Helen Grant is one of my favourite YA writers. Her work is a mixture of crime, thriller, and supernatural elements coming together in a blend that is uniquely her own. She combines this with interesting settings—small towns in Germany for her first three books and a number of Flemish cities in her trilogy Forbidden Spaces. The trilogy ends with her latest book Urban Legends, for which I’ll post a review tomorrow. To celebrate the publication of Urban Legends, today Helen drops by the blog to talk about the hint of the supernatural that pervades her work and what draws her to write it.
*** Continue reading
By 29 March, 2015
Posted in crime, guest post, mystery, thriller, YA
You’re living on borrowed time…
A sniper opens fire on a crowded Californian schoolyard but is killed before any children are harmed. When the sniper’s identity is revealed, a media frenzy erupts. Why would they want to take innocent lives?
Psychologist Alex Delaware is brought in to help the kids cope with the ordeal but is drawn into investigating the motives of the would-be assassin. Alex soon finds himself on a bloody and twisted trail into the world of political extremism from which there may be no way back…
Book five in my Kellerman Reread is also the fifth book in the Alex Delaware series. Time Bomb deals with what looks like a school sniping avant la lettre, but it is anything but. However, the more I read these books written in the Eighties the more I’m shocked by how little some of the issues have changed. Not just in terms of the larger issues such as racism and bigotry regarding sexual orientation, but also in things that I thought were typical of the twenty-first century, things such as privacy concerns due to new technology for example. I keep coming back to the old adage “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Continue reading
By 23 March, 2015
Posted in crime, mystery, review, thriller
Jamie Sinclair’s father has never asked her for a favor in her life. The former two-star general turned senator is more in the habit of giving his only child orders. So when he requests Jamie’s expertise as a security specialist, she can’t refuse—even though it means slamming the brakes on her burgeoning relationship with military police officer Adam Barrett. Just like that, Jamie hops aboard a flight to London with a U.S. State Department courier carrying a diplomatic pouch in an iron grip.
Jamie doesn’t have to wait long to put her unique skills to good use. When she and the courier are jumped by goons outside the Heathrow terminal, Jamie fights them off—but the incident puts her on high alert. Someone’s willing to kill for the contents of the bag. Then a would-be assassin opens fire in crowded Covent Garden, and Jamie is stunned to spot a familiar face: Adam Barrett, who saves her life with a single shot and calmly slips away. Jamie’s head—and her heart—tell her that something is very wrong. But she’s come way too far to turn back now.
In the second Jamie Sinclair novel, The Kill Shot, the reader is reunited with Jamie and Barrett, but interestingly, The Kill Shot is not a straight up crime thriller. In fact, to me Nichole Christoff’s sophomore outing read more like a spy novel. I was surprised by this shift in flavour to the narrative, though the general style of the book is very much the same as its predecessor. Jamie remains a kick-ass heroine and I really enjoyed reading about her next adventure. Continue reading
By 19 March, 2015
Posted in mystery, review, thriller
During of the War of 1812, British troops ransacked the White House and made off with valuables that were never returned. Two centuries later, a British curator finds a vital clue to the long-vanished loot. Within hours, the curator is assassinated—and Ayesha Ryder, a Palestinian-born antiquities expert, is expertly framed for his murder.
Who could be behind such a conspiracy? And why do they want Ryder out of the way? To find out, she picks up a trail leading from a mysterious nineteenth-century letter to the upcoming presidential election. As Ryder dodges killers in the shadow of hidden alliances, sexual blackmail, and international power plays, she finds that all roads lead to the Middle East, where a fragile peace agreement threatens to unravel . . . and another mystery begs to be discovered.
Ryder’s rarefied academic career and her violent past are about to collide. And her only hope of survival is to confront a powerful secret agent who has been waiting for one thing: the chance to kill Ayesha Ryder with his own two hands.
Last October I reviewed the first Ayesha Ryder novel, appropriately called Ryder. I really enjoyed this Dan Brown-esque tale with a strong political flavour. So I was really pleased to be able to review the second book as well. Ryder: American Treasure is set six months after the first book and is very much a tale in the same vein as the first, a thrilling treasure hunt, following clues left behind by some of the great figures of history. Yet there were also some very big differences to the first novel. Continue reading
By 10 February, 2015
Posted in mystery, review, thriller
The case against Jamey Cadmus seems open and shut. Found clutching a bloody knife at the scene of a horrifying double murder, he’s a prime suspect in a series of killings that have rocked Los Angeles. Even his lawyer won’t do more than plead diminished responsibility. No one – not the police, not the family, not the lawyers – wants Alex Delaware lifting up stones. But under those stones lies something unspeakable…
The third book in the Alex Delaware series is called Over The Edge and was originally published in 1987. While I enjoyed the story overall, I had a hard time getting into this one. This was partly due to the setup of the book and the slow start to the narrative, and partly due to the fact that in this book Kellerman’s descriptive writing kind of got out of hand. Yet once the book got going and I was sucked into the mystery of figuring out what had happened to Jamey, It became another exciting Delaware adventure. Continue reading
By 9 February, 2015
Posted in crime, mystery, review, thriller
When the present offers no hope for the future, the answers may lie in the past
AJ Flynn has just failed all but one of his GCSEs, and his future is looking far from rosy. So when he is offered a junior position at a London law firm he hopes his life is about to change — but he could never have imagined by how much.
Tidying up the archive one day, AJ finds an old key, mysteriously labelled with his name and date of birth – and he becomes determined to find the door that fits the key. And so begins an amazing journey to a very real and tangible past – 1830, to be precise – where the streets of modern Clerkenwell are replaced with cobbles and carts, and the law can be twisted to suit a villain’s means. Although life in 1830 is cheap, AJ and his friends quickly find that their own lives have much more value. They’ve gone from sad youth statistics to young men with purpose – and at the heart of everything lies a crime that only they can solve. But with enemies all around, can they unravel the mysteries of the past, before it unravels them?
A fast-paced mystery novel by one of the country’s finest writers, THE DOOR THAT LED TO WHERE will delight, surprise and mesmerise all those who read it.
Before The Door That Led to Where, the only book I’d read by Sally Gardner was The Double Shadow. I completely fell in love with that book, which not only offered an intriguing story and wonderful characters, but also had me put my English Lit degree to good use. Thus I was pleased to receive a review copy of The Door That Led To Where, not least because it was a fantasy book set in my favourite of all places, London and it had time-travelling to boot. The idea of a secret door to a different time or place is an old one, who hasn’t wished they had a magic wardrobe at least once as a child or to be able to cross to Platform 9 3/4? In Gardner’s capable hands this premise led to a wonderful story that is not just about solving a murder, but about friendship, love, and the ties that bind. Continue reading
By 4 February, 2015
Posted in fantasy, mystery, review, YA
Deep in the heart of history’s most infamous concentration camp, a man lies dreaming. His name is Shomer, and before the war he was a pulp fiction author. Now, to escape the brutal reality of life in Auschwitz, Shomer spends his nights imagining another world – a world where a disgraced former dictator known only as Wolf ekes out a miserable existence as a low-rent PI in London’s grimiest streets.
An extraordinary story of revenge and redemption, A Man Lies Dreaming is an unforgettable testament to the power of imagination.
After 2013’s wonderful The Violent Century, which I loved, I couldn’t wait to read Lavie Tidhar’s 2014 release A Man Lies Dreaming. Luckily I was in London the week after it was released, so I got to pick up a copy soon after release. And I’m glad I sprung for the hardback version as it’s a beautiful book, physically speaking. The cover is deceptively simple yet very powerful and evocative and is not a dust cover, but has laminated boards, in other words it’s printed directly on the boards. The novel contained within the covers is perhaps not so much beautiful as it is compelling. A Man Lies Dreaming isn’t an easy book to read, at least not for me, but it was absolutely engrossing. Continue reading
By 31 January, 2015
Posted in fantasy, historical fiction, mystery, review
On the bustling docks of the Hudson River, Catherine Ring waits with her husband and children for the ship carrying her cousin, Elma Sands. Their Greenwich Street boardinghouse becomes a haven for Elma, who has at last escaped the stifling confines of her small hometown and the shameful circumstances of her birth. But in the summer of 1799, Manhattan remains a teeming cesspool of stagnant swamps and polluted rivers. The city is desperate for clean water as fires wreak devastation and the death toll from yellow fever surges.
Political tensions are rising, too. It’s an election year, and Alexander Hamilton is hungry for power. So is his rival, Aaron Burr, who has announced the formation of the Manhattan Water Company. But their private struggle becomes very public when the body of Elma Sands is found at the bottom of a city well built by Burr’s company.
Resolved to see justice done, Catherine becomes both witness and avenger. She soon finds, however, that the shocking truth behind this trial has nothing to do with guilt or innocence.
City of Liars and Thieves, Eve Karlin’s debut, is a historical novel based on the first recorded murder trial in New York. Just for this fact alone it would have been fascinating, but it is also a snap shot of the run up to one of the most hotly contended Presidential elections in US history, which makes it even more interesting. To be fair, I didn’t know much about either Hamilton or Burr, but I did know about the continual issue with water supply in Manhattan and I was interested to see how they tied into this. Continue reading
By 21 January, 2015
Posted in historical fiction, mystery, review
Seven-year-old Melody Quinn is the only witness of a horrific double murder but she can’t or won’t talk about what she saw. Child psychologist Alex Delaware is brought in to try and get through to her and to the truth of what happened that night. But it soon becomes clear that Melody isn’t just traumatised by the murders.
Alex is only too aware that LA is a city which spawns ugliness. But is he prepared for the seemingly bottomless pit of perversion and violence that he’s about to uncover?
The first time I read Jonathan Kellerman’s When the Bough Breaks I was probably around fifteen and the last time somewhere around twenty-five. In between I’d reread the series – up to the point it was published at time of reread – several times, but from then till now it has been about a decade. So all in all the timing of this reread seems to be serendipitous to say the least, as I’m now thirty-five. As it’s a reread I’ll be focusing on the experience of rereading the book in addition to the usual review elements such as plot and characters. Continue reading
By 9 January, 2015
Posted in crime, mystery, thriller
Everyone tells her she’s a survivor. No-one knows she’s dead inside.
She’s dead but she’s the only one who knows what really happened;
What your friends have said.
What the police missed.
Who attacked you.
So if you want the truth who else are you going to turn to?
Confession time: I’ve had a review copy of Colette McBeth’s Precious Thing sitting in my to read pile for over a year. And every time I picked it up and put it down because there were all of these SFF and historical fiction titles I wanted/needed to review first. However, when I visited Headline in October, they basically told me I had to read The Life I Left Behind, as it was just that good. And since I’d resolved to read more crime books this year – as I loved the ones I read last year so much, I thought McBeth’s second might be a good title to start 2015 with. It was, because The Life I Left Behind was an enthralling read, one I just couldn’t put down and which kept me awake long after I turned off the lights. Continue reading
By 2 January, 2015
Posted in crime, mystery, review, thriller