THE PACT

THE PACT
SHARON BOLTON

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Sharon Bolton has a well deserved reputation as an excellent writer. Her plots are (more than) intricate with multiple characters all with clearly defined personalities. She never loses the thread of any of her multi-layered stories and holds the reader entranced to the very last word.
The Pact could possibly be the most complicated novel she has written so far. It is certainly the most convoluted one I have read for quite a long time. The story has been outlined more than once by other reviewers, so I’m not going to rehash it here. Suffice to say, the six protagonists are an arrogant, privileged, self serving bunch that will make your hackles rise. But you will LOVE to hate them.
Unforeseen revelations are thick on the ground as the end of the story looms ever nearer and I didn’t see one of them coming – the hallmark of a great write. The only small cavil I have is that the whole thing is wildly overblown and incredible but, in a strange way, it just enhanced the story more for me. One of the few books I will return to in the future.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

THE RED BOOK

THE RED BOOK
JAMES PATTERSON
with DAVID ELLIS

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I gave up on James Patterson books a few years ago, finding them a bit ‘quick and slick’ with the short chapters and pared down writing. The Red Book, written with the collaboration of David Ellis, was a pleasurable surprise and has re-affirmed me as a fan of Patterson. Although the main character, Detective Billy Harney, has the conventional troubled past, it doesn’t dominate the story but is interwoven skilfully and completely believably. His sidekick has her own secrets and the twisty reveal is excellently done. I had not realised that this was the second in the series but will now search out its predecessor, The Black Book. Highly recommended.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

WIN

WIN
HARLAN COBEN

Rating: 2 out of 5.

I always quite liked the character of Windsor Horne Lockwood in Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar series. He could be irritating in a minor way as a secondary character but, as the eponymous ‘hero’ of this book, he is a royal pain-in-the-derriere. He is not only unlikeable, he is unbearable with his constant references to how rich he is, how immoral he is, how he casually kills and injures people he has judged to in need of despatching. He is immaculately dressed, knowledgeable about every subject that crops up, has casual unemotionless sex (at which he excels, naturally) and travels vast distances by ‘copter. He also has an annoying habit of addressing the reader, telling us what to think and dismissing any notion that our opinion would matter, anyway. I get what Coben is trying to do here, but he has overshot the mark by a country mile.
As far as the plot goes, it is moderately interesting as ‘call

me Win’ follows the trail of a thirty year old incident involving activists, murder-by-accident and stolen paintings. Most of the book is taken p with Win travelling the country, either by his personal jet, his copter or his chauffeur driven car, asking questions and coming to brilliant deductions. There is no tension or element of suspense because there is no question that he will be successful. There is one incident mid-book which involves violence and a potentially interesting sub-plot which is written off in a few paragraphs.
The end, when it limps tiredly into view is simply a few pages of Win demonstrating (again) how brilliant he is and then deciding how events should be tied up … because only his opinion matters, as he tells us ad nauseam throughout the book.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own..

THE APRIL DEAD

THE APRIL DEAD
ALAN PARKS

Rating: 5 out of 5.

There are a small number of authors whose books I will buy without reading reviews because I know I am in for a great experience. I have just added Alan Parks to that select group. Having now followed his deeply-flawed cop, Harry McCoy, from January to April, I am completely hooked on the author’s particular take on Scottish noir. His taciturn, stripped down style of writing only serves to render shocking events even more so. And there are shocks a-plenty in The April Dead, the best offering by far in McCoy’s journey through his metaphorical year. The story hits the ground running – bombs going off in Glasgow, a missing American sailor, mysterious goings-on at an army base and a great cast of characters, all fully rounded and none of whom get forgotten as the plot thickens, as so often happens. As if that wasn’t enough, McCoy’s deeply

toxic relationship with Stevie Cooper is further explored, with a little more about Cooper’s background being revealed. I am hoping for more Cooper in future ‘months’.
The only discordant note for me in this offering is that Wattie, McCoy’s ineffectual sidekick, is becoming a bit of a caricature and one of the things he does in the novel merits him being dismissed from the force. But McCoy is nothing if not loyal, so I guess Wattie is here for the foreseeable.
Expect surprises, twists and a satisfactory ending. There is a tantalising strand left pointing towards future events but it doesn’t detract at all from a decent conclusion but does its job of whetting the reader’s appetite for the next book.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

THE PLAYERS

THE PLAYERS
DARREN O’SULLIVAN

Rating: 3 out of 5.

BLURB
A stranger has you cornered.
They call themselves The Host.
You are forced to play their game.
In it one person can live and the other must die.
You are the next player. 
You have a choice to make.This is a game where nobody wins…

REVIEW
The Players has the bones of a good story and succeeds in raising questions in the reader’s mind about just how far one would go to protect one’s family.
DI Karen Holt is an interesting character, in a stable relationship and a welcome change from the tormented alcoholic / guilt ridden main character that pops up all too often in contemporary thrillers.


The author does however, succumb to a few predominant cliches – the officer who is the only competent person who can solve the crime in spite of being forbidden to do so, putting one’s loved ones in danger, loyal and admiring sidekick who hangs on Holt’s every word.
The novel built slowly with an over emphasis on Holt’s therapy, which was endlessly discussed but bore no relevance to the story.
Disappointingly, I found The Host completely unbelievable when his identity was revealed and there was more than one occasion where he could have been apprehended much earlier in the story.
A good premise which unfortunately stutters to an unconvincing end.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

THE HOLDOUT

THE HOLDOUT
GRAHAM MOORE

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Maya Seale is on jury duty, charged with deciding whether Bobby Nock, a young black teacher, had killed one of his students. She is the only juror who thinks he is innocent or that, at least, there isn’t enough evidence to bring in a guilty verdict. Over a period of time, sequestered in a hotel, she wins all the other jurors over to her way of thinking, includingRick who she has been having an affair with. So far so “Twelve Angry Men”.
Roll on 10 years and the jury reconvenes in the same hotel, brought together by a television company who have been persuaded by Rick that he has new evidence that proves Bobby Nock’s guilt. After a fierce argument between Maya and Rick she storms out of the hotel only to return and find Rick dead. She is duly arrested for his murder and is released in bail.

Graham Moore is an excellent writer and has spun an extremely complicated plot here which simultaneously follows Maya’s investigations to prove her innocence and explores the happenings of the original trial. The sensible side of my brain recognises that the plot is pretty absurd but the side willing to suspend belief really enjoyed the intricacies of the story. I don’t think any reader will guess the ending because Moore seems to have plucked it out of thin air.
All in all, it’s a pretty good, rollicking read although, now I know the author’s propensity towards the introduction of new evidence so near the end of a book, I’m not entirely sure I’d read another one of his books.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

BLACK WIDOWS

BLACK WIDOWS
CATE QUINN
PUBLICATION DATE 04 FEB

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Blake Nelson is a Latter Day Saint with three wives – Rachel, Emily and Tina. Plural marriages are no longer acceptable in the Mormon religion and Blake buys an isolated piece of land, where they all live, at best barely tolerated by their fellow Mormons and at worst, ostracised by some.
When Blake is found dead, suspicion automatically falls on the three wives and the central plot in the novel is focused on which one of them did it. The chapters are short, some very short, and told in three voices, those of the wives. I had no trouble keeping hold of whose chapter I was in as the wives had very distinctive voices and characteristics.
The story moves along quite smoothly in spite of being fairly complicated as the back stories of the wives are revealed as well as the ongoing investigation into Blake’s murder. The background information on Latter Day Saints is meticulous and woven in so neatly that I never felt like I was being preached at.

The major distraction for me was Rachel’s background story. It was riveting and deserved a story of its own, but in this instance it pulled me away from the main story and didn’t really have any impact on the main plot except to explain Rachel’s attitude to her husband’s death. It lengthened the middle section of the book unnecessarily and slowed things down a bit.
There are quite a few ancillary characters, all of which are portrayed realistically, except for the police officers who, I felt, were less rounded than anyone else and only there to move the story along.
The ending disappointed me because it felt forced and too neatly wrapped up. However, it was one of the most enjoyable books I have read in recent months, not least because of the originality of the plot. I would recommend just suspending belief and just go with the flow on this one.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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.


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