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.

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES
D I HILL
PUBLISHED BY DAVID HILLS

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Unintended Consequences is a dark, twisty, innovative thriller. It’s Ben Smith’s story, told in the first person and directly addressed to the reader. He’s not a hero. He’s not even an anti-hero. His conscience gave up on him a long time ago and briefly surfaces, only to disappear again under the weight of his immoral choices.
D.I.Hills has created a memorable character in Smith, a man who has waited seven long years before beginning his attempt at revenge and retribution. The reason for this is teased out slowly over the opening chapters and, although Hill’s conversational tone may not be to everyone’s taste, I was pulled in straight away and never felt his style to be intrusive or detrimental to the plot.
He has a rich cast of secondary characters, fully fleshed out but seen only through Smith’s somewhat distorted viewpoint which only serves to heighten the interest in them – for as long as Hill allows them to live. Because the strapline pointing out that this is a dark thriller doesn’t lie. There is a high body count, some of them in flashback. I laughed out loud, felt deep compassion and was rendered queasy at Hill/Smith’s recounting of how the characters were dispatched.
I was continually reassessing Smith’s character as I read. As soon as I thought I knew him, another layer was revealed which cast him in a completely different light.

He is one of the most complicated characters I have read in contemporary thrillers.
Interesting and engaging as the plot and characters were, I was repeatedly pulled out of the story by long discursions on a variety of subjects. These were very well written and a massive amount of research must have gone into the creation of them but they smacked of pop psychology or pseudo philosophy. Sometimes they worked but at other times just went on a little too long and verged on the preachy. Another reader may appreciate this device.
There is a very good twist near the end that I didn’t see coming and caused quite a sharp intake of breath. The ending itself disappointed me because I thought it was out of character for the Smith that had been revealed to me during the course of the novel. 
As a storyteller, Hill pulls the reader into Smith’s story with a mixture of cynicism and black humour. He is a master of the twisty turn and of revealing barbarous details in the most matter of fact way, thereby enhancing the underlying horror. 
I admit to skipping some of the long seemingly unrelated pages, but I will remember Ben Smith’s story for a long time and will investigate more of D.I.Hill’s work
Thank you to REEDSY DISCOVERY for an ARC in return for an honest review.

WHEN I WAS TEN

WHEN I WAS TEN
FIONA CUMMINS
PAN McMILLAN
PUB DATE: APRIL 2021

Rating: 2 out of 5.

It took me a little while to settle into When I Was Ten and, for a few chapters, I didn’t realise there were three girls involved because there wasn’t a clear separation between the varying points of view. The basic premise was that one of two sisters had killed their cruel parents with some sort of tenuous involvement from their friend. The author spent a fair amount of time chronicling the cruelty of the parents to justify their demise. It was all a bit over the top with a young girl locked in a shed with multiple spiders crawling over her and children made to eat scraps while their parents dined on the finest of foods. More Dickensian than 2020. The sister who actually did the killing was never fully fleshed out or her motives examined.
The title of the story refers to one of the sisters whose story was told in the third person while the friend’s account is in the first person. Added to this is an interwoven account from a third anonymous person told in italics, which does not make sense until quite a way through the book.
The book is well written grammatically and there are descriptive passages which held my interest.

It was difficult, however, to maintain belief in the plot. I never quite got past the fact that a young girl was able to/had the strength to stab an adult man multiple times with a pair of scissors without waking his wife who was sleeping next to him. Not only that but she then went on to stab the woman many times, as well.
As others have noted, a side story involving a caricature of a senior politician bore no relevance to the main story. If the author had meant to use it as an illustration of how child killers are perceived by those in power, she wasted her opportunity by concentrating on his pomposity and philandering, instead.
The middle section of the book flows along at a steady pace as threads are drawn together and pieces begin to fall into place.
Sadly, the ending is drawn in too sketchily with everything explained in a way that just wouldn’t have happened in real life,
The final twist was unnecessary. the plot was complicated enough already.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

A PLACE OF EXECUTION

Place of Execution
Val McDermid
Harper Collins 2009

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’m a long time fan of Val McDermid and was pretty sure I’d read all her books, so I was surprised (and delighted) to come across A Place of Execution from 2009. It’s an impressive size at 486 pages.
The story begins when a thirteen year old girl goes missing from the tiny village of Scarsdale in Derbyshire. Wet-behind-the-ears Detective Inspector George Bennett is in charge of his first big investigation and determined to do a good, conscientious job of bringing the girl home. He and his sidekick, Sergeant Tommy Clough, are not met with any enthusiasm by the residents of Scardale, who – between them – share only three surnames. I struggled a bit in this section trying to pin down the complicated relationships between these similarly named people.
Set in 1963, the story is well rooted in its time with lots of references to music, sport etc as gentle reminders of how different the world was then. I could have done without the constant references to the victims of the Moors Murderers.
Although it was possible to draw

a tenuous link between them and the missing girl, I found these passages intrusive and not relevant to the story.
The first half of the book dragged a little for me as the worthy and stolid police officers worked their way through a series of clues which culminated in the arrest and conviction of a suspect. There was a lot of repetitive smoking, drinking and chewing the fat along the way.
In 1998, George Bennet collaborates with a journalist to write a book about the event and, just as they are about to go to press, a shocking revelation is uncovered. From this point onwards, the book is riveting and I doubt if many people will guess the ending. I had a small “what if” moment about a third the way through the book but dismissed it because the plot very cleverly took me in a different direction.
I nearly gave up in the first third of the book because of the slow pace and the difficulty in keeping pace with the multiple characters, but am really glad I didn’t because I would have missed the real OMG! moment. If I read it again, though, I’ll probably skip the early chapters.

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