Too Close To Breathe by Olivia Kiernan

Too Close To Breathe by Olivia Kiernan

TOO SOON TO SEE
Polished. Professional. Perfect. Dead. Respected scientist Dr Eleanor Costello is found hanging in her immaculate home: the scene the very picture of a suicide.
TOO LATE TO HIDE
DCS Frankie Sheehan is handed the case, and almost immediately spots foul play. Sheehan, a trained profiler, is seeking a murderer with a talent for death.
TOO CLOSE TO BREATHE
As Frankie strives to paint a picture of the killer, and their victim, she starts to sense they are part of a larger, darker canvas, on which the lines between the two blur.
Olivia Kiernan’s debut is a bold, brilliant thriller that will keep you guessing and leave you breathless.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This book was a must read for me from the moment I read the description. I immediately responded to the email asking for bloggers to take part in a blog tour for Olivia Kiernan’s debut novel and the first in a series featuring tough-as-nails Detective Chief Superintendent Frankie Sheehan. When I came home from work to find a black bubble pack waiting for me, I couldn’t wait to open it. And my excitement was well-justified; the publishers having put together a fantastic promo pack. Alongside the book was a printed copy of the coroner report for victim Eleanor Costello, along with a pocket notebook and pencil to keep notes and a bag of (very nice, might I add) coffee to keep me going throughout the case. Colour me impressed, I am such a sucker for a good PR gimmick!

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More importantly though, on to the book – Too Close To Breathe. Having read my fair share of murder mysteries this year, to date Kiernan has taken the top spot. Set in the dark and dreary Autumn and Winter of the Emerald Isle, tortured DCS Sheehan finds herself staring down the barrel of what appears to be a straightforward suicide investigation. Following an assault while chasing a murder, this looks like a simple case to ease her way back into detective work. But nothing is as it seems as the body count begins to rise, as does the list of suspects with one motive or another.
With her own tortured past to come to terms with Sheehan and her team need to ensnare the killer before they strike again. But how do you stop a monster that loves to play dead? This case forces Sheehan to delve into her tortured past, the mind of a calculated and devious killer and the darkest corners of the Dark Web just to stay on an ever-cooling trail.
I have read a lot of murder mysteries of late, all entertaining books, but most at some point reach a stage where the identity of the murderer becomes clear before the reveal. Kiernan has managed to keep the murderer a mystery all the way up until the point Sheehan works it out. A host of possible, and entirely plausible suspects all with reasonable motives make this one of the best murder mysteries I have read. Too Close To Breathe offers a damaged protagonist, a twisted killer and an horrific insight into the dark web. I look forward to seeing future cases involving DCS Frankie Sheehan.

My rating:
I feel the need to preface my rating for this book. Maybe I need to create a new icon. This book rates so highly with me, that it is one of my books of 2018 at this early stage of the year! Once I come up with a badge, I will update it here and maybe start a new annual review feature for my top books of the year!
goodread

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Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe by Richard Dee

Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe by Richard Dee

Meet Andorra Pett; with her trusty sidekick, she’s taken over a derelict cafe. On a mining station. It just happens to be orbiting Saturn! She’s hoping for a fresh start, away from all the drama of her old life. It’s a chance to relax and start again in a place where nobody knows anything about her or her past.

But the cafe holds a secret, and secrets have a habit of coming out; whether you want them to or not. And being accident prone doesn’t help. The more you try to pretend that you know what’s going on, the worse it gets.

Andorra’s plans for peace and quiet get lost amid the revelations and skulduggery and she soon realises that the fate of the whole station lies in her hapless hands.

In space, you can still trip over your feet; the question is, will you land upright?

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.

From the off this book caught my eye. The cover intrigued me with a very 1950s Americana style to it which I love. The book itself didn’t let me down either. Having read the synopsis for the first installment of the Andorra Pet series I was looking forward to a mystery read with a bit of a lighthearted slant.

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The story follows our protagonist, Andorra Pett, having fled her cheating ex on Earth and ending up on a mining space station orbiting Saturn. Andorra and her best friend and business partner, having left their clothing shop in London behind them, take on the cafe on the station in an attempt to make a new life for themselves.

It seems even in space Andorra cannot avoid drama. Her dreams for a new life of peace and quiet are scuppered when she discovers the body of the previous owner taking an eternal sleep in the cafe freezer. From here things only get stranger and stranger for Andorra and Cy. Twists and turns abound as the duo meet friends and foes in equal measure.

Richard Dee has crafted a fantastic crime mystery, but rather than being typically bleak, Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe is filled with humour. The mystery winds its way around a well-crafted setting with an unexpected resolution. A series of almost-comical characters help create an entertaining world including genius twins, the confident Andorra and an almost mob boss-like villain. These all help contribute to the thrills and spills Andorra and Cy find themselves in. There are clearly more adventures awaiting Andorra that I cannot wait to read.

My rating:
goodread

Leaving Styxworth by Danny Beattie

Leaving Styxworth by Danny Beattie

The second part of the Styxworth saga sees Peter and Bex embark on an epic quest to rescue his father from the clutches of the Corruption.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.

Leaving Styxworth is the follow-up story to Danny Beattie’s Welcome to Styxworth. Having enjoyed the first book I was keen to see how the author was going to carry on the story, develop the core characters, all without the concept becoming stale.

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The feel in this second book is very different, the transition from the discovery of Styxworth – a kind of limbo between the worlds of the living and the dead to a place where our key character, Pete, is fully aware of its existence, even though he resides in the land of the living. This awareness permeates his day to day life in a way that is somewhat poignant. Loss is an emotion that cuts through things in Pete’s everyday life, as does a curiosity to see his friend Bex back in Styxworth.

Bettie creates a carefully crafted story bringing a good reason for Pete to return to Styxworth. The story focuses on the concept of Dante’s classic, Inferno which is something I have always had an interest in. It is a loose connection to the classic work, building solidly on the concept creating a sense of foreboding as Pete and Bex descend through this version of hell.

My rating:
goodread

Killed by Thomas Enger

Killed by Thomas Enger

Henning Juul sits in a boat on a dark lake. A man with a gun sits opposite him. At the man’s feet is a body that will be soon be dumped into the water. Henning knows that the same fate awaits him. And he knows that it’s his own fault. Who started the fire that killed Henning’s young son? How is his sister, Trine, involved? Most importantly, who can be trusted? Packed with tension and unexpected twists, Killed is the long-waited finale of the internationally renowned series featuring conflicted, disillusioned but always dogged crime reporter Henning Juul, and one of the most chilling, dark and moving crime thrillers you may ever read.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Here on Books and Beyond Reviews, I’ve read and reviewed a lot of crime thrillers. So you might think by now that perhaps I have tired of this genre by now. That’s not the case, though I do feel like my expectations for a thriller have risen. So when I was offered the opportunity to join a blog tour for Norwegian crime thriller, Killed, I was thrilled to give it a shot.

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Killed follows Henning Juul, a man seeking answers as to who caused the death of his son, bringing more trouble upon himself as he goes. The story starts with Henning staring down the final moments of his life, accepting the inevitable. The opening casts a dark cloud over the book, that only deepens as the story unfolds.

Many of the thrillers I have read recently tend to be fast-paced, high-octane books with a lot of action. Killed follows what appears to be the basis for many Scandinavian noir books and films. Though I must confess this is a judgement made without any personal experience until now. It is slow, methodical and dark. The story progresses, but rather than with a frenetic pace, it does so with a steady flow from one theory, one lead, to the next.

I really enjoyed the Killed. It moved at a more sedate pace than I have become accustomed to but Enger still manages to ratchet up the tension, building a sense of impending tragedy. The threat throughout feels real and the book moves along towards a well-crafted ending. I will be looking out for further Scandinavian noir to add to my growing list of books to read.

My rating:
goodread

Kill Your Darlings by A.K. Alliss

Kill Your Darlings by A.K. Alliss

Some doors should remain closed.

Some questions should remain unanswered.

When Carla meets Eddie Jacobs, the bestselling author of Sunset Over Dreams, her life is rapidly changed. Drawn from her reclusive existence into the cult of his celebrity, she is ill-prepared for the attention. But there are things about Carla that Eddie doesn’t know. Things that that he really should.

When Eddie goes missing, shortly before the release date of his second novel, doors become opened that Carla would much prefer remained closed.

Who is Carla, really? And why would she not want Eddie found?

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.

On completing Kill Your Darlings, I have now read the majority of A.K. Alliss’ books and had the pleasure of bouncing ideas and working with him on features on my blog, and on my own book. In that time, I feel like I have seen his work evolve and change throughout his books. I have thoroughly enjoyed his Ouroboros Trilogy of Frame, Future’s Orphans and Gravity’s Truth. Kill Your Darlings takes place in the same universe as the Ouroboros Trilogy and even sees the return of a few familiar faces. But this is as far as the similarities go.

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One significant difference I felt is the feeling I got from the book. Throughout the Ouroboros Trilogy I always felt there was an underlying sense of hope and optimism, that things might get better for the characters. Kill Your Darlings feels somewhat darker in my opinion-a definite sense of something bad lurking just around the corner.

Alliss has definitely slowed down the tempo of the story this time around, and this really complements the feel of the book. I found that also added to the ever-increasing tension that built throughout the story. Kill Your Darlings keeps twists coming, as the mysteries within are uncovered. Character backstories develop and revelations that come up change the complexion of the narrative, leaving me feeling like it was hard to root-for or despise any given character.

With this offering, it is clear that the author is developing and trying different styles of writing with great effect. The hopelessness and darker vibe makes for an interesting departure from what I have grown accustomed with the Ouroboros trilogy.

My rating:
goodread

Hemlock Jones & The Angel of Death by Justin Carroll

Hemlock Jones & The Angel of Death by Justin Carroll

Ten doors down from the home of a world famous ‘consulting detective’ lives twelve-year-old Hemlock Jones, and her recently arrived housemate and unwitting companion, Edward Whitlow. Hired to ‘demystify’ the mystery of a man’s murder by a terrifying angelic spectre, Hemlock and Edward’s investigations will lead them all over Victorian London, uncovering bizarre and deadly foes, figures from Hemlock’s hidden past, and a plot to take over the city… Hemlock Jones & The Angel of Death is the first of the Hemlock Jones Chronicles, a series of detective adventures for children and adults, set in Victorian London.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.

What can I say about the first book in the Hemlock Jones series? I could wax lyrical with positive, affirmative adjectives and become lost in hyperbole. And believe me, I really could having loved every single moment I was following twelve-year-old Hemlock and her hapless companion Edward. I will, however try to step back and look at the bigger picture here.

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Hemlock Jones & The Angel of Death has all of the critical components for a fun, old-fashioned whodunnit, tearing through the streets of Victorian London. On that point alone this book scores bonus points with me – I am a sucker for anything set in the frankly grimey and brutal locales of Victorian London. The key difference here though is that author Justin Carroll has resisted the urge to paint a dark scene.

In all honesty, setting is only a small part of the story. Granted, the fact that our budding ‘demystifier’ (detective to you and I) lives a mere ten doors from one of fictions great detectives – Sherlock Holmes – at number 211b Baker Street is about the most important piece of location-setting in the whole book.

What really hooked me was the story itself. Carroll has created a fun, vibrant character in the ever-enthusiastic Hemlock Jones and a wonderfully counter-balanced foil in Edward Whitlow who seems resigned to the fact he has little control over the adventures he will no doubt encounter as long as he boards with her.

The whole book plays on the industrial era of London, giving the book a wonderfully-steampunk vibe, something else that I have a fascination in. The sense of fun and adventure, and mild threat throughout is well balanced and the revelation of the culprit is fantastic. It appears Hemlock may have met her match and found a foe with an axe to grind against her. The way the story is delivered is fantastic, as a sort of narrated memoir from Edward lending a feeling there are plenty more scrapes for the pair to battle their way through. I have to say this was one of the most fun books I have read in some time, and knowing that the author is currently working on the second book, with more likely to follow, I cannot wait to read more.

My rating:
goodread

The Blood of our Sisters by Abby Rose Crimson

The Blood of our Sisters by Abby Rose Crimson

A struggling journalist begins her investigation into the vigilante justice movement known as Perfect World Order — after she secures an exclusive interview with fugitive Hannah McNamara, the leader of the group behind it: The House of Hellcats.

Have you ever visited someone’s house? Probably. Have you ever visited someone’s house only to be welcomed with a shotgun in your face? Probably not. Courage is hard, and when five women became courageous, they met fear. Fear wasn’t very nice. Fear changed them. What will they do? Not what you expect.

This thrilling and innovative book features a robust layout for an ultra-comprehensive reading experience. And it features the Colors of Feelings, which accurately visualize how characters are feeling with beautiful and color-coated text.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.

It is worth noting upfront that this book won’t work on a black and white eReader. You will need one of the Kindle Fire tablets, or a reading app on any other tablet, mobile or computer. That’s because of the unique feature of The Blood of Our Sisters. The text is displayed in a variety of different colours, each representing a different emotion displayed by the characters throughout the story, with a handy key at the start of the book highlighting each one.

 

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This cuts out a lot of descriptive narrative to some degree, the colours describing the feelings in place of it. It certainly made for an interesting read with a different element to proceedings. I did have one criticism, albeit slight; given the key to the colours and the emotions was presented ahead of the story, I did from time to time find myself hopping back and forth to remind myself what emotion matched with what colour. Especially in the scenarios whereby two similar colours show different feelings. That said, I feel with this clearly being the first book in a planned series, that regular readers will become accustomed to the colour/emotion combinations.

The story is entertaining, even if it jumps around between different threads a little bit. While I cannot say if it would remain so throughout the series, the use of colours to depict emotions is interesting, an entertaining twist making for an overall pretty good read.

My rating:
goodread