#BookReview: The Dry by Jane Harper (@janeharperautho) @LittleBrownUK

the dry.jpg“WHO REALLY KILLED THE HADLER FAMILY?

I just can’t understand how someone like him could do something like that.

Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, it hasn’t rained in small country town Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty.

Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke’s death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past and why he left home bubble to the surface as he questions the truth of his friend’s crime.”

Who really killed the Hadler family?  I’ve been wanting to know that since this fabulous hardback ARC came into my possession earlier this year.  Regular visitors to the blog will know what I’m going to say now because I’ve said it time and time again!  Because of my blog tour commitments, I haven’t really been able to ‘choose’ a book for a while now.  From 1st October however that has not been the case!  The number of tours I have committed to has significantly reduced and the one thing I was missing (actually being able to choose my next read) has made a triumphant return to my bookish life.  It’s such a joy for me to select a book, pure and simple.

So I’m picking the books I have wanted to read for some time.  Along with books which have been on my TBR for…..well, too long.  My lovely blogger friend, Jo, over at My Chestnut Reading Tree recommend The Dry to me.  She absolutely loved it so my curiosity was well and truly piqued.  This is one of the books championed by Jo (and several other bloggers) and I can see exactly why it’s loved by so many.

I’m a big (BIG!) fan of crime novels set in small-town America.  It’s one of my go-to settings; I love the secrets, the desperation, the suspicion.  The bumbling local Sheriff, out to either prove his worth or destroy those who have invested their trust in him.  Although The Dry isn’t set in in America it had the same claustrophobic feel to it which I gladly immersed myself in.  Maybe I need to broaden my horizons a little and investigate some Australian crime fiction. Imagine what I’ve been missing!

The town of Kiewarra felt a pretty desolate place, not helped by the local drought causing catastrophic problems to the locals and their livelihoods; mainly farming.  Kiewarra boy made good, Aaron Falk returns to his hometown to attend the funeral of his childhood friend, Luke Hadler.  Luke is mourned yet despised by his smalltown acquaintances for viciously killing his wife and young son with a shotgun, then turning the weapon on himself.  Luke’s parents think differently though and suspect someone else is to blame for the horrific loss of their family.  Luke’s parents know Aaron can clear their son’s name and find the real killer, after all, Aaron is a Federal Agent now.  Reluctantly Aaron agrees to work with local Sergeant, Greg Raco.  He feels he has no choice in the matter when Jerry, Luke’s father, tells Aaron that he knows the truth.  He knows that Luke and Aaron lied…..

There are two separate but beautifully melded storylines to this book; the past where the reader discovers a childhood friend of Luke and Aaron was drowned in the river and the present, the investigation into who actually killed the Hadler family.  Both plots rub alongside each other in a rather mesmerising way.  There are snippets of what happened way back when but with a present narrative alongside.  I was stunned to discover this is Harper’s debut as the story is so intricate and handled expertly.  I was hooked.  Did Luke and Aaron have anything to do with the death of their friend?  Well…

I may have fallen a little bit in love with Aaron Falk.  I don’t think I’ll be the only one.  There are several interesting and well-written characters for the reader to enjoy.  All contributing to a shocking and heartbreaking conclusion which I wasn’t expecting.  All in all this is a stonking debut and I cannot wait to read the next book in the series, Force of Nature.

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  It’s a very enjoyable read which stands head and shoulders above others in the genre.  At times I struggled to put it down and look forward to reading more in the future.  Harper writes crime fiction like a pro.

Four and a half stars out of five.

I chose to read and review an ARC of The Dry.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Dry by Jane Harper was published in the UK by Little, Brown on 1st June 2017 and is available in hardcover, paperback eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

about the author3

jane harper.jpgJane Harper was born in Manchester in the UK, and moved to Australia with her family at age eight.

She spent six years in Boronia, Victoria, and during that time gained Australian citizenship.

Returning to the UK with her family as a teenager, she lived in Hampshire before studying English and History at the University of Kent in Canterbury.

On graduating, she completed a journalism entry qualification and got her first reporting job as a trainee on the Darlington & Stockton Times in County Durham.

Jane worked for several years as a senior news journalist for the Hull Daily Mail, before moving back to Australia in 2008.

She worked first on the Geelong Advertiser, and in 2011 took up a role with the Herald Sun in Melbourne.

In 2014, Jane submitted a short story which was one of 12 chosen for the Big Issue‘s annual Fiction Edition.

That inspired her to pursue creative writing more seriously, and that year she applied for the Curtis Brown Creative online 12-week novel writing course.

She was accepted with a submission for the book that would become The Dry.

Jane lives in St Kilda with her husband and daughter.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

Author image and bio © http://janeharper.com.au/About-Jane

 

 

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#BlogTour | #BookReview: Burned and Broken by Mark Hardie @TheCrimeVault

51xwtl1oqxl-_sx312_bo1204203200_“A vulnerable young woman, fresh out of the care system, is trying to discover the truth behind the sudden death of her best friend.

The charred body of a policeman – currently the subject of an internal investigation – is found in the burnt-out-shell of his car on the Southend seafront.

To DS Frank Pearson and DC Catherine Russell of the Essex Police Major Investigation Team, the two events seem unconnected. But as they dig deeper into their colleague’s murder, dark secrets begin to emerge.

Can Pearson and Russell solve both cases, before more lives are destroyed?”

I am delighted to be today’s stop on the Burned and Broken blog tour.  Burned and Broken is author Mark Hardie’s debut novel and introduces us to the formidable crime fighting team of DS Frank Pearson and DC Catherine Russell.  The second book in the series titled Truly Evil will be published later this year.

A burnt out car containing the body of DI Sean Carragher is found on the Southend seafront.  His burns are so bad his colleagues can’t even recognise him.  What’s more, DI Carragher was the subject of an ongoing internal affairs investigation, which leads the team to many more questions than it answers.  DS Pearson and DI Carragher’s ex-partner, DC Catherine (Cat) Russell are tasked with leading the investigation.  But the more they dig, the more they realise that they didn’t really know their colleague at all.  And what about young Donna?  In a care home until it was forced to close, now living in her on flat and spending her days obsessing over the death of her friend.  Donna knows who killed Alicia, now all she has to do is prove it to the right people.  She knows it wasn’t an accident, no matter what the police reports said.  It’s down to DS Pearson and DC Russell to discover who murdered their colleague before the body count rises…

I loved DC Cat Russell.  I felt incredibly sorry for her as the realisation dawned that she didn’t really know Sean Carragher at all.  This person who she felt was a friend (and someone to look up to) had let her down repeatedly.  Her regular interviews with internal affairs and DS Pearson’s discovery that Sean and Cat couldn’t have been together when Cat claimed they were, made for uncomfortable reading.  I wanted to love Frank Pearson but there was something….missing for me.  He’s the type of character that I normally, immediately like but it just didn’t happen this time.  Donna made me feel incredibly sad. This is obviously a character with deep psychological issues and I really wanted to warm to her but I’m afraid all I could feel was sadness.  I wanted someone to spot that she was on the edge of a precipice and help the poor girl.

I struggled with the author’s style, having to re-read many sentences several times over to try and understand what was going on.  As I neared the conclusion I found myself enjoying the story more than I had previously.  So much so that when I came to one of those ‘read on for a sneak peek at the author’s next book’ sections that I did actually read on.  Mainly to check that the next book also featured DC Cat Russell (and DS Pearson).

Would I recommend this book?  This is a difficult one.  I did enjoy it and I know that others will absolutely love this book and see things which I have missed.  But on the whole, I’m not sure.  It’s a good police procedural but there are so many GREAT police procedurals out there that it’s a hard one to call.

Three stars out of five.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Burned and Broken.  Many thanks to Clara Diaz at Little, Brown for providing me with a copy. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Burned and Broken by Mark Hardie is published by Sphere | Little, Brown on the UK and is available in hardcover, eBook and audio formats (with the paperback being published in May 2017) | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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vcq9gqmt_400x400Mark Hardie began writing full time after completely losing his eyesight in 2002. He has completed a creative writing course and an advanced creative writing course at the Open University, both with distinction.

Author Links: | Twitter |

 

#BookReview: The Two O’Clock Boy by Mark Hill (@markhillwriter) @TheCrimeVault

51pljceuoul-_sy346_“One night changed their lives

Thirty years ago, the Longacre Children’s Home stood on a London street where once-grand Victorian homes lay derelict. There its children lived in terror of Gordon Tallis, the home’s manager.

Cries in the fire and smoke

Then Connor Laird arrived: a frighteningly intense boy who quickly became Tallis’ favourite criminal helper. Soon after, destruction befell the Longacre, and the facts of that night have lain buried . . . until today.

A truth both must hide

Now, a mysterious figure, the Two O’Clock Boy, is killing all who grew up there, one by one. DI Ray Drake will do whatever it take to stop the murders – but he will go even further to cover up the truth.”

When I first heard about this book, I knew that I had to read it.  Not only is the author, Mark Hill, a brilliant book blogger (well, once upon a time before he wrote a cracking novel!) but oh my gosh, THAT blurb!  That blurb feels like it was written for me.  There was also a fabulous .gif doing the rounds, which caught my eye too (I do love a .gif).  I felt this book was destined for my TBR.

DI Ray Drake’s past is coming back to haunt him.  People he knew as a child are being horrifically killed along with their partners and children.  It can’t be something to do with Ray though, can it?  Whilst investigating the murder of ex-associate, Kenny, it comes to light that he was in the process of writing his memoirs, an exposé of his time at the ill fated Longacre children’s home.  DI Drake is only supervising the case though, newly promoted DS Flick Crowley is in charge and Ray is determined that his secret will never see the light of day.  And he’s prepared to do whatever it takes…

From the opening chapters you feel that there is something….amiss about DI Ray Drake.  There is no reason to dislike this man but you can feel he has deeply buried secrets and boy, you want to know what they are!  He gets under your skin.  Then he starts to behave inappropriately for a DI and your brain goes into overdrive; ‘what is going on with this fella?’ you find yourself asking.  He is a brilliantly written character and I take my hat off to Mark Hill.  I became quite obsessed with trying to work out what was going on with Ray, what his thing was and maybe even a little obsessed with Ray, himself!

DS Flick Crowley didn’t have the same draw as DI Drake did for me.  I liked her, and I can see her being a favourite of many other readers, but I think I was so totally smitten with DI Drake that Flick wasn’t really on my radar.  I hope there is a second book as she may be one of those characters that, for me, needs time to grow and develop.  There were two other characters in The Two O’Clock Boy who won my heart; Elliot and Connor.  Connor is a complete enigma, the cool kid at the home who beats up the bullies but stands up and says I was wrong, when the moment requires.  And the bully turned family man, Elliot.  How I absolutely loved Elliot.

The plot is very clever.  This book felt fresh to me; something different that I haven’t encountered before.  There’s not a lot else I can say about the plot without giving away spoilers but just let me say that it’s quite an intricate storyline.  I’m afraid I managed to work out who the killer was but it’s a habit of mine now to look for the killer (I really need to stop doing this and just enjoy the book!).  It didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the rest of the book and to be honest, there are much bigger twists than the reveal of the killer for the reader to concentrate on.

Would I recommend this book?  I most definitely would.  In fact, this is a book that all crime fiction fans should read as it’s quite different to other detective novels.  Not only do you have a cracking whodunit story but you also have a cast of brilliantly written characters that make reading this book a joy.  I was so captivated with what Ray’s secret could be and oh my, it’s a corker!  And to think this a debut – I can’t wait to see what else Mark Hill has in store for us.

Four and a half stars out of five.

I chose to read and review an ARC of The Two O’Clock Boy.

The Two O’Clock Boy by Mark Hill was published in the UK by Sphere on 22nd September 2016 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Sphere Books |

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Mark Hill is a London-based full-time writer of novels and scripts. Formerly he was a journalist and a producer at BBC Radio 2 across a range of major daytime shows and projects. He has won two Sony Gold Awards.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook |