The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn

The Woman in the Window

The Woman in the Window starts slowly to build the claustrophobic atmosphere and introduce the unreliable narrator, Anna Fox. We wonder what has led to such self-destructive behaviour, and why she is living the way she is – doped up on a cocktail of prescription drugs and red wine.

Her agoraphobia is obviously the result of some great trauma, but AJ Finn ramps up the tension by only gradually revealing Anna’s story in a series of flashbacks.

Time passes slowly and she spends it watching old black and white movies, playing chess and observing her neighbours through her camera lens. The Russell family have recently moved in across the park and Anna is slightly obsessed with watching them. One day she believes she has witnessed a murder. Needless to say, no one believes her and there is no evidence.

In his debut novel, AJ Finn has created a well-written and convincing female character, and a tense plot full of twists and turns. My only criticism is that it would benefit from some judicious editing as it is padded out with too much repetitive description.   

Thanks to the author, the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Woman in the Lake by Nicola Cornick

The Woman in the Lake

I really enjoyed The Woman in the Lake, a dual timeline novel, set in Swindon, which is split between the 1760s and the present day.

The suspense is built gradually, by alternately telling us a little bit more about the stories of Fen and Isabella, until the dreadful truth is revealed; as the story unfolds we see parallels between the two marriages, hundreds of years apart.  

Lots of historical detail is woven into the story, and the supernatural element is done with a light touch. The characters are well drawn and convincing though not always likeable.

I will certainly be on the lookout for other books by Nicola Cornick, and Lydiard House is definitely worth a visit. Thanks to the author and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Bury Them Deep by James Oswald

Bury Them Deep by James Oswald

Bury Them Deep is the tenth book to feature DCI Tony McLean, and they just keep getting better and better. You could read this as a standalone, but I’m a great believer in starting from the beginning as the accumulated backstory gives you a much more nuanced read.

Tony’s team are part of Operation Caterwaul, a multi-agency investigation into financial fraud involving some very influential people; security is of the utmost importance, and not even Tony knows all the details.

The most senior of the admin staff, Anya Renfrew, does not turn up for work. With her high security clearance, the senior officers fear that the operation is compromised. As a matter of urgency, Tony is given the job of finding her. This suits him fine as it gets him out in the field, doing what he does best, instead of having to focus on his neverending stack of paperwork.

From here on in, James Oswald skillfully weaves several plot strands together, and builds up to a truly shocking finale. Edinburgh is enjoying a period of unusually hot weather, which adds to the already strained atmosphere. There is always a sense of something ‘other’ in this series, and here it involves Scottish folklore, and local myths and legends. Anya’s car is found burnt out in a forest where other women are rumoured to have disappeared. Human bones are found after a forest fire. What transpires is more gruesome than anything you could have imagined.

Most of the story is told from Tony’s point of view; his narrative voice is what makes these books so enjoyable. He is a flawed human being, but an excellent, intuitive detective. I love his total disregard for the concerns of his media- and budget-obsessed superior officers. All the usual members of his team are there, and this enables you to immerse yourself in the story straightaway. I look forward to reading the next instalment in the story of Tony McLean.

Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for a copy of Bury Them Deep in exchange for an honest review  #JamesOswald #BuryThemDeep #NetGalley

Hands Off by DE Haggerty

Hands Off by DE Haggerty

Hands Off is the third in the Love in the Suburbs series, but I did not enjoy it as much as the previous two. I found the character of Roman Cadwell to be a bit two-dimensional; I can’t quite put my finger on it but something was missing. There was too much emphasis on Roman’s wealth and not enough on his character. He just didn’t convince me that he was a real person, and at times he was overly forceful; he was aptly described as a ‘bulldozer’ at one point. This was not a problem in the first two books where the characters came across as very believable.

Bailey seemed to be unable to forgive herself for what had been a genuine error of judgement; she put up a bit too much resistance, once the truth had been uncovered, to the idea of dating Roman even though they were really attracted to each other.

Frankie’s grandma was her usual delightful self, determined to bring Bailey and Roman together no matter what. I imagine it would not be so much fun being on the receiving end of her matchmaking. I liked the strand where Bailey got to know her father; it was sad that it had taken so long for them to find each other. What a piece of work her mother was – I don’t want to give anything away, but I don’t understand how anyone could treat their own daughter that way?

While you could read this as a standalone, it would be a much more rewarding experience to start at the beginning, and I’m glad I did. The next in the series, Knee Deep, is Luke and Violet’s story, and I’m very much looking forward to finding out what happened to make them so antagonistic towards each other. Thanks to the author for a copy that I review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team. #RBRT #HandsOff #DEHaggerty  

Beyond the Point by Damien Boyd

Beyond the Point by Damien Boyd

The opening section of Beyond the Point is a continuation of the story in the previous book, Deadlock. I have read all the books in this series, but even so had to rack my brains to remember what had happened in a book I had read over a year ago (I cottoned on eventually). Some reviewers have even had to go back and read Deadlock again. This is a minor quibble, but might be off-putting for a reader who is new to the Nick Dixon books.

As always, the main investigation is a complex one that requires Nick and his team to delve back into old cases until the motive becomes clear. A lot of the action takes place in the unusual setting of the construction site for a new power station (Hinkley Point C). This is a restricted area and further complicates the investigation, bringing Nick Dixon into conflict with senior officers. Like most other fictional detectives of his rank, he does not have a lot of time for his media-conscious, budget-obsessed superiors, but does not let it hold him back from doing what he needs to do.

Another thread to this gripping story is the poisoning of Dixon’s dog, Monty; as if he did not have enough to contend with. As regular readers will know, Dixon’s favourite way to wind down, and think about the case he’s working on, is to take Monty for a walk on the beach at the end of a long hard day. Nevertheless, he manages to stay focussed on the case as he waits for news of Monty.

Beyond the Point is the ninth book to feature Nick Dixon and his colleagues; one of the reasons I really like reading a series like this is that you are already familiar with the team of detectives, you don’t have to spend time becoming acquainted with them, and you can just jump straight into the story.

The Somerset countryside plays a large part in these books and, if made into a TV series, would surely do for the tourist industry there what the books by Ann Cleeves have done for Shetland and Northumbria. As I didn’t read this immediately when it first came out, there is not long to wait now for the next in the series, Down Among the Dead. I hope there will be many more books in this series.