Robservations

A Narrow Victory by Faith Martin

3/5 stars. I liked the intriguing murder and plot, which was well developed, offering little in the way of suspects, but plenty of frustration for the investigators.

Description

Once again, ex-DI Hillary Greene is delving into the archives, trying to discover who killed an interior designer at a swanky New Year’s Eve Party in 1999.

Somebody clearly didn’t want Felix Olliphant to enjoy the momentous occasion of seeing in not only a brand new year, but a brave new millennium. The trouble is, the more she learns about her murder victim, the less likely it seems that anyone would want him dead – he was a genuinely decent human being, and she can’t find anyone with a bad word to say about him.

To add to her woes, it seems her lover and immediate superior, Detective Superintendent Steven Crayle, is being lured away from her team with offers of a promotion elsewhere.

Can she keep her mind on the job, and find out who killed Felix? Or is this the first cold case that will defeat even her?

My thoughts

I first came across the author in a review and rather liked the sound of the series, featuring Hilary Greene. If I’m not mistaken, this is #15 in the series, so I’ve missed a lot, which might explain why Hillary Greene sounded like Wonderwoman when I began reading. Clearly, she’s been through the mill and back in her previous adventures as a detective inspector. Though she’s now a civilian officer in a cold case squad, she’s still treated as a DI by her superiors and colleagues alike.

It didn’t matter as A Narrow Victory works as a stand alone, though you know reading the previous books would give you a fuller and better understanding of the characters. That said, there were two new, and very different, recruits to the cold case squad. One is a young, enthusiastic Goth, the other a successful millionaire from the dot-com era, wanting to put something back into society. Or does he?

This is one of two subplots that adds to the intrigue of a story that starts slowly, burdened by rather too much physical description of the characters and work for this reader. Once the cold case concerning the death of Felix Olliphant kicks off, the pace moves up a gear. The team track down witnesses and interview them once more, hitting dead ends at every turn.

It’s somewhat leisurely, with the bulk of the action confined to journeys in an E-type jaguar and lots of conversations over cups of tea. And then suddenly, there’s a breakthrough, an arrest and the story’s wrapped up, somewhat abruptly.

Overall, I enjoyed A Narrow Victory. I liked the intriguing murder and plot, which was well developed, offering little in the way of suspects, but plenty of frustration for the investigators. The characters were well-drawn and kept me engaged. Hillary Greene seemed a little too clever and almost too good to be true, which was a shame as she had the dogged determination and resilience needed to be an effective detective. But the story ended with a welcome note of intrigue, preparing for the next novel.

If you like a cosy mystery with likeable characters, and you don’t mind a gentle pace and lots of description, this should be right up your street.

3/5 stars

A Narrow Victory cover

Eastbourne Book Festival

11th November 2017 – talked books with some terrific authors at the Eastbourne Book Festival at the Underground Theatre.

On a busy Saturday afternoon, local authors, editors and illustrators gathered to display their wares and talk books. With so many authors giving readings and talks, they were split into two separate rooms. I was in the local library upstairs, on the second floor in a comfortable room. I was surprised so many people found me as it’s out of the way, but they listened attentively and asked questions at the end. Unfortunately, due to the location, I’m not certain many of them returned to the main festival.

While I never anticipated selling many books, I covered my costs, had the chance to catch up with a few authors I knew, and met some I didn’t.

 

South Downs Gothic

27th October 2017 – terrific review by Will Hatchett, editor of Environmental Health News.

EHN Review

On 3rd November 2017, I visited the offices of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health in London and met with Will. After meeting some of the people who work there, we had lunch in a traditional pub around the corner and chatted about everything from books to fly fishing. I must admit, I know a little more about the former than the latter.

It turned out to be a fascinating day and Will was a learned, humorous and kind host.

Stormcock by Robin Roughley

August 2017 – Stormcock by the excellent Robin Roughley out now.

Think you know about vengeance? Then think again.

For over five years Abe Mathews has been hunting the white-haired assassin.

Obsession and vengeance drives him and at last he is close to bringing the man named Plymouth to justice.

Though Plymouth is playing a deadlier game. One in which he is putting his life in the crosshairs in order to bring the guilty forward and he will stop at nothing to inflict his own horrific brand of retribution.

However, as Mathews draws closer to his quarry he is forced to question the truth about the man with the blue eyes and savage smile.

Though there are others who will cross any line to kill Plymouth, those who have suffered beyond imagining at his hands.

As the noose tightens and people start to die, Mathews must decide who he can trust before the clock stops ticking.

Meanwhile, Plymouth relentlessly draws out those who want to see him dead in an electrifying game of life and death that will have a devastating impact on those unwittingly pulled into the vortex of violence.

Hawthorns Summer Fete

 

29th July 2017 – Sharing a table with local author, Margaret Kaine, at the Hawthorns Summer Garden Party.

The heaven’s opened, forcing the fete inside the Hawthorns. It didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of local residents and visitors, who wandered around the many stalls. Margaret and I got to know each other a little better, sharing some of the joys and woes of being an author.

Fifty Years of Fear by Ross Greenwood

December 2017

4/5 stars. Ross Greenwood’s a talented, thoughtful writer, who brings to life the rather sad story of Vincent, who suffers many tragedies and challenges during the course of the story.

Description

Could you forgive murder? What if it was something worse?

A childhood accident robs Vincent of his memories, causing him to become sensitive and anxious around others. His differences attract bullies, and he comes to rely heavily on the support of his family.

After the devastating loss of his parents, a remarkable woman teaches him to embrace life and, little by little, he realises the world is far more forgiving than he imagined. When fragments of his memory return, he begins to unravel his past.

Who was his mother? What kind of a man is his brother, Frank? And why does death surround them?

Fate is cruel. History is dark. Things are not as they seem.

Perhaps he should have stayed at home.

My thoughts

When I finished the story, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it.

This is the first book I’ve read by Ross Greenwood and he’s clearly a talented, thoughtful writer, who brings to life the rather sad story of Vincent, who suffers many tragedies and challenges during the course of the story. On the surface, he’s an unremarkable character from a typical working class family. He’s lacking in self-confidence, reliant on his elder brother, Frank, for protection, and prefers reading to real life.

In Vincent, I could see and feel parallels with some of my own self-doubts as a teenager, which meant the writing struck a deeper chord. However, as his story and life developed, the parallels faded, leaving me with the author’s skill as a storyteller to keep me turning the pages.

Overall, I felt this was a story about missed opportunities, tragedy and regret. The family secrets that were revealed by brother, Frank, didn’t quite have the impact they should have had, perhaps because of the way Vincent seemed to accept them as almost inevitable. My interest dipped a little midway as events felt a little predictable, but the story picked up towards the end and made quite an impact.

The atmosphere and detail, as described by Vincent, were vivid and well portrayed, with plenty of emotional depth to all the characters, including the minor ones.

It’s a thought-provoking story of what can go wrong in life when you don’t quite fit into the boxes society provides for you. The author has a distinctive style and voice that took you into the head and heart of Vincent with great skill and sensitivity, allowing you to understand and empathise with him.

If there is a message to be taken from this tale, it’s that we shouldn’t be too quick to judge others, especially when we haven’t walked in their shoes. Having now walked in Vincent’s shoes, I’m still not sure how I feel.

4/5 stars

 

Fifty Years of Fear cover

Looking Good Dead by Peter James

December 2017

5/5 stars. Peter James’ meticulous research is legendary, creating a world filled with memorable characters and authentic detail

Description

One single act of kindness becomes an endless reign of terror. . .

Tom Bryce did what any decent person would do. But within hours of picking up the CD that had been left behind on the train seat next to him, and attempting to return it to its owner, he is the sole witness to a vicious murder. Then his young family are threatened with their lives if he goes to the police. But supported by his wife, Kellie, he bravely makes a statement to the murder enquiry team headed by Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, a man with demons of his own to contend with.

And from that moment the killing of the Bryce family becomes a mere formality – and a grisly attraction. Notice of Kellie and Tom’s deaths has already been posted on the internet. You can log on and see them on a website. They are looking good dead.

My thoughts

As Peter James has written 13 novels in the Roy Grace series, I’ve joined the party a little late, but that hasn’t spoiled my enjoyment. I liked the imaginative premise and storyline and plot of Dead Simple, the first Roy Grace novel, but loved Looking Good Dead.

With great skill and insight, the author weaves in the details that bring Roy Grace and his demons vividly to life. The disappearance of his wife, Sandy, still troubles him and prevents him from moving on. His admission of consulting a psychic medium for help with a case has become national news with the media ridiculing both Grace and Sussex Police. Naturally, his boss isn’t amused, threatening to transfer him away from his beloved Brighton unless he solves the case of the dismembered body, found headless in a field.

After finding a CD on a train, Tom Bryce, reports the vicious killing he finds on the disc and makes himself and his family targets for the killers.

Peter James’ meticulous research is legendary, and allows him to create a world filled with memorable characters and authentic detail. He took me into the heart of an incident room to follow the officers in the squad and their relationships with each other as they work tirelessly, often at great cost to their personal lives, to bring killers to justice. It adds both depth and authenticity to this thriller, as officers race against time to prevent more deaths.

The mix of personal and professional lives, combined with comment on modern policing, media hostility and funding cuts, created a vivid picture of the police today, and the additional struggles officers face in carrying out their duties. Mix in an original plot, populated by some truly evil killers and this novel delivers on every level.

While I may have arrived late, I’m certainly enjoying the party and looking forward to spending a lot more time there.

5/5 stars

Looking Good Dead

Scared to Death by Rachel Amphlett

5/5 stars. The story not only kept me interested from start to finish, but I enjoyed the dashes of humour.

Description

When the body of a snatched schoolgirl is found in an abandoned biosciences building, the case is first treated as a kidnapping gone wrong. But Detective Kay Hunter isn’t convinced, especially when a man is found dead with the ransom money still in his possession.

When a second schoolgirl is taken, Kay’s worst fears are realised.

With her career in jeopardy and desperate to conceal a disturbing secret, Kay’s hunt for the killer becomes a race against time before he claims another life.

For the killer, the game has only just begun…

Scared to Death is the first book in a crime thriller series featuring Kay Hunter – a detective with a hidden past and an uncertain future…

If you like the Kim Stone series by Angela Marsons, Peter James’ Roy Grace series and the Erika Foster series by Robert Bryndza, discover Rachel Amphlett’s new detective novels today.

My thoughts

I’ve been aware of Rachel Amphlett and the Kay Hunter series for some time, but it’s taken a while to get around to Scared to Death. It’s always good to start with the first in a series so you can watch the characters and stories develop over time. And I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed every page of this book.

While I have no problem with profanities and violence in stories, I often find them unnecessary and overdone in a lot of stories. Rachel Amphlett’s skill as a storyteller meant she didn’t need gratuitous violence, description or profanities to tell a riveting and realistic story, which made it all the more enjoyable for me.

Her straightforward, no nonsense style is refreshing, allowing readers to imagine the characters, if they want to. There was a strong sense of place and time, especially in the rundown industrial estates of Maidstone, and the scenes in the police station seemed highly realistic and credible to me.

The story not only kept me interested from start to finish, but I enjoyed the dashes of humour, particularly the snake her veterinary husband brought home to look after. The humour, and Kay Hunter’s compassion, proved the perfect counterpoint to the chills and terror experienced by the victims.

Both Kay and the killer were vividly brought to life, adding to the drama and suspense of the intriguing and original plot.

And behind it all, there’s this uneasy menace, lurking in the dark. I suspect this will continue into the next story.

5/5 stars. Highly recommended.

Lost in the Lake – AJ Waines

November 2017

4/5 stars. Both characters were sympathetically drawn were entirely credible, adding a solid backbone to an enjoyable read.

Description

She came at first for answers…now she’s back for you

Amateur viola player Rosie Chandler is the sole survivor of a crash which sends members of a string quartet plunging into a lake. Convinced the ‘accident’ was deliberate, but unable to recall what happened, she is determined to recover her lost memories and seeks out clinical psychologist, Dr Samantha Willerby.

But Rosie is hiding something…

Sam is immediately drawn to the tragic Rosie and as she helps her piece the fragments together, the police find disturbing new evidence which raises further questions. Why is Rosie so desperate to recover her worthless viola? And what happened to the violin lost in the crash, worth over £2m?

When Rosie insists they return to the lake to relive the fatal incident, the truth about Rosie finally creeps up on Sam – but by now, she’s seriously out of her depth…

A standalone novel (and the second book in the Dr Samantha Willerby series), Lost in the Lake is a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat Psychological Thriller that will leave you glancing over your shoulder.

My thoughts

This year I’ve grown a little weary of psychological thrillers filled with secrets about to be exposed, but I enjoyed this psychological suspense story, featuring Sam Willerby, a psychotherapist who gets into hot water when she fails to maintain professional boundaries with a patient. Rosie almost drowned when the van she was travelling in left the road and plunged into an ice cold lake. Now she wants to recover her memory of the event to find out what happened.

Was it and accident or was someone trying to kill her? Is Rosie all she seems?

The narrative alternates between the two characters, offering different perspectives on their relationship, slowly building the suspense, raising more questions than answers. Both characters were sympathetically drawn were entirely credible, adding a solid backbone to an enjoyable read. Though a little slow in places, once the fuse was lit, the story raced away.

This was the second book in the series, but I didn’t feel I’d lost or missed anything by not reading the first.

4/5 stars

Lost in the lake cover

Honour Bound by Alaric Bond

October 2017

5/5 stars. This is a great story, filled with engaging characters, action and conflict and historical details that brings the whole tale alive

Description

Satisfied that he has forged HMS Kestrel into a formidable weapon, Commander King is keen to take her to sea once more. But the war is not progressing well for Britain, and his hopes of remaining in Malta are shattered as Kestrel is moved closer to the action. And so begins a story that covers two seas and one ocean, as well as a cross-country trek through enemy territory, a closer look at the French prison system and a reunion with several familiar faces.

Containing breathtaking sea battles, tense personal drama and an insight into the social etiquette of both Britain and France, Honour Bound is a story brim-filled with action and historical detail.

My thoughts

I have an eclectic taste in books, but believe in one simple maxim – a good story is a good story. And this is a great story, filled with engaging characters, action and conflict and historical details that brings the whole tale alive. While it can be read as a stand alone, it would be a shame to miss out on its predecessors in the Fighting Sail series.

Honour Bound, like its predecessors, is character driven, and not afraid to venture from sea to land when the French capture King’s ship.He and his officers are taken prisoner and held at Verdun, France. Their captivity and way of life is shown in considerable detail, adding an extra dimension to the story and characters, who we get to know a lot better.

Battles at sea are not forgotten though as a parallel story follows the exploits of Lewis, an officer turned smuggler.

If you like your novels to have strong and interesting characters, facing life and death challenges, and you enjoy learning about life in the past, then please give this novel, and the rest of the series, a try.

Highly recommended and I’m looking forward to the next book.

5/5 stars