In Bloom [review]

In Bloom - C J Skuse

Title: In Bloom
Author: CJ Skuse
Series: Sweetpea
Publisher: HarperCollins UK

[Synopsis]

If only they knew the real truth. It should be my face on those front pages. My headlines. I did those things, not him. I just want to stand on that doorstep and scream it: IT WAS ME. ME. ME. ME. ME!

Rhiannon Lewis has successfully fooled the world and framed her cheating fiancé Craig for the depraved and bloody killing spree she committed. She should be ecstatic that she’s free.

Except for one small problem. She’s pregnant with her ex-lover’s child. The ex-lover she only recently chopped up and buried in her in-laws’ garden. And as much as Rhiannon wants to continue making her way through her kill lists, a small voice inside is trying to make her stop.

But can a killer’s urges ever really be curbed?

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[My Review]

Can anything follow the sheer, utter brilliance of Sweetpea(If you missed it, read my review here). I am so pleased to say that the sequel, once again following serial killer Rhiannon, is in my opinion even better!

It’s another dark, crazy and laugh-out-loud-funny story which I didnt want to put down Rhiannon is as brilliant as ever, with razor sharp observations and utter disdain for certain aspects of human relationships and nature and just everyday life. Her ‘kill lists’ are always entertaining and the fact that she is now ‘with child’ takes nothing away from the level of dark humour; in fact I’m amazed to say that it’s even more crude, even more shocking and even more twisted than Sweetpea was. I love the different take on the serial killer genre, turning various conventions on its head with one bolshy character.

The plot is incredibly engaging and the pace is perfect; if you haven’t read Sweetpea then I say enjoy that first, then jump into In Bloom. I devoured it in (almost) one sitting. Highly recommended!

[Rating: 5/5]

Thank you to HarperCollins UK for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

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The Craftsman [review]

The Craftsman

Title: The Craftsman
Author: Sharon Bolton
Publisher: Trapeze

[Synopsis]

Catching him will make her career – and change her forever. 

August, 1999 
On the hottest day of the year, Assistant Commissioner Florence Lovelady attends the funeral of Larry Glassbrook, the convicted murderer she arrested thirty years earlier. A master carpenter and funeral director, Larry imprisoned his victims, alive, in the caskets he made himself. Clay effigies found entombed with their bodies suggested a motive beyond the worst human depravity.

June, 1969 
13-year- old Patsy Wood has been missing for two days, the third teenager to disappear in as many months. New to the Lancashire police force and struggling to fit in, WPC Lovelady is sent to investigate an unlikely report from school children claiming to have heard a voice calling for help. A voice from deep within a recent grave.

August, 1999 
As she tries to lay her ghosts to rest, Florence is drawn back to the Glassbrooks’ old house, in the shadow of Pendle Hill, where she once lodged with the family. She is chilled by the discovery of another effigy – one bearing a remarkable resemblance to herself. Is the killer still at large? Is Florence once again in terrible danger? Or, this time, could the fate in store be worse than even her darkest imaginings?

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[My Review]

I’ve only read one other novel by Sharon Bolton (Little Black Lies, which I really enjoyed – read my review here) and that was a while ago, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this. I soon found myself completely drawn into this atmospheric, well-written mystery/crime/thriller novel.

One of the things that set this apart again other novels for me was the fact that the majority of the storyline is set in the late 1960’s, and so you see the way women police officers were treated at that time and the hurdles they had to overcome to be taken seriously in the force. It’s such an interesting topic to read about, and I also enjoyed seeing police investigation techniques from back then as opposed to those used in modern-day investigations, which crime novels tend to focus on. It seems crazy to think of a female police officer being treated in this way nowadays – and I don’t mean she was necessarily treated in the worst way ever, but just dismissed and not taken seriously purely because of her gender. Florence is such a great, strong-minded character and I loved reading about her – in fact, I wanted there to be a series so I could read more about her!

The story itself is gripping, and occasionally switches between the time of the initial investigation, and the ‘present day’ narrative (which is actually 1999). There is a touch of the mystical / magical about it, which I’m not usually a fan of in this genre, but Sharon Bolton pulls it all together so well that it didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book at all.

There are creepy moments and things that make you think twice, and file them away for later (which I loved!). I hugely enjoyed this novel and would recommend to anyone looking for a smart, wonderfully crafted (sorry!) crime novel.

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to the publisher, Trapeze, for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

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Now You See [review]

Now You See

Title: Now You See
Author: Max Manning
Series: Detective Dan Fenton
Publisher: Wildfire

[Synopsis]

I, Killer has posted two photos of his first victim online – Before Death and After Death. They’ve gone viral before DCI Fenton’s team even discovers the body.

Soon, another victim’s photo is similarly posted…and so begins the killer’s following.

DCI Fenton is determined to discover the identity of I, Killer. Then the murderer makes the hunt personal, and Fenton’s search becomes a matter of life or death for him and his daughter.

But as I, Killer‘s body-count rises, his number of online followers is growing – and he loves to give his fans what they want…

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[My Review]

This is a really solid, entertaining new crime series which grabbed me from the first page until last. The characters are well-crafted and likable – though Fenton wasn’t hugely memorable, he’s a solid detective who you have faith in, and I really liked (perhaps preferred?) Blake.

I particularly like the fact that it wasn’t all centered around the police, and seeing Blake’s side gave it a different slant. I also really enjoyed seeing into the mind of the serial killer – it’s been done before but I feel that it’s done really well by Max Manning here.

The plot is fun to read and the social media element is a little different too. The short chapters are great at making you think ‘just one chapter’, until suddenly it’s the middle of the night and you’ve got work in the morning!

Overall I found Now You See an engaging and fun read, and am looking forward to future installments in this series!


Many thanks to Wildfire for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

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Turn a Blind Eye [review]

Turn a Blind Eye

Title: Turn a Blind Eye [audiobook version]
Author: Vicky Newham
Series: DI Maya Rahman
Publisher: HQ

[Synopsis]

A twisted killer has a deadly riddle for DI Maya Rahman to solve in this pulse-racing thriller, the first in an addictive new series set in East London.

A headmistress is found strangled in her East London school, her death the result of a brutal and ritualistic act of violence. Found at the scene is a single piece of card, written upon which is an ancient Buddhist precept:

I shall abstain from taking the ungiven.

At first, DI Maya Rahman can’t help but hope this is a tragic but isolated murder. Then, the second body is found.

Faced with a community steeped in secrets and prejudice, and with a serial killer on her hands, Maya must untangle the cryptic messages left at the crime scenes to solve the deadly riddle behind the murders – before the killer takes another victim.

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[My Review]

I really enjoyed this novel which had all the elements of a police procedural that I tend to enjoy, and plenty of mystery and tension too.

I really liked Maya – she’s an intelligent, quick, hard-working detective who also happens to be Bengali. This makes a bit of a change from other white-male-driven novels in this genre, and her background and family life growing up affects Maya’s way of thinking and policing in Tower Hamlets and the surrounding area, where a headmistress has been murdered.

The story is really well structured, allowing the reader to slowly piece together what has happened whilst revealing more about Maya and her colleagues, and also touching upon many issues and subjects that are incredibly relevant today. There’s plenty of clues and along the way, and I really enjoyed listening to this on audiobook. It’s an easy listen (narrated really well by Sonia Kaur) and very engaging. The plot is tight, the characters are (on the whole) likable and interesting, and the setting in London is great with its multicultural characters – I would definitely recommend this for anyone looking to discover a gripping new crime series with a strong and likable female lead.


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The Next Girl [review]

The Next Girl - Carla Kovach

Title: The Next Girl 
Author: Carla Kovac
Series: Detective Gina Harte (#1)
Publisher: Bookouture

[Synopsis]

She thought he’d come to save her. She was wrong.

Deborah Jenkins pulls her coat around her as she sets out on her short walk home in the pouring rain. But she never makes it home that night. And she is never seen again …

Four years later, an abandoned baby girl is found wrapped in dirty rags on a doorstep. An anonymous phone call urges the police to run a DNA test on the baby. But nobody is prepared for the results.

The newborn belongs to Deborah. She’s still alive.

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[My Review]

What a gripping, tense start to a new detective series which looks set to be a new favourite! Although it focuses on Detective Gina Harte, the book didn’t feel like your average crime novel – though a lot of it fits the ‘police procedural’ format (which, I should point out, I am a big fan of, so nothing to complain about there), a good portion of the story also takes place from the victim’s point of view and from that of missing person Deborah Jenkins’ husband, and this adds a fresh take on the story and, to me, makes it more of a crime thriller – and a really engaging one at that!

Gina herself is a great character – she has her faults and quirks but she adds a lot of interest to the story. The Next Girl is also a stark reminder of how hard the police have to fight to run certain tests; it really highlights the pressure they’re under due to cuts in funding which I found very interesting (though worrying too, of course, as I am aware this element is sadly not complete fiction).

I loved the way the story cuts between different people; it keeps you guessing and reading on, and add that extra element of who exactly is telling the truth. It has just the right balance between action, threat, and fast-paced detective work – all wrapped up into a great start to an exciting and promising new crime series!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Bookouture for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

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Deadly Secrets by @RobertBryndza [review] @bookouture

Deadly Secrets - Robert Bryndza

Title: Deadly Secrets
Author: Robert Bryndza
Series: Detective Erika Foster (#6)
Publisher: Bookouture

[Synopsis]

To commit the perfect murder, you need the perfect cover.

On a cold icy morning, a mother wakes to find her daughter’s blood-soaked body frozen to the road. Who would carry out such a horrific killing on the victim’s doorstep?

Straight off her last harrowing case, Detective Erika Foster is feeling fragile but determined to lead the investigation. As she sets to work, she finds reports of assaults in the same quiet South London suburb where the woman was killed. One chilling detail links them to the murder victim – they were all attacked by a figure in black wearing a gas mask.

Erika is on the hunt for a killer with a terrifying calling card. The case gets more complicated when she uncovers a tangled web of secrets surrounding the death of the beautiful young woman.

Yet just as Erika begins to piece the clues together, she is forced to confront painful memories of her past. Erika must dig deep, stay focused and find the killer. Only this time, one of her own is in terrible danger…

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[My Review]

Another fantastic, well-written release from Robert Bryndza and the Detective Erika Foster series, which has quickly climbed to one of my favourite detective/ crime series, and which never fails to draw me into Erika’s world so completely. I know once I pick up a novel in this series I won’t be able to do anything else until I’ve finished it!

As well as lots of gripping investigation and police work, plus glimpses into the life of a disturbing killer, we also see a bit more of Erika’s soft side as she helps her father in law and deals with some surprising news from a certain someone…

I love the police procedural element of the story – as always the plot is gripping, tight and excellently written, with the perfect mix of personal elements surrounding Erika’s team and the police work itself.

Deadly Secrets could be read as a stand-alone, but with five previous (brilliant) novels to get stuck into, I recommend starting from the beginning so you know as much as possible about Erika and her background, as this only enhances each story!

[Rating: 5/5]

Many thanks to Bookouture for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

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Briguella by @AuthorVickiFitz [review]

Briguella - Vicki Fitzgerald

Title: Briguella
Author: Vicki Fitzgerald
Publisher: Creativia

[Synopsis]

After seven women fall victim to a serial killer, journalist Kate Rivendale becomes embroiled in the manhunt. The authorities have no suspect, only one forensic link dating way back to the 1930s.

Detective Chief Inspector William Beckley needs to salvage his career; he has too many deaths on his conscience. Beckley entices Kate to go undercover, a decision which backfires with devastating consequences.

While DCI Beckley reaches a horrifying conclusion about the murderer Kate enters a desperate fight for her life… while battling to keep her own secrets buried.

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[My Review]

Briguella is a gripping crime debut from Vicki Fitzgerald, an author I’ll certainly be following!

The novel itself has two main narrators: DCI William Beckley and reporter Kate Rivendale, and having both of these characters tell us their side of the story means the readers gets just the right blend of police procedural elements and ‘non-police’ actions and jargon. I really warmed to Kate, though she had her faults, and found myself caring what happened to her. I have to say, I wasn’t a big fan of Beckley due to the way he treated some characters and really mooned over *someone* (I found this rather irritating but I don’t want to be more specific as I don’t want to give away any elements of the plot). He just grated on me  – and don’t get me started on Kate’s mother and sister – no excuses for their behaviour! At times I felt the descriptions were a bit too long and flowing, but nevertheless I hugely enjoyed reading about the police’s (at times very flawed) investigation into the mysterious serial killer terrorising Westhaven’s streets. The plot it moved along at the right pace and kept me really wanting to read on.

There’s elements of gore and some pretty nasty parts – it is about a serial killer, after all -but this didn’t feel too over the top. I had guessed the killer’s identity towards the end of the book but it didn’t hamper my enjoyment at all, and overall I am hugely impressed by this brilliant debut which I would definitely recommend!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Vicki for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

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The Darkness [review]

The Darkness - Ragnar Jonasson

Title: The Darkness
Author: Ragnar Jonasson
Publisher: Michael Joseph

[Synopsis]

Be the first to read the incredible, chilling first novel in the new Hulda crime series from Icelandic superstar Ragnar Jónasson…

At sixty-four, Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdottir of the Reykjavik Police is about to take on her last case before she retires: A young woman, an asylum seeker from Russia, found murdered on the seaweed covered rocks of the Vatnsleysuströnd in Iceland.

When Hulda starts to ask questions it isn’t long before she realizes that no one can be trusted, and that no one is telling the whole truth. Spanning Reykjavik, the Icelandic highlands and the cold, isolated fjords, The Darkness is a thrilling new crime thriller from one of the biggest new names in Scandi noir.

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[My Review]

This is an intriguing, well-crafted novel which I hugely enjoyed. I have to admit I haven’t read any other novels by Ragnar Jónasson despite hearing so many great things, so I jumped at the chance to review the first book in a new series, as then it doesn’t matter if I haven’t read others. And I’m so glad to say that The Darkness is was a solid, really enjoyable read!

Firstly, this series (Hidden Iceland #1) looks set to be pretty unique as it’s actually the end of a series; subsequent novels will apparently cover previous cases (something I actually didn’t realise until I finished this book!). I really like the idea of this, and also Hulda as a character – she’s pretty abrupt and may to some seem unlikable, but I did warm to her as the novel went on – you see as you continue reading that she has had a lot to deal with over her lifetime. Plus, the police haven’t exactly been great to her – she’s being forced into an early retirement because they seem to want to create a younger workforce! I really liked that the main character is someone older as this makes a change from many other books.

The plot isn’t overly complex but enjoyable to read, and though there are quite a few people involved in the case it wasn’t too confusing. I found the writing really easy to read and raced through this (at under 300 pages it’s not too long, either). It’s not too gorey but has the right level of darkness and eeriness, making you imagine you’re there with Hulda in the Icelandic landscape.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Darkness and it’s definitely made want to read both more of this series and other novels by Ragnar Jónasson too!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

The Darkness is out in the UK in ebook and hardback on 15 March 2018! Pre-order / buy on Amazon here.


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The Friend [review]

The Friend - Dorothy Koomson

Title: The Friend
Author: Dorothy Koomson
Publisher: Penguin Random House UK

[Synopsis]

What secrets would you kill to keep? 

After her husband’s big promotion, Cece Solarin arrives in Brighton with their three children, ready to start afresh. But their new neighbourhood has a deadly secret.

Three weeks earlier, Yvonne, a very popular parent, was almost murdered in the grounds of the local school – the same school where Cece has unwittingly enrolled her children.

Already anxious about making friends when the parents seem so cliquey, Cece is now also worried about her children’s safety. By chance she meets Maxie, Anaya and Hazel, three very different school mothers who make her feel welcome and reassure her about her new life.

That is until Cece discovers the police believe one of her new friends tried to kill Yvonne. Reluctant to spy on her friends but determined to discover the truth, Cece must uncover the potential murderer before they strike again…

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[My Review]

This is an absorbing, intriguing novel which centers largely around friendship, betrayal and secrets… lots of secrets!

The characters really make this novel; Dorothy Koomson has created a varied and interesting cast of people, all with their own problems and worries, and so as the reader I couldn’t help but find myself caring about some of them. There are a lot of names and relationships to get to grips with, especially at the start when the narrative suddenly switches between people, but before long they became almost well-known to me.

I really liked main character Cece and felt for her as time went on, as well as some of the other women, but there was one person who really seemed to be the worst – I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but it will soon become apparent! There’s people you feel you can get behind, others that I really disliked, and the slightly slower-moving pace means you find yourself really engrossed in their lives.

It’s not an all-action, hugely suspenseful novel; the mystery about what happened to Yvonne is almost secondary to the stories each person has and the way their relationships and friendships are affected by certain lasting actions.I personally really enjoyed the element of mystery in this novel, as it kept it the story on the right track; it felt like we were going somewhere, and I am a reader that can easily get distracted or disengaged if it feels like there’s no real journey in a story – not at all the case in The Friend, I’m pleased to say.

I absolutely loved The Ice Cream Girls (also by Dorothy Koomson) and have had That Girl From Nowhere on my ‘to read’ list for ages, so I jumped at the chance to review The Friend. I can say, for fans of this author or any new readers, this is well worth a read. It’s fairly long at almost 500 pages, so prepare to settle in for this one and don’t expect a quick read, but it’s worth the wait – a great mix of character development, tension, and mystery.

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Random House UK for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

The Friend is out to buy now!

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The Dark Lake [blog tour review] @sarahbailey1982

The Dark Lake

Today I am so excited to be on the blog tour for Sarah Bailey’s crime debut The Dark Lake. Read on to find out what I thought…

Title: The Dark Lake 
Author: Sarah Bailey
Publisher: Atlantic Books

[Synopsis]

A hot summer. A shocking murder. A town of secrets, waiting to explode…A beautiful young teacher has been murdered, her body found in the lake, strewn with red roses.

Local policewoman Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock pushes to be assigned to the case, concealing the fact that she knew the murdered woman in high school years before.But that’s not all Gemma’s trying to hide. As the investigation digs deeper into the victim’s past, other secrets threaten to come to light, secrets that were supposed to remain buried.

The lake holds the key to solving the murder, but it also has the power to drag Gemma down into its dark depths…

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[My Review]

The Dark Lake ticked all the boxes for a great crime debut for me: an intriguing plot, convincing and three-dimensional characterisation, and police procedural details, not to mention plenty of atmosphere! AND it’s the first in a new series, too!

Firstly, I really warmed to the brilliant DS Gemma Woodstock. She’s a wonderfully flawed female lead (the kind of character I always enjoy reading about) but she’s also sharp, strong and determined. I don’t agree with everything she has or does do, but she’s definitely interesting to read about! If you only really enjoy reading about ‘likeable’ characters, then Gemma – with all her angst and dubious decisions in her personal life – won’t be for you – but to those people I’d also say, who in real life is really like that anyway? She’s also the first in a whole array of convincing and, most importantly, interesting characters that end up being linked in unexpected ways, which I loved.

What sets this apart from some other novels of the same genre is it’s definitely a character-focussed/ driven crime novel; I felt myself being drawn more and more into the book’s world, not just because I wanted to know ‘whodunnit’, but because I cared about what would happen to these characters who had been so skillfully developed. Sarah Bailey’s writing is, for me, spot on – full of imagery without the language being too flowery and people who don’t fit too neatly into a certain ‘type’ of character – ‘baddie’, ‘goodie’, ‘sensible’ etc. They feel like real people, not caricatures.

The mystery itself kept me interested throughout; I really do enjoy following the steps in an investigation from start to finish, and The Dark Lake‘s slightly slower pace allowed for this, as well as throwing in plenty of twists and red herrings too. The case definitely had some dark elements which added to the chilled and slightly eerie atmosphere, and the novel finished with an ending that left me satisfied. Great stuff – bring on book two!

[Rating: 4.5/5]

Many thanks to Anne Cater and Atlantic Books for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review, and for inviting me onto the blog tour!

The Dark Lake is out now – buy on Amazon here!


Sarah Bailey Author Picture

About the author

Sarah’s first novel, The Dark Lake, was published in Australia by Allen & Unwin in May 2017 and in the USA and Canada in October.

Sarah lives in Melbourne, Australia and has two young sons. She has fifteen years experience in the advertising industry and is currently a director at creative projects company Mr Smith.

Sarah’s second book, Into The Night, featuring Detective Gemma Woodstock, will be published in 2018.

Follow Sarah on twitter @sarahbailey1982 or visit her website: www.sarahbaileyauthor.com


Follow the rest of the tour…

The Dark Lake Blog Tour Poster

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