Posts Tagged ‘Crime fiction’

Release Day Blitz: Random Acts Of Unkindness

In celebration of the release of her new novel, Random Acts Of Unkindness, Jacqueline Ward has permitted us to share a large extract to wet your appetite. NEW Random acts of unkindness v6How far would you go to find your child?
DS Jan Pearce has a big problem. Her fifteen year old son, Aiden, is missing. Jan draws together the threads of missing person cases spanning fifty years and finds tragic connections and unsolved questions.
Bessy Swain, an elderly woman that Jan finds dead on her search for Aiden, and whose own son, Thomas, was also missing, may have the answers.
Jan uses Bessy’s information and her own skills and instinct to track down the missing boys. But is it too late for Aiden?
Set in the North West of England, with the notorious Saddleworth Moor as a backdrop, Random Acts of Unkindness is a story about motherhood, love and loss and how families of missing people suffer the consequences of major crimes involving their loved ones.
Random Acts of Unkindness is the first in the DS Jan Pearce series of novels.



I look a little closer and instinctively back away.

Her eyes are hollow holes where the birds have pecked away at her skull and she’s covered in tiny soft feathers and greying bird shit. Fragments of silvered hair lie on her shoulders, pulled out at the roots and exposing pinprick follicles made bigger by beaks. Her mouth is set in a wry smile showing yellow teeth, as if somehow, despite the torn skin and the deeply painful twist of her body, she’s having the last laugh.

The shock is so deep that it hurts more than it should, and tears threaten as I gaze at her. A human life ending in such a terrible, lonely way. It hits me with sadness so intense that I take a moment to sit with her, to tell her broken shell of a body that someone cares. Then fear oozes through the sadness, pushing it under and reminding me of why I’m here. Where are you, Aiden? Where is my son?


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The Detectives Daughter

Lesley Thomson

detective's daughterKate Rokesmith’s decision to go to the river changed the lives of many. Her murder shocked the nation. Her husband never pressed charges and moved abroad under a cloud of suspicion. Her son, just four years old, grew up in a loveless boarding school. And Detective Inspector Darnell, vowing to leave no stone unturned in the search for her killer, began to lose his only daughter. The young Stella Darnell grew to resent the dead Kate Rokesmith for capturing her father’s attention in a way she never could.
Thirty years later, Stella is dutifully sorting through her father’s attic after his sudden death. The Rokesmith case papers are in a corner gathering dust: the case was never solved. Stella knows she should destroy them. Instead, she opens the box, and starts to read

As it says in the blurb this is the story of Stella taking on an unsolved murder mystery when her policeman father dies. The murder happened 30 years previously when Kate Rokesmith was killed by the river Thames in front of her 4 year old son, Johnathon Rokesmith, one summers day. DI Darnell was unable to solve the case and it has come to represent to Stella her father’s absence in her life due to his devotion to his job.

When Terry (DI Darnell) dies suddenly in a small seaside town Stella is forced to confront some of her feelings about him and their relationship. After finding the boxes with all the papers for the case and some hints that Terry was continuing to try and resolve it Stella can’t let it go. Then when she meets the enigmatic Jack Harmon and one of her clients (Stella runs a cleaning agency) dies in strange circumstances all sorts of ‘co-incidences’ come together to spur on Stella’s curiosity and involvement in the case.

This story has many twists and turns. It also has flashbacks to the time of the murder and what happened afterwards scattered through the novel. We get the information we need in bits and pieces to put together a picture of what happened that day and how that has impacted the present day. I really enjoyed this and the levels of suspense that it maintained. I also liked the way that often we have more information than Stella and can sometimes be one step ahead of her in the race to solve the case. Lesley manages to keep you guessing and wondering if your theories about what happened are actually right and to keep questioning the characters and how they are related.

I particularly enjoyed the fact that I did solve the mystery correctly, but I didn’t know if I was right until the end, consequently it was a book I found really difficult to put down, I definitely wanted to know what happened! Plus as the tale reached it’s climax I was gripped waiting to see if there would be another murder…

This is a page turner with a heart though as through the whole story there is Stella struggling to come to terms with losing a Dad she loved but wasn’t close to. The whole theme of loving and losing your parents as experienced by both Stella and Jonathon gives the novel a bigger emotional punch.

I definitely recommend this book.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Head Of Zeus
Publication Date: May 2013
Format: eBook
Pages: 480/1713KB
Genre: Crime
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge:British Book
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The Lovely Bones

Alice Sebold

the lovely bones 2012My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973. My murderer was a man from our neighborhood. My mother liked his border flowers, and my father talked to him once about fertilizer. This is Susie Salmon. Watching from heaven, Susie sees her happy, suburban family devastated by her death, isolated even from one another as they each try to cope with their terrible loss alone. Over the years, her friends and siblings grow up, fall in love, do all the things she never had the chance to do herself. But life is not quite finished with Susie yet . . .

Ok, confessions first, seeing as the story is triggered by a crime! I saw the film first, even though I’d been told continually how much better the book was. (Score 1 Hollywood) But if I’m completely honest I wouldn’t have bought a copy if I hadn’t seen the film (score 1 Literature) Also I’m not a complete film-adaptation snob, Lord of the Rings had a similar effect, and I was even able to finish all 6 books before the end of the Hollywood franchise made it to the screens! Anyway, I feel a burden has been lifted, so back to the book in question The Lovely Bones is not my normal theme of choice, as murder stories of children aren’t something I’m particularly drawn to. But I knew (thanks to the film makers) that the brutal murder would take place early on and that the story as a whole is deeper than a whodunit.

So for those that haven’t sold out and seen the film (!). This story begins with the tale of Susie Salmon a 14 year old girl who is cruelly ripped from the centre of her family by their twisted serial killer neighbour. (Don’t worry, I didn’t put a spoiler alert here because the killer’s identity is revealed within the first few chapters.

You are drawn into the story immediately, and the character Susie is so charismatic you want to be right beside her throughout her limbo voyeurism on her friends and families. Also Sebold plots the timing of Susie’s horrific demise perfectly to engulf us in an enormous fog of sympathetic love for Susie. She is at the age where the noble Britney Spears would tell us she is ‘Not a girl, not yet a woman’. Susie is at the exploratory stage in life where she is full of enthusiasm, uncertainty and curiosity. And as a result is the perfect narrator to the experiences of her family and friends following her sudden departure from their lives. It is through her insightful narration that the story takes grip of you as we see relationships weaken, strengthen, kindle, break and rebuild following the loss of child/sibling/peer.

Susie’s family consists of; her parents, Jack and Abigail who were childhood/college sweethearts full of youthful aspirations who fall into parenthood and married life with two daughters and then unexpectedly a son; her gifted and sporty and rather spirited younger sister, Lindsey; her baby brother Buckley who is forced to deal with the loss of his sister at a very young age; and finally her Grandmother, Grandma Lynn who is a force to be reckoned with whist balancing a freshly poured glass of her favourite tipple.

We are also follow a handful of other people impacted by Susie Salmon. First and foremost there is the creepy neighbour Mr Harvey who we discover has a haunted history of luring, sexually abusing and ultimately fulfilling his thirst by ending their lives. Although she has never met, Len Fenerman in her lifetime, Susie oversees the troubled Detective Fenerman’s interaction with her family throughout the investigation of her murder. Singh, Susie’s first and only kiss, originally fingered as Susie’s killer by the community which doesn’t help the English/Asian immigrant feel less of an outsider. And finally, creative Ruth Connors, who only ever had a few fleeting encounters with Susie, another stranger to the social norm and finds her final brush with Susie has an everlasting imprint.

So, what does Susie see from her limbo viewpoint? Well, she is led into setting up her own world with her guide and then friend Holly, where they can dip in and out of the lives of the above who were left behind. We are initially shown two very different reactions to grief by Susie’s parents. Jack becomes obsessed with the investigation and very suspicious of Mr Harvey, which leads him into meeting different people and some rather hard situations. Ultimately his search weakens him both emotionally and physically almost to the point when his wife, Abigail, leaves it has little impact on him. What never lessens is his love for his children, both living and deceased, I was particularly touched by the advice he gives Lindsey about shaving her legs for the first time in the absence of her older sister and mother, for me it showed a loving father’s attention to detail and attempt to be there when in other circumstances it wouldn’t be his place. The love between Susie and her father is so strong that perhaps between pure determination perhaps help along by us willing it! a connection is made and ultimately after many years Susie has to decide when it’s time to let her father go.

Susie’s mother, Abigail, is also devastated by her loss, but contains with her grief much more inwardly. Abigail is creative and very pensive by nature and this is reflected in her oceanic eyes which was captured by a photograph taken by Susie. Abigail struggles to deal with her surviving family and falls into a brief affair with another man and ultimately abandons them all to really run away from everything. It is interesting how sympathetic Susie is towards her mother’s action in comparison to her siblings, who are both equally angry with Abigail when she returns years later from her vacation of discovery.

Lindsey is a feisty character, and through her Susie experiences falling in love and the transition from girl to young woman which she missed out on. She watches Lindsey fall in love with her childhood sweetheart Sam and how they evolve into a mature loving couple. This is whilst simultaneously dealing with being compared to her murdered sister and the feeling of being whispered about. She deals with the whispers or typical sympathetic comments with a rather angry retorts, but manages to not allow Susie’s death to define her, and you can feel the pride of Susie as she sees this. Lindsey also has a strong bond with her father and when he is physically unable to ‘investigate’ Mr Harvey, she willingly picks up the baton and takes a big risk to uncover evidence which ultimately links Harvey to Susie’s killing.

Susie’s brother Buckley is only 3 or 4 years old at the time of the murder, and finds himself regularly shipped out to a neighbour to shelter him from the pain. However as with young children they will eventually need answers and for Buckley it’s rather confusing as it becomes evident he is able to see Susie as she looks in on her family. We are shown Buckley growing up in a motherless, yet loving environment and his response to the re-introduction of his mother to the family home shows this.

Outside the immediate family Susie shows us how her last touch on earth (as a spirit) on young Ruth Connors helps bring Ruth and Ray together as outsiders with a common interest, Susie. I found this relationship an interesting one, it’s almost both forced and natural at the same time. I guess you could call it a supernatural one! However their developing relationship also helps Susie discover elements of ‘grown up’ love and she is able to connect with Ray again one more time, which is a strange and sweet scene. A little bit like Patrick Swayze/Demi Moore/Whoopi Goldberg , a Potter’s Wheel and The Righteous Brothers.

Also whilst in limbo Susie meets and connects with a long list of girls and women all sadly on George Harvey’s list of victims, and we discover where his bloodlust begins. As we are taken through his journey of destruction of the innocent, we’re shown how his evil mind meticulously plots his plan of death and there is are little if any redeeming features about him. There are levels of intrigue about the skill of his intelligence of how he weaves stories of a deceased wife (usually named after his previous victim) in order to quash suspicions of a single man who makes dolls houses. He is indeed a nasty character who we slowly await his just desserts, and I let you decide whether you think Susie had any help in serving it!

Verdict : I feel like I’ve rabbitted quite a lot about this story, but it is an amazingly complex web of characters, some I’ve had to leave out for you to discover yourself, who all drawn together through the life of Susie Salmon. Although her departure rocked them all I really enjoyed how this story focuses on how it makes them all too. Even after experiencing such deep sorrow and tragedy these characters are able to build themselves and each other back up again. There is also the question about life after death, and I found Susie answering that by basically watching over her family and friends lives fuelling that spiritual desire within telling us no matter where our loved ones have gone they are still there when we need them.

I’ll give it 9/10 and agree with all the book first purists that yes the book is of course twice as good as the film (final score Literature 2, Hollywood 1).

Reviewed by Sam

Publisher: Picador
Publication Date: February 2012
Format: ebook
Pages: 335/566KB
Genre: Crime, Mystery
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Sam
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: None
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Before I Go To Sleep

S J Watson

“As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I’m still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me …’ Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love – all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. Welcome to Christine’s life.

This book was great, especially if you like something that you will go on thinking about after you have read it. The whole concept of losing your memory on a daily basis is a strangely fascinating idea. The story told plays on all the mysteries, insecurities, fears and worries that must come when you wake up every morning thinking you are twenty and you turn out to be forty and married with a whole life that you can’t remember. It really made me appreciate how much our past history informs the way we live on both a conscious and unconscious level. This is no 50 First Dates (that being a comedy film about someone with a similar condition), this begins as a journey into the mind of someone who can’t remember things and becomes a mysterious, suspenseful thriller.

I found the opening pages gripping in their description of waking up in the morning and finding you are not the person you thought you were. The first chapters are set in the present as Christine spends each day coming to terms with herself and her situation. She is meeting regularly with her doctor and keeping a journal. We then go back to read what has happened in the last few days in Christine’s life, before re-emerging in the present day to finish the story.

There are hints from the very beginning that all is not as it seems in Christine’s life. Ben, Christine’s husband seems to be changing the story of what has happened in her life. There are discrepancies and questions a plenty and as a reader you find yourself asking as many questions as Christine is. As Christine’s journal enables her to keep track of what is going on in her life things get more confused and more sinister as she is constantly questioning what is true and what is not. She also questions who she can trust and the motives of the people in her life for the way they treat her. It is very cleverly constructed and put together. As Christine lives every day fresh there is quite a bit of repetition through the book, however as more and more details come out this really serves to drive up the tension. his is a story that keeps you guessing almost to the end. Saying anymore would give away too much of the story so I think I will stop there!

Verdict: A riveting read, chilling and suspenseful, and something to think about as well.
Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Transworld Digital
Publication Date: April 2011
Format: eBook
Pages: 515/559KB
Genre: Crime
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: Debut Author
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Theodore Boone: Half The Man, Twice The Lawyer

John Grisham

A perfect murder
A faceless witness
A lone courtroom champion knows the whole truth . . . and he’s only thirteen years old
Meet Theodore Boone
In the small city of Strattenburg, there are many lawyers, and though he’s only thirteen years old, Theo Boone thinks he’s one of them. Theo knows every judge, policeman, court clerk—and a lot about the law. He dreams of being a great trial lawyer, of a life in the courtroom.
But Theo finds himself in court much sooner than expected. Because he knows so much—maybe too much—he is suddenly dragged into the middle of a sensational murder trial. A cold-blooded killer is about to go free, and only Theo knows the truth.
The stakes are high, but Theo won’t stop until justice is served…

I have enjoyed many of John Grisham’s books and was interested to see how his writing would translate into a children’s book. I wasn’t disappointed.

As the blurb indicates Theo is a 13 year old who loves the law. His parents are both lawyers and he has learnt loads about the American judicial system and law. At school other students come to him for advice when they, or someone they know, are in trouble. Theo always seems to have the answer!

Theo is a likeable character, and despite his unusual amount of knowledge he has a normal life. He knows where he fits in the scheme of things (not in the popular league) and has ups and downs that all children do; homework, parents and so on. Then he finds himself in a situation where he does not have the answer and he’s promised not to tell! This can be a huge dilemma for any child, let alone when the information can prove ‘whodunit’ in a murder trial and that trial has already started.

This is still very recognisably Grisham. The writing is pacey and keeps you hooked as gradually more and more is revealed. Even though you know from about half way through the book who committed the crime there is still a bit of tension (not as much as the adult books, but I don’t think that you would expect that). It is interesting watching Theo deal with his moral dilemma about what to do, he can’t break his word, but he can’t let a criminal walk free. Also Grisham manages to explain how the court works and the ins and outs of the laws that cause part of the problem without being boring or patronising. There is much in there that a young reader might not know and they will be hugely educated about how the courts work (or at least the American ones) by the end of the story.

Verdict: A great starter for getting children into court room drama!

Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks
Publication Date: March 2011(2nd ed.)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 272
Genre: Crime Fiction
Age: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: None
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