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Reviews

December 2013

Matthew Pritchard - Scarecrow

"Make yourself a large pot of coffee, get comfortable in your favourite chair and prepare for a 302 page rollercoaster ride."

Synopsis:
Danny Sanchez is a hard-bitten journalist working in the Almeria region of Spain. He is sent to cover the demolition of the home of a retired British couple and stumbles across a much bigger, and more grisly, story than he could ever have imagined.

As the diggers move in and begin to tear down the house, a partly decomposed body is revealed dangling amidst the rubble. The story leads Danny to a family of vicious cowboy builders, a missing drug-addicted teenage boy and a house with a secret wall, which, once torn down, will reveal a Pandora's Box of horror.

Alternating between Spain and England, the story takes us into the mind of the determined and highly-driven journalist, Danny Sanchez. He is an expert at obtaining information from even the most recalcitrant of informants and he will stop at nothing to obtain the truth.

Review:
Make yourself a large pot of coffee, get comfortable in your favourite chair and prepare for a 302 page rollercoaster ride.

Scarecrow is one of the best debut novels I have ever read. The story is gripping and real; the characters are all well-rounded and wonderfully flawed individuals and the pace is electric. What Matthew Pritchard has done is almost impossible. He has written a debut novel of epic proportions that transcends language barriers and countries and never falters from the story, nor gets bogged down with unnecessary detail.

As a journalist maybe I'm a tad biased but Danny Sanchez is the reporter I always wanted to be. He's a fighter and once he gets his teeth into a meaty story he doesn't let anyone (not even his editor) get in the way of him uncovering the truth. I would have loved his true grit and determination yet working in a regional daily I was often reeled in by an editor with one eye on the budget and the other on pleasing the advertisers. However you don't need to be a journalist to relate to our protagonist; he's an everyman.

A lesser writer would have filled the book with images of the beautiful scenery of Spain, the glorious weather, the beaches and the rich blue sea and, when the story moves to Britain, would have compared the two countries through the bleakness of England and its constant grey skies. Pritchard hasn't done any of that. He's allowed the story to lead the characters and the reader.

The serial killer plot is highly original and engaging. Every aspect is well researched and well-written. The plot twists (and there are many) are well staggered which will keep you turning the page well into the night. This really is a one-sitting novel. You will find it extremely difficult to put down once you begin. And when you do put it down I suggest you sleep with the light on.

I don't know if Danny Sanchez will feature again in any subsequently Matthew Pritchard novels but I certainly hope he will. Pritchard is a novelist to watch; a few more novels like this under his belt and he will be rubbing shoulders with the best in the business.

Do me one small favour; when you've read this novel, tell your friends about it. This should be read by all fans of the genre.

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Martyn Waites - The Woman in Black: Angel of Death

"It is always difficult to do justice to such a modern classic as ‘The Woman in Black’."

Synopsis:
It is during the Second World War and the bombing in London has reached fever pitch. Eve Parkins a young school teacher has been selected to accompany a small group of school children along with their headmistress, Jean Hogg. The adults believe they are taking their young charges to a safe haven, but unknowingly are about to take them to a place of evil and hatred: Eel Marsh House.

On arrival, the group try to make the best of a bad lot. No matter how much they try to clean the place and make it habitable, the black mould on the walls appears to their very eyes to move and creep along the slimy and cracked walls of the forbidding and isolated house.

Soon, Eve sees the 'Woman in Black' and very soon it becomes clear that the children are in danger and she is the only one who can lead them to safety, but there will be casualties before their final escape – and even then the reach of the 'Woman in Black' is long and grasping…

Review:
Firstly let me say that I have enjoyed many of Martyn Waites' novels and he is an exemplary novelist. 'The White Room' is always my recommendation regarding this author. It is always difficult to do justice to such a modern classic as 'The Woman in Black'. I have to be fair that Waites' first foray in to this genre has been restrictive. He was handed the script of the new movie and told to write the novelisation. So, his hands were tied from the beginning. As the script was completed before Waites came on to the scene, I am inclined to feel that this is a poor substitute written by some unknown who hasn't the least idea how to write an 'eerie' or 'creepy' ghost story, but has followed the usual plotlines in films that have treaded this ghostly path many times before.

This latest offering does not have an iota of the insidious, chilling malevolence of Hill's original. As you read Hill's book you could feel the fog swirl around your ankles and kept expecting to see that haunted pale face filled with hatred, looking over your shoulder. In Waites' offering the story was passable but unfortunately there was not a hint of a menacing atmosphere. What I will say is that Waites should not be put off by this outing as I think he must have another go at this genre. Without his manacles and free to allow his imagination to run wild, alongside his love of the genre, I believe Waites could deliver a very credible and frightening ghost story. It is just unfortunate he was not allowed to do that here.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

James Lee Burke - Light of the World

"Once again, JLB has come up with a nuanced, lyrical and spellbinding read. You’d be mad to miss it."

Synopsis:
When Detective Dave Robicheaux's daughter, Alafair, declares her intention to interview a convicted serial killer called Asa Surette in his Kansas prison cell, he does all he can to dissuade her. Dave has always encouraged her ambitions as a writer, but as a father he doesn't want her to be exposed to a man so nakedly evil. And his fears seem well founded when Alafair is visibly shocked by the encounter.

Two years later, the horror Surette evoked is all but forgotten, as Dave, his wife Molly and Alafair are vacationing amidst the natural beauty of Montana. But evil, it seems, has followed them into this wild paradise. Someone is stalking Alafair, and Dave begins to suspect that it's Surette - even though he officially died when the prison truck he was being transported in collided with an oil tanker. Is Alafair now the target of one of the most depraved serial killers ever to have been caught, or has she unwittingly crossed paths with a murderous psychopath closer to home?

Review:
Some writers come up with books that you rip through, anxious to get to the end. Mr Burke writes books with that same feel but tempers it with moments where you need to slow down and savour the words on the page giving you an altogether more immersive reading experience.

As a long-time fan of JLB I'm happy to report that here, in his latest outing, his skills are every bit as potent as they were in book one. Good vs. evil is a constant theme in his books and 'Light of the World' continues that examination with verve.

His characters are all in fine form, each exhibiting touches of both sides of the good/ evil divide, none more so than Gretchen, Clete's daughter he never knew he had. This is still very much a Dave/ Clete novel but both of their daughters step up and take a bigger role in the story this time round.

For some writers this might have been a tricky proposition. Readers are highly loyal to characters that they have come to know and love and might have been disappointed to see their favourites usurped slightly on the page. But Alafair and Gretchen are such strong characters in their own right that this was never in danger of happening. Indeed, there were times when the action of the book put the ladies in danger and I couldn't bear the thought of anything bad happening to either of them, so much so that at one point I had to put the book down for a wee break. That beautifully conjured sense of danger is a testament to this writer's skill.

Gretchen is one of the most fascinating characters I've come across in crime fiction recently. Conflicted, damaged and capable of great wrongs she nonetheless commands the reader's respect and empathy. Once again, JLB has come up with a nuanced, lyrical and spellbinding read. You'd be mad to miss it.

Reviewed by: M.M.

CrimeSquad Rating:

James Patterson - Merry Christmas, Alex Cross

""

Synopsis:
It is Christmas Eve and Alex Cross is settling down with his family to see in the festive season. Then Cross receives a phone call. A father has taken his children and ex-wife hostage in the family home they used to share. High on crystal meth and alcohol, he threatens to kill them all.

In another part of D.C. an old adversary of Alex's is preparing to bring the country to its knees through a terrorist attack of huge proportions with countless lives at stake. As Alex's Christmas goes from bad to worse in a single night there will be many dead bodies before the perpetrators of this heinous scheme are brought to justice.

Review:
You more or less know what you're going to get when you crack the spine of a James Patterson. They normally follow a set formula and despite recognising the familiar terrain they tend to give you a few hours entertainment. The short, sharp chapters are still present and they do tend to speed the narrative along even if the story is a little extreme.

The strange thing with this book is that it actually contains two stories which are not related to each other besides Cross being involved. The hostage situation at the beginning was quite thrilling and the part of the book I enjoyed the most. It is when the terrorist Doctor Hala al Dossari enters that the book suffers. The hunt for al Dossari felt laboured and thin when spread over so many pages. The book definitely nose-dived during the interrogation part which made for very uncomfortable reading and I was surprised it was allowed to be kept in the book. I know this sort of interrogation happens in the world but if you are going to write about such a delicate issue then the author needs to choose his words very carefully. Patterson deals with a sensitive issue in a heavy handed manner and delivers a crass scene that can only show the Americans in a very bad light indeed. My advice would be to read the hostage part of the book and then dump the rest. Not his best but engaging despite the end.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

George Pelecanos - The Cut

"...at times a high voltage thriller with actions scenes as vital and exciting as any you will experience in the genre."

Synopsis:
Spero Lucas, a young Iraq vet is working as a PI in Washington DC but with a sideline in finding lost items - the kind of items the owners can't go to the police about. This time Spero is trying to find a painting belonging to a sexy young woman who was scammed out of it by a super-smooth con artist, part of a team of ruthless thugs. Spero tracks the painting down but the woman is brutally attacked to warn him off.

Spero goes on the attack and takes the gang out one by one in their isolated house in the woods - prompting the question: have his experiences in Iraq turned him into an amoral killer no better than the crooks he's up against?

Review:
Pelecanos is one of those writers. You know, the ones who move straight to the top of your to be read pile as soon as their book hits the shop? And while I wasn't disappointed with this latest venture, for me it didn't quite hit the same heights as his previous books.

A fascinating aspect of the book is how Pelecanos invests his young protagonist with a strong dose of moral ambiguity. Is he a good guy or a bad guy? His motives are good aren't they? But his actions are less than wholesome. The author suggests that Lucas' character has been tempered in the white hot heat of modern warfare and gives us glimpes into a world where even the most level-headed and morally secure couldn't help but be affected. For this aspect alone 'The Cut' is worth a read, few authors today examine the iniquities foisted on our young men and women by present day war-machines so effectively. Indeed, part of the appeal of a Pelecanos novel, for me, is the socio-political commentary he injects into his novels and Spero provides a perfect foil for these observations. He doesn't shy from observing the actions of the US foreign policy or the social and economic decline in parts of Washington DC just streets away from the power brokers in which is, of course, the capital city of the richest country on the planet.

These elements aside, 'The Cut' is at times a high voltage thriller with actions scenes as vital and exciting as any you will experience in the genre. As I said earlier, this book didn't quite hit the heights of previous books, but nonetheless a below-par effort from Pelecanos is still streets ahead of much of the competition.

Reviewed by: M.M.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Ace Atkins - The Lost Ones

"...there is one tremendous shoot-out scene that had me reading in bed well beyond the time I normally turn off the light..."

Synopsis:
After serving in Afghanistan, Quinn Colson returns to Tibbehah County, Mississippi, to become its sheriff, following in his father's footsteps. It isn't long before he is called to a house to find worrying scenes of child neglect. There are thirteen empty, filthy cribs and a shoebox full of money. Janet and Ramon Torres have disappeared, but Quinn is certain they'll return for the money. Meanwhile, his boyhood friend Donnie Varner is gun-running between the USA and Mexico, his drug and drink crazed sister has returned – cleaned up she says – and problems of a more personal nature, in the form of Dinah Brand, a Federal agent, and Lillie Virgil, his deputy, have to be dealt with.

Review:
I always look forward to reading an Ace Atkins novel, even though some of his dialogue – which no doubt accurately reflects the way people speak in America's Deep South – is sometimes impenetrable to my British ears. But that's no big deal, as his books are always meticulously plotted, well-written and eminently readable. Ace himself lives in the city of Oxford, Mississippi, so he knows the state, and the people living in it.

Not only that, he's the former crime reporter for the Tampa Tribune in Florida, so he also knows about the crime bosses, the drugs cartels, the wise guys, the hangers-on, the dangers, the major scams, and the American criminal mind.

The book is fast-paced with just enough calm moments (usually when Quinn is at home with his mom and family) for the readers to catch their collective breaths. The calm moments, however, are never short of tension, as Quinn can't let go. He sees no line between his private life and his job as sheriff. His concern for his sister Caddy provides a satisfying subplot, with, well into the book, an explanation as to why she is the way she is, and why Quinn feels guilty about her.

And there is one tremendous shoot-out scene that had me reading in bed well beyond the time I normally turn off the light and go to sleep!
Though not his best book, 'The Lost Ones' is still well above your average American 'sheriff's department' novel. Quinn is not a superhero – he is flawed, he has a back story which impinges on the way he operates, yet he is fair, dedicated, and has an innate sense of decency.

Reviewed by: J.G.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Janet Evanovich - Takedown Twenty

"...Evanovich has lost none of her sparkle and wit that was first shown in ‘One for the Money’."

Synopsis:
New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum knows better than to mess with family. But when powerful mobster Salvatore “Uncle Sunny” Sunucchi goes on the lam in Trenton, it's up to Stephanie to find him. Uncle Sunny is charged with murder for running over a guy (twice), and nobody wants to turn him in - not his poker buddies, not his bimbo girlfriend, not his two right-hand men, Shorty and Moe. Even Trenton's hottest cop, Joe Morelli, has skin in the game, because - just Stephanie's luck - the godfather is his actual godfather. And while Morelli understands that the law is the law, his old-world grandmother, Bella, is doing everything she can to throw Stephanie off the trail.

It's not just Uncle Sunny giving Stephanie the run-around. Security specialist Ranger needs her help to solve the bizarre death of a top client's mother, a woman who happened to play bingo with Stephanie's Grandma Mazur. Before Stephanie knows it, she's working side by side with Ranger and Grandma at the senior centre, trying to catch a killer on the loose - and the bingo balls are not rolling in their favour.

With bullet holes in her car, henchmen on her tail and a giraffe named Kevin running wild in the streets of Trenton, Stephanie will have to up her game for the ultimate takedown.

Review:
Stephanie Plum may be back yet again for her twentieth appearance, but Evanovich has lost none of her sparkle and wit that was first shown in 'One for the Money'. With a plot that is hard to believe, giraffes appearing in the street, cars being stolen or crushed, the folk of Trenton think nothing of anything that happens around them.

Stephanie is like an old friend. Albeit an old friend who has a failed career, no money, and is a walking disaster. Despite her being quite so accident prone, this doesn't seem to stop the attention she receives from the two men in her life, Morelli and Ranger. Grandma Mazur also features in 'Takedown Twenty', and she remains as comical and mad as ever.

Evanovich has really managed to hit on a winning formula with Stephanie Plum, Lula, Ranger, Morelli and Grandma Mazur. With her parents being the only grounded characters in the book, 'Takedown Twenty' is sure to make you laugh.

As always in Evanovich's novels, there is the hint of a mystery that needs to be solved, but as always in Evanovich's novels, by the time the end of the book is reached, you will have enjoyed the characters and their antics so much that the mystery is all but forgotten. These novels are books that are read purely for enjoyment and 'Takedown Twenty' is certainly one that will put a smile on reader's faces and make you forget the cold winter weather outside.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Carla Norton - The Edge of Normal

"...an ending that will have you second guessing all you have been told... "

Synopsis:
Reeve LeClaire was just 12 years old when she was abducted and held in captivity for four years, before a freak accident saw her escape. Now in her twenties, with the help of her supportive family and long term psychiatrist, she has carved out a careful, but independent life for herself.

When a young girl is rescued in Jefferson County her parents ask Reeve if she will help with their daughters return to 'normality'. As the two begin to bond, the young girl tentatively begins to share the details of her experiences, and when the police discover a link to two other abductions Reeve realises that she may hold the key to finding the perpetrator, but is she strong enough to face her fears and find the truth?

Review:
Carla Norton is an authority on how women survive the misery of captivity and rebuild their lives, after spending years working as a reporter and as the author of true crime book 'Perfect Victim: The True Story of the Girl in the Box', and this experience and knowledge shines through in 'The Edge of Normal'.

The subject matter is handled expertly with the stories of what happened to both Reeve and the kidnapped girls being told with enough detail for you to connect and feel for the characters and their situations, without making you feel that the book is too graphic in detail.

The story moves along at a great pace, but if I had to admit to one small bugbear it was that the protagonist Reeve, changes from a timid survivor to a courageous heroine a little too quickly. I would have expected the change to be a little more progressive, but it probably wouldn't have worked so well with the story.

With an ending that will have you second guessing all you have been told, despite knowing from early on exactly who the true kidnapper is, 'The Edge of Normal' is a great debut and well worth a read, and I shall certainly keep an eye out for future books from this author.

Reviewed by: J.P.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Michael Connelly - Gods of Guilt

"‘Gods of Guilt’ is a definite must read."

Synopsis:
Mickey Haller gets the text, “Call me ASAP — 187” and the California penal code for murder immediately gets his attention. Murder cases have the highest stakes and the biggest paydays, and they always mean Haller has to be at the top of his game.

When Mickey learns that the victim was his own former client, a prostitute he thought he had rescued and put on the straight and narrow, he knows he is on the hook for this one. He soon finds out that she was back in LA and back in the life. Far from saving her, Mickey may have been the one who put her in danger.

Haunted by the ghosts of his past, Mickey must work tirelessly and bring all his skill to bear on a case that could mean his ultimate redemption or proof of his ultimate guilt.

Review:
Connelly brings back Mickey Haller, the unconventional defence lawyer who uses many a trick to ensure that he wins for his clients, regardless of their guilt. Haller is the half-brother to Connelly's Harry Bosch, a detective for the LAPD. Haller though is in my opinion the better protagonist but this could be due to my preference of a legal thriller.

Haller's latest client, Andre La Cosse is a business associate of a woman he has previously defended. Here La Cosse is being tried for her murder.

Connelly has a great insight into the American legal system, and this, together with his fantastic ability to write an exciting plot brings together a book that simply can't be put down. Some regular characters from previous books are also featured in 'Gods Of Guilt', which develops these characters and the relationships between them. All work well together and bring a familiarity for the reader.
Haller, although successful as a lawyer, has not had such success in his personal life. And although he is flawed, does have a certain something that makes him impossible to dislike. I have also found myself in his corner even when he is defending the guilty.

The plot keeps you engrossed until the very end and 'Gods of Guilt' is a definite must read.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Hakan Nesser - The Strangler's Honeymoon

"...a true delight to read."

Synopsis:
When the months old body of a strangled woman is found hidden under the bed in her flat, the Maardam police must investigate not only who committed this terrible crime, but how she lay undiscovered for so long and what has happened to her sixteen year old daughter, whom no one seems to have missed? With little or nothing to go on the police find a tenuous link and soon discover this may not be his first crime, or his last…

Meanwhile retired Chief Inspector Van Veeteran finds himself drawn into the investigation, when he learns of a Priest, who has fallen beneath the wheels of a train. He was a man with secrets he wished to reveal and had appealed to Van Veeteran for help just weeks before. As the dead ends mount and the trail turns cold, Van Veeteran tries a new approach to catch a dark and devious killer before he strikes again.

Review:
If, like me, you have never read any of Hakan Nessers books, Van Veeteran is an ex-chief Inspector turned antiquarian book seller. He is a man with much sadness in his past, but who is now happily enjoying his retirement. A man much loved and well respected by his friends and former colleagues, many of whom still address him by his previous rank.

Van Veeteran, with his quirky and somewhat eclectic group of colleagues, along with the novel's dark and disturbed killer, turned out to be some of the most strikingly lifelike characters I have read in a long time which is just one of the things that made 'The Stranglers Honeymoon' a true delight to read.

I found it thrilling, without feeling like I had been dragged along with the plot as in many modern tales. I also struggled to put this book down. Overall it had a real feel of classic crime that I enjoyed immensely. I also appreciated the fact that despite 'The Stranglers Honeymoon' being the ninth book in the Van Veeteran series, it didn't matter at all that I hadn't read any of the previous eight books. That said I will certainly be sourcing them to read in the future.

Reviewed by: J.P.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Eric James Fullilove - Narcolepsy

"With a high octane, fast-paced opening, this tense political thriller begins in style and continues at a break-neck speed."

Synopsis:
The European banks are on the brink of collapse and negotiations with China to bail them out to prevent an unstoppable run on the banks have failed. All doors are now closed to Europe.

At the World Bank in London, analyst Myles Saldana is entrusted with a mysterious computer file just as a troop of commandos burst in with guns blazing and will stop at nothing to prevent the data in the file from leaking.

Saldana is now on the run and doesn't know who he can trust to help him. On both sides of the channel people want him dead but in order to survive the banks must fail.

Review:
With a high octane, fast-paced opening, this tense political thriller begins in style and continues at a break-neck speed. 'Narcolepsy' may be a short novel (less than 200 pages) but it packs a punch with action fuelled scenes and a realistic and frightening political situation.

I read this in one sitting as I was caught up in the drama and the action was well detailed I could almost feel the up draught from the rotor blades of the black helicopters.

The main character, small fish in a big pond, Myles Saldana is likeable and engaging. His unflappable persona in such a life and death, cross continent chase, is interspersed with a shocking memory from his formative years which shaped him into the hero we know him to be today. There is a recurring theme of money and not just the lack of it in the case of the EU banks. What can money buy; power, influence, happiness? What good is having money in abundance if you have no-one to share it with?

The only failing I have was the obligatory sex scene. I found it very poorly written and static. With the action scenes so well set out it is a shame the closeness of love making was so sterile.

With characters falling at an incredible rate and Saldana wondering who he can trust, the twists come thick and fast. By the last page you will have Extreme Ways by Moby playing in your head and a slight smile on your lips. I just hope there is a sequel to see the results of the downfall.

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Leigh Russell - Cold Sacrifice

"Russell has a knack for the unusual..."

Synopsis:
When three dead bodies turn up in quick succession, DS Ian Peterson becomes so wrapped up in the complex case he pays little heed to his marriage or forthcoming promotion.

The first victim is a middle class housewife, stabbed in a park. Her husband is in the clear until the alibi providing prostitute is murdered. While the police are busy collecting evidence, a second prostitute joins her friend on the coroner's slab.

Peterson, accompanied by young a DC struggles to make sense of the case and identify the elusive killer before he strikes again.

Review:
Russell has a knack for the unusual, and this tale of a twisted killer striking down victims in a variety of methods, allows her to indulge herself as she has created an intriguing tale of deception and subjugation.

The prose and dialogue is as faultless as you would expect from an English teacher, but in 'Cold Sacrifice' the biggest feature is the plotting. Russell has woven an intricate tale from a simple situation which invites the reader to play detective. The characters are all well constructed but I wasn't as endeared to Peterson as I am to Russell's other creation (Geraldine Steel). Polly was a fine support character, as was Della. All in all, 'Cold Sacrifice' is a fine novel which would take only a few minor fixes to elevate it to very good or excellent.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Martin Cruz Smith - Tatiana

"Cruz Smith weaves such wonderful words and brings to the fore Arkady’s fascination with a woman he never met but whom he comes to admire through her tape recordings. "

Synopsis:
It all starts with a funeral. Not anybody Arkady mourns – in fact, he is pleased to see the back of the person lying in the coffin. His name was Grisha Grigorenko and he was a bad man. He was revered, feared and ultimately assassinated. And now his son, Alexi is muscling in on his father's business with an unseemly rapidity.

After the funeral, Arkady becomes embroiled in an organised protest. An investigative journalist has been thrown off her apartment balcony. Now her body is missing from the morgue and Arkady Renko becomes determined that her body and the manner of her death must not be brushed under the carpet. The verdict was suicide but Arkady believes there is more to Tatiana's death that needs to be explained. Soon, a notepad full of symbols drops in to Arkady's hands, notes on a very important meeting that need to be translated. But the translator who wrote them has been found dead on a beach in Kaliningrad, shot.

Arkady decides that answers lie in Kaliningrad where Tatiana's only surviving family member: her sister, lives. It is during his time in Kaliningrad that everything starts to unravel.

Review:
I loved 'Gorky Park' and was looking forward to meeting Arkady Renko after too long. It is wonderful to read such sublime writing from a master of his craft. With short, sharp sentences Cruz Smith paints a stark portrait of a Russia which is constantly standing against those who feel they have the right to take away the rights of others. The murder of the investigative journalist, Tatiana has echoes of Anna Politkovskaya who was murdered in the lift of her apartment block. Cruz Smith weaves such wonderful words and brings to the fore Arkady's fascination with a woman he never met but whom he comes to admire through her tape recordings. Smith perfectly shows Arkady's admiration for this woman and his stirring love for her as she reaches deep in to Arkady's soul through these recordings has to be one of the most moving pieces of writing I have read in a very long time.

I was loving this novel and enjoying the leisurely pace until the investigation moves to Kaliningrad and then everything appeared to fall to pieces. As the novel progresses the writing seems to simplify as if the author had used all his creative juices to deliver the first hundred pages. After that the novel descends in to 'thriller' mode. Arkady is shot at so many times and comes back for more that you wonder if he is superhuman. I got the sense that despite such a sublime beginning that the author did not know which direction to take. Unfortunately, the path taken wasn't the best and even the ending and the deciphering of the notepad lead to a bit of an anti-climax. It is a shame that a book that stirred so much emotion in me could falter and fall so rapidly. For any wanting to experience this authors work, I would suggest starting with 'Gorky Park'.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Anders de la Motte - Game: The Game Trilogy - Book 1

"...‘Game’ will leave you with just enough unanswered questions to ensure you look forward to the next book. "

Synopsis:
When Henrik 'HP' Petterson is invited to play a game on a mobile phone he found on a train, he thinks it nothing more than harmless fun.

All he has to do is film himself completing a challenge, and upload it to the Game. Successful challenges mean points, high scores mean more interesting challenges, more recognition for playing, and of course, money.

It's not long before he becomes hooked on the excitement, eagerly checking his phone for his next chance to play, but as the challenges become more dangerous, and cause his Police Protection officer sister to become drawn in, Henrik begins to wonder, is he playing the game, or is the game playing him?

Review:
'Game' is a great introduction to this trilogy. It launches you straight into the action as soon as you pick it up, and keeps the pace up throughout. You will be drawn into its pages as quickly as its protagonist gets drawn into the game itself

It follows the concurrent stories of HP and his sister Rebecca, capturing perfectly their sibling relationship, its effects on their lives, their decisions, and on the actions they take as Rebecca tries to save HP, and HP, an endearing if unlikely hero, tries to save himself.

Asking interesting moral questions throughout and showing just how both people and technology can be exploited to achieve the aims of individuals and corporations, even to a deadly degree, 'Game' will leave you with just enough unanswered questions to ensure you look forward to the next book. Oh, and a great little cliff hanger too.

Reviewed by: J.P.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Anders de la Motte - Buzz

"...you'll never look at a blog post, a forum comment, or a chat room conversation in the same light again..."

Synopsis:
It's been 14 months since Henrik 'HP' Larsson went into exile, travelling the world in fear of his life after dealing an explosive blow to the Game, but after finding himself being framed for murder in Dubai he is now back in the one place he doesn't want to be, home.

After retrieving his phone from where it lay hidden during his absence, he finds himself missing the excitement of the Game, and so begins a dangerous investigation into an IT company he believes has links to it.

His sister Rebecca has her own problems, suspended from and under investigation at work, she becomes the target of an internet slur campaign, is the Game after her too?

Review:
Whilst 'Buzz' contains a little less action than 'Game', it is nevertheless just as much of a page turner as the previous novel. 'Buzz' delights by taking you into the workings of the Game, further uncovering the conspiracies behind the Game and delving into the motives of companies and individuals that use its 'services'. It also highlights the darker uses of the internet, showing just how it can be used for the manipulation of public opinion, or the destruction of an individual.

After you've read this you'll never look at a blog post, a forum comment, or a chat room conversation in the same light again, because however implausible you may think anything in these books is, it is all genuinely possible.

Reviewed by: J.P.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Anders de la Motte - Bubble

"Explosive and complex, ‘Bubble’ is a brilliant ending to a fabulous trilogy."

Synopsis:
Henrik 'HP' Petterson has a decision to make, complete the challenge the Game Master gave him in person, or join up with a surprising new ally in order to bring the Game to its knees. Neither will be easy, both could be deadly, but the promised result is the same: freedom from the Game.

Rebecca meanwhile has an investigation of her own. The contents of a mysterious safety deposit box have her questioning everything she knows about her own father, which together with the intervention of her mysterious Uncle Tage, who appears to know all about the Game, make her realise that the conspiracy is far older and goes further back than she realised. Was HP right after all?

Review:
Explosive and complex, 'Bubble' is a brilliant ending to a fabulous trilogy. De la Motte successfully keeps up the fast pace from the previous novels, and even manages to ratchet up the tension, as HP and Rebecca's storylines converge.

With its numerous twists and turns, 'Bubble' has you constantly changing your mind about who is with the Game, and who is against it, making you question everything you have learnt about the characters so far, turning the whole series completely on its head.

Whilst being a complete and final end to the story of HP & Rebecca with all questions answered, it is encouraging to see the trilogy finished off so completely, whilst realising that there is enough in the end to create a whole complete spin off with new characters. This is a genuinely fabulous set of books and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see some movie news in the near future.

Reviewed by: J.P.

CrimeSquad Rating: