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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

Reviewed for MCT by Jac Wright.