Lost Souls by Chris Merritt

EXCERPT: Death was a fresh start for them; that’s how he saw it. Others might not agree, but they were wrong. He could understand why some would think of dying as the end though. In one sense, that was true. It was an ending. But it was also a beginning. A chance to go on to a better place. Somewhere you no longer had to suffer the torments that your earthly body had endured.

Somewhere everything would be okay for evermore.

ABOUT ‘LOST SOULS’: Standing at the school gates, he waits until the last child leaves the safety of the playground. And then he follows at a distance, keeping to the shadows. Only he knows what’s going to happen next.

In a quiet church, on a busy London street, 12-year-old Donovan Blair is found dead. His hands are clasped together as if in prayer. Just hours ago, he was happily playing with his friends at school, but now his body is lifeless, and his killer is long gone.

Detective Dan Lockhart is working alone on his wife’s missing person’s case when he receives a call telling him to get to the crime scene at St Mary’s Church immediately.

Bringing in psychologist Dr Lexi Green to help profile the murderer, Dan is convinced that the killer has provided a clue by leaving the body in a prayer position, and Lexi agrees. As they try to get into the mind of the person responsible, another victim is found. A 13-year-old girl, left in a different church, posed in exactly the same way.

Fearing the murderer may already have another child in his sights, Dan and Lexi work together to establish links between the two deaths, and soon discover that not only were both children in care – they had attended the same school. And when it emerges that Lexi’s new boyfriend works there, things become difficult between her and Dan. How much can he tell Lexi about the case? And could she be at risk?

As Dan makes a breakthrough in the investigation, he receives devastating news about his wife, Jess. But with children’s lives at stake and Lexi in danger, Dan must put his personal emotions aside and chase the killer. Can he and Lexi work out who is behind the murders before another vulnerable child is taken?

MY THOUGHTS: I have been a little disappointed in Chris Merritt’s Lockhart and Green series. I love this author’s Zac Boateng series, and I was looking forward to more of the same. WRONG. The Lockhart and Green series is very different. Where I found the Zac Boateng series to be fast paced, suspenseful and thrilling, Lost Souls seems to be drawn out and, to be quite honest, I found passages where the author seemed to be pontificating/procrastinating, and repeating himself. Don’t get me wrong – this is not a bad read, but it needs to be tightened up, to be not quite so bogged down in repetitive psychological analysis.

I liked the characters: Dan, Detective Lockhart whose wife has disappeared without trace; Maxine Smith, a strong character inclined to follow her instincts; Lexi Green, psychologist, who also has trauma in her past. Even the lesser characters, the supporting cast, are an interesting if not always likeable bunch.

The basic plot is sound, and there are a few interesting twists and misdirections, but I didn’t find the read particularly suspenseful or thrilling. I did have fun trying to guess the killer – I didn’t. There are plenty of suspects to choose from. I thought the chapters written from the POV of the murderer were a little repetitive and didn’t, after the initial insight, add much of value to the book.

And I do have just one small quibble with the blurb where it states ‘with children’s lives at stake (true enough) and Lexi in danger’……wait – did I miss something?

Lost Souls is a good read, just not a great one.

⭐⭐⭐.5

#LostSouls #NetGalley @cjmerritt81 @DrCJMerritt @bookouture
#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction

THE AUTHOR: Hello! I’m a British author whose crime thrillers combine psychology, suspense, and characters you care about.

All my novels are set in London, where I live.

I began writing fiction in 2014, after previous careers as a diplomat, based in Iraq and Jerusalem, and later as a psychologist working with victims and perpetrators of crime. I specialised in treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which sparked my interest in telling stories about how people cope when faced with extreme adversity.

Now, I spend most of my time writing novels and drinking coffee while ‘thinking’ about writing novels. When I’m not writing, I love climbing and playing basketball.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Lost Souls by Chris Merritt 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 Night Hawks (Ruth Galloway Mysteries #13) by Elly Griffiths

EXCERPT: It’s not until there’s a shout of ‘Tide!’ that they realise the waters are almost upon them. Then there’s another cry, coming from Troy, a young hawk stationed at the mouth of one of the estuaries winding back inland. His comrades splash over to him, taking care to keep their machines above water.

‘There’s something . . .’ says Troy. ‘I almost fell over it.’ He’s very young, still a teenager, and his voice wavers and breaks.

Alan, an older detectorist, reaches out in the dark to touch his shoulder. ‘What is it, lad?’

But another of the hawks is pointing his torch at the ground by Troy’s feet. And they all see it, first some clothes swirling in the incoming tide, a movement that gives the appearance of life. But then, caught in a clump of sea grass, a dead body, its arm outstretched as if asking for help.

ABOUT ‘THE NIGHT HAWKS (RUTH GALLOWAY MYSTERIES #13)’: Dr Ruth Galloway returns to the moody and beautiful landscape of North Norfolk to confront another killer. A devastating new case for our favourite forensic archaeologist in this acclaimed and bestselling crime series.

The Night Hawks, a group of metal detectorists, are searching for buried treasure when they find a body on the beach in North Norfolk. At first Nelson thinks that the dead man might be an asylum seeker but he turns out to be a local boy, Jem Taylor, recently released from prison. Ruth is more interested in the treasure, a hoard of Bronze Age weapons. Nelson at first thinks that Taylor’s death is accidental drowning, but a second death suggests murder.

Nelson is called to an apparent murder-suicide of a couple at the isolated Black Dog Farm. Local legend talks of the Black Shuck, a spectral hound that appears to people before they die. Nelson ignores this, even when the owner’s suicide note includes the line, ‘He’s buried in the garden.’ Ruth excavates and finds the body of a giant dog.

All roads lead back to this farm in the middle of nowhere, but the place spells serious danger for anyone who goes near. Ruth doesn’t scare easily. Not until she finds herself at Black Dog Farm…

MY THOUGHTS: I love this series. It definitely should be read as a series to fully appreciate the ongoing and evolving relationships between the characters.

Ruth is back at UNN, in the top job – head of department – and Frank has returned to America. Her daughter, ten-year-old Kate, is back at her old primary school in her last year before moving on to secondary school. Nelson is under pressure from his boss, Superintendent Jo Archer (Super Jo), to retire. Avoiding her is Nelson’s main form of exercise. Cathbad is still raising his and Judy’s children and is a practicing Druid. Judy is Nelson’s 2-i-c, a DI now who is definitely a woman of two halves. She is an excellent police officer, thorough and dedicated to her job. In her personal life she doesn’t much enjoy mixing with other people outside her and Cathbad’s tight circle of friends.

The location of this mystery is Blakeney, a name which means Black Island, a place Cathbad describes as ‘odd’, having ‘a lot of psychic energy’, and home to the hyter sprites, little spider-like creatures that are said to live in tunnels underneath Blakeney and kidnap children.

Black Dog Farm, said to be home of the Black Shuck, a gigantic black dog with glowing red eyes who is the harbinger of death, has a tragic past, and is now the site of another tragedy.

Elly Griffiths can certainly do atmospheric. Her detailed telling of local legends and the way she weaves them through the fabric of her plots is nothing short of masterful. They add an extra creepy dimension to the already spooky house setting. Add in a dysfunctional family and the stage is set for a gripping and engrossing story that swept me along and had me chafing at the bit to get home from work and finish my read, to find out who was behind these killings and just what their motivation was.

If you have been following my reviews for this series, you will know that my ratings are usually closer to 5 than 4. But there is a loose thread in The Night Hawks left dangling, concerning the dead Doctor’s secret room, the activities that were conducted there, and the records contained within. It seemed to me that this was left unfinished and deserved a little more attention than it received from the police.

An excellent addition to the series, that introduces a couple of new characters to the mix. I enjoyed Elly’s author’s note at the end, and Ruth’s biography.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#TheNightHawks #NetGalley #ellygriffithsauthor @ellygriffiths

#contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama #murdermystery #detectivefiction

THE AUTHOR: Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway novels take for their inspiration Elly’s husband, who gave up a city job to train as an archaeologist, and her aunt who lives on the Norfolk coast and who filled her niece’s head with the myths and legends of that area. Elly has two children and lives near Brighton.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Quercus Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Night Hawks by Elly Griffiths 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’s been a sad day for us today. We farewelled a friend who was far too young to die. I am glad that his death was sudden, and instantaneous, but his timing was off. His youngest son was due to get married next Saturday. That has now been postponed. Michael, thanks for all the fun times over the years. We will miss you, mate.

Currently I am reading The Night Hawks by Elly Griffiths, #13 in the Ruth Galloway series.

And listening to The Shadow Man by Helen Fields

This week I am planning on reading An Ordinary Life by Amanda Prowse

Christmas Eve, 2019. Ninety-four-year-old Molly lies in her hospital bed. A stroke and a fall may have broken her body—but her mind is alive with memories.

London, 1940s. Molly is a bright young woman, determined to help the war effort and keep her head up despite it all. Life becomes brighter when she meets and falls in love with a man who makes her forget everything with one dance. But then war forces her to make an unforgettable sacrifice, and when she’s brought to her knees by a daring undercover mission with the French Resistance, only her sister knows the secret weighing heavily on Molly’s heart.

Now, lying in her hospital bed, Molly can’t escape the memories of what she lost all those years ago. But she is not as alone as she thinks.

Will she be able to find peace—and finally understand that what seemed to be an ordinary life was anything but?

Lost Souls by Chris Merritt

Standing at the school gates, he waits until the last child leaves the safety of the playground. And then he follows at a distance, keeping to the shadows. Only he knows what’s going to happen next.

In a quiet church, on a busy London street, 12-year-old Donovan Blair is found dead. His hands are clasped together as if in prayer. Just hours ago, he was happily playing with his friends at school, but now his body is lifeless, and his killer is long gone.

Detective Dan Lockhart is working alone on his wife’s missing person’s case when he receives a call telling him to get to the crime scene at St Mary’s Church immediately.

Bringing in psychologist Dr Lexi Green to help profile the murderer, Dan is convinced that the killer has provided a clue by leaving the body in a prayer position, and Lexi agrees. As they try to get into the mind of the person responsible, another victim is found. A 13-year-old girl, left in a different church, posed in exactly the same way.

Fearing the murderer may already have another child in his sights, Dan and Lexi work together to establish links between the two deaths, and soon discover that not only were both children in care – they had attended the same school. And when it emerges that Lexi’s new boyfriend works there, things become difficult between her and Dan. How much can he tell Lexi about the case? And could she be at risk?

As Dan makes a breakthrough in the investigation, he receives devastating news about his wife, Jess. But with children’s lives at stake and Lexi in danger, Dan must put his personal emotions aside and chase the killer. Can he and Lexi work out who is behind the murders before another vulnerable child is taken?

I have received 3 e-book and 1 audiobook ARC from Netgalley this week:

The audiobook is Olive by Emma Gannon

The e-books are: The Dare by Lesley Kara

The Perfect Father by Charlotte Duckworth

The Show Girl by Nicola Harrison

So that’s me for the day….. live life to the max. You never know when it may be your last day.

❤📚

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

It was Pete’s 65th birthday yesterday so we decided to have a day out. We had originally planned to go down to Awakino and Mokau, stopping at the Awakino pub for lunch. We have stopped there a few times recently and the food is great. But when we checked the road report there were a lot of roadworks and long delays. Pete has been carting concrete out to Raglan quite a bit recently so we decided to go there for the day. I haven’t been there for two years and it’s grown like crazy in that time. We drove around all the lovely little bays, then went for lunch at the Wharf Kitchen and Bar. The fish and chips were lovely, the Heineken cold and we had views out over the water.

It was a lovely day out culminating in calling in on Dustin and Luke on the way home.

We also bumped into Harley who used to chef for us. He has just started working back in the area so tomorrow we are going to lunch at his restaurant at Waitomo, as it’s a long weekend here. We have two in a row!

Currently I am readin House of Correction by Nikki French.

Over half way through. Compelling. Character driven. Totally hooked.

I am listening to The Silence by Susan Allott, an Australian mystery. Almost half way through and enjoying it, but have no idea what happened to Mandy. The husband? (Where is he, anyway?) The neighbour? The neighbours wife? Or is she simply somewhere else, living as someone else?

This week I am planning on reading Hadley and Grace by Susan Redfearn

Needing to escape her abusive marriage, Hadley flees with her two kids, knowing it might be her only chance. A woman who can’t even kill a spider, Hadley soon finds herself pushed to the limits as she fights to protect her family.

Grace, new mother of baby Miles, desperately wants to put her rough past behind her for good, but she finds it impossible when her path crosses with Hadley’s, and her quest for a new start quickly spirals out of control and turns into a terrifying flight for survival.

Stronger together than apart, the two find their fates inextricably entwined, and as the danger closes in, each must decide how much she is willing to risk for the other.

And The Lady in Residence by Alison Pittman.

Can a Legacy of Sadness be Broken at the Menger Hotel?

Visit historic American landmarks through the Doors to the Past series. History and today collide in stories full of mystery, intrigue, faith, and romance.

Young widow Hedda Krause checks into the Menger Hotel in 1915 with a trunk full of dresses, a case full of jewels, and enough cash to pay for a two-month stay, which she hopes will be long enough to meet, charm, and attach herself to a new, rich husband. Her plans are derailed when a ghostly apparition lures her into a long, dark hallway, and Hedda returns to her room to find her precious jewelry has been stolen. She falls immediately under a cloud of suspicion with her haunting tale, but true ghost enthusiasts bring her expensive pieces of jewelry in an attempt to lure the ghost to appear again.

In 2017, Dini Blackstone is a fifth-generation magician, who performs at private parties, but she also gives ghost walk tours, narrating the more tragic historical events of San Antonio with familial affection. Above all, her favorite is the tale of Hedda Krause who, in Dini’s estimation, succeeded in perpetrating the world’s longest con, dying old and wealthy from her ghost story. But then Dini meets Quinn Carmichael, great-great-grandson of the detective who originally investigated Hedda’s case, who’s come to the Alamo City with a box full of clues that might lead to Hedda’s exoneration. Can Dini see another side of the story that is worthy of God’s grace?

I am also planning a Read/Listen of The Shadow Man by Helen Fields.

Elspeth, Meggy and Xavier are locked in a flat. They don’t know where they are, and they don’t know why they’re there. They only know that the shadow man has taken them, and he won’t let them go.
 
Desperate to escape, the three of them must find a way out of their living hell, even if it means uncovering a very dark truth.
 
Because the shadow man isn’t a nightmare. He’s all too real.
 
And he’s watching.

And oh, Susan, you are going to laugh at this. You know how I have been saying that I have been requesting books and a lot of them I have either heard nothing about, or they have gone to ‘wishlist’? Well I have had an absolute avalanche of approvals this week….seventeen!!!! So here they are:

The Reach by B. Michael Radburn (Taylor Bridges #3), Australian fiction

A Home Like Ours by Fiona Lowe

Lost Souls by Chris Merritt

In Her Tracks (Tracy Crosswhite #8) by Robert Dugoni

The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean

The Receptionist by Kate Myles

The Best of Friends by Alex Day

The Ocean in Winter by Elizabeth de Veer

The Girls from Alexandria by Carol Cooper

The Broken Ones (Detective Gina Harte #8) by Carla Kovach

One Perfect Grave (Nikki Hunt #2) by Stacy Green

The The Ladies Midnight Swimming Club by Faith Hogan

The Perfect Lie by Jo Spain

Dog Rose Dirt by Jen Williams

The Night Gate by Peter May

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

And the audiobook of The Paris Dressmaker by Kristy Cambron

Stay safe, keep calm and read on! I will leave you with photos of Whale Bay and Manu Bay in Raglan, New Zealand.

Flesh House by Stuart MacBride

EXCERPT: ‘I’ve been waiting for you for fifteen minutes!’ Dr Isobel MacAlister, Aberdeen’s chief pathologist, wearing an expression that would freeze the balls off a brass gorilla at twenty paces. ‘You might not have anything better to do, but I can assure you that I have. Now are you going to listen to my preliminary findings, or shall I just go home and leave you to whatever it is you feel is more important?’

Logan groaned. That was all they needed, Isobel winding Insch up even further. As if the grumpy fat sod wasn’t bad enough already. The inspector turned on her, his face flashing angry scarlet in the IB spotlights. ‘Thank you so much for waiting for me, Doctor. I’m sorry if my organising a murder enquiry has inconvenienced you. I’ll try not to let something so trivial get in the way again.’

They stared at each other in silence for a moment. Then Isobel pulled on a cold, unfriendly smile. ‘Remains are human: male. Dismemberment looks as if it occurred some time after death with a long, sharp blade and a hacksaw, but I won’t be able to confirm that until after I’ve performed the post mortem.’ She checked her watch. ‘Which will take place at eleven am precisely.’

Insch bristled. ‘Oh no it won’t! I need those remains analysed now -‘

‘They’re frozen, Inspector. They – need – to – defrost.’ Emphasising each word as if she was talking to a naughty child, rather than a huge, bad tempered detective inspector. ‘If you want, I suppose I could stick them in the canteen microwave for half an hour. But that might not be very professional. What do you think?’

Insch just ground his teeth at her. Face rapidly shifting from angry-red to furious-purple.

ABOUT ‘FLESH HOUSE’ (Logan McRae #4): Panic grips The Granite City as DS Logan McRae heads up a manhunt for ‘The Flesher’ – one of the UK’s most notorious serial killers. The case was closed. Until the killer walked free When an offshore container turns up at Aberdeen Harbour full of human meat, it kicks off the largest manhunt in the Granite City’s history. Twenty years ago ‘The Flesher’ was butchering people all over the UK – turning victims into oven-ready joints – until Grampian’s finest put him away. But eleven years later he was out on appeal. Now he’s missing and people are dying again.When members of the original investigation start to disappear, Detective Sergeant Logan McRae realizes the case might not be as clear cut as everyone thinks Twenty years of secrets and lies are being dragged into the light. And the only thing that’s certain is Aberdeen will never be the same again

MY THOUGHTS: I took every possible opportunity to listen to Flesh House, but I have to admit to not eating much meat while I was doing so! If you don’t have a strong stomach and a love of gore, I strongly suggest that you bypass this. But me? I loved every minute of it.

I don’t know why, but everyone seems to pick on Logan; he’s everyone’s whipping boy. He is treated abominably by all his superiors and his ex-girlfriend. And yet he has good ideas, sees possibilities that no one else recognizes.

Flesh House is grim, but has flashes of (dark) humor in unexpected places. It is needed. Be prepared for the eating of human flesh, torture, imprisonment and graphic descriptions of the killing of people.

I had the identity of the killer worked out a little ahead of the police, which pleased (and surprised) me no end. The ending was completely unexpected, and I laughed, which was probably highly inappropriate, but I did.

Definitely the pinnacle of this series thus far. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

THE AUTHOR: Stuart MacBride is a Scottish writer, most famous for his crime thrillers set in the “Granite City” of Aberdeen and featuring Detective Sergeant Logan McRae.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of Flesh House written by Stuart MacBride, brilliantly narrated by Steve Worsley and published by Harper Collins Audio, 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 . . .

A glorious morning has turned into a wet and stormy afternoon here in New Zealand. Pete has been away for the weekend fishing up the Coromandel. He had a wonderful time with his mates and they even brought home a few fish! I had to work this weekend otherwise I would have been with them. I haven’t been up the Coromandel for almost 40 years.

8I am currently reading Pianos and Flowers by Alexander McCall. It is a collection of short stories written about some historical photos. I am really enjoying this.

I am currently listening to Murder in Paradise: Thirteen Mysteries from the Travels of Hercule Poirot. I have read/listened to some of these previously, but some of the stories are new to me.

This week I am planning on reading The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn, the Goodreads.com Crime, Mysteries and Thrillers January group read. I am a little late starting as I committed to two group reads this month. But I have been wanting to read this ever since it came out, so I simply couldn’t pass on this.

Anna Fox lives alone, a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother and their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems. 

I have ten books due to be read for review this week 🤦‍♀️ and obviously I am not going to get them all read. Bad planning, I know, and a mistake I am trying not to repeat. So I am planning on reading Weekend Pass by Paul Cavanagh

Who can forgive a mother who poisons her eight-year-old son? Even if it was an accident.

Tasha thought she had everything under control – her family life, her career as a nurse – until her son got into her stash of painkillers. Now, during her first weekend home from drug treatment, she must come to grips with the damage she’s done and somehow pick up the pieces. Told from the points of view of four different family members, Weekend Pass is a story about the lies we tell ourselves and the people we love. And it’s about struggling to rise above the mistakes that threaten to define us.

And Ask No Questions by Claire Allen

Not all secrets are meant to come out…

Twenty-five years ago, on Halloween night, eight-year-old Kelly Doherty went missing while out trick or treating with friends.
Her body was found three days later, floating face down, on the banks of the Creggan Reservoir by two of her young classmates.
It was a crime that rocked Derry to the core. Journalist Ingrid Devlin is investigating – but someone doesn’t want her to know the truth. As she digs further, Ingrid starts to realise that the Doherty family are not as they seem. But will she expose what really happened that night before it’s too late?

I have a busy week ahead at work so I probably won’t be able to sneak any extra reads in this week, but if I can, I will.

And of course I have already read and reviewed the amazing gangland crime thriller Family by Owen Mullen, which is being released 21 January.

Check out my review which I posted 11 January. This is one book that you won’t want to miss out on!.

I have only two new ARCs from Netgalley this week, so I am back on track. The first is The Words We Whisper by Mary Ellen Taylor

And Three Missing Days by Colleen Coble. This is my first book by this author so I am very excited!

Happy reading everyone, and enjoy whatever is left of your weekend!

Cheers

Sandy ❤📚

Trafficked by M.A. Hunter

EXCERPT: Aurelie remained curled in that foetal-like position until the crying stopped, and when she did look up, she was no longer facing a thin curtain. Instead, there was a door. Thin indentations in the wooden panels drew her attention, and shuffling forward on her hands and knees, she traced her small fingers along the crevices, shuddering when she realized what they were: the scratches of other girls who’d been in the same position as her.

ABOUT ‘TRAFFICKED’: They stole away her future…
A French woman stumbles out of a forest in Dorset more than a decade after vanishing from the English beach where she had been innocently building sandcastles under the not-so-watchful gaze of her holidaymaking parents.

They never expected her to survive…

As investigative journalist Emma Hunter sifts through the secrets of a seemingly unrelated disappearance with police archivist Jack, it soon becomes clear the two cases are linked.

They never expected her to escape…

Emma enlists her best friend and broadsheet reporter Rachel to trace the French woman’s steps through the forest to a nightmarish underground cell littered with human bones. That’s when Emma realises this woman could be the answer, the answer to everything.

MY THOUGHTS: This is #3 in The Missing Children Case Files) by M.A. Hunter. I have read #1, Ransomed, previously but somehow missed the second in the series, Isolated.

There is enough of the background scattered throughout the story to make reading the previous books unnecessary, and I think that this would work well enough as a stand-alone. Some of the background information is repeated more than once, which was a little annoying. Probably the only aspect to suffer would be the history of the characters relationships.

Trafficked started off well but lost its impetus somewhere around the middle of the book. The chapters were divided into ‘now’ and ‘then’ but frequently the ‘then’ chapters seemed to be a lot more ‘now.’

Once the impetus was lost, the suspense also declined. Often I felt as if I was being lectured to, rather than reading a novel.

The relationships between the characters, particularly the animosity between Emma and Cavendish, and the debacle with Jack felt totally unnecessary. Emma lacks confidence in her personal relationships, and even in her professional role
she rarely stands up for herself unless being led by her friend Rachel. I loved Aurelie’s character and thought she was well and realistically depicted.

I also found the ending of the book anticlimactic. There are apparently three more books to come in this series. At this point I am undecided about reading any more.

⭐⭐⭐.4

#Trafficked #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: M. A. Hunter has been a huge fan of crime fiction series since a young age and always fancied the idea of trying to write one. That dream became a reality when One More Chapter signed The Missing Children Case Files.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Collins UK, One More Chapter, via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Trafficked by M.A. Hunter 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 . . .

What a tumultuous week it has been around the world! I am so grateful to be living in New Zealand. ❤ I hope that wherever you are, you are safe and healthy.

Currently I am reading Trafficked (The Missing Children Case Files #3) by M. A. Hunter. This was published earlier this week.

I have also started reading The Lost Man by Jane Harper. I have only read the prologue and already I am enthralled! I love this author.

I am almost finished listening to Bibliomysteries: Stories of Crime in the world of books and bookstores, a Netgalley audiobook ARC. There are some excellent stories in this collection. My favourite so far would have to be The Book of Virtues by Ken Bruen.

This week I am planning on reading The Ocean House: Stories by Mary-Beth Hughes.

Faith, a mother of two young children, Cece and Connor, is in need of summer childcare. As a member of a staid old beach club in her town and a self-made business consultant, she is appalled when her brother-in-law sends her an unruly, ill-mannered teenager named Lee-Ann who appears more like a wayward child than competent help. What begins as a promising start to a redemptive relationship between the two ends in a tragedy that lands Faith in a treatment facility, leveled by trauma.

Years later, Faith and her mother, Irene, visit Cece in college. A fresh-faced student with a shaved head and new boyfriend, Cece has become a force of her own. Meanwhile, her grandmother, Irene, is in the early stages of dementia. She slips in and out of clarity, telling lucid tales of her own troubled youth. Faith dismisses her mother’s stories as bids for attention. The three generations of women hover between wishful innocence and a more knowing resilience against the cruelty that hidden secrets of the past propel into the present.

Including stories from an array of characters orbiting Faith’s family, The Ocean House weaves an exquisite world of complicated family tales on the Jersey Shore.

And, The Boatman’s Wife by Noelle Harrison.

There was some dark secret in this western edge of Ireland that her husband never wanted her to find out. She might never be able to lay his body to rest, but she could gain some kind of closure by finding out who the man she married was.

When Lily married her soulmate Connor, buffeted by the sea spray and wild winds of her coastal homeland in Maine, she never imagined she’d be planning his memorial just three years later. Connor has been lost at sea in the bleak stormy Atlantic, leaving Lily heartbroken.

But as she prepares to say goodbye to Connor for the last time, she is shocked to discover a message to him that he never told her about:

Does your wife know who you really are, Connor Fitzgerald? Don’t ever think you can come home. Because if you do, I swear I’ll kill you.

Unable to bear living in the home she and Connor shared, Lily decides to find out her husband’s secret. She flies to Connor’s home town of Mullaghmore on the west coast of Ireland, a harbour town hugged by golden beaches and emerald-green fields. But when doors are slammed in her face, she begins to realise that she knows nothing about her husband’s past.

Connor’s grandmother, a hermit living on the cliffs of the wild Atlantic, must know the truth about her grandson. But when Lily tries to find her, threatening notes are pushed through her door warning her not to stay. Will Lily leave the darkness of the past where it belongs? Or will she risk everything to find out the truth about the man she married…

I have four new ARCs from Netgalley this week: The Gorge by Matt Brolly

The Secret Within by Lucy Dawson

Forgotten Victim by Helen H. Durrant

And, The Incredible Winston Browne by Sean Dietrich

I have requested a couple of audiobooks, but my approvals don’t seem to be in any hurry to come through. 🤷‍♀️

I am not looking forward to going back to work tomorrow, but needs must. There were so many things I was planning on doing during the two weeks I had off work, and so many things that are still on my list, uncompleted or, worse still, not even started. I always overestimate what I can do in the time I have available. My Netgalley back list is evidence of this failing!

Look after yourselves my friends and stay safe.

Pop in tomorrow check out my review of a book that I didn’t really expect to love, but ended up being a five star read for me!

Cheers

Sandy ❤📚

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

EXCERPT: Jill swung the beam slowly across the site. The white light stripped out most colours, washing everything with monochrome shades. The path they’d walked along looked thin and uneven, and the fire pit at her feet was black at the centre. A silent circle of trees grew all around, their trunks luminous under the beam. Beyond, the bushland was black. A shadow caught Jill’s eye as she swept the light along and she stopped. She moved the beam back, more slowly this time.

A slender figure stood motionless at the very edge of the clearing and Jill jumped, nearly stumbling again and sending the light bouncing in a crazy pattern. She caught herself, steadying her hand. The light shook very gently as she focused on the beam.

Jill breathed out. It was only Lauren. Her tall, thin frame was almost absorbed by the vertical lines of the trees and the dark space beneath them.

‘Lauren, my God,you gave me a fright,’ Jill called. Her pulse still felt a little fast. ‘What are you doing?’

Lauren stood frozen, back to the group, staring into the darkness.

‘Lau-‘

She put up her hand. ‘Shh.’

They all heard it at once. A crack. Jill held her breath, her ears ringing in the void. Nothing. Then another crack. This time the broken rhythm of debris snapping underfoot was unmistakable.

Jill took a fast step backwards. Lauren turned, her face grey in the stark light.

‘There’s someone out there.’

ABOUT ‘FORCE OF NATURE’: Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along a muddy track.
Only four come out on the other side.

The hike through the rugged Giralang Ranges is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and encourage teamwork and resilience. At least, that’s what the corporate retreat website advertises.

Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk has a keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing hiker, Alice Russell. Because Alice knew secrets, about the company she worked for and the people she worked with.

The four returning women tell Falk a tale of fear, violence and fractured trust during their days in the remote Australian bushland. And as Falk delves into the disappearance of Alice, he begins to suspect some dangers ran far deeper than anyone knew.

MY THOUGHTS: I love Force of Nature. I really liked The Dry, but I found Force of Nature far more suspenseful. And I love suspense.

We first met Aaron Falk, AFP investigator, in The Dry when he returned to his home town of Kiewarra for a funeral. Force of Nature is set in the fictional Giralang Ranges. Instead of arid land where it hasn’t rained for two years, there is rain, bushland with ravines and gullies, waterfalls, and snakes, every bit as harsh and unforgiving as the desert.

We follow the women’s hike through this unfriendly terrain, learning about their relationships, rivalries, secrets and fears as they go. Interspersed with this is the police investigation and search for the missing Alice Russell, a woman who no one seems to particularly like, and who has a secret connection to Falk and Carmen.

Harper does a wonderful job of seamlessly moving from one point of view to another, the story flowing freely. The tension builds gradually, suspicion falling on each character in turn. I honestly had no idea who was responsible for Alice’s disappearance. Did she strike out on her own as she kept threatening to do, or are there more sinister forces at play?

Force of Nature is an excellent read, totally deserving of the full five stars.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

THE AUTHOR: Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK, and now lives in Melbourne.

DISCLOSURE: I borrowed my copy of Force of Nature, by Jane Harper and published by Pan Macmillan Australia, from Waitomo District Library. 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…2021!

Here we are, 3 days into 2021 already, and nothing much seems to have changed except my back yard looks much tidier than it has for ages. I have olives forming on my olive tree for the first time, and my avocado tree which bore 9 avocado last year is absolutely laden! I need to get a watering system up to that corner of the garden as the hose doesn’t reach and, apparently, if they don’t get enough water they will just drop their fruit.

Is anyone else having difficulty referring to 2020 as last year? I am still referring to 2019 as last year!

I was reading in the early hours of New Year’s Day, a paperback as my Kindle was on the charger, and decided that I really did need some sleep when I started tapping the right hand side of the page and wondering why it wasn’t going to the next page! 🤷‍♀️🤦‍♀️😂🤣❤📚

Currently I am reading The Wrong Family by Tarryn Fisher on my Kindle and all I can say is wow! It’s making the back of my neck tingle in anticipation. The Wrong Family is due for publication 6 January. Order your copy now!

I am halfway through reading the paperback of Force of Nature (Aaron Falk #2) by Australian author Jane Harper. So far I am enjoying it even more than The Dry.

I am currently listening to Blue Genes by Val McDermid, #5 in the Kate Brannigan series. I haven’t previously read or listened to any of this series, but that isn’t impacting my enjoyment at all.

This week I plan on reading Family by Owen Mullen

Family – might be the death of you…
The Glass family business is crime, and they’re good at what they do. Vengeance took Luke Glass behind bars – but now he’s free and he’s never going back. Luke wants out of the gangster life – all he has to do is convince his family to let him go.

His brother holds the reins of the South London underworld in his brutal hands – nobody tells Danny Glass no and expects to live – not even DCI Oliver Stanford, bent copper and one of the Met’s rising stars. The way Danny sees it, his younger brother and sister Nina owe him everything. The price he demands is loyalty, and a war with their arch enemy gives him the leverage he needs to tie Luke to the family once more.

Luke can’t see a way out, until Danny commits a crime so terrible it can’t be forgiven. Love turns to hate when secrets are unearthed which pit brother against brother. Left with no choice but to choose a side, Nina holds the fate of the family in her hands.

And Your Neighbour’s Wife by Tony Parsons

Tara Carver seems to have the perfect life. A loving mother and wife, and a business woman who runs her own company, she’s the sort of person you’d want to live next door to, who might even become your best friend.

But what sort of person is she really?

Because in one night of madness, on a work trip far from home, she puts all this at risk. And suddenly her dream life becomes a living nightmare when the married man she spent one night with tells her he wants a serious relationship with her. And that he won’t leave her or her precious family alone until she agrees.

There seems to be only one way out.
And it involves murder …

Only one Netgalley ARC this week, and that’s an audiobook, Bibliomysteries, A must-listen collection of thirteen bibliomysteries by bestselling and award-winning authors Bibliomysteries Volume 1 includes: – “An Acceptable Sacrifice” by Jeffery Deaver – “The Final Testament” by Peter Blauner – “What’s in a Name?” by Thomas H. Cook – “Book Club” by Loren D. Estleman – and many others

Thank you Carla! I will be starting this as soon as I finish Blue Genes, probably tomorrow.

Enjoy whatever is left of your holiday period and keep calm, we survived 2020.