Review: The Unbroken Line by Alex Hammond

 

 

Title: The Unbroken Line {Will Harris #2}

Author: Alex Hammond

Published: Viking Penguin Au June 2015

Read an Excerpt on Book’d Out

Status: Read from June 21 to 24, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Unbroken Line is Alex Hammond’s second legal thriller featuring defence lawyer Will Harris, following on from his Ned Kelly Award nominated debut, Blood Witness.

Will is still dealing with both the personal and professional consequences of the events in Blood Witness, when he and girlfriend Eva are brutally attacked by two masked men. They have a message for Will from their anonymous employer – back off. Angry and confused, Will has no idea what the men are referring to, but now he is determined to find out, and unwittingly becomes the target of a deadly conspiracy, headed by Melbourne’s elite.

With a well crafted and complex plot, The Unbroken Line is a fast paced story of corruption, violence, conspiracy and vengeance. As Will searches for answers to the attack on he and Eva, he must also defend his new law firm partner, barrister Chris Miller, when he is arrested for negligent homicide, prevent a judge’s teenage son from being charged with manslaughter, and repay his debt to the Ivanics family, all whilst under investigation by the Legal Commissioner for ethics breaches related to his actions in Blood Witness. With some surprising twists, Hammond reveals the links between these seemingly unrelated threads developing an exciting multi-layered storyline.

Will is an appealing protagoinist, flawed but intelligent, with a strong sense of justice. Under siege professionally, Will is faring no better in his personal life. He is still struggling to recover from the debilitating physical effects of the vicious stabbing that left him near dead in Blood Witness, and Eva, traumatised and scarred by the masked men’s attack, flee’s to New York. Though The Unbroken Line could be read as a stand alone, I’d recommend readers begin with Blood Witness, which establishes his relationships with Eva, Chris and several of the other other characters that appear in both novels.

I enjoyed The Unbroken Line, it is a well crafted and gripping legal thriller. Perfect for fans of John Grisham and Michael Connelly.

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Feature Excerpt: The Unbroken Line by Alex Hammond

Alex Hammond was born in South Africa and emigrated to Australia with his family as a child. He graduated in Law/Arts from Melbourne University in 2001 and worked for several leading law firms. Although, ultimately, the law didn’t take, he was exposed to many of the superstitions and sects of the profession and found himself fascinated by the culture, passion and grey moral world that lawyers inhabit.

The Unbroken Line is Alex Hammond’s second stand alone novel legal thriller featuring Melbourne lawyer Will Harris, following on from his Ned Kelly Award nominated debut, Blood Witness.

The violence of the past casts a long shadow – a dark legacy with lethal consequences.
When defence lawyer Will Harris is attacked by masked men with a clear message to back off, he has no choice but to listen. If only he knew what they were talking about.
Under siege as his fledgling law firm struggles to get off the ground, Will agrees to defend the troubled son of a family friend. But the case is far from clear-cut, and the ethical boundaries murky. Instead of clawing his way out of trouble, Will finds he’s sinking ever deeper.
At the same time, his search for his attackers unearths an unexpected source that points him towards Melbourne’s corridors of power. But motives, let alone proofs, are hard to find. It is only when those close to him are threatened that Will realises how near he is to the deadly truth.”

 My review of The Unbroken Line can be seen HERE, but first please read on for an excerpt of this exciting new thriller.

The Unbroken Line – Excerpt

 © published with permission from Penguin Australia

One

It had been six weeks, almost to the day, since he’d had a drink. Remembering the last glass summoned images of that desperate night – the blade glinting under streetlights before it rose again, steaming with his blood in the winter air.
Will Harris took another sip from the champagne Eva had ordered for them.
‘It must feel good to be out of that wheelchair,’ Eva said, no doubt seeing the veil of memory descend across his face.
The restaurant had been Eva’s idea – a date to reboot the fraught circumstances of their meeting; a balance against her holding his wounds closed until the ambulance had arrived.
‘Adversity may have a way of bringing people together,’ she said, ‘but more often it fucks them up.’
Will nodded. ‘It does. No changing the way we met,’ he said. ‘Just what we do from here.’
Earlier they had watched as the setting sun bathed orange light over the pale gums that grew along the banks of the Yarra. From their place above the canopy they could see the turgid water as it traced its way through the wealthy suburbs towards the darkening city and on, again, into the black inevitability of the ocean.
With the arrival of dusk a low line of bats had emerged into the air and even now, as they waited for dessert, the procession continued.
Around Will, the other diners were talking and eating artfully arranged meals on oversized plates lying on bright, starched tablecloths. He drained the glass in his hand and focused his attention on the woman sitting in front of him. Her dark hair was lifted up off her shoulders while her fringe was swept into a wave. Her olive skin contrasted with her yellow silk dress. Its low neckline suggested something of the tone she’d set for the evening.
She smiled at him. He could bask in her warm gaze forever. To simply sit here, with her – that would be reward enough, for everything he had overcome. And yet he couldn’t help himself from speculating, from fantasising: the two of them carrying her boxes into his apartment; her hand clutching his at her first major exhibition; drunk nights and late mornings as the world was reduced to the circumference of their arms.
‘So let’s cut to the chase, champ,’ Eva said, clearing the glassware in front of her so she could reach a hand out to his. As she leant for- wards the light from the candles glowed in her eyes. Her lips parted, revealing the gentle upward curve at the edges of her mouth.
‘Now that you’re out of that wheelchair and able to drive a girl to a fancy dinner, is it safe to say you’re officially ‘able-bodied’?’ she whispered.
He leant in towards her, tensing his stomach muscles to ease the pain where the scars were still healing.
‘Oh, absolutely. I would say that I’m well on my way to a full recovery.’
‘Because I wouldn’t want to set you back. Given how fragile you are.’
Will felt something touch the inside of his thigh. Her foot. Freed from its stiletto it was sliding up the inside of his leg.
‘It’s been a long time, Will Harris. And it’s a terrible thing when a woman has to wait. Injured or not, there are repercussions.’
‘That’s completely understandable, of course. A man would have to make amends to a woman in this situation.’
‘Oh, you don’t know the half of it. Amends are barely the beginning.’ Her foot tapped on him as though she were distracted by some other thought. ‘Glad to see that I have your full attention.’ Eva winked.
‘Hey, Eva?’
‘Yes?’
‘Why are we whispering?’
‘I don’t know. Because it’s seductive?’ She broke into laughter.
‘What’s wrong with you?’ He grinned back at her.
‘You should have worked that out long before now.’
A waiter arrived beside their table with the dessert. ‘Coconut sago with caramelised mango and salted caramel semifreddo.’
‘Thanks,’ said Will, trying not to blush as Eva’s toes drummed across his erection.
‘One other thing, sir,’ the waiter said. ‘The chef was wondering if he could get a photo with you both? He’s thrilled to have you here.’
‘Sure,’ Will said. ‘On our way out?’
‘If that’s convenient?’
‘No problem,’ Will replied. ‘Could I grab an espresso? Sorry, two,’ he corrected, as Eva held up two fingers.
‘Of course, sir.’
Will paused until the waiter was out of earshot. ‘Those things still make me feel uncomfortable.’
‘The photos? You’ll be fine,’ Eva said between spoonfuls. ‘People will forget soon enough. Or you could just say no.’
‘But that feels rude.’
‘Then enjoy it. You deserve it. You brought justice to a murdered girl, caught her killer, gave her family peace.’
‘That’s not how I remember it. You’re leaving yourself out of that story.’
‘Meh. I was just along for the ride.’
‘Well, I hope they bring me my jacket first. I don’t really need to be standing there with a hard-on immortalised on their Facebook page.’
‘What a terrible dilemma,’ Eva said, smiling.

As they crossed the car park, Will had to struggle to keep up. Even though he’d performed his exercises daily, moving was still a painful effort. His physiotherapist had reiterated to him the seriousness of the damage – his abdominal wall had been significantly traumatised; with his core injured, he would find even basic movements challenging. Although he was out of the wheelchair it would be months before he could start to think about any strenuous activity. As Eva swayed in front of him, her dress gripping the contours of her body, it occurred to Will that even though he’d spent so many hours with her, grieved with her, almost died beside her, he was deeply nervous about the raw, animal truth of their compatibility.
Eva leant back against Will’s car, yellow outlined against the British racing green of the vintage Jag.
She pulled him forwards by the lapels, her body softening as she kissed him on the lips, her tongue penetrating deep into his mouth. He could taste the ethanol on her breath, smell the heady perfume that rose up from her to envelop him.
‘Fuck,’ she said, eventually pulling away. ‘I’ve been wanting to do that ever since we started dinner.’
‘Does that count for amends?’
‘It’s a start. I need you to take me home and fuck me.’
Will kissed her again as he pulled the car door open. Eva drew herself away from him and slid into the passenger seat. He moved as quickly as he could to the driver’s side and got in.
‘Are you okay to drive?’ she said, fastening her seatbelt.
‘I’m good.’
Will started the engine and Eva tucked her legs under her, turning towards him and placing her arm around his neck. He took them out of the car park and onto the road.
To their left was a steep bank leading down to the Yarra. A lone vessel, a party barge, drifted down the river. Flashing lights silhouetted its revellers and lit up the craft like a garish lantern on the dark water. To their right were old mill stacks, decaying warehouses and other modern ruins. With the streetlights passing overhead and Eva’s head leaning against his shoulder, Will felt at peace. He’d almost forgotten what this satisfied calm felt like. Eva started to hum to herself as he merged into the traffic that led to the Domain Tunnel.
A black SUV crept out from behind Will and accelerated towards the tunnel, trying to overtake him. He slowed the Jag to let it pass.
Eva stroked the side of his face, stopping when he turned his head away from her.
‘What’s up?’ she said, no longer humming.
Will looked into his side mirror at the SUV closing in. Something was off about the driver and the passenger sitting next to him.
They were both wearing black balaclavas.
‘Eva. Sit up.’
‘What is it?’ she asked, straightening in her seat.
‘Something’s wrong,’ he said, pulling the Jag into the passing lane and accelerating.
Eva looked over her shoulder at the SUV.
‘Shit, Will.’
He pushed the accelerator to the floor and swerved the Jag around a slow-moving hatchback.
‘How do you know they have anything to do with us?’
‘I don’t.’
But it’s the only possible explanation, he thought.
The SUV returned to their rear-view mirror, keeping pace with the old Jag. The tunnel entrance was drawing closer.
No turn-offs.
‘Jesus, Will, they’re still there.’
His hands were shaking. ‘Hold on.’
Will weaved around another car as the tunnel enveloped them. The bright strip lights raced overhead as the car started to shudder, mirroring the shaking of Will’s hands on the steering wheel.
The SUV was closer now, despite his best efforts. With a pounding inevitability it was closing in.
Will looked up ahead. Traffic was thin in the tunnel. He pushed the Jag to its limit, cresting 140 kilometres an hour. All he could hear was the noise from the engine and Eva as she shouted, ‘On the right!’
The SUV was just behind them. A truck was looming in front of them. They were about to be boxed in. Will’s foot was on the floor; the accelerator had nothing left to give. The SUV hustled forwards, its black bonnet glistening under the tunnel lights.
Not enough.
Will pulled the Jag around the truck with millimetres to spare.
The SUV hit the back of the Jag. The shuddering movement thrust Will and Eva forwards, seatbelts straining against the collision. Will’s hands tightened around the wheel as he struggled to keep the car on the road.
The truck whipped past them and Will had to swerve hard to avoid hitting a taxi. Its passengers stared dumbstruck as he hurtled past.
The SUV lurched forwards and touched the rear right panel of the Jag.
Eva was staring straight ahead.
The tunnel exit.
Almost there.
The SUV hit the Jag again. The car rocked and Will fought the wheel as it started to oversteer. A second thud as metal now caught on metal. Both cars were jammed together.
He slammed on the brake, hoping to tear them loose. The larger vehicle rammed them sideways, the concrete of the tunnel wall shredding the Jag’s passenger side. Its windows burst, shattering glass throughout the car. The Jag spun free from the SUV and turned side-on to the road, tyres stripping rubber.
They came to a violent, shuddering halt across the lane.
The SUV stopped 30 metres away. Its doors opened and the men stepped out.
‘Eva?’ Will’s voice broke as he spoke. ‘Eva, are you okay?’
She uncurled herself from the passenger seat, shaking shards of safety glass from her hair. She looked back up at him, bleeding from a cut in her forehead.
Will tried to shove the buckled car door. It didn’t budge. Steel locked on steel.
‘Eva, are you okay?’
‘I think so. You?’
‘Hard to tell. But I’m moving.’
The men were jogging now. Closing the distance.
From the road behind them the horns of stationary cars were blaring. The red warning lights of an accident in the tunnel flickered into life.
Eva pushed the door open and got unsteadily to her feet. Will clenched his jaw as he dragged himself through the shattered remnants of his side window. Pain shot through him as his stomach clenched around old wounds. It was as though razor wire had twisted down his torso.
He slipped as he stood. Oil and radiator fluid had flooded over the ground.
Will grabbed Eva by the hand and they started to run.
The men began to sprint.
Will had never seen anyone move so fast. Before they had even taken five steps the men were on them.
It took only seconds and his head smacked on the concrete. With blurred vision came memory loss – adrenaline and pain confusing the exact circumstances of his hitting the ground. All he knew was that dark eyes stared down at him through a black balaclava. The man was kneeling on Will’s chest.
‘Got your attention?’ the man barked.
‘Yes,’ Will spat.
‘Back off. This is your only warning.’
‘Back off what?’
A latex-covered hand hit hard and flat across his face.
‘Back off.’
‘I don’t know —’
The hand again. This time a fist.
Between the concrete and the blow Will didn’t know what had happened. His eyes rolled back into his head. He’d been KO’ed in the boxing ring before but never like this. The back of his head felt as though it had been engulfed by the ground while the warmth of his own blood was now flooding across his face.
Turning his head sideways, Will saw Eva in the arms of the second man. He felt like broken lead.
Slowly and deliberately the other man dragged the blade of a knife down both of Eva’s cheeks. At first it was as though nothing had happened but as the seconds passed, thin lines of deep red began to appear, giving way to a full flow.
Eva didn’t scream. Not at first. Only when she touched her face and her hands came back glistening.
Both men turned and ran. Beneath the warning lights a crowd had gathered. They all watched as Eva’s dress turned from yellow to red.

***

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Review: After We Fall by Emma Kavanagh

9781492609193-PR

 

 

Title: After We Fall

Author: Emma Kavanagh

Published: Sourcebooks Landmark June 2015

Status: Read on June 15, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

From the sky above South Wales a plane falls, on a snowy river bank below, a woman’s body lies.

Unfolding from the perspectives of four characters, After We Fall by Emma Kavanagh (first published as Falling) is a multi-layered story of low key psychological suspense.

Flight attendant Cecelia, who that morning had resolved to leave her husband and son, is one of only a handful of survivors of the crash, wondering why she lived when so many didn’t.

Freya is the 24 year old daughter of the plane’s pilot, determined to protect her family from the horrifying suggestion that her father deliberately caused the crash.

Frustrated with his wife, police detective Tom throws himself into the investigation of the murder of PCSO Libby Hanover.

Jim, a retired police superintendent, is the dead woman’s devastated father.

As the protagonists each grapple with their private tragedies, the plot follows the investigation into the doomed plane alongside the investigation of Libby Hanover’s murder, slowly uncovering shocking connections between the two incidents.

Informed by her extensive career experience in psychology, Kavanagh creates four complex, though not always likeable, characters struggling with difficult pasts and complicated relationships, whom drive the narrative of this novel. All become entangled in the mystery that surrounds both the downed plane and the murdered woman, in both direct and indirect ways, as the author skillfully weaves the multiple threads together.

After We Fall is an impressive debut novel, an atmospheric and tense tale.

 

CLICK HERE for an exclusive excerpt and guest post from the author posted earlier today

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Guest Post and Excerpt: After We Fall by Emma Kavanagh

9781492609193-PR

I’m delighted to welcome Emma Kavanagh to Book’d Out today to celebrate the release of After We Fall. Emma Kavanagh was born and raised in South Wales. After graduating with a PhD in psychology from Cardiff University, she spent many years working as a police and military psychologist, training firearms officers, command staff, and military personnel throughout the UK and Europe. She started her business as a psychology consultant, specializing in human performance in extreme situations. She lives in South Wales with her husband and two young sons.

After We Fall is Emma’s third novel, following the publication of Falling and Hidden.

“A plane falls out of the sky. A woman is murdered. Four people all have something to hide…

For fans of Tana French and Alice LaPlante comes After We Fall, a debut psychological thriller by former police psychologist Emma Kavanagh that explores four lives shattered in the tense aftermath of a plane crash.
Shortly after takeoff, flight 2940 plummets to the snow-covered ground, breaking into two parts, the only survivors a handful of passengers and a flight attendant.Cecilia has packed up and left her family. Now she has survived a tragedy and sees no way out.
Tom has woken up to discover that his wife was on the plane and must break the news to their only son.
Jim is a retired police offer and worried father. His beloved daughter has disappeared, and he knows something is wrong.
Freya is struggling to cope with the loss of her father. But as she delves into his past, she may not like what she finds.
Four people, who have never met but are indelibly linked by these disasters, will be forced to reveal the closely guarded secrets that unlock the answers to their questions. But once the truth is exposed, it may cause even more destruction.

Told from various points of view, chapter by chapter, readers follow the investigation into the doomed plane alongside the investigation of a murder. Kavanagh deftly weaves together the stories of those who lost someone or something of themselves in one tragic incident, exploring how swiftly everything we know can come crashing down.”

Read my review of After We Fall HERE

*****

Crime From The Inside Out – Characters In Crime

When I read, what interests me are the characters on the page. I want to see them come alive before me, watch them move through their world as whole, coherent individuals. When I write, I want the same thing. Whilst I write crime, it is rarely the crimes themselves that interest me, but rather the people involved in them.

Often what we concentrate on is the headlines – tragic air disaster; maniac kills eight; psychotic killer slays ten. That’s not surprising because our ability to digest information is finite and, particularly in a story in which there is a great deal of trauma, our capacity to process can be diminished. So we take what we read at its face value. The man was a monster. He was insane.

But behind that insanity, underneath the nightmare of what they have done, is a real person, someone who talked with friends, was held by parents, someone whose existence extends beyond the atrocity. People make decisions. Often people make shockingly bad decisions. But uniformly they have made decisions for a reason. They chose the courses they chose because in some way it made sense to them. What fascinates me is in digging beneath the skin and understanding what it was about these people that made them choose to kill.

****

9781492609193-PR

An Excerpt: Chapter 8

Freya: Thursday, March 15, 10:19 p.m.
They had left the television on. Hadn’t been able to bring themselves to turn it off, not while helicopters circled above leaping flames, orange sprinkled with flashes of blue. Freya watched it, couldn’t seem to pull her eyes away from it. Without thinking, she sipped the tea, so sweet that her teeth stung, sinuses humming. It scalded her lips.
They were waiting. After all, what was there left to do but wait? Freya had called the airline, once, twice, her fingernails dredging into the phone as it chirped, engaged, again and again. Her mother was at the table, slumped into the chair like all the bones had simply vanished from her body, her head resting on her hands, a puddle of tears gathering on the tabletop beneath the shadow of her hair. Richard beside her, so close it seemed that he would crawl into her lap if only she would allow him. He hadn’t spoken. Not since the television flared to life, the screen lighting up with fire and snow. He just stared.
“It’s stopped snowing.” Freya’s grandmother was drying dishes, rubbing a tea towel around and around the outside of a mixing bowl that had once reached the stage of dry and was now on its way back to wet. Her brow furrowed, as if in concentration, eyes red-rimmed. “Well, for now. They say we’ll be like this for days yet. So much for spring. My flowers have had it.”
It could not have been more than moments after the world had changed that her grandparents arrived. She remembered that it was before her mother sank into the chair, a puppet whose strings had been cut. Before Richard began to cry. They had been hanging there, in that world between the past and the future, when the front door had swung open. And their breath had caught, and even though none of them said it, they were all thinking the same thing. That they were wrong and he was home.
Then her grandparents, sweeping in like a breath of Siberian air, the argument that they had been having about something she couldn’t possibly remember still fresh on their lips. Halting in the doorway, as if the fear hit them head on, buffeting them so that they had forgotten the latest affront to their patience, the snow and the long car ride. Their eyes looking toward the television. Faces changing with the knowing.
Freya’s grandfather sat beside her, hands folded. Ignoring his own mug of overstewed tea.
“You know they still haven’t gritted our road. I’m going to write a letter. Ridiculous. Someone’ll have to die…” Her grandmother stopped, stumbling on the word so that it came out as little more than a squeak. A deep breath. “…before they get around to it. Then they’ll be gritting it in the middle of August.” She pulled out a chair, tea towel clutched tight between her fingers. Her lips were trembling.
“Betty.” Her grandfather’s voice was thick, dense with years of smoking cigarettes. He’d given up, years ago now, but still when Freya thought of him, it was that smell that she thought of.
“What?”
“This tea tastes like battery acid.”
Freya’s grandmother rolled her eyes, lips pursing like she wanted to say something but, just this once, had decided to refrain. Freya bit her own lip, pushing down a flush of anger. Wanted to tell them to shut up. Wanted to shout: Look at the television. Don’t you understand what’s happening here? But she drank her tea instead, watching her mother across the rim of her cup. She seemed to be slumping lower, sinking into the hard wooden chair. She hadn’t said anything, not a word since the television had flashed to life, changing their world.
“Mum? Why don’t you go on up to bed?” Freya leaned across the table, fingers stroking the soft skin on her mother’s arm. “Just for a little while. We’ll wake you when…we’ll wake you when we have some news.”
It seemed like her mother didn’t hear her at first, that her words couldn’t penetrate this hell into which she had descended. Then eventually she looked up. Freya started. Her mother had aged fifteen years. There were lines that Freya had never seen before; her gaze was dead, skin as white as the snow that lay thick on the ground beyond the windows. Her lips moved, a child testing her first words. Then she seemed to give up, speech more than she could possibly handle. Her eyes lowered and she shook her head.
“You know, you can’t be sure he was on that flight,” Freya’s grandmother offered. “I mean, they change the crews around all the time. You know what these airlines are like. He’s off one minute, he’s working the next. Always getting called away. He’ll have been on a different flight, I’m sure of it.” Looking down, studying the red checkered cloth. “I’m sure of it.” This last a whisper.
Freya looked down, studying her fingernails, chipped saffron paint coloring the edges, and tried her best not to think about yesterday, about her father standing in the snow, the tension that pulsed across his shoulders. The look when he saw her, desperation edging into fear.
“I’m telling you”—Freya’s grandmother had twisted the tea towel into a tight spiral—“he’ll be fine.”
“I’ll try the airline again.” Her grandfather’s chair scraped against the floor, nails down a chalkboard. “Someone must know.”
They watched him leave, closing the door softly behind him.
“It’s awful.” Her grandmother was watching the television, shaking her head. “Just awful. Those poor people.” As if she hadn’t realized that “those poor people” was them; as if it was just one more news cycle of murder and flooding and genocide. Tragic, but not really real.
Richard moved his hands so that they covered his ears. His hair had flopped forward over his eyes. The lights of the television danced on the loose curls, and his fingers dug in, tugging, again and again.
And in what seemed like seconds, the kitchen door was opening again, slowly this time, and Freya’s grandfather was there. Only he wasn’t looking at any of them and his steady fingers were trembling. Freya knew it without him saying it, could see it in his eyes, in the downturn of his lips. She reached out, taking tight hold of her baby brother’s hand.
“Grandpa?” Richard was looking at him, and it was like he was pleading. Say it isn’t so.
Then her grandfather reached out, took hold of her mother’s shoulder. And she was looking up at him, eyes pleading, large tears leaking from the corners of her eyes.
Freya’s grandfather shook his head. “I’m so sorry.” His voice cracked. “I’m so, so sorry.”
It seemed that time stopped in the kitchen. That they hung there, the world no longer spinning.
Then a sound, her mother, a low moan creeping from her, the sound of an animal caught in a trap. Her grandmother gasping, the news punching her in the stomach. Her grandfather had moved, had wrapped his arms around her mother’s shoulders as she shook. Richard, rearing back, pushing the chair away so that it tumbled, hitting the tiled floor with a clatter, shoving his way past his grandfather. And Freya frozen. Because this wasn’t real. None of this could possibly be real.

*****

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Review: The Lost Swimmer by Ann Turner

 

Title: The Lost Swimmer

Author: Ann Turner

Published: Simon and Schuster June 2015

Status: Read on June 08, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Lost Swimmer is a low key psychological thriller from debut author Ann Turner.

University department Head Rebecca Wilding is under extraordinary pressure both professionally and personally. Accused of embezzlement by a hostile colleague and fretting about her husband’s increasingly odd behaviour, she hopes that she can resolve both situations during a long planned overseas trip. Instead, Rebecca finds herself in the midst of a crisis when the she becomes the target of the fraud investigation and then she is suspected of murder when her husband disappears without a trace.

I’ve been trying to write this review for three days but somehow can’t quite find the words. This is not a reflection on the novel which I really enjoyed, but I have to move on, so here are some scattered thoughts:

* Told in the first person, the narrative is immediate and tense, and I was never quite sure whether I could trust Rebecca or not.
* I felt there were some inconsistencies in the characterisation of Rebecca, she didn’t always behave in ways that made sense.
* I’d guessed the identity of the person framing Rebecca fairly early on but still had doubts all the way through given the multiple red herrings, any of whom would have been reasonable suspects.
* Stephen’s disappearance has less relevance to the story than I expected from the synopsis.
* The pace is steady and Turner builds the suspense throughout the novel. I read it quickly gripped by the spiraling tension.
* The descriptions of landscape and sea are vivid, especially those of the Amalfi Coast.
* An atmospheric debut exploring the themes of trust, betrayal, loss and love.

Truth was growing increasingly elusive and I was contributing; if I went down that path I could get tangled in my own lies.”

 

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Review: Limbo by Amy Andrews

 

Title: Limbo {Joy Valentine Mysteries #1}

Author: Amy Andrews

Read an Excerpt

Published: Escape Publishing May 2015

Status: Read on May 31, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Amy Andrews is an award-winning, best-selling Australian author who has written more than forty contemporary and medical romances. Limbo, with its blend of romance, suspense, humour and touch of the paranormal is quite a departure from her usual fare.

When the ghost of a murdered mother begs for her help to save her kidnapped daughter, Joy Valentine, country singer and funeral home makeup artist, knows the police won’t take her seriously so she reluctantly turns to the one person who might believe her, disgraced ex-cop turned private investigator Dash Dent. The police think baby Isabelle is probably dead but Joy and Dash are convinced Joy’s ghostly vision was genuine and set out to find the missing infant.

Though still a romance novel at its core, Andrews establishes an intriguing mystery surrounding the disappearance of the murdered woman, and her missing daughter. Dash and Joy slowly piece together the scant evidence available to determine exactly what happened on the day Hailey and Isabelle went missing, and where the pair have been for the six months prior to the discovery of Hailey’s body.

The characterisation is wonderful, I really liked both Dash and Joy, who are well rounded protagonists with interesting back stories. I loved their chemistry, the sexual tension between the mismatched pair is palpable and there are a couple of intimate scenes that really sizzle.
The cast of quirky supporting characters including an unconventional clergyman, a brothel madam and two horny goldfish, are equally delightful.

There is lots of humour, often found in unexpected places and while there is a little in the way of action, there is plenty of tension and suspense. The inner city setting gives the story a modern urban feel.

I finished the book in one sitting and I’m hoping Amy Andrews will follow up Limbo with another soon. Loved it!

 

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Review: Ascendance by John Birmingham

 

Title: Ascendance {Dave Hooper #3}

Author: John Birmingham

Published: PanMacmillan May 2015

Status: Read from May 28 to 30, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The final novel to feature rig engineer turned superhero monster slayer Dave Cooper, Ascendance picks up right where Resistance left off.

Super Dave, newly teamed with the katana wielding Russian spy Karen Warat (aka Colonel Ekatarina Varatchevsky), is in New York. Dismissing Trinder, they race to defend areas of the city under siege but are nearly overwhelmed as the Hunn continue boiling up from the underworld realm. The powers that be soon realise that the Horde is using Professor Compton’s theoretical model for collapsing western civilisation, and the world is in real peril. However Dave’s primary concern becomes his sons when he learns New Harbour is under attack and if he can’t save the world, he is determined to at least save his children.

Dave suffers badly in comparison to Karen whose training and discipline allows her to exploit her gifts, which includes an empathic ability. Not only does she wield her deadly katana like a master, she thinks strategically and seems to have her powers sussed out. Dave is pretty much left trailing in her wake like a meat-head while the choices he made in Resistance come back to haunt him.

The action in Ascendance is non-stop, violent and bloody. This is not a story for the squeamish what with splattering ichor and demon flesh and babies being tossed from buildings like confetti. To be honest I got a little bored with all the fighting, though the final confrontation was tense and exciting.

There is plenty of the bold and crass humour I’ve come to expect in this series. Dave is still a dick, Threshy’s thinkings are riotously confused and Karen adds her own brand of dry humour.

While this is supposed to be last book of a trilogy, the story definitely feels unfinished. It has been fun though.

 

Available to purchase from

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Review: Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry

 

Title: Church of Marvels

Author: Leslie Parry

Published: Hachette Australia May 2015

Read an Extract

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

My Thoughts:

Church of Marvels is an atmospheric and haunting tale set in New York during the late 1800’s that unfolds from the perspectives of four compelling characters, whose lives eventually converge.

Leaving behind her twin sister, Isabelle Church fled to Manhattan in the wake of the Coney Island fire that killed her mother and destroyed the Church of Marvels, the carny show in which Isabelle starred. No one knows why she left, where she is, or what secrets she keeps.

“I haven’t been able to speak since I was seventeen years old. Some people believed that because of this I’d be able to keep a secret. They believed I could hear all manners of tales and confessions and repeat nothing. Perhaps they believe that if I cannot speak, I cannot listen or remember or even think for myself – that I am, in essence, invisible. That I will stay silent forever. I’m afraid they are mistaken.”

With her mother dead, and her twin sister gone, only Odile Church remains at Coney Island, the spinning girl on the Wheel of Death. When a letter from her sister finally arrives she heads to Manhattan, determined to find her.

“At first glance the twins looked alike – they were both freckled and hazel eyed, with thick blonde hair and the snub nose of a second-rate chorus girl. But that was where the similarities ended, Unlike Belle, with her lithe and pliant acrobat’s body, Odile had a permanent crook in her neck and a slight curve to her spine.”

Sylvan Threadgill is nineteen, abandoned as a young child, he makes his living as a night-soiler, and boxes for a few extra pennies. One night he finds a baby girl half drowned in the effluent and rescues her.

“Under their breaths they called him Dogboy. He’d been puzzled over and picked apart all of his life – the skin of a Gypsy, the hair of a Negro, the build of a German, the nose of a Jew. he didn’t belong to anyone. They started at him with a kind of terrified wonder, as though he was a curiosity in a dime museum. One of his eyes was brown, so dark it nearly swallowed the pupil, and the other pale, aqueous blue.”

When Alphie Leonetti, once a ‘penny rembrandt’, is first introduced she is waiting for her husband, Anthony, to rescue her from the notorious Blackwell’s Asylum in the East River, the last thing she remembers is an argument with her disapproving mother in law. Desperate to escape she befriends a mute inmate with startling skills.

“Alphie curled up and covered her face with her hair, then cried her voice away. She couldn’t bear it; she’d come so far from her days a s a girl on the street, a bony runaway with shoes made from paper, waiting there on the corner with her paint stand and jars. And here she was, through some cruel reversal, sent back to the anonymous hive, trapped in a room full of women who were not missed and not wanted, who would wear the same dress every day until it disintegrated on their hungry frames-a dress she too wore, formless and smelling of some previous disease…”

With evocative phrasing Parry creates memorable characters and vivid settings, from the seedy shores of Coney Island to the dark, narrow streets of inner Manhattan, and the bleak horror of the asylum marooned in the middle of the East River.

A novel that demands attention, the lyrical prose of Church of Marvels tells a complex, suspenseful mystery that sometimes appears scattered, but is eventually brought to a stunning resolution.

“We can be a weary, cynical lot – we grow old and see only what suits us, and what is marvelous can often pass us by. A kitchen knife. A bulb of glass. A human body. That something so common should be so surprising – why, we forget it. We take it for granted. We assume that our sight is reliable, that our deeds are straightforward, that our words have one meaning. But life is uncommon and strange; it is full of intricacies and odd, confounding turns.”

 

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

 

Title: The Lie

Author: C.L. Taylor

Published: Avon: HarperCollins May 2015

Listen to an Excerpt

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.

 

Available to Purchase From

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Also by CL Taylor reviewed on Book’d Out

The Accident

Review: What She Left by T.R. Richmond

 

Title: What She Left

Author: T.R. Richmond

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin May 2015

Read an Extract

Status: Read from May 01 to 03, 2015 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher}

Who is Alice Salmon? Student. Journalist. Daughter. Lover of late nights, hater of deadlines. That girl who drowned last year. Gone doesn’t mean forgotten. Everyone’s life leaves a trace behind. But it’s never the whole story.

A Brief Thought:

I think the premise of What She Left is good and I was excited by the idea of the epistolary format, yet somehow the story didn’t quite live up to it’s potential for me. There seemed to be more focus on Professor Cooke, Alice’s former tutor,  than on Alice and her life. I also struggled with the scattered timeline and fairly slow pace.

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Epistolary Fiction

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