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The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman

If you could change the past, would you?

Thirty years ago, something terrible happened to Luna’s mother. Something she’s only prepared to reveal after her death.

Now Luna and her sister have a chance to go back to their mother’s birthplace and settle her affairs. But in Brooklyn they find more questions than answers, until something impossible – magical – happens to Luna, and she meets her mother as a young woman back in the summer of 1977.

At first Luna’s thinks she’s going crazy, but if she can truly travel back in time, she can change things. But in doing anything – everything – to save her mother’s life, will she have to sacrifice her own?

 

This is an outstanding read. A beautiful, beautiful book. Not, I hasten to add, strictly speaking a crime book – though it does have a crime at the heart of it.  Rather it is a magical piece of prose which transports the reader from present day Brooklyn into the past and back again with a lyrical touch that is so light you feel as if you are dancing on air.

Luna and Pia are sisters. After their mother’s death, they travel to Brooklyn to dispose of a derelict property that their mother and her sister jointly owned, but which their mother would never agree to sell while she was alive.

While they are there, they learn things about their mother that they never knew, but which explain a great deal about her and the family life they led.

Then Luna begins to learn more at close hand and finds she is faced with an impossible choice.  Can she do what she must to save her mother – and if she does, what will become of her?

There are some books that require you to suspend disbelief and you struggle to do so. This is not one of them. Like Tinkerbell, whom  Peter Pan saved by getting the audience to believe in fairies, I wanted to believe in this so much that it came easily.

A story of love and sacrifice, of doing all you can for those you love, The Summer of Impossible Things left an indelible mark on my heart.

Buy it, read it. Weep.

The Summer of Impossible Things is published by Ebury Press on June 29th

About the author

rowan

Rowan Coleman worked in bookselling and publishing for seven years before winning Company Magazine Young Writer of the Year in 2001. Her first novel GROWING UP TWICE was published in 2002 and was a WHS Fresh Talent winner. Since then Rowan has written twelve novels, including THE ACCIDENTAL MOTHER, THE BABY GROUP, and RUNAWAY WIFE, which won The Festival of Romance Best Romantic Read 2012, The RoNA Epic Romance novel of 2013 and was shortlisted for the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year 2013 and is the book that inspired Rowan to release WOMAN WALKS INTO A BAR as an ebook (published 10th September 2013) with 100% of her royalties going to Refuge. Her Sunday Times bestselling novel THE MEMORY BOOK was a Richard and Judy Bookclub selection 2014, and Love Reading Novel of the Year, as voted for by readers. Her latest novel WE ARE ALL MADE OF STARS is out now. Rowan now lives in Hertfordshire with her husband, and large family of four children, including surprise toddler twins. Rowan is often quite tired.

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Here and Gone by Haylen Beck

Audra has finally left her abusive husband. She’s taken the family car and her young children, Sean and Louise, are buckled up in the back. This is their chance for a fresh start.

She keeps to the country roads to avoid attention and finds herself on an empty road in the Arizona desert, far from home. Looking for a safe place to stay for the night she spots something in her rear-view mirror. A police car is following her and the lights are flickering. Blue and red.

As Audra pulls over she is intensely aware of how isolated they are. Her perfect escape is about to turn into a nightmare beyond her imagining…

This book has everything you need for a satisfying, dig-in, tension-fuelled read. Audra is escaping an oppressive and abusive marriage. Recovering from the aftermath of too many pills for too long, Audra has plucked up the courage to take her 2 young children and flee New York. She is heading for California, a long drive across country, knowing that with her history of drink and drugs and her husband’s substantial money and influence she would stand no chance of keeping her children were she to stay and sue for custody.

Driving through Arizona, she is pulled over by the local Sherriff for a minor traffic infraction. Suddenly her whole world is turned upside down. For the Sherriff finds a bag of marijuana in her boot and calls his deputy to tow her car with the children into town, while he takes her in.

But when they get to the police cell and Audra asks for her children, she is met with stony faces and a denial that she ever had children with her.

Alone in a state she does not know and under caution, Audra can find no-one who will listen to her story and soon she finds herself the subject of national press attention – accused of the murder of her own children.

Here and Gone is the story of how a mother’s determination knows no boundaries. It deals with one of the most heinous of crimes – against children – and it is a novel of grit and revenge with a breath defying opening and a stunning finale.

The characters are very well drawn, the plot is tight, tense and thrilling and the setting authentic and chilling. I found myself holding my breath for large parts of this book.

Very readable, I thoroughly enjoyed this thriller and look forward to more from this author.

Here and Gone is published by Vintage Digital on e-book now and in hardback by Harvill Secker on 13 July 2017

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About the author

Haylen Beck is the pseudonym of Stuart Neville, an acclaimed, Edgar-nominated author.

Stuart Neville’s debut novel, THE TWELVE (published in the USA as THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST), won the Mystery/Thriller category of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was picked as one of the top crime novels of 2009 by both the New York Times and the LA Times. He has been shortlisted for various awards, including the Barry, Macavity, Dilys awards, as well as the Irish Book Awards Crime Novel of the Year. He has since published six more critically acclaimed books.

His first five novels have each been longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and RATLINES was shortlisted for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger. Juror 8, from the OxCrimes charity anthology, was shortlisted for the CWA Short Story Dagger. THE FINAL SILENCE was shortlisted for the Edgar award.

Stuart’s novels have been translated into various languages, including German, Japanese, Polish, Swedish, Greek and more. The French edition of The Ghosts of Belfast, Les Fantômes de Belfast, won Le Prix Mystère de la Critique du Meilleur Roman Étranger and Grand Prix du Roman Noir Étranger.

Despite this, he is best known for his composition of the theme music for the Two Crime Writers and a Microphone podcast.

The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker

That’s the Four Monkey Killer or ‘4MK’. A murderer with a twisted vision and absolutely no mercy.

Detective Sam Porter has hunted him for five long years, the recipient of box after box of grisly trinkets carved from the bodies of 4MK’s victims.

But now Porter has learnt the killer’s twisted history and is racing to do the seemingly impossible – find 4MK’s latest victim before it’s too late…

 

If you are a lover of cosy mysteries, be warned – this book is not for you. On the other hand, if you like fiendishly clever, psychopathic serial killers with a serious tendency towards sadistic violence, then you have found the book you have been looking for.

Not for the squeamish or the faint hearted, The Fourth Monkey is in the excellent tradition of obsessive cops with sorry personal lives who will go to extreme lengths to get their killer.

Sam Porter is the Chicago homicide detective who has been on leave due to a personal tragedy. For five years he has hunted a serial killer, known to the press as 4MK. 4MK’s trademark is that he leaves pieces of his victims in white boxes tied with black ribbon as an offering to those trying to track him/her down. First it’s their ears, then their eyes…

This killer enjoys leaving clues; it’s almost as if s/he wants to be caught. Each of the previous seven victims has been a young woman. Each has had a close relative who has been guilty of a crime.

So, when Sam gets a call from his partner, Nash, to go to the scene of a traffic accident, he is at first puzzled. After all, he’s on leave and anyway, RTA’s are not his thing. But Nash is insistent that Porter is going to want to see this one for himself.

What he discovers is that the serial killer he has been chasing is apparently the RTA victim. He was carrying one of those white boxes tied up with ribbon and in his pocket is the diary of one sick son of a bitch. The story then alternates between the race to find the latest victim, whose ear is in the box, and the compelling tale of a serial killer in the making.

Will Sam be able to find the victim and will what he learns in the diary help him to get closer to catching his perpetrator?

This is a dark, gruesome, compelling story that draws you deeper and deeper in. Redolent with atmosphere and with well-drawn fleshed-out characters, Barker knows how to push your buttons at just the right moment so that you can feel the horror as it is happening.

Very well plotted and consistently thought through, it is just the kind of deviant crime that I like.

I raced through this one because I needed to know how it was going to end, and I was honestly not at all disappointed. Thrilling and repellent in equal measure, this grisly crime thriller is a must read.

The Fourth Monkey is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on 27 June 2017

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LONGLIST FOR THE McILVANNEY PRIZE SCOTTISH CRIME BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD 2017

Bloody Scotland have announced the longlist for this year’s McIlvanney Prize – and what a fantastic shortlist it is! The winner will be announced at the opening reception at Stirling Castle  and followed by a torchlight procession – open to the public – led by Ian Rankin on his way down to his event celebrating 30 years of Rebus. The award recognises excellence in Scottish crime writing, includes a prize of £1000 and nationwide promotion in Waterstones.

The longlist, chosen by an independent panel of readers,  features 6 male and 6 female writers, established authors and debut writers, small Scottish publishers and large London houses, is:

Lin Anderson – None But the Dead (Macmillan)
Chris Brookmyre – Want You Gone (Little, Brown)
Ann Cleeves – Cold Earth (Macmillan)
Helen Fields – Perfect Remains (Harper Collins)
Val McDermid – Out of  Bounds (Little, Brown)
Claire MacLeary – Cross Purpose (Contraband)
Denise Mina – The Long Drop (Random House)
Owen Mullen – Games People Play (Bloodhound)
Ian Rankin – Rather Be the Devil (Orion)
Craig Robertson – Murderabilia (Simon and Schuster)
Craig Russell – The Quiet Death of Thomas Quaid (Quercus)
Jay Stringer – How to Kill Friends & Implicate People (Thomas & Mercer)

I have read a number of these (links to those I have reviewed above) and it’s pretty clear its not going to be an easy choice.

The judges will be chaired by Director of Granite Noir, Lee Randall, comedian and crime fiction fan, Susan Calman and journalist, Craig Sisterson who between them cover three continents. The finalists will be revealed at the beginning of September and the winner kept under wraps until the ceremony itself.

Previous winners are Chris Brookmyre with Black Widow 2016, Craig Russell with The Ghosts of Altona in 2015, Peter May with Entry Island in 2014, Malcolm Mackay with How A Gunman Says Goodbye in 2013 and Charles Cumming with A Foreign Country in 2012.

Seven of the twelve authors longlisted for this years McIlvanney Prize feature in the Bloody Scotland book of short stories to be launched on the opening night of the festival. I can’t wait to get my hands on this book.

Last year the Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award was renamed the McIlvanney Prize in memory of William McIlvanney who established the tradition of Scottish detective fiction. His brother Hugh McIlvanney OBE, came to Stirling to present the prize to Chris Brookmyre who won it for Black Widow. The book went on to be shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger and is currently on the shortlist for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Prize to be announced at the Harrogate Festival in July.

Bloody Scotland is Scotland’s International Crime Writing Festival, providing a showcase for the best crime writing from Scotland and the world, unique in that it was set up by a group of Scottish crime writers in 2012.  Full information at www.bloodyscotland.com
 

Bloody Scotland is supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland’s Open Project Funding, Stirling Council, the Open University and Stirling University. Bookdonors have remained the title sponsor for a second year running and Waterstone’s will once again be the festival bookseller. There are  a number of new sponsors including: Shetland Distillery Company, National Library of Scotland, Faculty of Advocates and Stirling Gin
 

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The Deepest Grave by Harry Bingham

 

A crime from the past. A murder from the future.

DS Fiona Griffiths is bored. It’s been months since she had a good corpse. Then she gets news; not just of a murder, but of a decapitation, and one committed with an antique sword no less. All that, and, a murder scene laid out like a gruesome crossword clue.

Gaynor Charteris was an archaeologist excavating a nearby iron-age site. Genial, respected, well-liked, it was hard to see why anyone would want to kill her.

But as Fiona starts to investigate, she finds evidence of a crime that seems to have its origins in King Arthur’s greatest battle – a crime so bizarre that getting her superiors to take it seriously is going to be her toughest job. Especially since the crime hasn’t yet been committed.

Fiona Griffiths is a Sergeant in the Major Crimes Unit in Cardiff. She loves the adrenalin rush that a murder hunt gives her and she has been counting the days since she last had a dead body to investigate – in this case 453 days to be precise. As she sits twiddling her thumbs, there are other things on her mind.

Her boss, D.C.I. Jackson has gone off on a break and rumours abound that he may make it permanent. That’s disappointing for Fiona, because she knows her boss understands her way of working, but her newly promoted colleague, Inspector Bleddyn Jones, is a very different kettle of fish, and they get along about as well as chalk and cheese. Jones is very much the procedural policeman. Everything is by the book and he has little time for those such as Fiona who like to follow their own path and work instinctively.

Fiona has a lively personality, but as you learn more about her, you understand that her background and family don’t necessarily lend themselves to the career of a homicide detective, coupled with which, Fiona has a rare mental health condition which flares up from time to time and which will again rear its head during the course of her investigation.

The murder of Gaynor Charteris, a respected archaeologist, has been carried out in a pretty grotesque manner. Decapitated and her head put on display, she has been stabbed with three Iron Age spears.

Bleddyn Jones is convinced that this must be the work of a local ‘nutter’, but Fiona is less convinced and when she befriends a PhD student, Katie at the dig that Katie and Charteris were working on, she soon finds that the picture may well be more complex than anyone understands and she begins to follow a trail that will take her into the world of academia, violent criminals and a vast conspiracy worth millions.

After a slow start, I soon warmed to Fiona and quickly got caught up in the story. Though this is the 6th Fiona Griffiths story, it works perfectly well as a standalone novel, and I didn’t feel I had missed anything not having read all the others.

I enjoyed the mythological aspect of the book (if indeed you believe that the story of King Arthur is mythology) and the way in which Bingham cleverly weaves the story in and out of the legendary King’s time into the present day.

This is an enjoyable story, well told with lots of unpredictable turns and I would happily read more in the Fiona Griffiths series. It’s out in e-book today and is only 99p as I write. Get clicking!

The Deepest Grave is published by Orion on 15th June 2017.

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The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne

When notorious child abductor – known as the Marsh King – escapes from a maximum security prison, Helena immediately suspects that she and her two young daughters are in danger.

No one, not even her husband, knows the truth about Helena’s past: they don’t know that she was born into captivity, that she had no contact with the outside world before the age of twelve – or that her father raised her to be a killer.

And they don’t know that the Marsh King can survive and hunt in the wilderness better than anyone… except, perhaps his own daughter.

Packed with gripping suspense and powerful storytelling, The Marsh King’s Daughter is a one-more-page, read-in-one-sitting thriller that you’ll remember for ever.

When I requested this book, I did so on the strength of hearing other reviewers say that it was good, but I hadn’t, at that stage, seen the blurb.

So when the book started with an extract from the Hans Christian Anderson story, I was unsure what to expect. It did not take long, however, for me to be completely pulled into the story and once I was, I devoured it in 24 hours.

This is terrific storytelling by an author with a strong voice and very individual style. It deals with the lives of a young woman and her daughter, Helena, the titular protagonist. Set in the marshlands of Upper Michigan, an unforgiving part of the country, The Marsh King’s Daughter, tells the story of Helena, born of a sometimes sadistic, always narcissistic father and a cowed and subdued mother whom he abducted when she was just 14 years old.

For most of her young life, Helena did not know what her background was. She only understood that she lived in a backwoods cabin and that her father had to be obeyed and that the punishment for failing to do so would be harsh.

Self-taught in reading skills, her only literature is a diminishing pile of National Geographic magazines and an all too fleetingly available book of poems by Robert Frost. Her mother, unsurprisingly, is no great shakes as a cook – indeed their cabin does not even have an oven, so she grows up on what they can forage and catch and kill.

All Helena knows about the world is what she reads in National Geographic and what her father teaches her. They never see anyone else and thus Helena has a complex and fascinating relationship with her parents.

She quickly learns that her father’s rule is law and as he teaches her to fish and hunt she learns to be as expert a tracker as he is himself.

Early on into the book we learn that Helena’s father has escaped from prison and it is against this backdrop that we learn about Helena’s early life, how she coped once she and her mother did finally get free of their father and how she is able to reconcile those parts of her that she has kept secret from those who are now her closest family.

I loved the writing in this story and the way that Karen Dionne has cleverly woven her emotional material into a tangled web of love, compassion and betrayal.

A first rate book and a five star must read.

The Marsh King’s Daughter was published in ebook by Sphere on 13 June 2017 and in hardback on June 29th

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The Lucky Ones by Mark Edwards

 

It was the happiest day of her life. Little did she know it was also the last.

When a woman’s body is found in the grounds of a ruined priory, Detective Imogen Evans realises she is dealing with a serial killer—a killer whose victims appear to die in a state of bliss, eyes open, smiles forever frozen on their faces.

A few miles away, single dad Ben Hofland believes his fortunes are changing at last. Forced to move back to the sleepy village where he grew up following the breakdown of his marriage, Ben finally finds work. What’s more, the bullies who have been terrorising his son, Ollie, disappear. For the first time in months, Ben feels lucky.

But he is unaware that someone is watching him and Ollie. Someone who wants nothing but happiness for Ben.

Happiness…and death.

This is a book that you slip into without having to re-adjust your expectations. Easy to read, it flows nicely, leading a merry dance across the hills and vales of Shropshire, dropping gentle hints and clues as it goes, while you try to follow sifting the clues as you go, avoiding the dead bodies littering the more obscure bits of the path.

Lovely dad Ben Hofland has returned to the beautiful countryside of his youth with son Ollie, following the break-up of his marriage due to his wife’s infidelity. Ben’s brain is still seared with the image of catching her in flagrante in the marital home.

Ollie still hopes that their move is temporary and that his mum and dad will reconcile. In the meantime he is miserable at his new school and piling on the pounds as he eats his way to try and find comfort (hint to Ollie – it doesn’t work – trust me, I know).

D.I. Imogen Evans is in sleepy Shropshire because she’s escaping a bad decision she made whilst at the Met. A woman who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, her impulsive tendencies led her to fail to stop a junior officer from doing something very stupid, which resulted in a permanent injury for him and a serious black mark on her career.

Imogen would be hiding in Shropshire if only her bright red hair hadn’t made that impossible.

Meanwhile, Fiona, newly fit after a recent heart transplant, is cycling home through the countryside,  after a tryst with her lover, when she sees a white van blocking the road.  Later she is found dead in the ruined priory, a smile on her face and her eyes open. She is the latest victim of a serial killer known as ‘The Viper’.

As Imogen tries to rescue her career and find the link between the killer and his/her victims, Ben and Ollie’s fortunes start to change for the better.

In a compelling and fast paced book, riddled with clues both real and false, Edwards has created a thriller that pleases and puzzles in equal measure.

There’s a lovely contrast between the quiet rural idyll of Ironbridge and the number of brutally killed bodies found in the book.

Compulsive and addictive, this is a psychological thriller I flew through with enjoyment and pleasure.

The Lucky Ones is published by Thomas & Mercer on June 15th 2017

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