ONE WAY STREET

Jimmy Mullen is a homeless man living in a hostel in Newcastle. He has friends – Gadge and Deano – and a dog named Dog. He is also an ex-convict with PTSD. So, the odds are stacked against him, really, but somehow he retains an enquiring mind and a sharp intellect.
When Deano’s brother is found dead, the friends pool their resourced to investigate how he died and become enmeshed in a story of violence and drugs. Jimmy has the help of a police officer and a journalist, both of whom owe him favours. Gadge is also an expert in IT. Deano – well, he hasn’t got any particular skills that I could see but, in spite

of also being an ex-convict and a hardened drug addict, he’s a really nice guy. Lots of name-checking the areas in and around Newcastle which grounded the story a bit.
The blurb advertises One Way Street as being gritty and there are nasty villains galore but our little band of heroes are just so NICE and the story moves so SLOWLY that I only got to 30% before, sadly, leaving them to their adventures.
Perhaps if I had read Book One I could have bought into the characters more.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED

THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED
LISA JEWELL

Rating: 3 out of 3.

Another proficient, if slightly moribund, novel from Ms Jewell. The story begins and ends with Sophie, a writer who never does any actual writing. In truth, she doesn’t have a lot to do with the progression of the investigation into the missing girl, except for finding a clue which had been left for her and wandering about thinking about things a lot, so I did wonder why she was there, to be honest.
It was hard to like any of the characters, especially as just about everyone had a nasty secret with the exception of the missing girl’s mother. Of the three main teenage(ish) characters, none were particularly likeable.
Perversely, I found myself drawn to the one who came to be

portrayed as a minor villain after first being described very positively.
The story starts quite slowly, Although we know from the beginning that Tallulah has disappeared, we then go into quite a lengthy flashback to return us to the point of her disappearance. Once the strands start drawing together, the pace picks up a bit and it jogs along quite nicely, only to descend into a messy credibility-stretching ending.
It’s a quick read and Ms Jewell has many and, so I’m sure it will do very well.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING

THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING
NANCY TUCKER

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This was not an easy book to read and probably not an easy book to write. The theme of a child murderer, now an adult and a mother seeking redemption, is not new and most people can correolate to real-life cases.
Whether or not it is suitable for fictionalisation is not for me to say but from a personal perspective I found this particular book just too dark and despairing in the sections written by ‘Chrissie’. This was, in part, due to the overly mature language used and the emotions that such a young girl would be as yet

incapable of recognising.
Had it been written in third person I believe it could have been just as strongly portrayed.
In retrospect, even with these caveats, the ‘Chrissie’ sections were much stronger than the adult ‘Julie’ chapters which I found wearing with the continual self analysis. I felt that, after all the angst devoted to the child murderer, the book deserved a better resolution than it got.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

THE FINAL REVIVAL OF OPAL & NEV

THE FINAL REVIVAL OF OPAL & NEV
DAWNIE WALTON

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Ms Walton is an excellent writer and presents a meticulously researched account of the music industry during the 1970s and 1980s. Although entitled The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, the story is dominated by Opal. Told through a series of interviews and newspaper clippings, interspersed with many footnotes, the plot is glacially slow. An inordinate amount of time is given to the two protagonists’ early lives and I was a little impatient for the ‘real’ story to begin. The seminal moment that affects Opal and Nev’s relationship occurs halfway through the book and it is at this stage that the story finally runs out of steam. The rest of the book recounts what happened to them in subsequent years but doesn’t really add anything to resolve the issues raised.
Characters: at one stage Opal and Nev are described by another character as ‘arrogant’. This certainly applied to Opal who is one of the most self-centred characters I have ever read and that includes Becky Sharpe. She endlessly preaches, proselytises and complains until my teeth were on edge. I felt that she was merely a mouthpiece for the author’s opinions. Nev is selfish and weak but at the same time very loyal to Opal.

The point where doubt is cast on this loyalty, a defining moment in the plot, is never fully resolved one way or another. The narrator, Sunny, never came alive for me and, although emotionally involved at one level with Opal, remained strangely detached through most of the story. Opal’s friend and designer, Virgil, was the only really likeable character in the story.
Ms Walton’s habit of constantly name checking, and attributing quotes to, famous people made sections of the book seem like a non-fiction tract as she hammered home yet another ‘fact’, usually to excuse Opal’s increasingly bad behaviour.
I nearly gave up at the three-quarter’s stage as the writing had become a long string of who did what next, most of non-related to the main story, but I stuck it out to the end when it briefly rallied and I thought a big reveal was coming. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be the case and the whole thing fizzled out with a couple more footnotes to wrap things up. Three stars for the excellent writing and the interesting accounts of the music industry but two stars lost for the weak story and unbelievable characters.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

DIVING FOR PEARLS

DIVING FOR PEARLS
JAMIE O’CONNELL

Rating: 2 out of 5.

This is a difficult novel to review. The plot is a complicated one where the ostensible murder of a young woman affects the lives of six different and seemingly disparate people. The death takes place in Dubai and some of the characters involved, although living in Dubai, originate from Ireland. Full credit must be given to the author for bringing alive both locations, especially Dubai, where he goes into great detail about the architecture, the lives of ex-pats living there and the multi-cultural citizenship. He also gives a lot of time to introducing the main characters and delving into their backgrounds. Ancillary characters are a little one dimensional.
The first half of the book is a rich tapestry, excellently written and I was enthralled.
Having brought all the characters to the point of their involvement in the murder, however tangentally, the novel simply runs out of steam.
Of the six people involved, only two have a logical end to their

story. Of the others, some had a rushed synopsis-like explanation of what happened to them, almost ex deus machina. Others were simply left hanging with no resolution.
The biggest disappointment to me was that the character who turned out to be the chief suspect never actually appears in the book, allied to the fact another major character, seemingly falsely accused of the death (I can’t write murder because that was never determined) disappeared part way through the book and was only referred to fleetingly once in the ‘epilogue’ which was a very unsatisfactory and partial tying up of only some of the loose ends.
I am awarding two stars because of the excellent first half of the book but really can’t award more stars because of the bitter disappointment I experienced when sticking with the second half to the bitter end.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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.

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.

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