Book Review: Unforgivable (DC Will MacReady #2), by Mike Thomas

Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre

Publication date: 27th July 2017

A very happy publication day to author, Mike Thomas!

When a malicious spectre’s intent is merely to inflict indiscriminate damage to innocent lives their actions are Unforgivable.

From the immediate tone of the story and an accompanying eye-witness report you would naturally assume that the suspect’s actions were racially motivated. As new evidence materialises complications ensue and it becomes clear that the action during the first chapter is just the beginning. So sit tight, it’s going to be a very bumpy ride…

There’s no doubt it’s an explosive beginning, both literally and metaphorically. The search for the culprit may be extensive but it’s supported by inadequate manpower, which lends an insight into interesting police procedures and few absurd errors of judgement by investigators who are, after all, only human too – solving the case of this magnitude relies on heavily on perception but government cuts, lack of shut-eye, the archaic attitude of a colleague, and even a complicated personal life on the skids can disrupt proceedings.

I’d imagine that the author’s previous background as a former police officer contributes enormously to the reality of the complex labyrinth of evidence Will MacReady and co. are faced with. The narration is edgy and feels staggeringly authentic, so too are the observations of the resulting carnage at specific locations where herds of people gather. Add to this the false sense of relief when everyone believes the danger has passed, and the engineer’s indifference as they appreciate their handiwork, and you have all the ingredients of a riveting read.

And I hadn’t even realised this was book two in a series! It’s apparent there are some references to earlier event(s) as to why MacReady is the subject of a few wisecracks from his ‘buddies’ but I’m happy to report this didn’t affect my overall reading experience. The necessary background is casually integrated into the story without dwelling or hindering the pace.

To sum up: Unforgivable has a solid plot where ordinary people face extreme scenes that no one could have prepared for – except a vengeful and vicious choreographer, of course.

Rating:      4/5

(My thanks to the publisher via their Reader’s First website for providing a copy of this title, for which It is my pleasure to provide this unbiased review.)

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

A dark slice of Cardiff crime for fans of TONY PARSONS, JAMES OSWALD and LUCA VESTE. There isn’t always a welcome in the valleys . . .

Bombs detonate in a busy souk, causing massive devastation. 
An explosion rips apart a mosque, killing and injuring those inside. 
But this isn’t the Middle East – this is Cardiff . . . 

In a city where tensions are already running high, DC Will MacReady and his colleagues begin the desperate hunt for the attacker. If they knew the ‘why’, then surely they can find the ‘who’? But that isn’t so easy, and time is fast running out . . . 

MacReady is still trying to prove himself after the horrific events of the previous year, which left his sergeant injured and his job in jeopardy, so he feels sidelined when he’s asked to investigate a vicious knife attack on a young woman. 

But all is not as it seems with his new case, and soon MacReady must put everything on the line in order to do what is right.

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Mike Thomas was born in Wales in 1971. For more than two decades he served in the police, working some of Cardiff ’s busiest neighbourhoods in uniform, public order units, drugs teams and CID. He left the force in 2015 to write full time.

His debut novel, ‘Pocket Notebook’, was published by William Heinemann (Penguin Random House) and longlisted for the Wales Book of the Year. The author was also named as one of Waterstones’ ‘New Voices’ for 2010. His second novel, ‘Ugly Bus’, is currently in development for a six part television series with the BBC.

The first in the MacReady series of novels, ‘Ash and Bones’, was released August 2016 by Bonnier Zaffre. ‘Unforgivable‘, the second in the series, is released in July 2017.

He lives in the wilds of Portugal with his wife and two children.

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Book Review: My Name is Nobody (A Wilde and Vine Thriller), by Matthew Richardson

Publisher: Penguin

Publication date: 13th July 2017

We don’t deal in right or wrong. We deal in advantage and disadvantage.

The intrigue of the old-school cipher trumps 21st century cyber in My Name is Nobody, which offers a timely, wholly relevant peek behind the scenes of security challenges affecting the world at large, and events much closer to home. Complex action thrillers are all well and good but it was refreshing to see a strong storyline combining classic methods to confront a contemporary menace.

Government operators are caught up in the covert Parliamentary machine acquiring intelligence, reacting to impossible situations, and fending off early indications that something in the machine is very, very wrong. It’s just a matter of identifying exactly what that something or someone is.

It’s Solomon Vine who is unofficially recruited to carry out this impossible task. Although currently suspended from duty, this talented spy has to root out the truth of an old friend’s disappearance after learning of a violent struggle at his home. And yet it’s not just Gabriel Wilde’s whereabouts he has to contend with, but also the circumstances surrounding the last time they met when a prisoner in Istanbul offered cryptic information yet became a target right under their nose.

The investigation is unauthorised which increases its complication factor and ease of denial, and what little evidence does taunt him only nurtures suspicions about his friend’s ulterior motives. And if Vine’s involvement is discovered any previous loyalty will not be taken into account as he’s already skating on thin ice after the Istanbul incident, a cruel souvenir of his many years of service.

What I like about Vine is that his outward appearance is one of relative normality when in reality he’s a codebreaking, number-crunching security analyst able to identify the severity of a terrorist threat by analysing the data he’s presented with. He’s not afraid to harness every ploy imaginable to fly under the radar. The problem being so does the elusive truth he is unsuccessfully chasing.

This story is a masterful performance of one man’s defiance to continue with his distinctive pursuit, despite the obstacles and warning signs – everything is connected, but those unruly dots refuse to line up without Solomon Vine’s unwavering perseverance.

My Name is Nobody is a solid British spy thriller with a very surprising outcome. 

Rating:   4/5

(I received a copy of this title from the publisher – complete with a cryptic challenge to solve! – and it’s my pleasure to provide an unbiased review.)

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

‘I know a secret. A secret that changes everything…’

Solomon Vine was the best of his generation, a spy on a fast track to the top. But when a prisoner is shot in unexplained circumstances on his watch, only suspension and exile beckon.

Three months later, MI6’s Head of Station in Istanbul is abducted from his home. There are signs of a violent struggle. With the Service in lockdown, uncertain of who can be trusted, thoughts turn to the missing man’s oldest friend: Solomon Vine.

Officially suspended, Vine can operate outside the chain of command to uncover the truth. But his investigation soon reveals that the disappearance heralds something much darker. And that there’s much more at stake than the life of a single spy…

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(Courtesy of A M Heath Literary Agent website)

Matthew Richardson was born in 1990 and graduated with a First in English from Durham University in 2011, where he was a Vice-Chancellor’s academic scholar and edited the student newspaper Palatinate. He then went on to postgraduate research at Merton College, Oxford, followed by a spell as a freelance journalist. Since then, Matthew has worked as a speechwriter and researcher in Westminster, writing pieces for a wide variety of publications, including the Times, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph and New Statesman.

His debut novel, My Name is Nobody, is the first in the Solomon Vine thriller series and will be published by Penguin.

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Book Review: Trust Me (Social Media Murders 3), by Angela Clarke

Publisher:  Avon (Harper Collins UK)

Publication date:  15th June 2017

The force of Freddie Venton returns in the dynamic and unflinchingly gritty Trust Me.

The technically homeless, romantically chaotic police consultant still fails to censor her thoughts before voicing them, meaning she remains a cause for concern to her school friend and semi-starched superior, Detective Sergeant Nasreen Cudmore, particularly since the momentously questionable use of a stationery cupboard.

During their previous encounters they have been introduced to some very dark places and people, but there’s nothing worse than receiving an eye-witness report of an assault on a young girl only to find there’s nothing they can do about it. The ordeal was streamed live to an online audience but the video link can no longer be traced, so there’s zero chance of tracing the suspects in this digital vision of hell. And to make matters worse, the only viewer brave enough to step forward has been branded a tipsy hysteric, instead of being considered a credible source of valuable information.

Damn. This is raw. Not only did the victim’s fear make a lasting impression but I felt the witness’s raging frustration too. Knowing the urgency of the circumstances and willingly reaching out to the authorities only be dismissed was insulting and incredibly judgemental – the lady lived alone, therefore that empty wine glass next to her laptop must suggest a vivid imagination has replaced all rational thought. The conclusion? No crime took place.

And yet, how soul destroying it must be for police officers when deciding which ghost they should chase? Clearly a fair proportion of the community are vying for their attention in other ways, so making that instinctive call to effectively ‘abandon’ any potential crime must be immensely difficult, as oversights could have grave consequences.

The assault may have appeared online but that doesn’t mean the trauma appeared any less real as it tore through these two-dimensional pages. Location and community also play a crucial role, as a run-down estate already heaving with illicit activity provides the perfect breeding ground for further apprehension to thrive.

I’m a huge fan of Freddie’s clumsy attempts to follow basic procedure as well as her nose, despite what her colleagues are advising. Cocky verbal hostility and commitment issues aside, she’s a decent sort and her reactions to grim situations feel authentically impulsive, not forced for effect. Without a doubt, it’s her distinctive energy that steals the show.

Trust Me is a story of hope that someone, somewhere, will believe yours.

Rating: 4/5

(I received a copy of this title *together Freddie’s new business card and a lovely postcard from the author* with my thanks, and it was my pleasure to read and provide this unbiased review.)

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

‘A fast-paced, unpredictable ride.’ KATERINA DIAMOND, author of The Teacher

YOU SAW IT HAPPEN. DIDN’T YOU?

What do you do if you witness a crime…but no-one believes you?

When Kate sees a horrific attack streamed live on her laptop, she calls the police in a state of shock. But when they arrive, the video has disappeared – and she can’t prove anything. Desperate to be believed, Kate tries to find out who the girl in the video could be – and who attacked her.

Freddie and Nas are working on a missing persons case, but the trail has gone cold. When Kate contacts them, they are the only ones to listen and they start to wonder – are the two cases connected?

Dark, gripping, and flawlessly paced, Trust Me is the brilliant third novel in the hugely popular social media murderer series.

‘Smart and sassy’ SARAH PINBOROUGH, author of Behind Her Eyes

‘Clever and unnerving’ C.L. Taylor, author of The Escape

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK – Photo courtesy of publisher)

Angela is an author, playwright, columnist and professional speaker.

Her debut crime thriller Follow Me (Avon, HarperCollins) was named Amazon’s Rising Star Debut of the Month January 2016, long listed for the Crime Writer’s Association Dagger in the Library 2016, and short listed for the Good Reader Page Turner Award 2016. Follow Me has now been optioned by a TV production company.

The second instalment in the Social Media Murder Series Watch Me (Avon, HarperCollins) is out January 2017. And the third Trust Me (Avon, HarperCollins) is out June 2017.

Angela’s humorous memoir Confessions of a Fashionista (Ebury, Penguin Random House) is an Amazon Fashion Chart bestseller.

Her play, The Legacy, enjoyed its first run at The Hope Theatre in June 2015.

An experienced and entertaining speaker, Angela has given talks, hosted events, and masterclasses for many, including Noirwich Crime Writing Festival,  Camp Bestival, Panic! (in partnership with Create, the Barbican, Goldsmiths University and The Guardian), Meet a Mentor (in partnership with the Royal Society of Arts), Northwich Lit Fest, St Albans Lit Fest, BeaconLit, and the London College of Fashion. She also hosted the current affairs radio show Outspoken on Radio Verulam in 2015, and has appeared regularly as a panel guest on BBC 3 Counties, BBC Radio 4, and the BBC World Service, among others.

In 2015 Angela was awarded the Young Stationers’ Prize for achievement and promise in writing and publishing. She also works for The Literary Consultancy critiquing manuscripts and mentoring. Angela, a sufferer of the debilitating chronic condition Ehlers Danlos III, is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, volunteers with Womentoring, Meet a Mentor and at HM Prisons. She is passionate about bringing marginalised voices into the industry. You can find out more about her at http://www.AngelaClarke.co.uk

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Book Review: Ashes to Ashes (Detective Mark Heckenburg, Book 6), by Paul Finch #AshestoAshes

Publisher:  Avon Books (Harper Collins UK)

Publication date:  6th April 2017

Ashes to Ashes is uncompromisingly grisly, releasing fearsome opponents from every conceivable angle. Its furious, intensely violent encounters creep a little close to home for our rebellious hero who relies on gut instinct, backed up by a wing and a prayer. Make no mistake there is colossal damage to the surrounding area, people, vehicles and Heck’s career. The only thing that remains unscathed is his reputation for ignoring authority.

This is the sixth outing featuring DS Mark (Heck) Heckenburg. After previously reading Dead Man Walking and Hunted, I’ve come to love our impulsive but highly effective copper for all his wilful and often brutal techniques, which may be frowned upon but they get the job done and ultimately save the day.

He has a shameless disregard for the official rules but he seems to scrape by without a reprimand while he successfully manages to wind up the top brass who may be used to supervising the loose cannon but regularly lecture him on his conduct and preference for solo policing. His responses to the dressing downs he receives only enforce his maverick streak.

There’s no doubting that it’s through Heck’s exploits the team he works with will reap results. Even if his methods are erratic and unorthodox, and his expertise of recognising opportunities then launching into an unrehearsed counter attack lands him in highly compromised positions.  

Yep. Our DS ‘Hecks up’ occasionally as he rendezvous with dangerous individuals, capable of much more than your average criminal in uncomfortable surroundings. Preoccupied with following a lead he casually forgets to check in with the station or mention a crucial meeting / conversation he might have orchestrated to gee the investigation up.

The criminal underworld is throwing itself into your path in this one: a torturous renegade with a mobile ‘office’, a merciless serial killer with a pyromaniac streak, and two extensive rival gangs engaged in a hostile turf war in Heck’s home town of Bradburn. The ever-increasing number of charred crime scenes left me wondering who would be last man standing as I revelled in the extreme thrills that unfolded.

There are some punishing situations with a direct connection to Heck and I have absolutely no idea how he retains the will to live, never mind walk! His resilience is just a fragment of his appeal and during this outing I learned how his family influenced his determination to succeed, but not in the way I was expecting. It made a nice change to be treated to a fleeting glimpse of something other than his tough, wise-guy exterior.

The author makes full use of urban landscapes creating a macabre playground for some ‘killer’ games, and Ashes to Ashes has all the intensity that unrestrained action and carnage could possibly deliver.

Rating:  4/5

(My thanks to both the author and the publisher for kindly sending a copy of this title. It was my pleasure to read this book and provide an unbiased review.)

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

The Sunday Times bestseller returns with his next unforgettable crime thriller. Fans of MJ Arlidge and Stuart MacBride won’t be able to put this down.

John Sagan is a forgettable man. You could pass him in the street and not realise he’s there. But then, that’s why he’s so dangerous.

A torturer for hire, Sagan has terrorised – and mutilated – countless victims. And now he’s on the move. DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg must chase the trail, even when it leads him to his hometown of Bradburn – a place he never thought he’d set foot in again.

But Sagan isn’t the only problem. Bradburn is being terrorised by a lone killer who burns his victims to death. And with the victims chosen at random, no-one knows who will be next. Least of all Heck…

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Paul Finch studied History at Goldsmiths, London, before becoming a cop in the north west of England. He then let his passion for writing allow him to follow a career in journalism. Now a full time writer, he first cut his literary teeth penning episodes of the British TV crime drama, THE BILL, and has written extensively in the field of children’s animation. However, he is probably best known for his work in thrillers and horrors.

His crime debut novel, STALKERS, was a no 1 ebook best seller in 2013 and introduced DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg. This was followed in July 2013 by the sequel, SACRIFICE. He now has THE KILLING CLUB, DEAD MAN WALKING and HUNTED in the series which is also published in Germany, Poland, Turkey, Hungary, and Japan and Croatia.

In 2016 Heck took a break to be replaced by DC Lucy Clayburn. The opening novel, STRANGERS, became an immediate success reaching the top ten in the Sunday Times Bestseller list. His next Heck novel is due out in April 2017 with a further Lucy novel expected in September of the same year.

In addition to his Crime novels, Paul has had twelve books and nearly 300 stories and novellas published on both sides of the Atlantic. His first collection, AFTER SHOCKS (Ash-Tree Press), won the British Fantasy Award in 2002, while he won the award again in 2007 for his novella, KID. Later in 2007, he won the International Horror Guild Award for his mid-length story, THE OLD NORTH ROAD. His short novel, CAPE WRATH (Telos), was short-listed for the Bram Stoker Award in 2002, and several other collections of his stories and novellas have been published since, all of them well received by fans and readers. His horror novel, STRONGHOLD, was published by Abaddon Books in 2010, and the same year Pendragon Press published his highly rated festive terror tale, SPARROWHAWK. Paul has also written three DR WHO audio dramas for Big Finish – LEVIATHAN, SENTINELS OF THE NEW DAWN and HEXAGORA, and THRESHOLD, the pilot episode for the DR WHO spin-off series, COUNTER MEASURES. Paul’s DR WHO novel, HUNTER’S MOON was published by BBC Books in 2011.

Paul is no stranger to film either, having written scripts for several horror movies. Two of these, SPIRIT TRAP and THE DEVIL’S ROCK, were released in 2005 and 2011 respectively, while his short story THE BELFRIES, is currently being adapted in Hollywood, and his movie script WAR WOLF is under development by Amber Entertainment.

Wearing an editor’s hat, Paul is also responsible for the TERROR TALES series from Gray Friar Press, a collection of ghost and horror anthologies exploring the folklore, history and geography of the various regions of Britain.  

Paul Finch lives in Lancashire, UK, with his wife Cathy and his children, Eleanor and Harry.

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Book Review: Ragdoll, by Daniel Cole #RagdollBook

Publisher: Trapeze

Publication date:  23rd February 2017

Ragdoll’s continual moving theatre of sensational scenes make utterly compulsive viewing.

I bought this book on the strength of the opening sample chapters I read on NetGalley and rave online reviews. Although I found that I had reservations concerning the authenticity of police procedures / events these could easily be forgiven, as based on pure entertainment value is it victorious.

Our lead cunningly adopts the acronym of Wolf (William Oliver Layton-Fawkes), which gives him instant clout before we even have the opportunity to identify his wily attributes. He’s an inventive creation, almost as inspired as the grotesque Ragdoll itself. When he’s not going off on a tangent Wolf exercises his natural abilities of brusqueness, sarcasm, and the affliction known as “responding to situations without a second thought for other people’s feelings”. He’s a ‘couldn’t give a damn’ kind of chap and his retorts are priceless.

After an agonising crawl back from breaking point after ‘the cremation killer’, Wolf is reinstated as a Detective overseeing the Ragdoll case with its customised dismemberment and unique tailoring application. His personal involvement unintentionally makes striking headlines and threatens to compromise the safety of the remaining victims who are named on the killer’s published hit list, Wolf included. The killer is highly evasive and their taunts intimidating – this is a hostile game and Wolf is reluctant to play by the rules.

Realism die-hards may have difficulty digesting this one as any loose cannon with a history of misfiring would ordinarily prompt serious misgivings, and yet Wolf finds himself at the centre of a high profile investigation with irreversible consequences should he fail. If you don’t take it too seriously then you and the plot will get along just fine.

Well, I stormed through the first few chapters to carve a huge dent in this book in a matter of a single evening. But toward the middle of the book the scene changes started to arrive in shorter and shorter bursts. Rather than naturally bridging the story together they felt like interruptions as several characters competed for attention in a very brief space of time. Happily, the flow recovered significantly to peak with a stonking great finale which was both extreme and impressive.

The characters are drawn from all walks of life for all manner of unsuspecting reasons, and I deliriously wanted to learn the answers to the anatomical puzzle and the reasoning behind Wolf’s questionable approach to pretty much everything. 

The Ragdoll spectacle puts on quite a performance and I’m keen to discover what the future holds for Mr (Wolf) Layton-Fawkes.

Rating:   4/5  

(My rating is an average taken from the Beginning = 5 / Middle = 3 / Ending = 4)

Source: My own purchased copy.

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

THE INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
‘Superb thriller writing.’ Peter Robinson
‘A brilliant, breathless thriller’ M.J. Arlidge
‘A high concept solution to a mystery’ Sophie Hannah

A body is discovered with the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together, nicknamed by the press as the ‘Ragdoll’. Assigned to the shocking case are Detective William ‘Wolf’ Fawkes, recently reinstated to the London Met, and his former partner Detective Emily Baxter.

The ‘Ragdoll Killer’ taunts the police by releasing a list of names to the media, and the dates on which he intends to murder them. With six people to save, can Fawkes and Baxter catch a killer when the world is watching their every move?

Translated into over 30 languages, RAGDOLL is a quality, rocket-paced thriller with twists and turns you won’t see coming. For readers of Jo Nesbo. You will not stop talking about this book.

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

At 33 years old, Daniel Cole has worked as a paramedic, an RSPCA officer and most recently for the RNLI, driven by an intrinsic need to save people or perhaps just a guilty conscience about the number of characters he kills off in his writing.

He currently lives in sunny Bournemouth and can usually be found down the beach when he ought to be writing book two instead.

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Book Review: Dark Fragments, by Rob Sinclair

Publisher:  Bloodhound Books

Publication date:  8th November 2016

dark-fragments-my-review

Dark Fragments by Rob SinclairWhatever the opposite of the ‘Midas Touch’ is, Ben Stephens has perfected it. The brutal murderer of his first wife has never been caught, he’s constantly walking in the shadow of his twin sister, he works for his filthy rich father-in-law with dubious degrees of success, and has accrued massive personal debt. In fact, none of his efforts have made a positive impact on the world lately.

Tired of being herded in ways he doesn’t want to go, despondency erupts into rage causing him to take some pretty drastic action to try and regain control. The effectiveness of his decisions remains to be seen throughout as he gets very few lifelines thrown to him due to his reckless efforts.

Several laws are broken, as are noses, provoking unwanted interest from his detective sister, who is another source of irritation for Ben. It’s all he needs while the unsavoury characters he’s had the misfortune to become involved with are trying to flush his life down the pan.

I was intrigued to learn whether Ben was brave, desperate, or just plain foolish. I mean why else would a placid bloke with a wife, two kids and a mortgage end up crossing the path of one of the most notoriously dangerous men in Birmingham? Well, the scenario of anybody finding themselves in the situations Ben Stephens did feel a little ludicrous at first. But as he is pursued by bad luck (most of it self-inflicted) and questionable decision making (most definitely self-inflicted) his story intensifies and begins to hint at the reasons behind his quest for retribution and personal salvation.

As the story is told in the first person it feels slightly intrusive to be in the thick of things – it’s almost uncomfortable at times, especially when events go from bad to worse. These events are peppered with interviews between an unnamed source who attempts to encourage our man to validate his actions. The casual and insightful exchanges gnaw away the layers of Ben’s problems to reveal the true strength of his character and put a whole new spin on his story.

For a while I was only getting a flicker of a connection from the characters and just when I was on the verge of becoming furious with them for holding me at arm’s length everything ignited, big time.

Dark Fragments is extreme life wrestling in every possible way. It’s one man’s persistence to challenge his failures, yet he opts for the way only a disturbed professional should attempt. With his judgment clouded his mind goes off-piste until he’s truly lost and he’s left clutching at the shards of his life with both hands – and the outcome is startlingly unexpected.

Well worth a read if you get the opportunity.

Rating:  4/5

(I received a digital copy of this title direct from the author with my thanks, and this is my unbiased review.)

dark-fragments-book-summary

(Courtesy of Author’s website)

Murder.  Money.  Revenge.

Outwardly, Ben Stephens appears to be a normal, hard-working family man. In reality, his life has been in turmoil since the murder of his wife, Alice, seven years ago. The killer was never caught.

Now re-married – to the woman he was having an affair with while still married to Alice – Ben’s life is once again spiraling out of control, and he’s become heavily indebted to an unscrupulous criminal who is baying for Ben’s blood.

When Ben’s estranged twin sister, a police detective, unexpectedly returns to his life, asking too many questions for comfort, it becomes clear that without action, Ben’s life will soon reach a crisis point from which there will be no return.

In order to avoid falling further into the mire, Ben must examine the past if he is to survive the present – but just how much pressure can one man take before he breaks?

Dark Fragments is a fast-paced thriller with a blend of mystery, suspense and action that will appeal to readers of psychological thrillers, as well as a broad section of crime, thriller and action fans.

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dark-fragments-author-profile

(Courtesy of Author’s website)

Rob is the author of the critically acclaimed and bestselling Enemy series of espionage thrillers featuring embattled agent Carl Logan.

His explosive debut, Dance with the Enemy, was published in 2014 and introduced the world to the enigmatic Carl Logan. The second novel in the series, Rise of the Enemy, was released in April 2015, with the third, Hunt for the Enemy, being released in February 2016.

Rob began writing in 2009 following a promise to his wife, an avid reader, that he could pen a ‘can’t put down’ thriller. He worked for nearly 13 years for a global accounting firm after graduating from The University of Nottingham in 2002, specialising in forensic fraud investigations at both national and international levels. Rob now writes full time.

Originally from the North East of England, Rob has lived and worked in a number of fast paced cities, including New York, and is now settled in the West Midlands with his wife and young sons.

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Book Review: Loose Cannon, by Jack Steele

Publication date:

26th January 2016 (Kindle) and 27th July 2016 (Paperback)

Loose Cannon - My Review

Jack Steele_V2Two rival mafia families have been keeping peaceful terms on their home turf in the East End – up ‘til now, that is. Friction is mounting as one family pokes another with a very pointy stick until they’re at each other’s throats and threatening to break the mutual respect that has been built over time.

Someone will revel in sharpening said stick at any opportunity and this is where the main tension lies as you’re not quite sure who could be responsible and why. Yep, it’s all gets exceedingly ‘Godfatherish’ as that certain someone and their sinister deeds take full advantage of the situation.

There’s also an undercurrent to the story that runs alongside the main wave of criminal activity that concerns Detective Joe Stone’s girlfriend. The budding penguinologist is currently missing without trace. Joe briefly reminisces about their past and often wonders where she could be while he tackles the crime underworld as best as he can and tries not to make matters worse with tit-for-tat revenge looming on the horizon.

I particularly liked the ‘bromance’ between Joe and his colleague Carl, who was forever on call to provide a reliable ‘taxi’ service to our reluctant driver, Joe, and a shoulder to lean on when required which was a two way street for the both of them and their assorted domestic troubles.

Overall I found Loose Cannon to be a relatively quick and uncomplicated read. It was an intriguing story with plenty of cloak and dagger going on, but I did find Joe Stone’s delayed reactions to highly pressing matters a little concerning. For instance, one time he was casually discussing a mutual neighbour with the doorman of his building and how they had retrieved a Pop Tart from a toaster with a fork and shorted the electric, then the moment he’d finished Joe went back in his rented penthouse to hit the speed dial on his mobile to tell his fellow investigator that the Italians were about to “go vigilante on them!”.  Please don’t get me wrong, I really liked this ‘Norman the doorman’ character and his little anecdotes yet I couldn’t quite accept how a man of Stone’s calibre could enjoy a chinwag when hellish street terror threatened to break out at any moment.

I will say this though, Loose Cannon is a story that hits the pages running and barely pauses for breath. So if you like books with an organised crime feel that ‘get on with it’ then this would greatly appeal to you.

Rating:  3/5

(I received a digital copy of this book from the author in exchange for an unbiased review, with my sincere thanks. It’s always a blessing to discover new authors and their unique writing styles and for that I am forever grateful.)

Loose Cannon - Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Detective Joe Stone has worked hard to reduce crime in and around London’s East End. The London Mafia had been instrumental in the operation; but is now being targeted by a serial killer. Stone is in a race against time to find and stop the psychopath before a gangland civil war breaks out.

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Loose Cannon - Author Profile(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Jack was born in Hackney, London and grew up on the Bannister House Estate. He enjoyed English at school with his English teacher, Bernard Phillips, always encouraging him to enjoy reading. At 16, he left school and started a 4 year printing apprenticeship. ‘To say there were a few dodgy characters that I worked/mixed with would be an understatement. They included petty criminals, football hooligans and gangsters.’ Obviously great characters for his novel!

As Jack grew older, his love for the Crime Fiction genre became more apparent. As the years rolled by he became more discerning. ‘The Crime Fiction books I was reading were either too descriptive with little action, or too many characters that confused me.’ He decided to write a crime novel that appealed to his own personal taste. He spent five years researching books, magazines, documentaries, movies and internet articles on various subjects. He concentrated on reading fiction/non-fiction on the subjects of Organised Crime, the Mafia, Vice, Psychopaths and Policing. Jack completed a creative writing course and attended workshops run by the Nottingham Writers Studio.

In 2016 Jack published his first Crime Fiction novel ‘Loose Cannon’ with great reviews. ‘A lot of my characters are based on old colleagues and acquaintances. My readers have enjoyed their own particular character in the book. Many have picked out the doorman, Norman, as one that could have his own series!’ The final words go to Jack. ‘I would like to thank all my readers, editors, bloggers and Crime book club friends who have been so supportive through this process. Their encouragement drives me on to write the next book in the series.’

Jack Steele is the pen name of Mark Homan.

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Book Review: City of Jackals (A Makana Mystery #5), by Parker Bilal

Publisher: Bloomsbury   |   Publication Date:  2nd June 2016

Untitled-3 copyCity of Jackals My Review

City of Jackals - Kindle CoverA severed head, a brother and sister facing imminent danger, a missing student and the mounting refugee crisis being largely ignored while corruption feeds off the misery – and that’s just scratching the surface of a plot that skulks around the ancient facades of Cairo. And what a web Parker Bilal weaves!

The city and the barren landscape which surrounds it provides is depicted as the most perfect environment for a City of Jackals to thrive. The vast proportion of the population observes tradition, while the brave few (or the bitterly inexperienced) long to change the world. The barbed divide of the population, which stems from the hostilities between North and South, never diminishes throughout. It’s the ideal distraction to allow others to use it to their own warped advantage while everyone’s looking the other way.

What’s abundantly clear is that life is constantly hindered for a widowed Sudanese private investigator called Makana. It’s not the easiest place to live or work if you’re exiled from your own country. His origins often attract immediate disapproval, regardless of his kind-hearted motives and aptitude. Residing quietly on his houseboat, held together by luck, people employ his investigative services and he enlists a variety of trusted amateurs to assist him (even if one of them is wallowing in his own relationship issues and decides to join him on the boat, uninvited I might add!)

Makana’s investigation is refreshingly old school. He considers modern technology to be a cult-like invention that everyone blindly follows and often sees him glaring at his mobile phone as if it’s an alien probe. He relies on the chauffeuring skills of Sindbad and his battered Datsun to willingly abandon his tourist taxi business to ferry him around during an investigation. Each location reveals another level of deception. If a sense of hope dares to raise its naïve head it’s not for long. The case of the missing student and the unidentified head from the river are just the tip of the pyramid.

I LOVE the manner in which Makana’s character is portrayed. Even though he shows tenacity and must wear armour plate to deflect the harshness of the world, he appears ever the gent. And it doesn’t matter what nationality the victims are, they’re still victims and he’ll seek justice for all. It feels like he’s forever searching for the light switch at the end of a very long tunnel at times.

This may be book five in the Makana Mystery series but it can easily be read as a standalone. There’s adequate information to hint at his grim past without saturating the pages. While it doesn’t always unfold at break-neck speed, the pace matches the crime solving techniques and allows frustration of multiple culture clashes in dark, dark times to brew.

City Of Jackals has a thoroughly atmospheric, brute of a plot (and a brilliant one too!). The simple pleasures of a champion technophobe sleuth backed by an assortment of eager, unofficial assistants creates a rare crime thriller oasis.

Rating:  4/5

(My thanks to the publisher – Philippa Cotton – for kindly introducing me to the wonderful character of Makana.)

City of Jackals Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

More trouble on the streets of Cairo in a gripping new investigation for ‘one of crime fiction’s most interesting and sympathetic detectives’ (The Times)

A severed head washes up on the banks of the Nile.

The police turn a blind eye. It is just another victim in a series of ritual killings of refugees.

Distracted from his hunt for a missing boy, Makana feels the pull of his Sudanese past and is impelled to seek justice for the murdered emigrants.

In the dark heart of Cairo, Makana soon discovers the two cases may be connected in dangerous and unexpected ways.

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City of Jackals Author Profile

(Courtesy of publisher’s website)

Parker Bilal is the pseudonym of Jamal Mahjoub, the critically acclaimed literary novelist. The Drowning Light will be the sixth novel in the Makana Investigations series (Published 2017), the third of which, The Ghost Runner, was longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award. Born in London, Mahjoub has lived at various times in the UK, Sudan, Cairo, Barcelona and Denmark. He currently lives in Amsterdam.

THE MAKANA MYSTERY SERIES, SO FAR…

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*BLOG TOUR* Book Review: Play Dead (Detective Kim Stone Book 4), by Angela Marsons

When Kim Nash of Bookouture asked if I’d be interested in taking part in a Blog Tour for Angela Marsons’ fourth book, Play Dead, I can say with all honesty that I bit her hand off – in fact, she probably still has the marks (sorry, Kim). I blame my reaction on the DI Kim Stone Series being SO outstanding. Book #4 is no exception, aaaand here’s my review…

Publisher: Bookouture   |   Publication date: 20th May 2016

Play Dead My Review

Play Dead Kindle CoverPlay Dead is the fourth book in an impressive line up of crime thrillers featuring the indomitable DI Kim Stone. This series isn’t just detective fiction, it’s effective fiction. Its gripping opener and the suspense that followed prevented me from stopping until I’d finished. I consumed it in one greedy sitting, it was just SO good!

Returning from her ordeal in Lost Girls (book three) DI Kim Stone is restored to her optimum ‘don’t even think of messing with me’ self. She and her team are invited to a hush, hush scientific facility in a remote area of the Black Country for a rare training opportunity. It’s certainly an experience they won’t forget, as the scientists studying the effects of human decay under an assortment of circumstances are faced with a cadaver that they can’t account for.

The perpetrator’s signature is particularly brutal and unpleasantly ‘earthy’. As a sickening routine is soon established, we get a sense of their fragile unhinged state from a little voice that raises its head between the main chapters. No one could anticipate just how much their irregular upbringing would influence their twisted ambition in life. I’m not saying any more, as it’s best to allow their peculiar brand of oddness introduce itself!

As Stone’s regular team attacks every lead a pattern emerges to reveal that a newshound she’s locked horns with in the past may hold information crucial to their case. But while the Inspector’s character would audibly growl at the anyone who rubs her up the wrong way, she never allows her resentment to get in the way of any investigation – she’s thorough, just don’t expect the pleasantries. And to further complicate matters, a cold case has come to light that isn’t even within her jurisdiction. A little discreet digging later sees not just one skeleton in the cupboard, but a queue is starting to form.

What I love about Stone’s character is that despite regularly embracing her anti-social side, her own troubled background allows her to relate easily to the majority of the victims and their families. Every investigation invites us a little further into her life and occasionally a softer side peeks out from behind the protective mask she wears on duty. And is that a hint of romance in the air? A little bit of Bryant’s meddling will see his boss bumping into a colleague from a previous investigation at the most inopportune moments, resulting in close encounters of a VERY brief kind!

Well, I’ve discovered three things at the end of this novel: 1. The reasons that prevent our  infamous newshound’s ‘Frosty’ exterior from thawing, whose pushy antics are renowned for getting my favourite DI’s hackles up, 2. Barney (Stone’s dog) is quite possibly the canine equivalent of his owner, and 3. Kim Stone once again excels at being her exceptional and impatient best.

This series already has the edge over most others in its category but that edge just got a whole lot sharper, as Play Dead is breathtakingly superb. But is it really, you ask? ABSOLUTELY. It’s the only series I pre-order without even reading the book summary.

Rating: 5/5

My reviews for the other books in the DI Kim Stone series:

(MASSIVE thanks to Bookouture, Kim Nash and Angela Marsons for providing an advanced digital copy for review and saving a seat on the tour bus, I’m forever grateful.)

Play Dead Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

The dead don’t tell secrets…unless you listen.

The girl’s smashed-in face stared unseeing up to the blue sky, soil spilling out of her mouth. A hundred flies hovered above the bloodied mess.

Westerley research facility is not for the faint-hearted. A ‘body farm’ investigating human decomposition, its inhabitants are corpses in various states of decay. But when Detective Kim Stone and her team discover the fresh body of a young woman, it seems a killer has discovered the perfect cover to bury their crime.

Then a second girl is attacked and left for dead, her body drugged and mouth filled with soil. It’s clear to Stone and the team that a serial killer is at work – but just how many bodies will they uncover? And who is next?

As local reporter, Tracy Frost, disappears, the stakes are raised. The past seems to hold the key to the killer’s secrets – but can Kim uncover the truth before a twisted, damaged mind claims another victim …?

The latest utterly addictive thriller from the No.1 bestseller Angela Marsons.

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Play Dead Author Profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK. Author Photograph courtesy of Publisher.)

Angela Marsons photoAngela Marsons is the author of Amazon #1 Bestseller SILENT SCREAM.

She lives in the Black Country with her partner, their bouncy Labrador and a swearing parrot.

She first discovered her love of writing at Junior School when actual lessons came second to watching other people and quietly making up her own stories about them. Her report card invariably read “Angela would do well if she minded her own business as well as she minds other people’s”.

After years of writing relationship based stories (My Name Is and The Middle Child) Angela turned to Crime, fictionally speaking of course, and developed a character that refused to go away. She is signed to Bookouture.com for a total of eight books.

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THE DI KIM STONE SERIES ‘LINE UP’:

You can also visit these other fantastic blogs on the Play Dead Blog Tour today:

Crooks on Books

Crime Book Junkie

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Thanks for stopping by!

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Book Review: Last Light (A Beacon Falls Novel, featuring Lucy Guardino), by C J Lyons

Publisher: Canelo   |   Publication date: 3rd May 2016

Last Light My Review

Last Light by CJ Lyons - Kindle CoverThe structure of Last Light has a touch of a US primetime crime series about it giving it instant appeal. The plot is slick, it basks in suspense, and it’s positively glowing from the wealth of key characters.

A prologue dated November 13th 1987 introduces us to a young woman who had just arrived home with her children. There’s nothing too dramatic about unloading your groceries is there, except when she returns to the car her baby is missing. An unspoken tension hangs in the air, but we’re not shown the cause, or effect, until we revisit this awful scene further down the line.

Fast forward to the current day where a new field branch of The Beacon Group is being formed. This well established operation aims to shine a light on the missing, the dead and the never forgotten, but monetary constraints have invited an assortment of cold case solvers into the fold, which adds considerable interest to the story to come.

Lucy Guardino drafted in to lead the merry bunch. Retired from the FBI after being injured in the line of duty herself she does her best to disguise her daily discomfort. Lucy’s extensive experience in the field will be invaluable, but the first task her new role demands is finding the right kind of shoes to conceal her foot brace. Then, she must ignore any doubts she has about taking an office based job to inspire people who haven’t the foggiest idea about operational field work.

Her little team with big personalities includes a former US marine who is a brusque, practically homeless young woman with a passion for Parkour, and an investigative reporter who has ‘Tonal Agnosia’. People initially find his unemotional line of questioning and responses difficult, but there’s something in his past that troubles them more.

That aside, Lucy elects two members of her team to accompany her to investigate their assigned case. Although a murder confession was secured twenty-nine years ago (cue spliced revisits to 1987) all these problematic strangers have to do is gather the facts relating to a possible miscarriage of justice at the request of The Justice Department. But when they resurrect the case it’s far from cold and the team are soon trying to outmanoeuvre the criminally unhinged.

The Beacon Group may not have provided the desk job Lucy Guardino had imagined, but it does give us an impressive story that constantly evolves and builds to quite the spectacular finale! The sequence of events is cleverly thought out and I’d be curious to see the next cold case that’ll find its way to their in-tray.

Although Last Light is part of a new series featuring Lucy Guardino, this particular book can be read as a complete standalone.

Rating: 4/5

(I received a digital copy of this book from Hayley Steed of edpr.co.uk for review.)

Last Light Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

A brutally murdered family…a wronged man in prison.

From bestselling author CJ Lyons comes a new, standalone Lucy Guardino series. For fans of Lisa Gardner, Angela Marsons and Helen H. Durrant.

“Everything a great thriller should be–action packed, authentic, and intense.” ~#1 New York Times bestselling author Lee Child.

1987: Lily Martin is horrifically murdered along with her young child in Texas.

Today: Life should be easy after leaving the FBI –  but not if you’re detective Lucy Guardino. Lucy has always seen herself as a normal mum who happened to have a job chasing the worst of the worst. But after a violent predator targets her family and she’s injured, Lucy sacrifices her career at the Bureau.

She joins the Beacon Group, a firm that specializes in cold cases. Lucy fears she’s traded the elite for shepherding a team of amateurs.

She is sent to rural Texas to investigate a case that’s already been closed with the killers behind bars for twenty-nine years.

But who really killed Lily Martin and her infant daughter? Why was an entire family targeted for annihilation? What price will Lucy pay when she fights to expose a truth people will kill to keep buried?

Last Light is the start of a Lucy Guardino series which can be read on it’s own. If you enjoy captivating suspense, intelligent storytelling, strong and vulnerable characters, and a freight-train pace, then you’ll love this adrenaline rush of a heart-pounding thriller.

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Last Light Author Profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-seven novels, former pediatric ER doctor CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge Thrillers with Heart. CJ has been called a master within the genre (Pittsburgh Magazine) and her work has been praised as breathtakingly fast-paced and riveting (Publishers Weekly) with characters with beating hearts and three dimensions (Newsday). Her novels have won the International Thriller Writers prestigious Thriller Award, the RT Reviewers Choice Award, the Readers Choice Award, the RT Seal of Excellence, and the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense. Learn more about CJ s Thrillers with Heart at http://www.CJLyons.net

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