Two Girls Down Louisa Luna

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One of the best things about e-readers, and the various sites from which you can download books, is that I have discovered authors that I would never have encountered in the bookshops of the UK.

Various holidays over the years have resulted in me finding authors, and then have the frustration of not being able to buy their books here.

Today’s review highlights how good it is to find a good book by a great author, who is published in the UK, but on a small scale, and who I would probably never found.

Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna is a gem of a book.

When two very young girls go missing from a Mall in Pennsylvania their single mother is left distraught. Jamie Brandt is a single mom and her two girls, Kylie (10) and Bailey (8) are her life. The small-town Police Department are understaffed and over worked and, as much as they want to find the find the girls, it seems an impossible task.

Jamie’s Aunt contacts a Private Investigator in California with a history of recovering missing children.

A bit like a Female Jack Reacher 33 (but a lot more realistic) year old Alice Vega arrives in town and starts her own investigation.

Realising she need local help, and restricted by the Police, she reaches out for former cop Max (Cap) Capland, a single father with a very forthright 16-year-old daughter.

The investigation into the disappearance of the two girls leads Vega and Cap through the underworld of small town USA. Whilst battling with the underworld they butt heads with the Local Police.

There is the inevitable will-they-won’t-they element to the relationship but it definitely adds to the story.

The twists and turns come fast in the case and it is not a book where you will easily guess what the ending is going to be, but it’s a great ride getting there.

For those of you, like me, who have never read a Louisa Luna book before, I would compare her stories, and writing style, to Marnie Riches. If you like the Girl Who….. series and Born Bad, you are going to love this book.

Pages: 320

Published by: Doubleday

Publishing date: 9th January 2018.

Available to pre-order on Amazon

The Walls Hollie Overton

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I’m going to say this right at the beginning of this blog. This is one of the best psychological thrillers I’ve ever read.

Kirsty Tucker is a Public Information Officer with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. She has one of the toughest jobs in the prison, dealing with death row prisoners, and the press who want to talk to them as their execution approaches.

In her private life, she is a single mom bringing up her teenage son, Ryan, whilst looking after her ill father.

When Ryan gets into a fight at school Kirsty can’t believe what she sees. Her usually studious son has beat up one of the school jocks. When she finds out Ryan has been taking secret martial arts lessons she goes to confront the instructor.

The instructor is Lance. He’s attractive, fit, attentive and single. The obvious relationship soon blossoms and Kirsty and Lance become inseparable.

Everybody loves Lance, but what are his secrets and what type of person is he really.

Meanwhile Kirsty is developing an unusual friendship with a death row inmate, Clifton Harris-The Baby Killer. Nobody likes, or trusts, Clifton so why does Kirsty connect with him so well.

This plot is full of twists and turns. Not everybody is who they seem to be and, as a reader, I found my allegiances, and suspicions changing throughout the book.

Kirsty and her family are put in danger, she gets hurt, but who can she turn to.

How is she going to ensure the family’s safety, can she bring herself to deal out her own justice, or should she turn to somebody else.

There are very few books that have made me exclaim out loud, but there was at least twice when my wife looked across at me and asked me why I was shouting out loud.

The characters in this book are fascinating. I defy anybody to not connect with Kirsty.

There is no way I could see the way this book was going to end, there were times when I thought just end now why things are going well, there were others when I wanted it to keep going.

This book goes beyond the usual victim-revenge story. It covers the ethics of thought. Can a victim become an aggressor?? Will the normally law abiding, placid person, manage to take things into their own hands, and if they do, do they think they can live with the consequences, legal and moral?

Most authors would have been happy to end this book at an earlier stage of the story, but Hollie Overton has done a masterful job of continuing a story beyond where many would have placed the last full stop (period).

In the Acknowledgements Hollie Overton said writing this book challenged her in ways she’d never imagined. Well she met the challenge well and has produced one of the books of the year.

Clear the number one spots on all the book sales and download charts, The Walls is published this week.

Pages: 385

Publisher Digital: Cornerstone Digital

Publisher Hard Copy: Century-Penguin Random House

Available on Amazon: 10th August 2017.

The Night Market Jonathan Moore

 

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Set in the near future, I don’t think it would be right to label this book as Sci-fi, more like an anticipation of how things will be in 50 years time.

Carver and Jenner are two Inspectors in the San Francisco Police Department. On Thursday night they attend a grisly murder scene with two uniform cops.

The body is decomposing before their eyes, but not in a way they have ever seen before. As they begin to examine it a HazMats team burst into the room and usher them through decontamination.

Sunday morning Carver wakes up in bed with no memory of anything since Wednesday.

His neighbour, the hermit like Mia, is reading a book at his bedside and informs him she saw some people bring him home on Friday, and that she had looked after him ever since.

Carver is the main protagonist of the book and most of the narrative is told from his point of view. As he battles to regain his memory he starts to put together what happened to him and his partner; but who can he trust, Jenner is back at work as though nothing had happened, and he knows nothing about Mia. There is nobody else.

His investigation links to the murder he and Jenner had been investigating for some time. Somebody was killing people in China Town. They were having their faces carved open and then being cut in half. How is this linked to Thursday nights body.

His discoveries will put him in danger, test his relationships and see people die.

All of this in the first 15% of the book (on an e-reader) and what follows is a good old fashioned conspiracy theory set in a slightly futuristic San Francisco.

The story is compelling, and I found myself totally engrossed in it. Jonathan Moore has set the story in a time which is not unconceivable, and his descriptions of the City, its population, its crimes, and its utter deterioration are as addictive as the characters.

I don’t usually read Sci-fi, and I haven’t seen anything in the blurb for this book to suggest it is, but the story is so well written that I didn’t realise it was set in the future until I was hooked by it. Then there was no putting it down.

I will be looking up more of Mr Moore’s books. This one is very good.

Pages: 272

Publisher: Orion

Publishing Date: 11 January 2018.

Available to pre-order on Amazon

 

The Crow Girl Erik Axl Sund

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The Crow Girl     Eric Axl Sund.

I had heard a lot about this trilogy of books before it was amalgamated into one, and at 786 pages it is a big book.

Not only is it big but it is tough reading at times, not because it is badly written, it isn’t, but because of the subjects it covers.

This book looks at systematic child abuse, generational abuse, peer abuse, multiple personality disorders, child trafficking, kidnapping and manipulation of vulnerable people.

Jeanette Kihlberg is an Investigator in the Stockholm Police. Married with a teenage son life at home is not good. Her aspiring artist husband is not pulling his weight and she is having to borrow money from her father. She is becoming more alienated from her son as she spends more time at work.

Then the murders start. The bodies of young men who have been, very severely beaten and mutilated start to turn up around the city. As Jeanette becomes embroiled in the investigation she identifies a suspect, a man already under investigation for child abuse, but her investigations keeps being thwarted by a senior prosecutor.

Meanwhile psychotherapist Sofia Zetterlund is interviewing people who have been accused of, and victims of, child abusers. One of the people she is interviewing is Karl Lundstrom, Jeanette’s main suspect.

When Jeanette is refused permission to interview Lundstrom personally she talks to Sofia and strikes up a close friendship.

Another of Sofia’s clients is Victoria Bergmann, a victim of abuse from a young age. Through interviews between Sofia and Victoria, and flashbacks to Victoria’s early life, the reader is introduced to a very disturbed girl, turning into a very disturbed young woman

Another strand of the story sees a young illegal immigrant boy drugged and held captive. He is abused and brainwashed until he becomes a machine carrying out the whims of the person holding him. Through this manipulation, the boy becomes a killing machine, but is he as under control as his kidnapper thinks, and can they really control him.

As Jeanette’s marriage continues to break down, and her professional life become more frustrating she turns more towards Sofia for solace and friendship.

The more Sofia becomes involved with her clients, the more she cognitively deteriorates. She finds herself blacking out when listening to tapes of interviews with her clients. Falling asleep at night her dreams are filled with the implanted memories of Victoria.

I don’t give spoilers beyond halfway through the book, so I won’t comment on who of the main protagonists has the multiple personality syndrome, or how it affects them and endangers those close to them, but it’s one hell of a story line.

This book is not for the feint-hearted. Some of the abuse scenes are amongst the toughest I’ve read. They are graphic but don’t go all the way, just far enough to leave the reader in no doubt as to what happens, or is happening to people.

It is one of the best psychological thrillers I have ever read.

I think I would have preferred to read it as the tree separate books. I took a break after part one, feeling slightly uneasy about the story; but I soon picked the book back up to finish it off.

I have read a lot of other reviews which say the book is too long. I disagree, it tells the story with no slack. It has to be as long as it is.

I think readers are going to have to find a new name fort this genre, Nordic Noir doesn’t seem right.

Maybe Nightmare Invoking Nordic Noir would be more appropriate.

A great book, but not a relaxing read for your holidays.

 

Pages 786

Publisher Vintage

Available for the Kindle via Amazon

Mississippi Burning Greg Isles

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As a white, 1960’s born, British man, I am vaguely aware of the problems that America had in the 60’s, with particularly the Southern states struggling with integration. I’ve read books which have mentioned the KKK and other white supremacist groups, but never have I read a series of books which bring home the problems that were, and are still being, encountered in these areas.

Greg Isle has written series of books set around the happenings of Natchez, a small town on the Mississippi. There are 6 books which use the town as a backdrop, and all of them include the same list of central characters at their core. The final three have been categorised as “The Natchez Burning” Trilogy. All six of the books are great reads. The Trilogy is the natural progression from the first three, the final book in the series Mississippi Blood is simply stunning in the way it concludes this epic series of books.

Set a few weeks after the traumatic end of The Bone Tree, Penn Cage, the Major of Natchez, is still shocked by the fact that his girlfriend has been killed, and that his father is in prison. For years Dr Tom Cage has fought for the rights of the black people in his town. He has been the sworn enemy of a vicious group of white men known as The Double Eagles, and one of their main leaders, and original members, Snake Knox is still at large.

Tom is charged with murdering his one-time lover Viola Turner, with who he has recently found out he has a son, Lincoln.

Lincoln is out for revenge on the man who he now see’s as being responsible for his wayward upbringing. He will do anything to ensure his “father” is punished.

The corrupt County Sheriff, Billy Byrd is in cahoots with Snake Knox, and the local prosecutor Shadrach Johnson has been a violent opponent of Dr Cages for years, so the odds of him getting a fair trial seem very slim.

Whilst Penn tries everything in his power to uncover evidence against others to incriminate them in the murder of Viola, Dr Tom seems intent on self-destruction.

Hiring one of his best friends, Quentin Avery, the best defence lawyers in the south, Dr Tom opts for an unorthodox approach to his defence.

As an ex-prosecutor Penn is driven to distraction by his father’s tactics, but Tom and Avery won’t explain their tactics to him.

The trial is almost farcical as the prosecution and defence ignore all the rules, and the Judge decides to give enough leeway for them both to go head-to-head in an epic court room battle.

The trial lasts for 4 days but during that time pressure is put on both sides by outside influences including Snake Knox, the FBI, and a gang of bikers known as the VK’s.

People are threatened, assaulted, murdered. Old alliances are destroyed and new ones made. Family members on both sides suffer. Penn struggles to keep his family alive outside of the courtroom, and together inside it.

History of Dr Toms past comes out in the trial, history that his family are not aware of, and it has the potential to tear them apart.

New characters come, and go, but they all add to the plot. Not one word of the 702 pages is wasted.

This book would be hard to read as a stand-alone novel; and to be honest I wouldn’t recommend you read it as one. I would recommend all of the other books as some of the best I have ever read.

The first two chapters of this book include news articles which are there as a reminder of what happened in the The Bone Tree & Natchez Burning. As a quick catch-up they are great but they do not replace the actual books.

Throughout Mississippi Burning the reader is taken back to past events in the trilogy and the other 3 books in the series.

In all the books I have ever read, this is the most compelling series I have read.

If you like John Grisham, but with less filters, you will love these books.

If you are looking for a set of books to keep you occupied for a couple of months I’d recommend reading all six, one after another. But if you do, you will have one hell of a void to fill when you finish.

I actually wish I was the 18 year-old me, In my cabin on a merchant tanker with nothing to fill the off duty hours but read books. I would sit and read the lot back-back.

I hope this is not the end of the Natchez books. I’ve loved every page.

 

BLOG TOUR THE LOST CHILDREN HELEN PHIFER

 

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Helen Phifer Blog Tour  The Lost Children

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to get an early look at this book. I admit until then I had never heard of Helen Phifer, but I will be on the lookout for her books in the future.

What made this book special?

Helen has managed to write a book which captivated me, not just with the story, but the characters in it.

So often in modern writing one is sacrificed for the other, or the book becomes overly long, not this one. It strikes the perfect balance. The story is a page turner from the start, but just as much as the main story-line, I invested in the characters.

From DI Lucy Harwin, the dyed-red-haired, tattooed single woman who is estranged from her husband and daughter; to the very glamorous Dr Catherine Maxwell, the Pathologist, all the Police charters are intriguing. In fact I think Dr Maxwell would make a tremendous protagonist in her own series.

The victims and perpetrator of the crimes are equally as enthralling, and mysterious. Helen has taken as much care about the characters on the peripheries as she has on the main ones, and that means there was no way of working out who the perpetrator was by the balance of the amount of time they got on the page.

The one thing that makes this book stand out is the correct use of terminology, and the believability of the Police Officers and the way they work and interact with each other. There is a letter from the author in the back of the book. In it she drops out that she works for the Police. I don’t know in what capacity but the fact that she is immersed in that world shows in her writing.

So, if you want a realistic, enthralling Police Thriller, with a cast of characters who you are going to want to meet again, then this is just the book.

I’ve put my original review below here. I’ve just read it again. I think my enthusiasm for this book, and the series to follow speaks for itself.

 

 

The Lost Children

I jotted something down in my note book really early into reading this book.

Refreshing, an author who knows current police procedures and terminology”

 That little note reflects why this crime thriller stands out from many of the others on the shelves today.

That and the fact that there is a full cast of excellent characters surrounding DI Lucy Harwin, work colleagues, family, and even the victims and their families, all add to the eclectic mix of people she encounters on a daily basis.

The opening to the book is going to be familiar to some readers. There have been a few books partially set in the care homes and institutes of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s recently.

And why not, every year there seems to be another case of historic abuse associated with these establishments.

This book stands out though. Helen Phifer has written a thriller in more ways than one.

The main protagonist, DI Lucy Harwin, is a little bit out there. Dyed Red hair, tattoo’s, and an attitude. Divorced from her husband, estranged from her teenage daughter, and living alone. On forced gardening leave following her involvement in a tragic serious incident, we meet Lucy at her counselling on the day she is supposed to start back to work.

Unfortunately for her a gruesome murder is waiting for her on her return to the usually quiet seaside town of Brooklyn Bay. What a setting for a book, once a prosperous seaside resort, now struggling with the recession and lack of holiday makers.

Lucy has a good team, some of which we get to meet in detail, but others who play interesting little bit parts, hopefully they will start to build in future books.

Lucy’s mainstay, and probably her best friend is DS Mattie Jackson. They have one of those relationships where they both know a little bit too much about each other, care a little bit too much for each other, and act like an old married couple without actually ever being in a relationship.

As the murders start to stack up, the once happy seaside town starts to look like a dangerous place to live.

Lucy and Mattie, and their team, start to link the crimes. At about the same time the reader will start to link two or three characters with being the murder.

Helen has written this book teasingly well. Yes, I knew who the killer was early, well I thought I did. It was always one of the three people but gentle little shifts in the story had me moving from one to the another regularly. If I’m honest I didn’t actually positively identify who was responsible for the crimes until the last couple of chapters.

I recently wrote a blog about Angela Marsons DI Kim Stone books.

In that I said you don’t always need a cliff-hanger finish to make you eagerly await the next book in the series. The best series are those which have a cast of characters that make you want to read about them again. To look forward to seeing how they have fared since the last book.

That’s exactly how I felt at the end of this book. I loved the story. I loved the characters. I loved the setting. I loved the fact that it was written by somebody who works in the police, see the letter from Helen at the End of the Book, so all of the phrases and techniques are current and accurate. Most of all I’m looking forward to meeting Lucy, Mattie, Col and the rest of the Major Investigation team; Jack and Amanda the CSI team, and most of all the glamorous Pathologist Dr Catherine Maxwell again in future books. There is so much potential for these characters that each could take a turn at being the main protagonist, and the series would still move forward nicely.

I have a list, on my computer, that I call UK Lady Killer Writers. I look forward to each of their books coming out.

 

Angela Marsons

Marri Hannah

Marni Riches

Robert Galbraith (I know but we know who she is)

 

There is now a new name on the list. Helen Phifer.

 

What a night that would be. Sat around a table with that little cohort drinking Red Wine or Jack Daniels, and nothing to do but talk about crime thriller plots.

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The Lost Children Helen Phifer

 

 

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I jotted something down in my note book really early into reading this book.

Refreshing, an author who knows current police procedures and terminology”

 That little note reflects why this crime thriller stands out from many of the others on the shelves today.

That and the fact that there is a full cast of excellent characters surrounding DI Lucy Harwin, work colleagues, family, and even the victims and their families, all add to the eclectic mix of people she encounters on a daily basis.

The opening to the book is going to be familiar to some readers. There have been a few books partially set in the care homes and institutes of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s recently.

And why not, every year there seems to be another case of historic abuse associated with these establishments.

This book stands out though. Helen Phifer has written a thriller in more ways than one.

The main protagonist, DI Lucy Harwin, is a little bit out there. Dyed Red hair, tattoo’s, and an attitude. Divorced from her husband, estranged from her teenage daughter, and living alone. On forced gardening leave following her involvement in a tragic serious incident, we meet Lucy at her counselling on the day she is supposed to start back to work.

Unfortunately for her a gruesome murder is waiting for her on her return to the usually quiet seaside town of Brooklyn Bay. What a setting for a book, once a prosperous seaside resort, now struggling with the recession and lack of holiday makers.

Lucy has a good team, some of which we get to meet in detail, but others who play interesting little bit parts, hopefully they will start to build in future books.

Lucy’s mainstay, and probably her best friend is DS Mattie Jackson. They have one of those relationships where they both know a little bit too much about each other, care a little bit too much for each other, and act like an old married couple without actually ever being in a relationship.

As the murders start to stack up, the once happy seaside town starts to look like a dangerous place to live.

Lucy and Mattie, and their team, start to link the crimes. At about the same time the reader will start to link two or three characters with being the murder.

Helen has written this book teasingly well. Yes, I knew who the killer was early, well I thought I did. It was always one of the three people but gentle little shifts in the story had me moving from one to the another regularly. If I’m honest I didn’t actually positively identify who was responsible for the crimes until the last couple of chapters.

I recently wrote a blog about Angela Marsons DI Kim Stone books.

In that I said you don’t always need a cliff-hanger finish to make you eagerly await the next book in the series. The best series are those which have a cast of characters that make you want to read about them again. To look forward to seeing how they have fared since the last book.

That’s exactly how I felt at the end of this book. I loved the story. I loved the characters. I loved the setting. I loved the fact that it was written by somebody who works in the police, see the letter from Helen at the End of the Book, so all of the phrases and techniques are current and accurate. Most of all I’m looking forward to meeting Lucy, Mattie, Col and the rest of the Major Investigation team; Jack and Amanda the CSI team, and most of all the glamorous Pathologist Dr Catherine Maxwell again in future books. There is so much potential for these characters that each could take a turn at being the main protagonist, and the series would still move forward nicely.

I have a list, on my computer, that I call UK Lady Killer Writers. I look forward to each of their books coming out.

Angela Marsons

Marri Hannah

Marni Riches

Robert Galbraith (I know but we know who she is)

There is now a new name on the list. Helen Phifer.

What a night that would be. Sat around a table with  that little cohort drinking Red Wine or Jack Daniels, and nothing to do but talk about crime thriller plots.