Review of ‘Aurora’ by David Koepp

‘Aurora’ by David Koepp is sure to make quite an impact this year. Set in the present day, it is the story of a family and their struggles to survive the aftermath of a solar storm – a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection). The event causes electrical power to go out across the world, and no-one knows how long it will last. Aubrey and her stepson have to find a way to work together to get through a complete change in their lives and those of their neighbours. They soon discover just how much we rely on electricity for every aspect of our lives. Going back to a pre-electrical era is scary. Aubrey’s billionaire brother foresaw such an event and has plans in place to ride out the storm. But life doesn’t always work out the way you plan. How will society cope with being thrown back into what seems like the Stone Age? 

I must admit to loving disaster movies, so this book was right up my street. In fact the book is going to be made into a movie. I was not surprised to hear this, as it is perfect for such an adaptation. David Koepp is a well-known screenwriter, and it shows in the structure of the novel. It is wonderfully descriptive, with short, punchy scenes that captured my imagination. 

The story is told from various characters’ point of view and lets us see how all levels of society deal with such a cataclysmic event.  It’s about finding strength in adversity. Some thrive, and some become an even worse version of themselves. It’s about learning and taking responsibility. 

I loved it.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Let Love Be Enough’ by Robyn Nyx

With ‘Let Love Be Enough’ Robyn Nyx has taken her characters into some of the most depraved corners of society and brought them out the other side. Madison Ford is an award winning journalist whose work ensures she has enemies all over the world. Her articles require her to take risks and come into contact with the worst elements of society. Elodie Fontaine is Hollywood’s darling and at the top of her career. But it is her humanitarian work that interests Madison. When she gets a chance to interview the star, she finds an attraction she was not expecting. An investigation into organ trafficking brings them together and with the danger comes a closeness that neither can deny. 

The story is well written, engaging and powerful. The subject matter deals with disturbing issues and extremely distasteful people. Nyx shows how damaged some people are by the start they get in life. Some escape, others do not.  There is appalling violence, and those who spiral further into the darkest depths show no mercy.

The light comes from the growing relationship between Madison and Elodie. They are passionate, intense and reach extreme heights of sexual compatibility. Finding your person will do that. I really enjoyed their story.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘In Place of Fear’ by Catriona McPherson

‘In Place of Fear’ by Catriona McPherson is set in Edinburgh in 1948, at the birth of the NHS. Helen begins a new job as Medical Almoner, which is a welfare role within the practice. Whatever the doctors can’t help with medically, will normally fall under her remit. Her family don’t seem happy that she’s even working, never mind with two male doctors. They are of the opinion that a married woman should be having babies and staying at home. There is also the inverted snobbery attitude that she is trying to rise above her station in life, and girls like her from the poor tenements should be working in factories, not a doctor’s office. When Helen stumbles across a dead body, she finds her herself investigating the murkier side of life. It seems people will stop at nothing to prevent scandal, and by poking her nose in, Helen is in grave danger. 

I have read Catriona McPherson’s Dandy Silver series set in the 1920s and enjoyed them immensely. This is very different, in that the heroine is a working class woman, dealing with the harsh realities of life just after the Second World War. The historical aspects of the new NHS fascinated me. Its inception made life bearable for so many people and continues to this day, despite the efforts of some politicians.

The descriptions of Edinburgh in the 1940s felt so real and so desperate. The poverty was appalling still. The use of local language and dialect gave it a gritty reality, and I hope that those reading out-with Scotland will appreciate its richness.

The mystery is well told, as Helen delves into the seedy underbelly of Edinburgh, and finds out some secrets that others will kill to keep hidden. It was tense and compelling. There was also love and loyalty and a desire to make things better. I loved it.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Legacy In The Blood’ by Catherine Maiorisi

‘Legacy In The Blood’ is an intelligent, complex and thought-provoking crime novel, with believable and well written characters. NYPD Detectives Chiara Corelli and P.J. Parker are partners assigned to the suspicious death of a man in a park. When they begin to investigate further, the victim’s complicated life opens up a whole new avenue of questions. Ned Rich was an investigative reporter with a lifestyle way above that of a journalist. Where was he getting this extra money? The answer may explain why he was killed. As family secrets are unearthed, and a link to the white supremacist movement, the detectives find the danger brought to their own doors. 

This is the first book in this particular series that I have read and I had no trouble jumping right in and grasping the backstory. The relationship between the two detectives has certain nuances that are well explained by the author. I liked their rapport and I liked them. The descriptions of New York were excellent and it is clear that Catherine Maiorisi knows her way around. It made the story all the more authentic. I also loved the diversity of the characters in terms of race, age and sexuality. The story has good, tight plotting and flowed well. I felt completely invested. I can’t believe it has taken me so long to read this author’s work, but I feel compelled to go back and find more. A top-notch crime novel.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Undercover’ by Barbara Winkes

‘Undercover’ by Barbara Winkes is the first in a new series, and features Kendall Mancini, boss of a crime family, but with a heart of gold. Jess/Robyn, an FBI agent is sent in undercover to try and stop a war between the powerful families in the city. Her aim is to convince Kendall to turn away from crime and work with the authorities to bring down the murderous elements within the families. What she didn’t expect was the attraction between them. Keeping secrets was always going to be dangerous, but now it is personal too. 

I liked that the story was told from two points of view. We got to know Kendall and Jess/Robyn intimately and could therefore empathise with their dilemmas. We also knew their secrets and the painful decisions each had to make. The author cleverly ratcheted up the tension, making me wonder whose side I was on. Did I want the head of a crime syndicate to prevail? Or the law enforcement officer? As their romance grew I wanted it to work out for them, whatever the cost. 

I thought I knew where it was going, but the author managed to  twist it all and surprise me again and again.  It was a very good story with relatable characters. It ended in a way that makes me desperate to read the next in the series.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Due To A Death’ by Mary Kelly

‘Due To A Death’ by Mary Kelly is a dark, suspenseful novel published and set in the early 1960s. It is the story of Agnes and her first person narration of the events in her village in the days leading up to a terrible discovery. A body is found on the marsh. There are secrets amongst the people she knows and loves. As she thinks back we begin to discover that people are not always who they seem to be. 

This book is a departure from the usual reprints I have read in this genre. It is well written and immersive, but it is not in any way cosy or representative of the crime books I normally read. It is dark and grim and depressing. And this may be right up your street. It is also slow-paced, as the author takes her time to tell the story. So if you enjoy your mysteries on the darker side this is for you. 

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Dead Pretty’ by Robyn Nyx

‘Dead Pretty’ by Robyn Nyx is a fast-paced, tense and exciting thriller. Normally assigned to cold cases, FBI Special Agent Dak Farrell is helping the local Salt Lake City police investigate a serial killer. A brutal and cruel series of murders is baffling the local PD, and they need Dak’s expertise to stop the killer before anyone else dies. C.J. Johnson is a reality TV star, back in town when her show gets cancelled. She is a mortician who uses her skills on TV to make the dead look good again for their open casket viewings. Yes, it’s a truly bizarre concept, but so is much of the weird and wonderful TV these days. Neither of them is looking for anything serious, but will a fling be enough? As they become closer, CJ’s life is in danger. It seems the ‘Artist’ serial killer does not appreciate her reconstructive work on his victims.

‘Dead Pretty’ is a well written and exquisitely plotted story. It is unusual and perplexing and kept me hooked, as I tried to solve the mystery. I didn’t guess the outcome at all. I enjoyed finding out Dak and CJ’s backstories. It made them much more interesting, and I could see why they were the people they were. Their connection was powerful and extremely hot.

‘Dead Pretty’ is crying out to be made into a movie. It is head and shoulders above many of the scripts we see brought to our screens. Highly recommended.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘The Paris Apartment’ by Lucy Foley

‘The Paris Apartment’ by Lucy Foley is a tense and chilling psychological mystery set in a luxury apartment block in Paris. Jess flees a bad situation back home for the comfort of her half-brother Ben’s flat in the French capital. When she arrives he’s nowhere to be found, and all her enquiries lead to more questions.  His neighbours have secrets of their own -but what do they have to do with Ben? And can she trust any of them?

Told from the point of view of several characters, it means the unreliable  narrator  is part of the story. It keeps the reader guessing. Jess is not exactly a sympathetic character, so one never knows who to trust. There are so many secrets and shifty characters. It’s quite a slow burn story but worth the wait as the ending shocked and surprised me. I did not see it coming. 

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘We Know You Remember

Eira has memories of the year a sixteen year old girl was murdered in her small rural community. Now a policewoman she finds herself dealing with the fallout. Olof Hagstrom confessed back then when he was fourteen years old. Now twenty years later he is back – and now his father has been murdered. Did he do it? Or is there more to the story?

First of all I will give a *trigger warning*. This book is not for the faint of heart. There are some appalling details that were very disturbing . I skipped over those parts as I have no desire to read descriptions of sexual assault. But it was an important part of the story and some people might be able to read these passages without a problem. 

The book is very well written, with depth and emotion. It is about the past coming back to haunt people. It is always there, lurking in the background. The author ponders if we can ever escape our past ?

It dealt with the darkness that is the worst of human nature . However quiet and idyllic we may think a place is there is always the chance that this darkness lurks under the surface. We just don’t always see it. A powerful story.

I was given this ARC for review. 

My Best Books of 2021!

This year has been another difficult one, but authors have stepped up and given us some amazing stories. I struggled to whittle my favourite books of the year down to a reasonable number. There was no way I could stop at a Top Ten, but I managed a Top Fifteen. These are the books that made my year, and I highly recommend each and every one. Here they are, listed in no particular order:

  1. The Tell Tale by Clare Ashton

2. A Corruption of Blood by Ambrose Parry

3. The Island Between Us by Wendy Hudson 

4. The Fair Botanists by Sara Sheridan 

5. Ignis by KJ

6. The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman

7. Everyone In This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily R Austin

8. The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

9. The End Of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird

10. Her Last Request by Mari Hannah

11. The Dead Of Winter by Nicola Upson

12. Song Of Serenity by Brey Willows

13.The Appeal by Janice Hallett

14. Katharine Parr, The Sixth Wife by Alison Weir

15. Shiver by Allie Reynolds