Thursday, 15 June 2017

Disturbing and unsettling search for a lost child

A sixth sense and a highly tuned instinct are the qualities that Naomi Cottle is blessed with that allow her to find the missing children. Madison Culver has disappeared in the snowy forests of Northern Oregon when accompanying her parents in the search for the perfect Christmas tree. Naomi is determined to find Madison and in the process will encounter some painful memories from her distant pass. The snow girl is protected by Mr B and as this relationship unfolds the intention of the guardian gives the reader real cause for concern....."The day after the girl had slept in his bed for the first time, B had come back from trapping and sat on the edge of the bed...."

There is a strange, almost dreamlike quality to the storytelling. The author in this detached form of communication with the reader creates a very uneasy and unsettling image of neglected and disturbed children..."it is better for a child to attach to an abuser than to experience the blind hole of neglect."... Naomi travels to the endearingly named Stubbed Toe Creek and with the help of Ranger Dave hopes to unravel the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the young Madison Culver. Is there a connection with the snow girl? Will recently realized childhood memories help Naomi in her painful search for the missing child?...."What were you running from, then? she had asked. Monsters, was all that Naomi could remember. And to this day, outside the hints in her dreams, it was all she could remember still." Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for sending me a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Superior 2nd ww story

A superior second world war book based around the Greek resistance on the idyllic  Ionian island of Lefkas. It is a story about love, friendship, war, and treachery and brilliantly portrays how the Nazi regime attempted to subjugate all those who opposed it's so called Reich doctrine. I enjoyed the authors style of storytelling by introducing us to an aged Eleni Thesskoudis and through her eyes revealing the courage and sacrifice of the Greek resistance as first the Italians and then the Germans attempted to crush all opposition to its vision of a new world order..."Perhaps war was the real face of humanity, and peace was little more than a pretence of what human nature could be."...."They were lying in wait to slaughter their enemy, or be killed in turn. Against that reality what did their feelings matter? Feelings had no place in this setting, this moment." This is the second Simon Scarrow book I have recently read and it certainly does not disappoint. 

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Very average

This is an average solid offering from Stuart Neville but not as good as the brilliant DCI Serena Flanagan...."Those we left behind" and "So say the fallen". DI Lennon is a typical over worked detective, the sole parent to his 6 year old daughter Ellen, mum having tragically passed away in a fire. He is helped in this endeavour by his one and only admirer Susan. It's almost Christmas on the streets of Belfast and a body has been discovered. Soon Lennon will be embroiled in the hunt for a killer and an investigation into the illegal importation of young girls from Europe for the purposes of prostitution. If we add to this a demented lonely killer then it is highly unlikely the dutiful detective will be sitting down to his turkey roast anytime soon....A book to pass away the time but instantly forgotten.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

A clever piece of writing

This was actually a book I mistakenly downloaded but I must confess I really enjoyed. We are introduced to a woman suffering some form of acute amnesia who appears to be living on a Greek Island called Kommeno. How did this woman arrive there? Who are the mysterious residents of the island who seem to want to help....or do they? Back in the UK Lochlan Shelley is at a business meeting in Scotland when he receives an urgent call from a neighbour who informs him that his wife Eloise is missing. Is there a connection between these two events? To say much more about the happenings that unfold would destroy what is an excellent and clever piece of writing. The reader is slowly drawn in as CJ Cooke gradually reveals the secrets that are hidden in the minds of the two main protagonists. What is at the centre of this novel is only really disclosed in the final chapters and I certainly did not anticipate how the threads and clues would be bound together, and indeed how the author is very well placed to write such a powerful piece of prose. It makes me wonder if we really know the thoughts and secrets that are hidden in the minds of those we hold nearest and dearest. Many thanks to the good people of netgalley and the publisher Harper for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

An exceptional writing talent

"All of his novels were so fast-paced that the reader was compelled to turn the pages in a non-stop effort to reach the end of the book. The final page often produced a totally unexpected plot twist that would invariably leave even his most die-hard fans surprised. His early books contained some violence that matched the era in which they were written, though this was considerably toned down as plots centred more on circumstantial situations to create the high degree of tension that was the hallmark of his writing. Sex was never explicit and, though often hinted at, seldom happened"  This is a Wikipedia description  of James Hadley Chase, a prolific quaintly English crime writer of the 1950's, 60's 70's His novels were always tightly constructed, intricate without being overly complicated but at the same time fast and exciting reads. I do hope Tim Weaver will not mind when I compare his style of writing to that of Chase but with very modern twists and themes. From the opening paragraphs- of "Vanished" we the reader are immediately drawn in...."Healy looked down at the temperature readout as he pulled up outside the estate. Almost twenty degrees. It felt hotter than that. He'd had the air conditioning on all the way from the station but, on the journey over, nothing had cooled His sleeves were rolled up, his top button undone, but the car was still stifling. Even in the middle of the night, under cover of darkness, the heat continued to cling on....." And so we ask...who is Healy and why is he out in the middle of a hot and sultry English summer night?

There are no wasted words in Vanished every page is readable and exciting drawing you in and inviting you to stay. The central character in all Weaver's books is David Raker an ex journalist who now uses his inquisitive skills hiring himself out as a kind of private detective to search for those individuals who have disappeared, desperately sought by loved ones who really only want to know why? Julia Wren hires Raker to find her husband Sam who disappeared some months ago, took an early morning London tube ride and was never seen again. Layer by layer, like the peeling of an onion, the twists and turns of this excellent thriller proceed at a terrific pace. The London underground/railway is used to great effect for the action scenes; the police are searching for The Snatcher and as his name suggests he removes his victims with stealth and cunning, is there any connection between this killer and the disappearance of Sam Wren? In the final chapters  just when we the reader thought the killer had been successfully identified there is a Hadley Chase moment and a "totally unexpected plot twist." My favourite character and one who demands greatest sympathy is ex London met detective Colm Healy, he was one of the Met's  best detectives - until the unsolved murders of a mother and her twin daughters consumed his career, his family and his life. Healy's world finally collapses when his own daughter Leanne disappears, soon to be the subject of a murder enquiry. Raker and Healy have a tenuous relationship and one can never be sure if the broken and distraught detective will finally succumb to suicidal thoughts.

As an ardent reviewer and keen blogger I awarded this book with four stars simply because the early David Raker lacked a little of the oomph, vitality and sparkle of later adventures (What remains;David Raker 6 and Broken Heart;David Raker 7 are exceptional) Tim Weaver is an extraordinary talent whose love of writing and his wonderful storytelling ability is beyond reproach and I look forward with great anticipation the new Raker adventure due for release at the end of July 2017.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Highly original polished cyber thriller

This is an edgy, pacy, futuristic and oh so very polished cyber thriller. At its centre is the author's idea of what life could be like beyond "Second Life" (virtual world for the sad and lonely geeks!) The skin suit:  a totally immersive online experience from software giants Wadesoft....."where the person wearing the suit can be made to feel the physical sensations of whatever software simulation the program is running...." Once the user enhances his body by wearing the skin he can enter the Streamplex where all his needs and wants can be realized in a virtual environment.

FBI agent Rose Blake has failed in her mission to capture and incarcerate  Shane Koenig, a killer who performs the most heinous deaths on this victims before uploading the video to his KKillKam site which is viewed by those who troll the shadowy side of the internet...the darknet. She has no time to dwell on past mistakes and must now use all her energy to investigate a suspected arson. However when a body is discovered Rose will commence a journey that will see her become engrossed in a world of online fantasy and video games, a world without rules or regulation and a world where she will encounter unexpected help in the form of project DIVA (an intelligence that can think for itself and make decisions) amidst "an orgy of virtual massacre and destruction."

Having not read Simon Scarrow's historical novels ( a mistake I plan to rectify) I was intrigued by his latest offering an almost futuristic crime thriller which goes beyond the virtual world giving a glimpse of what might be possible and how those possibilities create a frightening but not unreasonable scenario. I felt a  certain warmth towards agent Blake her love for her son Robbie and her worry about husband Jeff who held lustful thoughts for the lovely Pandora and when not reciprocated purchases his own skin suit, enters Streamplex there hoping to realize his dark inner self. This novel is filled with intelligent, perceptive thought and analysis, a compassionate hero and a deadly foe who will stop at nothing to damage and destroy. Will Shane Koenig by finally stopped? Will Rose successfully navigate the virtual world of Streamplex? Will Jeff be saved from his overworked labido? All will become clear in an exciting and very fulfilling conclusion that leaves open the possibility of further novels in the series. Thanks to netgalley for this gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017


This story is all the more astounding when you consider that it is based on the real life events that occurred to the author. I have never been more affected or more enthralled by the content of a novel or by its alternate voice method of presentation. Vivian Tan, independent and vivacious traveller, is in Belfast invited to contribute in the celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement. As a keen walker she plans to use the opportunity to explore the nearby Colin Glen Forest Park close to the city. She meets a young, seemingly innocent boy John Sweeney who continues to follow the hiker seeking a reaction from her as he attempts to strike up a friendly conversation. The situation develops in a frightening and unexpected manner when a pleasant exchange turns to a violent assault and uncontrollable lust ending in the rape of Mz Tan.

It is the telling of this story through the voices of the victim and the perpetrator that makes for compelling reading. A victim so traumatized by a violent act that her life from here on is changed irrevocably and a perpetrator totally unconcerned by the affect of his actions on the victim..."But they have no idea how far she is now from the person they knew a week ago. They just see her, hear her voice. But the real Vivian checked out days ago, and she doesn't know when she'll return.".... As we alternate quickly between the thoughts of Vivian and Sweeney we encounter the rape, the aftermath, the trial and the fallout. It is often so easy to read about a sexual assault and to dismiss very quickly, but the voice of Winnie Li, and her articulate literary presentation taking us from a solitary walk to her life today, (as the lines between Winnie and Vivian must surely be merged) is a meaningful, sombre and sad experience to me as a male reader.

An essential important read by a lady who I can only hold the greatest respect and admiration for. The scenes in the Northern Irish courtroom and the questioning that Vivian received at the hands of a well educated defence lawyer had me totally engrossed by its realism and authenticity ( I work within the legal system) This is a novel that should be read by everyone and can only add to the understanding of a victim in a violent sexual attack, a victim with the courage to tell her story knowing that...."One of these day, she tells herself, she'll be able to walk into a field on her own. An open field under the broad sky in the middle of the day. She'll be able to lie down on her back, feel the grass beneath her, the sun on her face, close her eyes and she will feel completely content. And she will feel no danger....." Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.