CTG’s #threewordbookreview – THE MIDNIGHT LINE by LEE CHILD

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Today’s three word ‘micro’ book review features the latest in the fantastic (and certainly not micro) Jack Reacher series – THE MIDNIGHT LINE – by Lee Child.

My verdict: FAST-PACED. THOUGHT-PROVOKING. ACTION

(That’s five words you say? Yeah, yeah. So I slipped in a couple of cheeky hyphens – my blog, my rules!)

The Midnight Line is out now from Transworld. To find out more and buy the book click the cover below and hop over to Amazon:

GIRLS ON TOP: SEX IN CRIME FICTION (PART 1) with STEPH BROADRIBB & SJI HOLLIDAY #GirlsOnTop

 

Today it’s time for something a little different. Susi (SJI) Holliday and me, in conjunction with CrimeTime, have been thinking about sex in crime fiction. You can read our thoughts in a few places – the first half of our conversation here on the CTG blog, the second half over on Susi’s blog HERE, and the full article over on the CrimeTime website HERE

Once you’ve had a read, we’d love to know your thoughts – do you like a sprinkling of sex with your crime? And, if you do, what’s the most memorable sex scene in a crime thriller for you? Tweet us at @crimethrillgirl and @SJIHolliday using hashtag #GirlsOnTop to let us know.

[STEPH] Let’s talk about sex. Sex in crime fiction, specifically. Okay, so I’ll go first – I’m not embarrassed – there’s a couple of sex scenes in my debut novel DEEP DOWN DEAD. One is more of a cut away as the action happens, but the other one, towards the end of the book, is very much the action as it happens; my protagonist Lori Anderson riding a male character cowgirl style. I put it in because the scene felt right for the story and (I hope) conveys something about the characters, adding additional conflict and raising the emotional stakes of the decisions they’re about to make and the (negative) consequences they could have for their relationship. That’s a whole lot of subtext to put on a sex scene, but that’s my rationale.

Back when I was starting to write my novel, I was told that sex and crime fiction don’t mix, but that doesn’t seem quite right to me. I can think of memorable sex scenes in the crime thriller genre like Lee Child’s The Affair – Jack Reacher has sex as a train thunders along the tracks – and that chilling sex scene in Gone Girl between Amy and Desi – the book, and the slightly more bloody film version! But, now I think about it, I can’t think of many detective stories that have sex scenes playing out in full in them unless the sex itself is the crime to be solved. Surely there must be more and my memory is just playing tricks on me? To help, I’ve enlisted crime writer S.J.I. Holliday – author of the Banktoun series – to answer the question, do sex and detective fiction mix?

[SUSI] I really don’t see why not. When you ask people about this, you get very mixed responses. Readers (in general) are absolutely fine with serial killers, blood, gore, death and destruction. But throw a blow job in there and they’re skimming the pages faster than a quickie in the stationery cupboard.

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The Slice Girls [L-R]: Alexandra Sokoloff, Steph Broadribb, AK Benedict, Louise Voss, Susi Holliday, Harley Jane Kozak

Personally, I love a bit of sex. Slotted in at the right time, it can help add to the tension of your story, especially if the characters are having sex with people they shouldn’t. In all three of my books, there is a hint of sex – an encounter reminiscent of 9½ Weeks on a kitchen table in BLACK WOOD, where various food items are strewn around the kitchen… In WILLOW WALK, there’s a first-timer’s sex scene down by the river which I thought was quite touching (so to speak) and entirely relevant to the plot. There’s actually less sex in THE DAMSELFLY than in the other two. A thwarted BJ and an illicit scene in a lock-up that’s kept mainly off the page. It totally depends on the story. It definitely shouldn’t be shoehorned in if it doesn’t advance the plot.

[STEPH] Seems like Susi and me are on the same page about sex-on-the-page, but what about other crime writers, what do they think? We asked a few to find out.

Neil White – From the Shadows (Bonnier Zaffre) – said, ‘Never written a sex scene. Too buttoned up. My mum will read it’ and Mason Cross – The Time To Kill (Orion) – said, ‘I’ve only included PG13 sex scenes so far, although I may need to change that for plot reasons in the new one. But Jeez, my dad reads these!’ So it could be the fear of family members reading intimate scenes is in the forefront of some writers’s minds (and limits them going all the way) but that’s not all. Chris Ewan – Long Time Lost (Faber) – said, ‘I almost wrote one yesterday and then … just cut away again. Performance anxiety.’

It also depends on the character. James Oswald – Written In Bones (Penguin) – said, ‘I don’t put much sex in my books. Tony McLean is incredibly repressed anyway, so there’s that too … on the other hand there’s auto-erotic asphyxiation and death by priapism in my latest, so maybe I do write sex after all.’

Andy Martin – Reacher Said Nothing (Transworld) – said, ‘Sad to say there are few explicit sex scenes of note in Reacher Said Nothing. I only looked over Lee Child’s shoulder while he was writing Make Me. I think there is the occasional manly handshake. But Lee – as straight as a die – had some wry remarks to make on the subject. “Never sleep with someone you know,” still resonates in my mind. And more recently he said that the most erotic experience he had ever had was a brief encounter on a train. They shared a moment but had no actual language in common. I think I may have been influenced by Childean minimalism, that “zero degree” of writing recommended by Roland Barthes. I was at a Norman Mailer writers colony in Wyoming recently when a brilliant Indian writer devised an elaborate sex scene about a dozen pages long. I wrote one, rather shorter, that went like this: “We had sex.” It’s not exactly lyrical or spiritual but it gets the job done.’

It seems, from the guys we spoke to, that male crime thriller writers generally prefer not to write on-the-page sex and to cut away before the act takes place. Mark Edwards – The Devil’s Work (Thomas & Mercer) – bucks this trend, he wants more sex in crime fiction, and said, ‘we Brits are notoriously squeamish when it comes to the squelchy bits. Wouldn’t it be nice if more of our great detectives were as skillful in bed as they are at solving crimes? Don’t you think there should be more people handcuffed to beds in thrillers because they like being handcuffed to beds?’

To find out what the female crime writers thought, why Susi hates ‘panties’ and what the trick to writing a good sex scene is, hop over to Susi’s blog HERE then come find us on Twitter @crimethrillgirl and @SJIHolliday and tell us your thoughts on sex in crime fiction using hashtag #GirlsOnTop

And check out the article in full on Barry Forshaw’s CrimeTime at www.crimetime.co.uk  and check out his Rough Guide to Crime Fiction here

Buy DEEP DOWN DEAD by Steph Broadribb here

Buy THE DAMSELFLY by SJI Holliday here

And you can buy books by our contributing authors by clicking the book titles below:

Neil WhiteFrom the Shadows (Bonnier Zaffre)

Mason CrossThe Time To Kill (Orion)

Chris EwanLong Time Lost (Faber)

James OswaldWritten In Bones (Penguin)

Andy MartinReacher Said Nothing (Transworld)

Mark EdwardsThe Devil’s Work (Thomas & Mercer)

 

More about Steph and Susi:

Steph Broadribb is an alumni of the MA Creative Writing at City University London and trained as a bounty hunter in California. Her debut novel DEEP DOWN DEAD is out now. Find out more at www.crimethrillergirl.com right here!

S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday grew up near Edinburgh and now lives in London. She works as a statistician in the pharmaceutical industry and writes books set in a creepy and claustrophobic small town in Scotland where the crime rate is apparently higher than in New York. BLACK WOOD, WILLOW WALK and THE DAMSELFLY are a mix of psychological thriller and detective fiction, featuring the terminally unlucky in love, Sergeant Davie Gray. You can find out more at www.sjiholliday.com

 

CTG’s TOP TEN “MUST PACK” #CrimeFiction SUMMER READS

 

 

If you’ve been stressed out and counting the hours (minutes, seconds …) till your holiday the last thing you want is more stress from picking the right books to take with you!

But there are so many red hot sizzlers of reads out there, how do you pick the books to pack into your luggage? It’s a tough call, so to help you out I thought I’d do a top ten selection of my favourite reads from the past few months to give you a bit of a head start.

And so, after A LOT of deliberation, these are my top ten “must pack” reads.

**drum roll**

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If you love super smart and sparkly fun non-fiction … then REACHER SAID NOTHING by ANDY MARTIN is the perfect companion to lie back on your beach towel with.

Through Andy’s eyes, you’ll get a backseat view of Lee Child as he writes his most recent bestseller – MAKE ME. It’s a captivating snapshot of the life of Lee Child during the writing process – illuminating how his life and his writing feed into each other – and a lesson in thriller writing distilled through the expert observations and analysis of Andy Martin. REACHER SAID NOTHING is an honest, access-all-areas study of a writer at the top of their game, and a damn entertaining read – an absolute must for Reacher fans and aspiring writers too. If you’re a fan of crime thrillers this is a book you just have to read!

Read my review of REACHER SAID NOTHING here. Click here to buy it from Amazon. And be sure to follow Andy on Twitter @andymartinink

 

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If you love your crime to come with a heavyweight emotional sucker-punch … you’ll need IN HER WAKE by AMANDA JENNINGS in your rucksack when you head off to the British seaside.

It’s a remarkable book – part psychological thriller, part coming-of-age story, it entices you in with a gloriously rich web of secrets and mystery, and holds you spell bound right through to the final heart-wrenching revelation. Beautifully written, IN HER WAKE is a story of toxic relationships, family betrayals and self-discovery. It’s both gritty and tragic, and achingly emotive and heart-warming. A stunning read.

Read my review of IN HER WAKE here. Click here to buy it from Amazon. And be sure to follow Amanda on Twitter @MandaJJennings

 

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If you love a classy whodunit with a psychological twist … be sure to take DIE OF SHAME by MARK BILLINGHAM with you when you load the truck to drive Route 66 on your road trip.

Told across two timelines, the story follows the police investigation, led by no-nonsense DI Nicola Tanner, into the murder of a member of a North West London addiction therapy group in the ‘NOW’. While in the ‘THEN’ it shows the group, and its members’ lives, as they were in the weeks leading up to the murder of one of their own. It’s a book that explores the lasting effects of addiction, the guilt of having to live with the consequences of actions you may have little recall of taking, and of each person’s battle to find and keep (or get back) their place within the world. It also shows the lengths that some people will go to in order to hide their secrets and take their revenge. For police procedural fans, the investigation narrative is as rich with detail and as tensely pacey as you’d expect from a crime-writing master of the genre. Gritty, thought provoking and utterly addictive!

Read my review of DIE OF SHAME here. Click here to buy it from Amazon. And be sure to follow Mark on Twitter @MarkBillingham

 

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If you love a modern luxury twist on the classic locked room mystery … take THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 by RUTH WARE along for the ride when you journey on the Orient Express.

It tells the story of Lo Blackwood who has been given the career opportunity of a lifetime – attending the press launch of a new boutique cruise ship and writing about her experience on its maiden voyage. But in the days leading up to the cruise her flat is burgled while she’s sleeping, and her relationship with her boyfriend, Judah, hits the rocks. Unsettled and exhausted, Lo makes her way to the ship, convinced some rest and recuperation will help her feel better. But things don’t work out like that. Against the backdrop of ultimate luxury – white velvet, raw-silk, chandeliers with over two thousand Swarovski crystals – and the breath-taking natural beauty of the Norwegian fjords, Lo finds herself facing the possibility she’s trapped on a boat, cut off from the outside world, and one of the other passengers is a murderer. THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 brings the classic locked room mystery bang up to date, with creepiness and ever increasing dread oozing from the pages. It’s packed with suspense and twisty with tension to the final page.

Read my review of THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 over on the @deadgoodbooks website here. Click here to buy it from Amazon. And be sure to follow Ruth on Twitter @RuthWareWriter

 

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If you love gritty American noir … a copy of BLACK NIGHT FALLING by ROD REYNOLDS is essential reading while you’re waiting for your date to arrive in that back street whiskey bar.

The second book in the Charlie Yates series is another noir-drenched belter of a thriller. “Having left Texarkana for the safety of the West Coast, reporter Charlie Yates finds himself drawn back to the South, to Hot Springs, Arkansas, as an old acquaintance asks for his help. This time it’s less of a story Charlie’s chasing, more of a desperate attempt to do the right thing before it’s too late.” I think that if Raymond Chandler and John D. MacDonald had co-written a book it might have been rather like BLACK NIGHT FALLING. Darkly gritty, authentically compelling, this is a flawless treat of a thriller.

You’ll be able to read my review of BLACK NIGHT FALLING when in comes out in August. In the meantime, click here to pre-order it from Amazon. And be sure to follow Rod on Twitter @Rod_WR

 

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If you love seeing beneath the cash and the glitter thrillers … then EXPOSURE by AVA MARSH will keep your eyes wide open as you lounge by the rooftop pool.

At the start of the book, porn star Kitty Sweet is in prison for double murder, but she’s never told the secret of what really happened. When a long lost friend visits, bringing some upsetting news, Kitty’s offered some sessions with a therapist. She figures why not, she’ll turn up and play along. It’s hard to squeeze EXPOSURE into a single sub-genre – it’s a thriller for sure; a tale of deceit, and exploitation, and murder. It’s also a tale of friendship, of love and of heartbreak with a real emotional core. And the twist at the end, well, let’s just say it’s not many books that can make me cry – and this one did!

Read my review of EXPOSURE here. Click here to buy it from Amazon. And be sure to follow Ava on Twitter @MsAvaMarsh

 

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If you love high adrenaline action thrillers … then you’ll want to take THE TIME TO KILL by MASON CROSS with you when you jet-ski back to your yacht.

This is the third book in the Carter Blake series, and it’s one hell of a read! The story starts with Blake accepting a new job – finding an employee of an internet tech company who’s gone AWOL with a piece of ground-breaking software. But as he starts tracking his target, Blake isn’t aware that he himself is firmly in the sights of his old employers – Winterlong – and that they’ll stop at nothing to neutralize the threat they now believe him to be. THE TIME TO KILL is an adrenaline rush from the first page to the last. Packed with stunning set-piece action sequences, and an emotional punch as you discover more of the rather mysterious Blake’s backstory, this cinematic action thriller is like reading Reacher crossed with Bourne plus added fabulousness.

Read my review of THE TIME TO KILL here. Click here to buy it from Amazon. And be sure to follow Mason on Twitter @MasonCrossBooks

 

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If you love your police procedurals packed with ghostly wonder … you’re going to need JONATHAN DARK OR THE EVDIENCE OF GHOSTS by AK BENEDICT to accompany you on that London city getaway you’re planning (maybe you’ll even be tempted to try some mud larking).

Every once in a while you read a book that enthralls you, wrapping you up tight inside its world and holding you spellbound throughout the entirety of the story. For me, this is that book. “Maria King knows a secret London. Born blind, she knows the city by sound and touch and smell. But surgery has restored her sight – only for her to find she doesn’t want it. Jonathan Dark sees the shadowy side of the city. A DI with the Metropolitan Police, he is haunted by his failure to save a woman from the hands of a stalker. Now it seems the killer has set his sights on Maria, and is leaving her messages in the most gruesome of ways. Tracing the source of these messages leads Maria and Jonathan to a London they never know. To find the truth they’ll have to listen to the whispers on the streets.” Quirkily original, with deeply drawn unique characters and a brutally magical London setting, this story has you traversing all the emotions from darkness to delight with a gut wrenching honesty – rather as if you’ve been kissed and sucker punched all at the same time, but in a good way.

Read my review of JONATHAN DARK OR THE EVIDENCE OF GHOSTS here. Click here to buy it from Amazon. And be sure to follow Alexandra on Twitter @ak_benedict

 

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If you love twisty-turny legal thrillers … take THE PLEA by STEVE CAVANAGH on your New York city break – you could even visit some of the locations in the book while you’re there.

The second book in the Eddie Flynn series, THE PLEA, sees con-man-turned-criminal-defence-lawyer Eddie Flynn facing another terrifying situation: persuade social media genius David Child to become his client and get him to plead guilty to the murder of his girlfriend, or the FBI will make sure Eddie’s wife goes to prison for involvement in an illegal scheme operated by her law firm that she had no direct knowledge of. But Eddie suspects that David Child is innocent, and he won’t send an innocent man to jail. Eddie sets out to prove David’s innocence, and to protect his own family. Problem is, there is more than one bunch of bad guys after David, and some are closer to home than even Eddie might think. With an urgent, time pressured feel from the get-go, electric courtroom scenes, stunning action sequences and the witty and unique character of Eddie Flynn, THE PLEA a tremendous read.

Read my review of THE PLEA here. Click here to buy it from Amazon. And be sure to follow Steve on Twitter @SSCav

 

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If you love heart-racing creepiness in your thrillers … WILLOW WALK by SJI HOLLIDAY is the book to pack for that walking holiday in the Scottish Highlands.

This is the second book in the Banktoun trilogy. Set in a small town community in Scotland where everyone knows each other’s business and secrets are deeply held, Sergeant David Gray is investigating a series of deaths linked to legal highs, while also trying to work out what is going wrong in his relationship with girlfriend, Marie.

This twisty, turning police procedural has a strong psychological twist, and tackles some controversial issues. It’s a gritty tale of obsession, revenge and escape. Chillingly nuanced, and pulse-poundingly suspenseful, it’s totally unputdownable.

Read my review of WILLOW WALK here. Click here to buy it from Amazon. And be sure to follow Susi on Twitter @SJIHolliday

 

So don’t forget to pack your books in your suitcase (or pack them virtually onto your Kindle) and have a fab summer hols!

 

CTG Reviews: #REACHER SAID NOTHING by Andy Martin

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What the blurb says: “On 1 September 1994, Lee Child went out to buy the paper to start writing his first novel, in pencil. The result was KILLING FLOOR, which introduced his hero Jack Reacher. Twenty years later, on 1 September 2014, he began writing MAKE ME, the twentieth novel in his number-one-bestselling Reacher series. Same day, same writer, same hero. The difference, this time, was that he had someone looking over his shoulder. Andy Martin, uber Reacher fan, Cambridge academic, expert on existentialism and dedicated surfer, sat behind Lee Child in his office and watched him as he wrote. While Lee was writing his Reacher book, Andy was writing about the making of MAKE ME. REACHER SAID NOTHING is a book about a guy writing a book. An instant meta-book. It crosses genres, by bringing a high-level critical approach to a popular text, and gives a fascinating insight into the art of writing a thriller, showing the process in real time. It may well be the first of its kind.”

I don’t usually read non-fiction, so this book was rather a departure for me. I wasn’t sure what to expect – would it be an academic analysis of the creation of a Reacher novel? Would it be a ‘fly on the wall’ style documentary of Lee Child’s life as he wrote the 20th book? Would it be the literary equivalent of a series of ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians’? The answer was: yes, yes, and hell no! (come on, the Kardashians – really??). As a massive Jack Reacher fan I knew it was a book I wanted to read. What I hadn’t anticipated was just how illuminating and thought provoking it would be for me as a writer too.

Lee Child often says in interviews that he’s not a plotter – that the story unfolds organically as he writes. In REACHER SAID NOTHING the reader gets a front row seat seeing how this method looks and feels when things are going well, and when they’re going less well. It charts the flow of ideas, the blocks and decisions, and the light bulb moments when the plot strands start to come together, in real time.

It also shows the nuances of the writing; the importance of the rhythm of the narrative, how specific words are selected, and why commas are put in (or omitted). It’s a brave choice on Lee Child’s part – to invite someone in to analyse his process and his writing – and to have them shadowing him for the best part of a year all the while knowing that they will be writing about what he’s doing. But, if you were going to trust anyone to do that, Andy Martin is the perfect person to pick. I found that, for me, some of the most thought-provoking sections of the book came when Lee and Andy discuss the choices Lee is making about MAKE ME and the thinking behind them.

The result is a captivating snapshot of the life and process of Lee Child during the writing of MAKE ME – illuminating how his life and his writing feed into each other. As a writer, it made me consider my own process – the similarities, and the differences – and was inspiring, reassuring and educational.

It’s a lesson in thriller writing – the Lee Child equivalent of Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ – distilled through the expert observations and analysis of Andy Martin. It’s an honest, access-all-areas study of a writer at the top of their game, and it’s also a damn entertaining read.

REACHER SAID NOTHING is the documentary about the making of MAKE ME. It’s the special features of the DVD box set of the novel – the behind the scenes sneaky peep.

An absolute must read for Reacher fans, and essential reading for aspiring writers too. If you’re a fan of crime thrillers this is a book you’re not going to want to miss.

 

You can buy REACHER SAID NOTHING from Waterstones here and from Amazon here

To find out more about Andy Martin, pop over to his website at http://www.andymartinink.com and follow him on Twitter @andymartinink

On June 20th Andy will be talking in London at the Prospect Magazine Book Club. Find out more and get tickets here http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/events/bookclub-andymartin

 

CTG Reviews: MAKE ME by Lee Child

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What the blurb says: “Jack Reacher has no place to go, and all the time in the world to get there, so a remote railroad stop on the prairie with the curious name of Mother’s Rest seems perfect for an aimless one-day stopover. He expects to find a lonely pioneer tombstone in a sea of nearly-ripe wheat … but instead there is a woman waiting for a missing colleague, a cryptic note about two hundred deaths, and a small town full of silent, watchful people. Reacher’s one-day stopover becomes an open-ended quest … into the heart of darkness.”

As you’ll know if you’re a regular follower of the CTG blog, I’m a big Jack Reacher fan. Make Me is the twentieth book in this iconic series and so what can fans of the series (and readers new to it) expect from this latest book …

Well, it’s classic Reacher, as you’d expect. He’s picked Mother’s Rest as a place to visit because he’s curious about the name of the town and in finding out the history behind it. But Mother’s Rest has far greater secrets hidden within it, as Reacher is soon to discover.

On the railroad platform he meets Ex-FBI Special Agent, Michelle Chang. She’s looking for her colleague – a fellow investigator who’s gone missing while looking into a hobby case. Her data has led her to Mother’s Rest, but the trail has gone cold.

While the residents of Mother’s Rest seem initially friendly, Reacher starts to suspect that he’s being followed and checked up on. When he tests his theory he’s proved right. Suspicious, he decides to help Michelle Chang find her colleague.

With little more to go on than a scrap of paper with a phone number and a reference to two hundred deaths, Reacher and Chang dig deeper to try to find Chang’s colleague and the client that got him interested in the case. And as they get closer to the truth, and the people that want it to stay hidden, the stakes and the danger ramps up higher and higher.

As ever, this latest book in the series is a thrilling read; rapid-paced and packed with action it follows Chang and Reacher’s investigation as they hunt for the truth and overcome the (many) challenges in their way.

Fans of the series will, I think, find the Chang and Reacher relationship an interesting one. Reacher, ever the loner, seems to develop a stronger bond with Chang than with some of the other women who’ve come into (and out of) his life in the past. It’s a physical thing, sure, but he seems to be having thoughts about a future for their relationship after the immediate puzzle is solved and the danger past. Is Reacher ready to settle down? It’s an interesting question – but you’ll have to read the book to see how things turn out [no spoilers here – sorry!].

MAKE ME is out in paperback today. It’s an absolute must-read for Jack Reacher fans, and for fans of the thriller genre, from a writer at the very top of their game.

To find out more about Lee Child and the Jack Reacher series hop over to www.leechild.com and follow Team Reacher on Twitter @LeeChildReacher

You can buy MAKE ME from Waterstones here or from Amazon here

 

CTG’s TOP READS 2015: THRILLER

Last week was all about my Top Crime Reads of the year. This week is all about Thrillers.

Here’s the second (and final) post of my Top Reads 2015: my Top Thriller Reads …

 

THE DARK INSIDE by Rod Reynolds

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“In this town, no one is innocent. 1946, Texarkana: a town on the border of Texas and Arkansas. Disgraced New York reporter Charlie Yates has been sent to cover the story of a spate of brutal murders – young couples who’ve been slaughtered at a local date spot. Charlie finds himself drawn into the case by the beautiful and fiery Lizzie, sister to one of the victims, Alice – the only person to have survived the attacks and seen the killer up close. But Charlie has his own demons to fight, and as he starts to dig into the murders he discovers that the people of Texarkana have secrets that they want kept hidden at all costs. Before long, Charlie discovers that powerful forces might be protecting the killer, and as he investigates further his pursuit of the truth could cost him more than his job …”

This debut novel from the uber-talented Rod Reynolds serves up a perfect slice of American noir. New York reporter Charlie Yates is a damaged man. Haunted by career problems and a failing marriage, he’s alienated many of the people close to him. With his employers desperate to be free of him for a while, he’s sent to cover a spate of double murders in Texarkana. He’s angry and isolated in an unfamiliar and unwelcoming place, but as he starts to make acquaintances with the locals and gets up to speed with the facts of the murders, he realises that the town, and the people in it, are hiding many more secrets than they’re willing to share.

Like a lovechild of Raymond Chandler and John D. MacDonald, with a smidgeon of Jim Thompson on the side, this is a relentless, dark and gritty tale about a man who cannot let go until he’s uncovered the truth of what is really going on inside the close knit community of Texarkana. Inspired by the true story of the unsolved Texarkana Moonlight Murders, with deeply drawn characters and a vividly claustrophobic atmosphere, THE DARK INSIDE is an utterly engrossing debut and one of my top reads of 2015 – an absolute must-read for all thriller fans.

You can find out more about Rod Reynolds by following him on Twitter @Rod_WR

 

THE WRONG GIRL by Laura Wilson

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“In 2006, three-year-old Phoebe Piper went missing on a family holiday. Despite massive publicity and a long investigation, no trace of her was ever found. Seven years later, Molly Jackson, aged ten and recently uprooted to a Norfolk village, finds her great uncle Dan dead in his bed. Molly remembers nothing of her early years, but she’s been sure for ages that she is Phoebe. Everything in her life points to it. Dan’s death brings his sister Janice back to Norfolk where she’s re-united with Molly’s mother Suzie, the daughter she gave up for adoption decades earlier. Janice discovers that a former lover, Joe Vincent, lives nearby. Joe was a rock star who, at the height of his fame, turned his back on public life. As she is drawn back into the past, Janice begins to wonder if Dan’s death and Joe’s reputation as a reclusive acid casualty are quite what they appear. And then Molly disappears.”

I found myself pulled headlong into Janice and Molly’s worlds. Through their narratives the reader discovers the events in their pasts that have shaped their sense of selves and identity, and how the secrets and suspicions that they hold influences each of their decisions in the present. One of the many joys of this book are the fabulous characters – they are so vividly drawn, and the dialogue pitch-perfect, that it feels like you’re watching real-life action unfold before you.

A twisting, turning mystery of tangled secrets, guilt and regret THE WRONG GIRL artfully combines the dark undertones of past trauma with a growing sense of impending doom. With stunning writing, vivid characters and bags of suspense, THE WRONG GIRL is a must read for fans of psychological thrillers.

To find out more about Laura Wilson and her books hop on over to www.laura-wilson.co.uk and follow her on Twitter @LWilsonCrime

 

THE DARKEST DAY by Tom Wood

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“He is darkness. She wants him dead. In a city starved of light, she might just succeed. She moves like a shadow; she kills silently: Raven. This elegant assassin has been on the run for years. This time though, she has picked the wrong target. The hitman known only as ‘Victor’ is as paranoid as he is merciless, and is no stranger to being hunted. He tracks his would-be killer across the globe, aiming not only to neutralise the threat, but to discover who wants him dead. The trail leads to New York … And then the lights go out. Over twelve hours of unremitting darkness, Manhattan dissolves into chaos. Amid looting, conspiracy and blackout, Victor and Raven play a vicious game of cat and mouse that the city will never forget.”

In the latest book in this fantastic series – The Darkest Day – Victor finds himself the target of a talented female assassin with a flawless kill record. Rather than going into hiding after escaping her first attempt on his life, Victor vows to eliminate her as a threat. Alternately threatening or charming information from Raven’s associates, Victor discovers her background and tracks her to a safe house in New York. The clues stack up, and he has everything planned in perfect detail to neutralise her. Then the power goes out in New York City and everything he was so sure about starts to become hazy.

The pace is unrelenting, the danger ever escalating, and Victor is forced to abandon his usual preparations and safe-guards in order to keep out of his pursuers’ – both legal and criminal – way. It’s fascinating to see this character, who is always so in control, plunged into a sustained environment of chaos and having to react to a far more unpredictable set of circumstances than before. Action packed, adrenaline fuelled, thriller writing at its best – THE DARKEST DAY is a must read for all crime thriller fans.

And find out more about Tom Wood and the Victor the Assassin series by hopping over to his website at www.tomwoodbooks.com and following him on Twitter @TheTomWood

 

COLD MOON by Alexandra Sokoloff

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“The hunt for mass murderer Cara Lindstrom is over. FBI Special Agent Matthew Roarke has been working for this moment: the capture of a killer who savagely hunts the worst of humanity. But Roarke remains traumatized by his own near-death at the hands of the serial killer who slaughtered Cara’s family…and haunted by the enigmatic woman who saved his life. Then the sixteen-year-old prostitute who witnessed Cara’s most recent murder goes missing, and suddenly pimps are turning up dead on the streets of San Francisco, killed with an MO eerily similar to Cara’s handiwork. Is a new killer on the loose with a mission even more deadly than hers? In the pulse-pounding third Huntress/FBI Thrillers book, Roarke will have to go on the hunt…and every woman he meets, even those closest to him, may prove deadly.”

COLD MOON is a serial killer story with a difference – this killer is female. Driven by the need to confront ‘It’ – evil – Cara Lindstrom targets those in society who prey on the innocent and the helpless. The story starts with her awaiting trial for murder, but it soon becomes clear that she may not be the only person fighting back against those men who prey on vulnerable women. Detective Roarke – the man responsible for Cara being in jail – is conflicted about the upcoming trial. On the one side he knows Cara is a killer, on the other he is becoming increasingly sympathetic to her cause. And he cannot deny that he’s attracted to her either.

Set in California, COLD MOON shows the glamour and the grime, the privileged (and those who abuse that privilege) and the disadvantaged. It’s highly atmospheric, with compelling, dynamic characters and vivid, rapid-paced action. With super-charged tension and nail biting suspense, this is a real page turner of a read.

To find out more about Alexandra Sokoloff hop over to her website at www.alexandrasokoloff.com and follow her on Twitter @AlexSokoloff

 

THE SAMARITAN by Mason Cross

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“When the mutilated body of a young woman is discovered in the Santa Monica Mountains, LAPD Detective Jessica Allen knows she’s seen this MO before – two and a half years ago on the other side of the country. A sadistic serial killer has been operating undetected for a decade, preying on lone female drivers who have broken down. The press dub the killer ‘The Samaritan’, but with no leads and a killer who leaves no traces, the police investigation quickly grinds to a halt. That’s when Carter Blake shows up to volunteer his services. He’s a skilled manhunter with an uncanny ability to predict the Samaritan’s next moves. At first, Allen and her colleagues are suspicious. After all, their new ally shares some uncomfortable similarities to the man they’re tracking. But as the Samaritan takes his slaughter to the next level, Blake must find a way to stop him … even if it means bringing his own past crashing down on top of him.”

The Samaritan is packed with all the trademark heart-stopping action, break-neck pace, and twisting-turning plotlines that made Mason’s debut novel – The Killing Season – such a huge success.

In The Samaritan we also get to find out more about the past of mysterious ‘people finder’ Carter Blake (although don’t worry, he’s still pretty damn mysterious!). Jessica Allen is a great female lead – strong, determined and courageous in the face of extreme danger. She reluctantly accepts Blake’s assistance, but is less inclined to completely trust him. As they each follow their own lines of enquiry, gradually closing in on this most brutally sadistic of serial killers, they both become targets.

Set in Florida and California, The Samaritan showcases some great locations (including one very creepy and atmospheric one that I can’t mention – sorry, it’d be too much of a spoiler) to create a vivid backdrop to the story. With great characters, fab locations and a super-twisty plot, The Samaritan is an absolute page-turner. I already can’t wait for the next Carter Blake novel – I think this is a series that’s going to run and run.

To find out more about Mason Cross head over to his website at www.masoncross.net and follow him on Twitter @MasonCrossBooks

 

UNTOUCHABLE by Ava Marsh

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“Stella is an escort, immersed in a world of desire, betrayal and secrets. It’s exactly where she wants to be. Stella used to be someone else: respectable, loved, safe. But one mistake changed all that.

When a fellow call girl is murdered, Stella has a choice: forget what she’s seen, or risk everything to get justice for her friend. In her line of work, she’s never far from the edge, but pursuing the truth could take her past the point of no return. Nothing is off limits. Not for her – and not for them. But is anyone truly untouchable?”

Stella (real name, Grace) is an escort by choice. She enjoys her job and the financial freedoms it brings, although she does sometimes wonder if she’ll ever be able to stop. That all changes when another high-end escort she recently worked with is murdered. Suddenly she’s feeling on edge with even her regular clients. Unwilling to believe the Police’s version of events, and plagued by the feeling that her friend was killed for something she knew rather than who she was, Stella can’t move on. Taking matters into her own hands, she sets out on her own search for the truth, but as she begins to get closer to finding the identity of the killer it becomes clear that her quest could have deadly consequences.

Unflinchingly authentic, this thriller gives a peep into the world of a high-class escort, from the clients and the money, to the drama and tension the profession causes in their personal relationships [but beware, if you don’t want to read graphic sex scenes, this book might not be your thing!]. It’s a real page-turner of a read – darkly funny at times, heart-breaking at others – with a riveting mystery at its heart. As pacey as Lee Child, racier than EL James, and utterly gripping – Untouchable is unmissable!

To find out more about Ava Marsh pop over to her website at www.avamarsh.co.uk and be sure to follow her on Twitter @MsAvaMarsh

 

TENACITY by JS Law

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“A brutal murder. A lone female investigator. Two hundred metres below the ocean’s surface, the pressure is rising … Suicide must be investigated, especially when a Royal Navy sailor kills himself on a nuclear submarine only days after his wife’s brutal murder. Now Lieutenant Danielle “Dan” Lewis, the Navy’s finest Special Branch investigator, must interrogate the tight-knit, male crew of HMS Tenacity to determine if there’s a link. Isolated, and standing alone in the face of extreme hostility, Dan soon realises that she may have to choose between the truth and her own survival. Justice must be served, but with a possible killer on board the pressure is rising and her time is running out …”

This debut novel from J.S. Law is a tense read from start to finish. Danielle “Dan” Lewis – a top investigator with more than a fair share of secrets hidden in her past – is brought in to investigate the alleged suicide of a member of HMS Tenacity’s Ship’s Company. Right from the get-go it’s clear that the odds are stacked against her – Tenacity’s men are a close-knit team and they don’t want anyone – especially a woman – poking around in their business.

Like the novel’s title suggests, Dan is a tenacious lead character and someone that, as a reader, I found it easy to root for. She’s a survivor of injustice, using her own experiences as fire to fuel her unrelenting determination to achieve her goal – utterly focused on searching out the truth, even when it puts her own life in danger.

As an ex-submariner, author J.S. Law’s detailed knowledge of the Navy and submarines shines through to make for a highly authentic and atmospheric setting. The uniqueness of the tightly sealed environment of HMS Tenacity is made increasingly claustrophobic through the ever-increasing build-up of jeopardy. Gritty, super-charged with tension and claustrophobically atmospheric, TENACITY is a real page-turner of a read.

To learn more about JS Law go over to his website at www.jslawbooks.com and be sure to follow him on Twitter @JSLawBooks

 

THE GIRL WHO WOULDN’T DIE by Marnie Riches

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“HE’S WATCHING HER. SHE DOESN’T KNOW IT…YET. When a bomb explodes at the University of Amsterdam, aspiring criminologist Georgina McKenzie is asked by the police to help flush out the killer. But the bomb is part of a much bigger, more sinister plot that will have the entire city quaking in fear. And the killer has a very special part for George to play…”

This fast paced thriller is Marnie Riches debut novel and the first book in the Georgina McKenzie series. Opening with a bombing on campus at the University of Amsterdam, the stakes are high from the off and continue to escalate as criminology student, Georgina ‘George’ McKenzie gets drafted in to help the police, and specifically Detective van den Bergen, gather intelligence from within the student and wider communities. Experienced cop – Detective van den Bergen – is a great pairing for George. Whereas she is headstrong and prone to charge into a situation, he is analytical and considered (and a bit of a hypochondriac) – but both are determined and single-minded about the need to get to the truth behind the killings and bring those responsible to justice, and they’re not afraid to go against direct orders to achieve their goal.

Bold and fearless, George is quick to piece together the evidence, and gets frustrated by the slowness of the police. As the stakes escalate, and the danger draws closer, she takes increasingly bigger risks – putting herself (and her friends) in danger. One of those friends is Ad – who George enlists to help her check out the evidence and run her own investigation. Between them they’re often a few steps ahead of the Police and end up feeding information to van den Bergen. The story hurtles along at a breakneck pace as George and Ad track their suspects across Holland and Germany, and it seems sure that they’ll soon have the killer. But George is hiding a secret past, and as the ghosts of her past come back to haunt her, she realizes she’s going to need all her street smarts to foil the killer and keep her friends, and herself, alive. A nail-biting, seat-of-your-pants read – The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die is a great read for those who love action thrillers and fabulous introduction to a great new series.

You can find out more about Marnie Riches and her books by hopping over to www.marnieriches.com and following her on Twitter @Marnie_Riches

 

THE ABRUPT PHYSICS OF DYING by Paul E. Hardisty

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“Claymore Straker is trying to forget a violent past. Working as an oil company engineer in the wilds of Yemen, he is hijacked at gunpoint by Islamic terrorists. Clay has a choice: help uncover the cause of a mysterious sickness afflicting the village of Al Urush, close to the company’s processing facility, or watch Abdulkader, his driver and close friend, die. As the country descends into civil war and village children start dying, Clay finds himself caught up in a ruthless struggle between opposing armies, controllers of the country’s oil wealth, Yemen’s shadowy secret service, and rival terrorist factions. As Clay scrambles to keep his friend alive, he meets Rania, a troubled journalist. Together, they try to uncover the truth about Al Urush. But nothing in this ancient, unforgiving place is what it seems. Accused of a murder he did not commit, put on the CIA’s most-wanted list, Clay must come to terms with his past and confront the powerful forces that want him dead.”

This epic story is a spell binding read. Highly atmospheric, it feels grounded in the Yemen landscape, with the tension of a country on the brink of civil war sparking from every page. Rugged and resourceful, Claymore ‘Clay’ Straker has an incredible personal journey from “company man”, there to do a job – no more, no less – to smooth the way with the local people and get the oil company closer to their profit targets, into a dynamic eco-warrior, determined to get to the truth of what’s really causing the children in Al Urush to become so sick, and to put a stop to it – whatever the personal cost.

THE ABRUPT PHYSICS OF DYING is a thought provoking and heart wrenching book. It exposes the horrors some are willing to inflict in pursuit of riches, it shows the lengths others will go to in order to stop them, and it highlights the scars and wounds left both in the earth and on flesh as a consequence. This emotive subject, combined with fabulous writing, a great cast of characters, and a super-fast pace makes it a must read thriller and a stunning debut.

To find out more head to the Orenda Books website at www.orendabooks.co.uk/paul-e-hardisty and follow Paul on Twitter @Hardisty_Paul

 

I LET YOU GO by Clare Mackintosh

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“In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever. Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating …”

Opening with a hit-and-run incident which leaves a five-year-old boy dead, this hard-hitting psychological thriller grabs you by the heart and keeps you captive until the very last page.

Jenna has left everything behind to make a new life for herself in Wales. At first she stays inside the remote cottage she’s rented, not engaging with the community, and reliving the horror she’s been through, unable to see a way through her grief. But as the months pass, she gradually begins to forge tentative relationships and starts to believe that perhaps it is possible to continue living. That’s the moment the past catches up with her with terrifying consequences.

Meanwhile, Detective Inspector Ray Stevens hasn’t given up on getting justice for the little boy killed in the hit-and-run. Although his superior officers have told him to move onto other cases, and his wife is getting increasingly irritated by his lack of support in helping resolve the problems their son is having at school, he continues to work the case supported by Kate, the newest Detective Constable in his team. As his home life becomes tenser, and the case remains a mystery, Ray and Kate get increasingly closer as they spend more and more time investigating the details in secret.

With brilliantly drawn characters, and a hard-hitting emotional core to the story, this is a truly gripping novel. From the hauntingly atmospheric winter at a Welsh seaside town, to the claustrophobic terror of Jenna’s inner demons, and the tenacious determination of Ray and Kate to bring justice to a case no matter how long it might take, this is a thought-provoking book. Beautifully written, and with a twist that will have you gasping out loud (it did me!) I Let You Go is an utterly compulsive read, and one that will stay with you long after you’ve read the final page.

You can find out more about Clare Mackintosh by hopping over to her website at http://claremackintosh.com/ and following her on Twitter @claremackint0sh

 

 

 

 

 

CTG Reviews: #Untouchable by Ava Marsh

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What the blurb says: “Stella is an escort, immersed in a world of desire, betrayal and secrets. It’s exactly where she wants to be. Stella used to be someone else: respectable, loved, safe. But one mistake changed all that.

When a fellow call girl is murdered, Stella has a choice: forget what she’s seen, or risk everything to get justice for her friend. In her line of work, she’s never far from the edge, but pursuing the truth could take her past the point of no return.

Nothing is off limits. Not for her – and not for them. But is anyone truly untouchable?”

This is a pulse-pounding crime thriller with a difference – it includes a lot of up close and centre-stage sex.

Stella (real name, Grace) is an escort by choice. She enjoys her job and the financial freedoms it brings, although she does sometimes wonder if she’ll ever be able to stop. That all changes when another high-end escort she recently worked with is murdered. Suddenly she’s feeling on edge with even her regular clients.

Unwilling to believe the Police’s version of events, and plagued by the feeling that her friend was killed for something she knew rather than who she was, Stella can’t move on. Taking matters into her own hands, she sets out on her own search for the truth, but as she begins to get closer to finding the identity of the killer it becomes clear that her quest could have deadly consequences.

Unflinchingly authentic, this thriller gives a peep into the world of a high-class escort, from the clients and the money, to the drama and tension the profession causes in their personal relationships [but beware, if you don’t want to read graphic sex scenes, this book might not be your thing!]. It’s a real page-turner of a read – darkly funny at times, heart-breaking at others – with a riveting mystery at its heart.

As pacey as Lee Child, racier than EL James, and utterly gripping – Untouchable is unmissable!

To find out more about Ava Marsh pop over to her website at http://www.avamarsh.co.uk and be sure to follow her on Twitter @MsAvaMarsh

To buy UNTOUCHABLE from Amazon, click on the book cover below:

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