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.

 

 

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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.

 

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Murder Mile – Lynda La Plante (Tennison 4)

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Murder Mile is published by Zaffre on 23 August 2018 and is available to purchase here

Prime Suspect meets Ashes to Ashes as we see Jane Tennison starting out on her police career . . .

The fourth in the Sunday Times bestselling Jane Tennison thrillers, MURDER MILE is set at the height of the ‘Winter of Discontent’. Can Jane Tennison uncover a serial killer? 

February, 1979, ‘The Winter of Discontent’. Economic chaos has led to widespread strikes across Britain.

Jane Tennison, now a Detective Sergeant, has been posted to Peckham CID, one of London’s toughest areas. As the rubbish on the streets begins to pile up, so does the murder count: two bodies in as many days.

There are no suspects and the manner of death is different in each case. The only link between the two victims is the location of the bodies, found within a short distance of each other near Rye Lane in Peckham. Three days later another murder occurs in the same area. Press headlines scream that a serial killer is loose on ‘Murder Mile’ and that police incompetence is hampering the investigation.

Jane is under immense pressure to catch the killer before they strike again.Working long hours with little sleep, what she uncovers leaves her doubting her own mind.

Also in this series

Tennison – Book 1

Hidden Killers – Book 2

Good Friday – Book 3

My thoughts

I absolutely love Jane Tennison. She is my all time favourite character. I remember watching Prime Suspect in the early 1990s, as a teenager. This is the hit series featuring the gorgeous Helen Mirren. I have always loved Jane’s intelligence and attitude. It was an inspired idea by Lynda La Plante to give us Jane’s early years. I am such a fan. I just cannot wait until we get to the early 1980s. Murder Mile is book four and it takes us to 1979.

Tennison is now a Detective Sargeant, working in Peckham CID. It is 1979 and the Winter of Discontent. This was a time, when Britain was struggling. Public sector strikes lead to three day weeks. Rubbish was piling high, in the streets. Events would lead to Mrs Thatcher becoming Prime Minister. Tennison and her colleague are called to an incident. A young woman has been found dead in Bussey Alley, in Peckham. Soon another body is discovered unexpectedly close by. How are these two people connected? The death rate in Peckham is soon escalating. It looks like there is a clear prime suspect for the police to focus on. Jane Tennison is soon very suspicious of someone else.

I had so much fun reading this. In the previous book, I was concerned that we were missing some of the hard edged kick ass Jane that we know and love. She was not quite our Jane Tennison, with a tough edge to her. In Murder Mile, we see Tennison shine. She has grown as a character, through her difficult experiences. She is no longer naive and innocent. She listens to her instincts. She is prepared to speak her mind, when she thinks she is right. What a woman! Jane is still in a world, where she has to work twice as hard to be listened to or treated with respect. She is questioned in her role, just because she is female. As she says on one occasion, if she was a man she would be patted on the back. As a woman, she is given a bollocking.

It is always a joy to be back with Jane Tennison. I am now itching to re-watch Prime Suspect, for the millionth time. Lynda La Plante weaves a delightful plot, with Jane showing her brilliance in sussing out crime scenes and seeing through lies. We see what life was like in 1979, with strikes, sexism and the odd bit of homophobia thrown in. I am not sure I could have coped with the stench of 1979. I could not read Murder Mile fast enough. My Tennison love has multiplied. I cannot wait for more.

Recommended.

 

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Perfect Silence – Helen Fields (DI Callanach Book 4)

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Perfect Silence is published on 23 August 2018 by Avon and is available to purchase here

When silence falls, who will hear their cries?

The body of a young girl is found dumped on the roadside on the outskirts of Edinburgh. When pathologists examine the remains, they make a gruesome discovery: the silhouette of a doll carved in the victim’s skin.

DCI Ava Turner and DI Luc Callanach are struggling to find leads in the case, until a doll made of skin is found nestled beside an abandoned baby.

After another young woman is found butchered, Luc and Ava realise the babydoll killer is playing a horrifying game. And it’s only a matter of time before he strikes again. Can they stop another victim from being silenced forever – or is it already too late?

Also in this outstanding crime series

Perfect Remains – Book 1

Perfect Prey – Book 2

Perfect Death – Book 3

My thoughts

With Perfect Silence, Helen Fields takes us to the fourth instalment in this dark and disturbing police procedural series. This is exactly the kind of crime that I am completely in love with. Every single book has been intelligent, incredibly dark and disturbing and wonderfully written. As usual, I am in awe of Helen Fields and want to sing her praises to the world. It is quite an achievement to have created such a deliciously strong series.

Helen Fields’ imagination takes us to a very chilling place. The story features our duo of Callanach and Turner seeking a psychopathic serial killer in Edinburgh. This is one unique monster. Shades of Ed Gein. With a touch of Hannibal. This killer kidnaps woman and removes portions of skin. The skin is used to craft a doll, as a likeness to the victim. This is stomach churning. It is the stuff of nightmares. It is grotesque. It is horror. The press label him ‘The Baby Doll Killer’. Field’s skill as a writer gives us the human stories of the victims, as we follow Callanach and Turner through this compelling investigation. At the same time, we see homeless users of the new drug Spice targeted and assaulted in the city.

Field’s strength as a writer is the way she writes her key players. Her characterisation is superb and subtle. Her dialogue is clever. We hear from Callanach and Turner, plus others in the team. The balance is just right. We know about their private lives. Field does not turn them into stereotypes, with irritating issues. They have intelligent discussions on drugs, homelessness and on religion. These are all very credible characters, with faults. We still have the potential for Callanagh and Turner to develop their relationship, into something more romantic. Callanagh has begun to move on from the false allegations made against him. Our pair have stopped socialising, which is a shame.

Perfect Silence continues, with the same high quality plotting and chilling drama that we have come to expect from Fields. PERFECTION in a book. DARK. DISTURBING. NIGHTMARISH. COMPELLING. This is one of the best series out there, by a truly talented author. Long may it continue. I need more.

Highly recommended

 

 

 

Posted in horror, mystery, police | Tagged

First To Die – Alex Caan (Riley and Harris 2)

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First To Die is published by Zaffre on 14 June 2018 and is available to buy here

A DARK AND EDGY CRIME THRILLER FOR FANS OF SARAH HILARY, KATERINA DIAMOND, ANGELA MARSONS AND ROBERT BRYNDZA.


SOMEWHERE IN THE CROWD IS A KILLER 

Bonfire Night and St James’s Park is filled with thousands of Anonymous protesters in a stand-off with the police. When a cloaked, Guido Fawkes mask-wearing body is discovered the following morning, Kate Riley and Zain Harris from the Police Crime Commissioner’s office are called in.

The corpse has been eaten away by a potentially lethal and highly contagious virus. The autopsy reveals the victim was a senior civil servant, whose work in international development involved saving lives. Why would anyone want him dead?

THEY WILL STRIKE AGAIN 

As the research team looking into the origins of the deadly virus scramble to discover an antidote, first one, then another pharmacist goes missing. Meanwhile, a dark truth starts to emerge about the murder victim: he was an aggressive man, whose bullying behaviour resulted in the suicide attempt of one of his former staff members.

AND TIME IS RUNNING OUT . . .

With thirty lives potentially at stake, Kate and Zain have their work cut out for them. Can they find the two missing pharmacists in time, or will they too end up dead?

By the same author

Cut to the Bone – Alex Caan

My thoughts

Last year one of the unexpected highlights was a book entitled Cut to the Bone. It was the debut crime novel by Alex Caan, cutting edge with its perceptive eye on social media. I was keen to read the follow up First to Die.

I read First to Die twice. This was because I found myself very confused. This is so unusual for me. Authors are normally much clearer in the way they write. There are massive faults with the story. It starts off as a fabulous read, as we return to the lives of Detective Sargeant Zain Harris and Detective Inspector Kate Riley. We get an unusual death. A man is found in the park, with bizarre injuries. It appears that a high profile individual has died in suspicious circumstances, with blisters and pustules all over his body. It soon becomes clearer that this could be some kind of rare infectious disease or airborne virus. We are soon in the realms of science fiction. It has a definite air of the X-Files about it, as Riley and Harris are trying to get answers. Great stuff.

The first part of the book handles this all very well and builds slow tension. However the second part of the book is incredibly weak and overly rushed. It will leave most readers puzzling or pulling their hair out. We get multiple other deaths, in the last third of the book. They are connected to the first person who died. The killer is escalating and has a specific reason for targeting individuals. It all gets very complicated. Who is who? How are they related? The author struggles to make this all clear. I had to make a chart in order to make any sense of it all. If you do read this, I recommend this approach. It all felt very rushed and under-developed. Some great ideas, not very well delivered. It is a great pity because the first half of the book was so well done. The resolution too felt like the ticking of a politically correct box. Such a shame. Tokenism just doesn’t work.

My other problem is the portion of the book relating to Kate Riley. We hear constantly about how she is being watched by someone sinister from her past. Someone wants revenge. The revenge is a few text messages to her Mother. Yes terrifying indeed, she says in a sarcastic voice. Apologies for the spoiler. This just illustrates how the second half of the book lost any impact.

Overall I feel that First to Die was a massive disappointment. It does not match the cleverness of Cut to the Bone. It is a pale imitation, with the power to confuse. It is weak and not very well delivered. It had so much potential: Two rather interesting leads, a strange death and a mystery figure waiting to target Kate and her mother. The author needs to up his game.

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City of Sinners – A. A. Dhand (Harry Virdee #3)

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City of Sinners is published by Transworld Digital on 28 June 2018 and is available to purchase here

‘A character destined for television’ Daily Mail
‘Dhand is a fearless writer’ Sunday Times

It is an ordinary Yorkshire morning, cold and miserable.

The streets are not yet busy. Police cars hurriedly pull up in the centre of town, but none of their lights are flashing and the sirens are silent.

A body has been found, elaborately and painstakingly positioned to send a message. But what message? And to who?

It’s DCI Harry Virdee’s job to find out. But Harry doesn’t know that the killer is watching him, that the killer is coming for him.

Because this is personal.

A DI Harry Virdee Thriller

Previously in this 5 star series

Streets of Darkness

Girl Zero

 

 

My thoughts

Over the past few years, there have been a cluster of talented British Asian writers come to the forefront. One of the best is undoubtedly A. A. Dhand. He has the right touch, combining dark urban crime with an Asian flavour. With a setting of Bradford, he captures the nuances of life within the eclectic Asian community. We have followed the heroic DI Harry Virdee in Streets of Darkness and Girls Zero. Harry returns for a third thrilling instalment in City of Sinners.

City of Sinners starts with a strong defining scene. A young Asian woman is found strung up at the beautiful Bradford Waterstones bookstore, with a note revealing a connection to Harry Virdee. The killer is making a bold statement, drawing Virdee into a private game. This is a planned murder. Cruelly executed. The game is on. At the same time, Saima, Harry Virdee’s wife, is forced to face her father in law in hospital. Saima, as a Muslim woman, is despised by her Sikh father in law. The marriage between Virdee and Saima ripped apart both of their families, leaving the pair in cultural isolation.

This is the best story yet, in the Harry Virdee series. I hardly know where to start singing its praises. It is pure excellence. A. A. Dhand has truly come into his own, as a writer. He is at the top of his game. This is a story of cultural conflict, which reflects on Asian differences. We fully get an understanding of what life is like for Harry and Saima, with their backgrounds and place outside their respective communities. As someone who has lived within the white community in Bradford, this is fascinating for me. This is something I only glimpsed. We see that the Asian community is not homogeneous. It is very much subject to internal differences of religion, of country of origin and of culture. Dhand brilliantly lets us into this minefield of difference. Difference matters.

City of Sinners is easily one of my top crime reads of 2018. No doubt about that. It has everything; horror, dark undertones and fabulous thrills wrapped up in cultural complexities. Harry Virdee is one terrific figure; a strong Northern Asian police officer, who fights for justice in his own unique way. If you read one book this year, make it City of Sinners. Northern noir. Powerful.

Highly recommended.

 

 

 

 

Posted in mystery, noir, police, serial killer | Tagged

All the Beautiful Lies – Peter Swanson

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All The Beautiful Lies was published by Faber and Faber on 3 April 2018 and is available to purchase here

On the eve of his college graduation, Harry is called home by his step-mother Alice, to their house on the Maine coast, following the unexpected death of his father.

But who really is Alice, his father’s much younger second wife? In a brilliant split narrative, Peter Swanson teases out the stories and damage that lie in her past. And as her story entwines with Harry’s in the present, things grow increasingly dark and threatening – will Harry be able to see any of it clearly through his own confused feelings?

Also by Peter Swanson

Her Every Fear

The Kind Worth Killing

My thoughts

I have quite a soft spot for Peter Swanson’s writing. He impresses me. He has this way of capturing your imagination, with one or two rather engaging and quirky characters. He draws you into their dysfunctional lives, with their casual lack of morality. He makes odd events seem rather normal. He is master of subtlety. Swanson brings us a brand new story in All the Beautiful Lies.

Swanson packs much into All the Beautiful Lies. We get a tale of illicit relationships, deceit, multiple lies and age gap relationships. In fact, there is something very unsavoury about some of these age gap relationships. They are not all about love or passion. We see healthy ones, ones that border on abuse and some that definitely are of a paedophile predatory nature. Swanson deliberately and intelligently makes us reflect. Unsettling. Thought-provoking. Pure brilliance.

The story takes us into the life of young Harry Ackerman. His father has passed away suddenly. Harry grieving returns from college. At the family home is his step mother, Alice, the second Mrs Bill Ackerman. The much younger new alluring wife. Harry has had inappropriate sexual thoughts about her for years. We see Harry trying to get to the truth about what happened to his father. We see Alice in action. All is not what it seems.

As you would expect from a Swanson story, you get presented with an initial idea about the direction of things. Then he swiftly turns everything on its head. He is clever, like that. We hear from Harry, from the young step mother, Alice and from another individual. There are assorted flashbacks, as we gain an understanding about what motivates our key players. Soon we are immersed in their lives and wonder if the truth or some version of it will ever be told. We get a delicious female character in Alice. Swanson’s female characters are always the strongest and the most complex.

This is a story about sex. It is about obsession. It is a slow burning Swanson classic. It might shock you, if you are of a very sensitive disposition. It will definitely make you think. Long may Peter Swanson continue to entertain us with his remarkable brand of noir.

Recommended.

 

 

 

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