One of Us – Craig DiLouie

They call him Dog.
Enoch is a teenage boy growing up in a rundown orphanage in Georgia during the 1980s. Abandoned from the moment they were born, Enoch and his friends are different. People in the nearby town whisper that the children from the orphanage are monsters.
The orphanage is not a happy home. Brutal teachers, farm labor, and communal living in a crumbling plantation house are Enoch’s standard day to day. But he dreams of growing up to live among the normals as a respected man. He believes in a world less cruel, one where he can be loved.
One night, Enoch and his friends share a campfire with a group of normal kids. As mutual fears subside, friendships form, and living together doesn’t seem so out of reach.
But then a body is found, and it may be the spark that ignites revolution.

What to say about this book? It’s inventive, for sure. The world-building is top-notch.

Did I like it? I’ve spent the last couple of days thinking about it, and I’m still not sure. Parts of it were brilliant. Other parts staggeringly brutal. And some distinctly unpleasant. And I’m not sure I can entirely get past those. And I’m sure it’s a book that I’ll not forget for quite some time.

One of Us is a very character-driven piece, and the characters that Craig DiLouie assembles here are strikingly drawn and unique. Set in an alternate 80s small-town America, filled with good ol’ boys with their trucks and guns, cotton farmers, evil orphanage masters and a sheriff who struggles between what’s right and what will keep the town happy. It’s Southern Gothic, soaked in heat and oppression.

It’s a book about prejudice, and taking sides. It’s a book about what happens when monsters walk amongst us. But the monsters aren’t always who they seem to be on the surface, and sometimes the scariest are those who look just like one of us. It’s a book about hatred and fear, though ultimately hope. It’s entirely relevant given the current situation in the modern US. It shows the world through the eyes of the plague children and the ‘normals’, and what happens when an oppressed minority decides that enough is enough.

It’s hard to say more without giving too much away. If you do decide to give it a go, approach with caution – it’s not an easy read and doesn’t pull any punches. I’d love to hear what you think.

One of Us by Craig DiLouie is published by Orbit Books and is out now. Many thanks to Nazia at Orbit for the review copy.

A Patient Fury – Sarah Ward

Published by Faber Books, July 2018
Source: review copy
Three bodies discovered.
A family obliterated.
All evidence seems to point to one murderer: the mother.
DC Connie Childs, determined to discover the truth about the fire-wrecked property on Cross Farm Lane, realises that a fourth body – one they cannot find – must hold the key to the mystery. But what Connie fails to realise is that her determination to unmask the murderer might cost her more than her health – this time she could lose the thing she cares about most: her career.

A Patient Fury is the third book in Sarah Ward’s series featuring DC  Connie Childs, but the first one that I’ve read. It won’t be the last! Whilst the book hints at events in previous books, it can easily be read and enjoyed as a standalone, though now I want to jump back and catch up with the earlier adventures (and misadventures) of DC Childs.

It’s a deeply atmospheric book, from the chilling underground caverns of the Peak District to the small village of Brampton in which the main story takes place. Similarly, Ward holds nothing back when it comes to the grisly scene of the murder, leaving little to the imagination in the fire-wrecked shell of a house.

Connie Childs is relentless in her investigation, despite pressure from above to just close the case, she won’t (or can’t) let it go, and is drawn into the world of George and Julia, whose family were lost in the blaze. But of course there are deeply held secrets in the family, and is anything quite as it seems?

Of course not – but Ward deftly weaves the various threads of their story through present and past, showing us glimpses of a earlier time where a mother vanishes leaving her two children alone, and the repercussions that entail. The siblings George and Julia are such different characters, and both compellingly drawn with all their faults and foibles and bluff and bluster that you can’t help but be sucked into the mystery of their former life and what it means for the present day.

DC Childs is a great character and I’m looking forward to finding out more about her in the first two books  (and the next, due in September). She feels very real and honest, never letting the apparently obvious get in the way of the investigation.

The plot is complex and twisty, just the way I like a good police procedural, winding its way to an entirely satisfying conclusion which I’d love to say I saw coming, but didn’t!

Highly enjoyable, and well worth picking up.

A Patient Fury by Sarah Ward is published by Faber Books and is out now in paperback. You can find Sarah on twitter @sarahward1 or at crimepieces.com.

Many thanks to Emma @damppebbles for inviting me onto the blog tour.

About Sarah Ward:
Sarah Ward is the author of three DC Childs novels, In Bitter Chill, A Deadly Thaw and A Patient Fury set in the Derbyshire Peak District where she lives. The fourth in the series, The Shrouded Path, is out in September. On her website, Crimepieces (www.crimepieces.com), she reviews the best of current crime fiction published around the world. She is a judge for the Petrona Award for Scandinavian translated crime novels. Sarah was a 2015 Amazon Rising Star and A Patient Fury was The Observer’s Thriller of the Month in 2017.

Straker’s Journey – Paul Hardisty

Delighted to take part in a blog tour (of sorts) for Paul Hardisty, author of the Claymore Straker books. I’ve had Paul on the blog before for  a Q&A about The Evolution of Fear, his second book. And he’s back!

We kicked off the week over at Liz Loves Books looking at where it all started, then part two with Off-the-shelf books talking about The Abrupt Physics of Dying.

Today we’re back with book two, The Evolution of Fear

Over to Paul:

For the sequel, The Evolution of Fear, I wanted to capture some of my experiences living and working in Cyprus for almost a decade. The start finds Clay in hiding on the coast of Cornwall in the UK. Rania has changed her name and fled to Switzerland. Because of what they did in Yemen, their enemies want them dead. But events quickly drive them both to Istanbul, where a brief encounter brings them closer than ever before, and then forces them decisively apart. They end up in Cyprus, where the politics of land in a country divided by civil war is making millionaires and condemning a species to extinction. What they find there will change them both for ever.

Thanks Paul. The Evolution of Fear is published by Orenda Books and is available in paperback and ebook now.

Claymore Straker is a fugitive with a price on his head. Wanted by the CIA for acts of terrorism he did not commit, his best friend has just been murdered and Rania, the woman he loves, has disappeared. Betrayed by those closest to him, he must flee the sanctuary of his safe house in Cornwall and track her down. As his pursuers close in, Clay follows Rania to Istanbul and then to Cyprus, where he is drawn into a violent struggle between the Russian mafia, Greek Cypriot extremists, and Turkish developers cashing in on the tourism boom. As the island of love descends into chaos, and the horrific truth is unveiled, Clay must call on every ounce of skill and endurance to save Rania and put an end to the unimaginable destruction being wrought in the name of profit. Gripping, exhilarating and, above all, frighteningly realistic, The Evolution of Fear is a startling, eye- opening read that demands the question: How much is truth, and how much is fiction?

And Then It Happened – Linda Green

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for Linda Green’s And Then It Happened, and I’ve got an extract from the book for you.

Mel
Saturday, 27 March 2010

According to Wikipedia, it was Aesop who came up with that line about familiarity breeding contempt. Which kind of vindicates my belief that Greek philosophers are, on the whole, rather overrated. I have known Adam for two-thirds of my life now. Admittedly, that’s only a dot backwards on the great history timeline of things towards Aesop’s era in 600 BC. But the fact remains that for me it is a struggle to remember life BA (as I tend to think of the years before I met Adam). There is a blurry childhood involving a one-eyed teddy bear, under-the-knee socks and grazed knees, blackberry-picking along the canal bank, a less than perfect ponytail and sticking my tongue out at my older brother Martin, who was always the apple of Mum’s eye. And then there is the day I started high school and met Adam. That is when life as I know it really began.

We have barely gone a few weeks without seeing each other since that point. Yet far from make me look at him with a mixture of irritation and loathing, that familiarity has bred something deeper, stronger and altogether more wonderful than I ever thought possible. Don’t get mewrong, Adam is not perfect. He’s a man, for goodness sake. And this is a marriage not a fairy tale. There are, inevitably, a few things about him that cause me to roll my eyes and make the odd sigh or tut every now and again; he snores (though only when lying on his left side), appears to have a pathological fear of baths (I should point out in his defence that he does shower), refuses to go anywhere near a tapas restaurant (something to do with not being able to get one big plate of what you want to eat and having to go home and make cheese on toast afterwards because you’re still hungry) and is prone to going off on a bit of a rant if anyone expresses even the merest hint of admiration for either Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair (perhaps the most excusable of his foibles).

But that is as bad as it gets. A handful of silly little things that bug me. Nothing even approaching the foothills of contempt. Instead, I have all the lovely things that famil­ iarity brings: knowing that he understands when to back off and give me space and when to throw his arms around me and give me a hug; the fact that we can be comfortably silent together because sometimes we just know and we don’t need to say; the reassurance that if I have a headache he knows the exact spot on my shoulder where the knot causing it is and how to massage it away. And the fact that I know, as he sits opposite me at a rather swanky restaurant in Sowerby Bridge, top button of his shirt undone, brushing back the bit of dark brown hair which has always got in his eyes for as long as I have known him, exactly how he will respond to what I am about to say.

And Then It Happened by Linda Green is published by Quercus Books. You can find Linda on twitter @LindaGreenisms

How would you feel if the only man you’d ever loved was taken away from you? And imagine how he’d feel if he hadn’t really been taken away at all -but couldn’t find a way to let you know…

Mel Taylor was thirteen years old when she found Adam. Twenty years on, they are still blissfully in love. She has everything she ever wished for. But Mel’s happiness is spoilt by a secret from their past and a niggling fear that her good fortune can’t last forever. Despite her husband Adam’s efforts to reassure her that nothing bad is going to happen, Mel can’t shake the feeling that good things can’t last forever. But what she isn’t expecting, is something so terrible that their lives will be changed forever…

Gate Crashers – Patrick S. Tomlinson

Published by Tor Books, June 2018
Source: review copy
On humanity’s first extra-solar mission, the exploration vessel Magellan discovers an alien construction. Deciding that finding advanced alien life is too important to ignore, the ship’s captain chooses to return to Earth while reverse engineering technology far beyond anything back home.

Meanwhile, at mission control, the governments struggle to maintain the existence of aliens a secret while also combating bureaucracy, the military industrial complex, and everyone else who wants a piece of the science that could sky-rocket a species into a new technological golden age.

Little does everyone involved know that the bumbling of a few highly-evolved apes in space hasn’t gone unnoticed, and humanity has put itself on a collision course with a far wider, and potentially hostile, galaxy.

Because, in space, no one can see you screw up…

It’s a galaxy-spanning tale of first contact, where the human crew of the Magellan (a brilliant character in her own right) stumble across a mysterious alien artefect sitting perfectly still in deep space.

And nothing sits perfectly still in space.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s great fun, with a cracking plot and some great characters, with shades of Douglas Adams, John Scalzi and more than a sprinking of Becky Chambers’ Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. And those are three of my favourite things.

The ensemble cast is great, with a lovely line in witty wisecracks. The plot bounces around the galaxy, but works well. My only slight criticism is that everyone conveniently speaks English (as it’s so easy to learn!) but that’s a minor niggle and easily put to one side when you’re having this much fun.

Gate Crashers by Patrick S. Tomlinson is published by Tor Books and is out now.

PATRICK S. TOMLINSON is a man of many hats. In addition to writing Sci-Fi novels and shorts, he prowls theaters, clubs, and bars throughout the midwest performing as a stand-up comedian. Between gigs, cons, and rewrites, he works as a pundit and frequent political contributor, with columns appearing in publications such as The Hill and The New York
Times. In the little downtime remaining, Patrick enjoys hobbies such as motorcycling, model-building, and shooting. He lives in Milwaukee with his fiancee, two cats, a bearded dragon, and a 2008 Bullitt Edition Mustang named Susan.
You can find him online at www.patrickstomlinson.com and on Twitter as @stealthygeek.

Forever and a Day – Anthony Horowitz

Published by Jonathan Cape, May 2018
Source: own copy

The sea keeps its secrets. But not this time.

One body. Three bullets. 007 floats in the waters of Marseille, killed by an unknown hand.

It’s time for a new agent to step up. Time for a new weapon in the war against organised crime.

It’s time for James Bond to earn his licence to kill.

This is the story of the birth of a legend, in the brutal underworld of the French Riviera. 

Ah, Mister Bond. Welcome back. Though as we’re firmly in prequel territory here, should I just say welcome?

Forever and A Day marks the second instalment of Anthony Horowitz’s Bond books, following the daftly-named but very good Trigger Mortis in 2015. There we had a sequel to Goldfinger, but here we’re in the uncharted pre-Casino Royale era Bond.

It was fine, though not nearly as good as Trigger Mortis. The plotting seemed lazy in places and the villain a bit too cardboard cut-out, trying to be scary and Evil-with-a-capital-E. It was very Fleming, which I suppose is kind of the point and indeed what we saw with Trigger Mortis. I think what I’d like to have seen was Horowitz putting more of his own stamp on the character, but that’s just me.

The adventure itself is a decent enough Bond tale, with glorious locales, an excellent femme fatale in the form of Sixtine, and all the usual ingredients. There’s double-crossing, peril on every corner, fast cars, lots of cigarettes and alchohol and hijinks galore.

If you like Bond, then it’s worth picking up to see our fledgling agent gain his Double-O status and embark on what will be the first of many missions. Just don’t expect anything particularly new.

Forever and a Day by Anthony Horowitz is published by Jonathan Cape.

84K – Claire North

Published by Orbit Books, May 2018
Source: review copy
What if your life were defined by a number?
What if any crime could be committed without punishment, so long as you could afford to pay the fee assigned to that crime?
Theo works in the Criminal Audit Office. He assesses each crime that crosses his desk and makes sure the correct debt to society is paid in full.
But when Theo’s ex-lover Dani is killed, it’s different. This is one death he can’t let become merely an entry on a balance sheet.
Because when the richest in the world are getting away with murder, sometimes the numbers just don’t add up.

I’ve been sat with a draft of this review on my laptop for several weeks now. Every time I try and start, I find myself staring at the screen, struggling to find the words to try and convey just how good this book is.

You see, for most any other book you can sit back and gabble on about plot and character and setting and and and…

But 84K is different. Of course, it’s got the aforementioned plot and character and setting, otherwise it wouldn’t really be a book. What it also has is something special layered on top, and shot through like veins of quartz through rock. Claire North’s books are always startlingly original, and 84K is no exception to that rule. She takes language and format and plays with them, twisting and shaping the very forms of lines and sentences, leaving you with such imagery that the words in and of themselves couldn’t provide, leaving you with the sense of a sculptor playing with marble, or plasticine, or both. It’s astonishing to see it happen in front of you on the page and wonder how on earth she made it work.

The story itself is an all-too-plausible dsytopian nightmare of a future, where crimes are assessed and billed, and wrong-doers are sent to the patty line to work off their debt to society, a society run by the Company. The Company runs everything. Even if you don’t think you work for The Company, you probably work for a company which is owned by a company which is owned by The Company. You get my drift. Whole towns are sponsored by companies (who are of course owned by companies, etc).

Of course, if you’re rich enough (or know someone who is), then you can just pay the indemnity and literally get away with murder…

Through this we follow the (mis)adventures of Theo as he investigates the murder of  his ex-lover Dani. But is Theo who he says he is? Is anyone?

84K is not an easy read, and at times I had to put it down to give my brain a rest from the complex interweaving of narratives – the now and the then melt into each other as sentences melt into paragraphs. This is a book which demands your attention, but rewards you oh so richly for it.

In the 84K world, there’s a price for everything. I highly recommend you check this out. You won’t have read anything *quite* like it, I can guarantee.

84K by Claire North is published by Orbit Books and is out now. Many thanks to Nazia at Orbit for the review copy.