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
.

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.

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.

THE SEARCHER

THE SEARCHER
TANA FRENCH

Rating: 1 out of 5.

An American cop retires at the early age of forty eight and buys a ramshackle house in Ireland with the aim of doing up and recovering his lost peace of mind. His marriage has collapsed apparently because his wife no longer wants to be the wife of a cop (after more than twenty happy years) and because of an incident where the pursuit of a black suspect, who wasn’t hurt in any way, sickened him against his job. This is Chicago, where the death rate is high and cops have thick skins. He also has a moody daughter, although it’s never explained why.
So far so Quiet Man. If only.
A sulky thirteen year old kid starts hanging round his house and, for some reason, the cop entices the kid onto his lawn and starts teaching him woodwork on an old desk. He also teaches the kid to kill rabbits. After some time, the kid reveals that his older brother is missing and he wants the cop to find him so, after an initial refusal, the cop agrees, mainly because the kid throws eggs at his house.
Pause.
We are now halfway through this long book (over 400 pages) and we’re still waiting for the thriller we were promised. There are lots of descriptions of the Irish countryside, how to renovate an old desk, debating over whether
Until she turns up at his door one night, having been brutally beaten.

to adopt a pub and an abundance of whimsy and Oirishisms from his neighbour and from the local matchmaking shopkeeper.
After a lot more of nothing much happening, the cop finds out that the kid is, in fact, a girl so he tells her he can’t go on with the ‘investigation’ and that she can’t come back to work on the desk any more.
SPOILER STARTS HERE.
It transpires that her feckless mother – abandoned by her husband, six kids – did it. Not because she meant the girl any harm but because the people responsible for the brother’s disappearance wanted the ‘investigation’ to stop. Instead of warning off the cop, they told the mother to beat the girl to a pulp or they would. So she did.
No. Just no.
This downtrodden woman, who wouldn’t say boo to a goose, half kills her own child on the say so of the local bullies and doesn’t even come looking for her when she stays at the cop’s house. Not only that, but the cop feels sympathetic towards the mother.
SPOILER ENDS
The end, when it comes, is unrealistic, a damp squib that, quite frankly left me incredulous.
In departing from her usual Dublin-based Murder Squad, I’m afraid Ms French has lost the plot, both figuratively and literally.

THE POET

THE POET
LISA RENEE JONES

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Detective Samantha Jazz has just returned to work after traumatically witnessing the murder of her father, who was also a detective, but a dirty one. She and her partner, Detective Ethan Langford are assigned to a murder case which takes place at a poetry reading.  She quickly determines that the killer is obsessed with poetry and assigns him the nickname of The Poet. 
Quite early on in the investigation, the computer expert finds a Professor Newman Smith who, for one semester, had a course called Abstract Poetry and Criminology. On the strength of this information alone, Jazz is convinced that Newman (she always refers to him by his first name) is their man and concentrates her investigation solely on him. For most of the first half of the book, Jazz charges about energetically trying to trap Newman in spite of lack of evidence and advice from several people who caution her to broaden her thinking.  
It is only when Newman is proved to be innocent of the killings and the investigation goes off in a different direction that I began to get invested in the story, although Jazz still isn’t any nearer to finding the elusive Poet. It is left to the sections written from the killer’s point of view to reveal a large part of his motivations. I felt a bit cheated because the denouement is all crammed into the final few chapters, revealed to Jazz almost by happenstance, so there was no build up of tension to keep the reader eager to know if their suspicions were right.
Overall, I felt that this was a book I should be really enjoying. Jazz is quite feisty, secondary characters are really well drawn in and there is a liberal sprinkling of red herrings and some deft touches of humour. Unfortunately, it was let down by an unrealistic plot which required too much of a suspension of belief for me.
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.

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.

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