- Published: 18 July 2023 18 July 2023
The White Knight is Scott Mariani’s twenty-seventh Ben Hope adventure in a series that just keeps going from strength to strength. I have to keep reminding myself that this character is not real as he comes to life on the page. Ben Hope usually works best alone, but this time the problem is too big for one man to solve. I really enjoyed that Jeff, Tuesday, and Jaden Wolf came to assist their old friend and would not take no for an answer.
Auguste Kaprisky has always been there for Ben ever since he rescued Auguste’s grand-niece Valentina and her father from Russia in The Moscow Cipher. Auguste’s estate has been attacked leaving nearly everyone dead and Auguste in a coma. Valentina calls in the only person she trusts. Ben has to put on his detective hat, but is soon dodging bullets left, right and centre as the people behind the massacre do their best to eliminate him.
They are up against a shadowy, all-powerful organisation called the Forum whose plan is too heinous to contemplate and must be stopped. This fast-paced, thrilling adventure takes Ben all over the world in pursuit of clues that ultimately lead to a showdown in Lake Balaton in Hungary. There is more of an emphasis on action in this book rather than historical background as in some of the others. Once you start reading it is very difficult to stop and you just have to read one more chapter. I loved every minute of this high-octane thriller and look forward to The Tudor Deception later in the year. I hope Scott Mariani continues to write the Ben Hope books for many years to come.
- Published: 17 July 2023 17 July 2023
Having enjoyed her previous book A Flicker in the Dark, I was keen to read the latest release from Stacy Willingham, All the Dangerous Things, and I was not disappointed. Isabelle Drake is in a very dark place – it is a year since her infant son Mason was snatched from his cot while she and her husband slept, and the police are no nearer to finding him. She has not been able to sleep since it happened, and this is having a disastrous effect on her mental health. She is struggling to tell what is real and what is not, does not trust her memories and we don’t either. She has been speaking in public to keep the case in the public domain, and even though she knows people think she is to blame she feels it’s worth putting herself through the ordeal. She is alone and does not know who she can trust. Her marriage to Ben has broken up, as often happens in cases like this, not helped by his opinion that she should have got over it and moved on. His behaviour rings alarm bells right from the start, even before we know anything about his past.
The characters are well written though flawed and not particularly likeable, including Isabelle, but I did empathise with her situation and what she was going through. In All the Dangerous Things, the author explores some very dark themes relating to the expectations society places on women and mothers, the guilt they feel, and emphasises that no one is perfect, we all make mistakes. The sinister atmosphere is enhanced by a lot of the scenes taking place at night, in the dark.
The story is told entirely from Isabelle’s perspective, alternately between the present and when she was a child. The trauma of her son going missing has brought back memories from her past, and she has to confront what she thought had happened to her sister Margaret all those years ago. I was gripped by this heartbreaking story, despite it being overly descriptive in places, and stayed up way too late to finish it. Thanks to HarperCollins and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.
- Published: 12 July 2023 12 July 2023
I started reading The Close not knowing that it was the tenth book in the Maeve Kerrigan series, but it did not matter as the quality of the writing drew me in and kept me turning the pages. Events from previous books are hinted at, but did not interrupt the flow of the story. The good news is that I also have another nine books in this excellent series to look forward to.
Investigating the suspicious death of a vulnerable young man, Maeve and DI Josh Derwent go undercover as house and dog sitters in the same street where the victim lived before he disappeared. On the surface, Jellicoe Close seems to be a quiet, peaceful neighbourhood, but soon the cracks begin to appear. A real feeling of menace develops as everyone seems to have something to hide. Maeve and Josh are under a lot of stress as they have to keep up the front of being a couple while trying to make headway with their covert operation.
We mostly get the story from Maeve’s point of view, so can only guess what everyone else is thinking. Every now and again there are short sections from the perspective of an unknown male that ramp up the tension – the voice is really creepy and just about every male character in the book is under suspicion at one point or another.
Obviously it was not ideal to start this late in a series, but I never found it a problem due to Jane Casey’s excellent writing. I really liked Maeve Kerrigan and look forward to starting at the beginning of her story. Thanks to HarperCollins UK and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.
- Published: 16 July 2023 16 July 2023
Set in Yorkshire, this is a story of childhood friends reconnecting, after having lost touch for many years, and deciding to buy a house together. The house in question, Oak Tree Cottage, is in a bit of a state, to put it mildly, but Freya and Charlie are both so desperate to get a foot on the property ladder that they are prepared to take the risk. The descriptions of the renovation are so realistic you feel like you need a bath just reading about it. They could not have realised exactly what they were taking on or they would have run a mile. The pitfalls and steep learning curve required are completely convincing.
While I enjoyed Her Fixer Upper, I do have reservations. Freya and Charlie are opposites in that she loves a spreadsheet and a list, and he is fairly relaxed and easy going. They are good for each other as he encourages her to be more spontaneous, and she makes him want to improve himself. As we only get the story from Freya’s point of view, we have no idea what Charlie is thinking or doing – neither does Freya – and this leads to serious misunderstandings that slow the pace of the narrative as they go on for a bit too long in my view. I found it harder to warm to Freya as she was such a control freak. The way he was written, Charlie seemed a bit immature at times, considering he ran a successful business, which is why I would have liked some idea of what he was thinking. The romance element is fairly low key and not really the main focus of the story.
I liked the setting in the Yorkshire countryside, and the supporting characters of Freya’s friend Leila, her grandad Arthur, and his dog Ted whose antics definitely stole the show. I had not read anything by Emily Kerr before, but now plan to catch up and read her previous books. Thanks to One More Chapter and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.
- Published: 06 July 2023 06 July 2023
Fresh out of prison, and forced to take refuge with the fairground family he previously rejected, Scott Jericho is in a bad way. He is existing rather than living. His former boss tries to interest him in some of the cases he is working on, but nothing seems to reach him. When he is approached by the mysterious Professor Campbell about a bizarre series of seemingly unconnected ritualistic murders that recall a 150-year-old legend linked to the Jericho Travelling Fair, he is compelled to investigate.
This wonderfully unusual book stands out in the crime fiction genre. The main character is gay, but this is not the main focus of the book, it is just who he happens to be. We gain insight into the traveller way of life, including the unique patois spoken by the fairground people. In addition to the main story, the theme of prejudice in modern society runs through the narrative, often linked to the person Scott believed was responsible for the deaths of three young children when he was a police officer, and who is still a troublesome presence in his life.
Lincolnshire author William Hussey has written about what he knows. His background as a gay man brought up in a travelling fairground gives the story authenticity. His knowledge of the history, folklore and culture of fairground people is used to good effect. Scott Jericho is a flawed character, but not in the usual cliched ways. He doesn’t really fit in anywhere – the traveller community mistrust him because he was a police officer, and he is viewed with suspicion both because he is a traveller and has been in jail. This gives him a unique perspective. This is the first book I have read by William Hussey, but it won’t be the last as I am looking forward to reading more books in this series. Thanks to Zaffre and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review Killing Jericho.