Crime, Fiction

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton – Agatha on Acid

This book is insane. Stuart Turton said in his author’s note that he wanted to write something inspired by Agatha Christie, but this is Agatha Christie on a mix of steroids and acid with a Groundhog Day chaser. It’s a melange of classic stately home murder and supernatural twists. If you make it to the end, I think it will definitely stick with you.

The narrator lives the same day over and over again, waking up each in day in the body of a different person in the cast of characters who are attending a house party in a stately home. The only way he can escape this living nightmare is to solve the murder of the daughter of the family that owns the house, Evelyn Hardcastle. 

If that’s not enough, as well as the book having multiple characters narrating the book, it spools back and forth between them at different times of the day. 

The blurb on the copy I have has praise from some top authors and I can completely see why. It’s clever, it’s original, it’s gripping and it’s got more twists than an Alpine pass. But man, it’s a hard read. I’d recommend having the cast of characters by your side as you read it, and maybe even making notes. It’s so complicated. Not one to read late at night when you’re tired, or after a large wine – you need to give it your full attention. If you’re prepared, I think you’ll appreciate the cleverness of the plot, but this is not a light read. I gave it four stars, and looking on Amazon there are lots of one star reviews and lots of five star reviews. I can completely see why. Rejoice in the plotting mastery, but I’ll need something a little easier for my next read and a long lie down.

This review is of a purchased copy.

Blog Tour, Crime, Thriller

The Killer You Know by S. R. Masters – Blog Tour Review

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.

This review is of an advance copy, provided in exchange for an honest review. Please do visit the other blogs on tour, as shown below. The Killer You Know is out now in paperback and ebook.

Blog Tour, Crime

The Killer In Me by Olivia Kiernan – Blog Blast Review

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.

Too Close to Breathe, the first DCS Sheehan book, is now out in paperback

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.

Crime, Fiction, Thriller

The Wych Elm by Tana French – Review

It took me a while to get into this – I felt the set up was quite protracted – but once it got going I was completely hooked. This is the story of Toby, a young man who suffers a serious assault at home. As a result of this, and his uncle’s terminal diagnosis, it’s decided that he should move in with his uncle at the old family home. There he can continue to recuperate whilst supporting his uncle.

When a skull is later found in a Wych Elm in the garden, the story slowly unravels until all sorts of long hidden secrets tumble out. Thoughout the book the police are an almost sinister presence as they try to solve the case in parallel with Toby trying to understand what has happened. This is so cleverly plotted (as you’d expect from Tana French). I wasn’t sure to start with, but loved it by the end. For that reason it’s a four not five star read for me, but very nicely done.

This review is of a purchased copy.

Crime, Thriller

Keep Her Close by M.J. Ford – Review

This is the second in the DS Jo Masters series, and this time out she’s tasked with investigating the disappearance of an Oxford student. The original investigation broadens out as other young women begin to disappear, and Jo Masters’ history means that she starts to distrust all around her.

This is a pacy police procedural that can be read as a stand-alone, although there are references to her previous outing in Hold My Hand, which I will definitely put on my To Be Read list. Fans of UK crime fiction will enjoy this I feel – a solid plot and nice pace pulls you through the story and Jo Masters is an interesting protagonist. Thoroughly enjoyable.

This review is of an advance copy provided by NetGalley and Avon Books.

Crime, Thriller

The Flower Girls by Alice Clark-Platts – Review

I read this in one sitting and was captivated. It opens with the disappearance of a five year-old girl from a remote Devon hotel during an an ice storm – a hotel at which one of the other guests is now extremely concerned about hiding her past. Hazel is the name she she is now known by, but as a child she had another name – a name which had become notorious as she and her older sister had been caught up in the killing of a toddler and collectively become known to the public as The Flower Girls.

As the story unfolds the author takes us through several twists and turns, with various protagonists taking us down blind alleys and off on tangents. As well as a tale of (potentially) two crimes, one current and one historic, it’s tale of family loyalty and disloyalty, of persistence and of walking the tightrope of moral justice and outright revenge. The story also explores the rehabilitation of those that commit the most serious of crimes at a tender age, and how society should deal with these children.

The opening gave me very strong Christie vibes, with the windswept clifftop hotel, cut off by snow and ice and only a limited cast of characters that could possibly be involved in the girl’s disappearance. But the book as a whole is much more like Barbara Vine’s works (Ruth Rendell’s pen name for her more psychological thrillers), so if you’re a fan of that genre I think you might love this. And if you do, you might also love the books by Alex Marwood which I think have a similar vibe (although I should warn you that one of them, The Wicked Girls, has a very similar theme). A cracking five stars from me – it transported me on a journey to an unexpected conclusion.

This review is of a purchased copy. The Flower Girls by Alice Clark-Platts

Crime, Thriller

Bitter Edge by Rachel Lynch – Review

This is the first book I’ve read from the DI Kelly Porter series and I will confess I started to feel a little nervous as the plot strands mount up. Rachel Lynch does not shy away from dark themes – the book opens with a teenage girl taking her own life and then draws in teen drug use, a parent out for revenge, potentially unfounded accusations and family drama. There are some very fine plotting skills on display as these various strands weave their way through the book and to (for me at least) an unexpected conclusion. Of particular note is that the story is set in one of the UK’s most beautiful regions, the Lake District, which it would be tempting to portray as chocolate box scenery. Although you get a feel for the raw beauty of the area, Lynch does not ignore the significant social issues facing rural populations. Highly recommended and for me a chance to go back and read the first three in the series.

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This is a review of an advance copy  provided by NetGalley and Canelo.