Blog Tour Review: The Lie by C.L. Taylor

 

Title: The Lie

Author: C.L. Taylor

Published: Avon: HarperCollins May 2015

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Status: Read from May 10 to 11, 2015 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

A tense thriller from author C.L. Taylor, The Lie is a story of friendship, deception, secrets and betrayal.

“A couple of weeks ago I found a picture of the four of us, taken by a stranger outside Kathmandu airport…We all look so fresh faced and hopeful in the photo, and we were. It was supposed to be a holiday of a lifetime.”

Best friends since university, Emma, Al, Daisy and Leeanne, are heading to Nepal for the holiday of a lifetime, where, in between exploring Kathmandu and treking in Chitwan, they are planning on spending a week relaxing at an isolated spiritual retreat. ‘Ekantra yatra’ initially seems to be everything the brochure promised but within days the friendship between the four girls sours, corrupted by the charismatic leader, Issac.
Five years later Jane Hughes receives an anonymous note, ‘I know your name’s not really Jane Hughes’. Whoever sent it knows the truth, ‘Jane’ is really Emma, but do they know she has been lying about more than her identity?

Jane/Emma has been keeping the whole secret of what really happened in Nepal for five long years. When the anonymous note is followed by sinister texts, purportedly from Daisy, Jane reaches out to Al, the only other member of their foursome who returned from ‘Ekantra yatra’.

“I was lying to myself when I said that your past doesn’t shape your future. Or maybe it was wishful thinking. Your memories are the one thing you can’t run from, the one thing you can’t change.”

As the narrative shifts between the past, revealing what actually happened five years previously at ‘Ekantra yatra’, and the present, Taylor skilfully builds suspense in both timelines. As Jane/Emma’s carefully constructed life in Wales is falling apart in the face of escalating threats from her stalker, the friendship between the four best friends begins to disintegrate in Nepal. Within days of their arrival at ‘Ekantra yatra’ it’s clear the retreat is not what it seems. Manipulated by Issac who preys on their insecurities and petty resentments, the girls turn on each other with frightening ease and as their friendship implodes, the danger escalates.

“How had our holiday gone so wrong? We’d arrived at Ekanta yatra as friends, friends with issues rumbling beneath the smiles and excitement, but ours was a friendship that had outlasted uni and survived relocation, jobs and relationships. Or so I thought. And yet the bonds I believed were strong were only ever superficial and, like a game of Jenga, all it took was one false move and everything collapsed.”

With a strong premise, supported by interesting characterisation, The Lie is a well paced, dramatic and atmospheric tale of psychological suspense.

 

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Also by CL Taylor reviewed on Book’d Out

The Accident

Review: Death in the Rainy Season by Anna Jacquiery

 

Title: Death in the Rainy Season {Serge Morel #2}

Author: Anna Jacquiery

Published: Macmillan April 2015

Status: Read from April 11 to 15, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Full review to come

“Phnom Penh, Cambodia; the rainy season. When a French man, Hugo Quercy, is found brutally murdered, Commandant Serge Morel finds his holiday drawn to an abrupt halt. Quercy – dynamic, well-connected – was the magnetic head of a humanitarian organisation which looked after the area’s neglected youth.
Opening his investigation, the Parisian detective soon finds himself buried in one of his most challenging cases yet. Morel must navigate this complex and politically sensitive crime in a country with few forensic resources, and armed with little more than a series of perplexing questions: what was Quercy doing in a hotel room under a false name? What is the significance of his recent investigations into land grabs in the area? And who could have broken into his home the night of the murder?
Becoming increasingly drawn into Quercy’s circle of family and friends – his adoring widow, his devoted friends and bereft colleagues – Commandant Morel will soon discover that in this lush land of great beauty and immense darkness, nothing is quite as it seems . . .
A deeply atmospheric crime novel that bristles with truth and deception, secrets and lies: Death in the Rainy Season is a compelling mystery that unravels an exquisitely wrought human tragedy.”

 

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Seasoned Traveller 2015

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Review: Hush Hush by Laura Lippman

 

Title: Hush Hush { Tess Monaghan #12}

Author: Laura Lippman

Published: Faber: Allen & Unwin April 2015

Status: Read from April 26 to 28, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Though Hush Hush is the 12th mystery to feature journalist turned private investigator Tess Monaghan it can easily be read as a stand alone given its encapsulated story line.

In Hush Hush, Tess and her new partner, retired Baltimore P.D. homicide detective Sandy Sanchez, are hired to assess the security needs of Melisandre Harris Dawes, a woman who ten years previously had been charged with the wilful murder of her infant daughter. Having returned to Baltimore with an ambitious documentary maker in tow, Melisandre claims she wants to tell her side of the story and reunite with her estranged teenage daughters, Alanna and Ruby, but a series of sinister notes threaten both the project and the reunion.

The past and the present are on a collision course in this tale of madness, betrayal and murder.

Melisandre is manipulative and demanding and Tess suspects she is not being completely honest with her uncle, Melisandre’s lawyer, Tyner Grey. Despite being found not guilty in the death of her child, due to postpartum psychosis, questions remain about Melisandre’s past and the true motivation behind her current actions.
Melisandre’s surviving daughters, now teenagers, are conflicted about their mother’s attempts to reach out to them, especially as their father is reluctant to allow contact, for both the obvious reasons and to keep his own secrets.

Lippman extends the story beyond the crime exploring the effects of Melisandre’s actions on both her family and the wider community. She also examines the experience of motherhood and the ways in which women can struggle with it.

Events in Tess’s personal life adds another layer of interest to the story. Tess is still adjusting to juggling motherhood with her career, and nurturing her relationship with Crow. She, like Melisandre, is also being taunted by a series of anonymous notes that grow increasingly threatening.

Hush Hush is a solid story of suspense with interesting characters, and though there is very little action, the pace is brisk with events taking place over a period of about two weeks. It is an easy and enjoyable read.

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Review: Reykjavik Nights by Arnaldur Indriðason

Title: Reykjavik Nights {Inspector Erlendur Prequel}

Author: Arnaldur Indriðason

Published: Minotaur Books April 2015

Status: Read from April 19 to 21, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Essentially a prequel to the eleven book series from bestselling author Arnaldur Indriðason, Reykjavik Nights features detective, Inspector Erlendur as a rookie officer on the streets of the Iceland’s capital.

It is the mid 1970’s and Erlendur is a new beat officer, patrolling the darkened streets of Reykjavik. He responds to traffic accidents, drunken brawls, thefts and domestic violence incidents but it is the fate of the missing that intrigues him, reminding him of lost brother.

“This fixation of his with disappearances – with the phenomenon itself, the fates of those who were never heard of again and the sufferings of those left behind to mourn. He knew his obsession had its roots in the tragedy he himself had endured on the moors out east, and that it had been intensified by all the books he had read on disappearances or terrible ordeals in this harsh land.”

The novel begins with three young boys discovering the body of an alcoholic vagrant known as Hannibal, who death is quickly dismissed as drowning via misadventure. A year later the case continues to haunt Erlendur in part because he had struck up an acquaintance with the tramp but his interest is rekindled when he discovers a tenuous link between Hannibal’s murder and the disappearance of a local woman around the same time. The plot meanders a little as Erlendur, on his own time and with few resources, follows his hunch, but I enjoyed moving through the streets with him as he worked to develop connections and answer the questions he is unable to let go of while also going about his usual police duties.

” As he thought about Hannibal he reflected that people could just as easily lose themselves on Reykjavik’s busy street as on remote mountain paths in winter storms.”

Indriðason paints a vivid portrait of Reykjavik and its culture during the 1970’s, a city yet to experience the economic boom that revitalised the capital, and began to attract tourists. Erlendur spends a lot of time walking around the Reykjavik streets, and those familiar with the capital should be able to trace his path.

“His thoughts shifted to the Reykjavik nights, so strangely sunny and bright, yet in another sense so dark and desperate. Night after night he and his fellow officers patrolled the city in the lumbering police van, witnessing human dramas that were hidden from others. Some the night provoked and seduced; others it wounded and terrified.”

For readers unfamiliar with the Inspector Erlendur series, Reykjavik Nights is a great place to start, while fans should enjoy learning more about the hero they have grown to know and love. I enjoyed the novel and I’m interested in reading more.

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Seasoned Traveller 2015

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Review: The Nutters by Kate Starmer

 

Title: The Nutters

Author: Kate Starmer

Published: Austin-Macauley Jan 2015

Status: Read from April 07 to 08, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Nutters introduces Albert, a former policeman medically retired from the force after being stabbed by a clown, and his wife, Rose, private investigators in the small English village of Little Wobble. Albert, missing the excitement of his days on the force, hoped to catch criminals but instead spends his days looking for missing garden gnomes, cats, and neighbours who aren’t really missing at all.
So the Nutters are eager when they are asked to investigate a case in Upper Wobble where the vicar’s wife is receiving hate mail, threatening to expose her secret, sordid past, and suddenly they have almost more excitement than they can handle.

This cozy mystery offers a cast of lively characters, featuring the Nutter family which includes Albert, Rose, also an agony aunt for the village newspaper, their three almost adult children and a lazy oversize mutt.

There is more than one mystery playing out in The Nutters. The vicar’s wife is being blackmailed, the publican seems to be cheating on his wife, a young woman is assaulted and another is being stalked. The mysteries are solidly plotted, and though the culprits are fairly easily guessed, I was surprised by at least one of the revelations.

Unfortunately my experience of reading The Nutters was marred by several issues with the writing. The sentence structure is often clumsy, tenses are muddled and the grammar is inconsistent. There is far too much ‘tell’ rather than ‘show’ and there are instances of repetition in the narrative.

It’s a shame, because I enjoyed the humour of The Nutters and think the story is genuinely entertaining, but the editing lets it down.

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Review: Life or Death by Michael Robotham

 

Title: Life or Death

Author: Michael Robotham

Published: Mulholland Books March 2015

Status: Read on March 20, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Life or Death is Michael Robotham’s tenth novel, a rare stand alone from one of Australia’s favourite crime fiction author’s, best known for his O’Loughlin/Ruiz series.

Inspired by a real life news report, Robotham has built his story around the character of Audie Palmer who, after serving ten years in prison, escapes the day before his scheduled release. No one understands why Audie would run when he risks an extended sentence if caught, but it’s assumed that it has something to do with the unrecovered $7 million dollars stolen during the robbery he was convicted of committing.

It soon becomes obvious however that Audie isn’t motivated by money, hunted by the authorities and criminals alike, he is on a mission to save a life. Despite what Audie stands accused of, he quickly becomes such a likeable character, a victim of bad luck and worse luck, he demonstrates an enviable strength of character to rise above it all. He is the ultimate underdog, battling to do the right thing in the face of overwhelming odds.

Flashbacks provide the details of Audie’s back story, explaining his present predicament. The twists and turns of the plot are well executed, even if a touch predictable. I read Life or Death in a matter of hours, Robotham’s fluid writing, and tight pacing ensures this is a page turner.

An entertaining read with a great premise, appealing characters and a strong and satisfying ending, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Life or Death.

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Review: A Time of Secrets by Deborah Burrows

 

Title: A Time of Secrets

Author: Deborah Burrows

Published: Pan Macmillan March 2015

Status: Read from March 18 to 19, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

A Time of Secrets is Deborah Burrows’ third wonderful novel blending Australia’s wartime history with mystery and romance.

While Burrows previous novels take place in Perth, A Time of Secrets is set in Melbourne in 1943. Australian Women’s Army sergeant Stella Aldridge is out shopping with her roommate and colleague, Dolly, when she overhears a whispered conversation in Malay between a group of Australian soldiers. Concerned with the implications she alerts her boss at the APLO, The Australian Pacific Liason Office, only to be drawn into a covert investigation headed by her superior officer, Lieutenant Nick Ross.

As Stella and her colleagues work to uncover the identity of the traitor sabotaging the Australian war effort they have to negotiate the politics of the APLO. I enjoyed the intrigue of the storyline and learning a little more about the war effort. In this, as in both of Burrows previous novels, A Stranger in My Street and Taking a Chance, Burrows’ brings to life the experiences and contribution of women during wartime in Australia.

A minor subplot focuses on Stella’s roommate Dolly, and the secrets she is keeping both from her fiance and Stella, while a second involves an axe wielding murderer stalking women in Melbourne. The theme of domestic violence is prominent in the novel. as is violence on the home front in general.

There is romance for Stella with the enigmatic soldier Staff Sergeant Eric Lund. A special operative, his life is at risk if the rumours of a traitor imbedded within the APLO are true. Stella’s attraction to Lund is complicated by his capability for violence, her first husband who was killed in action physically abused her, and she is wary. A sort of love triangle also develops as Ross, an unapologetic ladies man, makes his interest in Stella clear.

Burrow’s is a talented storyteller who brings wartime Australia to life. Offering an interesting mystery combined with strong characterisation and a well crafted plot, A Time of Secrets is an engaging historical fiction novel.

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Review: The Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer

 

Title: The Shut Eye

Author: Belinda Bauer

Published: Bantam Press UK March 2015

Status: Read from March 16 to 18, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Belinda Bauer’s backlist, including Rubbernecker, has been on my ‘must read’ list for quite some time but as it happens The Shut Eye is the first of her six published books I have read.

DCI John Marvel is haunted by the case of missing schoolgirl, Edie Evans, and resents being distracted from his investigation when he is tasked by his boss to find his wife’s poodle. Marvel couldn’t care less about the fate of Mitzi but when he is approached by Anna Buck, a young mother grieving for her own missing son, with information that seems to link Mitzi, Edie and Richard Latham, a local self-proclaimed psychic, his interest in the case is assured.

The Shut Eye is solid crime fiction with unexpected flashes of dark humour, unfolding from the perspectives of Marvel, Anna, and her husband James.

DCI John Marvel is a dogged and driven detective, but not a particularly nice man. He is brutally dismissive of his colleagues, his de facto partner, and suspicious of humanity in general. He is also a skeptic, and detests Latham’s ‘psychic’ claims, so he is challenged by the inexplicable elements of the case even though he is willing to do anything to solve it.

James is shamed by the depth of his wife’s grief, and feels guilty for the role he plays in it, but is at a loss as to how to help her. A mechanic, he works in the garage next door to their flat with a motley assortment of illegal colleagues, doing little else than putting one foot in front of the other every day.

Five months after her four year old son slipped out of the front door of their home, accidentally left ajar by her husband, and vanished without a trace, Anna Buck is still crazed with grief. Bauer’s portrayal of Anna’s emotional agony is raw and affecting, she is teetering on the edge of a complete breakdown when she reaches out to Latham.

The paranormal element of the story comes into play when Anna visits Latham’s ‘church’ in search of answers. Though he refuses to help her, soon after Anna believes she is either experiencing visions, or has finally gone mad.

The Shut Eye is a good read, but I thought the characters were more convincing than the plot. I enjoyed the uncertainty Bauer created by blurring the line between proof and visions, and offering multiple suspects. The ending didn’t quite sit right for me though, feeling a little rushed and aspects of it unlikely.

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Review: Nothing Sacred by David Thorne

 

Title: Nothing Sacred {Daniel Connell #2}

Author: David Thorne

Published: Corvus : Allen & Unwin March 2015

Status: Read from March 01 to 02, 2015 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

A gritty crime thriller Nothing Sacred is the second book from David Thorne to feature disgraced lawyer, Daniel Connell, following East of Innocence.

In Nothing Sacred, Daniel is reluctantly drawn into the underworld of Essex by the tearful pleas of his ex girlfriend Victoria who is being tormented by an unseen force and has lost custody of her young children. Meanwhile, Daniel’s childhood best friend Gabe, a veteran whose military career was cut short when he lost his leg, is mixed up in something deadly that has followed him from the battlefield of Afghanistan.

Nothing Sacred was a little too brutal and bleak for my tastes, but the action is fast-paced and the plot is well thought out. There are several twists and Thorne brings it all together well.
The characters are convincing, if somewhat stereotypical for the genre. Daniel’s sense of justice overrides his confidence in the law and he has no problem crossing the line when he feels justified in doing so.

A quick, solid read with a noir-ish feel, Nothing Sacred should appeal to crime fiction fans with a hard edge.

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Review: Harm’s Reach by Alex Barclay

 

Title: Harm’s Reach {Ren Bryce #4}

Author: Alex Barclay

Published: HarperCollins February 2015

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Status: Read from February 24 to 26, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Edelweiss}

My Thoughts:

Harm’s Reach is the fourth book in Alex Barclay’s crime fiction series featuring FBI Agent Ren Bryce.

Despite not being familiar with the previous novels in this series I didn’t feel at all adrift. Ren, an FBI agent attached to a multi agency task force in Denver, is following up on a bank robbery when she stumbles upon the body of a young pregnant woman, shot to death in a rental car on the side of the road. No one seems to be able to explain what Laura Flynn was doing there or why any one would wish her harm.

The investigation twists in unexpected ways, with Ren’s colleague and friend, cold case investigator Janine Hooks, becoming involved when they theorise that Laura may have uncovered some sensitive information about a fifty year old crime. Even as they explore the possibility, Ren continues to delve into Laura Flynn’s life, and discovers that the wealthy employers that claim Laura as family are hiding secrets from them. I enjoyed the intricacies of the plot and was surprised by the way the threads converged to resolve not one but three very different cases.

I really liked getting to know Ren who is an intelligent and capable investigator with a wicked sense of humour. Ren is also struggling with a recent diagnosis of bi-polar disorder, an unusual trait for a lead character in this genre, and a new long distance relationship with a man who is unaware of her condition.
Ren’s colleagues and friends are appealing, I enjoyed her banter with Janine and her task force mates, and the relationship between Ren and her boss, and with her therapist, offers additional insight into her character.

Offering strong and interesting characterisation, and a well crafted story I really enjoyed Harm’s Reach and I’m eager to read more of this series.

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