Monday, 30 January 2017

Today! Blog-Tour: Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb

Today is my turn on the Blog-Tour for Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb. You are in for a treat with this read. I have to say I was more than pleasantly surprised and hope this is one of many more books by Broadribb.

About the author
Steph Broadribb was born in Birmingham and grew up in Buckinghamshire. Most of her
working life has been spent between the UK and USA. As her alter ego – Crime Thriller Girl –
she indulges her love of all things crime fiction by blogging at www.crimethrillergirl.com,
where she interviews authors and reviews the latest releases. Steph is an alumni of the MA in
Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) at City University London, and she trained as a bounty
hunter in California. She lives in Buckinghamshire surrounded by horses, cows and chickens.

Deep Down Dead is her debut novel. Watch out for Deep Blue Trouble in 2018!

Connect with Steph on Facebook @crimethrillergirl, crimethrillergirl.com or @crimethrillgirl and @Orendabooks on Twitter
Buy Deep Down Dead

About the book
Lori Anderson is as tough as they come, managing to keep her career as a fearless Florida bounty hunter separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukaemia. But when the hospital bills start to rack up, she has no choice but to take her daughter along on a job that will make her a fast buck. And that’s when things start to go wrong. The fugitive she’s assigned to haul back to court is none other than JT, Lori’s former mentor – the man who taught her everything she knows … the man who also knows the secrets of her murky past.

Not only is JT fighting a child exploitation racket operating out of one of Florida’s biggest theme parks, Winter Wonderland, a place where ‘bad things never happen’, but he’s also mixed up with the powerful Miami Mob. With two fearsome foes on their tails, just three days to get JT back to Florida, and her daughter to protect, Lori has her work cut out for her. When they’re ambushed at a gas station, the stakes go from high to stratospheric, and things become personal.
Review
A fresh voice is on the crime fiction scene and her action packed debut is proof of that. Broadribb tells her tale with a smooth flow and a confident ease.

I am really glad the author didn't dedicate a whole sub-plot to Dakota and JT. It could easily have swerved into a whole other genre a la chic-lit drama. Instead Broadribb keeps her plot tightly reined without losing sight of the endgame.

Lori is a bounty hunter with a reputation for being tough, relentless and willing to do anything to keep her daughter safe and healthy. So when a big cash job comes around she doesn't think twice about accepting it. Well there is one minor detail that Lori finds slightly disturbing. She has to go pick up the man who taught her nearly everything she knows.

A simple job turns into a life and death situation when Lori endangers herself and Dakota by bringing her along for the ride. Suddenly they find themselves not only hunted by a variety of people, they also find themselves in the middle of a sickening scenario. A ring of criminals and perverts who operate under the guise of innocence and joy.

Lori is faced with the most difficult decision imaginable. She can choose to save one or she can choose to save many. Either way she is completely screwed, and it certainly doesn't help that her head and libido are having internal fights about the man she left behind so many years ago.

I'm not sure whether it's because the author reads a lot of crime or her brain is perhaps more attuned to the thoughts of criminals, she seems to have either discovered or created a criminal loophole or rather the potential to commit an almost untraceable crime. Aside from the type of crime in question, it is quite an interesting scenario.

It is a fast-paced story with strong characters that will pull readers in and leave them wanting more. I certainly hope and believe this is the beginning of a really good series. Broadribb is great storyteller with an eye for detail and penchant for crime.

Buy Deep Down Dead at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.
To follow the rest of the tour:

Friday, 27 January 2017

Today! Blog-Tour: The Watcher by Ross Armstrong

Today it is my turn on the Blog-Tour for The Watcher by Ross Armstrong and believe you me you are in for a treat. Aside from my review there is a fantastic Q&A with the author. His answers are so great I wanted to write an entirely new set of questions after I read them.
About the Author

Ross Armstrong is a British stage and screen actor who has performed in the West End of London, on Broadway and in theatres throughout the UK. Among others, he has acted opposite Jude Law (Hamlet), Joseph Fiennes (Cyrano de Bergerac), Kim Cattrall (Antony and Cleopatra) and Maxine Peake (The Deep Blue Sea). His TV appearances include Foyle’s War, Jonathan Creek, Mr Selfridge, DCI Banks and most recently, Ripper Street.

After gaining a BA in English Literature and Theatre at Warwick University, Ross went to RADA and whilst there he won the RADA Poetry Writing Award. The idea for his debut psychological Thriller, The Watcher, came to him when he moved into a new apartment block and discovered whilst looking at the moon through binoculars that he could see into his neighbours’ homes. Thankfully for them, he put down his binoculars, picked up his pen and wrote a crime novel. The Watcher is his debut novel.

Connect with Ross Armstrong on Twitter @RArmstrongbooks or on Goodreads
Buy The Watcher here

About the book

The Girl on the Train meets Rear Window, The Watcher is an absolutely addictive and on trend commercial psychological suspense read, with a captivating unreliable narrator and some powerful narrative twists. She's watching you, but who's watching her? Lily Gullick lives with her husband Aiden in a new-build flat opposite an estate which has been marked for demolition. A keen birdwatcher, she can't help spying on her neighbours. Until one day Lily sees something suspicious through her binoculars and soon her elderly neighbour Jean is found dead. Lily, intrigued by the social divide in her local area as it becomes increasingly gentrified, knows that she has to act. But her interference is not going unnoticed, and as she starts to get close to the truth, her own life comes under threat. But can Lily really trust everything she sees?

Q&A

Before we get down to business (i.e. talking about your book) I would like to ask a set of questions I call 'Breaking the Ice.' (readers love to get to know all about their favourite and new authors)

The last book you read? (Inquisitive bookworms would like to know)
Well, to be thorough, I’m currently reading Bruce Chatwin’s ‘In Patagonia’, a seminal piece of travel writing about a place I’m fascinated with and am heading to in March/April. I also just finished the superb Harlan Coben’s ‘Hold Tight’ as it has a plot strand I was interested in for a future book. And Paul Beatty’s brilliant, punk, hilarious ‘The Sellout.’

Books or authors which have inspired you to put pen to paper?
I started off writing stories when I was about seven because I loved the anarchy of Roald Dahl. Then in my teens I really enjoyed how funny but compelling Hugh Laurie’s ‘The Gun Seller’ was. Jonathan Franzen’s ‘The Corrections’ was incredibly inspiring in my twenties. Then I really loved ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘Sharp Objects’ by Gillian Flynn, they opened up new ways to think about the genre for me. These books and many others gave me numerous ideas to nick and sentences to be in awe of.

The last movie you watched, which you felt left a mark (in your heart, soul, wallet...you name it) I just saw La La Land and for the first time in a long while I was at the front of a huge screen and in a big full picture house, I wish we had more big screens where you could feel the audience going with a movie. They certainly did with this one, a special film for anyone who tries to do creative things, or any things at all really. It had the magic of ‘Singin In The Rain’, which is probably my favourite film ever. But was so bang on about various little things about the trade-offs involved in creative life that it made me feel a bit uneasy, in a good way, if you can imagine that.

Are you more of a movie night or series-binger kind of guy? (Combinations are possible)
Up until last year I’d still definitely say a movies guy, there’s still nothing like a movie in the cinema, or double bill at home. I particularly loved ‘Weiner’ the movie about the bizarre life of a very particular American politician and the other-worldly ‘Embrace Of The Serpent’. But I watched more whole TV series than I thought possible last year. Highlights being The Night Of, The Crown, Westworld, Girls, The Affair, Atlanta, Show Me A Hero, Stranger Things and The OA.

Which famous person (dead, alive, barely kicking) would you most like to meet?
Werner Herzog. Incredibly insightful, hilarious, I love him, everything he does and says, and how he does and says it.

All of the above questions are actually a pretty elaborate pysch evaluation disguised as random questions. Have no fear here come the real ones. Let’s talk about The Watcher!

I have tried not to reveal any major spoilers, although I admit I would love to ask a totally different set of questions I wouldn't want to deprive any readers of your twists and turns.

I must say I am really intrigued to discover what your inspiration was for The Watcher?
The more I try to psych evaluate myself, the more I realise it’s really about how close we are to each other proximity-wise, particularly in cities, but how afraid and fascinated we are by strangers. Everyone we meet is a new empty box, and the possibilities of what’s inside provides ample material for a thriller writer. The more I know about people viewed from a distance, mostly through the window of social media, the more I realise what beautiful and icky shapes and sizes we come in, and how bizarre the various ways we choose to represent ourselves are. It also came from realising how well you I could see into neighbours windows, and how little I wanted to do that, but how much someone else might.
I also just wanted to write a book that was about the humour and intimacy of being deep inside one character’s head, one that would compel with its story turns and abstract tangents, but would also in some ways be visual. I like to write stories like I’m slowly revealing a picture, piece by piece, just a little at a time.

At the beginning of the story, which has a first person narrator, the gender of the main character/speaker is unclear. Was this intentional on your part? Do you want your readers to make initial assumptions about the 'speaker?'
Yes exactly, I think men have had the monopoly on watching in stories for almost throughout the entire history of stories. So in the book we get a lot instantly from the act of watching and its implicit power and implied sexuality. Then to tell you those eyes belong to a woman hopefully throws up some uncomfortable questions. For one, women aren’t ‘supposed to be’ desirous of such vicarious, possibly sexual, thrills as men. But maybe Lily just is. Or maybe she’s after something else, and if so, what? Something more underlying than the erotic? What would that be? That’s part of the intention anyway.

I think one of the aspects you have woven into your story is the lack of contact between people who live in close vicinity to one another. In a crowded room we can still be lonely and anonymous.
Do you believe Lily would have been able to obsess over the whole situation if her neighbours had paid more attention to her and showed more concern for her well-being?
That’s an excellent thought, and I think again it’s totally bang on. We see her situation and her mind reveal itself by increments, only later looking back do we hopefully grasp the full connotations of this. Isolation is definitely an avoidable part of the recipe that has led to who she is, for better or for worse.

You also point out the nameless victims of rejuvenation projects in cities. Is our society guilty of creating even bigger rifts between the people in run-down housing marked for redevelopment and the more wealthy yuppies, who profit from rejuvenation schemes?
I think so, and yet I am quite possibly one of those people, making the subject matter quite uncomfortable for me. Not that I have any ability to own any small piece of London other than the one under my feet, which I’m writing this from. But there a sense, hopefully, that these ‘nameless victims’ who are being thrown out of their flats add to the book’s body count.
I live in the same flat as Lily, and share her troubling and contradictory concerns. It creates a stinging guilt that made me write and drives the book. It’s a quandary and one I’m not quick to throw at the feet of anyone in particular but I’d like people to consider it and make their own conclusions without being too prescriptive, other than the suggestion that there is an odd way in which a free market grows to push you into areas that implicate you in things that history may see as crimes. Social crimes. Not murder. Maybe not as bad. But maybe worse.

The isolation and loneliness Lily experiences plays a pivotal role in her actions and her emotional state of mind. If we compare her isolation to the treatment of people with mental health issues, is this indicative of how society is failing that particular group of people?
Yes. The strange act, the plea for absolution of middle-class guilt through connection, that propels Lily out of her ordinary life and into a psychological thriller, the likes of which she’s only seen in Hitchcock films, is all to do with that. I think we need to gain a better understanding of the mental health spectrum on which we all exist. In our minds we’re very keen instinctively to put people in categories. Again, I’m far from innocent in this, which is why I wrote about it. But the novel is clearly a suggestion that community and connection may be important to the survival of the species.

The Watcher (the person) is both criminal (voyeur) and victim at the same time. Were you walking the thin line between the two aspects of her behaviour on purpose?
Definitely, I suppose that makes her an anti-hero, almost in the way that Michael C. Hall is in ‘Dexter’, but of course she’s not quite like that! Her flaws are what allow her to find her way into a mystery that otherwise would've lain dormant, so you can root for her hopefully, while enjoying and being concerned by her idiosyncrasies. In this and future books I want to walk a line of types of characters you find in fiction, and how they conform to and diverge from the norm, and I’ll particularly try to do this with realistic and expansive ways of representing age, race and gender.
Lily is not your typical pure-hearted, screaming under a swinging light bulb, heroine. And I love her for that.

Of course I am sure your readers would like to know if we will be seeing more of The Watcher or is this a stand-alone novel? (No pressure *grin*)
I’m currently looking into the possibilities of where she might go next. It looks like my second book will be about a Police Community Support Officer, attempting to solve a crime that no one has asked him not to get involved with, while he recovers from a major head injury. But Lily, conceived as a character for a standalone book, just won’t leave me alone. There are so many options with her, and I will be taking her to wonderful and horrible new places.

Thank you for answering my questions, especially the odd ones!
Great questions, you aced it.
Review

There is one slight problem about reviewing a book like The Watcher, you have to be really careful not to give the plot away. For me this is a bit of a conundrum because I do like to rabbit on when I write a review.

So I am going to try and waffle without revealing too much. (I'm not sure I am even capable of that *grin*)

It's written in first person, so initially the reader isn't sure whether the main character is a woman or a man. All they know is that whoever it is spends a lot of their time at the end of a pair of binoculars. Lily watches her surroundings, she watches her fellow humans, and of course the occasional bird.

The problem with secretly watching the people around you is that sometimes you see things you shouldn't see or weren't supposed to see in the first place. Things like abuse or perhaps even murder.

Lily finds herself in her very own Hitchcock scenario when she witnesses something shocking and starts to suspect her neighbours might be more than just harmless individuals. She does find some vigorous opposition in her husband and her father though. They both believe she is slightly obsessed with watching others.

Without delving further into the plot let me just say the author does a really good job of keeping the reader questioning the whole plot and perhaps even Lily at times. Has she got an over-active imagination or is there something nefarious heading straight her way?

The Watcher is subtle, sneaky and unobtrusive. The author manages to create an atmosphere of fear, suspicion and paranoia, It is certainly a different kind of read. Quirky, and yet strangely moving and personal.


Buy The Watcher at Amazon Uk or go Goodreads for any other retailer.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Those Who Lie by Diane Jeffrey

Emily awakens in a hospital to find she has been in an accident. Her husband is dead and somehow the two events are connected, and yet she remembers nothing about it.

As the story unfolds the reader is taken into the secrets of her past, some of which have followed her into the future. Some of them are probably best left buried.

Emily remembers the events leading up to the accident as a series of flashbacks. She finds herself processing flashes of information during conversations and police interviews.

Were they fighting, was she angry and did she intentionally cause the accident that killed her husband? Was there a third party involved? Emily can't remember anything at all.

I think it needs a little more direction and structure to strengthen the overall plot. It is a wee bit disjointed in places. Aside from that it had a nice storyline with a sneaky bad guy.

Buy Those Who Lie at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Descent of Man by Grayson Perry

I think it is important to note that is most certainly isn't a study of or on masculinity. It is merely his very much subjective view of masculinity, masculine identity and power, which is strongly influence by his feminine side and modern feminist themes.

Rethinking our perhaps outdated perception of machoism and masculinity when it comes to men, I suppose it depends on who is doing the rethinking really.

The question is whether Perry feels he has a clearer view of the male species, because he is more in touch with his feminine side. Not only because Perry is a transvestite, but rather due to the fact he seems to be very aware of himself and others. I would say that is also the case for the new category of men in the 21st century called metrosexuals. I wonder if Perry took those men into consideration when he was writing, as opposed to the typical typecast Neanderthal like male.

Overall it does seem a wee bit of a lopsided view, albeit an often amusing one. The book starts out strong, however it does taper off towards the last chapters.

His chapter on male violence seemed a little under-researched. Hmm maybe that is the wrong word, more like not enough depth. Given his childhood and personal experiences with a violent stepfather perhaps it is a subject he would rather only skim over instead of delving into too deeply.

I think the most interesting aspect of this book is the readers it attracts, possibly everyone except the macho group it actually speaks to and refers to the most. 'Just saying'

Buy The Descent of Man at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land

The age old question arises in Good Me, Bad Me. Does nurture win over nature? Can the environment change what years of nature have defined and formed?

It's actually quite interesting that Annie has become Milly. In a way the two names and identities are a symbol for the two sides warring within her.

Annie represents the old life, the life filled with abuse, pain and killing. Milly represents the new life, a family with no ties to her dark past and the possibility of a normal life.

I have to admit I wanted Bad Me to come out to play more often when it came to Phoebe. After all those dark years with her mother Milly is then subjected to the horrors of high school bullying. On a level, which would break even the hardest of people. Good Me tries really hard to keep Annie at bay, but ultimately she peeps out now and again to defend herself.

Throughout the book we see Milly struggle with her emotions. She is happy to finally be free of the horror and yet at the same time her greatest desire is to see her mother again. Is that evidence of her inner conflict and her inability to comprehend the destructive nature of their relationship or is it an indication of something more nefarious?

What Land does really well is make the reader feel sympathy for someone who might not be worthy of it, but then the world isn't really made of black or white scenarios. It's the shading and the grey that makes for the unusual exceptions in life. Milly is most certainly an exception to the rule.

The other aspect Land excels at is the question of guilt. To what degree is Annie the victim and to what degree is she as guilty as her mother? Will the child raised by an abuser and killer possibly follow the same path in life or will she gladly settle into obscurity and a normal life.

This book will probably make readers sit on the fence and watch with bated breath as the story unfolds, and yet in the end they still might not be able to decide whether Good Me or Bad Me wins. I know who I am rooting for and it probably isn't the one you think it is or the one I should be rooting for.

Well done to the author for the fascinating read.

Buy Good Me, Bad Me at Amazon uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Monday, 16 January 2017

The Watcher by Ross Armstrong

There is one slight problem about reviewing a book like The Watcher, you have to be really careful not to give the plot away. For me this is a bit of a conundrum because I do like to rabbit on when I write a review.

So I am going to try and waffle without revealing too much. (I'm not sure I am even capable of that *grin*)

It's written in first person, so initially the reader isn't sure whether the main character is a woman or a man. All they know is that whoever it is spends a lot of their time at the end of a pair of binoculars. Lily watches her surroundings, she watches her fellow humans, and of course the occasional bird.

The problem with secretly watching the people around you is that sometimes you see things you shouldn't see or weren't supposed to see in the first place. Things like abuse or perhaps even murder.

Lily finds herself in her very own Hitchcock scenario when she witnesses something shocking and starts to suspect her neighbours might be more than just harmless individuals. She does find some vigorous opposition in her husband and her father though. They both believe she is slightly obsessed with watching others.

Without delving further into the plot let me just say the author does a really good job of keeping the reader questioning the whole plot and perhaps even Lily at times. Has she got an over-active imagination or is there something nefarious heading straight her way?

The Watcher is subtle, sneaky and unobtrusive. The author manages to create an atmosphere of fear, suspicion and paranoia, It is certainly a different kind of read. Quirky, and yet strangely moving and personal.

Buy The Watcher at Amazon Uk or go Goodreads for any other retailer.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain

Neutrality, yes it is a word Switzerland likes to wave around like a flag of honour. The truth is rather more dismal I'm afraid.

What they call neutrality I call collaboration, what they call being an objective observer I call turning a blind eye to the atrocities going on. The Swiss closed their borders to the Jews, the Swiss helped the criminals to escape and the Swiss are still sat on illegal war gains.

Money, art and artefacts belonging to the victims of WW2 and hidden by so-called neutral Switzerland. Yeh, so much for sitting on your fake laurels and praising yourselves for being such outstanding citizens of the world. Switzerland: synonymous with sanctimonious.

In The Gustav Sonata the horrific events of the Second World War are still influencing the people and their day-to-day lives. Anti-Semitism is still rife, albeit in a subtle way and yet often more insidious in its nature. This is definitely apparent when it comes to Emilie. Gustav finds it hard enough to maintain friendships without his mother weeding out his friends based on their religious beliefs.

Gustav strikes up an unlikely friendship in pre-school with a lonely little boy called Anton Zwiebel. The two of them connect, and despite the occasional argument, they have a friendship that lasts many decades.

Essentially their friendship is the main focus of the story or rather the denial of the emotional attachment between the two of them. In essence the moral of the story is, if you aren't true to yourself and what you feel, you will never truly be at peace, content and happy.

For me The Gustav Sonata had a certain Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum) feel to it. The little boy who lives inside his head, whilst he battles the injustices around him and fights to survive in a world that doesn't care whether he is there or not. The relationship between Gustav and his mother is a one-sided one. Emilie can't seem to get over the traumatic experiences in her past. She feeds and clothes her son, but emotionally she is stunted and Gustav suffers for it. As a child he filters this information in a way which is more comfortable and less hurtful for his own sanity.

Even without the complex and emotional relationship between Anton and Gustav, and the story of discovery of self,  it is an interesting read. It's possibly a book that may fall under the radar. Hopefully it won't.

Buy The Gustav Sonata at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Crimson Death by Laurell K. Hamilton

I think the appropriate place to start is with the sheer size of this novel. You could literally commit a crime with the hardback copy, that is how large this book is. At over 700 pages it is more than a healthy portion for a bookworm.

When you write a novel the size of War and Peace then you should make sure it holds up its end of the bargain. Personally I believe the sheer volume has a detrimental effect on the story.

Unfortunately Hamilton spends a lot of time on superfluous dialogues, interactions and sub-plots. You could cut the book by at least 350 pages and still have a decent or rather your expected Hamilton read. It takes at least that long to actually get to Edward, Ireland and the main plot.

The first book I ever read in the Anita Blake series was Skin Trade (#17), which is a pretty good example of Hamilton at her finest. Based on that book I went back to the first book and started reading from the beginning, but Skin Trade has always remained a favourite.

I'm not sure why Hamilton feels the need to infuse her books with so much of her own personal life and sexual preferences. It is quite simply pernicious to the majority of her stories. At some point a decent editor should have trimmed and let her know just how many pages are filled with unnecessary information.

Aside from that Hamilton also brings her own confused views on consent into her books. Quite shocking at times. Then there are her bizarre views on how her characters all need to join in on the big poly amorous lifestyle. There just simply aren't enough hours in the day when it comes to fitting in all the fuck buddies.

Whatever happened to the dangerous vampire hunter and the necromancer? When did she turn into the sex-obsessed sad little character, who doesn't shy away from minors, non-consenting partners and worse. Where is the strong woman who used to be more interested in killing evil supernatural monsters than in how doable the woman and men around her are?

Overall Crimson Death is a disappointment, because you can see shimmers of the pre-sex-obsessed writer Hamilton in the midst of the travesty the now-Hamilton calls urban fantasy. I hope the author will eventually go back to her basic roots and gives us the story we know she is capable of.

Buy Crimson Death (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #25) at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

The Second Mrs Hockaday by Susan Rivers

I really enjoyed this book, and I know it seems as if I say that a lot, but it had a certain je ne sais quoi. In my defence I do have a nose for picking good reads and in general authors seem to have upped the ante just a wee bit.

Placidia, also known as Dia throughout the book, is the main character and the entire story evolves around a traumatic event that happens to her. Rivers has actually based the story on a true event, which took place during the same era. The birth, death and burial of a baby born to a woman of good social standing, during a time when her husband was at war. He was also at war during the conception of said child, hence his automatic response on his return being a trip to the local magistrate to report his wife. She was arrested and put on trial.

Rivers has taken that particular moment in time and turned it into a wonderful and captivating read.

Often when authors use correspondence to move a story along it doesn't work. In this case it is exactly the right way to have the characters interact, despite not being in the same vicinity of one another.

The only negative for me was when the story and correspondence leapt nearly 30 years ahead. I had to go back and re-read more than once to understand why there was a jump from Dia to a new character. It wasn't until I looked closer at the dates on the letters or correspondence that I noticed the huge leap in the dates.

I enjoyed the way the author kept the tone and voice of the story entirely as era accurate as possible. Of course that includes slavery and the treatment of men, women and children who fell into those brackets. For example there is a sexual assault at the very beginning, which is merely noted as a small incident due to the dirt on the knees of the white man in question. No outrage, no mention, just an overall acceptance of this tragic status quo. Throughout the story this treatment of slaves as chattel or animals is noted merely as normal and part of society.

In a really subtle way Rivers points out both the parallels and the paradox between the treatment of slaves and white women when it came to being treated as a sub-species in the eyes of white men. This includes domestic abuse and sexual violence. It's rather ironic that white women, and indeed even Dia, do not recognise the similarities between all of them.

The reality and horror of war is woven into the fabric of the story and the steady but achingly slow advancement of civil rights, all while this personal family drama and heartache plays out. As I said I really enjoyed the read.

Buy The Second Mrs Hockaday at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Friday, 6 January 2017

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

Whilst I do agree that History of Wolves deserves a place on the bookshelf of literary fiction you should take a look at, and indeed it is quite a remarkable read. However I did feel as if it lacked a certain purpose, moral of the story and perhaps even direction.

What I mean by that is the many unanswered questions the reader still has about Madeleine, also known as Linda and/or Maddie throughout the book. By the way, the fact her name isn't a constant factor is indicative of her lack of identity. Is the reader supposed to ponder her guilt or lack of it? Or is it about the neglect she suffers or the loneliness she experiences?

Then there is the whole situation with Lily, and perhaps to a certain degree also with Patra. The flutterings of curiosity and sexuality combined with the colourful imagination of Linda. Is the pity and concern she feels for Lily also in part jealousy and a need to be something less than invisible to her peers and the people around her.

The relationship between her and Paul is sometimes sibling-like and then at other times Linda becomes the pseudo parent. Although the reader gets the impression that her parents are never really bothered where she is and what she is doing, she passes on the things she has learnt from her father to the child in her charge.

Fridlund circles around the topic of paedophilia in an interesting way. You get the vulnerable victim, the predator and the possible scenario, and yet the author also levels out the blame by introducing the awakening sexuality of the possible victims and the positions they want to escape from. So, despite the fact the 'alleged' predator is actually one who is thinking of it and tempted, Fridlund makes him the victim at the same time. Of course, this is a double edged sword and leads us into the murky waters of victim-blaming.

I think some of the most interesting passages are the events on the day of the traumatic event. As a reader I began to question what her intentions were and whether her decisions could all be excused by innocence, inexperience and age. In fact, and that is my only problem with the book, I wondered what exactly the author was trying to say. What exactly does she want to leave the reader with? There are so many paths and moral questions, that Linda often seems to slip into the cracks in between all of them. I guess that is the biggest statement of all, how disposable, forgettable and unimportant Madeleine-Linda is and most importantly feels in the grand scheme of things.

As I said, it is definitely worth the read. The more a book gets me waffling and thinking, the more I think the author has done their job.

Buy History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Monday, 2 January 2017

The Long Drop by Denise Mina

The Long Drop is based on the true crime story about an American born Scottish serial killer called Peter Manuel and the man accused of three of his crimes.

In 1956 William Watt was accused of killing his wife, daughter and his sister-in-law. He would have been tried and executed for the crimes, if the police hadn't cottoned on to the fact they had a serial killer in their midst.

Mina turns a meeting of the two men into a cat and mouse game between killer and accused. A literary thriller with the dark city of Glasgow as a backdrop. A city on the brink of change, just about to take a step into literally a lighter brighter time, well at least optically. The black stones of buildings were cleaned, trees planted, whole neighbourhoods ripped down and rebuilt. A massive health and x-ray initiative was launched to combat and eradicate tuberculosis.

It will be interesting to see whether Mina draws parallels between the meeting of Watts and Manuel, and the essence, core and subsequent change in Glasgow.

Mina's writing is expressive, sharp and memorable. Her knowledge of Glasgow and the people is filtered into her stories in an almost subconscious layering. Mina writes noir with a twist, the psychological tear-downs between her characters is what sets her stories apart from the rest.

I think the reader starts out with the same assumption as Mina when she wrote the play Driving Manuel, that Watt was a victim in this scenario. After listening to people who were alive and there at the time Mina took another look at the crimes, the result being the novel The Long Drop. This time she presents a slightly different slant on the story.

Perhaps Watt wasn't the innocent bystander everyone thought he was. Why would a man in his position, a man who had spent time in jail for the murders of his family, why would he even consider spending time with the real killer? Pretending to prove his innocence by getting the guilty party to admit their guilt or conveniently conjure up the murder weapon.

Drinking and laughing with the man who shot his wife and then hurt and killed his daughter. Having a jolly good chat like old chums. Is it just desperation or does Watt have something to hide?

Mina gives a really good insight into the possible conversation between Watt and Manuel. No matter whomever you think may be guilty or whatever the possible scenario, one thing is absolutely clear, Peter Manuel was a sadistic killer. A killer with no remorse, who liked to stalk and torture his victims, and a man who killed viciously and enjoyed the violence.

Mina explores certain personality traits of Manuel and describes them rather well. He had a need, almost a compulsion to show-off, to brag and hog the limelight without being caught. His braggart nature and overconfidence is what led to his demise.

It's an interesting read, which has the distinctive mark of Denise Mina.

Buy The Long Drop at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.