Cross And Burn by Val McDermid. Read February 2014.

“Someone is brutally killing women. Women who bear a striking resemblance to former DCI Carol Jordan. The connection is too strong to ignore and soon psychological profiler Tony Hill finds himself dangerously close to the investigation, just as the killer is closing in on his next target.”
Beautifully and cleverly written, this gasp-out-loud thriller was everything I expected from the latest in the Tony Hill / Carol Jordan series. I read a lot of crime fiction series and by number 8 in the set they have sometimes become stale and predictable. Neither of those adjectives could be applied to Cross And Burn. With just enough reminders of what happened in the previous book, The Retribution, the reader is aware of the physical and emotional scars borne by the main and peripheral characters. This allows us to understand more clearly their motivations and actions in this story.
This is a thrilling and satisfying book that I did not want to put down until I knew that every plot twist and loose end was dealt with. I needn’t have worried as Val McDermid never lets her readers down. I would strongly recommend that any reader new to this series should read the books in chronological order as the complex relationships between characters develop with each story. I hope it’s not too long before we get another instalment. Highly recommended.

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Keep Your Friends Close by Paula Daly. Read February 2014.

“What would you do if your best friend stole your life?…Eve has done this before, more than once, and with fatal consequences…”
In most of the crime fiction I’ve read there’s very little doubt who we are meant to identify with and who are the villains. There is generally an evil-doer / criminal / bad guy pursued by a detective / good guy. What I love about Paula Daly’s books (this is her second) is how she blurs the boundaries. Yes, there is a clear main character that we are rooting for, but they are by no means perfect and have plenty of dark secrets of their own. It is this novelty that I have most enjoyed while reading Keep Your Friends Close.
I was in Natty’s corner throughout against her weak and perfidious spouse, Sean, and the evil former best friend Eve. However, just occasionally I found myself questioning my loyalty to Natty – no more details as I’m coming perilously close to spoilers.
I can’t recommend Keep Your Friends Close highly enough, for any crime fiction / psychological thriller fans. You won’t want to put this book down until you have all the answers to the complex twists and turns of the plot.
Thank you to the publishers for the advance copy. Keep Your Friends Close will be released on 13th March 2014.

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Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid. Read February 2014.

“It looked like vampire heaven in the images she’d googled. But would it really be so unnerving in reality?…No matter how bloodcurdling it might be, it would be no match for Cat Morland.”
This book is a modern reimagining of Jane Austen’s novel that was published shortly after her death in 1817 (part of theaustenproject.com). It reads like a Young Adult vampire/gothic story and I enjoyed it (wallowed in it!) as such. I became quite nostalgic remembering my enjoyment of many fantasy, mystery and romance novels in my youth and identifying with our young heroine, Cat.
This book showcases the versatility of the author who manages to create an accessible, readable version of Austen’s story while remaining true to the themes of the original. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a well written, entertaining story.
Thank you to the publishers, The Borough Press / Harper Collins, for the advance copy.
Northanger Abbey will be released on 27 Mar 2014

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Just What Kind Of Mother Are You? by Paula Daly. Read February 2014.

“No family is perfect…You forgot you were supposed to be looking after your friend’s daughter…No-one’s seen her since yesterday”.
There’s only one thing I like better than a new book by one of my favourite authors and that’s finding a new favourite author. Now that I’ve read ‘Just What Kind Of Mother Are You?’ Paula Daly has definitely been added to that list.
This book is completely different from any crime fiction I’ve read before – its disturbing main plot is made all the more horrifying by the mundanity of the background action. Families go about their day to day lives in the midst of an unimaginable situation (“We still have to eat…”) and the reader realises that this could be happening to any of us. Take your eye off the numerous plates you’re spinning for a second and your safe family life could come crashing down around you.
This book is fast paced and the plot has lots of twists that keep you guessing. I found it to be a real page turner and I’m already looking forward to the author’s next book and hoping that some of the characters are carried forward.
Highly Recommended.

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The Burning Girl by Mark Billingham. Read February 2014.

“A man who kills for money…A brutal vendetta…A cop who is playing with fire”
The overriding question in my mind on finishing this book is: How on earth is DI Tom Thorne still in a job? As this is book 4 in the Thorne series and I have another 8+ to catch up I guess I’ll be asking this for some time.
The Burning Girl is set against the background of London gangland warfare dating back over 20 years.There’s some very nasty violence but not so much that I couldn’t read on (as has been the case with some gangland crime novels).
The reader (and no-one else) gets to see through some chinks in Thorne’s hard man armour to the human being inside. Since the TV adaptations I’ve been unable to visualise Thorne as anyone but David Morrissey, but that’s not such a bad thing.
A cracking read with more twists and turns than a corkscrew. Highly Recommended

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Wolf by Mo Hayder. Read February 2014.

“Fourteen years ago two teenage lovers were brutally murdered in a patch of remote woodland. The prime suspect confessed to the crimes and was imprisoned. Now one family is still trying to put the memory of the killings behind them. But at their isolated hilltop house…the nightmare is about to return”
This book, like the other six in the Jack Caffrey series, grips you from page one and doesn’t let go even after you’ve reached the end. I know I’m reading a good thriller when I feel guilty if I put the book aside when the characters are in peril and I’ve had a guilty conscience a few times while reading Wolf.
The complex plot keeps you guessing throughout and just when you think you have solved the whole mystery the next page brings your theory tumbling down.
This thriller is very shocking in parts and calls for a strong stomach on the part of the reader, but for Mo Hayder fans that will come as no surprise.
Thank you to the publishers for providing an advance copy for review. Wolf will be released on 24 April 2014.
Highly recommended.

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