SCARROW’S THIRTY FOURTH BOOK SURGES OUT OF THE DARKNESS AHEAD OF ITS PEERS

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I’ve enjoyed the chance to review several novels set in war time for this blog. Some of the books have been romance stories such as the Dressmaker of Paris, by Georgia Kaufmann and While Paris Slept by Ruth Druart. Most have been thrillers such as Liberation Square , by Gareth Rubin  The American Agent, by Jacqueline Winspear,  and Ben Pastor’s The Horseman’s Song. War provides a great background to any story with ready-made elements of danger and villains. This months second book review is a detective thriller set in WW2, and whilst I may have initially thought this would re-tread of familiar territory, I was pleasantly surprised.The book is of Blackout by Simon Scarrow and published by Headline (www.headline.co.uk) on the 24th September .

Blackout is set in Berlin at the beginning of WW2, while Hitler is invading Poland and undertaking ‘peace’ negotiations with Britain and France. Every aspect of German life is run and ruled by the Nazi Party including the police force. Paranoia is intensified by the blackout which plunges the city into darkness every night. When a woman is murdered, Criminal Inspector Horst Schenke is under pressure to solve the case. Treated with suspicion by his superiors for failing to join the Nazi Party, Schenke walks a perilous line – for disloyalty is a death sentence. When a second victim is found and the investigation takes him closer to the sinister heart of the regime, Schenke realises the warring factions of the Reich are as dangerous as the killer.

What you quickly realise about this book, is that it has all the things you’d expect to find in a standard detective novel.  A smart, but isolated lead character, with a medical disability. Which makes him somewhat unique to the usual suspects in this genre , who are usually burdened with a mental health or addiction problem; there’s also a stalwart team of lower ranking staff; difficult superiors, and a love interest. Not forgetting the politics and a public who have biased views of certain other people . 

However, Scarrow’s knowledge of the workings of the Reich, the paranoia amongst the public, and the level of bullying, make this book stand out from its peers. He does also show the misery of the cold winter and deprivations faced  by the general public, many of whom had little appetite for another war. The persecution of the Jewish people of course come up and here we see the moral dilemma faced by Schenke.  While also seeing his frustration at wanting to follow the evidence but being thwarted by politics and those wielding the power.

This book is very technically correct but Scarrow has converted some of the German job titles in the Krippo  to their English counterpart to make it easier and more familiar for the reader. At heart this plot could have been set in any era including modern times but the war time background added layers of tension, intrigue and interest for the reader as well as leaving you feeling you had learned a little more of the social history of that period and place. It was interesting to hear of the hardships and fears faced by the German public, when we’re mainly aware of the Londoner’s in the Blitz etc. 

Schenke is a great new addition to a list of great cerebral detectives like Morse and Adam Dalgleish. while we are also introduced to a number of interesting chracters on his team, like the OCD Liebwitz, and the loyal Sergent Hauser.  I hope to see all develop further in future stories. And what of Katrin, Schenke’s girlfriend with her outspoken views? Will their romance go the course or cause more drama?

Simon Scarrow (Historiska Media)

This is english author Simon Scarrow’s (www.simonscarrow.co.uk) thirty fourth book, the majority are historical fiction, and Most of have been top of the Sunday Times bestseller lists. On leaving school he followed his love of history by becoming a teacher, before taking up writing full time. His Roman era Eagles of the Empire series sold over 4 million copies of the books in the UK alone and his work has been translated into 24 languages. He lives in Norfolk.

Blackout is highly recommended by The Library Door. It should appeal to fans of detective fiction and historical thrillers. It also joins the many crime stories set at Christmas so will make an ideal Christmas present for the crime fan in your circle.

Reviewed by: Georgina Murphy

This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour. To see what the other reviewers thought of the book, visit their blogs listed below. Then if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.

NO OXFORD BLUES ABOUT GRIFFEE’S THIRD NARROWBOAT MYSTERY, IT’S A RED HOT READ

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Probably like most people, I always associate Oxford with education and in recent times with the development of a Covid vaccine. But in terms of literature and in particular crime fiction, whenever someone mentions the city, I think of the Inspector Morse books, as well as the hugely successful TV series and its spin-off Endeavour series. So I was delighted when I got sent a copy of the third Johnson and Wilde mystery series. This months Third book review is Oxford Blues by Andy Griffee and published by Orphans publishing (www.orphanspublishing.co.uk) in July.

Jack Johnson is suffering from a severe case of the boating blues as we join him aboard Jumping Jack Flash in Oxford. He has moved there following his erstwhile companion, Nina Wilde. Nina’s niece, Anna, has recently started studying in Oxford and Nina has moved to be near her. Jack hopes they can have a fresh start but finds they’re drifting apart. He throws himself into a new job and makes friends amongst his boating neighbours. Then a young woman’s body is pulled from Iffley Lock. The victim’s boyfriend is a good friend of Anna. Nina, who is still grieving the loss of her husband is keen to support him. Reluctantly, Jack is pulled into the investigation.

Followers of this blog will know I previously reviewed the first of the series, ‘Canal Pushers’. As a former boater myself, I was impressed with the technical explanations and representations of the joys and hardships of living on the water. I haven’t boated around Oxford, but I’ve experienced some river cruising around York and Cambridge. Being at the whim of the river in terms of currents, tides and floods made for interesting and testing times and sometimes inventive boat handling techniques. I recall a boating holiday around York one winter. We’d cruised up the river Ouse ok, then spent some time on the Ripon Canal, during which it snowed. We thought nothing of it until we wanted to re-join the Ouse and found it in full flood. Trying to close the lock gates at the end of the canal where the two water courses met was a nightmare, due to the strong river current and that the landing stage where I planned to hop back aboard was under several feet of water. I remember some scary acrobatic climbing down onto the boat with the gates open.  I was always afraid of weirs, and to a certain extent locks. I can remember being concerned that we’d be pulled onto the weirs rather than being able to take the safe channel around. What a holiday! Even currently, any nightmarish dreams involve floods, water crossings, weirs and locks!  All thrilling enough without murder and intrigue thrown in!

Andy Griffee (Worcester Observer)

The job of freelance journalist and the use of a narrowboat are ideal vehicles for this crime series. They allow the story to move to different settings easily and for the main character to have both nose for trouble and an insight into how to investigate. The fact that Andy Griffee has experience, both as a journalist and boater, shines through. Everything rings true and doesn’t seem forced or unbelievable. I loved the addition of a few new characters to the story, who I hope will reappear in future adventures. There was some humour again here. Andy Griffee seems to have a fixation with naturists! Perhaps that’s another life experience he’s drawing on? Who knows! There was also some moments of well written tension, that got my heart thumping, as well as the will they, wont they aspect of Jack’s romantic interest in Nina.  Certainly, there were enough twists and turns to keep me guessing until the end.

This is English Author Andy Griffee’s (www.andygriffee.co.uk) third book, his others are Canal Pushers (2019) and Riiver Rats (2020). A former journalist with the Bath Chronic;le and 25 year stint as a regional controller with the BBC, he finished his career in charge of the redevelopment of the BBC’s iconic Broadcasting House in London. He lives in Worcestersire with his wife and three dogs, where he also rears rare pigs and maintains a 1964 triumph spitfire.

 I’d highly recommended Oxford Blues to other crime readers. You could read this as a standalone but it’s well worth acquainting yourselves with the previous books. I’m already looking forward to number four. So cast off to your local bookseller and hook yourself a copy.

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy

BENJAMIN GIVES ME A NEW SEASON ANNUALLY WITH HIS SECOND BOOK

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Do you have a “Bucket list”? Most people have some sort of one, but what about one made up entirely of foods and rare delicacies from around the world, that you want to try before you die, and if so what’s on it? I know mine has Caviar, which I have eaten, Dover Sole which I ate a couple of years ago when on a holiday in Devon, I’d been waiting around for years thinking I’d have to go to a high-class restaurant to order it. But no, it was a lovely little family run restaurant just off the harbour in Ilfracombe.

I’ve had kangaroo and crocodile too.  Really, I’m doing quite well, although there is still plenty on the list, like a coffee made up of Kopi Luwak, the rare coffee bean (the most expensive type) passed through the intestines of a wild Asian Civet. Wagyu beef steak from Japan, again rather pricey. Getting closer to home, I haven’t had lobster or whelks, a delicacy in the UK. Georgina (my wife and fellow Librarian)  laughed at me when she saw this, saying we can have the the latter anytime we visit her mum in Skegness. Another thing on that list is truffles, I’ve had the chocolate confectionary shaped one’s, mass produced for Christmas, but the original ones found growing wild in France, Italy and Spain particularly, no. There are two types, a black one and a rarer white truffle. They are harvested from the wild using pigs or specially trained dogs (which are less likely to eat them, unlike their porcine colleagues). This brings us to this months second book review, it’s The Hunting Season by Tom Benjamin and published by Constable Books (www.littlebrown.co.uk/imprint/constable/page/lbbg-imprint-constable) in November 2020.

Its truffle hunting season in the hills around Bologna and the search is on to find the elusive ‘Boscuri’ white truffle. But when Ryan Lee, an American “Supertaster”, goes missing in the area, widower and local private eye Daniel Leicester is hired by the young man’s parents to find him. Daniel’s search finds him delving into the multi million euro culinary trade, while the ever present hint of Mafiosa involvement rears its ugly head. Soon after a high a profile Italian chef is found murdered, forcing Daniel to team up with a glamorous Italian TV journalist, but before long there’s another murder connected to the case and this time Daniel finds himself the prime suspect. Can he clear his name along with the help his ex-Carabinieri father in law and find the truth behind the disappearance of Ryan Lee…

I love Italy and have been there on numerous occasions, the nearest I’ve been to Bologna is a day trip to Florence 100 km away so I was quite looking forward to reading this murder mystery by Tom Benjamin. It’s a nice easy enough read at just under three hundred and thirty pages long. There’s a hint of a mash up between Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana and A Year in Provence.

Also, with it being set in the historical environs of Bologna, there’s a sort of Morse / Lewis vibe to it with Daniel representing the Sgt Lewis Character and his father-in-law the “The Comandante” Giovanni, a retired senior member of the Carabinieri, providing the excellent fatherly role similar to Colin Dexter’s Iconic hero.

I liked this book and could get to really yearn for an annual fix of Daniel Leicester, as I do with the Jack Reacher series. He’s a nice and very believable character, who hates Brexit and loves BBC radio 4. The widower aspect and his relationship with his daughter Rosie, was a nice angle and could appeal to male and female readers alike.

There are a few minor downsides. There are quite a number of random characters, that pop in the story. Also I did sometimes feel like there was no real distinction between when Daniel is speaking Italian to Italians and English to English speaking characters, so at times you think everyone is speaking English, when actually Daniel is speaking Italian to them, and every now and then Benjamin does highlight it, but not enough.

Tom Benjamin

This is English born author Tom Benjamin’s (www.tombenjamin.com) second novel featuring Daniel Leicester, the first and his debut book was A Quiet death in Italy (2019). Benjamin began his working career as a journalist, before becoming a spokesman for Scotland Yard. He later moved into Public Health, where he developed England’s first national campaign against alcohol abuse. He now lives in Bologna.

So if, like me, you want to immerse yourself in a well written and very atmospheric Italian crime novel, while staycationing this year, observe the covid regulations and Click and Collect from your local book shop or download a copy and join Daniel Leicester and the team from Faidate Investigations as they hunt a killer around Bologna. Then go and pick up Tom Benjamin’s first book too.

Reviewed by: Adrian Murphy

This book review is part of a Random Things blog tour, to see what the other reviewers thought visit their pages listed below, then if you get a copy comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d really appreciate the feedback.

BRENNAN AND REICHS STILL KNOW THE CODE TO DELIVER A SCALPEL SHARP THRILLER

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The arrival of Covid 19 brought with it a whole raft of conspiracy theories. Was it all a plan by Bill Gates to microchip us and track our movements? Was the virus released by the Chinese to cause the West’s economies to crash? Was it all a lie by governments to help control their citizens? Was it spread by new generation WIFI transmitters? The list is endless and its scary to see what some people will spout as truth and how many gullible people will believe them.

So what will the world be like post covid? What truths will eventually be revealed? Are some people using the global pandemic to make a fortune? No doubt. This brings me to this month’s first book review. Its of the Bone Code by Kathy Reichs and was published bt Simon &n Schuster (www.simonandschuster.com) on the 29th April. 

It is set immediately post covid/ current day in Canada. The population are vaccinated and life seems very much back to normal, air travel, dining out, staying with friends etc. When a hurricane hits, it uncovers two bodies which share a striking resemblance to a fifteen year old cold case, which has haunted Temperance Brennan. Meanwhile a rare bacterium, which eats human flesh is discovered and people rush for genetic testing as there’s a genetic mutation, which makes you more susceptible. In a search that soon proves dangerous, Temperance discovers a startling connection between the cold case and the outbreak.

I’ve always looked forward to reading the next Temperance Brennan book. So, I started this one as soon as I could, after almost trampling my husband in the clamour to get my hands on it, the moment it arrived in the post. In true Kathy Reichs’ style , it had a cliff-hanger at the end of each chapter, which draws you onto read the next one (very late nights were involved!) Also there’s a lot of scientific detail and acronyms.  I now know far more about vaccine development and manufacture than I ever thought I would need to, even as a medical professional. For new readers there’ adequate explanation of how Temperance’s  bi-location job and relationships work so you could read this as a standalone. I had, however, forgotten how scientifically detailed and complex the stories are, so I may do a reread under less time and academic pressures myself to enjoy it again. The story had several threads, one of which I found unnecessary and therefore slightly confusing. I felt it would have made a good novella or a great episode of ‘Bones’ , if the series still ran. Note to new readers, the Temperance Brennan here bears no similarity to the one in the TV series apart from the name.

I do love how the care of Birdie, Tempe’s cat features large. Do they have no catteries in Canada? I speak as someone who prefers homecare myself too . However, the idea of trailing a cat to strange houses by plane ? Too stressful! In too many books and screen-based thrillers I’m left wondering who is taking care of the pet?  I often say,’ that dog must need a wee’ or similar to the annoyance of my husband. I’m saying it’s a vet nurse thing and sticking with that as my excuse!

Kathy Reichs (Ben Mark Holzberg / nationalnews.com)

This is American author and Forensic Pathologist Dr. Kathy Reichs (www.kathyreichs.com) 21st book featuring her heroine Dr. Temperance Brennan, they include DeJa Dead (1997), Fatal Voyage (2002), Bare Bones (2003) , Flash and Bones (2011), she has also written three novellas centred around Brennan. and was the executive producer on the Bones TV series. While also writing a one off tie-in to the series with Max Allan Collins called Bones: Buried Deep (2006). On top of that she’s written five Young Adult books and three YA novellas with her son Brendan Reichs. All the the while working as a forensic pathologist, and serving on numerous boards associated with Pathology and law enforcement in America and internationally.

I’d highly recommend this to Kathy Reich’s aficionados but also to anyone who like a good conspiracy driven thriller and murder mystery set in current times. Its an interesting idea, well thought out and backed by science.  I’m  not  worried at all  about my upcoming vaccination at all, honest!

So get down to your favourite book store or download online for the next injection of thrills and deduction from Kathy Reichs.

Reviewed by : Georgina Murphy

This book Review is part of a random Things Blog Tour. To what the other reviewers though visit their blogs listed below. Then id you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought. we’d really appreciate the feedback.

PARKS WILL FOREVER LIVE ON MY MUST READ PILE WITH BOOKS LIKE THIS

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Were back in Scotland’s second city again, following our brief visit late last year, when we reviewed Jeremy Vine’s debut The Diver and The Lover, which told the story behind the painting of Dali’s Christ of Saint John of The Cross and how it came to end up in the city’s famous Kelvingrove Art Museum in 1952. But, for this month’s second book review we jump two decades on to the summer of 1973, and “The Dear Green Place” as it is affectionately known, according to Wiki , is baking in an unusually tropical heat. (Although for someone who lives less than two hundred miles from the city as the crow flies, any time the temperature goes above fifteen degrees in these parts, we think we’re in the tropics). The city is rife with drugs, drink, and poverty, while the new music scene which is sweeping the nation has also landed in Glasgow. In the midst of all this, a gritty and hardened local “Polis” detective is up to his oxters in blood, sweat, booze, bank robberies and walking a fine line between both sides of the law. The book is Bobby March Will Live FOREVER by Alan Parks and published in paperback by Black Thorn Books (www.blackthornbooks.com) on the 25th February.

There’s a heatwave in Glasgow and to add to the city’s problems a young girl Alice Kelly has gone missing. The whole force is put out on the streets to find her, all that is except Harry McCoy. He’s had a run in with his current boss Raeburn, a real brown noser whose doing all he can climb the ladder, and thus Harry is dispatched to investigate the death of local Rockstar Bobby March, who died as a result of an overdose in a city centre hotel. On top that an old colleague has asked Harry to find another young runaway, his niece, as a favour. While McCoy is also looking over some bank robbery cases for his partner “Wattie” Watson, whose now shadowing Raeburn instead of Harry. Talk about rain and pouring, although that is something that is not happening in Glasgow, the mercury is rising and so is the temperament of the city’s residents, fuelled by the press who want blood and the police bigwigs who want results fast. But when Raeburn makes a costly mistake, which threatens not just Harry but Watson’s career, McCoy must use all his cunning and every snout to bring things to a satisfying conclusion, but can he do it in time…

I haven’t been in a pub in seven months and that alone was a once off. All in all for most of us here in Ireland and the UK, it’s been nigh on a year since we were in a pub. As for a real hot sweaty smoky bar, it’s been 17 years. That’s when the smoking ban in Ireland (29th March 2004) came into effect. Yes, it was for the benefit of all our health, but there are some things that you just miss. I did smoke a celebratory cigar last year for my roundy birthday and at a Spanish wedding at the behest of the groom, two years before that.

This is what reading Alan Parks novel did for me. He brought me back to the days of my youth. Jeez, I sound a hundred (I’m in my late forties, early fifties… Covid years). But from page one I was transported back to a time when string vests, bell bottoms, paisley ties and underwear, along with a cigarette hanging off the end of your lip was cool… I was four when this book was set, but like most of us I can remember things from those days that you don’t see now, white dog poo and cultural references such as Tufty, an animated squirrel, used to teach us kids how to cross the road. Along with other things that the PC brigade has run out of town. But it is just so lovely to be able to immerse yourself in a sweet sweaty memory, while being engrossed in a gritty and gripping mystery, unaided by modern technology.

As for Harry, he’s of the Gene Hunt school of policing (Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes TV series), although there’s now’t to say he and DCI Jim Taggart the lead character from long the running Glasgow based British TV series “Taggart” are that far removed either, in both tenacity and geography. McCoy is of a time when men were cops, female police officers were glorified tea makers and eye candy used to brighten up the offices. While criminals were respectful and knew when the game was up, and both sides of the law used violence in equal measure to achieve an end result.

Alan Parks (HeraldScotland)

The writing is superb and Parks in-depth knowledge of Glasgow life, local humour and idiosyncrasies shines through the heat haze coming off the Clyde. Yes, there’s a lot of strands running through the book and Harry has his hands full, but law enforcement officers, even today with all their computers and technology are under the cosh when it comes to staying on top of their every increasing case load.

The gripping reality of the story left me almost having to wipe the city from my shoes every time I put the book down, along with trying to get the taste of it from my mouth and senses. Something only really allowed by calls of nature, sleep, and the body’s need for sustenance.

This is Scottish author Alan Parks (@AlanJParks) third Harry McCoy Novel, the others are Bloody JANUARY (2017) and February’s SON (2019). His fourth The April DEAD is due out later this year. Before becoming a crime writer Parks worked in the music industry for twenty years managing up and coming bands, before moving into the creative side of the business, working with the likes of New Order, All saints and Enya. Bloody JANUARY was shortlisted for the ‘Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere’, while Bobby March Will Live FOREVER was nominated for an ‘Edgar’ award and selected by The Times as one of their ‘2020 Books of the Year’. Parks still lives and works in Glasgow.

My advice is to pour yourself a large scotch, order online or download Parks first three books. Then prepare to be transported into the past of your youth or your parents’ formative years and walk the sultry streets of 1970’s Glasgow with Harry McCoy and the host of very lifelike and believable characters summoned by the excellent penmanship of Alan Parks.

Reviewed by   Adrian Murphy

This review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought visit their blogs listed below. Then, if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.

SHINDLER RETURNS LEAVING LITTLE CHOICE BUT PICK UP HIS KILLER READ

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I have often wondered, if faced with the difficult choices and moral dilemmas that our ancestors faced in times of war, the modern generation would be all for themselves or would they do the right thing , even at cost to themselves? When you read social media and newspaper’s , there’s very little evidence of self sacrifice of thinking of others first but the odd story does stand out. I suppose it really was the same in previous eras. We all like to think we’d do the right thing and are a good person but often we take the easy path through fear of selfishness. In this month’s third review we meet a killer who is testing the theory of making people choose between themselves and others. It’s ‘The Killing Choice’ by Will Shindler, published by Hodder & Stoughton (www.hodder.co.uk) on the 4th February.

This is the second book featuring Detective Inspector Alex Finn. The Library Door reviewed his previous outing in ‘The Burning Men’, a year ago. We were unfortunately late to the blog tour party for the release of this one (due to have been reviewed on the 6th Feb), as our copy was late arriving here in Ireland, due to lockdown, Covid 19, or Brexit. You can take your pick. Deliveries are proving very erratic here. Basically, if there’s a deadline, you’ll miss it but if there’s no rush, the item arrives very quickly.

Enough complaining, back to the book.. In this thriller the victims are faced with a choice by the killer. They must choose between themselves and a loved one or between two loved ones to save one person or themselves. The initial victims, Karl and his daughter Leah, are ambushed by a figure in a blank mask. At knife point, Karl is asked to make an impossible choice. Stay and they both die or leave Leah and accept the killer’s word that they will both live. If Karl leaves and Leah dies will he ever be able to live with himself? Subsequently other seemingly random people are offered similar choices as the killer leaves a trail of bodies across London. DI Finn and his detective constable, Mattie Paulson, must hunt for a killer with no face, no conscience and seemingly no motive , whilst battling problems of their own.

This is another dark crime thriller from Will Shindler, which keeps you turning the pages. It makes you think about what you’d do in the circumstances and also how social media and the mainstream media judge the motives and actions of strangers. The descriptions of the killings are quite graphic and gory, so not for the feint hearted, but the story is neatly resolved at the end, so you are at least able to sleep soundly again after finishing the book. We also get to know a little more about the lives and back stories of Alex, Mattie and another returning team member, Jackie Ojo. Alex is still struggling with grief after the death of his wife. Mattie is dealing with the increasing frailty of her parents and we are introduced to her brother. The characters are rounding out nicely.

Will Shindler

This is English author Will Shindler’s (@willshindlerauthor) second book featuring his crime fighting duo of Detective Inspector Alex Finn and Detective Constable Mattie Paulsen, the other one being Burning Men (2020). Previously Shindler was a broadcast journalist with the BBC, before spending a decade as scriptwriter on such TV drama’s as Born & Bred, The Bill and Doctors. He currently combines reading the news on BBC Radio London and writing crime novels.

What I particularily like about this book and the previous book , is that Shindler has given us a killer with a motive and specific victims. I find too many authors go down the route of putting one of their central characters in the killers sights, and the books become all about the main character and sometimes about a vendetta against them , and  happens in every subsequent book. Shindler has a well-reasoned motive and in these two books , a specific reason for choosing  the victim and the mode of killing. Its all very satisfying when its reasoned out at the end of the book.

So what would I chose? I guess I wouldn’t know unless it happened. So maybe I shouldn’t support those threads, sites and newsfeeds which are so quick to point a finger. What I do know is that you should order or download a copy of the Killing Choice as soon as possible. That’s a no brainer at least!

Reviewed by : Georgina Murphy

This review was meant to be part of a blog tour organised by Hodder & Stoughton, to see what other reviewers thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then if you get a copy comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d really appreciate the feedback.

GATWARD’S ON THE RIGHT TRACK WITH GRIMM TALES FROM THE DALES

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Most of the roads we travel on these days that connect our large towns and cities, have been there for centuries. The few exceptions are the major motorways, highways and other multi-lane routes that gauge a direct line across from one side of a country to another. These are more often, just large transport veins, that bypass smaller, slower, meandering, routes, and bottle-neck towns.

Britain and Ireland are criss-crossed, especially in rural areas, with old stone roads, that these days are the preserve of hill walkers and ramblers. Their original function apart from taking livestock and crops to markets, was also for the conveyancing of the dead to consecrated burial grounds. These roads are known in England and Ireland as corpse roads, and as coffin roads in Scotland. This month’s second book review features an old burial road, the book is Corpse Road by David J Gatward, published by Amazon in December 2020.

When Detective Chief Inspector Harry Grimm, is awoken in the middle of the night, by his second in command Sergeant Matt Dinsdale, he knows it won’t be good news.  There’s been a body found by Mountain Rescue in the Yorkshire Dales and being part of the Mountain Rescue team, Dinsdale is one of the first on scene to realise the victim hadn’t met their demise by accident. The victim’s has been viciously attacked and there’s blood everywhere, also there is a name scrawled in the victims blood on the side of the tent, which isn’t hers, and strange little balls inside and out. Over the next twenty-four hours Harry and is team, made up of detectives and Community Support officers (Special Constables or part-timers), quickly discover the victim’s marriage was in freefall, but after an eventful visit with the husband, things go awry when he suddenly disappears. This is all while Harry is trying to deal with an overbearing Chief Superintendent who doesn’t hide his contempt for him and a crisis in his personal life involving his father and brother. Is there more to this savage murder or was it just a crime of passion committed by a controlling husband?

I really got into this book from the first page. Which isn’t strange considering I, like many people living in Ireland and England, love the simplicity of rural crime stories and TV dramas. such as Midsomer Murders, Heartbeat and Bergerac for example.

Ok, so Bergerac was based on the Channel Islands, but that is rural to an extent. Suburban and inner-city crime dramas usually have fast cars, flashy offices, and advanced technology, while the rural ones are more likable because, the prevalence of heinous crimes, drugs, gangland killings, and the like are rare and shatter the peace and tranquillity of country life. Also, the equipment and means by which a country copper or detective can solve a crime are a lot more rudimentary than his city and suburban counterparts.

This is what you get with a Corpse Road, a very simple, but modern tale of murder and mystery set among the windswept but beautiful hills and moors of the Yorkshire countryside. Gods own country, as it is often stated, is not immune to crime.

To prove how simple things in his neck of Yorkshire are, Harry and his team’s base of operations is a community centre, not a purpose-built police station, where they share one laptop between them, one step above pencil licking, while taking notes and wearing bicycle clips.

Meanwhile, Gatward’s descriptions of the surrounding countryside and the quaint grey stone buildings of the local towns and villages, are what enable you to really get immersed in this story. If unlike me you’ve never been to this part of country, then when you do eventually get to visit Yorkshire (I personally recommend visiting there and the Peak district, albeit once the pandemic has subsided) you’ll see how immersive and detailed they are.

Harry as a character stands out initially because of his surname, as well as being a blow-in to the local area. Thus having read none of Gatward’s previous Grimm books, I felt we had something in common.

David J. Gatward

This is English author David J Gatward’s (www.davidjgatward.com) Third Harry Grimm novel, the others are Grimm Up North (2020) and Best Served Cold (2020). He’s also the author behind the Padre series of books – featuring a Military Padre fighting supernatural forces. As well as writing numerous young adult books and teaching creative writing courses around England. He now lives in Somerset, South West England, where he pursues a huge number of hobbies when not writing including caving, camping, climbing, archery, shooting and music.

At two hundred and eighty pages, and the rate at which David seems to produce these books, you know from the start you are not getting a meandering tale but a gripping as well as tightly scripted and well researched thriller. I could have read this in one day if I’d had a long train or plane journey. But this helped me endure a couple of very Irish, wet, sleety days as we headed towards to backend of winter and promised brighter evenings of spring.

So, order or download your copy online, which under the current Covid restrictions is the best way to follow Government guidelines. Then prepare to join DCI Harry Grim in the wilds of Yorkshire as he attempts to overcome the fish out of water feeling, while solving crime in Britain’s answer to “Big Sky Country”.

Reviewed by  Adrian Murphy

This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the others thought, visit their sites listed below. Then if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought. We would really appreciate the feedback.

BIRCH’S FRUITY LITTLE OFFERINING LEAVES ME MENTALLY BOWLED OVER

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One Saturday morning recently, I opened the paper to find an article had been cut out. There was just an empty space where it should have been. Someone had removed it very precisely with scissors. I was somewhat surprised as we’d just purchased the paper an hour or so earlier. What could be the reason for this? ‘Easy’, my husband replied, ‘There was a story you wouldn’t like’. 

No, I’m not subject to domineering censorship by my other half. He just knows me very well. Despite thirty odd years as a veterinary nurse, I find animal cruelty stories extremely upsetting. I experience distress and to be honest, rage, for days after reading such reports. I’ve had to cull my Facebook newsfeed, which at one point in Lockdown had a solid diet of missing, stolen or abused animal stories. I couldn’t take it. With humans, I don’t lack empathy, but I’m not usually so bothered. I would subscribe to the website that warns you if the dog dies in films but be unabashed by disaster movies wiping out half the world’s population.

So, I thought I was dodging a bullet, when I handed my initial option for this months reading, over to my husband. The blurb suggested difficult animal scenes. Best avoided. I was therefore delighted in turn to be given a collection of dark crime stories for this months second book review. Its A Bowl of Cherries by F.E Birch. Self Published in July 2020.

Birch had taken the time to pen a personal comment inside the cover, ‘I hope you like your stories on the dark side’. I do. My regular ‘go to’ reading catalogue is thrillers, murder mystery , crime and horror. One Christmas, a friend gave me a book she described as the most disturbing book she had ever read, with the comment that she thought I’d like it. So you see, I wasn’t nervous.

The first story, the titular Bowl of Cherries, certainly made me sit up and take notice. I thought I’d wandered into soft porn, before the gore unfolded. It’s a great opening piece. Showing you what kind of thing you might be in for!  The book continues through 33 more stories, some less sexual, some more, but all delving into the darker side of the human mind. There are twists a plenty. Sometimes the stories have a supernatural element, such as one titled ‘On the Beach’ which I felt was reminiscent of The Lovely Bones, by Alice Seabold. However, the real horror of most of the stories is that you feel they could happen.

All of the stories and characters leave their mark on you in some way. I found myself turning over the scenarios in my head for days after reading, often with a shudder. Another story titled ‘Haemorrhage,’ in particular may continue to haunt my dreams for a while to come. Some of the stories are poignant, rather than disturbing. Many of the stories are only a page long, but its still enough to cause an emotional response.

F.E, Birch (Effie Merryl)

F.E Birch is the Amazon pen name of English author Effie Merryl (@effiemerryl) . In 2013 she wrote the ‘Faction’ book of memoirs published by Harper Collins. Since 2004 she has had over 150 short stories published in print and online, many which have been entered into competitions and a Bowl Of Cherries is a selection of her best prize winners. In 2012 she won the Bloody Scotland “Pitch Perfect” for a manuscript will hopefully be her debut crime novel. A former police officer, she now divides her time between the North East of England and Central Scotland.

Overall, I’d recommend this as a great collection of stories, perfect for adults at Halloween. A lesson for us all that sometimes the thing you should be scared of is right there, sitting at the other end of the couch or staring back from the mirror. This bowl of cherries is sour rather than sweet and theres often a maggot at the core. Even whilst being thankfully, animal cruelty free, it still engendered feelings of fear, disgust, anger and sadness, because it showed the more base sides of human nature.

So, with Lockdowns looming again around the world, support your local bookshop by buying a copy online for through a click and collect scheme or download it and prepare to be unsettled!

Reviewed by: Georgina Murphy

This review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought visit their blogs listed below. Then if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d really appreciate the feedback.

MCCREESH ISN’T FLYING OVER A CUCKOOS NEST, BUT HER DEBUT HAS CRACKED THE THRILLER MARKET

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During my childhood, my mum worked for a while in a geriatric psychiatric ward. The hospital had been an asylum and a workhouse before that. A couple of the residents had been there their whole adult lives, having been put away for being unmarried mothers and therefore ‘morally deficient’, before the second world war and never leaving. A few of the male residents came with a warning to not be alone with them, nor to have them between yourself and the door. The residents ran the whole gamut of problems from sexual deviancy to pica. I was always fascinated by the tales she told and a little scared too.

Literature has always been able to mine a treasure trove of stories and characters in relation to mental illness. From Wilkie Collins and The Woman In white, a novel I read for my English literature O level, to the iconic, One flew Over the Cuckoos nest and Shutter Island, it seems the asylum and treatment of mental illness sufferers has ignited our greatest fascination and touched our darkest fears.

The hit of 2020 so far has been The Silent Patient by Alex Michealides, the story of Alicia Berenson who hasn’t spoken since the murder of her husband and Theo Faber, the psychologist who has a particular interest in finding out what she remembers . I read it at the start of Lockdown. I’ve also recently read a non fiction account of mental health treatment by Kerry Daynes (reviewed on here in February), a real life Forensic psychologist, which looked at memorable cases from her career.

I was delighted then to be able to get the opportunity to read this month’s second book review, which is Cracked by Louise McCreesh and published by Hodder & Stoughton (www.hodder.co.uk) in August.

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The cover suggests that it is perfect for fans of The Silent Patient. Whilst there is a similarity in the setting within a psychiatric unit, this is much more a classic detective thriller.

Jenny Nilson hasn’t seen Dr Philip Walton since she left Hillside Psychiatric unit, eight years previously. She’s kept her time there a secret, even from her police detective husband. When Dr Walton is murdered, she becomes a suspect. Unknown to the police, Dr Walton was keeping a dreadful secret for Jenny and his was not the first death. Can Jenny contact old friends and enemies from the unit and clear her name before the secret is unearthed and her new life is destroyed?

I felt this was a classic detective story in style, as there a limited cast of characters, all with motives. As the modern story of Jenny’s investigation proceeds it is interspersed with the slow reveal of the back story. There are various twists and turns and you are kept guessing as to who the killer is and why they did it. I did feel that McCreesh used a predictable cast of mental health conditions. It seemed unlikely they’d all be mixing together. They weren’t even of the same age. The stock characters didn’t take away from the enjoyment of the story however.

Again, if I was picky, I would doubt that Jenny could have hidden her issues, continued with her medication and any appointments, for the whole of her relationship with James without him detecting something. However, their marriage was a useful device for Jenny to get inside information and move the story forward.

This is English author and Journalist, Louise McCreesh’s (@loumccreesh),first book. When not writing, she is a freelance journalist in London. She studied creative writing on the Curtis Brown Creative Writing Course and as a result received a scholarship from them to continue her work on her debut novel.

Overall, I felt this was a little cliched but nevertheless a thoroughly enjoyable thriller. So get on down to your local bookshop and buy it or download a copy.

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy

This review is part of a blog tour, to see what the other reviewers thought visit their blogs listed below. Then if you get a copy and read it, comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d really appreciate the feedback.

CARTER DELIVERS AGAIN IN THIS BLOODY WELL WRITTEN INSTALMENT

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Written In Blood CoverPickpockets are active in almost any area where large crowds gather. Tourist hot spots are regularly dotted with signs advising visitors to be aware of them. But some are so deft at their trade, that it can be sometime before you are aware that you have been targeted. Then when it happens, it feels like a violation, and that’s because it is. Some uncaring stranger now has your cash, phone, ID, and credit cards. The shock and loss of these personal and valuable items can at times be akin to a mini bereavement.

There is loss and grief connected with this month’s second book review. While writing this book the author suffered the tragic and devastating death of his partner, but with the help of his fantastic editorial team, publisher and agent,  got his partly completed, book finished and published. The team at The Library Door sends condolences.

The catalyst for the story of this thriller is a pickpocket hitting the wrong mark. The book is Written In Blood by Chris Carter and published by Simon and Schuster (www.simonandschuster.com) in July.Angela Wood is an adroit young pickpocket working the streets of LA on the run up to Christmas. After a successful afternoon in a local shopping precinct, she ducks into a cocktail bar to change her appearance and have a well-earned drink. There she witnesses another customer being very un-festive to an elderly gentleman. As payback, she takes the man’s bag when his attention is distracted. On opening the duffel bag at home later, she discovers all that’s in it is a diary of sorts, but the entries and the pictures within it are more than just the scribbling’s of an angst ridden teenager. This forces her to drop this hot potato in the letter box of a previous victim of hers.  When the diary lands on the desk of LAPD detective Robert Hunter, he knows immediately that there is a sadistic serial killer on the loose. When the bodies of victims in the diary start turning up,  his and Angela’s paths cross. They soon realise that the killer now has them both and anyone connected with the case firmly in his sights. Soon the mysterious killer snatches Angela in a bloody raid on a safe house and now Robert and his team are in a race to discover the identity of the killer, and save Angela and other victims, whilst playing a sick game at the behest of the killer.

The title of the book may be Written In Blood, but I’m almost writing this review sweating blood too, as I try to get over the frantic pace of this book. I read this almost 500 page, edge of your seat thriller in less than seventy-two hours. My first session was a 150 page marathon and I was hard pushed to put it down. From page one, to page four hundred and eighty, Carter has the reader gripped tightly in the palm of his hand, as he terrorises LA with an all too realistic serial murderer.

This is my first Chris Carter book and after making the acquaintance of detective Robert Hunter, I’m definitely putting him and Carter on my ‘must read’ list next to Childs and Reacher. I initially thought that Carter had taken the eighties TV character of the same name and started writing a modern day series around him, but I realised some way through, that the TV character played by Fred Dryer was  Rick Hunter.

Robert Hunter’s character its self is made up of quite a few well known characters from film and TV over the past twenty years or so. I saw a bit of Mel Gibson’s Martin Rigg’s and Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callaghan in his character. Hunter, comes across as a deep-thinking individual, as well as a singleton who has had relationships in the past, but seems unable to hold on to them.

The reason for seeing some of Harry Callaghan in Robert Hunter, could come from one scenario in the book where the Killer has Hunter running all over LA from point to point, within a time limit. Which is similar to what Scorpio had Clint Eastwood’s character doing in the film “Dirty harry”.

As for the other characters, such as Hunter’s partner Garcia, they seem to be purely along for the ride, although having only read this book maybe Garcia, their boss Captain, Blake, and the other support cast are fleshed out more in previous books.

But with the serial murderer, everything about him is on point and fully fleshed out. His identity isn’t revealed until the last chapter. Up until then Carter refers to him by various monikers, while building his character up bit by bit, with enough malice to give not just Hunter cause for concern but the reader too. On top of that, he gives him a very plausible trigger for his killing. Which all in all goes to make the book a standout read and perfect for the summer staycation essential reading pile.

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Chris Carter

 

This is Brazillian born author, Chris Carters, (www.chriscarterbooks.com) eleventh book featuring Detective Robert Hunter. The others are The Crucifix Killer (2009), The Executioner (2010), The Nightstalker (2011), The Death Sculptor (2012), One By One (2013), An Evil Mind (2014), I Am Death (2015), The Caller (2017), The gallery Of The Dead (2018) and Hunting Evil (2019). Carter studied Psychology and Criminal Behaviour at the University of Michigan, before going on to work with the Michigan Attorney’s Criminal Psychology Team. In his time there, he interviewed criminals of varying types including serial and multiple homicide offenders. After that, he turned to his main hobby of music and moved to London where has supported numerous big stars playing the electric guitar. He now lives and writes in the UK.

So, if you are looking for a book that will totally rob your attention of whatever else is going on in your life and have you hungrily turning each page in a heart pounding pursuit of the answers, then pocket your wallet and pick up your bike or the dog’s leash and head down to your local bookshop. There you can snap up a copy or stay home and download it, and the previous ten instalments, of the Robert Hunter series online. Then set a date in your diary to read them over the next couple of weeks or months.

 

Reviewed by: Adrian Murphy

 

This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour. To see what the other Authors thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then if you get a copy, comeback and tell what you thought, we’d really appreciate the feedback.

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