The Chain by Adrian McKinty

I have just reread The Chain by Adrian McKinty for a Goodreads.com Mystery, Crime and Thriller group read. Then I discovered that I had never actually published my review on my blog, so here it is!

EXCERPT: Her phone rings, startling her,

‘Unknown Caller,’ it says

She answers with the speakerphone: ‘Hello?’

‘Two things you must remember,’ a voice says through some kind of speech-distortion machine. ‘Number one: you are not the first and you will certainly not be the last. Number two: remember, its not about the money – it’s about The Chain.’

This has to be some sort of prank, one part of her brain is saying. But other deeper, more ancient structures in her cerebellum are beginning to react with what can only be described as pure animal terror.

‘I think you must have the wrong number,’ she suggests.

The voice continues obliviously: ‘In five minutes, Rachel, you will be getting the most important phone call of your life. You are going to need to pull your car over to the shoulder. you’re going to need to have your wits about you. You will be getting detailed instructions. Make sure your phone is fully charged and make sure also that you have a pen and paper to write down these instructions. I am not going to pretend that things are going to be easy for you. The coming days will be very difficult, but The Chain will get you through.’

Rachel feels very cold. Her mouth tastes of old pennies. Her head is light. ‘ I’m going to have to call the police or…..’

‘No police. No law enforcement of any kind. You will do just fine, Rachel. You would not have been selected if we thought you were the kind of person who would go to pieces on us. What is being asked of you may seem impossible now but it is entirely within your capabilities.’

A splinter of ice runs down her spine. A leak of the future into the present. A terrifying future that, evidently, will manifest itself in just a few minutes.

‘Who are you?’ she asks.

‘Pray that you never find out who we are and what we are capable of.’

The line goes dead.

She checks the caller ID again but the number is still not there. That voice, though. Mechanically disguised and deliberate; assured, chilly, arrogant. What can this person mean about getting the most important phone call of her life? She checks her rearview mirror and moves the Volvo out of the fast lane and into the middle lane just in case another call really is coming in.

She picks nervously at a line of thread that’s coming off her red sweater just as the iPhone rings again.

Another Unknown Caller.

She stabs at the green answer key. ‘Hello?’

‘Is this Rachel O’Neill?’ a voice asks. A different voice. A woman. A woman who sounds very upset.

Rachel wants to say ‘No’; she wants to ward off the impending disaster by saying that actually she has started using her maiden name again – Rachel Klein – but she knows there’s no point. Nothing she is going to say or do is going to stop this woman from telling her that the worst has happened.

‘Yes,’ she says.

‘I’m so sorry, Rachel, I’ve got some terrible news for you. Have you got the pen and paper for the instructions?’

‘What’s happened?’ she asks, really scared now.

‘I’ve kidnapped your daughter.’

ABOUT THIS BOOK: THE ONLY WAY TO SAVE YOUR CHILD IS TO KIDNAP ANOTHER.

Listen carefully …
Your child has been kidnapped.
You must abduct someone else’s child to save your own.
Disobey. Break the rules. Go to the cops. Your child will die.
Your victim’s parents must kidnap another child before yours is released.
You are now part of the chain.

#DONTBREAKTHECHAIN

MY THOUGHTS: I may have said this before, but I am going to say it again: Adrian McKinty is one hell of a writer! And versatile with it.

I read this overnight, finishing it at 2am. I have not functioned well at work today, a day when I really needed to be running at 110%.

This is very different to McKinty’s Sean Duffy series, although there is still the odd musical reference, and his sense of humour still shines through, not as often, but it’s still there. But although it is different, it is equally as brilliant in its own way.

I loved the way he wove bits of his own background, when he was struggling as a writer, into Rachel’s background. There was nothing that Rachel did in her efforts to get her daughter back, that I wouldn’t do if my child’s life was at risk. The only difference being that I don’t have the luxury of an ex-marine as a brother-in-law.

Riveting. Compelling. Thrilling. Just read it.

❤❤❤❤❤

‘Oh,Rachel, why do birds suddenly appear every time that you’re near?’ Because they’re actually carrion crows and I’m one of the goddamn undead.’

‘Chemo is a little death that you invite in in order to keep the big death outside on the porch. ‘

THE AUTHOR: Adrian McKinty is an Irish novelist. He was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and grew up in Victoria Council Estate, Carrickfergus, County Antrim. He read law at the University of Warwick and politics and philosophy at the University of Oxford. He moved to the United States in the early 1990s, living first in Harlem, New York and from 2001 on, in Denver, Colorado, where he taught high school English and began writing fiction. He lives in Melbourne, Australia with his wife and two children.

DISCLOSURE: I borrowed my copy of The Chain by Adrian McKinty, published by Hachette Australia, from Waitomo District Library. But I loved it so much I will be buying my own hard copy. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Police at the Station And They Don’t Look Friendly (Sean Duffy #6) by Adrian McKinty

EXCERPT: . . . it is indeed spooky out here, in the hulking shadows of these venerable oaks, four hours after midnight, in the middle of nowhere, while Ireland sleeps, while Ireland dreams. . .

The little rise is a deceptively steep incline that takes my breath away and I can see that I am going to need my new inhaler if it keeps up. The inhaler, of course, is back in the glove compartment of the car because I haven’t yet acquired the habit of taking it with me everywhere. Not that it will make any difference in a few minutes anyway. A bullet in the head will fix an incipient asthma attack every time.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Belfast 1988: A man is found dead, killed with a bolt from a crossbow in front of his house. This is no hunting accident. But uncovering who is responsible for the murder will take Detective Sean Duffy down his most dangerous road yet, a road that leads to a lonely clearing on a high bog where three masked gunmen will force Duffy to dig his own grave.
Hunted by forces unknown, threatened by Internal Affairs, and with his relationship on the rocks, Duffy will need all his wits to get out of this investigation in one piece

MY THOUGHTS: ‘A paranoid man is a man who knows a little about what’s going on’ – William Burroughs

The seven ‘p’s – ‘Proper preparation and planning prevents piss poor performance’ – DI Sean Duffy

What can I say that I haven’t said before about this series? I have just finished #6 with my heart pounding, and if it was 5 pm instead of 5 am, I would pour myself a stiff drink. I am exhausted after having spent the majority of the night in the company of DI Sean Duffy, checking under the BMW 535i sport for mercury tilt bombs every time before we get in, being beaten, shot at (multiple times), kidnapped, threatened, and participating in a car chase involving a 1988 Bentley Mulsanne. All this is set against the background of ‘the Troubles’ which seem to have flared again, with Belfast experiencing riots, the funerals of the three killed in Gibraltar by the SAS, and Michael Stone’s deadly actions at the funerals inflaming the situation.

Duffy now has a partner and a child, but that doesn’t seem to be working out as well as he had hoped, either. Yet despite the troubles, Irish, professional and personal, or perhaps because of them, Duffy sees things that others miss, and while he may never have brought a criminal to trial, his resolution of cases is always interesting and probably more appropriate than any court sentence.

McKinty has evolved Duffy’s character seamlessly without losing the quintessential essence of him. He is still the thorn in the side of his superiors, and those who think themselves superior, like that eejit Kenny Dalziel. He still makes questionable choices – I was pacing the lounge at 4 am ranting ‘Sean, wtf do you think you’re doing?!’ But he also inspires loyalty, is irreverent but charming, has street smarts that I am envious of, and a black sense of humor that I love.

If you haven’t yet read this series, you are missing out on what I seriously believe to be one of the top two thriller series that I have read. I could wax lyrical about both the series and this particular book for pages yet, but honestly? Stop reading my review and just read the books. What are you waiting for?

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

THE AUTHOR: Adrian McKinty is an Irish novelist. He was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and grew up in Victoria Council Estate, Carrickfergus, County Antrim. He read law at the University of Warwick and politics and philosophy at the University of Oxford. He moved to the United States in the early 1990s, living first in Harlem, New York and from 2001 on, in Denver, Colorado, where he taught high school English and began writing fiction. He lives in Melbourne, Australia with his wife and two children.

DISCLOSURE: I borrowed my copy of Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly by Adrian McKinty, published by Serpent’s Tail, from Waitomo District Library. Thank you to head librarian Julie for buying in a copy at my request.

All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions. For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Night Whistler by Greg Woodland

EXCERPT: He was standing atop a small rise staring at something when Evan staggered up beside him and gasped softly. A strange yellowish vehicle-cum-dwelling: they couldn’t take their eyes off it.

The depleted shell of a truck cabin at one end merged into a decrepit caravan at the other. It was like some bizarre caterpillar with extremities so different they might have belonged to separate species. The truck’s bonnet lay on the ground, engine parts flung around it like a mad mechanic’s toys. Where once were wheels, tree stumps now propped the apparition up. Skew-whiff sheds and lean-tos lay scattered around it, rotting in the grass. The caravan was covered in peeling tan and yellow paint and above the door a faded sign declared ‘Highway Palace’. It was a ruined palace though, with oval windows cracked or broken, glinting like jagged teeth, shreds of lace curtains behind them. There was nothing palatial or grand about it now, and probably never had been. But behind the curtains, mystery seemed to lurk in every corner.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: It’s 1966. Hal and his little brother, newly arrived in Moorabool with their parents, are exploring the creek near their new home when they find the body of a dog.

Not just dead, but recently killed.

Not just killed, but mutilated.

Constable Mick Goodenough, recently demoted from his city job as a detective, is also new in town—and one of his dogs has gone missing. He’s experienced enough to know what it means when someone tortures an animal to death: it means they’re practising. So when Hal’s mother starts getting anonymous calls—a man whistling, then hanging up—Goodenough, alone among the Moorabool cops, takes her seriously.

The question is: will that be enough to keep her safe?

MY THOUGHTS: Atmospheric. Very atmospheric. There is a palpable air of menace in this small rural town where most people are either hiding something, or watching … and waiting.

Set in the 1960’s, there is blatant racism in this book that may upset some people. But that is just the way things were then. While we can’t change the past, we can learn from it.

There are multiple layers to this mystery – corrupt police, corrupt town councillors, extra-marital activity, missing and mutilated animals, mystery and murder. But Woodland has also captured the essence of the time, particularly the way kids were allowed to roam about unfettered, the only restriction that they ‘be home in time for tea.’ Parents weren’t at all concerned about where the kids were, who they were playing with or what they were doing, as long as they stayed out of trouble and came home on time. Step out of line, and you’d get a whack around the ear or a slap around the legs for your trouble. People drank and drove. And smoked – everywhere.

Woodland’s writing is vivid, both his descriptions and his characters come alive. I could smell the heat, taste the dust, hear the voices. I knew, well before I reached the end of the first chapter, that I was onto a winner.

The plot is enthralling, and takes place in Aussie time. ‘Don’t worry mate, it’ll get done, some time. Crack a stubby while you wait.’

Mick Goodenough (pronounced Good-no, or as his boss likes to quip, no-good) has two strikes against him before he starts. 1. He’s an indigenous Australian. 2. He’s been demoted from the rank of Detective in Sydney and exiled to Moorabool as a probationary constable. The problem is that Mick still thinks like a detective. And his boss takes great delight in rubbing his nose in the fact that he isn’t.

Hal, twelve, has also only recently moved to Moorabool for his father’s work. Summer holidays, so he hasn’t really had a chance to meet anyone else his own age. Until Allie, an indigenous girl who takes him crawbobbing, and talks to him about the spirits trapped in the Highway Palace, the scene of a murder-suicide years earlier. Hal is more concerned about what happened to the one surviving child. Where did he go, and where is he now? And could it be him that is making the strange and threatening calls his mother is receiving? If not, then who? And why?

I was riveted by this story. Gritty and honest. And I want more.

I have lived in a small town in Australia, a little like this. Some of my happiest years were spent there. Woodland made me homesick. Dust, flies, spiders, snakes and all…

❤❤❤❤.8

#TheNightWhistler #NetGalley

FOR THE ARMCHAIR TRAVELLER: I think that Moorabool is a fictional town in the New England region of New South Wales, Australia.

New England or New England North West is the name given to a generally undefined region in the north of the state of New South Wales, Australia, about 60 kilometres inland, that includes the Northern Tablelands and the North West Slopes regions.

Dubbed the Cathedral City, Armidale in the New England High Country is one of Australia’s most elegant regional cities. With an altitude of a kilometre above sea level, it’s known for vibrant autumn foliage and cool breezes in summer. Wander its streets and find 19th century churches mixed with modern cafes and restaurants.

THE AUTHOR: Greg has been a script developer and consultant for Australian film funding bodies and the Australian Writers Guild for 25 years. He is the founder-director of a leading Australian script service. As writer/director Greg’s award-winning short films and documentaries screened nationally and internationally at over 60 film festivals and many TV channels. His screenplays The Whistler and Pangs won several script competitions including the Fellowship of Australian Writers Best Drama Manuscript, the Inscription Open Script award, and three Varuna Fellowships between them. Greg has lectured in Scriptwriting at Macquarie University, UTS, NIDA, and AFTRS. His script editing credits include feature films ‘Moon Rock for Monday’, ‘Don’t Tell’, ‘Needle’, ‘Cold Turkey’, ‘The Bet’, ‘Broken’, several Project Greenlight and Monte Miller Award finalists, the 2013 Tropfest Best Film Winner, the 2016 AWG John Hinde Science Fiction script award winner and many others. His first crime novel ‘The Night Whistler’ was published by Text Publishing in August 2020, and he’s now writing the sequel, The Carnival is Over.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Text Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Night Whistler by Greg Woodland for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham

cover161919-medium

I picked this up to read because I have the second book in this series, When She Was Good, to read. And I am so glad that I did. It has given me the best read of my year…so far. Read on!

EXCERPT: I’m happy with who I am. I have pieced myself together from the half-broken things. I have learned how to hide, how to run, how to keep safe, despite never knowing a time when my blood didn’t run cold at the sound of footsteps stopping outside my door, or the sound of someone breathing on the opposite side of a wall.

I know the jittery, crawling sensation that ripples down my spine whenever I feel the weight of eyes upon me. Searching my face. Trying to recognize me. And no matter how many times I step into doorways, or look over my shoulder, or yell, ‘I know you’re there,’ the street is always empty. No footsteps. No shadows. No eyes.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: A girl is discovered hiding in a secret room in the aftermath of a terrible crime. Half-starved and filthy, she won’t tell anyone her name, or her age, or where she came from. Maybe she is twelve, maybe fifteen. She doesn’t appear in any missing persons file, and her DNA can’t be matched to an identity.

Six years later, still unidentified, she is living in a secure children’s home with a new name, Evie Cormac. When she initiates a court case demanding the right to be released as an adult, forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven must determine if Evie is ready to go free. But she is unlike anyone he’s ever met—fascinating and dangerous in equal measure. Evie knows when someone is lying, and no one around her is telling the truth.

Meanwhile, Cyrus is called in to investigate the shocking murder of a high school figure-skating champion, Jodie Sheehan, who dies on a lonely footpath close to her home. Pretty and popular, Jodie is portrayed by everyone as the ultimate girl-next-door, but as Cyrus peels back the layers, a secret life emerges—one that Evie Cormac, the girl with no past, knows something about. A man haunted by his own tragic history, Cyrus is caught between the two cases—one girl who needs saving and another who needs justice. What price will he pay for the truth?

MY THOUGHTS: I read Good Girl, Bad Girl overnight. Couldn’t put it down. Ordered in dinner so that I didn’t have to stop reading to cook. I absorbed this book through every pore in my skin. I was there for every moment, every word. There was zero chance of my mind wandering as I read. Good Girl, Bad Girl is a heartpounding, pulse racing, edge of the seat, go away – I’ll tear your arm off if you try separating me from my book – read.

My first Michael Robotham book, and yes! It’s that damned good!

The characters are all interesting, flawed, human. Evie, the child found living in a secret room only feet away from a decomposing body, and who possesses a unique talent. She has no past, no family, no memories, not even a birthdate. She lies, she obfuscates, she casts doubts and misdirects. She’s dyslexic, antisocial and aggressive. And she wants out of Langford Hall, the secure children’s home where she is incarcerated. Cyrus, Forensic Psychologist, is called in by his friend Guthrie when Evie makes an application to the court to be released. Cyrus has his own demons, his own tragic past. Something in him recognizes something in Evie and he sets out to save her, both from the world and from herself.

The plot is gritty, gripping, and fast moving. There is a murder to be solved. One that isn’t quite as simple as it first appears. A rising skating star, an Olympic hopeful, is found dead, murdered, close to her home. Everyone’s darling, Jodie could do no wrong. But a chance remark by one of her classmates sets Cyrus off on a quest to discover the other darker side of this golden girl, and sets off a chain of events he could never have envisaged.

I loved every word of Good Girl, Bad Girl. And there are not enough stars in the rating system to convey just how good a read this is.

❤🤯😲🤯❤

#GoodGirlBadGirl @michealrobotham

And now onto When She Was Good, Cyrus Haven #2.

FOR THE ARMCHAIR TRAVELLER: Good Girl, Bad Girl is set in Nottingham, a city in central England’s Midlands region. It’s known for its role in the Robin Hood legend and for the hilltop Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery, rebuilt many times since the medieval era. In the Lace Market area, once the centre of the world’s lace industry, the Galleries of Justice Museum has crime-related exhibits. Wollaton Hall is an ornate Elizabethan mansion with gardens and a deer park.

THE AUTHOR: Edgar finalist and Gold Dagger winning author, Michael Robotham was born in Australia in November 1960 and grew up in small country towns that had more dogs than people and more flies than dogs. He escaped in 1979 and became a cadet journalist on an afternoon newspaper in Sydney.

For the next fourteen years he worked for newspapers in Australia, Europe, Africa and America. As a senior feature writer for the UK’s Mail on Sunday he was among the first people to view the letters and diaries of Czar Nicholas II and his wife Empress Alexandra, unearthed in the Moscow State Archives in 1991. He also gained access to Stalin’s Hitler files, which had been missing for nearly fifty years until a cleaner stumbled upon a cardboard box that had been misplaced and misfiled.

In 1993 he quit journalism to become a ghostwriter, collaborating with politicians, pop stars, psychologists, adventurers and showbusiness personalities to write their autobiographies.

Michael writes in what his daughters’ refer to as his ‘cabana of cruelty’ on Sydney’s northern beaches where he slaves away daily to cater to their every expensive whim. Where is the justice?

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Waitomo District Library for the loan of their copy of Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham, published by Hachette Australia. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The First to Lie by Hank Phillippi Ryan

52383175

EXCERPT: She looked at him as she gathered her tote bag and new Pharminex briefcase. He seemed thoughtful, his eyes softening as he watched her. ‘Affectionate’, the word came to mind. Or maybe it was more tactics. She thought she’d been the first to lie in this relationship. But maybe he’d been the first. Maybe the first lie was only the beginning.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: What happens when an undercover reporter gets in too deep? And when a practiced liar has to face off with her own truth—how does she choose her true reality?

MY THOUGHTS: Talk about twisty – I was tied up in knots like a pretzel reading The First to Lie by Hank Phillippi Ryan! She bashed my brain around like it was a squash ball in a world championship game. I have no idea how the author managed to keep everything straight in her head as she was writing. Don’t go looking for any rest breaks while you are reading this, because there aren’t any. It’s full steam ahead the whole way!

Told from multiple points of view by Nora, a Pharminex sales rep; Ellie, an investigative journalist; Brooke, the daughter of the Vanderwald family, owners of Pharminex; and Lacey, married to Trevor the Vanderwald son and heir to the Pharminex empire, The First to Lie focuses on pharmaceutical ethics, – or should that be the lack of them? – the lack of culpability of medical and corporate professionals, betrayal, and revenge – the dish best eaten cold.

This is very much a cat and mouse game, but with a different twist. It is often difficult to tell who is the cat, and who is the mouse, and there’s no guarantee that the mouse is the mouse. It may well be another cat. Everyone lies. You cannot trust anyone. You definitely cannot take anyone at face value except, maybe, the detective. And then that’s only a ‘maybe’. ‘I know who I was when I got up this morning, Alice had told the Caterpillar, but I think I must have been changed several times since then. I can’t explain myself, I’m afraid, because I’m not myself, you see.’

Exciting. Compelling. Incredibly clever.

🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯

#TheFirsttoLie #NetGalley

FOR THE ARMCHAIR TRAVELLER: The First to Lie is set in Boston, Massachusetts.

THE AUTHOR: Hank Phillippi Ryan is the USA Today bestselling author of eleven award winning novels of suspense. National reviews have called her a “master at crafting suspenseful mysteries” and “a superb and gifted storyteller.”

Hank is also an award-winning investigative reporter at Boston’s WHDH-TV. In addition to 37 EMMYs and 14 Edward R. Murrow awards, Hank’s won dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism.

Her work has resulted in new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in refunds and restitution for victims and consumers. She’s been a radio reporter, a legislative aide in the United States Senate and an editorial assistant at Rolling Stone Magazine, working with Hunter S. Thompson, Richard Avedon and Richard Goodwin.

Hank is a founding teacher at Mystery Writers of America University and served as president of national Sisters in Crime. She blogs at Jungle Red Writers and Career Authors.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Forge Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The First to Lie by Hank Phillipi Ryan for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Priest (Jack Taylor #5) by Ken Bruen

1735704

EXCERPT: The nun was gathering up the song sheets. She loved this time of the morning, the sun streaming through the stained glass. Her habit felt heavy but she offered it for the souls in Purgatory. She found a ten euro note in the end pew, was tempted to pocket it, buy a feast of ice cream. But blessing herself, she shoved it in the poor box. It slid in easily as the box was empty – who gave alms any more?

She noticed the door to the confessional ajar. Tut-tutting, she felt a tremor of annoyance. Father Joyce would have a fit if he saw that. He was a holy terror for order, ran the church like an army, God’s army. Moving quickly, she gently pulled the door, but it wouldn’t budge. Getting seriously irritated, she scuttled round to the other door and peered through the grille. Her scream could be heard all the way to Eyre Square.

Father Joyce’s severed head was placed on the floor of the confessional.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Ireland, awash with cash and greed, no longer turns to the Church for solace or comfort. But the decapitation of Father Joyce in a Galway confessional horrifies even the most jaded citizen.

Jack Taylor, devastated by the recent trauma of personal loss, has always believed himself to be beyond salvation. But a new job offers a fresh start, and an unexpected partnership provides hope that his one desperate vision, of family, might yet be fulfilled.

An eerie mix of exorcism, a predatory stalker, and unlikely attraction conspires to lure him into a murderous web of dark conspiracies. The specter of a child haunts every waking moment.

MY THOUGHTS: Bruen’s writing is raw. Brutal. Irish. Black humour. He doesn’t waste words.

Jack is a tortured soul. Haunted by his own past and the death of a child that he was responsible for. A lapsed Catholic, his life is still inextricably entwined with the Church. He makes bargains with a God he no longer believes in.

In this, the 5th book of the series, Jack is sober. Not something that either we, the readers, or Jack himself, is familiar with.

He is tasked by a Priest, Father Malachy with whom he has history, to discover who killed Father Joyce.

Bruen weaves tidbits of Irish history and folklore effortlessly into his work. We learn about Galway landmarks – the Salmon Weir bridge and Eyre Square. There are frequent literary and musical references. I have a Ken Bruen-Jack Taylor playlist. It’s getting very long. It is magnificent and varied – Steve Earle, REM, Springsteen, Black Eyed Peas, Emmylou Harris, and Adrian McKinty’s great favourite – Tom Waits.

I read this series with an Irish lilt. It is a series, and one best read in order. Preferably with a dram of Jamesons. Jack won’t mind.

❤❤❤❤❤

THE AUTHOR: Ken Bruen is one of the most renown Irish writers, who writes noir crime fiction novels. He was born in Galway, Ireland, in 1951. He studied at Gormanston College, County Meath, and Trinity College Dublin, where he got a Ph.D in Metaphysics. Unlike most novelists, Ken Bruen has travelled around the world. During his twenty-five years as an English teacher, he worked in Africa, Japan, South America and South East Asia. Just as anyone would conclude, Ken’s travels were precarious at some point, including time spent in a Brazilian jail, where he was wrongfully imprisoned for alleged involvement in a bar fight. He currently resides in Galway, Ireland, with his wife and his daughter, Grace.

Ken started writing after his gruesome experience in prison in Brazil. The torture he went through left bad memories and mental anguish. A traumatized Bruen started writing crime fiction in an effort to get the nightmares off his head and heal the scars left from the horrendous ordeal. His very first novel, Funerals, was about a boy who attended funerals like they were soccer games. He has written over thirty five novels, six of which have been featured in television series. His novels feature typical comedy incorporated into noir crime fiction, and he does not fail to poke the Irish Church and the State at some particular point in his novels. He exposes a number of ills and provides an intuition of the dark side of Ireland. The main themes in his works are Ireland’s economic prosperity since the 1990s, immigration, the decline of the social and political power of the Catholic Church and the social change in Ireland. (BookSeriesInOrder.com)

DISCLOSURE: I own my copy of Priest by Ken Bruen, published by Bantam Press, Transworld Publishers. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Fireman by Joe Hill

25994058._sy475_

EXCERPT: His newfound calm did not entirely surprise her. Terror was a fire that held you trapped in the top floor of a burning building; the only way to escape it was to jump. He had been stoking himself up to this last leap for weeks. She had heard it in his voice, every time they talked on the phone, even if she didn’t recognize it at the time. He had made his choice at last and it had brought him the peace he was looking for. He was ready to go out the window; he wanted only to be holding her hand on the way down.

What did surprise her was her own calm. She wondered at it. In the days before the earth began to burn, she had carried anxiety to work with her every morning and brought it home with her every night; a nameless, inconsiderate companion that had a habit of poking her in the ribs whenever she was trying to relax. And yet in those days there was nothing really to be anxious about. Her head would spin at the thought of defaulting on her student loans, of getting into another yelling match with her neighbour about his dog’s habit of tearing open garbage and spreading it all over her lawn. And now she had a baby in her, and sickness crawling on her skin, and Jakob was crazy, sitting there watching her with his gun, and there was only this quiet readiness, which she irrationally believed had been waiting for her all her life.

‘At the end, I get to be the person I always wanted to be,’ she thought.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.

Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child.

Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.

In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.

MY THOUGHTS: I said it after reading NOS4A2,and I will say it again, ‘Joe Hill is definitely his father’s son. He writes with the same easy narrative flow and sardonic wit.’

Reading Joe Hill’s writing is like sitting down and having a good yarn with someone who has led the most fascinating life. It’s an immersive experience. I forgot I was reading. I experienced every step of Harper’s journey. I smelled the burning, felt the heat, and even imagined the beautiful glowing lacy patterns across my own skin.

Hill has written a chilling novel about a global pandemic long before the advent of Covid-19. Instead of a pneumonia-like infection, this spore causes spontaneous combustion, which threatens to reduce civilisation to ashes. But what if there was a way to harness it, to make it work for you, rather than against you? Enter the Fireman, aka John Rookwood. But are his skills enough to save his group from the Cremation Squad, a group of the uninfected determined to exterminate the infected.

He is aided by the pregnant nurse, Harper, a fan of Mary Poppins. ‘She had all her life longed for a world that operated like an early sixties Disney musical, with spontaneous song and dance routines to celebrate important events like sharing a first kiss or getting the kitchen spick and span.’ Despite these fantasies, this woman has a heart of gold and a core of steel.

There are a lot of parallels between the situations in The Fireman and our current situation. The chaos. The fear. The misinformation. The justification of certain actions – ‘The people in charge can always justify doing terrible things in the name of the greater good. A slaughter here, a little torture there. It becomes moral to do things that would be immoral if an ordinary individual did ‘em.’

But there are some wonderfully ‘good’ characters in this book to counterbalance the bad, the evil, the misguided. The hard part is working out who is who.

There are multiple musical references as well as literary ones. I have made a ‘Joe Hill – The Fireman’ playlist to go alongside my ‘Adrian McKinty – Sean Duffy’, and ‘Ken Bruen- Jack Taylor’ playlists.

I finished this read with tears seeping from my eyes. It doesn’t end how I expected. But the ending is perfect. The Fireman contains many lessons for us. I hope we learn them.

‘So much kindness. So many people looking after us. They don’t know a thing about us except that we’re in need….we need kindness like we need to eat. It satisfies something in us we can’t do without.’

Brilliant, beautiful, terrifying, sad and uplifting.

❤❤❤❤❤

#TheFireman #NetGalley

‘There’s something horribly unfair about dying in the middle of a good story, before you have a chance to see how it all comes out. Of course, I suppose everyone always dies in the middle of a good story, in a sense. Your own story. Or the story of your children. Or your grandchildren. Death is a raw deal for narrative junkies.’

THE AUTHOR: Joe Hill, born in 1972 as Joseph Hillstrom King, is an American writer of speculative fiction. Hill is the second child of the authors Stephen and Tabitha King. His younger brother Owen King is also a writer.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Orion Publishing Group via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Fireman by Joe Hill for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Monster at the End of This Book – a Little Golden Book written by Jon Stone and illustrated by Michael Smollin

44186

Little Golden Books were everywhere when my children were little. Now, forty years on, they are like hens’ teeth. This, I ended up ordering online along with Grover’s Own Alphabet for my grandson’s Christmas parcel. However, I didn’t hide everything as cleverly as I thought I had, and he stumbled upon my secret stash. I let him keep this out…

He wasn’t too sure about the monster on the first reading. He laughed uproariously at Grover tying and nailing the pages together, then building a brick wall so that the pages couldn’t get turned and bring us any closer to the monster at the end of the book. But when it came to actually turning the last page it was, ‘You do it, Nana. You turn the page.’

Once he saw it was only Grover, he thought it was hilarious and we read The Monster at the End of This Book many times that afternoon. Luke loves this as much as his father and uncle did. And I love reading it. It has so much scope for amateur dramatics.

The Monster at the End of This Book is part of the excellent Sesame Street series.

Five big flashing shooting stars.

South of the Buttonwood Tree by Heather Webber

cover183716-medium

Magical!

EXCERPT: It was the kind of day in Buttonwood, Alabama, where trouble slipped into town with the breeze, jarring awake sleepy springtime leaves on the massive oaks and sky-high hickories. It scraped parched dirt, sending dust skittering along the trail like it was running for cover. It whistled its warning, plain as day to anyone who cared to listen.

If anyone could recognize the cautionary tune, it was me.

I was a Bishop after all. My family name was practically synonymous with the word ‘trouble’. Daddy, Twyla, and my three brothers had embraced trouble like long-lost kin, consequences be damned. And look where that had landed them – each now dead and buried.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Blue Bishop has a knack for finding lost things. While growing up in charming small-town Buttonwood, Alabama, she’s happened across lost wallets, jewelry, pets, her wandering neighbor, and sometimes, trouble. No one is more surprised than Blue, however, when she comes across an abandoned newborn baby in the woods, just south of a very special buttonwood tree.

Sarah Grace Landreneau Fulton is at a crossroads. She has always tried so hard to do the right thing, but her own mother would disown her if she ever learned half of Sarah Grace’s secrets.

The unexpected discovery of the newborn baby girl will alter Blue’s and Sarah Grace’s lives forever. Both women must fight for what they truly want in life and for who they love. In doing so, they uncover long-held secrets that reveal exactly who they really are–and what they’re willing to sacrifice in the name of family.

MY THOUGHTS: ‘What’s that Dahl quote? ‘Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.’

I found magic in this wonderful book. By the end of the first page, I knew that I had found something special. Heather Webber, whom I have never read before, reached out and touched my heart, enchanted my mind, and kept me enamored right through to the last page.

The characters are depicted so clearly and cleverly that they are never anything less than real. ‘Sarah Grace…..if she were a book, her binding would be pristine, and her pages glued together to hide what was inside.’ ‘If there were a personification of Southern Gothic, it would be Oleta. Dressed in one of her overly starched, vintage short-sleeve shirtwaist dresses with matching pillbox hat, she was altogether nightmarish with her nearly skeletal figure, short grey hair, black eyes, sharp cheekbones, barbed tongue, and utter self-righteousness.’

The writing is gentle and enthralling. It is Southern. I could hear the characters in my mind. The story of this abandoned baby tore at my heartstrings and misted my eyes. Notice that I didn’t say ‘unloved.’ Baby Flora is loved greatly, by a large number of people.

There is a lot of love in this book. Not romance. Love. Blue’s love for this tiny baby left for her to find. Her love for her family, the notorious Bishops. Marlo and her love for her husband Moe, now suffering from dementia. And magic. The magic of love.

There is also a good dose of mystery in South of the Buttonwood Tree, and it’s not confined to the identity of the baby’s mother.

If you need a little magic in your life, or you want a wonderful read that will make you forget the current troubles in the world, this is the book that will do it.

❤❤❤❤.6

‘In the book of life, everyone has chapters they don’t like reading out loud.’

THE AUTHOR: Heather Webber, aka Heather Blake, is the author of more than twenty-five novels. She loves to read, drink too much coffee and tea, birdwatch, crochet, and bake. She currently lives near Cincinnati, Ohio, and is hard at work on her next book.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Macmillan-Tor/Forge via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of South of the Buttonwood Tree by Heather Webber for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells

137791

EXCERPT: Wearing nothing but their father’s old seersucker pajama tops over their panties, the four girls pushed Genevieve’s convertible to the end of the long drive before Vivi climbed behind the wheel and started it. There was only a dollop of gas in the tank so they couldn’t get far.

‘I just know we shouldn’t be doing this,’ Necie said as they journeyed into the night. ‘We should have at least put on pajama bottoms.’

‘Necie, this is not a mortal sin, you know,’ said Teensy.

‘I do not recall it being listed in the Baltimore Catechism,’ Vivi said.

‘Moses didn’t utter one word about pajama bottoms when he came down from the mountain,’ said Caro.

‘Well,’ Necie said, ‘I guess these tops do cover more of our bodies than our swimsuits do.’

As Vivi drove, it seemed that not only the Ya-Yas’ bodies but the earth and sky were sweating. The very air they breathed was almost a juice. Moonlight spilled down into the convertible, onto the four friends’ shoulders and knees and on the tops of their heads, so that their hair seemed to have little sparks shooting off it. ‘Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered ‘ played on the radio. Vivi had no idea at all where she was headed, but she knew that whatever direction she went, her friends would go with her.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: When Siddalee Walker, oldest daughter of Vivi Abbott Walker, Ya-Ya extraordinaire, is interviewed in the New York Times about a hit play she’s directed, her mother gets described as a “tap-dancing child abuser.” Enraged, Vivi disowns Sidda. Devastated, Sidda begs forgiveness, and postpones her upcoming wedding. All looks bleak until the Ya-Yas step in and convince Vivi to send Sidda a scrapbook of their girlhood mementos, called “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.” As Sidda struggles to analyze her mother, she comes face to face with the tangled beauty of imperfect love, and the fact that forgiveness, more than understanding, is often what the heart longs for.

MY THOUGHTS: ‘The beauty of imperfect love.’ That is the essence of the series of books that begins with Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.

On the surface, this is a story of friendship, love and survival. But it goes so much deeper than that. Wells explores the mother daughter bond, with all its misunderstandings and misconceptions, hurt feelings and petty feuds, and the underlying love that ultimately overshadows everything else.

This is not a subtle story. It is big and loud and blowsy. Flamboyant. Southern. It is full of emotion from full-blown histrionics to studied indifference. It’s characters love and hate with equal abandon, they drink, and cuss, and appear to neglect their children. But they have a bond, seemingly unbreakable, so that when something threatens one of them, they circle their wagons and protect one another.

But what happens when that threat, that danger, comes from inside? Siddalee Walker is about to find out. A few careless words to a reporter about her mother may have just exiled her from her family forever….

I love this book. Adore it. It is my favourite of the three in the series. Tattered is how I would describe its condition. Definitely beyond well worn. I read it often and I find it extremely difficult to put into words how much this book makes me feel. I laugh (a lot) and cry (not quite so much) every time I read it. It invokes memories, pleasant and not so pleasant, of my own childhood. Every time I read this, I get something different from it. Definitely one of my lifetime top ten books.

❤❤❤❤❤

THE AUTHOR: Rebecca Wells was born and raised in Alexandria, Louisiana. “I grew up,” she says, “in the fertile world of story-telling, filled with flamboyance, flirting, futility, and fear.” Surrounded by Louisiana raconteurs, a large extended family, and Our Lady of Prompt Succor’s Parish, Rebecca’s imagination was stimulated at every turn. Early on, she fell in love with thinking up and acting in plays for her siblings—the beginnings of her career as an actress and writer for the stage. She recalls her early influences as being the land around her, harvest times, craw-fishing in the bayou, practicing piano after school, dancing with her mother and brothers and sister, and the close relationship to her black “mother” who cleaned for the Wells household. She counts black music and culture from Louisiana as something that will stay in her body’s memory forever.

In high school, she read Walt Whitman’s “I Sing the Body Electric,” which opened her up to the idea that everything in life is a poem, and that, as she says, “We are not born separately from one another.” She also read “Howl,” Allen Ginsberg’s indictment of the strangling consumer-driven American culture he saw around him. Acting in school and summer youth theater productions freed Rebecca to step out of the social hierarchies of high school and into the joys of walking inside another character and living in another world.

The day after she graduated from high school, Rebecca left for Yellowstone National Park, where she worked as a waitress. It was an introduction to the natural glories of the park—mountains, waterfalls, hot springs, and geysers—as well as to the art of hitchhiking.

Rebecca graduated from Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge, where she studied theater, English, and psychology. She performed in many college plays, but also stepped outside the theater department to become awakened to women’s politics. During this time she worked as a cocktail waitress–once accidentally kicking a man in the shins when he slipped a ten-dollar bill down the front of her dress—and began keeping a journal after reading Anais Nin, which she has done ever since.

DISCLOSURE: I own my own copy of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells, published by Harper Collins. And do not ever try to part me from it.

All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.com