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 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
.

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.

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