As the Crow Flies

If you like short, sharp police procedurals, and don’t mind too much about flat characters and awkward dialogue, there’s enough here to keep you entertained for an evening, but only just.

As the Crow Flies (The DI Nick Dixon Crime Series Book 1) I fancied a police procedural without any weird magical stuff, so I gave this a shot (Kindle version, as part of a free 7 day Kindle Unlimited trial).  DI Nick Dixon has recently moved back to his home town, leaving the fast pace of the Metropolitan police force behind.  It’s early days, and while he hasn’t made any obvious enemies in his new role, he’s not making friends fast either.  With hardly any furniture in his house, few friends other than his dog, but plenty of memories of the area, his day is about to be ruined as he becomes involved in investigating the death of his one time climbing partner and friend, Jake.

As the Crow Flies is Damien Boyd’s first novel and it’s pretty short; at 173 pages it took me about 3 hours to finish.  The pace is flat, the dialogue is stilted and the prose is extremely workmanlike.  Half way through (and I was surprised to find myself half way through) I wondered if the author was in the police force, because most of the novel is written in the style of a police statement.  DI Nick goes here, has this conversation, records these facts, then goes and buys some chips.  There’s very little character development, and the prose is very light on emotional content.  Perhaps the dialogue is accurate in the sense that it is how people talk in police briefing rooms, but it doesn’t work very well in a novel format if that’s the case.

The plot is reasonably simple, but engaging, with one suspicious death leading to various interesting events.  It’s just that the delivery is so straight and flat that it’s hard to care about anyone involved.  Boyd’s clearly spent some time rock-climbing, and there are plenty of climbing references (many unintelligible to me) throughout, with descriptions of some nice climbing locations which I assume are real.  If you like climbing, you’ll get more from the book than a non-climber.

To give Boyd his due, I did finish the book, I was interested enough in the crime to keep going, especially when I realised how short it was going to be, but honestly it has the feeling of a first novel in need of much more depth.

Boyd, it turns out, is a former solicitor and I can’t help but wonder if that is where the style comes from – having had to spend so much time writing out factual accounts of events.  There are plenty more books in this series, so people are buying them, and I hope that Boyd manages to loosen up his style as the books progress.  I’m just not sure I’m going to immediately turn to them as my next read.  I’m giving this a pretty low score generally, but the book has plenty of five star reviews on Amazon.  If you like short, sharp police procedurals, and don’t mind too much about flat characters and awkward dialogue, there’s enough here to keep you entertained for an evening, but only just.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Damien Boyd
  • Series: The DI Nick Dixon Crime Series (1)
  • Format: Kindle
  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
  • Genre: Crime
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The Other Me

The Other Me Eliza Bennett has the life she always dreamed of. She’s who she wants to be, and she’s with the man she wants to be with. But Eliza is living a lie. Her real name is Klaudia Myer. And Klaudia is on the run. She’s escaping her old life and a terrible secret buried at the heart of her family. This is the story of Eliza and Klaudia: one woman, two lives and a lie they cannot hide from.

This book blew me away. It was brilliant. Compelling, emotional and heartbreaking; bringing alive the feelings and thoughts of the individuals so well they jump off the page.

Once I had started it I just could not put it down, turning every page to see what was going to be revealed next. The story is told from 3 points of view – Klaudia, Eliza and Ernst, in 1986, 1996 and the 1930’s respectively. Ernst’s recollections in particular were thought provoking and heartbreaking and each narrative managed to evoke the era very well.

This book shows how quickly a lie can spiral out of control, how what we believe isn’t always the truth and the heartache of families torn apart by miscommunication.

The blurb indicates it is a thriller but I wouldn’t call it that at all, it is a powerful story about a young woman’s journey in dealing with the shadows of her past, accepting there are things she cannot change but do not define who she is now; there is also a love story entwined but is a very small part of the overall story.

Definitely not a book I would normally pick up to read but having been sent it by the publisher for an honest review I am so glad I did.

I would definitely recommend reading this, but put time aside to read as once you start you won’t want to stop!

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Book Information
  • Author: Saskia Sarginson
  • Format: Paperback
  • Publisher: Piatkus
  • Genre: Thriller
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Redemption Road

This story shows how one mistake, one miscalculation of judgement can ruin everything and leave hopes and dreams in ashes.

Redemption Road The crash is the unravelling of Margaret Holloway. Trapped inside a car about to explode, she is rescued by a scarred stranger who then disappears. Margaret remembers little, but she’s spent her life remembering little – her childhood is full of holes and forgotten memories. Now she has a burning desire to discover who she is and why her life has been shrouded in secrets. What really happened to her when she was a child? Could it have anything to do with the mysterious man who saved her life?

Flitting effortlessly between past and present, this is a suspenseful, gritty and emotionally charged journey of an estranged father and daughter, exploring the strength of family ties and our huge capacity for forgiveness.

Well this is not my usual kind of book, in fact there is no romance at all, so why did I pick it up? The blurb on the back cover intrigued me and the publisher sent me a copy for review, and boy am I glad they did. This is a really compelling book and once I got into it, I could not put it down.

It did take me a few chapters to get into it, as it is told from three different perspectives (and also 2 different eras). I often struggle to keep it all straight in my head to start with and have to keep going back to check dates etc! Having said that, after those first few, I was dragged in and read it at every opportunity. Once I got used to the characters and the way the book told the story, it flowed very well. I felt it was very well written and vividly descriptive.

Parts of the story I could easily see where it was going and there wasn’t any surprise when it happened, but I was still compelled to keep reading, to see everything tied up. This story shows how one mistake, one miscalculation of judgement can ruin everything and leave hopes and dreams in ashes.

The characters are believable and fallible and I especially felt drawn towards Big George, even when I felt I shouldn’t! I liked the way their layers were revealed bit by bit and this story shows you should never take things at face value.

It was emotional and a real page turner for me, not something I would usually pick up, but I can definitely recommend it.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Lisa Ballantyne
  • Format: Paperback
  • Publisher: Piatkus
  • Genre: Thriller
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Tracer

This book literally explodes into life from page one and while it’s not the sort of book I usually read, I was dragged in by both feet! With explosions and betrayals, you end up looking at everyone and thinking ‘are they a good guy or are they about to turn round and shoot you’?

Tracer (Outer Earth) A huge space station orbits the Earth, holding the last of humanity. It’s broken, rusted, falling apart. We’ve wrecked our planet, and now we have to live with the consequences: a new home that’s dirty, overcrowded and inescapable.

What’s more, there’s a madman hiding on the station. He’s about to unleash chaos. And when he does, there’ll be nowhere left to run.

Riley Hale is a tracer – part of a group of people who make money delivering goods to different sectors of the space station. She never looks at what she is carrying until one day it all goes wrong, she inadvertently sees her cargo and nothing is the same again.

This book literally explodes into life from page one and while it’s not the sort of book I usually read, I was dragged in by both feet! With explosions and betrayals, you end up looking at everyone and thinking ‘are they a good guy or are they about to turn round and shoot you’?

Riley is fast and resilient and can definitely take a punch or two, although I’m not sure how she managed to stay standing at times.  She is a strong heroine but has hidden depths and when the time comes, she shows just how strong she really is.

Darnell is the main villain of the piece and he’s evil, nasty, completely nuts and so well written I could imagine him very clearly.

There is also a large cast of supporting characters, all of whom are interesting and multi layered.

The world building is good and you get a sense of the despair felt by people living on this crumbling space station – it makes you want to think about taking better care of this planet we are on!

I guess my only criticism would be that at times it felt like I was watching an action film at the cinema (and this would translate to a big budget blockbuster very easily). You could argue of course that feeling like I was watching a film shows the quality of the writing – that I can see it all so clearly, but for me at times I felt it was a bit over the top.

Overall, I did enjoy it and it is a good book, just not my usual genre (although there was a teensy bit of romance).

Generally though this is a non stop action thriller set in space, and if that is the sort of book you enjoy, you will love this. Very well written, descriptive and immersive.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Rob Boffard
  • Format: Kindle
  • Publisher: Orbit
  • Genre: Science Fiction
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Bite

While Erica is the main female character, we do not get to see much of her in the present. Her disappearance is told entirely from Max’s point of view and what we learn about Erica, we learn from flashbacks using her journal from her days in Africa. It seems clear this must be linked to her disappearance but I have to confess it took me ages to put it together – always good if you have to keep reading to find out the answers! The journal diaries from Africa were fascinating, interesting and very vivid, I was almost annoyed when we kept switching back to present day.

Bite: The most gripping thriller you will ever read Tomorrow should be the greatest day of Erica Stroud-Jones’ life. In just twenty four hours this brilliant young scientist will present her secret work to a conference in Amsterdam – research that promises to revolutionize the battle against a deadly tropical disease. Millions of lives could be saved. Arriving to watch her are skeptics and rivals, admirers and enemies. Erica’s own eyes will be on sculptor Max Carver, her new love to whom she will dedicate her achievement. Tomorrow never comes. Erica vanishes during the night…

I was pulled into this from the first few pages, intrigued as to what could be so dangerous but clearly so innocuous as to be on a plane in the first place. However, I quickly became confused as to what was going on. There were so many characters and I was not always sure how they fitted in. Having said that I was sufficiently intrigued enough to keep reading and things start to make sense as you move through the book.

While Erica is the main female character, we do not get to see much of her in the present. Her disappearance is told entirely from Max’s point of view and what we learn about Erica, we learn from flashbacks using her journal from her days in Africa. It seems clear this must be linked to her disappearance but I have to confess it took me ages to put it together – always good if you have to keep reading to find out the answers! The journal diaries from Africa were fascinating, interesting  and very vivid, I was almost annoyed when we kept switching back to present day.

Max may have only known Erica for a short time but he is determined to find her, convinced she has been abducted and the reason is linked to her secret paper. We are left wondering  most of the way through exactly what was in her paper and I was dying to know.  Thankfully we do get to find out eventually never fear. I found Max a difficult character to get on with and I’m not sure his background would have enabled him to turn into the James Bond style superman he seemed to become. I don’t know how he was still standing at one point let alone running. He has to contend with organised crime, corrupt police and professional thieves in order to find out what happened to Erica. I admire his determination and persistence.

The premise of this story is frightening because you could actually see it happening, and all because of a throwaway comment made by a greedy pharmaceutical boss. There were lots of interesting facts about malaria and mosquitoes and you cannot help but have sympathy with the plight of those people.

Overall this is a thriller with a frighteningly real sounding premise and while I got confused, everything does come clear and make sense in the end – it seemed to get quite James Bond for a while which is not really my style of book but that doesn’t make it bad just not my ideal. There are very real moral and ethical issues running throughout this and you have to look inside yourself to think whose side are you actually on.

If you like clever action thrillers you will probably love this.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Nick Louth
  • Format: Kindle
  • Publisher: Sphere
  • Genre: Thriller
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The Girl With All The Gifts

The Girl With All The Gifts NOT EVERY GIFT IS A BLESSING

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.

When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite. But they don’t laugh.

Melanie is a very special girl.

Oh my goodness, this is one creepy, thought provokingly brilliant book.  I’d heard good things about it but curiously I’d not heard much of what it was actually about.  I can understand that now.  The fall of civilization, apocalypse, zombie type creatures, are all part of it yes (or some time after the fall) but it’s actually about a young girl called Melanie who is very curious.

The focus is very narrow, kept to what Melanie knows in the beginning and doesn’t really spread out much further than that other than a couple of different POV scenes but all kept in close proximity.  I went through so many emotions, starting off as curious as Melanie but then feeling a bit uncomfortable led to dawning horror and then so much tension I couldn’t actually put the book down because I had to find out what was happening.  Almost like having to look at something awful, just to prove to yourself that it is actually that awful.  The pace is very much tied to the plot and as things progress, things speed up and get more intense and that does not stop until the end.  I actually finished the book with my mouth hanging open.

With a very small core cast, the obvious focus is Melanie who I loved, even with the creepy factor.  Secondly is Miss Justineau, her compassion and intelligence create for some very raw scenes.  The superb writing of Carey gave us the Sergeant who I loathed… then by the end I loved.  That’s a pretty impressive turnaround in not a lot of time and shows that what you see is very much not what you get.  Caldwell, the scientist, is cold but I’m stuck between necessity and hatred where she is concerned.  She may be the only one who can get the answer but her actions are abhorrent.  The lieutenant was just a bit a fish out of water and didn’t get in the way too much.

The answer to what is going on however is mind-blowing and so very horrifying.  Yet, it’s also fascinating and in an odd way, hopeful.

A brilliant yet creepy book that will leave you thinking.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: M.R. Carey
  • Format: Kindle
  • Publisher: Orbit
  • Genre: Horror
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Loving Rose : The Redemption of Malcolm Sinclair

Loving Rose: The Redemption of Malcolm Sinclair: Number 3 in series (From the Casebook of Barnaby Adair) Miraculously spared from death, Malcolm Sinclair erases the notorious man he once was. Reinventing himself as Thomas Glendower, he strives to make amends for his past, yet he never imagines penance might come via a secretive lady he discovers living in his secluded manor. Rose has a plausible explanation for why she and her children are residing in Thomas’s house, but she quickly realises he’s far too intelligent to fool.

After the disappointment of the previous book in this series, Ms. Laurens has returned to form with this one. The only thing I didn’t like was the confusion over Thomas Glendower/Malcolm Sinclair. I gathered he had appeared as a villain in a previous Cynster book (I later discovered it was the ‘Taste of Innocence’), but as it was not one I’d read I found it a bit confusing over what he had done that was so bad. I therefore started the book feeling like I was missing half the story. It would have been useful if the book blurb had stated where we first met him, so readers could go back to that book if they chose.

Once I put that aside though, it didn’t take me long to get into the story and I really enjoyed it. The first half of the book is very much about Thomas and Rose, their developing relationship and the secrets they both hold. Rose is guarded and unwilling to trust but finds it difficult to resist Thomas, particularly with how he is with the children. Thomas is also surprised at how quickly he feels protective towards them, and seeing his younger self in Homer, he seeks to guide him as he himself never was.  Once Rose trusts Thomas with her problems they move to London, and that is when Barnaby Adair and his (growing) team get involved to solve the mystery. For me this book is a perfect blend of intrigue and romance, and focuses very clearly on the protagonists whereas the previous one didn’t.

Ms. Laurens does not disappoint with her bedroom scenes – steamy as always! But at least this time they focused on the characters that matter.

Overall a great book and having prepared myself for this one to be another thriller with little romance as in The Masterful Mr Montague, I was very pleased to find that was not the case.

Book Information
  • Author: Stephanie Laurens
  • Series: Casebook of Barnaby Adair (3)
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Rating: ★★★★½ 

Extinction

Extinction An extraordinary discovery in the Sahara desert will turn history on its head…

A series of unexplained phenomena create shockwaves across the globe – a huge religious statue moves its arm, and there’s a spate of floods and earthquakes. Many think it’s the end of the world…

Investigative journalist Alyssa Durham receives a call from an old friend claiming that these phenomena may not be entirely natural, but when he is assassinated in front of her, she finds herself on the run for her life.

Alyssa teams up with Jack Murray, a scientist from a secretive government research laboratory, to uncover the truth. But who wants them dead, and what are they trying to protect?

As chaos descends, Alyssa and Jack are drawn into a battle against an unknown enemy with the highest possible stakes, because one thing they’ve learnt is that nothing is safe from extinction…

Wow, this is a hard one to review.  On the one hand, it’s an utterly gripping thriller with some extremely clever parts and on the other it has the worst type of ending for me personally and I’m going to put that aside because it shouldn’t take away from the brilliance of this book.  It’s also hard not to spoil things as there are a few elements that I really want to shout excitedly about!

The story is extremely well written, engaging and emotional, and oh yes, very gory!  The characters are exceptional too, I especially loved Alyssa and was glad she wasn’t made out to be a wilting flower, given her job as an investigative journalist.

Apart from the prologue and epilogue, the pace is full on, have to keep turning the pages while on the edge of my seat.  You can easily see it being a blockbuster action film.

The twists.  Oh my goodness the twists.  I can’t talk about them because they really would spoil the book, but there are two that had my jaw on the floor.  One is outstanding, I didn’t see it coming and it had me in shocked tears.  The second manages to be both extremely clever and a little disappointing.  Clever in that it encompasses the entire book, the writing is part of it, and it wasn’t until after I’d reached the epilogue, that I then had to skim through the book again to make sure it was how I thought it was.  That aspect – stunning.  The disappointing part was that it was so improbable but it is a minor part of an otherwise fantastic book that still has me thinking about it, a week or so on from reading it.

The first book by J.T. Brennan I’ve read and it won’t be the last.  Even if he doesn’t cater to my ending preferences 😉

[book rating=4.5/5]

Book Information
  • Author: J.T. Brannan
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Watch Your Back

Watch Your Back (The Baltimore Series Book 4) A cold case reopened. A murderer re-emerging more deadly than ever before…
 
Baltimore Homicide Detective Stevie Mazzetti has suffered losses no woman should have to endure. And, despite it all, she’s still a fighter. When she learns that her ex-partner might have miscarried justice, she’s determined to put the past to rights, even when she becomes a target.
 
It’s former Marine Clay Maynard’s job to see the risk in every situation, but he doesn’t have to look hard to find the danger surrounding Stevie. Since the minute he first saw her, Clay has wanted to protect the wounded officer, and he started loving her not long after that. So when Stevie attracts the attention of a vicious psychopath, Clay will do whatever it takes to keep her alive. That is, if he can stay ahead of a killer with everything to lose—and something terrifying to hide…

Wow, this was one breathtaking, heart stopping, gut-wrenching ride!

Stevie is a character I have loved for the longest time and have been both frustrated and tearful both with her and for her.  Clay is just a sweetheart and is no different in this book.  When he does the powerful man thing though, it makes my knees quite weak!

I think this might be the final book focussing on this grouping of characters – I hope I’m wrong because I love them dearly but I’m not sure what direction it would go in now.  Having said that, Karen Rose does have the most amazing ability to connect characters and story-lines across books so there may well be some mention to see how they are doing.  I can only hope!

The story was fast paced and I thought it was extremely well judged to keep me right on the edge of my seat. The plot reveals came thick and fast and I don’t think I could have stopped reading even if I’d wanted to – there was just so much I had to KNOW.  I lost count of the number of times my heart was in my mouth and my husband had to keep checking I was OK, as I would make an audible sound (not that I was aware of it!).

The bad guys were actually really bad and Ms. Rose cleverly wove several elements from previous books into this one and the big reveal at the end – I thought I knew, but wow, I really didn’t.

Just phenomenal and as usual I am desperate for her next book, even if it does involve different characters.  In fact I think I need to read them ALL again!

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Book Information
  • Author: Karen Rose
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Amnesia

Amnesia Quinn Cortez is a hotshot lawyer and ladies man – when his current lover Lulu is murdered, he wants to find the killer to clear his name, but when ex lovers also turn up dead and he has no alibi, Quinn turns to the best detective agency in the country for help.

Lulu’s cousin Annabelle is desperate to find the murderer and also turns to the Powell detective agency. Forced to work together, Annabelle soon becomes one of the only people to believe in him as the evidence stacks up, and Quinn cannot remember what he was doing at the time of any of the murders.

Wow – this is a fantastic thriller with a superb plot and a strong romance. I’ll be unable to say too much about the plot without giving anything away but suffice to say I did guess the killer, but was never really sure I had the right person until the end – also the reason they were killing was totally unexpected. The story completely sucked me in and took me every which way – every time I thought I had the answer, something else happened to throw me off track!

There was a very strong romance in this book and while the speed in which Quinn and Annabelle got together seemed a bit quick given the circumstances, the way it was written worked for me. Initially Quinn was not my favourite person being a bit of a ‘love them and leave them’ kind of guy, not caring about the broken hearts he leaves in his wake, but as we get beneath his layers we start to see the guy he really is. Annabelle is strong having had to carry the weight of family problems on her shoulders but I did feel she was a bit too trusting.

I have read a few of Ms. Barton’s books and recognized a number of characters particularly Griffin Powell – this is an early one in the Griffin Powell story line and makes you hungry for more information on him. I am missing big gaps of his story and am keen to find out what they are.

Ms Barton is a superb storyteller and this is another great romantic suspense. I started this one and was unable to put it down – there went my housework day again!

NB: This book was also published under the title ‘Killing her Softly’.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: Beverly Barton
  • Series: Griffin Powell (5)
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