Voices of the Dead by Ambrose Parry

Voices of the Dead by Ambrose Parry

Set in Edinburgh in 1853, Voices of the Dead is the fourth book to feature Dr Will Raven and Sara Fisher. Body parts have been found in various locations around the city, and Will has been helping with the investigation into their identity. Meanwhile, Sara is learning to use Mesmerism, hoping it will prove helpful alongside traditional medicine. It could be a way for her to extend her skills as she is frustrated at not being able to undergo medical training simply because she is female. Is her ambition blinding her to what Will and Dr Simpson can already see?

The two plots strands run separately for most of the book, but gradually merge towards the end as everything falls into place. Various themes are explored throughout the narrative, especially those with a theatrical connection, such as sleight of hand, misdirection, illusion and disguise. A lot of the characters are not what they seem, or are pretending to be.

The skillful story telling incorporates real people and historical research into the narrative, while still ensuring the readers will be thoroughly entertained. At the heart of this series are Will and Sara – their relationship continually evolves and changes but holds everything together. In Voices of the Dead, unlike in the previous books, Dr Simpson is absent for much of the story, leaving Will and Sara as the main focus. Will is faced with a moral dilemma that would solve his financial problems, but we see how far he has come by the decision that he makes.

Victorian Edinburgh is almost a character in its own right, as the atmospheric descriptions immerse the reader in the sights, sounds and smells of Auld Reekie. This was a time of great change and progress, and Ambrose Parry (husband and wife team Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman) really bring it to life. I particularly enjoyed the stories of Gregor and The Great Kimble – they were good examples of characters who were not what they initially appeared to be. I have loved all the books in this series and they just keep getting better and better. Thanks to Canongate and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.

The Conspirators by GW Shaw

The Conspirators by GW Shaw

Jacob Meaney’s girlfriend has given him an ultimatum – find £20,000 towards the deposit on a flat or their relationship is over. He is a translator with a gift for languages, and this is what brings the mysterious Eloise into his life. She makes him an offer that would help solve his money problems, but just what would he be getting himself into – if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Transported by private jet and helicopter to a remote luxury villa in Austria, Jacob soon realises all is not what it first appears. The villa belongs to Myroslav Bondarenko, head of a Russian organised crime gang engaged in selling illegal drugs on the internet, and Jacob is now cut off from the outside world as they have taken his passport and mobile phone. Due to the unusual combination of languages he speaks, they want him to help communicate with new suppliers in India.

Unusually for a story like this, Jacob is just an average man trying to escape from a dangerous situation. He does not have a military background or special training, but must rely on his wits and intelligence. He is completely out of his element and does not know who to trust, but his language skills give him an edge. This standalone thriller, from the author of the DI Alex Cupidi detective series, is in no way predictable, as just when you think you know what is going on, everything is turned on its head. The characters are believable, the plot is complicated and requires you to suspend disbelief in certain places. There is a lot of double-crossing and violence, but this is mitigated by humour and great descriptions of the Austrian landscape. I am a fan of William Shaw’s writing, and really enjoyed this unusual contemporary thriller where intelligence wins over violence every time. Great ending that ties up all the loose ends. Thanks to Quercus and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.

The Girl on the Boat by JD Wood

The Girl on the Boat by JD Wood

The Girl on the Boat is listed as the first book in the Cal and Sofie series, but this is a bit misleading. It is actually the first half of a two-part story which concludes in Don’t Look Down. It is better to know this before you start reading as it will be less confusing. The plot is complicated, but in simple terms it concerns a pharmaceutical company, Cambridge Bio, founded by MP Walter Crane, and an illegal drug trial. Crane has aspirations to become leader of his party, something the Russians are also working behind the scenes to facilitate. Sofie’s dad, who was participating in the drug trial, died six months previously in what was presumed to be an accident. Sofie’s journalist friend Kate is investigating the drug company and plants the seed of doubt that draws Sofie into this dangerous conspiracy.

The story is told from both Sofie and Cal’s perspective, with additional sections from other characters, so the reader gets a rounded picture of what is going on and knows more than either Sofie or Cal. Of the two, I found Cal more believable than Sofie. I don’t know if this was a case of a male writer not creating a convincing female protagonist, but I really did not take to Sofie at all. Hopefully, the next part of the story will change my opinion.  Apart from a short conversation near the beginning, Cal and Sofie do not meet properly until almost the end of The Girl on the Boat. In books like this there would normally be a lot more interaction between the main characters earlier in the narrative. This is a promising debut thriller from JD Wood, though he has written in other genres, and I look forward to reading the conclusion to Sofia and Cal’s adventure. I read this as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT

Anyone but the Boss by Sara L Hudson

Anyone but the Boss by Sara L Hudson

Alice works as a visual merchandiser in the luxury store owned by Thomas Moore and his family in New York. Thomas is attracted to Alice, but won’t admit it to himself as she is his employee and he does not wish to take advantage of his position. Due to his upbringing, Thomas is lacking in social skills and can’t express his feelings so Alice believes he does not like her because of the way he behaves.

Anyone but the Boss is really a book of two halves. The first half of the book concerns the upcoming Elvis-themed wedding of Thomas’s brother Chase in Las Vegas. Several of the store staff are making the trip, and I may be in a minority here but I found the humour a bit juvenile. In fact, I almost stopped reading at this point. The morning after the wedding, Alice and Thomas wake up in bed together, wearing matching rings, with no memory of what went on the night before. What is the likelihood that they would believe they had got married, without further investigation, but you just have to go along with it for the rest of the story to make sense.

I much preferred the second part of the storyline when Alice and Thomas take over parenting duties for Mary who has been abandoned by her mother (Alice’s foster sister). Mary is a delightful child who wins Thomas over and enables him to loosen up and show how kind he is underneath his stern exterior. Thomas’s mother Emily’s reaction to Mary is also a revelation – we see a completely different side to her. All that’s needed to complete the picture is a hairless cat with a bad attitude.

The story is told from the point of view of both Alice and Thomas so we get a rounded picture of what is going on. The characters are well written and believable, and develop as the story goes on. Naturally there is a lot of humour or everything might have seemed a bit dark. This is the second book in a series and I have not read the first one, but I don’t think it really mattered. Thanks to Boldwood Books and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.

The Plus One by Mazey Eddings

The Plus One by Mazey Eddings

Indira has just fled to her older brother Collin’s house, along with her cat, after finding her boyfriend Chris in a compromising position. To make matters worse, her brother’s childhood friend Jude is also staying there in the run up to Collin and Jeremy’s wedding. Indira, Collin and Jude grew up together, but she and Jude have never really got on. The extended wedding celebrations mean that Jude and Indira will both be faced with difficult situations they would rather avoid, so they agree to be each others ‘fake date’ for the duration. As they have an extensive backstory, and know each other a lot better than people who have just met, this changes the dynamics.

Jude is suffering from PTSD due to having spent the last three years working as a trauma surgeon in conflict zones and disaster areas all over the world. To put it mildly, he is in a bad way. Indira is a psychiatrist and while she offers support and suggests that he needs help, she does not act as his therapist. This strand of the narrative is dealt with in a sensitive manner, and the serious nature of Jude’s condition is offset by humour. Indira is also working through some issues of her own relating to her father leaving when she was very young. This is not a light-hearted rom-com; the main characters are damaged emotionally, but they do grow and change as the story progresses.

The Plus One is the third book in the series ‘A Brush with Love’ by Mazey Eddings. I have not read any of the others, but it made no difference as I found The Plus One worked fine as a standalone. Characters from the other books do make an appearance, but I was more interested in Jude and Indira’s story. This will definitely not be the last book I read by Mazey Eddings. Thanks to Headline Eternal and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.