Cambridge Black by Alison Bruce

A cold case waits to be solved . . . and a killer waits in the wings.

Amy was seven years old when her father was arrested for murder. His subsequent trial and conviction scarred her childhood and cast a shadow over her life until, twenty-two years later, new evidence suggests he was innocent and Amy sets out to clear his name.

But Amy is not the only person troubled by the past. DC Gary Goodhew is haunted by the day his grandfather was murdered and is still searching for answers, determined to uncover the truth about his grandfather’s death and find his killer.

But, right now, someone is about to die. Someone who has secrets and who once kept quiet but is now living on borrowed time. Someone who will be murdered because disturbing the past has woken a killer.

Another incredible adventure with Gary Goodhew but this time it’s even better – it features his Grandmother Ellie. I’ve been waiting patiently in the wings for Ellie to feature more prominently and I’ve finally been rewarded for my patience!

I’ve had the great pleasure of reading all seven books in the Goodhew series and I have to say that apart from the first couple, this has been my favourite! Alison Bruce writes with a distinct passion and gives a unique voice to Cambridge, allowing the city to come alive with a colourful and intelligent narrative.

Cambridge Black immediately picks up from the previous story where we lost one of my favourite characters, I was devastated! The pace is intense from the outset and doesn’t let up until a thrilling finish.

Characterisation is as on point as ever and Kincaide doesn’t disappoint at all. He never really does. You’ll either love him or hate him – I’ve always disliked him but as a character he definitely adds flavour to the book, he’s the seasoning to a very good recipe. He’s up to his old tricks and then some, always one to try and hurt Goodhew and once again he stops at nothing to try and cause his nemesis problems. Whether he succeeds or not you’ll just have to read the book!

This time around I felt the characters connected on a greater level than previously and the relationships all helped to move the numerous plots and sub plots along at a rapid pace. I can’t quite put my hand on it but it’s possible the cold case played a big part.

As with all her books Cambridge Black works well as a stand alone book but to get the most out of it, reading the back catalogue is a must! You won’t be sorry!

But the last word has to go to Ellie and Gary’s relationship. The book (s) come alive whenever Ellie or Joe (Gary’s Grandfather) are mentioned and I was so thrilled to discover a hidden past this time around. Ellie is a wonderful old bird and I always think she’s the grandmother we all want and need at some point in our lives.

Absolutely superb.

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Constable (23 Feb. 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1472119630
  • ISBN-13: 978-1472119636
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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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The British Lion by Tony SchumacherLondon detective John Rossett joins forces with his Nazi boss to save the commander’s kidnapped daughter as the Germans race to make the first atomic bomb.

With the end of the war, the victorious Germans now occupy a defeated Great Britain. In London, decorated detective John Henry Rossett, now reporting to the Nazi victors, lies in a hospital bed recovering from gunshot wounds. Desperate to avoid blame over the events that led to the shooting, his boss, Ernst Koehler, covers up the incident. But when Koehler’s wife and daughter are kidnapped by American spies, the terrified German turns to the only man he trusts to help him—a shrewd cop who will do whatever is necessary to get the job done: John Rossett.

Surviving his brush with death, Rossett agrees to save his friend’s daughter. But in a chaotic new world ruled by treachery and betrayal, doing the right thing can get a man killed. Caught between the Nazi SS, the violent British resistance, and Americans with very uncertain loyalties, Rossett must secretly make his way out of London and find Ruth Hartz, a Jewish scientist working in Cambridge. Spared from death because of her intellect and expertise, she is forced to work on developing the atom bomb for Germany. Though she knows it could end any hope of freedom in Europe and maybe even the world, Ruth must finish the project—if she, too, wants to survive.

The British Lion is undoubtedly one of THE books of the year, for me at least. It grips you from the very first page and never relinquishes its magical and compelling hold until a gripping finale ends what is a cracking and powerful story. Full of engaging characters, fabulous plotting and a narrative that keeps you turning the pages, Schumacher has followed his first novel with a stunning work of alternate fiction that gives the reader a glimpse into what might have been had Hitler and the Nazi’s won the Second World War. Fortunately for us it never happened and makes reading this fictional work a lot more enjoyable and less frightening!

Even during the quiet and scene building occasions I couldn’t help but want to know what happens next. There was never a dull moment, each character caressing the story along in such a natural way that it made reading effortless. It’s difficult to express how easy this book is to read and it’s one you definitely have to experience for yourself.

Unfortunately I haven’t read Tony’s debut The Darkest Hour and even though I have a fair idea what happened after reading this follow up I’ll definitely make time to visit Schumacher’s introduction of London detective John Rossett.

Talking of Rossett, he’s a terrific protagonist and leads the book well but here’s the thing, he’s not the only protagonist. Running alongside Rossett is Nazi Commander Ernst Koehler and scientist Ruth Hartz who literally has the fate of the world in her hands. The three fill up the pages with great stories, fabulous dialogue and intriguing interaction.

Tony Schumacher isn’t afraid to take risks, no character is safe and this is one book that kept me guessing throughout due to its unpredictable nature. Bodies soon begin to pile up and you never quite know who’s going to survive.

There were a number of scenes that stood out for me but one literally took my breath away. It wasn’t a scene full of bodies or uninterrupted action but a moment of hopeless tenderness and beauty. It was a scene in such raw tenderness and emotion that will remain with me for some time.

So there you have it a story about brotherhood, occupation, control and relationships The British Lion is so much more than a book about one man striving to help a friend in need and in so doing he might just help save the world.

Gripping, entertaining and utterly compelling.

• Paperback: 352 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (31 Dec. 2015)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 0062439197
• ISBN-13: 978-0062439192
• Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.9 x 19.7 cm

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The Backs by Alison Bruce

The Backs by Alison Bruce

A fresh start in a place you hate. Even tougher with a killer watching…Jane Osborne left Cambridge and vowed she’d never return. An unexpected twist of fortune results in DC Goodhew bringing her back to the remnants of her old life and a confrontation with the man who killed her sister. Meanwhile a burning car on the outskirts of Cambridge leads to the discovery of the body of its owner, Paul Marshall. There seems nothing to connect it to either a recent assault, or to Jane Osborne, until a shocking discovery rips Goodhew’s investigation apart.

The Backs represents the fifth book in a wonderful series featuring Cambridge’s own DC Gary Goodhew, there’s very little that I can add to my previous reviews of Alison’s work but I will try! Yet another slick performance this book is over in a flash, read in two sittings and measuring 300 pages it simply moves along at a rapid and well thought out pace and before you know it it’s over.

Direction is good, as is the storyline and I enjoyed how it all came together in the end, well-paced and well thought out. Having said that, I think it could have been a little more drawn out in the closing chapters, I felt it was a tiny bit rushed. Maybe that’s simply a case of I didn’t want it to finish or that the crimes had been solved quicker than I had anticipated I don’t know. It certainly doesn’t detract from a terrific read, this is purely personal.

It’s clear that Alison Bruce has found her home in Cambridge both in real life and on the pages of her Goodhew series. She knows her way around, what she wants to achieve and I, after reading all five of her books, know exactly where she’s coming from. Despite being a crime novel I feel at home too. Whenever I pick up a new title in the series I immediately feel comfortable, content even. It’s hard to put into words but I really do enjoy discovering Cambridge through the eyes of Bruce, Goodhew and his grandmother – arguably the best character in the series for me!

Talking of characters, everyone you’d expect is back including Marks and Kincaide. However, we see a different side to both characters this time around. We see a softer side to Kincaide. He’s pleasant to people, accommodating and he shares information with Goodhew, something he has been reluctant to do in the past. This isn’t the Kincaide we’ve come to love, hate and enjoy. The rivalry between the two detectives is still there although this time it’s mute. It’s great to see a more reserved Kincaide but it’s not the same and I want him back fighting with Goodhew and creating havoc! I also wanted to see more from Goodhew’s eccentric grandmother – but then I’m never satisfied with that!

Another important player in this title is Jane Osborne. A strange and colourful character I couldn’t quite work her out, she takes a little getting used to but she’s a powerful character, one who appears to know where she’s going, what she wants and how to achieve it. Once back in Cambridge she begins to lay down roots and change. I really enjoyed the role she played in the book.

So there we have it, not wishing to give the game away The Backs represents another stellar performance from Bruce, the series just seems to get better and better, roll on the next title. I know I can’t wait to walk in the shoes of Goodhew as he tackles Cambridge’s next case.

Available to buy in Hardback and Kindle formats.

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: C & R Crime (19 Sep 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1472102118
  • ISBN-13: 978-1472102119
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The Silence by Alison Bruce

The Silence by Alison Bruce

Joey McCarthy is stabbed to death in a pub car park in a random act of violence. Shortly afterwards Charlotte Stone’s terminally ill mother dies and then, within weeks, two of her teenage friends commit suicide. With her home life disintegrating and both her father and brother racing towards self-destruction Charlotte realises that her own personal nightmare may not be over yet.

When DC Gary Goodhew finds the body of another suicide victim he is forced to recall some deeply buried memories of an earlier death; memories which lead him to Charlotte Stone and the events in her life. From their individual points of view they both begin to wonder whether all these tragedies are somehow linked to a bigger picture. And if they are right, then who will be the next victim?

The Silence by Alison Bruce – DC Goodhew’s fourth adventure – is another assured performance from the Cambridge based author and although a departure from her previous novels – certainly as far as I’m concerned – the novel marks a significant change in structure and a refreshing change moving away from being a case driven/ all out police procedural to a more thoughtful and adroit slow burner. When I read The Calling, Alison’s third novel in the series, I was impressed at its depth but this book ramps it up even further with another thought provoking tale, there’s nothing cosy about this read!

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book was the fact that as I passed the half way mark I still had no clear idea where the book was going and what direction it would take. Dealing with a number of suicides the first half points to just that, suicide and the aftermath and devastation it invariably leaves behind. Bruce delves powerfully into family squabbles, destroyed relationships and the consequences of losing loved ones – parental or sibling – and there’s a poignant depth throughout the book I hadn’t anticipated.

Driven once again by a great and eclectic cast of characters the storyline moves at a decent pace – there’s a marked shift towards the second half – and although we don’t see a great deal of Goodhew and his grandmother in the first third of the book he – slowly but surely – makes his presence felt as the book matures, right up until a frenetic conclusion that sees him chasing his tail all over Cambridge! One of the things I missed this time around was the – and how do I put this politely – competition or rivalry between Goodhew and Kincaide. Although there in small parts the arguments and fractious relationship isn’t as prevalent as in previous titles and I missed that edge to the book. Having said that there is a scene in the book where Kincaide does himself no favours at all and gave me a little more insight into his personality, and for a few pages following that scene I regained my dislike of the detective.

Goodhew continues to stand alone for the majority of the book, he goes out on his own and prefers to tackle things without checking in with his superiors and although DI Marks does his best to rein his superstar in it’s never going to happen! Sue Gully helps him along the way and the pair have an interesting working relationship with Gully still prone to blushing uncontrollably at the sight of DC Goodhew. It still makes me laugh!

Goodhew’s grandmother is with us again to keep him in check, I’ve always loved her scenes and along with his mate Bryn the cast is complete. I should also give a shout out to perhaps the best cast member of all – Cambridge. Bruce has done another sterling job of bringing the streets, pubs and river to life with a wonderfully descriptive narrative. Yet again I find myself waiting impatiently for the next in the series. Bravo Bruce – that’s not a weird shout out to Juliet Bravo by the way!!

The Silence is available in Hardback & Kindle (best price)

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Constable (19 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849012032
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849012034
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Following on from Cambridge Blue (reviewed earlier this month) Alison Bruce is back with her second novel to feature Detective Constable Gary Goodhew, a young driven policeman with only one thing on his mind – to solve his latest case – Available from the Book Depository & Amazon.

The Siren by Alison Bruce

The Siren by Alison Bruce

Kimberley Guyver is spooked by a news report on television – Nick’s car is slowly hauled out of the Mediterranean Sea by a winch. She’d last seen the car disappear without trace in the same stretch of water. The gruesome remains of Nicholas Lawton, a Cambridge man who had disappeared from Cartagena in Spain three years earlier, had also been identified.

Cambridge Blue (DC Goodhew 1) review can be found here.

Within minutes of the news item airing, Kimberley’s phone trills, she answers immediately and arranges to meet her friend outside. She gathers Riley, her two year old son, still half asleep, and makes her way to the cemetery that lies at the back of her property. Rachel Golinski offers to look after Riley while a terrified Kimberley makes plans to leave the area.

Although in the middle of a two week holiday, DC Goodhew is thrust into a new investigation when he notices a Gwydir Street house is on fire. We soon discover the house belongs to Rachel and her husband Stefan. Kimberley returns and is in a state of shock. Not only is her friend’s house in flames but her son is also missing. Was there anyone inside? Where is Rachel and Riley?

It soon becomes apparent this is no accident and a clear case of arson – it doesn’t stop there. What evolves is a clever and well thought out crime thriller.

The arrogant and self-assured DC Kincade is back and the war between him and Goodhew shows no signs of abating – I can see this running and running! With DI Marks in command and Mel offering administrative support the usual suspects introduced in Cambridge Blue are all there – along with Bryn O’Brien his ex-schoolmate and the solitary scene with his Grandmother (I loved her character and would like to see more!). New to the squad is Sue Gully, a young WPC who struggles to fit in – much like Goodhew.

Kincade continues his mind games and clear he will stop at nothing to tarnish Goodhew’s reputation and career – I do like this macho tussle! I thoroughly enjoyed “The Siren” – the pace never lets up and the narrative flows effortlessly. If there is a third book in the Goodhew series I would like to see DI Marks regain some of his commanding presence – for whatever reason he didn’t seem as powerful in this episode.

Although he still prefers to work alone I didn’t find Goodhew as maverick as he was in Cambridge Blue, Bruce appears to have toned the young detective down – is he starting to think like a team player?

The plot is well thought out with a few twists and turns along the way and although I would like to see a more in-depth police procedural in the next novel, the storyline was strong enough to survive this omission.

I finished the book in a couple of sittings and was thoroughly entertained until its powerful dénouement. More than enough to keep you guessing, I eagerly await the third Goodhew instalment – his character is far too promising to keep in the dark for long! An excellent follow up to Cambridge Blue.

Published by Constable & Robinson the book is available from the Book Depository & Amazon.

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I always enjoy “discovering” new authors – you never quite know what to expect and I find it always allows a fresh, unhindered approach to a title or, as in this case, a series. Alison Bruce is the latest of my “discoveries” and her first title, Cambridge Blue, introduces us to young DC Gary Goodhew, a young, ambitious and resourceful detective still wet behind the ears.

UPDATE: The Second book in the series “The Siren” – Review can now be found here.

Cambridge Blue by Alison Bruce

Cambridge Blue by Alison Bruce

Although just shy of 300 pages in length, the novel is very well paced and with so much information packed in-between, it never once gave off the feeling of a small book. Don’t get me wrong, 300 isn’t a small book by any means but given many of my recent reviews have weighed in at over 500 pages I had anticipated a short story! Wrong!

Available in Paperback and Kindle Edition from Amazon.

I loved the feel of this book. I’m not sure why but as soon as I began reading Cambridge Blue, for whatever reason and one I can’t figure out myself, I had 1950’s spies in the back of my mind – certainly for the first half of the novel. There really is no reason other than the intense atmosphere Alison evokes with her wonderful style of writing.

Cambridge Blue begins beside the beautiful River Cam, two eight-oared boats have just rowed upstream around the corner and Jackie Moran notices a stranger in the distance – she isn’t at all concerned. Walking with her dog Bridy she continues until she is level with the man – seconds later she’s fighting for her life. She somehow keeps the stranger at bay and after a despairing struggle strangles him, in self-defence, with the dog’s choke chain – she dumps the body and his knife in the river and walks away.

We do of course find out the connection of this murder later in the book, Alison doing a great job of tying up all the loose ends as the book reaches its climactic dénouement. Alison Bruce weaves a complex web throughout introducing numerous characters along the way and you never really know who will have the final say – The ending is have to say is rather frenetic and incredibly tense.

As I mentioned earlier Gary Goodhew is the main lead; a young enigmatic character who prefers working on instinct and on his own. He has little time for his team of detectives but that will eventually come – or will it. He prefers walking around Cambridge following up on leads, talking to witnesses – I found myself wanting his job more and more as the book progressed!

His boss DI Marks is at his wits end with the lad. A strong and confident leader, he’s found his match in Goodhew. He tries to rein in the maverick cop but to be honest fails to keep him on a short leash! The battle between the rules and structure of Marks’ leadership and the natural instinct and determination of Goodhew’s youthful approach is an enjoyable conflict; one I never tired of.

Goodhew’s big break comes when a paperboy discovers the body of Lorna Spence – the investigation leading him in all manner of directions as he sets about finding the person responsible for her death. As the case deepens Pandora’s Box is well and truly opened and it’s left to Goodhew, his grandmother (and best friend) and Marks to make sense of it all.

I found Cambridge Blue a highly intelligent, well-crafted and engaging read. Given that this is Bruce’s debut novel it is remarkable how she has captured the soul of Cambridge and brought a potentially brilliant character in Goodhew to prominence. I look forward to his next case with anticipation. Brilliant and highly recommended.

UPDATE: The Second book in the series “The Siren” – Review can now be found here.

Published by Constable & Robinson now available in Paperback and Kindle Edition from Amazon.

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