Tag Archives: crime

Review of ‘A Fatal Crossing’ by Tom Hindle

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House UK for the ARC of this book.

The first 90% of this book reads like a very standard and derivative Golden Age crime novel in the vein of Poirot or Sherlock Holmes, where a slightly hapless person follows a detective trying to solve a crime in a fixed location. In this case, an art dealer has been killed on board a transatlantic ship voyage from England to America in the 1920s and his murder is investigated by a policeman from Scotland Yard followed around by a ship’s officer.

Despite feeling derivative, it’s very readable, familiar and comfortable . The last 10% has a very modern twist, which I was not completely convinced by. It’s probably necessary in order for the book to not solely be Golden Age pastiche, but I found the ending a little frustrating because it does not completely resolve whether the actions which happen in the twist were effective in what the character involved was trying to achieve.

All in all, it’s an easy, fun read but doesn’t really have anything to raise it above any of the other 1920s murder mysteries out there.

Review of “You’ll Be the Death of Me” by Karen M McManus

Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin for the ARC of this book.

I’ve really enjoyed Karen McManus’s other books, but this one didn’t quite live up to the others. The action basically takes place in a single day, which should give it pace and action, but it felt meandering and inconsequential.

It’s hard to care about characters who make such terrible decisions. For example they discover a dead body and rather than calling an ambulance/the police, they run away leading themselves into all sorts of unnecessary trouble.

The ending is also very strange, it ends very abruptly, so I imagine it is setting up a sequel, but there didn’t seem to be enough meat on the bones of the original story to warrant drawing it out any further.

Review of “The Match” by Harlan Coben

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the ARC of this book.

This is the second in Harlan Coben’s series featuring lead character Wilde and supporting characters from his other series. I love Coben’s writing but I don’t think Wilde is his best protagonist, his backstory is a bit ridiculous.

I was pleased that the book gives us some resolution as to how Wilde ended up abandoned in the woods as a child, even if didn’t entirely make sense.

As usual, this book featured some interesting current hot topics, such as DNA matching sites and online fame. Parts of the story were fun and intriguing and parts were a bit far-fetched.

I really enjoy Hester Crimstein’s no nonsense attorney character. The other supporting characters also help to make Wilde more relatable.

Review of ‘Her Every Fear’ but Peter Swanson

Thanks to NetGalley and Faber & Faber for the ARC of this book.

The book follow Kate an anxious English woman with a traumatic past who does a house swap with her American cousin, Corbin, and goes to stay in his expensive Boston apartment. Soon one of her neighbours turns up dead things take a dark turn.

I found this book a bit more difficult to get into than other Peter Swanson books, but once I got past the beginning few chapters, I managed to get into it. I’m not overly fond of neurotic protagonists and they tend to make stupid decisions. However, Kates neurosis was validated as pretty much every man in this book turns out to be a psychopath.

The story is fairly far-fetched, but I did enjoy the setting. This felt like one of Peter Swanson’s more pedestrian efforts and lacked his usual twists and surprises.

Review of ‘The Man who Died Twice’ by Richard Osman

Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin for the ARC of this book.

I didn’t think Richard Osman’s first book in his Thursday Murder Club was great, but I thought I’d give the second book a chance because the first book was so popular, I thought maybe I’d missed something. Unfortunately, I found the second book suffered from all the same issues as the first.

Osman writes with some beautiful touches of gentle observational humour which make you smile; he is clearly infatuated with his characters, his characterisation is strong and you get a really good sense of them, especially the old ladies. The problem, however, is the plot. I felt both books lacked a compelling narrative. There is nothing propulsive about the plot, it meanders along and in both books I just didn’t care about the outcome. This really is an issue in a mystery book.

There doesn’t ever feel like there are consequences to any of the events. I think five people are shot dead in this book and their deaths are largely met with a shrug of the shoulders or the other characters feeling it’s jolly good fun to be surrounded by all this death. The heroes of the book commit crimes left, right and centre; framing someone, withholding evidence, stealing evidence, lying to the authorities, purchasing drugs etc. and it seems we are supposed to find this endearing. Why should we care about who has committed one crime, if the people investigating it are perpetually committing other crimes? They are no better than the villains.

Judging by the hype around this book, I am in the minority in being underwhelmed by these books. I’m sure this will continue to be a wildly popular and successful series, I’m just not sure why. It probably has something to do with the excellent marketing. The books are beautiful and very current. The titles are catchy, although the title of this book has absolutely nothing to do with the plot, it’s just a throwaway line from what is essentially the epilogue. I wonder if this series would have been published if it were not written by a celebrity.

Review of ‘The Guest List’ by Lucy Foley

Thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins for the ARC of this book.

I was excited to read this book. From the description it had loads of elements that could make a brilliant thriller: deserted island, death at a wedding, limited cast, stormy weather, intrigue etc. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to its promise. The killer, their motive and their victim were so heavily signposted throughout the book that there was no element of surprise when they were revealed at the end. I thought it might be leading up to a really clever reveal as to how the crime was planned so it could be committed without detection but that didn’t happen either. So it was quite a slow burn build up to a rushed, unexciting ending. Quite disappointing.

In addition, all the characters were so sharp and unlikable that it was not much fun spending time their company. The murder victim had committed so many awful acts to give everyone at the wedding the motive to kill them, it was hard to believe anyone could get away with behaving like that without anyone noticing for so long.

I don’t think I could recommend this book, which is a shame because I was looking forward to discovering a new favourite thriller writer.

Review of ‘Believe Me’ by JP Delaney

Thanks to NetGalley and Quercus Books for the ARC of this book.

This book follows actress Claire, who funds her acting classes by working for an agency entrapping married men to prove their infidelity to their wives. When one of these wives is murdered, she gets entangled in the police’s attempts to catch the killer.

I didn’t really enjoy this book. It probably had some interesting things to say about the nature of lies and acting versus reality, and how some people imagine their life as a series of movie vignettes. However, I’m getting a bit tired of twisty thrillers with unreliable narrators where you can’t trust anything that is happening. It’s very hard to like or relate to characters when they all seem to be lying and all appear to have a dark side.

In addition to not being able to trust the narrative, most of the story was very unrealistic. Can we believe a person would sleep with a murder suspect in order to infiltrate their life and get a confession? Would the police pick an inexperienced actress with a history of self-harm to work undercover rather than a trained undercover police officer? I don’t think so.

The topics of brutally harming women, sexual violence, mutilation and murder were all a bit squeamish and unpleasant for me, even though they are balanced by a strong female lead. I just don’t want to read any more books where men commit sexual violence towards women. It is not an entertaining or fun subject. I thought The Girl Before’, the author’s previous book was far superior to this, although, it still dealt with some similar topics and themes.

Review of ‘Knife Edge’ by Simon Mayo

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Transworld for the ARC of this book.

The start of this book is absolutely thrilling, it follows a journalist called Famie as she reports of seven stabbings in London and begins to realise that all of the people who were stabbed were her colleagues. I found it utterly gripping and moving and actually found myself crying. I don’t think I have ever cried so early in a book.

Unfortunately, the book is unable to sustain this pace and engagement. Once the funerals are over, it loses its momentum as it follows Famie and several of her journalist friends having lots of puzzled conversations with each other but not really doing all that much clever investigating. They look at a couple of devices, receive a couple of cryptic notes and then end up embroiled in a terrorist plot which takes place in Coventry for, as far as I can tell, the sole reason that Simon Mayo went to university there and enjoys including tidbits of his own life in his novels.

It is one of those thriller novels where everyone is connected to everyone else and when it got to the end and the big villain was revealed, you end up feeling like ‘hang on a minute why would they do that, and how did they know about it?‘. It’s kind of neat and messy at the same time. I had no idea really what the terrorists were aiming to achieve, but then it is fairly impossible to empathise with most terrorists.

It’s a shame because there is the kernel of a brilliant idea in there, but after the opening, it just isn’t that well executed or interesting. The characters were fairly bland and interchangeable and didn’t really develop over the course of the book. I also had an issue with the lead character’s name, Famie, which is unusual and not pronounced phonetically so every time I read it my brain jarred slightly and it reminded me I was reading a book and took me out of the story.

Simon Mayo’s young adult books, the Itch series, are really engaging and fun to read, but I don’t think he has quite mastered the art of writing adult thriller fiction yet.

Audiobook review: ‘The Killings at Kingfisher Hill’ by Sophie Hannah

Thanks to NetGalley and Harper Collins for the ARC of this audiobook.

Confession time: to my shame I’ve never actually read an Agatha Christie book. I tried to read the Poirot mystery ‘The Third Girl’ once but gave up about 80 pages in because it was really dull at not at all what I expected from a Poirot book. I probably picked it because it’s not one I had seen adapted for TV, so I wouldn’t know the story. However, I’ve since realised that it was one of Christie’s later Poirot books and is not considered to be one of the best, so it’s a shame it put me off reading her other books. I should probably try one of her more popular books.

I decided to try one of Sophie Hannah’s new Hercule Poirot books because the cover is just exquisite and really appealing. The audiobook version of this book was an excellent choice for my reintroduction to world of Agatha Christie. It is expertly read by Julian Rhind-Tutt, his narration is a tour-de-force and probably makes this book twice as enjoyable as it would have been reading the paper version. His accent for Poirot is perfect and conjures up David Suchet’s TV Poirot beautifully. I would definitely search out more audiobooks narrated by him.

I’m less convinced by the actual writing of the book. It’s quite enjoyable and I listened to it In the course of one day, so I definitely found it compelling. However, the mystery itself is a bit flat, the murders are crimes of passion rather than premeditated evil which means Poirot does not have a decent villainous sparring partner to outwit. The conclusion was not very exciting and I don’t think there were enough breadcrumbs to help the reader to become engaged in guessing whodunnit.

The other problem with the writing is that it is almost entirely dialogue and exposition and very little action. I usually prefer books which are mostly dialogue and don’t get bogged down with pages and pages of scene-setting and description, but there is very little drama in this book. It really fails the ‘show don’t tell’ test as it is almost all just people standing around relating events to each other. I assume this must be faithful to Christie’s style and that her books probably also just feature Poirot listening to people telling him what happened and then him telling everyone what actually happened, but it’s not a very sophisticated or pleasing way to convey narrative. I guess I’ve been spoiled by the TV adaptations which able to dramatise the explanations characters are giving to make the story more immersive.

I think Sophie Hannah does a good job with the the language she uses of making you feel like you are genuinely reading a book from Christie’s time, but I definitely need to try another Poirot book actually written by Agatha Christie to see how it compares. I’ll pick up one of her more famous books next time.

I would recommend this audiobook for the excellent narration by Julian Rhind-Tutt which really raises the enjoyment level of the slightly lacklustre story.

Review of ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ by Richard Osman

Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Books for the ARC of this book.

I’m not entirely sure what the make of this book. Despite containing several murders, suicides and drug criminals, it is a very easy, fluffy, cosy, British and just ever so nice crime book. It is set in a retirement community and boils down to 4 OAPs sitting around effectively saying “There’s been a murder, oh how jolly! Would you like another slice of cake while we solve it?”. I think I do prefer a nice cosy crime read like this to the far too prevalent reams of gritty psychological thrillers featuring the abuse/torture of woman and children. However, this chatty, friendly, nice style does make the plot feel a little low-stakes in spite of all the death.

I think you can definitely tell that this is a first novel. The writing manages to be face paced (short chapters, chatty prose) and plodding at the same time. Richard Osman throws in so many red herrings and misdirects that by the end of the book it feels like none of the characters really care that much who has committed the murders, let alone the reader. I think there is something lacking in the set up and resolution of the whodunnits, this is probably because Osman is more interested in his characters than in his plot.

I like Richard Osman and I think his voice comes through very strongly in the book, despite half the entries supposedly being written as a 80-something(?) year old woman’s diary entries. There are lots of witty asides and unnecessary facts added in, probably to the detriment of the narrative but fun for the reader. I feel like Osman has looked at the demographic of his fans, mostly OAPs who watch daytime TV due to his popular TV quiz programmes, and written something specifically to appeal to them in order to sell more books. I’m not sure I find OAPs to be the most compelling protagonists. This is a shame because, according to his author’s note, he was trying to highlight how people in retirement villages all have had interesting worthwhile lives and experiences.

This is the first in a series of books but I’m not sure whether I would bother to read the next one. However, they may improve as Osman gains greater experience as a writer. I can see how it might be nice to follow some of the characters, particularly the police officers, to find out what their future holds. Osman clearly has a great fondness for the characters he has created, so I’m sure he will develop them well over time.

I must add that I absolutely love the cover design for this book. The title is instantly engaging and the font is beautiful. it’s really well done and makes the book seem really appealing. I’m sure it will do really well. It’s probably an ideal comfort read for these troubling times.