THE DOLL

THE DOLL
YRSA SIGURDARDOTTIR

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The tagline on the front cover of The Doll proclaims, “It brings death to all who find it” signalling a thriller with supernatural overtones. And, indeed, the doll features in the opening sequence of the book, suitably grotesque and sinister.
It is then ignored for quite a long time while the author sets up quite a long and pretty dull investigation into abuse at a children’s home. In this section, we never meet the suspect or, indeed, learn any details of the supposed crime. Instead, the narrative concentrates on a social worker and a police officer who discuss it a lot. Many external characters and references to crimes are introduced.
By the time the middle section of the book began to reveal the connection between some of these people and incidents, I was rapidly losing interest but forged on as, at last, there was some action.

The doll does eventually turn up again but, at that point the investigation ‘in real time’ ends. The policeman turns up at the social worker’s home and tells her a VERY long rambling story involving several murders, suspects and more than a few coincidences to fit everything together.
At times, when questioned, he says, “We’ll never know the answer to that.” and it’s just glossed over. I admit to skip reading most of this really turgid section as I just wanted to get to the end.
Just as I thought it was all over, another fairly minor character began another lengthy exposition which made nonsense of a lot of the police’s conclusions. The ending was incredible, in the truest sense of the word.
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.

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.

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.

THE HOUSE OF KILLERS

THE HOUSE OF KILLERS
SAMANTHA LEE HOWE

Rating: 2 out of 5.
I was very attracted to this book by the synopsis. Neva, a female assassin presented to the reader as a cross between Villanelle and Orphan X, sounded fascinating.
Ultimately, however, I found the book lacking in substance and containing elementary errors. 
Neva is described as an emotionless killer, having been conditioned in some way as a child. This was never fully explained; there were just vague references to brainwashing and injections. She's very young, early twenties, and begins to shake off her conditioning, for a reason I never fully understood. She then takes on the might of the organisation that created her.
She has mysterious 'sources', very rarely named or described, who she calls on every time the plot needs moving on. I found it hard to accept how she had acquired all these sources in a relatively short period of time and while under the influence of her masters.
I felt that the author had done some sketchy research but had not enlarged on it. Neva finds a car, 'hot wires it' and drives off; in the morning she looks under the car in case there's 'something' there. Another character 'does something' on a computer to move the plot along. Suddenly she has a 'storage unit' when she needs to acquire something to move the story along. She goes to an opera where they 'sing songs'.
The ending is, frankly, incredible. The author move characters around willy nilly to fit her denouement.
I was impatient to get to the end of this book so I could put it behind me. I gather it is part of a series. I can only hope that the author gives serious consideration to rounding out her characters, making them more realistic and gives a more solid, believable background.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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.

MIRRORLAND

MIRRORLAND
CAROLE JOHNSTONE

Rating: 5 out of 5.
This is the story of twin sisters, so close that they can read each other’s thoughts and even have an affect on how the other behaves. Ellice is the elder, the poison eater, taught by her mother to always protect Catriona, her younger sister.  They share a house with grandfather, every room an encapsulation of a fairy story, a legend, a circus … A truly magical childhood. But is it?
As an adult, Catriona flees their home city of Edinburgh, running from dark secrets and bitter betrayals. She returns to her childhood home after many years when she gets news that Ellice is lost at sea, presumed dead. She refuses to believe this because of their close bond and revisits the horrors of her past in an effort to discover just what has happened to her sister.
In the beginning, because of the intricate descriptions of the house and the atmosphere created by the author, I thought I was in a Gothic novel 
with supernatural overtones. This was enhanced by the appearance of mysterious letters, emails and clues. Slowly, however, the horrific history of the twins’ family is teased out, the story moving from present to past and back until that ‘gasp of breath’ moment hits like a sledge hammer.
On a personal level, I would have preferred the book to end before the final reveal but it’s not my story.  This is one of the most intelligently written and plotted novels I’ve read in a long time. There is an extraordinary cast of wonderful characters (just don’t go thinking you know or understand any of them) and so many literary cul-de-sacs that I was enthralled by every page.  Highly recommended and the sort of book that bears a reread to pick up even more of the highly nuanced plotting.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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.

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