Monday, 20 November 2017

David Haynes

This is a gruesome thriller from a great storyteller, and it's such a page-turner.

Survive link

My review -

Mark Jones (Jonesy) and his wife Lisa are wintering in a cabin in Alaska. They’ve spent the summer hunting, making a cache of food and a big store of wood and shouldn’t have any trouble surviving till the spring. They had an awful time last winter, we gather, and Jonesy promises it will never happen again. He’s prepared. Then they find a young woman collapsed in their cabin as they return from an expedition. They can’t help but take her in or she’ll die, but that’s a strain on their resources. Then – it gets worse.

This is a very atmospheric and suspenseful tale. Things begin purposefully and as one setback after another strains the couple’s resources and relationship, the tension ratchets up, tighter and tighter. It’s claustrophobic; it happens in the great outdoors of Alaska with nobody else for miles, yet much of the action is cramped up in little sheds and cabins, where people can’t get away from one another. What people will do to survive is astonishing when they are in their full senses. As the mind deteriorates, man can become monster. I have a tendency to say, ‘David Haynes’ latest book is his best’ and I’m going to have to say it again. A stunning story, brilliantly told.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Sean and Daniel Campbell

The sixth in a series but I think any of them could be read alone. I jumped in with a free book part way through - the classic loss-leader!

The Evolution of a Serial Killer link

My review -

DCI Morton’s been side-lined to a teaching role by a new boss he clashed with years ago. He and his group of trainee detectives are discussing the perfect murder. Then similar murders start to crop up, each at 10:00 p.m. on consecutive Saturday nights. It appears that one of the students is challenging Morton, the detective with, to date, the best clear-up rate in the Met. The last murder could be a deadly incident affecting many people. Time is ticking.

The story builds in tension as time passes and the possibility of a major terrorist-style attack comes closer. Morton’s team’s analysis of the possible suspects is fascinating in its pros and cons. Someone has a grudge and we watch it played out to an exciting conclusion. A very good read.

Jim Webster

Another selection of Jim's blog posts about life as seen from his Cumbrian farm.

And sometimes I just sits? link

My review -

This is another collection of blog posts from Jim Webster, farmer and philosopher. The first collection, Sometimes I Sits and Thinks, featured a great deal about the animals, particularly the border collies, that Jim has worked with over the years. This seems to me to be a more eclectic selection, a little more wide-ranging and political even, but nevertheless it shows a fascinating slice of rural life.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Sean and Daniel Campbell

Another in the DCI Morton Series. How refreshing to have a happily married DCI without a drink problem!

Missing Persons link

My review -

DCI Morton and his team are looking into the death of a man who lived on a narrowboat. His girlfriend, Faye, has just come out of prison, and when he goes missing after an evening with friends, and is later found dead, she and the guests are suspects as they were the last to see him alive. Rafferty, new to the team, knows the girl from years ago, which adds to the intrigue.

The arguments for guilt or innocence in each case are compelling and contradictory and it’s a really tangled web. It’s an exciting read, especially the culmination. This is one of a series but I’ve found they each read well as a stand-alone.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Andy Weir

Andy Weir has his new book out today. I loved it. I know many people will feel that with The Martian  as your first book, you can't follow that - but I think he did. 

Artemis link

My review -

Artemis is the first city on the moon. The inhabitants have left behind much of the legal red-tape associated with earth and its many countries and boundaries, but even in a group of two thousand, there’ll be a few below the level of the law. Jazz Bashara is one such. She’s a smuggler and determined to get rich. Someone presents her with a way but it doesn’t go to plan.

As with Andy Weir’s much acclaimed first novel, The Martian, a great deal of this story involves ingenious problem-solving, which I found enjoyable. I also liked the up-front feistiness of the lead character, though she did keep emphasising her female characteristics, no doubt because she was written by a man who doesn’t have those. We take them for granted! The character interplay interested me and was quite thought-provoking so even though this is largely a science fiction adventure romp, it’s not shallow by any means. I’m sure there will be people who will beat the author about the head with the success of his first novel and say this isn’t as good. It’s different. Artemis was worth the wait!

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Angela Marsons

Seventh - and Angie Marsons could go on much longer with all the possibilities these characters offer.

Broken Bones link

My review

This is the seventh in the DCI Kim Stone series and another cracking read. A baby is left at the police station, a young girl is killed and the team are investigating prostitution, possible illegal immigration and human trafficking. Nothing is ever simple, the answers never cut and dried and Kim and her team struggle to keep their professional distance. Things come close to home sometimes and they have to listen to their gut instincts. ‘What would the boss do?’ they sometimes ask themselves – out of Kim’s hearing!

This team, though from very different backgrounds, work like a family. The sort of family where the members respect one another, share joys and fears, and yet still have that little secret. We learn a few more in this book. Angela Marsons has created some fantastic characters and she puts them in perilous situations. This series goes from strength to strength.

I received a review copy of this book from Netgalley.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Minette Walters

It's been a while since I read a Minette Walters and this is a new direction for her. I love this period of history (the Black Death) so it's right up my street.

The Last Hours link

My review -

The story takes place over a few months, after the great plague, the Black Death, comes to Britain. Sir Richard of Develish sets out with his retinue and much of his gold, to visit a neighbour with the intention of sealing a marriage for his daughter, Eleanor. The men fall sick and very few return to Develish, where Richard’s wife, lady Anne, refuses them entry for two weeks, to ensure the sickness doesn’t enter the moated settlement. Richard and all his followers but one, a serf, die of the plague. The hero of the tale is the bastard son of a serf, never acknowledged by his mother’s husband, and visibly different from all around him, being very tall, dark haired and olive skinned.

The richness of this story is in the detail. The corruption of the church, the total hold the lord has over those serfs in his demesne, the arrogance of the Norman French in their dealings with the local people, are very well presented. The surviving serfs, solely responsible for growing and harvesting the vital crops, are in many places starving themselves to death because their lords have gone north to try to escape the sickness, leaving their slaves to await their return in terror of being held to account for missing sheep and crops. The book is very compelling, filled with rich characters and a believable storyline. There’s more to come and I’ll be delighted when it’s ready. I want to pick it up and follow these people and their lives.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher from whom I received an advance copy for review.

Chris Chalmers

He's new to me, but with his very easy, funny style, I'll read Chris Chalmers again.

Dinner at the Happy Skeleton link

My review -

Dan is pushing forty when he’s made redundant from the advertising company where he works as a copywriter. He uses his redundancy money to do a little travelling, some drinking and a lot of hanging about on a certain internet forum. He is increasingly jaded and would like a deeper relationship than the casual encounters he’s having at the moment. Then, on a weekend trip, he believes he’s caught a glimpse of an old flame – the man he blames for his inability to trust and form deeper relationships.

This is quite a laddish story of a gay man grabbing at relationships for the physical side but really wanting a long-term partner. It’s cleverly written, witty, sometimes slapstick funny, and very perceptive in its observations. I found it an extremely enjoyable read indeed.

I received a review copy of this book.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Lexie Conyngham

This is a novella length sequel to a story which has some supernatural elements. It's jolly good!

A Dark Night at Midsummer link

My review - 

This is a novella length sequel to The Murray of Letho story, Out of a Dark Reflection. The supernatural happenings in that book continue and Mrs Dean, the housekeeper calls upon the skills of Lizzie Fenwick to try to capture the spirit of Grissel Gardiner, a witch of old. Lizzie’s not taken in by some of Mrs Dean’s logic, but agrees to help rather than have the happy household of Letho continuing under the present dark cloud.

Well conjured! You would need to have read Dark Reflection first, but if you have, you’ll enjoy this, its murky supernatural goings-on and the small community it encapsulates. Fittingly, I finished it at Halloween.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Robert Crouch

No Bodies is the second in the Kent Fisher mysteries - and just as good. Sharp and witty and a cracking read.

No Bodies link

My review - 

Kent Fisher, is once again on the trail of a murderer. The problem is, there are missing women, but no bodies. Colonel Witherington, a local bigwig, has charged Kent with finding his missing wife Daphne, or bringing her murderer to justice. As the investigation progresses, Kent discovers links between the missing women and sets off to find justice. Meanwhile, he himself, or at least, his animal sanctuary, may be implicated in another tragedy. He gets in deeper, and doesn’t help himself by his attitude to his boss.

This is the second Kent Fisher mystery and follows directly on from the first, No Accident. I think you really need to read the first, as this would be confusing as a stand-alone. A little more explanation of who people are when they first appear in the book would help new readers. Having said that, this is equally refreshing, set as it is around the investigations of an environmental health officer, rather than a police officer. Kent Fisher is a warm, stubborn and occasionally hopeless character whom I couldn’t fail to warm to. The author handles his writing deftly and the story is very funny, witty and full of sharp observations. I really enjoy this series and look forward to more.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Joel Hames

This is a short story which delves deeper into the mind of Sam Williams, the lawyer who gets into deep problems in The Art of Staying Dead. 

Caged link

My review -

‘Caged’ is a club with an unusual selling point. Instead of scantily clad ladies, it has well-built young men suspended in cages. It’s working within the law but has failed to get its licence renewed. Lawyer Sam Williams is tasked with sorting it out. An unforeseen tragedy follows. Is it Sam’s fault?

This is another short story which gives a snapshot of the life of the main character in one of the author’s full length novels. I enjoy his writing style and the depth and complexity of the characters and I’m pleased to discover that there’ll be another full length Sam Williams novel in 2018. Bring it on!

Monday, 23 October 2017

Sam Kates

I've always enjoyed Sam's writing and this is a delight! (In a nasty sort of way...)

Ghosts of Christmas Past and Other Dark Festive Tales link

My review -

They called I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue the antidote to panel games. This little collection is an astringent antidote to the sugar-rush we sometimes suffer after reading too many Christmas stories. It’s the season to want feel-good reads and I enjoy a few myself, but just occasionally we want something darker – to refresh the palate, you might say. That’s why ghost stories are popular around the Christmas fireside.

Sam Kates is a very good writer who creates scenes in a reader’s head. Some of these scenes are peculiarly unsettling. Add a bit of spice to your seasonal menu and give this little collection a try. I really enjoyed it.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Ann Girdharry

The second in a series which gets better as it progresses.

London Noir link

My review -

Kal Medi is still influenced by her father’s activities. She takes a young girl under her wing after almost knocking her down in a rain storm. The girl, Sophie is heading for a place Kal knows to be a brothel, and she’s worried about her. Things, in the event, are worse than Kal expected. Kal becomes involved in a seedy underworld with a girl who has spent much of her life in a psychiatric institution. Her best friend, Marty, just out of hospital, also volunteers to help, and the pace picks up.

I found this a very exciting story, and became involved from the beginning. It’s the second Kal Medi story, and I found it even better than the first. I hope it’s the beginning of a longer series.

I received an advance review copy of this book.

Louise Jensen

Another 'first for me' author who writes a rattling good story.

The Surrogate link

My review - 

Kat is pushing thirty and desperate for a baby. She and her husband have tried for adoption abroad but each time it’s fallen through at the last minute. Then she meets up with her old school friend, Lisa who offers to be surrogate mother for them. Kat’s suspicious. There’s been something in their past which she has been hiding, and which Lisa’s return into her life may resurrect. Kat becomes increasingly anxious and has fears that her husband is unfaithful, too, and that somebody is stalking her.

The book was very exciting to read. I read it over twenty-four hours just because I was desperate to find out what had happened in the past and what lay in the future. There’s a darkness, a threat, just out of touch for most of the book, and when it comes out, it’s an eye-opener. This story gradually reveals the consequences of wrong decisions taken in times of panic and crisis, and the results of lying to ourselves until we begin to believe the lies are truth. A blisteringly good read.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Cassandra Jane Parkin

My first book by Cassandra Parkin and it's a real corker. 

The Winter's Child link

My review -

Susannah and John’s son Joel disappeared five years ago, at the age of fifteen. The case has never been solved and Susannah is still occasionally in touch with one of the police team who searched for her son. She becomes obsessive about finding him, going out at all hours to search, and finally, she and her husband part. Though professing to despise mediums and clairvoyants, She still occasionally contacts one, and is told, on the night of Hull Fair (October) that she’ll see her son again by Christmas.

Although, as the story progressed and past scenes unfolded, I felt the inevitability of the ending, I couldn’t work out why. One of the strengths of the author’s writing is that she can tell of deep and turbulent emotions in clear and logical language – you follow it from the character’s point of view, and totally believe it. It’s very well done indeed. A stand-out book, for me.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Rowan Coleman

This is the second book of Rowan's that I've read. I like her style!

The Memory Book link

My review -

Claire, like her late father, is suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s disease and her counsellor has suggested writing a memory book, something to nail her memories down while she still has them. Her mother, who nursed her father through the disease, comes to stay, to help. Caitlin, her grown up daughter from an earlier relationship, is due to go back for her final year at university and her three year-old daughter from her recent marriage doesn’t understand why Mum can’t read her stories. Greg, her husband, feels her withdrawing from him as her memories fade.

This book could have been a total misery-fest but I found it truly hopeful and occasionally very funny. Rowan Coleman writes an easy book to read which generally means it’s taken a lot of work to write. Her characters are flawed but genuine and I loved this story of a family who have had so much thrown at them. Do read it. It’s got a hopeful wonder at its heart.

Wendy Percival

Another in the lovely Esme Quentin series of genealogical mysteries.

The Malice of Angels link

My review -

Esme Quentin has moved to Devon to be closer to her friend, and to the area in which she grew up. She makes contact with her late husband’s journalist friend Tim, and though she’s reluctant, she agrees to work with him. Her speciality is genealogy. Her friend is concerned about her mother, the woman Esme has known since childhood, but who is now very reluctant to look into her own memories about her sister, who disappeared after the war. As they delve, things come very close to home for Esme.

I loved the way information unfolded gradually and we realised how complex this web was. We aren’t always happy to face our memories and we don’t like those who try to confront us with things we’re trying to keep in the dusty attic of our minds. This is brought over extremely well. People important to Esme were in danger and she got on with the job, as always. Esme Quentin is becoming one of my heroes!

I received a pre-publication copy of this book.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Lynda Wilcox

Verity Long does it again. Great, funny and well up to the usual standard.

Long Tramp to Murder link

My review -

Verity, now working cold cases part time, spends the rest of her time as researcher for her old employer, author Kathleen Davenport. She currently finds herself with two murders on her hands. One is the old one she’s been asked to look into, involving the death of an elderly lady ten years ago. The second occurs at a local garden centre when she and her employer are there. KD finds the body – and just about everyone who knew the victim had a reason to want her dead.

Verity, the eternally nosy and feisty investigator, worries away at both cases, officially and unofficially. This story, with its two murders, years apart, contains all the trademark wry, dry and witty humour of the author’s Verity Long series, and, as always, I enjoyed it immensely. I received a review copy of this book.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Oliver Tidy

This is the first book I've read by this author. I doubt it will be the last.

The Fallen Agent link

My review -

They say there’s honour among thieves but there doesn’t seem to be much in the world of the secret service. Someone high up in Vauxhall Cross is sacrificing agents to save his own job. Add in Al Qaeda, a rich Albanian, unfeasible amounts of money and the threat of a terrorist attack on London and you have the ingredients for an exciting thriller.

The characters are well-drawn, with good points and flaws to make them three-dimensional and believable. There are several high-octane points in the story which keep it bouncing along, making you wonder what can possibly happen next. The author vividly portrays the setting of the book – much of it in Albania. Altogether, this is a top notch spy thriller which I have no hesitation in recommending.

I received a review copy of this book.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Su Bristow

New author, debut novel, and what a corker!

Sealskin link

My review -

Donald is out in his boat on the skerry and sees a group of seals come ashore. They shrug off their skins and, as naked young women, dance freely in the night. He hides one of the skins and one girl is trapped, unable to go home to the sea. That’s the basic legend that many of us are familiar with. They beauty of this book is that it takes the story onward and tells us how Donald and his seal girl make a life together.

I love a bit of mythology and this gorgeous story fleshes out a legend to give us real characters coping with a hard life. There are choices to be made, and Donald has made a bad one initially – but he wants to make up for it. It’s simply told and so believable. I heartily recommend this book to anyone who wants to read something different.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Kelly Clayton

Third in a series but it would make a great stand alone novel.

Blood on the Rock link

My review -

A body is found on a boat. It belongs to a member of a rather fractured family and as Le Claire and his team investigate, they are snowed under with people who might have wanted the man dead. Their task is to sieve out the evidence and find which one it actually was.

I’ve really enjoyed this series, this being the third. The relationships, within Le Claire’s own family, and between members of his team, are growing and strengthening, and I’m enjoying taking these journeys with them. Kelly Clayton manages to find a good balance between the popular but often incredible ‘rogue cop’ genre and the foot-slogging real life police drama. Sometimes you could shake Jack Le Claire, but you admire his tenacity and his attention to the job. Snippets of his family life add to the mix and a horrible episode from his past comes up to bite him at the end. There’ll be more Jack Le Claire, I’m glad to say! A really good story in which the island of Jersey is almost a character.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Louise Beech

I've been hearing about this book but sometimes there's just too much to read! Finally got around to it - it's jolly good!

How to be Brave link

My review - 

What a great concept for a book this is. Young Rose, aged nine, is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes while her soldier father is away on a long tour and her mum, Natalie, has to cope with it alone. To persuade her daughter to allow her to do the blood tests and injections, Natalie ‘bribes’ her with a family story of her own grandfather’s time in the war.

Rose is a great little character, self-willed and often driven by the disease she’s battling. Natalie is real, flawed, hating what she has to do to her daughter to keep her safe, and often losing her rag doing it. Well, you would, wouldn’t you? Their story thread is wrapped around with that of Natalie’s grandad, Colin. They twist around one another, cross-linked here and there, very much like strands of DNA. They say blood is thicker than water – even sea water. It seemed that through their very different adversities, Rose and Colin taught one another ‘how to be brave’. A great bit of writing and one I’ll remember for a long time.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

S D Mayes

  A wartime story, a family story - a great story!

Letters to the Pianist link

My review - 

Ruth, her brother Gabi and sister Hannah experience the WW2 bombings in London’s East End. Ruth finds her best friend’s body in a bombed out house and eventually the children are rescued from their own bombed out home, orphans. The younger siblings go to one aunt, she to another, where she finds herself subject to the attentions of a very unpleasant uncle. Meanwhile, a man wakes in hospital knowing nothing about his former life, but discovers he is a very gifted pianist.

Though the book was quite long, it never dragged for me. It’s a riveting story and I liked the way it looked at different aspects of people’s war experience. The poor working people of the East End, the rich people who could eat and drink anything – not just the landed gentry but Ruth’s uncle who cheated his way to a pantry full of food, exploiting others. And of course, the way some people treated the Jews. It was interesting all the way through and exciting at the end. A great story!

I received an advance review copy of this book.

David Staniforth

Here's a man who writes great fantasy and excellent thrillers - and in this book, combines the two.

The Book of Maker link

My review -

Clarissa Bell buys a book in a second-hand shop. It’s blank – a rather posh notebook, it appears. She discovers that it’s possible to communicate with characters in a book. It’s also possible that you’re a character in someone else’s book. What possibilities this idea opens for a fertile mind like David Staniforth’s.

A story about a girl who hangs around bookshops – a girl who discovers the power of the written word? What’s not to like? But, as always, it’s the way he tells them. David’s got a great prose style. His ways of describing things are entirely his own and add so much to my enjoyment of his work – right from the first book of his that I read. The two realities are so believably created and the two sets of characters so sympathetic, that you’re standing behind them both and cheering them on. There are heart-stopping moments in this story and plenty of action and excitement. There’s also some dredged-up past to deal with and accept, and it all comes together to make a fantastic read. The book is probably going to be labelled as YA Fantasy because of the age of the major protagonists but there’s something in here for readers of any age. Never let a label put you off a great story!

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Patrick Gale

A brilliant tale combining the past and present of a strained family life.

Rough Music paperback

My review -

Julian grows up a solitary boy, the only child in a rather straight-laced family. His father is a prison governor and Julian occasionally speaks to the prisoners. The family take a holiday in a remote seaside bungalow and are joined by his uncle and cousin. It’s as a result of what happened on that holiday that a repeat of the experience, when his cousin books the same bungalow proved traumatic for all, especially his mother with her gathering Alzheimer’s disease.

I’m a great fan of Patrick Gale’s writing. It’s elegant, sophisticated but not in the least flowery. It’s what writers should aspire to. He takes apart a family teetering on the brink of not really knowing each other, or of being in denial of what they know, and analyses their actions and deeds in an almost forensic detail. A really great book.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Carol Wyer

Third in a series which I'm really getting into.

The Missing Girls link

My review -

A young girl’s body is discovered in a trunk in a storage facility. She hadn’t been reported missing by her family. DI Robyn Carter is on the case and all too soon, another young girl’s body is found, this time buried in a shallow grave. When a third girl goes missing, they are looking for a single perpetrator. Soon it comes closer to home for Robyn, as a child she knows disappears. Her team follow the social media activities of the youngsters to see if they can connect them.

This is a really well-paced story, action building upon action as we witness the detectives’ fight to tie these girls’ stories together. I enjoyed the clues along the way, though I misinterpreted some of them! I’m enjoying the exploits of DI Carter and her team and I hope to read many more of them.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Jim Webster

Another lovely collection of short stories from Port Naain. 

Tallis Steelyard. The Monster of Bell-Wether Gardens and other stories link

My review -

If you wonder what comprises the life of a jobbing poet in the town of Port Naain, this little collection of stories will give you some idea. Tallis has a finger in many a pie, arranging soirees for ladies, helping to write and distribute literary journals (and their rivals!). He assists in redistributing the town’s abundance of food and arranges for a man to experience a haunting when he’s accepted the challenge to stay overnight in a disused tower. And that’s just some of it!

Reading these stories of Jim Webster’s is like putting on your slippers and picking up a cuppa. Comfortable, and they make you smile.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Alice Castle

New to me but I'll happily read her work again.

Death in Dulwich link

My review -

Beth’s first day in her new job as archivist at Wyatt’s school is memorable for the wrong reason. Her immediate superior Dr Jenkins, the senior archivist, sees her into her office then disappears for the morning. She goes for lunch and finds him dead. Both Beth and Detective Inspector York are determined to find out who killed him. The case is surprisingly not straight forward. Nobody liked Dr Jenkins and the delightful village of Dulwich is quite put about.

Beth is intelligent and curious. She takes it upon herself, as the finder of the body, to try to solve the riddle of the death. Yes, she should have left it to the nice policeman. But really, would you? This book was full of gentle humour and sharp observation and I enjoyed it very much, despite having a bit of an idea before the end of whodunit. A great read in the cosy mystery genre.

I received a review copy of this book.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Sarah Waters

Set just after the first World War, this story is brilliantly set in its time and morality. A really gripping read.

The Paying Guests link

My review -

Frances and her mother are struggling, a few years after the Great War, to maintain their house alone. Her brothers were killed in the war and her father died following disastrous investments, leaving them unable to maintain the house or keep servants. They advertise for lodgers, whose rent will enable them to pay their food bills, if not to improve the house. The young couple seem not to have an ideal marriage and Frances hears raised voices from time to time. She and the girl, Lilian, become close and out of their burgeoning relationship comes a disaster.

This book didn’t seem as long as I know it is. I zipped through it, fascinated. So many tiny details lit up the times – buying a box of nibs, for example. While by no means a between-the-wars child I still remember dippy nibs. The story was beautifully set in its time through little things like this. The disaster, which initially welds Frances and Lilian together, changes their lives and the balance of their relationship utterly. I loved the ending which left me still with the characters and the story in my mind. Sarah Waters doesn’t spoon-feed her readers. She tells such a good story.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Steve Roach

I've been reading Steve's work on and off for years and his stories stay in your mind!

Animals link

My review - 

I’d already read The Whaler and The Farda but bought this collection to see what other tales the author had to tell about the animal kingdom. This is no cute anthology about puppies and kittens so if that’s what you’re expecting, you’ll be disappointed. Bear in mind the author’s reputation for horror stories and you’ll be nearer the mark. Although it’s called Animals, and animals certainly feature in all the stories, the real villains in the piece seem to be ourselves. The weak link is always humanity. I very much enjoyed all these stories – in a horrid kind of way. The final story, The Ruiner, is a real roller-coaster of a tale, in which an old man creates a paradise, a garden of Eden, in the desert.

I find that many books merge into one another in my mind and after a year or so, I can’t remember what it was about, or even what I found so special about it. With Steve Roach you know you’ll never read another story like his. His work has a way of fixing itself in your mind forever. These stories are often not a comfortable read but if you want your ideas stretched and challenged, have a go. Highly recommended.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Robert Crouch

A new author to me but his debut novel has convinced me that I'll read more.

No Accident link

My review -

I do love a book that’s different, and this one is, in buckets! At one level, it’s a standard murder mystery, but at another, there are no police in sight. The man of the hour, Kent Fisher, is an Environmental Health Officer. He’s investigating a suspicious death in which a vital guard has been moved from a machine. He suspects it’s no accident and digs up a whole nest of hornets as he follows his instincts.

I enjoyed this hugely. Kent is an environmentalist, keeps a money-draining animal sanctuary and longs for a lady he can’t have. There’s lots going on in this book, plenty of characters and you need your wits about you. There’s also, considering the subject, a great deal of humour, sometimes witty, sometimes sarcastic and it acts like yeast in a bread mix. Lightens it and makes it wholesome. I have a new fictional hero! I very much enjoyed this story and look forward to the next.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

V K McGivney

This author shows a versatility of style. I first read and loved a science fiction book of hers. These are varied in genre but I enjoyed them all.

Ghosts, Resolution and Revenge link

My review -

I first came across V K McGivney when I read a futuristic science fiction novel she’s written, but this collection of short stories proves she’s the master of more than a single genre. This is a very readable collection of tales, some of which, as the title and cover image suggest, have the creepy feel of a classic ghost story, but some are very much grounded in the present, and have in all cases, satisfying and sometimes surprising conclusions.

V K McGivney’s writing style, characterisation and plotting appeal to me a great deal and I heartily recommend this book to those who enjoy short fiction.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Julie McLaren

Back and forth in time - what really happened?

An Unfortunate Incident link

My review -

Alice and Georgia were inseparable for a year in early secondary school in the 1960s. Georgie’s family were better-off than Alice’s and, when they meet again nearly fifty years later, they each acknowledge that they envied each other. They lost contact following an incident which traumatised them both in different ways.

The story follows the 1960s narrative and the 2016 reunion, the former from Alice’s point of view and the latter from a third person viewpoint. There were plenty of small details which absolutely nailed the early 60s in time, for me, and I enjoyed it a great deal. After Alice has invited the now homeless Georgie to stay for a few days, little truths emerge and we realise the full import of what happened back then. Though it moves back and forth in time, it’s easy to follow, and a fascinating look at contrasting life-styles and expectations. It’s also a reminder that events, and people, aren’t always as we perceive them to be. Highly recommended.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Jonathan Hill

This is a familiar story to me. It first appeared in a joint publication, Is It Her? This is newly re-written in part, and contains an extra chapter. 

The Stars Just Watch link

My review -

It’s wartime, and Cliff and Tom have been called up. Jack, Cliff’s brother, is exempt as he’s got a serious leg injury. Violet, Cliff’s wife and Tom’s sister, gets them all together on the eve of their going off to war. The mood is, naturally, dark, edgy, tense and fearful. We soon find out what else Cliff has to fear, in addition to death at the hands of the enemy.

Most of the story is dark and dramatic, especially when Jack’s true role is revealed, though there is a glimmer of hope towards the end, when the climate has changed for Cliff. It’s a hugely thought-provoking book and I hope this slightly altered version sees it being more widely appreciated. It’s genuinely both awful and awesome.