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Published: 1 June 2017

 

Description:

An irresistible mystery set in 1890s Edinburgh, Kaite Welsh’s THE WAGES OF SIN features a female medical student-turned-detective, and will thrill fans of Sarah Waters and Antonia Hodgson.

Sarah Gilchrist has fled from London to Edinburgh in disgrace and is determined to become a doctor, despite the misgivings of her family and society. As part of the University of Edinburgh’s first intake of female medical students, in 1892, Sarah comes up against resistance from lecturers, her male contemporaries, and – perhaps worst of all – her fellow women, who will do anything to avoid being associated with a fallen woman…

When one of Sarah’s patients turns up in the university dissecting room as a battered corpse, Sarah finds herself drawn into Edinburgh’s dangerous underworld of bribery, brothels and body snatchers – and a confrontation with her own past.

 

My Thoughts & Review:

“The Wages of Sin” is a wonderfully atmospheric fictional thriller, it is steeped in fantastically rich detail that portrays life in the late 1800s as both interesting as well as fraught with danger.

Society deemed that women in this era should know their place, that being in the home raising families, tending to the needs of their husbands or generally being gentile and “ladylike”, and most definitely not wielding scalpels and training to become surgeons at Edinburgh University.  Society clearly never encountered Sarah Gilchrist and her 12 like minded classmates it would seem.
Having disgraced her family in  London, Sarah is sent to live with her aunt and uncle in Edinburgh, and it is agreed that she can attend her studies at the university so long as she is ferried back and forth by a driver and kept from any temptations or situations that might besmirch the good family name any further.

The adversity and oppression faced by women in this era is demonstrated well by the author, attitudes of those around Sarah blatantly showing horror at her chosen career path, her fellow students keen to ridicule each other and the rivalry between both male and female students rife.  Indeed, there seems to be more rivalry between the female students who seem more eager to bring each other down than to support and hold one another up.

Through her work at the local Infirmary, Sarah comes into contact with those less fortunate, the poor and destitute pouring in through the doors in search of medical help as well as the women from the surrounding brothels.  Unfortunately for Sarah, one of these women seeks assistance that cannot be given, abortions being illegal at the time.  From here Sarah embarks on a journey of self destruction, believing that something is amiss and nefarious practises surround her.  Her detective skills might be somewhat lacking but her heart is in the right place, she is determined to find out the truth behind the death of a patient, even if it means casting accusations wildly.

This is a very well thought out and well researched book, the topic of female emancipation making for interesting reading.  The descriptiveness of characters and settings in this mean that readers can conjure vivid images in their heads of the squalor of the slums, the opulence of Society and the bitter chill of a Scottish winter.
Sarah is a character that is well crafted, initially a broken and seemingly fragile creature, her studies give her hope and something to work towards, she develops well but still retains some vulnerabilities and naivety.

Kaite Welsh has crafted a clever tale of corruption, wickedness and discrimination that seeps into all tiers of Victorian society.

You can buy a copy of “The Wages of Sin” via:

Amazon
The Book Depository
Wordery

My thanks to Headline and Tinder Press for the opportunity to read and review this book.

 

 

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Author: Jo Spain

Published 22 September 2016
Reviewed: 8 October 2016

4 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by Quercus Books in return for an honest review

 

Description:

From top-ten Irish bestselling author Jo Spain comes the second novel in the Inspector Tom Reynolds series

Did I know it would come to this? That I was playing Russian Roulette? I would give anything to turn back time and to be with my girls. There is no shot at redemption. I am going to die. The gun is in my eye-line as the second bullet is fired. That’s the one that kills me.

Late at night, two powerful men meet in a secret location to discuss a long nurtured plan about to come to fruition. One is desperate to know there is nothing standing in their way – the other assures him everything is taken care of. Hours later, a high-ranking government official called Ryan Finnegan is brutally slain in the most secure building in Ireland – Leinster House, the seat of parliament. Inspector Tom Reynolds and his team are called in to uncover the truth behind the murder.

At first, all the evidence hints at a politically motivated crime, until a surprise discovery takes the investigation in a dramatically different direction. Suddenly the motive for murder has got a lot more personal. . . but who benefits the most from Ryan’s death?

My Thoughts & Review:

Beneath The Surface is the second book by Jo Spain to feature Inspector Tom Reynolds, the first being With Our Blessing and can be read as a standalone.

The horrific murder of a government official in the parliament building, the most secure building in Ireland leads to an investigation headed up by DI Reynolds and his team.  Discovering a compromising photograph under the body of the victim opens up the investigation to realms of political skulduggery, corruption and scandal.

The development of Tom Reynolds in this book is great, the reader gets to know more about this character and his team.  The dynamic of home life and work life made for interesting reading and gave the characters a more realistic feel. There seemed to be so much going on in this book, with so many characters involved it must have taken the author some serious homework to keep track of them all, which in turn means that the reader has to pay some attention to who’s who and what their story is in order to keep up, not a book you can drift in and out of.
The story itself is interesting enough, but for me the political angle just wasn’t for me.

Jo Spain’s knowledge of working within Leinster House shows through the detail written in to this book, it adds an authenticity to it all.  The writing is enjoyable, the story flows well and the tantalising epilogue opens up the possibility of a third instalment in the Tom Reynolds series.

You can buy a copy of Beneath the Surface here.

 

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Author: Camilla Grebe

Published: 8 September 2016
Reviewed: 30 September 2016

4.5 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by Bonnier Zaffre in return for an honest review

 

Description:

NO ORDINARY PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER – THIS WILL KEEP YOU UP ALL NIGHT

For fans of Jo Nesbo and The Bridge, The Ice Beneath Her is a gripping and deeply disturbing story about love, betrayal and obsession that is impossible to put down. Fast-paced and peopled with compelling characters, it surprises at every turn as it hurtles towards an unforgettable ending with a twist you really won’t see coming . . .

A young woman is found beheaded in an infamous business tycoon’s marble-lined hallway.

The businessman, scandal-ridden CEO of the retail chain Clothes & More, is missing without a trace.

But who is the dead woman? And who is the brutal killer who wielded the machete?

Rewind two months earlier to meet Emma Bohman, a sales assistant for Clothes & More, whose life is turned upside down by a chance encounter with Jesper Orre. Insisting that their love affair is kept secret, he shakes Emma’s world a second time when he suddenly leaves her with no explanation.

As frightening things begin to happen to Emma, she suspects Jesper is responsible. But why does he want to hurt her? And how far would he go to silence his secret lover?

My Thoughts & Review:

As a fan of Scandi Noir I was instantly intrigued by this book, the description sounded like just the sort of book to get stuck into on a quiet night.

This gripping psychological thriller immediately grabs the reader’s attention,  the decapitated body of a young woman is discovered,  and more curiously it was discovered in the home of an infamous business tycoon.

With narration from the perspective of three characters makes this story very interesting, and helps to make this a fast paced read, but also gives a real insight into the characters.  The subsequent development of each character makes this a fascinating read and found I was thoroughly enjoying their individual tales.
Hanne, formerly a criminal profiler, diagnosed with early onset dementia and in a controlling and loveless marriage, is a fantastic character and one I was cheering on whilst I read.
Peter, the detective with commitment issues (unless it’s work he has to commit to), is good at his job, but his personal life….not so organised.  Together Peter and Hanne work well, its clear there is a shared history and it makes reading the story much more enjoyable.
Emma’s story was probably the most interesting one, a young woman that meets and falls in love with the CEO of the company she works for but their love affair has to be kept secret because of who he is.

There is some very clever plotting in this book, it’s very dark and disturbing, Grebe weaves together twists and turns that have the reader guessing at what might happen next.  I feel that I should praise the translation of this book.  All too often when a book is translated into English, something can be “lost” but I am so pleased that is not the case with this one.  It has the hallmarks of a Scandi thriller, cold, dark and direct which really work well here, making this one of the best books I’ve read this year.

You can buy a copy of The Ice Beneath Her here.

Many thanks to the publisher for a copy of this in return for an honest review.

 

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Author: Claire Douglas

Published: 11 August 2016
Reviewed:  12 September 2016

4 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by Penguin in return for an honest review

 

Description:

The old Victorian pier was once a thing of beauty. It’s also where twenty-one-year-old Sophie Collier vanished eighteen years ago.

Francesca has spent the last twenty years haunted by the disappearance of her best friend. But when she receives a phone call from Sophie’s brother saying that a body has been found, she knows she can’t keep hiding from what happened. With her own secrets to keep, Francesca doesn’t relish the idea of digging up the past or returning to Oldcliffe. But it is time to go back to where she grew up, and it looks like she isn’t the only one there hiding truths.

My Thoughts & Review:

Local Girl Missing is Claire Douglas’ second novel, her first The Sisters was a compulsive and and gripping read with an explosive ending so the bar was set pretty high , knowing that Douglas is an accomplished and skilled writer.

The story revolves around two friends, Sophie and Francesca (Frankie) who were best friends.  Sophie and her mother fled from an abusive home life and settled in Oldcliffe in Somerset where the two girls met at school.  Their friendship is tested one night when they witness the death of the hotel’s chef Jason.  The trio had stolen some booze from the hotel and were all very drunk when Jason fell into the sea and drowned.  Deciding it was better to race back to the hotel and agree to keep the details of Jason’s death secret than to be honest with authorities etc, the girls unknowingly set in motion a chain of events that will forever change their lives.

Sophie tragically goes missing some years later,  vanishing after exiting a nightclub.  She is presumed dead, classed as an accidental death as there were no witnesses, the only evidence of her is her favourite trainer wedged between the safety railings on the dilapidated pier.  It makes no sense for those that knew her, things were falling into place for her.
Life moved on for Francesca, now known as Frankie, living in London and working in the hotel industry and doing well for herself.

Frankie receives a call from Daniel, Sophie’s brother who asks her to return to Somerset to help him work out what happened to Sophie all those years ago.  Feeling torn, Frankie finds she cannot refuse to help Daniel, but equally, she would rather not return to the place of her childhood.  The knock on effect of Frankie’s return brings about discoveries that lead Daniel to answers about what happened to Sophie.

With narration from Frankie in the present as well as in the form of flashbacks to memories the reader is faced with a complex web of lies, abuse, betrayal and insecurities to name but a few.  Cleverly, Douglas also adds narration from Sophie in the form of diary in alternating chapters which helps to add to the tension and increase the anticipation of what will happen next.

The characterisation fantastic, the descriptions of settings were wonderful – you could almost imagine the seaside town and the little pub, the storyline is well written and the ending was completely unexpected.

Despite being slow to start off, this book really made up for it with the intensity of the dark twisting thriller that played out on the pages within.  Claire Douglas is an author I will be keeping an eye out for in the future.

You can buy a copy of Local Girl Missing here.

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Author: LJ Ross

Published: 4 March 2016
Reviewed: 7 September 2016

5 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by Maxine at Booklover Catlady Publicity and LJ Ross in return for an honest review

 

Description:

The hunter becomes the hunted…

When a man is found dead at the remote church of Heavenfield, DCI Ryan is the only other person for miles around. The police have no weapon, no motive and no other suspects.

Already suspended from Northumbria CID, Ryan must fight to clear his name. But soon, more than his career is at stake when prominent members of the mysterious ‘Circle’ begin to die. Somebody wants Ryan’s name to be next on the coroner’s list and to survive he must unmask the devil who walks among them – before it is too late.

Unfortunately for Ryan, the devil looks just like everybody else…

Murder and mystery are peppered with romance and humour in this fast-paced crime whodunnit from LJ Ross, set amidst the spectacular Northumbrian landscape.

My Thoughts & Review:

Heavenfield is the third instalment of the DCI Ryan series (which I am currently hooked on, I blame another book blogger for this addiction, (Kate – bibliophilebookclub made it sound wonderful that I just had to check the series out and her reviews haven’t steered we wrong yet!).

Following on from the adventures in Sycamore Gap, our plucky protagonist finds himself in a whole world of trouble.  Stuck at home still servicing his suspension it’s not long before a mysterious tip off comes his way, requesting his presence at the remote church in Heavenfield.  And typically Ryan does what we’ve come to know and expect of this character, he heads off to investigate, but in doing so he finds himself on the wrong side of the law – bloodied hands and standing over a dead body do not make for a convincing “it was like this when I got here Guv”.

All the while, the newly appointed Master of The Circle is plotting and scheming, looking for ways to rid them of Ryan for good.  But when members of The Circle start to die, Ryan knows his name will be next on the list.

Aaaaand that’s about all I want to say about the plot, this is too good a book to ruin with spoilers!

The pace of this book is absolutely fantastic, it begins well and then just accelerates at breakneck speed to the end.  As always, the plot is sheer brilliance, so cleverly twisted and dark, it flows well and keeps the reader hooked throughout.
Characterisation is great, so good to see the continued appearance of certain ones, especially Dr Anna Taylor, the chemistry between her and Ryan really works well  in the novel.  DCI Ryan has to be one of my all time favourite characters, so masterfully created!   The development of The Circle is magnificently done, more emphasis is on them in this book and it makes for sensational reading.

An absolutely action packed, page turner of a series that I cannot get enough of!  On to book number four now!

You can buy a copy of Heavenfield here.

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Author: Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Published: 22 October 2015
Reviewed: 7 September 2016

3.5 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by Hodder and Stoughton in return for an honest review

 

Description:

The light spilling in from the corridor would have to do. Though weak, it was sufficient to show Aldís a boy sitting in the gloom at the furthest table. He had his back to her, so she couldn’t see who it was, but could tell that he was one of the youngest. A chill ran down her spine when he spoke again, without turning, as if he had eyes in the back of his head. ‘Go away. Leave me alone.’

‘Come on. You shouldn’t be here.’ Aldís spoke gently, fairly sure now that the boy must be delirious. Confused, rather than dangerous.

He turned, slowly and deliberately, and she glimpsed black eyes in a pale face. ‘I wasn’t talking to you.’

Aldis is working in a juvenile detention centre in rural Iceland. She witnesses something deeply disturbing in the middle of the night; soon afterwards, two of the boys at the centre are dead.

Decades later, single father Odinn is looking into alleged abuse at the centre following the unexplained death of the colleague who was previously running the investigation. The more he finds out, though, the more it seems the odd events of the 1970s are linked to the accident that killed his ex-wife. Was her death something more sinister?

My Thoughts & Review:

The Undesired is the first book by this author that I have read, I went in to it not knowing what to expect.

The story in this book begins with an ending of sorts, a man and his young daughter are trapped in a car slowly asphyxiating.  By doing this, the author has ensured that the audience are captive, instantly hooked by wondering who these people are, why there are there, what has lead to this monumental moment.  There are two strands of story in this book, the first following Odinn and the second following Aldis.

Following the death of his ex-wife, Odinn, now a single parent grapples with raising his daughter alone.  She is traumatised by the death of her mother and he struggles to support her.    Was her death accidental?  Why is she haunting Odinn and his daughter?
This is not all that Odinn has to contend with, he has taken over  investigations at work into alleged abuse at a care home for male young offenders, a home that shut down in the 1970s but certain questions remain unanswered.

Back in 1974 Aldi was a cleaner at the care home for the delinquent boys, she provides an eyewitness account of the happenings at the home.   Her relationship with one of the older boys and the the owner’s of the home having deep secrets really add an extra layer to the back story.
Weaving together Odinn’s investigation and the lead up to the closure of the home following the death of two boys, the author provides answers for the questions the reader has from the beginning of the book.

Characterisation is great, the details about the home feel authentic .  The plot is intriguing,  but I wonder if it might work better if billed as a psychological thriller as opposed to horror which the blurb implies.  Overall a good read, but I just felt that the “spooky” aspects took something away from the story.

You can buy a copy of The Undesired here.

 

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Author: Harry Bingham

Published: 28 July 2016
Reviewed: 1 September 2016

5 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by Orion in return for an honest review

 

Description:

British detective Fiona Griffiths, one of the most engaging female protagonists in crime thrillers, is back with her toughest case yet.
When the body of a young woman is found in an old ‘dead house’ – the annexe where the dead were stored before burial in medieval times – of a tiny church in a small town in Wales, it seems that past and present have come together in a bizarre and horrifying way. For DC Fiona Griffiths, the girl – a murder victim whose corpse was laid out with obvious tenderness – represents an irresistibly intriguing puzzle, given Fiona’s unusual empathy for the dead. And when her investigations lead her to an obscure and secretive monastery hidden in a remote valley, she finds that the murder victim is far from the only victim of a dark and disturbing melding of modern crime and medieval religious practices. Only Fiona is capable of solving this brilliantly crafted mystery.

My Thoughts & Review:

The Dead House is the fifth instalment of the Fiona Griffiths series and in all honesty this can be read as a standalone.  For those who have not read the previous four novels and wish to do so, the back catalogue provides great background to this character as well as showcases the skills of Harry Bingham.

The story begins with the discovery of a body, but strangely this body has been laid out peacefully and there is no obvious apparent crime.  The even more intriguing idea is that the body was laid out in what was once a ‘dead house’, in medieval times corpses were laid out in these dead houses temporarily before burial – this could have been for numerous reasons including weather conditions being too poor to allow grave digging.
The identity of this body and the circumstances for the final resting place require investigation.  During the course of her investigations, Fiona realises there is more to this case, the discoveries she makes lead her to the tangled web of organised crime.

Continuing with his educating his readers, Bingham gives great detail on topics of rhinoplasty,  seed digestion and prayer – quite how he finds the time to research these things I will never know, but I certainly find them interesting and it adds another layer of brilliance to his books.

Using Wales as the setting for this story adds to the charm of the novel, the rugged and historic landscape are wonderfully described.  The detail of the monastery is vivid and gives the reader a great mental image whilst reading.

Fiona Griffiths is an interesting character, very much a maverick detective.  Her affinity with the dead is interesting and adds another layer to this already complex character.  She can be a hard character to like and understand, but she is worth sticking with.  Her personality and quirks will soon have a reader hooked!

An absolutely gripping thriller from a master of the genre!

You can buy a copy of The Dead House here.

 

About the Author

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Author image & information courtesy of Amazon

Harry is the author of the Fiona Griffiths series of crime novels, set in Cardiff and featuring a heroine described by the Sunday Times as ‘The most startling protagonist in modern crime fiction … brutal, freakish and totally original.’ Harry – slightly less freakish than his creation – lives in Oxford with his wife and young family. He also runs The Writers’ Workshop, an editorial consultancy for new writers. His books on Getting Published and How to Write are among the leading titles in their field.

To find out more about Harry and his books go to his website or follow him on Twitter @harryonthebrink

 

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