events.

Antoine accidently kills a neighbour’s child. It is a moment of rage, directed inappropriately. Instead of holding up his hand and admitting to the crime, Antoine makes a curious choice. He decides to hide the body and pretend it didn’t happen. He does not tell another soul. He walks away. His decision leads to increasing guilt. We quickly see that Antoine is suffering a living hell. He becomes very fearful of being exposed. All the scenerios that could possibly take place race through his mind. We hear his psychological agony. He is trapped. He fears than at any moment fingers will point in his direction. Guilty! He wants to run away. He cannot even access his saving’s accounts. So he has to stay. Reni, a six year old local boy, is soon declared missing. Everyone is looking for him. What happened to Reni? Only Antoine knows the truth.

The beauty of Three Days and a Life is that we believe in Antoine. His voice as a child is very strong. It is an authentic account of escalating tension and fear. Very moving. Antoine could easily speak out and tell the truth. Time and time again, he chooses not to. We get a glimpse into an adult Antoine. This man bears the scars of murder. Antoine behaves like an arrogant idiot, with a recklessness that catches up with him.

I loved this. Lemaitre is an expert, at exploring the horror of Antoine’s unique situation. Anyone who wants to know how to write escalating tension and true pyschological fear, should read this. Marvellous! Totally recommended.

 

 

 

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The Hummingbird – Kati Hiekkapelto (Anna Fekete #1)

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The Hummingbird was published by Arcadia Books on 15 September 2014 and is available to buy here

Anna Fekete, who fled the Yugoslavian wars as a child, has a past. Just beginning her career as a criminal investigator in a northern Finnish coastal town, she is thrust into a high-profile, seemingly unsolvable case that has riveted the nation. It doesn’t help that her middle-aged new partner, Esko, doesn’t bother hiding his racist prejudices, and Anna becomes the target of a systematic campaign to unsettle her. A young woman has been killed on a running trail, and a pendant depicting an Aztec god has been found in her possession. Another murder soon follows. All signs point to a serial killer, but can Anna catch the Hummingbird before he – or she – strikes again? And at what personal cost? Dark, gritty and filled with contemporary themes, this is a chilling, unforgettable book that you will find impossible to put down. Or forget.

The rest of the books in the Anna Fekete series:

Defenceless (book 2)

The Exiled (book 3)

My thoughts

I fell in love with the Anna Fekete series back in 2015. I read Defenceless and The Exiled. I puzzled over the enigma of Anna. She is a character, I truly appreciate. I have finally found the time to read the first book in the Finnish crime series, The HummingbirdThe Hummingbird very much sets the tone for the series. It is noir, done Finnish style. Beautiful.

We meet Anna, as she starts a new job. Anna is now working as a Senior Detective Constable, a plain clothed detective. She is paired with a misogynistic officer, Esko. Anna is very much perceived as an outsider. She is from an immigrant background, although she has been in Finland for twenty years and has assimilated. Racism appears be very much the norm, with colleagues openly referring to Anna’s ethnicity. Two cases dominate Anna’s early days as a detective. A young woman has been murdered brutally, whilst out jogging. Plus the behaviour of a young teenage Turkish Kurd girl causes concern for Anna. She made a phone call for help to emergency services. Murder and a potential honour violence case. Heavy going.

The cases start to take their toll on Anna. She goes from being a bit of a fitness freak, with regular jogging sessions to someone who is more careless. We see this in the way she gradually embraces the world of smoking, junk food and binge drinking. She has to cope with a partner, who seems to deliberately ignore or belittle her. I am pretty sure in the UK, the behaviour of Esko would not be tolerated to the same extent. She is also receiving strange threatening text messages. We see a caring side to Anna. She is so worried about the teenage Turkish Kurd girl, that she stalks the family and makes her presence known. She is not very detached, where this girl is concerned. She senses danger.

I love the way the author addresses immigration and the difficulty in settling in a new place. Anna is not from Finland. She lives there; but has an attachment to her homeland, to Serbia/Hungary. She is conflicted. She is neither one thing or another. Identity is complex and contradictory. Kati Hiekkapelto gives us insight into this. This means that Anna feels different, which is very much reinforced by the messages she is receiving from her work colleagues. This is odd. It is clear that there is widespread immigration of various ethnic groups into the region. They see her as ticking an ethnic box, as part of their attempt at multiculturalism. She uses all of this to her advantage, in trying to make sense of the Turkish Kurd family.

This is really excellent. A strong start to the series! Recommended!

 

 

 

 

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Kill Me Twice by Simon Booker – Blog Tour Extract

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Today on the #KILLMETWICE blog tour, I have an exclusive extract from the new Simon Booker thriller, featuring investigative journalist Morgan Vine. So take a few minutes to chill out, put your feet up and here you go …

About the book

Karl Savage is dead.
He must be. His ex, Anjelica, is in prison for murdering him in an arson attack. Multiple forensic experts testified to finding his charred remains.
So when Anjelica begs investigative journalist Morgan Vine to prove her innocence, it seems an impossible task. It doesn’t matter that Karl was abusive. That Anjelica has a baby to care for. That she’s petrified of fire. The whole world knows Karl is dead.
Then he turns up outside Morgan’s window . . .

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Exclusive Extract from Kill Me Twice

‘I’m not supposed to do this, but could I have your autograph?’

Morgan feels a blush steal across her face. Is this what happens when your book makes the Sunday Times bestseller list?

‘Of course.’

Rook clears his throat. Embarrassed.

‘I meant your daughter. I told my nephew I’d met the famous Lissa. Now he won’t stop pestering me.’

It’s the first time Morgan has seen her daughter smile since the attack on the cliffs. In the aftermath of her fleeting brush with fame, people regularly stopped her in the street. Those days are gone. Unwitting ‘star’ of a sex tape, she was a tabloid sensation, albeit briefly. Her particular brand of celebrity (famous for being famous) led to a couple of tacky reality shows before her career as a ‘celebutante’ fizzled out. No modelling contract. No Hollyoaks. No footballer boyfriend. Last month Celeb magazine mentioned her in a ‘Whatever Happened To?’ round-up, misspelling her name as ‘Lisa’.

Lissa sacked her agent and stayed in bed for three days. Morgan loves her daughter with every fibre of her being, but she’s not always easy to like.

‘What’s your nephew’s name?’ says Lissa, reaching for a pen.

‘Danny.’

The smile falters. Danny was the name of Morgan’s first love – the original Shit. Lissa scribbles a signature, then sinks back onto the sofa, jabbing an angry finger at her iPad.

The police officer leaves. Silence descends on the house on the beach.

Stacking the dishwasher, Morgan tries to imagine how it feels to be twenty years old and adrift in the world. Her own twenties passed in a blur. Single-motherhood. Low-level panic. Stress. Now Lissa is struggling too, but in her own way. PTSD has her in its grip. According to psychologists, ‘freezing’ is a common response to traumatic events. The word describes Lissa perfectly.

Frozen. Lost.

Darkness is falling. Outside, the waves are choppy and the sea mist is rolling in. It’s not yet seven thirty but Morgan longs for bed. Already woozy from the painkillers, she swallows two more then heats up the chicken soup she made earlier, while her daughter was sewing contraband into the lining of her jacket.

Morgan needs to decide what to do about Lissa, how to help her find her way in the world, a sense of purpose, but not tonight. Tonight she’ll deadbolt the doors and knock herself out with Zopiclone.

‘Soup and EastEnders?’

Lissa gives a wan smile.

‘Thanks, Mum. Love you.’

After supper, Morgan leaves Lissa to watch TV while running the vacuum cleaner over her daughter’s room. She chances upon an empty Smirnoff bottle stashed under the bed. She stares at it for a full minute, debating whether or not to take Lissa to task.

The discovery is disturbing. Drinking is one thing – secret drinking something else altogether. She decides to say nothing. For now.

Two hours later, brushing her teeth, she hears her daughter’s voice.

‘Mum? Phone.’

Emerging from the bathroom, wrapped in a towel, Morgan grabs her mobile. A familiar name flashes on screen. Nigel Cundy, resident psychologist at HMP Dungeness. He sounds smug, thrilled to be the bearer of bad news.

‘Thought you should know, in case the media get hold of it.’

‘Hold of what?’

‘Anjelica Fry. She tried to kill herself, an hour after your visit. She sharpened the edges of her crucifix, managed to slash her wrist.’

‘Jesus . . . Is she OK?’

‘She’s on the hospital wing. Under sedation.’ He pauses before delivering the coup de grâce. Words to guarantee another sleepless night.

‘She left a note – blaming you.’


 

If you want to find out what happens next …

Amazon UK Kill Me Twice by Simon Booker

Simon Booker on Twitter

KILL ME TWICE by Simon BookerBLOG TOUR

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House of Spines – Michael J. Malone

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House of Spines was published by Orenda Books on 16 August 2017 and is available to buy here

Ran McGhie’s world has been turned upside down. A young, lonely and frustrated writer, and suffering from mental-health problems, he discovers that his long-dead mother was related to one of Glasgow’s oldest merchant families. Not only that, but Ran has inherited Newton Hall, a vast mansion that belonged to his great-uncle, who appears to have been watching from afar as his estranged great-nephew has grown up. Entering his new-found home, he finds that Great-Uncle Fitzpatrick has turned it into a temple to the written word – the perfect place for poet Ran. But everything is not as it seems. As he explores the Hall’s endless corridors, Ran’s grasp on reality appears to be loosening. And then he comes across an ancient lift; and in that lift a mirror. And in the mirror … the reflection of a woman …

A terrifying psychological thriller with more than a hint of the Gothic, House of Spines is a love letter to the power of books, and an exploration of how lust and betrayal can be deadly..

My thoughts

House of Spines is the latest from Michael J. Malone. Malone previously gave us the rather excellent A Suitable Lie. This time, we get a gripping modern day gothic novel. It has all the essential ingredients; a creepy haunted house, a ghostly apparition and a family that seem to be dreadfully unlucky.

House of Spines introduces a rather fascinating man in his twenties. Ranald McGhie is an impoverished writer, with a complicated mental health history. He is told that he is the beneficiary of a Mr Alexander Fitzpatrick, his mother’s uncle. He has been left a stately house, with an extensive library. This all seems very promising. Who wouldn’t want to inherit a home, complete with a couple of servants to see to its upkeep? Ran is quite enthusiastic to leave his grotty flat and move into his new palatial home. With haunted mirrors, ghostly figures and a massive house to explore, Ran soon finds his days pass quickly. How much of what is happening around Ran is due to his declining mental health? Or is the house really haunted?

I do love a good gothic mystery, with that growing air of dread. A house full of secrets. Spooky shadows. Creeking floor boards. An ancient house that reeks of mystery. Poor old Ran stuck in the middle of it all. My kind of book!

With Ran, we slowly get to know Newton Hall and the local area. We see that Ran is very conflicted. He has a new home. That is a major plus. Yet his anxieties are escalating and he is keeping himself more and more apart from his old life. Ran has a history of bipolar disorder. This mental health condition means that we are forever wondering about Ran’s perspective. Can we believe his account of events? Is everything a result of Ran’s escalating mania? Is the house genuinely haunted? As a plot device this works very well, the instability of Ran adds to the climate of uncertainty. At times, I was a little unconvinced about the portrayal of manic depression. It is literature though and I can be forgiving, when I am loving the journey.

This is a super gothic tale, with a modern day mental health slant. Michael J. Malone hits all the right creepy melodramatic buttons. We soon love Ran. We fear for his sanity. We worry about that house. Recommended!

 

 

 

 

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