SIXTEEN HORSES

SIXTEEN HORSES
GREG BUCHANAN

Rating: 2 out of 5.

This is a very unsettling book which doesn’t seem to know what it is. Written in an over-literary style in a very disjointed way with short sections hopping about quite randomly, it yet professes to be a mystery / thriller. I struggled to maintain interest in the face of the unrelenting gloom and the visceral content. My overwhelming feeling, which keep intruding on my reading, is that the author is trying too hard to be too many things.
There is an absolute howler in the first chapter which nearly stopped me from reading any

more. The detective is in a muddy field before sunrise, yet flies are buzzing everywhere. Flies need polarised light to guide them visually. I would hope that this is corrected before publication. In conclusion, I would add that the book is very well written and will most likely appeal to those who like their thrillers at the high end of grim and gory, but they will need to be prepared to wade through quite a bit of pretention first.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


THE COFFIN MAKER’S GARDEN

THE COFFIN MAKER’S GARDEN
STUART McBRIDE

Rating: 2 out of 5.

I was very attracted to this book for a number of reasons – the synopsis, the reputation of the author and the great cover. The story starts off at a great lick and I was completely drawn in to it. A wild and stormy coastline, slowly disappearing into the ocean and revealing a house of horrors where many murders had taken place.
Ash Henderson, ex police officer and now a ‘consultant’ of some kind, and Dr Alice McDonald, a forensic psychologist, are sent to the scene to assist the police and become embroiled in the hunt to find the serial killer.
Simultaneously, they are involved, to some degree, in an ongoing investigation into another serial killer who is strangling young boys.
Ash Henderson is arrogant, rude, violent and treats everyone as less intelligent than himself. The only person he appears to have some tenderness for is McDonald, a functioning alcoholic who can’t work unless she’s had a large helping of alcohol.
It requires quite a large suspension of belief to accept this pair as capable of solving not one, but two, major crimes

simultaneously without much help from the police. MacBride very rarely introduces a likeable character and, when he does, they are always secondary to Henderson who rides roughshod over everyone in his path. A female police officer appears for a large section of the book but doesn’t do much more than drive Henderson about and get leered at, by quite a few characters, because she has attractive boobs. She disappeared after a while and was never referred to again.
MacBride has an unusual style of presenting telephone conversations partly in italics and of portraying emotion in capitals, usually interspersed with a good sprinkling of swear word, which is unsettling to the eye.
The last section of the book is frankly too far fetched for words.
I know MacBride has a legion of fans and I would have liked to join them but, although the plot was good, particularly at the beginning, the execution of it let it down.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own
.

OUR LITTLE CRUELTIES

OUR LITTLE CRUELTIES
LIZ NUGENT

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Three brothers – William, Brian and Luke – take turns in narrating the story of their childhood, their careers and love lives. Nugent does a good job of telling the same story from three different viewpoints and, because of this, the story becomes fully fleshed out with many small twists and turns.
The brothers co-exist uneasily and, at times, bitterly dislike and resent one another. As they grow older, they betray each other in many ways – socially, morally, financially and in the bedroom. In short, they are unpleasant and unlikeable characters. As is their mother who is vain, prideful and selfish.
The book is a slow burner, teasing out the story in flashbacks which were a little hard to comprehend sometimes. Within each brother’s story the timeline ricocheted alarmingly back and forth between their childhood and later years.

This meant that, having learnt of one of the betrayals, we were then taken back to the events leading up to it, sometimes more than once as each brother gave their version of it.
The book began with the funeral of one of the brothers (as yet unnamed) and the conclusion was the revelation of which one it was. By then, I didn’t really care anymore. There wasn’t a single redeeming feature among the three of them.
I felt the book leant too heavily on the terrible things the brothers did to each other; I wanted some light moments here and there to show that they weren’t complete monsters. There isn’t even a ray of hope for future generations at the end.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


BOBBY MARCH WILL LIVE FOREVER

BOBBY MARSH WILL LIVE FOREVER
ALAN PARKS

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This is the third book to feature Detective Harry McCoy. Having read the previous two – Bloody January and February’s Son – my expectations were high. Set in a very gritty Glasgow, it is a complicated and fast moving tale of seemingly unrelated cases – a series of armed robberies, a missing child and the drug overdose death of Bobby March, a waning rock star.
McCoy is excluded from the missing child investigation, an act of spite by his temporary boss who carries a grudge, is allocated the drugs overdose and has the robberies foisted on him by his usual partner, who has been seconded to the missing child case.
Sounds complicated? It is, especially when McCoy is also asked to find the teenage niece of his actual boss, as a favour to be kept under wraps.
The first part of the book is unexciting, as McCoy wanders the city, seemingly aimlessly, catching up with characters who were introduced in the previous books, dealing with side issues and also slowly garnering information.  Most of these strands eventually mesh as he

pieces together the nearly impenetrable plot. At this stage, I felt that some of the ‘asides’ could well have been abandoned and the relevant portions more fleshed out, particularly where characters from the previous books were concerned. When quite a while and quite a few books have flowed through the reader’s mind between visits from McCoy, it’s a little difficult to remember just who everyone is.
Its a good yarn, written very much in a weird combination of tartan noir and an Agatha Christie-like scattering of clues throughout, but not enough for the reader to make any informed guesses. The final twist comes out of nowhere, neatly handed to McCoy by another character, but nevertheless very entertainingly written. I was left a little disappointed as there is no neat ending and there are quite a few loose ends left waving in the breeze.
Read it, enjoy it and suspend belief for a few hours.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

SAFE AND SOUND

Jennifer Arden, a housing officer,  discovers the body of a woman in a flat she manages and sets out to solve the mystery of what happened to her. I wasn’t quite sure why she did this because she already had plenty of problems in her own life to contend with – a single mother with mental health issues, panic attacks and worries about her seemingly autistic son. Her decision to involve herself in this mystery puts her in danger and exacerbates her already existing problems. My initial question was why she would do this and this niggle did affect my acceptance of the plot.
Philippa East writes beautifully, which I did appreciate but the main character is not very likeable and the story was agonisingly slow in places, verging on the preachy.
Sadly, I didn’t finish the story, becoming more dispirited and frustrated with Jennifer as the story went on.
Thank you to NetGalley and to the publisher for providing me with a free ARC copy in exchange for an honest review.

SAFE AND SOUND
PHILIPPA EAST

Rating: 2 out of 5.

THE HOUSE OF KILLERS

THE HOUSE OF KILLERS
SAMANTHA LEE HOWE

Rating: 2 out of 5.
I was very attracted to this book by the synopsis. Neva, a female assassin presented to the reader as a cross between Villanelle and Orphan X, sounded fascinating.
Ultimately, however, I found the book lacking in substance and containing elementary errors. 
Neva is described as an emotionless killer, having been conditioned in some way as a child. This was never fully explained; there were just vague references to brainwashing and injections. She's very young, early twenties, and begins to shake off her conditioning, for a reason I never fully understood. She then takes on the might of the organisation that created her.
She has mysterious 'sources', very rarely named or described, who she calls on every time the plot needs moving on. I found it hard to accept how she had acquired all these sources in a relatively short period of time and while under the influence of her masters.
I felt that the author had done some sketchy research but had not enlarged on it. Neva finds a car, 'hot wires it' and drives off; in the morning she looks under the car in case there's 'something' there. Another character 'does something' on a computer to move the plot along. Suddenly she has a 'storage unit' when she needs to acquire something to move the story along. She goes to an opera where they 'sing songs'.
The ending is, frankly, incredible. The author move characters around willy nilly to fit her denouement.
I was impatient to get to the end of this book so I could put it behind me. I gather it is part of a series. I can only hope that the author gives serious consideration to rounding out her characters, making them more realistic and gives a more solid, believable background.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

TALL BONES

TALL BONES
ANNA BAILEY

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A missing teenager, an unhappy home life and a selection of suspects within a small town. We’ve been here before but Tall Bones rises above the average thriller.
The author tells a good story and is adept at inter-weaving characters and events. There are not many (if any) likeable characters in the book and this gave me pause for thought a few times but it did not detract from my enjoyment of the book as it was always clear that, to a large extent and with very few exceptions, their futures were destined to follow that of their parents in the depressed area they lived in.
A bit of a grim read; I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it but it did leave a lasting impression.
I would like to thank Netgalley, Random House UK, Transworld Publishers and Doubleday for an advanced digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

MIRRORLAND

MIRRORLAND
CAROLE JOHNSTONE

Rating: 5 out of 5.
This is the story of twin sisters, so close that they can read each other’s thoughts and even have an affect on how the other behaves. Ellice is the elder, the poison eater, taught by her mother to always protect Catriona, her younger sister.  They share a house with grandfather, every room an encapsulation of a fairy story, a legend, a circus … A truly magical childhood. But is it?
As an adult, Catriona flees their home city of Edinburgh, running from dark secrets and bitter betrayals. She returns to her childhood home after many years when she gets news that Ellice is lost at sea, presumed dead. She refuses to believe this because of their close bond and revisits the horrors of her past in an effort to discover just what has happened to her sister.
In the beginning, because of the intricate descriptions of the house and the atmosphere created by the author, I thought I was in a Gothic novel 
with supernatural overtones. This was enhanced by the appearance of mysterious letters, emails and clues. Slowly, however, the horrific history of the twins’ family is teased out, the story moving from present to past and back until that ‘gasp of breath’ moment hits like a sledge hammer.
On a personal level, I would have preferred the book to end before the final reveal but it’s not my story.  This is one of the most intelligently written and plotted novels I’ve read in a long time. There is an extraordinary cast of wonderful characters (just don’t go thinking you know or understand any of them) and so many literary cul-de-sacs that I was enthralled by every page.  Highly recommended and the sort of book that bears a reread to pick up even more of the highly nuanced plotting.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

THE SOUL KILLER

THE SOUL KILLER
ROSS GREENWOOD

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I had read The Snow Killer, the first of this trilogy, quite some time ago and couldn’t quite remember all the details. It was referred to a fair bit so I’ll go back and read it again!
I like Greenwood’s style of writing. It flows smoothly and coherently and, although the book was written from two differing viewpoints and also in first person as well as third person, I felt rooted in the plot at all times.
It was a book of two halves for me; the first part was slow as the author teased out the personality and raison d’être of the killer and DI Barton and his team seemed to do a lot of conjecturing; the second half fairly galloped along and I have to admit I found some of it a little hard to swallow.
However, he does a great job on characterisation and I really warmed to John Barton and his team. I was a bit disappointed that the identity of the killer was revealed so early on. As the middle book of a trilogy based round DI Barton, it was obvious he would bring the case to a successful conclusion, so I felt the revelation robbed the book of the tension that usually builds in the last third.All in all, a quick and easy read and I have just downloaded The Ice Killer. Poor old John Barton. I note he is still in his hospital bed when I checked the Look Inside. I can’t wait to see what is in store for him next.

RAPID EYE MOVEMENT

RAPID EYE MOVEMENT
AMANDA SHERIDAN
AMAZON KDP 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Jennifer and her husband, Ilan, are fleeing for their lives through the night in Cyprus. A high speed car crash leaves her critically injured with a head wound.
Lucy steps in a rabbit hole on a hillside in Yorkshire, whilst out photographing landscapes and acquires a head injury that sees her lapse into a coma.
And so begins a very tightly plotted story, centred round the lives of the two women and their husbands.
The early part of the book sets up the events immediately before the accidents.
The section dealing with Jennifer has a sharpness and clarity suited to the hectic drive through dark roads. At times, the sentences are almost staccato. Yet Sheridan manages to feed in enough information to give us an idea of Jennifer’s character, particularly her coolness under stress, even though consumed with fear.
Leaving Jennifer’s story just after the point of impact (and there is a great bit of foreshadowing there for the discerning reader), attention turns to Lucy, her husband Charlie and their two daughters. The writing style changes almost imperceptibly here to a softer, more gentle tempo as we gather details of Lucy’s domestic life and her

burgeoning career as a photographer.
The book now becomes a series of dream sequences where the two women’s lives unfold, so vivid that at times they almost feel as if they were a part of the other’s life. It’s not a long book and some of the chapters are quite short, but I was always aware of which woman’s story I was in. The two characters are very distinctively drawn.
Although this book is promoted as Romance combined with Mystery, it’s more than that. There is Romance, certainly. Ilan and Charlie are both charismatic figures in their own way and we’re treated to a few intimate moments, which are sensitively done. The mystery element is very strong; some parts reminded me of a cosy mystery, especially the excellent descriptive passages but, by the time I passed the halfway mark, I felt the plot was heading into thriller territory at times.
When Sheridan begins to tighten the strands of this book, she does it so subtly that the “OMG! I get it!” moment really is a revelation. Suffice to say, this is no ordinary tale and I guarantee you won’t see the end coming until the author chooses to reveal it. One of the very few books that will go on to my To Be Read Again list.

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