The Fourth Monkey – JD Barker

For over five years, the Four Monkey Killer has terrorized the residents of Chicago. When his body is found, the police quickly realize he was on his way to deliver one final message, one which proves he has taken another victim who may still be alive.

As the lead investigator on the 4MK task force, Detective Sam Porter knows even in death, the killer is far from finished. When he discovers a personal diary in the jacket pocket of the body, Porter finds himself caught up in the mind of a psychopath, unraveling a twisted history in hopes of finding one last girl, all while struggling with personal demons of his own.

With only a handful of clues, the elusive killer’s identity remains a mystery. Time is running out and the Four Monkey Killer taunts from beyond the grave in this masterfully written fast-paced thriller.

The Fourth Monkey is enormous fun, if you can call a tale of a serial killer ‘fun’. Even if I did spot the twist some twenty pages in and worked out how it would pan out way before the end (one of the perils of reading so many books, I suspect!), and I *still* really enjoyed it! I loved the detectives’ banter as they raced to solve the clues left by 4MK – they made a fantastic team and I’d love to see them in more investigations. I also really liked the way the main story is interspersed with the diary extracts of 4MK as a young boy – they really gave the story added depth and intrigue – you’re torn between wanting to find out more about the diary, but also more about the investigation in the present day.

It’s creepy and twisty and has definite shades of Jeffrey Deaver. Definitely falls into the ‘page-turner’ category, The Fourth Monkey is highly recommended.

You can find JD Barker on twitter @jdbarker. The Fourth Monkey is published by HQ and is out now in hardback and ebook.

Thanks to Liz @Cvr_2_Cvr from Cover to Cover for hosting the competition which resulted in me getting a copy of the book!

The Other Twin – LV Hay

When India falls to her death from a bridge over a railway, her sister Poppy returns home to Brighton for the first time in years. Unconvinced by official explanations, Poppy begins her own investigation into India’s death. But the deeper she digs, the closer she comes to uncovering deeply buried secrets. Could Matthew Temple, the boyfriend she abandoned, be involved?
And what of his powerful and wealthy parents, and his twin sister, Ana? Enter the mysterious and ethereal Jenny: the girl Poppy discovers after hacking into India’s laptop. What exactly is she hiding, and what did India find out about her?

What happened to Poppy’s sister? Was it suicide, or was she pushed? Poppy isn’t convinced it’s the former, so starts digging into her sister’s life, revealing a host of secrets that others would far rather have remained firmly buried.

The Other Twin is a smart psychological thriller, with an expertly woven web of twisted plot strands. There are secrets, lies and half-truths buried in the wintry lanes of Brighton, and Hay delivers an authentic taste of the city and its inhabitants as the tension ramps up and Poppy gets deeper into the mystery.

Poppy is a compelling heroine, drawn inexorably into the sometimes murky lives of her friends and family. It’s been some time since she was last home, and the people she knew have changed – who’s telling the truth and who’s bending the truth? I loved Poppy’s detective work into her sister’s life through the medium of blog posts, each throwing a new slant on what she thought she knew of her sister. Who is the mysterious Jenny? How is she linked to Poppy’s former boyfriend Matthew, his sister Ana, or any of the other key players?

The Other Twin is a relatively short read and I whistled through it in a couple of sittings. The writing is sharp and smart, the twists and turns nicely paced, and the characters well-drawn. Highly recommended.

The Other Twin by LV Hay is published by Orenda Books, and is available now. You can find Lucy on twitter @LucyVHayAuthor or at her website lucyvhayauthor.com.
Many thanks to Karen at @OrendaBooks for the review copy.

Game of Thrones – Season 7, episode 2: Stormborn

Or, “Greyworm, Greyscale and the Greyjoys”

WARNING: spoilers for episode 2 of season 7 follow!

And episode 1, naturally.

Dany & the gang have arrived at Dragonstone and the weather is worse than a bank holiday in a caravan in Wales. Even Melisandre rocks up (how far is Dragonstone from The Wall, anyway? Does she have some kind of magic travel stuff going on?). Yara, Elleria and the utterly fabulous Olenna Martell have a conflab, Tyrion tells them about his fantastic plan and everyone’s happy. Well, as happy as they get in GoT.

To be fair, the plan does sound like an improvement on the usual “let’s all pile down to King’s Landing and try and storm it”.

Greyworm and Missandei *finally* get it on, after a touching speech about she being his ‘weakness’. I was slightly distressed that they didn’t bother to close the door, mind you. Must be awfully draughty, that place. Anyone could wander in!

Back in King’s Landing, Qyburn reveals his grand plan to defeat Dany’s dragons. He appears to have invented the crossbow. *slow clap* Joffrey had one *ages* ago. Keep up!

Up North, Jon pays his respects to Ned’s statue in the catacombs when Baelish rocks up. I really thought Jon was going to strangle him for a brief, hopeful moment. But no, he lives to smarm another day. Boo.

Arya bumps into Hot Pie for a very weird, very stilted chat. HP is always good for delivering a key bit of info, tells her that the Boltons are all dead and Jon is now King of the North, so she wanders off to see what he’s been up to, though he’s wandered off to have a chat with Dany about that handy stash of dragonglass. Still, I’m sure Sansa will be pleased to see her.

Dear old Jorah. Riddled with greyscale, all set to end things on his terms. But what’s this! Sam appears! Turns out the cure for greyscale is just pulling bits off.

My concern is just how… low does the greyscale go…? Ick.

Finally, the Greyjoys. Specifically Euron. Deliciously viking in his approach to stuff, he’s got that wild-eyed, zero-fucks given approach to problem solving. Awesome ship, rock & roll entrance, glorious.

Next to die: Still Davos. Or maybe Euron. When will I learn not to have favourites?

Random thought lack of undergarments for Missandei and Greyworm. Surely there’d be chafing? Especially when they were wandering around in the leather armour.

Block 46 – Orenda Audio Week

Delighted to be taking part in Orenda Books’ Audio Week, where a host of awesome bloggers (and me) are reviewing the audiobook versions of some fantastic Orenda titles. Plus I’ve got *two* copies of Johana Gustawsson’s Block 46 audiobook to give away! More on that later.

Falkenberg, Sweden. The mutilated body of talented young jewellery designer, Linnea Blix, is found in a snow-swept marina. Hampstead Heath, London. The body of a young boy is discovered with similar wounds to Linnea’s. Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1944. In the midst of the hell of the Holocaust, Erich Hebner will do anything to see himself as a human again. Are the two murders the work of a serial killer, and how are they connected to shocking events at Buchenwald? Emily Roy, a profiler on loan to Scotland Yard from the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, joins up with Linnea’s friend, French true-crime writer Alexis Castells, to investigate the puzzling case. They travel between Sweden and London, and then deep into the past, as a startling and terrifying connection comes to light.

Firstly, the story. It’s dark and often horrific, told in part through flashbacks to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp towards the end of the Second World War. The characters here are twisted and barbaric in their treatment of the prisoners, and you’re dragged along through the story of Erich Hebner as he does what he needs to do to survive. How this then links to the murder of Linnea Blix in the present, or to the murders of a young boy in London, is what drives this story.

The characters are brilliantly realised – I loved Emily Roy and Alexis Castells in particular as they unpick the unpleasant clues behind these horrific murders. There’s a real international feel to the book – written by a French author (and here translated into English by Maxim Jakubowski), with the action moving from Falkenberg in Sweden to London, with a Canadian Behavioural Insight Analyst (Roy) and a French crime writer based in London (Castells). Regular readers of this blog know of my love of books which give you a sense of place, and Block 46 delivers this in spades, across the various locations in the book.

The audiobook is narrated by Patricia Rodriguez and Mark Meadows. If I had any criticism, I found Patricia’s delivery to be a little too measured and slow. However, the great thing about the Audible app is that you can alter the speed of the narration. I found that by bumping it up fractionally to 1.25x speed, the delivery felt better for me, and I got through the book quicker – always useful when you’ve got a lot of other books to read! The shift between Rodriguez and Meadows as narrators worked really well and really gave the story an extra dimension.

Karen at Orenda Books has given me TWO copies of the audiobook to give away – leave a comment here on the blog, or retweet a link to this post – I’ll pop all the names into a random number generator next week and announce the winners on twitter. You’ll need an account at audible.co.uk though!

You can find Johana Gustawsson on twitter @JoGustawsson. Block 46 is published by Orenda Books.

Game of Thrones – season 7

Game of Thrones – S07 Episode 1

Every time a new season of Game of Thrones starts I’ve been meaning to do a series of blog posts which follow along, talk about what we’ve just seen and speculate WILDLY on what might happen next. As Season 7 has just started, now’s the time!

WARNING: spoilers for episode 1 of season 7 (and possibly all of the previous seasons) follow!

Did I really need a spoiler warning? Perhaps.

Assuming you’re still reading, here follow some very random thoughts on the first episode.

As soon as Walder Frey appeared, I suspected Arya. Yay Arya. One less family to keep track of. I like her style.

Ed Bloody Sheeran. He’s everywhere. That whole scene just felt a bit pointless and jarring. Arya discovering that Soldiers Are People Too just felt a bit… off, I thought. “I’m off to kill the queen”, “lolz”.

I absolutely loved (and therefore fear for) Lyanna Mormont, kicking ass and taking no prisoners. Putting Lord Percy in his place.

Sam going to Hogwarts (assume everyone has made that joke) and sneaking into the restricted section despite what Slughorn said. Though why were only half the books chained up? That was totally a thing, but if you’re going to do it for some, they’d do it for all. Books (and therefore knowledge) were valuable. And how come he’s got his own little house? All the Maesters seemed to be in a dorm, with terrible plumbing, and even worse digestive systems.

I probably need to rewatch season 6. I’m not entirely sure why Jon was all suddenly OMG DRAGONGLASS IS TEH AWESOME. I don’t remember him ever using it, though he did have a swordfight with an undead dude, though I think that was at the end of season 5.

I also loved Euron. Cocky swine. “Yeah, I’ve killed my brother, and got two hands.” *suggestive eyebrow raise* “Right, I’m off to get you a present.”

Who will be the present? Tyrion?

Also, why was Dragonstone completely empty? Sam’s discovery of OH LOOK, DRAGONGLASS ON DRAGONSTONE (who’d have thought it?).

It’s all there. So she owns the world’s only dragonglass mine (really, is that a thing?) and the dragons. Loved the giant throne room. Have we seen that before?

And The Hound can see stuff in the flames. That was unexpected (I’ve not read the books, so it might be entirely expected).

Next to die: Davos – he can’t be long for this world. He’s too nice. There are still entirely too many characters moving into place, given how few episodes are left. I know we can’t expect them all to be killed off (though given past form, I wouldn’t be entirely suprised)

Random thought: I’d love to see the last two standing as Brienne and Tormund. They’d walk into the throne room in King’s Landing, see the Iron Throne, look at each other and go ‘nah’, then run off to have adventures. Possibly with Lyanna Mormont. PLEASE MAKE THIS A THING.

Nemesister – Sophie Jonas-Hill

It’s a psychological mystery where the female protagonist stumbles into a deserted shack with no memory but a gun in her hand. There she meets an apparent stranger, Red, and the two find themselves isolated and under attack from unseen assailants.

Barricaded inside for a sweltering night, cabin fever sets in and brings her flashes of insight which might be memory or vision as the swamp sighs and moans around her.

Exploring in the dark she finds hidden keys that seem to reveal her identity and that of her mysterious host, but which are the more dangerous – the lies he’s told her, or the ones she’s told herself?

A woman with no memory of who she is. A woman with no name, with a gunshot wound and no idea where or how she got it…

Nemesister kicks off at a breathless pace and doesn’t really let up. It’s a compelling, gothic tale, told through the eyes of a character who can’t remember who she is. Flashbacks light up parts of her story, but they merely add to the confusion. Who is she? How has she got to the shack? And who is the mysterious stranger?

As the night draws in, it becomes clear that the pair are forced to spend the night together. The sense of unease begins to escalate.

Nemesister is an intriguing read. The characters are fascinating, and the setting claustrophobic and intense. Secrets are revealed gradually, but so are the lies – we’ve got an unreliable narrator, in an unreliable situation, with a distinctly unreliable companion.

It’s hard to say too much without giving away too much of the story. Suffice it to say that if you like your psychological thrillers in the american gothic style, with a hot, sticky, confined location, then Nemesister should be on your list.

Nemesister, by Sophie Jonas-Hill is published on July 6th 2017 by Urbane Publications. You can find Sophie on twitter @SophieJonasHill, or at her website The House of Crooked Sisters.

The blog tour continues tomorrow!

The Cardinal’s Man – MG Sinclair

I’m delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for M.G. Sinclair’s The Cardinal’s Man. Set in Cardinal Richelieu’s 17th-century France, this is a story about how great figures of history can pass by unnoticed. Those that have been born in the wrong body, sex or society at the wrong time; reminding us ‘that for every Archimedes of Shakespeare, there have been other seeds which have had the misfortune to fall on far stonier ground’.

Intrigued? Here’s an excerpt from the start of the book!

Escape
(1608 – 1632)

Sebastian Morra was born in Camoches, a village in the hinterlands of Normandy. Forty miles from Caen, it lay on an outcrop facing five thousand miles of open Atlantic, clinging to its spur like some barnacle to a whale. It was the ocean that brought the whiting, the bass, the mackerel, the bream and the crab. But it was also the ocean that brought the wind. A hard easterly that stung the eyes, that blew away the earth and left only sand and rock behind; that brought clouds and driving rain from September to June, an incessant wetness which made its way through every wall, roof and into the damp logs which sputtered in every fireplace. Dark and unrelenting months as the air tugged and squalled, wearing the people down as they protected their soil behind low walls, binding it as best they could with beans, beetroot and turnip, or else braved the water, with its currents and rip tides – moods that answered only to the earth and the sun.
The only release came with summer, both a blessing and a curse, a momentary respite from the scrabble and toil, a few weeks to revel, drink and forget. But always too brief and always with the same bitter ending, when the wind returned and the sodden cycle began all over again.
The village was a quarter of a mile from the shore, a straggle of no more than sixty dwellings, all in varying states of disrepair. Sebastian’s was no exception. Like its neighbours, it was walled with mud and stone. Timber was avoided, the fishermen knowing all too well how their boats suffered in the salt and the breeze. But while rock could resist the elements, whatever the mortar, the wind would pick it out, leaving the loose stones to crumble – particularly high up, near the thatch. And no matter how much his parents tried to repair the seaward side, they could never seal all the cracks or keep out the chill which followed every setting sun.
The inside was divided into two. One room for his parents. The other, larger, was used for everything else – a place to eat as well as a bedroom for him and his brothers at night. It was dark. The only light came through the open chimney and a door on the landward side, and Sebastian was to remember it more as a burrow than a home. A life of shadow. All of them packed together like a litter of newborns. Evenings spent crouched tight round the fire, with its familial stench of smoke and sweat that made its way into their clothes, skin and nose until everything they drank or tasted was overpowered by it.
Both his mother and father shared the local physiognomy, flat faces that had been ground to the nub, though it was there the similarity ended. His father was black-eyed, sullen and lean, dressed in his dark tunic, either away at sea or staring into the fire with a drink in his hand. She was the opposite. Blue-eyed, always around and busying herself in her dress and shawl, nudging and cajoling, a whirl of good humour and chat. They squabbled incessantly but seemed to fit each other’s absences well enough. She found comfort in his silence while he found sanctuary in her warmth. And each seemed content in their role, she taking care of the children, he fetching the water and catching the fish.
Sebastian was their first child, and as such, his birth was celebrated. However, by the age of three it was obvious something was wrong. While his chest was normal enough, his back, limbs and jaw remained of infantile proportions – the skull outlandish on his tiny body. Consequently, many of his earliest memories were of distorted faces: the expressions of horrified relatives, visitors flinching as they caught his eye, the stares of unfamiliar children peering round doorways.
Revolted, his father avoided him whenever possible. Instead the boy took sanctuary in his mother’s company. Pitying him, she swaddled him close, at first within the confines of the crib, and then when, aged five, he was able to escape it, she still kept him close to her skirts – safe from his two younger brothers Charles and Audrien who rampaged through the gloom, a pair of clumsy giants oblivious to his presence. And there he remained for his earliest years, secure in his orbit. A speck in infinite space, yet safely revolving around a single star.

The Cardinal’s Man is published by Black & White Publishing on 11th July.

Sebastian de Morra is born with as difficult start as one would care to imagine. A dwarf, born to a peasant family, he has only two things going for him – a first-class mind and a determination to find refuge from the sharp edges of the world.

Using his disadvantage to his advantage, he becomes a jester at the Parisian court entertaining the nobility. Making enemies easily, he also makes a powerful ally when one of history’s most notorious figures, his Red Eminence – the Cardinal Richelieu – requires his services. Under the Cardinal, he finds himself facing and even crossing swords with some of the greatest names of state, until his final task – an undertaking on which the entire future of his country depends.

The only child of two writers, M.G. Sinclair grew up in a world that revolved around literature. Breaking the family tradition, he rebelled and joined the corporate world, where he worked as a copywriter and marketing executive. However, unable to escape the inevitable, he has now completed his debut, a historical novel inspired by a trip to the Prado in Madrid.

author photo (C) Orlando Gili

The blog tour continues tomorrow…