Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick

Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick

A potent, powerful and timely thriller about migrants, drug lords and gang warfare set on the US/Mexican border by prize-winning novelist, Marcus Sedgwick.

Anapra is one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the Mexican city of Juarez – twenty metres outside town lies a fence – and beyond it – America – the dangerous goal of many a migrant. Faustino is one such trying to escape from the gang he’s been working for. He’s dipped into a pile of dollars he was supposed to be hiding and now he’s on the run. He and his friend, Arturo, have only 36 hours to replace the missing money, or they’re as good as dead. Watching over them is Saint Death. Saint Death (or Santissima Muerte) – she of pure bone and charcoal-black eye, she of absolute loyalty and neutral morality, holy patron to rich and poor, to prostitute and narco-lord, criminal and police-chief. A folk saint, a rebel angel, a sinister guardian.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher.

Timely though this may be, especially given the current situation in Mexico and the US and the border regions, I have to say I would be hard pressed to call Saint Death a thriller. The concept was fascinating – the down and dirty of life with narcos, gangs, corrupt police and a desperation to do anything to cross the border in search of a new life. Unfortunately, I felt it just didn’t live up to what it could have been.
30177266Saint Death certainly portrayed the stark, dangerous life of the most desperate people trying to scrape a living on the fringes of society in the border towns of Mexico. There is a constant feeling of threat and poverty, of desperation and a willingness to do whatever they have to to reach America. The atmosphere in the book is heavy and the mood throughout is heavy.

Unfortunately, I just felt this heaviness bogged the story down. It was slow moving, and for a book described as something of a thriller it was most definitely hard going. It most definitely offered promise but just didn’t deliver for me – what could have been gritty and breathless ended up being sluggish and predictable.

My rating:
notforme

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The Blood Moon of Doom by Paul Mathews

The Blood Moon of Doom by Paul Mathews

When celebrity astronomer Edwin Bubble is found battered to death by his own telescope, the morning after a ‘Blood Moon’ lunar eclipse, Detective Inspector Clinton Trump crashes onto the scene like a megaton meteorite who’s late for a date with a small, blue-green planet at the edge of a spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy.

With Edwin tipped to win a trip to space in the ‘Celebrity Come Mooning’ reality TV series – and a return trip, budget permitting – South East England’s greatest detective makes it his mission to figure out which lunatic launched Edwin Bubble to the heavens a little earlier than anticipated.

Could the murderer be Edwin’s estranged son, Tycho? Is the killer a fellow celeb who wants Edwin out of the way? Or are they a schoolmate still seething over schoolboy pranks in the days before travelling to Mars was a cool idea?

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author.

Paul Mathews returns with the second instalment in the Detective Clinton Trump series, The Blood Moon of Doom. Hot on the heels of having solved the murder of a butler, drowned in his homemade mango chutney, genius Detective Inspector Trump has another mysterious death on his hands. Upper Goosing, European Murder Destination of the Year 2015, has seen its fair share of suspicious and untimely deaths, so the discovery of celebrity astronomer Edwin Bubble dead in his garden is no surprise to residents. Neither is it a great shock to discover he has been smashed about the head with his own telescope.43303288

Once again Mathews brings comedy in bucket loads as DI Clinton Trump bungles his way around the investigation following gut instincts and jumping from one implausible suspect to the next with little to no evidence. A supporting cast of characters met in the previous book help ratchet up the hilarity and absurdness as does a cohort of over-inflated celebrity egos bolstering the cast.

The Blood Moon of Doom makes for a quick read. The hilarity and absurdity of a case led by Clinton Trump kept me wanting to know what ridiculous assumptions he would leap to next. The exasperation of his colleagues and his often incorrectly detected suspects add to the mirth Mathews’ books deliver in spades.

In the Clinton Trump series, Paul Mathews has created something reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mysteries. The way the book follows the investigation from clue to clue, the ever growing list of possible suspects all of whom are plausible depending on whose viewpoint you look at things from has a striking resemblance to a classic Poirot investigation. The healthy dose of comedy sprinkled liberally from the first to the last page make this book, and moreover the series to date, a fresh and funny journey that while being a subtle nod to the Poirot stories, are something new and fantastic fun to sit and read.

My rating:
goodread

Andorra Pett on Mars by Richard Dee

Andorra Pett on Mars by Richard Dee

Andorra Pett has left the Oort Cloud Café; she’s back on Mars, a place she vowed she’d never visit again.

She’s gone back for her friend Maisie’s funeral. Everyone thinks it was suicide but the more she learns, the less sure she is. Things don’t add up and she realises that the whole story doesn’t make sense. Something else is going on and the questions soon multiply.

Why would Maisie kill herself if she’d just had good news? Why is Andi being followed? What was the mystery bequest? When she begins to find the clues that Maisie has left for her, it becomes a race against time. Andi must work out what’s going on and hope that she can get out alive.

What could possibly go wrong?

I purchased a copy of this book for my personal reading.

Andorra Pett returns for more hijinx bringing her brand of drama and action down from the space station orbiting Saturn to the red dusty plains of Mars. Leaving her cafe, her life with new-squeeze Derek for the funeral of a best friend from years gone by. But nothing, as usual for Andi, is as it seems. A suicide that seems suspicious, hidden ill-gotten gains in the canyons of Mars, her ex Trevor up to no good and two different groups of mobsters on her tail, this would not turn out to be a quiet visit for Andorra and her best friend Cy.
39892131Unsurprisingly Andi and Cy find themselves limping from one dramatic situation to another from the moment Trevor shows up on the station to seek her help down on the red planet. From the very start trouble follows her in the form of personal shadows from two mob gangs and the police and the constant suspicion that Maisie didn’t take her own life and that nothing Trevor says seems to be entirely truthful.

Once again Richard Dee has crafted an entertaining, light-hearted story that brings twists and turns throughout. It was a wonderfully warm and cozy feeling returning to a cast of familiar characters in Andi and Cy, getting to properly see Trevor who was only really referenced in the first Andorra Pett book, alongside cameos from Maz and Derek. A new supporting cast also bring something fresh to Andorra Pett on Mars, while the book retains its style that firmly ties in to the first book.

In need of a book I could pick up and find myself instantly enthralled with, I turned to this and it very much lived up to my expectations. The story moved quickly yet never once did it feel rushed. The menace was always there but did nothing to overpower the lightness that now feels like the style of Dee and his Andorra Pett books. Considering I work full time I ploughed through this book in a matter of four days from start to finish and immediately wanted more. Luckily I will only have to wait until later this year for the third book in this fantastic and fun series of books.

My rating:
goodread

Mummy’s Favourite by Sarah Flint

Mummy’s Favourite by Sarah Flint

He’s watching… He’s waiting… Who’s next?

Buried in a woodland grave are a mother and her child. One is alive. One is dead.

DC ‘Charlie’ Stafford is assigned by her boss, DI Geoffrey Hunter to assist with the missing persons investigation.

As more pairs go missing, the pressure mounts. Leads are going cold. Suspects are identified but have they got the right person?

Can Charlie stop the sadistic killer whose only wish is to punish those he deems to have committed a wrong. Or will she herself unwittingly become a victim.A gripping, heart-stopping crime thriller, introducing new series character DC Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Stafford of London Metropolitan Police.

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

The opportunity to join the blog tour for a crime thriller was one I wasn’t going to pass up. The concept intrigued me. Clearly DC Stafford has a twisted killer on her hands, abducting mothers with the child perceived to be the favourite. The police face a race against time as more and more pairs are snatched without a trace. Suspects start to mount and the team at the Metropolitan Police have their work cut out for them to find the culprit before time runs out for their victims.
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Mummy’s Favourite is a high-speed run filled with twists and turns from start to finish. Sarah Flint does a fantastic job of portraying her lead characters, and even the supporting cast have personalities that shine through. The sense of urgency and drive to crack the case runs through every single decision that she makes.

Alongside an ever growing roster of victims, DC Stafford and her team have an increasing list of suspects. From abusive husbands, to spurned lovers, to obsessive ex-clients, all fit the bill as a potential for the crime, but without the final piece of evidence the police struggle to put the culprit behind bars. A stroke of luck offers a lead at the most timely moment as a fellow officer and her son go missing. With the case drawing to a close, the identity of the offender rocks the team to its core, but explains how this vicious killer has managed to keep a step ahead of the police at all times.

The book moves along at a frenetic pace and had me wanting to read just one more chapter. The drive to capture the assailant infused an urgency and energy throughout the book, driving it forward to the explosive conclusion. The only element that was a touch cliche for my liking was a side crime that Charlie Stafford finds herself working on. At the conclusion of the central proceedings, she conveniently manages to wrap up this other crime through what appeared to be dumb luck. Thankfully however, it did not detract from what is a fantastic read.

My rating:
goodread

Sweetpea by C.J. Skuse

Sweetpea by C.J. Skuse

The last person who called me Sweetpea ended up dead…

I haven’t killed anyone for three years, and I thought that when it happened again I’d feel bad. Like an alcoholic taking a sip of whiskey. But no. Nothing. I had a blissful night’s sleep. Didn’t wake up at all. And for once, no bad dream either. This morning I feel balanced. Almost sane, for once.

Rhiannon is your average girl next door, settled with her boyfriend and little dog…but she’s got a killer secret.

Although her childhood was haunted by a famous crime, Rhiannon’s life is normal now that her celebrity has dwindled. By day, her job as an editorial assistant is demeaning and unsatisfying. By evening, she dutifully listens to her friends’ plans for marriage and babies while secretly making a list.

A kill list.

From the man at the grocery checkout who always mishandles her apples, to the driver who cuts her off on her way to work, to the people who have it coming, Rhiannon is ready to get her revenge.

Because the girl everyone overlooks might be able to get away with murder…

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

I’ve been lucky to read a lot of books over the years – even more since I started reviewing books. Predictably the books I’ve read have run the scale from good to bad. Unfortunately for me, my first read of 2019 was a disappointment given how much I was looking forward to it.33229410

Sweetpea is the first book written for adults from YA author C.J. Skuse. It is written in the form of a diary, belonging to Rhiannon, an aspiring journalist who lives with her boyfriend Craig and chihuahua Tink. She hates her job, and is becoming increasingly fed up that her first novel only garners rejection after rejection and finds her group of friends irritating more often than not. She even has a fantasy “kill list” at the start of her daily entries – those who have most annoyed her on that day that she would love to snuff out. She is a seemingly ordinary, if disgruntled, young woman trying to navigate life.

But she hides a dark past that has lead to an even darker secret – Rhiannon is a cold, brutal killer. Granted, most of those she has killed are horrible people, tormentors, abusers, rapists and paedophiles. But she has taken it upon herself to play the role of judge, jury and executioner. She hides behind her normal, mundane life by day that allows her to take down those that attract her eye.

On paper, I really liked the sound of this book and had been looking forward to starting it. Sadly, I felt like it was the first book for adults written by someone used to addressing a much younger market. I felt as if the author had a sense of throwing off the shackles and being blunt and unrestrained. The language was colourful in the excess at times, with needlessly over the top insults and frequent swearing. I have no problem with swearing in a book, I feel like it adds realism when used correctly, but this was a whole new level. Certain elements felt like a desperate attempt to dive into the deepest, darkest and more depraved parts of humanity purely because this book was not a young adult story. Add to that, I could not engage with Rhiannon on any level. She struck me as having little humanity, and is overpoweringly self-indulgent. Everything came across as me, me, me and oh woe is me – it made her detestable and not in a good way. I won’t be in any hurry to read the follow up to it.

My rating:
notforme

Deep Dirty Truth by Steph Broadribb

Deep Dirty Truth by Steph Broadribb

Single-mother bounty hunter Lori Anderson has finally got her family back together, but her new-found happiness is shattered when she’s snatched by the Miami Mob – and they want her dead. Rather than a bullet, they offer her a job: find the Mob’s ‘numbers man’ – Carlton North – who’s in protective custody after being forced to turn federal witness against them. If Lori succeeds, they’ll wipe the slate clean and the price on her head – and those of her family – will be removed. If she fails, they die.

With North due in court in forty-eight hours, Lori sets off across Florida, racing against the clock to find him and save her family. Only in this race the prize is more deadly – and the secret she shares with JT more dangerous – than she ever could have imagined. In this race only the winner gets out alive…

Brimming with tension, high-stakes jeopardy and high-voltage action, and a deep, emotional core, Deep Dirty Truth is an unmissable thriller by one of the freshest and most exciting voices in crime fiction.

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

Earlier in 2018 I was fortunate enough to get the chance to read the second book in the Lori Anderson series by Steph Broadribb, Deep Blue Trouble. I hadn’t read the first book at the time, and still haven’t, not that it makes a major impact as Steph Broadribb does a wonderful job of describing characters and referring back to past events to keep a reader picking up any book up to date. Having tore through Deep Blue Trouble, I jumped at the chance to read a proof copy of the latest outing for Lori on Christmas break.41058687Lori finds herself mixing with the Miami mob once again, fully against her wishes. Kidnapped, she is pushed into working on their behalf to remove an employee from FBI custody. She has the option to refuse, but it would be at the expense of partner JT and their daughter Dakota who were both caught up in events in Deep Blue Trouble, only a few weeks before the next book kicks off.

Left with little choice, Lori has to pit her wits against the FBI, police and factions within the Miami Mob that have no intention of seeing her succeed. In a race against time Lori must work to free the man from protective custody, while keeping him safe from the splinter faction and protecting her family as best she can with some help from old friends.

Broadribb has once again delivered an action-packed, high pace thriller with more twists and turns than a theme park rollercoaster. The attention to detail is meticulous in ensuring past events are not overrun with conflicting details, characters are developed to a deeper level still and the narrative kept me reading to the very last. I hope the wait for the next outing from Lori Anderson isn’t too far off – the only negative I could find with Deep Dirty Truth was the immediate and urgent need to read the next installment.

My rating:
goodread

You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood

You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood

An unnamed defendant stands accused of murder. Just before the Closing Speeches, the young man sacks his lawyer, and decides to give his own defence speech.

He tells us that his barrister told him to leave some things out.Sometimes, the truth can be too difficult to explain, or believe. But he thinks that if he’s going to go down for life, he might as well go down telling the truth.

There are eight pieces of evidence against him. As he talks us through them one by one, his life is in our hands. We, the reader – member of the jury – must keep an open mind till we hear the end of his story. His defence raises many questions… but at the end of the speeches, only one matters:

Did he do it?

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

For my penultimate read, and last review, of 2018, You Don’t Know Me really did tick all of the boxes. For starters, the main character: I felt like I really knew him by the end of the book and yet we never get to know his name. Imran Mahmood paints the reader into the role of juror in what is, sadly, a very timely novel. Our main character is on the stand for murder of a London gang member; a murder he is adamant he didn’t commit. cover107653-mediumThroughout the course of the book our leading man looks at the eight key pieces of evidence the prosecution are hoping will sink him without a trace and resign him to a lengthy jail term. Deciding his legal representation isn’t quite grasping the need to tell the whole truth, something that has changed as the reader discovers since he first gave evidence, leads the main character to go it alone for his closing statement. And here is where this book is interesting: it solely contains the closing statement of the accused.

He dives into each piece of evidence presented against him, agreeing that each one in turn adds to the look of guilt assuming you only look at it from the angle the prosecution directs you to. But he goes on to explain that viewed from another perspective each item paints a very different picture. The concept left me thinking throughout the book, never quite certain what the truth really was.

I loved the way You Don’t Know Me really brought into stark relief how life in certain parts of London, and a great many other large cities across the UK, if not the world, really is right now. I found myself feeling like I was in the court listening, analysing, assessing everything presented to me, everything so well argued that it all had more than one way of being reviewed. And the real clincher for this book? In the end, no verdict is given. As we are there as a member of the jury, we are left to pronounce guilt or innocence ourselves. If I am entirely honest, I really don’t know that I am overly sure even now on that score!

My rating:
goodread