CTG’s TOP READS 2015: CRIME

It’s that time of year again when everyone starts issuing their best books of the year lists, and I’m going to add my two-pennyworth through two ‘top reads’ lists – one for crime novels and one for thrillers.

Today is crime day, and I’ve picked my favourite books from the many fantastic crime novels I’ve read over the course of the year. It’s been hard, but I’ve managed to whittle the list down to my ten favourites.

So here they are, told in no particular order – quite frankly, it’s been difficult enough to get to ten, let alone rank them!

 

THE SILENT ROOM by Mari Hannah

81b2JwwIXXL

“One Fugitive. A deadly conspiracy. No rules. A security van sets off for Durham prison, a disgraced Special Branch officer in the back. It never arrives. En route it is hijacked by armed men, the prisoner sprung. Suspended from duty on suspicion of aiding and abetting the audacious escape of his former boss, Detective Sergeant Matthew Ryan is locked out of the manhunt. Desperate to preserve his career and prove his innocence, he backs off. But when the official investigation falls apart, under surveillance and with his life in danger, Ryan goes dark, enlisting others in his quest to discover the truth. When the trail leads to the suspicious death of a Norwegian national, Ryan uncovers an international conspiracy that has claimed the lives of many.”

This standalone crime novel from Mari Hannah has a great cast of characters and I was quickly drawn into their world through the narrative. DS Matthew Ryan is a highly compelling character – he’s determined, driven and, as events take a tragic twist, uses his moment of vulnerability and personal grief as fuel to continue his investigation. The combination of Ryan and O’Neil (from Professional Standards), both looking for answers but coming from different sides of the investigative coin, makes for a great dynamic and the scenes they share have a real zing of electricity.

Gritty, authentic and utterly engrossing, The Silent Room is a real seat-of-your-pants read from the dramatic opening through to the explosive ending.

To find out more about Mari Hannah and her books hop over to her website here and follow her on Twitter @mariwriter

 

 

THE DOMINO KILLER by Neil White

25643638

“When a man is found beaten to death in a local Manchester park, Detective Constable Sam Parker is one of the investigating officers. Sam swiftly identifies the victim, but what at first looks like an open-and-shut case quickly starts to unravel when he realises that the victim’s fingerprints were found on a knife at another crime scene, a month earlier. Meanwhile, Sam’s brother, Joe – a criminal defence lawyer in the city – comes face to face with a man whose very presence sends shockwaves through his life. Joe must confront the demons of his past as he struggles to come to terms with the darkness that this man represents. Before long, Joe and Sam are in way over their heads, both sucked into a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse that threatens to change their lives for ever …”

THE DOMINO KILLER is the third instalment of Neil White’s Parker brothers series and it fully delivers on pulse-pounding tension, twists, and page-turning action with the perfect balance between procedural detail and high intensity action. There’s a real immediacy to the writing and a chilling sense of jeopardy right from the outset that carries all the way through the book to the show-stopping finale. As the story develops, and the brothers’ cases become increasingly intertwined, the tension rises ever higher – making this one of those books that has you reading well into the early hours, desperate for sleep but unable to resist reading just one more chapter.

But this book isn’t just about the action. There’s a real emotion kick too, delivered as the brothers get closer to identifying the man who was responsible for their sister’s murder back when they were teenagers. As the stakes ramp up, they are forced to decide just how far they’re willing to go in order to get justice – putting their careers, their friendships, their families, and their lives on the line. Utterly authentic and captivatingly compelling, this story grabs you by the throat and keeps you pinned right from the first page to the last.

To find out more about Neil White check out his website at www.neilwhite.net and follow him on Twitter @neilwhite1965

 

HEARTBREAKER by Tania Carver

Unknown

“After years of abuse, Gemma Adderley has finally found the courage to leave her violent husband. She has taken one debilitating beating too many, endured one esteem-destroying insult too much. Taking her seven-year-old daughter Carly, she leaves the house, determined to salvage what she can of her life. She phones Safe Harbour, a women’s refuge, and they tell her which street corner to wait on and what the car that will pick her up will look like. They tell her the word the driver will use so she know it’s safe to get in. And that’s the last they hear from her. Gemma Adderley’s daughter Carly is found wandering the city streets on her own the next day. Her mother’s mutilated corpse turns up by the canal several weeks later. Her heart has been removed. Detective Inspector Phil Brennan takes on the case, and his wife, psychologist Marina Esposito, is brought in to try and help unlock Carly’s memories of what happened that day. The race is on to solve the case before the Heartbreaker strikes again …”

HEARTBREAKER is the seventh book in the Brennan & Esposito series by Tania Carver. As you’d expect it has a fabulously twisty turny plot, a disturbing set of crimes at its core, and a tough emotional struggle for the two lead characters that threatens to destroy both their careers and their life together. What I found especially chilling in this book is the way the killer selects their victims – targeting vulnerable women who have made the decision to seek refuge. Somehow the killer is gaining access to confidential information in real time, and until they are caught every woman seeking sanctuary is a potential victim. Through the storyline, the book looks at domestic violence through the eyes of the perpetrators, the victims, and those working to help the victims, and it doesn’t hold back from showing a violent and brutal truth.

Gritty and compelling HEARTBREAKER is a tense and suspenseful page-turner of a read.

You can find out more about Tania Carver (aka crime writer Martyn Waites’ alter ego) over on www.martynwaites.com and follow Martyn on Twitter @MartynWaites

 

THE DEFENCE by Steve Cavanagh

The Defence cover image

“Eddie Flynn used to be a con artist. Then he became a lawyer. Turned out the two weren’t that different. It’s been over a year since Eddie Flynn vowed never to set foot in a courtroom again. But now he doesn’t have a choice. Olek Volchek, the infamous head of the Russian mafia in New York, has strapped a bomb to Eddie’s back and kidnapped his ten-year-old daughter, Amy. Eddie only has forty-eight hours to defend Volchek in an impossible murder trial – and win – if he wants to save his daughter. Under the scrutiny of the media and the FBI, Eddie must use his razor-sharp wit and every con-artist trick in the book to defend his ‘client’ and ensure Amy’s safety. With the timer on his back ticking away, can Eddie convince the jury of the impossible? Lose this case and he loses everything.”

THE DEFENCE is a fabulous legal thriller. Eddie Flynn – con artist turned lawyer – is haunted by the last case he took to trial. He’s turned his back on the legal profession, taken up drinking and become estranged from his wife and child. Things seem pretty bad, but as the reader discovers from the very start of The Defence, things are about to get much, much worse for Eddie Flynn.

With his daughter abducted, and a bomb strapped to his own body, Eddie is forced to represent Olek Volchek – a man he has no doubt is guilty of murder. In order to buy enough time to figure a way out of the terrifying situation he’s in, Eddie has to draw on all his skills – both legal and criminal – and his friends on both sides of the law, as he gambles against increasingly higher risks in his attempt to get his daughter safe. Smart, courageous and driven by the need to protect his young daughter, Eddie makes for a dynamic character – and someone you can really root for. This rapid-paced, page turner of a legal thriller has bucket-loads of action and piles of sky-soaring tension.

To find out more about Steve Cavanagh hop over to his website at www.stevecavanaghbooks.com and follow him on Twitter @SSCav

 

BLACK WOOD by SJI Holliday

BLACK WOOD cover image

“Something happened to Claire and Jo in Black Wood: something that left Claire paralysed and Jo with deep mental scars. But with Claire suffering memory loss and no evidence to be found, nobody believes Jo’s story.

Twenty-three years later, a familiar face walks into the bookshop where Jo works, dredging up painful memories and rekindling her desire for vengeance. And at the same time, Sergeant Davie Gray is investigating a balaclava-clad man who is attacking women on a disused railway, shocking the sleepy village of Banktoun.

But what is the connection between Jo’s visitor and the masked man? To catch the assailant, and to give Jo her long-awaited justice, Gray must unravel a tangled web of past secrets, broken friendship and tainted love. But can he crack the case before Jo finds herself with blood on her hands?”

Banktoun might at first appear to be a small, quaint village with a low crime rate that leaves Sergeant Davie Gray wishing for a bit more police work, but scratch the surface and the secrets simmering just below the surface soon start to threaten the uneasy peace. When a spate of attacks by a balaclava wearing man jolt the villagers from their usual calm, tensions start to rise and after a visitor from the past makes an appearance at the local bookstore where Jo works it’s not long before she begins to unravel. With the flood of memories and questions arising from that fateful day in the woods over twenty years ago threatening to overwhelm her, Jo decides to try and uncover what really happened all those years ago to her and Claire.

Jo is an unpredictable, and at times unreliable, narrator who makes for an interesting and flawed heroine. Sergeant Davie Gray is an altogether more solid and reliable narrator, and as such is the perfect counterbalance to Jo. From the small village location, to the cast of engaging and interesting characters, many of whom seemed to be hiding something, I found BLACK WOOD a really ‘moreish’ read. I loved the twists and turns, and – although I’m usually pretty good at figuring out who did it – this book had me guessing to the end. It also features some pretty creepy masks!

Find out more about debut author SJI Holliday over on her blog at www.sjihollidayblog.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter @SJIHolliday

 

SNOWBLIND by Ragnar Jónasson

Snowblind cover image

“Siglufjörđur: an idyllically quiet fishing village in Northern Iceland, where no one locks their doors – accessible only via a small mountain tunnel. Ari Thór Arason: a rookie policeman on his first posting, far from his girlfriend in Reykjavik – with a past that he’s unable to leave behind. When a young woman is found lying half-naked in the snow, bleeding and unconscious, and a highly esteemed, elderly writer falls to his death in the local theatre, Ari is dragged straight into the heart of a community where he can trust no one, and secrets and lies are a way of life. An avalanche and unremitting snowstorms close the mountain pass, and the 24-hour darkness threatens to push Ari over the edge, as curtains begin to twitch, and his investigation becomes increasingly complex, chilling and personal. Past plays tag with the present and the claustrophobic tension mounts, while Ari is thrust ever deeper into his own darkness – blinded by the snow, and with a killer on the loose.”

Ari Thór Arason relocates to the remote costal village of Siglufjörđur to take up his first job in the police. He’s thorough and tenacious, keen to learn and enthusiastic to do a good job in a community where no one locks their doors and the crime rate is virtually zero – until now. When the seemingly accidental death of an elderly writer is followed by what seems to be a vicious attack on a young woman the community is thrown into chaos – is a killer among them? And how, in a place where everyone knows everyone’s business, can there be no witnesses? Determined to get to the truth, Ari presses for answers, and as he does Siglufjörđur is covered in ever deepening snow – becoming cut off from the rest of the country and trapping the inhabitants together. As darkness descends, and Ari takes increasing risks to lure out the killer, the claustrophobic suspense ramps up to the max.

Snowblind uses its stunningly beautiful yet brutally remote setting to create a chilling, atmospheric locked room mystery. It’s a fantastic read with great writing, engaging characters and an expertly crafted plot filled with twists, turns and slight of hand. Ragnar Jónasson is an outstanding new voice in Nordic Noir, and Snowblind is the first in what promises to be a fabulous new series.

To find out more about Snowblind and Ragnar Jónasson visit www.orendabooks.co.uk/book/snow-blind. You can follow Ragnar on Twitter @ragnarjo and translator Quentin Bates @graskeggur

 

BLOODSTREAM by Luca Veste

Unknown

“Social media stars Chloe Morrison and Joe Hooper seem to have it all – until their bodies are found following an anonymous phone call to their high-profile agent. Tied and bound to chairs facing each other, their violent deaths cause a media scrum to descend on Liverpool, with DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi assigned to the case.

Murphy is dismissive, but the media pressure intensified when another couple is found in the same manner as the first. Only this time the killer has left a message. A link to a private video on the internet, and the words ‘Nothing stays secret’. It quickly becomes clear that more people will die; that the killer believes secrets and lies within relationships should have deadly consequences …”

This third book in the Murphy and Rossi series is a real page-turner of a read. The strong sense of place and vivid descriptions bring Liverpool to life, and Murphy and Rossi make for a great crime-solving duo.

The story brings into sharp focus how the media, and social media, feed into and off violent crime, and how the amount of media coverage, and the way individuals are portrayed, is dependent on the perceived value of that person and their death to ratings and circulation figures.

BLOODSTREAM is a dark, gritty and disturbingly sinister police procedural that I found utterly unputdownable.

Learn more about Luca Veste at www.lucaveste.com and follow him on Twitter @lucaveste

 

TELL NO TALES by Eva Dolan

TELL NO TALES cover image

TELL NO TALES cover image

“The car that ploughs into the bus stop early one morning leaves a trail of death and destruction behind it. DS Ferreira and DI Zigic are called in from the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit to handle the investigation but with another major case on their hands, one with disturbing Neo-Nazi overtones, they are relieved when there seems to be an obvious suspect. But the case isn’t that simple and with tensions erupting in the town, leading to more violence, the media are soon hounding them for answers.

Ferreira believes that local politician Richard Stotton, head of a recently established ring-wing party, must be involved somehow. Journalists have been quick to acclaim Stotton, with his Brazilian wife and RAF career, as a serious contender for a major political career, despite his extremist views, but is his party a cover for something far more dangerous?”

TELL NO TALES is the second book in the DS Ferreira and DI Zigic series. In it, Ferreira and Zigic are assigned to investigate the hit and run, but what at first seems a fairly straightforward case soon turns out to be far more complex than they’d originally thought. Alongside the hit and run, they’re still struggling to find suspects in a chain of recent murders. The brutal, racially motivated attacks have already claimed two victims, but Zigic’s boss wants the motive for the murders downplayed. The attackers are well prepared and ruthless, beating their victims to death and even playing up to the CCTV cameras they know are filming them. But even with video and forensic evidence, the detectives are no closer to identifying the killers. And things are going to get worse, a lot worse, before they get more leads. With tensions rising, and violence escalating, the two investigations begin to blur, and Ferreira and Zigic find their skills, and their resolve, tested to their very limits.

As in the first book, Ferreira and Zigic make a great duo, with Ferreira’s bold ‘tell it as it is’ attitude perfectly off set by Zigic’s more steady, measured, but no less determined approach. As the investigation progresses they deal with the challenges and try to cope with the shocking brutality of the cases in their own individual ways, but despite their differences, and Ferreira’s reservations about the additional officers assigned to Hate Crimes to support them, they work well together to unravel the complex and interwoven connections that have led to these extreme acts of violence taking place in the town.

A compelling story, beautifully crafted, TELL NO TALES has tension crackling off every page.

To learn more about Eva Dolan hop over to her author page at www.randomhouse.co.uk/authors/eva-dolan and follow her on Twitter @eva_dolan

 

STASI CHILD by David Young

Unknown

“East Berlin, 1975: Questions are dangerous. Answers can kill. When murder squad head Oberleutnant Karin Müller is called to investigate a teenage girl’s body found riddled with bullets at the foot of the Berlin Wall, she imagines she’s seen it all before. But when she arrives she realises this is a death like no other: it seems the girl was trying to escape – but from the West.

Müller is a member of the People’s Police, but in East Germany her power only stretches so far. The Stasi want her to discover the identity of the girl, but assure her the case is otherwise closed – and strongly discourage her asking questions. The evidence doesn’t add up, and it soon becomes clear that the crime scene has been staged, the girl’s features mutilated. But this is not a regime that tolerates a curious mind, and Müller doesn’t realise that the trail she’s following will lead her dangerously close to home.

The previous summer, on Rügen Island off the Baltic Coast, two desperate teenage girls conspire to escape the physical and sexual abuse of the young workhouse they call home. Forced to assemble furniture packs for the West, the girls live out a monotonous, painful and hopeless life. Stowing away in the very furniture they are forced to make, the girls arrived in Hamburg. But their celebrations are short-lived as they discover there is a price on freedom in the DDR …”

STASI CHILD is David Young’s debut novel and the first in the Oberleutnant Karin Müller series. Striving for justice whatever the cost is second nature to Müller. She’s a determined, strong and courageous detective, following the evidence and questioning anomalies even when warned off by some very powerful and threatening people. Defying instructions, she leads her team to find the truth hidden beneath the propaganda and cover-ups. But despite her hard-line stance in her job, in her personal life her relationships are imploding and as she juggles the conflict at home with an increasingly tense situation at work, it’s not long before Müller herself could be in danger.

Set in our chillingly authentic recent-past, this pacey page-turner of a police procedural is filled with fear, power struggles and intrigue making it one hell of a debut novel.

To find out more about David Young follow him on Twitter @djy_writer

 

TIME OF DEATH by Mark Billingham

Time of Death cover image

“The Missing: Two schoolgirls are abducted in the small, dying Warwickshire town of Polesford, driving a knife into the heart of the community where police officer Helen Weeks grew up, and from which she long escaped. But this is a place full of secrets, where dangerous truths lie buried.

The Accused: When it’s splashed all over the press that family man Stephen Bates has been arrested, Helen and her partner Tom Thorne head to the flooded town to support Bates’ wife – an old school friend of Helen’s – who is living under siege with two teenage children and convinced of her husband’s innocence.

The Dead: As residents and media bay for Bates’ blood, a decomposing body is found. The police believe that they have their murderer in custody, but one man believes otherwise. With a girl still missing, Thorne sets himself on a collision course with local police, townsfolk – and a merciless killer.”

TIME OF DEATH, the latest book in Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne series, takes Tom out of his usual city surroundings on a visit to the countryside for a romantic break with his partner Helen Weeks. But it doesn’t stay a relaxing holiday for long. When Helen recognises the wife of the man accused of the abduction of two schoolgirls from a small Warwickshire community, their holiday is cut short as they head to Polesford for Helen to support her old school friend.

Taking Thorne out of his London comfort zone is genius move. He hates the countryside, especially the thought of antiquing and walking, so he starts his own (unofficial) investigation. This forces him to embrace everything the area has to throw at him – floods, pigs, a lot of characterful locals, and the kind of claustrophobic environment where everyone knows each other’s business. Being the outsider, and not officially involved in the case, he’s able to follow his instincts unchecked, and starts to find he’s actually rather enjoying his holiday. He even manages to entice his friend, and talented Pathologist, Phil Hendricks, out from the city to help him. They still haven’t really spoken about what happened on Bardsey Island (in the previous book The Bones Beneath) and the personal cost to Phil (and Thorne) that resulted, but their friendship is a strong as ever and their banter is, as always, a joy to read.

TIME OF DEATH is filled with mystery and intrigue from the abduction case Tom is investigating, it also layers on a growing sense of unease that coming back to the place she grew up has unearthed some deeply buried secrets that Helen has kept well hidden.

Masterfully written, this is another fabulous instalment in what I think is the best police procedural series around today.

Learn more about Mark Billingham by checking out his website at www.markbillingham.com and follow him on Twitter @MarkBillingham

 

So there they are – my top crime reads of 2015.

Pop back next week to see my top thriller reads of the year.

 

 

 

 

 

Events Alert: Urban Noir Showcase with Arne Dahl, Eva Dolan & Stuart Neville – 23-25 November, Scotland

Exciting news – Harvill Secker have partnered up with Book Week Scotland to bring the Urban Noir Showcase tour to Scotland with crime writers Arne Dahl, Eva Dolan and Stuart Neville appearing at a number of events from 23 – 25 November 2015.

These three fabulous authors will discuss the contemporary anxieties they explore in their works of urban crime fiction, share their inspirations, reveal their writing secrets and answer questions from the audience.

Here’s the details …

image004

Crime In The Court Crime @GoldsboroBooks 2015 – What a great night! #IBW2015

David Headley opens Crime in the Court

David Headley opens Crime in the Court

Fabulous independent bookstore Goldsboro Books in London held their hugely popular Crime in the Crime evening last night. I’ve heard loads of great things about the event before, but yesterday was my first time going along to one.

It was a wonderful evening. With over 70 crime writers in attendance and around 400 people filling the gorgeous bookstore and all the outside space in shop-lined Cecil Court (luckily a pedestrians only street!) it was a friendly, fun and swelteringly hot London night out.

David Headley – Goldsboro owner and literary agent – was the perfect host. With free drinks and the shop’s beautiful shelves to browse, plus lots of laughter and the perfect opportunity to catch up with crime writers and readers – it was a crime fiction addict’s heaven!

Attending authors included: Rebecca Whitney, Elizabeth Haynes, Terry Stiastny, Susan Wilkins, Clare Mackintosh, Antonia Hodgson, Louise Millar, Christobel Kent, Kate Rhodes, RC Bridgestock, Charles Cumming, SD Sykes, William Shaw, V.M.Giambanco, Ali Knight, Elly Griffiths, L.C.Tyler, Dreda Say Mitchell & Tony Mason, Elena Forbes, Julia Crouch, Mick Herron, Colette McBeth, T.R.Richmond, Vaseem Khan, Jenny Blackhurst, Robin Blake, Sabine Durrant, JS Law, Clare Carson, Erin Kelly, Jane Lythell, Stuart Prebble, Simon Toyne, Anya Lipska, Fergus McNeill, SJI Holliday, Helen Giltrow, Claire McGowan, Eva Dolan, Mark Billingham, SJ Watson, Sharon Bolton, Renee Knight, David Hewson, Emma Kavanagh, Sarah Hilary, Alison Joseph, Cal Moriaty, Saul Black, Diana Bretherick, Rod Reynolds and Mark Hill.

crime writers Helen Giltrow, Rod Reynolds & Mark Hill

crime writers Helen Giltrow, Rod Reynolds, Mark Hill (with a copy of Rod’s debut The Dark Inside – out in September)

Definitely an event I’ll put in my calendar again for next year!

In the meantime, be sure to visit Goldsboro Books at Cecil Court, London (just a minute walk from Leicester Square tube) or hop on over to their website at www.goldsborobooks.com

Events Alert: BritCrime 2015 – a free online crime fiction festival on 11-13 July!

BritCrime Festival logo

BritCrime organiser and author, Helen Smith

BritCrime organiser and author, Helen Smith

BritCrime 2015 is a brand new sparkly crime fiction festival that will run for the first time from 11 – 13 July 2015. Instigated by author Helen Smith, the festival will feature more than forty crime authors taking part over the three-day festival.

The free festival – yes, that’s right – FREE – will take place entirely online. There’ll be live Q&A panel discussions on the BritCrime Facebook page as well as ‘Meet us in the (virtual) Bar’ sessions for late night chat and japes.

In the run up to the festival there’ll be lots of exciting things going on – giveaways, video sessions and interactive Google Hangouts. You can also sign up to get the festival email updates – and be entered into the draw to win a Kindle Paperwhite.

Participating authors include Quentin Bates, Jenny Blackhurst, Rebecca Bradley, Graeme Cameron, Steve Cavanagh, Tammy Cohen, Mason Cross, Julia Crouch, Eva Dolan, Steven Dunne, Mark Edwards, Chris Ewan, Paul Finch, Helen Giltrow, Sarah Hilary, Susi Holliday, Jane Isaac, Amanda Jennings, Emma Kavanagh, Anya Lipska, Colette McBeth, M J McGrath, Fergus McNeill, Clare Mackintosh, Michael J Malone, Ava Marsh, Alex Marwood, K T Medina, Daniel Pembrey, J F Penn, Nick Quantrill, Marnie Riches, Craig Robertson, Mel Sherratt, Alexandra Sokoloff, Helen Smith, C L Taylor, Simon Toyne, Luca Veste, Louise Voss, Sarah Ward – that’s A LOT of authors!!

Author, Mason Cross

Author, Mason Cross

And you can ask them anything! Want to know what sparked the idea for a book? – you can ask them; want to learn how to pick locks or how to turn your teenage diary into a murder story? – there’ll be tips for that too; wondering what it’s like to go from real life detective to crime fiction writer? – that’s something you can ask as well.

On Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th July the live Q&A sessions will run from midday to 10pm (UK time) with the ‘Meet us in the Bar’ sessions live after the panels from 10pm to midnight.

On Monday 13th July there’ll be highlights from the BritCrime Festival, a report from ThrillerFest (New York), BritCrime authors on tour: looking forward to Harrogate, Bloody Scotland and Bouchercon, and ‘What’s next for BritCrime? – more exciting stuff to come.’

Author, Eva Dolan

Author, Eva Dolan

So whether you love murder mysteries, police procedurals, private investigators, thrillers, romantic suspense or domestic noir (or all of them!) by getting online and involved, you’ll be able to take part in this fantastic new festival wherever you live – and FOR FREE!

So be sure to follow @BritCrime on Twitter, and then hop on over to the festival website at www.britcrime.com to find out more, register, and start thinking of all the questions you’d like to ask the authors …

See you at BritCrime!

CTG Reviews: TELL NO TALES by Eva Dolan

TELL NO TALES cover image

TELL NO TALES cover image

What the blurb says: “The car that ploughs into the bus stop early one morning leaves a trail of death and destruction behind it.

DS Ferreira and DI Zigic are called in from the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit to handle the investigation but with another major case on their hands, one with disturbing Neo-Nazi overtones, they are relieved when there seems to be an obvious suspect. But the case isn’t that simple and with tensions erupting in the town, leading to more violence, the media are soon hounding them for answers.

Ferreira believes that local politician Richard Stotton, head of a recently established ring-wing party, must be involved somehow. Journalists have been quick to acclaim Stotton, with his Brazilian wife and RAF career, as a serious contender for a major political career, despite his extremist views, but is his party a cover for something far more dangerous?”

Eva Dolan’s debut novel LONG WAY HOME was one of my favourite books of 2014, so I was super excited to get an early copy of the second book in the DS Ferreira and DI Zigic series – TELL NO TALES.

Ferreira and Zigic are assigned to investigate the hit and run, but what at first seems a fairly straightforward case soon turns out to be far more complex than they’d originally thought. Alongside the hit and run, they’re still struggling to find suspects in a chain of recent murders. The brutal, racially motivated attacks have already claimed two victims, but Zigic’s boss wants the motive for the murders downplayed.

The attackers are well prepared and ruthless, beating their victims to death and even playing up to the CCTV cameras they know are filming them. But even with video and forensic evidence, the detectives are no closer to identifying the killers. And things are going to get worse, a lot worse, before they get more leads. With tensions rising, and violence escalating, the two investigations begin to blur, and Ferreira and Zigic find their skills, and their resolve, tested to their very limits.

As in the first book, Ferreira and Zigic make a great duo, with Ferreira’s bold ‘tell it as it is’ attitude perfectly off set by Zigic’s more steady, measured, but no less determined approach. As the investigation progresses they deal with the challenges and try to cope with the shocking brutality of the cases in their own individual ways, but despite their differences, and Ferreira’s reservations about the additional officers assigned to Hate Crimes to support them, they work well together to unravel the complex and interwoven connections that have led to these extreme acts of violence taking place in the town.

What I especially liked about this novel was the characterisation. All the characters are so well drawn, from the witnesses and victims who are withholding information, to the suspects who refuse to talk, and the increasing political posturing and media manipulation from those looking to use the violence to whip up more unrest.

A compelling story, beautifully crafted, TELL NO TALES has tension crackling off every page. This is a must-read for police procedural fans.

Highly recommended.

 

[with thanks to Harvill Secker for my copy of TELL NO TALES]

 

CTG’s Top Reads of 2014

There have been so many wonderful books published this year it’s been really hard to narrow it down to my most favourite. So, instead of my top five picks, this year I’ve made it my top nine (!).

Here they are, my top picks of 2014 …

Truth or Dare cover image

Truth or Dare cover image

TRUTH OR DARE by Tania Carver (Sphere)

Tania Carver is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. Every book is fresh and inventive, and as readers of the series will have come to expect, unflinchingly dark, creepy, and nail-bitingly tense.

TRUTH OR DARE starts with a Darren Richards being forced to make a horrific choice – his life, or that of his family. Right from the outset, the ‘Lawgiver’ shows just how serious he is about his mission to serve justice where he believes the criminal justice system has failed. Enter Detective Inspector Phil Brennan and his team – investigating what looks set to become a serial killer case in Phil’s new home of Birmingham.

What I especially admired in this book is the skillful way the author touches on issues of morality, social justice and economic deprivation in relation to attitudes and motivations towards crime, without ever becoming preachy. The characters feel real and fully drawn; the settings gritty, grimy and highly atmospheric.

Tightly plotted, with a rapid pace and twists that will blindside you, this is a super-moreish read.

The Good Girl cover image

The Good Girl cover image

THE GOOD GIRL by Mary Kubica (Harlequin MIRA)

This spellbinding debut thriller uncovers just how many dark secrets can be hidden behind a perfect family image. Schoolteacher, Mia Dennett, turned her back on her family’s extravagant lifestyle to work as an inner-city teacher and make her own way in the world. But when her boyfriend stands her up one time too many, a spare-of-the-moment decision to go home with the smooth and attractive Colin has horrifying consequences for more than just Mia.

Told through three main viewpoints – the mother, Eve, the kidnapper, Colin, and the cop, Gabe – each character shows the reader a different perspective on the events, and on Mia, leading up to, during and following the kidnapping.

With the viewpoints and timeline told out-of-sequence, the story builds the tension to the max as the details of what happened to Mia are uncovered. It’s a complex tale of deceit, jealously, fear, and love played out against the bustling, bright lights of Chicago and the frozen, unforgiving landscape of rural Minnesota in winter.

I found this artfully crafted story brutal at times, and yet so beautiful that it made me cry (and I can’t remember the last time a story did that). A stunning debut.

The Bones Beneath cover image

The Bones Beneath cover image

THE BONES BENEATH by Mark Billingham (Sphere)

THE BONES BENEATH takes Tom Thorne away from his home turf, reluctantly chaperoning one of the most dangerous criminals from his past on a trip to Bardsey Island to retrieve the body of a teenager. Part road-trip, part closed location mystery, the suspense builds from the outset.

Stuart Nicklin is a master manipulator without a shred of remorse for his victims and their families, yet he says he’s willing to lead the police to the body of one of his early kills in order for the boy’s mother to get closure. The catch –Thorne must be the police officer to escort him. But Thorne knows the trip isn’t about any sense of conscience Nicklin has, so why does he want to take a trip to the island now?

As Thorne and his team, along with prisoners Nicklin and Batchelor, make the journey there’s a real sense of impending doom.

The remote island makes the group geographically isolated. At the mercy of the weather, and limited by the small amount of equipment they could bring, the team start their search for the body. But finding it is only their first challenge.

The relationship between Thorne and Nicklin is grating and tense. Nicklin tries his upmost to taunt and provoke Thorne, while Thorne battles to keep his reactions in check. They’re well matched adversaries – smart, savvy and both determined to stop the other getting the upper hand. But as the full extent of Nicklin’s plan is put into play, the body count rises, and Thorne is forced to make an impossible choice.

This tense, suspenseful and claustrophobically gripping story hooked me in from the beginning and kept me reading into the early hours because I just couldn’t put the book down. A truly fabulous read.

The Distance cover image

The Distance cover image

THE DISTANCE by Helen Giltrow (Orion)

This is a stylish, espionage-type thriller with a bold and courageous female lead character. Karla (and her alter-ego Charlotte Alton) is super-smart, brave and principled (in her own very distinct way). But this job is different. To get a hit-man into ‘The Programme’ – an experimental prison that is meant to be impossible to break in or out of, and the hit-man is Johanssen – a guy she has a history with.

Karla takes the job, but as Johanssen assumes a new identity in order to enter The Programme, Karla gets increasingly suspicious of the client and their motives. The target of the hit is a woman, and the only information they have on her is a photo and an assurance that she did ‘something bad. Yet she seemingly has no identity, no history, and there is no record of her being inside the prison. Still, Karla has seen the CCTV footage – she knows that the target is inside and very much exists.

Concerned for Johanssen’s safety, Karla digs deeper to find the identity of the target and, in doing so, unravels the complex web of lies, bribes and murder. As she gets closer to uncovering the violent truth hidden behind the hit, Karla, and those close to her, become targets.

Set in the near future and played out over twenty-four days, the story is packed with tension. It’s told in the present tense, which adds to the momentum, and hammers along at a tremendous pace. The plot twists and turns, then twists some more and turns again. Dark, edgy and, at times, brutal, this is a stylish and highly original debut.

The Killing Season cover image

The Killing Season cover image

THE KILLING SEASON by Mason Cross (Orion)

THE KILLING SEASON has everything I love about action thrillers – the intrigue, the danger, the chase and the multi-layered characters. And, it’s Mason Cross’ debut novel, which makes it all the more impressive.

The main character, Carter Blake, is something of an enigma – charismatic, highly skilled, and at the top of his game. But he doesn’t let power and politics get in the way of his investigation, and he makes sure justice is brought, whatever the personal cost. So pairing up with Special Agent Elaine Banner makes for an interesting working relationship – she’s career-driven and has her eyes on the next promotion, working with a talented maverick like Blake gives her a set of problems she can well do without.

The serial killer antagonist – sniper Caleb Wardell – is a smart and cunning adversary, engaging Blake and Banner in a deadly game of cat and mouse. The tension is high from the get-go and just keeps on rising.

I cannot sing this novel’s praises highly enough – it’s a joy to read, utterly engaging and kept me hooked right from the first page to the last. There’s high stakes and high tension, and the chemistry between Blake and Banner sizzles off the page. If you love action thrillers, go and read this book. I’m sure you won’t regret it.

The Long Way Home cover image

The Long Way Home cover image

LONG WAY HOME by Eva Dolan (Harvill Secker)

Another fabulous debut of 2014 is LONG WAY HOME. DS Mel Ferreira and DI Dushan Zigic from the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit are called in to investigate the murder of an unidentified man, burnt alive in a garden shed. As they start their investigation the man is identified as an immigrant, but no one will talk about the murder. There are plenty of suspects though; from the owners of the shed who seem to be hiding something, to a convicted arsonist, and the local men who use (and abuse) cheap labour – the victim seems to have made plenty of enemies. Question is, who killed him and why?

A compelling and moving story, from the brutal murder, to the horrendous conditions immigrant workers are found to be living in, their callous treatment and the cheapness of human life to the trafficking gangs and local racketeers. DI Zigic and DS Ferreira battle to bring the guilty to justice against the backdrop of a city where the undercurrent of radical tension is high and the threat of violence never far away.

Beautifully crafted, artfully plotted and deeply thought provoking, this stunning debut is the beginning of a fantastic new crime series.

Better Off Dead cover image

Better Off Dead cover image

BETTER OFF DEAD by Tom Wood (Sphere)

BETTER OFF DEAD has terrific pace, a contemporary, gritty feel and, rather unexpected for a novel whose protagonist is an assassin, a real depth of heart.

In this story, Victor (the Assassin) is called by an old contact, now enemy – Russian crime boss Norimov – and asked to protect his estranged daughter who is being targeted by an unidentified gang. At first Victor refuses, but finally agrees to find and protect Gisele in honour of her dead mother, who was his friend.

In London, Victor realises that finding Gisele may be more problematic than he’d first anticipated. When he locates Gisele things aren’t any clearer. She has no idea who is after her, and is highly reluctant to go with him. He manages to persuade her, and that’s when the serious attacks begin.

Forced to rely on his instincts and training, Victor battles to keep Gisele safe as they try to unravel the real motive driving those that are targeting her. The bond that grows between Gisele and Victor makes them an engaging pair. Gisele’s a fast learner and a brave co-protagonist. She’s also rather adept at challenging Victor, acting rather like a moral compass in the more violent moments.

With some fabulous action scenes, and ever increasing stakes, this is a breath-taking read from start to finish. A must read for fans of action thrillers.

Dear Daughter cover image

Dear Daughter cover image

DEAR DAUGHTER by Elizabeth Little (Harvill Secker)

Told from the point of view of Jane “Janie” Jenkins DEAR DAUGHTER tracks the IT girl turned criminal as she searches to find the truth about her mother’s murder – did she do it? If she didn’t, who did and why?

It’s an action-packed, cross-country race of a read as Janie follows the few clues she has to the secrets in her mother’s past – the family Janie’s never met, the childhood her mother never spoke about – hunting out anyone who can help her find out what links her glamorous, wealthy mother to a small town out in the middle of nowhere.

But it’s not easy with the media, and an especially determined blogger, out to find her. So Janie goes undercover, transforming her super bitchy, razor sharp-witted, and hair to die for self into a more wallflower-esq alter ego. And it works, for a while. But as she digs deeper, and starts to uncover the secrets hidden for so long by her mother, and those of other members of the close-knit community, her true identity – and the danger that brings – is discovered.

Janie is a real love-to-hate protagonist – smart and resourceful, and I loved riding along with her on the hunt for the truth. Mystery, suspense, a non-stop pace and a wonderfully quirky, strong female narrator – this book has them all. I read it in a single weekend.

The Dying Place cover image

The Dying Place cover image

THE DYING PLACE by Luca Veste (Avon)

When the body of a murdered teenager is found outside a church, Murphy and Rossi are called in to investigate. As they delve deeper into the case it becomes clear that someone, or some people, are taking teenagers off the street and holding them against their will, trying to ‘re-train’ them through a brutal form of national service.

Veste’s Liverpool is an unsettling, dangerous place where frustrations between the older generation and the young run high. Told through multiple points of view, the story highlights the impact of violent crime on victims’ families – on the parents whose children don’t ever return home and on the adult children whose elderly parents fall victim to teenage gangs. It also shows how grief can twist into vengeance and how that can be a powerful motivator, exploring the theme of vigilante justice in an up-close and disturbingly convincing way through the eyes of the characters.

As in Dead Gone, Murphy and Rossi are a brilliantly paired double act; the strong bond between them showing through their ever-present banter, and their unswerving loyalty in the face of adversity.

A fast-paced police procedural that keeps you guessing right to the end, THE DYING PLACE is a truly gripping read.

 

So that was 2014. I can’t wait to find out what wonderful books 2015 has in store …

Bloody Brilliant Scotland 2014

 

The Female in Crime Fiction panel being introduced

The Female in Crime Fiction panel being introduced

Last weekend was Bloody Scotland 2014. This hugely friendly and welcoming crime writing festival is going from strength to strength. Now in its third year, the festival played host to a plethora of crime writers in three days of entertaining, informative and massively fun events.

Having spent the best part of seven hours on trains travelling from my home to Stirling, I met up with some friends at the Stirling Highland Hotel and then headed over to Hotel Colessio for Mark Billingham and Stuart McBride’s Dead Funny event. As with the Billingham and Brookmyre double act last year, Billingham and McBride answering questions from readers (allegedly) made for a hilarious evening with McBride’s dark poetry, and the skilful answering by both authors of some rather random questions from the audience, real high spots.

Next morning, Saturday, I helped out SJI Holiday (acting as her notetaker) at an interview with Kati Hirekkapelto, author of fabulous book The Hummingbird, before having a quick walk around Stirling – seeing the Castle, the city walls, and peering into the old Gaol.

Then it was off to the New Blood/Fresh Meat panel featuring Eva Dolan, Hania Allen, and Mason Cross. Each of the panel began by reading from their debut novels – three different styles and stories, and all super gripping. Then, led by moderator Peggy Hughes, they spoke about how they got the idea for the novel, the research they did, and what their route to publication was like.

At the same time, the Scotland versus England 5-a-side Football match was taking place. With Ian Rankin captaining Scotland and Mark Billingham captaining England there was a good turnout to watch the battle commence and the #BloodyScotland twitter feed was alive with score updates and photos. After a tense game, the final score was Scotland 13 – England 1, and the magnificent silver trophy went to Scotland.

Next up, I went along to The Female in Crime Fiction (in association with Glasgow Women’s Library) panel with Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Lin Anderson, and Catriona McPherson. The panel debated female protagonists in crime fiction (including how many crime books would pass the Bechdel test which looks at whether a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man), the joy of reading a thriller that compels you to turn the page (crime writing top tip – always keep the secret withheld as long as you can!), and why it might be that women make up more than half the readership of crime fiction.

The next panel featured Luca Veste, Michael Malone, and Martyn Waites, chaired by Mark Billingham. This lively and entertaining panel discussed their most recent books, the importance of location and why they’d chosen to locate their books where they had, how they go about doing research, their route to publication and how Martyn Waites came to take on his alter ego – Tanya Carver.

The final event of the day was Ian Rankin in conversation with Kathy Reichs. This session in the Albert Halls seemed to fly by with Kathy Reichs talking about her route to publication, what it’s like working on a long running TV show (having to think up new murders after 200 episodes being one of the challenges!) and what it’s like co-writing a YA series with her son.

Then it was off to dinner with friends at the amazing Maharaja curry house before chatting in the bar well into the early hours.

On Sunday I was actually part of an event rather than just watching. Having submitted a 100 word synopsis for the Pitch Perfect session I was excited (and terrified) to hear that my story was one of seven that had been picked to be pitched. Along with the other six pitchers I was ushered into the green room and introduced to the wonderful Jenny Brown who chaired the session. From there it was on to the event with publishers Alison Hennessey (Harvill Secker), Krystyna Green (Constable & Robinson) and Tricia Jackson (Pan MacMillan) on the panel. Each pitcher had three minutes to pitch their story. There were some great pitches, and I think it was probably the longest three minutes of my life! But good fun and I’d definitely recommend it. The panel were friendly and their feedback hugely helpful, and Margaret Stewart was a most deserving winner.

And then it was over.

As I set off on my journey home, I reflected on what a fantastic weekend I’d had – great panels, a fabulous location, a warm and friendly atmosphere and the chance to catch up with all my writerly pals.

The seven hour trip was definitely worth it.