In Association with Amazon.co.uk


Reviews

Sep 2005

Faye Kellerman – Straight into Darkness

“There are no “heroes” in this novel… even in a degenerating city, moral choices between good and evil can be made.”

Synopsis:
Set in Munich in the late 1920s, Hitler’s brown shirts are creating anarchy in the city and police and citizens live in a constant state of fear. In the midst of this chaos, a series of young women are murdered and Inspektor Berg seeks to find the sadistic murderer before innocent Jews are charged with the crime.

Review:
This is a gripping and well-researched crime novel. The depiction of Germany during the rise of fascism provides a fascinating backdrop to the investigation and I was enthralled by the historical detail provided to create the atmosphere of corruption and retribution. Police and citizens alike are sucked into the lawlessness of the city.

There are no “heroes” in this novel. Each character has their shortcomings and the impact of their choices can be devastating. But the characters convinced me and ultimately Kellerman argues that even in a degenerating city, moral choices between good and evil can be made.

Reviewed by: S.W.

CrimeSquad Rating


G. M. Ford – A Blind Eye

“I thoroughly enjoyed the book and was unable to put it down. Highly recommended.”

Synopsis:
Frank Corso has already survived a defrocking by The New York Times following his alleged fabrication of a major crime story. Having since recreated himself as a true crime writer he can ill afford to have his credibility questioned again. So when, in A Blind Eye, he is subpoenaed to back up his book’s bestselling boast about a Texas high society murder, Corso disappears into the upper Midwest with his photographer (and former lover), Meg Dougherty – only to stumble onto one of the most horrific stories of his career.

Seeking shelter after an SUV accident in tiny, blizzard racked Avalon, Corso discovers the bones of Eldred Holmes and his sons shoved beneath an abandoned barn. Neighbours thought the family had moved away 15 years before. Bargaining with Avalon’s sheriff to stay free of the Texas authorities, Corso agrees to investigate the killings. His search for Eldred’s wife, Sissy, leads Corso to a slain nun, a fire that destroyed a family and a desperate and deadly ambush. It doesn’t take the rangy Corso long to realise that he is dealing with a controlling killer who is immune to remorse.

Review:
This book is easy enough to get into, but because it forms the continuation of the Frank Corso series, there is the perennial problem of several references to previous books and plots that are left unexplained. I also found some chapters were sometimes unconnected to the main story and left wondering about their relevance.

Corso, whilst an affable enough individual, seemed always to have luck on his side when evading the law, making the plot less plausible but also more amusing. All that said, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and was unable to put it down. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating


Kate Mosse - Labyrinth

“This is a gripping story, which moves along at a cracking pace.”

Synopsis:
Kate Mosse is an author, broadcaster, commentator and co-founder of the Orange prize for fiction. This book is the first of a trilogy based in South West France and is essentially a quest for the Holy Grail which turns out not to be quite as expected.

The book is set both in the present, where the heroine is Alice helping out on an archaeological dig, and also in thirteenth century France where the heroine is Alais, a young girl in Carcassone at the time of the Fourth Crusade. There is some strange link between the two heroines, and there are parallel characters in both times. The influence of the older characters extends through the centuries. The two stories intertwine and the various twists and turns end with a satisfying conclusion.

Review:
This is a gripping story, which moves along at a cracking pace. There is plenty of action and the characters are sympathetic. The details of the region of the Languedoc are knowledgeable and fascinating. I particularly appreciated the details of the old language and felt it added to the atmosphere built up for thirteenth century France. This is a real adventure story that takes you along with it, anxious to know the outcome. The heroines are definitely powerful and competent young women who meet all their setbacks with initiative and courage. A good read.

For those of you who are interested, Kate Mosse discusses the process of writing at www.orangelabyrinth.co.uk.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating


Andy Oakes – Dragons Eye

‘…Andy Oakes writes with authority about the city’s underworld and penal system.’

Synopsis:
In Shanghai, eight bodies that have been shackled together and mutilated beyond recognition are pulled from the Huangpu river. Sun Piao, an investigator with the homicide squad works to reveal their identities but it is soon clear the police, medical profession and politicians will resort to murder to ensure that the deaths remain unsolved.

Review:
This is a complex and involving thriller that moves between countries and characters to weave an intricate plot. The threads of the novel are slowly drawn together until, at the end, the true extent of the crimes becomes clear.

I thought the descriptions of Shanghai were breathtaking and Andy Oakes writes with authority about the city’s underworld and penal system. The investigator Sun Piao holds all the characteristics of a classic detective – tenacity, hatred of bureaucracy, and obsession with solving the murders – but in Shanghai this puts his life constantly at risk and violence and death are constant throughout the novel. This was an absorbing read and I would highly recommend it.

Reviewed by: S.W.

CrimeSquad Rating


Jack Kerley – The Death Collectors

‘…even people not involved with the crime themselves are interested in collecting ‘artefacts’ used by the killers.’

Synopsis:
Thirty years after his death, Marsden Hexcamp's 'Art of the Final Moment' remains as sought after as ever. But this is no ordinary collection. Hexcamp's portfolio was completed with the aid of a devoted band of acolytes – and half a dozen victims, each of whom was slowly tortured to death so that their final agonies could be distilled into art.

When tiny scraps of Hexcamp's 'art' begin appearing at murder scenes alongside gruesomely displayed corpses, Detective Carson Ryder and his partner, Harry Nautilus, must go back three decades in search of answers.

Meanwhile an auction has been announced and the death collectors are gathering. These wealthy connoisseurs of serial-killer memorabilia will pay millions to acquire Hexcamp's art – unless Carson and Harry can beat them in their quest for the anti-grail.

Review:
This book has a somewhat different twist to the usual crime fiction by using the notion that even people not involved in the crimes themselves are interested in collecting ‘artefacts’ used by the killers.

The crime novel requisite team of two detectives are, in this case, saddled with the anchorwoman from the local TV station, (which brings an element of humour to the story) following an altercation with Carson and a cameraman.

I found the book a little hard to get into but once the story was in full swing, it was almost impossible to put down. I will certainly be reading Kerley’s next release in the Carson/Nautilus series to see how the developing relationships progress.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating


Stacy Horn - The Restless Sleep

‘This true account of New York’s cold case squad is not for the faint hearted.’

Synopsis:
This non-fiction account of the work of New York’s “cold case” squad details the wide range of unsolved cases the special unit has to deal with. From a murdered young woman in the 1950s to drug related killings seen by the dead couple’s young children in the 1990s, the specially chosen NYPD policemen have to sift through old evidence and attempt to resurrect cases that have long since gone cold.


Review:

This true account of New York’s cold case squad is not for the faint hearted. It portrays the stark reality of murder in the US city and the crimes are recounted in grisly detail. However, the book is full of fascinating insights. The account of the warehouse where many decades of scene-of-crime evidence are kept is fascinating and you feel for the investigators as they try to track down key evidence that has been routinely thrown away. Stacy Horn also gives a sympathetic portrayal of the individual detectives who make up the cold case squad and their dedication to ensuring that each murder is investigated as far as it can go.

Only a proportion of the cases are ever solved and this book succeeds principally as homage to the lives of the victims and to the police squad which refuses to let the victims’ murders be forgotten.

Reviewed by: S.W.

CrimeSquad Rating


Chris Simms - Killing the Beasts

‘The murders were bizarre in the extreme…’

Synopsis:
Set in Manchester in the aftermath of the Commonwealth Games, a serial killer is murdering young women and DI Jon Shriver is called upon to lead his first major murder investigation. Meanwhile, his friend, Tom Benwell, is suffering from burnout from his job in advertising and, as his marriage falls apart, the two men find themselves increasingly sucked into this complex murder case.


Review:

This urban thriller was an enjoyable read with the main protagonists’ characters well developed. The writer is obviously at home in the world of advertising and I found his portrayal of the ad agency particularly convincing. The murders were bizarre in the extreme, however, and the reader will need to come to their own conclusions as to just how believable they were.

Chris Simms obviously knows south Manchester well and I enjoyed the descriptions of the city and its urban landmarks. The plot was well thought out, and DI Jon Spicer’s character will hopefully be explored in further books. Another new detective to watch out for!

Reviewed by: S.W.

CrimeSquad Rating


Karin Slaughter – Faithless

‘The characters are further developing and becoming much more rounded.’

Synopsis:
A walk in the woods takes a sinister turn for police chief Jeffrey Tolliver and medical examiner, Sara Linton, when they stumble across the body of a young girl. Incarcerated in the ground, all the initial evidence indicates that she has, quite literally, been scared to death. Detective Lena Adams, talented but increasingly troubled, is called in from holiday to help with the investigation. The trail soon leads to the neighbouring county where there is an isolated community and a terrible secret.

Review:
This latest book continues to follow Sara and Jeffrey through another series of murders. Slaughter’s characters are further developing and becoming much more rounded. Lena Adams in particular is growing as a very strong character and all the more likeable for her troubled past. However, I found Sara somewhat irritable during this novel. Although not as compelling as her previous books, it is certainly an enjoyable read.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating