crime fiction

All posts tagged crime fiction

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.

Advertisements

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – The Murders In The Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe from the collection The Best Short Stories Of Edgar Allan Poe.

Published September 6, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s The Murders In The Rue Morgue all about?:

C. Auguste Dupin is a man in Paris who solves the mysterious brutal murder of two women. Numerous witnesses heard a suspect, though no one agrees on what language was spoken. At the murder scene, Dupin finds a hair that does not appear to be human.

What did I think?:

I approached this short story with slight trepidation – I’m afraid I didn’t have a brilliant experience with the first story in this collection, The Gold-Bug and I have actually read The Murders In The Rue Morgue before, many years ago and don’t have particularly fond memories of it either. On reading it for the second time I’ve found that I can appreciate some aspects of Poe’s writing and I can agree that the entire mystery behind the murders and unmasking of the murderer is intriguing enough but I can’t seem to get past some parts of the narrative which really annoy me. I find it far too detailed (and hence, dull) for my liking and think in some instances, certain parts of it are wholly unnecessary.

The story involves two men – Dupin and his unnamed friend whom in the main part of the story, are investigating two brutal murders that happened on the Rue Morgue in Paris and are completely foxing the authorities. The two women killed are mother and daughter and there appears to be no apparent motive for the crime. In fact, 4000 francs of the women’s money has been left behind in the room where they were killed so robbery is highly unlikely. There are a few other strange occurrences in this investigation – namely the sheer violence that the perpetrator used to commit the crime. The daughter’s body appears to have been throttled to death and then pushed up a chimney with immense force and the mother’s body has been viciously mutilated and practically decapitated. The Paris police are stumped and although they have arrested a man in connection with the murders, Dupin proves them wrong when a curious clump of hair is found in the hands of Madame L’Espanaye’s corpse.

I’ll start with the negative aspects of this story because I was pleased to discover on my second reading that there were some positive points to be taken! First of all, at the beginning of the story, our narrator goes on and on about the analytical mind and describes a walk he takes with his friend Dupin which surprises him when Dupin manages to figure out exactly what he has been thinking. Although this might set up the story and describe how Dupin unravels the mystery of the Rue Morgue murders I really did think it was unnecessary and rather tedious. If it hadn’t been for knowing how the story was going to pan out having read it years ago, this may have been the point where I gave up and just put the book down. However, the plot does get a lot better when Dupin takes us through what happened the night of the murders and then eventually, the identity of the true murderer which is a bit unique to say the least! Again, I did find things were analysed in much more detail than was necessary….is an entire page about a nail really that important to the plot for example? However, I am giving it a higher rating than I might normally purely because I found the mystery incredibly interesting in itself (although I have to say, it’s no Sherlock Holmes!) and Poe certainly doesn’t shy away from the more grisly components of a story.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

NEXT SHORT STORY: Little Radish by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories.

 

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):

imagesCAF9JG4S

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

 

Did You See Melody? – Sophie Hannah

Published August 25, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Pushed to the breaking point, Cara Burrows abandons her home and family and escapes to a five-star spa resort she can’t afford. Late at night, exhausted and desperate, she lets herself into her hotel room and is shocked to find it already occupied – by a man and a teenage girl.

A simple mistake on the part of the hotel receptionist – but Cara’s fear intensifies when she works out that the girl she saw alive and well in the hotel room is someone she can’t possibly have seen: the most famous murder victim in the country, Melody Chapa, whose parents are serving life sentences for her murder.

Cara doesn’t know what to trust: everything she’s read and heard about the case, or the evidence of her own eyes. Did she really see Melody? And is she prepared to ask herself that question and answer it honestly if it means risking her own life?

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to the lovely people at Hodder & Stoughton publishers for sending me a copy of Sophie Hannah’s latest stand-alone work of crime fiction in exchange for an honest review. I have to admit, I have tried Sophie Hannah’s very early novels a long time ago and whilst I enjoyed them I haven’t felt compelled to keep up with what she’s writing. Until now. Now I’m just thinking perhaps I wasn’t in the mood when I last read a novel by her because it’s as clear as day that she writes such a compelling and fascinating narrative which it’s hard to find any fault with. It’s actually made me more determined to go search out her previous novels and catch up on a great author’s work that I’ve obviously been missing out on.

I understand that Sophie Hannah has published a number of novels as part of a series (Waterhouse and Zailer) but Did You See Melody is a stand-alone story whose synopsis instantly appealed to me (as well as the fact that I’m a bit of a stickler for reading things in order, even when it doesn’t really matter!). Our main character is Cara Burrows who travels to Arizona from England after having some family problems and checks into an exclusive spa for rest, relaxation and to get her head together and figure out what she’s going to do next. While she is there, she is mistakenly checked into a room that already has occupants – a middle-aged man and what seems to be his teenage daughter.

Next, Cara finds out about an old case involving a young girl called Melody Chapa, who was thought to have been murdered by her parents, currently serving a sentence in prison as a result. Before long, Cara realises that the girl she saw in the room could actually be Melody and, if this is the case, why exactly do people think that she is dead? Why is there so much secrecy if she is in fact alive and well? Why are her parents serving time? Furthermore, there seems to be a dangerous plot afoot that could threaten the well-being of anyone who admits to having seen Melody and Cara suddenly finds herself in very real and terrible danger.

This novel had me hooked almost instantly. Cara has her own little back story about why she comes to Arizona and what exactly she is fleeing back home and of course, I was insanely curious to find about her life and what has gone so horrifically wrong for her that she has to leave her husband and two children behind without any warning. Then there is Melody and all the mystery surrounding her situation. Desperate to understand what was going on, I couldn’t help but frantically turn the pages (and probably made it through the novel in record time as a result!). I’m also delighted that although I kind of guessed the perpetrators of the crime, I definitely didn’t envisage all the mini twists and turns that encompassed such a fascinating and exciting story. I’m so glad I gave this novel and Sophie Hannah another go, her back catalogue is now one hundred percent on my radar and I can’t wait to get started!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Last Seen Alive – Claire Douglas

Published August 16, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The Hero

Libby Hall never really wanted to be noticed. But after she saves the children in her care from a fire, she finds herself headline news. And horrified by the attention. It all reminds her of what happened nine years ago. The last time she saw her best friend alive.

The Swap

Which is why the house swap is such a godsend. Libby and her husband Jamie exchange their flat in Bath for a beautiful, secluded house in Cornwall. It’s a chance to heal their marriage – to stop its secrets tearing them apart.

The Hideaway

But this stylish Cornish home isn’t the getaway they’d hoped for. They make odd, even disturbing, discoveries in the house. It’s so isolated-yet Libby doesn’t feel entirely alone. As if she’s being watched.

Is Libby being paranoid? What is her husband hiding? And. As the secrets and lies come tumbling out, is the past about to catch up with them?

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Sarah Harwood and the team at Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of this wonderful novel in return for an honest review after I had seen some glowing opinions of it on Twitter. Well, I am so glad I asked because Last Seen Alive was everything I could want from a thriller. Intrigue, shocks galore, an action-packed plot combined with fascinating characters made this novel such a delight to read. So much so in fact that as soon as I had finished, I immediately went and purchased the author’s previous two novels, The Sisters and Local Girl Missing – both of which I had seen around and been interested but hadn’t got round to getting yet. Rest assured I shall be making time for them as soon as is practically possible!

There are a number of different threads to this plot (which was one of the reasons why I loved it so much) but let me give you the main gist of the story. Libby Hall and her husband, Jamie have recently undergone a terrible loss in their lives but are determined not to let it affect or change their relationship in any way. When they are given an opportunity to do a house swap for a few days, giving up their flat in Bath and taking over another couple’s house in Cornwall, they jump at the chance. The house is stunning, the location picturesque and the couple seem to be finally putting their tragedy behind them. However, someone connected to the couple has other ideas. For Libby has huge secrets in her past, things Jamie is completely unaware of and if a certain person has their way and the past is revealed in its full horrific detail they just might not survive it with their marriage intact.

I was seriously not expecting how much I was going to enjoy this novel. At the beginning, I was curious for sure and definitely compelled to keep reading but it is only with the addition of more perspectives and a journey into the past that provide the real twists and turns in the narrative. I’m hesitant to say any more, you really have to read it for yourself to experience the excitement, chills and at times pure confusion which was the effect this novel had on me as a reader. I was actually reading this book on a bookish holiday to Oxford with my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads and she kept laughing at me as at points when I was reading, I kept making little noises and gasps – I was that invested in the story and the characters. Please believe me when I say that the word “cliffhanger,” is not even big enough or accurate enough to describe the immense thrills I had when reaching the end of certain chapters. Personally, I now just want to eat up everything Claire Douglas has written and will write in the future.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

The Wages Of Sin – Kaite Welsh

Published August 14, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Sarah Gilchrist has fled London and a troubled past to join the University of Edinburgh’s medical school in 1882, the first year it admits women. She is determined to become a doctor despite the misgivings of her family and society, but Sarah quickly finds plenty of barriers at school itself: professors who refuse to teach their new pupils, male students determined to force out their female counterparts, and—perhaps worst of all—her female peers who will do anything to avoid being associated with a fallen woman.

Desperate for a proper education, Sarah turns to one of the city’s ramshackle charitable hospitals for additional training. The St Giles’ Infirmary for Women ministers to the downtrodden and drunk, the thieves and whores with nowhere else to go. In this environment, alongside a group of smart and tough teachers, Sarah gets quite an education. But when Lucy, one of Sarah’s patients, turns up in the university dissecting room as a battered corpse, Sarah finds herself drawn into a murky underworld of bribery, brothels, and body snatchers.

Painfully aware of just how little separates her own life from that of her former patient’s, Sarah is determined to find out what happened to Lucy and bring those responsible for her death to justice. But as she searches for answers in Edinburgh’s dank alleyways, bawdy houses and fight clubs, Sarah comes closer and closer to uncovering one of Edinburgh’s most lucrative trades, and, in doing so, puts her own life at risk…

An irresistible read with a fantastic heroine, beautifully drawn setting, fascinating insights into what it was like to study medicine as a woman at that time, The Wages of Sin is a stunning debut that heralds a striking new voice in historical fiction.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Tinder Press for approving my request on NetGalley to read this extraordinary novel in exchange for an honest review. I saw Wages of Sin initially on Twitter and it ticked all the boxes for me as a reader. It’s a work of historical fiction (tick), set in Edinburgh (tick) in the Victorian era (tick) that involves a strong female lead character (tick) dealing with a mysterious murder (tick). With so much going for it, there is always the anticipation that it might not be as great as it sounds but luckily I had no worries at all on that account. This book was a fantastic and thrilling debut novel and a truly fascinating look into women in science at a time when it was slightly frowned upon in an arrogantly patriarchal society.

Our main character is Sarah Gilchrist, a highly intelligent woman who dreams of being a doctor but has to leave London after a scandal threatens her standing in the world. She becomes a medical student in Edinburgh and has to struggle on a daily basis with not only the derision of the male students but also the attitudes of her fellow women scholars who become suspicious of her past. Sarah works her fingers to the bone – studying, completing practical and written assessments for her training and then (if that wasn’t hard work enough) assisting a friend at her medical clinic, helping the poor, needy and often “women of ill repute.”

This is where she comes across Lucy, a prostitute who comes in begging for help with an unwanted pregnancy, of course completely illegal in these times. She is turned away only to turn up dead on the anatomy table the next time Sarah sees her. Sarah feels devastated at what has happened but also determined to unearth the secrets of her death, especially when she suspects foul play and discovers tenuous links between Lucy and a professor at the medical school. However, she is treading on very dangerous grounds as some people may desire the secrets that died with Lucy to remain buried and may not necessarily welcome Sarah’s interference.

The Wages Of Sin was an exciting, roller-coaster ride of a novel that had me hooked from page one. Kaite Welsh writes with such a canny eye for detail that you can sense everything in the narrative – the smells, the sounds, the sights and it is brilliantly gritty and difficult to put down once started. Sarah was a fantastic character who was flawed but inherently such a good person and I loved her dogged determination in getting at the truth behind an obviously grisly murder. One of my favourite things about this novel though had to be learning about what female medical students had to suffer when studying to become doctors. They went through abominable treatment being mocked on a daily basis for their choice of career and the lack of confidence in what they could achieve was quite honestly, disgusting. Thank goodness times have changed! For a debut novel, this is an amazing piece of work and so beautifully written. I thoroughly enjoyed every page and cannot wait to see what Kaite Welsh does next.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0