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Reviews

February 2015

Priscilla Masters - Guilty Waters

"An assured addition to an already compulsive and addictive series."

Synopsis:
It is September and the summer is coming to a slow end. The picturesque Rudyard Lake in Staffordshire has been inundated with tourists and walkers who make their pilgrimage to honour the great writer, Rudyard Kipling. Two French teenagers fixated on Kipling left their homeland months ago; the last communication from them a postcard of the lake which was sent in July. Since then, nothing. Armed with just this postcard, Cecile Bellange comes to the UK to find her daughter, Annabelle and her friend, Dorothee and bring them back home after so long a silence.

Meanwhile, DI Joanna Piercy is enjoying the lake with her husband, Matthew whilst planning their future. This includes a child which Joanna has always shied away from. What if she is a bad mother? What if she doesn't bond with it? What if she hates her own child? It is a situation she doesn't want but can't see a way of escaping from. And then comes the case of the two missing girls which will not be an easy journey – and one that will lead her to the house named Mandalay (named after Kipling's poem) and its sinister occupier with his own secrets.

Review:
This new Piercy case from Masters is not just a procedural about two missing French girls, but confronts the issue of children and parenthood within its nucleus. While searching for the faint trail of the two girls, stone cold after such a long length of time since their last sighting, Joanna tries to come to terms with becoming a mother. Having had a miscarriage a few years back, the thought of becoming a parent by choice is an issue that weighs heavily on her mind. Is she only planning this child just to please her new husband?

Juxtaposed to this is the disappearance of the girls. Masters has always been masterful at characterisation and here she delivers one of the creepiest men I have read about in a long time. Barker, the proprietor of the Mandalay B&B, is fastidious, pernickety and likes the ladies – although he repulses many of the female sex. And he has his own dirty little secrets that will bring him more misery. It is through his social ineptitude that leads the Leek police to take an interest in him whilst looking for the girls. I know I was quite critical of Masters' last Piercy offering, but this one shows her back on form. As Joanna and Mike Korpanski (thankfully back in the fore in this book) search for a trace of the girls, Masters perfectly toyed with this reader so I was constantly wondering if the girls were alive or not. Held captive or worse? I greatly enjoyed this book which is also a treatise on the burden of parenthood and the joys and woes that come with the responsibility of having a child. An assured addition to an already compulsive and addictive series.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Denzil Meyrick - The Last Witness

"The plot has more twists, turns, ups and downs than a game of snakes and ladders..."

Synopsis:
James Machie, ruthless Glasgow crime baron, is sent to prison, thanks to the evidence given at his trial by two of his henchmen, Gerald Dowie and Frank MacDougall. Then, while being taken between prison and hospital in an ambulance, Machie, and his prison guards, are shot dead by two gunmen who storm the vehicle.

That should have been the end of it. A dangerous criminal is dead, and Glasgow is a safer place. Then Gerald Dowie and his wife are gunned down in Melbourne, Australia where they have started a new life. And Frank MacDougall and his family - now living near Kinloch in Argyll under witness protection, become the target. Peter, Frank's brother, is stabbed to death, and his daughter Sarah is abducted. Has James Machie risen from the dead, seeking revenge? Machie had certainly been killed (one of the investigating officers even attended the post mortem) and yet photographic evidence emerges that plainly shows Machie is still alive.

DCI Jim Daley, working out of Kinloch police HQ, and his sidekick (DS Scott, the police officer who had attended Machie's post mortem), investigate. Scott, more than any other police officer, is responsible for obtaining Machie's conviction, and his life could also be in danger. And it becomes clear that Daley is also a target, as Machie firebombs his house.

Review:
This is one of the best-plotted books I have ever read. Nothing is as it seems, and yet there is an impeccable logic in everything that happens. The plot has more twists, turns, ups and downs than a game of snakes and ladders, yet is readable and easy to follow. The final twist is one that I should have seen coming, yet it still managed to take me by surprise while making absolute sense.

DCI Daley is a straightforward, hard-working cop. There is nothing of Rebus or other troubled cops about him, though we soon realise that what he thought was his perfect marriage to Liz may in fact be flawed. DS Scott is the opposite. He is foul mouthed, lippy, and disrespectful to his superiors, while at the same time being hard working, brave, intuitive and loyal. In fact, there could easily be a series based on him as the main character, so engaging are his good and bad traits.

Denzil Meyrick was once a police officer, so writes with authority about the day-to-day duties of a police force. He also knows Argyll, where the book is largely set, though he may have taken liberties with the time it takes to get from Kinloch (a thinly disguised Campbeltown, lying on the eastern side of the Mull of Kintyre) to the Coryvreckan Whirlpool, further north between Jura and Scarba. Some things - mainly to do with Daley's private life - remain unresolved in this book, and no doubt they will feature in further DCI Daley novels from Denzil Meyrick. I for one will be reading the follow-up.

Reviewed by: J.G.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Josephine Tey - The Singing Sands

"Tey is such a consummate wordsmith..."

Synopsis:
Exhausted and suffering from a form of nervous breakdown, Inspector Alan Grant has been given sick live and travels to family in Scotland to recuperate. When disembarking from the overnight train, he finds the night porter in one of the cabins standing over a dead body. It appears the man, in a drunken stupor has tripped over and bashed his head on the basin. Confirming he has been dead some hours, Grant collects his newspapers and swiftly departs. Unbeknownst to him, he has accidentally picked up the dead man's newspaper on which is written some lines of poetry about talking beasts, standing streams, stones that walk and the singing sand.

With this poem floating around his head, Grant wonders what sort of person the dead man was. As Grant begins to fight his own demons, he finds that the man who has been identified as Charles Martin will not be laid to rest easily. With a chance encounter, Grant realises that he must once again be the avenging angel and right a terrible wrong.

Review:
Tey only wrote a handful of novels and yet has been continuously in print since her premature death in 1952. 'The Singing Sands' was published posthumously and always seems to be a novel that isn't quite given its due. This is a book of two halves. The first half shows the slow mending of Alan Grant. He is one of those men who if cut in half would have policeman running right through him as he is the personification of justice. Tey lovingly describes her homeland of Scotland with Grant visiting the remote islands to discover the significance of 'the singing sands'. It is during this visit that Grant begins to mend himself and exits the dark recesses of his breakdown. For a novel of this era, it is out of the norm for an author to deal with personal issues, showing that Tey wanted to convey her characters as human rather than mere devices within her plot.

This is not your usual procedural, but a novel of a man being made whole again by the demise of another. It is the dead man's poem that sets Grant on the road of recovery. In turn, Grant feels it his duty to uncover the truth about the man's death. The crime element of the story forms the basis of the second part of Tey's story. Tey is such a consummate wordsmith that she does not need to sensationalise the crime. It is on the back burner, but the novel does not suffer because of it. In fact, through her words you can see her tenderly nursing back to health her lead character, which at times is very touching. The solution isn't a complete surprise, but this isn't all about the crime. For me, it just proved that while many authors of her era have fallen by the wayside, Tey continues to enthral new and old readers, because even sixty years later, the same trials of life are pertinent now as then.

Folio Society – The Singing Sands

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Gladys Mitchell - Groaning Spinney

"...I was soon wrapped up in the plot like a present under the Christmas tree."

Synopsis:
Mrs Adela Beatrice Lestrange Bradley has been invited to the countryside for Christmas by her favourite nephew. She doesn't particularly like her family, including her own son, Ferdinand who tests her patient at times! However, her nephew is charming and had made her agreeably happy by marrying the woman of her choice – and making a matrimonial match made in Heaven. Something, after several husbands, Mrs Bradley could not do herself.

And so she finds herself on the cusp of Christmas with Jonathan and Deborah Bradley. The recent snow has made the surrounds look the same as a Christmas card – picturesque and festive. Having met the neighbours who she will be sharing her festive lunch with – and having tramped the countryside and heard of the ghost of Groaning Spinney – Mrs. Bradley settles down to a quiet holiday. But murder is not far away and soon a body is found draped over the gate of Groaning Spinney, the same gate local legend says is haunted by the spirit of a local parson who, after a night of heavy drinking, died of cold at the gate in 1850. Now a fresh body has been found and it won't be long before another body is discovered in the snow. Mrs. Bradley feels she knows the murderer – evidence is the only thing stopping her putting a stop to the killer's plan.

Review:
There is nothing better than settling down with a Gladys Mitchell and following another 'off-the-wall' case featuring Mrs Bradley (later to become Dame). 'Groaning Spinney' was published in 1950 and is one of Mitchell's better romps. I always feel when reading a Mitchell that even though murders occur, these are 'jolly-hockey sticks' adventures for adults (I feel this is part due to her being a teacher at an all-girls school). Mitchell's imagination was always quite theatrical (again, you can feel her academic fervour coming to the fore) and sometimes she was in control, sometimes not. In some books Mitchell's plots can feel as though they have run away with themselves, but here Mitchell is in control, if being very playful with her reader.

I loved the feeling of Christmas in 1950 (no TV then!) which felt idyllic and a much more relaxed affair. You can tell that Mitchell enjoyed this festive season and that leaks through her prose as she sets up an idyllic scene which doesn't last long. As with all her novels, Mrs Bradley's humour threads throughout the story and there are some very sharp and witty observations. Nothing is taken seriously and yet, the act of murder is considered serious with Mrs Bradley as some form of bizarre Nemesis. Unlike Christie, Mitchell does not wrap everything up prettily within forty-eight hours. It isn't until the first touches of spring that Mrs Bradley is finally able to catch her murderer, so this can't be classed as just a Christmas mystery. Although I like her a lot, Mrs Bradley is still staying at her nephew's house in March, although her initial invite was for a few days over Christmas! I think this would be a nightmare scenario for many folk. Mitchell's typical sense of mayhem ensues and I was soon wrapped up in the plot like a present under the Christmas tree.

I have loved Mitchell for years and her books are wonderful portraits of a time long gone, a snapshot of simpler times and stonking good reads. 'Groaning Spinney' is a panacea for the soul – a cosy mystery as warming as drinking a cup of hot chocolate on a winter's day!

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Patricia Highsmith - Little Tales of Misogyny

"...you can feel Highsmith writing these with her tongue stuck firmly in her cheek!"

Synopsis:
A man asks a father for his daughter's hand – and literally gets her severed hand sent to him. A bed-ridden invalid who miraculously recovers from her ailments the moment she goes on their annual holiday pushes her husband too far. Two jealous dancers dance a tango of death. A woman plots to rid herself of her dull husband while another wife sends her husband mad with her constant pregnancies. A prude makes herself ill as her mission to get her daughters to the altar as virgins fails spectacularly.

Review:
This slim collection of stories (or maybe I should call them vignettes/observations) is pure Highsmith. I can imagine Highsmith crowing and cackling with glee as she meted out her warped sense of humour on this catalogue of unsavoury types. And believe me, there aren't many here who you will feel sorry for! I think the most sympathetic of the lot is Oona the cave woman, so it doesn't say much for the rest! I can't really understand the meaning of the title. Maybe Highsmith felt these stories would appeal more to men than women. All of them, with the exception of 'The Hand' (even then the severed hand belongs to a woman) chronicles within a few pages, the decline of a woman, be she a wife, a lover or prostitute.

The standout stories for me were 'The Fully Licensed Whore, or the Wife' as being particularly hilarious and acidic in equal measures. 'The Middle-class Housewife' takes place in a hall during a women's meeting berating men and demanding more facilities for women, which are not agreeable to all. Needless to say things decline rapidly and one is killed by an object found in every home! Sometimes you have to 'get' Highsmith to appreciate her. Most of these stories are totally bonkers but at the same time you can see it actually happening in real life. With most stories running to only a couple of pages you can read a story in a few minutes. Be warned, they can make for uncomfortable reading – but you can feel Highsmith writing these with her tongue stuck firmly in her cheek!

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Michael J. Malone - Beyond the Rage

"Every once in a while, a book comes along and redefines the term unputdownable. ‘Beyond the Rage’ is one of them."

Synopsis:
Even though he's a successful criminal, Glasgow villain Kenny O'Neill is angry. Not only has his high-class prostitute girlfriend just been attacked, but his father is reaching out to him from the past despite abandoning Kenny as a child after his mother's suicide.

Kenny is now on a dual mission to hunt down his girl's attacker and find out the truth about his father... but instead he unravels disturbing family secrets and finds that revenge is not always sweet.

Review:
Every once in a while, a book comes along and redefines the term unputdownable. 'Beyond the Rage' is one of them. I read it in less than two days despite having all the usual work / life / family commitments.

Kenny O'Neill is a kind of anti-hero, but he is depicted in such a clever way I was on his side from page one. With Alexis, Callum, Dmitri and Vi he has a great supporting cast, but Malone never lets any of them steal the limelight. Ray McBain puts in a couple of welcome appearances but it is most definitely the Kenny O'Neill show.

The plotting is sublime as Kenny's once perfect life descends into chaos. Each page has revelations or events driving the story towards a furious conclusion. As I turned the pages, I tried to outguess the author and failed miserably such is the deftness of his scheming.

The prose is faultless throughout and I loved the shots of dark humour injected into the narrative. If I had to voice one criticism it is that I think Malone may have painted himself into a corner by turning a side character into a more commanding lead than the mercurial Ray McBain.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Chris Simms - Sleeping Dogs

"I cannot recommend this enough. Buy it. Read it. Then tell your friends."

Synopsis:
Out walking with his family in the local park, Detective Inspector Jon Spicer's life is shattered forever. The dog - aggressive and huge - appears from nowhere and heads straight for his daughter.

At first, Jon assumes the attack was random. Soon, other events force him to think again. With his family under threat, there is only one thing Jon can do - fight back.

The pursuit leads him far from his home city of Manchester to the unfamiliar territory of Ireland, and a remote village where his family are originally from.

Review:
I am a big fan of the work of Chris Simms. His first DI Jon Spicer novel, 'Killing the Beasts', is in my top ten crime fiction novels of all time. 'Sleeping Dogs' is the seventh Spicer novel, and the first since 2010. However, if you're new to Simms, or indeed to Spicer, this is an excellent book to start with.

Chris has a very unique style of writing. You don't just read each chapter, you can actually see it played out before you; his filmic narrative, keen eye for detail, and natural characters bring the book to life. It's like reading in 3D.

Jon Spicer is an everyman. He's not a maverick, just a family man doing a difficult job in difficult times and that's his appeal. He's driven, focused, and incredibly likeable.

'Sleeping Dogs' marks a change in the Spicer series. Jon is on a very personal mission to save his family following a horrific attack and it leads him to discover events in his own past. A lesser writer could have made this book all about Jon Spicer and turned it into a whining monologue, but Simms' control over his well-drawn supporting characters and plot drive the story along at a fantastic pace.

The drama builds with crackling tension as plots merge and twists are revealed. The finale is shocking and raw and packs a powerful punch. Simms has done a brilliant job on fleshing out the bad guys who could have been mere cartoon characters.

Chris Simms has created a gripping and highly originally series of novels. He set himself a high standard with 'Killing the Beasts' and has managed to maintain it with every novel. 'Sleeping Dogs' is a strong addition. I cannot recommend this enough. Buy it. Read it. Then tell your friends.

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Eva Dolan - Tell No Tales

"...a labyrinthine plot with dead ends and plenty of twists to keep you guessing to the end."

Synopsis:
The car that ploughs into the bus stop early one morning leaves a trail of death and destruction behind it.

DS Ferreira and DI Zigic are called in from the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit to handle the investigation but with another major case on their hands, one with disturbing Neo-Nazi overtones, they are relieved when there seems to be an obvious suspect. But the case isn't that simple and with tensions erupting in the town, leading to more violence, the media are soon hounding them for answers.

Ferreira believes that local politician Richard Shotton, head of a recently established right-wing party, must be involved somehow. Journalists have been quick to acclaim Shotton, with his Brazilian wife and RAF career, as a serious contender for a major political career, despite his extremist views, but is his party a cover for something far more dangerous?

Review:
Eva Dolan burst onto the crime fiction scene last year with her critically acclaimed debut 'Long Way Home'. The second in the series is just as gripping, intelligently written and brilliantly plotted.

Dolan is a writer in a class of her own. She takes the crime novel to another level bridging the gap between crime and literary fiction with her attention to detail and well-rounded characterisation.

'Tell No Tales' is very topical with the rise of a right-wing political party and an undercurrent of racial tension sparking unrest within the community.

The partnership of Zigic and Ferreira is an interesting and absorbing one. They work well together and use each other as a sounding board for working through such difficult and sensitive cases. As the tension among the characters grow so does the pace of the story and we're drawn into a labyrinthine plot with dead ends and plenty of twists to keep you guessing to the end.

An original series, this one is a compelling and impressive novel that ripples with authenticity. 'Tell No Tales' deserves every accolade going.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Chris Mooney - Fear the Dark

"Another great read from Mooney that is not to be missed."

Synopsis:
Fear grips a town in Colorado as a murderer targets entire families in their own homes. As police and the FBI struggle to contain the situation, they bring in forensic investigator and serial killer expert Darby McCormick. What she finds is a brutal and elusive predator who stays one step ahead of their investigation.

As Darby navigates the blood-ties and broken promises that divide the locals, she knows that all the while the killer is watching, waiting and circling his next target: her.

She must not only meet evil—and somehow survive—but also be prepared to face this small town's dark heart

Review:
Chris Mooney has shown in previous books that he is a talented author, and 'Fear the Dark' is no exception.

The book is written mostly in the third person, but a few chapters are written from the perspective of the first person, but no clues are given. The identity of the killer is not only kept hidden until the end, but the reader is superbly misdirected by Mooney and different characters are thrown into the mix as possible suspects. Each suspect seems credible until the next suspect appears, and Mooney managed to keep me on the edge of my seat waiting to find out what happened next.

'Fear the Dark' is a book that needs to be read in one sitting as it cannot be but down. It has a great mix of strong characters, good writing, an excellent plot and the right balance of information to inform without overloading the reader. Another great read from Mooney that is not to be missed.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Paul D. Brazill - Guns of Brixton

"an artist’s eye for detail which in turn makes the 'Guns of Brixton' a compelling read."

Synopsis:
When London gangster Mad Tony Cook gives aging thugs Big Jim and Kenny Rogan the simple task of collecting a briefcase from northern courier Half- Pint Harry he doesn't suspect that the courier will end up dead in his lock-up or that Kenny and Big Jim will then dress up in drag to rob a jeweller's shop and lose the coveted briefcase.

Review:
This latest offering is probably the author's longest piece of work to date. 'Guns of Brixton' proves he not only has the strength as a story-teller but also possesses the necessary endurance to complete a larger project. After reading this novella, I'd love to see him take the final step and write a complete novel.

'Guns of Brixton' is a taut story wrapped around the possession of a briefcase with mysterious contents. Told from disparate viewpoints it follows a bunch of unwieldy yet utterly believable characters as they get dragged into an ever worsening situation.

It is with these characters, Brazill shows his greatest skill as an author. Each is portrayed with an artist's eye for detail which in turn makes the 'Guns of Brixton' a compelling read.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Ovidia Yu - Aunty Lee's Deadly Specials

"...an amusing and easily readable entertaining story. "

Synopsis:
Aunty Lee is a widow who runs a home cooking restaurant in Singapore. She loves providing the best of food for her clients and she loves involving herself in their business. She has acquired a reputation for solving their little problems. When hints of a scandal over illegal organ donations reach her, she immediately addresses her mind to the problem. She is very busy catering for an event run by Mabel and Henry Sung, two of the top drawer socialites of Singapore, so has to leave any investigation on hold. Events overtake her when Mabel and her very unpleasant son Leonard are found murdered. Being Aunty Lee, she starts making connections and soon she finds herself in great danger of upsetting some very nasty characters.

Review:
This is a delightful wry look at people and the emotions that drive them on. As with Alexander McCall Smith's Mama Mswatse, Aunty Lee is a keen observer of human weakness and is very good at reading situations and using this skill to solve problems. Many of her brief character assessments and descriptions of the strictly controlled area of Singapore are very funny and there is a rich vein of humour underlying the serious hunt for the murderer. Completely up to date, with the modern threat of commercial exploitation of the supply of human organs for transplant driving the plot, this book happily marries the old and the new.

This is an amusing and easily readable entertaining story. Definitely good holiday reading - particularly but not necessarily if you are in the Singapore region.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Alastair Gunn - My Bloody Valentine

"...Gunn's page-turning prose and his brilliant lead character are a winning combination."

Synopsis:
When the body of a young woman is found brutally slain on Valentine's Day the press reacts with barely disguised glee. For DCI Antonia Hawkins, still recovering from the terrible wounds inflicted by another killer just two months previous, the pressure of another high-profile murder investigation could barely come at a worse time.

Battling her own physical limitations and under pressure from a new member of the team whose ambition to displace her is hard to conceal, Hawkins must discover not just who killed the first victim, but why - or watch helplessly as others die at the hands of a monster who has been labelled the Valentine Killer.

Review:
In Alastair Gunn's debut, 'The Advent Killer', a serial murderer stalked London at Christmastime. Now Gunn has turned his dark and disturbing imagination to Valentine's Day. I shudder at the thought of what he's got lined up for Easter.

'My Bloody Valentine' is a smart and pacy thriller. The plot and motive of the killer are original and the twist at the end is both shocking and dramatic. Gunn deals with mental health issues in a highly sensitive way; depression and post-traumatic stress disorder are thoroughly researched and the cause/effect is well-written and cleverly played out. The chapters told in flashback surrounding the character of Bull are touching, dark, sad, and disturbing.

At the heart of such a gripping story is our wonderful protagonist DCI Antonia Hawkins. She's recovering from the events of the first novel and is slowly getting back into the routine of being a detective. I would have liked to have seen Antonia's mental recovery mirror the mental health story involving the killer and victims to show her vulnerable side a bit more, as her physical recovery seems to get forgotten in places.

One issue I have with this book is the title and the cover. It suggests a killer targeting lovers or using Valentine's Day as a reason for murder. This is only briefly touched on before a Valentine's link is disproved and another nickname is given to the killer. This could easily have been marketed as a dark psychological thriller without the need for a tabloid-esque title.

However, Alastair Gunn's page-turning prose and his brilliant lead character are a winning combination. I look forward to book three and highly recommend the first two.

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Steffen Jacobsen - Trophy

"...a gripping and intriguing read that you won’t want to put down. "

Synopsis:
Two hours to get away, 22 more to survive.

The sun released its grip on the mountains in the east as they started running. Hunted for their lives, Ingrid and Kasper Hansen can think of only one thing: if they can get through the next 24 hours, they'll see their children again.

The question they should be asking is: why?

Security consultant and private investigator Michael Sander is tasked with the investigation of a video that seems to show two people being hunted to their deaths. His job is to find out who they are, and why they were murdered. But this isn't just another case, and these deaths are only one piece of the puzzle.

This time Michael is investigating the darkest reaches of humanity, uncovering crimes that reach further than he ever imagined.

Review:
'Trophy' sets the dark tone that encompasses the whole novel from its outset by immediately highlighting the immorality of the rich and powerful, those who can afford to buy anything they want, including the opportunity of hunting the ultimate trophy… a human.

While Michael Sander is trying to discover if a DVD showing one such hunt is real, Detective Lene Jansen is investigating the apparent suicide of a young man on his wedding day. As their paths and investigations keep crossing, the pair team up in an attempt to get to the truth. What they discover is a gang of ruthless war criminals, a world of corporate greed, and a battle for an empire.

The plotting is superb not just in the way the crimes are intertwined, but also the way the background of the criminals is threaded through the book, ensuring that the gang are a realistically scary nemesis.

'Trophy' is a gripping and intriguing read that you won't want to put down. Jensen and Sander are a great pair that work well together that I could certainly see the opportunity to put these two together again.

Reviewed by: J.P.

CrimeSquad Rating:

A.J. McCreanor - Riven

"A.J. McCreanor is a welcome addition to the Scottish crime scene. Glasgow is in very dangerous hands."

Synopsis:
A psychologist is found brutally murdered, an addict jumps to his death and a student is found dead. These are the facts. And they are all that DI's Wheeler and Ross have.

As Wheeler and Ross weave through the layers of Glasgow's underbelly they find a subculture where truth and lies are interchangeable commodities and violence is the favoured currency.

The killer stays one step ahead of them as Wheeler uncovers a web of deceit in which her own nephew is entangled.

As the case comes to a climax, Wheeler is forced to confront her own integrity and face the dilemma: is justice always served by the truth?

Review:
Scotland has a rich history of producing some excellent crime writers; Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, James Oswald, and Stuart MacBride to name just a few. A new Scottish writer has a lot to live up to, and needs a debut novel to impress. A J McCreanor has delivered.

The plot is steadily paced and McCreanor keeps the twists and turns coming as the police are hampered by drugs gangs covering up their deeds and pointing the finger of blame at their rivals.

Our new protagonist is DI Katherine Wheeler, and, although she is personally linked to the case with her nephew caught up in drugs, we don't really get to know much about her like we do the subordinates on her team. Wheeler is quite a cold fish and a loner. I want to know her more and I want to like her. Her team are a mixed bunch each with their own personal turmoil; more of which, I am sure, will be revealed in subsequent novels.

There are many stories to take into book two and three and beyond but 'Riven', for a debut novel, is very strong and tense. I enjoyed the relationship between Wheeler and Ross; it was naturally written and the lack of sexual tension between a female/male partnership is very refreshing.

For fans of Stuart MacBride, this is a delight to read. A J McCreanor is a welcome addition to the Scottish crime scene. Glasgow is in very dangerous hands.

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Luana Lewis - Don't Stand So Close

"From its unsettling opening scene ‘Don't Stand So Close’ draws you in..."

Synopsis:
After working on her final traumatic case, clinical psychologist Stella has spent the last three years cocooned in her own home. Severely agoraphobic she knows she is safe in her stark, isolated home that she shares with her husband Max.

Then one night, in the middle of a snowstorm, a young girl Stella does not know appears on her doorstep. Scared and alone, Stella doesn't want to let the girl in, but knows she cannot leave her outside in the freezing cold. Letting her in is a decision that will change her life, for with her frightened eyes and sad stories, Blue is about to cause the unravelling of Stella's carefully controlled world.

Review:
Popular advice amongst new writers is to 'write what you know', and clinical psychologist, Luana Lewis has done just that delivering a solid debut novel. 'Don't Stand So Close' is a frighteningly realistic view of the abuse of power of those we trust, the power of fear, and just some of the repercussions of post-traumatic stress.

From its unsettling opening scene 'Don't Stand So Close' draws you in and as the stories of Stella and Blue unfold the constant questions of Who? When? How? and Why? that arise will have you furiously turning the pages in search of the answers.

It's an easy read considering its dark subject matter, but all aspects are handled with great skill and sensitivity. This book comes highly recommended - just don't pick it up if you're alone on a dark and stormy night!

Reviewed by: J.P.

CrimeSquad Rating: