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Wednesday 31 August 2011

‘Taboo’ by Casey Hill

Read by Olivia Caffrey
Published by Whole Story Audio Books, July 2011. ISBN: 978-1-40748-565-2
(9 CD’s) Playing time 10 Hours.

Reilly Steel forensic investigator, California born and bred, has taken a job in Dublin, to bring the Dublin police force into the forensic twenty-first century. Ireland had come as something of a shock to her.  Originally Ireland had sounded magical from tales told by her Irish father Mike Steel, but the Ireland of today she has found to be a very different place, and so has her father.

When the bodies of a young man and woman are found in an apartment in a good part of town it looks initially a possible killing followed by suicide, with no third party involved, but Reilly voices other possibilities much to the disgust of  Detective Pete Kennedy of the Serious Crime Unit - he is keen for an open and shut case. But Detective Chris Delaney has a more open mind and at least listens to her.  As more bodies turn up it becomes a serious possibility that they have a serial killer operating in Dublin.

Having a young American female brought in to update their forensic operation unsurprisingly creates tension and in some cases resentment. Reilly deals with the situation with professionalism. As Reilly and her team sifted through the ever increasing crime scenes, I was enthralled as along with the detectives the deductions begin to point in an unexpected surprising direction.

This is a well-plotted and fascinating mystery, with an interesting protagonist, who has a troubled past that is only slowly revealed, keeping the reader avidly turning the pages.  I highly recommend this mystery and eagerly look forward to hearing more of Reilly Steel.

Much of my enjoyment in this story comes from the narration by Olivia Caffrey - she has a beautiful voice, with that lovely Irish lilt which effortlessly produced a credible American accent when the story called for it.
Lizzie Hayes

Casey Hill is the pseudonym of husband and wife writing team, Kevin and Melissa Hill. Melissa is a bestselling author in her own right with her hugely popular novels about contemporary women's lives. A deserve to delve into the darker side of fiction led her to team up with Kevin to write Taboo, the first in a series of forensic thrillers featuring Californian-born investigator Reilly Steel.

Olivia Caffrey has stage, film and TV experience, including Playing the Field and Waking the Dead. Her film credits include Conspiracy of Silence and The Matchmaker, and she has performed in a number of theatre productions including Pride and Prejudice and A Christmas Carol.

Monday 29 August 2011

‘A Medal for Murder’ by Frances Brody

Published by Piatkus, 2010.
ISBN: 978-0-7499-4192-5

At the end of the Great War seeking information as to what happened to her husband Gerald, posted missing, Kate Shackleton undertook to locate missing persons as a kindness to other women in situations such as herself. Although still unclear as to what happened to Gerald, Kate has now in 1922 set up as a Private Investigator and following a robbery at a pawn-shop Kate is retained by the distraught owner to advise his customers of the loss of their items and if possible to track down the culprit.

Visiting Harrogate to carry out her contractual obligation for the pawn shop owner, and taking the opportunity to see a play, Kate virtually trips over a dead body outside the theatre. Seeking another pawn shop customer Kate is approached by Captain Wolfendale who fears his granddaughter Lucy who was in the play has been kidnapped. Soon Kate is drawn into the lives of the actors.

The story is told with a series of flash backs to the turn of the century when Lucy’s grandfather was a Captain during the Boer war.  The descriptions of the scenes are quite harrowing, and invoke a terrible period in British history.

In A Medal for Murder, Frances Brody had produced a fascinating tale of deception, and murder, as she skilfully negotiates the reader through a tangle of fraud and dishonesty. 

The characterisation is superb. Interestingly, one of Kate’s decisions brings her into direct conflict with her trusty sidekick the ex-policeman Sykes.  Whilst I could see Kate’s point, I felt that the reader knew more about the character in question than did Kate, and I wondered if Kate’s decision would come back to haunt her.

An excellent story well paced that keeps the reader turning pages. One of those unable-to-put down books.  Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes
Frances Brody is a pseudonym of Frances McNeil who lives in Leeds where she was born and grew up. She worked in the USA as a secretary in Washington DC and New York. Frances studied at Ruskin College, Oxford and read English Literature and History at York University.
Starting her writing life in radio, she has written scripts for television and theatre. Frances turned to crime for her fifth novel, Dying in the Wool, set on the outskirts of Bradford, Yorkshire in the 1920s.

Monday 22 August 2011

‘Love Lies Bleeding’ by Jess McConkey

Published by William Morrow, 2011. ISBN: 978-0-06-199968-0

Samantha Moore, had everything, the perfect job, a loving fiancé, and wealthy parents. Then she is attacked by a group of young men in the car park of her office, and emerges from a coma two months later, a frightened girl in constant pain with no confidence and low self-esteem.  To help her recuperation her father and her fiancé the plastic surgeon Dr Jackson Van Horn arrange for her to stay at a cabin in Minnesota.  They employ Anne Weaver to stay with her during her period of recuperation. As Anne is a physical therapy assistant she can help build up the wasted muscle in Sam’s leg which is also part of the reason for her low self-esteem.

This book had me edgy from the beginning, even reading it I began to feel suffocated by father Laurence Moore and fiancé Jackson. Both continually ignoring anything Sam said and steamrollering over any suggestion she made as if she was mentally deficient. Also the constant harping on the need to take her medication, that clearly turned her into a zombie.

Whilst Anne Weaver has her own set of problems she sets out to help Sam recover by imposing a relatively strict regime to improve the muscle tone in Sam’s damaged leg. But any progress is constantly undermined by the visits of Laurence Moore and Jackson.  And who is the lady in lavender that Sam sees in the dead of night? Is she real or a hallucination?

The story is narrated from multiple points of view, the most chilling being the first person narrative by an unknown person, who is clearly disturbed, but not knowing the person’s identity has the reader questioning everything and everyone.

It is a mind bending work as I stopped on several occasions wondering just how would one react in that situation. Would you suspect that the people you trusted didn’t have your best interests at heart, and why and to what end?

With many interesting characters, this a cleverly crafted work, that had me suspecting everyone.
Lizzie Hayes

Jess McConkey is the alter ego of author Shirley Damsgaard, author of the Ophelia and Abby series.
For information on Jess and Shirley visit

Friday 19 August 2011

‘The Accidental Assassin’ by Jan Toms

Published by The History Press,
25 July 2011.
ISBN: 978-0-7524-6270-7

Victor Green works for the tax office, thirty-seven and unmarried Victor is nervous of most things particularly authority, so when he receives a letter from the Council telling him to cut back his trees which are overhanging the road, Victor gets out the ladder.  Not happy with heights, a bird fluttering in his face and Victor falls killing a man passing beneath him, who was walking his poodle.

Reports of the incident in the in the local paper identifiy him as Vincent Green, but Victor is not too concerned as returning to work he is for the first time centre of attention – a novelty for Victor. The subsequent arrival of a cheque for £20’000 payable to V Green has Victor mystified, but with no return address, just an unsigned note with the words ‘ Be more discreet next time’.

Eventually the victim is named as Tommy Hewson, known as ‘Gruesome Hewson’.  This information is conveyed to him by his local bobby Constable Alan Grimes, who tells Victor that he has done the community a service as Gruesome was part of one of the gangland mafia. He gives Victor some background on the two gangs the Pretty Boys and the Blues Brothers who both started their lives in South London and subsequently moved to the Isle of Wight. The whole thing alarms Victor so much that Alan has left before he remembered the cheque.

Soon Victor is caught up in the gang warfare unaware that both gangs think that he is the Vincent Green, the name used by international hit-man Vincenzo Verdi. As the two gangs try to take each other out hapless Victor is constantly in the wrong or maybe the right place at the wrong time, leaving innocently a trail of bodies behind him.  And when a lady takes an interest in him Victor is initially transported, but be careful what you wish for.

Jan has created some marvellous characters, Alan Grimes close to retirement and recently widowed, his daughter Charity who feels it’s her mission feed him lentils to keep him healthy, The Blue Brothers, Reggie, Randy and Dodge, and the Pretty Boys - Harry, Garry, and Barry, not to mention Fluffy the poodle. A fun read had me laughing out loud.
Lizzie Hayes

Jan Toms is descended from a long line of Islanders. Her previous works include twelve novels published under the name of Janet Mary Tomson; she has also written articles for Island Life Magazine, and the on-line magazine
Suite 101
, mostly historical in content. She is also the author of The Little Book of the Isle of Wight. Jan has recently taught creative writing for adult males in Camp Hill Prison. She lives in Freshwater on the Isle of Wight.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

‘Portrait of a Murder’ by Stella Whitelaw

Published by Robert Hale
31st August 2011.
ISBN: 978-0-7090-9272-8

Harriet Dale is an out of work actor. To keep her a roof over her head she leases a shop which comes with an upstairs storeroom, in which Harriet lives. In her shop Magpie she sells vintage clothes which she picks up in a variety of places, charity shops being the most favoured.  But her main source of income whilst ‘resting’ is working as an insurance claims investigator for fat Gil  Paterson who has sexual designs on her.  Her current assignment is to get close to Barry Digby-Jones who has made a claim for a stolen painting ‘The Frightened Lady’ which Harriet discovers has an unusual history, in that the lady in question sat for the painting before her wedding, but was murdered as soon as the painting was finished, but before her wedding. The 200 year-old painting has gained a reputation of being cursed in that anyone who moves it dies. 

Attending a fashion event at the Longstreet Manor in West Sussex, the home of Barry Digby-Jones, Harriet slips into her persona of Henrietta, wealthy model girl about town.  Soon Barry Digby-Jones has sexual designs on her also.  Evading Gil’s pudgy hands and keeping Barry at bay is manageable – just. Then attractive Axe Winston steps into the picture, and lures her to lunch and feeds her strawberries on the beach – all manageable, but ex-lover Denzil who is stalking her with a knife is not manageable.

To get closer to discovering the whereabouts of ‘The Frightened Lady’ Harriet uses another of her disguises and becomes Harry – student.  Rushing around and adopting disguises is tiring but fun, but soon matters take a sinister turn, and despite being warned by DI Brice McDonald, who incidentally is the only man that Harriet would like to have sexual designs on her, she continues to pursue the painting which gets her into all sorts of trouble.

I enjoyed this caper immensely, Harriet is an engaging and resourceful protagonist, and her many guises entertaining.  There is a good twist at the end, and the mystery of the missing painting is satisfactorily resolved.  Good characterisation and some marvellous dialogue.
Lizzie Hayes

Stella Whitelaw is a British writer and journalist. She began her writing career as a cub reporter and rose to become the first female chief reporter in London. She has published 47 novels, as well as over 300 short stories in national women's magazines. She was Secretary of the Parliamentary Press Gallery at the House of Commons.She was awarded an MBE in 2001 for services to journalism. She won the Art of Writing competition in the London Magazine, judged by Sheridan Morley and the Elizabeth Goudge Cup at Guildford University. She lives in Surrey.

Monday 15 August 2011

‘Eyes Wide Open’ by Andrew Gross

Published by William Morrow, July 2011.
ISBN: 978-0-06-165596-8

Dr Jay Erlich is a happy man, married with two teenage children he is celebrating his twentieth wedding anniversary with his wife Kathy, when he receives a call from his elder half-brother Charlie that his son twenty-one-year-old Evan has died.  Whereas life for Jay has worked out well, for Charlie, a child of the sixties things just went from bad to worse. Always trying to make it in the music business, his penchant for drugs and alcohol not helping, Charlie has frequently hit bad times.  Jay has over the years provided financial support on many occasions for Charlie his wife Gabriella and their son Evan who was bipolar. 

When Jay arrives in California it is to find both Charlie and Gabby in a bad way – angry that the hospital where Ewan was taken after a violent episode should just a few days later send him to a place that let him walk out on his own, and finish up dead at the bottom of the cliff.  Recorded as a suicide, Charlie asks Jay to take on the hospital who so badly let down their son.

As Jay seeks to discover the truth of Evan’s death he finds that despite being a doctor himself he is stonewalled by the doctor who was treating Evan, and the mental health social worker. The only person from whom he gets any cooperation is Detective Sherwood from the Coroner’s office. Then a number of oddities have him suspecting that Evan’s death may not have been suicide, but that the answers to today’s tragedy are locked in Charlie’s head back in the past.

Jay’s quest for the truth takes him on a horrific journey as he delves into his own families past and uncovers the secrets that Charlie has kept for thirty-five years. This is a chilling and macabre story that takes Jay into the evil of a 1960’s cult.  And soon Jay himself is in danger, and those he loves are at risk.  Just how far do the tentacles of this cult stretch?  Who will help him but more important who will believe him?

Well crafted and cleverly plotted, this is a thrilling read. Unable to put it down, I read it in one sitting. You will too.
Lizzie Hayes
Andrew Gross did a major in English at Middlebury. Then a stint at the Leslie Fay Companies, a women's clothing firm started by his grandfather. Later he went into the sports apparel field, and ended up president of HEAD Ski and Tennis.  His is the author of The Blue Zone, Don’t Look Twice, The Dark Tide, Reckless. He has also co-authored with James Patterson six other books. Andrew is married and lives in Westchester County, New York.

Thursday 11 August 2011

‘A Fatal Fall of Snow’ by Joyce Cato

 Published by Robert Hale on 31st August 2011.
ISBN: 978-0-7090-9273-5

Only the thought of Christmas alone and dwindling financial resources prompt cook Jenny Starling to accept a Christmas job in a farmhouse almost buried in deep snow - so pretty on a postcard, so treacherous for the walker, and with her trusty catering van unable to tackle the snow-packed roads Jenny is on foot.  With thoughts of a cosy farmhouse with roaring fires Jenny puts her best foot forward.  Arrival at Kelton Farm quickly dashes those dreams. Farmer Stanley Kelton runs his farm on Victorian lines. The only warm room in the house is the kitchen - lucky for Jenny.

There is also little warmth from the unhappy inhabitants, united only by their hatred of Stanley Kelton.  His sons Bert and Bill, his daughter Deila and his grandson Jeremy all seem cowed by Stanley Kelton, even his own brother Sid Kelton, with whom Jenny strikes an immediate rapport.

As Jenny cooks and watches she learns quickly of the unhappy situation at Kelton Farm mostly from her own observation but also supplemented by comments from the daily Mrs Jarvis.  The murder was a surprise, I was not expecting it, I had somehow transported myself to Cold Comfort Farm and I was so caught up in the characters, their lives and situation that the murder took me totally unawares, and I thought for a moment that it must be a mistake!

The investigating officer is Inspector Moulton, and it soon becomes apparent that it’s his first murder case. His side-kick Sergeant Ford seems to have something about him, but Jenny fears if she is to get out of this blighted farmhouse after Christmas she may have to solve the murder herself.

Joyce Cato has created a wonderful protagonist in Jenny Starling.  Although clearly rooted in reality she has a certain Mary Poppins quality that is both endearing and scary- her encounters with the gander had me holding my breath.

This is the second book featuring Jenny Starling, and whilst I greatly enjoyed the first one this is even better.  I can’t wait for the next instalment in the cooking assignments of Jenny Starling.
Lizzie Hayes

Joyce Cato was born in Oxford and went on to work as a secretary before becoming a full-time writer. This is the second book featuring cook Jenny Sterling,. The first, Birthdays Can Be Murder, was also published by Robert Hale.

Monday 8 August 2011

‘Brotherhood of Blades’ by Linda Regan

Published by Crème de la Crime,
28 July 2011.
ISBN: 978-1-78029-009-6 (PB)

Jason Young released from serving twelve years in prison for armed robbery heads back to the troubled South London Aviary estate. Before being sent down Jason had been head of the Buzzards gang that ran the Aviary estate, but in his enforced absence his territory had been taken over by Stuart (Yo Yo) Reilly, leader of the Brotherhood of Blades, who has turned the love of Jason’s life Chantelle into a whore and a crackhead.  During his time in prison Jason has matured, realised what he wants, and having won a dancing scholarship he has returned to take Chantelle away to start a new life.

As Jason hides, looking for a way to contact Chantelle and persuade her to come with him he witnesses the gang rape of Chantelle’s Aunt Haley. As Haley was the one who informed the police which resulted in his incarceration, Jason faces a dilemma….

Matters escalate rapidly as Jason seeks to get Chantelle away. News of his release has reached   Yo Yo Reilly who has the upper hand, as with his pitbulls and henchmen he has the whole estate buttoned down.  Can Jason contact Chantelle’s friend Luanne to help him get to Chantelle?

Two killing on the estate following Jason Young’s release, and the police, knowing his record quickly latch onto Jason Young, as armed and dangerous. Assigned to the investigation are DI Georgia Johnson and her cockney side-kick DS Stephanie Green. The arrival of DI David Dawes an expert on London gangs puts them both on alert.  Georgia because she speculates on his agenda, and Stephanie because he is attractive and she wants to bed him – not really a compliment, as Stephanie beds everyone.

As the tension increases and events spiral out of control I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. The descriptions of the effect on the frightened people on the estate who react through fear against the only people who could possible help them is an insight into the hold that organised crime can have on the ordinary person. This is an amazing read which moves at a cracking pace and culminates in a stunning climax. The twists and turns had me reeling.

Whilst we live the trauma that is the lives of Chantelle, Luanne and her twelve-year-old sister Alysha on the Aviary estate, we are also privy to the lives of Georgia Johnson, and David Dawes, both scarred by their own pasts. The characterisation was masterly, I can only hope that Linda Regan will write more books featuring these characters, as I so want to read more about them.

But the question is can Jason escape his past?  This is a must read. Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Linda Regan is a successful actress. Her career has varied from The Royal Shakespeare company to a regular character in the  BBC's comedy HiDeHi series. Also guest appearances in The Bill, Holby City, Doctors, Crime Watch, a Lynda La Plante series- Framed. Her first three books all have theatrical threads. Behind You! is set backstage in a pantomime. Passion Killers- is a dark thriller. In Dead Like Her someone is killing off Marilyn Monroe lookalikes. Brotherhood of Blades takes Linda’s writing into a new dimension. This can only be termed a thriller.

Saturday 6 August 2011

’88 Killer’ by Oliver Stark

Published by Headline, 23 August 2011.
ISBN: 978-0-7553-7014-6

The story covers an eighteen day period, beginning with the abduction of a young girl. Detective Tom Harper of the NYPD currently investigating two homicides suspects that there is a possibility that the three cases are linked.

Still recovering from a horrendous ordeal when she was kidnapped and imprisoned is psychologist Dr Denise Levern, who has now returned to work.

This is a chilling story, in fact a frightening story. I would like to think that people as described in this story no longer exist, but scarily, I sadly believe they do.  The action is fast paced and compelling, as along with the good guys we race to nail the killer.

Although much of the narration is from the point of view of the killer we are not privy to his identity.  This is a serious subject and I was caught up in the horror, but one sentence gave me a laugh, which was when Denise smiled and sniffed the air and said to Tom ‘You could do with a new set of clothes, big guy’.  Do American women really talk like that?  
As Tom tears around seeking to find the killer, Denise and the father of the kidnapped girl try a more cerebral approach, and we of the cyber age learn yet again the wonder of the library system.

A thrilling murder chase and a salutary lesson - but will we ever learn!
Lizzie Hayes

Oliver Stark has been writing for as long as he can remember. His first novel American Devil introduced Detective Tom Harper and psychologist Dr Denise Levern.  Oliver enjoys getting out of the city and enjoying the countryside.  88 Killer is his second book, he is currently writing the third.