Review: Lost You by Haylen Beck

9781911215608Once again writing under the pseudonym Haylen Beck, Stuart Neville has produced a top-notch, twist-filled psychological thriller about a woman who’ll do anything for her child.

Lost You opens in a holiday resort in Naples, on Florida’s Gulf Coast. In an anxiety-inducing scene, three-year-old Ethan squirms in a woman’s arms as she climbs to the hotel’s roof. Police and hotel security surround the area; she can hear cries of alarm from guests below. One foot in front of the other she continues to move across the rooftop, towards its edge, Ethan still struggling, their fates seemingly entwined. Which they are, and have been for a long time, as readers learn when the narrative spirals backwards, revealing Ethan’s true parentage, and the desperate, ruthless actions a mother is capable of when her child is at risk.

With shades of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Michael Robotham’s The Secrets She Keeps, the less you know about Lost You the better. It delivers twist after twist, and although connoisseurs of the genre might pick some, I’m positive even the most prolific psychological thriller reader won’t anticipate every swerve in this tale. Beck’s latest is a chilling, gripping thriller you’ll put your life on hold for to finish. A consummate tale of suspense.

ISBN: 9781911215608
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 320
Imprint: Harvill Secker
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 27-Jun-2019
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Review: Nobody Move by Denis Johnson

nobody-moveIn Nobody Move Denis Johnson embraces classic noir in all its violence, bleakness and black humour. It’s a slender, sparse hardboiled tale about a triumvirate of hard-on-their-luck, morally bankrupt people — gambler Jimmy Luntz, debt collector Gambol and gorgeous divorcée Anita — whose stories all interlock as they struggle for survival.

With dialogue as sharp as Elmore Leonard’s and littered with characters the grandmaster would be proud of, Nobody Move won’t convert non-noir acolytes — this is a fairly traditional tale in the style of Westlake, MacDonald and Thompson — it’s a searing example of the genre, and so far removed from anything else I’ve read by Johnson. Train Dreams was a tiny masterpiece; Jesus’ Son and The Largesse of the Sea Maiden a potent smattering of tales. Next on my list, the novel: Tree Of Smoke.

ISBN: 9780312429614
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 196
Published: 27th April 2010
Country of Publication: US

Review: Silver by Chris Hammer

9781760632991A fine-tuned mystery wrapped in an involving story of community and family dynamics that is satisfying on every level.

Forgoing the evocative opening imagery of Scrublands, and the scorching momentum it sparked, when a young priest calmly turned his rifle on his congregation, Chris Hammer eases into his second novel to star Martin Scarsden, with the veteran journalist driving into Port Silver — a hotspot of regional gentrification, and the home Martin waved good riddance to decades earlier — with two young hitchhikers he picked up along the way nestled in his backseat. Their cheerful spirits alleviate the tension he feels returning to a place laden with traumatic childhood memories.

Martin has emerged from the fallout of events in Scrublands with a new partner, Mandy Blonde, and her young son, Liam. Mandy has inherited an old house in the seaside town, and this is their chance to start afresh; Riversend, its history of violence, now a distant speck behind. But when Martin arrives at Mandy’s temporary homestead, he finds his best friend from school days brutally murdered, and Mandy leaning over him — the obvious suspect. Certain of her innocence, and exasperated by the police investigators who can’t seem to look beyond her, Martin launches his own investigation into the murder, prying open memories from the past, forcing confrontations with those he thought he’d vanquished long ago. Then another horrific event occurs, on an even grander scale — Australia’s own rendition of the Jonestown massacre — and Martin realises the heart of Port Silver is black as pitch.

Silver is a slower burn than Scrublands, but it feels deliberate, its plot set to simmer as Hammer establishes the geography of Port Silver, as well as its major and minor players, and dips into Martin’s childhood memories, and his struggle to marry the two sides of himself: the battle-hardened, world-weary reporter who makes a living exposing and transcribing the very worst of humanity, and the man who wants to start a family. The context is important, because when Hammer lights the fuse, and the plot kicks into higher gear, the stakes feel more extreme, and definitely more personal; the reader is invested in the vast cast that populates Port Silver. And the final two-hundred pages truly gallop, destined to be inhaled in one white-knuckled sitting.

With Silver, Chris Hammer proves himself once again to be a skilful practitioner of the crime genre, and in Martin Scarsden has created one of its most textured and fascinating protagonists.

ISBN: 9781760632991
ISBN-10: 1760632996
Format: Paperback
Number Of Pages: 576
Available: 1st October 2019
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Country of Publication: AU

Review: Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham

9780733638053Michael Robotham has never been better than with this deliciously compulsive series opener starring forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven and the enigmatic Evie Cormac.

Good Girl, Bad Girl opens in Langford Hall, a high security children’s home in Nottingham. Haven is there to assess one of the residents; a girl without a past, memorialised by the press as “Angel Face” when she was discovered in a secret room in house in north London, at the age of eleven or twelve, hiding only a few feet away from where the police discovered the decomposing body of a man who had been tortured to death. Given a new name by the authorities ⁠— Evie Cormac ⁠— she ended up at Langford Hall after a series of failed attempts to assimilate into foster homes.

Six years after being found, Evie is determined to be declared an adult, and earn her freedom; Cyrus is tasked with evaluating her for possible release. But it’s immediately clear something about Evie is amiss. Not just her general unruliness and propensity for violence; she is a possible “truth wizard,” aka a human lie detector, which is subject Haven wrote a thesis on. Evie intrigues Haven, and he can’t help but empathise with her, having lived through a tragedy of his own. Which leads to an impulsive decision by him to temporarily foster her ⁠— just as he becomes involved in a murder investigation: the suspicious death and possible rape of Jodie Sheehan, a 15-year-old figure skating star-in-the-making.

Frankly, crime fiction doesn’t get more enjoyable than Robotham’s latest. Since Life or Death he has maintained an unbelievable level of consistency; and each time you think he might’ve peaked, he surprises you again. Robotham’s ability to deliver twist after heart-stopping twist is unrivalled, but his greatest gift, and the element that shines through with every book is the humanity of his characters. The crackling, page-turning tension is derived not from trickery, but thanks to protagonists you care for, and root for.In Cyrus Haven and Evie Cormac, he has created a duo readers will want to meet again and soon.  With its clever action and characters who breathe, Good Girl, Bad Girl is one of the unmissable crime novels of 2019.

ISBN: 9780733638053
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 400
Imprint: Hachette Australia
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Publish Date: 26-Feb-2019
Country of Publication: Australia

 

 

Review: Where the Dead Go by Sarah Bailey

9781760529321 (1).jpgIn DS Gemma Woodstock, Sarah Bailey has created a character as complex as the cases she investigates. Often crime writers can either concoct labyrinthine plots or develop believable characters. Bailey stands out because she does both masterfully, and demonstrates a veteran writer’s temerity to mine her protagonist with devastating psychological acuity. Where The Dead Go is the kind of mystery that has you reading the top of a page afraid of what you’ll read at the bottom; a heart-stopping plot twist, or a heart-rending emotional punch.

Each of Bailey’s  mysteries have been different in scope and texture, but equally spellbinding. Into The Night transferred Gemma Woodstock from the small town of Smithson (where The Dark Lake was set) to Melbourne; Where The Dead Go thrusts her into the coastal town of Fairhaven. A few years have passed since we last saw Gemma, and Bailey unpacks this backstory adroitly, highlighting a particularly unpleasant case, and a personal tragedy that has changed the entire trajectory of her life. She is not in the right frame of mind to be working a murder / missing persons case — heck, it’s not even her jurisdiction — but when offered the opportunity to lead an investigation and take her mind off her troubles, Gemma jumps at the chance.

A fifteen-year-old girl has gone missing after a party in the middle of the night, and the following morning her boyfriend is discovered brutally murdered in his home. The question immediately driving the investigation is whether the girl was responsible for the murder, or is she also a victim of the killer? Bailey weaves a web of suspicion around many characters before revealing the killer in the nerve-shredding climax, which raises the stakes to unprecedented levels. You’ll read the final fifty pages in a breathless, white-knuckled rush.

There are now few events more welcome in the world of crime writing than the appearance of another Sarah Bailey book. Where The Dead Go is the best entry in a stellar trilogy. Lets hope there’s more to come.

ISBN: 9781760529321
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 464
Imprint: Allen & Unwin
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publish Date: 5-Aug-2019
Country of Publication: Australia

Review: Save Me From Dangerous Men by S.A. Lelchuk

save-me-from-dangerous-men-9781471183133_lgWith Save Me From Dangerous Men, S.A. Lelchuk puts the rest of the crime-writing world on notice. Packed with plenty of page-turning propulsion, with a swashbuckling, kick-ass heroine destined to be franchised, this series opener piles on the plot twists, false leads, and brutally-choreographed violent encounters. You’ll want to jump on the Nikki Griffin train before it leaves the station.

Nikki owns a small bookshop in Berkley called The Brimstone Magpie. She’s also a private investigator, who handles all the routine cases one would expect — but has developed a reputation for her pro bono work: she is the person to see if you’re a woman being abused. Her solution isn’t as lethal as you might be thinking; no body bag required, at least not during the first visit rather, Nikki believes in “equal justice,” dispensing the same amount of pain on abusers as they inflicted on their victims, demanding they change their ways, or else. Her vigilantism can be traced back to the horrific childhood tragedy that led her beloved younger brother into a life of addiction, which we learn more about throughout the story, when Lelchuk eases off the gas on the ‘A’ plot.

Speaking of the ‘A’ plot: when Nikki is approached by Gregg Gunn CEO of Care4, a child care tech company and is offered $20,000 to follow an employee named Karen Li to determine whether she is selling company secrets, Nikki accepts. But Nikki has read enough crime fiction to know nothing’s ever as simple as it seems; and she quickly discovers Li’s wrapped up in something far more dangerous and deadly than corporate espionage. And Nikki is trapped in this nest of vipers with her.

There’s a lot to like about Save Me From Dangerous Men. It’s pacey and action-packed, littered with bookish references (of which only a few are a little too on-the-nose), and exposes readers to a colourful cast they’ll want to meet again. At times it suffers from the ailments of most series openers, grinding the narrative to a halt in order to reveal more about the protagonist’s origin. It’s not that the genesis of Nikki’s vigilantism is uninspired or uninteresting;it just pulls attention away from the cracking core investigation. But now that’s out of the way for future instalments, I’m delighted to have encountered another private eye I’m ready to follow to hell and back. In a crowded genre, S.A. Lelchuk and his creation, Nikki Griffin, are standouts.

ISBN: 9781471183140
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 336
Imprint: Simon & Schuster Ltd
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
Publish Date: 19-Mar-2019
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Review: No Way Out by Cara Hunter

9780241283493.jpgLike its predecessors, Close to Home and In the Dark, the third Adam Fawley mystery, No Way Out, is a frenetically-paced, meticulously crafted whodunit. Compelling and suspenseful, Cara Hunter keeps every stage of an investigation into a deadly house fire clear while peeling back layers of her expansive cast’s personal lives, delivering a novel you’ll devour in hours, with characters and a plot that will linger for days.

No Way Out opens with two children hauled from an inferno that was once their home in North Oxford, their parents undiscovered among the wreckage, which is quickly determined to be an act of arson; therefore, homicide.  Adam Fawley — struggling with a personal crisis — is the leading investigator, but takes more of a backseat this time, sharing the spotlight with various other members of the Thames Valley Police, including DC Quinn, DS Gislingham, DC Erica Somer and DC Everett, as they dig into the lives of Michael and Samantha Esmond, and their two children.

Writing in short, snappy scenes that tick like a time bomb as they flick between characters, and events of the past and present, No Way Out is intricately plotted, fast moving and full of surprises.

ISBN: 9780241283493
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 384
Imprint: Penguin Books Ltd
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Publish Date: 30-Jan-2019
Country of Publication: United Kingdom