End of Watch by Stephen King

End of Watch by Stephen King

The cell rings twice, and then his old partner in his ear… ‘I’m at the scene of what appears to be a murder-suicide. I’d like you to come and take a look. Bring your sidekick with you, if she’s available…’

Retired Detective Bill Hodges now runs a two-person firm called Finders Keepers with his partner Holly Gibney. They met in the wake of the ‘Mercedes Massacre’ when a queue of people was run down by the diabolical killer Brady Hartsfield.

Brady is now confined to Room 217 of the Lakes Region Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, in an unresponsive state. But all is not what it seems: the evidence suggests that Brady is somehow awake, and in possession of deadly new powers that allow him to wreak unimaginable havoc without ever leaving his hospital room.

When Bill and Holly are called to a suicide scene with ties to the Mercedes Massacre, they find themselves pulled into their most dangerous case yet, one that will put their lives at risk, as well as those of Bill’s heroic young friend Jerome Robinson and his teenage sister, Barbara. Brady Hartsfield is back, and planning revenge not just on Hodges and his friends, but on an entire city.

The clock is ticking in unexpected ways …

Both a stand-alone novel of heart-pounding suspense and a sublimely terrifying final episode in the Hodges trilogy, End of Watch takes the series into a powerful new dimension.

Stephen King is back in his safe haven of terror writing, no one frankly does it better and this genre, although plentiful, there’s always room for one of writings most creative and elegant writers. End of Watch marks the third and final novel in the trilogy featuring retired detective Bill Hodges, or Kermit as he is affectionately called.

Rumours, Suspicions and evidence – or lack thereof – play into the hands of Bill Hodges who has always suspected that Brady Hartsfield’s catatonic state is a sham, suffering from a brain injury there’s no possible way the killer can continue to impart his will on others is there?. Not one to quit Hodges begins to wonder if the rumours circulating from Brady’s hospital wing about his powers of telekinesis are true. Can he really have a hold on people from a distance using his mind? Only time will tell and it looks as if it’s up to Hodges to provide the answers.

Although not my favourite of King’s writing, that honour lies with the imperious The Stand, Pet Cemetery and 11.22.63, the book serves as a sumptuous finale to the trilogy for the narrative is luxurious and impressive. King clearly knows his stuff and he knows how to write, engaging both characters and readers at the same time, allowing said reader to escape into a world of literary fiction and imagination.

End of Watch serves as both a conclusion and a standalone, so if you haven’t read Mr. Mercedes or Finders Keepers do not fear all will be revealed – although as I’ve always said read the series in order if you can, it adds a great deal of depth and back story. What I love about King is his storytelling and ability to bring the history of the two earlier books together in a natural and unforced way. He doesn’t delve too deeply, the balance between the past and present is spot on but what you do get is a sense of history, Brady’s history. A killer at a very young age he really hasn’t stopped but when you’re the offspring of a drunk mother and a father who died early in his childhood his upbringing was less than perfect. However, Brady might well feel a little different to you and me – he is after all a sociopathic killer.

Mind control, suicide, technology and a liberal helping of horror and the supernatural End of Watch has just about everything a Stephen King fan could desire. A desire for revenge and control, Brady Hartsfield is incredible as Kermit’s nemesis. Dark, brooding and manipulative I just loved his darkness, maybe I’m the one who should be afraid!

  • Hardcover: 368 Pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (7 Jun. 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1473634008
  • ISBN-13: 978-1473634008
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George Blagden as Louis XIV. Photograph: Canal Plus/ BBC

George Blagden as Louis XIV. Photograph: Canal Plus/ BBC

Versailles, 1667. Haunted by the trauma of the Fronde as the nobles of his court begin to rebel against the monarchy, Louis XIV in his 28th year in a Machiavellian political move decides to make the nobility submit by imposing a definite move of the court from Paris to Versailles, his father’s former hunting lodge. Trapped by their king’s “invitation”, the nobles of Paris gradually come to see the castle as a gilded prison and soon even the most humble courtiers of the king begin to show their viciousness as the alcoves of secrets, politics and war are manoeuvred through, revealing Versailles in all its glory and brutality.

Set against a backdrop of power, love, betrayal and war, Versailles examines a defining period of French history. A ruthless leader, King Louis XIV will stop at nothing to achieve his vision of creating the most beautiful palace in Europe and seizing absolute control of France and his enemies.

The cast is an international roster with Brit George Blagden (Les Misérables, Vikings) playing the Sun King. Despite being filmed in France, the series was shot in English and written by English writers, including co-creators David Wolstencroft (Spooks) and Simon Mirren (Waking the Dead), with a British actor playing King Louis XIV.

Opulent, lavish and rather saucy, BBC 2’s new period drama hit our screens this week – original airing on Wednesday nights with a repeat performance on Saturday nights at 1055pm – and commanded a rather disappointing set of viewing figures, just 1.8 million.

Touted as the most expensive TV series ever made in France, Versailles cost a reported £2.1m per episode, more than twice the average cost of an episode of Downton Abbey and given its lavish production values and stellar cast it will come as no surprise that this wasn’t a cheap production for French company Canal+ – only time will tell if it was worth the gamble. They seem to think so as a second season has been confirmed.

One scene stole the show for me, Louis out riding alone, dismounted and stood overlooking his father’s hunting lodge, the final setting for the palace. A pack of wolves begin to creep ever closer to the King, Lous turns and begins to reveal his sword, ready to fight his corner. The tension was palpable, even though you knew he’d survive the encounter. Gripping stuff.

Louis XIV & The Wolves. Photograph: Canal Plus/ BBC

Louis XIV & The Wolves. Photograph: Canal Plus/ BBC

The great thing about Versailles – the drama – is that there is so much history to explore, to take advantage from. From Louis XIV’s long serving butler, to the Queen’s black baby there are few secrets at court and Canal+ appear to have done a rather splendid job of morphing fact and fiction here. Relationships are intense, the erotic nature of the period certainly explored – on numerous occasions – but for me the greatest gift a series such as Versailles can give us – an education. There are liberties – of course there are – but like any book loosely based around fact or history – this series will make you want to know more, before you know it you’ll be using google to see what’s real and what isn’t.

Louis XIV (GEORGE BLAGDEN) , Nymphe (ALEXIA GIORDANO) - (C) Canal + - Photographer: Canal+

Louis XIV (GEORGE BLAGDEN) , Nymphe (ALEXIA GIORDANO) – (C) Canal + – Photographer: Canal+

You’ll discover relationships, mistresses, cousins wedding cousins and of course trysts that you never knew existed! The only issue I had with the first episode is that apart from Louis XIV there were no other stand-out performances from the main body of cast members, none that made me want to keep watching. That said, I am keen to see where the story takes Claudine, played by Lizzie Brocheré who is keen to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a female doctor, rather than be seen as a witch.

Claudine, played by Lizzie Brocheré

Claudine, played by Lizzie Brocheré

Education in a woman in those days was certainly frowned upon! The first episode was confusing in parts and the writing and delivery, well I’ve seen and read better! With all that said if Versailles can keep the viewers happy in future episodes, season 2 which begins filming shortly should prove quite interesting.

Given the nudity and rather explicit sex scenes the first episode has garnered just two, yes two, official complaints to ofcom – remarkable in its own right. The scenes are indeed rather fruity with more than a passing reference to nudity paid. Not for the faint hearted and certainly not a drama to watch with your parents, it is wonderfully shot and the colours maginificent.

So there we have it, a decent start for BBC 2 but not a patch on Wolf Hall – a six part adaption of Hilary mantel’s novels – which began with 3.9 million viewers last year. Only time will tell if the characters are engaging enough to keep the viewers happy. It’s certainly no Tudors – my favourite BBC Period drama – a solid start but not spectacular.

The complete series (all 10 episodes at 520 minutes) is now available to buy on DVD and also Blu-ray.

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The Pigeonhole – A Closer Look

On June 3, 2016, in Article, Books, by Milo

The Pigeonhole is a made-for-mobile digital book club. Its books are delivered in instalments straight to a reader’s virtual bookshelf on The Pigeonhole website or iOS app. Here, The Pigeonhole’s commissioning editor Sarah Ream talks about the challenges and joys of serialising a novel.

Though I never imagined I’d work in a tech start-up, I’m now a year into my role as commissioning editor at The Pigeonhole, a made-for-mobile digital book club. I started my career in traditional publishing, and when I took a job in 2008 as an editor of a poetry website, I assumed it would be a temporary break from print. Even back then, despite happily editing poetry online, I didn’t give digital books much thought – I only found out what a Kindle was years after I should have done, and I didn’t read a book on a smartphone until 2012. (For the record, it was a PDF of an ineffectual how-to-get-your-baby-to-sleep book; no nifty app involved. There was no nifty app to be had.)

When I began at The Pigeonhole, I naively thought that there wouldn’t be much contrast between print and digital publishing in terms of commissioning, developing and editing books. Surely it was just the end format that differed?

But I soon learnt that approaches differ from the outset when editing books for a mobile readership. The Pigeonhole strives to curate dynamic, real-time, collective reading experiences. Synchronising readers by drip-feeding them a book is key to this; we serialise all our books in instalments (which we call staves) that are delivered straight to our readers’ phones, tablets or laptops via our app or website. We let readers to talk to each other – and the author – via an in-text comments function, and we also pepper the text with mixed-media extra content (think interviews with the author, artwork, videos, links and playlists). So we don’t simply judge the success of a title on how many subscribers it attracts; we also care deeply about how readers interact with it.

When deciding which titles to serialise, and how to serialise them, I give careful consideration to how a book will be read. It’s not just about whether the book is good or not – will serialisation actually benefit the text and its readers? Are there natural stave breaks or cliffhangers to build tension? Will the book spark discussion? Is the author keen to chat to readers? What extra content will best enhance the text? How long should the staves be and how often should readers receive them? Dickens’ readers may have been willing to wait for monthly instalments of The Pickwick Papers, but we’ve seen that daily staves – particularly for novels – are more likely to spur conversation and lead to higher completion rates than staves delivered weekly. Yet that doesn’t mean that readers only want swift, easy reads: we’ve had swathes of people committing a month to reading hefty titles such as Moby-Dick and Middlemarch in short daily instalments.

The Sacred Combe

The Sacred Combe

One of the thrills of my job is working with other publishers to serialise their books on our platform. It’s a fantastic way for them to find a new readership for their authors, breathe new life into a backlist title or boost the buzz around the launch of a print edition. We particularly love helping to launch debut authors, so we’re very excited about our upcoming serialisation of The Sacred Combe, Thomas Maloney’s first novel, which was published in hardcover by Scribe UK in May. The publishers’ pitch hooked me – the story centres around Samuel Browne, a young Londoner who, after his wife leaves him, finds a strange job advert tucked inside a volume of Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and soon takes up a post in the library of a remote manor house, Combe Hall. There he is tasked with a seemingly hopeless and rather nebulous quest, and he begins to uncover the secrets and troubled family history of the Hall’s residents.

The novel is a gift of a book for The Pigeonhole. It divides elegantly into twelve, well-paced staves – each around twenty minutes’ worth of reading, with plenty of revealed mysteries and the odd cliffhanger. It also lends itself wonderfully to speculation and discussion. Jim Perrin has called the book ‘a bibliophile’s delight’, and it is, with gorgeous descriptions of old books and frequent nods to other literature. (The title itself is taken from John Fowles’ Daniel Martin.) When I first read the book, I noticed a number of these allusions and quotations – some obvious, others embedded more quietly, and I particularly loved the parallels with J.L. Carr’s A Month in the Country (a copy of it appears in the book, in fact). But I was sure I was missing other references, and I was excited by the idea of having multiple readers enjoying the book together, noting sections that reminded them of other books, discussing the twists and turns of the plot and having the author weighing in on their thoughts.

If the book was a gift, so was the author; within a day or two of meeting Thomas Maloney, he had sent me over a long list of suggested extras that were spot-on. Without giving too much away, they range from sketches through to snippets of birdsong, from photographs that inspired the setting to notes and links about paintings, books and poems alluded to in the text. As I suspected, there were plenty of allusions I hadn’t picked up on my first read. But we were careful not to be over-explanatory, and we didn’t aim to comprehensively annotate the book. Rather, we hope the extras will sound as echoing notes, drawing readers further in to the beguiling, beautiful world of The Sacred Combe – and encouraging them to talk about it with each other.

The 12-part Pigeonhole serialisation of The Sacred Combe begins on 2 June. Subscribe at www.thepigeonhole.com/books/the-sacred-combe for just £2.99. The first ten Pigeonhole readers to send us a link to their Goodreads review of the book after the serialisation will receive a Cocoa Runners gift box.

The Sacred Combe by Thomas Maloney is published by Scribe (£14.99).

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Burning Angels by Bear Grylls

Burning Angels by Bear Grylls

A prehistoric corpse entombed within an Arctic glacier, crying tears of blood.

A jungle island overrun by rabid primates – escapees from a research laboratory’s Hot Zone.

A massive seaplane hidden beneath a mountain, packed with a Nazi cargo of mind-blowing evil.

A penniless orphan kidnapped from an African slum, holding the key to the world’s survival.

Four terrifying journeys. One impossible path. Only one man to attempt it.

Will Jaeger. The Hunter.

It was about this time last year that I’d had the opportunity to read Ghost Flight (Will Jeager #1) by Bear Grylls and I remember the book fondly. The book was entertaining, thrilling and the action non-stop from start to finish – Burning Angels is more of the same. If you like your action heroes knowledgeable, tough and determined then read on, Burning Angels is for you!

The book follows on immediately after Ghost Flight and although this can be read as a standalone I would advise you to pick up the first book in the series to get a flavour for the series and its main protagonist. Burning Angels does standalone well but upon reading I was certainly glad that I already knew a lot of the backstory. Bear imparts this information well throughout and it never felt like repetition but to get the most out of this adventure you should go back to Ghost Flight, I don’t think you’ll be sorry!

Will Jeager is back with a vengeance, back with a bang and still on the hunt for his missing wife and son. Following pictorial evidence there is no longer any doubt that they are still alive, it’s more a matter of what condition he’ll find them in and if they can be found. Held captive somewhere in Africa we follow Will’s desperate adventure to save his family and save the world from a Nazi hell-bent on changing the world forever, killing thousands and thousands of innocent people with a super virus and following Hitler’s own vision for the future.

When I reviewed Ghost Flight last year I remember writing :

Held captive on a remote island in one of the world’s worst prisons, renowned for its brutality and an authority determined to inflict severe torture on enemies of the state, Will Jaeger is facing certain death. But let’s face facts, we know he’ll escape or there wouldn’t be a story but the opening chapters are so engaging that I had a vested interested in the protagonist.

And to be honest as soon as I picked up Burning Angels I was immediately transported into Will’s world, he’s such a likeable character. The same can be said about his team in this book, although we don’t spend a great deal of time with the rest of the gang, it’s mainly Jeager and Narov this time around and one thing I did like was the way Grylls had softened Narov ever so slightly. Adding a new dimension to her personality has worked well and has made her a little more endearing! I still wouldn’t cross her mind, she’s one tough cookie who stands for little or no nonsense but her back story is filled out well and certainly made their relationship that more enjoyable.

With a combination of high octane adventures, Bear’s own unique experiences and characters you’d end up wanting to fight alongside – even if only fictionally – Bear has another hit on his hands with Burning Angels. Incredibly quick to read with a flowing narrative, I can’t wait for the next in the series. There’s bound to be another one isn’t there?!

  • Hardcover:416 pages
  • Publisher:Orion (2 Jun. 2016)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:1409156850
  • ISBN-13:978-1409156857
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Vivoactive HR Activities

Vivoactive HR Activities

I have to admit I hadn’t planned on writing a review of the new Garmin Vivoactive HR but so many people have asked me my thoughts I decided to write a mini review. I’ve had the watch for a month now and overall I’m very happy with it. Like all new items of technology there are a few issues with the watch but for me this is a huge step up from Fitbit’s Surge (I had to send that back twice due to poor battery life). I charged the watch up to 100% on day of receipt and a week later the watch was showing 39% left – incredible considering I used it for runs utilising GPS and swimming sessions.

In fact battery life is incredible. I can go 10 days without fear of the battery giving up the ghost, I think it might have been as low as 25% and I charged it up so 12 days battery life isn’t out of the question. This beats Fitbit’s Surge hands down in my opinion where I was lucky to get 4 or 5 days.

Vivoactive HR - Sunlight Reading

Vivoactive HR – Sunlight Reading

The size is good and comfortable on the arm. Although it is completely waterproof I do take it off for showers just to give my arm a small rest (not that it’s needed!) a lot smaller than the Surge. Design is great and using IQ you can upload numerous watch faces to make it look different day on day or hour on hour!

Apps are good and I’m sure more will come soon but the best fun I’ve had with it this week is the weather app. Predicting rain in 69 minutes garnered a laugh from colleagues and when it did rain they were all impressed! I do have a couple of issues with the watch however. The screen isn’t bright indoors and you have to get the angle right to read the information clearly so this needs to be improved. The screen is trans reflective which means it uses the ambient light and because of this it will sometimes appear dim particularly indoors. Garmin have now updated the system software to Version 2.40 and you can increase the backlight to level 9 and that has definitely helped.

Vivoactive HR - Predicting Rain

Vivoactive HR – Predicting Rain

When I first had the watch – probably for the first week or so – automatic recognition of activities wasn’t working for me. However the watch now recognises the activities and they show up in your calendar.

I have completed 3 swimming sessions with it and the tests have been great. The screen swipes worked effortlessly in and out of the water, the wet screen causing no problems at all. In fact I saw no lag or difficulty in using the watch wet. The Vivoactive HR measures strokes and swim distance and you can also have laps so you know if you’ve had a break or not. If you are using indoors then make sure you go to settings and select the size of your pool, a number of people have commented unusual distances but selecting the correct pool length is key for indoor swimming.

As you can use the watch both indoors (treadmill) and out calibrating the watch is important. When I first had the watch I ran on the treadmill without calibrating and the results were terrible but I discovered my error and following a couple of runs outdoors and the initial 15 minute calibrating walk the treadmill results have improved. The GPS appears to be very accurate, quite often you find when analysing the maps that the tracking doesn’t quite run down the street on the map but on the runs I’ve done, including intricate and small road runs the gps has handles it perfectly.

So far so good, thoroughly enjoying this watch – certainly the best wearable I’ve owned.

For those looking for a guide on what size band to order please find the measurements below. The regular band (the one I have) has a lot of give and I have 7 holes left over so plenty of room for scope!

Regular Band for a wrist circumference between 5.39 –7.68” / 137–195 mm
X-Large Band for a wrist circumference between 6.38–8.86” / 162–225 mm

There are four coloured replacement bands available and once I manage to actually get my hands on one or two I’ll report back on how easy they are to replace, how much they cost and the colours available. I’m struggling to find them available in the UK at the moment, no one wants to sell them! Not good!!

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The Hanging Club

The Hanging Club

A band of vigilante executioners roam London’s hot summer nights, abducting evil men and hanging them by the neck until dead.

– The gang member who’s abused vulnerable girls.
– The wealthy drunk driver who’s mowed down a child.
– The hate preacher calling for the murder of British soldiers.

As the bodies pile up and riots explode across the sweltering city, DC Max Wolfe hunts a gang of killers who many believe to be heroes.

And discovers that the lust for revenge starts very close to home …

A thoroughly entertaining read, the book flows well from beginning to end, full of intrigue and murder, DC Wolfe returns for another challenging case in The Hanging Club.

A very simple but clever concept – no idea why this hasn’t been done before – it doesn’t take long for this this book to scream into life. Videos suddenly begin appearing online, not your average youtube video mind you, there’s no Michael Buble or cover artist in site. Someone’s hanging people and posting them for others to enjoy what turns out to be a gratifying revenge kill. One hanging follows another and it becomes apparent very quickly that the victims who turn up in Tyburn aren’t that nice.

The victims have a dark and unsavoury past and once this becomes apparent to a public hypnotised by the killings the police are fighting a loosing battle, especially with the press corp who appear to be supporting the group of vigilantes responsible. DC Max Wolf certainly has his work cut out for himself and only time will tell if he can get through to the end safely and find those responsible.

With each kill comes additional information and subtle clues. The police can’t find the kill zone and have no idea where these hangings are occurring. What they do discover rather quickly is roughly where the bodies will pop up – but that really doesn’t help their cause initially.

This is the first Max Wolfe book I’ve read and although it would be better for continuity purposes if I’d read the previous adventures I didn’t feel as if this fact hindered my enjoyment at all. Max is a great character and a determined one at that. He has his fair share of scrapes in The Hanging club, that’s what protagonists are fore aren’t they?!

The pace is good and the introduction of numerous supporting characters is well thought out, not once did I feel that a character was introduced just for the sake of it. I can’t wait to read the next DC Max Wolfe, he’s found a new fan in this reader that’s for sure.

Hardcover: 416 pages

  • Publisher: Century (19 May 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1780892373
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780892375
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Die of Shame by Mark Billingham

Die of Shame by Mark Billingham

Every Monday evening, six people gather in a smart North London house to talk about addiction. There they share their deepest secrets: stories of lies, regret, and above all, shame.

Then one of them is killed – and it’s clear one of the circle was responsible.

Detective Inspector Nicola Tanner quickly finds her investigation hampered by the strict confidentiality that binds these people and their therapist together. So what could be shameful enough to cost someone their life?

And how do you find the truth when denial and deception are second nature to all of your suspects?

From the maker of Tom Thorne comes a standalone, ladies and gentlemen I introduce Mark Billingham’s Die of Shame. The book has a totally different feel from his Tom Thorne series, I’d be interested to know more but for me – as I read the book – I just had a feeling the author has tested himself with this book. I can’t quite put my finger on it!

A complex story centred around a group of addicts – who meet once a week – the book flits between Then and Now. It’s a complex start but once you get your head around the time shifts and numerous characters the story develops incredibly quickly and fluently.

One thing you can always depend on with Mark Billingham is the narrative and his ability to sell a story, Die of shame has both in spades and then some. We have Mark’s one liners, his humour and his talent for weaving a story from seemingly nothing into something incredible. The story is told from two perspectives, a murder investigation with DI Nicola Tanner and the eclectic group of addicts, both very different viewpoints but they morph together well and because of this following the murder investigation in real time is a delight.

As I mentioned above the start is complex and because of it the first few chapters are a little slow but once things start to fall in place there’s no holding this story back! Plotting is strong and the slow release of information from the Monday night group brilliant. The balance between giving away too much or too little has never been a problem for Mark in any of his books and once again he’s hit the nail on the head with this one.

The characters are powerful, their backstories enlightening and for the first time in quite a while no one completely stole the show for me which is quite unusual. You’ll suspect everyone at one stage, it’ll take a while before you know who’s been murdered and even longer for it to all make sense but make sense it does. I’d like to see Nicola Tanner developed at a future date but for Die of Shame she works very well.

A fascinating read with powerful stories of addiction yet at the same time, a yin to the yang I guess, weakness is as an overriding and invisible force throughout and something that everyone in the group has in possesses. Another great read from Mr Billingham.

  • Hardcover:448 pages
  • Publisher:Little, Brown (5 May 2016)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:1408704838
  • ISBN-13:978-1408704837
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A Time of Torment: A Charlie Parker Thriller: 14

A Time of Torment: A Charlie Parker Thriller: 14

Jerome Burnel was once a hero. He intervened to prevent multiple killings and in doing so damned himself. His life was torn apart. He was imprisoned, brutalized.

But in his final days, with the hunters circling, he tells his story to private detective Charlie Parker. He speaks of the girl who was marked for death but was saved, of the ones who tormented him, and an entity that hides in a ruined stockade.

Parker is not like other men. He died, and was reborn. He is ready to wage war.

Now he will descend upon a strange, isolated community called the Cut, and face down a force of men who rule by terror, intimidation, and murder.

All in the name of the being they serve.

All in the name of the Dead King.

Magnificent, magisterial and masterful – three words that could easily describe both John Connolly’s writing and his creation Charlie Parker. It’s great to have Charlie Parker back, life certainly wouldn’t be the same without an adventure from the private detective, a private detective who’s baggage increases with each outing. There’s no shortage of depth in this novel either, thanks mainly to Parker. It’s the depth of his character that’s so good, Connolly effortlessly allowing the reader an insight into his feelings and an opportunity to share his immeasurable pain born from past experiences.

There’s very little to say that hasn’t been said in the past but John Connolly improves with each novel, there’s no fear of an author resting on his laurels here, Connolly knows what works and sticks with the format time after time but like a good bottle of wine, with maturity comes excellence.

Charlie Parker is one of those characters you’d want on your side. Imagine the scene in school as a kid, you’re faced with a decision that could affect the rest of your days in school, the dreaded pick your team scenario. With Parker it’s a case of do I pick him first or second, Jack Reacher or Charlie Parker (two very different protagonists), two veritable champions, because there’s never the option of not choosing him! Not having him on your team would be a huge mistake and many a bad person have paid the price in the past and will no doubt suffer in the future!

The narrative is as strong as ever and the plotting is both complex and inspired, how Connolly brings this together in the end is crazy! Amazing writing. The tempo increases towards the end of the book, so much so that you feel as if you’re holding your breath on numerous occasions. There are a few shocks in store, Connolly is never one to shy away from violence and there’s definitely no shortage of that in A Time of Torment, this is in parts quite brutal!

Characterisation is good and we get to have another outing with Angel and Louis, two great characters that were introduced to us in Every Dead Thing in 1999, the year that Charlie Parker himself, a former NYPD detective, was introduced to the world. The sidekicks are great value and the books would certainly be lighter without the duo creating havoc and mayhem. Don’t worry, there’s more than enough bad guys to satisfy all readers here!

Another wonderful read, A Time of Torment stands alone well but as with any long standing series, the more you’ve read the more you take from the books. So get reading the back catalogue, you won’t be sorry! Bravo Mr Connolly!

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (7 April 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1444751573
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444751574
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The Promise (DC Goodhew 6) by Alison Bruce

The Promise (DC Goodhew 6) by Alison Bruce

In a single night, Kyle Davidson’s life is derailed. His relationship is over, he is denied access to his young son and everything important to him is at risk.

His thoughts stumble between fear and revenge. Kyle Davidson has a choice to make.

Meanwhile, after the tragic end to a previous case, DC Gary Goodhew finds himself questioning his reasons for returning to work until the badly beaten body of a homeless man is found on Market Hill. Having known the homeless man for several years Goodhew feels compelled to be part of the investigation – but routine lines of enquiry soon take a dark and unexpected turn.

Suddenly the Cambridge back streets hold deadly secrets for Goodhew and the only person who has the answers is planning one final, desperate act.

Alison Bruce is back, or rather I should say Cambridge’s favourite son DC Gary Goodhew is back, finally returning to duty after a prolonged absence.

In The Promise Alison’s writing is as sharp as ever, her storytelling is well developed and plotted magnificently, something you take for granted now in a series that has solidified her reputation in the crime fiction world. Cambridge once again comes to life with her enthusiastic narrative. I always enjoy reading these books for I feel as if I get to know a little more of Cambridge with each novel. I’ve never been to Cambridge but with every Bruce novel I do feel as if I now know it like the back of my hand! Kudos to the writer for allowing us in to her Cambridge.

The book starts off with quite the shock, for me at least, I really hadn’t expected it for the author kills off a character I was very sorry to see go. You know you’re hooked when, with each turn of the page, something or someone is going to say “fooled you” he’s not really dead, I just wanted to read your reaction” but alas the character, and one of my favourites of past stories has been killed off. I won’t spoil it and say who it is, you’ll find out for yourselves but if you’ve read the previous titles in Alison’s back catalogue then you’re in for a big surprise!

Gary Goodhew is back as I mentioned above and although it takes a little to convince himself to return to work he does so despite his lengthy recuperation. The gang are back together, Marks is on the verge of retiring, Sue Gully is poking her nose into an old case that has a direct connection with Gary and Kincaide’s relationship with Gary show no signs of improving any time soon! Let’s face it they are never going to be best mates are they. If this series had been set in the Wild West I’m sure one High Noon scene would have ended it once and for all!

That’s the thing with Alison’s books, without fail they’ve made me angry! I should actually explain myself! It’s Gary’s relationship or lack thereof with Kincaide that always riles me! I’m always on Gary’s side but whenever Kincaide begins to crank up the insults and put downs I get slightly annoyed! I know I shouldn’t but that’s the thing with this series and this writer, you connect with the characters and you feel as if you have a vested interest into their lives.

A serial killer is on the loose in Cambridge and Goodhew is determined to solve the riddle. Only time will tell if he does but let’s face it there’s a very good chance he will! Another cracking read, Bruce continues to go from strength to strength, as does Gary’s character but I’ll sign off this review in the hope that one day soon Gary will get the opportunity to deck Kincaide. We all live in hope!! If you haven’t had the chance to read the back catalogue then I urge you to do so, Cambridge wouldn’t be the same without Goodhew and Bruce!

Hardcover: 288 pages

Publisher: Constable (4th Feb. 2016)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1472112261

ISBN-13: 978-1472112262

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Thin Ice (Gunnhildur Mystery)

Thin Ice (Gunnhildur Mystery)

Snowed in with a couple of psychopaths for the winter…

When two small-time crooks rob Reykjavik’s premier drugs dealer, hoping for a quick escape to the sun, their plans start to unravel after their getaway driver fails to show. Tensions mount between the pair and the two women they have grabbed as hostages when they find themselves holed upcountry in an isolated hotel that has been mothballed for the season.

Back in the capital, Gunnhildur, Eiríkur and Helgi find themselves at a dead end investigating what appear to be the unrelated disappearance of a mother, her daughter and their car during a day’s shopping, and the death of a thief in a house fire.

Gunna and her team are faced with a set of riddles but as more people are quizzed it begins to emerge that all these unrelated incidents are in fact linked. And at the same time, two increasingly desperate lowlifes have no choice but to make some big decisions on how to get rid of their accidental hostages..

The following is an extract from Quentin’s Thin Ice

Tinna Lind lifted herself up and crossed her legs again, letting her hair fall about her shoulders before roughly bunching it into a bun behind her head.

‘I have a proposition for you.’
‘You want to have my babies and live happily ever after?’
‘That might come later, who knows?’ she said, and her voice

dropped. She reached out and walked her fingers up Magni’s chest, ending up with one finger on his chin. ‘How much money does your friend in the bridal suite have?’

‘Something around two hundred thousand euros, I think,’ he an- swered and found himself becoming slightly breathless at the thought.

She leaned forward and looked into his eyes.

‘So how about you and me? We ease your friend out of the part- nership, drop him somewhere with a long walk to civilization, then we drop my mother next at a bus stop somewhere.’

‘And?’ Magni’s mouth was dry.

‘And we disappear. Just like you and Össur were going to do. Think about it. We could live well with that much money if we could get to somewhere warm.’

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Where I work by Rachel Abbott

On February 27, 2016, in Article, Author, Books, Fiction, by Milo

I am lucky enough to live in one of the most beautiful parts of world – Alderney, in the Channel Islands – and in a stunning property, a restored Victorian fort. I only live in one part of it as it’s divided into a number of apartments, but it is unique and has great character.

Apart from the magnificent building, the views themselves are breathtaking, and my sitting room and bedroom both look out over a beautiful bay. I am able to watch the sea and all its moods, from a calm, limpid blue, to a maelstrom of white-crested waves crashing onto the rocks below my window.

Alderney Bay

Alderney Bay

I used to work in my sitting room, but then a room adjoining the apartment became available and we had it gutted and refurbished so it makes a fabulous office, separate from, but adjoining my home.

The image below shows the entrance to my apartment on the left, but the door straight ahead at the bottom of the stairs leads into my office. It couldn’t be more perfect.

The Courtyard

The Courtyard

Inside the office it’s a bit shambolic at the moment. There is just so much to do as we prepare for the launch of Kill Me Again. I would prefer to show a photo from the opposite end of the room, because then you would see all the lovely bookcases. But sadly you would also see all the cardboard boxes waiting to go to recycling, and the pile of stuff that has to be started once my book launch is complete. I tend to just keep copies of my own books in the office so they’re accessible if we need to send any out. And I have a full selection of all the foreign language translations too – I love seeing them on the shelves.

The Terrace

The Terrace

I have two homes – although I am in Alderney for most of the time, we also have a small farmhouse in the Le Marche region of Italy onto the courtyard.

For about two months of each year, I take myself off to Italy, where I continue to write, but usually on the terrace of our home there. My days in Italy are less strict. I still get up at around 7, but take more time over breakfast and often take a nap in a hammock after lunch. Despite working fewer hours when I’m there, I am actually very productive.

It’s peaceful, and life is slightly less frenetic than it is here in Alderney, where – despite its size – there is a huge amount going on. In Italy, we tend to go out for the occasional meal, or invite friends round, but for the most part we just relax and enjoy it. There seems to be something about sitting looking out at the view that inspires me to write, and it is there that I wrote my first novel – Only the Innocent – so it’s special from that point of view.

I consider myself to be very luck to have such lovely places to work, and I’m sure they contribute to any inspiration that I may have.

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In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings

In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings

A perfect life … until she discovered it wasn’t her own

A tragic family event reveals devastating news that rips apart Bella’s comfortable existence. Embarking on a personal journey to uncover the truth, she faces a series of traumatic discoveries that take her to the ruggedly beautiful Cornish coast, where hidden truths, past betrayals and a 25-year-old mystery threaten not just her identity, but also her life. Chilling, complex and profoundly moving, In Her Wake is a gripping psychological thriller that questions the nature of family – and reminds us that sometimes the most shocking crimes are committed closest to home.

Hauntingly captivating, In Her Wake is a pure example of a book that is powerful in its simplicity. There’s no escaping its hold, there are no car chases, no unnecessary shoot outs and no over the top action sequences. This is no police procedural and no crime thriller – this is one hell of a psychological thriller and one that once it grabs you, it will never let you go. The overriding emotional pull is quite incredible; it’s as if at any moment you can expect to read the book with one eye closed and a sharp intake of breath necessary to continue, just to turn the page.

I remember reading the initial pages and experiencing a wave of emotion that I really hadn’t anticipated. When Bella arrives at her family home with her husband, her grieving father meeting her at the door, it was something as simple as a jumper not done up correctly, her father lost without his wife, that took me back to losing my own father years ago. When a book and an author who has no connection with the reader can achieve that then you are half way to succeeding. You know you can’t stop reading at that point.

That wasn’t the only example, the book forced me to look back at my past both with fondness and sadness and I remember wincing on more than one occasion. The narrative, so wonderfully written, is beautiful in its desperation. The characters are lost and only time will tell if they ever become found again. Relationships, both past and present, are at the heart of this book and at times it made for uncomfortable reading as it forced a colourful array of emotions for this particular reader.

Bella as a protagonist is as complex as you would expect and as the story matures you are allowed to delve a little deeper into her psyche. She blossoms into an amazing woman, free of captivity, both figuratively and emotionally but that’s not the end of the story. Amanda Jennings gives her a voice, one that has been denied her for years. Her development has been stunted but moving to Cornwall to investigate her secret past allows development to progress in spades.

There’s not much more to say to be honest, In Her Wake is a beautifully written book, one that is both powerful and disturbing in equal measures, a book that you wish you’d written. Exceptional.

  • Paperback: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Orenda Books (1 April 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1910633291
  • ISBN-13: 978-1910633298
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Ben Hope lives on the edge. A former élite member of the SAS, Ben is tortured by a tragedy from his past and now devotes his life to finding kidnapped children.

When Ben is recruited to locate an ancient manuscript which could save a dying child, he embarks on the deadliest quest of his life.

The Alchemist's Secret

The Alchemist’s Secret

The document is alleged to contain the formula for the elixir of life, discovered by the brilliant alchemist Fulcanelli decades before. But it soon becomes apparent that others are hunting this most precious of treasures – for far more evil ends.

When the secrets of alchemy hidden within the pages remain impenetrable, Ben teams up with beautiful American scientist Dr Roberta Ryder to crack the code.

It seems that everyone – from the Nazis during WW2 and powerful Catholic organisation Gladius Domini – wants to unearth the secrets of immortality.

The trail leads Ben and Roberta from Paris to the ancient Cathar strongholds of the Languedoc, where an astonishing secret has lain hidden for centuries…

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Even the Dead by Benjamin Black

Even the Dead by Benjamin Black

When I began to write my Quirke stories, first as a television mini-series back around the year 2000—yes, Christine Falls, the first Quirke novel, was adapted from a script that was never going to be filmed—I did not realise how fortunate I was to be able to remember Dublin in the 1950s, and use it as a background. Indeed, the city is more than background, it’s one of the main characters in these books.

In the 1950s, the 8th of December, Feast day of the Immaculate Conception, no less, was a holy day and a public holiday, and the day when people from the country came to town to do their Christmas shopping. It also happened to be my birthday—I doubt mine was an immaculate conception—and every year on the 8th I was brought to Dublin from Wexford, my home town, as a birthday treat.

I vividly remember those trips. I would board the train with my mother in a freezing, pre-dawn hour—I can still smell the smoke from the engine, for this was in the days of steam trains—and wait sleepily for the pink light of morning to come creeping across the frost-white fields as we trundled northwards. We would alight at Westland Row station, and I would feel that I had arrived at the Gare du Nord.

Dublin in that time was dark, dank and Dickensian: it looked, and smelled, like a city of the 1850s rather than the 1950s. Yet I was thrilled by it: even yet, there are moments when a whiff of diesel fumes from the back-end of a double-decker bus will transport me straight back to those December days of long ago. We had no double-deckers in Wexford . . .

Of course, the magical city, as I imagined it to be, was entirely a façade, where a veneer of devout respectability covered all manner of crimes and misdemeanours that never got reported in the newspapers. While I was happily tucking into a Knickerbocker Glory ice cream in the Palm Beach Café on O’Connell Street, the city’s main thoroughfare, around the corner children were starving in some of the worst slums in Europe. For most Dubliners, the only relief from poverty—financial and spiritual—was alcohol. The place reeked of porter, cigarette smoke and horse dung. What more could one ask, setting out to write noir fiction?

Later on, in the 1960s, I lived with an aunt in her flat in a decaying Georgian pile in Upper Mount Street, one of the loveliest thoroughfares in the world, and still untouched by the hand of the developer. Quirke lives in that house, number 39, hard by St Andrew’s Church, known fondly as the Pepper Canister, and near the canal, the banks of which are his favourite haunt. When my novel The Sea was filmed, by coincidence the last day of shooting took place directly opposite number 39. Life has its eerie moments.

Even the Dead is published on the 28th January, 2016.

Visit Benjamin Black on his website at benjaminblackbooks.com

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