The Couple Next Door

the couple next door


The Couple Next Door

by Shari Lapena


You never know what’s happening on the other side of the wall.

Your neighbour told you that she didn’t want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn’t stand her crying.

Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door. You’ll have the baby monitor and you’ll take it in turns to go back every half hour.

Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last. But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She’s gone.

You’ve never had to call the police before. But now they’re in your home, and who knows what they’ll find there.

What would you be capable of, when pushed past your limit?


Marco and Anne are invited to the neighbours for drinks. When the babysitter cancels, Anne wants to stay at home, but Marco convinces her that taking the baby monitor next door and checking on Cora every 30 minutes will be fine. But when they get home at the end of a very long night; the baby is gone.

During the investigation that follows, the parents come under increasing suspician and have no way of proving their innocence – if they really are.

I found this book very different to the usual psychological thriller. The story is told from three main  viewpoints; Marco’s, Anne’s and Detective Rasbach. It is totally focussed on the kidnapping and possible murder of baby Cora. There are no side stories and no great sense of place (I spent most of the book fighting the feeling that it was set in the UK). There is an almost documentary style feel to the storytelling and it makes for an incredibly tense book. Even a major disclosure halfway through, does nothing to lessen the tension.

There is only a small cast of suspects and the author cleverly draws out their traits of greed, selfishness, deceit and irresponsibility as well as suffering, heartbreak and remorse. You cannot be sure of anyone; even the title of the book gives the wrong impression.

This is a brilliant debut novel. To take a small cast of characters and create tension that lasts the duration of the book is something special.

Shari Lapena is one to watch.

Many thanks to the publishers Transworld for sending me a fabulously wrapped book.


Copies of The Couple Next Door are on sale at Urmston Bookshop  tel:0161 747 7442 email:





With Our Blessing

with our blessing



With Our Blessing

by Jo Spain


It’s true what they say . . . revenge is sweet. 1975. A baby, minutes old, is forcibly taken from its devastated mother. 2010. The body of an elderly woman is found in a Dublin public park in the depths of winter.
Detective Inspector Tom Reynolds is working the case. He’s convinced the murder is linked to historical events that took place in the notorious Magdalene Laundries. Reynolds and his team follow the trail to an isolated convent in the Irish countryside. But once inside, it becomes disturbingly clear that the killer is amongst them . . . and is determined to exact further vengeance for the sins of the past.


An elderly woman is found murdered in a Dublin park. Tom Reynolds and his team head over to Limerick and an isolated convent where the finger of suspician is pointing. The murdered woman was universally hated; but was it one of her colleagues who murdered her, or does the crime involve revenge dating back 35 years?

I really enjoyed the lead detective, Tom Reynolds, he is a likeable man and in a genre that is packed with troubled detectives battling their inner demons, Tom is a refreshing change. He reminded me of his namesake in Midsomer Murders, happily married with one daughter and with normal everyday family worries.

Tom worked well with his team and there was a good mix of humour and gravitas. All the characters were well-developed and their relationships with each other felt natural. I am looking forward to meeting them again in future books and watching them grow.

At the heart of the story is the Magdalene Laundries, which were rife in Ireland in quite recent times, and Jo Spain does a quite brilliant job of exposing the sheer cruelty of the people that ran these institutions and the devastating effects that they had on the young women that were sent there. But she does this in a fair and balanced way; acknowledging that there were some nuns who did not agree with what was going on and tried their best to protect the girls. But the overwhelming power that those in charge wielded meant most of their efforts were futile.

The setting of the book in a convent in rural Ireland is extremely atmospheric and gives an Agatha Christie style closed room mystery. I have to say that I did guess the culprit quite early on but this didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book at all. After all you can never be sure you’re right and this book is much more than the sum of its parts.

The narrative drive was excellent, the plot racing along feverishly, taking twists and turns aplenty. This really is a cracking good new detective series with a lot of depth and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

Many thanks to the author for providing me with a copy.

To purchase a copy of With Our Blessing click here

Or if you are based in or around Manchester give us a call at Urmston Bookshop on 0161 747 7442 and we will get a copy for you.




Keith Nixon – The Corpse Role Blog Tour

the corpse role

Today I hand the blog over to Keith Nixon on the penultimate day of his blog tour for The Corpse Role. To read the review click here.

keith Nixon

Keith Nixon has been writing since he was a child. In fact some of his friends (& his wife) say he’s never really grown up. Keith is currently gainfully employed in a senior sales role meaning he gets to use his one skill, talking. Keith writes crime and historical fiction novels. His crime work is published by leading indie house Caffeine Nights.

My Ideas and the writing process…
Usually the idea for a book comes from a single point, one thought that at the time seems like it could be interesting. The challenge is then to turn this one kernel into a living, breathing set of characters and narrative. Overall writing a book is a bit like building a structure, adding bits, taking bits away, sometimes knocking the whole thing down and starting again. One idea tends to lead to another…

In The Corpse Role this idea was … well, I can’t say as that will give the twist away at the end! Sorry. I also wanted to explore a new genre for me, police procedural – I’ve written in humour, crime and historical fiction genres previously. So, the next stage was to build a case for the lead detective, DI Charlotte Granger, to follow. Here it was a security van robbery and the fallout that ensued after the event. The corpse of the van driver turns up in a shallow grave, two years after he went missing. The story is written from two perspectives, past and present – the robbery and the investigation, with the timelines joining at the end. Again, I’d love to say more, but it’ll give stuff away.

I started writing The Corpse Role around April 2014, commuting up to Manchester from Broadstairs for a new job. I had some time in the evenings and the novel began to take shape. I finished it in January this year, however in between I did take the odd break to move house (twice), some major and minor work on two other novels, review books for two websites, keep up the day job and the family. Between then and now activity on Corpse itself was getting beta feedback, having the novel edited, a cover designed and getting it out. It’s surprising how time consuming this can be.

It tends to take me at least six months to write a book. The crime novels take less time, primarily because the research required is less than the historical fiction stuff, which is just the opposite as they require massive investigation and understanding. I like to ensure the facts are accurate, but the most important task is to tell a story that holds the reader’s interest.

So far the response to The Corpse Role has been very good, the masterful Ken Bruen provided a cover blurb! He’s a top man. So the genre move wasn’t a bad idea…

Follow the blog tour: next stop is

Thanks to Liz and keith for having me as part of this blog tour.

The Shut Eye

the shut eye

The Shut Eye
by Belinda Bauer

Five footprints are the only sign that Daniel Buck was ever here.

And now they are all his mother has left.

Every day, Anna Buck guards the little prints in the cement. Polishing them to a shine. Keeping them safe. Spiralling towards insanity.

When a psychic offers hope, Anna grasps it. Who wouldn’t? Maybe he can tell her what happened to her son…

But is this man what he claims to be? Is he a visionary? A shut eye? Or a cruel fake, preying on the vulnerable?

Or is he something far, far worse?

A young child has disappeared. Anna and James Buck are the child’s parents, and we watch Anna’s descent into almost madness and James trying his best to understand her and cope with his own grief.

Anna’s desperation has her turning to a psychic for help. This psychic has already been involved in another missing child investigation and Detective John Marvel is not impressed. Since Edie Evans went missing John Marvel has been haunted by her, he can’t find her and he doesn’t want charlatans like Richard Latham getting involved.

What a brilliant character John Marvel is, he can be impossibly rude and a little bit arrogant, he’s certainly not perfect, but who is? He is, however, wonderfully human and I would love to meet him again in future books.

That is one of Belinda Bauer’s strengths, her characters have so much depth, even the peripheral ones have so much to offer.

Her other strength is humour. In the face of unspeakable grief you find yourself laughing out loud: Marvel trying to locate a missing dog springs to mind. But she hold your emotions in the palm of her hand and she tugs on them at will.

When I read Rubberneckers I knew I was in the hands of someone special and that is vindicated in The Shut Eye. I highly recommend this book.

Many thanks to the publishers and netgalley for sending me a copy.

The Murder Bag

The Murder Bag

The Murder Bag
by Tony Parsons

Twenty years ago seven rich, privileged students became friends at their exclusive private school, Potter’s Field. Now they have started dying in the most violent way imaginable.

Detective Max Wolfe has recently arrived in the Homicide division of London’s West End Central, 27 Savile Row.

Soon he is following the bloody trail from the backstreets and bright lights of the city, to the darkest corners of the internet and all the way to the corridors of power.

As the bodies pile up, Max finds the killer’s reach getting closer to everything – and everyone – he loves.

Soon he is fighting not only for justice, but for his own life…

Hugo Buck, an investment banker, is found with his throat cut open in gruesome fashion. Then a homeless man, Adam Jones, is murdered in the same way. At first it looks as if they have nothing in common until the same photograph of seven students at an exclusive private school turns up in each of the men’s possessions. As the other students in the photograph are being picked off and murdered Detective Max Wolfe has to find the killer..and soon.

This book started off so well with the prologue depicting the murder of a young woman which is both shocking and disturbing. If the rest of the book had concentrated on the crime it would have made a much better book. Tony Parsons usual fare is based on relationships, so I suppose it’s fairly natural for him to want to include a lot of his detective’s relationships in this book. Unfortunately the relationships are wholly sentimental and do not work in the midst of a crime book. Whole chapters devoted to his daughter and their dog. Picking a fight with a man because he’s laughing at his dog. It was really wearing. I like some background on the protagonists, you need to get to know them but this was just mawkish sentimentality.

I also had a large problem with one aspect of his relationship with his wife. I don’t want to give any spoilers away but we are given information at the start of the book that strongly suggests one thing and your feelings are in accordance with what has been suggested. Then later on in the book it turns out that it is something else entirely and I was not impressed. I love twists and turns in a book but this was neither; I felt this was dishonest and the character was deceitful for no reason whatsoever. The issue had nothing to do with the crime and could easily have been set out honestly from the start. I lost any empathy I had and really couldn’t be bothered with Wolfe’s domestic situation after that. It may have bothered me more than it should but that’s the way it is.

I did enjoy the crime story. There was decent plotting and lots of real twists and turns that were well done. There was lots of research into police procedurals, which really didn’t all have to be transferred to the page: trying to find the knife used in the attacks was long-winded. The detail about The Black Museum, an actual museum of criminal artifacts in London, was really interesting.

Overall, the crime story was enjoyable but be aware there is a lot of background sentimentality and if you can cope with that it’s not a bad read.
I give it three stars but it’s probably nearer two and a half for me.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for sending me the copy.

The Safe Word

the safe word

The Safe Word
by Karen Long

There are rules that every player of every game must abide by, no matter how dangerous the sport.

Toronto has become the backdrop to a macabre set of artistic installations: women kidnapped, tortured and horrifically displayed by a killer with a vision.

Only someone capable of understanding the killer’s creative desire will be able to stop the murders and D I Eleanor Raven is uniquely qualified. Driven by a complex personality she pursues only the facts, only the things she can see, but never casts a judgement.

But she also has a dark and dangerous secret – one that will threaten her very survival.

The Safe Word is Karen Long’s debut novel and what a cracker it is. There is a serial killer who is killing women and leaving their bodies wrapped in plastic and on display D.I. Eleanor Raven and her team are tasked with bringing the killer to justice.

D.I.Eleanor raven is no ordinary detective, she announces herself at the start of this book in spectacular
fashion. I can’t think of another detective that has made their presence felt quite as strongly in the first chapter, but I live to be corrected. She has a secret and it’s a secret that she really wants to keep from her colleagues, but the killer’s modus operandi is a little too close for comfort.

I have to say that I really didn’t like Eleanor raven, but that’s not a criticism. I always think an author is doing his or her job well if I have strong feelings either way about a character. The supporting cast are wonderful with Laurence Whitefoot, Raven’s new partner, stealing the show for me.

If I have a small gripe, it is that I didn’t get much sense of place and I was confused with an accent which was coming through to me as English (the dropped Hs). I had to check where the novel was set.

Reading this book you really wouldn’t know it is a debut novel. It has a great plot and moves along at a fast pace with lots of twists and turns. The denouement was brilliant and very cleverly handled. I loved how the book finished.

I am looking forward to karen Long’s next book in the series which is already on my tbr pile.

Die Again


Die Again
by Tess Gerritsen

Detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles are back—and they’re going into the wild to find a killer. Die Again is the latest heart-pounding thriller in Tess Gerritsen’s New York Times bestselling series, the inspiration behind TNT’s hit show Rizzoli & Isles.

When Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles are summoned to a crime scene, they find a killing worthy of the most ferocious beast—right down to the claw marks on the corpse. But only the most sinister human hands could have left renowned big-game hunter and taxidermist Leon Gott gruesomely displayed like the once-proud animals whose heads adorn his walls. Did Gott unwittingly awaken a predator more dangerous than any he’s ever hunted?

Maura fears that this isn’t the killer’s first slaughter, and that it won’t be the last. After linking the crime to a series of unsolved homicides in wilderness areas across the country, she wonders if the answers might actually be found in a remote corner of Africa.

Six years earlier, a group of tourists on safari fell prey to a killer in their midst. Marooned deep in the bush of Botswana, with no means of communication and nothing but a rifle-toting guide for protection, the terrified tourists desperately hoped for rescue before their worst instincts—or the wild animals prowling in the shadows—could tear them apart. But the deadliest predator was already among them, and within a week, he walked away with the blood of all but one of them on his hands.

Now this killer has chosen Boston as his new hunting ground, and Rizzoli and Isles must find a way to lure him out of the shadows and into a cage. Even if it means dangling the bait no hunter can resist: the one victim who got away.

This is the eleventh book in the Rizzoli & Isles series. Having read all the previous ones and thoroughly enjoyed each and every one, I couldn’t wait to read Tess Gerritsen’s latest offering, and it does not disappoint.

This book is slightly different to the other books, in that the setting is not just the mean streets of Boston. Alternate chapters have us delving into the past, on safari in Botswana. These chapters are narrated by Millie Jacobson, who has gone on safari with her want-away boyfriend in the hope of re-igniting their relationship. Millie’s character is so powerful it almost overshadows the stars of the show; Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles. She transforms from meek and mild to having to cope with devastating events that rip through the members of the safari.

Tess Gerritsen’s descriptions of Africa; the raw danger coupled with its natural beauty are wonderful. She totally brings it all to life, whilst also having her say on some subjects that appear to be close to her heart.

Back in Boston, in the present day, we are re-united with old friends, and very welcome they are. The relationships of Rizzoli & Isles both with each other and their separate families are very human and are what raises these books above your average crime novel.

This time the duo are trying to solve the mystery of who is killing and gutting hunters. They believe they it could be connected to the safari six years previous and Millie Jacobson appears to be the link they are looking for.

Another great offering from Tess Gerritsen, kept me guessing throughout and great characters as usual. Highly recommended.

Many thanks to the publisher Ballantine books for sending me a copy via Netgalley.