Maestra L.S. Hilton

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Maestra            L.S. Hilton.

The protagonist for this book is Judith Rashleigh.

Judith’s story starts with a glimpse further into the book with the first chapter ending with her asking the question, how did this all begin. The first half of the book is retro that point, but still narrated in the present first person tense. The rest of the book remains in the first person and advances the story.

The story is good. Judith a young woman with a passion for fine art, and qualifications to back it up, is working in one of the big auction houses in London. However, her lot there is not a good one. Working as an intern but treated like a dogs-body Judith watches on as a young pretty air-headed girl arrives at the house and is positioned into her place.

A chance meeting with a woman she used to go to school with leads Judith to a part time job as a Hostess in a London club. There’s a no touch rule but the underlying atmosphere is that of an establishment that sits just on the right side of legal. That’s OK with Judith because she has a secret.

Judith likes stranger-sex, in fact she likes rough stranger sex. L.S Hilton uses this as a tool to allow Judith to get into the situations that allows the story to advance.

Whilst still working at the Auction House she uncovers some elicit dealings but is sacked when she tries to expose the crime.

Judith’s moral is low and she allows herself to manipulate a client at the club into taking her on holiday. From then on her life changes.

As she tries to re-establish herself she manipulates, uses, men to make money. Drifting around the top upper-class resorts of the Mediterranean her moralistic code slips deeper and deeper allowing her to make choices and take actions that the Judith at the start of the story never would have.

Dealing in art, and the underworld leads her commit the most hideous of crimes, all the time seemingly justifying her own actions. Each crime gets worse but Judith’s morals seem to allow her to commit each one without conscience. As her crimes get worse so does the depravity of her actions in her sex life.

The book races through the story but the end is very open. Hilton uses the phrase “To be continued” at the end of the last chapter. I have to say it doesn’t feel so much of a cliff hanger as an anti-climax.

I have some issues with this book.

It is a great story, but, why do we need such graphic descriptions of the sex. I’m no prude and I enjoy a bit of sex in a book, but this is full on hard-core. I understand that the reader needs to understand that Judith’s behaviour is either escalating or spiralling downwards, depending on your point of view, but personally I would have been more comfortable with a little less eyes-on, and a little more insinuation.

For me the sex scenes distract from the story. It felt like they were deliberately there to shock, and that may be Hilton’s intention, but they were out of place with the rest of the writing.

The book is set in some of the nicest places in Europe, amongst people wearing fashionable and expensive clothing, all beautifully described. As is the art, Hilton obviously has a passion for the art world and has found a nice outlet for a good tale. It is almost as if two people wrote this book, or is it just a really good author showing the split personality of her main character. If it is, she has done a very good job of it.

Who would I recommend this book to. Anybody with an open mind, male or female, there’s something in this for everybody.

If you’re easily offended steer clear.

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The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows Marnie Riches

The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows       Marnie Riches

Georgina McKenzie is back, or should I say the now Dr Georgina McKenzie is back.  About two years on from the end of The Girl Who Broke the Rules Dr George, a professional Criminologist is back in the UK interviewing prisoners who have a history of abuse and being abused.

Her mismatched lover, Chief Inspector Paul van den Bergen is still working in Amsterdam but has been moved to a department hunting for missing persons.

The Dr and the Chief Inspector are hitting a rough patch and their will-they-wont -they relationship, which had become a they-did, is back to will-they-wont-they.

Meanwhile a bitter chill hits Europe with deep snow and ice covering the continent and the UK. But the chill isn’t just in the weather, somebody is killing people in England and Holland. The killer, “Jack Frost”, uses the the elements to their advantage, which makes the investigation even harder.

With George in the UK, carrying out research into abused people being trafficked around Europe, Van den Bergen stumbles into a murder investigation in Amsterdam.

George notices a similarity between the drug dealer’s death in Amsterdam and a death in the UK.

Before long the two are working together, but is it going to be a harmonious or destructive relationship???

George’s family have been in the background of the previous two books and make an appearance in this one. George is staying with them but somebody else is watching. Is it something to do with Dr Georges research or something more sinister?

As more children go missing it becomes apparent that Dr George has an academic rival who is also researching child abuse and its relationship to organised paedophile rings and trafficking. A hassle that she could do without.

As in the two previous book there are no wasted words. Every paragraph of every chapter has a meaning and a direction. And that direction hurtles the reader to the end of the book, and I really do mean the end of the book.

Marnie Riches writes with a style that never makes the reader think anything is unrealistic. It might be uncomfortable for some people to think that the crimes, and criminals, in this book are real, but they are and Riches has them nailed in the characters and scenes in her books.

With children going missing, murders to investigate, personal problems with her family and her mismatched lover could things get anymore hectic for Dr McKenzie.

You’ll have to read The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows to find out. I promise you, its well worth it.

For me this is the best “The Girl Who….” Yet.

Well done Marnie Riches 3 brilliant books in a fantastic series

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Notes of a Russian Sniper and American Sniper

Notes of a Russian Sniper Vassilli Zaitsev

American Sniper    Chris Kyle

As well as police procedural novels one of my passions in reading is biography’s or biographical accounts of historic events.

I’m not into celebrity, its usually Military, Fire, Police or Adventurers that I read. Recently I have read two books autobiographical books about Snipers.

Notes of a Russian Sniper-Vassilli Zaitsev is the book, and the person, that the film Enemy at the Gates was based on and is an account of a Russian Soldier who is recruited to the army during the second World War.

Transferred from training straight to the battle of Stalingrad Zaitsev recounts the utter devastation of the city during the siege by the German Forces. Describing hand-to-hand fighting and bombing in a strangely matter-of –fact way that transports the reader to the heart of the battles.

Zaitsev soon found a notoriety amongst his fellow fighters (both civilian and military) as a brave man, although he would not say so himself, its was not until he had been on the front line for a while that people realised he was a good shot. He had been raised in a family where hunting was a way of life and lying still patiently waiting for a shot came as second nature.

As word spread amongst the Russians he quickly became a folk hero and had a big effect on the moral of his fellow fighters.

He also gained a reputation amongst he Germans who tried to identify and target him. Crack snipers from the German Army were dispatched to find and kill him, some even came close.

This book not only describes Zaitsev’s experiences but its also one of the most descriptive books I’ve read on the siege of Stalingrad.

The other book I read was American Sniper by Chris Kyle. From 1999-2009 Kyle was a sniper for the American Seals special forces teams. He holds the record number of kills for an American sniper. The book describes Kyle’s exploits but the realm of modern warfare. He describes taking shots from 1000’s of metres, working in teams where he is guarded by groups of other soldiers with air cover and evacuation helicopters as part of the operations.

The two books could not cover such different conflicts.

The two authors are very similar in character, although Zaitsev does not go into his personal life as deeply as Kyle.

The comparisons are easy to see in their ethics and how they thought with one big difference. Zaitsev was at war to survive, Kyle fought a war on a different continent to where his lived and chose to do what he did. Zaitsev did it out of necessity.

It strikes me as strange that although both of these films have been made into blockbuster Hollywood films most people will only know of Kyle.

Most people don’t even realise that The Enemy at the Gate was based on a real person.

For me Notes of a Russian Sniper is by far the better book, and I suspect it is also the more accurate reflection of events.

Both these books are worth reading, in fact I’d suggest they were both read, but if you only read one.

Read Notes of A Russian Sniper.

Ghosts of the Past Harry McCillion

Ghosts Of The Pasts       Harry McCallion.

I’m going to start this review with a quote from one of the characters in the book.

“A mysterious Russian Countess – a sinister killer – and two dead diplomats – It sounds like something out of a novel”

Well it is something out of a novel. It’s out of this one, and being as this is said within the first couple of chapters it’s not even a spoiler.

This book is great. McCallion has used the mid-nineties era to set a book in a very unstable world.

Different factions of the Irish terrorist organisation of the PIRA are at war, some in favour of peace with England others definitely not.

The Soviet empire has crumbled since the knocking down of the Berlin Wall and the coming of independence of some of the soviet states.

In England the mysterious Countess Natasha Romanov is in a bitter battle with Ukrainian Mafioso in an attempt to capture the lucrative drug trade in Europe.

In Ireland the IRA are fighting amongst themselves and all the time a lone assassin ties the factions together but whose side is he on.

London Met Police officers, aided by DI Nevin Brown of the Royal Ulster Constabulary are investigating murders across the capital. Are they all connected to the feuds being played out between the groups from the ex-soviet nations and the feuds between the warring factions of the Irish Terrorists.

Whose side should the Police take, is there any friendly faces amongst the different factions.

MI5 seem to be standing back and letting things play out, much to the detriment of the investigating officers and their safety.

This book starts of like a sprinter coming out of the blocks and doesn’t slow down all the way to the end.

One of my favourite authors of all time is Robert Ludlum. Well for me Harry McCallion is every bit as good.

I will be looking out for more of his books in the future.

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The Brief Simon Michael

The Brief   Simon Michael

To use a sporting term this is a book of two halves, and both of them are really good.

The first half of the book is set in 1960 introduces the reader to the main protagonist Charles Holborne, a Barrister in a London Chambers. As the only criminal barrister amongst chambers full of corporate law and civil court barristers he is not the most popular person.

In fact Charles is not the most popular person amongst most of the people in his life. His wife is from English gentry and his marriage is on the line as she increasingly turns to her parent’s circle of friends leaving Charles alone at home or working late.

Whilst he’s at work he is constantly fighting the closure of the criminal work and hence his removal from chambers. Simon Michael, paints a great picture of a law chambers in the early 1960’s and the people that work in it, with Holborne having few friends and many enemies.

Charles is from a strong Jewish family and has changed his name to help him get along in a largely anti-Semitic profession. However it was marrying his wife Henrietta that was the final straw and his family have disowned him since the wedding.

The first half of the book sees’ Holborne representing one of two armed robbers tried with job in London, and is a good story in itself, but is no more than a prelude for the action in the second half.

The second half of the book is set in 1962.

Two years later and Charles and his wife are drifting further apart and the other barristers in Chambers are increasing their attempts to drive him out.

With his life in general reaching a tipping point Holborne becomes the suspect in a vicious crime. One of the characters introduced in the first half of the book is Detective Inspector Ronal Henry Wheatly. Wheatly is not crooked but he does like to make the evidence fit the person he is after. He is known to get results, even if he has the wrong person.

When Holborne realises Wheatly considers him a suspect he knows he has to take matters into his own hands, go on the run, and try to solve the crime himself.

The story sits nicely in the sixties allowing Simon Michael to weave a tale that wouldn’t sit correctly in the modern day.

It seems right that the world in which he works is full of anti-Semitic upper class snobs; its right that his wife’s family look down on him; we except that policing was “different” in those days. It wouldn’t have been right to set in in this day and age.

Michael has written a tale that is easily believable and very enjoyable. I hope this is the first of many, hopefully in the same era.

A great book I would recommend to anybody who enjoys a good legal who-done-it.

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Hold Still Tim Adler

Hold Still     Tim Adler

A fascinating fast paced thriller.

Kate Julia is in Tirana with her husband, Paul, for the funeral of one of his family.

Back in their hotel room Paul receives a text. At the same time Kate takes a picture of him on her phone. Seconds later he is lying dead on the ground, a long way below their penthouse balcony.

In a foreign country, where she doesn’t speak the language Kate, is left to answer the local police’s questions. Looking at the photograph she took of Paul just before his death Kate thinks she can see somebody on their balcony looking through the curtains, but will the police believe her.

Returning home to England with her husband’s ashes Kate becomes even more convinced that her husbands death is suspicious especially when she see’s the picture message that he received immediately before his death.Tirana is run by Mafioso type gangs involved in drugs, gun running and human trafficking. Was Paul involved with the gangs. If he was, was his death related to them and is Kate safe.

There is no doubt that the gang has members in England but who are they, where are they, what are they involved in, and how was Paul involved?

The story follows Kate’s quest for the truth.

Who can she trust, is anybody who they say they are?

This book is a great psychological thriller. Tim Adler has managed to find a country, Albania, in which he can realistically set a great story.

A country that is run on corruption and fear, a country who’s gangs are beginning to surface in the UK.

Kate’s plight is so believable, that at it makes the book fly by.

It would be a bit cliché to say there are twists-and-turns on every page but there are in every chapter. This book full of them, but the plot still flows at a pace that makes it almost impossible to put down.

Tim Adler has a great talent of ending a chapter in such a way that it makes you want to start the next. Which is probably why I was still reading it a 2.30 in the morning.

A great read I would highly recommend. Just make sure you have nothing pressing to do when you start, because this one is nigh-on impossible to put down.

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Readers Block

It’s been a while since I blogged about a book and there’s been two reasons for that.

The first is I’ve been unbelievably busy. Usually I spend at least an hour in the evening reading to unwind no matter how much work I have.

To say I haven’t been reading would be wrong, and here’s the second reason I haven’t blogged and a question for all you bookworms.

I have started about 7 or 8 books since the start of the new year, and I’ve given up on all of them. I never give up with less than half the book read, I have this thing about giving it a chance, but if it hasn’t hooked me by half way through its gone.

There have been various reasons; the story was not good and was going nowhere, the story starts off great then meanders into boring mundane nothingness, the author hasn’t done their research and keep making annoying basic mistakes.

An example of the later is a book I started that was set in the current day. The Police Officers kept referring to the forensic teams as SOCO’s. To my knowledge there haven’t been any SOCO’s for at least ten years, they are now FSI, or CSI, or Forensic Support. The same author had a Detective Superintendent as one of the main characters. His team kept referring to him as the DS, I’m sure he would have been chuffed with the demotion to Detective Sergeant. Everyone I know refers to any Superintendent as the “Super”. The worst part of this though is that it was a really good story. I just couldn’t get past the silly errors

So have I just had a bad run, am I just being picky because there are so many good books out there. Or am I having some version of what writers call “writers block”. Have I got “readers block”

Some people have asked why I don’t tell people about the books I don’t enjoy. Well I have some simple rules for my blogs

I never put anything in them which would be classed as a spoiler.
I try not to comment on anything in the story after the halfway point just in case.
I never pull authors up on technicalities.
If I don’t like a story it doesn’t mean nobody else will so I don’t blog about books I don’t like.

There may be an exception to the last rule. I am on a great site called net galley. They ask for negatives as well as positives, and there’s a facility for me to talk directly to the publishers and authors so I can explain my thoughts. So if you see any of my posts on that site, the negatives are there because they sent me a book and asked for honest feedback.

So that’s why I haven’t blogged since Christmas. The good news is work has steadied out and I am back to reading a bit at night.