Lines of Justice: Azdaja by Lee Sherred

The Blurb:

Kosovo, 1999:

Sgt Dean Samson and his team of British soldiers are well aware of the dangers they’ll face and the things they’ll see in a country that has suffered years of oppression and ethnic cleansing. But nothing could have prepared them for Aždaja, a sadistic, mythical, serial killer with a penchant for vile humiliation and unimaginable torture.

Present day:

Since leaving the Army, Samson now a Police Officer, has struggled to erase his darkest memories of Kosovo. When he receives a devastating medical diagnosis, his nightmares come flooding to the surface, forcing him to face up to what he did….and what he didn’t do. With nothing to lose and no one to stop him, he’s at a crossroads. But is he prepared for what lies in wait? Will the horrors of Kosovo return with a vengeance?

Buy it here

My Thoughts:

Well this was a pleasant surprise.

I picked this book up cheaply on Amazon and in truth wasn’t really too sure what to expect. Lines of Justice: Azdaja didn’t have too many reviews on either Amazon or Goodreads but the ones that were there were almost universally positive. I’m very pleased to say that I agree with them.

We follow the main character, Sgt Dean Samson, initially during his time in war torn Kosovo, and then, many years later, back in the UK where he now serves as a Police Officer. Samson is, despite a number of questionable actions throughout, a very likeable character. The author is able to infuse a great deal of humour into the book through Samson and I was thankful for that as a result of the book being very dark in places.

On that, I really should point out that this book is gruesome in places, with graphic depictions of torture and various other injuries. The aforementioned humour helps from keeping it from tipping over the edge though and the worst of it – in my eyes at least – was very early on, so if you can get past the scenes set in Kosovo early in the book then it doesn’t get bleaker than that.

The plot flows really well and zips along at good pace and there was no point that I was pulled out of the narrative to question the decisions of a character – something I find myself doing more and more these days.

I genuinely only had two very slight issues with this one. The first being that I felt the Samson’s flip to vigilantism may have been just a touch on the abrupt side – although the character does have that military history and was clearly portrayed as a man of action.

The second being I actually wanted the book to go on longer. I was so enjoying the build up to the final confrontation that I could have definitely gone with a more protracted chase between Samson and the antagonist.

Overall, this has taken over as my best surprise read of 2017 and I would absolutely recommend to anyone that enjoys books in the style of Conrad Jones or even the early Jack Reacher novels.

The Beer Accompaniment:

With a book this dark there are two ways I was tempted to go. The first was to steer into the bend and go for something like a Dark Island by Orkney Brewing but due to the level of humour that is sprinkled through the book this felt perhaps a little flat and that something like a Erdinger Dunkel or Beavertown’s Black Betty Black IPA would be better. There are a number of eastern european black lagers that I would have been interested to try but unfortunately, I was too caught up in reading the book to wait until I could get my hands on them.

In the end though I went with undercutting some of the bleak scenes with an American Style IPA. Hawkshead IPA from the brewery of the same name. Scents of Mango and other tropical fruit without much in the way of bitterness. It is 7%, but then it is, or at least feels like, a short book.


Class Murder by Leigh Russell

The Blurb:

With so many potential victims to choose from, there would be many deaths. He was spoiled for choice, really, but he was determined to take his time and select his targets carefully. Only by controlling his feelings could he maintain his success. He smiled to himself. If he was clever, he would never have to stop. And he was clever. He was very clever. Far too clever to be caught.

Geraldine Steel is reunited with her former sergeant, Ian Peterson.

When two people are murdered, their only connection lies buried in the past. As police search for the elusive killer, another body is discovered. Pursuing her first investigation in York, Geraldine Steel struggles to solve the baffling case. How can she expose the killer, and rescue her shattered reputation, when all the witnesses are being murdered?

My Thoughts:

This book is the tenth in the Geraldine Steel series and – whilst not having read the previous entries – I have to say she was a very strong and likeable character. I love characters that aren’t abrasive for the sake of it and make realistic decisions. That certainly applied to DS Steel. The author expertly peppered in enough background to give you a sense of the character without overburdening the novel with needless history.

Likewise Ian Paterson was a strong foil to the main character, knowing her well enough to trust her instincts but also pushing back where appropriate.

I also enjoyed the pace of the novel, which moved along at a fair clip and the plot could certainly be believable and had me thinking back to my school days.

There were unfortunately a few small downsides which at times pulled me out of my reading flow; the secondary cast of characters, and in particular the victim pool, didn’t seem particularly distinct and actually were so unlikable I was rather hoping they would be bumped off by the killer. I also had to suspend disbelief in terms of their actions at the end of the book (all I can say without spoilers).

The killer was described as ‘clever’ very often but at no point did I feel his actions demonstrated that intelligence. It therefore felt that I was trying to be persuaded of it.

There was also an odd case where a character was called two different names in the same chapter.

The above reservations aside I can definitely say that I enjoyed this one and wouldn’t hesitate to pick up another Geraldine Steel mystery.

Thanks to Netgalley, No Exit Press and the author for an advanced reading copy in return for an honest review.

Due for publication 7 December 2017.

Buy it here

As an aside this book finished off an accidental thematic October of 3 books set in Yorkshire.

The Beer Accompaniment:

Whilst not what I would call cozy crime this police procedural doesn’t go for cheap thrills or excess violence for the sake of it. Something familiar, comforting and sessionable would seem to be the order of the day. My choice was The Ridge by Harviestoun Brewery, a pale ale with a satisfying hoppy bitterness.

Happy Reading

Drink Responsibly

Fellside by M R Carey

The Blurb:

On a heroin bender, Jess Moulson set fire to her apartment complex. A ten-year-old boy died in the fire. Sentenced to spend the rest of her life in Fellside, a maximum security prison on the edge of the Yorkshire, Jess is haunted by the ghost of the boy she killed, as well as all the mistakes she has made in her life. When Jess decides not to run drugs for a fellow prisoner is she on the road to redemption… or the road to her own death?

My thoughts:

I went into this one with very high hopes. The author’s previous book ‘The girl with all the gifts’ had been one of my most pleasant surprise reads of the last couple of years. On top of that I had heard the book was a mash-up of crime and horror which, frankly, John Connolly has managed to turn into just about my favourite type of book.

So how did Fellside measure up? For me the two parts didn’t mesh well together. If this had been written purely as a crime book about the main character’s conviction and subsequent time in Fellside prison I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more and been really very positive about it. The story of the drug supply was interesting and well paced.

On the other side of the coin, I found myself starting to skip over the parts set in the night world as they just didn’t hold my attention. This may have resulted in my main issue with the book, I didn’t find it scary.

The main character, Jess Moulson, was interesting and not unlikable although at the same time I didn’t feel there was anything that made her hugely likeable either. The supporting characters were all well drafted and distinct.

In summary, whilst I was disappointed with Fellside, this was likely due to my high expectations. I still found it to be an interesting and worthwhile read. The writing was still excellent and I’m still very much looking forward to ‘the boy on the bridge’ set in the Girl with all the gifts universe.

If you like crime or horror it may just be for you. It certainly wasn’t boring.

The Beer Accompaniment:

With the mixed genres you could go many directions here. I ended up taking the lazy route and deciding by going with geography, so All Creatures by Yorkshire’s Black Sheep Brewery. I hadn’t tried this one before but oh my it is terrific. A light sessionable ale with an almost peach tea aftertaste. Highly recommended.

Devil’s Day by Andrew Michael Hurley

The Blurb:
The second novel from the Costa winning and bestselling author of The Loney

In the wink of an eye, as quick as a flea,
The Devil he jumped from me to thee.
And only when the Devil had gone,
Did I know that he and I’d been one . . .

Every autumn, John Pentecost returns to the farm where he grew up to help gather the sheep down from the moors for the winter. Very little changes in the Endlands, but this year, his grandfather – the Gaffer – has died and John’s new wife, Katherine, is accompanying him for the first time.

Each year, the Gaffer would redraw the boundary lines of the village, with pen and paper, but also through the remembrance of tales and timeless communal rituals, which keep the sheep safe from the Devil. But as the farmers of the Endlands bury the Gaffer, and prepare to gather the sheep, they begin to wonder whether they’ve let the Devil in after all . . .

My thoughts:

There is a lot to admire about this book and oh how close I came to loving it.

The author provides a wonderfully descriptive prose that carries you along seamlessly whilst providing a great atmosphere to the main character of the book, the landscape of the Yorkshire/Lancashire dales – the Endlands – themselves.

The characters of the novel, together with their backgrounds and the history of their little slice of the earth, are fairly thrown at the reader but it doesn’t take long to get to grips with the author’s style. It could be argued there is a slight lack of warmth to them but when you accept them as essentially being products of the landscape, it is easily forgiven.

As you would expect from the author of The Loney, Devil’s Day is a horror, and a sense of dread is ratcheted up wonderfully as you progress through this relatively short novel.

Unfortunately, that is where the positives end. During the whole novel I was imagining what terrible thing could befall the villagers and would simultaneously move me from a sense of tension to one of fear. Nothing came. There was no real pay-off to any of the good work put in by the author and as such I was still waiting when I turned and subsequently finished the last page.

If you are a horror aficionado – or just enjoy good writing – then you may very well enjoy this – I would probably suggest reading The Loney first however and deciding if you like the author’s style. If you are just after a properly scary book for Halloween, this may not be the one for you.

Buy it here

Many thanks to John Murray Press via Netgalley for providing an Advanced Reading Copy in return for an honest review.

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The Beer Accompaniment:

The book is set in an area rich with brewing tradition which offers a plethora of choice for an accompanying drink.

One very pleasant beer from nearby Pendle is Moorhouse’s Blond Witch, or of course there is the ever excellent Black Sheep ale. Whilst I could be accused of lacking imagination on this selection however, with so many references to the owd fella, it really put me in the mood for the classic Old Peculiar by Theakstons Brewery. A wonderfully distinctive dark beer with a nutty  taste with subtle fruit background very much its own. If you haven’t tried it then a deep dark autumn is the perfect time.

Righteous by Joe Ide

The Blurb:

In this hotly anticipated follow-up to the smash hit IQ, a New York Times Critics’ Best of the Year and nominee for the Best First Novel Edgar Award, Isaiah uncovers a secret behind the death of his brother, Marcus.

For ten years, something has gnawed at Isaiah Quintabe’s gut and kept him up nights, boiling with anger and thoughts of revenge. Ten years ago, when Isaiah was just a boy, his brother was killed by an unknown assailant. The search for a killer sent Isaiah plunging into despair and nearly destroyed his life. Even with a flourishing career, a new dog, and near-iconic status as a PI in his hometown, East Long Beach, he has to begin the hunt again—or lose his mind.

A case takes him and his dubious, volatile sidekick, Dodson, to Vegas, where Chinese gangsters and a terrifying seven-foot loan shark are stalking a beautiful DJ and her screwball boyfriend. If Isaiah doesn’t find the two first, they’ll be murdered. Awaiting the outcome is the love of IQ’s life: fail, and he’ll lose her. Isaiah’s quest is fraught with treachery, menace, and startling twists, and it will lead him to the mastermind behind his brother’s death, Isaiah’s own sinister Moriarty. With even more action, suspense, and mind-bending mysteries than Isaiah’s first adventures, Righteous is a rollicking, ingenious thrill ride.

My thoughts:

Righteous is the second and newest book in the IQ series. I had not read the first book ahead of receiving this book to review. Ordinarily I have no difficulties in reading series books out of order but in this case I do feel that not having acquainted myself with IQ in advance seriously hampered my enjoyment of the book.

Isaiah (IQ) is a likeable and intriguing character, as is his partner Dodson. It did feel however, that I had missed out on the foundation and history of their friendship. Furthermore, I have to assume that one of the main plot threads in the book – the death of IQ’s brother Marcus must also have been explored within the first book.

This unfortunately leads me to what I felt was the other main drawback of the book. The two threads – whilst individually interesting – felt so completely distinct that it felt like they would more properly be explored in separate books. At the beginning of the book, as the chapters jumped from one story to another, I actually turned the pages back on my kindle to try and figure out if I had accidentally skipped a number of pages.

Luckily, the likeable characters, brisk pace and individually interesting stories were enough to keep me reading along happily until the end. I would certainly like to read IQ itself before deciding whether this will be a series I intend to follow.

As such, my recommendation is exactly that. If you haven’t read IQ, there was enough here to suggest that it is probably worth reading. If you like the character at that point then I am sure you would also enjoy Righteous.

Many thanks to Mulholland Books via Netgalley for an Advanced Reading Copy in return for an honest review.

Buy it here

Righteous is due for release on 17 October 2017.

The Beer Accompaniment:

A selfish pick, but this was read on holiday and I thoroughly enjoyed a bottle of San Miguel Tostada. A lovely beer with heightened toasted malt. Recommended.

Delaney – And so it Began by Owen Mullen

The Blurb:

PI Vincent Delaney thought he was done with the NOPD until a string of seemingly unrelated child murders brings an unexpected invitation from the FBI, and his old boss.

A serial killer is roaming the South, preying on children appearing in pageants, and the police want him to go undercover using his own family. Accepting would mean lying to people he loves and maybe even putting them in harm’s way.

In Baton Rouge, a violent criminal has escaped and is seeking revenge for the brother Delaney shot dead. But Delaney isn’t going anywhere. He has unfinished business.

Meanwhile, north of the French Quarter, shopkeepers are being extorted and ask for Delaney’s help. Extortion is a matter for the police. But what do you do when those responsible are the police?

Delaney as his work cut out and he’ll be lucky if he makes it out of this alive.

My thoughts:

Before I lay out my thoughts on this one I think it is worth pointing out that this was not received for the purpose of a review. I had pre-ordered this release from Amazon after reading the author’s previous works; one of which I have reviewed previously.

I was not disappointed.

I find it a touch difficult to review Delaney – And so it Began, as in some ways I find the book somewhat paradoxical. It is a short book but it is so packed to the brim I could have imagined it being a 500 page epic. Likewise, the level of atmosphere created whilst maintaining the brisk plotlines really says a lot to me about the quality of the writing.

The first of Owen Mullen’s books to be set in the US, Delaney benefits greatly from the Big Easy setting and I found a lot of the laid back charm permeated the main character of Delaney himself. Whilst clearly driven by his moral compass there is a relaxed voice to the main character which makes it very easy to spend time with him together with his dog – and best friend – Lowell.

If I had to pinpoint any negative, then I would suggest that at no point did I feel that the main character was in genuine peril, even when facing down the escaped killer mentioned in the book’s blurb. In spite of that, there was certainly sufficient tension contained within the children’s pageant storyline that this was not something I considered until after I had finished reading.

In summary, I thought Delaney was an absolutely terrific book and I would certainly look forward to any other works featuring the character. Whilst I always seem to enjoy books set in the US but written by British authors – not sure if it’s a mix of familiar humour with more exotic setting –  this far exceeded my expectations.

This is the first book I have featured on my blog which I hadn’t decided to review before reading. The simple reason for that is that it is my second favourite 2017 publication and whilst my favourite of the year is likely to get a mention at the end of the year I found this one too good not to tell people about.

Buy it here

The Beer Accompaniment:

There was only ever one winner for in this category whilst reading this one. As I have not visited New Orleans so have no knowledge of local brewers, the relaxed nature of the main character and the aforementioned Big Easy setting says a relaxed big easy beer is required.

Easy IPA by Flying Dog 

Drink Responsibly

Happy Reading

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

The Blurb:

Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to the house of a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. Anna observes the uniformed servants, the lavishing of toys on the children, and some secret pact between her father and Dexter Styles.

Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that had always belonged to men. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. She is the sole provider for her mother, a farm girl who had a brief and glamorous career as a Ziefield folly, and her lovely, severely disabled sister. At a night club, she chances to meet Styles, the man she visited with her father before he vanished, and she begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life, the reasons he might have been murdered.

My Thoughts:

I should probably start with the admission that prior to Manhattan Beach I had not read any of, Pulitzer Prize winning author, Jennifer Egan’s work. As such I went into this novel with completely fresh eyes and it was not long until I was very glad I did so.

The novel is primarily set in post-depression New York State, a time of nightclubs, gangsters and union activity. Given the above it would have been extremely easy for any author to have slipped into caricatures but it was immensely satisfying that this did not happen once. Every character was beautifully crafted and leaped from the page fully formed into my imagination.  

The main character, Anna is extremely likeable and her character so well portrayed that it is – almost – to the detriment of the other characters whose point of view we are sometimes treated to; her father Eddie Kerrigan and Dexter Styles an Italian-American businessman  whom she recalls her father having dealings with many years prior.  She is driven initially by a desire to become a diver at her place of work and latterly by finding out what happened to her Father.

The writing is beautiful and at no point did it break my reading flow. Likewise, despite the novel clearly having been thoroughly researched in terms of the historical details used, there was not a single point where those details were thrown in for the sake of it – a testament both to the skill of the author.

Although I have enjoyed a few in the past, multi-generational historical epics are not something that I read too often but I am very pleased to have read this one and would suggest that, if any part of the description of the book intrigues you, you do similar. I would be surprised if you were disappointed.

Easily into my top 5 reads of the year.

Available to buy here

Many thanks to Little Brown Book Group via Netgalley for an Advance Reading Copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Beer Accompaniment:

With the Irish background of two central characters it would have been  easy to suggest that Guinness might have been an enjoyable beer to accompany this one. Not being a huge lover of ‘the black stuff’, other than their foreign extra, however means I had to discount that. 

Something that flows as nicely as the language would have to do and a beer that didn’t quite make the cut in my last review. Go West IPA by Anchor Brewing.

Happy Reading

Drink Responsibly.