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Look Behind You by Sibel Hodge

Die Again by Tess Gerritson

Bad Blood by Casey Kelleher

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Hope to Die by James Patterson

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A Monochrome 1940s Whodunnit

Review of The Dark Inside by Rod Reynolds

The novel is set in the 1940s, after WWII and before the beginnings of economic recovery of the ’50s and ’60s. It is also set in the South (USA) with all the associated prejudices and discrimination of the time in a town where several murders have already taken place and more are to follow. In other words the Law and the rich and powerful call the shots.

The anti-hero is a reporter from New York; so someone who is unwelcome and totally out of place and, one thinks, out of his depth. His boss sends him to cover the story to get rid of him. Even the local press reject him and make his life a misery. His only possible solace is in the potential friendship of a local woman. The conflicts this sets up in his own mind are powerful reminders of how each of us needs to feel comfortable in our own environment. He doesn’t. He is self-loathing with no self respect and rock bottom self esteem particularly as we slowly discover why he considers himself a coward. The story is therefore one of rites of passage as much as anything else.

The style is flat without too much emotion – think of the black and white movies of the period. Only during the last few pages is there much excitement. However this approach is the only one which could have been taken to remain true to the period and turns the denouement into an effective climax.

Certainly worth reading but don’t expect fireworks.

- mr zorg


Star Rating: Four Stars

4-Star Rating


Gang murders Erupt in a Sleepy Hamlet

Review of Murder Comes Calling by C.S. Challinor

When violent murders come to the small riverfront community of Notting Hamlet in Bedfordshire, Malcolm Patterson, a resident and retired pathologist, calls on the special abilities of his friend Rex Graves to help solve the case. Rex is a Scottish QC who also turns his hand to sleuthing in his spare time.

As Rex manoeuvres his way around the case and the residents, he gradually uncovers a tangled web of intrigue and mystery. Far from it being confined to the small community, Rex discovers connections involving gang warfare of many years’ standing.

In pursuit of the perpetrators of the shocking local murders, Rex and his friend Malcolm put themselves in danger in their dogged search for the truth.

This is a thriller which will be enjoyed by many readers. It progresses at a reasonable pace and the main characters are all well-defined. The plot is not too difficult to follow and there are several nice twists.

I did find that the author’s frequent use of the Scottish ‘oot’ and ‘aboot’ slightly irked me. We knew from the beginning that Rex was Scottish and could have taken for granted that he had a Scots accent. Nevertheless, despite this minor criticism, I enjoyed reading this novel.

– Sméagol


Star Rating: Three Stars

3-Star Rating


Gripping Family Story of how Deceit Can Wreak Despair

Review of Sea Music by Briege Brannigan

When Jess Cooper takes a cottage in Northumberland she rediscovers her aunt Lydia’s old family home, Sea Music, now empty and up for sale. She can’t resist calling the agent for a viewing, but what starts out as a feeling of happy nostalgia soon turns inexplicably to fear when she encounters the steps to the cellar.

The story flips between the early 1970s and the present day, ably painting a detailed picture of the lives of Jess and her family and the lies which rather than hold the family together, effectively ripped it apart.

When Jess was small, her Aunt Lydia became involved with a charming man called Dave Collier and they quickly fell in love and moved in together. When Lydia becomes pregnant Dave is surprisingly delighted and the birth of their son Simon brings them great joy. But then, less than two months later Lydia leaves the baby outside a shop and when she comes out he has gone, his pram standing empty on a piece of wasteland.

We soon learn what happened to Simon, but Lydia remains in the dark. In time she recovers sufficiently to return to Sea Music to concentrate on her painting and to try to move forward in her life.

Meanwhile, the young Jess has a difficult relationship with her mother and when her father moves out, Jess is left to try to cope with her mother’s drinking.

As the story proceeds and shock follows shock we graphically see, not only how the past can shape the present, but that secrets kept hidden can still hurt after the passage of many years.

This book is expertly written and the momentum keeps up to the very end, when, just when you think you have worked it all out there is yet another revelation. The writer has managed to produce a book that is credible, where the characters are convincing, and which is both achingly sad and truly shocking. I haven’t read Brannigan before, but I will be putting that right and looking out for her future novels.

-- Pashtpaws


Star Rating: Four Stars

4-Star Rating


Authentic Evocation of the Bid to Blow up Parliament

Review of Marbeck and the Gunpowder Plot by John Pilkington

This historical novel is the latest in a series of Marbeck mysteries but can be read as a stand-alone story.

Martin Marbeck is a government spy. It’s 1605 and King James is on the throne. The papists who originally were delighted with their new king have reached the inevitable conclusion that he is not a sympathiser of Rome and there is underlying unrest in the country. The scene is therefore set for a fast-moving mystery.

Everyone in Britain knows of November 5th and the gunpowder plot so it could be thought that the author would be constrained by the factual events of the day. Fortunately this is not the case as the story revolves around the life and loves of Martin Marbeck and his undercover work as an “intellgenter.”

The reader is taken back to the early 17th century as the author, through immaculate research, is not only able to describe life but in so doing is also able to conjure up the feel of the time and even the smells of the overcrowded cities. Political intrigue is rife. Poverty and its dire consequences can hit both aristocracy and the underclass alike. A term in the Clink is overpoweringly evoked – not a place to aspire to.

The reader of course knows the ending – the king and Parliament are saved. However the story is none the worse for this and the tension grows as the story progresses. This is an excellent novel which will keep the reader glued to the page and to answer the obvious question – Yes. Guy Fawkes makes an appearance – guess who he is!

-- mr zorg


Star Rating: Five Stars

5-Star Rating


Violence Invades a Gaming Girl’s Life

Review of A Geek Girl's Guide to Murder by Julie Anne Lindsey

Mia Connors is a self-confessed geek who works as IT Manager at Horseshoe Falls, a gated community for those people who value nature and the outdoors lifestyle. She has a close family including her identical twin, Bree, and two good ‘geeky’ friends, Nate and Baxter. Mia is more than happy with her life especially as she relates best to IT issues and online gaming relationships; she doesn’t date and shows no sign of following Bree into marriage and motherhood.

Then one morning she arrives early for work to find a blue pickup parked in her space – the nerve! --and she has to attend a meeting of all staff over a problem with the IT. It seems that residents have been turning up at the clubhouse for appointments with hairdressers, dog groomers, golf pros, and so on; appointments which they made on-line have received an email advising them that this was a new facility. Some are also expecting to take advantage of coupons which accompanied the email. Mia knows that the email was not sent from her section and she rushes to try to identify the problem.

On her way back to her office she runs across the brooding but downright sexy new Security Manager, Jake Archer – the owner of the blue pickup no less! Suffice to say that this is not a match made in Heaven and sparks begin to fly, especially when Nate and Baxter arrive at her office with something important to tell her. Jake summarily evicts them and Mia is furious.

The next day Baxter turns up dead at her desk and Nate is nowhere to be found and so is deemed the prime suspect. Mia sets out to prove Nate’s innocence while at the same time investigating the email mystery – could there be a connection?

This is a light and easy read with the suspense coming softly without many shocks, but as a mystery it is satisfying, and with Mia and Jake’s relationship moving from joint antipathy almost to romance, the characterisation is crisp and credible.

If you like your suspense turbo charged and on steroids, this probably isn’t the book for you, but as a fairly comfortable mystery it is a jolly good read, with lots of humour adding another dimension.

-- Pashtpaws


Star Rating: Three Stars

3-Star Rating



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