Crime

All posts in the Crime category

The House – Simon Lelic

Published November 4, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

What if your perfect home turned out to be the scene of the perfect crime?

Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.

So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake.

Because someone has just been murdered. Right outside their back door.

And now the police are watching them…

What did I think?:

I remember reading one other novel from Simon Lelic in my pre-blogging days which was called Rupture or alternatively A Thousand Cuts and really enjoyed it, giving it four stars on GoodReads so goodness knows why it’s taken me so long to get round to another one of his books! I borrowed The House from my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads after a bookish trip to Bath when she was reading it and she had so many different facial expressions and reactions whilst she was reading that I was instantly intrigued and begged to borrow it from her. The House has everything you would want from a gritty thriller – unreliable narrators, suspense, mystery, twists and turns and a gripping plot that makes it pretty much impossible to put the book down.

One of my favourite things about this novel is the way in which it is initially written. We hear in alternate chapters from a couple, Jack and Sydney as they recount recent events in their lives that began with them buying a house in London and ended with a murder and the suspicion of the police landing firmly on their doorstep. We learn a little bit about their past lives, in particular Sydney’s traumatic childhood which led to her abusing drugs and unable to trust anyone until she meets the love of her life, Jack. We also learn how they came to buy the house in London, their concerns and misgivings about the process and, crucially, the gruesome discovery that they find when they begin living there which precipitates a host of other events leading to the turbulent situation that the couple find themselves in at the present moment.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot as the beauty of this novel is to go in knowing as little as possible to make the surprises the author springs upon the reader as deliciously astonishing as possible. Luckily, Chrissi didn’t tell me anything (she’s good like that!) but as soon as I saw some of her facial expressions, as I mentioned, I knew I was in for quite the ride and I was right. Simon Lelic writes a fascinating tale where you have no idea what on earth is happening, who to trust/believe and what the possible outcome of such a situation could be and he had me on tenterhooks from the very beginning to the very satisfying conclusion. For me, Sydney felt slightly more fleshed out as a character and I found her back story to be incredibly powerful and moving, especially one scene in particular involving a male character in her life and a gun which sent shivers down my spine. Reading The House has made me definitely want to seek out the author’s other two novels and additionally, makes me hugely excited for anything else he publishes in the future.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

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Kill The Father – Sandrone Dazieri

Published October 29, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

‘The rock cast a sharp, dark shadow over a shape huddled on the ground. Please don’t let it be the boy, Colomba thought. Her silent prayer didn’t go unanswered. The corpse belonged to the mother.’

THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN STOP HIM IS THE ONE WHO GOT AWAY…

Dante Torre spent eleven young years in captivity – held by a man known only as The Father – before outwitting his abductor. Now working for the police force, Torre’s methods are unorthodox but his brilliance is clear. When a young child goes missing in similar circumstances in Rome, Torre must confront the demons of his past to attempt to solve the case.

Paired with Deputy Captain Colomba Caselli, a fierce, warrior-like detective still reeling from having survived a bloody catastrophe, all evidence suggests The Father is active after being dormant for decades, and that he’s looking forward to a reunion with Dante…

What did I think?:

Kill The Father was translated from the original Italian by Antony Shugaar and is the first in a crime series involving a female detective called Colomba Caselli. It was chosen by TV personalities Richard and Judy as part of their Autumn book club here in the UK and is quite a hefty tome compared to other pieces of crime fiction, weighing in at just over 500 pages. I love that Richard and Judy are including a lot more thrillers on their recommended reads recently and usually, I highly enjoy all their choices in this genre. Kill The Father has had some terrific reviews on GoodReads with an average rating of 4.12 which, as I’m sure you know is high praise indeed. So, here comes unpopular opinion time – I really didn’t enjoy it as much as other people seem to have done. There’s so much to appreciate about it (which I’ll go into later) but for some reason, everything just felt a bit too frantic and overly convoluted for me which didn’t make it a particularly enjoyable reading experience.

Our female protagonist is Deputy Captain Colomba Caselli, officially on leave from her work with the police after an incident where she barely escaped with her life. She is vulnerable, damaged but determined and is soon pulled (unofficially) into a new case where a mother has been decapitated and her son has disappeared. The husband is charged for his wife’s murder and questioned over his little boy’s whereabouts but it is not until Colomba starts to investigate further and finds strange parallels with an abduction case twenty-five years previously. The victim in this case, Dante Torre is also psychologically scarred from the years he spent in captivity but as soon as he learns that The Father may once again be active and abducting children, he works tirelessly alongside Colomba, both using their individual specialist knowledge and personal experiences to bring the perpetrator to justice.

There are so many positive things to take away from this book and that’s why I’m wondering if it’s simply a case of wrong person reading it, not necessarily bad book. The characters are magnificent, especially our female lead who is just the right mixture of flawed and fragile but beautifully committed and hell-bent on getting the right result. However, I may have had to suspend my disbelief slightly too much on whether Dante as a civilian would be allowed that much access to a case such as this, especially as he was directly involved with the perp and considering how psychologically damaged he was from both his past traumatic experience and his daily struggles as he works on the case in the present time. I mean, would you really put someone through hell with the constant risk of coming face to face once more with a person who stole eleven years of your life? I mean, really?

If you can get over this however, the thrills don’t stop coming. This is an incredibly fast-paced book where the action doesn’t seem to let up, not even for a second and I have to admit at points I did find myself gripped, wanting to know what would happen next. Then there’s the other points where it all just seems a bit too crazy and chaotic, too much of a whirlwind of information and plot twists and endless questions to the point where it left me feeling quite exhausted just trying to keep up with it all. I have to say again with the suspension of disbelief, I couldn’t quite bring myself to believe the reasons behind why The Father was doing what he was doing. Don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of mystery and a juicy motive to get my teeth into but it has to be credible and I have to think: “Yes, that could happen.” Unfortunately, there was too much to try and understand and the validity of the story just didn’t ring true for me personally speaking. However, I can’t fault the brilliance of the characterisation and the general pacing of the novel which was excellent.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – A Place For Violence by Kevin Wignall from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Published October 28, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s A Place For Violence all about?:

A Place For Violence follows our male protagonist on an apparent holiday in Bali but the reasons why he is there are a lot deeper than we are first led to believe.

What did I think?:

The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime has been a really interesting reading experience as part of my Short Stories Challenge. Generally, I love a collection that hosts so many different authors, many of whom I had never heard of before and it has been fascinating sampling the variety of their writing styles. Of course, as with most collections that involve such an array of authors there are going to be some stories you don’t get on as well with but so far, I’ve always looked forward to the next story in the collection. Kevin Wignall was another author that I hadn’t come across previously and it was a pleasure to experience his work for the first time. The only problem with talking about this story, A Place For Violence is that I really can’t say too much about it as to do that would give far too much away!

What can I say? Our protagonist, Dan Borowski is on a break in Bali but from the very beginning of the story, the reader senses that he might either have a big secret he isn’t telling us or that he is on the holiday for reasons other than rest and relaxation. He comes into contact with a young man called Luke Williams who is wheelchair bound following a horrific accident where he was hit by a car driven by an erratic and selfish man that has never been charged for his offence. Dan and Luke also come into contact with another resident of the hotel that they are staying in, Brian Tully – a despicable bully of a man on holiday with his cowed wife and two children and determined to make as much fuss and as much of a nuisance of himself as possible.

A Place For Violence is shorter than your average short story and it isn’t long before things kick off, tempers ignite, justice is served and revenge is sweet. But you may have guessed from the title and the fact that this is crime fiction, that this wasn’t necessarily going to be the happiest or most joyful of tales! Overall, I did enjoy this, I think Kevin Wignall has written a story that does everything it says on the tin. It has interesting characters that you are either rooting for or loving to hate, and an eye popper of an ending that makes you wonder what would happen next if the author had chosen to write on. It also cleverly dulls the lines between essentially what makes a man “good,” and what makes a man “bad,” and, I have to admit, tested my morals slightly as I struggled with my feelings towards certain characters. I’d definitely be interested to read more of this author’s work in the future.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: Best New Horror by Joe Hill from the collection 20th Century Ghosts.

 

Western Fringes – Amer Anwar

Published October 1, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

THE HARD-EDGED DEBUT THRILLER SET IN THE HEART OF WEST LONDON’S ASIAN COMMUNITY

A SIKH GIRL ON THE RUN. A MUSLIM EX-CON WHO HAS TO FIND HER. A WHOLE HEAP OF TROUBLE.
Southall, West London.
Recently released from prison, Zaq Khan is lucky to land a dead-end job at a builders’ yard. All he wants to do is keep his head down and put his past behind him.
But when he has to search for his boss’s runaway daughter it quickly becomes apparent he’s not simply dealing with family arguments and arranged marriages as he finds himself caught up in a deadly web of deception, murder and revenge.
With time running out and pressure mounting, can he find the missing girl before it’s too late? And if he does, can he keep her – and himself – alive long enough to deal with the people who want them both dead?

If you like gritty action, sharp dialogue and pacy plotting, then you’ll love this award winning action thriller from Amer Anwar.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to the author Amer Anwar for providing me with a copy of his hard-hitting, award winning debut thriller in return for an honest review. When he reached out to me by email with a teasing glimpse of the synopsis I was instantly intrigued and knew it was a novel I had to get on board with. I have to admit it took me a little while to get into the story but there was a certain point in the narrative when the action ramped up extraordinarily and from then, I found myself hooked and completely invested in the novel until the end.

Our protagonist for the story is Zaq who has recently got out of prison with a fearsome reputation and is working a menial job for his boss, Mr Brar at a building supplies company. However, his life is about to change forever when Mr Brar calls him into his office one day (accompanied by his brutal sons, the “heavies,” Rajinder and Parminder). Mr Brar is a Sikh and his only daughter, Rita appears to have run off with a Muslim man, bringing shame and embarrassment on the family. He wants Zaq to find his daughter again with the least fuss and hullabaloo possible and threatens him with a return to prison if he does not co-operate. With the help of his loyal friend Jags, Zaq is instantly pulled into a murky criminal world of deception, extortion, violence and murder that puts him in an incredibly dangerous situation that could have deadly consequences for him, anyone that helps him and threaten the life of the woman he is working so hard to protect.

Western Fringes won the CWA Debut Dagger award and it’s easy to see why. The author focuses on the Asian community of Southall, West London and the vibrancy of their culture, tradition, religions and beliefs is portrayed beautifully. Of course, it’s crime fiction and this novel has a bitter and quite frightening dark side. In fact, I wasn’t in any way prepared for how dark the author was going to take it and although parts of the story were graphic and extremely horrific to read, I couldn’t help but be captivated by the plot and was at all times, compelled to see it through to the final pages. After a bit of a slow start, this novel became an easy page-turner for me although I did feel terribly sorry for the character of Zaq whom the author constantly subjected to a never-ending circle of violence and brutality! I approached this novel anticipating something a bit different and hoping to learn a few things about Asian culture/traditions and Western Fringes fulfilled all these things for me, personally speaking. Amer Anwar has a clear, obvious talent for writing an exciting, gritty plot and I look forward to seeing what he’s going to do in the future.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Go Deep by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Published September 13, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Go Deep all about?:

A hallucinatory noir short story from the No.1 bestselling author of the Will Trent novels. (‘Go Deep’ is also available as part of a bundle with ‘Remmy Rothstein Toes the Line’ and ‘Necessary Women’)

Growing up dirt poor, Charlie Lam worked his ass off to make something of himself, no thanks to his deadbeat father or his long-suffering mother. And now a lot of people depend on Charlie: by his last count, sixty-eight employees at his Atlanta auto dealership, eleven shiftless brothers and sisters, an ungrateful wife, a spoiled daughter, a shameless girlfriend. Who could really blame him for wanting a little extra?

The arrangement is simple: Charlie picks up a suit from the dry cleaner’s. In the suit pocket is the name of a very important man. The next day, that man walks into the dealership, drives out in a new car, and Charlie gets a fat envelope full of cash. Everyone’s happy. No one gets hurt. So long as Charlie doesn’t cross his business partner. But with one twist of a knife, the unthinkable happens. And suddenly Charlie is in deeper trouble than he could have possibly imagined.

What did I think?:

Just when I thought Karin Slaughter couldn’t get any more warped and twisted, Go Deep comes along. Ahem, well…I think the name of the novella speaks for itself doesn’t it? Do I really have to go into full, gory detail? I’ll try and keep it relatively clean. Being one of my all time favourite authors, I have high expectations when I come to read Karin’s work, whether it is a novella or one of her full length novels and am rarely disappointed. So why am I still processing how I feel about this particular story? It’s not that it wasn’t compelling, it certainly was and the author definitely has the gift of the shock factor and making you feel slightly uncomfortable but for some reason, I just can’t rate it as high as I have her previous novellas. It wasn’t that it was sexually explicit, it wasn’t the characters – I can’t explain it, something just felt a bit too strange for me personally and I usually love a story with a bit of an edge.

Our protagonist is a middle-aged man called Charlie Lam who hasn’t had the best start in life with a troubled family originating from a very impoverished background. He has managed to change his life around and now owns a successful car company and looks after all his siblings (even though they try to take advantage of him emotionally and financially on a number of occasions). You’d think a character like this sounds all kinds of lovely, right? Wrong. Charlie is a bit of a wrong ‘un. He associates with mob bosses, does dodgy deals and worse of all is a disgusting misogynistic pig. He has both a wife, daughter and girlfriend all of whom he treats with equal derision and takes pleasure in embarrassing women he meets through work on a daily basis. However, when Charlie has a run in (quite literally, using his car) with a homeless man, his life is turned upside down and he may never be the same man again.

Ugh, Charlie as a character really was hideous. I did love to hate him at points and Karin Slaughter did a marvellous job of creating such an unlikeable, despicable individual. Yet (as with many of the authors works) there are multiple twists in the tale that you will not see coming and by the end, you might even end up sympathising with Charlie as he ends up in quite a horrific situation. I can only applaud the author for making me feel this way, seriously, I really did hate this guy at the beginning of the novella! There are strange, almost mystical things going on that give Charlie a taste of his own medicine and whilst you may think that he deserves it, the situations he is placed in are pretty brutal and quite graphic – again, perhaps not one for the easily offended. Once again, she does pull a blinder of an ending and despite my misgivings about the story in general, I have to admit to being desperate to know what would happen next. Hmm, maybe I did enjoy this novella more than I let on?!

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: The House On The Hill by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales.

Wolf Winter – Cecilia Ekbäck

Published September 3, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A brilliantly written and gripping historical Nordic Noir thriller with all the intrigue and atmosphere of Burial Rites, the pent-up passion of The Piano and the suspense of The Tenderness of Wolves.

There are six homesteads on Blackasen Mountain.

A day’s journey away lies the empty town. It comes to life just once, in winter, when the Church summons her people through the snows. Then, even the oldest enemies will gather.

But now it is summer, and new settlers are come.

It is their two young daughters who find the dead man, not half an hour’s walk from their cottage.

The father is away. And whether stubborn, or stupid, or scared for her girls, the mother will not let it rest.

To the wife who is not concerned when her husband does not come home for three days; to the man who laughs when he hears his brother is dead; to the priest who doesn’t care; she asks and asks her questions, digging at the secrets of the mountain.

They say a wolf made those wounds. But what wild animal cuts a body so clean?

What did I think?:

There were so many things that immediately appealed to me when I first found this book and was determined to have a hard copy for my shelves. For example, the cover is incredibly simple yet very effective and I find it quite striking and eerie – a perfect accompaniment to the story within. Secondly, the synopsis for the novel really pulled me in and made it one of those books that I instantly had to bump to the top of my teetering TBR. In the end, I really enjoyed this debut novel from Cecilia Ekbäck, it is filled with suspense, is dramatic and atmospheric and has a sort of quiet dread or menace throughout the narrative that constantly thrilled and delighted me as I made my way through the story.

Our main character is Maija who comes to settle on the foreboding Blackåsen Mountain with her husband Paavo and her two daughters, Frederika and Dorotea. In the harsh climate of Swedish Lapland in 1717, each day surviving, foraging for food and maintaining their shelter in the harshest of conditions is a bonus and there is no room for idleness or hesitation when navigating through the ice, wind and snow. There are only five other homes on the mountain, the neighbours tend to keep to themselves and it is rare to see another person out and about on the land that isn’t your own family. When Frederika makes the shocking discovery of the body of Eriksson, one of their neighbours whilst herding goats one day, her whole world is turned upside down. The attack is put down to wolves but Maija is certain that no wolf on earth could have made the marks that present themselves on Eriksson’s body. Furthermore, when she tries to voice her worries she meets a wall of silence, not only from the other surrounding neighbours but from the authorities in the village down from the mountain. Someone out there is determined that secrets should stay buried and this may not bode well for Maija if she carries on fighting in pursuit of justice.

This is such a beautiful piece of Scandinavian fiction that I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved the historical setting and the mystery behind Eriksson’s death but what I loved most of all was the lyrical writing and the entire atmosphere of the novel which was set up so gorgeously I could almost feel the ice cold temperatures and the bitter wind as I was reading. Strong female characters are always an added benefit to a narrative and Cecilia Ekbäck treats us to two in the form of Maija and her daughter Frederika who were wonderfully persistent and brave and in Frederika’s case, wise beyond her years. I was also overjoyed by the superstitious elements that characterised parts of this novel which only served to make the setting bleaker, darker and infinitely more intriguing. It has an intricate plot, plenty of surprises along the way and is written so gorgeously that I could see myself reading it over and over again. I’ll certainly be watching out (with gleeful anticipation) for what this author does next.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Talking About Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land with Chrissi Reads

Published September 2, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Milly’s mother is a serial killer. Though Milly loves her mother, the only way to make her stop is to turn her in to the police. Milly is given a fresh start: a new identity, a home with an affluent foster family, and a spot at an exclusive private school.

But Milly has secrets, and life at her new home becomes complicated. As her mother’s trial looms, with Milly as the star witness, Milly starts to wonder how much of her is nature, how much of her is nurture, and whether she is doomed to turn out like her mother after all.

When tensions rise and Milly feels trapped by her shiny new life, she has to decide: Will she be good? Or is she bad? She is, after all, her mother’s daughter.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: I started this book a bit before you and told you how disturbing it was. Did you agree with my initial impression? What were your first impressions?

BETH: It was quite funny in a way. You started reading it and then texted me just two words – “Woah dude.” Then I got to the exact same point in the book that you did and texted you exactly the same thing! I know we usually hate comparisons and like that a book should stand on its own but as you said to me, this was one of the most disturbing things I’ve read since Gone Girl, I think. Obviously I don’t want to go into too many details for fear of spoilers but this novel is a lot darker, a lot twistier and more warped than I could have ever expected. You would think I might be expecting this if you read the synopsis? No, I wasn’t prepared for how “wrong,” it was going to get.

BETH: What did you think of the character of Phoebe? Could you sympathise with her at all?

CHRISSI: It’s an interesting question as Phoebe is such a complex character. I felt sorry for her because her home life was pretty horrific. Her mother didn’t have a great bond with her and she was feeling left out when Milly was getting a lot of attention from Phoebe’s parents. That can’t be nice. Especially when Phoebe’s mum gave Milly a gift that Phoebe thought was a precious thing between Phoebe and her mother. However, I didn’t feel comfortable with the bullying that Phoebe and her friends were inflicting upon Milly. Bullying should never be excused in my eyes!

CHRISSI: Ali Land is a Child and Adolescent Mental Health nurse – how do you think this affects the way she has written this novel?

BETH: I think it’s given her a perfect insight into mental illness in children, to be honest. She’s probably seen and experienced some things in her career and understands how a child may view a certain situation, what they might do and what kinds of emotions they might be experiencing as a result. Because of this, the novel came across as very authentic to me and as I mentioned before, I certainly wasn’t prepared for the directions the author took with the story.

BETH: Milly has to give evidence in a court in front of her mother – how do you think this was handled in the novel?

CHRISSI: I thought this was dealt with really well in the novel. Milly wanted to be there in court and this wasn’t disregarded because it was too tough for her. The adults around Milly seemed to listen to her. I also enjoyed how the court scenes were written. I loved how Milly’s mother’s presence was so strong in the novel. It was almost creepy. She felt like an incredibly evil character (what she did was awful!) and her little movements mentioned in the court scene made my skin crawl. I loved how the author made us feel her presence in court (despite Milly not physically seeing her) and how much Milly was aware of it.

CHRISSI: What does this story tell us about the question of nature vs nurture?

BETH: As a scientist (by day!) I probably could have a very scientific answer for you… 😝 but to be honest, I think the book explores both aspects. Is it the genes within us that programme us to be what we are and how we react to certain situations? Or is it the environment outside i.e. how we are brought up, who we interact with that determines our behaviour and actions. If I’m fair, poor Milly didn’t have much of a choice either way considering she was brought up with a serial killer for a mother. It’s how she responds when taken out of that situation however that gets very interesting.

BETH: How would you describe the relationship between Milly and her mother?

CHRISSI: In two words… incredibly unhealthy! I felt like Milly constantly struggled with the feelings towards her mother. It says it all really in the title ‘Good Me, Bad Me.’ Milly was so aware of what was right and wrong. She knew what her mother had done was wrong, yet she still felt a strong pull towards her, despite all of the awful things that had happened to her. Milly really was messed up by her mother and understandably so. Their relationship was toxic. Milly’s mother ‘training’ her daughter for such awful things…

CHRISSI: How does this book compare to others in its heavily populated genre?

BETH: I was a huge fan of this book. I think it stands heads and shoulders above quite a few books in the genre. I don’t know if it’s the writing style, the subject matter or the fact that the author isn’t afraid to go to incredibly dark places but I loved what she did with the story and even though it made me feel intensely uncomfortable and disgusted it was an unforgettable reading experience.

BETH: Would you read another novel by this author?

CHRISSI: I really would! This is such a promising debut novel. I loved how Ali Land didn’t shy away from such an uncomfortable topic.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Without a doubt!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

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CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S