Review: Woman of the Dead by Bernard Aichner

 

Title: Woman of The Dead {Blum #1}

Author: Bernard Aichner (translated by Anthea Bell)

Published: Scribner August 2015

Status: Read on August 25, 2015 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

A dark and disturbing tale of vengeance and violence, Woman of the Dead is the first novel by Bernhard Aichner to feature Blum, mother, mortician and murderer.

When Blum’s beloved husband is killed in a hit and run she is nearly destroyed until she learns that he was deliberately targeted. The photographer, the cook, the priest, the huntsman, and the clown – these are the men responsible, and Blum is going to make them pay.

Woman Of the Dead has one of the most memorable character introductions I’ve ever read. The story opens with a during a defining moment in Blum’s life before leaping forward eight years to place us in the present. Blum is the devoted wife of Mark, a police detective, the doting mother of their two young daughters, and the owner of a successful funeral business. She is both hero and anti-hero in this story, grieving widow and ruthless killer.

There is raw and visceral emotion in The Woman of the Dead. The pain and numbness of Blum’s grief and the horror of the abuse Danya experienced at the hands of the mysterious cabal. There is also grisly and often explicit violence, this isn’t a story for the squeamish.

The plot is quite straight forward, perhaps stretched a little thin at times. It’s a fast paced story that builds suspense, though astute readers shouldn’t have any problems guessing the identity of the last man standing.

Woman of the Dead is an unusual story, with a rather extraordinary protagonist. I’m curious to see how the series develops.

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Review: Private Sydney by James Patterson & Kathryn Fox

 

Title: Private Sydney {Private #10}

Author: James Patterson and Kathryn Fox

Published: Random House Australia August 2015

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Status: Read from August 17 to 18, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:
In the latest addition to the Private series, James Patterson teams with Aussie crime author Kathryn Fox, introducing the reader to Craig Gisto, and his staff, in the Private Sydney agency who have two cases to investigate in this crime thriller novel.

The first involves a surrogacy scam, a murdered woman and a missing baby. Gisto’s agency is accused of negligence when a couple hires Private to run a background check on a woman who has volunteered to be their surrogate. Within hours of turning over the report, the woman is murdered, an 8 week old baby in her care abducted, and the identities of the couple prove to be false. Gisto and his team have few leads and work hard to unravel the scam, determined to find the missing infant.

The second case involves the missing CEO of a billion dollar company. Stonewalled by the man’s business partner, Gisto begins to suspect large scale fraud is the issue. However it soon becomes clear that whatever Eric Moss has done, he has made some dangerous enemies. Despite attempts at intimidation, Gisto refuses to back off, especially when threats are made against the missing man’s daughter.

Short chapters, an economy of words, and a sense of immediacy keeps the pace moving quickly. The plot is well crafted and not entirely predictable, with some smaller subplots that fill out the pages. Studded with action, there is also a touch of romance. You don’t get much more than a general sense of the characters, but it is enough to satisfy.

The Australian setting, which moves from Sydney city to the Blue Mountains, should appeal to Patterson’s international and local fans.

Private Sydney was exactly what I expected, a quick, easy, entertaining read.

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Review: The Murderer’s Daughter by Jonathan Kellerman

 

Title: The Murderer’s Daughter

Author: Jonathan Kellerman

Published: Ballantine Books August 2015

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Status: Read from August 16 to 17, 2015 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

A rare standalone from an author best known for his long running series featuring child psychologist Alex Delaware, Johnathon Kellerman doesn’t stray far from the familiar in The Murderer’s Daughter.

Grace Blades is a respected psychotherapist who specialises in treating patients that have experienced extreme trauma. It isn’t uncommon for new patients to abandon a session, but Grace is curious when the body of Andrew Toner is found the morning after their first meeting. Tracing his last movements, Grace unwittingly puts herself in the cross-hairs of a ruthless killer.

Andrew Toner, Grace soon discovers, was born Typhon Dagon Roi, the orphaned son of a cult leader, who along with his siblings, Samael and Lilith, spent a brief period in the same foster home as Grace. Targeted by Andrew/Typhon’s killer, Grace, intelligent and resourceful, conducts her own investigation, while evading the men targeting her, leading her into a harrowing confrontation with pitiless evil.

The narrative alternates between the present, as Grace searches for for the killer, and the harrowing details of Grace’s troubled past.

Grace is an intriguing character. She was five when she witnessed her mother kill her father and then commit suicide, eleven when her foster mother, Ramona, collapsed and died in front of her. An incredibly bright child, she captured the interest of Ramona’s brother-in-law, psychology professor Malcolm Bluestone, and his wife Sophia, who later adopted her. Now in her mid thirties, she is independently wealthy, and successful in her field, but she has a dark side that comes to the fore when threatened.

The mystery runs a fairly predictable course, but Grace is a memorable character. Part fast paced thriller, part complex character study, The Murderer’s Daughter is a great read for Kellerman fans, and new readers alike.

 

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Blog Tour Review: The Hiding Place by John Burley

 

Title: The Hiding Place

Author: John Burley

Published: HarperCollins Avon UK August 2015

Status: Read on August 06, 2015 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

The Hiding Place (also published as The Forgetting Place) is John Burley’s second stand alone novel of suspense.

Dr Lise Shields has always accepted that Menaker Psychiatric Hospital houses some of America’s most dangerous criminally insane offenders, until Jason Edwards becomes her patient. There is something not quite right about his presence at the institution, and when her supervisor refuses to produce his file, Lise is driven to investigate. Her suspicions are seemingly confirmed when she is approached by two FBI agents who explain Jason is in hiding, and both she and her patient are now in danger.

With several twists in the tale, The Hiding Place is gripping novel. Whilst the story may require some suspension of belief during its reading, most nagging elements of discord are eventually resolved as the startling conclusion is reached. It may be a little slow to begin with, as Burley establishes the foundation for his story, the pace of The Hiding Place picks up considerably as the novel unfolds, building suspense that will keep you turning the pages.

“This, I realise, so often leads to our downfall. We press forward not because we want to know, but because we must know. It doesn’t matter how terrible that knowledge is, or what price must be paid for it. And it is not until the moment of revelation that we scurry back in horror and dismay…”

Dr Lise Shields is an interesting character, we are told she has been a psychiatrist at Menaker for five years, and leads a rather solitary life. Her choice of profession was inspired by an uncle that suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, and Lise is desperate to protect Jason from his pursuers in a way that she was unable to protect her uncle from his.

“We belong to our past, each of us serving it in our own way, and to break the tether between that time and the present is to risk shattering ourselves in the process.”

If you can avoid spoilers, The Hiding Place offers an impressive final twist, perhaps one I should have seen coming…but was neatly distracted from. This is a taut, page turning thriller.

“The past is what imprisons us. There are some things in this world that can never be undone. But they can be faced. They can be forgiven. And if we hold onto that, then there is a chance for us. A chance that someday…we will be free.”

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Review: Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

 

Title: Pretty Baby

Author: Mary Kubica

Published: Harlequin Au August 2015

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Status: Read from August 03 to 04, 2015 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Mary Kubica’s second psychological chiller, Pretty Baby, has been hotly anticipated since the success of her debut novel, The Good Girl.

When Heidi Wood spies a young homeless girl toting a squalling infant and a battered suitcase during a rainstorm on Chicago’s streets she tentatively offers her a raincoat, then a meal and on another cold and wet day, a place to stay. Heidi’s husband and daughter are horrified that she has invited a stranger into their midst, Willow could be a thief, a criminal, or worse, but Heidi sees only a vulnerable young woman and a beautiful baby girl desperately in need of refuge. A refuge she is determined to provide…but at what cost?

Pretty Baby unfolds from the perspectives of Heidi, her husband Chris, and Willow.
We learn Heidi works for a non profit organisation, Chris works in finance, traveling regularly for his job, and together they have a twelve year old daughter, Zoe, who is on the cusp of teenage rebellion. Their lives are comfortable and ordered, until it is upset by the introduction of Willow and her baby.

“Heidi was the first one in a long time who was nice to me.”

Willow claims to be eighteen, though Heidi suspects she is much younger. Willow is defensive and secretive, afraid of thunderstorms, she is bruised and scarred. The baby, Ruby, is just four months old. She resists the Wood’s prying into her past, but the reader is privy to it as Willow relates her history to ‘The lady with the long, silver hair, combed straight. And big teeth. Like a horse’s.’

“I didn’t want to hurt her,” I say. “Or her family.”

As the story progresses, tension grows. Chris and Zoe are irritated by Willow and Ruby’s presence, and while simply Zoe rolls her eyes, texting her displeasure to her best friend, Chris, who is absent more often than not, hires a private detective to investigate Willow. meanwhile Heidi is growing increasingly attached to Ruby, delighting in her infant gurgles and the warmth of her small body, as Willow watches silently. The dynamics between the characters twist and warp as Kubica takes the plot in a direction sure to surprise and unnerve.

“I peer down at the baby in my arms and think: Juliet is here. She is safe.”

An intense and engaging read, Pretty Baby offers an unpredictable story and intriguing characters. Recommended.

 

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Review: The Hand That Feeds You by AJ Rich

 

Title: The Hand That Feeds You

Author: AJ Rich

Published: Simon & Schuster July 2015

Status: Read from July 23rd-24th, 2015 – I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:
The Hand That Feeds You by A.J. Rich {a pseudonym for the partnership of authors Amy Hempel and Jill Ciment) offers an interesting premise.

Psychology student Morgan Prager is devastated when she returns home one evening to find her fiance, Bennett, mauled to death by her beloved pets, a Great Pyrenees and two fostered pit bulls. But when attempts to notify Bennett’s family of his death reveal he was not the man she thought he was, for Morgan, a psychologist writing a thesis about victimology, the betrayal is stunning and she is determined to unravel the truth.

While I found The Hand That Feeds You to be a quick and largely enjoyable read, unfortunately I felt the execution didn’t quite work on a number of levels.

Morgan is an inconsistent character, whose potential is undeveloped. I really loved the idea of a psychologist studying victimology becoming a victim, but was disappointed that Morgan was revealed to lack even a modicum of self awareness, especially for a thirty year old woman with years of psychology study. While I could just about believe she could be romantically duped by Bennett, and her stubborn denial of some truths was frustrating.

I felt uneven pacing resulted in diluted tension, some plot elements were heavily foreshadowed while others seemingly came out of nowhere. There were some odd scenes that seemed out of place and the ending was ultimately anti-climatic.

The writing didn’t quite gel either, cold and occasionally awkward.

Overall I thought The Hand That Feeds You lacked the depth and subtlety that could have made this story a great psychological thriller.

 

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Review: The Night Ferry by Michael Robotham

Title: The Night Ferry

Author: Michael Robotham

Published: Mulholland Books July 2015

Status: Read from July 18-19 – I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

A stand alone thriller from master storyteller Michael Robotham, The Night Ferry was first released in 1997 but has been reprinted for American audiences.

The Night Ferry features Detective Alisha Barba who is drawn into the murky world of human trafficking when her estranged childhood best friend begs for her help, shortly before being killed in a hit and run.

The investigation leads Alisha from London to the heart of Amsterdam’s red light district. The plot is complex involving the enforced surrogacy of vulnerable refugees beholden to unscrupulous human traffickers, and while fairly predictable, the fast paced execution keeps the tension and interest high.

Alisha Barba appeared as a minor character is Robotham’s, Lost. She is an interesting protagonist, a Sikh, who is recovering from a horrific injury sustained in the line of duty. Her history with the murdered woman, Cate, is what drives her to investigate despite the lack of official sanction, calling on her on and off again boyfriend, fellow officer Dave King, and retired Detective Inspector Vincent Ruiz for help.

I was at times frustrated by some of the choices made by Alisha, which may have advanced the plot or provided action, but seemed inane given her intelligence and experience.

Overall however The Night Ferry is a gripping read with a strong and interesting narrative.

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Blog Tour: A Time To Run by J.M. Peace

 

jm-peace-c-sheree-tomlinson-webI’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for debut novelist J.M. Peace today, introducing A Time To Run. 

An avid reader and writer from an early age, JM Peace wanted to be a writer. So she studied journalism figuring this would be a way of turning a passion into a job. Her career as a print journalist failed after a single year, and the experience completely sucked the joy out of writing for her. So she took a complete change of direction and became a police officer. Over the past 15 years, she has served throughout south-east Queensland in a variety of different capacities, including Intelligence and CIB. After her children were born, the dangers and stresses of the job made it unappealing. In the search for a new career path, she returned to her childhood dream. Carving a spare hour out of every day, she wrote the manuscript for A Time To Run whilst juggling her family commitments, police work and running a household. Jay currently lives on the Sunshine Coast with her partner, wrangling her two cheeky children, a badly behaved dog and an anti-social cockatiel.

Set in the Queensland bush, A Time to Run is a tense, gritty crime thriller featuring a cop-turned-victim and a chilling serial killer.

A GRUESOME GAME
A madman is kidnapping women to hunt them for sport.
A FRANTIC SEARCH
Detective Janine Postlewaite leads the investigation into the disappearance of Samantha Willis, determined not to let another innocent die on her watch.
A SHOCKING TWIST
The killer’s newest prey isn’t like the others. Sammi is a cop. And she refuses to be his victim.
A RUN FOR YOUR LIFE”

Please read on to learn more about J.M Peace and A Time to Run

*****

Why a Serial Killer?

My book involves a serial killer. I feel somehow inadequate by saying this. It seems like a bit of a cliché – that one murder is not enough these days, that you have to raise the body count. But it was the way the story unfolded and I’d like to explain why.

In my early twenties, I went backpacking around the world travelling solo a lot of the time. Yes, I used to hitchhike (shh, don’t tell my mum), and I put myself into some astoundingly stupid situations. If the wrong person had found me at the wrong time, things could have turned out very badly for me. It was before the days of email and global interconnectivity. I don’t know how long it would have been before I would have been reported as ‘missing’.

ivanmilat

Ivan Milat convicted of the Belangalo State Forest Murders

This was around about the same time that backpackers were being dispatched in Belanglo State Forest. When I got home nearly four years later, I read a bit about the Belanglo crimes. This is where the seed of the idea for this story began, with this question – what if it had been me? What if I had naively climbed into the wrong car and been taken out to some secluded forest by a psychopath? What would I have done? Could I have possibly survived it?

The story bounced around in my head for years. I used to dream up all sorts of possibilities. Could I have killed him? How? How could I have escaped? Who could find me? Could I trust them? These musings were still going on when became a police officer. This added a dimension to my ponderings. Would being a police officer give me an edge with my imaginary madman? What sort of advantage? What had I learnt as a cop which could help me?

After a few failed attempts at writing children’s stories, I realised I should be writing crime. And in a bit of a light bulb moment, I realised this story that I had been prodding at for years was the one I should write. It was just a matter of choosing which storyline was most engaging and believable. And so A Time To Run was born. The plot was pretty much in place before I even sat down at a keyboard. As I wrote the dual storylines of the abduction and the investigation, I’d switch between my backpacker experiences and my police officer experiences. But the question I’d ask myself was the same – “what would I do?”

I’ve written the sequel to this book and the plot for a third in the series exists. The body count is steadily dropping with each subsequent book. The serial killer idea has been done now and it’s not one I intend on revisiting. But this was how A Time To Run came into existence.

*****

Want to know more? Follow the tour!

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Review: Fast and Loose by Nicholas J Johnson

 

Title: Fast and Loose

Author: Nicholas J Johnson

Published: Simon & Schuster July 2015

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Status: Read from July 11 to 15, 2015 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the author/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Fast and Loose is an entertaining sequel to Nicholas J Johnson’s first novel, Chasing The Ace.

It begins around a year after Joel Fitch, a young, wannabe grifter, and Richard Mordecai, his world-weary con ‘artiste’ mentor, have parted ways. Joel has fled Melbourne and is sharing a flat with his father in Sydney when he is identified by a former mark, tabloid news producer Danny Hemming. Hemming, angling for a promotion, blackmails Joel into starring in a series of on camera exposé’s, showing the public how easily they can be conned by an accomplished swindler. But whom exactly is conning who?

“Victors. Villains. Victims. Once you figure out which one your target is, the rest falls into place.”

As the novel unfolds from the alternating perspectives of Joel and Danny, you can never be sure where the truth really lies in this fast paced story of secrets, betrayal, swindles and surprises.

Joel, who claims to have retired, seems to be floundering, as Hemming, chasing ratings, demands ever increasingly ‘flashy’ stings, progressing from conning university students in a mystery shopper scam, to swindling a bunch of drug dealers and exposing an insider trader scheme, in which Joel’s dad is involved.

There is action, humour, suspense and plenty of twists in the complex plot. The ‘cons’ are clever, and a little scary. The author draws on his own knowledge and experience as an expert on fraud and deception to show just how easily people can be fooled, and how often we deceive ourselves.

Though Fast and Loose can be read as a stand alone, I’d recommend reading Chasing the Ace first. A quick and entertaining novel, I enjoyed Fast and Loose…you believe me, don’t you?

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Review: Friday On My Mind by Nicci French

Title: Friday On My Mind {Frieda Klein #5}

Author: Nicci French

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin July 2015

Read an Extract

Status: Read on July 11, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

I launched into Friday On My Mind, book five of the Freida Klein series by Nicci French, directly after finishing Thursday’s Children.

Fast paced and tense this is another page turning installment of the series. In Friday On My Mind, Frieda is accused of murder when the body of her ex lover, Sandy is found floating in the Thames, his throat slit. While the police focus their investigation on Frieda, she immediately suspects her obsessive stalker, Dean Reeve, is responsible and unable to convince the police of her innocence, goes on the run, determined to expose the killer and clear her name.

Frieda is of course expecting her search for evidence will lead her to prove Dean Reeve is alive and culpable, but as she delves into Sandy’s recent past, she begins to wonder if someone else could be responsible. In her methodical and fearless way Frieda insinuates into the lives of those closest to Sandy, doggedly hunting his killer all while trying to keep a low profile but as the mystery unfolds a shocking twist proves the murderer is closer than she thinks. Even though Frieda manages to stay one step ahead of the police, a reckoning with the killer has consequences for all of them, both deadly and unexpected.

“‘That’s part of Freida’s problem. She doesn’t want to get off. She wants the truth.'”

Though Frieda is determined to protect her loyal friends from the fall out of the case, they rally to support her, even when it puts them at risk of prosecution. Karlsson in particular faces trouble when he defends Freida against the vindictive police commissioner and his pet psychiatrist. Josef shrugs off threats of deportation, doing everything he can to aid Frieda’s fight, and even the emotionally fragile Sasha doesn’t hesitate to offer her refuge.

“‘I just follow where the evidence leads me, and in this case the evidence suggests that where Frieda Klein goes a trail of chaos follows. What her precise role in this happens to be has always been difficult to pin down. As you will probably discover, Frieda Klein also has some strange associates. How these things happen, I don’t pretend to know, but they happen, and they continue to happen'”

I’m looking forward to learning what happens next.

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