ARC Review: Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Force of Nature by Jane Harper
Force of Nature
by Jane Harper

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The second book in Harper’s Aaron Falk series is just as good if not better than the first. Atmospheric and packed full of tension, this story of a corporate retreat gone wrong and a missing woman is absolutely riveting.

Please note that as this is the second book in the series it does follow on from the Dry but could easily be read as a standalone as there are only some very mild spoilers and very little overlap. This review is therefore spoiler free.


THE BLURB

FIVE WENT OUT. FOUR CAME BACK…

Is Alice here? Did she make it? Is she safe? In the chaos, in the night, it was impossible to say which of the four had asked after Alice’s welfare. Later, when everything got worse, each would insist it had been them.

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side.

The hike through the rugged landscape is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case – and Alice knew secrets. About the company she worked for and the people she worked with.

Far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell Falk a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. And as he delves into the disappearance, it seems some dangers may run far deeper than anyone knew.


MY REVIEW

I was a little late in discovering just how good Harper’s first book The Dry was, it felt like everyone had read it but me, but as soon as I finished it I knew I needed more. It was just so atmospheric and I found main character Aaron Falk very likeable and someone I wanted to know more about.

For me the highlight of this book was yet again the setting and character development. Unlike The Dry however there are no high temperatures and no drought but rather a cold, wet and rugged landscape where five women set out on a corporate team building event which ends in disaster. As they lose their way (and their supplies) in this remote and isolated location, the bickering and disagreements on how best to find their way or get help begin and in the end only four of them make it out. It’s one of those classic survival stories, mixed with a missing person investigation and I absolutely loved it.

This has a slightly different format to previous book but the writing is just as good. In The Dry the author interspersed flashbacks to different time periods and events within the narrative (something I found a little jarring at times) to give an insight into the characters motivations and thoughts. In Force of Nature however Harper alternates between two separate timelines, the first following Falk as he investigates the disappearance of his key informant and the other following the five women on the retreat.

I have to say I preferred this format but I did find myself more gripped by the women’s story than Falk’s investigation. It felt like Aaron and his partner Carmen were pushed a little to the side particularly in the first half of the book where they’re getting everyone’s story but that may just have been because I was rushing through their sections to get back to the retreat.

The sections on the corporate retreat are told in more or less chronological order and I found it absolutely riveting to read the changing dynamics within the group as their situation goes from bad to worse. Watching their relationships and attitudes shift as they move from their corporate personas and roles to their more natural, and at times primitive, behavior was by far the highlight of this story. It does make you wonder how well you know your work colleagues and how you would react in that situation. Would you really pull together or would it be every man for himself? What would you do if you thought your life was on the line and someone in the group was risking it?

As it’s told from the points of view of each of the women you do get a real insight into their characters and motives but it still keeps you guessing as to what happened between them until the very end. Did Alice really set out alone and get lost or did she push the others in the group too far?

Added to that there is a mystery around a serial killer who previously operated in the area and Falk’s current investigation into the shady dealings of the company Alice works for. Could someone associated with the killer have taken up where he left off, could someone have found out Alice was informing on them? There are so many potential options for what could have happened to her and so many red herrings thrown in that it’s impossible to figure it out and I suspected everyone at one point or another.

Like the previous book this isn’t necessarily a fast paced story but it’s no less gripping as a result. Yet again Harper creates real tension and atmosphere in the story and while I would have liked a bit more time on Falk I very much enjoyed this book and can’t wait for the next one in the series

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.

Review: The Dry by Jane Harper

The Dry by Jane Harper
The Dry
by Jane Harper

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Believe the hype. This book is just as good as everyone says it is.


THE BLURB

A small town hides big secrets in this atmospheric, page-turning debut mystery by an award-winning new author.

After getting a note demanding his presence, Federal Agent Aaron Falk arrives in his hometown for the first time in decades to attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke. Twenty years ago when Falk was accused of murder, Luke was his alibi. Falk and his father fled under a cloud of suspicion, saved from prosecution only because of Luke’s steadfast claim that the boys had been together at the time of the crime. But now more than one person knows they didn’t tell the truth back then, and Luke is dead.

Amid the worst drought in a century, Falk and the local detective question what really happened to Luke. As Falk reluctantly investigates to see if there’s more to Luke’s death than there seems to be, long-buried mysteries resurface, as do the lies that have haunted them. And Falk will find that small towns have always hidden big secrets.


MY REVIEW

Everyone kept telling me how good this was but did I listen? I really wish I had as this book is absolutely brilliant especially when you consider it’s the author’s first. It may not have a wholly original plot (is there an original murder mystery?) or be particularly fast paced, but it has some great characterization and such a wonderful sense of atmosphere that it’s difficult to put down.

The setting of a small farming town in Australia is absolutely central to this story and for me was by far the highlight. There has been a long term drought, the weather is hot and so are the tempers creating such a powerful atmosphere. The whole town seems ready to ignite with the smallest little spark and it’s a close knit community where everyone knows everyone’s business and grudges are never forgotten.

This is the town where policeman Aaron Falk grew up before he was driven out of town. He’s forced to return when childhood best friend Luke becomes the victim in a triple shooting. The police believe it to be a murder suicide, he killed his wife and son before turning the gun on himself, but his parents aren’t so sure. They convince Falk to stick around for a few days and look into things. As he works with the local policeman Raco he also begins to have his doubts that everything is as it seems but what motive could someone have for killing them and how long can Falk stick around in a town where almost everyone seems to hate him.

There isn’t a huge amount of action in this story but it’s still gripping reading. Aaron Falk makes for an intriguing main character with a dark past. Yep it’s a little cliched, detective forced to return home and face his past while investigating a case, but Harper does it so well that you don’t mind. I particularly liked that the author didn’t go down the route of lone detective going against the authorities but instead had Falk forming a partnership with the local police officer and the relationship between them was brilliant.

I loved the methodical nature of their investigation and how they followed the clues, interviewed witnesses and suspects to get to the truth. There isn’t any super high tech forensics or moment of inspiration but rather a good old fashioned investigation where one clue leads to the next. That’s not to say there isn’t the odd red herring or that it’s easy to guess the ending as this story certainly keeps you guessing. I read a lot of mysteries and thrillers but I can honestly say the ending of this surprised me.

If I had one small niggle, and this is just my personal preference rather than a fault with the story, it’s that I felt the author wrapped up a little too much. That’s not to say everything is fully resolved, there is a lot that’s left open (it is the first book in a series after all), but there was one answer in particular that I didn’t want.

This is definitely one I’d recommend if you’re looking for a great mystery that may not be fast paced but is absolutely packed full of atmosphere and tension. I can see Harper becoming one of my favorite authors.

Review: Cold Blood by Robert Bryndza

Cold Blood (Detective Erika Foster, #5)Cold Blood by Robert Bryndza

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another great book from Mr Bryndza.

This is the fifth book in the Detective Erika Foster series but could probably be read as a standalone (although why would you when there are four other great books in the series). The story picks up not long after the events of the previous book and follows a fairly similar format, beginning with the discovery of a body. Bryndza does seem to be upping the ick factor however as this time the body is found dismembered in a suitcase. When it’s linked to another body Erika is positive a serial killer is at large once again (I’m so glad I don’t live anywhere near or know Erika) and fights to get a team to investigate.

The story is told from the pov of both Erika and someone who may have been involved in the murders or who may know who did it. As result this isn’t really a who dunnit but more of a police procedural mixed up with the psychology of a killer. For me it was probably the Erika chapters that worked best. There was something a little unconvincing about the killer(s) story. I didn’t 100% buy into it for some reason.

As far as Erika goes there are bits of her I love and bits that really bug me which I suppose is the sign of a well rounded character. Sometimes I’m cheering her on (mostly when she’s fighting her corner against the big bad bosses) and at others I want to shake her (stop pushing everyone away) but I’m always on her side and want the best for her.

She doesn’t get the easiest ride in this book, it just seems to be bad on top of bad (please give her a break soon) but I do get the feeling that she is starting to change and we can expect better things for her in the future.

There are quite a few secondary characters (her team seems to be ever expanding) and while we don’t get as much of certain ones as I would have liked (McGorry, Isaac) I was very happy that Moss was present throughout and that Marsh made a return. I find the relationship between Marsh and Erika fascinating so it’s always good to have them interacting. They have a long and complicated history and things get even more complicated in this book when he becomes part of the case.

It is a pretty fast paced read and was definitely one I found difficult to put down. The author knows just how to hook you and keep you reading late into the night. I do feel though that I need to highlight a couple of issues with it. I hate doing this because I do love the author and his books but the little mistakes and inconsistencies scattered throughout drove me nuts (for example, “nice weather for ducks” is not an unheard of expression in the UK, the description of the bones in the arm isn’t right, and the twins who can’t be told apart on one page are referred to by the correct names on the next). I’m afraid I’m one of those people who once they spot a couple start spotting everything and I had to drop the rating a little for it.

I also felt like it could have done with a bit more depth and detail. The story would possibly have lost a bit of pace but I do think it would have added to the tension and made me a little more invested in the story and characters. There’s just something a little bit jarring about it at times. It’s so frustrating because it’s so close to being absolutely brilliant but just slightly misses the mark because of small silly things that probably only bug me.

Overall however it is an enjoyable read that I flew through and will continue to recommend to everyone I know. Personally, I can’t wait for book 6.

Thanks to Netgalley and Bookouture for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.


The Blurb

She fell in love with a killer, now she’s one too.

The suitcase was badly rusted, and took Erika several attempts, but it yielded and sagged open as she unzipped it. Nothing could prepare her for what she would find inside…

When a battered suitcase containing the dismembered body of a young man washes up on the shore of the river Thames, Detective Erika Foster is shocked. She’s worked on some terrifying cases but never seen anything like this before.

As Erika and her team set to work, she makes the link with another victim – the body of a young woman dumped in an identical suitcase two weeks ago.

Erika quickly realises she’s on the trail of a serial killer who’s already made their next move. Yet just as Erika starts to make headway with the investigation, she is the victim of a brutal attack.

But nothing will stop Erika. As the body count rises, the twin daughters of her colleague Commander Marsh are abducted, and the stakes are higher than ever before. Can Erika save the lives of two innocent children before it’s too late? She’s running out of time and about to make a disturbing discovery…there’s more than one killer.

Review: Bloody Scotland

Bloody_Scotland_mock_03.indd
Title: Bloody Scotland

By: Lin Anderson,  Christopher BrookmyreGordon BrownAnn CleevesDoug JohnstoneStuart MacBrideVal McDermidDenise Mina , Craig RobertsonSara SheridanE S Thomson and Louise Welsh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fantastic collection of short stories from twelve of Scotland’s best crime writers. Set in twelve iconic buildings there’s a really great mix of stories. From tales of revenge, murder, kidnapping and terrorism to Vikings and a bit of cannibalism I’d say there’s probably something for everyone.

As expected I absolutely loved the stories from my two favourite Scottish crime authors Chris Brookmyre and Stuart MacBride. Brookmyre’s story is set in Bothwell Castle (about a 5 min drive from my house) and reminded me of some of his older books. It’s really funny and had me giggling away on the train to work. MacBride true to form is having another dig at the weather in the Aberdeen area (rain features heavily in all of his books) with a story set in a lighthouse during a hurricane. It’s a very atmospheric story with some brilliant characterisation as always.

Some of the other stories were also brilliant and many from authors I’m less familiar with. I won’t go through them all but definite highlights were Denise Mina’s Edinburgh Castle story which is seriously disturbing, Gordon Brown’s story about a man discovering the truth about his father when he returns for his funeral and E.S. Thomson’s story set in Stanley Mills which creates a brilliant portrait of a not very nice man who gets his comeuppance.

I’m often not too keen on short stories (they’re too bloomin short) but in this I have to say each and every author has created something memorable, with great characters and a real sense of place.

Definitely a book I’d recommend for all crime readers.

I received a copy of this book free from the publishers as part of the blog tour. This has not influenced my review.


The Blurb

In Bloody Scotland a selection of Scotland’s best crime writers use the sinister side of the country’s built heritage in stories that are by turns gripping, chilling and redemptive.

Stellar contributors Val McDermid, Chris Brookmyre, Denise Mina, Ann Cleeves, Louise Welsh, Lin Anderson, Doug Johnstone, Gordon Brown, Craig Robertson, E S Thomson, Sara Sheridan and Stuart MacBride explore the thrilling potential of Scotland’s iconic sites and structures. From murder in an Iron Age broch and a macabre tale of revenge among the furious clamour of an eighteenth century mill, to a dark psychological thriller set within the tourist throng of Edinburgh Castle and a rivalry turning fatal in the concrete galleries of an abandoned modernist ruin, this collection uncovers the intimate – and deadly – connections between people and places.

Prepare for a dangerous journey into the dark shadows of our nation’s buildings – where passion, fury, desire and death collide.

Review: Two Nights by Kathy Reichs


Two NightsTwo Nights
by Kathy Reichs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s been far too long since I read a book like this. I’m really hoping that contrary to the description the author changes her mind and turns this into a series as I definitely want more of Sunday Night & co.


Synopsis

Meet Sunday Night, a woman with physical and psychological scars, and a killer instinct… 

Sunnie has spent years running from her past, burying secrets and building a life in which she needs no one and feels nothing. But a girl has gone missing, lost in the chaos of a bomb explosion, and the family needs Sunnie s help.

Is the girl dead? Did someone take her? If she is out there, why doesn’t she want to be found? It’s time for Sunnie to face her own demons because they just might lead her to the truth about what really happened all those years ago.


Review

Before I start I should probably say that I’ve never read a single book by Reichs and I should also probably say that I’ve never watched the TV show Bones either so if you’re wondering how this compares I’m afraid I can’t tell you. What I can tell you however is that this is a very enjoyable read. Fast paced and action packed but with a lot of detail and some great writing and dialogue, it’s difficult to put down.

It’s one of those very American, cliche ridden stories about an ex cop with a bad attitude who’s convinced to investigate the disappearance of a teenage girl. Sunday Night (yes that is really her name but it totally makes sense if you read the book) is definitely my kind of character. She has the troubled past which she’s burying deep, problems with authority, a need to be constantly armed and a great way with one liners. She’s a risk taker with absolutely no patience and a very short fuse. Basically she’s your usual fictional PI and is absolutely brilliant to read.

The story itself is pretty fast paced with a lot of action and a fairly high body count. There’s terrorism, murder, religious fanatics, child abuse (trigger warning) and a lot of violence and bad language so it’s not for the faint of heart (I’m not sure what it says about me that I love this type of read). Essentially though it follows Sunday as she follows the clues to find out what happened to a missing girl and resolves some of the demons from her past.

The methodical and logical way the author lays it all out is very well done and completely believable. There’s very little in the way of luck or chance, which is often the case in these types of stories, but rather a proper investigation where one clue leads to the next and the next and when Sunday runs out of clues she starts rattling some cages until one comes to her. She’s very tech savvy, open to a bit of breaking and entering and even sets the odd ambush to get what she wants. I did wonder how she could possibly know as much as she did but decided just to go with it.

The other characters in the story are also a little bit cliched (the ruthless rich client, her mentor Beau who keeps trying to help her, the disgruntled detective who doesn’t want her working his case) but they are all executed well and I just took them as part of the fun. Their interactions with Sunnie were probably the highlight of the story for me as there’s a lot of banter and her bad attitude and knack for a good one liner make for some real laugh out loud moments.

There were a few elements of the story that were a little unbelievable and it’s probably not the most unique plot but it is enjoyable. Perfect if you’re looking for something action packed, pretty violent and with a main character who could probably give Jack Reacher a run for his money.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all thoughts are my own.

Review: The Trespasser by Tana French

The Trespasser (Dublin Murder Squad #6)The Trespasser by Tana French

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The latest book in Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series is possibly my favorite so far. It’s not a fast paced story with action on every page (if you’re looking for that try a different author) but a character driven, complex murder mystery with some of the most intense scenes I’ve ever come across.

It definitely reminded me just what I love so much about her writing.Read More »

Book Review: His Bloody Project

His Bloody ProjectHis Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I should have hated this book. It has pretty much everything I avoid when choosing a read, it’s historical fiction, it has an unusual format and worst of all it was on the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize (I have to admit I hear award nominee and avoid like the plague). However, this book proved to be my surprise hit of the year. I loved it and I don’t think I’ve stopped talking about it since.

It’s set in 1869 in a small crofting community in the highlands of Scotland where a brutal triple murder has been committed by 17 year old Roderick Macrae. There’s no question that he committed the crime but there is the question of what drove a shy and intelligent young lad to carry out such a violent crime.

The story is told through a collection of documents beginning with witness statements from the other crofters and Roderick Macrae’s own memoir which describes the events leading up to the event before finishing with post mortem reports, a psychological evaluation and transcripts from the trial.

I think it’s this format that makes this book such a success and is a stroke of genius by the author. Each of the “documents” collected in this novel has a unique voice and perspective on the events which keeps the reader guessing until the end on both Roderick’s motivations and his character in general. They vary in length from a page to almost a third of the book but each and every one is written with such incredible skill that they feel genuine.

The witness statements at the start are among the shortest at a couple of pages each but as well as giving you that individuals perspective on the events, they also create a picture of that individuals character and I could visualize exactly the type of person they were from their words. The post mortem reports are short and factual, as you would expect, but still managed to make me sit up in shock. Reading them I found myself feeling like a detective on the case trying to decipher from the evidence and statements what really, truly happened.

Roderick Macrae’s memoir, written while in prison at the request of his advocate, makes up probably the largest proportion of the first half of the story and is very convincing reading. It gives you a real sense of life in the village and I have to admit had me completely buying in to Roddy’s tale of persecution and feeling sorry for the hard and lonely life he seemed to lead. The murders are described by him in some detail and by the time I got to them I was kind of willing him on. As the perpetrator of these violent acts, and facing a hanging if found guilty, he is however an unreliable narrator and there are some alternative theories put forward which left me questioning his story.

One of these comes from James Bruce Thomson, a psychiatrist brought in by the advocate to try and prove his client not guilty due to insanity. Thomson’s evaluation of Macrae, part of a book he’s written, is included in the collection and presents a very different picture of Roderick. As Thomson himself doesn’t come across as the most likeable character (elitist, rude and arrogant would be a mild description) you can’t really trust his version of events either but it does make you wonder, particularly when he gives his theory on the stand as part of the trial.

I think it was this constant questioning of what really happened that made this such an enjoyable read. I was desperate to talk about it with someone and get their perspective and theories (I think I’m going to suggest it for book club for this very reason). Also, despite my general dislike of historical fiction I think the 1869 Scottish crofting community setting added to the general atmosphere of the story and was so well described that it felt authentic throughout.

This is definitely a book I would recommend (and already have) to anyone and everyone, even if like me they avoid historical fiction and award nominees 🙂

Review: Love You to Death by Caroline Mitchell

Love You To Death (Detective Ruby Preston #1)Love You To Death by Caroline Mitchell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my first book by Caroline Mitchell but I don’t think it’ll be my last.

While I had some doubts about certain aspects of the story and the characters it’s an exciting police procedural with plenty of action and twists that will keep you turning those pages till the very end. I do love a detective story with an interesting lead and DS Ruby Preston is most definitely that.

Read More »

Book Review: Gone Astray by Michelle Davies

Gone AstrayGone Astray by Michelle Davies

My rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars

This book was not exactly what I was expecting from the blurb but it is an enjoyable thriller that once I started I couldn’t stop reading.

It’s not perfect but for a debut novel it’s pretty good and I loved the use of a police family liaison officer as one of the main characters. It definitely adds a unique perspective and I hope there will be more in this series.

Synopsis

The story starts with Lesley coming home from the shops to find the alarm is off and the house empty. She thinks her 15 year old daughter Rosie is out in the garden studying but when she goes looking for her she’s not there. Starting to panic she searches the house before trying to call her on her mobile. When she finds the phone in the garden beside a dark substance she knows something has happened to Rosie and the police are called in to investigate. Has she run away, has she hurt herself and become confused or has someone taken her and why?

Lesley and husband Mack are recent lottery winners but while Mack and Rosie seem to be enjoying the money (new house, designer clothes, the latest gadgets) Lesley is uncomfortable about it and the family relationships are strained. They went public with their win so everyone knows them and almost everyone seems to want something from them. They’ve had to leave most of their old friends behind but don’t quite fit in with the wealthy either. Could the win be something to do with Rosie’s disappearance?

Thoughts

The story is told from three different perspectives, Lesley the mother, Maggie a family liaison officer with the police and a darker character (possibly the culprit) who seems to have a grudge against the family. Having these three different perspectives makes for a fascinating read as it lets you into the heads of victim, investigator and suspect. I particularly liked the authors use of a family liaison officer (FLO) rather than a regular detective. FLO’s don’t typically feature much in detective stories other than being called in to sit with the family while the real detectives go off and solve the crime. This book showed just how important and difficult their job is while also giving an outside perspective on the family, friends and their relationships.

Maggie herself was an interesting and likeable character. She clearly loves her job and is very dedicated to it but sometimes goes a bit beyond her remit, something she was previously suspended for. She’s caught in the difficult position of supporting the family and keeping them informed but also interviewing them and noting everything they say and do as part of the investigation. It’s a bit of a juggling act but she seems to be very skilled at it and has great instincts. What I found most fascinating about Maggie though was her relationship with lead detective Will Umpire. He’s the reason for her previous suspension but requested her on the case. Pretty much every interaction between them is awkward and a bit uncomfortable which is great to read.

As well as her difficult job she also doesn’t have the easiest personal life. She’s single but spends most of her time supporting her sister Lou, who is a single mum of three. Lou could probably be described as fairly demanding, ungrateful and unsympathetic to Maggie’s job but Maggie has a secret and that secret means she feels indebted to Lou.

Rosie’s parents, Lesley and Mack were not my favourite characters but they did come across as quite realistic and their reactions to everything that happens seem believable. Their relationship is fairly strained at times and both react very differently to the disappearance. I’m not a parent so I can’t imagine how I would feel but I could imagine the emotions they were experiencing.

The character I wasn’t so sure about was mystery man and main suspect. It’s maybe just that I’m not quite unstable enough to relate (thank goodness) but I’m not sure I totally believed him as a character. It’s difficult to say a lot about it without giving away spoilers but I just thought some of his behaviour and thoughts were a little over the top and unconvincing.

The pacing of the story is pretty much bang on and I found it quite addictive reading (I finished it in a day). There are a couple of twists but who did it is probably less the point than the investigation and the impact on the family. I had a couple of niggles about dialogue in places but overall I’d rate it a great debut novel.

I will be looking forward to more in the series as I think it has the potential to be really great. As an aside, in the unlikely event of me winning the lottery, I will not be going public.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an advance copy. It will be released in the UK on the 24th March and you can find it on Amazon here.

Book Review: Black Widow by Chris Brookmyre

Black WidowBlack Widow by Chris Brookmyre

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been a big fan of Chris Brookmyre for many years so I was pretty excited to get my hands on his new book Black Widow, the latest in the Jack Parlabane series. While I was a little bit worried at the start I have to say it didn’t disappoint. It’s a very well written, thriller with a lot of twists and turns that keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat until the very end. It’s definitely put me in the mood for more of his books.

Synopsis (from GoodReads)

There is no perfect marriage. There is no perfect murder.

Diana Jager is clever, strong and successful, a skilled surgeon and fierce campaigner via her blog about sexism. Yet it takes only hours for her life to crumble when her personal details are released on the internet as revenge for her writing.

Then she meets Peter. He’s kind, generous, and knows nothing about her past: the second chance she’s been waiting for.

Within six months, they are married. Within six more, Peter is dead in a road accident, a nightmare end to their fairytale romance.

But Peter’s sister Lucy doesn’t believe in fairytales, and tasks maverick reporter Jack Parlabane with discovering the dark truth behind the woman the media is calling Black Widow…

Thoughts

While I am a big Chris Brookmyre fan I have to admit that in the past I’ve leaned more towards the stand alone books or the Angelique Xavier series rather than the Jack Parlabane series. (I found they sometimes wandered a bit too far into political and social commentary for my tastes). As a result I’ve only really read one or two of the Jack Parlabane books and was definitely not up to speed on the series or characters. I found though, that despite this, it was very easy to get into. You’re quickly brought up to speed but in quite a subtle and natural way that mean this book could definitely work as a standalone.

The story starts at the trial of Dr Diana Jager, a surgeon accused of murdering her husband and is told through a series of flashbacks from the point of view of three different characters, Diana (the accused), Ali (the police officer who initially responded to the call) and Jack (a disgraced ex reporter approached by the sister of the victim to find the truth).

At the beginning I have to admit I found the switching narration and jumps through time a little confusing. It would take me a page or two to figure out whose story I was in and where I was in the timeline but I did get used to it and after a few chapters the voices become so recognisable you can identify them almost immediately. Some characters were more intriguing than others as you would expect but I did like all three in their own way.

The biggest draw for me though was Dr Diana Jager and the story of her relationship with Peter. She’s not exactly an objective bystander (being the defendant) but it was fascinating hearing her side of the story. She makes Peter out to be a con man, abuser and not the man she married but the whole time I was questioning her story. She’s a character you can relate to in many ways, an intelligent, ambitious woman trying to stand up for herself in a very male orientated career. I felt sorry for her a lot of the time. However you’re never sure if she’s really a victim in this or just a very clever and manipulative psychopath. I do love a complex character and she is definitely one of those.

Police officer Ali is another woman trying to get by in a male dominated career (a bit of a theme is this book) but is probably a softer and more obviously likeable character. She covered a lot of the police procedural stuff which was interesting but she also added a more human aspect to the police. She’s dealing with a personal crisis while trying to remain professional in front of new partner Rodriguez.

Jack was possibly my least favourite of the narrators. He’s just world weary and a bit of a misery but it was fascinating watching his methodical investigation to get to the unexpected truth.

There are quite a few twists and turns in this book and it definitely keeps you guessing. Was it an accident, suicide or murder? Is Diana a murderer or victim? What was really going on in the relationship? Was Peter the charming man he seemed or did he have an ulterior motive?

I will say, this is not an action packed thriller and it can be a little slow in places. It’s more a study of characters and relationships and is a lot more psychological. Personally I love that but I know others are looking for fast paced action so may be disappointed.

I have to admit it’s put me in the mood for a bit more crime fiction and a lot more Chris Brookmyre. I’m tempted to dig out some of the previous books in the series and give them another try.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend this whether you’ve read any Brookmyre before or not.

Thanks so much to NetGalley for providing me with a copy in exchange for a review.