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.


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.

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 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.

NICE DAY FOR AN ICE CREAM

Kevin, the Fallen Angel, 2017

Heaven, Saturday morning 

Angel number 4501 is summoned to His Presence, or HP, as he likes to be called.
“I have an important job for you, 4501. There’s a music festival tomorrow in Everyman’s Park.”
HP’s magnificent voice rolls out, setting clouds, cherubim and seraphim a-tremble. A few feathers shiver and fall off 4501’s wings.
“I was very upset at the amount of sin that went on at the last one – drugs, blasphemy and …” HP lowers his voice and the Heavens still. “… you know, s-e-x that went on.”
4501’s heart leapt in anticipation.
The celestial voice rumbles on. “It will be your mission to point out the error of their ways to these young people, put their feet on a new and better path.”
OK. So it’s Mission Impossible, but I’m going to a music festival.
“Of course, HP. An honour to be chosen. In what guise shall I descend?”
A rock star? A Hell’s Angel? Oh please, not a groupie.
“You will temporarily take over the body of an ice cream salesman called Kevin.”
HP taps his foot and watches as 4501 plummets to earth, his heavenly raiment already changing to jeans and a Nirvana tee-shirt.

Hell, Saturday morning

His Satanic Highness kneels on the backs of two recently arrived politicians, his backside bare and pulsating with inner evil. A ring of hellfire encircles them, holding back a legion of imps and fiends with singed hair and blistered skin.
“Kiss my arse!” roars HSH. “A day back on earth for whoever braves the flames and kisses my royal arse.”
None are brave enough to risk self imolation until Black Bart steps forward. Seven feet tall, once a grave robber and now an upper level demon, he’s been a thorn in HSH’s side ever since he fell into an open grave and drowned in the seepage.
One almighty leap and he’s through the hellfire, skin smouldering and bubbling, smoke seeping from all his orifices.
Bending at the knee, he kisses the putrefying buttocks before him. 
Beelzebub, as he likes to be called when dealing with the Damned, rears up and points upwards, searing a hole through the charcoal-blackened vaults. 
“Go, Lulu, enjoy your day.”
Black Bart only has time to say, “Lulu? What the f–” before he vanishes in a swirl of silk and Chanel No 5.

Saturday afternoon

His Presence watches the materialisation of the ravishing young woman, her modesty barely covered in wisps of green silk.
“You’ve outdone yourself this week, Lucifer.” He prefers the old names to all this high-falutin’ Royal Highness stuff.
The Devil laughs. “Kevin the ice cream seller won’t stand a chance. Shall I make the first move?”
The two deities settle down to their weekly game of Celestial Chess. 
Lulu basks under the hot sun and a thought pops into her mind.
I’d kill for an ice cream.

 

 

I’

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.

WHEN I WAS TEN

WHEN I WAS TEN
FIONA CUMMINS
PAN McMILLAN
PUB DATE: APRIL 2021

Rating: 2 out of 5.

It took me a little while to settle into When I Was Ten and, for a few chapters, I didn’t realise there were three girls involved because there wasn’t a clear separation between the varying points of view. The basic premise was that one of two sisters had killed their cruel parents with some sort of tenuous involvement from their friend. The author spent a fair amount of time chronicling the cruelty of the parents to justify their demise. It was all a bit over the top with a young girl locked in a shed with multiple spiders crawling over her and children made to eat scraps while their parents dined on the finest of foods. More Dickensian than 2020. The sister who actually did the killing was never fully fleshed out or her motives examined.
The title of the story refers to one of the sisters whose story was told in the third person while the friend’s account is in the first person. Added to this is an interwoven account from a third anonymous person told in italics, which does not make sense until quite a way through the book.
The book is well written grammatically and there are descriptive passages which held my interest.

It was difficult, however, to maintain belief in the plot. I never quite got past the fact that a young girl was able to/had the strength to stab an adult man multiple times with a pair of scissors without waking his wife who was sleeping next to him. Not only that but she then went on to stab the woman many times, as well.
As others have noted, a side story involving a caricature of a senior politician bore no relevance to the main story. If the author had meant to use it as an illustration of how child killers are perceived by those in power, she wasted her opportunity by concentrating on his pomposity and philandering, instead.
The middle section of the book flows along at a steady pace as threads are drawn together and pieces begin to fall into place.
Sadly, the ending is drawn in too sketchily with everything explained in a way that just wouldn’t have happened in real life,
The final twist was unnecessary. the plot was complicated enough already.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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