Book three in the Detective Inspector McLean series.
A young man is found hanging by a rope in his Edinburgh home. A simple, sad suicide, yet Detective Inspector Tony McLean is puzzled by the curious suicide note. A second hanged man and another strange note hint at a sinister pattern.
Investigating a brutal prostitution and human trafficking ring, McLean struggles to find time to link the two suicides. But the discovery of a third convinces him of malicious intent.
Digging deeper, McLean finds answers much closer to home than he expects. Something terrifying stalks the city streets, and bringing it to justice may destroy all he holds dear.
What did I think?:
I approached the third book in the Inspector McLean series with slight trepidation, I have to admit. I had finished The Book Of Souls and enjoyed it, that much was clear but I had a tiny issue with the supernatural element that was a bit of an additional surprise at the end of the second novel and to be honest, I wasn’t sure if it was going to work. If you’ve never read any books in this series before, I guess you could read this as a stand alone but I think you’d be missing out on the characters back stories and other important events that have occurred bringing them to the situation that they find themselves in during The Hangman’s Song. Therefore, I would highly recommend starting the series with the first novel, Natural Causes and going from there if you enjoy it.
Our male detective protagonist for the series, Inspector Tony McLean is back and has been seconded to the Sexual Crimes Unit after the events of the last novel. He becomes embroiled in a harrowing case involving prostitution and human trafficking but whilst he is attempting to work on this, another case comes to his attention. There is a hanging in Edinburgh, the victim is male and is, at first, assumed to be a suicide. However, when another young man is found dead in the same circumstances and then a third, Tony begins to smell a rat. Especially as he finds (amongst other evidence) that the same length of rope was used in all three deaths. Along with this, Tony is coping with some very intense circumstances in his personal life. Someone very close to him has been released from hospital but has regressed to a child-like state psychologically with little memories of past events so he is compelled to look after them and help them on the road to recovery. Will Tony manage to juggle three very complicated events in his own life and manage to find the connections? Or will he be at risk of losing everything that is important in the world to him?
I’ve tried to be deliberately vague in this review for fear of spoilers of course but I think that sums up everything you need to know about this novel. Generally speaking, I did enjoy it and I was compelled to read until the end, curious to find out exactly what was going on and how/if it would all be resolved. Luckily, I felt much more on board with the supernatural elements of the narrative. I think because it came as such a shock at the end of The Book Of Souls, I was much more prepared for it this time round and embraced it as an important part of the story. As to why it bothered me before, I’m not sure. Perhaps I thought I was reading a regular piece of crime fiction then the author threw in a magical curve ball right at the end and caught me off guard? Who’s to say? Anyway, it felt much more believable in The Hangman’s Song and I look forward to seeing how it develops in future books in the series. The one thing I’m definitely invested in the series for is the character of Detective McLean. I love his snarky humour, loyalty to his friends, traumatic events in his past and how he manages to deal with the difficult situations in his present. Hopefully I’ll be reading the fourth book in the series, Dead Men’s Bones sometime in the New Year so I’m excited to see where the story will go next.
Eleri Eames didn’t think she’d ever be allowed to work for the FBI again, so the special FBI division of NightShade seems like an amazing opportunity. But all too soon, her chance to start over starts to disturb her.
When the FBI offers Donovan a chance to leave his job as a medical examiner and try his hand at something new, he takes a chance on the NightShade division. Somehow, he has to try to escape from his shadows, but can he trust Eleri with the truth?
Thrown together on their first case, Eleri and Donovan must deal with a charismatic cult leader and his true-believers. The cult is mixed up with several decade-old kidnapping cases and the missing daughter of a prominent FBI Agent. As Eleri and Donovan dig deeper, they discover that NightShade’s mysteries aren’t coincidence.
Their secrets will save them . . . or destroy them.
What did I think?:
First of all, thank you very much to Jessica Henkle of MBM Book Publicity and Griffyn Ink for letting me read a copy of Under Dark Skies in exchange for an honest review. It is the beginning in a series for author A.J. Scudiere and the first opportunity that I’ve had to read her work. Of course I was instantly intrigued by the synopsis of the story which led me to believe it was gritty crime fiction with a slice of the supernatural thrown in for good measure. On this count I was not disappointed at all and in fact, was surprised about how much I genuinely enjoyed the novel. Well…the supernatural can be done in two ways – quite poorly with a hint of “cheese,” or very well where you actually believe supernatural powers can exist. Wait a minute, they do don’t they?!
The first of our main characters is Eleri Eames who has been pulled out of some “time off” and specially selected to head a team known as The Nightshade Division, a lesser known and mysterious branch of the FBI that keeps its secrets between as few people as possible. Her partner in crime is rookie agent and former medical examiner Donovan Heath who has just graduated from the FBI program and again, was head hunted to be part of this particular case. The case itself involves the members of a religious cult, The City Of God who are suspected to be involved in a multitude of kidnappings, some a decade old. The action is ramped up a notch however when a child of a fellow FBI agent is abducted and a murder occurs of which the cult are strongly suspected to be responsible.
Eleri and Donovan reach a milestone in the investigation when they are able to get hold of people that were part of the cult but managed to escape in some way. In this way, the team are able to analyse the movements of the cult much more easily and begin to collect the crucial evidence that they require in order to see the perps, and in particular the leader of the cult, brought to justice. However, they are not able to solve the puzzles presented to them without calling on some deep-seated and occasionally unknown abilities of their own which not only makes the Nightshade Division an exclusive club to belong to but a very perilous one as the investigation threatens to endanger their lives.
If you like a bit of supernatural and fantasy in your crime fiction, this is definitely the book for you. I have to admit to being a bit sceptical at the beginning and I did actually guess Donovan’s “secret,” but it did not hamper my enjoyment of the story one bit. The characterisation was terrific – I loved how we got to see both the gruff and soft sides of Donovan and Eleri just fascinated me from the start. I have a feeling there is a lot more we are going to find out about both her back story and her special abilities in the books to follow in the series. The plot was interesting and very readable and the action sequences at the very end had me hovering on the edge of my seat in excitement. I’m now eagerly anticipating the second book for The Nightshade Division to see what Eleri and Donovan get up to next.
Please visit bibliobeth tomorrow where I will be interviewing A.J. Scudiere and finding out the answer to the question we all want to know… does she dog ear her books?!
A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.
Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.
Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.
What did I think?:
A Discovery Of Witches has been on my biblio-radar for a few years now so when I discovered that Book Bridgr and the publishers at Headline were giving away copies of the trilogy in exchange for an honest review to celebrate the third book in the series being released I was quick to hit that “request” button. I’ve got to admit that I was quite surprised by this novel as for some reason I thought it was marketed at a younger audience so I was impressed by the maturity both of the plot and of the writing. Our main character is a young woman called Diana Bishop who has excelled in her academic life by becoming a professor of the history of science and keeps herself physically fit by rowing and running on a daily basis. The most intriguing thing about our character however is that she is the daughter of two very powerful witches who were both murdered when she was seven years old. Oh yes, in the world that Deborah Harkness paints, there are four living species – witches, vampires, daemons and humans that, so far, seem to have co-existed relatively peacefully. Due to her parents violent end and because she feels no good can ever come of magic, Diana has suppressed her own “witchy” powers by refusing to acknowledge they even exist.
This is all set to change rather dramatically when Diana comes across an ancient manuscript that appears to be locked at the Bodleian library in Oxford. Entitled Ashmole 782, Diana is surprised to find that she is able to access the spells within and is briefly mesmerised by its contents before she swiftly closes the book and returns it to the stacks, feeling she is opening a huge can of worms. And she is. For now every single supernatural entity in Oxford now appears to be extremely interested in Diana and she begins to feel quite afraid, wondering just what it is that she has unwittingly begun. One of the interested parties is a Matthew Clairmont who is a biochemist, geneticist, wine-drinking, yoga-loving centuries-old vampire. After tiring of his courting technique (which involves following her and watching her sleep) Diana agrees to team up with Matthew to try and solve the mystery of the ancient book and just why it has the other supernaturals all hot and bothered. As Diana and Matthew become closer and fall in love, they realise that their mission is fraught with dangers that they had never anticipated and may even be their un-doing. Apart from vampire/witch relationships being slightly frowned upon in the magical circles they must encounter another enemy that could threaten everything they have. Is there anyone they can trust? Also, how will Diana cope when she begins to encounter powers within herself that she never realised she had?
Confession time. I definitely pre-judged this book. Hey, Twilight had just come out and the world was going a bit vampire crazy so I made an assumption that turned out to be very wrong. If you’re a fan of Twilight or a big YA lover this book is probably not going to be right for you. The pace at the beginning of the novel is very slow as the author sets the scene and explores her characters and to be honest, not much of note really takes place. As the action heats up (around the middle of the book) the plot becomes a bit more intriguing and we learn a lot more about the magical creatures that inhabit this strange little world. It took me a while to warm to Diana as a character, although I loved that the author made her intelligent and independent from the start, perfectly happy in her own skin and her own company (big hurrah!). What did annoy me was that as soon as she fell in love with Matthew she seemed to pander slightly to his control freakish nature allowing herself to become the damsel in distress rather than the super-heroine I was hoping for. There are quite a lot of negative reviews of this novel on GoodReads and I can see the point of some of the criticisms i.e. the length of the novel and the large portions where not much seemed to happen. Personally speaking, I thought it was well written, loved the scientific and historical notes and enjoyed a strong (for the most part) female lead and a riveting ending. It did seem that it got a lot more thrilling in the last third of the book which is why I am fairly eager to read the second novel in the trilogy – Shadow Of Night, just to see where on earth the author is going to take the story next!