Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Review: Pane and Suffering by Cheryl Hollon

Publisher: Kensington Books
Rating: 4*

Savannah Webb is forced to return home after the death of her father from "natural causes."  She is forced to take over running his glass shop after a second person, whom she plans to sell the shop to, also dies from the same "natural causes," leaving Savannah convinced that foul play is at hand, As Savannah struggles to decide whether to sell the shop, her father's clues lead her on a cipher-filled hunt to reveal the killer.  An inept police officer adds humour and a group of local merchants band together to perform their own investigation to find the killer before he strikes again.

The story is a little slow paced in the beginning as the author develops the main characters and sets the scene, but this pays off well later on.  Throughout the book, there is a beginner's class taught at the shop where the students make glass sun catchers.  Tidbits about how to cut and solder glass is woven into the story, but this enhances the story rather than feel intrusive to the overall book.

There might be a romance between two of the characters that gets explored in later books, but the fledgling romance feels a little out of place here.

I thought for sure I knew who the killer was, but it turned out to be a character not even remotely on my radar.  I enjoyed that twist in the plot-line and Savannah's ultimate decision of what to do with her family's store.

Overall, this was an enjoyable mystery. I learned a bit about the glass business and I'm looking forward to the next story, Shards of Glass, when it comes out next year.

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Reviewed for MCT by Jamie A.

Review: Oliver The Cat Who Saved Christmas by Sheila Norton

Publisher: Random House

Rating: 5*

Genre: Children's & YA Fiction



This review has been filed under and posted on our attached Fine Fiction Reviews blog.  

Please follow this link to read the review on Fine Fiction Reviews. 

Friday, 4 December 2015

Featured Giveaway: The Grantchester Mysteries

The Grantchester Mysteries is a series of novels by James Runcie.

These are moral fables in the tradition of G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown, mixing crime, comedy and social history. The series is set in the Cambridgeshire village of Grantchester and takes place from 1953 to the mid nineteen seventies.

The principal character is Canon Sidney Chambers, a clergyman-detective named after the great eighteenth and early nineteenth century cleric Sydney Smith. The recipient of many a secret, but always willing to think the best of people, Sidney can go where the police cannot.

His best friend is Inspector Geordie Keating, he has a Labrador called Dickens and at the start of the series he is thirty-two years old and unmarried.

We are privileged to be able to offer two of the latest mysteries in this series to give away to our readers in exchange for reviews.  Request by email to:

Read more about the series on the author's site.

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death  (Bloomsbury)


Review: MOTIVE by Jonathan Kellerman

Publisher: Headline
Rating: 4*

Mysteries and Crime ThrillersAlex Delaware and Milo Sturgis are back in Motive, Jonathan Kellerman's latest in the Delaware series.

This new story opens with Milo stymied over a murder investigation that's run straight into a wall.
While commiserating with Delaware over the unsolved death a woman is found shot to death in a parking lot.  The pair check out the scene of the puzzling death but clues are in short supply.  Sturgis and Delaware investigate, pursuing their mutual suspicions but the new case also goes cold, frustrating the pair.

Ready to move on despite their frustration, a weird piece of evidence surfaces in the second corpse's home, seeming to link the two cold cases.  As they pursue leads the dead bodies continue to pile up and the connections between the stiff's leads the pair of investigators to pursue a serial killer.   They focus on a couple of suspects with Delaware making logical, psychopathic explanations that make a case against each suspect.  When one of their main suspects ends up dead, Delaware and Sturgis figure out who the serial killer was and how he was related to the others.

Motive is set mainly in Los Angeles proper and the setting is sometimes brought to life, such as the hills of LA and weird CD store but but other times it is just a backdrop. The clever plot unfolds as strings of evidence pointing each suspect are made, broken, re-weaved and strengthened, leaving the reader to bounce from target to target for the perpetrator. As readers of the Delaware series are aware, Kellerman reinforces a reader's guessing game with the banter between Alex and Milo. Its moves the story along and misdirects the reader with their plausible rationalizations of scenarios.

Kellerman really knows how to develop a line of questions to probe into a crime and his dialogue is simply stellar in Motive.   I liked the way Kellerman uses his skilful character development to demonizing a suspect for a period and then yanks them back to being sympathetic.  Deeper descriptions of persons and places ensure that Kellerman's stories are character driven and are able drag the reader into the setting and its world; not merely a plot driven shallow shell.  As any writer who has taken a first course in writing or has ever had an editor knows, visceral detail is what distinguishes a real writer from the slush pile.  I did enjoy the read; it was fast paced and entertaining.

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Reviewed for MCT by Dan Petrosini.

Review: The Christmas Escape by Anne Perry

Publisher: Random House

Rating: 3.5*

Mysteries and Crime Thrillers
Charles Latterly, a recent widower, is taking a vacation on Stromboli, one of Italy’s islands over Christmas. The inn where he is staying is in the shadow of a volcano that has been sputtering on and off for years. He is thrilled to meet Stefano, their host, who is a wonderful cook and tries his best to take care of and calm his guests. The other guests consist of The Baileys, who are a mismatched couple. Mr. Bailey bullies his wife as well as treating everyone else abominably, often baiting them. Colonel Bretherton is an old military man, who seems to care very much about Mrs. Bailey. The Finbars, Roger, an older gentleman who is his great-niece’s guardian, and his precocious niece, Candace, who meets Charles upon his arrival and charms him immediately. The last vacationer is Quinn, a best-selling author who wrote a rather racy book from the perspective of his major character, Lucy, who reminds Candace of her feisty grandmama. Considering this is a novella, Anne Perry does an admirable job of introducing us to her characters and letting us get to know them. 

There is a lot of animosity between some of the characters, which plays out at the dinner table during meals. Most involves the obnoxious Mr. Bailey. Quinn and Mr. Bailey often have curt words with each other with Candace coming to his defense and inadvertently causing more issues. Charles tries to be the peacemaker in a couple of situations but is not always successful. Mr. and Mrs. Bailey do not seem to have an amicable relationship and the smitten Colonel must be careful not to intervene in their situation. When Bailey turns up dead, although it is covered up to look like an accident, there are any number of suspects. Of course, that investigation has to be put on hold as the volcano wakes up and furiously begins to spew lava and hot rocks. The mad dash down the mountain and the dead bodies left in its wake bring this story to a fast and furious ending. 

This short novella is well-written with descriptions that are very realistic and make the reader feel like they can actually see the beautiful Stromboli. The biggest disappointment about this novella is the fact that, other than being set in the Christmas time frame, there is not much about it that is Christmas-like. The story may just as well have taken pace at a different time of the year as during this holiday season. I have not read any of the Anne Perry mystery series so can not relate to her other books as many of the other reviewers have done but I enjoyed the book as a standalone.

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Reviewed for MCT by Carla JH.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Review: The Lewis Man by Peter May

Publisher: Quercus Books
Rating: 5*

Mysteries and Crime ThrillersPeter May's THE LEWIS MAN is the second book in the Lewis Island Trilogy set on the islands of Lewis and Harris, the largest in an archipelago of islands off the west coast of Scotland.  The islands are made up of beautiful hilly terrain, machair (fertile grassy plains), and bogs and they stand proud, weathering the harsh north-sea winds and deep cold winters. The islanders are hardworking people and they make a living out of harvesting peat from the bogs.  On one such day of hard work, the people digging in the bogs find a human body.  It is initially thought to be thousands of years old because peat preserves bodies from decay, but when a modern tattoo is discovered on the arm, the police realise they have a murder investigation on their hands.  DNA links the corpse to an old man, Tormod Macdonald, but Tormod, now suffering from dementia, is believed to have been an only child with no known relatives.

Fin Macleod, recently retired from the Lothian & Borders CID, following the death of his son Robbie in a hit-and-run accident and his subsequent divorce, has returned to his native island and his parents’ ruined croft. He involves himself in the investigation because Tormod’s daughter, Marsaili, was his first love, and he is indeed, as we soon guess, the father of her son, Fionnlagh.

And so we set on a long path of discovery into the past, following Fin Macleod in his investigation, with flashes of viewpoint into the childhood memories of Tormod in interspersed chapters.  We learn of the dark history of the island's past in which Tormod and two other children cling together as orphans and support and carry each other through dark times.  There are many touching scenes as they find love and courage to face the harshness of society around them.  Tormod loves the islands and the seas and he hates the modern double glazing that now locks him away from the sounds of the winds and the seas that make him feel alive.

It is only nominally a crime novel in that the discovery of the body in the peat bogs sets the story going.  It is more a beautifully written ode and a homage to these beautiful islands and the proud, hardy people who live on them.  The language is atmospheric and nostalgic, weaving the islands' landscapes and the characters' lives together into an inseparably infused whole.  Even when the islanders leave the island, they carry it as a part of themselves as Fin does, and it calls them back.  The islanders understand each other instinctively in a way outsiders cannot and it is a place of healing for Fin who finds comfort from the tragedy of his son's death and a deeper love with Marsaili and his long lost son by her.

There is a rare glimpse of humour in naming the book Lewis Man, but the characters we come to love suffer terribly through their lives and the book is full of pathos.  It is only in the end that they find well deserved happiness and joy.

Follow this link to learn more of the islands and the books. (Note you have to scroll down and turn the 3 Scottish and BBC radio broadcasts that play simultaneously off first.)

Below, Lewis island landscapes.

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Reviewed for MCT by Jac Wright.

Mysteries and Crime Thrillers Suspense

Mysteries and Crime Thrillers Suspense

Mysteries and Crime Thrillers Suspense
A restored croft village.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Winner #2

Mysteries and Crime Thrillers Suspense

Welcome to our book club's blog.

Today we have randomly drawn the winner from the reviews posted this month.  Congratulations to Marie Claude who has won this month's prize of an Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card for $12 for her review of Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Review: Rescue Me, Maybe by Jackie Bouchard

Mysteries and Crime Thrillers Suspense

Publisher: Amazon Lake Union

Rating: 4*

Genre: Literary Fiction



This review has been filed under and posted on our attached Fine Fiction Reviews blog.  

Please follow this link to read the review on Fine Fiction Reviews. 

Review: Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams

Mysteries and Crime Thrillers Suspense

Publisher: Penguin Putnam

Rating: 4*

Genre: Literary Fiction



This review has been filed under and posted on our attached Fine Fiction Reviews blog.  

Please follow this link to read the review on Fine Fiction Reviews. 

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson

Publisher: Quercus Books (Hachette)
Rating: 4*

The concept of this story completely drew me in. It starts with disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and his journey to clear his name. Now this book has a lot going on, so of course in order to clear his name he has to first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. In the course of his investigation he enlists the help of Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius and researcher extraordinaire.

Does he solve the disappearance? Will he clear his name? Will he ever eat anything other than a sandwich?

Things I learned about Sweden from this book:

Swedish people only eat sandwiches. Throughout the book the characters eat sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sometimes even as a snack. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t want to look at a sandwich. I wish the author had included some authentic Swedish food in the food as a filler as opposed to all the different sandwiches one can eat.

Swedish people also like their coffee. I have never read about so much coffee drinking in one book in my life! All those giant Tea manufacturing multinational companies out there, Sweden is an untapped market!

You might think that if my biggest problem with this book is the food they eat, then the book isn’t doing too bad a job. And it wasn’t. Until I got to the relationship between Blomkvist and Berger and of course all the shrugging off of rape.

Perhaps Blomkvist and Berger’s relationship won’t be an issue for a lot of people, but to me it just seems in the same realm as unicorns and nymphs.

I loved Salander as a character personally. It’s hard not to fall in love with a genius antisocial minx, but I managed. I adore how she refuses to be a victim and is a genuinely strong female character. Maybe I am not supposed to agree with how she acted out against her guardian, but I think she was being far too nice. I thought the story as a whole was interesting and yes I am a fan of stories that have neat little endings in theory, if not in practice.

I know this book is a translation, and I don’t particularly care for translated books because the writing comes off as too stilted and awkward. And I know that a lot of readers thought that the language in this book was stilted and awkward, but trust me, when you read a truly badly translated book, you will be willing to forgive a lot! I speak from experience. So I was a bit wary of this but really for me it has turned out to be quite well written.

There are a lot of different story threads in this book, something that a majority of people did not like but personally I loved. It kept me engaged and interested throughout.

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Reviewed for MCT by Celeste M.

Review: Trust No One by Paul Cleave

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Rating: 4*

Jerry Grey is a bestselling crime author. Writing under a pseudonym of Henry Cutter, his twelve novels have thrilled readers and granted a comfortable life to him and his family. Jerry is hard at work on his thirteenth book when he forgets his wife's name at a party. This seems like a simple slip of the mind, but soon he becomes more and more forgetful. Finally, he agrees to see a doctor who gives Jerry an unexpectedly grim diagnosis. At the young age of forty-nine, Jerry Grey has the early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.

Fast forward a year and Jerry's descent into dementia has reached a dismal low. His wife Sandra has left him. His daughter rarely visits him and refuses to call him Dad. Abandoned by his family and barely able to remember his past, Jerry finds himself in the care of a nursing home. As his malady continues to ravage his mind, Jerry begins to confuse his own actions with those of the characters he used to write about. He used the Henry Cutter pseudonym as a way to separate the horrors he wrote about from the joys of his family life, but now the two are indistinguishable. Most days find Jerry confused and confessing to murders that took place in his novel.

Jerry has a habit of wandering from the facility in the night. When he is found, he is disoriented and has no recollection of how he escaped or what he did during the time he was gone. The situation becomes more dire when the police show up at Jerry's nursing home. It is no secret that Jerry has confessed to crimes from his novels, but now he has confessed to the murder of a girl who actually existed. Worse, her murder occurred on a night when Jerry escaped. Jerry is certain that he is not a killer, but he has no memory of the events of that night. With no alibi and a group of police seeking any closure to the case, Jerry struggles to defend his innocence and maintain his grasp on reality.

The novel switches back and forth between the past and present. The past is told through Jerry's "Madness Journal" that he started keeping at the start of his diagnosis. He knew that his memory would begin to fail, so he wrote the journal to inform his future self of his life. These journal entries alternate with the story of present day Jerry and his ongoing mental decline. As the novel progresses, The past and present begin to come together and culminate in a electrifying conclusion. The mystery ends up being conventional to the crime genre, but the spin of an unreliable protagonist helps to keep the plot moving and the suspense tightly wound. Trust No One is an adequately dark thriller that skilfully breathes new life into the genre while adhering to the style that readers have come to expect.

Bookstore Links:  |  |  B&N  |  Waterstones 

Reviewed for MCT by Ethan S.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Rating: 4*

Being a woman has never been easy, but being a woman, living alone with one’s sisters, on an isolated farm in 1915, becomes even more complicated for Constance Kopp.

After a young, rich and belligerent silk factory owner hit their buggy with his motor car, the Kopp sisters bill him for damages.  What should have been a simple manner of reimbursing them $50 for the reparation turns into a year of kidnapping threats, flying bullets and cops camping in the sisters’ barn.  To convict the culprit and his accomplices, the sheriff recruits Constance in the investigation.  Along the way, a chance encounter forces Constance to confront a family secret and face their uncertain financial future.

Based on true events, this novel introduces us to Constance Kopp, US’s first female deputy sheriff.  She is depicted as a strong and stubborn woman who is determined to get reparation from the gang who recklessly damaged their buggy.  After all, why should she accept another resolution than a man would!  Her interactions with other characters illustrate clearly society’s expectations about “simple woman” and how she should act.  The well-meaning, but oh so patronizing, “isn’t there a brother or an uncle who can take care of you?” question, asked more than once in the novel, is evidence of the place women occupied in society.

Even if a little stereotypical, Constance, Norma and Fleurette Kopp take life in this novel.  Norma, dependable and more conservative has a passion for pigeons, and Fleurette, childish and a little spoiled likes to design and sew new clothes.   After some time, I felt like I could predict how they would react to new situations.  Other secondary characters, such as the sheriff, are also well-fleshed and coherent.  In fact, the less detailed characters are the villains of the book.  Obviously, the author did not want to spend much time with them, or the documents she used did not offer more information about them.  The gang felt like an ominous and ill-defined presence throughout the book, which was a really effective way to transmit the oppressive feeling felt by the sisters to the reader.

I came to this book without knowing it was based on true events (in fact I discovered this information in the postface of the book).  So, I was expecting a fast-paced story, with a gun-bearing too-modern heroin.  What I discovered instead was a slower-paced book based more on the ambiance and social dynamics of the era than the action of the story.  It was for me a good surprise: good because I took away a lot more from this book than I would have from a “simple” mystery, but some sections seemed to lag a little.

All in all, I thought it was a good portrait of an era and of an exceptional woman and the circumstances that helped her show the world who she was and that she would not sit back and take the beating in silence.  Constance Kopp is a model that should be known and followed by many young, and less young, ladies nowadays.

Bookstore Links:  |  |  B&N  |  Waterstones

Reviewed for MCT by Marie Claude.

Tumbled Graves by Brenda Chapman

Publisher: Dundurn
Rating: 4.5*

Hallelujah! Book #3 is here and it doesn't disappoint.

I’ve been a fan of this series since I picked up “Cold Mourning” last year. With each book, you not only get a proper mystery to unsnarl but further insight into the 2 main characters as their relationship deepens and titbits from the past come to light. That continues here.

At the end of “Butterfly Kills”, Det. Kala Stonechild took on one of the toughest jobs of her career…"Mom" to a teenager after the girl’s mother went to prison. It’s been a big adjustment for both,  particularly Kala who has always led a solitary life. Any attempts at establishing a routine are further complicated when a young woman and her daughter go missing.

Kala & colleague Paul Gundersund take the call. Ivo Delaney has no idea where his wife Adele and daughter Violet have gone. Unfortunately, it’s not long before the cops have a pretty good idea. But the real mystery is why & as Kala and Paul continue to dig, it turns out Adele was keeping a few secrets from her husband.

Meanwhile, Staff Sgt. Jacques Rouleau continues to juggle the problems of running their department. There are budget concerns, meetings and a new member of the team to get up to speed. But when a local reporter approaches him about the case, it’s clear he has something else to worry about. Someone is feeding her information. In alternate chapters, we listen in as she meets her source and slowly realize this will have huge repercussions for Kala.

It’s a well paced story that pulls you in from the get-go. The investigation heads off in surprising directions before reaching a tense conclusion. Even then, a couple of nice twists near the end ensure your attention never wavers.

As usual, we also get to catch up on the characters’ personal lives. Kala and Paul definitely click as partners at work but she’s unsure she wants to take it any further, especially with his estranged wife hovering in the background. All Paul knows is he’s never met anyone like Kala. The comfort and sense of peace he gets when they’re together is something he never experienced in his marriage. But you get the feeling the author is in no rush and will let this develop with a slow burn.

As for Jacques, he continues to be the strong, solid centre of the series. In this outing, part of his past will reach a heartbreaking resolution & it strengthens the bond between him and Kala. They first worked together in another unit and when he moved to Kingston, she followed. He’s always respected her as a colleague but as they both face personal challenges, you get to see an almost father/daughter aspect of their relationship.

There are several side stories that carry over from the previous book but if you’re jumping in here, no worries. Enough background is provided to get the gist of what’s happening. Peripheral characters range from other cops and family members to sinister bikers and their crews. (At this juncture, I would like to make a special plea to the author. Without spilling any beans for readers, there’s one character I’d like to see get the smack down they so karmically deserve. You know who I mean. Please.)

Police procedurals are probably my favourite genre and I have read countless books from many different countries. In this crowded field, it must be difficult to create characters that aren't already out there running around in someone else’s story. Jacques and Kala grow more compelling with each instalment as layers are slowly peeled back & their characters continue to develop. By the end, there are a few loose strings left dangling and I look forward to seeing what happens next.

My sincere thanks to Dundurn for allowing me to receive a copy.

Bookstore Links:  |  |  B&N

Reviewed for MCT by Sandy S.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Review: A Beeline To Murder by Mary Weimer

Publisher: Kensington Books
Rating: 4*

In this book we meet some interesting characters. Abigail Mackenzie is a beekeeper and she owns a small farmette outside of Las Flores, California, which is not too far from Napa Valley. Which is California's big wine country area. Abby was a cop on the Las Flores Police Department where her best friend Kat still works.  Abby also does some work for the DA in the town along with some private investigations for certain people. She has a standing order with the pastry chef in town to deliver honey to him for his many confections.

On this morning Abby was early delivering the honey because she had paperwork to deliver to the DA also. Abby was looking around for Chef Jean-Louis, but could not find him and he did not answer when she called his name. She continued to look and finally found him behind a baking table in the kitchen, DEAD. She quickly called the police and Kat responded with some new people from the morgue. The police did their investigation and when they were done in a few days, they determined that the death was a suicide.

When Philippe, the Chef's brother came to claim the body he said that no way would his brother take his own life, the chef was planning a big trip to the Caribbean in July for his birthday. So, Kat connected Phillippe with Abby who agreed to investigate the death for $10,000. She needed the money for renovations for her farmette.  Little did she know that she would find a love interest in the handsome French-Canadian.

She was able to prove that the death was a murder, but the trail lead them to many people and many twists and turns, before they finally got the correct people.

This book was well written, kept my interest, and I have recommended it to all my friends and family. I loved the descriptions of the small town setting which transformed me back to days spent at a farm.  The book helped me as an escape from busy daily life to an idyllic place and time.  I loved the adventure of solving the puzzle of the murder with Abigail who was easy to like and identify with. I would surely buy it for Christmas presents.

Bookstore Links:  |  |  B&N  |  Waterstones  |  WH Smith

Reviewed for MCT by Mary W.

Review: Silent Scream by Angela Marsons

Publisher: Bookoutour
Rating: 4*

Very few books drive me to write reviews as soon as I'm done reading them, either because they stir very strong feelings of irritation and dislike or because they are so absolutely brilliant. Silent Scream is definitely one of the latter.

Silent Scream is one of those detective murder mysteries in the vein of Karin Slaughter. It’s realistic but not overly gritty, with a main character that is flawed but in a way that is so easy to relate to as to be likeable.

Set in the United Kingdom, D.I. Kim Stone is on the trail of a murderer, this is soon complicated when remains are unearthed near Crestwood, a former children's care home. The author manages to bring to light the hardships faced by children in the care system and at the same time shows the effect on someone who has had similar experiences without having the main character coming off as overbearing and whiny.

Now I adore mystery, I have read a lot of mystery books, so many in fact that I don’t even remember them all. A lot are predictable, it is hard to find something that is not, and this book was not only completely not predictable but that last twist still blew my mind even when I figured it out a little before the author could tell me what happened. And when I say a little before I mean 2 pages before!

So if you like whodunnits and even if you don’t but want to read something in this genre, do yourself a favour and read this.

Well executed, brilliantly done and I cannot wait to read the next one.

Bookstore Links:  |  |  B&N  |  Waterstones

Reviewed for MCT by Celeste M.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Winner #1

Welcome to our book club's brand new blog.

Today we have randomly drawn the winner from the reviews posted this month.  Congratulations to Cailin who has won this month's prize of an Amazon gift card for $12 for her review of I'll Never Let You Go by Mary Burton.

Review: A Line of Blood by Ben McPherson

Publisher: HarperCollins
Rating: 4*

In “A Line of Blood” we meet a small family living in North London.  Some would call them yuppies.  Alex Mercer, a Scot, is a television producer.  His wife Millicent, an ex-pat American, writes self-help books.  They try their best to live their life and provide good parenting for their son who is an intelligent and precocious eleven year-old named Max.

Alex and Millicent did not have a ‘usual’ beginning, but rather almost a marriage of convenience.   After a ‘hook-up’ and instant physical attraction, Millicent – a California girl – stays in London to be with Alex.  Because she is from the States, the only way she can legally stay and work in England is to marry.   After fifteen years of marriage Alex has never met Millicent’s parents.   They had muddled along nicely until they lose a baby, a girl, named Sarah.  Both grieve, but Millicent has a breakdown of sorts – and their son Max is so traumatized that his and his mother’s relationship is forever changed.  In fact the entire family dynamic is forever changed.

When Alex follows his son into the next-door neighbor’s yard in chase of their cat, what they discover will change and scar them even further.    They find their neighbor dead in the bath.  Fearful for the mental trauma that seeing a dead body might have on his son, Alex thinks that is the worst that can happen… but that is only the tip of the iceberg.  The police find a bracelet that belongs to Millicent in the neighbor’s house – beneath the bed…   The police request that Alex “help them with their inquiries”.  Betrayals, arrests, psychological counseling, adultery, suspicion, and domestic violence are all results of their discovery.  Life will never be the same for the family Alex calls his ‘little tribe’.

How the neighbor came to meet his demise drives the story and the reader is compelled to discover the who, the why, and the how it will change lives.   “The line of blood” differs from most other psychological thrillers in that the narrative is told solely from the male point of view via the character of Alex.  All the characters depicted in the novel were fully-fleshed out and very believable.  Written with an empathetic voice and an understanding of human nature, this is a debut novel that packs a punch.  It is equally disturbing and compelling. I would highly recommend it to all lovers of mystery and suspense.

Ben McPhersonI always wonder about the author’s reasons for choosing a specific title.  In this case I can only assume that he is referring to the protagonist’s family ‘line’ and how violent death seems to visit each generation.

Ben McPherson was born in Glasgow and grew up in Edinburgh, but left Scotland when he was eighteen. He studied languages at Cambridge, then worked for many years in film and television in London.  In 1998, after working a forty-eight-hour shift, he went for a drink at the Coach and Horses in Soho and met the woman he would go on to marry. Similarities to the characters in A Line of Blood end there.  Ben now lives in Oslo with his wife and their two sons. He is a columnist for Aftenposten, Norway’s leading quality daily newspaper.

Bookstore Links:  |  |  B&N  |  Waterstones  |  WH Smith

Reviewed for MCT by Lynne L.

Review: A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

Publisher: William Morrow, HarperCollins
Rating: 3.5*

Memory is a funny thing. You never know if what you remember actually happened or is your mind just telling you it happened. I’ve read somewhere, that whenever you recall a past event, you’re actually remembering the last time you recalled the event and not the event itself. I don’t know how far this is true, what I do know is that my own memory can be a dirty liar.

This book is centered around the alleged possession of Marjorie and is told from the point of view of her younger sister Merry. Or rather multiple viewpoints of Merry's ; eight year old Merry, twenty three year old Merry, alternative personality Merry. My favorite aspect of the book was the relationship the sisters shared before it all went to hell, perhaps even while it was going to hell. I loved 8 year old Merry, I found her simply adorable, and perhaps this is because I have a younger sister I tended to relate to their relationship more.

The thing is, I don’t know that I would classify this as horror exactly. It was suspenseful. It was mysterious. It didn’t scare me. It had its moments of subtle creepiness but it wasn’t nearly enough for me.That final twist was interesting but predictable. I didn’t catch the twist within the twist, but I am not a morning person and I can’t be expected to notice anything the author doesn’t come out and tell me straight at 6 in the morning which is when I finished this book. Was anyone in fact possessed? Personally I don’t think so, but what do I know.

Not a bad book but not what I expected at all. I enjoyed the writing and cared about the characters. However if you’re expecting gruesomeness and have a high tolerance for the creepy, then this book will fall short of your expectations. If you want suspense without the gory, bloody, creepy horror, you might like it more.

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Reviewed for MCT by Celeste M.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Review: The Way Through The Woods by Colin Dexter

An Inspector Morse Novel
Publisher: Crown, Random House
Rating: 5*

They called her the Swedish Maiden – the beautiful young tourist who disappeared on a hot summer’s day somewhere in North Oxford. Twelve months later the case remains unsolved, pending further developments, and Inspector Morse just cannot let it go.

My all time top favourite series in the mystery genre, and this book is the best I have read in the series. Few modern writers can rival Colin Dexter's exquisite character building, whether within the genre or from outside. Inspector Morse is a delightful, masterpiece creation. Morse is at once brilliant; peevish yet often sly and diplomatic, kindly towards those who work under him; with classic tastes in cars, music, and lifestyle; and, as far as women are concerned, lusting after every woman in sight in a manner that is pathetic yet endearing, a little creepy yet gentlemanly mannered that kind of makes you laugh at him and yet feel sorry for him at the same time. He is a very real character with very real strengths and weaknesses.

Also in this particular book Dexter reaches his peak in literary writing. Consider the brilliant 5 stanza poem on the "Swedish Maiden" with which Dexter introduces the murder to us. This is beautiful, brilliant poetry. The scene in Lyme Regis where Morse watches the tide coming in and the sea gulls momentarily flying suspended in the air then "peeling off" like fighter air-planes ... that is exquisite writing that evokes the scene's beautiful setting very viscerally.

While the writing and the characterization delights one aesthetically, at the same time the brilliant mystery and the plot dazzles one's mind with an equally exquisitely layered puzzle one impulsively feels compelled to follow. One cannot ignore the tantalisingly sexy direction the plot veers in which teases you with its somewhat restrained sauciness. i.e. It is not explicit sex, but it is all the more tantalising and titillating for its restrained quality. In hindsight it seems to me that Morse had been investigating the case quietly on the side all along and even the vacation in Lyme Regis was a pre-planned move following a thread of investigation; not the coincidence it appears to be at first sight. Ah, just brilliant!

One should also mention the supporting cast - particularly Chief Superintendent Strange and Lewis - and Morse's interplay with them which creates moments of delightful comedy, humor, and the deep development of all 3 characters. Do all men contemplate most women they meet as sexual objects, even the straight-laced Lewis as in the scene with the victim's mother? The evidence is that they do (something I have explored in my own stories). I say Freud hit the nail on the head. It is decidedly a Freudian world out there.

There are some minor faults: Dexter makes sudden dips into the POVs of every minor character he meets. He sometimes breaks into the omniscient POV from the close third person limited POV and gives us warnings about what is yet to happen in the future. However, these minor points do not in any way lessen the sheer aesthetic beauty in the writing, exquisite characterisation, and the brilliantly woven and gripping intellectual puzzle that makes up this modern classic.

Bookstore Links:  |  |  B&N  |  Waterstones  |  WH Smith

Reviewed for MCT by Jac Wright.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Review: The Last Policeman Series by Ben H. Winters

Titles: The Last Policeman, Countdown City, and World of Trouble
Publisher: Quirk Books
Overall rating: 4*

Henry Palace thought he had a future, a future to recover from his past.  Being a cop was his calling and he felt he could be good at it.  But now the world has just learned that an asteroid will hit Earth in just a few months and suddenly,  nothing is the same.  While many decide to quit their jobs to hit their bucket list or simply give up on life, Henry Palace finds himself a detective, and he is determined to do his job regardless of the circumstances.  When he is called to a suicide scene, some details seem to point to a more complicated solution.  Palace investigates against the advice of his colleagues and the world that is collapsing around him.

Some people, however, think that there is a way to save the world, a plan that the government is trying to hide.  Nico, Palace’s tortured sister is a member of a group trying to locate and free a scientist who pretends to know how to reroute the asteroid.

Even if the mystery part of the books is rather simple and more of a pretext, Winters succeed in telling a tale of the end of the world that is as sad as it is fascinating.  The books in the series are set at three different moments of the countdown to doomsday and give a realistic and complex view of how a civilisation collapses when day to day routines of life are replaced by hopelessness and chaos.

The Last Policeman is a series that will stay with me for a long time and has already provided many conversation topics with my family.

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Reviewed for MCT by Marie Claude.

Review: Hostage Taker by Stefanie Pintoff

Publisher: Bantam, Random House
Rating: 4*

FBI Special Agent Eve Rossi, whose expertise are used in hostage negotiations, was not given an option when told to return to work while on bereavement leave. Asked for by name, a hostage taker at St. Patrick's Cathedral has given Eve his list of demands.

This well written novel is peppered with confidential files, news reports, and maps, giving Hostage Taker a more realistic feel. I found this to be an effective way of giving background information.  The main character, Eve Rossi, is a strong female, whose intelligence and inquisitiveness help get the job done. The only parts of the book that did not ring true for me are the numerous times that Eve's boss Henry Ma second guesses Eve's decisions. Seeing that she was the one requested by the hostage taker, it just did not seem likely that the Director would take such chances with the hostages.

With a well developed plot and interesting characters, Hostage Taker would appeal to readers who are fans of the police procedural/thriller genre.

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Reviewed for MCT by Sharon B.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Review: Playing with Fire by Tess Gerritsen

Publisher: Ballantine, Random House
Rating: 4.5*

From the beginning in Rome to the end in (… well you’ll just have to read the book to find that out!) this stand-alone thriller, by the always entertaining best-selling author Tess Gerritsen, will enthral and captivate you.  If you’re looking for a Rizzoli and Isles type novel, you won’t find that here.  What you will find is another fascinating side to Tess’s knowledge and abilities and a wonderfully satisfying thriller.

Julia, from whose perspective the book is mainly written, is a professional violinist and happily married mother to three year old Lily living in current-day Boston.  She happens upon a piece of unknown music in a little bookshop while on a trip to Rome, but little does she realise the chain of events that playing this piece will begin upon her return home.  Is Lily really trying to hurt her?  Is something wrong with her precious child?  Why will no-one believe her?  Who is good and who is bad?  From hardly being apart to being afraid of her own daughter, Julia’s story gathers pace quickly really making the reader wonder about the cause of the strange, and very frightening, behaviour.

Interwoven with Julia’s story is another, set in the days before, and early days of, World War 2.  It tells the story of Lorenzo, a Jewish musician and composer living in Venice, and his family and friends.

Though they have never met, and their stories are from different times and places, danger is no stranger to either Julia or Lorenzo making you want to read on and find out more as the pace of this novel accelerates.  Finding out Lorenzo’s story and the history of the Waltz he wrote become vital to Julia (and the reader), leading her own story down unexpected paths with many twists and turns.

Danger is ever present for both Julia and Lorenzo, but so are beauty, love and music.  The whole book is wonderfully written, even though sometimes about painful subjects, leading the reader to change their mind several times about some of the well thought out characters as the story unfolds and ultimately leads to a very satisfactory ending.

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Reviewed for MCT by Jan G.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Review: I'll Never Let You Go by Mary Burton

Publisher: Kensington Books
Rating: 4.5*

Love hurts, and sometimes it kills.

He promised to kill her. One night four years ago, Leah Carson's husband almost succeeded. Philip stabbed her twenty-three times before fleeing. The police are sure he's dead. But fear won't let Leah believe it.

It starts with little things. Missing keys. A flat tire. Mysterious flowers. All easily explained away if the pattern wasn't so terrifyingly familiar. Leah has a new veterinary practice and a new life with no ties to her nightmare. But Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent Alex Morgan suspects something. And when another woman's body is found, stabbed twenty-three times, Leah knows her past has found her. As Leah and Alex untangle the horrifying truth, he watches her, ready for the perfect moment. Until death—that was the vow they made. And a killer always keeps his word…

A fantastic read. I won't be happy now until I've read every single book in Mary Burton's backlist!

Dark and thrilling, I'll Never Let You Go had me awake until late into the wee hours, not being able to let it go until I reached the end. 

It is atmospheric and full of suspense. The author pulls no punches with killing off her characters and there is a real sense of danger and terror enveloping the story. I loved that the romantic side of the plot, although evident, was placed firmly in the sidelines to allow the suspense and the drama to take centre stage. 

From the opening chapter, I developed a liking for and attachment to Leah who had to suffer and survive domestic abuse, stalking as well as having to make a slow trek back from death's door after a horrifying attempt on her life. I inwardly cheered for her as she got her life back together and made new friends. I liked Alex as well despite his emotional detachment from people. His professionalism and genuine concern for Leah won me over fairly quickly.

The mystery and suspense unfolded with many twists and turns. I thought very early into the novel that I had a good idea of how the story would go, but I was wrong! I was not expecting the twists that occurred and I was genuinely as surprised as the characters were themselves at the turn of events towards the end of the novel.

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Reviewed for MCT by Cailin.

Review: The 7th Month by Lisa Gardner

A novella.

Publisher: Headline Books, Hachette
Rating: 3.5*

Being pregnant and in the 7th month, Sgt. Detective D.D. Warren find herself working behind a desk with paperwork and she isn’t that thrilled to be out of the action. On one such boring day an unexpected opportunity shows up and she has a chance to consult on a movie about police investigation details so that the actors who play cops would be believable and as accurate as possible. 

However, things turn out to be a bit more serious when the previous consultant, a retired policeman, is found killed; also the presence of an FBI agent as an actor is a surprise to Warren.

Warren feels apprehension (that she doesn’t like to admit even to herself--be careful not to say that in her presence) thinking about the future and inevitably moving in with Alex, the father of her child, and worries how her new family will affect her career. There is humor in the book which is less observable in Lisa Gardner's other books.

Within the story, between the chapters, there is advice on how to kill, choose a victim, and your weapon . . . and of course what to do with the body. Who knows what the future holds?  So a must read for everyone, especially if killing, or getting inside the killer's head to catch one, is in your job description.

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Reviewed for MCT by Arnis K.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Review: LITTLE BLACK LIES by Sharon Bolton

Publisher: Minotaur Books, Macmillan
Rating: 4.5*

After finishing this, I don’t know whether I need a nap or a stiff drink. If you’ve read the author’s Lacey Flint series, you know she’s a master of creating dark, gripping stories with complex and sympathetic characters. That continues in this stand alone novel.The promotional blurb gives you the gist of the story but there is so much more to this richly atmospheric book set in a small, isolated community on the Falkland Islands.

When we meet Catrin, it’s clear she was broken by the loss of her two young sons three years ago. She still eats, sleeps and goes to work but is just a shell of the woman she used to be with room for only one emotion. Hate. As the anniversary of the boys’ death approaches, she puts the finishing touches on her plan for retribution. The book begins to count down the next two days. In the meantime, a little boy goes missing, the 3rd in two years.

There are good and bad aspects to living in any small town. Everyone knows everyone’s business. And in times of trouble, neighbours band together to help. There’s also a naiveté based on the belief that people you know can’t possibly be capable of horrific acts. But as one of the characters notes, fear changes a community. Residents begin to eye each other with doubt & when one of their own falls under suspicion, it’s scary & all too realistic how quickly a mob mentality can infect a group of people looking to lay blame.

The book is told in three parts, each with a different narrator. Just when you think you have a grip on what happened and who is responsible, you read the next account of events through a different set of eyes and start to question what you thought you knew. The first two parts end abruptly at crucial moments and you may find yourself yelling at the pages in frustration. The tension is palpable and you’re acutely aware of the passage of time as the clock ticks down on Catrin’s plan. It will mess with your head & make you realize you may have rushed to judgement just as quickly as some of the islanders.

The three main characters are well drawn and complex. Each has experienced the pain of loss in some form and you can feel their grief as they stumble through the aftermath of a horrible event, trying to figure out how to go on living or if they even want to. As in real life, no one is all good or all bad and each is guilty of something. As the story progresses and your grasp of the situation expands, you start to wonder if maybe there are no true villains here, only victims.

The setting itself is an important character. Descriptions of the isolation, cold rock, creeping fog and relentless pounding of the ocean lend a chill and quiet sense of menace to the background. The result is a growing unease as the story unfolds. With three plausible versions of events to choose from, it’s not ’til the final few pages that we learn the truth.

It’s a profound and at times, difficult read that examines some of the darker aspects of human nature and will suck you in from the get-go. Set aside a few hours before you start. With expert pacing and heightened suspense, this is a book you’ll resent having to put down. Highly recommend.

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Reviewed for MCT by Sandy S.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Review: TOOTH & NAIL by Ian Rankin

Publisher: Orion, Hachette
Rating: 4.5 *

Rankin's dark and brooding signature noir.

Rebus is called to London by New Scotland Yard to assist as the consulting investigator in a series of murders in which the serial killer leaves his mark by taking a bite out of the flesh of the body of each of his victims. Rebus has to deal with issues of the north and south divide and acceptance by his London officers who feel threatened by his presence.  He also takes the opportunity to see his ex wife who lives with his teenage daughter, stirring up a lot of unresolved issues, and falls hard for the female researcher who wants to build a psychological profile of the killer.

Why does his daughter's boyfriend he disapproves of turn up at a trial related to the murder? What is the motivation behind the sick mind of the murderer?  Who is the killer's next target and is Rebus or someone he loves at risk?

This book gets off to a somewhat slow start but it creeps up on you. It is as if you are alone, reading on the floor of a dark empty room with a single light, a room in which the walls are slowly closing in on you a fraction of an inch at a time. You feel relaxed and a little uninvolved in the beginning until you hit a point when you suddenly come to the realisation that the walls are closing in on you and there is no way out! The mood is dark and brooding and the pace is perfectly controlled - slowly mounting tension and suspense that grips you in an ever tightening vice. The ending is superbly dramatic (if a bit melodramatic).

The only thing is I don't believe in serial killers so much. I believe killings are generally personal or, if serial, sexually motivated. It's only a tiny pet peeve of mine, but I think Rankin gets the psychology a little wrong there.

Rebus is well developed and the supporting character of Inspector Flight, his New Scotland Yard counterpart, is well defined. Character development is not as strong as in the Inspector Morse series and the writing is toned down and slightly less literary than that of Colin Dexter's. Loved Rebus in London.

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Reviewed for MCT by Jac Wright.