From the No.1 ebook bestselling author of The Woman Next Door, comes a dark and twisty psychological thriller in which a young woman’s dream home quickly becomes her worst nightmare.
A strange encounter
Neve comes across a troubled woman called Isabelle on Waterloo Bridge late one night. Isabelle forces a parcel into Neve’s hands and jumps to her death in the icy Thames below.
An unexpected gift
Two weeks later, as Neve’s wreck of a life in London collapses, an unexpected lifeline falls into her lap – a charming cottage in Cornwall left to her by Isabelle, the woman on the bridge. The solution to all her problems.
A Twisted secret
But when Neve arrives, alone in the dark woods late one night, she finds a sinister-looking bungalow with bars across its windows. And her dream home quickly becomes her worst nightmare – a house hiding a twisted secret that will change her life forever…
Sitting firmly in psychological thriller territory, I would have to admit up front that many such releases this year had left me cold. Luckily, Cass Green’s tale of an unexpected inheritance may have turned the tide.
There was lots to like about this book but the main question for any psychological thriller has to be the fairly obvious ‘is it thrilling?’ Here the answer is a resounding yes. This tale of someone who may or may not be losing their mind was told at a decent pace and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that one night I stopped reading it early, when I remembered I was alone in my house.
One thing that I noted was that a lot of tension was built up, not by plot contrivances, but by both a strong central premise and excellent atmospheric writing. I definitely found Cass Green’s writing style suited my tastes far more than a number of other celebrated thriller writers, with lovely descriptive phrases and a really nice, easy to read, cadence to the language.
Whilst this is a spoiler free review I think it’s safe to say that there were two main twists to the story and I did feel one was far more successful than the other.
A couple of small reservations would be that I didn’t feel the central character, Neve, was particularly likeable. Normally this is an issue for me but actually, here, it didn’t turn me off the book at all. This was I think as a result of her behaviour remaining consistent and believable throughout. The final twist left me with my main issue but to reveal it may give away something of the plot.
Overall though, I enjoyed this very nicely written psychological thriller and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to fans of the genre.
Many thanks to the author, Netgalley and HarperCollins for providing me with an advanced reading copy in return for an honest review.
In a Cottage, In a Wood is due for release on 21 September 2017.
The Beer Accompaniment:
A cottage in a wood and an autumn release? Sounds like a job for Gingerbread spiced beer to me. Unfortunately I have only tried a couple and they tended to be seasonal Christmas beers. So today isn’t a recommendation, but this is the one I would love to have tried whilst reading this book.
The highly rated Hardywood Gingerbread Stout. At 9.2%, buyers beware.
Drink Responsibly and all that.
What the Blurb says:
“On a warm summer’s evening thirteen month old Lily Hamilton is abducted from Ayr beach in Scotland, taken while her parents are yards away. Three days later, the distraught father turns up at Glasgow PI Charlie Cameron’s office and begs him to help. Mark Hamilton believes he knows who has stolen his daughter. And why. Against his better judgement Charlie gets involved in a case he would be better off without. But when a child’s body is discovered on Fenwick Moor, then another in St Andrews, the awful truth dawns: there is a serial killer out there whose work has gone undetected for decades. Baby Lily may be the latest victim of a madman. For Charlie it’s too late, he can’t let go. His demons won’t let him.”
I was lucky enough to finish this book on the train back from attending one of the author’s events, managing to get myself both a signed copy and some additional insight into the characters. As such, this just had to be the subject of a blog post.
The author has created a really interesting central character in Charlie Cameron who is also backed up by an ensemble of well drawn supporting players. All of the interaction between Charlie and his motley crew of friends feels very genuine and unforced. A lot of this is to do with the fact that the book is infused with Scottish wit and Glasgow seems to come to life from within the pages. I would add however that it’s definitely not too dense a dialect for non-scots to enjoy.
The book is almost more of a character piece rather than focusing on the central crime of the novel – the abduction of a young girl from a beach in Ayr. This doesn’t mean that the plot is an afterthought, and the different strands of the story all flowed nicely whilst weaving together neatly. It was also interesting that it was the character of the people Charlie Cameron met that gave him the momentum in his investigation rather than physical evidence or practical clues; the Games People Play of the title.
I found it refreshing that the story was allowed to develop over a longer period of time than is often afforded in crime fiction these days. The events covering a period of months rather than everything being forcefully crammed into a few action packed days.
Games People Play had previously been self-published by the author but is now getting published by Bloodhound Books. A perfect time to introduce yourself to a new Scottish crime series.
I really enjoyed this one and already have the next two lined up for my reading pleasure.
The Beer Accompaniment:
Being a novel so brimming with Scottish humour and atmosphere my first thought had been the rather lovely Vital Spark beer by Fyne Ales. Deciding against this however, as a result of having previously recommended their excellent Jarl beer. I still felt that a typical Scottish style ale fits best, even if it’s not actually from Scotland and so my thoughts immediately went to another of my favourite breweries
Odell Breweries 90 Shilling Ale
What the blurb says:
“A mother and her son are abducted from a park in Rome, launching a massive manhunt. The chief of Rome’s Major Crime unit lures to the case two of Italy’s top analytical minds: Deputy Captain Colomba Caselli, a fierce, warrior-like detective still reeling from having survived a bloody catastrophe, and Dante Torre, a man who spent eleven young years captive, abducted by a mysterious man who called himself ‘The Father’.
The Italian police fear ‘The Father’ has returned. But when Columba and Dante begin following the ever-more-bizarre trail of clues, they grasp that what’s really going on is darker than they ever imagined.
This is by far one of the most ambitious crime books that I have read this year. The author intended Kill the Father to be the launch of a new series featuring the two main characters Columba Caselli and Dante Torre and the first thing to say is that they are two excellent creations.
Columba is, what may at first be viewed as, the somewhat clichéd feisty heroine, but she stays just about on the right side of determined and likeable except for when the pressure really ramps up later in the novel. Even then she is afforded with sufficient background that her forays into seemingly inappropriate aggression can be psychologically justified.
Next to her we have the real star of the book, Dante Torre, a character so broken that it would take a full blog to explain all the drawbacks he has to overcome in investigating the central crime. It would be hard to describe him in summary but the best I could think of would be a hybrid of an intelligent raconteur and a panicked child.
Their partnership was excellent.
The first half of the book had me absolutely hooked. The author was able to keep the plot’s momentum progressing nicely whilst simultaneously ensuring the reader knew how slow and laborious the movement of the main characters were as a result of Dante’s psychological issues. It turns out that playing with the movement of time is a one of the author’s strongpoints as one chapter which covered literally a second or two of real time demonstrated wonderfully.
Had the book progressed in the manner of the first half throughout it’s total length I would be saying that it was my book of the year. Unfortunately, I did find that the pace dipped a little just after the halfway point and that I was able to guess the Father’s identity a little earlier than I would have liked. I also was not totally convinced by the reveal of the Father’s motivation. In addition there are also one or two very minor translation issues but in nearly 500 pages that is surely to be expected.
So my verdict. I really enjoyed this one and would always much rather read something ambitious that falls just a little short than something that aims to be a run of the mill crime thriller and succeeds well. I look forward to the follow up Kill the Angel in 2018.
A small word of warning: Whilst I have no issue with animal’s being harmed in books (it is fiction after all, and in crime fiction far worse happens) I have seen some people declare an aversion to such passages. Therefore be warned that a dog is described being killed after attacking one of the main characters in this book.
The Beer accompaniment
With a book this dense with ideas and that benefits from sustained reading time I always found it best to go with a beer which you can practically forget is next to you for significant periods without losing any quality. For me that is a good quality stout or porter. Two that enjoyed whilst reading this book were Silkie Stout by Loch Lomond Brewery (Scotland’s Champion Beer 2017 apparently) or one Harviestoun’s Old Engine Oil.
The best stout that I have found recently however, is the somewhat difficult to get hold of Maui Coconut Porter by Maui Brewing. If you see it for sale do yourself a favour and pick up a few.
A slight departure from my usual crime fiction today with my review of The Cleaner. An espionage thriller set in modern day Berlin.
The story centres around Judith Kepler, the – crime scene – cleaner of the title, who discovers documents about herself and her parentage at the home of a murdered woman. Whilst investigating this and looking deeper into her background she becomes a person of interest to numerous agencies.
I had been excited to pick up this book since becoming aware of it only a few months ago. A lot of factors would have suggested that it would have started out with a fair amount of goodwill from me: a German author, a story set in my favourite city, and it being a spy thriller being amongst them.
As is now usual, let me start with the characters and in this instance Judith Kepler herself. I liked the fact that the main character was something of an everyman (or everywoman?) and not a super-soldier. Whilst she was more than capable of handling herself, and on occasion had to use her cleaning skills, she was also not portrayed as having any hidden talents beyond grit and determination. In addition she was not a typical ‘woman who has everything’ which often makes it easy for the author to destroy her perfect life. I did feel that there were points where the author almost tried to push the character into Lisbeth Salander territory but was glad these moments were both rare and passed relatively quickly.
The surrounding cast of characters were also well drawn, with a special mention of Judith’s boss Dobromowski. I’m not sure if the author based this character on someone they knew but it felt like there was a freedom and humour in the writing when he was involved in the story, to the point I was expecting him to play more of a part in the finale.
Unfortunately, characters aside, the novel had a number of issues for me. It took a substantial amount of time to feel like there was any momentum (page 115 from 464 pages) and there was a few odd tonal changes, which may or may not have been an issue with the translation.
The biggest issue however was that, for me at least, I didn’t feel that I was presented with a clear picture of the resolution of the mystery of what had happened to Judith as a youngster. It may be possible to make an argument that this had been intended due to the various individuals and agencies providing their interpretation of events but this was not the feeling I was left with and ultimately this led to an underwhelming conclusion.
Overall, I did enjoy the book but would struggle to recommend it. As an espionage thriller it fails to stand up to the best in the genre. If you have read Le Carre, this will leave you a little cold. If you haven’t, then your time may be better spent doing just that.
The Beer Accompaniment
A German book would seem to call for a German beer and beyond that perhaps something typically Berliner like a Berliner Weisse with Frambozen (Raspberry) of Waldmeister (Wood Sorrel) both are quite light and would serve well with this.
There are however also numerous mentions of German Wheat Beers and these would seem to be a perfect fit along with the cloudy nature of the storyline. An excellent non-German choice being Kellerweis by Sierra Nevada Brewery. My favourite however, is the admittedly somewhat mainstream Paulaner Weissbeir which would be fabulous to drink whilst reading the Cleaner on the banks of the Spree, as opposed to not being able to drink it while reading on a packed commuter train to Glasgow.
Baby’s Got Blue Eyes by L M Krier
For this review I will be looking at Baby’s Got Blue Eyes which is the first in the DI Ted Darling series of books.
As it was the first book to feature this character it is probably fair to use him as the jumping off point for this review. It is safe to say he is a wonderful creation. The author has avoided all of the typical cliches of the genre. He is a by-the-book, likeable, and thoroughly decent character who doesn’t go veering off in one man investigations and brings the best out of his varied – and also likeable – team.
With it being the first book in a series there is always a risk that the momentum of the story gets held back while the author takes their time to describe the character who may well have been alive in their mind for quite some time before the first book is released. This is also something the author skillfully avoids with Darling being developed into a fully formed character without the pace of the narrative suffering at all.
Much like in my previous review, there is a sense that the author trusts her readers to be aware of the usual processes carried out in literary murder investigations (perhaps this is the norm and I just had bad luck with a few nooks prior to this blog). We do not get bogged down in unnecessary detail, in fact, the lack of that detail becomes a character trait of one the medical examinars.
I only had a couple of, admittedly very nit-picky negatives. The first being that as a fully fledged geek I was not wholly convinced by the geeky member of Darling’s team. The second delves into spoiler territory as it relates to the antagonist so I will go no further on that point here. In addition, neither of these reservations would stop me from reading more Ted Darling novels, and I very much look forward to doing just that.
I would recommend you do the same.
The Beer Accompaniment
Whilst it would be polite to recommend Darling’s favourite drink of the Gunner cocktail and eschew an alcoholic beverage whilst reading it is pointed out that Darling is no prude. The tone of the story, whilst featuring murder and mutilations, was light hearted and comforting. Given that, and that there is also a full series to get through, I would simply say pick your favourite light session beer and enjoy.
For me, the options were Easy IPA by the Flying Dog Brewery, Bitter and Twisted by Harviestoun or the eventual winner Jarl by Fyne Ales, a blond ale of 3.8%.
Not related to this book I would add that I’m sure I will eventually get to reading newer books but there are so many great books still to discover that I’m not sure exactly when that will happen.
This is the post excerpt.
Welcome to the first entry in my book’n’beer review blog.
In the interests of clarity I should point out that I was provided with a free kindle copy of this book for the purposes of providing a review, although it was not known that I would be releasing this blog.
So, onto a spoiler free review of the book.
The first thing to be aware of is that this is the third book in a series featuring the protagonist Eleanor Raven. I had not read either of the previous entries and whilst ‘the Cold Room’ alluded to previous events, it could certainly be read as a standalone novel without feeling that you had missed out on any vital information.
Not having read any of the author’s previous work I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly she got me on board by avoiding some of the more overused conventions of the genre. Although a few such tropes did slip in later.
The Eleanor Raven character stayed on the right side of ‘maverick’ and her partner was written in such a way that he was intelligent enough to be able to contribute to the investigation without having to have every small detail explained to him.
Furthermore, whilst those characters were often seperate throughout the book, the author at one point – quite cleverly -managed to show that they had an understanding of where they each stood within the partnership in terms of their respective roles and how they operated together.
The finding of the initial body was handled deftly and I also have to make special mention of the fact that the author trusts her readers. There were at least two occasions where a certain process was carried out in the investigation which in lesser books would have been explained ad nauseam to the reader. No explanation of those processes is required for anyone who reads within this genre and I found this trust refreshing.
The final positive point that I’ll mention follows on from that trust in the author’s readership. The ending, which I will not discuss in detail, was not wrapped up in a bow.
As for negatives, I would suggest that the supporting characters could have been more detailed – although this may have been dealt with by the previous entries in the series – together with your typically ‘shouty’ police captain.
Overall I was very pleasantly surprised by this one and believe it stands up to other, more celebrated, series of crime novels. I may well be visiting Eleanor Raven again.
THE BEER ACCOMPANIMENT
Neither a deep heavy tome of a novel nor a throwaway lightweight, this could be read in one sitting, as such it may be that a midweight beer which holds it’s quality over a sustained period would work well. Rye beers sit excellently within this definition and I would happily recommend Fyne Ales Dragonfly as a potential candidate. For me though American Pale Ale, Lagunitas brewery’s 12th of Never, still has that depth and would work perfectly with this novel, the fire on, keeping your room warm.
Tilll next time