Review: Cold Blood by Robert Bryndza

Cold Blood (Detective Erika Foster, #5)Cold Blood by Robert Bryndza

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another great book from Mr Bryndza.

This is the fifth book in the Detective Erika Foster series but could probably be read as a standalone (although why would you when there are four other great books in the series). The story picks up not long after the events of the previous book and follows a fairly similar format, beginning with the discovery of a body. Bryndza does seem to be upping the ick factor however as this time the body is found dismembered in a suitcase. When it’s linked to another body Erika is positive a serial killer is at large once again (I’m so glad I don’t live anywhere near or know Erika) and fights to get a team to investigate.

The story is told from the pov of both Erika and someone who may have been involved in the murders or who may know who did it. As result this isn’t really a who dunnit but more of a police procedural mixed up with the psychology of a killer. For me it was probably the Erika chapters that worked best. There was something a little unconvincing about the killer(s) story. I didn’t 100% buy into it for some reason.

As far as Erika goes there are bits of her I love and bits that really bug me which I suppose is the sign of a well rounded character. Sometimes I’m cheering her on (mostly when she’s fighting her corner against the big bad bosses) and at others I want to shake her (stop pushing everyone away) but I’m always on her side and want the best for her.

She doesn’t get the easiest ride in this book, it just seems to be bad on top of bad (please give her a break soon) but I do get the feeling that she is starting to change and we can expect better things for her in the future.

There are quite a few secondary characters (her team seems to be ever expanding) and while we don’t get as much of certain ones as I would have liked (McGorry, Isaac) I was very happy that Moss was present throughout and that Marsh made a return. I find the relationship between Marsh and Erika fascinating so it’s always good to have them interacting. They have a long and complicated history and things get even more complicated in this book when he becomes part of the case.

It is a pretty fast paced read and was definitely one I found difficult to put down. The author knows just how to hook you and keep you reading late into the night. I do feel though that I need to highlight a couple of issues with it. I hate doing this because I do love the author and his books but the little mistakes and inconsistencies scattered throughout drove me nuts (for example, “nice weather for ducks” is not an unheard of expression in the UK, the description of the bones in the arm isn’t right, and the twins who can’t be told apart on one page are referred to by the correct names on the next). I’m afraid I’m one of those people who once they spot a couple start spotting everything and I had to drop the rating a little for it.

I also felt like it could have done with a bit more depth and detail. The story would possibly have lost a bit of pace but I do think it would have added to the tension and made me a little more invested in the story and characters. There’s just something a little bit jarring about it at times. It’s so frustrating because it’s so close to being absolutely brilliant but just slightly misses the mark because of small silly things that probably only bug me.

Overall however it is an enjoyable read that I flew through and will continue to recommend to everyone I know. Personally, I can’t wait for book 6.

Thanks to Netgalley and Bookouture for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.


The Blurb

She fell in love with a killer, now she’s one too.

The suitcase was badly rusted, and took Erika several attempts, but it yielded and sagged open as she unzipped it. Nothing could prepare her for what she would find inside…

When a battered suitcase containing the dismembered body of a young man washes up on the shore of the river Thames, Detective Erika Foster is shocked. She’s worked on some terrifying cases but never seen anything like this before.

As Erika and her team set to work, she makes the link with another victim – the body of a young woman dumped in an identical suitcase two weeks ago.

Erika quickly realises she’s on the trail of a serial killer who’s already made their next move. Yet just as Erika starts to make headway with the investigation, she is the victim of a brutal attack.

But nothing will stop Erika. As the body count rises, the twin daughters of her colleague Commander Marsh are abducted, and the stakes are higher than ever before. Can Erika save the lives of two innocent children before it’s too late? She’s running out of time and about to make a disturbing discovery…there’s more than one killer.

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ARC Review: Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

Genuine Fraud

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A brilliant and cleverly plotted story makes this a truly addictive read. It’s packed full of mystery and questions making it frustrating as hell but impossible to put down.

The characters may not be the most likeable but they are definitely some of the most intriguing. You definitely need your wits about you if you want to figure out what’s real and what’s not.


Synopsis

The story of a young woman whose diabolical smarts are her ticket into a charmed life. But how many times can someone reinvent themselves? You be the judge.

Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.


My Review

Hmm how to review a book where you can’t really talk about the story, you can’t really talk about the characters and you definitely can’t talk about the ending, or should that be the beginning? I think this is going to be quite a short review.

This is a story that begins at the end, yep literally. The first chapter is number 18 and from there it goes back in time to chapter 1 the beginning. Our main character Jule is a bit of a mystery. As the story begins (or ends as it were) she seems to be on the run and pretending to be someone else. The big question is why but this is only the first of many questions.

This is a story that’s absolutely packed full of mystery and secrets and it raises far more questions than it ever answers. As you travel back in time the answers are gradually revealed but every discovery seems to raise a hundred more questions so that you have to read that little bit more. Needless to say I read the whole book from cover to cover in an afternoon and immediately wanted to go back to the beginning and read it again to try and figure out what I’d missed.

It’s a a very intricately and cleverly plotted story that’s full of detail and little hints and clues scattered throughout. The back to front format of the story works incredibly well as you’re always trying to guess how they got to a specific place or moment and why they behave or act in a certain way. You really have to pay very close attention or you’re sure to miss something.

Main character Jule is the definitive anti hero and a bit of an enigma. She’s not particularly likeable, how can you like someone who’s always pretending to be someone else, but she’s definitely intriguing. I did on occasion find myself feeling sorry for her but when you never know what’s real and what’s fake, you never really know if you’re just being played.

This is an absolutely brilliant book but it’s frustrating as hell which means I can’t say it was an enjoyable reading experience. It is however one I’d definitely recommend. Just set aside plenty of time because you won’t be able to put it down.

I received an advance copy of this book free from Readers First. This has in no way influenced my review.

ARC Review: The Border by Steve Schafer

The BorderThe Border by Steve Schafer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very timely look at illegal immigration from the point of view of those who risk it all for a better life. It’s a fast paced and engaging read that’s both harrowing and heartbreaking at times but I’m so glad I read it.

It’s a brilliant debut and one I’d recommend even if it’s not your usual kind of read.


The Blurb

One moment changed their lives forever.

A band plays, glasses clink, and four teens sneak into the Mexican desert, the hum of celebration receding behind them.

Crack. Crack. Crack.

Not fireworks―gunshots. The music stops. And Pato, Arbo, Marcos, and Gladys are powerless as the lives they once knew are taken from them.

Then they are seen by the gunmen. They run. Except they have nowhere to go. The narcos responsible for their families’ murders have put out a reward for the teens’ capture. Staying in Mexico is certain death, but attempting to cross the border through an unforgiving desert may be as deadly as the secrets they are trying to escape…


My Review

This is not the kind of book I probably would have picked up on my own but when the publisher contacted me via NetGalley and offered me the chance to read it I thought why not. Despite a NetGalley shelf that’s starting to creak, I’m so glad I added this to it.

Illegal immigration seems to be a hot topic at the moment no matter where you live in the world so this book about four teens trying to cross the border into the US from Northern Mexico couldn’t be more relevant. It provides a truly fascinating insight into just how desperate many of those trying to find a new life are and challenges the view that many have that they’re all bad or dangerous people who have to be stopped.

The story is told from the point of view of 16 year old Pato who, after witnessing all of his family and most of his friends being killed by a local gang while at a party, has a price put on his head and is forced to go on the run with his best friend Arbo and Marcus and Gladys a brother and sister who also narrowly avoided being killed at the party. With Mexico no longer safe and no one they can turn to the only option open to them is to attempt to cross into America and make a new life for themselves.

Pato is an immensely likeable and surprisingly relateable character. I didn’t expect to have much in common with a 16 year old Mexican boy but there’s something about him that I could definitely empathize with. He seems to have had a relatively sheltered and comparatively privileged life so his life is truly turned upside down and he struggles to cope. The author does a truly wonderful job in making him a very real and completely believable character.

The other three that make up the group were also incredibly well defined. Arbo the best friend is the emotional and soft one who struggles the most, Marco is the tough guy and self imposed leader of the group and Gladys brings balance and a little bit of love to the group. It’s absolutely wonderful how the dynamic between the four changes and develops over the course of the story and I found myself really routing for them to make it despite the odds stacked against them.

The story itself is fast paced and pretty harrowing at times (although I do feel like the author held back a little for the YA audience). The group have more than a few close calls and with gangs chasing them, an inhospitable environment, limited resources and no one to rely on but themselves there’s a big question mark over who if any of them will make it across the desert alive.

Thankfully it’s not all death, violence and struggle however as the author also weaves in some moment of lightness and humor and also a little bit of romance. There’s a lot of struggle but there’s also a lot of hope and that’s what carries the group and the reader through (although I’m not telling you if they make it).

I did have a couple of niggles which I can’t mention due to spoilers but overall I’d say this was a worthwhile read and one I’d definitely recommend.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.

The Border is published on the 5th September.

ARC Review: The Accident by S.D. Monaghan

The AccidentThe Accident by S.D. Monaghan

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

A gripping thriller with an brilliant hook in the beginning which instantly draws you into the story. I did feel like it dipped a little in the middle with one or two too many flashbacks which slowed down the pace of the story but there are plenty of twists, turns and cliffhangers to keep you reading till the very end.

The story follows married couple David and Tara who with a baby on the way and their dream home almost complete are about to start the next phase of their lives together. For some reason though Tara can’t resist one final fling with ex boyfriend Ryan before she settles down. When David stumbles upon them together he confronts Ryan, throwing a punch that results in a three storey fall for Ryan, setting in motion a series of events that could potentially destroy them both.

The story is told from the points of view of both David and Tara and this dual perspective makes for some really engaging reading. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I liked either character and at times their actions frustrated the hell out of me (yes I shouted at the book) but they were very believable and I found myself questioning how I would act in their situation.

There’s a really fast pace in the beginning of the book making it addictive reading but around a third of the way through it kind of loses it a bit as the story flits back in time to explain how David and Tara met and how their relationship developed. It is interesting to read and explains a lot about them but I felt like the tension which made it such a gripping read was lost. There are twists and turns and chapters end on cliffhangers to keep you reading but it bugged the hell out of me that these cliffhangers would be followed by a jump to another time or place.

I won’t say much about the story for fear of spoilers but while there were bits I guessed there were certainly a few twists I didn’t see coming and the ending, while possibly a little sudden, was for the most part satisfying (am I being suitably vague?).

Overall therefore, it’s a pretty good read and while it suffers from some pacing issues I’d still recommend to anyone who likes a good thriller. I will definitely be looking out for other books from this author.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.

Review: Yesterday by Felicia Yap

YesterdayYesterday by Felicia Yap

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Despite having very high hopes for this book I have to confess that I very nearly gave up on it on more than one occasion. I am happy that I continued on with it to the end but I must admit that I found it really hard going.

The premise of this story sounds so good, how do you solve a crime if you can’t remember anything other than the last 24 hours, but for me it was this central premise that just didn’t work. I absolutely love stories about amnesia and memory loss and some of my all time favourite reads feature this plot device. I’m fascinated by the question of how much of who you are is determined by your memories and experiences and how different you would be without them but I felt like this book never really touched on this.

The story is set in an alternate reality where everyone is split into two classes, Mono’s and Duo’s. Mono’s can remember only the day before while Duo’s can recall the last two days. As the famous saying goes “in the kingdom of the blind, the one eyed man is king” and in this case it is the Duo’s with their additional day of memories who hold the positions of power while the Mono’s are considered second class citizens. Everyone however keeps track of the facts and major events of their lives in their iDiaries.

It is in this alternate reality that we are given a murder mystery. The body of a woman is found in the river and it is up to detective Hans, a mono masquerading as a duo, to solve the case before the day is out and his memories are lost.

The story is told from the points of view of Hans, the diary of the victim Sophie and mono/duo couple Mark and Claire who become involved in the investigation. These four points of view, some jumps back and forward in time combined with trying to understand this alternate reality is perhaps a bit much but you do eventually get into it.

In the beginning I did find the idea of this alternate reality fascinating but for me it quickly became frustrating and irritating. I think I found it difficult to accept that this world could be so similar to ours. There are the same companies (Apple), similar technological developments (the internet) and even the same type of society but everything just seems so cold and emotionless. The iDiaries are effectively used as a replacement for real memories and whenever anyone is asked a question about their past they simply refer to them (at one point I swore that if one more character said “let me just check that in my iDiary” I would scream). It seemed at times just a bit of a gimmick rather than a genuine attempt to create an alternate world (although I suppose it would probably be too much to try and create a completely different world and incorporate a murder mystery).

There is the interesting point over what constitutes a fact, which can be learned and remembered in this world, but I don’t think the author explored this enough and more could definitely be made of it. When is something really a fact and when is it just someone’s opinion? If you’re basing your “facts” on something someone wrote down is there not a danger they could be at best biased and at worst open to manipulation? If you could choose which facts you learn would you omit the ones you don’t like? I really would have loved more exploration of all of these questions.

The murder mystery element of the book is not particularly inspired either. There’s nothing much unique about it other than the detective having a limited time to complete his investigation. Even then a lot of the investigation seems to be reading the diary of the victim which reveals most of the events leading up to the murder and then just verifying whether they are true.

Detective Hans is probably the most likeable of the characters in the book and there are elements of his character and behaviour that felt a little bit Sherlock Holmes inspired, his determination to learn every fact, technique and other bit of knowledge he can for example. The other characters however, victim included, were not even remotely likeable something which I always struggle with and part of the reason I nearly gave up on this story on more than one occasion.

Husband Mark, is a cheat and a liar, a famous writer and wanna be politician. As a duo he sees himself as superior to everyone else. Wife Claire is a whiny, moany, emotional wreck who seriously needs to grow some back bone and victim Sophie comes across as nasty and vengeful. I genuinely couldn’t care less about any of them, never mind who the murderer was.

The split of the narrative between the characters is a little uneven and for some reason Mark and Claire seem to disappear for a big chunk in the middle of the book but actually this is when the story picked up for me. Sophie’s diary and Hans investigation were much more interesting and the book gathered a bit more pace. I found myself wondering whether the story would have been better if it had been wholly from Hans point of view.

When they did reappear however it turned out to be one of the most gripping and touching scenes of the novel before we reached the final twist which wasn’t a total surprise but made up for a lot of what came early on. I do wish the author had been a little briefer in the final exposition (I don’t want things explained to me in detail) but it did wrap everything up.

Overall, I’d probably rate it as an okay read rather than anything special but that may be down to my general dislike of unlikeable and unreliable narrators and complete inability to accept this parallel world. Certainly others have loved it so it may be worth a try.

Thanks to NetGalley and the Publisher for providing me with an ARC. I wish I could have given a more positive review.

Review: The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond

The Marriage PactThe Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Almost impossible to put down. From the very first page I was completely hooked and the gradual build in tension throughout meant that I was reaching for this book at every possible opportunity. It’s not without flaws but there is something about the narrator that is instantly likeable and the premise is so unique that these are very easy to overlook.

Definitely one I’d recommend for all psychological thriller fans.

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ARC Review: Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

Emma in the NightEmma in the Night by Wendy Walker

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m starting to think I’m over the whole unlikeable/unreliable narrator thing. I love an intelligent psychological thriller, particularly when the focus is on complex characters and this definitely fits the bill. However, while there were elements that I found fascinating it lacked the tension and emotion it needed to really draw me in. I found it difficult to like, or unfortunately care, about any of the characters and as a result the whole thing left me cold and struggling to focus on the narrative.

The story starts incredibly well with 18 year old Cass, approaching her family home. She and her elder sister Emma both disappeared on the same night three years ago and despite an extensive investigation and search at the time all hope of finding them was abandoned. Cass claims to have escaped from an Island where she and her sister were held prisoner (and her sister still is) but there are more than a few question marks over her story and it soon becomes clear that this is a family with secrets.

The narrative is told from the point of view of both Cass and Dr Abby Winter, a psychologist with the FBI who has been involved with the investigation since the original disappearance. This dual perspective brings a nice balance to the story as we get both “the victim’s” story and an insight into the investigation and evidence. Cass’s narrative jumps back and forth in time from the present day and her return to her time on the island and the events preceding their disappearance.

The complex relationships between Cass and her family make for fascinating if at times confusing reading. Dr Winter suspects her mother of being a narcissist and Cass’s story of her childhood certainly seem to support this. Everything is about her. She has to be viewed as the most attractive, the most powerful and the best mother and god help anyone who threatens that. She is definitely a complex, unpredictable and for that reason engaging character.

Cass is difficult to read. It’s clear from the beginning that she’s pursuing her own agenda (the narrative is very open about this) but it’s difficult to know what that is. Is she trying to be part of the family again, desperately trying to save her sister or could her motives be darker? She comes across as cold and calculating a lot of the time and despite the neglect she clearly suffered I found it difficult to get behind her. I found myself a little detached from her story. It was interesting to read and I was curious about what had happened and what she had planned but it didn’t grip me and there were occasions where I felt like I could quite easily put it down and walk away.

Dr Abby Winter unfortunately wasn’t any more engaging as a narrator. She was involved in the initial investigation into the girl’s disappearance and has been troubled by the case ever since as she recognized the mother for what she was and suspected some kind of involvement. We get some information on her past and the similarities between her upbringing and Cass’s but again while I found it interesting I didn’t really feel it.

I thought the pacing of the story was a little bit on the slow side and the plot was fairly predictable. I found my attention wandering in places which, when you have a story that jumps between two narrators and various time periods, meant I did end up having to re read pages because I’d no idea what was happening or where I was.

It is a well thought out story and I thought building in all of the information around narcissistic personality disorder and the impact on the children was incredibly well done, it does make you wonder if Cass could maybe also be suffering from some kind of mental illness. I just wish I could have connected with or found one character I liked and could get behind.

I do however think I’ve become a little tired of the whole unreliable narrator thing in thrillers (not that I was overly keen on it to begin with) so there is a strong possibility it’s just me. If they are your thing you might find you absolutely love it.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for a review. As always all views are my own.

Emma in the Night is due for publication on the 8th August.