The Athens Assignment David Boyle

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I don’t usually do this, but I have held back on this review until I’d read the first book in the series, The Berlin Affair.

Why? Because from the start of The Athens Assignment I felt like I had started reading a really good story half way through. Both books together are just 240 pages, the length of a good book.

The Athens Affair is the story of Xanthe Schneider, a journalist for an American magazine, working in London in the early 1940’s at the height of the Blitz.

Xanthe is also a part time code breaker at Bletchley Park, and occasional agent working in occupied Europe.

The story is very much of the type I used to read as a young lad in the Commando Books or Warlord Comics, except these stories are written in an adult manner.

The Athens Assignment sees Xanthe returning to Europe, this time to Greece, in an attempt to help the British Forces locate and destroy the German battleship The Bismarck.

David Boyle makes a great job of taking actual events and weaving a fictional plot around them.

The invasions of Greece by the Germans, the threat posed by the huge battleship Bismarck, the frantic attempts by the British Forces to find and destroy it before it wreaks havoc on the North Atlantic convoys.

He uses names that all readers will recognise to give the story even more credence, with Alan Turing and Ian Fleming making appearances.

This book, or should I say both books, took me right back to the first thing that got me hooked on reading. Second World War fiction woven around actual events.

I started by saying I felt like I had come in half way through a story.

Well, I’ll end by saying I hope I finished the book at least two thirds of the way through a bigger one.

 

Pages: 119

Publishers: Endeavour

Available on Amazon

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The Reunion Samantha Hayes

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How would I describe this book.

It’s like an episode of Midsummer Murders that’s been directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

I was figuratively peeping between my fingers when I read parts of it.

The story starts with a bunch of teenagers having a day on the beach. One of the girls, Claire, is looking after her younger sister Eleanor. When Eleanor goes for an ice cream she never comes back.

The main part of the book starts 21 years later. Claire is now married to Callum and has two children of her own. She still lives in the same seaside town where her sister went missing. Her Mom and Dad live in the same farm they have always lived in.

Claire’s dad is suffering from dementia and she decides to get her childhood friends back together to spend a week helping her Dad reminisce on the happier days when they all used to hang out together.

They have all moved away but keep in touch. All of them have issues, but don’t we all. There’s Jason, Claire’s brother a struggling actor who’s wife is pregnant with twins.

Then there’s Maggie, who is what can only be called a Nomadic Cougar, and her temptress 15 year old daughter Rane.

Claire’s former love interest Nick. The restaurateur, who is newly single under tragic circumstances, and who still holds a flame for Claire.

Even before they arrive at the farm for the reunion strange things start to happen. Claire is beginning to get abusive phone calls. She’s an estate agent and she starts to get false alarms to viewings.

The subject of Eleanor is never far below the surface. Everybody still remembers the day she went missing, but the only person bold enough to ask questions about it is Rane.

There are simmering undercurrents throughout this book. There is no blood and guts, but there is suspense in abundance.

As the story unfolds there are flash backs form a girl who is being held captive. Is it Eleanor or is it somebody else who has gone missing.

This story kept me turning the pages late into the night and early in the morning. It’s been a long time since a book, which on the surface is quiet and genteel, has had the me feeling so much suspense.

 

Pages: 410

Publishers: Bookouture

Published on: 9th February 2018

Available to pre-order on Amazon

The Photographer Craig Robertson

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This book covers issues so current that at times I almost felt like I was reading a fly-on-the-wall expose of a real investigation.

From the start of the book a vicious rapist is identified and taken to court, only to have key evidence thrown out on a technicality. The one and only witness who has been brave enough to come forward to give evidence at the trial breaks down and runs away leaving the judge no choice but to throw the case out.

The accused rapist is a semi-famous business man and his name has been released to the press, his victim is only known by a pseudo name. The moral debate about this is touched on, but what follows is a huge amount of trolling abuse aimed at the victim and the female police officer who took the case to court.

Detective Inspector Rachel Narey is the officer in question. She is becoming the target of abuse and threats of violence.

Rachel is frustrated that the case got thrown out of court, and even more frustrated that a file containing hundreds of photographs of random women taken all over the streets of Glasgow was thrown out of evidence; and that she was forced to return the photos and all copies of them to the accused.

She knows she had the right man, her bosses know she had the right man. They also know that every woman in the photos is a victim, or potential victim, of the attacker. Those photos are now off limits. How can she get after him?

When her husband, Tony, a journalist, is sent the photos on a computer file he knows he can’t tell his wife. He also knows he may have the biggest story he has ever had, but at what cost to his marriage.

Meanwhile a rape counsellor has been on the trail of a man who attacks his victims in a very specific manner, and it’s the same way that Narey’s victim was attacked. She has a file she’s named “The Beast File” containing 9 year’s worth of investigations. She has never got near identifying the victim until now.

Three lines of investigation start. DI Narey is still after her man but is confined by the letter of the law. Her husband Tony is not nearly so confined but without official status he is placing himself in danger.

Then there is Tony’s Uncle Dan, an ex-cop and God Father to Rachel and Tony’s little girl. He arrives to stay and look after the girl because of the threats made on social media to Rachel. He opens up a third line of inquiry when he joins in the twitter chat and ingratiates himself with the bigoted keyboard warriors that hide behind their computer screens.

With all three looking for a way to put the attacker behind bars the story highlights the difference between how different people can get information, legitimately or otherwise.

It shows the frustrations of modern policing, what can be done and what can’t.

It shows the frustrations of victims who get up the courage to step forward, only to be let down by the judicial system.

It shows how easy it is for so called secret identities to be found out; and how they become widely known through social media, and the effect that has on the person who is so often the victim of a serious crime.

This book could not be more topical. It reflects issues that have been in the press very recently, and even mentions the Black Cab Rapist whose immanent release is causing so much consternation.

I like books that get me thinking. This book got me thinking about some of the laws of this country, and the way some trials are reported.

It also got me thinking something I have never thought before. Maybe some of this investigative journalism is better placed to find out the truth than a proper legal investigation.

For a work of fiction that takes some doing.

Then I read Craig Robertson’s biography.

Now I know why this book is so good.

I’m off to find his back catalogue. I can’t not read them. I hope they are just as good as this one. They have a lot to live up to.

Pages: 448

Publishers UK: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date UK: 25th January 2018

A Map of the Dark

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Special Agent Elsa Myers of the FBI’s Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Unit is one complex character.

 

Covered in scars she tries her hardest not to cut herself anymore; but scratching her old scars is impossible to resist. That is why she wears long sleeves and heavy trousers in the heat of the summer. That is why she steers clear of intimate relationships. That is why she is slightly withdrawn at times when she should be concentrating on other things.

The other thing in this case is the disappearance of a 17-year-old girl from New York. Girls that age go missing all the time in NYC; so why does Detective Alexi (Lex) Cole call in Elsa as soon as she is reported missing.

Because she is a hard working student, with a job in a coffee shop, and no history of getting into trouble. She just does not fit into the usual stereotype of the girls that go missing of their own accord.

But: when do good girls turn bad, and what is bad.

As Elsa and Lex dig deeper into the girl’s disappearance they start to make a few discoveries. Maybe the girl is not as squeaky clean as her family think she is.

With her family not knowing the whole truth about their daughter, and with her friends lying to protect her, the investigation is slow. Elsa needs to unravel the truth about the missing girl. As she does she starts to recollect her own childhood and the reason why she self harmed. The memories start to get her reaching for the Swiss Army knife she always carries in her bag.

As well as carrying out the investigation Elsa is backwards and forwards to hospital to visit her dying father. As her childhood memories resurface the interaction with her father, and sister start to change.

Will Elsa survive this investigation in good health? At times its touch and go as mentally she finds it hard to balance her work with her personal life.

I really enjoyed this book. I like a good story with good characters, but this one had something else.

The girl that goes missing.

A good girl? Yes.

However the usual teenage problems start to come into her life. Pressures of school work, boyfriends, and slightly dodgy opportunities.

This little sub-plot about how one or two decisions, not even necessarily bad decisions, have that domino effect that can lead to a person having a very bad day.

Pages: 320

Publishers UK: Mulholland

Publishing date UK: 11th January 2018.

Liars Frances Vick

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Not all books, like not all films, need to be full of blood and gore, or shock and horror, to get me gripped.

This book is like one of those films that have you squirming in anticipation of the horror that is about to unfold, without it ever actually getting too gruesome.

Good Liar is the story of suppressed feelings. Jenny Holloway has been looking after her alcoholic mother, Sal, since she suffered a stroke. That is until Sal is found dead in the snow during a cold winter morning. But did Jenny love her mother as much as the locals think she did, or was there a hidden loathing for the woman who has caused her life to be so miserable

Nobody ever actually accuses Sal of killing her mom, but the mist of innuendo lies throughout the book.

Jenny is a bit of a wall flower. Living in her mom’s shadow, her best friend is a lad she used to go to school with. Does she feel safe with him because he’s gay and why is she so introvert.

There are secrets. Sal was once a vibrant, young, single mother who lived her life happily with the young Jenny. Then she met Marc, and things changed.

Marc and Sals relationship hovers over this story casting a shadow that is more alluded to thank recounted. It’s obvious Marc is a bad influence on Sal but what influence did he have over Jenny.

After Sal’s death friends and family start to gather around Jenny. Are they all doing what’s best for her. In fact is Jenny as white-as-the-driven-snow that her mother was found in.

From the start of the book I had my doubts about Jenny. I often I felt sympathy for her. Other times something went through her mind that made me wonder if she was actually responsible for her mothers death, and maybe for other crimes that had taken place around her and her mother.

This is one of those books that slowly unravels a deeper story than the one you think you are first reading.

Its good, it’s not a cracker jack page turner, but it did grip me to the point where there was no way I was not going to finish it.

Pages: 188

Publisher: Bookouture

Publishing date UK: 26th January 2018.

Available to pre-order on Amazon

Motherland G.D. Abson

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Set in modern day St Petersburg this is a fast-paced crime thriller will be loved by readers of good old fashion spy books by Len Deighton, as much as lovers of modern Scandinavian Crime by people like Jo Nesbo.

Detective Natalya Ivanova works in the Criminal Investigation Directorate, a police force staffed by chauvinistic, homophobic, racist men, not least of all is her Husband Mikhail and his best friend, and Sergeant, Rogov.

When a young, pretty, and wealthy woman, is attacked in the street before going missing, Natalya is sent to look into her disappearance. It transpires the woman is the heiress to a fortune amassed by her father who is a Scandinavian Businessman, but he is being less than helpful.

The investigation is set against the oxymoron of today’s Russia. Iphones and laptops are aplenty, but the technology for forensics is nearly none existent, unless you work for one of the governments agencies. Natalya’s one true ally is the senior criminologist (CSI) Leo Primakov, who has to buy equipment out of his own pocket and rely on American TV shows to help him keep up to date with his science.

As she begins to investigate the disappearance of the young heiress it becomes apparent that people are trying to steer her away. From gentle suggestions from at first her husband, and her boss, to outright threats by officers of the FSB, the successors of the dreaded KGB, and no less ruthless and corrupt.

Natalya’s investigations lead her to start to suspect those nearest to her, but are they trying to support her or scupper her efforts. Is Mikhail corrupt or worse.

There is a lovely line in the book where Natalya tells her husband “women hate the lie more than what it conceals” This is the whole premise of the book. Natalya is straight, and she hates people who aren’t. That means she is going to find out who took the missing heiress; and hopefully find her alive whilst keeping herself alive.

If you like your books fast-paced, gritty, and realistic this book is definitely for you.

Pages: 258

Publisher: Mirror Books

Available on Amazon