It’s a joy to get into a series of books and read along as an author really hits their stride. I very much enjoyed the first two in the DCS Frankie Sheehan series by Liv Kiernan, Too Close to Breathe and The Killer In Me, so am really pleased to see the character reappear in If Looks Could Kill.
In her third case, Frankie leads an investigation into the disappearance of Debbie Nugent, a woman who lives in a rural area, and whose home shows obvious signs of violence. There’s no body to be found though, and the behaviour of her two adult daughters is frankly baffling – one of them has clearly been living in the house with a bloody crime scene. In order to solve the crime Frankie has to lead a team of her own detectives and local Gardaí to investigate Debbie’s past and uncover long held secrets.
It’s great to see a strong female lead in a police procedural that’s both intelligent but fallible, and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next in the series.
Many thanks to riverrun, Quercus Books and NetGalley for the advance copy provided in return for my honest review, and for the invitation to take part in the Blog Tour. If Looks Could Kill is published on 23rd July 2020 in hardback. Please do check in with the others on this blog tour, listed below, for their reviews.
I’ve got a pretty busy Autumn coming up and so hadn’t planned to take part in a blog tour, but as a female Chartered Engineer I couldn’t resist the opportunity to review Magnificent Women and their Revolutionary Machines, by Henrietta Heald. This book is being published in the centenary year of the Women’s Engineering Society, and tells the stories of many amazing and pioneering women. And when I say stories, I mean stories. This isn’t a dry tome listing the accomplishments of the great and the good – it’s a narrative biography set against a social revolution.
The central characters in our cast of magnificent women are Rachel Parsons, who effectively came from engineering royalty, a wealthy family with a rich heritage of scientific endeavour; and Caroline Haslett who came from much humbler beginnings but became perhaps the pre-eminent woman in electrical engineering in the 20th century.
The formation of the Women’s Engineering Society happened at a time of enormous social change and one that caused conflicting feelings for women. On one hand (some) women had just got the right to vote for the first time, but on the other, many women who had had interesting and varied jobs during World War One were being asked to return to domestic lives as men returned from the war. The prompt to create the WES was a proposed post-war bill outlawing the employment of women in engineering. Outraged by this, Rachel Parsons and her mother Katherine brought together a group of women to be a ‘fighting force’ that could become as powerful as the men’s unions had been. Along with the founders, former suffragette Caroline Haslett became the WES’ secretary. Thus their entwined stories begin, but as Heald leads us through the 20th century, we see that for one of the pair their career goes to greater heights and for the other their career sadly fades and ultimately their life ends in tragedy. This book is skilfully done and reads both easily and beautifully. It’s the story of two hugely influential women to whom I owe a great deal and of whom I’m ashamed to say I knew very little. I’m grateful this book came along so that I could find out more.
“Farah is a young lawyer living and working in London. She’s just ended a long relationship, and her parents are looking for a husband – whether Farah wants one or not. So far, so normal. But at a work dinner, hosted by a dangerously powerful man, she comes across a young woman called Razia, who Farah soon realises is being kept as a domestic slave.
We follow Farah’s daring investigations from the law courts of London to the brick kilns of Lahore, as she begins to uncover the traps that keep generation after generation enslaved. Everywhere she turns there is deep-rooted oppression and corruption, and when the authorities finally intervene, their actions have dire consequences.
Farah teams up with a human rights lawyer, Ali, and the two become close… but can she trust him; can they help Razia and others like her; and will they ever discover the explosive secret behind these tragic events?”
These men and women would work in these fields and stand on the side of roads like this up and down the country, for hours, just so they could earn enough to feed their family dhal and roti. She felt a sudden pang of sadness, a strong feeling of grief, such as she had never experienced before; a fierce and unexpected attachment to these people, and their struggles, even though they were all perfect strangers to her.
Modern slavery is one of those topics that pops up on the news from time to time, but is primarily a hidden abuse that lurks in the shadows. It’s one of things that we think perhaps rarely exists in modern Britain, and yet the Home Office conservatively estimates there are 13,000 slaves in the UK today (see here for a recent example involving 400 victims alone). Abda Khan brings this subject out into the light in her new novel, Razia. Khan’s background as a lawyer and campaigner brings a realism to the story of Farah, a young lawyer who stumbles across a case of modern slavery amongst the highest echelons of society. The story moves from London to Lahore as she tries to help the victim and is an unflinching read – there are some lovely and touching moments, but with this subject matter it was never going to be hugely cheery. This book moved me and opened my eyes to something that I know must be going on somewhere near me. For an exploration of a difficult topic in an accessible way, I would highly recommend it.
For more on modern slavery see here from the charity anti-slavery. Abda Kahn is an author and a lawyer and won the Noor Inayat Khan Muslim Woman of the Year Award 2019. Razia is published to coincide with World Day against Trafficking in Persons, and can be pre-ordered here.
I received a free copy of Razia in return for an honest review. Please do visit the other amazing bloggers on this blog tour, as shown below.
A bomb detonates in Bradford’s City Park. When the alert sounds, DCI Harry Virdee has just enough time to get his son and his mother to safety before the bomb blows. But this is merely a stunt.
The worst is yet to come. A new and aggressive nationalist group, the Patriots, have hidden a second device under one of the city’s one hundred and five mosques. In exchange for the safe release of those at Friday prayers, the Patriots want custody of the leaders of radical Islamist group Almukhtareen – the chosen ones. The government does not negotiate with terrorists. Even when thousands of lives are at risk.
There is only one way out. But Harry’s wife is in one of those mosques. Left with no choice, Harry must find the Almukhtareen, to offer the Patriots his own deal.
If you’re a fan of extremely pacy thrillers / police procedurals that are bang up to date, I have good news for you. If you like a copper with a difficult backstory, I have even more good news for you. And if you like a copper with a backstory but are a bit bored with that copper being a middle-aged out of shape bloke with a drinking problem, you probably shouldn’t bother reading the rest of this review. You just filled your bingo card. Go and buy this book immediately.
The set-up on this is cracking. DCI Harry Virdee has a catalogue of family issues, including an interfaith marriage which has not gone down well with the wider family, and a brother with an interesting business model. So when he takes his mum and son out to the park for the day, it seems a pleasant break from everything else that’s going on his life. But when a bomb planted by a nationalist group goes off, he and his family manage to get away safely, only to find that his wife is caught up in an ongoing hostage situation related to the original explosion.
Harry is obviously desperate to save his wife, and his deep knowledge of the local area makes him uniquely qualified to do so. With the help and encouragement of his politician friend, he sets out to find those that the nationalist bombers want handing over to them, the leaders of the radical Islamist group, Almukhtareen.
This is a really tight plot, which cracks along at pace. It’s also highly topical, covering the rise of both religious extremism and nationalism. The hostage scenario is a really clever set up, and I’ll confess to being worried that the rest of the book might disappoint. It doesn’t. Harry is an interesting and complex character who, especially given his own wife is in danger, is quite prepared to resolve the situation by any means. It’s a bit Roy Grace police procedural, a bit Jack Reacher action thriller, all set against a very modern British city. I loved it.
One Way Out is available on 27th June in ebook and hardback. It’s the fourth in the Harry Virdee series. I received a free copy for this blog tour in return for an honest review. Please do visit the other excellent bloggers on this tour, as shown below.
‘Any wish fulfilled for the right price. That’s the promise the organization behind The Desire Card gives to its elite clients – but sometimes the price may be more menacing than anyone could ever imagine.
Harrison Stockton has lived an adult life of privilege and excess: a high-powered job on Wall Street fuels his fondness for alcohol and pills at the expense of a family he has no time for. Quite suddenly all of this comes crashing to a halt when he loses his job and at the same time discovers he almost certainly has only months left to live.
Desperate, and with seemingly nowhere else left to turn, Harrison activates his Desire Card. What follows is a gritty and gripping quest that takes him from New York City to the slums of Mumbai and forces him to take chances, and make decisions, he never thought he’d ever have to face. When his moral descent threatens his wife and children, Harrison must decide whether to save himself at any cost, or do what’s right and break his bargain with the mysterious group behind The Desire Card.
The Desire Card is a taut fast-paced thriller, from internationally acclaimed author Lee Matthew Goldberg, that explores what a man will do to survive when money isn’t always enough to get everything he desires.‘
I do love a fast paced thriller and The Desire Card definitely falls into that category. It’s fair to say the main protagonist, Harrison, has had better times . A combination of long hours on Wall Street and after-work partying means that his kids are barely speaking to him, his marriage is on the rocks and he’s ill. In fact he’s much, much sicker than he realises. His problems come to a head when he’s let go from his job. As a softener, his boss gives him a Desire Card – a small card with a button that he can press and request anything he wants, for a price.
To take his mind off things, he decides to ask for a woman. And from that night he spends with her in a hotel room, his problems spiral and spiral. He ends up heading to Mumbai in a bid to solve his health issue and the author really does not spare him – it’s really not his day, week or year.
This is gritty and graphic and in many ways (despite the modern setting and use of technology) it’s a little old fashioned – an old school thriller with pace and action. My one complaint is that the female characters weren’t massively developed, but it kept me glued to a sun lounger and if taut thrillers are your scene, it’s a good holiday read.
The Desire Card is available now in ebook and paperback. I received a free copy for this blog tour in return for an honest review. Please do visit the other excellent bloggers on this tour, as shown below.
‘For more than twenty years, Tony Hawks has been mistaken for Tony Hawk, the American skateboarder. Even though it is abundantly clear on his website that he is an English comedian and author, people still write to him asking the best way to do a kickflip or land a melon.
One mischievous day he started writing back in a pompous tone, goading his correspondents for their spelling mistakes and poor grammar, while offering bogus or downright silly advice on how to improve their skateboarding.
Featuring entries on Pain, Disappointment, Underachievers, Quorn and the Vatican, this is his A to Z guide to the world of skateboarding, as seen through the eyes of someone who knows absolutely nothing about it.‘
I was delighted to receive this copy of Tony Hawks’ latest book as part of a blog tour for two reasons. Firstly, his debut book, Round Ireland With A Fridge is still one of my favourite non-fiction books of all time, and secondly I have a similar problem to him. My email correspondents don’t think that they are contacting a famous person, just someone with the same name as the person they really wanted, but man are they persistent. I’ve been offered nursing shifts in a Denver hospital, a property to rent in Florida, the chance to join a class action law suit and a fishing licence in Maine. So I was intrigued to see how Tony handled being mistaken for the skateboarding legend that is Tony Hawk.
WILL FLORIDA BE INCLUDED IN ANY OF YOU TOURING EVENTS? IF SO, WHICH CITIES. THANKS WILLIE
Florida, no. Bexhill-on-Sea, yes. Any use to you? TH
This is different to Round Ireland With A Fridge, which was written in a narrative style. This book is a fun compendium of facts about skateboarding, wholly inaccurate musings about skateboarding and completely random and acerbic advice for the misguided skateboarding unfortunates that decided to email him. It’s a perfect loo-shelf gift for someone with a very dry sense of humour and as much knowledge of skateboarding as Tony, who’d like a book they can flip through. If you like Joe Lycett’s style of email response, this could well be up your street.
The A to Z of Skateboarding is out now in hardback, published by Unbound, £9.99. I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review as part of this blog tour. Please do visit the fabulous bloggers on the tour as shown below.
I’m delighted to be joining the blog tour for this new psychological thriller and debut novel by S. R. Masters. He’s woven a well crafted story centring around a group of five friends who, as teenagers in the late 90s, do all the things teens do – hang around their small village, drink illicit alcohol, hole up at the house of the kid whose parents are out the most and let their overactive imaginations create all sorts of stories about the adults around them. And like all teenagers they spend hours talking about their futures – for one a career in medicine, for another a longing to be an actor, and for Will, the one teen who really can’t think what to do – a joke that one day he might become a serial killer.
You need to kill at least three people to be a serial killer, right? So that’s what I’ll do.
The author flips the story between the late 90s and 2015, when one of the group contacts the others and suggests a reunion. By this time, Adeline, the main narrator for the 2015 segments of the book, has a terrible relationship with her parents and is reluctant to come back to her childhood home. But she’s proud of her popular podcast series on movies, and deciding that’s something she can talk about with the others, she agrees to come home for Christmas and get together for old time’s sake. Although the group are happy to be reunited, Will is a no show, and eventually their thoughts turn to what he said about his future when they were younger. Thus begins a search to see what had happened to Will, and if he could possibly have carried out what they thought were idle threats.
This book swaps between time periods and narrators, so does take a little bit of concentration, but it’s well worth the effort. It’s a cleverly woven narrative and I really liked that the protagonists had very different adult lives, which all played into the story in different ways. S. R. Masters also puts plenty of doubt into your mind as to how the story will pan out, and peels away the layers of the plot deliberately and carefully. My overriding sense from this book is of the oppressiveness of the tiny village in which the group grew up, where everyone knows everyone else’s business, prejudices and connections, and how this carries through into the teenagers’ futures. A strong long form debut from an author who has written a lot of short stories, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he comes out with next.
As a crime fiction fan, there’s absolutely nothing better than discovering a new author who writes brilliant police procedurals. It’s like Christmas and birthday all rolled into one, with someone turning up with a giant portion of your favourite cake for good measure (carrot cake, please). For some reason, Olivia Kiernan’s first book (Too Close To Breathe, now out in paperback) had passed me by, so my first acquaintance with Dublin-based DCS Frankie Sheehan was her second outing.
As a reader, I’m really picky in my crime fiction – I want believable protagonists, a tight plot and something that hooks me from the off and keeps me guessing. The Killer In Me ticks all those boxes, with an attention grabbing start as DCS Sheehan faces two huge challenges: solving a horrific double murder and dealing with pressure from a family member to look into a potential miscarriage of justice 15 years previously. The setting will bring a familiar feeling to Tana French fans as the action all happens in and around Dublin, but it’s definitely faster paced than, say, French’s The Wych Elm. Kiernan keeps the pace and the tension high and I whizzed through it, compelled to see how the two plot strands unwound.
Let’s hope there’s a third book in the pipeline somewhere, because this has the makings of a really strong police procedural series. I went straight out and bought Too Close to Breathe and read it immediately afterwards, which hopefully tells you how much of a fan I am.
Many thanks to riverrun, Quercus Books and NetGalley for the advance copy provided in return for my honest review, and for the invitation to take part in the Blog Blast. The Killer In Me is published on 4th April in hardback. Please do check in with the others on this blog blast, listed below.