The Coincidence Authority, by John Ironmonger

Publisher: W & N | Publication date: 4th September 2014 | Edition: Paperback (own copy)

Mr Bond, they have a saying in Chicago: ‘Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action’.  Ian Flemming, Goldfinger

Co incidence Authority

I’m loving this cover!

Can coincidences always be explained, or does everything happen for a reason?

This book entertains that very notion, and the storytelling is so perfect I have no choice but to offer five stars.

I do like a ‘different’ read and this book didn’t disappoint. It flicks backwards and forwards through various points in time, but this is handled well and it’s really easy to follow. I must admit, it’s quite the contender for one of my favourite books of 2014.

It’s not your average, run-of-the-mill book. There’s hidden qualities I couldn’t begin to even try and explain here. It’s fresh, the dialogue has been expertly written and the ending is simply the icing on an already addictive cake.

In brief, it follows the rather unfortunate life of a young girl with the memorable name of Azalea. Her mother, it seems, had abandoned her at a fairground in Devon when she’s just a child, which was awful enough, but she becomes separated from her adopted parents in Africa when she’s just thirteen following a raid at their orphanage / mission…it soon becomes apparent to her that the date of the 21st June is one which she finds herself questioning, as various misfortunes just keep on presenting themselves. So, she decides to investigate this further when she realises what affect this could have on her life, or indeed death…

And no, it’s not all about ramming statistics and mathematical probabilities (or even theology) down your neck, although it does get you thinking. Everything is very cleverly woven into a forever-moving story and is incredibly interesting. Mostly, everything is plausible.

If you’re just a little intrigued, there’s a website that’s been set up to “accompany” the book at:

And that’s a nice touch to discover after you’ve finished reading. Quite brilliant.

Rating: 5/5

You can follow this author on Twitter: @jwironmonger


The Blood of the Rose, by Kevin Murray

Publisher: Urbane | Publication date: 9th June 2014 | Edition: Paperback (review copy)

He sighed as he bent his face to the cold stock of the crossbow. Through the weapon’s illuminated night sights he could make out every detail on the head of the Siamese cat twenty yards away…the animal watched him, the fur on its back slightly raised, whiskers trembling…

Blood of the Rose 24.12.14

An intense psychological crime thriller, published by @urbanepub.

Despite their best efforts, the police are unable to solve the brutal murder of a newspaper editor that had been killed by an assassin with a crossbow. It appeared that prior to his death he’d received a series of menacing letters as a warning, yet hadn’t taken them seriously enough until it was too late.

But it wasn’t long before Scotland Yard was called to investigate more carnage, with seemingly no connection between the victims, other than a single red rose left at the scene. If the circumstance surrounding their deaths was not alarming by itself, the calling card is – the killer left the rose especially for them.

And while you wait for the twisted ‘assassin’ to strike next, deceit rumbles amongst the characters you think you can trust.

Set in the 80’s the story relies on good old fashioned detective work, which I enjoyed. In this psychological crime thriller you come to learn more about the killer’s motives and the significance of the rose by listening to his thoughts that are woven into the pages. I had a hunch as to ‘The Rose’s’ identity about halfway through. I was close, but no cigar!

There was only one very, very minute thing for me, which was how quickly the Detective in charge of the case fell head over heels for the editor’s daughter. But, perhaps that’s due to me having a heart of stone?!

Overall, very impressed with this unusual and intriguing read. Great ending, too, with a nice little twist to round things off.

Certainly worth a look.

Rating: 4/5

(My thanks to Matthew of Urbane Publications for providing a copy of this book for review.)

Dark Tides, by Chris Ewan

Publisher: Faber & Faber | Publication date: 16th October 2014 | Edition: Hardback

Dark Tides 19.12.14

Suspenseful & brooding, a great crime mystery.

Dark and moody, Dark Tides centres around the seemingly not so coincidental events surrounding a group of friends on Hop-tu-naa (Halloween, on the Isle of Man). The events ‘brew’ slowly, but not like you would normally expect on the 31st October!At 8 years old, young Claire has to cope with the loss of her mom, who disappeared after taking her ‘trick or treating’; her body was never found.

A few years pass and Claire is introduced to a group of friends, who take it in turns each year to select a dare of their choice. This dare takes place on Hop-tu-naa, usually in a remote location, somewhere you’d normally avoid in the daylight, let alone visit in the dark. Despite reservations, she participates.

The story is told, the group grows older. Yet, it appears that as the years pass varying ‘accidents’ also occur on this familiar date. Unfortunate, yes, but ‘something’ starts to nag at Claire, who has since joined the Police. She realises that she and her friends have something other than their secret yearly dare to bind them. As it turns out, there’s someone watching them, resulting in horrific consequences. (That ‘something’ is pretty creepy, too.)

You’d be forgiven if you thought this was a regurgitation of a typical, ‘teenage’ scare story on a familiar date. Let me stop you there. It’s a story that’s very well told, and the Isle of Man makes an incredibly interesting setting.

To summarise:
Dark Tides is a subtle, brooding tale, full of suspense to the end with a few twists thrown in.
Definitely worthy of a read.

Rating: 4/5

(Thank you to the publisher and Chris Ewan for my signed copy I received as a result of a Twitter Competition. Much appreciated.)

You can follow the author on Twitter: @chrisewan

Vendetta, by Dreda Say Mitchell

Vendetta 14.12.14

A tense thriller with plenty of pace.

Publisher: Hodder | Publication date: 6th November 2014 | Edition: Paperback (own copy)

A fast paced, crime thriller surrounding the dark world of deep undercover police and their involvement within the Russian underground, and someone with a vendetta.

The writing was excellent and chapters are quite clipped, too, which made it really easy to absorb the varying degrees of twists throughout.

So, why only 4 stars? Well, I loved the storyline and strong characters, but toward the end it became a little sensationalised – I appreciate undercover police have to go through some pretty horrendous ordeals in ‘real life’, but it all got a bit ‘James Bond’ for me. Such a heck of a lot happened in the space of 24 hours, and there were a fair few modes of transport being used as settings, or a means of escape in the last chapters (boat, plane, train…). Having said that, this book would be absolutely perfect for anyone who relishes a true cat and mouse crime thriller.

If you like a read with lots of intrigue, guns, knives (and perhaps an odd explosion to liven things up just a wee bit more), you’ll find this one right up your street.

Rating: 4/5

You can follow the author on Twitter: @DredaMitchell

The Dying Place, by Luca Veste

The Dying Place 05.12.14

Wow – what a read!

Publisher: Avon | Publication date: 4th December 2014 | Edition: Paperback

Wow. Simply, wow.

Read it in two sittings (that’s only because I had to sleep, or risk passing out!).

Such an excellent, if somewhat grim story. Yet, it’s scarily plausible given the breakdown of our justice system on occasion and the low opinion that today’s ‘yoof’ appear to have earned themselves. A brilliant take on both sides of the argument: ultimately, should victims rebel against the menaces on the streets of Liverpool, aka teenagers? Even if the authorities appear to have failed them, both sides of them? Well, read this book and judge the consequences for yourself – it makes for a breath-taking read.

Gripping, suspenseful, brilliant pace – all the usual words appear weak in comparison to how truly marvellous this storyline is. And the partnership between the investigators Murphy and Rossi is spot on.

When I reached the end (which I didn’t want to get to!), I kind of knew where it was heading, but wasn’t expecting it to quite turn out the way it did, so a shock ’til the last.

A full gas mark 5 for this one. I’ll certainly look forward to reading more from this author in future – great writing.

Rating: 5/5

(My thanks to @CrimeFix (Avon) for providing a copy of this brilliant book from a competition run via Twitter.)

You can follow the author on Twitter: @LucaVeste

Dying for Christmas, by Tammy Cohen

Dying for Christmas 08.12.14

With its twists and turns, this story is positively wriggling!

Publisher: Black Swan imprint | Publication date: 4th November 2014 | Edition: Paperback (own copy)

Setting a psychological thriller during the twelve days of Christmas was a excellent idea – it would make the most excellent film (not to mention a skin-crawling one).

All told a fantastic read that holds your attention – the plot, the pace, the people, all captured just right.

The general gist of the story is that Jessica Gold meets a man whilst shopping and he subsequently invites her back to his home. She is then held captive over the 12 days of Christmas and each day she receives a bizarre gift from her captor. But matters take on an unexpected twist on the captivity front – it’s a story that goes, much, much deeper, in fact it’s pretty twisted and I didn’t guess the turn of events until I was faced with them!

The main question presents itself:  Who’s willing to play the sick game that the meek and mild Jessica Gold has got herself involved in, and ultimately will she survive it?

I particularly liked the way the font altered during the chapters when Jessica Gold was speaking about her experiences in captivity, to when it switched to the others, the police and her family during her absence. This made it VERY easy to read, as you knew who was narrating and what to expect – you could just sit back and listen to the story flow, without stopping to question where you’d got to and who is talking, as with some books you read. The chapters are quite short, too, helping you to absorb the intense story, bit by bit.

And it wasn’t all police procedural either, which makes a refreshing change. It was ALL STORY from start to finish, simply proving that as a reader you don’t need to know EVERY minute detail about police work to know how to catch a killer…

It’s a jaw dropping book, but I had to re-read the ending to fully grasp it, but as soon as the penny dropped I was like, “ooooh, now that’s clever.”

Rating: 4/5

You can follow the author on twitter: @MsTamarCohen

The Ghost Hunters, by Neil Spring

Ghost Hunters, Neil Spring

Intriguing read – Borley Rectory, reputed to be the most haunted house in England…

Publisher: Quercus | Publication date: 24th October 2013 | Edition: Paperback

A slow and brooding mystery that builds to a satisfying conclusion.

This story mainly concentrates around Borley Rectory, once reputed to be the most haunted house in England, and combines certain facts with the author’s unique fictional additions. It’s told via the diary Sarah Grey (fictional), the assistant of Harry Price, a ghost hunter and genuine ‘real-life’ person in his field.

The book starts with the introduction of this diary and continually weaves its tale to complete a full circle. And just when you think it’s all wrapped up…the author extends the story that little bit more and leads it to quite the perfect conclusion. I won’t spoil it, just say that it was an unexpected and nice, neat ending. All loose ends get tied.

Don’t be fooled by thinking this is your usual summary of diary entries either, you know the sort where snippets of scaremongering and facts are rammed down your throat for effect. It’s told incredibly well, and it brews nicely (occasionally for a little too long in places), plus it was fairly creepy without being dramatically graphic.

To be honest this story doesn’t command your time, it deserves it. So be patient, don’t expect massive thrills and spills – it’s not that sort of book.

I really enjoyed it, so why only 4/5? Well, it could have been trimmed down, just a wee bit.

As that’s my one and only criticism, I would happily recommend it to anyone that’s interested in a traditional (but certainly not a cozy), haunted house mystery.

Rating: 4/5

(My thanks to the publishers, Quercus, and the author, Neil Spring, for the signed copy I won in a Twitter competition.)

Follow Neil Spring on Twitter: @NeilSpring

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman

Ocean at the End of the Lane

Quirky, fantasy world in an ordinary rural setting with a pond that’s actually an ocean, on a farm where weird things happen, like witchy/fairylike things – yep, I liked it.

Publisher: Headline | Publication date: 10th April 2014 | Edition: Paperback

It appears from some reviews I’ve read that this book’s a little like Marmite – you’ll either like it, or you just won’t click with it.

If you like a quirky, bizarre story then you’ve come to the right place. You know those sort of stories that immerse you in a surreal fantasy world that could just possibly exist alongside an everyday real one? Whilst people’s lives intertwine with it, oblivious to its existence? Then yes, this is DEFINITELY for you.

It’s dreamlike and slightly nuts in places, but altogether highly original. Yet it’s told in a clever, matter-of-fact way that it actually makes it strangely plausible. It’s a fantasy-fairylike-tale with a whopping, great punch throughout.

I must mention that the intimidation of the young boy by a truly vile villain, together with the ‘angry birds’ scene later in the book are captured in a perfectly sinister manner, painting quite a graphic image in your mind.

And I’ll admit, I got myself lost a couple of times with the changing story between the past (the young boy) and the present (the boy grown up), particularly toward the end, but a quick re-read of the chapter put me straight. That was my fault entirely and not the book – therefore, I would recommend giving it your 100% attention to fully appreciate it, it would be a crime not to.

This is the first book I’ve read by Neil Gaiman and it’s left me wanting to read more.

Rating: 4.5/5

You can follow the author on Twitter: @neilhimself

The Watcher in the Shadows, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Watcher in the Shadows

A fantasy style story that’s eerie and suspenseful – keeps your attention all the way through.

Publisher: W & N | Publication date: 9th October 2014 | Edition: Paperback (own copy)

I’m surprised this book is mainly aimed at a younger audience. I found this quite eerie and riveting, right up to the last page.

The underlying story was genuinely quite creepy and the descriptions were positively unnerving – the writer got these spot on. (Personally, I won’t look at keyholes in the same way again!)

A very quick version of events are as follows:  An old inventor that makes animatronic robots lives in a big house where a new family have moved to.  The mother begins working a clerk to answer correspondence for him. In between, the kids do kid things.

The inventor’s butler is robotic, even his animals are robotic, but there’s something a little disturbing about the clockwork creatures he has created, and particularly something run-away-scary about the shadow in the woods…

Of course, the inventor invites the kids round as they soon take an interest in his creations. Now, there’s a genuine need to read on to discover how and why the inventor recreates life in this form to resemble living things…

…And the rest is a tormented battle of survival.  The ending’s a little sad, too.

Don’t just consider this as a book for ‘young adults’ and then dismiss it without a second thought. There are several layers to the book that’ll gnaw at you, not matter what age you are.

So glad I bought it now, good stuff and would be interested to read more by the same author.

Rating: 4/5

Rooms, by Lauren Oliver

Rooms 27.09.14

Not your average ghost story.

Publisher: Hodder & Stroughton | Publication date: 25th September 2014 | Edition: Hardback (own copy)

After getting this book I was so looking forward to reading it. I thought, what a great concept? No dead people hanging around and scaring the living, but rather the actual house communicating and reacting – perhaps with a creak here, a smashed light bulb there, sometimes a groan – always there, just not quite.

All things considered, this book was very different from what I expected. It was erring more on the side of a ‘family crisis’ than your typical ‘haunted house’ story. When I finished it my main question was: exactly how dysfunctional and unfortunate can one family be?!

Richard Walker has died leaving his estranged family behind. They arrive at the old family home to sort out the will, the belongings and remember a few things they had all forgotten.

Considering the fact that Minna launches herself at anything with a pulse and her daughter did get to witness her mother ‘entertaining’, despite this, the little one appears relatively unaffected and is the most switched on. Minna’s brother, Trenton, has some manic depressive issues following his car accident and is a little more sensitive than the others. And if that wasn’t enough, their mother, Caroline, likes a drink or three. Even the house-ghosts have their share of ‘life issues’ that they’re still affected by.

I liked the way you got to learn a little more about each character as you moved through the book with small ‘chapters’ that were titled with the character’s name. Also the way it was sectioned with the part of the house you were in. But after working my way through these I kept expecting something more to happen, I can’t put my finger on it.

Would I recommend it? Well, yes, probably BECAUSE it’s different. And there is one part that keeps you on the edge of your seat, if only for 2/3 chapters with the arrival of a new ghost…I won’t say any more ’cause it’ll spoil it. Just don’t expect a lot more tension and suspense – it wasn’t that sort of book.

Rating: 3.5/5

You can follow the author on Twitter: @OliverBooks