Monday, 21 May 2018

It Was Her by Mark Hill

Hello and welcome to the first stop on the blog tour for Mark Hill's second novel 'It Was Her'. 

The First thing you need to know is that this is the second story featuring DI Ray Drake, a rather dark and, I guess, complicated character, so reading the first in the series, 'His First Lie' (previously known as The Two O'clock Boy*) will make events at the beginning of IWH a lot clearer.

Anyway, to the book in hand.

 IWH begins in flashback with a tragedy which may or may not have been an accident and is cut back to at various points in the narrative as the mystery of just what happened unravels.

In the present day Drake and his colleague, DS Flick Crowley, have their own mystery to solve - homes in supposedly safe neighbourhoods are being broken into and lived in while the owners are elsewhere and more often than not of late, people are ending up dead. How this ties to the events in the other story strand certainly makes for an interesting and intriguing read (I got through it in 2 1/2 days) that will have you changing your mind as to 'whodunnit'. Even after finishing the book I still find myself unsure - and that, for me, is a sign of a good tale and a good author.

Where Mark Hill really excels, in my opinion, is with his lead characters. With what happened at the end that 'His First Lie' things are a little edgy between Drake and Crowley. In that book Drake had a dark secret but now Crowley is a party to that secret and what she knows could ruin both their careers. The early tension is really ratcheted up and even though you sort of know they'll sort things out (that's not really a spoiler, it is a series after all) Hill still manages to leave you wondering and turning page after page.

As with his previous novel Hill leads you down dark and dangerous paths but you know what? You're glad he does and I hope he will continue to do so for a long time to come. He's only two books into his crime writing career but he's already up there with the big players

5/5 stars

Below are the rest of the dates and sites for this blog tour, please pop in and have a look
*also reviewed on this blog site

Sunday, 22 April 2018

A Spell In The Country by Heide Goody and Iain Grant

I always look on it as a treat when a new Goody and Grant book comes out, their own brand of literary insanity never fails to make me laugh from cover to cover. So it's no real surprise that I loved this book.

The story setting is fairly simple, a collection of witches (of varying shades from Good to Wicked) attend a self help style week away in the Lincolnshire countryside. On offer are courses designed to make them better, more proficient and more profitable witches - but, as you would expect, there is a lot more going on under the surface. As always there seems to be so much going on it should be impossible for the authors to pull it all off but, as usual, somehow they do (and they do it well).

The action scenes here are often very frantic but work well and the characters, although it took me a while to remember who was who, were generally fun and ones I hope to see more of in the future.

One character stood out for me though, for sheer comedy gold and that was the imp Jizzimus. Any scene with him in it was guaranteed to have me somewhere between grinning like a loon and maniacal laughter (apart from one, but... SPOILERS!!).

As always, a cracking comedy read from two authors who deserve to be a lot better known

Monday, 16 April 2018

The Mermaid's Singing by Val McDermid

I'll be honest, I've been aware of Val McDermid and her books for probably as long as she has been writing them. Her Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series has been one of those I'll ' probably get round to one day'.

That all changed last year when I read a tweet by Val about losing a reader (I'm not going into details here but the reasoning was so ridiculous that really, that reader was probably no great loss). I guess the tweet angered me a little so I decided to redress the balance and have a look at this series.

The first book to feature profiler Tony Hill and D I Carol Jordan is The Mermaid's Singing and, to be fair, it is a brutal piece at times. In the Northern City of Bradfield men are being abducted and then murdered, using medieval style torture machines. The bodies are then dumped in various parts of the city's gay community. The police are at a loss and that is where Dr Hill and his profiling come in.

As I mentioned earlier, this story is brutal at times and the torture devices will make many men squirm but at no point did the violence feel gratuitous. Getting to know the characters of Hill and Jordan was nicely done - the balance of police work and private time, the, I guess obligatory, will they/won't they scenario was handled in a way that kept this reader interested.

And as for the killer, well, that kept me guessing right up to the reveal and I think it's fair to say I never saw that coming!

So, an enjoyable, if unsettling, read and one I'm glad I finally got around to. I may be 20 odd years late to the party but now I'm here, I'm here for the duration - and very much looking forward to it.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

If You Go Down To The Woods by Seth C Adams

This reminded me so much of Stephen King's IT at times it was almost like playing 'IT Bingo' (patent pending😂).

Outsider kid saves fat kid from beating by bully and henchmen - check

Fat kid introduces Outsider to his coloured friend, also meets 'love internet's - check

Form a gang and hang out together in the woods - check

Gang are bullied - check

Gang have a run in with a supernatural seeming dude, The Collector - check...

I could go on but I'm sure you get my drift. That is not to say I didn't enjoy the book, I really did and I guess that's because it is so well-written. Indeed, the first half of the story, before things kick off is one of the best 'coming of age' pieces I've read in a long while.

After that though, it all gets very busy indeed. The gang find an abandoned car in the woods, in the front, $10 million, in the trunk/boot a dead body.
They hide the money until they can decide what to do with it and at this point The Collector turns up in his long coat and fedora giving them a deadline. "Get me my money or else".

Throw in an out of town gangster, his henchman and a token bent sheriff and things really do not go well for the kids.

A steady start that really rattles up the gears in the second half.

I'm just wondering if the author will resist the temptation to reunite The Outsiders 27 years later to face down The Collector one final time? I hope not, this story deserves to be left where it is, the characters have been through enough in this one long summer


Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Exciting Acquisition News From Gollancz

So, this popped up in my inbox today and I just had to share it with you.

Gollancz acquires novel version of THE QUANDERHORN XPERIMENTATIONS, a new Radio 4 series from the creators of Red Dwarf and 2point4children

Marcus Gipps, Gollancz Commissioning Editor, has acquired World All Language rights to a new novel from Red Dwarf co-creator Rob Grant and 2point4children creator Andrew Marshall.

THE QUANDERHORN XPERIMENTATIONS is a full length novel springing and expanded from the soon-to-be-broadcast six-part Radio 4 series of the same name. The series will be broadcast alongside the release of the book and features a stellar cast of comedy performers.

England, 1952. Churchill is Prime Minister for the last time. Rationing is still in force. All music sounds like the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. People like living in 1952: it's familiar and reassuring, and Britain knows its place in the world. Few have noticed it's been 1952 for the past 65 years.

Meet Professor Quanderhorn; a brilliant maverick scientific genius who has absolutely no moral compass. Assisted by a motley crew of outcasts – a recovering amnesiac, a brilliant scientist with a half-clockwork brain, a captured Martian prisoner adapting a little too well to English life, the professor’s part-insect “son” (reputedly ‘a major breakthrough in Artificial Stupidity’), and a rather sinister janitor – he’ll save the world. Even if he destroys it in the process. With his Dangerous Giant Space Laser, High Rise Farm, Invisible Robot and Fleets of Monkey-Driven Lorries, he's not afraid to push the boundaries of science to their very limit. And far, far beyond …
Marcus Gipps said: “I’ve long been a fan of Andrew and Rob’s work, and Gollancz was the proud publisher of two of Rob’s earlier, brilliant novels, so it’s great to welcome them home. QX is witty, silly, clever and fun, and having spent a day at the recording I know it’s going to be a hit both on radio and in print.”

Rob /Andrew said: “We’re excited to be at Gollancz – the home of British science fiction. We hope Quanderhorn will thrill and delight in equal measure. It’s as if aliens had horrifically grafted John Wyndham onto P.G. Wodehouse and made the monstrous outcome write a book. We have to go now – we’re not really allowed to use these crayons.”

THE QUANDERHORN XPERIMENTATIONS will be published in hardback, ebook and audio reading alongside the radio broadcast, June 2018.

Rob Grant is the co-creator of Red Dwarf and was head writer of Spitting Image. His previous books include Red Dwarf novels, Fat and Incompetnce.
Andrew Marshall wrote and sometimes produced the comedies 2point4children, Dad, Health & Efficiency and the supernatural drama Strange for the BBC.
The Authors

It certainly sounds, to me at least, like a whole lot of fun and certainly something I shall be keeping an eye out for. What about you?

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Smoke Eaters by Sean Grigsby

The basic premise for Smoke Eaters (out now from Angry Robot) is an enticing one - Fire Fighters vs Dragons. I always like it when an author does something a bit different with genre favourites and fighting fire with firemen certainly does that.

The setting is America, a century from now and many parts of it are uninhabitable due to the rise of dragons (and the reason the dragons are up and about actually makes a lot of sense, it's to do with sleep cycles). Our hero is Cole Brannigan, a fireman just days away from retirement. On a callout to a fire he comes face to face with a dragon and, in trying to rescue his team finds he is one of the few not affected by dragon smoke.

This quickly leads to him waving goodbye to his retirement plans and being conscripted into the titular Smoke Eaters, the guys and gals with all the best toys, whose job is to tackle the dragons and the fires they cause. Seeing Cole go from being a seasoned veteran to becoming a rookie recruit is handled well. He knows his stuff but quickly has to learn his place.

Now, if it were just fire fighters v dragons it would probably be enough but, just to add an extra arm to the story there is trouble with City Hall and a corrupt mayor who is happy to line his own pockets while putting the lives of countless civilians at risk.

One thing that really stands out, for me, is the technical side of the story. Grigsby is himself a fire fighter and, obviously, he puts a lot of what he knows into the fire fighting scenes but it is done in a way that is understandable for the reader without leaving them to get bogged down in technical jargon.

So, there are dragons galore, of various shapes and sizes (and the Boss Level dragon towards the end is a phenomenal creation) on one side, City Hall on the other but at least with those Brannigan has a chance of winning the battle, even if it is the slimmest of slim chances. There is one battle he will never win though... just wait until you meet the formidable Mrs. Brannigan.

I know it's only March but this has to be a contender for Book of the Year. An excellent debut by an author I will certainly be keeping an eye on.

Highly Recommended

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Today's Book Post From Sean Grigsby and Angry Robot

So, the first post I saw on Facebook when I switched on my phone was this one. 

"Looks promising" thinks I.

So, when I get up and go see what the Postie has delivered, you can understand I was chuffed to find... 

And so I started reading...

Believe me, if the first chapter is anything to go by, this is looking to be something a bit special.

Review will follow when I've finished it.