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

The Three Deaths of Magdalene Lynton by Katherine Hayton

EXCERPT: A man walked through the double doors, wavering on his feet as the suction from the closing doors pulled him off balance. The mother and grandmother each made an initial movement, as if to help, then sat back, staring at the ground. The little girl jabbed her chair at him, once, twice – the world’s smallest lion tamer – then retreated to her mother’s lap.

Ngaire understood why. Every pore of the man’s body exuded death. He reminded her of an autumn leaf left to mummify in the dry winter air – no substance, no flesh to his bones. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle. With no offers of assistance, he crept forward, his feet never leaving the carpet. Minutes passed.

The thick plastic panels that enclosed Ngaire behind the front counter formed her excuse not to help. To walk around to the other side, she’d have to unlock two doors with her passkey – and then what? Let him stand and tremble while she walked back?

The man still had a meter to go when she manufactured a broad smile and asked, ‘Can I help you?’ In training, an officer had instructed her to channel Gold Coast surfers when she faced the public, a method sure to produce a happy grin with no concerns. Far more tiring than ‘resting bitch’ face, but also more likely to yield positive results.

He reached the counter at last and pulled a passport out of his jacket pocket with shaking fingers. He tried to give it to Ngaire, but she nodded at the desk tray. When he dropped it in there, she picked it up and flipped through the front pages, stopping at the photograph.

In the picture, a gray scale man with thick hair kept a straight face for the camera, although happy, upturned lines still radiated from the corners of his eyes and mouth. The name was Paul Worthington, and Ngaire worked out his age from his date of birth: fifty three. She pushed the book back to him, thinking ‘Surf, sun, sand. Smile, girl.’ The poster child for cancer returned her stare, his face blank, and she tried to swallow past her sympathy, her pity. Her eyebrows raised in inquiry.

‘My identification,’ he said. ‘So you know I’m serious.’ He leaned forward until her nostrils filled with mild acid and dank grapes. ‘I want to confess to a murder.’

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Magdalene Lynton died forty years ago: a vivacious teenager who fell victim to a grotesque, accidental drowning. The coroner’s office issued a verdict of death by misadventure and filed her case. The farming commune she’d lived within, splintered apart. Her body was left behind in a small, private cemetery encircled by acres of fallow ground.

Until Paul Worthington confessed to her murder.

Magdalene’s case lands with Ngaire Blakes, a Maori detective recovering from a brutal stabbing. After fighting for the resources to investigate, Ngaire discovers that Paul’s confession doesn’t fit with the facts of Magdalene’s death. The trouble is, neither does the original verdict.

Together with her partner, Deb, Ngaire digs deeper into the case to uncover inconsistencies, lies, and mortal danger.

MY THOUGHTS: This is a good twisty tale set in and around Christchurch in the South Island of New Zealand, and the first in a series of three books about a female, Maori detective who seems to be a magnet for trouble.

We don’t learn much about Ngaire, or any other of the characters that are likely to appear in the other books in this series, which is a pity. The characters need a little rounding out. We know far more about the characters connected with this forty year old crime, and we are unlikely to come across them again in the series, except, perhaps, for William (aka Billy) the lawyer. But there are some interesting characters, very interesting characters, some with hidden depths, others with hidden secrets. It’s not immediately clear who falls into which camp.

I did notice a few Americanisms creep in: e,g. Mom, instead of the kiwi ‘Mum’, which particularly annoyed me.

But, that aside, The Three Deaths of Magdalene Lynton is an interesting story. Nothing is simple, nothing quite what it seems. The plot is well constructed, and kept my interest throughout. The mystery unfolds quite slowly, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing happening. We learn everything as the investigative team does. The ending was certainly not what I expected. Either time. But it was spectacularly perfect.

😊😊😊.7

FOR THE ARMCHAIR TRAVELLER: Christchurch, known for its English heritage, is located on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Flat-bottomed punts glide on the Avon River, which meanders through the city centre. On its banks are cycling paths, the green expanse of Hagley Park and Christchurch Botanic Gardens. In 2010 and 2011, earthquakes destroyed many of the historic centre’s stone-built buildings. These earthquakes are referred to in The Three Deaths of Magdalene Lynton.
The Waimakariri River is one of the largest rivers in Canterbury, on the eastern coast of New Zealand’s South Island. It flows for 151 kilometres in a generally southeastward direction from the Southern Alps across the Canterbury Plains to the Pacific Ocean.

THE AUTHOR: Katherine Hayton is a middle-aged woman who works in insurance, doesn’t have children or pets, can’t drive, has lived in Christchurch her entire life, and resides a two-minute walk from where she was born.

For some reason, she’s developed a rich fantasy life.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to author Katherine Hayton via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Three Deaths of Magdalene Lynton 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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

It is Father’s Day here in New Zealand so happy father’s day to all the dads out there. It’s a fairly dismal day, wet and windy, so we have postponed the plans we had made for this afternoon until next week. Currently we are waiting for the Supercar racing out of Townsville, Queensland, Australia to start. There is the delicious aroma of curried sausages (Chelsea Winters – Eat) simmering away in the slow cooker drifting through to the lounge. All is well in our little world.

I have had a good reading week, although I deviated from my reading plan as you may have noticed if you have been following my reviews during the week.

I am currently reading Cry Baby by Mark Billingham, #17 in the Tom Thorne series. This story is set in 1996 and is the prequel to Sleepyhead which was the first book I ever read by Billingham.

I am listening to an audiobook by a New Zealand author, Katherine Hayton, called The Three Deaths of Magdalene Lynton which is set in the South Island of New Zealand.

You may have a feeling of deja vu as you read on regarding what I plan on reading this week.

Night Whistler by Greg Woodland.

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?

Imperfect Women by Araminta Hall

When Nancy Hennessy is murdered, she leaves behind two best friends, a loving husband and daughter, and a secret lover whose identity she took to the grave. Nancy was gorgeous and wealthy, with adoring friends and family—from the outside, her life was perfect. But as the investigation into her death flounders and her friends Eleanor and Mary wrestle with their grief, dark details surface that reveal how little they knew their friend, each other, maybe even themselves.

A gripping, immersive novel about impossible expectations and secrets that fester and become lethal, Imperfect Women unfolds through the perspectives of three fascinating women. Their enduring, complex friendship is the knot the reader must untangle to answer the question: who killed Nancy?

My copy of Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly, by Adrian McKinty, #6 in the Sean Duffy has finally arrived, so I want to read that also.

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.

I have 6 new ARCs from Netgalley this week . . . so I guess you could say that once again, I have fallen off the wagon!

I have Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman, but I plan to read Practical Magic before I start this. I read and loved The Rules of Magic last year.

Peace by Garry Disher, Australian fiction.

The Girls in the Snow by Stacy Green

Without Blood by Martin Michaud

Stolen Children by Michael Wood

And Living Ayurveda by Claire Ragozzino. I have been going to Ayurveda yoga classes over the winter and have really enjoyed them, so couldn’t resist this title when I saw it. Even the cover invokes a feeling of calm and peace.

Have a wonderful week my friends. I hope that, wherever in the world you are, the Covid-19 situation is easing. Keep calm and read on. In our local library, even the books are put into quarantine when they are returned!

Happy reading!

Sandy ❤😍📚☕🍪

Sadie by Courtney Summers

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I think I must be one of the very few people who did not read this when it first came out. I dithered and delayed … and loved it!I think the idea of podcasts put me off. I needn’t have worried.

EXCERPT: Today we’re doing something new – something big. Today, we’re pre-empting your regular scheduled episode of ‘Always Out There’ to launch the first episode of our new serialized podcast, ‘The Girls’. If you want to hear more, you can download all eight episodes – that’s right; the entire season – on our website. We’re pretty sure you’ll want to hear more.

Created and hosted by one of our longtime producers, West McCray, ‘The Girls’ explores what happens when a devastating crime reveals a deeply unsettling mystery. It’s a story about family, about sisters, and the untold lives lived in small town America. It’s about the lengths we go to to protect the ones we love … and the high price we pay when we can’t.

It begins, as so many stories do, with a dead girl.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: A missing girl on a journey of revenge. A Serial―like podcast following the clues she’s left behind. And an ending you won’t be able to stop talking about.

Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray―a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America―overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

MY THOUGHTS: I wasn’t sure that I was going to enjoy this when I first started it. I thought it might be like one of those true crime/reality TV shows where they repeat themselves every few minutes to make sure that you get the point. Sadie wasn’t like that at all. It was intriguing, compelling and I want more. It was tantalizing.

This is a haunting, gut wrenching tale of abuse and neglect, of drug and alcohol abuse/addiction, and of making choices. In this instance, mostly the wrong ones.

Sadie lives a bleak life. Abandoned by their mother, she cares for her younger sister Mattie. Tries to provide for her, protect her, love her, and guide her. When Mattie is murdered, Sadie’s life implodes. She can focus on only one thing: revenge. And this is, amongst other things, the story of her quest for redemption.

Sadie is not always easy to listen to/read. There is nothing explicit, but plenty is implied. There are things no child should ever have to experience, but Sadie has. She had been determined that Mattie should have a different life, one where she was cherished and loved. But she failed. That sense of failure fuels her.

The story of Sadie is told from Sadie’s own point of view and that of West McCray who, diverted from his original task of portraying life in small town America, finds himself caught up in the search for Sadie long after almost everyone else has given up hope.

If you haven’t yet read Sadie by Courtney Summers, I urge you to.

😲😲😲😲.2

THE AUTHOR: Courtney Summers is the bestselling author of several novels, whose career in writing began in 2008, when she was 22. Her work has been released to critical acclaim and multiple starred reviews, received numerous awards and honors including the Edgar Award, the John Spray Mystery Award, the Cybils Award, the Odyssey Award, the Audie Award, and has enjoyed the recognition of many library, state, ‘Best Of’ and Readers’ Choice lists. Courtney has reviewed for The New York Times, is the founder of #ToTheGirls, a 2015 worldwide trending hashtag, and in 2016, she was named one of Flare Magazine’s 60 under 30. She lives and writes in Canada.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of Sadie, written by Courtney Summers, narrated by Rebecca Soler, Fred Berman, Dan Bittner, Gabra Zackman, and a full supporting cast, and published by Macmillan Audio. 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

Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham

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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

Report for Murder by Val McDermid

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Glorious cover!

EXCERPT: Lindsay Gordon put murder to the back of her mind and settled down in the train compartment to enjoy the broken greys and greens of the Derbyshire scenery. Rather like home, she decided. Except that in Scotland, the greens were darker, the greys more forbidding. Although in Glasgow, where she now lived, there was hardly enough green to judge. She congratulated herself on finishing the detective novel just at the point where Manchester suburbia yielded place to this attractive landscape foreign to her. Watching it unfold gave her the first answer to the question that had been nagging her all day: what the hell was she doing here? How could a cynical socialist lesbian feminist journalist (as she mockingly described herself) be on her way to spend a weekend in a girl’s public school?

Of course, there were the answers she’d been able to use to friends: she’d never visited this part of England and wanted to see what it was like; she was a great believer in ‘knowing thine enemy’, so it came under the heading of opportunities not to be missed; she wanted to see Paddy Callaghan, who had been responsible for the invitation. But she remained unconvinced that she was doing the right thing. What had made her mind up was the realisation that, given Lindsay’s current relationship with the Inland Revenue, anything that had a cheque as the end product couldn’t be ignored.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Freelance journalist Lindsay Gordon is strapped for cash. Why else would she agree to cover a fund-raising gala at a girls’ public school? But when the star attraction is found garrotted with her own cello string minutes before she is due on stage, Lindsay finds herself investigating a vicious murder.

Who would have wanted Lorna Smith Cooper dead? Who had the key to the locked room in which her body was found? And who could have slipped out of the hall at just the right time to commit this calculated and cold-blooded crime?

MY THOUGHTS: A great start to a series first published in 1987 from an author I love. There are lots of secrets and resentments amongst the cast of suspects, any one of which could be a motive for murder – long buried affairs, greed, envy and hatred amongst them.

The plot is solid, the suspects numerous, the sleuthing of the good old fashioned variety.

Lindsay is a rather prickly character, quick to take offense, and someone for whom it would be difficult to do a favour. She also finds it difficult to apologise. She is headstrong, tenacious and fiercely independent. These traits work both in her favour and against her. There were moments during this read that I wanted to slap her as, at times, she comes across as arrogant and very rude.

This was a fun and satisfying read. The narration, by Caroline Guthrie, was excellent. I loved listening to her soft Scottish bur and will be looking for other audiobooks that she has narrated.

😊😊😊😊.2

FOR THE ARMCHAIR TRAVELLER: the majority of time is spent in Derbyshire, with forays to Glasgow and London.

THE AUTHOR: Val McDermid is a No. 1 bestseller whose novels have been translated into more than thirty languages, and have sold over eleven million copies.

She has won many awards internationally, including the CWA Gold Dagger for best crime novel of the year and the LA Times Book of the Year Award. She was inducted into the ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards Hall of Fame in 2009 and was the recipient of the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger for 2010. In 2011 she received the Lambda Literary Foundation Pioneer Award.

She writes full time and divides her time between Cheshire and Edinburgh

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of Report for Murder, written by Val McDermid, narrated by Caroline Guthrie and published by Avid Audiobooks via Overdrive. 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

Watching what I’m reading…

I hope everyone is having a wonderful day. We have fine weather today and I have been making the most of it. The laundry is all up to date, and I have had a couple of hours in the garden. It’s starting to cloud over now and the wind is picking up so I decided to come inside. Good timing as the Supercar racing out of Australia – Townsville, Queensland. I have only driven through there a couple of times, but I think that once travel restrictions are eased that it is somewhere I am going to have to visit. We have friends who live there so it would be great to catch up with them too.

I am currently reading The First to Lie by Frank Phillipi Ryan, my first book by this author and it is certainly keeping my attention!

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I finished listening to Sadie by Courtney Summers earlier today and have yet to download another audiobook.

This week I am planning to read Cry Baby by Mark Billingham

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In the summer of 1996, two boys run from a playground into the adjoining woods, but only one comes out. DS Tom Thorne takes on a case that quickly spirals out of control when two people connected with the missing boy are murdered. As London prepares to host the European Soccer Championships, Thorne fights to keep on top of a baffling investigation while also dealing with the ugly fallout of his broken marriage. A prequel to Billingham’s acclaimed debut Sleepyhead–which the Times voted “one of the 100 books that had shaped the decade”–this compelling novel highlights the case that shaped the career of one of British crime fiction’s most iconic characters.

and Night Whistler by Greg Woodland. This is a debut novel by this Australian author. Love the cover – creepy!

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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?

I have had 5 ARCs approved this week. Most excited about The Survivors by Jane Harper. I have requested every book that she has written, and this is the first time I have been approved!

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Murder at an Irish Christmas by Carlene O’Connor

The Bluebell Girls by Barbara Josselsohn (thanks Carla and Susan!)

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The Well of Ice by Andrea Carter

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and The Killings at Kingfisher Hill by Sophie Hannah

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I also have a beta read – Cognac and Confessions by Christine Cameron.

Happy reading everyone. Have a wonderful week!

Cheers
Sandy

Priest (Jack Taylor #5) by Ken Bruen

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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 Bad Sister by Kevin O’Brien

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EXCERPT: Stripped down to his underwear, Gil was tied to the desk chair. He looked like a defeated boxer slouched in the corner of the ring. His handsome face was a swollen bloody pulp. Cuts covered his body. On his right arm and shoulder were square patches where it looked as if they’d carefully cut off some layers of skin.

The woman was sitting on the edge of the desk, her back to them.

Tightening his grip on Nate’s arm, the man knocked on the window.

The woman quickly turned, the gun readied in her hand.

‘Open the window,’ the man called. ‘I want Gil to hear his brother beg for his life.’

The woman nodded, almost as if she approved of the idea. She moved to the window and opened it a crack.

The man jabbed the muzzle of the revolver against Nate’s temple and then took a step away.

Trembling violently, Nate realized the guy didn’t want to get splattered with blood. Nate remembered that image from the Vietnam war – of the prisoner being shot in the head. He was certain he was going to die. ‘Goddam it, Gil!’ he cried out. ‘Tell them what they want to know.’

ABOUT THIS BOOK: TOO CLOSE
The site of the old campus bungalow where two girls were brutally slain is now a flower patch covered with chrysanthemums. It’s been fifty years since the Immaculate Conception Murders. Three more students and a teacher were killed in a sickening spree that many have forgotten. But there is one person who knows every twisted detail. . . .

TO SEE
Hannah O’Rourke and her volatile half-sister, Eden, have little in common except a parent. Yet they’ve ended up at the same small college outside Chicago, sharing a bungalow with another girl. Hannah isn’t thrilled—nor can she shake the feeling that she’s being watched. And her journalism professor, Ellie Goodwin, keeps delving into Hannah and Eden’s newsworthy past. . . .

THE DANGER
When Hannah and Eden’s arrival coincides with a spate of mysterious deaths, Ellie knows it’s more than a fluke. A copycat is recreating those long-ago murders. Neither the police nor the school will accept the horrific truth. And the more Ellie discovers, the more she’s convinced that she won’t live to be believed. . . .

MY THOUGHTS: I abandoned this read at 21%, unable to sustain any interest in the storyline. This is the first book I have attempted to read by Kevin O’Brien, and while I can see that this will appeal to a strong group of people who enjoy action thrillers, I prefer something a lot more subtle.

And subtle is something I hadn’t found by the time I finished reading. So, besides the lack of subtlety, there’s a distinct lack of suspense. Things that ought to have been suspenseful just weren’t. In fact, they were just crass. For example, the scene after which I stopped reading has a man standing in the abandoned section where two of the Immaculate Conception murders occurred fifty years earlier, peering through the uncurtained ground floor window of two college freshmen that he is stalking for who knows what reason, and getting a hard on. This should have been creepy. Really creepy. It wasn’t. At the risk of repeating myself, it was just crass. The author seemed more focused on throwing in some sexual references than on milking the situation to its maximum effect.

The characters seem stereotyped, and lacking in depth.

So it is time for Mr O’Brien and I to part ways. I wish him every success with The Bad Sister. It will have huge appeal to a large number of readers. Unfortunately, I am not one of them.

🤦‍♀️

THE AUTHOR: Kevin O’Brien is an American bestselling author of thrillers. He grew up in Chicago’s North Shore, but now moved to Seattle, Washington in 1980. After attending New Trier East High School, he studied journalism at Marquette University. (Wikipedia)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Kensington Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Bad Sister by Kevin O’Brien 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 Weekend Away by Sarah Alderson

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EXCERPT: I stagger backwards a few steps, sucking in air, my hands on my hips , bent over like an old lady climbing stairs. It’s suddenly occurred to me that if Kate hasn’t her phone on her, or her wallet or any ID, she can’t have gone anywhere. The police thought she’d maybe got on a plane or a train or hired a car, that she’d decided to leave – never mind the fact she left behind all her clothes. I hadn’t really thought they were right but I guess I was clinging to the hope that maybe, just maybe, they were and she was off doing her own thing. But without her wallet, without cash or credit cards, passport, or her phone, where would she go? What could she possibly be doing? There’s only one answer. And I have been trying my hardest to stay positive and not think it, except for last night when my imagination ran wild, but now I need to accept it. Something very bad has happened to Kate.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Two friends go on holiday. Only one comes back.

Orla and Kate have been best friends forever. Together they’ve faced it all – be it Orla’s struggles as a new mother or Kate’s messy divorce. And whatever else happens in their lives, they can always look forward to their annual weekend away.

This year, they’re off to Lisbon: the perfect flat, the perfect view, the perfect itinerary. And what better way to kick things off in style than with the perfect night out?

But when Orla wakes up the next morning, Kate is gone. Brushed off by the police and with only a fuzzy memory of the night’s events, Orla is her friend’s only hope. As she frantically retraces their steps, Orla makes a series of shattering discoveries that threaten everything she holds dear. Because while Lisbon holds the secret of what happened that night, the truth may lie closer to home…

MY THOUGHTS: If you have ever been lost in a maze, you will get a similar experience in reading The Weekend Away by Sarah Alderson. The author will lead you down blind alleys, through wrong turns and into dead ends before finally spitting you out at the end. And what an ending! Despite forming two theories early on in the book, one of which was right, knowing the who and the why, I still did not see that ending coming! Sneaky, Ms Alderson.

The characters are a disparate and interesting assortment. Some dodgy police; a creepy landlord; a naive first time mum facing 40, feeling guilty for not enjoying motherhood as much as she should after her desperate and financially ruinous attempts to conceive; her best friend, a super-wealthy newly divorced good time girl who is funding this girl’s weekend away; the husbands or, in Kate’s case, the ex-husband; and Konstandin, Uber driver and possibly Russian mafia, who seems to turn up at the most opportune moments. The question must be asked – is he a good guy? Or a bad guy?

While this may be a quick and easy read, (overnight for me), it is no less gripping for being so. It certainly didn’t feel like 400 pages. I could easily imagine The Weekend Away being made into a movie. Plenty of action and intrigue.

😍😍😍.8

THE AUTHOR: Having spent most of her life in London, Sarah quit her job in the non profit sector in 2009 and took off on a round the world trip with her husband and princess-obsessed daughter on a mission to find a new place to call home. After several months in India, Singapore, Australia and the US, they settled in Bali where they lived for five years.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Avon Books UK via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Weekend Away by Sarah Alderson 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