Out of Bounds by Val McDermid

out of bounds

Out of Bounds was, would you believe, my first Val McDermid novel, and I can honestly say that it won’t be my last as I really enjoyed it.  I won Out of Bounds (over a year ago!) in a giveaway on Susan’s blog Books From Dusk Till Dawn, and if you don’t already follow Susan’s blog then you really should. 😊

There are lots of things that ran in families, but murder wasn’t one of them…

When a teenage joyrider crashes a stolen car and ends up in a coma, a routine DNA test could be the key to unlocking the mystery of a twenty-year-old murder inquiry. Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie is an expert at solving the unsolvable. With each cold case closed, justice is served. So, finding the answer should be straightforward, but it’s as twisted as the DNA helix itself.

Meanwhile Karen finds herself irresistibly drawn to another case, one that she has no business investigating. And as she pieces together decades-old evidence, Karen discovers the most dangerous kinds of secrets. Secrets that someone is willing to kill for…

As I’ve said, this is my first Val McDermid novel, but the astute amongst you will realise that it is the fourth book in the Karen Pirie series.  Yes, I’m a naughty reader who hasn’t started at the beginning of the series!  This did not hinder my enjoyment in any way whatsoever – there are references to Karen’s past, but with sufficient detail that I didn’t feel in the dark at any point due to not having the full background, so I’m fully prepared to recommend this to readers who are also new to McDermid, or perhaps just new to this particular series.

DCI Karen Pirie heads up an historic cases unit, and I thought that the investigation into cold cases, whilst not unique, added something a little different to the police procedural genre.  Technology has been a massive boon in solving crimes, yet historic cases may require a little more traditional sleuthing as new forensic evidence in a twenty-year-old case may be harder to come by.  Of course, it’s a routine DNA check that prompts this particular case to be reopened, but from that point on, understanding what happened is left to Karen to discover via witness statements and going back to re-interview those witnesses from the time, piecing together what happened from the evidence collected during the original investigation, and trying to look at it in a new light.

Karen Pirie is a great character, a no-nonsense individual who does not suffer fools gladly.  Impatient but thorough, she has a healthy amount of disrespect for her superiors, but manages to get away with it due to her successes in solving historic cases which garner a lot of media and public support.  She’s incredibly stubborn, and once she has her teeth into something, she’s reluctant to let go, no matter how many times she might be told to back off.  For me, Karen’s character is one of the real joys of the novel – I loved reading about her efforts to solve these cases whilst coaching Jason, her protégé in investigating historic crimes who has a fair bit to learn, but whose heart in the right place.

I loved McDermid’s writing style, and I thought that the two cases featured here were fascinating – both had me hooked, and I couldn’t read this fast enough to find out ‘whodunnit’.  The cases are wonderfully complex, with everything wrapped up neatly by the end, and I can’t wait to read more of her work.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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Close to Home by Cara Hunter

close to home

Close to Home is a novel that I picked up earlier this year at an event at Waterstones.  The first in the DI Fawley series, I now need to read the second instalment IMMEDIATELY because I absolutely loved it!

HOW CAN A CHILD GO MISSING WITHOUT A TRACE?

Last night, eight-year-old Daisy Mason disappeared from a family party. No one in the quiet suburban street saw anything – or at least that’s what they’re saying.

DI Adam Fawley is trying to keep an open mind. But he knows the nine times out of ten, it’s someone the victim knew.

That means someone is lying…

And that Daisy’s time is running out.

There is a lot going on in Close to Home as what starts out as a seemingly standard missing child drama twists in unexpected ways.  It’s a compulsive read, and for me this was at least partly driven by the lack of information and clues as to what happened to Daisy.  How can a little girl disappear from her home in the midst of a party with no one noticing?  As new information gradually comes to light, the police (and the reader) must constantly re-evaluate what they know – this really is a book to keep the reader on their toes as clues are revealed ever so slowly in this increasingly complex case.

Close to Home has a somewhat unusual format that I felt worked really well.  The majority is told in “real time” as the police investigate, but has flashes back to days, weeks, and even months before Daisy’s disappearance, giving the reader a little more insight into what happened, yet managing the difficult balancing act of still keeping the mystery alive.  This may not be so unusual, but what I really enjoyed was the social media element that was included.  Throughout the story, the reader sees tweets and Facebook posts ranging, as you might expect, from sympathy and appeals for information, to the trolls who automatically assume the worst of the parents.  I thought that the inclusion of the public reaction was extremely realistic, and whilst social media might be a help in an investigation, I’m sure it can be a hindrance as well.  It made the story feel very up to date, and I think that Hunter nailed the views of Joe Public.

There are some strong characters here, both good and bad.  DI Fawley was refreshing as an officer who does have something of a troubled past – this is gradually revealed throughout the narrative – but where this isn’t the focus of the novel, and it hasn’t yet hardened him to the role, nor turned him to drink.  He’s just a guy who hasn’t had the easiest time of things, struggling to do the best job he can, and I found the lack of cavalier attitude or tendencies to break the rules quite refreshing.  I’m looking forward to seeing him and his team in future novels.

Picking up Close to Home, I was expecting a fairly run of the mill police procedural, and it delivered so much more than I was expecting.  The plot is complicated, and just when you think you’ve understood what happened and whodunnit, additional information comes to light to turn everything on its head.  It’s absolutely brilliant, and with a twist at the end that wasn’t entirely unexpected, but that made for a great story.

Close to Home is the first in the DI Fawley series, and I can’t wait to read the second instalment, In the Dark which is available now.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Blog Tour and Giveaway: The Black Prince by Adam Roberts

It’s my stop on the blog tour for The Black Prince by Adam Roberts – a novel adapted from an original script by Anthony Burgess, and I have one copy to giveaway.  Details on how to enter the giveaway can be found towards the end of this post, but first, a little about the book.

Description

the black prince

‘I’m working on a novel intended to express the feel of England in Edward III’s time … The fourteenth century of my novel will be mainly evoked in terms of smell and visceral feelings, and it will carry an undertone of general disgust rather than hey-nonny nostalgia’

Anthony Burgess, Paris Review, 1973

The Black Prince is a brutal historical tale of chivalry, religious belief, obsession, siege and bloody warfare. From disorientating depictions of medieval battles to court intrigues and betrayals, the campaigns of Edward II, the Black Prince, are brought to vivid life by an author in complete control of the novel as a way of making us look at history with fresh eyes, all while staying true to the linguistic pyrotechnics and narrative verve of Burgess’s best work.

Brings to light unpublished material from one of the twentieth century’s literary titans, author of A Clockwork Orange, Inside Mr Enderby and Earthly Powers.

Adam Roberts has worked with the full cooperation of the Burgess Foundation.

Roberts is a celebrated novelist in his own right: Jack Glass (2012) won the British Science Fiction Award for Best Novel and 2015’s The Thing Itself was described by the Guardian as ‘a dazzling philosophical adventure’. Widespread review coverage is expected and the author will be available for events.

For fans of Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake, Patrick DeWitt’s The Sisters Brothers, and His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet.

About the Author

Adam Roberts

Adam Roberts is a writer, critic and academic. He is the author of sixteen novels and many shorter works, including the prize-winning Jack Glass (2012). His most recent novel is The Real-Town Murders (2017). He is Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London, and has published critically on a wide range of topics, including nineteenth- and twentieth-century fiction and science fiction. He lives in the south-east of England.

 

Giveaway

To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment on this blog post, or retweet my pinned tweet – you can find me on Twitter @tiny_ickle_jo 🙂

This giveaway is open to UK residents only (sorry!) and you have until midnight (UK time) on 11 October to enter.  A winner will be chosen at random from the entries.

⭐ Good Luck! ⭐


Make sure you check out the other stops on the blog tour:

FINAL The Black Prince Blog Tour Poster

Blog Tour: Trap by Lilja Sigurdardóttir

trap

I’m delighted to be sharing my review of Trap by Lilja Sigurdardóttir as part of the blog tour today.  I absolutely loved its predecessor, Snare (you can see my review here), and Trap definitely lived up to my expectations.

Happily settled in Florida, Sonja believes she’s finally escaped the trap set by unscrupulous drug lords.  But when her son Tomas is taken, she’s back to square one… and Iceland.

Her lover, Agla, is awaiting sentencing for financial misconduct after the banking crash, and Sonja refuses to see her.  And that’s not all… Agla owes money to some extremely powerful men, and they’ll stop at nothing to get it back.

With her former nemesis, customs officer Bragi, on her side, Sonja puts her own plan into motion, to bring down the drug barons and her scheming ex-husband, and get Tomas back safely.  But things aren’t as straightforward as they seem, and Sonja finds herself caught in the centre of a trap that will put all of their lives at risk…

Set in a Reykjavík still covered in the dust of the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption, and with a dark, fast-paced and chilling plot and intriguing characters, Trap is an outstandingly original and sexy Nordic crime thriller, from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.

Trap opens in Florida with Sonja and her son, Tomas ,enjoying a different kind of lifestyle (and climate!) to what they’re used to.  It’s clear that their peace won’t last, however, and it’s not long before Sonja and Tomas are forced back to Iceland, with Sonja losing even the brief contact she had with Tomas, given his father has legal custody over him.  I really felt for Sonja – having taken the brave step to leave the country, her happiness is so brief as her ex-husband, Adam, manages to track her down, using their son as leverage to get her to do what he wants.  Forced back into her life as a drug mule, she must now come up with yet another plan to escape the trap she’s in – one that is bigger and bolder than her previous plan.

The reader also catches up with Agla, Sonja’s on / off lover.  Agla is still having difficulty accepting her sexuality, and this has driven a wedge between the two women, with Sonja understandably fed up of the cycle of drunken affection followed by the morning after shame that Agla seems to be stuck in.  It’s a case of you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone for Agla as Sonja calls things off, and I thought that her inner turmoil and indecision played out brilliantly, finally allowing her to realise what it is that she wants.  Agla is still under investigation for her actions in the lead up to the financial crash, but this doesn’t stop her putting another plan into action in order to clear herself and her former colleagues of a debt.  I really like this story line, and it portrays Agla in a very different light, as in financial dealings she is a strong and decisive woman, providing a neat contrast to her love life.

If I had any concerns that the plot of Trap would too closely resemble that of Snare, these were quickly dismissed.  Where Snare sees Sonja finding ever more inventive ways of carrying cocaine into the country, Trap goes beyond this and looks more at the people she is forced to work for.  I don’t want to go into the details, but Sonja’s position is now much worse than before as she finds herself at the mercy of a new individual – one who is possibly even more ruthless than any we’ve met previously.  I love a good villain, and this new character ticked a lot of boxes.  Whilst following similar themes, the plot and situation are different, and I loved how the situation had escalated between the two.

Like Snare, Trap is a fast-paced novel that I read in no time at all.  The short chapters practically beg you to read just one more, and I love the two women at the heart of these stories.  I think it’s a real testament to Lilja’s writing that I really want them to get out of their respective predicaments and find a more peaceful, happy life.  It’s almost as though they’re real.  I really can’t recommend these novels enough.

Trap is published by Orenda Books, and will be available in paperback on 18 October – it’s available now as an eBook (and at the time of writing, it was available on Kindle for the bargain price of £0.99!)  Many thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Blog Tours and Orenda Books for the review copy and the opportunity to take part in the blog tour.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐


Make sure you check out the other stops on the tour:

Trap First BT Poster

This Week in Books – 03-10-18

TWIB - logo

This Week in Books is a feature hosted by Lipsy at Lipsyy Lost and Found that allows bloggers to share:

  • What they’ve recently finished reading
  • What they are currently reading
  • What they are planning to read next

The last book I finished reading was Trap by Lilja Sigurdardóttir, which I raced through in no time at all.  I’ll be sharing my review as part of the blog tour on Friday.

trap

Happily settled in Florida, Sonja believes she’s finally escaped the trap set by unscrupulous drug lords. But when her son Tomas is taken, she’s back to square one… and Iceland.

Her lover, Agla, is awaiting sentencing for financial misconduct after the banking crash, and Sonja refuses to see her. And that’s not all… Agla owes money to some extremely powerful men, and they’ll stop at nothing to get it back.

With her former nemesis, customs officer Bragi, on her side, Sonja puts her own plan into motion, to bring down the drug barons and her scheming ex-husband, and get Tomas back safely. But things aren’t as straightforward as they seem, and Sonja finds herself caught in the centre of a trap that will put all of their lives at risk…


My current read is for another blog tour – The Black Prince by Adam Roberts, adapted from a script by Anthony Burgess.

the black prince

I’m working on a novel intended to express the feel of England in Edward III’s time … The fourteenth century of my novel will be mainly evoked in terms of smell and visceral feelings, and it will carry an undertone of general disgust rather than hey-nonny nostalgia 

– Anthony Burgess, Paris Review, 1973

The Black Prince is a brutal historical tale of chivalry, religious belief, obsession, siege and bloody warfare. From disorientating depictions of medieval battles to court intrigues and betrayals, the campaigns of Edward II, the Black Prince, are brought to vivid life by an author in complete control of the novel as a way of making us look at history with fresh eyes, all while staying true to the linguistic pyrotechnics and narrative verve of Burgess’s best work.


My next read will be one of my backlist titles – Out of Bounds by Val McDermid.  I’m a little ashamed to admit that I’ve had this book for over a year now, after I won it in  giveaway run by Susan @ https://booksfromdusktilldawn.blog/.  It’s also my first McDermid – an author I’ve been wanting to try for some time!

out of bounds

There are lots of things that ran in families, but murder wasn’t one of them…

When a teenage joyrider crashes a stolen car and ends up in a coma, a routine DNA test could be the key to unlocking the mystery of a twenty-year-old murder inquiry. Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie is an expert at solving the unsolvable. With each cold case closed, justice is served. So, finding the answer should be straightforward, but it’s as twisted as the DNA helix itself.

Meanwhile Karen finds herself irresistibly drawn to another case, one that she has no business investigating. And as she pieces together decades-old evidence, Karen discovers the most dangerous kinds of secrets. Secrets that someone is willing to kill for . . .


And that’s my week in books! What are you reading this week?  Let me know in the comments! 😎

The Hoarder by Jess Kidd

the hoarder

The Hoarder is a novel I bought when it was first published in February this year, and it’s another one that I wish I’d read earlier.

Maud Drennan – underpaid carer and unintentional psychic – is the latest in a long line of dogsbodies for the ancient, belligerent Cathal Flood.  Yet despite her best efforts, Maud is drawn into the mysteries concealed in his filthy, once-grand home.  She realises that something is changing: Cathal, and the junk-filled rooms, are opening up to her.

With only her agoraphobic landlady and a troop of sarcastic ghostly saints to help, Maud must uncover what lies beneath Cathal’s decades-old hostility, and the strange activities of the house itself.  And if someone has hidden a secret there, how far will they go to ensure it remains buried?

The Hoarder introduces the reader to some of the best characters I’ve come across in long time.  Maud Drennan, our main protagonist, is a carer who has recently been assigned to Cathal Flood – a cantankerous old man whose once grand house is now covered in layer and layer of grime and the results of his hoarding.  I loved Maud, and whereas Cathal has managed to scare off many other carers in a matter of days, Maud is no pushover and takes it all in her stride, beginning to clean the house and throwing away some of Cathal’s hoarded possessions.  I loved the way that their (platonic) relationship, tense initially, develops over the course of the novel.  Also of note is Renata, Maud’s neighbour, landlady and possibly her best (and only?) friend, and one of the most outrageous individuals you’ll come across.  I don’t want to say too much about her as it really would spoil it, but she is fabulous.

There are two mysteries at the heart of The Hoarder, and both are fascinating.  There is a tragic incident in Maud’s past in which her sister disappeared, an incident that Maud seems to have blocked from her memory, but that she is beginning to remember.  I enjoyed the way that this was revealed in snippets as Maud came to remember the details around those events and what happened.  There is also the mystery of a girl who went missing in the 80s which Maud seeks to uncover, much the annoyance of certain individuals who would rather the past remained forgotten.  As Maud discovers more about the house and its owner, she begins to find little clues that help her unravel this mystery, as well as receiving a little supernatural help through some odd goings on at Bridlemere.

I’m not sure I’ve ever comes across a novel where the protagonist is haunted, for want of a better word, by saints who come and go at will.  Whilst they are saints in appearance and name, they don’t behave quite as you might expect, making snarky comments and being a hindrance as much as a help.  Having read this, I will never see St Valentine in quite the same light!

The Hoarder is a brilliant, quirky novel that is wholly original and I can’t recommend it enough.  There’s a bit of mystery, some supernatural goings-on, and the saints help to offer some light relief, giving this novel a bit of everything.  Kidd tells a fantastic story about characters that you really care about, and I’ll be picking up a copy of Kidd’s debut, Himself, on the strength of this novel.  Published by Canongate, The Hoarder is available in digital and hardback formats, and the paperback will be published later this month with this gorgeous new cover.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

the hoarder pb

Little by Edward Carey

little

Little grabbed my attention as soon as I heard about it, and I’m so pleased to have had the opportunity to read it ahead of publication.

The wry, macabre, unforgettable tale of an ambitious orphan in Revolutionary Paris, befriended by royalty and radicals alike, who transforms herself into the legendary Madame Tussaud.

In 1761, a tiny, odd-looking girl named Marie is born in a village in Alsace.  After the death of her parents, she is apprenticed to an eccentric wax sculptor and whisked off to the seamy streets of Paris, where they meet a domineering widow and her quiet, pale son.  Together, they convert an abandoned monkey house into an exhibition hall for wax heads, and the spectacle becomes a sensation.  As word of her artistic talent spreads, Marie is called to Versailles, where she tutors a princess and saves Marie Antoinette in childbirth.  But outside the palace walls, Paris is roiling: The revolutionary mob is demanding heads, and… at the wax museum, heads are what they do.

Edward Carey’s Little is a wonder – the incredible story of a ‘blood-stained crumb of a girl’ who went on to shape the world.

Marie or Little, as she is commonly referred to, is a fantastic character.  Her voice is utterly unique, and her narration carries you away to the seedy streets of 18th century Paris.  Little focusses predominantly on her earlier life, and the reader see her grow up and follows her story until the time she moves to London at the start of the 19th century.   As a child, she becomes the apprentice of Dr Curtius – a doctor who replicates organs and other body parts in wax for use in the hospital by trainee physicians.  Tiring of his trade, he turns his skills to the production of heads, Marie’s being one of his first creations.  As news of his talent spreads, so more people arrive at his door wanting their own wax sculptures.  Moving to Paris, Curtius and Marie rent rooms from the Widow Picot, who sees as opportunity to make money through Curtius and his sculptures, and to obtain a free servant in the form of Marie to whom she has taken an instant dislike.

There are some characters that you are so taken with that you go through a whole range of emotions during their story, and Marie was one such character for me.  I laughed, I felt sad, and oh my fury when she was mistreated and taken advantage of by others, particularly Picot and Curtius, who was supposed to look after her.  She learns to sculpt early on and shows quite a talent for it, but is forced into the role of a servant, for which she is never paid, by Picot.  But Marie bides her time, she continues to practice her craft (secretly, of course) and shows tremendous resilience and determination to improve her lot in life.  I thought that Marie’s narrative was fascinating throughout, and I loved the matter of fact tone with which she deals with her circumstances.  Yes, there is emotion, but she doesn’t cry or feel sorry for herself, and I loved this about her.

While the Widow Picot does not come across as an entirely pleasant individual, she certainly has a head for business, and she helps to transform Curtius’s fledgling business into something more lucrative, moving them to larger, grander premises and obtaining ever better clientele.  Her treatment of Marie is unfair, and yet it is because of Picot’s desire to obtain an ever-better station in life that Marie is sent to Versailles to live with and to tutor a minor royal.  To me, Curtius seemed to be one of those individuals who is intelligent and good at what they do, but naïve in matters of business, and I think it’s fair to say that he would have been completely taken advantage of had it not been for Picot.

Little may be a fictionalised account of the early life of Madame Tussaud, but it incorporates a huge amount of detail about the world in the 18th century.  Medicine and the lack of understanding about the human body, political and economic stresses, and the vast gap between the rich and poor are all apparent, but Carey avoids turning Little into a history lesson, and the background information serves to bring the story to life successfully.  This is a fascinating, fictionalised, account of a world-famous individual, and I highly recommend it.

Little will be published on by Aardvark Bureau, an imprint of Belgravia Books, on 4 October.  Many thanks to the publisher for the early review copy.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐