When Shadows Fall by Alex Gray

When Shadows Fall by Alex Gray

When Shadows Fall is Alex Gray’s seventeenth novel featuring Detective Superintendent Lorimer, now the head of the Major Incident Team based in Glasgow. Skeletal remains are discovered in the grounds of a large house in the West Renfrewshire countryside by the gardener, Joseph Alexander Flynn. Freaked out by his gruesome find, he phones Lorimer. They go back a long way as Lorimer helped Flynn escape his troubled past. When a bullet hole is discovered in the skull, they have to treat it as murder. This cold case seems unconnected to the recent killings of retired police officers, but analysis of the bullet still lodged in the skull tells a different story.

As the number of killings mounts up, tension is rising as to who will be next. This is greatly increased by the fact that the reader knows more than the police; we know what the killer is planning just not his identity. Can Lorimer’s team solve the case before it is too late?

One of the reasons I started reading this series was the Glasgow setting. Alex Gray brings the city to life on the page. I have, unfortunately, been away for more years than I would like, but, even after all this time, this is a Glasgow I recognise, and it makes a great setting for When Shadows Fall.

There are lot of familiar faces in this book, especially if you have, like me, been reading the series from the beginning; once again Dr Brightman’s insight helps to solve the case. Lorimer is unusual among fictional detectives in that he does not display self-destructive behaviour, but goes home every night to his wife and the cat.

Despite being part of a series, you could just as easily read this as a standalone, but I do recommend that you go back to the beginning and enjoy all the others. Alex Gray skillfully weaves the different strands of this complicated plot together into a nail-biting conclusion, and I hope that you feel like giving it a try.

Thanks to the author, Sphere and NetGalley for a review copy.

Just My Luck by Adele Parks

Just My Luck by Adele Parks

Just My Luck is the cautionary tale of what can happen after a big lottery win; never has the phrase ‘be careful what you wish for’ been more apt.

Lexi and Jake, along with two other couples, have been buying a lottery ticket with the same numbers for the last fifteen years. The others have decided they no longer want to play, and then they win the 17.8 million jackpot. To begin with Carla and Patrick, and Jennifer and Fred, still think they are entitled to a share. The three couples were supposed to be such good friends, but as more of the story unfolds it is hard to see why.

All the main characters, with the exception of Lexi, are unlikeable in some way. Although not perfect either, Lexi is the one I have most sympathy for as she seeks to do some good with the windfall.  Before the money has even been deposited in their bank account, Jake has completely lost it – buying sports cars, organizing extravagant parties and flaunting their newly acquired wealth – making ticking the privacy box no longer an option. He changes overnight, makes decisions without consulting her and sets a really bad example for their children, Emily and Logan. Has he simply been hiding his true nature all along?

Little by little, secrets are revealed and nothing is what it seems. I genuinely did not see the shocking twists and revelations coming, and found myself reading far into the night to find out what happens next. The ending is very satisfying, but you’ll have to read it for yourself.

The story is told from several points of view – mostly by Lexi, with some chapters by Emily (but there were places where her voice as a fifteen-year-old girl was not quite convincing), and occasional contributions from Toma Albu, a client of Lexi’s at the CAB, whose story seems unrelated to begin with. This is a much more complex story than it seemed at first, with one revelation after another, emphasizing the point that money can’t buy you happiness.

I have not read any books by Adele Parks before, but I was really impressed with Just My Luck and intend explore her back catalogue as soon as I can.

My One True North by Milly Johnson

My One True North by Milly Johnson

I am a huge Milly Johnson fan, have read everything she has ever written, and My One True North is one of her best. I liked the inclusion of characters and settings from previous books in the teashop and on the cruise ship; a seamless part of the story if you had not read the other books, but a nice bonus for her legions of fans.

Laurie and Pete meet at a bereavement counselling group – Molly’s Club – which takes place in the teashop featured in Milly’s book The Teashop on the Corner. Unbeknown to them both, their partners, Alex and Tara, had been killed in the same road accident six months previously. They had also been in a relationship and were planning a future together. Gradually we learn a little bit more, and a little bit more, until we have a full picture of what actually happened between Alex and Tara. By the end, I felt more sympathetic towards them; if they had been more open and honest, some of the pain and suffering they caused could have been avoided.  

Laurie is a solicitor and part of her job is dealing with lawsuits resulting from all the errors printed in the Daily Trumpet. Examples of these typos are printed throughout the book, in between chapters, and provide a bit of light relief. Pete is a fireman and the shock of having attended the fatal accident has taken its toll, and left him traumatised.

The story is well written and the characterisation excellent; some of the less-sympathetic characters seemed so real that I was glad when they got their comeuppance. The Yorkshire setting is a large part of what makes Milly Johnson’s books special. The grief and sadness are overwhelming at times, but it is ultimately an uplifting tale about the power of second chances.

I enjoyed the last few chapters about the cruise to see the Northern Lights, and catching up with the characters from Here Come the Girls. My only slight criticism would be that I found the ending a bit abrupt – I would have liked a bit more. I’ll just have to be patient until Milly’s next book comes out.    

Summer on a Sunny Island by Sue Moorcroft

Summer on a Sunny Island by Sue Moorcroft

I have read a lot of Sue Moorcroft’s books and found them very enjoyable. However, for some unfathomable reason, I did not enjoy Summer on a Sunny Island as much as I was expecting to.

This is partly down to the opening chapters, which seem to begin abruptly, almost as if there is a bit missing, and the reader has been thrown into the story part way through. There was also a bit too much description of the island for my taste; at times it read like a travel guide. The main problem was that I could not warm to the main characters, Rosa and Zach, and I realise that I’m in a minority here. They are well written and believable, but I just did not take to them.

This is not a light-hearted romantic comedy, but a much darker story than the title would suggest – peer pressure leading young men into gangs and criminal activity, dysfunctional families, and controlling and abusive men feature strongly in the story. This is all dealt with in a sensitive and empathetic way, and by the end of the book there has been some resolution.

The women are strong independent characters, used to standing on their own two feet, which is just as well since the behaviour of a lot of the male characters leaves a lot to be desired. I particularly enjoyed the scene near the end with Marcus and the electricity bill – but you’ll have to read it for yourself!

Summer on a Sunny Island is a well-written story with an unusual and colourful setting; just what everyone needs at the moment when the possibility of travel to sunny islands is not on the cards. Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.  

The Cat and the City by Nick Bradley

The Cat and the City by Nick Bradley

The Cat and the City is an imaginative debut from Nick Bradley; the writing is very accomplished and the concept is intriguing. It is not quite a novel, but much more than a collection of short stories. Normally, I find them very unsatisfying and disjointed, but the stories in The Cat and the City are connected, no matter how tenuously, and highlight the loneliness and alienation of living in a city with more than thirty-seven million inhabitants.

The green-eyed calico cat weaves its way in and out of the lives of the various characters in this book – some native Japanese, some foreign – and shines a spotlight on their story before moving on. The connections are not always obvious, but if you keep reading it will all start to make sense.  

The writer plays with different styles – haiku, manga, science fiction to name but a few – to give us a warts-and-all portrait of life in Tokyo in the period leading up to the 2020 Olympic Games. Although written from a Western perspective, the writer displays a vast knowledge of Japanese culture that felt authentic to me (I have never been to Japan, but would love to go there someday).

I chose to read this book because of the subject matter and the attractive cover art; I was not disappointed. Obviously, I enjoyed some of the stories more than others, but overall it was beautifully written and thought provoking. Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

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