crime fiction

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Blog Tour – Fallen Angel by Chris Brookmyre

Published April 25, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

To new nanny Amanda, the Temple family seem to have it all: the former actress; the famous professor; their three successful grown-up children. But like any family, beneath the smiles and hugs there lurks far darker emotions.

Sixteen years earlier, little Niamh Temple died while they were on holiday in Portugal. Now, as Amanda joins the family for a reunion at their seaside villa, she begins to suspect one of them might be hiding something terrible…

And suspicion is a dangerous thing.

What did I think?:

I’ve been familiar with the name Chris Brookmyre for a little while as one of my good friends has been doggedly persuading me to try some of his fiction for months. With previous works entitled: Quite Ugly One Morning and All Fun And Games Until Someone Loses An Eye I really don’t know why I’ve waited so long to read the author’s work – who could resist with intriguing titles like that? Yet still I wavered until the lovely people at Little Brown publishers asked if I’d like to be on the blog tour for Chris’s new stand-alone novel, Fallen Angel. Of course I thought it was a perfect opportunity to sample his work so I jumped at the chance. Thank you so much to Caolinn Douglas and Grace Vincent for inviting me onto this tour and providing me with a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Chris Brookmyre, author of Fallen Angel and the Jack Parlabane series.

Well I’m so happy to report that my friend was absolutely right when it came to Chris Brookmyre. He is a fantastic author with such a talent for characterisation and timing that this novel was truly a delight to read. Being Scottish myself, I loved the subtle Scottish references throughout, especially to certain words familiar to the Scots language i.e. “wean,” and for me, this brought an extra something special to the entire reading experience as I instantly felt so comforted by the writing style. I have to admit at the beginning, I wasn’t sure where the author was going to be taking the story. It’s very much a slow burner that initially sets the scene following the lives of multiple characters both within and close to a specific family.

I’ve mentioned in recent reviews how much I love intricate character development in crime fiction and although I may have hesitated for a chapter or so at the start, unsure of how the crime element related to the narrative, I soon realised that this is part of the beauty of Fallen Angel. This is one of the reasons why I love crime so much that focuses specifically on individuals rather than plot. We learn so much about each our protagonists, in fact we get to know some of them incredibly intimately and this only bodes for a more explosive release as the tension begins to build and the secrets are finally unearthed.

A large proportion of Fallen Angel is set in Portugal where the families we follow have holiday villas.

This is a work of crime fiction so as a result, I don’t want to tell you very much at all about the plot. This is the kind of book you need to savour and discover all the shocks and surprises yourself without it being spoiled. All I can say is that if you’re a fan of family drama, deceit and scandalous events, you’re in for a treat with Fallen Angel. There are not many likeable characters to be found and occasionally there are some where you can’t understand their motives or thought processes at all, but to be honest, that’s my favourite kind of characters. It felt like Chris Brookmyre was writing very candidly about a family where many of the members have multiple, very difficult emotional issues or skeletons in their closets just waiting to burst out. It was a pleasure to be a reader along on the journey, eagerly awaiting the next dramatic event or twist in the tail. As a result, ALL of Chris Brookmyre’s books have now gone on my wish-list and I hope I’ll be reviewing another one for you very soon.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Christopher Brookmyre is a Scottish novelist whose novels mix politics, social comment and action with a strong narrative. He has been referred to as a Tartan Noir author. His debut novel was Quite Ugly One Morning, and subsequent works have included One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night, which he said “was just the sort of book he needed to write before he turned 30”, and All Fun and Games until Somebody Loses an Eye (2005).

Find Chris on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/167572.Christopher_Brookmyre

on his website at: http://www.brookmyre.co.uk/

on Twitter at: @cbrookmyre

Thank you so much once again to Caolinn Douglas, Grace Vincent and Little Brown for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. Fallen Angel is published on 25th April 2019 and will be available as a paperback and a digital e-book. If you fancy more information don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour for some amazing reviews!

Link to Fallen Angel on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43063636-fallen-angel

Link to Fallen Angel on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fallen-Angel-Chris-Brookmyre/dp/1408710838/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_3?crid=3RZ7UEV65XWV1&keywords=fallen+angel+chris+brookmyre&qid=1556133445&s=gateway&sprefix=fallen+angel%2Caps%2C327&sr=8-3-fkmrnull

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No Way Out (DI Adam Fawley #3) – Cara Hunter

Published April 17, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

DID YOU SEE ANYTHING ON THE NIGHT THE ESMOND FAMILY WERE MURDERED? 

From the author of CLOSE TO HOME and IN THE DARK comes the third pulse-pounding DI Fawley crime thriller.

It’s one of the most disturbing cases DI Fawley has ever worked. 

The Christmas holidays, and two children have just been pulled from the wreckage of their burning home in North Oxford. The toddler is dead, and his brother is soon fighting for his life.

Why were they left in the house alone? Where is their mother, and why is their father not answering his phone?

Then new evidence is discovered, and DI Fawley’s worst nightmare comes true.

Because this fire wasn’t an accident.

It was murder.

What did I think?:

I’m so excited to talk to you about Cara Hunter’s incredible new novel, No Way Out, the third book in the DI Adam Fawley crime series set in Oxford and published in paperback on 18th April. If you’ve read my previous reviews of Close To Home and In The Dark, you won’t be surprised to hear that I’m a massive fan of Cara’s writing, her characters and this series in general so my expectations were sky high for this latest instalment. Thank you so much to Jane Gentle at Penguin Random House UK for sending me a complimentary copy a few months ago in exchange for an honest review. I deliberately held off on reading this book until a couple of months ago as I prefer to read and review as close to publication date as possible. Finally, when I couldn’t hold back any longer, I finally cracked open No Way Out and was delighted to fully immerse myself within Fawley’s world once more, a world I had been sorely missing since I finished In The Dark last year.

Cara Hunter, author of No Way Out, the third book in the DI Adam Fawley series. 

Each of Cara’s novels in this series has the beauty of being able to stand on its own, as a story in its own right and so you could potentially read it without having read any of the other novels in the Fawley saga. However, for all the specific nuances of the individual characters and the way in which we slowly get to know them through these three books, I would honestly recommend starting right from the beginning with Close To Home. One of my favourite things about this series is the way in which the author develops her characters. I believe I’ve mentioned in a previous review that it’s not just all about Adam Fawley with the other characters playing supportive, occasionally bland and vague roles as I’ve seen with some other crime fiction series.

I’m happy to announce this remains the case with No Way Out – the characters are all fully developed, interesting, personable and individually valuable and more often than not, Adam Fawley will step back within the narrative and allow another character to take centre stage. As a reader, I adore when an author does this. It’s so refreshing to see such a host of vibrant personalities that all have their own, very unique story to share. I feel as if I’m getting to know each one – Gislingham, Quinn, Somer and Everett separately and as a result, it makes them instantly more relatable and authentic, especially with the delicate way the author drip feeds information about their lives through each novel.

The city of Oxford, UK – the setting for No Way Out.

As with all my reviews but particularly for thrillers or crime fiction, you won’t be getting any spoilers here but it’s safe to say I was once again completely engrossed by this fascinating and devastating case of a house fire which involves a family with two children. The compelling element behind this tragedy is that the parents of the children appear to both be missing as the police start to investigate what happened. In classic Cara Hunter style, she uses social media, articles and transcripts from interviews to compliment her writing in what becomes an intense, highly gripping narrative which completely took my breath away. I’m familiar enough with the author’s style that I know she’s going to surprise me and I try to keep an open as mind a possible and not think too deeply about what might be going on or whom the “villain” of the piece may be. Nevertheless, she still manages to knock it out of the park every single time. I’m always shocked, constantly captivated and increasingly bereft that I’ve reached the end. Saying that, it does leave me with an exciting little fizz of anticipation in my stomach, ready for the next instalment!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

Five Books I’d Love To Receive For My Birthday – 2019

Published April 16, 2019 by bibliobeth

Happy Birthday to me! April is my birthday month and my birthday actually falls on Easter Sunday this year. Like any other regular bookworm, the only thing I want for my birthday is BOOKS. I did this post last year in 2018 and enjoyed doing it so much I thought I’d have another go this year. Let’s be honest, there’s no chance of my wish-list ever getting any smaller – there’s just too many good books out there people!! This post isn’t a hint to loved ones or family members but if I’m lucky enough to get any vouchers, this is what I’ll be buying. Let’s get on with it.

 

1.) My Sister The Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite

What’s it all about?:

My Sister, the Serial Killer is a blackly comic novel about how blood is thicker – and more difficult to get out of the carpet – than water…

When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other…

Why do I want it?:

This book has been on my radar for a little while and now it’s been long-listed for the Women’s Prize For Fiction 2019 that’s just bumped it up on my wish-list even further. I’ve heard great things and that synopsis is far too intriguing to pass up, right?

2.) The Silence Of The Girls – Pat Barker

What’s it all about?:

The ancient city of Troy has withstood a decade under siege of the powerful Greek army, which continues to wage bloody war over a stolen woman—Helen. In the Greek camp, another woman—Briseis—watches and waits for the war’s outcome. She was queen of one of Troy’s neighboring kingdoms, until Achilles, Greece’s greatest warrior, sacked her city and murdered her husband and brothers. Briseis becomes Achilles’s concubine, a prize of battle, and must adjust quickly in order to survive a radically different life, as one of the many conquered women who serve the Greek army.

When Agamemnon, the brutal political leader of the Greek forces, demands Briseis for himself, she finds herself caught between the two most powerful of the Greeks. Achilles refuses to fight in protest, and the Greeks begin to lose ground to their Trojan opponents. Keenly observant and coolly unflinching about the daily horrors of war, Briseis finds herself in an unprecedented position, able to observe the two men driving the Greek army in what will become their final confrontation, deciding the fate not only of Briseis’s people but also of the ancient world at large.

Briseis is just one among thousands of women living behind the scenes in this war—the slaves and prostitutes, the nurses, the women who lay out the dead—all of them erased by history. With breathtaking historical detail and luminous prose, Pat Barker brings the teeming world of the Greek camp to vivid life. She offers nuanced, complex portraits of characters and stories familiar from mythology, which, seen from Briseis’s perspective, are rife with newfound revelations. Barker’s latest builds on her decades-long study of war and its impact on individual lives—and it is nothing short of magnificent.

Why do I want it?:

I’m a huge fan of Greek mythology and re-discovered my love for it after reading The Song Of Achilles by Madeline Miller and Mythos by Stephen Fry a little while ago. Again, I’ve heard great things about this re-telling and it’s on the long-list for the Women’s Prize For Fiction 2019.

3.) Remembered – Yvonne Battle-Felton

What’s it all about?:

It is 1910 and Philadelphia is burning. For Spring, there is nothing worse than sitting up half the night with her dead sister and her dying son, reliving a past she would rather not remember in order to prepare for a future she cannot face. Edward, Spring’s son, lies in a hospital bed. He has been charged with committing a crime on the streets of Philadelphia. But is he guilty? The evidence — a black man driving a streetcar into a store window – could lead to his death. Surrounded by ghosts and the wounded, Spring, an emancipated slave, is forced to rewrite her story in order to face the prospect of a future without her child. With the help of her dead sister, newspaper clippings and reconstructed memories, she shatters the silences that have governed her life in order to lead Edward home.

Why do I want it?:

This book looks absolutely fascinating and a must-read from everything I’ve heard. Again, it’s long-listed for the Women’s Prize For Fiction 2019. If you read my Birthday TBR from last year, you’ll notice I’m AGAIN mentioning mostly Women’s Prize books. Guys, I can’t help it if the long-list is released so close to my birthday! 😀

4.) Normal People – Sally Rooney

What’s it all about?:

At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers—one they are determined to conceal.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.

Sally Rooney brings her brilliant psychological acuity and perfectly spare prose to a story that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love, and the complex entanglements of family and friendship.

Why do I want it?:

There’s been so much buzz about Sally Rooney and although I still haven’t read her first novel, Conversations With Friends, I’m really intrigued about this one. It was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize last year and is also long-listed for the Women’s Prize 2019. Surprise surprise!

5.) My Year Of Rest And Relaxation – Ottessa Moshfegh

What’s it all about?:

A shocking, hilarious and strangely tender novel about a young woman’s experiment in narcotic hibernation, aided and abetted by one of the worst psychiatrists in the annals of literature. Our narrator has many of the advantages of life, on the surface. Young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, she lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan paid for, like everything else, by her inheritance. But there is a vacuum at the heart of things, and it isn’t just the loss of her parents in college, or the way her Wall Street boyfriend treats her, or her sadomasochistic relationship with her alleged best friend. It’s the year 2000 in a city aglitter with wealth and possibility; what could be so terribly wrong?

This story of a year spent under the influence of a truly mad combination of drugs, designed to heal us from our alienation from this world, shows us how reasonable, even necessary, that alienation sometimes is. Blackly funny, both merciless and compassionate – dangling its legs over the ledge of 9/11 – this novel is a showcase for the gifts of one of America’s major young writers working at the height of her powers.

Why do I want it?:

Yes! An outlier that isn’t on the Women’s Prize 2019 long-list! In all seriousness, although I’ve heard mixed reviews about this novel I’m too intrigued to pass up on it. It might be a love it or hate it kind of book but with those kind of reads I really love to make up my own mind.

 

I’d love to know what you think of my birthday wish-list selection. Have you read any of these books and what did you think? Or do you want to read any of them and why? Let me know in the comments below!

Beautiful Bad – Annie Ward

Published March 24, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

IN THE MOST EXPLOSIVE AND TWISTED PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER SINCE THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW, A PERFECT LOVE STORY LEADS TO THE PERFECT CRIME.

‘Compelling. Filled with unexpected twists… a riveting read’ Sarah Pekkanen, author of The Wife Between Us

Maddie and Ian’s romance began when he was serving in the British Army and she was a travel writer visiting her best friend Jo in Europe. Now sixteen years later, married with a beautiful son, Charlie, they are living the perfect suburban life in Middle America.

But when an accident leaves Maddie badly scarred, she begins attending therapy, where she gradually reveals her fears about Ian’s PTSD; her concerns for the safety of their young son Charlie; and the couple’s tangled and tumultuous past with Jo.

From the Balkans to England, Iraq to Manhattan, and finally to an ordinary family home in Kansas, the years of love and fear, adventure and suspicion culminate in The Day of the Killing, when a frantic 911 call summons the police to the scene of shocking crime.

But what in this beautiful home has gone so terribly bad?

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to the always wonderful Quercus Books for hosting a bloggers event at the end of last year where they showcased some of the fiction they were most excited for in 2019 and secondly, for providing me with a complimentary review copy in exchange for an honest review. As soon as I picked up Beautiful Bad, I turned to my blogger bestie, Janel @ Keeper Of Pages and told her that I NEEDED to read this book. The proof copy was beautifully simplistic and incredibly effective with just a few lines of text on the back cover that went like this:

“Things that make me scared:

  1. When Charlie cries.
  2. Hospitals and lakes.
  3. When Ian gets angry.
  4. ISIS.
  5. That something is really, really wrong with me…”

I mean – wow. Who couldn’t resist but pick this book up with a teaser like that?

Annie Ward, author of Beautiful Bad.

Now, I hope those of you who have followed my blog for a while understand by now that I will always, always give you an honest review. If I absolutely don’t like a book and DNF it (i.e. a one star rating), I won’t review it as I don’t think it’s fair to the author or his/her future readers to review a book that I haven’t read the whole way through. My two star ratings are for books I finished but I had a few problems with and didn’t really enjoy that much but can see why other readers might. I’m sure you also appreciate that I don’t revel in writing more critical reviews and even if I didn’t enjoy a book, I will ALWAYS try and find something positive to say about it rather than ripping all an author’s hard work and efforts to shreds. Three stars and above = I enjoyed the novel but to varying degrees depending on whether I rated it three stars, four stars or the big five stars. I feel that I had to put that little disclaimer in because I did enjoy Beautiful Bad in general but unfortunately, I did have a few problems with it that were purely personal to me and I completely understand that other readers might feel very differently.

My expectations were so high with Beautiful Bad, partly because of that intriguing taster on the back cover and there were just a few ways in which it didn’t meet those ridiculously high standards of mine. As it’s a psychological thriller, I don’t want to get too deeply into the nitty gritty but I want to assure readers that haven’t read this yet and are excited about it that it really is a very compelling and fascinating read. The reason I kept on reading was that I was curious to find out what exactly was going on and what happened on one terrible day.

The novel is told from both Maddie and Ian’s point of view and we hear in intricate detail about how they met, fell in love, the initial struggles of their relationship, where they are right now in the present as a married couple and what difficulties they continue to face. Annie Ward explores mental health and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in an assured, often saddening way and I was constantly gripped by the relationship between the couple and how they managed to navigate through their troubles, especially with the addition of a gorgeous little boy, Charlie to their family.

Iraq, one of the many settings we visit in Beautiful Bad.

Image from: https://www.wsj.com/articles/iraq-lawmakers-seek-timetable-for-withdrawal-of-foreign-troops-1519933363

Through the eyes of Maddie and Ian, we are taken to a multitude of different settings including Iraq, Kansas, Manhattan, England and the Balkans and piece by piece, their journey to becoming a married couple is slowly explored. With such a variety of locations to explore you may be wondering exactly what my issue was, especially as I normally thrive on learning about different places and cultures. However, in Beautiful Bad at times it felt like there was too much unnecessary detail within these settings. That is to say, I didn’t feel I learned much about the place in enough detail as I would have liked. I understand this might have been to explore the juicier details of Maddie and Ian’s relationship but even then, I don’t feel as if the right sort of things were explored. It just seemed to be them going for a drink, fighting with Maddie’s friend Jo, falling in love WAY too quickly and him calling her “Petal” far too much which became slightly sickening. As a result, I didn’t feel as if I connected with any of the individuals as characters because sadly, I just couldn’t find their relationships believable on any level.

This book has so many potentially great things going for it, it was such a shame I felt such a disconnect with the characters and parts of the narrative. It’s mysterious and puzzling and even though I found some parts a bit slow, by about the middle of the novel, I was gripped enough by the story that I wanted to continue and see how it ended. Additionally, I have already seen so many positive reviews for this book so please don’t let my variable opinion sway you towards not picking it up – it certainly has some incredibly thrilling moments and in the hands of a different reader, you might get the completely opposite reaction. If you’ve already read it, I’d love to chat with you in the comments, please let me know what you thought!

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Talking About The House On Half Moon Street (Leo Stanhope 1) by Alex Reeve with Chrissi Reads

Published March 21, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Everyone has a secret… Only some lead to murder.

Leo Stanhope. Assistant to a London coroner; in love with Maria; and hiding a very big secret.

For Leo was born Charlotte, but knowing he was meant to be a man – despite the evidence of his body – he fled his family home at just fifteen, and has been living as Leo ever since: his original identity known only to a few trusted people.

But then Maria is found dead and Leo is accused of her murder. Desperate to find her killer and under suspicion from all those around him, he stands to lose not just the woman he loves, but his freedom and, ultimately, his life.

A wonderfully atmospheric debut, rich in character and setting, in The House on Half Moon Street Alex Reeve has created a world that crime readers will want to return to again and again.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: I told you when I started reading this book that it wasn’t what I had expected. Did you have any preconceptions of this book? Did it live up to your expectations?

BETH: I know you weren’t super keen on this one when we originally looked at it and to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect myself. I’m desperately trying to step away from judging books too much before I give them a chance so I went into it with an open and intrigued mind. Also, even though I usually read the synopsis before I get stuck in, I tried to go into this book a little blind so that I could find out all about it myself without making any pre-judgements. In the end, I’m glad I did this as it made the story and the character of Leo more exciting for me and I was curious to see how it would continue.

BETH: What do you think you anticipated from this novel? How did your opinion change as you began and then finished it?

CHRISSI: I was NOT keen at all on reading this book. I did a you (hee hee) and judged it by its cover and the crime genre. I’m not a massive fan of the genre because it doesn’t always capture my attention. I personally feel that the genre is overpopulated and there are so many similar books. However, my opinion completely changed. I was pleasantly surprised and I feel like Alex Reeve brought something new to the genre.

CHRISSI: We’ve read books set in Victorian London before. How do you think the setting is compared to other books set in the same era?

BETH: I think the setting was definitely very evocative. Victorian London is one of my favourite settings to read about and I especially enjoy crime set in this era. However, because a lot of different works of fiction have been set within this time period, there is always a chance it can feel a bit stale. Luckily, I don’t believe this is the case with Half Moon Street. The author drops you expertly into the Victorian era with a lot of vivid descriptions of the streets and the people that walked them at this time in history. It took me right back in time, like I wanted and sits perfectly alongside other books set in this period.

BETH: Who was your favourite supporting character and why?

CHRISSI: I’m not sure it’s a ‘favourite’ as such but I was intrigued by Rosie Flowers. Yes, that really was her name. I wanted to know whether I could trust her or not and I was very interested in her history. It’s hard to pick a favourite as the characters are incredibly well rounded and developed. I think I could have easily picked a few. Maria herself intrigued me throughout, even though she had died (not a spoiler) early on in the story!

CHRISSI: Did this book capture your attention all the way through? What was it about the story that kept you reading?

BETH: I can say with complete confidence that my reason for turning the pages was most definitely the character of Leo. From the very beginning, you understand what an extraordinarily difficult life he has had and this could have made a story all of its own. When a murder is thrown into the mixture, Leo (turned amateur detective) becomes an even more endearing character who you find yourself rooting for constantly.

BETH: How do you think the author manages to capture the dark side of Victorian London?

CHRISSI: I felt like Alex Reeve really captured the dark side of Victorian London well. I definitely felt the atmosphere that I can imagine was around Victorian London. There were many elements that portrayed Victorian London effectively. The prostitution, the murders, the gore (especially the talk of the innards at the start!) the role of the men and women. It was all there in all it’s glory gory. It really struck a chord with me, that Leo knew he’d be put in an asylum if it was found that he dressed as a man.

CHRISSI: Without spoilers, what did you make of the ending? Can you see this becoming a long series?

BETH: I liked the ending! I thought I had it all figured out but not quite. Things are resolved to an extent but the reader is definitely left hanging in one respect as to what might happen next (generally speaking) in the life of our main character, Leo. It absolutely has the potential to run as quite a long series because of the strength of Leo’s character and the potential adventures that he could become embroiled in.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would. As long as the series doesn’t go on for too long. I think it’s my problem with some crime fiction. It seems to go on for many books and my interest wanes. A trilogy is enough for my attention span! 😉

Would WE recommend it?

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

The Devil Aspect – Craig Russell

Published March 18, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A terrifying novel set in Czechoslovakia in 1935, in which a brilliant young psychiatrist takes his new post at an asylum for the criminally insane that houses only six inmates–the country’s most depraved murderers–while, in Prague, a detective struggles to understand a brutal serial killer who has spread fear through the city, and who may have ties to the asylum 

Prague, 1935: Viktor Kosárek, a psychiatrist newly trained by Carl Jung, arrives at the infamous Hrad Orlu Asylum for the Criminally Insane. The state-of-the-art facility is located in a medieval mountaintop castle outside of Prague, though the site is infamous for concealing dark secrets going back many generations. The asylum houses the country’s six most treacherous killers–known to the staff as The Woodcutter, The Clown, The Glass Collector, The Vegetarian, The Sciomancer, and The Demon–and Viktor hopes to use a new medical technique to prove that these patients share a common archetype of evil, a phenomenon known as The Devil Aspect. As he begins to learn the stunning secrets of these patients, five men and one woman, Viktor must face the disturbing possibility that these six may share another dark truth.

Meanwhile, in Prague, fear grips the city as a phantom serial killer emerges in the dark alleys. Police investigator Lukas Smolak, desperate to locate the culprit (dubbed Leather Apron in the newspapers), realizes that the killer is imitating the most notorious serial killer from a century earlier–London’s Jack the Ripper. Smolak turns to the doctors at Hrad Orlu for their expertise with the psychotic criminal mind, though he worries that Leather Apron might have some connection to the six inmates in the asylum.

Steeped in the folklore of Eastern Europe, and set in the shadow of Nazi darkness erupting just beyond the Czech border, this stylishly written, tightly coiled, richly imagined novel is propulsively entertaining, and impossible to put down.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Clara Diaz and Constable, an imprint of Little Brown Publishers for getting in touch via email and providing me with a complimentary digital copy of The Devil Aspect via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. After reading that incredible synopsis, I couldn’t help but be excited to read this novel, the first of Craig Russell’s work that I’ve come across and now I’ve discovered him, definitely won’t be the last. This fascinating and occasionally unsettling work of fiction is part historical, part crime and mystery, part thriller with a drop of horror thrown into this heady mixture of genres to make it a story that I still find myself thinking about weeks after finishing it.

Craig Russell, author of The Devil Aspect.

You don’t need to know anything extra about this novel save what is in the synopsis above. In fact, if you’ve already skipped the synopsis and headed straight to my thoughts, I might even boldly suggest that you go into this novel knowing as little as possible. This isn’t because the synopsis gives away spoilers but because I read the synopsis a long while before I actually physically started the book and had forgotten much of what the novel encompassed. This meant that the juicy little surprises revealed throughout the narrative came as a welcome shock compared to if I had been overly familiar prior to starting my journey into Russell’s delectable writing. All you really need to know is that it’s the story of a psychiatrist in the 1930’s who begins work at a Prague asylum harbouring incredibly dangerous prisoners who will never be released back into the general public. He is investigating new medicinal and hypnotic methods into unravelling the evil deeds that they have done with the hope that he can make them better people as a result.

Prague, 1935 – the setting for The Devil Aspect.

Image from: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/62768988526418513/?lp=true

That’s The Devil Aspect in a nutshell. However, you can’t really put this book into a nice little box and wrap a bow around it. It’s about so much more than that. It explores the unpredictability of madness, the power of the human brain, the danger of psychopaths, the difference between evil and good and how folklore and superstition can be used against already fragile and vulnerable individuals to take advantage. It’s definitely a thought-provoking read that made me consider how frightening the human mind can be, especially as we don’t know half of what it’s capable of OR how the terrifying way in which our memory can fail/change, sometimes without our conscious knowledge that it has occurred.

I’m not usually too bothered about graphic events in a work of fiction but holy hell, some parts of this really were brutal – Russell definitely doesn’t shy away from detail. I’m sure all I need to mention is Jack The Ripper for you the reader, to understand what I’m alluding to? As an aside, I would have been interested to see the fascist angle in this book to be explored in more depth however I completely understand why the author didn’t do this. He has SO many irons in the fire with what he chooses to write about and perhaps another thread to the story would have been slightly too much to deal with. I was a perfectly willing and happy participant to the surprises and shocks I received throughout The Devil Aspect and will absolutely be seeking out more of the author’s work.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Talking About The Colour Of Bee Larkham’s Murder by Sarah J. Harris with Chrissi Reads

Published March 14, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Whatever happens, don’t tell anyone what you did to Bee Larkham…

Jasper is not ordinary. In fact, he would say he is extraordinary…

Synaesthesia paints the sounds of his world in a kaleidoscope of colours that no one else can see. But on Friday, he discovered a new colour – the colour of murder.

He’s sure something has happened to his neighbour, Bee Larkham, but no-one else seems to be taking it as seriously as they should be. The knife and the screams are all mixed up in his head and he’s scared that he can’t quite remember anything clearly.

But where is Bee? Why hasn’t she come home yet? Jasper must uncover the truth about that night – including his own role in what happened…

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: This book has been compared to The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time. Do you understand and/or agree with that comparison?

BETH: Absolutely. It also reminded me a little bit of The Trouble With Goats And Sheep by Joanna Cannon.You started reading this novel a little bit before me and I saw your post saying that it reminded you of The Curious Incident. Now I’ve had a chance to read it myself, I completely agree. Both stories follow a young boy with autism as he struggles to cope with the suspected murder of one of his neighbours. There are differences however which made it unique in its own special way. For example, Jasper has synaesthesia which offers an additional quirk in how he views the world. Secondly, whilst our main character in Curious Incident is desperately trying to investigate his neighbours murder, Jasper appears more troubled by the situation.

BETH: Was this book what you expected? If not, why not?

CHRISSI: Not at all. I expected it to have Curious Incident vibes and it did. However, I thought it was totally unique. The character of Jasper was so well thought out and well developed that it made me absolutely adore him. I thought the family dynamics were fascinating. I basically can’t rave enough about this book because I thought it was fantastic. I really did. It will stay with me for some time!

CHRISSI: What did you think had happened to Bee Larkham? Did your opinion change throughout the book?

BETH: I had no idea. The author drops little hints along the way and it does become quite worrying, especially in the clues that are given throughout the narrative and how they connect to our main characters but as for the details of what happens to Bee, it is left deliberately vague until the very end. It’s much more a story of Jasper, his relationship with his father and his struggles with face blindness and how to recognise people, even those that should be completely familiar to him. I wouldn’t say my opinion changed through the novel exactly but I was surprised by the final reveal.

BETH: Did you have a favourite character in this novel? Who was it and why?

CHRISSI: My favourite character was Jasper. He was so endearing. I have taught children very similar to Jasper before, although without the synaesthesia, so he reminded me of them. I have a special place in my heart for children with autism. I think it’s fascinating how they see the world and Jasper certainly fascinated me. He’s such a delightful character and I think, if you’re going to read this book, you’re in for a treat when you meet Jasper.

CHRISSI: Had you heard of synaesthesia before reading this book? If so, did you think the author’s interpretation was accurate?

BETH: I had heard of it before but was always a little bit confused about what exactly it entailed. This is one of the only novels I’ve read that focuses on the subject and explains it to the reader in a way I could finally understand. Jasper has problems with face blindness and is only able to recognise people (even his own father) by either focusing very hard on particular items of their clothing or the colour of their voice. Whenever there is noise, be that music, bird song or just people talking, they emit a very specific colour. Some of these are more palatable to Jasper than others and he will recognise that person in future by concentrating on the specific colour he sees when they speak.

BETH: If this book was a colour, what would it be and why?

CHRISSI: My initial thought is blue. I don’t know if that’s because my version had a blue cover. I feel like the colour blue has such a strong representation in this story that it just has to be blue!

CHRISSI: This book is undoubtedly unique. What was it that made it so unique for you?

BETH: Can I say everything? Even though the similarities to Curious Incident are there, it stands on its own completely as a very separate, very special piece of writing. I loved how it explored Jasper’s world and the growth of his relationships with other characters, even his own father. The description of the colours was done so beautifully it made the writing more vibrant and an absolute pleasure to read. Then there was the mystery element of what exactly happened to Bee Larkham and I adored how this was unravelled – from her very first days on the street until the present time when her demise is much more convoluted than you could ever imagine.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: Certainly! I thought this was an incredible read!

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):

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