‘Before the Blog’

A few more reviews from the archive……

Deity – Steven Dunne

Published January 2012 by Headline

(Originally reviewed July 2012)

When four Derby College students are reported missing, few in Derby CID, least of all DI Damen Brook, pay much attention. But then a film on the internet is discovered purporting to show the students committing mass suicide. If it’s real, why did they kill themselves when they had such bright futures ahead of them? If the suicides are faked, why the set up and where are the students? And if they’re dead and have been murdered, who on earth could have planned such a bizarre and tragic end to their promising lives? Combining intricate forensics with meticulous detection and the warped psychology of a psychopath, DEITY is a serial killer thriller of the highest order to rival the very best of Mark Billingham, Peter James and Peter Robinson.

I hadn’t read the previous two books in this series but I didn’t feel disadvantaged. I was quickly drawn into the world of DI Damen Brook and his loyal sidekick DS Noble. Brooke is a flawed personality, he has a gruff manner, doesn’t remember his colleagues names or court friendship (his colleague DS Noble seems to be one of the few people that can connect with him) although as the story progresses, his human side does come to the surface. He seems to be very much affected by a previous case which is mentioned here (The Reaper) and which leads to some tension between him and his superiors. He is however an extremely good detective and as a result this book is a thrilling ride of tension and pace. There is a lull in the middle where the pace slows however the story picks up again and I couldn’t put it down until I had come to the end. There are enough twists and surprises to keep the reader’s interest and the two seemingly separate threads of the story are cleverly plotted. One of my favourite authors is Peter Robinson and his Inspector Banks series and this is certainly of a quality to rival those books. All the characters were well written and believable as was the dialogue. 

I shall now be on the lookout for books one and two in order to read the back story of DI Brooke and Steven Dunne will be on my list of authors to read in future. If you like well plotted, police procedural stories that are also page turners then I’m sure you will enjoy this one. 

Alys, Always – Harriet Lane

Published February 2012 by W&N

(Originally reviewed December 2012)

On a bitter winter’s night, Frances Thorpe comes upon the aftermath of a car crash and, while comforting the dying driver, Alys Kyte, hears her final words. The wife of a celebrated novelist, Alys moved in rarefied circles, and when Frances agrees to meet the bereaved family, she glimpses a world entirely foreign to her: cultured, wealthy, and privileged. While slowly forging a friendship with Alys’s carelessly charismatic daughter, Frances finds her own life takes a dramatic turn, propelling her from an anonymous existence as an assistant editor for the books section of a newspaper to the dizzying heights of literary society. Transfixing, insightful, and unsettling, Alys, Always drops us into the mind of an enigmatic young woman whose perspective on a glamorous world also shines a light on those on the outside who would risk all to become part of it.

This seems to have attracted mixed reviews but I really enjoyed reading this debut novel. Frances is an unreliable narrator and, as we discover throughout the story, has a manipulative personality.

Frances Thorpe has a dull existence. She lives in a small, shabby flat. Her family, and in particular, her parents, are not on her wavelength at all and she doesn’t enjoy spending time with them. She is overlooked at work in her job as a sub-editor with a newspaper where other people, with less experience get the plum jobs. However, following her presence at the accident scene, she is introduced to the Kyte family by the police, and she slowly but surely works her way into the family – she lies to them about Alys’ last words – is this merely to give the family some comfort or does she have an ulterior motive for such deceit? Her ensuing connection with the Kyte family, and in particular the father, Lawrence, a prominent author, suddenly opens up a whole new world for her, not just in her professional life where suddenly her opinions are valued and invitations start to appear but also personally. She acquires a lifestyle mixing with people that she could only have dreamed of. To what lengths would you go to acquire and retain that lifestyle and can anyone blame Frances for wanting a piece of someone else’s life?

I actually quite liked Frances as a character. She had an eye on the main chance but she wasn’t evil. Sometimes she would appear to be naive but then suddenly would be so manipulative in her actions. I thought most of the characters were well written and believable and they all held the story together extremely well. 

I think the wording on the book where it is a referred to as a psychological thriller is a little misleading and might lead people to expect more from the story. However I found it an engrossing read and would certainly look forward to reading future books by Harriet Lane.

The Promise (Belle #2) – Lesley Pearse

Published January 2012 by Michael Joseph

(Originally reviewed December 2011)

London 1914


Belle Reilly finally has the life she’s dreamed of thanks to a devoted husband in Jimmy and the hat shop she’s wanted to own since she was a child. But as the storm clouds of World War One begin to gather, Belle’s already turbulent life is to change in ways she never imagined possible.


When Jimmy enlists in the army and leaves for the battlefields of Ypres, her world is shattered and she realises she can no longer stand by and watch, she must volunteer to help the wounded. But her work as a Red Cross ambulance driver in France throws her into the path of Etienne, the enigmatic man who played a significant role in her childhood, and Belle finds herself torn agonisingly between forbidden passion and loyalty to a good man.

But the past returns to haunt her present in other – more unpleasant – ways and Belle’s character is put to the test like never before. Can she survive this most brutal of wars with her spirit intact? And will destiny finally lead her to lasting happiness even while war rages all around?

I enjoyed ‘Belle’, the previous book, and was very much looking forward to this sequel. I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed. When we first meet Belle again, she has married, has her own hat shop and lives a very respectable life with her husband Jimmy, her old friend Mog and her husband Garth. Life changes for everybody however with the outbreak of WW1. Jimmy enlists to go to war and a life changing event forces Belle to reconsider what she wants to do with her life and how she can help the war effort. We then follow Belle’s story through those terrible war years.

Lesley Pearse has once again created a brave, likeable but also vulnerable character in Belle. She tries to do the best with whatever cards life deals her and has a strength of character that sees her through some tragic events. Despite being set during the war years, I found this to be a more sedate read than ‘Belle’ and not so much of an ‘edge of your seat’ read but nonetheless very enjoyable.

The author has seemingly meticulously researched the horrors of a soldier’s life during the first world war. Life in the trenches is described so well that you can almost feel the squelching of the mud, the explosions and the terrible ordeal that the soldiers, and indeed the non-military personnel, went through.

This book contains many references to characters and events that appeared in the previous book and I would recommend that ‘Belle’ is read first to gain a deeper understanding of Belle’s character and the background to the story.

When You Were Older – Catherine Ryan Hyde

Published March 2012 by Doubleday

(Originally reviewed December 2011)

I was doing my best to get out the door. And then the phone rang.
I almost let it go. 
New York, September 11th 2001
Russell Ammiano is rushing to work when he gets a phone call that saves his life. As the city he loves is hit by unimaginable tragedy, Russell must turn his back and hurry home to Kansas.
Kansas, September 14th 2001
Ben Ammiano is mentally disabled, and a creature of habit. Any change to his routine sends him into a spin. But now his estranged brother has reappeared, and Ben’s simple, ordered world has turned upside down.


In a story as heartbreaking as it is uplifting, two brothers must bury their pasts and learn from each other, if they are to survive.

This is the first book by this author that I have read and I loved it.  Russell and Ben are brothers but are so different. Ben is the older by six years however because of brain damage, he is childlike and has to follow a certain daily routine. When Russell returns home to arrange his mother’s funeral and to care for Ben, because no-one else will, without any guidance he has to devise his own `manual’ on how to deal with Ben’s tantrums and difficulties. The frustrations felt by Russell are thoughtfully and carefully dealt with and we have a cast of main characters, Russell, Ben, and Anat, who are believable and have personalities that the reader can care about and the love and affection that these two brothers, in their own way, have for each other shines throughout the story.

In the days following the twin towers collapse, we see how Russell’s old school friends and neighbours have a heightened sense of patriotism and rightly or wrongly, the inevitable prejudice and animosity that exist against people who they regard as being against them. Russell finds himself caught between those who want to do harm and his feelings for Anat, the Egyptian daughter of a local baker who he befriends. The result of a drunken attack by his friends one night has life changing consequences for Russell and Ben and Russell is left having to make difficult decisions and forced to move forward with his life

This is a thought provoking and compelling read and one that I would certainly recommend. I look forward to reading more by this author.

Siege – Simon Kernick

Published January 2012 by Bantam Press

(Originally reviewed January 2013)

LONDON. THE STANHOPE HOTEL, PARK LANE. 16.00 A normal afternoon.


THE MANAGER
Newly engaged Elena Serenko has just made the life-changing decision to quit her job and start a new life in Australia.


THE GUESTS
Upstairs, a young woman waits for her lover; a visiting family prepare for an evening out; and a sick man contemplates his own mortality.


THE ASSASSIN
High up amongst the penthouse suites, a skilled and dangerous killer is hunting a quarry who’s eluded him for far too long.


THE SIEGE
What none of them know is that a group of ruthless gunmen are about to burst into the Stanhope, shooting indiscriminately, and seizing hostages. 

As darkness falls and the gunmen become increasingly violent, only one thing matters. Who will survive?

I’ve read all of Simon Kernick’s previous books and have enjoyed each one. Some have hit the spot more than others and it sounds a bit of a clique but this one is a real page turner. The action starts with a cold blooded murder on the first page and the tension doesn’t let up. 

The main action takes place over several hours at the fictional Stanhope Hotel in London but there are other simultaneous distraction events taking place all over the capital – the terrorists’ planning has been meticulous.

The newly engaged hotel manager about to hand in her notice and emigrate, the man dying of a terminal illness, these are just two of the characters who find themselves caught up in the siege. Some of the finer detail may have been a bit far fetched but that didn’t really matter, it all adds to the tension.

I was pleased to see the return of Tina Boyd, albeit in a more minor role. She is a strong character and whenever she’s involved in a storyline there is always action. The various sub-plots all eventually come together to reach an exciting climax. 

The chapters are short, each told with alternating viewpoints – from the hostages, terrorists and the police. I really couldn’t put this book down and would highly recommend it. 

Lone Wolf – Jodi Picoult

Published February 2012 by Hodder & Stoughton

(Originally reviewed January 2012)

Edward Warren, twenty-four, has been living in Thailand for five years, a prodigal son who left his family after an irreparable fight with his father, Luke. But he gets a frantic phone call: His dad lies comatose, gravely injured in the same accident that has also injured his younger sister Cara.


With her father’s chances for recovery dwindling, Cara wants to wait for a miracle. But Edward wants to terminate life support and donate his father’s organs. Is he motivated by altruism, or revenge? And to what lengths will his sister go to stop him from making an irrevocable decision? 

Lone Wolf explores the notion of family, and the love, protection and strength it’s meant to offer. But what if the hope that should sustain it, is the very thing that pulls it apart? Another tour de force from Jodi Picoult, Lone Wolf examines the wild and lonely terrain upon which love battles reason.

Its rare that I read a Jodi Picoult book that I don’t enjoy but when I heard of the storyline, I did wonder whether I would enjoy reading so much about wolves. However the amount of research that was necessitated made for interesting reading and having these chapters narrated by Luke and hearing his voice throughout the book added an extra dimension. The book follows the usual JP formula but its one that seems to work.

Luke’s estranged son, Edward, flies home from Thailand upon hearing from his mother Georgie about the accident involving his father and sister, Cara. Luke lies in a coma and Cara requires surgery for her injuries. Cara blames Edward for breaking up the family by running away 6 years previously and thus causing the subsequent divorce between Luke and Georgie. Georgie has now remarried and has a new family whereas Luke’s family is Cara and the wolves that he looks after. As the story progresses you learn more about Luke and eventually the reason why Edward left so quickly. The antagonism that Cara feels towards Edward leads to a courtroom battle as who will have the right to become Luke’s medical representative – Edward believes that his father wouldn’t want to live whilst Cara is determined to keep her father alive at any cost. Cara came across as being quite immature in her reasoning and towards the end, we learn the truth of a secret she is hiding that is hinted at throughout the book.

I enjoyed reading this, it was interesting and I became engrossed in the story. It seems to have received a varied response by way of review but to my mind JP just writes a story so well and they are a pleasure to read.

Like This, For Ever (Lacey Flint #3) – S.J. Bolton

Published May 2013 by Bantam Press

(Originally reviewed March 2013)

Bright red. Like rose petals. Or rubies. Or balloons. Little red droplets.


Barney knows the killer will strike again soon. The victim will be another boy, just like him. He will drain the body of blood, and leave it on a Thames beach. There will be no clues for detectives Dana Tulloch and Mark Joesbury to find. There will be no warning about who will be next. There will be no good reason for Lacey Flint to become involved… And no chance that she can stay away.


Keep telling yourself it’s only fiction.

I haven’t read all the Lacey Flint books in sequence however this doesn’t matter as this one can be read as a standalone. This was a dark and sometimes quite scary story of young boys disappearing and later being found dead along the banks of the River Thames. Due to the manner of the killing, there is press speculation of a vampire being the killer – a theory which detective Dana Tulloch and her team try their best to disprove. However when young boys keep going missing, it seems from under their noses, they are fighting a race against time to find the killer. 

One of the central characters in the story is a young boy called Barney. He is 11 years old and lives with his father – next door to Lacey Flint, who is off work recovering from an attack from a previous police investigation. Barney is a very likeable character with issues and problems of his own. When he and his friends find a body and he suspects that the killer is someone he knows he decides to confide in Lacey who being something of a loose cannon makes her own investigations and places herself in danger. 

Lacey has a very difficult relationship with her boss, Dana Tulloch and loyalties within the team are stretched to the limit. Lacey has a dark side and her reckless nature brings her into direct conflict with her police colleagues. 

All through the book there is darkness and tension and the setting is very atmospheric. From the dark waters of the Thames to disused buildings and alleyways, the reader is always expecting something bad to happen. There are plenty of twists and turns to make this an exciting page turner and any one of a number of people could be a killer. The inclusion of social media within the story such as Facebook is a clever and effective tool making the story relevant and up to date.

I really enjoyed this book and will certainly be catching up with the back story of Lacey and her colleagues and I also look forward to reading future books by Ms Bolton. 

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3 Comments

  1. 3rd November 2014 / 9:51 pm

    I read Alys Always for book group it got low reviews from the group. We all agreed we didn't like the characters much.

    • 3rd November 2014 / 10:41 pm

      Personally I wouldn't have wanted to get involved with any of the family but I thought Frances was a very interesting character

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