Blacklands by Belinda Bauer

“Twelve-year-old Steven Lamb digs holes on Exmoor, hoping to find a body. Every day after school, while his classmates swap football stickers, Steven goes digging to lay to rest the ghost of the uncle he never knew, who disappeared aged eleven and is assumed to have fallen victim to the notorious serial killer Arnold Avery.

Only Steven’s Nan is not convinced her son is dead. She still waits for him to come home, standing bitter guard at the front window while her family fragments around her. Steven is determined to heal the widening cracks between them before it’s too late. And if that means presenting his grandmother with the bones of her murdered son, he’ll do it.

So the boy takes the next logical step, carefully crafting a letter to Arnold Avery in prison. And there begins a dangerous cat-and-mouse game between a desperate child and a bored serial killer . . .”

This isn’t my first Belinda Bauer novel.  I read ‘Rubbernecker’ a while ago and whilst I did enjoy it, I couldn’t quite understand the hype (saying that, I tend to enjoy hyped up books but can’t quite understand why they are so hyped up…maybe it’s just me!!).  However I think this, Belinda’s first novel, is head and shoulders above Rubbernecker.

It’s dark.  It’s a game of cat and mouse where all you want the mouse to do is put down his blinking pen, run and hide!  All Steven wants to do (in a beautifully selfless grown up way) is make his Nan happy so he comes up with a plan to change everything.  Unfortunately that plan involves a serial killer….of children.

The book is set on Exmoor with a little bit of Dartmoor thrown in for good measure (why have one moor when you can have two?!).  Beautifully written and very atmospheric.  Arnold Avery is the epitome of evil.  Enjoyable read and recommended.

Four out of five stars.




The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza

untitledHer eyes are wide open. Her lips parted as if to speak. Her dead body frozen in the ice…She is not the only one.

When a young boy discovers the body of a woman beneath a thick sheet of ice in a South London park, Detective Erika Foster is called in to lead the murder investigation.

The victim, a beautiful young socialite, appeared to have the perfect life. Yet when Erika begins to dig deeper, she starts to connect the dots between the murder and the killings of three prostitutes, all found strangled, hands bound and dumped in water around London.

What dark secrets is the girl in the ice hiding?

As Erika inches closer to uncovering the truth, the killer is closing in on Erika.

The last investigation Erika led went badly wrong… resulting in the death of her husband. With her career hanging by a thread, Erika must now battle her own personal demons as well as a killer more deadly than any she’s faced before. But will she get to him before he strikes again? “

Perfection.  Simple as that, perfection!  I read a lot of crime thriller novels (actually, that’s all I read) and I can safely say this first foray into crime writing by Robert Bryndza is in my top five reads.

Beautifully written characters, each one very individual.  From the superior Douglas-Brown family to the cuddly Woolf on the front desk, it was a joy to read about their (mis)adventures.  So much so I read this novel in 2 days which for me, of late, is a new record!

Erika’s determination and vigour for her cause was contagious.  I was willing her on from start to finish.  It’s official, I love this book and I have a small girl crush on DCI Foster.  Please Robert Bryndza, don’t leave me waiting too long for the next instalment.

Five out of five stars.

Thanks to Bookouture and NetGalley for allowing me to have a copy of this book for review.


Now You See Me by Jean Bedford

28582162“Journalist Noel Baker is no stranger to reporting horrific and gruesome crimes.

But when a disturbing suggestion arises in a coroner’s report, she decides to look into her new case more closely.

Young Belinda Carey has been killed and with the parents the obvious suspects, the police are looking no further for the culprit.

But Noel senses a disturbing pattern with the deaths of other abused children and she realizes that Belinda’s death may not have been at the hands of her neglectful and abusive parents.

As Noel’s investigation unfolds, the killer writes a diary.

The diary reveals a horrific childhood with unspeakable suffering, and these demons of the past rear their heads in the present…

It reveals that the killer is right amongst them, one of an old circle of university friends.

But which one?

Who could be driven to such deplorable acts?”

When I first started reading this book I didn’t think I was going to like it.  I may have mentioned before that I’m not really fan of “love and cuddles” in my books and this one starts with some sauciness!  However, I was pleasantly surprised and devoured the book in a few short days.

Originally published in 1997 this review relates to the Endeavour Press e-book version which has been recently published.  There is no way to tell this book is nearly 20 years old, it felt very current to me.  Knowing that it was originally published some time ago made me look for clues as to it’s age but I couldn’t find any.

The subject matter is hard to bear at times, what with the central storyline focussing on the murders of abused children.  However, if you can stomach it, it’s a great story and one I would recommend.  The characters are all university friends but among them a serial killer sits.  Who is it?  There are red herrings galore (lovely!) which I loved.  Do you ever really know those you are closest too?

A fantastic, no holds barred crime novel – definitely worth a look.

Four out of five stars.

Thanks to Endeavour Press and NetGalley for allowing me to have a copy of this book for review.

Syndrome E by Franck Thilliez

18668010“Lucie Henebelle, single mother and beleaguered detective, has just about enough on her plate when she receives a phone call from an ex-lover. Lucie’s old friend has developed a case of hysterical blindness after watching a mysterious film from the 1950s.

Embedded in the movie are subliminal images so heinous that Lucie, with the help of brooding profiler Inspector Franck Sharko, is determined to get to the bottom of it – especially when nearly everyone connected to the film starts turning up dead.” 

What a novel!  On the face of it (from the blurb) you get the impression that this is just another run of the mill detective novel but it is so much more than that.  This book has so many different layers to it.  I was hooked from the end of the first chapter!

Originally written in French and translated by Mark Polizzotti it has a real international flavour taking you from France to Belgium, from Cairo to Canada.

You instantly like Lucie Hennebelle, a long suffering single mother doing the best she can for her children whilst trying to work emotionally intense cases and long hours.  The same cannot be said for Inspector Franck Sharko who is standoffish and secretive.  The twists and turns were fast paced and as a seasoned crime fiction reader I didn’t see the ‘whodunnit’ climax coming.

I wasn’t particularly taken with the romance aspect of the book where, it felt to me, that a strong independent woman was suddenly fawning over her love interest.  But then I want blood, guts and gore, intrigue and suspense in my books….not love and cuddles *censored for any younger readers out there*!

Lots of wonderful content.  I have an interest in psychology so this was right up my street.

Four out of five stars (it would have been five but for the romance *yuck*).

The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley

“If it41QiEiH2PlL._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_ had another name, I never knew, but the locals called it the Loney – that strange nowhere between the Wyre and the Lune where Hanny and I went every Easter time with Mummer, Farther, Mr and Mrs Belderboss and Father Wilfred, the parish priest.  It was impossible to truly know the place. It changed with each influx and retreat, and the neap tides would reveal the skeletons of those who thought they could escape its insidious currents. No one ever went near the water. No one apart from us, that is.  I suppose I always knew that what happened there wouldn’t stay hidden for ever, no matter how much I wanted it to. No matter how hard I tried to forget . . .”

The Loney is a wonderfully dark novel.  The characters are highly suspicious folk and frankly quite sinister.  The Loney itself where most of the action happens is very atmospheric and I felt the loneliness and desolation of the place.  I wouldn’t necessary label the book as a horror novel though.  Gothic, yes. Horror, no.  There are supernatural aspects as you work your way towards the end (not normally my cup of tea) but I have to say I very much enjoyed this book.

The suspense is high and it keeps you turning the pages.  I looked forward to reading this book at the end of a busy day and was somewhat disappointed when it ended (not by the story I should add but just from the end of a good story!).

Four out of five stars.