‘Never Look Back’ – Mary Burton

I wish now I had read the first two books in this series as I enjoyed this, though it works perfectly well as a stand-alone read.

The focus for our story is Agent Melina Shepherd. Found abandoned by the side of the road as a young child, Melinda has earned herself a reputation as a lone wolf who’s determined to see her cases out. When she is asked to investigate the disappearance of two local prostitutes she gets herself closer to a serial killer than she bargained for.

As the case is investigated we realise there’s more to this than meets the eye. The investigation results in things getting very personal for Marina, but she remains focused and professional throughout.

The revelations deliberately throw us off the scent for a while. We find out some pretty shocking details, and one of my key thoughts was how this would impact those concerned. The focus is more on the here and now, but as part of a series maybe this gets looked at later.

I’m grateful to NetGalley for giving me the chance to review this before publication, and I’m definitely curious to look at the first two books in the series.

 

From the Shadows (Monica Kennedy 1) – G.R. Halliday

From the Shadows is one of those books that throws a lot at you, and you can’t help but become immersed in the world described. It’s not pleasant reading, but it’s a tense experience.

Our story really begins with the discovery of a body of a young man. A serious attack, and the autopsy reveals the boy has had a stone lodged in his throat. DI Kennedy (as the main investigator) is our focus, and we get enough snippets to know her back-story is an intriguing one. Perhaps as the first in the series we’re not told everything, but certainly enough to know that Monica Kennedy has a little more to her than meets the eye.

Set in and around the Scottish Highlands, this beautiful setting forms a macabre backdrop.

Nobody is sure what they’re dealing with. The boy who was found was at home, fine, and had then disappeared by the morning. Before long, we’re starting to see links with other disappearances.

There’s a lot of characters involved, and some suspects are set up as quite deliberate red herrings. We get the voice of the killer but very little to identify them until late on. There’s evidence of police corruption, and Kennedy has to rely on some rather unconventional methods to get results.

Suffice to say there’s some parts that could have been refined but this was a solid introduction to a new character, and definitely had me keen to read more. Thanks to NetGalley I have a copy of Dark Waters (the second in the series) to read before its scheduled July 2020 publication.

 

‘Eight Perfect Murders’ – Peter Swanson

Malcolm Kershaw – bookstore worker, widow and suspect in a series of murders. At least that’s what we’re led to believe initially.

Malcolm narrates his story, and it’s clear we’re not being told everything. The question is, what’s being hidden and why? When an FBI agent asks to speak with Mal in connection to a series of murders we’re immediately intrigued. There seems to be a link between a number of deaths and a blog post written some years ago by Mal called Eight Perfect Murders. Someone appears to be using the list to carry out their own killing spree.

While the initial idea seems rather far-fetched, we slowly learn further details that indicates there is indeed a link. We also get told by Mal himself that he’s hiding things. The details he does give us mean we have developed a sense of trust and I certainly didn’t want to think badly of him.

As the story develops little details are revealed that start to affect the way we regard Mal. His actions become increasingly strange, and it’s evident that there’s twists coming…but it’s all about working out why and when this info is given.

It’s hard to say more without inadvertently revealing details that are crucial to the book’s success. While I’d not read all the books mentioned on the list, the literary link was appealing and Mal – though evidently not quite the good guy I had him pegged as initially – has a rather mercurial charm. By the notional end I felt rather disappointed that things were going to go that way.

A huge thanks to NetGalley for providing me with this in exchange for my thoughts.

 

‘The Murder at the Vicarage’ – Agatha Christie

I’ve read very few novels by Agatha Christie, but I have clear memories of Miss Marple being shown on tv when I was younger. First impressions do count…and I’d always had this vague recollection of her being a rather prim and interfering elderly woman.

My overwhelming response after reading this was that Miss Marple as she appears here was the germ of an idea, but she’s not fully formed. In fact, we see very little of her – just an appearance at key moments. She is presented as shrewd yet on the ‘busybody’ side – always hovering and overhearing/seeing things she perhaps doesn’t need to.

In this first of the Marple series we focus on the murder of Colonel Protheroe, the kind of man many could find reason to kill. He’s found shot in the Vicarage and we follow the vicar and various villagers around as they try to establish the truth.

There’s the usual red herrings thrown in, and what was proven here was that sometimes the obvious solutions are the truth. People are, at heart, quite predictable and observation counts for an awful lot.

 

‘The Hand on the Wall’ – Maureen Johnson

In the tantalizing finale to the Truly Devious trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson expertly tangles her dual narrative threads and ignites an explosive end for all who’ve walked through Ellingham Academy.

What can I say? At the same time as Stevie believes she’s solved the crime of the century, there are three mysterious deaths at Ellingham…are they linked? We get answers, finally, and not all of them are what we might have desired but they most certainly tie things up well.

After her somewhat unexpected return to Ellingham, Stevie is doggedly determined to find out the truth. She, along with the other students, is clearly upset by the deaths of the students, but if Stevie can finally piece together the clues that are in front of her she will get her peace of mind.

Unfortunately, there’s still unexplained issues and the net seems to be drawing in around Stevie. When a storm is forecast Stevie and her small group of friends come up with a daring plan to remain in Ellingham. Their main aim is to support David in his attempts to bring down his father, but Stevie recognises her opportunity to finally resolve the case of Alice Ellingham.

The story involving Stevie and her friends sweeps along. Occasionally they do things that are, to say the least, dangerous but when even your friends call you Nancy Drew it isn’t completely unbelievable. The nods to Agatha Christie were fun to spot, but there was always a modern element that kept this feeling relevant.

What I really enjoyed about this was the snippets of the story from 1937. Learning the truth about what happened and how it links to the modern day was fascinating. It offered some interesting ideas about certain characters, and definitely made it fun to watch others trying to make the links we’d been alerted to.

 

‘The Memory Wood’ – Sam Lloyd

Confusing beyond belief, horror piled on horror and – throughout- there’s a blurring of the line between dream/nightmare and reality. While the content is deeply unpleasant, the end result is a story that is very hard to put down.

A huge thank you to NetGalley for granting me the opportunity to read this prior to publication in exchange for my thoughts.

This won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it’s a book that I’m sure will be talked about.
The majority of the story takes place in somewhere called The Memory Wood.

Elijah, one of our main characters, has been there a long time and Elissa, a somber yet highly resourceful thirteen year old chess fan, has just arrived. The pair seek solace in each other’s company, though we’re never entirely sure who to trust.

Alongside the experience of Elissa realising she has been abducted and incarcerated, we follow the detective put in charge of the investigation. We learn – eventually – exactly who Elijah is and how he fits into the story.

What is uncovered is beyond your worst imaginings. We’re shown the very worst of people, but we also uncover some good. Unsettling, but strangely compelling.

 

‘All the Rage’ – Cara Hunter

A tightly plotted, fast-moving read that shows this series is getting better and better.

Our story begins with someone watching a young woman. Deliberately vague, I confess to still not being sure of the significance of this scene. We then switch to another young woman preparing for a night out. When we next see her she is being picked up by a taxi driver who fears she’s been attacked.

Having had a bag put over her head, her wrists tied and her knickers pulled down, there’s no doubt this was a premeditated attack. Her refusal to involve the police seems odd…and it’s not until some further digging has taken place that we realise just why Faith is reluctant to speak up. The police are not entirely sure who is responsible, or the motives for this attack, but they are on high alert.

Days later another young girl, Sasha Blake, goes missing. When her body is found there’s concern that the crimes may be linked. Alongside the general investigative stuff (which rattled along so well), we learn of a past crime that Fawley was involved in. There are unnerving similarities between the crimes and though there’s the suggestion of a copycat killer, the person imprisoned for these violent crimes has always sworn his innocence and these latest developments strongly suggest that the police may have got the wrong man.

I was completely consumed in trying to get to the bottom of this one. There were numerous plausible possibilities and each option seemed pretty unpleasant. The actual truth was heart-wrenchingly awful. And as for the closing scene with our ‘innocent’ man being released, it doesn’t bode well for what’s to come.

Scheduled for release later this month, a huge thank you to NetGalley for getting my 2020 reading off to such a good start!

 

‘When the Dead Come Calling’ – Helen Sedgwick

When the Dead Come Calling is an intriguing read, like no crime novel I’ve read before, and I’m grateful to NetGalley for allowing me to read this prior to publication in March 2020.
Set in the northern coastal town of Burrowhead, we get to see a dark underbelly to a seemingly rural idyll. Secrets abound, and there’s a small-town mentality to the characters in this that is both understandable but also scary.
The style is unusual for a crime novel, and may not be to everyone’s tastes.
At the start of the novel we learn of the discovery of a body in the local playground. It is that of a local doctor. His body is discovered by a local police officer, who also happens to be his boyfriend. A note is discovered near his body suggesting that racism could be a factor in this crime.
As I imagine to be common in a police case, details are not immediately forthcoming. We spend what seems like a lot of time trying to work out what is going on, and when another body is discovered to try and establish the links.
What struck me most while reading was that everyone seemed to be harbouring some kind of secret. I don’t want to give away details that affect the reading, but this is definitely a read that becomes more engaging as we learn more about those involved.
Throughout the story I was struck by the references to the past of the village, and the beliefs that seemed to shape the attitudes of those currently living there. I am still unclear as to how some of the references to the Others are linked, but I understand this is the first in a series so we may get answers further in the future.

‘Woman in the Water’ – Katerina Diamond

Detectives Adrian Miles and Imogen Grey are now in a relationship, though that’s not common knowledge at work. However, on this case things come too close to home and it has serious repercussions for both.

On his way into work Miles stops as some women think their children saw a body in the water. Upon investigation, it is a woman…and she’s alive. Someone wanted her dead, but there’s no signs of robbery or sexual assault. It becomes a matter of some urgency to work out what on earth happened when the beaten body of a young man is also found nearby.

Before we know it we’ve been pulled into a very dark place. This isn’t a ‘whodunnit’, but a trying to pull it together to prove they did it kind of story.
We focus on Angela Corrigan, the much younger wife of local businessman Reece. Nobody will speak out against him, and though we’ve strong reason to believe he’s been up to all sorts of things nobody will talk, and there’s no evidence.

It’s testimony to the bullishness of these two Detectives that we get anywhere. However, it comes at awful personal expense.

Adrian Miles suffers in the course of this investigation in a way that you cannot begin to imagine. It’s brutal, totally demeaning and the disgust I felt as we learn the extent of the wrongdoings against not just him but so many others was upsetting.

While it was a dark story that was not, in any way, enjoyable to read, I am intrigued at the potential for where this might go next.

Thanks to Diamond and NetGalley for allowing me to read this in exchange for my honest thoughts, prior to its publication in November 2019.

 

‘Take it Back’ – Kia Abdullah

Take It Back is a gripping courtroom drama, perfect for fans of Apple Tree Yard, He Said/She Said and Anatomy of a Scandal.

A compelling read, and I’m grateful to NetGalley for allowing me the chance to read this prior to publication.

When we first meet Jodie Wolfe, she’s walking into a Rape Crisis centre asking for help. At sixteen, and with extreme facial deformities, Jodie has become accustomed to abuse. As she relays her experience, the reader cannot help but feel sympathy for her. Her physical appearance is not the issue here, but when she starts to blame herself for what happened because she thought someone was physically interested in her you can’t help but wince.

The details of her attack by four of her classmates are – understandably – difficult to read. The courage someone in her position shows cannot be underestimated.
The way this story is told focuses most of our attention on ex-barrister, Zara, who is determined to support this young girl because she believes her. We follow Zara as she supports Jodie in preparing to go to trial, and the inevitable fallout this causes as the boys Jodie accuses are ‘good Muslim boys’, well-respected in their community, and Zara’s involvement is quickly seen as evidence of her turning against her faith.

The nature of the case means so much depends on the reliability of witnesses. Four against one. No matter how strong the case seems to be, these are hard odds to beat.

Our narrative swiftly turns to the trial and the various attempts to undermine credibility of witnesses. We also deal with growing unrest in the community, and some awful behaviours as so many people try to appropriate events to suit their own ends.

It’s crucial that you go into this not knowing where this is going. Nothing is what it seems. We get to learn the truth, but talk about a Pyrrhic victory. Few come out of this story well, but it’s a must-read in my opinion.