The Old Religion – Martyn Waites

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The Old Religion was published on 14 June 2018 by Zaffre and is available to buy here

He was running from his past.
She was running from her future.
Sometimes helping a stranger is the last thing you should do . . .

The Cornish village of St Petroc is the sort of place where people come to hide. Tom Killgannon is one such person. An ex-undercover cop, Tom is in the Witness Protection Programme hiding from some very violent people and St Petroc’s offers him a chance to live a safe and quiet life.

Until he meets Lila. 

Lila is a seventeen-year-old runaway. When she breaks into Tom’s house she takes more than just his money. His wallet holds everything about his new identity. He also knows that Lila is in danger from the travellers’ commune she’s been living at. Something sinister has been going on there and Lila knows more than she realises.

But to find her he risks not only giving away his location to the gangs he’s in hiding from, but also becoming a target for whoever is hunting Lila.

Also by the same author (as Tania Carver)

Heartbreaker – Tania Carver

The Lost Girl – Tania Carver

My thoughts

When Martyn Waites was writing as Tania Carver, he was easily one of my favourite authors. I dived into The Old Religion with high expectations and trust in the author.

The story introduces a newcomer to St Petroc in the West Country. It is a place that is slowly dying, with shops closing and zero investment. Typical rural England on its last legs. Tom Killgannon is now based there, under witness protection. Poor bloke. He has a job in the local pub. He is the typical outsider, in a community of eccentrics set in their ways and drowning in village tradition. Two major events occur. A student disappears from the locality. Then Tom finds a desperate runaway teenage girl Lila, in his home. She steals his coat, which had all of his new ID information in the pocket. Silly place for him to keep important stuff. He is soon trying to track Lila down, looking for clues in the cult like commune, she lives in. He draws attention to himself. Not good. He mentions Noah, Kai and something called ‘the Morrigan’. This leads to Tom being very much ostracized from the local community. Things gets weird and weirder still, in a sort of Wicker Man (1973) kind of way.

Martyn Waites can write crime to perfection. It is really strange. The Old Religion felt like an old grainy horror movie, with an odd present day Brexit setting. Imagine a retelling of The Wicker Man (1973), with a touch of The Daemons (Doctor Who 1971) and a sprinkle of Nigel Farage. Yep, see what I mean. I was shaking my head. I was struggling with the believability factor. It was a mass of horror cliches. Same old story that has been told a million times before, with a modern day setting. The whole village is under a malevolent entity, like in a 1973 Doctor Who episode. Cue ominous music. Cue villagers waving pitchforks. The Morrigan was the baddie of the piece. He lacked something. The villagers were your typical ‘living in a horror movie’ villagers. Amusing though. I laughed.

Shame Martyn Waites doesn’t quite pull it all off. It seemed like a pastiche, lacking originality. The premise has been done to death. We have seen it all before, in popular culture. Paganism. Outsiders versus insiders. Odd suspicious villagers. Cults. Occult symbolism. I suppose it works as a kind of Little Britain/horror movie tribute. It just has low impact as a thriller.

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Posted in mystery | Tagged ,

In Bloom – C. J. Skuse (Sweetpea #2)

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In Bloom is published on 9 August 2018 by HQ and is available to buy here

Darkly comic crime sequel to Sweetpea, following girl-next-door serial killer Rhiannon as she’s now caught between the urge to kill and her unborn baby stopping her.

If only they knew the real truth. It should be my face on those front pages. My headlines. I did those things, not him. I just want to stand on that doorstep and scream it: IT WAS ME. ME. ME. ME. ME!

Rhiannon Lewis has successfully fooled the world and framed her cheating fiancé Craig for the depraved and bloody killing spree she committed. She should be ecstatic that she’s free.

Except for one small problem. She’s pregnant with her ex lover’s child. The ex-lover she only recently chopped up and buried in her in-laws garden. And as much as Rhiannon wants to continue making her way through her kill lists, a small voice inside is trying to make her stop.

But can a killer’s urges ever really be curbed?

My glowing review of Sweetpea

Sweetpea – book 1

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My thoughts

In Bloom should be available on the NHS. Laughter medicine. It is dark and comic. Wildly wicked and clever. It will make you scream with laughter.

C J Skuse gave us the best ever adventure of a female serial killer in Sweetpea. We were introduced to Rhiannon an unforgettable young woman, with a few dark secrets up her sleeve. We are so lucky to have a sequel, that unexpectedly is even better than the original. Sweetpea was wonderful and perfect. In Bloom is that little bit more wonderful.

Rhiannon is a serial killer. She aces murder, like she has a GCSE in it. She only kills people who deserve it. She has morals, of a sort. The really evil ones in society are her prey. She has managed to get away with it so far. The story follows directly on from Sweetpea. Now life has become complicated for our anti-hero. Rhiannon is expecting her ex’s baby. She has a fresh dead body to dispose of. One police officer is progressively very interested in her. She is facing up horrible hormone explosions, the awful mummy brigade, getting fatter and a baby foetus with attitude. Can Rhiannon continue to escape justice? Can she still kill, with a gobby baby inside her? Can she stop writing lists of people she wants to murder? Mm mmm, you really want to find out.

C J Skuse is a genius. Sweetpea and In Bloom are two of the funniest books I have ever read. Skuse hits the right comic notes, with dark disturbing accuracy time and time again. Rhiannon is a dream of a character. The plot was incredible. A serial killer who tries to reform, with some success. I love Rhiannon so much. Probably wouldn’t want to meet her on a dark night. Or befriend her on one of her Christian road trips. Nope I would stay well clear of our lovely serial killer.

My advice (in the style of Rhiannon’s kill lists)

  1. Read In Bloom. If you haven’t read Sweetpea, get hold of a copy as soon as you can. You don’t want to miss this series. Hint to the author – more Rhiannon please.
  2. Forget walking the dog, eating, working or all the other boring stuff you do.  Reading is more important. Start it now. No excuses.
  3. Laugh. Laugh some more. Try not to make too many people stare at you, by snorting with laughter.
  4. Start making your own kill list (or maybe not…)

Highly recommended

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in comedy, serial killer | Tagged

Ruin Beach – Kate Rhodes (Ben Kitto #2)

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Ruin Beach was published on 14 June 2018 by Simon and Schuster and is available to buy here

*** FROM THE ACCLAIMED AUTHOR OF HELL BAY ***
DI Ben Kitto is missing the excitement of his old job in the Murder Squad, as the lazy Scilly Island summer begins. But when the body of professional diver Jude Trellon is found in Piper’s Hole, a sea cave on the island of Tresco, his investigative skills are needed again.

At first it seems that the young mother’s death was a tragic accident, but it soon emerges that Jude was choked to death. Her mysterious Swedish boyfriend Ivar Larsen seems terrified for her daughter’s safety, but refuses to talk. The islanders are guarded too – it seems plenty of people on the island had reason to harm her.

The island of Tresco, and the deep and murky waters that surround it, hold a dark secret. One that someone seems prepared to murder to keep hidden.

Also by Kate Rhodes

Hell Bay

My thoughts

Author and poet, Kate Rhodes is one of my favourite writers. I always know that I am going to be in for a spectacular and beautiful journey. I loved her Alice Quentin series. I now am absolutely hooked on Ben Kitto and his life on a British small island. I had to read Ruin Beach, as soon as I could get my hands on it. Ruin Beach is the sequel to the marvellous Hell Bay. Great titles.

We first met Ben Kitto in Hell Bay. Ben was returning to the Scilly Isles, for a break. He was shaken by the death of his partner. He was burnt out. He embraced island life and hunted a killer. Ben returns in Ruin Beach. He has settled on Bryer with his pet dog and is a vital part of the community. He is the Deputy Commander of the Isles of Scilly Police. A body is found by Piper’s Hole. A feisty female professional diver has been murdered. Everyone on the island is a suspect. Why would anyone want to kill Jude Trellon? What secrets did Jude take to her grave?

Kate Rhodes strength is her characterisation and sense of place. We all feel like we understand Ben Kitto or at least are making more sense of him. Like Ann Cleeves has done with the Shetland series and Jimmy Perez, Kate Rhodes has brought the Isles of Scilly to life. I still would not be able to point to them on a map. Life can be rather complicated living life on an island. It isn’t idyllic. Islanders have to live with each other. They have to live with their resentments. They have to cope with no privacy. They cannot escape, easily.

Kate Rhodes’ lead man, Ben Kitto, is a dedicated police officer. We see his growing attraction to long term pal Zoe, the singer. We see his cute love for his dog. We see how he interacts with the islanders. He understands them. He is one of them. We know he is healing from the past. We know Kitto will find the killer, from amongst his friends and neighbours. Island life means the killer is somewhere hiding, in plain sight. We suspect everyone. Soon things are getting tougher for Kitto. Someone close to the murder victim goes missing. All it takes is one person on the island to reveal something important. Kitto is on alert.

Ruin Beach was really excellent. Murder. Small town life. Suspicion. Lovely Ben Kitto. Read all of Kate Rhodes’ books. You seriously cannot go wrong.

Recommended.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in contemporary fiction, mystery, police | Tagged | 1 Comment

Find You In The Dark – Nathan Ripley

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Find You In The Dark was published in paperback on 19 June 2018 by Atria Books and is available to purchase here

In this chilling and disquieting debut thriller perfect for fans of Caroline Kepnes’s Hidden Bodies and Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter series, a family man with a habit of digging up the past catches the attention of a serial killer who wants anything but his secrets uncovered.

For years, unbeknownst to his wife and teenage daughter, Martin Reese has been illegally buying police files on serial killers and obsessively studying them, using them as guides to find the missing bodies of victims. He doesn’t take any souvenirs, just photos that he stores in an old laptop, and then he turns in the results anonymously. Martin sees his work as a public service, a righting of wrongs.

Detective Sandra Whittal sees the situation differently. On a meteoric rise in police ranks due to her case-closing efficiency, Whittal is suspicious of the mysterious source she calls the Finder, especially since he keeps leading the police right to the bodies. Even if he isn’t the one leaving bodies behind, how can she be sure he won’t start soon?

On his latest dig, Martin searches for the first kill of Jason Shurn, the early 1990s murderer who may have been responsible for the disappearance of his wife’s sister. But when he arrives at the site, he finds more than just bones. There’s a freshly killed body–a young and missing Seattle woman–lying among remains that were left there decades ago. Someone else knew where Jason Shurn left the corpses of his victims…and that someone isn’t happy that Martin has been going around digging up his work. And when a crooked cop with a tenuous tie to Martin vanishes, Whittal begins to zero in on the Finder.

Hunted by a real killer and by Whittal, Martin realizes that in order to escape, he may have to go deeper into the killer’s dark world than he ever thought…
My thoughts

I read Find You In The Dark this week. It was massively entertaining, with a lovely dollop of weirdness. It is the debut novel from Canadian author, Nathan Ripley.

We meet a rich middle aged man, with quite a unique hobby. Martin Reese made a fortune from his IT company and retired young. He now hunts for the victims of serial killers. He taunts the police at their failure to link the clues together. Martin does not endear himself to the police, taking this approach. Detective Sandra Whittle is on his case. She wants to trace the mysterious individual taunting the police. She believes there is something sinister about him. Unfortunately Martin makes errors. He draws the wrong kind of attention. A serial killer has his eye on him.

Ripley does a fine job with Martin Reese. Reese is the kind of character, who is alarming. He appears normal and everyday. He functions with a family. His behaviour is bizarre. He is secretive. I could not understand why Reese was not working with the police, in his informal investigations. He could easily be a private investigator, out in the open. I could see why Sandra was concerned about someone who was working in a vigilante way, to track down missing victims. Sandra is very much the voice of reason, in the drama. Martin’s approach is dark and morbid, with undertones of something unhealthy. Reece is taking the wrong path, to do the right thing. It does raise alarm bells. I do not think the comparisons with TV’s Dexter fully work. Ripley does not exploit this darkness enough or even use dark humour. I was very drawn to Reece though, which shows how the characterisation was strong.

In some ways, this felt like the beginning. It was clever, in the way we see what a man like Martin Reece will do under pressure. It was fascinating. It led up to some rather fun dark moments at the end. We only just start to see Martin and understand his motivations. I don’t think that Martin Reece fully understands his dark side. He rationalises everything so well. He thinks his obsessions are normal. This episode feels like it is the start of Martin crossing a few boundaries. See I could waffle on endlessly about this. It captured my imagination. I love Martin and his perspective on the world.

Hopefully the author will bring back the creepy Martin Reece. This was highly addictive. It gave me food for thought. This is a story about a potential killer in the making. It is delicious.

Recommended.

Posted in psychological, serial killer | Tagged

After He’s Gone – Jane Isaac (DC Beth Chamberlain #1)

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After He’s Gone was published in June 2018 and is available to purchase here

You think you know him. Until he’s dead.

When Cameron Swift is gunned down outside his family home, DC Beth Chamberlain is appointed Family Liaison Officer: a dual role that requires her to support the family, and also investigate them.

As the case unfolds and the body count climbs, Beth discovers that nothing is quite as it appears and everyone, it seems, has secrets.

Even the dead…

My thoughts

I’m a great admirer of Jane Isaac and her writing. I adore her Will Jackman series and have been crossing my fingers for a new instalment. I think we need one. Hint hint. Instead Isaac has gone forward with a brand new series, for us to devour. After He’s Gone introduces Detective Constable Beth Chamberlain.

After He’s Gone focuses on Beth, a family liaison officer. In the UK, a family liaison officer will work with the victims of crime and offer them support. They will stay in the victim’s home and gather information. They are police officers, who have been specially trained for the role. They are a key part of the investigation.

A middle aged business man is shot dead, outside of his home. His fiancee and two children are left bewildered, by the event. Beth is given the task of providing family liaison support to the family. Everything is not quite as it seems. There are secrets about to be revealed. We find out that the man’s personal life is complicated. A chilling final image of the victim is uploaded onto social media. Can Beth and her police colleagues get to the truth of the killing?

This is a solid start to the series, which establishes Beth in role beautifully. We see Beth finding her feet as a family liaison officer. We see she cares about the victims. She is dedicated and focused. She is grounded and down to earth. She has a refreshing air of normality about her. Isaac resists the temptation to load her with personal problems and irritating issues. I was less interested in Beth’s sister and niece. Beth is a young police officer, who has masses of potential to grow and progress. I look forward to seeing this.

Confident. Strong. With an engaging new lead, in DC Beth Chamberlain. Recommended.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You Were Made For This – Michelle Sacks

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You Were Made For This is published on 28 June 2018 by HQ and is available to purchase here

‘A chilling, gut-wrenching thriller.’ Helen Fields

A bold, sharp, gripping debut about a couple whose perfect life in the Swedish countryside is not what it seems…

A gripping page-turner for fans of The Couple Next Door, Michelle Sacks’s You Were Made For Thisprovocatively explores the darker side of marriage, motherhood and friendship.

Doting wife, devoted husband, cherished child. Merry, Sam and Conor are the perfect family in the perfect place. Merry adores baking, gardening, and caring for her infant son, while Sam pursues a new career in film. In their idyllic house in the Swedish woods, they can hardly believe how lucky they are. What perfect new lives they’ve built for themselves, away from New York and the events that overshadowed their happiness there.

And then Merry’s closest friend Frank comes to stay. All their lives, the two women have been more like sisters than best friends. And that’s why Frank sees things that others might miss. Treacherous things that unfold behind closed doors.

But soon it’s clear that everyone inside the house has something to hide. And as the truth begins to show through the cracks, Merry, Frank, and Sam grow all the more desperate to keep their picture-perfect lives intact.

My thoughts

You Were Made For This is a clever psychological domestic drama from debut author, Michelle Sacks. It is the kind of read, that will sit very uncomfortably with some readers. Some of the moments of drama are hard to read. For that, I am full of admiration. This is very dark. Sacks delivers a shocking tale of three dysfunctional people, that will make most of the audience squirm. Well done, Michelle Sacks, for particularly emotive powerful prose.

First we are given the fairy tale. We meet a young couple who have emigrated from New York, to the wilds of Sweden. They have a baby. The perfect nuclear family. They have gone back to basics. They are living the dream of self sufficiency. Very soon, we see signs of disharmony. The fairy tale becomes dark. We peer into this and bear witness. It almost feels voyeuristic. We see that the couple are not true to themselves. We get cracks in the surface of this idealistic life, with hints of cruelty and evil. Merry, the young stay at home mother, is smiling and hiding her true feelings. She is dissatisfied. She seems conflicted. She is smug. We struggle to work her out. We meet her husband, Sam. Sam is a former university professor. He is trying to find work, with grandiose ideas of film direction. We see he has complete control over Merry. He lies. He plays the part of the family man. Their strangely addictive dysfunctional relationship is mesmerising. Into this dynamic, comes a third person. Merry’s long term best friend Frances, known as Frank comes to Sweden to visit. Frank sets a disturbing chain of events in motion.

This is a completely refreshing psychological tale. I was totally blown away. I was consumed by the relationship dynamics. It is so different. These are three people, who are very damaged. Their behaviour is odd, frequently manipulative and cruel. There is no one to even slightly like, in this drama. Merry and Sam. Merry and Frank. A disaster waiting to happen.

This is the must read book of 2018 for dangerously toxic relationships. Avoid this, if you are of a very sensitive nature. It may make you cry. It is challenging at times. It is honest. It takes dark and disturbing to new levels. I LOVED it.

Recommended.

 

 

Posted in psychological | Tagged

Widows – Lynda La Plante

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Widows was originally published in 1983 by Sphere. This new version is published by Zaffre on 14 June 2018 and is available to buy here

The groundbreaking thriller from the Queen of Crime Drama and the basis for Steve McQueen’s upcoming major motion picture. WIDOWS is a fast-paced heist thriller with an all female cast you won’t forget

Facing life alone, they turned to crime together

A security van heist goes disastrously wrong and three women are left widowed.

When Dolly Rawlins discovers her gang boss husband’s plans for the failed hijack, an idea starts to form . . .

Could she and the other wives finish the job their husbands started?

As the women rehearse the raid, it becomes clear that someone else must have been involved.

But only three bodies were found in the wreckage.

Who was the fourth man?

And where is he now?

Also by Lynda La Plante

Murder Mile – Tennison Book 4

My thoughts

Girl Power. 1983 style. Bring it on …

I was too young to watch the Widows (1983) series on television. I have just ordered all of the DVDs to rectify this. The super talented Queen of Crime Lynda La Plante made a huge name for herself with Widows. This was years before Prime Suspect (1991) hit our screens. I was so addicted to Prime Suspect. I still am.

Widows has been now been made into a movie, which will be released in late 2018. In honour of this, I decided to read the book and get to know Dolly Rawlins. Widows was originally published in 1983, to tie in with the TV series. Shame on me. I should have read this one, years ago. It is wonderful.

It is 1983. Dolly Rawlins is happily married to Harry, an antique’s dealer. Harry Rawlins is not all sweetness and light. He has the police on his back, in the form of Detective Inspector George Resnick. He is a money launderer and a crook. He is a smart criminal, who has managed to evade capture. A failed armed robbery leads to the death of Harry, Joe and Terry. A fourth unknown man, who was part of the gang, lives. Dolly, Linda and Shirley are now widows. They are struggling to cope without their men. Dolly has a cunning plan. She wants to empower the women. She wants to carry on, where her old man left off. She knows they can do it.

Everyone knows that Lynda La Plante writes some incredible female characters. Dolly Rawlins is easily a match for Jane Tennison. Both being strong, compelling and believable female characters. Remember this was written at a time, when we had strong female role models popping up all over the place; in soaps like Dynasty, as well as female UK Prime Minister. As a part of our cultural landscape, Dolly was iconic. Girl power was very much part of the 1980s.

Dolly is working class made good, with leadership skills and a keen brain. She can easily lose the foolish police officers following her. She brings together the women for a common purpose. One minute, they are moaning and are deeply suspicious of Dolly, who is bank rolling them. The next minute, they are keen to show what they are made of. They want to be the best they can. This is a story about women and it is all about character. We grow to love them, warts and all. Lynda La Plante beautifully laces so much humour into the writing. We smile at them. We laugh. We feel a part of the action. We want them to succeed.

There were three Widows televised series. The book relates to the initial series in 1983. Obviously, there are plenty of readers and viewers, who already know what happens next. I am not one of them. We do not get all of the answers. We have to wait for Widows 2. That is perfectly fine with me.

This is classic Lynda La Plante. Widows is simply stunning. There is no one like Dolly Rawlins. Highly recommended.

 

Posted in legal, mystery | Tagged