murder mystery novel

All posts tagged murder mystery novel

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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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

The Trespasser (Dublin Murder Squad #6) – Tana French

Published August 9, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A new novel from the New York Times bestselling author.

Being on the Murder squad is nothing like Detective Antoinette Conway dreamed it would be. Her partner, Stephen Moran, is the only person who seems glad she’s there. The rest of her working life is a stream of thankless cases, vicious pranks, and harassment. Antoinette is savagely tough, but she’s getting close to the breaking point.

Their new case looks like yet another by-the-numbers lovers’ quarrel gone bad. Aislinn Murray is blond, pretty, groomed to a shine, and dead in her catalogue-perfect living room, next to a table set for a romantic dinner. There’s nothing unusual about her—except that Antoinette’s seen her somewhere before.

And that her death won’t stay in its neat by-numbers box. Other detectives are trying to push Antoinette and Steve into arresting Aislinn’s boyfriend, fast. There’s a shadowy figure at the end of Antoinette’s road. Aislinn’s friend is hinting that she knew Aislinn was in danger. And everything they find out about Aislinn takes her further from the glossy, passive doll she seemed to be.

Antoinette knows the harassment has turned her paranoid, but she can’t tell just how far gone she is. Is this case another step in the campaign to force her off the squad, or are there darker currents flowing beneath its polished surface?

What did I think?:

I didn’t start off reading Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series, of which there are now six books but I read the fifth book, The Secret Place quite recently and enjoyed it so when Richard and Judy picked the sixth book, The Trespasser for their Summer Book Club here in the UK I was pleased to carry on where I had left off. I am now planning to re-visit the series from the beginning at some point when that pesky TBR pile is under better control! The Trespasser is Irish crime fiction at its absolute finest and I really enjoy the rather different writing that characterises this authors style. I have to say, I don’t think some people will get on with it, it’s quite a slow burner of a narrative, like The Secret Place but I think if you can push past the slower parts of the narrative you might be pleasantly surprised.

Our protagonist and returning Detective Antoinette Conway is in her dream job, the Murder Squad with partner in crime, Detective Stephen Moran who assisted Antoinette and helped her crack a tricky case in the previous novel, The Secret Place. They make an excellent team but are faced with further intrigue and puzzlement when the latest case lands on their desks. At first, it looks like a standard domestic violence/possible manslaughter incident however things aren’t quite adding up for Antoinette and Stephen. It seems all a bit too easy to blame Aislinn Murray’s lover, Rory for her untimely demise but there are many things going on behind the scenes that make the detectives questions whether there isn’t something a lot deeper and darker going on. Antoinette is already on shaky ground with the majority of officers in the Murder Squad but the question is, can she risk everything she has worked for in pursuit of justice?

As I mentioned before, unlike a lot of crime fiction you see nowadays, I found The Trespasser rather different in that the plot wasn’t necessarily action-packed. It seemed to have a much deeper and intricate focus on the characters, their back stories, their lives and aspirations and the darker, more gritty side of the police force. I wouldn’t call it a page turner to be perfectly honest, in the normal sense of the word but it did keep me turning the pages for different reasons. I became more invested in the characters and what they had done, felt, were going to do in the future and, as a result I felt better connected with the story as a whole. I really love reading about Antoinette as a character, she isn’t afraid to say what she thinks,  is independent, takes no nonsense and in The Trespasser we get to see a potentially much softer, troubled and more vulnerable side of her character which only made me more intrigued to carry on with the series if she appears in the next novel from Tana French. So to sum up, if you’re in the mood for a slower, more considered crime fiction style, this definitely gets my seal of approval!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

See What I Have Done – Sarah Schmidt

Published May 5, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Haunting, gripping and gorgeously written, SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE by Sarah Schmidt is a re-imagining of the unsolved American true crime case of the Lizzie Borden murders, for fans of BURIAL RITES and MAKING A MURDERER.

‘Eerie and compelling, Sarah Schmidt breathes such life into the terrible, twisted tale of Lizzie Borden and her family, she makes it impossible to look away’ Paula Hawkins

When her father and step-mother are found brutally murdered on a summer morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden – thirty two years old and still living at home – immediately becomes a suspect. But after a notorious trial, she is found innocent, and no one is ever convicted of the crime.

Meanwhile, others in the claustrophobic Borden household have their own motives and their own stories to tell: Lizzie’s unmarried older sister, a put-upon Irish housemaid, and a boy hired by Lizzie’s uncle to take care of a problem.

This unforgettable debut makes you question the truth behind one of the great unsolved mysteries, as well as exploring power, violence and the harsh realities of being a woman in late nineteenth century America.

What did I think?:

First of all, the biggest thank you to the lovely Georgina Moore from Headline and Tinder Press who were kind enough to send me a copy of this astounding debut novel in return for an honest review. To be honest, I’m not sure where to start with this book – I have so much to say and it invoked so many different feelings in me that I’m wary of this review turning into an incoherent gush fest! See What I Have Done is unlike any novel I’ve read before and will probably ever read. The characters, the structure of the plot and especially the stunning writing style all completely blew me away and I still find myself thinking about it days after finishing.

Sarah Schmidt has chosen to focus on a real and rather shocking event that played out in the late nineteenth century involving a young girl called Lizzie Borden who was the main suspect in a double murder of her father and his wife, her stepmother Abby Borden. You may be familiar with the old schoolyard rhyme:

“Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.”

Now in reality, Lizzie was actually acquitted of their murders. Apparently it was thought that the killings were so brutal that no well brought up, middle-class young lady would have been capable of such an act. Sarah Schmidt has chosen to fictionalise Lizzie’s story from a number of perspectives that is, from the point of view of her sister Emma who was not present in the house at the time of the killings, the Irish maid Bridget who at the time had an uneasy relationship with Mrs Borden, a mysterious young man called Benjamin and from Lizzie herself. Each perspective is startlingly honest and intimate and we get a fantastic insight into the strained relationships between different family members, the sadness and frustration of living in a house with difficult and occasionally spiteful parents and the innermost thoughts of a troubled mind.

See What I Have Done is a raw and disturbing read that instantly draws you in with its delicious (yet at the same time disgusting) imagery forged by beautifully descriptive writing and fascinating character studies that have you questioning everybody and everything. It seems like everyone has motive for killing the Borden’s but which one of these individuals had the strength and audacity to wield the axe at the end? As a reader, we’ve got an idea of whom as we draw towards the conclusion but the author will still have you thinking of alternative things that could have happened if others were in the vicinity at the right time. What did I love most about this novel? Apart from the writing style which I could wax on about for days, I enjoyed how she explored the relationship between Lizzie and her older sister Emma which was terribly co-dependent on Lizzie’s part, despite the fact she was supposed to be in her thirties. Her child-like voice, the decisions she made, and the actions she chose added the creep factor to the proceedings and made her an utterly mind-blowing character to read about.

Even the simple act of several characters eating a pear sent shivers down my spine, it was written in such a crystal clear way that played on each one of your senses to the extreme where you could smell the sickness in the house, taste the mutton soup and swallow the pear. If I could sum up my feelings on See What I Have Done (which would be tricky!) I would say: I was nauseated and amazed, disgusted but filled with awe, taken aback but hugely delighted and urge everyone with every fibre of my being to READ THIS BOOK. Sarah Schmidt has a new, ardent fan right here that has “seen what she has done,” loved every minute of it and simply cannot wait to see what she does next.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Talking About Lying In Wait by Liz Nugent with Chrissi Reads

Published April 13, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The last people who expect to be meeting with a drug-addicted prostitute are a respected judge and his reclusive wife. And they certainly don’t plan to kill her and bury her in their exquisite suburban garden.

Yet Andrew and Lydia Fitzsimons find themselves in this unfortunate situation.

While Lydia does all she can to protect their innocent son Laurence and their social standing, her husband begins to falls apart.

But Laurence is not as naïve as Lydia thinks. And his obsession with the dead girl’s family may be the undoing of his own.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: What were your first impressions of this book?

BETH: I thought it was a unique premise for crime fiction. From the very beginning, we know exactly what happened on the night of Annie’s murder even down to whom was responsible for the crime. The novel follows how the murderer(s) try to cover up their tracks to resist detection over a number of years. We get multiple perspectives across two very different families (the perps and the victim’s family) across an extended period of time. It was a different way to approach a novel in this genre and I enjoyed being part of the author’s little secret as we saw the repercussions of the crime on many different people including the murderer themselves.

BETH: Discuss the relationship of Lydia with her son Laurence.

CHRISSI: Ooh, good question. I think Lydia’s relationship with Laurence is incredibly intense. Lydia has a hold over Laurence. He is her everything. Lydia’s relationship with her son grows stronger over time and I think it becomes more damaging over time too. The relationship is certainly not healthy. As a reader, we get to see the cracks in the relationship grow over time. The ending as well… phew!

CHRISSI: Liz Nugent is a radio and TV scriptwriter – do you think that affects the way that she writes her novels?

BETH: I wasn’t actually aware of that but looking back on it, it really comes across in the way that she writes. You can almost imagine each scene as being part of a movie or play and I would love to see it being adapted for film! It wouldn’t be hard, the author has provided everything in such clear detail and although I wouldn’t say it is necessarily “action-packed,” there is no need at all for this story to have a fast pace. It’s almost like a character study and is slowly chilling.

BETH: Many of the characters in this novel are not particularly likeable. Do you need to be able to empathise with characters in a book to enjoy it?

CHRISSI: Definitely not! I actually think it’s fun not to like characters. Maybe that’s a little warped of me? I don’t know. However, I absolutely loved hating some of the characters, especially Lydia, the mother. She was completely warped but I loved reading about her. Lydia’s narration was fascinating to me. The way she thought…wow!

CHRISSI: Discuss how the author structures the novel to build the tension.

BETH: I think it helps the novel to have the story told from multiple perspectives. From Lydia and her son Laurence (who were especially fascinating to read about) to Karen and the effect that her sister’s murder has on the entire family. You would come to the end of a particular perspective and there may be a slight cliff hanger but then perspectives switch and you read from someone else’s point of view. This means that the reader has to wait a little while before resuming the original thread they were reading and believe me, the wait is always worth it!

BETH: What was most enjoyable about this book for you?

CHRISSI: It’s hard to pinpoint what I enjoyed about this book. I didn’t read the synopsis before going into it, which I like to do with books like this. I just like to read it and see how it unfolds. I think the characters were fascinating, I enjoyed the multiple narration and I loved how messed up it became. I have to say, I think Laurence and Lydia made this book for me.

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

BETH: Easily rises to the top of the pack in my opinion. I wasn’t sure how much I was going to like knowing everything about a murder at the beginning of the novel but the author manages to make this story so compelling with such fascinating characters that I was utterly hooked for the entirety of it. I’m actually really keen now to read Liz’s debut novel, Unravelling Oliver which I’ve heard great things about but if it’s anything like this one I know I’m going to love it.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would! I am also intrigued to read her debut novel, because I found her writing style to be incredibly engaging.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

 

 

 

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Stasi Child (Karin Müller #1) – David Young

Published March 6, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

East Berlin, 1975

When Oberleutnant Karin Müller is called to investigate a teenage girl’s body at the foot of the wall, she imagines she’s seen it all before. But when she arrives she realises this is a death like no other: the girl was trying to escape – but from the West.

Müller is a member of the national police, but the case has Stasi written all over it. Karin is tasked with uncovering the identity of the girl, but her Stasi handlers assure her that the perpetrators are from the West ­- and strongly discourage her asking questions.

The evidence doesn’t add up, and Muller soon realises the crime scene has been staged. But this is not a regime that tolerates a curious mind, and Muller doesn’t realise that the trail she’s following will lead her dangerously close to home . . .

Stasi Child is David Young’s brilliant and page-turning debut novel.

What did I think?:

This exciting debut novel from David Young ticks so many boxes for me before I even started it! Historical fiction, crime, mystery, thriller, Germany during the horrific period when it was divided into East and West Germany by means of the Berlin Wall – so many things that compelled me to pick this book up and, best of all, it was a highly entertaining and well written novel in the start of what I’m sure will be a very successful series for the author. I actually lived in Germany for a period of about thirteen years off and on when my father was there in the British Forces and my mother was in Berlin that night when the Berlin Wall was finally torn down so I have a special interest in this difficult time period of Germany’s history and we have a piece of the infamous Wall in my mother’s cabinet to prove it!

The story follows Karin Müller, an Oberleutnant (the highest lieutenant officer rank in the German armed forces) in the national police force in East Germany who is called to a case of a body near to the East side of the Wall. The Stasi secret police for East Germany have taken over the investigation and Karin is ordered to keep her findings top secret. Moreover, she must only be involved in finding out the identity of the dead young girl, most definitely not the perpetrator or be worried about bringing him/her to justice. Karin finds a lot of things that don’t tally up at the crime scene and point to links elsewhere in Germany including a hideous reform school for young people that houses many dark secrets. Karin must be incredibly careful and clever in how she proceeds with her investigation as the danger to her personally becomes greater and greater.

I was lucky enough to go and watch the author, David Young, speak about Stasi Child and his new novel in the series, Stasi Wolf at Guildford Library recently (more on that in tomorrow’s post!). It was obvious that although he is a British author and didn’t speak very much German, he has carried out some meticulous research and has really captured the atmosphere, fear and horror of a country divided by two completely different ideals – communism and capitalism. It’s a fast-paced, exciting read that blends the world of crime and subterfuge with historical events perfectly and not only did I enjoy the thrilling plot but I also loved the characters that the author created. He got the woman’s voice spot on which was lovely to read from a male author and I really enjoyed the characters of the children from the reform school that are integral to the proceedings. This is a series I’ll definitely be following and eagerly anticipating and I look forward to reading the second book, Stasi Wolf very soon!

Look out for my post tomorrow where I’ll be focusing on the fabulous David Young talk at Guildford Library.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

Blog Tour – The Dry by Jane Harper

Published January 9, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Luke Hadler turns a gun on his wife and child, then himself. The farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily. If one of their own broke under the strain, well…

When Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk returns to Kiewarra for the funerals, he is loath to confront the people who rejected him twenty years earlier. But when his investigative skills are called on, the facts of the Hadler case start to make him doubt this murder-suicide charge.

And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, old wounds start bleeding into fresh ones. For Falk and his childhood friend Luke shared a secret… A secret Falk thought long-buried… A secret which Luke’s death starts to bring to the surface…

What did I think?:

Welcome to my post on the blog tour for this fantastic piece of crime fiction The Dry, set amongst a small community in Australia. A huge thank you to the publishers Little, Brown for inviting me to be a part of the tour and for sending me a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review. This is Jane Harper’s debut novel and after the strength of this thrilling story, I’m hoping for amazing things from her in the future.

Our main character is Aaron Falk, who escaped from his hometown Kiewarra to live in the city after a frightening incident that involved one of his best friends. I don’t want to say too much about that for fear of spoilers but let me tell you there are a lot of secrets in this novel for many different characters not just our protagonist and the way they are gradually uncovered are thrilling. He comes back to Kiewarra to attend his old best friend’s funeral after a shocking occurrence where two members of Luke’s family were brutally shot and then Luke himself appears to have committed suicide, also with the gun.

Aaron promises Luke’s father that he will look into the mystery and try to clear his friend’s name as it was assumed that Luke was the perpetrator of the crime. Furthermore, if it was the case that Luke did kill two of his family – what were his possible motives for doing such a terrible thing? There is much more going on in this little town than previously assumed however so be prepared for several shocks and surprises. Nothing or no-one is what it seems and the connection to events in Falk’s past is paramount and incredibly murky.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I thought this was a fantastic debut novel with lots of twists and turns – just how I like my crime fiction. I liked that it was set in Australia, I loved the variety of characters that we were given and I enjoyed that it wasn’t just about one event. Many things are linked in this story and there are lots of different aspects to be discovered and savoured, the latter of which I certainly did. Jane Harper has a real gift for spinning an exciting narrative and I can’t wait to see what she does next!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Visit Jane at her website: http://janeharper.com.au/

or on Twitter: @janeharperautho

A huge thank you again to Little, Brown Books for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour. The Dry was released on 12th January in the UK and is available from all good bookshops NOW. If you’re interested, why not check out the other stops on the blog tour?

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