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Reviews

November 2013

Graham Hurley - Touching Distance

"I love Graham Hurley’s writing."

Synopsis:
DS Jimmy Suttle is living on his own after his wife and daughter have left, unable to cope with the isolation of their cottage in rural Devon. He is called in to investigate the death of Michael Corrigan, found shot in the head at the wheel of his car with his two year old son still strapped in his car seat at the back. Soon after there are two more killings, all executed with skill and with no apparent motive. Pressure as always comes from above as the Press and public demand answers.

Lizzie, Suttle's wife, is back in Portsmouth pursuing her career as a journalist and on the trail of a story concerning troops returning from Afghanistan. She is helped by a very charming and attractive Captain in the Marines. It gradually becomes apparent that these two strands are linked and collide in a tense and exciting finale.

Review:
I love Graham Hurley's writing. He manages to combine the harsh and practical world of an investigation department with the emotional subtlety needed to portray relationships and individual characters. As always, he provides a very accurate and up to date description of the work of a homicide detective. His descriptions of the motives and feelings of those who are being investigated are so true and add to the rounded feel of the book. You feel that these are real three dimensional people.

Jimmy Suttle is settling down as an excellent successor to my favourite, Joe Faraday. He is maturing both as a character and as a copper. As I read the finale of the book and the pressure and nervous energy increased, it occurred to me that this would make a very good TV series, particularly as the subject is very up to date. 'Touching Distance' is a storming read and is yet another fantastic addition to an already addictive series.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

William McIlvanney - The Papers of Tony Veitch

"‘The Papers of Tony Veitch’ is a grand read..."

Synopsis:
Eck Adamson, an alcoholic who lives rough, calls Jack Laidlaw of the Scottish Crime Squad to his deathbed at the Royal Infirmary, and gives him a cryptic message concerning a gangland killing and a mysterious student called Veitch. When it's discovered that Eck has been poisoned by paraquat, Laidlaw begins to delve into the murky soup that is Glasgow's underworld of crime and violence. Why has Mickey Ballater come up from Birmingham? How is Lynsey Farren, daughter of a lord, involved? What do two Glasgow villains, Cam Colvin and John Rhodes, want with Veitch? Why, in fact, is everyone looking for Tony Veitch and his papers? Where is Tony Veitch? And can Laidlaw find him before DI Milligan of Northern Division does?

Review:
This is the second of the three-volume Laidlaw series, and it was first published in 1983, six years after the first one. Canongate of Edinburgh has now re-issued the books – something that was long overdue. I re-read the first one – simply called Laidlaw - for Crimesquad, and now I'm re-reading the second. How does it fare after thirty years?

Once more, I was swept away. The book works on two levels – as a cracking crime yarn and as a piece of literature that can stand comparison with anything being written today. McIlvanney knows that the secret of great writing is not just 'fine language', but an appreciation of craft. He takes a keen scalpel to dissect Laidlaw's inner workings, and presents a complicated, compassionate, driven man who can solve crime, but cannot solve his personal problems. One of the main characters in this book is Glasgow itself. In so many books set in a sprawling metropolis, the reader sometimes gets the feeling that the only people to populate the place are the characters in the book. With McIlvanney, you know that the story takes place in a city teeming with people, and that the characters form part of a greater whole.

One comment – on the second line of the book, Mickey Ballater becomes Mickey Ballaster for some reason. One would have thought that a good proof reader would have picked up a mistake on the second line!

'The Papers of Tony Veitch' is a grand read, and I'm looking forward to reading the final book in the series – 'Strange Loyalties'.

Reviewed by: J.G.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Ian Rankin - Saints Of The Shadow Bible

"This is vintage Rebus."

Synopsis:
Rebus has managed to return to “proper” policing, albeit as a Detective Sergeant as there was a surfeit of inspectors. He is still part of the Lothian and Borders police force, about to be transformed into two divisions. He is working with Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke, and the new relationship sits awkwardly with both.

The distant past starts to catch up with Rebus when he is asked to a reunion of the unit (known as the Saints) working at Summerhall police station when he was just a lowly DC. Methods of policing were very different then and some of what went on sailed very close to the wind. Rebus was only on the fringes, but how much did he know? Malcolm Fox, from “the Complaints” is investigating a thirty year old case that was handled by the Saints and he would be only too happy to incriminate Rebus.

A car crash with an injured student, a fatal attack and robbery in the home of a minister in the Scottish Parliament, dealings involving a high-powered businessman, formerly one of Rebus' colleagues at Summerhall, all of these interweave and form an intricate pattern that Rebus and Clarke (and Malcolm Fox to Rebus' surprise) have to tease out. Professionally all is in flux as the start of the reorganisation of Scottish policing creeps up. Rebus is exhibiting signs of restraint in his own behaviour, even drinking lime and soda from choice on occasion, In essence though, Rebus is still the gritty determined character of old, with little respect for the new ways of policing.

Review:
As always, Rebus is set very much in the present and the issues of the reorganisation of the Scottish police and the ever present dialogue between the Yes and No voters in the upcoming referendum on Scottish independence colour the whole story. Rebus has mellowed in some respects but at heart he remains a policeman of the old school with scant regard for authority and a strong desire for justice to prevail. This makes for a very interesting and gripping storyline. His colleagues have to earn his respect and the surprise is that his old enemy Malcolm Fox begins to do just that.

The changing relationship between Siobhan and Rebus is also delicately handled. This is vintage Rebus - an exciting well planned story with an exuberant hero who is only slightly subdued by the effects of age and common sense. You get a sense that there is a 'new' Rebus fighting with the 'old' and that makes for exciting reading. But like many readers, I am secretly pleased that the old curmudgeon is back on the police force. We did miss him and pleased to see him back, putting streets of Edinburgh back to rights - even if not always following the rule book!

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Colette McBeth - Precious Thing

"...McBeth conveys the growing relationship between the girls very well. "

Synopsis:
Rachel and Clara were the best of friends at school. When Rachel came to the school it was Clara who took her under her wing, who told Rachel that their friendship was for a lifetime. After school they remained friends despite life's ups and downs. Now in their twenties Rachel ventures down to see her friend, but Clara never shows up at the club. Within a few days Clara's disappearance is front page news and Rachel begins to explore their relationship to try and discover what has become of her best friend, Clara.

Review:
I don't think I am the right demographic for this novel. This is definitely aimed at women of a certain age (most probably older than the late twenties of the two main characters). For me, there is far too much in-depth detail. Do I need to know when Rachel has a shower that she washes with Ren Rose, that she drinks soya skinny latte. Most of this book is made up of descriptions of Rachel's shopping list and what she likes – in great detail which for me slowed the book right down. 'Precious Thing' was like an Aga-saga but with a crime attached to it. I didn't feel any connection with either Rachel or the elusive Clara. In fact, Rachel very much annoyed me. Was that the author's aim? I am not sure. Maybe we were supposed to feel a little sympathetic towards her, but I found Rachel annoying, childish, spoilt and vacuous.

The 'solution' to this book is well trod but I give the author merit for trying, but despite the promise, there was little suspense attached to the main thrust of the plot. If this novel had been leaner and much of the needless information taken out then it could possibly have been better. Unfortunately, the nucleus of the plot was down to co-incidence and the twist, with another twist thrown in on the last page, left me cold. The last 'twist' wasn't needed and left me decidedly deflated. What I will say is that McBeth conveys the growing relationship between the girls very well. Her characterisation was very good here although I felt that Rachel's mother, Niamh was a little stereotypical. This is a competent debut novel but McBeth needs to engage her readers next time with characters you can care about, even if they aren't the nicest of people!

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Nicci French, Tim Weaver and Alastair Gunn - #Youdunnit

"Here are three delicious entrées by three successful writers of their chosen genre. "

Synopsis:
The people of Twitter have spoken! They were asked what they would like to find in a crime story. And they responded in their thousands!

By the end of the week the body had to be found at an abandoned railway station, a bicycle chain found nearby. Even the victim's name and age and the season: Autumn had been decided. The 'hero' had to be a photographer with a penchant for python-skin cowboy boots.

All that was needed were some crime authors to put these random strands together and create a crime and an investigation. Enter, stage right: Nicci French, Tim Weaver and new boy on the block, Alastair Gunn.

Review:
It is very innovative and also very brave to put a plot in the hands of thousands of people on a social media website. Penguin, in association with Specsavers asked their many followers to pitch in their ideas for the perfect murder. When all the 'evidence' was collected it was dispatched to three crime authors. Three crime writers given the exact same details and yet all three delivered totally different stories in concept and feel.

Nicci French give us what I would think of as the archetypal crime story with a very smart little puzzle at its centre. French's novella 'The Following' was decidedly gripping and in some parts, quite emotional. This is a real treat for French's fans as well as a good introduction to this author's work for newcomers.

Tim Weaver's was the more panoramic of the trio, being set in South Africa. Weaver's main character, Raker does make a cameo appearance although I think the story would have been better without him. Weaver wonderfully brings to life the character of Ben Zill and I could have read a whole book about this detective. This story had a marvellous sense of place and again, had a great sense of heightened emotion attached to the story.

'Hashtag, Bodybag' was Alastair Gunn's contribution and I believe the closest of all to the actual brief as suggested by the Twitter followers. Here, Lucinda Berrington (I know, whoever chose that name…) very much takes centre stage and Gunn delivers a nice couple of bodies as well as a gripping good thriller.

All three novellas bring something to the table and you have to give them all a huge round of applause. It must have been daunting to have to dream up a crime story with factors you had no control over.

Here are three delicious entrées by three successful writers of their chosen genre. The fact that these stories are currently free is certainly an added bonus and any reader of crime fiction should take advantage of that immediately. Enjoy!

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Arnaldur Indridason - Strange Shores

"You can’t fail to appreciate and be impressed by the way Indridason has completed his Erlendur story arc. "

Synopsis:
Out in the wilds of Iceland, back where he spent his childhood, Erlendur meets a fox hunter who tells him the decades old tale of Matthilder, a young woman caught in a raging storm as she walked to her mother's house and was never seen again. With the memories of his brother's disappearance at the forefront of his mind, Erlendur finds himself captivated and intrigued by Matthildur's story and begins his own investigation. As the past slowly reveals its secrets, Erlendur uncovers a melancholy tale of love, murder and revenge.

Review:
'Atmospheric', 'haunting', 'a perfect circle', these were just a few of the words buzzing round my head as I closed the cover of Strange Shores, along with a quietly muttered single word, “Wow.”

I had been anticipating this novel for quite some time as Erlendur's last appearance in the Reykjavik series was three books ago, in 'Hypothermia', and I was keen to see the return of one of my favourite 'damaged detectives'. I was also apprehensive as I knew that this was to be Erlendur's last case.

The main story of Matthildur is a tragic tale of hidden truths, regrets and broken families. It is also a tale against which the secondary storyline plays beautifully, the two mysteries complimenting each other in both their similarities and diversity.

For those of you who have followed Erlendur from the very beginning, You can't fail to appreciate and be impressed by the way Indridason has completed his Erlendur story arc. For me, the emotions it inspired hung around me for quite a few days after I had finished, but it was the most perfect ending. I haven't been so affected by the last novel in a series since I was a child reading Agatha Christie.

Reviewed by: J.P.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Julia Heaberlin - Lie Still

"...one of the most exciting writers to appear on the crime scene in recent years. "

Synopsis:
When Emily Page and her husband move from Manhattan to the wealthy enclave of Claremont, Texas, she hopes she can finally escape her haunted past and outrun the nameless stalker who has been taunting her for years. Pregnant with her first child, Emily just wants to start over. But as she is drawn into a nest of secretive Texas women and into the unnerving company of their queen, Caroline Warwick, Emily finds that acceptance is a very dangerous game.

It isn't long before Caroline mysteriously disappears and Emily is facing a rash of anonymous threats. Are they linked to the missing Caroline or to Emily's terrifying encounter in college, years earlier? As the dark truth about Caroline emerges, Emily realizes that some secrets are impossible to hide and that whoever came for Caroline is now coming for her.

Review:
'Lie Still' is written from the perspective of Emily. Emily first appears to be very secretive, hormonal and a bit of a scatterbrain. As the story develops so does Emily's character, proving my first impressions of Emily wrong. Her past is never far away, as once her main secret is revealed, more and more layers are exposed, leaving the reader wondering what else Emily could be hiding.

Each of the women she meets when moving to Texas with her husband for his new job are not what they appear at first. At first glance they are shallow, competitive, self-absorbed, all with secrets of their own. But more is revealed about each character, giving the reasons as to why they may behave as they do. And the first annoyance and irritation that is felt is sometimes replaced by empathy and understanding for their behaviours. Even Caroline, the society queen who seems irredeemable, has her own cross to bear.

The plot felt as though it was written from a character's personal perspective as at time a jumble of thoughts was thrown down on the page. But amongst this was the humourous insight from Emily which lightened the storyline. 'Lie Still' is a mix of relationships, the past and revenge and is as good as Haeberlin's debut novel. This author is a golden find in my estimate and one of the most exciting writers to appear on the crime scene in recent years. I am now eagerly awaiting her next book!

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Val McDermid - Cross and Burn

"...‘Cross and Burn’ is a top notch thriller, written by an author who excels herself with every new book."

Synopsis:
Someone is brutally killing women. Women who bear a striking resemblance to former DCI Carol Jordan. The connection is too strong to ignore and soon psychological profiler, Tony Hill finds himself dangerously close to the investigation, just as the killer is closing in on his next target.

This is a killer like no other, hell-bent on inflicting the most severe and grotesque punishment on his prey. As the case becomes ever-more complex and boundaries begin to blur, Tony and Carol must work together once more to try and save the victims and themselves.

Review:
For me, one of the sure signs that I'm reading a great book is the way my mind starts to compose the review long before I've finished the book. Let's just say it happened very early on with 'Cross and Burn'.

Following on from 'The Retribution', McDermid had left her two main protagonists in a situation where they weren't speaking. To surmount this issue she chose to tell the main story through the eyes of Paula McIntyre with peripheral input from Carol Jordan and Tony Hill. Character is everything for McDermid, and she uses the tension between Carol and Tony to fantastic effect, especially from Paula's perspective, their situation is explored. The peripheral characters which stood out for me are Torin, Fielding and Marie.

The plotting is sumptuous throughout, and as a budding author myself, I could only marvel at some of tradecraft McDermid uses so deftly. The story arc is so cleverly constructed that every situation begets the next in a seamless way which allows the author to manipulate her characters into whatever personal hell she desires for them. McDermid's prose is as faultless as ever, to the extent it never once felt like I was reading this book. Instead the words on the page conjured a rolling movie of the mind.

There's nothing else to say other than 'Cross and Burn' is a top notch thriller, written by an author who excels herself with every new book.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

John Matthews - Letters From A Murderer

"...an immensely engrossing read. "

Synopsis:
New York 1891. Finley Jameson, a leading pathologist currently living in New York, has been appointed from London to investigate a killing which bears a considerable resemblance to the murders committed in Whitechapel by the killer known as Jack the Ripper. The last Ripper murder occurred in 1888 and since then nothing. One theory is that the murderer has moved away. Hence the interest in the murders in New York.

Jameson is paired with detective Joseph Argenti, an honourable and keen detective dedicated to cleaning up corruption in the city, not least amongst the police force itself. Alongside Jameson is his companion/servant Lawrence, a talented but unusual man who has been rescued from an asylum by Jameson. Jameson and Argenti battle to find the killer and to discover any links with the London serial killer. As well as receiving letters from the killer taunting them, they struggle against gangland boss, Tierney who wants no interference with his web of vice in the city. Jameson in particular also has his own demons to face.

Review:
This is a fresh slant on the much studied area of Jack the Ripper. Given the facts that the murders in London were followed by similar crimes in New York and one in New Orleans, Matthews constructs a plausible and exciting story. It is an exciting time in New York with the fresh developments in communications and the development of forensic techniques. The best part of this book is the fast moving story that grips you and constantly surprises you as it turns one way and then another. Even Jameson himself is not above suspicion.

The characters too are sympathetic and intriguing. Set at the turn of the century, the atmosphere of the growing city with fast developing industry and the accompanying underbelly of vice and corruption is beautifully portrayed by Matthews. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it an immensely engrossing read. This book will certainly appeal to many lovers of the crime fiction genre.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Adam Chase - Wicked Game

"The first paragraph was enough to hook me. "

Synopsis:
Joshua Thane is a freelance assassin. His next target is Dr Mary Wilding, a British microbiologist suspected of trading secrets. Breaking into her house, he discovers someone has beaten him to it - she is already dead. The portable hard drive he is ordered to steal is also missing.

About to flee the scene, Thane comes face-to-face with Wilding's teenage son. According to normal rules of engagement, Thane should kill the boy in order to protect his own identity, but turbulent memories from his past trigger a crisis of conscience.

Bewildered by his actions he allows the boy to live and flees the scene. With his own life under threat for apparently botching the job, he embarks on an international quest to find the real killer and redeem his soul. Using his old contacts Thane unravels a conspiracy to develop and detonate an ethnically specific biological weapon. Rogue state, terrorist, or organised crime, whoever has the information, holds the power to deal to the highest bidder.

Review:
It is important, when reading a novel, to be able to like the protagonist. In order to reach the end of the story with satisfaction we need to feel for the main character, see something of ourselves in them, and want them to succeed. Adam Chase is asking the impossible - to like and engage with a hitman.

We usually like our main characters to be an Everyman; a loveable and flawed individual we can take to our hearts and warm to over the 300+ pages. I wasn't sure if I could like a hitman and cheer when he completed his mission.

Our anti-hero is Joshua 'Hex' Thane. He isn't a Hollywood style hitman so don't picture Tom Cruise in Collateral. Thane has a heart and he wants out. Thane also has a dark past which we discover throughout the novel and find out the reason for his career choice and, against my better judgement, I did end up liking him.

The book is written in the first person which gives the story an added sense of urgency and dramatic tension. Unfortunately the endless cliffhangers where Thane's life is in danger are redundant as how would we be reading the story if he didn't survive to tell it?

The blurb calls 'Wicked Game' a tour de force which will grip you from the first page. The first paragraph was enough to hook me. 'Wicked Game' is the first in a new series and we will be meeting Thane again; in what form is unclear. By the final page his task is complete and he is resigned to his fate. I can't see him settling for a job in a call centre though.

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Anne Holt - Death of a Demon

"Anne Holt, like her fellow Norwegian, Jo Nesbo, is concerned with addressing social problems within society..."

Synopsis:
Chief Inspector Hanne Williamson is in charge of a CID unit in Oslo. She has drawn in an old friend and colleague, Billy to join her group. He is a bit of a maverick but works well with Hanne. She is called in to investigate the murder of the head of an orphanage that caters for difficult children. After the murder, a boy, Olav, newly arrived at the orphanage is found to be missing. Hanne believes he may have witnessed something important. This boy is key to the investigation and leads the officers a merry dance as he hides from everyone.
At the orphanage, the staff also have their troubles, and first one and then another seem to have a good motive for killing the Director. She too has a secret life that involves yet another possible suspect. The investigation comes to a close with one of the suspects admitting their guilt but even then things are not necessarily as they seem.

Review:
Hanna is a very sympathetic character who is very much concerned about the people she is dealing with as well as her main objective of finding the murderer. There is a strong plot which twists and turns very satisfactorily. The characters are interesting and the truth about them is slowly revealed, adding to the tension. Anne Holt, like her fellow Norwegian, Jo Nesbo, is concerned with addressing social problems within society and writes sympathetically about the down and out, the drug addicts and those struggling with life.

I was interested in the boy Olav, who disappears after the murder. He is a very fat boy, obsessed with food and quite psychologically damaged. There is a commentary by his mother that runs parallel to the main plot which helps to explain why Olav has his obsession.

Holt's background in the legal profession also adds authenticity to the book. This is the third book in a series about Hanne Williamson. The first to be published in English was '1222', which is in fact the eighth in the series. I really enjoyed this book and would like to read more but am not sure whether to wait till all are translated and read them in series order or just catch up as and when.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Ruth Rendell - No Man's Nightingale

"Anyone who I am acquainted with knows how much I admire this writer’s work. "

Synopsis:
Wexford hears all about the local murder from his over-bearing and talkative cleaner, Maxine who discovered the body. Sarah Hussain is found dead on her living room floor, she has been strangled. Hussain was the Reverend of St. Peter's church, born of mixed parentage who was intelligent and knew in what direction she was going when it came to her faith. An attitude that can easily cause friction with other people. But is it enough to cause murder?

Burden calls on his now retired boss and friend to tap into his thoughts of this crime. Thankfully, retirement hasn't blunted Wexford's senses and very soon he is sensing that people are not being as honest as they should be. Wexford is steered down many alleyways over the parentage of Clarissa, Sarah Hussain's daughter who was born after her husband was killed in a tragic accident. With Burden feeling pressurised to make an arrest, he does so but with consequences that nobody could have foretold. It is this latest crime that eventually, after many months of slow and patient gathering of facts, that leads Wexford to the perpetrators of this heinous crime.

Review:
Anyone who I am acquainted with knows how much I admire this writer's work. However, I am not so blinkered to realise that some of Baroness Rendell's later output has been mixed. On the whole I have enjoyed them but some have been below par, but even Christie was pushed to write a blinder every time when, like Rendell, the number of her novels had reached the seventies. I believe the last Rendell book count was seventy-eight, which I believe surpasses even Christie.

'No Man's Nightingale' starts off well but even from the beginning you feel that there are two time periods over-lapping one another. As Wexford is now retired we know it is based in the present day, but the Kingsmarkham that Rendell portrays certainly has the feel of 50's upper-middle class and not without a whiff of Midsomer Murders intruding, too. It is a bizarre hybrid that Rendell has delivered here and one that I cannot remember her using in any of her previous novels.

Rendell makes much of Wexford's lack of officialdom and appears to revel in the fact that her character, whom she created fifty years ago, has now been stripped of his authority. I can bend the idea that Wexford has so much access to the case despite being retired, but Rendell needlessly reminds her reader of Wexford's position as a member of the public and not as a policeman. It did start to jar after a while.

However, saying that, Rendell displays perfectly her flare of observation and lends a dry sense of humour to some of the mundane moments of daily life. 'No Man's Nightingale' is a mixed affair, although at 280 pages, the story did feel stretched. It may have been a tighter story if reduced in size. It has been some weeks since I read this book and I cannot say that it has stuck in my memory like others of hers I read decades ago. 'No Man's Nightingale' is a very competent mystery but sadly lacks that magical Rendell touch.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Will Jordan - Sacrifice

"...an irresistible page turner. "

Synopsis:
In 2008 in Afghanistan a Black Hawk helicopter is shot down by a surface-to-air missile. On board, along with the crew, is a single passenger, Harrison Mitchell, a senior operative with the CIA. He is taken hostage by a fanatical insurgent group. Mitchell's work in Afghanistan was top secret and he had information that could disrupt the entire War on Terror and cause major problems for the US government.

Ryan Drake and his elite Shepherd team are sent in to rescue Mitchell at any cost. However, within hours of arriving in the war-torn country they are under attack and must fight for their own lives in order to save Mitchell. Before long they are caught in a deadly conflict between a brutal terrorist and the ruthless leader of a private military company. It would seem Drake and his team cannot win this particular battle.

Lurking in the background is a woman from Drake's past, a woman who had haunted him for the past year, a woman who has prayed on his mind and toyed with his emotions. He hasn't seen her since she left him for dead in Iraq and now she is back and wants to help him. However, she has her own agenda and Drake must decide who he can really trust to complete the mission and keep himself and his team alive.

Review:
Picking up one year after the events of Will Jordan's debut novel, 'Sacrifice' is a thrilling race against time novel where the action begins on the first page and does not let up until the gripping finale.

Drake is reminiscent of Jack Reacher from the Lee Child novels, but where Reacher is only answerable to his own conscience, Drake does have a hierarchy in which he has to take orders from. He is reined in by his bosses, but only to a point. Drake is a maverick, a lone wolf, a fighter who will stop at nothing to complete his mission and therein lays the conflict and his potential downfall. His past is littered with enemies baying for his blood and old scores to settle.

'Sacrifice' is set in a masculine environment and does not shy away from the battle-hardened reality of the horrors war produces. Apart from Ryan Drake, the other male characters seem rather bland and lack his raw edginess. It is left to the women to back Drake up and they are more than capable of looking after themselves in the heat of battle.

The return of Anya is a real coup and provides the support to Drake similar to that of Alice and Luther in Neil Cross's excellent crime drama. Drake and Anya make for a strange double act but it works, and there is no 'will-they-won't-they' tension as they already have. The question here is will they again?

'Sacrifice' is well researched and Jordan's description of a country torn apart for decades by war does not focus on the ravages of the landscape but paints a picture of how beautiful the country used to be, could be again and should always be. It is refreshing to see Afghanistan reflected in this way.

The action never seems to let up making 'Sacrifice' an irresistible page turner. The plot twists keep on coming and there are plenty of crosses, double-crosses and triple-crosses to keep you hooked until the very last page.

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Jorn Hier Horst - Closed For Winter

"...I really enjoyed my first taste of this series and would certainly like to have more, please!"

Synopsis:
This book is set in and around Larvik in the south west of Norway, about 105k from Oslo. William Wisting is a Chief Inspector in the CID in Larvik and has just returned to work after a breakdown. Ove Bakkerud is visiting his summer home on the coast to close up for the winter when he discovers that the cottage has been ransacked. When he goes to investigate next door he discovers a body badly beaten. Further investigation in nearby cottages reveals more thefts and vandalism.

Wisting is called to investigate. He is particularly concerned as his daughter is staying at their summer cottage not far away. Whilst she is there she discovers yet another body lying in an abandoned boat. As Wisting investigates he finds clues leading to international crime and implicating a well-known television presenter. As a curious thread running through the story dead birds are found dropping from the sky adding to the feeling of unease and danger.

Review:
This is the second book published in English but is in fact the seventh in the series about Chief Inspector Wisting. I particularly liked the introduction to the book that set the current novel in context and brought the reader up to speed on where Wisting is now.

This is a classic police procedural where the police use all the modern tools of the trade to track down the killer. As Jorn Lier Horst is still head of investigations in Larvik, the facts and the feelings about crime investigation are totally accurate and genuine. This does give a truly authentic feel to the book. I also think it makes for realistic plotting, as several leads and strands are involved and there is not a clear answer to the problem. I do hope that more of his books are translated as I really enjoyed my first taste of this series and would certainly like to have more, please!

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

David Ellis - The Last Alibi

"‘The Last Alibi’ is a great book which I literally could not put down until finished. "

Synopsis:
Defence attorney Jason Kolarich is back in another edge-of-your seat thriller and this time he may find himself in over his head, in more ways than one. James Drinker is a bit of an oddball. A funny looking, geeky loner, he walks into Jason Kolarich's office one day with a pre-emptive concern: two women have recently been murdered, seemingly by the same killer, and Drinker thinks he will be the police's main suspect.

One woman was his ex-girlfriend and the other was a friend. He's the only link between the victims and he has no alibi for the night of either murder and surely the police will realize it soon. Believing he's the target of a frame-up, Drinker hires Kolarich for his defence. However, there is something about James Drinker that appears 'off' from the start, but Kolarich doesn't give it too much thought. Until another murder occurs. And then another. And as he begins to probe his client's life and story more closely, it quickly becomes clear that nothing about James Drinker is what it seems and that the target of the frame-up isn't Drinker, but Kolarich. Unable to stop a serial killer and prove his own innocence without breaking his sworn attorney-client privilege, Jason Kolarich must hunt for the truth about Drinker, the series of brutal murders, and why he's been set up to take the fall. The answers will be beyond anything he could ever have imagined.

Review:
Jason Kolarich has featured in Ellis's previous novels. In these books, Kolarich has been successful, arrogant and upbeat. However, in 'The Last Alibi', Kolarich is now addicted to prescription pain killers (which seems to be common with a lot of authors and I am still unsure as to why there is a fashion for protagonists to have this addition). Still working with his long-time friend and business partner, Shauna, Kolarich's life starts to spiral downwards with his latest client.

He also becomes romantically involved with a new woman. From the start there are alarm bells ringing when Alexa Himmel comes into his life although I wasn't sure what problems she would yet cause. Both the new client and Alexa will cause issues for Kolarich who is struggling to contain his addiction, but the plot is excellently written and keeps twisting and changing right until the end.

I would have preferred for the book to be written from just one perspective rather than changing from chapter to chapter as I found this off-putting at times. There was a balanced mix of thriller together with the clever legal courtroom footwork, rather than it being all legal based which can become a little tiresome.

Ellis has managed to keep his main characters or Kolarich and Shauna fresh and keeps developing them instead of allowing them to become worn and repetitive. 'The Last Alibi' is a great book which I literally could not put down until finished.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating: