In the Middle of Hickory Lane by Heather Webber

Middle of Hickory Lane

In the Middle of Hickory Lane by Heather Webber

In the Middle of Hickory Lane
by 

Heather Webber (Goodreads Author)

Sandy *The world could end while I was reading and I would never notice*‘s review

Jul 31, 2022  ·  edit

it was amazing

bookshelves: 20222022-netgalley-challenge5-starcontemporary-fictionfamily-dramamysteryromance

EXCERPT: In the middle of Hickory Lane grew a neighbourhood garden, a circular patch of vibrant land that fit snugly into the footprint of the wide dead-end street, a cul-de-sac. The landscaped island rose from the surrounding asphalt road, lush and verdant, beckoning for a closer look, a long stay. It was impossible for me not to notice, however, that among its gravel pathways, trees, shrubs, planter beds, trellises and flower meadow, a secret had once been planted as well. One that was slowly being exposed with each thrust of a shovel into rich soil as a newly discovered grave was unearthed.

ABOUT ‘IN THE MIDDLE OF HICKORY LANE’: Emme Wynn has wanted nothing more her whole life than to feel like part of a family. Having grown up on the run with her con artist mother, she’s been shuffled from town to town, drawn into bad situations, and has learned some unsavory habits that she’s tried hard to overcome. When her estranged grandmother tracks her down out of the blue and extends a job offer—helping to run her booth at an open-air marketplace in small-town Sweetgrass, Alabama—Emme is hopeful that she’ll finally be able to plant the roots she’s always dreamed of. But some habits are hard to break, and she risks her newfound happiness by keeping one big truth to herself.

Cora Bee Hazelton has her hands full with volunteering, gardening, her job as a color consultant and designer, and just about anything she can do to keep her mind off her painful past, a past that has resulted in her holding most everyone at arm’s length. The last thing she wants is to form close relationships only to have her heart broken yet again. But when she’s injured, she has no choice other than to let people into her life and soon realizes it’s going to be impossible to keep her heart safe—or her secrets hidden.

MY THOUGHTS: My bags are packed – I’m moving to Sweetgrass, Alabama. More precisely to Hickory Lane. I can’t imagine a more delightful neighbourhood, a more wonderful bunch of neighbours than I would have here.

Glory is the matriarch of the family. A wonderfully wise woman who sees far more than she says, she has finally succeeded in tracing her estranged granddaughter and bringing her back to the family fold.

But Emme has a secret, one that weighs heavily on her, and as much as she has always wanted a home, a family, she isn’t at all sure that she can stay. She also has a peculiar talent, one that she puts down to the way she was raised – she can always tell when someone is lying.

Cora Bee is Emme’s cousin. She also has a secret, a time of her life that she is not proud of but that she can’t let go. She uses it as a barrier, a way of keeping others from getting to close. She also has a particular gift, that of seeing people’s colours.

As Glory’s life comes to an end, all she wants is to see her granddaughters happy and settled, and she will move heaven and earth to do it.

What can I say about the characters in this book? They are simply wonderful and from the moment I first started reading, I just wanted to move in with them and be a part of this beautiful story. I couldn’t help but love them, particularly Emme who has had such a hard life, and Glory who is so loving and giving. Even Dorothy, who is falling prey to dementia is a wonderful character, and perhaps some of the strange things she comes out with have more meaning than her family realises!

This is a lovely heartwarming story, a magical story, that enchanted and engaged me.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#IntheMiddleofHickoryLane #NetGalley

I: @booksbyheather @forgereads

T: @BooksbyHeather @ForgeReads

#fivestarread #contemporaryfiction #familydrama #mystery #romance

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, Forge Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of In the Middle of Hickory Lane 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 is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Sandy’s July 2022 Reading Roundup

I started July with 18 books to read for review and ended up with 20 🤷‍♀️ Of those I read 15, and am almost finished the 16th, giving me an 80% review success rate, well up on my dismal 64% rate for June. Plus I read or listened to four books purely for pleasure during the month. And read and reviewed two titles from my backlist. So that was a total of twenty-two reads for the month of July.

I read one debut novel during July, A Murder of Crows by Sarah Yarwood-Lovett which I rated ⭐⭐⭐.6

plus I read five books by authors I haven’t previously read. They were: Aft the Flood by Dave Warner ⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

Old Friends Reunited by Maddie Please ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Saint of Lost Things by Tish Delaney ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

One Last Day of Summer by Shari Low ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#Rejected Goddesses by Natalie Watson and Nina Holmes ⭐⭐.9

My Netgalley feedback ratio is still at 69%. I wonder what it will take to crack the 70% mark. I think I would need to stop requesting books entirely, and that’s not likely to happen.

The four books I didn’t read in July that are now added to my backlist are:

Guilt Trip by Ed James

Golden Age Locked Room Mysteries edited by Otto Penzler

Mother of All Secrets by Kathleen M. Willett

Truly, Darkly, Deeply by Victoria Selman

My five star reads for July were: In the Middle of Hickory Lane by Heather Webber

Outside Looking In (DCI Matilda Darke #2) by Michael Wood

A Room Full of Killers (DCI Matilda Darke #3) by Michael Wood

The Lost Children (DCI Matilda Darke #9) by Michael Wood

One Last Day of Summer by Shari Low

Old Friends Reunited by Maddie Please

I have seventeen reads for review scheduled for August. Fingers crossed that there are no late approvals. If I don’t read anything from my backlist I should be able to get through all of these.

Happy August reading!❤📚

A Room Full of Killers (DCI Matilda Darke #3) by Michael Wood

EXCERPT: I threw the blanket off me and stood up to turn on the living room light. I can’t remember what I was saying to Max but as soon as the room lit up I could see why he was behaving so oddly.

There was a leak coming through the light fitting in the middle of the room. It didn’t make sense. The bathroom was above the kitchen, not the living room. My eyes adjusted. Shit! It wasn’t water pooling on the coffee table. It wasn’t water dripping and splashing all over the cream carpet. It was blood.

ABOUT ‘A ROOM FULL OF KILLERS’: Eight killers. One house. And the almost perfect murder…

Feared by the people of Sheffield, Starling House is home to some of Britain’s deadliest teenagers, still too young for prison. Now the building’s latest arrival, Ryan Asher, has been found brutally murdered – stabbed twelve times, left in a pool of blood.

When DCI Matilda Darke and her team investigate, they uncover the secrets of a house tainted by evil. Kate Moloney, the prison’s manager, is falling apart, the security system has been sabotaged, and neither the staff nor the inmates can be trusted.

There’s only one person Matilda believes is innocent, and he’s facing prison for the rest of his life. With time running out, she must solve the unsolvable to save a young man from his fate. And find a murderer in a house full of killers…

MY THOUGHTS: A Room Full of Killers is an incredibly tense read. It is dark, fast-paced and, dare I say it, an exhilarating read. I felt like I had run a marathon when I finished.

DCI Matilda Darke is a strong character, but I’m glad she doesn’t work for me, even though she gets results. When Matilda gets her sights on a course of action, there’s little that will deflect her. Certainly not anything like a direct order from her boss ACC Val Masterton. This blatant disregard lands Matilda in hot water more often than not.

I enjoyed (that’s probably not the right word!) the individual stories of the inmates of Starling House, which were interwoven into the story of the investigation into the murder of the newest inmate. Only, in our PC society, we’re probably not allowed to call him that. He would probably be a ‘resident’. Most of the stories are quite chilling. The occasional one, sad. I wondered how many of these boys actually had a teddy bear hidden amongst their possessions that they cuddled up with at night.

The characters in this book are complex – not just Matilda’s team, but also the staff at Sterling House. I could understand Rory’s obsession with finding out why children kill – are they born evil, or is it circumstance? It is something I have often wondered.

The plot is also complex and I had absolutely no idea, until Matilda’s team began to close in on the killer, who it could possibly be.

The only books I haven’t yet read in this series are the two novellas, 0.5 The Fallen, and 4.5 Victim of Innocence. I’ll be reading both as soon as I can.

A Room Full of Killers may easily be read as a stand-alone.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#ARoomFullofKillers @onemorechapter

T: @MichaelHWood @OneMoreChapter

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #mystery #policeprocedural #suspense #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Michael Wood is a freelance journalist and proofreader living in Sheffield. As a journalist he has covered many crime stories throughout Sheffield, gaining first-hand knowledge of police procedure. He also reviews books for CrimeSquad, a website dedicated to crime fiction.

One Last Day of Summer by Shari Low

This book is every bit as beautiful to read as it is to gaze at! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

EXCERPT: Okay, so far so good. Bernadette was on the plane. It had taken off on schedule around 12.30. She was going. She was doing this. Even if the slight apprehension of it all was making her chirp like a budgie to the poor chap next to her. A handsome bloke, probably about the same age as her Nina, so around thirty. He seemed quite happy to chat back, and so did the lass to his right. The guy at the other end of the row – Tadgh, he’d said his name was – clearly wasn’t interested in chatting, but, dear lord, if she was twenty years younger and forty pounds slimmer, she’d be in love with him by now. There was none of that objectifying nonsense allowed any more and quite right too. However, it was absolutely fine as long as it was just a wee nugget of amusement in her own head and never passed her lips. She’d wasted the best years of her life on a man who didn’t deserve it – the least she could do now was have the occasional moment of appreciation for a drop-dead gorgeous stranger, in the same way her and Sarah had a cheer and a good old round of applause every time that big bloke, The Rock, took his shirt off in a movie. They’d been hoarse by the end of that Baywatch film.

ABOUT ‘ONE LAST DAY OF SUMMER’: As a flight to St Lucia leaves the runway, four passengers meet for the first time.

After escaping her controlling husband, Bernadette Manson is taking the first extravagant holiday of her new life. But when her best friend cancels, will she be strong enough to fly solo?

Tadgh Donovan is about to jet off to his destination wedding when he sees a shocking text. Has his bride-to-be written her wedding vows… or already broken them?

Hayley Ford is the wife of a top fertility specialist yet her battle to get pregnant has almost broken her marriage. Can a trip to the sun heal their relationship or should she brace for a crash landing?

Dev Robbins is crossing oceans to track down the woman he fell in love with at first sight. Will it be a one way trip to happy ever after or a return journey to singledom?

MY THOUGHTS: I just loved, loved, loved this book! Once I started reading One Last Day of Summer, I simply couldn’t stop and picked it up every opportunity I got, ignoring my other reads in favour of this.

I loved the characters, all of them very real, very relatable, and very entertaining. I was emotionally invested in them right from the start.

I loved that they weren’t all the same age, or from the same background.

I loved each of their backstories and found myself holding my breath as the plane landed and . . .

Believe me, there are twists and turns in this book that I never expected, and it all gets unbearably tense at several points!

This is not my normal genre, but I ran the full spectrum of my emotions reading One Last Day of Summer and immediately want to rush out to find everything else this author has written and binge read the lot.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#OneLastDayofSummer #NetGalley

I: @sharilowbooks @bookandtonic

T: @sharilow @BoldwoodBooks

#contemporaryfiction #romance

THE AUTHOR: In real life, once upon a time she met a guy, got engaged after a week, and twenty-something years later she lives near Glasgow with her husband and a labradoodle. Her two teenagers have now left home, so she spends an inordinate amount of time on video calls checking if they’re eating well and keeping up to date with their laundry.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Boldwood Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of One Last Day of Summer by Shari Low 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 is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Old Friends Reunited by Maddie Please

EXCERPT: I closed my eyes for a moment and tried to remember the heat: the rich Provençal sunshine beating down on the stone pergola, the warm air faintly scented with rosemary and garlic. There would be a small, convenient table with a mosaic top by the side of my chair. And, just within reach, a bottle of their famous, sparkling Souffle de St Cyr in an ice bucket. Peace and quiet, apart from the twittering of a few small French birds in the trees and the occasional engaging conversation of my friends. It would be the chance to catch up on their news, have some amusing and entertaining discussion which had nothing to do with resurrecting my finances, or with my word count, deadlines, structural edits or William.

Time to think. Perhaps I had been coping, been strong, for long enough.

Audrie and Gin would commiserate with me over my publishing dilemmas, perhaps offer me some advice or tell me how much they had enjoyed my last book. We could cook together in Audrie’s vast kitchen with its huge Lacanche range cooker. I could imagine nights sleeping peacefully, my dreams unclouded by my continuing inability to put one decent sentence in front of another. To remember myself as I used to be. When I wasn’t just a bit part in other people’s lives.

ABOUT ‘OLD FRIENDS REUNITED’: Divorced and on a deadline, bestselling novelist Bea Pinkerton has a serious case of writer’s block. With her agent breathing down her neck, Bea will do ANYTHING to avoid writing another word.

So an invite to a reunion with her old school friends at a beautiful chateau in France, is Bea’s perfect chance to escape. Surely here, relaxing with old friends and drinking cold fizz, Bea will find inspiration?

But as soon as Bea arrives, she realises this is not going to be the peaceful getaway she anticipated. Her old school friends Gin and Audrie are in various states of marital distress and to top it off a camera crew has arrived to film the goings on at Chateau De St Cyr. Far from being calm, the trip is total chaos!

Thank goodness for Bea’s new French neighbour Laurent Sinclair – handsome, charming and perhaps exactly the romantic muse she needs to get her mojo back. But is Bea brave enough to take a second chance at love at her age? Perhaps with a little help from her friends…

MY THOUGHTS: I read this delight in one sitting. I didn’t want to put it down. In fact, I didn’t put it down. Old Friends Reunited was the perfect antidote for a dismal, wet New Zealand winter’s day. The only thing that would have improved the experience would have been a glass or two of the delicious bubbly that is frequently downed in this book. WARNING: There is a lot of food mentioned in this book. Delicious food.

The characters are women in their sixties, all experiencing change in their lives, and trying to come to terms with that change and forge a new path for themselves.

Bea is a successful author whose husband recently emptied the bank accounts and ran off to Phuket with his twentysomething-year-old girlfriend. Audrie is certain her husband has another woman and is planning to divorce her – why else would he have a secret phone and be locked away in his study with a divorce lawyer? And Gin is reeling from the failure of her fourth marriage, the one she was sure was going to last forever.

But if you think that this is a book about three women sitting around whining about the men in – or out – of their lives, you would be wrong though, of course, there is a little of that. Usually with a glass of the aforementioned bubbly in hand.

These three have been friends since school; the sort of friends who don’t need to meet up each week, who can go for years without seeing one another, but when they do meet up it’s like they have never been apart. They just pick up wherever they left off. True friends. BAG – they were known as Baggies at school, now they feel they are just old bags! I so wanted to be the S on the end!

I really didn’t expect to enjoy Old Friends Reunited as much as I did, but I absolutely adored this read. It is warm, and funny (I recommend cold, non-staining drinks to accompany this read), and a reminder that when we retire from work, we don’t need to retire from life. The outcome might be a tad predictable, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The journey getting there was a wonderful one.

Old Friends Reunited by Maddie Please is due for publication 14th July 2022.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#OldFriendsReunited #NetGalley

I: @maddieplease1 @bookandtonic

T: @MaddiePlease1 @BoldwoodBooks

#contemporaryfiction #friendship #romance #womensfiction

THE AUTHOR: Maddie Please was born in Dorset, brought up in Worcestershire and went to University in Cardiff.

After a career as a dentist Maddie now lives in Devon with her exceptionally handsome and supportive husband. They have 4 adult-ish children all of whom have left home and are probably rather surprised by all this. She did warn them.

Maddie is a voracious reader, and would enjoy hoovering, defrosting the fridge and cleaning the windows but unfortunately she doesn’t really have time. She is very disciplined and sensible about her writing and she likes to write every day because it gets her out of doing the ironing.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Boldwood Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Old Friends Reunited by Maddie Please 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 is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Apartment Upstairs by Lesley Kara

EXCERPT: When the call was over Scarlett’s hands were trembling. She raised her head slowly and stared at the pristine white ceiling above her, her breath trapped at the back of her throat. Her neck felt clammy under her T-shirt. Something vile was playing out behind her eyes. Something utterly preposterous, and yet . . .

She thought of all those odd little things her aunt had started saying in the months leading up to her death. Things Scarlett had put down to her failing mind. Things she sometimes giggled at behind her aunt’s back with Ollie or, worse still, ignored altogether, dismissed as nonsense.

If Rebecca’s confused mind had been remembering something that she’d forgotten was supposed to be a secret, and if that secret had something to do with Gina Caplin’s disappearance, then wouldn’t her aunt’s life have been in danger?

ABOUT ‘THE APARTMENT UPSTAIRS’: Scarlett’s aunt lived – and was brutally murdered – in the apartment upstairs. But Scarlett is determined that life should return to some kind of normal, even if that means living with just a ceiling between her and the scene of such a devastating crime. After all, this is her home. She’s safe here. Isn’t she?

Dee is busy balancing her job as a funeral director with organizing an event to mark the disappearance of her best friend, ten years ago. So she’s got enough on her plate without worrying about the threatening messages that are appearing on her company’s Facebook page.

When Scarlett approaches Dee about planning her aunt’s funeral, an unexpected link between them emerges. Together, the two women could uncover secrets that have long been buried. Even while someone wants to stop them digging . . .

MY THOUGHTS: The Apartment Upstairs is an addictive read, one I couldn’t put down and which had me reading into the early hours of the morning.

I loved the characters. Ordinary people, living ordinary lives, brought together by a death.

Scarlett, an independent accountant, plagued by CFS and ME, lives in the apartment below that of her aunt who was brutally bashed to death by her fiance. She chooses Fond Farewells to help organize Rebecca’s funeral.

Dee and Lindsay are lifelong friends who own and operate Fond Farewells, a funeral home. They are opposite sides of the same coin: Dee is as introverted as Lindsay is extroverted. They used to be a threesome but their friend Gina Caplin disappeared without a trace almost ten years earlier. With Gina’s parents, they are organising a gathering to remember Gina and hopefully stir up some memories which may lead to finding her.

Lesley Kara has the knack of taking the perfectly ordinary and making it into something extraordinary. An insidious underlying tension crept in as I read. Was there a connection between Rebecca and Gina Caplin? Or are Scarlett’s suspicions merely a product of her overwrought mind?

This is a very cleverly plotted book. There’s no attempt to shock, or to deceive with unreliable narrators. I didn’t have to suspend belief. There’s no gangs, or organised crime. It’s all very ordinary, until it’s not.

My suspicions veered wildly from person to person, my mind becoming every bit as overwrought as Scarlett’s. But never did I even come close to guessing what had really happened, and what Scarlett’s actions would uncover. I have loved everything I have read by this author, but The Apartment Upstairs is the best yet.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#TheApartmentUpstairs #NetGalley

I: @lesleykarawriter @penguinukbooks

T: @LesleyKara @TransworldBooks

#contemporaryfiction #crime #mystery #suspense

THE AUTHOR: THE AUTHOR: Lesley Kara is an alumna of the Faber Writing Academy ‘Writing a Novel’ course. She lives in the small town of Flinstead-on-Sea on the North Essex coast. The Rumour is her first novel.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Transworld Publishers, Bantam Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Apartment Upstairs by Lesley Kara for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Blind Justice by David Mark (DS MCAVOY #10)

EXCERPT: Headlights, just beyond the fence. The car, back where they had left it. His companions. His friends. Safety, warmth. He lets out a ragged breath, fixing his gaze upon the big yellow eyes of the little Fiesta, illuminating the billions of raindrops that tumble from the demented sky.

Don’t stop. Keep going. You’re nearly there. Don’t say a word. Say he abandoned you. Say he did a runner. Say anything. But don’t let them know. Don’t let them know what you saw, or heard, or smelled. Don’t . . .

He doesn’t even feel the teeth of the metal trap crunch shut around his leg. Has taken two desperate steps towards sanctuary before he looks down and sees the gruesome steel contraption chewing into the bone of his shin. Tumbles down with such force that the tibia rips in two – spears of bloody whiteness skewering the tattered meat beneath his knee.

The pain, when it comes, is beyond endurance. It is as if red-hot knives and shards of glass were being pushed directly into the marrow beneath his shattered bones. He opens his mouth to scream and feels mud and earth spill onto his tongue, down his throat, flooding his gullet. Tries to turn the right way up, to focus himself upon the lights of the car; the nearness of escape.

A shadow falls across him. An outline of rippling silk. Bare feet. Exposed shins. Robe flapping and billowing around defined well-muscled flesh.

I’m sorry. So sorry . . .

ABOUT ‘BLIND JUSTICE’: The call comes in before DS Aector McAvoy has had time for breakfast. The news is bad: A body. Found in the woods out at Brantingham.

The reality is even worse.

The young man’s mutilated corpse lies tangled in the roots of a newly fallen tree, two silver Roman coins nailed through his sightless eyes. Who would torture their victim in such a brutal manner – and why?

DS McAvoy makes the victim a promise: I will find answers. You will know justice. But justice always comes at a cost, and this time it may be McAvoy’s own family who pay the price.

MY THOUGHTS: Aector is off investigating a murder committed in a different century, leaving his home and family to probe the death of an unmourned man who, it seems, was little missed. He has always involved his wife in his work – sometimes more than he ever intended to. Roisin has a keen, insightful mind and often sees things from a different perspective. He is reluctant to admit it, but he benefits from the fact that his wife has a fine criminal cognizance.

His boss, DS Trish Pharaoh, is his closest friend. She knows him and his family better than anyone. But sometimes he’d like her to respect protocol and boundaries. I love the fact that the two are friends and very protective of one another. It makes a change from most novels in this genre where these two characters would be at loggerheads all the time.

Roisin and Trish have an intensely complex relationship: admiring and loathing one another in equal measure as they thread themselves in and out of one another’s lives and steer Aector in whatever direction best suits their needs. Aector loves them both, albeit in markedly different ways.

These three are a formidable team, each ready to lay their life on the line for the others.

David Mark is passionate about his characters, even down to Aector and Roisin’s children, and the criminal elements in his stories. This shines through in his writing. Damn it! I am passionate about his characters. Particularly Aector and the enchanting Roisin and their little family, and the hard-drinking, chain-smoking Trish.

You wouldn’t think that the discovery of a body that has been in the ground for more than twenty years could possibly set off such a dark and macabre chain of events, but it does. Mark plots with the same intense passion he creates his characters.

There are some strange and scary characters in this book. Characters that seem to live in a different world to the rest of us. A world inhabited by gods and demons, sacrifice and ritual. Aector’s knowledge of the classics proves useful here.

I always clear my schedule when I start a book in this series because I can think of nothing but Aector, Roisin, Trish and whatever current case they may be working. I become fully immersed in the story, and live it with the characters as I read the words. Such is the quality of David Mark’s writing.

Although this ends gently, there is change in the air and I am on tenterhooks, waiting for the next book in this superb series.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#BlindJustice #NetGalley

I: @davidmarkwriter @severnhouseimprint

T: @DavidMarkWriter @severnhouse

#fivestarread #contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #murdermystery #policeprocedural #suspense #thriller

THE AUTHOR: David spent more than 15 years as a journalist, including seven years as a crime reporter with The Yorkshire Post – walking the Hull streets that would later become the setting for the internationally bestselling Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy novels.

His writing is heavily influenced by the court cases he covered: the defeatist and jaded police officers; the inertia of the justice system and the sheer raw grief of those touched by savagery and tragedy.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Severn House via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Blind Justice by David Mark 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 is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Island by Adrian McKinty

EXCERPT: A crow with a sceptical yellow eye was watching her from the lightning struck eucalyptus tree.

The crow was death.

If it called out, she was dead. If it flew toward Jacko and he turned to look, she was dead.

The crow observed her with a half-turned head.

She crawled through the brittle grass, reached the tree trunk, stopped, and caught her breath.

She wiped the sweat from her forehead with the bottom of her t-shirt. She sucked the moisture from the shirt as best she could.

She composed herself for a minute then crept past the tree until she reached the edge of the heath. There was nothing now but beach between her and Jacko. No vegetation. No cover. There wasn’t much point in crawling any more.

Slowly, ever so slowly, she got to her feet.

Carefully, she moved the machete from her left to her right hand. It was a heavy old thing, caked with rust. She gripped the split wooden handle and hoped it wouldn’t fall to pieces when she swung it.

Steadying herself, she cautiously advanced.

She had killed before – salmon, trout, duck.

This was different, though, wasn’t it? Very different.

This was a human being.

ABOUT ‘THE ISLAND’: After moving from a small country town to Seattle, Heather Baxter marries Tom, a widowed doctor with a young son and teenage daughter. A working vacation overseas seems like the perfect way to bring the new family together, but once they’re deep in the Australian outback, the jet-lagged and exhausted kids are so over their new mom.

When they discover a remote Dutch Island, off-limits to outside visitors, the family talks their way onto the ferry, taking a chance on an adventure far from the reach of iPhones and Instagram.

But as soon as they set foot on the island, which is run by a tightly knit clan of locals, everything feels wrong. Then a shocking accident propels the Baxters from an unsettling situation into an absolute nightmare.

When Heather and the kids are separated from Tom, they are forced to escape alone, seconds ahead of their pursuers.

Now it’s up to Heather to save herself and the kids, even though they don’t trust her, the harsh bushland is filled with danger, and the locals want her dead.

Heather has been underestimated her entire life, but she knows that only she can bring her family home again and become the mother the children desperately need, even if it means doing the unthinkable to keep them alive.

MY THOUGHTS: Believe all the hype! This is better than good. It’s brilliant. It’s not often an author has me physically jumping out of my skin, but Adrian McKinty did it with The Island. He kept me breathless and on the edge of my seat, eager to know what was going to happen next. Even as I write this, my heart is still pounding, my mind still buzzing.

I didn’t like Heather’s character much in the beginning, but she really comes into her own as the book progresses, as do her two spoiled stepchildren, Olivia and Owen. The least said about Tom, their father, the better.

I was quickly fully immersed in the storyline, and became very vocal about the choices the family made. ‘What are you thinking?’, ‘Don’t do that!’, and ‘Noooooo!’ issued from my lips at full volume as I paced and raged.

The pacing is fast, the writing both tense and intense. McKinty has a knack for putting the reader inside his characters heads, and believe me, with these characters that’s a scary place to be. Especially Ma. She scared the living daylights out of me and I would trust a venomous King Brown snake more than her.

McKinty has created a very strong sense of place, interesting characters and a riveting plot. Mela Lee narrated superbly. The Island earns the full galaxy of stars from me.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#TheIsland #NetGalley

I: #adrianmckinty @hachetteaudio @littlebrown

T: @adrianmckinty @HachetteAudio @littlebrown

#audiobook #contemporaryfiction #familydrama #fivestarread #suspense #thriller

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: Thank you to Hachette, Little Brown and Company via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of The Island by Adrian McKinty, narrated by Mela Lee. 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, Amazon and Goodreads.com

The Last to Disappear by Jo Spain

EXCERPT: The surface. She needs to get to the surface. The thought crowds everything else out.

Survival instinct kicks in, over the fear, the denial, the incomprehension.

Her legs kick, her arms flail, seeking the hole through which she fell, the break in the ice.

Up, up, and her head is clear and she’s gasping for air.

The sudden intake of oxygen brings an explosion of adrenaline and now she knows what she has to do.

One. Fight the debilitating throbbing that could force her back under.

Two. Get out of the water and back onto the ice.

Three. Find safe ground.

She’s lucky; this registers somewhere in the back of her brain. Some people go in and never find their way out. The last thing they see is a sheet of impenetrable ice, the promise of light on the other side. She has been trained for this. She, at least, has a chance.

Her hand throws itself onto the frozen surface, the section that hasn’t cracked, and splays there like a safety anchor.

She sees a figure; remembers who it is. She calls for help. At least, she thinks she does. Her mouth opens, but she’s not sure any sound is coming out. There’s so much to say.

You’re wrong. It doesn’t matter. I won’t tell anybody.

The figure just watches. There’s no offer of help. And now, the person is walking away.

The woman in the lake sees crimson splashed on the white snow that covers most of the ice, thick snow that lured her to the thinnest, most dangerous part of the lake. It’s so distractingly beautiful, red on white, that she almost forgets it’s her blood that’s been spilled. That the ragged line that trails towards the broken ice must have dripped from her exposed wound as she tried to run to safety.

Her hand reaches and slips and reaches and slips but finds nothing.

She tries to scream. It’s beyond her. The pounding inside her head and the stabbing sensation of the freezing water has stolen her voice.

Who’d hear anyway?

She’s alone, trapped in a frozen lake, nothing but birch trees and forest animals for miles; a whole lot of white nothingness.

She’s not perfect. She’s done a lot of stupid things. Things she regrets.

But she doesn’t deserve this.

She didn’t see this coming.

ABOUT ‘THE LAST TO DISAPPEAR’: A small town. A frozen lake. Three missing women. One body.

When young London professional Alex Evans is informed that his sister’s body has been pulled from an icy lake in Northern Lapland, he assumes his irresponsible sister accidentally drowned. He travels to the wealthy winter resort where Vicky worked as a tour-guide and meets Agatha Koskinen, the detective in charge. Agatha is a no-nonsense single mother of three who already thinks there’s more to Vicky’s case than meets the eye.

As the two form an unlikely alliance, Alex also begins to suspect the small town where his sister lived and died is harbouring secrets. It’s not long before he learns that three other women have gone missing from the area in the past and that his sister may have left him a message.

On the surface, Koppe, Lapland is a winter wonderland. But in this remote, frozen place, death seems only ever a heartbeat away.

MY THOUGHTS: Jo Spain writes – I read.

The Last to Disappear is chilling in more ways than one. Set in Lapland, the icy home of Santa Claus, this is not a story of Christmas cheer and good will. Elves are mentioned but not evident. There is plenty of ice and snow, and more ice and snow – did I mention that I read The Last to Disappear wrapped in a warm and snuggly blanket in front of the fire? – and the cold-blooded abandonment of a woman either drowning or dying of hypothermia.

Jo Spain has written a tense, intense and atmospheric thriller that is both ingenious and compelling. I don’t know that I fancy reindeer pizza or blood pancakes though.

The investigation of Vicky Evans death is complicated by three unsolved missing women cases which may or may not be related. After all, it was blind luck that ice-fisherman Elon found her body beneath the ice at his fishing hole. Who knows how many other bodies are down there?

Her characters are complex but relatable. Alex, Vicky’s brother, feels guilty that he has cut himself off from his sister and angry that so few resources are available to investigate Vicky’s death. Agatha, Police Chief, is in a complicated family situation. The supporting cast is excellent – Patric, the ex-police chief; Miika, husband of one of the missing women; Niamh, friend and workmate of the murdered woman, and many others.

The story is told over two timelines, 1998 from the point of view of Kaya, one of the missing women, and November 2019 from the points of view of Alex and Agatha.

I couldn’t believe that this book was almost 400 pages. It certainly didn’t feel like it. I raced through it, inhaled it, and loved every word.

A note to Jo Spain: can you please set your next book somewhere warm, tropical even. I swear I have chilblains after reading this. The South Pacific is very nice, particularly Rarotonga, Aitutaki . . . and if you would like help researching the location, I volunteer.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#TheLasttoDisappear #NetGalley

I: @jospainauthor @quercusbooks

T: @SpainJoanne @QuercusBooks

#contemporaryfiction #crime #mystery #psychologicalthriller #suspense #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Jo Spain is the author of the bestselling Inspector Tom Reynolds series and several international No. 1 bestselling standalone novels. Her first book, With Our Blessing, was a finalist in the 2015 Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller.
Jo, a graduate of Trinity College Dublin, writes TV screenplays full-time. Her first crime series was broadcast on RTE in 2018 and she’s currently involved in a number of TV developments including adaptations of her own novels. In 2021, she co-wrote Harry Wild, starring Jane Seymour, with the Emmy award-winning David Logan (airing 2022).
Jo lives in Dublin with her husband and four young children. In her spare time (she has four children, there is no spare time really) she likes to read. Her favourite authors include Pierre Lemaitre, Jo Nesbo, Liane Moriarty, Fred Vargas and Jodi Picoult. She also watches TV obsessively.
Jo thinks up her plots on long runs in the woods. Her husband sleeps with one eye open. (I can see why!)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Quercus Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Last to Disappear by Jo Spain 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

Six Graves (DI Kim Stone #16) by Angela Marsons

EXCERPT: Bryant averted his gaze from the hole in the ground. He couldn’t force himself to imagine the coffin descending into darkness.

He shrugged further into his jacket as a cold wind gusted around the small group of mourners at the top of the Powke Lane Cemetery. The coffin was being placed into the hearse for it’s final journey up the hill to where they awaited its arrival.

Nice spot, people always said about the highest point of the cemetery. Mourners drew comfort from a good view from where they buried their loved ones. He suspected that the dead didn’t care.

ABOUT ‘SIX GRAVES’: When Detective Kim Stone rushes to the scene of a house fire, she’s shocked to discover it’s claimed the lives of two teenage children and their parents. But this tragedy is not quite as it seems. Each body is marked by a gunshot wound and the mother, Helen Daynes, is holding the gun.

The case sparks painful childhood memories for Kim who suffered at the hands of her own abusive mother. As she begins to untangle the dark web of secrets within the Daynes family, Kim and her team discover Helen had a history of clinical depression. But could it have driven her to murder her loved ones?

Then Kim uncovers a tiny, vital clue in Helen’s bedroom that throws the investigation wide open. Could someone else have killed the Daynes family?

With the case only just underway, a deadly threat is made to Kim’s own life. Years ago, she rescued two little girls from the clutches of a dangerous psychopath who has just escaped prison and is coming for her.

A witness protection officer glued to her side, Kim must bite back her fear, as she keeps digging into the Daynes’s background and soon hits upon a shocking secret from Helen’s past that could crack the case. With the remaining family members in danger, Kim is under pressure like never before.

The monster circling Kim raises the stakes when he threatens the life of another innocent victim. He’s leading Kim straight to him. Forced to go against direct instructions from her superiors, will that one fateful decision cost her more than her job?

MY THOUGHTS: I approached Six Graves with some trepidation. Angela Marsons was signed by Bookouture to write a total of 16 DI Kim Stone books, and Six Graves is #16. While I longed to read it – I have loved every book in this series – I knew it was ‘THE END’.

So I began with trepidation, the hollow feeling in my gut strengthened by the opening paragraphs (above). Obviously DI Kim Stone’s funeral. On tenterhooks, I read on. Was I right? Yes, and no.

I read slowly, savouring each word, appreciating every nuance. The ending is at the beginning of the book, so I knew where we were going and really wasn’t in any hurry to get there. Not at all. I didn’t want this book, this series, to end. But, damn it, the mystery surrounding the apparent murder/suicide of a family, Syme’s escape from custody and his subsequent abduction of two small girls had me glued to the pages, all previous intentions of drawing this read out for as long as possible fallen by the wayside.

By the end, I felt battered and drained, exhausted, bereft, and wanting to go back and start all over again.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#SixGraves #NetGalley

I: @angelamarsonsauthor @bookouture

T: @WriteAngie @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #fivestarread #crime #detectivefiction #suspense #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Angela is the author of the Kim Stone Crime series. She discovered a love of writing at Primary School when a short piece on the rocks and the sea gained her the only merit point she ever got.
Angela wrote the stories that burned inside and then stored them safely in a desk drawer.
After much urging from her partner she began to enter short story competitions in Writer’s News resulting in a win and three short listed entries.
She used the Amazon KDP program to publish two of her earlier works before concentrating on her true passion – Crime.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Six Graves by Angela Marsons 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 is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com