A Song For The Dying

a song for the dying

A Song For The Dying
by Stuart MacBride

A heart-stopping crime thriller and the fourth consecutive No. 1 Bestseller from the author of the Logan McRae series and Birthdays for the Dead.

He’s back…

Eight years ago, ‘The Inside Man’ murdered four women and left three more in critical condition – all of them with their stomachs slit open and a plastic doll stitched inside.

And then the killer just … disappeared.

Ash Henderson was a Detective Inspector on the initial investigation, but a lot can change in eight years. His family has been destroyed, his career is in tatters, and one of Oldcastle’s most vicious criminals is making sure he spends the rest of his life in prison.

Now a nurse has turned up dead on a patch of waste ground, a plastic doll buried beneath her skin, and it looks as if Ash might finally get a shot at redemption. At earning his freedom.

At revenge.

I have not read any Stuart MacBride books before, I don’t quite know how I’ve managed that but there you have it. Also I didn’t realise that this was the second in a series; Birthdays for the Dead being the first. However, you don’t need to read them in order, this book works perfectly as a stand-alone.

D.I. Ash Henderson has been in prison for two years, framed for murder by a vicious gangster. He only gets released when Police Scotland needs his help in trying to catch a serial killer that got away from them eight years previously.

I have to say that although Ash Henderson is a hard-bitten, aggressive, violent man, whose answer to anyone who crosses him is to wrap the nearest object around their heads: I absolutely loved him. He just seemed so real. Having Alice, police psychologist, with him throughout was a masterstroke. She brings out a softer side in him, but it is just slightly softer, not sentimental. I can’t decide if he looks on Alice as his girlfriend or the daughter that he has lost. Whichever, he is very protective of her.

Alice herself we don’t really find out too much about her other than she is a psychcologist, she wears red shoes and she twiddles her hair a lot. I would love to see her further developed in future books if possible.

This book is packed with characters, some of them extremely unsavoury, these are not characters that you would want to meet on a dark night; nor in broad daylight come to that. Mrs Kerrigan, Ash’s nemesis, is utterly vile. William McFee, the preacher, whose God is straight out of the Old Testament, is not much better but he works so well. As do they all.

This is a grim book with lots of gruesome violence but there is still a lot of humour to be found and it is very well done. I particularly liked Ash’s internal dialogues.

Macbride has such a flair for language, his description of place and mood of setting are so effective, Scotland in all its hard-bitten granite glory just smacks you in the face.

I have never read a Stuart MacBride book before but I will certainly be rectifying that now.
*****

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A Poker Game Of Love

poker game of love

A Poker Game Of Love
by Alice Walsh

Not all stories end with a ‘happily-ever-after’, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth telling … Because every romance happens for a reason … Even the most dysfunctional ones …

‘A Poker Game of Love’ is an in-depth look at the assorted humiliations, frequent disappointments and hard-earned triumphs (often at the expense of someone’s downfall) of a group of people in their late 20s, struggling to make it through life. Following the subtle change of roles, expectations and limits in relationships that are far from what they seem at first, the book explores the way people’s darker urges, insecurities, vanity and need for validation dictate and shape their lives.

With wry humour Alice Walsh explores the powerful driving force of female sexuality and the way it can be used to manipulate and subdue. Witness a deep and compelling story of dysfunctionality, promiscuity, emotional unavailability and the ultimate gift of learning to let go and move on from past mistakes.

In a world, where every date is a gamble and every relationship is a poker game of love – one of the players will have to outmanoeuvre all the rest to come out as the undeniable winner at the cost of anything. Because all is fair in love and war…

This is a character driven novel which portrays the deviousness of the human mind so well. It is raw and disturbing.

The two main characters, Sylvia and James, have known each other for many years and have an ongoing sexual relationship. James has ripped the heart out of Sylvia and turned her into an emotional robot, just like himself.
When Sylvia finds herself a man and a lifestyle that she wants, the game of one upmanship begins.

Sylvia is out to play James, but James, for all his ego, really doesn’t have a clue. He is emotionally stunted in every possible way. Whether this is because of a former girlfriend, only known as Her or She, or his obnoxious father we can only guess at. Probably a mixture of the two. His thought processes and reasoning are highly disturbing, not just for his girlfriend, Karen, but also for himself.

Sylvia is battle-hardened because of James and sees men, women and all relationships as a means to an end. She manages to have men falling at her feet despite not being particularly attractive (by her own admission), being four foot eight inches tall and having size eleven feet. The image this creates is not one of a femme fatale but Sylvia is able to work it well.

Karen, James’ girlfriend, gets caught up in James life and deserves none of it. But the destructive relationship between the two really is car crash viewing/reading and totally compelling.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, if enjoyed is the right word. The characters are mostly awful, but brilliantly awful. It really makes you stop and think. The horrible truth is that there is absolutely no way you can ever know what is going on in someone else’s mind no matter how well you think you know them.
****

Many thanks to Alice Walsh, the author, for sending me a copy.

The First Time We Met

first time we met

The First Time We Met
by Pippa Croft

The First Time We Met is the first novel in the sizzling new Oxford Blue romance series from Pippa Croft.
Lauren and Alexander’s journey continues in The Second Time I Saw You and Third Time Lucky.
When US Senator’s daughter Lauren Cusack arrives at the enchanting Wyckham College of Oxford University, she hopes to mend her broken heart by throwing herself into her studies.
But then English aristocrat Alexander Hunt walks into her life and everything changes. Handsome, brooding, and with his own dark past to escape, Alexander is exactly what Lauren doesn’t need – but she finds herself helplessly drawn towards him.
Both Alexander and Lauren know that they should stay away from each other . . . but sometimes desire is so powerful that it conquers all else.
The First Time We Met is the first novel in Pippa Croft’s Oxford Blue Series.

I have read quite a few books in this genre and know what to expect. However I just couldn’t get on with this one. There was nothing happening. Lauren Cusack, over from America, studying at Oxford, meets Alexander hunt, aristocratic Englishman, also studying at Oxford. They are immediately drawn to each other and get together. That is it, until the final chapters when the author creates some tension with the introduction of the obnoxious ex-girlfriend.

The character of Alexander did nothing to fire the imagination, he is no Christian Grey or Jesse Ward. He just didn’t develop at all. By the end of the book all I knew about him was; he is six foot three, he is in the army and he doesn’t get on with his father. His personality did not come through at all.

There is the start of a storyline with Professor Rafe, the lecherous lecturer who touches Lauren, and others, inappropriately. but then she tells us she had a word with him and he stopped. There are no scenes depicting this we are just told. I always thought the first rule of writing was show don’t tell. The first rule of this book is make sure it can be stretched to three books, and herein lies the problem. Trilogies are fine, but trilogies for the sake of it are not. Why not just write the book infront of you? If you find you have scope for further development, fine. But writing a book just to introduce some characters for the next book is, in my opinion, insulting to the reader spending hard earned money buying these books.
*

Thanks to the publishers who kindly sent me a copy via Netgalley.

The One Plus One

the one plus one

The One Plus One
by Jojo Moyes

The One Plus One is the beautiful, poignant and utterly compelling new novel by the internationally bestselling author Jojo Moyes.

One single mum

With two jobs and two children, Jess Thomas does her best day after day. But it’s hard on your own. And sometimes you take risks you shouldn’t. Because you have to . . .

One chaotic family

Jess’s gifted, quirky daughter Tanzie is brilliant with numbers, but without a helping hand she’ll never get the chance to shine. And Nicky, Jess’s teenage stepson, can’t fight the bullies alone.

Sometimes Jess feels like they’re sinking . . .

One handsome stranger

Into their lives comes Ed Nicholls, a man whose life is in chaos, and who is running from a deeply uncertain future. But he has time on his hands. He knows what it’s like to be lonely. And he wants to help . . .

One unexpected love story

The One Plus One is a captivating and unconventional romance from Jojo Moyes about two lost souls meeting in the most unlikely circumstances

I have only read one book by Jojo Moyes before and that was Ship of Brides which I enjoyed, so when I saw this book and realised it was the same author I decided to give it a go. Am I ever glad I did. It is so enjoyable, full of wit and warmth but also in parts so very sad. If you can get through chapter 22 without your heart breaking I fear you may not have one.

The characters are so beautifully drawn that you just feel that you know them so well. Jess is mother to two children, her daughter Tanzie who is a mathematical genius and Nicky her step-son who is out of step with the rest of the world and being badly bullied for it. Jess is poverty stricken, trying to hold down two jobs that barely feed the family and trying to raise money to see Tanzie into a private school in the hope that she won’t be bullied like Nicky.

Enter Mr Nicholls (Ed), he fortuitously finds himself in a position to take the family to Scotland where Tanzie hopes to win a maths competition. Ed’s life is already in turmoil after finding himself unwittingly at the centre of an insider trading scandal and potentially facing jail. Ed is pre-occupied with his own problems but he’s a good guy and Jess’s warmth and optimism and over-riding love for her kids takes him out of himself.

The journey up to Scotland is both funny and tragic. Jess and Ed find themselves caught up in a budding romance which is lovely and warm but it’s the children who steal the show. Nicky especially with his geeky goth ways, he grows so much throughout the book.

The last word has to go to Norman, the family’s enormous, drooling, flatulent, loyal, loveable dog. This book wouldn’t be the same without him.

I loved this book and I will probably read it again which I don’t say very often.
****1\2

Trust In Me

trust in me

Trust In Me
by Sophie mcKenzie

The bestselling author of Close My Eyes returns with a chilling psychological thriller. Julia has always been the friend that Livy turns to when life is difficult. United fifteen years ago by grief at the brutal murder of Livy’s sister, Kara, they’ve always told each other everything. Or so Livy thought. So when Julia is found dead in her home, Livy cannot come to terms with the news that she chose to end her own life. The Julia that Livy knew was vibrant and vivacious, a far cry from the selfish neurotic that her family seem determined to paint her as. Troubled by doubt but alone in her suspicions, Livy sets out to prove that Julia was in fact murdered. But little does she realise that digging into her best friend’s private life will cause her to question everything she thought she knew about Julia. And the truth that Livy discovers will tear the very fabric of her own life apart.

When Livy finds her best friend Julia dead at home, her world is turned upside down. Everyone believes Julia has committed suicide. Everyone except Livy and Julia’s boyfriend, Damian. Together they try to find clues to prove that Julia was murdered. This leads them to a very dark place, where the murder of Livy’s sister, 15 years earlier, is connected to Julia’s death.

I found the book gripping. There are lots of good characters, especially Livy, whose life was already in turmoil before the discovery of her best friend’s body. As the story progresses her sense of isolation becomes palpable. She can trust no-one, not even her husband, who has betrayed her in the past. She certainly can’t turn to her daughter for comfort as her behaviour, for a 12 year old, has to be the worst ever seen.

I did guess who the culprit was quite early on, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book as I couldn’t piece everything together.

A very good thriller which was hard to put down.
****

Thanks to the publisher, Simon & Schuster, for sending me a copy via netgalley.