The Devil’s Work by Mark Edwards. Read August 2016.

The latest fabulous read from Mark Edwards – the master of making the mundane menacing (my reason for including that description will become clear later).

“It was the job she had dreamed of since childhood. But on her very first day, when an unnerving encounter drags up memories Sophie Greenwood would rather forget, she wonders if she has made a mistake. A fatal mistake…

…As her life begins to fall apart at work and at home, Sophie must race to uncover the truth about her new job…before it kills her.”

This book is more twisty than a very tall spiral staircase. The characters are believable – the main character and her family make the reader think hey, this could happen to me, and that’s what makes the story so scary.

It’s hard to describe the cleverness of the plot without spoilers so I’ll just say there are plenty of opportunities to think you’ve worked out what’s going on, only to be proved wrong over and over again.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Full disclosure: thanks to a competition win (for coming up with the description of the author I’ve repeated in the opening sentence of this review) I have a character named after me in the book. This added to my enjoyment, as did my first ever mention in the Acknowledgements of a book. However I’m sure I would have enjoyed the read just as much without that.

Thank you to the author for the advance copy e-book to review.

I See You by Clare Mackintosh. Read July 2016.

Prepare to sit on the edge of your seat while reading this, and if reading on your commute, well…

“When Zoe Walker sees her photo in the classifieds section of a London newspaper, she is determined to find out why it’s there. There’s no explanation: just a grainy image, a website address and a phone number. She takes it home to her family, who are convinced it’s just someone who looks like Zoe. But the next day the advert shows a photo of a different woman, and another the day after that.
Is it a mistake? A coincidence? Or is someone keeping track of every move they make . . .”

So, how do you follow up a debut crime novel that was one of the most talked about books of recent years? One that has just won the Crime Novel of the Year award at the Theakstons Crime Festival. Clare Mackintosh has answered the question with another great thrilling read. Her writing style pulls you into the world of her characters and they won’t let you go until the last full stop on the last page.

The situation Zoe Walker finds herself in is frighteningly plausible – one of those “it could be you” scenarios that add an extra layer of tension. The police officer who takes her under her wing has her own issues that make her a sympathetic character.

What I enjoyed most was the family dynamic with Zoe and her household and how involved I became in their everyday lives, regardless of the creepy plots going on around them. I’ll miss them now I’ve finished the book – surely a sign that the author has created realistic, three-dimensional characters.

I recommend this follow-up to I Let You Go to all fans of psychological thrillers. There’s a fair amount of police procedural in there too.

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy e-book via Netgalley.

Lying In Wait by Liz Nugent. Read July 2016.

One of the best books I’ve read in years.

“Lydia Fitzsimons lives in the perfect house with her adoring husband and beloved son. There is just one thing Lydia yearns for to make her perfect life complete, though the last thing she expects is that pursuing it will lead to murder. However, needs must – because nothing can stop this mother from getting what she wants …”

The story is told from the viewpoints of three of the main characters. I enjoyed this structure that allows the reader to be in the know while some of the characters are in the dark. The book is fast-paced and yet the character development is exquisite.

A tangled web of deceit follows the characters through the years in a cleverly plotted story. Dark secrets lurk in every chapter making the book impossible to put down. I never wanted it to end.

I sometimes try to suggest other books or authors similar to the one I’m reviewing. Although very different in style the one I was reminded of most was Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (possibly because of the grand house at the centre of everything). I say that as a great compliment as its my favourite book.

I recommend Lying In Wait very highly and I’m off to put the author’s previous book, Unravelling Oliver, on my wish list.

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy e-book via Netgalley.

Made To Be Broken by Rebecca Bradley. Read June 2016.

Book 2 in the DI Hannah Robbins series, a gripping follow-up to Shallow Waters.

“A young mother is found dead in her home with no obvious cause of death. As DI Hannah Robbins and her team investigate, it soon becomes clear that the woman is the first in a long line of murders by poison. 
With the body count climbing, and the city of Nottingham in social meltdown, the team finds themselves in a deadly race against a serial killer determined to prove a point.”

Many of the compelling characters from the first book in the series return and we learn more about their lives against the backdrop of a tough investigation. I enjoyed the way the author moves the plot along at a fast pace while still developing believable characters. I found the main character, Hannah, less likeable this time but also more realistic. I think she has huge potential for future books.

The plot was cleverly constructed and I thought the use of flashback chapters was done well. The reader is in the know while the investigators are in the dark – a format that can sometimes disappoint but worked well here.

The author’s writing style contributes to a satisfying read. Her experience of police work is obvious and gives a feel of authenticity to all aspects of the investigation. It makes a nice change not to be shouting “That wouldn’t happen!” while reading a police procedural.

I enjoyed the read and would recommend this book to all crime fiction fans. However if you haven’t read Shallow Waters first you’ll be missing out on a lot of back story.

Thank you to the author for the advance copy e-book to review.

Last To Die by Arlene Hunt. Read June 2016.

A fast moving thriller that kept me enthralled throughout.

“He watches. He waits. He kills…When Jessie Conway survives a horrific mass high school shooting, in the aftermath she finds herself thrust into the media spotlight, drawing all kinds of attention. But some of it is the wrong kind.”

The main characters in the book are described and developed in such a skilful way that they felt real to me. The villain, Caleb Switch, is one of the most evil and frightening bad guys I’ve come across, and I’ve read a lot of thrillers with a lot of bad guys. In fact on finishing the book I was feeling a little guilty about how much I liked him. Well, maybe liked isn’t the right word but he’s certainly a fascinating character. The rest of the cast of characters are a typical small town America line up but they’re all realistic.

The author’s writing style had me turning the pages quickly, desperate to find out what would happen next. I was slightly distracted by attempts to sound American that didn’t quite come off but mostly it was authentic. The plot structure is clever, drip-feeding the characters’ back stories to keep the reader guessing.

Early on I decided that the book’s style reminded me of Linwood Barclay’s writing and this is no bad thing. I’d recommend Last To Die to Linwood Barclay fans and anyone who enjoys a well-written, cleverly plotted thriller.

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy e-book via Netgalley.

Fade To Dead by Tara Moore. Read June 2016.

A cleverly plotted crime thriller that will keep you guessing throughout.

“When a serial killer, The Director, starts snatching young women off the street to ‘act’ in his movies, DI Jessica Wideacre is tasked with apprehending him. It’s her first major case and the opportunity to prove she’s not just the token woman, promoted to satisfy the PC brigade.”

I enjoyed the author’s style of writing – fast paced and with regular sprinklings of dark humour. The main character, Jessica, is very strong and well developed so, as a crime fiction series addict, I was pleased to learn that this is to become a series. She is so dominant though that the some of the other characters around her came across as one-dimensional, and Jessica’s back story and family situation dominated some parts of the book to the detriment of the plot. I enjoy getting to know the main characters in a series but there has to be a balance between the investigators’ private lives and the crime/mystery we’re all there for.

Moving on to the investigation, I had to suspend disbelief at times or I would have been muttering “wouldn’t happen” constantly. Real sticklers for correct police procedure might find that this would spoil their enjoyment of the book. Also, I felt that the victims could have been dealt with more sensitively.

Reading back the last two paragraphs they sound far more negative than I meant to be. I did enjoy the read and the author’s style more than made up for any criticisms I have made so I’d recommend other crime fans should give it a try.

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy e-book via Netgalley.

Daisy In Chains by Sharon Bolton. Read June 2016.

The author’s best book yet (but I say that after every book of hers I read).

“Famous killers have fan clubs. Hamish Wolfe is no different. Locked up for the rest of his life for the abduction and murder of three young women, he gets countless adoring letters every day…His admirers are convinced he’s innocent, and that he’s the man of their dreams.
Maggie Rose is different. Reclusive and enigmatic; a successful lawyer and bestselling true-crime writer…She thinks she’s immune to the charms of a man like this. But maybe not this time.”

Maggie is a brilliant character. Although much of the focus of the story is on convicted murderer Hamish, it is Maggie that kept me turning pages. I lost count of the number of times I thought I’d sussed out what was going on. The author is skilled in leading the reader along a path before slamming down a diversion sign.

The writer’s style is perfect for psychological thrillers – pacy but with descriptions that are almost poetic at times. 

I’m finding it difficult to describe the story without risking spoilers so I’ll just say that I recommend this book highly and challenge anyone to say they solved the mystery.

Thank you to the publisher for the advance reader copy and for the e-book via Netgalley.

Love You Dead by Peter James. Read May 2016.

The twelfth in the Roy Grace series and they just keep getting better and better.

“Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is feeling the pressure from his superiors…there have been major developments with his missing wife Sandy, and…he now believes a Black Widow is operating in his city…Soon Grace comes to the frightening realization that he may have underestimated just how dangerous this lady is.”

The amount of research the author undertakes shines from the pages of this book. Whether it’s the detailed description of snakes and other venomous creatures or the laws surrounding marriage on board a cruise ship, the authenticity prevents the plot becoming far-fetched.

Twelve books into a series the recurring characters could easily have become stale, but the author’s skill lies in developing even minor characters. This makes the reader engage with them and keep on coming back for more. I always avoid spoilers so I’ll just say that some questions are answered in this book while others are left tantalisingly open.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it to all crime fans. If, however, you haven’t read the others in the series (where have you been?) then I urge you to start from the beginning with Dead Simple.

Thank you to the author and publisher for the advance copy to review. And finally, thank you again to Peter James for signing my copy at Crimefest.

My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry. Read May 2016.

A gripping, cleverly plotted novel with a cast of characters that will stay with me for a long time.

“When lawyer Lily marries Ed, she’s determined to make a fresh start. To leave the secrets of the past behind. 
But then she meets Joe. A convicted murderer who reminds Lily of someone she once knew, and who she becomes obsessed with freeing. 
But is he really innocent? And who is she to judge?”

This story drew me in from the first page and kept me guessing right to the end. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. There are so many things going on but the writer’s style and the structure of the book helped me to keep up with all the various strands of the plot.

All the characters are described and developed in a way that brings them to life and this made me care what happened to every one of them.

A fair bit longer than most of the crime thrillers I’ve read recently, but it’s hard to see how anything could have been cut without losing a vital part of the story.

Recommended if you like a book that makes you question the characters’ motives and behaviours, and your own reactions to them.

Thank you to the publisher via Netgalley for the advance copy e-book to review. 

When She Was Bad by Tammy Cohen. Read April 2016.

A believable, though horrific, premise provides a gripping mystery in one of the best books I’ve read in the past year.

” You see the people you work with every day. But what can’t you see?…Who secretly hates everyone? Who is tortured by their past?  Who is capable of murder?”

The structure of the book works well. The multiple points of view, giving the various characters their own chapters, made it easy to keep up with who’s who. The sense of foreboding builds with every page turned.

The author’s writing style is perfect for me – keeping the plot moving along at a fast pace while painting visual pictures to make the settings and characters come to life.

I enjoyed reading this book immensely. If there’s one thing I love more than guessing what’s going on in a mystery, it’s thinking I’ve solved it then being proved wrong. When She Was Bad knocked down all my theories like a row of dominoes, and if anyone tells me they guessed the ending I won’t believe them.

Highly recommended for psychological thriller fans.

Thank you to the publisher for the proof copy to review.