Posts Tagged With: crime

Three Dog Night by Elsebeth Egholm

Cover

Title – Three Dog Night

Author – Elsebeth Egholm

Publication Date – 18 July 2013 (In English)

Rating – 4/5

Synopsis

Ex-convict Peter Boutrup has moved to remote, rural eastern Denmark to start a new life and leave his past behind. But when a young woman goes missing on New Year’s Eve and he then discovers the body of Ramses, an old acquaintance from prison, things start to unravel. Two days after the disappearance they find the body of a young girl in the harbour – she is naked, attached to an anchor and her face has been torn off. Is this the body of the missing woman and is it connected with Ramses’ murder? Peter Boutrup must accept that the answer lies hidden in the past that he is trying to forget. (Taken from Goodreads)

Review

In the ever growing world of Scandinavian crime fiction another author has been given the chance at having their work translated into English for the first time. This isn’t the first book written by Elsebeth Egholm, in fact it is her 10th if my maths is correct and it shows her craft as a writer. It would be easy to fall back on comparisons to other Scandinavian crime writers that I like such as Asa Larsson, Jo Nesbo or Henning Mankell but Egholm has a distinct style all of her own and it stands out.

This book has a cornucopia of characters all with a story of his or her own from the underbelly of Danish society. These characters mesh really well with the harsh Baltic winter in the book. This creates an atmosphere which on the surface is pure as the winter snow but when you scratch the surface there is a more sinister edge to things. Interestingly, I found the main character of Peter Boutrup a little weak at first but as the story goes on there is more flesh added to him and I started to really like him.

Peter has recently been released from prison and wants to make a clean start on life and leave his past behind him. His neighbour Felix has given up on life and is literally a shell of what she was previously. Mark Bille Hanson is a policeman who has returned to his local town with the intention for him to recuperate from an illness. Finally, Kirsten Rojel is a diver who is caught in between her passion for diving and the expectations of her father as to what is a suitable job for a woman. All these characters have secrets and their lives collide during the story. Kirsten was a character I particularly liked and is the one character which really stood out for me. I think this was a combination of her being a strong female while at the same time being distinctly human. None of the character stories require a large leap of faith something which I can find a little annoying at times.

The book really flows well and I found myself reading 50-60 pages at a time, something which I rarely do. I had thought that at 462 pages it would take me a while to get through but it was a real ‘page turner’. I ended up reading it in just over a day due to the way that it really sucked me in. At several times I thought I knew who the killer was only to be thrown off the scent again. The plot is fairly involved but not to the point where I struggled to suss out who was doing what.

I think fans of thrillers and crime novels will love this book and I really hope the next one gets published in English before too long.

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The Life by Martina Cole

Title:  The LifeImage
Author:  Martina Cole
ISBN: 978-0755375578
Publisher:  Headline

First Published:  September 2012 (Hardback)
No .of pages:  512

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
The most authentic novel of gangster family life ever written, from the No. 1 bestselling author.
The Bailey brothers are gangsters determined to make their mark in the world. Peter and Daniel are chalk and cheese in many ways – Peter’s calm exterior belies his ruthless nature, while Daniel’s penchant for spectacular violence is legendary – but together they are unstoppable. From the late seventies they rule London’s East End and, when their sons join the business, it seems that no one can touch the powerful Baileys. Although it’s never easy at the top; there is always someone waiting to take you down – sometimes even those closest to you… Lena Bailey is determined to shield her youngest child Tania from the Life. But when a terrible tragedy occurs, Tania’s eyes are opened to their world in a way that forces her to make an irrevocable choice that will determine her future.
Martina Cole’s gritty and gripping new novel is an unflinching portrait of a family torn apart by violence and betrayal, but ultimately bound by loyalty, by blood, and by a burning desire for revenge… It is a story of the Life, told as only Martina Cole can.

Review:
Martina Cole never fails to disappoint me with her books.  I love her tales of the criminal underbelly and the way she brings generation after generation of families to life.  You really get invested in them.  These books are not to everyone’s taste as they can be quite graphic and violent but I find that this is balanced out completely in the way Cole creates her characters and sets the scene.

The Life has a very dominant and sinister undertone running through it due to the character of Daniel.  His unpredictable bouts of violence are a constant threat through the story and you never know quite when he is going to lose his cool or what the consequences would be for his family.  On the flip side is Peter, the calm and calculating side of the family.  He spends a lot of his time running around fixing the trouble his brother has caused whilst trying to keep their family businesses running.

We follow both Daniel and Peter through their life, along with their wives, their children and the ever increasing family that they belong too.  We grow with them; We love with them; We hate with them.  But as things come to a head, with tragic consequences, we learn that blood will always be thicker than water.

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Heat Rises by Richard Castle

Title: Heat Rises (Nikki Heat 3)
Author: Richard Castle
ISBN: 978-1401324438
Publisher: Hyperion
First Published: October 2011 (hardback) / October 2012 (paperback/Kindle)
No .of pages: 240

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis (from Fantastic Fiction):
The bizarre murder of a parish priest at a New York bondage club is just thetip of an iceberg that leads Nikki Heat to a dark conspiracy that reachesall the way to the highest level of the NYPD. But when she gets too closeto the truth, Nikki finds herself disgraced, stripped of her badge, and outon her own as a target for killers with nobody she can trust. Except maybethe one man in her life who’s not a cop. Reporter Jameson Rook.

In the midst of New York’s coldest winter in a hundred years, there’s onething Nikki is determined to prove. Heat Rises.

Review:
If you are a fan of the ABC show, Castle, then you will most likely already have picked up on the books that tie in – apparently written by the fictional character of Richard Castle (the author picture on the back cover is of Nathan Fillion, who plays him). Fans will most definitely enjoy the in-jokes and recognise the “real” situations and characters from the show that have inspired the “fictional” counterparts in the novels. They will laugh their socks off when Jameson Rook says things like, “I really am ruggedly handsome, aren’t I?” and get a real kick out of every Castle-ish turn of phrase.

However, even if they’ve never tuned into the programme (currently in its fifth season), crime fans will still be able to enjoy these books. Yes, they use every corny crime trope going, but it’s part of the fun.

Because that’s what these books are all about – having fun with the whole crime genre.

There’s no point in reading Heat Rises unless you have first read Heat Wave and Naked Heat, but once you have finished those, you’ll be champing at the bit to get hold of the next installment.

First and foremost, it’s another very clever tie-in with an increasingly popular crime drama, but Heat Rises (along with the prior novels) holds up in its own right. There’s very real suspense – you’ll be kept guessing till the “big reveal” and will enjoy every twist and turn along the way.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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Birthdays for the Dead by Stuart MacBride

Title: Birthdays for the Dead
Author: Stuart MacBride
ISBN: 978-0007344178
Publisher: HarperCollins
First Published: January 2012
No .of pages: 496

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
Detective Constable Ash Henderson has a dark secret…

Five years ago his daughter, Rebecca, went missing on the eve of her thirteenth birthday. A year later the first card arrived: homemade, with a Polaroid picture stuck to the front – Rebecca, strapped to a chair, gagged and terrified. Every year another card: each one worse than the last.

The tabloids call him The Birthday Boy. He’s been snatching girls for twelve years, always in the run-up to their thirteenth birthday, sending the families his homemade cards showing their daughters being slowly tortured to death.

But Ash hasn’t told anyone about Rebecca’s birthday cards – they all think she’s just run away from home – because if anyone finds out, he’ll be taken off the investigation. And he’s sacrificed too much to give up before his daughter’s killer gets what he deserves…

Review:
Ash Henderson isn’t a bad cop; he’s one of the good guys, but if there’s a bad way to do something for the right reasons, he’ll find it. He’d never take a bribe, but it’s not unusual for him to put the squeeze on the bad guys to get something out of a situation for him, and he tends to mix with a crowd that means he’s permanently in a sticky situation. In short, he’s a complete screw-up. Despite all this, there’s something very likeable about this train wreck of a man. He’s fiercely loyal and protective of his family and friends, and will put himself on the line every time to help them. Unfortunately, putting yourself on the line so often means you often cross it…

MacBride is astute when it comes to complex and flawed characters, and they add to his equally complex plotting, making the implausible very plausible and seemingly inevitable. He also has a wonderfully gritty way with gore – it’s visceral and real to the very end, without tipping over into the territory of schlock horror.

This one, however, felt a little rougher around the edges than the Logan McRae novels, a little harder-edged and unpolished in comparison. That’s not to say it was bad – it’s very good, just not as good as the McRae books, but then, they’re pretty hard to beat.

If you’re a fan of crime fiction (in particular Scottish crime fiction), this is a must for your collection.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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Wasted Resource by Steven Preece

Title: Wasted Resource
Author:
Steven Preece
ISBN:
978-1849140959
Publisher: CompletelyNovel.com
First Published:
April 2011
No. of Pages:
301

Rating: 2/5

Synopsis (back of book):
Four former soldiers, who are brought together by fate, realise their military skills have become a wasted resource. They form as a team, utilising their specialist skills to steal a vast sum of money, previously recovered by the police and guarded by the RAF Regiment. The task is initially deemed impossible, but a stroke of luck changes this.
Two illegal immigrants on the run from their own country, enter the UK via the Channel Tunnel. They plan the same heist without knowledge of the other team, carrying out a raid on one of two heavily guarded security vans.

The money is stolen, leaving one group empty handed and pursuing the other; resulting in kidnapping, torture and death. Eventually, the captors are led to a hidden weapons cache in Northern Ireland, where the money is stashed.

Newly promoted, Detective Sergeant Dave Watson is assigned by the police as lead investigator and highlights the likelihood that the robbers have military skills and backgrounds. CCTV film footage is acquired from the channel tunnel and motorway cameras and is scrutinized, identifying the team and also two Kurds as known hardened criminals.

Meanwhile, M.I.6 express an interest in recruiting the former soldiers, wanting to setup a covert operations group and cover up their part in the robbery. However, changed plans alter this course and the team are double-crossed, leaving them to attempt to getaway!

Review:
When reading a self-published novel, I often try to overlook the spelling and grammatical errors that crop up, but in my heart of hearts I just wish all writers would employ a professional proofreader to get rid of the worst of them – perhaps then self-published authors wouldn’t get so much of a bad rep. There are errors of this kind in Wasted Resource but not as many as I’ve seen in others.

However, there are other problems here that might have been solved with a good editor.

I continually felt that the air was rather condescending. An author should always assume their readers have a modicum of intelligence and so do not need constant reminders of the meanings of certain words and expressions, especially if their meaning is already made clear by the context, and if explanation is required, then the author should include a glossary or footnote, rather than continually disturbing the flow of the plot. It should also be assumed that once the reader has been told something once, they will remember it themselves and do not need to be reminded every time that word or phrase crops up. The most constant example of this was that every time “Physical Training Instructor” cropped up, it was followed by “PTI” in brackets – and vice versa! There was also continual use of marine terms followed by “a marine term for…” in brackets. I found this incredibly annoying as it not only insulted my intelligence, but interrupted the flow considerably.

The story is sound enough, if a little implausible at times, with useful items suddenly appearing with no prior mention. However, if you read the blurb on the back of the book, you don’t really need to read the actual novel as almost the entire plot is given away, meaning there is little in the way of surprise as you read.

I wanted to enjoy this a lot more than I did, as I love both military and crime drama and I expected a little more from this given that it is written by an ex-marine. The basics are there, they just need a little polishing. This being a debut, perhaps Preece’s next offering will improve on this.

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Crippen by John Boyne (Transworld Book Group)

Title: Crippen
Author:
John Boyne
ISBN:
 978-0552777438
Publisher:
Black Swan
First Published:
2004
No. of pages:504

Rating: 5/5

Synopsis (Amazon):
July 1910: a gruesome discovery has been made at 39 Hilldrop Crescent, Camden. Buried in the cellar are the remains of Cora Crippen, former music-hall singer and wife of Dr Hawley Crippen. But Dr Crippen and his mistress Ethel Le Neve have disappeared, and a full-scale hunt for them has begun. Across the Channel in Antwerp, Captain Kendall gives the order for the SS Montrose to begin its two-week voyage to Canada. On board are 1300 passengers, including the overbearing Antonia Drake, the unassuming Martha Hayes and the enigmatic Mathieu Zela. And, slipping in almost unnoticed, a Mr John Robinson with his seventeen-year-old son Edmund …

Review:
Well, where to start? How about with just one word: WOW! Crippen is quite one of the most gripping crime faction novels I’ve ever read. That’s the short version.

You want the long version? OK, here goes…

This fictionalised account of a real and infamous crime that gripped the English-speaking world is nothing short of brilliant. The characters are sympathetically drawn, yes, even that of Dr Hawley Crippen himself. Boyne has taken one of Britain’s most notorious and mysterious killers and made him a human being; one with feelings and troubles with which one can readily identify. The relationship he suffers with his overbearing wife, Cora, makes one wish someone would kill her!

Despite Dr Crippen being a name synonymous with gruesome and grisly murder, mystery and misconception surrounds both the man and the case, so proceedings are not so straightforward as one might expect. Indeed, Boyne manages to keep things suspenseful to the very end, which came as a huge surprise to this reader!

I was completely drawn into the plot and loved the back-and-forth style of storytelling which revealed things little by little, drawing things out in such a way that there was always something unexpected around the corner. Time and again I was delighted by some little twist or turn till the thrilling conclusion which was immensely satisfying.

It’s rare that a novel compels me to research a subject further, but this one has had that exact effect. I’m now fascinated by the man and the crime he committed (or did he?), and urge all fans of crime fact and fiction to pick up Crippen as soon as possible.  I guarantee you won’t be able to put it down till the last page has been turned.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

You can find out more about the Transworld Book Group HERE.

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Plugged by Eoin Colfer

Title: Plugged
Author: Eoin Colfer
ISBN: 978-0755379989
Publisher: Headline
First Published: May 2011
No. of Pages: 288

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis (Amazon):
Dan, an Irishman who’s ended up in New Jersey, finds himself embroiled in a world of murder, kidnapping and corrupt cops.

Dan works as a bouncer in a seedy club, half in love with hostess Connie. When Connie is murdered on the premises, a vengeful Dan finds himself embroiled in an increasingly deadly sequence of events in which his doctor friend Zeb goes mysteriously missing, a cop-killing female cop becomes his only ally, and he makes an enemy of ruthless drug-dealer Mike Madden. Written with the warmth and wit that make the Artemis Fowl novels so irresistible, though with additional torture and violence, PLUGGED is a brilliant crime debut from a naturally gifted writer with a huge fan base.

Review:
From the man who brought us Artemis Fowl comes a novel strictly for the grown-ups. This is no pre-teen criminal mastermind pitted against fairies – instead we have a prematurely balding ex-army doorman who finds himself plunged into a situation beyond his control and outside his comfort zone. And it’s not bad. Really, it’s not bad at all, but I still kept expecting Artemis Fowl to crop up in the story somehow – I just couldn’t get it out of my head while I was reading!

I felt this new, more adult offering wasn’t quite as finely honed as Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series, but there’s definitely potential for a whole new series here. McEvoy is a likeable character and I desperately wanted him to succeed – I wouldn’t mind seeing him again in another story.

There was sometimes a little too much happening all at once, and sometimes not enough happening to keep the pace racing, so it occasionally felt a little halting, but not enough to spoil things, and if things were sometimes a little garbled, it all became clear as things went on, so there was balance come the end.

At under 300 pages, it’s a little shorter than I thought it could have been, but if you like Colfer’s style, this is definitely worth a try.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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Boomerang by Alan Hutcheson

Title: Boomerang
Author: Alan Hutcheson
ISBN: 978-1849239288
Publisher: YouWriteOn.com
First Published: March 2009
No. of Pages: 312

Rating: 2/5

Synopsis (Amazon):
Ted Hogwood’s beloved Sarah, a jazz guitar, is in the window of Topp Dollar Pawn. The only way he can get the money to rescue her is to accept an assignment from the AABC, a not nearly official branch of the United States Intelligence community. He is partnered with Jerry Kwiatkowski, master of the Hammond B-3 organ and chronic flatulence sufferer, to steal a boomerang containing secrets that should have died with J. Edgar Hoover over thirty years ago. It would be a simple job if only they knew what they were doing. And if a crossbow wielding assassin, two unemployed Australian women, the Director of Central Intelligence and a clothing optional ex-cheerleader were not also hot on the boomerang’s trail.

Review:
It took me quite a while to get through this novel, largely because I had to keep going back and re-reading sections in an attempt to make more sense of what was happening. It jumps around a lot, from continent to continent, and from character to character, never really giving a good grounding with any one person or place, so there’s no real depth. It doesn’t quite seem to know what it wants to be – does it want to be comedy or serious? It veers between the two without anchoring on either – not quite funny enough to be a comedy, but not quite serious enough to be otherwise.

With all the jumping around, I quite literally lost the plot, and I found having so many characters (none of whom were employed to their full potential, or given enough oomph and personality to grab me fully) rather jarring. It’s a shame, because I think the story had a lot of potential – it just wasn’t given a chance to really shine.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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Hold Tight by Harlan Coben

hold tight

Synopsis from Amazon:

Tia and Mike Baye never imagined they’d become the type of overprotective parents who spy on their kids. But their sixteen-year-old son Adam has been unusually distant lately, and after the suicide of his classmate Spencer Hill – the latest in a string of issues at school – they can’t help but worry. They install a sophisticated spy program on Adam’s computer, and within days they are jolted by a message from an unknown correspondent addressed to their son: “Just stay quiet and all safe.” Meanwhile, browsing through an online memorial for Spencer, Betsy Hill is struck by a photo that appears to have been taken on the night of her son’s death and he wasn’t alone. She thinks it is Adam Baye standing just outside the camera’s range, but when Adam goes missing, it soon becomes clear that something deep and sinister has infected their community…

This is the first Harlon Coben book I have read, and I found it exhilirating and exciting, and I will definitely be going back for more. There are several storylines that intertwine throughout the book and come together at the end, which added depth and excitment to the book. We follow Nash, who is on a mission to destroy evidence and whomever might have seen it; Mike, who is out looking for Adam; his neighbour with a dark secret and the police and FBI as they try to solve a number of crimes. I didn’t get confused or annoyed by any of the storylines. I enjoyed the whole book.

I liked how Coben writes. It draws you in and is gripping. I didn’t want to put this book down. With a lot taking place in the novel I just wanted to see what would happen to everyone. I didn’t have a particular favourite character, I liked them all – even the ones I disliked!

This is a great crime novel, with suspense, action and a killer storyline. I will definitely read more Harlan Coben and highly recommend this book. It was quick to read and all who I have encountered that have read this book thoroughly agree that it is well worth reading.

9/10

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Savage Tide by Glen Chandler

savage tide

Synopsis from Amazon:

This is a Steven Madden mystery. For Steve Madden, Brighton is no longer beaches, fish and chips and amusement arcades. It’s also a place of murder. Estranged from his son and grappling with the jealousy that comes from watching your ex-wife getting closer to another man, his world is thrown into turmoil when he is called to investigate a particularly savage murder. But there is something else, something that will change his life forever. Dragged into the twilight world of nightclubs, drugs and prostitution, Steve is about to realise that being a Detective Inspector in a seaside town is far more dangerous than he could ever have imagined.

Steve Maddon is called is called to a murder scene in Kemp Town, Brighton – the place notorious for where the homosexual community live. What he finds in the flat is a shock – and will completely rock his world. The murder is sex fueled and gruesome, and personal.Maddon is taken off the investigation, but unsatisfied with the police work, investigates himself, where he makes some shocking discoveries.

This book is not for faint hearted. The description of the murder was graphic, and horrific. The is a lot of violence, drugs and sex in this book, which aren’t really my cup of tea. That said; it was a good read, with a few twists and an interesting portrayal of the seedier side of Brighton.

Chandler wrote well – it flowed easily, I was able to keep up with the story and remember who all the characters were. It didn’t take me long to read and I was quite surprised by the revealing of the murderer. If you like crime novels, or a good murder book, this is for you.

7/10

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