Everything is Lies – Helen Callaghan #EverythingIsLies

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Everything Is Lies is published by Penguin on 22 February 2018

What if all your mother left you was a confession to a life you never knew she’d had . . .

When Sophia saw the note in her mother’s handwriting she felt a chill down her spine. ‘I can’t do this anymore. I will destroy him and I could destroy Sophia. I must make this right.‘ That’s when she looked out of the window; her mother’s body hanging from the big chestnut tree. Her father lying in a pool of his own blood.

The police suspect an attempted murder suicide. But Sophia could never believe that of her mother. She needs to clear her name name, and to do this she needs to wade into her murky past. But she soon discovers that the woman she thought she knew was involved in something so sinister it’s cast a shadow over her whole life . . .

Also by Helen Callaghan

Dear Amy

My thoughts

Helen Callaghan returns with a brand new psychological drama, Everything Is Lies. Her debut was Dear Amy, which I very much loved.

We get to know a Londoner in her twenties, Sophia. Sophia returns home to visit her parents, Nina and Jared. She finds her mother dead, in an apparent suicide and her father barely alive. Sophia is in shock. She wants answers. She finds herself looking into her family and its background. Who are her parents? Are they as normal and dull, as they very much appear? Sophia is soon uncovering long held secrets about Nina, via her written memoirs.

I absolutely had fun with this book. We all think we know the people around us. We really only know so much. Callaghan brilliantly exploits this weakness in our relationships with family. The book goes back in time to 1989 and follows a very vulnerable young female university student, Nina. This girl gets involved with the wrong crowd. Without giving too much away, we see manipulation and control played out. We start to understand how this can happen to anyone. We can all very easily be the victim, in the workplace or in relationships. In the present day, Sophia is seemingly much stronger than her mother. Sophia is having problems in the workplace with bullying and unprofessional behaviour. There is much food for thought.

This is my kind of read. It is a psychological tale, laced with truths about relationships. One to definitely look out for!

 

 

 

 

 

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Scared to Death – Kate Medina (Jessie Flynn Book 2)

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Scared to Death was published by Harper Collins on 4 May 2017

Everyone is afraid. But some fears can kill you.

A gripping new thriller featuring a brilliantly complex psychologist, Dr Jessie Flynn, who struggles with a dark past. Perfect for fans of Nicci French and Val McDermid.

Sometimes you should be frightened of the dark…

A baby is abandoned in the middle of the night. DI Bobby ‘Marilyn’ Simmons suspects the father is planning to take his own life following the violent suicide of his eldest son Danny a year earlier.

Meanwhile an investigation begins into the murder of trainee soldier Stephen Foster. Just sixteen years old, he has been stabbed in the neck and left to die in the woods.

When psychologist Dr Jessie Flynn sees connections between the deaths of Stephen and Danny, she fears a third traumatized young man faces the same fate…

Also by Kate Medina

Fire Damage – Jessie Flynn Book 1

White Crocodile by K T Medina

My thoughts

We first met Jessie Flynn in Fire Damage. She returns triumphantly in Scared to Death. I absolutely cannot wait to read Two Little Girls, which is out in 2018.

For those of you who haven’t discovered this excellent series, it follows a clinical psychologist who works in the armed forces. Jessie has a complex background, which has left her with OCD and severe guilt. She also has a tendency to get very involved with her clients. This background is slowly being revealed to us over the course of the series. Jessie gets some diverse cases to work on; from the soldiers dealing with post traumatic stress to the vulnerable who are identified by senior members of the military.

Dr Jessie Flynn finds herself working in combination with Captain Ben Callan of the Military Police and Detective Inspector Bobby ‘Marilyn’ Simmons, once again. A baby is found abandoned at a local hospital. The father is a suspected suicide risk. He has gone missing. In another case, a sixteen year old recruit to the army has been found dead, in suspicious circumstances. Did he kill himself or was he murdered?

Once again, Jessie finds her cases resonate. They remind her of the past, with the suicide of her younger brother and estrangement from her father. There is friction between Jessie and Callan, as work colleagues. Definitely sexual tension being worked out. We get multiple issues that are explored; children going to war, suicide, mental distress and how it is tackled in the armed forces, the impact of the care system and the implication of trauma in children and on relationships. All of these Kate Medina tackles skilfully and with thought and consideration. It is a fascinating and addictive. This is such a strong series, with its unique insight into military norms and culture.

Absolutely excellent! I am full of praise for this Jessie Flynn series.

Strongly recommended.

 

 

 

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Top 12 Crime Books of 2017

 

Hello and thanks for joining me for my annual celebration of the very best in crime.

This year, I have cheated a little. I have included one book (correction two books – haha!) that will be published in January 2018. This is because I do not want you all to miss out on something special.

In no particular order! They are all AMAZING…

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1.Fast Falls the Night by Julia Keller

My love for this series just grows. Fast Falls the Night is the latest instalment in the Bell Elkins legal crime series. I really want to sing its praises. Julia Keller writes beautifully. This is classy literary crime fiction. She raises awareness about poverty, drug addiction, the effects of unemployment and life in small town America. Her books focus on the very dark side of life. As well as this social commentary, we have a wonderful lead in Bell. In the latest story, Bell and her colleagues face a drug epidemic in their locality.

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2. Unforgivable – Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas became one of my favourite authors with his very excellent Unforgivable. He is a hidden talent in the world of crime. This book follows on from Thomas’s debut Ash and Bones. Will MacReady is the new boy in the police. The police force we see is brutal and hierarchical. A club where you have to earn your stripes. What makes this series stand out is the excellent attention to detail. Mike Thomas gives us a fabulous, authentic, action packed story. This time, terrorism strikes the heart of Cardiff.

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3. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is really gorgeous. This is one of those books that I absolutely adored, from the very first word. Eleanor is damaged and has retreated into her own little world. She tells herself she is ‘fine’. She is clearly not. There is a mystery about her. As the book unfolds, you start to know Eleanor and see what has made her that way. You fall in love with her. Unmissable.

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4. Little Deaths – Emma Flint

Little Deaths is powerful. It is quality historical crime, rooted in reality. Set in New York 1965, a working class woman is imprisoned for the murder of her two children. Throughout the book, we get to know the accused, Ruth Malone. Flint shows us just how tough life can be living under blatant prejudice and discrimination. This isn’t an easy read. It hits a nerve. It is very much meant to. Clever and outstanding.

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5. An Act of Silence – Colette McBeth

Colette McBeth shows she has her finger on the pulse with An Act of Silence. This is one of the best psychological thrillers I have read this year. It is intelligent and ever so twisted. This is the tale of a mother and son, a disgraced politician mother and her comedian son. It is about the abuse of power and about the complexity of modern family relationships. My tip is read everything Colette McBeth writes.

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6. The Killer – Susan Wilkins

If you have missed Susan Wilkins’ genre twisting gritty trilogy, then shame on you! This is one huge reminder to get your hands on them all. We got to know and love Kaz Phelps in The Informant and The Mourner. Now she is back in The Killer. The girl with attitude, from a criminal gangster family. Wilkins puts the grit in gritty, giving us a character who refuses to play the victim. Kaz is a marked woman. Watch her in action. She truly kicks ass!

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7. Western Fringes – Amer Anwar

Western Fringes is a fresh original crime novel from the pen of Amer Anwar. Set in the Asian subculture in Southall, it really ticks all the right boxes in bringing a vibrant community to life with a super dark story. It has some unforgettable characters. We get the most delightful pairing in Zaq and Jaqs, the two young men who are on the trail of a missing girl. They made me laugh. Anwar has just the right comic touch. Western Fringes is definitely one of the best, bringing to life diversity within the UK and a cracking story.

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8. The Lies Within – Jane Isaac

I’ve long been a fan of Jane Isaac. She is a talented crime writer, who has established herself as someone who can consistently produce high quality reads. Her Will Jackman series is just excellent and has me screaming with anticipation. In my opinion, The Lies Within is the best to date and I urge you all to see for yourselves. Part legal thriller, part police procedural with the addition of gorgeous Will Jackman as investigating officer, we follow the case of Grace Daniels. Grace is accused of murder. Did she do it?

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9. Perfect Prey – Helen Fields

This is perfection in a book. Perfection in a series. Perfect Prey follows on from Perfect Remains, which introduces French D. I. Luc Callanach and D. I. Ava Turner. This is crime with a very Scottish flavour. It is dark. It is brutal. It is just wonderful. Perfect Prey sees the city of Edinburgh turned into a blood bath. I absolutely cannot wait to see what happens next. Helen Fields is a must read author! Miss this, miss out!

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10. Sweetpea – C J Skuse

Sweetpea was a complete joy to read. Black comedy at its best. It was the dark quirky comedy of 2017. We follow Rhiannon, a woman who is a killer on the side. She is not all bad though. An anti-hero for 2017. A British female Dexter. We hear her thoughts through her diary. We get to know and love her. We understand why she bumps off certain people. I urge you all to read this one. It will make you smile!

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11. The Chalk Man – C. J. Tudor

The Chalk Man will finally be published in January 2018. Woohoooo!!! I have been shouting about this one for months. I predict it will be a best seller. It is special and wonderful. It has a touch of retro 1980s magic, some creepy chalk drawings, a bunch of kids and a gorgeous mystery. I read it in the summer and have been a massive fan since of C. J. Tudor. Look out for it. Remember the name. Pre-order it. Buy it! It is not long very until January! You will soon see what I mean …

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12. Love Like Blood – Mark Billingham

I love the Tom Thorne series, with a passion. He is one of the best detectives out there. Blunt, non PC and the sort of bloke you could have a drink with. We are now at book fourteen. For those of you who have managed to miss this series, please remedy this straight away. You have missed out on an outstanding series, that just gets better over time. In the latest instalment, we get the combination of Thorne, honour killings and a whole lot of trouble.

Special mentions

No list would be complete, without a few special mentions.

I would like to gush loudly about C. J. Carver‘s action packed thriller Know Me Now. You all want to meet Dan. Trust me on this. And of course Ruth Dugdall‘s My Sister and Other Liars which is a very unique pyschological thriller. It has the rather fascinating and disturbing setting of a psychiatric unit for adolescents with eating disorders.

Thank you! Here’s to more fabulous crime in 2018!

 

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This Is How It Ends – Eva Dolan

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This Is How It Ends is published on 25 January 2018 by Raven Books

‘Elegantly crafted, humane and thought-provoking. She’s top drawer’ Ian Rankin

This is how it begins.

With a near-empty building, the inhabitants forced out of their homes by property developers.

With two women: idealistic, impassioned blogger Ella and seasoned campaigner, Molly.

With a body hidden in a lift shaft.

But how will it end?

Also by Eva Dolan

Long Way Home

My thoughts

Eva Dolan has ventured into the sphere of the psychological thriller with This Is How It Ends. She has done it magnificently, bringing wit and depth to this tale of two women.

We enter into a very different subculture. A rather fascinating and vibrant one. This is the world of the activist. These are the people who take direct action, rather than sitting at home and moaning about what is wrong with the world. The people who demonstrate in public, with placards and get the attention of authorities. The ones who end up being kettled by the police. Some cause disruption, damage property and take part in other criminal actions. It is a world of petty jealousies and competitiveness. They regard newcomers with suspicion. These are people who want to change the world.

We meet two very different women, living this alternative lifestyle. The drama is followed from their two perspectives and jumps back and forwards between time-frames. Molly is the seasoned long term activist, who earned her stripes at Greenham Common. Ella is the young university Phd student and blogger, finding her feet and eager to make her mark against authority. We see they have a sort of mother/daughter relationship. Molly is protective and supportive of Ella, guiding her in this new environment. They are both camped out in a semi-derelict tower block in London, which is marked for development. They intend to be a thorn in the side of the developers, for as long as possible. Definitely we see shades of Grenfell Tower, as gentrification is a reality here. Social cleansing in action.

There is a death. A man is killed. He is left in a lift shaft. Only Molly and Ella know what happened. We follow the drama, as both women have to deal with the emotional repercussions of this terrible event. This incident leads to an increasingly complex web of lies and deceit. Can Ella trust Molly? Can Molly trust Ella?

This is incredible. A masterclass in uniting a strong storyline, with escalating tension and thoroughly complex characters. It is utterly unique. We get a dollop of realism. Dolan takes us right into the heart of this unfamiliar world, to see the realities of living an anti-establishment lifestyle. It is powerful. It is harsh. It is bleak. Although I guessed what was coming, I was completely enthralled by the way it played out.

Clever. Brilliant. Stunning. Top marks!

Highly recommended, for fans of quality crime.

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Friend Request – Laura Marshall

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Friend Request was published by Sphere on 27 July 2017

Maria wants to be friends.
But Maria is dead . . . isn’t she?

When Louise Williams receives a message from someone left long in the past, her heart nearly stops.

Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook.

Maria Weston has been missing for over twenty-five years. She was last seen the night of a school leavers’ party, and the world believes her to be dead. Particularly Louise, who has lived her adult life with a terrible secret.

As Maria’s messages start to escalate, Louise forces herself to reconnect with the old friends she once tried so hard to impress. Trying to piece together exactly what happened that night, she soon discovers there’s much she didn’t know. The only certainty is that Maria Weston disappeared that night, never to be heard from again – until now. . .

My thoughts

Friend Request is a reminder not to accept friend requests on Facebook from dead people! You probably knew that, right? It is also a cautionary tale, not to post your every move online. You never know who is watching you. Stay safe, people!

Friend Request is a rather cool psychological drama from Laura Marshall. She has her finger on the pulse, with this gem of a book. We see the slow torture of Louise via social media. Louise is being stalked. She starts to fall apart under the escalating pressure. It is very well done.

Louise is in her forties, a successful decorator who is divorced with a young son. She receives a friend request from a familiar name. It is Maria, a girl she went to secondary school with. Maria is dead. That is a fact. Maria died in tragic circumstances in 1989. Laura has a few dark secrets from her school days. She was part of a girl clique, that bullied Maria. Laura is invited to a school reunion, which brings all of the past flooding back. Things start to get increasingly desperate for Laura. She has a stalker. Someone wants her to pay for the past. Poor Laura!

I had loads of fun reading Friend Request. Marshall really makes Laura suffer psychologically for her sins. What makes it all very clever is that Laura is portrayed in a realistic way. It is easy to imagine a girl desperate to be with the ‘in crowd’ at school doing the wrong thing. I felt masses of empathy for young Laura, a girl who just wants to be liked. The grown up Laura is full of self awareness and guilt. She has grown from this experience. This is essentially a story about bullying and revenge. We see clearly there are no winners.

This is the book that will remind you how glad you are not to be a teenager. Friend Request is a proper page turner, executed with style. Recommended.

 

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The Devil’s Claw – Lara Dearman (@laradearman)

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The Devil’s Claw was published by Trapeze on 7 September 2017

The six drowned girls stared up at them from the photographs. All young. All attractive. All dead. ‘It is a lot of dead girls. And it’s a very small island.’

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AN ATMOSPHERIC NEW CRIME SERIES SET IN THE CHANNEL ISLANDS

Following a traumatic incident in London, Jennifer Dorey has returned to her childhood home in Guernsey, taking a job as a reporter at the local newspaper.

After the discovery of a drowned woman on a beach, she uncovers a pattern of similar deaths that have taken place over the past fifty years.

Together with DCI Michael Gilbert, an officer on the verge of retirement, they follow a dark trail of island myths and folklore to ‘Fritz’, the illegitimate son of a Nazi soldier. His work, painstakingly executed, has so far gone undetected.

But with his identity about to be uncovered, the killer now has Jennifer in his sights.

My review of the sampler – which contained the first few chapters of the book

The Devil’s Claw – Lara Dearman (sampler)

My thoughts

Murder linked to Guernsey’s dark war time history. Dark myths. Small town claustrophobia. A killer who has been taking his pleasure for half a century. What is not to love? I mean LOVE in capital letters. The Devil’s Claw delivers a deadly slice.

The Devil’s Claw is the debut twisted thriller from Lara Dearman. It sets the scene for a compelling series, introducing us to hardworking and traumatised journalist Jennifer Dorey. She unites with DCI Michael Gilbert, of the local police, to seek the truth. Gilbert’s own history of alcoholism then conversion to Christianity give him rather a unique perspective. These two characters are on a journey, personally and professionally. Dorey is back in her home town, after some terrible events in her life. A girl’s body is found on the beach. Dorey senses a story. She is tenacious. Soon she discovers a pattern of similar deaths stretching over a fifty year period. Who is the murderer in their midst? Dorey and Gilbert must seek out a killer, who has been hiding in the shadows for a very long time.

Let me say how much I appreciated the historical perspective of life in Guernsey under occupation. For those who do not know their history, Nazi Germany invaded the Channel Islands during the Second World War. The long term consequences of social disintegration sits heavily on the shoulders of our killer. Without giving much away, we follow the killer from his birth to the present day. We learn that his birth was a result of his mother’s frowned upon relationship with a German soldier, whilst the island was under occupation. This deeply hurt our murderer and his self identity. He sees himself clearly as a outsider and a victim. Murder is his way of taking back control.

This is more Broadchurch than blood bath. It is intelligent and psychological. Jenny Dorey return to Guernsey, to lick her wounds and heal. She rejoins a community, that she knows well. This is a place, where everyone knows everyone. It is a small community, with a long term memory. It is beautifully depicted by Lara Dearman. There is a fabulous sense of place, complete with cool and eerie folklore. As Dorey soon discovers, even in a seemingly tranquil place like Guernsey, there can be evil and deep seated secrets.

This is my kind of crime. Prose to die for. Evocative and thought-provoking. Two brand new characters to get to know and love. The satisfying promise of more. A deadly mystery, with its roots in the historical past. I am so hooked. Gripping stuff. I’m ready for the next instalment now, Lara Dearman!

Recommended!

 

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The Death Messenger – Mari Hannah (Matthew Ryan #2)

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The Death Messenger is published by Pan on 16 November 2017

Track a stalker. Catch a killer.

When a mysterious DVD is delivered to Northumbria Police Headquarters, DS Matthew Ryan and Detective Superintendent Eloise O’Neil are among the few to view its disturbing content. With little to go on the only lead comes from the anonymous and chilling woman’s voice narrating the blood-soaked lock-up depicted on screen.

But with no victim visible, nor any indication of where the unidentifiable crime scene is located, Ryan and O’Neil get the distinct feeling someone is playing with them. What is certain is that the newly formed special unit has just taken on its first challenging case.

As further shocking videos start arriving at police stations around the country, the body count rises. But what connects all the victims? And why are they being targeted? As the investigation deepens, the team is brought to breaking point as secrets from the past threaten to derail their pursuit of a merciless killer . . .

The Death Messenger is a tense police procedural follows The Silent Room in the thrilling Matthew Ryan series by Mari Hannah.

Also by Mari Hannah

Book 1 The Silent Room (Matthew Ryan #1)

The Kate Daniels series

Killing for Keeps – Kate Daniels #5

Gallows Drop – Kate Daniels #6

 

My thoughts

In 2015, Mari Hannah gave us The Silent Room. It was a strong and delicious thriller, with a dash of espionage. We all loved it. Me especially! Matthew Ryan returns in The Death Messenger, much to my total delight.

Ryan and O’Neill are back, with a seemingly impossible case to crack. Hannah reunites all of our favourites from The Silent Room, in a brand new elite team. Detective Superintendent Eloise O’Neill heads this unit. The unit is designed to tackle the trickiest of cases. The most challenging cases, wherever they occur. The cases that need a bit of thinking outside of the box. That is the brief.

A chilling DVD is delivered to a police station. Then another. And another. Someone has murdered. Has taken pleasure in death. The bodies are escalating. A killer is sending out modern day calling cards. DVDs of crime scenes, complete with a cold narration of what has taken place. Nothing seems to link the deaths. The victims are diverse. The settings are all over the place. Soon Ryan and O’Neill are on their way to various crime scenes, from Brighton to Scotland to Northumberland. All they have is a voice on a DVD, to link the crime scenes. Who is this mysterious female killer? What has fueled this killing spree? And why has she selected these particular victims? Can the team break this toughest of cases?

This is a demanding case. It sorts the men from the boys. It brings together this small team. It cements them, as they try to push forward to the truth. They face challenges from within, as they navigate trust and friendship. They face pressures from above, as they seem to be getting no-where.

In particular, Ryan and O’Neill are thrown together. They are Mulder and Scully. Working colleagues, with romantic potential. They sizzle with chemistry. They fight. They talk. They distrust. They learn to trust. They seek answers. They have integrity and a passion for the truth. I love them!

Mari Hannah effortlessly delivers with dry humour to sparkling dialogue to the most dark of crime scenes. Blood and chills. Grit and despair. She weaves a spell over the reader and makes us believe. Everything appears credible, from the forensics to the investigative techniques. We are totally in Hannah’s world, where Ryan and O’Neill rule.

Mari Hannah is at the top of her game. She is the crime author to keep an eye on. This is a stunning follow up to The Silent Room! The Death Messenger is a must read for serious thriller fans!

Highly recommended.

 

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