The Two O’Clock Boy – Mark Hill

The Two O'Clock Boy | Mark Hill

TWO CHILDHOOD FRIENDS… ONE BECAME A DETECTIVE… ONE BECAME A KILLER…

One night changed their lives
Thirty years ago, the Longacre Children’s Home stood on a London street where once-grand Victorian homes lay derelict. There its children lived in terror of Gordon Tallis, the home’s manager.

Cries in the fire and smoke
Then Connor Laird arrived: a frighteningly intense boy who quickly became Tallis’ favourite criminal helper. Soon after, destruction befell the Longacre, and the facts of that night have lain buried . . . until today.

A truth both must hide
Now, a mysterious figure, the Two O’Clock Boy, is killing all who grew up there, one by one. DI Ray Drake will do whatever it take to stop the murders – but he will go even further to cover up the truth.

I really *really* enjoyed this book. Sharp characters, sharper writing, an interestingly different premise, and a suitably twisty plot, and that smug moment where you figure out who the killer is.

Only for Mark to pull the rug out from under you. Sneaky crime writers, you’ve got to love ’em.

The characters are great – the horribly compromised DI Ray Drake stands out as he helps Detective Sergeant Flick Cowley investigate the deaths linked to a children’s home back in the 1980s. The story jumps back between the modern day investigation and the time at the children’s home which becomes increasingly uncomfortable and dark as the plot unfolds.

If you’re a crime thriller fan, definitely one for your list.

Anyway, enough of my thoughts. You can read an extract over at Raven Crime Reads, then catch up with Mark over at Crime Thriller Girl’s blog talking about online secrets, and a Q&A with Liz at Liz Loves Books

You can find Mark Hill on twitter @MarkHillWriter or at his website, markhillauthor.com

Many thanks to Netgalley for the review copy. The Two O’Clock Boy is published by Sphere @LittleBrownUK Ebook: September 22nd 2016. Paperback: April 2017.

Black Night Falling – Rod Reynolds

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‘And now I stood here, on a desolate airfield in the Arkansas wilderness, a stone’s throw from Texarkana. Darkness drawing in on me. Cross country to see a man I never imagined seeing again. On the strength of one desperate telephone call…’

Having left Texarkana for the safety of the West Coast, reporter Charlie Yates finds himself drawn back to the South, to Hot Springs, Arkansas, as an old acquaintance asks for his help. This time it’s less of a story Charlie’s chasing, more of a desperate attempt to do the right thing before it’s too late.

Black Night Falling is Rod Reynolds’ second novel, picking up just a few months on from The Dark Inside. It’s a dark and deeply atmospheric thriller and Rod evokes the time and place (Arkansas in the 1940’s) of the story beautifully and there’s a wonderfully gritty, noir feel.

I must confess that I’ve yet to read The Dark Inside (though it’s now on my Kindle!) That said, Black Night Falling could easily be read as a standalone.

Our hero Charlie Yates finds himself in Hot Springs, Arkansas following a call from an old friend looking for help. Unfortunately Charlie arrives too late and finds that his friend died in a tragic accident. Or was it? He starts investigating, working with the somewhat cryptic notes he finds from his friend, looking into the deaths of several young women in the town.

Rod certainly knows how to tangle a plot, expertly draping it with red herrings which leave you guessing – who killed the girls? Just how far up does the web go?

I found it hard to believe that this was written by a non-American author, the evocation of place and period is just superb.

Liz (from Liz Loves Books) recently did a Q&A with Rod over on her blog which is well worth a read.

Highly recommended.

And Rod is taking part in the @FaberBooks Crime on Tour events in Lytham St Annes, Manchester, Urmston and Leeds in late September with JM Gulvin and Sarah Ward. I’m definitely going!

faber-crime

Willnot – James Sallis

willnot

Normally I’d post the blurb for the book here. This time, I won’t, for reasons I’ll go into below…

Let me start by saying that Willnot was not the book I was expecting to read. The promo blurb suggests a certain kind of deep southern noir which it turns out not to quite be. Now, that’s not to say that it’s not a good book – it certainly is that.

Sallis introduces us to the town of Willnot and its resident physician, Dr Lamar Hale as a grim discovery is made on the outskirts of the town. However, the book is more concerned with the impact that these bodies have on the inhabitants of the town over the course of the following months.

Willnot is a character-driven piece of literary fiction rather than being a more regular crime procedural, and Sallis is a master at showing character. Lamar and his partner Richard form the backbone to the novel as the events unfurl around them. Their relationship is charming and warm, and they are surrounded by a splendid array of sometimes eccentric characters who just exude authenticity.

At times through the novel I was unsure of where Sallis was taking me. As I said above, I was expecting more of a whodunnit noir, but instead just enjoyed the ride, watching the people go past.

Willnot is a short novel, but a perfectly formed one.

Many thanks to No Exit Press for the review copy. You can find them on twitter @noexitpress

Blackout – Ragnar Jónasson

Blackout | Ragnar Jonasson

On the shores of a tranquil fjord in Northern Iceland, a man is brutally beaten to death on a bright summer’s night. As the 24-hour light of the arctic summer is transformed into darkness by an ash cloud from a recent volcanic eruption, a young reporter leaves Reykjavík to investigate on her own, unaware that an innocent person’s life hangs in the balance. Ari Thór Arason and his colleagues on the tiny police force in Siglufjörður struggle with an increasingly perplexing case, while their own serious personal problems push them to the limit. What secrets does the dead man harbour, and what is the young reporter hiding? As silent, unspoken horrors from the past threaten them all, and the darkness deepens, it’s a race against time to find the killer before someone else dies…

Ari Thór is back in this, the third installment in Ragnar Jónasson’s superb Dark Iceland series. The events of Blackout take place following the volcanic eruptions of 2010 where Eyjafjallajökull managed to close down most of Europe’s airspace, and interestingly, between the events of the first book, Snowblind, and the second, Nightblind.

Ragnar presents us with a number of mysteries here – the dead man being investigated by Ari Thór and his colleagues, the strange emails that are causing Hlynur Ísaksson such distress and the investigation of a young reporter from Reykjavik. Blackout has more depth and complexity than the previous two books, with the myriad of threads and characters weaving together as the book progresses, all told in Ragnar’s wonderfully sparse style. There are a *lot* of threads to keep up with in this one!

Regular readers of this blog (hi!) will know how much I loved Snowblind and Nightblind, and Ragnar has delivered another superbly convoluted mystery.

Nordic Noir, eat your heart out. Icelandic Noir is where it’s at.

Many thanks, as always, to Karen from Orenda Books for the review copy. Opinions are, of course, my own.

The Arrival of Missives – Aliya Whiteley

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In the aftermath of the Great War, Shirley Fearn dreams of challenging the conventions of rural England, where life is as predictable as the changing of the seasons.

The scarred veteran Mr. Tiller, left disfigured by an impossible accident on the battlefields of France, brings with him a message: part prophecy, part warning. Will it prevent her mastering her own destiny?

As the village prepares for the annual May Day celebrations, where a new queen will be crowned and the future will be reborn again, Shirley must choose: change or renewal?

The Arrival of Missives by Aliya Whiteley is an interesting, different and sometimes slightly peculiar novella published by Unsung Stories.

It follows the story of Shirley, a young girl living in a remote village more or less cut off from everyday life in the aftermath of the first World War. It’s beautifully written and paced, but it’s a hard story to classify – it starts off apparently as one thing, then evolves facets of sci-fi and magic, though they’re deftly understated. Definitely not YA despite our heroine being a young adult. When I started the book I wasn’t sure it was my sort of thing, but quickly got drawn into the story.

In short (and it is quite short), it’s a fascinating tale. Worth picking up if you want something a little different.

Many thanks to Unsung Stories for the review copy.

Impact – Rob Boffard

Impact | Rob Boffard

A signal has been picked up from Earth.

The planet was supposed to be uninhabitable. But it seems there are survivors down there – with supplies, shelter and running water. Perhaps there could be a future for humanity on Earth after all.

Riley Hale will find out soon enough. She’s stuck on a spaceship with the group of terrorists that is planning to brave the planet’s atmosphere and crash-land on the surface.

But when the re-entry goes wrong, Riley ends up hundreds of miles from her companions Prakesh and Carver, alone in a barren wilderness. She’ll have to use everything she knows to survive.

And all of them are about to find out that nothing on Earth is what it seems…

Regular readers will be aware that I am somewhat of a fan of Mr Boffard’s work. Tracer was fantastic and made my books of the year list for 2015, Zero-G upped the ante, and now we have Impact, book #3 in the Outer Earth trilogy.

The question was, having turned the action up to 11 for Zero-G, could Rob find a new setting on the dial for the finale?

Well, yeah, he knocked it out of the park.

Again.

Impact is an interesting change of setting from the first two as we find Riley and chums down on earth. The action still comes thick and fast, and the stakes are cranked up to the max. Facing new dangers, she has to put her tracer skills to full use just to survive.

Hard to say more without spoilers, but go with me on this – if you liked Tracer and Zero-G, you’re going to love Impact. And if you’ve not read Tracer or Zero-G, what are you waiting for? You’re in for quite a ride…

You can find Rob on Twitter @RobBoffard, his website, and last but definitely not least, on YouTube doing epic rap book reviews.

and launching a book into space to be the first author reading in space. SPACE!

The Wolf Road – Beth Lewis

The Wolf Road | Beth Lewis

Everything Elka knows of the world she learned from the man she calls Trapper, the solitary hunter who took her under his wing when she was just seven years old.

But when Elka sees the Wanted poster in town, her simple existence is shattered. Her Trapper – Kreagar Hallet – is wanted for murder. Even worse, Magistrate Lyon is hot on his trail, and she wants to talk to Elka.

Elka flees into the vast wilderness, determined to find her true parents. But Lyon is never far behind – and she’s not the only one following Elka’s every move. There will be a reckoning, one that will push friendships to the limit and force Elka to confront the dark memories of her past.

The Wolf Road is, quite simply, brilliant. A wonderfully written, with a superbly strong female lead the like of which I’ve not seen for a very long time. The story is told through her eyes, and she has a distinctive way of telling it – this takes a little getting used to, but you quickly come to love her tough talking, no-nonsense approach to life and the situations she finds herself in.

We follow Elka on her journey across the post-apocalyptic landscape of Canada and the Yukon, where the ‘Big Stupid’ has pushed what’s left of society into the days of the Western and the Gold Rush. Beth Lewis shows a deft hand with turning up the tension as the hunt progresses and we find out more about our young heroine. I loved the way that her life with Trapper is revealed an inch at a time, each one providing a glimpse into what made her the fearless young woman she has become.

I read this over the course of a weekend and found it incredibly hard to put down. It’s one of those books where you close it and just know that you’re going to be pestering others to read it.

So, go read it, before I start pestering you.

If this book doesn’t place very highly in my books of 2016, I will be very *very* surprised.