Category Archives: Book Review

Modesty Blaise – The Girl in the Iron Mask

Published by Titan Books

51Xf-r5JBvL._SL500_AA300_Features the classic stories Fiona, Walkabout and The Girl In The Iron Mask written by popular British crime writer Peter ODonnell and beautifully illustrated by Enric Badia Romero! Willies admirer Fiona returns, Modesty faces the outback alone and an iron mask could mark her end in this latest gripping volume! Features story introductions by Blaise archivist Lawrence Blackmore!

A lovely and welcome selection of classic strip cartoons originally featured in The Evening Standard, this volume of 1960’s great sassy stories featuring cult bad girl Modesty Blaise feels at once a fresh new character and set of tales and, at the same time the genesis of many a character that have followed on in television and fiction since.

It’s little wonder that she has a celebrity fan-base including Quentin Tarantino and that she’s been called the female James Bond – Blaise could likely kick Buffy’s butt and give Lara Croft a damn good run for her money.

Remaining glamourous as she leaps from one adventure to the next, whilst providing a nice sideline in wit and being able to often belittle the men around her, Modesty Blaise is a cracking creation and it’s to Titan’s credit that they have brought her back to be read by a new audience.

Come on Tarantino – get that Modesty Blaise script back out of the desk drawer!

You can grab a copy of the graphic novel here.

Keith

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Criminal London – A Sightseer’s Guide to the Capital of Crime by Kris and Nina Hollington

Published by Aurum

UnknownFrom Sherlock Holmes’ Baker Street and Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel to the East End of the Krays and the white-collar crooks of the City, London has played silent witness to countless crimes both real and imagined. Moreover, in print and on screen the city has exported its criminal heritage to the world, becoming a global capital of wrongdoing rivalled only by New York and Los Angeles. Yet there has never been a guide to its darker points of interest – until now.

Traversing centuries of villainy, Criminal London explores the more scandalous moments of the city’s story. Featured herein are three original walks and over 100 sights to see, including: the scenes of infamous murders, watering holes frequented by notorious felons, the homes of great consulting detectives, and locations from London’s rich history of law and order, such as the Clink, Tyburn Tree and Bow Street Police Station.

Perfect for adventurous tourists and curious Londoners, this is a sightseeing guide for the intrepid.

It’s rare that I get sent or read anything that isn’t a work of fiction, but this was right up my (dark and sinister) alley.
A perfectly formed and great size book which will be certain to accompany me on trips into the big smoke of London town from this day forth.
Criminal London is a beautifully executed (no pun intended) volume, packed with great photography by Nina Hollington and text by her husband Kris.
Sub-divided by areas of the capital with great easy to read maps and walking tour information, this is just the book you need if you want to follow in the bloodstained footsteps of Jack the Ripper or even read of the murder that took place in the antique shop that is now the favourite haunt of many a crime fiction fan, Goldsboro Books.

Criminal London is one of those books that I’ll pick up time and time again, and will check every time I head off out to see which of the crime scenes I am about to step over.
Slickly produced, well written and great photography throughout.
Your only crime, as they say, would be to not get a copy – and it’s a steal!

Available here.

Keith

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Rush of Blood by Mark Billingham

Published by Sphere

UnknownPerfect strangers.

A perfect holiday.

The perfect murder…

Three couples meet around the pool on their Florida holiday and become fast friends. But on their last night, their perfect holiday takes a tragic twist: the teenage daughter of another holidaymaker goes missing, and her body is later found floating in the mangroves.

When the shocked couples return home, they remain in contact, and over the course of three increasingly fraught dinner parties they come to know one another better. But they don’t always like what they find: buried beneath these apparently normal exteriors are some dark secrets, hidden kinks, ugly vices…

Then, a second girl goes missing.

Could it be that one of these six has a secret far darker than anybody can imagine?

With the weather showing some signs of finally warming up, here’s a classy but chilling poolside read coming your way in paperback on the 25th of this month.
From the get-go with his first DI Tom Thorne novel ‘Sleepyhead’ Mark Billingham made it clear that he can write victims very well, with the series to date he’s demonstrated that he can handle the twists and turns of a complex Police procedural and, with his first stand-alone ‘In the Dark’ he proved that taking some time away from the series was something that only served to add strength to his writing.
So, what was he to do next?
The result is ‘Rush of Blood’ – a chilling tale of just what can go wrong with those holiday ‘friendships’ that threaten to come home with you after a few weeks in the sun, the forced dinner parties, the feelings of obligation to keep in touch with those you really don’t have much in common with. Or do you?
Tied by a murder, the ‘Florida Six’ return home followed by the shadow of the murder of a young girl – her death a thing that eats away at them, forcing them to confront their own selves and their partners, raising concerns, fears and secrets.

It’s a brave, all balls in the air, risk that the author has taken on here, but he manages to juggle them all successfully, even spinning a few plates towards the end and constantly pulling the rug out from underneath the reader’s feet.

Anyone who loves a deep crime story, one that involves a larger cast and the way that the events take their toll on each and every one of them (think tv’s current hit ‘Broadchurch’), this will totally satisfy.

Squint into the bright Florida sunshine of Rush of Blood and the darkness behind might just reveal itself.

You need this in your suitcase – get a copy here.

Keith

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Deadly Deceit by Mari Hannah

Published by Pan

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Four a.m on a wet stretch of the A1 and a driver skids out of control. Quick on the scene, Senior Investigating Officer Kate Daniels and partner DS Hank Gormley are presented with a horrifying image of carnage and mayhem that quickly becomes one of the worst road traffic accidents in Northumberland’s history. But as the casualties mount up, they soon realise that not all deaths were as a result of the accident . . . On the other side of town a house goes up in flames, turning its two inhabitants into charred corpses. Seemingly unconnected with the traffic accident, Kate sets about investigating both incidences separately. But it soon becomes apparent that all is not what it seems, and Kate and her colleagues are one always step behind a ruthless killer who will stop at nothing to get what they want.

Following hot on the heels of her first two great DCI Kate Daniels novels ‘The Murder Wall‘ and ‘Settled Blood‘, Mari Hannah is back with the third book in the series and back with a bang!
The opening scenes of carnage at a pile up on the A1 are ones which will stay with me for some time to come and show that Hannah has all the necessary skills to keep coming at us with great crime stories, even when it comes to leaving a good few pages before bringing her ‘tec to the scene.
Sure, it can be said that having a blurb that indicates that the two incidents, the afore mentioned accident and a house fire, are ‘seemingly unconnected’ will leave very few readers wondering if the cases are going to somehow come together before long, but there are plenty of twists and turns along the way to trip even the most constant crime fiction readers. The surprises are skilfully handled and plentiful and provide a very rewarding read from an author not afraid to take risks – risks which, to her credit, are clearly paying off in a big way.

And, with the great news this week that the author has secured a deal for the next two books in the series, with the next book ‘Monument to Murder’ to be published in April 2014 in hardcover.

Exciting times indeed, both for Mari Hannah and for crime fiction fans everywhere.

Waste no time – discover and follow DCI Kate Daniels now with Deadly Deceit.

Keith

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Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

Published by Angry Robot

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Miriam Black knows when you will die. Still in her early twenties, she’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, suicides, and slow deaths by cancer. But when Miriam hitches a ride with truck driver Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be gruesomely murdered while he calls her name. Miriam has given up trying to save people; that only makes their deaths happen. But Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim. No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.
images For some time now I’ve been following Chuck Wendig, reading his entertaining and informative writing blogs at his website terrible minds.com, listening to him on writing interview blogs at Angry Robot and The Creative Penn, and downloading his writing guide books for my kindle.
I was more than a little apprehensive about biting the bullet and checking out his fiction, but the buzz surrounding Blackbirds was too strong to resist and disappointed I most certainly was NOT.
Miriam Black is a masterful character – gifted/cursed with the power we’d all struggle to decide if it was a good or bad thing – she can tell how people will die, but cannot do anything to prevent the events from occurring.
From it’s great premise and stunning cover (zoom in to see the details within Miriam’s hair) you could be mistaken in thinking this is Young Adult fiction, but be warned – Blackbirds is tough, brutal, sweary and bloody – oh, and it’s excellent in all those ways too !
Now to grab a copy of the sequel ‘Mockingbird‘ ahead of the next book to also feature Miriam ‘Cormorant’.
I don’t know where Mr Wendig finds the time and energy to be in so many places at once and so good in all of them, but I’m damn glad he does.

Keith

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The Magpies by Mark Edwards

Available now from amazon.

UnknownFrom the #1 Bestselling Author of Catch Your Death

Fear lives next door…

When Jamie and Kirsty move into their first home together they are full of optimism. The future, in which they plan to get married and start a family, is bright. The other residents of their building seem friendly too: the horror writer and the middle-aged herbalist who live upstairs, and the Newtons, a married couple who welcome them to the building with open arms.

At first, the two couples get on well. But then strange things start to happen. Dead rats are left on their doorstep. They hear disturbing noises, and much worse, in the night. After Jamie’s best friend is injured in a horrific accident, Jamie and Kirsty find themselves targeted by a campaign of terror.

As Jamie and Kirsty are driven to the edge of despair, Jamie vows to fight back – but he has no idea what he is really up against…

THE MAGPIES is a gripping psychological thriller in which the monsters are not vampires or demons but the people we live next door to. It is a nightmare that could happen to anyone.

“A nailbiter of suspense with terrific characterisation.” –Peter James on KILLING CUPID (Sunday Express Books of the Year 2012)

“Masterfully done…Makes slick, well-plotted, ridiculously tense thrillers look deceptively easy to write’ –Matt Haig on CATCH YOUR DEATH

“A very clever, very pacey story that kept me guessing right to the end.” –Elizabeth Haynes on KILLING CUPID

Any fears about Mark Edwards going solo for this book were quickly put to one side, but they were replaced by all new fears – those of what were certainly looking like becoming the neighbours from hell.

I wasn’t disappointed.

The Magpies is a cunningly crafted piece of psychological crime fiction which burrows into the brain with a plentiful supply of ‘what if’ moments that’ll have you concerned about your own closest neighbours, whilst also (hopefully) giving you some assurance that you’re probably much better off than the central characters in this tale.

Often with this genre of novel, or indeed film of this type (of which this would make a great one), the tales suffer from those moments where little is happening, when the reader/viewer is left to ponder what the next set piece might be coming along.

With The Magpies, Edwards has built the tension and the elements of the unknown sufficiently well enough that, even in those quieter moments, you’ll be clutching your e-reader tightly with concern about just what is to unfold on the next page click.

Keep the keys to your home in sight, check your letterbox, monitor your emails – like the best in crime fiction the fact this could happen to any of us will keep those pages turning.

 

About the Author

Mark Edwards is the No.1 bestselling author of CATCH YOUR DEATH and KILLING CUPID, co-written with Louise Voss. He lives in Wolverhampton, UK, with his young family and works as a freelance copywriter. Find him on Twitter @mredwards or on http://www.vossandedwards.com

Keith

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Below the Thunder by Robin Duval

Published by Matador

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Robin Duval’s follow-up to Bear in the Woods is a heart-in-mouth tale of international conspiracy, self-discovery and romance. 

One summer evening in Bavaria, fortyish history professor Bryn Williams – more Frasier than Bond – falls simultaneously into love and mortal danger. He becomes a target for MI6, Mossad and an American hit man. Oblivious to his predicament, he continues his holiday in America. Walking alone in a National Park, he stumbles on a newly dead body. He is arrested for murder, and released only when evidence of a third party emerges. But when he discovers the identity of the killer, and reports it to the San Francisco police, his motel room is blown up. With no-one to turn to, he flees north. 

He is intercepted in the mountains by a cousin, who works for MI6. And by the woman he fell in love with in Bavaria. They persuade him – against his better judgment – to help frustrate a plot to destroy the American President. He is drawn into a web of conspiracy and deceit whose true nature only gradually becomes apparent. 

As the narrative races towards its unexpected and shocking climax, the hero discovers untapped reserves of talent – as lover and as man of action. 

This is also a tale about the underbelly of American and international politics. About the secret forces that drive people and nations towards destruction.

I came to this book without having read Duval’s previous novel and just the introduction that this was a novel from the man who’s best known for his time spent at the BBFC .  I must confess that the blurb above made me more than a little concerned that this was a book with just far too much going on, and I feared that it was an almost certain derailment waiting to happen with such a tangled and seemingly unbelievable plot.

It’s to Robin Duval’s credit, and my shame, that I was very mistaken – I found myself caught up in the at first slightly unbelievable and then all consuming tale of Bryn and his attempts to stay one step ahead of events that are fast crashing around him. Yes, there are moments when the reader will likely have ‘oh really?!’ reactions to some of the plot twists, some of which do at times seem very convenient, but the same can be said for many of the hollywood movies that Duval spent years watching in his BBFC role, and we all get swept along by those story lines pretty willingly.

Like an unsuspecting Jason Bourne fan getting caught up in his own fantasy adventure, this was a fun and entertaining ride across the globe with characters I enjoyed and would want to read more of in the future.

 

Keith

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A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash

Published by Black Swan (Transworld) on 28th March.

images

 

They said Pastor Chambliss was a good man.

They said he could perform miracles,

heal the sick – like my brother Stump.

After it happened, they said that

sometimes miracles go wrong.

They said it was God’s will,

and that’s all there is to it.

But I know what I saw

And it wasn’t no miracle.

From the opening of this superb and beautifully told tale I wasn’t at all surprised that it had so deservedly been awarded the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger award for best first novel 2012.  Wiley Cash has such a fresh and atmospheric tone to his writing that I couldn’t help but be completely and utterly drawn in.

Told from three key viewpoints, this tale of a preacher of dubious means and the spell he seems to have his flock under in the town of Marshall in North Carolina is pure American Gothic, a place of secrets, of family bonds both broken and healing.

It’s a gentle book but with a dark terror at its heart. The fact that the author was inspired by the true story of a young African American boy being smothered during a healing ceremony, coupled with his own upbringing in an evangelical church in the South, have clearly collided in a wonderful way to provide such an emotive and intense read.

A Land More Kind Than Home is a fairly quick read, much aided by the fact that, like the lead character, nine year old Jess Hall, you’ll be so caught up in the story to find out what has happened to his brother, that those pages will turn faster and with more rewards than many of the more generic crime thrillers that adorn the bookstores.

Here’s a real chance to try something new in crime fiction – a great debut.

Keith 

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The Damage by Howard Linskey

Published by No Exit Press

Unknown‘There’s a thought that keeps me awake at night; I have to be lucky every time, they only have to get lucky once.’


David Blake is a worried man. He should be enjoying the high life now he’s Newcastle’s ‘Top Boy’, the man who controls everything in the city that’s worth controlling. He lives in exiled luxury, while his brother Danny and trusted right-hand men, Palmer and Kinane, take care of business and make sure no one steps out of line. The money keeps on rolling in and Blake is sharing his life with the girl that he loves, Sarah Mahoney. Shame he had to murder her father to save his own skin but at least she doesn’t know anything about that.
Blake never wanted to be boss but who else is savvy enough to deal with all of the firm s problems; like Braddock, the rogue drug dealer, who s keeping too much of the take, and The Turk , Blake s new source of product who s taken a million Euros down-payment on a shipment that never arrives. Newly-crowned Glasgow crime lord, Alan Gladwell, wants to do business with the firm and the deal makes sense but can Blake really trust the man whose brother he brutally murdered. Then there is his obsession with the beautiful but troubled Simone, who chooses to work in one of the firm’s massage parlours when she is so much better than that.
When one of his men takes two bullets in the back and someone tries to kill him, Blake struggles to stay in control.
From the heroin-laced high rises of Newcastle to the seedy back streets of Bangkok, in a world of contract killers, corrupt politicians, bent detectives, coke snorting footballers, fixers, hookers and pimps, Blake is in a race against time to find his potential assassin and discover the truth in ‘The Damage’.

I’ve met Howard Linskey and am very glad to report that he’s a very nice chap indeed. I say this with more than a slight sigh of relief as, if that had not been the case, then I could quite easily be currently in hiding, fearing that he might have some ‘friends’ who might just pay me a visit for the fact it’s taken me so long to get round to reading ‘.The Damage’.

I read a majority of the novel yesterday, which I should now refer to as ‘The Long Good Saturday’ for its masterful take on the criminal underworld which manages to successfully make the reader at times love and hate its characters in equal measure in much the same way as we once felt sympathy for the villains in a certain classic Bob Hoskins’ movie. A thoroughly enjoyable ride through the dark streets of Newcastle and much further afield, ‘The Damage’ does exactly what it says on the tin and if that striking jacket image that looks torn from the movie ‘Sin City’ doesn’t already convince you, trust me you are in for some tough gangster action throughout.

Now, if I can just work out how to get these shackles off, then I’ll be out of this deserted warehouse – nice of Linskey to leave me some water and chocolate though !

Keith

 

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Stalkers by Paul Finch

Published by Avon

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Time’s up. You’re Next.

“All he had to do was name the woman he wanted. It was that easy. They would do all the hard work.”

Detective Sergeant Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenberg is investigating the disappearance of 38 different women. Each one was happy and successful until they vanished without a trace.

Desperate to find her missing sister, Lauren Wraxford seeks out Heck’s help. Together they enter a seedy underworld of gangsters and organised crime.

But when they hear rumours about the so-called ‘Nice Guys Club’ they hit a brick wall. They’re the gang that no one will talk about. Because the Nice Guys can arrange anything you want.

Provided you pay the price…

From the keyboard of former cop and journalist, Paul Finch, a writer who started out writing episodes of The Bill, comes Stalkers, and the terrifying premise it holds within its pages!

In a time where the daily news events seem to worryingly wash over us, regardless of just how grim some true life horrors seem to be, Finch has still managed, in a similar vein to authors like Stuart MacBride, to come up with something that really is a  tough at times but, nevertheless, very rewarding read.

The opening sequences are the very thing of great horror movies, with bluff after double-bluff of the reader knowing something bad is about to happen to a character, but managing to keep those pages turning as with each stage of the journey we are given short and merciful release before its back into the darkness and the worrying and the tension being racked up more notches. Stalkers is a novel that has come as a clear result of Finch’s background, interests and experience – the having been a cop, coupled with being a writer of horror fiction and movie scripts has certainly congealed in such a way as to create a great and sinister premise with a new DS on the block, in Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenberg, for crime lovers to follow.

Unknown-1But there’s a skill in Stalkers too, and one I find sadly lacking in a lot of crime novels that might tread similar stories. Finch seems to know when best to take his foot off the accelerator when it comes to some scenes. I won’t spoil things here, but suffice to say that at a fairly early point in the novel at the close of a chapter I nearly put the book down and didn’t pick it up again as I felt I’d read beyond my comfort zone. But I continued to the next page, then flicked back, and it was only then that I realised that what the author had managed was to make me think that what I’d read was far worse, far more detailed than it was. In fact, he’d pretty much closed a door on a scene that was about to unfold, but had given enough information to leave me no doubt in my mind as to what was about to happen without actually writing it. In a way, I guess that again harks back to the best moments in horror movies, where the audience is convinced they saw more blood, more horror on the screen, whereas actually it was the skill of the director to put the germ of the ideas in the viewers heads – and that, as it was for me in Stalkers, is sometimes so much more powerful than pages and pages of gore.

With the cases of nearly forty missing women on his mind, ‘Heck’ clearly has his work cut out from the get-go, but his uninvited side-kick in the form of feisty Lauren Wraxford proves a very useful and dedicated ally as he works with, and then behind the law, in his investigations.

Finch has created a very likeable central character, but shows his skill as a storyteller through all the other players in the story as well – the fact that someone who signs up for what the ‘Nice Guys Club’ are offering and then constantly loses his lunch just thinking about what it has led to him becoming illustrates that the author is thinking around his characters and they are very much more rounded than just names on a page.

Stalkers is a very dark premise and read but, as a result and of the fast paced narrative, it’ll have you by the throat until you get to the end.

I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Heck when the second book in the series ‘Sacrifice’ is released.

Keith 

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