Into the Drowning Deep – Mira Grant


Published by Orbit books, November 2017
Source: Review copy
Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.
Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.
Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves.
But the secrets of the deep come with a price.

This review will come in two parts. First up, the general ‘what did Dave think of the book’ bit, then a SPOILERIFIC (real word, honest) bit.

I was torn when it came to giving Into The Drowning Deep a star rating on Goodreads. It’s a solid thriller, and I polished it off in a couple of days. Perfectly decent, if unsurprising alien horror. Reminded me a little (ok, a lot) early Michael Crichton books. But… just wasn’t really scary enough for me. Not quite a four-star ‘loved it’, but more than a three star.

Ok, let’s go 3.5 stars. If you like Michael Crichton’s ‘something scary going on, lots of science and OMG IT’S EATING MY FACE’ then I have no hesitation in recommending this book. You’ll almost certainly enjoy it (especially the face-eating bits). The story moves along nicely, the scary monsters are certainly monstery and it’s worth your time if you’re into that sort of thing. I did enjoy it.

MOSTLY.

HOWEVER.

[SPOILERIFIC BIT]

[NO, REALLY]

[are you still here? Have you read the book? Yes? Cool. No? Did I mention SPOILERIFIC BIT?]

[We cool? Right]

See, the trouble I had with this book is that I’ve seen it before. Strange things going on so a bunch of people go investigate and get their faces eaten. No, they’re not dinosaurs, they’re mermaids. With lots of teeth. But you’ve got the usual cast of characters who naturally, make a series of spectacularly stupid decisions, usually resulting in them getting their faces eaten off.

There’s the Company Man (and the company is called Imagine. Not at ALL like InGen. No sir. No dinosaurs here) with An Agenda. His estranged genius sort-of-ex-wife scientist. The cute younger scientist who lost her sister to a previous mission. There’s a tricked-out super science ship with non-working shutters (of course). There’s pretty much a bit where someone has to go down a darkened corridor to do A Thing and gets their face eaten afterwards. The husband-wife hired killers who liked hunting things but continued to make a series of stupid decisions throughout the story. The company who sends a partially-working ship to find killer mermaids but can’t be arsed to wait to sort the shutters out because waiting another few days to set off wouldn’t kill you (but mermaids with a face-eating thing will).

There were so many Chekhov’s guns scattered around the opening third of the book. I had a bet with myself that X would happen to Y because of *this*, and that Z would happen because of *that*, and was fairly spot on with 90% of it

Some bits did surprise me – Theo Blackwell’s gammy leg due to an unspecified-yet-teased injury which required regular injections of an oddly-specific concoction of snake venom mixed with other things, which I assumed would come up later – either he’s getting eaten because he can’t run because of the leg, or someone discovers that the oddly-specific drug concoction would turn out to the THE MAGIC THING that killed off the mermaids. Weirdly none of this happened and it turned out that he just had a bad leg and needed to inject himself regularly. Oh.

AND! the bit where Tory falls into the ocean with all the until-now-killer mermaids, who’ve pretty much eaten the faces off EVERYONE but now largely ignore her (??). And has to swim under the ship due to the now-working shutters and swim through a tiny hatch only to be stopped at the end and appear to be drowning BUT NO, someone spots her behind the clear plastic (??) shutter which can only be opened from the inside manually (I dunno, maybe the electrics were still fried despite the cameras working) and requires someone to risk life and limb (and face) to go into the pool with the mermaids (who have got bored of eating faces) to open it and save the day.

HOWEVER. Despite all that, I did enjoy it. It was daft and silly but rattled along – I liked the characters (mostly), it was an interesting setting, and left things open enough for a sequel. Which I’ll probably read. Like I said before, if you like Crichton, you’ll more than likely like this.

Huge thanks to Nazia @gambit589 for the review copy.

The Perfect Victim by Corrie Jackson: blog tour

Delighted to be a part of the blog tour for Corrie Jackson’s The Perfect Victim.

Husband, friend, colleague . . . killer?
Charlie and Emily Swift are the Instagram-perfect couple: gorgeous, successful and in love. But then Charlie is named as the prime suspect in a gruesome murder and Emily’s world falls apart.
Desperate for answers, she turns to Charlie’s troubled best friend, London Herald journalist, Sophie Kent. Sophie knows police have the wrong man – she trusts Charlie with her life.
Then Charlie flees.
Sophie puts her reputation on the line to clear his name. But as she’s drawn deeper into Charlie and Emily’s unravelling marriage, she realises that there is nothing perfect about the Swifts.
As she begins to question Charlie’s innocence, something happens that blows the investigation – and their friendship – apart.
Now Sophie isn’t just fighting for justice, she’s fighting for her life.

Here’s an extract from the book.
~~~~~
PROLOGUE

His heart bumps against his ribs as he pulls a torch from his pocket and shines it into the space behind the washing machine. He pulls out a brick and his fingers close around something feathery. The baby bird is as light as dry leaves. He’s amazed it’s still alive. It’s been in there for days. There are others buried deeper in the wall that haven’t been so lucky. He folds one hand round the bird and, with the other, he opens the laundry basket and digs around. The Blue Nun bottle is at the bottom, where his mum hid it. He waits a beat, then springs up the steps to the kitchen.
As he tiptoes past his mum, a car shoots past, its headlights turning the sitting-room shadows cartoony. He freezes, not used to seeing cars in this remote place. His mum shift s, snorts, rubs her stomach with a stubby red fingernail. He counts to fifty. The bird quivers, soft and sick, in his hand. He places it on the carpet, beside his sleeping mum, where it twitches, then settles. It looks peaceful but its eyes are milky with death. The boy unscrews the bottle lid. Then he pours the liquid on the carpet, trails it around the sofa, over the cigarette butts, the ashtray, the empty wine boxes, the remains of a congealing pizza. It splashes onto his shoes, drips down his wrists. He saves the final drops for the baby bird.
The boy takes one last look at his mum, then flicks the green lighter. The tiny flame shivers and he realises his hand is trembling. He cocks his head to one side, then snaps the lighter shut. His trainers squeak as he lurches – a childish zig-zag – across the kitchen and rips the crayon drawing from the fridge door. He rolls it into a cone then lights one end and tosses it onto the carpet. As the flames shoot forward in an angry orange stripe, words fill the boy’s head: He himself will be saved, but only through fire.
The boy waits, his eyes watering, lungs filling with smoke as he watches the fi re swallow up the bird. Then he drops to his knees and crawls into the hallway. He is about to open the front door when he hears coughing. It’s coming from the sitting room. His mum is awake. His hand hovers over the door handle. Then he remembers the crayon drawing.
The woman. The boy. The heart.
He opens the door and darts out into the dirty moonlight.

~~~~

The Perfect Victim by Corrie Jackson is published by Zaffre and is released on 16th November 2017.

Anita Robinson Photography

Corrie Jackson has been a journalist for fifteen years. During that time she has worked at Harper’s Bazaar, the Daily Mail, Grazia and Glamour. Corrie now lives in Greenwich, Connecticut with her husband and two children. Breaking Dead, her debut novel, was the first in the journalist Sophie Kent series and was described by Glamour as ‘Gripping . . . crime with a side order of chic’ and by the Sun as ‘Original, amazingly written and tense’. You can find Corrie at her website corriejackson.com or on twitter @CorrieJacko.

Jade City – Fonda Lee


Published by Orbit books, November 2017
Source: Review copy
FAMILY IS DUTY. MAGIC IS POWER. HONOR IS EVERYTHING.
Magical jade—mined, traded, stolen, and killed for—is the lifeblood of the island of Kekon. For centuries, honorable Green Bone warriors like the Kaul family have used it to enhance their abilities and defend the island from foreign invasion.

Now the war is over and a new generation of Kauls vies for control of Kekon’s bustling capital city. They care about nothing but protecting their own, cornering the jade market, and defending the districts under their protection. Ancient tradition has little place in this rapidly changing nation.

When a powerful new drug emerges that lets anyone—even foreigners—wield jade, the simmering tension between the Kauls and the rival Ayt family erupts into open violence. The outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones—from their grandest patriarch to the lowliest motorcycle runner on the streets—and of Kekon itself.

Last weekend I found myself on a three hour train journey down to London to visit GollanzFest, so cast around through the TBR pile for something to read. It’s a splendid problem having a wide range of things to choose from, and with some gentle prompting from @gambit589 (which basically involved emails which went JADE CITY! JADE CITY!), I started (somewhat unsurprisingly) Jade City, by Fonda Lee.

Oh, what a splendid choice. Described as “a cross between Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Godfather with magic and kung fu”, it’s all that and more. The magic system is both delightfully simple (jade gives its owner magical powers – the more jade the stronger the powers) and wonderfully complex. The worldbuilding is top-notch, giving Kekon a deep and well-considered culture which sets it apart – it feels like a mishmash of a variety of different places – Hong Kong spring to mind, but with other far eastern islands layered on top, creating a unique, new-yet-familiar setting.

Similarly, the characters draw on the familiar – Yakuza, the Triads, and yes, The Godfather, but with its own unique polish. The level of detail in the world presented is fantastic – from the food, religion, clan power structures to the cars and weaponry – moon blades, and talon knives, jade giving the wearer powers, but too muc in the wrong hands bringing the dreaded (and deadly) itches. The powers that Jade confers, giving us some splendid kung fu sequences. It’s all too easy to see how Jade City would rock on the big screen.

All this worldbuilding would be for nothing if there wasn’t a rock-solid story to back it up. Jade City delivers on every front. Rival families at war over control of the city. Anden, a young student reaching the end of his studies in how to control his jade powers. City lowlife trying to get by in a city ruled by the clans. It’s all here, every layer of society.

Jade City is the first book in The Green Bone Saga, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. You can find Fonda Lee on twitter @FondaJLee, or at her website fondalee.com

Huge thanks to Nazia @gambit589 for the review copy.

HUNT YOU DOWN in Real Life — Online Mobs, Real Violence – guest post by Christopher Farnsworth

Taking part in the blog tour for Christopher Farnsworth’s new book, Hunt You Down, and I’ve got a guest post from Christopher for you.

More on the book later – first, over to Christopher.

~~~
The unthinkable happened again on a Monday night. Someone detonated a bomb at the Manchester Arena in England on May 22, just as an Ariana Grande concert ended. Twenty-three people were killed, including children there to see the pop star, and 250 were injured. Social media lit up with shock and grief.

And in the middle of all this, a freelance writer in Boston named David Leavitt tweeted, “MULTIPLE CONFIRMED FATALITIES at Manchester Arena. The last time I listened to Ariana Grande I almost died too.”’

It was a cruel, stupid joke when people were still searching for their kids. And in the midst of the uncertainty and horror, it was nice to have a reliably crappy villain to target. Leavitt’s name became a trending topic within the hour, with almost 50,000 tweets about him, pretty much all of them angry. People called for him to be fired, to be blacklisted by editors, to be punched in the face, and worse.

He was back to tweeting stupid memes the next morning. His profile pic seemed to smirk above it all, free from any consequences, as he tweeted, “I saw your face #AndThenIStartedToLaugh.”

Nothing really changed. The kids were still dead. And in the end, Leavitt got about a thousand more followers on Twitter.

But what if someone could tap into that outrage? What if someone could take all of that anger floating around the Internet and direct it against people like Leavitt? What if someone could turn social media into a weapon?

That’s what I wondered when I started writing my latest novel, HUNT YOU DOWN, which is out now from Bonnier Zaffre. At the time, I was looking at the GamerGate movement, and how it harassed, threatened, and abused women online. I thought it would be interesting to pit my character, John Smith, against an enemy he couldn’t really touch — an anonymous puppet master pulling the strings on millions of people, using social media to send them into violent rages.

At the time, I thought I was writing fiction. But now, the weaponization of the Internet has become very real.

Everyday social media users are also spreading information that can be just as dangerous as ISIS beheading videos, even if they don’t realize it.

Years ago, conspiracy theories were slow to spread because they had very few vectors to reach large numbers of people. They were limited to books and homemade magazines. The Internet changed all of that. Starting with the first message boards on Usenet and chain e-mails, conspiracy theorists found a quick and effective way to spread their version of the truth to millions of new potential converts.

Social media sped up the process even further. People disseminate half-truths, bad ideas, and memes designed to trigger our worst impulses. Outrage is the quickest way to get attention on the Internet, and when we read this stuff, we tend to drop down into a fight-or-flight response that feels just like a real threat.

Most people just move on to the next outrage, or, at worst, send some more angry tweets out into the void. But some people take it very seriously, and act on it.

A gunman walked into a pizza parlor with an assault rifle at the end of 2016 because he believed an online conspiracy theory about child sex slaves called “Pizzagate.” Despite the fact that the rumors are simply untrue, they are still circulating on the Net, gathering more believers every day.

In India, fake news shared over social media has reportedly led to multiple deaths as rumors about gangs and child kidnappers spread out of control.

The survivors of the deadliest mass shooting in modern history have had to deal with death threats from people who accuse them of faking the whole thing. A Michigan judge is facing death threats from anti-vaccine forces due to a child custody case. A right-wing writer and his sister have been threatened and harassed by the alt-right for his stand against his former employer, Breitbart News.

And some Russian-linked online accounts called for violence against minorities, immigrants, and police officers in an effort to spark riots and spread chaos. These accounts racked up hundreds of thousands of followers before they were shut down.

It only takes one or two individuals with a head full of bad wiring to take these posts seriously. If someone believes they are really in a war, then it’s a small step to fighting it.

Which means we need to pay attention to these warning signals. The online world is the real world now, like it or not.

Christopher Farnsworth is the author of six novels, including HUNT YOU DOWN, available now from Bonnier Zaffre.


When a reality TV star is gunned down at her own wedding, her mob boss father calls on the services of John Smith, a hitman who cleans up the messes of those rich enough to afford him, with a special talent for finding his man. But he’s no ordinary gun for hire.

Smith is a man of rare gifts, and he knows your every thought . . . Motivated by money and revenge, Smith comes across ‘Downvote,’ an encrypted site on the dark net with a list of celebrity names and a bounty for anyone willing to kill them. But taking down a shadowy figure who has weaponized the internet proves more difficult than he thought. And this criminal mastermind continues to remain one step ahead.

GollanczFest – new books

I spent a fabulous day in London yesterday listening to some brilliant authors talk about a variety of things at GollanczFest. More on that in another post…

I also picked up six books:

The Beauty of Murder, by AK Benedict (@ak_benedict)

A serial killer with all the time in the world…From a stunning new voice in crime fiction.
Stephen Killigan has been cold since the day he arrived in Cambridge. Seven hundred years of history staining the stones of the university have given him a chill he can’t shake. Then he stumbles across the body of a missing beauty queen – a body which disappears before the police arrive…
Unwittingly, Killigan has entered the sinister world of Jackamore Grass on a trail that reaches back to seventeenth-century Cambridge. It’s a world of cadavers, philosophers and scholars of deadly beauty, a world where a person’s corpse can be found before they even go missing, of a city and a person that hold far too many secrets written in blood.

The Ship, by Antonia Honeywell (@antonia_writes)

Welcome to London, but not as you know it. Oxford Street burned for three weeks; Regent’s Park has been bombed; the British Museum is occupied by those with nowhere else to go.
Lalla has grown up sheltered from the chaos, but now she’s sixteen, her father decides it’s time to use their escape route – a ship big enough to save five hundred people. Once on board, as day follows identical day, Lalla’s unease grows. Where are they going? What does her father really want? What is the price of salvation?

The Real-Town Murders, by Adam Roberts (@arroberts)

Alma is a private detective in a near-future England, a country desperately trying to tempt people away from the delights of Shine, the immersive successor to the internet. But most people are happy to spend their lives plugged in, and the country is decaying.
Alma’s partner is ill, and has to be treated without fail every 4 hours, a task that only Alma can do. If she misses the 5 minute window her lover will die. She is one of the few not to access the Shine.
So when Alma is called to an automated car factory to be shown an impossible death and finds herself caught up in a political coup, she knows that getting too deep may leave her unable to get home.
What follows is a fast-paced Hitchcockian thriller as Alma evades arrest, digs into the conspiracy, and tries to work out how on earth a dead body appeared in the boot of a freshly-made car in a fully-automated factory.

Heart of Granite, by James Barclay (@barculator)

The world has become a battleground in a war which no side is winning. But for those determined to retain power, the prolonged stalemate cannot be tolerated so desperate measures must be taken.
Max Halloran has no idea. He’s living the brief and glorious life of a hunter-killer pilot. He’s an ace in the air, on his way up through the ranks, in love, and with his family’s every need provided for in thanks for his service, Max has everything…
…right up until he hears something he shouldn’t have, and refuses to let it go. Suddenly he’s risking his life and the lives of all those he cares about for a secret which could expose corruption at the highest levels, and change the course of the war.
One man, one brief conversation… a whole world of trouble…

Blackwing, by Ed McDonald (@EdMcDonaldTFK)

The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow’s Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman must investigate a long dead sorcerer’s legacy. But there is a conspiracy within the citadel: traitors, flesh-eaters and the ghosts of the wastelands seek to destroy them, but if they cannot solve the ancient wizard’s paradox, the Deep Kings will walk the earth again, and all will be lost.

The war with the Eastern Empire ended in stalemate some eighty years ago, thanks to Nall’s ‘Engine’, a wizard-crafted weapon so powerful even the Deep Kings feared it. The strike of the Engine created the Misery – a wasteland full of ghosts and corrupted magic that now forms a No Mans Land along the frontier. But when Galharrow investigates a frontier fortress, he discovers complacency bordering on treason: then the walls are stormed, and the Engine fails to launch. Galharrow only escapes because of the preternatural magical power of the noblewoman he was supposed to be protecting. Together, they race to the capital to unmask the traitors and restore the republic’s defences. Far across the Misery a vast army is on the move, as the Empire prepares to call the republic’s bluff.

The Last Namsara, by Kristen Ciccarelli (@SheLuresDragons)

Destroyer. Death bringer. Dragon-slayer. I am more weapon than girl.
Asha is a dragon-slayer. Reviled by the very people she’s sworn to protect, she kills to atone for the wicked deed she committed as a child – one that almost destroyed her city, and left her with a terrible scar.
But protecting her father’s kingdom is a lonely destiny: no matter how many dragons she kills, her people still think she’s wicked.
Even worse, to unite the fractured kingdom she must marry Jarek, the cruel commandant. As the wedding day approaches, Asha longs for freedom.
Just when it seems her fate is sealed, the king offers her a way out: her freedom in exchange for the head of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard.
And the only person standing in her way is a defiant slave boy…

Now, the only problem I have is which to read first (oh, and finding the time in amongst all the other books glaring at my from my TBR pile!).

Have you read any of them? Which would you pick?

147 Things – Jim Chapman

Published by Pan Macmillan, December 2017
Source: NetGalley
In 147 Things, Jim takes us on a whistle-stop tour of the best bits of everything, from the mind-blowing to the ridiculous. As with his videos, no subject is off-limits and he’ll lift the lid on his life and his relationships, sharing embarrassing stories and things he’s learnt along the way. If you’ve ever felt weirded out by the fact we’re seven billion (mostly) hairless apes spinning around a giant ball of flaming gas, or that we all begin as tiny humans INSIDE our mothers, or that many of us keep slightly-less-dangerous wolves in our homes, then you need this book in your life. Jim wants to inspire you with the sheer unlikelihood of us all being here and equip you to feel just a little less overwhelmed by the small stuff.

Ah, Jim. Regularly appearing on the telly in our house due to my daughter’s love of watching Zoella and Alfie on YouTube, I found myself watching more when Jim was on. I do like Jim. He seems like a thoroughly nice chap, the kind of guy you would quite happily spend an hour chatting to in the pub over a beer. You’d probably end up talking about some of the things in his book.

I really enjoyed 147 Things. They’re a slightly odd, eclectic mix ranging from quantum physics, to life (and death), the universe, lobsters, and why not to try and wax your gentleman’s parts. This was painfully funny. Funny for me, painful for Jim. Poor Jim. He also talks about animals, bodies, fears, myths, urban legends and a whole host of other stuff.

Dotted amongst the science-y bits, Jim also tells us about some more personal things – how he met his wife (another of my daughter’s favourites, and whose cookery book sits on our shelves. Tanya Burr’s cookbook is also really quite good and we’ve had some excellent cakes as a result. I digress), stories about his first love, his family and so on. It’s a bit hard to work out the target audience – his younger YouTube fans (such as my daughter) would love to read about some of the personal stuff, but might balk at some of the more serious science, even with Jim’s down-to-earth, chatty style.

It’s that writing style that I really liked – it does feel a bit like your mate telling you stuff that he’s just found out which you might find interesting. And some, indeed most, of Jim’s 147 Things are genuinely interesting.

Great fun. Not my usual genre (I’ve never read a book by a YouTuber before), but an entertaining way to pass a couple of hours. Jim, if you ever fancy a pint and someone to tell some more things to, give me a shout.

The Binding Song – Elodie Harper

Published by Mulholland Books, June 2017
Source: Review copy
Dr Janet Palmer is the new lead psychologist at HMP Halvergate in a remote, bleak area of Norfolk. At first, she was excited by the promotion. Then she starts to see how many secrets are hiding behind the high walls.
A string of inmates have committed suicide, leaving no reasons why, and her predecessor has disappeared – along with his notes. The staff are hostile, the threat of violence is ever-present, and there are rumours of an eyeless woman stalking the corridors, punishing the inmates for their sins.
Janet is determined to find out what is really going on. But the longer she stays and the deeper she digs, the more uncertain she feels.
Halvergate is haunted by something. But it may be a terror worse than ghosts…

Delighted to be asked to feature The Binding Song as part of First Monday Crime. It’s a deeply spooky book with a fantastic setting. HMP Halvergate sits in a remote part of Norfolk and is as much a character in the story as anyone else. It looms, gothic and large over everything and is never far from the character’s thoughts. The characters themselves are an interesting bunch, and in more than one case, deeply unpleasant. I liked how Elodie Harper teases out Dr Janet Palmer’s backstory across the course of the book, giving us more and more insight into the character as the story unfolds. It’s a creepy tale in places, and I found myself at times almost afraid to turn the page, but all too keen to find out what happens next!

The Binding Song is a delightfully (if that’s the right word) eerie, gothic tale, perfect for a dark winter’s night. It’s a psychological thriller with a difference, and that’s all too rare these days. Read it, if you dare…

Elodie Harper is appearing at the First Monday Crime event in London on Monday 6th November. You can find Elodie on twitter @elodieITV. Find out more about First Monday Crime @1stMondayCrime